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It wasn't exactly hard to work around it in his daily life, he just learned to ignore the low humming of the strings as he watched people form more and more threads by each passing day. Growing up, he never really grasped the concept that the thin lines of shimmering shades were those seen from his eyes only, witnessing a handful of teachers laugh at his childlike imagination whenever he brought it up. With the amount of chiding he received whenever he persisted the existence of these strings, he almost believed the words of doubt and dubbed it indeed as just a figment of his self-belief, yet he knew that it was indeed very much real as he watched thin bridges form in between his classmates. 

He often encountered the strong hues of orange and yellow in grade school, seeing friendships form and evolve right in front of his own eyes. He saw how occasionally, innocent shades of baby pink threads would connect his classmates, their minds too young to process the deeper level of infatuation. Most of the threads connecting to him were the brightest hues of yellow and the serene shades of green,  glad that he was able to provide such happiness and positivity to his surroundings. It was inevitable to witness the handful of pink threads winding up around his fingers and looping around his ankles as he entered high school, his cheeks losing their previous fullness as he started towering over the rest of his classmates.

He always knew when someone would approach him with the intention to confess, but even the steady humming of the string between them couldn't prepare him to turn down another set of hopeful eyes and trembling hands, faces turned to the floor as an envelope is reached out towards him. He looked down at the threads they would give him, rosy pinks intertwining gently with an occasional hint of silver, glittering prettily under the sunlight that March would bring and shining of innocent love and admiration.

It was always incredibly painful for him to watch as their threads would drain of the soft color of carnation, strings going grey as if that of a silent movie. It was always a moment of bated breath when he would wait for the colors to show up once more, a steady breath of relief and gratitude leaving his lips whenever he would watch the soft yellow of dandelion or a bright poppy orange find its way twirling between them instead. Of course, with rejection comes pain, and not even a million confessions could train his heart to stop stinging whenever he would watch some of them walk away with heads raised low, footsteps ringing loudly in his ears as if that of a drum, strings glittering ebony, blending in with the dark hues of the looming night sky. 

Needless to say it wasn't exactly a blessing to be tangled up in all of this commotion, things getting even worse when he discovered the current of emotions that would come with each tiny thread.

Call it a result of overexposure, or maybe just because of the dimples carved into the crevices of his cheeks, but it wasn't at all a surprise for Donghyuck to have started harboring feelings for his seat mate in biology. Having associated someone with a pink thread for the first time in his fifteen years of living, he was suddenly hyperaware of everything he would do around the dimpled boy. Maybe it was the steady scratching of pencil against paper as his professor droned on continuously about diffusion and osmosis, or maybe it was the fleeting meeting of eyes when Donghyuck would turn his head to the right to stare only to find a set of eyes gazing back at him all along, but he just knew that it felt like he was on top of the world.  

He always saw the boys in his class associating the blushing shade of rosebuds with the cutest girls in the room, but never has he bore witness them connect one to the unsuspecting hand of a boy. He was fully aware that his attention always lingered on his cute class president or the captain of the soccer team, but seeing the baby pink string around his finger just to stop wrapped around his seat mate's wrist seemed to set his preferences in stone and caused a strike of fear to course through him. It was to his surprise and his heart thumping resoundingly when he stepped through the gates of his school only to take notice of a rosy pink string innocently placed around  the second knuckle of his index finger, evolving from the bright orange that it was before. It was with heavy steps that he followed its course, only to witness the string ending around his seat mate's pinky, bright teethy smile in place as per usual. With a rush of confusion and adrenaline running through his veins, Donghyuck tried to make a run for it by reaching for the doorknob behind him, only to stumble and yanking the string in the process, hands wrapping around it in instinct as he tried to stop himself from falling. 

"He always distracts me from learning cell biology but I can't help it if I just wanna kiss him when he laughs like that," If he was scared before, Donghyuck was outright terrified now as he tried searching around the room to place a face on the source of the voice echoing in the walls of his head. In the midst of all his panic, he watched with shaking fingers as the string bunched up in his hand bloomed from its youthful blush of pink into what he assumes is the darkest shade of blue he remembers from the spectrum of color they learned in art theory last Thursday, thread going taut as a clear sentence emerged from the cacophony of hushed whispers in his head.

