Donghyuck forwards Mark the email just before he takes his lunch break.
Donghyuck Lee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
to Mark Lee
-------- Forwarded message --------
From: Taeil Moon <email@example.com>
Date: Tue, December 12, 2019, at 11:13 AM
Subject: Employee Getaway
So I know there’s been some rumors about the employee trip, and I’ve gotten so many emails that I’ve just decided to answer all the questions right here:
- Don’t ask me if you can bring your weed. I’m legally required to report you. STOP ASKING ME. Just…do your thing.
- Yes, the dev team is still invited, and yes, most of them are coming. I don’t care about office feuds.
- Yes, there will be water and electricity. If you read my previous email, then you’d know that already. Please. Please read the first email.
- Renjun, I still don’t know why you’re not on the email list. Just get someone to forward them to you, I don’t feel like talking to IT.
If you have any more questions, stop asking me. Use Google. Talk to your friends. Donghyuck, you know I love you but I’d appreciate it if you’d stop faxing me questions, too.
Mark switches out of his email and over to his texts so he can ask Donghyuck why’d you send me this?? i’m not going?
Yes you are, Donghyuck writes back immediately, because even if he’s conniving and the worst friend ever, he’s still fast at replying.
NO I AM NOT! Mark sends, irritation and panic already rising in his chest.
You can’t avoid Jeno forever, Donghyuck says.
Please hyuck u know how it is with him dude cmon
Donghyuck’s typing bubble appears, disappears, and then appears again.
It’s too late to refund now, the text says, and Mark feels his heart sink, bitterness settling on his tongue. This weekend was supposed to be a success. A win after a series of losses. Time away from the office, away from the gossip and the pressure and the stress. From the shitty coffee and his too-bright computer screen and an inbox full of complaints, of urgent requests, of deadlines he’s on the verge of missing.
He’d just wanted a break. Where he didn’t have to think about work…and thus, Jeno Lee.
Pack a swimsuit, Donghyuck adds, because he’s a little shit.
Mark feels like he’s going to vomit.
“Fuck this,” he says, and adds an extra shot to his iced coffee.
Two hours later, mildly caffeinated and very annoyed, he tells this all to Jaemin Na.
Jaemin, who, despite being one of the most irresponsible, ridiculously creative people Mark’s ever met, writes the dry user manuals and tech specs that come with all of their software. As such, the solutions he comes up with are slightly backwards but usually very well-outlined, each step very clear.
“This is whack,” Jaemin comments, feet kicked up on the table as he listens. “You’re going through the five stages of grief, but, like, in the span of fifteen minutes.”
“I don’t want to do this,” Mark groans, putting his forehead on the table. “Listen. Okay. I take a lot of shit, you know? I’m a pretty easy-going guy. I’m not picky. So why do I feel like I’m constantly being fucked over?”
“All of this because of Jeno Lee?” Jaemin asks dubiously, and Mark peels his face off the table to give Jaemin a long, exasperated look.
“Yes because of Jeno Lee,” Mark answers. “C’mon, Jaemin, you were there when it happened!”
“Oh, yeah,” Jaemin says, snapping his fingers. “The meeting. I remember now. You walked in with about a hundred hickies and you were wearing—”
“Jeno Lee’s shirt?” Mark said, twisting around like he could somehow see the back of it. “What? How?”
“It says right there,” Renjun pointed out, tapping Mark on the back. “Jeno Lee. Big letters.”
Mark looked down at himself. He’d thought it was his shirt—navy blue, Encity logo on the top left, with his department—
MARKETING TEAM OFFICE OLYMPICS 2018, the words under the logo read. Not software development. Marketing.
“How exactly did you get this shirt?” Renjun asked. “When did you become friends with Jeno Lee in Marketing? Don’t you guys have a feud with them?”
“Yeah, because of the Office Olympics,” Mark said, still staring down at his shirt. “Shit, I should’ve paid more attention this morning. I was only in a rush because I was late, and Jeno’s house is farther—” He stopped himself mid-sentence, realizing he’d given too much away. But it was too late—Renjun’s eyes had gone wide.
“Mark, please do not tell me you slept with him,” Renjun said, shaking his head.
“Why? Why would that be bad for us?” Mark asked frantically, not liking the look on Renjun’s face.
“Not bad for us,” Renjun corrected, “bad for you.” He pointed at the door to the meeting room. The flyer on it read RESERVED FROM 9:45-10:30, MARK LEE & JENO LEE.
Mark’s stomach dropped abruptly, insides icing over as he processed what he was seeing. Pieces started to fall together: he was wearing Jeno’s shirt. He had visible hickies, a disastrous bedhead, and a dazed look about him, like he hadn’t gotten much sleep. Which he hadn’t, because he’d been hooking up with the person he was supposed to present with.
“Shit,” he said slowly. “I’m screwed.”
“Yeah,” Renjun agreed. “You are. But at least you won’t be fired. You’ll just be humiliated and probably slightly disliked by the rest of your team—”
“By my whole department,” Mark corrected, feeling more and more discouraged with each passing second.
“—at least until you buy them pizza or cover the tab the next time you all go out.”
“At least Jeno won’t be any better off than me,” Mark tried rationalizing. “At least we’ll both go down.”
That thought only consoled Mark for about five more minutes, which was when Jeno showed up looking near-perfect, wearing a non-wrinkled t-shirt that belonged to him and a fresh pair of jeans cuffed at the ankles. He’d even had time to double-knot his shoelaces.
He was holding a takeout bag, which he gave to Mark.
“Here you go,” he said, face open and friendly. “You left your shirt and keys at my place.”
Someone behind Jeno snickered. Natalie, another dev, shot Mark an exasperated look, like she couldn’t believe him.
I didn’t know we worked for the same company! Mark wanted to say, grabbing the bag from Jeno and speeding into the meeting room to throw it under the table. He could feel the backs of his ears getting hot, and knew his face was probably noticeably red.
Jeno followed Mark, setting his laptop down on the podium. “Did you get to work alright?”
More dirty looks from his team. This was getting out of hand. At this point, it wouldn’t matter how well-done and engaging his powerpoint was. Nobody was going to listen, too busy staring at the obvious red-and-purple bruise at the neckline of Mark’s shirt, or the way Jeno stood just a little too close to him, far more intimate and familiar than anyone would expect—or want—them to be.
They started the presentation. Someone whistled at them, and Mark wished the floor would open up beneath him and swallow him whole. Jeno’s neck flushed pink, and Mark stared at him for a second too long, desperately trying not to think about how he knew that Jeno’s chest also turned that same shade of pink under his shirt.
It had been a good night, Mark thought despondently after the presentation, head in his hands. It was just too bad that he now regretted it with every single cell in his body. Too bad that everyone in his department smirked at him or glared at him. Some even asked if he was working as a spy for Marketing now.
“No,” Mark said. “I didn’t even like him. It wasn’t even worth it. Jeno Lee’s my enemy, you know, and it’ll never happen again.”
“God, all of this because of a feud,” Jaemin says once Mark’s done with recounting the whole thing. “What is this, high school?”
