Actions

Work Header

The Brat Pack

Chapter Text


 

Lee Donghyuck couldn’t believe that he was late. He’s never late in his life before. He was always on time. But that’s because Chenle, his little brother, never made a fuss when Donghyuck tried to wake him up in the morning before. Today, unlike usual, Chenle started to cry as soon as he opened his eyes. He almost kicked Donghyuck on the face when he tried to bath him and he still didn’t stop crying even after Donghyuck bribed him with ice cream—which was completely surprising because Chenle never said no to ice cream before. It took almost 30 minutes to get Chenle ready for school and by the time Donghyuck dropped him off at his kindergarten, the last bus that morning had already left. His new school was 20 minutes walk from Chenle’s kindergarten but now that Donghyuck was already late, he didn’t have a choice but run.

Donghyuck arrived at school right when the bell rang loudly through the hallway. He ran straight to throng of people, easily blending in because of his small figure. He needed to find teacher room first because he still didn’t know where his classes were. Donghyuck kept walking straight, his mind kept chanting ‘faster, Donghyuck, faster’. He didn’t really pay attention with his surroundings and when he took a right turn, he gasped loudly when his body collided with a bigger figure, his forehead knocked a very sharp jaw that sent him flying to the ground, fell flat on his butt. His hands immediately flew to his forehead, the collision was hard enough to make him dizzy. There were gasps and murmurs around him but Donghyuck was too preoccupied with the impact of the accident to realize it.

Fuck.”

A string of profanities made Donghyuck looked up and his eyes widened when he saw the guy before him was bleeding. He quickly got up, the apology was already in the tip of his tongue, but when that guy glared so hard at him, Donghyuck immediately cowered on his spot.

“Are you fucking blind?” the guy spat at him, wiping his bleeding nose with his hand. Blood smeared from his nose to his mouth and down to his jaw. Donghyuck winced at the sight.

“Where the fuck was your eyes?”

Donghyuck’s throat got thick. He was just a new guy, this was his first day, and he already fucked up so badly. The guy before him was slightly taller than Donghyuck but his frame was bigger. His shoulder was broad, his face sharp, and his eyes were so intense. He looked at Donghyuck like he wanted to kill him. And he looked completely pissed.

“I’m—I’m sorry.” he whispered, lowering his gaze. The guy muttered a low ‘fucking blind’ and when he walked passed Donghyuck, he purposely bumped his shoulder against Donghyuck’s so hard it made him stumbled backward, almost falling again, but a hand caught his wrist and steady him.

Donghyuck looked up and realized that the guy wasn’t alone. There were another two guys with him. Donghyuck gaped at the guy who caught his wrist. He was also slightly taller than Donghyuck and he looked like he was straight out of manga books. He was so beautiful, his figure and his face was the kind you saw on the cover of Bazaar magazine. His eyes were so big, looking straight into Donghyuck’s eyes. His light brown hair softened his look. He looked unbelievably stunning.

“Are you okay?” he asked, his voice was so much gentle than the previous guy. Donghyuck lowered his eyes to read his name tag; Lee Taeyong.

“Y-yes,” Donghyuck answered, suddenly feeling nervous under his gaze. “I’m fine.”

“I’m sorry for earlier.” Taeyong said. “He isn’t usually like that. He’s just in a very bad mood this morning.”

Donghyuck didn’t know how to respond to that so only nodded at Taeyong.

“You’re new here?”

“Y-yes.”

Taeyong smiled and his cold look melted. He looked so much better, prettier, and brighter when he smiled like that. Donghyuck gawked at him with mouth slightly opened.

“Welcome here,” Taeyong lowered his eyes to read his name tag, still smiling. “Donghyuck.”

“Thank you,” Donghyuck stammered and blushed.  

“Baby, we need to go now.”

Another guy, taller and leaner, but muscular, with dark straight hair, came from behind Taeyong. He had one arm around Taeyong's waist and Donghyuck could immediately tell that they were a couple. This guy has a very soft feature but his eyes were very sharp and he didn't smile. His lips pressed into a thin line and he looked displeased. It didn’t match well with his feature and it actually made him looked scary and unapproachable. He looked at Donghyuck with calculating eyes and Donghyuck immediately lowered his eyes.

“Once again, I apologize on his behalf. Hope you have a nice day, Donghyuck. Good luck.”

The taller guy, Jung Jaehyun, practically dragged Taeyong to move forward, leaving Donghyuck alone in the hallway. Donghyuck stood there for a moment, still disoriented from what had happened. A few moments later, he let out a squeal as realization finally hit him.

“I’m late!”

 


 

Fortunately, even though Donghyuck was late, the teacher was kind enough and let Donghyuck off the hook because it was his first day. She led Donghyuck to his new class. The classroom was quite big and as soon as Donghyuck stepped foot into it, all eyes were on him. He tried to stand straight even though he visibly trembling. He could feel their calculating and judging eyes when he walked to his chair and sit next to a very tall and cheerful guy. His name was Wong Yukhei but people in school called him Lucas. He was the only one who looked friendly and smiled broadly at Donghyuck. He started the conversation first and Donghyuck was glad he could make friends on his first day.

When the bell rang, Lucas asked him to go to the cafeteria together. He wanted to introduce Donghyuck to his friends. After lining up for their food, Lucas walked him to the table where his friends at and he introduced them one by one. There were three of them. The pink hair, Na Jaemin. The smiley eyes, Lee Jeno. And the tiny one, Renjun. They welcomed him warmly and it was easy to fall into a conversation after that.

A few moments later, suddenly the cafeteria became noisy and there were loud gasps and murmurs. Donghyuck looked up and saw Jaehyun and Taeyong entered the cafeteria. They walked side by side with Jaehyun's hand wrapped possessively and protectively around Taeyong's waist. He still didn't smile. They walked over the big table at the corner, away from another tables and it was still vacant. Another pair behind Jaehyun and Taeyong walked in the same direction. Both of them were tall and lean and they were bickering loudly while walking. The one with honey blond hair kicked the other’s leg and ran when the other chased him. Behind them, there was another pair. One of the two was very tall and muscular like Jaehyun. He was more boyish than the others and his hair looked so smooth and silky. He had one arm around the shorter one, leaning so close to him. The other guy was the shortest than the others, thin with sharp features. His hair was an ink black, he had a very pointed nose and eyes like a cat. It was clear that the two of them were a couple, like Taeyong and Jaehyun. They even looked more intimate.

The six of them sat at the same table. Donghyuck gawked at them, mouth slightly opened. All of them looked like they could be in college. They looked so different from other students and all of them looked devastatingly stunning. Just like Taeyong, the rest of their faces were the kind that showed up on pages of a fashion magazine.

“Who are they?” Donghyuck asked, turning his attention back to his group of friends.

Jaemin giggled and he looked at Donghyuck as if he was expecting that kind of question to come out sooner or later.

“They're the Brat Pack.”

“The what?”

Donghyuck almost choked on his food, looking at Jaemin incredulously.

“The Brat Pack,” Renjun repeated. “It's cliché, I know. The students here call them that.”

“So you mean they're like the ones who rule this school?”

“Kind of,” Jeno said. “They're a bunch of rich and spoiled kids.”

“But they're actually not that bad.” Lucas said, munching his sandwich messily. Donghyuck shook his head, reaching out to wipe the corner of Lucas's mouth with his hand, it was just out of habit. He always did that to Chenle because his brother was a messy eater. Lucas was stunned, looking up at Donghyuck in surprise, but then he smiled so wide at him and muttered a small 'thank you'. Donghyuck smiled back in return.

“That's because you're the only who actually talk to them.” Jeno said. He sounded bored and Donghyuck got the impression that he didn't like them that much.

“So, who are they?” Donghyuck repeated the question.

“The first one who came was Lee Taeyong and Jung Jaehyun. They're like the couple goals here. A lot of students look up to them. Taeyong looks cold outside but he was actually soft and warm. He's also very polite and smiles a lot. Jaehyun is the opposite. His face might look soft and friendly but he's the quiet one. Only Taeyong can soften him. And you don't mess up with Taeyong because Jaehyun will never hesitate to destroy everyone or everything that hurts his boyfriend. You see, he is a very possessive and protective type.”

Donghyuck shivered. “That sounds scary.”

"It is," Jaemin nodded. “But he's only on his worst when it involves Taeyong. He's actually nice.”

“Those two who bicker a lot, the honey blond and the guy who sits across him, that's Kim Doyoung and Nakamoto Yuta. Doyoung is the president of Student Council. He's the most social one. If you don't see him with them you will think he's just a normal student like us. Yuta is the captain of the football team. He is the Casanova. The one who breaks many hearts.”

Donghyuck glanced at their table again. The Brat Pack. The name actually suited them. The young rich kids you couldn’t quite keep straight. They were what kids wanted to see and what kids wanted to be.

Donghyuck seemed couldn’t look away and when Taeyong caught him, he gave him a small nod and smiled a little at him. Donghyuck blushed and hesitantly smiled back. Jaehyun saw that and turned his head to Donghyuck, his gaze hardened. Donghyuck quickly looked away.

“The last one was Johnny and Ten. They're together and grossly in love. Their PDA is no joke. It's not surprising to see them making out in the hallway, locker room, or bathroom. And we're all used to see Ten all over Johnny.”

Donghyuck cringed.

“All of them are senior?”

“Yes,” Renjun answered. “This year is their last year here.”

Jaemin was about to say something but then he caught a sight at the entrance of the cafeteria and his eyes quickly lightened up.

“And that's Mark Lee. The leader of The Brat Pack.”

Donghyuck turned around and he couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the very same guy who bumped into him this morning was walking straight to the end of the table. He had both hands on his pocket and even though he was alone, he still managed to look so powerful and dominant. He walked with his chin high up in the air, eyes cold, and lips pressed into a thin line. Donghyuck watched as the girls squealed when Mark walked passed their tables. Mark approached his group of friends and sat in the middle, the only empty seat remained. He didn’t eat like the rest of his friends. He was engaged in what seemed like a serious conversation with Jaehyun, his eyebrows furrowed and his hands moved frantically as he explained things to the latter.

He is the leader?” Donghyuck muttered under his breath, still couldn’t believe what he just heard.

“Yes. He’s actually the youngest. A junior like us but he is the one who leads the group. The co-leaders are Taeyong and Johnny, the oldest in the group.”

“Mark is Jaehyun’s younger brother.” Lucas informed him. “And before you ask, they’re step-siblings. That’s why their surname is different.”

“Taeyong doesn’t seem like he can hurt a small bug but he’s very protective of them. There are rumors and stories but I don’t think you’re ready for that today.” Renjun explained and Donghyuck could only nod.

Donghyuck glanced at them and it was just so happened that Mark looked up at the same time as Donghyuck. Their eyes locked and the scary look in Mark’s face returned. His frown deepened as he looked at Donghyuck, scowling at him. Donghyuck shivered and quickly looked away.

Jaemin caught their small interaction and his hand immediately flew to his mouth, gasping loudly.

“Oh my god,” Jaemin looked at him with wide eyes. “You are the new kid.”

Donghyuck looked at him confusedly.

“Um, I am?”

Renjun and Jeno looked back and forth between Jaemin and Donghyuck before the realization finally hit them.

“You mean the one who made the Mark Lee bled?” Renjun said, his jaw fell open.

Donghyuck’s widened. How could all of them know about that?

“What do you mean?”

“Donghyuck-ah,” Jeno said slowly, there was a pity in his eyes and Donghyuck’s stomach immediately twisted. “The Brat Pack is a big deal. And Mark is the leader.”

“So…?” Donghyuck asked, still didn’t get the hint.

“All of the students keep talking about the new kid who made Mark bled this morning. You have to know that Mark has his own fan club here and let’s just say they aren’t very nice.”

“They’re after you,” Jaemin broke the news for him. He looked at Donghyuck pitifully, just like the rest of them. Even Lucas grew very quiet. “Nobody messes up with Mark in this school, Donghyuck-ah. And after what happened this morning, you become their next target.”

As soon as the words sunk in Donghyuck, he could feel his blood ran cold through his body. He sat there helplessly, staring down at his food. He was the next target. Donghyuck knew exactly what it meant and he felt like crying now. It was his first day and he’s already gotten himself into a trouble. This wasn’t how Donghyuck imagined his first day would be. He never imagined that he would get involved with Mark Lee, the leader of the Brat Pack, the one who ruled the school. He was so screwed.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

His hell began right after lunchtime was over. Donghyuck walked to his locker only to find it already opened, all of his belongings were messy and he found a warning message inside; watch out. It was written in a thick paper with a red ink. He was completely aware of sharp gazes behind his back but Donghyuck stayed composed. He maintained a straight face and looked like he was completely unaffected when inside his heart was beating so loud in his ears and his hands were trembling on his sides. But Donghyuck was strong. He wasn't going to let them think that this would break him. Today was only the first day. It was the beginning and Donghyuck was determined to survive this. Luckily, his new friends were very kind. Jaemin sat with him in Biology class and Lucas even walked him to his last class before going to his PE class.

The rest of the day went surprisingly well. After the last class ended, Donghyuck darted out of the room quickly. He made sure to pay attention to his surroundings this time, making sure not to bump into people. He wouldn't want to make the same mistake. And he certainly didn't want to see Mark again. When he was finally out of school, Donghyuck took the bus to go to Chenle's kindergarten. When he got there, his brother was playing with Jisung, his best friend, under the monkey bar. Donghyuck could hear Chenle's high pitched laughter from afar and that made him smile. At least Chenle looked so much better now, unlike this morning.

“Chenle!”  

Chenle looked up, his face brightened when he saw Donghyuck.

“Hyung!”

Donghyuck ran to him, opening his arms as wide as possible and laughed when his baby brother threw himself over him. He spun Chenle around, kissing his chubby cheeks.

“Are you ready to go home?”

Chenle nodded. “Yes!”

“All right, baby. Now say goodbye to Jisung first.”

Donghyuck put him down gently. Chenle walked toward Jisung, talking in a low voice as if he was telling Jisung the world top secrets and he wouldn't want anyone to hear him. It was their thing, talking in hushed voice around adults. Donghyuck found it amusing and endearing. Chenle was very bubbly and loud meanwhile Jisung was the opposite. Jisung didn't talk much with Donghyuck or others for that mattered but he became a completely different person when he was with his baby brother. He smiled and talked more. The teachers and even Jisung's parents were really thankful to Chenle because he brought Jisung out of his shell.

Jisung looked sad because Chenle had to go home first. Donghyuck took a few steps forward, kneeling before Jisung so they were on the same eye level.

“Jisungie, do you want to wait for your mummy with Donghyuck hyung and Chenle?”

Jisung grew quiet, considering the offer. A few moments later he shook his head.

“It's okay,” he said, his voice quiet. “Chenle said he was very hungry and wanted to go home soon. I'll go inside and wait with the teacher.”

Sometimes Donghyuck was still amazed by how smart Jisung and Chenle were. They were very attentive and talked very well.

“Are you sure?”

Jisung nodded. “Yes.”

“Okay then. We'll get going now. Thank you for playing with Chenle today, Jisung-ah.”

Donghyuck ruffled his hair fondly and smiled when Jisung didn't flinch. He used to avoid Donghyuck but thanks to Chenle, he didn't shy away from Donghyuck's affection anymore.

“Bye bye, Isungie!”

Chenle leaned forward to smack his lips against Jisung's cheek, making the younger blush. Jisung smiled back at him, all teeth and gums.

“Bye bye, Lele~”

Donghyuck and Chenle waved at Jisung before turning around and walked back home, hand in hand.

 


 

Donghyuck got off of the bus with Chenle in his arms. He put him down gently and held his hand as they walked to their apartment. As usual, Donghyuck asked Chenle about his day and his brother told him about what he did—most of it was about him and Jisung doing things together, always together. When they finally arrived at their apartment building, they climbed the stairs to the third floor. The lift was broken and the owner made no attempt to fix it. Once they were inside, Donghyuck told Chenle to change his clothes meanwhile he walked straight to the kitchen to prepare lunch for his brother. Today's menu was kimchi spaghetti with extra mozzarella cheese, just like how his brother liked it. He also reheated the dumplings he'd bought last night as side dishes. By the time he finished everything, Chenle was already waiting in the living room.

“Here you go, my little prince,” Donghyuk said as he put the plate down on the table in front of Chenle. His brother's face lightened up when he saw it.

Kimchi spaghetti!” he squealed. “And dumplings!”

Donghyuck laughed, ruffling his head gently. “Finish your lunch, okay? Hyung will take a bath to get ready for work. Kun hyung will be here soon.”

Chenle nodded, already digging into his plate. Donghyuck chuckled and kissed his forehead before padded over the bathroom to take a bath.

Donghyuck’s routine was always the same. He woke up early in the morning, got Chenle ready for school, dropped him off at his kindergarten, went to his own school, after the school was over he went to pick up his brother again and went to home together. After they arrived at home, he prepared lunch for Chenle before going to work at a restaurant as a part-time waiter. When he’s going to work, Kun, his neighbor next door, would take care of Chenle for him. Donghyuck would come back home when Chenle was already fast asleep. If he didn’t have homework, Donghyuck would immediately hit the bed after taking a quick shower. But if there were a lot of homework to do, he would stay up all night and only got a few hours to sleep.

Life was hard for both Donghyuck and Chenle after their parents died in a car accident three years ago. It was devastating and both of them needed years to recover from that. Even now, they were still hadn’t fully recovered from it but they managed. After the accident, Donghyuck and Chenle lived with their aunt and uncle in Busan. When Donghyuck entered high school, he decided to move to Seoul and lived together with his brother. At first, their aunt and uncle strongly refused the idea of them living alone but Donghyuck convinced them that he’s capable enough of taking care of himself and his brother. Finally they agreed and helped Donghyuck found a cheap apartment in the city. Their aunt and uncle sent them money every month but it wasn’t enough and therefore Donghyuck worked to support him and Chenle. Luckily, Donghyuck got a scholarship in his new school so he didn’t have to think about his tuitions.

Donghyuck wasn’t like teenager his age that would go on dates or hang out with friends after school. He didn’t have the luxury to enjoy such things. His number one priority was his brother. He didn’t have much time to think about anything else. His life was about surviving today and moving forward to another day. Life was hard but at least Donghyuck wasn’t alone. He had Chenle and for him, it was more than enough.

 


 

The restaurant was really packed today. Donghyuck didn’t have enough time to take a break and it was already past dinner. He moved fast and quick, writing down all the orders and moving back and forth between the kitchen and the tables nonstop. He only managed to drink a bottle of water and ate a mocha bread Kun gave him before he went to work. Donghyuck was about to go to the restroom when a bunch of guys entered, drawing attention of some people, especially some young girls who instantly stopped whatever they were doing to look—ogle—at them. He squinted and gasped when he realized that they were the Brat Pack. The six of them—thankfully Mark Lee wasn’t there—took a table at the corner, away from the others. Donghyuck only saw them once in school when they wore school uniforms, the only thing that made them looked like other students. Now that they were outside, it was obvious that they were all dressed exceptionally well; simply, but in clothes that subtly hinted at designer origins. With their remarkable good looks, their style which they carried themselves, they could easily pull everything off and still looked good. It was obvious that they have both money and looks.  

Donghyuck looked around and saw that no one was available. Everyone was busy and that left him no choice. After letting out a deep breath, he walked over their table slowly. Taeyong was the first one who noticed him. His eyes widened slightly when he saw him.

“Good evening,” Donghyuck greeted them politely, wearing his professional smile. He internally patted himself on the back for speaking clearly and without trembling. “Have you guys decided what to order yet?”

Taeyong smiled at Donghyuck, polite and friendly. Donghyuck waved back hesitantly, clearly awkward. Jaemin was right. Taeyong smiled a lot and friendly. And his personality didn’t match his look. 

“You’re working here?”

“Yes,” Donghyuck answered, now his voice wavered a little.

The Brat Pack members, expect Jaehyun who had met Donghyuck before, seemed genuinely confused watching the interaction between them.

“You know him, Tae?” Yuta asked, staring at Donghyuck and blatantly checked him up and down. Donghyuck tried not to squirm under his intense gaze.  

“He’s the new kid.”

Jaehyun answered him. For a moment the whole table was quiet and Donghyuck got a bad feeling when all of them turned to him with various expression; Taeyong, Jaehyun, and Johnny looked unfazed, Ten looked confused, Yuta’s eyes lighted up as if he just found something interesting, and Doyoung looked at Donghyuck with a glint in his eyes.

“What’s with the new kid?” Ten asked, his accent thick and his voice high. Johnny smiled fondly at his lover. He leaned down, pressing his lips against his ear to whisper something. A moment later, Ten’s eyes lightened up.

“Oh!” he exclaimed. “The new kid who pissed our Mark?”

Donghyuck’s ears turned red. He knew that the whole school knew about the accident but being constantly reminded of it made Donghyuck’s stomach twisted because in less than 24 hours he already knew what the consequences were if you ever messed up with the Brat Pack leader. Even if it was just accidentally.

“You did a great job, kid,” Doyoung said, looking up from his expensive phone and grinned. “You really pissed him off this morning.”

Donghyuck was baffled. He didn’t know if he had to take it as a compliment or mock. Doyoung didn’t sound like he mocked at him. He looked genuinely happy with the fact that someone made Mark pissed. But Donghyuck wasn’t so sure how to take it. Not knowing what to say, he stayed silent.

“Can you do that again? Mark is really cute when he’s grumpy.” Yuta who sat in a chair closer to Donghyuck leaned forward to take a better look at him. Donghyuck flinched and stumbled backward, making Yuta laughed.

“Leave him alone, Yuta!” Taeyong scolded him gently. He turned to Donghyuck and looked at him apologetically. “I’m sorry. He’s just being playful.”

“You’re no fun, Taeyong,”

“Stop it, Yuta.” Jaehyun gave him a warning look, making Yuta grumbled but he did stop and turned his attention back to his game on the phone.

“Can we order now?” Johnny who had been quiet the whole time finally spoke. “I’m actually really hungry now.”

Donghyuck sighed in relief as their attention was fully on the menu now. Yuta and Doyoung argued what to order and Taeyong had to stop them when they started getting physical. Donghyuck watched as Taeyong nagging at the duo. Even though his friends didn’t mention it this morning, Donghyuck got an impression that Taeyong was like a mother of the group. He nagged and made sure they were all well-behaved.

After taking all the orders, Donghyuck quickly left the table, letting out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. Being around the Brat Pack made him restless. He was lucky Mark wasn’t there. Donghyuck didn’t even want to imagine how would it be if Mark was there. He wasn’t ready to face him again.

Ten minutes later Dongyuck walked slowly to their table again with a tray full of kimchi jjigae and seven bowls of rice, careful not to spill everything. More people came in and they were all lining up to get a table. It was difficult to walk among a throng of people and when Donghyuck almost reached the Brat Pack’s table, a kid suddenly appeared in front of him, making him startled. Donghyuck yelped in surprised and stepped aside so he didn’t bump into the kid. He came to an abrupt halt and at the same time someone coming out behind him and bumped into him, making him lost his grip on the tray he was holding and spilled the food. To his horror, a big bowl of kimchi jjigae spilled on that stranger and then dropped to the floor with a sharp crack. Startled screams pierced the whole restaurant. Waiters and waitresses quickly walked over to the disaster site. One of them carried ice water and fearing burns, Donghyuck took it and without a second thought poured a pitcher of ice water over the frantic stranger as he brushed the streaming food from his clothes. Gasping, he backed away from Donghyuck, pulling his cold, wet black shining leather jacket from his body.

Donghyuck finally looked up and his blood ran cold as he locked eyes with none other than Mark Lee. Again. Well, bad luck.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Mark hissed in fury as soon as he saw Donghyuck’s face. “You again?”

Mark’s face was red, both from anger and pain. Donghyuck took a step backward, eyes wide. He opened his mouth as if to say something but closed it again. Mark’s whole body vibrated and he balled up his fists until his knuckles turned white. He lunged forward and Donghyuck shut his eyes tightly, ready to take the punch.

“Mark, stop!”

Donghyuck’s eyes flew open and found all the Brat Pack members were already there, crowding around them. It was Taeyong who stopped him from punching Donghyuck. He dragged Mark away from Donghyuck, gripping his shoulder tightly. His eyebrows furrowed and his lips pressed into a thin line. He looked absolutely concerned as he inspected Mark’s body, checking for any damage. Mark growled and tried to get free from Taeyong’s hold. When he pushed Taeyong a little too hard, Jaehyun stepped in front of him and with a powerful hold, he managed to stop Mark from moving forward.

“Enough, Mark.” he said, his voice held an absolute authority. “Don’t make another scene.”

Mark growled at his brother, still trying to get free from Taeyong and Jaehyun’s grip on his shoulders. Yuta quickly walked over them and stood behind Mark, gripping his hips in a death grip. Donghyuck’s whole body trembled. He slowly took a step forward but a hand grabbed his elbow, stopping him. He turned around and found Doyoung already standing next to him.

“Don’t,” he said, shaking his head. Donghyuck immediately got the message.

“What happened here?” a sudden voice of authority demanded. Everyone cleared a path for the restaurant manager. “Anyone hurt? Who's responsible for this?”

Everyone turned to Donghyuck, some pointed their fingers at him. Donghyuck had been working here for more than a year now and this was his first mistake. Ashamed with his carelessness, he ducked his head down, not daring to look at those people.

“How could you hire someone as clumsy and incapable as him?” Mark said, clenching his teeth together. “Fire him.”

There was an absolute command in Mark’s voice and the manager looked taken aback with the request. Donghyuck could see that he was conflicted. He was a nice man and knew Donghyuck’s background story. But he also knew that Mark was rich—it was obvious, his looks and clothes screamed money. When you’re running a business, you couldn’t afford to lose potential customers. 

Donghyuck wasn’t the type to cry easily. He wasn’t a crybaby. But today was really tiring. Everything seemed to go wrong. He bumped into Mark Lee twice in less than 24 hours; first, he made him bled by accidentally knocked his nose with his forehead. And now he spilled a bowl of kimchi jjigae on him. Donghyuck was so upset with himself he could feel the tears coming. He tried to force them back by grinding his teeth together.

“Mark, it was an accident.” Taeyong finally said, breaking the thick tension in the air. “You don’t have to go that far.”

Mark glared at Taeyong. “Step back from this, hyung. This is my business.”

“You do not talk to Taeyong with that tone, Mark Lee.”

Jaehyun voice was cold as ice. He pulled Taeyong to his side and wrapped a protective arm around him, glaring back at Mark.

“Guys, stop. Everyone is watching.” Ten who had been quiet finally spoke. One glare from him and everyone quickly stepped back and turned away from them.

“I think we should go now.” Johnny finally stepped out. He turned to the manager who looked as confused and scared as Donghyuck. “You don’t have to fire that waiter. It was just an accident. And we’re still going to pay for our orders.”

Johnny took out his wallet, pulling out his black card and gave it to the manager. The man gawked as he took it and dashed over to the cashier to process the payment.

“I-I’m sorry.” Donghyuck mumbled, feeling his throat burned with unshed tears. He peeked up at him one more time and regretted it. Mark was glaring down at him with dark, cold eyes. As Donghyuck flinched away from him, the phrase if looks could kill suddenly ran through his mind. He wanted to look away but his gaze held him until the manager came back to give back Johnny's black card.

“Let's go.” Jaehyun ordered, already pulling Taeyong away and walked to the entrance. Johnny and Ten followed the pair without looking back. Mark made an angry noise under his breath when Yuta and Doyoung dragged him out of the restaurant. He gave Donghyuck one last glare before turning around.

As soon as they were gone, Donghyuck’s knees buckled and he had to grip a table to keep him from falling. His manager told him to go home and called another waiter to clean up the mess. Donghyuck only nodded as he walked to the restroom. He changed his clothes quickly and got out of the restaurant through the back door.

Donghyuck shivered as he stepped into the cold night, a cool and chilly breeze hitting his face. He walked to the bus stop and sat on the empty bench. Finally, after holding back for so long, he buried his face in his hands and cried. He cried until the last bus showed up and went home with a heavy heart. 

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Donghyuck kept his eyes straight forward as he walked to the front gate of his school. Other students were starting to arrive and almost all of them came by car with their personal chauffeur. The cars were all shiny and expensive. There were only a few students who walked like him. Donghyuck only been here for two days but he already knew that it was a common thing to see a new Toyota, Hyundai, or Lexus in the student lot. It was an expensive school filled with a bunch of rich kids. What did he expect? Almost all of them loved to show off and Donghyuck would never understand their behavior.

Suddenly there was a commotion and students stepped aside to clear a path. Donghyuck, like everyone else, turned around as they heard a distinctive roaring of a motorcycle followed by another five cars. He heard surprised gasps as those vehicles speed by them. He instantly knew that it was the Brat Pack. All of the students always made excessive reactions when it came to the Brat Pack as if they were some sort of demi-God or something.

Donghyuck watched as they stopped at the parking lot; their vehicles parked in line. He was proud he could distinguish the symbols of each vehicle. There might be a lot of expensive cars in the school but it was obvious that nothing topped their cars. All of the cars, except Doyoung's, were all glossy black, sleek, beautiful, and fast. As far as Donghyuck knew, some of their cars and motorcycle weren't supposed to be available in Asia yet, let alone in Seoul. And definitely not for high school students. It was too expensive, too shiny, and too stood out.

Johnny and Ten were the only ones who rode a motorcycle—it was Harley Davidson Fat Boy. It was big and produced a thunder-like sound. Strong and solid. Somehow it represented them just right. They were indeed different from the others; free, wild, and fearless. Johnny and Ten wore matching black shiny leather jackets, making them looked like university students. Johnny helped his boyfriend unclasped the helmet and Ten giggled as he stretched on his toes, giving him a quick peck on his lips. Johnny smiled and leaned down to catch his lips, kissing him in front of everyone, ignoring the squeals from other students. Donghyuck quickly looked away from them and cringed. PDA kings indeed.

Jaehyun slid out of his Volvo and walk around the front of the car with graceful steps. He opened the passenger door, holding it for Taeyong as his boyfriend stepped out, shutting it softly behind him. He leaned down to kiss his temple gently and put one arm around his shoulder—it was his possessive signature when he’s around Taeyong. His face was cold and impassive but when Taeyong whispered something to his ears, Donghyuck saw a faint smile on Jaehyun’s face and his cold look instantly melted. He looked so much better when he’s smiling. 

Doyoung and Yuta’s cars parked next to each other and stepped out almost at the same time. Donghyuck almost couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw their cars. Doyoung’s white Porsche stood out the most because of the color was different from others. Meanwhile Yuta had a cocky smirk as he slid out from his Bugatti Veyron, waving to some girls who looked like they were about to faint. Yuta knew that he had effects on them and liked to abuse his power—the real Casanova. 

The last one who got out of the car was Mark Lee, of course. The moment he stepped out of his black Aston Martin, all girls screamed and squealed loudly. Mark shoved his hands into the pockets of his pants. He stared ahead as he walked to his group of friends. All of the Brat Pack members were waiting for him and they let Mark walked first before following him. Everyone cleared a path as they walked through the hallway, making a safe distance from them. They walked as if they owned the place and everyone bowed their heads as the gang walked passed them. Donghyuck didn’t even want to know how much money or power they had for people to treat them like that.

Suddenly the kimchi jiggae accident from last night flashed through his mind and Donghyuck tried not to wince. He secretly felt relief as he watched them disappeared. The Brat Pack was a bad news for him and he wished he would never cross path with them again.

 


 

 

As soon as Donghyuck walked into the hallway, all eyes were on him. The news that he was transferred to the school because of scholarship spread like a wildfire. Everyone looked down on him and they didn’t even try to hide the disdain on their face when they looked at Donghyuck. They looked at him as if he didn’t belong there. He didn’t but he kept telling himself that he was here for his education, not for them. He kept a straight face as walked to his first class. Someone bumped into his back, clearly on purpose, making him stumbled a step forward.

“Watch your steps, kid.”

Donghyuck ignored him. He didn’t even turn around to look at that person. He continued walking and some girls made a disapproving sound as they passed Donghyuck, laughing mockingly as they checked Donghyuck from head to toes. Donghyuck paid them no mind. He almost reached his class when suddenly someone pushed him from behind, hard, making him lost his balance and tripped over his own feet. Everyone crowded around him and laughed as he fell on the ground. Donghyuck hissed, feeling his knees burned at the impact.

“Donghyuck-ah, are you okay?”

Big hands caught his wrists gently. Donghyuck looked up and found Lucas was already crouching on one knee in front of him. He looked concerned as he looked at Donghyuck’s scrunched face.

“Yukhei,” Donghyuk said, smiling at him. “I’m okay. Don’t worry.”

“Let me help you up.”

Lucas held Donghyuck’s hand as he helped him got on his feet.

“Lucas, is he your new toy?”

Someone chimed in behind Lucas and Donghyuck’s body instantly stiffened when he heard that. He couldn’t see his face because Lucas’s bigger figure blocked his view. Lucas turned around and he sounded pissed when he spoke.

“Mind your own business, Jaerim,” he hissed. He sounded like a completely different person now. “And do not call him that.”

Before that guy could make another remark, Lucas gently held Donghyuck’s wrist and pulled him out of the crowd. He walked closer to Donghyuck, their shoulders touched. He was so much bigger and taller than Donghyuck that it looked like he was shielding him from others.

“What’s your first class?” Yukhei asked, his tone was back to normal; light and cheerful.

“Korean Literature. In building second.”

“Do you have classes together with Renjun, Jaemin, or Jeno for today?”

Donghyuck tried to remember his schedules first before answered his question. “Yes. After lunch I have chemistry with Jaemin and I’ll be with Jeno on my PE class.”

Lucas nodded in satisfaction. “Good. Stick to them and don’t go around alone, okay?”

Donghyuck chuckled. “I’m not a baby, you know. I can take care of myself.”

Lucas only hummed.

“I’ll walk you to your first class.”

Donghyuck grabbed him by the elbow and stopped him from walking, shaking his head lightly.

“Yukhei, you don’t have to do that. I’m perfectly fine on my own.”

Lucas’s face fell slightly and Donghyuck instantly felt bad. He was touched by his concern and care but it was just in his nature to be independent and do everything alone. He wasn’t used to be taken care of. It was always the opposite.

“I just want to make sure you’re alright,” Lucas told him honestly. “I know it’s not easy being around those kinds of people.”

Donghyuck knew all of his new friends here were rich. He didn’t know how rich, but it was obvious that they were never had problems with money. But they were different than the rest of the students in this school. And Donghyuck was thankful for that.

“All right, then,”

Donghyuck gave in and Lucas’s face instantly lighted up.

“Great. Let’s go!”

 


 

When Donghyuck entered the classroom, the room suddenly became silent and all eyes were on him. He stopped by the entrance when he saw that all the tables were filled but one. In the very back row, Mark Lee was sitting next to that single open seat. He was staring outside the glass window, bopping his head slightly to the music that's coming from his earphones. Donghyuck watched as his classmates looked at him with a sly glint on their eyes as if challenging him to go there and sit next to Mark Lee. He was pretty sure that none of them dared to sit next to Mark. But Donghyuck wasn't one of them. And he didn't care that Mark was The Brat Pack's leader and that he was one of the richest kid in Seoul. There was only one seat left and Donghyuck would sit there—he didn’t have another choice.

After taking a deep breath, Donghyuck walked down the aisle to the last row, ignoring gasps of surprise from his classmates as he stopped by Mark's table and plopped down next to him. Mark turned his head when he felt a presence next to him. He suddenly went rigid in his seat as he stared at Donghyuck who was brave enough to stare back at him. Donghyuck knew Mark recognized his face—how could he didn’t after what happened yesterday. And it was obvious, the look on Mark's face—it was hostile and furious. But this time, Donghyuck didn't even flinch when Mark glared at him. He stared back at him, wondering why he didn’t feel afraid anymore. Mark’s face was red and his nose flared up. It was the same expression he had when Donghyuck spilled a hot kimchi jjigae on his clothes.

“You—“ Mark hissed, straightening his back. “Who gives you the right to sit next to me?”

“No one,” Donghyuck answered calmly and that seemed to add fuel to Mark's anger. “But this is the only seat left,”

Mark clenched his teeth together. “Leave.”

Donghyuck met his cold eyes and shook his head firmly.

“No.” he said, surprising both of them.  

Mark clearly looked taken aback, blinking at him. He opened his mouth to say something but was interrupted by the teacher. He glared at Donghyuck one last time before looking away. Donghyuck sighed in relief and turned his attention to the front, listening to the teacher's introduction of Korean Literature. From his peripheral look, he saw all of his classmates looked at him in shock. Their mouth fell open and their eyes grew big as if they just witnessed something strange happened.

Mark was leaning away from him and he had a permanent scowl on his face. It made him looked scarier. Even the students didn't dare to turn his head after Mark gave them a hard glare for stealing glances at their table. Now that Donghyuck thought about it, he looked so much like his step-brother, Jaehyun. Mark always scowled and he just looked cocky all the time meanwhile Jaehyun looked cold and stiff.  And both of them never smiled. They were just unfriendly and unapproachable.

The class seemed to drag on longer for both Donghyuck and Mark. Donghyuck kept his eyes down on the reading list the teacher had given them and highlighting the important sentences as a way to distract his mind. Donghyuck didn't know where this sudden braveness came but now that he was sitting right next to Mark, he felt so stupid for fearing him before. The accident in the restaurant was too sudden and unexpected that he couldn’t think straight. That was why he couldn’t even face him or make a proper sentence. But this felt different. Sitting next to Mark made him realized that Mark was just a student like the rest of them, like him. It’s just that people valued him so high that they forget the fact that despite his social status, he was just a normal person like them. The realization made Donghyuck felt so much better and suddenly Mark Lee wasn’t so scary anymore.

Before the class ended, the teacher explained their assignment for the next week. They had to make a review of Han Kang's novel, Vegetarian, and they're going to work as partners. Donghyuck waited as the teacher started to make pairs. He waited and waited but his name wasn’t being called yet.

“Mark Lee,” the teacher said and the whole class turned to their table again. There were still some students who hadn’t been called yet and Donghyuck prayed that it wasn’t him. Not him. Not him. Not—“and Lee Donghyuck.”

Oh, God. Not again.

 


 

As soon as the bell rang loudly, Mark was out of his seat even before Donghyuck got a chance to say something to him. Gracefully he rose and out of the door before anyone else was out of their seat. Donghyuck quickly stuffed his books in his bag, slung the strap over his shoulder, and ran after him. He wanted to call his name but it would draw attention and that’s the last thing Donghyuck wanted. So he walked faster and quietly followed him. When Mark took a left turn that led them to the men bathroom, before Donghyuck could stop him, Mark’s steps suddenly came to a halt and he turned around to glare at him.

“Stop following me, for god’s sake!”

Startled, Donghyuck took a step backward, keeping a safe distance. He cleared his throat and when he spoke again, his voice was surprisingly composed.

“We need to discuss our assignment.”

Mark stared at him as if he’d just spoken in a language he didn’t know. “Did you really expect me to sit down with you and talk about the novel?”

Donghyuck didn’t miss a single beat. “Yes.” 

Mark snorted.

“Do you even know who I am?”  

“I know who you are,” Donghyuck said carefully. “But that doesn’t change the fact that you’re still a student and you have your duties as well just like the rest of us.”

For once, Mark didn’t throw him a hard glare or look at him as if he wanted to kill him. He stared at Donghyuck with watchful eyes for a very long moment. It was hard to read his expression. At first he looked surprised and mad and then his face gradually changed into something else. Donghyuck couldn’t really pinpoint it, but when he finally spoke again, he almost sounded civil.

“You’ve got some nerves.” he said in a low, even voice. Before Donghyuck could say something, he added. “All right, then. Tomorrow. My place. 8 P.M,”

Donghyuck was completely taken aback.

What?

“I’m not going to repeat myself,” he said and he’s back to being cocky and annoying again. “This is your first and last chance. And I do not tolerate tardiness.”

And just like that, he turned around and left Donghyuck alone in the hallway. Donghyuck blinked, staring at the back of his head. It took him a moment to finally gain his sense back. Did Mark Lee actually agreed to make their assignment together and asked Donghyuck to come to his place?

He blinked again, bewildered. What the hell just happened?

 


 

Chapter Text


 

When it was time for lunch, Jaemin waited for Donghyuck in front of his class so they could go to the cafeteria together. As soon as Donghyuck walked out of the classroom, Jaemin grabbed his wrist and dragged him to the hallway. Startled, Donghyuck almost tripped over his own feet.

“Jaemin, can you please slow down?”

Jaemin pulled Donghyuck’s body against his, walking close to him. Just like what Lucas did this morning. Donghyuck knew he was trying to shield him from them. He was used to all the prying eyes but for some reasons today felt slightly different. He didn’t know why but all of his classmates kept staring at them—him. They seemed mad yet curious at the same time. By the look on Jaemin’s face, he knew something was happening. But he had no idea what it was.

“Did you hear the news?”

Donghyuck frowned. “What news?”

Jaemin didn’t answer him right away. They walked in silence for a while and when they turned left to an empty hallway, he finally spoke again.

“About you and Mark Lee.”

“What about me and Mark?”

Jaemin turned to him. “The whole school is talking about a certain transfer student who’s brave enough to sit down next to Mark Lee in the class.”

Donghyuck opened his mouth as if he wanted to say something but closed it again. He couldn’t believe what he just heard. Did people actually make a big deal out of it? He got an impression that what he did—bravely sitting next to the infamous Mark Lee was uncommon—but he didn’t know that it would be this big. No wonder people seemed more fierce and bold when they saw Donghyuck today. He also noticed that some girls looked at him with so much hatred in their eyes as if they wanted to eat him alive.

“It never happened before,” Jaemin spoke again after a moment of loaded silence. “No one is never brave enough to sit next to him. Well, unless you’re the Brat Pack members then you can’t sit with him.”

Donghyuck snorted. “Cocky.”

“Indeed they are.”

Once they were around the cafeteria, they became silent. All of their friends, minus Lucas because he was still in the gym, were already waiting for them at the same table as yesterday. Donghyuck and Jaemin stood in line to get their food. Once they were done, as they walked to their table, Donghyuck unconsciously lifted his head and swept his eyes at the corner of the cafeteria. The Brat Pack were there, sitting at their usual table, and Mark Lee was surprisingly already there with them.

At that precise moment, Mark's eyes flashed over to meet Donghyuck's. He didn't look harsh or unfriendly as he had this morning. Now he looked strangely curious, his eyes following Donghyuck as the latter sat down with his friends. Donghyuck dropped his head, letting his bangs fell to conceal his face. He didn't know what could possibly cause his sudden interest but it made him uncomfortable and utterly confused. He lifted his head again to take a peek but Mark was still stared at him with penetrating eyes.

“Mark Lee is staring at you,” Renjun said, breaking the silence between them.

Donghyuck’s head snapped up and realized that he wasn’t the one who was aware of Mark’s sudden change of behavior. As he looked around, all of the students were looking back and forth between him and Mark. Even the Brat Pack members were looking at their table—at him. Taeyong gave him a polite smile as usual but Donghyuck could tell that he was curious too. Jaehyun still seemed impassive. He only gave Donghyuck a quick glance before looking back at Taeyong, whispering something to his ears that made his lover blushed and ducked his head down. Johnny and Ten looked at him briefly before looking away. They didn’t look interested, thankfully. Doyoung gave him a mischievous grin, making Donghyuck almost flinched on his seat. Meanwhile Yuta gave a long stare before winked at him. Donghyuck could feel the heat started flooding his face from all the attention he’s got.

“Why are they staring at you?” Jeno asked. Donghyuck didn’t even know how to answer him because he was clueless too.

“It’s strange,” Renjun said, stealing a glance at the Brat Pack’s table but quickly looked away. “The Brat Pack members don't notice anybody because well, they don't need anybody. But now all of them are staring at you.”

Donghyuck ducked his head even lower.

“Are they still staring?”

“They are,” Jaemin giggled in his ears. “I think it’s because of what you did this morning.”

Donghyuck groaned. “It was nothing.”

“It wasn’t,” Renjun said in a voice that implied it to should be obvious, even to a newcomer like him. Donghyuck grunted.

“Maybe because this is the first time they found someone like Donghyuck.”

Donghyuck looked up at Jeno and frowned.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’re not like anybody,” Jaemin told him. “You don’t treat them, especially Mark, like how we treat them.”

Donghyuck wanted to tell them that they could do the same. The Brat Pack might be a big deal here and they held an important role in this school or even in the society, but they were still students like the rest of us. But he chose to stay mum, stuffing another spoonful of kimchi into his mouth.    

Donghyuck peeked at their table from the corner of his eyes and he found Mark Lee was still staring at him. He wanted to look away but couldn’t. They stared at each other for a long moment and then Mark’s face twisted up into a crooked smile. He held Donghyuck’s eyes for a moment before looking away. Donghyuck frowned and looked down again.

“Oh my god,” Renjun sounded so amazed when he spoke and he looked at Donghyuck with a slightly opened mouth. “What is happening between the two of you?”

“Nothing,” Donghyuck quickly replied. 

Jaemin pursed his lips.

“It doesn’t seem like nothing when Mark Lee smiled at you.”

“You called that a smile?” Donghyuck grunted. “It doesn’t look like a smile to me.”

“It’s his signature crooked smile and look at those girls. God, they’re so thirsty over him.”

Donghyuck looked around and found that most of the girls were blatantly staring—ogling— at Mark Lee. He cringed before looking down at this plate, wondering what just happened.

Thankfully Jeno managed to change the topic of the conversation so Jaemin and Renjun stopped pestering Donghyuck about Mark. The three of them began to talk about the latest models of cars—Jaemin mentioned Mark’s car and voiced out his jealousy because his parents would never buy him one before he got his driving license. Donghyuck chewed his food slowly, still couldn’t understand the whole situation. He could feel an intense gaze boring into the side of his face and he didn’t need to look up to know who it belonged to.

Why was Mark Lee suddenly being like that?

 


 

Before heading to the gym for P.E class, Donghyuck went his locker to take his uniform. The moment he turned his back, four girls cornered him against the wall. Donghyuck recognized one of the girls. She was from his History class. They scanned him, up and down at him, giving him dirty looks and mocking smiles. Donghyuck remained unfazed. He stood straight and stared back at them. He was still taller than her and he was never the one to back down.

“What do you want from me?” he asked in a flat tone, unwavering.

The girl from History class narrowed her eyes on Donghyuck, clenching her teeth together as she stood before him, folding her arms against her chest. Donghyuck lowered his gaze to read her name tag; Ko Eunji.

“How dare you talk to us with that kind of tone,” she spat. “Do you even know who we are?”

Donghyuck tried not to roll his eyes.

“No, thank you. I’m not interested.”

Koeun’s face turned red and she moved forward to push Donghyuck, causing him to stumble backward and he collided with the banks of lockers. He felt the handle dig into his lower back, making him wince slightly.

“Who do you think you are, huh?” One of the girls cornered him. Donghyuck remembered her name. It’s Lami. She was from his Biology class. “Do you think you will be able to seduce Mark Lee? You ain’t that charming.”

“And you should know your place, you dirty peasant.”  

Donghyuck ignored the names and stared at them incredulously. “Me? Seducing Mark Lee? What are you talking about?”

Donghyuck wouldn’t even bat an eye when the students here looked down on him just because he wasn’t coming from a rich family like them. He knew the consequences when he transferred here. He’d done a pretty good job ignoring their snide remarks and kept his head up. But this time, their accusation didn’t make sense at all. Him, seducing Mark Lee? No way.

“Don’t play dumb with us,” Koeun said in a dangerous tone, glaring at Donghyuck with piercing eyes. “We saw what happened in the cafeteria. And how dare you sat down next to him? You clearly have no shame.”

Donghyuck’s lips pressed into a thin line, his jaw tightened. This was getting ridiculous.

“Listen, I have no idea what you guys are talking about and I’m not seducing Mark Lee. Leave me alone.”

His words and action only added fuel to their anger. Koeun’s nose flared up and her face turned a deep red. She was about to lunge forward when suddenly there was a familiar figure walking over them.

“What is going on here?” a soft yet stern male voice asked.

Koeun and the rest of the girls looked up and instantly stumbled backward, gaping at the sight of Lee Taeyong in all his glory. Taeyong looked at Donghyuck and then at those frightened girls. His perfectly sculptured face scrunched up, clearly displeased at the sight before him.

“Tae-Taeyong su-sunbaemin—“

“Aren’t you guys supposed at the gym now?”

Koeun spluttered. “We—we’re about to go!”

Taeyong gave them a stern look and when he spoke again, his voice held an absolute command. 

“Then go.”

Once the girls were out of the sight, Taeyong turned to Donghyuck and his cold face instantly softened.

“Are you okay?”

Donghyuck let out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. His shoulders sagged as he nodded, brushing out his wrinkled uniform.

“Yes,” he replied in a low tone. “Thank you.”

 Taeyong gave him a smile and Donghyuck always thought that his beautiful smile made him looked less the Brat Pack and more friendly, almost like a normal student like them.

“Be careful,” Taeyong said, his voice took on a serious tone. “I’ll be going then.”   

Taeyong had already turned his back around and walked a couple of steps forward when suddenly Donghyuck remembered something and the next thing he knew, he already ran after him.

“Taeyong sunbaenim, wait!”

Taeyong stopped and he looked a little bit surprised when he turned around again. But he didn’t lose his composure. He put his hands into the pocket of his pants, his movements were so graceful and light.

“Yes?”

Donghyuck hesitated for a moment before he finally asked, “Can I know Mark’s address?”

A beat of silence. Taeyong blinked at him, dazed. He looked like he just heard something he didn’t expect.

“Mark’s address? What for?”

“I have an assignment with him,” Donghyuck quickly explained. “Mark asked me to come to his place but I don’t where he lives.”

Taeyong was clearly taken aback. His mouth fell open and he stared at Donghyuck with obvious curiosity.  

“He asked you to come to his place?” he sounded so amazed as if Donghyuck just told him something he’d never heard before.

Donghyuck tried not to squirm under Taeyong’s intense gaze.

“Yes.”

It took Taeyong a moment to finally gain his sense back. He composed himself and his face gradually back to normal again.

“Do you have a pen and a paper?”

Donghyuck had to open his locker again and look for what Taeyong asked. Taeyong wrote the address down quickly and when he handed the paper to Donghyuck, he smiled so bright that it made Donghyuck’s breath hitched. And then without another word, he continued walking and disappeared into a throng of people. 

 


 

The rest of the day passed in about the same fashion. After his last class ended, Donghyuck quickly left the school. He went straight to home because today Kun was in charge to pick Chenle up. Once he was back at home, he found his baby brother was already fast asleep on top of Kun, snoring softly. Kun heard him coming and lifted his head over to see Donghyuck walked across the room on tiptoe as not to wake Chenle because his brother was a light sleeper.

“You’re home.”

Donghyuck smiled at him. “Hi, hyung.”

Cradling Chenle’s head in his chest with one hand and settled another one on the small of his back, Kun slowly sitting up on the bed.

“Have you eaten yet?”

“No, I haven’t.”

Kun settled Chenle’s body on the bed ever so slowly and carefully. Chenle made a whimpering sound on his sleep but didn’t open his eyes, wriggling a little when Kun put a blanket over his body. After making sure that Chenle was comfortable enough, Kun slowly climbed off the bed and walked over Donghyuck.

“Go take a bath and I’ll make lunch for you.”

 “Okay.” Donghyuck smiled gratefully at him. “Thank you, hyung.”

Kun ruffled his head and leaned down to kiss the top of his head.

“Anytime, Haechan-ah.”

Haechan was the nickname Kun had given him. It meant full sun. Kun told him that Donghyuck reminded him of the sun and thus he created that nickname. Donghyuck liked that nickname because the meaning was good and for some reasons, it hit home.  

Kun wasn’t just his neighborhood. For Donghyuck and Chenle, he was more like an older brother for them. Even since they moved in here, Kun has always been there to help them. He took care of them like they were his own family. He could be a brother, mother, father, and friend. Donghyuck was beyond thankful for what he did for him and Chenle.

After taking a quick shower, Donghyuck padded over the kitchen and found Kun was settling the table for him. His eyes lighted up when he saw a bowl of bibimbap.

“Wow,” he said, settling himself on the chair. “It smells really good.”

Kun sat across him and put his elbows on the table, folding his hands and leaned forward a little. He watched as Donghyuck started to dig into his plate, munching happily. At moments like this, Kun was reminded that the boy before him was actually still so young, so fragile, and breakable. The moment Donghyuck stood in front of his doorstep with Chenle in his arms, introducing them as his new neighbor, Kun knew he wasn’t like kids his age. Because of certain circumstances, Donghyuck was forced to take a role he wasn’t ready for. He became the provider and the supporter for both Chenle and himself. Kun couldn’t imagine how hard that must be for him. He was a very brave and strong boy. That was why Kun had a very soft spot for Lee brothers.

“Hyung,” he said with a mouth full of food, cheeks puffed out. “Can you stay the night here with Lele? I need to go to a friend’s house. We need to work on an assignment together.”

Kun tsked, reaching out to wipe the crumbs on the corner of his mouth.

“Don’t talk when you’re eating.” he scolded him softly. “And where is your friend’s house?”

“Gangnam.”

Kun frowned. “It’s quite far from here. When are you going there?”

“At seven,” he replied after he swallowed his food, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “Don’t worry. I’ll be back before midnight.”

“Is it a boy or girl? Your friend.”

“A boy.”

Kun hummed. “Ask him to drive you home. It’s dangerous if you go home alone.”

Donghyuck pouted.

“I’m not a baby. I am capable of taking care of myself. Besides, it’s not like this is the first time I’m going home alone. I do it almost every day after work.”  

“That’s because your workplace isn’t that far.” Kun said. “Just ask him. If he’s a good boy he will certainly don’t mind driving you home.”

Donghyuck didn’t say anything and continued eating. He didn’t know Mark Lee enough to know whether he was a good boy or not—he didn’t judge people by appearance. Even though he wouldn’t hesitate to call him cocky. Because he was indeed cocky. And Donghyuck was certain that the infamous Mark Lee would never drive him home. It was still a mystery to Donghyuck why he agreed on doing the assignment together. 

After Donghyuck has finished his lunch, he took a short nap. Kun woke him up three hours later to get ready. When Donghyuck was ready to go, a deafening cry pierced the whole room, startling both Donghyuck and Kun. They rushed to Chenle’s room and found the boy was writhing on the bed, wailing on his sleep. Donghyuck was quick to take his brother in his arms, holding him against his chest. He shook his body gently and Chenle woke up with a jolt.

“Baby,” he whispered gently, cradling his head. “It’s okay. Hyung’s here. It’s okay.”

Chenle wrapped his arms around Donghyuck’s neck, sobbing into his throat. Donghyuck leaned down to press his cheek to the top of his head, rubbing his back gently. Kun quietly left the room, giving them the privacy they needed. Chenle had his nightmares sometimes. He would wake up crying and wailing. It happened after their parents died and it never went away. Donghyuck was the only one who could calm him down.  

“It’s okay, baby,” Donghyuck dropped a kiss to his sweaty forehead. “Don’t be scared. Hyung’s here.”

“D-don’t leave,” Chenle hiccupped, big fat tears streaming down his cheeks. “Don’t leave me, hyung.”

Donghyuck’s heart throbbed painfully. He tried to get a control of the staggering grief that gripped him, blinking fresh tears from his eyes. He tightened his hold around Chenle’s body.

“I will never leave you,” he whispered, his voice broke on the last sentence.

It took minutes for Chenle to finally calm down. When he finally stopped crying, Donghyuck walked out of the room and found Kun was sitting anxiously on the couch. When he saw them, he quickly got up and rushed to their side.

“Is he okay?”

Kun ruffled Chenle’s hair gently. The boy only blinked at him tiredly.

“He’s fine now,” Donghyuck said, dropping another kiss to the top of Chenle’s hair. He looked tired as well.

“Haechan-ah, I don’t think you should go to your friend’s house. Chenle needs you.”

Donghyuck tried not to groan. It completely slipped his mind that he had to go to Mark’s house. After what happened, it was impossible for him to leave Chenle alone. Kun was right. His baby brother needed him. But the problem was, he didn’t have Mark’s number. How was he supposed to tell him that he couldn’t come?

“Call him and tell him that you can’t come. Ask for another date.”

Donghyuck shook his head. “I… I can’t.”

Kun frowned. “Why?”

Donghyuck bit his lower lips, conflicted.

“I… I don’t have his number.”

Kun stared at him incredulously. “What? How come? Isn’t he your friend?”

Donghyuck could never explain the things between him and Mark. That he and Mark weren’t friends at all. There was no way he could be friends with the Brat Pack’s leader; the one who ruled the school. But Kun didn’t have to know about that either. So he settled with a safe answer.

“I forgot to ask him.”

Kun exhaled, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Then what are you gonna do now?”

Donghyuck was quiet for a moment. He would be in trouble if he didn’t show up to Mark’s house but on the other hand, he couldn’t leave his brother at home even though Kun was here. At times like this Chenle only needed him. Donghyuck looked down at his brother while he debated internally.

“I’ll bring Lele with me,” Donghyuck said after a moment of silence. Kun gave him a look.

“Are you sure?”

Donghyuck gulped. “Yes.”

No, Donghyuck wasn’t sure at all. He couldn’t imagine Mark’s reaction. What will he do when he saw him at his doorstep with an arm full of his brother? He’d probably mad and thought that he was insane. He’d probably tell him to leave but Donghyuck really had no choice.

Kun offered to change Chenle’s clothes meanwhile Donghyuck stuffed his books into his bag. He knew perfectly that he would regret his decision but he couldn’t back away now. After taking a deep breath, he left the apartment with a sleepy Chenle in his arms. He took the bus and sat at the very back row, leaning his head against the window. He couldn’t stop thinking about what kind of reaction would Mark give when he saw them. He had a feeling that tonight was going to be a very long night.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Donghyuck felt so awkward and out of place as he stood in front of the gate of Mark Lee’s house. After looking for almost ten minutes, walking through a rich neighborhood with boxy and sleek houses, he finally found it. There was a guard outside and when he saw Donghyuck stood outside, he walked over him, slowly and carefully. The man was bulky and tall. He stopped before Donghyuck, scanning him up and down. Instinctively, Donghyuck tightened his hold around Chenle’s body. Thankfully his brother was fast asleep in his arms.

“Is there anything I can help you with, young man?” he asked. His voice was so deep and a little intimidating. Donghyuck swallowed, trying not to stammer.

“I’m here to meet Mark Lee.”

The guard frowned. “Mr. Lee?”

“Yes,” he said. “We’re going to work on an assignment together. Can you please inform him that I’m already here? My name’s Lee Donghyuck.”

The guard stared at Donghyuck for a moment, watching him with calculating eyes. Donghyuck knew that he didn’t look like the type of person who would show up in front of Mark’s house. His appearance was enough to tell that he wasn’t from this neighborhood. The guard pursed his lips, scanning him one last time before finally nodding his head. He opened the gate and motioned Donghyuck to follow him.

Donghyuck didn't know what he'd expected, but it definitely wasn't this. Mark's house was a sleek modern house with clean lines and expansive windows. The exteriors were a mixture of siding, stucco, stone, brick, and wood. The roof was flat with great overhangs and a large terrace by the entrance outside. It wasn't as big as a mansion. In fact it was minimalist but it still looked beautiful and properly decorated. It was stylish, careful balance of modern and functional.

“Please wait here,” the guard said. “I will inform Mr. Lee about your presence.”

Donghyuck turned to the guard and smiled nervously.

“Thank you.”

The guard bowed his head slightly before leaving Donghyuck on the porch. At that moment, Chenle stirred awake and he looked disoriented when he looked around. He took in the sight around him and muttered a small “wow,”.

Donghyuck chuckled. “You’re awake.”

Chenle scanned the house. His eyes lighted up, clearly amazed.

“Hyung, where are we?”

Donghyuck ruffled his head, smiling down at him.

“We’ve arrived at my friend’s house, baby,” he said. “Are you feeling better now?”

Chenle rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand, yawning.

“Yes. But sleepy.”

Donghyuck dropped a kiss to his forehead lovingly. “I’m sorry, baby. I’ll try to finish my homework as fast as I can so we can go home soon.”

Chenle hummed, nuzzling his face into Donghyuck’s neck.

“It’s okay, hyung,” he mumbled sleepily, dozing off. Donghyuck chuckled, rubbing his back gently.

At that precise moment when Donghyuck lifted his head and the front door flung open. Mark Lee stood there, staring at Donghyuck with obvious disbelief, eyes widened in surprise. For a long moment he only stared at him, jaw falling open. And then he blinked and his eyes fell on the little boy in Donghyuck’s arms and he gasped in shock.

What the hell?

 


 

Mark Lee didn’t expect Lee Donghyuck to actually show up at his doorstep. And he certainly never expected him to show up with Chenle. A sleepy little boy who jerked awake as soon as he heard Mark’s booming voice. Chenle lifted his head and locked eyes with Mark’s. He blinked. Once. Twice. Mark blinked back at him.

Chenle tilted his head a little. “Are you my hyung’s friend?”

Mark opened his mouth as if to say something but nothing came out. He blinked at Chenle again, bewildered.

“Yes, he is,” Donghyuck answered for him. “Say hi to him, baby.”

Chenle’s face instantly brightened as he smiled at Mark, all teeth and gums. Mark stumbled backward, stuttering.

“Hello, hyung! My name is Chenle. Nice to meet you!” he said, flashing his brilliant teeth.

“H-hi,” Mark let out a squeak. “I’m Mark.”

“Your house is very cool, Mark hyung!” Chenle said in a high pitched voice, startling Mark with how loud he sounded. “And it’s really bright!”

Mark took another step backward. A taken-aback expression stealing over his face.

“T-thanks.” 

Donghyuck raised one eyebrow at Mark. He looked so awkward and Donghyuck got an impression that he wasn’t good with kids. It was obvious with how he acted around Chenle. His baby brother was oblivious of Mark’s demeanor. He was still smiling, showing his adorable dimples. Mark could only stand there, watching him carefully now.  

“I don’t have your number,” Donghyuck said, drawing Mark’s attention back to him. “I don’t know how to reach you so I came here straight away. And he’s my little brother. I can’t leave him alone so I decided to bring him along. I hope you don’t mind.”

Mark gritted his teeth. He looked like he wanted to throw snarky, mean remarks like he usually did but because Chenle was there, watching him, he knew he couldn’t. He tried to compose himself. His face twisted as he looked at Donghyuck.

“It’s late,” Mark said through his teeth. “You shouldn’t have brought your brother and let him sleep at home.”

“I told you I can’t.”

Mark exhaled sharply through his nose. “Why? Your parents can take care of him.”

“We don’t have parents.”

It wasn’t Donghyuck who answered Mark but Chenle. His answer surprised both Donghyuck and Chenle. Mark looked clearly taken aback. His face turned pale and his breath hitched as he turned to Chenle. His baby brother surprisingly didn’t look sad or about to cry. But he didn’t smile either.

“W-what?”

Chenle stared back at Mark. “We don’t have parents. It’s only me and hyung.”

“Our parents died in a car accident.” Donghyuck added, his throat thick.

This was actually the first time Donghyuck explained his situation to other people other than Kun and his boss. Even his new friends at school didn’t know about it yet. Technically Chenle was the first one who brought it up and Donghyuck didn’t expect his brother to say it. Chenle never talked about their parents again. He missed them from time to time but he never really talked about their death. So it came as a surprise when he casually told Mark about it.

Donghyuck and Chenle looked at Mark, watching every flick of his eyes. Mark stared at them for a very long moment, trying to process what he just heard. His eyes locked with Donghyuck’s for a brief moment and Donghyuck felt as if Mark was looking straight into his soul. The look on his face changed. It is as if it was the first time he saw Donghyuck. Donghyuck looked away, couldn’t bear to hold his gaze any longer. And then, when Mark spoke again, his voice was surprisingly full of sympathy.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said, his voice took on a soft tone. He didn’t look at him with pity. It was pure. And he sounded so genuine and sincere.

Donghyuck gaped at him, not expecting Mark to react like that. And this was the very first time he spoke to Donghyuck with such tone. He was different. The opposite from the Mark Lee he met at school; less cocky and scary. Donghyuck almost didn’t recognize him. But then again, he knew nothing about him.

“Let’s come inside,” Mark said after a few moments of silence, stepping aside to clear a path for them. Donghyuck looked at him hesitantly before walked into the house.

 


 

The inside of the house was even more surprising. It was very bright and very large but less open. The walls, the high-beamed ceiling, the wooden floors, and the thick carpets were adorned by a neutral gray to brown palette. As soon as they stepped inside, Chenle asked Donghyuck to put him down. He bounced and was about to run around but Donghyuck stopped him.

“Baby, you can’t.” Donghyuck told him softly. Chenle pouted at him.

“I just want to look around the house because it’s so pretty,” he said, dejected. He turned to Mark and looked up at him with pleading eyes. “Mark hyung, can I see around?”

Mark looked down at Chenle with something Donghyuck never saw before. Donghyuck stared at his face, searching for any signs of the anger he feared. He’d seen Mark looked at him with fire in his eyes before. Mark had looked at him as if he wanted to kill him. He angered him twice. Their first impression with each other wasn’t that good. The accidents would always be a reminder for both of them. But the way Mark looked at Chenle was totally different. The Mark Lee at school that Donghyuck knew would start to scowl at everyone except the Brat Pack members. But now his face softened. His eyes were very kind. Although he still looked awkward, he didn’t seem annoyed. It felt so much like looking at a completely different person.

Chenle walked over Mark and tugged at the end of his shirt, pouting. “Please, hyung?”

A small smile broke across Mark’s face. It wasn't his signature crooked smile. It was a real smile. And Donghyuck almost couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw that. Mark Lee was smiling

“Let’s go, little guy.”

Chenle’s face instantly lighted up.

“Let’s go! Let’s go!”

Chenle took one of Mark’s hands and tugged him forward. Mark was taken aback by his action but instead of letting him go, he gripped Chenle’s little hand as he showed him around the first floor.

The living room was filled with expensive furniture. There was a black sectional sofa in the middle and a sleek divider that held the flat screen television. Beside the living area was the dining table and chairs that were positioned strategically against an appetizing panorama of the outdoors. Opposite the dining area was the contemporary kitchen that got its own breakfast bar on a smooth attaching marble top. It was sleek, shiny, and very clean.

“Your house is really big and pretty, hyung!” Chenle said after they were back in the living room.

“It’s nothing but thank you for the compliment, little guy.”

Mark patted Chenle’s head gently and Donghyuck just realized that he’s still holding his brother’s hand. Donghyuck looked at their intertwined hands and then at Mark’s face. He thought that maybe Mark Lee was so much more than what other people thought and saw.

At that moment, a familiar figure appeared and Donghyuck looked up to see Lee Taeyong entered the room.

“Mark, what took you so—“ Taeyong stopped abruptly. His gaze immediately fell on Chenle. Just like Mark, he clearly didn’t expect to see a little boy here.

“Who’s this little guy over here?”

Taeyong slowly walked over Chenle and then he knelt down on the floor in front of him. His smiled and Donghyuck was taken aback because it wasn’t his famous polite smile he showed at school. His smile was so bright and wide, showing all his teeth. His face lightened up and for a moment he reminded Donghyuck of a happy child.

“Hello~” Taeyong said, his voice bright. “What’s your name?”

“My name’s Chenle! What’s your name, pretty hyung?”

Taeyong laughed with his velvet voice, covering his mouth with the back of his hand. His eyes curved into a crescent.

“My name’s Taeyong,” he said, reaching out to pinch Chenle’s chubby cheeks. “You’re so cute.”

Taeyong looked up at Donghyuck.

“Is he your little brother?”

“Yes. I bring him here because I can’t leave him alone at home,” Donghyuck turned to Mark who’s been quietly watching the scene before him. “I’m sorry for the inconvenient,”

“It’s okay!” Taeyong replied. He took one of Chenle’s hands, swaying it lightly. “Your brother is really cute. Look at his smile!”

“Taeyongie hyung is very pretty too!” Chenle said. “Just like my hyung!”

Donghyuck could feel a blush color his face and neck. Taeyong giggled.

“Baby, I’m looking for you everywhere.” a deep voice was heard behind them.

The four of them turned around to see Jaehyun walking toward Taeyong. Jaehyun slowed his steps as he took in the sight before him. At first, his eyes fell on Donghyuck and if he looked surprised to see him here, in his brother’s house, he didn’t show it. His thoughts didn’t play across his face. And then his eyes flickered to Chenle and he blinked at him.  

“Jaehyunie!” Taeyong called him, motioning him to come closer. “Come here! Meet Chenle! He’s Donghyuck’s little brother.”

Jaehyun stopped beside Taeyong and then slowly he got down on his knee so he could look at Chenle in the eye.

“Chenle, this is Jaehyunie hyung,” Taeyong said, clutching his boyfriend’s arm and pulling him closer until their shoulders touched. “He’s my boyfriend.”

Chenle looked at Jaehyun, up and down, mouth slightly parted.

“Wow, Jaehyunie hyung is so tall. And so handsome too!” he exclaimed. “I want to grow taller like hyung!”

Jaehyun lifted one hand and put it on top of Chenle’s head, stroking his head with the gentlest touch. Donghyuck watched as a soft smile slowly broke across Jaehyun’s face and he gawked at him, jaw dropping. This was the very first time Donghyuck saw Jung Jaehyun smiled to someone other than Taeyong. He usually looked cold, passive, and always quiet. He looked so handsome when he’s smiling like that and it matched his soft features.

“You will, little guy,” Jaehyun said, and his voice sounded soft, almost fatherly. “Don’t worry. You just need to wait for a few years.”

Suddenly there was a commotion resonated the room. People were talking at the same time. When Donghyuck looked up, the rest of the Brat Pack members were coming out of the hallway, walking over their direction. They were still unaware of the new guests as they chatted with each other.

“I'm going to order pizza!” Ten exclaimed, eyes focused on his phone screen. Johnny had one arm around his waist to steady him, making sure he didn’t trip over his own feet.

Yuta groaned. “You just ordered pizza three hours ago and you're going to order it again?”

“He can do whatever he wants, Yuta,” Johnny said, dropping a kiss to Ten’s temple. His boyfriend beamed at him. “It's his money.”

Yuta gave them a dirty look.

“You guys are so disgusting. Get out of my sight.”

“Ten, you can't order pizza,” Doyoung told him in an even yet commanding tone. “Taeyongie and I are cooking tonight. Order that junk food and he's going to throw your lame ass out of the windows.”

Ten pouted, stomping his feet in defeat. Yuta laughed in victory. They knew perfectly well that Doyoung wasn’t joking when he said that. Even Johnny couldn't throw another remark to defend his boyfriend. Taeyong would definitely kill them if he knew they stuffed themselves with too many junk food. He wasn't a mother of the group for no reason.

“Go on, Tennie~ Order it now. It's your money anyway.”

Yuta mocked him, sticking his tongue out like a five year old. Ten lunged forward to grab his head but Yuta managed to dodge his attack.

“Yuta, stop—“ Johnny stopped mid-sentence when he finally realized another presence in the living room.

All of the Brat Pack members stopped a few feet away from them, looking back and forth between Donghyuck and Chenle. Just like Donghyuck had predicted, they clearly didn’t expect to see Chenle here. The room became still and silent. No one moved from their spots. They stared at Chenle but their intense gazes scared him. The little boy quickly turned around to hide his face in Donghyuck's tummy. Donghyuck hoisted him up, wrapping both arms protectively around his little brother.

Taeyong got up on his feet and turned around to his members. He put both hands on his hips and glared at them.

“Stop it. All of you. You scared him!” he scolded them. “Yuta, stop glaring at him!”

Yuta spluttered, blinking rapidly. “I didn't do anything!”

Yuta’s loud voice made Chenle nestled deeper into Donghyuck’s neck, flinching. Jaehyun saw that and turned to give him a warning look.

“Yuta, lower your tone.”

Yuta quickly shut his mouth.

“Who is he?” Doyoung asked, not moving from his spot. His eyes were on the back of Chenle's head. “I thought only the new kid is coming tonight.”

Donghyuck gulped. So all of them knew that he was coming.

“He is Donghyuck's little brother,” Jaehyun answered. “His name is Chenle.”

Chenle lifted his head from Donghyuck's neck to peek out at them. He glanced shyly at them from under his long lashes then hid again.

“So cute,” Ten cooed, walking over them. Johnny followed him almost immediately. It was like there was some kind of pull between them. If one moved, the other moved too as if they gravitated around each other.  

“Who's his name, again?”

“Chenle,” this time it's Mark who answered. Donghyuck almost forgot his presence because Mark has been too quiet. And he was also surprised to find him already standing next to him. When did he move there?

“Hello, Chenle~”

Ten called him in a sweet voice, tapping his back twice to get his attention. Chenle slowly turned again,  blinking at him.

“Hi,” Ten waved his hand enthusiastically. “My name's Ten! And this is my boyfriend, Johnny!”

Chenle's eyes widened when he saw Johnny, mouth falling open.

“Whoa, hyung is even taller than Jaehyunie hyung!” he exclaimed in amazement. His pupils dilated. “How come hyung is so tall?”

“He drinks a lot of milk.”

Johnny chuckled at his boyfriend's answer.

“Hi, Chenle. I think I can be this tall because I never skip meals and sleeps enough.”

Chenle turned to his brother, lips pursed and face determined. “Hyung, from now on I will eat a lot and drink milk so I can grow taller like Johnny hyung and Jaehyunie hyung!”

Donghyuck let out a laugh and Ten laughed along with him. Taeyong giggled meanwhile the rest of the Brat Pack smiled at Chenle. Their attention was fully on him. From a peripheral peek, Donghyuck saw Mark was smiling too.  

“Don't worry, baby. You'll grow as tall as them one  day.”

For a moment Donghyuck forgot where he was and leaned forward to rub his nose against Chenle's—something he always did to his baby brother. He was unaware of a pair of eyes that silently watching him.

“Hey, Chenle,” Yuta appeared behind Johnny's back. He waved at Chenle, smiling brightly. “My name's Yuta. And that blondie over there is Doyoung.”

Doyoung let out a grumble. “Don't call me blondie, you little piece—“  

“Doyoung!” all of the Brat Pack members said in unison, startling him. Doyoung’s hands flew to his mouth. He looked at Chenle sheepishly.

“No swearing in front of the kid,” Taeyong gave him a stern look that reminded Donghyuck of his mother. “Do it and you’ll receive the consequence from me.”  

“Be careful,” Jaehyun added, his face mirrored Taeyong’s. They looked like parents who were scolding their kid. Ten and Johnny laughed at their friend.

“That's what happened if you don't use your brain,” Yuta said, smiling cheekily. Doyoung pouted at his members like a dejected puppy.

Suddenly everything was too much for Donghyuck. This wasn't what he expected when he decided to come to Mark's house. And he certainly didn't expect this kind of reactions when they saw Chenle. Everyone was different now and seemed out of characters. They weren't a bunch of rich kids who came to school by expensive cars and sat on the corner of the cafeteria as if it was their throne. They weren't a group of guys who walked in the hallway like they owned the place. Right now they looked normal—too normal to the point it perplexed Donghyuck to see their sudden change of attitude. And it made Donghyuck realized that there were still so many things people didn't about know them.

“It's almost dinner time now,” Taeyong announced. “Doyoung and I are going to cook. Mark, bring Donghyuck to your study room. The rest of you can bring Chenle to the basement. Play with him. Behave and do not talk inappropriately in front of him.”

It was almost comical to Donghyuck how the Brat Pack members nodded obediently at Taeyong's words. Mark might be the leader but it was clear that Taeyong also held an absolute authority in the group.

“Chenle-ya, do you want to play with hyungs? We can play whatever games you want.”

Chenle's eyes lighted up. He nodded frantically.

“I  want to play games!” he then turned to Donghyuck. “Hyung, can I play with Johnny hyung?”

Now that Donghyuck had a glimpse of another side of the Brat Pack, he somehow felt at ease and didn’t hesitate to nod.

“Of course you can,” Donghyuck said. “Promise me you're going to behave around them?”

Chenle nodded firmly. “Promise, hyung."

Donghyuck kissed his forehead before letting Johnny took Chenle into his arms. His brother looked so tiny in Johnny’s arms. He started to chatted animatedly, talking about the games he wanted to play. Johnny listened to him, smiling. Donghyuck almost forgot that he was the oldest in the group. Whenever Donghyuck saw Johnny, there was a relaxed yet commanding aura around him and the way he talked to Chenle almost reminded Donghyuck of his father. Yuta, Ten, and Jaehyun followed them meanwhile Taeyong and Doyoung padded across the room to the kitchen.

And then, it was only him and Mark now. They didn't say anything for a few heartbeats, still processing what just happened. It was Donghyuck who spoke first. He turned to him, swallowing thickly.

“Can we start now?”

Mark stared at him, his eyes intense. Donghyuck tried not to squirm under his gaze.  

“Follow me.” he said after a few moments of silence, his voice was low yet commanding.

He walked first and Donghyuck followed him. Donghyuck started to feel a little bit nervous and anxious when Mark led him upstairs. The second floor was more spacious, less furniture, and had a lot of rooms. Mark walked to the corner of the room and stopped in front of one of the doors. He pushed it opened and motioned Donghyuck to come inside.

After taking a deep breath, Donghyuck took a step forward and walked inside.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

The study room faced south with a wall-sized window and it was bigger than Donghyuck originally thought. It had a different vibe than the rest of the house, almost like a studio than a study room. The western wall was completely covered with shelf after shelf of books and CDs. There was a black leather L shaped sofa to the very left side of the room and a small table in front of it. The floor was wooden and the rest of the walls were hung with portraits and posters of various artists of all sizes, some in vibrant colors, others dull monochromes. Donghyuck recognized some of them; Ghibli, Godard, Picasso, Renoir, Queen, Beatles, Michael Jackson, and Kahlo. There were also some portraits of models like Monroe, Moss, and Birkin. Donghyuck had to say that Mark had a good taste.

Mark walked across the room and settled himself on the sofa. He patted the space next to him, motioning Donghyuck to join him. Donghyuck bit his lower lips, suddenly feeling nervous and a little bit anxious if he had to sit next to Mark because this was his house. His territorial. This wasn’t school and it’s just the two of them now.

“Sit here.” Mark said, but it sounded more like a command. Donghyuck’s lips twitched. He still didn’t like the way he talked sometimes, especially with that kind of tone. But it was clear that if Mark wanted something, then he would get it—as simple as that. Not having another choice, Donghyuck walked over Mark and plopped down next to him.

“Have you read the novel?” Donghyuck asked first, taking his book out of his bag.

“I have.”

Donghyuck turned to Mark, suspicious. “Really?”

Mark raised one eyebrow at him.

“What? You think what I do every day is waltz into the school and woo those young girls?”

Donghyuck didn’t answer him but the look on his face was enough for him to know. Surprisingly, Mark didn’t look upset or mad with his blatant honesty. His lips curved upward, flashing Donghyuck his signature crooked smile.

“Well, it’s not completely wrong,” he said, his voice light. “But we’re not here to discuss it. What do you think about the novel?”

Donghyuck didn’t miss a single beat to answer it.

“I think Vegetarian is extraordinary. It’s filled with dark dreams, simmering tensions, chilling violence, and the characters are relatable yet at the same time, they’re not the kind of people we can meet every day. And I also think…”

Donghyuck continued talking while looking down at the novel, going through some important parts that were already highlighted by rainbow markers. He had read the book before and knew exactly what the story was about. He stopped talking when he felt an intense gaze to the side of his face. He glanced up, and Mark was staring at him, the same curious look in his eyes like he had this noon at the cafeteria.

"What? Is there something in my face?" Donghyuck blurted out unthinkingly.

Mark seemed puzzled by the unexpected remark. And then he blinked and let out a small laugh. He laughed, his voice low and his shoulder shook slightly. Donghyuck tried not to shiver. It felt so weird hearing him laugh.

“No, nothing,” he said, a slow smile worked its way across his face. “You’ve read the book I suppose?”

“I have,” Donghyuck mumbled, looking down at his book again. “What do you think about the book? We can share our thoughts and after we’re done I will write the report.”

Turned out Mark wasn’t lying when he said that he had read the book. He pointed out some important points about how the novel repeatedly showed the huge frictions between huge passion and desire that were fed and denied. Donghyuck was actually impressed—not that he’s going to admit it out loud. Not only Mark had both looks and money, but he also had a brain. The way he talked about the plots and the development of the characters showed his intelligence.

For the next twenty minutes, they were so immersed in the assignment. Donghyuck wrote the report and Mark helped him find the right words. They agreed almost on everything because they always thought about the same thing and pointed out the same details. They matched pretty well this time. Even Donghyuck was surprised by the new dynamic. It still felt very strange and weird for Donghyuck being in the same room as Mark, talked to him like a normal person, and for the very first time, he didn’t see him as the Brat Pack leader. He was just Mark Lee. A junior like him. Nothing less, nothing more.

They finished the report in no time. When they’re finally done, Donghyuck quickly stuffed his books into his bag. He just wanted to go home soon and cuddled his brother. But when he made an attempt to get up, Mark’s sudden question stopped him.

“It must be really hard.”

Confused and perplexed, Donghyuck turned to Mark with a raised eyebrow.

“I’m sorry?”

Mark stared at him in the eye and Donghyuck swore there was something different there but he didn’t have time to ponder it because what Mark said next completely caught him off guard.

“Living your life without your parents.”

Donghyuck did not expect Mark to ask him that kind of question. And he wasn’t ready for that look. The emotions in Mark’s face, it wasn’t pity or mockery. It wasn’t something Donghyuck often saw in people’ eyes when they knew about his situation. It was understanding and sincerity. He looked at him as if he could feel what Donghyuck felt. It made his stomach twisted and he felt sick.

“It’s hard, isn’t it?” Mark asked again. No one had asked Donghyuck that—not straight out like he did. Almost demanding.

“Not really,” Donghyuck replied, and he knew he wasn’t completely honest when he said that. Mark stared at him and Donghyuck could tell that he saw past his lie. But Donghyuck didn’t feel the need to explain his situation to him. Mark didn’t have to know how hard and devastating it was—and the circumstances around it—for him. How he had to endure everything and still had to be strong for his brother.

“When did that happen?”

Donghyuck’s throat tightened and he swallowed thickly. He lowered his gaze, couldn’t bear to hold his.

“Three years ago.”

Mark paused for a long moment. He still didn’t take his eyes off from Donghyuck, blatantly watching him. When he spoke again, he sounded almost as if he was in pain.

“Life isn’t fair sometimes.”

For a moment, Donghyuck was surprised to hear it because of emotion he was showing. He glanced up, his eyes locked on his, and he couldn’t look away. Mark's eyes bored into him and it is as if he could see all the way into his soul, making Donghyuck’s breath caught in his chest.

It was silence for a few heartbeats and then there was a knock on the door. Only then Mark took his eyes off from Donghyuck to see Taeyong appeared in the doorway, still wearing his pink apron.

“Boys, dinner is ready.”

Donghyuck gulped. “I think I’ll get going now, Taeyong sunbaemin.”

Taeyong gave Donghyuck a look.

“Come down soon.” it was clearly an order. Taeyong said in a tone that left no argument. He didn’t wait for them to answer and quickly closed the door again.

“You do not deny Taeyong hyung’s request.” Mark told him, getting up from his seat. Donghyuck followed him a step behind. “Especially when it comes to meal times.”

“Are you sure it’s okay for me and Chenle to join you?”

“Just follow what he says and you’re going to be fine.”

Mark opened the door and motioned him to go first. As they walked down the stairs to the kitchen, it just occurred to him that he’s going to sit on the same table with the Brat Pack members. He’d better prepare himself.

 


 

All of the Brat Pack members were already there. Donghyuck wasn’t surprised to see Jaehyun sat at the head of the table, looking like a head Alpha. Taeyong sat at his side with Chenle on his lap. They were engaged in animated conversation with his brother. Chenle’s personalities were easy going and bright. It didn’t surprise Donghyuck to see him getting close to people or stranger in such a short period of time. The way he leaned his back against Taeyong’s chest and held one of his hands, looking so comfortable there, it was clear that Chenle has taken a liking to Taeyong. There were two vacant chairs beside Taeyong and Donghyuck knew it was for him and Mark. The rest of the Brat Pack members sat across Taeyong. They heard Donghyuck and Mark came and looked up almost at the same time. When all of them were together, they reminded Donghyuck of a pack—like a werewolf pack, but more modern, classy, and glamour. 

The table was full of Korean dishes and it was all home-made. The smell made Donghyuck’s stomach grumbled. Mark heard it and sent him an amused smile, making Donghyuck’s face heated as he ducked his head down.

“Sit down, boys. Dinner’s ready.” Taeyong said, his voice softened and he looked satisfied when Donghyuck obeyed him this time.

To Donghyuck’s surprise, Mark let him sat next to Taeyong and took the only seat left. Chenle turned to him, smiling from ear to ear, but he didn’t make an attempt to reach out for him. And Taeyong didn’t look like he wanted to let go of his brother either.

“Hyung, I played a lot of internet games!” Chenle said in his high bright voice. “Johnny hyung and Yuta hyung taught me!”

Donghyuck smiled, reaching out to pinch his cheeks. “That’s great, baby. You had a lot of fun, then?”

Chenle nodded frantically.

“Soooo fun!”  

“Your brother is really cute,” Doyoung said. Donghyuck smiled politely at him.

“Thank you,” he said. “I don’t let him play games often because he’s easily distracted. It won’t be good for him.”

“That’s right,” Taeyong added, ruffling Chenle’s hair gently. “We can’t let him play games all the times. Next time we should teach him something else. Something useful. Maybe let him play instruments or watch documentaries.”

Yuta groaned. “God, you’re so boring. He’s just five, Taeyongie.”

“Education is important,” Jaehyun, as expected, was on Taeyong’s side. He spoke in an even voice, yet still managed to sound powerful. “It’s important for him to learn stuff like that. Kids have the ability to pick things up quickly. That’s why we need to provide a better environment for him so he can grow well and gets everything he deserves.”

Donghyuck sank into his chairs, not knowing how to react. They talked as if this wouldn’t be the last time they would meet. Their tone was serious and their concern for his brother was real. It almost felt like hearing parents talking about their kids’ future, which made Donghyuck felt slightly uncomfortable. Despite how his point of view of the Brat Pack members was slightly changed, he didn’t think he wanted to get involved with them more than this.

“Here we go again,” Ten said, rolling his eyes at his friends. “Welcome to Jaehyun and Taeyong’s parental education.”

“Can we skip this impromptu family meeting and start eating?” Johnny interrupted. “My seolleongtang is getting cold. I hate cold soup.”

“Just don’t forget that Chenle is Donghyuck’s brother. He is the one who knows what’s best for him.”

Mark’s sudden alliance took Donghyuck and the rest of the Brat Pack members by surprise. Donghyuck turned to him, eyes wide and mouth slightly parted. Mark stared back at him, totally calm, relaxed, and unbothered. And Donghyuck just realized that this was the very first time Mark called him by his name.

“Right,” Jaehyun’s voice broke their little moment. “Let’s eat, boys.”

Mark still stared at him and Donghyuck was the first one to break the eye contact. He picked up his spoon and started to eat. The moment he tasted the seolleongtang, he couldn’t help but moan in delight. It tasted really good, ten times better than he expected. It tasted like the kind of food from the fancy restaurant. Yet at the same time it also reminded him of home.Taeyong heard him and his lips curved upward into a smile—a bright one. Donghyuck smiled back at him.

“It tastes really good, Taeyong sunbaenim.” he said, feeling the need to show his appreciation. “You're such a good cook.”

“Thank you,” he said while reaching out across the table to get a new spoon and gave it to Yuta who's having a hard time eating his rice with chopsticks. And then he turned to Donghyuck again and added, “And please, just call me hyung. Sunbaenim sounds too formal and stiff. I don't like that.”

Donghyuck looked uncertain. “Are you sure? I'm afraid I might cross the boundaries.”

“Just do what he wants, kid,” Yuta said with a mouth full of rice. Taeyong scrunched up his nose in disgust when he saw that. “Trust me. You don't want to piss him off.”

What Yuta said was similar to what Mark said earlier. It had the same meaning: you do not deny Lee Taeyong. Donghyuck didn't even want to know why the Brat Pack members seemed very cautious about it. Among others, Taeyong was the most friendly member. He seemed harmless. But then Donghyuck remembered Renjun once told him that there were stories about him. His pretty face certainly did not define him.

“I would really appreciate it if you don't talk with a mouth full of food,” Taeyong said in a stern voice. He then leaned down to wipe the corner of Chenle's mouth with a napkin and helped him blew the soup to cool it down. He was such a multitasking person.

“Baby, you need to eat, too.” Jaehyun reminded him. Taeyong was busy feeding Chenle that he didn't even touch his rice. He just waved his hand at Jaehyun and continued feeding Chenle. Jaehyun sighed. He took a spoonful of rice and leaned forward so he could feed him.

“Open your mouth, baby,” Jaehyun said softly. “You can keep feeding Chenle and I'll feed you in return.”

Taeyong opened his mouth obediently. Doyoung wrinkled his nose. He made a disgusted face and rolled his eyes.

“Ugh, can you please let us eat in peace? You guys are so gross.”

“Just admit that you're jealous, blondie,” Yuta said with a mischievous twinkle in his dark eyes. A playful smiled tugged at his lips. He loved to get in Doyoung’s nerves. “If you’re so disgusted by them—we have two gross couples in the group—learn how to have fun. Go out and get laid, my child.”

Doyoung glared at him. “First of all, stop calling me blondie. And second, I'm a busy person. I have important things to do. Not everyone is like you. All you do is going to a club, get wasted, and get laid.”

Yuta scoffed.

“It's called having fun! I know how to live my life. You can never understand it because you're boring.”

“What is get laid? Is it a game? Is it fun?” Chenle asked innocently, blinking at Yuta.

Taeyong and Jaehyun immediately blanched. Doyoung and Johnny chocked on their food. Ten tried not to laugh meanwhile Yuta looked like he wanted to die.

“I-it's—“ Yuta spluttered, and then stopped, not knowing what to say. His face slowly turned pale. He turned to Donghyuck, looking at him with pleading eyes.

