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LESSON 1: Confidence Is Key (they can probably smell fear)

It isn’t like Mark Lee to run late. He’s the type of person to be on top of everything at all times, with his color coded folders and his impeccably organized schedules in his phone, but apparently today just isn’t his day. 

Mark has been looking forward to this morning for three weeks because not just anyone scores an interview with FULLSUN INC, and he has been positively dying to get an internship there since as long as he can remember. Unfortunately, Renjun got sick last night, so Mark had to cover his late shift at the bar. This means he slept past all five of his alarms and woke up way later than planned.

He’s running through the city, five minutes away from the building where his interview starts in three. In short, this is the biggest day of his life so far other than the day he got accepted into his dream university on a full scholarship, and he can’t afford to mess it up. Yet, just because he’s in a rush doesn’t mean he has lost all of his morals, so he stops to help an old lady cross the road, and he’s now ten whole minutes behind schedule. Fantastic.

Mark sets his sights on the skyscraper that is the headquarters of FULLSUN INC, jogging down the sidewalk and readying himself to turn the last corner at full tilt so he’ll only be about eight minutes late when he hears the horn of a truck just off to his left. He whips his head around to see a man in a suit on his phone about to walk into the street in front of a huge semi truck, and Mark barely has the time to think before he is dropping his bag on the pavement and running over to the man, pulling him back onto the curb as the truck whizzes by, horn still blaring.

The man drops his phone out of surprise, but Mark is fast enough to catch it, pressing it back into his hand.

“Please be more careful!” Mark calls back to the man without sparing him a second glance. He rushes back to where he dropped his bag, thanking every deity he can think of for the fact that it’s still there, and he heads inside the building at long last.

FULLSUN INC, previously under the name of NCT CORP before it changed ownership, is an impressive company to say the least. It specializes in research for new technologies of all sorts, most of which are highly classified. There are rumors of the company having its fingers in just about every pie it can get ahold of, including but not limited to flying cars, self-tying shoes, and 3D printers that are capable of building entire homes.

Mark has had dreams of working there since he was in elementary school. The company had sent a representative to do some experiments for their science day, and Mark was immediately hooked. He wants to take his time to take in the regality of the lobby, but he knows that he’s late already so he simply hurries across the marble tiled floor to the front desk.

“What is your name?” the man at the desk asks sweetly, a kind smile adorning his face.

“Mark. Mark Lee,” he pants, immediately feeling the tips of his ears burn at how out of breath he is.

“You’re here for the interview today! Congratulations, by the way,” the man says, still smiling. “Your interviewer isn’t here yet, so you can take a seat in the waiting area, but if I may recommend that you visit the bathroom first? To fix up your hair a bit.”

“Oh!” Mark’s hands fly to smooth down his hair, and he can feel that it’s all windblown and out of place. “Thank you, uh, what’s your name sir?”

“My name is Kun. Good luck in the interview Mark!” 

Mark thanks Kun profusely, willing the pink on his cheeks to go away, before scurrying to the bathrooms on the other side of the lobby. He is looking at himself in the mirror, attempting to fix his unruly dark locks into something at least a little bit more presentable when a man bursts in through the door.

“Shit, shit, shit!” He’s mumbling to himself, combing his long fingers through his dyed pink hair—or, at least Mark assumes that it’s dyed—completely ruining the styling. The man doesn’t spare Mark a single glance as he rushes to the sink, frantically scrubbing at his shirt, and Mark can see from the reflection in the mirror that there is an enormous stain on the front of his white button-up, most likely from coffee.

“Are you alright?” Mark tries.

“No!” The man barks at him without even looking, brow furrowed in concentration as he scrubs at his chest with vigor. Mark should be more offended at his tone, but it’s rather clear that the man is just having a bad day, so instead of snapping back, he reaches into his bag and pulls out the spare shirt he forgot he stashed in there. 

He keeps it in there for an emergency change in case a spill happens at the bar, but he supposes he doesn’t particularly mind it being used for this.

“Sir? Uh…” Mark gingerly holds out the slightly-wrinkled shirt. “I have an extra, if you’d like. I think it would fit and you look like you’re in a bit of a rush.”

The man just looks at him funny for a moment, clearly confused at the kindness that Mark is showing.

“Are you sure?”

“Positive.” Mark smiles. The man smiles back.

“Thank you,” he breathes out, taking the shirt. “Someone ran into me with their coffee cup but I have an interview and I can’t go in looking like this.”

“I completely understand,” Mark laughs. He doesn’t think the man knows quite how well Mark understands, but it doesn’t matter. “Good luck!”

“Thanks again!” The man calls over his shoulder on his way out. “I hope you have a wonderful day, and I promise I’ll return the shirt next time I see you!”

Mark can only hope that they both get the jobs they’re applying for so they can see each other again, but he doesn’t let himself dwell on that thought. He still has a whole interview to get through, and in the grand scheme of things, losing a white dress shirt to help someone out won’t be the end of the world.

He takes a deep breath, looking back in the mirror as he does his best to fix his hair, willing his cheeks to lose their pink tint from sprinting halfway across downtown. Mark, honestly, doesn’t know if he’s overprepared or underprepared for the interview because there isn’t a lot of intel on exact what FULLSUN’s interviews are even like. He doesn’t know what to expect, and that scares him.

However, having a crisis about this in the middle of the bathroom isn’t going to help him get the job that he has wanted since he was a kid, so he runs his fingers through his hair one last time in an attempt to tame it and sighs heavily before walking out of the bathroom. Across the lobby, there’s a little café that Mark makes a mental note to stop at because their croissants look really good, and he thinks he deserves a treat after the interview. Mark barely has time to think about sitting back down when his name rings out across the lobby.

“Mark?” Kun calls, and Mark rushes over to the desk to greet the man with a smile. “Your interview will be on the third floor, room 328.”

“Thank you so much, Kun,” Mark breathes wringing his hands out of nerves. “I hope to see you soon!”

“I look forward to working with you, Mark,” he replies with a smile, and that’s all it takes to give Mark the confidence boost he needs to walk over to the elevator and press the button to call it down. On the short ride up to the third floor, the nerves settle back into his body, twisting low and cold in the bottom of his stomach. He wants to throw up and eject his very soul from his body at this point because he’s relatively sure it would be less painful than whatever is happening right now. 

His palms are clammy, and he wipes them on his pants, glad that he made the choice to go with dark slacks today and that he’s in the elevator alone. The shiny door open in front of him, making his reflection split in two as it welcomes him to the third floor of FULLSUN INC with a robotic female voice that has the weirdest way of calming the buzz of anxiety in his head.

Another deep breath.

A step forward.

He can do this.

It’s just his luck, though, that the room is at the opposite side of the seemingly endless hallway, filled by meeting rooms as far as the eye can see. Before he can think about backing down, he knocks on the door. His fate is sealed when the voice from within beckons him, and Mark pushes the door open and almost proceeds to trip over himself when he sees the interviewer.

The pink-haired man is sitting there at the head of the huge meeting table, wearing Mark’s shirt and an indecipherable expression that morphs into a huge smile upon seeing him enter.

“I can’t say I expected this, but I do believe you’re already off to a great start.” The man stands, offering his hand for Mark to go over and shake. “My name is Na Jaemin. COO of FULLSUN INC and I will be conducting your interview today since our head of HR is out sick.”

Mark clasps his hand eagerly, the knots in his stomach undoing themselves faster the longer he looked at Jaemin’s comforting smile. He hadn’t recognized Jaemin because the last time he had seen a photo of him, he had still been sporting dark brown hair.

“I’m Mark Lee. MIT graduate with honors and hopeful employee of FULLSUN INC,” Mark pauses, grinning, “but I think you already knew that last part.”

“Indeed I did.” Jaemin’s eyes sparkle as he gestures to the seat next to him for Mark to take. “Shall we get into it?”

The interview goes extraordinarily smoothly, turning into more of a conversation about Mark and his resumé instead of the one-sided questioning he had been expecting up until then. Jaemin and Mark discuss his college experience in North America, which is when he discovers that Jaemin attended Harvard as a business major, only graduating a year after him. They aren’t so far apart and they connect so easily it’s almost scary. 

They talk about why Mark chose FULLSUN, to which Mark replies with the abridged version of the childhood science fair story, and they even drop onto the subject of how Jaemin himself ended up at FULLSUN. It turns out that it’s because Jaemin’s best friend was planning on running a company and couldn’t do it alone, and Jaemin hopped on board to help and hasn’t seen a reason to leave since, although Mark gets the feeling that even if there is a reason for Jaemin to jump ship, he isn’t the type that would abandon so easily. 

He gets a strong sense of loyalty from Jaemin, and maybe that’s what makes them click, which Mark is eternally grateful for. Mark has never had a lot of time for friends outside of school and work, and now that he’s out of college with very few social connections that aren’t to his professors or his fellow coworkers at the bar, he feels pretty lonely. He lets himself think that maybe, even if he doesn’t get the job, he and Jaemin could stay friends. He gets the feeling Renjun would like him.

Jaemin is wrapping things up in the interview, and Mark couldn’t be happier with how it had gone, but his thoughts are interrupted by a sharp knock on the door of the conference room. Without waiting for an answer from the inside, the door swings open hastily to reveal a man in an expensive-looking suit with styled brown hair and sharp eyes.

“Na Jaemin where the hell have you been? The meeting with the investors is happening in—” The man stops himself short the moment his eyes meet Mark’s.

Mark has to do a double-take, but he’s positive that the man standing in the doorway of the conference room is the very same man who he had stopped from running into the street earlier that very morning. The difference this time, though, is that Mark has ample time to get a good look at his face. It takes a moment to click, but once it does, Mark’s jaw drops. The face he’s looking at belongs to FULLSUN INC’s famous playboy CEO, Lee Donghyuck. 

