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February 1st, 2019

10:37 AM

So, neither of them know how it starts.

Well - that’s not true. Mark’s sure if he ever plucked up the courage to ask Johnny, he would have some explanation, some memory of how this happened, of why this even started to happen. But Mark is a coward, through and through. So he’s never going to ask.

It’s kind of pathetic, to be honest, how excited Mark gets when he finally seated on the plane. The recycled air is always stifling and he’s always freezing, but plane travel is just as much a part of his life as recording a new song is. But it’s not the plane that has him hyped so much as the promise of what waits at the end of the trip.

They’re kicking off their tour in Osaka first and then heading out onto a number of cities, in Japan, around the world. They’ll be spending half the year on a plane, floating above the clouds, in a nonstop race to the next destination. Mark had seen the dates stretching out on the screen during their pre-concert meeting and had gone dizzy at the sheer amount of tour dates. At the number of overseas stops.

Overseas. That’s the word that matters.

They’re leaving Korea behind for now for a few weeks, and spending most of February travelling around Japan. Mark looks out the window and forces himself to breathe.

This excitement is ugly. It’ll only lead to problems down the line.

Yuta settles into the seat beside him, yawning ferociously before shoving his headphones in and tugging his beanie down so it covers his eyes. “Don’t let them wake me up for anything,” he tells Mark and instantly passes out, head tipped against the headrest and mouth parted slightly open.

Mark leaves him be and glances around the cabin at the rest of his members. Doyoung is across the aisle, Donghyuck already asleep by the window, his hood tugged over his head. Taeyong and Johnny are in the row ahead of him, throwing their bags in the overhead compartments. Johnny turns to look back at him, a sweeping neutral glance before he’s settling in his seat, pulling his headphones on.

Mark looks away and closes his eyes.

A couple of hours. And then they’ll be abroad.

 

“Hyung,” Mark asks lowly once they land and straggle out of the airplane, winding down the hallways and squinting into the blinding mid-afternoon sun pouring through the huge windows. “Do we have any schedules when we land?”

Jungwoo, who’s walking beside Mark, head bent low over his phone, picks his head up to shoot a look at him. It’s knowing and Mark ignores it, choosing to focus his attention on Youngjae, who hums thoughtfully, pulling out his phone to scan over their schedule.

“Nothing until evening,” Youngjae says. “You’ve got a few interviews, but that’s pretty much it for today.” He narrows his eyes at Mark. “Why?”

Mark laughs, hoping it doesn’t sound too panicky. “No reason,” He says. “Just wanted to check out the pool.”

It’s midwinter.

Youngjae shoots him an exasperated look, but apparently decides not to approach it as they exit out to a crowd of screaming fans, their phones brandished high.

In the push and pull of the ravenous crowd, Mark somehow ends up squished between Jungwoo and Johnny as they wade through the mess of cameras and screams and reaching hands.

Johnny wraps an arm around his shoulder and tugs him through with ease, breaking apart the crowd like water parting at Moses’ feet, not letting go of Mark until they exit the airport. Mark only manages to get a couple of lungfuls of freezing, fresh air before he’s bundled into a van. Another day, another car. All the days seem to blur together as one now. It takes the most extraordinary of incidents for Mark to remember days now, to pluck them out of the blurry dark room in his mind - photographs strung up on the wall, memories bleeding off the glossy paper like watercolour dripping off. Fading.

Johnny’s arm drops off and Mark looks over at him. The others are still climbing in, separating into the two different cars.

“We have no schedules today,” Mark says casually as Doyoung slips past him to the last row, grumbling about his cramping legs.

Johnny nods. “Turns out we’re sharing a room this time,” he responds. Just as casually.

Mark hums and then turns his head away, looking out the window as they pull away from the curb, from the crush of fans milling outside, screaming and waving their phones in the air, little flashlights shuttering in and out of view like stars falling down to the earth, burning up under the heavy weight of the atmosphere. The excitement builds in his chest like a soap bubble, iridescent and bright, filling him up until it presses against his ribcage, filling in between his ribs.

They’re in Japan.

 

It goes like this - flashes of lightning in the sky, just there for a second, illuminating the world, sending sparks of energy running across the heavens, and then gone just as quickly, like a firefly’s light winking out, darkness consuming everything again, only the threatening rumble of the upcoming storm left.

Mark taps the card against the lock, waiting for it to beep before opening the door. Johnny is a step and a half behind him.

"Gonna shower," Mark mumbles, throwing his stuff on the bed furthest from the window. Johnny likes the one by the window, he likes to wake up to the sun, likes to look out at the city before he heads to sleep. Not that it matters anyway, they're going to be in this room for a week or so and by the time they leave, both beds are going to be pushed together.

"Okay," Johnny says, already fiddling with his camera. He doesn’t look up.

Mark isn’t offended. It takes a while to adjust, he knows, to loosen his limbs, to let his mind, his hands, his glances run free.

It starts - picks up - with Mark resting his head against the icy shower tiles, letting the hot water beat at his tense muscles. They’d practiced until the last possible minute before rushing back to the dorms to grab their things and running off to the airport. Mark feels worn down, like the edges of his skin have been scraped at by sandpaper for too long.

It continues when the bathroom door clicks in and Mark hears the telltale sound of Johnny’s clothes hitting the floor. The sliding door opens and then Johnny’s slipping in behind him. Mark only picks his head up when Johnny’s hand slides around his neck, tipping his chin up and around.

“Hey,” Johnny says with a little crooked smile.

“Hi,” Mark breathes, and he’s glad the shower is there to mask the way his voice shudders, going wispy at the end of his breath, his lungs promptly giving up at the sight of Johnny, so close to him after all this time. Mark sees Johnny all the time, every single day, but somehow it feels like he’s gotten twice as handsome in the time apart. Mark crooks a smile at him and the way Johnny returns it sends his nerves sparking like a livewire, electricity flickering along the edges of his skin. “Long time.”

It ends like this - the waiting. It ends when Johnny lowers his head and Mark twists around, reaching his arms up to wind around Johnny’s shoulders and their lips meet, slow and controlled. Not too eager, nothing that will give him away.

Adjusting takes a while.

