Business was painfully slow on that day, Mark remembered, as he sat at the counter and tapped his fingers against his chin. He should have been thankful for a slow day, considering it was summer, and plenty of people came in for last minute bouquet orders and changes all the time. But apparently nobody had that issue today, and apparently nobody wanted to come in for orders, either.
Really, Mark should have been over the moon, and yet, he couldn’t bring himself to do anything but sit on the stool and stare at the door, as if somehow willing people to come in and buy things.
It had been nearly two months since his parents had enlisted his help in running the shop on days where he didn’t have basketball games, and on the weekends when tournaments were up.
Learning how to take care of the register was easy enough (except for the time Mark miscounted a few bills and found the register was “short” a considerable amount of money, and he nearly had a panic attack before his mother came in and counted it for him), and taking people’s orders for arrangements was hardly a difficult task. Unlike his parents, Mark didn’t really care about the way the flowers looked in the end, and he didn’t have many suggestions. He mostly just nodded along with whatever the customer said, maybe made a few quiet comments here and there to change it (after all, he still had common sense, he knew what did and didn’t look good together— just again, didn’t really care).
Sighing once again, Mark opened the binder full of photographs in front of him, tracing his fingertips over the shape of the vases and the flowers in them, grand and extravagant not only in size, but in decoration, in how the shades of color seemed to pop right out of the image. Mark almost laughed at his inner thought process. For somebody that claimed not to care about flowers, he sure paid enough attention to them to come off like he did.
Mark’s short amount of attention on the binder was interrupted by the sound of the door opening, followed by a few quiet voices. Mark flickered his gaze up, closing the binder and found himself greeting a small group of three: two women, and a young, most likely disinterested boy, all of which stopped to marvel at the vases full of flowers, photographs decorating the walls in ornate, overwhelming amounts that displayed just how much talent Mark’s parents had when it came to this kind of thing.
“Hello!” Mark chirped from his spot at the counter, immediately catching their attention. The two women immediately rushed to the counter, opening the binder Mark had just looked through, and cooed and crooned over the pictures, eyes alight with excitement. He hardly cast a second glance at the young boy they had left behind at the door, knowing full well he wasn’t the priority at the moment.
“Just looking?” Mark said, the two women caught off guard for a moment before the older of the two straightened out and gestured around the store with her words.
“Actually, we’re looking for a last minute change. Unfortunately, the last florist we went to for my niece’s wedding fell through... said the flowers were out of season, even though he guaranteed they would be in season when we asked months before!” She sighed and looked around the store. “Though it seems like you don’t have them either.”
“Even if we don’t have them in the store at the moment, we can always order them and have them in the store as soon as possible.” Mark spoke from memory, words like a hymn his parents had taught him at a young age. The customer always got what they liked, even if it meant going out of their own way. He supposed that was how his family’s flower shop got its reputation of being credible and reliable.
“The wedding is in two weeks.” The woman walked away, gently urging the young boy up to the counter as he looked down at his feet, either out of embarrassment or shame over how long he had been marveling over the flowers. Maybe he really was interested in that sort of thing? Mark never really was a good judge of character, as shown by his choice in friends. “And the florist we had seen previously said the amount of stephanotis bouquets we wanted was out of their range. We had to settle for peony bouquets instead.”
The woman continued as Mark nodded along, jotting down small notes on a post-it he had grabbed a moment earlier, used to this kind of thing before she finished her story with a sigh. Mark looked up, gaze level with the young boy beside his mother, their eyes meeting. Mark, always the awkward teenager, gave a quick half-smile and looked away in a panic, speaking to the mother once more.
“From what you said, I think that my parents could help with your situation. It might cost some extra to get flowers on short notice, but they could get stephanotis bouquets for the tables, the bride, and in... chandeliers?” Mark said, the woman nodding excitedly. “My mother just went out to the store, I could have her call you once she gets back with more information, if that’s okay?”
“Of course it is!” She exclaimed, clapping her hands together with a bright grin on her face. “Are you absolutely sure they can help me?”
“Well, not absolutely,” Mark began. Noticing the way she faltered, he lifted his hands nervously. “What I mean is that I can’t take orders this big on my own, so I’m only calling it by ear right now, but my parents have done larger orders than this and on shorter notice, so....” He trailed off nervously, rubbing the back of his neck as the woman laughed again and jotted down her name and number on the back of the post-it note.
“You’ve been so much help! Thank you so much, I’m really grateful. We’re going to stop by a few more places, but I’d really appreciate hearing back from your parents as soon as possible.”
Mark nodded, waving at them as they approached the door and left without much else, the boy lingering in the doorway only a second longer as his eyes surveyed the flowers in the display of the window, before a hand reached for his wrist and jerked him away. Mark stifled a laugh and returned his attention to... being bored. Again.
It was going to be a long rest of the day.
It was nearly two weeks later that Mark came across a strange, fleetingly familiar face as he ambled along the halls with Jaemin on one side of him, Chanhee and Youngkyun on the other. Jaemin wasn’t talking about anything in particular, but Chanhee and Youngkyun were both lost in their own little world, messing around with one another, shoving each other into groups of people before blaming the other and running back and punching the other in the shoulder.
So, the same as it ever was.
Mark wasn’t particularly bothered by school, just that it was the same almost every day. He couldn’t help but feel like this year hadn’t changed from the one before, and the one before that, and even before he was in high school. It was always studying, studying, studying, practice, practice, games, tournaments, and sometimes he would hang out with Jaemin and Jaemin’s other friends (whose names he couldn’t be bothered to remember, as he was sure they didn’t enjoy hanging out with him either). Sometimes he bothered Jaehyun whenever the opportunity arose, because Jaehyun made him laugh, even if he was a jerk for the most part— him and his asinine friends.
Jaemin nudged Mark, nodding in the direction of his next class and leaving without saying much else, a smile tugging on the corners of his face as he waved and turned the corner. Chanhee and Youngkyun hardly spared Mark a second glance when Mark said he had to get something from his locker, the two goofing off and disappearing the messy crowd of people walking down the halls and crowding the empty spaces with loud chatter.
If somebody asked Mark to describe one interesting thing that happened to him in a day, he wouldn’t know how to answer. What other people considered interesting, he considered normal. What other people considered fun, he considered routine. Whatever it was that a 17-year old boy was supposed to be doing in his youth probably wasn’t what Mark was doing.
Even work wasn’t what he was supposed to be doing. What kind of a teenager worked in a flower shop, albeit a family business? He should’ve been wasting his time in some greasy fast food joint, or bussing dishes in a restaurant, not selling flowers to people for baby showers and funerals (two odd ends of the spectrum that both required flowers— weird, Mark thought), weddings and anniversaries, and maybe, objectively, Mark wasn’t happy with where his life was heading, but he was also only 17. What did he know, right?
Mark opened his locker, tugging a heavy math book out and lugging it in his arms as he pulled away and slammed the locker shut again. The obvious lack of a lock on his locker said somebody had stolen it again, but he was too tired to bring himself to care. He’d just hold out hope that nobody stole his science book, and he’d be able to replace the lock the next day.
He took a step back from his locker to walk to class, just across the hall, when he bumped into a figure. The two of them stumbled to a stop. Mark looked up from his feet, immediately meeting the gaze of familiar eyes and a soft face, though his expression was anything but kind. It was the same sheepish boy he had seen in the shop only two weeks prior! Mark parted his lips to apologize, but the other left without a word, rushing off in the direction Mark wasn’t headed in, and disappeared.
It took a moment for Mark to realize the bell had rang, and if he stared at the boy’s nonexistent presence for any longer than he already had, he would be late. Rushing into class and sitting down in his usual seat, he set down his math book and then rested his chin on the top of it as the teacher began taking roll.
He’d never noticed that kid went to his school before. Of course, it was a large school, and the year had just started, so he could’ve been new, either just transferred or a first year, though he didn’t look as young as the other first years.
Mark looked up to find his teacher standing over him, waiting for him to hand her the homework he had done the day before. With wide eyes, he immediately pulled it from his math book, handing it to her and bowing his head in apology as a few of his classmates stifled giggles behind their hands and looked away when he glanced at them.
Mark thought about that strange kid on and off for the rest of class. Not that he had done anything interesting or anything in particular that made Mark think he was strange. Just that Mark was so used to the same thing, and that kid wasn’t part of the same routine at all, but for some reason, Mark wanted him to be— or at least, he wanted him to be semi-part of the routine, if only for the sake of normality.
As fate would have it, the sake of normality didn’t matter. Taking the same route day in and day out proved to do nothing to bring that kid back, not even once.
Truthfully, he wasn’t sure what sort of thing he expected from bumping into that boy. After all, they had never met before, never even introduced themselves, and the only time Mark had seen him outside of the shop was in the hall that single time he bumped into him. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, though. He had the slightest feeling that maybe he had seen him somewhere before, somewhere often, and... well, it was bothering the shit out of him. Maybe that was a shallow reason to want to see someone again. Mark didn’t know, or care really.
In his best attempts to rid himself of plaguing thoughts, Mark did what he did best (or so he thought): studied. Work wasn’t particularly dead. They had more than enough customers frantically snatching up last minute bouquets and vases, whatever else they set their heart on, but whenever he helped customers, ringing them up and commencing the usual chit-chat one would expect from a cashier, he just kept thinking about that kid. So anything to take his mind off of him helped.
The best part of Mark’s day so far had been selling a succulent to a young girl who looked to be no taller than his knees. Her eyes were so big and so bright, he almost melted in his chair at the sight of her before giving her the succulent for a dollar cheaper than it was, as she happily slapped down crumpled up money and walked away without waiting for change. Her mother graciously thanked Mark and held her hand on the way out.
Mark itched with impatience, buzzing excitedly in his seat as he willed his mind to focus on his textbook in front of him. It was already 7:45, nearly time to close shop. He didn’t understand why his parents insisted on keeping it open so late, why they thought people needed flowers that late, or if they did need flowers that late, why they deserved to buy a nice bouquet from their shop instead of some cheap corner store from down the street, but he digressed.
The bell to the store jingled as the door swung open, Mark sighing and practically planting his face in his textbook. This was why Mark hated staying in the store so late. Putting a smile on the pink softness of his lips, Mark looked up and greeted the customer, who was busy staring at the window display, hardly gave him more than a quiet, “Hello,” before running their fingers along the edges of vases and flower petals.
“Could I help you find something, or are you just looking?” Mark said, rising from his seat and straightening his uniform out with a quiet puff of breath.
“Actually,” the customer began, pulling a small piece of paper from his pocket and turning to Mark with his gaze down, “I just need a few flowers. Is that okay?”
Mark glanced down at the paper in his hands, catching sight of smudged ink and chicken scratch something awful. A student, maybe?
“That’s completely alright. What are you...” Mark paused himself as he looked up at the customer, their eyes meeting for the first time this entire exchange, and unknowingly, his voice faltered, “...look...looking for?”
The customer furrowed his brows and looked Mark up and down quickly. “Uhm... you okay?”
“Y-yeah,” Mark said, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips as relief flooded his chest. “You came in here a few weeks ago, right?”
A moment of hesitation, a pause, before Mark spoke again.
“Oh, I mean with your mom and stuff. Wasn’t that you?”
The customer nodded slowly.
“How was the wedding?”
If looks could kill, the expression on this young boy’s face would have absolutely murdered Mark. He was squinting, gaze narrowed towards Mark in utter confusion and slight shock. His lips are parted, as if he was about to speak but couldn’t find the words, so nothing came out at first.
Mark shrugged. “Of course I did. I was worried my parents wouldn’t be able to get flowers in time, but my mom was really excited when she finally had enough for all the bouquets. The flowers were okay, right?”
He nodded, still surprised.
“Jeez, don’t look so weirded out,” Mark said.
“And you remember me?”
“Well, yeah,” Mark said, cautious. “I bumped into you at school too, but you left before I could say sorry.” Mark jutted his hand out with little flair or panache. “I’m Mark.”
The boy stared at his hand like it carried the bubonic plague itself, Mark nervously pulling his hand away when he remembered he had just met this stranger for the first time (technically, semantics), so maybe he was pushing it by acting so comfortable.
“Donghyuck,” the boy said, gesturing to himself with his free hand.
“Nice to meet you,” Mark replied, bowing slightly before he rubbed the back of his neck. He honestly hadn’t thought this through more than introducing himself and finding out the stranger’s name. Donghyuck curled his fingers around the white paper in his hands, flicking his fingernails over the edges and crinkling them with each movement. “Oh, here, I can look at that and find the flowers for you, if you want?”
Donghyuck easily handed the paper over, watched with fascination as Mark started for the opposite side of the store, where containers of single flowers sat submerged in water and food. Easily, Mark pulled out four different flowers, varying in size and shape, all of which not yet bloomed. Before walking back to the counter, Mark picked up an extra rose, pale lavender in shade, barely opening with the promise of petals and a beautiful scent.
He set them down on the counter, pulling out wrapping paper and setting each one at a slight angle before rolling the paper up.
“Do you want a bow to tie it up?” Mark said. Donghyuck almost looked scared, caught off guard by the sudden question as he nodded quickly.
“Uhm,” Donghyuck began, prompting Mark to look up at him as he rang up the individual flowers, “the wedding was... nice.”
“That’s all?” Mark said with a hum. “Just nice?”
“I mean, there’s... not much for people my age to do at weddings,” Donghyuck said, growing a bit more comfortable with Mark as he took a step towards the counter, fiddling his fingers in front of him and glancing at the flowers neatly wrapped up in the paper. “But the flowers were really ni— er,... gorgeous.”
“Thanks,” said Mark. “Well, not that I did anything, but thanks on my parent’s part, I guess.”
“Yeah,” Donghyuck quipped, eyebrows furrowed again as he pointed at the mini bouquet. “Hey, you gave me an extra flower, you know. I only have money for four.”
Mark finished ringing up the flowers, pointing at the screen with a smile. “Don’t worry, I’m only charging you for four.”
“Why are you giving me an extra one then?”
Mark paused, taking the bills Donghyuck slid across the counter and counting each one before entering the amount in the computer and watching the register pop open.
“I didn’t get to apologize for bumping into you the other day, so there’s my apology.”
Mark slid his change across the counter again, along with the bouquet of flowers, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips. Donghyuck eyed the money carefully, as if Mark had done something to it before he took it and stuffed it away in his pocket, and then curled his fingers around the base of the bouquet of flowers.
“You’re weird,” Donghyuck said, more of an accusation than it was a observation or even just a plain statement.
“I’m weird for saying I’m sorry?”
Donghyuck nodded without hesitation, picking up the flowers and holding them against his jacket. “You don’t have to say sorry like that for bumping into me.”
“Do you want me to take the flower back?” Mark said, smiled in amusement when Donghyuck protectively pulled away and held the flowers out of his reach.
“It’s fine. Just... you don’t have to do stuff like that. For future reference,” Donghyuck said. “Anyway, it was nice to meet you. Er, sorry about staying past closing time.”
Before Mark could get a word in edgewise, Donghyuck was already leaving, rushing out of the door and hardly sparing the store a second glance as he headed back home with his flowers in tow. Mark figured he had to live nearby, if his parents let him walk around this late at night without worrying, and with him being so young and all. Mark snapped his fingers when he realized he forgot to ask Donghyuck how old he was, if he was new to school or not, and what year was he, if he wasn’t new.
At ten minutes past closing, Mark locked up the store and started counting the money in the register, making sure to pull out a few bills from his own wallet to make up for the missing flower.
Donghyuck hadn’t returned to the shop since that night, and Mark still hadn’t seen him around campus. It wasn’t like he wasn’t looking for him, either! Even just waving at him would’ve been nice, to know that Donghyuck didn’t secretly loathe him for acting so forward that night, but he was never given the chance to do that.
The school was bustling with excitement, Mark noticed. Maybe it had to do with the basketball scrimmage they had later. Jaemin had already begun complaining about how the focus on sports was taking his mind off of school work, that his grades had started dropping. Mark couldn’t relate. If his parents saw his grade fall too much, they’d easily put a stop to all of his games, which he couldn’t run the risk of losing.
Chanhee and Youngkyun joined Mark and Jaemin, attached at the hip and playfully bickering back and forth about which one of them warmed the bench more than the other.
(It was Youngkyun, he always sat on the bench for most of games.)
“Anyway,” Jaemin said, walking through a group of girls in his way and hardly minding their astounded scoffs of shock, “I gotta get my grade up for math, or coach is gonna have my ass, I swear.”
“I bet if you stopped playing video games after practice and did your homework instead, your grade would be fine,” Mark commented, Jaemin mimicking him in a high tone as Mark pinched his side with a laugh.
“You sound like my mom.”
“I sound like a worried teammate that doesn’t want to lose our point guard,” Mark said, Jaemin rolling his eyes playfully. Mark turned to Chanhee and Youngkyun, ready to make some quick comment about how the two of them should take playing more seriously when he caught sight of a figure with messy brown hair stepping out from a science classroom, holding a piece of paper in front of him as he grimaced and folded it up, stuffing it in his pocket.
Their eyes met again, Donghyuck immediately straightening up as Mark frantically lifted his hand from his side and waved.
“Hey!” He said, Donghyuck staring at Mark with squinted eyes and a frown tugging at the corners of his lips. Chanhee and Youngkyun glanced over to their right, caught Donghyuck off guard as he ducked his head and walked away without waving back at Mark. “Weird.”
“You know that kid?” Jaemin said. Mark nodded.
“Well... sort of?” Mark corrected. “He came into the store to buy some flowers.”
“He’s in my math class,” Chanhee said. “He’s kinda weird. He doesn’t talk a lot, and honestly, he’s always missing class for something. I heard he hangs out with older kids and smokes behind the school.”
“I seriously doubt that.”
“But he is always missing in class. And whenever he walks in late, he just gives the teacher a piece of paper, and she just accepts that! I bet it’s money, or a check or something. Maybe he’s in a gang.”
Mark scrunched his nose up, looking at Chanhee and pushing him into Youngkyun. “Do you believe everything you hear?”
“I dunno!” Chanhee said defensively, Youngkyun messing with his hair and protectively putting his arm around his shoulder.
“Chanhee is just saying stuff, don’t pay him much mind.”
“Don’t brush me off like that!” Chanhee protested, but Mark and Jaemin had already moved on, ignoring the youngest of the bunch.
“Why’d you wave at him though?” Jaemin said, Mark shrugging and looking down at his feet. “It’s not like every person from school that goes into the shop wants to be your friend.”
“I know that,” Mark grumbled. “Just... I feel like I’ve seen him before, y’know?”
“What, around school?”
“No, not that. Like I’ve seen his face before, or something.” Mark hummed, looking over his shoulder, though Donghyuck was nowhere to be found. “He called me weird when he came in the store.”
“You are weird,” Jaemin said, Mark shoving him away with a snort of laughter. “Hey, do you happen to know anybody I can copy last night’s homework from? I was playing Inside all night, I didn’t get a chance to— ouch! Stop pinching me!”
The opportunity to bother Donghyuck again presented itself when Donghyuck came into the store a mere three days later, peering his head in through the door and almost deflating at the sight of Mark arranging a vase of flowers for a young woman. Mark had to pretend he wasn’t suddenly rushing to finish her order and ring her up, even as he was pressing the buttons so fast, he screwed up her order twice.
As the woman walked out with her bouquet in hand and a vase in the other, Donghyuck turned to Mark and squinted at him.
“Doesn’t anybody else work here?”
“I’m only here when I don’t have games or practice.”
“Basketball practice?” Donghyuck said passively. Mark narrowed his eyes at him, gave him a short smile before quirking his brow. “Everybody knows you’re on the basketball team at school. Don’t flatter yourself.”
“It’s not that interesting. Why does everybody know?”
“You’re the only player all the girls have talked about since Jaehyun graduated.”
“How do you know Jaehyun?” Mark said quickly. Donghyuck furrowed his brows and pulled a paper from his pocket.
“Could you at least get me some flowers before you interrogate me?” Donghyuck said, Mark’s cheeks flushing in embarrassment as he grinned and nodded.
Mark took the small piece of paper from Donghyuck’s fingers, brushing the corners down and staring at the same messy, sloppy writing he had used the first time. Donghyuck followed Mark over to the bins of single flowers, studiously watching as Mark grabbed two flowers, then paused and pointed at the third on the list.
“I can’t get you this one, they’re not in season right now. I could try next month, or I could see if my mom could try getting you one?”
Donghyuck lifted his hands in front of him, shaking his head. “That’s okay. Whatever you can get me is fine.”
There was a moment of silence, a split second where Donghyuck debated between speaking or letting it sit before he parted his lips and spoke anyways.
“Why’d you wave at me?”
Mark looked at Donghyuck over his shoulder, brows knitted together with confusion.
“I meant that time you were walking with your friends. You were in the hall with Jaemin and them.”
“Oh!” Mark said, holding the flowers close to his chest and walking back to the counter. “I don’t know. I just saw you and I thought... well, I don’t know,” Mark admitted with a shy smile. “Was that weird?”
“It was... a little bit,” Donghyuck said, but then shook his head and looked down at his feet. “It threw me off.”
“Why?” Mark pressed.
Donghyuck narrowed his gaze towards Mark. “What do you mean, why?” He hardly gave a spare moment for Mark to answer, gesturing towards Mark as if the answer was obvious. “You’re... you.”
“Uhm?” Mark said, taking a paper out of the drawer beside him and placing each of the three flowers down on it. Looking down at the mini bouquet of flowers was a little sad. “Are you sure you don’t want another flower?”
“Three is fine.” Donghyuck patted his pockets for his wallet, pulling out a few bills from the pocket as Mark rang up his order.
Mark rolled the flowers individually, making sure the paper wasn’t too tight to crush the petals and still let them breathe. Even as Mark took Donghyuck’s money and made the change from the register, Donghyuck made no moves to take his bouquet, instead stuffing his money back in his wallet before giving Mark another look up and down.
“Do you like working with flowers?” Donghyuck said. Mark shrugged, one hand playing with his ear as he pursed his lips in thought.
“I guess. I mean, you know my parents are the owners, so it’s more of a family business thing.” Mark leaned a bit closer to the counter. “Do you have a job?”
“My parents would never let me,” Donghyuck said softly. “I have a hard enough time keeping up my grades as it is. If I had a job, they’d disown me. Probably.”
“Probably,” Mark echoed with a laugh, Donghyuck turning red in the apples of his cheeks.
“I should get home. I have a test tomorrow.”
“They’re all big ones,” Donghyuck said, Mark giggling at him again.
“Right, right. Well, uhm, good luck?”
“Thanks,” Donghyuck said, squinting slightly at Mark, the faintest of smiles tugging at his lips, “Mark.”
“You remembered!” Mark beamed.
“Actually, it’s on your name tag.”
“Oh,” Mark said dumbly, feeling his face heat up. Donghyuck let out a quiet laugh, the most Mark had heard from him (so far). “Wait, before you go—”
Mark ran to another display on the side of the store, full of longer stemmed, flowers. Beside the hydrangeas were bunches of sunflowers, Mark tugging out two of the smallest ones he could find and returning to Donghyuck.
“I don’t know a lot about flowers, but I know what these ones mean,” Mark said with a quiet puff. “They mean good luck!”
Donghyuck flushed in embarrassment, nodding and taking the two flowers as he moved to tug what money he had left from his pocket. Mark held his hand up to stop him.
“Is this a habit of yours?” Donghyuck said. “Giving strangers flowers for free?”
“You don’t count as a stranger anymore,” Mark replied, “but there’s a catch.”
“Next time I wave, you have to wave back,” Mark said. Donghyuck snorted.
“Sure,” he said easily, wrapping the flowers in the paper and holding them close to his chest, still in his school uniform, Mark noticed. “Next time.”
Mark half expected not to see Donghyuck again for another two weeks. After all, that had been the routine so far, to see each other every now and again whenever Donghyuck decided to grace Mark with his presence.
Instead, Donghyuck returned the following day, stapled papers in hand and a wide grin on his face.
“I aced my exam!”
Donghyuck closed the door behind him, a stupid goofy smile tugging at the corners of his lips as he set his paper down on the counter and turned it for Mark to look at the “A” scribbled in red pen in the corner of the page.
“Nice job, man!” Mark said, lifting his hand from his side and giving Donghyuck a high five. “Did you come here just to show me that?”
“Huh?” Donghyuck said, and then quickly shook his head. “Oh, no, I didn’t come here for that. I mean, kind of. My mom gave me extra money for acing my test, so I’m back to buy more flowers.”
“Jeez, already?” Mark said, watching as Donghyuck pulled out yet another sheet of paper with only three flower names scribbled on it.
Mark didn’t rush off to grab the flowers this time, but instead walked with Donghyuck to the bins of flowers, freshly stocked and cut, their scents strong and almost overbearing as he pulled out the best of each and handed them to Donghyuck to hold. Mark then pulled out a yellow rose with red tips, per Donghyuck’s request. Before Donghyuck had a chance to object, Mark also pulled out a forget-me-not and carried it back with the rose, while Donghyuck carried two of the other flowers and set them down on the counter.
“Another extra,” Donghyuck observed. Mark shrugged, and that was all Donghyuck had to say about it.
For the first time since Mark had met (correction: seen) Donghyuck, he finally had a chance to really get a good look at him. His hair was dark brown with strands and hues of caramel colored shades flecked across, maybe previously bleached or dyed. The ends of his hair were split and damaged (though Mark didn’t have much room to talk, he couldn’t remember the last time he had done anything besides shampoo his hair, and sometimes even then he couldn’t be bothered). Dark brown eyes stared back at Mark as Donghyuck parted his slightly-fuller-than-Mark’s lips and said something that only half-registered to Mark as words.
“You okay?” Donghyuck repeated. Mark nodded, unsure as to why it was he was so intent on taking in all of Donghyuck’s soft features, but he was. His button nose scrunched up slightly as he lifted his hand to his face and wiped away whatever it was he thought Mark was staring at.
“Sorry,” Mark apologized, less than sincere and more than disappointed that he had to return his attention to the previous task at hand, which most definitely was not staring at Donghyuck.
“Do you have a girlfriend?” Mark blurted out without tact or a previous thought to cushion the blunt question. Smooth, Mark, real smooth.
“It’s just— just because of the flowers and stuff. I figured you had a girlfriend,” Mark corrected himself quickly. “I thought you were buying them and giving them to a girl. Sorry if that’s weird.”
“I don’t... have a girlfriend, I mean.” Donghyuck nipped the question in the bud, but didn’t appear interested in answering any further, and Mark wasn’t ready to push Donghyuck on it, so he nodded and grabbed a small tool from the drawer beside him to de-thorn the rose’s stem. “Is that the only reason you were giving me extra flowers? Because you thought I was giving them to a girl?”
“No!” Mark exclaimed, nearly cutting his finger on the rose’s thorns. “No, that wasn’t it at all. It’s just... well, you came in and got four flowers yesterday. And you’re getting some more today. What are you doing with them all?”
“Maybe I just like buying flowers,” Donghyuck said, defensive. “What does it matter to you anyway? Just give me my flowers.” Donghyuck reached his hand out, Mark quickly dethorning the rose and then pulling out a paper as he had all the times before.
“You haven’t paid yet, slow your roll,” he said, Donghyuck flushing furiously bright as he pulled his money from his pocket and set it down in a crumpled mess on the counter. “Wow.”
“Be quiet.” Donghyuck pouted. “I was in a rush to get here. The store closes soon anyway, I wanted to get some flowers before you closed.”
