When Mark scored gold by getting a permanent spot under Kim Holdings, one of Korea's biggest conglomerates, he'd thought things would be a smooth ride (as smooth as the corporate working world could be) from there on. It was a respectable company, as respectable as capitalists can be (Renjun, his roommate, had said that) and was located at the busiest, business-y and very much corporate looking district of Seoul. Tall buildings, glass everywhere, you know. Just the usual capitalist hellscape nightmare (Renjun). Unfortunately money does make the world go round, and so being under a big company seemed to smoothen out the wrinkles of life; rent, food and medical insurance. Basic stuff.
But he then quickly meets a bump in the form of one Nakamoto Yuta.
Yuta from Sales was four years his senior and had worked at the company far longer than Mark has, which immediately adds the intimidating points on Yuta's whole look. He has a slit on his right eyebrow, decked in earrings, blonde with a dark hair undercut. He looked out of place with the suit he wore everyday, looked out of place in contrast to their open cubicle office space. Apparently he gets the pass to do so because he's close with Johnny Suh, head of Sales aka Yuta's supervisor, along with a great working record throughout his years there. Which was all cool but what was not cool was the utter shock Mark had when he had first seen him. Looking back, it was pretty silly to be intimidated by Yuta's looks alone. But it was also his first day at work and Mark was jittery at the prospect of messing up.
And that's exactly what he does. He messes up.
By accidentally spilling coffee onto Yuta. It was terrible. In Mark's defense, somebody had nudged him a bit too hard as he stepped inside the elevator and the lid must've somehow popped off. The next thing he saw was a big splotch of ugly brown on someone's white shirt, said owner of aforementioned shirt writhing in a mix of annoyance and discomfort, and the mess of coffee spilled on the elevator floor. "That's one way to make an impression on your first day" Yoonuh, Mark’s supervisor, had softly chuckled after Mark had told him about the incident earlier. And Mark would’ve laughed with him if he wasn’t so jumpy from Yuta’s glare when Mark offered to pay for his laundry. Thank god the coffee wasn't piping hot at least.
He swears he could feel the daggers being shot from Yuta's cubicle throughout the whole day. Mark wished time would move faster. For the next few months, Yuta called him the "coffee spiller". Overheard Yuta complaining about how he couldn't get the stains off during lunch break and Mark had never wanted to disappear from the face of the planet as much as he wanted to on that day. Yoonuh had told him it was fine, that Yuta isn't mad anymore. But Mark still avoided him like the plague anyway.
And for a while, there was peace. Yuta was easy to avoid; sure they worked at the same floor but they were under different teams, their cubicles on the opposite end of their company's big, open office space. Mark had also made a friend, Jungwoo, Mark's senior by a year. He sat in front of Mark's desk, sometimes popping his head up above the cubicle to ask Mark if he wanted snacks. They'd hang out over lunch, bond over the mundanity and stress of office life.
It was nice. For a moment, Mark had completely forgotten about his slip up with Yuta. That was until Jungwoo mentioned how their teams were going to merge into a big group for an end year mega project of sorts. Which meant Mark had to face Yuta on a daily basis. Wonderful.
The meeting happened the following week, Mark sitting next to Taeyong while waiting for their respective team leaders to arrive. Yuta had passed by Mark and shot him a glance before greeting him with "coffee spiller'', eliciting a few chuckles from the room and a soft reprimanding tone from Taeyong, Mark's marketing senior, telling him to stop. There was no malice in Yuta's tone though, just his usual toothy grin. And Mark would usually let it slide. Haha yeah I ruined your favorite shirt months ago. But Mark was sort of out of it that day so instead of nervously laughing it off, he fought back.
"I have a name, you know." Mark said, trying to sound as disgruntled as possible.
The meeting room turned silent. For a split second, Yuta's grin had vanished. His eyes trailed Mark's face before eyeing Mark whole and it made him queasy, felt like Yuta was preying on him before he could eat Mark alive. The grin returns.
"Oh I know your name, Markie," Yuta replies sing-song, slapping Mark's left elbow with the papers he had on his hand. "No hard feelings, yeah?" And he had the audacity to shoot a wink at Mark with his dazzling smile, showing his perfect row of beautiful teeth before heading straight to the empty seat across Mark. Fuck him. The meeting carried on and for a while it took Mark's focus away from Yuta for a while, fully focused on whatever project that was presented to them. Whatever that was seething through his veins had calmed down and Mark had a fleeting thought, wondering if he'd overreacted. Jungwoo had said Yuta just likes to tease, it's just how he is. But then Yuta had deliberately skipped over Mark's opinion during the meeting. "Oh, didn't notice you were there" Yuta said deadpanned and Mark's vein felt like it would pop right there and then.
