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LESSON 1: Confidence Is Key (they can probably smell fear)

It isn’t like Mark Lee to run late. He’s the type of person to be on top of everything at all times, with his color coded folders and his impeccably organized schedules in his phone, but apparently today just isn’t his day. 

Mark has been looking forward to this morning for three weeks because not just anyone scores an interview with FULLSUN INC, and he has been positively dying to get an internship there since as long as he can remember. Unfortunately, Renjun got sick last night, so Mark had to cover his late shift at the bar. This means he slept past all five of his alarms and woke up way later than planned.

He’s running through the city, five minutes away from the building where his interview starts in three. In short, this is the biggest day of his life so far other than the day he got accepted into his dream university on a full scholarship, and he can’t afford to mess it up. Yet, just because he’s in a rush doesn’t mean he has lost all of his morals, so he stops to help an old lady cross the road, and he’s now ten whole minutes behind schedule. Fantastic.

Mark sets his sights on the skyscraper that is the headquarters of FULLSUN INC, jogging down the sidewalk and readying himself to turn the last corner at full tilt so he’ll only be about eight minutes late when he hears the horn of a truck just off to his left. He whips his head around to see a man in a suit on his phone about to walk into the street in front of a huge semi truck, and Mark barely has the time to think before he is dropping his bag on the pavement and running over to the man, pulling him back onto the curb as the truck whizzes by, horn still blaring.

The man drops his phone out of surprise, but Mark is fast enough to catch it, pressing it back into his hand.

“Please be more careful!” Mark calls back to the man without sparing him a second glance. He rushes back to where he dropped his bag, thanking every deity he can think of for the fact that it’s still there, and he heads inside the building at long last.

FULLSUN INC, previously under the name of NCT CORP before it changed ownership, is an impressive company to say the least. It specializes in research for new technologies of all sorts, most of which are highly classified. There are rumors of the company having its fingers in just about every pie it can get ahold of, including but not limited to flying cars, self-tying shoes, and 3D printers that are capable of building entire homes.

Mark has had dreams of working there since he was in elementary school. The company had sent a representative to do some experiments for their science day, and Mark was immediately hooked. He wants to take his time to take in the regality of the lobby, but he knows that he’s late already so he simply hurries across the marble tiled floor to the front desk.

“What is your name?” the man at the desk asks sweetly, a kind smile adorning his face.

“Mark. Mark Lee,” he pants, immediately feeling the tips of his ears burn at how out of breath he is.

“You’re here for the interview today! Congratulations, by the way,” the man says, still smiling. “Your interviewer isn’t here yet, so you can take a seat in the waiting area, but if I may recommend that you visit the bathroom first? To fix up your hair a bit.”

“Oh!” Mark’s hands fly to smooth down his hair, and he can feel that it’s all windblown and out of place. “Thank you, uh, what’s your name sir?”

“My name is Kun. Good luck in the interview Mark!” 

Mark thanks Kun profusely, willing the pink on his cheeks to go away, before scurrying to the bathrooms on the other side of the lobby. He is looking at himself in the mirror, attempting to fix his unruly dark locks into something at least a little bit more presentable when a man bursts in through the door.

“Shit, shit, shit!” He’s mumbling to himself, combing his long fingers through his dyed pink hair—or, at least Mark assumes that it’s dyed—completely ruining the styling. The man doesn’t spare Mark a single glance as he rushes to the sink, frantically scrubbing at his shirt, and Mark can see from the reflection in the mirror that there is an enormous stain on the front of his white button-up, most likely from coffee.

“Are you alright?” Mark tries.

“No!” The man barks at him without even looking, brow furrowed in concentration as he scrubs at his chest with vigor. Mark should be more offended at his tone, but it’s rather clear that the man is just having a bad day, so instead of snapping back, he reaches into his bag and pulls out the spare shirt he forgot he stashed in there. 

He keeps it in there for an emergency change in case a spill happens at the bar, but he supposes he doesn’t particularly mind it being used for this.

“Sir? Uh…” Mark gingerly holds out the slightly-wrinkled shirt. “I have an extra, if you’d like. I think it would fit and you look like you’re in a bit of a rush.”

The man just looks at him funny for a moment, clearly confused at the kindness that Mark is showing.

“Are you sure?”

“Positive.” Mark smiles. The man smiles back.

“Thank you,” he breathes out, taking the shirt. “Someone ran into me with their coffee cup but I have an interview and I can’t go in looking like this.”

“I completely understand,” Mark laughs. He doesn’t think the man knows quite how well Mark understands, but it doesn’t matter. “Good luck!”

“Thanks again!” The man calls over his shoulder on his way out. “I hope you have a wonderful day, and I promise I’ll return the shirt next time I see you!”

Mark can only hope that they both get the jobs they’re applying for so they can see each other again, but he doesn’t let himself dwell on that thought. He still has a whole interview to get through, and in the grand scheme of things, losing a white dress shirt to help someone out won’t be the end of the world.

He takes a deep breath, looking back in the mirror as he does his best to fix his hair, willing his cheeks to lose their pink tint from sprinting halfway across downtown. Mark, honestly, doesn’t know if he’s overprepared or underprepared for the interview because there isn’t a lot of intel on exact what FULLSUN’s interviews are even like. He doesn’t know what to expect, and that scares him.

However, having a crisis about this in the middle of the bathroom isn’t going to help him get the job that he has wanted since he was a kid, so he runs his fingers through his hair one last time in an attempt to tame it and sighs heavily before walking out of the bathroom. Across the lobby, there’s a little café that Mark makes a mental note to stop at because their croissants look really good, and he thinks he deserves a treat after the interview. Mark barely has time to think about sitting back down when his name rings out across the lobby.

“Mark?” Kun calls, and Mark rushes over to the desk to greet the man with a smile. “Your interview will be on the third floor, room 328.”

“Thank you so much, Kun,” Mark breathes wringing his hands out of nerves. “I hope to see you soon!”

“I look forward to working with you, Mark,” he replies with a smile, and that’s all it takes to give Mark the confidence boost he needs to walk over to the elevator and press the button to call it down. On the short ride up to the third floor, the nerves settle back into his body, twisting low and cold in the bottom of his stomach. He wants to throw up and eject his very soul from his body at this point because he’s relatively sure it would be less painful than whatever is happening right now. 

His palms are clammy, and he wipes them on his pants, glad that he made the choice to go with dark slacks today and that he’s in the elevator alone. The shiny door open in front of him, making his reflection split in two as it welcomes him to the third floor of FULLSUN INC with a robotic female voice that has the weirdest way of calming the buzz of anxiety in his head.

Another deep breath.

A step forward.

He can do this.

It’s just his luck, though, that the room is at the opposite side of the seemingly endless hallway, filled by meeting rooms as far as the eye can see. Before he can think about backing down, he knocks on the door. His fate is sealed when the voice from within beckons him, and Mark pushes the door open and almost proceeds to trip over himself when he sees the interviewer.

The pink-haired man is sitting there at the head of the huge meeting table, wearing Mark’s shirt and an indecipherable expression that morphs into a huge smile upon seeing him enter.

“I can’t say I expected this, but I do believe you’re already off to a great start.” The man stands, offering his hand for Mark to go over and shake. “My name is Na Jaemin. COO of FULLSUN INC and I will be conducting your interview today since our head of HR is out sick.”

Mark clasps his hand eagerly, the knots in his stomach undoing themselves faster the longer he looked at Jaemin’s comforting smile. He hadn’t recognized Jaemin because the last time he had seen a photo of him, he had still been sporting dark brown hair.

“I’m Mark Lee. MIT graduate with honors and hopeful employee of FULLSUN INC,” Mark pauses, grinning, “but I think you already knew that last part.”

“Indeed I did.” Jaemin’s eyes sparkle as he gestures to the seat next to him for Mark to take. “Shall we get into it?”

The interview goes extraordinarily smoothly, turning into more of a conversation about Mark and his resumé instead of the one-sided questioning he had been expecting up until then. Jaemin and Mark discuss his college experience in North America, which is when he discovers that Jaemin attended Harvard as a business major, only graduating a year after him. They aren’t so far apart and they connect so easily it’s almost scary. 

They talk about why Mark chose FULLSUN, to which Mark replies with the abridged version of the childhood science fair story, and they even drop onto the subject of how Jaemin himself ended up at FULLSUN. It turns out that it’s because Jaemin’s best friend was planning on running a company and couldn’t do it alone, and Jaemin hopped on board to help and hasn’t seen a reason to leave since, although Mark gets the feeling that even if there is a reason for Jaemin to jump ship, he isn’t the type that would abandon so easily. 

He gets a strong sense of loyalty from Jaemin, and maybe that’s what makes them click, which Mark is eternally grateful for. Mark has never had a lot of time for friends outside of school and work, and now that he’s out of college with very few social connections that aren’t to his professors or his fellow coworkers at the bar, he feels pretty lonely. He lets himself think that maybe, even if he doesn’t get the job, he and Jaemin could stay friends. He gets the feeling Renjun would like him.

Jaemin is wrapping things up in the interview, and Mark couldn’t be happier with how it had gone, but his thoughts are interrupted by a sharp knock on the door of the conference room. Without waiting for an answer from the inside, the door swings open hastily to reveal a man in an expensive-looking suit with styled brown hair and sharp eyes.

“Na Jaemin where the hell have you been? The meeting with the investors is happening in—” The man stops himself short the moment his eyes meet Mark’s.

Mark has to do a double-take, but he’s positive that the man standing in the doorway of the conference room is the very same man who he had stopped from running into the street earlier that very morning. The difference this time, though, is that Mark has ample time to get a good look at his face. It takes a moment to click, but once it does, Mark’s jaw drops. The face he’s looking at belongs to FULLSUN INC’s famous playboy CEO, Lee Donghyuck. 

If Mark’s jaw could unhinge, he is confident that it would be lying on the polished tabletop in front of him.

“It seems I’ve interrupted something here,” Donghyuck says, clearly amused. He doesn’t give any indication that he recognizes Mark, so he keeps his mouth shut on the subject.

“Yes, you have.” Jaemin speaks up indignantly, clearly displeased. “You can’t be here right now. I’m conducting an official interview in Yangyang’s place.”

“I actually can be here, Jaem.” The nickname rolls off of his tongue so smoothly, and coupled with the grin that he flashes the COO, Mark doesn’t know how Jaemin isn’t a puddle on the floor by this point. Donghyuck closes the door and strides confidently around the table until he is sitting across from Mark, adjacent to Jaemin. “Carry on, please.”

Jaemin scowls over at him and the unprofessional expression makes Mark want to laugh. It’s clearly meant as a gesture between friends, an expression of distaste between equals, not something that a COO should ever be making at a CEO. Mark doesn’t mind, however, and enjoys the humanity of it all. The fact that Donghyuck sticks his tongue out back reminds Mark that yes, these are humans too and not just perfect robots that end up on the front of GQ and Vogue because of their success and beauty.

“Well, Mark,” Jaemin clears his throat, turning back to the interview. He’s clearly trying to ignore Donghyuck’s presence, but it fills up the entire room without him even trying and Mark feels like he can’t breathe. “There’s going to be a bit of a buffer period between the end of this interview and when I will get to review your resumé with some of the other engineers, but I will contact you via email with our decision as soon as I can.”

“Do you mind if I write that down?” Because Mark is nothing if not organized and, when Jaemin gives him the green light and he pulls out his color-coded planner, he knows that it shows.

“You’re quite the organized person.” Jaemin lets out an incredulous laugh, clearly not having expected such neatness from an engineer, of all people. Mark smiles up at him, about to respond, but Donghyuck beats him to it.

“Mark, I have a proposition.”

And that is definitely not on the list of things he expected to hear today.

“A what?” Jaemin chokes out, but Donghyuck ignores him and looks straight at Mark.

“There is a current vacancy in the position of my secretary. I can guarantee you the job if you agree right here, right now.”

“Donghyuck!” Jaemin scolds, looking positively appalled. “What makes you think—”

“He’s quick, he’s organized, and he’s smart,” Donghyuck justifies himself, although Mark gets the feeling that for him, rationales aren’t always a necessity. “And that’s exactly what I’m looking for.”

The little comment about him being quick is all Mark needs to hear to know that Donghyuck recognizes him as the person who saved him, and he wonders if that has anything to do with why he’s being offered this position.

Speaking of which, Mark wants to yell out that he didn’t spend four years at MIT getting a major in biomech to be someone’s secretary, let alone Lee freaking Donghyuck’s. On the flip side, Mark prides himself in being polite and grateful for the opportunities he receives, so he pastes on the most convincing smile he can and nods.

“I would love to accept whatever position FULLSUN has to offer me.” The words slip from his mouth, and Mark won’t let himself regret them. He has made his decision, and fully intends to stick with it.

“Great.” Donghyuck flashes him a wide grin, and Mark now knows why he has men and women falling at his feet constantly: they’re on the receiving end of that smile once and it’s all over for them. Mark swallows hard and can only hope he isn’t the same way. “You’ll start next week Monday, eight am sharp. I’m sure Jaemin will give you the rest of the details…?” He leaves the prompt open as he stands and walks back around the table to the door, looking at his COO for confirmation.

“I can help sort that all out now, actually,” Jaemin offers, and Mark nods.

“And Mark?” Donghyuck calls over his shoulder as he opens the door to leave.

“Yes?” He’s just happy that his voice doesn’t shake or crack like he expects it to.

“Don’t be late again. I don’t appreciate tardiness.” With that, he exits, leaving behind a gaping Mark and a concerned but chuckling Jaemin.

“Don’t mind ol’ Donghyuck.” Jaemin brushes off the encounter like it isn’t the singular most terrifying thing that has happened to Mark since he forgot to study for his O-Chem midterm sophomore year. “He just has a flare for the dramatics.”

Jaemin closes up the file in front of him, and Mark hums, unsure if he’s willing to take his word for it. They’re clearly much more comfortable around each other than Mark is around either of them, but maybe that’s subject to change now. Just maybe.

But, at the end of the day, Mark has a job at his dream company and he doesn’t really have a lot of room to complain.

 

LESSON 2: Be Careful What You Say (they might do something about it)

Mark shows up to the office every day at 7 am sharp, rather than eight o’clock, the time Donghyuck had established on his way out of Mark’s interview. He learns Donghyuck’s coffee order by heart, and learns that if he asks the barista to make it extra hot, the coffee is at the exact right temperature when Donghyuck walks in at exactly seven-thirty each morning without fail.

He hands Donghyuck his coffee and a croissant that he picked up from the little café in the lobby of the building, then hands him a neatly typed itinerary for the day as he debriefs him on what meetings and other obligations he has for the day. Donghyuck never thanks him, only ever lifts his coffee cup in salute before disappearing into his office for hours on end, only coming out when he has to go to a meeting.

Mark has no idea if he eats at all during the day, let alone if he breathes, but it’s perfectly clear that he’s getting work done. He lets Donghyuck do his own thing, though, because he has his own endless pile of things to do. Mark throws himself into the job with vigor because there are so many things that he’s behind on given the gap in time between secretaries, so if Donghyuck is busy, that means that Mark is just as swamped, if not moreso.

Being so occupied with all of the catching up and learning-on-the-job that he has to do takes up so much of his time that next to none of it is left for socializing around the workplace, which turns out to be both a blessing and a curse.

It’s a blessing because Mark can already tell that not everyone in the company is going to be nice to him just because he’s new and he’s the CEO’s secretary—technically the position name is “executive assistant” but it’s not like there are any non-executive assistants for Lee Donghyuck just hanging around—which gives him a perfectly valid excuse to avoid all of them. But it’s also a curse because he never gets the chance to meet anyone nice or make new friends like Renjun keeps encouraging him to do every night when he comes home around dinnertime, exhausted but satisfied because he’s slowly but surely catching up with all of the work.

“Hey, Mark, right?”

So it’s quite a surprise when one of his coworkers takes an opportunity to introduce themselves to him.

“Yes?” Mark looks up, eyes wide and startled. He’s met with the sight of a young man standing in front of him with an amused but warm smile on his face. “Can I help you? I think Mister Lee is on a call right now so—”

“No, actually, I came here for you.” The man sticks out his hand for Mark to take. “My name’s Jisung. I’m Jaemin’s secretary.”

“Oh! It’s a pleasure!” Mark smiles back before letting go. “Why did you come to see me? Aren’t you busy?”

“I have things to do, yeah, but not nearly the stupid amount that you have,” he laughs. “Jaemin keeps me busy, but not so much that I struggle to tear myself away to go home in the evenings like I see you do. I can afford breaks now and then because my boss isn’t crazy like yours.”

The way Jisung whispers all of this to Mark like it’s some sort of secret instead of common knowledge makes him laugh as well, and he decides that he likes Jisung a lot already.

“I’m a workaholic, I guess.” Mark shrugs. “It’s not difficult work, but it just takes forever.”

“Ugh, trust me, I know ,” Jisung groans, sliding over so he is perched on the side of Mark’s desk. “There was this one time that Donghyuck’s last secretary had to make like a hundred copies of this one thing.”

“How many other secretaries has Donghyuck had exactly? And why did they all leave?”

“From when I started, and I’ve been here a little over a year, he’s been through four or five, but I know that there were more before that,” Jisung mulls it over. “Most of them quit because of how hard Donghyuck pushes them and the sheer amount of work that they have, but there was one that got fired under different circumstances.”

Mark nods softly, trying to look calm and understanding, but he’s terrified on the inside. What if he doesn’t last? What could Donghyuck do that would make his secretaries quit after just a few months? Does he even have what it takes to do this? He has considered himself overqualified for this job, but what if that’s all wrong?

He has heard the whisperings around the office about “the CEO’s poor new secretary” and “how long is that sweet boy even going to last in that position” but Mark had no idea what any of that meant until now.

The funny thing is, thinking about this just makes Mark more determined than ever to stick it out and prove his worth. Maybe this isn’t the job he went to college for, but it pays well and dammit if he isn’t going to be the best secretary Donghyuck has ever seen, even if it means he’s reduced to grabbing coffee and running copies all day. If it makes him feel accomplished and proud, it’s worth it.

“I may not look like much, Jisung, but I think I can handle this better than any of them could,” he responds at last, and it makes a smile tug at Jisung’s lips once more.

“You’re already there, Mark.”

“Mark’s already where?” Someone asks and Mark peeks around Jisung to see Jaemin walking towards them, another man at his side. It takes Mark a moment to recognize him as Jeno, the CFO of FULLSUN, but when he does, he offers a kind smile that both Jeno and Jaemin return easily and without hesitation.

“Donghyuck, Jaemin, and Jeno all went to school together, and when Donghyuck came to them with the proposition of taking over NCT, they both were happy to jump in because of the investments and plans that Donghyuck had already made,” Jisung whispers to Mark, leaning over slightly so he could hear better.

“It’s not just because we’re friends, either,” Jaemin speaks up, and Jisung turns red because he clearly wasn’t as quiet as he had hoped. “It’s because he is one of the smartest people I know, and if I was to entrust anyone with initiating a takeover of a company from next to nothing, it would be Donghyuck, hands down, every time.”

Mark doesn’t know much about business or finances aside from how to do his taxes without Renjun’s help, but from what he can glean, that’s a seriously impressive feat. Jaemin is standing next to Jisung now, a hand on his shoulder as Jeno walks up and sticks out a hand for Mark that he shakes easily. He wonders how many people he has shaken hands with within the past few weeks before quickly deciding that he doesn’t want to think about counting that.

“I’m Lee Jeno, CFO here and Donghyuck’s cousin. My father owned NCT before Donghyuck took over and it’s the best thing that has happened to the company.” Jeno is all smiles with Mark. “I’m glad to have you on board here because if anyone can keep Donghyuck in line, it’s going to be you. I can feel it.”

“Ah,” Mark says. “Thanks.” He doesn’t know how to take that information, or what it means exactly, but can’t ask for clarification because Jeno and Jaemin are already walking away. He watches as they disappear into Donghyuck’s office, completely disregarding the unspoken rule of if the door is closed you had better not come in unless the building is burning that Donghyuck had expressed to Mark on his first day.

“Best friend privileges, I suppose,” Jisung snorts, seeing Mark’s confused look.

“Makes sense,” he thinks aloud.

“You should take a break, by the way,” he says, sliding off of the desk. “Just a little one. I brought you a snack, too. As a belated welcome gift.”

Jisung puts a sandwich on Mark’s desk, squarely in front of his keyboard and on top of his planner so it’s in the way of the work he still has to get done. The little sticker holding together the wrapping indicates that it’s from that cute little café where he gets the coffees every morning.

“Thanks, Jisung.” Mark didn’t notice how hungry he was until now. He packed a lunch as usual, but he could have that later. “I suppose a little break couldn’t hurt.”

He bids Jisung goodbye with Jisung’s number on a sticky note in hand and promise to call or text him if he ever needs any help. Jaemin and Jeno emerge back from Donghyuck’s office soon after, but Mark doesn’t pay them much attention because he has pulled out the book he’s currently reading and is nibbling his way through the sandwich as he reads.

This particular book is one of his favorites and he has read it countless times. It’s about a formidable pirate and a brave admiral who have been in love for years but have to lose each other to come to terms with it because they’ve both convinced themselves that they’re enemies.

No matter how many times he goes through it, the ending always manages to make Mark cry. He’s just getting to the part where the villain’s gun goes off and the captain’s world goes dark when someone startles him.

“What are you up to?” It’s Donghyuck. For whatever reason, he has snuck up behind him and has been reading the book over Mark’s shoulder for an indeterminable amount of time. 

“I’m just getting back to work! Sorry,” Mark hastily apologizes, putting a bookmark in place before sticking it back in his bag. He hadn’t realized how long he had been reading until he sees that his sandwich is gone and almost thirty minutes have ticked by on the clock. Donghyuck just laughs, though, and Mark freezes because out of all of the reactions he could have given, this is one of the last ones he expected.

“Don’t worry about it. I came out to ask if you had gotten a break yet today, actually,” Donghyuck says, and Mark doesn’t know if that’s the truth or not, but has been given no reason not to believe him. “What are you reading?”

“It probably wouldn’t be of any interest to you,” Mark mumbles, feeling the tips of his ears burn. He doesn’t even know why he’s embarrassed.

“Try me.” He raises an eyebrow in challenge.

Mark frowns, but gives in, telling Donghyuck a little bit about the book, but his mind wanders. This is the first real, non-work related conversation they’ve ever had, and he hates to say that it’s not exactly unpleasant.

“Sounds interesting, actually,” he replies after Mark is done. “So you read a lot?”

Mark thinks of the six overflowing bookshelves in his shared apartment with Renjun and grimaces lightly.

“You could say that,” he croaks. “I’ve made it a goal of mine to read every book by this author though,” Mark finishes, tapping on the cover of his current book, finger lightly tracing over the crest of the wave on the front. He doesn’t know why he tells Donghyuck that, but it doesn’t matter because the topic is switched immediately anyway.

“I have to get some more things done,” he hums. “Could you email me those files from earlier?”

“You mean the ones that I already printed out and sorted for you?” Mark asks, trying not to let the smugness creep into his smile as he holds out the neatly arranged stack of paper. He’s proud of himself for being ahead, but he doesn’t want to act pompous.

Donghyuck looks surprised for a fraction of a second before schooling his expression back into something more neutral, but it was long enough for Mark to see it. He clearly isn’t used to having an efficient worker as his secretary, and that makes Mark want to puff his chest just a little bit.

“Yeah,” he says slowly. “Those ones.”

The next day, when Mark returns from his lunch break with Jisung down on the fifth floor lounge, he spots a small package on his desk. It’s wrapped in brown paper and tied neatly with a ribbon. He looks around, but there isn’t anyone over on this part of the floor who might have seen the package placed next to his planner.

He sets his lunch bag down, and that’s when he sees the little card tucked under the bow of the ribbon, and Mark eagerly pulls it out to read it.

This one is a personal favorite. — DH.

Removing the wrapping paper as fast as he can without tearing it, Mark opens the package, and inside rests the most recent book that his favorite author just released. He hasn’t had the time himself to go out and even grab a copy from the library because he has been so caught up with work.

This one is about a young prince and his struggles of growing up in an environment that stifles him, and how his entire life changes when he catches a thief trying to steal from him. Mark glances over at Donghyuck’s office to see the door shut tight, but he smiles in thanks anyway and tucks the book away in his bag for later. 

And if Donghyuck sees Mark reading it avidly during his lunch breaks over the next few days because Jisung is on a business trip with Jaemin, he doesn’t say a word.

LESSON 3: Don’t Refuse Opportunities (they have good intentions)

It’s rapidly approaching the end of Mark’s second month of work, and he wants to consider this some sort of milestone because according to Jisung, he has lasted longer than most of the rest of Donghyuck’s secretaries by now. He has come to appreciate his job a lot more, and the fact that surprise gifts of books sometimes show up on his desk only makes him look forward to the next day even more.

Donghyuck continues to make himself scarce around the office, and Mark has yet to discover why, but all of that is shaken out of his head when he picks up a call on his phone.