“The fact that you actually remember what time the store closes says something about the amount of time you spend here.” Mark took the bills and made change, handing it back to Donghyuck and placing it in his warm palm. “ I don’t even know what time we close, and I work here.”
“That’s just sad,” Donghyuck replied, stuffing his money away before picking up the flowers and holding them close to his chest, as he always did before leaving. Mark parted his lips to say something, anything that might possibly interest Donghyuck in staying for just a moment longer, to talk to him or... something.
“Well, I would’ve stayed open if you had... like, texted or something.”
Donghyuck stifled a laugh. “I don’t have your number, but that’s... nice? Maybe next time I’ll call the store.” Donghyuck nodded at the door. “I gotta go. Have a good night, thank you for the flowers. And the extra.”
Mark nodded dumbly, and as he had done three times before already, watched Donghyuck leave and disappear from his line of vision. The door jingled with the notification that somebody had left, Mark leaned over and rested his face in his hands, groaning loudly.
“Oh my god, what was that?”
“That,” a loud voice said from in front of Mark, catching him off guard as he squeaked and jumped away from the counter, “was pathetic.”
Taking a moment to gather himself, even though he already recognized the voice by ear (and years of torment), Mark still looked up, still met Jaehyun’s gaze and the sly grin tugging at the pink corners of his lips as he frowned and stood up straight again.
“Shut up, man.” Mark pointed a finger at Jaehyun as he laughed. “Why are you even back here anyway?”
“I’m kicked out again.” Jaehyun gestured to the bag on his back. “For not wanting to go to one of her stupid friend’s parties.”
“Are you serious?”
“As a heart attack.” Jaehyun shrugged. “I’m sick of being paraded around like that, you know. It’s bullshit, that she thinks I want to be showcased and shit when I just want to graduate and move out and move on with my life.”
“How long are you kicked out for?”
“Three weeks, a month if I don’t see her and beg forgiveness.” Jaehyun hummed. “Mom and dad home?”
“They went out with friends for a couple days,” Mark said. “Business is kinda slow right now, so they can afford it.”
“Do you mind, then?”
“You know,” Jaehyun said, nodding upstairs, in the direction of the apartment. Mark thought for a moment he was referring to Mark unlocking the apartment, which wouldn’t have made sense because Mark’s parents had given Jaehyun a key to their place years ago. It wasn’t until Mark noticed the devious glint in Jaehyun’s eyes, how he held his phone tightly in his hand, how absolutely giddy he appeared that Mark let out a shout of astonishment and shook his head.
“No way, absolutely not, not after last time!”
“I swear it won’t be like last time,” Jaehyun whined defensively, holding his hands in front of him with a plea on his lips.
“No way. I’ll call mom and tell her you invited them over again.”
“To be fair, the only person that freaked out last time was you.”
Mark huffed, annoyed, and visibly so. “Yeah, w-well, it’s my house while they’re gone. My house, my rules.”
“But,” Jaehyun held up his index finger, “I’m the older brother.”
“You’re not my older brother.”
Jaehyun pulled his keys from his pocket, jingling the house key and approaching the locked door that led upstairs to their house.
“Well... I was really hoping you’d say yeah without fighting me on it.”
“Too bad,” Mark said, crossing his arms over his chest and glancing at the clock. He still had a half hour until closing.
“Actually, too bad for you,” Jaehyun called, peering his eyes over the edge of the doorframe at Mark. “I already invited them over.”
Mark grabbed whatever object was nearest, which happened to be the de-thorner, and threw it in Jaehyun’s direction, watched as it hit the door and rolled away while Jaehyun’s quick footsteps echoed through the store, and finally he opened the door at the top of the stairs and let himself into the apartment.
Grabbing his cell phone from his pocket, Mark scrolled through his contacts until he found his mom’s number, tapping on her contact and staring at the “call” button as if it were a life or death situation. As he listened to Jaehyun rummage around upstairs, most likely making his bed in his separate bedroom (previously Mark’s father’s office), Mark told himself telling his parents at the very least that Jaehyun was back at home, and had invited his pea brained, borderline idiotic friends over, would’ve been the courteous thing to do.
But— well, Mark knew that his parents wouldn’t have minded anything Jaehyun did. Jaehyun could have lit the entire store on fire and pissed on the ashes and they would’ve shaken his hand and kissed his forehead before getting him a hotel room while Mark had to clean up the mess. It wasn’t a tale of Cinderella and the two-step sisters (Jaehyun had enough attitude to make up for the other missing step-sister), but it was close. Mark’s parents loved him too! Just... a little less. Maybe that was the wrong way to put it, but that’s what it felt like.
Sighing, Mark resigned himself to sending his mother a text instead, quickly typing out that Jaehyun had been kicked out again, and that he was safe in their apartment again. His mother replied with an exclamation point, a smiling face, and a red heart, three separate messages, before disappearing again. Mark sent back a blue heart and locked his phone, sliding it back in his pocket and tapping his fingers against the countertop again.
Already, Mark could hear Jaehyun playing music from the speakers in his bedroom, echoing downstairs with little worry for any possible customers (it didn’t matter that there weren’t any in the store, that wasn’t the point!) or for Mark’s loathing of his taste in music. Soon enough his music would be joined with loud shouts and guffaws from his annoyingly obnoxious friends and sounds of beer cans being slammed down while Mark stayed holed up in his room, trying to sleep or focus on homework.
How sad was it, Mark thought, that Jaehyun could come over and displace him in his own home like this? He didn’t even have a friend to turn to for help, the way Jaehyun could with practically everybody he knew.
(Maybe Mark was more than a little envious.)
“I should’ve asked for his number,” Mark said fleetingly to nobody other than himself. He should’ve asked for Donghyuck’s number, because he was bored and needed somebody to talk to. Donghyuck would talk to him, he bet.
He’d just have to ask next time.
Mark was almost certain at this point that any time he had any sort of thought about Donghyuck, be it about wanting his number to text him, or just wanting to see him in the store, Donghyuck somehow knew and made it his personal mission to avoid Mark at all costs.
Of course, that was impossible, and it wasn’t like Donghyuck could have heard that from any of Mark’s friends. Mark never told them about his sudden, blossoming interest in Donghyuck as a friend. Honestly Mark was almost sure Chanhee and Youngkyun wouldn’t care, unless Chanhee was going off about how he suspected Donghyuck was part of a gang again, and— well, Youngkyun had better things to worry about than some kid Chanhee was suspicious of.
Jaemin, however, was more observant than the other two, noticed how Mark looked around the halls each time they walked together in a desperate attempt to find a particularly familiar, awkward student with bright, big eyes staring back at him.
Everyday chatter echoed through the lunch hall, boys punching each other with loud guffaws while the girls threatened to throw food at one another as they burst into fits of laughter. Mark always sat with Jaemin, and by association, some of Jaemin’s other friends, whose names he still hadn’t caught and was still too lazy to really care about.
As they walked side by side to their normal table, Jaemin nudged Mark’s shoulder and nodded in a far off direction, Mark darting his gaze to where Jaemin’s own led, before finding that particularly familiar, awkward student with tired, dark eyes staring at a textbook in front of him.
“You’ve been looking for that kid, right?” Jaemin said, Mark nodding almost immediately, without hesitation or embarrassment at the fact that Jaemin had caught him. “Go sit with him. He looks kinda lonely.”
“You have to come with me,” Mark said. Jaemin shrugged and nodded, walking with Mark to Donghyuck’s table. Mark set his tray down, sitting in front of Donghyuck as he looked up from his textbook and his eyes went wide. Jaemin waved at Donghyuck, giving him one of the quickest smiles Donghyuck had ever seen before speaking up.
“Well, I came with you, and now I’m leaving without you.” Jaemin patted Mark’s shoulder. “Have fun.”
Mark’s words became a jumbled mess in his mouth, stutters escaping him as Jaemin left and headed to their normal table, sans Mark, and sat down.
There was a moment of silence, followed by Donghyuck clearing his throat as Mark jumped and turned his attention back to Donghyuck sitting across from him.
“Hi,” Mark said curtly, words coming out as more of a squeak of a mouse than the voice of a seventeen year old boy. “Hey— er, hi. Hello.”
“What are you doing?” Donghyuck ignored his nervous tone of voice and pointed at his tray of food. Mark glanced down at the table, as if he had forgotten the reason himself, before letting out a brittle laugh.
“Uhm... eating lunch?” Mark scratched his cheek with his index finger. “I think that’s what I planned on doing.”
“Okay, but you’re at the wrong table.” Donghyuck pointed towards Jaemin and the others. “That’s where you sit.”
Mark grabbed his sandwich from his tray, pushing it to the side and removing the plastic wrap from around his sandwich.
Mark leaned in and spoke lower, as if telling Donghyuck a secret he didn’t know. “I don’t think there’s assigned seats at lunch.”
Donghyuck squinted his eyes at Mark, glancing back at Jaemin and the other table before pointing his bright red pen at Mark.
“Is this a prank?”
Mark looked offended, putting his hand on his chest as Donghyuck pointed his pen at him again.
“I’m serious. If this is a prank, it’s not funny.”
“It’s not a prank!” Mark said, defensive as he finished unwrapping his sandwich and took a bite. “Did you already eat?”
Donghyuck furrowed his brows, shaking his head as if ridding himself of thoughts before he let out a noise of denial.
“I have to study for class first. I’ll eat when I get home or something.”
Mark set his sandwich down on the plastic wrap, tearing off a little less than half of it. After all, he still had basketball practice after school. He needed to eat a little more, or he’d be starving by the end of the school day.
When Mark reached his hand out towards Donghyuck and nodded towards the sandwich, Donghyuck looked at him as if he had grown two heads and was speaking some alien language.
“You should eat something. Here, just take it,” Mark insisted, Donghyuck reaching his hand out and taking the half-sandwich from him with a meek gleam clouding his eyes. “What class are you studying for?”
“Health,” Donghyuck said, taking a bite of the sandwich and chewing noisily. “This is the only part of phys-ed that I’m actually good at.”
“The test part of it?”
“The written test part of it,” Donghyuck said, sheepish. Mark pulled a bottle of water from his backpack, sliding it across the table and holding his hand up when Donghyuck was about to protest. “I’m... not very good at sports.”
“I never would’ve guessed,” Mark said. Donghyuck let out a scoff of awe and nudged him under the table with the tip of his shoe.
“Not all of us can be the star player on the basketball team, you know. Some of us have careers to think about.”
“Are you saying going into sports isn’t a career?” Mark quirked a brow.
“All I’m saying is it’s gotta be a lot of hard work to toss the ball from one person to the other and into a hoop to get some points,” Donghyuck said. His tone of voice was dripping with sarcasm and teasing. It was Mark’s turn to nudge Donghyuck under the table, kicking his shin and apologizing when Donghyuck hissed and held his leg.
“Don’t you think it’s a little early for you to drag my career choices like this?”
Donghyuck shrugged. “You mean too early in the day, or in our friendship?”
“We’re friends?” Mark pointed out. Donghyuck’s jaw went slack, mouth forming a small “o” as Mark giggled and glanced down at his food. Donghyuck silently mumbled, “shut up,” before taking another bite of his sandwich. “So, are you just gonna study during lunch?”
“That was my plan before you sat down.”
“Study, then,” Mark said, stuffing his mouth with a few more bites of food. “I won’t interrupt.”
The two returned their attention to their previous tasks at hand: Donghyuck on studying, getting the most out of his free time in prep for his test, and Mark... staring at Donghyuck. That was a little pathetic, Mark thought. In the back of his mind, he could hear Jaehyun’s obnoxious voice reminding him of just how lame he was.
There was something quiet in the way Donghyuck moved to flip the page of his textbook, eyes scanning over the lines of text quickly, over and over, as if the action alone would somehow commit the material to memory easier. Mark reached forward to grab the water bottle and take a sip. Donghyuck hadn’t touched it yet, though when Mark set his hand over the bottle, he found Donghyuck’s warm fingers there first, the two flinching back as Mark let out a nervous laugh that came out as a heavy breath more than anything else.
“S-sorry, man,” Mark said. Donghyuck’s eyes flickered between Mark and the water bottle, pulling his hand back to his side and almost shrinking away as he slid his textbook closer to his chest.
“It’s fine,” Donghyuck said, tone short and quiet.
The shift in his attitude was almost immediate, almost alarmed Mark at how quickly he changed from being slightly open towards him to almost completely shut off. Donghyuck flipped another page of his textbook, and Mark realized that the “something” that was there earlier, the “something quiet” that seemed to linger in every movement Donghyuck made— it was more apparent now.
“How old are you?”
Donghyuck hardly glanced up at Mark from his textbook.
“I was born in 2000,” Donghyuck said.
“Okay, okay.” Mark nodded. “I was born in ‘99.”
Mark swallowed down his food and rushed to take a drink of water.
“What class do you have after this?” Mark said. Donghyuck sighed and looked up from his book.
“Health? Phys-ed?” Donghyuck said, gesturing with his hands and speaking with an “isn’t-it-obvious” tone of voice.
“I have chemistry,” Mark continued. “It blows. I hate chemistry.”
“You and me both,” Donghyuck said.
“You don’t like science classes either?”
Donghyuck pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefingers, closing the textbook and leaning his elbows on it. Mark smiled, not put off by the disdainful action and Donghyuck’s clear impatience with him. It was endearing, in a weird, cute kind of way.
“No, I don’t,” Donghyuck said.
“What classes do you like?”
“Why,” Donghyuck began sharply, “do you care?”
“I dunno,” Mark said easily. “I like talking to you, I guess.”
Donghyuck almost asked why again, but caught himself, frowning and stuffing his textbook away in his backpack. Mark’s expression faltered, a grimace nearly catching on the corners of his lips before he realized Donghyuck was putting his things away to talk to him, to focus his attention on him, even though Mark was annoying and testing his patience and definitely treading on territory he had never done with anybody before.
“I like my literature class,” Donghyuck said, leaning his chin in the palm of his hand. “I like the books we read in there a lot.”
“That’s cool, that’s cool. I like phys-ed a lot.”
“Color me surprised.”
“You take music comp?” Donghyuck said, suddenly intrigued. Mark nodded quickly.
“Yeah! I had to fight to get my spot, but it’s probably my favorite class besides phys-ed.”
“That’s,” Donghyuck searched for the word, pursing his lips before settling on, “cool.”
The warmth that spread in Mark’s chest made him smile involuntarily, grin so wide on his face that it made the corners of his eyes scrunch up as he thanked Donghyuck quietly and tried to think of what else to ask Donghyuck about. Before he could admit that he wasn’t sure what to bring up, Donghyuck asked about basketball, how practice and games went for Mark.
And— well, of course Mark was going to answer enthusiastically about something he loved doing! He talked for most of lunch while Donghyuck nodded along and listened, sometimes making comments or asking questions (“And Jaemin is our point guard, he’s the best on the whole team!” “What the hell is a point guard? Is that like defense?” “Er....”). Mostly, it was Donghyuck making snarky or teasing comments to a few of the things Mark said, but never anything too mean (plus, Mark heard worse from Jaehyun and Co. all the time, he was used to it).
The bell rang, the loud chatter of the lunchroom echoing through the halls as Mark picked up his backpack. The health and P.E. classroom was on the other side of campus, far from Mark’s chemistry classroom, so he had to say goodbye to Donghyuck and wish him good luck for the written part of his exam. Donghyuck just nodded and took his leave. With Donghyuck gone, Jaemin joined Mark at his side again.
“So?” Jaemin said. Mark looked at him curiously. “You finally got to talk to him. How was it?”
“It was....” Mark trailed off, furrowing his brows and searching for the words. Cute? Not very thrilling? Interesting, still, but there wasn’t much to say about the conversation alone. Mark didn’t want to talk to Donghyuck for the conversation anyways. Just being around him made him feel different. He couldn’t explain it in words, so Mark shrugged.
“That’s it?” Jaemin said. “That’s all you have to say?”
“I don’t know, man.”
“You’re so boring,” said Jaemin.
Mark snapped his fingers as they walked out of the lunchroom, ready to go their separate ways, as Mark had chemistry and Jaemin had theatre after.
“I forgot to ask for his number.”
“Wow, slow down there,” Jaemin said with a laugh. “You just started talking to the kid, don’t freak him out.”
“He already thinks I’m weird,” Mark defended himself weakly.
“Exactly,” Jaemin said, stopping in the hall as he nodded to the left. “Gotta go, we have monologue reading today.”
“Fun and exciting.”
“Fuck off.” Jaemin laughed. “Try not to creep out your new friend before the end of the day, yeah?”
After practice, Mark had to walk home. His parents were out of town again, this time picking up flower seeds and visiting family while Mark and Jaehyun stayed home.
Mark walked into the shop, the door wide open since the weather was nicer than normal. Seulgi looked up from her magazine in front of her, blowing a bubble with her gum and smiling at Mark after it popped.
“Hey, kid,” she beamed. “How’s it going?”
“Good,” Mark said. A loud crash resounded from upstairs, followed by raucous, obnoxious laughter that sounded like Ten’s and Johnny’s. “Never mind.”
“They’ve been like that all day.”
“Did Jaehyun not go to class?” Mark said. Seulgi shrugged.
“He had class today?”
“Oh my god,” Mark said. “Could you stay for twenty minutes? I have to yell at him.”
“Do you.” Seulgi waved him off with a smile on her face as Mark stomped upstairs, opening the front door (it wasn’t even locked!), and found Johnny on the floor of the living room, Jaehyun and Ten sitting on his back as Jaehyun shoved Ten’s controller and tried to mess up whatever stupid game they were playing together. Mark huffed, throwing his heavy backpack down just beside Johnny’s head as the older screamed and tried to roll away, though Jaehyun and Ten had him pinned to the floor with their combined weight.
“You had class today.”
“Keyword: had,” Jaehyun said. Johnny looked up at Mark and waved at him. Mark resisted the urge to roll his eyes and waved back.
“Seulgi said you didn’t go to class all day. You’re supposed to go to school as long as you stay in this house,” Mark continued. “That’s mom and dad’s rule. You know that’s their rule.”
“Are you their little pet or what?” Jaehyun said. Ten laughed, throwing Mark a glance over his shoulder as Mark’s cheeks flushed red.
“I’m serious, hyung,” Mark said, taking a step in front of the TV with his arms crossed in front of him.
Jaehyun sighed, pressed pause on the game and set the remote down in front of him.
“Fine,” he said. “Fun’s over, guys.”
“Are we still hanging out on Sunday?” Ten said. Jaehyun nodded.
“Yeah, we can go hang out somewhere else.”
Johnny and Ten picked up their things and left without saying much else to Mark than apologizing.
“Jaehyun, you know when you’re over here, you have to listen to our rules.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he huffed. “I got it, you kicked my friends out. Can I go to my room now, or is that against the rules?”
Mark bit his tongue, turned on his heel and stomped back downstairs, his footsteps echoing through the store before he finally reached the bottom of the steps and found Seulgi speaking to a customer.
“You’re looking for somebody?” Seulgi said.
The customer sheepishly nodded. “Uhm, he’s usually here around this time.”
“Donghyuck-ah!” Mark said, making Donghyuck jump at the sound of his voice. Mark closed the door behind him, making sure to lock it as Seulgi smiled.
“Take care of everything?”
“Not even close,” Mark said, “but his friends left, so he’s up there alone.”
“You sure about that?” Seulgi said, pointing outside of the store where Jaehyun stood, a jacket on over his shoulders. He glanced towards the window, waved at Mark with a smug grin on his stupid face, and walked away. Mark huffed.
“I don’t know what his problem is, but I’m sick of him already,” Mark said. Seulgi hummed softly.
“Your parents spoil him whenever he’s back.” Seulgi tapped on the computer screen, clocking out and clocking Mark in a moment later. “Maybe he’s just used to being spoiled.”
“Well, he can go be spoiled at his own fucking house,” he said before covering his mouth with his hand. Seulgi lightly smacked the side of his cheek.
“Watch your mouth, kid.”
“I’m almost eighteen.”
“Almost only counts in horseshoes.” Seulgi waved at Donghyuck. “It was nice to meet you, I hope you find what you’re looking for.”
“Thank you,” Donghyuck said, bowing his head as Seulgi grabbed her purse from the back of the counter and slipped on a brown cardigan before heading out. Mark easily took her place, Donghyuck letting out a quiet breath he didn’t realize he had been holding in.
“She’s pretty, right?” Mark said. Donghyuck tensed. “Seulgi. Her parents are a friend of my parents, so they gave her the job to help pay for school.”
“Yeah,” Donghyuck said softly, “she is pretty.”
“Anyway, did you come for more flowers? We’re supposed to get more tomorrow when my parents come back, so you should come back and get fresh ones then. They’ll barely be budding, so they’ll last a long time.”
“That’s not what I came for.” Donghyuck waved his hand, grabbing his backpack and pulling out a wrapped sandwich from a plastic bag hastily shoved inside. Mark stared at it for a second, eyebrows furrowed before he looked to Donghyuck for an explanation. “For sharing with me earlier.”
“Okay... but why? I have food upstairs, you know.”
“I don’t like owing people things,” Donghyuck said. “I’m planning on paying you back for the flowers too. I just haven’t had the money to yet.”
“What are you talking about?” Mark said with an incredulous laugh. “I gave the sandwich to you because you were hungry, and the flowers because I wanted to.” And besides that, Mark had paid for the missing flowers. Any extra money at this point would be a pain to explain to his parents. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Would you at least take the sandwich?” Donghyuck said, his voice uncharacteristically quiet. “I already paid for it anyway.”
Mark nodded and took the sandwich. “I’m actually starving. I haven’t eaten yet.”
“Did you have practice today?” Donghyuck said. Mark nodded and opened the wrapping around the sandwich. “You haven’t eaten since lunch?”
“Not a thing,” Mark said, taking an unceremonious bite of the sandwich. “It’s good, thank you!”
Donghyuck closed his bag, pulling it back over his shoulders before twiddling his fingers and jutting his thumb towards the door.
“I should get going,” he said. “That’s all I wanted to give you.”
“Wait!” Mark said through a stuffed mouth, nearly choking on a large bite of bread and cheese. Donghyuck stifled a laugh behind the back of his hand, Mark red faced and embarrassed, but still resolved to speak. “I know a way you can pay me back for the flowers.”
“Yeah, with money,” Donghyuck said. Mark shook his head.
“No, with your number.”
Donghyuck’s eyes widened, jaw going slack as the apples of his cheeks flushed bright red. Mark had never seen him blush so brightly, he thought, before he realized just what he had said, and the implication it carried with it.
“I just meant— what I meant to say is— it’s not like that, I swear!” Mark choked out. “I’ve just been thinking about, like, texting you and stuff, and you said that one time that you’d call before coming to get flowers, but you don’t have my number, and I—”
“Here,” Donghyuck said, pulling his phone from his pocket. “Just add me on Kakao.”
“Do you not trust me with your number or something?” Mark said. Donghyuck snorted.
Mark handed Donghyuck his phone, the two sharing information before Donghyuck sent Mark an introductory message. His phone buzzed with a notification sound accompanied by it, a smile growing on his face.
“How much longer do you have to stay open?”
“Uh, two more hours.” Mark glanced at the clock, and then at the time sheet stuck to the corner of the computer screen beside him. “What are you doing after this?”
“Stuff,” Donghyuck answered easily.
“You’re quite the conversationalist,” Mark said. “I can’t wait to keep this going on Kakao.”
“Wow, and here I thought you were just going to keep taking all my insults.”
“I was just being nice for formality’s sake.” Mark giggled as Donghyuck laughed at his fake tough tone of voice. “Now that we’re friends, I get to be as mean as you as I want.”
“I will actually block you if you’re mean to me,” Donghyuck said. His phone vibrated suddenly, interrupting the conversation as he held it up. “Oh, I gotta go, my mom is calling. Have a good night.”
Donghyuck ran out of the store, leaving Mark at the counter as he tapped his fingers against the glass countertop. There was a list of things to do off to the side, including making up bouquets for orders that were due tomorrow. He stared at the list, contemplating actually working on it or....
Mark grabbed his phone from in front of him, quickly typing out a message and waiting for the small (1) beside the message to disappear. It did a few minutes later.
Oh by the way tomorrow my parents should have some of the out of season flowers you wanted
So you should come in and get some (5:56 pm)
It took another minute for a response to pop up on the screen, but Mark smiled nevertheless.
do u only like me for my money? (5:58 pm)
It’s not like you’re rich or anything also nice screen name (5:58 pm)
i already changed urs to flower boy with a bunch of sparkles around it so
nice name twinkle toes (5:59 pm)
How am i the flower boy?! If anything you’re the flower boy here! (6:01 pm)
well we both can’t have the same name can we (6:01 pm)
Let’s play a match for the name, i’ll play fair. (6:02 pm)
“i’ll play fair” says the star of the basketball team ready to crush me for a sparkly name (6:03 pm)
and leave me alone im supposed to pay attention when im walking (6:04 pm)
Mark smiled and stuffed his phone away in his pocket, ready to start on a few of the orders his parents left behind. He grimaced at Jaehyun when he came back a little before closing, and pretended not to notice the way a smile grew on his face when his phone went off with Kakao notifications a little later on.
The following day, Donghyuck wasn’t at lunch, sitting at his usual table. Jaemin joked that Mark had scared him off already, but after a few minutes of Mark stewing in his own fear that he did somehow manage to scare Donghyuck off, his phone went off with a notification.
had to stay in and work on a project for photography today sorry (11:32 am)
It’s cool it’s cool, i didn’t even notice! (11:32 am)
didn’t even notice but your response was super quick
also good luck in your scrimmage today (11:35 am)
Ok maybe i noticed a little (11:35 am)
And thank you !! (11:36 am)
Is the photo classroom the one by professor Soo’s room? (11:38 am)
yeah it’s that one
why??? (11:41 am)
Mark didn’t respond, checking the time again. They still had 19 minutes of lunch left. Shaking his leg with anticipation, Jaemin set his hand down on Mark’s thigh and pushed it down.
“Dude, stop,” Jaemin said. “Are you nervous because of the scrimmage, or what?”
“No, I’m not nervous.”
“You did your ear touch thing like six times,” Chanhee pointed out through a mouthful of food. Youngkyun smacked the back of his head and grimaced. “That hurt!”
“That’s gross,” Youngkyun chided.
“Youngkyun, currently yelling at Chanhee for talking with his mouth full, as food falls out of his own mouth,” Jaemin remarked.
“Shut up,” Youngkyun said, opening his mouth and revealing his half-chewed mess of food. Jaemin groaned and held his hands up, Chanhee bursting into laughter and hiding his face behind his hands as milk spilled from his nose. Mark sat up from the table, pushing his food towards the rest of the table and grabbing his backpack.
“Where are you going?!” Chanhee called between wheezing laughs, holding his nose over the edge of the table while the girls that normally sat beside them let out a chorus of ew’s and a few, “that’s disgusting!”’s before Youngkyun burst into laughter and spit out his mouthful of food. Mark waved at his messy group of friends and walked out of the lunchroom, rushing down the hall and heading upstairs.
Donghyuck’s photography project was easy enough to finish before the end of lunch. Honestly, Donghyuck didn’t have to stay in at lunch and finish it either, but if he did, he’d have a head start on the following week’s project, and it was always nice to be a step ahead. Now he’d be able to head home and actually do something besides study and listen to music before going to bed. He had a few video games he wanted to finish, and Jeno had been bothering him lately since they hadn’t hung out since the beginning of the school year, so having some time would have been nice.