"But I can't love him because he's a boy." His heart seemed to shatter right in front of his eyes, watching as the string went back to its original color as his chest did the opposite. He immediately let go of the bundle of thread he has enclosed in his fist, trying to repress all the feelings of despair and confusion as he finally got rid of the voice that ringed in his head. How could he have been so stupid? Of course he's still a boy, and boys shouldn't like boys should they? But why did something wrong just feel so right when he felt his pulse spike as he remembered his seat mate's voice resonating throughout his entire being just seconds ago. 

He watched silently as the thread he gave his seat mate turned into a blue the color of the sea at night, the string almost looking black as he stared down at it sullenly. Regret, he felt it so hard, letting the pain wash over him as he saw his visions of shy kissing behind the lockers disappear with the pinkness of the line connecting the two of them, rose intertwining with azure as he wished that he could've stayed in the naive state he was five minutes ago. 

Needless to say they never confronted the possibility of "what if?", but Donghyuck was glad when both of their strings glowed bright orange as they left for their summer break. It was from then on that he promised himself to not grasp onto another thread again.

He hasn't given someone another rosy string since then, seeing how he regarded everyone with the same shades of green and yellow, settling for nothing more than the strong relationship of trust amongst friends. He's never felt so strongly about anyone else until he went inside that audition room the following year. He faced the judges with buckling knees but bright eyes as he cleared his throat, standing still as he waited for the background music to start. He watched as blue and purple threads were associated with their piercing eyes, the strings radiating nothing but nervousness as it vibrated with the intensity of Donghyuck's fright.

The music started and he took a deep breath before he started singing, trying to shake the nerves off as he closed his eyes in fear of seeing the threads they've associated with his cracking voice.

Before he knew it the music ended and he stood silently in the middle of the room, the polished wood greeting him as he opened his eyes. He hesitantly looked up at their faces and saw the stoic looks they held as they discussed silently amongst themselves.

It took all of his willpower to hold back the tears of relief that came forth when he saw the yellow threads they've connected to him as they told him to wait outside, letting out a broken laugh as he leaned his head against the wall. He was ushered into a room filled with many other hopeful eyes, the air of nervousness lingering in the air as he sat down across the mirrored wall, observing the people around him.

Most of them were older than him, but he saw a few who looked younger, eyes shaking as their feet tapped persistently against the wooden floor. What shocked him the most was the lack of threads present in the room, not even a single one seen in the tension-filled area. This lasted on for about a minute until a staff member entered the room and everyone's backs immediately shot up straight.

"If I call your name please step out of the room and proceed to the right staircase, a staff member would be waiting for you at the end." The man cleared his throat and proceeded to start with the surname Ahn. It went on for minutes until there were only less than a quarter of them left in the room.

Donghyuck was confused, didn't the judges react positively to his audition? His mind was spewing thoughts a mile a minute as his palms started feeling clammy, the thought of the strings being indeed just a figment of his imagination plaguing his mind.

As he fought the internal mental battle within him, the staff member then cleared his throat, bringing about fifteen sets of desperate eyes to look in his direction. 

"As you can see there aren't much of you left anymore," The silence was heavy inside the room as Donghyuck took deep breaths to calm himself. It was only an audition, he repeated to himself as he focused on steady breathing.

"So I think it's only right for me to finally congratulate you kids, welcome to the company." Donghyuck's head has never shot up so fast in his entire life. His heartbeat clouded his senses as he looked around to see the rest bringing out their phones and crying as they called their parents to tell them the good news. His hands were shaking as he pressed his mom's contact, voice cracking as she picked up.

"I made it mom," The cry from the other end of the line tugged at the strings of his heart as he heard his mother laugh in joy.

"I always knew you had it in you, I told you that you would make it big didn't I?" He was trying his hardest not to cry, but the tears of the boys around him and the pure love in his mom's voice let a single tear slip out.

"I only got it from the best." His mom's laugh left him feeling warm as he can almost see the deep sunset colors of their thread in the air.

