it’s not like mark looks forward to the mailman, okay. he just so happens to like taking a morning run. at the same time. five days a week.
and if that run coincidentally ends with mark slowing to a stop at the front of his building, just as the mail moped pulls up, then, well. that’s neither here nor there.
“pinky!” donghyuck lee chirps, waving with one hand while he struggles to unclasp his helmet with the other. he’s seated on his bike still, foot bucking mindlessly at the ground until it hits the kickstand. “long time no see!”
he says this every day, because there’s only been a 24-hour interval between their meetings for the last 6 weeks and he likes to think it’s funny. mark just rolls his eyes and picks up the pace, jogging over to where donghyuck’s struggling. “you’re a real hoot, carlin,” he ribs, knocking donghyuck’s fumbling fingers away to loosen the strap for him.
donghyuck looks up at him through feathered lashes as the pads of mark’s thumbs brush the underside of his chin. tousled brunette hair curls around his ears in tendrils when he lifts up the helmet. his cheeks are no longer adorably squished from it, showing off the sharpness of his jaw that contrasts the fullness of his features. his eyes are even lightly lined with kohl, for fuck’s sake. mark bites down on his lip and takes a step back.
(doesn’t look forward to the mailman, his ass.)
“thanks,” donghyuck mutters, uncharacteristically flustered. he stands up and sets the headgear down on the seat as he opens the compartment behind it. it holds his deliveries for the building. it’s customary, now, for mark to help him bring them in; it feels rude not to, is all.
“would ya look at that, another package for mr. lee,” donghyuck jokes like he always does in that prominent jersey accent of his, because there is usually a package for mark every other day or so. and like always, he quips: “what’s inside today, i wonder? the soiled panties of all the women you ravished in the last week?”
donghyuck likes to make jokes like that—ones that suggest he thinks mark is attractive enough to pull in tens of chicks a day. little does he know that mark is too socially inept for his own good (and the only person he wants to quote unquote ‘ravish’ is standing right in front of him). “that’s for me to know, and you to never find out,” he’ll grin, and there’s this indescribable feeling that hangs in the air between them; electric and addicting yet dangerous, like unsoldered wire. one of these days, mark swears donghyuck will look at him with that devilish gleam in his eye and ask, what if i want to find out?
but he doesn’t, of course, and mark is reminded that he’s just another tongue-tied loser pining after the most beautiful guy in midtown.
not that he should be hoping something comes out of this, anyway. mark doesn’t do one-night stands; mark does romance. mark does falling, way too fucking hard, until he’s scraped up both his knees and spilled out his entire goddamn heart onto the pavement.
but the mark that did those things is behind him, now; at least he should be. the mark of today has a job, an important one, that can’t be compromised by falling in love. to bring someone like donghyuck into his wound-up world would bring more danger than delight. so, he settles for pretending he’s only lusting after his firecracker of a mailman, like it isn’t anything deeper than that ever-present human need for lips on lips and skin on skin.
it’s hard to do that though, when donghyuck lingers in the elevator when they reach his floor, hair still mussed and lips so tantalizingly close as mark stands in the hallway. he has an arm casually extended outwards to keep the door from closing, and his fingers are so close to gripping the end of donghyuck’s uniform jacket. he clenches his fist.
“thanks for giving me a small seat in the lap of luxury,” the mailman jokes. that’s donghyuck for you; always joking. it makes mark wonder what he’s hiding beneath the veneer of snark and witticisms. pretty boys like him only act that way when they have several suitcase’s worth of baggage they refuse to unpack.
“my pleasure,” is all mark’s dumb mouth is able to say. it’s better than any shitty innuendos about donghyuck sitting on his lap, even though dirty jokes seem right up his alley. “i’ll, uh—see you next week?”
he hates fridays now because of donghyuck: he has to endure two days without him, since donghyuck doesn’t work weekends. it feels like he’s going through withdrawals. and irritatingly (depressingly, more like), donghyuck always replies with some cheery affirmation and presses the button to close the elevator doors, clearly just eager to enjoy his weekend off, during which he definitely doesn’t think about mark.
the same occurs today. mark turns away from the elevator, thin package tucked under his arm as he fumbles around in the pocket of his joggers for his keys. faintly, he can detect the stench of nicotine from behind the door—mark hasn’t smelt that in a long time, and his bones briefly ache with a once-eternal need, mixed with the sudden anxiety.
mark wouldn’t say he’s paranoid, per se—that title goes to his boss without question—he simply assesses the situation at hand, and makes an educated guess along the lines of holy fuck i am going to die. he considers opening the package here, but it’s most likely useless to him right now. so he slowly inserts his key into the lock, turns it, and enters.
there’s a deafening bang—a blast of gunfire just passes his left ear.
looks like johnny is paranoid too—possibly a fucking maniac.
“fucking hell, man!” mark exclaims, clutching his package to his chest as he gawks at the hole left behind by the bullet. that will be a fun noise complaint to explain to the other penthouse floor tenants. “the hell’s wrong with you?”
“you were late; had to make sure it was you,” johnny drawls. he’s sprawled out lazily on mark’s futon, facing away from the door—which of course means he made the shot without even looking. a cigarette hangs from his mouth, clouding mark’s fucking sitting room with smoke. “you’re not as good at keeping yourself out of trouble as you think.”
mark kicks off his running shoes and leaves them on the mat. “right, because someone would’ve taken me out right across from the empire state building,” he mutters, and heads toward the kitchen, making a mental note to add spackling to his grocery list. he doesn’t bother asking how johnny got inside, or how he knows mark’s schedule down to the minute; taeyong has eyes and ears everywhere, even on those he thinks he can trust. mark doesn’t take it personally (he will, however, take johnny’s snide comment as an offense). “what brings you here?” he asks, setting down the package on the counter.
johnny fixes him with a stare. his neck tenses as he cranes it, the snake tattoo inked there appearing to slither betwixt his tendons. his shaggy, bleach blonde hair is tied back into a low ponytail, several loose strands framing his round, yet sharp features. if mark didn’t know better, he’d be intimidated. that being said, his heart does skip a beat when johnny tells him, lowly:
“taeyong believes there’s a mole trying to wriggle their way into the operation.”
mark narrows his eyes. his stomach twists from both hunger and sudden nausea. “you’re not here trying to accuse me, are you?” he asks calmly. that would be another blatant insult; after all taeyong did for him, how could they ever suspect mark to dare to betray his rarely-earned trust and kindness like that?
