Mark and Yerim’s scene this morning took the whole school by storm. Shortly after the school bell rang, the news about their engagement was already out causing a buzz. People couldn’t stop talking about it and they blatantly threw Donghyuck dirty looks as if saying, your time is over!
Donghyuck couldn’t care less about them. He’s used to it now and he didn’t get affected by it, not in the slightest. But his friends were another story. Renjun was furious, despite being informed about the situation before. He squared up as he slung one arm around Donghyuck’s shoulder, guarding him as they walked to the class together. He looked pissed and pissed Renjun wasn’t a pleasant sight to see. Jeno did not show any reaction but he walked in front of them with Jaemin who looked like he was ready to murder someone—Donghyuck had never seen his friend looking this infuriated before and he had to admit that it was scary. His lips pressed into a thin line and Donghyuck had heard him sneered, “what the fuck was that for,” before looking away from the scene. Meanwhile, Lucas had silently joined them and walked behind Donghyuck and Renjun. His face was stony, almost expressionless. It was strange to see one of the friendliest guys Donghyuck knew could look so unapproachable like that. Lucas didn’t smile as he usually did and stayed close to Donghyuck, making sure that no one got close to him.
Donghyuck didn’t know how to react to his friend’s reaction. People walked past him and all of them looked like they wanted to eat him alive. He felt bare but protected at the same time because he was surrounded by his friends who acted as his shield.
“Fuck,” Jaemin suddenly stopped and cussed, making the others jumped in surprise.
“What’s wrong, Nana?” Jeno asked, looking worried as he gently held Jaemin’s elbow. Jaemin looked upset and his eyebrows furrowed.
“None of us have the same class with Donghyuck until lunch.”
“I’ll ditch my class and be with Donghyuck.” Renjun stated and Donghyuck quickly shook his head in disapproval. He opened his mouth and he was about to tell his friends that they didn’t need to go that far to help him but a deep, familiar voice interrupted him.
“I will accompany Donghyuck.”
The five of them turned around and found Yuta was sauntering to them. His smile was alluring as usual but Donghyuck knew him a little bit better now to tell the difference. It was threatening the way his eyes deftly shooting daggers to students who dared to look at Donghyuck for more than three seconds. His smile was a warning and he made sure that people got the message.
They did and swiftly moved to clear the hallway. No one wanted to be the receiving end of Yuta’s wrath, or any other the Brat Pack member for that matter.
Yuta stopped before them and his haughty expression disappeared when he looked at Donghyuck.
“Hi there,” he grinned, completely harmless. Then he turned to Jaemin who looked just as surprised as the rest of them—they didn’t expect Yuta to treat Donghyuck like that. “You and your friends can go, Jaemin-ah. I’ll take care of Donghyuck.”
Who were they to deny Yuta’s request? Jaemin, out of the people, knew better who to trust.
“Yes, please, hyung.”
Yuta nodded and wordlessly asked them to leave. When it was finally just the two of them, Yuta’s face turned apologetic. His eyebrows furrowed, clearly not impressed with the situation.
“I’m sorry you have to go through this,” Yuta sighed, the sincerity in his voice made Donghyuck felt touched. “You must be surprised.”
Surprised was an understatement and both of them knew that. Donghyuck tried not to make a big deal out of it and shrugged.
“Yeah,” he mumbled, offering Yuta a small smile of gratitude. “But you don’t have to go all out like this, hyung. I’ll be fine on my own. They won’t disturb me when there’s a teacher.”
Yuta chuckled and he looked amused now, his eyes dancing with familiar, playful mirth.
“Who says you’re going to class?”
Donghyuck blinked, did not understand where their conversation was going.
“What? But my class—“
“has already been taken care of,” Yuta finished his sentence. “Let’s get out of here. I know a good place to go.”