If Mark’s jaw could unhinge, he is confident that it would be lying on the polished tabletop in front of him.

“It seems I’ve interrupted something here,” Donghyuck says, clearly amused. He doesn’t give any indication that he recognizes Mark, so he keeps his mouth shut on the subject.

“Yes, you have.” Jaemin speaks up indignantly, clearly displeased. “You can’t be here right now. I’m conducting an official interview in Yangyang’s place.”

“I actually can be here, Jaem.” The nickname rolls off of his tongue so smoothly, and coupled with the grin that he flashes the COO, Mark doesn’t know how Jaemin isn’t a puddle on the floor by this point. Donghyuck closes the door and strides confidently around the table until he is sitting across from Mark, adjacent to Jaemin. “Carry on, please.”

Jaemin scowls over at him and the unprofessional expression makes Mark want to laugh. It’s clearly meant as a gesture between friends, an expression of distaste between equals, not something that a COO should ever be making at a CEO. Mark doesn’t mind, however, and enjoys the humanity of it all. The fact that Donghyuck sticks his tongue out back reminds Mark that yes, these are humans too and not just perfect robots that end up on the front of GQ and Vogue because of their success and beauty.

“Well, Mark,” Jaemin clears his throat, turning back to the interview. He’s clearly trying to ignore Donghyuck’s presence, but it fills up the entire room without him even trying and Mark feels like he can’t breathe. “There’s going to be a bit of a buffer period between the end of this interview and when I will get to review your resumé with some of the other engineers, but I will contact you via email with our decision as soon as I can.”

“Do you mind if I write that down?” Because Mark is nothing if not organized and, when Jaemin gives him the green light and he pulls out his color-coded planner, he knows that it shows.

“You’re quite the organized person.” Jaemin lets out an incredulous laugh, clearly not having expected such neatness from an engineer, of all people. Mark smiles up at him, about to respond, but Donghyuck beats him to it.

“Mark, I have a proposition.”

And that is definitely not on the list of things he expected to hear today.

“A what?” Jaemin chokes out, but Donghyuck ignores him and looks straight at Mark.

“There is a current vacancy in the position of my secretary. I can guarantee you the job if you agree right here, right now.”

“Donghyuck!” Jaemin scolds, looking positively appalled. “What makes you think—”

“He’s quick, he’s organized, and he’s smart,” Donghyuck justifies himself, although Mark gets the feeling that for him, rationales aren’t always a necessity. “And that’s exactly what I’m looking for.”

The little comment about him being quick is all Mark needs to hear to know that Donghyuck recognizes him as the person who saved him, and he wonders if that has anything to do with why he’s being offered this position.

Speaking of which, Mark wants to yell out that he didn’t spend four years at MIT getting a major in biomech to be someone’s secretary, let alone Lee freaking Donghyuck’s. On the flip side, Mark prides himself in being polite and grateful for the opportunities he receives, so he pastes on the most convincing smile he can and nods.

“I would love to accept whatever position FULLSUN has to offer me.” The words slip from his mouth, and Mark won’t let himself regret them. He has made his decision, and fully intends to stick with it.

“Great.” Donghyuck flashes him a wide grin, and Mark now knows why he has men and women falling at his feet constantly: they’re on the receiving end of that smile once and it’s all over for them. Mark swallows hard and can only hope he isn’t the same way. “You’ll start next week Monday, eight am sharp. I’m sure Jaemin will give you the rest of the details…?” He leaves the prompt open as he stands and walks back around the table to the door, looking at his COO for confirmation.

“I can help sort that all out now, actually,” Jaemin offers, and Mark nods.

“And Mark?” Donghyuck calls over his shoulder as he opens the door to leave.

“Yes?” He’s just happy that his voice doesn’t shake or crack like he expects it to.

“Don’t be late again. I don’t appreciate tardiness.” With that, he exits, leaving behind a gaping Mark and a concerned but chuckling Jaemin.

“Don’t mind ol’ Donghyuck.” Jaemin brushes off the encounter like it isn’t the singular most terrifying thing that has happened to Mark since he forgot to study for his O-Chem midterm sophomore year. “He just has a flare for the dramatics.”

Jaemin closes up the file in front of him, and Mark hums, unsure if he’s willing to take his word for it. They’re clearly much more comfortable around each other than Mark is around either of them, but maybe that’s subject to change now. Just maybe.

But, at the end of the day, Mark has a job at his dream company and he doesn’t really have a lot of room to complain.

 

LESSON 2: Be Careful What You Say (they might do something about it)

Mark shows up to the office every day at 7 am sharp, rather than eight o’clock, the time Donghyuck had established on his way out of Mark’s interview. He learns Donghyuck’s coffee order by heart, and learns that if he asks the barista to make it extra hot, the coffee is at the exact right temperature when Donghyuck walks in at exactly seven-thirty each morning without fail.

He hands Donghyuck his coffee and a croissant that he picked up from the little café in the lobby of the building, then hands him a neatly typed itinerary for the day as he debriefs him on what meetings and other obligations he has for the day. Donghyuck never thanks him, only ever lifts his coffee cup in salute before disappearing into his office for hours on end, only coming out when he has to go to a meeting.

Mark has no idea if he eats at all during the day, let alone if he breathes, but it’s perfectly clear that he’s getting work done. He lets Donghyuck do his own thing, though, because he has his own endless pile of things to do. Mark throws himself into the job with vigor because there are so many things that he’s behind on given the gap in time between secretaries, so if Donghyuck is busy, that means that Mark is just as swamped, if not moreso.

Being so occupied with all of the catching up and learning-on-the-job that he has to do takes up so much of his time that next to none of it is left for socializing around the workplace, which turns out to be both a blessing and a curse.

It’s a blessing because Mark can already tell that not everyone in the company is going to be nice to him just because he’s new and he’s the CEO’s secretary—technically the position name is “executive assistant” but it’s not like there are any non-executive assistants for Lee Donghyuck just hanging around—which gives him a perfectly valid excuse to avoid all of them. But it’s also a curse because he never gets the chance to meet anyone nice or make new friends like Renjun keeps encouraging him to do every night when he comes home around dinnertime, exhausted but satisfied because he’s slowly but surely catching up with all of the work.

“Hey, Mark, right?”

So it’s quite a surprise when one of his coworkers takes an opportunity to introduce themselves to him.

“Yes?” Mark looks up, eyes wide and startled. He’s met with the sight of a young man standing in front of him with an amused but warm smile on his face. “Can I help you? I think Mister Lee is on a call right now so—”

“No, actually, I came here for you.” The man sticks out his hand for Mark to take. “My name’s Jisung. I’m Jaemin’s secretary.”

“Oh! It’s a pleasure!” Mark smiles back before letting go. “Why did you come to see me? Aren’t you busy?”

“I have things to do, yeah, but not nearly the stupid amount that you have,” he laughs. “Jaemin keeps me busy, but not so much that I struggle to tear myself away to go home in the evenings like I see you do. I can afford breaks now and then because my boss isn’t crazy like yours.”

The way Jisung whispers all of this to Mark like it’s some sort of secret instead of common knowledge makes him laugh as well, and he decides that he likes Jisung a lot already.

“I’m a workaholic, I guess.” Mark shrugs. “It’s not difficult work, but it just takes forever.”

“Ugh, trust me, I know ,” Jisung groans, sliding over so he is perched on the side of Mark’s desk. “There was this one time that Donghyuck’s last secretary had to make like a hundred copies of this one thing.”

“How many other secretaries has Donghyuck had exactly? And why did they all leave?”

“From when I started, and I’ve been here a little over a year, he’s been through four or five, but I know that there were more before that,” Jisung mulls it over. “Most of them quit because of how hard Donghyuck pushes them and the sheer amount of work that they have, but there was one that got fired under different circumstances.”

Mark nods softly, trying to look calm and understanding, but he’s terrified on the inside. What if he doesn’t last? What could Donghyuck do that would make his secretaries quit after just a few months? Does he even have what it takes to do this? He has considered himself overqualified for this job, but what if that’s all wrong?

He has heard the whisperings around the office about “the CEO’s poor new secretary” and “how long is that sweet boy even going to last in that position” but Mark had no idea what any of that meant until now.

The funny thing is, thinking about this just makes Mark more determined than ever to stick it out and prove his worth. Maybe this isn’t the job he went to college for, but it pays well and dammit if he isn’t going to be the best secretary Donghyuck has ever seen, even if it means he’s reduced to grabbing coffee and running copies all day. If it makes him feel accomplished and proud, it’s worth it.

“I may not look like much, Jisung, but I think I can handle this better than any of them could,” he responds at last, and it makes a smile tug at Jisung’s lips once more.

“You’re already there, Mark.”

“Mark’s already where?” Someone asks and Mark peeks around Jisung to see Jaemin walking towards them, another man at his side. It takes Mark a moment to recognize him as Jeno, the CFO of FULLSUN, but when he does, he offers a kind smile that both Jeno and Jaemin return easily and without hesitation.

“Donghyuck, Jaemin, and Jeno all went to school together, and when Donghyuck came to them with the proposition of taking over NCT, they both were happy to jump in because of the investments and plans that Donghyuck had already made,” Jisung whispers to Mark, leaning over slightly so he could hear better.

“It’s not just because we’re friends, either,” Jaemin speaks up, and Jisung turns red because he clearly wasn’t as quiet as he had hoped. “It’s because he is one of the smartest people I know, and if I was to entrust anyone with initiating a takeover of a company from next to nothing, it would be Donghyuck, hands down, every time.”

