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But I don't like a gold rush, gold rush

I don't like anticipatin' my face in a red flush

I don't like that anyone would die to feel your touch

Everybody wants you

Everybody wonders what it would be like to love you

Walk past, quick brush

I don't like slow motion, double vision in rose blush

I don't like that falling feels like flying 'til the bone crush

Everybody wants you

But I don't like a gold rush

 

PRESENT - 11/11, 11:01 pm

 

Mark knows that he shouldn't say yes.

He shouldn't have said yes last time, or the time before that, or the time before that .

Mark shouldn't have said yes the first time Donghyuck asked, so many months ago outside of that party. But he had fallen right into Donghyuck's silk-spun trap the second that they met, caught in his web of pretty words and pretty smiles and even prettier lies, and now he can't escape.

The message is simple, just two words.

Mark deserves more than this, he knows he does. He deserves those special kinds of smiles that are reserved just for him. He deserves good morning texts, and facetimes just because. He deserves to be wooed with his favorite flowers and taken on fancy dates that they can't afford. He deserves time and patience and kindness. 

He deserves to be loved He deserves to be loved in the way that he loves Donghyuck.

But Mark doesn't need more than just those two words. He deserves more, and he wants more, but two words are all that he needs. 

 

Hyuckie:

come over? 💗

 

It's just two words.

But Mark has always been weak when it comes to Donghyuck. 

And Mark can't deny the way Donghyuck's name sitting in his notifications makes his heart thrum desperately in his chest, and he can't deny the way butterflies stir in his stomach at the idea of Donghyuck missing him… thinking about him… wanting him. And Mark even lets himself smile at the little pink heart and pretend like it means something. It's just a stupid emoji. But it's not just any heart emoji, it’s Donghyuck's favorite heart emoji, the one he reserves for “special people.” And even if Mark knows that that probably means nothing to Donghyuck at all, it means everything to Mark. He wants so desperately to be Donghyuck’s special person. 

So he says yes.

PAST - JANUARY 

 

"God, I can't fucking believe I actually loved you," Mark screams over the music, a fresh wave of tears clinging to his eyelashes. Crying in a frat basement has got to be a new low for him, he thinks, pushing through the mass of bodies on the dance floor and out the back door.

It's always the same with him. Always . The same fights, the same words, the same crying and screaming over phone-calls, the same pain over and over and over, and Mark's tired of it. God, he's so tired.

Once he’s outside he misses the buzz of the party, the blaring music and screaming voices fading to a low hum as the door slams shut behind him, leaving him alone with the moon and Jaemin's voice screaming obscenities at him over the phone. It’s too loud in Mark’s ear so he flinches, a wave of offense flushing through his body as his ex-boyfriend tells him all of the reasons he’s a terrible person. 

God, Mark has had enough.

"You broke up with me, Jaem. Don't fucking call me again."

Mark ends the call with trembling fingers, his other hand clenching tight around his solo cup, beer spilling over the sides and dripping onto his fingers. He throws the crushed cup to the ground, a shaky sigh falling from his lips as he wipes his sticky fingers off on his pants.

But Mark doesn't realize that someone else is out there until it's too late, the sound of a wolf whistle and laughter causing him to freeze in his spot.

"What a performance ," He hears from behind him, the voice smooth and light and arrogant. Amused clapping fills the air and Mark feels his cheeks flush, hand coming up to swipe away the wetness from his eyes. 

Mark turns towards the noise once he collects himself, h is breath catching in his throat when he sees the boy standing before him.

The boy's hair is blowing carelessly in the wind, messy silver strands alive with moonlight and curling around the edges of his face — just long enough to make him look ethereal without looking unkempt — and his lips are tilted up in a pink, glossy smile, and his eyes are dancing with starlight and mirth and he is easily the most breathtaking thing Mark had ever seen.

“I thought I was alone,” is all Mark can manage, voice small and thick with emotion. 

“Do you want to be alone?” The boy asks, an eyebrow quirking up as if he already knows the answer. 

“No,” Mark distantly hears himself say. Mark can’t stop looking at him, eyes committing the slope of the boy’s nose and the planes of his cheeks to memory, tracing the moles on his cheeks, wondering if he has more. Mark doesn’t know if he ever wants to stop looking at him. 

“Ex-boyfriend?” the boy asks, gesturing towards the phone in Mark’s hand with a look in his eyes that Mark can’t quite place. 

It takes Mark a second to understand what he means, stumbling when he realizes that his phone call was not as private as he had thought. 

Mark nods, “Yeah, Jaemin’s a real treat.” 

The boy laughs, a soft huff of surprise under his breath. “God, who doesn’t have a shitty J-name ex boyfriend,” he says, grinning at Mark. He pauses, his lips twitching before he adds, “Johnny’s a real treat, too.”

“And your name?” Mark asks, taking a small step towards him. 

“Donghyuck.”

Donghyuck, Donghyuck, Donghyuck. 

Mark tosses the name around in his mouth, the vowels rolling off his tongue. It’s a pretty name, for a pretty boy, and he kinda just wants to say it out loud. So he does. 

“Donghyuck,” Mark repeats, smiling when he realizes Donghyuck’s staring at him like he doesn’t quite know what to do with him.  “It’s nice to meet you.”

“And your name, pretty boy?” Donghyuck asks, eyes alight with something like amusement. 

Mark blushes, the words “pretty boy” stirring something low and hot in his stomach. “Mark.”

“Mark,” Donghyuck repeats softly, mimicking him from earlier. 

And maybe it’s right then, that Mark feels something shift. 

