Mark had been in his life for years, they were mere children when they met, Hyuck’s family having just made the daunting move West and into the house next door to Mark. After about 15 minutes of shy smiles behind the legs of their talking mothers, the boys decided that they were going to be best friends for the rest of their lives.
Years passed and the friendship had survived the worst that puberty had to offer. Both boys’ parents making the decision to send the boys to an international school for high school had enabled them to befriend the rest of their friends. The adding of new people never changed the dynamic of Hyuck and Mark, and not many people believed it could. The two were inseparable and sometimes didn’t even need to talk in order to communicate.
That doesn’t mean they didn’t talk, oh no, they told each other almost everything. Almost.
Not that he didn’t trust his best friend, but Hyuck could never bring himself to tell Mark when he worked out that girls just weren’t for him. At 16 he’d known for almost 3 years that when the rest of his male classmates were going gaga for the girls, he didn’t quite have the same thought process.
His epiphany came when suddenly he wanted to kiss Han Jisung rather than Nancy McDonie, what followed was three days of staring into space and several concerned looks from Mark and Renjun in particular.
After that, Hyuck decided to lay low regarding his preferences, despite living in a pretty liberal household, he didn’t feel comfortable in himself to quite share with his friends or family just yet. Donghyuck spent the next 2 and a half years of high school carefully skirting around the talk of boys and girls with his friends. He didn’t date, didn’t show interest, he just stayed quiet. Sure, everyone in his group dated here and there, Mark and Jaemin being the most successful, Mark establishing quickly that girls were it for him and Jaemin happy the flip between both. And Donghyuck was perfectly fine with all of that, sort of.
In the summer before his final year of high school Hyuck went back to South Korea with his family. His grandmother was getting older and increasingly frailer and his parents had decided that it was time that she was more carefully looked after. And so, his parents sold their house and moved back halfway across the world, dragging Hyuck with them. He had managed to bargain with them into letting him finish school with all his friends, staying with Mark’s family, but a condition of that was that he spent the summer with the family in Seoul.
Despite not having been back to South Korea since the family moved, Hyuck adapted quickly to moving around the city by himself, developing a routine. Because he spent most of the time by himself during that summer, the phone calls and texts from his friends kept him sane for what seemed like the never-ending weeks. By the time he was saying good bye to his parents, getting ready to fly back to Canada in time for school, he had spoken to every one of his friends every day and never felt left out of the gossip from back home.
He knew that Jeno and Jaemin had finally worked out that what had been surging between them for the past 18 months hadn’t been ‘bro-tension’ but actually sexual tension and had finally gotten together (Hyuck owed Chenle and Jisung money for that one), and he also knew that Chenle’s visiting cousin had set Renjun’s heart on fire, and despite them living on opposite sides of the world, had decided to give a relationship a go (and to be fair, after meeting Lucas through a very loud Skype call, Hyuck had to say that Jun had made the right choice).
Despite a small, irrational fear, Donghyuck’s friendship with Mark didn’t seem to wither under the pressure of long distance either that summer. However, Hyuck did come to the heartbreaking conclusion that his feelings for Mark stretched way beyond the level of friendship that they shared.
That conclusion in itself was the only truly bad part of his summer away and was one that he hoped to keep hidden as long as possible. It really was only a crush, Hyuck not denying a certain attraction to his best friend that had always kind of been there, but he had always brushed it off as a stupid thing due their proximity and the fact that he was adjusting to his sexuality.
Hyuck now curses that viewpoint simply because it was naïve and incredibly typical of an insecure 14-year-old with a hot best friend.
But Hyuck knew that his feelings for Mark would have to go away eventually, he knew that he had no hope there. Mark liked girls, Hyuck liked Mark, and Hyuck really couldn’t change that.
By the time Hyuck has stepped off the plane at the end of the summer, he had decided to live his final year of school in the best possible way. Whilst he had always been slightly impulsive, he wasn’t going to let anything unnecessary dampen his mood.
After clearing all of the airport security, he grabbed his phone to text Mark who had agreed to come and pick him up.
Hey loser, you here yet?
