“Hyuckie, can I talk to you for a minute?”
“No,” Donghyuck answered, eyes not moving from the game he was playing on his laptop.
Mark sighed, letting himself into Johnny and Donghyuck’s shared room and making himself comfortable on Donghyuck’s bed. “Thanks. I’ve got a problem. And I really don’t know what to do. Or who to talk to.”
“Sucks to be you.”
“Like, I think if I could just- talk it out, I think I might be able to figure out what to do? I think. And especially ‘cos like, you always have the answer to everything.”
“Flattery will get you nowhere. I’m currently demolishing Taeyong hyung, Mark Lee. Your insignificant problems can wait.”
“I don’t think they’re insignificant,” Mark pouted. “I’m actually losing sleep over this, Hyuckie. Sleep is really important. They say, if you don’t sleep? All sorts of crazy things can happen like you start hallucinating, and, like, hearing voices and shit, and-”
“I must be sleep-deprived then because I keep hearing this voice that is really annoying and won’t go away.”
“Really?” Mark sat up. “When did it start?”
“When you walked in the door.”
“Hyuckie,” Mark whined. “Hyuckieeeeeeeeeee.”
Donghyuck slumped back in his chair with a cry of frustration. “Fine. Fine!”
He picked up his phone to shoot off a quick message to Taeyong to put their game on hold and finally turned around to see Mark sitting against his pillows all snugly tucked up under his blankets.
“Off my bed. You can sit on Johnny hyung’s bed.”
“I just saw Taeil hyung sitting on your bed yesterday-”
“Are you the most vocally talented sweetheart cupcake darling to have ever existed?”
“The answer is no, Mark Lee. Therefore you don’t get sitting-on-my-bed rights. Move your ass.”
Mark grumbled but moved, getting under Johnny’s blankets instead. “Now are you ready to listen to me?”
Donghyuck waved his hand at Mark magnanimously. “Speak, child.”
Mark took a deep breath. “Okay, so you know Yuta hyung?”
Donghyuck just stared at him.
“Right, okay, yeah, of course you know Yuta hyung. He’s been - I don’t know if you noticed? He’s been, um. He’s been touching me a lot.”
Donghyuck raised an eyebrow. “...Touching you.”
“Yeah,” Mark squirmed, feeling his face heat up. “Like, always hugging me or having a hand on my, like, thigh or shoulder or lower back, or playing with my hair and stuff. You must have noticed Jaehyun hyung making jokes about it. Like, you know, how Yuta’s boy used to be Winwin hyung and now it’s me.”
Donghyuck sat back in his chair, fingers steepled in front of his face like an archvillain. “Go on.”
“So, like. It’s cool, I mean. He’s a cool hyung and I really like him and we have fun together and stuff but. I’ve been having-” Mark broke off, muttering something too quiet for Donghyuck to hear.
“What? I can’t hear you.”
“Thoughts, okay? I’ve been having thoughts.”
“Well thank god for that. At least we know you can think.”
Mark glared. “Can you stop being mean to me for one minute and try to help me, please?”
“You just said you were having thoughts! What am I supposed to do with that? Thoughts about what, hyung?”
“Thoughts about him touching me!” Mark raised his voice in frustration, and then immediately covered his mouth with his hands.
Donghyuck started to grin.
“Stop it,” Mark warned. Donghyuck grinned wider.
“I said stop it, Hyuckie,” Mark frowned.
“Are you here to enrol into baby gay school, hyung?” Donghyuck asked, delighted.
“Will you shut up? I am not gay.”
“Oh, honey,” Donghyuck sat back in his chair, shaking his head. “Are we still flogging that dead horse?”
“Don’t call me honey. And I’m telling you I’m not gay. I’m just. Temporarily confused.”
“Who the fuck is Jan?”
Donghyuck rolled his eyes. “Okay. Look. What sort of thoughts are you having? Do I need to dress up as a priest? Do you need to confess?”
Mark, looking vaguely scandalised, pulled the blankets higher up his chest. “Not to you. And anyway - oh my god, why did I even come to you in the first place? I’m gonna go.”
“No, no, stop,” Donghyuck placated, dragging Mark back by the hem of his shirt he’d grabbed before Mark could hightail it out the door. “I’m sorry, okay? I’ll listen. I promise.”
“Without any smartass comments.”
“I will try my best.”
