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Eyes locked, hands locked, strings locked

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The time was 12 am when the red string appeared. A sudden burst of red, almost like flour, blinding Mark's view and completely changing the colour of his blue room. The powdery red flowed around the closed area, brushing against the walls, the wardrobe, the lamp before it finally reached Mark's hand. He watched as the distorted shape finally began to lace around itself, a buzzing noise coming from its transformation, and Mark had to resist the temptation to block out the sound with his hands. 

 

A tickle on his pinky finger snapped Mark out of his trance, and his jaw dropped as the smooth blood coloured string tied a loop around his finger. A tug was felt, and the process was finished, the glowing abruptly ended, and the string fell to the ground, the only thing holding it up was the tie around Mark's finger.

 

"Finally," Mark whispered, bringing his hand close to his face to examine the texture of the thread. He had been waiting far too long for this to appear, ever since he was a little kid and he found out about his parents and their red string. He rushed to the nearest library, picking up every single book that was based around soulmates - which were quite a lot, considering he lived in a world where it existed - and he read every one of them, cooing at the end when the main characters would happily get together. The small kiss the two shared, or the cheesy love confessions melting Mark's heart, and he couldn't wait till he got his own soulmate.

 

Mark's older brother, Johnny, had already gotten his soulmate since he was a good 4 years older than him. Johnny and Mark had created a pillow fort in the living room, put on a movie both of them weren't actually interested in, and they kept sneaking glances at the time, excitedly waiting for the big hand on the clock to meet 12. As soon as the first second of the new day ticked by, the flashing light erupted in the room, and only Johnny gasped with shock and surprise, as Mark couldn't exactly see the process. The small wire-like object curved over to Johnny's finger, dancing around it before looping into a knot. 

 

A few days later, while Johnny was on the road, wondering who his soulmate was, the thread connected to his finger suddenly got shorter, and he came to face another male, a little smaller than him, staring up at him with confusion. Johnny trailed his eyes down the guys face, stopping at his finger, the one with a red ring which was connected to his own, and he froze on the spot.

 

Mark doesn't exactly know what happened next, because he wasn't entirely on that level with his brother to know about his love life, but after a year of pining, Johnny finally asked out the shorter male, Ten as he liked to be called, and they became the first couple in Mark's friends group. 

 

"You got it?" Johnny asked, knocking on the door, choosing not to enter randomly, a lesson he learnt after he walked in on Mark jumping up and down whilst he listened to some cutesy girl group song (it wasn't much of a shock, since Mark had been previously caught sneaking albums into his bedroom, but Johnny was still a little taken back).

 

"Yeah." Mark breathed out, tearing his eyes away from his own hand and looking at Johnny with wide eyes, filled with exhilaration. The sight of his younger brother elicited a chuckle from Johnny, and he nodded slowly, before taking refuge under the bunch of blankets Mark was huddled into. Although it was almost 30°C outside, thanks to the humid summers they had, Mark felt like he was freezing from head to toe, the new feeling of the string wrapped around his finger making his blood run cold, which was weird because he was so happy to see it. It meant he had a soulmate. Someone he would fall in love with, and someone who would eventually fall for him. 

 

Mark wondered if his soulmate had already gotten their string, perhaps they were older than him, which he didn't exactly mind but he preferred someone younger so that he would be able to surprise them once they got theirs.

 

"I bet it's Donghyuck." Johnny snickered, waving his hand around Mark's, and the younger watched as the string passed through the hand, unbothered by the sudden action.

 

"What do you mean by Donghyuck? He's just my friend." Mark said, earning a scoff and a roll of eyes. Johnny pushed Mark with light force, but then held onto his arm, the expression on his face quickly changing from an amused one to a more stern one. His eyebrows pulled towards the other, and his mouth tugged down into a frown.

 

"Just your friend? Are you serious?" Johnny asked him, genuinely concerned that his younger brother was so oblivious to the way the two acted in the presence of each other. "You guys are stuck by the hip, you guys call each other by pet names, and you guys always make sure you both end up in the same team for everything."

 

"That doesn't mean we're soulmates, or that we like each other." Mark countered, shuffling around in the blankets, accidentally kicking Johnny in the stomach (to which he apologised for doing, yet still got a hit on the head), before settling down of his pillow. "Anyways, I'm sleepy, night hyung."

 

"Running from the question I see." Johnny teased, pinching Marks side, and muffled giggles echoed in the room. Even though they were 16 and 20 years old, they still shared their beds, comfortable with each other (and Johnny once said, "it's because he's just too adorable", and he got a push to the ground from Mark, but they both knew it was because they cared for the other deeply).

 

"I'm not," Mark whined, pulling the blanket to cover his face, not caring that after a while he'd probably start to suffocate by the heat and lack of oxygen, at that moment, he had to hide his blush and embarrassment. "We'll talk more in the morning."

 

They won't because Johnny would go back to his university campus, and they both know that. But Johnny allowed Mark to snuggle into his side, throwing a leg over him and sighed out of relief. The warm feeling of home helping the two drift off to sleep.



-

 

Mark and Donghyuck met when they were four. Both of them were chubby babies, throwing food at each other and stomping whenever the other didn't listen to them.

 

The two, obviously, didn't know what happened during that time - or to be honest, anything until they were twelve and able to understand what was going on - so whatever they learnt about that time was from the stories their parents told them or the pictures they had taken.

 

One of the pictures were of Donghyuck holding Mark's (who was crying his eyes out) cheeks, looking with a smug expression at the camera. After seeing that picture Mark questioned his parents why he was crying and practically getting squished by Donghyuck, and all they answered with was, 

 

"He had called you soulmate and you didn't like it."

 

-

 

"So who is it?" Was the first question Jaemin asked, grabbing onto Mark's arm and dragging him straight for their lockers, which were conveniently right next to each other (it wasn't a coincidence but actually the result of bribing the teacher they personally knew who managed the numbers). "Is it Donghyuck?"

 

"Why does everyone think it's Donghyuck?" Mark groaned, tapping in the number to his locker and then pulling it open, ignoring the way Jaemin eyed the picture he had taped on the door - and to be honest, Jaemin always pointed them out, talking about how cute Mark and Donghyuck looked, holding each other’s cheeks and making a dumb face at the camera.