Donghyuck tried to suppress a laugh. It was amusing to see Yuta so out of character like that.  On the other hand, Donghyuck wasn't surprised at all and he looked calm and composed. Chenle was a kid with a lot of questions. He was always curious so it didn't come as a surprise when he would randomly ask something weird or shocking.

“I don't think I can give you the real answer, baby,” Donghyuck said honestly. “It's adult stuff and you're not allowed to know about it because you're still too young.”

Chenle pouted. “But you'll tell me when I'm old enough?”

“Of course.”

“Promise?”

Donghyuck nodded firmly. “Promise.”

Chenle seemed satisfied enough and continued eating after that. Taeyong turned to Yuta and Doyoung, his big piercing eyes glared at them.

“I told you to behave in front of him,” he said through gritted teeth. Doyoung and Yuta quickly pointed at each other.

“He started it!” they said at the same time. Ten barked a loud laugh, couldn't holding back any longer. Johnny shook his head and sighed. He didn't even bother to butt in because it happened every single time. Meanwhile Jaehyun looked like he’d done with them.  

“We do not talk about adult stuff in front of Chenle.” Mark said firmly. “Especially not in the dining room.”

“It completely slipped off my tongue, okay?” Yuta said, looking like a dejected puppy. “You guys act like I just committed a crime.”

“Well, you've done many stupid things—“

“You did too!”

“No, I'm didn't—“

“Stop it.” it was Ten who spoke. All the humor in his voice was gone. “You're going to scare Chenle if you continue yelling at each other.”

Yuta and Doyoung quickly shut their mouth. Chenle looked confused and slightly terrified now, sinking deeper into Taeyong's arms. Taeyong tightened his hold and quickly distracted him, asking him about the games he'd played earlier and that little boy was quick to forget about the situation.

“You guys are so childish,” Jaehyun said, pinching the bridge of his nose in annoyance. “Always bickering like kids.”

“We’re not childish. You're just too stiff.”

Yuta glared at him and Doyoung nodded along.

“He's right.”  

And then both of them looked at each other and give each other a high give, giggling. Chenle, not knowing exactly what happened, giggled along with them. It made Yuta and Doyoung cooed at him. And just like that. They were back being normal again as if they weren't at each other's throat just a minute ago.

The banter flowed into a casual conversation smoothly. Yuta and Doyoung talked about the new edition of Mercedez and voiced out their distaste for Lamborghini. Too common, Yuta said. Taeyong and Jaehyun still giving their sole attention to Chenle—it felt like watching parents with their kid. Johnny and Ten talked in a low voice, leaning into each other's personal space, and Donghyuck heard some English sentences from them. Meanwhile Mark was quiet as he enjoying the food.

Donghyuck did not expect the Brat Pack to look like this; less stiff and more carefree. In fact, all the traces of their cold images were gone. Donghyuck only saw a bunch of teenagers having fun, bickering with each other, and talking nonsenses. A very normal sight to see.

Their peaceful dinner was interrupted when suddenly there was loud steps coming from the living room. Everyone stopped talking and turned around to see a beautiful girl walking over the dining table with graceful steps. The Brat Pack members gasped in unison.

Mina?

 


 

The whole room was perfectly silent. No one moved a muscle, and the stillness was profound. The tension was thick. The Brat Pack members went rigid on their seats. Their jaw set and it was clear that they weren’t expecting another guest—her. Taeyong tried to hide Chenle’s face by covering the side of his head with his hand. Jaehyun straightened his back and clenched his jaw. Johnny had the most neutral expression yet he still looked defensive. Ten blatantly glared at her. He was the straight-forward type and always brutally honest. Yuta and Doyoung for once looked serious and it’s scary to see them looked like they were ready to fight. Meanwhile Mark sat frozen on his seat, unmoving like a stone. 

Donghyuck’s eyes flicker to the new guest and he studied her. She was undoubtedly gorgeous. Short yet slender, with big dark eyes and a cascade of straight brown hair. Her lips were lush and red, her chin sharp but her cheeks were slightly chubby. Her dress was modestly sexy, a creamy satin that highlighting her fair skin. She walked with grace and confidence, holding a shining black Gucci purse that screamed money and elegance.

Jaehyun was the first one who spoke. His shoulders stiff and his eyes turned colder than usual as he stared at her. He was back at being the Jung Jaehyun that Donghyuck often saw at school.

“Mina.” he said through gritted teeth, his voice flat with a hint of distaste. “What are you doing here?”

The new guest, Mina, smiled at him, sweet and innocent, yet Donghyuck could tell something was off with it.

“Oppa, is this how you greet your little sister? Don’t you miss me?” she said, her voice soft yet child-like.

“You’re not my sister.” Jaehyun’s voice almost sound like a growl, deep and low in his throat.

She made a sad sound, pouted, and then her eyes flickered to Donghyuck and Chenle. Her mouth slightly parted and she raised one eyebrow as she finally realized other guests on the room. 

“Since when did you guys bring guests here?”

Mina’s scrutinizing eyes scanned both Donghyuck and Chenle. She looked confused and curious. Instinctively, Donghyuck turned to Chenle and he was about to reach out for him but Taeyong was faster.

“Jaehyunie,” Taeyong said, turning to his boyfriend. There was a hard edge that crept into his voice. “Bring Chenle back to the basement. We will meet you there after this.”     

Jaehyun nodded. He got up from the seat and took a confused Chenle into his arms, whispering sweet nothings into his ear. Chenle wrapped his arms around Jaehyun’s neck, hiding his face in the crook of his neck. Before leaving the dining room, Jaehyun turned to Yuta and Johnny. He wordlessly motioned them to come with him and they were quick to follow him.

After the four of them left, no one spoke for a very long time. Donghyuck didn’t know what to do, still couldn’t understand what was really happening right now. Who was she and why the Brat Pack members reached like that?

After a few heartbeats, this time, it was Ten who broke the suffocating silence.

“What are you doing here, Mina?” Ten said harshly. “You’re uninvited.”

She pouted and for a moment she looked completely harmless. But there was a glint in her eyes and it wasn’t a good sight.

“Oppa, don’t you miss me?”

“Drop the act,” Doyoung spat, gripping the edge of the table with unmistakable anger and tension. “You know you’re unwelcome here,”

Before Mina could say something, Taeyong cut her off.

“Kang Mina,” Taeyong hissed and all traces of kindness and friendliness vanished from his face. Taeyong looked so cold, totally different from his usual appearance. His eyes were sharp, dark and dangerous, staring straight into her eyes. “You’ve interrupted our dinner and I do not appreciate it. I hate an intruder.”

“Aw, oppa,” she said casually, not even flinching. “Don’t take it seriously.”

Ten and Doyoung almost growled at the same time at her.

Get out.” Taeyong said, his voice rough with absolute command. His jaw set. “Now.”

Mina’s lips pressed into a thin line. The traces of humor and playfulness were gone. Her gaze flicked to Mark and her lips twisted up into a smile but there was something else in it.

“Mark.” she said, blinking her long eyelashes at him. Her face brightened and her smile widened. “It’s been awhile.”

As if he just woke up from his trance, Mark’s face was tight as he stared at her. Anger flashed in his sharp eyes. His lips pressed into a hard line, his fists clenching under the table.

He exhaled sharply through his nose. “Get out of my house.”  

Ignoring what Mark just said, Mina pointed her perfectly manicured finger at Donghyuck.

“Who is he?”

“That’s none of your business.” Ten snarled at her. He almost lunged forward but Doyoung was quick to put one hand on his shoulder, preventing him from moving.

“Don’t test my patience, Mina.” Taeyong said, his voice still had an edge to it. “Out. Now.”

Mina remained rooted on her spot.

“Who is he?” she repeated, and it almost sounded like an order. It reminded Donghyuck with the way the Brat Pack members talked sometimes.

Donghyuck could only sit there, blinking at her. Suddenly, Mark took Donghyuck’s hand in his and gripped it, catching him off guard. He intertwined their fingers and made sure that Mina saw it. And the next words that escaped from his mouth shocked the whole table.

“Meet Donghyuck. He is my boyfriend.”

 


 

Chapter Text


 

It was dead silence for a very long moment. No one moved a muscle. The tension was thicker than before. Taeyong, Ten, and Doyoung went instantly rigid as soon as they heard what Mark just said. They were clearly surprised but their faces remained still. Their lips pressed into a hard line, jaw clenched, and eyebrows furrowed. Mark still didn’t let go of Donghyuck’s hand. And as if he just woke up from a trance, Donghyuck blinked and tried to pull his hand away only for Mark to tighten his grip. Donghyuck instantly stiffened. He glanced up at Mina and held his breath as he watched her face slowly changed from white to red. Her lips pursed and twisted to the side as her teeth clenched, she looked clearly pissed as she stared at both Mark and Donghyuck.

Then, after a loaded moment of silence, Mina finally spoke. Her voice was low, almost sounding like a hiss.

“Do you really expect me to believe you?” she said through gritted teeth. She scanned Donghyuck once again and her eyes hardened. “You’re not dating him.”

“I don’t care if you believe it or not. He is my boyfriend.” Mark replied, and Donghyuck was surprised to hear his tone. He sounded eerily calm and confident, so much so that people could easily believe what he had just said. Even Mina looked shaken right now. Her eyes widened in disbelief. And then almost instantly her face flushed, clenching her teeth together in sudden fury.

She took another step forward but immediately stopped when Taeyong, Ten, and Doyoung rose from their seats almost at the same time, glowering at her. Donghyuck flinched, startled at the sudden movements. He was unsure what to do or say. For the first time since he knew about the Brat Pack, he finally felt a little scared now. He didn’t even notice how Mark pulled his body slightly closer to him, their shoulders almost touching.

“Don’t you dare, Kang Mina,” Taeyong hissed under his breath. “Stay where you are.”

Mina glared back at him. This was the first time Donghyuck had ever seen someone talk back to Taeyong in such a rude manner. Taeyong’s lips twitched and the way he looked at Mina sent shiver down Donghyuck’s spine. His voice was cold as ice and sharp as razors. It was really surprising for Donghyuck because he’d never seen him so angry before. Taeyong was always calm, composed, and never lost control. But now Donghyuck could sense the anger vibrating beneath that serene exterior.

“This is none of your business.”

Doyoung and Ten snarled at her at the same time.

“Watch your mouth, Mina,” Ten warned her, slamming his hands on the table. “Don’t you dare talk to him like that.”

Mina scoffed at Ten, adding fire to his anger.

“You don’t tell me what to do, Ten.”

“Kang Mina!” Doyoung snapped, his face turned red and his eyes were cold, unforgiving. “Talk to my friends with that kind of tone again and I won’t hesitate to kick you out of here.”

Before Mina could say something in return, Ten beat her first.

“And you heard Mark. Loud and clear.” Ten said, his lips slowly curving upward into a mocking smirk. “Donghyuck is his boyfriend. He’s one of us now. He is Mark’s. Wake up and accept the reality.”

Ten’s words triggered Mina and made her body shake in anger. Something had snapped inside her and she looked like she wanted to shatter Donghyuck into pieces when she turned to him again. All her composure was gone. Mina took another step forward and this time, it was Mark who stopped her. A growl ripped through his throat; low, deep, and dangerous. He got up from his seat and stood before Donghyuck, partially shielding him from her view.

“Don’t you fucking dare.” Mark hissed. He leaned forward, gripping the end of the table tightly until his knuckles turned white. “Touch what’s mine and I’ll make you pay for it.”

Mina snapped his mouth shut, her body trembling as she locked eyes with Mark’s. Donghyuck slowly got up from his seat, standing right behind Mark. Mark straightened his posture, hiding Donghyuck’s from her view. It just occurred to Donghyuck that Mark was slightly taller and definitely bigger than him. He wanted to move aside but it seemed like Mark could feel his movement because almost instantly he searched for Donghyuck’s hand and pulled him forward. Donghyuck gasped, his face pressed firmly against Mark’s back. Mina saw the whole scene before her with a look of disgust and hatred.

“This isn’t over yet, Mark.”

Mark exhaled sharply through his nose.

“Out. Now.” he said sharply, with an absolute command in his voice.  

Mina’s face reddened, clearly humiliated. She threw a look of disdain at Donghyuck before turning around and storming out of the room.

 


 

They waited in silence for a whole minute to make sure that Mina was really gone. When they heard a loud bang of the door, Ten turned to Mark and glared at him.

“Are you stupid or are you stupid?” he said in perfect English, clearly pissed. “What the hell was that, Mark? You just started a new game with her. You know how she gets. Now she’s not going to stop.”

“Tennie, calm down.”

Taeyong walked over him and stopped at his side. Doyoung put one arm around his shoulder, preventing him from moving forward. He also looked unhappy about the situation but he stayed quiet.

“He needs to find a solution to this situation,” Ten continued and turned to Taeyong, talking as if Mark wasn't there. “That kid drags Donghyuck into this. How stupid could he be?”

“I know, Tennie,” Taeyong said, rubbing his arm gently to calm him down. “He will take care of his own mess. Now you need to tell others about this. It’s too late to back out.”

Ten looked at him incredulously. “You mean we have to carry on with this shit?”

Taeyong gave him a warning look.

“You know what will happen if we come clean. We need to think about Donghyuck too.”

Donghyuck instantly stiffened when his name was being mentioned. He peeked above Mark’s shoulders and found that Taeyong was already looking back at him. He looked concern and apologetic. Donghyuck could only smile back awkwardly.

Ten huffed, stomping his feet in annoyance. “Fine. I’ll tell the others.”

“No. I am going to tell them about this.” Doyoung finally spoke, his voice surprisingly calm and composed even though his face scrunched in distaste. “I need you to calm down and clear your mind, Ten. We all know Mark can take care of his own mess.”  

Doyoung gave Mark a long look before dragging a grumpy Ten with him. Taeyong sighed, rubbing his temple as he turned to Mark and Donghyuck. Mark's face was impassive. His thoughts didn't play on his face meanwhile Donghyuck was in a daze, still trying to comprehend the whole situation.

“I need to talk to Donghyuck alone.” Mark said after a moment of silence. He didn’t wait for Taeyong’s reply and immediately dragged Donghyuck away. The sudden movement made Donghyuck almost tripped over his feet but he managed to steady himself.

Mark led them upstairs, going back to the study room. Donghyuck followed him quietly, keeping a safe distance between them. There was a lot going on his mind right now and he had a lot of questions. Who was Kang Mina and why the Brat Pack members seemed to dislike her? Judging from the way Mina talked to them, it was obvious that she knew all of them well. And for Mark to lose control and impulsively claimed him to be his boyfriend, there must be something going on between them. Now that Mark had dragged him into this mess, Donghyuck needed a good explanation.

As soon as they were inside the study room, Donghyuck blurted out the only thing that had been bugging him.

“Who is she?”

Mark turned around to face him, shoulders stiff and eyes hard.

“Someone we used to know.”

Donghyuck sighed, felt a headache coming. “You told her that I was your boyfriend when in fact I’m not so I think I deserve a better explanation than that.”

Mark opened his mouth as if to say something but he was struggling with words. Donghyuck waited for him to speak, growing more and more impatient as the silence stretched further.

“It’s…complicated.” was the only thing he could say. Donghyuck raised one eyebrow at him. 

“I’m listening.”

“There’s nothing else to explain about her,” Mark said, and he sounded harsh when he mentioned her. “The point is, from now on you’re going to pretend to be my boyfriend.”

Donghyuck looked at him incredulously. For some reasons, now that he’d confronted him, he couldn’t stop.

“And what makes you think I’m going to follow your order? I want nothing to do with you or her.”

“You’re going to carry on whether you like or not,” Mark said in a commanding voice and Donghyuck hated it every time he did that because it made him sound a lot more powerful. He knew how to exploit his control. “It’s not your decision anymore. You heard Taeyong hyung. It’s too late to back out.”

“And why is it too late to back out?”

Mark let out a growl, scrunching his nose up as he took a step forward towards Donghyuck. They were only inches apart, their eyes on the same level. They stared at each other, gaze unwavering. Mark took another step, expecting Donghyuck to back out, but the latter surprisingly didn’t even blink or flinch and stayed rooted on his spot.

Mark let out an annoyance sound.

“I didn’t know that you can be this feisty.”

Donghyuck didn’t hesitate to retort. “There’s a lot you don’t know about me.”

“Look, you don’t know Kang Mina and what she’s capable of. You should be thankful we thought about your well-being. She’s going to be back to school tomorrow and if she knows about this whole pretending thing, she won’t hesitate to kick you out of the school.”

Not being able to control his frustration anymore, Donghyuck raised his voice.

“But it’s not even my fault. You’re the one who started this and dragged me into it!”

His outburst startled Mark who, for the first time in ages, appeared to be struck mute. Mark pressed his lips together, staring at Donghyuck, eyebrows furrowed. Donghyuck looked away, trying to calm his breath. When he stepped foot into Mark’s house, the only thing he wanted to do was to finish his homework as soon as possible and leave. He’d never imagined things would turn out like this. Nothing ever went well with Mark and the Brat Pack ever since their first encounter. He’d never asked to get involved with them. He just wanted to lead a normal and simple life but it currently seemed like the universe was playing with him.  

“If you don’t want to be kicked out of school, then you need to get along with this.”

Donghyuck looked at him in disbelief, mouth slightly parted.

“You’re unbelievable,” he said, shaking his head slightly. “Just because you’re rich and have power, that doesn’t mean you get to tell me what to do. You didn’t even apologize for what you did to me!”

Mark gritted his teeth, slowly losing his patience.

“Why is it so hard to make you understand this whole thing—“

“Apologize to me,” Donghyuck cut him off abruptly. “If you do it, I’ll get along with your plan.”

Mark stared at him as if he’d grown another head, taken aback. He clearly didn’t expect that.

What?

Feeling bolder, Donghyuck folded his arms over his chest, challenging him.

“Apologize to me.”

“You’re joking.”

Donghyuck pursed his lips.

“Do I look like I’m joking right now?”

Donghyuck was completely aware that what Mark said was true. Even though he still had no idea who Mina was and what she was capable of, from their brief encounter, he didn't doubt that she had the ability to kick him out of school. She carried a powerful aura around her, and the way she talked was enough to prove it. He was still upset and felt unhappy with the whole unjust situation but he knew he didn't have another choice. But that didn't mean he could just accept what Mark had done to him. He needed to hear his apology because he deserved it. And that's the least Mark could do after dragging him into his mess.

“Well, I’m waiting.”

“Are you seriously expecting me to say 'sorry' to you?”

Donghyuck didn't even think twice to talk back to him.

“Are you seriously not aware of your faults?”

Mark's face twisted and the way his face slowly turned a deep shade of red, both from anger and frustration, making Donghyuck almost smiled in victory, yet he held it back, waiting for him to surrender. It was silence after that. Mark looked like he was having an internal battle with himself and it was amusing for Donghyuck to see the leader of the Brat Pack was struggling to let go of his pride.

“I—“ Mark started and then stopped, stumbling over his words.

“I…?”

Donghyuck coaxed him. Mark’s frown deepened.

“I’m…”

“You’re…”

“Stop copying me!”

Donghyuck let out a grumble. “It’s just a simple apology.”

Mark swallowed thickly. He opened his mouth again, looking troubled, and his face flushed when he finally let the words fell out of his mouth.

“I'm...sorry.”

Donghyuck sighed, letting his hands fell to his sides. It annoyed him that Mark was so prideful that he couldn’t even say sorry. It is as if the word sounded so foreign to him. But then again, he was the Brat Pack.

“Now that wasn't so hard, was it?”

Mark's lips pursed slightly, looking like a dejected puppy which was completely out of character.

“Shut up, midget.”

Donghyuck wrinkled his nose.

“That's rude. I'm not that short!”

Mark's demeanor instantly changed. His lips curved upward into a mocking smirk as he scanning Donghyuck, up and down.

“You're short and tiny. Definitely a midget.”

“Excuse me, you're not even that tall!”

Mark leaned forward and Donghyuck instinctively leaned back, keeping a safe distance between them. A playful smile tugged at his lips and for a split second, Donghyuck was surprised to see a mischievous twinkle and gleam in his usually cold and hard eyes. Mark looked straight into Donghyuck's eyes, getting the upper hand now that he had his control back, and out of impulse he lifted one finger and pressed the tip of it to the button of Donghyuck's nose.

“Midget.”

The sudden action surprised them both and for a moment they stood frozen in their spot, with Mark's finger still pressed against Donghyuck's nose.

Donghyuck blinked at Mark. And Mark blinked back at him.

Their small moment broke when suddenly the door burst open and a very grumpy Yuta appeared in the doorway. Mark and Donghyuck turned to him at the same time. Yuta lifted one eyebrow at them, questioning their proximity with his eyes. Donghyuck quickly took a step backward, his face flushed. Mark, on the other hand, looked completely composed. He acted as if what just happened was nothing.

“What's up, hyung?”

As if he just remembered his intention, Yuta's face instantly changed.

“Mark, you little shit," he spat without a real heat and put both hands in his hips. “You owe me a lot for putting up with your annoying ass but now I need you and Donghyuck to come downstairs because it's getting late. Chenle is already fast asleep and Taeyongie asked you to drive them home.”

Donghyuck's eyes widened at the mention of his brother. He looked around and when he looked at the clock, it was indeed Chenle's past bedtime.

“Yuta sunbaenim, where's my brother?”

“He's with Taeyongie. Go downstairs. He's looking for you.”

Donghyuck didn't waste any time leaving the room, bowing his head slightly when he walked passed Yuta. When he was out of their sight, Yuta turned to Mark. His mischievous smile was back on his face again.

“He's pretty cute.”

Mark frowned. “He's not your type.”

Yuta barked a laugh, shaking his head slightly.

“Don't worry, kid. I'm not trying to steal him from you."

“I'm not worried.”

“Sure thing, kid. If you say so.”

Mark didn't answer him and wordlessly approached him. He closed the door and walked a step ahead of Yuta who quickly matched their steps.

“Tomorrow’s going to be a very long day.”

Mark snorted. “No shit, sherlock.”

“Mark, you need to be extra careful now that she's back,” Yuta sounded serious now, his lips pressing together. “And don’t forget that from now on you're also responsible for Donghyuck's safety.”

Mark's eyes turned hard as he nodded. He didn't say anything else in return. When they were back at the living room, the only Brat Pack member left was Taeyong, waiting for him. Mark gave him a single nod and then his eyes immediately fell to Donghyuck who's carrying Chenle in his arms, rocking him gently. He stared at the side of his face and realized that Yuta was right. He needed to be careful and what he just did, starting a fake relationship with him had caused him to be responsible for his safety. He’d just gotten himself into trouble.

 


 

 

Mark drove Taeyong’s car to take Donghyuck and Chenle home. Donghyuck almost voiced out his disagreement because it was too sleek and would stick out in his neighborhood but decided to keep mum as he slid into the car. He settled Chenle on his lap, wrapping both arms around him. His brother was dead to the world, snoring softly. Mark drove very slowly and the car moved steadily. Donghyuck was starting to nod off when Mark turned off the engine. He looked out the window and realized that he'd returned in front of his apartment's building. Ever so slowly and carefully, not wanting to wake Chenle up, Donghyuck unclasped the seat belt. When he reached for the door, Mark stopped him.

“Don't forget our deal.”

Donghyuck turned to him, raising one eyebrow. “What deal? We've only agreed on me being your fake boyfriend.”

“We're a couple now,” Mark deadpanned. “It means we have to act like one.”

“Like what? I'm not going to act like Johnny and Ten.”

Mark cringed.

“Not to that extent. They're gross. Just acting like a normal couple.”  he said, but then stopped. He looked at Donghyuck for a moment before a smirk broke across his face. “I'm your first. You've never been in a relationship before.”

It was more like a statement and Donghyuck's face instantly flushed. He was never been in a relationship before and Mark was indeed his first—even though it wasn't real. Life didn't give him that kind of luxury. And he was too busy with other things to think about romance.

“It's not your business.”

Mark grinned. “Don't worry, midget. I'll be a good boyfriend for you.”

A blush colored Donghyuck's neck, and quickly crept up to his face. He didn't even bother to correct the nickname the latter had thrown at him. Mark's lips stretched upward, feeling oddly satisfied making him flushed and worked up.

“That's it. I'm leaving.”

“Not before you give me your number and what floor you live on.”

“And why would you need all of that?”

Mark rolled his eyes. “Just do it, midget. Give me your phone and after that I’ll let you go.”

Donghyuck exhaled through his nose, pulling his phone out and gave it to Mark wordlessly. Mark quickly typed his number and after sending a message to his phone, he gave it back to Donghyuck.

“Can I go now?” Donghyuck asked sarcastically. Mark hummed as he reaching out to stroke the back of Chenle's hair.

“Be prepared.”

Donghyuck sighed. “What it is again?”

Mark leaned forward until his face only inches apart from Donghyuck’s, giving him his signature lopsided smile.

“You'll see tomorrow, boyfriend.”

Donghyuck fought a shiver that threatened to run through his body, tightening his hold around Chenle and looked away.

"Right, whatever," he said, forcing himself to swallow a lump on his throat. “Thank you for the ride.”

Donghyuck didn't wait for his reply. He quickly opened the door and slid out the car, speed walked to the building. He didn't look back, climbing up the stairs and quickly stumbled inside his apartment. Sometime later, after tucking Chenle to bed and went to the bathroom to take another shower, it just occurred to Donghyuck that he'd just sealed a deal with the Brat Pack's leader. Now that he could think clearly, he was completely aware of what he'd gotten himself into.

Groaning, Donghyuck buried his face in his hands. He had a very bad feeling about this ordeal. 

 


 

Chapter Text


 

“Midget.”

The voice was oddly familiar to Donghyuck’s ear but he didn’t ponder over it for too long, thinking that it must be a dream. Rolling over, he reached out for his pillow and held it against his chest. He let out a sigh, wanting to sleep some more before his alarm started ringing.

“I didn’t know that you were such a heavy sleeper.”

The same deep and familiar voice. And that tone…

“And you drool in your sleep.”

Donghyuck stayed still, unconsciously holding his breath. Wait. There was no way…

“Wake up, midget.”

Donghyuck’s eyes flew open as soon as he realized whose voice it belonged to. Almost abruptly he sat up straight on the bed, blinking rapidly to adjust his vision. When he turned to the doorway, a loud gasp escaped his mouth as he stared at none other than Mark Lee. The latter had his signature lopsided smile on his face as he leaned against the doorway, watching Donghyuck with both hands crossed over his chest.

“Did you break into to my apartment?”

Donghyuck asked as he pulled the blanket up to cover his exposed thighs. He had a habit of sleeping only in his boxer briefs. When he looked up again, Mark’s eyes were on his lower body and Donghyuck’s face instantly flushed.

“You still haven’t answered my question.”

“Technically, I didn’t break in here. I came inside with a key.”

Donghyuck blinked at him.

“How do you have the key to my apartment?”

Mark just shrugged his shoulders. “Very easy. I asked the owner.”

Donghyuck looked at him incredulously.

“You’re joking.”

“You know I’m not.”

Donghyuck closed his eyes, grinding his teeth together. Of course he knew that Mark wasn’t joking. The smaller knew he could get anything he wanted. A small matter like this wouldn’t be a problem at all for him.

Opening his eyes again, Donghyuck looked at him suspiciously.

“And why would you need the key to my apartment?”

“To pick you up.”  

“I can go to school by myself.”  

“I know,” Mark replied as if it was nothing. He slowly walked over to Donghyuck. The smaller instinctively leaned back until his back hit the wall and there was no way to go.  A slow smirk worked its way to Mark's face. His eyes twinkling with mischief—something that rarely happened. He stopped before Donghyuck and slowly leaned down so their eyes were at the same level. Scrunching his nose up in distaste, Donghyuck glared at Mark yet the latter only looked at him in amusement.

“From now on I'm going to pick you up and take you back home every day.”

“What—“

“No refusal, midget.” Mark said in a commanding tone, the corner of his lips curving upward into a satisfied smile. Donghyuck unconsciously jutted out his lips.

“Stop calling me midget!” he whined. “And stop ordering me around!”

Chuckling, Mark lifted a finger and pressed it to the button of Donghyuck's nose, tapping it twice. “Midget, midget.”

Donghyuck slapped Mark's hand away and opened his mouth to say something but a small voice behind them interrupted him.

“Hyung?”

Mark and Donghyuck turned around at the same time and found Chenle standing in the doorway, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hands. He could barely open his eyes, clearly still disoriented. Donghyuck quickly kicked the blanket off his body and jumped out of the bed. He walked over to Chenle and opened his arms widely, laughing when his baby brother immediately threw himself at him. 

“Good morning, Lele,” he said, kissing both of his cheeks. “Slept well?”

Chenle nodded and cupped Donghyuck's face in his small hands, smacking his lips against his brother's cheeks with a loud sound. That was how he greeted him in the morning. Donghyuck giggled.

“Good morning to you too, hyung. And yes. I slept very well.”

“That's good, baby. Ready to take a bath?”

Chenle nodded again. And when he looked over Donghyuck's shoulder, his eyes widened when he saw Mark standing not too far away from them. 

“Mark hyung! You’re here!”

“Hey, little guy.”

Mark's face softened as he slowly approached them. When he stopped before Chenle, he smiled and lifted one hand to ruffle his hair gently.

“Hey, good morning.”

“Good morning, hyung!” Chenle replied cheerfully, grinning at him. “I’m happy to see you again. But, why are you here so early?”

Mark and Donghyuck exchanged glances. Right. Chenle had no idea that they were together. They haven’t talked about how to break the news to Chenle. But both of them knew that this wasn’t the right time. Not now. Not yet.

Mark finally spoke again, his voice soft. “I’m here to pick you guys up. From now on I'm going to take you and your brother to school. Is that okay?”

Chenle titled his head a little. “Really? You will do that? Will we be a burden for you?”

For some reasons, hearing Chenle say that made Mark’s heart clenched painfully against his chest. Chenle was such a strong kid yet there was vulnerability and fear in his innocent eyes. Mark shouldn’t have felt like this but at that moment, he suddenly got the strong urge to protect him. Kids like him shouldn’t feel that way. And he was determined to make it better.

“Don’t worry, Lele.” Mark said in a soft and tender voice, stroking his hair gently. “You aren’t and never will be a burden to me.”

“And my hyung?”

Mark turned to Donghyuck who was uncharacteristically quiet. He didn’t look at Mark, his eyes were on Chenle, but the latter could tell that he was deep in his thoughts.

“Both of you aren’t a burden. Now it’s time for you to take a bath, and get ready to go to school.”

Mark leaned down to drop a kiss to the top of Chenle's head, making the kid beamed at him. Without sparing a single glance at him, Donghyuck left Mark and padded over to the bathroom.

 


 

After taking a bath and getting dressed, Donghyuck called Mark to follow him to the kitchen. He ended up sitting next to Chenle, watching Donghyuck as he moved around the kitchen island to prepare breakfast. It only took him five minutes to prepare it. He sat down two plates of kimchi fried rice and two glasses of fresh milk on the table. And then instead of joining them, he moved again to pack lunch for Chenle. 

Mark looked down at his own plate and then looked up at Donghyuck too. 

“Is this for me?”

Donghyuck didn't turn around but Mark could already tell that he's rolling his eyes. 

“You think?”

Mark frowned. “Aren't you going to eat?”

“Hyung doesn't really eat,” Chenle replied as he happily munching his food. There was sauce on his chin and Mark reached out to wipe it with his finger. The kid beamed at him. “He's always in a rush in the morning.”

Mark’s frown deepened but before he could say something, Donghyuck beat him to it.  

“Just eat or we're going to be late.”

Mark stared at his plate for a very long moment, swallowing thickly, before he finally took a spoon and started to dig in. When he tasted the kimchi fried rice, he eyes widened in surprised because it tasted good. Really good. He didn't expect Donghyuck to be such a great cook.

It was rare for him to eat homemade meals. He didn't have servants in his own house because he didn't like strangers around him. All this time it was Taeyong or Doyoung who came over to his house and cooked for him. Both of his friends were like moms for him, always fussing over him and made sure he ate enough. Usually he liked to order food—not that often because Taeyong and Doyoung would have his head if they knew.

As Mark scooped another spoonful of rice into his mouth, for some reasons, he couldn't help but think of home; warm blankets, boisterous laughter, and a fireplace. A lump started to form in his throat that he immediately swallowed down.

After they have finished breakfast, they quickly left the apartment. Chenle walked ahead with Donghyuck and Mark trailing right behind him. The neighbors who usually bumped into Donghyuck in the mornings took a little longer to greet him as they openly gawked at Mark. The latter still had the stoic expression on his face, his eyes were on Chenle, making sure the kid didn’t trip over his own feet. Donghyuck smiled awkwardly at them, ducking his head down when they threw him a teasing smile. It was a good thing Kun hadn't shown up yet. He already told Donghyuck last night that he won't be able to come over until tomorrow because he was currently staying at his friend's. Tomorrow Kun would definitely find out about it and Donghyuck didn't want to know what would happen if he knew the truth. He'd have his head. 

They finally made it outside and when Donghyuck saw a black sleek Aston Martin parked not far from them, he tried not to groan out loud. Mark himself was enough to draw enough attentions and now, with his car, he’s going to stand out even more. Donghyuck let out a sigh watching as Chenle already ran to Mark's car, jumping in happily.

It was going to be a very long day.  

 


 

Donghyuck tried to convince himself that no one was staring at them but because he couldn't even lie to himself, when the car finally slowed down and stopped in front of Chenle's kindergarten, he peeked out of the windows and quickly bit the inside of his cheeks to prevent the groan that threatened to escape his lips. People were openly staring at them—the car—no, gawking was more like it. Of course they would do that. They stood out the immensely. Their eyes were bored into them and Donghyuck flinched back. All of the parents and teachers knew Donghyuck and Chenle. It was a small kindergarten, so everyone knew each other very well. What would they say or do when they finally saw them? Suddenly Donghyuck felt a sudden urge to just stay inside and never go out.

“Aren't you going to send Chenle off?”

Blinking, Donghyuck turned to Mark with a pursed lips.

“Your car draws their attention.”

Mark blinked back at him. “So?”

Donghyuck let out a sigh and just shook his head before opening the passenger door and sliding out of the car with Chenle. He expected Mark to stay inside and was genuinely surprised when Mark followed him. The latter just quietly walked with them to the entrance, ignoring people's stares. When they finally stopped at the entrance, Donghyuck crouched down before his baby brother and Mark did the same.

He ruffled Chenle's hair gently. “Be good and listen to your teacher, okay baby?”

“Don't forget to eat your lunch too.” Mark reminded him.

“Yes, hyung!”

Mark smiled at him. “Good boy. Now go.”

Chenle turned to Donghyuck and kissed his cheek—a habit he had picked up when he was younger. He then turned to Mark and did the same, surprising the latter.

“Bye, hyung! See you later!”

Chenle waved at them and ran inside the classroom when one of his classmates called him. On their way back to Mark's car, Donghyuck couldn't help but notice that some people were still unabashedly staring at them and it made him uncomfortable. Finally he had enough.

“You and your car are drawing too much attention.”

“Is that supposed to be my fault?” 

Donghyuck just threw him a hard look, glaring at him. Mark always felt oddly happy and satisfied to make the smaller annoyed or pissed. He threw one arm around Donghyuck's shoulder and pulled him closer, making the smaller's breath hitched.

“What are you doing?!” he asked through greeted teeth, trying to pull Mark’s hand away but the latter was stronger. “Let me go!”

“What? You're my boyfriend now,” Mark said, and his playful self was back again. Donghyuck had the urge to throw a hard object on his face. “This is part of the show. Let people know that you're mine.”

Donghyuck groaned out loud. “I'm not yours. And we’re not at school.”

“That’s not true. You’re my boyfriend everywhere you go.”

Donghyuck looked at him incredulously.

“You’re ridiculous.”  

Mark tightened his hold around his neck in a chokehold, winking at him.

“Whatever you say, midget.”

Donghyuck whined and wriggled to get free. When they finally reached Mark's car, the latter finally let go of Donghyuck and held the door opened for him. It irritated the smaller even more.

“Get inside, boyfriend.”

Mark had that signature lopsided smile on his face and Donghyuck glared at him before got inside the car. But before Mark could close the door, Donghyuck grabbed the handle and closed it by himself with a loud bang. On impulse, Donghyuck stuck his tongue out at him and Mark looked baffled for a second as he stared at the smaller through the windows. A moment later he finally broke into a small laugh, shaking his head in disbelief before he walked to the other side of the car and slid inside.

 


 

Donghyuck could feel the anxiety slowly bubbling inside him as they were getting closer to the school. He knew the moment he agreed to the ordeal, things wouldn't be as easy as before anymore. Since he still didn't know what would happen once the whole school knew that he was Mark Lee's boyfriend, he couldn't help but feel anxious, nervous, and alert. But he knew for sure that it would be total chaos. Not to mention that his friends still had no idea about the whole ordeal. Donghyuck didn't know how to break it to them. He still hadn't discussed it with Mark. He wasn't sure if he could tell them the truth or not but he knew he couldn't avoid them either. He also didn't know whether the students would believe it or not. Even for Donghyuck, it was still hard to believe what he's gotten himself into. One moment he was just a normal student and the next moment he was Mark's boyfriend, the leader of Brat Pack. Just thinking of the reactions he would get made him wanted to throw up.

Donghyuck struggled to get a grip on himself and when they finally arrived at school and pulled into the parking lot, he felt his breath instantly hitched. The car finally slowed down and stopped. For a moment Donghyuck couldn't bring himself to lift his head and all he could do was stare down at his own hands, fiddling with his fingers. He could hear a loud cheer and squeals, the normal reaction from students when they saw the Brat Pack. He wondered why there weren't any shocked gasps but then he remembered that these windows were darkly tinted and they still had no idea that he was in there, inside Mark's car. It hasn't started yet then.

Calm down, Donghyuck. Calm down.

“Are you going to sit here forever?”

Mark's deep voice startled Donghyuck and pulled him back into the reality. He blinked and turned to the right to face him. He still didn't dare to look out of the windows.

“I just...” he started, trying to find the right words but his mind was a jumbled mess. “Do you think they will believe us?”

“No,” Mark didn't miss a single beat to answer. “But they will eventually. You're my boyfriend and that means you're also part of the Brat Pack now. And you must have heard about this before. No one messes with us. If they do, they're going to pay for it.”

Donghyuck knew that Mark and the rest of the Brat Pack members were aware of their power and what they could do. He just didn't know to what extent. Still, it didn't lessen his anxiety.

“And Mina...”

“You don't have to worry about her,” Mark quickly cut him off, his expression hardened instantly. There was an edge in his voice and he quickly looked away from Donghyuck. “If she ever so much touches you, she will have to face me and my friends. Now we need to get out. Doyoung is trying to kill me with his glare.”

Donghyuck finally looked out the windows and realized that all of the Brat Pack members were already there, waiting for them. And just like what Mark had said, Doyoung was staring at them with piercing eyes, clearly impatient as he started tapping his foot on the ground and crossed his arms over his chest. Jaehyun was leaning against his polished black Volvo with Taeyong by his side. He had one arm around his waist yet the grip seemed tighter than usual. They were engaged in what seemed to be a serious conversation by the look of their tense shoulders and lips that were pressed into a tight line. Even Taeyong didn't smile like he usually did. It reminded Donghyuck of last night and how for the first time he got a glimpse of another side of Lee Taeyong.

Johnny and Ten standing next to their motorcycle and for once they didn't show any excessive public display of affection. Johnny had one arm around Ten's shoulder and his boyfriend leaned his head against his chest. They stood still, almost unmoving. Yuta was the only one who looked like his normal usual self. He was leaning casually against his sleek Bugatti, eyes on his phone screen. He looked up when someone called his name and gave them his killer smile before going back to his phone screen.

Donghyuck was too preoccupied with his own thoughts he didn't realize when Mark slid out of the car. And then, suddenly, the door of the passenger seat flung open and Mark stood before him. Donghyuck's heart jumped out of his rib cage as the latter bent down so their eyes were on the same level.

“Ready?”

Mark's voice surprisingly sounded soft and tender and Donghyuck found himself nodding.

“Yes.” he breathed out.

Mark held out his hand, silently demanding him to take it with his eyes. Donghyuck swallowed the lump down his throat and took Mark’s hand in his.

 


 

As soon as Donghyuck slid out of the car, the crowd turned frantic and they screamed even louder. There were loud gasps and murmurs and he heard some of them mentioned his name. As they were walking toward the Brat Pack, from his peripheral vision, Donghyuck recognized Koeun and her friends among the crowd. They were all visibly shocked. Their faces pale, jaw dropped, and their eyes looked as if they were about to pop out of the socket. Thankfully, his friends weren't there. But the news was probably already spreading around the school like wildfire, so they would know eventually.

“Here come the lovebirds,” Yuta said as he straightened his posture and shoved his phone into the pocket of his pants. Donghyuck bit the inside of his cheeks, trying not to cringe.

“You're late.” Doyoung complained, walking over to them with eyebrows furrowed.

Mark checked his wristwatch before replied, “Only five minutes. And that's because we had to drop Chenle off first.”

“Chill,” Yuta rolled his eyes at his friend. “We still have ten minutes before the first class starts.”

The thing about Doyoung was, as the President of Student Council, he was responsible for the students there and that included his friends as well. He always kept them in check and made sure they never late or skipped classes. Contrary to what people believed, they were pretty decent students and almost never skipped classes nor tardy due to the fact that Doyoung would have their heads if they did so. Except for Yuta because sometimes when he felt bored enough he would break the school's rules just to piss Doyoung off.

“I'm sorry for making you guys late waiting for us,” Donghyuck said, genuinely concerned. Taeyong finally cracked a small smile and waved his hand in a dismissive manner at him.

“Don't mind him, Donghyuck-ah. He's just being cranky.”

“He's like a toddler sometimes.”

Doyoung slapped Yuta's arms so hard it made the latter yelp in pain as a handprint started to form on his skin.

“Shut up, dumb ass.”

Yuta opened his mouth to throw out another remark but Jaehyun cut him off.

“She's here.”

As soon as the words left Jaehyun's lips, all the Brat Pack members stood straight. They were all turned stiff and alert, angling themselves between Mark and Donghyuck and what was coming. Mark pulled Donghyuck flushed against him, throwing one arm around his shoulders and the other on his waist. Donghyuck instantly stiffened yet made no attempt to move, knowing that it was part of the show. He tried not to flinch when Mark leaned down to press his lips lightly to his hair.

There was a huge commotion and all of them turned in the same direction, watching as everyone stepped aside to clear a path for a Lamborghini that speed by them. It was white, sleek, and indeed flashy. Other than the Brat Pack, no one went to school with that kind of car. Then the windows were rolled down and when they could see that Kang Mina was indeed inside, the crowd instantly went crazy.

“Isn't that Kang Mina?”

“She's back!”

“No way! She’s really here!”

“Oh my god, this is getting interesting!”

The crowd was getting wilder but they were still kept their distance from the Brat Pack because if you crossed the line, you'd die. The car stopped right next to Doyoung's and the blonde haired guy couldn’t stop the groan that escaped his lips and quietly muttered through gritted teeth, “The nerves of her.”

Yuta threw one arm around him, squeezing it gently. “I can think of a few ways to destroy it. It's the latest version and it looks pretty new. Want to have some fun after school?”

“Can you break it into pieces and throw it to the cliff?”

Yuta winked at him. “I can definitely do that.”

Jaehyun threw them a warning glare. “Boys, stop it. This isn’t the right time for that.”

Yuta pouted. “I'm just trying to lighten up the mood.”

Ten shifted a little as if he wanted to get free but Johnny was quick to pull him against his chest again. There were times when Ten struggled to control himself and now was one of those moments. He looked past Yuta's shoulder and his lips pursed as he informed them.

“She's coming.”

Like a switch, all the Brat Pack's demeanor changed in an instant. Their expression emotionless, even the playfulness in Yuta's face was gone. All of them watched as Mina slid out of her car and walked over to them with graceful yet careful steps. Her face stoic, her chin lifted up high, and her smile was teasing and alluring. Donghyuck could feel Mark's body stiffened and he gripped his shoulder tighter, making the smaller winced.

And then, she stopped and the atmosphere around them turned tense.She was smiling an easy smile, exposing a flash of gleaming white teeth. But something about the way she held her mouth made Donghyuck believe she was angry. He could actually sense anger beneath the calm surface. Her eyes shifting between him and Mark and the corner of her lips twitched.

“Well, well,” she said in a light voice. “Look what we have here. Seems like you guys are having fun without me.”

None of them replied. Ten and Doyoung were visibly trembling but they masked their expression very well. Yuta tightened his hold around Doyoung, nudging his cheek with his nose gently to calm him down, which worked almost instantly. Johnny leaned down to press his lips to his boyfriend’s temple, both hands wrapped around his lithe body in a protective way. Jaehyun and Taeyong's face looked colder than usual. Donghyuck tore his gaze away from Mina to check on Mark. When he looked up, he found that Mark didn't even look at her. He stared ahead but his eyes were dark and cold.

“I must say that I'm quite disappointed you guys weren't waiting for me. Weren't we always together before?”

Ten let out a snarl.

“You are not one of us.”

Mina's mouth curved downward slightly, her expression turned sad, but all of them knew it was fake. Doyoung let out a low growl deep from his throat.

“So I'm not in the Brat Pack anymore?”

“Bold of you to say that,” Taeyong finally spoke, his voice sharp. “You were and never will be one of us.”

Mina's eyes hardened as she looked at Taeyong, her lips curling upward into a lazy smirk.

“This is why we could never get along well. I almost forgot how annoying and irritating you are, Taeyongie Oppa.”

Things happened almost simultaneously after that. Jaehyun lunged forward at her and let out a growl, more ferocious and dangerous, yet Taeyong was quick to hold him back. He wrapped his arms around his neck, his fingers slipped into his slick black hair, cradling the back of his head gently. He pressed the tip of his lips to Jaehyun's ear, murmuring sweet nothings. Doyoung and Yuta instantly stepped in front of the couple, shielding them. Yuta had a murderous look on his face, which was really new and it made Donghyuck flinched. He wasn’t used seeing Yuta so out of character like that. Meanwhile Doyoung looked like he wanted to rip her in pieces. Ten wriggled in Johnny's hold but his boyfriend held him firmly. Mark was breathing harshly and out of instinct, Donghyuck pressed himself flushed against Mark's chest. The contact surprisingly seemed to calm Mark a little so Donghyuck stayed still.

“Watch your mouth, Kang Mina,” Jaehyun glowered at her. “Insult him and I'll break you into pieces.”

Mina chuckled, watching him with an amused smile on her face.

“Some things will never change,” she said. “Your anger issues are still the worst, Oppa.”

This time, it was Johnny and Mark who growled at her. Jaehyun made an attempt to move forward but Taeyong pushed him back.

“Shut up, Mina.” Johnny said, his voice sounded so menacing that made chills ran through Donghyuck's spine. This was the first time he saw Johnny get angry. He was always the quiet and passive one. He rarely talked or engaged in a conversation, but now he stood tall like an Alpha and he looked more intimidating and scary. For a split seconds Mina looked shaken and Donghyuck saw a flash of fear in her eyes but it was quickly gone as she composed herself again.

“Don’t test my patience,” Johnny continued. “I've been generous with you since yesterday. You know what will happen if you piss me off.”

“Don't you fucking dare to talk ill of my brother. Don’t forget that I’m also capable of anything, Mina.” Mark hissed under his breath, purposely emphasizing her name and that ever-present disdain lingering in his tone made Donghyuck trembled a little. And the way he looked at Mina reminded Donghyuck of their first encounter. If looks could kill, Mina would be burned right now.

Doyoung was about to move but Yuta moved first. He took a step forward and Mina instinctively took a step back.

“Get the fuck out of my sight.”

Mina clenching her teeth together, her nostrils flared up, and her fist balled up.

“You…”

“You heard him,” Doyoung cut her off. “Get lost before I drag you out of here.”

Her anger was visible now. She shifted her gaze between Mark and Donghyuck before walking away without another word. As soon as she was gone, they all visibly relaxed but the tension was still thick. Taeyong cupped Jaehyun's face in his hand and pressed his forehead to his, their nose touching. He murmured a soft 'it's okay' over and over again. Ten wrapped both hands around Johnny's waist and his boyfriend held him close, breathing in his scenet. Doyoung and Yuta stood next to each other and talked in a low voice, their voices still had an edge at the end. Seeing what had just happened, it was obvious that she knew how to get under their skin.

Dazed and a little disoriented, Donghyuck pulled away slightly to look up at Mark.

“Mark?”

Mark blinked and hummed but refused to look into Donghyuck's eyes. The smaller jabbed a finger in the ribs, silently coaxing him, and Mark didn't have another choice but to comply.

“What?”

Donghyuck knew he could have ignored him and shut his mouth. But it was in his nature to always care and give affection. He could still feel Mark's discomfort and anger and somehow it affected him too. He was on edge and Donghyuck felt the need to ease it.

“You okay?” he asked, his voice low and soft. For a few seconds Mark's face went blank, blinking at him. He stared at Donghyuck, his gaze intense, but this time the smaller didn't tear his eyes away. He waited, and when Mark finally spoke again, his voice almost sounded like a whisper.

“Yeah,” he replied. “It's fine.”

Donghyuck knew it wasn't entirely true because his jaw was still set. He lifted his hand and tentatively put it over his chest, feeling it beating frantically under his palm. The action surprised them both yet it didn’t take long for Mark to instantly go pliant. They held each other’s gazes but their small moment broke when the bell rang loudly.

“Let's go, guys.”

Doyoung walked first with Yuta. Johnny and Ten followed behind them. Mark made eye contact with Taeyong before pulling Donghyuck to follow his friends. Taeyong and Jaehyun walked hand in hand in the back. All of the students who were still crowding around them stepped aside, making a way for them. The Brat Pack members were back to their expressionless faces once again as they walked into the hallway.

Everyone was aware that this was just the beginning.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

The Brat Pack members parted and left to their morning classes. Johnny, Jaehyun, and Doyoung went to the gymnasium for PE class. Meanwhile Taeyong, Yuta, and Ten went to the second building for English class. Donghyuck shared a history class with Jaemin and Renjun in the morning. He insisted on going to his class alone but Mark wouldn’t let him. The latter actually had a Biology class in the third building which was pretty far from Donghyuck's but he wordlessly walked with the smaller, never once blinking at his pleas. Knowing perfectly that he could never win, Donghyuck reluctantly let Mark walked him to the class. As they silently walking to the class with their hands intertwined, Donghyuck tried to not wriggle every time Mark tightened his hold on his hand or flinch when students whispered about them rather loudly. It was obvious that they didn't expect the scene before them.

When they finally stopped in front of Donghyuck's class, instead of letting him go, Mark pulled him closer until their faces were only inches apart. Donghyuck swallowed thickly. No matter how many times he tried to ignore people around them, he still wasn't used to being the center of attention.

“What are you doing? I have to go inside. Let me go.”

Mark didn't answer him right away. For a moment, they only stared into each other's eyes. Donghyuck held Mark's gaze and even though the latter was completely composed like his usual self, he held no traces of anger or disdain, but Donghyuck could still notice how his eyes looked distant and somewhat blank.

“Mark?”

Mark only hummed low on his throat.

Donghyuck sighed. “Let me go.”

Mark blinked twice and then followed Donghyuck’s gaze to their intertwined hands. He blinked again before finally released his hand. Donghyuck let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding. He spun his head around to peek inside the class and winced when he found Jaemin and Renjun looking at him with their jaws slacked open, eyes wide, and faces as pale as a ghost. Their eyes were questioning and judgmental from their expression, they probably had already known about him and Mark. Donghyuck honestly didn't know how to explain the situation to them. He turned to Mark again and asked the only thing he'd been thinking since he arrived at school.

“Can I tell my friends about us?”

Mark frowned. “The ones who always sit with you at the cafeteria?”

If Donghyuck was surprised to know that Mark noticed his friends, he didn't show it on his face. Instead, he just gave him a simple nod. Mark looked past Donghyuck's shoulders, squinting at Jaemin and Renjun who immediately ducked their heads down to avoid his strong gaze. He seemed to be in a deep thoughts and for once Donghyuck could read him easily because it played across on his face. He seemed to be having an internal battle with himself, his frown deepened. When he finally tore his gaze away and back to Donghyuck's again, his voice surprisingly calm.

“Do you trust them?”

Donghyuck didn't miss a single beat to answer. “Yes.”

“If you can make sure that they're not going to spill everything, then do whatever you want.”

Donghyuck's eyes widened slightly, not expecting Mark to agree on it so easily. Yet he was glad that the latter said yes. He knew himself and there was no way he could lie to his friends. It would be a burden for him. Despite knowing them for a short period of time, Donghyuck knew that they were the only ones he could trust. They were there since day one and accepted him with open arms. They were also the only ones he knew in this school who treated everyone equally regardless of their social status. Explaining the situation to them wouldn't be an easy task but Donghyuck knew they would understand. He just needed to prepare himself.

“All right then,” Donghyuck said. “I'm going inside now.”

Donghyuck was about to turn around but Mark caught his wrist, stopping him. Donghyuck frowned.

“What?”

In an instant, Mark's demeanor changed. His lips slowly curved upward into a lazy smile and Donghyuck got a very bad feeling when he saw the way his eyes were twinkling with mischief. It was a very, very bad sight.

“Please don't do anything stupid or I—“

Donghyuck couldn't finish his sentence before Mark quickly leaned down to press his lips to the tip of his nose, kissing it twice and then pulling away again. He heard a scream that sounded so much like Jaemin and Renjun and high pitched squeals from girls. The smaller was baffled, his entire face turned red and it satisfied Mark. He smirked at him and lifted one hand to ruffle the smaller's hair.

“That's goodbye kiss, midget. Get used to it.”

And then, just like that, he walked away, leaving a very dazed Donghyuck in the hallway. A few heartbeats later Donghyuck blinked and touched the tip of his nose, his face flushed and his mouth slightly parted.

What the hell just happened?

 


 

 

Everyone gawked at Donghyuck when he came inside the class but the smaller kept his head up, looking straight ahead as he walked to Jaemin's table. Renjun's table was right in front of Jaemin's. Both of his friends were staring at him, lips slightly parted. Donghyuck braced himself as he stopped by Jaemin's table and flopped down next to him. Renjun opened his mouth as if to say something but closed it again, blinking at Donghyuck. Jaemin looked like he was in a deep thought, his lips pursed and a frown started to form on his forehead as he stared at him. His sudden change in demeanor surprised Donghyuck but he couldn't ask him what was wrong because the teacher came in and the whole class went silent.

“All right, class. We're going to continue our last lesson. Open your book to page 60.”

Renjun threw one last look to Donghyuck before turning his attention back to the front. Jaemin went uncharacteristically quiet and it made Donghyuck confused and worried. He looked more upset than curious. The lesson seemed to drag on longer than usual and Donghyuck couldn't stop fidgeting in his seat. He could feel multiple pairs of eyes burning at the back of his head and the side of his face. People were stealing glances at him but he refused to duck his head down, keeping his eyes on the white board, listening to the teacher's explanation of the history of The Great King Sejong.

When the bell finally rang loudly, as soon as the teacher left the room, Jaemin and Renjun stood up abruptly from their seats. Jaemin grabbed Donghyuck's hand, making the smaller yelp in surprise. Koeun and her friends tried to approach Donghyuck but before they could get close to him, Renjun quickly moved to the smaller's side while Jaemin blocked her way, hiding his friend from her view with his body.

She glared at him, clearly pissed.

“Na Jaemin, move away. I need to talk with that kid.”

Jaemin glared back at her. “You move out of my way, Koeun. This isn't your business.”

Koeun's nostrils flared up, clearly offended with what Jaemin had said but the latter didn't wait for her reply and turned to Donghyuck.

“Move, Donghyuckie. Hurry.”

Before Donghyuck could react, Renjun grabbed his hand and dragged him out of the class with Jaemin trailing behind them. Donghyuck could only silently follow his friends. They passed by some students who looked shocked to see Donghyuck and the smaller assumed that now everyone at school had already found out about him and Mark.

They climbed upstairs to the second floor where their next class was and when they turned into an empty hallway, Renjun's steps came to a halt. Donghyuck managed to stop walking before he bumped into the back of Renjun's head.

“What the hell was that, Donghyuck?” Renjun said as soon as he spun around to face his friend. Confusion written all over his face. “What happened between you and Mark?”

Donghyuck opened his mouth to say something but Jaemin beat him to it.

“Not now, Injunie," Jaemin said and there was an edge in his voice. “We're going to talk at lunch.”

Donghyuck sighed. “Guys, I can explain.”  

Renjun crossed his arms over his chest, looking at Donghyuck with calculating eyes.

“You're going to explain everything.” he said but it sounded more like a demand.

Donghyuck nodded dutifully.

“Yes.”

Jaemin let out a sigh. When he spoke again, he sounded frustrated. “You're getting involved with the Brat Pack. You'd better come up with a good explanation, Donghyuckie. Now, we need to go to our next class.”

 


 

Kang Mina was back.

The return of Kang Mina to SM High School made the whole school turn into a chaos. The students were all gossiping about her and what questioning her return. It had been two years and now she suddenly appeared again. No one really knew why she had disappeared almost two years ago. People could only assume things. It has been two years and people were surprised to see how much she changed. She wasn’t the same Kang Mina they used to know. She didn’t smile and she walked around school with her head up. She was alone yet she managed to look graceful, powerful, and dominant. No one dared talk to her and moved aside to clear a path for her whenever she was walked.

The news about Donghyuck being Mark's new boyfriend added more fuel to the chaos. People couldn't stop staring at Donghyuck wherever he went but unlike before they didn't dare to approach him nor talk to him. They kept their distance. It was as if there was an unspoken rule they had to follow when it came to the Brat Pack. Now Donghyuck believed that Mark wasn’t joking when he said that no one dared to mess up with them. Even though they didn't approach him but Donghyuck could still see disdain looks on their faces and some of them were turned into a unconcealed hatred.

When his last class before lunch finally ended, Donghyuck stuffed his books inside his bag and waited for Jaemin to leave the class together. Renjun wasn’t in the same class as them so they were going to meet at the cafeteria after this. Jaemin hadn’t talked to him throughout the entire lesson and it actually made Donghyuck start to worry. He silently moved his chair closer to Donghyuck’s, sitting closer to him than usual, their shoulders almost touching. Donghyuck could tell that it was Jaemin’s way of protecting him from preying eyes.

When the teacher left the class, Jaemin wordlessly grabbed Donghyuck's hand and they walked together to leave the class. Donghyuck was preparing himself to talk to his friends, trying to find the right words to explain the situation. But then, as soon as he was out of the class, Mark Lee was standing right in front of him. He walked over to Donghyuck as soon as he saw him but his eyes weren't on him. Mark frowned as he stared at Donghyuck's hand that intertwined with Jaemin's. The smaller wasn't aware of it but Jaemin who had followed Mark's eyes immediately stiffened, tightening his hold on Donghyuck's hand. Mark's lips twitched and when he looked up and found Jaemin was already looking at him, the atmosphere around them becoming tense.

“Mark, what are you doing here?”

Mark turned to Donghyuck and his demeanor changed. His crooked smile was back as he stopped before the smaller. Donghyuck stayed still, knowing perfectly that this was just for a show.

“We're going to eat lunch together.”

“But—“

Mark threw him a look and Donghyuck immediately complied.

“Okay,” he finally said, turning to Jaemin with apologetically. “Jaeminie, I'm so sorry. I'll talk to you guys later, okay?”

Jaemin's eyes narrowed and he looked clearly unhappy with the situation. But he wordlessly let go of Donghyuck's hand. Almost instantly Mark grabbed his wrist and pulled him flushed against his chest, startling the smaller. Donghyuck looked up to glare at Mark but he kept his mouth shut, aware of curious eyes around them. Mark didn't even look at him and when Donghyuck followed his gaze, he was surprised to find Mark was holding Jaemin's hard stare.

“You'd better take care of him, Mark.”

Jaemin said and there was no trace of playfulness on his voice. He was dead serious. Donghyuck was completely thrown. It was the first time he’d seen Jaemin speak in such a tone and he couldn't believe how casual he was when he talked to Mark. As far as Donghyuck knew, other than the Brat Pack and Mina, no one dared talked to Mark like that. What was going on between them?

“Yes.”

Mark just gave him with a short reply and a curt nod and he didn't say anything else after that. Jaemin held Mark's gaze for a few seconds before walking away, leaving a very baffled Donghyuck. When he was finally out of their sight, Donghyuck blinked at Mark.

“What just happened? Do you guys know each other?” Donghyuck blurted out the only thing on his mind. Mark smiled in amusement.

“His father is my father's secretary and he has been working for my family for years. Jaemin and I have known each other since we were babies.”

Donghyuck stared at Mark, jaw dropped as the information slowly sunk in. Jaemin and Mark knew each other since childhood? Honestly he had no idea about his friends' status because it would be rude to ask such questions to them and they never mentioned anything. Donghyuck often heard students here always bragging about their wealth. Be it at cafeteria during lunch break or in the class. They talked about their expensive cars they just bought, how many cities they went to the last month, and their favorite places to go shopping. When Donghyuck was with his friends, they never talked about those kind of topics. They talked about trivial things such as favorite movies, musics, their celebrity crushes, and how stressed they were with all their pile up assignments. Now that Donghyuck thought about it, it made sense how Jaemin had been so nonchalant about the Brat Pack, and how he’d just talked to Mark as if he had known him, and he did indeed.

“I... I didn't know that,” Donghyuck muttered quietly after a loaded moment of silence.

“No one knows about it except me and my friends. Jaemin keeps his distance when we're at school.”

“Why?”

Mark shrugged.

“It’s just how our relationship is. You can ask him later but now we need to go to the cafeteria. The others are waiting for us.”

As soon as Donghyuck remembered where they were and why he was here with Mark, his stomach instantly dropped. He peeked over Mark's shoulder and flinched when he found Koeun and her friends standing not too far away from them. Their piercing eyes bored into him. Judging from their red faces and tensed jaws, they were clearly mad. Mark followed Donghyuck’s gaze and frowned when he saw them. It only took one glare from him for them to quickly look away and leave.

“Come on, midget.”

Donghyuck could only sigh as Mark took one of his hands in his, intertwining their hands. The students who crowded around them stepped aside, clearing a path as they walked in the hallway. They walked to the cafeteria in silence and Donghyuck couldn't stop biting his lower lip, slowly getting anxious. He knew no one sat with the Brat Pack during lunch and now Donghyuck was going to sit with them. It felt so much like exposing himself and it wasn’t like he could get used to the attention in an instant.

As soon as they walked into the cafeteria, the quiet atmosphere quickly turned into a commotion. Everyone stopped whatever they were doing to gawk at them. Donghyuck's eyes swept around and when he found his friends' usual table, he threw them an apologetic look. Jeno and Lucas looked utterly surprised but Renjun and Jaemin nodded at him. And the way they looked at him eased the smaller—it wasn't judgment and he was glad his friends were kind enough to quickly look away from him and Mark, acting as if what they just witnessed wasn't a big deal.

Donghyuck turned to the Brat Pack's usual table and found that all of them were already there. They weren't looking at Mark and Donghyuck even though the smaller knew that they were aware about their arrival. Donghyuck was surprised to see that for once Jaehyun wasn't glued to Taeyong's side. He sat between Doyoung and Ten, crossing his arms over his chest as he stared at Taeyong who was sitting across from him. His lips pursed a little and even though he looked like his usual self, cold and distant, it was clear for Donghyuck that he was sulking. Jaehyun was sulking because Taeyong sat next to Yuta. The latter held a thick book, reciting something from the book to a very frustrated Yuta. Yuta had a very serious look on his face, lips pressed into a thin line, and eyebrows furrowed. He was thinking hard and when he finally said something, Taeyong smacked the back of his head, making the latter yelp. It made Ten and Doyoung break out into a loud laughter, enjoying the scene before them. Yuta pouted, reaching out across the table to take some french fries and throw them into Doyoung's face. Doyoung gasped in surprise, his nostrils quickly flaring up. Ten laughed even louder, leaning his head against Johnny's chest. Johnny's lips stretched upward into a small smile as he watched his friends, shaking his head in amusement.

“That's really unfair!” Doyoung said, his face red as he glared at Yuta. “Ten laughed too. You should throw those stupid french fries at him too, dummy.”

“But I want to throw them at your face. Not Ten's.”

Doyoung opened his mouth to say something but Yuta beat him to it.

“Besides, if I did throw them at Ten's face, Johnny would kick my ass. I don’t want to deal with him right now.”

Johnny smiled at Yuta. “What a wise decision, Yuta. I’m proud of you.”

“And because Yuta loves me the most!” Ten added, grinning like a kid. Yuta threw him a flying kiss and they both giggled at each other. Doyoung snorted, knowing perfectly that the two of them loved to gang up on him.

“Coward.”

Yuta leaned forward and pointed at Johnny, making a scared expression which made Johnny laugh.

“Do you see him? He's freaking huge and he knows how to fight. I’d be dead before I threw a punch on his face.”

“But you're also good at Judo, dumbass.” Doyoung deadpanned and Yuta made a surprised face as if he wasn't aware of the fact. It made the whole table burst into laughter. 

Mark and Donghyuck finally stopped before their table and quietly took the two vacant seats left. Their arrival instantly stopped the bickering. All of them turned their attention to the couple. Taeyong smiled at them and Donghyuck smiled back at him, feeling instantly relaxed. The smaller greeted the others timidly. Johnny and Jaehyun only nodded their heads at him. Doyoung greeted him back surprisingly warm meanwhile Ten smiled at him. Yuta wriggled his eyebrows playfully at them.

“Hi there, lovebirds,” he said. “How does it feels like to be with us, Donghyuck? Happy? Feel famous yet?”  

Donghyuck didn't even think twice when he answered the question.

“Absolutely not. It's actually tiring and suffocating. I don't know how you guys can put up with that.”

The whole table instantly went quiet. All of them blinked at Donghyuck, taken aback by his answer. They clearly didn't expect him to say that. The smaller pressed his lips together, his face flushed from the embarrassment. He shouldn't have said that.

“I'm sorry." he said after a loaded moment of silence, breaking the silence.  

Taeyong was the first one to react. He blinked twice before slowly allowing his lips to curve upwards into a smile.

“Don't be. You shouldn't apologize for being honest, Donghyuck-ah.”

As if they just woke up from a trance, they were back to acting normal again. Doyoung strangely looked proud when he looked at Donghyuck but he didn't say anything, continuing to dig into his plate silently. Jaehyun and Johnny gave him an approving nod and Donghyuck didn't how to react to that. He hesitantly smiled back at them. Ten winked at him and Donghyuck could feel a blush slowly creep up his cheeks.

Yuta leaned forward and gave Donghyuck his signature smirk—the one that made girls fell to their knees.

“You're so cute, Donghyuck.”

Donghyuck blinked at the compliment, puzzled and caught off guard, and then his face slowly turned red. Yuta reached out to touch Donghyuck's cheeks but Mark who sat right next to him quickly slapped his hand away.

“Don't touch him.” Mark warned him and his voice was a timbre lower than his usual tone. Yuta winced because it actually stung but then a playful smirk broke across his face as he looked at Mark.

“Getting territorial already, Mark?”

Donghyuck who didn't understand the meaning behind Yuta’s words could only blink at the latter, tilting his head a little to the side in confusion. Mark pinched the bridge of his nose, glaring at the older.

“Am not.”

This time, Ten joined Yuta to tease the younger.

“Seems like it.”

“Definitely.” Doyoung added as he casually munching his food while scrolling down on his Instagram feed.

Mark groaned and when he turned to Donghyuck and saw how clueless the smaller was, he felt the sudden urge to bang his head on the table, which was very out of character because Mark Lee was anything but dramatic. Seeing how frustrated the younger was, Taeyong decided to step in.

“Stop it. All of you.” he said and all of them quickly shut their mouths. “Especially you, Yuta. We're not done with the assignment yet.”

Yuta turned to Taeyong, whining like a kid. It was actually good that their table was far away from the others. That way people couldn't really hear them. Donghyuck thought all the students would be really surprised if they found out just how childish and normal they were.  

“Taeyongie, you know I can perfectly ace our next English quiz. It's nothing.”

Taeyong slammed the book down on the table, hard enough to make the trays and spoons clamber against the table. Yuta flinched back.

“Then why were you sleeping on the class?”

"Because it's boring! And I’ve already read all of Shakespeare’s works."

“Good then,” Jaehyun said, and it was just so natural for him to chide in to defend his boyfriend. “If you have read them before then I assume you don't have a problem getting an A on the next quiz, right?”

Yuta stared at Jaehyun incredulously meanwhile the rest of the Brat Pack laughed at him. All of them knew that Yuta never got an A in any subjects beside gym. They knew it wasn't because he was stupid. Yuta was anything but stupid. It’s just that he was too nonchalant with his grades and he was too lazy to work on his assignments. But now that they were on their last year, except Mark, they thought it would be good to push Yuta a little.

“I can get an A easily,” Yuta snorted. “I'm just not interested.”

Taeyong sighed. “We're going to college soon. You should study more.”

“Listen to what Taeyongie says. We just want the best for you.”

Yuta rolled his eyes at Jaehyun. “Yes, dad.”

The conversation flowed smoothly after that. Donghyuck, being the stranger there, could only listen quietly and unconsciously smiled at himself as Yuta continued to whine at Taeyong, begging him to close the book and let him eat in peace. Taeyong finally took a pity on him and let him exchange seats with Jaehyun who instantly brightened up. Yuta pumped his fist in the air, making an exasperated happy sound as if he could finally breathe fresh air. Jaehyun looked satisfied as he plopped down next to Taeyong, reaching out to wrap an arm around his slender waist. Ten and Johnny were talking in English now, discussing about their next date. Ten wanted to go to Disneyland this weekend but Johnny gently reminded him that they still have two upcoming tests so for now they couldn’t go anywhere. He looked disappointed but Johnny quickly leaned down to kiss his lips and his boyfriend instantly brightened up like a happy puppy. Doyoung who’d accidentally seen the PDA made a disgusted face but Ten only stuck his tongue out at him. He liked to rub salts on his friend’s wound and it made Doyoung even more pissed.

After finished his lunch, Donghyuck excused himself to the bathroom but Mark was quick to stop him.

“I'll go with you.”

Donghyuck stared at him incredulously. “Don't be ridiculous. I can go to the bathroom by myself.”

“It's not like that,” Mark tried to argue but words failed him. He didn't know why but the idea of Donghyuck wandering around the school alone didn't sit well with him. But before he could say anything else, Dongyuck cut him off.

“It'll be fine. The bathroom is next to the cafeteria. I won't take long.”

“Let him, Mark.” Johnny said and even though Mark was still adamant about it, he finally nodded and let Donghyuck go on his own. He stared at Donghyuck's back until the smaller disappeared into the crowd and vanished from his vision.

“God, Mark, you're being so obvious.”

Mark turned to Doyoung and frowned at him. “What do you mean?”

Doyoung opened his mouth to say something but Jaehyun was quick to beat him to it.

“He's still unaware of it, Doyoungie. Don't make my brother confused.”

Ten giggled as he stared at Mark who looked totally clueless. The way he looked at the younger made the latter felt as if he knew something Mark didn't. And it actually pissed Mark off when his friends talked as if he wasn't there with them.

“It's actually cute to see him like this.”

“Eventually he will realize it but it's still too early for that,” Taeyong added and the way he talked reminded Mark of his mother. He gave Mark a comforting smile and continued, “Just let him take his sweet time.”

“But he has a tendency to be dense like Jaehyun.”

Jaehyun who has been quietly listening turned to Yuta and narrowed his eyes at him.

“I'm not like that.”  

“It took you months before you finally admitted that you loved Taeyong. And if Yuta didn’t knock some sense into your thick skull you would probably still be pinning over him.”

Johnny shook his head in an exasperated way and Jaehyun lunged forward to grab him but Taeyong was quick to pull him back. He wrapped his arms around Jaehyun's neck, laughing at his boyfriend's red face. He was clearly embarrassed.

“Back then it was actually funny yet painful at the same to watch the two of them,” Doyoung added and his words made Jaehyun redden.

Ten giggled. “But in the end Jaehyunie finally manned up and proposed to our Taeyongie!”

The rest of the Brat Pack members continued to bicker but Mark started to fidget on his seat, constantly checking his wristwatch. He turned around to see the entrance and when there was no sight of Donghyuck, he couldn’t help but think of possibilities. He suddenly got a bad feeling about it.

He decided to wait and when ten minutes had passed and Donghyuck still hadn't comeback, Mark knew something wasn’t right.

“It's been ten minutes and he hasn't comeback yet.”  

Mark announced and the laughter instantly died down. The Brat Pack looked at each other and it was clear that they had the same thought. The whole table became tense.

Fuck.”

Mark quickly got up from his seat and left the table.

 


 

 

Mark tried to keep his expression composed as he walked out of the cafeteria. As soon as he was out, he took a left turn and speed walked to the men's bathroom. The hallway was empty and when he entered the bathroom, he instantly knew that something was wrong when he saw that the floor was flooded with water.

“Donghyuck!”  

Mark yelled his name and it didn't take long for a familiar voice to answer him.

“Mark?”

Mark's head snapped when he heard that. It was coming from the last stall in the corner. He quickly walked over there and when he stopped before the door, he just realized that it was locked from the outside. There was water flooding from inside and he let out a loud curse. Mark quickly unlocked the door and when he flung it open, his heart dropped when he found Donghyuck was crouching down on the floor and he was drenched from head to toe, his head leaning against the wall and both of his legs folded over his chest. He wrapped his arms around himself, his body slightly trembling. Mark fell on one knee before the smaller and his lips pressed into a tight line as he watched the smaller tremble. 

“Donghyuck,”

A sudden rage gripped Mark so hard he had to clench his teeth together, his jaw tensed as he kneeled before the smaller. He tentatively reached out and took both of his hands in his. When Donghyuck didn’t resist him, he gave his hands a gentle squeeze.

“Who did this to you?”

Donghyuck shook his head.

“I don't know.”

And it was the truth. He didn't know exactly who did this to him. He was inside the bathroom when suddenly someone poured water into the stall. Not once, but twice. And when he tried to open the door, it was already locked. Mark clearly looked unsatisfied with his answer but he didn't press further. He wordlessly helped the smaller get up, never once letting go of his hands.

“Whoever it was, they're going to pay for what they did to you.” Mark said and his voice dripped with venom. Donghyuck could feel his anger and out of instinct, he gripped back his hands. 

“Mark, you don't have to—“

Mark threw him a look, the one that made Donghyuck completely unable to finish his sentence so he instantly closed his mouth again. The message was clear; it wasn't his decision nor was he allowed to protest. Mark took his blazer off and carefully wrapped it around the smaller's body.

“Is this the first time they’ve treated you like this?”

Donghyuck pressed his lips together. It was nothing for him when people threw malicious remarks or looked down on him as if he was a scum. But this was the first time they had gotten physical with him and the smaller was taken aback with the actions. Mark stared at Donghyuck and his eyes hardened at the realization.

“It wasn't the first time, was it?” Mark concluded. His voice was flat yet Donghyuck felt a shiver start to run through his body as he looked at his eyes. They were cold, dark, and unforgiving.

“Mark, it was nothing.”

“This is bullying, Donghyuck. This isn't nothing. Doyoung hyung wouldn't like this.”

Donghyuck opened his mouth to say something but then there were loud gasps coming from the entrance, stopping him from talking. He and Mark turned around at the same time and found Taeyong and Doyoung already standing not too far away from them. Their eyes flickered from Donghyuck's current state to the wet floor and it wasn't hard to guess what had happened. The mood instantly dropped as Taeyong and Doyoung approached them. They looked clearly pissed, their lips twitched and their eyebrows furrowed.

“Donghyuck-ah, are you okay?” Taeyong asked worriedly. Donghyuck nodded.

“Yes. I'm okay.”

Taeyong pushed Donghyuck's wet bangs back, wiping his wet face with his hand and fussing over the smaller. Mark silently moved closer to Donghyuck until their shoulders touched.

“Hyung, you know what to do,” Mark said to Doyoung and he knew the message was clear for the older guy.

“I will give them the taste of their own medicine,” Doyoung said. He glanced at Donghyuck, taking in the sight of him once again before turning to Mark again. “You take care of Donghyuck.”

Mark nodded without saying anything else. Doyoung quickly left the bathroom to take care of the matter.

“Donghyuck, you need to change your uniform or you'll catch a cold. Mark, take him to the basement. You guys are free until the last lessons. I'll talk to the teacher about your absence.”

“Taeyong hyung, you don't have to go that far. I'm perfectly okay.”

Taeyong just gave him a look and didn't answer him. Donghyuck instantly snapped his mouth shut. He totally forgot that when it came to Lee Taeyong, you did not deny his requests. And that meant he didn't have any other choice but to comply.

“I'm going now, Mark. I’ll inform the boys about this. Take care of him, okay?”

“Yes, hyung.”

Taeyong turned to Donghyuck and reached out to pat his head gently before leaving the two of them. When it was just the two of them, Mark reached out to take one Donghyuck's hand but the smaller took a step back. He frowned at him.

“What are you trying to do?”

“Isn't that obvious?” Mark deadpanned. “I was trying to hold your hand.”

“I can walk by myself. We don't have to hold hands.”

Mark pinched the bridge of his nose, annoyed.

“Midget, this isn't the right time to be difficult. Just let me hold your hand and take you to the basement. You are my boyfriend and I just want to take care of my boyfriend.”

Fake,” Donghyuck quickly corrected him. “Fake boyfriend.”

And then he let out a sneeze. His nose turned red. Mark’s lips twitched and his frown deepened.

“Then shut up and let your fake boyfriend take care of you.”

Donghyuck tried not to cringe when he heard that but it was almost impossible to deny Mark Lee, not when he used that commanding tone again. He also still wasn't used to the term. Mark tried to reach out again and this time, Donghyuck let him take his hand in his and the latter led him walked out of the bathroom. There were students in the hallway and they stopped walking when they saw them. Mark pulled Donghyuck closer against him, tightening his hold. He swept his eyes around and glared at whoever looked at Donghyuck a little bit longer than necessary. They immediately cowered and tore their gazes away, taking a few steps back from them.

Donghyuck and Mark walked in silence but Mark kept himself close to the smaller. Even when they took a right turn and walked into an empty halfway, he still didn't let go of Donghyuck's hand. Donghyuck still had no idea what was at the basement or where it was but he just quietly followed Mark. Completely unaware of the pair of eyes that silently watching them from afar.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Donghyuck wasn't so sure where Mark was going to take him. As far as he knew, the only space at the basement was for the parking lot. They walked in silence for a few minutes before they finally stopped in front of the wooden door. Mark took out a key from the pocket of his pants and unlocked the door. Without letting go of Donghyuck's hand, he gently pulled the smaller inside. There was a staircase that led to the ground floor. Mark walked ahead of him and Donghyuck silently followed behind him.

As soon as they stepped off the staircase, Donghyuck's jaw instantly fell open as he took in the sight before him. They were inside the room that was bigger and more spacious than he originally thought. The design was clean rustic with wooden floors. The walls were a mixture of stucco, stone, brick, and wood with narrow ceiling. It looked more like a game room with jerseys, hats, and other merchandise hanging on the wall. There was a large space in the middle of the room for active games such as billiards, playing cards, table soccer, dart boards and arcade games. There were also several games consoles neatly organized near the video output device. At the other side of the room, there was a sectional leather sofa in front of LED television. On the corner of the room was a mini bar stocked with various types of wine, soft drinks, beer, and snacks.

“I'll run a warm bath for you and give you new clothes.” Mark said, pulling Donghyuck back into the reality. He turned to the latter who was already staring at him.

“Is this like a secret room for the Brat Pack?”

Mark let out a chuckle. “Not exactly like that. But yes, it's our room.”

“Are you even allowed to build a room like this here? It's the school's property.”

“Taeyongie hyung doesn't mind,” Mark said with an easy shrug, walking over to the corner of the room where the mini bar was located. Donghyuck followed close behind him. “Besides, it's good to have private space where we can spend some times together and free from those annoying people.”

Donghyuck was silently trying to process what Mark had said. When the words finally sunk in, he let out a surprise gasp.

“SM High School is Taeyong hyung’s?”

Mark looked at Donghyuck and his face told the smaller that he should’ve known about it because it was obviously a common secret. But how was Donghyuck supposed to know it when he’d only been here for a few days? There were still a lot of things he didn’t know about this school, his friends, and the Brat Pack. And it was still a big shock for him every time he discovered something new.

“Technically, it belongs to Lee family but he has the privilege to make some changes.”

Donghyuck tried to take the information in slowly. Beside the way Taeyong acted so kind and polite around the school, now it made sense why all of the students seemed to respect him. He basically owned the school. It made Donghyuck realize that apart from their personalities, he still didn't know much about the Brat Pack personal life. Not that he wanted to know. It was just that there were still so much more of them.

The bathroom was located next to the mini bar. Mark pushed him inside and he wordlessly filled the bathtub with hot water and poured in some bubble bath in. He walked to the cabinet and took out the toiletries he needed. He then set a shampoo and towel next to the tub. Donghyuck opened his mouth to say something but didn’t get the chance to because Mark had already bolted out the room, leaving the smaller to stand awkwardly in the middle of the bathroom. When Mark entered the bathroom again, he brought neatly folded clothes and put it next to the towel.

“All done,” Mark said as he stood before Donghyuck. “Those are my clothes, by the way. I don't know if it's going to fit you or not but that's all I have here.”

Donghyuck swallowed thickly. It felt so strange having someone, other than Kun, to take care of him. He was so used of taking of care someone else, doing everything by himself, never once depending on someone, and putting others before himself. Having Mark take care of him was a little bit overwhelming for Donghyuck. The latter shouldn’t have to go that far considering their pretend relationship. He shouldn’t have acted as if what people did to the smaller affected him but he did and Donghyuck didn’t quite know how to react to that.

“I'll wait outside. Just call me if you need anything.”

Donghyuck nodded. He held Mark's gaze as he whispered, “Thank you.”

Mark's lips stretched into a small smile and Donghyuck immediately noticed that it was the kind of smile he showed when he was around people he was comfortable with, especially the Brat Pack. And he also saw that smile when he was with Chenle. It was real, soft, and sincere. Mark reached out to brush a few strands off Donghyuck's eyes before he wordlessly left the bathroom again, leaving a very dazed Donghyuck in the middle of the room.

 


 

Mark looked up from his phone when he heard the door being unlocked. Donghyuck emerged from the bathroom, walking timidly toward Mark. The oversized sweater he was wearing hung loosely over his shoulders and fell to his knees and the sweater paws hiding his hands. The training pants were a little bigger on him and Mark just realized how thin the smaller was. He’d always know that Donghyuck was small but he’d never realized just how tiny he was. It made his lips pursed slightly. Chenle was right about Donghyuck needing to eat more.

Mark patted the spot next to him, silently motioning him to sit down. Donghyuck carefully settled next to him but left enough space between them.

“I ordered some food when you were taking a bath. Eat first and then take a rest.”

Donghyuck looked over the table and he was surprised to find a table full of food. He didn't realized them before, too preoccupied with his own thoughts. There was a big bowl of Samgyetang, rice, and a glass of hot citron tea. There were also three boxes of pizzas, yangyeom chickens, and a big bottle of cola.

“It's for the boys,” Mark said, gesturing to the fast food on the table. “They're going to be here after their last lesson ends.”

Donghyuck nodded. “Okay.”

“Now eat, midget.”

Donghyuck hesitantly reached out for the spoon and started to eat. He tried not to make loud noises, too afraid to break the pregnant silence in the room. He could feel Mark's intense gaze at the side of his face and tried not to fidget on his seat. Mark didn't do anything and just silently watched him eat, which made everything more overwhelming. It made Donghyuck realize that despite being intimate with him just a few moments ago, it wasn't the same when it was just the two of them.

Donghyuck decided to ignore him and continued eating. The samgyetang made his body feel so much better now. He almost finished his soup when he realized that Mark was still staring at him—the smaller didn't even want to know how and what made him able to hold his gaze for that long—and it made Donghyuck grow irate. He finally had enough.

“Don't you have anything better to do than stare at my face?” he blurted out, not even trying to hide his annoyance. He frowned and continued, “It's making me uncomfortable.”

“I can stare at whatever or whoever I want.”

“Yeah, but not my face.”

“Finish your food, midget,” Mark said in his usual commanding tone and it annoyed the smaller even more. But Donghyuck decided not to throw another remark and finished his soup as he was told. Once the bowl was empty, Mark looked utterly satisfied and carefully pushed the citron tea to his hand.

“Drink this and go to sleep afterward.”

“Sleep?” Donghyuck asked, confused. “Why should I sleep?”

Mark looked at him dumbly. “Because you need it?”

Donghyuck shook his head and put the glass down the table.

“No, I don’t,” he said. “I have to go home as soon as the school ends to pick up Chenle. And I still have to go to work after that.”

Mark frowned, his lips pursed slightly. “I’ll drive you to Chenle’s kindergarten and then drive you both home. And no, you’re not going to work today.”

Donghyuck stared at him incredulously. His frown deepened. He sat up straight, folding his chest over his arms.

“And who are you to give me order like that? You have no rights to interfere my private life!”

“But you’re sick!”

“No, I’m not!”

“Yes, you are!”

Mark and Donghyuck held each other’s gaze, chest heaving and lips pressed into a tight line. Donghyuck was astonished. He didn’t understand why Mark was so concerned over small thing like this. Was he supposed to care for Donghyuck when clearly there was nothing between them but a fake relationship? For all Donghyuck knew, Mark had crossed the line and he would not let him off easily.

The silence stretched for a few heartbeats and when Mark spoke again, he sounded mad.

“You’re sick,” he said through gritted teeth. “And you’re not going to work.”

“You’re ridiculous.” Donghyuck snapped, gritting his teeth together. “I’m out of here.”

Donghyuck made an attempt to get up but Mark caught both of his wrists and pulled him down, hard. His eyes hardened as he stared at the smaller.

“No,” he said, his voice firm and full of command. “You stay here.”

Donghyuck was at a loss for words. He glared at him. “You—“

“What is going on over here?”

Donghyuck and Mark turned around almost at the same time and found Doyoung, Taeyong, and Yuta entering the room. Judging from their expressions, they must have heard them fighting. Donghyuck quickly looked away and jerked his hand away from Mark’s grip. This time, Mark let him.

“What’s going on here?” Taeyong repeated his question, looking back and forth at the two. Donghyuck was still too upset to answer. He scooted away, making the space between them even wider. Mark who sat next to him looked equally annoyed and it made the Brat Pack even more confused.

“Donghyuck is being stubborn,” Mark finally said after a moment of tense silence.

“No, I wasn't!” Donghyuck was abruptly in a rage, turning to Mark again to shout the words at his face. “You're being completely ridiculous right now!”

Before Mark could say something in return, Taeyong was fast to stop them.

“Enough, boys,” he interrupted in a firm tone, making them instantly closed their mouths. His eyes narrowed and his nose scrunched up a little. Behind him, Yuta and Doyoung waited for their answers as well.

“I'm not going to ask again,” Taeyong said. “Explain.

Mark and Donghyuck looked at each other again, their eyes hardened. Mark raised one eyebrow at the smaller as if challenging him and he wasn't surprised when the smaller glared back at him in return, lifting his chin up and crossed his arms over his chest.

Mark let out a hiss. “He's sick but he's still insisting to go to work.”

“I'm not sick,” Donghyuck retorted, his nostrils flaring up. “You're being very unreasonable right now and do not talk to me with that kind of tone, Mark Lee.”

Mark's face turned red and he looked more pissed right now. He opened his mouth to say something but this time, it was Yuta who interrupted him.

“Oh my god,” he let out a cackle, making the couple turned to him in confusion. “This is so funny.”

“No, it isn't!”

Mark and Donghyuck answered at the same time, faces flushed after they realized that they were in sync, which made Yuta look even more elated than before. They glanced at each other and then quickly looked away. They looked like kids who were throwing tantrum to their parents and it was amusing to see. Taeyong let out a sigh meanwhile Doyoung just snorted at them. Yuta was the one who looked strangely amused with the situation.

“Listen, lovebirds,” Yuta said, walking a few steps ahead so he could see them better. “This is actually very simple.”

“Why can't you just tell him that you're worried, Mark?” Doyoung added in an even tone, his face was flat as if what he just said wasn’t a big deal at all. That both Mark and Donghyuck should’ve known it because it was obvious.

But of course Mark and Donghyuck did not think the same. As soon as the words left Doyoung’s lips, Mark blanched. His jaw fell open as he stared at his friends. The look on his face was something they didn’t see every day and it made Doyoung and Yuta burst out laughing. Taeyong was the only one who displayed a normal expression because he was considerate of Mark who looked embarrassed—something that rarely happened. Meanwhile Donghyuck’s face was blank. He tilted his head a little and he looked utterly confused.

“W-what—“ Mark stuttered, making Yuta’s laugh grow in volume. He pressed his lips together, frowning. And then he continued, “Don’t be ridiculous, Yuta hyung.”

“There’s no point of denying it when your face already gave it away.”

Mark glared at Yuta who clearly obviously enjoyed the situation.

“I said I’m not.”

“Whatever, Mark,” Doyoung made a dismissal gesture with his hand and took a seat across him. Yuta and Taeyong did the same. “I’m here to inform you about the bullies.”

Mark’s shoulders instantly stiffened at the mention of the bullies. He glanced at Donghyuck who was still stayed quiet before turning in Doyoung's direction again, his expression was back to serious.

“They’re Donghyuck’s classmates,” Doyoung started. “There are four of them. Koeun and her friends. Do you know them, Donghyuck?”

All the attention was instantly on him and Donghyuck was a little flustered at that. But he managed to nod at them.

“Yes, I do,” that was all he said. It only had been a few days and even though Donghyuck still couldn’t remember all of his classmates’ names, he could easily remember Koeun and her friends. They were the ones who cornered him on his first day and honestly he wasn’t really surprised that it was them.

Yuta and Doyoung raised one eyebrow at Donghyuck, expecting him to say something more because they knew there was more than that. But Donghyuck didn’t really want to say anything about them. He thought it was very unnecessary for Mark and others to know that the reason as to why Koeun and her friends didn’t like him was because of Mark. It was still ridiculous to him how they could assume that there was a thing going on between him and the leader of the Brat Pack when they were barely knew each other. Even though right now, in public eyes, he was Mark’s—fake— boyfriend, still he didn’t like to talk about it.