 After the quick debriefing in the audition room, all the new recruits were ushered by the same staff member into a smaller building. He led them through the elevators and stopped at the third floor, walking along the hallway with clipped steps until he stopped at the door situated at the very end.

"This is your temporary dorm room as trainees, the other rooms are still in renovation so I hope you don't mind it getting a little cramped in there for now." They all bowed as he left them to explore their new home. They heard footsteps coming from the kitchen as they saw a tall man emerge from the back.

"Ten, I think the new recruits are here!" He hollered towards the other side of the dorm in smooth english as a shorter man ran up in front of them and gave them a wide smile.

"Hi, this is Johnny and I'm Ten, the rest went out to get some groceries so you'll get to meet them later on!" His voice was bright as he seemed to radiate light into the room. They all greeted them politely, but Donghyuck seemed to freeze in place when he saw the thread connecting the two males.

A thick red thread with every bright color imaginable was strung between the two, a clear sign of deep love and affection, the width of the string relying the trust and happiness they found in each other. The colors that Donghyuck feared to give were all present in their thread, shining bright against the darkness of the dorm.

He saw the others soon giving Ten and Johnny light yellows and subtle oranges, slowly warming up to them but not fully convinced to call them a friend just yet, but one boy gave both of them the brightest oranges at once. Only someone so gullible and trusting would give such a strong thread at first sight, so when Donghyuck followed the thread to see the face behind it, he tried his best to keep his sudden intake of air to himself. 

In front of him stood a boy whose smile defeated any other colorful thread he's seen, oranges and yellows hiding in shame as his eyes left them looking dull. Donghyuck couldn't even begin to describe what his eyes held with mere words, seeping with so much hope and warmth and it made Donghyuck scared because those who feel the most get twice the amount of hurt in return.

He smiled up at the two elders and shook hands with them, soon conversing with Johnny in casual English. Donghyuck quickly looked away and pretended to have turned a blind eye when he saw the waver of pink make itself present in between himself and the smiling boy.

It's been more than a year since the rookies were introduced to each other and Donghyuck has never had more of a headache than in the dorms. It was always filled with endless strings of shining color, yellow and orange wrapping around the furniture as they all huddle around the tv in the guest area.

It was more of a tradition than anything. Every Saturday when they get dismissed early off dance practice, they gather for a movie marathon until they all fall asleep around the still running television. It was the time wherein they most felt like they were back home, the laughter shared or the tears being shed each Saturday uniting the group even more as they allowed themselves to feel the innocence of youth they missed out on, their threads steadily glowing brighter and getting stronger.

Tonight they decided on a Pixar movie marathon, the night starting off with the opening scene of Up. By the time that the movie reached Carl and Ellie's sequence, Yuta was hiccuping into their shared blanket, Hansol being a steady presence as he pat him on the back while trying not to cry himself. The rest started sniffling as Johnny handed out a box of tissues, Taeyong taking a good handful for the later scenes.

Donghyuck meanwhile was too busy comparing his own story with the movie's, thinking of his own missed chance at love from high school. He turned to his right to see Mark looking up at the screen with glossy eyes, a pathetic attempt to discreetly wipe his fallen tears was caught by the younger, snickered into his share of the blanket.

While Donghyuck shared the most extravagant of colors with the other members, oranges and greens intersecting as flecks of yellow glowed along the thread, he always repressed his thread with Mark by constantly teasing him and pushing away the annoyingly persistent rising shade of pink in the string.

He looked down in between them and saw the thread Mark had given him,  a blinding combination of the flashiest shades of the sunset, the waves of gold and purple meeting with the bright streaks of yellow and orange as it reflected so much emotions in a single line. Yet not once did Donghyuck ever see a shade of pink show its presence in that thin string.

It then forced him to associate Mark with a completely black thread, only given to one's greatest adversaries. He knew that there was no way his decision to do this would end well, but he would rather see an ebony bridge between them than bear witness to his feelings manifesting themselves in the form of the brightest shade of pink starting from Donghyuck's right pinky and looping around that of Mark's. 

Donghyuck stopped looking and focused back on the movie, sighing as Mark moved closer to him and rested his heavy head on his sore shoulder.