Mark doesn’t know much about business or finances aside from how to do his taxes without Renjun’s help, but from what he can glean, that’s a seriously impressive feat. Jaemin is standing next to Jisung now, a hand on his shoulder as Jeno walks up and sticks out a hand for Mark that he shakes easily. He wonders how many people he has shaken hands with within the past few weeks before quickly deciding that he doesn’t want to think about counting that.

“I’m Lee Jeno, CFO here and Donghyuck’s cousin. My father owned NCT before Donghyuck took over and it’s the best thing that has happened to the company.” Jeno is all smiles with Mark. “I’m glad to have you on board here because if anyone can keep Donghyuck in line, it’s going to be you. I can feel it.”

“Ah,” Mark says. “Thanks.” He doesn’t know how to take that information, or what it means exactly, but can’t ask for clarification because Jeno and Jaemin are already walking away. He watches as they disappear into Donghyuck’s office, completely disregarding the unspoken rule of if the door is closed you had better not come in unless the building is burning that Donghyuck had expressed to Mark on his first day.

“Best friend privileges, I suppose,” Jisung snorts, seeing Mark’s confused look.

“Makes sense,” he thinks aloud.

“You should take a break, by the way,” he says, sliding off of the desk. “Just a little one. I brought you a snack, too. As a belated welcome gift.”

Jisung puts a sandwich on Mark’s desk, squarely in front of his keyboard and on top of his planner so it’s in the way of the work he still has to get done. The little sticker holding together the wrapping indicates that it’s from that cute little café where he gets the coffees every morning.

“Thanks, Jisung.” Mark didn’t notice how hungry he was until now. He packed a lunch as usual, but he could have that later. “I suppose a little break couldn’t hurt.”

He bids Jisung goodbye with Jisung’s number on a sticky note in hand and promise to call or text him if he ever needs any help. Jaemin and Jeno emerge back from Donghyuck’s office soon after, but Mark doesn’t pay them much attention because he has pulled out the book he’s currently reading and is nibbling his way through the sandwich as he reads.

This particular book is one of his favorites and he has read it countless times. It’s about a formidable pirate and a brave admiral who have been in love for years but have to lose each other to come to terms with it because they’ve both convinced themselves that they’re enemies.

No matter how many times he goes through it, the ending always manages to make Mark cry. He’s just getting to the part where the villain’s gun goes off and the captain’s world goes dark when someone startles him.

“What are you up to?” It’s Donghyuck. For whatever reason, he has snuck up behind him and has been reading the book over Mark’s shoulder for an indeterminable amount of time. 

“I’m just getting back to work! Sorry,” Mark hastily apologizes, putting a bookmark in place before sticking it back in his bag. He hadn’t realized how long he had been reading until he sees that his sandwich is gone and almost thirty minutes have ticked by on the clock. Donghyuck just laughs, though, and Mark freezes because out of all of the reactions he could have given, this is one of the last ones he expected.

“Don’t worry about it. I came out to ask if you had gotten a break yet today, actually,” Donghyuck says, and Mark doesn’t know if that’s the truth or not, but has been given no reason not to believe him. “What are you reading?”

“It probably wouldn’t be of any interest to you,” Mark mumbles, feeling the tips of his ears burn. He doesn’t even know why he’s embarrassed.

“Try me.” He raises an eyebrow in challenge.

Mark frowns, but gives in, telling Donghyuck a little bit about the book, but his mind wanders. This is the first real, non-work related conversation they’ve ever had, and he hates to say that it’s not exactly unpleasant.

“Sounds interesting, actually,” he replies after Mark is done. “So you read a lot?”

Mark thinks of the six overflowing bookshelves in his shared apartment with Renjun and grimaces lightly.

“You could say that,” he croaks. “I’ve made it a goal of mine to read every book by this author though,” Mark finishes, tapping on the cover of his current book, finger lightly tracing over the crest of the wave on the front. He doesn’t know why he tells Donghyuck that, but it doesn’t matter because the topic is switched immediately anyway.

“I have to get some more things done,” he hums. “Could you email me those files from earlier?”

“You mean the ones that I already printed out and sorted for you?” Mark asks, trying not to let the smugness creep into his smile as he holds out the neatly arranged stack of paper. He’s proud of himself for being ahead, but he doesn’t want to act pompous.

Donghyuck looks surprised for a fraction of a second before schooling his expression back into something more neutral, but it was long enough for Mark to see it. He clearly isn’t used to having an efficient worker as his secretary, and that makes Mark want to puff his chest just a little bit.

“Yeah,” he says slowly. “Those ones.”

The next day, when Mark returns from his lunch break with Jisung down on the fifth floor lounge, he spots a small package on his desk. It’s wrapped in brown paper and tied neatly with a ribbon. He looks around, but there isn’t anyone over on this part of the floor who might have seen the package placed next to his planner.

He sets his lunch bag down, and that’s when he sees the little card tucked under the bow of the ribbon, and Mark eagerly pulls it out to read it.

This one is a personal favorite. — DH.

Removing the wrapping paper as fast as he can without tearing it, Mark opens the package, and inside rests the most recent book that his favorite author just released. He hasn’t had the time himself to go out and even grab a copy from the library because he has been so caught up with work.

This one is about a young prince and his struggles of growing up in an environment that stifles him, and how his entire life changes when he catches a thief trying to steal from him. Mark glances over at Donghyuck’s office to see the door shut tight, but he smiles in thanks anyway and tucks the book away in his bag for later. 

And if Donghyuck sees Mark reading it avidly during his lunch breaks over the next few days because Jisung is on a business trip with Jaemin, he doesn’t say a word.

LESSON 3: Don’t Refuse Opportunities (they have good intentions)

It’s rapidly approaching the end of Mark’s second month of work, and he wants to consider this some sort of milestone because according to Jisung, he has lasted longer than most of the rest of Donghyuck’s secretaries by now. He has come to appreciate his job a lot more, and the fact that surprise gifts of books sometimes show up on his desk only makes him look forward to the next day even more.

Donghyuck continues to make himself scarce around the office, and Mark has yet to discover why, but all of that is shaken out of his head when he picks up a call on his phone.

“Lee Donghyuck’s office,” he responds automatically. Jisung snorts dramatically and pops a pretzel into his mouth, watching Mark with amusement in his eyes from his perch on the side of his desk.

“This is Lee Donghyuck,” the reply comes easily and Mark almost chokes.

“Oh, good afternoon, sir,” he tumbles over his words and he can tell it piques Jisung’s interest because he actually stops eating to listen. “You’ve never called before.”

“I know,” he says. A pause. “Come into my office, please. I have something I’d like to discuss with you.” Donghyuck ends the call without any formality and Mark’s entire body seizes up.

He’s going to be fired. This is it. He has made it just as long as everyone else and now it’s over. Mark’s hands shake as he places the receiver back down and looks up at Jisung who has lost his smile too.

“What do I do?” Mark whispers. Jisung shrugs, helpless.

“Go into his office and hope he doesn’t actually fire you?” He suggests. Mark pinches him on the knee for that comment, but his fingers are trembling too much to really make it hurt. “I’m serious, Mark. Don’t keep him waiting, but I’ll stay out here for when you’re done, okay?”

Mark nods, gulping hard as he stands. Jisung squeezes Mark’s shoulder before gently nudging him towards the door looming just a little ways away. He spares a singular glance back at Jisung before knocking on the door, and carefully twists the handle to push it open when a voice beckons him inside.

“Yes, Mister Lee?” Mark pokes his head into the office, swallowing his nerves. His entrance makes Donghyuck glance up from his paperwork for a split second before going back to whatever he is working on.

“Do you have anything else to wear?” The question takes him off-guard because he came in fully expecting to be fired on the spot, not asked about his attire.

“What’s wrong with this?” Mark frowns, tugging on the bottom of his sweater vest, having half a mind to wonder if his boss is actually being serious. Donghyuck just snorts, undignified, as he pushes his chair back from his desk.

“Come on. I’m taking you shopping.”

“Now?” Mark is definitely considering the option of Donghyuck just playing with him now. “Sir, we have work to do!”

“I can see that,” Donghyuck muses aloud, looking Mark up and down with such scrutiny that it makes his ears heat up.

“What?” Mark splutters, offended. Sure, he might not own the most expensive suits, but he dresses in business attire every day and probably still is in more formal clothing than most of the office.

“We’re getting you some new suits to wear,” Donghyuck says as if that just explains everything, which it very much does not.

One glance at Donghyuck’s crossed arms and impatiently tapping foot tells him that he really doesn’t have a choice in the matter. Mark spares a thought in mourning directed at the paperwork piled high on his desk as he nods and follows his boss out of the office.

Jisung jerks up in alarm as he sees Mark trailing behind Donghyuck out of his office. He mouths the question of if he got fired but Mark just shakes his head as they walk past.

“I didn’t fire him, Jisung,” Donghyuck says, already far enough past that he couldn’t have seen him ask the question. “Quit your worrying. I’m sure you have better things to be doing.”

Jisung looks at Mark, confused, but all Mark can do is shrug as he follows Donghyuck out of the office without any further complaints. He leads the way to the elevator in the back, the one Mark never uses because he walks to work, so he always enters through the front elevators that go to the lobby.

They emerge into the parking garage and Mark understands that Donghyuck is going to be driving them somewhere and he has no control over it. He’s sure he could say that he really doesn’t want to, and Donghyuck would stop because he’s not a bad person, but honestly he’s intrigued at this point. 

The thing is, though, maybe Mark doesn’t mind being spoiled just a little bit, especially when he’s so used to just barely making it by. On one hand, the absolute last thing he wants to do is be greedy. On the other hand, he doesn’t want to be rude, and that does leave him in a bit of a weird place. It seems like Donghyuck couldn’t care less about whatever internal crisis Mark is having, though, because he strides across the floor of the parking garage until he digs something from his pocket and the black Maserati in the corner beeps once.