“Basically,” Mark sighs. “You know it’s a small company, and the feud has lasted for almost as long as the company’s existed.”
“Is Jeno Lee your enemy?”
Mark takes a sip of his coffee and remembers Jeno’s mildly offended expression when Mark had gone out of his way to avoid him following that meeting. “Doesn’t matter if he actually is or not,” he says. “All that matters is if my team believes he is.”
“I honestly think they’d be fine with it,” Jaemin muses. “Like, haven’t they read Romeo and Juliet? Don’t they know what happens when two people are kept apart by their families?” His voice rises at the end, unnecessarily dramatic, and Mark gives him a long, tired look.
“First off,” Mark says, ticking off his fingers, “Jeno and I aren’t in love. Secondly, I’m keeping us apart because I’m tired of being hassled and shit-talked. Thirdly, even if we were in love, I’m not about to fake-kill or actually kill myself over him.”
“That’s a lot of points,” Jaemin says, blinking at him. “It feels like you’re getting worked up about this.”
“Fourthly,” he continues, setting his jaw and glaring in the direction of PR department where Donghyuck is probably sitting, marinating in smugness, “Donghyuck signed me up for the stupid company getaway, which Jeno is most definitely going to, and it’s going to be awkward as hell.”
“Aw, you’re going?” Jaemin asks, grinning. “Awesome! Have you looked at the site yet? It’s one of those big lodges with little cabins around it. It should be fun!”
“I think you missed the point,” Mark says. “The point is, Jeno Lee will be there, and I don’t think I’ll be able to avoid him—”
“That’s not the point,” Jaemin interrupts. “The point is, all your friends will be there, and we’ll get really drunk and all share a cabin and it’ll be fun. Don’t be salty.”
“I’m not,” Mark says, even though he is, just a little. It’s not like he hates Jeno, or anything like that—but he’s so aggressively non-confrontational, and every part of him shrivels at the barest hint of awkwardness. And maybe there’s a bit of envy there, a little dislike—that Jeno had gotten off easy, somehow. That he’s not as affected as Mark is. That he got way less shit than Mark did at the meeting, and in the weeks following.
“It’s been almost a month,” Jaemin assures Mark. “People are starting to move on. We got some new hires. Christmas is coming. I’m sure nobody will even remember.”
“I seriously, seriously doubt that,” Mark says, panicked, but there’s no changing Jaemin’s mind. Which is how he finds himself packing that night, hunting down his winter jacket ( there’ll be snow! Donghyuck had texted earlier) and his bathing suit, much to his great reluctance and his roommates’ immense enjoyment.
“I can’t believe this is actually happening,” Yuta says, laughing. “This is straight from a rom-com.”
“No rom ,” Mark corrects hastily, debating between pairs of jeans. “Definitely, absolutely, no rom. And hopefully no com. It’s going to be normal, uneventful, and fine.”
“No way, man,” Johnny chimes in, looking up from the joint he’s rolling. “Something’s going to go down. The set-up’s just too perfect.”
“And the universe hates you, or something,” Yuta adds.
“It’s just one night,” Mark says, tossing a pair of underwear into his duffel. “Nothing is going to happen.”
Yuta and Johnny exchange a look that Mark does not appreciate. Johnny sighs, stands, and picks one of the rolled joints off the table. He hands it to Mark, expression sympathetic. “Just in case,” Johnny says.
Mark hesitates, and then reconsiders. Dealing with Jeno Lee mildly stoned is infinitely more appealing than dealing with Jeno Lee sober.
He takes the joint.
Johnny pats him on the back. “It’ll be okay, Mark.”
“How did this feud even start?” Yuta asks. “It sounds very dramatic.”
“It’s probably gonna sound stupid,” Mark says tiredly, coming out of his room to lean against the doorframe. “But basically, we’ve got these annual Office Olympics. It gets pretty serious—departments make shirts with their names on it—”
“As we know,” Yuta says, grinning. Mark shoots him a look.
“Keep going,” Johnny says, and waves a hand.
“And there’s a whole scoring system, and a bunch of different events, and it’s super involved and actually sort of fun. The winning department gets gyros and their tab covered for the whole weekend.” He’s forgetting something. “And uh, a trophy, too. Which is where the feud starts.”
“Ooh,” Yuta says, propping his chin in his hands. “This is exciting.”
“So, basically, it started when—”
“Marketing stole two of our trophies?” Natalie yelped, nearly upending her coffee onto her laptop.
“Yep,” Yeri said, crossing her arms. “They’re gone. Vanished right out of Doyoung’s office.”
Natalie turned to Mark. “Tell me she’s bluffing.”
Doyoung stormed out of his office at that exact moment, his face stony. “Someone DM Kun from Marketing right now and tell him that if he doesn’t return our trophies I’ll—” He made a violent gesture in the air, turning on his heel and stomping back.
“Should I actually tell him?” Natalie asked slowly, fingers poised over her keyboard.
“No, no, don’t do that,” Yeri said. “How about we go and take them back? And maybe mess some stuff up for them in the process?”
“Much better,” Natalie agreed. She turned to Mark. “You in?”
“I don’t know,” Mark said, biting the inside of his cheek. “Those trophies don’t give us a boost, or anything, so—”
“No, but the leading departments are announced in the beginning,” Yeri said. “So they’ll count Marketing’s trophies, see that they’ve made a mistake, add the two that they stole, and then they’ll be in front of us.”
“It’s a matter of pride,” Natalie added seriously. “C’mon, Mark. The whole department is at stake.”
“Okay, okay,” Mark relented, holding up his hands. “What’s the plan?”
“So you stole the trophies back,” Yuta says slowly, “and…that’s it?”
“Of course not,” Mark says, rubbing his temples. “We—well, it was more like Yeri—sabotaged them in ping pong by tilting the table. And then—”
“They found out it was us,” Natalie said glumly. “And now they’re accusing us of cheating.”
“We weren’t even playing them! There was no reason they could’ve known!” Yeri shouted, slamming her hand on the table. “Those stupid, charismatic scumbags—”
“Wait, hey,” Mark said, grabbing them by the shoulders and nodding to the open office. Two people Mark didn’t recognize were casually walking past cubicles and towards where Mark knew they were keeping the bikes they had been tuning up for the chariot races. “Those are Marketing guys, right?”
“Yeah,” Yeri said, opening the door of the meeting room they were in just a bit. “Uh, Justin Kinney and Caitlyn Nguyen.”
“How do you know that?” Natalie asked, standing on her tiptoes to look over Yeri’s head. “Oh, wait, it says on the backs of their shirts.” She looked down at her own, which had a neat logo someone had designed for their department. “Our shirts are way cooler. Who the hell wants their name on the back of their shirt?”
“I know, dumb,” Mark agreed. “Wait, Yeri, don’t call them out.”
Yeri, who’d been half a second away from shouting across the office, stopped. “Why?” She asked, eyes narrowing. “Are you a spy?”
“No,” Mark said quickly, putting his hands up. “But if we catch them in the act of cheating—”
“We can blackmail them,” Yeri finished, grinning mischievously.