"What is his problem?" Mark groaned, fiddling on his egg sandwich.
"You're just easy," Donghyuck supplied, eyes trained on his Nintendo Switch. "Relax, Lee. It's all fun."
Mark isn't sure when Donghyuck started joining Mark's lunch breaks with Jungwoo, in fact he isn't sure what his position in the company is in the first place. Mark's pretty sure he'd never seen him during work hours. When asked which department he is from, Donghyuck just shrugged. Maybe Mark doesn't need to know, he already has too much to deal with anyway. And Mark doesn't get which part of him that's 'easy'.
"Easy to rile up," Jungwoo answers easily. He has two bentos in front of him. Mark's just a tiny bit concerned about how much he eats. "You make like, the funniest expressions."
"What do you-"
"Like now. You're doing it right now." Donghyuck is still on his Switch.
"You sort of just laugh it off, sometimes you frown and do a little pout. It's cute I guess."
Donghyuck faked a gag.
"And…" Jungwoo trails off, eyes squinting on Mark's.
"Yuta has a thing for cute guys."
Donghyuck fake gags with more ferocity, turning off his console and turning towards Mark, deadpanned.
"Flirting at work. Highly inappropriate."
"Cute? I'm not cute- and we're definitely not flirting," Mark frowns, his face then turns into confusion seconds later. "Yo is he- ?"
"Maybe. Maybe not" Jungwoo puts a spoonful of rice into his mouth. "Yuta's just… fruity like that."
And Mark isn't too sure what Jungwoo meant by fruity , Donghyuck saying how you're the fruity one at Jungwoo, but Mark really wasn't paying attention anymore. He'd been bouncing between companies for a few years since he graduated, to score his dream position was something he never thought could be possible. So to get stressed over something as trivial as a feud? Misunderstanding? Being extremely irked with a co-worker is just ridiculous.
Jungwoo had said that's just how Yuta is, that he means no harm. But he's also friends with Yuta, just as his team and office mates were. It feels awkward to seemingly be the only guy in the office that can't mesh with Yuta. Mark wants to give his all, wants to be treated as an equal and not like some bumbling newbie who couldn't hold his coffee properly. He's already dreading the thought of being belittled 24/7 by a senior coworker who seems hellbent on embarrassing Mark on every turn, seemingly having a vendetta over a spoiled shirt. Great.
Except what Mark had imagined doesn't happen.
What does happen surprisingly, to him and only him, is the opposite; They run through the project details, streamlining all the dates and deadlines together. Yuta updates their team on his team's progress and follows through with all the plans discussed in their first meeting. He takes Mark's work and opinion seriously. They work together, civilly. No taunting names. Yuta actually addresses him as, well, Mark . On top of all the deadlines and meetings, Johnny Suh aka head of Sales whom Mark hasn't met yet, wouldn't be in office until the later half of the year. He'd heard mentions of how Yuta and Taeil had been juggling their responsibilities in addition to their supervisor's. "And they're doing great, actually," Yoonuh said when Mark was curious about the department. So Yuta's work ethic is impeccable. To be honest, Mark's in awe.
But that isn't all.
Yuta is actually… cool. Yuta helps Mark with his work sometimes. He gives pointers about improving his reports. He guides Mark for a briefing with their head supervisors once even though they're from different teams because Yoonuh had called in sick and Mark had to cover him. He buys Mark coffee whenever they'd run into each other in the mornings at the coffee place outside their office building. Sometimes, he'd even buy a cup when Mark couldn't make it before clocking in. "Don't fret about it," Yuta would say to him after Mark insisted on repaying him. And then he grins, and Mark knows that grin all too well. "Just don't spill it on me or anybody else''.
The teasing never stopped.
Nothing could stop Yuta from his mischievous streaks, not even Taeil's seniority nor Yoonuh's soft yet insistent reprimands (even though Mark has a feeling that his co-workers enjoy whatever mischief Yuta comes up with). Nobody is safe. Doyoung, Jungwoo's teammate, is either constantly throwing curses or is rolling on the floor laughing over something Yuta had said or done. Yuta had hid under Taeyong's desk draped with a huge black cloth to scare him for his birthday. He calls Yoonuh 'oppa' or 'our handsome oppa' whenever he comes by his desk to ask for something. Yuta has now upgraded Mark's nickname to "coffee jinxer" because Mark had somehow broken the break room's fancy coffee machine. Whatever Yuta's mind had conjured that day, Mark either laughs it off or turns to chase Yuta across the room.