“trust me, we have no reason to suspect you,” johnny tells him. it’s not that surprising—mark has always been ridiculously honest to a fault (and anxious, hence the brief breakdown). but it still doesn’t make sense that johnny bothered to come here, and he tells as much to johnny, who sighs in that patronizing way of his. “taeyong wants to warn everyone to keep an eye on their surroundings. trust no one.”
“ironic,” mark chuckles humorlessly, glancing at the hole that’s roughly the size of the circle his forefinger and thumb would make. leave it to johnny to carry a fucking .40 with him, as if subtlety ever meant anything to him. anyone on the street can tell johnny suh means business. he sets about preparing his usual post-run smoothie. he needs a shower too, badly, but thanks to his oh-so-pleasant guest, that may have to wait. not that he’s entirely complaining: the overpowering scent of donghyuck’s fruity perfume always lingers for a while after mark sees him.
with a grunt that’s half a laugh and half a warning to shut the fuck up, johnny gets up. he walks over to the bananas that mark is chopping up and takes one. he eyes the box. “yong still sendin’ you shit, i presume?”
“more than ever,” mark replies with a grimace as he adds his flax seeds and greek yogurt to the blender. “i don’t understand why every last one has to be sent to me.”
“you’re our gunsmith, shortcake; no one knows weapons better than you.” johnny is parroting taeyong’s words from a meeting several weeks ago, but his tone is void of seriousness, replaced with stark derision and that stupid fucking nickname that he’s used ever since mark had to dye his hair a garish magenta for that one mission but still has yet to fade (and it’s a double dig at his stature, of course, despite mark’s complaints that 5’9” is above average height, and johnny is just a fucking giant). mark clenches his jaw. he has a reputation for being one of the more mellow guys on the crew, which has apparently created a challenge for everyone else in which they attempt to break his resolve at every opportunity. mark has the sneaking suspicion johnny’s rags have a little more to them than that; mark’s risen to the top too fast, and johnny, as taeyong’s current right-hand man, feels threatened by that. “yong wants shit cleaned up and fixed before we make any deals, you know how he is.”
“yeah,” mark mutters. he turns to the package, humming to himself as he rips off tape and removes haphazardly stuffed bubble wrap to remove the .22 from its shoddily-done packaging, turning it over in his hands to observe it. it’s an older model, with dusty fingerprints on the once-glossy grip. there’s a few flecks of dried blood, too; the person on the wrong end of this gun was shot at point-blank range. “i’m well aware.”
“besides, your job actually serves a purpose now, what with a possible spy in the ranks,” johnny continues around a disgustingly mushy mouthful of banana. “no dna evidence left for them to turn in and all that.”
mark wants to bristle, wants to retaliate with the fact that keeping their weapons in good condition saves a fuckton of wasted money and potential scenarios in which a shitty gun fails you and gets your ass killed. but he shrugs, fumbles on the counter behind him for the glasses he had left there this morning. “unless you want to stick around and use my apartment as a shooting range some more, it looks like i’ve got repairs to do.”
“alright, alright, i can tell when i’m not wanted, shortcake,” johnny simpers. he heads towards the window, and mark realizes he must have scaled the fire escape that, from top to bottom, covers the expanse of the entire 50-floor building. “by the way,” he adds, one leg out, “that’s a cute mailboy you got.”
mark can feel the heat spreading across his cheeks, both with embarrassment and a sudden rush of anger, fear, and jealousy all at once. “he’s just the mailman,” he murmurs down to the blender.
“a twinky mailman you’re awful close with,” johnny clarifies. the cigarette dangles precariously from his lips, which are twisted into a devious smirk. “heed yong’s words: trust no one. you know we’re always looking out for each other.”
he slams the window shut behind him, and with a cheeky gesture at the now-broken fucking lock on mark’s window, he’s gone. mark pours in the last of his smoothie ingredients and turns on the blender, letting the sound wash over him in a poor attempt to wipe johnny’s words from his memory—to no avail. if they suspect someone, they’ll track them just like they track the day-to-day lives of other gang members.
which means, without even realizing it, he’s already dragged donghyuck into this mess.
“to payday!” echo the five boys sat around donghyuck, downing their shots in one gulp. donghyuck grins devilishly after finishing his own glass, his freshly dyed blonde tips scintillating under the low lighting.
as the brief uproar dies down, jeno fixes donghyuck with an amused smile. “you get, like, five different paydays though hyuck,” they point out.
everyone snorts at that, and from the end of the table, yangyang joins in with a teasing, “yeah, must be fun getting paid to go through a fuckton of different jobs—”
“—keep it down, will ya?” shotaro interrupts, always the conscious one of their rowdy bunch. “people are staring.”
donghyuck grins, squeezing the youngest (“we were all born in the same year, i’m only a month younger than yangyang”) on the shoulder. he sits on the back of the circular lounge, feet on either side of shotaro, who’s sitting on the actual cushions along with everyone else. if it wasn’t a familiar sight, the owner wouldn’t be too pleased with them right now. instead, taeil just shakes his head and keeps on wiping down the bar.
“thanks for the caution, taro, but it’s alright,” he assures, kneading both of the boy’s shoulders now. as the one with the most intensive major amongst them all (chemistry), he gets wound up like this. “and i only have two ongoing gigs, jen,” he shoots at the still-smug jeno. “in a bituva lull these days; lying low, y’know.”
that phrase is accompanied with a pop of his denim vest’s collar, which yields a round of eyerolls. “and what intel have you gathered, holmes?” renjun inquires sarcastically, taking another sip of his drink.
“not much yet, watson," donghyuck replies in the shittiest british accent of all time, turning up his nose at renjun's jibe and the snickers that followed it. “but i know i’m looking in the right place.”