Mark exhaled, sitting back down. “I just. I don’t know if I’m just lonely, or- or pent up, or what, but. When he touches me - and you know I’m not the touchy-feely type - it’s like I start panicking inside but at the same time I don’t want him to stop? But I also want him to stop? Does that make sense?”
“It sounds like you just don’t want to admit that you like it when another guy touches you. Stop-” Donghyuck yanked on a halfway-fleeing Mark’s arm to make him sit down again. “Maybe you do need to get laid, or whatever. Maybe Yuta hyung’s just hot. Why don’t you just enjoy it? Since a part of you clearly does, or you wouldn’t be this messy over it.”
“I can’t!” Mark protested. “He’s getting- more daring. I’m afraid if I let him continue he’s just going to get worse and worse.”
“What is he doing?” Donghyuck asked, curious. “I mean it always just looks to me like normal Yuta hyung touching, like he touches anyone else. He’s a cuddly guy.”
“Like,” Mark flushed hotly. “When he hugs me sometimes he’ll squeeze my butt. And not in a friendly way. Or if it’s a backhug he’ll slide a hand under my shirt over my stomach. Or he’ll like. Like. Caress my neck and shit. I don’t know if he’s just doing it to get a rise out of me or-”
“And you’re scared of popping a huge gay boner in front of him.”
Mark gave him a pained look. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”
Donghyuck shrugged. “Your suffering is always entertaining.”
“What am I going to do,” Mark flopped backwards onto Johnny’s bed. “I don’t want to make things awkward between us but if I don’t do anything I think I’m gonna lose it for real.”
“You’ve got two options,” Donghyuck reasoned. “You can let him continue until the two of you can’t take the sexual tension anymore and fuck on manager hyung’s bed or something, or you could actually talk to him about it and tell him you’re not totally comfortable. Because you know he’ll listen, right? It’s Yuta hyung. He’s cool.”
Mark stared at the ceiling. “Yeah.”
“Why do you sound so disappointed?”
“I’m not,” Mark grumbled, sitting back up. “You’re right. I just have to talk to him.”
“Thanks- wait,” Mark frowned. “I hadn’t thanked you yet.”
“I assume you exist in some state of gratitude to me at all times,” Donghyuck shrugged. “If not for any particular thing then just my general existence.”
Mark paused. Donghyuck wasn’t wrong.
“Hyuckie, can I talk to you for a minute?”
“I’m getting the strangest sense of deja vu,” Donghyuck mused, staring up at the wall from in front of his laptop. “I could have sworn I was in this exact situation just three days ago.”
“Hyuckie,” Mark said urgently from the door. “I have a problem.”
“Is it about Yuta hyung?”
“What if I’ve actually died and am doomed to repeat this conversation with you over and over again? Don’t tell me - he’s touching you. You’re gay panicking. You want to know what to do.”
“That was three days ago, Hyuckie. Keep up.”
Donghyuck sighed, swivelling around. “What is it now, Mark Lee? Has he stopped?”
“Yeah,” Mark folded his legs underneath him, automatically getting into Johnny’s bed. “He said he was sorry and he didn’t realise it was bothering me so much. And he’s been really good about it since then.”
Mark scrunched up his face in answer.
“What will it take for you to actually consistently call me ‘hyung’ like you should?”
“When you stop being a dumbass.”
“I think that’s gonna be a lifelong problem,” Mark said, dejected, and looked so forlorn Donghyuck finally took pity on him and joined him on the bed.
“What is it, you little pudding,” Donghyuck asked, gathering Mark up in his arms and rocking him aggressively like a baby. “Tell Hyuckie.”
Mark slumped. “I miss him touching me.”
Donghyuck barked out a loud victorious laugh, making Mark jump a little bit. “I knew it!”
“He just went cold turkey on me,” Mark complained. “I had no time to get used to it. Now he’s extra sure not to touch me in any way and. It’s weird. It’s not normal.”
“So now that he isn’t touching you anymore you realised how much you did like him touching you? Admit it.”
“I am admitting it!”
“I just wanted to hear it again. Should we get the ‘I told you so’ bit over and done with now, too?”
Mark sighed in defeat. “Yes.”
“I told you so.”
“You did. You told me so.”
“I did, didn’t I. So what are you going to do now?”