“Or just straight-up expose them,” Mark offered, which was his original idea. He wasn’t not sure how dirty he wanted his hands to get, seeing as this was quickly degrading to a psychological battle of backhanded trickery.
Both women looked at him, unimpressed, and once again, Mark found himself folding in resignation.
“Fine,” he said, sighing. “But this better not blow up in our faces.”
“It blew up in our faces,” Mark says, and Yuta dissolves into laughter. “The blackmailing didn’t work, because Marketing kept cheating and then we kept cheating and then suddenly, both our departments were involved.”
“Oh boy,” Johnny says. “Did the Olympics get cancelled? What happened?”
“Well, then everyone got involved,” Mark says, squinting as he tries to remember. “Most of the software people sided with us, and the design department. But all the analysis teams and the PR team were with Marketing. It ended with Doyoung punching Jaehyun Jung in the face.”
“Oh, shit,” Yuta says, eyes wide.
“Honestly, though, that was fine,” Mark recalls. “They were drunk, and Doyoung didn’t even hit him that hard. Nobody got hurt. And Doyoung and Jaehyun got married, like, eight months later anyway.”
“Okay, what,” Johnny asks, confused. “Do you even work at a real company? Are you sure it’s not a sitcom? Do you see cameras around, sometimes?”
“It’s not The Office,” Mark says, but at the same time, he thinks that it would make more sense if it was a TV show. “Anyways, neither of us won the games—the IT department did, because we were too busy trying to cheat—but ever since, there’s been a feud.”
“And this happened…?” Yuta asks.
“Almost two years ago,” Mark says, and realizes how silly it sounds. A two-year feud all because of some plastic trophies and many damaged egos, all of which has culminated in the dread Mark feels in his stomach because he hooked up with the wrong person, and now has to face him at a retreat he did not sign up for.
“This is absurd, and I hope you realize that,” Yuta informs him.
“But it makes sense,” Johnny says, quick to assure. “All that pressure from your department’s gotta make you feel like shit.”
“Honestly, I’m probably making it worse than it is,” he says. “But, like, I don’t know how to not be awkward about it. So it’s just easier to ignore him, and stay out of it.”
“Whatever you need to do, man,” Johnny says, sympathetic. “If it gets rough and you don’t wanna stick around, we’ve got your back.”
“I’d love to bail,” Mark says, “but I physically don’t think my friends would let me. They’ve all teamed up against me.”
“I have faith in you,” Johnny says.
“Me too,” Yuta agrees, though he sounds a little more dubious. “It’ll be fine.”
Mark spends a fair amount of time that night telling himself just that. That it’ll be fine, that nothing will happen, that two weeks is a long enough period of time to forget about what was possibly some of the best sex of his life. Actually, maybe just one of the best nights of his life.
Stop it, Mark thinks, rolling over restlessly. Do not go down that path. Everything will work out.
He doesn’t quite believe it by the time he falls asleep.
Mark, by nature, is an optimist. Which is why after a morning of smooth sailing, he’s feeling cautiously confident about the whole retreat. Jaemin picks him up at eight-ish, and they collect Renjun, Yeri, and Donghyuck perfectly on time. They stop for coffee, which Mark pays for with perfect change, much to his satisfaction. Jaemin’s put his chains on ahead of time, so the heavy snowfall that hits them as they drive into the mountains doesn’t slow them down. He even manages to fall asleep, head pressed against the window, and wakes an hour later feeling rested. The landscape around him has changed from grey, rainy city to snow-covered pines, white blanketing as far as the eye can see.
“What time is it?” Mark asks, pulling his earbuds out. “How far are we?”
“It’s about eleven,” Jaemin replies. “I estimate about thirty more minutes until we’re there. Which is perfect timing, because I think they’re catering lunch to the lodge.”
“What time were we supposed to arrive?”
“Uh, like, ten,” Donghyuck says, “but nobody wants to get there that early, because it’s awkward and there’s nothing to do yet. This way, all the activities will have started and it’s socially acceptable to get drunk.”
“Very classy,” Yeri snorts.
“You’re going to do the exact same thing,” Mark points out. “Actually, all of you are going to do that.”
“Like you’re going to stay sober,” Donghyuck scoffs. “You’re going to see Jeno Lee, and he’s going to be wearing skinny jeans, and then you’ll nervously drink White Claws until Renjun and I have to carry you to bed.”
“No,” Mark says, and it almost comes out as a whine. “That’s not—I do not nervously drink White Claws.”
“Beer, then,” Donghyuck offers. “But I’m only stating facts. At the last company party—”
“Yeah, I remember,” Mark cuts in hastily, not liking the way Donghyuck cackles at him.
“You remember?” Renjun asks sarcastically. “Really ? Because based on the way you were crying—”
“Jaemin, stop the car, I’ll walk,” Mark says miserably, tugging on the door handle. “You guys are all assholes, Jesus Christ—”
“Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain,” Yeri chides, whacking Mark lightly on the top of the head. “You’ll make Mrs. Lee sad.”
“I regret the day my parents moved to Canada,” Mark says, glaring bitterly at all of his friends. “I regret being born, I regret going to UBC, I regret getting my degree, I regret finding Encity, and I especially regret the day I met every single one of you.”
“Except me,” Jaemin adds. “I’ve been very nice to you so far.”
“Wow,” Donghyuck says, laughing, “whoever said I had a flair for dramatics clearly hasn’t met you. That was straight-up Shakespearean.”
“Technically, you guys have no reason to give me shit about Jeno Lee,” Mark argues. “Only Yeri does, because she’s the only one in my department.”
“Objection,” Renjun says, because he’s a little shit. “We actually do get a say in this, because all of our departments sided in the Great Olympics Battle of 2018.”
“Additionally,” Donghyuck says, “we get an extra big say, because not only are we involved, but we’re your friends. Which means we are legally required to never let you live it down—”
“Until you yourself can laugh about it,” Yeri finishes. “Which, right now, you can’t.”
“Aw, give him some slack,” Jaemin chimes in. “He’s trying.”
Mark exhales, already exhausted. He forgot why he tries to minimize group interactions like this—it’s because he gets ganged-up on every single time.
Luckily, the ride doesn’t last much longer, and Mark flings himself from the car before someone can find something else to give him shit for. It’s freezing outside, the cold air nipping at his ankles and face, hoodie and rain jacket doing nothing against the temperature.
“Holy fuck,” Jaemin says, shivering. “I forgot it’s winter.”
“You’re such a warm weather person,” Yeri scoffs. She’s in a long sleeve and leggings, and looks absolutely unbothered. “Why’d you move to Vancouver?”
“Vancouver‘s not too bad,” Jaemin mutters, stomping around to pop the trunk. “It mostly just rains, which I can handle.”
“Yeah, because you’re from Seattle,” Donghyuck scoffs. “I’d rather it be sub-zero and sunny than sort-of-cold and raining. This is perfect. This is what Christmas should be.”