“well that’s a given,” renjun snarks. donghyuck sighs into his glass. “have you found some eye candy to keep you from quitting after two weeks?”
jaemin shoves at his boyfriend’s shoulder, his only attempt at stopping renjun from being a dickhead. jeno, their other partner, just sits back, head resting on jaemin’s shoulder while yangyang tipsily attempts to arm wrestle with them. “yes, but here’s the thing—” donghyuck begins, and is met with resounding groans. “what?”
“‘but i think he’s a serial killer, or a cult leader, or a cat person,’” yangyang mocks in an overly exaggerated jersey accent. obnoxious chortles breaks out all around him.
“i don’t fuckin’ sound like that, thank you very much,” donghyuck sneers. he smacks yangyang’s head, who smacks him back until they’re having an all-out sissy fight.
“would—you—two—cut—it—out—” jaemin hisses, each word punctuated by his hand flailing in between donghyuck and yangyang’s arms. jeno’s head is repeatedly jostled in this process, but they stare off into space, mouth searching for a straw that fell onto the floor a minute ago. “you have to admit, hyuck,” jaemin adds once the squabble has been squashed, panting, “you make up conspiracies about every boy you like. it’s like a weird defense mechanism to keep yourself from baring your charred soul to anyone.”
poorly stifled laughter ensues. donghyuck whacks jaemin’s head this time, mussing his perfectly-styled cowlick. “i do not,” he whines.
“let’s start with jisung, then,” jaemin continues, unfazed.
“weren’t you deadset on him being the ghost of a boy that died, like, a century ago?” jeno pipes up, having regained minimal consciousness. “just because you happened to meet him the day after you read the haunting of hill house?”
“or sungchan?” shotaro pitches in, before donghyuck has a chance to retaliate. “you actually thought you had to stop him from joining a jonestown-level cult, when he was just talking about getting all that kool-aid for a frat party.
“ooo, or chenle—” yangyang adds, but donghyuck manages to cut him off.
“what is it, national make-donghyuck-look-like-an-idiot-day?” he asks, incredulous.
“we can’t make you look like what you already are,” renjun says smartly. “you’re fucking unhinged, hyuck; you even came up with a secret code to use when you called us, in case you went out on dates and got kidnapped or something!”
“which you memorized,” shotaro points out.
that earns him a light slap on the shoulder. “you know hyuck, he often gets into trouble,” renjun retorts, with a pointed glare at a sheepish donghyuck. “as stupid as his theories always are,
“so… no one wants to hear how i think this guy is part of the korean-american mafia?”
“no,” everyone replies in unison.
“they have to be from within the weishen gang.”
“after all the lengths we went through to achieve a truce?” yuta shakes his head. “unless that bastard wong has finally grown the balls to overtake qian, it doesn’t seem likely. if we act out before botherin’ to look deeper into it, we could be knee-deep in shit before you can even curse qian kun’s name to hell and back.”
mark bites back a grin at yuta’s sheer brashness. taeyong, on the other hand, sighs. “the cops have been in a fuckin’ tizzy after bustin’ yeol and his crew in harlem in may. thanks to that shitshow, we’ve managed to fly under the radar. i doubt they would send one of their bootlickers here regardless, not with how cocky they got. they think they can just break into a headquarters like that and snuff anyone out now. subtle ain’t their style.”
their leader’s long, nimble fingers, adorned with rings, rap on the round table with rhythmic precision. the rest of them are sat around him, faces stony. “i meant what i said: anyone that’s made a new appearance in your lives recently; consider them a suspect,” taeyong commands. there is no room for interpretation in his words. “i want each and every one of them brought in for interrogation.”
mark blanches at that. luckily, jungwoo unknowingly comes to his aid. “isn’t this a bit rash, sir? i mean—wouldn’t this potentially expose us to more people than help us stay undercover?”
when you speak to taeyong, he never looks directly at you; as expected, considering he’s blind in both eyes. when mark met him, he still had one eye left, but of course doyoung was still his number one then, and things are… very different now, to say the least. given the amount of times he’s been stabbed in the back by those he thought he could trust, taeyong’s constant vigilance is understandable. usually, he can be reasoned with, talked down before dangerous decisions are made. but: “johnny and his boys have been keepin’ watch,” taeyong says in lieu of a straightforward answer. “they know where these people live, where they can be found. if we have the wrong guy, we’ll threaten ‘im into layin’ low. simple as that.”
it is most certainly not that simple, but mark keeps his mouth shut. and it’s a good thing he does, because johnny takes the moment of silence to speak up: “i think it’s fair to say this is also a test of loyalty,” he says. he just oozes smugness, the bastard. “so keep that in mind.”
“sir,” says jungwoo, always surprisingly emboldened at the worst of times. “i hate to say it, but don’t you think this could be his way of returning?”
a grim silence falls over the table; everyone here knows who the silent he is. taeyong’s blanches. “i don’t even want to think about him, jungwoo,” he says stiffly. “i hope the bastard had the common sense to get the fuck outta dodge, because the second i see him, he’s dead.
“now,” he continues, clearly eager to no longer dwell on the touchy topic, i’ve got a list of possible suspects from johnny right here—where do you suggest we start?” he directs his head towards johnny.
mark knows what’s going to happen before johnny’s eyes even lock onto his. “well,” he begins, voice sweet like saccharine with words more sour than the drink, “shortcake here’s got himself a mailman friend. this friend knows his address and everything, hand-delivers him packages from you. that’s about as suspect as it gets.”
everyone is staring at him, now, so mark merely fixates his gaze onto johnny’s smug little fucking face and raises a brow. he says nothing; to protest against what is also apparently a “test of loyalty” would not be the best course of action.
“so it’s settled, then,” taeyong announces. “this mailman of mark’s will be interrogated first. either you bring him in, or we’ll go and get him ourselves—and you know our way will be a lot less pretty.”
the only thing that’s been fucking settled is the weight at the bottom of mark’s stomach, growing bigger like the pit he’s dug himself into, now inescapable.
“welcome to seoul seafood, where deliciousness jumps right from the ocean and into your mouth. what can i get started for y—”
“dude, you have to be stalking me or something.”
donghyuck looks up from his notepad, and the bored expression and deadpan delivery disappear. “listen dude, just because i know where you live doesn’t mean i’m stalking you,” he says goodnaturedly.
mark lee—pinky, as donghyuck likes to refer to him—looks unconvinced. “does mail delivery not pay well enough or something?”
