He’s already dressed in four layers of clothing and his friends have already turned the hotel room’s thermostat up, but Donghyuck is still shaking in his seat at the edge of the bed.
He’s doing anything and everything he can to keep all of his nerves under control — he clenches and unclenches his fists, he takes deep breath after deep breath, he counts to a hundred in his head — but every fiber of Donghyuck’s being is still trembling, from his fingers to his shoulders down to his knees and then his feet.
Jaemin cautiously approaches him and offers him a glass of water. There’s a smile on his face, as there usually is, but this particular one looks a little different, looks a little off. He keeps one hand on the glass as Donghyuck drinks to prevent him from spilling water all over his suit or from dropping the entire glass onto the floor.
“Are you sure you want to push through with this?” Jaemin asks him. His voice is low and quiet, but it doesn’t soothe Donghyuck in any way at all. Instead, his breath quickens and his stomach does somersaults. His fingers itch to loosen his necktie but they stubbornly press crescents onto his palms instead. “We can say that you aren’t feeling well? I’m sure that they will under—”
Donghyuck quickly stands from the bed, and he vigorously shakes his head. Even if he stumbles a bit, he ignores the hand Jaemin suddenly stretches out to hold him. Everybody else keeps quiet.
“No,” he interjects with a force that surprises even himself. “No. I’m sure. I’m going.”
He closes his eyes and takes one more deep and long breath. He holds it in for exactly five seconds, and when he slowly lets it go, Donghyuck’s eyes flutter open. He smiles and hopes his friends buy it, but Donghyuck isn’t expecting much.
“Besides, there is no way I’m missing the wedding.”
The wedding ceremony was simple and beautiful, and the wedding reception is no different.
Only a number of guests were invited — just the couple’s families and closest friends — so they only rented the hotel’s smallest function room for the night. It’s not a squeeze, but everybody is gathered together closely enough for laughter and smiles to spread around as quickly as they come.
Donghyuck is not an exception, and he giggles and grins at every single thing, especially Mark.
In the middle of the program, somebody approaches Donghyuck from behind and makes her presence known by placing a delicate hand on Donghyuck’s shoulder. She gives it a loving squeeze.
“The place looks wonderful, Donghyuck.”
Donghyuck can’t help the smile that blooms on his face as he turns around. It’s big, toothy, and wide, and it has actually become his second nature every time Mark’s mom is involved.
“Mrs. Lee,” Donghyuck breathes out. He immediately goes in for an embrace and even if he’s a lot bigger than Mark’s mother, he snuggles his head under her chin, just like how he used to do when he was much younger and smaller. He inhales deeply, and he suddenly feels like he’s home.
The summer before Mark left for college, he and Donghyuck drove to Dream Park in Incheon.
Neither of them had been there before, but it wasn’t much of a problem because Donghyuck wanted to go around the city and Mark wanted to hone his driving skills.
Since Mark was still a novice on the road and since Donghyuck chose to tease him about his driving skills rather than to give him actual and helpful directions to their destination, the usual half an hour drive from Seoul to Incheon tripled in time.
By the time they arrived at Dream Park, Mark had a headache, Donghyuck needed to use the bathroom, and neither of them was in any mood to talk to the other.
It was a quiet walk from the parking lot to the Wildflower Complex, but as soon as they reached the path that overlooked Dream Park’s flower fields, everything was alright again.
Things have always been easy between Mark and Donghyuck anyway.
The garden was abundant with daisies, gerberas, hydrangeas, and lavenders — all of them in full bloom. It was a plethora of colors: white, yellow, orange, blue, and purple. The flowers were vibrant under the hot summer sun, and their contrast to the dark green of their leaves and of the grass made them even more entrancing.
“Wow,” Mark whispered under his breath. He was staring out onto the flower fields, and his eyes were wide open while his mouth was slightly ajar as he admired everything he could see.
Donghyuck craned his head to the side to look at Mark — at his black hair that had grown too long that it fell across his forehead and over his eyes, at the beads of sweat that were sliding down the highs of his cheekbones, at the soft slope of his nose, and at the pretty pink of his chapped lips.
Donghyuck smiled. “Right,” he muttered to himself. “Wow.”
