Running away from his problems had always been Donghyuk’s go-to solution. And it usually worked. Usually. His problem at the moment, was the utter and complete opposite of usual. In fact, it was highly unusual. Donghyuk’s day had started like any other, regular, day. He had woken up, after sleeping through his first alarm, at quarter-past-five in the morning, drank his morning coffee and had instant ramyun for breakfast. Woke Jisung up, got him ready and dressed and took him to day-care. Then, he had driven to work – the local hospital where he worked as a nurse – and like almost every other day, it was busy. After his shift had finished at midday, he had left after changing back to his street clothes. His day had been going as normal. He had not expected, nor planned, for his ex-husband to show up at his doorstep when he had been reviewing some notes from the hospital. Definitely not.
‘Hyuk – ‘
Yes, that was Mark Lee, his partner of four years, standing on his doorstep. Hair ruffled from the wind, customary leather jacket on, ripped jeans and a graphic t-shirt underneath. And his scent; the same as Donghyuk remembered it – cinnamon and rain. Donghyuk had to be dreaming because this was not possible. Mark Lee had died in a car accident two years ago, Donghyuk had been in the same car as him after all, as had their son. The accident had left three people dead, and five paralysed. Donghyuk and Jisung had been the only victims who sustained minor injuries. Donghyuk was dreaming. He had to be.
‘Hyukie,’ Mark was speaking again, staring at him with wide eyes, ‘Hyukie I’m here.’
Donghyuk remembered the laughter that had filled the car before all he saw was black.
When Donghyuk opened his eyes, he was staring at the ceiling inside his room. The familiar stars that Mark had hung up there shone brightly for him as he lay still. Why had he dreamed of Mark? Better question – why did Mark come back in his dream?
‘Hyukie? Are you awake?’
He was still dreaming apparently. Or maybe he wasn’t, because Mark was standing at the door, and he looked so real.
‘Baby, look at me.’
Donghyuk complied, turning his head so he could make eye contact with the Alpha when he sat down on the bed beside him.
‘Baby, you were dreaming.'
He was dreaming? Was he dreaming now?
Mark’s hand came into contact with his cheek, his fingertips brushing against the skin there, soft, before leaned down to press his lips against Donghyuk’s. Donghyuk kissed back, if this was the last moment he would get to spend with Mark – even inside a dream – he would take it.
‘You’re not dreaming now, angel.’
Mark had always had that uncanny ability to know what Donghyuk was thinking. He had pulled Donghyuk up to a sitting position and slid under the covers next to him, holding him close.
‘I owe you an explanation,’ Mark started quietly, fingers playing with the soft hairs on the back of Donghyuk’s neck, ‘and I’ll understand completely if you hate me afterwards.’
Donghyuk said nothing.
Mark gave a small sigh, ‘you know those friends I told you about? The ones I work with?’
Donghyuk nodded. How could he forget? Mark used to talk about them almost constantly.
‘In the place I work, there’s also some not-so-good people, right? So one of them is responsible for this. Him and I, we’ve never been close, and he did this to spite me, basically. He can control dreams, if the dreamer is not protected. Instead, the person can only have one long nightmare – like an alternative reality. The man uses one of the dreamer’s worst fears. Yours was me dying, so he used that against you. I’ve been trying to break it for so long, with the help of my friend, and we only succeeded now. Here, it’s only been two weeks. In your nightmare, it’s been two years.’
At some point along the way, Donghyuk had stilled against his husband, silent.
‘A-and I’m so, so sorry I wasn’t able to break the curse sooner. I’m so sorry Hyukie.’
Donghyuk doesn’t respond verbally, he instead kisses Mark with fervour, all spit and no finesse. When they pull apart minutes later, Donghyuk finally speaks.
‘`M not mad, Markie,’ he whispers, ‘sad maybe. Not mad though.’
Mark still looks torn, taking Donghyuk’s hand and squeezing it in his own, eyes flashing blood-red. Donghyuk kisses him again.
They stay like that for a long while, until Mark gets up and takes Jisung from his nursery across the hall. Donghyuk holds his son in his arms, the baby still asleep, while Mark hugs him close with an arm around his shoulders. They leave the bed together when Jisung’s feeding time comes.
