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baby, honey, darling

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Mark had not-so-subtly booted Johnny from the room he shared with Donghyuck, because he needed to complain about a boy and he didn’t need Johnny’s commentary. Or his snitching. Because the boy in question was Yuta.

“I just think,” Mark began, knowing he was pouting ridiculously and not even embarrassed about it, “that it’s really mean of Yuta-hyung to call me his honey bear if he’s not gonna date me. You know?”

Haechan looked torn between mild disgust, exasperation, laughter and fondness. Mark wasn’t sure how a human face could express so much, but maybe it was his psychic bond with Hyuck coming through. “No, Mark. I don’t know. I really fucking don’t.”

Mark whined and rolled over to plant his face down into the bed. Donghyuck took pity on him, snuggling up beside and rubbing his fist into the spot between Mark’s shoulder blades that always knotted up.

“Why don’t you just ask him to stop?” Donghyuck pointed out, very reasonably. Mark did not feel reasonable. He groaned, muffled by the sheets.

“Don’t wan’ him to,” he muttered, hoping Donghyuck wouldn’t catch it. No such luck. His best friend snorted and stopped rubbing his spine.

“Then suck it up or make a move!” Donghyuck instructed him, clapping his hands loudly beside Mark’s ear. He flinched, and turned his face just enough to scowl at Donghyuck with one eye.

“Easy for you to say,” he grumbled, and face planted back into the mattress.

“What are you even talking about?” Donghyuck’s tone was leaning more towards exasperated now. “Mark-hyung, you know how to flirt, even if you act like some hopeless virgin. Just do it.”

“Okay, I do not act like a ‘hopeless virgin’, shut the fuck up,” Mark rolled over solely to defend himself, poking Hyuck hard in the chest. “And I’m not gonna flirt with a group member. That would just make it weird for everyone!”

Donghyuck blinked at him, mouth slightly open. “You think you would be the one making it weird? Then what the fuck do you think Yuta-hyung is doing?”

Mark shrugged. “He just thinks it’s funny, because I blush every time. He’s not, like… you know.”

Donghyuck folded his lips together, and looked at the ceiling like he was asking god to spare him a little patience. “That is literally flirting, Mark Lee. You idiot.”

Mark sighed helplessly and stared at the ceiling forlornly. Donghyuck just didn’t get it.

Okay, so to be fair, Mark didn’t really get it either. What was Yuta playing at?

Sure, Mark had the whole ‘oppa’ thing going with him, which was kind of a special pet name just for Yuta, but that was mostly a long-running joke that had just worked its way into his actual vocabulary. Yuta was already devastatingly hot, and so funny, and dedicated, and took such good care of Mark. It was more than any one person could be expected to take! It was basically out of Mark’s control that he developed a crush!

And that was before he factored in all the pet names. He was pretty sure Yuta had used every one under the sun on him.

Alas. Mark led a life of suffering, and he couldn’t see it stopping any time soon. Because he wasn’t gonna ask Yuta to cut it out with the cute names, and the only other way to get Yuta to stop would be to confess. And he wasn’t gonna do that either.

“Hey sugar,” Yuta greeted him casually, sliding across the practice room floor on his butt to get closer to Mark. Everyone was starting to file out, ready to grab some much-needed dinner, but Mark had about sixteen texts from various managers about upper-level people wanting to have some sort of meeting with him. He was still going through the backlog, trying to sort it out. “Whatcha up to?”

Yuta pressed his chest to Mark’s back, trapping him in between his knees, and craned to look at Mark’s phone screen. He resolutely ignored the way his ears were turning bright red and tried to angle his screen away from Yuta’s prying eyes.

Ah!” he scolded, trying to scootch away. “Privacy!”

Mark’s attempts to scoot himself along were foiled by Yuta tightening the hold of his knees and wrapping his arms around his chest, plastering himself to Mark’s back.

Whyy,” Yuta whined, sniffing loudly. “Why would you keep secrets from your soulmate? That’s not nice, sweetheart.”

Oppa,” Mark responded, exasperated. He locked his phone and desperately tossed it out of reach of Yuta’s wiggling, searching fingers. “Leave it.”

Yuta made a break for Mark’s phone, and he lunged after the elder. Yuta knew his passcode and could get into his messages in a moment, and then he’d get pissed at their managers for texting Mark so much about work while he was working. He’d do something passive-aggressive to them, like give them the cold shoulder at the next day’s schedules, and then all the other members would feel awkward, and Mark didn’t want to deal with it this time.