 

"Who is everyone?" Jaemin cocked his eyebrows, leaning against his locker and crossing his arms. 

 

"You," Mark held a finger to Jaemin's chest, before making a gesture, "And Johnny hyung."

 

"If Johnny hyung said it, then it must be true." Jaemin nodded, closing his eyes and acting as if he had just heard words from a wise person. 

 

It was weird. Jaemin was somehow as close to Johnny as Mark was with him. And that might've been because they had grown up together, Jaemin staying over at their house the majority of the time, since his parents were out of the country, or attending an important meeting. It never affected Jaemin, in fact, he was proud of his parents, proud that they worked so hard for him, proud that they made sure nothing bad ever happened, and proud because of how they always showed their love for Jaemin in over a million ways.

 

Mark never understood how they did it, regarding the lack of time the family had with each other but figured it was something they were used to.

 

"What must be true?" Donghyuck interrupted, poking his head in between Mark and Jaemin, casually throwing an arm around the oldest and flashing a smile. The wiggling eyebrows he received from Jaemin weren't exactly helpful since Donghyuck then turned to Mark with a confused expression. "Come on Mark hyung, what must be true?"

 

"The fact that…" Mark paused, his eyes travelled down Donghyuck's face and to his shoulder, down along his arm, around the elbow, before landing at his hand. The glowing red ring shining from underneath his gloves caused Mark to feel the air in his lungs knock out in the span of a second. The sound of the students around them tuned out, and Mark could no longer pay attention to anything. He froze in his spot, and Donghyuck couldn't help but panic at the sudden change of mood. 

 

"What happened?" Donghyuck pulled his arm back, worried that perhaps he was the reason Mark suddenly become so cold, enveloping Mark's hand and holding it in his. But the warmth only made Mark more conscious of what had just happened. The string connected to Mark's pinky got smaller and smaller as Donghyuck shortened the distance between them. A sense of relief washed over Mark, and he was half thankful that it was his best friend was his soulmate, but a wave of worry and fear overcame happiness. His best friend was his soulmate. His best friend who was not into guys, his best friend who didn't even believe in love, his best friend who didn't agree with the red string of fate, calling it fake and unnecessarily binding him to someone he didn't want to be with. 

 

They had argued about it once, and that was a horrible fight. Insults were thrown to each other, constant mocking and the worst thing was that their points were all valid. Mark believed that the strings of fate give people hope and make them happy to know that they have someone out there for them, yet Donghyuck believed that the strings of fate were stupid and a curse instead of a gift. If someone were to fall in love with someone other than their soulmate, they would have to spend the rest of their life thinking about how they might be ruined another person's life, someone who could've been searching for them the whole time, all because of their own selfish wants. In the end, they agreed to disagree, and the topic of soulmates was never brought up again.

 

"Mark hyung, what happened?" Donghyuck repeated, shaking Mark lightly, concern plastered over his face, and Mark felt his heart drop. The way Donghyuck stared at him, his wide eyes, parted lips, red cheeks, and fluffy hair. It wasn't going to be hard for Mark to fall in love with him. But Donghyuck would never. Donghyuck couldn't fall in love. He refused to accept the idea of cherishing someone to the point they could experience heartbreaks and other painful things. 

 

This was it. After years of waiting, reading, asking, wondering, Mark was going to have to live with the knowledge that although his soulmate is someone he loves (platonic or not), he could never go to another level with them. At this point, he practically had no soulmate.

 

"Mark!" Donghyuck yelled, finally making the elder regain his sense, and he let out a sigh, the coldness in Mark's eyes dispersed, and the warmth returned. 

 

"Dude, you just blanked out for a good minute." Jaemin nudged his elbow, shooting him a we-will-talk-later look, before pushing himself off the lockers. "The bell rang, so I'm gonna get to class, you guys should as well."

 

Before they could point out that they were all in the same class, Jaemin rushed down the corridor, intertwining his fingers with Jeno, before turning the corner and disappearing from their line of sight. The number of students around them started to decrease, and Mark then let out a long sigh. 

 

"Let's get going then, yeah?" Mark held the straps of his bags, a cute habit he still had from when he was younger, and he turned to face Donghyuck. The smile on the younger's face made his stomach twist in a way it hadn't before, but he pushed it aside, not letting it fully surface just yet. 

 

"Yeah, let's go!" 



-

 

Another picture Mark had seen once, was from when they were around 7 years old. Donghyuck was sitting on Mark's bed, looking extremely awkward, whilst staring at the person behind the camera (who was most probably Johnny), and Mark was beside him, his arm wrapped around the younger and a large smile on his face.

 

Mark had stared at the picture with confusion for a while, wondering why Donghyuck looked so uncomfortable with Mark's hand around him or was it something else?

 

Didn't seem like it. 



-

 

Mark blinked at his ceiling, his eyes connecting the paint spots (the ones that had been there since he had moved into the house) to form shapes and names that he honestly didn't want to think of at the moment, or ever again.

 

Johnny laughed when Mark had shyly told him that Donghyuck was his soulmate. He threw his head back, almost getting out of the camera’s view, and his laugh rung in Mark's ears (which his earphones were at fault too but he blamed it on Johnny's obnoxiously loud sound torture). 

 

"I knew it." He had said, pointing at the camera with a proud look, his cheeks pulled up so high, that his eyes squinted into the shape of a crescent moon. "What did Donghyuck say?"

 

Once Mark explained to him that Donghyuck, his soulmate and best friend, didn't know about their fated string, Johnny facepalmed, and the sound caused Mark to grimace. After an hour's call, Mark abruptly ended the call, throwing his phone aside, unable to handle the 'advice' Johnny was giving him. He couldn't go up to Donghyuck and tell him that they were soulmates. It wouldn't make anything better, but actually ruin whatever they had, which wasn't anything but a platonic friendship, going for them. 

 

Letting out a groan of frustration, Mark whipped his head to the side, grabbing his phone and bringing it to his face. He went on Google and guessed it was time to ask the internet for help, since his brother, the one who knows the answer to literally everything Mark ever needs help with was completely useless. And although the internet could not be trusted, especially after the time Mark had spent hours searching for a specific song, only to find out that it had been under a different name, it was the last option he had.  Mark tapped the search bar and then thought about what to type up.

