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of sunny charms and delightful dispositions

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“Woah, you're really hot—huh? Donghyuck? That's you? You really glo’d up, man!”

“Hey, Donghyuck, what eyeshadow are you using? It’s super cute! It really brings out your eyes!”

“Dude, what happened to you? You look totally different!”

“I accidentally stumbled across a faerie land and saved a fairy from being devoured by a bear and that fairy did her fairy magic on me—with sparkles and some shit—and told me that it was her gift to me for saving her life.”

“....damn, that’s crazy. Anyway, do you want to go to my place tonight, haha.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visiting his cousin Renjun always gave him a massive headache.

Sure, they have fun and everything—his cousin had a particular flair for dramatics and had a strong belief in the metaphysical realm, where aliens and mythological creatures and anything of the paranormal sort dwelled.

As a child, he’d been humiliated by their next door neighbor (to this day, Renjun swears their neighbors' kid was a demon who was out for his blood), and consequently spent the rest of his childhood in the safety of his house, immersing himself in books that dealt with worlds different from the one he was actually a part of.

Donghyuck, on the other hand, was a fairly average kid who had all of the average qualities of an average teenage boy—save for his above average tolerance for bullshit and mischief, which he uses to its maximum limit on a daily basis, terrorizing everyone around him with pranks and whatnot.

This particular summer, when his family had dropped his body like a carcass along with his luggage in the Huang household's doorstep before they went off on their much needed vacation (Mr. and Mrs. Lee often experienced urges to frolic in obscure parts of the world every few months or so, without Donghyuck. Renjun said maybe they needed to shed their human skin without Donghyuck knowing about it. Donghyuck thinks Renjun is full of shit), Renjun immediately grabbed his hand and—dragging Donghyuck's motionless body along behind him—both of them headed to the nearby forest.

“Okay, alright,” Donghyuck wheezed some time later, when he'd gotten tired of Renjun bodily dragging him and they’re somewhere in the middle of the forest and Renjun was looking around warily for some unfathomable reason and god, Donghyuck could feel a welt starting to form on his right foot because he was wearing the wrong shoes for running and fuck Renjun for having such abnormally strong upper arm strength for such a skinny guy, honestly. 

“What the fuck are we doing,” Donghyuck asked, watching his cousin fiddle with a contraption he’d brought along. Upon closer inspection, Renjun was all decked out in his “supernatural gear”, which was honestly just a very Indiana Jones-inspired outfit he’d thrifted from the local thrift shop, along with his sister’s boots.

“Looking for fairies,” Renjun answered brusquely, digging around in his pockets for something.

“Right, obviously,” Donghyuck stares at his surroundings with mild interest. Oh well. Hanging out with crazy cousin Renjun was a lot more entertaining than lounging around at home in Seoul anyway.

“My auntie said she saw a bunch of ghost lights over here last week. I looked it up, and it might have been the will-o’-wisp, which, if urban legends are to be trusted, means that faerie—that’s the land of the fairies—is nearby."

Crazy cousin Renjun not only possessed too much time on his hands, but also possessed an unparalleled talent in researching and information-gathering.

“Great,” Donghyuck looked around the woods carefully. If there was one thing he’d learned from urban legends, it was that mythological creatures were much better off staying undisturbed in their natural habitat. If Renjun managed to piss them off, that’s okay, as long as Donghyuck can haul his own ass away from danger, everything will be fine.

“Keep an eye out for ghost lights or fairy trees or the sound of bells or any kind of confounding phenomena,” Renjun instructed, eyes casting around the clearing suspiciously. “There aren’t a lot of records about fairies, but what most of them have in common is that they enjoy confusing the living hell out of travelers who stumble across their path. So, be careful and stuff, I guess.”

The only confusing thing here was Renjun's hat, which looked like a bird's nest with a single green feather attached to the side. Donghyuck sighed, shuffling behind his cousin obediently. He was tired from the long drive to the Huang house, he was irritable because of the pesky flies that kept swarming on his nape, and most importantly, he was hungry.

He looked at the surrounding trees, thinking about just reaching out and grabbing whatever berry or fruit he managed to take a liking to. There was absolutely nothing to eat here, save for his cousin and maybe the shifty-looking leaves, which were looking more and more delicious by the minute.

Donghyuck walked over to a nearby tree, examining the exotic-looking shape of the leaves. He’d never seen anything like it before.

“Hey, Renjun,” he called out absently, fingers stroking the leaf. “What kind of tree is this?”

No reply.

“Renjun?”

Donghyuck looked around the clearing. No sign of his crazy cousin anywhere.

He was all alone. In the middle of fucking nowhere.

Aw, shit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donghyuck looks at his reflection.

An obscenely good-looking stranger stares back at him, his hair—soft honey brown locks with streaks of rainbow cascading down the fringe in all its fruit candy stupor—was carelessly pushed back in a way that exuded a chic but effortless style. Doe eyes glimmer with something like stars. 

Dang, he's kind of hot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Will you stop staring,” Donghyuck irritably jabs Mark at the ribs, relishing in his best friend’s answering howl of pain.

“I can’t help it,” Mark says, rubbing his ribs tenderly. “You just look—really different.”