It was time for the yearly evaluation and Donghyuck was as nervous as ever, staying until the latest hours of the night to perfect every aspect of his evaluation piece. The hours were patterned with silent tears as he watched in frustration as his voice kept on cracking when he hit a certain note. He knew that he shouldn't have hoped to achieve anything with singing, seeing as how amateur he was compared to Taeil and Doyoung.

His knees gave up on him and he finally fell to the floor, finding comfort in the cool polished wooden flooring of the practice room. He stared at himself in the mirror, seeing the many threads attached to him when a particular string caught his eye.

It was the oddest combination that Donghyuck had ever seen, deep shades of red mixing with flaring streaks of blue as it vibrated with the intensity of the emotions of the beholder. Donghyuck had no clue on who felt so strongly about him, and it was through the haze of confusion and curiosity that he didn't notice himself reaching out to wrap his fingers around the thin thread.

"That idiot shouldn't be missing sleep just for evaluations tomorrow, idiot's probably doing it anyway. Doesn't he know that the rest are worrying for him back at the dorm? He's been getting unbelievably thinner I'll have to make Taeyong cook him more food again. Once I get my hands on him I swear I'll-" The slamming of the practice room door caused him to let go of the string, looking up to see the one who gave him that thread himself.

"Mark?" It couldn't possibly be Mark visiting him at ass o' clock in the morning, he must be hallucinating as he closed his eyes and pushed his head even closer to the cool training room floor, willing his dream to go away and for his homosexual crisis to stop standing right in front of him.

"That's it, we're going home," Donghyuck gave a small laugh as Mark referred to the dorm as his home, it was so Mark of him to do that, to consider them as his actual family. He felt a hand tugging him up but his knees couldn't support him any longer and he fell straight into the arms of probably imaginary Mark Lee.

"You're so stupid, what would you do without me, huh?" He felt himself being lifted onto eerily realistic probably imaginary Mark Lee's back and he recognized the familiar scent of his vanilla shower gel at once. He decided to make the most out of what seemed to be a realistic reenactment of his journal entries from his early trainee days and wrapped his hand around Mark's neck, feeling the warm laugh resonate from underneath him.

"Yeah, what would I do without you Mark Lee." He failed to notice the warm thrumming of the thread between them.

 So it wasn't an imaginary Mark Lee after all. He wanted to hide underneath the vanilla-scented covers for the rest of his life as he recalled how he acted like a lovestruck fool to the actual man Mark Lee himself.

He woke up to the weight of an arm wrapped tightly around his waist, his head resting on a solid arm that was holding a phone, hand continuously scrolling down a seemingly endless Twitter timeline.

It wasn't unusual for him and Mark to wake up in each other's arms, but it was a little painful for Donghyuck to know that he was the only one who's heart felt like beating out of his ribcage when he woke up to steady breathing against his neck and a chin resting on his shoulder.

He shifted in the other's hold to indicate his consciousness, the older holding him even closer in return. Donghyuck would've loved to stay like this all day, but soon the heavy weight of evaluation woke him up immediately. Mark seemed to sense the sudden rigidness of his body as he tangled his legs with Donghyuck's.

"Don't even think of trying to go back to the practice room you idiot, I had to carry your half-awake unmoving ass all the way from there to here, so don't think I'll let you burn yourself out again." Donghyuck stubbornly tried to get out of his grasp, the need to practice and polish and to make everything perfect clawing him from the inside.

"Mark, you have to let me go and practice, I'll never get anywhere if I don't-" He was suddenly turned around to face the older, the intensity of his gaze sent chills running down Donghyuck's spine.

"Stop doing this to yourself Donghyuck, do you really think you're the only one affected by this? The nights that you've spent staying up to train are the nights that had Taeyong pacing around the dorm trying his best to control himself from dragging you back here and into bed. You're human, Donghyuck, allow yourself to feel like one too." Mark was holding his face in between his hands, afraid that a movement too rough would scare away the younger.