Or maybe it’s when Donghyuck leans against the doorway with his arms crossed over his chest, and that dangerous, crooked grin, and asks Mark if he wants to get out of there and just forget for a night. Either way, Mark is saying yes before he even knows what that means.  

 

PRESENT - 11/12 12:38 am

 

“You’re late, Mark,” Donghyuck says, breathy voice floating in from the other room, followed by a soft, drawn out moan.

Mark freezes outside the door at the noise, hand pressed against the wood as he takes a long, shaky breath, trying desperately to calm the tempest in his heart before he walks into Donghyuck’s bedroom, and whatever is behind the door.

When Donghyuck had texted him “Good. Let yourself in, I have a surprise for you,” after Mark said he would come, Mark knew he wasn’t going to be ready. He knew that Donghyuck —  evil, cunning, beautiful Donghyuck  — was up to something. 

And he was. Of course he was. 

But, god . When Mark opens the door, just a light push of his hand, his brain turns to static and his limbs start to go weak where they fall by his sides, his jaw going rigid as his struggles to swallow.

Because lying in the bed is Donghyuck. 

Donghyuck, who’s wearing nothing but a thin, lacy top that Mark thinks might actually be lingerie, molded perfectly to his beautiful tan skin. Donghyuck, whose eyes are screwed shut and whose face is wracked up in pleasure, mouth hanging open as another gasp falls from his lips. Donghyuck who’s flushed all over, skin shining with a sheen of sweat and fingers slick with lube, hair messy in his eyes and damp on the edges. Donghyuck , who’s pumping his fingers in and out of his body, writhing on his sheets as Mark’s name spills from his lips, again, and again, and again. 

A chill runs up Mark’s spine. 

“Hyuck,” Mark chokes out, frozen in place as he watches Donghyuck come apart at the seams, chasing his pleasure as Mark can only stand there and watch. 

"Aren't you going to help me?" Donghyuck asks between gasps, eyes opening slowly as he takes in Mark's still form before him.

It’s obscene, and it’s gorgeous, and it’s just for Mark. 

 

PAST - FEBRUARY

 

When Donghyuck finally approaches him, Mark’s well into his third drink.  

“Hey, pretty boy,” Mark hears, the distinct lilt behind the voice leaving Mark grinning into his cup like a fool. He finishes his drink in one long drag before he turns around. 

“Hyuck,” Mark greets with a smirk, eyes tracing a slow, greedy path down his body. 

Because, lord, Donghyuck looks good. Mark had seen him from afar about an hour ago, but up close… 

Nobody holds a candle to Donghyuck when he's dressed like this. His silver hair is styled straight, bangs falling artfully over his smoky eyelids. His lips are topped in a sheen of light pink gloss that Mark aches to taste, and his cheeks are cut with a cool, deep brown, his constellation of moles just barely peeking through his foundation. His black top is sheer in all the right places, hugging his slim figure and outlining his waist in hazy mesh. It doesn't help that he had paired the top with dark jeans, rips so high and open that Mark can see endless tan skin peeking out from under the worn denim. Mark's particularly weak for Donghyuck's thighs.

When Mark's eyes eventually track back up to Donghyuck's face he finds him already staring back at him, mouth slack and eyes dark as he watches Mark openly admire him. Mark wonders if Donghyuck knows how beautiful he is before he realizes that of course he does. How could he not, when he looks like this. Then Mark wonders what Donghyuck would look like, splayed out in front of a mirror and watching himself get off, a pretty blush high on his cheeks as Mark's mouth kisses his neck, or his chest, or his dick. Then Mark realizes he's getting hard at the mere though in the middle of a party and pulls himself out of his head. He'll save that for later.

"What can I do for you, Hyuck?" Mark asks, voice a little thick with arousal and the buzz of alcohol in his blood as he takes a slow step towards Donghyuck, backing him against the wall.

Donghyuck grins, feline and hungry, leaning back against the wall and pinning Mark with a look that screams that Mark is the one cornered instead, ever trapped in Donghyuck's gossamer web.

"I've missed you," Donghyuck says, head tilting to the side as if Mark was something to be studied. Mark wonders if this is another trap, a pretty trick of words and lies that will end with Mark exactly where Donghyuck wants him. Mark doesn't know if he cares, as long as Donghyuck keeps looking at him like that, saying that he missed Mark with his pretty, crooked grin.

"You have my number," Mark replies softly, struggling to maintain eye contact. It's hard, when Donghyuck's looking at him like he wants to eat him alive, and Mark is trying so desperately to not pounce on him in public.

"Do I?" Donghyuck asks, gasping in mock-surprise as he steps forward into Mark's space, smoothing his hands over Mark's shoulders as he stares blatantly at Mark's mouth. 

"Yes," Mark breathes, eyes threatening to flutter shut when Donghyuck's fingers brush down his chest, a chill running down his spine when Donghyuck's knuckles skim his nipples.

"I can make it up to you, Markie," Donghyuck murmurs, lips brushing lightly against Mark's as his hands drift back up his sides to tug softly at the hair at Mark's nape. "What do you say? Come home with me?”

He's so close that the tip of Mark's nose brushes his cheek when he nods, just the barest movement of his head. But Donghyuck catches it, his face splitting into a grin — wicked and divine.

"Good boy," Donghyuck whispers, and that's all it takes before Mark's leaning in to claim his lips, the party be damned. 

 

PRESENT - 11/12 1:03 am

Mark shifts his weight, arms flying up to pin Donghyuck’s hands over his head.

