there’s nothing but silence in the car on the way to the venue. it’s normal, it’s how they usually spend too early mornings for too early schedules that end too late.
from the backseat, donghyuck’s head leans half against the window, half on the headrest. one moment his gaze is on the road outside, moving quickly past them, and before he knows it, it’s on mark. he never knows how he gets here, but it’s where he ends up most of the time anyway. he always needs to be looking at him, talking to him, holding him; close, always, in all ways. even when they’re far.
always, somehow, finding his way back to mark.
mark’s eyes are closed, probably trying to doze off to starlight playing through his earbuds for the 30th time this week. then his eyes land on what has been the cause of his misery for the past few hours: soft tufts of buzzed hair peeking right underneath mark’s cap haphazardly placed as usual. he wants to run his hands right through it. he could if he wanted to, but he’d barely blinked his sleep away when he first saw the undercut this morning and taeyong had come into their room to drag them both out of bed, so there was no time to really think about it.
the only time he’d been able to acknowledge it this morning was when he and mark brushed their teeth side by side; even then, it had just been a monosyllabic conversation.
(“nice haircut,” donghyuck said after spitting out the foam.
mark hummed through the toothbrush in his mouth, his way of saying, “really?” because after all these years he’s still never learned to take a compliment.
donghyuck had already been asleep when mark came home, late from an errand he said he had to run with his manager. mark had said goodbye to him earlier that day with their hands locked, making sure to hold on for a second longer to grip a little tighter, and when he came home, he had left kisses all over donghyuck’s face, all over the moles that litter his face, and chuckled against donghyuck’s mouth when he had woken up for a second only to whine. both gestures left donghyuck with a familiar fluttering in his stomach.)
except - now, stuck in a van for thirty minutes, donghyuck has done nothing but think about it. as with all other times, all thoughts lead back to mark.
he wonders if it’s as soft as it looks. he thinks about how it would feel brushing his neck, then thinks about it no longer because they have a schedule and he can’t risk a bad performance because of some stupid haircut.
donghyuck lets out a huff and glares at the road. stupid haircut .
it proves more difficult to focus when they get their hair and makeup done.
his stylist has to scold him more than once to not close his eyes so tight because she can’t apply the makeup evenly. a part of him wants to say it’s not his fault, even though it is. the other part of him, however, wants to place blame on the fact that mark is also getting his hair done directly behind him, and the stylist is getting her hands all over it but he isn’t.
it also doesn’t help that when his stylist went to get something, he looked over at mark’s reflection through his own mirror. and, as if he sensed donghyuck’s stare the way he always does, he’d opened his eyes to meet the younger’s and had the nerve to give him a small smile as if donghyuck’s brain isn’t already running a mile a minute with just mark lee and his stupid stupid haircut .
he wills himself to think about anything else, recalling the choreography in his mind without subconsciously conjuring images of soft buzzed greyish hair.
“haechan-ssi, for the last time, your eyes!” his stylist exclaims, to whom he apologizes.
donghyuck honestly isn’t sure whether he should be grateful or spiteful that he’s on the opposite end of where mark is.
on one hand, he won’t get to touch mark’s hair and possibly do something that fans will suspect as something more (although they wouldn’t be wrong about it, but still).
on the other… he won’t get to touch mark’s hair.
maybe it’s the weeks of nonstop promotions coming from dream and jumping right to 127’s in the next, never having time to really spend with mark because he’s way too overworked and tired and he knows it.
but damn it, donghyuck misses him. he’s right there and always by his side but he misses him, and mark looking this edible is doing little to quell it.
he thinks about how maybe it’s his own fault, always thinking of crashing first even when mark is there, his tiredness catching up to him before he can get a word out. how maybe, he’s forgotten that moments they spend in front of a camera are different from those behind it.
he wants to reach out to mark, hold him, be held, to kiss him all over the way he did - the way he always does whenever he comes home to donghyuck regardless if he’s asleep.
he wants mark to know even though he already does, and the thought alone has warmth blooming from everywhere, starting slow and settling deep and only growing and growing and growing and he’s useless to stop it. (not that he’d ever want to.)
the introduction with txt passes by quickly, and when it’s over they’re all met by stylists for touch-ups before they go onstage.
donghyuck falls behind the rest of the members, even taeyong, who knows the youngest always needs this time to gather himself. for all the times he’s been on stage, he still has to consciously not let his nerves get the best of him, even now, even with no physical audience watching any of their recent stages. he just wants to do well, and donghyuck is nothing if not a perfectionist.
suddenly, he gets pulled aside from his position backstage, and he’d be alarmed if the hands weren’t so familiar. but they’re gentle and they hold donghyuck the same way they’ve held him before.