And then late one evening, when Mark was ready to go home after working overtime before his one week leave, he bumps into Yuta outside the elevator doors leading to the lobby.
"Did not expect to see you at this hour," Yuta greets him and Mark snorts as he exits the elevator.
"I'd say the same to you," Mark replies without thinking and for a second panics when he realizes his tone was too casual. Yuta was still his senior after all. He just chuckled in return as he stepped inside.
"Left something on my desk and I was around. Might as well." Yuta shrugged, stopping the elevator doors from closing with his right hand. "Hey, Mark?" and the softness in his voice caught Mark off guard.
"Someone told me that you didn't like me messing around with you," He bites his bottom lip. "Sorry if I've made you uncomfortable. I'd stop-"
"I don't mind!" Mark blurts out immediately, surprising Yuta. His eyes widened. "Uuh really. I don't mind anymore. We're cool. You're cool". Mark finishes with an awkward laugh. Yuta giggles in return, giggles , and Mark thinks Yuta's pretty cute. Huh.
"Okay, Mark Lee. See you when you get back from Canada." he drops his hands that had been holding the elevator doors from closing. He grins. "Buy me a souvenir, yeah?". The doors close before Mark could answer, leaving him alone with his thoughts.
Because despite the teasing and mischief, Yuta is nice. He'd pat Doyoung's back or sling his arm around him whenever he gets too tense over work. He hugged Taeyong after scaring him to death for his birthday prank, asking if he was okay and promised to make it up to him later. He was the one who had found Mark panicking in their break room over the now broken coffee machine, helped by cleaning up Mark's mess and had promised he wouldn't tell anyone about it (no cameras in the break rooms). " This company's rich anyways, it'll be fine," Yuta said, comforting. So when Yuta had called him 'coffee jinxer' the following week with a cheeky grin, Doyoung laughed and said something along the lines of "I thought you guys were over this?". Yuta just shot a knowing smile to Mark when Doyoung wasn't looking, his index finger on his mouth. Our little secret yeah? And it made Mark chuckle, his ears felt warm. Jungwoo had watched the whole thing from afar and when their eyes met as Mark made his way to his desk, Jungwoo had mouthed something so that Mark could read his lips; " Flirting ". Mark just shook his head in response, whispering "dude, stop" because for all Mark knows Yuta's just being nice.
Yuta, who's just being nice, is nice enough to buy him coffee every morning whenever they run into each other before work. Handsome, striking Yuta who smiles at Mark every time their eyes meet. Cheeky Yuta who would greet him by gently tugging his shirt collar, tapped his cheeks and said "Hi, gorgeous" with a grin on his face whenever they crossed paths in the photocopy room. Yuta who had intentionally tilted his head to the side, showing the expanse of his neck because he had caught Mark staring during one of their Monday meetings. He should've turned away but he couldn't stop staring at how Yuta's fingers softly grazed his neck upwards, gently fiddling with his earrings. Yuta just coyly smiled back and Mark could feel the heat on his cheeks rise, embarrassment seeping through his skin.
"Oh he's definitely flirting now." Jungwoo states the obvious before taking a big bite of his black noodles. Mark takes a bite on his own sandwich, his face feeling warm remembering what had happened in the meeting room hours prior. Donghyuck has a fancy looking chicken katsu lunch box that Mark wished he could have instead for lunch. Two weeks until payday, Mark thinks to himself.
"He's not flirting," Yuta isn't flirting with him, he's just- "he's just being fruity , that's all".
"Yeah right, loverboy." Donghyuck snorts, putting a piece of of his chicken into Jungwoo's bowl.
"He calls Yoonuh oppa and slaps Doyoung's ass once a week, '' Mark counters. A literal walking work etiquette offender with legs. It's a miracle he hasn't been summoned by HR at this point. "This is just Yuta being… Yuta. Whatever this is.''
"I'm not so sure Markie," Jungwoo replies with a smirk. That's bullshit, written all over his face. "It feels different."
Heachan hums in agreement. "Just shoot your shot. I'm 99.9% sure he's into you or whatever."
"Still feel like I need a sign. A concrete, rock solid, can't be denied kind of sign." Mark reasons with them, with himself.
"If that's what you need…" Jungwoo trails off, squinting at Mark. He then clasped his hands together, closing his eyes. "Amen to that". Donghyuck lets out a thundering laugh. Mark gives Jungwoo the stink eye.
"What?" Jungwoo feigns innocence. "I went to church… once."
And The Lord was listening.
The sign he asks for arrives the following week, when he bumps into Yuta during lunch break in front of the elevators.