It has been a long time. They haven’t left Korea in months, not since they were in America last and this…

Johnny steps forward, nudging Mark against the cold wall, and Mark shudders. Johnny is solid against him, solid and warm and here. Right in front of him. Water drips into the spaces between their lips and Mark opens his mouth, lets Johnny’s tongue slide against his. It’s like remembering an old choreo - dusting off his unused muscles and falling back into that familiar rhythm. The beats, the song, slipping into the cracks of his bones, awakening the long forgotten memory all over again.

It's been so long. Mark lets himself fall into it. Into the kiss, into Johnny, leaning against his sturdy weight and letting himself go. Johnny's hand slides down his side, tracing his fingers over his ribs, making him shiver. A moan slips out of Johnny’s mouth and Mark drinks it in greedily, pushing up onto his tip toes so he can give as good as he gets, so he can feel this to the fullest.

The wait really ends, solidly ends like this; with Johnny flat on his back, his hands clenched tightly around Mark's hips, thumbs pressed into the sharpest points of his bones, guiding him as Mark rides him, throwing his head back, drowning in the pleasure that wracks through his body. Trying his best not to come too quickly, not to let this end so soon. The lights of the city pour in through the open curtains, and Mark lets himself go, lets himself really enjoy it, enjoy this, enjoy Johnny. He gets him for a month this time.

Johnny looks at him with his dark eyes, and his words feel like honey slipping down his veins, sweet and covered in want, making Mark shudder. He drops forward, burying his face in the crook of Johnny’s neck, mouth tracing along the tattoo that curls over his left shoulder - thin and black, looping over the arch of his trapezius muscle until it hits the top of his shoulder blade. Ten had designed it, Mark knows, a long strip of spiky ivy, thorns jutting out at every angle, a date curled in between the leaves. Johnny wraps his arms around him and thrusts up, a low grunt escaping him, and Mark groans, grinding back against his hips, helpless noises spilling out, sliding right into Johnny's ear. Conspicuous. Naked.

He shouldn't let himself be caught up in this, he's only got this for a month.

But a month can be a long time. Besides...

They're in Japan.

 

Okay, so Mark lied. He does that. He's good at lying - to his members, his parents, himself. It's a skill he picked up early on in his trainee years that he's held onto with an iron fist throughout all this time.

Did you sleep? Yes, I slept.

Can you handle another comeback? Yes, of course I can.

Have you eaten? I'm stuffed, hyung, I couldn't eat another bite.

Are you okay? … I'm fine.

Mark lies with ease. It’s the only way he can protect himself, from others, from this job, sometimes even from himself. When he needs his brain to shut up and his hands to stop shaking hard enough that he can’t even hold onto his mic. When he needs the world to fade away into a blur of meaningless white noise, Mark lies.

He knows exactly when and how this started - their whole thing. He knows how it happened, he can remember down to the exact day. In Mark's defense, it was a pretty memorable day.

But most of the time he pretends he doesn’t.

It’s easier that way.

 

October 9th, 2018

Somewhere around midnight

Mark is drunk.

He's very drunk and he feels like he's on top of the fucking world.

"I'm on top of the fucking world," he announces.

"You're on top of the couch," Taeil observes in amusement.

Mark looks down and giggles. They're all spread out in Taeyong’s room, in varying stages of drunkness and unconsciousness, watching some incomprehensible football game and losing their minds every time the game stops for another indecipherable reason. Taeyong is passed out against Taeil's thigh, his cheeks bright red and his hair, still stiff with hairspray, stuck up all over the place. Their manager had left them to their own devices an hour ago, too jet lagged to stay awake, and Donghyuck had taken advantage of his absence, stealing Yuta's champagne and sneaking the rest of Taeyong's glass, his giggles getting progressively louder as he gets drunker.

"I'm on top of the world," Mark insists, reaching down for the soju bottle on the table by the couch and stumbling. He would have fallen off and smashed his face through the glass coffee table that Jungwoo is draped over if not for Johnny catching him around the thighs and yanking him down.

"Sit down before you crack your head open," he scolds good-naturedly.

Mark laughs and leans into him. His head feels too heavy to hold up by himself anymore. "Hyung," he laughs. "Bro. We're in fucking America. Like - actually."

"Yes, we are," Johnny responds, clearly amused.

"We're having a tour," Mark says. "Like a world tour. Like - like around the fuckin' world."

"That is the definition."

Mark picks his head up with great difficulty and looks at Johnny with wide eyes. "We fucking made it, hyung."

Johnny grins, and he looks so fucking handsome right then and there that Mark's heart stutters, skips a beat or a dozen. His hair is raked back and he's wearing a sleep shirt Mark recognizes from their trainee days, an old worn-out Fall Out Boy shirt, stretched at the collar and shirt sleeves as his arms had filled out, holes around the neck and hem. He's so fucking handsome.

"Mark."

Mark blinks. "Hmm?"

"You've been staring."

"You're hot," Mark blurts. "You know that?"

Johnny raises an eyebrow at him. "Okay, Markie. I think it's time for you to get to bed."

"No," Mark whines. "I'm not tired."

"I think you're drunk," Johnny says, laughing. "Come on."

Mark's protests go unnoticed as Johnny gets up and hauls him up. Donghyuck is giggling into Doyoung's thigh when they pass by him, legs kicked out akimbo, hands wrapped around Doyoung’s knee like a mic.

"I think maybe, get him to bed too, Doyoung," Mark hears Johnny say as they stumble out the door. Mark's pretty sure his feet don't touch the ground the entire time.

Mark yanks Johnny down on top of him when he drops him on the bed.

"Mark," Johnny groans.

"Johnny," Mark parrots in the same, exaggerated tone, breaking out into giggles when his voice cracks halfway through the groan. "Oh man, that was embarrassing."

"You have no idea how embarrassed you're going to be in the morning," Johnny snickers, pushing himself up on his arms and looming over Mark with an easy grin. Mark’s heart stutters again. Wow, that’s a view. A really, really, really nice view. Mark’s rambling and he shakes his head to shake off the thoughts.

"Hyung," He whines, looping his arms around Johnny's neck and yanking him back down instead of staring at Johnny like he has been. "Hyung, you wanna know what I wanna do?"

"I think you should be asleep."

"I think," Mark sings, dropping an arm and sitting up on his elbow until he's close to Johnny's face. He swallows. Johnny is unfairly hot, even up close, even without makeup on, even tipsy, even after not having slept for a day and a half. Still so, ridiculously hot. Mark’s an idiot for not noticing this before. "I think we should make out."