“Lee Donghyuck’s office,” he responds automatically. Jisung snorts dramatically and pops a pretzel into his mouth, watching Mark with amusement in his eyes from his perch on the side of his desk.

“This is Lee Donghyuck,” the reply comes easily and Mark almost chokes.

“Oh, good afternoon, sir,” he tumbles over his words and he can tell it piques Jisung’s interest because he actually stops eating to listen. “You’ve never called before.”

“I know,” he says. A pause. “Come into my office, please. I have something I’d like to discuss with you.” Donghyuck ends the call without any formality and Mark’s entire body seizes up.

He’s going to be fired. This is it. He has made it just as long as everyone else and now it’s over. Mark’s hands shake as he places the receiver back down and looks up at Jisung who has lost his smile too.

“What do I do?” Mark whispers. Jisung shrugs, helpless.

“Go into his office and hope he doesn’t actually fire you?” He suggests. Mark pinches him on the knee for that comment, but his fingers are trembling too much to really make it hurt. “I’m serious, Mark. Don’t keep him waiting, but I’ll stay out here for when you’re done, okay?”

Mark nods, gulping hard as he stands. Jisung squeezes Mark’s shoulder before gently nudging him towards the door looming just a little ways away. He spares a singular glance back at Jisung before knocking on the door, and carefully twists the handle to push it open when a voice beckons him inside.

“Yes, Mister Lee?” Mark pokes his head into the office, swallowing his nerves. His entrance makes Donghyuck glance up from his paperwork for a split second before going back to whatever he is working on.

“Do you have anything else to wear?” The question takes him off-guard because he came in fully expecting to be fired on the spot, not asked about his attire.

“What’s wrong with this?” Mark frowns, tugging on the bottom of his sweater vest, having half a mind to wonder if his boss is actually being serious. Donghyuck just snorts, undignified, as he pushes his chair back from his desk.

“Come on. I’m taking you shopping.”

“Now?” Mark is definitely considering the option of Donghyuck just playing with him now. “Sir, we have work to do!”

“I can see that,” Donghyuck muses aloud, looking Mark up and down with such scrutiny that it makes his ears heat up.

“What?” Mark splutters, offended. Sure, he might not own the most expensive suits, but he dresses in business attire every day and probably still is in more formal clothing than most of the office.

“We’re getting you some new suits to wear,” Donghyuck says as if that just explains everything, which it very much does not.

One glance at Donghyuck’s crossed arms and impatiently tapping foot tells him that he really doesn’t have a choice in the matter. Mark spares a thought in mourning directed at the paperwork piled high on his desk as he nods and follows his boss out of the office.

Jisung jerks up in alarm as he sees Mark trailing behind Donghyuck out of his office. He mouths the question of if he got fired but Mark just shakes his head as they walk past.

“I didn’t fire him, Jisung,” Donghyuck says, already far enough past that he couldn’t have seen him ask the question. “Quit your worrying. I’m sure you have better things to be doing.”

Jisung looks at Mark, confused, but all Mark can do is shrug as he follows Donghyuck out of the office without any further complaints. He leads the way to the elevator in the back, the one Mark never uses because he walks to work, so he always enters through the front elevators that go to the lobby.

They emerge into the parking garage and Mark understands that Donghyuck is going to be driving them somewhere and he has no control over it. He’s sure he could say that he really doesn’t want to, and Donghyuck would stop because he’s not a bad person, but honestly he’s intrigued at this point. 

The thing is, though, maybe Mark doesn’t mind being spoiled just a little bit, especially when he’s so used to just barely making it by. On one hand, the absolute last thing he wants to do is be greedy. On the other hand, he doesn’t want to be rude, and that does leave him in a bit of a weird place. It seems like Donghyuck couldn’t care less about whatever internal crisis Mark is having, though, because he strides across the floor of the parking garage until he digs something from his pocket and the black Maserati in the corner beeps once.

“Ready?” Donghyuck calls over his shoulder, swinging his keys around his finger, eyes twinkling with something akin to mischief that should scare Mark more than it excites him, but it doesn’t.

And if the ride isn’t the best one Mark has had in his entire life, then Jisung can sue him with every corporate lawyer in the company. They pull up in the high-end part of the shopping district that Mark never really cares to go to because it’s all at least four digits out of his price range.

None of Donghyuck’s mannerisms toward him throughout the whole trip ever make him feel out of place. On the contrary, they all actually seem to be geared towards making him feel more comfortable and helping him find what he wants. The first time Mark twitches his fingers toward his wallet, Donghyuck already has his card out.

“I’m the one who is making you do this. Let me.” There was no further discussion on it after that.

Out of all the stores they go to that day, the trip to Armani sticks out the most in his mind. Donghyuck leads the way in, Mark’s measurements already memorized while Mark himself lost track after the attendant at the first store said the word “shoulders.”

Donghyuck is barely through the door when he is already calling out for someone in the store and is instantly greeted by a tall man with dark hair and a wide smile who introduces himself as Doyoung, Donghyuck’s cousin. Mark swallows hard and shakes his hand firmly because out of everything he expected to happen on this trip, meeting one of Donghyuck’s family members sits dead last on his mental list.

“So,” Doyoung says, clapping his hands together as he turns back to Donghyuck. “What can I help you get today?”

“Oh, not me.” Donghyuck swiftly points a finger at Mark. “For him.”

Doyoung pivots to face Mark with the most curious expression in both senses of the phrase. He, for one, looks entirely baffled by the prospect of this unassuming mid-twenties man in a beige sweater vest wanting to purchase anything from an Armani store, yet the quirk of his eyebrow tells Mark that Doyoung is intrigued by the prospect.

“Alright, Mark.” Doyoung spreads his hands wide to gesture to the store in its entirety. “What are you looking for?”

“Uh, a suit?” He spares a glance at Donghyuck, but he’s already wandering off further into the store, running a delicate hand over the expensive fabric. “I think?”

“I’m asking what you’re looking for, Mark, not what Donghyuck is,” Doyoung coaxes carefully. “Now what can I help you find today?”

“A suit that fits my style,” Mark replies after a moment, with much more confidence. Doyoung grins.

“Now that,” he says, already turning around, stalking off with a purpose. “Is something I can handle.

Mark loses track of time in Armani between cracking jokes with Doyoung—who he learns isn’t nearly as scary as he first looks—and trying on countless suits until they finally settle upon two that he likes.

He, no matter how much Donghyuck insists that he should get both, refuses to take a second and walks out of Armani that day with not only one stupidly expensive suit, but a new friend as well. 

When Mark finally gets home that night after hours of walking around the shopping district with Donghyuck, he barely remembers to change into pajamas and brush his teeth before he collapses onto his bed.

It only feels as if it has been a second when there’s a hand on his shoulder, unceremoniously shaking him awake. The hand belongs to none other than Renjun, and Mark feebly swats at it as a signal that he’s awake.

He doesn’t know what time it is, only that the sunlight streaming through his half-closed curtains casts a warm light across his bed, and all he wants to do is curl up into a ball and sleep more. But Renjun’s prodding hands are insistent, so he blinks his tired eyes open.

“What do you want?” He grumbles, voice low in his throat.

“I’ve been entertaining your visitor for half an hour,” Renjun explains, an alarming smile continuing to grow on his face. “But I’m afraid they’re insisting upon seeing you.”

“Who is it?” Mark grumbles, not in the mood to deal with company. He glances at the clock on his bedside table, seeing that it reads a little past two o’clock in the afternoon.

“Well… It’s no one particularly important…” Renjun trails off, clearly leaving Mark to fill in the rest. His slick smile throws Mark off, and he sits bolt upright in bed.

“My mother isn’t here, right?” His voice squeaks, panic seizing up in his chest.

“What?” Renjun looks aghast, his smile dropping instantly. “No! Mark’s that’s no joking matter, even for me.” He adjusts his tone, softening it to match the concern sparkling in his eyes.

“Johnny then?” Mark scratches his head as he lets the knot in his chest unwind, lost for ideas. “Did I forget something at work the other night?”

“To cut this horrendous guessing game short, it’s the man who was on the cover of the latest edition of GQ,” Renjun supplies at last, clearly exasperated. Mark knows that this should mean something to him, that it his roommate’s words should hold some sort of significance, but he can’t find his way through his foggy brain fast enough to think it through.

“I don’t read GQ,” is what Mark finally responds with, quite unintelligently. He slumps back into his mattress, giving up and ready to go back to bed when Renjun groans and huffs in frustration.

“Lee Donghyuck is in our living room and has been asking to see you for the past hour, you incompetent swine,” Renjun hisses just before he whacks Mark’s face with a pillow.

It takes Mark a fraction of a second too long to process everything that just happened because it has given Renjun enough time to scamper out of the doorway by the time Mark starts to curse him out. Mark runs out after him with a pillow in hand, intended to be used for revenge, but a voice from the other side of the hallway stops him.

“You’re quite lively in the morning… or should I say afternoon.”

Mark freezes, slowly rotating his body until he makes eye contact with Donghyuck and the air is compressed out of his lungs before he can even close his mouth. His boss is standing there, leaning up against a wall in his apartment on a Saturday afternoon, dressed in dark jeans and a cream colored sweater with his arm crossed the the most amused smile on his face. Mark is tempted to pinch himself to make sure he isn’t dreaming, but he realizes that would probably just make things worse.

“He’s usually not!” Renjun shouts from down the hallway behind Mark, but escapes through a doorway just in time for a pillow to sail past and land somewhere on the floor farther down.

“Shut it, Huang!” A now pillow-less Mark yells back before turning to Donghyuck sheepishly. “Good afternoon, Mister Lee.” The greeting is as informal as he allows himself to get, but it seems to please Donghyuck.

“Good afternoon, Mark,” he greets, still smiling.

“Excuse me for asking, but…” Mark bites his lip, considering the phrasing of his next words carefully before deciding to just ask the question straight out. “Why are you here?”

“Ah, yes.” His eyes light up, and suddenly Mark is much more wary. “Your order came in.”

“My what?”

“Alright, technically it’s more of my order for you, but either way it’s all here. Normally I’d send you to deliver it, but since it’s yours, I figured I’d come to drop it off. I didn’t expect you to still be asleep.”

Mark’s tired brain is working overtime to try and figure out what Donghyuck means, but all he succeeds in doing is dwelling on the fact that instead of giving whatever the order is to Mark on Monday like a normal person, he took it upon himself to deliver it to Mark’s apartment personally on a Saturday afternoon.

“I’m still lost,” he says at last, instead of admitting that he zoned out for a few seconds in there. It doesn’t seem to matter, though, because Donghyuck’s smile just widens.

“Come over here.”

Mark reluctantly follows him down the hallway to the living room, the bright city sunshine forcing him to squint when he enters because his eyes haven’t had the chance to adjust yet. He blinks hard, forcing himself to open up his eyes all the way. When he can see properly once again, he spots Donghyuck sitting on his kitchen counter, tossing an apple from the fruit bowl back and forth between his palms, a black garment bag spread out on the surface next to him.

“What’s that?”

“Your order,” he replies simply, as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world. Which it isn’t, for the record.

Mark shakes his head to show his lingering confusion, but all Donghyuck does is gesture for him to open the bag. So he does, and the first thing his fingers graze beyond the zipper is silk. He snatches his hand back as if it has been burned.

“Is this what I think it is?” Mark asks, slowly putting the pieces together as the fog in his brain slowly clears to reveal the most obvious answer ever.

“I got you some additions to your collection,” Donghyuck hums, watching as Mark tentatively opens the garment bag the rest of the way. As he guessed, it’s filled with the four suits that Mark had chosen not to get yesterday although he had considered them. Donghyuck must have taken note of them and then gone back to buy them once they were done. “You’re pretty easy to read when it comes to things you want.”

Mark prays that Donghyuck isn’t reading as far into that statement as Mark is.

“Thank you, Mister Lee,” Mark says, choosing to accept the suits because at this point Donghyuck has already paid for them and deemed it worthy to deliver them personally, and Mark’s conscience can’t take the hit if he makes Donghyuck feel bad for doing all of this for him.

Mark looks up to thank Donghyuck again, but he’s no longer perched on the counter. He’s halfway out the door by the time Mark spots him, and he only turns around to say one thing:

“And if you ever wear another one of those cursed sweater vests into my office, I will not hesitate to fire you.”

At first, Mark has no idea how serious Donghyuck is being because his mouth is set in a hard line, but the glimmer of amusement in his eyes makes Mark’s mind jump back to Jaemin’s words on the day of his interview about how Donghyuck just has a flare for the dramatics.

Mark smooths a finger down a nonexistent crease in the fabric as the door closes behind Donghyuck, already in the process of making a mental note to himself that reminds him to not take anything his boss says too seriously.

 

LESSON 4: Don’t Be Surprised When You See Them Outside of Work (it’s like one big unintentional game of hide-and-seek)

Mark has long since stopped counting the days he has survived working at FULLSUN, the novelty of lasting longer than everyone else having worn off rather quickly. Several months have passed and the seasons are beginning to change, although sometimes it’s hard to tell when the view out of the window by his desk is all concrete and metal and rushing people below. 

Things in other aspects of his life refuse to change as well, but the more he thinks about it, the more he understands that maybe it’s him who refuses to change the other aspects of his life.

He still lives in the same small apartment with Renjun and, although they could afford much better now, neither of them feel the particular need to move. On the other hand, despite his relatively hefty income that he earns at FULLSUN, he can’t bring himself to quit his job at the bar for several reasons.

One, because they’re understaffed as it is, and Mark leaving would just make it worse. Second, because it’s a really nice change from working in an office answering phone calls and responding to emails all day, and it usually helps him unwind. Thirdly, and most importantly, it’s because of how much Mark adores the owners—Johnny and Jaehyun.

They practically raised him, all things considered.

Mark couldn’t be more thankful for the role they play in his life, and as much as he may not really owe them at all, it eases his conscience to know that he is giving something back to them by working at the bar. He just works weekends now, the late shift, and is only being paid a fraction of what he earns at his other job, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Friday night is just as busy as usual, and when Mark’s shift ends at five in the morning, Johnny and Jaehyun gently ushering him out the door and leading the tired boy two blocks down to his apartment. He has been awake for somewhere over twenty-four hours at this point, and can’t even bring his lips to move to say goodbye when Johnny hands Mark over the threshold of the front door to an awaiting Renjun who helps him to bed with no further words.

This is normality for Mark, now: sleeping most of the day and working all night on the weekends, exhaustion keeping his stray thoughts of his day job away long enough for him to be able to cope. Bartending at The Sense is mind-numbing and easy; Mark supposes that’s what he likes about it so much besides the co-workers.

Yuta is a little weird but tells the best stories; Sicheng is quiet most of the time but if he gets drunk then he is the loudest beer-pong champion Mark has ever seen; Dejun can mix any drink blindfolded. That’s not even mentioning Renjun, who has worked with Mark at The Sense since Johnny and Jaehyun opened the thing, and they share shifts together sometimes if they’re lucky.

In particular, they like doubling the late shift from Saturday night into the wee hours of Sunday morning. That’s when the best crowd of regulars are in and Mark knows all their drink orders by heart just as well as they know him and Renjun by how they make their Whiskey Sours. 

Tonight is special because Johnny and Jaehyun join them behind the bar for the first time in a while, engaging with the regulars and entertaining them. As Johnny laughs raucously at his own joke and Jaehyun hits him for it with a smirking Renjun not too far away, Mark is struck with the realization that these boys are his family, and he often forgets how much he enjoys spending time with them. 

With a father he never knew, a runaway older brother and an absentee mother, Mark grew up between the treehouse in Johnny’s backyard and the school library, knowing that he had to work as hard as he could to get farther in life than the rest of his family. 

When Johnny married Jaehyun in Mark’s senior year of high school and told him that they were moving to the United States so they could be closer to home, they extended an offer for Mark to join them. It took thirty seconds to make the decision and within thirty minutes, Mark had packed up his belongings and stood on Johnny’s doorstep with the MIT acceptance letter that he’d been too scared to show his mother until then.

“Hey,” Johnny says softly, nudging Mark’s shoulder. “What’s got you in your head so much?”

“He’s thinking about his boss,” Renjun calls from the other side of the bar with a laugh. 

Renjun’s appearance in his life has been the best coincidence yet. He was a pure mathematics major at MIT and they somehow ended up rooming together. They clicked immediately and never let go of each other after that.

“Oh, shut up , Injun ,” Mark huffs, grabbing down a jar of olives because they just ran out. “It’s not like you don’t have your own obsession with the guy who comes into the coffee shop every morning when you’re working.”

“Hold on, let’s back up here for a second,” Johnny says slowly, turning his gaze back to Mark. “Isn’t your boss Lee Donghyuck? Why do you keep thinking about him?”

“Because he has a crush on him,” Renjun teases, but shuts up when Mark throws an olive at him and it hits him squarely between the brows. 

“I do not!” Mark pouts, stubborn. Sure, Donghyuck is every man or woman’s dream: the looks, the brains, the success, but Mark isn’t falling for him. He’s sure of it… at least he thinks. “Just because he’s hot and rich and smart doesn’t mean I automatically like him.”

“You don’t automatically like who?” 

Mark freezes because out of all of the places he expects to hear Lee Donghyuck’s voice, it certainly isn’t in a small bar on the not-stupidly-rich side of town where he works his second job.

“Uh, hey, Mister Lee, sir.” Mark stumbles over his words in his haste to turn around, and is greeted by the ungodly sight of his boss in skinny jeans and a half tucked in silk shirt that’s rucked up to his elbows. His hair is pushed off of his forehead, but not styled, and Mark just wants to melt into the floor just to escape his gaze.

“We aren’t in a work environment, Mark, you can call be Donghyuck,” he pauses, glancing around. “Or, at least I’m not in a work environment.”

“What are you doing here, Mister Lee?” Mark sees Renjun snickering out of the corner of his eye and throws another olive at him. It pegs him right on his nose and Mark smiles.

“I’m here because I’m out celebrating with some friends, and I was wondering why you chose not to show up,” Donghyuck says pointedly and Mark winces.

He vaguely remembers Donghyuck telling him about some sort of work outing to celebrate some achievement of the company, but he knew that he worked all weekend and wasn’t going to be able to go, so he had turned him down as gently as he could at the time. 

“I had to work…” Mark trails off with a grimace as he gestures to his apron. “I didn’t know that you were coming here otherwise I might have…”

“Might have what? Hid in the back?” Donghyuck prompts, arms crossed. “You already have a job, Mark, and I work you enough as is, so why do you have a second one?”

“Because I—” Mark cuts himself off and looks around at the crowd in the bar, some of whom are not-so-subtly eavesdropping. “Can we have this conversation elsewhere?”

“The back room is open and available,” Johnny says, and Mark realizes that he, Jaehyun, and Renjun have been listening in this entire time. His lips purse and he motions around the side of the bar to a narrow doorway. Donghyuck nods and disappears around the corner, and Mark heaves a sigh once he’s out of sight, letting his body relax.

“Why are you so tense around him?” Johnny asks, a thumb landing on his shoulder to rub at a knot under his skin. “Your entire body went rigid when you heard him.”

“I’ll explain later, John.” Mark forces a small smile and pulls himself away to slip out from behind the bar and into the door that Donghyuck had entered just moments ago. He gently closes the door behind him and meets his boss’s narrowed gaze, his silken-clad arms still crossed over his chest.

“Talk,” he demands. “Now.”

“Don’t order me around.” Mark’s lip curls in distaste about being treated like a child. “I don’t owe you any sort of explanation; I’m doing this because I am willing to, but if your attitude doesn’t make a drastic change, Mister Lee, then I won’t tell you anything at all.”

“I could fire you.”

“You could.” Mark shrugs. “But you won’t. It states within my contract that there has to be a reasonable purpose behind sudden termination of employment, and it is within the parameters of my contract to hold a second job over the duration of my employment at FULLSUN.”

Donghyuck looks surprised at Mark’s tone, and Mark realizes that this is the first time he has probably been talked back to in a while. He had looked up that clause out of interest after Donghyuck had mentioned firing him if he wore another sweater vest in the office, just to make sure that he had been joking. Even though he was, Mark continued to wear the suits to work, his sweater vests lost in the back of his closet.

“Alright, then,” Donghyuck says, clearly a little out of his depth. He swallows and sits down on a stool by the wall, leaning back and leveling his stare with Mark’s. “Could you tell me about this? Please?”

“I owe—” Mark starts, but Donghyuck cuts him off.

“You owe money? I can pay you more if that’s the prob—”

“No,” Mark snaps, cutting Donghyuck off in return. “I owe Johnny and Jaehyun, the owners.”

“You owe them money?” He tilts his head, clearly not understanding what Mark was getting at.

“Mister Lee, please, are you going to let me explain it to you or not?” Mark sighs, not knowing why his patience is so low today. He rubs his temples and blinks his eyes back up to meet Donghyuck’s.

“By all means.” Donghyuck spreads his arms. “Tell me what you think I deserve to know.”

There’s something about the way he phrases it that irks Mark, almost irrationally, but he pushes that to the side and perches himself on the edge of a stool on the other side of the small back room. Donghyuck looks at him curiously, and suddenly there’s nothing holding him back from spilling his whole life story into the stale space between them.

He talks about how his father who was never in the picture, his runaway brother, his workaholic mother with the side job of recreational drinking. How he grew up fast, figuring out how to take care of himself for the most part, but being able to fall back on his neighbor Johnny when things got too hard for an elementary school kid to take care of himself.

How Johnny was Mark’s safe space, and when Jaehyun came into the picture in Mark’s elementary school days, they became their own little family of three. He tells Donghyuck about how they all moved to America together while Mark went to MIT and then when they moved back to Korea, Mark refused job opportunities he had in the States to go back with them because of how much they meant.

There’s guilt in his tone when he talks about the fact that he never told Johnny and Jaehyun that he had opportunities back in America because otherwise they never would have let him leave.

“Then why did you take the job at FULLSUN?” Donghyuck speaks for the first time in a while, and Mark almost jumps. That’s a question he has been hoping to avoid, but there’s no good way out of it, and at this point he’s so far into things that it can’t hurt.

“Working as an engineer at FULLSUN has been my dream for years, and when I finally got an interview, there was no way I was going to give that up.”

“So let me get this straight…” Donghyuck rubs at his chin absentmindedly. “Working at my company is your dream? Or, my uncle’s company at the time, I suppose.”

“Ever since I was a kid.” Mark feels more embarrassed than he probably has the rationale to be when he says it aloud to Donghyuck, but he can’t take it back.

“And you work here because you feel like you want to give back to Johnny and Jaehyun for all they’ve done for you over the years?”

“Pretty much.” Mark shrugs, at a loss of what else to say. He used up all of his eloquent phrasing and anger when he was recounting the abridged version of his entire life a few moments ago, so all he is now is a monosyllabic, emotionally drained shell of a human being.

“Well,” Donghyuck says, standing up and flicking a piece of nonexistent lint from his jeans, just above the rip at his knee. “I’ve heard all that I need to, and all that you’re probably willing to tell me.”

“So that’s just it?” Mark asks. It almost seems too easy, but then again, he didn’t exactly know what he was expecting when he walked into the room.

“That’s it.” Donghyuck nods, turning to leave before pausing, tilting his head thoughtfully. “But, Mark?”

“Yes, Mister Lee?”

“Do your best not to overwork yourself, alright? I can’t force you to quit this job, nor will I try, in fact, I’ll never mention it again if that’s what you want, but all I ask is that you put your health above it.”

It’s not what Donghyuck says that strikes Mark so much as the manner in which he says it. Don’t get him wrong, the words themselves are meaningful, but the almost hesitant, soft way that Donghyuck speaks goes straight to Mark’s heart without a second thought.

“I can handle that,” he responds after a moment.

“I’d certainly hope so.” Donghyuck leaves then, and Mark is stuck between wanting to laugh or sob or just take a fucking nap. Although the second two have their appeal, Mark just delivers a halfhearted chuckle into the room, the empty space swallowing the sound up easily, reminding Mark that he’s alone.

He takes another second to collect himself—tightens his apron, pinches the bridge of his nose because he feels a headache coming on, takes a deep breath—before he gathers enough willpower to push the door open and slip back behind the bar once again.

He waves off the concerned glances of his pseudo-family with a smile and a flourish of a mixer as he gets to work on another patron’s order without another moment’s delay. It’s a good distraction, if he’s being honest, but over the course of the night his mind does slip back into thoughts of Donghyuck, leaving Mark confused and lost all over again.

He doesn’t see Donghyuck again for most of the night, assuming that he just left at some point without Mark knowing, and it doesn’t bother him. The next time he’ll see him is back at FULLSUN and hopefully he’ll have the tact not to talk about what happened here tonight because that’s the last thing Mark wants to deal with on Monday morning.

However, Donghyuck is ever the one to be full of surprises, so Mark shouldn’t be as startled as he is when Donghyuck stumbles up to the counter, clearly drunk.