Donghyuck didn’t ask where Yuta was taking him but he did wonder where it might be. He expected a silent ride but he should’ve known better not to expect anything when it came to Yuta because the latter always did something unexpected. Yuta started a conversation as soon as they left the school gate and didn’t stop talking after that. He told Donghyuck about his friendship with the Brat Pack; how it started and how long it has been going. There were so many interesting, fun stories to share but Yuta loved to talk about embarrassing moments more.
He told Donghyuck about Ten’s big crush on Johnny before they were together. He rambled that Ten did everything to get Johnny’s attention, including learning how to cook after his best friend heard that Johnny liked someone who can cook. Ten hated cooking but he signed up for cooking class and gave Johnny his first baked cookies to impress him.
“Do you want to know how his cookies taste?”
“Is it bad?”
“I spat it out when I tried it,” Yuta winced at himself as he recalled the story. “I still feel so bad for doing that because I know that Ten put a lot of effort into it but it was my spontaneous reaction. I can’t help it. Ten is brilliant in anything but cooking. Do you know what Johnny did?”
Donghyuck didn’t have to think to know the right answer. “He ate them all.”
Yuta smiled, looking so proud as Donghyuck guessed it correctly.
“That’s right,” Yuta cackled. “That fucker ate them all without complaining and made Ten fell for him even more.”
Yuta added that later on, after Johnny and Ten were dating, Johnny found out that Ten learned how to cook just to impress him and told him to stop if it wasn’t something he didn’t like. It didn’t matter because he would still like him the same. Ten continued his cooking class because he started to enjoy it and also because his ego didn’t let him to have a weakness.
“That’s the thing about Johnny. He doesn’t really care about other people but when it comes to Ten, he’ll go the extra mile for him. People know that he’s got a reputation and they know better not to mess with him.”
Yuta went on and told Donghyuck about Jaehyun’s stupid jealous moment. His best friend used to get jealous of him because he and Taeyong were close enough to do physical affection. They knew that Jaehyun was possessive and territorial when it came to people he loved.
“It was so dumb,” Yuta shook his head as he recalled what happened in the past. “Jaehyun always had this scary, irritated expression whenever he saw me and it made me want to punch him in the face for being so stupid. I did punch him though, once. He said something hurtful to Taeyong out of his blind jealousy and made him cry. That day, I had a long night talk with him. The next day, Jaehyun and Taeyong were together.”
Donghyuck let out a small chuckle. “That’s so dramatically romantic.”
“I know, right?” Yuta smiled fondly. The way his eyes sparkled as he was talking about his friends showed how much affection he had for them. “A lot of people think that Jaehyun is too much but you know what? I think when it comes to the right person, everything is never too much.”
Donghyuck blinked, stunned by what he just heard. He knew that behind the Casanova character he played for the public, Yuta’s mind was deep and he always knew what to say. But sometimes, that side of Yuta still caught him off guard.
“Doyoung didn’t have a lot of embarrassing stuff when it comes to love,” Yuta continued, driving at a normal speed in unusually empty road. Donghyuck almost felt like they were floating. “He’s sucks when it comes to expressing himself. He liked me but he annoyed the hell out of me to get my attention. The only reason why I knew about it was because I know him well enough to tell the difference.”
Donghyuck’s eyes widened. Yes, Yuta always knew what to say and when to say it. But he was also blunt and brutally honest.
“Doyoung hyung liked you?”
Donghyuck couldn’t hide the surprise in his face. Yuta turned to Donghyuck, smiling cheekily.
“Yeah, he did. Surprising, isn’t it?”
“Indeed,” Donghyuck answered. “Did Sicheng hyung know about it?”
“No. It’s only me, the boys, and you now. I don’t think people can simply guess this, unless you know Doyoung very well, because he doesn’t let anything give his feelings away.”
Donghyuck nodded his head in agreement. When he first learned about the Brat Pack, Doyoung was the only member who could easily pass as a normal student. Maybe that was why he was the President of the Student Council in the school. He could blend with people but looks could be so deceiving and it made him as mysterious as the other Brat Pack member.