Jaemin complains some more as they pull their bags out and make their way across the parking lot, salt crunching underneath their shoes. Jaemin is complaining even as they walk into the lodge, which is homely, crowded and warm. There are a few other people Mark sort of recognizes, sitting by the fire and eating lunch at tables with mismatched chairs.
A short, busy-looking woman comes bustling up to the desk. “You bunch from Encity, eh?” She asks, beaming at them. “You look like the city type.”
“Yep, that’s us,” Yeri says, and lists off their names as the lady carefully pages through a massive binder.
“No computer?” Jaemin asks as he signs his name, checking himself in.
“Oh, no,” the lady says, waving a hand. “My daughter offered to put the whole system onto the cloud, or whatever it’s called. But I couldn’t hope to understand it.” She laughs, and pats the iPhone that sits on the edge of the desk. “I can barely use this thing. Just the other day I realized I could save numbers with names. ”
“Simple is better,” Mark agrees, who also finds himself relatively technologically-challenged, despite working for a tech company.
“Exactly,” the woman says, smiling. “Now, have you been here before?”
“No,” Jaemin says.
The woman reaches behind her and sets a folded map on the counter. “The other bar is here,” she says. She grabs a marker and circles a few cabins. “These are yours; there should be plenty of beds, but in the case that you need more, there should be sleeping bags and space heaters in this garage.” She taps it with the end of the marker.
“Thank you so much,” Donghyuck says, grabbing the map. “How far is the walk?”
“Oh, it’s not bad,” the woman says. “Less than ten minutes. More if it’s dark—actually, best to not wander if it’s dark out, especially with all this snow. Get everything you need beforehand.”
“Noted,” Donghyuck replies. “Thank you again.”
“Enjoy yourselves,” the woman says, smiling warmly. “We’ve got lunch out if you want it.”
They haul their bags into the main room, which is Jeno-free, much to Mark’s relief. They eat, and slowly start to file towards the bar, beers in hand. The day wears on, and the sun begins to dip towards the horizon. More people arrive, rosy-cheeked, and they all change into warmer coats and head towards the other bar not in the lodge. It’s bigger, and Mark gets into a heated round of darts with Jaehyun and Kun. He loses miserably, buys a pitcher of beer, and does a shot with Donghyuck as a sports game blares loudly overhead.
Jeno still isn’t here.
“Maybe he got lost,” Jaemin suggests over their basket of chicken wings.
“Maybe he’s not coming,” Mark replies. At this point, it feels likely—possible, even. Something eases in his chest, and he thinks that maybe, just maybe, he could enjoy himself.
It hits eight o’clock, and they leave the bar, mildly buzzed, to go buy more alcohol. Encity’s always been a relatively small company—departments bleed into one another all the time, and Mark knows the name of every person he’s seen tonight. So company retreats like this aren’t awkward (save for the Feud, naturally) and the atmosphere is comfortable and warm. Natalie shows up at some point, and she slings her arm around Mark’s shoulders as they head back to their cluster of rented cabins.
“Someone is notably absent,” she teases, and Mark rolls his eyes. He’s in a good mood. “And you seem happy about it.”
“I’m just glad I don’t have to spend an entire night feeling self-conscious,” Mark replies, jostling her. She laughs, and they pile into one of the cabins. It’s mostly people from their department, and Mark doesn’t even bother scanning the room before he plunks down on the carpet in the front of the space heater.
“Yo, who’s sleeping in here?” He asks Donghyuck, accepting a beer from Jaemin and cracking the tab. “Us?”
“No, I think it’s a bunch of the writers and the PR people,” Donghyuck says, squinting at the bags that have been tossed by the beds. “Renjun and Kun and them moved ours to a cabin a bit aways. But this one is the closest to the lodge and the storage garage, so here we are.”
They lean back and talk for a little bit—Jaehyun gets interrogated about marriage, and that in turn gets them talking about why there isn’t anybody over thirty-five at this thing.
“Do we even have anybody over thirty-five at our company?” Jaemin wonders.
Silence descends temporarily as they all think about it. Mark can’t call any faces to mind, and neither can anyone else, apparently, because they all go back to chatting within a few seconds.
Nearby, someone’s phone pings. Alenna in Marketing picks it up and smiles, clambering to her feet and announcing, “Caitlyn’s car made it up here! Who wants to go get them with me?”
Something is ringing in Mark’s head—an alarm, of sorts, trying to warn him of…something. He’s had a lot of beer, though, which is making it hard—
“Caitlyn, as in Caitlyn Nguyen from Marketing?” Mark asks Renjun, frowning and leaning close.
“Yep,” Renjun says, matter-of-fact.
Dread plummets through Mark’s chest like a stone, turning his blood to ice. “Wait, no does that mean—”
He’s interrupted by the door opening, and a cheer rising up from pretty much everyone (besides the dev people, because, you know, the Feud). In the doorway stands Caitlyn Nguyen and a few other Marketing people—including Jeno Lee, who is pink-cheeked and wearing a red beanie, who of course looks Mark right in the eye, first thing, and turns even pinker.
They both stare at each other for a long second. Mark tries very hard not to think about that night, all those weeks ago. Jeno, clearly, is also trying to do the same.
“Jesus Christ,” Mark says, defeated, picking up a White Claw. “This is going to be a long night.”
Much, much later, when everyone else is much, much drunker, Mark is drinking now-lukewarm White Claw and sitting across the circle from Jeno Lee, who’s drinking beer. They’re studiously avoiding each other’s eyes, but it’s more difficult than Mark would like it to be. It’s like there’s a magnet embedded in the center of Jeno’s forehead, drawing Mark’s gaze right to his face every single time.
“You’re staring,” Jaemin sing-songs playfully, nudging Mark hard in the ribs. “Again.”
Mark sighs and rests his forehead on his knees. He’s not having very much fun anymore, feeling self-conscious and awkward, waiting for something to implode.
And implode it does: somehow, he ends up at the table playing Go Fish with a few other people, except every time someone asks for a card, they’ve got to answer a prying, uncomfortable question.
“We should’ve just played strip Go Fish,” Jaemin complains after he’s forced to admit that he indeed has a crush on someone in the office.
“This is dumb,” Renjun agrees, nodding at his hand of cards.
“You just don’t like when people know things about you,” Natalie scoffs. “Caitlyn, got any threes?”
“No,” Caitlyn says, saccharine. “Go Fish.”
Natalie smiles at her through gritted teeth, and pulls a card off the top of the deck.
Mark is up next, and he sorts through his cards, looking up at Jaemin. He’s got three kings, and knows Jaemin has the fourth. But he’s avoided asking Jaemin because he knows Jaemin will hit him with an unfair question, and Jeno is sitting right there.
But he really wants that fourth card.
Jaemin’s got a wicked glint in his eye, like he knows what’s coming.
“Jaemin, do you have any kings?” Mark asks nervously.
“Why, yes, Mark, I do,” Jaemin says sweetly, extracting the card. “In return for it, will you answer my question?”