To his credit, Johnny doesn’t react as badly as Mark was thinking he would have - looking back on it anyway, drunk him was just along for the ride - but he does sit up, pulling completely away from Mark, eyebrows furrowing together.

Still hot, Mark ruminates, running his tongue along the top of his teeth. They feel funky. He needs to brush his teeth.

“You’re not…” Johnny says and Mark wonders what he’s about to say. Not gay? How would Johnny know? Mark doesn’t even know. There are a lot of things that Mark doesn’t know. “You’re drunk,” he says finally.

Mark frowns. “Not that drunk,” he argues, sitting up clumsily and nearly tipping sideways as he does so. His head spins and okay, maybe Johnny’s a little bit right. But that doesn’t mean Mark still doesn’t want to find out how Johnny’s mouth feels against his. He forces himself to focus, snapping his gaze away from the curled bow of Johnny’s lips. “Can I kiss you tomorrow then?” He asks curiously. Surely, Johnny will taste better in the sunlight. Or maybe not.

Johnny looks at him. “Will you want to?” He asks and Mark thinks about it.

He’s always been attracted to Johnny, but it’s that kind of low-lying attraction, the awareness that the men he’s surrounded by daily are like staggering levels of hot, that he’s pretty much living day in and day out with people who look like models. He’s felt the same way towards Yuta - and Jaehyun on a couple of very disorienting days - but it’s always vanished soon, disappearing into a wisp behind the exhaust fumes of the van dragging them to their next schedule. Mark’s too busy to think about the ins and outs of his fluctuating sexuality, let alone sit down with himself and actually consider the implications of being attracted to most of his members. He barely has time to sleep as it is.

“Yes,” He decides in the end, because they’re in America. They’re getting a world tour next year. They’ve fucking made it. Mark wants this. “Yes, I will.”

Johnny gives him a long, considering look and then leans over to pull the messily made covers down around Mark's side. "Go to sleep first," he says. "In the morning, you can decide."

Mark opens his mouth to argue but a wave of nausea sweeps him and he crumples over, clutching his stomach. "Oh, fuck."

"Do not throw up in your bed," Johnny says sternly, jumping off the bed and yanking Mark up along with him. The moment shatters into tiny iridescent pieces and Mark loses track of everything along with all the contents of his stomach just as his knees hit the cool tile in the bathroom.

 

Mark kisses Johnny for the first time on the morning after the AMA's. It's later than that, actually. Only when it's edging towards noon does Mark finally wake up, feeling like he's been run over by a semi, his head pounding and eyes stinging at the bright light that invades his room.

Jaehyun is passed out on his front, snoring like a truck when Mark stumbles into the bathroom, trying to figure out if his decimated organs are still there or not.

His stomach is grumbling loudly when he makes his way out, feeling marginally more human as he does so. Breakfast - or lunch, at this point - is apparently in Johnny's room going by the group chat, and Mark casts a final glance back at the still snoring Jaehyun before he grabbing his phone and pulling on a hoodie lest any crazed fan finds him and sees him in his hungover fugue state.

Johnny drew the lucky straw this time, getting a private room to himself, but that also means everyone ends up there when they need some place to gather. Luckily for Mark's debilitating headache, only Donghyuck and Jungwoo are there, the balcony doors thrown open to invite fresh air, but curtains still drawn so as to let minimal sunlight in. Johnny is nowhere to be seen.

They have an impressive breakfast spread and Mark considers it, considers the strength of his stomach before reaching for the coffee. Donghyuck looks as dead as Mark feels, sunglasses perched on the tip of his nose as he shoves a massive burger into his mouth.

"Morning," Mark mumbles. Donghyuck doesn't even look at him, only grunts a greeting and takes another huge bite. A slice of tomato slips out and lands on the plate with a slick thump. Mark swallows down his nausea and gulps down his coffee, begging his internal organs not to jump out and leave him to die. They have to be on a plane tonight. He can’t fly if he’s dead.

Jungwoo looks disgustingly hale and hearty, and levels Mark a bright grin like he hadn’t chugged a whole bottle of champagne while the rest of them screamed and chanted his name. "You look like you want to die," he says cheerfully, handing Mark what's left of the scrambled eggs.

"I do," Mark mumbles, poking at the eggs. "Where's hyung?"

"Showering."

Mark glances at the shut bathroom door. "Ah."

They fall back into an easy silence and Mark leans against the back of his chair, looking out through the gauzy curtains to the skyline. At some point, Donghyuck leaves to go back to bed, looking more and more like a zombie as time passes rather than opposite and Jungwoo leaves with him to make sure he doesn't pass out in the middle of the hallway.

 

Mark’s first kiss - his first proper kiss - happens on the balcony of Johnny’s room. It would have been a terrible photo opportunity for any passerby, but luckily Johnny’s room outlooks the pool. Johnny comes out of the shower, his hair dripping down his black shirt. He looks unsurprised to see Mark there.

“You’re alive.”

“Despite my body’s best efforts,” Mark mumbles, limbs loosening a little at Johnny’s laugh.

“Let’s sit outside,” Johnny suggests, and Mark agrees once he’s sure he’s not going to melt under the fierce glare of the sun.

They finish off the last of the breakfast on the balcony, legs stretched out before them, all of the leftovers piled high onto one plate. The morning breeze is cold, and given that it’s October, the courtyard and pool below them are empty. Bit by bit, Mark comes back to himself

“So,” Johnny says quietly and every single of Mark’s bones, nerves, veins, freeze, flood with ice, with skittish anticipation at that single word. “You remember what happened last night?”

Mark clears his throat and sets down his fork. He folds his legs underneath him, tucking his toes under his calves. “Everything,” he says. “I guess losing my memory isn’t a part of getting drunk.”

“Yeah, you’re going to wish you had that later in life,” Johnny snickers.

He looks so good. Mark’s heart stutters, just a little triplet of beats, a melody that sings through his veins, just for himself, just for a momentary flash. His drunken self was right, Johnny looks better in the sunlight. He wonders if Johnny will really taste as good as he looks. “Hyung,” he says, summoning up every last bit of courage in his body. “Hyung, can I.. Can I kiss you?”

Johnny turns to look at him and his honey eyes swim, shimmer in the sunlight. “Yeah,” he says. “If you still want to.”

“I do,” Mark says softly. His breath stutters out when Johnny pushes the plate away from them and turns around fully to face him. Another triplet, quick, soft. Burning in anticipation of what was about to come.