It took him a moment to realize that Yuta has told him about all of the boys’ stories except Mark. It wasn’t like he didn’t want to hear it but he wasn’t sure if his heart could handle it at the moment.
“Mark isn’t as complicated as he wanted people to think,” Yuta carefully began, turning to check Donghyuck’s reaction and give him an encouraging smile. He knew what Donghyuck was feeling right now. He picked up the mood so effortlessly. Donghyuck appreciated his thoughtful gesture so he smiled back.
“At the beginning, yes,” Donghyuck agreed, his voice low. “But the more you know him, the easier for you to figure out who he is. You just need to get to know him better to see the real him.”
“That’s right,” Yuta acknowledged. “He’s just a kid who wants a simple life. People think he’s a spoiled, hot-tempered brat who does whatever he wants and doesn’t care about everyone else. While I do agree that he acts like an asshole sometimes, I know that he’s being rebellious on purpose just to piss his father off. People always want to control him and he hates it. All he wants is love, any kind of love he can get. It’s that simple.”
Donghyuck forced himself to swallow the lump down his throat. It wasn’t hard to picture young Mark went through his rebellious phase as the result of the lack of affection he got because he’d seen him at his lowest. He knew that no matter who you were, everyone was fighting their own battles that people likely did not know about.
Donghyuck knew where this conversation was going and he braced himself. Now it made sense why Yuta was the one who came at him. It had to be him, not the other Brat Pack members. He was the one who was brave enough to deliver the news and knew how to do it.
Not wanting to beat around the bush, Donghyuck bravely brought up the topic first.
“When is the engagement?”
He didn’t have to be specific about it because both of them knew what it was about.
Donghyuck’s heart dropped to the pit of his stomach. “That’s fast.”
“Yeah, it’s his father’s request.”
“Of course,” Donghyuck didn’t bat an eye at the answer. Feeling braver than usual, he turned to Yuta with newfound confidence. “I’m coming.”
Yuta didn’t seem surprised but he let out a sigh of relief, his shoulders visibly deflated.
“Thank God. I was so ready to bribe you with food coupons.”
Donghyuck let out his first genuine laugh that day, feeling extremely grateful to Yuta for putting an effort to cheer him up.
“Donghyuck,” Yuta’s facial expression turned serious and his voice deepened. “You know what it means if you come there, right?”
Donghyuck nodded. He knew that what he was trying to do was risky but he was willing to try; even though he still wasn’t sure what would it cost him. Yuta saw the determination in his eyes and gave him a brotherly smile.
“Don’t worry. You’ve got us, kid.”
Donghyuck smiled. “I know.”
Yuta brought Donghyuck to Jaehyun and Taeyong’s house. Donghyuck had never been there before and to say that he’s astonished by the design was an understatement. He thought that their house might have a similar touch like other Brat Pack members; modern, classy, and luxurious. But this was nothing like he’d never imagined before.
The house was the only house in the hills. The design used a creative mix of rustic and modern details that gave it a true mountain feel and look. It was completely different from Jaehyun’s sleek and modern apartment. This house had large window views, open outdoor spaces, and beautiful combinations of warm woods, stacked stones, and organic design materials. It reminded Donghyuck of Mark’s house but the vibe was slightly different. The first thing that came to his mind was; home. This felt like a place in the fantasy world; away from the reality where we got to rest and enjoy our time with our beloved ones.
This was the perfect, safe place for Jaehyun and Taeyong.
Taeyong personally opened the door for Donghyuck and Yuta. When they got inside, Johnny was also there. Yuta greeted him with a simple nod meanwhile Donghyuck politely bowed his head to him.
“Where’s the other?” Yuta asked as he sat on the couch next to the stacked stone fireplace. Donghyuck bravely took a seat next to him but still left some safe space between them.
“Ten has to take care of something,” Johnny replied. “Doyoung is busy with his student council duty and Jaehyun is with Mark right now.”