“Go ahead,” Mark says, glancing over at Jeno and then back at Jaemin, who’s smirking at him. He sighs, feeling resigned to the fact that his friends will always be awful, and that every waking moment he spends in front of Jeno will be an embarrassing one.
“Would you,” Jaemin starts slowly, and Mark silently prays for a meteor to come blazing out of the sky and take him out.
“Would I what?” Mark asks desperately.
“Would you take Jeno out on an actual date?” Jaemin asks, and it’s just as shameless, ruthless, and cruel as Mark expected it to be. The back of his neck threatens to catch fire, and his whole body prickles with shame-induced sweat.
Jeno’s gaze is curious and a little surprised, like he can’t believe that he’s the topic of the question. Jaemin waves the card at him. “Mark,” he says, teasing.
“Yes, okay, yes, I would,” Mark blurts, and leans across the table to snatch the card from Jaemin’s hand. He feels like he’s about to explode, and he hears Natalie spit out her drink.
“Even with the Feud happening?” Jaemin asks, and Mark just glares at him, refusing to answer, chagrined. “I’m going to take that as a yes,” Jaemin says, and Natalie nearly spits out her drink. Caitlyn is staring at Jeno, her shock evident.
“You hooked up?” Caitlyn asks Jeno, who’s so red that Mark actually feels a little bad for him.
“Mark!” Natalie chides, looking betrayed. “You—he’s from Marketing! I thought you said that was a mistake! What do you mean, you’d ask him out?”
Mark looks over at Jeno, who’s sinking down lower and lower in his chair, and something in him gives up. He slams his set of kings down, and then stands so quickly he almost trips over the chair. “I’m going to sleep. I’m tired.” He ignores Natalie’s barrage of questions, and shoots Jaemin one look on his way out. Jaemin does not seem upset in the slightest—he just leans back in his chair and waves.
“Sleep well!” He says cheerfully, and Mark doesn’t know if he wants to cry or bury Jaemin in the snow and leave him there.
The freezing air is a shock to his system, nearly knocking the wind out of him as he stomps towards the cabin he’s staying in with his friends. It’s much quieter—and colder—in there, and Donghyuck is already in his pajamas, watching something on his phone. There are a few other people playing cards (thankfully not Go Fish) that nod to him as he kicks off his boots and flops down in the bed across from Donghyuck. Donghyuck, seeing the distressed look on his face, immediately pulls his headphones out, sitting up.
“Okay, tea,” Donghyuck says expectantly, and Mark sighs, his ability to resist already worn through. He’s tired, a little buzzed, and he can’t get Jeno’s expression—not angry so much as surprised, but definitely embarrassed, sinking low in his chair. His private life—their private life, tossed casually on the table for everyone to judge. And judge they did, all because of some office feud and a few pranks gone wrong.
So he tells Donghyuck the whole thing, who listens and frowns and tells Mark he should follow his gut.
“Honestly, if you wanna give it a go with Jeno, I say you do it,” Donghyuck says. “Fuck the rest of them, honestly. He’s hot.”
“Incredibly unhelpful,” Mark informs him. “I can’t just…go for it. I’m not you.”
“What is that supposed to mean,” Donghyuck says suspiciously, squinting at him.
“You’re braver,” Mark says. And more reckless, and more impulsive, and not involved in a feud. “I’m not.”
“Listen, this isn’t Romeo and Juliet,” Donghyuck says, coming back to Shakespeare again. “He’s not a Capulet, and you’re not a Montague. You’re just two dudes. Nobody is going to die if you start dating.”
Mark thinks of Natalie’s betrayed expression. “I don’t know about that one.”
Donghyuck waves a hand, shaking his head. “Just think it over,” he says, picking up his headphone, effectively ending his advice-giving session. “I believe in you, Mark Lee.”
Mark sighs, leaning down and pulling his duffel bag out from underneath the bed. He rummages around for the plastic baggie he’d put the joint Johnny had given him. “I’m going to smoke if you want to come,” he tells Donghyuck.
“Nah, I’m alright,” Donghyuck says. “Don’t freeze to death out there.”
“I’ll try,” Mark says. “Hey, can I borrow your lighter?”
“It’s the top pocket in my backpack.”
Mark grabs it, sticking it and the plastic baggie into his jacket pocket. He pulls his hat down low over his ears, and even wraps a scarf around his neck for good measure. It’s probably below zero, and he’s not trying to get hypothermia and die before he can sort this mess out.
He steps outside, and yep, it’s freezing and windy on top of it, meaning he can’t get a good light on the joint. He’s about to give up and go light it in the cabin when he catches sight of a figure in the distance, headed this direction.
They recognize each other at the same time.
“Jeno?” Mark says, stomach sinking, and Jeno stops in his tracks, quickly turning around. Fuck, fuck, he’s pissed, Mark thinks to himself. He hates me. “Hey, Jeno, wait, I gotta say something.”
“You don’t have to apologize,” Jeno says, but he turns back around and meets Mark halfway under the light post.
“Nah, I do,” Mark says, rubbing the back of his neck and looking down at his feet. It takes him a moment to sort his thoughts out, trying to line up his words so they’ll make sense. “It wasn’t Jaemin’s place to ask. And I shouldn’t have answered—I knew how they’d all react.”
He can feel Jeno’s eyes on him, and waits in tense silence for Jeno to respond.
“I’m not mad at all,” Jeno tells him, and Mark looses a massive breath, feeling like a weight has been lifted off his shoulders. “But I do wanna talk about this.”
Mark looks up. Of all the things he was expecting, it wasn’t that. “You, uh—you do?”
“Yeah,” Jeno says slowly, looking at Mark hesitantly like he’s trying to discern something. Mark quickly wipes the surprise off his face, and Jeno relaxes as well. “I was headed to the storage shed to get another space heater,” he says, pointing past the cabin and into the darkness.
“I’ll walk with you,” Mark says. “We need another sleeping bag anyway.”
He and Jeno set off, brushing shoulders. Mark flicks the lighter halfheartedly again, but it goes out almost instantly.
“Here,” Jeno says, leaning forward and cupping his hands. “Go on, try now.”
“You’re okay if I smoke it?” Mark asks, sticking the joint between his lips and leaning close.
“Yeah.” Jeno’s face is lit in partial yellow light for a half second, and then the end of the joint finally lights. Mark inhales, the taste heavy and familiar on his tongue. In the next second, he’s exhaling, the wind sweeping the smoke and smell away. He offers the joint to Jeno, who accepts. Their feet crunch over the packed snow, and the lamp posts end as the storage garage comes into view.
Both of them have yet to say anything. Mark doesn’t even know where he’s supposed to start.
A strange sort of tension fills the air between them as Jeno opens the heavy storage door, its hinges squealing.
Mark sticks the stub of the joint into the snow and then wraps it back in the plastic baggie so he can throw it away properly later. Jeno turns his phone flashlight on and steps inside.
Without the wind, it’s infinitely quieter. Jeno begins to rummage around for a space heater and Mark also turns his flashlight on, scanning labeled shelves for a sleeping bag.
Behind them, the door groans shut, the slam shaking dust from the ceiling.