 

How to make your soulmate love you—

 

How to make someone believe in love—

 

How to—

 

An idea crossed Mark's mind, and he hesitated for a few seconds, wondering if that could even be possible, before typing it up with a heavy heart.

 

How to get rid of your soulmate?

 

Unlike the previous results, where some sappy experiences of other people showed up, some actuals guides appeared, most of them from reliable sites, and Mark hurriedly tapped the first one he saw. As it loaded, Mark chewed down on his lip. If he was to find a way to get rid of his soulmate, would he be happy knowing he doesn't have anyone else? Then again, Donghyuck never loved him in the first place, so it would be quite easy for him to move on, perhaps find another person who's soulmate-less.

 

The website flashed a blue colour, signalling that it had loaded, and Mark scrolled down.



Different ways to get rid of your soulmate:

 

One. Kill them.



Well, number one was definitely out the window.



Two. Hire a hitman to kill them.



Mark shook his head, disappointed by the results so far (and questioning the sanity of the person who wrote this guide) and scrolled even further. 



Three. Cut the red string of fate.



Wait what. Mark almost dropped his phone as he tapped the screen for the link, his heart beating faster as the blue line at the top of the screen took an awful time to reach the other end. A longer explanation of the process showed up, and he read through it carefully.

 

The red string of fate is the thread-like object that is tied to one of your fingers. Although nothing can pass through it, since it was a spiritual object that connects your soul with another one, determining your attraction towards the person, if you were to have the intention to get rid of it, or pull on it, you could. 

 

The method of getting rid of the string is simple. First of all, acquire a pair of scissors, nothing fancy or magical, just a normal pair that are lying around your house. Once you have them, the next step is to gently cut the string of fate. The process is not painful in any way, however, a part of your love towards the person does disappear after the cut. The force that binds you two together would've been separated, and nothing will be holding you two together, meaning that you are no longer obliged to be in love with the other person. 

 

As the red string is cut, a new one will appear soon after, or perhaps it could take a while (depending on your conditions and who you match with). That new one will make you connect with someone else, and the force of attraction between the two will be stronger than the one before. 



Maybe Mark could do this. He could cut the string of fate, allowing himself to connect with someone else, someone new, someone who believed in love, someone who could love Mark. Someone who was not Donghyuck. But then Mark froze. What if he was to cut the string, then when it would be Donghyuck's birthday, and the boy might've finally learned to love. What if he waits till 12am, all giddy and excited, waiting for his string of fate to appear, but it never does. It never flashes into his room, surprising him, and making butterflies erupt in his stomach. What if Donghyuck doesn't connect to someone after Mark cuts it? 

 

"No." Mark shook his head, leaning over to his nightstand and dropping his phone next to the lamp, switching the light off before collapsing back into his bed. "I can't do that to Donghyuck, he deserves to know that he did have someone who could love him."

 

And so, Mark threw his blanket over his nose, shuffling around in the bed in an attempt to find a comfortable position, but his mind remained wide awake, thinking about Donghyuck, and their fate. 

 

"I could…" Mark turned around in his bed once again, the blanket slipping from over his mouth and gathering at his neck. "Try to make Donghyuck fall in love with me?"

 

And with that, Mark grabbed the blanket and yelled into it, before falling back down onto his bed and sighing. It wasn't going to be easy, trying to make Donghyuck love him, but he could at least try.




-



Mark once sat on his bed, scrolling through his gallery and smiling at all the memes he had saved. After going through a large patch on images he had saved on Pinterest, Mark stopped as he caught sight of a very specific picture. It was Donghyuck, holding a peace sign out and smiling brightly into the camera. Mark had raised his eyebrows at this, not knowing when this had been taken, but smiled nonetheless. The way Donghyuck's front teeth showed, his eyes scrunched up, and his cheeks tinted a light red colour. He looked cute.




-



"Love is stupid." Donghyuck scoffed, pulling his books out of his locker and shoving it into his bag, rolling his eyes as Mark pointed at the heart-shaped letter that was stuffed in his locker. "You can't even love the people you want to, because the emotions come out of you randomly. We aren't allowed to fall in love with anyone other than our soulmate, and if we do, then we're outcasted by society, a stupid precedent created by God knows what idiot."

 

Mark let out a silent groan as Donghyuck continued rambling on about why he hates the idea of soulmates, ready to fight once again, but this time Mark didn't reply. He didn't argue back, and instead let the younger come to an end to his rant. 

 

"Why'd you ask?" Donghyuck said once he finished, tugging Mark's arm and leading him through the hallways.

 

"I got my string of fate," Mark said, and Donghyuck froze on his spot, his hand ghosting Mark's wrist, and his eyes widening quickly. But as soon as his mood changed, it went away with the same speed, and Donghyuck immediately relaxed, his hand fully holding Mark's and his eyes curiously glancing down.

 

"Who is it?" Donghyuck asked, his eyes lingering at Mark's hand, before snapping up at his face. "Is it someone you know?"

 

"Yeah." 

 

A few moments went by and Mark began to feel awkward. His hand was still laced with Donghyuck, and he was standing in an uncomfortable position, his left leg out and his right leg in. The noise from the hallway seemed to get less and less, and then the bell rang, forcing the two to regain their senses. Donghyuck let go of Mark's wrist, the sudden loss of warmth caused Mark to shudder, and they quickly ran down the hallway. 

 

As they entered the classroom, thankfully no one was paying attention, and they took a seat at the back, Jaemin and Jeno chatting away beside them. Mark played around with his pen, spinning it on the base of his knuckles, and chewed down on his lip. Donghyuck, although sitting right beside him, seemed a lot more distant, his eyes wandering around the classroom, not focusing on a specific thing, before dropping back down on his book with plain pages. 

 

Mark grimaced as he realised it was because of the soulmate talk they had previously. It was clear from the way Donghyuck was acting, quieter than before, shuffling away from Mark in a way he thought he was being discreet (he wasn't, and his movement was causing Mark's heart to ache even more), but Mark didn't know how to bring up the topic at hand.

 

"What's wrong with you two?"

 

But of course, Jaemin could help.

