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I just hope I find it along the way

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“Look who’s waiting in line,” Kim Kyuhun whispers behind Mark, probably to Kim Sunjae from Operations. Mark raises his eyes from the long Starbucks menu he always consults before ordering (a little useless, since he always orders the usual Americano and a ready-made brownie in its pretty plastic wrap) and looks at the line, confused, until his eyes stop on a familiar mop of brown hair and a tanned nape. His heart freefalls, rollercoaster style.

“Bingo, it’s Glasses from Research.”

“What was his name again? Lee Donghyuck?”

“Should we go and say hi?”

Sunjae snickers and Wonwoo elbows him in the ribs. “Do you want HR to send a warning? Let the faggot be.”

Mark sighs and walks between the two of them, putting a hand on each’s back. “I would lower your voices if I were you,” he murmurs, “because he’s not deaf and Kim Jungwoo from HR has been dying to kick the both of you out since the last company dinner.”

“That’s just because he’s a faggot too, Lee. Just like Glasses over there. Everyone knows.”

“And what about it?” Mark asks, with a shrug. “It’s not that Jungwoo likes cock, it’s just that you’re an asshole, and the day he throws you out of the company I’ll probably have to buy him drinks.”

Kyuhun freezes, unsure whether to laugh or to be offended or to just shrug it off because Mark is the son of one of the main investors in the company and there’s a lot he can get away with, including subtly threatening coworkers. Mark smiles at him, fake and perfectly polite, and quickly assesses that the line is too long for him to get his Ice Americano and his brownie and visit the toilet on the fourth floor before Jaehyun arrives, plus he doesn’t really like the company and his mood is now too sour to enjoy coffee anyway. He ultimately pats both Kyuhun and Sunjae on the back.

“See you upstairs, guys.”

They wave at him, almost in a daze, as he leaves. They’re probably going to say something about him too, he’s sure of that. Mark Lee, the faggot rich kid who got in the company because of daddy’s money. It’s not too far away from the truth, but it’s not like Mark cares. As long as they don’t say it to his face, as long as their murmurs stay murmurs, he can just play them off as the grumbling complaints of some jealous coworkers who like to think everyone who’s not an asshole like them is gay.

Mina is waiting for the elevator, and Mark slips easily next to her, eyeing her cute outfit and high heels.

“Are you meeting your boyfriend later?” he asks, with a smile.

She raises an eyebrow. “Not even a greeting, Mark?”

“You’re deflecting, which means you’re meeting him.”

She smiles to herself. “You should come drinking with us, some day. He’s very eager to know you. He even said he can bring a friend, so you don’t have to watch us being gross in front of you.”

The elevator arrives, they enter. Mark scratches his head. “Maybe next month? You know how March is, with the yearly review and everything.”

She grimaces at the thought. “Don’t remind me, there’s nothing I hate more than the beginning of the fiscal year.”

They part ways at the eleventh floor, Mark leaving for the Accounting department while Mina goes up to Sales. “Are you up for lunch at the salad place?” she asks, holding the elevator doors open and gaining a glare from everyone else.

“I’ll let you know,” Mark replies. He waves, as the doors close. He checks his smartphone, swiping away all the unread convos except one.

8:40? it says, and Mark checks his expensive wristwatch quickly. It’s eight thirty-three. Both the elevators are currently at the upper floors, so he says fuck it and takes the stairs, seven floors down, to the unused offices on the fourth floor. It used to be HQ for a small online gaming company that went bankrupt and it’s already been sold to the Korean branch of a German import-export that will open next year, but, until the renovations start, it’s empty. Empty and discreet.

Mark walks past the offices and water dispenser, heading towards the men’s toilet at the end of the corridor. It’s eight forty-three when he opens the door, and as soon as he does he’s being dragged inside and kissed senseless.

Donghyuck doesn’t often wear formal clothes, but when he does he looks younger in them, a little like a kid playing dress-up. It must be the baby-face, the ever-present hint of a pout on his lips, the droopy eyes. It’s what lured Mark in, in the beginning, the new puppy rookie with a bright smile and quick laughter and the cheekiest silvertongue. That was before he knew Donghyuck could get like this, dark-eyed and sultry, all tongue and hands and cheeks and lithe body rubbing against Mark as if he’s trying to steal the cologne from his throat. Teeth tugging at Mark’s bottom lip and breathy, humid moans, his glasses getting stuck awkwardly between them.

“You’re late,” Donghyuck whispers, between wet, shallow kisses on Mark’s lips.

“The elevator took forever, and Mina…”

Donghyuck doesn’t let him talk and kisses him deeper - he kisses him like he’s drowning, like the only air left in the world is the one he can steal from Mark’s mouth - and Mark cards his hands in Donghyuck’s hair and pulls, a little, enough for Donghyuck to let him go.

“I ran as fast as I could,” he says. He doesn’t apologize, but he takes Donghyuck’s glasses and folds them, ignoring Donghyuck’s owlish blinks. He puts the glasses on the sink, right next to a cup of Ice Americano and a brownie. He smiles.

“For me?”

“You left without ordering anything, earlier,” Donghyuck replies with a pout.