The pair continued their walk on the path until they found themselves amidst all of the flowers. They took every corner in the field, and each one led them to more rows of colorful blossoms. Donghyuck was quick to pull his cellphone out of his pocket, and he snapped pictures of the view.
“It’s a shame we forgot to bring your instant camera,” Mark called out as he crouched down a bit to smell some of the hydrangeas.
“Yeah,” Donghyuck agreed with a slight pout of his lips.
He turned to Mark, then took a couple of steps backwards as he raised his phone. Nobody else was in this part of the garden, so he made good use of the opportunity.
“But don’t worry!” He continued as he got into position. He kept Mark at the center of the screen and made sure that a little bit of each kind of flower was seen in the frame with him — the daisies, the gerberas, the hydrangeas, and the lavenders.
“You’re still pretty!” He grinned widely as he took the photo — and just in time, Mark broke into a laugh.
Mark couldn’t stop talking about flowers after that trip, so Donghyuck made sure to fill the function room with different kinds of blossoms for his wedding reception: red and white roses and red and white tulips, and because he and Mark enjoyed the Wildflower Complex at Dream Park so much, Donghyuck made sure to add in white daisies and white gerberas too.
He ordered a bulk of flowers, and the florist was kind enough to give him extras, so on his own table, the flower vase at the center had a gardenia and a sunflower. Donghyuck would glance at them every now and then.
“You did a really good job. Mark loves it,” Mrs. Lee shares as she and Donghyuck look around the hall to admire the flower arrangements in every corner. They’re simple but elegant, and if you know what each one symbolizes, the flowers are also meaningful. Even if he doesn’t like to admit it, Mark is actually a bit of a romantic and Donghyuck used that piece of information wisely. “His favorite flowers are tulips, but I’m sure you already know that.”
Donghyuck grinned at Mark’s mom. Of course he knows Mark’s favorite flower, just as he knows all of Mark’s favorites.
“Did you know that Renjun likes roses too?”
Donghyuck’s smile falters, but he quickly catches himself and keeps a small smile on his lips. “Oh, I— I did— Y-yeah, Mark must have mentioned a couple of times before.”
It wasn’t love at first sight with Donghyuck and Mark.
They were neighbors, and when Mark’s family rang the doorbell to Donghyuck’s house to introduce themselves, a little Mark was hiding behind his mother’s legs and was refusing to look at the little Donghyuck staring at him.
It took a while to get Mark to play with Donghyuck that afternoon as their parents got acquainted, and it took an even longer time to get Mark to stop crying after Donghyuck didn’t want to share one of his toys.
Children can be petty, and after that day, they said they didn’t want to be each other’s friends at all.
It’s funny how that turned out because they ended up being the very best of friends — never one without the other, inseparable, attached at the hips. They’re the whole nine yards.
Somewhere along the middle, an older but not necessarily more mature Donghyuck looked at a grown Mark and thought to himself, I could spend every day like this.
He thought it wasn’t that big of a deal. After all, it’s normal for best friends to develop a strong bond with and a deep liking for each other. But when Donghyuck looked at Mark again and caught the latter looking back at him, and then they widely grinned at each other, Donghyuck thought to himself, I want to spend every day like this.
And he knew from then on that it was love.
Donghyuck is in love with his best friend.
It wasn’t love at first sight for Donghyuck and Mark, but it was definitely love at first sight for Renjun and Mark.
His best friend is a catch — attractive, smart, and talented — and Donghyuck was used to people crushing on Mark. He was used to people asking him if he and Mark were a thing, if Mark was still single, if they could get Mark’s number. Donghyuck was used to it all, he just wasn’t used to Mark being interested in anybody.
Mark was always focused on his school and his hobbies — and, well, Donghyuck. It was actually one big reason that made Donghyuck consider the possibility of Mark liking him too.
But the world has its favorites and maybe Donghyuck isn’t one because the day he decided to be brave and confess his feelings to Mark, his best friend came to his bedroom with a goofy smile on his face and said, “I think I like somebody.”
Mark retold the story of how he met Renjun at the library. They were looking at the same section, and it turned out they were searching for the same book. It was a push and pull of who should borrow the book first. When Mark insisted Renjun can take it, Renjun said otherwise.