“oh, pinky. so naive, with your penthouse and fancy-schmancy outfits,” donghyuck playfully laments, a grin twisting at the corners of his mouth. mark narrows his eyes at him, glancing down at his high-end leather jacket. “of course it doesn’t. and there isn’t exactly a bountiful healthcare package for driving a moped chock-full of packages 40 hours a week, either. just got this gig last week.”
“guess that means i can’t show my face ‘round here no more, then,” mark says, but his shy smile and the easing of his shoulders betrays him. damn, he’s pretty. it certainly isn’t the first time donghyuck’s thought this, and it won’t be the last, but damn. those dark eyes and the deep-set cheekbones, made even more attractive by the slick, hot-pink pompadour he’s sporting today. paired with the leather jacket, he looks like he’s been ripped straight out of the pages of a 50s fashion magazine. there’s even a curly-cue hanging in front of his forehead, superman-style.
too bad he’s most definitely a member of the korean-american mafia (“if such a thing exists,” renjun’s voice whines in his head. donghyuck tunes it out, as he does in real life). “good idea, because now there’s nothing stopping me from asking for tips,” donghyuck says after a what feels like an uncomfortably long pause. he nudges mark’s shoulder with his hip. “you’ll take pity on a young college fella, wontcha?”
mark flushes. “i can’t be much older than you, man,” he protests weakly.
“but you’re a helluva lot richer,” donghyuck teases, and mark shakes his head with fond exasperation. “alright, alright, i’m done teasin’. what’ll it be?”
but suddenly, mark’s attention has been lost, his gaze snagged on something to the left of donghyuck’s ear. “your hair,” he blurts, throaty, and instinctively donghyuck’s hand flies up to it, to twist the new blonde strands between his thumb and forefinger.
“wanted to do something fun with it.” he shrugs sheepishly, spins his pencil around in his free hand over and over. he’s too aware that mark is still staring. “you like?”
mark blinks a few times, like his gaze is refocusing onto donghyuck’s face, and then he smiles, bashful. “yeah,” he says, voice still rough, and he clears his throat. “i really do.”
there’s the ting of a bell, the sound of his new manager already being displeased with him from the back line. donghyuck makes a pained face at mark, who honest to god giggles, as if he couldn’t be any more perfect. “looks like our romantic evening is being cut short, pinky,” he tells him apologetically. “hope you know what you want.”
“you’ll have to learn my usual,” mark grins. donghyuck is, thankfully, often on the receiving end of his bright smile, but the sight of mark’s front teeth, crooked and a little jagged at the ends, still send his heart into overdrive. “i’ll have the chamchi gimbap, if you please.”
“spoken like a true hangug-in,” donghyuck smiles. the menus are written in the best translated english possible, and already he’s heard an ear-splitting amount of bad pronunciations already. but mark ignores the ‘tuna kimbap’ label and uses the miniscule korean that precedes it. “we’ll have that right out for you.”
“i don’t pay you to chit-chat,” the grumpy ahjumma that runs the store chides in korean. it’s a shame he won’t be working here long; he likes this little firecracker of a woman. she reminds him of his mother, a realization he had quickly tried to forget about.
“i’m sorry, gorgeous,” donghyuck grins, and she softens the teensiest bit under the force of his charms. “is there any chamchi-gimbap up already?”
“with those dimwits back there—” is all she responds with, and she hobbles back into the kitchen midsentence, probably to berate the cooks for how slow they’ve been all morning. they’re not super busy; seafood for breakfast isn’t that common here in nyc, after all. luckily, every customer except for mark has been taken care of, and there aren’t any new ones for now.
a quaint korean seafood restaurant was the last place he expected to be directed towards, but as long as it brings in the big bucks he’s been promised, he’ll take it. and this being mark’s regular spot is a plus—though it comes with its equal amount of suspicions.
“chamchi-gimbap!” yells the ahjumma as she approaches the counter with the tray in her hand, as if donghyuck isn’t standing right in front of her. he mimes stuffing his ears with the chopsticks on the tray, and she swats at him. “go serve it, i don’t pay you to make bad jokes!”
“tough crowd,” donghyuck says to mark as he approaches, because everyone in the store heard their conversation anyways, even if most of them didn’t understand it. mark, on the other hand, is laughing, shoulders shaking and eyes sparkling and fuck, it really isn’t fair that he’s most likely evil, or whatever. the laughter starts to die down the longer donghyuck smiles at him. “well, let me know if you need anything else, and you can pay at the front counter, which i’m sure you already know, but—”
“hey,” mark interrupts, then immediately cringes. “sorry, go ahead—”
“no it’s okay, you’ve probably heard that spiel a million times, go ah—”
“would you want to go out tonight? with me?” mark blurts, once again cutting donghyuck off. “sorry. again.”
it appears as though the request slipped out of mark’s mouth without him meaning to. a conflicted look passes his face, and donghyuck fully expects him to rescind the offer, but is pleasantly surprised when mark appears to shake it off and smile that awkward, please-god-help-me sort of smile. “well you certainly know how to sell yourself to a fella,” he quips, and the smile becomes more frozen to mark’s face. “if you think you can make it through the night without blowing chunks, i’m down.”
“oh god yeah, i definitely won’t—at least, not because of you, i just—i do get nervous but that doesn’t mean i’ll barf, or anything—though when i was a kid i did have a weak epiglottis, so who’s to say—should i pick you up?”
it’s the most spectacular display of going off on a tangent and miraculously managing to stick some sort of terrible landing that donghyuck has ever seen, and he’s giggling as he responds, “that’s alright with me. here.”
he takes one of the napkins from mark’s tray and uses his pen to scribble down the address of the apartment. “i get off at 5 and catch the subway home, so i should be ready by 6:30?”
mark, looking incredibly relieved that donghyuck is taking charge, nods. “that sounds great, i—i’ll see you then.”
the bell rings; another customer has arrived, and with a quick goodbye, donghyuck walks away to take their order. he can feel mark’s eyes on his back, and puts an extra sway in his hips; there’s the telltale sound of mark spitting out his drink.