Donghyuck yelps as Mark presses his full body weight down onto his stomach, the surprised noise spilling from his lips as he trashes under Mark's weight. Donghyuck pushes against him, hips bucking into the air as he desperately tries to throw Mark off of him, to no avail.  

“Stand. Down.” Mark pants, cheeks pink from exertion and aching from how hard he's grinning. Mark's hands tighten on Donghyuck's wrists as he presses them harder into the pillow above their heads.

"Oh, fuck you," Donghyuck growls, fighting against Mark's grip. He looks pissed off, which only serves to make Mark want to win more. Donghyuck's skin is flushed and sweaty and his nose is scrunched up in annoyance and his eyes are lit up with anger and even now, Mark thinks he's the most beautiful boy he's ever seen.

But Mark isn't going to secede, pretty or not. Because even if Donghyuck is a cocky little shit, he should've known better than to think he was going to be able to pin Mark. Mark really needs to start knocking his ego down a few pegs, and now sounds like a good enough time as ever to start.

"Admit defeat and you can," Mark smirks, heart thundering in his chest as he watches Donghyuck's cheeks flush at Mark's words. It was rare to catch Donghyuck off guard, and even rarer to make him blush. Mark wants to engrave the sight in his memory.

Donghyuck bucks his hips one more time before stilling, arms going motionless as he pins Mark with a glare that screams annoyance and defeat.

“I win,” Mark whispers into the inch of space between them, breath ghosting Donghyuck’s lips as Mark tries desperately to bite back the smug grin taking over his face. When Donghyuck rolls his eyes at Mark's tone, Mark releases his trapped wrists with a laugh. Mark's left hand moves to gently brush the silver hair out of Donghyuck's eyes, the other pressing into Donghyuck's chest, his heartbeat thrumming under Mark's fingertips.

Donghyuck hums, eyes going dark as he stares up at Mark, warm hands framing Mark's bare hips where he’s still perched on Donghyuck's stomach, fingers rubbing slow circles into the heated skin. “And what do you want for your prize, Markie?"

“You,” Mark beams, not missing a beat . Always you.

"Oh, Pretty boy," Donghyuck grins, the flash of arousal in his eyes causing Mark to heat up from his fingertips to his core. Mark lets Donghyuck flip them over so Mark's under him, thighs caged around Mark's hips. Donghyuck presses impossibly close, pressing a kiss to Mark's lips before he murmurs, "I've got good news for you."

"Oh yeah?" Mark asks, voice a little breathy as Donghyuck pushes him further up the bed and onto his back, spreading his legs so Donghyuck can settle between them.

"You've got me," Donghyuck whispers, mouth tracing a pattern of open-mouthed kisses down Mark's body, his skin humming with pleasure and anticipation, his dick twitching when Donghyuck’s mouth skims his hip-bone. 

If only that was true. 

PAST - march

 

“Cas,” Mark starts, whisper-shouting into the phone. He only has a second, but he has to tell someone.

“Mark?” Lucas asks, voice groggy like he woke just woke up, “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“I’m going crazy,” Mark whispers, heart still thundering in his chest. 

“Yeah, I’d fucking say. It’s not even eight in the morning, dude.”

“Cas, you’re not listening.”

“Mark, I swear to god if this is about Donghyuck again,” Lucas groans, voice muffled like he's pressing his face into his pillow. 

“No, dude, you don’t understand,” Mark whines. 

“What, Mark?”

“I think I like … love him.” 

“Mark it’s ass o’clock in the morning,” Lucas grumbles, “and you’re calling me because you’re in love with your fubu?”

“It’s not like that,” Mark groans. Well, technically that is exactly what it is, but Donghyuck doesn’t feel like just some random friend-with-benefits hookup. He feels like the guy Mark’s falling in love with. Holy shit. Mark is falling in love with Donghyuck. “I had to tell someone,” Mark explains, still whisper-shouting. 

“Why me?” Lucas asks, a whine creeping into his tone.

But before Mark can tell him that it’s his fault for being his best friend he hears the toilet flush, and then he’s hanging up just as the door opens, the words sorrygoodbyeiloveyou leaving his mouth in one messy jumble.

Donghyuck’s curious gaze follows his hand as Mark sets his phone down, turning it so it’s face-down on the table. 

“Who was that?” Donghyuck asks, pulling out a stool and sitting down, dragging the stack of pancakes towards him as he puts a few on his plate. 

“Lucas,” Mark responds immediately, cheeks heating at his lack of ability to tell Donghyuck a lie. 

Donghyuck hums, glancing once more at his face with that curious, suspicious look before returning to his pancakes, “Okay. You look really happy, Markie.”

Mark smiles, “I am, Hyuck.” 

I love you. 

You make me happy. 

Don’t let me go.

PRESENT  - 11/12 4:16 am

 

Mark furiously screws his eyes shut, blinking away the tears that sit on his eyelashes and threaten to spill over onto Donghyuck’s skin.

Mark really wishes his mind would just stop being so loud for one moment. 

But as he stares at the ceiling desperately trying to fall asleep, all he can replay is Donghyuck whispering ‘you’ve got me,’ over and over again. And every time he replays that split second in his mind, another piece of his heart fractures off in his chest. Because Mark doesn’t have Donghyuck, and he never will. And the worst part of it all is that every day, Mark can feel him slipping, further and further out of his reach. And every day, Mark keeps silently loving him. 