“Who are you texting that oppa can’t see?” Yuta asked him again, grinning mischievously and waggling his eyebrows even as Mark pinned his arms down. He was still trying to kick at Mark’s legs to get him at a disadvantage, even as he continued to tease. “Is it a girl? Or a boy? Ooh, does my baby boy have a crush?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” Mark replied sarcastically, not thinking about the words until they were out of his mouth. Yuta froze for a moment, eyebrows dipping into something confused, and Mark pressed his advantage. He’d worry about how bad his brain-to-mouth filter was later; right now he had to seize the moment and get Yuta totally pinned.

“Hey, what do you guys want me to order for-” Doyoung walked into the practice room, and Mark and Yuta paused their play-wrestling to look at him attentively. Doyoung’s eyes flicked from Yuta laying on the floor, to Mark’s bright red face, to his position straddling Yuta’s waist, to the grip Yuta had encircling Mark’s wrists and tugging them down towards himself, trying to topple Mark’s balance. Doyoung blinked once, and pressed his lips together.

“Absolutely not,” he announced, and turned on his heel and walked back out, oversized button-up flapping in his wake. Mark looked down at Yuta, eyebrows raised.

“What do you think he wanted?” Mark asked his hyung, confused. “Why did he leave so fast?”

Yuta shrugged, and Mark could feel the motion slightly in his thighs. “No clue, gumdrop.”

With that, their momentary truce was broken, and Yuta yanked Mark down off his torso to sprawl on the floor beside him.

“Oh, it’s on.”

Helloo, sugar plum!” Johnny crooned, pulling Mark in to noogie his head. He whined hyung! and tried to squirm away before Johnny could ruin the twenty minutes he spent styling his hair. He had to slap the elder’s bicep about five times before he was released.

Mark huffed, rolling his eyes up like that would help him inspect his bangs. It was the first time he was seeing all of 127 at once for ages, considering how busy he’d been with the brief SuperM promotion and now 7Dream preparations. He’d been crashing at the Dreamies dorm half the time, it seemed. Mark had wanted to look nice - to look sexy, even - when he saw Yuta tonight. The only times the older boy saw him recently was when he was stumbling in and out of the door half-asleep and face puffy with exhaustion or stuffing his cheeks with food at the kitchen table. Not exactly his best showing. And now Johnny had gone and undone his hard work.

A hand suddenly appeared in his field of vision, long bony fingers running through his fringe and pulling it back into place. Another hand was grasping his shoulder, preventing Mark from spinning around to confront the helpful sneak-attack hair stylist. But Mark didn’t need to see them. He would recognize Yuta’s hands anywhere. He stood still as a spooked deer, afraid if he breathed too hard he might lose Yuta’s fingers running over his scalp, smoothing the strands back into place. God, how was he supposed to get over Yuta when just the pads of his fingers glancing the shell of his ear felt this good?

His hair must have been fixed, because Yuta stopped running his fingers through it. Mark found himself wishing Johnny had done a better job mussing it up, and narrowed his eyes at his hyung for his inadequacy. Johnny raised his eyebrows disbelievingly, and made some vague hand gesture. Mark widened his eyes, like ‘dude, our telepathic bond is broken right now, what the fuck are you trying to say?’. Johnny didn’t seem to get his message.

Yuta’s pointy chin was digging into his shoulder, and Mark didn’t even care. His arms had encircled him and were trapping his own arms awkwardly against the sides of Mark’s body, and it was still the best back-hug he had gotten all damn month.

“Guess who, angel?”

Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. Angel. Fuck, that was the one. And whispered into his ear? Mark was pretty sure his eyes rolled back in his head, could literally feel his pupils dilate as suddenly too much light was being let in.

“Yuta-hyung,” he breathed, and yeah. It definitely sounded like he was about to come his pants. He cleared his throat and settled further back into Yuta’s chest, determined to enjoy the warmth and feeling of Yuta holding him.

“Yep!” Yuta cheered, and turned his head sideways to smack a kiss on Mark’s cheek. He felt red blossom out from where his lips had met Mark’s skin, like Yuta had burned him, set him alight, with a friendly peck. “You’re such a good guesser!”

“I knew it was you the whole time, hyung!” Mark giggled, tipping his head back to rest on Yuta’s shoulder completely, and tried to gaze adoringly at his face from upside-down.

Ten made an odd strangled noise, and seemed quite near to tears from the effort of holding laughter in. Mark couldn’t fathom what was so funny. Maybe someone had just texted him a dank meme? Johnny looked disgusted, and pressed his hand over his mouth briefly. Mark shot him a questioning look, and Johnny just flapped his hand vaguely at Yuta.

‘Really?’ he mouthed. ‘Really!?’