“You know,” Jeno starts from behind Mark, “they want me to hate you.”
This—probably thanks to the weed, if he’s being honest—is much funnier than what Mark thought Jeno was going to start with. He laughs until he sneezes, and then laughs again until Jeno joins in.
“I know,” Mark says, wiping his nose. “They want me to hate you too.”
“I thought you did,” Jeno says. Something clangs loudly; Mark locates the sleeping bags. There’s only one left, and it’s massive, one of those super-warm down-feather ones. It’s going to be a pain in the ass to haul back to the cabin, but at least he’ll be warm.
“You did?” Mark says, turning with the sleeping bag in his arms. Jeno must hear the genuine surprise in his voice because he stands, brow creasing.
“Yeah?” Jeno replies, but it sounds more like a question. “That…that day in the office, after—when I gave you your stuff back—and then after that, you ignored me—”
“Jesus Christ, no,” Mark says, shaking his head and holding back more laughter. He doesn’t want to confuse Jeno more. “Nah, you’ve got it all wrong—why don’t we, uh, get out of the storage shed and I can explain it—”
“So you don’t hate me,” Jeno says, hefting the space heater.
Mark takes a breath. “Yes. I mean, no.” He stops. Now he’s the confused one. “Sorry, um, I’m stoned. This is hard.”
“No, it’s good,” Jeno says, waving him off.
“I don’t hate you, is what I mean,” Mark says. “I can’t believe you thought I did.”
Jeno shrugs, but there’s a tightness around his eyes. “Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been ghosted. And plus, with the Feud and all of that—y’know, it made sense.” He sets the space heater down and reaches for the door handle, tugging hard. The door doesn’t budge, and Jeno sighs. “Hey, can you, uh—”
“Oh, yeah, of course,” Mark says, shaking himself out of it and pulling his eyes away from Jeno’s face. He grabs the door handle with Jeno, and they dig their heels in, pulling as hard as they can.
The door still doesn’t move.
An ominous weight settles on Mark’s shoulders, sinking like a lead weight in his stomach.
“Oh no,” Jeno says, very quietly. “Oh, no.”
“Fuck,” Mark agrees.
“Please tell me it’s not stuck,” Jeno says, turning to Mark with a despairing look on his face. “Please tell me we’re not stuck in a storage shed.”
“Uh,” Mark says. “We’re not stuck.”
Jeno frowns. “That’s not a very convincing lie.”
“I tried,” Mark offers, shrugging. “We’re pretty fucking stuck, Jeno.” He looks around. There are no windows, no keys—and no phone service, as they discover a second later.
“Donghyuck knows I went to smoke,” Mark says as Jeno slides to the ground, his back against the door. “Maybe he’ll come looking for me.” He looks over to Jeno, who’s got his eyes closed. “Did you tell anyone you were going for a space heater?”
“Uh, I told Caitlyn, but she was pretty much asleep when I left,” Jeno says. “Don’t think she’s gonna come looking for me.”
“Guess we’re relying on Donghyuck then,” Mark says. “He’s pretty reliable.”
“What are the chances he actually comes looking?” Jeno asks dryly, raising an eyebrow.
“Um, very close to zero,” Mark admits, “because the last place he’d ever think to look was the storage shed. He probably thinks I went to sleep in someone else’s cabin.”
Jeno closes his eyes again. “Goddammit,” he says tiredly.
“Yeah,” Mark agrees, sliding down to sit next to Jeno and feeling like he might be sick. “Goddammit indeed.”
They don’t stay seated long, however. The garage lacks insulation of any kind—Mark can still see his breath clouding in the air, and a chill leaks in under the door, around the windows, and through the walls.
Jeno shivers. “Shit, it’s cold,” he says. “And I bet these are the kind of heaters you need to plug in,” he adds, kicking at the space heater on the floor in front of them.
“Not…necessarily,” Mark says, reaching for it. “Can you turn on your flashlight?”
Jeno nods, holding it over Mark’s shoulder. “No, it’s a propane heater,” Mark says, fumbling for the dial. A second later, it turns on, clinking and snapping slightly as it heats up. Fuzzy orange light pools on the floor in front of it, and both Mark and Jeno shuffle closer to it, pulling frozen hands out of pockets to defrost.
“How’d you know that?” Jeno asks after a moment.
“Well, there’s no cord, for one,” Mark says humorously, and Jeno snorts. “But also, we use the same sort at home all the time. We got tons of power outages caused by snow storms during the winter.”
“You must’ve grown up outside BC, then,” Jeno says. “All it does here is rain.”
“Yeah, I lived in Edmonton for a while,” Mark replies. “And then I came here for school, and I’ve been here ever since.”
“Do you miss your parents?”
Mark looks over at Jeno, not sure where all the questions are coming from, but Jeno’s looking at the heater, turning his hands idly, like he’s almost not paying attention.
“Yeah,” Mark says slowly, watching Jeno’s face. “I do. A lot.”
“You mentioned them,” Jeno says. “On that night we hooked up. I don’t know if you remember—”
“My parents would love this,” Mark said, propping his chin on his fist and watching as the sun crept higher and higher in the sky, bathing the city in dewy golds and pinks.
“Mm.” Mark wasn’t sure if Jeno was even awake—his eyes were closed, chin tilted up towards the slowly-rotating ceiling fan. There was a hickey right above his collarbone, already darkening to purple.
“That’s the last thing they did before they left Korea,” Mark continued. “My dad met my mom by the Han River at sunrise and asked him to marry her.”
Jeno finally opened his eyes, offering Mark a very sleepy, very sweet smile. “I sorta like that.”
“I’m not surprised you do,” Mark laughed, pushing himself up onto his elbows. “Kind of funny how I’ve known you for, like, eight hours but I can already guess that, right?”
“Kind of funny,” Jeno echoed, still smiling. “We did sit and talk for a long time, though.”
“About hockey,” Mark said, “and the weather, and Twitter. That’s not super deep stuff.”
“I have a friend that always tells me that if you listen to the small stuff, it’ll tell you something bigger,” Jeno said, and reached up to brush his fingers under Mark’s eye, quick and shy. “Sorry. You had an eyelash.”
“Thanks,” Mark said, lying back down next to Jeno, head still tilted towards the window. Jeno’s breath brushed over his shoulder, steady and warm. “Funny—I’ve got a friend that says the exact same thing.”
“Do you miss your parents?” Jeno asked, and maybe the question was a little deep for pillow talk, but there was something about Jeno’s expression that made Mark trust him.
Mark generally had no reason to lie, and he was just the right amount of sleep-deprived to open up more than he’d normally be comfortable with. “Yes,” he said, straight to the point. “I do. A lot.”
Jeno hummed quietly, and his hand came up to rest between Mark’s shoulder blades. “Me too.”
“I forgot about the friend that told you about the small stuff,” Mark says. “I have a friend that says the same thing. He actually works at Encity—”
“It’s Taeyong, isn’t it?” Jeno asks, grinning.
“Yeah, it was absolutely Taeyong,” Mark confirms, and Jeno laughs.