Mark seemed more annoyed than before now meanwhile Taeyong had a frown on his face, his lips pursed slightly.

“Were those girls were the ones I saw the other day?” Taeyong asked after a moment of silence, and the question was clearly for Donghyuck.

“What? What happened the other day?” Mark demanded as he turned to Donghyuck. The smaller let out a sigh and nodded again at Taeyong, not even sparing Mark a glance.  

“Yes,” he said, and that was all. He didn’t say more. His short answers only made Mark grow impatient.

“I need more details on that,” Mark pressed. “What happened the other day?”

Donghyuck turned to Mark and glared at him, startling the latter a little even though he didn’t show it on his face. Before he could open mouth to say something, Taeyong beat him to it, knowing that they would end up fighting again if he didn’t stop them first.

“They disturbed Donghyuck and I was just so happened to walk by and see it,” Taeyong explained, and Mark’s frown deepened because he didn’t like what he just heard and the latter added, “I told them to leave him alone.”

“Don’t worry, Mark,” Doyoung quickly added after noticed the sinking mood. “They have detention for the next three weeks.”

Mark opened his mouth again because he needed to deny Doyoung’s accusation. He wasn’t worried. Not a tiny bit. Not at all. But this time Yuta was quick to stop him.

“Like Doyoung said,” Yuta chimed in. “You don’t have to worry about Donghyuck’s safety because he will take care of it. You know they are afraid of this feisty bunny.”

Doyoung turned to Yuta and kicked his shin, hard, making the latter yelp in pain as he clutched the bruised skin.

“Don’t call me bunny, you doofus.”

Yuta hissed, kicking his shin back two times harder, making the blonde haired cry out.

“But you very much indeed look like a bunny! A feisty one!”

Doyoung’s face flushed as he gave the latter a death glare.

“You little shit—“   

Doyoung and Yuta started to bicker again and the thick atmosphere was slowly melted as their voices got louder with more playful remarks and slapping skin. Donghyuck couldn’t help the small chuckle that escaped his lips as he watched Doyoung abuse Yuta meanwhile Taeyong just smiled and shook his head at his friends.

A few moments later, when the bell finally rang, Donghyuck made an attempt to get up from the seat. Mark saw that and he quickly reached out to hold his wrist.

“Where are you going?”

Donghyuck was taken aback by the sudden movement but he quickly jerked his hand off.

“I told you I'm leaving,” Donghyuck said through gritted teeth.

“And I told you not to because you're still sick.”

Donghyuck was on the verge of exploding but Mark seemed to be oblivious of it. Taeyong and Doyoung knew this wouldn't end well if they continued arguing and decide to step in.

“Mark,” Taeyong gently interrupted. “If Donghyuck deems himself healthy enough to go to work, then you shouldn't prevent him from going.”

“Taeyongie's right,” Doyoung added. “Let him do whatever he wants.”

Mark blanched, not expecting his friends to be on Donghyuck's side. From his peripheral vision, he also saw Yuta nodding in agreement meanwhile Donghyuck raised one of his eyebrow at him as if he was challenging him to say something more. Being obviously outnumbered, Mark shut his mouth tightly. His frown was back on his face and his lips twitched.

“Thank you,” Donghyuck said, looking at the Brat Pack members with a grateful smile. He was really thankful they could see his point of view. “I should go now. My brother’s waiting.”

Taeyong smiled back at him meanwhile Doyoung and Yuta just nodded. They told Donghyuck to arrange another meeting with Chenle which the smaller obliged because he knew his brother was already attached to the Brat Pack, especially Taeyong and Jaehyun who babied him the most. Donghyuck quickly got up and collected his stuff. When he was walked halfway to the entrance, Mark bolted up out of his seat and ran after him. But he slowed his steps when he was behind Donghyuck and walked beside him. The smaller just ignored him and continued walking.

Once they were gone, Yuta couldn’t help the loud laugh that escaped his lips, muttering just how painfully dense Mark was. Taeyong finally let out a giggle meanwhile Doyoung just shook his head in amusement.   

 


 

Donghyuck still refused to talk to Mark even after they slid inside the car and drove to Chenle's kindergarten. He looked out of the windows, lips pressed into a thin line, arms crossed over his chest, and sat still. Mark constantly stole glances to the smaller. Part of him still pissed with him but the other was displeased being ignored by the smaller. The silence between them hung thick in the air and it became unbearable after a whole five minutes. Mark decided to turn on the music in a small volume, loud enough to fill the silence. Before they reached the kindergarten, Mark took a left turn and stopped by the supermarket nearby. Donghyuck turned to him, eyebrows furrowed. But he didn't say anything, silently demanding Mark for an explanation.

“I want to buy Chenle candies.”

“He can’t eat too much candies,” Donghyuck said, voice even. “t's not good for his teeth.”

Mark jutted out his lips. “Then I'll buy him fruits and ice cream.”

Knowing that it wasn't a good idea to confront the smaller more than this, Mark quickly got out of the car and before the smaller could open the door, he beat him first. Donghyuck wasn’t happy about it.

“I can open the door by myself.”

“I know,” Mark said calmly. “But I want to.”

Without saying a single word, Donghyuck walked ahead first and Mark quickly followed and matched their steps. Mark took the trolley and made a way to the fruits aisle.

“What fruits does Chenle like?”

Donghyuck wordlessly took grapes, apples, and kiwis and put it inside the trolley. Now instead of feeling pissed, Mark felt more dejected because Donghyuck still gave him the cold shoulder.

“Are you seriously not talking to me right now?”

Donghyuck ignored him and walked over to the giant fridge, taking a small tub of chocolate ice cream but before he could put it in the trolley, Mark snatched it and put it back. He took the biggest tub instead and another two bottles of milk. Donghyuck frowned but didn't say a single word. Not being able to hold himself any longer, Mark grabbed Donghyuck's wrist and pulled him closer to him. The sudden movement made the smaller yelp. Before he could throw a remark, Mark maneuvered him to stand before the giant fridge and stood next to him.

“Pick, midget.”

Donghyuck turned his head and glared at Mark.

“What are you trying to do, Mark Lee?”

“I said pick,” Mark said, more insestent than before. “Take whatever you like.”

Donghyuck stared at Mark for a few heartbeats, face slowly morphed into disbelief. He let out a deep sigh and even though his frowns had disappeared from his face, the look on his face still didn't ease Mark's uneasiness.

“Is this your way of apologizing? By bribing me with ice cream?”

Mark's face instantly flushed. “I'm not apologizing!”

“Okay, then. I'll go now.”

“No, wait!”

Mark quickly blocked the smaller's way and stood before him, eyebrows furrowed and lips jutted out even more. Donghyuck lifted one of his eyebrows and Mark always felt like he had done something terrible every time the smaller gave him that look.

“I—“ Mark opened his mouth to say something but he was struggled with the words. It reminded him of his first talk with Donghyuck in his study room. The smaller was in change right now. Mark still thought that his points were valid. From his point of view, Donghyuck needed rest after what happened and it wasn't his fault that he was stubborn. But he knew going on with his arguments would getting him nowhere.

“Fine,” Mark finally said after a moment silence. He swallowed loudly. “Sorry.”

Donghyuck snorted. “Sorry for what?”

Mark pressed his lips together. He wasn't going to apologize for wanting what he thought was the best for the smaller. Again, it wasn't his fault that Donghyuck couldn't understand his point.

“You wanted me to apologize and I did. So now you don't have a reason to ignore me again.”

Donghyuck pinched the bridge of his nose and exhaled deeply. “So you're not going to apologize for what you did to me?”

“What was so wrong of wanting you to just stay at home and take a rest?” Mark finally snapped, getting annoyance once more. “I told you I would talk to your boss and he will give you a day off.”

“You see?” Donghyuck snapped back, hissing under his breathe. He tried not to raise his voice because he didn't want to get unwanted attention. “Of course my boss will give me a day off because you will use your power. You think you can do anything but guess what? Real world doesn't work that way, Mark Lee.”

Donghyuck didn’t wait for Mark’s response and quickly walked past him. The words felt like a fresh slap on Mark’s face. He froze on where he was standing, his mind stuck. It took him a while to regain his senses and when he blinked back to reality, he immediately ran after the smaller.

“Donghyuck, wait!”

Mark didn’t try to touch Donghyuck because he knew the smaller was still pissed at him so he stopped right in front of him. Donghyuck’s steps abruptly came to a halt, almost bumping into Mark but managed to stop in time.

“What exactly do you want me to do?” Mark demanded, he sounded clearly frustrated now. Donghyuck intended to ignore him but as he stared at his face, it was annoying how clueless he truly was.

“If you want me to talk to you again and carry on with this whole fake dating, I have some conditions for you to follow.” he stated calmly and was surprised to see Mark nodded his head right away, listening intensely.

“First, I don’t want you to butt in my personal life like what you did earlier. You don’t tell me what to do. You are rich and you can do whatever you want because you have money but some people don’t have that kind of privilege. I have to work to support myself and Chenle.”

Mark was completely stunned to hear that. He took a step back as if someone just splashed cold water to his face, eyes wide and mouth slightly opened. He did not mean like that and he totally forgot that it was only Donghyuck and Chenle. They didn’t have parents. How could he forget it? Ashamed of being insensitive, unthinkingly, Mark reached out to take one of Donghyuck’s hands and caressed his wrist gently in comforted manner. Donghyuck, too shocked to move by the sudden affection, could only stare at him.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” Mark said in a low voice, and he sounded genuinely apologetic. “I’m sorry for being insensitive. Do you have another condition?”

Stunned and dazed by the sincere apology and the gentle affection, Donghyuck lowered his gaze because suddenly the way Mark looked at him was just too much. He could feel a blush begin to color his cheek and he was so embarrassed with how he reacted. He quickly jerked his hand off again and missed the dejected look on Mark’s face.

“For now, just that.” he mumbled, turning around to continue walking. Mark let out a sigh of relief, knowing that the smaller was back to his normal self again.

“So, what else do we have to buy?”

Mark ended up buying a lot of snacks and drinks even though Donghyuck told him he didn’t have to buy that much for them. Mark just shook his head. He just wanted to spoil Chenle because he knew the kid would love it.

After putting two big plastic bags on the backseat, they drove to Chenle’s kindergarten again in silence. But this time it was different. It wasn’t suffocating like before and Donghyuck actually hummed to Billie Jean that was playing on the stereo under while looking out of the windows. Mark strangely felt at ease and couldn’t stop a small smile from appearing on his face.

They arrived at the kindergarten just in time when the kids scattered out of the classrooms and ran outside. Ignoring glances from other parents—the car still attracted their attention, that’s why—Donghyuck and Mark waited in front of the gate, searching for Chenle. When Donghyuck finally found his brother, he lifted his hand in the air to wave at him.

“Lele! Over here!”

Chenle caught the sight of him almost immediately and waved back enthusiastically. Donghyuck just realized he was with Jisung when his brother pulled the other kid with him. But then, he heard a sharp intake of breath and when Donghyuck turned to Mark, he was confused to see his face. Mark’s face turned pale, his eyes widened, his jaw fell open, and he stood there like a rock as if something just punched him in the gut.

Jisungie?”  

Chapter Text


 

Mark Lee was born with a silver spoon in his mouth but he hadn't had an ideal childhood. The lack of his father’s presence took a big part of it. He didn’t really know his father. All he knew that he was a very hard working, ambitious, and stubborn man. He never stopped until he was at the top. He wasn't a family man. Mark barely saw him, much less talking to him. His father wasn't an affectionate man either. He only talked to Mark about business. He never looked at his face and touched him in a fatherly way. A pat on his shoulder or a simple nod was the only acknowledgment Mark had ever got when he achieved something. But even that felt cold, distant, and formal. Mark had learned from a very young age that his father wouldn't be there for him and he had accepted the fact that he would never have a father figure in his life.

His mother was the opposite. She was very warm, gentle, and loving. Mark loved her more than everything. She was the one who was always there for him. She raised him when his father was too busy to even care about his family. She was the only reason Mark didn't feel suffocated in the big mansion that never felt like home. But she was also fragile and wanted to be loved. She eventually grew tired waiting for her husband and decided to leave.

Mark was only seven when his parents got divorced. He watched his father easily let her go without a fight. He didn’t try to stop her. He wasn't even home when his wife packed his things and walked out of the mansion. Out of their life. Mark had cried and asked her mother to take him with her. He didn't want money. He didn't want luxury. He only wanted his mother and her love. He wanted home. And she was his home. She was the only thing Mark treasured in his life and he didn't want to lose her. But in the end, his mother left without him because his father was selfish and greedy. He never bothered to play his role as a father for Mark but he didn't want to let him go either. He caged him in the mansion and made sure he couldn't leave. He was his only son. His heir. His father had a reputation and image to keep. Mark was like the figure for him to show and brag to others.

It only took his father a year to get married again. He married a woman who shared the same vision as him. Their marriage was completely business and nothing more. Mark never forgave his father for making his mother left. He didn't care about his second wife. He refused to call her his mother. But he was thankful and grateful for Jaehyun. They had gone through the same thing. Jaehyun's mother was the female version of Mark's father, only more strict and merciless. Her husband, Jaehyun's father, passed away because of an illness. She took over her husband's business and agreed to marry Mark's father to expand her connection.

Mark and Jaehyun grew up depending on each other. They only had each other. Jaehyun wasn't only Mark's brother, but he also took the father figure Mark never had ever since he was still a kid. Jaehyun took care of him, taught him things, and gave him the love and affection he craved. Mark respected him. He trusted him with his own life. He loved him and treasured him even though he never said that out loud.

When Jaehyun graduated from middle school, Mark didn't know what kind of deal he made with his father and her mother to let him out of the house. Jaehyun only told him that they would move out and live alone now, which sounded so much as freedom. Mark didn't question him further but he was thankful because he finally could get out of the mansion and breathe fresh air. It was something he’d always wanted and he was determined to make the most out of it.

Only after Mark lived away from his father that he began to search for his mother. It was impossible to do it before because his father's eyes were everywhere. He was being watched 24/7. But he wasn’t alone. Jaehyun helped him found his mother.   

Mark was fifteen when he met his mother again. She was still as beautiful, warm, and gentle as he remembered. And now she was married. Her husband was a bank accountant who worked for a non-profit enterprise. Her surname was now Park. She led a simple yet happy life with her husband and her son, Park Jisung. Their first encounter after eight years was emotional, to say the least. Her mother clearly didn't expect Mark to show up at her front door, all grown up and looking like a fine young man. She welcomed him into his arms with the same amount of love she always had for him. Her mother didn't change at all. Her touch was still soft and tender. Her eyes were kind. Her smile was one of the most beautiful things Mark had ever seen. And she still smelled so much like home.

Jisung was only three when Mark first met him. He was a shy and quiet kid. He always hid behind his mother's leg whenever Mark and Jaehyun visited and it took a while for him to finally open up to them. In no time, they got close. It was so easy for Mark to love Jisung. He was his little brother he'd never had and from that moment, he was part of his life.  

Mark tried to stay discreet but it didn't take long for his father and his stepmother to find out about his mother and Jisung. They didn't like what they found and his stepmother used his power to kick his mother out of the country. The pain and sorrow he felt when he learned that he’d lost his mother and also his new little brother for the second time was just unbearable. Mark hated them for what they did but he couldn't do anything because his stepmother threatened to make his mother's life miserable if he didn't listen to her. He was helpless and powerless at that time. There was nothing he could do and Mark felt useless for not being able to protect them. In the end, Mark agreed to the deal after his stepmother promised to leave his mother and Jisung alone as long as Mark wasn’t associated with them.

Mark knew that his mother and brother moved into Japan but he couldn't even meet or call them because he knew that his father and his stepmother would know. Ironically, the only thing he could do to keep them safe was to keep his distance from them. He missed them from time to time but he was content knowing that she and Jisung were okay. As long as they were safe and okay, then it was enough for him.

Mark had no idea that they were back to Seoul and he almost couldn't believe his eyes when he saw Jisung with Chenle. He thought he was dreaming because there was no way Jisung was here.

“Minhyungie hyung!”

But he was there. It was Jisung. He was running toward him, his black bowl hair bouncing, his face lighted up and he had the biggest smile on his face. As if he'd just woken up from a trance, Mark finally moved forward to catch his brother into his arms. He hauled him up and spun him around, earning a happy giggle from the kid. Jisung wrapped his arms around Mark's neck, nuzzling his throat. Mark held him close, dropping small kisses on top of his head.

“God, I missed you so much, baby,” he said and his throat closed with emotions. If Jisung was here, that meant his mother was also here, too. “It's been a while.”

Jisung lifted his face and smiled, all teeth and gums. “I missed you too, hyung!”

Mark ruffled his head gently, chuckling. “You've grown a few inches taller than the last time I saw you. That's very impressive.”

“I want to grow tall like Jaehyunie hyung and Johnny hyung!”

Jisung knew about the Brat Pack. He met them several times before. The Brat Pack loved him. They doted on him and spoiled him rotten. Other than Mark and Jaehyun, the one who babied him the most was Taeyong, obviously. The latter even had a regular phone call with Jisung. When his mother and Jisung disappeared, Mark and Jaehyun weren’t the ones who were affected by it. All of them were sad but Taeyong was devastated. Jisung was like a younger brother he'd never had but always wanted. To be separated with Jisung hurt him.

Now that Jisung was back, Mark needed to tell his brother and friends later. They would be happy to know it, especially Taeyong who secretly looked after him and his mother, too. 

“You will, baby,” he said gently. “In no time, you'll grow even taller than them.”

Mark looked down when there was a light tug on his pant and he found Chenle looking up at him with a confused expression written all over his face. He gently settled Jisung down and knelt before the kids.

“Yes, Lele?”

Chenle looked at Jisung and then he turned to Mark again. His head tilted to the side a little and his eyebrows furrowed. His expression was serious, which should’ve been funny but Chenle was a smart kid. He made that kind of expression when he was thinking so hard.  

“You’re  Jisungie's hyung?”

Mark looked confused as to how Chenle knew about it but he nodded.

“Yes, I am. Jisung is my little brother.”

“Jisung told me he has a hyung named Minhyung,” he said. “But your name is Mark.”

Mark chuckled. Ah, so that was what made him curious.

“That's my real name given by my mother,” he replied, reaching out to ruffle Chenle’s hair gently. “Only my mother and Jisungie call me that.”

Chenle was quiet for a moment, trying to process the new information. After a while, his face instantly brightened and he clapped happily.

“If Mark hyung is Jisungie's hyung, then that means hyung will always be with him, right?” Chenle said, staring at Mark with his big innocent eyes. “It means Jisungie isn't going to be alone anymore.”

Mark stared at Chenle and then at Jisung who ducked his head down. The question sounded innocent and harmless but his heart ached painfully at the sight of his baby brother looking so vulnerable like that. It wasn't without reasons why Mark, Jaehyun, and the rest of the Brat Pack were so protective of Jisung. He was a shy, timid, and quiet kid. He’d been bullied because of his personalities before. He didn't interact a lot with kids his age and always preferred to play alone or with his brothers. He just didn't know how to approach people first and he was afraid of rejection. Mark always worried about him, especially now that he'd started going to public school. But now, knowing that Chenle was actually Jisung's friend, it instantly put Mark at ease. He knew Chenle would bring good impacts on his brother.  

“I'm not going anywhere,” Mark said after a few heartbeats of silence. “From now on, Jisungie and I will always be together, right, baby?”

Jisung looked up at Mark, his eyes glimmered with hope. The look on his face reminded Mark that his brother was completely clueless about what actually happened. If his father and his stepmother knew about this, they would do anything to take them away from his life again. This time, Mark was determined not to let the same thing happened again. He was old enough to protect them. He had Jaehyun and the rest of his friends. Those who were always behind his back.

“Really? Promise?”

Mark nodded firmly. “Promise, baby.”

There was a throat-clearing sound that got Mark's attention. He looked up and found Donghyuck was already looking back at him. His face didn’t give away his emotions but Mark knew that he was confused as well. He almost forgot that the smaller was still there. Judging from his expression, it was clear that he had a lot of questions to ask yet he was attentive enough not to pry him. Mark would like to explain everything to him because he thought it was only fair if he shared about Jisung with him considering their current relationship. Plus he and Chenle already knew Jisung. But for now, Mark needed to meet his mother first.

“Jisungie,” Mark turned to his brother again. “When will mom come?”

Jisung's expression instantly fell and it made Mark's stomach dropped. It wasn’t a good sign. He had a feeling that something wasn't right.

 


 

If Jisung and Chenle weren't there, Mark would definitely fly into a rage. He was having a hard time trying to process Jisung's story. His brother told him that he and his family moved back to Seoul a few months ago. His mother wanted Jisung to start school in here because it was home, the place they were familiar with. Jisung told him that his father was jobless for almost a month after they arrived here hence he had to go back to his hometown to look for another available job. After his father went back to his hometown, he had to stay there and came back to Seoul every once in two weeks. His mother also started working to support their financial. And because of that, she was often late to pick Jisung up. In other circumstances when she couldn’t pick Jisung up from school like today, she would ask a teacher to take him home.

Mark knew that his mother-in-law must have to do something with Jisung's father blacklist. She must have known that her mother had come back here. And of course, she had to make everything hard for her. It was so easy to guess. So predictable. Typical his stepmother, really.

Grinding his teeth together, Mark would have exploded in anger if it wasn't for Donghyuck who noticed his demeanor and quickly approached him.

“Mark,” Donghyuck was on his side in an instant, settling one hand over his shoulder. His grip was a warning yet at the same time to keep him grounded. “Should we take the kids home?”

Mark exhaled sharply through his nose. “I need to call Jaehyun hyung right now.”

“Okay,” he said, his voice was so soft and comforting. It gave Mark enough strength to control his ragged breathing. “The kids and I will wait in the park over there.”

Mark could tell that Donghyuck was still confused and still couldn't comprehend the whole situation. But he was glad that the smaller was good at reading the tension around him and gave the latter some space to think.

Mark watched as Donghyuck led Chenle and Jisung to the park and played with them under the monkey bar. While keeping his eyes on them, Mark took out his phone and called Jaehyun's number. It didn't take long for his brother to answer his call and Mark went straight to the point. He only needed to say Jisung's name for his brother to understand the situation.

Ten minutes later, Jaehyun arrived at the kindergarten with an over-excited and over-joyed Taeyong running after Jisung.

“Jisungie!”

Jisung looked up when his name was being called and his face instantly brightened up when he saw Taeyong and Jaehyun. He ran after them and it was Taeyong who caught him, hauling him up and squeezing the air out of the kid.

“Oh my god,” he choked out, his voice trembling with emotions. His eyes stung with fresh tears as he held him. “Jisungie, hyung missed you so much, baby.”

Jisung wrapped his arms around Taeyong, leaning his head against his shoulder.

“I missed you, too, hyung,” he said, patting Taeyong’s back to comfort him. “Don't cry.”

Taeyong sobbed, hugging Jisung tighter. It was Jaehyun’s cue to take a step forward and wrap his arms around them, leaning his cheek on top of Taeyong's head while stroking Jisung's head.

“We missed you so much, baby.”

Jisung lifted his head up to grin at Jaehyun. The latter smiled back at him and leaned down to kiss his forehead. And then he ruffled his hair affectionately and smiled at him. It was the kind of smile he'd never presented when he was in public. His smile was sincere, genuine, and unguarded. The kind of smile he shared only with people he was closed with.

“Jaehyunie hyung and I are going to take you with us,” Taeyong said after he stopped crying. “Do you want to meet the others before going home?”

Jisung nodded his head frantically.

“Yes! Yes!” he chanted excitedly. “I want to meet Johnny hyung, Tennie hyung, Yuta hyung, and Doyoungie hyung! I want to meet them all!”

Taeyong chuckled. He leaned down to drop a gentle kiss on top of Jisung's head. “Then let's go meet them all, baby.”

Adjusting Jisung's position in his arms, Taeyong turned to Donghyuck who had been awfully quiet as he watched the scene before him.

“Donghyuck-ah, is it okay if we take Chenle with us, too? Since you're going to go to work after this, we can take care of your brother, too.”

Donghyuck's automatic reaction was to say no because he didn't want to burden Taeyong. But after slowly getting to know the Brat Pack, especially Taeyong, he knew better than to reject him. He had witnessed the way the Brat Pack treated Chenle and it was safe to say that Donghyuck trusted his brother with them.

“Sure, hyung,” Donghyuck agreed after a loaded moment of silence. “If Chenle wants to go with you, then I'm good with it.”

Jaehyun crouched down before Chenle who was standing next to him. He smiled at the kid.

“Lele, do you want to go with Jisungie, Jaehyunie hyung and Taeyongie hyung? We can play together.”

Chenle nodded. His smile was broad and bright.

“Yes, I do! I want to play with Jisungie, Jaehyunie hyung, Taeyongie hyung, and the others too!”

Jaehyun smiled as he scooped Chenle up into his arms, making the kid giggled. Still with Jisung in his arms, Taeyong told Donghyuck not to worry about his brother and reminded him to eat and take care of himself before making his way back to Jaehyun's Volvo that was parked only a few feet away from the park. Donghyuck nodded at him and promised him to get Chenle back as soon as his shift was over, which only getting a wave of dismissal from Taeyong as if to say not to worry about it.

“We'll talk later.” Jaehyun said to Mark, his eyes were serious albeit his expression was neutral.

Mark nodded. “Yeah. I’ll meet you after dropping Donghyuck off to work.”  

Jaehyun nodded at Donghyuck as a way to say goodbye and the smaller nodded back.

Mark and Donghyuck watched as Jaehyun and Taeyong settled the kids in the backseat before they slid inside to the front seats. After they drove away, Mark turned to Donghyuck with a serious expression.

“Do you still have some free time before your shift starts?”

Donghyuck didn't have that much time but Mark looked pretty shaken. He looked like he needed someone to listen to him and Donghyuck was more than willing to give him that because it was the least he could do right now.

“Yes, I do.”

Mark looked hesitated for a moment before he asked, “Do you want to eat some ice creams?”

Donghyuck didn’t miss a single beat to answer.

“Sure.”

 


 

Mark took Donghyuck to a convenience store to get some ice cream and went back to the car after that. For a very long moment, they only sat there in complete silence. Mark didn't turn on the stereo. His eyes were staring straight ahead. He didn't touch his ice cream and Donghyuck ate very slowly even though he wasn't really having an appetite at the moment. The smaller just let Mark took his time.

“What do you want to know?” Mark asked after a long moment of silence.

Donghyuck put the plastic spoon down, staring at the side of Mark's face.

“I didn’t want to know anything,” he said truthfully after a small pause of silence. He was careful to choose his words. “I'm confused, yes, but I won't press you to tell me something you didn’t want to. It isn’t my place to pry anyway.”

Mark turned to him, blinking. He looked a little bit dazed but when he spoke again, he sounded determined and serious.

“I want to tell you.”

If Donghyuck was surprised by his word, he didn’t show it on his face. Instead, he smiled at him. His gaze was soft and tender.

“Then you can tell me anything you want, Mark. I'm here to listen.”

Mark seemed taken aback by what Donghyuck said. He blinked again, staring at the smaller. His gaze was intense, his brow low, but his feature not as heavy as before. He also seemed to struggle to start, as if he didn't know where to begin. Donghyuck smiled encouragingly at him, silently telling him that it was okay. He could take his time and the smaller would wait for him.

It took a moment before Mark finally started speaking. He told Donghyuck everything, from the very beginning until the present day. He didn't sugar coated his words. He didn't hide anything. It surprised him how easily he let everything out to Donghyuck. He didn't even share that much with the Brat Pack. His friends knew about his mother and Jisung, but apart from Jaehyun, they didn't really know in details. Mark only shared what he deemed necessary. Was it because Donghyuck was a stranger, someone he barely knew, who wasn't connected to his life, that it made easier for Mark to give away everything without having to be afraid of his judgment? It could be that. But on the other hand, Mark also felt comfortable enough to talk to Donghyuck. He laid himself bare and naked than he’d ever let himself to be but he strangely didn’t find it disturbing.

By the time Mark had done talking, he felt way better than he'd ever felt for a long time. He'd never really talked about his family and it felt nice to let everything that had been bottled up inside.

There was a comfortable silence after that. Before Mark could turn to Donghyuck to see his reaction, he froze when a warm hand reached out for him. Mark looked down to see Donghyuck's hand covered his.

“I'm so sorry you have to go through that,” Donghyuck said, squeezing his hand gently. Unlike others who would make Mark felt pitied, it wasn't like that with the smaller. Donghyuck looked at him with genuine sincerity. And soon, he felt relief and comfort flooded him, making him light-headed.  

Swallowing the lump down his throat, Mark nodded as he squeezed Donghyuck's hand back.

“It's fine now. I'm fine.” he

“I'm glad you can meet Jisungie again. And I suppose you'll meet your mother soon, too?”

Mark nodded but he didn’t let go of Donghyuck’s hand. He took the comfort of it, relishing the feeling of warmth from his hold—a warmth he'd craved without ever realizing what it could feel like. It was blissful and satisfying knowing that someone was there for him.

After a few moments, Mark reluctantly let go of Donghyuck's hand because he had to drive the smaller off to his workplace. Even though they still didn't talk on their way there, the silence was comfortable. The fact that Donghyuck was there, sitting right next to him, was enough to make Mark breathe easily.

When they finally arrived at Donghyuck's workplace, Mark slid out of the car and walked toward the smaller. He was still feeling warm and fuzzy and all he could think about was Donghyuck; his smile, his touch, his presence. Without thinking twice, he took a step forward and then leaned down to press a gentle kiss on his forehead.  

“Thank you,” he whispered as he took a step back. “I’ll pick you up later.”

He didn't wait for Donghyuck's reply before turning around and slid inside his car, leaving a dazed smaller who stood frozen on his spot.

 


 

Donghyuck let out a sigh as he slid out of the backdoor of the restaurant, trembling slightly as the chilly air hit his skin. His shift was finally over. He was tired after hours moving around the packed restaurant and he didn't get a chance to eat dinner. He wanted to quickly get Chenle and went home. He needed to take a bath and get some food. He completely forgot that Mark was going to pick him up hence it startled him when he saw the latter stood only a few feet away from him, leaning against his sleek Aston Martin with both hands crossed against his chest, unmoving. As Donghyuck walked closer to him, he started to realize that something wasn’t right.

When he finally stopped before him, he finally realized that Mark's body was slightly shaking. And when the latter lifted his head, the smaller found that his eyes were bloodshot and there were dried tears on his cheek. For a moment, Donghyuck was stunned as he took in the sight of Mark. The boy in front of him wasn't the stoic and cold-hearted person he usually presented to other people. Right now, in front of Donghyuck was just a normal boy who was in the state of vulnerability. The boy who seemed to need some physical comfort yet he didn't know how to ask for it. Donghyuck's heart tugged painfully at that.

Mark stared helplessly at Donghyuck.

“Donghyuck.”

Donghyuck's heart clenched. “Oh, Mark.”

It was Donghyuck who closed the distance between them. It was him who stepped forward first to reach out for him. He wrapped his arms around Mark’s neck and the latter immediately pulled him closer, gripping his waist so tight it stung slightly but the smaller just let him be.

They stayed in that position for a few moments. Donghyuck felt a tug on his heart as Mark sagged in his arms as if he didn’t even have enough energy to stand. He felt a sudden urge to shield him from the rest of the world because this boy had been through enough. 

At that moment, he was able to see the real side of Mark, which was totally different from what other people pictured him. Donghyuck could now see a young boy who was struggling with his feelings. A young boy who was wounded and broken and desperately needed affection. He wasn’t the arrogant Mark Lee who walked around the school with both hands tucked inside the pocket of his pants and scowled at everyone. He wasn’t the one who spat profanities at Donghyuck and looked at him as if he wanted to kill him when they first met. Donghyuck was finally able to see that he was more than that.

Mark didn’t say anything at all. He just held onto Donghyuck, tucking his face in the crook of his neck. But his silence was enough for Donghyuck to understand his current state. The smaller slipped his fingers into his hair and gripped it gently. It was a habit he’d picked up since he was young. It was his way to comfort others by stroking their hair. He did that to Chenle when his brother had his nightmares.

“Donghyuck,” Mark whispered, pulling Donghyuck impossibly closer even though there wasn’t any space left between them.

Donghyuck squeezed him, giving all the physical contact he knew that the latter needed. “I’m here.”

Even though Mark didn’t say anything, Donghyuck knew it had something to do with his mother. He didn’t want to ask or press the latter even further. He just wanted to be there for him and gave what he needed at the moment.

After a while, Mark slowly let go of Donghyuck. He still looked distraught but at least he’d stopped shaking. His eyes focus now as he stared at Donghyuck.

“Lele is with my friends,” he said, his voice hoarse. If Donghyuck noticed the way he avoided the real subject, he didn’t say anything “Taeyongie hyung and Jaehyunie hyung took him back to the basement. He’s asleep now. Let’s pick him up. After that, I’ll take you both home.”

Donghyuck studied Mark’s expression for a few seconds before nodding. “Okay.”

They drove back to the school in complete silence. When they arrived there, the security opened the gate without asking for an ID. Only one look for Mark's car and they let them inside. Mark parked his car at his usual place. This time, when Mark slid out of the car first to open the door for Donghyuck, the smaller didn't protest and silently let him.

They walked side by side to the basement, their hands brushed occasionally. They still didn't talk but Donghyuck stole glances at him from time to time, checking him. Mark didn't turn to him, looking straight ahead with both of his hands now tucked inside the pocket of his jackets. He looked defensive and he had masked his expression. Donghyuck was surprised to see it. Another people wouldn't have guessed that the latter had just gone through something hard that made him mentally shaken. Donghyuck didn't know Mark long enough to know him inside out, yet somehow it was pretty easy for him to read the latter. His eyes gave away everything.

Once they were in the basement, the room wasn't locked. Mark let Donghyuck get inside first and he followed him close from behind. When they were finally inside, Donghyuck let out a sigh because the heater was turned on and it was warm. And it was also really quiet. The only sound that could be heard was their footsteps.

Donghyuck immediately found Chenle. His baby brother was fast asleep in Jaehyun's lap, his head leaning against his chest. His mouth slightly parted, snoring lightly. Jaehyun cradled his head with one hand and the other wrapped around Chenle's body. Taeyong sat next to Jaehyun, curling up against him while reading a book. Yuta and Doyoung were currently playing chess at the table next to the middle room. They were arguing about something but they kept their voices low. Doyoung was spitting fire under his breath, complaining something to Yuta who looked unfazed. Johnny and Ten were at the mini bar, talking while drinking some wine. All of the Brat Pack members were there but Jisung was nowhere to be seen.

It was Taeyong who noticed Donghyuck and Mark's presence first. He slowly sat up straight and smiled at them.

“Hey, you've finished your work?”

Donghyuck smiled back at him. “Yes, hyung. I'm going to take Lele home now.”

Donghyuck stopped before the couple. He was about to reach out for Chenle but Jaehyun was already standing. The latter was careful not to make too much movement so he didn't accidentally jostle Chenle.

“I'll take him to the car.” he said, not exactly offering yet his voice didn’t sound demanding either. It was even but still managed to hold absolute authority. “Mark, give me your key.”

Donghyuck was surprised to hear that. He didn't expect Jaehyun to go that far. The refusal was already at the tip of his tongue but the smaller didn't even get a chance to voice it out because Jaehyun was already walking past him. When the latter walked past Mark to take the key from his hand, he exchanged a knowing look with his brother, his expression softened before he continued walking.

Taeyong got up from the couch and turned around to his friends.

“Guys, Donghyuck is going home now. Say goodbye to him.”

Yuta looked up from his chess broad to wave at Donghyuck, smiling. “Take care, kid.”

Donghyuck nodded and hesitantly smiled back. “Thank you, sunbae-nim.”

“You can always give Chenle to us when you’re working. Your brother is so well-behaved. We don’t mind taking care of him.” Doyoung added, giving him an easy smile.

Donghyuck was taken aback by his offer. Doyoung wasn’t exactly passive like Ten or Johnny. He was quite welcoming but he’d never really talked to Donghyuck. Just like Ten and Johnny, Doyoung only acknowledged his presence. Other than Mark, Taeyong, and Yuta, Donghyuck still felt awkward to act casually around them.

Not knowing exactly how to respond to that, he settled with a nod. “I'll keep that in mind.”

Johnny and Ten who were sitting far from Donghyuck gave him a nod and Donghyuck nodded back at them in return. No words exchanged, just like how they usually were.

“Come on, Donghyuck,” Taeyong said. “You need to get a rest, too.”

“Yes, hyung.”

Taeyong walked ahead Donghyuck and approached Mark who had been silent the whole time. He silently reached out for the younger’s hand, squeezing it gently. The way Taeyong smiled at Mark was motherly and comforting. It made Mark instinctively scooted closer, squeezing his hand back in return. Donghyuck could only watch as they walked hand in hand, shoulders pressed together. Even though they were so close, they didn't look like a couple. It was pure brotherly. Taeyong's grip was protective and he didn't let go of him until they were outside.

When they arrived at the parking lot, Jaehyun was already tucked Chenle in the backseat. He closed the door slowly and then walked up to his boyfriend.

“Be careful on the way home," Jaehyun said as he gave the key back to Mark.

“Thank you for taking care of my brother today, hyung. I hope he wasn't giving you guys a hard time.”

Taeyong shook his head as he leaned against Jaehyun. “No, not at all. Like Doyoungie said, your brother is really well-behaved. Right, Jaehyunie?”

Jaehyun simply nodded, his face still void of emotions.

“Yes, that's true. We had a great time with him.”

“I'll take them home now.” Mark finally said after staying silent the whole time. His voice rough and strained. “I'll see you guys later.”

Jaehyun and Taeyong nodded. They waited until Mark and Donghyuck slid inside the car and sent them off with a wave.

 


 

Donghyuck pushed the door open and get inside the apartment first. Mark followed behind him with Chenle in his arms. The boy was out the entire ride home. He must have felt extremely tired after playing for a whole day. Donghyuck led Mark to his room and let the latter tucked his brother to bed. The smaller was about to take off Chenle's clothes when he realized that it wasn't his uniform. Chenle was wearing new clothes but Donghyuck clearly remembered he didn't give Taeyong and Jaehyun his brother’s spare clothes.

“Did Taeyong hyung buy these?”

Donghyuck motioned Chenle's new clothes with his hand and Mark nodded.

“Yeah,” he said casually as if it was nothing. Well, duh. Of course it was nothing for them. “Taeyongie hyung wouldn’t let Lele play in his uniform. He and Jaehyunie hyung went shopping and bought some clothes and toys to Lele and Jisungie. They're still in the basement. I forgot to bring them earlier.”

Donghyuck held himself back from groaning out loud. Of course Taeyong or Jaehyun would feel the need to buy Chenle things. After their first encountered, they already doted on his brother.

The thing was, even though Donghyuck was against the idea of someone else buying him or his brother things, it was Taeyong they were talking about. Donghyuck knew the latter enough and understood that he wasn't allowed to say no to him.

He sighed, defeated. “I can't give them back to Taeyong hyung, can't I? He wants me to accept it.”

For the first time since Mark showed up to pick him up, his face finally broke into a small smile. The corner of his lips curved upward as he pulled the blanket up Chenle's chin.

“I see you've learned how to deal with Taeyongie hyung.”

“Well, he makes sure I did.” he replied. He felt strangely relief after knowing that Mark was slowly back to his normal self. “I'll make sure to thank them tomorrow.”

After making sure that Chenle was comfortable in his sleep, Donghyuck and Mark filed out of the room. The silence was back again but it was slightly awkward now as the smaller led Mark to the front door. Mark stepped outside and Donghyuck stopped by the doorway. They were standing in front of each other and holding each other's gaze, not saying a single thing. Mark stared at Donghyuck intensely meanwhile the smaller tried not to move. He found himself unable to look away from his heavy gaze.

“I'll get going now,” Mark said, continuing to gaze at him with probing intensity into his eyes. Donghyuck noticed there was something in his eyes, something new and unfamiliar. Even though he couldn't really pinpoint it, but it was distinct enough for him to see.

“Thank you for today.”

Donghyuck swallowed thickly and nodded slowly. “Yeah. No problem.”

Donghyuck waited for Mark to say something but after a few seconds, the latter stayed mum. The smaller was completely forgot just how unpredictable Mark could be and it caught him off guard when the latter took a step forward and leaned down to pressed his lips against the smooth skin of Donghyuck's forehead, just like what he did after dropping him off of work. This time, the connection lingered for an extra second. Donghyuck's heart stopped as Mark held the side of his face with the gentlest touch ever, barely touching it.

Mark had been kissing him ever since they started their fake dating. It was always so sudden and abrupt. Donghyuck should’ve gotten used to it by now but it still surprised him every time Mark did that. He didn’t expect it at all. It made him confused, too. Why would Mark kiss his forehead when there weren’t people to witness it? Wasn’t the main purpose of their relationship was to show off to people? To put an act in front of others so they believed that they were dating. Yet here they were, hidden from the public’s eyes, doing something they shouldn’t have done.  

Donghyuck could feel a smile hinting about Mark’s mouth as the latter took a step back. The smaller was still in a daze but he forced himself to look at him properly. Mark’s annoying crooked smile slowly made its way back to his face. His eyes glinted with mischief as he stared at Donghyuck’s current state. Here was the usual Mark Lee. He was back again.

“I'll see you tomorrow, midget. Good night.”

Donghyuck didn’t like the way Mark ruffled his hair and patted it twice as if he was treating a baby. In normal circumstances, the smaller would’ve scoffed at him or hit him. But he still wasn’t capable of moving properly let alone thinking.

By the time Donghyuck could finally process the whole thing, Mark was already gone. But the warm feeling of his lips on his forehead remained, making something inside the smaller fluttered.

What the hell was happening with him?

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Kun knocked on the door right when Donghyuck was struggling to dress Chenle up. For some reasons, his brother was being difficult today. He couldn't stop moving around. Jumping and screaming around the house. After making sure to tell Chenle not to move from his spot, Donghyuck sprinted to the front door and opened it.

“You're breathless,” was the first thing Kun said as soon as he took in the sight of Donghyuck. “What happened?”

Donghyuck let out a sigh as he let Kun inside.

“Chenle is being a brat.”

Kun chuckled as he made his way to the kitchen, putting a small bag on the table. He took three Tupperware out of it and Donghyuck peeked what was inside. The latter's stomach growled when he saw that it was Chinese food; sweet and sour pork, kung pao chicken, and mapo tofu. All of them were Donghyuck and Chenle's favorite.

“You're drooling,” Kun laughed as he watched Donghyuck's reaction over the food.

The smaller smiled sheepishly. “I forgot to eat last night and went straight to bed. Now I'm really really hungry, hyung.”

Kun tsked loudly, giving the smaller a disapproving look.

“I told you not to skip dinner, Haechannie,” he said. “Now get Chenle here so you guys can eat breakfast together.”

Donghyuck didn't have to get Chenle because his brother burst out of the room right after. He ran straight to the kitchen, only clad in his white t-shirt without pants. Donghyuck made a distressed noise as he caught his brother just in time before the kid bumped into the chair.

“I told you not to move from your spot.” Donghyuck scolded him gently as he settled his brother on the chair.

Chenle whined, jutting his lips out. “But you took forever, hyung!”

Donghyuck groaned.

“Be a good boy or Kun hyung won’t let you eat your favorite sweet and sour pork.”

Donghyuck went back to his room to get Chenle's pants and after his brother dressed up properly, Kun served them breakfast. Chenle could finally sit still and be quiet as he ate his food, munching happily.

“Haechan-ah,” Kun called after a moment of silence. Donghyuck looked up from his bowl, cheeks puffed out with food.

“Yes, hyung?”

“I should've told you this earlier but I always forgot,” he said. “Anyway, I’ve mentioned to you that Sicheng was planning to move in here and he was going to be transferred to your school. He just arrived in Seoul last night. He's still sleeping right now. He will go there before lunch to take care of some documents. He will officially start his first day tomorrow.”

Donghyuck's eyes widened in surprise. He knew Sicheng, Kun's cousin from China. He was a year older than him. Donghyuck met Sicheng a few times before during holidays and he was very close to him. Kun had mentioned about Sicheng's plan to get a scholarship in SM High School but he didn't talk about it in details. So it surprised Donghyuck when he heard that Sicheng would officially move in here and be in the same school as him.

“That's very good news, hyung!” Donghyuck squealed in delight. “I’m so happy to hear that. Sicheng hyung and I can go to school together.”

“Really? But I heard about some rumors going on around here. I heard that someone picks you up every morning and drops you off of home. Someone who owns a shining black Aston Martin.”

Donghyuck's smile instantly flattered and now his eyes widened for a completely different reason. So, Kun knew. Swallowing the big lump on his throat, Donghyuck tried to school his expression but failed. Of course Kun would eventually know about Mark. Gossips were spread quickly around here. It wasn't like Donghyuck planned to keep things from Kun. He could never even if he tried. He just didn't know how to bring the subject up. What should he say to him? That he and Mark were involved in a fake dating? That he was forced to be in a situation he didn't wish for? Donghyuck was pretty sure Kun wouldn't like it. And it wasn't only Kun who still didn't know about his relationship with Mark. Chenle was still had no idea that he sort of dating Mark. His brother only knew that he and Mark were friends.

“So?” Kun coaxed gently. “Who is it?”

“Mark,” Donghyuck said, fidgeting on his seat under Kun's intense gaze. “His name is Mark.”

Kun raised one of his eyebrows. He must have sensed Donghyuck's hesitancy. He had known the smaller for quite long now. He knew when Donghyuck had more to say so he waited for him patiently.

“And who is this Mark?” Kun asked again after a loaded moment of silence.

“Mark hyung is hyung's friend!” it was Chenle who answered instead. His eyes shone when he started to talk animatedly. “Mark hyung is really nice. He and his friends are really nice to me and hyung. I like Mark hyung.”

Kun smiled at Chenle gently. “That's a good thing that he is nice. If he isn't, tell me. I will give him a lesson.”

Chenle shook his head. “No, Mark hyung will never hurt me or hyung. He promises me that he will protect me and hyung.”

This time, not only Kun who was surprised to hear that but Donghyuck was surprised as well. He looked at his brother confusedly. As far as he remembered, Mark had never said things like that to him.

“Baby, when did he say that?”

“Yesterday,” he replied. His eyes were big and innocent. “Before Mark hyung picked you up from work, he told me that he will protect me and hyung.”

That was clearly unexpected. Donghyuck didn’t get why Mark said that kind of things to Chenle. But he didn't get a chance to ask more because the bell rang and almost immediately Chenle jumped off of his seat.

“It must be Mark hyung! I will open the door!”

“Be careful!” Donghyuck reminded Chenle as the kid ran to the front door excitedly. When he turned to Kun again, the older frowned at him.

“What was that? Who's Mark and why Chenle is so fond of him?”

Donghyuck sighed. He understood Kun's confusion. Both of them knew that even though Chenle was such a bright and easy-going kid, he wasn't the type to attach to people easily. Honestly, it surprised Donghyuck too when he witnessed just how easily the Brat Pack made Chenle comfortable with them. But at the same time, he was glad that there were more people who doted on his brother. For the longest time, he and Chenle were lacking the adult figure in their lives. Before this, they only had Kun as someone older they could look up to. But now, there was the Brat Pack too. As strange as it sounded, they were now part of Donghyuck and Chenle' lives.

“I can't really explain things now, hyung,” Donghyuck finally said. He heard footsteps approaching as a sign that Mark was coming closer. “I promise you I will tell you everything when the time is right.”

Kun frowned deeper. “I have a bad feeling about this.”

Well, he wasn't entirely wrong. Before Donghyuck could say something, Mark showed up with Chenle in his arms. Chenle was talking animatedly, explaining something to Mark meanwhile the latter listened to him tentatively with a gentle smile on his face. It became a common sight for Donghyuck now, seeing Chenle attached to Mark like that. He then turned to Kun to see his reaction but he did not expect the older to look so surprised like that. Kun's jaw dropped as he took in the sight of Mark.

“Mark Lee?”

 


 

Donghyuck was completely surprised that Kun knew Mark. He knew that Mark was rich but it just occurred to him that he was also well-known. But then again, he supposed Kun knew about Lee family because the elder was currently studying journalism so it only made sense that the latter recognized well-known families who dominated the country's economic. The room became silent as Kun took his time scanning Mark from head to toe. He didn't look pleased over something and that was obvious. Donghyuck couldn't figure out what made him skeptical. It was really awkward. None of them spoke a word. Thankfully, Donghyuck's alarm rang at the right time. It was time for Chenle to go to school.

“Hyung, I have to go now,” Donghyuck said, breaking the suffocating silence in the room. Kun's eyes didn't leave Mark's as he nodded. Mark, on the other hand, looked unfazed as he held Kun's gaze.

“Lele, can you get your bag by yourself?” Kun asked Chenle who was still in Mark's arms. The kid nodded dutifully.

“Yes, hyung.”

Mark carefully settled Chenle down to the ground and let the kid made his way to his room. Once Chenle was out of their sight, Kun didn't hold back.

“Haechannie, I hope you have a good reason why Mark Lee is here and why you get involved with him.”

Donghyuck winced at the blunt statement. Kun could be very straightforward if he wanted to. Mark silently moved toward Donghyuck. The latter pulled Donghyuck to stand behind him, hiding the smaller from Kun’s view. It made Kun's frown deepened and his lips pressed together. It almost funny how Donghyuck could sense protectiveness coming from both males. Kun and his motherly instinct always kicked in when he felt something could possibly harm Donghyuck or Chenle. Meanwhile when Donghyuck was with Mark, it almost strange how the latter always got alert when confrontation arose. It reminded Donghyuck of the very first time he met Mina and Mark tried his best to hide Donghyuck from her.

“I'm not here to hurt him,” Mark said, his voice was calm and composed. He was clearly unfazed under Kun's heated gaze. He stood tall and exuded power like he always did.

Kun scoffed. “I don’t trust you.”

At this point, even though Donghyuck was still confused with the situation, he understood that it wasn't between him and Kun anymore. It was between Mark and Kun.

“I understand where you're coming from,” Mark replied, his voice even. “My family got a reputation and I understand that you just want to protect Donghyuck and Chenle. But like I said, I'm not here to hurt them. And I am a man of my word.”

Kun still looked doubtful but he held himself back because Chenle had come back, clearly oblivious of the tension in the room.

“We're not done yet, Haechanie. We still need to talk later.”

Donghyuck could only nod helplessly. “Yes, hyung.”

Kun nodded back, his posture still stiff. When Chenle kissed him goodbye, his face instantly softened. Kun silently walked the three of them to the front door. He smiled at Chenle and Donghyuck but his gaze hardened when it landed on Mark again. Mark didn't mind that and just nodded at him before turning his back and disappeared.

 


 

On the way to the school, the tension was still there. Mark looked like he wanted to say something but for some reasons, he held himself back and drove in complete silence. When they arrived at the school, as usual, the Brat Pack members were already there waiting for them. There was also a bunch of girls crowding around them in a safe distance. Donghyuck slid out of the car first and Mark followed after him. Unlike yesterday, the Brat Pack seemed more relaxed. Taeyong was always the first one to greet Donghyuck and Mark. He smiled at them meanwhile the others simply nodded as a greeting.

“Let's go,” Doyoung said, gesturing at Mark to walk first.

Mark reached for Donghyuck's hand, intertwining their fingers. This time, Donghyuck didn't flinch or surprised by the gesture. He silently walked by his side, trying not to let his gaze wander because he knew that people were watching. There was something that had been bugging Donghyuck's mind since he arrived at school and no matter how hard he tried to resist the urge to look around, he finally gave in. He let his eyes roamed around and instantly flinched when some people looked back at him with a heated gaze. But he kept searching for someone in the crowd. He felt uneasy as if someone was watching him and it made his stomach twisted in an unpleasant way. It didn't take long for Mark to sense his discomfort. When they walked in the hallway, Mark pulled Donghyuck closer to his side until their shoulders touched.

“She isn't here,” Mark said as if he could read his mind. He leaned down a little, his lips almost touched the side of Donghyuck's face. The smaller leaned back, startled by the sudden proximity. But he felt reassured when Mark squeezed his hand gently.

“She wouldn't dare to approach you as long as you're with us,” he continued. Donghyuck could only nod. It wasn't like he was afraid of Mina. He had dealt with the Brat Pack so Mina was like another challenge for him. It was just that Donghyuck didn't know her. Something didn't sit well in him whenever he saw her but he still couldn't figure out what it was. Hence it made him felt uneasy.

The Brat Pack parted and left for their classes meanwhile Mark walked Donghyuck to his class. When they finally stopped in front of Donghyuck's class, the students let out a strangled gasp at the sight of them and they scrambled to their own tables to save themselves. They tried to be discreet but failed miserably because Donghyuck still could hear them whispering behind them.

“Donghyuck,” Mark said, his voice sounded serious. “If she ever comes to you or hurt you, you have to call me right away.”

“I can handle her, you know.”

Mark looked unfazed. “I'm not saying that you can't handle her. I know you do. But still, I need you to call if she confronts you.”

“Fine," Donghyuck gave in, knowing where Mark was coming from. He understood what he meant. “I will.”

“Good.”

Donghyuck looked up at Mark and the latter looked back at him. His lopsided smirk slowly made its way to his face as he leaned down to kiss Donghyuck's forehead. Despite knowing that it would happen, Donghyuck couldn't help a blush that color his face and the back of his neck. Mark looked satisfied, his face broke into a grin. The girls inside the class instantly squealed when they saw it.

“See you later, midget.”

Mark turned his back and walked away. It was when he already disappeared that Donghyuck remembered about Sicheng. He forgot to tell Mark that he would meet Sicheng during lunch. He guessed he could just tell him by text.

“Lee Donghyuck.”

Donghyuck jumped in surprise when someone came up from behind him and grabbed his elbow. He turned to his side and found Jaemin was looking at him with a frown and his lips turned down.

Renjun caught his other hand, squeezing it. “We need to talk.”

Donghyuck looked at them in confusion.

“What? We have class and—“

“The class is canceled this morning,” Renjun replied. “We're free until lunch.”

“But—“

“No buts,” Jaemin cut him off. “You owe us an explanation.”

Donghyuck could only nod helplessly as Jaemin and Renjun dragged him away from the class. He didn't know where they would take him but they were right. He owned them an explanation and it was the time for them to know about him and Mark.

 


 

Jaemin and Renjun took Donghyuck to the rooftop—a perfect place to talk in private. And also because it was vacant most of the time. There was an old furnished leather couch in the corner and they dragged Donghyuck there, settling him in the middle meanwhile Jaemin and Renjun sat down on both of his sides.

“All right, Donghyuck,” Jaemin started, facing Donghyuck. “It's time for you to spill everything.”

“We want details.”

Donghyuck let out a huge sigh. This was going to be a long conversation. After taking a deep breath, Donghyuck told his friends about his relationship with Mark and the Brat Pack from the very beginning until now. He only left out some details about Mina because he thought it wasn't necessary. He didn't tell them how tensed the situation was when Mina showed up unannounced at Mark's house and how the Brat Pack looked like they were ready to fight. Jaemin and Renjun listened attentively and not once interrupted Donghyuck's story. By the time Donghyuck had done talking, a dazed and unbelievable look on Renjun's face was predictable. It was Jaemin's unbearable expression that made Donghyuck slightly taken aback. His jaw locked and his lips pressed into a thin line. Donghyuck almost forgot the fact that Jaemin knew Mark since they were babies and that meant he knew about the Brat Pack as well. He probably knew about Mina and her past with the boys.

“Wow,” Renjun said, blinking rapidly at Donghyuck. It was clear that he was having a hard time to comprehend the whole situation. Donghyuck knew that it was almost unbelievable to hear, especially because it related to the Brat Pack. “That's...”

“Fucked up,” Jaemin finished Renjun's sentence, voice a little harsh. Donghyuck turned to him in surprise meanwhile Renjun looked taken aback because it wasn't exactly what he was thinking.

“Donghyuck, do you really know what you have gotten yourself into? This is the Brat Pack we're talking about!”

Donghyuck flinched a little but he nodded, eyeing a fuming Jaemin carefully. In all honesty, even though he knew that getting involved with the Brat Pack was bad news, he didn't really know how big the deal was. He thought about Kun's reaction this morning and realized that there were so many things he didn't know about the Brat Pack yet.

“It's just...” Donghyuck started but stopped himself. What should he say? He really had no idea.

Jaemin pinched the bridge of his nose, clearly frustrated. “You don't know who they really are, Donghyuck.”

“I don't,” Donghyuck admitted, sighing deeply. “I'm a new kid here and the only thing that I know about them is that they're popular. That's all.”

Renjun sighed. “Well, they're certainly more than that. And now that you're dating Mark and sort of associated with the Brat Pack, I think you have to know about their backgrounds."

Jaemin and Renjun shared a look before they finally told Donghyuck about the Brat Pack. It started during junior high school. Back then it was only Mark, Jaehyun, Taeyong, and Johnny. And then the group expanded when Yuta and Doyoung joined them. Ten was the last one to join them. He was a transferred student from Thailand and joined the group almost immediately because he and Jaehyun knew each other. The Brat Pack was always together and it was easy for them to intimidate people because all of them had the powerful auras around them. Actually, the name Brat Pack wasn't created by them. It made by some girls who idolized them. It was ridiculous, really. But they let people call them whatever they wanted. As for the leader, Jaemin could guarantee that there wasn't any rank on the group. But people probably pointed Mark as the leader because he was the one who brought them together. He was the one who made sure that everyone didn’t feel left out. Only a few people knew that Mark treasured his friends more than anything. Come to think of it again, Donghyuck never heard Mark referred them as his members. He always referred to them as “friends” and after knowing Mark's background story, Donghyuck thought it was enough to prove Jaemin's point.

Jaemin and Renjun also told Donghyuck about the Brat Pack family’s background.

Mark Lee was the only heir. His family owned Lee Group. It was composed of more than forty subsidiary companies and primarily involved in the electronics, chemical, and energy industries. Jung Jaehyun was also the only heir and his family owned JH Holdings. It provided services in construction, shipping, marketing, and local telephone. When Mark's father and Jaehyun's mother got married, it strengthened their business and they became one of the richest conglomerates in South Korea.

Lee Taeyong was the second heir of Lee Family. He had one older sister. His family owned Lee Corporation. It consisted of over thirty business units that engaged in such diverse industries as real estate, hotels, and financial services. Kim Doyoung was the second son of The Prime Minister of South Korea. His father was one of the richest politicians in Asia meanwhile his mother's family owned several foundations that were engaged in social issues as health care, education, and environment.

Nakamoto Yuta was the third child. He had two older sisters. His family owned NKT Bank, one of the biggest banks in Japan. Nakamoto Family was also a close-knit business partner with Lee Corporation. Johnny Seo was the only heir and his family owned Seo Broadcasting Corporation, one of the biggest broadcasting companies in Asia. They also had expanded their business in Chicago where Johnny was born and raised. Ten was the second heir of Leechaiyapornkul Family. His family owned CLK Networks and his grandparents were related to the Royal Family in Thailand.

There was a long pause after Jaemin and Renjun ended their story. Donghyuck blinked. Once. Twice.

“That's...” Donghyuck said, swallowing loudly. “Insane.”

“Well, they're chaebol,” Renjun replied with a shrug. “Of course they're insanely rich.”

Donghyuck sighed again. Everything made sense now. It explained Kun's wary reaction and all of the talks about the Brat Pack. It wasn't a fairy tale. It was the truth. They were all powerful and could do literally anything they wanted simply because they could. At this point, Donghyuck didn't have to ask about Mina because she was obviously like them in term of social status.

“Now you understand why it isn't good for you to get involved with them,”

Donghyuck nodded grimly. He knew what Jaemin meant and he understood his position. He wasn't like them. He was nowhere close to their social status. It was odd enough that he was associated with people like the Brat Pack. And now the whole school believed that he was dating one of them. Great.

“Donghyuck, we're just worried,” Jaemin said, his voice softened. He settled one hand over Donghyuck's shoulder, squeezing it gently as support. “If Mark's parents know about this, I don't even want to know what they will do to you.”

Donghyuck tried not to wince as he thought about Mark's parents. He had heard Mark's stories and it wasn't hard to guess what would most likely happen to him if they ever found out about his relationship with Mark.

“This is definitely not good but I'm actually relieved after watching the way the Brat Pack treats you,” Renjun said. “They always seem out of the league and unapproachable but when you came, they became different. Despite what happened with Mina that forced you to be in a fake relationship with Mark, I was genuinely surprised that they could accept you so easily and quickly.”

Donghyuck wanted to deny that it wasn't exactly like that. He wasn't close to all of them. He didn't even talk to half of them. He mostly talked with Mark and Taeyong. Sometimes Yuta and Doyoung. But other than that, he only exchanged short greetings with them. But Renjun was right about the way they treated him.

“Renjun is right,” Jaemin agreed. “This is the very first time I see the Brat Pack associates with someone outside their social circle. I mean, chaebol doesn't get involved with just anyone.”

“If something happens, don't hesitate to call us,” Renjun added firmly. “You can call me, Jaemin, Jeno, or Lucas. Just know that we're here for you, too.”

Donghyuck was genuinely touched by their support and sympathy. When he transferred here, he never thought that he could make friends quickly. He was very grateful that he met people who accepted him for who he was.

“Thank you,” Donghyuck choked out, his throat burned with unshed tears. “I really appreciate it, guys.”

Renjun ruffled his hair gently. "Don't mention it. You're our friend now, Donghyuck. We will do anything to help you."

“And I can kick Mark's ass if he hurts you.”

Renjun snorted. “Yeah, you kick Mark's ass and then his father will fire your father. End of the story.”

Jaemin pouted at his friend.

“You're supposed to be on my side!”

“I don't support idiots.”

Donghyuck burst out laughing. He felt better now that he told his friends about his complicated situation with Mark and the Brat Pack. As he watched Jaemin and Renjun continued bickering like kids, he knew that he could trust them. He was relieved knowing there were people that would be there for him when he needed them.

 


 

Donghyuck, Jaemin, and Renjun abruptly halted their steps as soon as they stepped down the stairs, looking at the same direction. Kang Mina was there, only a few feet away from them. She approached them as if she had expected them to come. Her gaze swept over all of them, then locked with Donghyuck's. Her face twisted ever so slightly and Donghyuck would've missed it if he hadn't paid close attention to her. Jaemin and Renjun scooted closer to Donghyuck as if they wanted to hide him from her. But Donghyuck stayed rooted in his place, knowing that sooner or later this time would come. When she stopped before them, she didn't say anything. She held Donghyuck's gaze and the message was clear. She wanted to talk to him. Alone.

“W-we're not leaving!” Renjun said, stuttering a bit under her scrutinizing gaze.

Mina tore his gaze away, raising one of her eyebrows at Renjun. It was as if she challenged the latter to say more.

“Guys, let me talk to her.” Donghyuck said. He knew that this was between him and Mina.

“B-but...” Jaemin tried to protest but Donghyuck shook his head gently.

"It's fine. We're just going to talk."

Jaemin and Renjun looked absolutely doubtful but they didn't have another choice but to leave. Donghyuck gave his friends a reassuring smile, trying not to make them worry before gently told them to leave him alone with Mina.

“I know what game you're playing,” Mina said as soon as Jaemin and Renjun were gone. Her voice was even and her gaze was intense. She didn't beat around the bush and went straight to the point, which caught Donghyuck off guard but he didn't show it on his face.

“I don't know what game you're talking about,” Donghyuck replied, staring back at her. He wasn't going to let her intimidate him.

Mina chuckled, her voice void of emotions and her savagely beautiful face darkened.

She hissed. “Quit playing with me. I know you're not dating Mark.”

Donghyuck willed himself not to shake. The whole fake dating thing was already odd and strange from the very beginning. He knew people won't buy it easily but if there was one person who would catch it almost immediately, of course it was Mina. She wasn't like other students around here who would believe in rumors. The fact that she somehow was related to the Brat Pack made it easier for her to guess. But Donghyuck wasn't going to give her what she wanted.

“You heard Mark,” Donghyuck replied calmly, surprising himself with how composed he was. But it made him confident and he continued, “I am his boyfriend.”

Mina was visibly shaking with anger now but she masked her expression perfectly. Her lips twisted into a mean smirk, her eyes burning.

“You know nothing about Mark. You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.”

Donghyuck tried not to roll his eyes. He had heard enough about it.

“Do you?” Donghyuck challenged her back. “He doesn't even want to see you.”

What Donghyuck said successfully triggered Mina. Her mask instantly crumbled, revealing intense rage that swept over her. She clenched her fists until her knuckles turned white. Donghyuck watched as she lunged forward but before she could take a step closer to him, a booming voice stopped her.

“Kang Mina.”

Mina and Donghyuck turned at the same time and found Jaehyun standing not so far from them. Donghyuck blinked in surprise, not expecting Jaehyun to be there. The latter's jaw was locked as he took big steps toward them. Jaehyun instantly stood before Donghyuck, practically hiding the smaller from her view. He was so much taller and bigger than Donghyuck that all the smaller could see was his back.

“Go,” Jaehyun said, his voice held absolute authority. He wasn't the type to talk much but when he did, it was dripping with command and left no room of argument. “I won't ask the second time.”

Donghyuck stepped aside a little so he could see Mina who glared at Jaehyun. He then looked up to see Jaehyun's expression and he was amazed at how composed he looked even though Donghyuck knew that the latter was pissed.

Grinding her teeth together, Mina threw a menacing look at Donghyuck before she stormed off without saying anything else. After she was gone, Jaehyun turned around to Donghyuck. He scanned him from head to toe as if looking for damage.

“Did she do something to you?”

Donghyuck shook his head. “No, she didn't.”

Jaehyun pressed his lips together. “If she does something to you, tell us.”

It was a command, that was for sure. Donghyuck could only nod as a response.

“Come on. I will walk you to your class.”

Donghyuck stuttered. “O-okay.”

As Donghyuck walked with Jaehyun to his class, he couldn't help but feel awkward because he never had a proper conversation with Jaehyun before. It was totally unexpected. He did not expect it was Jaehyun, out of the Brat Pack, who defended him. Donghyuck knew that Jaehyun was actually nice and friendly. He had witnessed the way he treated Chenle and Jisung. He just didn't show his good side in front of other people. He usually looked impassive and unapproachable. But after what just happened, Donghyuck could see a glimpse of the real Jaehyun. Jaehyun who looked after Mark ever since they were still young, who took the father role for him, and the one who provided safety and comfort. He was definitely a protector. And now that Donghyuck could finally see it, he understood why Mark looked up to his brother a lot.

“I'm not going to tell Mark about this,” Jaehyun said when they almost reached Donghyuck's class. His deep voice broke Donghyuck out of his reverie. “But you need to be careful.”

Donghyuck swallowed. “Yes, I will, sunbae-nim.”

Jaehyun nodded. “Good, then. I have to go now.”

“Thank you,” Donghyuck said. He hesitantly smiled at Jaehyun and the latter just gave him a nod. Jaehyun walked Donghyuck to his class and watched him until he went inside before he left.

 


 

When it was time for lunch, Donghyuck told Jaemin and Renjun to go first because he had to meet Sicheng. He explained briefly about Sicheng to them and told them not to wait for him because it might take long. Sicheng had texted Donghyuck and asked him to meet him in front of the Principal's office. When Donghyuck arrived there, he saw Sicheng already waiting for him.

“Sicheng hyung!”

Sicheng looked up and his face brightened when he saw Donghyuck. He hugged Donghyuck, swinging their bodies to the left and right. It had been a while since the last time they met. As Donghyuck pulled away and looked at Sicheng properly, he noticed that he had changed. Sicheng grew slightly taller but his figure was still small. His hair was black with bangs covered his small forehead. His baby fat had gone and his cheekbones were more prominent now. His jaw was still sharp as Donghyuck remembered. His eyes were wide and expressive. And his smile still looked cute.

“You've grown so much, Haechan-ah.”

Sicheng ruffled his hair gently. Donghyuck just grinned at him. And he almost forgot that other than Kun, Sicheng also called him by his nickname because apparently his real name was too hard for him to pronounce.

“I'm so happy you moved here, hyung! Can't wait to spend more time with you!”

Sicheng smiled. “Me too! We can go to school together.”

Donghyuck nodded but then he remembered that Mark always picked him up in the morning. He groaned internally. He hadn't explained properly to Kun and what should he say to Sicheng? Now that Sicheng was here, there was no way Donghyuck could avoid the subject. The latter would know what happened around the school because rumor spread like a wildfire here. Even though Sicheng wasn't the type of person who liked to pry someone's privacy, Donghyuck felt obliged to tell him the truth, too. It was Sicheng, after all. Not some strangers. They were like a family.

At that moment, Donghyuck's phone vibrated. He unlocked it and found a message from Mark.

 

Mark Lee

i'm heading to the cafeteria. meet me at the entrance.

 

Donghyuck rolled his eyes and locked his phone again, not bother to answer it. He had told Mark that he was going to meet a friend who just transferred in the school and he had specifically told him that he wouldn't be able to join him for lunch because Donghyuck wanted to take Sicheng around the school. But of course Mark Lee wouldn't let him off the hook.

Before Donghyuck could put his phone back to the pocket of his blazer, it vibrated again.

 

Mark Lee

midget. where. are. you.

 

Donghyuck groaned and typed quickly.

 

Me

i told you i can't come

 

Mark Lee

midget. eat. now.

 

“He is impossible.” Donghyuck muttered, shaking his head in disbelief.

“What's wrong?” Sicheng asked curiously.

“Um,” Donghyuck searched for the right words. He couldn’t possibly tell Sicheng right away that his fake boyfriend was waiting for him. “My friend wants to meet me at the cafeteria. Is it okay if we eat first, hyung? I'll show you around later.”

“That's fine. I'm actually hungry now.”

“Really? That's good, then. Let's go.”

Donghyuck and Sicheng shared stories as they walked to the cafeteria. When they almost reached the entrance, Donghyuck found Mark was already there. He was alone and looked down on his phone, tapping his foot impatiently. It was clear that Mark was waiting for Donghyuck. Before Donghyuck could call him, he saw the Brat Pack coming together toward the cafeteria too. And then everything happened almost at the same time. Donghyuck heard a sharp intake of breath and he was surprised when Sicheng suddenly stopped walking. Sicheng's eyes widened, his face turned white, and his lips parted slightly. Donghyuck who was still clueless of what happened followed his gaze, wondering what made him looked so shocked. Donghyuck was confused when he saw the Brat Pack had stopped walking too and crowding around each other. What made Donghyuck thrown was Yuta's expression that mirrored Sicheng's. Yuta looked like someone just threw cold water over his face and he stood frozen, unmoving.

And then, almost inaudibly, Sicheng whispered, “Yuta.”

 


 

Chapter Text


 

For a very long moment, everyone stood frozen in their places. It seemed like Donghyuck was the only one who didn't know what was happening. Even though the Brat Pack had masked their expressions perfectly, except Yuta, it was clear that they knew something. Taeyong looked tensed as he left Jaehyun's side to be by Yuta's side, holding his torso gently to keep him grounded. Doyoung and Ten looked distressed as they moved closer to Yuta who still froze on his spot. Even Mark looked taken aback as he stared at Sicheng. Only Jaehyun and Johnny who were looked composed enough that their faces almost completely neutral. But the way they looked at Sicheng carefully meant something.

It was Sicheng who jerked back first, stumbling backward. His face twisted in pain and his legs wobbled as he took another step backward. It was the very first time Donghyuck saw Sicheng like that and for a moment he wasn't sure what to do. He wanted to reach for him but before he could touch him, Sicheng already turned around and ran.

“Sicheng hyung!”

Donghyuck was about to run after him but someone caught his elbow, halting his steps. He turned around and found Mark was already by his side, shaking his head at him. Donghyuck tried to shake his hand off but it only made the latter tightened his grip.

“Let me go, Mark. Sicheng hyung—“

Donghyuck wasn't able to finish his sentence because, at that time, Yuta ran past him like a mad man and turned at the corner where Sicheng had disappeared. It was easy to guess that there was something between Sicheng and Yuta, which made Donghyuck bewildered with the whole situation. There were so many things he wanted to ask. How come Sicheng and Yuta knew each other? Since the first time Donghyuck knew the Brat Pack, Yuta who held the role as Casanova on the group never really showed his actual interested toward those girls who looked like they were ready to throw themselves at him. Yuta was aware of his power over them and liked to play with them. For him to look as if someone just tore him apart just by looking at Sicheng made everything more confusing.

“Come on, midget,” Mark said as he pulled him closer to his side, wrapping one arm around him. His face was back to neutral. “The boys are already inside. You need to eat before lunch time is over.”

Donghyuck was reluctant at first. He was still thinking about Sicheng. The latter looked pretty shaken and it made Donghyuck worried.

“It's okay,” Mark pressed his lips against his hair lightly as a way to comfort him. Donghyuck would've missed it if it wasn't for their proximity. “Yuta hyung will take care of Sicheng hyung.”

Donghyuck abruptly looked up at him, his eyes widened in surprise. “You know Sicheng hyung?”

“No, not personally, at least,” Mark answered as he led Donghyuck walking inside the cafeteria. At this point, Donghyuck didn't really care about the blatant gazes people threw at him. From a peripheral look, he saw his friends looking at them from their table. But they gave Donghyuck a nod as if to say it was okay for him not to join them. It made Donghyuck felt guilty because it had been a while since the last time he talked to all of them. He made a mental note to sit with them tomorrow.

“I only know his name and this is actually the very first time I met him in person,” Mark continued as they walked toward his usual table. “I didn't know that the new friend you were talking about was him.”

“Do you know what happens between Yuta sunbae-nim and Sicheng hyung?”

“Not really,” Mark replied honestly. “I will tell you what I know but not now. We can't talk about it here.”

When they stopped at the table, Mark pulled a chair for Donghyuck to sit and then he settled beside him. Their food was already there and Mark urged Donghyuck to eat first. The Brat Pack was casually talking with each other but Donghyuck could tell that there was a tension around them. Unlike usual, Taeyong didn't lift his head or acknowledge Donghyuck and Mark's presence, which was very strange because he was always the one who greeted them first. Taeyong looked sad and tensed. His eyebrows furrowed and it was clear that there was something that was bugging his mind. He didn't touch his food and when Jaehyun pulled him against his chest, he instantly melted and buried his face on his throat. Doyoung was looking down at his phone, furiously typing something. He looked almost like his usual self but the way his jaw locked with tension showed that what happened earlier affected him too. Johnny and Ten were probably the ones who looked like normal. Their expression never gave it away. They sat without any space left between them, shoulders and thighs touched.

“Are you working today?” Mark asked after a moment of silence, breaking Donghyuck's out of his reverie.

“No,” Donghyuck replied. “Today is my day off.”

“Good. We have an appointment this evening.”

Donghyuck frowned. “What appointment?”

“You'll know, midget. Now finish your food. The lunch break will be over in less than five minutes.”

Donghyuck wanted to ask more but he decided not to push the subject further. He wasn't really in the mood to talk right now. Besides he knew that Mark would never tell him about it because the latter liked to play mysterious.

A few moments later, Taeyong's phone rang loudly, startling the whole table. The latter only gave his phone screen a quick glance before untangling himself from Jaehyun's hold and getting up from his seat without a single word. He didn't even glance at Jaehyun who was startled by his sudden movement. Jaehyun got up and he was so ready to run after his boyfriend but Doyoung who sat next to him quickly stopped him.

“No, Jaehyun,” Doyoung shook his head, gently pulling Jaehyun down to sit. He put his hand over his shoulder, squeezing it gently. “He needs him right now.”

Jaehyun's face twisted as he stared at Taeyong's back that slowly disappeared from his view. When he finally gained his composure back, the lunch break was already over. Jaehyun looked like he was ready to bolt out of there but Ten quickly got up from his seat and approached him, locking his arm around his torso.

“Want to skip class?” Ten suggested, looking up at Jaehyun with a big smile that made him looked like a little child. His eyes were twinkling with playfulness. “We can go bowling.”

Jaehyun obviously wasn't in the mood but before he could open his mouth to say something, Ten already dragged him while enthusiastically talking about his plan to spend the day. It was obvious that Ten tried to subtly distract Jaehyun who looked troubled for some reasons. Johnny silently left the table to join them meanwhile Doyoung stayed with Mark and Donghyuck.

“Let's go,” Doyoung said as he got up from his seat. “It's time to go back to class.”

Doyoung walked ahead first, leaving the couple behind. Donghyuck was about to get up when he noticed that Mark wasn't moving. His eyebrows furrowed and his lips pressed together. He looked troubled, his expression almost mirrored Jaehyun’s.

“Mark,” Donghyuck gently said, eyeing him carefully. “Are you okay?”

Mark blinked before he turned to Donghyuck with a dazed expression.

“Yeah.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah,” he said, giving him an easy smile. Donghyuck could tell that it was strained but he had no idea what could possibly make him look like that. “Let's go.”

Donghyuck could only nod and let Mark intertwining their fingers as they left the cafeteria. The whole situation was bizarre. Donghyuck wondered what exactly happened between Yuta and Sicheng but he had to wait until the school was over to ask about it. Mark didn't look like he wanted to talk at the moment so Donghyuck kept mum and just followed him.

 


 

 

After the PE class had ended, Donghyuck was the last one to leave the gym because the teacher asked him to clean up. He was supposed to work with another student who only rolled her eyes at him and darted out of the room as soon as the teacher left. Jeno and Lucas offered some help but Donghyuck kindly declined because he knew they still had some things to do. It wasn't that much of work anyway. After he had done everything, Donghyuck walked to the locker room to take a quick shower before going home. The room was already empty when Donghyuck entered inside. He quickly stripped off his clothes and wrapped a towel around his lower body before going inside the stall. Donghyuck was halfway showering when he heard heavy steps approaching. He quickly stopped his movement and his body went rigid. He felt a familiar sense of dejavu as he heard some people whispering. The next thing he knew, the door of the stall was being locked from outside.

Donghyuck closed his eyes, sighing deeply. “Again. Great.”

Donghyuck didn't make any noise until he was sure those who were outside had gone. He let out another deep of sigh before continued showering. He didn't feel scared or afraid. He might sound over-confident but he had a feeling that Mark would come to find him just like he did the last time. The latter had texted him a few hours ago telling him that he would be late because there was something he needed to do. He told Donghyuck to go straight to the basement after his last class ended. If Mark arrived there before him, he would immediately know that something was wrong. All Donghyuck had to do right now was waiting for Mark.

Donghyuck didn't know how long he had been waiting but it was long enough that he started to shiver from the cold. The towel could only do so much and his wet hair had almost dried to a crisp. Donghyuck folded his legs over his chest and leaned his head in between his knees, rubbing his own arms in an attempt to warm himself. A few moments later, when Donghyuck started to feel his head spinning, a loud bang startled him. This time, he knew that the one who was coming was Mark.

“Donghyuck?!”

Donghyuck let out a sigh of relief when he heard Mark's voice outside the stall. Finally, he came.

“H-here,”

“Fuck. I'm going to kill them all.” Mark spat, voice dripping with venom. A few seconds later, the door was being opened with a harsh pull.

Donghyuck looked up and found Mark stood before him, chest heaving out and sweat rolling down his temples. Mark didn't make a sound as he took in the sight of Donghyuck but the smaller could feel the rage pumping off him. His eyes were burning and his jaw locked in anger. The quiet intensity of his fury was chilling. Donghyuck then remembered that he was half-naked and ducked his head down, curling up like a ball.

Mark was on his side in an instant and the next thing he knew, the latter flung his arms around him as he knelt to scoop him up. Donghyuck let out a surprised gasp when his naked upper body pressed against Mark's clothed body.

“M-Mark—“

“Ssh,” Mark shushed him gently, pressing his lips against Donghyuck's temple. The physical affection made Donghyuck instantly melted. He buried his face into the crook of his neck and drew a long quivering breath as his body was shaking with cold.

“I'm so sorry I was late,” Mark whispered and Donghyuck could feel his lips moved against his skin. “God, you're so cold, Donghyuck.”

Mark walked to the bench and sat down, settling Donghyuck on his lap. He wrapped his arms around the smaller, trying to give the warmth that he needed. In another circumstance, Donghyuck wouldn't even let Mark carried him bridal style like that but he didn't have any energy left at the moment. He could barely open his eyes and his head was spinning so fast it hurt. He gripped Mark's torso and tried to open his mouth to say something but nothing came out. He let out a strangled whimper and Mark's body instantly tensed.

Mark brought his hand to Donghyuck's face, cupping it gently. “Donghyuck, hey, what's wrong?”

Donghyuck pressed his lips together, trying to prevent another whimper that threatened to escape his lips. His grip on Mark's torso tightened.

“Donghyuck, baby, talk to me,” Mark's voice sounded urgent and impatient now. Donghyuck could barely register it, much less thinking about the endearing nickname that slipped the latter's lips. The last thing Donghyuck remembered before his world turned black was Mark's voice calling his name.

 


 

 

The first thing Donghyuck noticed when he woke up was that he felt warm and relaxed. He'd been very, very cold, he seemed to recall. So the warmth was different. The next thing he realized was that he wore a nice sweater two sizes bigger than him and comfortable sweatpants. And his body was wrapped up with a soft blanket. It definitely wasn't his but the smell was familiar. Finally, Donghyuck noticed that he was being held. There were arms around him, holding him loosely. Donghyuck's mind drifted, wondering where he was. He slowly opened his eyes and fell headfirst into a pair of dark black eyes that were staring at him.

Donghyuck gasped. “M-Mark.”

“Hey, you’re awake," Mark pulled him closer, rubbing his back up and down to calm him. “Don't freak out, please.”

Despite not having enough energy to move, Donghyuck still tried to free himself from his hold.

“How could you expect me not to freak out when we...we....”

Donghyuck stopped talking when he finally realized their proximity. They were so close. Too close that Donghyuck could feel Mark's warmth against his face. The smaller could feel heat quickly snaking up along his neck, slithering toward his cheeks. It was the very first time they were this close and it made Donghyuck's brain short-circuit, not knowing what to do. Suddenly he couldn't meet Mark's intense gaze.

“We what?” Mark asked, a touch of amusement in his voice. His face twisted up into his signature crooked smile. “Go on, finish your sentence.”

Donghyuck pinched Mark's stomach, his face burning. Mark let out a small chuckle and instead of letting Donghyuck go, he tightened his hold around the smaller. At this point, Donghyuck knew that whatever attempts he tried would be futile so he surrendered.

The throbbing pain that knocked on his skull was enough to distract him. It made his head hurt and he let out a whimper.

“What? What hurts? Donghyuck, are you okay?”

Mark held Donghyuck's head, tilting his face up so he could see him.

“My head hurts,” Donghyuck whimpered, closing his eyes as it throbbed harder.

“Don't move too much. It will hurt more,” Mark said as he gently massaged Donghyuck's temple. The pressure made Donghyuck let out a sigh of relief. “You catch a cold after being locked in the stall for God knows how long. I still can’t believe they had enough guts to do it. How dare them. I will kill them later.”

Now that Mark had mentioned about it, Donghyuck finally remembered that he was being locked before Mark finally showed up to rescue him. Donghyuck opened his eyes and found that all traces of playfulness were gone from Mark’s face. The glimmer of anger in his eyes was evident.

“You don't have to go that far,” Donghyuck gently said, bringing one hand over his torso and squeezing it as an attempt to calm him down. “I believe Doyoung hyung will take care of it.”

Mark seethed, his face mottled with rage. “They touched you, Donghyuck. No one touches what's mine and gets away with it so easily.”

Donghyuck couldn't help but shudder beneath his touch and blatantly possessive stare. He found himself unable to look away, eyes locking with Mark's. For a moment Donghyuck lost the ability to speak, mind clouding. Mark couldn’t stop looking at him and after a while, it became unbearable so Donghyuck blurted out the only thing he could think of to break the silence.

“Chenle,” he choked out. “We have to pick him up.”

Mark stared at him. On the surface, his sudden smile was amused, almost looked like a smirk. As if he knew exactly what Donghyuck tried to do and decided to play along with him. It made Donghyuck's cheeks flushed a deep shade of red and in a flush of embarrassment, he dropped his gaze to avoid looking at Mark’s eyes.

“You don't have to worry about Lele,” Mark replied. “I called your neighbor to pick him up.”

Donghyuck blinked. “My neighbor? You mean Kun hyung?”

“Yeah, him.”

“You have his number?”

Mark let out a chuckle. He looked amused as if what he just heard was something funny. Now Donghyuck felt stupid for saying ridiculous things. If Mark could break into his apartment, what made him think that he couldn't get Kun's number? It was probably the easiest thing to do for him.

“Okay then,” Donghyuck said. Another question was already at the tip of his tongue but he had to take another breath before asking, “How about Sicheng hyung?”

As soon as the name was being mentioned, Donghyuck watched as Mark's face gradually changed. He didn't smile anymore and his face was thoughtful. His lips pursed ever so slightly and Donghyuck recognized it as a sign the latter unconsciously made whenever he was contemplating what things to say. After a moment of loaded silence, Mark finally spoke again.

“It's complicated,” Mark started, his voice was steady. “They had a story.”

Donghyuck wriggled his body to get a comfortable position but Mark quickly stopped him.

“Donghyuck, don't pull back or you will fall.”

Mark scolded Donghyuck gently and pulled him against his chest. Donghyuck's body stiffened when Mark cradled the back of his head but he slowly relaxed when the latter played with his hair, stroking it gently. It strange how, even though he wasn't used of the proximity, it managed to make him comfortable.

It took Donghyuck a while to realize that they were currently lying on the couch. There wasn't enough space and now that his face was pressed firmly against Mark's chest, it made something inside him fluttered. He accidentally inhaled and his nostrils caught a whiff of Mark's scent; a combination of citrus and vanilla. It felt so intimate that Donghyuck couldn't help but blush. But he supposed it was a good thing that Mark couldn't see his face because of their current position. Donghyuck would die in embarrassment if Mark saw his red face.

“Yuta hyung went to Beijing for student exchange program two years ago. That was when he met Sicheng. They were at the same school. Yuta hyung liked him almost right away and spent a whole year trying to chase after him. But Sicheng never said yes. It wasn't because he didn't like him back. As far as I knew, Sicheng was aware of Yuta hyung's status. That was why he was adamant to be in a relationship with him. Yuta hyung never gave up, obviously. He is a very persistent guy. If he wants something then he will get it. One day he called us and he told us that he managed to convince Sicheng to go on a date with him. It was the happiest he'd ever been. I've never heard him so happy like that before. We supposed things were going okay because Yuta hyung didn’t call. But then a week later, Yuta hyung was back to Seoul looking so devastated and heart-broken. I would never forget that day. It was the very first time I saw him cried like that.”

Mark stopped talking to take a deep breath. He closed his eyes as the memory of that day flashed through his mind. Donghyuck sensed his distress and almost automatically he wrapped his arms around him, stroking his arm gently as a way to soothe him. It was obvious that Mark was affected by it.

After a while, Mark gained his composure back and continued his story.

“Yuta hyung didn't talk to us for weeks and we knew it had something to do with Sicheng but he refused to tell us what happened. He was depressed and it pained all of us to see him like that. After almost two months, Taeyong hyung had finally had enough. He confronted Yuta hyung and managed to get him to talk. Turned out Yuta hyung's parents knew about Sicheng and they expelled him from school. Yuta hyung tried to find him but he just vanished like thin air.”

Donghyuck unconsciously gripped Mark's arm a little too hard, his chest aching as he took in the information. It was unfair. What they did to Sicheng was cruel. Donghyuck remembered Kun once told him about how proud and happy Sicheng's parents were when their son got into one of the most prestigious schools in Beijing. Sicheng was smart and he was the golden boy in his family. To be expelled from school was just too much. Donghyuck couldn't even imagine how hard it must have been for Sicheng and his family. Donghyuck's throat burned with unshed tears. Mark immediately noticed his change of demeanor and tightened his hold, pressing his cheek on top of Donghyuck's head.

“It was really unfair,” Donghyuck choked out, closing his eyes to prevent tears from spilling. “They were in love. It wasn't a crime.”

“I know,” Mark agreed. “But our families work differently. Yuta hyung's parents are very strict and old-fashion. They value tradition. Yuta hyung is the only son in the family. They want him to take over the family's business and get married to another conglomerate.”

Donghyuck scoffed. “Cliché.”

Mark hummed but he didn't say anything. His voice was low but there was an underlying agony in it. Donghyuck couldn't help but feel upset. He was upset for Sicheng. The latter didn't deserve any of that but at the same time, Donghyuck was also aware that the situation was inevitable. He knew that what Mark had said was the ugly truth. That was how the chaebol world worked.

“If that's the case, then Sicheng hyung probably had no idea that Yuta sunbae-nim is here. That explained why he was so shocked when he saw him again.”

“Yeah, I guess so, too. It was really unexpected.”

Donghyuck sighed, suddenly feeling tired and sleepy. His head was still killing him. The story was too much for him and his weak body couldn't handle it.

“All right, enough of the story. You need to sleep some more.”

This time, Donghyuck let Mark tucked the blanket in tight to his neck. It didn't take long for him to feel drowsy, his eyes slowly dropping. The last thing he remembered when sleep finally took him was the warmth of Mark's lips against his forehead.

“Sleep well, baby.”

 


 

 

The second time Donghyuck woke up, he was alone and shivered in cold. His nose was running and his throat was dry. The familiar body heat was gone and Donghyuck realized that he was still lying on the couch. He opened his eyes and immediately squinted at the sudden brightness. He blinked, trying to adjust his vision. After a while, he finally could see everything clearly. He let his eyes roamed around and his heart almost dropped when he caught the sight of Yuta and Taeyong sitting on the couch across him. Yuta's head leaned back against the couch and he had both of his eyes closed. It looked like he was sleeping but the frown on his forehead and his tensed jaw said otherwise. Taeyong was curling up against Yuta. He rested his head on his chest and both of his arms were wrapped around him. He ran his fingers up and down Yuta’s arms, his eyes staring straight ahead. His face was blank and his lips pressed into a tight line, it was the facial expression that often shown when he was thinking hard.