The book ended up in Renjun’s hands but Mark didn’t care because he got Renjun’s number and a promise to meet at the library tomorrow so they could share.
Mark sighed wistfully as he finished his story. He looked like a lovesick fool. Donghyuck would know, Jaemin has a bunch of photos of him in the middle of daydreaming about Mark.
“Don’t you like anybody, Hyuck?”
Donghyuck gulped. He planned to confess, but not like this, and most definitely not after Mark just admitted he had finally found somebody he likes.
“Nah,” Donghyuck shook his head. “Too emotionally draining.”
“Are you going to eat that?” Donghyuck asks as he already reaches out for the glass cup of gelato Jisung had just set back down on the table.
Dinner has already ended and dessert has just been served — not even five minutes has passed — so Jisung has hardly touched his ice cream but Donghyuck has already scraped his own glass cup clean.
The youngest boy lightly swats Donghyuck’s hand away. “Yes!” he hisses, making the older boy pout. Jisung quickly retrieves his gelato from the table and hugs the glass cup close to his chest. He takes another spoonful to emphasize his point, but Donghyuck misses it completely.
“Can I have one bite? Just one, I promise!” he bargains.
“No way! Your bites are so big, one bite alone is this entire scoop.”
Donghyuck retaliates by poking Jisung’s side, making the younger yelp and jump in his seat. When Jisung calms down, they both quickly look around to see if any of the other guests are disturbed by their ruckus, and they sigh in relief when they find everybody else engaging in conversations of their own.
“I’m not giving you any,” Jisung concludes. To be safe and for good measure, he spoons the entire ball of gelato into his mouth.
Donghyuck glares at the younger boy — he doesn’t even let out a laugh when Jisung gets brain freeze — before he shifts his gaze to the person seated beside Jisung. His eyes are sweeter and devoid of any poison this time, but it’s only because he wants something Chenle can give him — and he knows Chenle will let him have it.
“Chenle,” Donghyuck sing-songs. He bats his eyelashes for added effect. “Can I have some of your ice cream?”
Chenle rolls his eyes and takes one heaping spoonful of his gelato before handing the remainder to Donghyuck. The older boy is quick to grab the glass cup, and he’s just as quick to finish his second serving of dessert.
“You’re going to get a stomach ache with how much and how fast you’re eating, Donghyuck,” Jaemin tuts from beside him, but his warning falls on deaf ears.
The soft music the DJ is playing in the background gets even softer just as a light tinkle fills the air.
When Donghyuck looks up, he immediately spots Mark standing in the center of the function room, gently clinking the spine of his butter knife against his champagne glass to catch everybody’s attention.
Mark looks absolutely dashing in his four piece suit. Everything is black, but his bow tie is white — just as Donghyuck had suggested — and Donghyuck chuckles under his breath because it’s a little crooked. Mark must have been adjusting it throughout the day to help calm himself down a bit.
Donghyuck takes his time and continues to observe Mark — wisps of his black hair have escaped from the wax he had put on earlier and now fall softly across his forehead, and his cheeks have a light dusting of pink on them. He must have enjoyed all the dancing and the drinking, but Donghyuck doesn’t think it’s a bad thing because Mark still looks great. He looks the best Donghyuck has ever seen him.
The man of the hour scans his surroundings, and when he finds that he has everybody’s attention, he smiles — the same smile Donghyuck likes to tease him about because one corner of his mouth rises before the other. It’s cute and charming, but that’s a secret Donghyuck has never shared with his best friend.
“Hello? Hi. Hi, everybody,” Mark says. He sounds nervous, and Donghyuck wishes he were closer and nearer to Mark so that he can reach for Mark’s wrist and hold onto it as a silent way of encouraging him, just as he always did back when they were younger.
Mark clears his throat before trying again. “Sorry,” he chuckles. “Hi, everybody!”
Everyone in the audience greets back, and Donghyuck sees a little of the tension in Mark’s shoulders dissipate.