He grabbed his backpack and slung it over his shoulders, waving at his photography teacher and thanking him for letting him stay later than normal before he started towards the door. With one hand (as he was carrying his science textbook in the other arm), Donghyuck jiggled the handle and opened the door, then used his foot to kick it open the rest of the way, hearing a dull thud from the other side of the door before he realized he had hit a person with said door.
“Oh my god!” Donghyuck rushed out from behind the door and into the hall. “Are you okay?!”
It was Mark. Of course it was Mark. Donghyuck let out a relieved sigh as Mark held his face with both hands.
“Oh my god, I thought you were someone else.”
“You still hit me in the face with a door,” Mark said from behind his hands.
“Well, what were you doing behind the door?” Donghyuck said. Mark sniffled, his nose aching slightly from how hard Donghyuck hit him with the door, but he brushed it off long enough to give Donghyuck a short smile.
“I was, er, coming to see if you needed help on that project.”
“Have you ever even taken photography?” Donghyuck said. Mark shook his head and shrugged.
“Then how were you going to help me?”
“I dunno, man. Maybe I just wanted to see you today anyway, since I have the scrimmage and you won’t be able to see me at the store.”
“You would’ve, at some point.” He paused, then tacked on, “probably.”
“Do you want me to carry that for you?” Mark gestured towards Donghyuck’s science book. Donghyuck furrowed his brows and looked back at Mark.
Mark dropped his hands at his sides and continued walking with Donghyuck. “I mean, I was just asking.”
“It’s okay, I can carry them. But thank you.” He chirped the last thought as if it hadn’t crossed his mind to thank him. Mark nodded and stuffed his hands in the pockets of his jacket, wiping his clammy palms on the inside of his pockets and wondering just why his heart felt tight when he saw Donghyuck walk out of the classroom, despite the fact that he hit Mark in the face with a door.
“Don’t you have chemistry?” Donghyuck said. Mark smiled.
“Yeah, and you have P.E. next!”
“Chemistry is down this hall.” Donghyuck slowed to a stop. “So I’ll see you l— tomorrow, or something.”
“There’s still like,” Mark grabbed his phone and glanced at the time, “eight minutes until the bell rings.”
“Well, I wanted to walk with you to phys-ed.”
“That’s... uhm, okay,” Donghyuck agreed after shaking his head, as if clearing away his previous thought. “Why, though?”
“We won’t be able to talk much today, and since you were busy at lunch and all, this is okay.”
“Did you even eat anything at lunch?”
Mark thought back. “I had a spoonful of applesauce.”
“Oh my god.” Donghyuck reached for his backpack and pulled out a bag, a package of kimbap neatly wrapped. “Take it.”
“Whoa, no way, that’s your food!”
“And now I’m giving it to you. How could you not eat anything?” Donghyuck scolded as Mark took the bag in his hands and stared through the top of it. It looked really good, actually. “You have a scrimmage today too, genius.”
“Thank you, Donghyuck-ah,” Mark said. Donghyuck stuttered over his next thought, words a disorganized mess before he managed to speak.
“Yah, cut that out. If you start calling me that, I’m going to have to start calling you Mark-hyung.”
“But I am your hyung.” Mark laughed.
“You’re a flower boy,” Donghyuck said. Mark flicked the side of his head, rushing forward when Donghyuck threatened to punch his shoulder. They ambled along together downstairs, talking about their classes.
Donghyuck had another test in math, but he was feeling a little more confident in himself and his grades, so he wasn’t so worried about acing that test. By the time they were halfway there, the bell had actually rang, which meant the two were walking slower than normal. Mark kept his word, walking Donghyuck all the way to the edge of the building before he glanced at the time.
“If I make it there in time, my teacher won’t make me stand outside of the classroom, so I gotta go.”
“I can’t believe you walked me here,” Donghyuck said. “If you want to spend more time together, we can just hang out after school or something.”
“But you’re always studying, and I’m usually studying after practice.”
“Then we can study together,” Donghyuck said. “We can talk about it later. Go on, you’re gonna be even later if you stay,” he said, though Mark made no moves to leave. “Go! Go, you big weirdo.” Donghyuck laughed the last part, Mark smiling and nodding as he turned on his heel, though he looked over his shoulder more than one time on the way to class. Even after Donghyuck had stepped inside of the building and apologized for his lateness, Mark continued to look back.
The first time Donghyuck came over, Jaehyun wasn’t home, thankfully. Mark didn’t know how he could easily explain the fact that his parents took in a stray, foul mouthed, cigarette stinking kid whenever he was kicked out of his home by his less-than-useful mother that only liked using Jaehyun to make herself look better.
(Actually, he could explain it just like that.)
The fact of the matter was that Jaehyun’s mother hardly counted as a mother. She did the bare minimum to take care of Jaehyun while he was growing up, since Jaehyun’s father passed away when he was nine. Jaehyun depended largely on himself to get through school and somehow get the money for college. His mother drank away most of her days, and when she wasn’t, she was trying to sell herself as the best mother in the world, and Jaehyun as the unappreciative, worthless, good-for-nothing son she had birthed that never thanked her for the absolute zero effort she put into raising him.
Mark really did feel bad for Jaehyun— at first. They were on the basketball team together when Mark first joined, when he was new to the school and the team. Jaehyun was the spot-on image of star player. Everything Mark was at this point, Jaehyun had achieved his second year in high school. Every trophy Mark had received, Jaehyun had received twice. It was always like that, Mark thought. Even Mark’s own parents had Jaehyun’s trophies in the living room, in glass cabinets, and by their family photos, which Jaehyun had managed to get into every now and again.
Like he said, at first, he really did feel bad. Jaehyun’s mother constantly put him down for not doing anything better with his life. “Anything that would make any money,” as she lovingly put it one night before she kicked Jaehyun out for three months. Jaehyun pushed himself to the brink of over exhaustion every single day at practice, at every game, during tournaments, until he couldn’t take it anymore and had a breakdown. He disappeared for two months, and returned with a different attitude, almost like a completely different person. Mark never asked where he went. He wasn’t sure if his parents knew either.
Jaehyun continued to be the best player on the team. His grades were still untouchable, and when he graduated, he was offered a full ride to a big name university in town. It was admirable, really. All the work Jaehyun had put into himself and his name paid off.
Maybe Jaehyun just grew accustomed to being coddled by Mark’s parents, or maybe it was just his new attitude after coming back from his two month hiatus, but he was... snippier. Quicker to snap at Mark when he said or did something wrong, or even when he just tried to talk to him and Jaehyun wasn’t in the mood. Either way, Mark didn’t like talking to him as much.
To make it worse, Jaehyun started bringing his asinine friends over to the house when Mark’s parents weren’t there. Mark couldn’t count on one hand how many times he had walked into the apartment to find it reeking of pot while Jaehyun’s friends waved at him through the smoky haze. Mark didn’t tell his parents about that, but he wanted to. He wanted to tell them badly every time Jaehyun made him feel like shit, be it on purpose or on accident. That probably made him a bad person, but Mark didn’t care.
The only thing Mark had told his parents about was when Jaehyun had gotten alcohol poisoning. Mark had come home to find Jaehyun passed out on the couch of their living room, lips blue and skin cold, not visibly breathing. Mark honestly thought he was dead. He almost puked, he remembered, at the thought of finding a dead body. Mark called an ambulance as soon as he stopped shaking long enough to actually dial the phone.
Jaehyun never thanked Mark for that. For saving his life, he meant. It made Mark think that maybe Jaehyun wasn’t really thankful for it.
Even after that incident, Mark’s parents never condemned Jaehyun for anything he did, or for the way he acted. As a matter of fact, they seemed to coddle him even more. When Jaehyun returned home (to his actual home), Mark’s parents lamented his loss by growing stricter on Mark. Do better in games, score more points, get trophies, win, win, win. They were even worse when it came to his grades.
Sometimes Mark didn’t feel like he was his own person.
“It’s really pretty up here,” Donghyuck said, interrupting Mark’s long, convoluted train of thought with a gentle voice. “It’s big, too. I never would’ve thought your house was this big.”
“Oh. Yeah, I guess it is,” Mark said. He tugged his backpack off from his shoulders. “C’mon, we can leave our stuff in my room.”
Mark kicked his shoes off, and Donghyuck did the same, neatly setting them beside the door, and fixing Mark’s own shoes before catching up with him.
“Are these yours?” Donghyuck said, vaguely gesturing towards one of the plaques on the wall of their hallway. Mark stopped, and then remembered he didn’t have any plaques. Only trophies. The plaques were Jaehyun’s.
“No, they’re not,” Mark answered bitterly, walking into his bedroom without another word and setting his backpack down on his bed. Donghyuck followed after a moment of hesitation, cautiously poking his head inside of Mark’s room before stepping in and pulling his backpack off over his shoulders.
“Your room is actually clean,” Donghyuck said. Mark looked over his shoulder with a laugh, pulling a textbook from his backpack. Donghyuck did the same, resting his backpack on his knee as he pulled it out. Then he set his backpack down beside him.
“Of course it is. Is your room not clean, Donghyuck-ah?”
“It could use some dusting,” Donghyuck feigned innocence, a laugh spilling from his lips as Mark set his book down on his bed.
“Are you hungry? Do you want something to drink?”
“A soda would be cool,” Donghyuck said. “I have food in my backpack though. We can share while we study.”
“What’d you bring?”
“My mom made a bunch of triangle kimbap last night, so I have like four.”
“Oh, cool!” Mark said. “I’ll get us plates too. You stay here.” Mark ran out of his room before Donghyuck could get another word in edgewise.
Mark’s room was not only surprisingly clean, but also... amazingly organized? The color scheme of his room alone put Donghyuck’s lame excuse of a bedroom to shame. The last thing Donghyuck expected to see on Mark’s walls were posters for bands, groups, singers that he had never even heard of before. Even his bed was nicely made, the sheets tucked in with the blankets and his pillows puffed like somebody had taken the time to really make sure it looked well enough.
“Here, I have plates and napkins and stuff.” Mark rushed through his doorway, Donghyuck taking the plates from his hands as Mark set the sodas down on the floor. Donghyuck sat down on the floor, crossing his legs underneath him before Mark shook his head.
“You go sit on my bed.”
Donghyuck squinted his eyes at Mark. “Why? I can study on the floor too. I’m not delicate, you know.”
“You’re my guest, and my guest isn’t gonna sit on the floor,” Mark said, pointing to his bed again. “Seriously, I don’t even remember the last time I swept the floor, it’s probably really gross.”
Donghyuck seriously doubted that.
Still, he didn’t need any more directing. Donghyuck picked up his textbook and sat down on Mark’s bed, cross legged. Mark grabbed the pillow from beside Donghyuck and set it on his lap. “It’s comfier that way, so you’re not hunching your back.”
Donghyuck nodded, setting his textbook down on top of it and opening it to a post-it marked page.
“Oh, I didn’t grab my notebook. Will you hand me my backpack?” Donghyuck said, Mark immediately reaching for it and handing it back to Donghyuck. After grabbing his notebook, and also pulling out the tupperware bowl of triangle kimbap his mom had made, they both started studying diligently. Mark made offhand comments here and there to himself, Donghyuck noticed. At one point, he started tapping his fingers along to some imaginary beat. Donghyuck almost wanted to ask if he listened to music while studying. It’s not like music would bother Donghyuck at all, or distract him.
But truthfully, the silence was a little nice. Sure, Donghyuck was painfully aware of how heavy he breathed now, and basically with the silence, all he could hear was his own heartbeat and the ticking of the clock on the far side of Mark’s room, but it wasn’t as bad as it normally would be, if Donghyuck were alone or something like that. It was a comfortable silence. More than once, Donghyuck flickered his gaze over to Mark, staring at the chain of the necklace he wore every day, but Donghyuck had never gotten a good look at before.
It was comfortable. It was so comfortable that Donghyuck could feel the tension melting away from his body, and he felt relaxed and cozy, sitting on Mark’s bed, overwhelmingly surrounded by his scent. Everything exuded Mark in his room. His eyelids suddenly felt heavy, and with his position against the wall, it was more than easy for his head to loll to the left or the right as he began to fall asleep.
Mark wasn’t quite sure how much time had passed since they had started studying. The clock in the living room went off to tell them it was already 5pm, but Mark couldn't remember if they had started studying at 4:00 or 3:30, even, since Mark didn’t have practice or a scrimmage on that day, and they went straight from school to his house. Either way, Mark had finished eating the food Donghyuck gave him, drinking his soda, and his mind was desperately screaming for a break from studying. He had even given up his usual study playlist in return for silence, since he wasn’t sure how Donghyuck studied best.
As Mark stood up, stretching his arms up over his head and groaning loudly, he wondered why Donghyuck hadn’t been saying much. Maybe he was really into his studies? Mark doubted that.
Looking over at Donghyuck on his bed, he found Donghyuck... asleep. His eyes were lidded, heavy and dark, and he was actually lying down, cheek nestled comfortably in the comforter of Mark’s bed. Another sudden constricting feeling found its way in his chest, roping around his heart and threatening to skip as his mouth went dry at the sight of Donghyuck sleeping so peacefully.
“What do I do?” Mark whispered, desperate, and mainly to himself. He didn’t want to wake him up. After all, it wasn’t like it was an issue that Donghyuck was asleep on his bed, just that... well, what did he do?! If it were anybody else, Mark would just shake them awake and tell them to go home, but... Donghyuck just looked snug and cozy in his bed. Maybe he could just let him sleep? But what if he slept all evening and couldn’t sleep at night?! Then what?
Mark crouched down beside the bed, lifting his hand from his side and setting it down on Donghyuck’s shoulder. “Donghyuck-ah,” he whispered, “Donghyuck-ah, you have to wake up.”
Donghyuck groaned, tried to push Mark away but with little success. All he did was paw at Mark’s face before leaving his palm on Mark’s cheek.
“No,” Donghyuck mumbled.
“No, you don’t want to wake up?”
“No,” he repeated.
Mark let his hand shift slightly from Donghyuck’s shoulder, squeezing tightly, affection suddenly flooding his chest at just how warm Donghyuck felt.
“At least let me get you a blanket.” Mark said. Donghyuck shook his head.
“‘M awake.” Donghyuck mumbled. “Jus’ let me get up. I’ll go home.”
“You don’t have to go home,” Mark objected quickly. Donghyuck peered an eye open at Mark, a sleepy smile tugging at the corners of his lips.
“Yeah, right. Where would you sleep tonight?” Donghyuck said. “If I stayed in your bed, and you had to go to sleep, where would you go to sleep?”
Mark parted his lips to speak, but bit down on his lip instead and shrugged.
“Okay,” Mark agreed softly, “you’re right.”
“Thanks for letting me sleep anyway,” Donghyuck said. Any other time, Mark would have listened for a hint of snark in Donghyuck’s voice, something that said he was being sarcastic or the slightest bit rude, but... there was nothing. Just a gentle tone of voice and a laziness in his expression Mark had never seen before, but wanted to see again, and often.
Mark laughed as Donghyuck sat up, hair an absolute mess on one side of his head. He messed with it and mimicked Mark’s high pitched giggle.
“Shut up, hyung,” Donghyuck said, freezing. Mark smiled, and Donghyuck pushed himself off of the bed, making sure to make an extra mess of the blankets and sheets before picking up his textbook and stuffing it away in his backpack.
Mark didn’t walk Donghyuck back to his house, per Donghyuck’s insistence, but agreed to another study “date” in a couple days, one where he wouldn’t be so sleepy.
Mark walked back upstairs and cleaned up the house. After Mark finished doing the dishes and cleaning up his own room, Jaehyun came back home and immediately locked himself in his room. Mark didn’t ask, and frankly, didn’t care either. He took a shower, got into his pajamas, and then finally, at the end of the night, fell face first into his bed.
That night, his bed didn’t smell like him. It smelled like something delicate and soft, something vaguely like flowers. Is this what Donghyuck smells like, Mark wondered, before falling into a hazy, sweet smelling induced sleep.
It was warm. Really warm in the store, and warm outside, even though it was supposed to start cooling down, since they were already in autumn, and summer had long since passed.
Their basketball scrimmages were now dwindling down, and their practice was increased. The coach critiqued Mark on his shoddy passing skills, said that he had to get better somehow and soon, or else he was facing being replaced with somebody else. That lit a fire unlike any other under his ass, and pretty soon, basketball was all he had on his mind. Even when he was talking with Donghyuck at lunch sometimes, or when they were texting and Donghyuck mentioned that Mark was acting weird, all Mark could think about was how to get better, how to be stronger, how to be more than what his coach wanted from him and to be the best he could be.
All it took for Mark to realize exactly what he was doing— alienating himself from his friends and any sort of free time he had— was a single text from Donghyuck.
please don’t overwork yourself (7:48 pm)
The text alone was enough to bring Mark back down from whatever cloud he was on, grounded him for a moment and made him remember that he couldn’t just abandon his friends like that. Even with all the time Donghyuck put into his studies, and whatever else he did that seemed to eat up all of his time, he made sure to text Mark every now and again, even just sending him a cute emoji that put a stupid smile on Mark’s face.
Mark had to text Donghyuck to come back to the store a week later. Donghyuck had plans with friends, and was juggling school and homework, so he said he’d try to make it on a day that Mark was there, after Mark sent his schedule.
It took Donghyuck three days after he sent his schedule to see him again. On the first two days, Mark had to sit on his hands and bite his tongue every time a customer came in, because his heart was let down each time he didn’t find Donghyuck’s deep, coffee brown eyes staring back at him, but somebody else’s, somebody he didn’t really care for seeing.
But when he did— when Donghyuck finally came back to the store with a curious expression on his face and a smile blooming on his lips as soon as Mark perked up at the sight of him— god, it made every second of waiting worth it. Mark would’ve waited a hundred years more if that was the smile he was going to get each time.
(That was normal, Mark told himself. It was completely, totally, honestly normal to want that from Donghyuck.)
“You rang?” Donghyuck said as he approached the counter. Mark nodded excitedly.
“I got you something,” Mark said. “Wait here. I have to put it together.”
Donghyuck furrowed his brows, watched as Mark disappeared into a back room before he heard the sound of plastic rustling, snipping and cutting here and there, followed by quiet noises and the sound of... Mark wrapping something? Donghyuck couldn’t put his finger on it, but he waited nevertheless, patiently, glancing around the shop at a few of the other customers walking around and picking up vases of flowers.
Just as Donghyuck looked back up to see if Mark was coming, the door opened again, and Mark appeared with a bouquet of flowers; nothing too showy or extravagant, but still beautiful enough to make Donghyuck feel flustered, his heart suddenly speeding up at just the sight of the white material Mark used around the bouquet for accent.
“Whoa,” was all Donghyuck could bring himself to say Mark grinned, setting it down on the counter instead of handing it to Donghyuck. Donghyuck curled his fingers around the base of the bouquet, pulling it towards him. “Lilies?” Donghyuck said, pointing to one of the flowers. Mark nodded excitedly.
“And daffodils, and, er, tulips.”
“They’re gorgeous,” Donghyuck prefaced with a slight smile growing on his lips, “separately.”
Mark flushed red. “I-I don’t usually do bouquet arrangements. That’s my parent's deal, and I usually just put them together if they leave me a list of flowers. I’ve never had to do it on my own.”
“I still appreciate them,” Donghyuck said. “Let me pay you—”
“No, I... already paid for them,” Mark said. “I just wanted to give them to you, but I didn’t know where you live. I didn’t want to ask and come off like a creep.”
“I don’t think it’s creepy to ask your friends where they live.” Donghyuck snorted, which in turn, made Mark laugh, albeit nervously and in slight relief that Donghyuck wasn’t upset by the flowers.
“I had to ask my mom for flowers that meant certain things.”
“What do these ones mean?” Donghyuck said. Mark hesitated, lifting his hand to his ear and pinching the top of it, the way he always did when he grew nervous.
“Uhm, the lilies mean like... drive? Passion for something, you know. Like, how you’re always studying all the time.”
“Oh, okay. And the daffodils?”
“I-inspiration,” Mark told him. Donghyuck cooed.
“Are you calling me your inspiration?”
“No! Shut up, that’s not what I was saying at all.” Mark flushed deeper, the tips of his ears burning red. If Donghyuck noticed, he didn’t mention it, but the smile on his face was more than enough to keep Mark nervous. “The tulips were just because I thought they were nice.”
“They are nice,” Donghyuck agreed, picking up the bouquet and using his other arm to cradle it. “Can I hug you?”
“U-um, er— I— why would you want to hug me?”
“To say thank you,” he replied with nonchalance.
“I mean... I mean, you can just say thank you. I don’t need a hug or-or anything like that.”
Donghyuck’s expression faltered, but only for a second, hardly a split second, but enough for Mark to notice. He parted his lips to say it was fine if Donghyuck really wanted to, but Donghyuck was already talking, had beat him to the punch.
“You have an actual game next week, right?” Donghyuck said. Mark nodded almost immediately, voice trapped behind a ball built up in his throat. “On Friday?”
“Yeah, it’s the first of the official season.”
“Cool.” Donghyuck nodded. “Don’t suck.”
“Your advice is amazing,” Mark said. Donghyuck laughed and lowered his gaze to the floor.
“But really, do your best,” Donghyuck continued sheepishly. “The first game is important to you guys, so I hope you can score lots of points.”
“Thanks, man,” Mark said. “Do you go to the games, or is that not your thing?”
Donghyuck shrugged. “If Jeno can convince me to, we watch the games sometimes.”
“You should come to our first one,” Mark said. “Only if you want to, though.”
“Maybe I will,” Donghyuck said. “So, is this what you called me for? To give me the flowers and invite me to your first game?”
“Yeah, that’s... it really. Well, not the game thing. The flowers were first. You know, you still haven’t told me what you do with all the flowers—”
Jaehyun interrupted the quiet ambience as he kicked the door to the store open and carried in a box of vases his parents had bought in bulk when they were out of town. The glass quietly chimed and clicked with each movement as Jaehyun carried it into the back room and reappeared beside Mark a second later.
“Mom said there’s invoices in the box that need to be checked.”
“I’m assuming she told you to check them.”
“Yeah, but you’re gonna do it.” Jaehyun winked as he walked away. Donghyuck looked back from his feet and to Mark.
“Was that Jaehyun?”
“Unfortunately,” Mark replied.
“He’s... shorter than I thought he would be.”
“That’s nicer than what I normally hear when people meet him for the first time,” Mark said. “Anyway, I have to do those invoices, or my mom will have a cow. Thanks for coming when I asked.”
“Thanks for the flowers!” Donghyuck chirped. He said goodbye one last time before walking out of the building, out of sight. Mark sighed, shoulders slumping slightly with the action before he felt a hand on his shoulder. Immediately he tensed, the hair on the nape of his neck standing on end as he shivered and looked to find Jaehyun on his left side.
“What were the flowers for?” Jaehyun said. Mark narrowed his gaze to Jaehyun, shook his hand off of his shoulder and frowned.
“A customer can’t buy flowers?”
“I’ve seen that kid here before. I’m not a complete tool,” Jaehyun said.
“You’re the whole hardware store.”
“Fuck off,” Jaehyun snapped. “Who is he?”
“He’s my friend.”
“Who is he?”
“Why are you so fucking annoying?”
“You like him, don’t you?”
“Mom! Jaehyun won’t leave me alone!” Mark called, his mother looking over the corner.
“Jaehyun, didn’t I ask you to check the invoice? We need to make sure we have everything before we close the order.”
“Mark has to do it,” Jaehyun said. Mark’s mother let out a little hum before she pointed at the register.
“Then take over for Mark at the register, Jaehyun. Either way, you two should stop goofing around.”
“But I wasn’t even doing anything wrong,” Mark huffed and pushed himself away from the register, Jaehyun snickering and sitting in Mark’s spot. Mark knew Jaehyun was going to do absolutely dick while sitting in that chair, besides the bare minimum of ringing up customers and maybe standing outside to flirt with the cute women that liked to stop by and look at the flowers every now and again (because he was scum, Mark had decided a long time ago). Now that there were fewer flowers outside, what with the weather cooling down, Jaehyun would have less of an opportunity to be a creep, at least.
Mark didn’t want to admit that he looked for Donghyuck in the crowd at the basketball game, but he did. He looked. He looked more than once.
Donghyuck wasn’t there, though.
A week without seeing Donghyuck turned into two weeks, and then three. Mark had games after games, and hadn’t seen him at one. It bothered him a little, but only because Donghyuck had said he would try to come to one of the games, and Mark hadn’t seen him yet. If Donghyuck had something important like that going on, Mark would’ve tried his hardest to at least make it to one of the events to see him. Of course that would require Donghyuck actually participating in something around campus besides studying, but that was besides the point!
Their texts had dwindled down, too, to a point where Mark was lucky if Donghyuck sent him even an emoji every couple of days. It was ridiculous, and Mark felt ridiculous for being bothered by it, but he was.
And after a particularly long day of grueling practice and a long walk home because Jaehyun couldn’t be bothered to pick up Mark from school, all he wanted to do was lie down in his bed and die. Or something like that. Maybe not die, but sleep. Close enough.
But of course, the first thing Jaehyun did after watching Mark walk through the front door, was tell him to do something Mark was sure his parents had asked Jaehyun to do. It was one of Mark’s only days off, Seulgi working the closing shift instead of making Mark do it, and the last thing he wanted to do was spend more time around flowers when all it did was make him think about Donghyuck.
Really, the whole dying thing was sounding more and more pleasant as he thought about it.
“Hey, mom said somebody has to vacuum, and I did it last week.”
“Yeah, well, I did it Monday,” Mark said. “It’s your turn.”
“I’m leaving for the night, so it’s your responsibility now.” Jaehyun stood up and walked across the living room, his voice trailing behind him. “I already told mom, she said she wants you to have it done by the time she comes back from the store.”
“Are you going back to your own house to beg yet, or what?” Mark spat, lugging his backpack down the hall, towards his bedroom and tossing it in the general direction of his bed. He hadn’t even bothered to kick off his shoes when he walked through the front door.
Jaehyun poked his head out past the frame of his door, a shit eating grin growing on his lips as he slipped socks on.
“You sick of me already?”
“I was sick of you before you even came back, to be honest,” Mark said.
“Damn, what’s with the attitude?” Jaehyun said, snapping his fingers and straightening out as he pointed at Mark. “I know this one, don’t tell me. Uh, you’re doing bad in games.”
Jaehyun tapped his nose. “Spot on. All right, let’s see, what else is there.... Oh! Your grades are shitty and dropping fast.”
“I said shut up, hyung.”
Jaehyun cheered for himself. “Two for two! Oh man! Last one, last one, let’s see if I can hit it out of the park.” He hardly had to pause to think, which made Mark think Jaehyun had known the last part the entire time. “This is just a hunch, but I haven’t seen your little boy crush around either. Did you two break up?”
“I said, shut up!” Mark shouted, his voice tearing through the silence of the apartment and rippling through in waves.
“Whoa, that’s a big response. How long has that been eating at you? Days? Weeks? Has it been a month?”
Mark’s cheeks burned with embarrassment. Jaehyun wasn’t apologetic. He didn’t even look taken aback when Mark yelled.
“Why can’t you leave me alone and do something nice for once?”
“Oh, because I’m so fucking mean,” Jaehyun mocked his tone of voice. “What, because I make you do some stuff for me, that makes me a monster?”
“I didn’t call you a monster, but if that’s how you feel, then I guess so.” Mark tightened his hands into fists at his sides, tension racking his body all at once as Jaehyun walked out of his room and took a step towards him.
“What’s this really about?” Jaehyun said. “Are you mad at me for something? Did I do something to piss you off, Lee Minhyung?”
Mark pushed Jaehyun away from him, only enough to get the message across, but it hardly affected Jaehyun as he took another step forward.