Donghyuck lied unmoving in Mark's hold, the words sinking in as he looked into the other's eyes. It was filled with such strong emotion that not even a thread could express, Donghyuck's pulse jumped at the thought of that gaze being directed solely at him.

He of all people should know how he affected the lives of the people around him, whether he gave them the feeling of bright yellow or the calming green. He never really paid attention to the sorrowful blues seeping into the strings whenever he stared at his reflection all alone in the cold practice room, isolating himself from the rest to attain his one goal, perfection.

He cared so much about what other people thought of him because of this stupid thread business that only he can see, but he failed to look at their eyes instead of the thin lines swimming his vision. If Donghyuck could lie to his thread then so can they, but one's eyes could never hide what they truly meant, and in Mark's eyes he saw home.

Home wasn't the practice room where he burnt himself out until his lungs would give up on him. Home wasn't the vocal room where he slapped himself awake each minute just to perfect a single song pitch-by-pitch. He could finally see through the eyes of that trusting kid from a year ago that saw everyone as a bright orange, and through those eyes he saw that with his members he was home. 

 "Hey, hey, Hyuckie, you gotta wake up now," He was being shaken awake by a grinning Mark, who now pulled him out of bed and pushed him inside the bathroom.

"Go clean up, we're heading to the practice rooms in twenty. I left some of my clothes there that you could borrow for today." He heard his muffled voice from the other side of the door and tried his best to not cave in on himself for not practicing until his limit for this evaluation.

He hurriedly showered and tried to think of anything but failure. Failure, he feared it so much that he forgot to let himself live and learn from his past mistakes. His fear of failing held him back from most of their Saturday movie nights and their midnight ramen escapades as he holed himself up in the training room, forcing himself to think that this was right, this was what he needed to do.

He shook his thoughts out as he hurriedly dried himself and put on the clothes laid out on the bathroom counter for him to wear. The smell of his best friend's shower gel lingered at the collar, which helped the thoughts of never debuting drift away from his mind.

He went outside and Mark, probably noticing his troubled expression, quickly took hold of Donghyuck's shoulders and forced him to look into his eyes.

"You'll do great." He almost had Donghyuck convinced, but it wasn't enough to quell the thought of being sent out of the company that has always been eating him up from the inside.

"And if I don't?" The thread that Mark gave him shone of every bright shade possible to man, but an underlying streak of a mellow shade of blue travelled around it.

"Then they'll have to take me away with you."

Donghyuck just answered by pulling his best friend's polo tighter around his frame. 

It was like he was back to being that nervous kid from a year ago, knees threatening to give up on him as the hand holding the mic was slightly quivering.

He saw the members at the right side of the room, their threads filled with dark shades of purples and blues and Donghyuck hated making them worry like this. He took a deep breath and looked at the cold wooden floor, the same one he's collapsed onto a hundred times before.

He decided that this performance wasn't to impress the judges anymore. He didn't want to sing to stay in the company, neither did he want to sing to achieve the highest compliments from the judges. He wanted to sing for his family right in front of him, he wanted to sing to turn their threads into a shockingly bright sunset, not wanting to face the dark waves of purple any longer.

For the first time since he met him, Donghyuck removed all boundaries on his thread for Mark. He watched as the black gave way to a beautiful array of colors, blues playing with the color of grass under the sun, the deepest shade of red wrapping around the entire length of it as he followed the string to look directly at Mark.

His eyes must have poured out everything as he saw the older's eyes widen under his gaze. He looked at each of his members and gave them the widest and most genuine smile he could muster. A sudden surge of energy ran through him as he watched their threads intertwine to combine into the most blinding shade of gold as they smiled back at him, knowing that they finally got their Donghyuck back.

He faced the judges straight on this time, not fearing whatever color they'll give him. After all this wasn't for them anymore. In the end his voice still cracked at the parts he spent sleepless nights on, the threads the judges gave him weren't as bright as when he used to waste his time just to see them give him a blinding golden one, but the light radiating from his members outshone any other matter in the practice room.

The wooden floor was still the same cold temperature that it was, but somehow when the members tackled him which resulted with him falling onto his back, the floor seemed to welcome him instead of beckon him to stay for another twelve hours.