"Hey there handsome." Yuta greets him first with a smile. Mark replies back with spluttering laughter. The elevator doors open with an automated Ping! They enter the elevators with just the two of them. It's a long way down. Yuta said something about an upcoming Halloween party but Mark wasn't paying attention because he was trying not to stare at his lips - is he wearing lip balm? He fully turned to face Yuta so he could pay attention to what he was saying, his back facing the elevator doors. Yuta was leaning his back on the corner of the elevator, his shirt was two buttons undone, tie peeking out from his pockets. Incredibly distracting, Mark thinks.
The elevator doors open and before Mark could turn back around, a group of people from different departments rush inside pushing Mark closer to Yuta. Within seconds Mark finds himself accidentally kabendon- ing Yuta with both arms inside an extremely cramped elevator during lunch hours. Mark could've turned around. Ask the guy next to him to give space so he won't be in such an awkward position. But his train of thought dies in his head when he's faced with Yuta's burning red face. Mark's mind short circuits.
Yuta could've said something. Maybe tell Mark to turn around. But he doesn't. Yuta's shy , as he covers his bottom half of his face with his hands. He won't look Mark in the eye, face trained on the floor. Mark's heart does somersaults. For a second he thinks Yuta could be uncomfortable, would probably hate Mark for this and finally Mark's brain starts to run Mind.exe again.
Another floor stop. Mark hears groaning from the people outside the elevator as the doors close again. "Uuh, sorry." is all Mark can say. Yuta smiles and it's a really cute, shy smile that goes straight to Mark's heart. He finally meets Mark's eyes. "I don't mind." voice barely a whisper, immediately looking down again while tucking a non-existent stray hair on his left ear. Confident, flirty Yuta who has a slit on his right eyebrow, ears decked in piercings, dyed blonde with a dark hair undercut is being bashful and Mark's brain short circuits, again. Yuta is only a few insignificant millimeters taller than Mark but at that moment he had looked so small. Mark is seeing Yuta with fresh new eyes and it makes his heart skip a beat, making him want to see more of this new Yuta.
The elevator immediately empties as fast as it was cramped a few seconds ago. Mark immediately drops his arms, Yuta gives him another shy smile as he walks ahead towards the company's cafeteria, leaving Mark alone with his thoughts. His mind is still processing what had just happened. Yuta's face keeps replaying in his mind for the whole day, terribly distracting Mark thinks. Yuta had always been confident in his advances, always made Mark feel like he was being cornered by a wild tiger. The Yuta he had seen in the elevator was far from that. Something clicks in his mind. He likes both. He wants both. He wants Yuta. And Mark thinks by the way Yuta's face had burned up earlier maybe, just maybe, it's mutual after all.
Mark comes to two conclusions after the elevator incident; Donghyuck is always right and The Lord truly listens.
Because whatever happened in the elevator had changed… something. The 'whatever this thing' thing. Yuta still buys him coffee, still calls him handsome. But it isn't the usual cheshire grin, toothy smile. It's more subtle, more softer. Shyer. Like the Yuta he saw in the elevator. Mark gets bolder. Wants to figure out which buttons to push. Instead of awkward laughter when Yuta compliments his looks, Mark replies a simple "you too, hyung."
When he's really feeling bold, he'd greet Yuta first, giving him the subtle eyebrow (much to Donghyuck's chagrin. Jungwoo thinks it's cute). Sometimes when Yuta wants to hand him something, whether it'd be coffee or some paperwork, Mark would intentionally graze Yuta's hand gently. Whenever he's around Yuta's desk, he'd make sure to ask about his work as a pretense for Mark to lean in closer to him. And Yuta would shyly smile. Every single time.
Shoot your shot. Maybe he will. Invite Yuta out for drinks. Maybe get straight to the point and ask him out on a date.
And then comes the annual Halloween office party. And Mark thinks a Halloween party is ever a good time to shoot his shot.
The email for the party invite reads: TRIANNUAL HALLOWEEN PARTY 🎃🎃🎃 (attached: a graveyard picture with a full moon, bats flying everywhere). Underlined in big caps: COSTUMES ARE COMPULSORY.
Mark was greeted by Yoonuh all dressed up as Jack from Titanic on the driver's seat of what he assumes Yoonuh's Hyundai, Jungwoo next to him as Rose in full makeup who was fixing up his wig and Micheal Jackson Heachan at the back of the car. (Were his group of friends at work always this good looking?). Seeing Yoonuh's car parked in front of his humble flat was a little bit disorienting. (How much was Yoonuh making to have that kind of ride?) They'd promised Mark all four of them would carpool to the event at some 5 star hotel gobsmacked in the middle of Seoul and Mark thanked the Lord for Jaehyun's offer. Riding public would've been a pain for sure.