“I don’t know! I can’t go up to him and be all like, ‘hey hyung, remember what we talked about a few days ago? Yeah, forget all that. Start touching me again’.”
“Why not? He’ll probably be happy.”
Mark twisted out of Donghyuck’s arms. “Hyuckie, I’m not sure what part of this you’re not fully getting but it’s embarrassing. I’m not going to ask him to touch me again.”
“Do you want me to ask him for you?”
“No!” Mark cried. “Do not do that!”
“Okay, okay, calm your tits,” Donghyuck scowled. “Look. Why don’t you… make the first move then? You go touch him first.”
“Do I even need to tell you this part? Go casually grab his ass or something.”
Mark blushed. “I can’t do that.”
“Why not? It’s easy. Look,” Donghyuck said, and squeezed Mark’s ass as best he could in the position they were in. Mark promptly fell off the bed from the force of his flailing.
“You nearly kicked me in the face,” Donghyuck told him in a dangerous tone of voice once Mark surfaced from the floor.
“I didn’t ask you to do that!”
“You’re so weird,” Donghyuck lamented. “Why are you so weird?”
“I am not used to people grabbing my butt, okay?” Mark told Donghyuck stiffly, sitting gingerly back onto Johnny’s bed in a way that made sure Donghyuck did not have access to his ass. “I just. I just want him to touch me again. It feels good. Like I’m safe with him and he-” Mark coloured to the roots of his hair. “Likehelovesmeandshit.”
“Love?” Donghyuck screeched. “We’re in love territory? Holy fuck. I just thought this was you being dumb and horny!”
“You got the dumb part right,” Mark said sadly. “Maybe also the horny part but. I don’t know, okay!”
“This is more serious than I thought,” Donghyuck intoned with the air of a doctor pronouncing a deadly disease. “Still think you’re straight?”
Mark glowered. “Maybe not.”
“Oh, maybe,” Donghyuck rolled his eyes. “Okay. Breathe. We will get through this. Breathe with me, come on.”
Mark inhaled and then exhaled, Donghyuck conducting him like he was an orchestra. “Right. So. At first you were all bothered by Yuta hyung touching you because you didn’t know what to make of your own reaction towards it.”
“Yes,” Mark nodded.
“And now that you told him to stop you’ve realised you actually liked when he touched you and you want to go back to how things were.”
“Yes,” Mark nodded again.
“So now we need to think of how to get your body and Yuta hyung’s hands to meet once again in happy harmony-”
Donghyuck tsk-ed him for interrupting. “Or maybe more than just Yuta hyung’s hands, hm?”
Mark hid his face in the blanket.
“And maybe more than just Yuta hyung’s body, hm?”
Mark glanced up in confusion to see Donghyuck drawing a heart in the air with his fingers.
“Ugh,” Mark said. “I want to be an amoeba. Bet they don’t have such problems.”
“Size-wise your brain and your dick are almost there,” Donghyuck barely missed a beat. “Look, I’ll go with you to find him, okay? He’s probably upstairs in his room with Taeil hyung. I’ll help you, I promise. I won’t act weird or embarrass you. Just follow my lead.”
“I don’t know-” Mark balked.
“Do you trust me or not?” Donghyuck demanded.
“That’s a very loaded question.”
“I swear, I will not do anything to make things weird. And if you chicken out and need to leave at any moment you can just like, signal me with your eyes or something and I’ll get you out of there.”
“I know you, Mark Lee,” Donghyuck got up and put his hands on Mark’s shoulders. “If I just leave you to do it on your own you’ll suffer forever in silence. Come on. Let’s go get your man.”
“Hello, moon of my heart,” Donghyuck sailed into the tenth-floor dorm’s second bedroom, Mark trailing nervously behind. “Hello, Yuta hyung.”
Taeil peeked over the top of his phone to smile at the two of them, Donghyuck throwing himself into Taeil’s bed after surreptitiously pushing Mark towards Yuta’s where Yuta was stretched out drowsily.
“What are you two doing here?” Yuta asked, eyeing Mark sitting timidly on the edge of his bed.
“Got bored, wanted to see what our two respective favourite hyungs were doing,” Donghyuck said, snuggling up to Taeil to see what he was watching on his phone. “Right, Mark?”
Mark gulped at the meaningful look on Donghyuck’s face as Donghyuck placed a very deliberate hand on Taeil’s arm. Mark looked at Yuta’s arms - way too far away up the bed - and panicked. He settled for putting a very un-casual hand on Yuta’s knee, sure the smile on his face looked more like a cry for help.