“If I had waited I wouldn’t have been able to come here,” Mark replies only, before kissing Donghyuck’s pout. Donghyuck’s lips part beneath his own so easily, so quickly, with the desperation of a stolen moment. He cups Mark’s face in his hands and licks at the seam of Mark’s lips and Mark’s hands tighten on his hips as he drinks him in, all of him, his broken moans and his shivers and his glassy, fond gaze, and he kisses him until the alarm on his wrist watch goes off and reminds them it’s time to get to work.

“What are you doing for lunch?” Donghyuck asks, as Mark fixes his necktie for him.

“You?”

Donghyuck punches him on the arm. “I’m going out with the other rookies, no seniors allowed.”

“I wouldn’t want to be seen with you babies anyway.”

Donghyuck scoffs at that and Mark gives a last, final pat to Donghyuck’s button-down, then carefully slips his glasses back on his face, resisting the temptation to kiss his nose.

“Perfect,” he murmurs. “Do you have a meeting today?”

Donghyuck nods, pouting. “Yes, the higher-ups are coming down, so Youngho-hyung made all of us dress up.”

“You look nice,” Mark says, relishing in the way Donghyuck’s ears immediately turn pink. “We could go home together if you want, if I don’t have too much work to do.”

Donghyuck hums. “Mh, I’ll let you know. See you around Manager Lee.”

He leaves first and Mark leans back against the closed door as he waits a couple of minutes, Donghyuck’s taste still on his lips. He doesn’t really know what he’s doing, but he likes it too much to put a stop to it.

 

 

Mark knew that one of the Research rookies was gay even before he got to meet him. Mina told him at lunch, over bulgogi, leaning over and whispering with a conspiratorial tone, “You’ll never guess what Doyeon told me this morning.”

Does it matter? Mark wanted to ask after she revealed the juicy news to him. It’s not liking boys or not is likely to affect this guy’s performance.

What he asked was, “Where does he come from?” Because Youngho is in charge of the Research team, and Youngho is nice and friendly but fucking anal about his team so this guy must have either real talent or impressive references.

Turns out Lee Donghyuck had both. KAIST graduate, he had worked for the concorrence, another top-nation IT agency, and he had been extremely good at what he did. At least according to Lee Soonkyu from HR, whom Mark met informally at a family dinner, being her cousin and all.

“Then why did they let him leave?” Taeyong had asked to Soonkyu, and she had frowned.

“They didn’t really have another choice. This is confidential, but apparently the workplace wasn’t really friendly towards people like him, and the guy threatened to sue some of the higher-ups for harassment. They had to settle it very quickly because, you know…” Oh, Mark can imagine. It’s not like he would’ve gotten anything from an eventual lawsuit, but the names would’ve come out and whoever had laid a hand on him - probably closeted, probably married with kids, probably someone very high in the chain of command - would’ve been exposed to the public eye as gay.

“And so we got the hot potato,” Taeyong comments, clicking his tongue. The wine rolls prettily in his flute, dark red with hints of pink.

Soonkyu shrugs. “Seo Youngho was fucking excited to get him though. Don’t know the technical gibberish, but he’s a little computer wizard.”

Mark pictures a nerd, but a nerd cute enough to get a fifty-something perverted team leader to grope him, and sighs.

“I hope no one makes problems for him,” he murmurs, and Soonkyu nods.

“Oh, I hope the same, because, between us, Youngho really wants him to stay and what Youngho wants Youngho gets, so whoever bothers the new guy will probably have to leave.”

So Mark knows the new guy’s name, his background, even his sexual preference, and yet when he bumps into the cute boy wearing round glasses, green Converse, ripped jeans and a white tee, whose reflection smiles sheepishly at Mark from the elevator’s glass wall, Mark has no idea he’s finally meeting the infamous gay rookie from the Research Team. He has no idea he’s meeting someone from the company at all, and he spends the entire elevator ride with clammy hands, sweating in his suit because God forbid Mark meets a cute guy and plays it safe, trying to summon the courage to ask him if he got lost and needs help to reach his floor. Then, the elevator doors open at the sixth floor, Youngho walks in, greets Mark, greets Cute Guy and, in the time it takes to go from the sixth to the eleventh floor plus a stop at every floor, he manages to introduce Cute Guy to Mark as Lee Donghyuck, our last acquisition in the Research Department.

The thing Mark remembers most of their encounter is not the clean brightness of Donghyuck’s smile when it’s directed at Mark, or how nice he looks when he sweeps his fringe away from his eyes or his sweet, sweet voice.

Mark remembers thinking that Donghyuck looks too soft to be gay. In a way, it makes him want to take his hand and lead him away from all the malicious whispers, the spiteful glances, the silence that falls sometimes in the room whenever he walks in, wearing a hoodie and a smile and nothing else as his shield. Mark wonders how some cute puppy like Lee Donghyuck is going to shoulder the disapproval of the rest of the office, because, inclusion policy or not, most of the guys still snicker when he walks by. More than everything, whatever it is that Lee Donghyuck has, that allows him to be so out and proud and not look like he’s got a target on his back all the time, Mark would really like to have it too.