“Yeah, well,” Donghyuck turns back to his homework, hoping Mark wouldn’t see the bitterness spread on his (now very pretty) face. Was he really that ugly-looking before this summer? Jesus, why is everyone freaking out—he doesn’t feel any different. “Puberty’s a thing, y’know.”

There was silence for a while, as Donghyuck ponders over the merits of spacing out and waiting for Mark to finish his homework so he could con the other into doing Donghyuck's homework for him.

He's interrupted by the sound of Mark clambering over to his side of the bed.

Donghyuck watches with disinterest as Mark accidentally sits on his homework and — flailing his arms and apologizing profusely — hastens to straighten it out.

“I think you’re still you, though,” Mark confesses suddenly, shy. “You—the makeup looks—really—um, cool. It looks—pretty… p-pretty cool! Pretty cool! It looks pretty cool on you.”

He could feel his face heating up, as it always did whenever someone vaguely compliments him on literally anything ever. Donghyuck shifts his eyes away from Mark’s, who’s staring at him with something akin to wonder on his face. A look he’s beginning to get used to lately, thanks to his fairy curse.

“I’m not wearing makeup,” he grunts instead, shoving Mark’s gangly limbs away from him.

“Sure, if you say so,” Mark sounds dubious. “But whatever it is, it looks really—great.”

Donghyuck groans, flopping on the bed and staring at the ceiling. Things have been really fucking weird. Being cursed to look pretty by a fucking fairy of all things was super weird. Add his newfound and completely unwanted popularity among the girls in his school—they were all desperate to find out his makeup routine (“help a sister out, Hyuckie,” Yerim had sidled up to him out of the blue one day, “just tell me your skincare routine and no one will get hurt.”), and, honestly, it was like he was living someone else’s life. From something straight out of those crappy, sappy romantic films he secretly likes to watch sometimes.

He doesn't feel like Donghyuck anymore.

And—Mark. For some weird fucking reason, Mark would not leave him alone. Normally, Donghyuck would find it pretty amusing—after all, it was his brand to annoy the older and to constantly pester him. Now that the tables have turned—and with Mark looking at him like he's not even Donghyuck anymore, like he's someone to be worshipped and held in high regard—he doesn’t find it amusing at all.

People were constantly gawking at him wherever he went. Admittedly, it was pretty fun at first, watching their features twist in awe and then shock as they register that this was Lee Donghyuck, the annoying troublemaker who existed solely to cause mischief and nothing else.

But it got tiring pretty quickly.

He’s so tired of constantly having to put up with their stares—like damn, did they never see any drop-dead gorgeous person in their lives ever? When people like Taeyong or Jaehyun or Yuta or Winwin regularly walk around the campus looking like gods?

Is this what Beyoncé meant, he wonders idly. When she said pretty hurts?

He got away with a lot of things he never would have gotten out unscathed before his pretty fairy curse. It was interesting to see how different people treated him now that he was considered “nice-looking”, but then again—there were also those assholes who treated him like some kind of dumbo who cared about nothing but looks. They’d sneer, and talk about how makeup was only for the f—

Well. They never really got to finish their sentences, because Donghyuck’s fist was already aimed straight at their jaws, ready to deliver.

The thing was—he could live with it, he thought as he surveyed the impressive bruise already starting form on the guy’s face. Yeah, it came with its benefits and its drawbacks as well, but. He could deal with it.

The thing is—Mark.

Mark started acting differently around him. Ever since he had stumbled into his doorstep, mere minutes after he and his family got back from the Huang household. He had frozen once he took a good look at his (pretty) face. He started acting like he was some kind of fragile creature, like some kind of delicate creature only meant to be admired.

Worst of all, he started acting shy. Sometimes he even flirted. With Donghyuck

Donghyuck did not spend six fucking years viciously tearing down all of Mark’s barriers so that he could act like a semi-decent human being around him instead of the golden boy act he liked to act around everyone else, just to have it all blow up in his face now that Mark thinks he’s wearing makeup.

There's an itch in his throat.

“Grab me my facial cleanser, will you,” Donghyuck sighs, closing his eyes. Beside him, he could feel Mark moving, probably to get him the cleanser.

Moments later, he feels something solid against his palm.

“Thanks,” he mutters, getting up. Gesturing for Mark to follow him, he goes to the bathroom and starts washing his face.

With his face dripping wet, he stares pointedly at Mark, who returns the stare confusedly. Guess he has to spell it out for him.

“No makeup,” Donghyuck points at his face.

“No makeup,” Mark repeats, eyes wide. “But...huh? What does that mean?”

Donghyuck heaves a sigh again. He reaches for a towel to dry his face with. “The story about that fairy.”

“You mean—that was real? That wasn’t just you lying to Yerim?”

Donghyuck makes a noise of assent. “Remember my cousin Renjun?”

“The crazy one you always make fun of? Yeah.”

“Yeah, well. We managed to find a fairy. I saved her, and in exchange, she gave me…this.”

“That’s—" Mark pauses, struggling to find words sufficient enough to describe the exact situation they were in. “Pretty cool? I guess?”