When Johnny said Mark’s name, he directly looked at Donghyuck and it startled the latter a little bit. He could say that he blended well with the Brat Pack and while it was hard for him to be comfortable with Jaehyun because the latter didn’t let people get close to him, Johnny didn’t talk much and it made him look intimidating to others. Donghyuck still felt awkward around him. It was mostly because of the way Johnny carried himself; dominant and exuded unrelenting power. Donghyuck couldn’t think of ways to talk to him without stuttering or stumbling over his words. He still remembered the way Johnny stopped the reporters who wanted to get Doyoung with just one word—it showed his tremendous power and steely control.
“Did the kids bully you this morning?”
Donghyuck sputtered, not expecting the question. Johnny was sitting across from him but he couldn’t look at him in the eye for more than five seconds.
“No,” Donghyuck timidly replied, trying not to wince as Johnny looked at him with narrowed eyes, clearly didn’t believe his answer. He quickly corrected, “not really. My friends didn’t let others get close to me. And Yuta hyung came to get me here.”
“If someone bullies you, remember their face or their name. Tell us. We’ll take care of it.”
It didn’t straightly come out as a demand. Johnny’s voice was unexpectedly soft but Donghyuck could sense the dangerous tone and it sent chills down his spine knowing what the man was capable of. There was something in his voice that made people unconsciously obey him and that was even more dangerous than those people who had to use violence.
“Take care of it?” Donghyuck hesitated. Johnny opened his mouth and he looked like he was ready to elaborate everything just to scare Donghyuck but Taeyong stopped him just in time.
“Shut up, John,” Taeyong threw him a warning glare. The corner of Johnny’s lips turned upward into his signature lopsided smile and his eyes softened in kindness and that eased Donghyuck’s tensed shoulders.
“We’re not going to beat the shit out of them.” Yuta clarified and Donghyuck shivered at the idea. “Not really, but they will still get what they deserve for messing with us.”
Yuta had the audacity to smirk as if it was normal to play the judge and Donghyuck tried not to think about it.
“We’re not as kind as you thought,” Johnny admitted. “We need to show people their place, if that’s necessary.”
“Stop it, you two,” Taeyong scolded his friends as he noticed Donghyuck’s trembling figure. “Donghyuck doesn’t need to know that.”
“Anyway,” Yuta interjected. “Is your suits ready, Donghyuck?”
Taeyong stared at Donghyuck with a knowing look.
“You think of wearing the suits you wore at Jaehyunie’s engagement party?”
Donghyuck smiled sheepishly. Taeyong shook his head disapprovingly.
“Nope,” he objected, emphasizing the p. “I knew you were going to say that. That’s why we’ve prepared everything for you.”
A few hours later, after a very interesting house tour, Taeyong led Donghyuck to a room at the end of the long corridor where everything the latter needed was there. Donghyuck looked around and just realized that he hadn’t seen any maid in the house.
“Hyung, where’s the maid?”
“We don’t have one,” Taeyong told Donghyuck. “It’s just me and Jaehyunie.”
“Ah, I see.”
A moment of silence.
“Are you ready for tonight?”
Donghyuck held his breath and pondered over the question. Earlier, he was glad that no one talked about Mark and Yerim. They had a conversation about common, daily topic and it honestly helped to ease Donghyuck’s mind. Now he could safely say that he was ready to talk about this.
“Yes,” he declared. “I am.”
Donghyuck didn’t miss a beat to shake his head. “Strangely, no.”
Taeyong proudly smiled at him. “Good. Always remember that you have back-ups, okay? You have us.”
In return, Donghyuck gave Taeyong his genuine smile.
“Yes, hyung. I’ll always remember that.”
Donghyuck made his way to Lee Mansion, where the engagement party was to be held. This was the first time he came there and he could say that the amazing mansion could pass as one of the most expensive residences in Seoul. There were a lot of photographers crowding around the entrance. It was obviously for exposure to the public and Donghyuck could easily predict that the engagement party would make it to the highlights tomorrow morning.