Thankfully he didn’t have to wait too long for a reply
Yeah, just in the waiting area outside of immigration
Hyuck looked up and around, searching the crowd for his best friend. Eventually he found him, leaning against a pole, smiling down at his phone. The sight of Mark, bespectacled, in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, sent a jolt of calm happiness through his body. Dragging his suitcase with him, Hyuck attempted to dim the bright grin on his face to his more usually sarcastic smirk, however, he was not as successful as he had hoped and by the time he reached Mark, his face held a soft smile. Good enough.
Mark hadn’t looked up from his phone to notice him yet, and it took him clearing his throat for his head to snap up.
“Now what could be more interesting on that phone than your best friend who you haven’t seen in months?” Mark didn’t answer, instead, he enthusiastically threw his arms around Hyuck.
To say that Hyuck was surprised by the display of affection would have been an understatement. It was known universally that as close as Mark and Donghyuck were, Mark was never the touchy type. Maybe an arm thrown over his shoulders upon occasion, but never a full-blown hug, not since they were 10.
“Missed you man.” Short, simple, Mark in a nutshell. But the way that the statement was whispered into Hyuck’s ear made him shiver slightly.
“Missed you too Markie. You would not believe what I had to endure on the flight over here! Some old lady decided that I was exactly what her granddaughter needed in a boyfriend. Can you believe that? She took one look at me and said, ‘My granddaughter would do well to have you as her boyfriend.’” Hyuck’s voice raised itself higher and higher as he continued through his story, adding hand gestures for more drama.
Mark threw his head back in laughter and, after scowling for a bit, Hyuck started giggling as well.
“Well I’m sure she was right in some things; any girl would be lucky to be able to go out with you Hyuck.” Suddenly, there was no air in Hyuck’s lungs. He kept forgetting that Mark didn’t know he was gay. If Mark saw his smile flicker, he didn’t say anything.
“You’re right. Anyone would be lucky to have me in their life.” Hyuck thanked every deity he could think of that Mark was the dense one in the friendship and that meant that he missed the deliberate use of gender-neutral terms.
Donghyuck considered himself pretty intelligent, he got good grades and was usually pretty observant. So he felt pretty stupid when he realised that it had taken him a week to notice that Mark was hiding something. Every time they hung out Mark seemed to be distracted by his phone, constantly texting, even leaving the room to take phone calls.
It took a group hangout at Jaemin’s and Mark leaving early, attached to a bad excuse, for it click for Hyuck. That and almost all of the others rolling their eyes at his excuse. Waiting for Mark to leave, Hyuck finally turned to the group;
“Wait, where is he going?” His cluelessness seemed to have startled them.
“Wait, don’t you know?” Renjun‘s tone conveying that Mark would be facing the wrath of the smaller boy if Hyuck answered wrong.
“Know what? What’s going on?” Jaemin cursed under his breath and Jeno winced at his response. Renjun just rolled his eyes.
“Oh for fucks sake. Mark has a girlfriend, has done for almost three months.” Boom. Hyuck’s heart just broke. Mark has had girlfriends before, they’ve never bothered him. If Hyuck was an idiot he’d wonder why this revelation hurt.
But Hyuck isn’t an idiot. He knows why this hurts. He knows exactly two reasons why this hurts. The first, is obvious, he’s just worked out that his fleeting attraction for his best friend isn’t leaving and is instead a soul-crushing, one-sided love. And second, and possibly most hurtful, is that Mark didn’t tell him.
After about 15 minutes of pitying looks from the others, Donghyuck had decided to call it a day. When he announced that he was leaving Renjun, ever observant, offered to walk home with him.
“I know.” They’d been walking in silence for a few minutes when Renjun spoke up. At Donghyuck’s questioning face he clarified. “I know you like Mark.”
‘Oh good,’ Donghyuck thought, ‘I’m obviously not subtle then.’
“Don’t worry, it wasn’t too obvious, and I don’t think anyone else has noticed.” Renjun said, as if reading his mind.
“How do you know? I only worked it out like, a month ago”
“You forget that whilst Mark is your somewhat oblivious best friend, I am actually quite observant. You watch him when he’s not looking, looking at him like he hung the stars in the sky. It’s the same way the Jeno and Jaemin look at each other and it’s the same way that Chenle and Jisung look at each other, those two are also a basket case, don’t even start me. But I also watched you when I told you that Mark had a girlfriend. It was like your world had just imploded.” Renjun’s tone was soft, almost hesitant. It made Donghyuck want to cry.
Instead, he just stuttered out a broken “Why wouldn’t he tell me? We tell each other everything.”