“I hope you’ve all had a good meal. How was the food? How was dessert? Were they delicious? Nice, nice, I’m glad you enjoyed them. Please help yourselves to more,” Mark nods as he looks around for the guests’ reactions. “Also, my friend Johnny gifted me with boxes upon boxes of alcohol, so please feel free to ask the waiting staff for a glass — or a bottle. Whatever you guys want.” Mark wiggles his eyebrows and he laughs along with the crowd.
Donghyuck whips his head towards Jeno and nods at him. “Ask for bottles of champagne, Jen, we’re going to need them.”
Jeno keeps a straight face but raises an arm to call for a waiter anyway. “For what exactly, Donghyuck?”
Donghyuck merely shrugs at him. “To celebrate, obviously.”
He looks back at Mark and keeps his eyes on him even if Mark’s own gaze flits from table to table around the room. It only stops every so often at the man seated beside him — at Huang Renjun — who looks just as handsome in his own four piece suit. His is all white with a black bow tie — again, as Donghyuck had suggested. Their suits are contrasting but they still look like the perfect pair — just married and on the way to their happily ever after.
“Before we all get so full and so drunk, I just wanted to say a few words,” Mark speaks again. “I wasn’t able to prepare any speech beforehand so everything I’m about to say will just come from the top of my head, so please excuse me in advance if I miss anybody or worse, say something embarrassing,” he explains with a nervous chuckle.
Donghyuck’s fingers twitch with a want to hold Mark and to reassure him, but right at that moment, Renjun does exactly that — Donghyuck spots him tugging on the sleeve of Mark’s suit, pulling Mark’s hand into his own, and intertwining their fingers together. It makes Mark feel a lot better, and Donghyuck is fine with that. He smiles, but it’s one that doesn’t quite reach his eyes.
“First of all, I want to sincerely thank everyone for joining us tonight. This day is so special to me — to Renjun and I, and we’re immensely grateful to be spending it with all of you. Thank you to everybody who came, especially to those who had to travel quite the distances. Thank you for your presence, for your presents, and for your well-wishes. We’re starting our lives together on a very happy note thanks to you all.”
The audience breaks into a round of applause as Mark plants a light kiss on the back of Renjun’s hand. He doesn’t let it go.
“Uh, to Johnny, again, thanks for the booze, man!” Mark laughs out loud. “Actually, five years ago, Johnny promised me that he’ll sponsor the alcohol at my wedding if and when I get married, and here we are, man. Thanks for keeping your word, I’m looking forward to the embarrassing stories we’ll get out of tonight,” Mark says as he looks over at Johnny’s table and points to the said man.
“I also want to say thank you to Taeyong and his family. They’re actually our caterers tonight, and I absolutely adore their food. I ate so much, I think my pants don’t fit me anymore.”
“To Mr. and Mrs. Kang, thank you for lending Renjun and I your white sports car,” Mark spins towards the other side of the hall to raise his champagne glass at a middle-aged couple in the audience. “I will continue dreaming about its leather seats until I actually do get to buy my own.”
He turns a bit and focuses on the table with people Donghyuck doesn’t recognize. “Thank you also to Renjun’s friends, who came all the way from China — to Yangyang, Guanheng, Dejun, Yukhei, Sicheng, Ten, and Kun. They actually hand painted all of the invitations and name cards. They are all so pretty, by the way, like, wow. I can’t even draw to save my life,” Mark ends with a laugh.
“Thank you to Mr. Kim for the words of wisdom you imparted to me over coffee last week, I’ll remember them for the rest of my life. Thank you to Mr. Park, to Ms. Son.” He goes on to thank his guests, Donghyuck continues to watch him.
Mark then whips his head towards the direction of Donghyuck’s table. “To my very good friends, Jeno and Chenle.” He grins broadly at the two boys whose names he just called out. “They— this morning, after breakfast, they took me out to play some basketball. We’ve been friends since college so they knew that I was too wound up and they encouraged me to play for a bit to get some of my knots loose. Thanks, guys, it’s been a while since we last played, and that actually really worked.”
Jeno and Chenle smile back at Mark, and their eyes disappear into slits as they give the man of the hour four thumbs up.
“Did it really?” Renjun suddenly teases his husband from his seat. Mark shifts his gaze to Renjun, and Donghyuck, who has been keeping his eyes on Mark the entire time, feels his breath catch in his throat.