Johnny nods. “Okay, then.”

Mark waits for a beat before he realises that Johnny is waiting for him to make the first move. For Mark. To move. Mark takes a deep breath. He can do this, he’s not a coward. He can kiss his group member.

Mark’s hand trembles a little, when it goes up to cradle Johnny’s cheek. He needs the stability, the grounding. “Okay,” Mark says. “I’m going to uh - kiss you now.”

Johnny’s bowed lips curve into a smile. “Okay,” he murmurs and Mark laughs a little, high, reedy, so fucking nervous before finally leaning in.

Mark’s kissed one other person in his whole life - a long, long time ago during the most hectic part of his trainee years. It was hilariously awkward and Mark tries never to think about it. This is not that. This is - this is -

Johnny’s lips meet his and Mark’s eyes flutter shut, everything around him exploding into full technicolour. He lingers, just pressing his lips against Johnny’s, not wanting to push, not wanting to pull away. He just wants to stay like this. This is -

Johnny’s hand comes up to cup his chin, and then he’s tilting Mark’s head, pressing deeper, and Mark gasps, his mouth falling open, and Johnny’s tongue slips in. His tongue is in Mark’s mouth and Mark feels giddy, the feeling sweeping through him, like his stomach dropping out from underneath him at the apex of a roller coaster.

This is so very close to the best thing Mark’s ever felt.

Mark pulls away, breathing unsteadily, and when Johnny pulls back, his smile is flickering warm and soft. Another triplet, his heart stuttering at the sight. Johnny is so attractive. And such a good kisser.

“How are we feeling?” Johnny asks. Mark’s sure he doesn’t realise his thumb is still stroking over the arch of his cheekbone.

“Uh,” Mark tries. “Um.”

Johnny laughs. “Well, that’s a good boost to my ego.”

Mark’s mind crashes back to restart and he blinks rapidly. “Fuck,” he says. “Can we do that again?”

Johnny’s hand drops from his cheek and abruptly, Mark feels exposed, like his whole face is split open. Vulnerable. The wind sluices against the newly revealed skin and it tingles. “We can,” Johnny says carefully, and there’s a world of unsaid things hovering at the edge of that sentence, all crammed into the tiny period holding this moment together.

“But we have to be careful,” Mark says. He knows, Mark’s not a coward. Mark’s not stupid. He may be ridiculously attracted to Johnny and may want to kiss him and never stop but that’s unrealistic. Not like this. Not now.

“We do,” Johnny says firmly. “And it can’t be - this can’t be a thing, Mark. I- I can’t have this be a thing.” A muscle jumps in his jaw, and all of a sudden Mark can see it from his point of view.

His mom always used to tell him, when Mark was at his angriest, at his saddest, when the whole world felt furiously unfair, too much to rest all on his tiny shoulders, to put himself in other people's shoes, to look at things how others would look at it. And Mark, in that moment, in that split second between one breath and the next, he can see it all from Johnny's eyes.

All those years of hard work, of sacrifice, of sweating and bleeding, and waiting just for this. Just for the chance to get on a stage. Sometimes alone, sometimes surrounded by a multitude of people, but always constantly waiting. Mark can see it all. And he understands it down to the marrow of his bones.

"Yeah," he says, and it comes out at the end of his breath. A sixteenth note, one beat and then gone, disappearing into several beats of rest. "Yeah, hyung, I know. It won't be anything."

It can’t be, he gets that. Not for Mark, no matter how attractive he finds Johnny and certainly not for Johnny, if going by the set of his jaw and the wary look in his eyes is any indication.

Johnny looks at him, seeming to search for something in Mark’s gaze. He nods finally, seeming satisfied with what he finds there. "Okay," he says and then that same shattering grin comes curling over his mouth, and goddamn, it's a whole fucking orchestra in Mark's chest now. American heartthrob indeed. "We can make out now."

"Oh," Mark says breathlessly. "Yeah - yeah, that'd be great."

Johnny's answering laugh gets swept up in his mouth when Mark lunges forward, slamming his mouth against Johnny's. His laugh tastes sweet, and the cool California air sweeps over them, making goosebumps prickle all over Mark's arms.

Mark's second kiss happens in California.

 

And that sets the pattern for everything.

The rules are simple: Whatever this is, whatever nebulous thing it is they define in the secret of their own minds, it doesn't happen when they're home. Not in Korea. They have to focus when they're home. They have their jobs, their members who deserve their full attention and focus. They don't even acknowledge it, not until they land in a different country, not until their feet touch the ground in a brand new place.

And that's it.

That's all.

 

The thing is, Mark's good at handling rules.

Rules make up a large portion of his life, from what he's supposed to eat, how his days go, who he's allowed to talk to, how much he can talk to someone before he's supposed to distance himself, to how to smile at the camera - all of it, most of it, is all held up by rules.

Mark's good at them, he knows how to thrive under them, because they're part of his job, part of his life.

And this... thing with Johnny - it's just another set of rules. And Mark can handle them.

Until it comes time to leave Japan.

 

March 31st, 2019

11:26 PM

Their last concert happens in Saitama, saying goodbye to a crowd of cheering fans before the stage screen closes behind them and they're left in a momentary darkness.

Mark is exhausted down to the edge of his fingertips, and his feet feel like lead bricks, dragging him down as he stumbles backstage to change his clothes.

All of them look the same way Mark feels, tired and worn down, sweating their makeup off to reveal the dark circles that seemed to be perpetually tattooed there.

He gets back to the changing room in a haze and strips off his clothes, changing into his streetwear without really realising what it is he’s doing. The rest of the trip passes by in a similar fog - the trip back to the hotel, climbing out of the van and traipsing back to his room. Mark doesn’t actually come back to his senses until he’s sitting on his bed, staring at the opposite wall. Johnny’s hand lands on his shoulder and Mark startles.

“Go shower,” Johnny says, and he looks just as exhausted as Mark feels. “I’ll order dinner.”

“‘M not hungry,” Mark mumbles, tugging ineffectually at his hoodie. His head feels like a hundred pounds, what with the layers of half-sweated off makeup and coating of hairspray that’s kept his hair in a messy puff as he bounced around the stage.

“Too bad,” Johnny says. He peels Mark out of his sweater and pushes him in the direction of the bathroom. “You need to eat.”

