Mark had no real moment in his mind when things between himself and Jackson began to shift. It seemed to him that one moment they were fine, and the next he was rooming with Youngjae and Jackson moved in with Jaebum.
In front of the cameras things seemed relatively the same, “Markson” wasn’t as obnoxious as before but it was still there. In their private time however, it seemed like Jackson wanted as little to do with Mark as possible. This didn’t go unnoticed by the others, but they didn’t want to intefere in their business.
Mark knew he wasn’t the easiest person to connect with. He was quiet and reserved; where Jackson was loud and charming. Jackson always seemed willing to balance out Mark. When Mark couldn’t find the words, Jackson finished his sentences, always knowing what Mark had meant to say. When Jackson was just a bit too hyper, Mark was the quiet guide, grounding him, helping him calm down.
The shift was gradual. At first Jackson just kept spending more time with Yugyeom and BamBam. Mark wasn’t hurt, he spent a lot of his time with Youngjae and Coco.
What really made Mark start thinking more about the change between him and Jackson was when he couldn’t remember the last time he and Jackson shared any type of skinhsip at all. Jackson hadn’t sat near him in at least a few weeks. He hadn’t put an arm around Mark’s shoulder, or even given him one of their signature looks from across the room.
Mark tried to remember if maybe he had said or done something to annoy or embarrass Jackson. Nothing came to mind, so Mark was as confused as ever.
Then the fateful night came. Jackson had been gone for a few days on one of his solo schedules, and Mark was looking forward to his return. He figured a few days away from each other would make it easier to talk with each other calmly about what was happening between them and find ways to fix it. Mark missed his best friend. If Mark was going to be honest with himself, Jackson had become much more than just his best friend, and up until recently, Mark had thought there was a possibility that Jackson had felt the same. What he didn’t expect from Jackson’s return was for Jackson to suggest a room switch.
“I just think it makes the most sense Mark-hyung. You and Youngjae basically raise Coco together anyways! Jinyoung won’t give up his single room, and I think Jaebum deserves as close to a single room as we can give him. I’m gone so much that he won’t even feel like he has a roommate anymore. It’s not about you, I just think this works best.” Jackson says with his charming smile.
Mark could only nod in response. He didn’t like this plan, wondered how long it was an idea for, but he had no fight in him left anymore. If Jackson didn’t want to be in the same room as him that badly, he wasn’t going to fight it and make things any more uncomfortable than they already were.
Hours later, Coco and Youngjae were all moved into Mark’s room. Mark did his best to keep a smile on his face. Youngjae was this band’s literal sunshine and Mark was not about to be the one that dimmed his light.
Things got better after that. Mark stopped trying to get Jackson’s attention and just did his own thing. He started spending more time with Youngjae and Jinyoung. Jackson continued his solo schedules and spent his time with the rest of the boys, minus Mark.
One day, Mark was not feeling well at all. He was dizzy, nauseous, and his head was killing him. He struggled out of his bed, knowing they had a busy day of rehearsal ahead of them for their latest comeback. Mark stumbled into the wall, Youngjae sitting up and looking at him with concern.
“Hyung, are you feeling ok?” Youngjae asked, standing to help steady Mark.
“I’m fine Youngjae-ah. Just a little dizzy. Nothing a shower and a glass of water won’t fix.” Mark lied, hoping it was calm Youngjae. He didn’t want anyone else to worry over him.
“If you’re sure…”
“I will be fine. Let’s just keep this between the two of us though, ok? No need to worry everyone over nothing.” Mark said, a small smile all he could manage.
Luckily everyone else was still too sleep ruffled to notice how sickly Mark looked. Or so he thought. Jackson watched him silently, from afar. He could tell something was wrong and that Mark was trying to keep it from everyone.
They all made it to the practice room and got started working on the new choreography. Mark did his best to keep up and he thought he had been doing pretty well; Until the whole room started to sway, that is. Youngjae noticed Mark beginning to tilt, having been keeping an eye on him all day, and quickly convinced Jaebum it was time for a break. He quickly put his arm around Mark’s waist and started to guide him to the door.
“Mark-hyung and I are just going to get some fresh air. We promise to come right back!” Youngjae said. All Mark could do was focus on moving his feet and getting out of there without drawing too much attention.
“Sit down, I will go grab a water bottle. Don’t move!” Youngjae said sternly after setting Mark down on a bench outside of the studio.