There were loud footsteps coming down the hall that made Yuta startled awake because of it. The latter blinked his eyes and for a moment he looked dazed and confused. He was about to get up but Taeyong gently held him, preventing him from moving. A moment later, Ten, Johnny, and Jaehyun came. Donghyuck just remembered that the three of them left after lunch. Ten looked up at his boyfriend and said something in a whisper, his lips barely moving. Johnny nodded and leaned down to press his lips to Ten's before making his way to Doyoung who was playing billiard alone.

Ten approached the couch, settling himself to Yuta's left side. He leaned his head on Yuta's shoulder, throwing one leg over his thigh. He made a brief eye-contact with Taeyong and it seemed like they were talking with their eyes because a few moments later, Taeyong got up from the couch and left Yuta. He made his way to Jaehyun who silently stood several feet away from him. It was Jaehyun who reached out first, pulling Taeyong into his arms. The way he wrapped his arms around Taeyong’s body strangely looked more possessive than usual. He buried his face in Taeyong's hair and inhaled his scent before whisking him away from the living room.

Donghyuck immediately searched for Mark, wondering where he was. He didn't know how long he had slept but he needed to go home. He slowly sat up, massaging his sore neck.

“Mark is still outside.”

Donghyuck looked up and he was startled when he found that Ten was already looking at him from where he was sitting. He didn't smile but he didn't look intimidating either. Yuta, on the other hand, still didn't move a muscle and he had both of his eyes closed. Donghyuck quickly averted his gaze away. He wasn't used seeing Yuta like that and he supposed the latter needed some moment after what happened earlier.

Donghyuck opened his mouth to say something but he ended up settling with a simple nod. It was actually the very first time he talked to Ten. He and Johnny were always keeping their distance, only acknowledging Donghyuck when it was needed.

“He will be back soon. Don't worry,” he said. “Are you feeling better now?”

Donghyuck's eyes widened slightly. One of the Brat Pack members must have told him about what happened to Donghyuck. It surprised him that Ten cared enough to ask about his wellbeing.

“Y-yes,” he replied and couldn’t help but stutter a little. “Still a little bit dizzy, but I feel better now.”

Ten nodded. “Good.”

Ten didn't say anything else and gave his attention back to Yuta. He started to say something in a low voice and Donghyuck quickly lowered his gaze, knowing that it would be rude to look. Thankfully, Mark came shortly after that. He looked alarmed as he saw Donghyuck got up from the couch and quickly ran to his side.

“Hey, hey,” Mark was in Donghyuck's side in an instant, wrapping his arms around his waist to steady him. “Where are you going?”

“I want to pee.”

“Let me help you.”

Donghyuck pinched Mark's arms when the latter tried to lift him up. He glared at him.

“If you're going to carry me like I'm an invalid, I will kick you.”

Mark had the audacity to laugh, his body shook a little but his voice wasn't loud enough to break the absolute silence in the room. He looked at Donghyuck, clearly amused, but he stayed unfazed.

“You will never,” he said, his lips slowly stretching into his signature lopsided smile. It annoyed Donghyuck more because Mark clearly had an upper hand now. “Not when you can barely steady yourself.”

Donghyck scoffed. “I'm perfectly fine.”

Donghyuck tried to wriggle from Mark's hold but the latter tightened his grip. Donghyuck let out a grumble and unthinkingly stepped over Mark’s feet, hard enough to make the latter yelp and loosen his grip.

“What was that for, midget?!”

Before Donghyuck could say something in return, a deep voice beat him.

“That’s what you got for being annoying, Mark.”

Mark and Donghyuck turned to Yuta at the same time. They couldn't hide their surprise when they found Yuta was already staring at them. A small grin broke across his face. For a moment, Donghyuck was taken aback to see it. Yuta was now sitting straight with Ten still clinging to his left arm. One would think that the latter was like his usual self. But Donghyuck was close enough to see the way his eyes didn't light up like how it used to be. After knowing his story through Mark and got a deeper impression of his personality, it made him able to see his facade. Yuta was a fighter and he wasn't the type of person who liked to show his real self, especially his weakness, in front of other people. For him to let Donghyuck saw him having one of the lowest moments of his life made the smaller somehow connected to him in a different way.

“I'm not being annoying,” Mark retorted, his face completely neutral, though he was as surprised as Donghyuck earlier. But he understood the situation. Making it a big deal would only piss Yuta.

“I just want to pee,” Donghyuck said, rolling his eyes at him. “Are you seriously going to walk me to the bathroom and wait for me until I'm done?”

Mark nodded dumbly at him.

Donghyuck groaned. “I can't believe you.”

Yuta let out a chuckle, his voice resonated throughout the room and broke the solid silence. It made Ten's face brightened up a little, though he tried to conceal his expression as best as he could to make it oblivious. And the rest of the Brat Pack who secretly checking up on Yuta from time to time seemed extremely relieved to hear it. For some reasons, it made Donghyuck relieved too. At least, right now, Yuta's smile was genuine and the mirth in his eyes was there although it barely showed. It was way better than before and all of them who were in the room seemed to have the same thought.

 


 

As Mark and Donghyuck entered the apartment, they could hear pans clanging and the soup boiling. It meant Kun was there and he was currently cooking. For a moment Donghyuck was worried what would Kun do if he knew that Mark was coming. Judging from his reaction this morning and the delayed conversation about the situation Donghyuck had with the elder making him slightly anxious. Mark seemed to sense his discomfort because the next thing he knew, an arm slipped around his waist and he was being pulled into his embrace.

“It's okay,” Mark squeezed his waist gently. “I will handle him.”

“You said it as if you're going to face my parents.”

“He is your guardian, although not officially. He kind of takes the role as your parent, too, isn't he? Come on. Let’s get inside. You need to rest.”

Mark led Donghyuck inside and Kun noticed their presence almost immediately. He turned around and his eyebrows furrowed as he stared at their proximity. He glared at Mark's hand that was wrapped around Donghyuck's waist, clearly displeased. Donghyuck noticed it too and his cheeks instantly flushed. Now he felt as if his mother was witnessing him being intimate with another boy and it was kinda embarrassing. But Mark wouldn't let go of Donghyuck and the smaller wasn't in a good condition to put up a fight.

“You're late,” Kun said, and then turned around again to turn off the stove. “It's past dinner time.”

“I'm sorry,” Mark replied before Donghyuck could open his mouth to say something. The smaller turned to him, his lips slightly parted in surprise. Did Mark just apologize?

“I know I was supposed to take him before dinner,” he continued, his voice steady. “He was sleeping and I didn't have the heart to wake him up. Not when he looked so peaceful in his sleep.”

Donghyuck gaped at Mark but the latter didn't even look at him. Mark was looking straight to Kun. The latter let out a grumble but now his face was back to normal. Donghyuck saw that as good sight.

“Go wash up, Haechannie,” Kun said as he set the table. “I've re-heated the soup for you and prepare your medicine.”

“I will walk him to his room.”

Donghyuck elbowed Mark, signaling for him to shut up. How come Mark was so confident to blurt out things like that when Kun clearly wasn’t fond of him. Donghyuck expected Kun to ask Mark to leave right away but to his surprise, Kun gave him a curt nod.

“Five minutes,” was all he said.

Mark nodded without saying anything. He gently tugged Donghyuck to walk and the smaller who was still shocked by the situation could only follow him in silence.

“What was that?” Donghyuck asked as soon as they stopped before his room, away from Kun. “How come he let you did this?”

Mark let out a small chuckle. “Are you really that surprised?”

“Of course! Hyung is very protective. And as far as I know, you and hyung aren't in a good term this morning.”

Mark flicked Donghyuck's forehead lightly before opening the door, pulling the smaller inside.

“You think too much.”

“I'm not!” Donghyuck pouted, rubbing his forehead while grumbling.

“It's nothing,” Mark said. “I talked to him and we kind of sealed a deal. It’s a win-win situation for us.”

Donghyuck looked at Mark suspiciously. “What deal?”

“That, midget,” Mark said, his lips tugged into a playful smirk before he continued, “is a secret.”

Before Donghyuck could say something in return, Mark shoved a paper bag he had been holding for a while into his hand. When Mark took it out from the backseat, Donghyuck wondered as to why Mark brought it with him. He then opened it and was surprised to see a suit inside. One look at the brand and Donghyuck knew that it was ridiculously expensive.

“You were supposed to try it first but you know what happened. So I made them finished everything this evening and went to the store when you were still sleeping to get it.”

Donghyuck frowned. “I don't need this.”

“You do,” Mark said. “My friends and I have to attend a charity event tomorrow's night and I'm bringing you as my date, obviously.”

Donghyuck's eyes widened slightly. Even though he'd never joined in that kind of event, but he knew that charity functions were a lot of work. It meant making small talk, smiling nonstop, and conversations about businesses. It was all for publicity. And it also meant the whole red carpet business and paparazzi. Going there meant getting exposure and just thinking about it made Donghyuck's stomach lurched.

“Hey, it's okay,” Mark quickly took his hand in his, squeezing it gently. The distress must be evident in Donghyuck's face. “I promise that it will be quick. I just have to be there for a few minutes. I will get us out as quickly as possible.”

“Okay,” Donghyuck said with a long sigh. There was nothing he could do about it. He was aware that getting into a relationship with Mark would be tricky. The latter had a reputation to maintain and Donghyuck supposed as his boyfriend, albeit fake, he had to go along with it.

Mark raised his hand and then brushed the length of Donghyuck's cheekbone with his fingertips. Donghyuck blinked, not expecting the touch of comfort. The trail his fingers left on his skin was alarmingly warm. And it definitely wasn't because of his sickness.

“If I can't escape those old businessmen, I will ask Ten hyung to rescue you. He's good at escaping public. You don't have to worry about it.”

Donghyuck could only nod, blinking at him. A moment later, there was a knock in the door.

“Five minutes have passed,” Kun said, crossing his arms against his chest. “Time's up.”

“I'll be going now,” Mark replied but his eyes were on Donghyuck's. He didn't even spare Kun a glance and waited until the latter left the room before talking again.

“I'll pick you up tomorrow. For now, take a rest, okay?”

“Okay.”

Mark's lips stretched into a smile. Donghyuck stared at him and he knew that Mark would kiss him. He felt ridiculously stupid for anticipating it but he couldn't help but close his eyes as Mark's warm lips pressed against his forehead, light and soft. He almost leaned into the touch but caught himself in time. His cheeks flushed deeper and he lowered his eyes. God, why was he being like this?

“Get well soon, midget,” he said, ruffling his hair gently. Now the nickname didn’t sound offensive and Donghyuck found himself didn’t mind with it. “I have to go now.”

Donghyuck looked up at him and gave him a small smile.

“I haven't thanked you yet for what you did this afternoon,” he said. “Thank you for saving me.”

Mark only smiled and nodded at him before making his way out. Donghyuck turned around and watched his back disappeared from his vision. He unconsciously touched his cheeks to feel the warmth. He didn't know why he was suddenly being so shy around Mark but he didn't have time to ponder over it because Kun yelled from the living room, telling him to be quick. And just like that, he forgot about the fluttering sensation in his chest and went to the bathroom to wash up.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Donghyuck had texted Mark and told the latter not to pick him up because he wanted to go to school with Sicheng. Thankfully, Mark understood the situation and told him that he would pick him once the school was over because they needed to get ready for the charity event. Donghyuck tried not to think about it and focused on Sicheng instead. He hadn't seen the latter since yesterday. Kun had told him that his cousin went straight to work after he came back from school. In all honesty, Donghyuck was nervous. After he knew that Yuta and Sicheng had a history before, he didn't know how to break it to the Chinese guy that he sort of dating Mark, Yuta's friend, the leader of The Brat Pack. He wasn't sure whether Sicheng would take the news well or not.

Today Kun offered to take Chenle to school so Donghyuck waited for Sicheng outside the apartment building. A few minutes later, Sicheng appeared looking normal as if nothing had happened. But Donghyuck quickly noticed how his smile was a little tight and he seemed agitated.

“Hey, hyung. Good morning,” Donghyuck greeted him with a big smile, trying to ease his distress. And it worked because Sicheng invisibly relaxed, smiling back at Donghyuck.

“Hey, Haechanie,” he greeted back. “Good morning to you, too.”

“Ready for your first day?”

Sicheng hummed but didn't give him a verbal answer. They walked together to the bus stop in complete silence. For a moment they didn't say anything. They sat on the bus-stop bench, waiting for the bus to come. Donghyuck didn't know how to start the conversation but luckily it was Sicheng who broke the silence between them.

“I supposed you're curious of what happened yesterday?”

Donghyuck turned to Sicheng to see his expression but the latter looked straight ahead. Sicheng had always been shy and timid. He was very reserved too. He didn’t talk that much. Now Donghyuck felt bad for knowing about him and Yuta without his knowledge. And he just couldn't stay silent about it.

“I asked Mark about you and Yuta hyung. I'm so sorry, hyung.” Donghyuck said honestly. He watched as Sicheng went rigid for a few seconds before letting out a sigh. He turned to Donghyuck and smiled reassuringly.

“It's okay. I wasn't planning on hiding it anyway,” he said, but then his expression instantly changed as a realization sunk in. His eyes widened. “Wait, you know Mark Lee?”

Donghyuck opened his mouth to answer him but the bus had stopped before them, effectively stopping their conversation. He waited until they got inside and settled at the back row before telling Sicheng the truth. He didn't hide anything because he thought it would make them even. He told Sicheng how he ended up being in a relationship with Mark and how it also automatically made him get involved with the Brat Pack as well. Apparently, Sicheng also knew about them. Yuta had told him about his friends before and had shown him their pictures. Sicheng remembered their faces but not all of their names.

By the time Donghyuck had finished his story, they had arrived at the school. Sicheng looked a little dazed and baffled after listening to Donghyuck's story.

“Wow,” Sicheng said after a loaded moment of silence, blinking at Donghyuck. “That's...”

“Complicated?”

“Yeah,” Sicheng agreed. “And totally unexpected, too. Sounds like fate, really.”

Donghyuck sighed. “I know. Sometimes I still can't believe that all of these happened to me,”

“But I'm glad they treat you well, Haechanie,” Sicheng said, patting Donghyuck's head gently. “I know things will get more complicated but after knowing about Mark through your stories, you don't have to worry. He will protect you.”

Donghyuck understood what Sicheng meant and suddenly he didn't feel alone anymore. It just occurred to Donghyuck that a lot had happened and things weren't the same again ever since he knew about the Brat Pack and got involved with them. He had friends who were always there for him and Donghyuck was thankful for them. But they didn't really understand and know what he had been through because Donghyuck never really talked about it. But Sicheng was different. Sicheng had experienced the worst and he wasn't as lucky as Donghyuck. There was a mutual understanding between them, the kind of connection that grew because they've been through the same thing.

Donghyuck wanted to tell Sicheng that Yuta would've done the same for him. He knew for sure that if Yuta knew about his parents’ plan, he would do anything to protect Sicheng, too. But he didn't say anything and decided to keep mum. It wasn't his place to interfere with their relationship but he had faith that the two of them would eventually find a way. Donghyuck had seen the way Yuta looked at Sicheng and the smaller knew that this time, their story would be different.

 


 

The Brat Pack was there.

They were there and suddenly Donghyuck felt such a sense of dejavu. It reminded him of his first day and the first time he saw them. Those events felt like they happened a long time ago when in reality it only been weeks. Donghyuck knew that the Brat Pack would be there because they were always together. But Sicheng didn't know that and Donghyuck could feel him grew tensed as they walked past the school gate.

It was as if the Brat Pack had been waiting for their arrival because they immediately turned to them. Donghyuck could feel all eyes turned to him and Sicheng and it started getting uncomfortable. He locked eyes with Mark's and the latter silently beckoned him to come closer, smiling reassuringly at him. Donghyuck didn't obey him right away. Instead, he turned to Sicheng who refused to look at the Brat Pack. The reason was obvious; Yuta was there and Donghyuck could see from his peripheral look how Doyoung pressed himself against the latter to prevent him from moving.

“Hyung,” Donghyuck tugged at Sicheng's hand, squeezing it gently. “Do you want me to accompany you to class? I can ask Mark to go without me.”

Sicheng swallowed thickly. He looked conflicted as his eyes roamed around, watching how other students started to whisper while looking at them.

“Let's just go there,” Sicheng said, clenching his jaw together. “We're making a scene.”

“But, hyung—“

“Yuta is there, I know,” Sicheng sighed, smiling at Donghyuck even though it didn't reach his eyes. “It's okay. We've talked yesterday. He's not going to do anything in public.”

Sicheng tugged Donghyuck to move forward before the smaller could say something in return. Almost immediately all of the Brat Pack members straightened their posture, waiting for them. Sicheng was right. They've created a scene. Donghyuck could hear their loud whispers, wondering who was the guy next to him. It made Donghyuck tightened his hold in Sicheng's hand, silently telling the latter that he was there for him. Sicheng appreciated the sentiment and squeezed his hand back in return.

It would be the very first time The Brat Pack met Sicheng officially and they looked like they had anticipated it. Their expressions were neutral. Taeyong was back at his usual self, leaning against Jaehyun who held him close. He waved at Donghyuck and the smaller waved back at him, returning his smile. Ten and Johnny stood at the back yet still managed to stand out. Ten also flashed Donghyuck a small smile and it caught the smaller off guard. It took him a while before he returned Ten's smile shyly. Doyoung looked pissed as he elbowed Yuta who looked like he wanted to leap, glaring at him. Yuta glared back at Doyoung but he silently obeyed his friend, keeping himself grounded. He might look impassive outside but the way his lips twitched the closer Sicheng to him proved otherwise.

When Donghyuck and Sicheng finally stopped before the Brat Pack, Mark immediately held his hand out for Donghyuck and the smaller took it without letting go of Sicheng's hand. Yuta stared at their intertwined hands and Donghyuck could see the way his eyes burning. It made the smaller flinched, afraid of his territorial reaction. Sicheng noticed it and he was the one who let go of Donghyuck's hand. Mark quickly pulled Donghyuck against him, wrapping his arm around his shoulder.

“Hey,” Taeyong, as expected, was the first one to greet Sicheng. He flashed him a friendly smile. “Sicheng, right? I'm Taeyong. Nice to finally meet you,”

Sicheng looked taken aback with the friendly gesture but he was quick to school his expression. He stared at Taeyong for a few moments before flashing him a tentative smile.

“Hi, Taeyong. Nice to meet you, too.”

“I’m Jaehyun,” Jaehyun nodded at Sicheng as a greeting. He didn’t smile but his eyes were welcoming. He gestured at the rest of the Brat Pack members and continued, “And they are my friends. I supposed you already know us?”

“I do,” Sicheng nodded as her eyes roaming over the Brat Pack, but he purposely avoiding Yuta.

“Your first class is Biology, right?” Yuta suddenly chimed in, his voice was eager. “I can take you to your class.”

Sicheng didn’t even look surprised when he heard that. He slowly turned to Yuta and looked at him, letting out a sigh.  

“Of course you know my schedules,” Sicheng said, and the way he talked showed that it wasn’t the first time he dealt with this. “I would be surprised if you don’t,”

Yuta smiled sheepishly at Sicheng. He opened his mouth to say something but the latter beat him to it.

“But no, I can go to my class by myself,” Sicheng continued and Yuta nodded as if he had anticipated rejection. He didn’t look hurt by it but his shoulders visibly sagged in defeat.

“Okay,” he said, his voice still sounded eager. “I’ll see you around, then?”

Sicheng didn’t answer him but he held his gaze. Yuta smiled at Sicheng but it wasn’t the kind of smile that he usually showed to others. It was a real smile; soft, gentle, and only reserved for him. Donghyuck who had been silently watching them was slightly taken aback to see it because it was the very first time he saw Yuta smiled like that. And it made him looked like a completely different person.

“All right, guys,” Doyoung said after a few moments of silence, breaking the tension between them. “Class starts in less than ten minutes. Let’s go.”

Doyoung walked ahead first. Ten and Johnny quickly followed him. Taeyong silently beckoned Sicheng to walk with them before following his friends. Yuta was instantly by Sicheng's side and they walked together, side by side. Sicheng put a safe distance between them and Yuta didn’t cross the line. Mark tugged Donghyuck to walk behind them but he purposely walked slowly to give them some space.

As they walking into the hallway, Donghyuck noticed that all eyes were on Sicheng. He could tell that they were curious about him. Their reaction reminded Donghyuck of the way they looked at him when he was with the Brat Pack. It was obviously not nice and pleasant at all. Donghyuck felt a shiver of fear as he thought that what happened to him might happen to Sicheng. He was so immersed in his own thoughts that he didn't realize that he was gripping Mark's hand a little too hard now.

“Hey,” Mark pulled him closer, leaning his head down so only Donghyuck could hear him. “Are you okay?”

Donghyuck turned to Mark and he didn't have to say anything because Mark could already see the fear in his eyes.

“Don't worry, midget,” Mark pressed his lips against his temple and the gesture instantly calmed Donghyuck. “He's not going to let anything happen to him. Trust him.”

Donghyuck didn't doubt that Yuta would protect Sicheng at all costs but he just couldn't help but feel anxious. He just wished that nothing bad would happen to Sicheng. And if something did happen, he wished Yuta would be there to save him.

 


 

 

The last class had ended five minutes ago and the teacher had already gone but Donghyuck was still stuck on his seat because Koeun and her friends cornered him. It was just the five of them in the class now because everyone else was already filed out of the room. Koeun was clearly fuming as she slammed her hands onto the table, glaring at Donghyuck who stayed unfazed. He knew that something would happen when he'd entered the class and saw Koeun and her friends were also there.

“You—“ she hissed, pointing her slender finger at Donghyuck's face. “Because of you, we've got into detention.”

Donghyuck looked up, looking straight at her eyes.

“I wasn't the one who locked someone in the bathroom.”

Koeun's nostrils flared up and her face turned red. It was so easy to get her worked up. She raised her hand and lunged forward. Donghyuck knew what was coming but before Koeun could touch him, a sharp voice interrupted them.

“Haven't you learn your lesson, girls?”

The five of them turned around and Donghyuck was surprised to see Ten at the doorway. He did not expect to see him out of all people. Ten was leaning against the door, both of his hands were crossed over his chest. He raised one of his eyebrows at Koeun's hand and she immediately lowered it, her face flushed in embarrassment.

“T-Ten sunbaemin!”

Koeun and her friends stuttered, stumbling backward. They clearly didn't expect Ten's presence too.

“If you touch him,” Ten said slowly, menacingly, and there was a warning in his eyes that made those girls visibly trembling. “I promise you that you won't like what would come to you. And this is the last warning. Now, go.”

Koeun spluttered and she quickly pulled her friends to go. They ducked their heads down when they walked past Ten, not having enough courage to look at him. Once they were gone, Ten tsked loudly.

“Such a nuisance,” he muttered under his breath. Donghyuck watched as Ten approached him. Honestly, he didn't really know how to react right now. He’d talked to Ten yesterday, though for a very brief moment. But it was still awkward to just be with him without the others.

Ten stopped before Donghyuck's table and smiled at him.

“Mark sent me here to pick you up,” he said. “He will meet you later.”

Donghyuck tilted his head a little, confusion written all over his face.

“Where will we go?”

Ten smirked. “You'll see.”

 


 

 

Donghyuck didn't know what to do when Ten led him out of the class and he just silently followed him. The hallway was already empty and there weren't many students. They walked to the parking lot and stopped before BMW M4 Convertible. It was glossy black, sleek, and pretty, just like the Brat Pack's other vehicles. It was the very first time Donghyuck saw Ten's car because the latter usually came to school with Johnny. And now that they were here, Donghyuck was still confused as to where Ten would take him.

“Get in, Donghyuck,”

Donghyuck spluttered. “Y-yes?”

Ten noticed Donghyuck's hesitancy and offered him a smile. It was small but genuine enough to make the latter relaxed.

“Mark personally asked me to take care of you because he has to go with Jaehyun to arrange last details for the charity event,” Ten explained. “You have to get ready to go there too, right? Do you bring your suits?”

Donghyuck wordlessly nodded. Mark had asked him to bring his suits to the school and now it still tucked safely inside his bag.

“Good. Now we have to go. Taeyongie will have our heads if we're late.”

Donghyuck didn't have another choice but to obey. He slid inside the car and buckled his seat-belt. The ride was completely silent, only soft RnB music could be heard from the stereo. After a few minutes, they entered the busy street of Gangnam-gu, passing many department stores, shopping centers, malls, and apartment buildings. They drove for some more minutes before Ten took a right turn and entered one of the most luxurious penthouses Donghyuck had ever seen. They stopped at the parking lot and Ten turned off the engine.

“Come on,” Ten beckoned him to get off. “Taeyongie and Doyoungie are already there.”

Donghyuck slid out of the car, dumbfounded and dazed. Donghyuck had to admit that he was nervous as they rode a private elevator up to the penthouse apartment. The sight of high ceilings was new to him and it was still awkward with Ten around him. When the elevator opened directly into the apartment's marbled entry foyer, Donghyuck tightened his grip around the straps of his bag. Ten unlocked the double-door entrance and ushered him inside gently.

Donghyuck couldn't help but look around and admire everything as soon as he stepped inside. Ten's home was as beautiful as the guy himself. It was a duplex apartment and Donghyuck thought it would be more sleek and modern. But Ten's private space was so different. To Donghyuck's surprise, it was more warm and homey inside with a breathtaking view of Han River.

“It's...amazing,” Donghyuck shyly said, feeling privileged to see it. It was a glimpse into the Ten that Donghyuck hadn't able to see before. “Your house is very stunning, sunbae-nim.”

Ten chuckled. “Thanks. But it's not mine alone. Johnny lives here, too.”

Donghyuck's eyes widened slightly.

“You guys live together?”

“Yeah,” Ten casually replied, as if it was nothing. “Jaehyunie and Taeyongie live together, too. Just for your information.”

Ten led Donghyuck deeper into the apartment. They walked past the living room and went into the kitchen where Taeyong and Doyoung were there. The two of them were engaged in what seemed like a serious conversation while cooking.

“We're here,”

Taeyong and Doyoung turned almost the same time. Taeyong smiled as soon as he saw Donghyuck.

“Donghyuck, you're here!” he exclaimed warmly. “I hope you’re hungry? We haven’t eaten lunch yet so I’m cooking now.”

Donghyuck smiled back. He was able to feel at ease now. Taeyong's presence also helped him feel more relaxed.

“Yeah, hyung,” Donghyuck admitted honestly. “I’m actually hungry, too.”

Taeyong’s smile widened.

“Great!”

“The food is almost done,” Doyoung informed them. He looked up to look at Donghyuck and continued, “Can you set the table?”

Donghyuck quickly nodded.

“Yes, sure.”

 


 

 

After the late lunch was over, Taeyong quickly ushered Donghyuck to take a long bath. The latter had prepared everything. The bath, the hot water, the salt to rub his body, and the shampoo. They were all ready for him. Donghyuck could only mumble a shy 'thank you' to Taeyong, not really knowing what else to say, though he was very thankful for his thoughtfulness. No wonder Taeyong was like a mom in the group. He really knew how to take care of people.

Donghyuck spent almost half an hour in the bathroom, which was the longest bath he'd ever taken. After he shut off the water, he did a quick pat down before he wrapped a towel around his wet head and another around his body. He stopped by the mirror and took the lotion that was prepared for him. He rubbed it all over him and it felt smooth and silken on his tender skin. Donghyuck liked the aroma of it, the softest perfume-and-soap aroma and it also smelled like the lavender he'd smelled in his hair. By the time he stepped out of the bathroom, he felt so good, so light. Something he hadn't felt in what seemed like forever.

Taeyong, Doyoung, and Ten were already waiting for Donghyuck outside. They all turned to Donghyuck, examining him from head to toe, and they must have felt satisfied with what they were seeing because all of them nodded approvingly toward him.

“Now you look so fresh and bright,” Ten commented. “The raw material is perfect.”

Taeyong led Donghyuck to Ten's dressing room and settled him down into a red velvet chair, facing the giant mirror. Donghyuck blinked at himself. He didn't know what will they do to him now.

“Now, Donghyuck,” Taeyong said as he stood behind him, settling his hands over his shoulders. “Ten will do his part after this. Don't worry. He's good at this.”

“Oh, honey, I will make Mark Lee's jaw drop once he sees you,”

Donghyuck blushed. He wasn't really sure what he meant but it seemed like the three of them had already planned everything for him. Donghyuck didn't have another choice but let them do anything. He leaned back and almost drifted in as Ten polished his face. He treated Donghyuck with extra care as if he was a doll and it made the smaller blushed a little because of the massive attention he's got today. After Ten had done his job, Donghyuck didn't get a chance to look at himself in the mirror because Taeyong and Doyoung quickly pulled him up to dry his hair and get dressed.

By the time Donghyuck was done with everything, Ten led him to stand in front of the mirror and Donghyuck almost couldn't believe what he saw. The reflection in the mirror was obviously him, but he looked like a different person. The person in front of him was beautiful and stunning. His skin was so smooth and the dark eye-shadow that Ten had applied to his eyes made them look bigger. Donghyuck didn't know what foundation Ten had used but it perfectly highlighted his golden skin.

Donghyuck heard someone squealing and realized that it was Taeyong.

“Donghyuck, you look so stunning and beautiful!”

Doyoung nodded in agreement.

“The make-up is light but it managed to make you look so different. But Taeyongie is right. You look beautiful.”

Donghyuck ducked his head down. He wasn't used to being complimented like that, especially about his look.

“Donghyuck, don't lower your head,” Ten scolded him gently. “If someone compliments you, keep your head up and be confident. It doesn't mean that you're arrogant. By accepting the compliment, you show gratitude for the other person’s kind remark. You have to learn how to value and appreciate yourself, too. You're beautiful and that's true. So be confident and be good about yourself.”

Donghyuck was taken aback by Ten's words. He didn't expect it at all and he was a little flushed by the sudden encouragement. But he supposed Ten was right. He had to try to be more confident now.

“Thank you, sunbae-nim,” Donghyuck said, looking at Ten straight in the eyes. “I’ll try to be more confident.”

Ten smiled, more sincere and genuine now.

“You've learned fast. I like that,” he said, clearly satisfied. “Also, sunbae-nim sounds way too formal. Just call me hyung just like how you call Taeyongie.”

Donghyuck nodded, his smile widened too.

“Yes, hyung.”

 


 

 

Donghyuck couldn't help but squirm under Mark's unwavering gaze. Mark had been staring at him for a whole minute now, his eyes scanning him from to toe. Mark had always been blunt with his moves but this felt slightly different than before. Mark's eyes were fixed on him, only him. And it looked like he couldn't look away. He didn't want to look away. The way he looked at Donghyuck was intense—intensely focused and hot. Donghyuck's rate heart kicked up, sending goose bumps through him. It seemed like no matter how many times Mark looked at him like that, he could never get used to it.

A loud throat-clearing sound was heard and it successfully broke the silence in the room.

“Mark, you're drooling,” Doyoung teased the younger boy. “I know that Donghyuck looks beautiful, but you don't have to look at him like that. You scare him.”

Mark did not even spare Doyoung a glance as he replied, “How do I look at him?”

“Like you want to eat him,” Ten answered casually. Donghyuck quickly blushed and averted his gaze away.

“Enough, you two,” Taeyong chimed in, giggling at Donghyuck's reaction. “They need to go now. Mark, go take your date.”

Mark walked toward Donghyuck while holding his gaze. Donghyuck was unable to look away the closer Mark came to him. The latter wore the same black suit as him but he looked effortlessly gorgeous and powerful just like how he usually was. His strides were graceful and strong. Mark was a man who knew how to carry himself and it made him looked so much more attractive.

“Donghyuck.”

Mark caught up Donghyuck's hand and lifted it to his mouth, kissing his knuckles gently. The feel of Mark’s lips against his skin sent goose bumps racing up his arms. It also made his face flushed even more.

“H-hi.”

Amusement warmed Mark's eyes. His lopsided smile slowly made its way to his face.

“Hi, yourself. You look amazing, Donghyuck.”

Donghyuck’s automatic reaction was to duck his head down because he was so shy to hear it but then he remembered Ten's words about appreciating himself and he thought that it was the right time to start.

“Thank you,” he replied, shyly. “You look g-good, too.”

Mark chuckled and almost instantly his cold demeanor melted and he looked more warm, more friendly.

“Thanks, midget. Shall we go now?”

Donghyuck wordlessly nodded. Mark slid his hand into Donghyuck's, linking their fingers together.

“Thank you for taking care of him, hyung,” Mark said as he turned to Ten, smiling gratefully at him. The latter just waved his hand in dismissal.

“It's fine,” he said. “Now, go. We'll see you two there, okay?”

“Okay.”

Donghyuck flashed the three of them a big smile before walking out of the apartment with Mark.

 


 

Donghyuck was distracted with the earlier preparation that he didn't really think about the charity event and how much of a hustle it was. After waiting in a line of limos discharging their passengers, they finally pulled up to the red carpet rolled out in front of a tall building, a place to private members-only. Paparazzi were as thick as fall leaves on the ground, crowding around the limos.

Donghyuck looked through the closed windows and saw more photographers held back on the right side of the entrance, while logoed backdrops lined the wall on the left for the event and sponsor-branded photos. Donghyuck immediately recognized Lee Group and JH Holdings logos there. He could feel the anxiety started bubbling inside him. He was very new to this kind of exposure and he didn't know what to do. He knew that the moment he stepped outside, presenting himself to the world, there would be no exit.

“Hey,” Mark's gentle voice easily distracted Donghyuck. He tightened his hold in Donghyuck's hand, squeezing it gently as an attempt to calm him down. “It's okay. I'm here. We'll get through this together.”

Donghyuck stared back at Mark and he knew that he could trust him. Letting out a deep sigh, he nodded.

“Okay,” he said. “You're not going to leave me, right?”

“Never,” Mark didn't miss a beat to answer, his voice firm. “Let's go?”

“Let's go.”

The chauffeur opened the door and Donghyuck could feel the momentary expectation as the paparazzi waited to see who would step out. The moment Mark did, camera flashes exploding in rapid, endless succession.

“Mr. Lee! Look this way!”

Mark paid them no mind as he bent down and held his hand out to Donghyuck. Letting out a deep breath, Donghyuck set his hand in Mark's, intertwining their fingers. The moment he stepped out, camera flashes burst out like fireworks, blinding the smaller. Mark pulled him closer, settling one hand on the small of his back. Donghyuck instinctively pressed himself against Mark. He didn’t know where to look but he flashed them a small polite smile. As they walked past the paparazzi, Donghyuck noticed that Mark's demeanor had changed. He smiled, but it was tight and obviously practiced. Her eyes were cold and sharp. It reminded Donghyuck of his first encountered with Mark. Right now, the latter looked so unapproachable but his grip around Donghyuck's waist was protective and familiar and it helped the smaller feel more at ease.

“Mr. Lee! Who is this boy? Is he your boyfriend?”

Mark ignored their question and kept walking. Donghyuck was pretty sure that they had to stop by for some photographs but he was so grateful that Mark purposely skipped it. Once they were inside, there was a guard who escorted them up to an elevator to the ballroom floor. Mark still didn’t talk when they stepped into a vast space filled with elite, glamorous and powerful businessmen and women. The atmosphere was heavily fragranced by the massive floral arrangements centering each dining table. There was also an orchestra playing upbeat instrumentals through the hum of conversation. Donghyuck instantly felt out of place.

Once the guard left, Mark steered Donghyuck through the groups of people, only pausing briefly for those who stepped into their path with greetings. Donghyuck was fascinated with how Mark's mask slipped smoothly into place. His lips lost any hint of the curve and his smile was tightly guarded. There was a shield between him and the rest of the world simply because he wished it to be that way. He felt detached but at the same time, he also could slide effortlessly into his public persona. Donghyuck, on the other hand, was very stiff and edgy, and he was pretty sure that his smile didn't hide his nervousness. Some people tried to talk to Donghyuck but Mark always so smoothly directed the conversation back to him, easily shielding Donghyuck from them.

Mark led Donghyuck to the bar at the other side of the room where there weren't that many people. Now that there was enough space to breathe, less stuffy and crowded, Donghyuck's body instantly relaxed.

“Come here, midget,”

Mark stepped around Donghyuck and laid his hand on the nape of his neck, kneading, pressing, and running those strong fingers over the knots. It was obvious that Donghyuck was tensed.

“Better now?”

Donghyuck nodded, his muscles slowly loosened, the knots untied. Now he didn't feel as suffocated as before.

“Yeah,” he breathed out. “That was pretty intense,”

Mark let out a chuckle and the carefully maintained facade instantly slipped. Donghyuck could see the usual Mark now and he thought that the latter looked so much better when he was being himself. Mark had stopped pressing his fingers over Donghyuck's neck but he didn't step back. Instead, he pulled the smaller closer. Donghyuck almost couldn't see anything in the front because Mark blocked his view. Their faces were so close and there wasn't any personal space left between them. Donghyuck didn't have to look around to know that people were watching. He could feel their eyes on them, hot and judgmental. He tried not to think about them and focused on Mark, which was so much easier than he thought.

“We'll leave after Jaehyunie hyung give his speech,” Mark informed him. “But I have to go with him because it's our family who hosts the event.”

"You're going to leave?"

Donghyuck did not want to sound clingy like that but everything was new for him. He didn't know what should he do if Mark left him alone. Sensing Donghyuck's worry, Mark squeezed the smaller's waist gently.

“Just for a few minutes, midget,” he said gently, pushing a stray strand away from Donghyuck's eyes. He smiled reassuringly at him. “I'll ask Yuta hyung to accompany you because he is the one who never bothers to mingle. He only comes here for good champagne and wine. My other friends and I have to at least talk to those boring businessmen and women.”

Donghyuck understood the pressure and now it seemed like Mark was the one who needed some encouragement and comfort. Instinctively, Donghyuck wrapped his arms around his neck, doing the same thing Mark did to him. The latter let out a deep sigh when Donghyuck's fingers pressed the tensed muscles harder.

“It must be really boring,”

Mark sighed. “It is. But all of us have learned to just suck it up and go along with it.”

Mark opened his mouth to say something but then he heard the camera shutter sound around him. He turned around and glared at the photographer who secretly took their picture. The man cowered under Mark's warning gaze and quickly left. Mark turned to Donghyuck again and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“I swear I'll sue him if he releases shit on the magazine,”

Donghyuck pursed his lips, ignoring the profanity that slipped from Mark’s lips.

“They're going to release something about us tomorrow, right?”

It wasn't really hard to guess anyway. Coming to a big event with one of the richest chaebol in Seoul would be a hot topic.

“They will,” Mark replied. “But you don't have to worry about that. If there's any bad news about you, I'll make sure they take full responsibility for their own actions.”

The firmness and reassurance in Mark’s voice managed to calm Donghyuck down. He wasn’t really worried about it. After all, Mark had proven himself that he was more than capable to protect Donghyuck.

 


 

 

Mark left Donghyuck as soon as Yuta arrived. Yuta looked like a different person now. He slid seamlessly into his public persona just like how Mark did earlier. He looked splendidly handsome, his suits hugged him perfectly and his jet black hair was pushed back. He was completely at ease, coolly aloof, and more reserved. He approached Donghyuck with an easy smile and the smaller was glad because at least the smile that was directed at him was familiar.

“Boring, isn't it?” Yuta said, and then he turned to the bartender to order a glass of champagne.

“A little,” Donghyuck admitted. “It’s pretty overwhelming. The attention and stuff,”

The bartender gave Yuta a glass of champagne and the latter sipped it gracefully, the practiced movements were easily detected.

“I don't like events like this,” Yuta started, settling himself next to Donghyuck while observing people around him with a clear distaste on his face. “Look at them smiling at each other. All of them are fake. Sometimes I wish I was just a normal kid like you.”

Donghyuck nodded in understanding. After knowing the Brat Pack for a while and got a real glimpse of them, he could understand that sometimes things were still overwhelming for them too, though they were used to it. They craved freedom and normalcy, something they couldn't easily get because of their social status and the circumstances they were in.

Donghyuck was about to say something in return when his eyes caught the familiar sight. He squinted and then he gasped when he saw Sicheng among the crowd wearing waiters uniform. Kun had told Donghyuck that Sicheng had a lot of part-time jobs to support himself but the smaller did not expect to see the latter here, out of all places. Did Sicheng know that the Brat Pack was here too? And Yuta...

Donghyuck quickly turned to Yuta and found that the latter had recognized Sicheng's presence. Yuta's expression mirrored Donghyuck's. He was clearly surprised, too. But then something shifted in his face and the determination in it could easily be seen. Yuta put the already empty glass on the table and then turned again to observe Sicheng. His eyes followed every Sicheng's movements, boring holes into the back of his head.

“Donghyuck, I need to talk to him,” he slowly said, and he talked in a way that nothing or anyone could stop him from doing what he wanted. “I'll call Ten to accompany you here.”

Donghyuck nodded. He understood the urgency in Yuta's voice. It was clear that things were still complicated between them and there was still a lot to fix.

“Don't go anywhere,” Yuta warned as he turned to Donghyuck, his voice firm. There was also a command in it, which was surprising because Yuta had never talked like that before. “Don't move from your spot. Don't talk to strangers. Just stay here.”

Again, Donghyuck nodded dutifully.

“Yes, hyung.”

“Good. Ten will be here in a minute. I'll get going first.”

Donghyuck watched as Yuta left to approach Sicheng who was still oblivious of the latter's presence. From where he was standing, Donghyuck could see the way Sicheng almost dropped a tray full of drinks when Yuta stood before him, halting his steps. They were engaged in what seemed like a heated argument judging from the way Sicheng scowled at Yuta. A few moments later, the two of them made their way out of the crowd and disappeared into the corner of the room.

 


 

 

The event had just started and Mark was standing in the first row with the board members, listening to Jaehyun delivered his speech. He was itching to go back to Donghyuck because he didn't feel settled to leave the smaller alone. It wasn't like he didn't trust his friends but it was just that he needed to be there physically with him. But Mark knew that he couldn't do that because it was his obligation to be there. It was his duty as the heir of Lee Group.

A few moments later, Mark could feel his phone vibrated inside his pocket but he ignored it. It would be rude and disrespectful if he played with his phone when Jaehyun was still delivering his speech. But his phone didn't stop vibrating for minutes now and suddenly Mark didn't feel good about it. He didn't have another choice but to excuse himself. He just managed to get out of the crowd to the corner of the room where it was vacant when suddenly there was a hand that grabbed him. Startled, Mark jumped on his feet and turned around to see who grabbed him. Words instantly got stuck on his throat when he saw a troubled expression on Ten's face. It was never good when Ten had lost his composure.

“What is it?” Mark demanded, his jaw tightened.

“Mark,” Ten started, swallowed thickly, and Mark could instantly sense the distress in his voice. “Donghyuck...”

Mark was quickly alarmed.

“What? What happened to him?”

“Donghyuck was gone.”

Oh, fuck.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Sicheng ran, and ran, and ran, though he didn't know his surroundings and didn't give much thoughts of the direction he'd taken. He needed to be somewhere far and empty from people. He couldn't be in public right now, not when Yuta was there too. He didn't want to draw unnecessary attention.

He could feel his eyes stung as he heard Yuta running after him and calling his name desperately. He cursed his bad luck. After years living with guilt and trying to forget him, he moved to Seoul in an attempt to start a new life. He didn't know that fate could be so twisted that he ended up meeting with the one he avoided the most. It felt like the past had repeated itself, only this time it was already more complicated than before. If only he knew that Yuta would be there, he wouldn't accept the scholarship.

“Sicheng, stop!”

Sicheng didn't stop running. His eyes were blurry now and he furiously wiped them, scolding himself for being emotional. He was unprepared for this unexpected encounter.

“Sicheng, stop running. Please.”

It was the desperation in his voice that sounded so raw that made Sicheng halted his steps. He slowed down until he eventually stopped running completely. He could feel Yuta's presence behind him but he didn't turn around, his chest heaving and his eyes prickling with fresh tears.

“Sicheng, could you please turn around and look at me?”

Sicheng fisted his hands into a ball, trying to regain control of the emotions that were threatened to burst free. It was so Yuta to asked his consent first before doing anything. He had always been so gentle when it came to him that it pained him to remember what he'd done to him in the past. He knew that what he did to him was unfair but he didn't have much choice either.

For a very long time Sicheng imagined what would he say to Yuta if he met him again but now that the latter was right there within his reach, he didn't know what to do or say. After taking a deep breath, he slowly turned around. He felt as if someone just punched him in the gut as he took in the sight of Yuta. He looked at him properly for the first time and noticed how Yuta looked physically wrecked as the latter stared back at him. His eyes told him so many things that it took everything in him not to run away from there.

He gasped, unprepared of the impact Yuta had on him.

Yuta...”

Yuta's face twisted when Sicheng called his name. He spent years wondering where the latter was and wishing that he could get a second chance to make things right. His heart was never at ease after Sicheng disappeared from his life and he still couldn't forgive his parents for what they did to him.

Now that Sicheng was right there in front of him, it felt too good to be true. He was finally here and all Yuta had to do was reach out.

Sicheng,” Yuta swallowed down his own emotions as he took a step forward and felt relief washed over him as Sicheng stayed rooted in his place. It felt so good to say his name again after years holding himself back.

Yuta stopped before Sicheng, keeping a safe distance between them. He wanted to take him into his arms and never let go again but he didn't know if he was allowed to do that. He allowed himself to stare at him and his stomach flipped—it was something that always happened whenever he looked at Sicheng, no matter how many times he did that. His heart felt full to bursting, but his mind was stuck in the past. He took a careful step forward to assess the latter’s feelings. He was afraid that he might suddenly leap away like what happened before. Finally able to see Sicheng again in the way he'd always dreamed of, he was elated, as evident in his racing heart. And at the same time, though he would never admit it out loud, he was scared. There weren't many changes in Sicheng and he looked almost the same since the last time Yuta saw him. The longing he was feeling right now was almost unbearabale but he managed to hold it.

“I'm sorry,” he blurted out before he could stop himself. “Sicheng, I'm so sorry. I didn't know that my parents would do such things to you. I'm so sorry you had to go through such a terrible thing because of me. I'm so sorry I was not there to help you. Believe me, Sicheng, I would do anything for you. I would—“

Yuta gasped as Sicheng closed the distance between them and threw himself at him, wrapping his arms around his neck. His action caught him off guard but almost instantly he pulled the latter closer to him, holding him so tight so he wouldn't be able to leap away. He leaned down and buried his face in Sicheng's shoulder, inhaling deeply. It felt so right to have him in his arms again, warm and solid. The heat from his skin was familiar and he smelled so much like home that it made Yuta's chest seized.

“Stop blaming yourself,” Sicheng whispered, his throat constricted and unshed tears stung his eyes. He should've known that Yuta would blame himself for what happened to him though it wasn't his fault at all. “I'm the one who should apologize to you. I'm sorry for running away.”

Sicheng closed his eyes. He was a coward for running away without so much of a goodbye. He knew he wouldn't be able to say it to Yuta’s face and chose to go without saying anything. Because he thought it would be easier. It was, but he didn't know that it would break Yuta into pieces.

Yuta tightened his hold. “You didn't have another choice, baobei.”

The nickname slipped so easily from Yuta's lips and it stung Sicheng. He abruptly let go and took a step back, startling Yuta who looked alarmed as he took in his expression.

“Sicheng—“

“No, no,” Sicheng shook his head. “Yuta, I'm so sorry. I can't—“

Sicheng stopped, not really knowing what he wanted to say. But Yuta easily knew what he wanted to say and his face visibly fallen that it made him felt guilty again.

“I understand,” Yuta said, his voice turned to a whisper and he looked at him, conflicted. He felt so void of emotion now, feeling lost for not having the warmth of Sicheng's skin against him. “I know it will take times for us to settle like we used to be. But I promise you that I will fix things between. Even if that means I have to start over again. I'm not letting you go again, Sicheng. Never.”

The determination, the fire that burn Yuta's eyes as he stared at Sicheng made the latter gasped. He recognized that face. It was the same expression Yuta gave him when they first met. His unwavering gaze still made Sicheng's knees buckled.

Without waiting for his answer, Yuta gave him one last look before turning around to leave. Sicheng stood there, his face blank and his heart beating furiously against his ribcage.

The old game had started.

 


 

 

Sicheng could feel all eyes were on him as he walked in the hallway. It wasn't really hard to tell why every student who walked past him looked at him with a mix of confusion, wonder, and astonishment. Their eyes were blown wide and their mouths were slightly parted. Sicheng felt a sense of dejavu. It felt just like the old times. The same things that happened to him a few years ago. He had been through this before that he wasn’t surprised at all to find a group of girls looked daggers at him. He stayed unfazed, squaring up his shoulders as he continued to walk to his class.

The students were all wondering who Sicheng was and why Nakamato Yuta trailing behind him like a lost puppy.

“Yuta, you know that you're terrible at being discreet, right?”

Almost abruptly Yuta halted his steps, almost bumping into Sicheng's shoulders but he managed to stop himself just in time. He smiled sheepishly as Sicheng turned around and looked at him with raised eyebrows.

Clearing his throat, Yuta shrugged. “I'm not trying to be discreet either.”

“Of course, you’re not,” Sicheng retorted, clearly unimpressed. “I still can easily catch you when you're stalking me. Like what you did yesterday when you followed me after I got off work. And this morning when I was on my way to the school.”

Yuta didn’t even have the audacity to look surprised.

“I'm not stalking you. I just want to make sure you're safe,” he said unabashedly.

For a moment, Sicheng was taken aback by his blunt honesty. He almost forgot that Yuta was so blunt with his actions. He didn't appear ashamed even after Sicheng confronted him because he believed that what he did wasn't wrong.

This was the thing about Yuta. Back then he used to follow Sicheng on his way to school or when the latter got off work. He did that because Sicheng wouldn't allow him to get too close to him and that was the only way he knew to protect him. He wouldn't feel at ease if he didn’t make sure that Sicheng went home safely. He felt obliged to guarantee his safety because deep down he knew that he was being watched. His parents always knew what he did and he tried so hard to hide Sicheng. He didn't want his parents to know about him because they would get rid of him. In the end, they did, and Yuta still couldn't forgive himself for being so reckless. He didn't want to make the same mistakes.

“You're not going to leave me alone, aren't you?” Sicheng asked after a moment of silence, but it sounded more like a statement than a question.

Yuta shook his head firmly and held his gaze as he answered. “No, I won't do anything you don't like, Sicheng. I will keep my distance. But you can't ask me to stop following you.”

Yuta didn't explain why couldn't stop following him. That it was the only thing he could do now. He didn't know when Sicheng will open up to him again. And as he was waiting for him, he would make sure he didn't lose him because he couldn't afford that. Not for the second time. Not ever.

Sicheng stared at him for a few moments and the way he looked at Yuta as if he knew what he was trying to say caught the latter off guard.

Yuta was baffled. “Sicheng...”

“I don't know how you're so oblivious sometimes,” Sicheng sighed, shaking his head in disbelief. “Do whatever you want. It's not like I can stop you anyway.”

The crowd around them tried to discreetly get closer so they could hear what they said but Yuta caught their movement almost instantly and snarled at them, silently telling them to back off. It was so unlike him looking so fierce and wild that it shocked the crowd.

Nakamato Yuta was the chilliest member of the Brat Pack. He didn't act as if he was chaebol and did whatever he wanted. He had his own rules. He flirted, he threw suggestive smiles to girls, he knew how to show his charms, but he never showed other sides of him. That was why it caught them off guard to see Yuta so protective of the new student, which only made them grew more suspicious of Sicheng.

Sicheng hissed, throwing Yuta a warning glare. “Yuta, stop it.”  

“You know I won't hold back now that you're here,” Yuta declared, his eyes fierce. The determination in his voice left Sicheng no doubt that he'd do it. Because he knew that Yuta was very persistent and stubborn.

Yuta took a step forward, his face softened as he looked at Sicheng. He looked like he wanted to touch him but held himself back.

“Go on,” Yuta said, a playful smile tugging at his lips. “Your class will be starting in a minute.”

Ignoring the longing look in Yuta's face and curious glances from the students, Sicheng turned around without saying anything else.

 


 

 

Yuta caught Sicheng's elbow just as the latter was about to enter the staff room. Sicheng didn't even flinch, it was as if he could feel his presence and he'd anticipated his action. As he turned around, he didn't surprise to see Yuta looked tensed. His jaw tightened, his eyes narrowed, and his lips pressed into a tight line.

“Let me go, Yuta.”

“You're not supposed to be here,” Yuta hissed, not letting go of Sicheng, but didn't tighten his hold because he was afraid he might hurt him. “Sicheng, do you know what kind of event—“

“Of course I know!” Sicheng snapped, jerking his hand away. “Do I know what will happen if your parents find out about me? Yes. Do I have much of a choice? No.”

“If you know, then you shouldn't do this!” Yuta growled, his nose flaring up as he backed him slowly to the corner, trapping him between the wall and his body, seething with the knowledge that something bad might happen to the latter.
You could've chosen another event!”

“Well, surprise! I'm not the heir from an insanely rich family who doesn't need to work their asses off to survive. I need this work to support myself. You have no rights to interfere with my business!”

Yuta's face twisted and he exhaled sharply, feeling torn. His body was slightly shaking and the fear made his chest hurt. He didn't try to hide it because it was Sicheng he was facing. He knew that deep down they shared the same fear but as Sicheng had said, he didn't have much of a choice in this situation.

Yuta closed his eyes for a moment, trying to regain his composure. He slowly leaned his forehead forward and pressed it against Sicheng's, asking him silently to hold him. Sicheng stood frozen and Yuta waited. He could feel the way his breath quickened and his body twitched. As he was about to pull away, Sicheng reached for him and gathered him in his arms. Yuta let out a breath he'd been holding, exhaling deeply in relief. The familiar warmth around him instantly put him at ease. He leaned in, his nose pressing against Sicheng's cheek.

“If something bad ever happens to you,” he said, his body shuddered before he added, “I could never forgive myself. You know that, right?”

“I know,” Sicheng whispered, his warm breath hitting Yuta's ears, making the latter shivered slightly. He'd forgotten how it felt like to be so close to him he could feel his breath, forgot how complete he felt just by having him in his arms.

“I will protect you. You know that too, right?”

Sicheng chuckled. “Yes, I know.”

Yuta leaned away slightly so he could see Sicheng's face properly. Not being able to stop himself, he brushed his hair from his eyes and smiled at him, forcing himself to think the unthinkable. What if they could be together again, happily in a relationship, without having to worry about anything else, especially his family and the reputation he's forced to maintain?

They were so close and Sicheng's lips were right there. Yuta leaned down and stopped an inch away from his lips, waiting for him to move. But the latter only stared back at him, unmoving. Yuta could see fears in his eyes, but there was also a familiar sparkle and determination. With his heart fluttering like wings, he pressed his lips against the corner of Sicheng's mouth as his eyes fluttered closed. It was just a soft press of lips and after a long time, Yuta finally able to feel again. Really feel. Warm, mushy, gooey feelings, as well as painful emotions brought on by haunting memories. But it felt so good and his hold tightened around his waist.

With Sicheng, everything felt easy. The latter had always been the person who could set him free. He'd freed him from his deepest thoughts and fears and unlocked the real him. With Sicheng, Yuta felt grounded.

“Sicheng,” he whispered, their breaths mingled.

When Sicheng's lips parted slightly, Yuta pressed another kiss against the corner of his mouth and then pulled away. He wanted to savor the small moment between them, but a loud voice interrupted them.

“There you are, lovebirds,” Ten appeared, looking composed on the outside, though Yuta could already tell that something must have happened for his friend to look tensed like that. He straightened his posture but he didn't step back from Sicheng's personal space.

“What happened?”

Ten turned to him, his lips twisted and he threw him an annoyed look. He looked clearly pissed as he pinched the bridge of his nose impatiently.

“What happened is the moment you left Donghyuck's side someone took him away and now the kid is gone.”

Yuta seethed. “Shit.”

Sicheng let out a gasp, panic overtook him. Yuta quickly held him, preventing him from moving.

“Mark is going into a rage and he's going to kill whoever it is if Donghyuck comes back with so much of a small scratch on his skin,” Ten huffed. “Nothing is more worse than dealing with a bad temper Mark.”  

“We have to find him,” Sicheng urged, gripping Yuta's arms in a death grip but the latter didn't even wince.

“Come on, then. Mark is waiting for us.”

 


 

 

Yuta, Sicheng, and Ten ran toward Mark who was pacing around, talking furiously with someone on the phone. Johnny was there, looking tensed with his eyebrows furrowed as he leaned against the wall. Jaehyun and Taeyong weren't there because they couldn't possibly go when the event was still going on.

“I've checked the CCTV and I saw a guy dragged him out of the room and exited the building through the back entrance. He got him into a car and left.”

Mark filled the others as soon as he ended his phone call. He looked absolutely livid. His jaw clenched, his nostrils flared up, and his eyes were wild. The Brat Pack who had known Mark's bad temper didn't even flinch when they saw that. But Sicheng who didn't know him was startled to see him looking like he was ready to kill people. It somehow reminded him of Yuta. He'd seen that kind of look on Yuta’s face before when a kid from his old school pushed him a little too hard and made him fell to the ground. Yuta saw that and he almost punched the kid if Sicheng weren't there to stop him. Only now the look on Mark's face was more worse and scarier.

“Where's Doyoung?” Ten asked after a tensed moment of silence.

Mark ran his fingers through his hair impatiently, his lips twitching. “He's making a phone call to ask his people to track Donghyuck down.”

“Mark, you need to calm down,” Ten said as he approached the younger, gripping his shoulders to make him stop moving. “We will find him.”

“I know,” he snapped through gritted teeth. “It's killing me for not knowing what would possibly happen to Donghyuck, okay? I can't just stay here and doing nothing!”

Yuta pursed his lips. “Could it be Mina?”

Mark's eyes burned as soon as the name was mentioned. He clenched his fists into a ball. Before he could say something, Doyoung appeared looking as tensed as the others. Mark quickly approached him.

“I found him.” Doyoung announced even before Mark could demand the answer from him. His lips pressed into a thin line and there was confusion on his face that made Mark frowned.

“Where is he?”

“At the basement.”

There was a brief silence after that. The others looked equally surprised and confused to hear his answer.

“He's at the school?” It was Ten who broke the silence, frowning. “Why would the kidnapper bring him there?”

Before the others could reply, Mark was already running ahead of them toward the parking lot.

 


 

 

Yuta won't let Mark drive no matter how persistent the latter was—not when he was still in a rage and emotionally unstable. In the end, Mark sat on the front seat and let Yuta drive. From the rear-view, Yuta could see Johnny and Ten followed closely at the right side meanwhile Doyoung at the left. Sicheng couldn't leave his work, as much as he wanted to. He made Yuta promised to tell him everything once they found Donghyuck.

“Mark, could you please stop doing that?” Yuta sighed as he glanced at Mark who couldn’t stop tapping his thighs furiously for five minutes straight. The latter just couldn't stay still and there was a permanent scowl on his face.

“I can't,” he replied impatiently and turned to Yuta. “Can you speed up? You're too slow, hyung!”

Yuta let out a snort but complied. He glanced at the speedometer. He was pushing ninety and going a lot faster now, faster than he'd ever driven. He didn't dare to slow down, knowing exactly what Mark felt at the moment. If he were to put himself in Mark's situation and it was Sicheng who was kidnapped, he would be impatient too and too angry to think clearly.

“You know,” Yuta started as he took the curve without making any adjustment to his speed, keeping his eyes on the road ahead. He looked totally unfazed as he continued, “This might be the right time for you to be honest with your feeling.”

“This isn't the right time to talk about that, hyung.”

Mark exhaled sharply through his nose. His mind was reeling. He couldn't stop thinking about Donghyuck. What if something bad happened to him? He would never forgive himself. He still couldn't believe that someone had kidnapped Donghyuck right under his nose. Thinking about it made his blood boil and unconsciously he clenched his fists, his knuckles turning white in frustration as his mind raced with sickening possibilities.

“Oh, you didn't deny your feelings, then?”

Mark swallowed and tore his gaze away, looking out at the windows. He wasn't stupid. He knew exactly what Yuta meant but he didn't know if he was quite ready to confront the subject. He just wanted to get to the school as quick as possible because he wanted to be with Donghyuck. He needed him close, close enough for him to hold him.

“Eventually you will have to tell him,” he said. “You’re so obvious and you are never good at being subtle.”

Mark let out a snort. “Look, who’s talking.”

Yuta ignored his remark.

“I said what I said.”

Mark sighed. “I will if the time is right. Now can you go faster? We're almost there.”

“If the police pull us over, you will have to take care of it.”

Mark waved his hand in dismissal.

“That would be the last thing I'm concerned with.”

Yuta wordlessly stepped on the gas pedal, feeling the powerful car surge forward. They didn't care about speed restrictions as Mark’s Aston Martin hurtled along the road, speeding by the other traffic. Yuta was at ease behind the wheel but never once taken his eyes off the road. He was a very fast and safe driver, though Doyoung would never want to be in the same car as him because one near-death experience was enough for the latter.

After what seemed like forever, they finally made it to the school. As soon as they stepped into the parking lot, Mark opened the door and jumped out of the car even before it completely stopped. Yuta was already spitting profanities as he turned off the engine and slid out of the car, running after the younger. Johnny, Ten, and Doyoung were trailing behind them.

The door of the basement was open and Mark burst inside without warning, chest heaving and his eyes roaming around wildly.

“Donghyuck! Where are you?”

He went straight to the lounge and abruptly halted his steps when he saw a familiar face looking back at him.

“What took you so long, brat?”

Mark blinked and his jaw fell.

Seungwan noona?”

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Donghyuck quickly looked up from where he was sitting when he heard Mark's voice. He felt acute relief washed over him as he took in the familiar sight of him. It was ridiculous how happy and safe he felt just by looking at him, knowing that Mark was here for him. Feeling more overwhelmed than he'd originally thought, he unthinkingly reached a hand out to Mark. In an instant, the latter rushed to his side and fell on one knee before him. Mark took one of Donghyuck's hands, his fingers curling around his palm with gentle firmness.

Mark lifted his free hand to brush Donghyuck's hair off his face and the latter felt an overwhelming need to lean into him swamped him, stealing his ability to think and talk. Everything happened so quickly, it was a blur. For what could Donghyuck remember, one moment he was standing alone and the next moment someone grabbed him by the arm and dragged him somewhere. He tried to escape but the kidnapper was so strong he didn't even budge when he wriggled his hands from his hold. He knew it was already too late when the kidnapper loaded him into a car.

Donghyuck didn't know where he was heading to but he felt a little bit relieved that they didn't do anything to him. They didn't even talk to him, which was a good thing because he couldn't even find his voice. The whole time all he could think about was Mark and how badly he wished to be with the latter. He knew that Mark would go into a rage if the latter knew about it and now that he was staring at him, he could see panic, fear, and relief written all over his face.

“Donghyuck, baby, talk to me. Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

It was the nickname that slipped unconsciously from Mark's lips that snapped Donghyuck up. He opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out. He only managed to shake his head, his eyes fixed on Mark. He had to admit that he had no experience with anyone, nothing to guide him when Mark gently grabbed his face and held it still. Looking into his eyes, the latter leaned forward to press his nose against his cheek, breathing in his scent. He felt his hands creep up to his arms and up to his shoulders, wrapping his arms around him. It felt exquisite and excruciatingly tender.

“Baby,” Mark whispered, nudging his nose against his and caressing his cheek gently. At that moment, Donghyuck knew that the nickname was not just a slip-up. “I'm here. You're safe. I'm so sorry for making you wait.”

It felt as if the dam had broken. All the pent-up emotions Donghyuck had been feeling throughout the night finally broke. Instead of giving Mark a verbal answer, he threw his arms around his neck and buried his face in his shoulder. He exhaled in a harsh rush, his heart beating so hard he could feel it in every part of him. He tried to keep his erratic breathing under control and felt relieved that everything was finally over and he was here with Mark. He could feel his hold around him tightened and felt his body quivered as the latter cradled the back of his head, pressing soft kisses against the skin under his ears and murmuring sweet nothings into his ears.  

“It's okay, baby. It's over now.”

“Mark,” he whispered, his voice choked with his emotions. That was all he could say at the moment.

“I'm here, baby. I'm here. I'm so glad you're okay.”

Because the position was getting uncomfortable, Mark maneuvered himself to sit on the couch and pulled Donghyuck into his lap so the latter was straddling him. The smaller let out a surprised gasp, trying to get free but Mark was quick to wrap his arms around his waist, tightening his hold when Donghyuck tried to squirm.

“Stay still, baby. It's okay.”

Donghyuck grunted. His emotions were still all over the place and their current position was embarrassing to say the least but there was nothing he could do. Not when Mark’s hands around him made him so secure and safe that he began to relax into his arms.

But then, he blushed at the realization that the rest of the Brat Pack and Seungwan were still in the room. That meant they had witnessed everything and now he felt more embarrassed than before.

“This is so embarrassing.” he mumbled, his face tucking in his neck.

Mark let out a chuckle as he pressed his lips against Donghyuck's temple. He let out a contented sigh, inhaling his scent that managed to calm his nerves.

“This is your punishment for making me worried. I almost lost my damn mind because of you.”

“But it wasn't my fault!”

“Hush, baby. Just let me hold you like this, okay? I need to feel you.”

The blunt honesty caught Donghyuck off guard because he didn't expect Mark to be so open about his feeling. Not knowing what else to do, he slumped against him and let out a deep breath. Feeling so tired and drained, both mentally and physically, he closed his eyes and let himself relaxed in Mark's arms. He heard snatched of a muted conversation before he drifted off to sleep.

 


 

 

“Wow, I didn't know that you're this serious with the boy.”

Mark's head snapped up as he heard Seungwan talked for the first time after he arrived. His cousin from Canada, who he didn't expect to see at all, sat across him. She looked perfectly composed as she took in the sight of them, a playful smile tugging at her lips. Now that Mark knew that it was her plan all along, annoyance prickled under his skin, even though Donghyuck wasn't hurt and perfectly fine without any scratch. He pinched the bridge of his nose, totally pissed.

“What do you want, noona?”

“Wow, the disrespect,” Seungwan shook her head in disbelief. “Is this how you welcome your lovely cousin?”

Mark snorted. “You kidnapped Donghyuck and scared him. You can't expect me to welcome you with open arms. You pissed me off.”

Seungwan turned to the Brat Pack who had been silently watching the scene before them. Yuta had taken a seat on a loveseat meanwhile Johnny, Doyoung and Ten, sat next to Seungwan.

“How long has he been like this?”

Yuta let out an exasperated sigh. “Trust me, noona. You don’t want to know.”

“He won't let anyone touch the boy. That's how possessive he is.” Ten added, giggling as Mark threw him a glare.

Doyoung wrinkled his nose as he looked at the pair on the couch. “Gross.”

Johnny, who usually didn’t engaged in playful banter, finally said, “He has grown up.”

“That's enough,” Mark said, his voice firm but steady. He didn't want to talk louder because he might wake Donghyuck up. The latter fell asleep quickly and it was endearing how he unconsciously clung to him like a koala.

Cradling the back of Donghyuck’s head gently and slipped his fingers to his soft strands, he turned to his cousin again. His demeanor changed and his eyes stone cold.

“Noona, I'm serious here. I thought someone tried to hurt him. It happened before and I won't let that happen again. So drop the act and tell me what you want.”

The mirth and playfulness on Seungwan's face quickly gone and replaced by the seriousness. Her back straightened, her eyes sharpened, and her lips pressed into a thin line. Mark knew from experiences that that kind of expression meant bad news. Bracing himself for whatever might come from Seungwan, he unconsciously tightened his hold around Donghyuck's body when he noticed the way her eyes fell on the smaller.

“I'm sorry for using him to get you to meet me,” she started, the sincerity in her voice made Mark relaxed a little bit but he didn't drop his guard down. She continued, “I've been trying to get you to meet me but your secretary always says that you're busy. This is about you and Jaehyun.”

Mark's body instantly tensed, as well as the other Brat Pack members. It was never good when Seungwan talked in her serious voice. Mark hated to admit that more often than not, his encounter with Seungwan was in unpleasant circumstances. The last time he met her, it was after he moved out of the house. During that time, he was struggling to get free from his father's dominance and tried to stand on his own feet. She was there to comfort and help him. She wasn't always present but she would be the first one who reached out to him whenever he was in trouble. Other than Jaehyun, she was the only family member he could trust. She was the big sister he'd always wanted.

“What about me and Jaehyunie hyung?” Mark asked in a surprisingly calm voice.

Ten scooted closer to Johnny and his boyfriend wrapped his arms around his shoulder. Yuta and Doyoung looked at Seungwan, waiting for her answer.

Seungwan sighed, his face twisted as she said, “Your father knows about him.”

Fuck.”

Mark felt as if someone just punched him in the gut, making his stomach clenched unpleasantly. He gritted his teeth, trying so hard to control his emotion. He felt like throwing up. Deep down, he knew that his worst nightmare would eventually happen but he didn't expect it to happen so soon. It hadn't been long since he knew Donghyuck and things were slowly progressing between them. Mark liked to think that he had all the time in the world but who was he kidding? No matter how hard he tried, his father always found his way to ruin everything.

As if Donghyuck could sense his distress, even in his sleep, the smaller let out a small whimper of discomfort and nuzzled his face in Mark's neck, wrapping his arms around his neck. Mark looked down to see his face and felt a deep level of groundedness arose within him followed with a strong urge to protect the latter. He always knew that he would do anything to keep him safe, but right now his protectiveness was so strong that it almost overwhelmed him.  

Mark had learned his lesson. He'd lost his mother and his younger brother once. He didn't want to make the same mistakes. Even if it meant he had to fight his father, he knew he'd do it in a heartbeat for the boy in his arms.

“Okay,” Mark said after a long moment of silence. “Thank you for giving me a heads-up, noona. It means a lot to me.”

“Uncle won't do anything to him. At least, not now. He thinks you're just playing with him and that you'll eventually get bored of him. But you know him more than anyone, Mark. You can't let your guard down.”

“I know,” he replied through gritted teeth, thinking about what his father capable of made him sick. “I'll be careful.”

Seungwan let out a sigh. “I honestly don’t understand how you could come up with the idea of fake relationship just to escape from your situation with Mina.”

Mark’s body went rigid, his eyes slightly widened as he stared at her. He knew for a fact that it wasn’t hard for her to get any information she wanted but it didn’t stop Mark from being defensive. Despite knowing that she could always had her way with whatever she wanted, it still caught him off guard to know that she literally knew everything about his relationship with Donghyuck.

Mark looked down to see Donghyuck’s peaceful face and he almost forgot that it all started with a fake relationship. It started with his sudden action that later on led into a big mess. They started off on the wrong foot but things started to develop from there. It was strange how he rarely thought about their current status. He didn’t see his relationship with Donghyuck as something fake. Yes, they weren’t in a real relationship and that everything was a mutual deal. But what they had, their connection and the way they were with each other, all of them were real.

“I know it was stupid of me to come up with something like that and ended up dragging Donghyuck into my mess. But what’s done is done. Fake or not, I won’t let anything or anyone hurt him.”

Seungwan’s face softened as a gentle smile tugged at her lips.

“I know you know exactly what you’re doing, Mark. You’re anything but a denial. That’s why I’m here to help you.” 

“You're not alone,” it was Johnny who spoke first, looking straight into Mark's eyes. “You have us. You know that, right?”

Mark smiled at the older and nodded. He would never admit it out loud, but God knew how much he loved and treasured his friends. For him, they were like his brothers. He was grateful to have them in his life. It wasn’t a business like most of people thought. Though they could be friends because they came from the same environment, that didn’t mean their friendship was solely based on their status. They had been through a lot together and that was how they managed to keep their friendship.

Johnny might be quiet, but he was the protective big brother in the group who wouldn't hesitate to sacrifice himself it if meant he could protect his loved ones. He was very compatible with Ten who appeared strong and sassy outside, but soft and gentle inside. Doyoung and Taeyong were the ones who kept the group grounded with their motherly personalities. Jaehyun, Ten, and Yuta were the strength, the ones who support others silently. Meanwhile Mark was there to bind them together.

“Things are already messy right now. We have to be more careful,” Doyoung added.

Yuta nodded his head in agreement. “We need to keep an eye out on Donghyuck.”

“We're lucky because it was Seungwanie noona who planned this,” Ten sighed. “I don't want this to ever happen again but we never know. Next time we probably won't be as lucky as today.”

“How about Jaehyunie hyung?” Mark asked after he finally remembered that Seungwan wasn't here just for him. “What is it that you wanted me to know, noona?”

This time, Seungwan looked more troubled than before. She started to fidget and Mark could feel a sickening feeling of dull dread lurking in the pit of his stomach. For as long as he remembered, she only showed that kind of gesture when she was very anxious about something. It rarely happened because she always had everything under control.  

Mark had a very bad feeling of what was coming.

“Jaehyun is going to kill me after this but I think you deserve to know the truth,” she stated, looking so torn. She let out a deep breath before she continued, “Uncle will soon put him into an arranged marriage set-up.”

“Seungwan noona!”

A roaring sound was heard from the entrance and everyone in the room turned to look at Jaehyun who just burst inside with a dazed Taeyong behind him. He looked furious as he glared at Seungwan who didn't even flinch from where she was sitting. His eyes were wild and threatening, his nostrils flared up, and he looked like he was ready to burst.

It had been so long since the last time Mark saw his brother looking like that. He was confused, not being able to comprehend what Seungwan just said. The rest of the Brat Pack looked equally bewildered as him, staring at Jaehyun in confusion.

“What...” Mark tried to find the right words but failed, gaping at his brother who refused to meet his eyes.

“You had no absolute right to do this,” Jaehyun seethed, taking a dangerous step toward Seungwan but Taeyong was quick to catch his elbow, stopping him. He growled at her but stayed rooted in his place.

Seungwan tilted her chin up, meeting Jaehyun's burning gaze.

“I gave you enough time, Jaehyun,” she said, her voice held an absolute control, unwavering. “You can't do this alone and I just want you to know that it's okay to depend on your friends.”

Jaehyun snarled and it sounded so ferocious and dangerous, his voice echoed loudly inside the room.

“Shut up, noona. This is none of your business.”

“Before you say that, how about you tell your brother about the deal you made with your father? Don't you think he has the right to know?”

“What deal?” Mark interrupted and sat up straight abruptly. His movement was so sudden that it startled Donghyuck, waking the latter up. Before he could say something, Jaehyun turned around and stormed out of the room without saying anything else. Taeyong quickly ran after him.

“Mark?” Donghyuck mumbled, blinking sleepily at Mark. He still didn’t realize the painful silence and tensed atmosphere in the room and how everyone froze on their spots.

Mark's mind was a jumbled mess. He couldn't think straight right now. Something was wrong with his brother and he knew that it was serious, judging by the way Taeyong looked as clueless as the rest of them. His brother shared everything with Taeyong so if the latter had no idea of what was going on, then it meant it was bad. Very bad.

“Mark?” Donghyuck called, he sounded alarmed and very much awake now. He touched Mark's jaw gently, forcing the latter to look at him. “What's wrong?”

Mark shook his head and smiled at Donghyuck, though he knew that the latter won't buy it. Right now, he couldn't explain anything to him. He needed to talk to his brother first.

“It's fine, baby,” he said, his lips pressing into a tight line. “Let's get you home, yeah? It's late and you need to take a rest.”

Donghyuck looked more concerned now and all Mark could do was pressing his lips against his forehead, seeking comfort from him because everything was too much and confusing. He held him as a way to prevent himself from bursting.  

Something was coming and Mark didn’t know if he was ready for it or not.

 


 

 

Something was wrong.

It was the first thing that crossed Donghyuck's mind as he woke up the next morning and checked his phone only to find out that there was no message from Mark. He didn't know when it started but somehow, along the way, texting each other became a routine. The latter never forgot to text him, though it was either to order him around or to annoy him.

Donghyuck was so exhausted last night and barely awake when he arrived at his apartment but he remembered Mark carried him bridal-style—it was very embarrassing whenever he thought about it—, tucked him up to the bed, and kissed his forehead before leaving.

He knew something bad must have happened when he heard the commotion that happened in the basement. He didn't know exactly what happened but he heard Jaehyun yelling to Seungwan before the latter left with Taeyong. He remembered how the Brat Pack looked so stiff and shaken, unmoving. The only who looked composed was Seungwan who offered him a warm smile and a sincere apology before he left. Mark was also strangely quiet the whole ride home and Donghyuck's guts told him that the latter was troubled over something. It was written all over his face but he didn’t know how to approach the subject.

Just when he was about to text Mark, a new message coming in.

 

mark lee

 

baby i’m sorry i can't pick you up

i've sent a driver to your apartment

ask sicheng hyung to come with you too

 

Donghyuck ignored the way his cheeks heated up as he read the nickname. He quickly replied to Mark's message.

 

okay

i'll ask sicheng hyung to come

are you okay?

 

The replied came faster than Donghyuck expected.

 

mark lee

 

good. be safe baby

don't skip breakfast

i gotta go

 

Now, Donghyuck could tell for sure that something was definitely wrong with Mark. The latter purposely avoided his question and he didn't quite know how to react to that. It was the very first time Mark acted this way. It was as if he was distancing himself and Donghyuck didn't like it. He made a mental note to confront Mark when they met at school.

After taking a quick bath and getting dressed, Donghyuck texted Sicheng and asked him to go to school together. When he got out of his room, Chenle was currently eating breakfast meanwhile Kun was packing his lunch. Both of them looked up when they heard him coming.

Chenle's face instantly lighted up. “Good morning, hyung! Come and eat breakfast with me!”

Donghyuck smiled as he approached his brother. He greeted Kun with a cheerful good morning before leaning down to kiss his baby's cheek.

“Thank you for taking care of him, hyung.”

Kun looked up and smiled.

“Don't mention it,” he waved his hand dismissively. “Are you okay? Mark didn't tell me anything about last night but I was here when he brought you home. You were asleep already.”

Donghyuck looked at Kun and it seemed like the latter had no idea of what happened last night, which was a relief because he didn't want to explain about the accident. Though he didn't like to keep things from Kun, sometimes some things were better left unsaid. He didn't want to imagine what would Kun do or say if the latter knew he was being kidnapped. Kun would throw a fit and make a fuss about it, that was for sure. And that was the last thing Donghyuck wanted because he didn't want to make the older guy worried.

“Yeah, hyung. I'm perfectly fine,” he replied. “I think I was just exhausted that I fell asleep on the way home. Mark didn't want to wake me up so he carried me instead. That was embarrassing, by the way. I can't believe you saw that!”

Kun giggled and Donghyuck was relieved because the latter didn't seem suspicious at all.

“It's cute,” he said, laughing at Donghyuck's blushing face. “I was more surprised that Mark could carry you. I mean, he didn't look that strong.”

Donghyuck flushed from head to toe.

“Can we please stop talking about that?”

Kun wriggled his eyebrows, his eyes dancing with mirth. “Why? You look comfortable in his arms.”

“Kun hyung!”

Kun laughed louder and Chenle who didn't understand their conversation looked up at them in confusion. Donghyuck gently told his baby brother to continue eating his breakfast, pouting at the older who still couldn’t stop laughing at him. At least Kun let the topic off and let him eat his breakfast in peace.

 


 

 

Donghyuck was surprised to find Yuta in front of his apartment's building. The latter was leaning against his black sleek Bugatti and looking so out of place in his neighborhood. He might be wear the same uniform as them but it was the way he carried himself that made people on the street turned their heads to take a look at him, though he paid them no mind.

Donghyuck turned to Sicheng and he could tell that his friend was also surprised to see Yuta was here. He frowned. Mark clearly said that he was going to send a driver to pick them up. What was Yuta doing here? Before he could question his presence, Chenle was already running toward the latter.

“Yuta hyung!”

Yuta opened his arms and picked Chenle up into his arms, kissing the baby's cheek gently.

“Hey, little guy. It's been a while,” he said, smiling softly at the kid. “I'm here to send you off to school.”

Chenle tilted his head a little, confused. “Not Mark hyung?”

Yuta shook his head and smiled apologetically at him, ruffling his hair affectionately.

“I’m sorry, Lele. Mark hyung couldn’t make it today. He has to go somewhere.”

“It's okay! I like Yuta hyung, too!”

“That's a relief. I like you too. Now, let’s go to school, shall we?”

Yuta opened the door for Chenle and let the kid slid inside first before turning around to Donghyuck and Sicheng who were silently watching him. He didn't say anything and gestured them to get inside. The look on his face was enough for them to understand that whatever happened was not something he wanted to discuss at the moment.

Donghyuck couldn't sit still throughout the whole ride. He had texted Mark again but he still didn't get any reply, which was very strange because the latter never left him on read. It wasn't helping that Yuta only talked to Chenle and he didn't even spare Sicheng a glance. The latter looked worried as he threw worried glances at Yuta from time to time.

It was after they dropped Chenle off at the kindergarten that Yuta finally spoke.

“He's not coming today,” was all he said. No further explanation.

For a moment, Donghyuck could only stare blankly at the back of Yuta's head, dumbfounded.

“Who?”

“Mark,” he said, his voice stiff. It only made Donghyuck's heart dropped to his feet. “He’s not coming to school today.”

Donghyuck was quickly alarmed. “Why? What happened?”

Yuta let out a sigh. He sounded so tired and Donghyuck noticed the way Sicheng started to fidget on his seat. It was as if he wanted to reach out but knowing that he couldn't, he fisted his hands into a ball to keep himself grounded.

“I’m not in the position to tell you. If you want to know, ask him. I'm pretty sure he will tell you if you try hard enough.”

It was silence after that. The ride to the school was uncomfortably quiet. When they finally arrived, Donghyuck was surprised to know that, for the first time since he enrolled in SM High School, the Brat Pack members weren't in the parking lot. They were always together before going to classes but now there were only Doyoung's car and Johnny's motorbike. He could feel his heart dropped when he couldn't find Mark's car. So it was true. He really didn’t come to school today.

Sliding out of the car, Donghyuck wanted so badly to escape to somewhere empty so he could call Mark or texted him because he wanted to know whether he was okay or not. Before he could do that, Yuta caught his elbow to stop him from moving.

“Can you promise me something?”

Donghyuck could feel the way his body shivered slightly as he looked at the way Yuta stared at him in the eye. All traces of mischievousness he often showed vanished from his face. He looked deadly serious but Donghyuck could see that there was also slight desperation there.

“Donghyuck, can you promise me something?” he repeated and now it sounded more like a demand.

Donghyuck nodded his head dutifully. “What is it?”

“No matter what happens, don't give up on your first try. Never. Can you do that, Donghyuck?”

Donghyuck didn’t expect that kind of request and though he didn't know what Yuta meant by saying that, he nodded his head again.

“Okay.”

“Good. Now go to your class. I’ll see you around.”

Yuta turned to Sicheng and gave him a small smile before turning around and leaving the two of them alone.   

 


 

 

07:15

 

i'm here

yuta hyung picked us up and he told me about your absence

why didn't you tell me that you weren't coming to school today?

 

11:36

 

i’m eating lunch with my friends and sicheng hyung

have you eaten your lunch yet?

 

16:33

 

i'm on my way to go to work

lele asked about you and i told him that you would pick us tomorrow

you would be here tomorrow, right?

 

20:11

 

mark are you okay?

if you need someone to talk to, i'm here

call me if you need anything

 

22:05

               

i’m worried about you

please call me if you need me because i’ll be there for you 

 

00:30

 

i'm going to bed now

i'll see you tomorrow

goodnight mark

 

 

mark lee

00:35

 

can you come outside?

 

mark lee

00:37

 

never mind

you must be asleep

goodnight baby

 


 

 

Donghyuck had just closed his eyes when he heard his phone buzzing. He didn't want to get his hopes up but he'd been waiting for Mark to reply to his messages since this morning and he wished that it was from him. He didn't know why he was so persistent to get Mark to talk to him. Maybe it was because of what Yuta said to him this morning. But if he were to be honest with himself, he was worried and it drove him crazy for not knowing what the latter had been through. It didn't help that none of the Brat Pack members showed up during lunch and according to Jaemin and Renjun, it was something that never happened before. Even Sicheng who joined his table during lunch told him that he hadn’t heard anything from Yuta.  

Donghyuck groggily rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand as he unlocked his phone and immediately jumped out of the bed after he read the new message. He hastily put on a sweater and ran out of the room, feeling panic quickly rising. It was already past midnight and as he stepped outside, the hallway was eerily quiet. He dashed downstairs and made sure to take the steps two at a time. He wanted to see Mark. He needed to see him so badly and made sure that the latter was okay.

The chilly air hit his skin as soon as he was outside the apartment building. His heart was beating frantically against his ribcage as he looked around, looking for a familiar black Aston Martin. The street was empty and Donghyuck felt that bolt of fear and his chest constricted against his heart at the realization that he might be late.

“Mark?”

He knew that it was a futile attempt but he still tried anyway. He called his name a few times and felt so stupid for not replying his message first before coming down. Feeling defeated, he was about to go back inside when suddenly he felt a big solid presence behind him, strong arms wrap around his waist, and a broad chest pressed against his back.

He let out a surprised gasp. “Mark?”

The grip on his waist tightened and Donghyuck instantly let out the breath he was holding and starting to relax into his arms.

Mark was here. He was here with him.  

Donghyuck felt a rush of relief as Mark tucked his head in so it rested on his shoulder with his face buried in the side of his neck, his lips pressing against his skin. He tentatively put one of his hands on top of Mark's and interlaced their fingers, his heart thumping loudly as the latter gripped his hand as if he didn't want to let go. It was so firm and so strong that Donghyuck couldn't help but melt into his arms.

“Mark, you're here,” he whispered, his voice broke a little at the end. “I thought you already left.”

“Donghyuck,” he whispered back and Donghyuck's heart clenched at how distraught he sounded. It reminded him of that one night when Mark suddenly showed up at his workplace looking so shaken, helpless, and vulnerable. It was the day when the latter opened up to him for the first time. Something inside him tugged painfully and right now he wanted nothing but to give him whatever he needed at the moment.

“Mark, let me see you.”

Mark's body instantly tensed as he exhaled. They were so close and Donghyuck could feel his breath and the rasp of his stubble against his skin. Strangely, it didn't make him uncomfortable. If anything, he felt content having him so close to him and feeling his familiar warmth around him.

“No,” he croaked after a moment of silence, tightening his hold around Donghyuck’s waist. “Just... let me hold you like this a little longer.”

“But—“

“Baby,” he begged, he sounded desperate now. “Please?”

Who was Donghyuck to deny him? In the end, he silently complied. Mark might have told him about his family but there were still a lot of things he wasn't willing to share and Donghyuck respected that. He believed that Mark would tell him when the latter was ready to tell him and he didn't want to rush that. If what he needed at the moment was someone to lean on, then Donghyuck would gladly give him that.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Donghyuck managed to convince Mark to get inside his apartment after he knew that the latter actually walked to his house. He didn't trust himself to drive and asked his driver to drop him off at the bus stop but proceed to take a long walk to Donghyuck's place. It actually helped him to calm down a little and gave him enough time to clear his head, though all it took was to see Donghyuck's face for him to feel completely at ease.

Mark intertwined their hands as they walked in the hallway. His grip was strong and firm, not leaving any room for Donghyuck to let go. Their shoulders touched and their steps fell in sync. When they were finally inside the apartment, Donghyuck led Mark's inside his room because he knew that the latter needed to lay down. They climbed on the bed and laid down, facing each other. They were so close and Donghyuck could feel Mark's breath washed over his face. Mark's hand reached out for Donghyuck's in the dark and when he found it, his fingers enveloped his, curling his wrist so that he could hold his hand tightly against his heart. Mark looked at Donghyuck, his eyes were wide open but tender and gentle, watching him.

Donghyuck stared back at Mark and before he knew it, he already reached out and brought his hand to his face, stroking the space between his eyebrows with his fingers. He didn't know what pushed him to do it. He just couldn't help it. He gently held Mark's face and his heart swelled when he heard the latter let out a soft sigh as his palm made a contact with his skin. Without breaking their eye contact, Donghyuck hesitantly moved his palm, tracing his perfectly sculpted jaw. He swiftly brushed the length of his sharp cheekbone with his fingertips, lightly tracing his finger to the corner of his lips, brushing it with a feather-light touch that made Mark shuddered slightly. This felt more intimate than anything they had done or shared before, especially because it was just the two of them. They weren't here to act or to fool people into believing their relationship. It was just them basking in each other's presence and for Donghyuck, it felt so much more than the deal he'd signed with Mark.

“Are you okay?” he asked, his voice was barely more than a whisper because he didn't want to break the moment.

Mark let out another sigh. He looked so much better now. More at ease and calm, though his eyes were still guarded.

“Yes,” he answered. “I’m okay now.”  

“Do you want to talk about it?” Donghyuck asked after contemplating for a moment. “If you need someone to talk to, I'm here for you.”

Mark looked at him for a very long moment and Donghyuck could see the way his expression slowly shifted. He looked weary at first but then it gradually changed to relief. It was as if he was waiting for Donghyuck to ask him.

“I fought with Jaehyun hyung.”

Now that wasn't something Donghyuck expected to hear. He knew that Jaehyun looked cold and distant outside but he was a very warm person underneath the hard exterior, though it was only to people he's close with. He also knew that Jaehyun was very protective when it came to Mark. He'd do anything for his brother and vice versa. As far as Donghyuck remembered, Mark and Jaehyun never fought before.

Donghyuck was alarmed and he unconsciously scooted closer.

“What happened?”

Mark looked like he was physically in pain to just think about it and it made Donghyuck's heart clenched painfully to see him like that. The last time he saw him like that, it was after the latter met his mother. Now it looked even worse.

Holding Mark's face gently, he stroked his cheek with his fingers in an attempt to comfort him.

“Hey, if you don't want to talk about it, then don't.”

Mark shook his head. He put his hand over Donghyuck's, holding it firmly as if he would crumble if he'd let it go. It took him a few moments to collect himself and finally be able to speak.