“Ready?” Donghyuck calls over his shoulder, swinging his keys around his finger, eyes twinkling with something akin to mischief that should scare Mark more than it excites him, but it doesn’t.

And if the ride isn’t the best one Mark has had in his entire life, then Jisung can sue him with every corporate lawyer in the company. They pull up in the high-end part of the shopping district that Mark never really cares to go to because it’s all at least four digits out of his price range.

None of Donghyuck’s mannerisms toward him throughout the whole trip ever make him feel out of place. On the contrary, they all actually seem to be geared towards making him feel more comfortable and helping him find what he wants. The first time Mark twitches his fingers toward his wallet, Donghyuck already has his card out.

“I’m the one who is making you do this. Let me.” There was no further discussion on it after that.

Out of all the stores they go to that day, the trip to Armani sticks out the most in his mind. Donghyuck leads the way in, Mark’s measurements already memorized while Mark himself lost track after the attendant at the first store said the word “shoulders.”

Donghyuck is barely through the door when he is already calling out for someone in the store and is instantly greeted by a tall man with dark hair and a wide smile who introduces himself as Doyoung, Donghyuck’s cousin. Mark swallows hard and shakes his hand firmly because out of everything he expected to happen on this trip, meeting one of Donghyuck’s family members sits dead last on his mental list.

“So,” Doyoung says, clapping his hands together as he turns back to Donghyuck. “What can I help you get today?”

“Oh, not me.” Donghyuck swiftly points a finger at Mark. “For him.”

Doyoung pivots to face Mark with the most curious expression in both senses of the phrase. He, for one, looks entirely baffled by the prospect of this unassuming mid-twenties man in a beige sweater vest wanting to purchase anything from an Armani store, yet the quirk of his eyebrow tells Mark that Doyoung is intrigued by the prospect.

“Alright, Mark.” Doyoung spreads his hands wide to gesture to the store in its entirety. “What are you looking for?”

“Uh, a suit?” He spares a glance at Donghyuck, but he’s already wandering off further into the store, running a delicate hand over the expensive fabric. “I think?”

“I’m asking what you’re looking for, Mark, not what Donghyuck is,” Doyoung coaxes carefully. “Now what can I help you find today?”

“A suit that fits my style,” Mark replies after a moment, with much more confidence. Doyoung grins.

“Now that,” he says, already turning around, stalking off with a purpose. “Is something I can handle.

Mark loses track of time in Armani between cracking jokes with Doyoung—who he learns isn’t nearly as scary as he first looks—and trying on countless suits until they finally settle upon two that he likes.

He, no matter how much Donghyuck insists that he should get both, refuses to take a second and walks out of Armani that day with not only one stupidly expensive suit, but a new friend as well. 

When Mark finally gets home that night after hours of walking around the shopping district with Donghyuck, he barely remembers to change into pajamas and brush his teeth before he collapses onto his bed.

It only feels as if it has been a second when there’s a hand on his shoulder, unceremoniously shaking him awake. The hand belongs to none other than Renjun, and Mark feebly swats at it as a signal that he’s awake.

He doesn’t know what time it is, only that the sunlight streaming through his half-closed curtains casts a warm light across his bed, and all he wants to do is curl up into a ball and sleep more. But Renjun’s prodding hands are insistent, so he blinks his tired eyes open.

“What do you want?” He grumbles, voice low in his throat.

“I’ve been entertaining your visitor for half an hour,” Renjun explains, an alarming smile continuing to grow on his face. “But I’m afraid they’re insisting upon seeing you.”

“Who is it?” Mark grumbles, not in the mood to deal with company. He glances at the clock on his bedside table, seeing that it reads a little past two o’clock in the afternoon.

“Well… It’s no one particularly important…” Renjun trails off, clearly leaving Mark to fill in the rest. His slick smile throws Mark off, and he sits bolt upright in bed.

“My mother isn’t here, right?” His voice squeaks, panic seizing up in his chest.

“What?” Renjun looks aghast, his smile dropping instantly. “No! Mark’s that’s no joking matter, even for me.” He adjusts his tone, softening it to match the concern sparkling in his eyes.

“Johnny then?” Mark scratches his head as he lets the knot in his chest unwind, lost for ideas. “Did I forget something at work the other night?”

“To cut this horrendous guessing game short, it’s the man who was on the cover of the latest edition of GQ,” Renjun supplies at last, clearly exasperated. Mark knows that this should mean something to him, that it his roommate’s words should hold some sort of significance, but he can’t find his way through his foggy brain fast enough to think it through.

“I don’t read GQ,” is what Mark finally responds with, quite unintelligently. He slumps back into his mattress, giving up and ready to go back to bed when Renjun groans and huffs in frustration.

“Lee Donghyuck is in our living room and has been asking to see you for the past hour, you incompetent swine,” Renjun hisses just before he whacks Mark’s face with a pillow.

It takes Mark a fraction of a second too long to process everything that just happened because it has given Renjun enough time to scamper out of the doorway by the time Mark starts to curse him out. Mark runs out after him with a pillow in hand, intended to be used for revenge, but a voice from the other side of the hallway stops him.

“You’re quite lively in the morning… or should I say afternoon.”

Mark freezes, slowly rotating his body until he makes eye contact with Donghyuck and the air is compressed out of his lungs before he can even close his mouth. His boss is standing there, leaning up against a wall in his apartment on a Saturday afternoon, dressed in dark jeans and a cream colored sweater with his arm crossed the the most amused smile on his face. Mark is tempted to pinch himself to make sure he isn’t dreaming, but he realizes that would probably just make things worse.

“He’s usually not!” Renjun shouts from down the hallway behind Mark, but escapes through a doorway just in time for a pillow to sail past and land somewhere on the floor farther down.

“Shut it, Huang!” A now pillow-less Mark yells back before turning to Donghyuck sheepishly. “Good afternoon, Mister Lee.” The greeting is as informal as he allows himself to get, but it seems to please Donghyuck.

“Good afternoon, Mark,” he greets, still smiling.

“Excuse me for asking, but…” Mark bites his lip, considering the phrasing of his next words carefully before deciding to just ask the question straight out. “Why are you here?”

“Ah, yes.” His eyes light up, and suddenly Mark is much more wary. “Your order came in.”

“My what?”

“Alright, technically it’s more of my order for you, but either way it’s all here. Normally I’d send you to deliver it, but since it’s yours, I figured I’d come to drop it off. I didn’t expect you to still be asleep.”

Mark’s tired brain is working overtime to try and figure out what Donghyuck means, but all he succeeds in doing is dwelling on the fact that instead of giving whatever the order is to Mark on Monday like a normal person, he took it upon himself to deliver it to Mark’s apartment personally on a Saturday afternoon.

“I’m still lost,” he says at last, instead of admitting that he zoned out for a few seconds in there. It doesn’t seem to matter, though, because Donghyuck’s smile just widens.

“Come over here.”

Mark reluctantly follows him down the hallway to the living room, the bright city sunshine forcing him to squint when he enters because his eyes haven’t had the chance to adjust yet. He blinks hard, forcing himself to open up his eyes all the way. When he can see properly once again, he spots Donghyuck sitting on his kitchen counter, tossing an apple from the fruit bowl back and forth between his palms, a black garment bag spread out on the surface next to him.

“What’s that?”

“Your order,” he replies simply, as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world. Which it isn’t, for the record.

Mark shakes his head to show his lingering confusion, but all Donghyuck does is gesture for him to open the bag. So he does, and the first thing his fingers graze beyond the zipper is silk. He snatches his hand back as if it has been burned.

“Is this what I think it is?” Mark asks, slowly putting the pieces together as the fog in his brain slowly clears to reveal the most obvious answer ever.

“I got you some additions to your collection,” Donghyuck hums, watching as Mark tentatively opens the garment bag the rest of the way. As he guessed, it’s filled with the four suits that Mark had chosen not to get yesterday although he had considered them. Donghyuck must have taken note of them and then gone back to buy them once they were done. “You’re pretty easy to read when it comes to things you want.”

Mark prays that Donghyuck isn’t reading as far into that statement as Mark is.

“Thank you, Mister Lee,” Mark says, choosing to accept the suits because at this point Donghyuck has already paid for them and deemed it worthy to deliver them personally, and Mark’s conscience can’t take the hit if he makes Donghyuck feel bad for doing all of this for him.

Mark looks up to thank Donghyuck again, but he’s no longer perched on the counter. He’s halfway out the door by the time Mark spots him, and he only turns around to say one thing:

“And if you ever wear another one of those cursed sweater vests into my office, I will not hesitate to fire you.”

At first, Mark has no idea how serious Donghyuck is being because his mouth is set in a hard line, but the glimmer of amusement in his eyes makes Mark’s mind jump back to Jaemin’s words on the day of his interview about how Donghyuck just has a flare for the dramatics.

Mark smooths a finger down a nonexistent crease in the fabric as the door closes behind Donghyuck, already in the process of making a mental note to himself that reminds him to not take anything his boss says too seriously.

 

LESSON 4: Don’t Be Surprised When You See Them Outside of Work (it’s like one big unintentional game of hide-and-seek)

Mark has long since stopped counting the days he has survived working at FULLSUN, the novelty of lasting longer than everyone else having worn off rather quickly. Several months have passed and the seasons are beginning to change, although sometimes it’s hard to tell when the view out of the window by his desk is all concrete and metal and rushing people below. 

Things in other aspects of his life refuse to change as well, but the more he thinks about it, the more he understands that maybe it’s him who refuses to change the other aspects of his life.

He still lives in the same small apartment with Renjun and, although they could afford much better now, neither of them feel the particular need to move. On the other hand, despite his relatively hefty income that he earns at FULLSUN, he can’t bring himself to quit his job at the bar for several reasons.