“That should’ve been the first sign that maybe you did actually recognize me from somewhere,” he says.
“I thought you just had one of those faces,” Mark says. “Our company is really small, Vancouver is big, I was at a sports bar. I don’t think I’ve ever gone home with a guy I’d met at a sports bar.”
“You know,” Jeno says thoughtfully, “that’s fair. I think that was a first for me too.”
They lapse into silence again. Mark stifles a yawn and rubs his eyes. His contacts are starting to bother him, and they’re dailies, so they’re supposed to be taken out, but in front of Jeno—well, it feels a little too intimate for his liking. And maybe for Jeno’s liking, too, Mark’s not sure.
“Are you tired?” Jeno asks.
Mark drops his hands guilty. “It’s the weed.”
“You can sleep, if you want,” Jeno says, pointing at the sleeping bag. “I don’t mind.”
“What about you?”
“What about me?”
Mark looks between the sleeping bag and Jeno, wondering if he’s missing something obvious. “Aren’t you tired?”
“Well, yeah, but there’s only room for one person in that bag,” Jeno says patiently. “I don’t want to squish you.”
“No way you’re sleeping on the cold ground,” Mark says, frowning. “That’ll suck, and you know it.”
“I just…I don’t want to make you uncomfortable,” Jeno mumbles, looking down at the heater again.
“This can’t really get more awkward,” Mark points out, “given that we’ve already hooked up, had the whole office find out about it, and locked ourselves in a storage shed with only one sleeping bag.”
“Don’t forget the part about where we’re supposed to be mortal enemies,” Jeno says, and Mark laughs. Jeno’s answering grin is just as amused.
“Or something,” Mark says, pulling the sleeping bag towards them and undoing the bungee cord that’s keeping it folded up. It really is a massive bag, Mark thinks, stuffed with dense fleece and down padding.
“Or something,” Jeno echoes. “Hey, look up there—sleeping pads. We can put some down so we don’t have to sleep on the floor.”
“Nice call,” Mark says, pushing himself to his feet and pulling a few off the shelf, dust raining down on his jacket and hands. “I think this place rents camping supplies—” He stops to sneeze twice, “—in the summertime.”
“We really got lucky,” Jeno says as Mark wipes his nose and passes him the sleeping pads. “We could’ve been stranded in the middle of the forest.”
“True,” Mark says. “Then we would’ve gotten hypothermia, and our problems would be a tad bit bigger than, uh…” He trails off, trying to find a name for whatever sits between him and Jeno, awkward but electric. “Having to sort this out.”
They roll the sleeping bag out on top of the sleeping pads. Mark pinches the contact lenses from his eyes and puts them in the baggie with his finished joint. Jeno unties his boots and puts them close to the heater, probably so they don’t freeze overnight.
Mark also takes off his shoes, very glad he chose to wear sweatpants today. The idea of sleeping in jeans is almost too much to bear. He unzips the sleeping bag and scoots to make as much room as possible for Jeno.
Jeno crouches on the sleeping pad, hesitant. “You’re…sure this is okay?”
“Yes,” Mark says. “But it’s up to you. If you would rather—”
“No, too cold,” Jeno mumbles, almost under his breath. In the next second, he’s sliding into the sleeping bag next to Mark, body warm and solid. “Night,” Jeno says quietly.
“Goodnight,” Mark responds, though he doesn’t close his eyes. He’s still pressing away from Jeno, as much as the sleeping bag will allow—and he can feel Jeno doing the same, every muscle taught and straining, trying to keep them from touching too much.
This isn’t going to work, Mark thinks, exasperated. He doesn’t really want to try to talk more with Jeno—the awkwardness still refuses to melt, and they have yet to find the same ease that they’d conversed with on the night they’d hooked up.
But he has to do something—the weed’s made him sleepy, and the buzz of alcohol has worn off just enough to let exhaustion take its place. He won’t relax until Jeno does, and clearly, they both need something to take their mind off it.
“What’s your favorite part about working at Encity?” Mark asks at last, cringing at how banal and stupid he sounds. But Jeno hums thoughtfully, and their shoulders brush as he shifts positions.
“I get a lot of say in what we’re doing,” Jeno says. “My ideas feel important. I was a Communications major, with a media focus, and all everyone could tell me was how I’d end up at a tech company that wouldn’t give a damn about what I thought, that just wanted me to throw powerpoints together and present like a robot.” He pauses, and Mark waits for him to continue. “I wasn’t a huge fan of the wash-rinse-repeat idea. And I’m really lucky to be at a place where I’m not doing that.”
“Huh,” Mark says, digesting that. “I like that.”
He can feel Jeno’s smile more than see it, and something eases off his chest. “Okay, your turn.”
“Your turn to ask a question,” Mark says. “If you want.”
“Oh, um, let me think.” A brief pause, and then, “What…was the best day you had in high school?”
Mark exhales slowly, thinking. “High school? Really?”
“I don’t think I’m very good at this game,” Jeno says sheepishly. “Yours was better.”
“No, no, it’s fine,” Mark says. “Lemme think—okay, yeah, I’m gonna be a jackass and say prom. But it was the after part that was the most fun.” And he goes on to tell Jeno about taking pictures with a massive friend group, getting drunk at a party they paid too much to be at, french fries and chicken nuggets at midnight, and how they met the Uber Eats driver at the curb so they didn’t wake up his friend’s parents.
They trade stories about first times, the last time they cried, the worst movie they saw. If they like reading or not, if they sleep cold or hot. Why Mark is slightly obsessed with major league baseball. Why Jeno likes public transportation. The kinds of beer they order based on the context. And slowly, they relax into each other, rediscovering the same sort of ease they'd fallen into together all those nights ago.
“Um, okay,” Jeno says suddenly, and Mark looks over at the change in his voice. “I know this is probably nothing, but, uh—Natalie said that you told her that night was a mistake?” Jeno swallows hard, voice faltering on the last word. “And I just wanted to ask—to see if I’m overthinking things, because—”
“No,” Mark says immediately, the single word ringing out into the warm darkness. He lifts his head just enough to see Jeno’s face, cast in the faint orange light from the space heater. “No,” he repeats, softer. He draws closer, almost unconsciously, searching for understanding in Jeno’s face. He doesn’t know why Jeno keeps coming back to this, why he seems to be so insecure—
“I think I like you,” Jeno whispers, and Mark can feel Jeno’s breath on his lips. Jeno’s got a hand on his waist, now, and that also feels like subconscious motion. Steadying. Grounding. “And I don’t want to—I don’t really want to fuck it up again.”
Now it’s Mark’s turn to be confused. “Wait, you think you fucked it up?”
“Uh, yeah,” Jeno says, but it sounds more like a question.
“How?” Mark asks.
Jeno opens his mouth and closes it again. He frowns. “Um, I don’t know?”
Wow, he’s a dumbass, Mark thinks to himself, impossibly endeared. “So…then you didn’t actually fuck anything up.”