“Is it because I keep inviting Johnny and them over? Because that’s a really stupid reason to get mad at someone.”
“I’m pissed off because you don’t do anything around here.”
“That’s a lie and we both know it.” Jaehyun said. “I’ve never done shit around this place. Why would that just now start bothering you?” Jaehyun wagged his finger at Mark. “This is about something else, right?”
“Jaehyun, I’m serious right now. Just let me go to bed. I need to calm down for a second.”
“Just fucking tell me, Mark. Seriously, you’re the one making this so hard on yourself. I wanna know what’s bothering that pretty little head of yours—”
“It’s all this shit,” Mark broke out, his voice higher than he expected it to be as he gestured to the plaques on the walls. “It’s all this garbage!”
With one fell swoop of his hand, Mark knocked down two of the plaques from the walls.
“Nothing in this house is my own! If any of my trophies were out here, I wouldn’t know which ones were which since you already have all of them and more! I mean, I guess it’s a good fucking thing there’s no room out here for my trophies. At least I know they’re all holed up in my room since yours take up all the space in the living room,” Mark snapped, shoving past Jaehyun to the living room and tearing open one of the cabinets as he pulled out a trophy and threw it to the ground, watched as the glass cracked and threatened to shatter. “You aren’t even their kid and they care more about you.”
Jaehyun, either stunned into silence, or just plain irritated, didn’t speak, so Mark continued.
“I don’t know if it’s worse when you’re here or when you’re gone. At least when you’re here, they can praise you and I can just— just deal with it or whatever, but when you’re gone... when you’re gone, it’s so much worse because all they do is push me to be more like you. I have to live with you every single day of my life, even when you’re not fucking here!”
Mark let the silence sit for a moment, his vision suddenly clearing after a moment as he realized just how much he had done. Jaehyun’s trophies and plaques on the floor, things his parents would definitely notice and care about. Oh, this was bad.
Jaehyun let out a puff of breath, something like a weak laugh before he returned to his bedroom and came out with a drawstring bag over his shoulders. Mark watched as Jaehyun kicked his broken trophies to the side, knocking his shoulder against Mark’s and approaching the door before Mark could ask where he was going. He slipped his shoes on and escaped the apartment, footsteps echoing downstairs before Mark heard Seulgi call after Jaehyun, followed by silence. Nothing but silence, and his own pounding heartbeat in his ears, and the faintest sound of the clock ticking beside him.
Mark fucked up. He fucked up monumentally, and he wasn’t sure where Jaehyun was going, but he couldn’t just run out there and chase after him, especially since Jaehyun had a car, and— and— and Mark didn’t mean to do that, he didn’t mean to say any of that, he just—
Feeling the threat of an anxiety attack creeping up on his heart, Mark took long breaths in, shaky and uneven, his legs threatening to buckle underneath him as he trudged to his room and slammed his bedroom door shut behind him.
Over the roaring of his pulse in his ears, Mark could already hear how his parents would scold him when they got home, how they would yell at him to clean up his mess and apologize to Jaehyun, and then tell him to be a better kid like Jaehyun. He could hear his coach telling him that he hadn’t improved since his last year on the team, and that he was going to be replaced if he didn’t get better, and there was the sound of his teachers reminding him about forgotten or misplaced homework, empty promises that he would do the next assignment and get his grade up.
Bringing a shaky hand to the pocket of his sweatpants and pulling his phone out, he unlocked it and found himself facing old messages from Donghyuck. He wanted to talk to him. His heart ached at just the thought of even getting a message from him, though he blamed it on the breakdown he was on the verge of having, and not on anything else.
Impulsively or foolishly, Mark sent Donghyuck a message. It took thirteen minutes for Donghyuck to respond, at which point Mark had already started crying, his throat tight and body trembling as a sob racked through his core. Reading the message through tears was hell in and of itself, but Mark pressed the palm of his hand to his eyes more than once and finally read through the message with clarity.
I hate basketball and i hate jAehyun and i hate school but i miss you (6:49 pm)
are u okay? (7:02 pm)
Mark hiccuped and typed back.
I dont know i’m just really mad and i’m miss you (7:03 pm)
I miss you (7:04 pm)
i thought u were busy with games, i didn’t want to bother u.. (7:05 pm)
You don’t bother me (7:05 pm)
are u busy saturday? (7:05 pm)
Probably not (7:06 pm)
u should come over, my parents are working all day so we can be lazy and watch movies and stuff (7:06 pm)
my mom made more triangle kimbap too :) (7:07 pm)
Sounds like a plan (7:07 pm)
can i call u? im trying to do dishes and text it’s hard (7:08 pm)
Sure that’s fine (7:08 pm)
Mark waited, tapping his fingernails against the phone screen before Donghyuck’s contact name came up. Mark cleared his throat, answering the call and leaving his phone on one side of his face, pressed against his ear as he dropped his hands at his sides again.
“Did you really mean it when you said you missed me?” Donghyuck said first. Mark smiled faintly, like he just didn’t have the energy to let it bloom on his lips, but wanted it to.
“Hello to you too, Hyuck.”
“I figured we were past formalities, but hey.” Donghyuck quietly laughed. “You don’t sound so good.”
“It’s... nothing serious.”
“You sure?” Donghyuck said.
“Yeah, man, it’s cool.” Mark sighed. “I don’t feel like talking about me right now. How have you been?”
As if Mark could feel Donghyuck perk up at the chance to talk about his own day and how things had been going for him as of late, Donghyuck just started talking, happily reciting his schedule and the things that had been taking up so much of his time besides talking to or seeing Mark.
And Mark listened, relaxing into his sheets and the pillow under his head while Donghyuck talked, and talked, and maybe asked a question or two that Mark simply hummed a response to. He was tired. So tired, he fell in and out of consciousness, eyes crossing every now and again, and maybe Mark dreamt that Donghyuck said good night.
Mark’s parents didn’t ground him like he thought they would, but they did make him apologize to Jaehyun, who returned home that same night he and Mark had fought. Jaehyun didn’t have much to say to Mark, and truthfully, Mark wasn’t sure he would’ve cared even if he did. The apology wasn’t even sincere. He wasn’t sorry. He wasn’t sorry even a little bit, and that might’ve made him a bad person, but he didn’t care.
Mark left without telling Jaehyun where he was going. His parents knew, and that was enough.
When Mark reached the bottom of the stairs and opened the door leading to the sidewalk outside, he found Donghyuck rocking back and forth on the heels off his feet, staring at the flowers outside of the store and marveling quietly over how well they kept even in the cooling autumn weather. Pretty soon winter would be back, and they’d have to keep everything inside. For now, Donghyuck wanted to enjoy the flowers.
“Hey!” Mark said, catching Donghyuck off guard as he jumped and let out a quick laugh at the sight of Mark. “You ready to go?”
“Yeah.” Donghyuck nodded excitedly, waiting for Mark to join him at his side as they started the walk to Donghyuck’s house.
Apparently Donghyuck lived nearby, so Mark figured it wouldn’t be too hard to walk all the way there and make quiet conversation too, though every time he looked at Donghyuck and thought of something to say, he stopped and he just... looked at him. His heart beat erratically in his chest, like he had just finished a set and ran a mile along with it, but they were just ambling along the sidewalk together. Donghyuck held his hands in front of him, nervously twiddling his fingers as they came to a stop at a crosswalk.
“Jeno told me you’ve been doing really well in games,” Donghyuck said. “He’s gone to the last few.”
Mark frowned unintentionally. “Oh. Uh, I mean, I’m not that good.”
“That’s not what the entire school thinks.”
A dissatisfied taste sat on the back of Mark’s tongue. “I don’t really care what the entire school thinks.”
It sounded unappreciative, cocky in a way, but that was the absolute last way he meant it. He was flattered, really, that people thought he was a decent player, especially after all the grief his coach had been giving him.
“The entire school thinks you’re good at what you do, and you don’t care.”
“Have you seen me play?”
Donghyuck took a moment to study Mark’s expression, brows furrowed with thought before he shook his head.
“I don’t care what everyone else thinks about how I play.” Mark straightened himself out and stuffed his hands in his pockets. He cleared his throat as Donghyuck quirked a brow and waited for an answer. The light to the crosswalk changed, Mark taking a few steps forward and turning around to look at Donghyuck as he walked backwards. “Just you.”
Mark had never seen Donghyuck blush brighter in his life.
“You brought sweatpants like I told you to, right?”
“Actually, pajama pants,” Mark said. “All my sweatpants were dirty from practice.”
“Oh, that makes sense. Well, that’s fine. Just something to relax in,” Donghyuck spoke over his shoulder, taking a step inside of his room and leaving the door open just a smidge. “Get changed in the bathroom, I’m gonna get changed in here.”
Mark took his bag in the bathroom and quickly changed from his jeans to his pajama pants, green and black plaid that clashed grossly with the t-shirt he had brought along. As he walked out of the bathroom at the same time as Donghyuck came from his room, Donghyuck pointed to his shirt.
“You’re a fashion statement, Mark Lee.”
“You know, I don’t know your last name,” Mark said, following Donghyuck to the kitchen. Donghyuck opened the fridge and reached inside, took out full tupperware bowls of food and set them down on the counter beside him.
“It’s Lee. Lee Donghyuck.”
“Whoa, matching!” Mark said. Donghyuck snickered.
“Yeah, us and a bunch of other people.”
Mark paused. “Didn’t you say you have a sister?”
“Oh, yeah. She’s out with her friends right now. Hopefully for the entire day.”
“I don’t need her and her friends coming back and drooling over you while we’re trying to watch movies,” Donghyuck said in the flattest tone Mark had ever heard, which made Mark laugh. “Seriously. When I said I started talking to you, she practically screamed in my ear. I didn’t even tell her you were coming over today.”
“Well... for now, I’m all yours.”
Donghyuck paused, and Mark panicked, putting his hands up defensively in front of him.
“I didn’t mean it like that! I swear, I just meant, like, that we have alone time together— not in that way either! I-I swear I’m trying to say we don’t have to worry... about that stuff....”
“Mark, it’s fine.” Donghyuck giggled.
“I’m... not usually like this,” Mark breathed out, like all the energy had been sapped from him. “It’s weird.”
“I already knew you were weird,” Donghyuck said, popping the lid off of one of the tupperware bowls and tossing it in the general direction of the sink. “Now let’s go eat and be lazy.”
That was exactly what they did. They ate, and they lazed around on the couch. Mark was on the floor at first, Donghyuck stretched out on the couch and not moving until Mark got up and nudged his legs away from one side of the couch. Donghyuck laid his legs down on Mark’s lap after he sat down, and they kept watching movies like that until Donghyuck said that Mark’s thighs were too bony for him to lie his legs down on (which was a lie, Mark wasn’t bony at all).
The sound of a clock chiming brought Mark out of his food coma induced sleep. The TV was still playing, albeit quietly. He remembered turning it down a little when he noticed Donghyuck was asleep, which must have led him to fall asleep as well.
A soft breath to his left brought Mark back from his train of thoughts as he found Donghyuck, pressed against his shoulder, mouth parted and drool slipping from the corner of his lips and onto Mark’s t-shirt. He was snoring, a little raspy squeak leaving him when he inhaled and exhaled deeply. His posture must have been what led him to snore, Mark thought, as Donghyuck shifted slightly and buried his face closer into Mark’s arm.
Mark moved his opposite arm to shake Donghyuck awake. He was losing circulation in his left arm because of how snugly Donghyuck pressed against his side, but as soon as he moved his hand to do so, he shifted and brushed Donghyuck’s hair away from his eyes. His hair had gotten shaggier recently, due to the fact that he hadn’t had a haircut in who-knows how long. Mark tucked a piece of hair behind his ear, the tightness of his chest threatening to overwhelm him and knock him of all his sense.
But... well, besides the tingling feeling spreading through the ends of his fingertips and the fact that Donghyuck was still drooling on him, he didn’t mind it so much. And it wasn’t like it was late. It had only been two hours since Mark had last checked the time. His parents told him to be back by 8, but for once, Mark wanted to not listen to them and come home at whatever time he wanted, since they let Jaehyun do exactly that.
(Not that Mark was planning on staying with Donghyuck past 8. He’d go home before 8, even, because he never really did defy his parents. It was just a nice thought.)
This time wasn’t the same as when Donghyuck fell asleep at Mark’s house. They had nowhere to go, nothing to do. Mark could’ve let Donghyuck sleep on his arm for another two hours before he had to go home. With no rush and no need to bother each other, Mark resolved to let Donghyuck sleep, if only for a little while longer. At some point he would need his left arm again.
Using his right arm to slip his phone out from the pocket of his pajama pants, Mark scrolled through the flurry of messages he had ignored earlier. There were some from his parents, reminding him to be home by the set curfew, and a few others from Jaemin, who asked if they could hang out the following day. Mark tried typing with one hand, his response slow and drawn out before he finally hit send and looked through his other messages.
There was one from Jaehyun. Mark didn’t even want to look at it, brows knitted together with annoyance as he closed his messages and went to open up his browser instead, when he noticed Donghyuck shifting, arm moving from his side as he poked Mark in the forehead.
“You’ll get wrinkles looking like that,” he said. Mark snorted. “What’sa matter?”
“Nothing,” Mark replied. Donghyuck clicked his tongue and sat up, rubbing his eyes as he did so. Mark lamented the loss of warmth tucked against his side as Donghyuck pulled his knees to his chest and stared at Mark. “What?”
“I can hear it in your voice, y’know,” Donghyuck said, “that something’s bugging you.”
Mark didn’t answer, so Donghyuck continued.
“Since that night you texted me. I could tell from then.” He hummed and rested his chin on his knees. “I know I’m not a very good conversationalist sometimes, but I am here to listen. That’s what friends do.”
Mark nodded, wary of what Donghyuck expected him to say.
“You don’t have to tell me, though. It’s okay. I just wanted you to know.” Donghyuck paused, tilting his head to the left slightly. “Was it Jaehyun again?”
Mark almost forgot he had mentioned it once before. He nodded again, and Donghyuck pursed his lips.
“He lives with you, right?”
“Sorta,” Mark said. He glanced at Donghyuck. “You won’t... tell anybody this stuff if I tell you, right?”
“I don’t think anybody would listen anyway,” Donghyuck said with a little smile, “but I won’t.”
“Jaehyun... comes and lives with us when his mom kicks him out, which is often. You know how Jaehyun was the best player on the team? And our district? And he could’ve gone to the national tournament?”
“Wow, okay, I didn’t know about the national tournament thing,” Donghyuck said. “Sorry, keep going.”
“Well, yeah. He could’ve gone, but he didn’t, for whatever reason. And when he got accepted into school, he didn’t join the basketball team either. He lost a huge chunk of his scholarship, but his grades kept him in,” Mark explained before shaking his head. “But yeah, so his mom tries to use Jaehyun as like... a trophy, kind of? She likes to take him out and show him off. Jaehyun doesn’t like that, so they fight a lot, and she’ll kick him out. Thus, why he lives with us sometimes.”
“Why doesn’t he just permanently move in with you if he hates his mom so much?”
“I think I’d throw myself into the nearest river if Jaehyun moved in with us permanently,” Mark said, then corrected himself. “Sorry, that’s mean.”
“It’s honest.” Donghyuck smiled. “Dramatic, but honest.”
“No, really! Jaehyun is just.... Ugh, I don’t know. I feel bad talking about him. I don’t do this kind of stuff.”
Donghyuck shrugged. “It’s cool. I just figured venting would help you feel better.”
“It does, and being with you makes me feel better too. I just don’t really tell people about it. I usually just chill out and let it go away, you know?”
“I doubt it just goes away,” Donghyuck said. “I do that sometimes too. When I get upset, I mean. I make it go away, but it never really does. Just kinda sits there and bothers you more when it happens again.”
Mark pursed his lips, sitting back on the couch and crossing his arms over. Donghyuck waited patiently, which was out of nature for him, but he didn’t press, didn’t ask Mark to say anything or change the subject. They could’ve sat there all night like that.
“I just... don’t feel like I’m my own person anymore,” Mark admitted. Donghyuck perked up at the confession. “I even have the same position Jaehyun did on the team, but I’m not on the same level. Coach reminds me all the time that if there were someone better, someone like Jaehyun on the team, that I wouldn’t be in Jaehyun’s position.”
All at once, an overwhelming and tight contraction in his chest made Mark lose his breath, anxiety threatening to bubble over and take over, and he didn’t want to have a panic attack in front of Donghyuck, he just didn’t. It’d be so embarrassing, and he’d be a mess, and he hated himself for even getting upset over this again.
“My grades are good but they’re never as good as Jaehyun’s were. I’m a good kid around the house, but when Jaehyun is there, he’s better by default. I threw his trophies the other day.” Mark put his hand to cover his mouth like he still couldn’t believe it. “I threw them because I’m so sick of seeing them at every corner of my house. I’m constantly surrounded by him, even when he’s not there.” Mark didn’t want to look at Donghyuck while he was admitting this. He knew Donghyuck would judge him for how selfish he was. Anybody would.
“Nobody cares about the stuff I like to do. Nobody wants to know about the things I’m interested in. It’s just about Jaehyun, trying to be like him— or maybe better than him, but I can’t be better than him ever.” Mark sniffled, and before he could stop himself, he was crying. This was so embarrassing, he thought as he wiped his eyes. “It’s just stupid. Nobody even cares about the fact that it bothers me, which means it’s not even a big deal. I just need to suck it up.”
Mark stopped. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to say anything else. He felt sick, nauseous even. He didn’t want to throw up at Donghyuck’s house either. That’d be even more embarrassing, and he’d had enough for one day.
The breath in Mark’s chest stopped in his throat, flickering his gaze to Donghyuck, whose gaze hadn’t moved from Mark the entire time. The expression on his face was... not judgmental. Mark couldn’t quite put his finger on it. It wasn’t pity, because Donghyuck definitely wasn’t the type to pity. It wasn’t annoyance or irritation, or any of the things Mark thought Donghyuck would be feeling at his confession. It was something else.
“I mean, I’m only your friend. I’m not your parents or your coach or anything, but I care.” Donghyuck pushed his knees back out from in front of them and crossed his legs underneath him instead. “And I know about all the stuff Jaehyun did in school, but... I don’t give a shit about that. He’s not my friend.”
Mark hiccuped. “Are you... serious?”
“Yeah,” Donghyuck said easily. “He’s not my friend, and even if he was, you’re way cooler than he is.”
“You don’t even talk to him,” Mark objected. False statements were the last thing he wanted to hear.
“But we talk. And you talked to me first.” Donghyuck hummed and leaned back on the couch, resting his head on Mark’s shoulder again. “And you sit with me at lunch, and walk me to class sometimes. That’s pretty cool. Jaehyun doesn’t do any of that stuff.”
Mark blushed, the tips of his ears warming up as he brought his finger to his ear and pinched the place he always did. Donghyuck relaxed against Mark’s shoulder, sighing softly.
“I’m sorry everyone treats you like shit.”
“It’s cool.” Mark sniffled. “Sorry I cried.”
“Shut up.” Donghyuck pinched his side. “Do you really think I care that you cried?”
“It’s kinda embarrassing,” Mark said quietly.
“Embarrassing for who? You?”
“I guess. That you have to see me like that?”
“Oh, the horror! I have to see Mark Lee have feelings and emotions. Whatever shall I do?” Donghyuck feigned shock, throwing his hand dramatically over his forehead as Mark let out weak, breathy laughs and tried to smack his shoulder, albeit playfully. Donghyuck dropped his hand to his side, sighing and relaxing into Mark’s side. Mark sniffled again, wiping his eyes. They’d surely be red and puffy soon. He didn’t cry often, but when he did, his body made sure to plague him with the fact even after he was done.
A sudden warmth at his fingertips made Mark flinch, glancing down and finding Donghyuck’s fingers brushing against his own before he pulled them away and hummed.
“Y-yeah?” Mark wanted to hit himself for stuttering.
“You wanna toilet paper Jaehyun’s house?”
Mark faltered, a laugh escaping him before he covered his mouth and giggled shamelessly, Donghyuck looking up at him.
“He lives with me, Hyuck.”
“I’m not an idiot! I meant whenever he goes back to his own place, we can toilet paper it.”
“I’ve never done something like that before,” Mark confessed sheepishly. “What if we get in trouble?”
“If we get caught, I’ll take responsibility.”
“No. If we get caught, we’re going down together,” Donghyuck said, Mark pinching his cheek and earning a whine of protest as Donghyuck waved towards the remote and told Mark to turn the volume back up again.
Delicate. The word that Mark was looking for, to describe Donghyuck’s expression. It was delicate.
And it was all he had been able to think about.
He was all Mark had been able to think about.
Jaehyun started off loud, voice trickling down into a quiet stammer as he bites into a spoonful of bibimbap and chewing noisily. Mark sat across from him, having still not forgiven him, but searching for help with his issue.
“Weird? Is it weird? Am I creepy?”
“I mean,” Jaehyun said, wiping his mouth with a napkin beside him, “I was gonna say gay, but sure. Weird works if you feel like you’re being a creep to the poor kid.”
“No way. Try again.”
“I’m just saying,” Jaehyun said, taking another spoonful. “Did you want some?”
“Hold on, hold on. Why would you say that?”
Jaehyun hummed, pursing his lips as he chewing his food thoroughly and pointed the spoon at Mark. “Look, it’s not like I’m saying it baselessly. I’m just saying it sounds a little gay.”
“Smidge of gay?”
“Mark, I’m serious!” Jaehyun said, setting the spoon down in his bowl of food and taking a swig of water to clear his mouth. “Being close friends with a guy is different than having a crush on one. I’m sure you don’t know the difference because nobody raises us to tell the difference, but I’m being serious right now.”
Mark bit the inside of his cheek, a dull ache spreading at the contact before he spoke.
“Are you sure?”
“It’s not my crush, man,” Jaehyun said. “You’re the one that has all the gushy stuff going on. Does it feel like a crush?”
“I... don’t know.”
“What,” Jaehyun deadpanned. Mark shrugged.
“I’ve never had a crush on a guy before!”
Jaehyun sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, eyes clenched shut. “Mark, have you ever had a crush on a girl?”
“Well, yeah. Like, once. I think.”
“Take a wild fucking shot in the dark as to what a crush on a guy feels like.”
“Oh my god,” Mark said.
“You’re such a dumbass. Do you seriously think liking a boy is different than liking a girl?”
“I-I dunno!” Mark exclaimed defensively. “I thought maybe I was just looking into it too much or something!”
“The kid tried to hold your hand,” Jaehyun said. “Do you really think it’s just you?”
“...that’s not what he was trying to do,” Mark said, not believing Jaehyun as he squinted at him. “And if I do have a crush on him, I’m not going to tell him.”
Well, actually, Mark didn’t really have a good reason to not tell Donghyuck, besides the fact that he was still unsure whether or not he really had a crush on him in the first place. Jaehyun glanced down at his phone as it buzzed.
“Gotta cut the conversation short, kid. I invited friends over.”
Mark glared at Jaehyun. “Mom and dad aren’t even out of town.”
“Yeah, well, it’s not Johnny and Ten,” He said, pushing himself out of his seat and leaving Mark with more questions than answers.
Mark followed Jaehyun to the kitchen doorway, peeking over the edge as Jaehyun opened the front door and walked downstairs, shortly followed by his footsteps (accompanied by more) coming back upstairs. When they finally reached the top of the steps, Mark found himself staring at two faces he had never seen before in his life.
“Mark, don’t be fucking weird. If you’re gonna stare, stare out in the open,” Jaehyun said. One of the others scoffed and nudged Jaehyun’s shoulder.
“Be nice, would you?” He cleared his throat and bowed towards Mark. “Nice to meet you, I’m Kim Doyoung.”
The other bowed slightly as well. “I’m Ji Hansol.”
“I’m Mark Lee.” Mark nodded at the two.
“And I’m fucking bored, so shoo. Leave, Mark.”
“I’m not going anywhere though,” Mark said. Jaehyun huffed impatiently. “And I have questions.”
“Questions better be quick.”
Mark gestured towards Doyoung and Hansol. “Well, who are they?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” Jaehyun said, pointing to Doyoung first. “That’s my therapist.”
Doyoung laughed nervously, lifting his hands from his sides. “I’m not actually his therapist, that’s a little much. I’m getting my master’s in psychology. We met in philosophy.”
“So, my therapist,” Jaehyun insisted, Doyoung flushing pink as he pinched Jaehyun’s shoulder.
“Okay,” Mark said, pointing at Hansol, “and him?”
“Well, he’s Doyoung’s boyfriend.”
“Why is his boyfriend here?”
Jaehyun shrugged. “‘Cause I like him too.”
Mark squinted his eyes at Jaehyun, confused beyond the point of explanation, but... well, technically, Jaehyun answered his questions. Jaehyun made a vague shooing gesture with his hand again, Doyoung chiding him as Mark lifted his hands in resignation and walked into his room. He kicked the door shut behind him as muffled voices echoed down the hall, stifled laughs and low conversation. Mark didn’t know whether to be suspicious or proud of Jaehyun. He couldn’t remember the last time Jaehyun had made new friends. Johnny and Ten were friends from high school, and Mark was amazed he had even kept them in his life.
As useless as Mark thought Jaehyun was (only sometimes, not all the time), what he had said about Donghyuck was slightly helpful. He could’ve worded it better, but then again, Jaehyun never really was good with words, so Mark couldn’t fault him for that either. And apparently he was trying to hang out with different people. Whether that was a result of Mark’s nervous breakdown he had earlier or not, he couldn’t tell, but he appreciated it, even just hearing he was putting forth an effort.
Mark’s phone went off in his pocket. He pretended not to notice the way his heart skipped at the vibration, how a smile bloomed on his lips when he read Donghyuck’s contact name on his phone. Flopping down on his bed and holding his phone over his face to message Donghyuck back, he decided maybe, if he really was feeling something for Donghyuck, it wasn’t so bad.
Mark dropped his phone on his face three times that night.
Nearing a week and a half later, Mark finally had a chance to see Donghyuck again since they had spent time at his house. Besides passing moments at lunch and seeing each other in the halls (Donghyuck still didn’t wave back at Mark whenever he saw him in the halls), they hadn’t been able to spend more than five or ten minutes with each other.
They messaged each other all the time, though. Mark’s heart practically claimed permanent residence in his throat from how often it jumped up there when Donghyuck sent him a message so simple, hardly even worth writing home about, but it meant so much to Mark. Jaehyun had already called him out for “smiling like a five year old girl” at his phone more times than Mark cared to count on one hand. Jaehyun said it in a weird way, though. It was almost caring, something Mark couldn’t remember hearing from Jaehyun once in the entire time he knew him. It just wasn’t in his nature to be like that, or at least Mark thought it wasn’t. Whatever it was Jaehyun’s new friends were doing for him, it must have been doing something good for him. He was bearable now.
It was cold out, finally. Christmas was growing nearer, school holidays were coming up, it had begun to snow, and even more than that, Mark would have reprieve from basketball for a week. Tournaments were becoming more and more important, talked about often between practice and games. His coach had gotten off his back, but not enough for Mark to feel relaxed and comfortable with how he was playing. He had been pulled out of a game even, which had never happened before.
The door to the shop opened. Mark glanced up, found Donghyuck walking in and marveling at the empty vases and bins of flowers no longer fully stocked with budding roses and carnations, but void of all water and plant food. They still had bamboo stalks, shaped and curled and bent into different designs in the front of the store, and his parents were working on getting a shipment from Thailand in, as they had a winter wedding to cater for (the theme was summer in the middle of winter— Mark didn’t understand it, but the customers were paying handsomely, so he couldn’t complain), so hopefully they’d have some colorful flowers in the store again, even if they would only last for a few days.