One, because they’re understaffed as it is, and Mark leaving would just make it worse. Second, because it’s a really nice change from working in an office answering phone calls and responding to emails all day, and it usually helps him unwind. Thirdly, and most importantly, it’s because of how much Mark adores the owners—Johnny and Jaehyun.

They practically raised him, all things considered.

Mark couldn’t be more thankful for the role they play in his life, and as much as he may not really owe them at all, it eases his conscience to know that he is giving something back to them by working at the bar. He just works weekends now, the late shift, and is only being paid a fraction of what he earns at his other job, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Friday night is just as busy as usual, and when Mark’s shift ends at five in the morning, Johnny and Jaehyun gently ushering him out the door and leading the tired boy two blocks down to his apartment. He has been awake for somewhere over twenty-four hours at this point, and can’t even bring his lips to move to say goodbye when Johnny hands Mark over the threshold of the front door to an awaiting Renjun who helps him to bed with no further words.

This is normality for Mark, now: sleeping most of the day and working all night on the weekends, exhaustion keeping his stray thoughts of his day job away long enough for him to be able to cope. Bartending at The Sense is mind-numbing and easy; Mark supposes that’s what he likes about it so much besides the co-workers.

Yuta is a little weird but tells the best stories; Sicheng is quiet most of the time but if he gets drunk then he is the loudest beer-pong champion Mark has ever seen; Dejun can mix any drink blindfolded. That’s not even mentioning Renjun, who has worked with Mark at The Sense since Johnny and Jaehyun opened the thing, and they share shifts together sometimes if they’re lucky.

In particular, they like doubling the late shift from Saturday night into the wee hours of Sunday morning. That’s when the best crowd of regulars are in and Mark knows all their drink orders by heart just as well as they know him and Renjun by how they make their Whiskey Sours. 

Tonight is special because Johnny and Jaehyun join them behind the bar for the first time in a while, engaging with the regulars and entertaining them. As Johnny laughs raucously at his own joke and Jaehyun hits him for it with a smirking Renjun not too far away, Mark is struck with the realization that these boys are his family, and he often forgets how much he enjoys spending time with them. 

With a father he never knew, a runaway older brother and an absentee mother, Mark grew up between the treehouse in Johnny’s backyard and the school library, knowing that he had to work as hard as he could to get farther in life than the rest of his family. 

When Johnny married Jaehyun in Mark’s senior year of high school and told him that they were moving to the United States so they could be closer to home, they extended an offer for Mark to join them. It took thirty seconds to make the decision and within thirty minutes, Mark had packed up his belongings and stood on Johnny’s doorstep with the MIT acceptance letter that he’d been too scared to show his mother until then.

“Hey,” Johnny says softly, nudging Mark’s shoulder. “What’s got you in your head so much?”

“He’s thinking about his boss,” Renjun calls from the other side of the bar with a laugh. 

Renjun’s appearance in his life has been the best coincidence yet. He was a pure mathematics major at MIT and they somehow ended up rooming together. They clicked immediately and never let go of each other after that.

“Oh, shut up , Injun ,” Mark huffs, grabbing down a jar of olives because they just ran out. “It’s not like you don’t have your own obsession with the guy who comes into the coffee shop every morning when you’re working.”

“Hold on, let’s back up here for a second,” Johnny says slowly, turning his gaze back to Mark. “Isn’t your boss Lee Donghyuck? Why do you keep thinking about him?”

“Because he has a crush on him,” Renjun teases, but shuts up when Mark throws an olive at him and it hits him squarely between the brows. 

“I do not!” Mark pouts, stubborn. Sure, Donghyuck is every man or woman’s dream: the looks, the brains, the success, but Mark isn’t falling for him. He’s sure of it… at least he thinks. “Just because he’s hot and rich and smart doesn’t mean I automatically like him.”

“You don’t automatically like who?” 

Mark freezes because out of all of the places he expects to hear Lee Donghyuck’s voice, it certainly isn’t in a small bar on the not-stupidly-rich side of town where he works his second job.

“Uh, hey, Mister Lee, sir.” Mark stumbles over his words in his haste to turn around, and is greeted by the ungodly sight of his boss in skinny jeans and a half tucked in silk shirt that’s rucked up to his elbows. His hair is pushed off of his forehead, but not styled, and Mark just wants to melt into the floor just to escape his gaze.

“We aren’t in a work environment, Mark, you can call be Donghyuck,” he pauses, glancing around. “Or, at least I’m not in a work environment.”

“What are you doing here, Mister Lee?” Mark sees Renjun snickering out of the corner of his eye and throws another olive at him. It pegs him right on his nose and Mark smiles.

“I’m here because I’m out celebrating with some friends, and I was wondering why you chose not to show up,” Donghyuck says pointedly and Mark winces.

He vaguely remembers Donghyuck telling him about some sort of work outing to celebrate some achievement of the company, but he knew that he worked all weekend and wasn’t going to be able to go, so he had turned him down as gently as he could at the time. 

“I had to work…” Mark trails off with a grimace as he gestures to his apron. “I didn’t know that you were coming here otherwise I might have…”

“Might have what? Hid in the back?” Donghyuck prompts, arms crossed. “You already have a job, Mark, and I work you enough as is, so why do you have a second one?”

“Because I—” Mark cuts himself off and looks around at the crowd in the bar, some of whom are not-so-subtly eavesdropping. “Can we have this conversation elsewhere?”

“The back room is open and available,” Johnny says, and Mark realizes that he, Jaehyun, and Renjun have been listening in this entire time. His lips purse and he motions around the side of the bar to a narrow doorway. Donghyuck nods and disappears around the corner, and Mark heaves a sigh once he’s out of sight, letting his body relax.

“Why are you so tense around him?” Johnny asks, a thumb landing on his shoulder to rub at a knot under his skin. “Your entire body went rigid when you heard him.”

“I’ll explain later, John.” Mark forces a small smile and pulls himself away to slip out from behind the bar and into the door that Donghyuck had entered just moments ago. He gently closes the door behind him and meets his boss’s narrowed gaze, his silken-clad arms still crossed over his chest.

“Talk,” he demands. “Now.”

“Don’t order me around.” Mark’s lip curls in distaste about being treated like a child. “I don’t owe you any sort of explanation; I’m doing this because I am willing to, but if your attitude doesn’t make a drastic change, Mister Lee, then I won’t tell you anything at all.”

“I could fire you.”

“You could.” Mark shrugs. “But you won’t. It states within my contract that there has to be a reasonable purpose behind sudden termination of employment, and it is within the parameters of my contract to hold a second job over the duration of my employment at FULLSUN.”

Donghyuck looks surprised at Mark’s tone, and Mark realizes that this is the first time he has probably been talked back to in a while. He had looked up that clause out of interest after Donghyuck had mentioned firing him if he wore another sweater vest in the office, just to make sure that he had been joking. Even though he was, Mark continued to wear the suits to work, his sweater vests lost in the back of his closet.

“Alright, then,” Donghyuck says, clearly a little out of his depth. He swallows and sits down on a stool by the wall, leaning back and leveling his stare with Mark’s. “Could you tell me about this? Please?”

“I owe—” Mark starts, but Donghyuck cuts him off.

“You owe money? I can pay you more if that’s the prob—”

“No,” Mark snaps, cutting Donghyuck off in return. “I owe Johnny and Jaehyun, the owners.”

“You owe them money?” He tilts his head, clearly not understanding what Mark was getting at.

“Mister Lee, please, are you going to let me explain it to you or not?” Mark sighs, not knowing why his patience is so low today. He rubs his temples and blinks his eyes back up to meet Donghyuck’s.

“By all means.” Donghyuck spreads his arms. “Tell me what you think I deserve to know.”

There’s something about the way he phrases it that irks Mark, almost irrationally, but he pushes that to the side and perches himself on the edge of a stool on the other side of the small back room. Donghyuck looks at him curiously, and suddenly there’s nothing holding him back from spilling his whole life story into the stale space between them.

He talks about how his father who was never in the picture, his runaway brother, his workaholic mother with the side job of recreational drinking. How he grew up fast, figuring out how to take care of himself for the most part, but being able to fall back on his neighbor Johnny when things got too hard for an elementary school kid to take care of himself.

How Johnny was Mark’s safe space, and when Jaehyun came into the picture in Mark’s elementary school days, they became their own little family of three. He tells Donghyuck about how they all moved to America together while Mark went to MIT and then when they moved back to Korea, Mark refused job opportunities he had in the States to go back with them because of how much they meant.

There’s guilt in his tone when he talks about the fact that he never told Johnny and Jaehyun that he had opportunities back in America because otherwise they never would have let him leave.

“Then why did you take the job at FULLSUN?” Donghyuck speaks for the first time in a while, and Mark almost jumps. That’s a question he has been hoping to avoid, but there’s no good way out of it, and at this point he’s so far into things that it can’t hurt.

“Working as an engineer at FULLSUN has been my dream for years, and when I finally got an interview, there was no way I was going to give that up.”

“So let me get this straight…” Donghyuck rubs at his chin absentmindedly. “Working at my company is your dream? Or, my uncle’s company at the time, I suppose.”

“Ever since I was a kid.” Mark feels more embarrassed than he probably has the rationale to be when he says it aloud to Donghyuck, but he can’t take it back.

“And you work here because you feel like you want to give back to Johnny and Jaehyun for all they’ve done for you over the years?”

“Pretty much.” Mark shrugs, at a loss of what else to say. He used up all of his eloquent phrasing and anger when he was recounting the abridged version of his entire life a few moments ago, so all he is now is a monosyllabic, emotionally drained shell of a human being.

“Well,” Donghyuck says, standing up and flicking a piece of nonexistent lint from his jeans, just above the rip at his knee. “I’ve heard all that I need to, and all that you’re probably willing to tell me.”