Mark just mock saluted. He closed his eyes for a minute, waiting for the world to stop spinning. He soon heard footsteps approaching, felt a body sit next to him, and a water bottle being held to his forehead.
“Thanks Jae-ah. You take such good care of me.” Mark mumbled, not opening his eyes and reaching to take the water bottle.
“I know he does, but I am not Youngjae Mark-hyung.” a very Jackson -like voice answered.
Mark’s eyes sprung open and he moved his head so fast that he almost fell off the bench when the dizziness came back full force.
“Whoa, sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you so badly. I kind of forced Youngjae to tell me what was going on with you. Why didn’t you say you were sick?” Jackson scolded.
“I know how important this comeback is, I can’t afford to miss any practices. I will be fine after a few min-“ Mark said and was interrupted by Jackson putting his hand on his forehead.
“Mark-hyung, you’re burning up. You won’t do us any good if you are sick on stage.” Jackson said sternly.
Maybe it was how awful he was feeling, or maybe it was pent up bitterness towards Jackson due to his abrupt exit from their friendship, but whatever the reason was Mark couldn’t control himself.
“What do you care Jackson?!” Mark snapped.
The look of shock, and something like hurt, flashed across Jackson’s face. He sat in shocked silence.
Mark took a deep breath, and closed his eyes trying to calm himself down.
“I care…why wouldn’t I care?” Jackson asked quietly.
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because for the past few months the most you have spoken to me was in front of cameras or in interviews when you had to. Maybe because we don’t spend any time together anymore, we have basically just turned into business acquaintances. Why all the sudden concern now?” Mark asked.
“I-“ Jackson began before Mark interrupted.
“You know what, never mind. I can’t do this right now. I think I will be going back to the dorm now after all. Can you tell the others? I’ll call for a cab.” Mark said. All the emotions at once were too much when he was already sick.
“I will go tell them but you wait for me here. You shouldn’t be alone.” Jackson said.
“Jackson, I am too tired to argue with you, I-“
“Then stop arguing with me and let me tell the others. The quicker you let me do this my way, the quicker we get you back to the dorm.” Jackson said, sternness returning to his voice.
Mark just sighed, resigned to his fate.
Jackson hurried back inside.
“Jaebum! Mark really isn’t feeling too well, I am going to take him back to the dorm and take care of him.” Jackson said in a rush.
Youngjae was watching this whole exchange and decided to step in for Mark. He had watched how Mark had struggled with the growing distance between Jackson and himself.
“It’s ok Jackson-hyung. I will take care of him. It makes the most sense, seeing as I am his roommate.” Youngjae said standing from where he was sitting with Jinyoung.
Jackson did not miss the protective tone in Youngjae’s voice, looking at him with a brow raised.
“It’s fine Youngjae-ah. I promise to take good care of him.” Jackson said gently.
Jaebum stepped in before Youngjae could respond further.
“Jackson can take care of Mark. Plus he has this choreography down pat while I think the rest of us could use some more work.” Jaebum said, giving Jackson a supportive nod towards the door.
“Thanks hyung! I promise to take the best care of Mark-hyung!” Jackson said before rushing back to Mark.
When Jackson returned to Mark he had shifted to lying down and was shivering with his eyes screwed shut.
“Oh Mark-hyung.” Jackson sighed quietly.
“Mark-hyung, come on. The car is here, we will be back at the dorm soon.” Jackson said, gently lifting Mark to a sitting position.
“If I make it back there, I feel like I am dying.” Mark croaked.
“Always so dramatic. Come on now.” Jackson said helping Mark into a standing position.
When they finally made it back to the dorm, Jackson half guided, half dragged, Mark into the building.
“I know you really want to get straight into bed, but I think you should take a nice hot shower first. It will help warm you up,hyung.” Jackson said guiding Mark to the bathroom.
“Do you think you can stand and wash on your own? Or do you need help?” Jackson asked.
“I can handle a shower.” Mark said.
“Ok, you wash up. I will go and make you some tea.” Jackson said before heading into the kitchen.
Mark shuffled into the bathroom, body aching. He slipped out of his clothes and stepped under the hot water. He closed his eyes and leaned against the shower wall, under the spray.