Mark pulls his arms tighter, pressing Donghyuck’s cheek to his cold, empty chest as he holds Donghyuck as tight as he can in his arms, letting himself have this moment. Letting himself hold Donghyuck’s warm body in his arms, skin to skin, heart to heart, and pretend in this moment, that he’s Mark’s. 

“I love you,” Mark whispers into the air like the coward he is, a tear slipping off of the bridge of his nose as he says the words he’ll never get to say to his face. 

Donghyuck stays asleep. 

 

PAST - APRIL

 

“But, Markie,” Donghyuck whines, cold hands resting on Mark’s bare waist as he pouts, pulling him closer into the warmth of his chest. “Please.”

“Hyuck,” Mark starts softly, already feeling his resolve starting to slip. He sighs, the corners of his lips twitching as he takes in Donghyuck’s starry gaze and sleep-ruffled hair. The sight is so different from the Donghyuck that the rest of the world knows the Donghyuck that exudes mystery and is constantly shroud in darkness and allure and crooked grins and glitter. This Donghyuck, bare faced and puffy, standing in just his boxers and a pair of socks, silver hair flattened to the back head and sticking up on the sides, is Mark's favorite.

"Please."

“Hyuck," Mark repeats, pressing his lips to Donghyuck's forehead, smoothing the line worked into the skin between his eyebrows. "I can't, baby. I have homework, and I have that thing with Lucas I told you about in like a few hours, and--” 

“But. But, Mark, " Donghyuck whines, pressing forward until his chin is tucked into Mark's chest, looking up at Mark from lowered eyelashes, pout sitting pretty on his lips. "Please? Pretty please? Pretty please with a cherry on top?"

"I have to go," Mark repeats, but even he can hear the way his words are losing steam with every passing second.

And then Donghyuck pulls back, hand brushing Mark's hair off of his forehead before smoothing the hair at the back of his head and looking at Mark with a look in his eyes so intense and full of adoration that Mark would mistake for love if he didn't know better.

And he does. Mark reminds himself, he knows better.

"Baby," Donghyuck murmurs, voice just barely above a whisper. "I'll do anything. Anything . I'll be so good. Just one hour."

"Anything?" Mark asks, mostly because he can't help himself.

Donghyuck nods, one side of his lips pulling up as he bounces lightly on his toes, already anticipating Mark's answer. Because Mark is weak, and Donghyuck is Donghyuck, and all Mark knows how to say is yes.

“Okay, okay . Fuck. Fine, I’ll stay and bake cookies with you, you little monster," Mark says in defeat, laughing when Donghyuck shrieks with delight, turning from Mark's embrace to run a victory lap around the kitchen island in his socks and boxers, arms raised in the air and head tipped back to the ceiling. This is Mark's favorite Donghyuck, giggly, and light, and soft and real. This is the Donghyuck that Mark falls asleep thinking about every night, and the Donghyuck that haunts his every last wish upon a star. The Donghyuck that leaves him always wanting more, wanting something he will never have. Because this is the Donghyuck that will never be Mark's, but god damnit if he doesn't feel like this Donghyuck should be.

“Thank you, pretty boy.” Donghyuck grins, finishing his lap in front of Mark, arms twining around his neck as he presses a soft kiss to Mark’s lips, and another, and another. “I’ll preheat the oven."

PRESENT - 11/12, 10:58 am

 

“Do you want to make breakfast?” Donghyuck asks with a yawn, voice muffled from where his lips are pressed into Mark’s skin, face buried in the crook of Mark’s neck as he lays on top of him, limbs tangled together under the sheets.  

Mark hums, thinking about it as he strums his fingers against Donghyuck’s back, mindlessly playing the chords of the Frank Ocean song he’s learning on Donghyuck’s warm skin. 

They really shouldn’t.

Mark reminds himself that lazy Sunday mornings laughing over the edge of a coffee mug and making chocolate chip pancakes together to the sound of Jack Johnson’s guitar filtering through the speakers is something a couple should do, not Mark and Donghyuck; Not friends with benefits, or whatever no strings attached, label-less agreement this is that Mark’s come to terms with, no matter how much Mark wants the fleeting kisses and whispered I love you’s shared over the smell of burning bacon. 

And Mark wants it. God, he wants it all.

He wants the waking up on the weekends in Donghyuck’s arms and staying in bed until the sheets are cold and their stomachs are rumbling; He wants Donghyuck’s hand in his in the grocery store as they pick out flowers to put on their kitchen table because Donghyuck read an article somewhere that fresh flowers change your view on life; He wants Donghyuck forcing him to cuddle and watch youtube tutorials on how to do a tarot card reading because he bought a pack from the local market because they were pretty; He wants the noises Donghyuck makes when Mark kisses the sensitive spot on his thigh; He wants Donghyuck leaving him sticky notes on the fridge because he was thinking about him; He wants quiet Tuesday nights when Donghyuck comes back late from the library and crawls into Mark’s bed and sinks into him for comfort; He wants Donghyuck on Fridays when he drags Mark to the nearest club, and dances with him like it means something; He wants Donghyuck ten years from now — in his bed, by his side, in his life; More than anything, he just wants Donghyuck to want him. 

So Mark wants to say yes. He wants to have Donghyuck in any way he can, even fleeting moments spent over too-runny eggs and over-sugared coffee. But Hyuck makes the same joke about Mark’s eggs every time they cook, and Mark laughs at it every time, because even though the joke isn’t funny anymore it makes Donghyuck smile, and Marks too in love with him to care. And every time, they finish breakfast and Donghyuck puts his dish in the sink, the bittersweet promise to do this again sometime soon on the tip of his tongue as he walks out of Mark’s apartment with an easy smile on his face and another piece of Mark’s heart. 