Donghyuck snorts out a laugh. Trust Mark to make everything—even fucking fairies and crazy shit like pretty curses—seem normal. “Yeah, I guess so."

“Hey, not a lot of people are blessed with permanent makeup, y’know! That's super lucky!” Mark glances at the sunflowers perched precariously on the toilet. They looked fresh, as though they were cleanly picked out right this morning.

“Starting to decorate the bathroom?”

Donghyuck glances at the flowers. One of them, the one behind the flower Mark was currently poking, had the tiniest hint of blood in one of the petals. “I guess you could say that,” he hums, “c’mon, loser. We need to finish our homework. I still need you to do mine for me.”

A groan. “Hyuck, you’re smart. Why do you need me to do your homework?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“As thanks for saving my life, I’ll give you a little gift; a lesson, if you will.”

“Lesson?”

“Beauty and Love, two concepts that you humans fawn over. They don’t always mean the same thing, you know.”

“Of course I know that. Hey—what are you doing—what the shit—"

“....”

“....”

“....”

“... why the fuck did I just cough up a sunflower. What did you do to me?”

“I just planted a seed inside you! You will continue to cough up those flowers, until the day your love gets requited.”

“Love? Requited? Listen, you flying pipsqueak, I just saved your life—"

“And I am eternally grateful and at the same time incredibly resentful! Thank you, it was very kind of you, but to be honest, I just want to lie down and let the earth reclaim my body as I vegetate and forget all about my problems.”

“...damn, is everything alright at home?”

“...no, not really.”

A cough. “Wanna talk about it?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Hey, Donghyuck, what's got you looking so grumpy this fine beautiful morning? You wouldn't want to ruin your makeup!"

"I'm not wearing makeup. It's called not being ugly. You should try it sometime." 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What did Yukhei talk to you about?” Mark asks curiously, sliding his tray over to their table.

Donghyuck doesn’t bother swallowing his food before answering: “he asked me out.” Bits of chewed up rice flew across the table, which he then wipes with one of Mark's napkins — he always made sure to bring some wherever he went, because he's constantly around Donghyuck and constantly being around Donghyuck meant you're constantly exposed to unhygienic, disgusting, swamp monster-like behavior.

At Mark’s incredulous “whaaat”, he just rolls his eyes and reaches for his carton of milk. Gulping down the entire thing, he lets out a satisfied burp and leans back in his seat, rubbing his stomach.

“What’s Mark so excited about this time?” Jaemin joins their table with a heaping pile of food on his tray. Typical. He’s followed by Jeno, who has a significantly bigger amount of food on his tray.

“Yukhei asked Donghyuck out!”

“Okay, and? What about it?”

Mark waves his arms around, looking at each of them with a distraught look on his face. “Why are none of you surprised? Yukhei asked Donghyuck out!”

“He’s been asking Donghyuck out every single day for the past two weeks,” Jeno informs him, digging into his food with fervor. “Why are you so surprised, though?”

“Yeah, he’s been really extra about it. Yukhei, that is. He’s been leaving little love notes everywhere, he even leaves chocolates in Hyuck’s table every morning! I should know, I've been eating the chocolates everyday.”

“But—but,” Mark sputters.

“Sit your ass down,” Donghyuck hisses. Heads were turning to look at their table, what with Mark waving his arms around like an absolute moron.

“Nobody told me about it,” Mark mumbles, his eyes doing that sad puppy look thing it does whenever he overthinks something that upsets him.

“Mark,” Jaemin says patiently, using the tone he usually reserves for whenever he's dealing with especially difficult toddlers in his volunteer work at the local orphanage. “Yukhei has been very obvious about it. We all thought you knew.”

“Yukhei’s my teammate,” Mark says, drooping sadly. “We’re friends. He never said anything about—about courting Hyuck…”

Courting? What are you, a Victorian man in the middle of dying from the Black Plague?”

Jeno leans over the table, completely ignoring the squabble that starts between Mark and Jaemin. “What did you say to Yukhei, Hyuck?”

Donghyuck busies himself with cleaning his tray, steadfastly ignoring the way Mark’s head whips up to look at him, awaiting his reply. “I said yes,” he says eventually.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Renjun. What’s up? Isn’t it like two in the morning there?”

“The human concept of sleep exists only to weaken the already weak. Anyway, I think I caught the fairy you were talking about. She was trying to stick herself in a poisonous spider’s web. I think she might be dealing with some...issues..."

“Yeah, she did mention that she was going through it.”

“I gave her some of my mom’s self-help books and a little pep-talk and a bit of my hot chocolate. And earlier today, she came up to me while I was fishing and told me one of the books I gave her changed her life for the better. She’s really into yoga now.”

“That’s...nice. Good for her.”

“Yeah. I asked her to lift the curse she placed on you—"

“And? Did she agree?”

“...sorry, I forgot to ask…”

“What do you mean you forgot to ask, you literally just said—"

“When she started explaining how her powers worked, I got super curious and ended up asking a bunch of questions, heh. Did you know that fairies and goblins and gnomes used to be one and the same but then something happened and then they all just kind of branched off into—"

“I’m hanging up, bye.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Do you like Yukhei?” Mark rounds on him one day. He was still wearing his basketball jersey, sweat running down his face, as though he'd sprinted all the way to the restroom from the basketball court just to pester Donghyuck and make Donghyuck's life more difficult than it really is. His brows were furrowed in worry as he anxiously stares at him, waiting for his response.