Mark tilted his head in question, about to ask Johnny what he was so worked up over, when Ten wrapped a hand around his bicep and yanked the taller man behind him. Ten actually was laughing now, and Mark began to blush for a different reason. He had the vague sense that he was being made fun of; that there was some joke involving him flying over his head.

“Yuta-hyung! It’s so great to see you!” Ten enthused, and bounced forward to wrap him in a greeting hug. But Mark was still in the circle of Yuta’s arms, and Ten didn’t bother to move him, so it ended up being more of a group hug. That Mark couldn’t fully participate in, because Yuta was still trapping his arms at his sides, but he did appreciate being included! He nuzzled his head into Ten’s shoulder, about all he could do immobilized as he was.

Johnny stepped forward and leaned in, about to wrap his freakishly long arms around all three of them to really complete the group hug, but Yuta straightened up before he could. He looked at Johnny funny, then stuck his finger out to press on his forehead and push him back. Mark craned his neck, trying to suss out what was going on. It must’ve been some inside joke, because Johnny looked amused and Ten snorted with laughter, trying to muffle it in Mark’s shirt. He smiled down at his friend fondly, rubbing his nose into his soft hair affectionately. Ten patted his side warmly and straightened up, stepping back and looking up at Yuta. The shorter man’s expression looked strange, suddenly, a combination of smug and triumphant and warm that had Mark narrowing his eyes. He craned his neck again to look up at Yuta, but this time all he got was the ends of his grown-out hair tickling his nose.

Mark resolved not to worry about it. If he got involved in every inside jokes his hyungs’ shared, he’d be up to his eyeballs in investigation and still only really getting half of it.

Besides, Yuta kept his arms wrapped around him for the rest of the night -- when making Mark sit in between his thighs on the couch, or slung casually across his shoulders as they liberated snacks and caught up with their members. Mark couldn't muster up concern about any of Ten and Johnny’s antics when he was in Yuta’s arms.

Taeil-hyung had apparently watched a movie he really liked recently, and had recommended it to Yuta. He’d texted Mark, asking if he’d like to watch with him on one of his rare nights off. The films Taeil and Yuta usually enjoyed weren’t exactly Mark’s cup of tea, but he couldn’t say no – not when Yuta had singled him out for an invitation like that. It made Mark feel warm through his ribs, made him feel special. So he said yes, and Jaehyun had just happened to be lazing about the couch when Yuta had pulled the movie up on the television. He seemed vaguely intrigued enough to stick around and watch. Mark didn’t mind, because he got the middle seat. Which meant his thigh was touching Yuta’s. He tried not to let the prospect of some knee-nudging thrill him like a teenager, but – well, he was only 21. That wasn’t too far out.

“Mind passing me the popcorn?”

Mark groaned a bit when the stretch to grab the bowl off the coffee table made his spine crack, but closed his fingers successfully around the edge of the bowl and pulled it closer. And then he nearly toppled the popcorn, because Yuta’s hand landed on the line of his spine and rubbed firmly down the length of it. Mark took a couple deep breaths, clenched his fingers on the plastic, and sat up straight again.

“Here, oppa,” Mark settled the bowl in Yuta’s lap.

“Thanks, cupcake,” Yuta hummed happily, patting Mark’s wrist affectionately then stuffing a giant handful of popcorn into his mouth. He spoke through the crunch of food, “Is your back bothering you?”

Jaehyun had been doing his thing where he stared absently into middle-distance, and Mark hadn’t thought he was paying their conversation an ounce of attention. Then Jaehyun blinked, and cut Mark a sharp look. 

‘Cupcake?’ he mouthed incredulously, raising an eyebrow. Mark made a desperate cutting motion across his throat, frantically sending out “shut up before Yuta notices!” brainwaves to his friend. Jaehyun snorted and rolled his eyes, which alerted Yuta to his abrupt return to their plane of consciousness. He looked at Jaehyun, confused for a few moments, only for Jaehyun resume his blank gazing as if he’d never moved in the first place. Yuta tilted his head and stared at Jaehyun a few seconds more, before shaking his head and giving Mark a conspiratorial smile, one eyebrow quirked.

Mark shrugged back and rolled his eyes, like, ‘I know, he’s so weird.’ He and Yuta grinned at each other for a moment, before collapsing into giggles. Mark tucked his feet up on the couch under him, and allowed himself to fall sideways into Yuta’s warmth for a bit. Just for a bit.

Sometime that night, he was vaguely aware of a set of arms adjusting him on the couch, rearranging his limbs and straightening out his back. A set of hands tucked a blanket beneath his feet and pulled it up to his chin, slipped a pillow beneath his head. Mark hummed, wiggling down into the pillow drowsily as fingertips traced over the ridge of his brow, the ends of his fringe.