“So that’s just it?” Mark asks. It almost seems too easy, but then again, he didn’t exactly know what he was expecting when he walked into the room.

“That’s it.” Donghyuck nods, turning to leave before pausing, tilting his head thoughtfully. “But, Mark?”

“Yes, Mister Lee?”

“Do your best not to overwork yourself, alright? I can’t force you to quit this job, nor will I try, in fact, I’ll never mention it again if that’s what you want, but all I ask is that you put your health above it.”

It’s not what Donghyuck says that strikes Mark so much as the manner in which he says it. Don’t get him wrong, the words themselves are meaningful, but the almost hesitant, soft way that Donghyuck speaks goes straight to Mark’s heart without a second thought.

“I can handle that,” he responds after a moment.

“I’d certainly hope so.” Donghyuck leaves then, and Mark is stuck between wanting to laugh or sob or just take a fucking nap. Although the second two have their appeal, Mark just delivers a halfhearted chuckle into the room, the empty space swallowing the sound up easily, reminding Mark that he’s alone.

He takes another second to collect himself—tightens his apron, pinches the bridge of his nose because he feels a headache coming on, takes a deep breath—before he gathers enough willpower to push the door open and slip back behind the bar once again.

He waves off the concerned glances of his pseudo-family with a smile and a flourish of a mixer as he gets to work on another patron’s order without another moment’s delay. It’s a good distraction, if he’s being honest, but over the course of the night his mind does slip back into thoughts of Donghyuck, leaving Mark confused and lost all over again.

He doesn’t see Donghyuck again for most of the night, assuming that he just left at some point without Mark knowing, and it doesn’t bother him. The next time he’ll see him is back at FULLSUN and hopefully he’ll have the tact not to talk about what happened here tonight because that’s the last thing Mark wants to deal with on Monday morning.

However, Donghyuck is ever the one to be full of surprises, so Mark shouldn’t be as startled as he is when Donghyuck stumbles up to the counter, clearly drunk.

“Do you, uh, like me?” Donghyuck slurs, leaning heavily against the surface of the bar so he doesn’t fall over. Mark is decently impressed that he managed to make it all the way over here without collapsing, but he’ll never voice that little opinion.

“Do I what?” Mark raises an eyebrow, unsure of how seriously he should be taking the question.

“Do you like me?” He repeats, before licking his lips delicately and elaborating. “Do you think I’m a good person?”

“Yes, of course.” Mark frowns, the question taking him a little off guard. He doesn’t know what prompted him to ask Mark such a question, and while he’s this inebriated to boot, but he’s not entirely sure he wants to know either.

“You don’t know anything about me,” he whispers looking at Mark, eyes a little hazy.

“Mister Lee, I don’t understand—”

“Donghyuck! There you are!” Someone calls him from the other side of the room and Mark looks over to meet Jaemin’s eyes. “Hi, Mark. I’m sorry about him.”

“Hey, Jaemin,” he greets slowly. “Can you make sure he gets home safely?”

“I always do.” He smiles, and Mark doesn’t doubt it for a second. 

Jaemin loops an arm around Donghyuck’s waist, guiding Donghyuck to hold onto his shoulders as he helps him out of the bar. Jaemin turns around to throw one last smile at Mark before they exit finally, and the rest of the night shift seems unusually quiet in comparison.

The clock strikes four o’clock in the morning some time later, and Johnny tells Mark and Renjun to go home and get some sleep, that he and Jaehyun can take care of the closing tonight. Mark thanks him tiredly before resigning himself to dragging his half asleep roommate all the way back to their apartment, refusing Johnny’s offer to drive them because they only live a few blocks away from the bar.

Unlocking the door proves to be somewhat of a challenge when seventy-five percent of his body is occupied trying to make sure Renjun doesn’t collapse onto the carpeted hallway outside their door, but he’s pliant and easy to manhandle into bed once they’re inside.

Mark tucks him in, sets his alarm for noon like always, and barely remembers to start the coffee pot before he slinks back into his own room. He changes into sweatpants and an old university t-shirt somewhat absentmindedly before dragging himself to the bathroom to wash his face and brush his teeth, but his brain only really holds the capacity to think of sleep.

There’s a fraction of a second between when Mark’s head hits the pillow and he drifts off to sleep, and it’s filled with questions about Donghyuck, but they’re all whisked away a second later as he finally succumbs to exhaustion, never to be thought about again for quite some time.

 

LESSON 5: Taking Breaks Is Okay (even if you have to force them)

True to his word, Donghyuck never makes Mark stop working at the bar. In fact, he never mentions it at all, let alone shows up there again. Donghyuck doesn’t mention it, and Mark doesn’t feel the need to bring it up, so the topic floats weirdly between them, preventing them from sitting too comfortably with each other for too long.

Mark doesn’t stop, though. He continues to work every weekend, but he makes sure to sleep through the days as much as he can, so the exhaustion doesn’t hit him as hard as he had expected. Work at FULLSUN is the same as ever: unending, unrelenting, and tiring. It doesn’t once hinder Mark’s determination, though, and he powers through it all rather smoothly.

This all works until a Monday morning a handful of weeks after what Mark likes to refer to as “The Bar Incident.” This all works until everything hits the fan at once.

One of Donghyuck’s major finance deals falls through, stocks take a dip, a couple of major engineering projects are put on hold due to time constraints on other matters, and the plans that Donghyuck has been promising to get to an investor by tomorrow have somehow gotten messed up and have to be redone. 

It doesn’t take a genius to tell that Donghyuck is about to blow a fuse, so Mark takes initiative and steps in. 

“Hey, Mister Lee? You have an urgent call in your office,” Mark announces, making his way through the crowd of interviewers in the meeting room. Donghyuck is supposed to be talking to the press about the latest plans for the company expansion, but he’s overwhelmed and unfocused, and it’s not going well.

“What?” His eyes find Mark’s through the throng of people. “Can it wait?”

“No, sir.” He shakes his head, pushing the rest of the way to Donghyuck. “It needs to be dealt with now.”

That’s what does the trick to get Donghyuck out of the press conference: Mark blatantly lying that his boss has something important to do before nearly dragging him out of the room and telling the security guys to get the press out of Mister Lee’s building within the next five minutes.

The ride back up to the elevator is silent. Mark stands in the back, concern painted across his features, while Donghyuck rests his forehead on the doors, taking deep breaths. His breath fogs up against the cool metal, and Mark can see a partial reflection of his face in the doors. He averts his eyes before Donghyuck can catch him looking.

“Mister Lee? Are you alright?” Mark starts as the elevator dings open. “And please don’t lie to me,” he tacks on at the end hastily the moment Donghyuck opens his mouth. It makes him falter before a tired smile crosses his lips.

“I’ll be fine, Mark. Thank you,” he says, voice low and tired. “Who’s on the phone for me again?”

“Ah, about that…” Mark twists his fingers behind his back. “No one.”

“No one?” Donghyuck raises an eyebrow, hand pausing over the handle of his office door. 

“I just said that to get you out of the conference because you looked pale and spacey, and that was the only thing I could think of,” he defends quickly. “Things haven’t been going very well over the past few days and I think it all just culminated in that meeting and I thought you were going to pass out or something.”

Donghyuck’s smile grows, the mischievous glint in his eyes returning slowly as Mark rambles on. He decides that he’ll sacrifice a bit of his pride just this once, indulging Donghyuck when he continues.

“Just… take a moment to cool off and I’ll grab you a coffee or something? Take five minutes away from work before you explode because I’m probably responsible for picking up the pieces, and that’s a lot of work.” 

“Sounds like a plan, Mark.” Donghyuck gives him a nod before disappearing into his office, leaving a wink and a shaky breath in his wake. He clearly isn’t okay, Mark knows this, and Mark is reasonably sure that Donghyuck knows that Mark knows this.

So, he sets out to do as promised and makes the trip all the way back down to the first floor to pick up some coffee, and is back up in their office space in five minutes flat. Mark thinks he should be earning some sort of record for that, but all thoughts of gold medals fly out of his head when he peeks into Donghyuck’s office to see him already hard at work.

“Mister Lee,” Mark sighs, stepping into the room. “Did I or did I not explicitly tell you to take a break?”

“Can’t recall.” Donghyuck smiles up at him cheekily. “I was already thinking about all the work I had to do.”

Mark squints at him in distaste, but gives him the coffee anyway. Donghyuck doesn’t thank him aloud this time, giving him another half-smile over the brim of the cup before he turns back to the piles of contracts and documents that sit on his desk. Mark opens his mouth to say something else, but there’s nothing more he can say that will get Donghyuck to stop working for even a fraction of a minute short of the man dying himself.

Even then, though, Mark thinks he would work from the grave. He’d probably ask to be buried with his laptop and charger near an outlet or something ridiculous like that.

The thought makes him smile a little bit as he quietly backs out of the office and back into the large room outside. No one else is there, so Mark takes a moment to let out the breath he didn’t even know he was holding. If Donghyuck is doing as much work as it looks like, that doesn’t give Mark any room to slack off either, so he reluctantly seats himself down at his own desk and gets to work on anything and everything he can to make Donghyuck’s job even the slightest bit easier.

The next time Mark looks at the clock is when he finishes reviewing the last bit of financing paperwork that Donghyuck had given him, and it’s rapidly descending upon midnight. He takes a cursory glance around at the office and sees that he’s the last one.

Or, almost the last one.

Artificial light spills out from Donghyuck’s office through the crack underneath the door and the bit that it remains open. He must have left and come back at some point in such haste that he didn’t even close the door all the way again.

Mark rolls his chair back far enough that he can crane his neck around the corner and see what Donghyuck is still working on. His breath catches in his throat when his line of sight passes the edge of the door and he can peer in.