“When you were sleeping earlier, Seungwan nuna told us that my father was going to put Jaehyun hyung into an arranged married. I was so confused because my brother didn't tell me anything. After I left your apartment, I went to his and Taeyong's hyung house and confronted him. He still didn't want to tell me anything and it was Taeyong's hyung who told me the truth. Apparently, my brother made a deal with my father. Can you believe that my brother traded his own freedom to get me out of the house? I was so fucking mad when I heard that. Who do you think he is for sacrificing his happiness for me? I didn't ask for it! I lost my temper and we ended up screaming at each other but he just left before we could properly talk. Taeyong hyung told me to go home because I need to cool down while he was looking for my brother. I couldn't think I'd be able to sleep tonight without knowing where he was. God, I am such a horrible brother. I did this to Jaehyun hyung. I took away his freedom. God, Donghyuck, I—“

Donghyuck pulled Mark into his arms, tucking his face in the crook of his neck and held him so tight it suffocated them both. Mark held onto Donghyuck, breathing harshly. It was all too much and so sudden for him. He couldn't stop thinking about it. He was mad with Jaehyun for doing that and hiding it from him for years now. He knew that his brother was a selfless person and always ready to do anything for him, but he never expected it to that extent. What was his brother thinking? It was never good to make a deal with their father. Jaehyun knew that but he still did that for Mark. And now that Mark knew that, he just couldn't sit still and let their father do that to his brother. He knew damn well that it would break his brother when that happened because it would hurt Taeyong—that was what his brother hated the most. Jaehyun hated it when he hurt Taeyong because it would hurt him too. 

But right now, Mark couldn't think of anything. He just wanted his brother to be okay because he would never forgive himself if something bad ever happened to him.

“I'm so sorry you have to go through that. I wish I was there with you,” Donghyuck whispered, his voice choked by his emotion. “I get that you're angry and sad about it but please don't say that you're a horrible brother to Jaehyun hyung. I know I'm not in the position to talk but you guys always have each other's back. Maybe his way to protect you is not something you appreciate, but he did that because he loves you. I'm pretty sure he didn't mean to lie to you. Jaehyun hyung is probably going through a hard time too right now and he will need you and the rest of the Brat Pack to support him. And I know for sure that you'll fight for him too, right?”

Mark let out a strangled breath. “I won't let him do this alone. But I know Jaehyun hyung. He is stubborn as hell just like me. We're brothers for some reasons. It will take some time for him to open up and I hope Taeyong hyung can talk to him. Doyoung hyung and Ten hyung are so ready to hunt my brother down if he tries to shut us out.”

“I'm sure everything's going to be okay. I believe in Taeyong hyung and your friends. If you trust your brother, then let him cool down first and talk to him when he’s ready.”

“Okay,” Mark exhaled slowly. “I can do that.”

Donghyuck didn't know what else to say and it made him feel useless for not knowing what to do to take his pain away. All he could do right now was holding him as tight and close as he could. He cradled the back of Mark's head and slipped his fingers into his hair, stroking it gently. They were so close, limbs tangled, and Donghyuck could feel the way Mark's heart beating frantically against his chest and his warm breath hitting his skin.

They fell into a comfortable silence after that. Donghyuck kept playing with Mark's hair until the hitches in his breath became less and less. Until his breathing evened out and he eventually fell asleep in his arms. 

Leaning down, Donghyuck gently pressed his lips against Mark's forehead, kissing him first for the first time.

“Good night, Mark.”

 


 

 

Donghyuck woke up a few hours later, groggy and dazed. The room was dark and he could barely see. The familiar warmth that enveloped him was gone and he was bundled up in blankets. Almost abruptly he sat up straight, looking around his room. Did Mark leave when he was sleeping? Jumping out of the bed, Donghyuck padded over to the door to check the living room. But then he stopped in the middle of the room, unconsciously holding his breath as he saw something that made his heart swelled with love and adoration. The streetlight from outside broke through the windows and illuminated the room. And there, in his small and slightly worn-out couch, Mark was lying on his back with Chenle on top of him. His strong arms wrapped around his brother, protecting him. Chenle had both of his arms wound around Mark's neck, looking so content and comfortable, as if they had done it many times before.

Donghyuck could feel his heart thudded audibly against his ribs as he approached them. Sometimes Chenle woke up in the middle of the night and looked for him and that explained why Mark was there with Chenle. He crouched down in front of them, staring at them silently. He could feel something twitch inside him and he didn't think twice when he brought his hand to Mark's head, running his fingers through his hair.

Donghyuck still couldn't get used of the fact that it wasn't just he, Chenle, and Kun anymore. There were the Brat Pack members who showed up out of nowhere, unexpectedly, and had somehow become a part of his life. He still couldn't believe that Chenle could effortlessly get attached to them, knowing that despite his brother's personality, it usually took time for him to warm up to people. It still amazed him how the Brat Pack managed to snatch his attention right away.

Donghyuck stared at Mark's face and his heart dropped at the thought of what the latter had been through. Mark looked exhausted and his dark circles were prominent. Even in his sleep, he was restless. Donghyuck wished there was something he could do to make him feel better but he wasn't sure if his presence and comfort were enough for him.

A few weeks ago, he wouldn't care if Mark Lee went through something hard because their first impression wasn't the best. But now, just thinking about it hurt him because he knew what kind of person Mark was. Both of them had experienced rough life at such a young age and Donghyuck thought that was one of the reasons why they somehow felt connected.

Donghyuck was so deep in his thoughts and he didn't realize that Mark was awake. He was startled when Mark's deep voice broke his reverie.

“Baby, why are you awake?”

Donghyuck blinked at him and sheepishly pulled his hand away. “I thought you left.”

“Lele was looking for you but I didn't want to wake you up. So I brought him here to cuddle but we ended up falling asleep.” he explained as he slowly sat up and carefully adjusted Chenle's position in his arms. 

“What time is it?”  

“Almost four in the morning.”

“Let's put Lele to bed first. You need to go back to sleep after this, too.”

Before Donghyck could say something in return, Mark already got up from the couch. He walked to Chenle's bedroom with Donghyuck trailing behind him, watching how Chenle's head rested comfortably on Mark's shoulder. Mark opened the door with his free hand and slid inside first, settling the kid gently down the bed.

After making sure that Chenle was comfortable, Mark led Donghyuck back to the latter's room. He tried to tuck him into bed but the smaller shook his head.

“It's very late. You didn't bring your car. Are you sure you want to leave?”

Mark smiled, brushing Donghyuck's bangs away from his face.

“Doyoung hyung is on the way here. I've texted him. I have to go home, baby. There's something I need to take care of.”

“Your house or your father's?”

“My house,” Mark reassured him. “My friends are there waiting for me. We still haven't heard anything from Taeyong hyung and Jaehyun hyung.”

Donghyuck wanted Mark to stay because he wanted to make sure that the latter had enough time to rest but he knew that he couldn't convince him. He knew that Mark wouldn't be able to feel at ease until the latter knew about Jaehyun's whereabouts.

Sensing Donghyuck's worry, Mark crouched down before Donghyuck, settling his hands on his knees.

“Baby, don't worry. I'm gonna be fine.”

Donghyuck's lips pressed into a thin line. His eyebrows furrowed.

“Tomorrow is Saturday.” he said but didn’t elaborate more. His frown deepened as he thought of not having a reason to see Mark. They didn't go to school tomorrow, which meant that he couldn't meet him. The idea didn't sit well with him because he was pretty sure that he won't be able to get a good sleep knowing that Mark wouldn't rest before he could get a hold from Jaehyun.

Mark smiled at him in a way that told Donghyuck that the latter knew exactly what he was thinking. 

“Stop frowning, baby,” he said, reaching out to touch the frown lines between his eyebrows and smoothed it with his fingers. “I'll call you later, okay?”

“You will?”

“Yes, I will. You can come to my house if you want. Or if you want me to come here, just tell me. I'll come.”

Donghyuck could only stare at Mark, his face was blank and his lips were parted slightly. It caught him off guard how the latter could easily read him as if he was an open book. It felt as if Mark could tell what Donghyuck was thinking and what the latter wanted just by looking at him.

“Really?” Donghyuck asked after a beat of silence.

“Really, baby,” he said. “I will most likely stay in the house. The boys won't let me out. They could be such a pain in the ass sometimes.”

“They just wanted you to be safe.”

Mark ruffled his hair gently. “I know, baby. Now it's time for you to go back to sleep. You need to take a rest.”

Donghyuck let out a deep breath and nodded.

“Okay.”

Mark tucked him back into the bed, wrapping his body with blankets and making sure that the latter was comfortable. Donghyuck stared at him drowsily as sleep took him, his eyes blinking slowly, and the sight of him looking so soft made Mark's heart skipped a beat.

Leaning down, he pressed his lips against his forehead tenderly.

“Sleep tight, baby.”

 


 

 

Donghyuck slept poorly the night before and woke up for the second time to the bright yellow light of a sunny day. He felt edgy as he climbed out of the bed. It was Saturday and normally he would be happy to start the day because he got to stay at home, spending some time with Chenle without thinking about work or school. But now he couldn't help but think of Mark. He'd already made up his mind. He was going to Mark's house today and brought him some food. It might not be a lot but he wanted to do something for him.

After brushing his teeth quickly and washing his face, he slid out of the room. He was surprised to find Sicheng and Chenle on the couch, cuddling while watching his baby brother's favorite show. He looked around but Kun was nowhere to be found.

Sicheng heard him coming and the latter looked up to smile at him. He looked tired and Donghyuck’s guts telling him that it had something to do with Yuta and the Brat Pack.

“You're awake.”

Donghyuck nodded as he slowly approached the two of them. He took a seat next to them and as he leaned his head against Sicheng’s shoulder, he heard the latter letting out a sigh.

“Are you okay?” Sicheng asked, giving him a knowing look. Donghyuck took that as a sign that the latter knew about the whole thing.

“I guess,” he said. “I'm just feeling a little bit edgy right now.”

It was easy to be honest with Sicheng when the topic was related to the Brat Pack because they involved with people from the same circle. It also made things felt not as unbearable as it used to be because he had someone he could share it with.

“I don't exactly know what's happening but I know that Mark and Jaehyun fought. Yuta is stressing over it and it makes me on edge too. I hope everything's gonna be fine.”

Donghyuck sighed, snuggling up against him.

“I hope so, too. I'm going to Mark's house today to see him. He said the rest of the boys are there, too.”

“Yeah. Yuta won't leave his side.”

Now that Sicheng had mentioned Yuta so casually, it sparked Donghyuck's interest. It reminded him that they haven’t talked about the progress of their relationship after what happened in the charity event.

“Are you and Yuta hyung okay?”

Donghyuck pulled away so he could look at Sicheng properly. The latter was running his fingers into Chenle's hair who had his full attention on the screen. For a moment, Sicheng didn't answer his question but then he turned to him and the smaller was surprised to see the small smile on his face.

“We’re okay, I guess,” he replied. “We decided to take things slow, though Yuta is so keen to go back to how it used to be. I understand where he's coming from and I get why he becomes more protective of me now. But we need some time to think about our relationship and work on our communication. I hurt him once and I don't want that to ever happen again. He deserves better, you know.”

Donghyuck had only seen a few moments of them together but he could tell that the two of them had a very mature relationship. Come to think about it, all of the Brat Pack members who were in a relationship weren’t dating in the way like most people their age did. It wasn't just for having fun and though Donghyuck only knew very little about relationship, he was aware that what they had was different. It was simply on another level.

“I'm happy for you, hyung,” Donghyuck sincerely said, smiling. “I hope you and Yuta hyung can find a way to make it work.”

Sicheng smiled and reached out to ruffle Donghyuck's hair gently.

“Thank you, Donghyuck. I wish you and Mark the same.”

Donghyuck looked taken aback. His face was blank as he blinked at Sicheng.

“What about me and Mark?” he asked, bewildered. “You know it’s just fake dating, hyung. It’s not real.”

Sicheng gave Donghyuck a look but the latter didn't catch the meaning behind it. It felt as if Sicheng knew something he didn't and it was unsettling. Donghyuck tried not to squirm under his gaze but before he could say something else, the bell rang.

Donghyuck and Sicheng shared a confused look.

“Did you order food?”

Donghyuck shook his head as he got up from the couch. “No. You know I don't order food, hyung. I'll open the door.”

Donghyuck padded over to the door, wondering who that might be. He rarely got a visitor, mainly because he didn't know a lot of people. To say that he was surprised to find Yuta standing in front of him was an understatement. Donghyuck's eyes widened and his lips parted slightly, blinking rapidly at the latter. The confusion was written all over his face.

“Yuta hyung?”

Yuta smiled at him but it was tight and didn't reach his eyes. His shoulders were tensed. Sicheng was right. Yuta was in distress.

“Hey, Donghyuck. I hope you're not busy right now.”

Donghyuck quickly shook his head. “No, no. I'm not. Are you looking for Sicheng hyung? He's here.”

“Actually, I'm looking for you,” he said. “But I would like to see Sicheng, too.”

“Is Mark okay?” was the first Donghyuck could think of. He just couldn't help it. He knew something must have happened for Yuta to come here to get him.

Yuta let out a sigh, the way his shoulders deflated made Donghyuck’s anxiety growing.

“Something happened but I can't tell you here. I will fill you in later on our way to Mark's house. Now I need you to get ready. Bring Lele too because Jisungie is there. All I can say right now is that Mark needs you and we need to go there as fast as we could because he's about to lose his mind.”

 


 

 

It took Donghyuck very long minutes to compose himself again after he heard Yuta's story. The latter told him that Jaehyun and Taeyong came to Mark's house around seven in the morning and what followed after that was simply chaos. Mark confronted Jaehyun who looked like he hadn't slept all night and this time, Taeyong didn't stop them. The two of them talked, or more like argued because Mark was losing his temper but Jaehyun just let him be because he knew that his brother needed to let his emotions out. Mark and Jaehyun ended up crying and it took some time for them to calm down.

Jaehyun told Mark that he wanted to talk to their father about the arranged marriage but the latter insisted to come with him. He strongly refused because it was between him and their father. They almost fought again but thankfully Johnny managed to convince Mark to stay at home. According to Yuta, Mark was in great distress as well as the rest of the Brat Pack members because they had a feeling that something was about to go down.

It was quiet after Yuta had finished talking. Chenle was sleeping on Sicheng's lap. They sat on the front seat meanwhile Donghyuck sat alone at the backseat. The smaller let out a sigh, sinking deeper into the seat.

“We're almost there, Donghyuck,” Yuta informed after a long moment of silence. “Are you okay?”

Donghyuck exhaled slowly, willing himself to relax. “Yeah, I'm fine.”

“Anyway, Mark didn't know that I came here to get you. He’s too stressed to think about anything else but his brother. That’s why I asked you to come with me. My friends couldn’t get him to take a rest and at this point, the only person we trust enough to calm him down is you.”

Visibly taken aback, Donghyuck stared at the back of Yuta's head and for a moment he couldn't find something to say in return. He had not expected such response from the man and he couldn't help his surprised expression. It had been weeks since he knew the Brat Pack. His fake relationship with Mark brought them closer but Donghyuck wasn't aware that they trusted him enough to take care of Mark.

Too deep in his own thoughts, he didn't realize that they had already arrived at Mark's house. Yuta turned off the engine and Donghyuck impatiently slid out of the car. They walked together with Chenle in Yuta's arms, still sleeping soundly. Once they were inside, the first one to greet them was Doyoung. The latter looked tense, his lips pressed into a taut line, and it looked like he hadn't had a good sleep. But when he saw Donghyuck, his face visibly relaxed.

“Oh, thank God! You're finally here!”

“Where is he?” Yuta asked as he silently reached out for Sicheng's hand, squeezing him gently as a way to reassure the latter who might feel awkward and out of place.

“He’s in his room,” Doyoung answered, letting out an exhausted sigh as he rubbed his temple. Yuta wasn't kidding when he said that the current situation affected them all. “Tennie finally managed to get him inside. He won't get out of there because we all know how scary Tennie is when he's mad. But he won't sleep or eat either. He's too anxious to do that. Jaehyun hasn't replied to any of us and now Johnny is with Taeyongie trying to stop him from crying.”

Yuta looked alarmed now. He quickly turned to Sicheng who looked concerned after he heard what happened.

“Sicheng, can you please take Lele to Jisungie? Doyoungie will show you the way. I have to go to Taeyongie. He needs me. Is that okay?”

Sicheng nodded as he took Chenle into his arms. Yuta leaned forward to drop a quick kiss to Sicheng's forehead before leaving. When he was gone, Doyoung turned to Donghyuck who had been silently observing the situation.

“Donghyuck, you know Mark's room, right? You can just go inside. It isn't locked.”

Donghyuck nodded dutifully. “Yes, sunbaenim.”

“Just call me hyung is fine,” he corrected, giving Donghyuck a small smile. If they were in other circumstances, Donghyuck would be more surprised to see Doyoung smiling at him. He hadn't really talked to him, except when it was necessary. He got an impression that, despite looking outgoing and very social around the school, Doyoung wasn't someone who could easily get close to others. But now that the latter had asked him to drop the formality, he felt a little bit closer to him.

“Okay, hyung.”

Doyoung nodded in satisfaction.

“Now go. Mark needs you. I know that he will be at ease as soon as he sees you.”  

Donghyuck nodded his head again before he quickly went upstairs. When he stopped in front of Mark's room, he hesitated to get inside though Doyoung had told him to do so. After contemplating for a moment, he decided to knock first.

“Go away, Doyoungie hyung! I told you I don't want to eat.”

Mark sneered and even though Donghyuck was outside his door, his voice still managed to send chills down his spine. He cleared his throat and knocked again.

“It's me. Donghyuck.”

It was silence after that. And then, he heard loud footsteps approaching. Suddenly the door was swung open, revealing a scruffy Mark standing in the doorway. His hair stood tousled and messy. His face instantly melted as he looked at Donghyuck and he lunged forward to wrap his arms around him, holding him against him.

“Donghyuck, you're here.” he breathed out a long sigh, burying his face in Donghyuck's neck. The latter could feel his lips and breaths against his skin. Mark held him so tight and close that he struggled a little to breathe but he didn't say anything. Instead, Donghyuck wrapped his arms around Mark's waist, hugging him just as tight. He couldn't express how relieved he was to finally have Mark close to him again.

“I'm here.” he murmured in his ears. “I’m here, Mark.”  

Mark pulled away slightly so he could see Donghyuck's face. He brushed his bangs out of his face gently. “Yuta hyung brought you here?”

Donghyuck nodded his head wordlessly. Mark smiled as he held his face, stroking his cheek with his fingers gently. He looked exhausted and there was a hint of despair in his eyes. Donghyuck could see that because of their proximity. His heart instantly clenched. He wasn't used to seeing this side of Mark but at the same time, he was glad that the latter could openly express his feelings when he was around the people he felt comfortable with.

“Are you okay?”

Mark hummed. “Now that you're here, it's better.”

Donghyuck fought the blush that threatened to color his cheeks. Mark was very blunt and honest sometimes that it never failed to catch him off guard.

“Do you want to come inside and get some rest?”

“Will you stay with me?”

“Yes,” Donghyuck replied in a heartbeat. “I will stay with you.”

Mark let out a long sigh and his smile widened slightly. “Okay, then. I will get some rest.”

Before they could get inside the room, there was a commotion downstairs that startled them both. They heard Yuta and Johnny yelling followed with the sound of feet running. They froze in their place, looking at each other with an alarmed expression.

“Taeyong hyung.” they said in unison.

Mark was the first one to move. He ran and Donghyuck quickly followed after him. When they were finally downstairs, they saw Doyoung talked furiously on the phone meanwhile Ten had run to the kitchen to get his car keys and phone. A moment later, Yuta and Johnny emerged inside. Yuta was spitting profanities under his breath and he looked more furious than Donghyuck had ever seen. Meanwhile Johnny, for the first time since Donghyuck knew him, looked extremely troubled and worried. His expression was very raw and open now. Sicheng wasn't there and that meant he was with the kids.

Mark and Donghyuck looked at each other in confusion approaching the Brat Pack who had gathered in the living room.

“What happened?” Mark demanded, unconsciously searching for Donghyuck's hand to ground him. Once he found it, he held onto it so hard it hurt but Donghyuck tightened their intertwined hands in return.

The Brat Pack looked at each other, looking conflicted. They didn’t say anything for a few moments and Mark was getting impatient.

“Can someone please explain to me why the fuck Taeyong hyung ran away? What's the commotion all about?”

Doyoung who had ended the phone call stepped forward. His face was ashen as if he'd just seen a ghost and the rest of the Brat Pack looked tensed. It was enough for Mark and Donghyuck to understand that whatever had happened, it was definitely bad.

“Your brother is getting engaged next week. It's all over the news.”

What?”

 


 

Chapter Text


 

The first time Jaehyun met Taeyong, he was twelve and he had so much anger and resentment inside him. He was like a bomb that could explode anytime. He was emotionally unstable though no one could notice that because he hid his feelings very well. People wouldn't realize that beneath his calm and collected exterior, there was a storm inside him.

Jaehyun came back to Seoul and transferred to Mark's school, SM Junior High School, after spending a year in the States. It was his first day in school and Mark asked him to have lunch together. His brother said he wanted him to meet his favorite senior, Lee Taeyong. Jaehyun had heard a lot about Taeyong because Mark always talked about the latter when they were on the phone. Taeyong this, Taeyong that, Taeyong, and Taeyong. At first, Jaehyun thought that his brother might have a crush on his senior. He confronted him once but Mark had laughed at him, telling him that it was impossible for him to like Taeyong in a romantic way becuase the latter was like his mother. Mark felt a strong connection with Taeyong because while Jaehyun was away, Taeyong was the one who took care of him. The latter also cooked for him—something their mother never did.

The day Jaehyun met Taeyong, it wasn't just the two of them. There were a lot of people. Mark, Yuta, and Johnny were also there. Yuta had been friends with Taeyong since freshman and naturally the latter started to hang out with Mark after Thaeyong introduced them. Meanwhile Johnny was Jaehyun's friend. They met when they were in the States and it just so happened that they transferred to the same school.

Jaehyun had never liked someone before. He was never intrigued before but when he saw Taeyong, he felt a strange spark. It burst from deep inside him, flooding him. It was intense and heated but it wasn't anger. He'd never felt like that before and it warmed his heart just to see him.

Taeyong was the opposite of him. He wasn't anything like Jaehyun. His features were sharp and sculpted like a Greek god but he was soft and gentle like an angel. If Jaehyun was the fire, then Taeyong was the water. The attraction between them was strong and undeniable. Jaehyun felt the strong urge to protect Taeyong but it was different from what he felt to Mark. It was not brotherly and at his age, he didn't quite know what love was. He did everything with his instinct.

Jaehyun had been controlled by his mother his entire life. Growing up, he made it a mission to disobey his mother's orders as an attempt to get his own freedom. At some point, it got out of hand and his temper was getting worse. He had a hard time controlling his anger and that was the reason why his mother sent him to the States. She said it was his punishment for being a rebel. After Jaehyun met Taeyong, everything slowly changed. It was the latter who always stopped him before he impulsively did something he would regret. His patience and understanding was something Jaehyun couldn't comprehend sometimes.

Their relationship wasn't easy. Jaehyun always felt that someone like him wasn't enough for Taeyong. He always thought that the latter deserved more than an angry teenager. He was in denial and miserable state for so long, failing to see Taeyong's feelings for him. It was Yuta who managed to finally knock some sense into him—it involved fists fight and a lot of misunderstanding but it was worth it in the end. But even after that, things weren't magically worked. Jaehyun had to learn and accept the fact that Taeyong loved him just the way he was. He was enough and nothing or no one was perfect. It took so much work and effort for them to finally be able to balance their dynamic.

In the end, they had each other and that was what mattered.

 


 

 

“Jaehyunie, stop!”

Jaehyun's steps almost faltered as he heard Taeyong's pleas. He didn't like to make his boyfriend sounded desperate like that but he couldn't stop either. He didn't think he was ready to face Taeyong. Not after what he did to him.

“Jaehyunie, please.”

Jaehyun instantly stopped as he heard how broken Taeyong sounded. He turned around and he felt like someone just stabbed him in the chest as he took in the sight of Taeyong. His boyfriend looked so fragile and vulnerable. His eyes were glassy as he looked at Jaehyun.

“Baby,” he gasped, taking big steps forward and stopped before him. He cradled his face gently, afraid that he might hurt him. “Baby, I'm sorry. Don't cry.”

Taeyong shook his head, fighting back the tears that threatened to fall down his face. He looked up and his eyes spoke so many things. He tentatively put his hand over Jaehyun's, holding it tightly. When it was just the two of them, it was so easy to let their guard down. They didn’t have to put up a façade and it was okay to let their emotions out. Because they trusted each other and wasn’t afraid to show who they were.

“Jaehyunie, don't run away from me.”

Jaehyun looked like he was physically in pain as he spoke. “I lied to you. I didn't tell you the truth and you had to find out from someone else.”

“You couldn't lie when there's nothing to lie about,” Taeyong gently said. “You made the agreement years ago and you didn't know about your father's upcoming plan.”

Jaehyun didn't let go of Taeyong's face but his body went rigid, his shoulders tensed, and his eyes widened in shock.

“You knew about this?”

Taeyong smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes. Jaehyun recognized that look—he’d seen that before. His eyes were burning and he could feel his blood boiled and a wave of fury rippled through him.

“Taeyong, did my father threaten you?” he asked, his voice was low but sounded so menacing and full of disdain. Anyone who heard that would tremble with chills down their spines but Taeyong didn’t even flinch. He quickly stepped into Jaehyun's arms, wrapping his arms around his waist and pressing his chest against his. His grip was tight, making sure that Jaehyun won't be able to escape.

“Jaehyunie, it's not something new and we agreed not to make a big deal out of it.”

Jaehyun breathed harshly through his nose, his face slowly turned red and his body shook with intense anger. Taeyong held his face in his hands as Jaehyun wrapped his arms around his waist, trying to find his ground.

“Jaehyunie, it's okay,” he said, stroking his face gently in an attempt to calm him down. “It's okay.”

“It's not okay, Taeyong,” he seethed, grinding his teeth together. “We had a deal. I would do whatever they want as long as they leave you and Mark alone. I can't believe my father talked to you. How dare he.”

Jaehyun closed his eyes, trying to control his breathing. He didn't expect today would go like this. He didn't expect to see Seungwan either. She did give him enough time to tell Mark and Taeyong about the engagement. But he just couldn't seem to find the right time—maybe there were actually plenty but it was Jaehyun who couldn't find enough courage to tell them.

Jaehyun wanted to be the one who directly told Taeyong, Mark, and the rest of his friends about the deal he's made with his father. He just couldn't seem to figure out how. He knew it would eventually happen but he didn't know when. His father didn't say anything about it but the fact that Seungwan came all the way here to warn him should be enough of a clue.

Thinking about what his parents might do made Jaehyun’s body shook with sudden fury. Sometimes people couldn't understand why he was so protective over Taeyong when the latter clearly had enough power to protect himself. His boyfriend was strong and independent. But that wasn't what Jaehyun worried about. He just wanted to protect Taeyong from his parents. Since the beginning, they didn't approve of their relationship. They tried to separate them once by sending Jaehyun back to the States. It only made Jaehyun went frantic and his anger issue became worse. It only lasted for a few months. Taeyong was the one who picked Jaehyun up and they decided to live together after that.

When it came to Taeyong and their relationship, Jaehyun wouldn't back down no matter what his parents trying to do. He always stayed alert, though Taeyong's family was as powerful as his, he knew what his parents capable of and he wouldn't dare to let his guard down.

“Baby, let's just go home,” Taeyong said after a long moment of silence. “You have to tell our friends but first, we have to deal with Mark.”

Jaehyun squeezed his eyes shut. “God, Mark is going to hate me.”

“No, he's not,” Taeyong quickly reassured him. “Yes, he's going to get mad at you but he would never hate you. He loves you, Jaehyunie. Just try to explain to him, okay?”  

“Okay,” he exhaled. “I'll try.”

 


 

 

“Jung Jaehyun!”

Jaehyun didn't flinch as he heard Mark growled his name, bursting inside his house without knocking because he knew the passcode. He exhaled shakily, not turning his back though he knew his brother was coming for him. He shared a look with Taeyong who sat next to him. The latter squeezed their intertwined hands as an attempt to support him.

Jaehyun knew that whatever might happen would be ugly because they were so much alike. Once they were fired up for a fight, none of them would back down.

“Jung Jaehyun, who do you think you are?”

Mark stopped a few feet away from the couple. Jaehyun looked up and he could see the way his brother’s eyes burned with fury and intense anger. There was also hurt and pain in those eyes and Jaehyun's throat instantly closed. All this time he always tried to protect his brother and now he was the one who hurt him.

“Minhyungie,” Taeyong stood up and slowly approached the younger. He purposely used his birth name because it was his way to get Mark to calm down. “Let's sit down and talk it out with a clear head, okay?”

“No,” he hissed, not looking at Taeyong but didn't flinch when the latter tentatively touched his shoulder. “I want my brother to tell me who gives him the right to do something stupid like that.”

Jaehyun's head snapped up, his eyes had the same fire as Mark's. But he didn't move from where he was sitting.

“It's not stupid,” he said through his gritted teeth. “I have the right to do whatever I want.”

Mark let out a growl.

“You made a deal with father and it involved me! What did you do?”

“I did what I thought was right at that time.”

“You think giving away your freedom was right?” Mark's voice broke at the end and his body was shaking from the intense emotions he was feeling at the moment. Anger, frustration, sadness, regret, and so much more. It was overwhelming.

Jaehyun looked away, unable to see his brother's eyes. Both of his hands were trembling with the tension in the room.

“Look at me and tell me what deal you made with our parents, coward.”

Mark stepped forward but Taeyong stopped him, knowing that it would end badly if he didn't step up. Jaehyun wouldn't be able to tell Mark the truth meanwhile Mark would be too angry to patiently listen to his brother.

“Minhyungie,” Taeyong gently said. “Jaehyun knew that under other circumstances, your parents would still put him into an arranged marriage so he made a deal.”

Mark's shoulders tensed and his jaw tightened as he looked at his brother.

“What is it?”

Jaehyun still didn't want to talk so Taeyong continued, “He agreed to marry whoever they've chosen and in exchange, you'll be under his care and that means your parents wouldn't be able to do anything to you until you're legal.”

“What—“ Mark stopped, his voice so choked with rage that it was low as a whisper. His eyes, focused on Jaehyun, burned with anger and betrayal. The sudden fury that rippled through him was hard to control and made his whole body shook. 

“You—“  

Before Mark could finish his sentence, Jaehyun suddenly got up from the couch and stormed out of the room without saying anything else. Mark lunged forward and let out another growl, but Taeyong was quick to hold him back. He stepped in front of him, blocking his view. He cupped Mark's face, forcing the latter to look at him.

“Minhyungie, give him some time, okay?” Taeyong pleaded, his eyes were glassy. Mark let out a harsh breath, trying to get a grip of his fury, knowing that it wasn't easy for Taeyong as well. “I will talk to him again, okay? You have to go home and take a rest.”

Mark put his hands around Taeyong's hips, gripping it tightly to ground him. It was a lot to take for him. He couldn't believe that his brother would go as far as that. He was mad because Jaehyun did that to him, but he was more hurt because his brother did that to himself.

“He can't do that, hyung,” he choked out, his eyes stung with fresh tears. “He can't—“  

“Ssh, Minhyungie, it's okay.” Taeyong stroked Mark's cheeks gently, trying to comfort him with a smile. “Go home and wait for him to come to you.”

“Okay,” he exhaled slowly. “I can do that.”

“Everything's gonna be okay. Trust me.”

 


 

 

Jaehyun's car wasn't in the parking garage when Taeyong checked it and that meant his boyfriend was gone. He quickly got into his car and left the house. He could only think of one place Jaehyun might go to and with that in mind, he stomped down on the accelerator, pushing his car as fast as he could. When things were too overwhelming, Jaehyun would unconsciously shut everyone out. It was his coping mechanism. Normally, Taeyong would give him some space to think but there were times when he had to do something because he knew that his boyfriend needed someone to be with.

Taeyong's phone didn't stop buzzing as he drove. His friends kept calling him and he knew that they were worried but he couldn't think of anything else but Jaehyun. He could call his friends later but right now, he had to see him first.

After driving for almost twenty minutes, Taeyong arrived at Jaehyun's old apartment building. It was where he used to live with Mark before they moved out. Jaehyun still kept it because he always went there when he had problems and needed some moments to think and get away from everything.

Taeyong hastily punched the passcode down. He remembered it like the back of his hand. It was the combination of his and Mark's birth dates. Jaehyun never changed that.

As soon as he stepped inside, he quickly looked for Jaehyun.

“Jaehyunie!” he called, his voice booming inside the room. “Jaehyun!”  

The door of Jaehyun's old room swung open and the latter stepped out. His clothes were rumpled and his hair a mess. Taeyong took big steps toward him and leaped into his arms. Jaehyun’s breath hitched as he held Taeyong in his arms. He swept an arm under his knees and lifted him off his feet. Taeyong wrapped his arms around Jaehyun's neck as the latter walked them inside the bedroom.

Jaehyun made his way to his bed and carefully settled down in the middle with Taeyong on top of him. He held him, tightly, almost suffocating him but neither of them cared. It was what they needed at the moment. Being close to each other.

“I will talk to my father tomorrow,” Jaehyun started, his voice rough. “I know that my father is going to do something. Seungwan noona wouldn't come all the way here if it isn't serious.”

Taeyong hummed. “Do you know who she might be?”

“No, and I don't care. She could be Park or Kim or anyone. Doesn't matter to me.”

“I know,” Taeyong gently said, tightening his hold around Jaehyun’s waist. “Just don't be mean to her, okay? We know how it works, Jaehyunie. She doesn’t have much of a choice like you.”

“How could you think of that? You're an angel,” Jaehyun nuzzled Taeyong's hair, dropping small kisses on top of his head. “My angel.”

Taeyong didn't answer and for a moment they didn't speak. In silence, they knew that something was about to happen. They could feel it. Though they've prepared themselves for this, now that it might happen for real, they didn't know what to do. But one thing for sure; Jaehyun won't let go of Taeyong. He would do anything in his power to protect him and keep him by his side. He couldn't imagine a world without Taeyong. It would be very dark and he knew he would lose himself without him.

“Jaehyunie, I know this is hard for you but you have to talk to Mark and our friends. They deserve to know.”

Jaehyun let out a sigh. “I know. I will talk to them tomorrow morning. For now, I just want to be with you.”

“Okay. But I won’t save you from Doyoung and Ten’s wrath.”

Jaehyun finally let out a chuckle. It eased the tension and his shoulders slowly relaxed. It made Taeyong breathed easier and lighter.

“I can handle them. I’m not worried about Johnny but Yuta is another story. He hates Doyoung with his guts but if someone upsets Doyoung, he won’t hesitate to kill them.”

Taeyong let out a giggle and the tensed atmosphere slowly melted. This was easy. This was their moment—something that only happened when it was just the two of them.

“He hates Doyoung like an enemy and loves him like a lover,” Taeyong added. “It’s only him who’s allowed to insult Doyoung. If someone else does that, he won’t hesitate to end them. They’re so complicated.”

Jaehyun sighed. “I guess I don’t have another choice but to face them tomorrow.”

“You’ll be okay, Jaehyunie. Don’t worry. We will be there for you.”

“I love you,” Jaehyun whispered, voice thick with emotions. “You know I won't let you go, right?”

“I love you, too,” Taeyong whispered back, swallowing the big lump down his throat. “I will fight for you.”

Things had never been easy for them. Their relationship took a lot of works and effort. This would be another battle for them to fight but it wasn't something new for them.

They knew that in the end, it was always worth it.

 


 

 

The moment Jaehyun and Taeyong stepped into Mark's house, the Brat Pack members—except Mark—were there. They were already expecting their arrival and they looked like they hadn't slept at all. Johnny was sitting next to Ten, wrapping his arms around his boyfriend's shoulder who looked like he could fall asleep at any minute. Doyoung was curled up against Yuta, his head tucking under Yuta's chin. Doyoung was obviously in distressed, his eyebrows pulling together, and his lips pressed into a taut line. Yuta held him, whispering encouraging words to ease his worry.

They looked up at the same time when they heard Jaehyun and Taeyong coming. Doyoung straightened his posture and he looked like he was about to bolt but Yuta held him, preventing him from moving. Johnny and Ten let out a sigh, looking so relieved to finally see them.

“Took you long enough to come,” Doyoung snapped as Taeyong and Jaehyun took a seat across them.

“I'm sorry for not calling,” Jaehyun sincerely apologized, knowing that being honest was the only way to deal with Doyoung. “I needed a moment with Taeyong.”

“It's fine,” Johnny reassured him. “We're glad that you guys are here now.”

“Are you guys okay?” Ten asked, biting down his lower lips anxiously. Ten didn’t usually make a fuss over something and Jaehyun felt bad for making him worried.

“We're okay now.”

Yuta let out a sigh. “Are you going to tell us what happened now?”

Jaehyun nodded. Taeyong instinctively moved closer to him and held his hand. They've talked a lot and didn't get enough sleep last night. But now they were ready to tell their friends.

“I made a deal with my father before Mark and I moved out of the house. I wanted my brother under my care because I don't want my parents to touch him at least until he's legal and can decide everything on his own. My father used that opportunity to sign a deal with me. He let me bring Mark but in exchange, I had to marry a girl. But let's be real here. With or without Mark as an excuse, he would still put me into an arranged marriage because my parents didn't want me to be with Taeyong.”

The Brat Pack members barely flinched as they head Jaehyun explaining the situation. It was a classic story. All of their parents always wanted to have control of their lives. It wasn't anything new. But one thing they had in common was they never gave in and always fought in their own ways.

“We'll help you,” Johnny was the first one to speak. “You know that, right?”

Jaehyun smiled. “I know.”

“Do you want me to piss off your father? I can steal his clients or something.”

Taeyong and Jaehyun broke into a small laugh.

“No, Yuta. You don't have to do that.”

“But it would be fun! Your father wouldn’t know that it’s us,” Doyoung added, the mirth was back in his eyes. “Do you remember that one time when Yuta and I ruined his birthday party by inviting stripper dancers? He spent a lot of money trying to cover the news on the media. We can try that again at your engagement party.”

“That's a good idea,” Ten who rarely confided in Yuta and Doyoung agreed. He giggled, looking so amused. “I'm in.”

“No one is going to ruin the engagement party,” Taeyong glared at his friends. “Tennie, you’re not supposed to be on their side! You know they always do crazy things.”

Ten shrugged, his face was more relaxed and at ease now. “Well, I think this one is gonna be fun.”

Taeyong hissed, narrowing his eyes at Yuta and Doyoung who looked like a dejected puppy.

“Don’t try me.”

Doyoung pouted. “You're no fun!”

“Taeyongie is right. Listen to him, kids.”

Yuta groaned.

“Not you too, Johnny. You need to loosen up!”

“Oh, look who's finally coming here.”

The laughter died down as Mark appeared. The tension was back and it intensified as Jaehyun slowly got up from his seat, approaching his brother who didn't move from his spot. This time, Taeyong didn't stop them. He silently beckoned his friends to leave the living room to give the sibling some privacy.

Mark and Jaehyun looked like a mess. Their hair ruffled and the bags under their eyes were getting darker. Jaehyun stopped before Mark and before he could say something, his brother beat him first.

“I heard what you said,” he snapped. “And I still want to kill you for thinking of trading your freedom for me. You shouldn't let me out of the house so our parents have nothing against you.”

“If you heard what I said, then you know that it won't change anything,” Jaehyun gently explained. “They would still do that because they didn't want me to be with Taeyong.”

Mark gritted his teeth. “You're stupid.”

Jaehyun smiled and his eyes were sincere as he looked at his brother.

“I know. But I won't let my brother suffer. They can do anything to me but not to you. I won't let them.”

“You think I wouldn't do the same for you?” Mark growled, but his voice broke at the end. His throat constricted and his eyes stung with fresh tears. “I won't let them hurt you either.”

Not being able to hold himself back, Jaehyun pulled Mark into his arms and his brother broke into tears. It triggered him and he ended up crying with Mark. They held each other tightly, crying in silence. They weren't an emotional type of person and they didn't usually being affectionate like this. But both of them shared a very strong bond. It had always been the two of them. They looked after each other and have each other’s back. They would go back and forth through hell if it was necessary.

After a few minutes, they pulled away and laughed.

“This is embarrassing,” Mark said, wiping his tears with the back of his hands. “The last time I cried was when you stole my toys. And it was years ago.”

“I did not steal your toys,” he argued. “I just hid them in a place you didn’t know.”

Mark and Jaehyun smiled at each other.

“I heard the camera shutter's sound. It's either Yuta hyung or Doyoung hyung. They're going to use this as blackmail.”

Jaehyun chuckled. “It's definitely Yuta because he always forgets to turn off the sound. But Doyoung is also there to support his stupid actions.”

“The dumb and dumber. They’re unbelievable.” 

Jaehyun patted Mark's head affectionately. “I'm sorry for making you worried. I'm going home after this. I have to talk with father.”

Mark's shoulders instantly stiffened and his smile was gone.

“I'm coming with you.”

“No,” Jaehyun firmly said, his eyes hardened. “It's going to be me and father. You’re not coming.”

“What do you mean I can't come? I said I'm coming!”

“Mark Lee,” Jaehyun hissed, his voice dropped and it laced with a warning now. “I said this is between me and father.”

“But—“

"Mark, Jaehyun is right."

Johnny appeared behind Jaehyun to stop the confrontation. It was obvious that he'd been staying at the side so he could step in when things started to get heated. He was the mediator in the group and once he stepped in, no one dared to cross the line.

Johnny walked toward Mark and put a hand on his shoulder, squeezing it gently.

“Mark, you have to stay here. Jaehyun will call us if he needs something. Right, Jaehyun?”

Jaehyun nodded. “Yes.”

Mark didn’t want to agree but he knew he didn’t have another choice. Not when Johnny squeezed his shoulder again, silently warning him.

“Fine,” he grunted in defeat. “I will stay. Promise me you won't leave me in the dark again.”

“I promise, little brother,” Jaehyun smiled, ruffling Mark's head gently. It was the nickname he hadn't used in years. He used to call him that when they were still little.

“Be careful. Don't do anything stupid.”

“I won't.”

“The boys are one call away,” Johnny reminded him again. “Don’t hesitate to call us if you need our help. And don't worry about Taeyongie and this little guy. We're going to stay here with them.”

Mark let out a disgruntled sound, staring incredulously at Johnny and Jaehyun.

“Excuse me? I'm not little!”

Johnny and Jaehyun purposely ignored Mark's protest, making the latter whined.

“Thank you, John. I owe you.”

Johnny smiled, easy and sincere.

“You're not. It's what friends do, Jaehyun. We’re here for each other.”

 


 

 

[BREAKING NEWS]

 

JUNG JAEHYUN, THE FUTURE CEO OF JH HOLDINGS, IS REPORTEDLY ENGAGED TO THE HEIR OF PARK FAMILY, PARK SOOYOUNG. THE ENGAGEMENT PARTY WILL BE HELD NEXT WEEK!

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Yuta and Johnny had gone to follow Taeyong and they looked frantic as they left. Doyoung and Ten stayed at the house. They sat on the couch, unmoving like a statue. But worry and anxiety were evident on their faces. Sicheng were still with Jisung and Chenle in another room, trying to distract their attention because the tensed atmosphere wouldn’t be good for the kids.

Donghyuck was in a very awkward position. He didn’t know what to do and he didn’t dare to approach Mark either. He didn’t really know what was the deal but Jaehyun getting engaged to a woman was enough for him to understand how serious it was. He'd listened to Mark talking to Seungwan on the phone and judging from the way Mark's jaw was set, he knew that it wasn’t something that could be taken lightly.  

Time passed by and after what seemed like forever, a phone call was finally coming. Mark jolted when his phone rang, startling the rest of them.

“Johnny hyung,” he informed before accepting the call.

Doyoung and Ten instantly rose from the couch, walking toward Mark. Donghyuck stayed on his spot, silently watching them.

“Hyung, what is it?”

Mark listened as Johnny talked on the other line. A few moments later, Mark's face instantly hardened and his eyes burned with fury.

“Take Taeyong hyung with you and stay with him. I’m going there.”

Mark said a quick goodbye and he quickly hung up the phone. The tension intensified and it was almost suffocating to be in the room.

“My father locks Jaehyun hyung away in his room until his engagement party. Now Taeyong hyung is freaking out because he couldn’t get inside my house.”

Fuck,” Ten seethed and it made Donghyuck jumped on his seat, surprised to see the latter losing control because it was so unlike him.

“Tennie, take the kids with you. Johnny and Yuta are probably taking Taeyong home right now. I’m going to drive Mark to his house. Meet us there, okay?”

Ten nodded dutifully at Doyoung’s instruction.

“Keep an eye on Yuta. Don’t let him do anything reckless.”

“Don’t worry. I’m going to lock him in a room if he tries to do something stupid.”

Doyoung left first and Donghyuck thought that Mark was going to do the same. He was surprised and secretly relieved when the latter approached him instead, looking more distraught than before. Mark knelt on one knee before him. He didn’t try to smile but his face didn’t look as scary as before.

“I’m sorry you have to see this,” Mark said, taking one of Donghyuck’s hand and squeezing it gently. “I have to go now. My brother needs me.”

Donghyuck swallowed the lump down his throat, nodding slowly.

“Okay.” was all he could say. He couldn’t really think right now.

Mark squeezed his hand again. “I’ll call you when I can. Ten hyung is going to take you home along with Sicheng hyung and the kids.”

Donghyuck squeezed Mark's hand back, trying to silently support him. He didn’t know what else he could do to ease his worry. He wanted to do more but he wasn’t sure if he was allowed.

“Don’t worry,” Mark reassured him as if he knew exactly what was going on in his mind. He gave him a small smile though it didn’t bother to reach his eyes and continued, “I’m going to be fine. I’ll see you on Monday, okay?”

“Okay. Be careful.”

“Take care, baby.”

Mark leaned forward to kiss Donghyuck's forehead before standing up and leaving the house. Donghyuck watched his back slowly disappearing from his view. He didn’t know why he got a bad feeling about this. He felt like something was about to happen and he wasn’t sure if he would like it.

 


 

Ten took Donghyuck, Sicheng, and Chenle home shortly after Doyoung and Mark left the house. He also took Jisung with him to Taeyong's house. Donghyuck didn’t have to go to work so he spent the rest of the day at home. He tried not to think of Mark and wait for his calls but he found himself slipped from time to time. He kept looking at his phone every few minutes, hoping that a new notification would pop up but there was nothing.

Donghyuck waited until the day almost ended and he eventually fell into a restless and fitful sleep. The next morning, there were still no calls from Mark. He brought up the topic to Sicheng and the latter told him that he hadn’t received any calls from Yuta either. This made him anxious and worried but he reminded himself that he had no place to intervene in Mark’s personal life. What they had was just a deal. Their relationship was just a pretending and he should know his place. It wasn’t real and Donghyuck ignored the way his heart dropped whenever he reminded himself of that.

Donghyuck didn’t really remember how he managed to pass another day without feeling like he was about to burst. On Sunday, he went out with Chenle because it had been a while since the last time he took his brother out. And because it effectively helped him take his mind off Mark and the Brat Pack. They went to the amusement park and had dinner at Chenle's favorite restaurant. By the time they arrived home, both of them were too exhausted to do anything else and went to sleep early.

Monday morning came and it was better and worse at the same time. It was better because he could finally go to school after two days waiting in agony. And it was worse because there was still no news from Mark. No phone call and message. Nothing. And this time, Donghyuck could no longer hold himself.

He woke up feeling more edgy and anxious than he’s ever felt before. When Sicheng came to his apartment with the same expression as his, he knew that something must’ve happened and it was bad. According to Sicheng, it was the very first time Yuta didn’t accept his calls. The latter didn’t usually act like that and it made Sicheng worried.

Mark didn’t show up to pick Donghyuck and Chenle up like he usually did—as Donghyuck had predicted. He went to school with Sicheng, dreading what might happen. As soon as he stepped into the entrance, the parking lots where the Brat Pack usually parked their cars were vacant.

“Maybe they’re late?” Sicheng tried to comfort him and Donghyuck could only nod his head, though he knew perfectly well that the Brat Pack never came late.

As they walked together in the hallway, Donghyuck strangely felt naked. It felt as if he was bare without protection. It was the same feeling he had during the first few days he transferred to the school—long before he was involved with the Brat Pack. He walked pass by the students and felt their burning gazes at the back of his head but paid them no mind. It wasn’t the time for him to think about that.

Donghyuck didn’t have class with any of his friends and he had to endure long hours sitting alone in class, feeling like an outsider—something he hadn’t felt in a while. But he didn’t think much of it as he was used to it already. But his mind still couldn’t stop thinking of Mark and the rest of the Brat Pack. He had sent one message to Mark this morning and there was still no reply.

After what seemed like forever, it was finally lunch-time. Sicheng couldn’t come with him because the latter had to take a tutor from the teacher to improve his Korean. Donghyuck ended up walking alone to the cafeteria and it was Lucas who saw him first. The latter quickly steered him to their usual table where their friends waiting for their arrival.  

“Thank you, Yukhei,” Donghyuck said after he sat down on the chair.

Lucas smiled but it wasn’t his usual big and broad smile.

“Don’t mention it, Donghyuck. I know it’s been hard for you.”

Donghyuck could only blink at Lucas, his face blank. It just occurred to him that the whole school might have heard about Jaehyun’s engagement. And that meant they were aware of what happened at the moment.

Almost immediately Donghyuck’s eyes swept the cafeteria, turning to the table at the corner where the Brat Pack usually sat. It was vacant. None of them were there.

“They’re not coming,” Jaemin said, letting out a sigh. “It’s bad. I can tell you that.”

Donghyuck turned to Jaemin, biting his lower lips anxiously. He almost forgot that Jaemin’s father worked for Mark's family. And if there were someone among them who might know about what happened, it would be Jaemin.

“How bad?”

Jaemin didn’t say anything and Donghyuck didn’t need to hear his reply to know the answer. He could easily put two and two together.

“This doesn’t always happen,” Jeno who had been quiet the whole time finally spoke. “You know it’s bad when none of them come.”

“That’s right,” Renjun added. “Everyone is shocked to hear the news. They didn’t expect it would be Taeyong and Jaehyun.”

Donghyuck let out a sigh. He didn’t either.

“Hey, are you okay?” Jaemin asked, wrapping his arm around Donghyuck's shoulder. “Did Mark call you?”

“No, he didn’t. I tried to reach him but he didn’t answer.”

“If he went to his father's house, he would most likely turn off his phone.”

Donghyuck looked at Lucas in surprised. “How do you know?”

“Mark used to be on the basketball team with Lucas and Jeno,” Renjun explained.

Donghyuck couldn’t hide the surprise on his face. “Mark was on the basketball team?”

“He was the captain of the team before Lucas,” Jeno told him. “He'd stopped playing after what happened in 9th grade.”

“What happened?”

“We didn’t know for sure.” Jaemin quickly interjected, throwing a warning look at Jeno who quickly shut his mouth.

Donghyuck frowned. He knew there must be something about the accident. Something his friends didn’t want him to know—it was so obvious. He was sure that his friends were aware that he caught on their lies but for now, he would let it slide. He could think of that another time.

Renjun quickly changed the topic but as Donghyuck tried to listen to his friends’ easy chatter, he grew more and more tense. He was terribly uncomfortable and couldn’t help but glance at the vacant table from time to time. He knew for a fact that they didn’t come but he couldn’t stop himself from hoping that he could see them.

In the end, they didn’t and with a heavy heart, Donghyuck left the cafeteria. He was on his way to his next class when Kang Mina appeared out of nowhere and stopped before him, halting his steps. The hallway was almost empty and some students who passed by them didn’t dare to look at them for too long.

“I heard what happened,” Mina started, her lips curving into her signature smile and her eyes sharp as they looked into Donghyuck's.

“So?” Donghyuck prompted, not having enough energy to entertain Mina but he knew that he couldn’t just go. Surprisingly, though he was never afraid to face her, he felt strangely at ease at the moment. He didn’t need someone to rescue him because he knew he could handle her alone.

“Your turn will happen soon,” she said. “Your fake relationship will end the moment Mark's father knew about it. He won’t let his son settle for a peasant like you.”

Donghyuck didn’t flinch as Mina pointed out the truth. He knew that she was too smart to believe in his relationship with Mark. And he didn’t point out the fact that Mark's father already knew about it. She didn’t need to know that.

As Donghyuck stood there, looking back at Mina, so many questions ran through his mind. There were certain things he wanted to know and now that he was sure that no one would get him before they finished talking, he wanted to take his time.

He boldly took a step forward and almost immediately Mina’s smile faltered.

“Why are you trying so hard?” it came out as a statement rather than a question. Donghyuck's gaze didn’t waver, boring into Mina's. “I know that you're not part of them. If you were, you would at least knew how they were. But you’re not. You know nothing about them. You only act like you do. Am I right, Mina?”

It was the very first time Donghyuck addressed her by her name. He could see the way Mina’s lips twitched and the carefully maintained expression was slipped, though it was back to cold in a second. She took another step forward and now they were face to face. Her eyes were unforgiving as she looked at him.

“You know nothing about me,” she hissed through her teeth. “Watch your mouth.”  

“Neither do you,” Donghyuck fired back, standing on his ground. “Stop assuming about me. My relationship with Mark is not your business. It didn’t concern you so if something happens, I’ll deal with it on my own.”

Donghyuck saw anger and fury flashed through Mina’s eyes, her nostrils flaring up and her lips pressing into a taut line. He waited for her remark or worse a slap, but it didn’t come. They held each other’s gaze for a very long moment and it was Mina who broke the tensed silence between them.

“Enjoy your small bubble of happiness while you can,” she said, her voice surprisingly steady but sounded more menacing and threatening. “But I can reassure you that it won’t last long. You don’t know what’s coming.”

For the first time since Donghyuck knew Mina, it was her who turned around to leave first. He could only stand there, watching her small back slowly disappeared from his vision. He'd never seriously taken Mina's threat but what she just said didn’t sound like it. It was more like a warning. And this time, she didn’t play around. She knew something he didn’t. She knew that something was about to happen and he couldn’t help the dread that slowly sitting at the pit of his stomach.

Not wanting to think much of it, he quickly continued his walk back to the class, pushing the thoughts of Mark away from his mind.

 


 

 

As soon as the last class was over, Donghyuck quickly left the school to his workplace. It was a good thing he had work to do. That way, his mind would be busy to think of anything else outside that. He turned off his phone after checking it one last time—still no calls from Mark—and threw it inside his bag before locking his locker and started his shift.

The restaurant was packed to the brim and Donghyuck barely had enough time to eat. He moved back and forth, taking and delivering orders. By the time his shift was over, he was sweaty and boneless. He refused one of his co-workers offer to eat the leftovers because he didn’t have enough appetite. He swiftly changed into his clothes and left the restaurant through the back door.

He was walking to the bus-stop when suddenly a familiar white Porsche stopped next to him, startling him. A moment later, Doyoung and Yuta slid out of the car.

“Hyung,” Donghyuck gasped, surprised to see them. But he could feel a rush of relief slowly flooded through him. He'd been waiting for them the whole day, wondering where they were and why they didn’t show up. He didn’t expect to feel so happy to see Doyoung and Yuta after a long and dreadful day at school. As he looked at them, he noticed how tired they looked. The bags under their eyes were darker than the last time he saw them and they looked like they didn’t get enough sleep.

“Where’s your jacket?” was the first thing Yuta asked as soon as the latter stopped before Donghyuck. “It’s cold, Donghyuck. You should wear something warm and thick.”

Donghyuck looked down at his long sleeve shirt and realized that he left his jacket at his locker. It was hot when he left the restaurant but now that he was outside, his body trembling a little as the chilly night air blew against him.

“I left it at work,” he said, smiling sheepishly at them.

Doyoung tsked. “You can’t be reckless with your health, young man.”

Yuta silently took off his jacket and stepped forward to wrap it around Donghyuck's body, startling the younger. He was surprised to be treated so nicely and touched by Yuta’s gesture.

“Mark wouldn’t like it if you fall sick.”

Now that Doyoung had brought up the topic, Donghyuck's mind quickly drifted back to Mark. It must be the reason why Doyoung and Yuta were here.

“He’s fine. If that’s what you’re worried about,” Doyoung explained before Donghyuck could ask. The smaller let out a sigh, his shoulders visibly deflated in relief to hear that. “He didn’t have his phone so he couldn’t call you.”

So, Lucas was right. Mark didn’t have his phone the whole time. And now that Donghyuck had heard it from Doyoung, he could finally breathe properly and at ease. At least now he knew that Mark was fine.

“Get in, Donghyuck. We'll take you home.”

“But—”

“Mark can’t meet you for now,” Yuta said. “I’ll explain everything later.”

Once Donghyuck was inside the car and it drove away, Yuta and Doyoung told him what has been happening the past two days. When Jaehyun went back to his father's house to demand an explanation, it didn’t go well as they’ve expected. Jaehyun  and his father got into a pretty bad fight and Mr. Lee ended up locking Jaehyun away and didn’t let him step out of the house until the engagement party that will be held on Friday. When Mark arrived there, his brother was already locked in the room. He knew it would be futile to try to talk to their father so he decided to stay. Jaehyun didn’t want to drag Mark into the messy situation but the latter insisted. No matter how hard he tried, Mark wouldn’t budge. The latter refused to leave his brother alone.

Everything was still so messy. Jaehyun and Mark locked away in their house without their cellphone. They couldn’t call anyone. The Brat Pack spent a few days staying with Taeyong because the latter was the only one who couldn’t visit Jaehyun and Mark. Donghyuck could only imagine how hard it must be for Taeyong to go through that but also amazed because the connection between Brat Pack was beyond his imagination.

After Yuta and Doyoung were done with their explanation, they give Donghyuck some time to take everything in. He knew it wasn’t his problem but he couldn’t stop worrying, not only about Mark but the rest of the Brat Pack as well. He could only hope that everything would be okay and go back to normal—though it was unlikely to happen given the current situation.

Donghyuck's mind was still cloudy as they finally stopped in front of his apartment building. He slid out of the car first, followed by Yuta and Doyoung.

“Thank you for taking me home, hyung,” Donghyuck said, bowing his head to show his gratitude.

Doyoung waved his hand in dismissal.

“It’s fine, Donghyuck. No need to be so formal about it.”

“It’s almost midnight. You should get inside and take a rest.”

Donghyuck nodded. He was about to take the jacket off his body but Yuta stopped him.

“You can have it,”

Donghyuck shook his head. “No, hyung. I can't—”

“It’s not mine. It’s Mark's.”

Donghyuck's eyes widened in surprise. Instinctively he sniffed the jacket and instantly recognized the familiar fragrance. He was too preoccupied with his own thoughts to notice it earlier.

Yuta smiled teasingly at him. “You believe me now?”

Donghyuck blushed, embarrassed.

“Okay. I will keep it.”

Donghyuck smiled at Doyoung and Yuta, waving at them before turning around and get inside the building. That night, he slept whit Mark’s jacket on and his smell all over him.

 


 

 

The next day was better for Donghyuck because he knew what to expect. He got ready to school, feeling more composed than yesterday. It somehow felt strange not to have Mark bursting inside his apartment early in the morning but he pushed the thoughts away. Lately he realized that he thought about Mark a little bit too much and he knew that he shouldn’t. After he knew the current situation from Yuta and Doyoung, he stopped waiting for the latter. He kept reminding himself that their relationship was fake so Mark didn’t oblige to call or message him.

He went to school with Sicheng who looked a bit brighter than yesterday. The latter told him that Yuta finally called him and explained everything, asking him not to worry. Donghyuck was relieved to hear that. When they entered the school gate, Donghyuck was surprised to see the Brat Pack's vehicles in the parking lots. He scanned them and noticed that Mark and Jaehyun's cars weren’t there. The expectation he had gone as fast it appeared.

Donghyuck had classes with Jaemin and Renjun during the first and second period respectively. When lunch-time arrived, he went to the cafeteria with his friends. He didn’t see the Brat Pack and he started to wonder whether they would show up or not. It was after he sat down on his table and started eating when suddenly the whole cafeteria went silent. He didn’t need to lift his head to know who’s coming but he did anyway.

The Brat Pack waltzed into the cafeteria, looking graceful and elegant as they always did. Staring at them from where he was sitting, a few tables away from them, reminded him of his first day. The students followed their movement. They looked at them with their curious gaze and it wasn’t hard to guess what they were thinking.

Johnny and Ten walked in the front, their hands intertwined and their shoulders touched. Taeyong was behind them, walking with Doyoung who wrapped his arms around his shoulder meanwhile Yuta walked alone in the back. It looked like they were shielding Taeyong by walking so close to each other. Their demeanor was different, colder and distant than before. They didn’t smile and their face didn’t give anything away. Yuta was the only one who looked friendly and easy-going as usual. He winked at Donghyuck when he passed his table, making the smaller chuckled in relief.

The Brat Pack sat together. For Donghyuck, it was obvious that they were trying to cheer Taeyong up because the latter didn’t look like his usual self and didn’t bother to smile like he always did. Johnny sat next to Taeyong, urging him to eat by thrusting the spoon into his hand. Ten didn’t say anything but he silently pushed more food to him. Yuta and Doyoung didn’t bicker like they usually did. They sat with their backs facing the crowd, blocking the view. Their shoulders touched and Yuta had one hand wrapped around Doyoung’s waist—an intimate gesture Donghyuck had never seen before. It gave an insight into their relationship. Despite always bickering most of the time, the two of them were good partners.

“You knew that Mark wouldn’t come?” Jaemin asked, distracting Donghyuck from his thoughts. Today there were only Jaemin and Renjun. Jeno and Lucas had a basketball practice meanwhile Sicheng never ate at the cafeteria.

He hummed. “I had a hunch.”

“Did he call you?”

“No,” he said, shaking his head. “Lucas was right. He didn’t have his phone with him.”

“Are you okay with that?”

Donghyuck wrinkled his nose, looking at his friends in confusion.

“Why wouldn’t I? It’s not like he’s obliged to call me.”

“But you’re his boyfriend!”

“Fake,” Donghyuck corrected Renjun, lowering his voice just in case someone might hear them. “You know that our relationship isn’t real.”

Jaemin snorted, munching his soggy French fries as he spoke. “Miss me with the bull, my friend.”

“I told you guys that it’s not real.”

“But it doesn’t seem like it,” Renjun argued, looking into Donghyuck's eyes. His gaze searching. “Have you seen the way Mark looks at you? It’s the same like how Jeno looks at Jaemin.”

“That’s right,” Jaemin added. “Don't forget that I know Mark since we were kids. I don’t think the way Mark looks at you is fake.”

“I don’t understand what you’re trying to say,” Donghyuck denied, looking down at his food to avoid their gazes. He wasn’t prepared for this kind of talk. Not when his mind was a jumbled mess.

Renjun and Jaemin shared a look, talking with their eyes. And then they looked back at Donghyuck again and sighed.

“Fine,” Renjun relented. “When you finally realize that you’ve been doing the same as Mark and need someone to talk to, we're all ears.”

They dropped the topic after that and moved on to another one. Renjun was complaining how annoying Lucas was and Jaemin listened tentatively, dropping comments here and there when it was necessary. Meanwhile Donghyuck tried to listen but fail almost immediately. His mind couldn’t stop thinking of what could Jaemin and Renjun possibly meant. What did he miss? What did they mean by saying that? It was too confusing that he decided to give up. Maybe it was better for him not to think about something he had no idea about.

 


 

 

For the next few days, Donghyuck found himself falling back into his old routine. He went to school by bus with Chenle and Sicheng. His brother had stopped questioning Mark's presence after he explained that Mark was currently out of town. It was the first time he lied to his brother but he couldn’t find another excuse. When he was in school, he no longer sat on the same table as the Brat Pack during lunch but they acknowledged each other. When he accidentally bumped into them in the hallway, they would always talk to him and end up walking him to his class. Once he bumped into Johnny and awkwardly smiled at him, not knowing what he should he do because they’ve never talked before. To his surprise, it was Johnny who opened the conversation first. After asking Donghyuck where he wanted to go, the latter gently insisted to walk with him.

Donghyuck felt that he somewhat had built a connection with the Brat Pack. It wasn’t exactly friendship—he didn’t feel close enough with them to reach that extent. But now they weren’t just a mere acquaintance. Even without Mark, he was able to maintain his relationship with them, though it was still minimalist.

The rest of the week passed by in a blur and went strangely smooth. Donghyuck didn’t bump into Mina. In fact he hadn’t seen her after their last confrontation. Koeun and her friends were still everywhere but never approached him again. It must have something to do with Ten's threat. No one tried to approach him except his friends and he felt relieved and free. It felt normal and for a while, he forgot what was going on. It wasn’t until Thursday night when he went to work. He didn’t know why but he felt like someone was watching him. It made him restless and anxious. He continued to look around but the restaurant was full of people and he couldn’t scan the room for too long. The feeling of being watched lasted even after his shift was over. He was used to walking alone after work but now he didn’t feel safe. He didn’t dare to turn around, afraid that someone might be behind him. He could see the bus-stop a few feet away from him and fastened his walk, wanting to go home faster.

Donghyuck halted his steps when he heard the sound of feet approaching. He looked around and noticed that the street was empty and dark. He was practically alone. With his heart beating frantically against his ribcage, he wrapped his arms around his body as a way to protect himself. But before he could take another step, someone grabbed him by the waist and the next thing he knew, he was being dragged to an empty hallway.

Donghyuck swallowed the scream down his throat as he took a whiff of the familiar fragrance. He let out a gasp as he was being pushed to the wall, his nose pressed against the stranger's neck meanwhile the latter pressed his body against him.

Donghyuck recognized him right away.

“Mark?”

Mark exhaled loudly, pressing his lips against Donghyuck's temple. His arms wrapped around Donghyuck's waist protectively. His outfits were all black and he wore a cap that covered half of his face.

“Donghyuck.” He breathed out. “Baby.”

Donghyuck let out another gasp, his body went pliant in Mark's arms. He felt ridiculously relieved as he wrapped his arms around his neck, unconsciously leaning against him.

“Mark, you’re here,” Donghyuck whispered, and it wasn’t until that moment when it finally sunk into him. Mark was here. He was here. After almost a week without his presence, he was here with Donghyuck when he wasn’t allowed to.

Donghyuck's body instantly froze. “You’re not supposed to be here. Mark, you—”

“Baby, ssh,” Mark gently cut him off, pulling away to cup Donghyuck's face, tilting his head up so they were eye to eye. “It’s fine. Calm down, okay?”

“But you’re not supposed to be here. You’re supposed to be with Jaehyun hyung.”

“I’m going home today,” Mark informed him. “Jaehyun hyung wants me to rest at home.”

Now that they were so close, practically pressing against each other, Donghyuck could look at Mark properly. Under the dim light, his face was paler than he remembered. His cheeks sunken and the bags under his eyes were big and dark. His lips dry and he looked tired. It was obvious that Mark had been through hard times the past few days. His heart dropped thinking that the latter was under high pressure.

“Are you okay?” Donghyuck unthinkingly held Mark’s face in his hands. “You look very tired.”

Mark let out a deep sigh as he leaned against Donghyuck's touch. “It was very stressful at my father’s house but now that I’m out of there, I’m fine.”

“You should go home right away. Why are you here?”

“I haven’t seen you in days,” Mark’s reply came out right away. “I wanted to see you.”

Donghyuck was glad that they were in the dark empty hallway with minimum light so Mark couldn’t see the way his cheeks heated up at his blunt remark.

“You can still see me tomorrow.”

“I can’t attend school tomorrow. I’ll be back on Monday,” Mark leaned down and pressed his nose against Donghyuck's cheek, nuzzling him. “I’m sorry for not calling you.”

“It’s okay. Yuta hyung had explained to me about your situation.”

They fell into a comfortable silence after that. Donghyuck let Mark held him and he let himself sunk into his arms, enjoying each other’s presence. Mark pulled Donghyuck closer, holding him so tight it almost suffocating the latter but none of them moved.

“You shouldn’t walk home alone, baby. It’s dangerous at night.” Mark said after a loaded moment of silence.

Donghyuck chuckled. “You’re being paranoid.”

“I just want you to be safe,” he argued. “I won’t be able to pick you up for a while because I’m being watched right now.”

“Oh,” was all Donghyuck could say. “Okay. I understand.”

“I’ll see you in school, okay, baby?”

“Yeah. Okay.”

Mark pushed Donghyuck's hair away from his eyes, letting out another sigh. He looked content as he looked at him.

“I have to go now,” he said. “You know that tomorrow’s night is my brother’s engagement party, right?”

“Yeah. I know.”

“I would want you to come with me but it would be dangerous if my father found out about you. I want to keep you away from him. I don’t want him to touch you. You understand that, right?”

Donghyuck smiled, his fingers smooth the lines between his eyebrows.

“It’s fine. I understand.”

“I will call you as soon as I can, okay?”

“Okay.”

Mark smiled as he leaned forward and pressed his lips against the corner of Donghyuck's lips, sending sharp jolts through the smaller’s body. It lasted for a few painful seconds before Mark pulled away, taking a step back.

Donghyuck was breathless as he looked at the man before him, his eyes blown wide in surprise. His sudden intimate gesture caught him off guard but now he strangely felt empty as he realized the space between them.

“See you next week, baby.”

Mark gave Donghyuck a small smile before turning away and disappeared in the dark of the night, leaving Donghyuck alone with his thoughts.

 


 

 

The Brat Pack didn’t come the next day and the whole school was talking about Jaehyun's engagement party. Anxiety hit Donghyuck once again, making him felt restless. The rest of the day went painfully slow. Donghyuck waited but there was no call from Mark, though the latter had promised him that he would call. He tried not to take it personally because Mark didn’t tell him precisely when he would call.

So he waited. He waited until Saturday passed and then came Sunday. And before he knew it, it was already Monday again. His whole body buzzed with anxiety and anticipation as he made his way to school. He didn’t know why suddenly he felt on edge. It felt as if something was about to happen and he didn’t have a good feeling about it.

Today Donghyuck went to school alone because Sicheng was absent. The latter had to take care of something so he couldn’t come. Donghyuck had just walked past the gate when suddenly Jaemin appeared out of nowhere, grabbing his arm to catch his attention.

“Jaemin!” Donghyuck yelped in surprise. He frowned when he looked at his friend's expression. Jaemin looked worried and his face was as pale as a sheet. Donghyuck could tell that something was wrong.

“Donghyuck, come with me.”

“What happened? Where are you taking me?”

Jaemin frantically shook his head, breathless. “We don’t have much time. I need you to come with me now.”

“Jaemin, are you okay? You need to calm down.”

Jaemin let out a groan, looking so frustrated now. But before he could say something, there was a commotion among students and then the Brat Pack entered the school gate. Donghyuck and Jaemin turned around to see them stopped in the parking lots. They almost couldn’t believe their eyes when they realized that the formation was complete.

Jaehyun slid out of the car in all of his glory. It was his first appearance in school after his engagement party. The students let out a surprised gasp as they saw Taeyong came out from Jaehyun’s car and the latter confidently pulled him closer. They were back together again as if nothing happened. Yuta and Doyoung came out together, followed by Johnny and Ten. They gathered together, waiting for Mark.

Donghyuck's heart started to beat loudly as he waited for Mark to come out of his car. He hadn’t heard from him after their last encounter. He stood frozen in his spot, unaware of Jaemin's attempt to pull him away from the scene. After what seemed like forever, the door of Mark’s car swung open, revealing the owner. Donghyuck’s eyes lighted up and his lips slowly curved upward but it dropped as fast as it came when he saw another figure slid out of Mark’s car. A girl he’d never seen before. A girl who immediately linked her arms on Mark’s torso as soon as they stood next to each other.

Donghyuck's heart instantly dropped to the ground. Beside him, Jaemin let out another surprised gasp and he heard him murmured unfamiliar name.

Yerim.”

 

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Donghyuck was at a loss of words. He didn’t know what was happening. The crowd was going insane as they looked at the Brat Pack who gathered around with the unfamiliar face. It seemed like he was the only one who didn’t recognize who she was. As he looked around, the shock was evident in people’s faces, their jaws dropping as they looked at the pair. He could hear Jaemin murmuring something—he couldn’t catch his rapid words but he knew that whatever the latter was cussing about, it wasn’t a good thing.  

Donghyuck couldn’t think of anything else but the girl he knew was named Yerim. He couldn’t look at her properly but even from the distance, she looked unbelievably slender and stunning. She was the same height as Mark’s. Her long and black hair was tied in a ponytail, waving to her back. She looked perfectly fitted as she stood between the Brat Pack—it was as if she belonged there.

Donghyuck was painfully aware of the blatant gazes from the students who looked back and forth between him and Yerim but he couldn’t care less. Aside from the fact that he didn’t know who Yerim was, he couldn’t help the sinking feeling at the pit of his stomach when Mark didn’t even notice his presence. The latter’s attention was solely on Yerim, looking straight at her face with a big smile on his smile. Donghyuck's breath got stuck on his throat because Mark looked like someone who had been in hell the last time he saw him but now the latter looked so much brighter than before. He wondered what had happened during the last three days because now he felt like he was being left in the dark. He had no clue what was going on and it frustrated him.

From where he was standing, he caught Yuta's gaze but Donghyuck could only blink at him, face blank and mind wandering. Part of him wanted Mark to notice him but then Yerim tugged at Mark’s hand, urging him to walk. Naturally, the rest of the Brat Pack followed them. Donghyuck felt as if someone just splashed him with cold water and he felt sick in the stomach as the Brat Pack threw him glances—except Mark who still didn’t notice his presence. At that moment, it felt as if he was being put back to his place. He was reminded that he was just an outsider. He didn’t belong there with them.

“Donghyuck, let’s go.”

Jaemin pulled his wrist and Donghyuck moved in autopilot. He was glad that Jaemin was here because if the latter didn’t, he wouldn't know what to do. There were a lot of things going on in his mind at the moment. He knew that Jaemin knew who Yerim was but he didn’t want to ask. Not yet, though he was very curious. Now, the only thing he could think about was Mark and why his heart ached when he saw him with her.

 


 

People were staring.

It was the first thing that Donghyuck noticed as he walked with Jaemin in the hallway. It wasn't the type of look they usually gave him. It was more like they were laughing at him, mocking him. They looked at him as if the was the butt of the joke and it made his stomach crunched unpleasantly. He still didn't know what exactly happened but it wasn't hard to figure out that it had something to do with Mark and Yerim. Thinking about the earlier event made Donghyuck felt as if he was nothing more than an outsider. He knew he shouldn’t make a big deal out of it but the fact that Mark didn't notice his presence made him feel worse. He swallowed the big lump down his throat and continued walking.

During the first period, the teacher was absent so Jaemin dragged Donghyuck to the library. The latter steered him to the corner of the aisle where there weren’t many people there.

“Why are you dragging me here?”

Jaemin gave him a look. “Don’t you want to know about Yerim?”

Donghyuck looked away. He was undoubtedly curious but he didn’t know if he was ready to know the truth.

“Is she The Brat Pack’s friend?”

“More than that.”

“Oh,” was all Donghyuck could say. Jaemin looked at him and then let out a sigh before telling Donghyuck the whole story.

Yerim was Mark’s best friend. They met in middle school and became friends right away. She was a bright and cheerful kid—the opposite of Mark and that was why they got along very well. They complemented each other. She was close with the Brat Pack as well. Though she was the same age as Mark, she was practically the baby in the group. The other guys took care after her and treated her like their own sister. Some people thought that Mark and Yerim were together due to their intimacy but Jaemin knew for a fact that they weren’t.

Mark adored her. He liked her—more than friends. He let her do anything and never got mad at her. It was obvious that he was smitten and so was Yerim. Everyone in school rooted in them because they looked perfect together. People thought they might eventually get together until the accident happened.

“What accident?” Donghyuck asked. He ignored the way his heart sunk as he listened to Jaemin's story. He didn’t know why it became hard for him to breathe as he knew the history between Mark and Yerim. It explained their interactions this morning and how Mark acted with her.

Mark liked and adored her, it kept echoing in his mind over and over again. The more he thought of it, the more hurt he felt. And he didn’t know why.  

“It’s related to Mina,” Jaemin said, pulling Donghyuck out of his reverie.

“Kang Mina?” Donghyuck questioned, frowning.

“Yes. You must be wondering why the Brat Pack isn’t in a good relationship with her?”

Now that Donghyuck thought of it, he never knew the reason behind the Brat Pack's resentment towards Mina. He once asked Mark about it but the only thing he got was a vague answer.

“Yerim and Mina used to be friends,” Jaemin started. “They were very close even before they knew Mark. It was Yerim who got close to Mark first so naturally Mina got to hang out with him and the Brat Pack as well. From what I know, Mina liked Mark. But she was jealous because Mark liked Yerim instead of her. Mina and Yerim eventually drifted apart and didn’t talk to each other in school until that accident happened. They got into a fight and it got physical. Mina pushed Yerim and she fell down the stairs and broke her legs. You have to know that it’s a big deal because Yerim was training to be a professional ballerina at that time. After that accident happened, Yerim moved out of the country to heal her legs and Mina disappeared dropped out of school.”

It was a lot to take in for Donghyuck and for a long moment he didn’t say anything, lost in his own thoughts. He realized that there were still so many things he didn’t know about the Brat Pack, especially about Mark. It felt like a huge wake-up call. Donghyuck was no one. And now that Yerim was back in Mark’s life, he knew that his time was up. He couldn’t get rid of the image of Yerim and Mark together looking like a perfect match. It was understandable why people rooted in them.

“Don’t give me that look,” Jaemin said, frowning at his friend. “I know what you’re thinking right now.”

“What?” Donghyuck looked away, avoiding Jaemin's protruding gaze.

“I’m telling you this because I don’t want to keep you in the dark,” Jaemin explained. “But my opinion still stands. I believe that what Mark has with you is more than a fake relationship.”

“You said that Mark likes her. They would be together now if that accident didn’t happen.”

“Used to,” Jaemin corrected. “Two years have passed. You never know, Donghyuck. Mark has you now.”

Donghyuck let out a tired sigh. He was about to say something but Jaemin beat him to it.

“Don’t tell me that you don’t like Mark because I won’t buy it.”

“But I don’t.” he insisted, though it somehow tasted bitter in his own thought, he held Jaemin’s gaze. The latter didn’t say anything after that but it wasn’t hard to guess that Jaemin didn’t believe his words.

They dropped the subject after that and went back to the class when the second period started.

 


 

 

All morning, Donghyuck was dreading lunch. He didn’t have enough appetite to eat and frankly speaking, he didn’t want to see Mark because he still didn’t know how to face him. He still needed some time to take everything in. Though Jaemin had explained the situation, part of him wanted to confront Mark and demand to know why the latter didn't call him and left him in the dark. While he was thinking about it, he even imagined what he would say. But he knew himself too well to think he would really have the guts to do it.

It surprised Donghyuck when Mark called him right after the bell rang but he didn’t have enough courage to accept it. He quickly turned off his phone so the latter wouldn’t be able to reach him. It was a cowardly move and ridiculous of him to hide from Mark but he thought it was better than to face him. He didn’t think he was ready to see him with Yerim again. He told his friends that he couldn’t join lunch because had to work on his assignment. They didn’t buy his excuse but they were considerate enough to let him off the hook, which was something he was very thankful for.

Donghyuck went to the rooftop because it was the only safe place in the school. If he went to an open place like library, Mark would easily find him. He wasn’t sure if Mark would try to find him but just in case, he decided to go to the most isolated place. He spent his time there, reading and enjoying his time alone. A few minutes before the lunch was over, the door of the rooftop swung open with a loud bang, startling him. He was about to bolt out of his chair, thinking that it might be Mark. But soon relief washed over him when a worried Renjun and Jaemin barged inside while carrying a paper bag.

“What are you doing here?”

Renjun threw him a death glare. “You think we're going to let you starve?”

Donghyuck smiled sheepishly as his stomach growled just in time. Jaemin and Renjun shook their heads, handing out the paper bag to him. Inside there were a warm ham sandwich and a bottle of milk.

“Thank you so much for getting my favorite,” Donghyuck said as he munched his sandwich. Jaemin saw the crumbs in the corner of his lips and reached out to wipe them—a motherly gesture Donghyuck had noticed since the beginning of their friendship.

Donghyuck ate in silence and his friends just watched him. He knew that there was something they wanted to say and he knew exactly what it was. But he purposely took his time, wanting to digest his food properly while preparing himself for what he was about to hear. After what seemed like forever, he finally turned to his friends in defeat. He knew that he couldn't avoid the topic so he braced himself, sighing deeply.

“Tell me,” he said. It was better that way than beating around the bush.

“Mark is looking for you.”

Donghyuck's breath got stuck on his throat at Renjun's blunt remark. He cleared his throat to mask his sudden nervousness before speaking again.

“Is he?”

“He went to our table,” Jaemin recounted. “He asked us why you weren’t with us and why you didn’t answer your phone.”

“What did you say to him?”

“We said that we didn’t know,” Renjun replied. “I told him that we didn’t have a class with you so we didn’t know where you were. I know that he didn’t believe us but Jaemin shooed him away before he could ask more.”

Donghyuck let out another heavy sigh. So Mark did look for him but he wasn’t sure what to feel about it.

“He’s with Yerim, right?”

The question was out before Donghyuck could properly process it in his brain and almost instantly he regretted asking. He looked away but he already caught Jaemin and Renjun's knowing gaze. He felt stupid asking a rhetoric question. He didn’t need to ask to know the answer but his mouth just decided to run free.

“Yes,” Jaemin replied. “She sits with the Brat Pack like how it used to be.”

“Oh.”

“You should talk to him,” Renjun suggested. “Avoiding him won’t solve the problem.”

“Yeah, I know.”

Donghyuck knew that but that was easier said than done. Thankfully, the topic was dropped off because the lunch-time was over. Donghyuck walked back to his class as fast as he could. He shared the same class as Lucas and when he arrived, the latter had saved a seat for him. The latter didn’t bring a subject about Mark and Donghyuck was thankful for that. He didn’t think he could handle another talk about Mark without wanting to bolt out of the room.

Donghyuck managed to avoid Mark until his last class ended. He quickly left the school and went straight to Chenle's kindergarten to pick up his brother. When he arrived there, the latter was with Jisung.

“Lele! Isungie!”

Chenle and Jisung immediately looked up when they heard Donghyuck's voice. The kids ran to him with their hair and bags bouncing.

“Hyung!”

Donghyuck knelt and he laughed as the kids jumped into his arms, kissing his cheeks as greeting.

“Are you ready to go home?”

“Can we wait for Mark hyung to come? Isungie said Mark hyung is going to pick him up today.”

Donghyuck could feel the dread was slowly setting in the pit of his stomach. He’d been trying to avoid Mark since this morning and he knew that by now, the latter had noticed it. And now the kids wanted him to meet Mark. How was he going to refuse that? Donghyuck knew that he couldn’t and it felt as if he was trapped with no way to escape.

Before Donghyuck could say something, there was a sound of feet approaching and he didn’t need to turn around to see who it was.

“Mark hyung!”

Jisung immediately ran to Mark and the latter smiled as he hauled his brother into his arms, dropping a gentle kiss on top of his head. Jisung beamed at him, big smile and eyes sparkling.

“Hello, baby. How’s your day?”

“Very good!” Jisung replied. “I played with Lele during recess.”

“That’s very great,” Mark said, leaning forward to kiss his chubby cheek. “Are you hungry? We can eat with Lele and Donghyuck hyung if you want.”

“Let's go! Let's go!”

Donghyuck locked eyes with Mark’s and a jolt ran through his body as he looked at the way the latter looked at him. His eyes were sharp and intense and it wasn’t hard to tell that he’s pissed. But he masked his expression perfectly because Jisung and Chenle could pick up their mood if they weren’t careful.

Donghyuck was so immersed with his own thoughts he didn’t realize that Chenle had been tugging at his hand and demanding his attention.

“Hyung!”

Donghyuck broke out of his reverie hearing Chenle’s high-pitched whine. He blinked and looked away from Mark—it was harder than he thought because the way the latter held his gaze was empowering.

“I'm sorry, baby. What did you say?”

Chenle huffed, pouting. “Can we go with Mark hyung and Isungie?”

Donghyuck looked at Mark again and now the latter was smirking in victory. The latter knew that in this situation, he didn’t have another choice but to oblige. Biting down the inside of his cheeks, he tried so hard not to scowl at Mark.

“Yes, baby,” he finally replied, swallowing the lump down this throat. “Of course we can go with them.”

Donghyuck knew that he was in trouble when he saw mirth dancing in Mark’s eyes. He’s so screwed.

 


 

“Where are you taking us?”

Donghyuck finally asked after sitting in silence for a whole five minutes meanwhile Jisung and Chenle were singing their hearts out in the backseat. He glanced at Mark who looked straight ahead, jaw locking. The latter hadn’t said anything to him after they slid into a car. It was unfair because if there were someone who would give the other a silence treatment, it should be him. Not the other way around.

“Mark, where are you taking us?” Donghyuck repeated, emphasizing each word. He didn’t want to rise his voice because he didn’t want the kids to notice the heavy tension between them.

“Somewhere.”

“Answer me properly, Mark.”

“You’re avoiding me.”

The sudden change of topic threw Donghyuck off guard. His eyes widened in surprise. He wasn’t prepared for the talk.

“What?”

“I know that it’s because of Yerim,” Mark continued. There was a small pause and then he turned to Donghyuck. His eyes didn’t let him hide anything. “I’ve tried to talk to you but you’ve been avoiding me all day. You think I didn’t notice that?”

“I know you do,” he said in a heartbeat. “But we’re not going to talk about it here. I don’t want the kids to hear.”

Mark looked at Donghyuck for a long time, his gaze unwavering. Donghyuck wondered how the latter managed to steadily drive without looking straight ahead.

“All right. Fair enough.”

They fell into silence after that. It was thick, uncomfortable, and suffocating. Donghyuck looked out of the window, not knowing what to do. A few minutes later when they entered a familiar neighborhood, he immediately knew where they went—Mark's house. When they finally arrived there, Chenle and Jisung immediately jumped out of the car, running to the front door.

“Babies, wait—”

Donghyuck ran after the kids, afraid that they might fall. Before he could catch them, the front door was swung open, revealing a very cheerful and bright Taeyong.

“Isungie! Lele!”

Donghyuck halted his steps, watching the kids jumped into Taeyong's arms right away. They kissed Taeyong's cheek with a loud sound, eliciting a joyful laugh from the latter. A moment later, Jaehyun appeared behind Taeyong. He opened his arms as Chenle and Jisung approached him, hauling them both in his arms, making the kids laughed.

Donghyuck could only stand there and watched. He was confused and baffled. Things weren’t exactly good before Jaehyun's engagement. He didn’t know what exactly happened but he supposed it was a good thing if the couple had figured things out. Jaehyun and Taeyong acted as if the engagement never happened in the first place. They looked normal—as normal as they could get.

“Hey, Donghyuck,” Taeyong greeted him. His eyes were brighter now and his smile looked genuine. “Come inside. The food is almost ready.”

Donghyuck could only nod dumbly, watching Taeyong and Jaehyun went inside while carrying Chenle and Jisung in their arms respectively. He silently followed, walking behind Mark. When they finally entered the living room, the scene before him wasn’t something he’s expected or prepared for.

The girl in the kitchen who was arguing with Doyoung was unmistakable—it was Park Sooyoung. Donghyuck had never seen her in real life before but he’d seen her on television, morning newspaper, and a bunch of articles on the internet. He could easily recognize her. From where he was standing, she looked even more gorgeous than in pictures. Her hair was deep black, gently waving to the middle of her small back. She was tall and slender. Her skin was fair, her lips red, and her eyes sharp. Her figure and features were all perfect. She looked like every supermodel he'd seen on magazine. She had the kind of effect that made every girl around her to take a hit on her self-esteem just by being in the same room.

Donghyuck was awestruck and he couldn’t look away. It reminded him when he first saw the Brat Pack and Seungwan. He kept looking at her, amazed by her beauty, until she slapped Yuta's hand away when the latter tried to touch the hot dumplings.

“You don’t come near my food before washing your hands, Nakamoto Yuta.”

Sooyoung glared at Yuta. Her gaze was enough for Donghyuck to take a step back in surprise but Yuta only scowled at her.

“I have washed my hand, Park Sooyoung,” he fired back. “And this is not your food. Doyoung makes this and I get to eat his food without permission.”

Before the fight got longer than necessary, Taeyong came in between them, still with Chenle in his arms. He shooed Yuta away from the kitchen, making the latter whined in protest, though he did as he’s told anyway. Donghyuck didn’t know how to react when he saw Taeyong stood next to Sooyoung, Jaehyun's fiancée, talking as if they were close friends. Were they?  

“Oh, hello!” Sooyoung greeted Chenle, her perfectly shaped lips curved upward. Now she looked less intimidating and almost child-like. “What’s your name?”

Chenle beamed at Sooyoung and shook her extended hand. “Hello, nuna! I’m Chenle!”

Sooyoung cooed, pinching Chenle’s cheeks gently. “Hi, Chenle! You’re so cute!”

“We call him Lele,” Taeyong informed Her, bouncing Chenle in his arms. “He’s Donghyuck's little brother.”

As soon as Donghyuck's name was mentioned, Sooyoung turned to where he was standing. He wasn’t prepared for this meeting and his body jolted as he looked at the way she was staring at him. She held his gaze as she left the kitchen area, slowly approaching him. Instinctively he took a step back but he couldn’t get that far because Mark was right behind him. He let out a gasp as Mark's broad chest pressed against his back and his hands settled in his hips, gripping it firmly. There was no way for him to escape.

“Sooyoung, don’t mess with that kid,” Yuta who was now sitting on the couch next to Johnny warned her. She raised one of her eyebrows as she walked past him.

“I’m just going to introduce myself.”

Yuta let out a snort meanwhile Johnny just smiled.

“Mark could be relentless and you know that.” Johnny added but Sooyoung just waved her hand in dismissal.

Donghyuck waited until Sooyoung stopped before him. He gritted his teeth and held her sharp gaze.

“So you’re the infamous Donghyuck,” Sooyoung stated, her voice was lower now. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“That’s because Mark couldn’t shut up about Donghyuck,” Ten interjected from where he was sitting. Donghyuck didn’t realize his presence—too focus on Sooyoung to do that.

“I am,” Donghyuck answered, swallowing loudly. Mark’s hand around his hips tightened and for some reason, the small gesture eased him.