He could’ve sworn he heard, “Sleep well, jagi.” whispered against his cheekbone.

But that was probably just a dream.

Mark was savoring his last weeks of relative relaxation before the true insanity that would be the second quarter of 2021 began. Like, sure, he had the little SuperM x Prudential gig, but that was like. Barely even a thing. He kind’ve wished it was more of a thing, occasionally -- but then he thought of the 7Dream album, and the 127 collab and comeback, in his near future, and a shiver of relief ran down his spine.

Yuta had pulled him out of the swaddle of his comforter at 3 p.m., insisting that it was the perfect time to go out and eat before it got too busy, and didn’t Mark miss oppa? Didn’t he want to spend time with him before the kids stole him away for months? Mark had laughed in his face and slapped his arm for insinuating the dreamies were kidnapping him, but dragged himself out of bed and put on real clothes regardless. He even pilfered a bucket hat from Yuta’s collection instead of wearing his usual beanie or baseball cap, just so they could match. The beam Yuta gave him when he put the dumb hat on was worth the annoyance of the brim infiltrating his field of vision constantly.

The upscale gastro brewpub thing they went to had probably been scouted out by Yuta with Johnny, and it wasn’t precisely where he would’ve picked. Mark didn’t like, like beer, but he did like onion rings and this place had excellent ones. The kind that took about three bites to fit in his mouth, but were still crispy and well-seasoned. He was happily crunching his way through one when Yuta’s dramatic retelling of their manager’s recent embarrassment of getting rejected by one of the company receptionists wound down. He shoved the last bite of onion ring into his mouth and wiped his fingers thoroughly with his napkin, chewing and wondering why Yuta was starting to look so solemn all of a sudden. It was silent between them for a few moments, and Mark nervously sipped his water. He didn’t want to start another ring for some reason, felt that it wasn’t the right moment to have a thick, translucent string of onion hanging out of his mouth. Then Yuta broke the quiet, folding his hands in his lap.

“I cannot imagine my life without you, Mark,” Yuta told him, doing that thing where he stared intently into Mark’s eyes. “You’re so tangled up in every part of me now. We’ll never really be apart. You’ve become part of my soul. It’s like… you’re my other half.”

“Yoo, that’s a bar,” Mark exclaimed, trying to ignore the red flush threatening at the back of his neck. He clapped his hands together and shot Yuta a finger gun. “Yo, I might use that! Bars, man. I’m telling you.”

Yuta sighed deeply and slumped back against the booth. Mark couldn’t figure what had changed his mood so suddenly, why the air was suddenly charged with unease. He shrugged to himself and stuffed an onion ring whole into his mouth, struggling to chew without any pieces sticking out. Yuta suddenly leaned forward with his hand out, making Mark jump in his seat.

“Ah – here,” Yuta huffed, smiling slightly. His thumb wiped over Mark’s chin. “You have crumbs on your face, baby.”

“Thanks, oppa,” Mark blushed bright red and ducked his head as he scrubbed his face with a napkin.

“Anytime, love.”

“You would not believe what Yuta-hyung said to me at lunch,” Mark sighed, ambling into Donghyuck and Johnny’s shared room and aiming for the beanie bag. Hyuck stepped in front of him, stopping Mark in his tracks. He scrunched his brow and tilted his head in confusion as Donghyuck tenderly took hold of his shoulders.

“Mark,” Donghyuck said gently. “I love you, but I swear to god if you come in here one more time and complain about how mean Yuta-hyung is for flirting with you; I will kill you.”

With that, he cupped Mark’s face in his hands and bestowed a kiss upon his forehead. Mark stared at him blankly, nearly stumbling as Donghyuck steered (read: shoved) him out the door.

“Bye-bye!” his worthless excuse of a best friend trilled, and slammed the bedroom door in his face. Mark stared at it for a few seconds.

“Some best friend you are!” Mark shouted through the door. He heard Donghyuck slap it.

I’m fucking incredible! You’re just an idiot!” he called back, followed by the thumps of him stomping back to his gaming chair.

Mark stared at the door a few moments longer before huffing and storming off. At least on the tenth floor Jungwoo would cuddle him for the next hour.

“Ah,” Mark sighed, happily wrapping his arms tighter around Jungwoo’s shoulders. “You’re so nice, Woo.”

You’re nice, Markly,” Jungwoo’s voice was blurry with sleep, and he patted Mark’s chest. “Nap, now.”

Mark hummed against his cotton shirt, and nestled further into his collarbone. His wide yawn agreed with Jungwoo. All this confusion over Yuta was making him exhausted.

“Nap,” he murmured, and then he was out.