 

 

“Why did you come back to South Korea?”

Mark looks away from the numbers chasing each other on his laptop. Donghyuck is standing at the end of the room, slightly bent down to look at the cabinet with all the pictures from New York - university, graduate school, Mark’s first internship at Google. He looks up, staring at Mark like he’s a little dumb.

“You looked happier there,” he says, a hint of reprimand on his voice.

“I was happier. More stressed though. There was a lot of competition.”

“Ah,” Donghyuck says, with a knowing smile. “You’re one of those freaks who can only be happy in a highly stimulating environment.”

Mark shrugs and watches Donghyuck stalk towards him. He’s wearing a pair of Mark’s spare boxers and a t-shirt and he looks really nice, the tips of his hair still damp, the glasses perched on his artfully scrunched nose. He knows he’s cute. He knows all the ways to make Mark find him cuter.

“I have to finish here,” Mark warns him, because he already knows where this is going.

Donghyuck pouts. “But you didn’t answer my question yet, Manager Lee.”

Mark tries to focus on the screen again, on the worksheet, tiny cells full of data that the system will automatically sort for him if he’s focused enough to input the right command. Donghyuck slides on the couch next to him, his naked knee tantalizingly warm through the fabric of Mark’s sweatpants. He won’t push for an answer - he never does - but he won’t leave until Mark says something and Mark cannot work under his silent scrutiny anyway. He takes his glasses off and rubs his tired eyes.

“Why did I leave?” he repeats, frowning. There’s a great number of things he could say. The main reason is his utter inability to say no to his father’s requests. Plus, the added bonus of not having to work very hard to climb the ranks, due to his family’s support of the company. Mark is very good at his job and he has enough experience abroad, and in a global IT company way bigger than the one currently employing him, to be more than worthy of his Manager position, and yet… and yet he’s the youngest manager in the company, the only one under forty, and he knows it’s not because of his talent but his name. Seniority is the key to success in South Korea, but apparently not when you’re the son of one of the biggest shareholders.

Mark could tell these and many other things to Donghyuck. He doesn’t. He might be, he realizes, a little ashamed to flaunt his blatant privilege in Donghyuck’s face. He doesn’t want Donghyuck to think less of him because of it. He turns towards Donghyuck, tracing his round, soft face with his tired eyes. He wants to sink in those lips and forget about work for the rest of the evening. He wants to make Donghyuck smile. Such a pretty smile.

“I left the States because I still hadn’t met someone like you there,” he says, trying to be flirty, and Donghyuck stares at him for a moment, like frozen, before he explodes in a tousled, open-mouthed fit of laughter.

“You really are something else, Mark,” he says, when he stops, still holding his belly. He looks up at Mark, at the blush coloring his face - and he leans over to kiss it. Mark turns his face at the last moment and the kiss lands on his mouth. He sighs into it. The laptop automatically enters hibernation mode exactly six minutes later, and neither of them notices.

 

 

Are you still at the office?

Mark ignores Taeyong’s message. He knows his brother is worried, but he also knows his brother sometimes sleeps in the office, especially if he has some important project ahead, so he’s not going to take advice from him.

His phone buzzes again.

Have you eaten? Don’t make me call dad.

Mark looks at the messages. Who even texts with full punctuation nowadays? No one, that's the answer. Except his pristin brother, of course.

closing down rn, he types quickly. Then, after a moment of consideration, he adds, gna eat b4 i head home dw.

He hopes Taeyong can decipher the message. He lowers the screen of his laptop with a sigh, not even bothering to turn it off when he’s going to use it again very soon. He’s going home to appease Taeyong, sure, but nothing can keep him from working at his own apartment. He dumps the laptop in his expensive backpack, picks up his jacket and heads towards the stairs - because Taeyong always nags that he doesn’t exercise enough - but then he realizes that one of the elevator has stopped at this floor, almost as if it was waiting for him. A quick look at his wrist watch tells him it’s already past ten and he needs to hurry up if he wants to eat something more than cheap convenience store food.

It’s just a flick of the destiny’s wrist that makes him take the elevator instead of the stairs. If he hadn’t stopped to answer Taeyong’s text, or maybe if he had spent five more minutes packing and turning off all the lights, if the dice hadn’t rolled just right, Mark probably wouldn’t have found the elevator waiting for him there. But he does, and he presses the button and steps in the big cube of reinforced glass and steel, and then presses another button as the fancy box starts to slowly go down.

Through the glass doors of the elevator, Mark can see the other offices, empty and dark. It’s a tall building, all glass, everywhere, a view that spaces out into the endless forests of skyscrapers of the business district. Mark doesn’t love the concept, it makes him feel restless, exposed. He likes his privacy, his space, well defined by brick walls - or even plywood separators, he’s not that picky - but all this glass makes him feel like he’s an animal in a zoo, like everyone can see what he’s doing from every point of the floor, like there’s not even a barrier between him and other people, just an endlessly open space exposing him to curious eyes.