“Mark,” Donghyuck groans exasperatedly. Now is so not the time. He was in the school’s restroom, on his way to casually hack up the flowers that were crowding around his lungs. Hashtag just Donghyuck things.

“Do you?” Mark insists, eyes worriedly searching his.

“Go away,” Donghyuck grouches, gritting his teeth, willing his throat to close up, to stop the flowers from clawing their way upwards.

“Donghyuck,” Mark begins seriously, moving towards him. Anxiety was radiating off of him in waves. Any other time, Donghyuck would have rolled his eyes and tried his best to get him to stop whatever it was he was thinking, but now is just. Not. The. Time.

“I...I think I—"

The hope that threatens to bloom in Donghyuck’s chest gets aggressively shoved back into the dark enclosed space it belongs to, as the flowers rise up violently, making his entire form convulse as he drops to his knees, coughing sunflower after sunflower, deathly little yellow marauders that have made his lungs their bitch. 

“Hyuck? Oh my god, what’s happening—Hyuckie, Hyuck—”

“I’m fine,” Donghyuck rasps, grabbing Mark’s hand roughly to get him to stop freaking out. “Stop panicking.”

“You—you—flowers—they just came out of you—oh my god—"

“I’ll explain in a moment,” Donghyuck lets go of Mark’s hand, messily gathers the flowers that have fallen to his feet, and in one fluid motion, throws all of them into the trash bin. A nice euphemism for his feelings, he thinks.

For a second, he just stands there, staring at the bright yellow petals decorating the bottom of the trash bin, along with discarded toilet papers that have been in places he does not want to think about. And, mysteriously enough, a deck of UNO cards.

That’s where it should belong. In the trash. With the UNO cards.

“Hyuck?”

Inhaling, he turns around to face him. The whole reason he was dying from the inside. The idiot who doesn’t return his feelings. Mark Lee.

“It’s part of the curse from that fairy,” Donghyuck explains, ignoring the petals that are beginning to bloom again at the back of his throat, the longer he looks at Mark’s face.

He looks away, clearing his throat.

“The fairy planted a—seed. In my lungs,” he tries to clarify, amidst the accursed flowers threatening to hack their way outside his body again. Mark tries to grab his hands—probably to comfort him or something—but he wrenches them away discreetly, shoving them in his pockets. “And—it told me that the plant will continue to grow, for as long as my—unrequited love—stays unrequited.”

“You...love someone?” Marks says faintly. “And...they don’t love you back?”

Donghyuck, chancing a glance at him—balks at the look on his face. Mark looked devastated, as though his entire world had come crumbling down.

“Hey,” Donghyuck murmurs, frowning questioningly at the hurt look on Mark’s face. “It’s alright, I’m still here, aren’t I? I’m still breathing.”

“I saw blood in some of the flowers,” Mark whispers, voice breaking, gaze fixed on the trash bin.

Donghyuck shrugs his shoulders, even tries to laugh it off. “The fairy did say it would continue to grow. It’ll only stop once—once it gets requited. Guess you could say I'm nature's response to climate change, with all the flowers in me,” he jokes weakly.

There’s another way though. Maybe if he stops loving Mark, it will go away.

“Who—" Mark stops himself, swallowing with difficulty. Shaking his head, he ruefully transfers his gaze to the floor. “I don’t get it. Who wouldn’t love you…”

He sounds so...defeated.

Donghyuck thinks, it’s you, Mark. You’re the one who doesn’t.

But he doesn’t let the thoughts get past his brain-to-mouth filter, because there’s way too much activity already going on in his throat. All of the stupid thoughts can wait.

Instead, he huffs out a laugh. Clapping Mark on the shoulder, an action that grants him another flowery uprising from inside him, he says, “I’m fine. C’mon, your team’s probably waiting for you. Are you stupid, what are you doing, just walking out of practice like that? Let’s go. I’ll wait for you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first time he’s genuinely scared for his life is when he wakes up in the middle of the night, struggling to breathe, dozens of petals coming out of him, one after another in a seemingly endless series of coughs that wrack up his entire frame.

He’s surrounded by sunflowers. Bright and yellow, stark against the deadness and the stillness of the night. The only color that exists during the time of the day where everything is supposed to be asleep, save for the starry moonlight and the spirits that walk undisturbed.

It’s the middle of winter, and the sun isn’t even out, it hasn’t been out for a long time.

Sunflowers have no business blooming in a realm that doesn't have the sun it so desperately looks for.

His mother starts preparing honey for him every night, even putting antitussive medicine in his school bag every day.

He starts taking the medicine. It helps somewhat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I’m sorry,” he mouths against Yukhei’s throat.

They were on their third date. It was movie night at Yukhei’s place. Yukhei’s mother had cooked dinner while Donghyuck helped, and Yukhei “helped” by cutting the onions and declaring himself the one who cooked the entire thing.