"What are you supposed to be?" Donghyuck asks as Mark enters the car. His eyes draw towards the name neatly woven on top of the coat's chest pocket. "Renjun?"
"Uuh," Mark looks down at the name after closing the car door. "You better bring it back in mint condition!" His roommate's voice rang in Mark's mind. He buries the small voice saying he's incredibly underdressed compared to his co-workers as he corrects his glasses. "I'm an everyday lab technician named Renjun."
In all fairness, Mark should've seen it coming; his work place is rather, uh, relaxed when it comes to dress codes since the past couple of months. The dress code of their work floor seemed to be as long as it's work appropriate and didn't violate public indecency laws, you'd be fine. That and his co-workers are pretty out there when it comes to dressing up. Yoonuh would sometimes come to work wearing soft pastel coloured casual suits instead of the usual black and blue, Taeil who works with Yuta in sales now has striking red hair (something about losing a bet to Donghyuck), Taeyong has been rocking chewing gum pink hair, Donghyuck has bright purple highlights that complements his light brown hair and Yuta, well, Yuta is Yuta. So dressing up for Halloween isn't something that's far fetched for this company. That and the competitive nature of his co-workers when the costumed talent event had a grand prize of a high end, 70 inch flat screen television.
"Flat screen, stereo speskers, a microwave, an air fryer, a dyson vacuum cleaner, a couple of toasters..." Mark reads the prize list on his phone. The list seems endless. "I know the company is crazy rich but like, a flat screen tv?"
"Eh, won't even make a dent on the company's bank account. It's the least they could do." Jungwoo shrugs. He's got a point. "Hey, remember our deal yeah?"
"Deal?" Mark shoots a quizzical look at Jungwoo.
"These two-," he points to both Yoonuh who's driving and Donghyuck, who's been focused on his phone throughout the ride, "don't need a flat screen tv or a fancy vacuum cleaner that's as expensive as my monthly rent. So they promised they'll give it to me instead if either of them won"
"For real? Damn.'' Guess Yoonuh isn't the only loaded person here. What is Donghyuck's position-
"How's ground zero looking like, MJ?" Jungwoo's question cuts through Mark's thoughts.
"Taeil hyungie says there's like, three Roses and a Jack" Donghyuck answers and Jungwoo groans. "On the plus side, only one of them is a pair."
Yoonuh who had been quiet throughout the drive hums in response. "We don't know what they'll be performing, Woo. We got this."
"Oh I believe in us, Jackie-O," Jungwoo pinches Yoonuh's cheeks, the latter giving a huff of a chuckle. "If all else fails, we have Mr. Sunshine at the back."
"There Are 10 Michael Jacksons but I'm sure I can make the best impression out of all of them." Donghyuck replies, smug.
"Damn," Mark looks at the three of them. "You guys are serious". He thinks about his guitar back in his room. He's a bit rusty but maybe he could practice for next year's competition. Getting a free tv sounds like a sweet deal. That or a toaster.
"The thrill of winning is indescribable." Yoonuh supplies.
"That and getting a brand new swanking TV," Jungwoo adds.
"Oh fuck," Donghyuck frowns, cursing under his breath. "Bad news everyone. Doyoung is joining the talent contest too."
"Psh. He has the vocals-" Jungwoo twirls his hair, "but not the costume. We'll beat him."
"The thrill of winning and seeing Doyoung lose is indescribable." Yoonuh smiles.
“Really? King of Joseon, again ?” Messing up with Doyoung was Jungwoo's first move as soon as they spotted him outside the ballroom entrance.
“Nobody cares!” Doyoung retaliates, eyes wide, bewildered in his tone as if Jungwoo had mocked him and his entire bloodline.
“ Nobody cares.” Jungwoo mimics while sticking his tongue out. Donghyuck chuckles. Mark feels a tiny bit sorry for Doyoung. Just a little. “Can you believe them-” Doyoung complains to Taeyong next to him who’s dressed in a black tee, white cargo pants under a large military green cape supposedly as “Syaoran from Tsubasa Chronicles” and Mark just nodded, not catching the reference. He didn't seem sympathetic towards Doyoung, if anything he's enjoying Doyoung's exasperation just as much as Donghyuck is.
“You know who plans all the details for the contest? HR.” Jungwoo boasts. “You know who’s in HR? Me. They’ll gonna cut your creativity marks and that’ll be a win for me.”