He shakes away the uneasiness and looks at the small display instead, watching the number change, eight, seven, sixth floor, and then he realizes the elevator has stopped and the glass doors are opening in front of a tired, dishevelled Lee Donghyuck from the Research Team.

Donghyuck is holding his phone and jacket with one hand, his backpack, a paper bag and a file folder with the other, and he almost falls down, too unbalanced by all the weight on his left side, when he bows to Mark as he enters the elevator. Mark catches him before he tumbles down with everything else, and shushes him when Donghyuck starts apologizing.

“Which floor?” he asks, taking a respectful step back. His hands are sweating. A pair of green Converse appear in his peripheral vision. He looks up, finds the owner of the shoes blinking behind his glasses, a little flustered.

“First floor.”

Lee Donghyuck smiles when he intercepts Mark’s confused gaze, and pockets his phone to move the folder and paper bag to his now free hand, slipping the backpack around his shoulders. See? he seems to say, I’m not that much of a mess.

“Are you going home too, Manager Lee?”

“More or less,” Mark answers. Lee Donghyuck hums and looks down and Mark considers it the end of the conversation. The elevator stops at the fourth floor to let in a middle-aged woman who leaves at the third, and just as the doors close, Donghyuck’s stomach rumbles. His hand comes to clutch it immediately and he lets out an embarrassed gasp, eyes sneakily going up to see if Mark is looking at him and of course Mark is looking at him. It’s so awkward, and Donghyuck starts blushing - Mark can understand why, he’s there with a direct senior who’s wearing a suit, leather shoes and a fifteen thousand dollars Rolex, with his dirty Converse shoes and jeans and ratty backpack, and his stomach just grumbled. The ding of the doors opening seems to startle him from his bubble of humiliation, and he bows, right at Mark, before he tries to dash out of the elevator.

He never gets that far and it takes a moment for Mark to realize it’s because his hand, his own very clammy hand, is holding the wrist of the rookie guy from the Research team, keeping him from leaving. Breach of personal space, a very wide opening for a harassment complaint, his brain screams at him.

“Uhm,” his mind says, instead of apologizing, “would you like to get dinner?”

“What?”

Lee Donghyuck stares at him as if he’s crazy, the cold lights of the elevator reflected on his round glasses. Cute, but he’s still going to get Mark fired because, like an idiot, he still hasn’t let go of his hand.

“Most of the places around here are closed, and you’ve been working here for, how long, three weeks? You probably won’t find a restaurant open if you don’t know where to look,” he says, as fast as he can.

And Lee Donghyuck blinks again, murmurs, “Oh, I was planning to stop at the Seven Eleven behind the corner and get some gimbap,” but then he must notice something on Mark’s face, something like disappointment maybe? “But I wouldn’t say no to a proper dinner if you know a good place, Manager Lee.”

“It’s Mark,” Mark says, automatically. “I don’t think I’m that much older than you, Donghyuck-ssi.”

In fact, Mark is sure they’re only one year apart, but he doesn’t want Donghyuck to think he was paying too much attention to him when Youngho introduced them. Donghyuck rewards him with another smile, and Mark finally lets go of his wrist and hopes the other boy hasn’t noticed how sweaty his palm was.

“Then lead the way, Mark-ssi.”

 

 

Lee Donghyuck is not, Mark realizes in a frighteningly short time, like a puppy. More like a soft killing machine. He’s ruthless, really. It takes him four elevator meetings and two dinners to drop the honorifics and start calling Mark hyung, and not even six hours later he switches to informal speech over jjajangmyeon and there’s absolutely nothing Mark can do to stop him.

Mark tries to glare at him, he really does, but Donghyuck really is a soft killing machine. His puppy eyes are lethal and Mark finds himself laughing at him and punching his shoulder because no twenty-something years old working for a corporate company has any right to be this cute.

“I was born like this, hyung,” Donghyuck says, with a shrug. “Can’t tame the beast inside me.”

“I’ll let you know I have friends in HR, I could fire you for excessive cuteness if I wanted.”

Donghyuck throws his head behind and swallows all the beer left on the pitcher. When he finishes he exhales, dries his mouth with the back of his hand, and winks.

“You could, but you know that new software we’re working on? More than half of the code is mine, and it would be a gigantic waste of money and time to develop it again from the start. Plus, Youngho-hyung likes me more than he likes you.”

Mark clicks his tongue and pours them both more beer to avoid answering, because they both know Donghyuck is right. He’s a little jealous, if he has to be honest, and the frightening thing is that he’s more jealous of Johnny than of Donghyuck. And he’d rather not analyze the reason why.

“Should we order some more?” he asks instead, shaking the empty bottle, but Donghyuck shakes his head.

“Nah, I’m okay.”

And Mark is not even a big drinker, but Donghyuck looks ready to go and it’s the hope of making him stay a little more that leads him to insist.

“Come on, you should live a little. It’s Friday night, you don’t even have the excuse of having to be at the office tomorrow.”

Donghyuck shakes his head again, but thankfully he doesn’t look offended, just a little bashful. “I’m meeting a friend later, we’re going to clubs. I can’t drink too much, in case I score a cute date.”