 

"Nothing," Donghyuck replied almost too quickly, snapping his head in Jaemin's direction, his neck making a loud cracking sound, and the others in the room turned to check what the noise was, but then Donghyuck shrugged his shoulders and went back to staring holes into his book. 

 

"Okay, cool."

 

So maybe Jaemin was useless.




-

 

There was this one picture that made Mark's heart flutter. It was one of Donghyuck holding Mark's arms tightly, their bodies flushed together and the younger's eyes closed. It looked as if Donghyuck was going to kiss Mark (which he was), and he couldn't help but smile at it. The way his own face was red as a tomato, embarrassed by the sudden action. He looked cute. They looked cute.

 

-



Ten months. It had been ten months since Mark had discovered the fact that Donghyuck was his soulmate. Ten months of constantly watching the red string shorten as he neared Donghyuck, the hairs on his skin rising and his heartbeat fastening. Ten months of hearing Donghyuck complain about how he was going to get a string of fate and end up tied up to someone (literally) that he doesn't even know, or care about. Mark had many opportunities where he could tell Donghyuck that the soulmate he was dreading to meet so badly, was in fact just standing right in front of him. But seeing the way Donghyuck's eyes dulled, his mouth tugged into a frown, and his voice carried a heavy amount of anger and disgust, Mark couldn't find it in himself to ruin the friendship he had. 

 

It was Donghyuck's birthday in 2 hours, and Mark was panicking . He was worried that in the morning, he would go to school, the string would get smaller, and Donghyuck would look at him with that face of revolt and irritation that he only displayed to couples who were holding hands, or showing a large amount of affection. Mark couldn't handle seeing that face. 

 

And so, he took a deep breath, brought his phone out, and searched up the same thing he looked for only nearly a year ago. The results began to show and he scrolled through them, his hands shaking in anxiety and his lips getting drier by the second. The website he visited months ago finally popped up, and Mark tapped on it in a hurry, his eyes darting to the clock. 22:30. He had an hour and thirty minutes till 12, he could do this.

 

Mark skim read over the words again, the memory of his one-year-old self sitting in the exact same position flashed in his mind, and he wondered what could've happened if he had done this a year ago. Would he still have felt the same way towards Donghyuck? 

 

Cut the red string of fate. 

 

He was going to do it. He was going to cut the string if fate, damaging a part of his relationship with Donghyuck, but if that meant avoiding being the cause to the younger's distress, he would do anything for that. Mark hastily grabbed the pair of scissors on his bedside table, and then scrambled back to his bed, tucking his feet under his knees and taking a deep breath. What if he didn't connect with someone after this? What if he ends up becoming soulmate-less? Perhaps that would still be better than getting hated on by Donghyuck till the end of time.

 

Anything is better than being the source of Donghyuck's sadness. 

 

With one last deep breath, Mark raised the scissors, his fingers clamping around the handle and the sweat pricking at his skin, making him even more nervous than before. To check if what he was going to do would work or not, Mark tugged on the string with the scissors, his breath hitching as he saw the thread react to it, moving up as he lowered his hand. 

 

"Okay—okay just—just cut it," Mark said to himself trying to find the courage in himself to finally get rid of the problem he had been facing for the past few months. He slowly closed the gap between the handle, shutting his eyes as he did so, and let out the breath he was holding. A fizzing noise rang in his ears, and he could see from behind his eyelids that the room had lit up. Cracking open one eye, he watched as the string, which had now erupted into thousands of small particles, fell to the ground, before jumping up again, lacing around themselves as they had done before, and tied another knot around his finger. The feeling was different than before, a lot stronger, and Mark reached out to touch it, watching in amazement as it bounced against his finger. 

 

He had actually done it. He had broken the bond that connected him with Donghyuck. Mark didn't know what to feel about this. He almost felt horrible, angry that he let himself lose the battle of winning Donghyuck's heart, or his trust, or even just his faith in love. He failed to make the younger believe in something so important, and Mark gave up, not even trying his level best to make his soul— ex-soulmate fall in love with him. 

 

"I just hope," Mark sighed, dropping down on his bed and discarding the scissors somewhere along the floor. "Donghyuck finds someone who can help him fall in love, or at least believe in the concept of love."

 

Unfortunately for Mark, he couldn't be that person.




-

 

Once Mark ripped one of the pictures he had of him and Donghyuck. It was one where he was sitting with Donghyuck one a bench, both of them dressed in their school uniforms and waving at the camera. The reason Mark ripped it, was because of the person sitting in Donghyuck's side. He didn't know why he did it, but the sight of someone else's hand on Donghyuck's thigh, it disgusted him. He saw red and felt green, and soon the picture was floating out of his hands, the small pieces dropping to the floor. And worst of all, Mark felt no regret for doing so.



-



"What the fuck?" Was the first thing Mark heard as he entered his classroom. His eyes immediately reacted to the voice, snapping to the owner, who looked at him with wide eyes and a shocked expression. Mark paused for a second, trying to understand what was going on, before he caught sight of the thin red line shot across the room, the one clasped around Mark's finger, which was also connected to Donghyuck's. "Mark hyung?"

 

"I—" It didn't work. His string was still connected to Donghyuck. Mark was still soulmates with Donghyuck. And Donghyuck, Donghyuck knew.

 

In a state of panic and worry, Mark spun on his heels, pushing away Jaemin, who had just arrived, and ran down the hallway, ignoring the looks he was getting from the other students, and the calls he was getting from teachers. It couldn't be. How was his string still connected to Donghyuck? He made sure to cut it last night, and watched it himself whilst it disappeared and a new one formed. The image of Donghyuck staring at him with shock was engraved into Mark's mind, and he held a hand to his chest, trying to calm his heart down. Surely Donghyuck wouldn't end their friendship because of this, right?

 

Pushing the door of the toilet, Mark stumbled in, rushing to the first one he saw and locking the door behind him. He took deep breaths, tears stinging his eyes and his legs shaking uncontrollably. Mark threw his bag to the ground, unzipping it quickly and pulling out a pair of scissors he had. He shakily held it to his string and cut it in one go, watching as the string exploded into tiny particles, resembling the powder-like form they were on the first time he got it.  