“Jeez, it’s sad in here,” Donghyuck said, closing the door behind him and mussing his hair, dusting off snow from the ends of it as he shivered. “It’s freezing!”
“It’s not that cold,” Mark retorted.
“Shut up, your opinion doesn’t count,” Donghyuck said, tugging his scarf off from around his neck and draping it over his arm instead, kicking the snow off of his shoes before finally (finally! Mark thought) walking towards the counter. His lips were paler than normal, cheeks bitten and flushed from the cold, and eyes soft as ever. He crossed his arms and stuffed his hands under his armpits, exaggeratedly chattering his teeth as he reached the counter and leaned over it, resting his elbows on the counter and smiling at Mark. “You grew up in Canada.”
“And?” Mark said.
“You might as well have, like, lived in an igloo and fished for your food on the ice,” Donghyuck teased, Mark nudging his shoulder playfully and rolling his eyes. “You look a little tired. Are you okay?”
“Huh?” Mark blinked. “Y-yeah. I’m okay.” Mark self-consciously brushed his hair away from his face, though his bangs easily fell back into place. Donghyuck snorted and grinned wider.
“Lots of games, right?”
“Yeah,” Mark said softly. “Not to be pushy or anything, but are you going to come to one of them?”
Donghyuck tensed, immediately biting his bottom lip before he shrugged and pushed himself off of the counter. The significant shift in space between Mark and Donghyuck already bothered him, brows furrowed ever-so-slightly before he willed the feeling to leave him alone.
“Well.... I mean, I’m kinda busy with school stuff too,” Donghyuck offered, albeit weakly. “Not all of us can be the star of the basketball team.”
“That’s....” Mark bit back his response. “Yeah. I guess.”
“Oh, don’t be so serious about it, hyung,” Donghyuck said, straightening out and looking around the store again. “It’s not like I haven’t been trying.”
“I know that. Just kinda sucks not seeing you at games sometimes.”
“Why?” Donghyuck pressed, a mischievous gleam settling in his big eyes as Mark nervously flushed, the tips of his ears growing warm and red.
“Shut up, Donghyuck-ah.”
“I didn’t even say anything,” Donghyuck replied, but didn’t press on the subject any more than he already had. “But really, are you resting? You were really stressed out about the team last time we talked about this stuff.”
“I’m....” Mark paused, furrowed his brows and bit his lip. How was he? His parents didn’t really ask all that often. Their concern was more on school, sometimes on basketball, but... well, he’s pretty sure the last time his mom asked him how he was doing was a month ago. Something like that? Maybe?
“Mark?” Donghyuck said, waving his hand in front of Mark’s face. “Jeez, you’re worse than I thought.”
“Are you trying to say I look bad or something?” Mark falsely slurred his words, which in turn made Donghyuck giggle, his eyes closing with how wide the grin on his lips grew. “I’m really okay. Just kinda tired.”
“Do you still have homework to do?”
“Just studying for finals.” Mark sighed and stretched his arms up over his head. “And maybe something for lit. I can’t remember.”
Donghyuck hummed, putting his hands behind his back and gave Mark a smile.
“I know that look,” Mark said. Donghyuck smiled a little more than before. “You want a flower, right?”
“Well, since you’re offering—”
“Oh, you’re so stingy!” Mark said incredulously, his jaw dropping with a laugh as Donghyuck snickered and hid his smile behind his hands. The laughter that escaped him sounded childish and teasing, the way a kid would after tricking someone into giving him what he wanted, the way Tom laughed in episodes of Tom & Jerry that Mark remembered watching when he was a little kid. It was that kind of giggle that made Mark smile without realizing it, heart swelling in his chest.
“My mom didn’t give me my allowance this week, so I don’t have any money for flowers.” Donghyuck pouted, bottom lip jutted out as he lifted his hands in front of him and clasped them with a plea. “Just one, Mark-hyung?”
“Wow, you really want a flower, huh?” Mark said, tapping his finger against the side of his cheek, as if he hadn’t already decided that he was going to give Donghyuck a flower. Donghyuck made a whimpering sound, eyes wide and gleaming before Mark smiled and Donghyuck cheered in triumph.
“We don’t have a lot right now, since it’s so cold and all.” Mark hummed quietly and looked around the store. “Oh, actually.... Wait here,” Mark said, turning on his heel and heading towards one of the back rooms. He opened a door leading to their backyard, the greenhouse on the side of their empty garden dimly lit.
Mark breathed out a puff of steam, taking a step towards the greenhouse and opening the door. It was so warm inside, naturally. As soon as he stepped in, he felt as warm as he had when he was inside of the store, if not warmer.
Plucking one of his mother’s amaryllis flowers from a small pot near the middle of the greenhouse, Mark ran back out into the cold, ignoring his steamy breaths before heading back inside to the store and back to the counter where Donghyuck still stood.
“Here,” Mark said, reaching his hand out to Donghyuck and setting the amaryllis flower down in the palm of his hand. “My mom grows these ones, so you better appreciate it.”
“As if I don’t appreciate the other ones you’ve given me?” Donghyuck said. “What’s this one supposed to mean?”
“What?” Mark said, taken aback.
“What’s this flower supposed to mean? The sunflowers meant good luck, right? I know what some flowers mean, like roses and hydrangeas and stuff.”
Mark thought back to the time he gave Donghyuck the sunflowers, how he had an exam the following day. Mark wished he could offer up something else besides some flowers, but Donghyuck liked them, and he clearly still remembered that Mark gave him the flowers for a specific reason, so Donghyuck must have cared for them more than Mark thought.
“Oh. I, er, don’t know what that one means. I don’t know what a lot of them mean, actually.”
“You don’t?” Donghyuck said, though he was distracted by grazing his fingers over the delicate petals of the flower in his hand.
“Yeah, not really.” Mark shrugged. “I just give them to you because they look nice, and you like them,” he paused. “You know, you never told me where all these flowers are going. You don’t have a girlfriend, so... are you giving them to someone else?”
“Like who?” Donghyuck said with a snort.
“I dunno! A teacher? Your parents? Grandparents?”
“A teacher?” Donghyuck echoed with a tone of distaste. “Yeah right. The day I give one of my teachers some flowers is the day I also win the lottery.”
“You’re underage, that’s impossible.”
“Exactly,” Donghyuck replied. “Seriously, you wanna hear what my teacher did to me the other day? Mrs. Gong was going off about how well the entire class did on one of our tests, except for one person who apparently “doesn’t care about getting into a good school after graduation.””
“Was it you?” Mark feigned shock.
“Shut up. But you know, that’s not even the worst part. She took my test out and announced my grade to everyone. Everyone in my class! She wasn’t even sorry about it either, she just threw my test on my desk and left me alone to be made fun of by everyone else.”
Mark pursed his lips, feeling Donghyuck’s annoyance seeping into his own chest. “That’s fucked up.”
“It is! I studied really hard for that test too!” Donghyuck said. “But sure, it’s totally that I don’t give a shit about getting into a good school.” Then he paused, a smile creeping onto his lips. “Any way I can passive aggressively tell her to fuck off with flowers?”
“Wow. First of all, watch your mouth,” Mark said, Donghyuck rolling his eyes and waving for Mark to continue. “Secondly, I don’t think that’s a thing. Flowers are usually meant for saying nice things.”
Donghyuck clicked his tongue. “It was worth a shot, I guess. Whatever, I’m over it. I was just super mad that day. Like, I get they’re our teachers and they really don’t have to care about us, but basic decency would be nice.” Donghyuck frowned, and Mark reached forward, messing with his hair and pulling away with a tint of red on the apples of his cheeks. “What kind of look is that on your face?” Donghyuck said, a hint of sheepishness in his voice as he pulled away and straightened out.
“That’s just my face,” Mark said defensively.
“I think I would’ve noticed that expression on your face before, but okay, sure,” Donghyuck said.
“Are you saying you look at my face a lot?” Mark teased. Donghyuck squinted his eyes at Mark.
“Don’t flatter yourself,” he replied.
“I didn’t hear a “no” in there,” Mark continued, Donghyuck’s cheeks flushing red before he zipped up the front of his jacket and huffed.
“Oh, shut up. Don’t you have work to do?”
“Mm, it’s slow today.” Mark shook his head. “But if you have to go, that’s okay.”
“Yeah,” Donghyuck agreed, but quickly corrected himself. “Actually, I snuck out to come over here. My mom will kick my ass if I don’t get back there soon, so... I should get going.” Donghyuck jutted his thumb in the general direction of the door behind him. “But I really do like the flower.”
“You snuck out!?” Mark said incredulously. “If I had known you were going to sneak out, I would’ve brought it over on my own or something. Go home!”
Donghyuck eyed Mark carefully, a smug grin growing on his lips. “You don’t disobey your parents at all, do you?”
“What kind of question is that?” Mark said. “Of course I don’t. They’re my mom and dad, I love them.”
“Not listening to your parents doesn’t mean you don’t love them,” Donghyuck said. “Just means you’re a kid. A normal kid.”
Mark pouted. “I thought we already established I’m weird in your book.”
“And even weirder now!” Donghyuck replied. “Never broken a rule.... What kind of teenager are you?”
“Uhm... a good one?” Mark said. Donghyuck giggled, holding the flower close to his chest as he gave Mark a good look up and down.
“Too good. I’ll have to get you to break rules soon.” He nodded towards the door. “Until then, I hope you have a good night. Oh, and message me if you want to. I’m not doing much.”
Mark nodded, watched as Donghyuck left and disappeared as per usual. He never looked behind him a second time, Mark noted. Mark wondered if it was just him that looked over his shoulder for Donghyuck whenever they parted ways, and not the other way around. He wondered if Donghyuck ever thought about him in the same desperate, pathetically hopeless way he thought about Donghyuck in the morning and at night, all the moments in between when he felt anxious and scared, or excited and happy, and the only person he wanted to tell was Donghyuck.
That was pathetic. Mark felt pathetic for that, but he couldn’t bring himself to care either. Not when Donghyuck was so naturally warm and loving in an odd, sarcastic manner that only made Mark laugh, because he knew Donghyuck wasn’t just sarcastic or rude or however he wanted to come off. He acted that way, but he wasn’t really.
(And honestly, even if Donghyuck really was a sarcastic brat, Mark wasn’t completely sure he would’ve minded, but he digressed.)
Mark pulled out a notepad from under the counter. It was an order sheet, for bouquets and flowers. Mark used them for customers all the time, obviously. Now, he took one and scribbled on the front of it, writing down the names of a few flowers and adding the deadline for the end of the week. He ordered bouquets often, so his parents wouldn’t question it. He hoped his parents would be able to get the flowers by the end of the week. Any longer and he was afraid Donghyuck wouldn’t notice and wouldn’t be able to appreciate it.
Three days later, Donghyuck walked into his third period class, books held tightly to his chest as he rushed to sit down in his seat like he wasn’t two minutes late already. His teacher didn’t seem to notice or maybe she just didn’t care this time around. Either way, he made it to his seat without bothering her as she erased the chalkboard behind her and turned to face the class.
Donghyuck resisted the urge to scrunch up his nose at the sight of her, how she seemed to leer particularly at Donghyuck as he readjusted his position in his seat and looked away, glaring at her stupid desk. She probably had the graded quizzes from the day before sitting there somewhere in her mess, just waiting to be passed out to students and crush their dreams of ever getting into a good college, leaving them to be college dropouts working for pennies on street corners, and—
Admittedly, Donghyuck was a little overdramatic.
Still, Donghyuck stared at her desk, ignoring her pre-lecture lecture and frowning when he noticed a vase sitting on top of her desk, one he had never noticed before. Inside of it sat a stunning display of flowers, yellow carnations and orange lilies, red geraniums, and... were those foxgloves? Where the hell could someone get foxgloves in the middle of winter? Most of those flowers were dead and out of season. It would take a professional florist to get those kinds of flowers.
Donghyuck felt his breath get knocked back in his lungs, like a rush of cold water flooding through him all at once as he resisted the urge to smile, and slid his phone out from the pocket of his jacket. Once his teacher had turned her back on the class, he took a quick picture of the vase, sending it to Mark in their private chat.
? (9:36 am)
Mark viewed the message only a moment after Donghyuck sent it. Donghyuck smiled involuntarily and glanced up ward to ensure his teacher wasn’t looking as he read Mark’s reply and wrote another short one in response.
✨ flower boy ✨:
Wow would you look at that
Flowers (9:37 am)
are these what i think they are?? (9:37 am)
✨ flower boy ✨:
Hmmmm i dunno? :Oc (9:38 am)
i’ll ignore the atrocious use of that emoji if u tell me this is what i think it is (9:38 am)
✨ flower boy ✨:
:) Maybe it is then! (9:39 am)
are those really the fuck u flowers i asked for (9:39 am)
what r u playing at, mark lee (9:40 am)
✨ flower boy ✨:
I suddenly can’t read and have no idea what you mean (9:40 am)
Don’t you have to pay attention in class? You know or else you won’t get into a good school and stuff ;) (9:41 am)
firstly of all fuck off (9:41 am)
✨ flower boy ✨:
Firstly of all (9:41 am)
i’m gonna grill u about it @ lunch in front of jaemin and everyone (9:41 am)
✨ flower boy ✨:
Won’t be at lunch today remember? I have an away game like two hours away (9:42 am)
Donghyuck suddenly deflated at the message, his heart feeling particularly heavy in his chest as he kept his fingers over the keyboard and frowned. That was right. Mark did have an away game. He had mentioned it a few days prior, and Donghyuck should have known anyway. Still, he couldn’t help feeling slightly... sad? Upset? Whatever it was, he was clearly bothered by the fact that he wouldn’t be able to see Mark at lunch. He guessed staying in his photography classroom and working on some edits wasn’t all that bad, though. Just....
✨ flower boy ✨:
You ok?? (9:44 am)
Donghyuck blinked and quickly typed back.
yeah yeah fine just had to hide from the teacher (9:44 am)
✨ flower boy ✨:
You should text me at lunch anyways (9:44 am)
The bus is kinda boring on the way there (9:45 am)
in ur dreams loser
go away i have to pay attention and learn (9:46 am)
✨ flower boy ✨:
Wow is that the first time you’ve ever said that in your life (9:47 am)
i’m gonna kick ur ass next time i see u just btw (9:48 am)
✨ flower boy ✨:
Will that happen before or after i give you another free flower (9:49 am)
maybe i don’t want ur flowers!!! (9:49 am)
that’s a lie
i want the flowers please keep giving me flowers (9:50 am)
✨ flower boy ✨:
:) cute (9:50 am)
Gotta take a quiz gtg have fun in class (9:51 am)
Donghyuck tucked his phone away in his pocket just as his teacher turned and faced the class again. He opened up his textbook to the page number she said, the class following along as she read aloud and then picked students to read out loud for her. Thankfully she seemed to gloss over Donghyuck completely as he sat in his seat.
Whatever little concentration he had left in him today seemed to vanish as he flickered his eyes upwards, towards the vase of flowers. It happened so many times, Donghyuck was surprised she hadn’t caught him looking yet. Each time, he held back a smile, biting the inside of his cheek and trying to hide the ever-growing blush blooming on his cheeks.
They messaged each other the entire way to the game, and Donghyuck waited patiently for Mark to return hours later after the game was over. On the ride back, Mark fought sleep away and pulled his phone from his pocket, tapping the call button on Donghyuck’s contact and waited patiently as the line rang once, twice, another time and Mark was ready to hang up when Donghyuck’s rushed voice came up on the other line.
“You sound like you ran a marathon,” Mark whispered, tired voice laced with sleep.
“Jihyun—” Donghyuck said, taking a long breath in. “— stole my phone.”
“Oh, is that your sister?” Mark said. The bus was practically dead silent, save for the sound of some snoring, and small talk from some of his teammates in the front of the bus. Even Jaemin was sound asleep, arms crossed over his chest and mouth parted as he snoozed quietly in the seat in front of Mark’s own.
“Yes.” Donghyuck took another long breath in and finally calmed himself. “She said she was going to answer and talk to you instead. Oh my god, I don’t think I’ve ever run so fast before in my life,” Donghyuck mumbled mainly to himself, but cleared his throat and returned to the conversation. “What’s up? Why’d you call?”
“Just... wanted to talk,” Mark admitted timidly. If he was being completely truthful, he wanted to hear Donghyuck’s voice more than anything else.
“Okay,” Donghyuck said, surprised, but not put off in the slightest. “How was the game?”
“Tiring,” Mark mumbled.
“Did you win?”
“Yeah, we did.”
“Look at you go, hotshot,” Donghyuck teased. “How many points did you score?”
“I don’t even remember,” Mark replied, but he sounded upset. Donghyuck didn’t press on it.
“Why are you talking so quiet?”
“The bus is dead,” Mark said, glancing around the bus again. The other teammates that were talking before now had earbuds tucked in their ears, music echoing through the bus as they fell asleep. “Everyone’s sleeping.”
“You sound tired too.”
Donghyuck hummed. “Why don’t you go to sleep then?”
“Wanted to talk to you,” Mark continued without shame, quiet, but not embarrassed. He didn’t have the energy to be embarrassed. “We never see each other anymore.”
Donghyuck hiccuped from the other line, like his words were suddenly knocked back into him. Mark pressed his phone closer to his ear, the roaring of the bus making it almost impossible to hear Donghyuck’s voice over it.
“We s-see each other,” Donghyuck said, damning himself for stuttering.
“Not as much as I want to see you,” Mark said.
“That’s weird,” Donghyuck rushed. “You’re weird.”
“Is it weird that I like you?” Mark said. The question would have come off as a normal thing any other time. In any other setting, Donghyuck wouldn’t have batted a lash at the question. But the fact was that this wasn’t a different setting, this was now. This was now, and Mark was meek and sounded shy, something Donghyuck hadn’t really heard in his voice but one or two times before. “Jaehyun said that— that he thought maybe you liked me in the same way.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Honestly?” Mark said, and then gave a weak laugh. “I have no idea. I’m kinda out of it.”
Donghyuck swallowed the ball that built up in his throat, willed himself to breathe and calm down, if only for a moment.
“But I know I miss seeing you a lot,” Mark continued, voice no louder than a whisper.
“We still have lunch together....” Donghyuck argued vaguely. He was more curious about what else it was Mark had to say.
“I mean, like, actually seeing you, Donghyuck.”
Donghyuck waited desperately for some form of honorific, of some way of knowing that this was less serious than Mark was making it seem. How over dramatic, he thought in the back of his mind, for Mark to pull this out when he couldn’t even see his face, and probably wouldn’t be able to for a few days, a week at most. He couldn’t even try sneaking out to see him.
“Like... the first time you came over to study. When you fell asleep on my bed.” Mark pushed his bangs away from his eyes, voice suddenly wavering on his line of the conversation. Donghyuck noticed. He didn’t like it. “Seeing you like that. That’s what I mean when I say I miss you.”
“When I’m asleep?”
“When you’re happy,” Mark corrected. “I want to see you happy.”
Donghyuck swallowed thickly again, suddenly and painfully aware of how hard his pulse thrummed, blood running hot through his veins, but still he shivered like he was walking through a blizzard.
“You’re not thinking right, are you?” Donghyuck said. “You’re tired.” That must have been it.
“I am tired,” Mark admitted, “but I think about this stuff all the time. Even when I’m not tired, I think about it. How to make you happy, I mean.”
Donghyuck fell back on his bed, staring up at the ceiling as he heard Mark take a deep breath in, let a deep breath out.
“You make me happy,” Donghyuck spoke before Mark had a chance to.
For a moment, Donghyuck swore he could hear the smile in Mark’s voice.
“You don’t have to say that just because I’m acting like this.”
“I really mean it.” Donghyuck insisted.
They let the silence sit for a moment, Donghyuck’s heart beating erratically in his chest. He wondered if Mark could hear his uneven breathing, how he stuttered for air every now and again when he realized he hadn’t caught his breath yet.
“Are you falling asleep?” Donghyuck said, voice higher than he intended it to be. Mark hummed in confirmation.
“Talk to me though,” Mark said.
“You want me to stay on the line and talk even if you fall asleep?” Donghyuck feigned offense.
Donghyuck waited, just for a moment, to collect his thoughts, before he began to talk about his day. They had done this before, this kind of situation almost exactly. Except last time Mark was ridden with anxiety and scared, and Donghyuck knew that, so he spoke without restraint, about everything that happened in an attempt to soothe Mark’s frayed nerves. He was never really sure if it worked last time. Now he was the anxious one, hands clenched at his sides and breath almost too fast for it to be normal, but still he talked.
Mark’s breathing leveled off. He must have been sleeping. Donghyuck held his phone in his hands still, shaking and why was he so scared to hang up the phone? Why was he afraid to end the conversation?
Donghyuck wasn’t sure if Mark was going to remember the things he said if he hung up. Like whatever they talked about would suddenly disappear at the end of the call, and that would be that. Maybe Donghyuck was just afraid. It could have been that. It could have been anything. But whatever it was, Donghyuck didn’t like it.
Donghyuck hung up after thirteen minutes of silence.
Mark didn’t know what he did wrong for the month that followed. Every message he sent to Donghyuck went read but unanswered. When they sat at lunch together, Donghyuck was closed off, didn’t look at him, didn’t even want to speak more than a few words with him unless absolutely necessary. Whatever it was Mark had done, it had clearly been something awful. He remembered everything he said to Donghyuck on the bus, so he didn’t think it was that. After all, he didn’t say much other than he liked seeing Donghyuck happy. Where was the problem with that?
Still, Mark didn’t press. He knew that he should have, at least a little. He was distracted during practice and during class when he caught sight of Donghyuck walking outside, late to class and running with his books held tightly against his chest. Donghyuck never looked over his shoulder once (not that he would’ve noticed Mark in his classroom, but that was besides the point).
To put it plainly, they drifted apart in the simplest of ways, and it hurt. It hurt so stupidly bad. Mark hated it, and he felt like it had started to show. Jaemin definitely noticed, at the very least, when Mark sat with them again at lunch, instead of inviting them to sit with him and Donghyuck at the other table.
Jaemin glanced in the direction where Donghyuck usually sat, but found the table full of other people, and Donghyuck nowhere in sight. Usually he was one of the first in the lunchroom, securing his spot long before everybody else trickled into the cafeteria and claimed their own spots. Now his seat was taken up by some other group of kids.
“Hey.” Jaemin nudged Mark, who plucked his headphones from his ears and looked up at him. “Where’s Donghyuck?”
Mark tensed. “Why?”
“You usually sit with him at lunch,” Jaemin said it as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “Like... for the past couple months? We even sat with you guys a few times.”
“I remember, I remember,” Mark said before biting his lip and shrugging. “I-I don’t know where he is.”
“Did you guys fight or something?” Jaemin said. Mark frowned. “You’re so easy to figure out.”
“Shut up,” Mark huffed.
“Well?” Jaemin said, expectant, but disappointed when Mark seemed confused at his question. “What happened?”
“Oh. Er, nothing,” Mark said.
“Gee, it really sounds like nothing happened and everything is fine,” Jaemin replied. Mark furrowed his brows and looked back to his tray of food in front of him, busying himself with unwrapping the sandwich he bought.
Youngkyun and Chanhee came and tossed their trays down on the table, rowdily shoving one another before sitting down and laughing. If Mark didn’t want to talk about it before, he really didn’t want to talk about it in front of them. Not that they were mean or didn’t like Donghyuck, but Chanhee still firmly believed Donghyuck was up to no good in his free time, no matter what Mark offered to counter it.
“You know you can tell me about this stuff, right?” Jaemin pressed again. “We’ve been friends for a while. I’m not gonna make fun of you or anything.”
“I know,” Mark said, though a part of him was actually... surprised. He and Jaemin had never particularly broached that subject before. “He just hasn’t talked to me in a long time.”
“How long is a long time?”
“Like... a month and a half,” Mark mumbled, “I think.”
“Really?” Jaemin said. “That long? This has been bothering you for that long?”
“I dunno, maybe longer,” Mark said, brushing it off as Jaemin nudged him again.
“Acting like it’s not a big deal.”
Mark paused, words stuck in his throat.
“If it’s bothering you, it’s a big deal,” Jaemin insisted. “And you’ve been acting all weird and distant lately. If that’s what’s been bothering you, you should go talk to him.”
“Stop,” Mark said, lifting his hand up in front of him. Chanhee and Youngkyun both quieted down with the action alone. “I’m fine, Jaemin.”
Jaemin pushed Mark’s hand out of his face, a grimace on his lips as he shook his head.
“Don’t do that.”
“Why?” Mark said, moving to lift his hand from his side. Jaemin caught the action, shoved his hand back down, forcefully, angrily.
“I said don’t do that,” Jaemin repeated.
“Why is everybody on my back all of the sudden?” Mark said, moving to scoot away from Jaemin as he pushed his tray away from him, in Chanhee and Youngkyun’s direction. They both stopped, eyes wide with surprise as Mark continued. “So what? He’s not here at lunch, big deal. Like I care.”
Jaemin rolled his eyes. “Stop throwing a tantrum for two seconds—”
“Why should I?”
“Because you sound like Jaehyun,” Jaemin said suddenly, Mark immediately falling silent as his eyes widened, mouth clamped shut before he pushed himself out of his seat. “Where are you going?!”
Mark didn’t answer, rushing out of the lunchroom, out of the crowds of loud chatter and people, not paying mind to Jaemin yelling after him even as he rushed upstairs, his footsteps echoing loudly through the empty halls. Devoid of people and even the slightest sound of breathing, Mark found himself trapped only with Jaemin’s voice.
You sound like Jaehyun.
Mark never wanted to hear those words again in his life, but he could only mull over them as he ran, without any idea where he thought he was heading.
You sound like Jaehyun.
“I don’t,” Mark huffed the words out angrily, turning and pacing down the hall he was in, running his fingers through his hair. He could feel tears pricking at the corners of his eyes. Why was he even crying? Why did he think he deserved to cry? Everything wrong had been his fault lately. The reason the team kept losing, the reason Donghyuck left, the reason Jaemin, Chanhee, and Youngkyun stopped inviting him out— it was all his own fault, and he had nobody else to blame but himself.
Tears leaked past his eyes, Mark clenching his eyes shut as he fell back against the lockers behind him, the crashing sound echoing through the halls as he slid down and sat down, crying into his hands.
“I don’t sound like Jaehyun,” Mark said, words stifled through sobs before he heard the sound of a door opening beside him. Probably a teacher getting ready to yell at him for being so loud, but he didn’t care.
It was Donghyuck. His voice was quiet, hushed. The click of the door echoed through the empty halls, and Mark couldn’t bring himself to pull his hands away from his face. “What are you doing?”
Mark shook his head.
“What does that mean?” Donghyuck said, softer this time. There was the sound of shuffling, shoes scuffing against the tile floor of the hall before Mark felt Donghyuck sitting beside him. He wanted to move away. He wanted to move and be angry. Part of his brain told him he should hate Donghyuck for what he did. But he couldn’t. His heart wouldn’t let him, and he really didn’t want to anyway.
“Hyung,” Donghyuck said, setting his hand down on his shoulder.
“You’re going to think I’m pathetic,” Mark said. Donghyuck clicked his tongue, fingers tensing around his shoulder. “But I still miss you.” Mark pulled his hands from his face, looking away from Donghyuck and hoping his eyes and face weren’t too puffy from crying.
