donghyuck’s hoodie smells of deodorant and spearmint toothpaste, and something distinctly donghyuck that mark loves to wear it on the nights when he can’t sleep and the dorm is too quiet and dark that it’s suffocating. he enjoys wrapping the arms of the hoodie around himself, burying his nose in the warm, soft fabric and inhaling that calming scent and imagining that donghyuck is right there in the bed with him, all smiles and whisper-chuckles and spread limbs. on nights like these, he misses donghyuck the most.
the dorm is eerie tonight and the air in his bedroom is stifling; neither hot nor cold. he glances behind him to the unoccupied bed in the room with him - donghyuck’s bed. it’s unoccupied because donghyuck went home to visit his family after an emergency, and mark’s mind just keeps reeling with a constant string of i hope he’s okay, please be okay over and over again.
he bites his lip and contemplates giving up on sleep altogether, but decides to swallow his pride. getting out of his bed, mark pulls the hoodie on over his crinkled t-shirt and pads softly towards donghyuck’s bed, pulling back the covers slightly before climbing under the sheets. they smell like donghyuck too - mark can’t remember when he started to associate donghyuck with having a smell - but mark isn’t about to complain.
he wraps himself inside the sheets and imagines donghyuck here, next to him, and finally drifts off to a shaky slumber.
yoonoh gives him a look when he enters the kitchen in the morning wearing donghyuck’s hoodie but he doesn’t say anything.
donghyuck climbs into mark’s bed the night after his return. he steals the covers and takes up too much room and breathes hot on the back of mark’s neck - the sensation causes him goosebumps - but he doesn’t complain, not today. donghyuck had returned with sad news. his grandma had passed away. and mark knows he needs this, knows he needs comfort more than anything.
donghyuck slides his arms around him and pulls him closer, his heart breaking when he hears a sniff, the beginning of a sob, from behind him. donghyuck rests his forehead on mark’s shoulder, neither of them speaking, but mark grips donghyuck’s hand under the covers, lacing their fingers. donghyuck silently thanks him with a squeeze of their entwined hands.
donghyuck’s tears have dried by the time it is morning, but mark can tell the night had been restless for him by the way his eyebrows crease on his forehead as he sleeps. mark disconnects their fingers, smiling softly as he catches sight of the name engraved on donghyuck’s wrist. mark lee. him.
mark has known he’s donghyuck’s soulmate since the day they met. mark had taken the leap and moved to seoul to pursue the career he always dreamed of. he had fallen into the monotony of trainee life, had met other fellow trainees all pursuing the same destiny, became content with chasing this dream every day - that was, until donghyuck joined sm months later. donghyuck had arrived in their shared dorm during the day while mark had been at school and had begun to unpack his belongings; the spare bed on the other side of his bedroom suddenly had a backpack resting on the covers, clothes out of it, shoes buried under the bed.
donghyuck had emerged from the bathroom with a wide smile and a ninety-degree bow and introduced himself.
“mark lee,” mark had said, smiling, bowing back, thinking nothing of it.
donghyuck stopped. for a second he had stood perfectly still, not even blinking, just staring. it unnerved mark. then, slowly, donghyuck had brought his wrist up to his face, looked at the name written there, then looked back to mark.
“oh,” was all he could say.
“oh,” donghyuck repeated.
subconsciously, mark had moved his hands behind his back, shielding his own wrist from view. he rubbed the name engraved there. kim yerim. the name that didn’t belong to the boy in front of him.
donghyuck doesn’t seem to mind that mark has another name on his wrist. it doesn’t stop him cuddling mark, sleeping in mark’s bed despite the lack of space, searching for mark’s hand under tables. mark isn’t sure when he started liking it, started reciprocating it even, but he doesn’t care. when donghyuck notices mark wearing his hoodie more often, he gifts it to him and in return, mark seeks out donghyuck’s warmth under covers in their dark, quiet dorm, a silent agreement forming between the two.
if the other trainees in the dorm notice anything, they do not say anything. yoonoh still gives him occasional looks when he catches mark wearing donghyuck’s hoodie, and youngho smiles knowingly when he catches the two whispering together, but it is as if they exist in their own little world, their relationship - thing? fling? - hidden in the confines of their shared bedroom, unknown to anyone else.
on the day donghyuck hears he’s going to debut, he cries silent tears of happiness and relief on the hard floor of their bedroom while mark tells him how proud of him he is. mark places his hand on donghyuck’s shoulder and gently squeezes, a small smile on his face as donghyuck tries to wipe his cheeks with his fists.