Donghyuck came as Yuta’s one-plus and even though he’d attended a few parties like this, he still wasn’t used to the atmosphere because he knew that he didn’t belong to this kind of lifestyle. He felt out of place but Yuta gently guided him, keeping him as close as possible as he posed for the photographers, flashing his perfectly practiced business smile and flirting eyes.
When they finally got inside, Yuta led Donghyuck into the hall and lounge area where canapés and drinks were freely accessible. Yuta didn’t stop for small talks even though girls were so quick to approach him, trying to get his attention. He offered them his signature smile and politely declined their offer. Donghyuck was impressed by how Yuta dealt with people.
Yuta brought Donghyuck to the VIP section where the Brat Pack members sat. Everyone was there except Jaehyun who had to be with Sooyoung to welcome the guess. Donghyuck could breathe a little bit more easily now that he was with the people he was familiar with. He took a seat next to Taeyong who immediately gave him a comforting pat on the back.
Donghyuck looked around and allowed himself to take in all that was going on around him. Among the people attending were many well-known, familiar influential people; businessmen and women, and he also recognized some politicians and celebrities he could straightforwardly recognize from television. They were busy chatting and making a connection.
People could tell that the party was perfectly arranged and organized despite the sudden invitation. Donghyuck looked around and wished he could see Mark’s face among the crowd but the latter was nowhere to be seen.
Where is he?
“He’s going to come out soon,” Taeyong reassured as if he could read Donghyuck’s mind. “The engagement party is about to start.”
Donghyuck silently nodded. He sucked in a deep breath, trying to calm his raging nerves. He knew what it meant for coming here and he was aware that he’d risked everything to be here. There was no way out and he had to be responsible for what about to come.
The waiter put the drinks down for them all. Taeyong gave orange juice to Donghyuck but the latter was too jittery to drink anything. After a short while, the room fell into complete silence when the guard announced that Mark and Yerim were coming. Donghyuck squeezed his hands together, anticipating their arrival. A moment later, he saw Mark first and his breath instantly caught in his throat. His boyfriend looked pretty much the same as the last time he saw him but despite the distance between them, he could notice the sullen expression on his face.
Mark looked like a walking Adonis in his custom three-piece suit and his slicked-back hairstyle gave off that exquisite masculinity. He walked with confident and light steps, his shoulders squared up, his eyes sharp, his lips pressed into a thin line, looking as frigid and distant as ever. He emitted a supreme, unyielding power just like how Donghyuck first met him. It took Donghyuck a moment to finally notice Yerim’s presence next to Mark. She looked remarkably divine and for a moment he couldn’t find words to describe her. Yerim wore a champagne-colored satin dress, edged with gold lace. The bodice was tight-fitting and body fitting. To put it simply, she looked undoubtedly gorgeous from head to toe. From the outsider’s perspective, Mark and Yerim looked like a perfect match. They were flawless but Donghyuck and the Brat Pack knew better than that.
When Mark started looking around and found the Brat Pack table, his eyes spotted Donghyuck right away. The latter could see the way Mark promptly froze on his spot and his gaze slightly wavered when he saw the sight of him—clearly not expecting him to be there. They locked eyes and for a moment, they got lost in time. Mark was the first one to look away as Yerim noticed that he was distracted. She proceeded to turn to Donghyuck and flashed him a small smile. She didn’t look surprised by his presence as if she knew beforehand that he was going to be there. Donghyuck, not knowing exactly what to do, smiled back at her awkwardly.
Donghyuck watched everything.
He didn’t take his eyes away from Mark. He watched him holding Yerim’s left hand as he pushed a gold ring in her finger—a symbol of their union. He didn’t feel jealous or hurt by this because he knew that it wasn’t real. But still, as soon as Mark and Yerim left the stage, he rose from the couch and left to get some fresh air.
Where is the bathroom?