“Do you, uh, like me?” Donghyuck slurs, leaning heavily against the surface of the bar so he doesn’t fall over. Mark is decently impressed that he managed to make it all the way over here without collapsing, but he’ll never voice that little opinion.

“Do I what?” Mark raises an eyebrow, unsure of how seriously he should be taking the question.

“Do you like me?” He repeats, before licking his lips delicately and elaborating. “Do you think I’m a good person?”

“Yes, of course.” Mark frowns, the question taking him a little off guard. He doesn’t know what prompted him to ask Mark such a question, and while he’s this inebriated to boot, but he’s not entirely sure he wants to know either.

“You don’t know anything about me,” he whispers looking at Mark, eyes a little hazy.

“Mister Lee, I don’t understand—”

“Donghyuck! There you are!” Someone calls him from the other side of the room and Mark looks over to meet Jaemin’s eyes. “Hi, Mark. I’m sorry about him.”

“Hey, Jaemin,” he greets slowly. “Can you make sure he gets home safely?”

“I always do.” He smiles, and Mark doesn’t doubt it for a second. 

Jaemin loops an arm around Donghyuck’s waist, guiding Donghyuck to hold onto his shoulders as he helps him out of the bar. Jaemin turns around to throw one last smile at Mark before they exit finally, and the rest of the night shift seems unusually quiet in comparison.

The clock strikes four o’clock in the morning some time later, and Johnny tells Mark and Renjun to go home and get some sleep, that he and Jaehyun can take care of the closing tonight. Mark thanks him tiredly before resigning himself to dragging his half asleep roommate all the way back to their apartment, refusing Johnny’s offer to drive them because they only live a few blocks away from the bar.

Unlocking the door proves to be somewhat of a challenge when seventy-five percent of his body is occupied trying to make sure Renjun doesn’t collapse onto the carpeted hallway outside their door, but he’s pliant and easy to manhandle into bed once they’re inside.

Mark tucks him in, sets his alarm for noon like always, and barely remembers to start the coffee pot before he slinks back into his own room. He changes into sweatpants and an old university t-shirt somewhat absentmindedly before dragging himself to the bathroom to wash his face and brush his teeth, but his brain only really holds the capacity to think of sleep.

There’s a fraction of a second between when Mark’s head hits the pillow and he drifts off to sleep, and it’s filled with questions about Donghyuck, but they’re all whisked away a second later as he finally succumbs to exhaustion, never to be thought about again for quite some time.

 

LESSON 5: Taking Breaks Is Okay (even if you have to force them)

True to his word, Donghyuck never makes Mark stop working at the bar. In fact, he never mentions it at all, let alone shows up there again. Donghyuck doesn’t mention it, and Mark doesn’t feel the need to bring it up, so the topic floats weirdly between them, preventing them from sitting too comfortably with each other for too long.

Mark doesn’t stop, though. He continues to work every weekend, but he makes sure to sleep through the days as much as he can, so the exhaustion doesn’t hit him as hard as he had expected. Work at FULLSUN is the same as ever: unending, unrelenting, and tiring. It doesn’t once hinder Mark’s determination, though, and he powers through it all rather smoothly.

This all works until a Monday morning a handful of weeks after what Mark likes to refer to as “The Bar Incident.” This all works until everything hits the fan at once.

One of Donghyuck’s major finance deals falls through, stocks take a dip, a couple of major engineering projects are put on hold due to time constraints on other matters, and the plans that Donghyuck has been promising to get to an investor by tomorrow have somehow gotten messed up and have to be redone. 

It doesn’t take a genius to tell that Donghyuck is about to blow a fuse, so Mark takes initiative and steps in. 

“Hey, Mister Lee? You have an urgent call in your office,” Mark announces, making his way through the crowd of interviewers in the meeting room. Donghyuck is supposed to be talking to the press about the latest plans for the company expansion, but he’s overwhelmed and unfocused, and it’s not going well.

“What?” His eyes find Mark’s through the throng of people. “Can it wait?”

“No, sir.” He shakes his head, pushing the rest of the way to Donghyuck. “It needs to be dealt with now.”

That’s what does the trick to get Donghyuck out of the press conference: Mark blatantly lying that his boss has something important to do before nearly dragging him out of the room and telling the security guys to get the press out of Mister Lee’s building within the next five minutes.

The ride back up to the elevator is silent. Mark stands in the back, concern painted across his features, while Donghyuck rests his forehead on the doors, taking deep breaths. His breath fogs up against the cool metal, and Mark can see a partial reflection of his face in the doors. He averts his eyes before Donghyuck can catch him looking.

“Mister Lee? Are you alright?” Mark starts as the elevator dings open. “And please don’t lie to me,” he tacks on at the end hastily the moment Donghyuck opens his mouth. It makes him falter before a tired smile crosses his lips.

“I’ll be fine, Mark. Thank you,” he says, voice low and tired. “Who’s on the phone for me again?”

“Ah, about that…” Mark twists his fingers behind his back. “No one.”

“No one?” Donghyuck raises an eyebrow, hand pausing over the handle of his office door. 

“I just said that to get you out of the conference because you looked pale and spacey, and that was the only thing I could think of,” he defends quickly. “Things haven’t been going very well over the past few days and I think it all just culminated in that meeting and I thought you were going to pass out or something.”

Donghyuck’s smile grows, the mischievous glint in his eyes returning slowly as Mark rambles on. He decides that he’ll sacrifice a bit of his pride just this once, indulging Donghyuck when he continues.

“Just… take a moment to cool off and I’ll grab you a coffee or something? Take five minutes away from work before you explode because I’m probably responsible for picking up the pieces, and that’s a lot of work.” 

“Sounds like a plan, Mark.” Donghyuck gives him a nod before disappearing into his office, leaving a wink and a shaky breath in his wake. He clearly isn’t okay, Mark knows this, and Mark is reasonably sure that Donghyuck knows that Mark knows this.

So, he sets out to do as promised and makes the trip all the way back down to the first floor to pick up some coffee, and is back up in their office space in five minutes flat. Mark thinks he should be earning some sort of record for that, but all thoughts of gold medals fly out of his head when he peeks into Donghyuck’s office to see him already hard at work.

“Mister Lee,” Mark sighs, stepping into the room. “Did I or did I not explicitly tell you to take a break?”

“Can’t recall.” Donghyuck smiles up at him cheekily. “I was already thinking about all the work I had to do.”

Mark squints at him in distaste, but gives him the coffee anyway. Donghyuck doesn’t thank him aloud this time, giving him another half-smile over the brim of the cup before he turns back to the piles of contracts and documents that sit on his desk. Mark opens his mouth to say something else, but there’s nothing more he can say that will get Donghyuck to stop working for even a fraction of a minute short of the man dying himself.

Even then, though, Mark thinks he would work from the grave. He’d probably ask to be buried with his laptop and charger near an outlet or something ridiculous like that.

The thought makes him smile a little bit as he quietly backs out of the office and back into the large room outside. No one else is there, so Mark takes a moment to let out the breath he didn’t even know he was holding. If Donghyuck is doing as much work as it looks like, that doesn’t give Mark any room to slack off either, so he reluctantly seats himself down at his own desk and gets to work on anything and everything he can to make Donghyuck’s job even the slightest bit easier.

The next time Mark looks at the clock is when he finishes reviewing the last bit of financing paperwork that Donghyuck had given him, and it’s rapidly descending upon midnight. He takes a cursory glance around at the office and sees that he’s the last one.

Or, almost the last one.

Artificial light spills out from Donghyuck’s office through the crack underneath the door and the bit that it remains open. He must have left and come back at some point in such haste that he didn’t even close the door all the way again.

Mark rolls his chair back far enough that he can crane his neck around the corner and see what Donghyuck is still working on. His breath catches in his throat when his line of sight passes the edge of the door and he can peer in.

Donghyuck’s head is resting on his desk, pillowed on his arms. Mark stands up so fast he nearly knocks his chair over in his hurry to see if he’s okay. It turns out that Donghyuck is just fast asleep, his breathing low and deep.

Mark has been working at FULLSUN for several months now, but even over that short span of time, he likes to think that he and Donghyuck have become closer. However, he doesn’t deem them close enough for Mark to bring him back to his own apartment to sleep since he doesn’t know where Donghyuck lives. He chooses his next best option and pulls out his phone, scrolling down the contacts until he comes across Na Jaemin.

“Mark? What’s up?” Jaemin sounds panicked, but his voice is still groggy like he has just woken up, and Mark feels a pang of guilt.

“Mis—Donghyuck fell asleep at the office and I’m not sure what to do?” Mark almost refers to him as ‘Mister Lee’ to Jaemin, but that feels wrong for some reason before he can even get it all of the way out of his mouth.

“Is this about the investors?” Jaemin asks. “Nevermind, don’t answer that. I think we both know.” There’s shuffling around on Jaemin’s end of the line, and another voice there in the background. It’s muffled and soft, but there.

Jaemin just shushes them quietly, telling them to go back to sleep and he’ll be back soon before there’s the sound of a door clicking shut and Jaemin speaks directly to Mark again. 

“I’ll be over in, say, fifteen minutes? I can get him home, but would you mind staying with him until I get there?”

“Yeah,” Mark says, a lot more quiet than he had intended. “I can stay.”

“Perfect. I’ll see you soon.”

Mark hangs up with a soft “thank you” and slips his phone back into his pocket, his attention turning back to Donghyuck immediately.

He takes the pen still lightly resting between Donghyuck’s fingers and puts it back in the cup beside his computer monitor. With a heave, Mark lifts him until he’s leaning back in his chair, his head lolled to the side, and not collapsed over his desk in a way that hurts Mark’s back to even look at. 

There’s a streak of pen on Donghyuck’s cheek, and Mark goes back out to his own desk to grab a pack of wipes from his bag and returns to gently rub at the blue ink marked onto the soft skin.

When it’s gone, Mark rocks back on his heels and gazes down. There’s something about Donghyuck like this that makes Mark want to protect every bit of him. He’s so young to have this much responsibility on his shoulders, to have dark circles deep enough to look like bruises, but it never cuts into his classic handsomeness.

Nothing ever does, in Mark’s eyes, and that little revelation scares him.

There are very few things in life that Mark is truly afraid of, and there’s a new addition to the list as of about five seconds ago: falling for someone who won’t fall for him back.

Thankfully, Mark doesn’t have the time to dwell on that though because it’s just then that Donghyuck stirs lightly, his head shifting upright against his chair and he blindly reaches out a hand until it clutches at Mark’s wrist.

“What’s goin’ on?” His voice is rough, breaking over the words as he blinks his eyes open slowly, bringing the world back into focus.

“You fell asleep, Mister Lee,” Mark explains gently. “Jaemin’s on his way to pick you up.”

“But I was havin’ a nice dream,” Donghyuck hums. “Now I have to start all over.”

Mark doesn’t know how he manages it, but the pout that molds itself slowly onto Donghyuck’s lips is the most adorable thing that Mark has ever seen. Not that he’ll ever say that out loud, though.

“You can have another good dream,” Mark tells him softly, resisting the urge to either laugh or coo at his boss.

“Maybe you’re right.” He blinks heavily, eyes staying shut longer than they open up. “What should I dream about?” Donghyuck asks, but his words are already becoming slurred and Mark knows that he’s about to fall asleep again.

“Ice skating,” Mark blurts before he can stop himself. Skating has been a source of joy and serenity for him since childhood, and a tiny part of him hopes it can be the same for Donghyuck. “Dream about ice skating.”

“I’ve never been ice skating…” It sounds like Donghyuck has more to say, but his breathing evens out and Mark knows that he has fallen asleep once more.

Jaemin shows up a few minutes later in sweatpants and a t-shirt, donning a tired but thankful smile when he slips into Donghyuck’s office to see the scene before him: Mark rubbing soothing circles onto the skin of Donghyuck’s wrist just above his watch while Donghyuck himself continues to snooze in his chair.

They don’t speak as Jaemin hoists Donghyuck out of the chair, half-leading half-dragging him out of the room as Donghyuck’s semi-conscious self gives its best attempt to walk. Mark has to stifle the smile threatening to overtake his face when Donghyuck stumbles into the doorframe and would have fallen right over if Jaemin hadn’t been there to steady him.

It’s only then does Mark look back at Donghyuck’s desk and take in the sheer amount of work littered across his. The beginnings of a plan start to form in his mind; he carefully slips into Donghyuck’s chair and takes the pen back from where he had put it in the cup not too long ago. 

His entire attention is turned back to the stacks of papers in front of him, and he knows that his work is cut out for him.

The next morning, he pushes his exhaustion aside as he drags himself into the lobby to order three coffees: two for himself and the other one being Donghyuck’s usual.

Mark drinks one on the way to the elevator, discarding the empty cup before he even passes through the doors and starting on the moment the doors open again to the floor with his own office.

He takes a peek into Donghyuck’s office to see if he’s here yet, but everything is just how Mark left it last night. He sighs, not sure whether he’s relieved or disappointed, as he walks over to his own desk and sets down his bag as he slides into his chair.

The first thing he does once he’s logged on is to pull up Donghyuck’s itinerary for the day, and with another sip of his coffee, cancels it all since there’s nothing too important besides a meeting with a shareholder. Which, now that he thinks about it, is actually pretty important, but he’s already halfway through drafting an email requesting to reschedule the meeting due to last minute schedule changes, so Mark simply follows through.

The elevator doors ding open from the other side of the floor as Mark hits the send button. He looks up to see Donghyuck striding across the office. His tie is slightly askew but he looks better, more refreshed. Mark has tried to avoid looking in any reflective surfaces this morning, which may or may not have included squeezing his eyes shut for the whole elevator ride up for the forty-second floor as to not risk seeing himself in the reflective surfaces of the metal doors.

“I took the liberty of clearing your schedule today, Mister Lee.” Mark holds out Donghyuck’s usual coffee order out to him as he walks over to Mark’s desk.

“What?” He raises a brow at his secretary over the brim of his cup. “Why would you do that?”

“Because you have never been ice skating and frankly speaking, that’s despicable.” It almost pains Mark to think of how Donghyuck has gone his entire childhood without ever having skated. This also may or may not be a blatant excuse to get Donghyuck out of his office and his mind off of work for a little bit because it’s not healthy. But Mark isn’t going to tell him that.

“Alright then, so we’re saying screw the investors so we can skip out on work entirely?” He leans a hip on the edge of Mark’s desk, looking incredulous. “Who are you and what have you done with my secretary?”

“I think we can afford one day off , Mister Lee,” Mark responds defensively.

“So it’s a date?” Donghyuck winks, and Mark forgets how to breathe for a moment. 

“Let’s just go, yeah?” Mark needs to learn how to be a bit more elegant when it comes to dodging questions, but he supposes that it will do for now because Donghyuck simply laughs into his coffee cup and follows Mark back to the elevators.

When Mark presses the button of the lobby and not the parking garage, he sees Donghyuck’s eyebrow twitch upwards—which is something of a habit when his curiosity is piqued, Mark has learned. 

“I have a car, Mark,” he starts. “You know we could just drive.”

“It’s not that far away, and besides—” Mark glances back over his shoulder as the doors open, sending a splitting grin to Donghyuck “—we could probably use the exercise.”

It’s a distinct possibility that Mark probably would have fallen asleep to the low hum of Donghyuck’s Maserati’s engine, so choosing to walk and get some fresh air is the perfect way for him to stay awake without simply drinking ungodly amounts of caffeine.

“Are you at least going to tell me where we’re headed?” Donghyuck asks, carefully following Mark through the lobby and out the main doors. 

“There’s this little skating rink just outside of downtown that I like to go to,” he pauses for a moment, biting his lip and deciding whether or not he should continue.

“And?” Donghyuck prompts, clearly sensing that Mark left something off.

“I like it because it reminds me of the trips I look to Canada as a boy to see my grandparents that live up there.”

“You have grandparents in Canada? How are they?”

This is where Mark falters.

“I haven’t seen them in years,” he admits slowly, stopping at the end of the sidewalk when he sees the crosswalk light turn orange. “The last time I went to Canada, I must have only been seven or eight. I don’t even know how to get in contact with them now.”

He deliberately leaves out the part where he actually does know how to get in contact with them, but it would involve speaking to his mother for the first time in years, and he’s still doing everything he can to avoid that.

Donghyuck places a hand on Mark’s shoulder as the crosswalk signal lights up white, opening his mouth to respond with something most likely along the lines of, “I could find them,” but Mark doesn’t want that. Sure, he misses his grandparents, and maybe there will be a point in the future where he’s ready to see them again, but there are a lot of memories—of his brother, of his friends, of his dog—and there are some that he doesn’t have the want or need to think about again.

Before Donghyuck can actually get a whole word out, Mark lays his own hand on top of Donghyuck’s as they start to walk. He squeezes Donghyuck’s fingers gently, looking over to flash him a smile to let him that that he’s okay.

Mark fully intends to just let go of Donghyuck’s hand and bring it back to his side again, but Donghyuck doesn’t seem as keen on letting that happen. In fact, he takes it upon himself to lace his fingers with Mark’s until their palms are pressing together, and drops them down until their intertwined hands are swinging easily between them.

Mark doesn’t freeze or stop walking like he had thought he would. In fact, he picks up the pace to escape the creeping sense of dread and his passionate wanting for the cement beneath his shoes to just swallow him up whole. Donghyuck just laughs and lengthens his strides to keep up with Mark, tapping his thumb against Mark’s with every step until they’re matching strides side-by-side.

Mark wonders what they look like to anyone who might see them. A male couple dressed in expensive suits, holding hands as they walk down Myeongdong seemingly without a care in the world. Surely, they look romantically involved, but it makes him wonder if anyone might see straight through them to the truth, and it scares him a bit.

The way to the ice rink is so ingrained in his mind that Mark doesn’t even have to think about where he’s going to make it there, which leaves the conscious part of his brain to wander about his thoughts as they walk in relative silence, letting the outside sounds of the city ebb and flow around them. 

His entire body relaxes when the ornate glass front doors to the ice rink appear into view. Donghyuck looks over at him curiously, but Mark doesn’t say anything as he leads the way inside, letting the cold wash over him, the sounds of blades scraping on ice sitting vaguely in the background.

Xiaojun is working today, Mark discovers when he looks over, and he can’t help but nearly skip up to the counter where Xiaojun has his feet propped up, his phone unhealthily close to his face. 

“What size are you,” he drones, not even bothering to look up.

“Junnie,” Mark singsongs. “Your customer service skills are getting rusty. Maybe I should send Ten down here and—”

“Mark!” Xiaojun finally glances up from his phone at the mention of his father, and he nearly launches himself across the counter to wrap Mark in a hug, which he returns with his free hand and a face-splitting grin. “How are you? How’s the new job? What’s it like there?”

He rambles on with questions, not leaving enough space to let Mark answer, let alone let himself breathe. He has already turned back around and is reaching under the counter to grab the skates that Mark keeps there, but Xiaojun nearly drops them right back into place when he looks up and registers that Donghyuck is there next to him.

“Mark,” he breathes so quietly that Mark almost misses it. “Why are you holding hands with Lee Donghyuck?”

Mark belatedly realizes that he is still holding Donghyuck’s hand and proceeds to drop it as fast as he can, awkwardly clasping his fingers in front of his stomach to keep them occupied. He just hopes that he can blame his rising blush on the cold.

“Xiaojun, this is my boss. Mister Lee, this is my longtime friend Xiaojun. His dad owns the place but he works here a lot.” Mark doesn’t feel as uncomfortable as he thought he would with letting Donghyuck meet Xiaojun, but maybe it’s just because he’s enjoying watching his friend try not to faint when Donghyuck extends his hand out to shake.

“It’s a pleasure, Xiaojun.” Donghyuck smiles easily. “Any friend of Mark’s is a friend of mine.”

“Honestly there was this part of me that straight up didn’t believe you were a real person,” Xiaojun admits, still starstruck, making Donghyuck laugh. “You’re always so attractive in all of those magazines and that I see, it’s sometimes hard to really believe that Lee Donghyuck exists in the same reality as I do.”

“Well…” Donghyuck shrugs, still grinning. “Looks like I do after all, huh?”

“Oh!” Xiaojun’s eyes glitter as he turns to Mark. “Do you want the back rink to yourselves today? It isn’t booked.”

“Would you really do that?” Mark positively lights up at the prospect. 

“Yeah, sure.” His less than enthusiastic word choice is compensated by the way even his eyes crinkle at the edges with happiness, and Mark wants to lean over the counter and kiss Xiaojun’s cheek. He actually would have if it isn’t for the man that he currently likes that is standing right next to him.

Oh.

Oh fuck.

Mark likes Donghyuck. Using the word “crush” sounds too juvenile, like he’s some lovesick teenager, but “love” is definitely too strong, so he settles on a mild “like” to encompass the ever-growing amount of feelings that he has for his boss. It doesn’t quite sum it all up, to be honest, but it’s the best thing he can think of at the moment and he isn’t going to whip out a thesaurus to go find a better word, no matter how much Renjun would insist that doing that is “on brand for him,” or whatever stupid slang he says nowadays.

More time has passed than Mark expected because the next time he blinks and the world in front of him comes back into focus. Donghyuck is already walking off down the hallway that leads to the back rink, and Xiaojun has his chin resting in his hands on the counter, wiggling his eyebrows at Mark.

“You know what they say about guys with big feet,” he mutters. It takes a second for Mark’s brain to catch up, but he spots a pair of skates in Donghyuck’s hands that Xiaojun must have just gotten for him and it clicks. Mark whacks the side of Xiaojun’s head, grateful that Donghyuck was already out of earshot, and snatches his skates from the counter before jogging over to catch up to Donghyuck.

Mark has always wanted to live in the apartment complex above the ice rink—why they built it there baffles Mark to this day, but the rink is still here and Ten now owns the whole building so there’s really no room to be complaining—but there are a few reasons why that won’t work. For one, he’d be quite a bit farther away from The Sense. For another, Renjun has this weird aversion to anything cold, and Mark doesn’t really want to live alone, so they settled on an apartment on the other side of downtown together.

He sits down on the bench just beside the rink immediately when they get in, nearly kicking off his shoes in his eagerness to pull on his skates and get back on the ice. He gets about a half pace away from the icea, his skates snugly on his feet, before he finally looks back to see how Donghyuck is doing. Even from just the cursory glance that Mark gives him, he’s definitely struggling and not doing a very good job of hiding it.

“Let me help,” Mark offers, his voice echoing around the empty rink. Donghyuck’s eyes snap up to him as he sheepishly lets the laces drop from his fingers, sitting back on the bench so he isn’t hunched over.

“By all means,” he says. “As you can probably see, I have no idea what I’m doing.”

“For what it’s worth,” Mark starts as he waddles back to the bench before kneeling down so he can get a better look at the skates. “You didn’t get a bad start.”

“And how did I do that?” Donghyuck snorts, clearly not believing him. Mark grins up at him, most likely only confirming his suspicions.

“You got them on.”

Donghyuck pushes Mark’s shoulder for that, but it’s not hard enough to knock him off balance. Mark just chuckles before turning his attention back to relacing Donghyuck’s skates. There’s silence between them again, which isn’t uncommon at this point and Mark needs to learn how to get more used to it, but it’s broken by a short laugh from Donghyuck.

“What’s so funny?” Mark prods as he ties the bow on the first skate and gets to work on the other.

“We should be in a meeting right now, yet here we are, me sitting here like an idiot while you have to put on my ice skates for me, not to mention that we’re a solid eleven blocks away from where we should be.”

Mark has to grin because he’s right—it’s so out of character for them both to be doing this.

“Kind of crazy, huh?”

And Mark swears that he does his best to teach Donghyuck how to skate, and for the first few minutes, his teaching methods seem to be working because Donghyuck can stand on his own and more or less move on his own too. However, when it comes to anything more complicated than stomping around on his toe picks to keep traction, with Mark wincing every time the grinding sound of the blade in the ice reaches his ears, Donghyuck can’t handle it as much as he insists that he can.

At one point he manages to glide about halfway across the rink, leaving the safety of the side that has been diligently helping him keep his balance, but he wobbles once, twice, and collapses onto the ice with an undignified and very un-Donghyuck-like squeak. He looks to the side of the rink at Mark, who is ready to go over and help him.

“How did I do?” He asks it with such sincerity that Mark is doubled over laughing in a split second.

In fact, Mark can’t even bring himself to care that when he loses balance because of the laughter and lands on the ice, that the seat of his slacks are probably all covered in a thin layer of ice that has been shaved off the surface of the rink by countless pairs of skates scraping it over.

Donghyuck, from the middle of the rink, laughs too because he can’t get up, and eventually Mark collects himself enough to be able to get back up and skate over to him. Eventually, with slow work and Donghyuck clinging to Mark like a baby koala, he learns to skate on his own, and Mark swears he has never felt more proud in his entire life.

When they finally get off the ice some hours later, Donghyuck declares that he’s going to go home for the day and sleep.

“That sounds exactly perfect.” Mark grins.