They were watching The Notebook, Donghyuck’s favorite.

Somewhere in the middle, Yukhei had started cuddling against his side, eyes huge and dopey as he smiles up at him.

“I really like you,” Yukhei confesses, when the movie had finished. “You’re...so pretty, and funny, and smart, and you make my heart pound really fast sometimes like—boom, boom, boom, you know? Sometimes I think I’ll just die of a heart attack when I’m around you. Like, we’ll just be doing something, and then I’ll just drop dead. Like—like a fly.”

Donghyuck snorts at the image of Yukhei being a fly, loudly buzzing around and flying all over the place. “Please don’t.”

Yukhei kisses him, sweetly, tenderly, as though he was savoring the moment. His hands, big and rough and calloused, cups Donghyuck’s cheeks.

“I think I’m falling for you,” is what Yukhei says when they separate.

Donghyuck keeps his eyes closed. “Please don’t.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donghyuck looks in the mirror and sees a face that always seemed to have a wicked smile on its face.

He doesn't look in the mirror very often these days.

Sometimes it feels like he's looking at a complete stranger. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“You broke up with Yukhei?” Mark demands, as soon as Donghyuck comes out of his house and walks over to his house, just across the street, where they will then walk together to school. It had been their daily routine for almost six years.

Donghyuck steadily keeps his gaze ahead of him. “Yeah.”

“Did he hurt you? Did he do something you didn’t like?” Mark’s going on a roll now. “I’ll talk to him! I will!”

“It was a mutual decision," Donghyuck tiredly interjects.

Mark falters. “What—I thought—I thought you like him? What about your—your—?”

Disease, they both think, but refrain from saying out loud.

“I’m dealing with it,” Donghyuck answers shortly.

“Donghyuck.”

Mark stops abruptly in his tracks, making Donghyuck pause and look back at him.

“Donghyuck,” Mark says again, seriously, “I think...no, I’m sure. I’m in lo—"

Donghyuck freezes. Everything inside him shuts down, and for one blessed moment, even the flowers inside his system stops. For a moment, for a single moment, everything stops entirely. The leaves stop fluttering, the wind stops howling, everything, even time itself, stops.

Then—he thinks.

Mark knows.

Somehow, somehow, Mark found out. He found out about Donghyuck's feelings. And, being Mark, stupid, kind, selfless Mark, he chose to pretend, for Donghyuck’s sake, that his feelings are real and that they’re requited.

Donghyuck’s dying, every day when the flies swarm around, more incessant than usual, as though they can sense the decaying smell starting to waft from him, he gets reminded that there’s nothing he can do about it. The sunflowers have never looked more mocking like right now, like they're smiling at his misery—with something like schadenfreude and something like yellow molten cheese. 

And Mark...he knew. He figured it out.

“Stop,” he bites out, harsh against the cold winter air.

Mark stops, the words stuck in his own throat, just like the flowers that have been in Donghyuck’s for the longest time.

“Don’t, Mark,” he says, turning away. “Don’t do this to yourself.”

He doesn’t see the heartbreak in Mark’s face.

Donghyuck looks up at the skies. The sun hasn’t been out for such a long time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The guy in the mirror looks at him with something like pity on his face. He lifts a sunflower, and extends it towards him, like an offering, like a celebratory toast.

Donghyuck looks back quizzically, raising his own sunflower.

The guy nods, then presses the sunflower against his chest, waiting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donghyuck hasn't talked to Mark in a long time.

He's completely forgotten how the concept of time works. Sometimes he frowns up at the mechanical ticking of the clock, wondering how could it ever run so steadily like that when time itself stopped working a long time ago. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Hey, Donghyuck? It's Renjun. I'm trying to befriend the fairy who cursed you. She wants to apologize to you. She's—ow, stop hitting me—she's saying that what you think is love is probably not the love you're thinking of, whatever that means. Anyway, hope you're okay! Call me back once you get this!"

Beep. Voicemail saved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking back on it, he's always had trouble differentiating colors. Everything was in a constant state of dullness for him, even back then, before his hair was shiny, before his eyes started glittering, before his skin started glowing.

Now, though, the brightness of the sunflower petals are the only things vibrant enough to stand out to him.

It's kind of funny, if you think about it. It's like Death is dressed in an obnoxiously yellow sunflower getup, and it's waiting for him to take its hand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jaemin starts bringing him treats. He slides them in Donghyuck’s palm whenever he hugs him tight, like a mother sending their child off for the first day in kindergarten.

“I love you, Hyuck,” he says everyday, firmly, tapping his index finger against Donghyuck’s head, as though he was trying to drill that into his head. “I love you. I appreciate you. You’re one of my dearest friends. And I love you.”

Donghyuck opens his palm. Gummy bears today.

“Are you trying to psychologically condition me, Pavlovian style,” is Donghyuck’s weak joke, “one day, I’m gonna start associating you with candy and I’ll start drooling when I see your face.”

Jaemin laughs, cuffing him affectionately. "I would like to see it."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes he sees Mark in the hallways, and it's awkward.