After evaluations the vocal coach asked to speak with him, which didn't surprise him considering the difference in his performance altogether. What he didn't expect was to be met with the proudest smile his coach has ever given him and the brightest thread he's ever associated with Donghyuck.

"I'm glad you finally learned who to really sing for. It's much more golden to see you sing imperfectly with such passion rather than to have to watch you sing soullessly with perfect pitch." His coach pressed down on the thread between them, shocking Donghyuck as he thought he was the only one who saw the endless lines of color.

"Go beyond the limitations you've set for yourself, you'll learn much more if you do so." His coach pointed towards the threads connecting to him, placing Donghyuck's hand atop of one.

He heard Taeyong's voice ringing in his head, the nagging voice telling him to eat more, the broken voice calling for him in the practice rooms. He went ahead and reached for the rest of the strings, the shock of how much he didn't know taking him by surprise.

"Someone please check on Donghyuck. I'm glad he's even returned before sunrise today. Did Donghyuck see me turn the power off just to get him to go back to the dorm? I hope he noticed the extra popcorn we left for him on the counter after movie night." Everyone's voices flooded into his head, wrapping him in the feeling of warmth, of being needed, of being loved.

Donghyuck hesitated to touch the seemingly new thread someone's attached to him. Not just anyone, Mark. From the previous glowing sunset it's transformed into a thick black string, Donghyuck's heart breaking as he saw the seemingly endless darkness of the thread.

He slowly placed his fingers on it and was shocked to hear an abundance of emotions coming from a lone voice in his head, an explosion of every possible color in the spectrum spreading out onto his fingers.

"Donghyuck looks cute today. I wanna stay in bed with him for a little while longer. Will he find it weird if I carry him back to the dorm? I'll tell him to keep that polo, it looked better on him anyways. I would love Lee Donghyuck with all that I have but-" Donghyuck's heart sank with the word "but", bracing himself for the exact same sentence that broke his first love years ago.

"-he probably doesn't love me back." He froze as he processed the last phrase over and over again. Mark wasn't afraid of loving him even if he were a boy, he was only afraid that he didn't love him back.

 After evaluations came Saturday movie night, the atmosphere better than ever with Donghyuck's presence on the couch. It felt weird not seeing strings anymore, the dorm feeling a little emptier at the absence of the humming at the back of Donghyuck's head.

They were watching Titanic and he felt Mark sigh from above him as he played with Donghyuck's hair, fingers detangling the knots his fingers would skim across. He wasn't focusing much on the movie, having watched it with his mother a few years back and instead laid down on his best friend's lap, busying himself with the bowl of popcorn.

"Man, when will I get someone like that who'd do some reckless shit with me then still kiss me afterwards," Mark closed his eyes and leaned back onto the cushions, his fingers never stopping from playing with Donghyuck's roots.

"Well if you'd actually open your eyes and take a pretty good look around, I think you'd find one - even if you did almost drop them on the way to the dorms." The fingers in his hair froze as Mark's wide eyes looked down at him. They were so open and Donghyuck could read all of his emotions even without that damn thread.

"Am I looking at the right direction then?" Mark's voice was soft and unsure, barely heard over the movie's loud sound effects. Donghyuck sat himself up and looked at Mark dead in the eye, bumping their foreheads together as he looked at him with hopeful eyes.

"If you want it to be, then yes," Mark's soft chuckle was warm against Donghyuck's lips, his hands gently tilting the younger's head up for a kiss.

It was more than what touching one's thread felt like, it was like electricity running throughout Donghyuck's entire being, his lips unconsciously curling into a smile as his arms found their way around Mark's neck, trying to ingrain in his mind the steady presence of hands on his waist and the pressure of lips on lips as they basked in the warmth of each other's presence.

Donghyuck pulled away due to the lack of air, but was instantly wrapped in Mark's strong embrace, the two of them finding space for both of them on the couch as their legs were tangled with the other's and clammy hands finding each other below the blanket.

Mark looked at him with his eyes shining brighter than the golden strings he's worked nights for, telling him that he didn't need any of those when the boy in front of him shone the brightest colors of the sunset in Donghyuck's eyes.