Mark wants and wants and wants, and Donghyuck wants nothing at all. 

Mark sighs, hand stilling on Donghyuck’s spine as he speaks — words soft and low and final.

“Maybe another day, Hyuckie.”

PAST - MAY

 

“How do you like your eggs?” Mark asks, frowning at the pan in front of him. 

It’s a stupid question. Mark doesn’t know how to cook a fucking fried egg, much less how to cook it to Donghyuck’s preference. 

“Sunny side up,” Donghyuck responds, grinning at Mark over his cup of coffee as he leans against the fridge. “Think you can do that for me, baby?” 

Mark doesn’t ignore the amusement in Donghyuck’s tone, his own lips quirking up as he looks at his pitiful attempt of a fried egg. It’s somehow burnt on the edges and still liquid in the middle. 

“And if I say no?” Mark asks, hand paused on its way to push the egg mindlessly around the pan, as if that was going to help anything. 

“Then I’d say it’s a good thing you’re egg-cellent in bed,” Donghyuck says with a dramatic wink and a giggle. “Gotta keep you around for something.”

Mark goes completely still.

“Was that a fucking egg pun?” Mark asks, a dumbfounded smile on his face. Donghyuck, Lee Donghyuck, funniest person Mark knows, just made an egg pun. 

“And if I say no?” Donghyuck mimics, setting his coffee down and wrapping his arms around Mark’s waist, pressing up on his tiptoes to press a kiss on the corner of Mark’s mouth before he turns the stove off, killing the gas before Mark forgets to. 

“Then I’d say you’re a dirty liar,” Mark grins, winding his arms around Donghyuck and pulling him close, egg-pun already forgotten as he slides his hands up the back of Donghyuck’s shirt, palms flattening on the warm skin of his lower back to pull him flush against Mark’s hips. 

Donghyuck grins, pressing another kiss to Mark’s lips, tongue tracing the seam of Mark’s lips, teasing him. “Yeah? You gonna teach me a lesson about lying, Lee?”

Then he’s dancing out of Marks arms, sprinting towards the bedroom as a shriek falls from his lips. 

PRESENT - 11/12, 11:23 am

 

Mark's barely in his apartment when the tears hit.

He crumples back against the door, body sagging to the floor as his chest heaves, eyes spilling over with fresh tears as he wraps his trembling arms around his knees and falls apart. 

Mark said no. 

He finally said no, and yet, he still hates himself for it. 

Because Donghyuck had smiled and said “oh, okay,” and let Mark walk out of his apartment without a second glance, and it felt like a goodbye even as Donghyuck said “see you soon, pretty boy.” 

And as Mark walked away, he left that final piece of his heart with Donghyuck, and now as he sits on the floor and crumples to pieces, he’s left with nothing. 

And the worst part of it all is not the trembling, old ache in his heart, or the cold, terrible truth that Donghyuck will never love him, it’s that despite it all, when he thinks about his future his heart still silently prays that it’s Donghyuck.

PAST - JUNE

 

“You’re different now, Mark,” Jaemin says softly, staring at him like Donghyuck often does, head cocked to the side like he’s a puzzle missing a few pieces, impossible to solve. 

Mark hums. He wonders what that means. Wonders if he lacks the boyish awkward charm that Jaemin had fallen in love with when they were in high school. Wonders if he’s softer around the edges, if he looks as tired as he feels. Wonders if that boy that Jaemin knew who would scream into the phone because he felt so much has died. 

Wonders if the Mark that Jaemin loved is long gone, replaced by the shell of him that he is today. 

When Mark had shown up to the party he figured he would see Jaemin, their friend groups still relatively the same, but he hadn’t expected to find this Jaemin sitting next to him, at all

“You’re different, too, Jaem,” Mark says, a quiet smile working onto his face. Because the Jaemin that Mark loved is gone, too. This Jaemin is softer and kinder and his eyes lack that fiery, consuming rage he used to carry. Mark wonders if Jaemin has a Donghyuck, too. Wonders if his Donghyuck loves him back, while Mark’s will never. 

“Are you happy, Mark? Like really, truly happy?” Jaemin asks suddenly, voice insistent like that’s the most important question he’s ever asked him. 

Mark thinks about it. 

He pictures Donghyuck’s smile, grinning against Mark’s lips. He pictures Donghyuck’s voice, easy and light and breathtaking when he sings along to Mark’s guitar. He pictures Donghyuck’s laugh, the most beautiful sound Mark’s ever heard. He pictures Donghyuck holding his hand when they make breakfast. He pictures Donghyuck’s eyes, covered in silver strands of hair and alight with mischief. 

Donghyuck makes him happy, Mark knows this. But Donghyuck is also the reason that Mark hasn’t slept well in weeks, and the reason that Mark can’t look in the mirror for long anymore, because he can’t look at his reflection without thinking about what part of him Donghyuck doesn’t like, what part of him he could change to make himself worthy of Donghyuck’s love, and Donghyuck is also the reason Mark isn’t sure if he’ll ever truly be happy with anyone else. 

But Mark smiles and says yes, because any other answer is too complicated for a midnight conversation with his ex-boyfriend at a party neither of them want to be at. Everything with Donghyuck is complicated, and ‘yes’ is too easy. 

“Yeah, I’m happy, Jaem.” 

PRESENT - 11/12, 3:20 pm

 

Lucas finds him like that, curled up on the floor and still trembling, hours later.