“you nervous?” mark asks, his hand falling from donghyuck’s elbow to the edge of his sleeve. close , he thinks, you’re always close.
he nods and looks down, chest warm despite the minimal contact now.
“yeah,” says donghyuck, honest in the way he does, “but it’s okay.”
mark looks left and right for a brief moment, then his hand tugs at donghyuck’s sleeve before he slips his fingers in donghyuck’s palm and in between the spaces where they fit. where they have always fit. donghyuck looks at where their hands are joined, then up at mark and it’s a mistake because he’s looking at donghyuck with such a far away look as if they aren’t cramped backstage with people around them, as if it’s just two of them and donghyuck put the stars in the sky, hung the moon, and let the tides crash against the shore.
suddenly, it’s not about mark lee and his hot haircut anymore. it’s about mark lee and his ridiculously big heart that donghyuck feels lucky enough to have and hold in his hands.
(that’s not to say he isn’t thinking about his haircut, because he still very much wants to feel it run underneath his palm, but that’s besides the point.)
“i’m here, okay?”
donghyuck knows this; that’s why he’s okay. it’s all okay because mark is close, always, in all ways.
the backstage director calls for them and it’s their cue to pull away, but not before mark gives his hand a light squeeze and lets his pinky linger around donghyuck’s for a moment longer.
by some miracle or force of god, donghyuck makes it through the performance. though, he supposes he’s always been good at separating his work from his personal life anyway, and not even mark lee with his stupid haircut can change that.
they all file together backstage again, on their way to the waiting room to kill time before the announcement. donghyuck can’t wait to crash on the couch. he thinks he’s probably already half asleep and dreaming.
enter mark lee, stage right. he snatches donghyuck from the conga line to the couch to bring him to some other room and he whines , having that dream delayed.
the door locks shut behind him, and he realizes they’re in the bathroom.
“sorry, sorry,” mark giggles, sounding very far from it, but donghyuck is lenient today for all reasons not related to him simply being mark lee. “just wanted to do this — ”
he doesn’t get to ask, but that’s fine, because mark lets his grip fall from donghyuck’s elbow to not just a tug at the sleeve this time, but to hold him by the waist. from there it’s as easy and familiar as the heartbeat that goes from a flutter to a steady thrum in his chest. mark keeps his eyes on donghyuck’s lips and leans in; it’s muscle memory when donghyuck’s eyes slip shut and his hands reach up to hold mark by the shoulders.
when mark kisses him, it’s only a soft touch once, like a good morning kiss when they’re both barely awake even with gold on the sheets. then it’s twice, thrice, when both hands slip under the jacket that donghyuck is wearing and pull him closer the same time he tilts his head to lick at donghyuck’s lip and open up for him, to which the younger goes willingly. they fall into a steady rhythm, that same, familiar warmth donghyuck recognizes seeping into every corner of him beginning from where mark is touching him. he reaches up further, the way he always does when they do this because it’s how mark likes it, and finds soft, trimmed hair instead of the long strands he’s gotten used to tugging at. it crashes down on him then as he’s forgotten all about what has been his demise the whole day:
mark lee and his hot haircut will be his downfall. and he is alright with it.
they kiss until donghyuck makes a small noise from the back of his throat and even then, mark gives him one last kiss to the corner of his mouth. donghyuck feels him smile against his skin.
mark is still too close when they pull away, panting softly into each other’s space.
“yeah?” he keeps his touch light all over the buzzed hair on the sides of mark’s head, feeling just a slight addiction to the softness of it.
“you like my haircut that much?” mark is declaring more than he is asking, already knowing the answer. donghyuck’s hands freeze in their trail; he tries to bring them down but mark is quicker, a hand coming up from donghyuck’s waist to keep one in place. he holds donghyuck by the wrist of the hand holding his cheek, and rubs his thumb back and forth lightly against the protruding bone, holding his gaze.
donghyuck has to look away, because mark is looking at him like that again. in that way that makes him feel like he’s about to melt.
“whatever,” he huffs. mark only laughs at him, still holding him close. in his palm, he feels mark turn and press a kiss to it before he looks at donghyuck again.
“it’s okay,” he says, taking donghyuck by surprise when he moves to kiss him on the mouth again, “i brought you here anyway because your hair is way too cute.” he murmurs the last part against donghyuck’s mouth before kissing him again. donghyuck has to remind himself to start praying again because he’s adamant that mark lee is going to be the death of him.