“So you’re the one who stole my cousin's fiancé,”

“What?”

Donghyuck blinked at her, baffled. He heard Mark hissing behind him.

“Nuna,” was the only thing Mark said but it held an underlying warning. Donghyuck looked around and realized that he was the only one who didn’t understand it. The Brat Pack was all ears, looking at the interaction between Donghyuck and Sooyoung with tensed shoulders.

“Be careful, Sooyoung,” Jaehyun who just entered the kitchen with Jisung still in his arms, warned in a low voice.

Sooyoung rolled her eyes. “I’m just talking to him, okay? Relax.”

“Unnie, stop scaring him.”

A new, unfamiliar voice resonated in the room and then a figure appeared. Another girl entered the room and she looked devastatingly beautiful just like Sooyoung. They were faces you only expected to see in a fashion magazine. It was hard to decide who was the most beautiful. Both of them were. But the girl’s figure was petite. Her long and black hair looked very smooth. It was tied up in a messy bun, framing her sculpted face. Unlike Sooyoung, she appeared with sparkling eyes and a big, warm smile. She didn’t look intimidating at all and she had the kind of aura that made people want to protect her. When she finally stopped next to Sooyoung, another gasp left Donghyuck's lips. He finally recognized her—Yerim.

Donghyuck stood frozen in his spot as Yerim looked at him. He looked back at her and up-close, he finally understood why so many people were rooting on her and Mark. She was indeed the perfect match. His throat instantly closed as he thought about it. He squirmed a little, wanting to bolt out of the room because the air was getting suffocating. But Mark didn’t let him go anyway. His arms were now wrapped around his waist, so tight it would crush him if he moved too much.

Sooyoung saw the gesture and snorted. “Stop acting like I'm going to eat him alive.”

“Aren’t you?”

Sooyoung smiled and it was more playful than before. The mirth in her eyes made her look mischievous. She shrugged.

“Well.”

Yerim turned to Sooyoung, throwing a disapproval glare at her.

“Unnie, I told you not to scare him!” she gently scolded her. She then turned to Donghyuck and smiled—it was impossible not to like her right then and there when she smiled like that because it was contagious. “Hi, I’m Yerim. You’re Donghyuck, right?”

Yerim held out her hand first and though Donghyuck was still in a daze, he reached out and shook her hand. Her smile widened, her eyes turned into a crescent and she looked even more beautiful that he couldn’t help but blush.

“Hi, I’m Donghyuck.”

“You’re so cute, Donghyuck.” Yerim giggled. “It’s nice to meet you!”

Donghyuck’s face reddened, not ready for the unexpected compliment.

“Nice to meet you too, Yerim-ssi,” Donghyuck said. And then he turned to Sooyoung and smiled awkwardly at her. “And Sooyoung-ssi.”

“Don’t be too formal, Donghyuck,” Yerim shook her head. “Just call me Yerim, okay? We’re going to see each other a lot now that I’m back to school. And I heard that you’re Mark's boyfriend?”

“He is,” Mark answered it instead. “Back away from him, Yerim.”

Yerim snorted, rolling her eyes at Mark.

“I’m telling you, Mark. If you keep being annoyingly possessive, Donghyuck is going to run away from you.”

“I told you so, kid!” Yuta interjected casually, smirking at Mark playfully. The latter threw a glare at the older and then turned to Yerim again.

“No, I’m not.”

Yerim crossed her arms across her chest. “Yes, you are. Aren’t he, Donghyuck?”

Donghyuck who wasn’t prepared for the sudden change of attention could only open his mouth in surprise but not being able to utter a single word in return. At that moment, Sooyoung interrupted by clapping her hands.

“Time’s up, kids!” she exclaimed. “Food is ready and we're ready to eat. Yerim, go and help Doyoung—”

“It’s oppa for you, brat!”

“—prepare the table.” Sooyoung continued, ignoring Doyoung’s protest. When she turned to Donghyuck, she didn’t try to be subtle and blatantly scanned him.  

“As for you,” she drawled and Donghyuck held his breath, waiting for her to finish her sentence. “Do not call me Sooyoung-ssi. It’s Nuna for you, kid.”

And then she turned away, leaving a baffled Donghyuck. What was going on right now?

 


 

 

Perhaps Donghyuck was the only was who felt uncomfortable and uneasy despite the cheerful atmosphere in the room. Jaehyun and Taeyong were struggling to feed Jisung and Chenle because the kids couldn’t sit still. They always wanted to move and run away from the table. Yuta secretly encouraged them and whenever Taeyong caught him trying to do that, the latter would throw a death glare at him. In the end, it was Doyoung who kept Yuta in check, making sure the latter didn’t disturb the kids. Sooyoung was engaged in a casual conversation with Johnny and Ten. They were talking about business—something Donghyuck didn’t know much about. Yerim was talking, or more like arguing, with Yuta and Doyoung. Donghyuck couldn’t really catch what they were saying because his ears were buzzing. He didn’t have enough energy to digest his food, much less engaging in the conversation. He was having a hard time comprehending the whole situation.

“Hey,” Mark who sat beside him took one of his hands under the table, squeezing it gently. “Are you okay?”

Donghyuck tried to pull his hand away but it only made Mark tightened his hold. Letting out a sigh in defeat, he turned to Mark and tried to keep his voice low as he spoke.

“Can I go home after this?”

It came out more like a plea than a question. Donghyuck bit the inside of his cheeks, scolding himself for giving his feeling away. Mark squeezed his hand again, his face softened.

“I’m sorry,” he said, leaning closer to Donghyuck so only the latter could hear him. “I brought you here because I haven’t been able to talk to you the past few days. I want to explain everything to you. Can we talk after this?”

Donghyuck’s throat instantly constricted. He wanted to know why Mark ghosted him but he wasn’t sure he could do it here.

“The boys wanted to play with Jisung and Chenle after this,” Mark said, his eyes telling Donghyuck that the latter could read his mind and knew what he wanted. “We can talk in my room. After that, I promise I will take you home.”

There wasn’t much option so Donghyuck could only nod. He knew that Chenle would want to play with Jisung and the Brat Pack because it had been a while since his brother met them. It would be unfair to him if he wanted to leave first. He just needed to wait for some more time until he could go back home—back to his comfort zone.

After everyone had done eating, Taeyong, Jaehyun, Johnny, and Ten took Jisung and Chenle to the basement where they would play. Doyoung had dragged Yuta to the kitchen before the latter could leave the table, forcing him to wash the dishes. Sooyoung and Yerim decided to bake something for the kids. While everyone was busy, Mark led Donghyuck to his room.

“Shouldn’t we help Yuta hyung and Doyoung hyung with the dishes?”

Mark gave him a look. “We need to talk.”

Donghyuck forced the lump down his throat and silently followed Mark. He knew they should talk but his mind was a jumbled mess at the moment. He wasn’t sure that he could think straight. He tried to stop himself from over-thinking but his mind kept replaying the image of Mark and Yerim looking so good and fitted together. He still couldn’t get Jaemin’s words out of his head; Mark and Yerim liked each other. They should be together. He was just an outsider. A new character to their life—someone who didn’t belong in their world.

Mark opened the door of his room and let Donghyuck in. As soon as he closed it, before he could something, Donghyuck beat him first.

“Let’s end our fake relationship.”

 


 

Chapter Text


 

The air in the room was suffocating. No one moved from their spot. Donghyuck held his breath as he watched Mark’s face turned blank. The latter blinked at him, seemingly in a daze. His face was ashen but it gradually changed into red. His eyes instantly sharpen, his nostrils flared up, and his lips pressed into a taut line. Donghyuck swallowed hard. He knew that expression very well. Mark was pissed.

What?” was the only thing Mark could utter. His voice was low and it sent chills down Donghyuck's spine. The latter didn’t move from his spot but he held Donghyuck's gaze, his eyes boring into his.

“I said I wanted to end our fake relationship,” Donghyuck repeated, holding Mark’s unwavering gaze as he said the words. “Let’s end it.”

“That’s not why we're here, Donghyuck,” Mark said, his words harsh now and his jaw clenching. “We're here because I wanted to explain what happened in the past three days.”

Donghyuck just realized that after he got into a relationship with Mark, the latter always called him by nicknames. Now that he called him by his name again, it sounded foreign. He didn’t like the way Mark said it in a sharp tone.

“I think it doesn’t matter anymore,” Donghyuck interjected, now that he was here with Mark, his mouth and his brain couldn’t cooperate properly. All of the emotions he’d been holding on burst free. And words had already left his lips before he could process them. “I honestly don’t understand why we're still carrying on with this relationship. Who are we going to fool? Mina? Both you and I know very well that she doesn’t believe it. So what’s the point of all of this? I think we should stop this. I don’t want to do this anymore. Let’s end this, Mark.”

Donghyuck was breathless by the time he’d finished talking. He didn’t know that it would be emotionally draining to let everything out. He waited for Mark to say something but surprisingly, his face didn’t give anything away. He didn’t look mad like he did a few moments ago. There was nothing in his face but his eyes still didn’t leave Donghyuck.

They fell into a painful silence after that. No one dared to move or speak. Donghyuck started to fidget when the silence stretched for too long. He bit his lower lips—a small gesture when he was nervous and anxious.

“Is that what you want?” Mark finally said something after a long time. His voice was loud enough for him to hear and it resonated in the room. “To end our fake relationship?”

Donghyuck swallowed. “Yes.”

“Okay.”

Donghyuck didn’t understand why his heart stopped beating for a moment when he heard Mark said the word. He expected to feel relieved because he thought that was what he wanted. But he couldn’t explain why his heart lurched and he felt sick in the stomach after he realized that Mark could easily let him go. He should've expected this. Their relationship wasn’t real in the first place. It wasn’t based on feelings and he knew that at some point, it would end anyway.

“Okay,” Donghyuck looked away. He couldn’t bear to look at Mark any longer. “We're over now.”

They were over.

Donghyuck let the words slowly sunk in. They were over now and as he kept repeating it in his head, his heart ached. It felt hurt, so hurt, but he didn’t know why. He needed some time to think and some space to breathe. He needed to clear his head because now his ears were buzzing and it was getting hard to be in the same room as Mark. He could feel his throat burned with unshed tears and that was his cue to leave.

“I’m going home now and you don’t have to take me there. Chenle and I can go back on my own.”

Donghyuck didn’t get a chance to move when suddenly Mark lunged forward and pulled him into his arms. He gasped as the latter wrapped his arms around him, squeezing the air out of him. He tried to get free but Mark tightened his hold, not giving him a chance to escape.

“Mark, what are you doing? Let me go.”

“I’m sorry,” Mark whispered, his voice heavy with a genuine apology. He pressed his lips against Donghyuck’s temple. One of his hands cradled his head, his fingers running gently into his hair. “I’m sorry for making you worried. I didn’t mean to. Let me explain everything first, okay, baby?”

The affectionate nickname, the familiar warmth that enveloped him, and the gentle voice made Donghyuck stopped fighting to get free. He was exhausted from all the things he’d been holding on. He didn’t have enough energy to put up a fight so he stayed silent, letting Mark supported his weight.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t call you. Things have been so hectic since Friday. I didn’t know that Yerim would come back. She’s Sooyoung's Nuna cousin and they’re very close but I didn’t expect her to come to the party. It has been a while since I talked to her and she didn’t tell any of us about her arrival. The boys and I spent the last two days helping her moving into her new apartment. There are so many things she needed to buy and install in her new place. It’s not my intention to ghost you. There are a lot of things I need to take care of, including about Jaehyun hyung’s agreement with Sooyoung nuna. That’s why Sooyoung nuna is here. My parents won’t say anything as long as Sooyoung nuna and Jaehyun hyung are together from time to time. But she knows that Jaehyun hyung and Taeyong hyung are together and she’s willing to help them out later.”

Mark stopped, leaning down to press his forehead against Donghyuck's and breathing in deeply. He sounded so exhausted and worn out. A sudden impulse to reach out and touch him pumped through Donghyuck but he held himself back. He didn’t have enough reason to stay longer now that Mark had explained everything. They were over and it was time for him to go.

“Okay,” Donghyuck said with a lump lodged in his throat. “I’ve listened to your explanation. Can you let me go now? I’ve told you it doesn’t change anything. We’re over, Mark.”

“Who said that?”

Mark slightly pulled away so they could see each other properly but he didn’t let go of Donghyuck.

“You said okay,” Donghyuck remained him, frowning. “Our deal is over.”

“I said okay to the fake relationship. But I didn’t say anything about us.”

Donghyuck’s frown deepened. He didn’t get what Mark was trying to say. Before he could say something, Mark held his face in his hands, cradling it gently. Donghyuck held his breath as his eyes locked with Mark’s.

“Let’s end our fake relationship and starts a real one.”

What?

Donghyuck's lips parted in shock. He froze, his face blank. He was puzzled and he was certain that his facial expression had revealed that. He could only blink at Mark, not knowing what to say. He couldn’t comprehend what he just heard. Gasping, he pushed Mark away and took a step back. This time, Mark didn’t try to fight him. The latter let him had the space he needed.

“You’re joking,” Donghyuck hissed. He could barely hold his tongue. With a tinge of anger mixed with pain, confusion, and frustration, he deliberately stared him in the eyes. His blood began to boil. “You don’t like me, Mark. Stop saying nonsense.”

“I’m not,” Mark calmly replied. “I know that we started with a deal but I’m not in denial, Donghyuck. I know myself and do you seriously think I would go against my father for you without a reason? If I don’t have any feelings for you, I wouldn’t go that far.”

Donghyuck shook his head frantically and took another step back, not wanting to believe his words.

“You don’t like me. You—”

“I do, Donghyuck,” Mark cut him off. And then in a more gentle voice, he repeated, “I do.”

Donghyuck looked at Mark, his jaw dropping. His mind was a jumbled mess and it was impossible for him to process the current situation. What Mark said sounded ridiculous and unbelievable.

“How come you like me? You like Yerim.”

There was a dramatic pause after that and Mark stared at Donghyuck for a long moment that the latter started to think of what could possibly be wrong with what he just said. Donghyuck was starting to feel nervous and the hollowed-out feeling in his stomach returning.

“You think I like Yerim?” Mark finally said after a long moment of silence. His lips parted slightly in disbelief.

“Aren’t you?”

“Of course I am,” Mark said and before Donghyuck could say something, he added, “Because we're friends.”

“That’s not what I heard.” he said though taught lips and rigidly taking another step back. His calculated words helped to mask his unease.

“What did you hear then?” Mark challenged, taking a step forward. Instinctively, Donghyuck took a step back. Mark didn’t and never once he broke the eye contact as he approached him.

“What is it, Donghyuck? Tell me.” he repeated, taking more steps ahead to close the distance between them. Donghyuck kept moving backward until his knee hit Mark’s bed and he let out a surprised gasp as he fell into it. Another gasp left him as Mark climbed on top of him, propping himself on his forearms. He stared down at him, not letting him to look away.

“Mark—”

“Look at me and listen to what I’m about to say, Donghyuck.”

Donghyuck’s breath got stuck in his throat as Mark’s fingers gently touched his chin and lifted it so they were eye to eye. His eyes were deep and it felt as if they looked into the deepest part of Donghyuck's soul.

“I will tell you everything you wanted to know because I don’t want you to hear from anyone else,” he said. “Yes, Yerim was my first love. Yes, I liked her more than friends. But it was before I met you. Now I have you, Donghyuck. I’m not kidding when I told you that I will protect you from whoever it is who tries to hurt you, including my parents. I like you. I really do. I won’t let anything bad happen to you because if you’re hurt, I’m hurt too.”

They were so close. Their bodies pressed together, their breaths mingled, and they could practically feel each other’s heartbeat. Donghyuck found himself couldn’t look away from Mark. His heart was beating frantically against his ribcage with each word that left Mark’s words.

Mark liked him. He liked him. Not Yerim.

“Before you say something, let me ask you this,” Mark continued. “Do you really want me to end our relationship and go back to Yerim? Will that make you happy?”

Donghyuck couldn’t answer that. He could only blink at Mark, his mind wandering. At that moment, he remembered Jaemin and Renjun's words about realizing his feelings. He didn’t understand what they meant at that time, but now that Mark had elaborated it, it made him think.

Donghyuck pondered on his decision again and he couldn’t lie that the main reason why he wanted to end their fake relationship was because of Yerim. He just couldn’t be with someone who liked someone else. And because he felt like he and Mark weren’t supposed to be together. They came from different worlds and Donghyuck believed that if he wasn’t transferred to SM High School, he would never cross path with Mark.

“Donghyuck, look at me in the eyes and tell me that it’s not hurt to see me with someone else.”

Donghyuck pictured Mark with Yerim and he didn’t like the way his heart ached. He wasn’t fond of the sensation but was that enough of a proof that he liked Mark? He wasn’t sure but he couldn’t say that it didn’t hurt because it did.

“You don’t have to answer me now,” Mark said, pulling Donghyuck out of his reverie. He brushed his hair away from his eyes. When he looked at him, his face softened and a gentle smile tugged at the corner of his lips. “I’ll give you time. But I want you to take me seriously. I’m not playing with you, Donghyuck. I would never. I’ve gone this far with you and I won’t let you go without a fight.”

“You’re wasting your time,”

“No, I’m not,” Mark retorted. “I know you see my point.”

“No,” he said, even though he was pretty sure it was obvious and he was missing it on purpose just because he wanted to push back at him. Even without knowing his bottom line, he wanted to push back. “You know what will happen if we’re together.”

“And I told you I’m willing to fight for you because I want to be with you.”  

Donghyuck’s heart skipped a beat as he recognized the determination in Mark’s eyes. He knew Mark enough to know that the latter wasn’t lying.

“Please, Donghyuck,” Mark plead. He didn’t exactly sound like he was begging but the desperation in his voice was obvious enough. “We can think of other things later. I want you to think about us. Please think about it first before giving me a final answer.”

“Okay,” he finally said. “Let me think about it but you need to leave me alone until I’m ready to give you my answer.”

“What? But—”

“Do you want me to reconsider it or not?”

Donghyuck almost couldn’t believe his eyes when Mark’s lips jutted out a little, pouting. He looked like a kicked puppy and it was so out of character for him to look like that. Donghyuck's heart instantly melted at the sign but he masked his facial expression so he didn’t give anything away.

“But you like me!”

Donghyuck glared at him. “We still haven’t established that yet.”

“Don’t leave me hanging for too long.”

“You know what? I think I can answer you now. I’m not—”

“Don’t say it!” Mark whined, pouting at Donghyuck. “I’m sorry. I won’t push you.”

This time, Donghyuck couldn’t help the smile that broke across his face. It was the very first time he saw this side of Mark. It was new and refreshing. He didn’t know that the latter could be so childish.

The heavy and tensed atmosphere had completely melted after their bicker.

“Give me space and keep your distance.”

“Okay.”

“Don’t come to my house or my workplace. We can only see each other’s in school.”

“What if I want to pick Lele up and take him to school?”

Donghyuck gave Mark a look and the latter instantly crumbled, looking dejected.

“Yes, okay. No picking up. I understand. Is that all?”

“Don’t ghost me ever again because I don’t like to be left in the dark.”

“I’m sorry, baby,” Mark leaned down and pressed the tip of his nose against Donghyuck's, bopping it gently. “I won’t ever do that again. Forgive me?”

Donghyuck sighed. “This is your last chance.”

“Yes, ma'am.”

Donghyuck threw him a glare but Mark only smiled. When he smiled like that, he was so childlike and Donghyuck liked it when the latter could be himself. Because it wasn’t every day Mark could be this carefree and acted like someone his age.

Their small moment was broken when the front door swung open, revealing Doyoung still with an apron around his waist. The latter raised one of his eyebrows as he looked at their position. Donghyuck blushed, embarrassed to be caught in an appropriate position. He tried to push Mark away but the latter wouldn’t budge. Mark just casually turned around, throwing a questioning look at Doyoung.

“Do you need something, hyung?”

“I do not appreciate it if you two trying to do some funny business here,” Doyoung said, crossing his arms over his chest. He wasn’t pleased. “There are kids downstairs.”

“We're not doing anything!”

Donghyuck hastily denied. He pushed Mark one more time with a hard push and it worked. He quickly sat up straight on the bed, looking stricken. He threw a death glare at Mark who didn’t look panic at all.

“Good,” Doyoung said. “You two are still underage. If Taeyongie knows about this, I won’t save your ass from him.”

Donghyuck gulped. He didn’t know why being scolded like this made him feel like he was a kid who did something bad and got some punishment after that. It wasn’t fair at all how unaffected Mark was.

“But this is my personal business and—”

Donghyuck quickly clamped his hand over Mark’s mouth, preventing him from finishing his sentence. He glared at Mark and the latter glared back at him.

“Shut up, Mark,” he warned, and then he turned to Doyoung again and he could feel the way his cheeks heated up at the implication of Doyoung’s words earlier. “We won’t do anything, hyung. We promise.”

Mark pushed Donghyuck’s hand away and said, “No, we’re going to—”

Before he could finish his words, Donghyuck slapped his hand over Mark’s mouth again, hard enough to make the latter yelped in pain.

“Shut. Up.” He hissed. “If you say something again, I’m leaving.”

That was enough to make Mark kept his mouth shut, sitting there like a rejected puppy. His eyes were pleading and Donghyuck almost felt bad for threatening him. Almost.

“Oh god,” Doyoung groaned, rolling his eyes at the pair. “You guys are so gross. Just come downstairs. The kids are requesting for you two to play with them.”

“Yes, hyung. We'll be downstairs right away.”

 


 

“Oh, you’re up early.”

Donghyuck looked up when he heard Kun’s voice. It was five and a half in the morning and he was preparing breakfast meanwhile Chenle was still asleep.

“Hey, hyung.”

“Hey, Haechan-ah,” he greeted the younger with a smile. “Scoot over.”

Donghyuck stepped aside to make some space for Kun and the latter silently took over his job. He watched as the older chopped down the vegetables, moving expertly in the kitchen as if it’s his own. Well, Kun had surely spent a good amount of time here.

“Haechanie, I know you have a lot going on your mind right now. If you need someone to talk to, I’m here to listen.”

Donghyuck stared at Kun, blinking dazedly at him. He didn’t get a good sleep last night and woke up with a headache because he’d been thinking too much lately. His last conversation with Mark made it worse. Now that Kun was here, Donghyuck was reminded that he hadn’t told the latter about his deal with Mark. He hadn’t been honest with him and now might be the right time to tell him the truth because he was in dire need to let everything out of his chest.

“Hyung, I need to tell you something.”

“Is it about Mark?”

Donghyuck’s eyes widened in surprise. “How do you know?”

Kun turned to him and smiled.

“It’s all written in your face and it isn’t that hard to read you.”

Donghyuck let out a tired sigh.  

“There’s something you need to know.”

“Other than you who got involved in a fake dating with Mark, what else do I need to know?”

Donghyuck let out another gasp, taking a step back in shock. His jaw dropped. He wasn’t expecting that.

“How do you know, hyung?”

“Mark talked to me,” Kun explained, the amusement in his eyes was gone. “He explained everything to me and let’s just say we’ve established some agreements.”  

“He talked to you?”

“You think I would let him get close to you without knowing his intention?”

Donghyuck was too stunned to say something but at the back of his mind, he vaguely remembered Mark told him that the latter made a deal with Kun. Now it made sense why Kun suddenly could be civil around Mark.

“Did something bad happen?” Kun asked, his face was serious now. He turned to Donghyuck, giving him his full attention.

“No, not exactly,” Donghyuck admitted. Something did happen these past few days and it had been a hectic week but he thought it wasn’t his place to talk about what happened with the Brat Pack.

“It’s about Mark and I. We’ve talked.”

“Okay,” Kun hummed. “Go on.”

“I wanted to end our fake relationship because it’s getting nowhere. Mark agreed but he asked something in return.”

“Ah, I see,” Kun drawled. He was smiling now, teasing Donghyuck with his eyes. “He wants to be your boyfriend?”

Donghyuck blinked. “Is it that easy to predict?”

Kun chuckled. He looked at Donghyuck like how a mother looked at their son when they’re asking about something obvious. It was as if he knew something Donghyuck didn’t.

“Yes, it is,” Kun said. “But only because I know you so well. And I’ve seen the way Mark looks at you so it isn’t hard to tell.”

“He looks at me like he wants to kill me?” Donghyuck deadpanned. He didn’t understand Kun and Jaemin who kept talking about the way Mark looked at him because he couldn’t tell the difference.

“He looks at you like he wants to give you the world,” Kun corrected him, reaching out to tap the tip of Donghyuck’s nose, smiling affectionately at him. “He likes you. I can see that but I understand if you don’t because it’s new for you.”

“I’m confused, hyung. I don’t know what to do.”

“Oh, baby. Come here.”

Kun pulled Donghyuck into his arms and the latter wrapped his arms around his waist, burying his face in his shoulder. Donghyuck sunk deeper into Kun’s arms as the latter ran his fingers into his hair, sighing deeply. Just being in his arms made Donghyuck feel a little bit emotional. Kun was the only one he could run to and talk with when he had problems. The latter was the one who comforted him when he needed it. He didn’t realize how much he needed someone who could understand him until that moment. He’d always been the pillar in the family because it was just him and Chenle. His brother was still too young to carry heavy burdens. This was one of those moments where Donghyuck just wanted to lean on to someone else and be taken care of.

Feeling the back of his throat burned with fresh years, he tightened his hold around Kun's waist. The latter was right. Everything still felt new to him. He'd never experienced anything quite like that before he met Mark. Those feelings and emotions were not something he could easily recognize because he’d never talked about relationship before.

“I don’t know what to do, hyung,” Donghyuck finally opened up. “Mark says that he likes me and he wants us to date for real. He gives me time to think about it but I’m not so sure.”

“Do you like him?”

Donghyuck couldn’t reply right away. He pondered over the question for a moment. He had a fair share of crushes—he had a crush on Kun before. But none of those were the same as how he was feeling toward Mark. It had never been felt this strong and persistence before.

“Haechan-ah,” Kun pulled away slightly to hold Donghyuck's face in his hands. “I think you know the answer but it’s okay if you want to take more time to admit it to yourself.”

“It’s too risky, hyung.” 

“It is,” Kun agreed. “But you know what you should do, Haechanie? Follow your heart. Listen to what it says. The decision is yours.”

 


 

After making sure that Chenle got inside the class, Donghyuck walked to his school. Because he went out pretty early and his first class won’t be started in twenty minutes, he decided not to take a bus and walked instead. Being outside and enjoying the weather and the scenery around helped to ease his mind. It wasn’t until he heard shuffling sound and then the footsteps approaching that he slowed his steps, knowing perfectly well who followed him without having to turn around.

He let out a sigh as he kept walking, but now he was hyperaware that Mark was following him. He didn’t precisely know how much the distance between them but he knew that the latter was close enough for him to hear his footsteps. It was so predictable. He should've known that Mark wouldn’t let him go so easily. For a moment, he thought of ignoring him but he couldn't concentrate as the sound of feet approaching getting louder and louder. He stopped abruptly and Mark bumped right into him, yelping in surprise.

“Donghyuck, why are you stopping so suddenly?”

“Why are you following me?”

Donghyuck turned around to glare at Mark but the latter only blinked at him, feigning an innocent look. Mark showed him a broad grin and he didn’t realize until that moment how it could stop his breath and his heart in an instant. He felt attacked.  

“I’m not following you,” Mark denied but both of them knew that it was a lie. “This is the way to school.”

Donghyuck raised one of his eyebrows at Mark, obviously unconvinced.

“I know that,” he said. “But since when did you walk to school?”

“Since today.”

Donghyuck’s lips pressed into a thin line. “You’re bad at lying.”

“I’m not trying to lie.”

Mark gave Donghyuck a shrug as if it was nothing, making the latter huffed in annoyance.

“I thought we have some agreement,” Donghyuck crossed his arms over his chest, scowling at Mark. “Which part of giving me some space you don’t understand?”

“Fine,” Mark sighed in defeat, knowing that it wouldn’t end well if he pushed Donghyuck too hard. “This would be the first and the last time I’m doing this. But let me ask you one question.”

“If this is about—”

“It’s about school, I swear!” Mark quickly interjected. “Have you heard about the camping program? It’s an annual event and every junior has to come.”

“I’ve heard about it and I’m not coming.”

“I know why you’re not coming but—”

“Mark, I swear to God. If you paid for me—”

“Can you stop cutting me off? Listen to what I say first.”

Donghyuck let out another huff and pressed his lips together, urging Mark to continue.

“I know that you would get mad at me if I paid your tuition but I didn’t have to because scholarship students will be provided by school. You can ask Jaemin if you don’t believe me. So there’s no reason for you not to come. If you still didn’t want to, then go and talk to Doyoung hyung because he’s the one who organizes the event.”

Donghyuck stared at Mark, giving him a suspicious look. The signature grin that curved around his mouth telling Donghyuck that he wasn’t that innocent. Even if the school did provide the tuition, Mark knew that Donghyuck wouldn’t have enough guts to talk to Doyoung. It was a loss case for him.

Mark’s grin widened as he saw the look of defeat in Donghyuck's face.

“We'll be going to Yeongyang-gun the day after tomorrow. The boys would also be there because the senior has to keep an eye on the juniors.”

“Do I even have a choice in the first place?”

“Nope,” Mark popped out the ‘p’ and grinned widely and it did things to Donghyuck's heart—not that he would admit it out loud. “Now turn around and keep going, baby. You’re going to be late.”

“Where’s your car?”

“I told you I’m walking,” he shrugged, acting so casual without knowing that it was so out of character for him to randomly walking to school. “Now turn around and I’ll walk behind you. I promise to keep my distance and give you the space you wanted.”

Donghyuck snorted but he did as he’s told and turned around without saying anything else. Though at first he was annoyed because he was being followed, now for some reason, he felt strangely at ease. He walked ahead without checking whether Mark was there or not because he could already feel his presence and heard his faint footsteps.

When they finally entered the school gate, Donghyuck watched as the students staring at them with their eyes blown wide and their lips parted slightly. He didn’t know how much of a big deal it was for Mark to walk in school. He looked around and noticed that the Brat Pack had arrived but they weren’t in the parking lots. He kept walking but he noticed the way other students didn’t dare to look at him for more than three seconds. They would immediately look away and he knew why they did it—no one was brave enough to deal with Mark who walked behind Donghyuck as if he was his bodyguard.

Before Donghyuck could get inside his class, Mark suddenly grabbed him by the wrist, halting his steps.

“What?”

Mark smiled, unfazed by Donghyuck's sassy remark.

“You asked me to give you some time to consider my offer and I promised you that I would give you as much time as you need. But I told you that I wouldn’t let you go without a fight, right? Remember this, Donghyuck. I would make you fall for me. I would make you like me because you like me and nothing else. But I won’t force you. I want you to say yes because you want to be with me. And if I get to make you be mine, I would treat you the way you deserve and I promise you that nothing could separate us. Not even my parents. Mark my words.”

Mark left after his sudden declaration with intense determination in his eyes. Donghyuck's breath got stuck on his throat as he watched Mark’s back slowly disappearing from his view. At that moment he realized that Mark wasn’t playing around. The latter was serious with his words.

Realization sunk into him and he finally knew the answers for all of his questions. It was there, right in front of his eyes. It was the thing he failed to see before but now, he finally knew it.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Mark did as he's promised but he did it in his own way. He did give Donghyuck some space and time but Donghyuck knew that he was everywhere. Mark never showed up in front of Donghyuck and he didn't even join the Brat Pack during lunch but Donghyuck knew that the latter was always around, keeping an eye on him from the distance. He also knew that Mark still followed him on the way to school, to his workplace, and when the smaller went back home after work. It wasn't hard to guess because Mark wasn't good at being discreet and because he would recognize his Aston Martin everywhere. Donghyuck never turned around though he knew that Mark was somewhere near him. Once he was inside his apartment, he would peek through the windows to watch Mark's car left his neighborhood.

Days passed by in a blur and before Donghyuck knew it, it was the camping day. The event would be held for two days. Kun had been fussing over it, helping Donghyuck and Sicheng prepared everything. Technically, Sicheng couldn't come because the event was for the junior and the only seniors that would come were the Brat Pack. But since Sicheng was a transfer student like Donghyuck, he was included as well.

“Is that all?” Kun asked as he zipped Donghyuck's bag up.

“Yes, mom,” Donghyuck replied playfully. Kun gave him a stink eye.

“Be careful, okay?” Kun started to nag like he always did to Donghyuck. He liked to baby him. Sometimes even more than he did to Chenle. “I've put first aid kit box inside. Stay warm and call me if you need something.”

“Hyung, it's just a two-day trip.”

“Call me if something's wrong or if you need anything, okay, Haechanie?”

Donghyuck let out a sigh. Kun could be stubborn if he wanted to.

“Yes, okay,” he relented, not wanting to disobey Kun's words. “I will call you, hyung.”

“Good,” Kun nodded in satisfaction. “Have fun, okay? Don't worry about Chenle. I will take care of him.”

By the time Donghyuck and Sicheng arrived at school, all the junior from different classes had already gathered around the parking lots, waiting for the bus to come. Jaemin saw them first and he immediately steered them to where their friends were. Donghyuck looked around and noticed how almost every student didn't look pleased, especially the girls. He heard them mumbling about how boring it was an outdoor event like this but none of them could back away because they didn’t want to deal with Kim Doyoung.  

“Did you know that the Brat Pack would join the same bus as other students?” Renjun opened the conversation, looking at Donghyuck directly as if the latter had the answer to his question.

Donghyuck blinked at him. “What?”

“Yes,” Lucas answered instead. “Mark told me he's going to join us.”

“I thought they're going to go there with their cars,” Jeno added.

“Doyoung hyung wouldn't let them,” Jaemin explained. “This is the school's event and everyone has to be treated equally.”

Donghyuck could only silently listen, not knowing what to say. He didn't know about that because he hadn't talked to Mark for days. He hadn't even seen him. He started to fidget and his stomach lurched—dread, anticipation, and excitement mixing. He didn't know which one was dominant but the thought of seeing Mark again made something inside him fluttered. He didn't expect that kind of feeling at all. It was surprising, still somehow foreign, yet like other confusing feelings he’d been dealing with for the past few days, he knew that he would get used to it. 

A few moments later, the Brat Pack except Mark showed up in all their glory and the crowd fell into a solid silence. Donghyuck looked at them and no matter how many times he'd seen them before, he was still awe-struck by their visuals. Taeyong and Jaehyun stood together as they always did, their hands intertwined. They were still the talk of the school and people were still gossiping about their relationship, wondering what happened to them after Jaehyun's engagement. But they easily silenced them just by standing together, eyes straight and heads-up. The message was clear; they were still going strong and no one could stop them.

Johnny and Ten never looked like average high-schooler and they looked slightly different than others in their casual outfits. They were still as stoic and distant as usual, but their eyes softened when they landed on Donghyuck, catching the smaller off guard. Yuta stood next to Doyoung, helping the latter checked the attendance by calling the student's name one by one and then divided them into a different bus.

Johnny and Ten went to the first bus along with Jaemin, Jeno, Renjun, and Lucas. Donghyuck and Sicheng went to the last bus with Doyoung and Yuta. Jaehyun and Taeyong were the only ones who didn’t come with others. They went to Jaehyun’s Volvo, loading the Brat Pack's bags in the baggage car.

As Donghyuck waiting for his turn to get inside the bus, he couldn't help but wonder where Mark was. He was too preoccupied with his own thoughts that he didn't realize a presence behind him. He let out a surprised gasp and halted his steps when suddenly there were hands around his waist and a broad chest pressed against his back. 

“Mark?”

Mark chuckled, his voice tickled Donghyuck's ears. “Looking for me?”

“You wish.”

“I know you were, baby,” Mark laughed, light and easy. Donghyuck's cheeks instantly blushed but he blamed it for the heat. “I'm sorry I was late. It's all Yerim's fault.”

“No, it's not!”

Yerim appeared out of nowhere. She looked unbelievably in her simple hoodie and ripped jeans, her hair tied in a ponytail. She was out of breath as she threw a glare at Mark.

“You didn't tell me that we were leaving at eight! If I knew, I would've woken up earlier.”

Mark rolled his eyes. “Doyoung hyung sent the run-down on our group chat last night. Just admit that you slept on your alarm and we're late because I had to wait for you to get ready.”

“I hate you!” Yerim huffed, pouting. And then she turned to Donghyuck, startling the latter with her sudden movement. “Donghyuck, I don't even know why you want to be with Mark. He's annoying as hell.”

“Shut up, Yerim. Get in the bus right now before Doyoung hyung dragging you inside.”

Yerim got into the bus right after Yuta and Sicheng. Mark gently pulled Donghyuck to move and followed them. Inside, all of the students were already seated. Yerim sat next to Doyoung in the front row. Behind them, Sicheng looked like a defeated puppy as Yuta wrapped his arms around him, not letting him go. The only seat left was on the back and Mark quickly led Donghyuck there. He let the smaller took the seat next to the windows and then plopped down next to him.

No one dared to take a look at Mark and Donghyuck—the only ones who sat at the back. As the bus drove away from school, everyone was busy with their own business. They chatted to kill time but it was still relatively quiet. Donghyuck tried to ignore Mark by looking out of the windows, watching trees and people and buildings past before his eyes. But no matter how hard he tried, Mark’s presence was distracting. The latter didn’t say anything at all but then he moved closer, his thighs and shoulders pressed against Donghyuck’s. There was no space left between them.

“It’s not part of our agreement,” Donghyuck finally turned to Mark, looking down at their pressed thighs and then back up at Mark. “More space, remember?”

Mark’s lips curved upward into his signature smirk—something Donghyuck hadn’t seen for a while. It reminded him of the beginning of their relationship, how a twisted fate got them tangled up, and realized so much had changed since he first met Mark. Looking at the latter now, he could tell that he wasn’t the same person he accidentally bumped into that eventful morning. He’s grown and changed so did him.

Donghyuck didn’t know why he suddenly feeling nostalgic but it had been a while since he saw Mark. The last few days gave him enough time to think and he knew that he wouldn’t be able to look at Mark the same way again. He knew that something had shifted but he still needed more time to be sure of everything.

“Don’t you miss me?” Mark shamelessly asked, grinning now. “Because I do. I missed you.”

Donghyuck’s stomach flipped but he masked his feelings perfectly. Instead, he rolled his eyes at him and tried to push him away. But Mark didn’t even budge an inch.

“You practically followed me everywhere. You see me every day. Don’t think that I didn’t notice that.”

“I know you do,” Mark lightly answered as if it was nothing. “But I didn’t cross your line because I didn’t show my face to you.”

“And now you’re sitting with me though I still haven’t given you my answer yet.”

“The next two days are an exception,” Mark leaned forward and lowered his face to Donghyuck’s, making the smaller flinch in surprise. He smirked and continued in a whisper, “Technically we're still boyfriends in people’s eyes so we still need to put up an act, okay?”

Mark pulled away and gave Donghyuck a wink, smiling in victory. He looked visibly pleased. Donghyuck looked at him incredulously.

“You’re unbelievable,”

Mark just smiled as he slipped his fingers into Donghyuck’s, intertwining the digits. His hand strong and powerful meanwhile Donghyuck's more delicate against it, and yet somehow it perfectly paired.

“I’m going to make the next two days most out of it.” Mark said. “You’re going to say yes.”

Donghyuck snorted. “You and your overconfidence.”

“Isn’t that what makes me more charming?”

Donghyuck’s nose wrinkled.

“Gross.”

Mark chuckled and Donghyuck had to surpass his smile. He quickly looked away, though Mark had already seen it and the look of pure satisfaction in his face was unmistakable. The rest of the ride went smoothly and none of them let go of each other’s hands. It was tightly intertwined until they reached their destination.

 


 

It took almost five hours to arrive at Yeongyang Firefly Eco Park where they would camp for the next two days. It was located in eastern South Korea, nestled in the valley of the Wangpi River. The bus stopped next to a huge field. It was beautiful and everything was green. The trunks on the trees were covered with moss, their branches hanging with a canopy of it, and the air was fresh and clear. The weather was nice and clean from pollution. It was a perfect place to camp and get away from the noisy and busy city.

After everyone was out of the bus and gathered around, the senior divided them into groups. Each group had three members. Donghyuck was lucky enough to be on the same team with Jeno and Lucas. When Doyoung announce the last group, he almost couldn’t believe his ears when Mark ended up on same group as Jaemin and Renjun. The other students had the same reaction as his. Their jaws dropped as they looked at Mark who casually walking toward Jaemin who looked unfazed meanwhile Renjun had a stricken look on his face. They didn’t expect Mark to willingly bland with others because of his reputation.

“All right, everyone. You have one hour to pitch your tent. The last group who puts up the tend has to wash the dishes after lunch.”

Surprisingly, though Donghyuck didn’t talk to Jeno and Lucas as much as he did with Jaemin and Renjun, he got along just fine with them. He knew that Lucas was very cheerful and loud. Whatever the latter did was funny—though sometimes he did it intentionally. Lucas was just very innocent, especially when he was struggling to find the right words in Korean. What surprised Donghyuck was Jeno’s humor. He didn’t know that the latter was funny and witty. Jeno made Lucas wheezed just by talking with a straight face. Donghyuck couldn’t stop laughing as he watched Lucas and Jeno throwing dad jokes here and there.

“Jeno, I didn’t know that you’re so funny,” Donghyuck said while wiping the tears in the corner of his eyes that came out after too much laughing. Lucas did the same.  

“Nana says I’m only funny because I know how to deliver a joke,” Jeno said and then he smiled. His eyes turned into a perfect crescent. Now that Donghyuck thought about it, it was the first time he saw Jeno smiling. He also had never talked this much with him because they mostly met during lunch, which was not often. And most of the time, Jeno was either eating his food silently or talking with Jaemin.

“Don’t worry about Nana,” Lucas said, waving his hand in dismissal. “He loves you anyway.”

Jeno's cheeks blushed. “Shut up, Yukhei.”

“Oh?” Donghyuck titled his head a little, looking back and forth between Lucas and Jeno curiously. “What’s up with Jeno and Jaemin?”

Lucas stared at Donghyuck is pure disbelief.

“You don’t know?”

“Did I miss something?”

Lucas blinked back at Donghyuck, seemingly in a daze, but then his face gradually changed. His eyes lighted up and he had that kind of expression where he was so ready to spill everything and no one could stop him. Not even Jeno who tried to clamp Lucas’s mouth shut but the latter could easily dodge his attack with his height.

“Jeno has a crush on Nana but he hasn’t confessed yet because he’s afraid that Nana might reject him. But I highly doubt he will because he likes Jeno, too.”

“You don’t know that,” Jeno quickly denied. “Nana only sees me as his best friend.”

“He's just playing hard to get.”

Jeno and Lucas continued to bicker meanwhile Donghyuck silently listened. He was clueless about Jeno's crush on Jaemin but he wasn’t entirely surprised to hear that. He knew that Jaemin and Jeno grew up together and he’d caught the way Jaemin looked at Jeno. His friend never said anything, unlike Renjun who was more vocal when it came to his relationship with Lucas. It was pretty obvious and it seemed like both of his friends were pining to each other without knowing that they could simply end it by talking.

“Pup, what are you doing?”

Lucas and Jeno instantly stopped talking as soon as they heard a deep voice interrupted them. Donghyuck let out a sigh, knowing perfectly who it was without having to turn his back.

“Pup?” Lucas questioned, looking around in a daze. “Who’s pup?”

Jeno nudged Lucas in the ribs. “It’s Donghyuck, dummy.”

Mark ignored them, looking straight into Donghyuck’s eyes. He frowned.

“How come you haven’t finished putting up your tents? It’s already lunchtime and everyone has started eating.”

Donghyuck looked around and he just realized that the tent wasn’t completely finished. His group got carried away and forgot their duty.

“Oh, crap,” Lucas hastily going back to put up the tent. “I don’t want to wash the dishes.”

“Too late,” Mark retorted. “Your group is the last one to finish.”

“Jeno, Donghyuck, come and help me!”

Five minutes later, the group finally finished putting up their tent. Lucas and Jeno quickly walked ahead after Mark told them that Renjun and Jaemin had been waiting for their arrival. Donghyuck wanted to follow his friends but Mark caught his wrist, halting his steps.

“You come with me,” Mark said. “Taeyong hyung wants us to eat together.”

Donghyuck didn’t have another choice but to follow. He didn’t say anything when Mark led him to the south side of the field—the opposite direction where the other students gathered.

“Who’s pup?” Donghyuck couldn’t help but ask as they walked to their direction. Mark looked at him in amusement.

“Who do you think it is?”

Donghyuck frowned. “I’m not a puppy.”

“You’re cute like a puppy and I want to squish you all the time.”

Donghyuck almost tripped over his own feet and Mark laughed at him. After knowing him for a while, he knew that the latter had a tendency to casually throw corny remarks as if it was nothing and it never failed to catch Donghyuck off guard.

“Be careful, pup.”

“Shut up, Mark.”

Donghyuck hissed but he couldn’t help the blush that crept up to his neck and his cheeks. Mark saw it and his smile grew wider.

The Brat Pack members were already there, sitting in a circle. There was a huge table in the middle filled with food and drink. Surprisingly, Yerim wasn’t there. The last time Donghyuck saw her was before they started to pitch the tent. She was in the same group with Koeun and Lami. They looked mildly scared when Yerim approached them. Donghyuck didn’t know why but the mirth in Yerim's eyes said something.

“Donghyuck, come and sit down with us!” Taeyong smiled brightly, the light in his eyes was back. It was no longer dull, making him so much brighter.

Mark sat down first and then he pulled Donghyuck down to sit next to him. At that moment, it felt like things were back to how it used to be. It felt normal and ordinary, something none of them had experienced for the past few weeks. Things had been hard, messy, and complicated. Now they were able to just sit and talk about trivial things after a very long day.

Donghyuck didn’t know that he could miss this until that very moment. He didn’t realize that it had become part of him. It felt nice being there with the Brat Pack without having to think of anything outside that. It felt nice seeing Taeyong and Jaehyun being intimate like usual, Johnny and Ten feeding each other, Doyoung and Yuta bickering like kids like they always did. Donghyuck didn’t expect to be hit with a sense of familiarity just by being with them. He still believed that he and the Brat Pack came from two different worlds but at that moment, he didn’t feel so much like an outsider.

“You need to eat a lot, Donghyuck,” Taeyong said as he put more meat in Donghyuck's plate. “You still need to grow up.”

“Yeah, right,” Yuta added. “Don’t be short like Taeyongie and Tennie.”

Jaehyun and Johnny glared at Yuta.

“Can you not?”

“Make me.”

Ten didn’t sit close enough to Yuta to hit him but he managed to throw wet lettuce to his head, making the latter yelp in surprise. Yuta tried to grab Ten's favorite juice but Johnny was quick enough to stop him.

Yuta groaned. “You guys are no fun!”

Doyoung rolled his eyes at Yuta who dramatically pouted in defeat.

“You’re so childish.”

“So are you, blondie.”

“Shut up, Yuta. My hair is not blonde anymore.”

Yuta stuck his tongue out at Doyoung. “Brownie.”

“You two,” Taeyong interrupted, glaring at the pair. “Shut up and eat your food.”

“Yes, mom.”

Yuta and Doyoung answered simultaneously, eliciting small giggles from others. Taeyong just rolled his eyes at his friends who looked satisfied after getting into his nerves. He then turned to Donghyuck, his face softened.

“Donghyuck, how have you been? Does Mark give you a hard time?”

“Hyung, why are you asking as if I’ve been torturing him?”

Taeyong blatantly ignored Mark’s loud protest, not even giving him a spare look, which made the whole table broke in a small fit of laughter. Donghyuck smiled in amusement as he looked at Mark’s dejected face before turning to Taeyong again.

“I’m good, hyung,” Donghyuck answered. “Mark is—”

“Annoying?” Yuta prompted and earned a death glare from Mark.

“A pain in the ass?” Doyoung added.

“Shut up, hyung.”

“He’s fine,” Donghyuck finally replied after being interrupted multiple times. And then, in a more teasing voice, he added. “For now.”

“Really, Mark?” Johnny, the last person Donghyuck expected to join the playful banter, decided to engage. “I thought you already have Donghyuck’s trust.”

Ten shook his head, feigning a dramatic sigh.

“How disappointing.”

Mark looked at his friends in disbelief, feeling betrayed.

“Are you seriously ganging up on me?” he gasped. “I know I can only trust Jaehyunie hyung.”

“Don’t drag me on this, Mark. I expect you to be better than this.”

Jaehyun's sudden betrayal threw Mark off guard and the others laughed louder. Mark pouted, crossing his arms over his chest in annoyance. Donghyuck couldn’t help but laugh with them, finding the situation  hilarious. It wasn’t every day he could see Mark being defeated, completely powerless. It was also refreshing to see Mark being comfortable around his friends. Sometimes it was so easy to forget that Mark was the youngest in the group because he didn’t act like how a maknae supposed to be. Mark might be independent and was very good at taking care of himself, but the Brat Pack never forgot their role. They knew when to baby him and when to let him had his own life.

“Pup, you’re supposed to be on my side!” Mark protested. “Why are you against me?”

Yuta and Doyoung let out a shriek at the nickname, feigning a disgusted look.

“Ew,” Doyoung retorted. “What kind of nickname is that? So cringy!”

“I can’t believe we have three equally gross couples in this group!”

“Yuta,” Ten interjected, and the way his eyes lighted up with mirth was enough indication that whatever he was about to say would provoke Yuta. “You can’t say that when you technically call Sicheng ‘baby pumpkin’ and ‘little mochi’.”

Yuta gasped. “That’s a lie!”

“My boyfriend never lies, Nakamoto. He read your chat.”

“What? Have you been invading my privacy! I can’t accept this, Chittaphon.”

The banter and playful bicker continued. The atmosphere was nice and the scenery around them helped them took their minds off their problems. Joyful laughter resonated in the air, loud and boisterous. They were content and that moment was everything they could ask for.

 


 

Donghyuck, Jeno, and Lucas had to wash the dishes because they were the last group to put up the tent. But then Doyoung called Lucas to help him prepare for the next game so that left Jeno and Donghyuck. The situation wasn’t as loud as before when it was just the two of them. It was more calm but still comfortable. Jeno didn’t joke around but they had a small talk. He told Donghyuck about his hobby and how he raised his three cats despite having an allergy to cats.

“When my allergic gets worse, Nana would take the babies to his house until I’m feeling better. Sometimes people misunderstood him as the owner though I can’t deny that the babies love their mother more.”

“Oh, Nana is the mother?”

“Yes,” Jeno chuckled. Donghyuck had noticed that Jeno always had a special smile when he was talking about Jaemin. “I found Bongshik on the street but adopted Seol and Nal from the shelter with Nana. It makes him feel like he’s part of the family too.”

“That’s very cute!” Donghyuck smiled. “You and Nana are a young couple with three kids. That’s a heavy responsibility.”

Jeno’s smile fell from his face. “We're not a couple.”

“Jeno,” Donghyuck carefully said. “I think you should talk to Nana and tell him about your feelings.”

“I know that Nana likes me too, you know.”

Jeno’s sudden confession surprised Donghyuck, making the latter almost dropped the plate he was holding. He turned to Jeno, blinking in a daze.

“You do?” Donghyuck's jaw dropped. “But you said—”

“I just don’t want people to know that I’m aware of Nana's feelings because I know that Nana and I are not going to be together anyway.”

“I don’t understand, Jeno,” Donghyuck frowned. “If you’re aware of Nana’s feelings, don’t you think he’s going to get hurt if he knows the truth? Because you know but you act as if you don’t.”

Jeno settled the last plate in slow motion. He looked around, making sure that no one was near within their earshot. When he turned to Donghyuck, his face twisted in a pain.

“Donghyuck, I’m not as rich as you think,” Jeno confessed, letting out a huge sigh. “My father works in local law firms and my mother is just a housewife. I wouldn’t be here if it isn’t for Jaemin’s father. He pays for my tuition because my family couldn’t afford it. No one in school knows about that because Jaemin makes sure to hide my family’s status. I know he’s doing that because he doesn’t want people to bully me.”

Donghyuck was at a loss of words after listening to Jeno’s confession. For a moment, he didn’t know what to say. He could only stare at Jeno, slowly taking everything in.

“I feel like Jaemin deserves someone better.”

“How’s your relationship with Jaemin’s father?”

“What?” Jeno asked, didn’t expect to hear Donghyuck’s question. “What do you mean?”

“Do you talk to him?”

“Yes,” Jeno replied, though he still didn’t know what this was all about. “Uncle Na and I are close. We like to fishing together with Nana but he’s only there to watch us. He hates fishing.”

“Does he call you his son?”

Jeno’s jaw dropped. “How do you know?”

Donghyuck smiled.

“Jeno, your status doesn’t matter. You know Jaemin never thinks about it because he’s one of the kindest souls we’ve ever known. He only needs someone who’s willing to be with him. Someone who loves him and treats him the way he deserves. Follow your heart, Jeno. It always gives you the right answer.”

Jeno could only stare at Donghyuck, unmoving for a few moments to let the realization slowly sunk into him. Donghyuck gave him the time he needed. When Jeno finally gained his senses back, his eyes were burning with new determination—something Donghyuck often saw when the latter talked about the things he was passionate about.

“You don’t have to rush it,” Donghyuck said. “When you’re ready, go and talk to him.”

“Thank you, Donghyuck. I’m feeling better now.” Jeno gave him a grateful smile. “How about you and Mark?”

“What about me and Mark?”

Jeno gave Donghyuck a look and the latter couldn’t even look away. His cheeks heated up, embarrassed for being caught but Jeno kindly gave him an understanding smile. Now it felt like they’ve built an alliance without saying much because of what they’ve been through. Though it wasn’t entirely the same, it connected them in some ways. Only they knew exactly how complicated things were.

“It’s true that I’m not very fond of rich people like the Brat Pack. You know, the kind that can do whatever they want simply because they have money. But after I know how they treat you, I realized how judgmental I was toward them. Perhaps they’re not as bad as I think.”

“They are not,” Donghyuck said. He could say that now because he knew that the Brat Pack was different from what people perceived.

“Why don’t you apply the same advice you just gave me? Follow your heart, Donghyuck. ”

Jeno reached out to settle his hand on Donghyuck’s shoulder, squeezing it gently. He smiled knowingly.

“You already know your answer, don’t you?”

Donghyuck swallowed. Perhaps it was the same situation they were facing or perhaps it was because of something else—something he couldn’t really pinpoint. But he found himself nodding, not afraid to open up to Jeno.

“Yes,”

“Then you know the risks, right?”

Donghyuck nodded again.

“Whatever happens, you know you can count on me, Jaemin, Renjun, and Lucas. I know we don’t talk much but we’re friends. We have each other.”

“Thank you, Jeno,” Donghyuck said, feeling his throat constricted at Jeno’s kindness. “I really appreciate it.”

Jeno chuckled and lifted his hand to pat Donghyuck’s head. But almost immediately he pulled his hand away, startling Donghyuck with his sudden movement.

“I think I need to go before Mark kills me with his eyes.”

Donghyuck turned around and found Mark was walking toward them. From where he was standing, he could see the way Mark’s eyes sharpen and his lips pressed into a thin line. Mark was obviously displeased. When Donghyuck turned his back again, Jeno was already gone.

“What took you so long?” Mark complained as soon as he stopped before Donghyuck.

“I was washing the dishes.”

Mark turned to where Jeno had disappeared and his frown deepened.

“You and Jeno seem really close,” he mused. “What were you guys talking about?”

“We are,” Donghyuck casually replied, still hadn’t realized Mark’s sour demeanor. “And you don’t need to know what we were talking about. It’s our secret.”

Mark’s eyebrows furrowed.

“Don’t get too close to him. I’m pretty sure Jaemin won’t like it.”

Donghyuck’s lips parted slightly, blinking at Mark in confusion. It took him some time until the realization finally hit him.

“Oh,” he gasped. “Are you, perhaps, jealous?”

Mark rolled his eyes. “You’re so clueless.”

Donghyuck pouted.

“In my defense, I don’t even understand why you’re jealous. Jeno and I are friends. There’s nothing to worry about.”

The playful smile was back in Mark’s face. “Is this your way to reassure me that you’re not going to leave my side?”

“God, you’re the worse.”

Donghyuck turned around and walked ahead. Mark laughed as he easily caught up with Donghyuck’s steps.

“You’re so cute.”

“Shut up, Mark.”

 


 

The first game they played was paintball game. Doyoung divided the students into two groups. Donghyuck stood in the red team along with Jaemin, Lucas, and Mina. Across them, Mark was in the blue team with Jeno, Renjun, and Yerim. The rule was simple. The first team who got the flag first would be the winner. As soon as Doyoung blew the whistle, everyone spread into different directions. It was a heated game and suddenly everyone was merciless, not giving another spare look as they shot their enemies. The sound of gun shootings was loud, almost deafening.

Lucas did Renjun dirty by attacked him from behind, tackling him down the ground and shooting his boyfriend in the chest. Renjun cussed at him in mixed Chinese and Cantonese perfectly, surprising Lucas who wasn’t aware of how fluent his boyfriend was. He quickly stole a kiss from Renjun before running away from his angry boyfriend. But then Jeno caught him and shot him in light speed.

“That’s for my friend.”

Lucas looked at him incredulously, wailing. “I’m your friend too!”

Jeno just winked at Lucas but when he turned around, Jaemin was right there in front of him with his gun pointed at Jeno’s chest.

“Hi, Nono~”

Jeno let out a sigh, dropping his gun without question.

“You can shoot me. I won’t shoot you.”

“No!” Jaemin wailed. “What are you doing? Take your gun! This is not Mr. and Mrs. Smith kind of thing, you dummy.”

“But I don’t want to shoot you, Nana. Come on, shoot me.”

“I—”

Before Jaemin could finish his sentence, there was a sound of gun shooting and the next thing he knew, Jeno had already dropped down to the ground.

“Can you two be gross in another place?”

Mark appeared behind Jaemin, shaking his head in disbelief. Jaemin threw a death glare at him.

“You should be grateful we're on the same team, Mark. Or else you’d be dropped down the ground right now.”

Mark gave Jaemin his signature smirk which irked the latter even more.

“I would like to see you try, Jaemin.”

In the end, Jaemin was killed by Mina who shot him from behind. A few minutes later, the last ones who remained on the battle filed were Donghyuck, Mark, Yerim, and Mina. The four of them stood across each other, crowding around the flag. The tension was quickly intensified. They had their guns loaded, ready to shoot when the enemy moved. It was almost ironic how it ended up with such combination and all of them were connected in some ways.

Donghyuck didn’t know how to react having Mina stood next to him as an alliance. They’ve never been one before. For a split second, he thought Mina would kill him as well just because she thought it would be funny to do a team killer. Surprisingly, she didn’t even spare Donghyuck a glance but she pointed her gun at Mark—her target was clear. Mark’s eyes were boring into Mina's, cold and unwavering. Donghyuck didn’t have another choice but to point his gun at Yerim who did the same.

A lot of things happened at the same time after that. Mina started the attack. She shot first but Mark moved faster, dodging her attack and proceed to shot her right in her chest. Yerim moved forward because the distance between her and Donghyuck was too far. When she was close enough, she pulled the trigger but Donghyuck was a few seconds faster and the bullet hit Yerim’s rib.

Mark and Donghyuck pointed their guns at the same time, their eyes locking. Without exchanging a single word, they pulled the trigger in sync. Donghyuck let out a gasp as he realized that Mark's attack was missed. He was safe meanwhile there was red paint in Mark’s left shoulder.

“You did that on purpose, didn’t you?”

Mark feigned an innocent look. “What are you talking about? It was a fair play. You shot faster than me. You did a good job. The flag is yours.”

Donghyuck’s team won but he didn’t believe that it was a fair play. It was until Mark purposely missed his shot. He knew that Mark did it on purpose. He'd seen how fast Mark was when he dodged Mina's attack so there was no way he couldn’t do the same to Donghyuck. He could but he didn’t.

There was a break for a few hours before dinner. The students were free to do anything as long as they didn’t leave the field. After the dinner was over, the next game was a firefly game. It was a very simple game. One of them would be the firefly and hide in the forest near the field. The fastest person who could catch the firefly would win a big prize. But if none of them could, then the firefly won. Doyoung announced that the prize would be personally provided by Ten and it was enough to create a buzz among the students. Those who looked bored and uninterested in the beginning were now pumped up.

There were small rolled-up papers with student’s names inside the box to decide who would be the firefly. Taeyong was the one who picked it.

“Lee Donghyuck.”

Donghyuck awkwardly stepped forward. For some reason, he didn’t even surprised that his name, out of other names, came out. It was predictable.

“Here’s to guide you,” Taeyong handed Donghyuck the flashlight. “You have five minutes to hide. Don’t go too deep into the forest or you’ll get lost. Be careful, okay? They have 30 minutes to catch you. If they can’t, the prize is yours.”

“Yes, hyung.”

Taeyong smiled and patted Donghyuck’s cheeks gently. The latter didn’t miss the way other students gasped in surprise to see their interaction but he paid them no mind. He was very good at ignoring that kind of people now.

Donghyuck walked toward the forest with the flashlight on his hand—the only light that guided him. It was overcast now that the sun was out. There was a trail that led through the forest and Donghyuck followed it. He was never the one who scared of the dark—or anything in general. He calmly walked while thinking about the hiding place. The only sound that could be heard was the damp earth under his feet and the gentle wind that blew across his face. He checked the time and realized that his five-minute was up. It meant the other students would be moving by now, looking for him.

Donghyuck stopped behind one of the biggest treeshe saw. A few drops of moisture trickled down from the canopy above him. He sat down carefully and the fallen leaves crushed under his weight. He tried not to make a noise, keeping his breath even. Whenever he heard a rustle, he would hold his breath. Some people tried to call his name and he recognized Lucas and Jaemin’s voices easily but he stayed silent, unmoving. The clock was tickling. No one had found Donghyuck yet. Only five minutes left before the time was up. Just as Donghyuck started to relax, feeling confident that no one would find him, he got up from where he was sitting. He was about to walk when suddenly someone grabbed his hand and the last thing he remembered was darkness.

 


 

“What is going on? Where are you taking me? We’re supposed to go back!”

Donghyuck didn’t stop asking as Mark led him out of the forest. He knew that they weren’t walking in the right direction. They were heading to somewhere but Mark won’t tell him.

“Pup, just follow me, okay? Doyoung hyung knows that we won’t come back tonight so don’t worry about it.”

A few minutes later, they were out of the forest. Donghyuck didn’t know where they were and he was surprised to see a vehicle parked near them. It was a pickup truck. A sleek and black Hennessey VolociRaptor, standing tall and proud over there.

“Whose truck is that?”

“Mine,” Mark casually replied as he led Donghyuck toward the truck. “Come on. I want to take you somewhere.”

“Are we really allowed to go?”

“Yes. Just trust me, okay, pup?”

In the end, Donghyuck followed Mark and got into the truck. He could feel his heart thumping as Mark started the engine and drove away. He didn’t ask, knowing that Mark liked to be secretive at times like this. He looked out of the windows and realized that they went up to the hill. The moon peeked through the clouds, hanging low and wan. At this time of the night, Mark’s truck was the only vehicle on the road.

“We're not going to violate the public policy, right?”

“You mean doing something illegal?”

Donghyuck shrugged. “Something like that.”

Mark laughed.

“You know Taeyong hyung and Jaehyun would definitely have our heads if we did something like that,” Mark said. “But I’m pretty sure Yuta hyung would be the only one who encourage us.”

“So what are we going to do?”

“You’ll see,” Mark smirked, and in any case, Donghyuck had a sudden urge to wipe it off his face because it made his nerve endings danced, giving him goosebumps.

It didn’t take long until they reached their destination. Mark stopped the truck near the cliff. In the open space, the starlight was faint but bright enough to make the flashlight unnecessary. Mark stepped in front of Donghyuck and strode off, leaving him to follow. Donghyuck was too focused on his steps, making sure he didn’t trip over small rocks, that he almost bumped into Mark’s back when the latter suddenly halted his steps. Before he could say something, Mark stepped aside and he gasped when he saw the telescope that had settled upon its tripod, angling towards the sky.

“We're going to stargazing?”

“Yes,” Mark said with a smile. “Come here, pup.”

Mark held out his hand and Donghyuck didn’t hesitate to take it. He guided the smaller to stand before the telescope meanwhile he stood behind him, pressing his broad chest against his back.

“When I heard that the destination was yeongyang, I immediately prepared this because here is one of the best places to stargazing in the world.”

“I’ve never done this before.”

“That’s why I’m here,” Mark wrapped his hands around Donghyuck's waist, holding him there. “I will tell you everything you want to know. Now, take a look.”

Donghyuck peered through the lens and caught his breath in a gasp. He could see the milky way, the shades of white and blue, so many stars he couldn’t distinguish, so many worlds, and bright lights. He just discovered the galaxies hiding behind the light pollution. He could see them clearly. It was beautiful and marvelous. He'd never seen anything quite like it before.

“It’s very beautiful,” Donghyuck straightened and move away from the telescope to stare more at the night sky. “I think I saw a shooting star.”

Mark laughed, clearly pleased with Donghyuck’s enthusiasm. He started to explain to him about the constellations. Donghyuck was so immersed in Mark’s explanation that he ended up looking at him instead of the beautiful sky. He’d never seen Mark like this. The latter was very passionate and eager to share his knowledge. The sparkles in his eyes were as bright as the stars in the sky. As Donghyuck stood there, he felt strange contentment just by looking at Mark who looked alive as he talked about something he loved.

“This is not the best time of year for stargazing,” Mark told Donghyuck. “Once the darker nights are here you have more opportunity to see more than this.”

Donghyuck couldn’t help but smile at Mark’s eagerness.

“Have you always liked the stars?”

“Yes,” Mark replied as he looked up at the sky. “I escape here whenever I need some time alone.”

Mark looked at Donghyuck again and the latter had a sudden urge to keep the twinkling in his eyes. He’d just discovered another side of Mark and it was beyond his imagination. Mark was in a happy state and he talked as if he’d just tasted freedom. It was beautiful, yet heartbreaking at the same time knowing that it wouldn't last forever.

“I consider this as our first date,” Mark exclaimed, a laugh in his voice. “Next time, I will take you to Mongolia. We can stay in nomad camps and stare at the Milky Way every night.”

Donghyuck felt a jolt ran through his body as his eyes locked with Mark’s, his heart thumping frantically against his chest. He couldn’t help but imagine it—going to places he'd never went to before and stargazing together with Mark. Even in his imagination, it was too good to be true. A sudden agony gripped his heart as he thought that he might not have a chance to experience it because there was no guarantee that he and Mark would always be together. It was at that moment when a realization hit Donghyuck in full force. He didn’t want to lose Mark. He couldn’t bear the thought of it.

“Will that ever happen?” Donghyuck asked before he could stop himself. His voice wavering and it was too late to mask his expression before he’d already given his feelings away.

Mark quickly stepped forward and reached for him. The latter held his face in his hands, gently tilting his chin so they were eye to eye.

“Donghyuck, listen to me,” Mark’s voice was gentle yet firm at the same time. “I know it’s not gonna be easy for us but I want us to try. I would do anything to be with you. I won’t let anything or anyone hurt you, especially my parents. I won’t let them touch you. I will do anything to protect you and your family. Do you trust me?”

“I do,” Donghyuck replied in a heartbeat. Mark smiled, stroking Donghyuck’s cheeks gently.

“I know our relationship is different from others and I know I’m asking too much right now. But if you want to go through it with me, we can fight together.”

Donghyuck couldn’t utter a single word but his eyes sparked under the night sky. He opened his mouth only to close it again, not being able to say what he wanted to say. Mark gave him an encouraging smile as one of his hands glided down to Donghyuck’s waist and settled it on the small of his back, pulling him closer. They were so close now, their breaths mingling and the tip of their nose touching.

“Donghyuck, I like you,” Mark whispered, nudging his nose against Donghyuck’s. “Do you like me too?”

“Yes,” was all Donghyuck could say and it was true. He liked Mark, had been for a while, but it was only now that he was able to admit it. Not only to himself but Mark as well. He knew that nothing would be easy if he decided to be with him but he wanted to try. He realized that he would regret everything if he walked away without a fight. If Mark was willing to fight for him, then he would do the same.

Mark chuckled, his warm breath hitting Donghyuck’s face. His fingers trailed down to his jaw, holding him there.

“Donghyuck, can I kiss you?”

Donghyuck let out a small gasp. “Yes.”

Mark pulled away slightly to stare at Donghyuck and to make sure that the latter meant what he said. And then he leaned forward without breaking the eye contact. Donghyuck’s eyes fluttered closed as Mark’s lips pressed against his in deliberate slowness. Their lips touched and the fireworks exploded in the back of Donghyuck’s eyelids.

Mark firmly pulled Donghyuck's body against his and he brushed his lips with his. He lightly slid his tongue across his bottom lips. Donghyuck drew a deep, staggered breath in response to the wave of heat he felt flushing through him. Mark smiled against Donghyuck’s lips and softly kissed him. He cradled his face with his hands lovingly, tenderly, and adoringly. He sucked his lips gently and then with a sudden urgency, he dipped his tongue past his lips, caressing his tongue with his. Donghyuck felt fluttering inside as he wrapped his arms around Mark's neck, needing something to hold onto. He was breathing heavier. The kiss was different from what they've shared before. It wasn't just quick and innocent pecks. It was intense and passionate, igniting flames inside him. The tidal wave of desire that had just churned within him was slowly calming as the kiss became more subtle and tender. When they pulled away to look into each other's eyes, both of them were breathless and their cheeks were flushed.   

“Does this mean you’re my boyfriend now?” Mark asked, smiling in triumph but it wasn’t the cocky look Donghyuck often saw. It was pure happiness, and the fluttering inside his stomach was back just by thinking that he was the reason behind it.

“Do I really have to spell it?”

“No,” Mark said and he couldn’t stop smiling. Donghyuck couldn’t help but smile as well, his expression mirrored his. “But I think we should kiss some more to make sure that it’s real.”

Donghyuck let out a shriek as Mark lifted him and gathered him into his arms easily as if the latter weight nothing. Mark carried him back to the truck and Donghyuck just realized that it was already decorated with blankets and pillows. He gently settled him there and climbed next to him.

They ended up lying together and sharing long, passionate kisses.

 


 

Donghyuck and Mark spent hours talking to get to know each other more. They talked about trivial things, something they hadn’t done before, and shared some personal information. Opening up and letting each other saw their vulnerable sides felt more intimate than any physical contact they’ve shared. It took courage and trust to do that and they did.

Donghyuck eventually fell asleep in Mark’s arms, his head tucked under his chin. Mark won’t let him go, wrapping his arms around him so tight he could squish him. They ended up sleeping in the same position until the next morning.

It was an unusual brightness that woke Donghyuck up. He blinked and realized that he was still in Mark’s arms, the blanket tangled in their legs. It took him a moment to gain his senses and when his vision was clear, he could see the grey sky above him. The sun hadn’t out yet, but it would anytime soon. Donghyuck tried to squirm but his small movement promptly woke Mark as well.

“Pup?” Mark’s voice was deep and hoarse in the morning—something Donghyuck never expected. He realized that Donghyuck was already awake and smiled at him. “Hey, good morning.”

“Good morning,” Donghyuck awkwardly replied. It still hadn’t fully sunk into him yet that he and Mark were together now. They were in a real relationship and he still didn’t know how to act around him.

“How’s your sleep?”

Mark dropped a small kiss on Donghyuck’s forehead before loosening his hold, knowing that the smaller needed some space to move. Donghyuck’s cheeks flushed. Mark had kissed his forehead many times before but somehow it felt different. It made his heart skipped a beat.

“Good,” he said. “But my back is killing me.”

Mark laughed and then he pulled Donghyuck on top of him, startling the smaller. Instinctively, Donghyuck settled his hands over Mark’s chest.

“What are you doing?”

Mark didn’t reply right away but he looked right into Donghyuck’s eyes. His eyes spoke volume and there was nothing to hide.

“I want to see you properly.”

“You’re looking at me right now.”

“You’re so beautiful.”

Donghyuck groaned. “Don’t say stuff like that.”

“Why?” he teased.

“Just don’t.”

“You’re blushing,” Mark smiled, the playful mirth dancing in his eyes.  

“Shut up, Mark.”

Mark smiled as he pulled Donghyuck down and pressed their lips together. They stayed there, kissing, pressed against each other for several minutes. They stopped to look at each other and to laugh at their disheveled hair.

Their small moment was broken when Mark’s phone rang, shrilling and demanding. Mark sat up as he took it out of his pocket and the smile on his face was gone as soon as he saw the id-caller.

“Who’s that?” Donghyuck asked, noticing the sudden change of demeanor.

“It’s Johnny hyung,” Mark said, his jaw locking. “He sent me a message and asked me to go back to the camp. He never messaged me unless it’s an emergency.”

Donghyuck could feel his heart beating loudly for a completely different reason now.

“Let’s go back to the camp.”

It took them fifteen minutes to go back to the camp. Everyone was still sleeping inside their tents and the field was vacant. Mark and Donghyuck slid out of the car and quickly ran to the south of the field where the Brat Pack stayed. Donghyuck could feel the dread slowly setting at the pit of his stomach as he saw the Brat Pack crowding around each other. They looked tensed and it seemed like they were engaged in a heated argument.

“What’s going on here?”

Taeyong and Yuta instantly stopped arguing. Donghyuck just realized that Yuta had his backpack slung over his shoulders and he looked like he was ready to leave.

“Hyung,” Mark sounded alarmed now. “Where are you going?”

“He doesn’t want to tell us,” Taeyong replied through his gritted teeth. Yuta exhaled loudly through his nose and the look of distress was evident in his face.

“Look, I don’t exactly know what’s happening but I had a hunch where he might be. I’ll call you as soon as I found him, okay? I need to go now. I can’t leave him alone.”

Without saying another word, Yuta ran out of the field, leaving the Brat Pack and Donghyuck clueless. Mark looked confused as he looked at his friends who hadn’t said anything since he arrived.

“Johnny hyung, what’s going on?”

Mark looked around and his face turned ashen as he realized that Doyoung was nowhere to be found.

“Where’s Doyoung hyung?”

For a moment, no one made an attempt to talk. Mark was getting impatient and he didn’t like to repeat himself. Finally, Ten stepped forward, letting out a deep sigh before dropping the news.

“Doyoungie is gone and we don’t know where he is right now.”

 


 

Chapter Text


 

“Doyoung, prepare yourself. The news of your father's scandal will be released next week. Your brother wants you to go home now.”

Doyoung didn’t go back home as his father's secretary instructed. Instead, as soon as he received the message, he booked the first flight to Japan. He knew that Gongmyung, his brother, would be pissed off if the latter knew about his escape but he didn’t want to see anyone at the moment. He wanted some time to himself.

Doyoung had always admired his father though he didn't get much time to spend his time with him because of his busy schedules. His father was a man with action. Never the one who talked much but he was always doing something for others silently. Doyoung knew that his father started from the bottom to be where he was. His grandfather kicked him out of the family because he decided to marry the woman he loved. His parents were slightly different from others. They never forced their ideas into their kids. They didn’t like to get involved in their kids’ love life. Arranged marriage was never an option to strengthen their power and connection. They gave Doyoung and Gongmyung the freedom to do whatever they wanted but like other parents, they never had enough time for their kids.

For a long time, all Doyoung wanted was to be like his father. He sought his validation and wanted to prove himself. But growing up, he realized that his father wasn’t exactly like how he perceived him. Like any other man, his father fell into temptation for wanting more and more.

Doyoung had learned that politic was a dirty world. Whoever got more power would be on the top. It was so easy to ignore the fact that his father was the face of the country. People looked up to him and praised his works. But the tunnel was spinning. There would be times when those who were on the top would hit the bottom ground. This time, it was Doyoung father’s turn.

 


 

Doyoung slowly let out a deep breath as he set foot in Japan. It had been a while since the last time he came there. The country held a special place in his heart. It was his safe place, his escape from all of his problems. He came here when he needed comfort. Just by being here was enough to calm his nerves.

Doyoung didn’t go to the hotel but he went straight to his favorite place. A restaurant he regularly visited whenever he came to Japan. It wasn’t a big, fancy restaurant. It was rather small and located in suburban Osaka. It didn’t take long for him to arrive there. He went inside, feeling the familiar warmth spread through him as he took a whiff of wooden furniture and home-cooked meals. It felt like coming home.

The owner was a middle-aged woman who warmly welcomed him. He briefly hugged her and asked her wellbeing before taking a seat next to the windows. He let out a sigh as he watched pedestrians walking past by him, his mind wandering. It was irresponsible of him to just leave the camp without telling anyone and he knew that his friends must be upset and worried. But he didn't have enough courage to face them yet. He turned off his phone so no one could reach him. It was so unlike him to just escape but sometimes people forgot that he had his own limits. They always perceived him as someone who had it all together—an embodiment of perfection. But sometimes things could be overwhelming for him and he didn’t know how to handle it.

Fifteen minutes later, his food had arrived. He put on his AirPods, muting the world as he enjoyed his food. But then another presence took a seat across him and he didn’t need to look up from his bowl to know who it was.

“You're fast,” Doyoung mused as he slowly put down his spoon and straightened his back, looking at a breathless Yuta.

He frowned. “Did you run to get here?”

“You think?” he snapped, sweat dripping down his temples.

“Why, though? You know I'm not going elsewhere.”

Yuta didn't answer right away. He let out a deep sigh as he took off his cap and his mask, pushing his long hair to the back. When it was just the two of them, Yuta and Doyoung didn’t need to hide their feelings. It was how they were and how their dynamic worked.

“Don't do that again, Doyoungie,” Yuta said, sounding so frustrated. The line of worries on his forehead was visible enough through his bangs. “You scared me.”

“Finally you called my name,” Doyoung smiled, purposely ignoring Yuta's point. “Doyoungie sounds better.”

“Doyoung—”

“Don't,” Doyoung interrupted, shaking his head. “Don't give me that look.”

“What look?”

“Don't look at me as if I'm about to break.”

“Aren’t you?” Yuta retorted, locking his eyes with Doyoung's. For a moment, they held each other's gaze, unmoving. But then Yuta's face gradually softened, his lips curved into a small smile.

“I like your new hair,” he said, looking at Doyoung's dark brown hair that framed his sharp face. “It looks really good on you.”

“I know,” Doyoung's eyes were filled with gratitude as Yuta proceed to act as if nothing happened to fulfill his silent plea. “I will keep this for the meantime before dyeing it back to black.”

“Black would suit you perfectly,” Yuta agreed. “Now finish your food, baby bunny. Our schedule is full for today.”

Doyoung’s eyes lighted up with curiosity.

“Where are you taking me?”

Yuta smiled, gentle and sincere. “Anywhere you want to go.”

 


 

Being with Yuta was easy. The latter knew exactly what to say or do without Doyoung having to elaborate on everything. After they finished eating, Yuta and Doyoung hugged the owner of the restaurant and bid her goodbye. They walked around the street with a light step, enjoying the nice weather. It wasn't every day they could do trivial things like this so when they could, they liked to take their time and made the most out of it.

“Yuta?” Doyoung called after a solid silence. Yuta hummed, kicking small rocks away with his foot.

“Can I ask you a favor?”

“You know you don't have to ask,” Yuta said, turning to Doyoung to give him a soft smile.

“Really? You will say yes?”

“You know I will.”

“Be mine.”  

Yuta's steps instantly faltered and the smile on his face was gone. He stopped and Doyoung did the same. They stood in tensed silence, facing each other. There was no secret between them. They shared everything and were aware of how they felt toward each other.

It wasn't a secret that Doyoung had been liking Yuta for as long as the latter remembered. At least between the two of them, it wasn’t. Long before they were with the Brat Pack, it was just the two of them. It was Yuta who brought Doyoung out of his shell, patiently waiting for him to put down his walls. Had it been not for Yuta's persistence, Doyoung was certain that he wouldn't be able to be how he was today. One of the reasons why Japan held a special meaning to his heart was because it was the place where Yuta took him back then when he was in his rebellious stage. Doyoung just wanted to leave everything behind though only temporary but Yuta refused to leave him alone. In the end, the latter took Doyoung to his hometown and they spent a week there discovering many things together.

For Doyoung, it was only made sense if he fell in love with Yuta. He confessed but Yuta couldn’t see him more than a friend. But they didn't let that broke their friendship. They agreed that it was more important than anything and they didn't let their feelings got in the way. But there was one thing Doyoung had asked Yuta. He asked the latter to let him loved him in his own way. He didn't have control over his feelings. He was in loved and nothing could change that—not even Yuta's rejection. He would let go of it when he was ready to let it go.

They were aware of everything and to avoid awkward situations, they tried not to give anything away by arguing and fighting all the time. It helped to balance their dynamics.

“Doyoung,” Yuta said after a loaded of silence, his face twisted in pain. “You know I can't.”

“Be mine,” Doyoung repeated and before Yuta could interject, he continued. “Just for today.”

“You know it would only hurt you even more.”

“Please,” Doyoung didn’t care if he sounded a little desperate now or if he was pleading—something he'd never done before. “I know I have to learn to let you go now that you have Sicheng back on your side. But just for today, Yuta. Let me know how it feels like to have you as mine and me as yours.”

Doyoung knew that he was asking too much. That what he asked was risky and it could cost their friendship because he was trying to break the boundaries. Perhaps it was the fact that he'd been holding himself back for years and he realized that at some points, he needed to stop. But now that he was here with Yuta, just the two of them, it made him wanted to be selfish. Just for today. He wanted to be loved and cherished by the only person he loved. The only person who still made his stomach fluttered just by being next to him.

“Why are you doing this?”

Doyoung had a sudden urge to look away but he held Yuta’s gaze as he spoke. “I just want to forget my problems and be with you. Just for today, Yuta. Let me be yours. I promise this will be the first and last time I ask you.”

Yuta kept mum but Doyoung knew that the latter was contemplating.

“Just for today?”   

Doyoung smiled. “That's all I'm asking you.”

Yuta didn't say anything for a moment and his face didn’t give anything away. Doyoung waited and a sudden wave of anxiety hit him, making his stomach clenched. What-ifs started to fill his mind. For the longest time, he'd never wanted something in return by loving Yuta. He knew the line, he respected his decision, and he was content with his one-sided feeling. But he was in his vulnerable state right now and Yuta was the only person who could afford the kind of comfort he needed. Suddenly, he wasn’t sure what he asked anymore.

“You know what,” Doyoung hastily said, not looking into Yuta's eyes. “Forget it. I know that's silly of me to ask—”

Doyoung gasped and he couldn’t finish his sentence when Yuta reached out, slipping his digits into his. He looked down at their intertwined hands, feeling a new wave of warmth spreading through him. Yuta's hand was firm and solid against his. He could feel fluttered inside him. He knew that it was only temporary but he'd been waiting for this moment to happen. He always wondered how it felt like to hold Yuta's hand and now that he did, it made fireworks exploded inside him.

“You're mine,” Yuta lifted their intertwined hands and pressed his lips against the back of Doyoung's hand, soft and gentle. “Today.”

Doyoung ignored the way his heart ached and smiled back at him. “Today.”

 


 

Yuta and Doyoung decided to take a subway to go to the Tempozan Ferris Wheel. They waited in line like everyone else to purchase their tickets. Doyoung laughed when Yuta failed to swipe his card in the fare gate. The latter scowled at him and tried again. When the gate was finally open, he pulled him to enter the train. Yuta settled Doyoung to take a seat next to the door and plopped down next to him, pressing the side of their bodies together.

There was a young couple across them wearing matching baby blue sweaters, laughing while watching a video on the phone. Yuta leaned forward to press his lips against Doyoung's ears.

“Should we wear couple outfits?”

Doyoung's cheeks instantly blushed at the sudden proximity. A jolt ran through him as Yuta's warm breath hitting his skin. He shoved the latter away, groaning.

“That's gross,” Doyoung said, his cheeks burning as Yuta laughed beside him. He glared at the latter. “Shut up.”

Yuta playfully poked Doyoung's cheek, irking the latter even more.

“Your cheeks are so read.”

Doyoung whined. “Stop doing that.”

Yuta laughed but he relented, pulling Doyoung into his arms so he could squish him. Doyoung let out a surprised squeak but he wrapped his arms around Yuta's waist, tucking his head under Yuta's chin. Every physical contact made his heart ached more but he was very good at dismissing it. This was what he asked for and he would take what he could get.

“It's been a while since I squished you like this,” Yuta hummed, leaning his cheeks on top of Doyoung's head. “You've grown up.”

“Stop talking like an old man,” Doyoung deadpanned. “We’ve grown together.”

Yuta sighed. “You're right. But I used to be taller than you. Now we're the same height. That's why I can't squish you again.”

Even though Yuta and Doyoung were the youngest in their family, Yuta liked to treat Doyoung as his little brother. He doted on him, took care of him, and very protective of him. There was one time in middle school when some of the seniors cornered Doyoung and beat him up. Yuta saw what happened and the situation turned very messy and bloody. Those boys ended up in the hospital with bruises and broken bones meanwhile Yuta got a detention for a month.

Yuta didn't do physical contact with Doyoung as much as he did in the past—not in front of everyone—but he hadn't changed the slightest. He was never hesitated to jump headfirst when someone tried to hurt Doyoung. Though Doyoung wasn't fond of violence, he would do the same to Yuta. He would do anything he could to protect him. That's what beautiful in their friendship along with the Brat Pack. They got each other's back.

“Can we go to your villa after this? I don't want to stay in a hotel.”

“Sure,” Yuta said, running his fingers in Doyoung's hair. “We can do grocery shopping and cook together.”

“More like I cook and you watch me.”

“Either way, we're still going to do it.”

It didn't take long for them to arrive at their destination. Yuta grabbed Doyoung's hand and intertwined their fingers as they stepped out of the subway. They walked to the Tampazon Ferris Wheel and waited in line to purchase the tickets. Some people glanced at them from time to time, their face showed recognition. Yuta and Doyoung pulled their hats lower to hide their face, avoiding people who tried to take a picture. After they got the tickets, Yuta quickly led Doyoung inside and walked to a less crowded place. They didn't ride the Ferris wheel right away. Instead, they walked to the food vendors because Yuta complained about his empty stomach.

“Are you really that hungry?” Doyoung asked as he watched Yuta finished his fourth snack.

“I haven't eaten anything and flew straight here to get you,” he answered after swallowing down his food. “Food was on my last priority. You know I wouldn't be able to do anything before I found you.”

“I'm sorry,” Doyoung said, his throat constricted. “I'm sorry for making you worried. I'm such a burden.”

“Nonsense!” Yuta replied, his voice resolute. He reached out to smooth the frown lines in Doyoung's forehead, smiling warmly at him. “You should be sorry for making all of us worried but never think that you're a burden. You are not.”

“But—”

“No buts, baby,” Yuta shushed him, the endearing nickname he used when he wanted to make Doyoung listened to what he said always worked. “You are not a burden. You’re not only our friend but family as well.”

Doyoung smiled in return, feeling at ease because of the term. The Brat Pack, in some ways, wasn't just best friends. They were family. People who stuck together through thick and thin. They found comfort and solace in each other and that’s what kept them together.

“Come on. Let's get on the line before more people coming.”

 


 

Yuta and Doyoung sat across each other, the tip of their shoes brushing. When the Ferris wheel stopped at the top, they looked out through the windows and the uneven horizon seemed closer than it should be. The view in every direction was the same—pale blue sky and scattered white, wispy clouds spreading across it. It was a very beautiful sight to see.

For a moment, they didn't talk, silently enjoying the scenery. It was Doyoung who broke the silence first.

“I told you that I wanted today to be just you and me,” Doyoung started, not looking at Yuta. “But I haven't told you how happy I am now that Sicheng is back in your life.”

After Sicheng was back into the picture, Doyoung hadn't mentioned him to Yuta before. He didn't want to approach the subject and purposely avoiding it. He knew what it meant when Sicheng was back on Yuta's side. It meant his time was over. But part of him still couldn't let go of the fact so easily. It took him some time and he knew that his feelings won't disappear right away but he was trying to deal with it.

“Doyoung,” Yuta sighed, glancing at Doyoung who refused to look at him. “I'm sorry.”

“No, don't say that,” Doyoung shook his head, finally turning his head to look at Yuta. “Don't be sorry for not feeling the same as me. People have no control over their feelings. You don't decide with whom you wanted to fall in love with. The heart wants what it wants. You know I expect nothing in return.”

Yuta swallowed. “I know.”

“I love you, Yuta,” Doyoung said and both of them knew it came from his heart. It was the second time he said it out loud and it still rang clear. “Loving you means I want you to be happy. Sicheng makes you happy and whatever makes you happy will make me happy. You're my best friend. Put aside my feelings, you know I will always be here for you as your friend.”

Doyoung and Yuta held each other’s gaze, acknowledging the truth. Doyoung might love Yuta and the longing he was feeling still hurt him. But he’d never thought of forcing his feelings or stealing him away from Sicheng. He could do it easily but he chose not to because he knew that he would lose him for good  if he ever did that. He’d rather stayed as Yuta’s friend than having the latter hated him.

“I would do the same for you.”

“I know,” Doyoung smiled, the soft glow in his eyes showed his sincerity. “I will keep an eye on Sicheng. Your family will find out about him sooner or later. Don't do this alone, okay? Don't shut me and the other boys out ever again like what you did the last time. We'll be there for you. We'll find a way.”

 


 

Doing grocery shopping with Yuta never ended well because the latter tended to buy unnecessary things and it irked Doyoung to no end. They spent the entire time arguing over what things to buy and who would pay their items. Yuta insisted to pay but Doyoung wanted them to split the bills. In the end, Yuta won by stealing a kiss from Doyoung. When the latter was in a daze, Yuta used the opportunity to slide his credit card to the cashier.

Doyoung touched his left cheek where Yuta kissed him, his entire face turned red and his nostrils flared up.

“You sneaky asshole!”

Yuta laughed, his eyes dancing with mirth. “That’s the effective way to shut you up.”

Doyoung grumbled and looked away. It wasn’t unusual for Yuta to kiss his cheeks. He used to do it all the time. It had been a while that it took Doyoung off guard when the latter suddenly pressed his lips against his cheek.