And just like always, Lucas kneels before him and pulls Mark into his arms, letting him fall apart in his embrace. Lucas is saying something, Mark catches his name a few times, but he can’t really hear it. He can’t hear his voice, can’t focus on Lucas’s soothing words, can’t do anything but sit and cry and ache for something better in life. 

Mark worries distantly that Lucas won’t be able to put him back together this time that Mark is finally drowning in Donghyuck’s storm.

"I'm gonna kill him, Markie," Lucas whispers, pulling his arms tighter around Mark's body, hand trembling where it’s pressed into Mark’s back. 

And this hurts too, because Mark knows that he’s breaking Lucas’s heart every time he leaves Donghyuck and cries until he’s numb. But Mark can’t stop. He can't stop because he doesn't know who he is anymore, if he doesn't have Donghyuck.

So he turns, pressing his nose into Lucas’s neck and wrapping his arms around his neck, letting Lucas hold his broken heart in his hands and pump life back into it.  

"I wish I had never met him," Mark whispers, tears streaming down his face and soaking into Lucas's collar. And it's true . God, it's the worst thing he's ever said out loud, but it's true.

If he had never met Donghyuck he would never know the bittersweet truth that it was to love him, and he wouldn't know the agony of having to fall for him, knowing nobody was going to be there to catch him.

And when Lucas pulls him closer, arms holding Mark tight to his body, he tucks his chin on top of Mark's shoulder and says, voice soft and low and so gentle it breaks Mark's heart, "You know I wish that was true, but you don't mean that, Mark."

And Lucas is right, of course, because Mark doesn’t mean that. 

He should, and he wants to, but he doesn’t.

Because Donghyuck is everything Mark’s ever let himself dream of, and even through it all, he loves him.

PAST - JULY

 

It’s been over a month since Mark last heard from Donghyuck. 

A month, and three days … and around six hours. But who’s counting? Definitely not Mark. 

But when Mark’s phone buzzes right as he’s about to go to bed, a message from Donghyuck that says “call me” filling his screen, Mark doesn’t spare it another thought before he’s pressing the call button, phone flying to his ear in seconds. 

“Markie!” Donghyuck screams when he answers, tripping over his next few words, “You-you called me!”

Mark smiles, turning onto his stomach and shifting so he can rest the phone on speaker on the pillow next to him, Donghyuck’s voice right next to his ear. 

“You asked me to,” Mark explains, grinning when Donghyuck yawns into the phone. 

“Oh, oh, right,” Donghyuck says slowly, “Right. What, w-why did I do that? I don’t—Markie. Hi.”

Mark grins. “Hi, Hyuck,” he says softly. 

“Hi,” Donghyuck repeats, voice light and bubbly, and very, very drunk. 

“How are you?” Mark asks, voice a little softer, a little more genuine than he was going for. But Donghyuck’s too drunk to notice the worry creeping into Mark’s voice, a little too far gone to hear the love in his every word.

“I’m making a cake,” Donghyuck says suddenly, then all in one word, “ohmygodthecake.”

Mark laughs, picturing Donghyuck stumbling around the kitchen, covered in flour and fingers sticky with batter. Midnight drunk baking feels very on-brand for Donghyuck, and it only makes Mark miss him more. 

“Is that why you called me?” Mark asks gently.

Donghyuck giggles again, and Mark can picture it perfectly. He can see his cheeks turning up in a big grin as a bubble of laughter spills from his lips, nose scrunched up in the way that Donghyuck hates but Mark loves. 

“I think,” Donghyuck hums, “I think, yeah, I wanted to show you my cake. Can you see it? I think it’s burnt, Markie.”

“How about show me tomorrow, baby,” Mark suggests, knowing Donghyuck isn’t coherent enough to switch the call to a facetime. 

“Oh. Tomorrow . Yeah, I’ll send you a picture tomorrow,” Donghyuck says softly, and then the line abruptly cuts off, the sound of Donghyuck’s laughter and empty promises haunting Mark that night as he tries to fall asleep. 

Because he lets himself hope.  Mark closes his eyes and takes a deep breath and tells himself that tomorrow Donghyuck will text him, and send him the picture, and it will mean something. He falls asleep with the image of Donghyuck baking, smiling at him as he wipes flour off of Mark’s cheek, telling him he loves him.

No message ever comes. 

PRESENT - 11/12, 8:46 pm

 

Hyuckie:

I’m coming over. 

 

The doorbell rings. Once, twice, three times. 

Mark tears his gaze away from his phone and walks to the door, telling himself that he can play along just one last time. He can pretend like he’s fine, and let Donghyuck take yet another piece of his heart, and maybe tomorrow he’ll be stronger. Maybe tomorrow he'll forgive himself for saying no.

But when Mark opens the door, his stomach clenches and his palms start to sweat, and he really wants to just cry, and Mark isn’t sure if anyone can pretend that they’re fine, anymore. 

"Hyuck?" Mark asks, stilling when he sees Donghyuck's expression.

Because the boy before him isn’t a Donghyuck that Mark knows. This Donghyuck looks broken in a way that Mark’s Donghyuck has never looked, eyes rimmed with red and swollen, lips trembling as he looks up at Mark with something so unbearably raw in his gaze that he has to look away. 

Mark can’t breath. He’s stuck, hand still on the doorknob, paralyzed with fear because this can only mean one thing. 

It’s just nine words, barely audible as Donghyuck whispers them. Just nine words, and yet Mark can feel his entire world crumbling down. Just nine words , but they hurt more than the past eleven months have. 

"How long have you been in love with me?" 