“anyway, we have to go or taeyong hyung will get mad. again.” all too soon, he pulls away completely from donghyuck but the warmth is still there. he wants to be close again.
mark is fixing himself in front of the mirror, brushing away any remnants of the number that donghyuck did on it, and donghyuck knows he should make himself presentable, too, but. he allows himself this.
just a while , he pleads to no one in particular. just this .
he walks up to mark and hugs him from behind, staring at their reflection with his chin over mark’s shoulder. mark stops fixing his hair, though it looks already done anyway, expression falling into a relaxed smile. his arms fall over where donghyuck is holding him.
like this, mark’s eyes glint from something else entirely, far from the backlight. it’s different, donghyuck knows, when mark is looking at others – and at him. the difference is almost tangible.
“hyung,” he says it with nothing else in mind to say. he only knows he wants to. has to.
in response, mark intertwines their hands.
he blushes, but with donghyuck, mark doesn’t cower to hide it. instead, he turns his head enough to plant a kiss to one side of donghyuck’s face, a hand cradling the other, and a promise he’s made and always kept before is whispered against gold; warm, content, close.
taeyong doesn’t end up scolding them, too high tension to really do anything except bask in his own energy. yuta takes notice of their late entrance, however, one filing in after the other, and watches them from over his phone.
donghyuck is putting in his earbuds, looking casual enough save for the blush that still creeps low on his neck. the swelling on his lips could be a problem, though, yuta supposes.
from his periphery, he sees mark on his phone – or trying to be on his phone, still stealing glances all the same when he thinks no one is looking.
yuta scoffs, but it comes out fond as always. “dude, can you like, tone it down? some of us are single.”
mark turns to him and blinks, confused. “i’m not even saying anything!”
“yeah, tell that to your bedroom eyes.”
“what - i,” mark stutters, “i do not — !”
“you do, though.” yuta shrugs. “it’s fine, just keep it down.”
mark slumps back in his seat, more flustered than when he came in. he mutters to himself, sounding like something along the lines of, i swear i’m really trying okay , and yuta has to bite back a smile.
“i’m happy for you, though. really.” mark makes a noncommittal sound at this, but yuta sees something shy of a smile anyway.
when they get home, donghyuck is exhausted. he’s happy they won, but he’s just dead tired. still, he makes it a point to stay up for a little bit so that he can spend time with mark as he’s wanted to for weeks now. they have no schedule tomorrow besides practice but it’s not something he has to wake up early for, and he’s already posted everything he needed to post for today.
the only problem is he’s one second away from the second stage of sleep.
however, he plans on spending that last second of consciousness that he has cuddled up to his boyfriend, so he stubbornly barges into mark’s room and plops onto his bed, outside clothes and all. as soon as his head hits the pillow, he almost forgets what he came here to do until mark sits beside him on the bed, hand carding through donghyuck’s hair. he whines into the pillow.
“i thought you liked it when i touched your hair?” asks mark, but he stops moving anyway. donghyuck puts out a hand to cover mark’s, which he takes as a sign to continue.
“i do, but,” donghyuck’s voice softens, biting his lip as he’s suddenly conscious of mark finding him childish.
mark leans down to kiss his frown away, and it works like magic. his hair is damp, falling over his forehead and brushing against donghyuck’s, but he still feels warm all over. he’s warm where mark kisses his forehead, blooming next where his nose is kissed, and spreading to his cheeks and growing in every part of him like clockwork.
finally, when he presses one last kiss to the seam of donghyuck’s lips, he prompts, “but?” ever patient. and with mark looking like that, it would be a crime for him to say no.
“but… i don’t wanna fall asleep yet,” he finishes, looking away as he does.
“donghyuck, you literally look like you’re gonna pass out the next time you blink.” mark keeps running his hand through the softness of donghyuck’s hair, the thumbing over his ear almost mocking donghyuck.
“mark lee, if you don’t shut up — ” he grabs the hand in his hair, pushing it away from himself reluctantly, and in a second, he has mark sitting up with a lap full of donghyuck. mark is still on the edge of the bed, still damp from his shower, still looking at him with such devotion that he feels faint from it (and the exhaustion).
they don’t say anything, mostly because mark had been told to shut up, but also because it’s more comfortable like this. donghyuck grasps the towel around mark’s neck and pulls it up to dry his hair. he sighs quietly when he feels mark’s hands rest on his waist, even the lightest of touches letting the warmth grow and spread and grow.
mark’s eyes slip shut, humming when donghyuck rubs a little more firm on his crown. somewhere in the background, he hears music filter through mark’s speakers, almost quiet, and it takes a second for him to recognize the song.
“again?” donghyuck teases, but the tone is lost to fondness.