“Yeah,” Mark gulped again.
Yuta looked at the hand on his knee, and then at Mark’s face.
“So,” Mark tried, voice more high-pitched than normal. “What are you up to, hyung?”
“Just resting,” Yuta replied. “Might go out to kick a ball around later. Want to come?”
“Yeah!” Mark nodded vigorously. “Sounds cool.”
Yuta looked again at Mark’s hand on his knee, and Mark wanted to die. He glanced over at the other bed where Donghyuck was wheedling Taeil about something while hugging Taeil’s entire arm to Donghyuck’s chest, and took a deep breath. He wished he was one of those people who could just throw themselves into a hug or a cuddle and - more importantly - who didn’t overthink every single thing to death until they found themselves held captive by inaction. Maybe he should just do it. Just - lean down and hug Yuta. Let Yuta cuddle him back. Maybe Yuta would whisper in his ear like he used to do when he would backhug Mark, arms tight around him and voice low and soft. He glanced at Donghyuck and Taeil again. It was easy. He could do it. He could -
Yuta reached out and placed his hand carefully on top of Mark’s, Mark’s mouth forming the shape of a very small ‘oh’.
“But first I thought I would make some tea. My mother sent me some from Japan. You want to come with me to the kitchen? I’ll show you how to make proper Japanese matcha.”
Yuta was looking at Mark in the intense way he had, and Mark had to repress a shiver down his spine at having Yuta’s undivided attention despite what now seemed like a tickling match happening in the other bed barely two metres away.
“Matcha?” Taeil emerged from the tangle of limbs, dishevelled. “I want matcha.”
“No!” Donghyuck yanked him back down, giving Mark yet another pointedly meaningful look.
Mark looked at them, and then back at Yuta. Yuta looked at them too, gaze slowly swinging back to Mark as if he had something important to think about along the way. Mark cleared his throat.
“Let’s go, hyung.”
The bedroom door swung shut to the sound of Taeil protesting matcha being forcibly withheld from him. Mark followed Yuta to the kitchen where Yuta reached up to a cabinet to take out his dainty tin of tea with its matching wooden whisk, spoon and bowl, Mark’s eyes sliding helplessly to the wide swath of pale skin revealed as his shirt rode up.
I can do this, Mark told himself. I can.
“This is called the chawan,” Yuta said, voice washing over Mark quietly. The kitchen was their bubble now - dinner over, everyone else in their own rooms; a serene tiny cosmos all to themselves. Yuta put the bowl onto the table, naming off the other things: the chashaku, the little spoon, and the chasen, the whisk. Mark made himself useful by bustling to the electric kettle on the kitchen counter and filling it, wondering why he felt he was boiling instead - little stream of bubbles interrupting the thoughts in his head, skin heating at the slightest look from Yuta.
Mark stood and waited anxiously for the water to boil with his back turned to Yuta, knowing that if Donghyuck could see him now he would be in for a yelling. He couldn’t help it - Mark felt like he was teetering right on the edge of a chasm that he didn’t know the depth of. He was going to fall; it was only a matter of time. He just didn’t know what was waiting for him at the bottom.
The kettle turned itself off. Mark inhaled and brought it back to the table.
He could feel Yuta’s eyes on him as he set the kettle down. Yuta must have been staring at him all the while he was waiting like an idiot for the water to boil, and Mark was highly thankful for the way Yuta said nothing about it.
“Here’s how to make the tea,” Yuta told him, and Mark nodded.
Yuta gently scooped out a tiny amount of the precious matcha with the chashaku into the chawan, Mark getting lost watching Yuta’s pretty hands work.
“You can pour the water,” Yuta murmured, smiling. “Fill the bowl.”
Mark took extra-special care not to make any mistakes, feeling as proud of himself as when he managed to fill the bowl without spilling the water or knocking anything over as when he successfully finished a concert or got his parts right during recording on the first try.
“Cute. Now we whisk.”
Yuta mixed the water and the matcha powder till the bowl was full of a beautiful green, and with a respectful flourish he presented it to Mark with both hands.
Mark took the bowl with a small excited smile. “Can I drink it now? Is there, like, anything I need to do first? Do I turn away like when drinking soju?”