Donghyuck’s head is resting on his desk, pillowed on his arms. Mark stands up so fast he nearly knocks his chair over in his hurry to see if he’s okay. It turns out that Donghyuck is just fast asleep, his breathing low and deep.

Mark has been working at FULLSUN for several months now, but even over that short span of time, he likes to think that he and Donghyuck have become closer. However, he doesn’t deem them close enough for Mark to bring him back to his own apartment to sleep since he doesn’t know where Donghyuck lives. He chooses his next best option and pulls out his phone, scrolling down the contacts until he comes across Na Jaemin.

“Mark? What’s up?” Jaemin sounds panicked, but his voice is still groggy like he has just woken up, and Mark feels a pang of guilt.

“Mis—Donghyuck fell asleep at the office and I’m not sure what to do?” Mark almost refers to him as ‘Mister Lee’ to Jaemin, but that feels wrong for some reason before he can even get it all of the way out of his mouth.

“Is this about the investors?” Jaemin asks. “Nevermind, don’t answer that. I think we both know.” There’s shuffling around on Jaemin’s end of the line, and another voice there in the background. It’s muffled and soft, but there.

Jaemin just shushes them quietly, telling them to go back to sleep and he’ll be back soon before there’s the sound of a door clicking shut and Jaemin speaks directly to Mark again. 

“I’ll be over in, say, fifteen minutes? I can get him home, but would you mind staying with him until I get there?”

“Yeah,” Mark says, a lot more quiet than he had intended. “I can stay.”

“Perfect. I’ll see you soon.”

Mark hangs up with a soft “thank you” and slips his phone back into his pocket, his attention turning back to Donghyuck immediately.

He takes the pen still lightly resting between Donghyuck’s fingers and puts it back in the cup beside his computer monitor. With a heave, Mark lifts him until he’s leaning back in his chair, his head lolled to the side, and not collapsed over his desk in a way that hurts Mark’s back to even look at. 

There’s a streak of pen on Donghyuck’s cheek, and Mark goes back out to his own desk to grab a pack of wipes from his bag and returns to gently rub at the blue ink marked onto the soft skin.

When it’s gone, Mark rocks back on his heels and gazes down. There’s something about Donghyuck like this that makes Mark want to protect every bit of him. He’s so young to have this much responsibility on his shoulders, to have dark circles deep enough to look like bruises, but it never cuts into his classic handsomeness.

Nothing ever does, in Mark’s eyes, and that little revelation scares him.

There are very few things in life that Mark is truly afraid of, and there’s a new addition to the list as of about five seconds ago: falling for someone who won’t fall for him back.

Thankfully, Mark doesn’t have the time to dwell on that though because it’s just then that Donghyuck stirs lightly, his head shifting upright against his chair and he blindly reaches out a hand until it clutches at Mark’s wrist.

“What’s goin’ on?” His voice is rough, breaking over the words as he blinks his eyes open slowly, bringing the world back into focus.

“You fell asleep, Mister Lee,” Mark explains gently. “Jaemin’s on his way to pick you up.”

“But I was havin’ a nice dream,” Donghyuck hums. “Now I have to start all over.”

Mark doesn’t know how he manages it, but the pout that molds itself slowly onto Donghyuck’s lips is the most adorable thing that Mark has ever seen. Not that he’ll ever say that out loud, though.

“You can have another good dream,” Mark tells him softly, resisting the urge to either laugh or coo at his boss.

“Maybe you’re right.” He blinks heavily, eyes staying shut longer than they open up. “What should I dream about?” Donghyuck asks, but his words are already becoming slurred and Mark knows that he’s about to fall asleep again.

“Ice skating,” Mark blurts before he can stop himself. Skating has been a source of joy and serenity for him since childhood, and a tiny part of him hopes it can be the same for Donghyuck. “Dream about ice skating.”

“I’ve never been ice skating…” It sounds like Donghyuck has more to say, but his breathing evens out and Mark knows that he has fallen asleep once more.

Jaemin shows up a few minutes later in sweatpants and a t-shirt, donning a tired but thankful smile when he slips into Donghyuck’s office to see the scene before him: Mark rubbing soothing circles onto the skin of Donghyuck’s wrist just above his watch while Donghyuck himself continues to snooze in his chair.

They don’t speak as Jaemin hoists Donghyuck out of the chair, half-leading half-dragging him out of the room as Donghyuck’s semi-conscious self gives its best attempt to walk. Mark has to stifle the smile threatening to overtake his face when Donghyuck stumbles into the doorframe and would have fallen right over if Jaemin hadn’t been there to steady him.

It’s only then does Mark look back at Donghyuck’s desk and take in the sheer amount of work littered across his. The beginnings of a plan start to form in his mind; he carefully slips into Donghyuck’s chair and takes the pen back from where he had put it in the cup not too long ago. 

His entire attention is turned back to the stacks of papers in front of him, and he knows that his work is cut out for him.

The next morning, he pushes his exhaustion aside as he drags himself into the lobby to order three coffees: two for himself and the other one being Donghyuck’s usual.

Mark drinks one on the way to the elevator, discarding the empty cup before he even passes through the doors and starting on the moment the doors open again to the floor with his own office.

He takes a peek into Donghyuck’s office to see if he’s here yet, but everything is just how Mark left it last night. He sighs, not sure whether he’s relieved or disappointed, as he walks over to his own desk and sets down his bag as he slides into his chair.

The first thing he does once he’s logged on is to pull up Donghyuck’s itinerary for the day, and with another sip of his coffee, cancels it all since there’s nothing too important besides a meeting with a shareholder. Which, now that he thinks about it, is actually pretty important, but he’s already halfway through drafting an email requesting to reschedule the meeting due to last minute schedule changes, so Mark simply follows through.

The elevator doors ding open from the other side of the floor as Mark hits the send button. He looks up to see Donghyuck striding across the office. His tie is slightly askew but he looks better, more refreshed. Mark has tried to avoid looking in any reflective surfaces this morning, which may or may not have included squeezing his eyes shut for the whole elevator ride up for the forty-second floor as to not risk seeing himself in the reflective surfaces of the metal doors.

“I took the liberty of clearing your schedule today, Mister Lee.” Mark holds out Donghyuck’s usual coffee order out to him as he walks over to Mark’s desk.

“What?” He raises a brow at his secretary over the brim of his cup. “Why would you do that?”

“Because you have never been ice skating and frankly speaking, that’s despicable.” It almost pains Mark to think of how Donghyuck has gone his entire childhood without ever having skated. This also may or may not be a blatant excuse to get Donghyuck out of his office and his mind off of work for a little bit because it’s not healthy. But Mark isn’t going to tell him that.

“Alright then, so we’re saying screw the investors so we can skip out on work entirely?” He leans a hip on the edge of Mark’s desk, looking incredulous. “Who are you and what have you done with my secretary?”

“I think we can afford one day off , Mister Lee,” Mark responds defensively.

“So it’s a date?” Donghyuck winks, and Mark forgets how to breathe for a moment. 

“Let’s just go, yeah?” Mark needs to learn how to be a bit more elegant when it comes to dodging questions, but he supposes that it will do for now because Donghyuck simply laughs into his coffee cup and follows Mark back to the elevators.

When Mark presses the button of the lobby and not the parking garage, he sees Donghyuck’s eyebrow twitch upwards—which is something of a habit when his curiosity is piqued, Mark has learned. 

“I have a car, Mark,” he starts. “You know we could just drive.”

“It’s not that far away, and besides—” Mark glances back over his shoulder as the doors open, sending a splitting grin to Donghyuck “—we could probably use the exercise.”

It’s a distinct possibility that Mark probably would have fallen asleep to the low hum of Donghyuck’s Maserati’s engine, so choosing to walk and get some fresh air is the perfect way for him to stay awake without simply drinking ungodly amounts of caffeine.

“Are you at least going to tell me where we’re headed?” Donghyuck asks, carefully following Mark through the lobby and out the main doors. 

“There’s this little skating rink just outside of downtown that I like to go to,” he pauses for a moment, biting his lip and deciding whether or not he should continue.

“And?” Donghyuck prompts, clearly sensing that Mark left something off.

“I like it because it reminds me of the trips I look to Canada as a boy to see my grandparents that live up there.”

“You have grandparents in Canada? How are they?”

This is where Mark falters.

“I haven’t seen them in years,” he admits slowly, stopping at the end of the sidewalk when he sees the crosswalk light turn orange. “The last time I went to Canada, I must have only been seven or eight. I don’t even know how to get in contact with them now.”

He deliberately leaves out the part where he actually does know how to get in contact with them, but it would involve speaking to his mother for the first time in years, and he’s still doing everything he can to avoid that.

Donghyuck places a hand on Mark’s shoulder as the crosswalk signal lights up white, opening his mouth to respond with something most likely along the lines of, “I could find them,” but Mark doesn’t want that. Sure, he misses his grandparents, and maybe there will be a point in the future where he’s ready to see them again, but there are a lot of memories—of his brother, of his friends, of his dog—and there are some that he doesn’t have the want or need to think about again.

Before Donghyuck can actually get a whole word out, Mark lays his own hand on top of Donghyuck’s as they start to walk. He squeezes Donghyuck’s fingers gently, looking over to flash him a smile to let him that that he’s okay.

Mark fully intends to just let go of Donghyuck’s hand and bring it back to his side again, but Donghyuck doesn’t seem as keen on letting that happen. In fact, he takes it upon himself to lace his fingers with Mark’s until their palms are pressing together, and drops them down until their intertwined hands are swinging easily between them.

Mark doesn’t freeze or stop walking like he had thought he would. In fact, he picks up the pace to escape the creeping sense of dread and his passionate wanting for the cement beneath his shoes to just swallow him up whole. Donghyuck just laughs and lengthens his strides to keep up with Mark, tapping his thumb against Mark’s with every step until they’re matching strides side-by-side.