if he really is part of the mafia, he probably isn’t very good at it, squeaks imaginary renjun’s voice, and for once, donghyuck wholeheartedly agrees with it.
dates. okay. dates. mark has been on one of those before. possibly. it may not have been known by the other person at the time. mark is bad at transparency like that.
it’s not like it even gets to be a real date anyways, because mark is doing it against his will, when he would have rather never acted upon his feelings unless given sufficient evidence to believe that donghyuck might have an iota of feelings for him. the location and events of the ‘date’ are the backdrop to fulfilling taeyong’s paranoia-induced plans: mark will lead donghyuck upstairs, where taeyong, johnny, and whoever else will be waiting for him.
he hadn’t expected to see donghyuck the morning after taeyong’s ultimatum last night, and the offer had just—slipped out without him really realizing it, thanks to the flurry of conflicting emotions his brain had been screaming at him the second he caught sight of donghyuck’s face behind the counter of seoul seafood. it’s certainly an odd coincidence that one of mark’s favorite restaurants is the one donghyuck just started working at, but—maybe mark should start believing in fate, after all.
so here he is, waiting outside of donghyuck’s apartment and sitting on his motorcycle. he’d buzzed the right place and been told by a cacophony of voices that donghyuck would be down soon, calm your tits!, so. at least mark has a jumping off point for conversation now.
the door opens, and out steps donghyuck, looking every bit the person mark has envisioned he is outside of work. dark, tight, jeans cling to his endless legs, ripped in too many places to count. it shows off the tan skin beneath, drawing mark’s eye to it like a moth to a flame. but the rest of him is no less enchanting—he’s wearing a long-sleeved, funky-patterned button-up that’s loosely tucked into his belt. his light brown hair has been curled, leaving an adorable mop on his head. the blonde ends of his hair are curled too, leaving him with a permed mullet that has been undercut a bit on each side of his head. his makeup is more prominent than usual too, with gold shadow and a glossy lip accompanying the eyeliner. he’s a goddamn sight to behold, and the smirk on his face means he knows it, too.
“surprised you don’t start dry-heaving the second you get on this bad boy,” is the first thing that comes out of his mouth, and it’s incredibly on-brand. the neverending swirl of nerves in mark’s brain slows for a moment, takes in the fact that he actually gets to go out with donghyuck—until he remembers this is very likely the last time since donghyuck is going to hate him after this and all of the nerves come rushing back tenfold.
he’s always been aware of the fact that he knows next to nothing about donghyuck other than his occupations, and the fact that he is a college student. what year, his age, his field of study, his past, his present, his plans for the future—mark knows none of that. and thanks to this unfortunate series of events, he probably never will. johnny saw an exposed vein, a weakness, in the form of mark’s budding feelings towards donghyuck, and he wants to pick at it until it bursts.
“i know my way around a bike,” mark tells him, hoping he sounds suave and not at all like he’s going to be an incredibly manipulative asshole tonight. donghyuck is giving him a onceover now, and mark tries not to fidget to much while he does so. he’s wearing the same outfit he had been wearing at the restaurant earlier, but donghyuck had only seen him sitting down. before then, he’d always been in slightly oversized, sweat-soaked athletic-wear. that just reminds mark that he is sweating, profusely. this is why he doesn’t go on dates.
“good to know.” donghyuck takes a step forward, smooths down the lapel of mark’s leather jacket. “what are we waitin’ for, pinky?”
“for my mind to realize that you looking that good for me isn’t just an illusion,” mark is saying before he can stop himself.
donghyuck, of course, takes it in stride, a surprised look crossing his features before it morphs into pleased amusement. “who said i got all dolled up just for you, loverboy? he asks, taking the helmet that mark hands to him and pulling it over his curls. “can’t a fella look pretty just for him?”
“you know what i meant,” mark mutters, not wanting to humiliate himself further by discussing at length how pretty he thinks donghyuck is. “get on.”
donghyuck obliges without further teasing, wrapping his arms around mark’s middle. it’s a fucking cliche move that mark’s seen in so many cheesy action movies before, but now, he understands its appeal: donghyuck’s chest is pressed directly aganinst his back, the sound of his breath in mark’s ear and mark has to actively fight down a shiver that threatens to wrack through his entire body. “hold on tight,” is all mark tells him before he pulls down his visor and revs the engine.
the drive to the seedy club that taeyong has claimed as part of his territory is bustling, as it usually is on a saturday night. mark almost whines at the loss of heat from donghyuck’s body when they have to pull apart. “you’re a heckuva lot better than me and driving somethin’ like this, i’ll tell you what,” donghyuck remarks, patiently waiting for mark to take off his helmet for him, like it’s something they just do now even though mark only did that yesterday.
mark shrugs. “told ya,” he grins, and boldly holds his hand out for donghyuck to take as they walk towards the entrance.
they’re let in without being stopped at the entrance; donghyuck’s eyes widen at this. “you must really be famous ‘round these parts, huh mr. lee?” he quips. “if i step through these doors am i gonna have to compete with all the floosies in there for your attention?”
mark chuckles, shaking his head a bit, and stops to hold open the door that takes them from the entryway into the club itself. “see for yourself,” he tells donghyuck.
the music is some edm-type shit, that new genre that this decade has been far too inundated with. but donghyuck starts to groove to it immediately, bopping his head and walking in time to the music. “i never have much time to go dancin’,” he says to mark, raising his voice to be heard above the bass and the chatter. “but it sure can be fun.”
“ya, mark!” it’s yuta calling to him, waving him over from behind the bar. he’s their undercover bartender for the night, it seems. “drinks on the house for you and your date tonight?” he offers, already in the process of mixing them as if they would be able to say no now anyways.
“how luxurious,” donghyuck purrs, preening against mark’s side just to see him flush something awful and laugh about it. “though i’m sure you could afford as many drinks as you wanted anyways, huh, pinky?”
“you know,” mark says out of the corner of his mouth, finding the courage to run his thumb along the back of donghyuck’s hand, “if you keep talkin’ like that, some people might get the idea that you’re just after my money.”
there’s a brief pause, before donghyuck bursts into laughter. his free hand clasps around mark’s upper bicep as he turns his whole body into mark’s, shaking with laughter against him. “i didn’t think it was that funny,” mark says, bemused and anxious by the heat of donghyuck’s body on his.
donghyuck hooks his chin onto mark’s shoulder. “as if i would blatantly joke about wanting money from you if that’s what i actually wanted,” he says, breath warm on mark’s neck. “trust me, that’s the last thing i want from you.”