Both of them don't really know how to act without the other, and it's strange

Donghyuck keeps spilling things on himself, and keeps reaching out for napkins that are no longer there. His school bag smells like a disgusting assortment of food and caffeinated beverages and spilled ink. Everyday, his mom lets out a terrifying screech at the state of his shirt. 

"How did I give birth to something so peculiar and so uncouth," she questions, but gives him an affectionate kiss on the forehead anyway. It was her way of letting him know that she acknowledges the demon that is Lee Donghyuck, and she still loves him despite all of that.

Mark looks lost. And constipated, but mostly lost. 

Donghyuck sneakily asks updates from Doyoung as to how Mark's been doing. Each time, Doyoung looks at him loftily, saying, "wouldn't you like to know," but dutifully gives his weekly updates anyway. He even starts typing in a comprehensive report to give to Donghyuck at the end of each week.

"I accept payment by cash only," is what Doyoung always primly states, but Donghyuck refuses, arguing that doing so would mean that he is funding the evil mechanisms behind capitalism, which Doyoung then throws back with saying that he knows what to do with his skillset and how to survive in a cold, harsh world with nothing but his wits and survival instincts, just like how their ancestors did. It's survival of the fittest, Doyoung claims, waving an incensed finger at him.

Donghyuck never pays, but he does give Doyoung solid hugs as thanks.

Mark is looking for his Donghyuck, is always the last sentence in every report.

Mark keeps carrying around multiplying packets of napkins everywhere he goes, is also a recurring sentence in every report. People think he's having intense stomach problems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donghyuck starts attending the dance club's weekly meetings. He's been ditching their meetings for almost two months now, and—he doesn't really know why he decides to go today, he just kind of ambled there on auto-pilot.

Ten turns to look at him with a blinding grin, and as he gathers Donghyuck in his arms, so does the rest of the club, even the painfully awkward Jisung, who usually just likes to watch things from afar.  

"We really missed you, Donghyuck," Taeyong tells him later, when Ten pulls back and discreetly wipes his eyes with Seulgi's towel.

Donghyuck swallows back the sad gurgle he always makes whenever he's five seconds away from crying. There's an itch at the back of his throat, and, for the first time in a long while, it isn't the soft yellow petals trying to bloom inside him. "Thanks, hyung," he says softly. "I missed you all too."

Later, when Jihoon and Woojin approach him with their usual pleads to get him to join their dance competition group as wiggling pink sausages, Jihoon whispers to him conspiratorially, "Mark just asked me to insult him today. Told me to call him stupidhead."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the second week of Jaemin hugging him and sneaking random candies into his hand, Donghyuck, embarrassingly, bursts into tears. Right there, in the middle of the hallway, surrounded by timid-looking first years and their guidance counselor.

“I love you too,” Donghyuck blubbers into Jaemin’s bony shoulders, “and I’m sorry. Sorry for being such an asshole these days. Thank you, thank you, Nana.”

And to the first years, who’ve started whispering amongst themselves, Donghyuck levels his fiercest glare, amplified a thousand-fold by his ever-present glittery eyeshadow most people in their campus would die for. “We’re having a moment, what about it?”

The first years all simultaneously clamp their mouths shut, though one particularly bubbly-looking one with bright green hair, shoots him a bright grin and cheers: “we love you too!”

Donghyuck drops his glare and immediately blubbers some more into Jaemin’s shoulder.

The school's guidance counselor hands him a pamphlet on mental illnesses and how they can always talk about their problems in a healthy manner. Donghyuck reads the pamphlet carefully, and takes several notes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Jeno lets him win against him in video games.

Also, he keeps treating Donghyuck like one of his cats.

“Here,” he cooes, shoving handfuls of chocolates in Donghyuck’s mouth.

“I wub you,” Donghyuck says through a truly disgusting mouthful of chocolates.

He doesn’t cry this time, but it’s a close thing. Jeno pets his hair softly, reassuringly.

(He does purr a little, though.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donghyuck spends most of his time dancing. When he gets tired, he switches to singing.

One of his dance club members, Jisung, shyly accompanies him during most of his random energetic spurts of girl group choreographies.

“I really like your singing,” Jisung mumbles quietly, when they’re both out of breath and just lying down on the wooden floors, exhausted but happy, after Donghyuck sings himself hoarse to a summer track he remembers listening to a lot several summers ago, back when he was pining and scrolling through his music albums for silly little love songs. It was a song he'd forced Mark to learn the guitar chords to, while he sang the vocals, accompanied by Mark's careful strumming.

It was a silly little love song about an exchange of goodbyes in the summer, of untold secrets, and of feelings kept on a treasure chest, with the key being thrown out of reach.

“I really like your dancing,” Donghyuck says, delighting in the way Jisung, predictably, turns red. “You’re gonna go places, kid.”

Jisung looks at him with his mouth open, stars in his eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Renjun. What’s up?”

“Donghyuck, they took me to their faerie land! I’m an honored guest! The last human who stepped foot in their land was never seen again, but I think I can make it back. I have to earn their trust, and I’m confident I can do that.”

“Renjun, for the love of god, please take care of yourself.”