 

They fell to the ground, scattered across the tiled floor, and Mark watched in anticipation. A few seconds later, the bubbles jumped right back up, joining together and rushing back to Mark's hand, tying themselves around his finger once again. Letting out a loud groan of frustration, Mark held the scissors to the string again, cutting it with more panic and dear than last time.

 

The sound of the door opening was heard, and Mark held his breath, waiting for the string to join together and form another one, but when it did, it moved to the left, following the footsteps of the person outside his stall, and stopping once the person came to a stop. 

 

"Mark hyung?" 

 

Mark wanted to cry.

 

"What?" He asked, his voice cracking and his knees failing him, causing him to fall on top of the closed toilet seat. The shadow of Donghyuck was seen from below the door, and Mark felt himself getting more and more sick. 

 

"Can you please open the door?" Donghyuck took a step forward, his hand on the door, and his feet directly outside the stall. Mark shook his head, before answering with a small, 'no'. Donghyuck didn't leave, however, instead he turned around and leaned against the door. "Do you not want to be my soulmate?"

 

"You hate love." Mark chose to say instead, hoping he could avoid the question. "You hate love, you hate the idea of soulmates, and you once said that you'll hate anyone who was your soulmate."

 

A silence followed, and Mark fiddled with his fingers, his eyes blurring due to the tears, and his mouth letting out quiet hiccups. He felt horrible. Donghyuck knew that he was his soulmate, and now everything was ruined. First Mark failed his plan to make Donghyuck fall in love with him, and now he failed to hide their string of fate. He failed badly.

 

"So you don't want to be my soulmate?" Donghyuck repeated his question, and Mark internally groaned. "Mark hyung, answer me, do you want to be my soulmate?"

 

Another silence, a sniffle, and then,

 

"No."

 

The door to Mark's stall opened, and Donghyuck entered, quickly pointing out how the door had a broken lock, before grabbing the pair of scissors Mark had in his clutches. Without any hesitation, or even a look at Mark, Donghyuck swung the scissors at the string, cutting it and then shoving the scissors back to Mark.

 

The two watched as the string burned away, trailing back to their fingers and then disappearing. A few seconds passed, but then nothing happened. No new string appeared, no old string repaired. Nothing. 

 

"What— how?" Mark stuttered, pulling his hand towards himself and examining his finger, checking to see if the string was really gone, and that it wasn't his imagination.

 

"You need both people to agree to cut the string." Donghyuck replied, his face hung low, and he quickly left the stall, and then the toilets. Mark stared at the open door, the sound of footsteps echoing in the hallway loud in his ears, and he turned back to his hand.

 

"So…" Mark bit his bottom lip, getting up from his seat and walking over to the sink, spraying his face with water. cleansing himself of the mess he had made, before straightening his back, looking himself right in the eye. "Donghyuck is no longer my soulmate."

 

When Mark returned to the classroom, receiving his late slip and then taking a seat besides Jaemin instead of Donghyuck, too ashamed to even face his best friend, no one said anything. No one teased them for running out, no one teased them for being late, and no one teased them for having puffy eyes and red cheeks.



-

 

Mark asked his mum once, holding up a picture of him and Donghyuck. He asked her if it was alright to hold hands with a boy, being at that pure age of 5 and not knowing how the world was like. His mum kneeled down beside him, nodding her head to his question, and then shooting back her own.

 

"Why'd you ask?" She had said, ruffling little Mark's hair, chuckling at the cute reaction he gave.

 

"Because I wanted to hold Donghyuck's hands!"

 

-



A whole month had gone past since the last time Donghyuck and Mark had spoken, their most recent conversation being the one they shared in the toilet, where Mark was a mess and Donghyuck seemed too emotionless. Their friends were confused, seeing the closest pair in their group suddenly act like strangers around the other, and make excuses whenever they were both invited to hang out, or even to just lunch. 

 

And they had had enough.

 

"Okay, what's your problem?" Jaemin asked, grabbing Mark's wrist and dragging him into a quiet hallway, and pushing him into his locker. "You and Donghyuck have been avoiding each other as if you guys were some disease, and don't even say that isn't true, because we all have seen it. You enter the room, Donghyuck gets up and leaves. Donghyuck joins us for lunch, you finished your food as quickly as you could and run out of the hall."

 

"Don't worry about it," Mark mumbled, putting his hands on Jaemin's shoulders and pushing him away, trying to get out of his grip, but only failing and getting shoved back into the locker.

 

"No Mark hyung, listen. Tell me what's wrong?" Jaemin's eyes softened and his grip became more gentle, making Mark feel horrible for hiding such a big thing from him. "I won't judge you for whatever you say if that's the prob—"

 

"Me and Donghyuck were soulmates," Mark confessed, his chest becoming lighter as if a burden had just been taken off him.

 

"Were?" Jaemin paused, his eyes widening in horror, and Mark could feel his stomach twist in discomfort. "Shit Mark hyung, did you— why?"

 

"He could never love me." Mark answered, tapping Jaemin's hand, which was rested on his shoulder, and then moved away from the locker. "So we broke it off."

 

"Have—have you Uhm," Jaemin shuffled on his feet a little, awkwardness plastered clearly over his face. "Have you gotten a new soulmate yet?"

 

"No."

 

"Oh." Jaemin nodded slowly, and the two stood beside each other, their silence making it more awkward than it was already, and Mark decided that maybe it was time for him to go.

 

"Anyways, I'll see you later." Mark said, hurrying out of the hallway and turning the corner, waving at Jaemin, who sent him a worried look. 

 

In all honesty, he wanted to talk to Donghyuck, spend time with Donghyuck, at least be friends with Donghyuck. But the younger was trying his best to avoid him, not even sparing him a glance or saying a word when they were forced to be partners in English. 

 

Mark called Johnny the day after he broke the bond with Donghyuck. He cried his eyes out. He doesn't know why, but it hurt when he thought back to how the string cut so easily, evaporating into nothing and the face Donghyuck had. His eyes were empty and his lips were pressed into a straight line, holding back any emotion that could've been displayed on his face.

 

"Maybe you didn't want to break the bond." Johnny had told him, his eyes doing all they could to comfort him because of the distance between them. "Maybe you did want to be Donghyuck's soulmate, and it hurts seeing that he didn't?"