“what, on a list of two or three things?” mark jests, nudging him with his elbow, and that sets off another round of giggles. “you haven’t even drank anything, hyuck.”
“i pregamed a bit before i left,” donghyuck explains with a dopey grin. “liquid courage, amirite?”
mark blinks at him, surprised that donghyuck would even need
the first hour of the night rushes by, with donghyuck taking control of the dancefloor for the first 45 minutes of it, mark awkwardly by his side. they dance together to the ridiculous heavy bass, hardly even talking unless they felt like shouting to be heard amongst the crowd. donghyuck’s frame is lithe, and he’d taken both of mark’s hands and placed them on his waist, which is thin and has a bit of a curve to it. mark had spent the first 20 minutes with his arms incredibly stiff, afraid to move them even an inch, until donghyuck had to take control again and coax mark into leading his hands into the back pockets of donghyuck’s jeans, where his ass is round yet firm and god, it takes all of mark’s willpower not to pop a boner right there.
but then, things start to take a turn.
donghyuck’s energetic movements begin to slow. his feet become clumsy, eyes drooping, and he clearly tries to fight against the sudden onslaught of exhaustion. “woah, i need to sit down,” he says, slurring his words. mark, none the wiser, leads him through the bustling crowd to an empty bench near the door that leads to the upstairs lounge.
where taeyong is waiting.
“i feel like i’m gonna be sick; what was in that drink?” donghyuck groans, clutching his stomach and doubling over. there’s a flash of yuta’s wink in mark’s subconscious, and he sits up straight as a board.
donghyuck’s been drugged.
this means there’s really no choice but to ask,“h—hey, let’s go upstairs then, yeah?” mark asks, trying not to stumble over his words. the drink he had hadn’t affected him at all, but holy fuck, this was not part of the plan, what is he supposed to do? “it’s quieter up there; this music can’t be good for your head right now.”
donghyuck gives a weak grunt in affirmation, and mark helps him to his feet, upon which he automatically slumps against mark’s side. “c’mon,” mark huffs, and drops donghyuck’s arm, now nearly dead weight, over his shoulder.
eventually, they make it to the top of the infuriatingly long staircase. rounding the corner past the banister, mark is met with the familiar sight of the round table, taeyong seated at its head. johnny, the fucker, is standing across the room by the window, pretending to be interested in the brick alleyway outside. “oh, hello, shortcake,” he simpers, a self-satisfied smirk on his stupid face. “nice of you to finally join us.”
donghyuck, as alert as he possibly can be right now, glances from taeyong to johnny, back and forth for a second, before he focuses a pitifully confused look on mark. “mark,” he starts warily, “what is this?”
johnny makes a zip-it motion at him, and in compliance, mark says nothing.
“why don’t you sit down for us—donghyuck, isn’t it?” taeyong instructs, extending a hand to the seat at the other end of the table. donghyuck nods, and mark helps him into his seat. donghyuck’s head lolls up, craning his neck to stare pleadingly at mark. he tries his best to convey how fucking apologetic he feels right now, but johnny has approached him, taking him by the arm and leading him to a faded armchair near the roaring fireplace. “sit—stay,” he commands, like one would train a dog, with a sadistic smile that almost compels mark to growl at him like one. “good boy.”
taeyong’s head rests on his entwined fingers, milky white eyes staring straight ahead. “so, donghyuck,” he begins, the slightest of upturns to his lips, “do you know who we are?”
slowly, clumsily, donghyuck shakes his head. his face, damp with sweat from dancing, has gone pallid. it appears as though if he speaks, he may be the one to blow chunks, with his lips scrunched tight and head twitching.
“allow me to enlighten you, then,” taeyong says sweetly, and this is where mark doesn’t understand the point of taeyong’s plan: if they find out one of these “suspects” is innocent, why bother revealing their entire operation. “we’re a gang, of sorts. a part of the mafia, some would say. and we’ve noticed you’ve taken quite a bit of interest in our gunsmith, here.”
“can’t say it ain’t mutual,” donghyuck rasps. he struggles to furrow his eyebrows in attempts at an intimidating scowl. “or at least, i thought it was. but listen here—i don’t know what the fuck you’re think you’re doing by bringing me in, of all people. i’m just an english major working two part-time jobs, i don’t exactly have the time to keep tabs on the fucking mafia, man.” his speech is garbled, and there’s a pang in mark’s chest. he’s clearly losing any of the fight he had left in him, as a result of the drugs, and it shows. “just—fucking let me go. i won’t breathe a word of this to anyone, swear on my grave.”
taeyong quirks a brow. “you’re swearing on your own grave? that doesn’t seem legitimate.”
there’s a bemused smile playing at the corners of taeyong’s mouth; johnny’s too. christ, they’re fucking enjoying this. they think drugging up an innocent college kid until he can’t string a coherent sentence together and making him fear for his life is fun. perhaps this shouldn’t come as such a shock to mark, but they had made such a big fucking deal out of this—only to take the piss out of it as soon as they put it into practice.
“stop fucking ragging on him, yong,” mark interrupts, before donghyuck can embarrass himself even further. his hand creeps toward the back of his jeans, where a pistol rests. test of loyalty be damned, this is fucking insane. “he’s clearly innocent.”
“yeah, what pinky said,” donghyuck slurs. johnny’s eyes light up, and mark inwardly groans; there’s another nickname he’ll come to despise now.
“take him to the basement,” taeyong orders jaehyun. mark stands up. “you—stay.”
mark opens his mouth to protest, but donghyuck, who is being helped up by the ever-so-taciturn jung jaehyun, beats him to it. “don’t i get a phonecall?” he whines.
there’s another shared moment of mirth at his expense. “this isn’t a jail, kid,” taeyong derides. “but we do got a phone down there, so why not? if one wrong word slips out of your mouth, we’ll have to kill you.”
