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soulmates aren't real

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There's an unfriendly sensation that sinks deep into Donghyuck's skin when he gets high.

He's used to it, but instead of experiencing something enjoyable, he gets a grey cloud above his head, sending a lightning bolt to his heart and filling his body with an unforgettable ache. He let it happen for months, hoping that it would be different each time.. maybe if he just smoked a little more. But he's wrong. He's wrong every time. The feeling stays.

Donghyuck really wishes that there were actual grey clouds above his head, projecting some cool rain to accompany his constant bad mood. He doesn't get the weather he's dying to see, and instead he's met with hot and humid weather. Weather that makes the back of his thighs stick to the plastic chair in the middle of the park.

"Why don't you go back and ask that guy where he moved to?" Jaemin swears under his breath as he turns his phone on, the bright screen nearly blinding him. "You know? Quit sulking."

Donghyuck sucks in deep and holds the smoke in his lungs, waiting for some sort of numbing euphoria to spread across the map of his body. He feels it for a moment, but it doesn't phase him. The lack of feeling makes him stomp his foot, the gravel under his feet kicking up.

Jaemin scowls and follows Donghyuck's pattern with the blunt, making the latter jealous of how Jaemin's eyes nearly roll back into his head.

"I'm not sulking."

"Yeah, you fucking are."

Sometimes smoking in the park is fun. There's always a cool breeze that appears, slapping them kindly in the face. But the summer weather is uncomfortable, and most certainly not welcomed in their area.

Jaemin reaches forward and taps on Donghyuck's knee, giving him a little smile. His eyes are half closed, and Donghyuck chuckles at how blown he looks right then and there. Ever since Jaemin's dyed his hair, Donghyuck has realized how good looking his best friend is. His hair is jet black, and tucked under a beanie, his eyes dark and heavy.

"Should we get you home?" Donghyuck places his hand over Jaemin's, watching the boy nod his head in response. "Alright, c'mon."

Sitting Jaemin in his bed makes Donghyuck suddenly remember Mark again. He swears out loud, trying to erase every inching memory he has of the random boy. It definitely shouldn't be such an ache in his tiny heart, but it is. It's an arrow right in his back, poking into his heart. It's stuck there, shifting around with every move he makes.

"Dude... He's gotta be your soulmate if it hurts that bad." Jaemin caresses his friend's cheek as Donghyuck sits at his bedside. Jaemin's sheets are freezing cold, and Donghyuck has an urge to strip his clothes off and just sprawl across it.

His eyes go wide with need to feel something cold against his burning skin, but he ignores it. Jaemin's words don't leave Donghyuck's head, they build a home and nuzzle comfortably in the crevasses of his brain. He wants to scream for them to leave, but it seems as though their home is permanent.

It's exactly how he finds himself sitting on a bus, a paper map in his hands. According to Mark's older brother, he had moved to a small town that couldn't even be seen on the map of a cell phone. Population somewhere around 201.

"Look, I am sorry to bother you, but I really need to talk to Mark. Can you please tell me where on earth he is.. before I go insane." Donghyuck stands in the rain, his chest rising and falling intensely as he stares at the boy half asleep in front of him.

The boy cocks his head to the side and squints his eyes as he scans over Donghyuck's body, as though he's trying to read something off of him. Donghyuck doesn't care what this guy thinks of him.

"Do you like sandwiches?"

Donghyuck shuts the map, crumbling it up into his bag. There's sweat already beading on his forehead due to the lack of working air condition in the bus. He would blame the crowdedness, but he's really the only one sitting on the entire vehicle.

"Oh, right up here!" Donghyuck points ahead, and the bus driver already starts grinning in response. "Oh, wait, no. A little further." He sinks back in his chair.

He lets a wave of regret wash over him as he pulls up to the stop. He almost thinks it's ridiculous how he's traveled about 250 miles to see someone he can't stop thinking about. But, it seems necessary when that person is shooting flames into your body, keeping you awake every night.

Donghyuck feels sick for a moment, and he shrugs his shoulders in anticipation. He clenches his eyes tight once the bus comes to a halt.

"Good luck, kid."

"Can I stay here for a moment?" Donghyuck swallows the lump in his throat and grips the back of his seat. His knuckles begin to turn white from his harsh grip, and the bus driver notices it.


Donghyuck nods his head and rests against the seat. The seats are blue and purple, and there's some sort of weird pattern that makes Donghyuck's head spin in circles. He somehow wishes it would make him so dizzy that he had an excuse to head home, and forget anything ever happened. His heart thumps aggressively in his chest, and it creates a rainstorm that threatens to start with his eyes. He clamps his knees together and parts his lips open to catch his breath.