There is so, so, so much adoration and appreciation and love in Mark’s eyes as he looks at his husband, and Donghyuck is hit with a tidal wave of nostalgia. He doesn’t want to admit — he doesn’t even want to acknowledge its presence but it’s honestly too late for that — but there’s a tinge of jealousy swimming inside him too.
It actually doesn’t make sense, because Mark has never looked at Donghyuck exactly like how he looks at Renjun. When Mark looks at Donghyuck, it’s different — there’s familiarity, there’s fondness, there’s reassurance, but it’s not the same. Even if, Donghyuck still basks in the attention. He’ll take what he can get.
He reaches for a glass Jeno had already filled with champagne, and he knocks it back into his mouth without a second thought. He knows none of his friends will refill it for him even if he asks nicely, so once he’s done, Donghyuck reaches for the champagne bottle the waiter left and pours some of it into his glass until it’s almost full. He brings it to his lips, but he doesn’t drink.
Mark speaks up again. “Thank you to my other good friends, Jaemin and Jisung. They boosted my confidence since they’re not very good at basketball and I scored a bunch of points against them.” Mark laughs out loud when the two boys pout at him. “You were great company today, guys, thanks a lot for hanging out with me just like the old times.”
Donghyuck assumes Mark will address him next, so he puts his glass of champagne down on the table and he keeps his eyes fixed on it.
Instead, Mark starts with, “I also want to thank our parents.” When Donghyuck looks back up, Mark is already facing the table right across Donghyuck’s, where Mark and Renjun’s parents are seated.
“Thank you for everything you have done for and given each of us, the both of us. To Renjun’s mom and dad, thank you for bringing Renjun into this world. I’m— I am so lucky to have him in my life. You have raised such an amazing man — he’s got it all, really — and I am the luckiest person in the world to get to call him mine, to get to call him my husband. Thank you also for trusting me to love him, I promise to do exactly that every day of our lives.”
From his seat, Donghyuck thinks Renjun’s eyes have begun to brim with tears, but he’s not entirely sure because his own vision is getting blurry too.
Jaemin hands him a table napkin, which Donghyuck accepts but doesn’t use. He doesn’t need to — at least, that’s what he tries to tell himself in his head as he blinks again and again.
“To my mom and dad, thank you for bringing me into this world. I’m not the best, I’m far from perfect, but the both of you have given me so much love as I was growing up and I know that I am capable of giving just as much to Renjun too as we open this new chapter of our lives together. You have always supported me, and I know that even if I’m so much older now and I have a place and a family of my own, you’ll always be there to support me and Renjun. Thank you.”
The audience can’t help but break into another round of applause and cheers. Donghyuck uses the chance to sniffle, and then he brings his champagne glass back up to his lips before he knocks his head back to down everything. He hopes nobody catches him, it’s insane how he drinks his alcohol.
When he straightens back up, Donghyuck’s heart leaps to his throat. He’s suddenly finding it hard to breathe and he feels like his heart has stopped beating completely.
When he straightens back up, Mark is looking right at him this time — sparkling eyes and shy smile and all — and everybody else has decided that it’s a good time to keep their eyes set on Donghyuck too.
“And last but not least,” Mark begins. His smile is small — almost as if it’s not there at all — but Donghyuck knows Mark well enough to be certain that this smile of his is the most sincere, the most real, the most Mark . It’s barely a curve of Mark’s lips, but his eyes are dead giveaways as they twinkle like stars. “Lee Donghyuck. How can I forget my best friend in the whole world, in the entire universe, right?”
They’ve known each other for years so Mark has said his name countless times, but the way it rolls off of his tongue tonight has Donghyuck’s stomach doing somersaults. He now regrets drinking and eating so much and so quickly. He feels like he’s going to be sick.
“Oh my god, how long has it been, Hyuck? 20 years? 15?”
20, Donghyuck mouths — he’s sure because he’s been keeping count, and Mark nods at him.
“Wow, 20 years. That’s two decades! Can you believe it, everybody?” Mark breaks his eye contact with Donghyuck for a few seconds to scan the room for emphasis. “Hyuck and I have been best friends for 20 years. It’s— it’s a miracle how I’ve been able to put up with him all this time.”