Mark doesn’t argue, just trips into the shower, not even bothering to shut the door behind him as he goes, and lets his head fall against the shower wall, the water beating down on him, hard and hot. He’s tired. It’s been one whole month, of travelling back and forth from Seoul to Japan, back and forth, back and forth, like a too slow carousel.

When he gets out, hair damp and a thin ring of black stuck around his eyes from the eyeliner, he finds Johnny stirring his noodles, already changed into sweats and the same Fall Out Boy shirt.

“You already showered?” Mark asks in surprise. He hadn’t even noticed Johnny leaving the room.

“Yeah,” Johnny says, amused. He holds out the bowl and gestures for Mark to sit down. “You were pretty out of it for a while.”

Mark drops in the chair and starts eating. The first bite of the noodles, the first food he’s had since the start of the concert, sings down his throat, hot and spicy and soothing. Mark groans and eats quicker, until it's all gone and just the chilies remain, sitting at the bottom of the bowl.

“Good?”

Mark nods. He feels exhausted beyond words.

“Come on,” Johnny murmurs and Mark barely realises he’s being hauled up until he hits the bed, head dropping against the pillow. The world blurs and then Mark’s falling, his mind spinning into a different world altogether.

“Wait - hyung,” he mumbles and when he tries to lift his hand to hold onto Johnny, it feels like a hundred pounds. “Stay.”

There’s the soft lilt of Johnny’s laugh and he says something but before Mark can comprehend it, he loses the battle with his body and is gone, gone, gone.

 

April 1st, 2019

5:44 PM

The sun is starting to dip down into the tops of the buildings, orange bleeding into gray and steel, when Mark wakes up.

He stretches in his bed before fumbling for his phone, grimacing at the bright light. They’d landed in the early morning, heading straight to the dorms. None of them had said a word, just dropped into bed and passed out. Now it’s nearly evening.

Mark’s stomach rumbles in warning and he groans, stretching again before sitting up and grabbing his glasses. The dorm is stunningly quiet when he steps out of his room, sneaking a look back at Jaehyun who’s still fast asleep before he shuts the door silently behind him. There’s no food in the dorms, of course - they’d been on tour for the last week - but they have a whole ramen cupboard and Mark takes full advantage of that, pulling down three packs and grabbing a pot to boil water.

He’s poking dubiously at the noodles, wondering if he had somehow managed to screw up ramen of all things, when the door opposite from the kitchen opens and out comes Johnny, yawning widely. Mark stares as Johnny scratches at his chest, shirtless.

Johnny peers at him and grants him an easy smile. “Hey,” he says, wandering into the kitchen. “You’re awake.”

“Just woke up ten minutes ago,” Mark says, freezing when Johnny leans over him to grab a cup and fill it up with water. He’s warm, body heat pouring off him.

“Mmm, smells good.”

Mark thinks Johnny’s talking about him for one startling second before he realises where Johnny’s gaze is directed. “Oh yeah,” he says, attempting a laugh. It peters off into a sad little exhale though. “I was starving. You want?”

Johnny shakes his head. “Nah,” he says, as Mark flicks off the stove and grabs a coaster to set the pot on. “I’m gonna head down to the convenience store to grab something.”

“Oh, I’ll come with you,” Mark starts, standing up from his seat but Johnny shakes his head again.

“I’m going to go alone,” he says casually, and the look in his eyes makes Mark flinch inwardly. Johnny’s expression is neutral, but there’s something hard and tense sitting there. Something that warns Mark from pushing.

“Cool,” he says, sinking back into his chair, hoping his voice doesn’t sound as shaky as he feels. “Get me some honey chips.”

Johnny nods, raps his knuckles on the table in a silent goodbye and slips back into his room, probably to change. Mark swallows, looking down at his food. All of a sudden, he no longer feels all that hungry.

The door to Johnny’s bedroom opens again and Johnny walks out, not even glancing at Mark as he leaves, mask on and hoodie pulled over his head, texting someone as he goes. The front door shuts behind him and Mark lets out a shaky exhale.

He takes a few conciliatory bites of his food to soothe his grumbling stomach before leaving it on the stove with a lid for any other hungry, seeking person to take before retreating back to his room. Jaehyun is still fast asleep, and Mark draws the blinds before sliding back under the covers, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly.

He hadn’t expected how quickly Johnny would pull away once they got back to Korea. He should have known, but he hadn’t expected it. They had spent most of the past month together, rooming together, wrapped up in each other, and Mark had forgotten how quickly, how easily Johnny removed himself once they returned home.

Mark closes his eyes and pulls the covers over his head. He imagines this is sort of what withdrawal feels like - like giving up Johnny too quickly with no warning has wrecked his body’s system and now he’s reaching for nothing, the sound of a door shutting still echoing in his ears.

It’s hard to give up a good thing after all.

 

May 6, 2019

9:18 PM

The door shuts behind Doyoung as he traipses back down to the guest bedroom, leaving them in silence before Johnny breaks it with a low question.

“Are you done staring at my awkward middle school pictures?”

Mark looks up from where he’s been perusing Johnny’s middle school yearbook, grinning at all the pictures of a 14-year-old Johnny with his hair too long, standing at the back of a choir, singing dutifully along. “I don’t think I could ever be done,” he admits with a snicker. “I already took pictures and sent them to everyone so I have this memory forever.”

Johnny lets out a little groan, though there’s a tiny smile playing around his lips as he leans over to take the book from Mark’s hands, placing it on his bed stand. “Come here,” he says throatily and rather unnecessarily, as Mark is already clambering into his lap, knees settling on either side of Johnny’s thighs.

Johnny looks contentedly warm and sleepy, and Mark grins down at him. “You tired?” He asks, mouth dipping closer. It’s odd, the confidence that’s settled around him these days. A month in America, a month of Johnny. Maybe that’s the reason. Because Mark knows whatever he does in this month will be received pleasantly, if not eagerly reciprocated.

“Not tired enough to not do this,” Johnny answers, and Mark’s answering laugh gets swallowed up when their lips meet. It’s always wonderful to kiss Johnny; he manages to do it in a way that rocks Mark’s world from its foundations every single time and this - even in Johnny’s cramped twin size bed - is no different.