Mark had made up his mind. He hated confrontation, particularly among his friends. He would go to great lengths to avoid it. But he needed to tell Yuta how he felt – if for nothing else then to get him to let up on all the pet names and physical affection. But he also hated dishonesty a shade more than confrontation, and it was time to be truly honest with one of his best friends. He felt nearly like he’d been deceiving Yuta, hiding this crush from him.

As all things in Mark’s life, the talk didn’t go as planned.

He’d been chilling out in Yuta and Taeil’s room, taking advantage of the sunlight that filtered through their partially opened blinds and warmed the sheets in Yuta’s bed. It was the perfect spot for a nap. Or some cuddling, when Yuta got bored of scrolling through twitter and abandoned his phone to his nightstand.

“Angel,” Yuta sighed happily, bringing Mark in to be tucked into his chest. The way his warm breath ruffled Mark’s hair, caressed the shell of his ear, made his heart pang. “Ah, my sun and stars.”

It killed Mark to do it, but he wrenched himself away. Yuta looked confused, and Mark took a breath, setting his jaw.

“Dude.” he began, rubbing the bridge of his nose in frustration. “You can’t – you can’t just say stuff like that to me, okay?”

“What?” Yuta looked completely taken aback, and his voice was suddenly a bare whisper. Mark ignored the ache in his chest, ignored how badly he wanted to wipe that deer-in-headlights expression of Yuta’s face and make him smile and nuzzle him happily again. It was wrong for Yuta to look like that – upset.

But Mark was upset, too.

“Just, like – I know you like to do the cutesy pet names,” Mark began, twisting his fingers together in an effort to not take Yuta’s hand. His friends’ face was falling, fast. “I like it too, hyung! But, I mean. It’s one thing to call me ‘cutie’, you know? But saying ‘my other half’… it’s different, hyung.”

“Oh,” Yuta had wiped his face of any expression, and this, this blankness, was even worse than his crestfallen visage of a few moments ago. “Oh. I didn’t realize I was making you uncomfortable. I’m sorry, Mark.”

“You didn’t-” Mark huffed a sigh and glared at the ceiling. Well, he couldn’t lie and say he was never made uncomfortable over it, but it was not in the way Yuta was thinking. But how could he say ‘it doesn’t make me uncomfortable, it makes me sad because you don’t really mean it?

“Yuta-hyung, really, it’s fine. I shouldn’t have brought it up.”

“No, no, Mark! It’s okay,” Yuta’s face was still that mask of calm. Or maybe it wasn’t a mask. Maybe this conversation didn’t mean half as much to him as it did to Mark. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal for Yuta to stop calling him ‘angel’ and ‘the love of my life’, because for him they were all just silly little nothings falling off his tongue. “I’ll cut back on it. I promise.”

“Okay,” Mark breathed, and tried to figure out why it felt like a loss, when that had been exactly what he wanted.

“We’re matching hair again, Mark Lee!” Yuta effused in a sing-song voice, grinning in that wide-mouthed way he had that just made Mark want to giggle. He smiled at his friend and gave him a thumbs up, fiddling with a chunk of his fringe between two fingers.

“Haha, you bet hyung! But yours is way longer,” he chirped. He pointedly did not say ‘and sexier’, but. It was strongly implied, Mark felt. “You look really nice with black, it’s been ages since I’ve seen you with it.”

Yuta held up a hand to his face and pretended to blush.

“Stop it, you flatterer,” he crooned, settling next to Mark on the sofa. He shoved his feet beneath Mark’s thighs, toes cold as ice. “You look hot with black hair, too.”

For a few minutes, Yuta was content to watch Planet Earth, which Mark had put on to unwind. He pretended to be deeply interested, probably to make Mark happy. Yuta was good like that. But he couldn’t stay silent long, not when he found the content – totally in English and no subtitles, because, well, it had just been Mark in here – a tad boring.

“I love how much you hyped this up,” Yuta told him, running his hand through Mark’s newly-dyed strands once. Mark wished he’d do it again, wished it wouldn’t be weird to lean into the touch like a cat and close his eyes in pleasure. “You’re such a cutie pie.”

That was fine. They’d settled into a détente, where Yuta used normal, run-of-the-mill pet names that most of the members used on each other, and he did it less frequently. They hadn’t discussed it, but they’d settled into this careful new balance. Every time Yuta cautiously brought out a ‘baby’ or ‘cute’ and Mark didn’t flinch, their relationship settled another notch back into their usual easy comfort. The way it had been before Mark had thrown a wrench in things.

“Your fans were losing it all over bubble,” Yuta continued, stretching out his legs so now his knees were wedged under Mark’s thighs. Not exactly comfortable, but it was Yuta, so Mark allowed it. Then Mark registered what Yuta had said, and whipped his head to face him.