 

"If that was the case," Mark had sniffled, wiping his cheeks, "Then would the break in our bond even taken place? Would Donghyuck have been able to cut the string so easily?"

 

Johnny didn't have an answer for that, and Mark ended the call shortly after. He spent the next few hours sulking over something he apparently shouldn't even care about. His parents had entered his room, rubbing his back and hoping that could've helped him in any way (it didn't, but Mark didn't want to make them feel any worse than they were already because if him). 

 

Mark stepped into the room, eyeing the way Donghyuck stiffened at his presence and tried to move his chair away from Renjun, who only grabbed his hands and jerked him back to his previous position. It hurt, seeing Donghyuck act so adamant on not being around Mark, but there was nothing he could do. 



-

 

Mark couldn't look at pictures with Donghyuck in then anymore. Whenever he laid his eyes on the younger, his heart would ache, and instead of the bubbly expression he would see from him, a scowl, almost like a glare, would appear on the younger's face. It hurt Mark. It hurt him quite a lot.

 

-

 

As one month went by, another did as well, and then another, and another, and soon a whole year had passed. Graduation was around the corner, everyone was busy with entrance exams, and all of Mark's friends were too engrossed in their own lives to be worrying about the broken friendship between their friends. 

 

Mark had tried to move on, from whatever he was sad about, he thought about deleting Donghyuck's contact number - an extreme measure but, he assumed it would be the only way to get rid of the younger boy from his life completely. However, he couldn't bring himself to delete it. Mark also cancelled all plans him and his friends had made for after graduation, scared that Donghyuck would be there and that he wouldn't be able to face him.

 

It was scary, to some extent. Mark was afraid to meet his best friend, or former best friend, to the point that he had changed his entire morning routine so that he wouldn't cross paths with Donghyuck on the way to school. He had spent so many years with Donghyuck, the two sprawled across the floor in Mark's bedroom, counting the spots of paint on the ceiling, and giggling once they got into a tickle battle. But they couldn't do that anymore, and Mark felt queasy at the thought of him doing that with anyone else. 

 

Letting out a sigh, Mark got up from his bed, holding his head to calm his headache, and grabbed the closest jumper. As it was nearly graduation, he needed to buy a suit for the ceremony, and he had been delaying it because he was too exhausted to do anything at all. Mark opened the door to his house, yelling a response to his mum who asked him where he was going, and then dipped into the warm wind. 

 

He closed his eyes, embracing himself and then sighed. It had been a long time since he had last gone out of the house for something other than an exam or school. Mark walked down the streets, his eyes fixated on his shoes, and he bumped into a few people, 'excuse me' sitting on the tip of his tongue. 

 

"Sorry, excuse me." Mark repeated for about the fifth time, but this time, when he saw a familiar pair of red sneakers, Mark raised his eyes, locking them with Donghyuck. "Donghyuck?"

 

"Oh, you know this guy?" The stranger standing besides Donghyuck spoke up, leaning over his shoulder and shooting Mark confused looks. 

 

"Yeah," Donghyuck replied, his eyes still on Mark, but his words directed towards the male next to him. "This is Mark hyung." 

 

"Oh!" The guy clasped his hands together, his eyes shifting between Mark and Donghyuck, before he took a step forward, his body covering half of Donghyuck. "I'm Yukhei, but people call me Lucas."

 

Mark nodded and was about to shake his hand, when Lucas continued.

 

"And I'm Donghyuck's soulmate."

 

What . Mark froze in his spot, his hand barely touching Lucas' and his eyes fixed on Donghyuck, who lowered his head, and he felt a pang in his heart. Of course. Donghyuck would've gotten a soulmate. Why hadn't Mark thought about that? When they broke the bond, Donghyuck must've found a new soulmate, and he must've fallen in love with him. Mark was so stupid to think that Donghyuck was avoiding Mark because of their broken bond. Donghyuck must've been busy talking with his new soulmate, spending time with his new soulmate, loving his new soulmate. 

 

"Hey, you okay?" Lucas asked, and only then did Mark realise tears were pouring out of his eyes. Stupid eyes, crying when they shouldn't. He managed to ruin his first impression on Donghyuck's soulmate. The only person who was able to make Donghyuck fall in love. 

 

"Yeah, I'm fine." Mark coughed out, and he avoided Donghyuck's gaze, taking a step back and immediately cancelling his plan to buy a suit. He spun on his heels, wiping at his cheeks harshly before running down the street, ignoring the calls he got from Donghyuck. 

 

He was so stupid to believe that Donghyuck would never fall in love. Of course he would fall in love with his soulmate, but that doesn't mean it would be Mark. He would fall in love with his soulmate, he would share his first kiss with his soulmate, he would go in his first date with his soulmate, and he would happily be in a relationship. 

 

And then there was Mark. Mark, who had no soulmate, Mark, who was never going to find someone to love. Mark, who would never have anyone to kiss, anyone to go on a date with, or anyone to be in a happy relationship with. 

 

Mark almost felt envious towards Donghyuck. Donghyuck, the person who didn't even want a soulmate, or simply anyone to love, yet he had a soulmate. On the other hand, Mark, the person who had been waiting for love, waiting for the red string to appear, waiting for someone to love him, had no soulmate. He was going to be alone the rest of his life, whereas Donghyuck was going to love someone and be happy with someone. 

 

And Mark didn't know what to expect when he closed the door behind him, waiting for a couple of minutes, but no knock was heard on the door, and Mark was left to cry in his house alone. The sticky note on his fridge from his parents claiming that they had gone out for grocery shopping. 

 

He wanted Donghyuck to come to him, so that they could clear out any problems between the two, but it went as he assumed it would. Donghyuck never came.



-



Mark flicked through the albums, his gaze too sharp and his breath coming out in soft pants. His anger and sadness rippling down into something different, but he didn't want to name it. He knows it meant something he wasn't willing to accept. 



-



It was graduation day, and Mark was dressed in his navy blue suit (the one he ended up ordering online, after he realised he won't be able to leave his house any time soon). Mark fixed his tie, centring it, and then looked at himself in the mirror. Even after applying makeup, Mark's eyebags could be seen, and his cheeks were still flushed, the blush making it look even worse. 

 

The knock on his door made him hurriedly pat himself down once again, and then rush to the door.