Donghyuck calls his driver, Taeil, to come pick them up from the rink because, “I swear to god if I take one more step my ankles will collapse in on themselves like piñatas.” The declaration doesn’t stop him from walking all the way from the back rink up to Xiaojun’s desk and chatting with him more before Taeil arrives, and he manages to walk all the way to the car, too.

“Can you swing by FULLSUN to drop me off, please?” Mark requests as he climbs into the backseat next to Donghyuck.

“I can just drop you off at your apartment, Mark.” Donghyuck frowns. “If I’m not working today, neither should you.”

“I just forgot something at the office, and you know that I don’t live that far away.”

“Mark—”

“Mister Lee, it’s okay,” Mark assures. Donghyuck just sighs and waves a hand at Taeil who simply nods his head knowingly and starts the drive back to the company building. The walk to the rink wasn’t very long, which means the drive is over in nearly the blink of an eye, and Mark is already reaching for the door handle before he knows it, but a hand catches his wrist to pause him.

“You know what you said earlier yesterday? About me exploding and you being responsible to pick up the pieces?” Donghyuck asks, voice uncharacteristically quiet. Mark furrows his brow, wracking his brain.

“Vaguely, yes.”

“You aren’t responsible for picking up my pieces, Mark,” he says softly, hand tightening around Mark’s wrist. “You never are, but I’m grateful that you did. Truly.”

“It’s my job, Mister Lee.” Mark smiles warmly. “I’ll always be there to pick up your pieces.”

Mark doesn’t even notice how his chest is compressing in on itself until Donghyuck’s car turns the corner in the parking garage and is out of sight because he feels like he can breathe normally again. He looks over at the elevator doors, shiny metal showing the reflection of him standing alone in the middle of the garage. 

He at least has the presence of mind to pull out his phone and text Renjun that he’s going to be late again, and doesn’t wait for a response before pocketing it and heading inside, hoping that his floor is at least mostly empty so that he can continue to make Donghyuck’s life easier in peace.

Chapter Text

LESSON 6: Don’t Be Too Obvious (they aren’t the only one who might catch on)

 

Mark can’t help but feel like there are eyes on him as he walks to work the next morning. Nothing he sees can really affirm his hunch, but every time he turns around he swears he sees people looking away from him. 

Maybe he’s being paranoid, but he doesn’t have anything to be paranoid of, and nothing makes sense. 

He would bet his entire life savings that the barista who greets him every morning at the little café inside of FULLSUN gives him a longer look than usual as she hands him his usual two coffees, and the gazes of the normally uncaring people in line linger on Mark when his name is called up.

“Mark!” It’s Yuta, one of the general managers who uses the majority of his free time to flirt with Kun at the front desk. Mark’s gaze snaps up from the coffees in his hands to see Yuta barreling across the lobby towards him. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Tell you what?” Mark asks in return, genuinely confused for the umpteenth time that morning.

“I’m serious, Mark,” he scolds, crossing his arms. It’s a weird look on him since he’s normally all smiles and lighthearted jokes, and it throws him off kilter even more than he already is.

“So am I!” Mark wants to throw his hands up to express his exasperation, but he won’t risk the coffees. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Yuta’s gaze softens at this before his eyes travel past Mark and focus on something behind them and his eyes narrow. He puts his hands on Mark’s shoulders and steers him directly to the elevators, standing almost protectively behind him, craning his neck around the corner. Mark opens his mouth to ask what is happening, but the doors to the elevator that Yuta called ding open and suddenly Mark is being unceremoniously pushed inside. 

“Just don’t end up hurting yourself because of him, alright?” Yuta’s brows knit together.

“What?” Mark asks, lost nearly to the point of no return, but he can’t get a response out of his co-worker before the doors close and he’s left in silence, staring at a gold-tinted reflection of himself. Mark can feel his anxiety levels rising, and it doesn’t help when his phone rings just then, the caller ID reading “Annoying Roommate That I Begrudgingly Love”. It’s Renjun.

“What the fuck is going on, Mark?” Renjun is quick to speak before Mark can even greet him properly.

“Well good morning to you too,” he says, dry humor lacing its way into the syllables.

“I mean it, Mark,” he continues. Mark wishes he could see his face to have a better grasp at his emotions. “Tell me what’s going on right now.”

“What do you mean?” He has to stop himself from running his free hand through his styled hair, his phone neatly tucked between his ear and his shoulder with the little tray of coffees in his other hand.

“Why didn’t you tell me? You have a lot of explaining to do.”  

“No, someone has a lot of explaining to do to me,” Mark huffs as the doors open to his floor. “Sorry, Renjun, I have to go. We’ll talk about this when I get home tonight, yeah?”

“Wait, Mark—” Renjun starts but Mark bites his lip and hangs up before he can persuade Mark into staying on the line and just stressing him out more.

It takes every ounce of willpower not to pick up when Renjun calls him back immediately, instead tucking his phone back into his pocket and walking over to his desk to set everything down. This morning has been so, well, weird, for lack of a better term, and Mark feels like he’s floundering in a twelve-foot-deep pool without knowing how to swim. 

He mulls over all of the possible explanations that he can think of. It’s not April first, it’s not anyone’s birthday, and he loses ideas after that.

Mark decides that it’s not worth worrying about for now so he pulls up Donghyuck’s itinerary for the day, making a tweak to the timing of one of his later meetings before printing it out. He’s about to get up and grab it from the printer when someone reaches over his shoulder, slapping something down on his desk, making Mark startle backwards in his chair.

He takes a closer look at what it is, and it takes him a split second to recognize it as a tabloid, one of the unreliable ones that supermarkets sell in their checkout lanes. The huge photo on the front is of an ice rink, and a very familiar one at that. Another closer look tells him that the two figures clinging to each other out on the ice are him and Donghyuck, and the series of smaller photos lining the bottom also are of the two of them in an assortment of places.

There are photos of them at the restaurant where they had lunch the other day after a meeting at another building, to photos of them looking at suits together at the Armani store, to them walking together down the street, facing each other and smiling as Donghyuck is in the midst of talking about something. The big text across the top reads, “FULLSUN CEO Lee Donghyuck finds new boy toy after almost nine months single?”  

Mark winces at that, glossing over the smaller text because he knows that it’s only going to get worse. He looks up and Donghyuck is standing there, leaning over his shoulder with his eyes glued to the front page of the tabloid, glaring at it with every bit of malice he holds inside of him.

“What’s this?” Mark asks carefully, already knowing the answer because it’s right there in front of him, but he wants to know what Donghyuck is thinking. 

“It’s why my life is so fucking difficult sometimes,” he says, frustration evident. “Do these people not know the definition of privacy? And now it’s affecting you as well, and that’s just completely unacceptable.”

Mark takes a moment to be glad that all of his social media accounts are on private, reserved for just his close friends to see. He doesn’t think Donghyuck follows any of them yet, and that’s probably for the best right now.

“Make a statement. It’s as simple as that.” Mark shrugs, not minding when Donghyuck scowls over his shoulder. He can see it out of the corner of his eye. “I’m your secretary, nothing more, nothing less.”

“What kind of secretary goes ice skating with their boss? No one is going to buy it.”

“I’m the kind of secretary that takes their boss ice skating,” Mark replies, offended. “And it doesn’t really matter if they believe it or not. It matters that you address this as soon as possible before it gets even more out of hand.”

“Okay,” he hums, thoughtful. “Draft a statement and send it to me. I’ll approve it and then you can send it out to the appropriate people.” 

Mark cranes his neck to look up at Donghyuck at the same time Donghyuck leans farther over him. Their noses brush gently and Mark freezes in his seat, pinned there in his chair with one of Donghyuck’s hands on the desk behind Mark and his eyes intently looking straight at Mark’s. They’re so close that Mark can count each freckle in the faint smattering of dots across the bridge of his nose, and he wonders how he has never noticed them before.

As soon as it happened, though, Donghyuck leans backwards and sends him a glowing smile as he raises his coffee cup, calling a thank you over his shoulder as he disappears into his office.

His coffee cup.

He had been reaching behind Mark to grab his coffee cup from where Mark had set it on the desk. Mark wants to kick himself for thinking even for a fraction of a second that there was anything more to it than something as mundane and simple and unromantic as that. 

With a drawn out sigh, Mark spins back around in his chair to face his computer monitor, pulling up a document to draft the statement that he’d later end up sending to Donghyuck for approval before posting it on their investor’s forum and letting Donghyuck put a paraphrased version on his Twitter.

Mark doesn’t know how well the public decides to take the information — if they take it well at all. He deliberately stays off of all social media sites to avoid knowing what they’re saying about him because that won’t be beneficial for his already shaky-at-times self esteem. There are points during the day when Mark is walking around the office, doing his work as usual, and has to turn away from an area because the office gossip is a little too loud, and the moment he hears anything about him or Donghyuck he tunes it out and puts that task on hold for as long as it takes until the area has cleared up.

It’s not a particularly pleasant day by any stretch, and Mark doesn’t see any more of Donghyuck than he usually does, but when Jisung shows up at his desk with a chocolate bar and an offering of a hug, Mark decides that it could be worse. Jisung doesn’t speak, his eyes telling Mark everything that he wants to convey, and Mark appreciates it. He really does.

That still doesn’t quell Mark’s worries that Donghyuck is isolating himself for Mark’s sake, and he wants so badly to storm into his office, declaring that he is a grown man who can take care of himself without Donghyuck needing to distance himself from Mark. He doesn’t, though. He spends the day doing his work, and the moment the clock strikes six, he’s already heading towards the elevators to leave, not once looking back at Donghyuck’s office.

He takes the roundabout way to get home, using the alleys and backstreets to get to his apartment so he can avoid at least the majority of the unwanted looks, wondering if that’s really the guy that Korea’s most eligible bachelor is screwing in his free time.

Mark grimaces, shaking his head to rid himself of the thought as he steps into his apartment. There are more voices present than usual — and by that he means it isn’t just Renjun calling his name to make Mark come set the dinner table, there are at least four people all greeting him.

He toes off his shoes, walking into the kitchen apprehensively to be met with the sight of Renjun perched on the counter in his pajamas with a wine glass in hand while Johnny and Jaehyun are busying themselves over the stove. Xiaojun is sitting backwards on one of the dining room chairs, his chin resting on the back of it while Ten stands at his side with his own glass of wine in hand.

The room falls into stale silence when Mark fully rounds the corner, loosening his tie with one hand, his bag still slung over his shoulder. 

“So, Mark,” Renjun starts, taking a sip of his wine before setting it down next to him on the counter. “What gives?”

“What do you mean what gives?” Mark frowns. “And what are they all doing here?” He gestures around to their friends. He hopes this isn’t about the tabloids.

“What’s going on between you and your ungodly attractive boss?”

Fuck. It’s about the tabloids.

“Oh God, don’t tell me you actually believed that?” Mark is floored. His friends are willing to take the word of widespread gossip resources instead of what he tells them, and he’d be lying if he says that he isn’t a little more than ticked off.

“You don’t tell us anything about that side of your life,” Johnny says, turning around from where he is stirring something in a pot over the stove. “What were we supposed to believe? From our perspective, the idea didn’t seem too far out there.”

“You do realize you could have asked at any point and I would have told you?” Mark takes a deep breath. “Just because I don’t talk about it unprompted doesn’t mean I’m unwilling.”

“We did ask—” Jaehyun starts, but Mark isn’t having it.

“No. Not a single one of you asked me anything. You all just jumped to conclusions without consulting me.” Mark sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. He wanted to come home and have a reprieve, not an interrogation. “Sorry for snapping. Let me go change and we can talk about this over some food, okay?”

“Sounds good, Markie, take your time,” Ten calls, voice slightly muffled since he’s nearly speaking straight into his wine glass. “We’ll all wait out here.”

Just because of Ten’s invitation, Mark drags out the process of changing from his suit into sweatpants and an old college t-shirt. It’s mostly so he can collect himself for long enough to figure out how to explain what the hell is going on between him and Donghyuck, but it’s also a petty excuse to make them wait longer because Mark still isn’t particularly happy with them at the moment.

He emerges from his bedroom just as Jaehyun is setting the noodles on the table, everyone else having already gathered around the table and chosen their seats. As usual, though, Mark’s normal chair adjacent from where Renjun is sitting at the head of the table is still wide open and waiting for him.

They start to eat, chattering away mindlessly about Ten’s new investment in the building neighboring the rink and how he wants to expand, how Johnny and Jaehyun are thinking of moving into a bigger apartment to accommodate the new puppy they want to adopt from the animal shelter that Mark still volunteers at once a month, how Renjun met this cute guy online and even though they live far away, they’ve been really hitting it off.

And then the conversation turns to Mark after Xiaojun announces that he has been thinking about going back to China to attend university next year. He swallows his bite and breaks the silence.

“I’ve objectively thought that Donghyuck was attractive, both inside and out, since the day I met him, but I’ve only really liked him for a couple weeks now, or at least that’s when I finally admitted it to myself.”

“So how long have you been dating him then?” Xiaojun asks, picking up his glass. Mark thinks he looks a bit too much like his father sitting across the table in that moment.

But there it is — the question has been dropped, and Mark carefully begins his meticulously mapped-out reply.

“I’m not,” he says simply.

The collective gasp at the table is almost comical, but Jaehyun literally dropping his chopsticks into his lo mein takes the cake on the best reaction in Mark’s opinion, although Xiaojun choking on his merlot is a close second.

“What do you mean you’re not dating him?” Xiaojun exclaims once he can breathe again. 

“I mean that there have been no romantic interactions between Lee Donghyuck and I. Ever. And there never will be.” Mark speaks calmly, posing quite the contrast between him and the rest of the table that is more or less in shambles over this.

“What about sexual relations?” Xiaojun asks, but Ten throws the unused set of chopsticks across the table at him to shut him up before Mark has to worry about trying to respond. “It was a valid question,” he mumbles, rubbing his shoulder where the chopsticks had hit dead on.

“Look, Mark…” Jaehyun begins.

“It doesn’t matter what I feel because we work together in a professional environment. He hasn’t made any indication that he returns my unvoiced feelings, and I don’t intend to give HR a headache with this so I’m inclined to not say anything regarding the matter.”

The silence that encompasses the table for a moment is no less than deafening.

“So…” Johny speaks slowly, piecing together what Mark means. “You’re just not ever going to tell him?”

“Isn’t that what I just said?” Mark takes a sip of his wine as he eyes the reactions of his friends.

“That isn’t healthy, Mark,” Johnny says, gesturing with his chopsticks pointedly. “You can’t keep your feelings bottled up like this. It’s not going to end well.”

“It’s not like I didn’t do it for three and a half years with Daniel back in college. The only difference is now it’s the man I work for instead of the man I worked next to in class.”

“Mark,” Renjun barks, speaking up for the first time since the topic had spun back upon him. Mark shrinks back into his seat, and Renjun softens his tone before he talks again. “Look, you’re an attractive guy, and I know that Donghyuck doesn’t have the best track record of treating his continually beautiful partners, regardless of gender, very well. The last thing I want to happen is to have you get caught up in that and just become another victim to his charms.”

“He doesn’t even see me that way, Junnie,” Mark assures. 

“We don’t know that, Minhyung,” he retorts, turning his body in his chair to completely face Mark. “All I know is from my perspective, that man is head over heels for you.”

“You perspective is skewed since it’s only based off of one encounter,” Mark fires back, leveling his chopsticks at Renjun threateningly. “Whatever you think you saw that one time is not enough to conclude reliable data.”

“MIT honors grad,” Xiaojun coughs without any sort of subtlety. Ten reaches across the table to whack him on the head for that comment. It makes Johnny snort, though, and Ten nearly lunges over Jaehyun’s head to hit Johnny for encouraging Xiaojun, who is stifling his smile into his lo mein.

“My point still stands!” Renjun declares, angrily snatching a piece of chicken from Mark’s plate.

“And so does mine!” Mark exclaims, indignant. “What Lee Donghyuck may or may not feel for me is completely irrelevant for three reasons. One, it’s probably against at least two HR rules and I would really like to keep my job. Two, we don’t know for sure what he feels and it’s wrong to assume something like that anyway. And three, maybe I don’t even want to have a relationship. Did anyone here take that into consideration?”

Once again, the table is silent.

“I thought not,” Mark grumbles, irritated.

“We’re sorry for assuming, Mark,” Ten speaks after another beat. “We should have gone to you and talked through it first before we jumped to conclusions.

“Speak for yourself with the apologies,” Renjun mumbles through his chicken. Both Ten and Xiaojun hit him for that. 

“Apologize to Mark right this instant, Huang Renjun,” Jaehyun says, his voice a little too sweet. Thankfully Renjun knows when to stop, so he slumps back down in his chair.

“Okay, okay, I’m sorry too, Mark.”

“It’s okay, Injunnie.” Mark smiles at his best friend. “Let’s eat now before all of this gets cold and the dads get mad at us for letting their food go to waste, yeah?”

“I resent that statement!” Ten crosses his arms. “I’m the only real father at this table, yet these two fakes get addressed as ‘the dads’ while my own son calls me by my full name? What kind of backwards universe is this?”

“Sorry, Chittaphon.” Xiaojun grins, clearly not sorry in the slightest.

As his friends all bicker, Mark regards them quietly for a moment. This is where he belongs: with the people he loves in his home, but there’s a nagging feeling in the back of his mind that makes him feel as if he’s missing something… or someone.



LESSON 7: If You Feel Something, At Least Try To Be Subtle (you probably won’t because you’re already falling for them, but for your heart’s sake at least give it your best shot)

 

“Say, Mark?” Donghyuck calls, poking his head out of his office. “Do you by chance know where I left those documents from yesterday? The ones about the Hong Kong deal?”

A tired Mark has to shake himself awake and wrack his brain for where he last saw them, doing his best not to show that he’s about thirty seconds from falling asleep. He’d had a late night yesterday, staying back to get some extra work done here before the business trip to Hong Kong that he and Donghyuck are taking tomorrow.

“I think I filed them away after the meeting?” Mark vaguely remembers putting a stack of paperclipped documents into one of the filing cabinets after their horrifyingly long and boring meeting earlier that Mark had barely stayed awake through, although he can partially blame his exhaustion on that.

“Could you go grab them?” Donghyuck asks already turning back to head inside his office. As much as Mark wants to fall asleep at his desk, he still has work to do, so he gets up and takes three tries to find the right drawer where the put the documents earlier. 

He has been making sure to eat and stay hydrated over the course of the day, so when his vision starts to get a little spotty and he has to lean on the filing cabinet for momentary support until he can see straight again, he knows it’s a product of his lack of sleep. He speeds over to Donghyuck’s office before he can have another dizzy spell. 

“Hey, Mister Lee, I found them,” Mark says, knocking on the open door to alert Donghyuck of his presence before he steps inside. Donghyuck looks up from where he’s going over some contracts on his desk and sends Mark a smile.

“Great. You can set them on my desk and go home.”

“Go… home?” Mark places the stack of papers down as asked, but hesitates to leave the office.

“You’re exhausted. Go home and get some sleep. We have an early flight tomorrow.”

And Mark can’t bring himself to argue with that. He simply nods and heads home as fast as he can. He flops into bed as soon as he’s out of his suit with his teeth brushed, despite the fact that it’s still mid-afternoon, and barely remembers to set an alarm before he’s fast asleep.

The flight the next morning is stupidly early because Mark finds himself standing in the hangar a little past three in the morning, suitcase and coffee in hand. When the trip was first proposed, Mark had offered to arrange the flights but Donghyuck simply snorted and said, “What do you mean ‘look for flights?’ We’re taking my jet.” And that was that.

It’s a week-long trip out to Hong Kong to do some planning and meetings with that branch of FULLSUN. Two minutes on Wikipedia has told Mark that the Hong Kong branch of the company rests safely in the capable hands of one Zhong Chenle, a man who is just a few years younger than Mark but his net worth is over a few million more. 

His little search also tells him that Chenle and Donghyuck have been friends since they were little, something to do with their parents knowing each other, but Mark’s still sleep-addled brain can’t absorb any more information so he sticks his phone in the back pocket of his pants just as Donghyuck strolls out into the main hangar.

“Ready to go?” He asks, and Mark tries not to stare too hard at the glimpses of Donghyuck’s thighs he can glean from where the fabric of his designer jeans are ripped. 

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” he says, taking a sip of coffee to distract himself from his boss’s partially exposed legs.

The jet, as expected, is nice. Really nice. Mark doesn’t really know how else to describe the plush leather seats and the fact that he doesn’t have to duck down at any point when inside. The other great part is that Donghyuck seats himself across from Mark, and they hold a steady, non-work related conversation throughout the parts of the flight where Mark isn’t dozing off.

The moment they land, they’re ushered into a car along with their luggage and driven to an upscale hotel in the heart of downtown, and Mark doesn’t even want to think about how pricey it is. Maybe he just needs to stop thinking about how expensive things are when he’s with Donghyuck.

They’re given keys to adjacent rooms, and Mark soon discovers that they’re adjoining too once Donghyuck walks into his room with a surprised look on his face.

“I thought this was the bathroom,” he says, mortified. Mark just laughs it off, and it puts both of them more at ease. “We have a couple more hours to sleep before we’re supposed to be meeting with Chenle. Do you want to set an alarm or should I come get you up?”

“I can set an alarm,” Mark replies, taking a set on the edge of the bed. “You should get some sleep, too.”

“I will. See you at ten-thirty?”

“That sounds good.”

Mark ends up dragging himself out of the scarily comfortable bed after he presses the snooze button on his alarm for the third time. There are a couple of texts on his phone from his pseudo-family asking if his flight went well and he got to Hong Kong safely, to all of which he replies with “yes” and “miss you already.”

He changes into a suit, barely bothering to check if his hair looks alright before he’s knocking on the door that connects his room with Donghyuck’s. It’s ten-twenty-nine.

“Good morning part two,” Donghyuck greets, in the middle of straightening his tie when he beckons Mark to come on in. He meets Mark’s gaze in the reflection of the mirror and smiles. “Feeling alright?”

“Still a little tired, but not bad,” he admits with a shrug, and when Donghyuck nods, Mark knows he feels the same.

They don’t talk much more on the short drive to the Hong Kong FULLSUN headquarters, their conversation for the day already used up on the flight, but Mark finds himself still feeling comfortable in the silence that sits between them. Donghyuck is doing something on his phone, and Mark only understands that he’s scrolling through Twitter when he turns his screen around to show him a video of a cat. 

Wordlessly, Mark smiles and shakes his head. Donghyuck looks like he’s about to say something when the car comes to a stop and the driver announces their arrival.

It doesn’t take long to figure out that the Hong Kong building must be modeled after the Seoul headquarters because Mark walks into the lobby and gets an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. The lobbies aren’t exactly the same, and at first glance, they don’t appear to be the same at all. But it’s the little things that reminds Mark of Seoul: the style of chandelier on the ceiling, the placement of the front desk, the brand of coffee that the little café sells.

“Donghyuck!” A voice calls out, drawing the attention of every person in the lobby as a man comes striding across the polished marble floor with his arms out wide. He’s shorter than Mark, but not by too much, and has a head of fluffy blond hair with just the kind of lemon tint that lets Mark know that it’s artificial. “You made it!”

“Chenle!” Donghyuck’s entire face lights up when he sees the man — Zhong Chenle, apparently — and he rushes forward to pull him into a hug. Mark feels as if he’s intruding in upon some private moment despite their location and looks elsewhere until his eyes fall upon a tall man in a business suit, lingering several paces behind Chenle with a binder in his arms.

He meets Mark’s gaze and smiles the type of smile that lights up his entire face. He walks over and holds out a hand to Mark.

“Hi, I’m Yukhei, Chenle’s secretary of sorts,” he introduces himself, shaking Mark’s hand.

“I’m Mark, Mister Lee’s secretary of sorts,” Mark replies with a smile, and it makes Yukhei laugh.

“I’m almost three years older than Chenle so he forced me to drop the formalities a couple months after I started working for him,” he explains, shifting the binder in his grip. He tosses a glance over his shoulder to see Donghyuck and Chenle already chatting away animatedly. “I’m supposed to give you a tour of the building this morning, if you’re up for that.”

“Lead the way.” Mark gestures in front of them, and Yukhei grins. They’re fast friends: Mark has his contact information in his phone by lunch and has already talked to Yukhei’s mother by the end of the work day. That mostly happened by coincidence, but Yukhei was still particularly enthusiastic when he introduced them over the video call.

The days of the trip continue on without much fanfare, and Mark finds himself spending his time in Hong Kong doing a lot of the same tasks he does back in Seoul: getting coffee, filing documents, taking notes in meetings, making copies. It’s a nice routine, actually, and he spends all of his breaks with Yukhei, getting to know each other better and joke around over shared meals.

Mark’s routine truly holds fast because he still consistently stays late at the office, saying that he hasn’t quite finished sorting all of the files yet or typing up all of his notes from one of the later meetings in the day. Yukhei and Chenle let it go easily, but Donghyuck a little less so.