“sounds like a plan, stan,” donghyuck mumbles, collapsing against jaehyun’s body, and like that he’s escorted out of the room, leaving mark alone with the two men he wants to beat the shit out of with his bare fists.
“looks like you go for boys with similar IQs to yours, pinky,” johnny pipes up in the silence. the devious look on his face is positively revolting. even taeyong is amused.
“he would’ve been able to talk if you hadn’t fuckin’ drugged him,” mark snarls. he paces towards the table, places both palms flat against the surface. “you force me to bring him here, preaching about being safe and impostors being among us at this very moment or whatever the fuck, and then you proceed to make a goddamn joke out of it.
“a leader has to set examples, mark,” taeyong responds calmly. “no shit that kid was harmless. but if i say i want every suspect brought in, i mean it. can’t be making exceptions.”
mark clenches his jaw, glares with full force at the man who can’t see his fury anyways. even if he could, he would still be impervious to it. “i’m loyal to my morals, too, unlike everyone else here,” he spits. “that doesn’t mean i’m a fucking traitor.”
suddenly, johnny’s hand is on his shoulder in a vicelike grip. “cool it, marky,” he says, in that placating tone that he knows only serves to rile mark up further. that’s what he wants; for mark to slip up in front of the boss, to get his ass handed to him, to even be demoted or cast out. but mark doesn’t risk his life every goddamn night for just belonging to the fucking mafia to be exiled just like that.
“let me take him the fuck home so we can all pretend this never fucking happened,” mark demands. “we’re done here.”
taeyong sits, his expression as impassive as ever whenever something actually fucking important is being discussed. “fine,” he says finally. johnny removes his hand, clearly disappointed. no one talks out of turn to taeyong like that, but seeing as this is a very rare outburst from mark, he supposes taeyong is impressed by it. “i want you to get your fucktoy and get him a cab—you know his address, and so do we. he goes anywhere else, we’ll know. make sure he knows that.”
the unspoken make sure you know that is palpable; if mark knows what’s good for him and for donghyuck, he’ll put as much distance between himself and donghyuck as possible.
“yes sir,” mark gets out, teeth grinding against teeth as he turns to leave the room.
the ceiling above donghyuck’s head is vibrating like it’s going to collapse any second, and that’s the least of his worries right now. but he focuses on that instead of the vice-like grip around his left bicep, or the feeling of his feet scraping against cold concrete as he lets himself be dragged, acting as though the ability to stand had been drained from him by the drink he’d stupidly ingested—but it had never had as much of an impact as he had made it seem. he’s no stranger to a multitude of substances; that tiny dosage of roofies is child’s play. still, he’s always had a flair for the dramatics.
it’s a soundproof room that the man throws him in, but he can still hear the deafening music, playing upstairs in the hotel’s main dance floor. no one had noticed him being led downstairs from the uppermost level of the building, down to the depths of the basement. but as far as cells go, this one is decent; not that he has anything else to compare it to, or anything.
“phone’s on the wall there,” the man grunts. he clearly believes donghyuck is as idiotic as the two men upstairs did. he stands with his back against the glass door, poker-faced, not even bothering to keep too close of an eye on him.
donghyuck would spend more time lamenting over mark’s fucking betrayal if he had the time, but for now, he has to kick things into gear. he thinks about his roommates. yangyang sleeps like the dead, and would only serve to get donghyuck in deeper shit than he already is. shotaro is too sweet; he’d bake the mafia a plate of cookies and offer it to them in exchange for keeping donghyuck alive, bless his heart. jaemin, with all due respect, is an overemotional idiot, and would probably burst into tears the second he found out donghyuck is in danger. jeno would go in, guns-a-blazin', and get them both killed. which leaves:
“renjun,” donghyuck begins when the phone picks up after an agonizing few rings, as calm as he possibly can be right now; “i found a great perfume for your date tomorrow.”
the line goes dead.
“ha—ha,” donghyuck says, turning to the tall, beefy brunet man eyeing him from the doorway with a molten glare. “wrong number. my hands are super shaky, ha… ha.
“pick up you fucking bastard,” he hisses into the receiver as he punches in the number once again.
renjun picks up before the first ring has ended. “i can’t believe this is fucking happening,” he mutters amidst the ruffling of papers, and donghyuck shares the sentiment. while renjun has the most common sense out of them all, he also hates donghyuck, which he should have taken into account, but he feels a relieved rush as renjun sighs and says, deadpan: “what scent?”
“cucumber peach,” donghyuck replies. he’s well aware of the odd look the man at the door is giving him. “it’s great for summer.”
“i prefer winter candy apple,” renjun answers. “even though it’s out of season.”
“out of season,” donghyuck says. “but they do have blossoming jasmine. i know jaemin likes floral scents.”
as if on cue, there's a murmuring in the background, probably jaemin crawling out from his jeno cocoon to see what's going on. “nothing, baby, donghyuck’s—a fucking dumbass, is all. go back to bed,” renjun says, his voice sounding far away.
“then get that,” renjun tells him. “pick up pomegranate passion while you’re there. jeno used his up.”
“okay, i’ll see you—” donghyuck starts, but renjun hangs up again, and there’s nothing he can do but twiddle his thumbs and wait.
wait for mark’s dumbass to get him out of here so he can get home fully bask in the fact that for once, he was right renjun, goddamnit.
the second jaehyun opens the door to let mark inside, donghyuck is stumbling towards him.
“mmmman,” donghyuck slurs. “what the ffffuck did you think bringing me here was going to achieve?”
“listen—we can talk about this later,” mark tells him. donghyuck is practically falling over; he groans a bit but doesn’t push mark away when he steps forward to hold him by the waist. it’s what he’s been wanting to do for weeks now, after days of standing inches away from donghyuck, separated by nothing but the elevator doors, but obviously not like this. not when he’s betrayed what little trust, if any, donghyuck may have fostered towards him. “let’s get you in a cab, c’mon.”
“fuuuuuck,” donghyuck groans. jaehyun just stands there, probably just as titillated by this bullshit as everyone else fucking is, despite his emotionless expression. “you are the wwwwooorssssst, mark lee.”