It takes him a good four seconds to regain his confidence, and another four to hop off the bus. He hears the doors close behind him, and tightens his bag up on his shoulders, gazing off into the small town square.

There's a collared sweater that hugs his body, something light and airy to not overheat him. He pairs it with his black skinny jeans and white sneakers.

The weather is definitely a lot colder where Mark is currently living, and the wind is comforting. It's relaxing, and Donghyuck has thoughts about packing his shit and moving out here, too. There's a coast nearby, and Donghyuck finds serenity in knowing that Mark is by an ocean, something nice to lay on to look up at the stars and think about aliens.

The sandwich shop isn't far.

It's actually the first shop on the left when Donghyuck turns the corner. The sidewalks are quite empty, but he sees a couple smiling faces leave some gift shops. He doesn't find it in him to feel happy for them, since his body is a little busy shaking with nerves and anticipation.

He peers in the window of the sandwich shop and spots the only boy that has been on his mind.

Mark smiles as he hands a wrapped sandwich to a little girl in a sundress. He points to the counter and she hops in excitement as she snags a lollipop. Donghyuck sucks in a breath as Mark's head moves up, and he's able to get a good look at the way Mark's hair is a new dark color.

There's a meadow of flowers in the distance that bloom a hundred different colors. Donghyuck could probably compare the colors to all of the emotions blooming vivaciously in his body. It's unreal, and Donghyuck definitely didn't think his body was capable of feeling so many things at once upon looking at one boy.

He chews on his lip and stuffs his hands into his pockets, walking into the shop without another thought. The bell rings above him, and he clenches his jaw shut.

Mark greets the customer without looking up, continuing to work on the sandwiches the few people in front of Donghyuck had ordered. He waits patiently as he moves up in line.

Each inch forward makes Donghyuck's heart speed up ten times faster. His knees are weak, and he wants to take off, hop on the bus, and head back to the comfort of his bed.

But the desire for answers lies deep inside the boy.

Donghyuck stands back as his skin runs cold. He admires the curve along Mark's jaw, the apron hugging his body, and the way his eyes-oh, his eyes. Donghyuck missed those.

"Oh." Mark stands up straight, his sight dragging along Donghyuck's chest until he meets his eyes once more.

Donghyuck doesn't think he can breathe.

"What are you doing here?" Mark cocks his head and leans both hands forward on the counter.

The light into the sandwich shop is dim, but Donghyuck only knows Mark in the darkness, and he's so desperate to know Mark in the light. There's nothing Donghyuck can say. He can't formulate any words. There's a riot in his brain, begging to spill out a hundred different things to yell at Mark about. But not one word sticks out.

"Can I get you something to eat?" Mark asks in a friendly manner, and Donghyuck despises the way it rings off his lips.

Donghyuck swallows hard and sucks in a deep breath.

"Where'd you go?" He manages to ask, but he curses about how awful it sounds. His lips are dry as he speaks, and the words feel even worse.

Mark holds his hands up.


"Yeah, I can see that." Donghyuck scoffs, his eyebrows drawing together.

There are no customers behind Donghyuck, and he's happy that he gets a little bit of privacy with this boy. However, he's desperate for a whole lot more.

"How did you find me?" Mark furrows his eyebrows, and Donghyuck rolls his eyes.

"I asked your brother where you moved to."

Mark sighs and cranes his neck to look toward the back kitchen. Donghyuck hopes that he'll untie his apron and talk somewhere with him, but he doesn't. Not at all.

"Look, I need to get back to work. Is there something you need?" Mark sighs in his voice, and Donghyuck feels the arrow in his heart cracking by the minute, splitting into a thousand more sharp pains in his chest.

Mark's eyes are genuine and Donghyuck hates them. He hates them in every way.

"We talked about soulmates together, and there were so many things drawing me back to you.. and I just thought for a minute that maybe... maybe we were soulmates. Or something." Donghyuck says it upfront and Mark's throat visibly flexes as he swallows hard.

Mark taps his fingers on the countertop, and fingers with the coins sitting on his tip plate. There's an unreadable pain in Mark's eyes, and Donghyuck despises how he can't read what it means.

"Soulmates aren't real, Donghyuck."

There's only one time that Donghyuck has ever felt defeated.

He was eight years old when he caused the soccer ball to go into his own goal, making his team lose their first and final game of the season. He cried for days after, and even missed school because of the way his emotions overfilled him.