“Wait – you like, read those?” Mark asked, aghast. He knew Yuta subscribed to his bubble (just like Mark did for all the members), but… he didn’t think he read all the posts, because Mark posted often. And he definitely didn’t think Yuta read Mark’s fans’ responses. Even Mark didn’t usually read those!

“Of course,” Yuta said, sounding a bit wounded. There was a tiny frown on his face, now. “You’re my baby, Mark. I like seeing what you’re up to, and hearing from you when you’re too busy to hang out at home.”

“O-oh,” Mark got out, still taken aback. Yuta drew his legs back towards himself, out from under Mark. He felt his heart sink to his feet.

“What, do you not read mine?” Yuta snorted, trying to play it off like a joke. He poked Mark’s bicep. “Yah, you better open mine! All my good selfies are there!”

Yuta was one of the most supportive, loving people Mark knew. He suddenly felt very guilty for what his insecurity had made him blurt out. Just because Yuta didn’t reciprocate his romantic feelings didn’t mean he didn’t care deeply for Mark, because he definitely did. And he felt awful that his words made Yuta think Mark didn’t realize that.

“No, I – I don’t even know what I was saying Yuta-hyung, sorry,” Mark rushed to apologize. “I know you love me. I guess I’ve just been – feeling w-weird, lately? Sorry.”

“Ah, don’t apologize Mark Lee,” Yuta sighed, ruffling his hair. Despite his words, a certain tension drained from his shoulders and the set of his mouth. “I know you’re a little weirdo. But you’re my little weirdo.”

“Haha, oppa,” was all Mark could whine in reply, blushing furiously. Yuta nudged his thighs with his cold feet again, and smiled contentedly at him while he used Mark as his personal footwarmer once more. This time, he let Mark watch Planet Earth undisturbed, just went on his phone and played games quietly.

It was Mark who broke the silence, when he remembered the joke Yuta had made to mask his hurt.

“Hey, wait – I thought you texted me all your best selfies!” Mark exclaimed, giving Yuta pleading eyes. “What, am I not special enough to get exclusive content, anymore?”

“I still do! The best ones aren’t fit for public consumption, they’re only accessible via kakao,” Yuta assured him. “I was just lying about posting them on bubble, earlier. Jeez, Mark.”

Mark pouted, and Yuta cooed at him. Well, some things would never change.

Mark was minding his own business, playing guitar on the couch like he usually did on free afternoons, when Donghyuck decided to absolutely wreck his shit.

He flung open the door to the tenth-floor dorm, the slam of it hitting the wall reverberating throughout the apartment, making Mark jump about a foot in the air and nearly drop the acoustic. Mark scrambled for it.

Hey! Hyuck, Jesus, don’t scare me like that!” he complained, setting the guitar safely down on the coffee table and rubbing over his chest, collapsing back to the couch in a mess of limbs. “Did you text, or something…?”

It was then that Mark noticed the person hovering just behind Hyuck. His voice trailed off. He looked at Donghyuck, then at Yuta, then back at Donghyuck. Mark furrowed his brow, trying to figure out what was going on.

“Hi, hyung?” he said uncertainly, lifting his hand in a little wave. Yuta returned it, giving him a bright, if also confused, little smile. Donghyuck sighed extremely loudly, and covered his eyes with his palm. “What’s going on…?”

“Hi darling,” Yuta responded happily, if also still a bit lost. “I’m not really sure, to be honest, but Hyuckie-”

Donghyuck had uncovered his eyes just in time to catch Mark blush at the ‘darling’. He groaned, rubbing his temples with two fingers.

“Hand to god, I cannot put up with this shit anymore. You two have got to stop dancing around each other,” Donghyuck announced, exasperated. He pointed an accusing finger at Mark, or perhaps Yuta. “Sort this out, hyung. Expeditiously.”

He threw up his hands and stormed out of the living room, presumably back down to the fifth floor. Mark stared after him, brow furrowed. What?

Yuta looked… a little shy, almost. Mark couldn’t be sure that was the expression, because he couldn’t really remember seeing Yuta actually get shy before, but -- if he had to guess, this was Yuta being shy. Which was weird. What did he have to be shy about? Mark’s neck was burning bright red, because he was pretty sure Hyuck just outed his embarrassing crush in front of the crush-ee, but why was Yuta looking down and sneaking glances at Mark like that?

“Um…” he began, then shut his mouth. Nervous laughter bubbled up inside him, and Mark tried to keep his mouth clamped shut against it.

“Could we…” Yuta began, then took a deep inhale and looked directly at Mark. “Could we talk somewhere private, maybe?”