“I will! Oh, catch you later, they’re inviting me out for tea time and some dancing. They’re really impressed with my dance style! Thank god my parents forced me to those ballet lessons when I was a kid. See ya, Donghyuck.”

“Bye, Injunnie.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sun starts shining again.

Strangely enough, the sunflowers in him starts withering. The coughs get rarer and rarer, and he wonders at it.

Love and Beauty, huh.

Idly, he runs his hand through his hair, light brown with candy-coated rainbow streaks—courtesy of that fairy. Sometimes he thinks it's starting to fade, just a little bit. Because his roots are starting to show, and there are blemishes that are appearing on his face every now and then. But—

His reflection still looks the same. But lately, it’s starting to look like less of an enemy, and more like a dear friend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He starts with Yukhei.

“I used to have a crush on you when I was in first year,” Donghyuck tells him first thing in the morning while he's casually dripping paint all over the student council room when Yukhei stumbles inside. It's been a while since he'd wrecked havoc to the school grounds, he wouldn't like the school administration to think it was starting to get peaceful around here.

Donghyuck would like to kindly remind them that he's still here, as a student with rights to the obnoxiously high amount of money they're forced to pay for miscellaneous tuition fees.

Yukhei blinks at him. “Is this a dream?” he wonders, then, “what the fuck—I had a crush on you too! You were such a cute first year, and you played such elaborate pranks around the school, it was hard to not have a crush on you, honestly.”

Donghyuck blushes fiercely, but plows through anyway: “you were this bright, confident student council member and you always had to dish out my punishment but you never really did your job properly. Plus, you’re seriously hot. I think I deluded myself into thinking we were flirting back then."

Yukhei laughs. He had different types of laughs. Donghyuck’s favorite is when he throws his entire body into the laugh, eyes crinkling at the corners, while his mouth forms a happy grin. Blinding. "I liked to think I was this super suave senior, but Mark always told me I looked creepy, always staring at you."

“And,” Donghyuck continues quietly, “you always take care of everyone around you. You always make sure everyone’s happy and everyone’s feeling safe and right where they belong. It’s one of my favorite things about you. Thank you, Yukhei.”

Yukhei sniffs, suspiciously misty-eyed. He launches himself at Donghyuck, engulfing him in a truly bone-crushing hug. “Thanks, Hyuck. I don’t regret falling for you. I hope he makes you happy.”

“He?”

“Oops," Yukhei makes a sheepish noise, “there’s a reason why I never asked you out before this year, you know. He always makes such a fuss about you.”

“Ah. By the way, wanna go to a cafe? The paint fumes are gonna be really strong for the rest of the day."

"Cool, I'm down. I like the rainbow theme you picked, by the way! Love wins! Gay rights!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Mom,” Donghyuck says softly, while they’re in the middle of cooking dinner. “You know I appreciate you, right? You...work so hard all the time, you hardly ever get some rest, yet you never complain.”

“Okay, you little devil, what do you want from me? Money?”

“Urgh, nothing! I just wanted to say I love and appreciate everything you do!”

“I’m just kidding, sweetheart,” his mother laughs, ruffling his hair, “you inherited my awful emotional coping habits. We never really deal well with confrontations, do we, honey bear?”

Donghyuck laughs, shaking his head. “I guess we don’t.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

to: mark the hated

can u meet me by the swings?
11:27pm

i have something to talk to you abt
11:30pm

i understand if u don’t want to, but
it’s something that’s rlly important to me
11:31pm

also, i still have ur fav hoodie and
if u don’t come, i WILL burn it

right in front of your eyes
11:33pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12:13, his phone informs him.

Donghyuck pockets it, hugging himself tighter. He never really dealt well with the cold, always preferring the warm sunny weather over the frosty bite of the chill.

It has been a long year of confusing and outright outrageous events.

After all, starting the year with a depressed fairy cursing him into near death was a pretty weird way to start.

It had taken him a while to figure it out. Love and beauty, the fairy had said, are not the same. It was pretty obvious, Donghyuck had thought back then. Of course they weren’t the same. When he’d come back to Seoul, all glamored up, he’d still thought he looked like someone else. He’d ended up hating himself more and more each day.

Everyday, as he stared into his reflection, he hacked more and more flowers. Hated himself just a little more each day.

With Mark, he’d thought maybe, just maybe—he had more of a chance. Before, he'd given up all ideas of confessing, because being best friends with someone who's so obviously out of reach, who always stands at the front, walking along to a different beat, told him to just give up. 

Mark was golden, Donghyuck always thought so. He had the charmingly boyish face that earned him lots of admirers from all kinds of people, he worked hard in everything he put his mind to, he was polite, he was kind, sometimes he can be funny, and most importantly, he inspired Donghyuck to work hard and become someone who could be worthy of golden boy Mark Lee one day.

So, when he became fairy pretty (haha, very pretty), the first thing Donghyuck had thought was: damn, he's super hot. The second thing that came to mind was: damn, maybe I can court Mark now. 

Love and beauty didn't always mean the same thing. At the risk of sounding like a cheesy old drunken poet, beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. Sure, the fairy did curse him with pretty privilege, which he had taken to mean that he was now, objectively speaking, super hot. 