 

"Mark!" Johnny exclaimed, spreading his arms wide and enveloping Mark in a big hug. "You look great!"

 

"Haha, thanks hyung." Mark chuckled, wrapping his arms around his older brother and sinking into his warmth. 

 

"I'm excited for you." Johnny said, pulling away and looking down at him with pride. "Have you and Donghyuck made up yet?"

 

"No." Mark sighed, dragging himself across the room and picking up his phone. "He's got a new soulmate, and I don't really wanna see him be all lovey with someone."

 

Johnny didn't say anything else after that, only the occasional, 'you look good bro' and 'don't worry about anything'. Mark wanted him to say more, maybe ask him more about Donghyuck, about his new soulmate, about their relationship, about the reason why Mark couldn't stand this 'Lucas' dude. But he didn't voice those thoughts, knowing that if he were to, it would seem as if he's basically asking for sympathy or something.

 

"We'll go to the seating area." His dad informed him once they reached his school. Mark nodded and then waved them goodbye, the sight of them leaving making him come to a realisation that this was it. This was the last time he'd see all his friends before he moved to his university dorm. This was also probably the last time he would meet Donghyuck, and that made his heartache even more. 

 

The students began to rush towards the hall, and Mark followed after them, his steps heavier than his heart, and his mind filled with pessimistic thoughts. Mark was probably going to find new friends, and then find his old childhood friends bothersome, or somewhat boring. Maybe Mark won't find any friends, maybe he would be the one who would get abandoned. What if one day, Mark crosses paths with his friends, and they would walk away, pretending (or not) that they don't know him. What if—

 

"Mark hyung?" Jaemin said, shaking him to gain his attention.

 

"Yeah?" Mark replied, blinking a few times to get rid of his thoughts. He turned to face Jaemin, and his jaw dropped at the sight. Jaemin's freshly dyed blonde hair was brushed down, a tint of blue at the front (which Mark made a mental note to tease about) and his face was neatly coated with some makeup. "Woah, you look good."

 

"Thanks." Jaemin shyly nodded, running a hand through his hair, which only bounced back, and then turned his gaze over to Jeno, who was standing a few feet away from them, next to Renjun and— oh . Donghyuck looked amazing. Actually, amazing couldn't even describe what Mark was thinking at the moment. The way Donghyuck's suit was a perfect fit, his hair styled up, revealing his forehead and his eyes wide open with excitement. Donghyuck's lips coated with a light red tinted lip gloss, and Mark wondered what they tasted like. "This is your last chance. Make up with Donghyuck."

 

Mark groaned and tilted his head back. He knew Jaemin would try and tell him to speak to Donghyuck again, but he didn't know what Mark found out about over the past few days. He didn't know that Donghyuck had found a new soulmate, and that he was happy with him. He also didn't know that Mark had come to terms with his feelings and decided that he was, in fact, in love with his (former) best friend/soulmate, and most probably has been for the majority of their friendship. 

 

"I'll try," Mark muttered, ignoring the bright smile Jaemin flashed him, and then trailed behind the rest of the students, all dressed in suits and dresses. His eyes remained glued to the ground, too scared that he would raise them and meet Donghyuck's. 

 

The ceremony went quicker than Mark expected, quite a letdown, because he wanted to spend more time in Donghyuck's presence (another unfortunate thing occurred during the preparation when they were all told to stand in order of their surnames, and Jeno forced Mark to be besides Donghyuck). The awards were given out, hands were shook, flowers were received, hats were not thrown up dramatically but in fact just shoved into bags, and everyone was getting ready to attend the party that was planned to take place at an ex-students house.

 

"I'll be home late." Mark informed his parents, and Johnny took a step towards Mark, separating himself from the others, and throwing an arm around the younger. Before Mark could question him, Johnny stopped him.

 

"Jungwoo's throwing the party, you think I'd miss that?"



-

 

Johnny sat next to Mark a few days after, holding his brother in his arms and commenting on every picture. He laughed at the bowl haircut Donghyuck once had, and then the failed perm (which Mark actually thought looked very cute), and then the picture of Donghyuck and Mark glaring at each other from across the room. Mark remembered that day clearly. It was the first time Donghyuck had actually told Mark that he 'hated' him. Mark didn't know what had overcome him, but he had jerked forward, raising his hand and pushing the younger, the anger in him getting the best of him. 

 

(He also remembers that the next day Donghyuck had arrived at his doorstep, a chocolate in his hand and a letter in the other.)

 

-



The party was not as fun as Mark wanted it to be. Jeno and Jaemin had disappeared into one of the corners of the house, Renjun had been dragged into the area where they were all playing games, and Mark was being forced to sit alone in the kitchen. Well technically, he wasn't alone. A couple, a lovely, lovely couple, were sitting in front of him, casually talking about their future plans.

 

"I wanna move out," The blonde, or Donghyuck , said, twisting the lid of the coke and pouring himself a cup (and Mark was grateful that the younger hadn't touched any of the alcohol, a bit of him glad that Donghyuck was still fulfilling their promise to never drink). "Live in a dorm, you know? Typical uni life."

 

"That shit only happens in movies man." The other guy, the taller one, or Lucas , replied, holding his glass out to Donghyuck, who continued pouring in the coke. "My friend, Jungwoo, the guys who's party we're at, he moved out thinking it would all be okay. Five months in, he called his parents and asked if he could come back. The costs for everything was too much."

 

"Did he work?" Donghyuck asked, taking a seat and leaning forwards, causing Mark to make a face at the action. Their intimacy making him sick, and the disgusting taste becoming more and more prominent in his mouth. The couple opposite Mark went on with their conversations, completely ignoring his presence, and Mark wanted to feel offended, but then again that was what he had done with Donghyuck a few months back, so he didn't exactly have a right to feel that way.

 

Time flew by, and Mark chugged down his fifth cup of coke, the back of his throat became sorer, and he knew he was going to end up ill after this, but he couldn't care less at the moment. He could either get drunk, break the promise he made with Donghyuck, and end up having a horrible hangover in the morning, or, he could drink the two-litre bottle of coke, sitting on the countertop, begging for him to finish it, and end up spending the next week sick at home because of his terrible immune system. The second option seemed better in the long term.