“I’m in HR!” Doyoung wails, both Mark and Donghyuck are now laughing in hysterics. “We are literally in the same department. That's not how the judging process goes- ”
"What's all the fuss about?" Yuta's voice cuts in mid Doyoung rant, putting his arms around the latter. Though it takes Mark a few seconds to recognize the man standing next to Doyoung is indeed Yuta. Mark isn't even sure who Yuta is supposed to be; wearing a long silver wig messily tied at the back, a maroon dress that looked more like a cape, painted nails and oh wow, makeup.
"Just the enemy," Doyoung jeers towards Jungwoo's direction which prompts Jungwoo to stick his tongue out right back "trying to break our morale."
"Ooh? Guess we're sworn enemies for tonight, then?" Yuta concludes, squinting at Jungwoo and Donghyuck before making eye contact with Mark. His gaze softens, a shy smile forming on his lips. "What a shame". Mark chuckles in response, brain numb from the way Yuta nudges Doyoung forward, hiding behind him as he glances at Mark.
"Okay lovebirds," Jungwoo grins as he links his arm with Mark's. "No fraternizing with the enemy."
"Wha-" Mark chuckles louder. Were the eyebrows a dead giveaway?
"People who carpool together, stay together." Donghyuck takes Mark's free arm.
"Dramatic as always," Taeyong sighs. "As per tradition".
The night continues on like this: Mark is once again gobsmacked by the sheer grandiosity of the company’s wealth being presented in the form of the party’s decorations. Yoonuh mentioned something about how it wasn’t an annual event and Johnny Suh aka Head of Sales had somehow managed to convince the upper ups that the spending was ‘to boost morale within employees’. As the ballroom light dims, replaced with luminous purple lights and the strong strobe of stage lights, Mark can't help steal glances at Yuta who's sitting right across him. He's laughing with Yoonuh about something Mark didn't quite catch, noticing how he grips the long sleeves of his costume. His lips red with gloss, silver eyeshadow shimmering under the purple lights. Yuta is both incredibly hot and pretty. How unfair Mark thinks to himself.
The party starts with a short band performance, a man dressed up in a ghost costume enthusiastically introducing himself as the host and a short speech by one of the company's board of directors. "Behave yourselves," she says cheerfully on the stage podium. "This is still a company event." and looks directly at Mark's table. Donghyuck loudly answers with a yoohoo which resulted with several chuckles across the ballroom. If he didn't know any better, he'd think she's warning Donghyuck specifically.
Donghyuck then says something about using all of his 'booze coupons' (5 free drinks - the super expensive ones, not the cheap pre-made spiked slurry they're serving for the evening - at the makeshift bar opposite the ballroom stage) after winning the talent stage. The buffet opens and Mark ends up bringing two plates full of food in which Jungwoo gives him a thumbs up. The stage clears for the next main event: costumed talent show.
Donghyuck shuffles close next to Mark after Taeil and Doyoung's name are called to perform. Yuta follows them backstage, "For moral support," he says as he ushers them towards the stage while giving kissy faces at both. "Me and Yongie need that sweet new TV." Mark hears Taeil saying a curt "sure" with his signature smile he makes whenever Donghyuck comes to sit next to his desk (for no other reason to stare and look like a lovestruck puppy for Taeil - Jungwoo) but all that registers on Mark's brain is Yuta's lingering smile.
"Please tell me you've already hooked up with him or something." Donghyuck semi whispers into Mark's ear.
"Working on it." Mark semi whispers back. Why are they even whispering when Taeil's on stage playing an electronic keyboard to the tune of Baby Baby by 4men. Doyoung is doing those Oooohs that vocalists do to get into the mood of the song. "Showoff," Donghyuck mutters under his breath.
"Anyways," He turns his attention away from the stage to Mark. "Do you know the amount of complaints I've gotten about you and Yuta? I shredded them all of course, but I kept a few that were funny." Donghyuck says in a matter of factly kind of way.
"Seulgi from Sales wrote this on her employee complaint form and I quote," Donghyuck clears his throat. "Damn, these bitches gay. Good for them."
"I didn't know you were in HR?" Truly, Mark had no idea Donghyuck even did any sort of work.
"I'm Gongmyung's replacement duh. Temporary, but still."
Gongmyung. The name rings a bell in Mark's head.
"Kim Gongmyung? As in the Kim of Kim Holdings-" Mark questions, voice turning up a notch as Doyoung sings the first few lines of the song.
"- and Doyoung's brother. Yeah yeah whatever right? Doyoung was being lame saying he didn't wanna take the job because-"
" Doyoung's brother?" Mark sounds almost delirious. Taeil belts out a high note and the crowd literally does an oooh.