Yuta laughed, and Mark fell in love a little more with the way his eyes lit up. “It’s really hot right now, and yeah, there are some more things you would need to do if this were a traditional tea ceremony. Maybe next time we’re in Japan I’ll get to bring you to a traditional tea shop and you’ll see.”
“I’d like that, hyung,” Mark mumbled shyly, taking a careful sip. “It smells really good.”
“Ideally we shouldn’t be drinking it at ten pm standing up in a kitchen, but you can tell it’s good tea.”
“Should you be wasting it on me?” Mark asked anxiously. “I mean, if your mother sent it to you-”
“It’s not a waste if it’s you,” Yuta said softly. “Don’t worry.”
Mark blushed, trying to hide his face in the tiny bowl-cup, and proceeded to burn his mouth and most of his throat drinking the rest too quickly but Yuta didn’t need to know that.
“Now you do it. Come here,” Yuta moved to the side to give Mark space. Mark quickly rinsed the chawan out and stepped in front of Yuta, reaching for the chashaku as Yuta settled him gently with one hand on Mark’s hip.
“Slowly,” Yuta said, and Mark imagined the imprint of Yuta’s fingers on his skin like a firebrand.
He very carefully scooped out the powder, trying not to drop even a speck, and suddenly Yuta’s hand was closing over his on the spoon.
“Sorry - you scooped too much out. Just gently- gently knock the extra back into the tin, like this-”
Mark couldn’t breathe. Yuta was standing so close and to be honest, barely touching him, but - Mark felt it, even more so than when Yuta used to grab and grope him shamelessly. There was burning intent here, and a quiet understanding, an indulgent push and pull happening that was stealing the words from Mark’s tongue and sense right out of his head. If he moved backwards ever so slightly, he would press flush against Yuta’s chest -
“Now the water.”
Yuta’s hand disappeared from his like it was never there and Mark blinked, trying to get his bearings. The heat of Yuta’s body remained, just a breath behind him, and Mark attempted to remember where he was and what he was doing. Oh, tea.
“The water, Markie,” Yuta reminded him, voice sparkling.
“R-right,” Mark stammered. How did Yuta always manage to reduce him to this state?
He poured the water carefully, watching the steam float up into the air much like his brain was doing through his ears. Yuta handed him the chasen next, their fingertips brushing on the exchange, and Mark’s entire body yearned.
He swirled the powder into the water, watching the same beautiful green bloom hypnotically in the bowl the same time Yuta decided to say ‘fuck it’ to the rest of Mark’s sanity and slid his arms around Mark’s stomach.
“Did you miss me, Markie?” Yuta murmured in his ear with a trace of mischief, and Mark felt his blood pressure go crazy as he sagged back into Yuta’s warm hold in painfully aroused relief.
“Yeah,” he whispered, wondering if he should continue whisking.
“Good boy,” Yuta whispered back, and Mark didn’t know if Yuta was talking about Mark’s final surrender or the way he’d made the tea. Either way - death. “I missed you too.”
“It doesn’t-” Mark started, and then stopped, gripping the chasen so hard he was scared he might break it. “It doesn’t bother me. I thought it did but. It doesn’t,” he ended lamely. “You know.”
“I know,” Yuta rested his chin on Mark’s shoulder. “I know, Markie.”
“The tea is ready,” Mark gasped.
Yuta moved, turning so he could pick up the chawan. He drank the tea, holding eye contact, and Mark faintly thought as he watched Yuta’s adam’s apple bob when he swallowed that tea had gotten too dangerously erotic.
“Let’s go for a walk, Markie,” Yuta put down the chawan. “I’ll hold your hand, how about that?”
Mark swallowed with difficulty. “People will see.”
“Hm. Then I will just have to hold your hand here,” Yuta breathed, letting the backs of their hands bump before he slowly-
intertwined their fingers, caressing Mark’s with his, running a finger up and down Mark’s palm before sliding neatly into the spaces between Mark’s fingers like it was a home meant for him.
“Oh, my god,” Mark whimpered, overwhelmed.
“I’m glad it doesn’t bother you, Mark,” Yuta smiled. “Really, really glad."
Yuta abruptly caged him in against the table, Mark's sharp gasp lost in the way Yuta pushed up against Mark with their bodies touching from chest to thigh. "Now, where else can I touch you?”
Mark bit his lip, hard.