“i’m not crying,” he says and shakes his head, trying to laugh even when he can’t, and mark’s heart skips a beat at the sound.
mark waits before saying anything else.
“you’ll do great, hyuck.”
he deliberately omits that he thinks donghyuck is one of the best singers he’s heard, but donghyuck catches the implication anyway and his smile lights up his face, tanned skin practically sparkling in the stream of sunlight filtering through their opened window and mark thinks about how much he would like to kiss donghyuck in that moment.
so he does.
donghyuck fists his hands into the bottom of mark’s shirt and kisses him back, and it’s a line neither of them had discussed about crossing, but mark is surprised how right it feels. after several seconds, both of them pull away and lean their foreheads together; their cheeks are flushed and the air around them seems warmer, calmer. paradise, mark thinks, this is paradise.
they spend the rest of the night lying side by side on their floor, staring at the ceiling, fingers lightly brushing between them, donghyuck talking about the future they could have together.
mark tries to ignore the tingling feeling his soulmate’s name makes on his wrist.
mark eventually meets kim yerim. she is the same age as him with long, brown hair and she is very pretty that, when they meet, mark stares at her for a little too long. she giggles and mark can’t speak, his mouth is dry and suddenly he’s conscious that he didn’t put on enough deodorant, conscious about his clothes, his sweaty palms, everything. yerim gives mark her number and they agree to text because he is too busy to meet.
when he gets back to the dorm that night, he corners yoonoh and johnny and tells them he met his soulmate and they congratulate him, pat him on the back and wish him luck, but their smiles don’t reach their eyes, there’s the hint of something mark can’t figure out.
donghyuck is already asleep in his own bed when mark gets into his bedroom, and mark decides not to wake him. he does not sleep well that night, but he doesn’t notice the absence of donghyuck’s usual light snoring.
at breakfast in the morning, donghyuck has purple circles under his eyes and he doesn’t look up from his coffee even when mark asks him how he slept.
“fine,” he replies, the yawn he emits giving away his lie.
mark is about to ask why he’s lying but taeyong catches his eye from across the table and shakes his head. mark slumps in his seat and stores the question away for later, at the back of his mind.
after schedules that day, donghyuck squeezes himself in the seat between mark and sicheng for their car ride home and falls asleep on mark’s shoulder. his mouth is open and he’s snoring lightly and his head is digging into mark’s shoulder and it kind of hurts, but mark lets him sleep.
his phone buzzes in his pocket and it’s a message from yerim, wishing him a good night with a kiss emoji. mark swallows the lump in his throat and pockets his phone once again, deciding his reply can wait until morning.
mark messages yerim back in the morning telling her to have a good day. she replies with a shy “thank you” and a cute emoticon, and it surprises mark how little her cute nature affects him. he chews on his bottom lip, trying for a while to think of a reply before he ignores the message altogether, leaving his phone in his bag all day.
he forgets to message her back for the rest of the week.
donghyuck sneaks into his bed while mark is fast asleep, the weight of another person on his mattress forcing him awake with a small groan. donghyuck only shushes him, presses himself against mark’s chest and throws one of his legs over mark’s hip, effectively imprisoning him, and as if by instinct, his arms wrap around donghyuck’s thin frame and his lips press, gently, to the other boy’s chin.
donghyuck laughs louder than he should for the time of night and it’s a sound that has mark blushing because he realises how much he loves it. “i think you’re starting to like me, mark lee,” donghyuck says, the smugness evident in his tone and mark chooses that moment to instead press a kiss to the corner of his lips, shutting him up.
he knows he needs to think about his feelings, but right now they don’t matter, not when donghyuck is warm and soft beside him and he feels more weightless than ever. donghyuck is nuzzling into the crook of his neck and mark’s heart warms when donghyuck says, “i know i’m not yours but i wish i was.”
he jumps out of the bed and grabs a pen from somewhere across the room, coming back to kneel beneath mark’s figure in the bed. he takes mark’s wrist, clicking his teeth when he glances at the name written there.