“i deserve that,” mark huffs, struggling once again to help donghyuck up the stairs. luckily, there’s a landing here at the top of the first flight that has an exit, meaning he doesn’t have to go up the second to get to the ground floor. the air outside is brisk, a cool july evening. “but i didn’t have much of a choice, you see—”
“stop right there, ionwanna here any of it,” donghyuck protests, reaching out to weakly prod at mark’s side. it would be more endearing, if not for the circumstances. “i’ve been… fuckin’... drugged, and interrogated, and held in fucking captivity, and you couldn’t have stopped any of that? i would have gone willingly pinky; i don’t always have to get high to have a good time! i respond just fine to basic death threats!”
the door leads them to the back entrance; there’s a line clear down the other side of the building. cabs line the streets, waiting for customers, and mark signals towards one of them; he has no intention of leaving donghyuck alone in there, even if that’s against taeyong’s “better” judgement. he can pick up his motorcycle later. “they would have taken you in either way, hyuck, and it would have been even worse than this.”
“i was punished for just doing my job,” donghyuck accuses, eyes wide. “did you ever even like me at all? or was i a fucking suspect from the very beginning?”
“oh god, donghyuck, no,” mark insists. he opens the cab door; donghyuck practically falls horizontally onto the whole backseat, but with some adjusting he crawls to the window. “take us to 6th avenue,” is all he tells the driver, throwing a wad of cash from his wallet toward the front before sliding the partition shut. “it’s a long story, okay—”
“then tell me,” donghyuck interrupts. “i know i’ll get killed if i rat any of you fucks out, but i think you owe that much to me.”
he’s right. “the man you spoke with,” mark starts, voice low. he keeps stealing glances at the partition that separates the two of them from the driver, worried there’s a gap in the glass somewhere. “he’s our leader, lee taeyong.”
donghyuck’s eyes widen a bit, but he says nothing. mark continues: “when i met him, i was in a bad spot. i was already running around with a few gangs, making money off of fixin’ their guns for ‘em and shit. taeyong wanted to recruit me all for himself. to do that, he promised me a life off of the streets. the penthouse you see me living in. it didn’t matter whether it was a mansion or a fucking shack; i would have settled for anything then.
“and i was also addicted to heroin,” he continues, eyes glued to his shoes. he can feel donghyuck’s eyes boring holes into the side of his face. “i had lost my job, and got evicted from my first shitty apartment, because i wasted all of my dough on the stuff. most of the injections i did were in my legs; after a while i could barely stand.”
donghyuck reaches out for him, rests a hand on his knee with a comforting squeeze. it stays there, massaging. “it was taeyong that checked me into rehab,” mark tells him. “he’s a fucking dickhead, that’s for sure—he wouldn’t let me move into my new place until i got clean. it was a month of pure fucking hell—and during that time he’d visit me and make me patch up this gun of his, his favorite pistol that had its plating made of real tiger’s eye gems. he likes to help where he can, y’know, but his biggest thing is self-sufficiency. another one is loyalty.
“the day i was allowed to leave, he was there waiting for me,” mark remembers, smiling a little at the memory. “he still had one eye left, then; the first one had been stabbed by his mother when he was a kid.” he says this as if it isn’t a big deal, because taeyong always told the story as if it were a humorous one. “with him was his right-hand man at the time, kim doyoung.”
donghyuck’s hand stills.
“we thought we could trust him, because taeyong was half in love with the bastard,” mark says, bitterly. “and from what i knew of him, he seemed like a good guy.
“but one night, he and taeyong broke out into a big fight, and he lost his temper. he took out taeyong’s other eye, and stole his pistol for good measure. disappeared into the night like a goddamn shadow, and we haven’t seen him again since. i don’t even know what his motives were for attacking taeyong like that. but it had been calculated, for god knows how long. he betrayed all of us.
“since then, taeyong has been pushing allegiance as much as he can. he has eyes everywhere, on all of us. they just recently started observing anyone and everyone we interact with in our daily lives, which is where you come in. taeyong is certain that a mole is trying to infiltrate the operation.”
“and i was just collateral damage,” donghyuck spits. it looks like he’s started to regain some strength. his lifts his hand from mark's knee and places it in his lap. “i have to live my life in fear, now, questioning every interaction i have with another human being, just in case they end up threatening to kill me.”
“i didn’t have a choice,” mark repeats, hardly able to speak. his chest feels tight, his weak epiglottis fluttering, but his stomach has never felt more empty.
"right," donghyuck says under his breath.
the rest of the ride is silent. mark picks at his nails and tries not to bite on them, an old habit that he's tried to kick too many times that it feels pointless to try anymore. donghyuck's face remains stony, the thoughts he's concealing impossible to predict. when the cab lets them out at 6th street, mark opens his door. donghyuck's head turns to him.
“let me walk you,” mark says quietly. a conflicted expression overcomes donghyuck's face for a moment, but he nods.
they walk together along the empty sidewalk, down to the corner where donghyuck's complex is. as they get closer to the building, the silhouettes of several people sitting outside comes into view.
they begin to stand as mark and donghyuck approach. mark regrets not bringing a gun along, even just for security. “be careful,” mark whispers to him.
“oh, he doesn’t have to be careful,” says one of the boys standing in front of them now. mark quickly counts 5 of them in total; none of them are holding any weapons, but they still manage to look imposing. “you might, though.”
donghyuck scoffs at the guy, but walks over to join the group. one of them hands donghyuck something, too quickly and too dark for mark to see what it is, but discreetly enough that he knows it might be dangerous.
“oh, you’re giving me the ‘if-you-hurt-my-best-friend-talk’, huh,” he chuckles awkwardly, hand coming up to scratch behind his ear.
“from what i hear, you already have,” pipes up the shortest of the bunch, who’s scowling at him.
mark forgot donghyuck had actually made a phone call. how he had conveyed that message to him without being caught by jaehyun, he had no idea. “uh, well i am incredibly sorry about that,” he starts, starting to turn to leave. “i should probably go, my bike’s still back at the—”
there’s the sound of a gun cocking, right by his ear.
“not so fast, pinky.”
mark turns back around.
“i could get a lotta use outta your intel,” donghyuck drawls, pointing taeyong’s old tiger eye pistol at mark’s head, “i’m sure doyoung would love to see you again.”