The second time he has ever felt defeated, was in a goddamn sandwich shop.

He stands like a fool, his shoulders slumped forward as his heart cracks piece by piece, shooting pain across every inch of his skin. Mark's words radiate in Donghyuck's mind, and he chokes on the sob threatening to crawl out of his throat, exposing itself to the world.

He doesn't think twice before turning on his feet, shoving his hands into his pockets as he paces down the sidewalk. There's too many knocks on his head, and he ignores them all. He doesn't want to let any emotion overcome him... except for pure guilt.

The bus stop appears on his right, but Donghyuck keeps walking. He walks in the direction of the signs pointing to the beach access, and wipes his sleeve against his cheeks, drying the tears that managed to spill over their barriers.

The waves crash onto the rocky shore, and Donghyuck kicks the pebbles, sending them right into the water. It's almost like they hit the waves just as they crash, like they've just met in a head on collision. Donghyuck's forehead feels heavy, and there's a throbbing pain behind his eyes.

Nothing hurts more than the words Mark had just managed to say to him.

"Dammit!" Donghyuck drops onto his knees on the shore, letting his head fall into his hands.

He lifts his eyes immediately and shakes his head, not letting his tears drip down any further.

And so he sits comfortably, and ends up playing with the rocks. He stares at how perfectly round they are. It brings the tiniest smile to his face as he spots a jumping spider making its way across the rocks. Donghyuck squints his eyes as it moves closer, and he groans as he ushers it away.

The sound of waves soon brings a polite song to Donghyuck's ears. He reads the waves like a poem, and tries to make sense of them. It's not long before he realizes that they don't need to make sense. Some things just don't.

The rocks next to him shift and Donghyuck doesn't even crane his neck up to figure out who it is. He recognizes the same pair of tennis shoes from the bathtub. He swallows hard as Mark takes a seat next to him, handing over a white wrapped object.

"I'm not sure what you like, so I took a guess with turkey and cheese." Mark shrugs, and Donghyuck stares at the sandwich in Mark's hands. "Everyone likes turkey and cheese, I think." Mark chuckles a little, and Donghyuck softens his eyes at the way Mark's voice blows out carefully.

Donghyuck takes it and places it on the other side of his lap.

Mark takes a moment to change his positioning, and he picks up two rocks to clank them together as he follows Donghyuck's eyes toward the water.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" He whispers, but Donghyuck doesn't respond, causing Mark to sniff as he turns his face to look at the side of Donghyuck's cheek. "I've thought about you everyday."

The whisper hits different along Donghyuck's skin. It feels new, and would feel peaceful if Mark hadn't pissed the other off. The younger swallows.

"I'm an asshole, Donghyuck. We made out in that bathtub, and we shouldn't have when I was already feeling so low. But I don't regret it. I had plans to move up here... for like... ever. I hate that town. I hate its people, and I always have. But that night I was with you, I almost thought about staying. You made everything bad go away for a little while." Mark speaks with such desperation.

"It was probably the weed, not me." Donghyuck raises an eyebrow, completely serious.

"No. I've been high so many times. That was something that felt like a new door opening up. You made me feel incredible."

Donghyuck turns his body and looks over at Mark, his eyebrows drawn in with anger.

"Then why did you leave me behind?"

Mark stares at him. He glances to Donghyuck's lips, and flushes with the memory. Donghyuck does the same, and he notices how Mark glows with the sun, just like he did with the moon. It's beautiful, and Donghyuck sucks in a sharp breath.

"Because... Nothing good lasts. You told me that soulmates would always find each other, and for a minute I believed you. You said a soulmate could be a best friend, and I had lost all of mine. I thought a soulmate could mean a place too, but I hated it back there. So, I thought that life must be my soulmate, and it'll make me happy one day. I just knew I had to get out of that damn town." Mark raises his voice slightly, and then closes his eyes to take a deep breath. "I stopped believing in soulmates the moment I got into this town. Nothing made me happy. All my mind could think of was you."

Donghyuck scoffs.

"Then why the fuck did you humiliate me back in your shop?"

Mark sighs.

"I was mad at you!" Donghyuck widens his eyes at Mark's words. "You told me that people have soulmates of all sorts, and soulmates are supposed to make you happy, and nothing was making me happy, so I was furious at you for lying to me!"

Donghyuck's face goes blank as he notices the tears on Mark's cheeks and the way the boy's hands shake violently. Without thinking, Donghyuck places a hand over Mark's. The older boy closes his eyes as he sucks in a deep breath.