“i know you met her,” donghyuck says, eyes locked on mark’s and mark feels guilty for the way that his voice changes.
“i’m sorry,” mark says; it’s the first thing he can think of saying.
“she’s pretty,” he continues.
“yeah,” mark agrees, cheeks heating up.
donghyuck chuckles softly, taking the pen between his fingers and crossing over yerim’s name on mark’s wrist. underneath it, in his god-awful handwriting, donghyuck writes the replacement.
it’s taeil this time, who notices. he’s sat on a stool in the kitchen, playing on his phone, bowl of cereal in front of him. when mark walks in to make his morning coffee, taeil’s eyes flicker to the extra words on mark’s wrist, then up to mark’s eyes.
mark worries his bottom lip and slides up a chair next to taeil, coffee forgotten.
“hyung,” mark begins, “i’m donghyuck’s soulmate.”
taeil only eyes him and nods, as if prompting him to continue.
“but he’s not mine.”
taeil takes a spoonful of his cereal and chews it slowly before answering, “do you like him?”
mark thinks back to the start of their relationship, how it was donghyuck who brought mark out of his shell and helped him to make friends with the other trainees. it was mark who pushed donghyuck to never give up on his singing, even when he wanted to quit. it was donghyuck who first initiated the cuddling, the bed-sharing, the hand-holding. it was mark who kissed him first. it was donghyuck who indirectly said he wanted him to be his.
the name on his wrist tingles again.
“yes,” mark answers in a quiet voice, head ducking down while his cheeks heat up again.
“so what is your problem?” taeil asks.
“my soulmate. i’m also her soulmate,” mark bites his lip again, hands unsteady as he plays with his own fingers. taeil looks at the name on mark’s wrist again and sighs softly, not in impatience or frustration, but just in content.
“soulmates are just guidelines, mark. they’re not binding. you know, people go their whole lives never even meeting their soulmate and it doesn’t mean they can’t like other people, or live fulfilling lives. donghyuck chose you already and you chose him.”
taeil smiles, taking another spoonful of cereal into his mouth and chewing slowly, and mark muses over what he’s said. the universe is strange, and somehow he ended up being the soulmate of two separate people. of those two people, only one person was his soulmate - the girl who, despite how pretty and nice she was, mark felt absolutely nothing for, bar platonic friendship. of those two people, he fell for the one he was never destined to be with.
screw soulmates, mark thinks.
yerim sends him a message saying she’s found a boyfriend and she’s very much in love with him, and mark replies with (sincere) congratulations. he confesses to her that he likes donghyuck and she wishes them well.
they agree to remain friends.
this time, it’s mark who climbs into donghyuck’s bed first, before the younger has had the chance to fall asleep. mark is boney and digs his elbow into donghyuck’s waist, and the other splutters out a cough before kneeing mark in the stomach.
“asshole,” donghyuck calls him and mark laughs, loud and infectious, and it isn’t long before they’re both laughing, bodies shaking as they share the small space of donghyuck’s bed.
after they have calmed down, donghyuck is the first to speak.
“i like you, mark lee,” he says, perhaps the most unnecessary thing he has ever said (and mark thinks donghyuck says a lot of unnecessary things).
mark touches the make-shift name written on his wrist by donghyuck the previous night; it hasn’t faded yet and mark hopes, when it does fade, donghyuck will write it again and again.
“i like you too, lee donghyuck,” he says after a moment’s thought. the smile he gets from donghyuck in return is brighter than the stars.