“I—I guess not,” Jeno stutters, clearly thrown-off by the turn the conversation’s taken. “I don’t even remember where I was going with this, and, uh…” He looks up at Mark. “Can I just kiss you? We’re not getting anywhere.”
“We’re both dumbasses,” Mark corrects aloud, and Jeno laughs once before he’s leaning up to kiss Mark on the mouth, one hand carding through the hair by his neck and staying there.
Mark’s elbow starts to ache from holding himself up, but Jeno’s tongue curls against his and there are clearly more important things than elbow pain.
Things don’t progress any further than kissing—they’re in a storage shed, in their clothes, sharing a sleeping bag—and eventually, exhaustion and the need for oxygen wins out, forcing them to separate. Mark’s teeth graze Jeno’s lower lip as he pulls away, and Jeno physically jolts against Mark, eyes bright and face flushed.
“I can’t wait until we get back,” Jeno breathes as Mark drops back down onto his side, “and then we can go out and then I can get you back into a bed—”
“Jesus Christ,” Mark groans, covering his face with his hands, embarrassed and mildly turned-on. Jeno laughs, like he knows exactly what he’s doing (a far cry from the perplexed, awkward version of himself he’d been just minutes ago).
“That sounds pretty good,” Mark admits quietly. “I’d like that.”
Mark can feel Jeno’s smile against his neck as they fold into each other—at last, Mark thinks. The warmth of Jeno’s body and the space heater settles over him like a tangible, comfortable weight, and it’s not long before he’s slipping into sleep, lulled by the soft sound of Jeno’s breathing.
Mark wakes up to a cold blast of air and an aggressive amount of sunlight.
“—can’t believe it,” a familiar voice is saying as Mark struggles into consciousness.
“I’m taking a picture.” Another familiar voice.
Mark opens his eyes. The first thing he registers is Jeno, still fast asleep, draped almost entirely on top of him—how he slept through the night and was able to breathe, Mark doesn’t know—and then the rest of the current situation hits him like a bus: his friends, standing in the doorway to the shed and grinning like maniacs. Donghyuck has his phone out, Jaemin looks far too smug, and Natalie looks betrayed. Taeil is even there, but he looks amused more than upset, so Mark doesn’t think he’s going to be fired. Probably. He might, however, be murdered by Natalie.
“Wakey wakey,” Jaemin sings, and Mark regrets the day that he befriended all of them. “Fancy seeing you two here.”
Mark nudges Jeno until he groans, finally stirring. “We got stuck,” Mark explains, extracting himself from under Jeno and sitting up. “It wasn’t our fault.”
“Stuck?” Taeil says, frowning at the door. “We had no issue with the door just now.”
“It was probably frozen, or something,” Mark says.
Donghyuck comes into the shed, squinting at the hinges and the handle. Then, he bursts into laughter so loud Jeno startles awake, jerking upright. He blinks a few times at the people in the doorway, bewildered, before he puts the pieces together and turns pink.
“What’s so funny?” Jaemin asks, coming around to look at the door. A second later, however, he’s also laughing. “Oh my god, wow, you guys are stupid. ” He and Donghyuck step back, revealing a piece of tape above the handle with a single, neatly-printed word: PUSH.
“I thought we tried pushing,” Jeno says, rubbing his eyes. “Well, it worked out alright, didn’t it?” He and Mark share a glance. Jaemin, very maturely, makes a few retching noises.
Caitlyn and Yeri suddenly appear, catch sight of them sitting in a sleeping bag together, and narrow their eyes.
“What happened,” Caitlyn says suspiciously.
“Mark and Jeno are stupid,” Donghyuck says.
“A well-known and established fact,” Yeri dimisses. “What else?”
“Hey,” Jeno complains. Both women ignore him.
“They thought they were locked in the shed, and it turns out they weren’t,” Donghyuck continues, “and there was—gasp—only one bed.”
“A bed would’ve been way better than this bullshit,” Mark points out, extracting himself fully from the sleeping bag and shivering at the cold. “And it was for survival, for the record.”
“Uh-huh,” Natalie says, not buying it in the slightest. “What about the Feud, Mark? How could you do this to your department?”
Mark looks back at Jeno, who’s also getting to his feet. His hair is messy, and there’s a crease on the cheek where it was pressed against Mark’s shoulder. He thinks about last night, and that one night before it. He thinks about kissing Jeno, and about how he’d very much like to do it again, without all the awkwardness beforehand. Though, maybe, that’s just a shared character flaw, something that they’ll never quite get over.
Mark realizes he’s alright with that. He doesn’t mind being awkward if it’s Jeno. There aren’t many other people he’s felt that at ease with in a while.
“I think it’s time the Feud came to an end, maybe,” Mark says, reaching out behind him. There’s a moment of hesitation, and then he feels Jeno’s fingers slide between his, intertwining. Behind Natalie, Yeri is fighting back a grin. Even Caitlyn looks like she’s giving in. “And if it doesn’t—well, I’m not gonna stop you. But that’s also not gonna stop me from asking Jeno on a date.” He turns around. “If that’s cool with you?” He says to Jeno.
“Yeah, that sounds good,” Jeno agrees, eyes curving with the force of that smile. God, Mark is lucky. So, so damn lucky.
Mark turns back to Natalie. “Right, so, that’s gonna happen. And you’re my friend, so there’s that, but at the same time, I really think you’d like Jeno. And a lot of the Marketing people, if we gave them a chance.”
Natalie looks between the two of them for a long moment, and then she sighs. “Fine. I guess it would be really dumb to try to keep it going.”
“We’ve all read or seen Romeo and Juliet,” Donghyuck chimes in, probably so he can flaunt his knowledge of the singular Shakespeare work he knows for the billionth time. “We don’t want Mark and Jeno to die.”
“Seconded,” Taeil says, grinning. “Where else would I get entertainment like this? Also, you’re both fantastic employees and I really, really hate the hiring process.”
“Okay, if we’re all settled,” Mark says, “can we go back? I need to brush my teeth. I’ve got beer breath.”
With that, they all begin to disperse back towards the cabins. Donghyuck tells Mark he went looking for them after he got wind of Jeno’s sudden disappearance as well.
“There was really only one place you could’ve gone,” Donghyuck explains. “I just didn’t think you were in there for such a stupid reason.”
“It had a good outcome,” Jeno says, lifting up his and Mark’s intertwined hands. Donghyuck snorts, and Natalie rolls her eyes.
“I guess storage sheds make for strange bedfellows,” Natalie says dryly, but she looks genuinely happy for them, underneath all her bravado. “Just don’t be gross in the office like Doyoung and Jaehyun are, and we’ll be fine.”
“Deal,” Mark says. Natalie nods, but before she heads off to her own cabin, she pauses.
“I really…am glad it worked out,” she says. “Alright, that’s it. I’ll see you in the parking lot.”
Jeno turns to Mark. “I’m also glad,” he says, and Mark laughs, leaning forward to pull Jeno into a side hug. Jeno’s arms tighten around his waist.
“Me too,” Mark says, and means it with everything he’s made of. “Really, really glad.”
Jeno smiles, and Mark can only think of everything to come.