PAST - AUGUST 

 

Hyuckie:

MARKIE !!!!

Come over tonight?

PLEASE 🥺

Miss u

Miss u

Miss u

 

“You shouldn’t go,” Lucas comments, peering at the texts over Mark’s shoulder before giving him a look that screams please listen to me.

But Mark just smiles, eyes darting back down at the third “miss you” because he can’t help himself. His cheeks are pink and his heart is buzzing and he feels so fucking good, nothing can stop him right now, not even Lucas. 

Because Donghyuck misses him. 

“You know I’m gonna go anyway, dude,” Mark says, standing up and putting his bowl in the sink. 

Lucas rolls his eyes with a sigh.  

“It’s a bad idea, Mark,” he says finally, scooping another spoonful of cereal into his mouth. Mark can tell that Lucas wants to say more from the way he shoves the cereal past his lips in a rush, “Like really bad and you really shouldn’t go.”

“Cas,” Mark laughs, “I’m going.”

“He’s not good for you,” Lucas pleads, eyes a little desperate as he looks up at Mark. His voice softens, “can’t you see that?”

Mark does see that. He knows Donghyuck isn’t good for him just like he knows that Donghyuck is one day going to break his heart. 

“I don’t care,” Mark says. Because he doesn’t

Donghyuck misses him, and that’s enough. 

PRESENT - 11/12, 8:48 pm

 

How long have you been in love with me?

What an abhorrent, awful question. 

The fear that seeps into Mark's veins is palpable, the words filling his ears with cotton as he stares at Donghyuck in quiet horror. 

“How long , Mark?” Donghyuck repeats, voice cracking as another tear slips down his cheek. Mark aches to reach out and wipe it away, wants so desperately to tuck Donghyuck into his arms and tell him he isn’t, that they can go back to how things were, that everything is fine. 

But nothing is fine. 

Mark shakes his head.

Donghyuck scoffs, “October? August? How fucking long, Mark?” 

“The night we met, probably,” Mark admits miserably, vision starting to blur. And it’s true, but that doesn't make it hurt any less.  

Donghyuck stills, “Mark—” he starts, shock and fear and anger laced in his voice.  

But Mark doesn’t want to hear it. He knows . He already knows what Donghyuck is going to say — I don’t feel the same, I don’t want you like that. But Mark knew from the beginning that he shouldn’t have fallen for him, and he did it anyway. 

“What do you want from me, Donghyuck?” The name feels wrong in Mark's mouth. Donghyuck's name should never be said like that — cold and harsh and cruel.

But Mark’s tired, God he’s tired. 

Donghyuck stays still, eyes pleading, crushed, empty. His silence is answer enough. 

Nothing. 

Donghyuck wants nothing. 

“Right,” Mark starts, laughing a little under his breath an empty, lifeless laugh. “You know what I want, Donghyuck? I want you. I want these past months to mean something to you like they have to me. I want you to look at me and wonder how you got so lucky. I want you to look at me and want me. I would give you anything you wanted, you know I would. I would make you the happiest guy, Hyuck, you just haven't given me the chance."

Mark pauses, looking away from Donghyuck's eyes. 

“I love you , Donghyuck.” Mark whispers, those awful three words that have haunted him for the past ten months. 

Everything goes still and Mark realizes that Donghyuck’s fully crying now, tears streaking down his face and soaking into his collar. 

"I'm sorry," is all Donghyuck says, just two quiet words that shatter Mark’s heart on the spot.

“I know,” Mark whispers. “I’m sorry, too.”

"Mark," Donghyuck begs, voice quiet and a little desperate and completely wrecked. Mark can't look at him.

He takes a step back, vision blurring as he realizes what just happened.  There’s no going back from this — this thing, whatever this beautiful, terrible thing is that he has with Donghyuck is over. 

Mark shuts the door. 

PAST - SEPTEMBER

 

Mark knows he’s made a mistake the second Donghyuck opens the door.

Silver strands of hair lie messy across his forehead, damp around the edges with sweat. Donghyuck’s shirt, almost certainly not his from the way it’s hanging off of his frame, is stretched just wide enough around the collar to display small red marks blooming on his collarbones, and his eyes are blown dark and wide in a way that Mark couldn’t possibly mistake, having grown stupidly, intimately familiar with the expression. 

“Markie?” Donghyuck asks, voice slightly out of breath and laced with surprise as he looks at where Mark’s standing at his front door with furrowed brows. Mark’s eyes trace Donghyuck’s mouth as he speaks — lingering on the way his lips are slightly swollen, red and glistening with a sheen of spit from kissing someone that’s not Mark. He looks away. 

“Markie,” Donghyuck repeats, the soft word causing Mark’s eyes to snap back up to his face. “What are you doing here?” Donghyuck asks slowly, and Mark can’t ignore the way that his heart is slowly shattering in his chest because Donghyuck is looking at him like he’s about to break his heart.    

“Sorry,” Mark says, word falling flat as he takes a shaky step back, desperate to turn around and pretend like this had never happened. “I shouldn’t have come.” 

But Mark’s not fast enough, because there are footsteps on the wooden floors of Donghyuck’s apartment, and before he knows it, everything gets much, much worse. 

“Baby, is that the pizza?” Mark hears, muffled voice coming from behind the door as someone jogs down the apartment stairs. Donghyuck’s hand tenses on the doorframe, knuckles turning white as his eyes go wide, Mark’s stomach turning with nausea when someone else steps up to the door, because he knows that face. He would recognize that face anywhere. 