Donghyuck hesitated. He carefully picked his words, trying to figure out what was best in which order to try and calm Mark down. He hadn’t seen him in a month, maybe longer. It felt like meeting him for the first time all over again.
But before he could try and form a coherent thought, string together words in a sentence and say something, he found his hand on top of Mark’s own on the dirty hall floor beside them. It was awkward. It felt awkward to Donghyuck, at least. The bottom of his hand sat on top of Mark’s own, fingers trembling in the spaces between Mark’s as he squeezed. Donghyuck had only ever done this once before. Once, and it didn’t end up so well, but he wanted to try again.
“Your hands are sweaty,” Mark said, sniffling and using the back of his free arm to wipe his eyes. Donghyuck snorted, playfully pushing Mark with his elbow as Mark teetered to the side, then leaned back to his place and turned to glance at Donghyuck.
“Yeah, well... your eyes are red,” Donghyuck said, thumbing a tear from Mark’s cheek.
“It’s ‘cause I was crying,” Mark replied. “That happens.”
“And my hands got sweaty because... well, actually, they’re just constantly sweaty,” Donghyuck said, tugging his hand loose from Mark’s and setting it on his lap. Mark glanced down at Donghyuck’s hand, lifted his own and laced their fingers together without a word. “You were just complaining about my sweaty palms.”
“It’s not too bad,” Mark said, squeezing slightly before looking forward and leaning his head against the locker behind him. “Jaemin said I sounded like Jaehyun.”
“Ouch,” Donghyuck replied. Mark nodded. “Is that why you were crying?” He nodded again. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s my own fault.” Mark sniffled. “I was a jerk, so... I deserved it. Just kinda shitty to hear it in words from one of my friends.”
“Yeah,” Donghyuck said, then looked down at their fingers still closely laced together, Donghyuck feeling less nervous and more... content. Comfortable. Mark’s hand was rough with callouses, but Donghyuck didn’t mind so much when Mark readjusted his grip so their fingers sat together comfortably, tenderly.
Mark turned his gaze to Donghyuck, eyes tracing over Donghyuck’s soft features and the way his lips curved downwards with a frown. He was focused on their hands together. Mark tried to loosen his grip from Donghyuck’s, but found their hands tightly wound together instead, Donghyuck looking up at Mark. The apples of his cheeks were rosy with embarrassment.
“You don’t have to hold my hand,” Mark said.
“I know I don’t,” Donghyuck replied.
“But you’re still holding it,” Mark said. Donghyuck finally looked at him. Be it Mark’s overdramatic mind or the fact that Donghyuck was still as breathtaking as the first time Mark saw him in the store, the sight of Donghyuck sitting so closely beside him made it feel like it had been years since they last saw each other like this.
“I want to."
A moment, a pause; Donghyuck spoke again.
“Is there anything I can do to help you feel better?”
Mark hummed, eyes shifting from left to right every now and again. The bell rang. Soon enough the halls would be full of students coming in for their classes right after lunch, but they had another minute at least before they’d have to pull apart.
“Remember when you said you’d get me to break some rules?” Mark said. Donghyuck grinned, devilish.
“I think I’m ready to break some.” Mark smiled back at Donghyuck. “I want to toilet paper Jaehyun’s house.”
“Hmm,” Donghyuck began, tapping his finger against his chin as Mark playfully punched his shoulder, “I guess I’ll break some rules with you, Mark Lee.” He paused and pinched Mark’s chin, shaking his head back and forth. “I think I like you enough for that.”
The smile on Mark’s face increased by tenfold, his cheeks aching, his chest aching, but in the best way possible.
“I like you too, Donghyuck-ah.”
It was a late-winter night they ended up buying four packs of toilet paper from four different stores. Donghyuck insisted that was the smart way to do it, as it appeared less suspicious, and they could easily hide the receipts if they ever got caught. Donghyuck also insisted that they wouldn’t get caught, as he had done this kind of thing “plenty of times before”.
“Mark!” Donghyuck chided quietly. “Stop giggling already!”
“I’m sorry!” Mark replied just as softly, no louder than a whisper as wintery winds whipped around their bodies. “It’s so windy, Donghyuck-ah. What if the toilet paper flies away?”
“It won’t if we throw it this way,” Donghyuck said, gesturing to the side of the house. Mark stepped on a small branch, a loud snap filling the air as Mark stifled high pitched giggles behind his hand. “You’re so loud!” Donghyuck smacked Mark’s shoulder as he walked over to his side, cheeks red from how hard he was laughing behind his hands. “Hyung, you’re such a dork. Why are you laughing so hard?”
“I’ve never done stuff like this before,” Mark whispered. “I’m anxious. Does it show I’m anxious? I can feel it, my heart is kinda—”
“Hyung,” Donghyuck said, reaching his hand out and taking Mark’s between his own. “Breathe.”
Mark nodded, taking in long, deep breaths. Donghyuck squeezed his hand, loosened their fingers and handed Mark two rolls of toilet paper.
“Throw them that way, okay?” Donghyuck pointed. “And get them everywhere.”
“Even in the trees?” Mark said. Donghyuck nodded, a goofy smile tugging at the corners of his lips.
“Especially in the trees.”
Despite Donghyuck’s warnings, Mark kept giggling all throughout the process, even when the lights in Jaehyun’s house flickered on, and they ran away, leaving one unopened package of toilet paper sitting on the front lawn.
“I can’t believe you toilet papered my house.”
As it turned out, they had been caught. Despite Donghyuck’s reassurances that they would never get caught, especially with how careful they had been buying the toilet paper, Jaehyun had heard Mark’s laughter through his window that night. He came by the following morning with the unopened package of toilet paper they had left on the front lawn, Jaehyun shoving it in Mark’s chest.
“You’re so fucking lucky mom and dad aren’t home right now,” Jaehyun said, walking in with Hansol and Doyoung trailing in behind him.
“Sure, you’re all totally welcome to come in. Good morning,” Mark said passive aggressively, Doyoung and Hansol bowing their heads slightly in apology, but still walked in after Jaehyun.
“Seriously, I can’t believe you toilet papered my house. How old are you?” Jaehyun pulled a roll of toilet paper from the package and unraveled some of it, throwing it in Mark’s general direction. It flew past him and knocked into a few family pictures behind him.
“I mean, I’m 17,” Mark commented lowly. He gestured to the couches, Doyoung and Hansol immediately moving to sit down. Jaehyun took another roll from the package.
“You’re gonna clean that shit up.”
“It’s just some toilet paper,” Mark replied, picking up the first roll from the ground and throwing it in Jaehyun’s face.
“It’s everywhere,” Jaehyun said. “How did you do that all by yourself?”
Mark grinned, and Jaehyun rolled his eyes before he narrowed his gaze towards Mark.
“Oh my god,” Jaehyun said, “really? That kid?”
“I don’t know who you’re talking about.” Mark shrugged. “And I’m not going to clean it up either.”
Jaehyun quirked a brow. “What if I tell mom and dad?”
Mark hardly hesitated. “Go ahead.”
Jaehyun faltered, brows furrowed and eyes carefully studying Mark’s expression. Doyoung and Hansol glanced between the two, quiet and mindful as Jaehyun spoke again.
“I think I like the kid you’ve been hanging out with.”
Mark held back a smile on his face. As much as he claimed to dislike Jaehyun, just hearing those words come from his mouth brought on a wave of calm unlike any other he had ever felt in his life, besides the times he and Donghyuck had held hands.
“To be honest, I don’t think he’d like you much,” Mark said. Doyoung held back a giggle behind his hands, and Hansol grinned.
“Do you tell him about what an asshole I am?”
“Yeah,” Mark replied without a second of hesitation. “He’s not really crazy about you.”
“Well, a lot of people aren’t,” Hansol chimed in, earning a quick burst of laughter from Doyoung as Jaehyun shot him a glare and threatened to throw a roll of toilet paper at him instead.
Mark sat down on the couch, across from Doyoung and Hansol. Jaehyun set the package of toilet paper down and shoved his way between Doyoung and Hansol, the two throwing Jaehyun quick glances, short smiles, but they were full of something so loving, so tender, it almost made Mark envious (was that how he looked at Donghyuck when he didn’t realize it?).
“And this kid—”
“Donghyuck,” Mark corrected, catching Jaehyun off guard. “His name is Donghyuck.”
“Oh, excuse me,” Jaehyun said, the apology leaving his lips before he had even realized it. Mark parted his lips to point it out, but Doyoung shook his head, swiping his hand across his throat. Mark clamped his lips shut, knowing full well that Doyoung knew more about the situation than he did. “Donghyuck, does he know you like him?”
Mark hummed, shaking his head. “No, not really.”
“You already know what I’m gonna say then, right?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Mark said.
“I’m gonna say it anyway. You need to tell him. Don’t be a fucking wuss.”
“Ever the caring and doting older sibling, aren’t you?” Doyoung said. Jaehyun grimaced.
“We’re not even blood related.”
“I mean, I distinctly remember you saying you thought of Mark as a younger brother—”
“Oh my fucking god, I told you that in confidence!” Jaehyun shouted, Hansol bursting into laughter as Jaehyun hid his face behind his hands. “You’re my therapist, aren’t there laws against talking about this kind of shit?”
“You’re gonna have to put your entire paycheck in the swear jar if you keep cussing like this,” Hansol reminded. Jaehyun groaned louder, burying his face in his hands again.
“You two are so embarrassing.”
“But he’s right,” Hansol continued. “In kinder words, you really should tell Donghyuck properly about the way you’re feeling. Even if he doesn’t feel the same way, you’ll feel a lot better if you tell him.”
“Yeah.” Jaehyun waved his hand in Hansol’s general direction. “Listen to the all-knowing Hansol. He’s like the magic 8 ball, but a little better.”
“Shit, look at you go, hotshot.”
Despite the threats Jaehyun made every now and again to remind Mark that he had to clean up the mess he had made at his house, and the occasional bickering between Doyoung, Jaehyun, and Hansol, for once, Mark didn’t have to sit in his own house and feel like a stranger, a shadow on the wall living only to follow in Jaehyun’s footsteps.
Jaehyun asked Mark more than once about Donghyuck, curious about what it was that made Mark so drawn to him, so naturally attracted to the brightness of his smile and his slightly bratty attitude. Mark tried his best to answer, but there wasn’t much else to say than “I just like him.”
For once, Mark felt okay with the way things were going. The only thing he could have wanted besides this was having Donghyuck beside him, holding his hand the entire time.
Sunday mornings were always particularly boring in Donghyuck’s household. His mother worked early, didn’t come home until late considering the long shifts at the hospital in the middle of town, and his father was away on business for the time being. Jihyun was at a friend’s house for the weekend, something she did often without her parent’s permission and hardly a care if Donghyuck minded being alone.
The TV was stupidly loud, echoing through the house as Donghyuck rummaged through his backpack and searched for the homework his teacher had assigned for the weekend. He really didn’t want to write an essay, but he had put it off to the last minute (as per usual), and now had to rush to get all seven paragraphs done and (not really) edited before the end of the night. It was already nine am, and he hadn’t even thought of an outline for it.
As he carried his papers out to the living room with his laptop tucked neatly into his side, he heard his phone go off from its spot on the couch, buzzing with a notification, and then another, and another one before it finally stopped and he furrowed his brows. Jeno said he was busy with photography for the weekend, as he had been slacking on his work lately, so it couldn’t have been him.
Plopping down on the couch and setting his things down in front of him, Donghyuck took a moment to open his laptop and a new document before he heard his phone go off yet another time. Who wanted his attention this badly, seriously? He had things to do. Someone better have been dying.
He snatched his phone up from the couch cushion, pressed the home button, and found four messages from Mark.
✨ flower boy ✨:
Hey are you home right now (9:33 am)
Actually who am i kidding you’re always home
Answer me hey hey hey hey where are you (9:35 am)
Donghyuck!!!! (9:37 am)
boy first of all how dare you what if i had plans (9:38 am)
✨ flower boy ✨:
What if i suddenly sprouted wings and started flying (9:38 am)
fuck off now i was gonna ask what u want but never mind (9:39 am)
✨ flower boy ✨:
No seriously! Go outside look on ur front porch (9:39 am)
what did u leave on my front porch (9:40 am)
✨ flower boy ✨:
Just!!! Go look!!! (9:40 am)
Donghyuck rolled his eyes, about to reply sarcastically when he noticed Mark sent another message.
✨ flower boy ✨:
Please? :( (9:41 am)
With that, Donghyuck pushed his laptop off to the side, finally rising and stretching his arms over his head. If Mark expected him to go outside and find something, that must have meant he was still outside somewhere. What a loser. But that meant Donghyuck could take his sweet ass time walking to the door just to piss Mark off some more, which was always worth it. He could already hear his phone going off with another notification noise, and when he decided to go the long way around his couch, another one. Apparently Mark wasn’t very patient, or at least didn’t feel like being patient at the moment.
Once he finally reached the door, Donghyuck realized just how quickly his heart was beating, which didn’t make sense. After all, Mark had only told him to check. That didn’t mean anything. There could have been anything sitting on his porch. It could’ve been a prank (though Donghyuck seriously doubted that, considering Mark had never broken any rules before in his life).
Still, he was nervous as he unlocked the door and peered through a slight crack in it. Mark wasn’t standing there. He couldn’t tell if he was upset about that or not, but he opened it more, taking a step out before his phone went off again.
✨ flower boy ✨:
God, what’s taking you so long!! (9:42 am)
I’m gonna light your gift on fire if you take any longer you little gremlin
O there you are (9:43 am)
Are you serious
Look down Jesus christ!!! (9:44 am)
Donghyuck moved his phone out of his line of vision, staring down at his front porch where he found a neatly wrapped bouquet of flowers.
It wasn’t anything too lavish or extravagant, but it look immensely better from the last time Mark had given Donghyuck flowers. Barely blooming daisies sat in the bouquet, encompassed with beautiful stems of baby’s breath and green leaves. Donghyuck immediately bent over to pick them up, shamelessly taking in the daisies’ sweet scent before he looked at his phone again.
Mark hadn’t responded or said anything, so Donghyuck tapped the call button and heard the call tone go off only a few feet away in his front yard. Mark cursed, silencing his phone before Donghyuck snickered and shoved his phone in his pocket.
“Smooth,” Donghyuck called out. Mark stepped out from behind a large bush his parents had growing in the front yard. His cheeks were visibly red, clearly embarrassed as he walked up to Donghyuck’s front porch and rubbed the back of his neck. “What are the flowers for?” Donghyuck moved them slightly in his arms. Mark shrugged.
“My mom started showing me how to make bouquets on my own, so... I wanted to see if I could make a decent one.”
Donghyuck involuntarily smiled, the apples of his cheeks warming as he let out a laugh, catching Mark off guard. He kept giggling, and eventually Mark let out a quiet, nervous chuckle.
“What’s so funny?”
“That’s just—” Donghyuck giggled again. “— really cute!”
Mark blushed darker, the tips of his ears scarlet as he looked down at his feet and twirled the tip of his shoe against the ground.
“Maybe a little less baby’s breath next time, huh?” Donghyuck said, taking a stem of said flower out of the bouquet and tapping it against Mark’s nose. “The daisies are drowning in them. But if it’s any consolation, they’re a lot better than the last bouquet. Not so overwhelming.”
“Y-yeah,” Mark agreed, and then nodded. “Yeah, the last ones were really bad, but my mom really wanted me to learn properly, so I... just thought you’d appreciate them.”
“I do!” Donghyuck exclaimed, lifting the top of the bouquet to his nose and smiling at the sweet scent. “Thank you.”
“Ugh, don’t mention it,” Mark said. “I can’t believe you caught me. I was just going to leave after you took the flowers.”
“Maybe keep your phone on silent next time, genius,” Donghyuck said, tucking his phone in his pocket and pursing his lips in thought. “Do you have to work today?”
Mark took a moment to respond, either surprised that Donghyuck asked or surprised that he cared, but either way, he nodded.
“But not until like five. Seulgi works the morning shift, and Seungwan switches shifts with her in the afternoon, so....”
Donghyuck uneasily lifted his hand from his side, jutting his thumb in the direction of the front door.
“Do you wanna hang out for a while?” He bit the inside of his cheek, knowing full well he wasn’t going to get any of his essay done if Mark stayed. “I wasn’t doing anything. I can order pizza too.”
The smile that tugged at the corners of Mark’s lips was enough to make Donghyuck feel undone, his heart practically aching with how hard it was beating as he took in a shaky breath. Mark nodded quickly, almost too excitedly.
“Yeah, that’d be cool.”
Mark stepped in after Donghyuck, making sure to lock the door behind him before slumping down on the couch beside him. Donghyuck pretended not to notice how Mark leaned his head on his shoulder after a few minutes of sitting together, scrolling through the channels for something to watch before deciding on some movie neither of them had seen. After a few minutes of silence, Donghyuck heard Mark’s stomach grumble with hunger, and he laughed. They easily rummaged up food and returned to their spot on the couch together, legs tangled and messily eating and feeding each other crumbs off of their plates with stupid, lazy smiles on their faces.
When Mark returned home, his parents asked him where he had spent his entire Sunday. He was careful to mention Donghyuck, as they hadn’t really heard much about him, and had only been properly introduced to him once before. He wasn’t even sure if they remembered him, but they didn’t seem to mind it so much as they said they’d be out for the night. Mark nodded and said goodbye, taking his place at the counter as Seungwan gathered up her things and slung her purse over her shoulder. Seulgi waited at the door, waving at Mark before Seungwan joined her at her side and they walked away with their pinkie fingers locked together.
The lull of the end of winter was coming to a close, Mark knew. Pretty soon they’d have business again, as flowers would start blooming and they’d be able to make more bouquets and faster. Weddings would come up, dances at school, people would start dating and ordering bouquets for their partners again and... well, Mark wasn’t sure how to feel about it.
More business was great, but he’d be working more, juggling his hours with basketball and tournaments. The only thing that bothered him about that was not being able to see Donghyuck as much as he had been lately. He just got him back. He didn’t want to lose him again to the fact that he had no spare time.
The door jingled, Mark blinking and coming back from his unsettled stupor before he found Jaehyun standing in front of him with a backpack slung over his shoulders. Mark deflated, shoulders falling.
“She kicked you out again,” Mark said. Jaehyun shook his head.
“I... er, I ran away.”
“You ran away?” Mark said. “How is that any different from....” He trailed off when he noticed Jaehyun’s shoulders shaking. He looked like he was about to cave in on himself, scared, eyes heavy on Mark as Mark swallowed thickly. “Just... go upstairs. Mom and dad aren’t home. I’ll tell them you’re home again, okay?”
Jaehyun nodded, heading upstairs without another word. Mark glanced at the clock. He still had a few hours before he could close the shop and head upstairs to even think about asking Jaehyun about what had happened, though he wasn’t so sure Jaehyun wanted to talk about it. But Mark was nosy and he wanted to know what it was that had made Jaehyun run away as opposed to waiting until his mother kicked him out, so he’d ask. Hopefully Jaehyun would tell him. Hopefully.
When Mark finally got the store closed and the register all counted, he locked up and headed upstairs. Jaehyun was sitting on the couch in the living room, appearing uncharacteristically... small. His legs were pulled up to his chest, chin resting on his knees as he flickered his gaze to Mark, then back to the television. Mark closed the door behind him.
“You okay, man?” Mark said. Jaehyun didn’t answer, but he didn’t give some snide remark in response either. He just sat there, eyes glazed over and expression unmoving. It was... terrifying, to say the least. Mark moved, and Jaehyun jumped, as if coming out of a daze, and nodded at Mark as he walked past him.
This was so weird, Mark thought as he walked into the kitchen. Maybe Jaehyun was hungry. He pulled out a bowl of stew his mother had made a few nights back, serving himself and Jaehyun a bowl before reheating them in the microwave and looking over the edge of the kitchen door to find Jaehyun still just sitting there, watching.
This was so weird, Mark hated it. Jaehyun was brash and rude, had no filter or boundaries most of the time, but the silence was killing him. He’d even like it if Jaehyun said something rude or disgusting if it meant he would be normal again.
He returned to the living room, setting the bowl of stew down on the coffee table in front of Jaehyun before he sat down beside him with his own steaming bowl and crossing his legs in his lap. Jaehyun looked at him from the corner of his eyes.
“‘M not hungry,” he said.
“You can eat when you are hungry, then,” Mark replied easily. His mother used that line on him all the time, and he was sure Jaehyun had heard it from his mom every now and again as well. “It’s hot though.”
Jaehyun nodded, but still didn’t speak.
Mark readjusted his position on the couch, shifting and grimacing with the movement. What the hell was he supposed to say to Jaehyun? Sure, Jaehyun had gotten a little more bearable since he had started hanging around Doyoung and Hansol (Mark never did ask what it was that was going on between the three, but to be honest, he wasn’t sure he’d understand either), but....
Well, Jaehyun was still the same foul-mouthed, unapologetically mean person Mark had gotten to know after the first time he disappeared for months without warning or apology. Mark didn’t like him much more than before, but he didn’t think it was right to just let him wallow in whatever the hell he was feeling alone.
Mark cleared his throat, Jaehyun glancing at him again before Mark set his bowl down on the coffee table and straightened out.
“Why’d you run away?” Mark said. Jaehyun visibly tensed, and he scooted away from Mark.
“It’s not your business,” Jaehyun retorted. Mark frowned, furrowing his brows and reaching forward to set his hand down on Jaehyun’s elbow, but he jerked away like Mark had the plague or something.
“Hyung, you’re being unreasonable,” Mark mumbled quietly. “Why won’t you tell me?”
“Why should I?” Jaehyun responded just as quickly, eyes intense as he stared Mark down. “Do you even really fucking care?”
The hesitation to answer was an answer enough. Jaehyun scoffed and looked back at the TV, arms crossed over his knees as he buried his face behind them.
“To be honest... no, I don’t know if I really care,” Mark admitted. Jaehyun didn’t even look at him now, but Mark continued. “You’re not a very good person, hyung.”
“Gee, way to fucking comfort me in my time of need,” Jaehyun grumbled.
“You’re not a very good person, but even bad people deserve to be listened to,” Mark insisted. Jaehyun finally looked up at him from his arms, eyes softer, but still not welcoming.
Mark decided not to press on it anymore, as he was afraid of really driving Jaehyun away and running the risk of him actually leaving the apartment or storming off to his room.
“I don’t know if I really care, but... I think you’re still worth listening to. Sometimes.” Mark tried his hardest to phrase his thoughts properly. Jaehyun’s shoulders relaxed at the end of his sentence, body visibly less tense than he had been before. He still appeared closed off, but he wasn’t hostile, or angry with Mark at the very least, so that was worth something. “That’s okay,” Mark said shortly. “You don’t have to tell me.”
Jaehyun nodded again, sitting up slightly and giving Mark a short, barely noticeable smile.
Mark smiled quickly, picking up his bowl of stew again and taking in a mouthful of vegetables and chopped up pieces of pork. Jaehyun reached forward, stretching his legs out in front of him. Mark grabbed a pillow from the couch and set it on Jaehyun’s lap.
“So you don’t hunch,” Mark explained. Jaehyun thanked him again, taking the spoon from his bowl and swallowing a mouthful of broth. They ate in relative silence, sound for the noise of the TV. It was on some show Mark had heard was good, but never really bothered or had the time to watch anyway.
“I’ve never seen this,” Jaehyun said, gesturing to the television with his spoon. Mark let out a hum of agreement.
“Me neither.” Mark took another spoonful of vegetables, chewing through them as he spoke. “But Donghyuck said he liked it. I was thinking of watching it.”
Jaehyun hummed, his expression unchanging as he mumbled, “that’s cute,” before picking a piece of meat from the bowl and stuffing it in his mouth.
“How is that cute?” Mark said.
“Donghyuck said he liked it, so you’re thinking of watching it.”
“No, no, no,” Mark said quickly, the smallest of smiles tugging at Jaehyun’s lips as he did so, “those were two separate statements, you ass.”
“I know,” Jaehyun said. “I was just teasing. It’s funny to see you get all worked up over it when I tease you.”
“Shut up,” Mark said, taking another spoonful of food. He tried to look annoyed, but he couldn’t really. It’s not like Jaehyun was wrong.
“Did you ever tell him?” Jaehyun said, head cocked slightly with his question. “About how you feel.”
“Oh... uhm, not really,” Mark admitted sheepishly. It had been a few weeks since he had had that conversation with Doyoung, Jaehyun, and Hansol. He was admittedly a little surprised that Jaehyun remembered, or cared, even. “It’s never come up, and to be honest, I don’t know how I’d do it.”
“I mean, you’ve been giving the kid flowers since you met him,” Jaehyun said through his food. “Give him some flowers that mean some gushy shit.”
“But I give him flowers all the time. I don’t want him to think that I’m just giving him flowers for the fun of it,” Mark said quietly.
Jaehyun hummed, chewing through his food and swallowing it down before he snapped his fingers. He said, “I got it! Just give him one flower.”
“Yeah, one. You’ve been giving him bouquets this entire time, right?” Mark nodded. “So give him just one that means something... gushy or some shit like that and he’ll get the gist.”
“That’s....” Mark paused, letting out a noncommittal grunt. Jaehyun waited. “That’s actually not a bad idea.”
“I have not so bad ideas every now and again,” said Jaehyun, looking down at his bowl of stew. He lifted the bowl to his lips, tipped it over and swallowed down a mouthful of broth as it leaked from the corner of his lips. “‘Course most people don’t agree with me usually, but whatever.”
“Well... thanks,” Mark said sheepishly. Jaehyun waved it off, and yet again, Mark expected some snide comment to leave his lips, but nothing followed. He just let the lull of silence fill the air, mindful, quiet as they finished their food.
When Jaehyun finished the last spoonful of broth, he and Mark reached out for one another’s bowls at the same time. Mark hesitated, brows furrowed before Jaehyun took his bowl for him, walked away and rinsed them out in the kitchen (instead of hastily throwing them in the sink the way he always did when he was home).
It was weird. It was odd, a little uncomfortable, but not unwelcome. Jaehyun came back, sat on the couch, legs crossed in front of him, feet on the table in front of him. Mark smiled.
“Mom hates it when you put your feet up on the table,” Mark said. Jaehyun snorted.
“Yeah, I know she does.”
“You should probably stop,” Mark continued. Jaehyun stared at him, eyeing him carefully before dropping his feet and turning his attention back to the television.
“Whatever, man. Turn the TV up, the remote is closer to you anyway.”
Mark had it all figured out. At lunch, he asked Donghyuck to come by to the store after school. Donghyuck easily agreed, and they walked home together. Mark was visibly anxious. Donghyuck tried holding his hand once, but Mark shook it away, pretended to stuff his hand away in his pocket as he looked down at his shoes and waited for the crosswalk light to turn.
The conversation was few and far between, and Mark tried so hard to figure out how to come off normal, but it was like every interaction he ever had with Donghyuck just... went blank. Like he couldn’t remember a single moment they had spent together, how they interacted, how to even appear normal. His hands were warm and sweaty, tucked in his pockets as his phone buzzed with a notification from Jaehyun.
Mark decided on giving Donghyuck a hydrangea. They only had blue ones in the store, even though Mark really wanted to give Donghyuck a pink one, because pink was cute and fit the whole confession thing a lot more than blue did. But blue was fine, blue served its purpose.
“You’re acting kind of funny,” Donghyuck said as Mark unlocked the front door to the store. Mark tensed, visibly so, but he nodded.
“Y-yeah, I know I am. Sorry.”