When Mark looks back at him, Donghyuck sticks his tongue out, and it makes Mark chuckle.
“See! Did you guys see that?! He’s a pain in the butt, everybody, be sure to be careful with this one.”
The room laughs and Donghyuck grins at the attention. He knows he’s a pain in the butt — Mark has called him that a lot of times when they were children. He doesn’t mind though, he’s always liked being Mark’s pain in the butt after all.
When the room quiets down, Mark talks again. “Okay, okay, that was actually a lie. The truth is, it’s— it’s unbelievable how Hyuck has been able to hold up being my best friend after all those years.”
Mark smiles at Donghyuck, and Donghyuck is quick to smile back at Mark.
“When I look at Hyuck, it’s as if time has stopped. We’ve been through so much together, we’ve been through it all together, and I lose my sense of time when I look at Hyuck, like, I’m reminded of the past but I’m also shown the future.”
“He’s always been by my side. He’s the only one who has constantly been with me this whole time — through the ups and downs and all the loops of my life — and I know that he’ll still always be right there for me for the rest of the days to come, and that’s— It’s crazy,” Mark says softly and Donghyuck nods because he agrees.
It’s crazy. Mark is crazy. Donghyuck is crazy. All this is crazy.
Donghyuck likes crazy.
“We’ve grown so much together — not just physically, but in all aspects. We’re here today because we pushed each other, and you all know that somebody like me needs a lot of pushing. I have Hyuck for that.”
Mark inhales, and only then does Donghyuck realize that he’s been holding his breath, so he takes a deep breath too. They stare into each other’s eyes like nobody else exists.
“Hyuck, I am so, so, so thankful for you. I’m so blessed to have you by my side. I’m so blessed to have you right beside me. You’re unapologetic and unforgiving in everything you do, and I’m blessed because of that, because of you. You have helped me mature, you have helped me improve, and you have helped me become a better version of myself.”
Mark shifts his gaze to anything else in the room again. “Hyuck, you give way more than you take, and I’m blessed because you have given me so much in the last 20 years we’ve known each other. I honestly don’t know how I can repay you for everything.”
Mark’s eyes land on Donghyuck again. “Hyuck, you— you spent the last two days in the hotel to set everything up for my wedding — my wedding. Thank you. Thank you for the flowers, they’re beautiful, and we love how you put my and Renjun’s favorite flowers together — it’s perfect. Thank you for helping us choose our suits — everybody loves them, we love them.”
“Hyuck, thank you for giving me the push and the courage to ask Renjun out five years ago, and for being our voice of reason every time we got into petty arguments. Thank you because we wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for you. Thank you for stopping me from dating that jerk in college, and for staying sober as I drank all of my heartaches away. Thank you for sticking up to my bullies when we were in high school. Thank you for cleaning my wounds when we were children even if you actually didn’t know how to. Thank you for everything, even all the in-betweens.”
“You’re honestly the best best friend anybody can ever ask for, Hyuck, and I am absolutely and incredibly thankful for you. I hope you and I continue to be best friends for another 20, 40, 60, 80 years because I don’t know where or how I’ll be without you, Hyuck, really.”
Donghyuck feels a tear slide down his cheek and he hopes nobody sees it, especially Mark.
Donghyuck blinks the other tears pooling in his eyes away.
“I don’t know if my friendship is enough to repay you for everything, but I want you to remember, Hyuck, that I am your best friend too, that I am somebody you can open up to, that I am somebody you can trust, that you’ll always have me. I want you to know that whenever and wherever, I’ll always, always, always be there for you.”
Mark stops talking to breathe, and Donghyuck, honestly, doesn’t want him to say anything else, but Donghyuck doesn’t get what he wants, especially Mark.
“Thank you, Hyuck. Thank you, and I lo— and I— I am so blessed — so, so, so blessed — to have you as my best friend.”
Mark claps right after he finishes talking, and the room follows suit. Mark’s words are drowned by the applause, but they still ring in Donghyuck’s ears.
Donghyuck chuckles just as he lets out a sob, and he leans into Jeno’s shoulder as Mark enters Renjun’s embrace.