“So you’re into cute guys, Donghyuck-ssi?” Mark says, slipping into honorifics again to cover up for the grossly inappropriate personal question he’s asking. Tomorrow he’ll blame the beer, even if it was only one and clearly too light to make him drunk. Today, he can only blame himself. “Are there any guys cuter than you, though?”

Mark expects Donghyuck to blush - he said what he said in a moment of lucid fever, but he said it because he wanted Donghyuck to blush. Donghyuck and his droopy eyes and his heart-shaped lips and the way he trails cutely, like a puppy, after Youngho at work. Mark wanted that Donghyuck to blush. Donghyuck licks his lips, gives Mark a once-over so lewd it makes him blush and smiles like the cat who got the cream.

“Well, there’s you, for a start, Manager Lee,” he says in the end, like it’s nothing, like he hasn’t just… Mark doesn’t even know what he has just done, but he almost drops his credit card and he can only smile, nervously, as he pays for the both of them, evading the cashier’s eyes as they go from him to Donghyuck and to him again.

It’s only after Donghyuck has disappeared into a taxi and Mark has taken one, two, three mouthful of fresh air that he realizes that, yes, he just flirted with the very cute guy from the Research Team and, yes again, the very cute guy from the Research Team flirted back.

 

 

The radio is playing a soft love song, a featuring between a famous girl group’s lead singer and an even more famous rapper. The windscreen wiper waves, back and forth, deleting the raindrops from the glass before the rain paints them again, harder, with a vengeance. Mark is holding Donghyuck’s hand on top of the gear shift at the red light. Donghyuck is munching on a donut he got by the Dunkin’ three streets across the office while he waited for Mark to pick him up after work, far enough that the chances to meet any of their coworkers there are considerably low. He’s sprinkling powdered sugar all over himself and the leather seats and Mark wants to lean over and lick it from his face and fingers and then nag at him because, you know, leather seats.

“I’d like you to meet my mother,” he says, instead, and he rejoices in the way Donghyuck chokes on the donut he had refused to share with him.

 

 

It’s Monday, so it’s a terrible day by default, but it’s also late, three minutes to nine, and Mark meets Donghyuck in front of the elevator and at least three people snicker and someone whistles. Donghyuck is sporting a giant hickey right above the hem of his Michael Jackson t-shirt, heavy eye-bags and a giant smile. The smile is the most impressive thing, it doesn’t waver through the catcalling and it only widens as his eyes meet Mark’s in the crowded glass elevator. The one Mark sends back is shaky, at best.

Still, Mark is a very logical person. He makes lists of pros and cons and weighs them on a very scientific, very precise-looking, very imaginary scale. He does it during work breaks, because work is important, but he does it zealously, drawing imaginary lines in the blank slate of his mind and taking notes in tidy, font serif block letters.

It’s a good thing, Mark reasons to himself, if Donghyuck can go gay-bar-hopping in Hongdae for the whole weekend. It’s a pro because it can only mean he’s not in a stable relationship. It doesn’t automatically mean he’s looking for one - you don’t exactly look for a date in that kind of places, more like a quick fuck, but Mark can’t really say because he never tried to look for either. That ends up in the list of cons.

Jaehyun sends him an angry mail telling him to stop working and come to lunch and Mark deletes the pop-up alarm with a hum. Back to the list.

Donghyuck must be having a lot of sloppy sex and gaining a lot of experience which might end up in the list of pros - having sex with him is going to be amazing - as much as in the list of cons - a lot of experience probably will lead to Donghyuck being quite disappointed when Mark finally gets him on a flat surface, because Mark himself has only been with three people and it was always very nice, very satisfying and very boring vanilla sex.

Pros: if Donghyuck already has no shortage of available partners he will never start a romantic secret liaison with Mark, thus not distracting him from work. Cons: the mere view of a hickey on Donghyuck’s neck was enough to make Mark want to punch someone. Repeatedly. And that someone is himself.

 

 

For someone so blatant and loud and shameless during sex, Donghyuck is really shy about his own naked body. He rolls on his belly as soon as he comes, flattening his chest and face against the mattress to hide from Mark’s glossy, unfocused eyes as he tries to regain his breath. Mark breathes deeply, every single muscle feeling like jelly under his skin, and lets himself fall next to him.

“Give me a moment,” Donghyuck mutters after a while, the words muffled against the mattress. “Just a moment.”

“Take your time,” Mark replies. “The bed won’t run away.”

He feels Donghyuck’s shoulders shake at that, his body melting a little. He turns towards Mark, bringing his arms around his chest, almost like a shield.

“Can I use your shower before I leave?”

Mark has to blink twice before the question stops being a bunch of sounds strung together and takes a meaning inside his head.

“Sure, just wake me up tomorrow when you need to go… I’ll give you a towel, that kind of stuff.”

He snuggles closer and tries to fall asleep, but Donghyuck squirms.

“Tomorrow?” he asks, and there’s something wrong in his voice, something that makes Mark feel uneasy enough to open his eyes.

“Do you have anywhere to be tonight?” he asks, raising an eyebrow, and Donghyuck shrinks a little.

“People don’t usually let one night stands stay the night.”