He couldn’t help feeling overwhelmed. For months, Jackson had made sure to never be alone with him, and even when there were others around, still tried to avoid Mark as much as possible. Now all of a sudden, its like Jackson wants nothing more than to be there for him and be the one to take care of him. It made Mark’s head hurt on top of the sickness.
Mark finished up in the shower as quickly as he could, then realized he hadn’t thought to bring in a change of clothes first.
Before he could decide what to do, there was a light knock on the door.
“Mark-hyung? I heard the water turn off and I realized you didn’t bring in a change of clothes. I went and got you some clothes from ou-your room. Can I bring them in?” Jackson asked through the door.
“Yes.” Mark croaked.
Jackson opened the door, averting his eyes.
“Here. I put the tea by your bed. It should be cooled off enough to drink by the time you get in there. I know all you probably want is to get some sleep so I will leave you be. Just call me if you need anything.”
Mark just nodded his head and waited for Jackson to close the door to get dressed. Once he put on the sweats Jackson had picked out for him, he shuffled into his room. Just like Jackson had said, there was a cup of tea along with some Advil by the bed for Mark.
Mark just smiled softly, took the Advil and drank as much of the tea as he could. Then he climbed into his bed and wished for sleep to come to him quickly. Luckily, his wish was granted and he fell asleep within a few minutes.
What felt like minutes later, but was actually a few hours, Mark was woken up by something cool and wet on his forehead.
Mark scrunched his face at the unwelcome sensation.
“Sorry hyung. I didn’t mean to wake you, but you were burning up so I was just trying to cool you down.” Jackson whispered.
“It’s fine Jackson. What time is it anyways?” Mark croaked out.
“It’s about 8pm right now. Jinyoung made you some soup when they came back from practice. Do you want me to heat some up for you?” Jackson asked.
“I’m not hungry at the moment, but thank you. Where is Youngjae?” Mark asked.
“He is rooming with Jaebum for now.” Jackson replied.
“Well where are you going to stay then?” Mark wondered. As much as the situation with Jackson upset him, he knew that sleeping on the couch would not be good for his back.
“I’m going to stay in here. I have been with you most of the day already. I probably already caught whatever you have.” Jackson replied.
“I’m sorry, I would have been fine on my own. You didn’t need to put your own health at risk.” Mark mumbled, feeling bad.
“Don’t apologize. I volunteered. Plus who could look after my best friend better than me?” Jackson said.
Both boys’ eyes went wide.
“Best friend…your best friend?” Mark asked quietly.
“Well, yeah. Markson forever remember?” Jackson said, followed by a nervous giggle.
“I used to believe that. Can’t say I do anymore though. I mean its been months since we were even in a room alone together, you can barely stand to look at me, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt completely comfortable around you, Jackson.” Mark rambled.
A look of pure pain came onto Jackson’s face. Which made Mark feel extremely guilty.
“Look, Jackson, I am not feeling well and I took it out on you, I am sorry.” Mark said closing his eyes. He was surprised to realize through the whole conversation, Jackson had not stopped putting the cold compress to his forehead.
“No, it’s fine Mark-hyung. You were just being honest. Which is more than I can say for myself.” Jackson said, face going a bit red.
“What do you mean?” Mark asked softly, opening his eyes and looking at Jackson’s face.
“I’m sure you wondered about why all of a sudden things began to change between us, right?”
Mark just nodded.
“We were so close, inseparable. It was amazing. I have never met someone like you hyung. Its no secret how loud and out there I can be at times, and normally that annoys people. Especially people who tend to more quiet and reserved, like you. But you seemed to like that most about me, always laughing at my antics, listening to my crazy ideas. As much as you gave into my whims, you also grounded me and settled me down when needed. I loved you from the very start. You were my best friend, like another brother to me. Then, things started to change for me.” Jackson said before going quiet again.
“Change how Jackson? Like you didn’t like me anymore? Like my quietness became more annoying than comforting? Tell me what I did to make you want out of my life so much.” Mark said, tears springing to his eyes. He quickly brought a hand up to wipe them away, annoyed with himself.
“No! Oh god no Mark-hyung!! I love you just the way you are, I swear! I never meant to make you feel like you did something wrong, I just handled this all wrong, in typical Jackson fashion.” Jackson grumbled.
Mark just looked at Jackson, a mix of confusion and hurt still in his eyes.
“Look, I want to tell you what it all means, but you are sick now, and I want you to feel 100% yourself when I tell you what I need to tell you. Can you wait for me? Just until you feel better?” Jackson asked.