He often pesters Mark about staying late, but Mark always manages to assure him that he’ll be gone sooner if Donghyuck stops bothering him. Once he’s alone for the most part, he uses his nights to make sure everything he can get his hands on is in order. He carefully completes tedious paperwork that Donghyuck has been putting off, organizes everything that Yukhei mentioned was out of place within their filing systems that he simply doesn’t have time to get around to, and fixes the next-day itinerary for both Donghyuck and Chenle.

All that extra work and staying back does mean that it doesn’t take long for Donghyuck to notice and point out how exhausted and stressed Mark is all the time. But, as always, Mark says that he won’t continue his work until Donghyuck has gone back to the hotel. Donghyuck protests, saying that Mark shouldn’t be walking back to the hotel late at night in a foreign country. 

It’s not until Mark pulls out his phone and shows that he has their Hong Kong driver on speed dial does Donghyuck finally relent, throwing his hands up in the air as he turns on his heel and heads out for the night.

The next morning when Donghyuck walks into the office, Mark is already there, two dark coffees matching the two dark circles under his eyes. 

“This is getting ridiculous, Mark,” are the first words out of Donghyuck’s mouth this morning. “You’re exhausted and overworking yourself. As a friend, I don’t like seeing you so tired and stressed out.”

“As your secretary, I’m telling you that I’m fine,” Mark sighs, taking a sip of his coffee. It makes him wonder if something like this is what got Jaemin so addicted to the stuff.

“And as your boss, I’m telling you to go home and sleep for once, Mark.” Donghyuck pulls out the trump card and, so Mark retaliates with his best non sequitur.

“We’re in Hong Kong, Mister Lee,” he points out. “I can’t exactly go home.”

There’s a beat of tension-filled silence before Donghyuck speaks again.

“Alright, we’ll compromise then.” He subconsciously adjusts his tie. Mark is instantly annoyed at how stupidly hot he finds that. “Clear my schedule for the day.”

“You have an important meeting with Chenle and some of the other executives.” Mark frowns, glancing at the computer where he has Donghyuck’s itinerary for the day pulled up. “I don’t think—”

“It can be rescheduled,” he interrupts. “We’re here for another few days still, and Chenle of all people will understand. I’ll shoot him a text.”

“May I at least know why you want your schedule cleared?” Mark asks, but he’s already in the process of doing it.

“No, you may not,” he replies cheekily, a flirtatious smile erupting across his face. Mark is stuck between wanting to melt straight into the floor and wanting to smack that stupid smile right off his face.

“Your itinerary for the day is now blank.” Mark spins back around in his chair to face Donghyuck wh just claps his hands together before snatching the coffee labeled with his name from its resting place on Mark’s desk.

“Wonderful! Let’s go then!”

“What? Where are you going?”

“You’re coming with me, you know.” Donghyuck cocks his hip, crossing his arms.

“What? No! I have things to get done today, Mister Lee!” Mark protests. “I have a whole pile of documents to re-sort and file because your last secretary did an abysmal job at best, not to mention the amount of—”

“Mark. Stop working for a few hours and come with me?” Donghyuck taps his fingers on his desk and takes a deep breath. “Please?”

Now, Lee Donghyuck doesn’t say “please.” Although Mark has only been his secretary for a little under a year, he knows that better than almost anyone. What Lee Donghyuck wants, Lee Donghyuck gets, no questions asked. The fact that he sucked up his pride for long enough to get out a monosyllabic plead means that he’s a lot more serious about this than he’s letting on.

“Fine, Mister Lee.” Mark lets his shoulders sink. “Can you at least tell me where we’re headed?”

“There’s this little place downtown…” Donghyuck starts, gesturing for Mark to get up and follow him. “It’s a really nice spa and I’m friends with the people who work there, so I figured I’d let you tag along.”

“So what I’m getting is that you’re skipping a meeting with Chenle and the other HK executives to go get a massage?” Mark frowns at the back of Donghyuck’s head. “Now who’s being ridiculous?”

“Correction,” he says, holding up a finger. “We are missing a meeting with Chenle and the HK execs to go get massages. There’s a very distinct difference between the two.”

“Yeah, the difference being that one of them has me getting my work done, and the other one has neither of us getting our work done.”

“Says the one who took me out ice skating instead of working.” Donghyuck shakes his head with a smile as they reach the elevator. “You need to de-stress once in a while, too, Mark. It’s not healthy.”

“I’m used to it.” The door bings open.

“Still doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Just because I’m used to drinking coffee every morning doesn’t make it healthy.”

Mark levels a look at Donghyuck as they enter the elevator.

“Just because you said that I’m going to stop bringing you coffee.” Mark presses the button for the lobby as Donghyuck pulls out his phone, presumably to alert their driver that they’re in need of his services again this soon.

“For the record, my coffee order has nothing on Jaemin’s,” Donghyuck snorts, pocketing his phone. “You should see the monstrosity he has his secretary bring him each morning.”

Mark grimaces so notably that its reflection catches Donghyuck’s eye in the shiny, gold-tinted metal walls of the elevator. It’s eerily similar to the one back in the Seoul headquarters, and it makes Mark wonder if that was as deliberate of a decision as making the lobbies have their elements of likeness as well.

“I’m not sure I want to.” He wrinkles his nose. “I feel bad enough for Jisung already.”

Donghyuck laughs at that; they both know that Jaemin doesn’t go easy on his young secretary but that he loves him more than anything and would more than likely lay down his life for the poor kid.

Mark doesn’t voice these thoughts for a couple of reasons. For one, he’s pretty sure that Donghyuck already knows. He spends a lot of time around Jaemin and Jisung in their working environment, and Mark is there to witness how he deliberately makes sure that Jisung is always doing alright, and doesn’t hesitate to tell Jaemin off for overworking the boy. 

The second reason is because he doesn’t want to bring up whatever intriguing, pseudo-romantic relationship settles oddly between Jaemin and Jisung because it might get Donghyuck thinking about what their own relationship entails.

It might make Donghyuck notice whatever tension has been laying under all of the interactions that Mark has had with Donghyuck since he took him skating, simmering just beneath the surface. It makes Mark want to tear it wide open. He’s not the most patient man when it comes to tension because he’s normally the first person that steps forward to resolve things like this, but he’s never experienced anything like this at all and he’s somehow found himself stuck in the middle without a clue in the world as to how to proceed.

Mark isn’t sure if anything he’s feeling is reciprocated because Lee Donghyuck is so impossibly hard to read, and maybe he’s not entirely sure if he wants to know at all, but damn it all if he hasn’t already jumped headfirst into the deep end for him.

He so badly wants to bring it up just to get it out of the way, but that means that Donghyuck will have to think about it, and when he thinks about something, there’s an eighty percent chance that he’ll end up overthinking it and going too far and stressing himself out over something that really shouldn’t involve any stress at all.

The elevator pings open and Donghyuck leads the way out of the lobby to where their driver has pulled up right in front of the main doors. Mark tries really hard not to let himself dwell on the fact that Donghyuck opened his door for him, closing it gently only once Mark is completely inside the car before he strides around the back to slip in the other side next to him.

Donghyuck’s gaze burns into the side of his head for a moment before he turns to the driver and spits out an address in Mandarin at such a speed that Mark can’t even keep up with despite having taken classes on the language for the better part of his high school and college career.

The ride is otherwise short and quiet, Mark passing the time by watching the buildings lumber by as they cruise down the streets of downtown in the heavy morning traffic. So much has already happened this morning and he’s honestly still trying to wrap his head completely around everything, and by the time he’s midway through his contemplating, Donghyuck is already opening his door and offering him a hand to get out.

Mark can’t think fast enough to stop himself from taking Donghyuck’s warm hand and stepping out of the car with a small smile when neither of them let go right away, holding on just a fraction of a second too long to be considered normal.

He tilts his head to look up at the building they stopped in front of finally and the breath is pressed out of his lungs by the sheer size of the place. Donghyuck had specifically used the word “little” when referring to the place, but this… this is anything but small.

Even the outside of the spa holds a sense of regality and grandeur with its glass doors and ornate golden lettering, making the act of actually walking inside one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of Mark’s entire life.

The entrance is all golden columns and crystal chandeliers and polished marble flooring that makes Mark a little nervous to walk over in case he might leave a scuff or even just a piece of lint anywhere on the shiny surface. It’s one of the most upscale places that Mark has ever been, FULLSUN INC’s Seoul and Hong Kong lobbies aside.

“Kunhang!” Donghyuck calls, his voice echoing around the area, and Mark spots the receptionist’s head shoot up at the call of the name, a wide smile spreading across his face as he stands.

“Lee Donghyuck, it has been too long!”

“How are things?” Donghyuck asks as he wraps the man in a hug. “It really has been too long. How’s the family? How’re things with the boy?” That last comment earns him an elbow in the ribs that simply makes him laugh.

“The family is great, I’ll tell them all you dropped by to say hello, and you literally work with the boy, why don’t you ask him when you get back to Seoul?”

“Yangyang isn’t as much fun to ask about these sorts of things,” Donghyuck replies. “He’s always so busy doing HR stuff that he never has time to indulge my annoying questions about you anymore.”

“Serves you right,” Kunhang says, feigning irritation but the smile on his face gives his true feelings away as he turns to Mark. “And you must be Mark? It’s a pleasure. The name’s Kunhang, but you can call me Hendery if that makes things easier.”

“Nice to meet you too,” Mark greets. “It’s always good to meet Mister Lee’s friends to know that he has an actual life outside of work because some days he has me fully convinced that he doesn’t.”

“I like you,” Kunhang laughs. “Donghyuck, you’d better keep this one around.”

“I fully intend to,” he responds, and those four simple words make something travel down Mark’s spine. “But I don’t suppose my usual is available?”

“I can make it available if you’re down to start approximately right now,” Kunhang suggests, glancing at his expensive-looking watch. “It’s in your regular room in the back. I’ll send Jungwoo your way as soon as I can.”

“Thanks, Kunhang.” Donghyuck smiles, patting him on the shoulder before gesturing for Mark to follow him. 

Mark nods a quick goodbye to Kunhang before hopping hot on Donghyuck’s heels as he leads the way down a series of twisting hallways, all of the walls decorated with beautiful photographs and paintings that Mark admires as he walks by. And if Mark’s one class on art history in his freshman year of university serves him right, he would swear on his life that they just passed a Monet.

Donghyuck stops abruptly at a door that looks just like all of the rest, but Mark assumes that it must be Donghyuck’s “normal room” because of how familiar he seems to be with it. There are two massage tables in it, and Donghyuck immediately claims one by hopping up onto it, leaving his crossed legs dangling over the side.

“There’s a robe hanging in the closet over there,” Donghyuck states, gesturing vaguely to the wardrobe on the other side of the room before he leans back on his palms fix his gaze on Mark.

“What about you?” Mark asks, but is already walking over to where Donghyuck had gestured.

“I’ll go after.” He shrugs, tipping his head slightly. “And besides, I had a massage at the beginning of the month.”

Mark wants to argue because he knows Donghyuck’s entire schedule like the back of his hand and there’s no way in hell that he had time for a massage at any point in time earlier this month back in Seoul. Besides that, Mark desperately wants to point out the fact that there are two tables and, from what he understands, two masseuses coming in, so it doesn’t make any logistical sense for Donghyuck to be sitting out. In the end, though, he simply seals his lips together tightly and doesn’t say anything. There’s no real point in arguing this because there’s no way that he’s really going to win, so he spares himself the exertion. 

He crosses the room and carefully removes the robe from its hanger. It’s fluffy and soft and a literal dream just to have his hands on, so he takes off his suit jacket and lays it out neatly by the window, so absorbed in what he’s doing that he nearly forgets Donghyuck is still in the room. He forgets until Donghyuck speaks and Mark’s entire body freezes up.

“Are you this meticulous about everything?” He asks, and Mark whips around, eyes wide.

“I—what?”

“You folded the robe before you set it down and you just smoothed all of the nonexistent wrinkles out of your blazer,” he points out. Mark goes pink and doesn’t even quite grasp why. “It’s quite amusing, if I do say so.”

“I’m glad that my tidiness makes you laugh, sir,” Mark bites back, trying to will away the blush that continues to rise on the apples of his cheeks. “Now do you mind turning around so I may change without the unwarranted comments from the peanut gallery?”

“Only if you promise to never refer to my brilliant comments as ‘unwarranted’ and ‘from the peanut gallery’ ever again,” Donghyuck laughs, but is already in the midst of turning away before Mark can reply, so instead he just rolls his eyes once his boss can’t see, but it can’t stop the small smile that curls its way onto the corners of his mouth.

He sheds the rest of his outer clothing and puts on the robe as fast as he can. He’s only ever had one professional massage in his life which was when Renjun dragged him out to his friend’s new expensive spa in uptown Seoul and Mark swears he literally ascended from his body that day, so he tries to follow the same etiquette that Renjun had displayed that day with Minghao and Junhui, their masseuses and a couple of Renjun’s old friends.

A short knock sounds on the door just as Mark finishes tying the knot over his navel. Donghyuck glances back just then, and at the sight of Mark being ready, he calls for them to enter.

A slightly taller man with a soft smile opens the door and Donghyuck leaps up to greet him with a hug and a kiss on the cheek, which the stranger happily accepts and reciprocates. Mark stands awkwardly in the corner, not entirely sure about what to do until they let go of each other and Donghyuck finally turns back.

“Mark, this is Jungwoo, a good friend of mine who opened this spa here, what? Five years ago?” Donghyuck sends a cursory look at Jungwoo which is returned in the form of a confirming nod. “Yeah, and we’ve known each other since before college and he’s remained my favorite masseuse throughout.”

“Oh, shut up, Donghyuck,” Jungwoo scolds playfully. “You never even tried to get a massage from anyone else.”

“Irrelevant.” Donghyuck shrugs. “But Jungwoo, this is Mark Lee, your client for today.”

Jungwoo raises an eyebrow.

“So this is the secretary that you—”

Donghyuck elbows him in the ribs hard enough to cut him off and Jungwoo just laughs in response, his brown eyes shining with mischief. Mark finds himself somewhat okay with not knowing how that sentence was supposed to end. Jungwoo grins down at an uncomfortable-looking Donghyuck who is shifting from foot to foot until Jungwoo finally takes pity on him and turns his attention to Mark.

“You can take off your robe and we can get started without further delay, yeah?” He coaxes gently, but Mark freezes, his eyes darting between Jungwoo and Donghyuck, probably looking just as panicked as he feels. Jungwoo rolls his eyes and nudges Donghyuck with his elbow. “Turn around so you stop making the poor boy uncomfortable, idiot.”

Donghyuck makes a noise of complaint but Jungwoo takes his shoulders and spins them so the rest of his body follows and he’s no longer leveling his unwavering gaze with Mark. Jungwoo then glides across the room to Mark, touching his shoulder gingerly, as if scared that he’s going to run away. 

“Do you still have your undergarments on?” He asks gently, and Mark nods. He’s afraid to speak because as much as he doesn’t want to admit it, he’s scared out of his mind right now, completely floundering out of his depth and without any sign of a lifejacket to cling onto. Jungwoo pats him on the juncture between his neck and shoulder, his hands warm against Mark’s cold skin. “That’s perfectly okay. Most of my clients choose to take everything off, but the last thing I want to do is push you out of your comfort zone when the whole point of this is supposed to be relaxing.”

“Thank you, Jungwoo,” he acknowledges quietly, a genuine smile gracing his lips. Jungwoo squeezes his arm comfortingly.

“Stop peeking, Donghyuck,” he calls back without even turning around.

There’s an abhorred noise of protest that comes from the other side of the room, and Mark peeks over Jungwoo’s shoulder just in time to see Donghyuck turning back around to face the wall, his arms crossing in front of his chest petulantly. Mark snorts and Jungwoo just laughs, shaking his head.

“Boys,” he mutters with a half-smile. Mark can only nod in agreement.

Mark then carefully takes off his robe, disappointed when the fluffy warmth disappears from surrounding, leaving him in just his briefs.

“You can lay down here,” Jungwoo tells him, gesturing to the massage table. Mark complies rather hastily, wiggling around until he’s as comfortable as he’s going to get. A towel is deposited over his briefs for extra coverage, though, and Mark is thankful.

“Okay, Mark? You have to relax or this won’t do you any good,” Jungwoo urges softly and Mark realizes just how much tension has strung itself through his body, knotting up his muscles and making him stiff. He takes a deep breath, doing his best to relax against the table.

A warm hand rests on his elbow then, rubbing warm circles into the skin there with the pad of a finger. 

“Do you even know how to relax?” Donghyuck asks softly. Of course it’s him.

“I don’t really do it that often, Mister Lee, so I’m not sure.” He manages to keep his words coherent from where they’re being stuffed into the padding on the table.

“Do you even just… I don’t know… take a break once in a while?”

“No,” Mark answers honestly. “You’ve known me long enough to tell that for yourself.”

The response quiets Donghyuck — for better or worse because he focuses more on him movements instead of his words. His fingers travel up and down the length of Mark’s arm, leaving goosebumps in their wake. Mark has to suppress a shiver when Donghyuck’s other hand finds its way to the base of his neck, starting to knead the tension out. Mark wants to cry because of how good it feels, his stubborn muscles beginning to melt under Donghyuck’s careful but firm touch.

“Stop doing my job, Donghyuck,” Jungwoo teases, and the hands immediately draw themselves away from Mark’s skin, followed closely by a sheepish laugh. He has to force himself to lay still and not arch to find the comforting touch once again

“Sorry, ‘Woo,” he chuckles.

Admittedly, Jungwoo does an amazing job, and Mark is just a blob of putty on the table by the end of the session — he swears that Jungwoo worked all of his muscles into a liquid — but it wasn’t the same way Donghyuck touched him. 

It didn’t leave the same trails of pleasure and goosebumps on his skin, but it did allow him to let himself relax more than he would have if Donghyuck was the one doing it. He doesn’t have to constantly keep himself in a state of awareness when someone else makes contact with him, not having to fear that he’ll slip and profess all of his emotions and love for the person without warning.

Oh, no.

There it is.

Mark wants to sink into a hole in the ground and never emerge because despite him doing everything he can to avoid it, he’s in love. He tried to avoid it and deny it, but he can’t any longer because the moment Jungwoo leaves the room, it’s inescapable and suffocating and all Mark wants to do is kiss the living daylights out of his boss — not to mention the fact that this is a terribly inconvenient and awkward time to realize it.

Instead of doing that, though, Mark gets up while Donghyuck is out in the hallway saying goodbye to Jungwoo and begins to put his clothes back on. He hasn’t spoken a single word besides a thank you to Jungwoo since before the massage again, and when Donghyuck comes back inside as he’s in the middle of buttoning his pants, his voice fails him completely. It’s a product of the realization that he’s stupidly in love combined with the fact that he’s shirtless right now.

“Oh, yeah, I’m doing great.” His voice comes out low and rough, but doesn’t crack. Donghyuck’s eyebrows shoot up to the ceiling when he hears him.

“Sorry, I didn’t know you were still getting dressed,” he says, but he doesn’t sound at all sorry and his gaze rakes up Mark’s bare chest without a trace of shame. Mark, on the other hand, hurries to put on his shirt, but in his haste he ends up fastening the buttons one slot off where they should be.

“It’s okay,” he frets, his focus now solely on stopping the blush from rising on his cheeks as he fumbles to re-do the buttons on his shirt. A hand gently rests on top of his, though, and Mark looks up to see Donghyuck standing right in front of him, carefully moving Mark’s hands to the side so he can do the buttons.

“You’re shaking,” Donghyuck notes, sparing a glance up at Mark’s face before devoting himself to the task at hand once more. “Why are you shaking?”

“Because I’m nervous,” Mark admits, biting his lip when Donghyuck smooths his hands down his chest in a weak attempt to get the already non-existent wrinkles out. 

“Why are you nervous?” He begins deliberately, tucking in Mark’s shirt slowly before reaching for his belt, one hand lingering on Mark’s hip just below the waistline of his slacks. “Is it because of me?”

“Among other things, but mostly you,” he gasps out when Donghyuck tugs the belt through the loops around his hips, causing him to nearly stumble into Donghyuck’s arms. 

“And why do I make you nervous?” Donghyuck is looking down but it doesn’t hide his smile from Mark. There’s no way that at this point — Donghyuck’s hands lingering on his waist, his smile, the way his eyes never leave Mark — Mark can be reading the situation wrong. His doubts about Donghyuck not wanting him are rapidly dwindling, and it’s here of all places that Renjun’s words come back to him.

‘All I know is from my perspective, that man is head over heels for you.’

Maybe, just maybe, Renjun was right after all. At the same time, though, it doesn’t conclusively mean anything because lust is different than love. Mark has experienced both, but still struggles to differentiate them when it comes to Donghyuck because he wants Donghyuck in whatever way he can have him, and if he wants Mark this way, Mark isn’t about to stop him.

Donghyuck takes Mark’s tie, but this time maintains eye contact with him as he ties and tightens it unlike his focus on Mark’s buttons and belt. Mark turns red under his gaze, and he wonders if Donghyuck can feel the heat of the blush on his skin from how close they are. 

Mark didn’t even know he was holding his breath until Donghyuck takes several steps back and they both take deep breaths. It’s only then that Mark notices how blown Donghyuck’s pupils are and it makes him shiver in a very good way, knowing that he did something to elicit that response from Donghyuck. It’s very satisfying, but that doesn’t mean that Mark doesn’t still crave more.

“You don’t even know what you do to me,” Donghyuck murmurs, looking Mark up and down, and even though he’s completely dressed once more, Mark can’t help but feel exposed under his wandering eyes.

“You could show me,” Mark retorts before slapping a hand over his mouth in shock. He doesn’t know where those words came from, the confidence that had been laying thick in his throat now dissolving quickly beneath Donghyuck’s gaze, but judging by his curling smile, though, it doesn’t go unappreciated.

He advances slowly, causing Mark’s instincts to kick in and make him try and take a step backwards to keep the distance but his back hits the wall mid-stride and he nearly stumbles out of surprise. Donghyuck doesn’t stop, though, in fact he doesn’t pause until they’re chest to chest, breaths mingling and Donghyuck’s eyes searching Mark’s face for something.

And Mark is pretty sure he knows what that something is.

“May I?” Donghyuck murmurs, reaching forward to cup Mark’s cheek, leaning forward until their noses are just brushing.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what Donghyuck is asking about, and Mark finds himself turning back into a teenager with the way the urge to swoon fills up his chest. So, instead, he tentatively reaches forward to trail his fingers along the sharp jawline that he has been ogling for the past several months and swallows heavily.

“Please,” he whispers, giving the barest of nods.

It takes a split second for Donghyuck to be all over him, lips crashing together, one hand curling around his waist while the other one slides down to the side of his neck, rubbing circles into the skin softly.

To be honest, Mark doesn’t know exactly what he had expected Donghyuck to kiss like, but it wasn’t this: soft, exploring, not tentative but not overly eager either. It’s urging yet not commanding, and Mark greedily takes the lead because Donghyuck most definitely isn’t putting up a fuss when Mark twists his fingers through Donghyuck’s hair and tugs him into a better angle.

Their chests heave against each other — for Mark it’s more as a result of the adrenaline than actual physical exertion at this point, but it keeps him grounded. The other thing both keeping Mark on this plane of existence as well as threatening to have him ascend is the thigh that Donghyuck slots between Mark’s own, his knee braced against the wall with his body caging Mark’s in.

He can’t even recall when exactly his dick got interested in the situation, but when things come to Donghyuck, Mark has learned to not be surprised by much of anything whether it’s things that he does or Mark’s reactions to them. He rolls his hips down to find the relief that he didn’t even know he needed until now. 

With a sigh, Mark lets his head fall back, relaxing under Donghyuck’s wandering lips that creep down the column of his throat. He vaguely registers his tie being loosened and bruises being sucked onto the skin where they can easily be hidden by his collar.

Donghyuck hitches his leg up just a little higher, making friction easier to find. Without an ounce of shame or hesitation, Mark chases it, not minding the desperate whine that he lets out from the back of his throat because Donghyuck captures his lips against just in time to swallow the noise down whole.

He can feel Donghyuck hard against his hip, but he can’t think about that because he’s too far gone in his own head, wrapped up in a cloud of pleasure and the onslaught of sensations his body is experiencing. Mark wants so badly to give everything he’s receiving back to Donghyuck, but he can’t focus on it for long enough.

His own pleasure overrules any thoughts of anything besides Donghyuck, Donghyuck, Donghyuck, and his mind repeats the mantra so incessantly that Mark starts murmuring it aloud without even registering what he’s saying. 

“Mark, you’re too much,” Donghyuck pants back, his lips finding their way back to Mark’s to swallow every out-of-breath whimper that escapes his mouth. “You’re doing so well, baby, you’re almost there.”

Mark only half registers the actual words coming out of his mouth, more focused on the low vibrations in Donghyuck’s chest that his voice is causing. He gasps wetly when Donghyuck puts his hands on either side of Mark’s waist and helps him chase his goal, leaving Mark to simply clutch onto Donghyuck’s shoulders with his head flung back against the wall.