Johnny’s lips are chapped, as are Mark’s, from the constant flying and travelling, but it still feels nice to press his lips against Johnny’s soft ones. Johnny’s hand comes up to cup his jaw, thumb stroking along the arch of his jawbone, and Mark’s mouth automatically falls open, a little noise escaping him when Johnny licks into his mouth. He tastes like beer and pizza, and Mark, in a split second of insanity, wonders if this is how it would have been if they had met in any other universe, where neither of them were famous and they didn’t have to wait for a plane to whisk them elsewhere to kiss each other.

Mark sinks his teeth into Johnny’s lower lip, biting only for a second before he pulls back, and is surprised by the way Johnny rears forward, groaning and slamming their mouths together, his hand slipping up Mark’s chest to unzip his hoodie.

Mark pulls back, breathing unsteadily, and grins at Johnny, feeling heat pool in his stomach when Johnny opens his eyes, lips swollen and eyes dark. “Are you going to fuck me on your childhood bed?” Mark asks with a giggle. “That’s kinda dirty, hyung.”

Johnny just looks at him, an amused arch tugging at the curve of his mouth, before the world spins and Mark is flat on his back with Johnny hovering over him. “You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to do this,” he says lowly, hands curving around Mark’s waist, shucking his shirt up his chest, goosebumps breaking out over his ribs and his arms. “It’s been weeks.”

Despite the freedom of being abroad for a whole month, they’ve had little time together, and most of that has been just long enough for rushed handjobs and, in one particularly memorable moment, in the bathroom of the Airbnb they’d rented, an insanely mindblowing blowjob. Mark had shoved his fingers into his mouth so as not to moan too loudly and Johnny had basically let him facefuck him until he came, shaking and trembling, sinking against the cold marble washbasin only for Johnny to wipe his mouth and smirk up at Mark as if he hadn’t just spent the last ten minutes sucking Mark’s brains out through his dick.

Whatever little is left of Mark’s patience disappears when Johnny tugs off his own hoodie and shirt and leans back in to kiss him, hard and wanting. He runs his hands greedily up Johnny’s chest, legs spreading to let Johnny settle between them.

It’s not their first time doing this - not even close. Mark doesn’t like to think about that time for the very particular reason that it was horrifically embarrassing for him even though Johnny had been ridiculously nice about it, but there’s something about lying in Johnny’s childhood room, surrounded by his old posters and picture frames that makes it oddly… Sacred.

Besides, it doesn’t help that this whole trip, Johnny has looked unforgivably attractive; the American air seemed to have seeped into him, making him shine brighter, stand taller, and Mark so badly wants to climb him like a tree (and never let go).

“Can I?” Johnny rumbles, his hands resting on Mark’s hips, toying with his sweats, and Mark nods quickly, raising his hips so Johnny can pull off his pants. Mark swallows when Johnny looks down at him, his eyes dark. He’s already stiffening up under Johnny’s attention from the last half hour and there’s a small damp spot on his briefs that makes Mark flush when Johnny leans down to nose at the bulge.

“Oh, hyung,” Mark stutters when Johnny’s breath ghosts over his cock, making his hips twitch up into Johnny’s strong hold.

Johnny just hums in response, tugging his underwear down and off. The noise that escapes Mark when Johnny wraps his lips around his cock is high and reedy. Johnny pulls off to give a warning noise, and Mark shoves the bottom of his shirt bunched up into his mouth and lets his head fall back as pleasure swoops over him, fast and rattling when Johnny dips his head back down and sucks hard.

Johnny gives unfairly good head, the kind that makes Mark’s thighs tremble and his head spin, as he tries so fucking hard not to come because that would just end the night right then and there. Mark bites the bottom of the shirt harder as Johnny’s tongue traces along the head, pressing into the slit.

“Fuck,” Mark’s hips jump up, but Johnny’s hands are right there, a vice-like grip, pushing him back down before he can get very far. “Fuck - fuck hyung -” Johnny pulls off with a wet noise that resounds in the room and Mark feels his cheeks go hot. Johnny’s mouth is wet and he’s looking up at Mark with a pleased grin - one that reminds Mark oddly of a predator. Mark spits out his shirt and rakes a desperate hand through his hair. “Dude, I’m gonna come if you keep that up.”

“So?” Johnny shrugs. “I’ll just make you come again.”

And before Mark can protest or even absorb that thought, Johnny swallows him down again, hollowing his cheeks without an ounce of regard for the last of Mark’s remaining brain cells. The world goes a hazy red and it takes all of Mark’s attention to keep from making noises that might attract notice. His fingers clench in Johnny’s hair, the smooth strands slipping through his grip before Johnny does something with his tongue that makes Mark’s whole body seize up, nails scraping against Johnny’s scalp, a too loud moan shattering out of his mouth before Johnny is rearing up, Mark’s cock slipping from his mouth unceremoniously, hand slapping over Mark’s mouth, his eyes wide.

“You gotta stay quiet, baby,” Johnny whispers and Mark groans, rutting up against what little friction is granted to him.

“I will,” he says quickly, muffled, desperate for an orgasm that is still hovering out of view, hiding just out of reach. “Please hyung, Johnny-”

“Shh, baby,” Johnny says, easing his hand off, and Mark is so far fucking gone he doesn’t even realise that’s the second time Johnny’s called him that in the span of a few seconds. The first time he’s ever called Mark that. Johnny kisses down his chest, sinking his teeth into Mark’s hipbone and glancing up at Mark through his lashes, lips curving up into a smile when he sees Mark visibly trying to keep quiet. Johnny hums, “I got you.”

Johnny sucks him down for the third time, making Mark’s head spin beyond reckoning. He braces his hands on Mark’s thighs, pushing him down and hollowing his cheeks until Mark’s orgasm skids to the edge all over again, fast and unrestrained. It overtakes him like an avalanche, his gut clenching as the first pebbles go skidding down and then in a rush, the world crumbling around him as he comes, gripping Johnny’s hair unforgivably tight, his other hand fisted in his mouth to stop from shouting as Johnny forces his mouth down to Mark’s hips, swallowing him whole. Mark shatters apart. He can vaguely feel Johnny pull off, stroking him through the aftershocks until Mark whimpers, trying to flinch away from his hand.

The world slowly fades back into view and Mark blinks to see Johnny grinning at him, a self-satisfied curl to the edge of his mouth.

Mark shoves him, and he knows it's weak. “Shut up.”