“I…I guess so. Look, I am tired and if I am not going to get any explanation tonight, I would rather just sleep.” Mark said. Jackson could hear the strain in his voice, trying to keep calm when all Mark probably wanted to do was yell at Jackson.
“Yeah, uhm you should get some rest. Do you want me to stay and keep you company?” Jackson offered, a hopeful tone climbing into his tone.
“No, I just need a little time by myself…” Mark said quietly.
“Ok, look I am going to just stay on the couch tonight. I don’t want to make you any more uncomfortable than you already seem to be around me…” Jackson said.
“You don’t have to do that…just give me an hour or two to gather myself.”
“Really hyung, I will be fine-“
“I said no. No matter how things are between us right now, I am not going to make you sleep on the couch. I know what that does to your back.” Mark said, tone as firm as he could make it.
“Ok, hyung.” Jackson sighed before he headed back out to the common area.
Mark fell asleep not too long after, exhausted from all that went on that day.
The next time Mark woke up, it was to lights that were just too bright, and a beeping noise in his ear.
Mark groaned, feeling a tug on his arm when he tried to cover his eyes.
“Hey, you’re awake! Don’t move too much, I am going to get the doctor.” a voice that sounded like BamBam exclaimed a little too loudly.
Mark finally pried his eyes open and looked around the room. He was definitely in the hospital. He was confused as to how he got there, the last thing he remembered was going to sleep in his room the night before.
“Ah, Mr Tuan. Nice to see you conscious, you had your friends very worried.” the doctor said, walking in.
“What happened?” Mark asked.
“Three days ago, you were brought here by a Mr. Im Jaebum and a very distraught Jackson Wang. You were running an extremely high fever and you were unresponsive. It seems you have caught a pretty aggressive strain of pneumonia. Luckily you are young, healthy, and you have people who care very much about you. You are going to be just fine, although you have to be on limited activity, at least for a week. I am going to take one last look at your chart, and I think you can be discharged in the morning.”
“What time is it?” Mark ask, disoriented.
“About 7 o’clock. Visiting hours are technically over…but I will make an exception for some very anxious men.” the doctor said, a hint of amusement in his tone as he glanced to the door way.
Mark’s bandmates all had the decency to look a bit embarrassed at being caught but made no move to leave.
Once the doctor left the room they all filed in.
“Don’t scare us like that again hyung!!” Yugyeom exclaimed taking one of Mark’s hands in his.
“Yeah, I am sure you knocked off a good ten years of my life span!” BamBam, ever dramatic, added in.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to worry everyone. I just…I know how important this comeback is and I wanted to do my best for you all and the fans.” Mark said looking down at his blankets, too embarrassed to look in anyone’s eyes.
“Just promise to take better care of yourself from now on ok hyung?” Jinyoung said, falling right into the motherly role.
Mark just nodded.
“Ok, well we should head back to the dorm soon. We all need some rest.” Jaebum said, leader responsibilities kicking in.
“Coco misses you Mark-hyung!” Youngjae blurted out before being ushered closer to the door.
“I’m sure you are taking great care of her Youngjae-ah. Give her a hug and kiss from me!” Mark said, a soft smile pointed in Youngjae’s direction.
“I’ll meet you guys there, I just need a minute.”
Mark startled at that voice. Jackson. Only it sounded rough, almost unused.
Jaebum just gave a subtle nod and ushered the rest out with goodbyes being tossed over shoulders.
Jackson moved to sit in the chair next to Mark’s bed, but stayed silent.
Mark just watched him quietly, waiting patiently for Jackson to say something.
Instead of speaking though, all of a sudden Jackson broke down into tears, stifling sobs into his hands.
“Hey, hey. Jackson, its ok. Shhhh. Why all the tears?” Mark asked, feeling helpless because he couldn’t move from his bed.
“It’s not ok! It’s not! I-I almost…we almost…”
“Almost what?” Mark asked softly.
“Almost lost you Mark-hyung! I don’t know what I would do if you…if you died. I left for a little while like you asked, then when I was tired I came back to go to sleep. But you were sweating so much! I went to get another cool towel, but then you wouldn’t wake up! It almost hurt to touch you!! I freaked out, Jaebum-hyung came in to see what was going on, then we called the ambulance. You didn’t wake up for three days!!” Jackson rambled, in near hysterics.