They both ring with anger and confusion, but sadness overpowers both of their angry minds.

"You're chasing your happiness, Mark. You've got to let it come to you." He whispers as Mark twists their hands and desperately grabs onto Donghyuck's.

He latches on, sending butterflies and warmth across Donghyuck's chest.

The sun begins to set over the waves, and it casts a golden color across Mark's skin, making his tears glisten in the sunshine.

"I was too scared to come find you." Mark whispers, his glossy eyes finally meeting the boy in front of him. Donghyuck feels the emotion in them, and he reads the pain behind Mark's eyes. Mark squeezes his hand and Donghyuck grips onto it harder.

"We got high together once and made out once, and it ruined me, Donghyuck."

Donghyuck nods his head.

"Yeah, me too."

Mark doesn't think before he leans his head against Donghyuck's shoulder, watching the sunset with him. It moves quickly, and Donghyuck latches onto the feeling of sitting next to the boy he's been thinking about for way too long.

He tilts his cheek to the side and lets it rest against Mark's head.

"I think you might be my soulmate, Donghyuck." Mark admits a moment later and Donghyuck's shoulders shake with a chuckle.

"Why do you think I came to find you?"

Mark lifts himself up and lets his eyes swim in the deepest part of Donghyuck's eyes, and he finds peace there. He finds serenity and camaraderie inside of them. He feels at home for the first time in what feels like forever.

Donghyuck stares back with just as much desperation, and Mark reaches forward, thumbing right under Donghyuck's eye.

"I'm sorry." Mark whispers. "I'm so sorry."

There's a house of emotion sitting tight in Donghyuck's chest, and he's aching to knock its walls down to feel everything it has to offer. He's aching to touch Mark intimately, so he lays a hand over the boy's chest.

"Let me try again?" Mark croaks.

Donghyuck swallows hard as he nods his head, already knowing exactly what Mark is asking to do.

So, Mark leans in.

He presses his lips hopelessly against Donghyuck's, already parting his mouth open to whine at the impact. Donghyuck feels numb all over, and the only thing he can focus on is the way Mark's lips move steadily with his own. It's opened a new feeling in his chest, and suddenly all of the walls of the house come down, and Donghyuck drowns in emotion.

Mark pulls away and presses his forehead to Donghyuck's, staring at him, both of them already panting.

"I promise I'll stay with you this time. No more running away. You've already managed to become my home, so anywhere with you..." Mark pants, but Donghyuck pulls himself to his knees, cupping Mark's cheeks in a solid kiss.

Mark leans back against the rocks, and they both have flashbacks to the way Donghyuck climbed on top of Mark in the bathtub. This time feels more intimate, and Mark grips aggressively onto Donghyuck's shirt, already sliding his hands up the boy's bare back, scratching down. The younger tosses his head back and then moves immediately to reconnect their lips.

Donghyuck parts his mouth open, giving Mark the opportunity to map out the inside of the boy's mouth. A warmth pools in the pit of Donghyuck's stomach, but he welcomes it.

He welcomes it with confetti and balloons, because Donghyuck wants to experience that every day of his entire fucking life.

"Can I take you on a date?" Mark whispers as he swallows Donghyuck's moan that turns into a chuckle.

Donghyuck leans back on Mark's lap and stares down at the boy whose lips are slowly turning purple. The younger laughs at how they've already managed to swell each other's lips.

It feels like absolute bliss.

Every ounce of pain in Donghyuck's body has disappeared. He's taken the pill that Mark gives off, numbing all the damn pain on earth. Mark feels the same thing too, a little more intensely. There's a goofy grin on his face, and his hands shake with happiness now.

"Did you just ask me out while I'm on top of you?" Donghyuck raises an eyebrow, and Mark pets the side of Donghyuck's hips sweetly, thumbing the golden skin.

"Uh huh."

The younger leans down to press a soft kiss to Mark's pretty lips.

"As long as you promise to stick with me this time." Donghyuck says it seriously, the slightest curvature of a frown appearing on his lips. Mark notices it and sits up, letting Donghyuck back onto the rocks.

Mark grips onto Donghyuck's hand and presses it to his heart.

"I promise." Mark kisses the top of Donghyuck's forehead, both of them closing their eyes as they drink in the moment.

There's not much verification that things won't go wrong again, but a simple promise does plenty for both of them. Because the world sure is scary, but it's not all that bad.

Things will be okay.

"You've gotta eat that turkey and cheese sandwich though. I made it special for you." Mark pouts.

And Donghyuck kisses it clean.