To that Renjun didn’t have an answer. They had stopped at the corner of Mark’s street by now, and when Hyuck finally let his tears fall, the first heartbreaking tears he’d cry over Mark Lee, Renjun was there to hug him.
It took Donghyuck a week to grow frustrated with Mark. True to his oblivious nature, Mark never actually noticed the changes to Hyuck’s behaviour after that night. Hyuck knew that he was reaching, but he had hoped that maybe, if Mark noticed him staring at him expectantly over the dinner table, or if he subtly pried about who he was constantly texting, he would tell him about his girlfriend.
After composing himself on the street corner a week prior, Donghyuck shot down Renjun’s offers to tell him about Mark’s girlfriend and then kick Mark’s ass for making him cry.
“I want him to tell me. He kept it from me for a reason, so I want him to tell me.” He had said.
Now, a week later, Hyuck was done being patient. It never really was his best virtue.
He was also not great at having sensitive conversations.
“Hey Mark, do you remember when we agreed that we’d never keep secrets from each other?” They were in the middle of a movie. Some action flick, Hyuck wasn’t really paying attention, but then again, neither was Mark. Mark, unlike almost every other minute of the day, was on his phone, smiling down at it, chuckling under his breath occasionally. That had been the last straw for Hyuck.
“Huh? What? Sorry Hyuck, wasn’t paying attention.” Mark finally looked up at him and Donghyuck rolled his eyes.
“I asked if you remembered about our agreement about keeping secrets from each other. Cause I have one, and it’s been eating me up inside.” Ah good, manipulation, thought Donghyuck, that’ll guilt him into telling me.
“Wait what? What’s going on? Are you okay?” Mark finally put his phone down and actually looked at Hyuck.
“I’m fine. I’m gay.” Simple, easy, so un-Donghyuck, but effective.
“Wait, you’re what?” Mark was suddenly confused. “How long have you known?”
“A few years, since I was 13.” He tried his best to sound nonchalant, but on the inside, he was a mess.
“Why would you not say anything? I’m your best friend, I could have helped you. Do you not trust me?” At this Donghyuck laughed. Except there was no humour. He was now really pissed off.
Mark’s expression fell into one of deep confusion. “Why are you laughing?”
“I’m laughing because I’ve been in the same position as you are in right now for the past week.” Mark’s continued to look confused, so Donghyuck continued, now beginning to rant.
“Now you know how it feels to find out that the one person in the world who swore they’d never keep things from you, has kept a pretty big thing from you. Only, I haven’t told anyone what I’ve just told you. You’re the only one I’ve told. Renjun worked it out, but he’s smart, so of course he would have. But you, oh god, you! You’ve managed to make me question myself for a week.” Mark’s face didn’t change, but his eyes flickered for a bit, the cogs in his brain moving into overdrive to work out what Hyuck was getting to.
“What are you talking about? I haven’t kept anything from you!” At that Donghyuck’s heart broke again, and again, he started to cry over Mark Lee.
“How about the fact that I’ve been home 2 weeks and I had to find out from RENJUN that you had a girlfriend?” And then the shoe dropped for Mark. A wave of realisation and then guilt washed over his face. But Hyuck wasn’t done.
“Really Mark? I leave the country for 3 months and you can’t find it in you to even shoot me a text? We spoke every day and somehow you never could work it into a conversation? And then I get back, and you’re being a bit weird, attached to your phone but I think to myself, don’t worry, it’s probably not that important, if it was Mark’d tell me, we tell each other everything, what could he possibly be hiding from me?” Mark looked down at the ground for a second, and then looked up, a frown on his face.
“But wait, if we’re supposed to tell each other everything, why didn’t you tell me that you were gay? It’s not like I have a problem with it.”
“I wasn’t ready.” And when Hyuck saw Mark about to open his mouth, he quickly dismissed him. “And you don’t get to use that as an excuse, so don’t even insult me. You managed to tell everyone else about this so don’t even go there. But I guess that that’s it isn’t it? It’s not the fact that you didn’t tell me, although I am mad about that, I think I’m just angry, hurt and really fucking embarrassed that I was the last person to know. What the fuck did I do to deserve being left out of that?”
And with that, Hyuck got up off the couch and walked out the front door. He didn’t look back to see what Mark’s reaction to that was, he just had to get out of there.