“Yeah, sure,” Mark replied, surprised. He rose from the couch and began to amble back to his room, Yuta following him that extra few inches closer than most people would. Mark was always in danger of being heel-walked. “Manager-hyung is out, come to mine.”

“Okay,” Yuta agreed, and Mark thought he sounded a bit resigned. Mark settled himself on top of his bed, draping a blanket across his lap so he’d have something to hold between his hands and prevent him fidgeting too much. Yuta stayed standing in the middle of the room, looking as uncomfortable as Mark had ever seen him.

“Well, I guess by now you know,” Yuta began, and Mark gave him his best confused look. He did not know. Like, anything at all.

“Know what?”

“About my feelings for you,” Yuta said simply. Mark gaped at him. “I know it’s made things a little weird between us, but I promise I’m trying to pull back. You’re still one of my best friends, Mark. I don’t want to lose that because you’re uncomfortable.”

Mark stared at Yuta blankly, blinking a few times. He opened his mouth, then shut it, then opened it again.

“…What?”

Yuta tapped his foot, starting to look a bit impatient, a bit caged in. “I know all the pet names have been making you uncomfortable. I don’t want you to feel like I’m forcing my feelings on you, or anything. I’m not, am I? Because I’m really sorry. It’s just I got into the habit of doing it. I promise I’m trying to break it, Mark; I promise.”

“That’s not –” Mark faltered, then sighed. Yuta sounded so distressed, and that was the last thing Mark ever wanted him to feel. He had no idea what was going on, his brain trying to fire on all cylinders but only succeeding in stalling out. But Yuta was worth the effort, worth pushing through the confusion. He ran his tongue over his teeth, then tried again. “That’s not why I asked you to ease up, Yuta. I… I like the names too much.”

Now Yuta was staring at him, trying to take in Mark’s confession. His face was inscrutable, and Mark’s heart began to hammer.

“Huh.”

He’d rarely heard Yuta sound less impressed, and Mark scrambled to explain.

“I mean, I really like you hyung, and the cute nick names were kind of messing with my head. It was like you were actually my boyfriend or something,” he clarified. “It was just making my crush worse, you know? It kept tricking me into thinking I had a chance.”

“I…” Yuta trailed off and shook his head slightly, seemingly astonished. “Mark, I am literally speechless. What are you talking about?”

“But you were obviously just joking about the ‘baby boy’ and ‘my sun and stars’ stuff, so I asked you to let up on me,” Mark finished. Yuta rubbed a hand over his mouth, then, inexplicably, bust out laughing. Mark gave him an odd look, pressing back against the wall. What was going on?

“I call you all those names because I like you, Mark Lee,” Yuta explained through another helpless laugh, tugging at his long hair restlessly. “As in, I want you to be my ‘actual boyfriend’. Holy fuck.”

Mark froze. He whipped his head up to look directly into Yuta’s eyes, and he found only sincerity in them.

“Wait… really?” he squeaked.

“Yes, really, Mark! Oh my god,” Yuta sounded a bit despairing, but still with that edge of laughter.

“I thought you were joking!”

“What kind of joke would that even be?” Yuta cried, gesturing wildly. Mark had rarely seen him this flustered, and he twisted his hands up in the blanket with a kind of nervous anticipation. Was this… was this actually happening? Was this really going his way?

“I don’t know!” Mark exclaimed, throwing his own hands up. “I always get so flustered! I thought you thought it was funny, so you kept doing it for the reaction!”

“Oh. It is funny,” Yuta informed him seriously, tilting his head to the side like he was contemplating something. “I love making you blush. Your voice gets all squeaky, it’s so cute.”

Mark couldn’t help smiling a bit, pleased. He tried to hide his squinched up cheeks behind his fists, but judging by Yuta’s fond expression it wasn’t working.

“But – I mean, hyung,” Mark laughed a bit, hugging his knees to his chest. The smile was starting to make his cheeks ache, and it showed no signs of letting up anytime soon. “Some of them were kind of ridiculous, you know. Like, gumdrop? Of course I thought you were kidding!”

“I am,” Yuta explained dramatically, arms spread wide, “a romantic.

Mark collapsed into giggles. “Of course you are, oppa.”

Yuta gave Mark a look, and about one second to brace himself before he launched onto the bed, hands shooting out and shoving Mark down amongst the quilt. He mock-growled, headbutting Mark into submission, bullying him onto his back until Yuta could lay on top of him and squeeze him in a hug. Mark was shaking he was laughing so hard, abs starting to ache, rendering him powerless to resist any of Yuta’s advances. Not that he wanted to, anyways.

He wrapped his own arms around Yuta and squeezed him right back.