“Should I be worried?” Donghyuck tried to joke, a weak laugh leaving his lips as Mark frowned, his brows raised with something odd, something so out of place. It just didn’t fit, and that made Donghyuck that much more scared. “Mark, stop being so weird.”
“I’m really trying,” Mark said honestly. When Donghyuck walked in, he moved to lock the door to the store. “Uhm, the store is closed today. Family thing.”
“Important family thing?” said Donghyuck. Mark shook his head.
“Something with Jaehyun, so my parents just wanted to keep the store closed today.”
“Jaehyun again? I thought he went back home.”
Mark grimaced. “He did, and... something happened.” Mark scratched his cheek. “He’s moving in with us.”
“Are you serious?” Donghyuck said. “Like, permanently?”
“Yeah.” Mark whined.
“Oh my god.” Donghyuck set his hand down on Mark’s shoulder. “I’m sorry for your loss, but don’t throw yourself into the nearest river either.”
“It’s sounding more and more appealing every time I have to see Jaehyun around the apartment.” Mark hummed. “He’s been a little nicer, but... I dunno.”
“Well, if you throw yourself in the river, I’ll have to jump in after you. So maybe don’t do that.” Donghyuck smiled timidly. “The river is still cold as hell.”
“Contradicting, but I won’t make you jump in after me,” Mark teased.
“So... what did you want to give me?” Donghyuck looked around the store. “Another flower?”
“Wow, how did you guess?” Mark said. Donghyuck smiled, punching his shoulder playfully.
“Shut up. You know, with all these flowers you give me, I’m starting to think maybe you like me or something.”
Mark paused, eyes widening slightly before he turned and started towards the back room. His hands were shaking, and he was sweating, and the last time he had ever been this level of nervous was last year when he had reached national tournaments with the team.
This was ridiculous, it was only Donghyuck, and yet his brain kept reminding him that it wasn’t only Donghyuck— it was Donghyuck, the boy he had grown to so absurdly fond of for the past months; Donghyuck, the first person he’d ever held hands with before; Donghyuck, the first person besides his family who had ever seen him cry. Donghyuck was a lot of firsts in his life. He was important and valuable and Mark didn’t want to lose him over something like this.
“Mark?” Donghyuck said from the middle of the store, twiddling his fingers uneasily in front of him. “I was kidding, you know. No need to get all weirded out.”
Mark peeked over the edge of the back room's door. The blue hydrangea was sitting on the counter. All he had to do was pick it up and carry it out there, and hopefully, hopefully Donghyuck would get the message. Mark wasn’t good with a lot of things, and words was one of them. He was shitty with words. Flowers were easier.
“You gotta close your eyes, Donghyuck-ah.”
Donghyuck furrowed his brows, carefully eyeing Mark from his spot. “Why?”
“Because....” Mark thought for a moment, chewing his bottom lip as he finally picked up the hydrangea, ensuring the white bow at the base of it was snug before he looked back at Donghyuck. “I’m literally about to throw up from how nervous I am. Just close your eyes, please.”
Well, at least he was honest.
Donghyuck let out a soft huff of breath before he closed his eyes, brows furrowed slightly.
“Should I hold out my hands?”
“Y-yeah,” Mark said, taking a step out from the back room and holding the flower behind his back, just in case Donghyuck did decide to look before he was ready.
Mark took a few steadying breaths, Donghyuck warily quirking a brow. Even with his eyes closed, Mark could feel the judgmental look Donghyuck was undoubtedly giving him. With one last breath, Mark sapped the last of his resolve and set the flower down in Donghyuck’s open hands. Donghyuck curled his fingers around the ridiculously thick stem of the single flower. He furrowed his brows.
“Can I open my eyes?”
Mark wanted to smack himself, so he did before letting out a noise of confirmation. Donghyuck opened his eyes, looking at Mark before flickering his gaze down, to the flower in his hands. At first, a smile tugged at the corners of his lips, excited or surprised, but either way, that was good, right? That had to be good, Mark thought as he bounced back on the heels of his feet. Then Donghyuck hesitated.
“What’s wrong?” Mark said. Donghyuck lifted the flower more, fingers tracing across the petals as he glanced at Mark again.
“Blue?” He said, pointing to the petals. Mark nodded.
“Yeah, it’s blue. Is there something wrong? Do you not know what blue means or something?”
Donghyuck looked taken aback, brows furrowed with confusion before he let out a small scoff and shook his head.
“This is what you wanted to give me?” He said. Mark hesitated, and nodded again. “I see.”
“What’s wrong?” Mark said.
“What’s—” Donghyuck looked like he was ready to blow a gasket, cheeks tinged red with embarrassment before he huffed and shook his head, yet again. “Nothing. Nothing’s wrong. Thanks for the flower.”
“Donghyuck-ah, I’m serious.” Mark reached out to touch Donghyuck’s shoulder, but Donghyuck jerked away and started towards the door. “What did I do?”
“Nothing,” Donghyuck repeated, unlocking the door and hastily jerking it open. “Thanks again.”
Before Mark could get a word in edgewise, Donghyuck had already rushed out of the store, the door closing behind him as he disappeared from the window, rushing down in the direction they had come from, back home, and away from Mark, apparently. In the heat of the moment, Mark couldn’t even think, couldn’t figure out what it was he had done wrong. He had been giving Donghyuck flowers this entire time, so it wasn’t like Donghyuck wasn’t used to it or didn’t like flowers.
Despite the numerous times Mark tried dialing Donghyuck after he left, the call never went through. More often than not, the call went denied, rejected prematurely, and not long afterwards, completely ignored as it went straight to voicemail. Donghyuck must have shut his phone off.
When Mark’s family came back with boxes of Jaehyun’s things, Mark had to pretend like he wasn’t trying so desperately to figure out where he had gone wrong in giving Donghyuck the flower. His parents didn’t notice his distress, or if they did, they didn’t care, but Jaehyun noticed. Jaehyun noticed almost immediately. He clapped a hand down on Mark’s shoulder.
“Didn’t go so well?” He said. Mark shook his head almost immediately. “That’s tough, man. I’m sorry.”
Mark nodded without saying anything else, lifting a box from the back of the trunk and carrying it upstairs. Jaehyun followed Mark, but didn’t dare say much else besides the occasional reminder of where to put his things.
That night, Mark called Donghyuck eleven more times before giving up and falling into an anxiety ridden sleep.
Nearly three weeks had passed since the “flower incident”, as Jaehyun, Doyoung, and Hansol had so lovingly dubbed it after Mark came to them one night with tears in his eyes and the guilt of ruining his relationship with Donghyuck heavy on his heart.
Mark had tried his best to ignore it, to will the feelings to leave him alone, if only for a while, but they built up, and built up quick.
Jaemin had taken notice again, but he didn’t try pushing Mark to speak. Mark wasn’t sure if he appreciated that or not, but felt he had nobody else to turn to when he finally spoke to Jaehyun and them about it. Jaehyun kept most of his snide comments to himself, as he had been able to tell that Mark was really down because of whatever had happened. His attitude and demeanor had completely changed, to where the slightest of pressure or anxiety would sour his mood. He didn’t even like speaking to his parents about the shop, or about basketball. Those were the last things he wanted to think about.
The bell rang to signify the end of class. Mark jumped at the sound of it, startled awake by the sound as he looked up at the board. There was an entire side of notes that he had missed. Smart, he thought bitterly, but didn’t care as he closed his notebook and moved to stuff it away in his backpack.
Donghyuck hadn’t been at lunch for the past three weeks either. Any chance Mark had seeing him in the halls was quickly erased by the fact that Donghyuck ducked away and rushed off in the direction of anywhere-but-Mark. He wasn’t even subtle, Mark thought, about how much he clearly didn’t like Mark anymore.
But it just didn’t make sense. Mark had looked up the meaning of hydrangeas before even giving them to Donghyuck. He remembered that Donghyuck had said that he liked and knew the meaning of hydrangeas, but apparently it was wrong of him to give it to Donghyuck. That still didn’t make sense.
As Mark slung his backpack over his shoulders and started in the general direction of the lunch room, heading downstairs as slowly as he possibly could, he wondered where Donghyuck could have been. Besides the photography room, he hadn’t see him around. The only other place Donghyuck spent time was outside at lunch every now and again. He’d sit with his friends when Mark wasn’t there, or if he just didn’t feel like sitting inside. He had invited Mark to sit with them a few times, but Mark always said no, because he didn’t want to intrude on their space.
But— well, Mark didn’t have to worry about that anymore he supposed. After all, Donghyuck had his space. He had three weeks of space. And if Donghyuck wasn’t outside with his friends, at the very least Mark might have had change to pry the answers from his friends instead.
With slight (but not much) dedication, Mark started the long way to the lunch tables outside of the cafeteria, ready to get some answers from Donghyuck himself or his friends.
Donghyuck’s friends were an odd little bunch of kids that didn’t really seem to fit together properly, but somehow did anyways.
Mark had heard of Renjun around campus before. Renjun was one of the best soccer players on their school team, but he didn’t really appreciate the attention most of the other soccer players enjoyed. He had a soft smile and an even softer voice, which warranted the attention of all the girls on campus, his age, younger, older even. His grades were great, enough to keep him on the team, and apparently he had never missed a day of school, besides excused absences for games.
With Renjun came Chenle, the excitable foreign exchange student that was good at singing. Actually, saying “good at singing” was an understatement. He was ridiculously talented, as he quickly took over the main seat in their school’s choir and knocked down anybody else’s chances of taking it from him. He wasn’t cocky, but he appreciated credit where credit was due. On more than one occasion, Mark remembered Donghyuck telling him about how Chenle was “really overconfident” in his voice, when Chenle was really just admitting that he had a knack for singing.
Finally, besides Donghyuck, there was Jeno. Jeno was.... Well, he was Jeno. Mark couldn’t remember him being particularly good at any one thing. He was decent at sports, but he only participated in track and field, despite urging from coaches to get involved with a contact sport, or baseball or something besides track and field.
His grades were well, nothing outstanding or worth writing home about, but he never seemed to have trouble with them either. And in his free time between track and school, he liked photography as well. He and Donghyuck were seen together on more than one occasion taking pictures outside of school together. Mark had even run into them once or twice as they were taking photos for their individual projects together. So it wasn’t that Jeno wasn’t special or interesting, but that he was good at almost everything he did, and that made it seem so normal for him.
Jeno and Donghyuck were the closest out of all of them. Mark had even heard that they had another friend just a year behind them, still just in junior high, who was apparently very talented with dance. Each of Donghyuck’s friends had their own special little quirks and talents, different in so many ways, and yet they seemed to get along to seamlessly, without challenges or cares about trying to be the best at their one particular talent.
Mark was slightly envious, in a way. Not that he didn’t love and appreciate his friends, but they were all good at the same things Mark was good at. There was nothing to talk about. Jaemin enjoyed acting every now and again, but he didn’t want to tell Mark about it, even though Mark was willing to listen to him. Chanhee and Youngkyun were more like casual friends, as they had their own group they liked to spend time with, and Mark wasn’t a part of it.
The sound of laughter from the table Donghyuck’s friends sat at brought Mark back from his thoughts. He had stopped as soon as he caught sight of them, but quickly took a deep breath in and started for their table. Renjun looked up when Chenle said something quickly and pointed in the direction Mark was coming from. They all fell silent at the sight of Mark approaching their table. Donghyuck wasn’t there.
“Hey, uh,” Mark prefaced as he approached the table. Jeno looked down at the textbook in front of him, and Chenle gave a quick, bright smile before looking at Renjun. He was sitting on the top of the table, staring at Mark carefully. “Have you guys seen Donghyuck around?”
“Who’s that?” Jeno said. “Never heard of him.”
“Oh, Jeno!” Chenle laughed. “You know Donghyuck, he’s your best friend. He’s not here today, but— ouch!” Chenle held his arm as Jeno punched him. “Oh, right. Yeah, who’s Donghyuck?”
“Great job, Chenle. You couldn’t even keep it up for a minute?” Jeno said, then sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. “Donghyuck didn’t show up to school today. We don’t know where he is.”
“Did he really not....” Mark trailed off quiet. Renjun shifted his position on the table, brows furrowed as he eyed Mark up and down. “But he’s been here this week, right?”
“Yeah.” Jeno nodded. “Just busy with stuff.”
“Like... actually busy?” Mark said uneasily. “Or busying himself so he doesn’t have to see me?”
Jeno didn’t answer, and Renjun didn’t appear all that interested in saying anything either. Even Chenle stopped smiling, eyes narrowed to the table in front of him.
“I already know he’s pissed off at me, for whatever reason.”
“Whatever reason,” Renjun echoed. Mark squinted at him.
“Do you know what I did wrong?”
“Well, yeah,” Renjun replied easily. “All of us know what you did to him.”
“All right.” Mark took in a deep breath. “Would you tell me what I did wrong?”
Renjun warily eyed Mark. “You don’t know what you did to make Donghyuck sad?”
“No, I have no idea!” Mark said suddenly. “I have no clue what I did wrong, he’s just avoiding me. He’s been avoiding me since I gave him the flower, and I don’t....” He trailed off when he noticed how they all seemed to cringe at the mention of “the flower”.
Jeno shook his head and looked up at Mark. “Look, it’s not our business. If you wanna apologize to Donghyuck, you have to find him and talk to him on your own.”
Mark huffed, though he wasn’t angry, just exasperated. “But he won’t even respond to my messages, and— and he avoids me in the halls! And how am I supposed to apologize for something I don’t even know I did wrong? You guys don’t understand how badly I want to apologize to him. I miss talking to him so bad, but he just— he just keeps avoiding me.” Mark ran his fingers through his dark hair, away from his face.
Renjun furrowed his brows. “I don’t believe you.”
“I don’t believe that you don’t know what you did wrong. You’re not an idiot.”
“I feel like one,” Mark admitted. “I don’t know how I can convince you that I really don’t know what I did wrong, but... but I really have no idea, and it’s killing me that I can’t even ask Donghyuck because he’s refusing to talk to me.” Mark rubbed his shoulder with his free hand. “I just... really want to apologize.”
“Maybe you should give him an apology flower,” Chenle suggested. “You know, since you’ve been giving him flowers that mean— ow, again?!” Chenle held his arm as Jeno pulled his fist back to his side. “You’re gonna make me bruise, you jerk!”
“You don’t know when to stop talking!” Jeno responded, Chenle then moving to punch his shoulder before he scrambled out of his seat and ran away, Jeno already rushing to tackle him as they weaved in and out of groups of people and the other outdoor lunch tables. Renjun looked over his shoulder, getting ready to follow and wrangle them up when Mark cleared his throat.
“Could I just... ask one thing?” Mark said. Renjun pursed his lips, but nodded. “How bad did I fuck up?”
For a moment, an expression of pity washed over Renjun’s face. He frowned and let out a soft hum.
“Not bad enough that it can’t be fixed,” he said before taking his leave and running after Jeno and Chenle, who were currently on either side of a table full of girls, Jeno readying himself to jump across it while Chenle laughed so hard, he nearly fell over.
Mark quietly left the table. He had no idea where to go after this. He wasn’t so sure he wanted to sit at the lunch table with Jaemin and the others, only because he didn’t have the energy to properly interact with them.
He even had a game after school. A really important game, and he didn’t want to fuck it up because he was distracted. He was already holding onto his place on the team by the thinnest of strings. If he messed up again in this game, he’d be benched for the rest of the season.
Maybe he deserved to be benched for the rest of the season, Mark thought, as he started towards his chemistry classroom. He didn’t know where else to go, and it seemed awfully pathetic that he was heading to class already, but anywhere was better than nowhere.
There was a point in time where Mark stopped expectantly looking at the sidelines to see if Donghyuck came to his games. Maybe it was the first time they had drifted apart, or maybe it was after the first five games where Donghyuck didn’t show up that Mark figured Donghyuck just didn’t care enough to be bothered by that sort of thing. Either way, he figured he’d save himself the disappointment and stop expecting to see Donghyuck anywhere even near the gym.
The game was well underway. Mark had been playing half decently through the first quarter, had scored more than enough points to keep the coach off of his back if he continued playing that way through the entire game (though Mark wasn’t even sure if he could keep that up). His feet felt like cinder blocks, like he was carrying around some huge heavy weight around his ankles as he moved to block a pass. His fingers just barely skimmed the bottom of the ball, making it go off course and out of the court.
A player from the opposite team knocked his shoulder against Mark’s own as he walked away, Jaemin coming up behind Mark and clapping his hand on his shoulder.
“You okay?” He said, panting, catching his breath. Mark nodded, glancing up at the clock. “Second quarter is almost through. You gonna be able to keep playing through the third?”
“If coach doesn’t take me out, then yeah,” Mark replied. Jaemin nodded, though he didn’t appear convinced. Was Mark playing worse than he thought he was? He felt like he was pretty focused. He hadn’t even thought of Donghyuck as much as he usually did whenever he had games.
The ball was back in the court within a moment, and Mark took in a long breath, wiping his face on his jersey before catching up to Jaemin’s side and willing himself to refocus.
Nearing the end of the third quarter, Mark could feel his energy starting to drain, and rapidly. The score was tied still, and it didn’t look like they were going to catch a break any time soon. With every minute that passed, Mark was growing more and more tired, and Jaemin was even starting to show signs of lethargy, his normally energetic smile now a concerned frown.
Their coach switched out Chanhee with Wooseok, a tall, clumsy mess of a kid. Chanhee was red faced and tired, chest heaving up and down with every panting breath that came from him as he collapsed beside Youngkyun. Mark was almost envious for a moment before he scrubbed his hand over his face. Jaemin grabbed onto his elbow, Mark nearly jumping at the touch before he heard Jaemin speaking lowly.
“I’m gonna get the ball back. I’ll pass it to you when I get it back. I need you to be ready,” Jaemin said. Mark swallowed thickly, but nodded, Jaemin walking away from his side and returning to his position as they returned from their short time-out.
As if the pressure of the game alone wasn’t enough already, it was intensified now that he knew Jaemin was going to be exerting himself in an attempt to get the score back up. Even if it was just by a few points, getting a foothold on the score, getting ahead of the other team would have been something.
Mark glanced out of the corner of his eye, found a trio sitting in the bleachers he hadn’t seen at any of his games before. He took a double take, not able to trust his own eyes for a moment before he realized it really was Hansol, Jaehyun, and Doyoung sitting on the bleachers in a huddled bunch. Hansol sat behind Doyoung and Jaehyun, resting his chin on the top of Jaehyun’s head as they all waved.
Jaehyun never came to basketball games. Typically, he was harassed by parents and teachers who remembered him from his time in high school, but it seemed he hardly cared about that now as he smiled at Mark and nodded his head once, as if the action alone meant something. Maybe it did. Mark wasn’t sure. He was shocked they had even made the effort to see him play.
Mark caught a flash off to the sidelines, something he had grown used to in games from the crowd every now and again. Photographers for the local newspapers usually came by for big games. Most of the time if the team did well, they’d end up somewhere in the newspaper, so that was something, at least.
The school newspaper was pretty on top of it as well, and typically had photos of the players along with the scores from the games on individual pages. Chanhee usually complained that Mark’s photos in the newspaper always came out the best, while everybody else’s were shaky and unfocused, which was why Mark was the most used in the school newspaper.
There was another flash, but this time it was followed by a quiet curse, a voice Mark only barely heard an echo of as he noticed Jaemin finally going for the ball, ducking in the space between two players and reaching his hand out in an attempt to get the ball back.
Another flash, and Mark was curious, too curious to not look and see if maybe, possibly, perhaps it was the one person he had been waiting to see at every single game since he had invited him all those months ago.
There was Doyoung and Jaehyun, Hansol behind them, Chanhee’s parents and Jaemin’s mother beside them, a few girls from school who grinned at the sight of his searching expression, and then—
Donghyuck, with a camera hanging around his neck as he clicked through the photos, eyes focused on the screen in front of him. For a moment, Mark nearly lost his self-control, almost shouted out Donghyuck’s name in an attempt to catch his attention, but as he parted his lips to say something, even utter a word, Donghyuck had flickered his gaze back up from the screen and met Mark’s expectant stare, eyes widening.
It seemed like everything stopped. Even Mark’s own heartbeat stuttered in his chest, and his breath caught in the confines of his throat before he lifted his hand from his side. He waved at Donghyuck.
A moment passed. A hesitant, unsure moment where Donghyuck was wary, reasonably cautious. Mark wouldn’t have blamed him if he wanted to flip him off or scream at him from the sidelines of the game, but Donghyuck did almost the exact opposite.
For the first time since Mark had met Donghyuck, when Mark waved at him, Donghyuck meekly lifted his hand and waved back.
And of course— of course the one and only time Mark had ever been distracted in a game and actually cared about said distraction, happened to be at the exact same time that Jaemin managed to take the ball back from the other team, calling out Mark’s name even though the ball was already out of his hand.
It was a good thing Jaemin wasn’t all that great at passing, or else the ball really could have had the potential to knock him out. Thankfully, even though it hit him right in the side of the head, in front of god and everybody, Mark only ended up on his back on the floor, staring up at the ceiling as a timeout was called. Jaemin rushed up to Mark, immediately apologizing, but at the same time calling him out for not paying attention. Their coach hardly seemed worried, but definitely upset as he had to pull Mark out from the game and replace him with another player.
Jaehyun came up from the crowd around him and lifted him up to his feet. “You’re fine,” he said. “Go sit it out.”
“I don’t want to sit out on the bench,” Mark said. “Coach is just going to yell at me if I do. Walk me over to the bleachers or something,” Mark said the last part under his breath, and Jaehyun, albeit hesitantly, nodded and put Mark’s arm over his shoulder, feigning injury as he carried him back to the bleachers and sat him down beside Doyoung. Hansol messed with Mark’s hair, a quiet laugh leaving his lips.
“You’re gonna have a huge bump from how hard that thing hit you,” Hansol said. Mark whined, rubbing the spot with his hand.
“Ugh, I know.”
“Probably not a concussion though,” Doyoung added, patting Mark’s thigh with a soft grin on his face. “But why weren’t you paying attention? You kept looking over here, and—”
“That’s the reason,” Jaehyun said, nodding to Mark’s left where a figure walked up, nervously rubbing his neck as Mark’s cheeks warmed and reddened on instinct. Jaehyun waved, and Donghyuck waved back, still shy, and more embarrassed than he had been before.
“Are you okay?” Donghyuck said to Mark, who nodded, dumbfounded.
“Yeah! Yeah, I-I’m okay.” Mark lowered his voice after his initial exclamation, still embarrassed by his display of blatant distraction during the game. Donghyuck gave him a sheepish smile, about to say something when Mark interrupted. “You waved back.”
“I— er, yeah.” Donghyuck jutted his thumb towards the doors to the gym. “Do you want to go outside and talk for a minute?”
Mark stood up stupidly fast, paying no mind to the fact that he just got hit in the head with a basketball. It took him a minute to regain his balance, but soon enough, he was following Donghyuck outside of the gym, closing the doors behind them and moving to the side where they could talk. Donghyuck was twiddling his fingers in front of him, clearly nervous and put off by the fact that Mark had seen him.
“Uhm, so... the whole photography thing,” Mark said, gesturing towards Donghyuck’s camera. “You take pictures for the school newspaper, right?”
“And yearbook.” Donghyuck admitted.
“...you’ve been at every single game, haven’t you?” Mark was embarrassed, visibly so. How could he have missed Donghyuck at every game?
“Well... I mean, besides one or two of them, yeah. I always take pictures of the basketball games.”
“And of me.”
“Yeah.” Donghyuck flushed. “And of you, but only for the newspaper and yearbook.”
“Why didn’t you tell me that?” Mark pressed, running his fingers through his hair and brushing the sweaty mess of bangs away from his forehead. “I thought you didn’t give a shit about my games, but you’ve been at every one.”
Donghyuck shrugged. “I mean, at first it didn’t seem like such a big deal. That you didn’t know, I mean, but I guess later on when you started asking me more and more to come to your games....” Donghyuck trailed off, clearly at a loss for words. “I guess I just wanted to see if you would ever notice me first.”
“I looked for you at the beginning of every game, but you weren’t there!”
“I’m always a little late.” Donghyuck scratched his cheek with his index finger. “I have to meet with the guy that’s mentoring me before I go to games, so I run here. By then you’re already playing. Obviously I don’t want to interrupt just so you can see me. Most of the time I take pictures and leave before the end.”
“The guy that’s mentoring you?” Mark said, quirking a brow. Donghyuck nodded.
“Yeah, like... in photography? He’s still in college, but we usually meet at the coffee place across from the campus.” Donghyuck vaguely gestured in that direction. “He snuck me a camera today actually, since I wasn’t at school and couldn’t get my camera from the classroom.”
Before Mark could get a word in, somebody shouted Donghyuck’s name from the other side of the parking lot.
“Is the game over already?” The stranger was walking closer. Mark took a protective step in front of Donghyuck, Donghyuck letting out a scoffing noise and playfully pushing Mark to the side.
“That’s my mentor, stupid.” Donghyuck laughed, and Mark went wide eyed, darting his gaze back to the stranger, apparently Donghyuck’s photography mentor. Along his right arm were colorful and bright tattoos, lined in dark black ink and shaded meticulously. If Mark weren’t so put off, he might’ve complimented him, but he was still in awe of the fact that this man with lavender shaded hair and a cigarette hanging past the corner of his lips, was somehow Donghyuck’s mentor in photography.
When he reached Donghyuck and Mark, he gave Mark a careful look before pointing his finger at him.
“Is this the kid that hurt—”
“Yes, hyung.” Donghyuck cut him off, cheeks tinged with red.
“Should I kick his—”
“No, hyung,” Donghyuck said quickly again. “The game isn’t over yet, but I think I got all my shots, so... we can leave in a few, if you want.”
“That’d be cool.” The man looked at Mark, nodding his head in an informal sort of bow as he lifted his fingers to his lips and took a long drag of his cigarette before blowing out a cloud of smoke. “I’m Lee Taeyong.”
“Lee Minhyung,” Taeyong answered for him. “I know.”
“Oh my god, you’re so embarrassing,” Donghyuck said, “and you can’t smoke on campus. You’ll get arrested or something.”
“Fine, fine,” Taeyong said. “I’ll go back to the car then.”
“You’re still smoking on campus,” Donghyuck pointed out. Taeyong pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, a smile naturally blooming on the corners of his lips as he took another puff of his cigarette before tossing it on the ground and stomping it out.
“There? Happy?” He said before starting back towards his car. Donghyuck rubbed his forehead.
“He’s kind of embarrassing sometimes,” said Donghyuck. “He looks cool, but he’s not really.”
“He looks intimidating,” Mark corrected. Donghyuck snorted.
“Taeyong? Intimidating?” Donghyuck looked over his shoulder to find Taeyong sitting on the hood of his car, waving at them with a satisfied grin on his face. “He’s not, trust me.”
“Did you see all those tattoos?” Mark spoke as if Donghyuck hadn’t been Taeyong’s apprentice for a year and a half already. “And his hair? It was purple.”
“Oh, his hair was a recent thing. Before that it was white, so—”
“Yeah, he does weird stuff like that all the time.” Donghyuck waved it off, and then shook his head like he was coming back from a daze. “Could we not talk about Taeyong for a second?”
“Huh?” Mark looked back at Donghyuck, noticing the visible discomfort and frown on his lips before he nodded. “O-oh, right. Yeah. Uhm, are you really going to leave in a few minutes?”
Donghyuck nodded. “Yeah, my mom wants me home for dinner, and Taeyong said he had plans, so I don’t want to keep him for too long. I just had to get some shots for the newspaper.” Donghyuck took the camera off from around his neck, holding onto it with one hand by the strap as he gestured to the gym. “Are you gonna be able to play again?”