“Hey, but I did wake up. I am going to be fine! I need you to calm down though before you make yourself sick.” Mark said.
“I don’t care about me!” Jackson yelled.
“Well I do dammit!!” Mark snapped. His eyes went wide with the confession.
They both just stared at each other in shocked silence.
Jackson slowly stood from his chair, and came closer to Mark.
Mark shifted over in the bed as best he could, and patted the space next to him. Jackson looked at it doubtfully before Mark rolled his eyes and tugged Jackson down onto the bed.
“I think I am ready to hear what you needed to tell me.” Mark said, intertwining his fingers with Jackson’s.
Jackson took a deep, steadying breath.
“Ok, so you know how I said I started to feel differently towards you?”
Mark just nodded for Jackson to go on.
“Well, I began to feel…more for you. I wanted to hold your hand all the time, even when there were no fans around to please. I wanted to spend all my time with you, and would even get jealous if one of the boys even had a moment of your attention. It was getting to be obsessive. So I asked for more solo schedules, and I asked to move in with Jaebum. I noticed how it was affecting you, and it killed me. I just figured it would be better for you to hate me, than for you to know how I truly felt for you.”
“Jackson-ah. How do you truly feel for me?” Mark asked.
“I love you. I am in love you.” Jackson said, body tense.
“Well, that’s a relief then.” Mark said, a smile on his face.
Jackson’s head spun to look at Mark.
“I just so happen to be in love with you too. We are just fools in love. Literally fools, I mean it took me getting sick for-“
Jackson interrupted Mark’s rant by planting his lips on Mark’s.
They broke away, soft smiles on their faces.
“Wow…” Jackson said.
Mark just giggled and hid his face on Jackson’s shoulder.
“I should go before they kick me out. I will be back in the morning to bring you home.” Jackson said, leaving one last small peck on Mark’s lips.
Mark went to sleep with a smile on his face for the first time in a long time.
Jackson was back the next morning, attentive as ever. Once they entered the dorm, hand-in-hand, the other boys cheered.
“Finally! If I had to listen to another rant about how perfect Mark is and how much it sucks he couldn’t be near him, I was going to kill him!” Jaebum joked.
“Hyung! I told you that in confidence!” Jackson cried, hiding his face in the crook of Mark’s neck in embarrassment.
Mark just rubbed his hand up and down Jackson’s back, the fondest of looks on his face.
“Mark-hyung?” Youngjae asked.
“I hope you don’t mind, but Coco and I moved back into the room with Jaebum-hyung. You are still her mom! I just-well we just figured that you and Jackson would want your own space back.”
“It’s ok Youngjae. No need to worry. Thank you for being such a great roommate.” Mark said.
He tried to move forward but Jackson was still latched onto him. Partially out of final being able to just hold onto him, partially out of pure exhaustion.
“He barely slept, even when he knew you would be ok.” Jinyoung explained, a fond look of exasperation on his face.
Mark just chuckled.
“Well, I have been ordered to rest for a few more days. I think he’s earned some rest too.”
“Jackson, come on. I need you to walk, or at least shuffle.” Mark said, beginning to head towards their room.
Jackson grunted half asleep, but did as Mark asked, walking towards the room but not letting go of Mark.
Once they got into their room, Mark gently pried Jackson off of him and sat him on his bed. Mark quickly took off his pants and shirt, so he could sleep in his boxers and tank top. He then moved and began to undress Jackson.
“I’m supposed to be taking care of you.” Jackson slurred, swiping Mark’s hands away and undressing himself.
“I promise to let you take care of me once you get some sleep.” Mark chuckled.
“Deal.” Jackson said, flopping back onto his bed. Mark kissed him on the forehead and made to move to his bed, but Jackson’s hand shot out and caught his wrist.
“Stay.” Jackson said.
“I’m not going anywhere, just to bed.” Mark answered.
Jackson just tugged on Mark’s arm until Mark got what he was trying to say.
Mark lifted the covers and slid into the bed behind Jackson. Jackson turned around, threw an arm and a leg over Mark, and nestled his face in the crook of his neck.
“Goodnight Jackson.” Mark murmured into the top of his head.
“Good night Markie-poo.” Jackson answered back.
Mark just snorted in amusement. Life was going to get back to being loud, obnoxious, and crazy. Mark couldn’t wait.