And Mark is too sleepy for his brain to function normally, the usually impeccably-dressed, clean thoughts all waiting in line for their turn to take part to the brain round-table now are running around naked and irritable because they’re tired and they just want to sleep and they’re punching each other in their haste to be heard by the CEO - that is Mark’s brain.

“People who’d kick a one night stand out like that are assholes,” he says, the first thing that came to his mind. Then, since the situation could be worse, “I never invited you here to be a one night stand anyway.”

His words are welcomed by a stupefied silence and Mark realizes what he just said.

“I mean,” he tries, even though damage control has never been his forte, “unless you came here to be a one night stand? You can still stay the night, unless you need to leave, or you have anywhere to be-”

“Why did you invite me here then?” Donghyuck asks, a little suspicious.

“Do we have to talk about this now?” Mark nags, and Donghyuck pinches him.

“Yes.”

“I could ask you out tomorrow on top of Namsan Tower,” Mark suggests, “you know, be romantic. Both of us awake, not covered in cum.”

A beat of silence. Please let’s go back to sleep, Mark begs, but to no avail.

“You’re not even out, Lee Mark. How can you ask me out?”

And Mark sighs, rolls on his side and lands on top of Donghyuck’s sweaty back with a muffled umph.

“Lee Donghyuck from the Research Department, do you want to come out to the rest of the office with me?”

Donghyuck wiggles, tries to rid himself of Mark’s weight. “I’m already out to the rest of the office, why would I need to do it again?”

He thrashes a little more and, finally, Mark lets himself be dislodged and lies down again at Donghyuck’s side. He lifts himself up, just enough to lay a kiss on the first knob of Donghyuck’s spine.

“Go to sleep, Donghyuck. I’m not letting you leave this bed until we both get at least eleven hours of sleep.”

Donghyuck mutters something that sounds suspiciously like, “Oh, then we’ll never get up because I don’t think you’ve ever slept more than seven consecutive hours in your life,” but Mark’s eyelids are already fluttering shut.

They’re still in bed sixteen hours later, and they’re still together.

 

 

“Looks like Glasses is getting a lot of dick.”

“Well, look at that ass. I’m not a faggot but I’d tap that too.”

“As if he’d let you.”

Snickers.

“Can you move? I need to use the water dispenser.”

The little group, four people, two of them wearing a golden band at their ring finger - including the one who’d gladly tap that ass - take a jump backward as the owner of said ass walks past them and starts filling his tumbler with hot water. He shakes the small package of instant coffee in his hands and pours the content inside the tumbler under their embarrassed faces.

Mark is waiting for Mina in front of the copy machine and even from there, half a room away, he can see the way they look at Donghyuck, eyes lingering on the bruise Mark sucked under his ear yesterday night. He’s walking there before he can stop himself, discretion be damned.

“Is everything alright?” he asks, quickly. Donghyuck glares but at least one of the other guys has the decency to look guilty. Only one, though.

“Just waiting for our turn at the water dispenser,” another one says. “The rookie here was taking half of a lifetime.”

“I think your coffee break has lasted half of a lifetime, Kim. Go back to your seat before Manager Kwon finds you wasting the day here.”

They grumble but leave. Mark waits for Donghyuck to tighten the bottle cap close.

“You know I don’t need your help, right? I can deal with them just fine,” Donghyuck murmurs, under his breath. Mark only hums. “They were just looking Mark, they can’t even say anything to my face or Jungwoo-ssi from HR will…”

“I don’t like them looking either,” Mark says. “I have every right to act jealous since I’m your-”

Donghyuck hisses and blushes. “Shut up.”

Mark takes the tumbler from his hands, pops the lid open and takes a long sip of oversugared, artificial instant coffee.

“This shit sucks,” he says after that, grimacing.

Donghyuck smirks. “Then go and get yourself your Americano, champ. I have work to do.”

“Wait, lunch together with Mina and me?”“

Donghyuck hesitates. Mark is sure half of the office is eavesdropping on them at this point, but he doesn’t care.

“You have to. She’s gonna bring her boyfriend and act all cute with him right in front of me, I need someone sane to counter their cheesiness.”

Donghyuck shrugs. “Are you sure I’m the right choice then?” He walks past Mark to leave, close enough to whisper, only for his ears, “You just want to give her a taste of her own medicine, don’t you? Petty, Manager Lee.”

“Are you coming or not?”

“I’ll let you know.”

 

 

Mark was actually waiting for the phone to ring, an unknown number flashing on the screen.

“Hi, Mark-ssi, it’s Donghyuck. I’m sorry to bother you, are you home already?”

Mark sinks in the armchair in front of the television, one phone under his ear and one in his hands.

“Hello, Donghyuck-ssi. Yes, I’m home. Did you get home safely?”

He hears rustling on the other side of the phone.

“Actually, I’m at my friend’s place. I can’t find my phone, that’s why I’m calling from this number. I’m sorry to bother you, but can you please check if I slipped it inside your bag while we were drinking, perhaps? I’ve already called the restaurant and it’s not there and…”

Mark adjusts the phone under his ears. He unlocks the other one, revealing a Michael Jackson wallpaper, a couple of notifications from a Lee Jeno asking Donghyuck where he is and at least thirty-six unanswered calls from Jeno’s number.