“Wow,” Jaemin mutters under his breath even if there really is no need for him to be that quiet. The entire hall has just burst into applause and cheers as Mark ends his heartfelt speech and calls for a toast.
Everything he said was beautiful, sincere. Mark really knew his way with words.
Mark really knew his way with Donghyuck’s feelings. Mark really knew his way with Donghyuck’s heart.
There’s a bitter chuckle threatening to escape Donghyuck’s lips, but he swallows it down with another gulp of champagne.
Donghyuck feels a hand wrap around his shoulder, and he doesn’t have to turn to know that it’s Jeno, rubbing Donghyuck’s arm repeatedly as some sort of comfort.
“One would think that with the way Mark spoke to you, that you’re the one he’s married to, that you’re the one he’s in love with,” Jaemin admits.
This time, the bitter chuckle does make it past Donghyuck’s lips, but he fights the rest of his tears away. Instead, he chooses to focus on the steady clap of his hands, on the practiced curve of his mouth.
After a while, as the applause and the cheers continue, Donghyuck speaks again.
“Not me, Jaem,” he looks at the couple at the center of the hall. Donghyuck has seen it all so it shouldn’t really matter, but it still does.
When Mark brushes some of Renjun’s hair away from his face, Donghyuck’s stomach sinks.
When Mark runs a thumb across Renjun’s cheek, Donghyuck’s legs give away.
And when Mark wraps an arm around Renjun’s waist and pulls him close for a chaste kiss, and a second, and then another that is way too deep and way too long for Donghyuck to still be watching, Donghyuck’s heart breaks.
Like it does every time, like it did so many times before, especially with Mark.
Always with Mark.
“Not me,” Donghyuck repeats. “I know Mark too well to know that he doesn’t love me that way.”
He excuses himself to the bathroom, says he needs to relieve himself of the food and alcohol, but Donghyuck escapes somewhere else to relieve himself of emotions he’s kept to himself for years.
He has never been good at hiding, or Mark has just always been good at finding Donghyuck.
It comes with being best friends, after all.
The chatter of the reception hall increases slightly as the door to the veranda opens. Donghyuck doesn’t turn around, not until Mark is right behind him.
“There you are. I’ve been looking all over for you. We were taking photos.” When Donghyuck doesn’t say anything, Mark continues. “What are you thinking about, Hyuck?”
The younger boy quickly looks up at the night sky. He traces the curved edge of the moon with his eyes, he counts the stars to himself, and he thinks about what to say — if he should say it at all.
“I’m thinking about how much I love you, Mark,” Donghyuck admits.
As usual, Mark laughs. It’s the laugh that is loud and wide-mouthed, the laugh where Mark’s eyes crinkle at the sides and he slaps the metal railing and clutches it to keep himself from doubling over.
Donghyuck just watches him, quiet and patient, and sorry.
Sorry to Mark for choosing right now to admit it, sorry to himself for ever feeling it.
They’ve been best friends for so long for Mark to know that since Donghyuck isn’t laughing along with him, he’s being serious.
When Mark straightens up again, he opens his mouth to speak, but Donghyuck beats him to it.
“I love you so much, Mark, to the point that I want you to be the happiest you can ever be, all the time, every day of your life. And I know my jokes are your favorite, but I want you to be so happy even if it’s not because of me.”
“Hyuck,” Mark whispers.
Donghyuck turns slightly to meet Mark’s eyes. “Do you think you can do that with Renjun?” He asks, and his tone isn’t bitter or doubtful, it’s just curious. After all, Donghyuck just wants to make sure that Renjun can make and keep Mark happy because then Donghyuck can finally do what he has been wanting and needing to do. He grips the metal railing as he waits for Mark’s answer.
“Y-yes. Yes,” Mark says. He sounds so sure even if his pupils are wavering, but Donghyuck knows him well enough to know that he’s just confused at Donghyuck’s sudden outburst of thoughts rather than doubtful of his feelings for Renjun.
Donghyuck knows that Mark loves Renjun and that Renjun loves Mark.
When Donghyuck smiles, it’s close-lipped but sincere — relieved, even. He turns towards the balcony again, watches the stars in the evening sky and the little lights in the city. “Then I’m all good, Mark. There’s nothing I’m worried about.”
Then Donghyuck lets go.