“Say it,” Yuta ordered, nosing against Mark’s cheekbone. He could feel Yuta’s lips, curved in a wide smile, against his face. “Admit that I’m romantic.”

“You are very romantic, oppa,” Mark assured him, pressing down between his sharp shoulder blades to hold him even closer to his chest. “I’m just… not.”

It felt wonderful, to feel Yuta’s chuckles shake his frame like this, to feel the movement of his ribs against his own.

“That’s okay,” Yuta yawned, stretching out alongside Mark. His lungs appreciated the break from being squished, but surprisingly, Mark kind of missed it. He slung his leg across Yuta’s to compensate, wiggling a bit closer so they were nose-to-nose. “I’m romantic enough for both of us.”

Mark found Yuta’s hand and linked their pinkies together, absently playing with his fingers.

“I really like the names, you know,” Mark whispered, trying to count Yuta’s eyelashes as they brushed softly against his cheeks. “Even the silly ones.”

“Even cupcake?” Yuta asked him lowly, beginning to grin again. “Even honeybunch? Even boo bear?”

“Even cupcake, and honeybunch, and boo bear,” Mark promised, each ridiculous nickname just making his own smile wider. “All of them.”

It was a couple hours later, after they’d started to get their fill of staring lovesick into each other’s eyes, that they scavenged dinner from the kitchen. They pulled leftovers from the fridge and tip-toed back to Mark’s room, sneaking to not get caught by any of their roommates. Mark did not want to explain his swollen lips or ruffled hair right now.

Yuta sat at the desk chair, then pouted at Mark until he caved and settled on his lap. Yuta squeezed his arms happily around Mark’s hips, resting his chin on his shoulder and rocking him slightly. He made Mark feed him bites of dinner in-between his own, mouth waiting open for Mark to scoop in the food.

When they had ate through all the leftovers they could carry, Yuta pushed at Mark’s hips. He went willingly, his legs having began to cramp up from Yuta’s knees poking into them. But Yuta wouldn’t let him stand up from the chair; just turned him around so Mark was facing him, legs straddling Yuta like a koala. Mark leaned back against the edge of his desk and raised an eyebrow in question. Yuta smirked playfully.

“Which one is your favorite?” he inquired curiously, propping his chin on his fist. Mark blushed furiously and stared down at his hands, picking a stray thread from the hem of his flannel. “Of the names. Which one do you like best, Markly?”

“Oh, um…” Mark floundered a bit, chancing a glance up at Yuta through his bangs. “It’s… well, I like all of them. But, uh. I guess my favorite is angel.”

A wicked smile spread across Yuta’s countenance, and he leaned in so he was nose-to-nose with Mark.

“Mark-ah,” he cooed. “You are so cute.”

The red wasn’t fading from Mark’s cheeks, and he kept staring down, stubbornly refusing eye contact. Yuta’s pointer finger pressed beneath his chin, tilting his face up.

“Look at me,” he ordered. “Angel.”

Mark snapped his eyes up so fast he was nearly dizzy from it. Yuta rewarded him with a wet, open-mouthed kiss, slanting their lips together so easily Mark was pretty sure they were made for this, made for each other. It was deep, but brief. Yuta licked the flat of his tongue over Mark’s upper lip, getting him just the gross side of wet, and pulled back.

Angel,” he sighed again, happily. Mark had rarely seen an eye-smile as good as the one Yuta was hitting him with right now, full-force. Mark hid his red face in Yuta’s neck and tightened his arms around his ribs. He was all scrunched up on Yuta’s lap to fit in his desk chair, but he didn’t mind. It wasn’t uncomfortable, not when he could nose into the soft skin of Yuta’s throat and feel the ends of his black hair tickle the side of his face.

“I don’t know how you didn’t realize I was crushing on you, big-time,” Mark tells him frankly. He hit Yuta’s side fondly with his knee. “I was sending out the biggest crush vibes. It was, like, embarrassing. Is our connection broken, or something? How did you not catch all the heartsick signals?”

“Mark, you have got to stop with this telepathic bond shit,” Yuta sighed, but not without humor. He gave Mark a grin and tickled beneath his chin. “Try, I don’t know. Speaking to people?”

Mark squawked, batting the tickling fingers away. “Hey! Don’t pin this just on me. Communication goes both ways!”

“Angel, I was communicating with you. Like, openly,” Yuta told him gently, brushing stray hairs back from his eyes. “You look really good with your hair pushed back like this, sweetheart, have I ever told you?”

“Yeah,” Mark murmured, blushing happily. He nuzzled into the touch, couldn’t help but preen a little. It was easy, under Yuta’s adoring gaze. “But… tell me again, oppa?”

“Anything you want, darling. Anything.”

 

fin.