“There you go,” Donghyuck rasps. “That’s it, c’mon baby I know you’re close.”

Without another second of warning, Marks vision goes white for a split second. It takes a moment to orient himself in the world, but he’s pliant in Donghyuck’s grasp now, breathing heavily into the crook of his neck. 

He remembers love when Donghyuck slowly removes his leg from between Mark’s. He remembers love when Donghyuck presses kisses into his hair and rubs his back. He remembers love when Donghyuck whispers that he did so well, that Mark was so good, so pretty, so wonderful. 

There’s nothing Mark can do except fall in deeper, because Donghyuck gives him nowhere else to fall. It’s almost ridiculous how easy it is to love him, and Mark couldn’t take it back even if he tried.

Blinking hard, he slowly removes his head from Donghyuck’s shoulder and forces himself to meet his gaze for the first time in a few minutes.

“Hey,” he says, sheepish for reasons he can’t even explain. Or, well, he can explain, he just doesn’t want to.

“Hey.” Donghyuck grins back, placing a tender, almost too tender, kiss on Mark’s temple. “Feeling good?”

“More than good,” Mark admits, looking away. 

“Your suit…” Donghyuck trails off, still breathing heavily. It’s only then that Mark notices that his slacks are completely soiled, and they’re a little uncomfortable.

“It’s alright,” Mark says softly, swallowing audibly before he speaks again. “I can just go back to the hotel and change.”

Donghyuck hums softly in affirmation of the idea, but pulls Mark into a gentle kiss before either of them really have the chance to act on it. Mark cups Donghyuck’s face with both hands, pulling him as close as he can and just staying there. It’s slow and soft and perfect in a very different way than their first kiss a few minutes ago was perfect, but then again, Mark can’t help but think that every kiss he has and will share with Donghyuck will be inherently perfect.

After another few moments, Mark finally pulls back and nearly laughs at the dopey smile on Donghyuck’s face.

“If we want to leave anytime soon, you might want to call the driver,” he points out, and that seems to snap Donghyuck into action, although not immediately because he runs his fingers through the hair that’s flopping down on Mark’s forehead. It’s the first time that Mark considers forgetting his hair gel back at his apartment in Seoul a blessing because if he had gelled his hair today, it would have been absolutely awful by this point. He also gets the feeling that Donghyuck likes his natural hair because of the way he’s playing with it and makes a mental note to not gel his hair as often if it means that Donghyuck will play with it. 

“Your jacket’s still by the window,” Donghyuck tells him as he lets him go. Mark immediately misses his warmth, but doesn’t express it, instead just reaching across the table to snag his suit jacket.

He puts it on as Donghyuck pulls his phone out to call their driver, never taking his eyes off of him. There are a lot of things to think about — that he should be thinking about — but he wants to dwell in the moment a little longer. He wants to enjoy the privacy and the intimacy of whatever just happened, afraid of the delicacy of the atmosphere and how easy it would be to shatter with a simple few words.

Donghyuck murmurs something into his phone before slipping it back into his pocket and turning to face Mark, a small but fond smile lighting up his features when they make eye contact. Hesitantly, Mark reaches out his arms and it takes a fraction of a moment for Donghyuck to stride over and take his place between them, their lips molding together once more.

There’s no desperation in the kiss this time. It’s just the two of them, reveling in each other’s presence, taking their time to carefully map the other with their wandering hands as if to seal this in their memories for as long as they can. Neither of them pull away until Donghyuck’s phone vibrates from his pocket and Mark leans back with a laugh. He reaches for it before Donghyuck can, and answers it.

“Hello?” He says, looking straight at Donghyuck whose expression is nothing less than amused as he watches his secretary answer his own personal cell phone.

“The car is out front,” the driver responds in Mandarin, but Mark manages to catch it.

“Ah, thank you. We’ll arrive soon.” Mark isn’t sure if his grammar ends up coming out as perfectly as he wants, but the driver gives him the affirmative and Mark hangs up, counting it as a success.

“I didn’t know you spoke Mandarin,” Donghyuck muses as he takes his phone back from Mark, eyebrows raised.

“There’s a lot you still don’t know about me, Mister Lee,” Mark replies easily.

“For now,” he hums. “We should go.”

“Yeah, we should.”

Neither of them make a move to leave the room. In fact, it takes until their driver calls them a second time for them to finally peel away from each other for long enough to rush out to the car, laughing the whole way because Mark’s hair is a disaster and Donghyuck’s tie isn’t fully done, small blooming spots of red and purple peeking out from underneath his collar if he tilts his head at just the right angle.

The ride back to the hotel hasn’t changed the almost honeymoon-like atmosphere between them because Donghyuck had opened the door for Mark to get into the car before rushing around to the other side to get in himself. The driver pulls out of the spot and Donghyuck links his pinkie with Mark’s on the backseat between them, his grin so wide that Mark has to look away out the window, fully aware of how red his cheeks are.

“Go get showered and rest for the remainder of the day, alright?” Donghyuck suggests as pull up to the hotel. They stopped holding pinkies at some point during the ride to keep a small distance between them, as if they’re afraid that if they touch again they might just jump each other’s bones in the backseat of the chauffered car with no warning. “I have an errand to run real quick.”

“Oh.” Mark tries not to pout, he really does. “Where are you off to?”

“I just need to pick up a couple things from the office alright?”

Mark finds this vaguely ironic because he used the same excuse to go back to the office and do work after taking Donghyuck out for his day of de-stressing at the ice rink. That’s the very thing that keeps him from calling Donghyuck out on it thought, because if Mark did it, he really doesn’t have a place to stop him from doing it too. Moreover, no matter how much he really does want to stop Donghyuck from overworking himself, Mark really needs to go up and shower so he can put on some fresh clothes.

“Will you be back soon?” Mark’s voice comes out a lot quieter than he hoped, but there must have been something in it that tips Donghyuck off because he leans over to place a chaste kiss on Mark’s cheek.

“I’ll be back before you know I’m gone, I promise.” His eyes are wide and sincere, his nose almost brushing Mark’s with their proximity. It’s clearly an invitation for another kiss, but Mark knows that if he gives in this time, they’d be tangled up in each other for longer than their driver was probably willing to put up with.

Instead, he simply nods, fumbling behind him for the handle to the door so he can get out. He smiles once more at Donghyuck before he shuts the door, taking note of the fact that the car doesn’t move from where it’s parked at the curb until Mark has long since disappeared into the hotel lobby.

He arrives at his room, his head swimming with too many thoughts that he lets wash down the drain of the shower, only re-emerging once he has both a clear head and a clean body. He’s probably used up a good chunk of the hotel’s hot water supply by now anyway.

The exhaustion doesn’t hit him until he’s dressed in sweatpants and a t-shirt, his legs tucked under the covers of the bed and his laptop resting on them with the original intention of getting some work done to make up for being out all of today. He doesn’t know how it happens exactly, but he must end up falling asleep at some point because the next time he opens his eyes, his whole body is under the covers with his laptop on the bedside table charging and his glasses in their case. The time on his phone reads a couple of hours later and the sun has begun to turn the sky to reds and pinks and oranges out over the Hong Kong skyline that Mark admires for a moment.

Mark knows that it must have been Donghyuck because he’s the only other one with access to his room, albeit through the connector door that’s once again closed but Mark is reasonable sure that neither of them really cared to lock it again after discovering it by accident on their first day.

There’s one other thing out of place in the room, and Mark scours his entire mind but can’t recall there being a garment bag laid out across the cushy chair in the corner of the room. Mark wants to heave a sigh.

His suspicions are confirmed when he opens it: a new suit, not too different from the one he was wearing earlier when a few specific events in a specific spa transpired. Mark feels a warm tingle up his spine when he thinks about it, but at the same time he’s tempted to give the suit back despite how futile he knows it will be.

Besides, giving it back would also involve talking to Donghyuck about The Incident and Mark isn’t sure he wants to do that, let alone if Donghyuck himself wants to. He’s perfectly content with it remaining in his memories and never actually having to speak it into existence, despite his rapidly growing affection for his boss, and his heartbeat increases just thinking about it all.

Mark quietly tells his heart to shut up.

He’s about to pick the suit up and try it on when there’s a knock on the door that conjoins his room with Donghyuck’s. Speak of the devil.

“Mark? Are you up?”

“Yeah, come on in if you’d like,” Mark replies before he can stop himself, completely not taking into consideration that he just woke up and probably looks awful. Then again, Donghyuck was the one who came in while he was sleeping to put his laptop and glasses away, so it’s not much of a loss at this point.

“Hey…” Donghyuck sounds uncharacteristically tentative as he opens the door to peek his head through. “How are you doing? Is there anything I can get you?”

“I’m not an invalid, Donghyuck, you don’t have to treat me like I’m one,” Mark states, garnering a very pretty blush on his boss’s cheeks. “I’m perfectly capable.”

“I know, I know.” Donghyuck steps fully into the room, but leans on the wall beside the door frame, facing Mark. “Do you have any plans for the rest of the evening, by chance?”

Mark levels him with a look.

“I’m in a foreign country and the only people I know are you and our other coworkers,” he deadpans. “I can’t say that I have a lot of plans floating around at the moment.”

“Oh, great!” Donghyuck claps his hands together, some of his tension seemingly relieved by Mark’s response. “We’re going out for dinner then!”

“Are we now?” Mark raises an eyebrow, cocking a hip.

“Oh, uh, I mean, would you care to join me for dinner?” Donghyuck backtracks. “Chenle and Yukhei invited me to go out, and they both expressed that they’d love for you to come along as well.”

“So only they wanted me to come?” Mark is fully seizing a scarce opportunity to tease Donghyuck at this point — they both know it — but seeing the way Donghyuck’s cheeks glow rosy red makes any potential repercussions worth it. 

“I would like it if you were to accompany me to dinner, Mark.” He shuffles his feet and his gaze jumps around, not quite meeting Mark’s eyes. “I’d very much like it.”

“I’d love to.” Mark takes pity on him, ending his embarrassed suffering. His answer seems to surprise Donghyuck because his shoulders lift and his eyes snap up to meet Mark’s at last.

“Great, wonderful. Does it work for you to leave in twenty?”

“Should I wear the new suit?”

“That would be lovely,” Donghyuck mumbles, turning red again. “You’d look lovely.”

“Oh, would I now?” Mark crosses his arms, the corners of his lips twitching up into a smirk. He’s milking all of the embarrassment he can out of Donghyuck here because who knows when his next opportunity for it will arise. Mark’s plans come to an abrupt end when Donghyuck takes a step closer, reaching to brush some of Mark’s unruly hair out of his face.

“You always look lovely.” His fingers trail across Mark’s cheek and jawline before disappearing, leaving no time for Mark to even think about leaning in for another kiss. He doesn’t get discouraged, though, because Donghyuck smiles widely then, his eyes shining with his usual michevity once more. “Sorry, can’t ruin my appetite now.”

It takes Mark’s mind a split second to catch up, but when he does, it’s his own turn to flame up at the cheeks.

“Lee Donghyuck!” He scolds, not quite scandalized by the blatant innuendo but something damn close.

Donghyuck just grins even harder, backing into his room again.

“I’ll meet you in the lobby in twenty,” he says before closing the door.

And if Mark is already down there, dressed and ready in fifteen just to see Donghyuck exit the elevator wearing a suit that’s almost identical to Mark’s and a priceless expression, well, Mark won’t confirm or deny.



LESSON 8: Things Might Not Always Work Out (but please don’t give up just yet)

 

Donghyuck isn’t the type of person to get mad. In fact, Mark is relatively sure he has never seen him anything above mildly peeved, and even that was only when Jaemin annoyed him on purpose. He slightly moved everything around on the CEO’s desk for weeks until Donghyuck finally caught Jaemin in the act and threw a pencil at him and told him to get back to work.

Even with negotiations and business deals, Donghyuck always keeps calm and never fails to respond to things with an even voice and a neutral face. So maybe he’s pissed off on the inside the the deal is clearly going to fall through, but he has never once showed any visible signs of anger in any situations that Mark can recall.

All in all, Donghyuck is a really relaxed guy for being a CEO of an entire company, so when Mark hears a particularly heated discussion coming from his office one afternoon, he has every right to be as concerned as he is.

“Mister Lee?” Mark knocks gently on the door of the office, but Donghyuck doesn’t call him in. It’s entirely possible that he can’t hear the soft knocks over the argument that persists, quickly increasing in volume but still muffled enough that Mark can’t make out their words.

A half second of an internal debate on whether or not to open the door — that would go against one of the first and only rules that Donghyuck had established when Mark began this job so long ago — leads him to the act of carefully twisting the knob and pushing it open anyway, blatantly ignoring the little voice in the back of his mind that’s telling him to not.

He’s greeted with the sight of Donghyuck pacing back and forth in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows of his office, clearly agitated. There’s a frown on his face as he listens to the voice coming from the phone in his hand, set on speaker so Mark can just barely make out the words.

“...just come. That’s all we’re asking,” is what the voice on the other end of the line is saying. It sounds vaguely familiar for some reason or another, but Mark can’t focus on that right now.

“And all I’m telling you is no. Your conditions are steep, and I’m not willing to oblige,” Donghyuck replies, frustration replacing the rage that had been laced into his muted words through the door before Mark entered.

“You have the invitation. Think it over… for us.”

“I’ll think about it.” Donghyuck barely gets the words out before he’s hanging up and tucking the phone back into his pocket, placing his head in his hands and taking a deep breath.

Mark doesn’t say anything, just stands there, body only halfway in the room and seriously considering slipping out because it doesn’t look like Donghyuck has noticed him. His plan of leaving the room is going phenomenally until he whacks his elbow on the doorframe and the sound is so loud that it causes Donghyuck to look up and freeze when he sees Mark.

“How much of that did you hear?” He sounds uncharacteristically nervous.

“Not much,” Mark says slowly, gauging his reaction. “How much do you want to tell me?”

“Not much.” Donghyuck leans against the window, casting his gaze down at the city streets far below. He sighs before looking back up and beckoning Mark closer with the crook of his finger.

Mark hesitates for a split second, but steps fully inside, closing the door behind him and walking forward until he’s about an arm’s length away because after that he blinks and he’s being pulled into Donghyuck’s chest. Arms wrap around his back and Mark gingerly lets his own settle behind Donghyuck as the younger man leans his head on Mark’s shoulder.

The hug is… unexpected to say the least.

They’ve been dancing around all physical touch since The Incident . Mark likes to capitalize and italicize it in his head when he thinks about it. The Incident. The whole “Lee Donghyuck who is also my boss and the CEO of a majorly successful company made out with me and let me grind on his thigh until I came in the middle of a high end massage parlor in downtown Hong Kong while we were on a business trip together” thing. The Incident is just a better way to sum that up.

Mark has to force himself to push The Incident from his immediate consciousness because Donghyuck tightens his arms around Mark, and suddenly there’s no room to think about anything else other than him — than them. Donghyuck relaxes against Mark, the tension slowly seeping out of his form.

After another moment, Mark carefully pulls back, still wary of whatever the hell is going on between them, but it seems like the hug is enough to placate Donghyuck’s touchiness, or at least for now. 

“So…” Mark starts. “You want to talk about it?”

Donghyuck doesn’t say anything at first, just nodding and gesturing for Mark to take a seat in the chair across from his own at the desk. It’s only once they’re settled does he begin.

“There’s a certain… reputation I used to have, and I’m sure you’re aware. The diva playboy that the media would go crazy for just to get another story on. No one ever recognized how hard I had to work to get here, to achieve my dreams, and maybe I did grow up with a little bit of a silver spoon in my mouth, but I earned back everything I was given and more.” He pauses to take a breath. “I’ve spent years working for this, pouring blood, sweat, and tears into making this company what it is, and one small misstep with another person has the ability to bring that to its knees at the press of a button. It keeps my up at night sometimes, and not even my own family seems capable of comprehending this and it frustrates me to no end.”

Mark lets out the breath he didn’t even know he has been holding in, his chest deflating slowly as he tries to comprehend the influx of information he just received.

“Where did that whole spiel come from?” He finally settles on that phrasing because it seems like the safest thing to say to keep Donghyuck’s slowly decreasing anger levels from spiking, although he doubts they will.

“My father called — that’s who you heard on the phone — and he wants me to attend this high-profile charity gala that he’s helping host this year.”

“But you do that all the time—”

“He says I have to bring a date because, and I quote, ‘have to grow up eventually’, and apparently to him that means settling down with someone serious instead of focusing on my career and growing that instead,” Donghyuck huffs, sitting up straight. “And besides, I’m trying to do a better job of being a businessman and not continue to foster the playboy party animal image that the tabloids have made of me.”

“Excuse my blunt wording of this, but fuck what the tabloids say, sir,” Mark responds without a second of hesitation. 

“Oh?” Donghyuck raises an eyebrow.

“It doesn’t matter what they say about you as long as you keep working hard and doing the impeccable job that your entire company knows that you're doing, that the literal stock market knows you’re doing,” Mark pauses, leveling Donghyuck with a look. “And that I know you’re doing.”

That last phrase hangs in the air, stagnant between them as Donghyuck seems to take in the words. He nods after a moment, straightening up his shoulders before speaking.

“Thank you, Mark, but that doesn’t solve my problem of the whole charity gala situation,” he says. “My parents are insisting that I need to come and for some godforsaken reason I need to come with a date. But I’m not bringing some random person to this because that brings me back to the whole playboy image and it drags them into the mess that I call my life, and it’s not fair for either of us.”

A heavy silence.

“Just bring me,” Mark replies, hurrying before he can stop himself. “We’ve already made the statement that I’m just your secretary, and if you bring me as your ‘date’ then it will make your appearance seem more business-oriented and you don’t have to worry about bringing someone else into the scene.”

To be perfectly honest, Mark doesn’t know how he managed to come up with all of that so quickly, but it makes Donghyuck lean back in his chair thoughtfully. He runs a hand through his hair, ruining the styling but not his irritating ability to be attractive no matter what. 

“Are you sure that you want to do this?” Donghyuck looks him in the eye. “You’ll have to suffer through an evening of wearing a suit and talking to people that are going to bore you, not to mention the fact that you’ll have to deal with me.”

Mark can’t help but grin at that.

“Sounds just like a normal day at work, Mister Lee.”

As it turns out, though, Mark is quick to discover that it’s absolutely nothing like a normal day at work, but it is much too late to back out now. 

The red carpet is by far the most nerve-wracking thing that Mark has ever done, but he watches Donghyuck take all of the shouted questions in stride, answering each one easily while still posing effortlessly for the hundreds of cameras pointed at him. Mark keeps mostly quiet, letting Donghyuck do the talking for two reasons.

One, it’s not really Mark’s place to talk about a lot of the things that Donghyuck is being asked. And two, Mark is terrified enough as is, so trying to speak with any sort of eloquence in front of hundreds of cameras and reporters would only spell disaster. Instead, he resigns himself to looking like Donghyuck’s arm candy for the evening, but he constantly reminds himself that it could be significantly worse.

He’s secretly happy that Donghyuck had given him a tux despite his adamant protests because it’s just a little bit fancier and he feels less awkwardly out of place among the high-profile guest list, most of whom shake hands with him and Donghyuck like it’s no big deal at all. 

Donghyuck had shown up at Mark and Renjun’s place unannounced earlier this morning, toting a garment bag and a too-innocent smile on his face, both of which Mark eyed warily before letting him through the door. That was his first mistake. His second one was letting Donghyuck chat in the living room with Renjun while he showered and got dressed because he emerged from the bathroom to be greeted with the sight of Renjun rifling through some old photo albums and a cackling Donghyuck beside him.

Mark reminded them that he could call up Jaemin or Jeno at any point to get baby pictures of Donghyuck, and at least that made him quiet down a bit. 

While he’s thinking on the subject of photos, every gala attendee around him looks like they’ve been photoshopped in real life. Perfectly clear skin, glossy hair, immaculate outfits that flatter their shape no matter what it is. Mark feels out of place, completely inept and unaware of what social standards he should be following since Donghyuck excused himself from Mark’s side a few moments ago to grab a drink and greet some stuffy old businessmen that he recommended Mark not get involved with. A promise to find him soon and a squeeze of their laced fingers is what convinces Mark to let him go.

So, he mills about the ballroom mindlessly, sending polite smiles and nods to everyone he accidentally makes eye contact with. For the most part, he stays around the edge of the room, admiring the architecture and artwork that captured his attention the moment he stepped foot into the gala, still on Donghyuck’s arm at that point.

He’s looking up at what he assumes is a Van Gogh if he remembers correctly when someone bumps into him from behind. Mark spins around in time to catch the hand of a woman before she can topple to the floor, helping her right herself in her tall heels that allow her to stand a little taller than Mark.

“My apologies—oh! Are you Mark?” Her question makes Mark finally look her in the eyes, and the recognition hits him a split second later. It’s Kang Seulgi, world-famous actress from her extensive work in American cinema, but nowadays is doing a lot of more Korean-based films. Mark feels a little weird knowing this, but it pales in comparison to the fact that she knows his name. 

“Uh, yes, that’s me.” Mark extends his hand, which she accepts with a smile. He wants to cry at of how genuinely beautiful she is, despite probably being twice his age.

“Wonderful to meet you! My name is Seulgi.”

Mark opens his mouth to ask her how in the sweet everloving blue Earth she knows his name, but the words die in his throat when a pair of hands gently rest on her shoulders, and Mark follows the well-tailored suit coat sleeves up to be greeted by the face of Lee Taeyong. Mark almost faints right then and there.

To say that Taeyong is world-famous would be putting it lightly. He’s been acting in films since he was a toddler, actually was part of Mark’s gay awakening due to his part in Mad City, a crime thriller that has been Mark’s favorite movie since he first saw it — Taeyong was in his early twenties then — and now owns a couple businesses and has started his own fashion and cologne brands, not to mention his dabbling in the music industry to boot.

“Are you alright?” Taeyong speaks, and Mark wants to melt into the floor right there because yes, his voice is just as beautiful as his face. It takes him a moment to register the fact that Lee Taeyong is talking to him.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m great—perfect, even.”

“I’m Taeyong, by the way,” he introduces himself with a smile, extending a beautiful hand out for Mark to shake. Hands shouldn’t be described as beautiful, but Taeyong’s definitely are. “And you are…?”

“He’s Mark Lee,” Seulgi informs Taeyong with a peck on the cheek. Oh, right. Not to sound disappointed or anything. Mark recalls the fact that they’re married, the sort of love at first sight story that makes anyone swoon, and that Mark swears got made into a movie of its own at some point. Jet Lag, he thinks it’s called.

“Oh!” Taeyong’s eyes light up and he squeezes Mark’s hand once more before letting go. “How are you doing?”

“I’m doing well… and yourselves?” At this point, Mark isn’t sure he even wants to know how they know his name because if it’s from the tabloids, he’s so much happier with staying blissfully ignorant to that.

The conversation between the three of them ends up flowing a lot more easily than Mark would have ever expected. Turns out that, surprisingly, Taeyong and Seulgi are normal people with normal quirks that Mark immediately finds endearing, and he loses track of how long they talk.

They go on about everything from their most recent movie projects to the political climate to Taeyong’s fascination with frogs and Seulgi’s love of knitting between takes and Mark’s astonishingly large musical background. When they finally land on the topic of Mark’s college education, he doesn’t have any qualms telling them all about it and how he loved it and despite it being extraordinarily trying and difficult, he’d do it over again in a heartbeat if he could.

“What was your major again?”

“Oh! Biomech,” he says, but at their blank looks, he elaborates further, “I got my bachelors in biomechanical engineering.”

“That’s impressive,” Seulgi whistles. “You must be very smart.”

Mark is about to make some bashful rebuke of the statement when his eyes land on Donghyuck, wandering through the crowd of people, scanning around as if in search of something. Or someone. Mark realizes that Donghyuck is probably looking for him, and the thought makes him warm.

“Donghyuck!” Mark calls over to his boss who is sipping on a glass that has a little too much whiskey for it to be appropriate for the function. Donghyuck looks around, eyes wide on alert, but smiles when he sees who called him and walks over immediately. “I have some people I’d like you to meet.” He softens his voice when Donghyuck rests his hand on the small of his back, watching intently as he does a once-over of Taeyong and Seulgi before taking another sip of his whiskey.

“Do you now?” The rim of the glass hides a smile curving at Donghyuck’s lips, but Mark doesn’t pay it any mind.

“Yes!” Mark is excited, the feeling bubbling up through his chest and leaking into his voice. “Donghyuck, this is Lee Taeyong and Kang Seulgi. Seulgi and Taeyong, this is Lee Donghyuck, my boss.”

“Mark,” Donghyuck starts, lowering his glass with a chuckle. “I have some people I’d like to introduce you to as well.”

“Oh? Who? Where are they?” Mark cranes his neck around to try and see who Donghyuck is referring to, but Donghyuck places his free hand on Mark’s shoulder to steady him and bring his focus back.