After they were done with grocery shopping, they went to Yuta’s villa. It only took fifteen minutes to get there. Doyoung slid out of the car first, smiling as he looked around. It had been a while since he visited here. It was a Japanese-style villa with a pond in the center. There was a garden in the backyard where flowers bloomed and the oak trees grew all around it. Everything was still the same like the last time Doyoung was there.

Doyoung exhaled deeply, his mind and heart already at ease. This was what he needed—tranquility and peace.

“Come on,” Yuta settled his hand at the small of his back. “Let’s get inside. I’m hungry.”

Doyoung rolled his eyes, but he smiled. “You’re always hungry.”

Doyoung was too happy to be back in Japan that he ended up making various Japanese dishes. The table was full of home-cooked meals. He made them because he knew Yuta would love it. The latter didn’t go home often so he wanted to show his gratitude to him by cooking his favorite dishes.

The conversation they had during dinner was light, easy, and comforting. They had been busy with a lot of things and hadn’t spent some time alone. It felt nice to just sit together, just the two of them, talking about the things they’ve missed out. Though they met with each other every day, most of the time they were with the Brat Pack, and there were things they could talk only with each other.

Feeling more exhausted than they thought, they went to bed right after dinner. They took turns taking a bath but brushing their teeth on the sink together. Yuta playfully smacked Doyoung’s butt and the latter kicked him in the shins in return.

Later that night, they held each other as they lay in bed. Doyoung pressed his face in Yuta’s chest and the latter had his arms wrapped around him, their legs entangled under the blanket. Doyoung let out a sigh. When the sun rose the next morning, everything would be over. He wouldn’t be able to feel this warmth and proximity again because it wasn’t his to begin with.

“Yuta, I need to tell you something.”

Yuta hummed, running his fingers in Doyoung’s hair. “Okay.”

Doyoung let out another sigh, gathering as much courage as he could.

“My father is suspected to be involved in corruption and the news will be out on Monday.”

Yuta’s fingers in Doyoung’s hair didn’t falter. He wordlessly tightened his hold around Doyoung and it instantly made the latter felt safe.

“As soon as the news comes out, people will use it to attack me and my family.”

“We will help you taking care of it.”

“I know,” Doyoung sighed, burying his face deeper into Yuta’s chest, seeking comfort and reassurance. “My brother is going to be busy and he might call me to help him with the company. I’m afraid I wouldn’t be around for a while.”

Yuta pressed his lips to Doyoung’s forehead, breathing in slowly. “I will always be there for you. Don’t worry about it. I won’t let people touch you.”

“I’m not worried about that. I’m just a little upset because I wouldn’t be able to see you and the boys for a while.”

“We will find a way,” Yuta reassured him. “Speaking of the boys, Taeyong and Ten are going to kill you tomorrow. Prepare yourself.”

Doyoung groaned.

“They’re mad, aren’t they?”

“Very,” Yuta let out a small chuckle. “And also very worried. I called them while you were taking a bath. I told them not to worry because we’re going back tomorrow.”

“We’re going back to the camp?”

“No. We will meet in school,” Yuta told him. “They’re going to wait for us there.”

“Tomorrow’s going to be a long day.”

Doyoung closed his eyes and felt his heart was beating frantically it hurt. He wished he could keep its contents from spilling out because everything was overwhelming. Tomorrow was a new day. Some things would change and some would remain. He doubted that he could handle it alone but when he could feel Yuta’s body pressed against his, his arms wrapped around him like a safe blanket, he knew he didn’t have to because he had his friends and for him, it was enough.

“Thank you for today, Yuta,” Doyoung whispered as his throat clogged with emotion. “You make me happy.”

“I wish you to always be happy,” Yuta whispered back, pressing his lips in the space between Doyoung’s eyebrows, gentle and soft. Doyoung savored the feeling, the moment, everything he was feeling at the moment. He might not be able to feel this kind of feeling anymore but he didn’t want it to fade away. He wanted to keep it in the deepest part of heart.

“Good night, Yuta.”

“Good night, Doyoung.”  

 


 

By the time Doyoung and Yuta landed in Seoul, it was already past lunchtime. They hadn’t eaten anything and frankly speaking, they didn’t have enough appetite at the moment. Yuta’s car was already parked in the entrance. They slid inside and went straight to the school where the Brat Pack was waiting for them in the basement. They didn’t talk, enjoying the silence. Yuta knew that Doyoung needed time to collect his thoughts so he gave him some space.

“You okay?” Yuta asked as they stopped in the parking lots, checking his friend’s expression to guess what he might be thinking. “We can stay in the car for a little bit if you want.”

Doyoung smiled and shook his head. “No, I’m okay. Let’s go meet the boys.”

When they finally entered the basement, the Brat Pack and Donghyuck were already there. The first one who got up from the seat was Taeyong—as expected. The latter looked frantic as he approached the pair, his eyebrows furrowed and his lips pressed into a taut line. No one dared to interrupt him.

“Kim Doyoung!”

Doyoung halted his steps, unmoving in his spot. He watched as Taeyong getting closer to him. He expected his friend to scold him because it was what he always did. Ten would undoubtedly cuss at him later but surprisingly, the latter stayed in the back with Johnny. But he glared at Doyoung from the distance.

“Taeyongie, I—“

Doyoung gasped as Taeyong threw himself at him, squeezing the air out of him. He did not expect this at all.

“We were so worried about you,” Taeyong said, concern and worry heavily laced in his voice. “Don’t run away like that again, Doyoungie. You know you can talk to us.”

“I’m sorry,” was all Doyoung could say, still baffled at the situation. He glanced at Yuta, raising one of his eyebrows at him in suspicion. He knew that the latter must’ve said something to their friends for them to act this way, especially Taeyong. But Yuta only stared back at him and shrugged his shoulder, feigning an innocent look.

“You’re not hurt, right?” Taeyong asked as he pulled away, scanning Doyoung from head to toe.

“You sound like my mom.”

Taeyong glared at him. “I’m serious, Doyoung.”

Doyoung let out a defeated sigh. “Let’s sit down and talk. I’ll tell you everything.”

Doyoung didn’t need to give a long explanation because his friends immediately got the point after he mentioned corruption. They knew what kind of world they lived in. They weren’t innocent kids. It made Doyoung relieved because no one would judge him here.

“They’re going to release the news tomorrow.” Doyoung told them.

“If you need some help, don’t hesitate to call,” Johnny said, his voice firm and left no room to argue. “I’m serious, Doyoung. You just need to call and we will be there.”

Doyoung smiled. “I know.” 

“Everything is going to be okay,” it was Ten who surprisingly reassured him. His face softened. The thing about him was, he always put hard exterior but he actually had a big and soft heart. “If you have to work in the company for a while, we will make sure to visit you from time to time.”

“Only if my brother and my father’s secretary let you.”

“They will,” Yuta said with confidence. “I will talk to them.”

“I will make sure you don’t skip your meals,” Taeyong who sat next to him took one of his hands, squeezing it gently as in an attempt to support him.

Doyoung chuckled. “I won’t.”

“Don’t worry too much,” Jaehyun said. “The news will die down after a week or two. I’m pretty sure your brother will do something to distract public attention.”

Doyoung wrinkled his nose in distaste. “No doubt he will.”

To ease the tension and heavy atmosphere, they dropped the topic and moved on to talk about something else. When Taeyong knew that Doyoung and Yuta hadn’t eaten anything, he quickly ushered them to the kitchen. Yuta wasn’t hungry but he told Doyoung to follow Taeyong. The latter almost refused but Ten and Johnny had already dragged him.

Yuta let out a sigh as he leaned back on the couch. Jaehyun patted his shoulder in sympathy.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” he said, caressing his forehead gently as he could feel the headache coming. “I’m just so glad Doyoungie can handle the situation maturely.”

“It’s Doyoung hyung we’re talking about,” Mark said. “He’s a strong and though person.”

Yuta looked at Mark and he just realized that the latter sat very close to Donghyuck. He let out a small gasp as he saw their intertwined hands.

“Oh,” he raised one of his eyebrows at the pair. “You two are together now?”

Mark proudly smiled and nodded. “Yes.”

“For real?”

“For real.” Mark confirmed.

Donghyuck didn’t say anything but the blush on his cheeks was enough to answer the question.

Yuta turned to Jaehyun, smirking. “See? I told you. He’s faster than you.”

“What does that mean?”

Jaehyun waved his hand in dismissal. “Don’t listen to him, Mark. He’s just talking nonsense.”

“Your brother is a prideful asshole.”

“Shut up, Yuta,” Jaehyun hissed, nudging him on the ribs. He ignored the latter’s yelp of surprise and turned to Mark and Donghyuck.

“Mark, I think you should take Donghyuck home. You keep here long enough. He needs to rest.”

“You’re right, hyung,” Mark nodded, turning to Donghyuck who indeed looked tired after a long day at camp. “We’ll get going now.”

 


Seoul Prime Minister has been suspected to be involved in corruption and bribery. Police will start the investigation as soon as possible.

Chapter Text


 

Mark didn't talk much on the way to Donghyuck's apartment. At some points, one of his hands let go of the wheel and he managed to slip his fingers between Donghyuck's, intertwining it tightly. Donghyuck was surprised by the sudden action but he didn't let go. He didn't point out that it was dangerous to drive with one hand because he trusted Mark. He knew that his boyfriend—God, it still so weird to say it now that it was real—had so much going on his mind. His face was neutral but Donghyuck knew better. Mark might look calm and collected on the surface but the way his shoulders tensed and his death grip on the wheel gave his feelings away.

Donghyuck wanted to do something for Mark. He didn’t want to push him to open up. He just wanted to make sure that Mark was okay. He wanted to be by his side but he didn’t know how to say it out loud. He was so immersed with his own thoughts that he didn’t realize that he squeezed Mark’s hand a little too hard.

“Pup, you okay?” Mark asked with concern, his eyebrows furrowed.

Donghyuck turned to him, biting his lower lips. He contemplated his suggestion for a moment before he hesitantly said, “Can I come over to your house?”

Mark’s eyes widened slightly, looking genuinely surprised. He blinked at Donghyuck. He clearly didn’t expect that.

“Of course you can,” he said, but still sounding confused. “But how about Lele? We can pick him up first and have a sleepover at my house.”

Donghyuck shook his head, tightening his hold in Mark’s hand to emotionally support himself. “No, it’s okay. He’s with Kun hyung. I will call hyung and tell him that I’m going to sleep at your house.”

“Okay,” Mark drawled. “Is everything okay, pup? I mean, I’m happy to spend some time with you. But, why so suddenly?”

Donghyuck could feel his cheeks flushed because it would be embarrassing to say his reasons out loud. But Mark didn’t catch the hints and Donghyuck almost forgot that the latter could be oblivious sometimes.

“I don’t want to leave you alone,” Donghyuck swallowed, holding Mark’s intense gaze. His heart thudded audibly against his ribcage. “I know you’re worried about Doyoung’s hyung so I wanted to be by your side.”

Mark didn’t say anything for a moment and Donghyuck started to get worried that he might say something wrong. Before he could say something, Mark suddenly pulled the car over to the sidewalk.

“Mark, what are you—“

Donghyuck gasped as Mark’s lips pressed against his, his hands holding his face gently. Donghyuck's first reaction was surprised, though it wasn't the first kiss they shared. He hesitated as Mark's mouth lips began to move. Mark touched his cheek and his feather-light touch made Donghyuck's skin tingled. He kissed him tenderly, adoringly, and at that moment Donghyuck forgot about everything. His body began to relax and he shoved his hands into Mark's hair and kissed him back. The deep, dangerous growl at the back of Mark's throat when Donghyuck accidentally pulled his hair a little tighter made shivers ran down Donghyuck's spine.

Donghyuck broke off their kiss first and sucked in a sharp breath. “What was that for, Mark?”

Mark didn't answer. Instead, he leaned forward to rest his forehead against Donghyuck's, his ragged breath beating warm against his face.  Donghyuck’s eyes fluttered closed as one of Mark’s hand glided down to the back of his neck and the other held him by the waist, keeping him in place.

“For driving me crazy,” A slightly foolish grin ghost over Mark's face as he brushed his lips over Donghyuck's again, savoring the trembling warmth of his mouth. “If you keep saying those things to me, I might not be able to control myself.”

“I was just being honest,” Donghyuck argued and he was briefly surprised at how breathless, how husky, his voice was.

“I like that,” Mark hummed, booping Donghyuck's nose twice, eliciting a breathless laugh from the latter. “I like it when you're being honest with me. Please always do that, pup. I'll always be honest with you, too.”

“Okay. Can you drive now? My eyes are heavy and I think some good sleep will help.”

Mark laughed and pressed another gentle kiss against Donghyuck's lips before he finally let go of his face.

“What a way to ruin our moment, pup.”

“I'm sleepy!”

“Alright, pup. We're going home now. You can sleep after we arrive. Is there any particular food you want to eat for dinner? I'll buy it for you.”

“No, no,” Donghyuck shook his head disapprovingly. “I'm going to cook for dinner.”

“Oh,” Mark looked surprised but he nodded. “Okay. Your wish is my command, your highness.”

“Shut up and drive, Mark.”

 


 

Mark led Donghyuck upstairs where his room was located. The last time Donghyuck there was when he and Mark discussed their school project. The memory seemed so vague and felt as if it happened a long time ago. It was when everything started. If Donghyuck didn't come to Mark's house that day, he honestly didn’t know how his life might be. It could be better and less complicated or the other way around. He could never predict the future. Now that he thought about it, he didn't regret everything. There were still doubts lingering at the back of his head but they always went away when he saw Mark's face. Even looking at the Brat Pack made his heart strangely at ease now.

When they finally reached the end of the hallway, Mark opened the door of his room and let Donghyuck entered first. Nothing had changed in Mark's room. It was exactly the same as the last time Donghyuck was there. The paintings, posters, and books were neatly arranged.

“Go and take a shower, pup. I'll leave my clothes for you on the bed. I'll take a shower downstairs. It won't take long. I'll go back here as soon as I finished.”

“Okay.”

Mark took a step forward and reached for Donghyuck, holding his face in his hand. He leaned forward to press his lips against his forehead.

“I'll call Kun hyung and tell him that you're here.”

“You sure?” Donghyuck asked, clearly hesitant. “You know Kun hyung will interrogate you, right?”

“That's why I need to be the one who calls him,” Mark said. “I will make sure he knows that you're going to be safe with me.”

“Okay, if that's what you want.”

Mark smiled and pressed another kiss on Donghyuck's forehead before urging him to go to the bathroom. He left his freshly washed hoodie and sweatpants on the bed for Donghyuck before going downstairs. He made a phone call to Kun first, explaining the situation. The latter surprisingly took the news very well, though he never forgot to remind Mark about Donghyuck's safety. He also asked Kun to prepare Donghyuck's uniform and bags for tomorrow because he would have his driver to pick the items up. After he ended the phone call, he quickly took a shower and it didn't take long for him to finish. When he's done, he went back to his room and found Donghyuck already curling up into a ball on his bed, looking like he belonged there.

Mark quietly closed the door. His heart swelled as he took in the sight of Donghyuck's peaceful face. He carefully slid inside the covers and lay behind Donghyuck. He pressed his body against Donghyuck’s back, wrapping his arms around his waist and tucking his head under his chin. He was being the big spoon.

Donghyuck let out a whine as he snuggled to the familiar warmth. “Mark?”

“I'm here, pup.”

Mark hummed, letting out a deep breath as he tightened his hold around Donghyuck. The latter's hair tickled his nose and when he took a whiff of it, his stomach flipped as he smelled his own shampoo. Donghyuck smelled like him and for some reasons it made his heart fluttered.

“I've set the alarm,” Donghyuck slurred and Mark had to surpass his laugh because his boyfriend sounded so cute. “We still can sleep for a few hours before dinner. Do you have anything on your fridge?”

“I don't think so. We can go to the supermarket and do grocery shopping. How about that?”

Donghyuck hummed. “Okay. That sounds good.”

“Alright. Now close your eyes and sleep, pup.”

Donghyuck placed his hands on top of Mark's that were wrapped around his stomach, their fingers intertwined and their legs entangled. Mark waited as Donghyuck's breath slowly became steady, indicating that the latter was already deep in his sleep. He stayed awake, his mind wandering. He suddenly thought about his life before Donghyuck and he could feel his heart ached in certain places. The void he felt and he associated with wasn't something new. He'd been dealing with it for his whole life. He never thought to fill the void and longing he felt but having Donghyuck in his arms right now, so real and alive, made his heart so full. He'd never felt like this before. So full, so free, so liberate. Nothing tied him up when he had Donghyuck in his arms. His sole attention was at Donghyuck alone and nothing else mattered.

But there was an unsettling feeling at the pit of his stomach, making him feel uneasy and anxious. He knew he had to always stay alert because deep down, he knew that things were bound to go down. He needed to be careful because he didn't know when his father would make a move. He made sure to always keep an eye on Donghyuck because he knew that dragging the latter into his complicated life, at some points, would put him in a dangerous situation. Mark had been preparing himself because when the time came, he would be ready to face it.

Mark tried to think if he ever fell in love the way he did with Donghyuck and the answer was obvious; never. He never loved someone the way he loved Donghyuck. He never so invested with someone before. Never noticed small things about someone like he did with Donghyuck. Being with Donghyuck made him discovered a lot of things about himself that he'd failed to notice. Perhaps people were right. Sometimes being in love with someone made you fell in love with yourself in the process. Mark liked to think that he was a constant type of person but after Donghyuck came into his life, he'd changed. He wasn't exactly the same as before but in a good way. Being with Donghyuck helped him grow as a person.

Mark knew that keeping Donghyuck by his side meant showing people his weakness. He didn't think he could admit it out loud but the thought of losing Donghyuck made him afraid—something he'd rarely felt. He knew that he would lose his mind if Donghyuck ever disappeared from his life. He wouldn’t be able to handle it.

Donghyuck let out a discomfort whine as Mark held him a little bit too tight, suffocating him. Mark broke out of his reverie and quickly loosened his grip. He let out a deep sigh and buried his face in Donghyuck's hair, finding solace and comfort he needed.

“I love you, pup,” Mark whispered, couldn’t bring himself to say it louder. He was brave enough to say it because he knew that Donghyuck couldn't hear him now. He wasn't ready to let the latter heard it. Right now, he just needed to get it out of his chest. “Please don't leave me. I love you so much.”

Feeling mentally and physically tired after a long day, Mark eventually fell asleep. That day he was able to sleep peacefully and dreamlessly because he had Donghyuck in his arms, safe and secure.

 


 

“Mark, can you please, please stop embarrassing me?” Donghyuck said through his gritted teeth, not wanting to make a scene. They were at the supermarket right now about to do grocery shopping. But the problem was when Donghyuck was pushing the cart, Mark suddenly came up behind him and wrapped his arms around his waist. He leeched on Donghyuck and he won't let him go no matter how hard Donghyuck had tried. People were looking at them; some smiling in amusement and some shook their heads disapprovingly. It made Donghyuck's face turned red in embarrassment.

“What did I do?”

Donghyuck hissed in annoyance. “Let me go, Mark.”

“Why are you always telling me to let you go? I would never, okay?”

“That’s not what I meant, you idiot,” Donghyuck tried to untie Mark’s hands around his stomach but his grip was very strong. He huffed, clearly pissed. “Stop hugging me!”

“No, I like holding you like this.” Mark tightened his hold, nuzzling his face in Donghyuck's hair. “You weren't complaining when I held you like this a few hours ago. You slept in my arms, remember?”  

“That's not the point. We're in public, idiot!”

“Oh?” Mark piped up, his voice teasing. “I see. So we can do anything as long as it's just the two of us?”

Donghyuck's cheeks heated up at the double-meaning behind those words and he knew that Mark could sense it too because the latter was laughing now. Donghyuck pressed his lips together. He won't give Mark the satisfaction by giving up.

“If you don't let me go, I will call Kun hyung and ask him to pick me up.”

“Hey, that's unfair!” Mark reluctantly let go of Donghyuck, pouting. “You know I can't win against him.”

Donghyuck narrowed his eyes at Mark, crossing his arms over his chest. “You wouldn't hesitate to fight Yuta hyung but afraid of Kun hyung?”

“Of course I am. He's like your parent,” Mark elaborated. “I wouldn't dare to cross him because I know it would hurt you if I did. I’d rather die than hurt you.”

Donghyuck didn't expect the serious answer and it caught him off guard. He could feel his heart fluttered and softened as he looked at Mark, feeling touched by his consideration. But he was embarrassed to admit it so he quickly masked his expression and rolled his eyes at him.

“Whatever, Mark,” he huffed. “Now let me shop in peace. Don't try to do something funny!”

“But I can do something funny once we're home, right?”

A hard slap on the shoulder was all Mark got from Donghyuck.

 


 

Mark did let Donghyuck shopping in peace after that. He silently moved from one aisle to another to grab the things Donghyuck asked. Mark didn't try to argue with Donghyuck either because he didn't want to get slapped on the face—Donghyuck was more than capable to do that.

Two hours later, they were back at Mark's house with six bags of groceries. Mark had never bought that much since he moved into his house but Donghyuck insisted to fill his fridge and cupboards with food supplies.

“You know I can only cook ramen, right? Order in is so much easier and practical,” Mark had argued and got a glare in return.

“Then I will cook for you.” Donghyuck answered and there was a finality in his voice—something Mark had never heard before so he didn't argue again.

Mark helped Donghyuck unpacked and he watched as the latter moved around his kitchen effortlessly as if it was his. It brought a smile on Mark's face. It still amazed him how in certain things, Donghyuck fit perfectly into his life.

After they were done arranging the groceries, Donghyuck proceeded to cook. Mark stood a few feet away from him, feeling simply content just by watching him. He'd seen him cooked before but seeing him in his kitchen, his personal space, hit differently. He was so overwhelmed with his own emotions and decided to approach Donghyuck. Instead of helping, he pressed his chest against his back and wrapped his arms around him. Donghyuck let out a surprised gasp, almost dropping his knife in the process.

“Mark, don't do that!”

“What? I told you I like holding you like this.”

“You startled me!” Donghyuck hissed. “What if I cut my fingers with this knife?”

“I'm sorry,” Mark sincerely said, pressing a gentle kiss on Donghyuck's exposed shoulder. “I won't do that again.”

Donghyuck let out a sigh and continued cooking. If he moved, Mark moved with him. He maneuvered around with Mark clinging on his back, never once letting go nor loosening his grip. Donghyuck didn't even know how Mark managed to do that but he surprisingly didn't mind with that.

“Have you ever thought that your house is too big for you?” Donghyuck asked after a moment of silence.

“Sometimes,” Mark admitted. “I do feel lonely sometimes and when I do, I always go to Jaehyun hyung and Taeyong hyung. I will sleep at their house for a few days until I want to go back to mine. But, believe it or not, I often crash at Yuta hyung's place.”

“Oh, really?” Donghyuck sounded genuinely surprised. “I didn't expect that.”

“He likes to bully me when we're with the boys but I know that he's very protective of me and others as well. He's such a sweet and caring person but not so good with words. He shows his love with his actions.”

“I can see that,” Donghyuck hummed, feeling totally relaxed and at ease in Mark's arms. He didn't hesitate to lean on him as he waited for the beef to be ready. “He's the one who brings Doyoung hyung home.”

“Yeah.”

Donghyuck brought one of his hands to Mark's biceps, squeezing it gently.

“Don't worry too much. Doyoung hyung is going to be okay,” he reassured. “He has you and the boys. He is strong and tough. I believe he can get through this.”

“I know,” Mark buried his face in Donghyuck's neck, inhaling deeply. “Once the news is out there would be chaos in school. I swear to God I will end everyone who dares to say shits to him.”

Donghyuck tightened his hold as he felt Mark's body trembling. “Let's not get physical, okay? I'm pretty sure no one in school dares to cross you and the boys. They know the consequences.”

“They better be. You've seen me and the other boys go into rage but you've never seen Johnny hyung, right? If Johnny hyung decided to step up, no one could stop him.”

Donghyuck could feel shivers ran down his spines. For some seasons, imagining someone as calm and collected as Johnny lost his control was scarier than seeing Yuta's burning rage. He remembered how Johnny snapped at Mina before and it was enough to prove Mark's points.

“Have that ever happened before?”

“Yes,” Mark confirmed. “One of Ten hyung’s friends once sabotaged the fashion show he worked so hard for. Ten hyung was devastated because no one came to the event. Johnny hyung knew this and took the matter into his hand. She ended up losing all of his high-class boutiques in the States. It cost her billions and she never forgives Johnny hyung for it. Not that he cares anyway.”

Donghyuck's jaw fell in shock, gaping. “That bad?”

Mark chuckled in amusement.

“Yes, that bad. It could be a lot worse than that. The point is, you don't mess with Johnny hyung.”

“The point is, you don't mess with the Brat Pack.” Donghyuck retorted and Mark broke into a fit of laughter.

“That's another way to put it but okay. Point taken.”

Donghyuck rolled his eyes though Mark couldn't see it. “You just don't want to say that to me because it would make you and the Brat Pack sound dangerous.”

“We are dangerous,” Mark's tone dropped and he sounded serious now. The way his lips ghosting over Donghyuck's ear sent shivers down his spine. Donghyuck tensed when one of Mark's hand circled his throat, his fingers tracing his skin there. Meanwhile the other slipped under Donghyuck’s hoodie and the latter's breath caught in his throat when Mark's fingers touched his skin, sending a burning sensation all over him.

“M-Mark…” Donghyuck was out of breath now. He didn't know what to say. Suddenly he was hyper-aware of their proximity and how Mark's body lined up perfectly against his.

“You know we are dangerous, baby,” Mark pressed feather-light kisses along Donghyuck's jaw and the latter had to grip the counter to balance himself. Donghyuck could feel Mark's smile on his skin and he tried to push him, only for Mark to press his palm over his stomach. Donghyuck bit his lower lips, trying to surpass whatever sounded that about to escape his lips. Mark's demeanor had changed completely. His presence was intimidating enough to make Donghyuck trembling.

“You're not,” Donghyuck managed to say, his head tilting up as Mark held his jaw.

“I could hurt you.”

“Yes, but you wouldn't,” Donghyuck’s voice was gentle but firm. He was compliant in Mark's arms. His lips slightly parted as Mark’s hand caressed his bare skin under the hoodie. It felt strangely comforting.

“How do you know that, baby?”

“Y-you like me. You like me enough not to hurt me,” Donghyuck let out a gasp when Mark's teeth grazed his jaw, sending tingles all over him—it was something he'd never felt before and he could feel his body burning in flames. “I believe in you and the boys.”

“No one's going to hurt you because I won't let that happen. If someone ever tried to do that, I'll make them pay for what they do and make sure that they'll regret their life for messing with me.”

Mark's voice rumbled deep in his throat. Donghyuck's knees almost buckled because he knew that the threat was real. He didn't doubt that Mark would go to a certain extent when people tried to hurt those he treasured and loved.

Mark's touch and kisses were getting bold and it overwhelmed Donghyuck so he tried to think of a way to escape.

“The food,” he reasoned. “It's done. We can eat now.”

“Oh, but I have a better idea, baby.”

Donghyuck didn't get to ask because Mark suddenly let him go only to spin him around and then the latter effortlessly lifted him onto the counter. Mark spread Donghyuck's thighs to make room for himself, grabbing him by the waist. Donghyuck didn’t have enough time to catch his breath when Mark suddenly bent and captured his mouth with his. At first, his lips brushing over Donghyuck's carefully, tenderly, pulling him firmly against him until the latter finally gave in, kissing him back. It felt as if something just snapped inside Mark and the next thing Donghyuck knew, Mark was pouring all his hunger into the kiss. Donghyuck groaned as he slipped his fingers into Mark's hair, pulling the strands harder. Mark let out an animalistic sound at the back of his throat and it sounded like a warning. Donghyuck instantly forgot how to breath as Mark's mouth devoured his, his tongue thrusting into his mouth. His entire body shuddered, melting against him. This wasn't the kind of kiss they've shared before. This was raw, passionate, and weakening. Donghyuck lost his ability to think as Mark's hands sliding down to cup his bottom, squeezing them gently.

Donghyuck threw his head back, breaking the kiss. A ragged sound escaped him. “M-Mark…”

Mark hummed and he sounded so content. Donghyuck wanted to see his face, to see how he looked like but he felt so wrecked and his eyes were tightly closed, his lips parting slightly to inhale.

One of Mark's hands held the back of his head and then his mouth came back to Donghyuck's, gentle and soft now. He nibbled at his lower lip, suckled it, then soothed it with a stroke of his tongue. Donghyuck wasn't sure he could move. What was happening?

“Baby,” Mark whispered and his smile could be heard in his husky voice. “You're so beautiful.”

Lowering his head, Mark nuzzled his face in Donghyuck's neck, his hot breath against his skin. He tugged him just a little bit closer, though there was practically no space between them. A shiver moved through Donghyuck, followed by a warm heat in his lower belly. Mark hummed a soft, pleasant sound. His voice was smooth, with a rasp that made Donghyuck's stomach flutter. One of his hands slid inside his hoodie again and pressed flat to his stomach, drawing small circles that made his body trembled. Donghyuck's senses were overloaded by Mark's scent and the heat of his body, the feel of his hand on his bare skin and his bottom.

As if it wasn’t enough of a torture, Mark gently licked and kissed his neck, swirling his tongue around his pulse, giving it gentle bites. Feeling Donghyuck's legs tremble, he held him tighter to him.

“Mine,” Mark purred and he began to suck on his bite mark, eliciting a shy moan from the latter. Donghyuck arched against him, pressing their chest together.

Mark bite his skin harder and Donghyuck didn't know how long the latter had been marking his skin. When he felt as if he was floating, Mark finally stopped and lifted his head away from his neck. Donghyuck opened his eyes to see him and instantly shuddered as he saw the way his eyes had darkened and his expression was completely absorbed in him. Everything he saw on his face stunned him. Mark looked stunned, too, and awed. As if he couldn't believe this was happening any more than Donghyuck could. As if he'd never in his life wanted anything more. With his free hand, he caressed Donghyuck's cheek, and the latter felt him tremble.

“You okay, pup?”

Donghyuck blinked, still in a dazed. But he managed to nod. “Yes, yes. I’m okay.”

Mark’s lips curved into a crooked smile, light and easy. His finger brushed lightly against Donghyuck’s swollen lips and he looked somehow satisfied as he took in the sight of the latter.

“Let’s eat?”

Donghyuck’s nose scrunched up and now he was glaring at Mark. How could his boyfriend look so calm and collected as if they just didn’t have a full blown make-out session? Donghyuck couldn’t even feel his legs.

Donghyuck’s face reddened and Mark easily caught his thoughts.

“Don’t be shy, pup.”

Donghyuck hissed. “Shut up, Mark.”  

Mark looked apologetic now. He brushed Donghyuck's bangs away from his eyes, smiling so big and wide it made him looked so out of character but Donghyuck liked it. He then leaned forward to boop Donghyuck’s nose and gave him a light peck on the lips.

“You’re amazing, pup. Now let me help you down.”

 


 

Long after the dinner had finished, Mark and Donghyuck decided to watch a movie. They watched Before Sunrise—Donghyuck's choice. They were cuddling on the couch and Mark was being the big spoon again. After half an hour into it, Donghyuck decided to strike a conversation.

“How's Jisungie and your mom?”

The topic of Mark's family hadn't been brought up for a while. Donghyuck never heard Mark talked about his mother again though the latter still brought Jisung to his house from time to time.

“They're good,” Mark said, absentmindedly playing with Donghyuck's fingers and brushing his knuckles gently. “I want to visit them again because it's been a while since I came there. Do you want to come with me? Mom has been bugging me about you.”

“Your mom knows me?” Donghyuck couldn't help the gasp of surprise that left his lips. He twisted in Mark's arms and turned his body to fully face him. “You told her about me?”

Mark smiled, clearly amused. “Of course. Jisung started it, though. He's the one who told my mom first. Then she asked me about you. If you want to blame someone, then blame Jisung.”

Donghyuck pouted.

“I wasn't going to blame anyone.”

Mark laughed, his shoulders twitched and his voice rumbled in his throat. He sounded genuinely entertained by Donghyuck and the latter couldn't help but stare. He'd caught him in that kind of state before but somehow it still felt new for him. He liked this Mark the best; unguarded, relaxed, and completely at ease.

“So, you want to come with me?”

“If you want me to come with you, I will.”

“Of course,” Mark smiled, pulling Donghyuck closer by the waist. “We can go there next week with Chenle. My baby brother can't stop talking about your baby brother.”

It was Donghyuck's turn to laugh.

“They adore each other,” he said. “I never said this to Jisung but I'm so thankful to him. After we moved to Seoul, Lele wasn't as cheerful as he used to be. But then he met Jisung and he was slowly back to be himself again. My heart is at ease knowing that my brother isn't alone.”

Mark caught Donghyuck's jaw and lifted it so they could see each other in the eye. He smiled, tender and promising, and for some reasons Donghyuck didn't feel so lonely and alone anymore.

“Pup, I’ll always be there for you and Chenle. I promise you. You have me and the boys now. You’re not alone. Always remember that, okay?”

Donghyuck wasn't the type of person to open up easily. He'd rather keep all his feelings to himself. He didn't always share his problems because he'd always think that he had it all together. He didn't want to burden people and tried to handle everything by himself. It was hard at first but when he met Kun, he felt reassured to know that he had a companion. And then the Brat Pack came into the picture and his life became more colorful.

Maybe, just maybe, now he had someone to lean on when everything was too much.

“Okay,” Donghyuck whispered, choked by his emotions. “I will remember that.”

“I know you would think it's too soon but I've been thinking about it lately.”

“What is it?”

“You and Chenle can move in together with me after we graduate. Before you say something against it, it's just a suggestion. We still have one year to go in high school.”

Donghyuck narrowed his eyes, staring at Mark suspiciously. The latter stared back at him, feigning an innocent look.

“You mean you still have one year to convince me to live with you.”

Mark shrugged his shoulders, unfazed.

“There's no point of denying it when you can easily see through me,” Mark grinned. “But it's more practical if you live with me.”

“I know you're rich but I don't go out with you because of your money.”

“I know,” Mark smiled, not offended with the harsh tone. “I'm not going to stop you from whatever you want to do. It's your life, Donghyuck. But I want you to know that I'm here if you ever need something or someone.”

Donghyuck didn't say anything and he refused to look at Mark now. Mark sighed, knowing perfectly that his boyfriend was upset. He gently tipped Donghyuck's jaw again and silently sighed in relief when the latter didn't flinch from his touch.

“Hey, don't be upset, pup,” he coaxed gently. “I want you and Chenle to live with me not because of pity, okay? I just want to see you every day. It would put me at ease if I can be close to you. Again, it's your life. The decision is yours. But I want you to know this. You're a very strong person, Donghyuck. Not everyone can be as strong, tough, and independent as you after everything you've been through. You're doing so well. You're an amazing brother to Chenle. I'm sure your parents would be proud to see how you turned out to be.”

Donghyuck's eyes welled up with tears but he tried to push them back. He lunged forward and buried his face in Mark's neck to hide it though the latter had already seen it.

Mark tightened his hold around him. He held Donghyuck as if he didn't want to let go. “Don't think about it, okay? As I said, it's just a suggestion.”

It took Donghyuck some moments to collect himself. When he was finally okay, he let out a grumble.

“Why are you so confident that we're going to last long? A lot of couples break up before they graduate in high school.”

“Well, those couples are not us. Of course they don't last long.”

“Still doesn't answer my question.”

Mark let out a chuckle. “I will make sure that we will last long, okay? We will graduate from high school, go to university, get our degree and have a stable job. After that, we're going to get married and adopt twins.”

“Now that sounds delusional.”

“Hey, a man can dream, you know!”

Donghyuck laughed and Mark laughed with him.

They laughed together, the sound of it resonated in the room, breaking the tensed atmosphere before. After their laughter died down, Mark rocked Donghyuck in his arms while humming soft tones.

“I'm not a baby, you know. I don't need you to sing me to sleep.”

“You are my baby,” Mark squeezed Donghyuck, patting his bottom gently and earning a squeak from the latter. “My cute, adorable baby.”

Donghyuck made a disgruntled sound. “You're so gross.”

“Grossly in love with you.”

Donghyuck groaned loudly but he couldn't help the blush that crept up his face. Mark really had his way with words.

“Shut up, Mark.”

Mark relented and stopped his teasing. He then cradled the back of Doghyuck's head and angling his face just right and started to shower him with small kisses. Donghyuck yelped, trying to get free but Mark's hold around him was so tight, almost suffocating.

“Mark, stop! Stop! I yield!”

Mark finally let go of Donghyuck, laughing when his boyfriend glared at him.

“You're so cute.”

“I know.”

Mark raised one of his eyebrows, smirking. “Oh? Confident now, aren't you?”

“Shut up. Now stop bothering me and let me watch the movie in peace.”

They continued to snuggle against each other after that. As Donghyuck stared at the huge screen, his mind started to wander. He couldn't help but think of what Mark said. It sounded tempting and convincing but he knew better than that. Life wasn't a fairy tale and all rainbow. Sometimes he wished life was easy and that happiness was something he could achieve easily. Unfortunately, it wasn't the case and he had to deal it the hard way. But right now, he would enjoy and treasure what he had.

That night, they slept in each other's arms, hearts securely intertwined.

Chapter Text


 

Mark woke up to an empty bed and he didn't remember feeling so cold last night when he fell asleep. He slowly opened his eyes but closed them again at the bright sunlight that streaming through the windows. He'd never opened his curtains in the morning. For a few moments, he lay in bed, blinking rapidly to adjust his blurry vision. He was still slightly in a daze and disoriented when he realized a missing presence on his bed. Donghyuck wasn't there and that explained the opened curtains and the cold, empty bed.

Sliding out of the bed, Mark looked at the clock on the wall. It was still six in the morning and the school started at eight. There was no sound coming from the bathroom so that meant Donghyuck wasn't there. Mark decided to go downstairs. If Donghyuck wasn't in his room, then there was only one place the latter might be.

Mark heard Donghyuck first before he saw him. The latter was humming soft tunes under his breath while chopping down the vegetables. Mark stopped a few feet away from him, leaning against the wall with both hands crossed over his chest. A foolish grin spreading on his face as he watched Donghyuck in his kitchen wearing his oversized hoodie. It was a very domestic sight, one that Mark thought he would never experience, and it made his heart skipped a beat. He liked having him around, so close to him to see. He wished he could always have him by his side because he wouldn't know what to do if he ever lost him.

“How long have you been there, weirdo?”

Mark broke out of his reverie as he heard Donghyuck talking to him. He blinked and found the latter was looking at him with a suspicious look on his face. The breakfast was ready on the table. It was full of home-cooked meals Mark only got to eat when Taeyong and Doyoung cooked for him. Instead of answering, Mark silently walked toward Donghyuck. Before the latter could sit, Mark pulled him against him. He buried his face in Donghyuck's neck, pressing his nose against his clavicle as his hands wrapped around his waist. Donghyuck's body went pliant as he wrapped his arms around his neck, chuckling when Mark tightened his hold as if he didn’t want to let go. 

“You weren't on bed when I woke up.” 

“Good morning to you, too, Mr. Grumpy,” Donghyuck smiled, running his fingers into Mark's hair. “I had to make breakfast that's why I woke up first.”

“I missed you.” 

Donghyuck let out a groan but both of them knew he wasn't annoyed for real. “You trapped me in your arms the whole night and we were together for hours but you still missed me?” 

“It's not enough,” Mark parted his lips and left open-mouthed kisses on Donghyuck's golden skin and the latter instinctively tipped his head back to give him more space. Mark hummed happily as he started to mark Donghyuck again. One particular harsh bite had Donghyuck gasped in surprise and he instinctively tightened his hold around Mark’s neck, his ears buzzing as the familiar warmth moved through him.

“Mark, stop—“ Donghyuck tried to push Mark away but the latter didn’t budge an inch. Instead of listening to his plea, Mark scraped his teeth against the same spot he bit earlier and then proceed to run his tongue over the abused skin, making Donghyuck shudder with revulsion.

Donghyuck’s body flushed from head to toe as realization slowly sunk into him.

“You left marks, you idiot!”

Mark let out a yelp as Donghyuck dug his nails into his shoulders, painful enough to make him let his boyfriend go. Donghyuck looked down and his cheeks flushed as he looked the marks on his skin; it’s red, almost purplish. He looked up again and glared at Mark but the latter wasn’t staring at him. Mark was staring at Donghyuck’s exposed clavicle, his signature smile slowly spreading across his face. 

“Stop smiling, you creep.”

“You look good with my marks on you.”

Donghyuck rolled his eyes as he pulled his shirt up to cover the red marks. “I should never forget that you’re such a territorial asshole.”

“I am,” Mark admitted shamelessly, his voice dropped and there was a glint in his eyes that never failed to make shivers ran down Donghyuck’s spine. He was no longer smiling or playful. Mark was being serious right now.

“I don’t like it when people try to take away what’s mine,” he continued as he took a step forward, invading Donghyuck’s personal space. They were only a breath away, so close that their nose almost touched. Mark’s eyes softened as he looked at Donghyuck, a small smile broke across his face. He held Donghyuck’s jaw, his touch was feather-light, and then he leaned down to kiss the tip of his nose.

“Thank you for staying with me, pup,” he said, his voice gentle. “I really appreciate it. I’m so happy because you’re here with me.”

Donghyuck blinked at him but a soft smile slowly spreading across his face. “I’m happy, too.”

“Thank you for cooking for me. I love your food the most but don’t tell Doyoung hyung and Taeyong hyung, please.”   

Donghyuck laughed and without saying anything else, he leaned forward to kiss Mark on the lips, catching the latter off guard. Before Mark could react, Donghyuck had already pulled away with a cheeky grin on his lips.

“You—“ Mark stopped and he looked stunned as he blinked back at Donghyuck. He didn’t expect the sudden attack at all.  

“Me what?” Donghyuck prompted teasingly. Mark narrowed his eyes at him. 

“Come here, you sneaky little puppy.”

Before Donghyuck could escape, Mark already caught him and lifted him onto the counter. They spent the morning kissing, and kissing some more because they couldn’t get enough of each other. Their laughter and giggle built and echoed in the room.

 


 

It wasn’t until later that Donghyuck realized that it would be the very first time he and Mark came to the school together after everything that happened the past few weeks. They almost reached the school and Donghyuck didn’t have enough time to panic. It wasn’t like he’d never done this before but for some reason, he was still feeling a little nervous and anxious. The news about Doyoung’s father was everywhere and people were talking about it. Mark and Donghyuck had watched the news on the television this morning. Mark seemed unfazed meanwhile Donghyuck was having a hard time swallowing his food as he looked at Doyoung father’s face on the screen. All he could think about was Doyoung and how the latter might feel seeing his father being scouted to the police station. If he were to experience the same, he didn’t think he could handle it.

Mark could easily sense his distress and when he reached out for Donghyuck’s hand, the latter didn’t hesitate to take it and intertwined their fingers. He brought his hand to his lips and pressed a tender kiss on his knuckles.

“You okay, pup?”

Donghyuck nodded. “Yes. Just thinking about Doyoung hyung. I hope he’s okay right now.”

“Don’t worry,” Mark pressed another kiss on Donghyuck’s hand. “He’s coming with us today. His brother didn’t want him to go but Doyoung hyung won’t let people think that he’s a coward by hiding. He didn’t do anything wrong and he has nothing to be afraid of.”

“You’re right,” Donghyuck agreed, feeling relief washed over him as his shoulders deflated. “You and the boys will be there for him, right?”

“Of course,” Mark smiled but his tone was firm. “We never leave each other behind.”

It didn’t take long for them to arrive at school. Mark drove past the gate and people automatically stepped aside to make way for him. Donghyuck just realized that the Brat Pack was right behind them when he heard a distinct roar of Johnny’s motorcycle. All of them coming together like they always did.     

Johnny hopped off his motorcycle first and wrapped his hand around Ten’s waist, helping his boyfriend off of it with ease. Ten kissed Johnny on the lips as gratitude. They shared a smile that was only reserved for each other—their connection never failed to make people jealous. Jaehyun and Taeyong joined them after that. Jaehyun looked more stoic and cold than he’s ever been. He wordlessly pulled Taeyong by the waist, keeping him as close as he could. Taeyong didn’t smile like he usually did, his jaw pressed into a grim line. A moment later, Yuta and Doyoung slid out of their car almost at the same time. Yuta jogged over Doyoung and slung his arm around his shoulder, pulling his friend close against him. Doyoung didn’t say anything as Yuta dragged him to join the others.

Mark turned off the engine and turned to Donghyuck, giving him a comforting smile. “Ready?”

Donghyuck nodded and he was about to move when Mark held his wrist. He turned to the latter, rising one of his eyebrows in question. Mark leaned forward, slowly, in case Donghyuck refused his kiss at the last second, but the latter took a deep breath and let it out, almost like he was girding himself for battle. Then Donghyuck met Mark halfway, his lips pressing against his tenderly. Mark smiled into the kiss, pulling Donghyuck closer by the waist. He deepened the kiss, his tongue exploring the seam of his lips with obvious intent. Donghyuck tasted like a new dawn, the sweetness of honey dripping warm in the sun...his sun. Donghyuck's hands came up to Mark's shoulders, grabbing hard, his fingernails digging into the fabric of his school blazer. He was pretty sure that Mark would’ve kissed him some more had it not been for the sudden phone call that successfully breaking the kiss. 

Mark made a sound at the back of his throat as he pulled away from Donghyuck. It was as if it physically hurt to do that. He groaned as he took his phone out of pocket. Upon looking at the id-caller, he tsked loudly.

“Who is it?” Donghyuck asked, breathless.

“Yuta hyung,” came Mark’s curt reply, clearly annoyed as he pinched the bridge of his nose and declined the call. “He’s annoying.”

Donghyuck’s face flushed in embarrassment as he looked out of the windows and found all of the Brat Pack members were looking at them, clearly amused with that they’ve witnessed. Yuta locked eyes with Donghyuck’s through the windshield, wiggling his eyebrows playfully. The latter groaned and buried his face in Mark’s shoulders. He couldn’t believe they saw them making out in the car. Now it sounded scandalous that it should be.

Mark laughed, easy and happy as he patted Donghyuck’s hair gently. “Don’t be shy, pup.”

“Shut up, Mark,” Donghyuck pinched Mark’s stomach, making the latter yelped in surprise. “Now we’re not going to hear the end of it. Yuta hyung won’t let us live.”

Mark patted his back gently, pressing small kisses on his hair.

“I’ll deal with him later, pup. We need to get out right now. The others are waiting.”

Donghyuck let out a disgruntled sound as he straightened his back. He blamed himself for losing control whenever he looked at Mark’s deep, alluring gaze. He couldn’t think of anything or anyone whenever he looked at the latter. But right now, he had to swallow his pride and get out of the car. There was a problem they needed to face. 

 


 

Mark slipped his fingers into Donghyuck’s, walking hand in hand toward the Brat Pack. The tension was more visible now that Donghyuck could see them in close space but Yuta’s playful whistle eased the tensed atmosphere a little. Taeyong and Ten smiled at their intertwined hands, visibly amused with Donghyuck’s flushed face. Donghyuck was so busy preparing himself for the teasing that he didn’t pay attention to the crowd around them.

“What a show, lovebirds,” Yuta teased, his eyes dancing with mirth and his lips curving upward into a smirk. “I didn’t know that you two are already that far.” 

“The windows aren’t as thick as you think, you know,” Doyoung added, rolling his eyes at the pair. 

Donghyuck let out a groan. “Oh god, this is embarrassing.”

“Chill, Donghyuck,” Ten waved his hand in dismissal. “We get it. You guys are a teenager.”

“Yeah, don’t worry. We’ve seen worse from these couples.” Yuta added, gesturing to the other couples in the group. Taeyong and Jaehyun threw a glare at Yuta meanwhile Johnny and Ten chuckled, not offended in the slightest.

“Stop teasing my boyfriend, okay?” Mark stepped up, pulled Donghyuck closer to him. “Only I can do that.”

“You’re not helping at all.” Donghyuck deadpanned. Mark just smiled and leaned down to press a gentle kiss on his hair.

Donghyuck almost forgot what happened because everyone acted like usual as if nothing happened. If he didn’t know them personally, he would’ve thought that they were just being their usual self. But he noticed the way their shoulders tensed, looking more stiff and alert. It was a reminder of what was happening and what might come. 

“Come on, boys,” Taeyong said. “Let’s go to class.”

Before they could make a move, suddenly there was a commotion and there was this swarm of people pointing their cameras all around. Donghyuck certainly did not expect to see paparazzi in the school because as far as he knew, it was against the school’s policy. But it seemed like the Brat Pack had already predicted their arrival because before they could get close to them, they moved simultaneously to form a formation. Johnny, Jaehyun, and Yuta stood in the front, effectively blocking the view. Taeyong and Ten stood on Doyoung’s either side, standing close enough to protect him but not too close to suffocating him. Donghyuck who wasn’t ready with the sudden movement let out a gasp of surprise as Mark pulled him to the back, right behind Doyoung.

There were at least more than twenty people, crowding around the Brat Pack. They started talking at the same time, trying to get to Doyoung who stood in the middle of the formation. The constant camera flashes were giving Donghyuck a headache so he pressed himself closer to Mark. When he looked up, Mark was no longer smiling. His jaw locked and his lips pressed into a taut line, unimpressed with the situation but his hand squeezed Donghyuck’s gently, comforting and reassuring.

“Stop,” one word from Johnny and it was low but it was the single most menacing thing Donghyuck ever heard from the latter, and chills ran through his spines. He’d never seen this side of Johnny and the way those paparazzi instantly stopped trying to get closer was enough to prove that it held the same effect for them.

Yuta, Johnny, and Jaehyun were tall but now that the three of them standing in the front as a shield, it made them look different. They exuded Alpha pheromone, more powerful and dangerous. They were composed and collected but no one knew what they had up their sleeves. One wrong move and they wouldn’t hesitate to attack.

“Press isn’t allowed here,” Yuta hissed, his tone wasn’t as playful and easy as before. Donghyuck couldn’t see his face but he could imagine the way Yuta’s face turned into a scowl. He was no longer nice and friendly when someone pissed him off. “It’s against the school’s privacy.”

They ignored Yuta’s remark and started asking questions again but smart enough not to move closer.

“That’s enough,” Jaehyun said, his voice held absolute authority and command. Some of the paparazzi flinching under his sharp gaze.“Leave before I sue all of you for invading the student’s policy.”

“We just want to ask some question to Doyoung-ssi!” one of the paparazzi yelled. And then another added, “Doyoung-ssi, is it true that your father is involved—” 

Johnny snarled even more ferociously, harshly, not letting the man finished his sentence. Donghyuck jumped a little, startled, but Mark was quick to wrap his arm around his waist. He didn't say anything but his touch was enough to ease him.

“Leave him alone. You won’t get anything from him. Touch him and I’ll make each one of you know how it feels like to deal with Seo family and I promise you it would be like hell. Now, move. You’re blocking my way.”

The paparazzi seemed at a loss of words, their jaws dropping and they were visibly trembling. It wasn’t an empty threat and they were aware of that. They stopped taking pictures and reluctantly made way as the Brat Pack moved forward, leaving them behind. They would be a fool to cross them because the Brat Pack was more than capable to destroy someone’s life. 

None of the Brat Pack looked back, walking to the hallway with their heads up and determined steps. They were still the young, rich kids you couldn't quite keep straight. They were still what kinds wanted to see and what kids wanted to be. The bottom line was; no one messed with them.

 


 

Donghyuck didn’t know if he should be happy or not that he had PE class today. He was happy because he could be with his friends but not so happy at the same time because it seemed like everyone tried to make him a target during the soccer game. He’d lost count of how many times his classmates accidentally kicked the ball at his way, even when he was sitting quietly on the bleachers. Jaemin and Renjun who had done playing went to Donghyuck, their faces red from anger. They were clearly fuming.

“Those fuckers are so dead if Mark found out about this,” Jaemin cussed under his breath, startling Donghyuck who never heard the latter cussed. Come to think of it again, he’d never seen Jaemin this angry before. His friend had been trying to block other players who tried to kick the ball at him. Someone successfully threw the ball and hit Donghyuck’s leg. Jaemin looked like he was ready to chew someone’s head out and almost got physical if it weren’t for Jeno who immediately calmed him down. It was amazing how one gentle touch and coaxing smile from Jeno were enough to ease Jaemin.

“Those idiots don’t even let you play!” Renjun grumbled, gulping his water down with a loud noise. He’d pushed one of the players who kicked the ball at Donghyuck’s way but thankfully the latter managed to dodge it. He got kicked out of the field after that but Lucas cheered proudly for his boyfriend while giving him flying kisses.

“I’m sorry you guys had to stop playing because of me.”

“It’s better for me to get out of the field before I snap someone’s neck in half,” Renjun said so lightly but Donghyuck knew that the latter was dead serious. Renjun smiled to Lucas who was still playing as the goalkeeper before turning to Donghyuck again, his lips pressing into a grim line. “I’m not close with Mark nor I wanted to get close to him but I’m tempted to tell him about this.”

“No need to,” Donghyuck shook his head, waving his hand in dismissal. “He doesn’t need to know about everything.”

“Yeah, and how are you going to explain that red mark in your cheek?”

Jaemin pointed his left cheek and Donghyuck winced as he touched it. Earlier he was the first one to arrive on the field and he was about to walk to the bleachers, waiting for his friends, when someone kicked the ball right at his face even before the game began. His friends were so close to losing their control but the teacher had blown the whistle, indicating that the game had started. They couldn’t do anything about it and reluctantly left Donghyuck who didn’t get a chance to play.

“Is it really obvious?”

Renjun rolled his eyes. “As bright as the sunlight.”

Donghyuck let out a groan.

“It does sting a lot but I didn’t think it would leave a mark.”

Jaemin held Donghyuck’s face in his hands gently, inspecting the mark. He frowned, his lips pursing into a slight pout.

“We need to go to the infirmary room. We need an ice pack to reduce the swelling.”

“Nana—“

“Na Jaemin, get your hands off of him right now.”

Donghyuck jumped a little on his seat, startled with the familiar voice. There was a dangerous tone in Mark’s voice and it was visible enough for Jaemin to immediately pull his hands away from Donghyuck’s face. The latter looked past Donghyuck’s shoulders, the corner of his lips twitching. Donghyuck just remembered that, despite knowing each other since babies, Mark and Jaemin weren’t exactly friendly in public. But he didn’t have enough time to think about that because Mark was here when the latter wasn’t supposed to. His boyfriend told him that he was going to meet him during lunch. Now how was he going to hide his swollen cheek? Jaemin was right. Mark wouldn’t take it well if he ever saw his bruised face.

Donghyuck heard Mark’s footsteps approaching and his widened in panic. He gripped Jaemin’s thighs, asking for help but his friend was holding Mark’s gaze. It was as if they were talking with each other through their eyes.

“You came just on time,” Jaemin said and Donghyuck tried so hard not to groan. His friend was going to tell Mark and that was for sure. Donghyuck tugged at Jaemin’s uniform, trying to stop him but his friend didn’t bug at all.

This wasn’t going to end well.

“Yeah, I came just in time to take my boyfriend from you.”

Jaemin rolled his eyes. “I’m your boyfriend’s best friend, you possessive assshole.”

“Whatever,” Mark retorted. “Donghyuck, why you didn’t turn around?”

Donghyuck was struggling to say something but before he could, Jaemin beat him to it.

“Someone kicked the ball at Donghyuck’s face and now his cheek is swollen.”

What?

A dangerous growl that rumbled in Mark’s throat sent a shiver through Donghyuck. Before he could react, Mark was already on his side. He let out a gasp when Mark grabbed him by his shoulders, turning him carefully to face him. Mark knelt before him, cupping his face in his hands ever so gently as if afraid he would hurt him. His fingers accidentally brushed Donghyuck’s bruised cheek where it stung and it made the latter winced in pain.

Mark’s eyes darkened as he stared at Donghyuck’s cheek.

“Who did this?” he asked, his voice calm and steady but Donghyuck could sense danger underneath it. It was definitely not a good sight. “Pup, who kicked the ball at your face?”

“I don’t know,” Donghyuck said, and it was the truth. He didn’t know the name of his classmate who kicked the ball at him but he remembered his jersey number. He just didn’t want to tell Mark because he knew it wouldn’t end pretty.

Mark’s lips twitched, his frown deepened as he turned to Jaemin.

“Jaemin, who is it?”

“Number 17,” Jaemin answered without hesitation. Donghyuck couldn’t help the groan that left his lips. It was over now.

“Some tried to aim the ball at Donghyuck during the game,” Renjun who had been silent finally told Mark. “Number 23, 45, and 65.”

“Injunie, don’t tell him everything!”

Renjun shrugged his shoulders. “They tried to hurt you, Donghyuck. I can’t just sit still.”

“Oh, so you knew?” Mark taunted, turning to Donghyuck again. His lips twitched, clearly pissed. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

Donghyuck gave Mark a look. “You know why.”

“You know I won’t sit still either way,” Mark said, his fingers brushing against Donghyuck’s other cheek gently. “If Jaemin and Renjun didn’t tell me, then I would blame everyone on the field except Jeno and Lucas. All of them would be the receiving end of my wrath. That would be a lot worse, right?”

Donghyuck glared at him.

“Violence won’t solve anything.”

“Who said I would beat them physically?” Mark sounded amuse now but before Donghyuck could say something, he turned to Jaemin again. “Since you’re my boyfriend’s best friend, why don’t you go and have fun with them?”

Donghyuck blinked confusedly as he watched the way Jaemin’s eyes glint with mirth—it was playful but Donghyuck could sense something different. Something threatening, something he’d never seen from Jaemin before.

“I want to do it my way then.”

Mark rolled his eyes. “Whatever, Jaemin. Call me when you’re done, okay?”

“What is going on?” Donghyuck looked back and forth between Jaemin and Mark, dumbfounded. “Nana, what are you going to do with them?”

“Pup, now it’s not the time for that. We need to take care of your cheek. Let’s get out of here.”

 


 

Mark led a sulking Donghyuck inside the infirmary room. It was empty and Mark locked the door to make sure that no one could bother them. He caught his boyfriend by the waist and hauled him up into a sitting position on the bed, surprisingly the latter with the sudden movement.

“Wait here, pup. Let me get the ice pack.”

“As if I could go anywhere.” Donghyuck grumbled, his leg kicking the air. Mark let out a small chuckle as he pushed Donghyuck’s hair back and left a gentle kiss on his forehead. Donghyuck couldn’t help but melt under his soft gaze.

“That’s right. You can go anywhere so be a good boy and let me take care of you.”

Mark left to get an ice pack across the room. Donghyuck watched him rummaged through the small refrigerator and decided to ask the things that had been bugging him.

“What was that?” he asked. “The thing you did with Nana. I thought you guys weren’t close.”

“It’s just how things are between us,” Mark explained after he came back to Donghyuck. He spread his thighs and made a room for himself. He gently pressed the ice pack against Donghyuck’s bruised cheek, making the latter hissed from the sudden coldness. “We don’t talk with each other unless it’s necessary but we trust each other. Jaemin used to be the one who helped me when I wanted to sneak out of my house. My father won’t question my presence if he knows I’m with him. Jaemin also helped me taking care of my mess.”

Donghyuck narrowed his eyes at Mark.

“What mess?”

“Let’s just say I had my rebellious phase like other normal teenagers,” Mark settled with a safe answer, smiling in amusement to see Donghyuck’s defeated face.

“Why is Nana so willing to help you?”

“As long as I keep Jeno safe then we’re good,” Mark said. “That’s the only favor he asked me.”

Donghyuck remembered Jeno’s confession to him in Jeju and nodded his head in understanding.

“I see.”

Mark raised one of his eyebrows at him. “You know about Jeno?”

“Not much but Jeno did confess to me about his status,” he replied. “So, what is Nana going to do with those students? He’s not going to hurt him, right? I know that he’s not that kind of person.”

“Don’t worry, pup,” Mark leaned forward to kiss the tip of his nose to reassure him. “He’s just going to give them a lesson. He can’t stand bullies.”

Mark’s answer eased Donghyuck so the latter nodded. It was silence for a moment. Mark stared at Donghyuck’s red cheek and his nostrils flared up, his eyes glinting with anger.

“Do those idiots know what’s coming their way if they ever touch what’s mine?”

Donghyuck lifted his hand to touch Mark’s jaw, stroking it gently to ease the tension. Mark let out a sigh as he leaned into his touch.

“Hey, I’m fine. The bruise will be gone tomorrow.”

Mark took the ice pack from Donghyuck’s hand and put it on the table. He held his face, wiping his wet cheek with his fingers before leaning forward to press his lips against it. The kiss was feather-light and soft, making Donghyuck’s stomach fluttered.

“I kissed it better. Do you feel better now?”

Donghyuck laughed, his eyes twinkling, and he looked so beautiful at that moment. Mark couldn’t possibly resist him and he leaned forward again, this time pressing their lips together. Donghyuck didn’t flinch in surprise and as if it was a natural response, he wrapped his arms around Mark’s neck and his legs around his waist, pulling him closer. The action surprised Mark because Donghyuck had never been the one who initiated skinship. Mark squeezed Donghyuck's hips and deepened the kiss. Donghyuck's lips were so warm and soft against his. Mark couldn’t get enough of him. 

“You’re so beautiful,” Mark whispered as he broke the kiss but didn’t pull away, the tip of their nose brushing. Donghyuck just giggled in response but it soon turned into a gasp as Mark pushed him onto his back and settled him in the middle of the bed before climbing on top of him.

“Mark, I need to come back to class.”

“Later,” Mark said as he pulled Donghyuck against his chest, wrapping his arms around him. “We’re going to cuddle until lunch.”

Mark let out a contented sigh as he tucked Donghyuck under his chin and the latter didn’t have the heart to deny the request. He couldn’t lie that he wanted this too. He liked being close to Mark, close enough to smell his familiar scent and feel his warmth.

“Pup, can I ask you something?” Mark asked after a moment of silence. He ran his fingers into Donghyuck’s hair, playing with the soft strands.

“What is it?”

“Do you have time before going to work today? I want to take you somewhere.”

Donghyuck pulled his head away from Mark’s neck and tilted his chin up so he could see him properly. “Where are you going to take me?”

“Not just you but Lele as well.”

“Where?”

“I want you to meet my mom.”

Donghyuck’s jaw dropped and his eyes widened in surprise. He blinked at Mark, not expecting that at all. They’ve talked about Mark’s mother yesterday and Donghyuck did promise that he would see his mother but he didn’t know that it would be so soon, so sudden.

“What…” Donghyuck stopped, struggling to find the words. “All of sudden?”

Mark looked nervous for some reasons and it shocked Donghyuck even more because he’d never seen the latter like that.

“I know it’s so sudden but I really want you to meet her,” Mark stumbled over his words but his eyes held Donghyuck’s. “You make me very happy, Donghyuck. I’ve never felt like this before. You’re important to me and I want to share my happiness with my mom because she’s important to me as well. I want her to know the person who makes me feel this way. But, if you’re not ready, I can always wait for you.”

Donghyuck had seen Mark’s vulnerable state before but the latter had never been this open with his feelings before. The way his eyes flickered nervously with a glint of hope made something inside Donghyuck fluttered, his heart thudding audibly against his ribcage. At that moment, as Donghyuck stared into the deep of Mark’s eyes, it felt so right to be here. He tried to imagine his life before Mark and the sudden sorrow that gripped his heart was too real that he instinctively tightened his hold around Mark. He’d never thought that he would feel this way towards him but at this point, it was just too hard to resist. He realized that he’d been holding himself and it felt as if a dam just broke. He didn’t want to ignore his feelings anymore. He’d done enough. He wanted to show Mark his feelings, openly and bravely. He wanted him to know that he was important to him as well. He wanted to make him happy just like how he made him felt. He wanted to appreciate him because that was what he deserved.

“Pup, it’s okay if you don’t—”

“Yes,” Donghyuck whispered, effectively stopping Mark. “Yes, Mark. I want to meet your mother.”

“Really?”

Mark’s eyes widened, twinkling with happiness. Donghyuck’s heart swelled and he smiled at the latter. Reaching up, he pushed his hair back. Suddenly, memories flashed through his mind. He didn’t know that he would be here with Mark, the one who cussed at him on his first day of school. Now it was something he could recall with a smile because that was when everything started. Mark wasn’t just someone anymore. Mark was the one who brought color into his life. The one who made his heart beat frantically just by the sight of him. The one who gave him flutters in his stomach. The one who made him felt so many emotions he’d never experience before.

“Yes, really. And just so you know, you make me very happy too.”

Before Mark could say something, Donghyuck pulled him down and kissed him like there was no tomorrow. Fireworks exploded at the back of his eyelids and he fell instantly in love.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Donghyuck didn’t know what Jaemin did and how the latter did it so fast but after he went back to the class after lunch, he recognized his classmates who kicked the ball on his way during soccer game visibly trembling when they saw him. Their face was as pale as a sheet. They looked terrified and scarred for life. When he asked Jaemin for an explanation, the latter just waved his hand in dismissal and told him not to worry about those bullies anymore. He looked so satisfied and at that moment, Jaemin reminded Donghyuck of the Brat Pack. The latter could somehow fit them but he thought it was understandable because the latter grew up with Mark. At some point, the way they thought was similar. After today, it made him think that there were still so many things he didn’t know about his friends. He made a mental note to get to know his friends better.

The day passed by rather quickly and before Donghyuck knew it, the school was already over. Mark had told Donghyuck not to go anywhere and wait for him in the class so Jaemin stayed with Donghyuck until the students cleared out of the room.

“Nana, I’m going to meet Mark’s mother.” Donghyuck told Jaemin because he needed to share it with someone who was more familiar with Mark’s family. But as soon as he told him, he had never seen his friend looking so shocked before, not even when the latter knew about his fake relationship with Mark. Jaemin’s jaw dropped, blinking at Donghyuck in a daze.

“He’s taking you to meet Joohyun ahjumma?”

Donghyuck blinked back at Jaemin. “I...don’t know her name.”

“Her name is Bae Joohyun. It used to be Lee but after she broke things off with Mark’s father, she was stripped off of the Lee surname as well. Now she’s married to another man but she didn’t use his husband’s first name.”

Donghyuck nodded in understanding. “I see.”

“Donghyuck,” Jaemin took one of Donghyuck’s hands, squeezing it gently. “I hope you know that Mark is very serious with you if he asked you to meet his mother. It means he trusts you. She’s one of the most important people in his life. The one he treasures the most. It’s a big deal for him because he doesn’t let anyone meet his mother. It’s for her safety.”

Donghyuck swallowed, nodding slowly. The way Jaemin’s face softened when he talked about Joohyun and Mark were enough for Donghyuck to understand that the connection between Jaemin and Mark was deeper than he originally thought. They might not seem to get along very well but they somehow had created a bond, strong enough for them to be willing to protect each other.

“So, you and Mark had figured things out?” Jaemin asked after letting go of Donghyuck’s hand.

Donghyuck forgot that he hadn’t talked to his friends about his current relationship with Mark because it just happened recently. He nodded to answer Jaemin’s question.

“Yes. We’re together now.”

“For real?”

Donghyuck smiled. “For real, Nana.”

“You can’t tell Mark this because I refuse to stroke his ego but I’m so happy for him and you,” Jaemin said, smiling so big his eyes twinkling with stars. Now Donghyuck understood why sometimes he caught Jeno unable to look away from those beautiful eyes. “Can you promise me one thing, Donghyuck?”

“What is it?”

“Don’t leave him,” Jaemin said, his voice dropped and he sounded serious now. He was no longer smiling and Donghyuck was surprised by his sudden change of demeanor. “You’ve been with Mark for a while now so I assume you know some things about him. You know he’s strong, independent, fierce and all that. But he’s also vulnerable inside. His mother left him though it wasn’t her fault at all, it still left a deep scar on him. I see the way he looks at you, Donghyuck. I know he will break into pieces if you ever leave him.”

Donghyuck sucked in a sharp breath, not expecting this kind of talk with Jaemin. This wasn’t a threat. It was Jaemin speaking as someone who knew Mark. As a friend who didn’t want to see their friends got hurt. Donghyuck caught the fondness in Jaemin’s tone as he spoke about Mark and it warmed his heart to know that Mark had so many people who loved him. Mark also aware of that and he never took everything for granted. It was one of the things Donghyuck admired from him.

“Donghyuck?”

“Yes, Nana,” Donghyuck answered without missing a beat. “I promise I will never leave him.”

Donghyuck knew it wasn’t as easy as it sounded but he was surprised to hear the firmness and certainty in his voice. He knew that things were going to go down at some points. He didn’t know when but it would for sure. Even so, he couldn’t imagine leaving Mark. It made him physically hurt to just think about it. He couldn’t bring himself to imagine further than that and he knew that Mark would do the same for him. He knew that the latter won’t leave him no matter what happened.

“Okay. This stays between us.”

“Of course,” Donghyuck nodded. “Thank you for always taking care of me, Nana. If you ever need someone to talk to about Jeno, I’m one call away.”

Jaemin’s face instantly flushed, gaping at Donghyuck like a deer caught in headlights.

“What are you talking about? There’s nothing between me and Jeno.”

Donghyuck gave Jaemin a look. It was enough to make Jaemin pouted in defeat.

“I see the way you two look at each other,” Donghyuck said, throwing Jaemin’s words back with an easy smile. “You and Jeno need to talk.”

Jaemin let out a sigh. “I wish I could. I like Jeno—no, I love him—but he doesn’t feel the same.”

“Why are you so sure?”

“Because he told me that he’s in love with someone else, okay?”

Donghyuck hissed and cussed Jeno under his breath. “That idiot just can’t handle his own feelings. Trust me in this, Nana. You have to talk to him.”

“Are you two talking about me?”

A new voice interrupted the conversation and they looked up to see Mark and Jeno walking into the class together. Jaemin’s entire face lighted up when he saw Jeno but it turned into a scowl when he saw Mark’s face.

“What would we talk about you? There’s nothing to talk about. You’re just a possessive asshole. That’s all about you.”

Mark glared at Jaemin. “Talking to you is useless. How come Jeno can put up with your annoying ass?”

“Nana is lovely,” came Jeno’s automatic reply. His sole attention was on Jaemin, his eyes staring at him with so much love and adoration that it were almost impossible to ignore. He had nothing to hide and Donghyuck watched the way Jaemin’s face flushed a deep red, struggling to come up with an answer.

Mark made a gagging sound at the back of his throat as a response meanwhile Donghyuck nudged Jaemin.

“Think about my advice, okay, Nana?”

“Yeah,” Jaemin said, still in a daze. “Okay, Donghyuck.”

“What advice?”

“It’s a secret you don’t need to know, Mark,” Jaemin retorted, sticking his tongue out at Mark who rolled his eyes at him.

“Come on, Nana,” Jeno said as he took Jaemin’s bag with one hand and stretched out another hand to him, waiting for the latter to take it. “We need to take the kids to the vet, remember?”

“Oh my god, you’re right! We can’t be late!”

Jaemin and Jeno waved Mark and Donghyuck goodbye before leaving the room. Once they were out of the class, Mark offered his hand and Donghyuck didn’t hesitate to take it.

“He didn’t badmouth me, right?”

Donghyuck laughed, shaking his head in amusement. “Why are you so curious?”

“I just want to make sure that whatever Jaemin says to you won’t make you run away from me.”

It was the opposite, Donghyuck thought. But Mark didn’t need to know that because like Jaemin said, what they’ve talked about stayed only between the two of them.

“That’s our secret,” Donghyuck said, smiling teasingly as he saw the way Mark’s eyebrows furrowed. His face softened. “Don’t worry. I won’t run away from you. Or more like I can’t because you would chase me anyway.”

“Damn right I would,” Mark leaned forward to kiss Donghyuck’s lips, drawing a sharp intake of breath from the latter. He sucked his bottom lips before pulling away, his signature smile broke across his face. “You can’t go anywhere because I would always find a way to get you, baby.”

“Alright, Shakespeare. Should we pick up the kids now?”

Mark brought one of Donghyuck’s hands to his lips and kissed each of his knuckles gently.

“Let’s go, Your Highness.”

 


 

Jisung and Chenle walked out of the gate together, their hands intertwined. As soon as they saw Mark and Donghyuck, their entire face lighted up and their lips stretched into a big smile. They quickly ran to them, their bangs bouncing with the wind. Mark opened his arms and caught Jisung into his arms, hauling the kid up and started to shower his face with kisses. Donghyuck did the same to Chenle.

“Hyung, I missed you so much!” Jisung buried his face in Mark’s shoulder, wrapping his arms around his neck. Mark cooed at his little brother, stroking his hair gently.

“I missed you, too, baby.”

Donghyuck approached Jisung with Chenle in his arms. He reached out to pat Jisung’s back with his free hand.

“Hey, Jisungie. It’s been a while. Hyung missed you.”

Jisung looked up and his face brightened up as he saw Donghyuck.

“Hyung, I missed you, too!”

Donghyuck chuckled as he pinched Jisung’s cheek. It had been a while since the last time he saw the kid and he did miss him. Come to think of it again, it also had been a while since he spent some time with Chenle. Today was a good opportunity to spend some quality time with the kids.

“Lele, hyung missed you.”

Mark leaned forward to kiss Chenle’s cheeks, making the kid giggled in happiness. Chenle reached out and held Mark’s face in his tiny hands, leaning forward to return the kiss. The loud sound of Chenle’s lips smacking against Mark’s cheeks made the adult giggled in amusement.

“Hyung, are you going to take me home?” Jisung asked, looking up at Mark with his big, hopeful eyes. Mark’s heart softened at the sight. Jisung was such a genuine and kind kid. He never asked for something but when he did, it was always the same thing; his time. Mark always felt bad for not being able to be with Jisung all the time but he was working on it. There wasn’t much time left until he turned legal. When that happened, his priority was to get control over his own life so he could protect Jisung and his mother. He would make sure that his brother won’t ask for his time again.

“Yes, baby,” Mark said, smiling at his baby brother. “We’re going home with Donghyuck hyung and Lele, too. I’ve called mom. She’s waiting for us at home.”

“Yes!” Jisung pumped his fists in the air, his eyes so bright and his smile so wide. “Finally we can go home together again!”

“Isungie, let’s play together at your house!” Lele added, clapping his hands enthusiastically. Donghyuck and Mark locked eyes and they didn’t need to say it out loud to know that they had the same thought; the kids’ happiness had always been their priority. 

“Alright, babies. Let’s get inside the car and go home.”

 


 

After driving for thirty minutes, they entered a friendly neighborhood. It was away from the main city and more tranquil. There weren’t many passengers around. Mark drove for five more minutes until they stopped in front of the last house in the corner of the street. It was minimalist but the flowers around the terrace made it look more colorful and alive.

Mark slid out of the car first to get the kids on the backseat and Donghyuck followed him after that. Mark’s sleek Aston Martin looked so out of place parking over there but Donghyuck didn’t have enough time to think about that as Mark held his hand out, his eyes were so kind and gentle. He didn’t move from his spot, waiting for Donghyuck to make the first move. The kids had already run inside.

“Are you coming, pup?”

Donghyuck looked at Mark’s hand, back up to his face, and then he let out a deep breath, bracing himself for whatever might come before nodding.

“Yes. I am.”

Mark grasped Donghyuck's hand and his long, strong fingers intertwined with his. Donghyuck stomach churned as he tried to imagine some scenarios that might happen when he saw Mark’s mother. He was nervous and anxious and he felt like throwing up. He was afraid that he might do something stupid in front of her and end up embarrassing himself. He didn’t even know how she looked like. Mark didn’t talk much about her and he only knew her name.

“Hey, pup, relax,” Mark halted his steps and tugged at Donghyuck’s hand, pulling him to face him. He reached up and held his jaw with his fingers, giving him a reassuring smile. “You’re gonna be fine.”

“What if your mom doesn’t like me?” Donghyuck voiced out his worry, biting his bottom lips nervously. “You should’ve told me about what to do and what not so I can prepare myself.”

Mark laughed, looking at Donghyuck with fondness in his eyes. He booped his nose, cooing at his sulking boyfriend.

“Pup, she knows that I don’t bring anyone to her. You’re special and if I like you, she will, too. Don’t worry. You guys are going to get along just fine.”

“But—“

Donghyuck didn’t get to finish his sentence because Mark had already pressed their lips together. Instinctively, he let his eyes fluttered closed as Mark pulled him closer by the hips. His hands were big and warm, grounding him. Donghyuck let his body slowly went pliant in Mark’s arms as the latter deepened the kiss. He let out a sigh as Mark pulled away. He tried to compose himself but then he broke into small giggles as the latter started to shower his face with small kisses, giving him small bites here and there. His shoulders deflated and the tension slowly left his body.

They were so engrossed with each other that they didn’t hear the front door open. They only stopped when they heard a throat-clearing sound.

“Seems like you two are busy now.”

Donghyuck could feel his body flushed from head to toe, embarrassed to be caught in such an inappropriate position with Mark. The worse thing was, this was the very first time he would meet Mark’s mother and she could get a bad impression of him because of this. He bit his lower lips and slowly turned his head to the door, the apology already at the tip of his tongue, but when he took in the sight of the new presence before him, his lips instantly parted in shocked.

Bae Joohyun wasn’t how Donghyuck had expected. It was beyond his imagination and it was almost impossible for him to describe her beauty in words. One look and he could already tell that she was one of the most beautiful women he’d ever laid his eyes on. She wasn’t young anymore and the faint lines around her eyes was visible enough to see but she had pale, beautiful features that made her look younger than her age. Something about her perfectly shaped face, her caramel-colored hair, reminded Donghyuck of the type of features only Royal family had. She was small but slender and dressed casually in bright colors that matched the color around the house.

Donghyuck blinked at her, seemingly in a daze. Now he understood where Mark and Jisung got their features. It was on the genes.

“Mom,” Mark’s gentle voice broke Donghyuck out of reverie. He let go of Donghyuck’s hand and walked to her, pulling her into his arms. “I missed you so much.”

Joohyun smiled, her eyes turning a perfect crescent and she had a very beautiful smile. She patted Mark’s back as she returned his hug.

“I missed you, too, baby,” Joohyun pulled away and held Mark’s face in her hands. She leaned forward to kiss his forehead and both of his cheeks. “I’ve been waiting for you to visit me.”

“I’m sorry, mom. I’ve been busy lately and I just came back from the school trip. Now I’m here and I’m bringing someone with me.”

“You’re coming with Donghyuck?”

Upon hearing his name, Donghyuck flinched. He stood awkwardly, shifting from one foot to another as he watched Mark and Joohyun talking. He froze when Joohyun let go of Mark to approach him. He opened his mouth as if to say something but closed it again because he didn’t know what to say. His brain was short-circuited.

“H-hello, Auntie,” Donghyuck smiled before bowing his body to show some respect. “I’m Donghyuck.”

“Hello, Donghyuck,” Joohyun smiled, her eyes were so kind and gentle. It instantly eased Donghyuck’s pounding heart and his body slowly went relax. She had the aura that could make people feel comfortable around her. It made Donghyuck felt so peaceful and at ease just by looking at her.

“I’ve met Lele a few times before,” she continued. “Finally I can meet the one who makes my baby happy.”

Joohyun held Donghyuck’s face in her hands and the unexpected action surprised the latter. Her touch was as gentle and soft as her voice and it made something inside Donghyuck ached longingly. He unconsciously leaned into her touch, feeling warmth slowly spreading through him.

“You’re so beautiful,”

“Of course he is,” Mark chimed in again. “I told you he’s special, mom.”

Donghyuck threw Mark a warning glare but the latter didn’t catch it and smiled like a fool in love instead. Joohyun saw their exchange and chuckled in amusement.

“I heard you’re a good cook?”

“Yes, he is,” came Mark’s reply. He sounded so proud bragging about his boyfriend. “He’s the best.”

“No, I’m not that good.” Donghyuck smiled shyly.

“Well, why don’t we get inside and you can help me cooking for the boys? If that’s okay with you.”

“Yes, Auntie. I would love to help you.”

 


 

Donghyuck found himself in the kitchen with Joohyun as soon as they entered the house because the kids were hungry and wanted to eat. He didn’t even get to talk to Mark. Jisung and Chenle escorted the latter to the living room, asking him to play with them. Mark couldn’t possibly say no to their puppy eyes.

Joohyun took out the ingredients from the fridge and handed them to Donghyuck, asking the latter to wash them. They worked in silence for a few moments. Donghyuck wasn’t intimidated or awkward with Joohyun anymore but he was still shy and cautious. He didn’t know how to start the conversation.

“Did my son give you a hard time, Donghyuck?” Joohyun asked after a moment of loaded silence, startling the latter who spaced out on his spot. She smiled as she looked at the young boy. “He’s difficult, isn’t he?”

“At the beginning, yes,” Donghyuck admitted and for some reasons, he wasn’t afraid to be honest with her. Joohyun’s smile widened and he took it as a good sign to continue. “We started off on the wrong foot and it takes some time for us to understand each other. But, right now, I think we’re okay. Mark is very reserved and doesn’t know how to express his feelings properly. He seems very tough, strong, and intimidating outside but he’s very fragile and vulnerable inside. He’s very kind and gentle. He has a big heart and he will be the first one to step up if someone tries to hurt the people he loves.”

Donghyuck stopped talking as he caught the way Joohyun looked at him. It was as if she knew his dirty secret, the one that he couldn’t even admit out loud. He lowered his head, biting his lower lips nervously. He didn’t know why he did that. He never talked about Mark with anyone else before. Never openly expressed what he thought about his boyfriend. Now he did and it was just so happened with Mark’s mother, out of all people, and he didn’t know if it was a good thing or not. But there was something about her that pulled Donghyuck. It made him feel so safe, so secure. It felt as if he could tell her anything.

“I’m sorry,” he said awkwardly. “I’ve talked too much.”

“No, sweetheart,” Joohyun reassured him. “I don’t mind listening to you. Everything you said is right. How long has it been since you guys know each other?”

“We’ve only known each other for a few months.”

“That’s interesting,” Joohyun hummed. “You and Mark talk as if you guys have known each other for years.”

Donghyuck didn’t know how to answer that so he just smiled as a response. It was surprising how easily he could maneuver his way around the kitchen despite it was his first time being there. Joohyun’s presence made it easier for him to breath in an unfamiliar space as well. As he helped her preparing the meals, he began to enjoy it more and more.

“Donghyuck,” Joohyun said, her tone suddenly dropped. She turned to Donghyuck, facing him fully. Her expression was serious. “I just want to say thank you. It’s been a very long time since I saw Mark looking this happy and carefree. He looks more alive. His eyes are burning with life. It’s something I’ve always wished to see and it happened after he met you. I know my son doesn’t get attached to people easily. He doesn’t let people in and it makes him seem as if he’s very hard to love. But I’m glad you had found your way to his heart.”

Donghyuck’s throat constricted. He didn’t know what to say right now.

“Auntie…”

“I know this might be too much to ask but please, Donghyuck, stay by his side. As his mother, I’ve failed to do so and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Donghyuck dropped the knife he was holding and took a step forward. He hesitantly reached out for Joohyun’s hands, squeezing them gently as an attempt to comfort her.

“I won’t,” he whispered. “I won’t leave him, auntie.”

“Mom,” Joohyun corrected him, reaching up to stroke Donghyuck’s cheek gently. “You can call me mom, sweetheart.”

Donghyuck could feel another pang in his heart as she proceed to tuck his hair behind his ear. It was the thing his mother used to do to him. He hadn’t felt this way for such a long time and it made him feel emotional. The pain of losing his parents was so great that he tried never to think of them. It was something he still couldn't handle sometimes. He didn’t miss them as much as he used to. They were always on his mind, his heart, but life had taught him to move forward. To suck everything up and kept fighting. Maybe it was because it had been so long since the last time he could feel a mother’s presence. His throat clogged with emotions, his eyes stung with fresh tears and he desperately tried to push them back.

Mom. She asked him to call her mom and the longing he’d been trying to surpass made his heart ache again. Just looking at her was enough to ease the strangling sensation he felt since the memories about his parents had cut him so deeply. A drop of tear escaped his eyes without warning.

“Okay, mom,” Donghyuck whispered, more tears rolling down his cheeks. It had been years since the last time he said that word.

“You’re a good kid, sweetheart,” Joohyun said as she wiped Donghyuck’s tears with her fingers. “Mark is so lucky to have you.”

“I’m lucky to have him, too.”

Joohyun cooed, patting Donghyuck’s cheeks before letting him go. “Ah, young love! You guys are so cute!”

Donghyuck giggled as he wiped his wet eyes with the sleeves of his uniform. The emotional atmosphere shifted into a bright one. At that moment, Mark entered the kitchen and he raised one of his eyebrows as he looked at them.

“Mom, you didn’t tell my boyfriend anything weird, right?”

Joohyun and Donghyuck shared a look, one that only they could understand. She smiled at him and he smiled back, nodding his head. Their secret was locked.

“Are you guys seriously ignoring me right now?”

Joohyun laughed as he pinched Mark’s cheek, making the latter yelp in surprised. “You’re such a baby.”

“Mom, you can’t do that in front of my boyfriend! I have an image to maintain!”

Donghyuck burst into a small fit of giggles looking at Mark’s flushed face. This side of Mark was something he didn’t get to see often. He knew that the latter was always different when he was with the Brat Pack but now he got to see more of his side. Mark with his mother reminded Donghyuck of a little, innocent boy. It was amusing to see him whining and pouting at Joohyun.

“You don’t have to keep your image. I’m pretty sure Donghyuck still likes you the same. Right, sweetheart?”

Donghyuck spluttered when Joohyun looked at him, not expecting the sudden change of attention but he managed to nod.

“Yes, mom.”

“Oh?” Mark sounded surprised to hear the name. He looked back and forth between Donghyuck and Joohyun. His eyes were hopeful when he looked at his mother. “So, we have your approval?”

“Silly baby,” Joohyun pinched his nose gently. “Of course I will approve. Donghyuck is such a sweet boy. I like him more than you already.”

“Now that’s unfair but since I love you both, I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.”

Joohyun smiled, more since and gentle now. Mark wrapped his arms around her, smiling back with stars in his eyes. It warmed her heart to see his son looking like the happiest man on Earth. She couldn’t possibly ask for more.

“You deserve this, baby. You deserve to be happy.”

“Mom…”

“I love you. Always remember that, okay?” Joohyun said, her throat constricted. There were so many things he regretted but she knew that she couldn’t do anything about the past. She’d learned to move on and she knew that all she could do right now was to love Mark and always be there for him.

Mark leaned down to kiss her forehead, feeling so content to be surrounded with people he loved.

“I love you, too, mom. Always.”

 


 

Mark turned off the engine as the car stopped in front of the restaurant where Donghyuck worked. Chenle was still in Jisung’s house and Mark was going to go back there again after dropping Donghyuck off the work. He also promised the latter that he was going to take Chenle home before dinner.

Donghyuck unbuckled the seatbelt before turning to Mark who was smiling from ear to ear. His smile was so big and it made Donghyuck smiled as well.

“Thank you for today, pup,” Mark took one of Donghyuck’s hands and brought it to his lips, pressing small kisses on each of his knuckle. “I’m so happy today.”

“I’m happy, too,” Donghyuck said and it was the truth. “Thank you for letting me to meet your mom.”

Donghyuck’s heart still felt so warm, content, and full after leaving Joohyun’s house. She held him for a long time before sending him off. She asked him to keep in touch with her from time to time and he promised he would do that. It was a memorable meeting, one that he would never forget, and he was anticipating the next.

Donghyuck looked at Mark and the latter looked back at him. It was at that moment when he felt something he'd never felt before. He knew that what he felt toward him wasn't an instant feeling of rightness. He didn't connect to him right way and it wasn't a rush of crazy emotions hormones. Instead it was more a feeling of calmness and peace. The kind of feeling he got when he opened the door to his house after a long, rough day. It was comfortable, peaceful, and all he could think about was how happy he was to be there. He felt as though he'd finally come home. Love washed over him with the force of a tidal wave, leaving behind the feeling that he'd been in a cleansing rain. He could feel it with every fiber of his being.

Without another word they came together as if it were the most natural thing in the world, as if they could read each other's mind. Mark put his arms around Donghyuck, drawing him closer. They held each other tightly as their lips found each other, letting the overwhelming feelings they felt dissolved into passion. Donghyuck shoved his hands in Mark's hair and kissed him fiercely. He loved the way Mark kissed him. It was as if he was his oxygen, as if he'd died if he didn't. It might be too much but he could take it. He wanted it and he just realized how badly he needed it as well.

Donghyuck broke the kiss first, breathless. Mark didn’t let him go and pressed his forehead against his, breathing heavily.

“Now I don’t want you to go to work,” he said. “Can we go back home and cuddle?”

Donghyuck laughed heartily. “You know I can’t.”

Mark made a sound at the back of his throat and it sounded so much like a whine, making Donghyuck giggled in amusement.

“But I don’t want to let you go.”

Donghyuck brought his hand to Mark’s face and touched his cheek, brushing it softly with his fingers.

“I’ll make it up to you tomorrow but I really, really need to go to work right now.”

Mark pulled away slightly, looking at Donghyuck with raised eyebrows.

“How are you going to do it?”

“How about you sit with me and my friends during lunch? I’ll make lunch for you.”

“Sounds good,” Mark didn’t miss a single beat to answer. “That’s a good idea. The boys aren’t going to come to the cafeteria tomorrow. I can sit with you and get to know your friends more, except Jaemin.”

“The boys are not going to come?”

“No,” Mark shook his head. “Doyoung hyung won’t be around for a while. He has to help his brother dealing with press and angry investors at his company. So, starting from tomorrow the boys are going to take turn to visit him. Taeyong hyung, Ten hyung, and Yuta hyung will go there tomorrow during lunch break. Jaehyun hyung and Johnny hyung have projects together so they can’t come.”

Donghyuck nodded in understanding.

“Is it okay if I cook for him? I mean, I want to do something for Doyoung hyung, too.”

Mark smiled fondly at him, pinching his cheek gently. “Of course, pup. How about you come with me when I visit him? I’m sure hyung would love to see you.”

“If he’s okay with it, then okay.” he said. “I need to go now. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Later, baby,” Mark corrected him. “Call me after you’re done and I’ll pick you up.”

“Okay. I’ll see you later, then.”