Donghyuck walked through the hallways, opening some doors but still couldn’t find it. The mansion was even bigger than he’d imagined now that he’s exploring it. He continued to walk to the end of the hallway but then everything happened so fast he barely managed to say something when strong, familiar arms hauled his body against him and dragged him into a room. The sight of high ceilings and pre-war architecture matched the rest of the interior design of the mansion. Donghyuck shouldn’t be surprised but he did. Sometimes, it still didn’t feel real that he was dating a man who seemed to own near everything. This room was a glimpse into the private Mark he didn’t know before and it was stunning.
Mark unlocked the double-door entrance and led Donghyuck into his bedroom. There was a king-sized bed in the middle—the wood dark and the linens a soft cream. The furnishings inside the room matched the bed. It was a warm space with arts on the walls to highlight the original interior of the mansion.
“I’m sorry,” Mark’s words left him in a rush, his breath heavy. The cold facade faded away as he stood in front of Donghyuck. His eyes softened and there was a glint of regret in his eyes as he stared at his boyfriend. “I wished you didn’t see that.”
Donghyuck stepped closer, lifting his hand to Mark’s face. Almost immediately, Mark leaned into the warm touch.
“No need to say sorry,” Donghyuck softly brushed his thumb against Mark’s cheek. “I wanted to come here to see you.”
Mark stared at Donghyuck for a brief, solid moment before he wordlessly pulled his boyfriend into his arms. He buried his face in his shoulders and wrapped his arms around his waist, not leaving any space between them. He let out a deep breath as he closed his eyes, letting himself to let go of the burden he had to carry on his shoulder for a moment. He sounded so tired and drained as if he had nothing left and Donghyuck’s heart instantly clenched in sympathy.
“You did great,” Donghyuck rubbed Mark’s back gently, offering the comfort the latter desperately sought. “I’m here.”
“That’s the best part,” Mark pressed his lips against Donghyuck’s skin, making the latter’s face flushed. “It’s bearable because you’re here.”
Their small moment was interrupted by the knocking sound on the door, startling them with its abrupt intrusion into the quiet.
“Young Master Mark,” Mrs. Lim showed up and bowed at Mark. She then turned to Donghyuck and did the same. “Young Master Donghyuck.”
Donghyuck’s body jerked back in shock. Not only because she seemed to know him, but the way she addressed him made his cheeks flushed in embarrassment.
“I told her about you,” Mark filled Donghyuck in, knowing exactly what his boyfriend was thinking.
Donghyuck stepped back to properly bow at Mrs. Lim. “Hello, I’m Donghyuck. Mark’s friend—“
“—please just call me Donghyuck.”
Mark feigned an offended look at Donghyuck.
“I’m your boyfriend,” he protested, looking disapprovingly at Donghyuck with furrowed eyebrows. “Introduce me properly.”
“I thought we’re breaking up?”
Donghyuck scowled at Mark. “I will introduce you properly if you told her not to call me Young Master.”
“She understands her job perfectly. She does the right thing.”
Donghyuck turned to Mrs. Lim who had been silently watching their bickering moment.
“You can just call me by my name without any title,” Donghyuck insisted. “I’m no one.”
“I’m afraid I can’t, Young Master,” Mrs. Lim politely declined and Donghyuck couldn’t help the grimace on his face. “You’re Young Master’s special person and I will treat you the way I treat Young Master.”
“Good job, Mrs. Lim.” Mark praised her as he nodded his head in approval at Mrs. Lim and gave her a playful wink. Beside him, Donghyuck was red from head to toe. “Anyway, why are you here, Mrs. Lim?”
Mrs. Lim’s demeanor changed and the warm smile on her face was gone as she turned serious.
“Your father requested your presence in his room, Young Master Mark,” she announced. “He knows that Young Master Donghyuck is here and wanted you to bring him too.”
Mark’s smile instantly vanished and his jaw hardened at the information. He swiftly took Donghyuck’s hand and intertwined their fingers. Donghyuck tightened their hold without hesitation.
“Let’s get out of here.”
Mark led Donghyuck out of the room after briefly saying goodbye to Mrs. Lim who didn’t even try to stop them.