Mark wonders what they look like to anyone who might see them. A male couple dressed in expensive suits, holding hands as they walk down Myeongdong seemingly without a care in the world. Surely, they look romantically involved, but it makes him wonder if anyone might see straight through them to the truth, and it scares him a bit.

The way to the ice rink is so ingrained in his mind that Mark doesn’t even have to think about where he’s going to make it there, which leaves the conscious part of his brain to wander about his thoughts as they walk in relative silence, letting the outside sounds of the city ebb and flow around them. 

His entire body relaxes when the ornate glass front doors to the ice rink appear into view. Donghyuck looks over at him curiously, but Mark doesn’t say anything as he leads the way inside, letting the cold wash over him, the sounds of blades scraping on ice sitting vaguely in the background.

Xiaojun is working today, Mark discovers when he looks over, and he can’t help but nearly skip up to the counter where Xiaojun has his feet propped up, his phone unhealthily close to his face. 

“What size are you,” he drones, not even bothering to look up.

“Junnie,” Mark singsongs. “Your customer service skills are getting rusty. Maybe I should send Ten down here and—”

“Mark!” Xiaojun finally glances up from his phone at the mention of his father, and he nearly launches himself across the counter to wrap Mark in a hug, which he returns with his free hand and a face-splitting grin. “How are you? How’s the new job? What’s it like there?”

He rambles on with questions, not leaving enough space to let Mark answer, let alone let himself breathe. He has already turned back around and is reaching under the counter to grab the skates that Mark keeps there, but Xiaojun nearly drops them right back into place when he looks up and registers that Donghyuck is there next to him.

“Mark,” he breathes so quietly that Mark almost misses it. “Why are you holding hands with Lee Donghyuck?”

Mark belatedly realizes that he is still holding Donghyuck’s hand and proceeds to drop it as fast as he can, awkwardly clasping his fingers in front of his stomach to keep them occupied. He just hopes that he can blame his rising blush on the cold.

“Xiaojun, this is my boss. Mister Lee, this is my longtime friend Xiaojun. His dad owns the place but he works here a lot.” Mark doesn’t feel as uncomfortable as he thought he would with letting Donghyuck meet Xiaojun, but maybe it’s just because he’s enjoying watching his friend try not to faint when Donghyuck extends his hand out to shake.

“It’s a pleasure, Xiaojun.” Donghyuck smiles easily. “Any friend of Mark’s is a friend of mine.”

“Honestly there was this part of me that straight up didn’t believe you were a real person,” Xiaojun admits, still starstruck, making Donghyuck laugh. “You’re always so attractive in all of those magazines and that I see, it’s sometimes hard to really believe that Lee Donghyuck exists in the same reality as I do.”

“Well…” Donghyuck shrugs, still grinning. “Looks like I do after all, huh?”

“Oh!” Xiaojun’s eyes glitter as he turns to Mark. “Do you want the back rink to yourselves today? It isn’t booked.”

“Would you really do that?” Mark positively lights up at the prospect. 

“Yeah, sure.” His less than enthusiastic word choice is compensated by the way even his eyes crinkle at the edges with happiness, and Mark wants to lean over the counter and kiss Xiaojun’s cheek. He actually would have if it isn’t for the man that he currently likes that is standing right next to him.

Oh.

Oh fuck.

Mark likes Donghyuck. Using the word “crush” sounds too juvenile, like he’s some lovesick teenager, but “love” is definitely too strong, so he settles on a mild “like” to encompass the ever-growing amount of feelings that he has for his boss. It doesn’t quite sum it all up, to be honest, but it’s the best thing he can think of at the moment and he isn’t going to whip out a thesaurus to go find a better word, no matter how much Renjun would insist that doing that is “on brand for him,” or whatever stupid slang he says nowadays.

More time has passed than Mark expected because the next time he blinks and the world in front of him comes back into focus. Donghyuck is already walking off down the hallway that leads to the back rink, and Xiaojun has his chin resting in his hands on the counter, wiggling his eyebrows at Mark.

“You know what they say about guys with big feet,” he mutters. It takes a second for Mark’s brain to catch up, but he spots a pair of skates in Donghyuck’s hands that Xiaojun must have just gotten for him and it clicks. Mark whacks the side of Xiaojun’s head, grateful that Donghyuck was already out of earshot, and snatches his skates from the counter before jogging over to catch up to Donghyuck.

Mark has always wanted to live in the apartment complex above the ice rink—why they built it there baffles Mark to this day, but the rink is still here and Ten now owns the whole building so there’s really no room to be complaining—but there are a few reasons why that won’t work. For one, he’d be quite a bit farther away from The Sense. For another, Renjun has this weird aversion to anything cold, and Mark doesn’t really want to live alone, so they settled on an apartment on the other side of downtown together.

He sits down on the bench just beside the rink immediately when they get in, nearly kicking off his shoes in his eagerness to pull on his skates and get back on the ice. He gets about a half pace away from the icea, his skates snugly on his feet, before he finally looks back to see how Donghyuck is doing. Even from just the cursory glance that Mark gives him, he’s definitely struggling and not doing a very good job of hiding it.

“Let me help,” Mark offers, his voice echoing around the empty rink. Donghyuck’s eyes snap up to him as he sheepishly lets the laces drop from his fingers, sitting back on the bench so he isn’t hunched over.

“By all means,” he says. “As you can probably see, I have no idea what I’m doing.”

“For what it’s worth,” Mark starts as he waddles back to the bench before kneeling down so he can get a better look at the skates. “You didn’t get a bad start.”

“And how did I do that?” Donghyuck snorts, clearly not believing him. Mark grins up at him, most likely only confirming his suspicions.

“You got them on.”

Donghyuck pushes Mark’s shoulder for that, but it’s not hard enough to knock him off balance. Mark just chuckles before turning his attention back to relacing Donghyuck’s skates. There’s silence between them again, which isn’t uncommon at this point and Mark needs to learn how to get more used to it, but it’s broken by a short laugh from Donghyuck.

“What’s so funny?” Mark prods as he ties the bow on the first skate and gets to work on the other.

“We should be in a meeting right now, yet here we are, me sitting here like an idiot while you have to put on my ice skates for me, not to mention that we’re a solid eleven blocks away from where we should be.”

Mark has to grin because he’s right—it’s so out of character for them both to be doing this.

“Kind of crazy, huh?”

And Mark swears that he does his best to teach Donghyuck how to skate, and for the first few minutes, his teaching methods seem to be working because Donghyuck can stand on his own and more or less move on his own too. However, when it comes to anything more complicated than stomping around on his toe picks to keep traction, with Mark wincing every time the grinding sound of the blade in the ice reaches his ears, Donghyuck can’t handle it as much as he insists that he can.

At one point he manages to glide about halfway across the rink, leaving the safety of the side that has been diligently helping him keep his balance, but he wobbles once, twice, and collapses onto the ice with an undignified and very un-Donghyuck-like squeak. He looks to the side of the rink at Mark, who is ready to go over and help him.

“How did I do?” He asks it with such sincerity that Mark is doubled over laughing in a split second.

In fact, Mark can’t even bring himself to care that when he loses balance because of the laughter and lands on the ice, that the seat of his slacks are probably all covered in a thin layer of ice that has been shaved off the surface of the rink by countless pairs of skates scraping it over.

Donghyuck, from the middle of the rink, laughs too because he can’t get up, and eventually Mark collects himself enough to be able to get back up and skate over to him. Eventually, with slow work and Donghyuck clinging to Mark like a baby koala, he learns to skate on his own, and Mark swears he has never felt more proud in his entire life.

When they finally get off the ice some hours later, Donghyuck declares that he’s going to go home for the day and sleep.

“That sounds exactly perfect.” Mark grins.

Donghyuck calls his driver, Taeil, to come pick them up from the rink because, “I swear to god if I take one more step my ankles will collapse in on themselves like piñatas.” The declaration doesn’t stop him from walking all the way from the back rink up to Xiaojun’s desk and chatting with him more before Taeil arrives, and he manages to walk all the way to the car, too.

“Can you swing by FULLSUN to drop me off, please?” Mark requests as he climbs into the backseat next to Donghyuck.

“I can just drop you off at your apartment, Mark.” Donghyuck frowns. “If I’m not working today, neither should you.”

“I just forgot something at the office, and you know that I don’t live that far away.”

“Mark—”

“Mister Lee, it’s okay,” Mark assures. Donghyuck just sighs and waves a hand at Taeil who simply nods his head knowingly and starts the drive back to the company building. The walk to the rink wasn’t very long, which means the drive is over in nearly the blink of an eye, and Mark is already reaching for the door handle before he knows it, but a hand catches his wrist to pause him.

“You know what you said earlier yesterday? About me exploding and you being responsible to pick up the pieces?” Donghyuck asks, voice uncharacteristically quiet. Mark furrows his brow, wracking his brain.

“Vaguely, yes.”

“You aren’t responsible for picking up my pieces, Mark,” he says softly, hand tightening around Mark’s wrist. “You never are, but I’m grateful that you did. Truly.”

“It’s my job, Mister Lee.” Mark smiles warmly. “I’ll always be there to pick up your pieces.”

Mark doesn’t even notice how his chest is compressing in on itself until Donghyuck’s car turns the corner in the parking garage and is out of sight because he feels like he can breathe normally again. He looks over at the elevator doors, shiny metal showing the reflection of him standing alone in the middle of the garage. 

He at least has the presence of mind to pull out his phone and text Renjun that he’s going to be late again, and doesn’t wait for a response before pocketing it and heading inside, hoping that his floor is at least mostly empty so that he can continue to make Donghyuck’s life easier in peace.