"Well, yeah?" Donghyuck replies, looking at Mark like he's grown another head. "He didn't want to take the job saying it felt like a pity job or something-"
"In which I replied that's bullshit because he's here thanks to nepotism in the first place like c'mon I had to delay a semester at Penn State just because he has a sudden guilt of conscience? I know I'm his cousin but I'm not the Kim here-"
"You guys are cousins?" Mark cannot believe what he's hearing. He can't be the only person who didn't know about this-
"Well yeah. Me and Yoonuh. Everybody knows this."
It was now Mark's turn to look at Donghyuck as if the latter had grown another head. A beat of silence goes by between them before Taeyong, who had watched their whole conversation while sipping his orange juice, clears his throat. Both heads turn towards him. "Nobody told you?" Taeyong asks. Mark thinks about Donghyuck's sudden arrival at the office months prior, the loose clothing protocol and his pristine, neatly made lunch boxes. He should've seen it coming.
"I should've seen it coming." Mark repeats himself verbally. Both Taeyong and Donghyuck stare at Mark's 'I have seen a revelation from God' face, wondering if he's alright. Mark wonders what face Renjun will make when he tells him about this. He'd say capitalists or something like that with distaste. Mark decides Donghyuck and Renjun should never meet. Taeil and Doyoung finish their duet with grand applause from the crowd, much to Team Jungwoo's dismay, but all Mark's brain could think of is wonder where's Yuta after the duo returned to their table.
"He's at the bar," Doyoung nudges his head at the corner of the ballroom and smiles, understanding. "Waiting for you. All the best, kiddo."
Mark heads towards where Yuta is, hands clammy and ears ringing with Donghyuck's wolf whistle as he leaves the table. His vision tunnels to that of Yuta's silhouette sitting at the end of the bar and Mark thinks his heart might jump out of his chest any minute now. It was Go time. D-Day. Now or Never. His mind had somehow conjured a theoretical timer that has led him to this very moment; asking Yuta out for a date. Or getting laid. Preferably both, in whichever order.
Mark takes the empty seat next to Yuta and tries to act cool when he sees Yuta's bright smile by smiling back. Hopefully not a little too hard.
"So," they both start talking at the same time and Mark laughs a little bit too awkward for his tastes, fuck. But Yuta responds with a shy giggle of his own while tucking a few strands of his silver wig behind his ear.
"So," Mark starts again looking directly into Yuta with his heart hammering at the speed of light. "Enjoying the party?". Mark wants to mentally slap himself.
"The party?" Yuta repeats. Then a shy smile, behind gently clenched knuckles. "Yeah, I think so…" he trails off, not breaking eye contact with Mark. His smile is lopsided, cheeky. Knowing. Gets straight to the point. Somewhat.
"Could be better though." He does the thing where his hands are placed on his neck, head tilted to show the expanse of skin. Flirting. But his smile is soft and eyes soft and damn, Mark kind of wants to run his fingers and let Yuta rest his face on his palm.
"Yeah?" Mark asks.
He thinks he knows where this is going. Let's get out of here. Ditch the whole thing. I don't know where the night will take us but what I do know is I just want to spend the night with you.
But the words die in his throat almost immediately when a tall man in a Tony the Tiger costume? Comes up to Yuta from behind, hugging him gently with one arm. His free hand covers Yuta's eyes.
"Hey babe," Mr Tony the Tiger whispers seductively into Yuta's ear and Mark can feel his heart dropping 7 feet down under despite the weird contrast of tone and the goofiness of the costume he's wearing. "Guess who?"
Yuta breaks into a fit of laughter while still being in the hands of Mr Tony the Tiger and Mark's heart sinks even deeper. Time seems to slow down around him; his heartbeat, Mr Tony the Tiger dude's lopsided smiling, Yuta's hand grazing gently over the orange costume before gripping lightly on the sleeves.
" Dear ," and Mark's heart is now buried deep within the cores of the Earth- " Please , I'm in the middle of something." Yuta laughs, breaking the time illusion Mark was in seconds ago. Mark blinks and Mr Tony the Tiger's eyes go wide and he wonders if he just noticed Mark's presence at that moment. Mark also wonders if the strain that his heart is going through right now is all over his face because Yuta's pearly smile drops slowly when he tugs Mr Tony the Tiger's hand down. Mark doesn't return his gaze, focusing directly on the stranger in front of him.
"Wait," Mr Tony the Tiger's face suddenly lights up as if he just recalled something, hands now resting on Yuta's shoulder. He then stands at full height and damn, he's so tall?
"You're Mark right? Mark Lee?"