It’s only in the late afternoon, when they’re cuddling on the sofa, that a knock on the door rouses Hyuk from the nap he had been having. Mark stands, squaring his shoulders as he walks to the door. Donghyuk’s grip on Jisung tightens. The door is opened and then there’s voices, calm and not angry, and Donghyuk’s wave of panic ebbs slightly. Seconds later, there’s footsteps nearing the living room and Donghyuk tenses again. But Mark’s there, smiling slightly, and next to him there’s another two men. They have on the same uniform that Mark wears: black jacket and loosely fitting-pants, with yellow highlights instead of green, and white undershirt instead of black. The shorter has a button-down while the taller has his zipper open, revealing the net-shirt underneath and his bare skin. They both smell like Alphas, green tea and a bonfire respectfully.
‘Hyukie,’ Mark takes his attention again, and he turns his head to look up at him, Jisung held to his chest, ‘my friends Nakamoto Yuta and Jung Jaehyun. Guys, my mate, Donghyuk.
They greet Donghyuk politely, and he does the same to them, reaching out for Mark’s hand when he comes closer.
‘Is this Jisung?’ Yuta asks, staring down at the bundle in Donghyuk’s arms with unconcealed wonder.
‘Yeah,’ Mark smiles at their son, brushing his fingers through the soft tuft of hair on his head.
‘He’s adorable,’ Yuta grins, and Donghyuk can’t help but smile back.
‘He is,’ he agrees, pressing a kiss to his son’s forehead.
Jaehyun still hadn’t moved, but does sit when Mark motions for them both to do so. Mark goes to get them some snacks after squeezing Donghyuk’s shoulder and leaving a kiss on the top of his head. Now that he has the (almost) undivided attention of both Alphas, he looks between them, assessing. These are the people Mark works with – his second family, after Donghyuk and their son.
‘Markie always talks about you, you know,’ Jaehyun reveals, ‘the last one of us to get a mate too.’
Hyuk smiles sadly, the beginning of their story is not entirely happy. The good moments outweighed the bad.
‘When he told us he got a boyfriend, no of us believed him,’ Yuta continued, ‘little Mark having a love life seemed impossible. And then he told us about Jisung and we were even more disbelieving. Because, you know, he’s not the first in the group to have a kid, but the first one to do it before reaching eighteen.’
Donghyuk nodded again. They were young when they mated, definitely young to have a child. Neither were legal, but the decision to keep Jisung was one that he would never regret.
‘He always told us how special you are,’ Jaehyun said, a distant smile on his face, ‘how much he loved you. We thought he was a bit too young for love, and we tried to make him stop seeing you. When Mark found out though,’ they both shuddered, ‘I’ve never seem him that angry and I've know him since he was barely walking.’
Donghyuk shivered too. Angry Mark was not a nice Mark.
‘He ran away after that, and we didn’t see him for months. When we did find him and apologised, he became so determined to prove to us that you existed,’ Jaehyun nodded emphatically when Yuta spoke, ‘I’ve never seem that set on something, you know? And then he was always out, and we barely saw him anymore, that’s when he told us about the baby. Then it was our turn to get angry. All of us fought a lot, it wasn’t a great time for anyone, really.’
Donghyuk rubbed circle with the pad of his thumb on Jisung’s hand as he listened, entranced by the story. Mark had joined them at some point to sit next to him and pull him into his embrace again.
‘It took him going away for half a year to restore our friendships. It was so different without him there,’ Jaehyun whispered, ‘Mark’s our little brother. He makes a lot of stupid decisions,’ Mark’s noise of disagreement went unnoticed, ‘but we love him anyway. And the guys, they all really want to meet you, and Jisung too.’
Donghyuk looked at Mark before responding, ‘I’d like that, yeah. I’ve heard a lot about all of you from Mark, and it’d be nice if Jisung could actually meet his uncles.’
When the two Alphas left, it was dark and Mark was entraining Jisung by playing with some of the toy blocks he had. Donghyuk was sitting on the sofa, watching them, mind elsewhere. He wasn’t dreaming still, was he?