Donghyuck gave Mark another kiss on the lips before sliding out of the car. His steps and his heart were light, content to the brim. He couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day after that. 

 


 

Donghyuck quietly entered the apartment after a long day of work. Mark just dropped him off by the door and now that he was finally at home, he let out a sigh of relief. His legs were sore after standing for hours because the restaurant was packed tonight. All he wanted to do right now was took a bath and went straight to the bed.

The house was very still and quiet. He was about to check on his brother when he found unfamiliar presence on the couch. His lips parted with horror, but he suppressed the gasped that sprung to them. He became deadly pale, knowing that Chenle was sleeping on his room alone because Kun had to finish his assignment. His brother was alone without protection and his first instinct was to run to him. But he stopped himself just in time because the stranger was looking at him with hawk eyes, watching his every move.

“Who are you and what are you doing in my house?!” Donghyuck asked, trying to keep his voice steady though inside, he was trembling with fear. The man was taller and bigger than him. He knew some self-defense moves but he was aware that he couldn’t possibly escape right now. He straightened his posture, standing firm on his ground as the man rose from the couch. The stranger wore all black and a cap and it was hard for Donghyuck to see his face. When he was walking toward him, his steps were slow but steady. It made Donghyuck’s heart pounding and he balled his fists up, trying not to shake though his presence intimated him.

“Lee Donghyuck, I have a message for you.”

“Who are you?” Donghyuck asked through his gritted teeth. He glanced at the door of his room, wanting to get his brother and made sure that his baby was alright. He didn’t care about his safety but if something ever happened to Chenle, he wouldn’t know what to do.

“I came here to bring Mr. Lee’s message for you.” the man said, ignoring Donghyuck’s previous question.

Donghyuck’s eyes widened and he instantly froze. Realization sunk into him and his legs started to wobble. It felt as if someone had thrown a bucket of cold water on him. He knew that this would happen. He knew that something was coming his way but he didn’t know that it would be this soon.

“Stay away from Mark Lee.” the man said curtly, his voice was low and cold.

Donghyuck locked his jaw, tilting his chin up so he could see the man in the eye. He couldn’t accept this. The man just barged into his house without his permission, invading his privacy. The latter could also hurt his brother and now he asked him to stay away from Mark. He didn’t like being threatened and he had enough of it.

“Get out,” Donghyuck hissed and he could feel anger surging within him. “You can’t just enter my house and threaten me. Who do you think you are?”

The man was taken aback, clearly did not expect Donghyuck to throw a fit. His nose flaring and the glint in his eyes were dangerous and there was a warning in there but Donghyuck didn’t care. He could barely feel, barely think, and he was so pumped up on adrenaline and fear. His eyes were burning with fire.

“You’re digging your own grave,” the man snapped, his voice sounded menacing now. A shiver ran down Donghyuck’s spines, hyperaware of the blatant threat but he didn’t lower his gaze and masked his expression perfectly.

“Mr. Lee won’t like this news.”

“I said get out of my house before I call the police.” Donghyuck snarled, his patience running thin. He could only think of Chenle. He wanted this man to get out of the house as soon as possible so he could run to his brother and make sure that his baby was okay.

“This is your first warning, Lee Donghyuck. You gave me the wrong answer. Prepare yourself. You won’t like what’s about to come your way. I know everything about you. Oh, and that little of brother of yours? He’s adorable.”

The rumbling in Donghyuck's chest exploded into a growl of warning. “Don’t you dare to touch him!”

Donghyuck’s veins popped out and his body shaking in fury. The man let out a laugh but it was void of emotions, humorless. He took a step closer, towering over Donghyuck, but the latter stayed grounded.

“You’re going to regret this,” the man taunted. “You better be careful from now on, young man.”

Donghyuck bared his teeth but he didn’t say another word. His answered was clear. No, he won’t leave Mark Lee and both of them knew what that meant. They held each other gaze before the man finally took a step back and gave him a sly smile—it was a promise of something. Something Donghyuck wouldn’t like but he won’t give the stranger a satisfaction by showing his fear.

Donghyuck stood on his spot as the stranger walked past him. He waited with bated breath as he heard the door of his apartment being opened and then closed with a soft thud. He waited until the sound of heavy footsteps was gone. It took him a few moments to gain his strength and composure. When he finally snapped out of it, he made a dash for his room. He opened the door and his body started to shake violently as he took in a sight of Chenle curling like a ball on the bed. He looked so peaceful on his sleep and relief slowly washed over him as he climbed onto the bed and slipped under the covers, pulling his brother into his arms. Chenle let out a small whine as he snuggled against Donghyuck’s chest, snoring softly.

Donghyuck closed his eyes, his body still couldn’t stop shaking. His breathing became erratic, pumping in and out frantically. He didn’t expect this to happen and he was terrified now. His brother could be in danger and he would completely lose his mind if that happened. He buried his face in Chenle’s hair, letting out a deep breath.

Stay away from Mark Lee.

The words rang in his ears and bile rose on his throat as he tightened his grip around Chenle. He remembered his conversation earlier with Jaemin and Joohyun. He remembered the way Mark looked at him today and the feeling of coming home whenever he was with the latter.

No, he won’t stay away from Mark.

He’d promised that he won’t leave Mark. He didn’t want to because he knew that it would rip his heart in pieces. He promised but he still couldn’t shake the fear that gripped him. This was just the beginning. He knew that something worse was about to come and he could only pray that he would be ready when the time had come.

That night, Donghyuck fell into a restless slumber. His heart heavy and his mind was a jumbled mess.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Donghyuck woke up the next morning with a pounding headache, sick to his stomach and unwilling to move. He was still tired and edgy as well. Memories from last night came flooding back and he closed his eyes again for a short time, calming his frantic heartbeat. It took him some time to compose himself and when he did, he realized that he was alone. He grasped around and instantly froze when he found an empty bed. Chenle was nowhere to be seen. He instantly sat up straight and fear almost sent him into panic had it not for the clanging sounds and high-pitched giggle outside the room. He threw the blanket off his body and made a dash to the door and went to the kitchen. He could feel his legs wobbled when he saw Sicheng was feeding a giggly Chenle. His baby brother was safe, that was all he could think about. 

“Good morning, hyung!” Chenle smiled from ear to ear. The boy looked so bright and cheerful and it instantly eased Donghyuck's buzzing nerves. He smiled back as he made his way to the table, though he knew that his smile looked grim. He still couldn't completely shake the memories from last night. 

Donghyuck sat across Chenle and Sicheng and he knew that Sicheng could easily tell that something was off. His eyes were cautious as he took in the sight of Donghyuck's disheveled look. 

“Are you okay?” Sicheng carefully asked. “You woke up late.”

Donghyuck's eyes widened slightly. He looked at the clock and realized that he was indeed unusually late. He'd never woke up this late before. 

“I was just tired, hyung.” Donghyuck reasoned and he tried to sound convincing by holding Sicheng's gaze. The latter would immediately know that he lied if he avoided his eyes. But Donghyuck was tired more than usual so it wasn't a complete lie. 

“Okay,” Sicheng nodded, dropping the subject. It was one of the things Donghyuck liked about him. The latter never pushed him more than necessary and knew when to give him space. 

After a moment of silence, Sicheng continued, “Is it okay if I take Lele to school with Yuta?”

“Yes, of course, hyung,” Donghyuck didn't miss a beat to answer. He knew that Sicheng hadn't spent that much time with Yuta because of what was happening. He trusted Yuta so he didn't have a reason to object. 

“You can take your time. Mark is going to pick you up, right?” 

Donghyuck nodded but he didn't say anything, afraid that he might stutter. There were so many things going on his head and he couldn't possibly sort everything out right now. He thought about what happened last night and he knew that it wasn't an empty threat. He was aware of that but he didn't want to tell Mark just yet. He knew it was a risky move but for now, he wanted to keep it for himself. As long as everything was still under control, then it would be fine. 

Donghyuck had to prepare himself for today. Mark could easily pick up his mood and read his expression. He had to put up a facade so the latter won't be suspicious. He didn't know if he could do that but he had set his mind; no one should know about what happened, especially Mark. 

 


 

The Brat Pack didn't come together like usual and Mark was the last one to arrive at school. The others, except Doyoung, had already come and their vehicles were parked at the usual spot. Mark told Donghyuck that they would come separately for a while until Doyoung came back to school. 

Mark and Donghyuck walked with their fingers tightly intertwined, not sparing others a glance. They shared literature class together during the first period. The sight of them easily caught attention but they paid them no mind. When they entered the class, Mark pulled Donghyuck to the back; their usual spot. One hard glare from Mark was enough for the other students to stop their loud whispers and curious glances. 

Donghyuck nudged Mark. “Stop that.”

“I'm not going to be nice after what happened yesterday.” 

Mark didn't bother to hide his annoyance. His eyes narrowed and there was dangerous a glint in them. Donghyuck sighed, knowing that whatever he said won't change his attitude. 

“Fine. Do whatever you want.”

“Donghyuck,” Mark turned to fully face him, his voice dropped into a whisper so only the latter could hear him. His demeanor changed as he looked at the latter in the eye. “You need to tell me if something's wrong. Don't hide anything from me. I won't let anyone hurt you. I'll always be here to protect you. I just need you to always be honest with me.”

Donghyuck could feel dread slowly setting at the pit of his stomach. His heart felt heavy as he looked back into Mark's eyes. They were gentle, warm, and sincere. It made his heart heavier because he was already hiding things from him. He forced himself to swallow a big lump down his throat. He thought he was doing great. Mark didn't look suspicious at all but he knew that it was on him. He never wanted to lie and kept things from Mark but he couldn't bring himself to talk. He still didn't know what was the consequences for what he did last night and the price he had to pay. Until then, he wanted to keep things low and handled his own problem. 

“Donghyuck?”

“Yes,” Donghyuck finally said after a moment of loaded silence. The lie tasted bitter on his tongue and weighed his shoulders down but he smiled at Mark, big enough to make the latter believed him. “I promise.” 

“Good,” Mark smiled back, leaning forward to kiss the tip of his nose. Donghyuck flushed as he realized that they were in the classroom and a lot of people could see them. But he didn't get to protest because the teacher came just in time and the class finally started. 

After the first class ended, Mark walked Donghyuck to his next class where Jaemin and Renjun were already waiting for him. He scanned the whole room with his hawk eyes it was his silent way to warn others not to try something funny. He made sure the others got his message before leaning down to kiss Donghyuck's forehead. 

“See you at lunch?”

Donghyuck nodded and smiled. “Yeah. See you later.” 

 


 

Donghyuck was on his way to the cafeteria when he caught sight of Yerim and Mina together. He halted his steps, not expecting that at all. He just came back from the library and the hallway on this floor was vacant. A lot of students have filled out of the class five minutes ago. Donghyuck felt as if it had been so long since the last time he saw Mina because she's been keeping her distance. He didn't know why but she hadn't tried to approach him again, which was a good thing because he didn't want a confrontation. But seeing her again with Yerim, out of people, it piqued his curiosity. It also caught him off guard because as far as he knew, the two of them weren't talking. He remembered Jaemin and Renjun told him about their story and how Mina was the one who broke Yerim's leg by pushing her down the stairs. But it was all he knew because Mark never openly talked about Yerim either. 

Donghyuck couldn't hear what they said because of the distance but he could see that they seemed to be engaged in a heated argument. He couldn't see Yerim's face because her back was facing him but he could see Mina and the scowl on her face was obvious. The latter took a step back when Yerim tried to approach her, keeping the distance between them. Mina threw one last warning glare at Yerim and walked away. Yerim didn't move from her spot for a few moments and Donghyuck contemplated whether he should approach her or not. Before he could make a decision, Yerim left and disappeared from his vision. 

“Donghyuck!”

Donghyuck gasped in surprise when someone called him. He turned around and found Jeno running towards him. 

“Where have you been?” Jeno asked as soon as he stopped before Donghyuck. 

“I was about to go to the cafeteria,” Donghyuck replied. “What are you doing here?”

“I just finished my class and Nana called me. He said he's been waiting for you. He tried to call you but he couldn't reach you.” 

“Ah, I left my phone in my locker,” Donghyuck explained as he started to walk with Jeno. “Is everyone there?”

“Yeah. Complete formation,” Jeno said, grinning. “Xuxi and I have been very busy with practice because the national basketball match is approaching. Finally couch let us take a break and we can eat lunch with you guys again!” 

Jeno was right. It had been a while since Donghyuck and his other friends having lunch together with complete formation because Jeno and Lucas had been busy with basketball practice. Usually it was just him, Jaemin, and Renjun. Donghyuck then remembered that Mark was going to join them but he forgot to ask their permission. 

“Jeno-ya, is it okay if Mark join us today? His friends aren’t here so I asked him to eat with us during lunch” 

Jeno sensed Donghyuck’s hesitancy and gave him a reassuring smile. “It’s fine, Donghyuck. I have nothing against Mark. We’re good.” 

“I just don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable.” 

“I’m not very fond of spoiled rich people but I don’t know the Brat Pack in general because I’ve never really talked to them, except Doyoung hyung because I was part of the student council. But Mark and I used to be on the same basketball team, remember? He was a good leader and I know that he’s actually a good person. He’s just so distant and reserved because his parents watch his every move.” 

“Why did he quit the team?” Donghyuck asked the only thing he could think of. He’s never got to know why because the last time his friends talked about it, they were quick to change the topic before he could ask the question. 

Jeno looked thoughtful for a moment and Donghyuck was surprised to see a glint of sadness in his eyes. 

“His parents thought it was just a waste of time. He’s the heir of Lee and when the time comes, he’s going to inherit everything. His parents wanted him to study more about their business and quit playing. He tried, you know. He didn’t want to abandon his team because he loves playing basketball. But in the end, he decided to quit to save me and the team.” 

Donghyuck gasped in surprise. His eyes widened and his jaw dropped, not expecting that at all. He blinked at Jeno, seemingly in a daze. Now he could see guilt and regret in his eyes. 

“What happened?” 

Jeno’s face twisted and Donghyuck instantly felt bad for asking because the latter clearly wasn’t very fond of the memory. Before he could say something, Jeno beat him to it. 

“Our team had reached the final game of the region tournament but the coach kicked me out of the team for no reason at all. It was Jaemin who explained to me about the situation. Mark’s parents knew that Mark and I were close close enough for them to use me as a threat because they knew that Mark would comply with their wish. He did quit and I was back on the team again but it was really upsetting, you know. He always put others before himself. He blamed himself for what happened to me and I wish I could tell him that it wasn’t his fault at all. I’ve never got a chance to properly talk to him because he kept his distance after that.” 

Donghyuck could feel fury slowly boiling inside him. He didn’t know where that came from but he was angry and upset thinking about how unfair the situation was for Mark. Jeno was right. Mark had always been selfless. He never hesitated to sacrifice himself as long as he could protect those he held close to his heart. And it was so typical Mark to put the blame on himself and carried all those burdens silently. It made Donghyuck feel sick in the stomach thinking how suffocating it must be for Mark. The latter couldn’t do what he wanted to do and he knew how painful it was to do so. But after listening to what Jeno said, he was more determined to stay by his side. What happened last night wouldn’t make him crumble. 

“Sometimes I couldn’t help but think that Mark would’ve still played basketball if it weren’t for me.” 

“No, Jeno,” Donghyuck gently said. He put his arm around Jeno’s shoulders, squeezing them as an attempt to reassure him. “His parents wanted him to quit and they would do anything to do that. Even if they didn’t use you, Mark would still quit the team because he knew that it would harm more people if he didn’t. It’s not your fault at all.” 

“He did so much for me,” Jeno quietly muttered, letting out a huge sigh. “I know that he’s also the one who helped Nana protecting my status.” 

“He did that for you and Nana because the two of you are his friends. You know he wouldn’t do that if you’re just an acquaintance. Look at him and Nana. They always bicker with each other but we both know that if something bad ever happened to Nana, he wouldn’t hesitate to step in. He’s just like to play it cool because that’s just how he is, isn’t it?” 

Jeno let out a small chuckle. “A tsundere but a very cool one.”

“Don’t let him hear that or he will be cocky.” 

They broke into small fits of laughter and Donghyuck's heart felt so much lighter after that. He was tensed and agitated the whole day and his light banter with Jeno eased him a little. He was happy to be able to talk to Jeno like this. Despite not spending that much time with him, he was comfortable enough to be honest around him. 

“Lee Jeno, who gives you the right to touch my boyfriend like that?”

Donghyuck and Jeno halted their steps when they heard a familiar, deep voice. They turned around and found Mark standing a few feet away from them, his hands shoved inside the pocket of his pants and his chin tilted up. The latter scowled as he looked at Jeno's hand around Donghyuck's shoulder. 

Donghyuck turned to Jeno, watching the way his eyes widened slightly in surprise. The latter slowly dropped his hand off Donghyuck's shoulder and let out a sigh. 

“Donghyuck is going to run away one day if you keep being like that,” Jeno retorted. He sounded nonchalant but Donghyuck could see the way his shoulders tensed and his eyes watching every flicker of emotion in Mark's face. Jeno was tasting the water. 

Mark looked back at Jeno and it happened so fast that none of them caught it. The next thing they knew, Mark's lips curved upward into a smirk. It was playful and friendly, one he often showed when he was with the Brat Pack. 

“He won't,” Mark confidently said as he approached Donghyuck, pulling him against his chest and wrapping his arms around his waist. He leaned down to kiss his forehead, smiling in triumph. “I won't let him.”

Jeno let out a snicker. “Gross.” 

“Go back to Jaemin and be gross with him.”

Jeno just rolled his eyes and didn't say anything else. He turned around and walked ahead, leaving the pair behind. Donghyuck caught Mark staring at Jeno's back, a gentle smile broke across his face. He smiled to himself, knowing that everything would be okay for the two of them. 

 


 

There was a commotion in the cafeteria as soon as Mark joined Donghyuck and his friends. For the very first time, Mark didn't sit with the Brat Pack and with people outside of his circle of friends instead. They tried not to blatantly staring but Mark caught every movement and threw a sharp look, challenging them. They quickly averted their gaze away. 

“Why do people always make a big deal out of small things?” Jaemin complained as he munched his food, his cheeks puffed out and Jeno diligently wiped the crumbs from the corner of his lips. 

“What can I say, Jaemin,” Mark's lips curved into his signature smirk. “I'm charming.”

The whole table snickered. Jaemin and Jeno faked a gagging sound at the back of their throats, Lucas cackled while clapping his hands, his voice loud enough to draw attention. Donghyuck rolled his eyes and Renjun didn't hesitate to wrinkle his nose in disgust. 

“Donghyuck, you never told me that your boyfriend is just as narcissistic as mine.”

“Baobei, how could you!” Lucas feigned a hurt look, clutching his heart. “I thought you love me?”

Renjun rolled his eyes but his eyes were staring at Lucas with fondness. 

Jeno sighed. “Stop being dramatic, Xuxi.”

“It's not narcissistic. It's called confidence,” Mark said as he casually stuck French fries in his mouth and began chewing. Donghyuck was genuinely in awe because he hadn't seen Mark looking this relax when he wasn't with the Brat Pack. He was worried that the situation might turn awkward but his friends and Mark got along very well. Even Renjun who seemed afraid and skeptical about Mark before was more relax and comfortable. He secretly let out a sigh of relief because it wasn't as dreadful as he imagined it would be.

“Don't forget to watch our match next week,” Lucas said. “You can come if you want, Mark.” 

Mark hummed. He reached out from under the table to grasp one of Donghyuck's hands and intertwined their fingers. He squeezed it gently and Donghyuck tightened their hold in return. 

“Sure,” he said, nodding. “How's the training going?”

“We're doing good,” Lucas said as he dropped his chopsticks and casually leaned back on his chair. “We still do our old routine. You know the drill.” 

“How’s the team's condition?”

“We're in a good shape and no one has major injuries so far. But the coach asked Xuxi to intensify our workout.” Jeno told Mark. Now the three of them had stopped eating, discussing the game seriously. Meanwhile Donghyuck, Renjun, and Jaemin could only listen to them. 

“How about your ankle?” Mark asked as he looked at Lucas who sat across him. “Did it fully healed?”  

“Yeah, but the coach suggested me to sit out during the first and second quarters the next time we play. Jeno will lead the team..” 

Mark hummed in satisfaction. “Don’t skip meals and stay hydrated. I’m sure you guys will do just fine.” 

“Yes, cap.” 

Jeno and Lucas said in unison and Mark broke into a fit of laughter. The three of them laughed together and proceed to reminisce about the stories that happened back then when they were still in the same team. They liked to go to the arcade after they finished practicing, eat at McDonald’s, and beat each other in Mario Kart —Jeno was indeed the best amongst them . Jaemin would tag along as well because he was sort of Mark’s chaperon. He followed Mark everywhere to make sure the latter got home on time. 

As they kept talking, Donghyuck was at a loss of words. Turned out there were still so many things he could learn from Mark. The latter was like an onion and he had to peel him one layer at a time. Before this, Donghyuck couldn’t relate to Mark’s life because it was just so different from what he had. But after listening to the stories, he could see him from a different perspective. He felt somehow closer to him and he could finally relate to him. The bond Mark had with the Brat Pack was undeniable and they treated each other like family. But when Mark with his other friends, he was in a different element. When he was with them, he experienced how kids his age should be. He played around and free from his heavy responsibilities, though it was just for a short time. 

Now Donghyuck could understand Jeno’s guilt because after Mark left the team, he couldn’t do all those things again. It might be simple and trivial but those were the times where Mark could be normal as normal as he could. Donghyuck knew how it felt not to be able to do the things he loved because of the circumstances that forced them to. After his parents died, he didn’t have that much time for himself. He didn’t remember when was the last time he played basketball, went to a public library to chill and read books, or signed up piano and singing class because it was one of the things he loved. He didn’t have that privilege anymore and though it was painful at first, he’d learned to deal with it. Now he was content enough to still be able to play games during his free time  and created new recipes every weekend. 

“Pup?” 

Donghyuck broke out of his reverie as Mark squeezed his hand. He blinked and turned at his boyfriend. 

“Yes?” 

“You were zoning out. Are you okay?” 

Donghyuck looked at Mark and up close, he could see the sparkles in his eyes. It shone so brightly, twinkling with joy. It was the same look he saw when Mark talked about constellations, his mother, and things or people who made him happy. The latter was in a happy, unguarded moment; a state of being Donghyuck wanted to keep him in for a long time. 

“Why are you looking at me like that?” 

Donghyuck blinked. “Nothing.” 

Mark let out a small chuckle as he leaned forward, booping Donghyuck’s nose gently before giving him a quick peck on the lips. The whole table instantly roared. 

“My eyes!” Renjun wailed and covered his eyes with his hands, groaning. Lucas cackle with laughter as his boyfriend buried his face in his chest. 

“The audacity,” Jaemin wrinkled his nose in disgust, glaring at Mark who smiled in victory. The latter clearly enjoyed getting on his nerves. Jeno could only shake his head in defeat meanwhile Donghyuck blushed in embarrassment, totally forgot about their presences. 

They carried on with lunch and their banter flowed into a casual conversation smoothly. Just like that, those people who seemed like the complete opposite could somehow fit together. 

 


 

“Let's go on a date.” 

What? ” 

Mark quickly halted his steps, almost tumbling over because Donghyuck said the words out of blue; totally unexpected and it caught him off guard. He turned to his boyfriend and found the latter was smiling with mirth in his eyes, clearly amused with his reaction. 

“I said, let's go on a date,” Donghyuck repeated. He sounded serious yet relax at the same time. He couldn't stop thinking about what they talked during lunch and he got a sudden urge to take Mark out and let the latter experienced freedom once again. 

“We haven't gone on a real date yet, right? We can go to the arcade before I go to work.”

Mark's face instantly twisted. Though he was still surprised with Donghyuck's sudden proposal because his boyfriend wasn’t usually this blunt before, he felt bad upon realizing that the latter was right. They had been together for quite some time but they haven't gone on a real date yet. 

“You're right. I'm sorry I've never taken you out on a date, pup.”

“Hey, it's okay,” Donghyuck squeezed their intertwined hands and took a step forward. For some reason, he was feeling bold and brave than he's ever been. He knew that Mark has always been the one who protected him but after what happened, he wanted to protect the latter too. He couldn't do it the same way Mark did to him but he's still capable to do it in another way. He promised himself that he would do anything he could to keep him safe. 

Mark reached out to move Donghyuck's bangs away from his eyes and smiled at him teasingly. 

“I like this side of you,” he said, brushing his cheeks gently. “So brave, confident, and fierce. It reminds me of the very first time we shared a class together and you sat next to me even after I said no. You were the first person who did that.”

Donghyuck rolled his eyes at the memory. 

“You were so annoying at that time. So cocky.”

Mark wrinkled his nose. “I know. I was a dick to you. I'm sorry for treating you so badly before.”

“A past is in the past,” Donghyuck said. “We're not going to talk about it now. I asked you out on a date and you haven't answered me.”

“Yes,” Mark didn't miss a single beat to answer. “I'll go anywhere you want me to go, pup.”

“My date, my rule,” Donghyuck teasingly said. “I decide where we go and what we eat. How about that?” 

“So bossy. I love that.” 

Donghyuck threw Mark a hard glare. “Is that a yes or a yes?” 

Mark let out a small laugh, his shoulders twitched. He looked so free, so at ease when he laughed and it warmed Donghyuck's heart to see it. 

“Yes, Your Highness. I will follow your rules and orders without question.”

 


 

The rest of the day passed by quickly. When the last class had ended, Donghyuck didn't surprise to see Mark was already waiting for him outside of his class. Despite knowing that, it still made his heart fluttered to see the sight of him. He let out a surprised gasp as Mark pulled him by the waist, leaning forward to kiss his forehead. 

“Are you ready for our date?” 

Donghyuck took a step back and stretched out his palm. “Give me your car keys.”

“My key?” Mark questioned, looking at his boyfriend confusedly. “What for?” 

“My date, my rule, remember?”

Mark held his hand up as a sign of surrender and took his car keys out of his pocket, settling it on Donghyuck's palm. 

“We're going to ride a bus there. Let's go!”

Turned out, before Donghyuck could explain to Mark about the basic thing he thought the latter didn’t know how to ride a bus his boyfriend was the one who practically dragged him to the bus stop. Mark knew which bus they needed to ride to get to their destination and when it finally arrived, he pulled out his T-money and scanned it with a triumph smile on his face. He knew that his action surprised Donghyuck and he was so smug about it. 

“I'm going to beat you in every game there,” Donghyuck said as he plopped down on the seat, crossing his arms over his chest. It wasn't crowded but they still chose to sit in the back. 

“Oh, competitive aren't you, pup?”  

Donghyuck let out a snort. “I'll wipe that smug smile off your face. Prepare yourself, Mark Lee.”

Donghyuck's smile was challenging and Mark's lips curved upward into his signature smile. He leaned forward, slowly and deliberately, staring at the latter straight in the eye. Their eyes burning with new determination; no one was going to back out from the challenge. 

Mark booped Donghyuck’s nose and gave him a quick peck on the lips before whispering, “Bring it on, pup.” 

As soon as they arrived at the arcade, the game was on. There were so many games and they went hard since the beginning, trying to one-up the other. They acted as if it was nothing but their competitive streak wouldn’t permit them to relent and back down. In the end, Donghyuck mercilessly dominated Mark in every machine game there, to the point the latter refused to talk to him afterward. 

“Aw, babe,” Donghyuck cooed after Mark lost for the nth times. “A game is just a game.” 

Mark was a very prideful guy and losing definitely hurt his ego. His face was red from embarrassment and frustration. He won’t admit defeat and suggested playing another game. Mark was driven with passion and determination to defeat and he won’t stop until he got what he wanted. 

“That’s unfair,” Donghyuck argued when Mark stopped before the basketball game machine. “Of course you’re going to win this.” 

“We both play basketball, pup,” Mark casually said as he rolled up his sleeves, throwing a lazy smile at his boyfriend who gave him a stink eye. “You said you wanted to beat me in every game. Well, prove it then.” 

“Fine, asshole.” 

It was a very intense match. Donghyuck was able to catch up with Mark’s score in the beginning but it was obvious that the latter played better than him. In the end, Mark won the match and he laughed with his entire face as he saw Donghyuck’s defeated face. 

“It wasn’t a fair play.” 

“Aw, pup,” Mark cooed, pinching Donghyuck’s cheek playfully and laughed louder when his boyfriend slapped his hand away. “A game is just a game.” 

Donghyuck was so pissed because Mark threw his words back at him. He suggested to play one more time and this time, Mark let Donghyuck defeated him because as much as he didn’t want to lose, seeing his blinding smile was worth more than whining a game.  

Playing and competing with each other made them realized a lot of things. First, Mark was very bad with games like Candy Crush and Stackers but did exceptionally great with games who required strength and focus like gun shooting, racing, and beat ‘em ups. Donghyuck had to admit that he couldn’t match him because the latter was really great. It was a clean game. Second, they argued a lot more than they ever did before. They were at each other’s throats but the best part was, all of the fights could be ended with a simple kiss and sincere apology. 

“Oh, god,” Donghyuck groaned as soon as Mark pulled him to the claw machine. “Do you know that you will burn through money fast because of these games? Those stacking machines are rigged.” 

“I want to get you something.” 

Donghyuck didn’t try to stop Mark after that because he knew that it would be futile. Mark was very determined to get something out of that machine and Donghyuck could only sighed. 

“Fuck,” Mark cussed with his entire chest after he failed to catch the doll again. It had been ten minutes and as Donghyuck said, the latter did burn through money fast because of his fail attempts. “Something is wrong with this stupid machine!” 

“I told you it’s rigged,” Donghyuck sighed. “You didn’t listen to me so go on. We’re not going to waste our money. Get me something, Mark.” 

“Give me a good luck kiss and I’ll get it this time.” 

Donghyuck rolled his eyes but he did lean forward to give Mark a light peck on the lips. Mark’s eyes lightened up, his lips stretched into a big smile, and Donghyuck’s heart instantly swelled. 

Mark finally got something after two more attempts. It was the smallest doll inside the machine and he let out a deep, defeated groan upon seeing its size. He almost threw it away but Donghyuck gently took it and put it inside his bag. 

“Thank you for the gift,” Donghyuck held Mark’s face in his hands and kissed him. It wasn’t a light peck. It was a deep, long kiss that left Mark breathless by the time they pulled away from each other. 

“Wow,” Mark blinked, seemingly in a daze. “You keep on surprising me.” 

Donghyuck just smiled cheekily, his eyes crinkled and his face glowing. 

“Let’s play punching bag game and the one with the lower score pays for the food.” 

Donghyuck won the game but the gap was very, very close. Unlike other games, Mark seemed satisfied that he was the one who paid for the food. It made Donghyuck regretted making a bet because he should’ve known that his boyfriend liked to spoil him. 

After they finished their last game, they took pictures in the photo booth and bought cotton candy —Mark complained for a whole five minutes because his fingers became sticky and Donghyuck had to shut him up with a kiss

They left with their hands intertwined and love shone from their eyes. 

 


 

Donghyuck still felt a thrill of excitement even long after he and Mark left the arcade. They went to McDonald’s because it had been a while since Mark came there. It was crowded and they had to wait in line to order the food. Mark stood behind Donghyuck, his hand wrapping loosely around his waist. People were watching them and Donghyuck knew that some of them recognized Mark because he heard their high voices squealing with delight. But he was too happy with his date with Mark to pay attention to other people. 

“Eat as much as you want, pup. We still need to recharge before going to the norebang .” 

Mark ended up ordering too much for two people. Donghyuck almost threw up and gave up trying to finish the food because his stomach was already bloated and it was hard to get up. Mark laughed as he saw Donghyuck walking with wobbly legs. The latter looked so cute and adorable that he couldn’t help but steal another kiss from him. Their lips were greasy but none of them care.  

When they arrived at the norebang place, Mark chose a big room. It clearly meant to accommodate parties of six of eight instead of just two. The room was dimly lit with plush red leather couches. A large square coffee table sat just in front of the couches. On it there was a microphone, remote, and a thick Song Menu book.

“It’s been a while since the last time I came here,” Donghyuck said as he flipped through the book, looking for a song. “Prepare yourself. You might run away from me after this.” 

“I should be the one saying that. I can’t sing but I’ll impress you with my rap.” 

Donghyuck lifted one of his eyebrows, staring at him suspiciously. “You can rap?” 

Mark winked at him and began loosening his tie. 

“Watch and learn, baby.” 

Mark grabbed the microphone and got up from the seat. He unbuttoned the top button of his shirt. Donghyuck blushed, quickly looking away. It wasn't like Mark was taking his clothes off or undressed right in front of him but it felt like he was. Mark caught him and winked at him again, throwing a flirty smile as he purposely pushed his hair back  in slow motion.

Donghyuck scowled at him. “Stop showing off and sing.” 

Mark laughed before walking up to the open area in front of the television as the song began. It was Jump by Kris Kross and Mark wasn't lying when he said that he was good at rapping. He didn't miss a single beat and he used the empty space to maneuver, rocking the song like a pro. He was excellent but when he jumped into the couch and started to bang his head in the air, Donghyuck couldn't help his hysterical laughter because it was just too funny. Who knew that the cold-hearted Mark Lee could be silly?

It wasn't a long song but Mark was sweaty by the end of it. After he was done, he watched the monitor and the score said 96%. He hopped off the couch and gave the microphone to Donghyuck. He threw him a triumphant grin and collapsed on the seat right next to him.

“Show me what you got, baby.” 

Donghyuck made a gagging sound at the back of his throat. 

“Gross. Never said that again or I’m breaking up with you.” 

Donghyuck stood up but he didn't move from his spot. He looked relax, holding his mic with one hand. Mark recognized the opening chords instantly. It was I Have Nothing by Whitney Houston. Donghyuck squeezed his eyes shut, singing in earnest and heartfelt and completely mind-blowing. He sounded so good, so unexpectedly amazing. Any note he did hit was perfect. He didn't need to read the lyrics because he knew this song by heart. By the time he got to the final chorus, he's forgotten about Mark. He's got one hand over his heart and he's belting a lyric about fearing to lose a loved one with real emotion in his voice. By the time it ended, Mark's jaw dropped and it was so heart wrenching that he almost cried. Donghyuck’s voice was a cure to a heartbroken, undoubtedly.

Donghyuck opened his eyes again and peeked at Mark. The latter had never seen him look so shy. Donghyuck bit his bottom lip again and scrunched up his face. He was so adorable.

“I’m sorry if it sounded awful because I haven’t sung in a while. ” 

Donghyuck said that but the perfect score on the television screen said otherwise. He put the mic down on the table but Mark was not letting him get away from that moment. He grabbed his hand and pulled him toward him, making the latter yelp in surprise. But Donghyuck didn't resist and Mark didn't stop pulling until the full lengths of their bodies were touching. He didn't stop pulling until he was in his breathing space.

“That was so amazing and mind-blowing, pup.” 

Donghyuck’s eyes were shining with stars as he beamed at Mark. “I did impress you then?” 

“More than that,” Mark beamed back at him, his face softened. “You stole my heart.” 

Donghyuck smiled. “You stole mine, too.” 

“I know you did this on purpose,” Mark brushed Donghyuck’s bangs away from his eyes. His expression was calm, serene. His eyes shining. “Thank you, pup. For making me experience this once again. It felt exactly like how it used to be when I was with Jeno, Lucas, and Jaemin. It’s even more fun because I’m with you.”  

“It’s worth it. I get to see another side of you. Now you look like a normal teenager. Just like me. Turned out we’re not so different after all.” 

And it was the truth. Donghyuck was glad he proposed this date because it was worth it. It made him realize that he liked making him happy. He wanted to always make him happy. 

Mark was lying on his back on the couch and Donghyuck was practically on top of him. He put his hand on his waist and buried his fingers in his hair. It was Donghyuck who closed the distance between them and Mark met him halfway. Donghyuck's lips were soft pillows and Mark sunk into them. They started out chaste, just lips touching, tasting, but soon they couldn't get enough. Donghyuck's parted his lips and their tongues tangled, retreated, and tangled again. Mark flipped Donghyuck onto his back, caged him with his strong arms, and kissed him again. He kissed him everywhere. His hair, his forehead, his eyes, the space between his eyebrows, his nose, his cheeks, his philtrum, his chin, his jaw, and a long, deep kiss on his lips. 

“Stop it,” Donghyuck said, giggling. Mark couldn’t stop kissing and blowing air against his throat. It tickled him. 

“You’re so adorable, pup.” 

Mark lifted himself and kissed Donghyuck again. It felt like there was no part of him that's not being kissed right now.

“I need to go to work,” Donghyuck reminded him, breathless. Mark let out a small sound as if it was painful to pull away. When they were both breathing normally again, he leaned down to kiss the tip of his nose. 

“Cute,” he said, and kissed it again. 

“I didn’t know you have nose fetishist.” 

“No, I have Donghyuck fetishist.” 

Mark tried to kiss Donghyuck’s nose again but the latter turned away and his lips landed on his cheek instead. They laughed together and it bounced off the wall, filling their hearts to the brim. Donghyuck held Mark’s face in his hand and he looked so beautiful with his wild hair and bright eyes. Mark couldn’t get enough of him. 

“Can I go to work now?” 

“One more kiss?” 

Donghyuck clasped his hand at the back of Mark's neck and pulled him down. They kissed soft kisses, again and again.

Love was what bound them together. 

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Donghyuck knew that he was being followed the moment he stepped out of the school with Mark. He could feel the hawk’s eyes watching over him from afar but it was so easy to ignore because he was with Mark and everything else outside that didn’t matter. He went to work after that and the restaurant was packed as usual. He almost forgot about what happened until a familiar presence entered the restaurant and his steps instantly faltered. He recognized who it was right away and his blood ran cold as the man took a seat in the corner, next to the window. The man just sat there, casually leaning his back against the chair. Donghyuck knew that it was a silent call and he should be the one who went there. 

Grinding his teeth together, Donghyuck took his time as he approached the man. His heart was pounding violently against his ribcage it hurt. He didn’t expect to be confronted in public at all. He tried to control his breathing and concealed his expression so it didn’t give his feeling away. He wordlessly put the menu down on the table and the man took it slowly, his movement taunting. 

“Mr. Lee isn’t pleased with your answer,” the man said as he opened the menu book, looking at it absentmindedly to make it less suspicious. Though it didn’t help at all as his black outfit and his cap that hid half of his face already made him stood out amongst others. His voice was steel, rumbling deep in his chest and it took Donghyuck back to the night at his apartment when he first met him. Everything that happened that night was still vivid in his mind and he pressed his hands together as they shook. 

“I told you I didn’t care,” Donghyuck replied through his gritted teeth. “My answer is final.”

The man let out a chuckle, low and dangerous. Donghyuck didn’t like the sound of it.  

“You sure got some nerves, young man,” the man mused. “Do you have any idea what you've gotten yourself into?” 

“I do,” Donghyuck was surprised to hear how calm he sounded despite his frantic heartbeat. He didn’t need to say much but it was the truth. He did know what he’s gotten himself into but it was his choice to fight so he didn’t any reason to back out just because someone told him. That wasn’t how he lived his life. 

“Mr. Lee will give you money. Say the number and he will give it to you. He just wants one thing from you. Leave his son alone.” 

Donghyuck could feel the rage stir in the bottom of his belly and his fists balled up when he thought how Mark was being compared with money. His nostrils flared up and so did his eyes. He let out a small hiss, enough to startle the man. 

“How dare you,” he growled, his body shaking in fury. “I’m not going to trade Mark with money. I’m not going to leave him and that’s final.” 

The man lifted his head and Donghyuck held his eyes, wanting him to know that he was pissed at the offer. The latter chuckled, mocking him. It made something flared inside him and he let out another growl. He didn’t like it when other people looked down on him. He might be not rich but he had dignity and he took pride in it. 

“Let me tell you this, young man,” the man rose from his seat and their height difference was visible now. The latter was obviously taller, bigger, and more intimidating. “You’re not going to like what’s coming your way.” 

Donghyuck didn’t say anything because he already made his point and it was useless to keep the conversation going. He let out another hiss and this time, he was the first one to turn around and walked out on the man. 

He had enough. 

 


 

Mark just texted Donghyuck a moment ago asking him whether the latter wanted to tag along to Doyoung’s house or not. The Brat Pack would be there to check on him and Donghyuck didn’t hesitate to say yes because he was worried about Doyoung as well. The moment Donghyuck saw Mark waiting for him in his usual place, all of his thoughts about the confrontation instantly gone. Mark opened his arms and Donghyuck walked straight into it, letting out a breath of relief as he leaned his weight against him. 

“How’s your day?” Mark asked, pressing small kisses in Donghyuck’s hair. His hands wrapped loosely around his waist. 

“Good,” Donghyuck replied, burying his face in Mark’s neck. He took a whiff of his familiar fragrance and it put him at ease. Unconsciously, he snuggled closer to get that sense of comfort that Mark always offered.

“Are you ready to go? The boys will be there. Sooyoung nuna and Yerim are coming as well.” 

Donghyuck exhaled. “Yeah, let’s go.” 

It took almost 30 minutes to go to Doyoung’s house. They left the busy street and went into an obscure part of the town. When they got there, Donghyuck was amazed to see Doyoung’s house. It was a sleek and luxurious contemporary house with two floors and expansive windows. The property was architecturally stunning and beautifully designed. It has an open plan, floor to ceiling windows looking out at the most spectacular views around the house. It had a big front yard with a big tree in the corner. It was set back with no neighbors in sight. 

Donghyuck could feel his shoulders sagged as he slid out of the car. The tranquil atmosphere helped to ease his uneasiness. Mark jogged over to Donghyuck after closing the door and reaching out to hold his hand. They walked toward the entrance and the door was swung open before they could press the bell. Doyoung came into sight and stood by the door, freshly showered and in different clothes. Donghyuck wondered how he still managed to look like a model for some jean advertisement. But overall, Doyoung looked better than the last time Donghyuck saw him. The bags under his eyes were still visible but he looked less stressed and tensed. 

“Hello, hyung,” Donghyuck greeted Doyoung first, bowing his head a little. Doyoung waved his hand in dismissal at the gesture. 

“Hello, Donghyuck,” he said. “It’s nice to see you again. But please, no need to do that. We passed the formal stage.” 

Donghyuck nodded as he smiled sheepishly. 

“Everyone’s here?” 

“Yeah, except Taeyong and Jaehyun,” Doyoung replied as he stepped aside, motioning the couple to get inside. “They said they had to take care of something. They didn’t know if they could come or not.” 

“Is something wrong?” 

“I don’t think so, Mark,” Doyoung said, his voice softened to reassure Mark. What happened to Jaehyun still left Mark agitated and anxious. “No need to worry about that.” 

They went inside and found everyone in the living room watching Endgame on the big LED TV. Ten was curling up into a ball on the couch, leaning his head against Johnny’s chest who wrapped his arms securely around his boyfriend’s waist. Sooyoung and Yerim lay on their bellies across the soft, fluffy carpet. Yuta was sitting alone across them, completely ignored what was going on the screen as he seemed to immerse on his phone. 

Yerim was the one who turned her head when she heard their arrival. 

“You took so long,” she said, pouting at Mark. Donghyuck was slightly taken aback by the action but his lips quickly stretched into a small smile as she turned to him. “Hi, Donghyuck.” 

“Hi, Yerim. I’m sorry for coming so late.” 

“It’s fine,” Mark replied for him. He turned to Yerim and rolled his eyes at her. “Yerim is just being a baby.” 

“No, I am not.” 

Before a fight could break, Dooyoung quickly stopped it. 

“Go and sit with them, Donghyuck. I’m going to get you something to eat.” 

Donghyuck was about to say something but Mark was quick to grab his hand. The latter sat down on the couch, next to Ten and Johnny, and unceremoniously pulled Donghyuck onto his lap, wrapping his arms around his stomach as he pressed his chest against his back. Donghyuck instantly flushed as he heard Sooyoung snickered, clearly unamused with the scene before her. He tried to get free from Mark’s arms but it only made his boyfriend tightened his hold. 

“It’s okay, Donghyuck,” Ten said, smiling in amusement as he looked at Donghyuck’s face. “I don’t have a problem with a public display of affection.” 

“Of course you don’t,” Sooyoung retorted, rolling her eyes at Ten. “You and Johnny are the worst.” 

“My boyfriend did not ask for your opinion,” Johnny calmly objected, his tone strangely playful. He raised one of his eyebrows as he looked at her. “Also it’s hyung for you, young lady. I’m older than you.” 

“As if I care,” 

Ten rolled his eyes with a bored look. “Shut up and watch the movie, Sooyoung.” 

Donghyuck let out a hiss as Mark pressed a small kiss on the back of his neck, his lips lingering there. He pinched his arm lightly but the latter only chuckled in amusement, his warm breath hitting his skin. 

“Naughty,” Donghyuck turned his head slightly to scold Mark but he couldn’t help but smile when Mark pressed another small kiss against his skin. 

“Just relax and watch the movie, pup.” 

Feeling more exhausted than Donghyuck originally thought, he leaned his back against Mark’s chest, letting him hold his weight up. He blinked and caught Yerim looking at them, mouth slightly opened. He was about to give her an apologetic smile because he was afraid to make her uncomfortable but she looked away before he could do it. He didn’t have time to ponder over it as one of Mark’s hands slipped inside his hoodie and started to rub his tummy. He was too tired to protest and decided to let Mark do whatever the latter wanted. He let out a deep breath as Mark pressed his hand harder, massaging his knotted stomach muscles until they began to relax. 

“You can sleep if you want, pup,” Mark whispered in his ears. “I will wake you up when the movie is over.” 

Donghyuck didn’t even have the energy to fight, his eyes slowly dropping as Mark continued patting his tummy gently. 

“Okay,” he exhaled deeply. “That sounds good.” 

There was a sound of shouting and gun shooting on the screen but Donghyuck was starting to get sleepy. His eyelids slowly dropped and he was sure he would be unconscious momentarily. He was right on the edge of sleep when suddenly he heard Yuta let out a loud snarl. Abruptly, he snapped his eyes open and almost stood up if it weren’t for Mark’s arms that held him. He blinked rapidly, trying to adjust with the brightness. His eyes fell into Yuta who looked extremely pissed. The latter looked fine a moment ago but something must have happened for him to look like that. His jaw locked, his nostrils flared up, and the way he growled through his clenched teeth was enough to make Donghyuck alert. 

He was wide awake now. 

“What happened?” Doyoung who just entered the living room asked, his eyebrows furrowed in confusion and worry. 

Donghyuck looked around and he just noticed that the movie was paused. Sooyoung and Yerim no longer lay on their bellies, sitting up straight now. Johnny and Ten already stood up, approaching a frantic Yuta. 

“What’s wrong?” Ten asked, holding Yuta’s shoulder to make him stop moving. 

“It’s Sicheng.” 

Donghyuck stiffened at the mention of Sicheng’s name, anxiety slowly creeping into his stomach, twisting it into uncomfortable positions. Mark noticed the way his body went rigid and instantly tightened his hold, keeping him grounded. 

“Something happened at his workplace. I have to go now.” 

Yuta didn’t explain any further and bolt out of the room right away. Donghyuck almost ran after him but Mark held him, not letting him go. 

“Pup, calm down,” 

Mark gently maneuvered Donghyuck into sitting position on the couch, his hands holding him. Donghyuck could feel his heart thudded against his ribcage and his breath seemed to get stuck on his throat. He could feel Mark’s eyes on him but he refused to meet his gaze. Thankfully, Mark didn’t pester him because the latter probably thought that he was worried something might happen to his friend. It wasn’t entirely wrong, except that this time it might have something to do with him. 

Donghyuck tried to control his breath, willing himself into composure. It was impossible to think positively when his guts kept telling him that this might be the result of his refusal of Mark’s father’s request. He just didn’t expect it to be this way. They surely knew that the best way to torture him was through the people he loved. 

The thought of it made his body shook with anger and fear.  

“Pup, hey, calm down,” Mark held Donghyuck’s face in his hands, tilting it up so they were eye to eye. He stroked his cheeks gently. “Let’s go home, yeah?” 

Donghyuck couldn’t find his voice and all he could do was nodding. He had to go home and met Sicheng in a flesh to make sure that his friend was okay. 

 


 

Sicheng wasn’t home when Donghyuck and Mark arrived at the apartment. Kun said that his cousin was with Yuta and would come back early tomorrow morning. The latter didn’t mention anything else so Donghyuck took that as a sign that he didn’t know what was happening as well. His mind was unbearably unclear at the moment. His pulse quickening and his throat clenching up in the rising up swell of his anxiety. He pressed his hands together as he simply focused on breathing and tried to will his heart to calm. 

It wasn’t enough. 

“Donghyuck,” 

Donghyuck gasped as Mark held his face in a firm hold, his eyes zeroed in on him. The latter read his expression as they scrolled across his face. For a moment, Donghyuck was afraid that Mark might suspect something. 

“Pup, I know that you’re worried about Sicheng hyung,” Mark began, his voice soothed him. “Don’t worry, okay? Yuta hyung is with him. Everything’s gonna be okay.” 

Donghyuck let out a deep breath, nodding his head slowly. 

“Okay.” 

“Good,” Mark’s thumb caressed Donghyuck’s cheek. His eyes held his, warm and strong. “Now listen to me, baby. You need to take a warm shower and go to bed after that. I’m going to get Lele from Kun hyung’s apartment and tuck him to bed. I’ll join you later.” 

“You’re going to stay?” 

Mark smiled, gentle and reassuring. “Only if you want.” 

Donghyuck didn’t hesitate to nod, knowing that he needed him by his side right now because he didn’t think he could go through this night alone. Mark led him to his room and kissed his forehead before leaving to get Chenle. Donghyuck moved briskly to distract his mind so he didn’t overthink the situation because he felt like he could explode anytime soon. He stripped off his clothes and went to the bathroom. It only took him ten minutes for him to get ready. He climbed into the bed and snuggled beneath the blanket, sighing deeply to relief the tension in his body. 

There was a sound of the wood creaking and the door being opened. A moment later, Donghyuck could feel the bed dip as Mark climbed in behind him. The latter pressed his chest against his back, wrapping his arms around his stomach and pressing his nose against his shoulder. 

“I called Yuta hyung,” Mark said in a whisper, not wanting to break the tranquil night. “He didn’t tell me anything but Sicheng hyung is okay. He will talk to you tomorrow morning.” 

Donghyuck hummed, not having enough energy to talk. He rested his hand atop of Mark’s, intertwining their fingers. He felt safe and warm in his arms. He liked being held by him because, in his embrace, he felt nothing to fear. 

“Go to sleep, pup. I’m here.” Mark whispered into his hair, his voice lulling him to sleep. Donghyuck squeezed their intertwined fingers as a response. He felt his eyelids closing and he knew that sleep would come quickly as his body felt like it was shutting down. Mark slipped his hand inside his shirt to rub his tummy, moving it gently. The warm air and his gentle touch worked their magic once again. The first time it happened, Donghyuck thought it was just another form of public display of affection. But now he understood that it wasn’t just that. It was a matter of intimacy, something he’d never experienced before and something he didn’t know he’d been seeking. 

“Good night, pup.” 

“Good night, Mark.” 

Within moments, Donghyuck was asleep and dreaming. 

 


 

When Donghyuck opened his eyes again, the sky was still dark and he woke up before his alarm went off. He was groggy as he rolled onto his back, trying to regain his consciousness. It took him a few moments to realize that the space beside him was empty. Mark was nowhere to be found. Frowning, he pulled himself into a sitting position and reached out a hand to get his phone. His frown deepened as he found that there was no notification from his boyfriend. He knew Mark had left but it was so unlike him to leave without telling him anything. Before he could send a message to Mark, his thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the front door opening followed by soft footsteps padding across the wooden floor. 

Sliding out of the bed, Donghyuck went out of the room to see who was outside. He came to a halt when he saw Sicheng entered the living room. 

“Haechan, you’re awake,” Sicheng said, surprised to see Donghyuck was already awake. “It’s five in the morning. Why are you awake so early?” 

Almost immediately and abruptly, memories from last night flooded Donghyuck’s mind and in hopes of relieving the weight pressing in his chest, he walked briskly to the latter and asked the only thing that had been bugging him.

“What happened, hyung? Are you okay?”

“Haechan, calm down,”

Sicheng put his hands over Donghyuck’s shoulders and squeezed them gently in an attempt to calm him.

“I got fired from my job in the restaurant,” Sicheng told Donghyuck in an even tone as if it wasn’t a big deal and almost immediately a horror gasp left Donghyuck’s lips. But before he could say something, the older guy beat him to it. “It’s fine. Nothing to worry about. I’m sorry I didn’t reply to your message. Yuta thought it was the best for me to clear my mind first before telling you and Kun hyung.”

Donghyuck blinked, his face blank. He still couldn’t fully comprehend the situation. “But, why? You just worked there.”

Sicheng let out a sigh. Now he looked exhausted with bags under his eyes.

“I found a wallet in the toilet and I was about to report it to my manager when suddenly the owner came and accused me of stealing. I was so dumbfounded when they dragged me to the office. I tried to tell them that I didn’t steal it and asked them to check the CCTV. When I was trying to convince my manager, suddenly Yuta barged into the room. He was there because one of his men told him about this. Turned out, I was right. I didn’t steal it but I got fired because the owner wasn’t satisfied with the service and my boss didn’t want me to damage his reputation. I had to drag Yuta out of there before he punched my boss’s face.”

Donghyuck could feel his stomach churn as he thought about the situation. He knew that there was no way it was just a coincidence. It was too obvious. Not to mention that it happened on the same night. He shook his head to clear the tears of anger that stung his eyes and swallowed through the knot that formed in his throat. Sicheng caught the distress in his face and quickly reassured him.

“Don't worry about me, Haechanie,” Sicheng gently told him. “I still have two part-time jobs. I’ll survive.”

Donghyuck couldn’t bring himself to tell Sicheng how sorry and guilty he was because he was the one who made the latter got fired. The situation was really upsetting and unfair. He wouldn't mind if something happened to him but it made him angry to know that the people he loved become the receiving ends.

Donghyuck was torn right now. His mind was a jumbled mess. He knew that it was his decision to stay by Mark’s side. He wanted to be with him. He promised him that he won’t leave him. But what happened to Sicheng was something he couldn't accept. He couldn’t live knowing that he caused damage to others. Before this, he didn’t have an intention to tell Mark about the threat because he thought he could handle it. But it was getting out of hand and he didn't want to hurt more people.

With a new determination, Donghyuck decided that he would tell Mark before it was too late.

 


 

Mark texted Donghyuck saying that he couldn't come to pick him up but didn't explain anything else. Donghyuck didn’t think much of it because he thought he would meet him at school later. A few hours later, when Yuta came to pick Sicheng up, the latter was surprised to learn that Mark didn’t come.

“I don't know where he is,” Yuta said and he seemed as clueless as Donghyuck. “I thought he was with you, Donghyuck.”

“Maybe he has to take care of something, hyung.”

Yuta offered Donghyuck a ride to school but he refused by saying that he had to buy supplies for his Art class and it might take a while—he had everything in his bag and it was just an excuse. He noted the way Sicheng threw him a knowing look and felt grateful that the latter didn’t press him any further and let him go without question. Sicheng might not know what was going on but the latter knew that he was still in distress and needed some time alone to clear his mind.

Donghyuck took his time walking and it helped to reduce his growing anxiety. For a moment, he was able to breathe with ease and walk with light steps. He was about to reach the school’s gate when suddenly a white Mercedes-Benz A-Class pulled up by his side and stopped. He quickly recognized it as Jaemin’s car. Then the windows rolled down and his friend’s face appeared.

Donghyuck knew that something wasn’t right the moment he caught the discomfort in Jaemin’s face and how his shoulders tensed.

“Donghyuck, get in the car.”

Donghyuck didn’t need to be told twice and slid inside the car immediately. Jaemin didn’t waste time to step on the gas and drove away from school.

“Where are we going?” Donghyuck asked, his voice surprisingly sounded calm. After what happened last night, he didn’t expect things to go smoothly from now on. “Will you explain to me why are we skipping school today?”

“It’s about Mark,” Jaemin said, his jaw locked. “We’re going to my house now.”

Donghyuck’s heart dropped despite knowing that it was certainly about Mark. He squirmed, not liking where the conversation going.

“Is he there?”

“Not yet,” Jaemin said, shaking his head. “Mark will meet you later. I don’t know when but probably before lunch. For now, just follow me and turn off your phone.”

Donghyuck frowned. “Why?”

“Just trust me, Donghyuck. Please.”

Donghyuck did as Jaemin told him. He took out his phone and turned it off without looking at it. He heard his friend let out a sigh of relief as he shoved it back into his bag.

“It’s bad, isn’t it?”

Donghyuck asked after a moment of silence and the way Jaemin’s face twisted was enough of an answer.

“I don’t know to what extent,” Jaemin replied truthfully, the distress in his voice was visible now. “Mark never called me unless it’s necessary.”

Which meant it was bad, really bad, but Jaemin just didn’t have the heart to say it out loud. Donghyuck understood the meaning anyway and he didn’t say anything else as he looked out of the windows, letting his mind wander. He braced himself, preparing for the worst.

Jaemin’s house was minimalist with a beautiful front yard. As soon as they entered inside, there was a cat in bicolor pattern running happily towards Jaemin. The latter squealed as he scooped the cat up into his arms. His face instantly brightened and his shoulders sagged.

“Donghyuck, meet Bongshik!” Jaemin gave Bongshik small kisses and she let out a satisfied sound. “Seol and Nal aren’t here today. They are with Jeno’s mom.”

Donghyuck smiled, reaching out a hand to pat Bongshik gently.

“She’s so cute.”

“She is!” Jaemin hummed. “She’s my firstborn.”

Donghyuck chuckled in amusement. “You and Jeno would make good parents.”

Jaemin’s cheeks reddened and Donghyuck’s smile widened because it wasn’t easy to make his friend got shy like that. Only Jeno had such an effect on Jaemin.

Having Bongshik around the house helped to ease the thick, uncomfortable tension in the air. She was a good distraction. Both Donghyuck and Jaemin knew that it was better not to talk about what might happen after this. They avoided the subject and silently agreed that it was best to just wait for Mark to come.

It had been a while since the last time Donghyuck played with a pet and even though it was exhausting, he had a great time trying to feed Bongshik. She couldn’t sit still and always wanting to run around. Donghyuck didn’t know how much time had passed. He was curling up into a ball on the couch with Bongshik in his lap while waiting for Jaemin to get some snack when he heard the sound of feet approaching. A moment later, Mark came into a view and immediately knelt before him.

Donghyuck froze in his spot as he took in the sight of a distraught looking Mark. He held his breath, bracing himself for the worse. His throat closed as he noticed that his eyes were bloodshot and there were dried tears on his cheeks. Mark looked murderously angry. His eyes burned so hot they seared Donghyuck. But this time the heat wasn’t good. It wasn’t the flame of desire and passion, but the frozen burn of despair and pain.

Mark didn’t move a muscle but his eyes held Donghyuck’s. He reached a hand but almost immediately withdrew it. Donghyuck was stunned at the action, not expecting that. He leaned forward and reached a hand out to touch him, slowly and carefully. The minute his hand touched the skin of his cheek, Mark exhaled sharply as if he could finally breathe again. The latter closed his eyes as he leaned in Donghyuck’s touch. When he opened them again, the flame had gone. Now he looked exhausted, limp, and defeated.

Donghyuck’s heart instantly constricted.

“Mark,” he said, his voice barely a whisper. He didn’t say anything else, waiting for him now. Time moved ever so slowly and the air was suffocating.

“Donghyuck.”

Mark’s voice was hoarse and he sounded like a completely different person. He was still unmoving and for a moment Donghyuck thought that his boyfriend might need some more time to talk. But then, he opened his mouth and nothing could’ve prepared him for what he heard after that.

“Donghyuck, I’m getting engaged with Yerim this week.”   

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Mark knew that something went terribly wrong when he got a phone call from Taeyong telling him that Jaehyun went to Lee Mansion. He and his brother never went there unless it was necessary and more often than not, it was just for business and formality. It was 10.25 p.m. and if Jaehyun couldn't wait until tomorrow to go there, then it was a red code. The last time his brother went there, the engagement news happened. Mark drove there as fast as he could, his head spinning and his stomach churning unpleasantly. He got a bad feeling about this and usually his guts always right. It didn’t help that he noticed the anxiety and urgency in Taeyong’s voice, making him more suspicious than before. The Lee Taeyong he knew was one of the most reserved and well-composed people he’s ever met and for the latter to sound panic already said something. 

As soon as Mark arrived, the head maid in the mansion, Mrs. Lim, greeted him with a deep bow and a warm smile. Despite his unwillingness to come there and refused to call it home, some people who he respected still worked there. One of them was Mrs. Lim, the one who helped his mother taking care of him since he was a baby. When she learned about what happened to Joohyun, she initially wanted to come with her because the latter was the one who picked her to work there. But Joohyun begged her not to do so because he needed her to take care of Mark and Jaehyun. 

“Young Master Mark,” Mrs. Lim bowed, her posture precisely perfect. “Welcome back.” 

Mark bowed back and gave her a genuine. Mrs. Lim had long learned not to use the word home to welcome Mark here because it wasn’t and it would never be his home. 

“Mrs. Lim, it’s been a while. I would like to catch up but I need to see my brother and my father. Where are they?” 

Mrs. Lim’s face constricted in distress and it didn’t sit well for Mark. 

“This way, Young Master.” 

Mark heard his brother and his father first before seeing them. Then he heard a dangerous growl--that was from Jaehyun--and Mark could feel the tensed atmosphere as soon as he entered the enormous living room. 

There, Siwon sat on the couch, looking dapper and distinguished even in his pajamas. His father looked unfazed by Jaehyun’s wrath and his face was expressionless; his eyes were sharp and cold, his chin tilted up, and his jaw locked. Siwon was aging and it could easily be seen from his dark hair that greying at the temples. But he physically fit and he carried himself the way he took over everything—with dominant confidence. 

“What’s going on here?” Mark asked straightforwardly, blatantly ignoring Siwon’s warning look. He knew that his father saw it as an impolite gesture but he didn’t care. He let out an angry hiss at the bodyguards who held Jaehyun, his eyes burning.

“Let my brother go.” 

Mark’s words, just like his father’s, was a law. People did what he wanted. No question asked. 

They slowly let go of Jaehyun and took a few steps back. 

“Mark, my son. How are you?” 

Mark’s expression turned dark and sour at the sound of Siwon’s voice. Over the years, his father always sounded like an old money to him—controlled, cultured, entitled, and arrogant. 

“What did you do?” Mark demanded, his voice steady but the arrogance lingered. He turned to his father to fully look at him, his gaze unwavering. This was how he faced and talked to him—just like how his father did to him. At this point, there was no need to exchange courtesies. Jaehyun came here was a red code and Mark needed to know what was happening. 

Siwon’s faint smile disappeared and his lips pressed into a thin line. He looked unamused now. 

“Impatient,” Siwon said. “Why don’t you tell him, Jaehyun?”

Jaehyun let out a low hiss at Siwon but when he turned to Mark, his face instantly constricted. Mark recognized that expression; he’d seen it a countless time when Jaehyun felt like he had failed to protect Mark. It happened a lot when they were still kids. 

Jaehyun swallowed and he looked like he was in pain as he said, “Your father wants you to get engaged with Yerim.” 

Mark could feel his blood ran cold as he let the information sunk in. He’d imagined countless of worst scenarios on the way here. Frankly speaking, he’d considered this because he knew that his father had made a deal with Yerim’s father but he didn’t know that it would happen right now. He wasn’t stupid. Ever since Seungkwan came to warn him, he had been anxious and on alert. He knew his father spied on him and he knew something like this could possibly happen when Yerim came back here again. 

But still, he could never accept this.

“No,” Mark said, his voice steady and controlled. There was no trace of anger in it but his eyes were burning as they locked with Siwon’s. “I’m not going to get engaged with Yerim.”

Siwon's smile was businesslike, a little bit crooked and arrogant as if he had expected that answer.

“Is that because you’re already with Lee Donghyuck? Your boyfriend?”

The moment Siwon said Donghyuck’s name with a grimace, Mark abruptly raised his head as he growled long and deep in his throat, the sound a rumble of stark possession. An insane fury rippled across his face and through him like a venom. He was ready to lunge forward, to attack, but Jaehyun jumped before him and held him, using his strength to calm him down. It was hard because Mark’s body was shaking violently as anger and fury took over. 

“Don’t you dare to touch him," Mark snarled, shoving Jaehyun away but his brother pushed him back. It was irritating how Siwon was unfazed with what happened and stay composed, sitting straight on the couch. 

Mark bared his teeth, gripping Jaehyun’s shoulders with his nails so hard it would leave bruises. Every primal instinct in him wanted to protect and to shield Donghyuck from everything that could possibly hurt him. No, he would never let anyone lay their fingers on Donghyuck, especially his father. Never. 

“Do you think you can fool me, Mark? You can’t hide anything from me. I’ve been nice enough to let you be with that boy. I don’t negotiate, Mark. You know that. The news will be released tomorrow. Don’t even think to pull a stunt because if you do that, then that boy’s life is on the line. I am more than capable to make him disappear from your life.”

A cold shudder wrecked Mark’s body as he gritted his teeth, his jaw locking. If there was someone who knew Siwon and what he was capable of, then it was him. He knew to what extend his father’s capability was. He knew that it wasn’t just an empty threat. His father could make Donghyuck disappeared from his life for real and just thinking about that possibility made his heart racing in his chest. The pain that shot through his body was excruciating. 

Another growl filled his ears. This time it came from Jaehyun who stood beside him, still holding him. 

“You promised me,” Jaehyun snapped, his face red with fury. “I did as you asked and you promised not to touch my brother.”

Siwon turned to Jaehyun, his eyes cold and unforgiving. 

“No, you did not,” he said, now he sounded furious. “Do I look stupid to you, Jaehyun? Do I look like someone you can fool? I know you and Taeyong are still together. Don’t challenge me, Jaehyun. I can hurt your boy too.”

“Leave him alone!”

Siwon shook his head at his two boys, letting out a huge sigh.

“I’m disappointed. I did not raise you two to be this careless. Stop being an idiot. This conversation is over and my decision is final.”

Siwon left with slow, graceful steps. His words, after all, were absolute law. 

 


 

Jaehyun felt like he was about to explode because of Siwon’s threat but he had to force himself to calm down because Mark looked like he was about to destroy everything in sight. Being the older one, he knew that he had to keep his composure and drag his brother out of there before the latter went out of control. When he finally managed to make Mark sat on the passenger seat, he quickly drove away from the mansion. 

No one talked as they still needed some time to let go of the burning rage in them. It was almost midnight and the street was empty. Jaehyun kept driving in silence and as Mark looked out of the windows, he noticed when they left the city but he didn’t say anything because he knew that the two of them needed a space to breathe. 

After a few hours of silence, they finally entered a familiar neighborhood. Mark immediately recognized the place. They were in Gangneung and it was where he and Jaehyun usually went when they wanted to get away from a busy city and whatever problems they were having at the moment. 

“Let’s get something to drink first.” Jaehyun said after long hours of silence as he stopped at the mini-market nearby. He slid out of the car first and Mark followed after him. 

“Do you want ice cream?”

A small smile finally lifted the corner of Mark’s mouth. 

“Are you going to do what you always did when we were still kids? Chasing my sadness away with ice cream?”

Jaehyun rolled his eyes but he smiled with him, looking amused now. 

“Well, is it still working?”

“It is,” Mark replied, looking more relaxed now. “Get me the chocolate and vanilla ones, please.”

“Taeyong wouldn’t allow you to eat this much if he was here because he would be afraid if you get a stomachache afterward.”

Jaehyun said that but his hand reached for tubes of chocolate and vanilla ice cream and put them on the cart. 

Mark shrugged, his eyes playful. “Well, hyung isn’t here. Now let’s get those bars of your favorite chocolates and some beers.”

“Nope, we’re not drinking beers. We’re going back to Seoul right away and we still need to take turns driving.”

“Boomer.” 

“Move your lazy ass and get some banana milk for us, dongsaengie.” 

They went out with a bag of some banana milk and snacks. They went back into the car and drove away go Gyeongpo Lake. It didn’t take long for them to get there because it was located only a few minutes away from the mini-market. 

There was no one there considering it’s over midnight and this empty spot was exactly what they needed. Mark and Jaehyun sat on the bench, looking out at the beautiful lake. The air was chilly, dark clouds floated through the dark sky, and the wind blew gently across their face. It was a perfect and clear night. 

“Mark,” Jaehyun said after a moment of loaded silence, halting his movement. “I’m—“

“Don’t,” Mark interrupted, knowing perfectly what Jaehyun was about to say. He didn’t want to hear it. “Don’t apologize to me, hyung. Please.”

Jaehyun exhaled sharply and it sounded so painful. 

“But it’s my fault. I’m your brother, Mark. Your mother entrusted you to me. She believed that I can take care of you. I should be the one who protects you but look at what happened.”

Mark put down the tube of ice cream he was holding and turning to his left to fully face his defeated-looking brother. 

Hyung, stop doing that,” Mark demanded. He was dead serious. “I know that you feel responsible to protect me but this has nothing to do with you, okay? We know that father will push the arranged marriage no matter what happens. Seungkwan nuna has already told us that father knew about Donghyuck. I knew that this could possibly happen as well so please stop putting all the blame on you. You've been doing that for years, hyung. Please stop.”

Jaehyun’s jaw locked, his breathing sounded harsh; anger, fury, and resentment fused up in a riptide of emotion. He was sitting with a tired and weary look on his face and Mark could feel the dark, heavy feeling descending upon his brother, weighing him. It was a feeling that was both frustrating and soul-destroying. Mark swallowed with guilt as he looked at his brother who looked disappointed with himself when he wasn’t supposed to. It made him frowned through the ache in his chest. 

It had always been like this. Jaehyun would put the blame on himself when something happened to Mark. The last time they went here was when Jaehyun had to go abroad. Mark still remembered the event vividly as if it just happened yesterday. It was almost three in the morning and Jaehyun had to go to the airport around eight. He remembered Jaehyun cried on his shoulders while mumbling endless apologies. Jaehyun felt that he had failed to be Mark’s brother because he couldn’t control his emotions and that led him to leave Mark alone. Mark cried with Jaehyun that night because he had to be separated from his brother—the only one he could rely on. The one he trusted with his life and the one he knew would stick by his side no matter what. 

Hyung, look at me.” 

Jaehyun refused to meet Mark’s eyes so Mark didn’t have another choice but to force him. He put his hand over his shoulder, holding his gaze.  

Hyung, you know that I really appreciate you, right?” Mark started, his voice thick with emotion. “You’re not just my stepbrother. You’re everything to me. When mom left me, you’re all I have. All this time you always sacrifice yourself to protect me. You always put me first before yourself. I was still young back then but I’m a grown-up now, hyung. I am an adult and I can decide for myself. Please, share your burden with me. Don’t just think of protecting me. Think of yourself, too. Let me protect you, hyung. I am capable of doing that. Trust me.”  

Jaehyun’s eyes turned red as fresh tears stung them. The emotion overcame him and he put his head down. Mark pulled Jaehyun into his arms just as a small sob burst through his brother’s lips. He wrapped his arms around his shoulder, his hold was strong and solid. 

“It’s okay, hyung,” Mark whispered in his ears. “You don’t have to go through this alone. You have me. This time, we will face father together. We’re in this together. We’ve got each other’s back.” 

Jaehyun clung to Mark as he cried in silence. Mark gave his brother a moment of solitude, knowing that it was a long-time coming. Jaehyun had always been trying to keep it all together for the sake of Mark. This time, Mark wanted his brother to know that it didn’t have to be like that. Not anymore. 

“I’m going to get engaged with Yerim,” Mark told Jaehyun after his brother got his composure back. He knew that he didn’t have another choice but thinking that he did this to Donghyuck still hurt. “I’ll talk to Donghyuck first thing tomorrow as soon as we go back to Seoul.” 

“You’re not going to break up with him, right?” 

“Never,” Mark answered without missing a beat. “I’d rather die than breaking up with him.” 

Jaehyun let out a faint smile. Moments like this were when he could see that they were truly brothers by blood and connection. 

“I’ll think a way to deal with this.” 

“We,” Jaehyun corrected. “We will think of a way to deal with this. We’re in this together, right?” 

Mark was almost in tears to hear that. It was Jaehyun’s way to tell him that he trusted him. That from now on, whatever happened, they would face it together. 

“I’ll talk to Donghyuck and you can talk to the boys, hyung. I want them to hear it from us. Not from the news.” 

“I’ll take care of it. Should we go back now?” 

Mark looked at the time before nodding. It was almost four in the morning now. 

“Let’s go back now. I’m driving. You can take a rest first, hyung.” 

“Fine. Wake me up after one hour, okay?” 

Mark and Jaehyun knew that it was just the beginning. Things would be hard after this but at least, they have each other. 

 


 

It was a very long silence after that. 

Mark kneeled on the ground before Donghyuck and the latter was sitting on the couch, unmoving like a statue. Donghyuck didn't even blink as he held Mark’s gaze, still trying to comprehend the situation and digest what Mark just said to him. The room was very still and all they could hear was every slow intake of breath. Donghyuck swallowed and the hollowed-out feeling in his stomach returning. He knew that things wouldn’t be easy the moment one of Mark’s father men approached him unannouncedly at his apartment. He’d expected things to get worst though he still didn’t know to what extent. 

Mark was going to get engaged with Yerim. 

The words echoed in his mind and punched straight to his chest. It hurt him like a slap and he didn’t know that it could be this worst. It was totally unexpected but he should’ve seen it coming after knowing the history between Mark and Yerim. 

“I talked to my father,” Mark told Donghyuck, his voice raw with pain. He still didn’t want to meet his eyes, lowering his head as if he’d make the biggest mistake ever. He swallowed hard as if the words were choking him. “He wanted me to get engaged with Yerim because he knows about you. If I said no, he would hurt you and you know that I would never let that happen, right?” 

Mark finally looked up and Donghyuck’s heart constricted at the thought of him having to face Siwon. Mark’s eyes burned so hot it scared Donghyuck. This time, the heat wasn’t good. It wasn’t the flame of desire and passion or tender warmth. It was the frozen burn of pain and despair. 

Donghyuck hurt so much for Mark that he physically ached. And he knew that Mark would never let anything happen to him. He believed him. 

“I’m not going to break up with you,” 

“I know,” Donghyuck said, his voice sounded hoarse. He reached out a hand to brush the hair from Mark’s eyes and tilted his head a little with his thumb so he could see his face more clearly. “You don’t have to explain everything to me. I trust you.” 

Donghyuck smiled through the ache of his heart and wondered if this was what Taeyong felt when Jaehyun got engaged with Sooyeong. 

“I’m not going to break up with you but we can’t do what Jaehyun did. Father knows that Jaehyun hyung and Taeyong hyung are still together. We need to convince my father that you and I are not together before I get engaged with Yerim.” 

Donghyuck blinked as if in a daze as if he didn’t understand what he had said. 

Oh,” he mumbled as realization finally sunk in. He finally understood what Mark was trying to say. “So, we can’t be seen together again. Especially in school.” 

Mark nodded and he looked more miserable than before. 

“I’m so sorry, pup. I’m—“ 

“Stop,” Donghyuck quickly interrupted, his voice firm. He shook his head. “Don’t apologize for trying your best. It takes two to tango, you know that, right? You’re not alone in this relationship. You have me and I’m willing to go through this with you.” 

Donghyuck kept his eyes trained on Mark the whole time. He could feel the uncertainty and fear running through his mind. He knew that Mark wasn't afraid for himself but for him. He stroked the side of his eyes and smiled at him, hoping to prove that he was serious. That he would do anything for their relationship and they could rely on each other. He didn’t realize when his eyes starting to water as he continued to stare at Mark. He let out a surprised gasp as Mark tackled him. He was on his back with Mark’s arms wrapped around him and lying on top. The latter buried his face in his neck, breathing in his scent and holding him so tightly it was a little bit difficult to breathe.

Donghyuck held Mark just as tight and he could feel the anger and fury that had been there moments ago evaporating. He had no words to say or thoughts to express. The emotion he was feeling at the moment was overwhelming and he felt like he was swimming in a void and unable to his breath and not wanting to.

They've had enough for today.

“It’s okay,” Donghyuck whispered, running his fingers through Mark’s hair. “We can talk again later. Now, just stay here and take a rest.” 

Mark lifted his head, one of his hands framing Donghyuckss face and the other grabbing the nape of his neck and pressed their lips together. They had shared a couple of kisses, but this spoke of gladness and contentment of having each other through the hard times. Breaking the kiss, Mark leaned his forehead against Donghyuck’s as he’d done so many times before.

“Stay?” 

Donghyuck didn’t miss a single beat to reply. 

“Stay.” 

Donghyuck held Mark in his arms as the latter falling asleep but he stayed awake because his own thoughts spoke far more loudly to him. He just hoped that he was strong enough to get through this. 

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Donghyuck woke up with a heavy heart and a hazy mind. He didn’t even remember how he fell asleep but he remembered curling up in Mark’s arms after they had lunch. Jaemin cooked for them but he couldn’t really taste the food. He just swallowed them, trying so hard not to puke because a lot was going on his mind and he almost couldn’t control his emotion. 

He blinked and instantly realized that he wasn’t in his house. That meant he was still in Jaemin’s house. He turned to the wall and found out that it was almost dinner time. He slept for hours. The first thing that came upon his mind when he was fully conscious was Chenle. He was about to reach for his phone on the nightstand when a deep, familiar voice interrupted him. He turned to the doorstep and his eyes widened when he saw Jaehyun standing there. 

He didn’t expect this at all. 

“Lele is with Taeyongie right now. If that’s what you’re worried about,” Jaehyun casually informed, not moving from where he was standing. Donghyuck could only sit there, looking at the latter dumbly. 

Despite knowing the Brat Pack for months now, Jaehyun had always been an exception. He was warm to the people he loved and he was nice enough to a stranger like Donghyuck. But the gap was always there. It just felt as if there was a huge wall between Jaehyun and the people around him. The latter only allowed people he treasured the most to walk through the wall. The others couldn’t even see a glimpse of who he truly was. There was something different in Jaehyun. The latter was the only person Donghyuck found intimidating even until now. He didn’t even feel that way when he was with Johnny, one of the quietest members. Maybe it was the way he stood tall on his ground or the way his eyes never wavered. Either way, Donghyuck seemed couldn’t find a way to talk to him comfortably. Their conversation was always short and somewhat awkward. 

“Jaehyun hyung,” Donghyuck opened his mouth but then he closed it again. He didn’t know what to say. 

“Lele and Jisungie are at our house. You don’t have to worry about that.” 

Donghyuck nodded. 

“Okay.” 

A silence. 

Donghyuck didn’t know how to continue the conversation. He was still clueless as to why Jaehyun was here instead of Mark. 

“He’s not here,” Jaehyun said as if he could read Donghyuck’s mind. “He has to meet Yerim and her family to discuss their engagement.” 

Jaehyun didn’t sound mean at all. The latter said that in a very flat tone, his face expressionless, but it still stung Donghyuck and he instantly remembered the conversation he had with Mark earlier this morning. 

Mark was going to get engaged with Yerim. He and Mark broke up now. Not technically but still. From now on, he couldn’t be seen with Mark in public and he knew that this wouldn’t be like the last time where they still could meet and talk freely. Donghyuck got a feeling that this would be more complicated. 

“Donghyuck, can we talk?” 

Blinking dazedly, Donghyuck looked up to see Jaehyun was looking at him with an unreadable expression. 

“Yes, of course, hyung.” 

Donghyuck straightened his back as Jaehyun walked toward him. The latter took a seat on the couch next to the bed. He could never predict what Jaehyun might say because his face gave nothing away. 

“Are you okay?” Jaehyun asked as soon as he settled. 

Donghyuck stared at him, jaw-dropping a little. That was totally unexpected. 

“I…” he started but then stopped. He didn’t know whether he should tell Jaehyun the truth or not. Again, as if the latter could read his mind, his cold exterior melted just a little bit and he offered him a kind, reassuring tiny smile that instantly eased him. 

“I’m not,” Donghyuck finally said the truth, feeling slightly light for not having to lie. “Not really.” 

“I know the feeling. I felt the same when my engagement with Sooyoung was announced. It was hell.” 

Jaehyun didn’t look him in the eye but Donghyuck still found it astonishing that he could hear the pain and regret in his voice and how it constricted. He knew how helpless Jaehyun was during that time. It wasn’t his fault but the latter claimed it. It was overwhelming and heart-warming at the same time to see how big Jaehyun’s love was for Taeyong. It was as if Jaehyun would do anything for Taeyong. Donghyuck knew for a fact that the latter would definitely do. 

This wasn’t a heart-to-heart talk Donghyuck expected would have as soon as he woke up from an uncomfortable slumber. He also never imagined having it with Jaehyun, out of people, but he realized that not everyone could relate to this topic. Jaehyun was here because the latter experienced the same thing before and knew exactly how it felt like to be in this position. 

They finally had something in common. 

“I trust Mark,” Donghyuck continued after a load of silence. “I know that I won’t lose him just because he’s engaged with someone else. I know this is the best thing he can do right now. He’s always doing his best and it’s for everyone.” 

Jaehyun finally looked at Donghyuck in the eye and the corner of his lips slowly lifted upward. 

“You sound so confident.” 

“I am because that’s the truth.” 

Jaehyun’s smile widened slightly. “Mark is right about you.”  

Jaehyun didn’t elaborate and Donghyuck didn’t ask further about it. The tension was slowly easing as their conversation flowed naturally. 

“What if…” Donghyuck bravely threw a question, knowing that this might be his only chance to have this kind of conversation with Jaehyun. “What if at that time, you or Taeyongie hyung gave up? Were you afraid?” 

Jaehyun didn’t answer the question right away. He fell silent and he appeared thoughtful rather than surprised. Donghyuck could conclude that Jaehyun had thought about the possibility before. 

“I was,” Jaehyun answered and Donghyuck knew it was the truth. “I love Taeyong and I know that he loves me too. He knows that I will do anything to keep him by my side. My parents don’t like the idea of me or Mark being with men because they want us to give them an heir. Taeyong and I know that it wouldn’t be easy but as long as we have each other, everything would be fine. But, there’s always an exception. A sacrifice you make to protect your loved ones. I don’t like the idea of losing Taeyong but I made a promise to myself that if one day, things went wrong and the only thing I should do to protect Taeyong was to leave and let him go, then I would do it without a second thought.” 

The sincerity and honesty in Jaehyun’s voice and eyes never struck Donghyuck as it did at that moment. It was so easy to forget that the type of love Jaehyun had for Taeyong was a selfless one because of his cold and harsh exterior. And to be honest, Donghyuck was surprised by the answer because he thought that Jaehyun wouldn’t entertain the idea of letting Taeyong go. But Jaehyun had a point. There was always an exception and sacrifice for things we loved. 

“You would leave him? But you couldn’t live without him.” 

“That’s true,” Jaehyun gave Donghyuck another small smile. “I can’t live without him but I’d rather be away from him than staying with him when all I give is pain. I can’t stand the idea of Taeyong getting hurt more than anything.” 

“Taeyong hyung won’t let you.” 

“I know,” he said. “We talked about what ifs, right? Then that’s my answer. Like I said, there’s always an exception. But I am aware that Taeyong and I are privileged. Our biggest obstacle is my parents. They have power but so do we, though I’m not as powerful as them but I have connections. I know that it isn’t the case for you and this is why I came here. I want to thank you for not leaving my brother’s side and to tell you that you have me and my friends. You’re not alone because you’re part of us.” 

Donghyuck’s throat instantly closed. His heart felt heavier and words stuck on his tongue. There were so many things running in his head but he didn’t know how to open up about it. But Jaehyun understood and knew about it without having him to elaborate. 

Donghyuck felt like crying now because of how relieved he was. 

“I don’t know what to say,” Donghyuck replied truthfully. “I’m overwhelmed.”

Jaehyun smiled. “You don’t have to say anything. Now, let’s go to my house. I will drive you and Lele back home.” 

Donghyuck could only nod. His conversation with Jaehyun left him with a new perspective that was followed by the uncertain feelings and unanswered questions. 

Could he do this? 

 


 

“Mark is locked up in his room and he’s most likely to stay there until his arrangement party. His parents need to make sure that he won’t run away from this.” was exactly what Donghyuck expected to hear. It was predictable. It happened before but still, as Donghyuck cradled Chenle who was fast asleep in his arms, he couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed. 

He wished he could meet Mark one last time and held him in his arms. 

“Donghyuck?” 

Donghyuck blinked and found Taeyong looked at him with a concerned look. 

“You okay?” 

Donghyuck smiled but he didn’t try to make it reach his eyes. Taeyong would see through him anyway. 

“Hyung, I want to go home.” 

Taeyong gave him a look and Donghyuck could see the latter contemplating over something. A moment later, Taeyong let out a defeated sigh and nod. 

“Okay. Jaehyunie will drive you home. I’m sorry I can’t come because I have to put Jisungie to sleep.” 

“It’s okay. I’ll see you tomorrow, hyung.” 

Taeyong held him and stroked his head. His touch was always gentle and reassuring. It brought comfort and a sense of safety. Donghyuck couldn’t hug him back because his arms were full of a sleeping Chenle but he leaned his head on his shoulder, letting out a deep sigh. 

“It’s okay, Donghyuck,” his voice was soothing and Donghyuck knew that he could always lean on him. “You’re not alone. Call me when you need something, okay?” 

“Thank you, hyung.” 

Donghyuck didn’t talk as Jaehyun drove him and Chenle back home. He looked out of the windows, his mind wondering. Unexpected things seem like to happen from time to time after he met Mark and it had prepared him to adapt in any type of situation. He started to get used to this but it didn’t mean that it was easy. 

Donghyuck didn’t know much time had passed and he was startled when the car suddenly stopped. He blinked and realized that they had arrived. 

“We’re here,” Jaehyun announced. “Do you want me to walk you to the door?” 

“No need, hyung,” Donghyuck politely declined as he took off the seatbelt. He turned to Jaehyun and smiled at him. “Thank you for driving us home, hyung.” 

Jaehyun stared at Donghyuck for a moment as if he contemplated something. Donghyuck waited and much to his surprise, Jaehyun reached out a hand to squeeze his shoulder gently. 

“Hang in there, Donghyuck.” he said before pulling his hand away, his smile no longer awkward. Donghyuck’s eyes widened, bewildered. He almost couldn’t believe that Jaehyun was warming up to him for real. 

“You can get through this.” 

Donghyuck nodded before sliding out of the car. As he walked into the building, he really hoped that Jaehyun was right. He hoped that he could get through this as he did before.

Hopefully. 

 


 

Donghyuck woke up with no expectation. He only got a few hours of sleep last night and he wasn’t fully prepared his heart for what might happen today. He didn’t let his mind wander and jumped out of the bed right away. It didn’t take long for him and Chenle to get ready for school. When he stepped out of his room with his brother in his arms, he was surprised to see Renjun in his living room. 

“Injunie?” 

Renjun rose from the couch and smiled at Donghyuck and Chenle. Their eyes met and Donghyuck had to swallow the lump that slowly rose to his throat. He knew why his friend was here. 

“Good morning, guys!” Renjun smiled brightly, waving to Chenle. “Hey, Lele, is it okay if I drive you to school today?” 

Chenle nodded enthusiastically. “Sure, hyung!” 

Renjun brought breakfast and the three of them ate in silence. When they were done and got out of the apartment, Donghyuck found Renjun’s car was already there. 

“Nana and Jeno are going to meet us in school,” Renjun informed Donghyuck as he opened the door for him. 

“Okay.” 

They dropped Chenle to the kindergarten first. Donghyuck and Renjun gave the kid a goodbye kiss on his both cheeks before driving to their school. It was silent for a moment, none of them talked. Donghyuck let out a deep breath before breaking the heavy silence between them. 

“You can tell me, Injunie. Don’t worry about me. I talked to Mark yesterday.” 

Renjun wasn’t startled with Donghyuck’s bluntness but his face twisted; he wished he wasn’t the one who broke the news. 

“Nana told me that the news about Mark and Yerim would be out today. There’s a high chance that the two of them will start to play pretend in school as well.” 

Donghyuck thought about the last conversation he had with Mark, about last night when he fell asleep while waiting for a message or a phone call from Mark, and this morning when he hoped to know about Mark’s well-being. He still hadn’t heard about his boyfriend, it was expected, and he couldn’t blame anyone for that. He remembered what Jaehyun said to him and let out a deep breath. This was how the situation was right now and he had to accept it. 

“Mark and I broke up,” Donghyuck said but quickly added when Renjun let out a shriek. “not technically.” 

“You scared me!” Renjun lowered the speed, letting out a sigh of relief. “I was so ready to kick Mark in the ass if he did that to you.” 

Donghyuck let out a small chuckle, entertained with Renjun’s bluntness. Being with Renjun was a little bit different but in a good way. He liked the fact that the latter was the only one who could speak frankly about Mark. He knew that when Renjun said he would kick Mark in the ass, the latter would do it for real. 

“Are you really okay with this?” 

“We don’t have that much of a choice.” 

“You’re right,” Renjun sighed and he sounded more dejected than Donghyuck. “God, this sucks. Why do you have to get involved with those insanely rich boys?” 

Donghyuck asked the same question from time to time but he never really got the answer. In the end, he just let out another sigh without answering Renjun’s question. 

The ride to the school seemed painfully slow. Donghyuck didn’t know what to expect when he got there. The day hadn’t started yet but he was already tired and wanted this to end quickly. 

Ten minutes later, they arrived at school. Jaemin and Jeno were already waiting for them. Donghyuck could feel the heavy tension in the air hanging thick around them. As he and Renjun walked toward the pair, he could see that they were concerned and anxious. They were suppressing it with an effort but it showed in their tensed muscles and their locked jaws. 

“Hey, I’m sorry for making you guys waiting for us.” Donghyuck said as he and Renjun stopped before Jaemin and Jeno. 

Jeno nodded awkwardly, looking more fidgety than usual. It seemed like he was holding himself back from doing something that he might regret later. Meanwhile Jaemin looked like he wanted to take Donghyuck away to anywhere else but here. 

“Come on,” Jaemin hastily took Donghyuck’s hand, pulling him closer to him. “Let’s get inside.”