"Yeah?" Mark's throat betrays him, his voice strained. Mr Tony the Tiger is smiling way too cheery for his heart right now. "I've heard so much-"
"Yeah I gotta go actually," Mark abruptly stands up, and in the process locks eyes with Yuta. Fuck, fuck he looks so confused and worried and it tears him apart which is so fucking unfair because it's Mark getting duped in broad daylight-
"I really gotta. Uh yeah. Bye." Mark finger guns his way out from the scene and does an immediate bee line towards the ballroom exit. His mind blocks out Mr Tony the Tiger's orange painted face clouded confusion, blocks out Donghyuck's voice calling for him as he passes their table, and blocks out Yuta's worry stricken, beautiful face. In Mark's rush to leave, he doesn't notice Yuta chasing him from behind and is brought back to reality when Yuta holds the doors from closing.
Mark's heart beats a little bit too fast for the nth time for the evening, face warm as he watches Yuta rushes to enter the elevator, taking deep breaths. The doors close and Yuta turns up to look at him and Mark can see the confusion and worry in his eyes. Mark watches Yuta move to stand next to him and the silence feels suffocating. A beat of silence goes by as they head downwards. Mark abruptly realizes he doesn't have a car to go back to.
"I'm sorry," Mark's voice pierces through the silence. Dissapointment would be an understatement for what he's feeling right now and the shame from thinking he and Yuta had something going on is adding salt to the wound. A lot of salt. And it fucking hurts.
"I just thought. We had something." Mark braves on, a hand rubbing his neck and a a ball of fist on the other. Yuta looks at him with earnest and Mark shies away. There's a tiny voice in Mark's head saying he should get angry for being lead on but the crushing feeling of rejection stings way more. "Between us. I didn't know you were dating-"
"I'm not dating anyone?" Yuta immediately interupts and Mark frowns in confusion together with the former.
"What?" Mark makes a pointing gesture showing up. "The guy from earlier?"
Yuta tilts his head.
"In the tiger costume?" Mark now sounds exasperated. The elevator doors open with a ping and Yuta's frown of confusion morphs into a big grin. Mark's frown deepens and Yuta covers the bottom of his face with his hand, clearly smiling hard. The elevator doors close.
"Me and Johnny aren't dating"
"Tiger costume upstairs. We aren't dating"
"Wh-" Mark feels some sort of deja vu.
"Company policy states Executives aren't allowed to date their Supervisors. Lame, I know but I'm not interested in any of them so-"
Johnny. Mark's mind does a ping.
"That was Johnny Suh, Head of Sales? "
"Yep" Yuta grins.
"When did he-"
"But he called you-"
"Babe? Inside joke. Past Halloween event. Inappropriate, I know."
"Oh my god," Mark frowns, hands on his face. " Oh my god. "
"Yeah," Yuta giggles. He pries open Mark's hands away from his face to gently hold them, smile all too sweet and just a tiny bit apologetic. "Sorry for the confusion. Really."
Mark truly feels delirious. Maybe it was the spiked slurry drink mix he had earlier. Maybe it's the euphoria of knowing his feelings were not one sided after all and that he was just being Dumb. Mark has never been so happy to be this wrong in his life. In these moments, Mark's mind to mouth filter shuts down and he asks for the one thing he's been wanting for since whatever this is with Yuta started weeks ago;
"Can I kiss you?"
Yuta's eyes widened by the sudden brashness and Mark would've panicked if Yuta hadn't shyly giggled into their entwined hands.
"Yeah," Yuta pulls him closer by the hand then puts his hands on Mark's chest. Mark leans in, both hands now on the wall, trapping Yuta in just like what had happened a few weeks back. Except it's now just him and Yuta inside the elevator. Except instead of Yuta looking down at the floor, he's looking directly at Mark in the eye. Except instead of the usual sheer lip balm, he's wearing a glossy red tint with a fond smile on his lips. "Kiss me, Mark Lee."
And Mark does exactly that.
It starts chaste but Mark wants more, deepening the kiss. Yuta whines into it, now latching onto Mark and it's wet and messy and he feels like he's on cloud nine-
They both immediately break from the kiss to turn and see Donghyuck and Mr Tony- Johnny Suh, Head of Sales im front the elevator doors, mouth agape.
" Oh " Johnny musters. And then a generous smile. "Congratulations are due. Sorry I called your bae babe ."
Mark almost has a full body cringe. "No worries?"
"Thank god, finally!" Donghyuck waves his arms and Yuta barks a laugh. He then turns back facing Mark, and the latter realizes they're still very much attached to the hip, Mark's lower face probably littered with Yuta's cherry lip gloss.
"Let's get out of here?" Yuta fondly smiles, caressing Mark's cheek. His makeup is a mess and Mark thinks he looks like an absolute daydream.
The elevator door closes with a Ping!
Mark smiles, kissing the corner of Yuta's lips.