“I’d like to introduce you to my parents, Seulgi and Taeyong. Mother, father, I’d like to introduce you to my secretary and date, Mark Lee.”

Mark feels his face heat up, both because he’s completely just embarrassed himself in front of Donghyuck’s parents and Donghyuck just called him his date. He can feel the blush spread from his cheekbones to the tips of his ears when Seulgi lets out a delicate laugh and Taeyong takes a sip from his champagne flute to mask his own smile — scarily similar to the way his son had done just moments before. At least this probably explains why they know him, but that brings around thoughts of being a significant enough part of Donghyuck’s life for him to mention Mark to his parents of all people, and he doesn’t really want to think about that yet.

“Oh, Donghyuck, be nice to the poor man,” Seulgi scolds, turning to her son. “He didn’t know. Don’t make fun of him. He has to deal with you all day so cut him some slack.”

“It’s alright, Mark,” Taeyong assures. “It’s not common knowledge.”

Mark highly doubts that, but is willing to take any form of reassurance from two of the biggest names in cinema after being completely embarrassed in front of them. It takes him another deep breath to regain his bearings enough to frown at Donghyuck.

“You let me embarrass myself like that? And in front of your parents of all people?” He’s only pretending to be as offended as he’s acting, but Donghyuck’s expression loses its mischevity, brows immediately furrowing as his lips curve downwards.

“Hey, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that.”

“I know.” Mark plucks Donghyuck’s whiskey out of his hand with a grin and takes a sip.

“He already thoroughly charmed us with his manners and kindness,” Seulgi tells them, nudging Taeyong slightly. “But I do have to ask, why are you keeping such a smart young man as your secretary? He’s more than qualified to be on the lead engineering team from what I’ve been told.”

“Well… he’s happy where he is… at least I think? Right, Mark?” Donghyuck turns completely to face Mark, everything about his body language exuding unbridled, unforseen worry. He’s never asked Mark how he feels about being his secretary, and as Taeyong and Seulgi look to him expectantly, his stomach flips over because he realizes that he himself hasn’t really given it much thought either.

Working as an engineer for FULLSUN has been the dream that he’s wanted since he was just a kid, and he’s put his all into achieving that dream. However, he’s now realizing that he’s never once stopped to readdress that dream, to see if that’s still the way he wants to go, especially given where he is now.

Mark supposes that he’s been so focused on that one goal for so long that he never even gave himself the time or space to reassess if his happiness where he was at the time was enough. Then again, he had been spending so much time and energy devoting himself to his job with Donghyuck that he hasn’t really been thinking too much about being an engineer in the first place. 

“Mark?” Donghyuck asks, effectively drawing Mark’s attention out of his own thoughts and back to the present. 

“Oh, well...” he murmurs, collecting himself before he clears his throat to speak more clearly. “I’m doing good work where I am, and I’m happy when Donghyuck is happy.” Mark nods, satisfied with his answer. Taeyong and Seulgi, however, look slightly less convinced. Taeyong even opens his mouth, presumably to push the subject further, but his and Seulgi’s names are called out from somewhere to their left and his lips purse shut.

“My apologies for our hasty exit, but there are matters that we must attend to as hosts. Mark, it was a pleasure to meet you and I look forward to seeing you again.” He shakes his hand again before backing up to leave room for Seulgi to scoop him into a hug as Taeyong exchanges a few hushed words with Donghyuck on the side.

“You’re good for him, Mark. I hope you know that,” she whispers, and it makes Mark smile.

“Trust me, Seulgi,” he assures as they part. Halfway through their conversation, both Seulgi and Taeyong had insisted that Mark call them by their first names, and it stuck a lot more easily than Donghyuck mentioning offhandedly at some points that Mark is under no obligation to refer to him as ‘Mister Lee’ or ‘sir’ anymore. “I know.”

Donghyuck’s parents disappear into the throng of exquisitely-dressed guests, leaving Mark standing next to Donghyuck himself. He takes a sip from the whiskey glass just as Donghyuck turns back around to look at him.

“That’s enough of that,” he says softly, taking the glass from Mark’s fingers and placing it onto a tray of a passing waiter. “You should be sober for this.”

“For what?” Mark raises an eyebrow, but Donghyuck just shakes his head as an announcement rings out from the balcony above the ballroom floor where most of the guests are milling around.

“Our first dance of the night is reserved for the major donors of the night that have helped sponsor the continued renewal of this event annually, for whom we thank deeply for their support over the years.” Seulgi’s voice rings throughout the entire room, commanding the attention of every attendant and Mark can’t help but be impressed by the sheer power that she holds. He sees where Donghyuck gets it. “The dance floor will now be cleared, and those donors will now be making their way out onto the floor.”

Donghyuck wraps his hand around Mark’s elbow, squeezing it lightly as he leans in, lips nearly brushing the shell of his ear.

“Are you ready?”

“For what?” Mark asks for the second time, panic starting to set in. “Don’t tell me you’re one of the major donors.”

“Why do you think my parents wanted me to attend so badly?” Donghyuck grins, leading Mark through the crowd to the dance floor. “And with a date to boot?”

Mark can’t help but smile and shake his head, following his lead through the guests until they reach the empty space, occupied by several other couples including Donghyuck’s parents. Mark rests his hands on Donghyuck’s waist, his smile growing when Donghyuck slides his hands over Mark’s shoulders.

The first chord strikes up, and contrary to their hand positioning, Donghyuck leads. Mark takes a moment to be grateful that his friend back in college, Felix, dragged him to all sorts of dance lessons in their minimal free time, all the while insisting that it would be good for him. Now, he’s able to keep up with the swift, graceful steps that Donghyuck makes as he twirls Mark around before tugging him back into his chest.

Sure, cameras point at them, following their every step across the floor, but Mark finds that he can’t care any less. His heart is soaring in the stars right now, and when their eyes meet and they’re both grinning like lovesick idiots, Mark would bet his entire heart that Donghyuck is feeling the all of the same things that he is.

The song ends and the rest of the guests file onto the dance floor, which gives Mark ample time to grab Donghyuck’s hand, lacing their fingers together as he tugs him out of the main ballroom and through the winding hallways until he spots a small alcove secluded enough for him to deem it worthy of stopping.

“Mark,” Donghyuck laughs, out of breath as he squeezes Mark’s hand. “Where are we even going?”

He pulls Donghyuck around in front of him before stepping forward to press Donghyuck’s back between his chest and the wall of the alcove.

“May I kiss you again?” Mark asks before he can let himself think better of it. “I’ve been thinking about it since Hong Kong and I want you so badly, Donghyuck, please.”  

“Hmm,” he hums, tilting his head to the side slightly, a teasing smile dancing across his lips. “I love a man who knows what he wants and goes after it, so by all means, Mark Lee, kiss me.”

And Mark doesn’t have to be told twice.

He swoops in and captures Donghyuck’s awaiting lips, tasting the expensive whiskey and champagne that they had both indulged themselves in over the course of the evening so far. Underneath the alcohol is all smooth and warm and just so Donghyuck that Mark hums, content.

But Donghyuck is definitely not content yet because he brings his hands up to threat through Mark’s hair, tugging him so their lips cleanly slot together. They’re nearly breathing in each other’s air, both unwilling to back up and take a breath because the kiss is all-consuming in every sense of the phrase.

He can’t think of anything else except for Donghyuck or feel or hear or even perceive anything else except for their bodies pressed up against one another in that little alcove in the otherwise unoccupied hallway, the way their lips move together, and how Donghyuck tugs on his hair when Mark kisses him just right.

They’re slowly getting to know each other in a new way that they can’t do just by being coworkers for a year—this is more intimate, more personal, than Mark could have ever imagined. This kiss more so than the ones back in Hong Kong because this isn’t nearly as sexually driven as the other one, no, this felt romantic and deep and extraordinary in ways that Mark can’t even begin to describe.

Not to say it doesn’t have any sort of sexual aspect at all because, wow it does, but it’s not completely powered by the need for relief. It’s powered by Mark simply wanting Donghyuck, the whole of him in every way that Donghyuck will let him, and Mark can only hope that he feels the same. Given his response and initiative here, though, Mark is willing to bet that he does.

“This has to be breaking at least three HR policies, not to mention it probably says something about this in your contract,” Donghyuck pants out, but Mark nibbles up his words as he teases Donghyuck’s lower lip with his teeth. “Yangyang is going to kill me.”

“Fuck Yangyang, fuck HR, and fuck the contract,” Mark breathes out, adjusting the angle of his head so he can trail kisses from the corner of Donghyuck’s lips out and across his jawline. “Just fuck me.”

See? Definitive sexual aspects, right here out in the open, placed there by Mark’s current lack of any inhibitions.

“As much as I’d absolutely love to—ah shit, Mark!” He tosses his head back when Mark sucks harshly on a soft spot just behind his jaw and under his ear. 

“What was that?” Mark hums with a smile against Donghyuck’s skin, trailing his lips down the exposed column of his throat.

“There’s something I have to ask you— dammit, Mark, I can’t focus when you’re doing that!”  

Mark pauses in the middle of where he had the beginnings of a hickey already blossoming on Donghyuck’s smooth skin beneath his collar. He straightens up sheepishly, fiddling with the buttons on the front of Donghyuck’s shirt, not quite meeting his eyes.

“Sorry,” he murmurs.

“No, no, it’s alright,” he’s quick to assure, cupping Mark’s cheeks to pull him in for a soft kiss. “I just need to ask you this because, well, it’s been bothering me for a while and it’s important.”

“Your timing is impeccable,” Mark teases, smiling and leaning into the warmth still resting on his cheeks. “What is it? I’m all ears.”

“Are you really alright with being my secretary? Instead of the position that you originally applied for?” Donghyuck lets it all out in a rush, and his the tension that seizes up his body is what really tips Mark off to his nervousness. “When we talked back in the back room of the bar that one night and you said that being an engineer at FULLSUN was your dream, so I’m lost on why you agreed to be my secretary.”

“I’m not entirely sure, to be honest,” Mark answers slowly, and it’s the truth. Sure, he didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to work at FULLSUN, but there was something that tugged in his gut that day and told him to agree, and to this day he still can’t exactly pinpoint what it was. Maybe it was just Donghyuck himself. “However… I haven’t been an engineer here yet, so I can’t really give you a good comparison on which job I’d rather have… you know since I can’t speak from experience.”

“But Mark, I only skimmed your resumé before your interview.” Donghyuck frowns. “Out of curiosity, I read through your file completely the other night, and you’re ridiculously overqualified for what I have you doing.”

Mark hesitates, a question burning on his tongue, but he isn’t sure that he really wants to know what the answer is. The question disregards Mark’s rational thoughts and spills out anyway, though.

“Then why am I your secretary?”

Donghyuck burns a pretty shade of pink that makes Mark want to lean in for another kiss, but he holds himself back because this is more important than his sexually-driven desires regarding his boss at the moment.

“Because I saw you for the first time in that interview room and I thought you were pretty—”

“Because you what?” Mark stops dead, his eyes darting back to the blush on Donghyuck’s cheeks, now rising out of the shame and guilt reflected in his eyes and not the embarrassment that Mark had mistaken it as.

“I said because I thought you were pretty—”

Mark slips out of Donghyuck’s grasp, effectively cutting him off. He fumes quietly as he walks away down the hallway to put as much distance as he can between him and Donghyuck. All of his doubts and insecurities about this rear their ugly heads in the center of Mark’s chest and he struggles to breathe properly as he takes long strides away.

“Mark, stop!” Donghyuck catches him by the wrist just as he rounds the corner, whirling Mark around to meet his gaze. Mark hears the breath catch in his throat just as his vision blurs with tears. Donghyuck takes a step toward him, reaching to wipe the tears away with his thumbs. “Don’t cry, just let me—”

“Do you have any idea how fucked up that is?” Mark takes a calculated step backward, anger and betrayal seeping through his veins until his hands shake. “Hiring me to be your glorified personal assistant based on how I look?”

“Mark, that’s not what this is! Please just let me expl—” Donghyuck tried to reach for him again, but Mark is too quick. 

He backs away from his reach, taking slow steps back. Mark wants to say so many things back, but his throat closes up around the unheard sobs that rattle in his lungs, begging to be let out. Not yet, though. No, Mark won’t show Donghyuck how many pieces his heart is breaking into, shattering all over the rapidly growing red-carpeted space between them. He won’t let him see how utterly crushed and defeated his soul is, so he squares his shoulders, blinking away the tears that threaten to spill over his cheeks as he opens his trembling lips to speak.

“No.” He pauses walking backward as he speaks. “I will not stand here and listen to your clever excuses for keeping me around when it’s just because of my face and body and not my mind nor heart. It’s disrespectful and objectifying and it makes me feel disgusting and I hate it… I hate you.” Mark wrings his hands, his gaze flitting between Donghyuck’s face and the floor. “God, I can’t believe I actually thought you liked me for a moment there, but no, it’s all just superficial and you using my attraction to you against me.”

“Mark, just please listen to me,” Donghyuck pleads, but Mark is fed up and he needs to leave before he does something he really can’t take back.

“I’ll see you at work on Monday, sir,” he spits out the formality with such ferocity that it makes Donghyuck flinch away. 

Mark swallows heavily and turns on his heel, retracing his steps back through the maze of hallways until he finds an exit without once looking back. He emerges into the crisp night air of Seoul and stops to take a deep breath. He can feel the anger previously pooling in his chest fade away into something dangerously close to sadness for him to deal with right now. It occurs to him that there might be cameras around at a huge event like this, but Mark can’t see anyone so he doesn’t care. Publicity of whatever just happened in there is the least of his concerns.

He’s a mess at the moment and he knows it, so the next thing on his agenda is to get as far away from the gala and Donghyuck as he can. Oddly enough, a car turns down the little side street just as Mark starts to walk down the stone steps and it pulls up next to him. The driver side window rolls down and Mark recognizes it as Taeil immediately, turning away as quickly as he can.

“Hop in, Mark,” Taeil invites.

“I don’t want anything from Mister Lee at the moment—”

“Donghyuck didn’t send for me. I came of my own accord because you matter, despite what he may make you feel.” The phrasing is a little too on the nose, but it doesn’t deter Mark because he’s already nodding and reaching for the door handle.

“Take me home, please,” he says quietly. “And please don’t tell Mister Lee where I went.”

“Of course.” Taeil meets Mark’s eyes in the mirror, and there’s nothing but sincerity in them and in his voice.

They drive in silence for a while. Mark rests his head against the window and watches the neon nightlife of downtown fly by with only the soft classical music of Taeil’s playlist as company.

“Taeil? May I ask you something?” His breath fogs up the window as he speaks. “How did you know I was there?”

“Donghyuck texted me, actually.”

“But you said—” Mark sits up, but Taeil continues on.

“He said that he’d be leaving alone tonight and my services weren’t required for the remainder of the evening due to a change in plans,” he explains. That makes Mark wince. His entire heart being broken is nothing more than a mere change in plan to Donghyuck. “I was sure that meant something happened between you two and you were probably left stranded, so I drove around the block until I saw you at the back entrance.”

The sky may be dark but the city is far from asleep, and Mark’s mind can’t stop running in circles either. It doesn’t help when the next song that comes on is the waltz from the ballroom earlier that evening. He recognizes it right away but can’t bring himself to ask Taeil to shut it off until it’s done. He decides that he’d rather be stuck with his own wandering thoughts than be fixated on the image of Donghyuck’s beautiful smiling face as he spins Mark around the ballroom joyfully.

He softly asks Taeil to shut off the music and the driver complies without question. Mark doesn’t say anything after that and neither does Taeil, leaving the rest of the ride quiet yet comfortable.

Renjun is already in bed when Mark returns back to the apartment so he creeps in as quietly as he can. He wants to go to bed, but he’s too wound up so he changes out of the tuxedo into a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt that Donghyuck didn’t buy for him. He looks at the contents of his closet, and just now realizes how much of it was bought by Donghyuck for him. His eyes fall upon the tuxedo, hanging up neatly and thinks about how well it suited him. Then he remembers how Donghyuck just wanted him for his looks anyway and he wants to throw up.

Curling up on himself, he sinks down to the floor with his knees hugged up against his chest as tears prick at the backs of his eyes.

Was all of this built on a lie? A sham? Is Mark worth anything in the first place? He put so much work into college so he could become an engineer and work toward his dream, and he originally thought that taking the secretarial job at FULLSUN would bring him closer to achieving that.

Boy, was he wrong on that one.

All it succeeded in doing was giving him false hope for something that would never work out while simultaneously taking him eight steps backward in progress and reducing his self-esteem to nothing.

What had he done to the world to make it treat him like this? What did he do to deserve all of this inexplicable pain? He wants to know so he can take it all back because it hurts, goddamnit, it hurts.  

Mark doesn’t know how long he sits there on the floor, letting tears stream down his cheeks, breathing so hard that he’s sure the room will run out of oxygen. All of a sudden, an idea hits him so hard that he falls over onto his side. There’s a way he can do something he knows he’s good at, even if no one knows it’s him.

Sitting up, he rubs at his eyes. He knows what he’s going to do to fix himself, and it will take his mind off of Donghyuck. He scrambles up and grabs some things around his room, stuffing them hastily into a backpack. The tuxedo still hanging up neatly in his closet catches his eye, which then leads him to look to all of the other suits in his closet — none of them purchased by him.

Mark wants to cry just by looking at them, so with a lump in his throat, he packs them all up neatly into a garment bag. He shoots Renjun a text that he most likely won’t see until morning, saying that he won’t be coming back for the weekend, that he’s okay, and not to worry.

Taking the bus to FULLSUN might not have been the best idea because he gets some rather odd looks for carrying a couple of heavy garment bags, a backpack, and a dark baseball cap pulled low over his eyes. He reasons that most of the looks are because of a mixture of that and because he was last seen on Lee Donghyuck’s arm at a high-profile charity gala over in uptown just a few hours ago. 

He doesn’t have to worry about it for too long, though, and he gets off the bus a block away from the building so he can enter through the back as to not raise any suspicion from Kun or Yuta who have similar tendencies of staying long hours after work has ended at the front desk.

Thankfully, he doesn’t run into anyone when he takes the back elevator all the way up to the forty-second floor and when he gets up there, the entire office floor is empty. A small blessing, but Mark smiles nonetheless. He knows that the unspoken company policy of “if anyone comes in and tries to do work over the weekend, Yangyang will get on your ass and not let you work on Monday” is going to come in handy because that means he’ll be able to get done what he wants without being disturbed.

The time on his computer monitor when he boots it up reads eleven thirty-five at night, which means he has roughly fifty-six hours of uninterrupted work time. Sleep is the last thing that’s on his needs list, so he goes to the coffee maker in the break room to make himself a cup as a feeble attempt to stave off his impending exhaustion. It’s eerily quiet without all of the interns causing a ruckus by the vending machines; he isn’t sure if he likes it or not.

It does give him a good chance to think things over and decide what he wants to do with all of his time—he already has some of the projects that he’s been putting off in mind. On the other hand, the quiet gives him ample time and space to let his thoughts drift back to Donghyuck, and he doesn’t even know how he feels at this point other than empty.

Mark nearly drops his fresh mug of piping hot coffee when the solution hits him. It’s obvious, and his mind is so caught up in it that he takes a sip of the scalding drink without thinking and ends up burning his tongue as he rushes back to his desk to grab out a pen and paper.

This weekend is his grand hurrah of sorts, his final bow. Do all of the work he can to leave on a high note, then resign and leave before Donghyuck comes in on Monday morning. He sets the tip of his pen to the paper, his brow furrowed with concentration.

He has his work cut out for him.



LESSON 9: Don’t Get Caught Doing Extra Work (they might kiss you and actually mean it)

 

“Wake up,” a soft voice murmurs from somewhere off to his left as Mark drags himself back into consciousness. There are definitely worse things that he’s woken up to before, and he really can’t protest because the hand resting on his knee is warm and comforting and just makes him want to drift right back off to sleep. “C’mon, it’s morning.”

Mark hums lightly in response, feeling the warm sunlight on his face. It takes a moment to muster up the willpower, but he eventually sits upright, bearily rubbing his eyes as he lets his surroundings come into focus. Turns out that it wasn't the sunlight, just the light of his desk lamp still on and shining on him.

There’s an insistent thumb rubbing on his knee that causes his gaze to dart to his left where he sees Donghyuck kneeling there on the floor, all dressed up in his usual suit with a small smile and his hands resting on Mark’s knee and the armrest of his chair.

“Good morning, baby,” he says softly. The endearment slips from his tongue with borderline terrifying ease, as if Donghyuck has always been meant to call him that. Mark sleepily returns his smile for a moment.

“Hey, Hyuck,” he mumbles, but then he blinks again and the angelic filter is gone and reality comes crashing back with a force strong enough to nearly knock Mark out of his chair when he sits bolt upright.

“Uh, Mister Lee, sir,” he stutters out, scrambling to stand up and collect his things. He’d fallen asleep without even meaning to, and the clock tells him that it’s just a little past seven in the morning. “I’ll be going now.”

“Mark, let me talk to you,” Donghyuck begs.

Now that’s an interesting development.

Lee Donghyuck doesn’t beg, but here he is: still on his knees on the floor by Mark’s chair, his hands clasped together on the armrest and his eyes wide. It still isn’t enough to make Mark change his mind, though.

“You’ve done all the talking you need to do.” Mark doesn’t even look at Donghyuck when he replies. Instead he zeros in on the bouquet of fresh flowers lying on the floor in the threshold of Donghyuck’s office as if someone dropped them in a hurry. A squint into Donghyuck’s office tells him that the letter of resignation that Mark had written yesterday is out of its envelope, unfolded. Even the garment bags draped over the back of his chair are partially unzipped.

Donghyuck must have come into the office with the intention of making up with Mark given the flowers, but seen his returned clothing and letter and rushed out with the intent to go track him down, only to find him asleep at his own desk in a hoodie and jeans, surrounded by work and empty coffee cups.

“So I’m taking it you’re the reason projects have been magically completing themselves for the past year?” Donghyuck asks, standing up as he brushes his slacks off, ignoring Mark’s brush-off.

Mark looks at the ground and doesn’t respond for a moment, and between that and the fact that Donghyuck’s pending work is spread out all over Mark’s desk, it must be enough for Donghyuck to draw the obvious conclusion himself.

“It doesn’t matter.” He settles on the safest word choice he can as he slowly backs away, leaving his things. He can text Jisung to pick them up later as a final favor. Right now, he needs to get out of here before he does something stupid like forgiving Donghyuck with no basis other than the fact that he really likes him and thinks he’s really attractive. “I’m going to leave now.”

Without further ado, he spins on his heel and walks away to the elevator, presses the call button, and gets in. When he turns around, he can still see Donghyuck standing at his desk, open-mouthed and clearly not processing what just happened. Then the doors close, the elevator descends, and Mark feels all of his emotions slowly seep out of his body, leaving behind nothing more than a vacant shell. 

Mark feels numb as he lets his legs carry him out of the building on autopilot, not caring that thunder is rumbling in the sky as he walks out onto the sidewalk and into the first drops of rain. He only gets about a half a block away, not even to the intersection at the corner, when there’s someone calling his name.

“Mark!” It’s panting and heavy, clearly out of breath, yet still that same rich tone that makes Mark struggle not to buckle at the knees every time he hears it. “Mark, wait!”

He doesn’t stop walking — he doesn’t even look back in fear of bringing into existence what he already knows is there simply because his body doesn’t let him. So, he continues on, barely registering the first few drops of rain that fall on his face before a hand circles around his wrist, catching him. He whirls around to be met with the sight of a slightly disheveled yet still effortlessly gorgeous Lee Donghyuck.

And god does Mark hate it.

He despises how easy it is to fall for his looks, his smile, his charm, his everything. Mark loathes how he himself is so willing to turn around and fall right back into Donghyuck’s arms when he has just taken Mark’s tiny, porcelain heart and crushed it to pieces between the soles of his custom design Louboutins and the hard linoleum floor of the office. 

“Look, Mark—”

“No, Mister Lee,” Mark addresses him with as much ice in his tone as he can muster, wrenching his hand away, “you may consider this my formal resignation.”

“Hold on just a moment—” He tries again, but Mark cuts him off.

“I will not hold on just a moment longer. I’ve held onto this—” he hisses, gesturing between the two of them “—for long enough.”

“Would you wait for a second and let me explain?” Donghyuck catches his breath finally, speaking with more clarity as the rain begins to fall a little harder. “There is a, well, at least slightly more reasonable explanation for this if you’d just pause and let me finish.”

Mark has two options here: walk away or let him speak. If he walks away, he puts this all behind him and doubts that Donghyuck would press things that far. He’d reset back to where he was before that fateful interview and he’d be happy. If he lets him rationalize himself, Mark risks breaking his heart further and never really being able to return to any state of emotional stability. The more he thinks about it, though, the more he realizes that everything that has happened here at FULLSUN and with Donghyuck has changed him, and there’s no going back on it at this point so Mark takes a deep breath before replying.