“Probably not,” said Mark, softly, “and even if I could, I don’t think coach would put me in again. He’s... probably gonna yell at me later. I won’t be in the next game.”
“Are you serious?” Donghyuck furrowed his brows. “What, because you got distracted one time, he’s not gonna put you in anymore?”
“Well, it’s been more than one time,” Mark said. “More like every single game for the past month. God, he’s gonna yell at me so much when I go back in there.” Mark ran both of his hands through his hair now, Donghyuck pursing his lips before spoke again.
“Why are you so distracted?”
Mark paused, contemplating his answer for a moment, and a moment only, because he already knew if he didn’t answer honestly, he would run the risk of losing his only chance to patch things up.
“I miss you, man. Okay? I miss you, a-and I don’t know what I did wrong other than giving you that flower, but I regret giving it to you every day that you don’t talk to me.” Mark knitted his brows together in frustration, biting the inside of his cheek. “If you don’t feel the same way, that’s fine, but I just need you to tell me to leave you alone. If you tell me to buzz off or something, I will for— forever if you need me to! But I just need to hear it from you, I need to hear you to tell me to leave you alone and not expect you to feel the same way.”
“Wait, wait, wait, hold on.” Donghyuck held up both of his hands. “What do you mean you don’t know what you did wrong?”
“I mean—!” Mark paused and searched for words. “I mean I literally have no fucking idea, dude! I just know I gave you that flower because I like you, because I really like you, Donghyuck. But you stormed off, and I didn’t even get an explanation or— or a chance to redeem myself or anything, so I thought you didn’t like me in that way.”
“Mark, oh my god.” Donghyuck sighed, let his eyes flutter shut as he gathered his thoughts. “You really have no idea, do you? I thought Jeno and Renjun were kidding when they messaged me.”
“Did they tell you how fucking desperate I looked?” Mark said. “Because I swear, I felt so ridiculous going up and asking your friends about what I did to hurt you.”
“No, Jeno and Renjun were pretty nice about it. Chenle said you looked kinda pathetic though,” Donghyuck joked, a short smile appearing on his lips before he hummed. “Are you busy tomorrow?”
“I have to work closing shift, but I’m free in the morning,” Mark said.
“You should come over,” Donghyuck said. “If you’re serious about not knowing what happened, you can come over and I’ll show you.”
“Why can’t you just tell me now?” Mark said, almost whining. “Don’t draw this out for me anymore, Donghyuck, there’s no need to be so dramatic about turning me down. Just do it now and fast, like ripping off a bandaid or something.”
“Cute.” Donghyuck pinched Mark’s cheek. “Look, if it’ll make you feel better until tomorrow, then... yeah.”
“Yeah, I like you in the same way you like me.”
Mark paused. “Wait... like, actually?”
“Actually,” Donghyuck said, quiet, as if embarrassed by his admittance of feelings. Mark took in a sharp breath, all the blood rushing to his head as he felt his ears heat up, his pulse racing, an overwhelming flooding feeling or relief washing over his entire body. And yet, with the relief came something odd, something like anxiety and yet not quite, nipping at the ends of his nerves and reminding him that he had a crush on Donghyuck, and Donghyuck, by some miracle, liked him back.
“You’re serious?” Mark repeated. Donghyuck flushed darker, punching Mark’s shoulder.
“God, shut up. Don’t make fun of me.”
“I’m not! I’m—!” Mark broke into a smile and laughter, throwing his arms around Donghyuck and lifting him up as Donghyuck squeaked, nearly dropping the camera on the pavement below and Mark scooped him up and spun him around.
“Hey, take care of the merchandise there! That camera costs more than your life, Donghyuck!” Taeyong shouted from the hood of his car. Mark finally set Donghyuck down on his feet again, Donghyuck smacking him in the shoulder a few times as Mark took his hand and smiled.
“Yes, I’m serious!” Donghyuck huffed. “You’re so embarrassing. Why are you so embarrassing?”
“You have no idea how happy I am right now,” Mark said. “Can I— can I hold your hand?”
“You’re already holding it,” Donghyuck said.
“Well yeah, but like.... Can I hold your hand whenever I want?”
“Mark, that’s.... Maybe, okay?”
“That’s better than no.” Mark pulled Donghyuck into his arms.
“Are you always like this?”
“Not really,” Mark admitted against the crown of Donghyuck’s head. “Actually, I hate public displays of affection.”
“Why are you being like this now then?”
“Nobody around,” Mark said, Donghyuck pinching his side as he pulled away.
“Donghyuck, it’s time to go!” Taeyong shouted from the hood of his car again. Donghyuck held up his finger to placate Taeyong.
“Come over tomorrow morning, just text me before you get there,” Donghyuck said. “I know this sounds stupid, but it really will make sense when I show you why I thought you... didn’t like me. Okay?”
“Does it have to do with the flower?”
“Yes, it has to do with the flower,” Donghyuck rushed. “Look, just wait until tomorrow.”
Mark nodded, but he really didn’t want to let Donghyuck go. Mark had to watch Donghyuck run back to Taeyong’s car, camera in hand as he jumped into the passenger seat and drove off. He waved at Mark once more before leaving the school parking lot with Taeyong blaring his music obnoxiously loud.
Even after Donghyuck was long gone and the only sound left in the air was the squeak of shoes against the basketball court inside of the gym, Mark couldn’t bring himself to go back in. He waited until he heard the final buzzer of the last quarter, until the gym emptied out and even Jaemin walked past him, albeit with an encouraging grin on his face. Doyoung, Jaehyun, and Hansol came out last.
“You gonna get your stuff?” Jaehyun said. Mark nodded, ran inside of the gym and headed towards the locker rooms to snatch up his bags and run out before anybody could bother him about what had happened during the game. He couldn’t care. He couldn’t bring himself to care about any of it. Not basketball or his coach, school or his grades, not even his parents and the flower shop he had grown so fond of over the past few months. All Mark cared about was the fact that he had a chance to see Donghyuck the next day.
The walk to Donghyuck’s house felt a lot lonelier on his own, Mark realized as he crossed the sidewalk and headed down the block towards his neighborhood. It wasn’t that it was particularly long, considering Mark could walk there, but even just the silence of the neighborhood made Mark feel uncomfortable. He was itching to get to Donghyuck’s house already. If he didn’t have some semblance of self control left in him, he probably would have ran the entire way there. Thankfully, he did have some dignity.
Donghyuck’s house came into view, and Mark’s heart skipped a beat as he pulled his phone from his pocket and sent Donghyuck a quick message to let him know he was outside. Sure enough, as soon as Mark was heading up the path to his front porch, Donghyuck opened the front door and gave him a short, warm smile. After not seeing him for weeks, even the slightest of smiles made Mark’s heart ache fondly in his chest. He wanted more. He wanted Donghyuck to keep smiling.
“Hey,” Mark said first, shuffling up the stairs to his porch and coming face to face with Donghyuck as he looked up. Donghyuck smiled again, this time with a sly glint in his eye before he pulled away. Mark didn’t realize his ears had grown red, or that his fingers twitched from his side on instinct, like he was moving to pinch the tip of his ear.
“Are you gonna come in?” Donghyuck called over his shoulder. Mark quickly followed Donghyuck inside of his house, scrambling to kick his shoes off in a messy pile in front of the door as he watched Donghyuck start towards his room.
They walked in tandem to Donghyuck’s room, a place Mark had only ever seen once before. It was a mess, yes, but it was so unashamedly Donghyuck’s space, covered wall to wall in photographs and poster, clothes strewn over chairs and his bed, that Mark didn’t mind.
(That was a lie. Mark offered to help Donghyuck clean up his room the last time he had been in there, which Donghyuck vehemently refused.)
“Before we go in, you have to promise you’re not gonna laugh,” Donghyuck said. Normally Mark would have teased Donghyuck a little bit, made a joke about how he was going to laugh at Donghyuck anyways, but the vulnerable expression slowly appearing on Donghyuck’s face made Mark swallow his words instead. He nodded, lifting his pinkie from his side.
Donghyuck immediately took his pinkie finger in with his own, curled them around one another before nodding his head and pulling his hand away. He wrapped his fingers around the doorknob and opened the door to his room.
There was a stark difference from the first time Mark had seen Donghyuck’s room to this time. Donghyuck pushed Mark’s mouth shut gently, a light giggle leaving his lips as Mark apologized for gawking.
“It’s just funny because you didn’t see the biggest part.” Donghyuck gestured towards his desk on the opposite side of the room, just beside the window of his room.
Instead of being full of books and school supplies, it was covered with vases, jars with drying flowers and bright colorful petals. In the middle of the desk sat a black book, no designs on the front of it. Just a thick black book with pages jutting out from the sides and streaks of color here and there in the creases between pages.
“Whoa,” was all Mark could bring himself to say. Everything he thought of saying felt subpar, like the words couldn’t even properly measure up to the pure awe that flooded through his veins and overwhelmed his senses. Donghyuck swallowed hard. Mark swore he could hear him as Donghyuck took a step forward and urged Mark to follow him.
“It’s an herbarium,” Donghyuck explained, gesturing towards the black book.
“An herbarium?” Mark repeated. Donghyuck nodded.
“You know, like, where people keep dried plants. That’s basically what it means,” Donghyuck explained. “It’s lame and stupid, I know, but it’s like a running gag in my family that everything I touch dies,” Donghyuck continued, obviously nervous and anxious as he opened the first page to the book, “so I started drying plants instead of trying to grow them. I mean, you know how hard it is to grow flowers, right?” Mark nodded.
The book creaked open like an old photo album, the papers crinkling and crumpling with noise as Donghyuck flipped through the first few.
“These ones aren’t very good, they’re from when I first started drying petals. I used to think you could just dry flowers and they’d stay preserved naturally, but you can take flowers and put them in the microwave and stuff. Helps preserve them a little better.”
His words ran together in an all-too-quick rush to get his sentence out before he could regret it.
“And the oven too, but my mom won’t let me use that to dry the flowers anymore. Anyway, here’s when I started getting flowers from you. Every bunch of flowers I bought was for the book, so that’s why I came in a lot.” Donghyuck turned the page to the lavender rose Mark first gave him besides the bouquet of flowers he had bought on his own.
Lavender rose - genus: rosa - meaning: love at first sight
Donghyuck cleared his throat nervously.
“I mean... I figured you didn’t mean that one at first. You know, since we had literally just met. You’re ridiculous, but you’re not that ridiculous.” Donghyuck laughed it off and flipped to the next page before Mark could react.
Sunflower - genus: helianthus - meaning: good luck
Forget-me-not - genus: myosotis - meaning: growing affection
“This one too. I mean, I didn’t think you actually knew what the forget-me-not meant,” Donghyuck said. Mark let out a weak, breathy laugh.
“I didn’t. Not this one.”
Donghyuck hiccuped, about to ask a question when he felt Mark’s fingers trace over his own hand, turning the page with him as he blushed brighter and looked back down at the book.
Lilies - genus: lilium - meaning: passion, drive
Daffodils - genus: narcissus - meaning: inspiration
Tulips - genus: tulipa - meaning: enduring love
“Even though the bouquet was really crowded,” Donghyuck prefaced quietly, “these ones were my favorites. And I dried them nicely, so they’re preserved well.”
Mark simply nodded.
Amaryllis - genus: amaryllis - meaning: beauty
Daisies - genus: bellis - meaning: secrets
Baby’s breath - genus: gypsophila - meaning: everlasting love
“Uhm—” Donghyuck turned the page to reveal it was blank. “— I didn’t dry the hydrangea.”
“Oh,” Mark repeated. He wanted to smack himself for sounding so stupid and put off, but Donghyuck quickly corrected himself.
“But the meaning of a blue hydrangea is— well, one of the meanings, at least— it’s turning down a romantic proposal.” Donghyuck cringed instinctively as Mark’s cheeks tinged with red, his eyes widening.
“Wait, for real?” Mark said. Donghyuck nodded quickly. “Oh my god.”
“Yeah,” Donghyuck agreed, “which was why I freaked out. You know, I just really thought you were telling me you hated me, and I got so scared because— because I already started fucking liking you, and then— and then to get this flower from you that meant that....” Donghyuck moved to close the book, gesturing towards the other vases and jars full of flower petals and even a bunch of flowers that he hadn’t dried yet. “Yeah. This is, er, what I’ve been doing with the flowers. Not giving them to a girl or my parents or anything like that. Just... drying them out and saving them in the book.”
Donghyuck waited, expected some sort of a reaction from Mark, but received nothing other than Mark shifting his gaze towards him.
“Say something.” Donghyuck uncomfortably rubbed his arm.
“I don’t know. Anything?” Donghyuck squirmed in his spot. “It’s weird having you just staring at me like that.”
“Oh,” Mark said, “sorry.” But he didn’t stop staring.
“Cut it out.” Donghyuck moved to punch Mark’s shoulder in annoyance, but found Mark’s warm fingers wrapping around his own.
“I’m sorry, Donghyuck,” Mark said suddenly. Donghyuck went red in the face.
“I mean... the flowers meant a lot to you, obviously. And I knew what some of them meant, but I think, for the most part, I was just giving you flowers because I liked you.”
“To be fair,” Donghyuck prefaced, “pink or purple would have gotten your point across. But blue ones are specifically for saying someone is frigid, or basically telling someone that you don’t like them.”
“Oh my god, I didn’t— I didn’t even think—”
“It’s okay!” Donghyuck exclaimed. “I get that you didn’t know. Now. It was confusing at first, but I probably shouldn’t have expected you to know something like that.”
Donghyuck let the silence brew for a moment, clearing his throat.
“Uhm... but yeah. I do like you. Like I said yesterday.”
Mark smiled involuntarily, looking down at the ground and hiding his face in his hands.
“Oh my god, I can’t believe how bad I fucked up confessing to you.”
“It’s a story, at least.” Donghyuck laughed, his sentence almost cut short as Mark pulled him into his arms and squeezed him tightly, like Donghyuck would disappear if he didn’t. Donghyuck parted his lips to say something, probably something about how embarrassing Mark was, but his anxious pulse was quelled for a moment. His mouth went dry, the palms of his hands clammy as he bunched them up in the material of Mark’s shirt and squeezed back.
“You’re weird,” Donghyuck said as Mark pulled away. He was still sheepish, embarrassed and unused to the whole affection thing. Donghyuck moved Mark’s hair away from his face.
“Well, I think you’re weird for liking me,” Mark responded.
“If you say we can be weird together, I’m gonna hit you with that pillow.” Donghyuck pointed to a pillow on his bed, Mark bursting into laughter and Donghyuck playfully pushing him away.
They migrated to the kitchen, rummaging up some food, because Donghyuck admitted he had butterflies all morning long and hadn’t had a chance to eat, and Mark— well, Mark was practically chomping at the bit just to run over to Donghyuck’s house in the first place, so he hadn’t eaten much either.
Donghyuck’s parents came home, along with Jihyun and a group of her friends. Despite Donghyuck’s glares thrown their way, they just couldn’t get the message to leave him and Mark alone, so Donghyuck dragged Mark back to his room. They sat down on the bed together.
Mark held Donghyuck’s herbarium in his lap, flipping through the meticulously laminated pages and studying Donghyuck’s messy chicken scratch handwriting along the sides of each pages. He had dates and locations. Mark’s name appeared more than one time beside flowers. He pretended not to notice the way Donghyuck blushed when he realized he had added a heart beside Mark’s name on instinct alone.
They didn’t do much, or rather, Mark didn’t dare do much else than hold Donghyuck’s hand as Donghyuck enthusiastically explained each flower and its meaning. There were wildflowers that Donghyuck had picked, even a yellow rose from his neighbor’s rose bush, which he stole on a late night on impulse. Mark teased him for being such a tame rebel, but he was... content.
Donghyuck was smiling so much. Mark swore he had never seen Donghyuck grin so widely in all the time he had known him. His hands were really clammy, and he apologized more than once as he wiped his palms on his jeans, but every time they clasped fingers again, Mark held tighter, as if the action alone would show that he didn’t mind. He didn’t mind the way Donghyuck laughed beside him, how he looked at Mark every now and again to see if Mark was interested in what he was saying. God, Mark didn’t mind it at all. He loved it.
He loved Donghyuck, shamelessly, unapologetically. Weirdly, according to Donghyuck.
“Am I still flower boy in your phone?” Mark asked. Donghyuck nodded.
“Do you want me to change it?” Donghyuck moved to reach for his phone, but Mark quickly shook his head.
“No, it’s okay. I just wanted to know.”
“Are you sure?” Donghyuck said. “I did it at first just to tease you, so....”
“It’s okay,” Mark reassured. “I love it.”
Donghyuck couldn’t help smiling, tucking his phone away in his pocket and pressing a warm kiss to Mark’s cheek.
“What does that button do?”
Mark pointed at a button on the camera, a plus and minus sign on either side of the button. Donghyuck pushed down on it while spinning a dial wheel on the back of the camera.
“That’s how you adjust the aperture,” Donghyuck said, still spinning the wheel. When he looked back at Mark sitting on his bed, he felt like he could see a visible question mark popping up over his head. “Aperture is like the amount of light that gets into camera when you’re taking a picture. Remember? Like how a pupil lets light in?”
“Oh right, right!” Mark said. “When the aperture is smaller, it lets in more light, right? Since it’s concentrated and all.”
“No, no, it lets in less light because it’s smaller.”
“Oh my bad, my bad.” Mark waved his hand. “Okay.... Oh, wait, I know what that thing is!” Mark said, pointing to a silver button at the top of the camera. Donghyuck turned to Mark and gave him the deadest stare. “That’s the shutter.”
“Wow,” Donghyuck said, breaking into a laugh at the end of his sentence as Mark giggled, “it must’ve been tough to remember the only button that really matters on a shutter camera.”
“I’m doing my best!” Mark protested weakly.
“Why do you care about this stuff?” Donghyuck said. “You could’ve taken photography next year, but you said you didn’t want to.”
“I mean, I wanna learn so I know what you’re saying when you talk about this stuff,” Mark replied, walking his fingers along the edge of the bed and tapping them against the side of Donghyuck’s head before pinching his ear. Donghyuck tensed, but laughed at the gesture. “It’s important to you, so I’d like to know a little, at least. Also, why would I take photo in my last year of high school? Photography 1 is a freshman class.”
“Oh, and performing arts isn’t a freshman class?”
“Performing arts barely counts as a real class.” Mark hummed and turned over on his back.
“What’s this?” Donghyuck pointed to the screen, to a tab that said ISO.
“ISO is... uhm....” Mark scrubbed his hands over his face. “Like, sensitivity to light or something?”
“Actually, yeah,” Donghyuck beamed, reaching over his shoulder and messing with Mark’s hair. “If there’s more light in a picture, you need a lower ISO setting. And if there’s lower light, a higher ISO setting will help bring the background into play again.” Donghyuck paused. “I hate ISO. Okay, and the three most important factors that play into taking a good picture?”
“ISO,” Mark said on instinct, because Donghyuck constantly complained about ISO ruining his photos, “aperture, and... shutter speed?”
“Wow, look at you go!” Donghyuck teased, Mark rolling his eyes and pushing Donghyuck playfully. Donghyuck jumped off of the floor, up onto Mark’s bed as he hopped on top of him, resting his head on Mark’s chest. “You might as well be a photographer, Mark Lee. Talented in every way.”
Mark let out a sarcastic laugh as Donghyuck traced his fingertips over Mark’s chest, leaving invisible patterns on the soft material of his shirt as Mark cleared his throat and looked up at the ceiling. He didn’t have the courage to look at Donghyuck as he spoke.
“I don’t think I’m gonna try out for the basketball team next year.”
Donghyuck perked up at the mention. Mark hadn’t talked about basketball in months, not even about games where he was forced to sit on the sidelines. Apparently Mark wasn’t joking when he said their coach was an overdramatic jerk when it came to Mark’s few distractions in games. Furrowing his brows, Donghyuck moved off of Mark’s chest, to the side as he moved Mark’s gaze towards him.
“It just doesn’t make me happy like it used to,” Mark admitted quietly. “I don’t feel like I’m playing because I like it anymore. I’m just playing because that’s what my parents expect me to do.”
“Well, forget your parents,” Donghyuck said. “Do you like playing?”
“Sometimes.” Mark paused. “Sometimes I really love it, but most of the time, I feel like I’m just playing because that’s what everyone expects from me. I haven’t tried anything else in school, you know. I’ve never tried choir, or photo classes, or even performing arts like Jaemin. I didn’t even know we had a dance class on campus.”
Donghyuck nodded slowly, urging Mark to continue. It was weird, Mark thought, how Donghyuck seemed to know every now and again that there was something more bothering him, something more than the surface issue.
“I keep picturing myself turning out like Jaehyun.” His voice was barely louder than a whisper.
Donghyuck clicked his tongue, running his fingers through Mark’s hair suddenly and shaking his head.
“You’re nothing like him,” Donghyuck reassured Mark quietly, “and I’m sure if you did keep playing, you wouldn’t turn out like him. I really don’t think Jaehyun’s issue was he played basketball a little too much.” Mark gave a short half smile, and Donghyuck pinched his cheek. “But if you don’t wanna keep playing, don’t.”
“I don’t know right now,” Mark said. “Like... I want to, of course I do. It’s all I’ve ever known, but... god, I just don’t think I even care about it anymore. That sounds awful. I feel awful saying that.” Mark furrowed his brows and pushed himself up on his elbows. “The only thing I’ve liked doing lately is working.”
“‘Cause you’re getting paid?”
“No, you ass.” Mark pinched Donghyuck’s shoulder with a laugh. “Well, actually, the money is nice, but that’s not it! I meant making bouquets and stuff. It’s kind of fun, to be honest.”
“You really are a flower boy.” Donghyuck snickered, and Mark pushed him off of his bed, landing in a pile of blankets on the floor with a quiet thud.
“Hey,” Mark said. Donghyuck stopped laughing long enough to look up at Mark and nod from his spot on the ground. “I got you a present.”
Donghyuck paused, then sat up on his spot on the floor. “A present?”
“Yeah.” Mark sat up, moving to the table beside his bed as he opened a drawer and pulled out a small package wrapped up in a thin bag. Donghyuck didn’t move to stand up, but watched as Mark sat down, legs crossed beneath him as he reached out and handed the bag to him. “It’s nothing big. And before you open it, I’m not giving it to you to make fun of you. Jaehyun said it’d come off like that, but I swear I’m not.”
Donghyuck made to tear the bag open with little flair or panache, not really caring about the staple in the top of it as he pulled out a small packet of... flower seeds. Donghyuck glared at Mark, about to criticize the gift when Mark lifted his hands in defense.
“I know you said you can’t grow flowers, but I figured we could try growing some together,” he rushed out.
Donghyuck flushed, his heart suddenly leaping in his chest as he nodded and looked back down at the packet of seeds. The word “peonies” was clearly printed at the top of the packet, a picture of brightly colored flowers on the front of it as Donghyuck turned it over in his hand and studied the details printed on the back of it as well.
“We have a garden in the back where my mom lets me plant flowers sometimes, so... we could go out and do that later if you wanted?” Mark nodded in the vague direction of their backyard. It was small, and Mark’s part of the garden was even smaller now that Jaehyun had his own bit (and by association, Doyoung and Hansol also had their own parts), but it was something.
“Mark,” Donghyuck said. Mark nodded. “I love it.”
A natural grin bloomed on Mark’s lips, the apples of his cheeks dusted with a rosy pink blush as he rubbed the back of his neck.
“Mark,” Donghyuck repeated. Mark nodded again, pausing his premature bashfulness to acknowledge Donghyuck again. “I want to kiss you.”
And— well, they had only been dating for a few months, and Mark never pushed Donghyuck to do anything out of his comfort zone. They never specified boundaries besides general precautions in public, and Donghyuck never really initiated things like this by just blatantly saying it.
“I mean... you can if you want to,” Mark said. Donghyuck pushed himself off of the floor, scooting forward on his knees. “I’ve never kissed anyone before.”
“Hm,” Donghyuck said before his lips quirked, “don’t make it a bad first kiss then.”
Mark swallowed hard, eyes flickering to Donghyuck’s lips. Of course he had thought about doing this a couple times, but it usually ended with Mark saying he’d never kissed someone before and Donghyuck laughing in his face. His imagination was cruel most of the time.
Donghyuck was easing himself closer, setting his hands on either side of Mark’s shoulders, sliding them up to the junction between his neck and his shoulders. His hands were still clammy and warm, as they usually were, as Mark shivered and moved his own hands from his sides. That was what he was supposed to do, right? He was supposed to put them somewhere, right?
“You’re shaking,” Donghyuck observed, and god, he was right. Mark’s fingers were trembling, he felt like all of his bones had dissolved into nothing and he was just gonna collapse in on himself as Donghyuck pulled away. “Do you not want to?”
“I do!” Mark exclaimed, a little too loudly. Donghyuck smiled quickly, but it disappeared again as he nodded. “Just nervous.”
“You don’t look like it,” Mark suddenly lowered his voice to nothing more than a quiet breath as Donghyuck pushed forward a little too much than before, Mark falling back on his hands and letting out a breathless laugh. “And you’re not acting like it either!”
“That was an accident, oh my god.” Donghyuck snickered, burying his face in Mark’s shirt and taking a long breath. “Stop, stop, okay. For real now!” He took a moment to compose himself, a quiet laugh escaping him as Mark clamped his lips shut and waited for Donghyuck to move again.
Mark hardly noticed the shuffling sound of footsteps outside in the hall before somebody knocked. The roaring pulse of his heart must have masked the knock at his door, as Donghyuck didn’t react either. Then the door swung open, Jaehyun poking his head in as Donghyuck and Mark immediately jumped apart, wide eyed and red faced.
“Gross,” Jaehyun said.
“Knock first!” Mark shouted.
“The fuck you mean, “knock first”? I did!” Jaehyun said before he leaned against the doorframe. “Hey Donghyuck-ah, I didn’t know you were here.”
“Hi,” Donghyuck said shortly, burying his face in his hands and sighing heavily.
“Oh, calm down, you two,” Jaehyun said before peeking down the hall again and pointing. “Mom needs you. Apparently Seulgi had an emergency and she can’t work today, so she wants you to work her shift.”
“I’m busy. You go do it.”
“I am working!” Jaehyun replied defensively. “Do you know how many bouquet orders we have right now? I haven’t stopped running around since six am.”
“I’m playing the world’s tiniest violin for you,” Mark said, pinching his fingers together and working them back and forth as Jaehyun flipped him off and started back downstairs.
Donghyuck burst into laughter, hiding his smile behind his hands as Mark nervously laughed and apologized for Jaehyun, but Donghyuck was used to it. He was used to Jaehyun bursting into the room whenever he felt like it. Donghyuck was used to walking in on a very serious introspective conversation between Jaehyun, Doyoung, and Hansol when he and Mark returned from lunch dates. Donghyuck was used to Mark pinching his ear when he was nervous, and sometimes locking their pinkies together in public.
And Mark— oh, Mark was so appreciative of it. He was so thankful whenever Donghyuck laughed off the awkward moments and kissed his cheek, or when they would sit down to talk about things, and despite Mark’s emotional constipation, would wait patiently for him to admit the things that were bothering him. It was new and different and Mark was doing his absolute best to get used to it all, but no part of him regretted it. No part of him regretted giving Donghyuck any of the flowers had had, any of the things he had said inadvertently or on purpose. Even the blue hydrangea turned out to be a blessing in disguise.