“Let me check my bag,” Mark says, innocently. His hands shake as he opens the front pocket of his backpack and he lets out a fake surprised gasp.

“Ah, Donghyuck-ssi, I think I’ve found your phone.” He hears Donghyuck sigh in relief. “Should I bring it to you next Monday? Or do you want to swing by and get it?”

He can almost see Donghyuck, fidgeting as he bites as his ring finger’s nail. He was supposed to go out clubbing with Jeno like he does every Friday night after getting chicken and drinks with Mark, but a phone is a phone and Mark hopes Donghyuck takes the bait. He prays he does.

“Can I? Are you sure it wouldn’t be a bother?”

“No, of course. I was going to work a little anyway, so you can come. Let me send you my address.”

Mark stares at the phone, his mind back of the moment he let it fall inside his own pocket, Donghyuck too busy trying to slip his coat on to realize.

Donghyuck thanks him, assures him he’ll be there as fast as possible and closes the call.

“Okay hyung,” - oh, he went back to the hyung - “I’ll be there in half an hour. See you later!”

The line falls and Mark puts both phones on his shiny coffee table. Donghyuck’s lips had been shiny with soju, chamisul, cheap and bitter and light like water, heavy, too heavy, heavy enough to make red blossom on Donghyuck’s cheeks, his eyes hazed, his words slurred, a kiss hanging between them, unsolved. (And Mark has never been brave, but he regrets not taking that kiss. He doesn’t regret taking Donghyuck’s phone.)

 

-

 

“You know I don’t mind, right? My family knows I’m gay. I just never told anyone in the office because they’re a bunch of busybodies, but I wouldn’t mind, I promise.”

I wouldn’t mind to do it for you, is what Mark doesn’t say, but rings out loud between them. Donghyuck looks up from where he’s kneeling in front of Mark in one of the unused storage rooms of the eight floor.

He wipes the slick at the corner of his mouth with his fingers and licks his lips and something in Mark snaps, and he’s pulling Donghyuck up, frantically, to lick inside his mouth.

“Like you so much,” he murmurs, as he claims Donghyuck’s lips, pulling him closer, watching him writhe against his leg.

“That’s very… nice of you,” Donghyuck murmurs, as his breathing becomes more laboured and he literally ruts against Mark’s body. “And I appreciate it so much, I swear. But half of the office is already suspecting something, if they knew it was you I’m screwing in the toilets we’d never be able to sneak around like we’ve been doing.”

“You don’t want me to claim you as my boyfriend because of, what, quickies in the toilets?”

Donghyuck frowns a little, his forehead sweaty, his glasses fogged - they were so into it they forgot to take them off. “If you put it like that it sounds dirty.”

“Your mind is dirty.”

Donghyuck tries to argue back but Mark yanks the collar of his hoodie down, licking a wet strips down his neck, tongue dipping in the hollow of his collarbones in a way that makes Donghyuck’s knees buckle.

“Introduce me to your family,” Donghyuck says, and that, at least, makes Mark stop.

They’ve been dating for a couple of months, secretly of course, but Mark’s brother has already caught up on that and has been pestering him for info for at least two weeks. And Mark really doesn’t care, but if his mother meets Donghyuck she’ll start talking about moving in together, and marriage, and adopting babies, and Mark just wants to enjoy this phase, having time for themselves and for no one else.

“If you really want that, I can do that,” he says, warily, but Donghyuck shakes his head and pouts. Mark already knows Donghyuck is going to win this argument, so he sucks a little higher, high enough that the entire office will be able to see the hickey. Let them wonder who Donghyuck’s mysterious boyfriend is. And, more than that, let them see he’s taken so they can, at least, have a good reason to stare.

“When you’re ready to introduce me to your family on your own, without me forcing you, you’ll also have my permission to tell the entire office we’re together,” Donghyuck says, with a devilish, blissed out smile, knowing too well Mark doesn’t want to share him with his annoying, overbearing family yet. “And now come back here.”

 


Mark makes sure to brush his teeth, carefully, until the sourness of soju is gone and the only thing he can taste is the spicy freshness of mint. He considers keeping his work clothes on - he knows Donghyuck likes him in a suit because he’s inexperienced in romantic stuff but not blind, and he’s seen the way Donghyuck’s eyes linger on him, on his crisp, tailored suit, the golden cufflinks and the silk necktie, when they meet in the elevator at night before they head to the barbeque place. Like what you see? Mark has always wanted to ask, but he never did because their company has a strong policy against harassment in the workplace and he’s Donghyuck’s senior and Donghyuck has a history of filing lawsuits against big IT companies.

Plus, he doesn’t want Donghyuck to see him as Manager Lee. Donghyuck already sees Manager Lee every day at work, and he’s never kissed him. Mark wants Donghyuck to kiss him.

He’s sitting at the coffee table, mindlessly proofreading the data he input in the system during the day to calm his nerves, when the doorbell rings. He keeps the door open while he waits for Donghyuck to take the elevator, wiping his palms on his slacks to get rid of the sweat.