“shut up, it’s a good song,” mark mutters but keeps his eyes closed, anyway. donghyuck laughs softly. at this, mark opens his eyes and looks up at the boy in his lap, towelling away at his hair. “hey.”
his hold is around donghyuck’s waist now, still soft if only a little more firm, as if donghyuck would slip away if he didn’t, as if he would ever think of leaving.
donghyuck hums out a quiet hm? before he meets mark’s gaze, and the only thing he can think of is, there he goes again.
there he goes again, mark lee with eyes that look at donghyuck with such softness, such tenderness, and he doesn’t even know. there he goes again, donghyuck thinks, mark lee with a heart the size of the fucking moon that it leaves him feeling so small, so undeserving of his love even when he does deserve it.
he shrugs. “i just wanted to let you know that i love you.”
it comes out naturally, rolling off his tongue like it’s always been placed there, like mark has always been meant to love donghyuck and donghyuck is meant the same fate with mark.
mark says it like he’s breathing, and he breathes it like a promise.
he’s heard it before, has felt it over a thousand times more, and still, his heart feels full, so full, that it’s about to tip over and burst right there in its cavity. and he knows, he does know – god, how can he not ? how can he forget when this boy doesn’t ever let him?
he’s reminded suddenly of every goodbye they’ve had in front of privy eyes, that same promise kept between the thread of their hands and just the most subtle squeeze mark gives it after; something only they know. even when they’re fighting, mark never forgets.
it means, i already miss you ; i’ll be back soon; i love you.
just the same, every kiss mark presses to every surface of donghyuck’s face when he gets home means, i missed you; i’m home; i always love you.
“and i just wanted to let you know that i know,” donghyuck says, tone light yet meaning it all the same as he giggles at mark’s frown, “and maybe me, too. i guess.” mark jabs at his side threateningly and donghyuck concedes.
the song continues in the background. when it fades out slowly, donghyuck tugs mark to him by the towel around his neck and meets him halfway.
they lose track of time, lost in each other, that neither of them realize the next song that plays is already almost over. they don’t notice, because mark is too busy drawing shapes into the crest of donghyuck’s hip, a hand under his shirt to drag all over his back where he knows he’s sensitive. and it seems mark does know donghyuck all too well, because donghyuck makes a noise into mark’s mouth who only kisses him back more fervently.
meanwhile, donghyuck’s hands come from caressing mark’s cheeks to somehow tangle in only slightly damp hair. his fingers run over the short buzz of mark’s undercut, and he’s embarrassed at the noise he makes when they do.
he breaks the kiss first, taking one glance at mark and his flushed cheeks and lips glazed over with slick before he hugs him just to hide himself.
the song is over by the time they’ve gathered themselves, breathing reduced to a normal pace though donghyuck’s heart is still hammering in his chest. mark lee and his stupid haircut.
mark’s hands are still under his shirt, flat on the lowest part of his back to hold donghyuck closer to him. he moves down to press one kiss to donghyuck’s neck, testing the waters with how light it is on his skin. when he decides donghyuck is up for it, he lets his lips drag from the spot under his jaw to his collarbone and grazes the skin with his teeth, teasing, knowing he can’t actually leave any marks. donghyuck wishes he could sometimes.
“so you really like my hair, huh.” mark licks gently over a particular spot, and donghyuck falls right into him, slumping completely. in the process, he realizes what it’s like to have that undercut brush against his neck and feels a different kind of warmth start to bloom on his face.
“hyung,” donghyuck breathes, barely the same level as the music from the speaker.
it’s either mark doesn’t hear, or he’s far too engrossed with tainting every surface of donghyuck’s neck with his mouth, and as much as donghyuck would like that, he thinks his brain is actually going to stop working completely if mark keeps going.
“mark-hyung,” he tries again, a bit louder this time. he feels mark leave one last kiss to the space between his collarbones before he looks back up at donghyuck like nothing happened, like he didn’t just spend the better part of the last five minutes giving him not-hickies.
donghyuck’s hands move from his hair to his face, mapping every inch of it with his eyes, committing it to memory. mark lee is definitely someone worth remembering for the rest of his life.
he hopes that when he looks at mark, there’s something mark sees that tells him donghyuck loves him, too. that it’s not just him, even if donghyuck feels a little lacking sometimes.
he hopes mark also thinks that donghyuck looks at him like he makes the world turn and keeps the sun high in the sky, because donghyuck truly thinks that he does.
tides change, and the seasons with it.
but all throughout, one thing is the same.
the music in the background playing songs from donghyuck’s playlist to mark is drowned out by the promise donghyuck has made and always kept before, whispered against mark’s smile.
the kiss is light and soft; a good morning kiss with gold, maybe not on mark’s sheets but in the curve of his palm. it’s light – but it’s okay, because he just needs mark to be close. always, in all ways.