“You looked hot,” Johnny says, low and honest, and it trickles through Mark like the rain, sliding down his skin and down his nerves, slow and cool. He drops his head back down on the pillow and takes a deep breath, trying not to let it overwhelm him. Johnny means little to nothing by it. He knows this.

“Come here,” he mumbles, reaching out for Johnny and hauling him into a deep kiss. He tastes like Mark, and Mark eagerly licks into his mouth. His hand drifts down to palm Johnny’s cock, and heat sings all over him when he realises Johnny’s hard because of him. Just from blowing him.

“You need to get this in me, now,” Mark mumbles, and Johnny groans, rutting against his hand.

“Fuck, Mark,” he sighs. “You’re going to drive me insane.”

Unlikely, given that Mark has already lost half his brain cells to Johnny’s talented mouth.

“Just get your dick out,” he says impatiently, and Johnny snickers again, sitting up on his knees to yank his pants off. Mark’s gaze gets caught on his thighs, straining against the tight material of his briefs, and he shudders as his mouth fills with saliva. Fuck, he wants to choke on Johnny’s dick.

It seems Johnny has other ideas, however, rummaging around in his pants for something before triumphantly holding out some lube and condoms, all in new packaging.

“I figured any condoms I could find here would be long expired,” Johnny confesses, and that’s such a ridiculous thought that it sends Mark into a fit of giggles.

“Did you get new lube at the Target?” At Johnny’s nod, Mark laughs harder, flopping back on the bed. “Dude, I can’t believe you.”

“Uh-huh,” Johnny rolls his eyes and wraps his free hand around Mark’s knee, yanking him towards his body with ease. Mark yelps when Johnny pushes his leg up and out of the way. “I don’t see you complaining now.”

“I will be if you don’t fuck me soon,” Mark shoots back, and Johnny shoots him a look as he pops open the lube and coats his fingers in it.

Mark takes a deep breath at the first press of Johnny’s fingers, hands clenching in the sheets.

“How are you so tight?” Johnny mumbles, glancing up at Mark through his lashes.

“That’s what happens when you don’t fuck me for months,” Mark says indignantly.

The curl of Johnny’s mouth softens and for a moment, he looks almost regretful. “It has been a while, hasn’t it,” he sighs, gently pulling out and pressing two fingers in. Mark’s throat grows tight, and he can feel the onslaught of emotions lifting up, poking up seeking fingers from the grave Mark had buried them in a long, long time ago. He tries his best to tamp them back down; there is no room for emotions here - not this kind, anyway.

Johnny keeps working him open, his fingers splitting him apart mercilessly and Mark slightly hates him - just a little. For being so oblivious, so undisturbed in the wake of Mark’s obvious torment.

“Hyung,” Mark pleads as Johnny finds his prostate, pressing mercilessly in, until Mark’s shuddering, mouth dropping open and the last of his words are vanishing into nothing. “Oh - please-”

“I don’t think-”

Mark sharply draws his knees up, bracketing Johnny’s waist and tugging him close with the grip he has, weak as it is. “Johnny,” he says firmly. “Hyung. I’m ready.”

And before Johnny can say a word, Mark sits up and turns around, dropping down on his elbows and knees. He glances over his shoulder to look at a rapidly reddening Johnny, his eyes flooding with dark want, and grins. “Fuck me,” Mark offers. An offer that really isn’t one.

“Fuck,” Johnny sighs. “You’re a menace.”

You made me one, Mark thinks. He doesn’t say it out loud. It’s too close to the truth. Too revealing that Johnny had something, had brought something more to the table that molded Mark Lee into who he is today. Not just a friend, but something more. And that is a dangerous thought to have.

A tiny noise slips from Mark’s mouth when he feels the blunt pressure of Johnny’s cock nudge at his hole. It hurts, despite all the preparation. It’s been far too long.

“Fuck,” Mark mumbles, head dropping lower, heat burning up and down his spine, branding Johnny’s hands into his hips. “Fuck, fuck, ah, hyung-”

“You look so good,” Johnny says, and it sends a jolt of pleasure through Mark’s body. He keeps pushing, despite the burning ache, until his hips are flush against Mark’s and Mark’s head is pressed into the sheets, mouth open, wetly gasping. Already so undone.

“Hyung, please,” Mark begs. He can’t pull his hands from the bed, he can’t do anything but just lay here and take it, let his body welcome the intrusion that vibrates through him, leaving him helpless, wanting. Johnny hasn’t even moved yet.

Johnny presses a kiss to the curve of Mark’s spine before he pulls out, and on the cusp of an uneven breath, slams back in. Mark doesn’t even have the time to process it, the way it leaves him shaking, choking on a shattering moan, when Johnny does it again and again and again.

 

He can feel every single thrust in his throat, the way it fills him up, eyes rolling to the back of his head when he clenches, experimentally, and Johnny groans, low in the back of his throat, and grasps Mark’s waist in a bruising grip before fucking into him even harder, somehow.

His elbows slip on the sheets, driving him down to his shoulders, but neither of them miss a beat. Johnny just presses closer and Mark arches his back up as far as it’ll go, moaning messily when Johnny’s cock just brushes past his prostate.

“You gotta shut up, baby,” Johnny pants, hot air hitting the back of Mark’s spine, and he moans, clenching around Johnny. “You’re going to wake everyone up.”

“Can’t-” he cries, pressing his mouth against the sweaty sheets, trying to at least muffle himself. “I’m try - oh fuck, hyung - right there, right there-”

Johnny hauls him closer, practically the only thing holding him upright at this point, and pushes a hand down on the back of Mark’s neck, keeping him pressed against the bed before he angles his hips and fucks right against that perfect spot. Mark sees white, and then goes boneless. It feels like Johnny is spearing him in half and all Mark can do is just lie here and take it.

“Fuck,” Johnny spits, low and guttural, when Mark clenches around him, meeting his thrusts one for one, keeping the pace. Everything grows hot and tight, and Mark can feel his gut tighten, his muscles pull together, sweat dripping down his spine. Johnny bends over him, dragging his teeth over the plane of Mark’s back and it feels like he’s a livewire - like his nerves are sparking all over, lighting him up.

Suddenly, Johnny’s hand is gone, and Mark picks his head up, gasping for clean, non sweaty-sheet air that doesn’t come fast enough.

“Turn around,” Johnny says and Mark spins, instantly, whimpering when Johnny’s cock slips from him.