But somewhere in the middle of him rejecting his own appearance and dissociating so hard he forgot to act like a normal human being bound to earthly constraints, the glamor wore off, until it was just Lee Donghyuck, and the sunflowers that were whispering to him during the night: love yourself, accept yourselfWhy are you me, I'm me, I'm you, so wake up and love yourself before I kill you, stupid.

“Donghyuck.”

He startles, looking around for the source of the voice.

Mark tentatively approaches. He looked...good. He always did. Golden boy Mark, who obediently did everything he was told to do, ever the dutiful child. It wasn’t until he met Donghyuck, who had irritated him to the point of oblivion until he finally snapped.

(“You’re a meanie,” twelve-year old Mark had rebuked at then eleven-year old Donghyuck, who looked at him in shock.

“Woah, you can actually get angry,” Donghyuck looked at him in awe, then decided, right then and there, that they were going to be best friends.)

Despite his golden boy status, Donghyuck doesn’t really think sunflowers suited Mark. He was more like...starflowers.

Okay, to be honest, Donghyuck knew shit about flowers, and he’s sure there must be some hidden symbolic meaning behind every flower, but truthfully, Mark was kind of like a star.

Mark was always so steadfast in his stance, just like how the stars always appeared in the skies, day and night. It was one of the things that Donghyuck had liked so much about him; no matter how much he’d pushed and pulled, Mark would always hold firm in the boundary in their relationship, always ensuring that nothing would change.

But one day, just because he’d started looking different, Mark suddenly changed. Or, at least, Donghyuck thought he did. 

“Mark,” Donghyuck’s voice wavers, trembling a little.

“Are you cold?” Mark immediately zeroes in on his jacket, “oh no, I’m sorry, I—I didn’t mean to make you wait—well. Okay, maybe I did, because I’m...still mad. And sad. Smad. At you. But, really, Hyuck, you should know better. You hate the cold—"

“Mark, I’m in love with you,” Donghyuck says.

Mark trips over himself, falling headfirst into the snow. “W—what—"

“I’m in love with you,” Donghyuck repeats. He’ll repeat it for as how many times it’ll take to get it through Mark’s thick, dense skull and into his head. “I, Lee Donghyuck, am in love with Mark, an idiot, Lee.”

“I—I—um,” Mark stutters, then, his dark eyes growing big and hopeful.

Damn. He might have broken Mark.

“I,” Donghyuck points at himself, enunciating each syllable clearly, “am. In. Love. With. You.”

“I thought—with Yukhei...”

“What part of me being in love with you do you not get,” Donghyuck grunts impatiently, heaving himself off the swings and marching up to Mark, who nervously stumbles back at his advance. “I’ve been in love with you for a stupidly long amount of time, stupid. That thing with Yukhei was me trying to get over you.”

“But...you said—the flowers will be there for as long as your love stays unrequited andI’ve always been in love with you, so I thought…there's no way that it was me... I...don’t get it…”

“Yeah, I thought that it was you too. That’s why, when you tried to confess to me that day, I thought that was you trying to pretend for my sake.”

Mark bites his lip. “That...was me being selfish. I thought, by confessing to you, I might be able to...distract you from Yukhei. I thought, maybe, if you just gave me a chance...I might have been able to...make you fall for me.”

Donghyuck huffs out a laugh, slowly bringing his arms up to the sides of Mark’s face, gently turning his face so that his eyes have nothing else to look at except him. Mark’s eyes meet his, and—how could Donghyuck have been so blind. Mark had always been so painfully easy to read, his body language told everyone what he was thinking at any given moment.

His eyes held all of the love and adoration in the world. This has always been how he looked at Donghyuck, before the glamor, before the fairy curse, before the sunflowery disaster.  

“Kiss me, stupidhead,” Donghyuck whispers, his lips ghosting along Mark’s.

"Are you sure?" Mark breathes uncertainly, years of restraint and Donghyuck unknowingly stomping on his heartstrings showing itself on his face as he nervously stares at Donghyuck, like he's stuck in a dream he doesn't ever want to wake up from. "But—who was it? Whose flowers were you coughing up?"

Donghyuck laughs, and laughs, and laughs. Oh boy, he's gone and fallen for the most obtuse, dense boy in the whole wide world. Damn, he's really in deep. He can't believe he used to think Mark was a heavenly celestial golden glory of a perfect being sent to torture him into years of unrequited pining. 

Don't get him wrong, Mark's still pretty much perfect, except. He's kind of an idiot. 

That's okay, because Donghyuck's kind of an idiot for him too.

"I'm sure," he says, smiling at Mark, letting all of his feelings show on his face. For as easy he finds it to read Mark, it's as easy for the other to read him. This time, he hides nothing. "Now, kiss me, you moron—or I swear, I'm telling your mom about how she really got all of those viruses on her laptop—"

Mark does, partly to shut him up, mostly because he really wants to. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Hey, Renjun.”

“Hey, Donghyuck, hey. You will never guess what just happened. So the fairies accepted me as one of their own! They sprinkled me with fairy dust, and guess what — I’m an elf now! I met Peter Pan the other day, and woah, he looks just like me. It’s crazy!”