Donghyuck is still wearing the same sweater and jeans and sneakers, the same cream coat that looks a little too long on him not to be awkward. The glasses are gone and Mark knows he’s wearing lenses because his eyes look bigger and darker, and someone put eyeliner on him, under the rim and following the eyes to make them look longer, cat-eyes, not the usual droopy puppy-eyes, and Mark realizes that maybe they both had the same idea. Maybe they both wanted to show the other something new, another side of them. Or maybe Donghyuck just came to pick up his phone for a moment and he still plans to hit the clubs after this.

Donghyuck greets Mark, sheds his sneakers and enters, slowly, looking around and trying not to be too obvious about it. He clicks his tongue, a little admired, a little jealous, but doesn’t say anything witty about managers and their fat paychecks and their nice apartments in a nice complex, nice neighborhood, nice view of the cityscape. He walks towards his phone, unlocks it, starts checking the messages he received.

“Ah, I left it on silent mode…” he murmurs to himself. “I called so many times.”

“Do you want something to drink?” Mark asks.

It comes out a little choked. A little dry. He expects Donghyuck to politely refuse and go, to his friends, to his clubs, to the people he’ll meet there, but Donghyuck whips his head up and looks at Mark.

“Do you have beer? I wouldn’t say no to a beer.”

Mark opens the fridge, takes out the beer he bought on his way home specifically for this evenience. He gives one can to Donghyuck, opens one for himself. The click of the can opening echoes in the kitchen, heavy with silence and the buzz of the refrigerator. Donghyuck takes a sip, sighs at the taste, lays the can on the table again.

“There’s something I’m curious about,” he says, looking at Mark with his heavily kohled eyes. Mark shrugs as to tell him, come on, go ahead and ask.

Hyung. You do know I’m gay, right?”

Mark chokes on the beer but manages to hide it really well. He puts it on the table, next to Donghyuck’s. His hands don’t shake.

“I know. It’s been the talk of the office for months.”

“And you still invited me here? To your house?”

“You came to pick up your phone,” Mark replies, with a shrug. His voice doesn’t shake.

“My phone that you purposefully took, you mean?”

The entire world seems to shake, but Mark doesn’t. The good thing about planning in advance is that it also gives you the time to think about a plan B, in case plan A goes disastrously wrong. 

Mark doesn’t shake. He leans back against the counter and looks at Donghyuck.

“So you knew I took the phone, and you still came. What does that make you?”

“I’m just really curious about why a straight guy like you, a very handsome, very smart, very cute guy, but still a straight guy, would go to such an extent just to get me-”

“I’m not straight.”

Mark doesn’t shake, even if it’s only the third time in his life that he tells this to someone. It’s very fulfilling, to shut Donghyuck up like that, watch his mouth open and close. He looks like a fish. A very nice looking fish. Mark’s type of fish, to be accurate.

“I don’t follow,” Donghyuck finally manages to say. “No, more like, I don’t believe you.”

“My close family knows, but not many others do. I’m quite protective of my privacy and our office tends to be very… judgmental.”

Mark doesn’t shake, but Donghyuck does, a little.

“I invited you here,” Mark continues, since he’s already here and he might as well say everything - he’s so loose-lipped with Donghyuck, he should probably work on that - “because even though I was afraid I’ve been reading things wrong, for the past few weeks you looked into me, just a little. I hope it wasn’t only wishful thinking on my part, because I’m into you, quite a lot.”

Donghyuck shakes his head. He takes the can of beer again - it’s the wrong one, the one Mark drank from, but Mark doesn’t have it in himself to tell him - and drinks it all, then slams it on the table again.

“So you stole my phone and you made me come here to hit on me?” Donghyuck asks, suddenly switching to informal speech. “You… Do you know I’ve sued someone for a lot less?”

“Are you going to sue me, Donghyuck-ah?”

Donghyuck scoffs. “Unbelievable. Un-be-lie-va-ble. Hyung, you’re fucking lucky you look like a snack, otherwise…”

Mark never finds out what would’ve happened if he hadn’t looked like a snack, because Donghyuck stalks over and kisses him on the mouth, and his fingers card themselves into Mark’s hair and his tongue is warm and wet and tastes like Mark’s beer and Mark’s name.

 

 

Mark is going through the budgeting proposal for the next month and humming the last survival program’s opening song because Donghyuck is obsessed with the show and not only refuses to go out with Mark on Friday nights so they can watch it on Mark’s super big, super flat screen, but also leaves the reruns on while he cooks, cleans or plays games on his phone, so now Mark knows all the songs so well he could hum them while he has sex.

“Wow, you look really chipper this morning.”

Mark looks up as Yang Hongwon enters the room with another stack of files from the Marketing department. His eyes zero on the ring on Mark’s finger. He whistles.

“So, Manager Lee.” Mark blinks, confused, just as Hongwon leans down, so that they are on the same level. “I know you’re trying to keep a low profile about this but, between us, is Lee Donghyuck from the Research Team that good in bed?”

So much for discretion.