“Hyung,” Mark says, reaching out for him and sighing, a cross between a sob and a groan escaping his lips, arching his hips when Johnny presses back in, finally seeming just as desperate as Mark feels. Perhaps it was better that Mark had faced away from Johnny at the beginning because if this sight - Johnny, his hair sticking to his forehead, biting his lower lip desperately as he pushes back into Mark with abandon, chest flushed deep red and muscles straining - had greeted him, Mark would have come immediately and the night would have ended right then and there.

“God, Mark,” Johnny sighs, his hands tracing shamelessly over Mark’s body. “I wish you could see yourself like this. You look so fucking good right now.”

I wish you could see you, Mark thinks, but he just yanks Johnny down into a kiss, urging him back into a rhythm with his hips and his moans. It’s nowhere near as punishing as before, but Mark still falls apart in his arms. Johnny’s whole body blankets his and it feels like the rest of the world falls away. It’s just him and Johnny, just the sound of the mattress squeaking, the sheets sliding, their twin gasps intermingling, just the slick sound of Johnny licking into his mouth, the slap of his hips against Mark’s. It’s just them.

Johnny shushes him, and it’s only then that Mark realises that he’s still whimpering, loudly, shaking with every thrust. Then Johnny’s hand is cupping his cheek, gently, before his fingers are sliding on Mark’s lips and pushing inside. Mark groans, jaw dropping open, sucking him down, and Johnny echoes it.

“Fuck, you’re going to drive me insane,” he growls, his other hand pushing up Mark’s thigh to get more leverage, and Mark’s eyes roll back into his head, his noises choked off behind Johnny’s fingers.

He can rapidly feel himself reaching the breaking point, precome dripping all over his chest, his muscles aching, body trembling. He doesn’t have any kind of comparison for this sort of thing, but Mark is sure, with a throat-aching, gut-wrenching surety, that the way Johnny makes his legs shake and his throat raw, the way he makes Mark lose his mind every single fucking time - Mark’s sure that Johnny’s absolutely ruined sex for him with anyone else.

“Gonna come,” Mark whimpers, hand reaching down to grasp at his cock, but Johnny’s hand slips from his mouth, pushing his hand away before he can get any sort of relieving friction.

“Come just like this,” Johnny says, orders, begs. “Mark - just like this.”

Mark cries out but Johnny doesn’t let up, fucking him harder and harder until Mark feels his whole body draw up tightly, aching on the edge of a blinding orgasm that doesn’t come no matter how hard he reaches for it. Mark sobs. “Hyung, please-”

And in one swift moment Johnny presses both his legs up, fucking bends Mark in half, and slams into him so hard, so sudden that Mark comes in between one gasp and the next, completely untouched. The world goes blurry and Mark feels his eyes roll back into his skull, his mouth dropping open and choking on a sob as he shatters apart so hard his come hits his neck and chin. It destroys him from the inside out and Mark welcomes it. Let's himself be overtaken by it.

He barely, through the pounding of blood in his ears, hears Johnny gasp a shattered, “Gonna come.” He spills inside Mark with a low groan, face pressing into Mark’s neck as he does, and Mark blindly wishes there was no condom there, that he could feel Johnny’s come slipping out of him, feel it sticking to his thighs.

He sinks his teeth into Johnny’s shoulder, right above the point where his tattoo meets his shoulder bone and Johnny’s cock twitches inside him, aftershocks rattling through him, before he slumps on top of Mark, shoving the air out of his lungs in one fell swoop.

They lay there panting, and Mark stares up at the popcorn ceiling - the ceiling of Johnny’s childhood bedroom - and tries to remember where he is. Who he is. He feels like his brain is leaking out of his ears.

“Fuck,” Johnny says finally, heaving himself up and Mark shifts as Johnny’s heavy weight disappears, msucles aching. He’s going to be lucky if he can walk tomorrow with what Johnny has done to his lower back. Air finally fills his lungs and he promptly loses it all in the next breath when Johnny pulls out, throwing the condom in the trash with a well-aimed toss.

“Oh god,” Mark groans, pushing at Johnny’s shoulder until he slides over, dropping onto the mattress.

There’s a beat of silence. “I can’t believe I fucked you in my bedroom,” Johnny sighs and Mark bursts out laughing.

“Me neither, dude,” he says, turning his head to look at Johnny. Johnny’s grinning back at him, and it’s horrendously unfair, the way Mark’s heart stutters, skips a beat, ignores the rhythm and melody entirely at the sight of that smile.

Johnny levers himself up with a groan. “I’m going to clean up,” he says and grins down at Mark. “I’d pull you with me but I think we’d break the shower with the two of us.”

Mark bats him away. “Go,” he says, grabbing the box of tissues from Johnny’s bedside table. “I’ll go later.”

The door shuts behind Johnny with a quiet click and Mark falls back on his bed, closing his eyes.

Fuck.

 

May 7th, 2019

4:12 AM

When Mark wakes to his manager shaking his shoulder, the bed beside him is empty and there’s no trace that Johnny was even there last night.

The only remaining evidence is the rapidly reddening, bruising hickey on Mark’s chest when he looks at himself in the mirror. The only mark left on Mark.

 

January 1st, 2020

1:15 AM

They all bundle into the vans in a rush, waving to the fans as quickly as they can before jumping into the warm cars. They’re heading over to the company building to do a quick vlive before retreating to their own dorms and Mark feels exhausted to his bones, but in the best way possible.

“This was a crazy year, wasn’t it?” He murmurs when they finally finish the live, waving goodbye to virtually hundreds of thousands of fans but in reality is just a single phone camera. It feels oddly naked for some reason.

Renjun laughs at him. “Are you getting sentimental?” He asks, tugging on Mark’s ear before Jeno wraps his arms around his waist and frog marches him away, complaining that he’s hungry.

“A bit,” Mark admits to no one, and beside him, he hears Johnny laugh.

“It was a good year, Mark,” he says, tugging on the same ear Renjun had just pulled. “Don’t overthink it.”

Mark looks up at him and wishes, even in this crush of people that he’s supposed to call family, supposed to call home, he could just reach up and kiss Johnny. At least once. Just for the New Year. Just to feel at peace again.

But instead, he grants Johnny an easy smile and slows down to let the rest of his members file out of the door ahead of him.

They’re in Korea.

Somehow, Mark’s never felt more lonely.

The Christmas lights twinkle down at him all the way home.