“You have sixty seconds to talk before I walk away and don’t come back, so use your time wisely,” he reasons. “Go.”

“I’m a selfish bastard when it comes to things I want, and that’s an established fact,” Donghyuck starts and Mark nearly snorts because oh how he knows. “So when I walked into that interview room and saw this capable man with an amazing resumé and all of the skills that I needed, I was immediately drawn in. The fact that you just so happened to be attractive was just an added plus, but I’d already made up my mind about offering you the secretarial position to you without taking any physical appearances into account.”

“But you said—”

“My sixty seconds aren’t up, let me finish.” Donghyuck doesn’t command this time, he requests, leaving everything up to Mark’s choice and that’s what makes Mark let him continue. He’s not even counting anyway. “Back at the gala, I’d meant to say ‘you were pretty capable of handling organizational tasks that I couldn’t’ but you cut me off after ‘pretty’ and I didn’t have time to explain myself. I could have phrased it in any other way, but I made the same mistake twice that drove you away while poking at your insecurities in our relationship and for that, I will never be sorry enough to make it up to you.”

Mark is floored, his lips parted in shock at Donghyuck continues to ramble on.

“The other reason is because we were going through a consolidation in the research and development team at the time and you were invited to an interview before that process started, so even though you applied for a then-existing position, by the time the department executives could have looked at your resumé and talked with Jaemin, there wouldn’t have been a position left for you to take.”

“Donghyuck, I—” Mark begins, but Donghyuck holds up his hands between them as if reaching for Mark’s own at his sides before letting them fall.

“If you still want to leave, I’ll respect that, but I couldn’t have you run away a second time without explaining myself.” He pauses to wipe his damp hair off of his forehead and Mark just now realizes how hard it’s raining, and they’re standing out on the sidewalk in front of FULLSUN like fools. Neither of them make any indication of a want to move, though. “And… I couldn’t have you leave forever without you at least knowing how stupidly in love I am with you.”

Mark draws in a gasp, accidentally inhaling some rainwater that makes him cough, it doesn’t stop Donghyuck from barreling on before Mark can stop him, his minute-long limit long since expired.

“I can’t pinpoint when exactly I fell for you… maybe it was the time this random stranger saved my life and the life of my phone before rushing into my own company building. Or maybe it was later that very day when I met the face behind the most qualified engineer on our applicant list, only to have it be the very same man who saved me earlier. Or maybe it was the time you walked into work with a damned sweater vest on and I almost flatlined right there because holy shit sweater vests have no right being attractive whatsoever but it made me want to swoon like a fucking schoolgirl and hold your hand.”

Mark chokes on a laugh, holding his tongue to let Donghyuck finish because he’s clearly far from done.

“That had been a new feeling,” he recounts, eyes never leaving Mark’s as he tells the story. “The type of attraction I’m used to either makes me want to fuck or be fucked, but I took one look at you, Mark Lee, and I wanted to buy you flowers and go on dates and open doors for you and kiss your forehead and cherish you for the rest of my life. Yeah… that scared me.”

It’s storming by this point, people rushing around them on all sides with umbrellas and raincoats, paying no attention to the two men standing still in the middle of the sidewalk, one dressed in a hoodie and the other in a luxury suit but both completely soaked.

“However, my situation for dealing with all of this wasn’t much better because when I saw you walk out of Doyoung’s dressing room in that fitted suit and styled hair, I legitimately gave a fraction of a thought to finding you a modeling contract before I realized that I wanted you all to myself, which was stupid and selfish and I get that, but I’m constantly floundering out of my depth in emotions when it comes to you, and I don’t know how to cope other than what we did back at Jungwoo’s in Hong Kong.”

Mark draws in a sharp breath at the memory, recalling Donghyuck’s hands and lips everywhere, the way everything had felt so good and right, the way he wanted to do that every day for the rest of his life with Donghyuck.

“But God, I walked into my office this morning and saw the suits and the letter and I almost had a heart attack… I couldn’t lose you, Mark, not without at least being able to come clean and give you the full story.” He stops and gestures weakly with his hands, all of the fire seemingly drained out of him with his monologue. “And now here we are: me declaring my love for you in the middle of the street on a rainy Monday morning.”

Mark’s eyes well up with tears, but only raindrops trickle down his cheeks. There’s so much he wants to say, to regale Donghyuck with his own supposed one-sided love story that he’d lived with for a year, but he can’t get proper sentences to come out in the aftermath of the sheer power of the emotions that has just been dropped out in the open between them.

“You are so stupid, Lee Donghyuck,” he whispers. “So this was all some grand misunderstanding brought on because I was insecure about us? Because, Donghyuck, I’ve been in love with you for so long and I only ran away because I thought you didn’t feel the same. I ran because I thought if I got far enough away, I could forget about everything I feel for you, but I couldn’t even leave the building without having it eat away at me.”

“I guess so,” Donghyuck laughs lightly, combing his wet hair out of his eyes again. “So what do you say, Mark Lee? Will you stay?”

“I will,” Mark breathes, and he didn’t even notice how close they’d gotten until he barely shifts forward and he’s practically speaking the words into Donghyuck’s mouth. “I very much will.”

They meet in the middle, both leaning in at the same time, tilting their heads until their lips are slotted together like fitted puzzle pieces. There isn’t even enough room between them to let raindrops slip between. Mark reaches forward, draping one arm over Donghyuck’s shoulder, the other hand cupping his cheek. Donghyuck rests one hand on Mark’s wait, using the other to cradle the back of his head, and it’s clear that neither of them are willing to back away for long enough to move from where they’re still standing in the midst of the morning pedestrian traffic.

“Hyuck,” Mark murmurs against his lips. “Hyuck, wait.”

“What?” He pulls back to rest their foreheads together.

“I really love you,” he gasps out with a smile and Donghyuck grins back.

“Really?”

“Really.” Mark nods eagerly.

Donghyuck leans back and gives a childish whoop that has Mark laughing and touching their foreheads together again once he’s done drawing unnecessary attention to themselves.

“I’ve been dreaming about you saying that for a long time, you know,” he admits.

“How long exactly might that be?” Mark asks, smile growing, but Donghyuck clearly can’t even find it within himself to be embarrassed underneath all the elation.

“Since the day I met you.”

“That long?” Mark’s eyes widen.

“That long,” he confirms with a small smile.

Mark wastes no time in capturing his lips once again, their smiles melding together against each other into one. 

Later, Donghyuck tells Mark that he doesn’t even care that a picture of them kissing in the middle of the sidewalk that rainy Monday morning is on the cover of every tabloid and is the highlight of every social media platform for the next four days. He admits that he has much more important things to worry about, like which part of his penthouse he’s going to kiss Mark in next, and Mark can’t even get out his sentiment of agreement in time before Donghyuck is all over him once more.



LESSON 10: Always Have An Extra Shirt disregard lessons 1 through 9 and let yourself love them with no hesitation or inhibitions because if you’ve made it this far, they’re just as in love with you as you are with them

 

“We need to be quiet,” Mark pants out, chest heaving beneath Donghyuck’s wandering hands that have made it under his shirt somehow. “Someone might hear us.” 

“I’m the CEO of this company, Mark. What are they going to do? Fire me?” Donghyuck grins into the skin of Mark’s neck before placing a line of harsh kisses up to the underside of his jawline that leave Mark gasping, hands flying to tangle themselves in Donghyuck’s hair. “And besides, love, I think that you’re the one that needs to be quiet.”

His lips trail down Mark’s chest as he speaks, ducking down to dart his tongue across a hardened nipple. Mark arches his back in an effort to move his whole chest closer to Donghyuck, although it’s more out of instinct than an actual informed decision. The light, breathy moan that Mark lets out is the type that makes Donghyuck want to do it over and over until Mark is shaking and crying and falling apart beneath his mouth and fingertips — he’s expressed this on one singular occasion but Mark continually abuses that little vulnerability for his own advantage.

“I thought we said be quiet, baby,” Donghyuck teases, letting one of his hands dip just below the waistband of his slacks, the belt long since discarded on the other side of the copy room where Donghyuck had flung it so carelessly upon their initial entrance into the room.

Mark’s eyes flutter shut at the sensation, allowing Donghyuck to draw another moan out of him, louder this time, as his mouth finds a new home on his other nipple.

“I can’t—damnit!” Mark curses gently when Donghyuck squeezes his hip. “Focus on being quiet when you—oh!”

“When I what, baby? Finish your words,” Donghyuck’s devilish self finds it suitable to nearly sing out the teasing words, and it drives Mark up the wall with want. He opens his mouth to deliver some biting reply but all that comes out is a drawn-out groan because Donghyuck has taken the opportunity to press a palm over his groin. “If you can’t use your words, and you keep being so damn loud, I might have to make you be quiet myself.”

Donghyuck leans in, tantalizingly close to Mark’s ear but never quite touching skin to skin. Mark whines low in his throat, squirming to try and get himself the friction that Donghyuck is denying him, but as soon as he finds any sort of relief the hand disappears and Mark is left wanting so much more.

He’s sure he looks like a mess right now: perched atop a copier in a barely-used copy room somewhere on the thirty-sixth floor of the west wing, legs spread, cheeks flushed, and hard in the tailored pants that he clearly remembers Donghyuck buying for him despite his protests.

Donghyuck grins when Mark shifts again, making a move to get down from where he’s seated but the hands on his thighs tighten their grip and he’s stuck. He steps forward until his chest is pressed against Mark’s, noses brushing.

“That’s enough, baby,” he says softly, running a finger across the planes of Mark’s abdomen just below where his still-mostly-buttoned shirt is rucked up around his ribcage. He hooks a finger around the bottom hem of the shirt and tugs up until it’s all bunched up and nestled in the crook of Donghyuck’s finger.

“Open wide, Mark,” he instructs. “If I can’t keep you quiet, maybe this can.”

Mark doesn’t hesitate for a second to drop his jaw, knowing just how much Donghyuck loves it when he’s pliant and wanting, never disobeying a single order that is delivered. Donghyuck feeds the shirt between Mark’s teeth; it’s a tight fit, though, and Mark has to bend his head down a bit too far for it to be comfortable. Donghyuck then takes the liberty of ripping open the top few buttons before sliding it back into his mouth, uncaring because he can just buy Mark another once when they’re done — it’s not like he hasn’t done it before and Mark wouldn’t put it past him to do it again.

“Good boy,” Donghyuck praises softly, palming Mark once more. The shirt should help muffle the smaller noises that filter out of Mark’s throat, but the high, reedy keen the comes ripping from his chest isn’t something that either of them are prepared for. “I love how you were the one talking about being quiet a little bit ago.”

Donghyuck quirks an eyebrow and Mark feels the roaring heat of a blush spread from the tips of his ears, across his cheeks and the bridge of his nose, down to his chest. He turns his chin to the side and casts his eyes downward to avoid making eye contact with Donghyuck after something that embarrassing. 

That clearly won’t do for Donghyuck though because he grasps Mark’s chin between his fingers and gently tilts his back upward. Mark, however, stubbornly keeps his eyes glued to the tiled floor of the copy room.

“Look at me, baby,” he coaxes. Mark’s gaze drifts back up to be met with the sight of Donghyuck smiling and his eyes dilated with want. “That’s better. Now watch me carefully as I make you fall apart where anyone can walk in at any moment and see you like this.”

Mark whimpers pitifully at that but, as requested, doesn’t take his gaze off of Donghyuck. They both know that Donghyuck closed off the entire west wing of the thirty-sixth floor for the afternoon so there won’t really be anyone else around to hear them, but if they both get off on the thought of it, neither of them are going to say anything otherwise.

Donghyuck leans in and presses a kiss onto Mark’s blush-pinkened nose before dipping his hand into Mark’s pants, but all of a sudden there’s a knock on the door that makes them both freeze. No one is supposed to be anywhere near here, and Donghyuck is about to yell at them to go away. Before he can, though, Renjun’s voice filters through.

“You two had better finish things up right now,” he threatens. “There are things we need the CEO and the head of the Research and Development Department of FULLSUN INC for right now and it’s not for screwing in the middle of the office on a weekday.”

“What do you need, Renjun?” Donghyuck calls back, removing his hand from Mark’s slacks slowly, letting his palm rest on Mark’s hip as they resign themselves to the fact that they’re going to have to stop. Mark drops his head forward, resting his forehead on Donghyuck’s shoulder so he can catch his breath.

“Your parents are here, Donghyuck.” 

And if that doesn’t spur them into action, nothing else would.

Donghyuck swears lightly and Mark laughs at that, giggles coming out between heavy breaths.

“We’ll be there in ten minutes,” Donghyuck barters, rubbing his hands up and down Mark’s sides.

“Make it five,” he demands. “It looks important.”

Renjun’s footsteps recede back down the hallway and Mark lifts his head up, now noticing that he dropped the shirt from his mouth at some point because nothing falls out of his jaw when he flexes it gingerly, blinking his clear brown eyes up at Donghyuck.

“God, Mark, you are too much,” Donghyuck murmurs, shaking his head slightly before lunging in for a searing kiss that has them both grappling for purchase on each other’s bodies. Mark opens up beautifully under Donghyuck’s prying tongue, tasting nothing but sweetness. 

“You’re so beautiful for me,” he breathes into Mark’s lips between kisses. “So pretty, so smart, so perfect just for me.”

Mark hums in the back of his throat before he pulls away, smiling. 

“We need to go see your parents, Hyuckie.”

“They can wait,” Donghyuck whispers in response, going in for another kiss, but Mark just presses a finger against his lips to halt him.

“No, Hyuck, this can wait. Your parents won’t be happy, not to mention the amount of shit that Renjun’s already going to give us for this,” Mark reminds him gently. “Just because he’s your secretary doesn’t mean that he’s going to put up with this.”

“So—” Donghyuck grins, pressing a kiss to Mark’s finger before helping him down from the copier. “To be continued?”

“To be continued,” Mark affirms from over his shoulder as he walks across the room to open a cabinet, and there inside lays a stack of neatly pressed and folded white dress shirts that look nearly identical to the ruined one that is hanging off of Mark’s shoulders.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Donghyuck laughs, incredulous as Mark takes one out and closes the cabinet behind him. “You have an entire stash of shirts in here?”

“You do have this nasty habit of ruining my shirts, Hyuck,” Mark shoots back, but his tone is all teasing and he never once loses his smile. “I just like being prepared so I don’t have to go say hello to Taeyong and Seulgi with my shirt missing half its buttons just because you’re too impatient and horny to undo it properly like, I don’t know, a normal person.”

“I am not—” Donghyuck begins to protest, indignant, but Mark just raises an eyebrow as he strips off his ruined shirt completely and shrugs on the clean one. They both know it’s not worth him arguing the point. “I need to know every place you’ve hidden those so I can either fuck you or be fucked by you in all of them until you’re out of shirts.”

“That’s rather un-economic of you,” Mark muses as he buttons his shirt. “You act like a sixteen-year-old boy when it comes to sex, you know? Always thinking with your dick and not your head because it would tell you that I really don’t like mass ordering white button-downs to satiate your weird kinks.” Mark is unamused by the CEO trying to defend himself as he scours the room for where Donghyuck threw his belt and tie earlier when they first stumbled into the room — Mark’s legs had been around Donghyuck’s waist with their lips never leaving each other for long.

“It’s your fault.”

“Oh, is it now?” Mark looks up from where he’s reaching for his belt under the table. “And how is that so?”

“If you weren’t so fucking attractive, we wouldn’t be having this problem.”

“Your poetic eloquence is overwhelming this afternoon,” Mark drones back. “But you’re saying if I was to wear a paper bag on my head you’d stop ruining my shirts? Because that can be arranged.” He picks up his tie from the floor and flicks some invisible lint off of it.

Donghyuck makes an abhorred noise as his entire face flushes red.

“Not exactly?”

Mark just laughs, making sure his tie is adjusted from his reflection in the small window on the other side of the room before walking over to Donghyuck and giving him a light kiss on the cheek.

“Good because then I wouldn’t be able to see you and that,” Mark punctuates the word with another kiss on the other cheek, “would be quite a shame.”

“Where did my shy, giggly boyfriend go?” Donghyuck whines. “You can’t just get all confident on me like this with no warning!” He feels like he should be stomping his foot on the ground with the tone that his words take on but Mark just laughs, taking it all in stride as always.

“Let’s not keep Taeyong and Seulgi waiting too much longer, alright?” Mark hums and Donghyuck nods along, letting his lead engineer pull him out of the west wing copy room and down the hallway to the elevator.

They lace their fingers together, reveling in their last bit of intimacy inside the workplace before it really does become unprofessional and inappropriate, which is why Donghyuck had gone to all that trouble to close off that section of the building under the pretense of an inspection, but Mark hadn’t bought it for a second. He may not be Donghyuck’s secretary but he still knows his schedule like the back of his hand, along with any happenings in within the headquarter’s walls, and that inspection was never brought up once prior to Donghyuck’s company-wide email.

The elevator dings, and Donghyuck squeezes Mark’s hand one last time before letting go. It’s not like people don’t know they’re together — they’ve been dating publicly for years now and it’s basically a company holiday whenever their anniversary rolls around — but they do like to keep their romantic, and sexual, lives a bit more private, both for obvious reasons and for ones that are a little less so.

Donghyuck greatly enjoys walking through this part of the office with Mark because it’s the smartest and most powerful men in the company effectively scaring all of the interns and newbies shitless as they make their way past, and Mark knows this. He whacks Donghyuck on the shoulder when he tries to look too scary.

Mark smiles at everyone as they go by, knowing full well that some of them may end up in his department and it’s easier to work with them when they don’t tremble like a leaf in a hurricane whenever Mark looks in their general direction.

They make it back to Donghyuck’s office with minimal additional bruising and sure enough, lingering just inside are Taeyong and Seulgi. Mark looks over at Renjun who is perched on the side of Mark’s old desk with Jisung right there next to him, both eating pretzels straight out of the bag as they look on. Renjun looks a bit too smug and Mark needs to take him down a notch.

“How are Chenle and Yukhei?” Mark asks. Renjun blushes as red as his tie as he swallows his bite. Jisung snorts from beside him, slapping Renjun’s thigh to keep himself from inhaling pretzel bits.

“They’re doing great, thanks,” Renjun replies, muffled.

“Fantastic!” Mark grins. “Now if you ever interrupt us like that again I won’t hesitate to tell everyone about the time I caught you and Chenle and Yukhei together back in Hong Kong during that one business trip where you were—”

“Okay that’s enough!” Renjun waves his arms so enthusiastically to get Mark to stop speaking that he whacks Jisung straight in the stomach. “I won’t interrupt your sexcapades anymore if you promise to not talk about mine. But, Mark, trust me when I say this was important.”

“Good answer.” Mark gives him a sweet smile to which Renjun replies with a simple nod. Mark turns around to see a very amused-looking Donghyuck leaning against the doorway, clearly having heard every word of the exchange.

“You’re scary when you want to be,” he comments as he gestures for Mark to enter his office first, which he does. “I should have you as a negotiator sometime.”

Mark just snorts at that before walking over to greet Taeyong and Seulgi with warm hugs and welcome greetings. Donghyuck carefully closes the door behind him, waiting patiently for Mark to finish up before he says his own hello’s as Mark settles himself into the big chair behind his desk, leaving Donghyuck to stand just off to his side.

“So…” Donghyuck clasps his hands together. “What brings you two over here? I thought you were working on that big American film over in LA—”

“When are you two going to get married?” Seulgi asks, cutting him off.

Mark chokes on his own spit while Donghyuck’s knees nearly buckle out from underneath him.

“What?” Donghyuck manages to respond, gripping the armrest of his chair, and therefore Mark’s arm too, to steady himself.

“When are you going to propose to Mark?” Seulgi huffs, impatient. “We’ve been waiting for years and you won’t ask him.”

“What makes you think we’re ready for that?” He fires back at his parents.

“The fact that I saw you ring shopping,” Taeyong replies mildly, looking out the window before he turns his gaze back to his son. “The tabloids were all over it.”

“We make a point of not reading those anymore…” Mark clears his throat, grimacing as old memories of his first year of working for Donghyuck resurface.

“Ah, understandable,” Seulgi admits. “But my question still stands.”

And I have a question too.” Mark sits up straighter as a realization hits him. “Donghyuck you bought a ring?”

“Well, yeah, I didn’t know when I was going to propose because I still thought it was too soon and I didn’t know what your thoughts were on it because we hadn’t talked about marriage in a long time,” he rushes to explain. “I can still return it if you want and we can forget—”

“We will not just forget about this!” Seulgi announces. “Taeyong and I aren’t getting any younger here and we would like to see you get married!”

“You’re not even that old!” Donghyuck protests. “We can do this when it’s right for us!”

“Donghyuck,” Mark murmurs. “We’ve known each other for what? Going on six years now? Marriage has been in my plans since we had our first anniversary.”

“Mark, I’m ready for it but—” Donghyuck turns around to see his boyfriend kneeling on the floor of his office, and clutched between his fingers rests a velvet box, and atop the cushion inside resides a simple diamond ring. Nothing extravagant, but it’s bold and so very Donghyuck that the moment Mark saw it, he knew that this ring was the one.

The breath inside Donghyuck’s lungs leaves all at once as he meets Mark’s gaze, his eyes shining and a smile creeping onto his mouth.

“Oh… my… fucking… Mark?” Donghyuck breathes out, unable to quite form the right words to string together a coherent sentence. 

“So what do you say, Lee Donghyuck?” Mark smiles shakily. “Will you be mine forever?”

“Wait, wait, hold on.” Donghyuck scrambles to open a drawer in his desk before pulling out a small velvet box of his own and popping it open to show Mark. It’s also a diamond ring, but a bit smaller and more delicate than Donghyuck’s, but the more Mark looks between the two rings, the more they seem to compliment each other.

“I’d been planning to bring you out to dinner and then we’d go for a walk and I’d ask you to marry me in front of the sunset on a grassy hill somewhere, you know, more romantic than the floor of my office,” Donghyuck admits. “But God yes, Mark Lee, I’d love to marry you.”

Mark blinks and suddenly he’s being scooped off the ground and into Donghyuck’s arms, but as soon as he feels lips on his and a ring being slipped onto his finger, Mark lets himself relax into Donghyuck’s chest as he slides Donghyuck’s own ring onto his finger in return. 

“I have to ask,” Donghyuck says, pulling back, both of the boxes for the rings long forgotten on the floor. “How long have you had your ring? I’ve only had mine for a few days.”

Mark flushes and turns away, mumbling out the answer so softly that he knows Donghyuck can’t hear it.

“Mark…” Donghyuck sing-songs, drawing out his name. “How long have you had it?”

“Three years,” he finally responds, still not looking back up.

“Three years?” Donghyuck is shocked and Mark is embarrassed.

“I didn’t know if you wanted to get married or if it was too soon or even what a good opportunity to ask would be, but I knew that I wanted to propose before you did, so at least I got something right, huh?” Mark rambles on, nervously twisting the ring around Donghyuck’s finger.

Donghyuck pouts — Mark can’t see it but he can feel it, Donghyuck’s lips curving downward where they’re pressed against his forehead and guilt begins to bubble up in Mark’s chest for inexplicable reasons until Donghyuck opens his mouth.

“But I wanted to propose first,” he mumbles against Mark’s skin before cupping Mark’s cheeks in his palms to angle his face back up so they can kiss once more. 

“Alright this is adorable and all but I ordered a cake and the pizza is getting cold downstairs so can we hurry this up?” Renjun’s voice floats into the room and Mark pulls away from Donghyuck to see him peeking in the room with Jisung at his side.

“You knew?” Mark gapes, noting that Jaemin has walked up behind Jisung to wrap his arms around his waist and plant kisses on his neck. Jeno, far in the background, looks on with an expression somewhere between disgust and delight with Yangyang standing next to him, arms crossed and a smile on his face.

“You both tell me way too much about your love lives.” Renjun shrugs. “You just needed the right push. Speaking of…” He turns to Taeyong and Seulgi who are still smiling at the scene in front of them: Mark and Donghyuck all wrapped up in each other with glittering rings on their fingers. “Thank you for your help. I couldn’t wait another four years of Mark’s whining.”

“Oh, of course Renjun!” Taeyong blows him a kiss that has his ears glowing red. “I’m glad we could get this sped along. I can’t wait for the wedding planning! I was thinking of a summer ceremony? Lots of flowers and ooh what if it’s a beach wedding?”

Donghyuck looks panicked, already out of his depth and floundering when it comes to things like this — as proven by the hilarious disaster that was Mark’s twenty-fifth birthday and he has never been allowed to plan a party since — so Mark just kisses him again because he looks so damn cute. Taeyong and Seulgi titter on in the background about photography and suits and cake flavors, but Mark can’t be bothered to pay attention to that right now, despite them being his future in-laws because he’s already holding everything he needs right in his arms.

They stay there, letting everything else happening just wash over them, simply holding onto each other, gazes locked. Everything really did turn out alright, and there’s no other way he’d have it.

Mark thinks he’s the luckiest guy in the world.