“It’s not what you think,” Donghyuck says, words rushed and insistent, and all Mark can think about is how that means that it probably is exactly what he thinks. 

Mark wasn’t foolish enough to believe that Donghyuck wasn’t hooking up with other people. Fuck, he knew that what they had wasn’t exclusive, knew exactly what he was getting himself into when they started this. He knew, but nothing could have prepared him for this. Because standing next to Donghyuck is none other than Johnny Suh —  all glorious six feet of him, grin blazing and eyes adorning the same fucked-out expression that Donghyuck’s were earlier. Donghyuck’s "shitty" ex boyfriend, Johnny Suh. 

Mark thinks he’s going to be sick. 

“Mark,” Donghyuck says, taking a small step towards him with wide, pleading eyes, but the damage is already done and Mark is backing up, shaking his head in disbelief as the first tear slips down his cheek. 

 

And when Mark gets home later that night, he really wishes Donghyuck would just fucking end things, just put Mark out of his misery before it's too late. 

Mark hates himself for even thinking it, but he hates himself even more because he knows that later that night when the tears finally stop, and the only thing remaining is the same dull ache as ever, Donghyuck will text him, and Mark will forgive him. 

Because Donghyuck is a siren and Mark is lost at sea. 

 

Hyuckie:

Markie I swear

Me and Johnny aren't back together

It just happened!!

I’ll make it up to you

come over tmr? 💗💗💗

 

Me:

It's totally fine!

Sure, I’ll be there at 8? ❤️

 

PRESENT - 11/13, 4:23 am

 

Mark can’t sleep.

He can’t sleep because every time he closes his eyes he sees Donghyuck’s beautiful, wrecked face and he hears the words “I’m sorry,” and he relives that horrible moment over, and over, and over again. 

So he lays in his bed, clutching the sheets around his trembling form, and lets himself drown in his thoughts, sinking, sinking, sinking until he can’t breathe. 

He wonders if Donghyuck is with Johnny right now. It’s a horrible, weak thought, but he can’t help himself from thinking it. He wonders what Johnny has that he doesn’t, wonders if Donghyuck will always love him a little bit. He wonders if Johnny ruined Donghyuck for everyone else, in the way that Donghyuck has now ruined Mark. He wonders if Donghyuck is asleep right now, safely in someone else's arms, Mark already forgotten. 

But he also wonders if maybe Donghyuck can’t sleep, either — if he feels as miserable as Mark does, if he wishes things had gone differently. He wonders if Donghyuck is still crying, too. thinking about Mark and all of the "what ifs."

He wonders if maybe, Donghyuck loves him too.

But that hurts, too.

PAST - OCTOBER

 

Mark’s fingers ache, but he keeps playing, strumming the guitar again, and again, and again. 

“What must it be like, to grow up that beautiful,” he sings, voice low and soft, tears creeping into his eyes as he sucks in a sharp breath, “With your hair falling into place like dominoes. I see me padding cross your wooden floors, with my eagles t-shirt hanging from the door.”

Mark pictures the two of them much like how they are now, lounging in bed all day, easy smiles and jam sessions filling their mornings. He pictures lazy Sundays padding around their house, wearing pajamas and dancing to music in the kitchen, shirt hanging from the door because Donghyuck was too lazy to hang it. 

He keeps playing, keeps singing, keeps aching for more. 

“At dinner parties I call you out on your contrarian shit.”

Mark can see that too — Donghyuck arguing just to argue — with Mark’s friends, with his family. God, with Lucas . He can see him calling Donghyuck out on it and getting that look , the classic Donghyuck glare that Mark has come to love. 

Donghyuck shifts, his toes pressing into Mark’s thigh as he sits further up, staring at Mark with that god damn brilliant smile, the smile Mark likes to pretend means something, the smile Mark wants to mean everything. 

He keeps playing. 

“And the coastal town we wandered ‘round had never seen a love as pure as it.”

He wonders then, what it would be like to be loved by Donghyuck too. If it would be pure, never seen before. If Donghyuck could ever love him in the way that Mark wants him to. In the way he aches for.

A tear slips down Mark’s cheek, but he keeps playing. Because Donghyuck loves this stupid fucking song, and Mark loves him. 

So he finishes the verse, fingers strumming again, and again, and again. 

“And it fades into the grey of my day old tea, cause you know it could never be.”

PRESENT - 11/13, 2:05 pm

 

Mark looks out the window and watches the trees pass, shocks of red and green and orange swiping past his window.

He puts his cheek against the cold window and tries to focus on the feeling, tries to focus on feeling anything at all. 

Mark’s phone rings in his pocket, dragging him out of his thoughts. 

Mark pulls it out, reading the “incoming call: Hyuckie” on the screen with furrowed brows. 

Oh, Donghyuck's calling him. 

Wait. 

“It’s Hyuck. Lucas, Donghyuck is calling me, Mark says, eyebrows raised to his hairline as he holds the phone up to Lucas and shakes it, throat tight with emotion and fear. “Oh my god. Donghyuck is calling me. Why is Donghyuck calling me?”

“I thought things were over, now,” Lucas says, hands clenching on the wheel in a white knuckled grasp like the mere thought that they might not be over makes him want to punch a wall. 

“They are,” Mark whispers, staring at the name on his phone in silent wonder. Aren’t they?

“Well don’t just sit there and look at it, Mark,” Lucas groans after a few long, empty seconds pass, “answer the fucking call.”

Right. 

Mark probably shouldn’t answer, but he will.

Because it’s Donghyuck, and Mark has always been weak when it comes to Donghyuck.