 

But before Mark could get up, Renjun bounced into the room, his smile slightly crooked, cheeks a dark shade of red, and his eyes wandering around the room in excitement. 

 

"Yukhei!" Renjun yelled, holding his hands out at Lucas in surprise, and his gaze shifting between Donghyuck and Mark. "My best friend!"

 

Best— what?

 

"Renjunie!" Lucas yelled back, his voice much louder than the music being played, and his pulled Renjun into a hug, lifting him up from the ground, and Mark thought he might be heard the sound of bones getting crushed, but that could be his imagination. "It's been a while."

 

"Literally just a week." Donghyuck scoffed, and folding his arms in annoyance because of the sudden interruption, but the small smile in his face said otherwise. 

 

"Yeah but—oh hey Mark hyung!" Renjun said, waving at him as if he had only just realised the latter was sitting there, awkwardly sipping through his drink and waiting to be acknowledged.

 

"Hey, Renjun." 

 

"Hey Hyuckie, have you told Mark about the whole soulmate thing?" Renjun slurred, his arms wrapping around Donghyuck's and his knees weakening, forcing all his weight upon the struggling blonde.

 

"Uh—yeah " Donghyuck cleared his throat, shooting a look at Lucas, who only stared back at him with a worried expression.

 

"Doesn't seem like it." Renjun hummed, blinking slowly, before gaining a sudden burst of energy, making him jump right out of Donghyuck's arms and over the table, his face uncomfortably close to Mark's. "Mark hyung I found my soulmate!" 

 

"Huh, who is it?" Mark looked over at Donghyuck, who shuffled on his feet, trying to find an escape route, but Renjun caught his arm, grabbing Lucas in his other and pulling both of them forwards.

 

"Yukhei is my soulmate!" Renjun exclaimed, and Mark coughed out the sip of coke he had taken. Wiping off his mouth with his sleeve, Mark turned to Renjun with a confused glance. "We found out about a month ago! Apparently, our souls hadn't bonded yet, or something, but once they had, our strings came! And now we're soulmates!"

 

Mark turned his gaze to Donghyuck, shock, betrayal, and other horrifying emotions present in his expression. The other boy coughed nervously, trying to hide behind Lucas and Renjun, who were now shamelessly close in public, but Mark caught on to him quickly, taking his hand in his own, and dragging him out of the kitchen, throw the crowd, and then into the garden. The sudden change in temperature and environment caused the two to shiver, but Mark didn't let that distract him. 

 

"What the hell Donghyuck?" Mark hissed, his eyebrows gravitating towards each other, and his face heating up by anger. Even the cold wind around them couldn't cool him down. "So Lucas isn't your soulmate? Why did you lie? Was it an attempt to make fun out of me? Were you really doing this just for a tease? Did you think I wouldn't find out sooner or later?"

 

"Mark listen—"

 

"Listen to what! The fact that you cut off all ties with me, literally, because you didn't want to fall in love? Or the fact that you brought in a whole other guy just to make me jealous?"

 

"Wait, just listen to me—"

 

"Donghyuck." Mark sighed, his eyelids fluttering shut, and the tears welled up in them pouring out, finding no other place to go but down his flaming cheeks. "How could you do that to me? I know you don't love me, but we were friends before soulmates—"

 

"Mark!" Donghyuck yelled, pushing the elder to finally stop him from rambling. Mark fell to the ground, losing any energy to get up, and Donghyuck kneeled beside him, a hand coming up to swiftly wipe off his tears. "Can you just listen to me, please?"

 

The silence he received after that wasn't exactly the answer he wanted, but Donghyuck took the only opportunity he could find.

 

"Yes, that was a lie. Lucas isn't my soulmate, he never was." Donghyuck confessed, his eyes dropping to the floor as a wave of guilt washed over him. "But I never intended on purposely hurting you in any way. Hell, I didn't even know it would make you jealous until now. I mean, sure, the reaction you had when Lucas called us soulmates was quite alarming, but I had just assumed it was because you were annoyed that I hadn't told you, my best friend."

 

"Ha, best friend." Mark laughed bitterly, his voice cracking at the words, and his hands clenched into fists.

 

"Yeah, best friend." Donghyuck squeezed Mark's shoulder, a tight smile on his face before it returned back to his worried and sad expression. "And you got one other thing wrong."

 

"And that was…?" Mark tilted his head to the side, unintentionally leaning into Donghyuck's hand, and his head began to spin, the crying, rush of emotions, and exhaustion from the previous week finally taking a toll on him. 

 

"That was," Donghyuck started, bringing his other hand to Mark's face and brushing away his bangs, the smile on his face widening as he did it, and he let out a sigh. "The part where you said I don't love you."

 

Before Mark could react, or reply, his mind shut off, and darkness veiled his eyes, forcing him to close them and let out a final deep breath, his body became limp, and left his entire weight on Donghyuck's arm. He heard a whisper in his ear, repeating the few words that were said before, almost as if Donghyuck was making sure Mark had heard him before it was all silent, and Mark fell unconscious.



-

 

Fate is what Mark's mum had once whispered in his ear. Telling him that he would end up with someone he was destined to love. She even signalled to her husband, tickling Mark's stomach a little and telling him that no matter what happens, the person he is meant to be with, they'd be the only one his string would connect to. No one else.

 

-



"Wake up." A voice said.

 

No response.

 

"Mark hyung, wake up." The voice repeated, and this time he felt a tug on his shoulder.

 

No response.

 

"Mark hyung wake up this instant or else I'm throwing you off the roof."

 

And with that Mark snapped his eyes open, immediately regretting it when light blinded him and he shut them right back close. A whine came out of his mouth and his hands covered his face.

 

"Finally." The voice groaned, coming closer and closer to Mark until it was right in front of him. "Open your eyes, Markie."

 

"Donghyuck?" Mark questioned, cracking open one of his eyes and meeting Donghyuck's in the process. The light from the bulb above them was being covered by Donghyuck, and he thanked the younger in his mind from saving him. "What am I doing here?"

 

"You were sleeping, and now you're asking questions," Donghyuck replied literally, standing up straight before leaning over to the nightstand, picking up the glass of water that was there and a tablet. "Here, have medicine, you got yourself a fever."

 

"Just as I wanted," Mark mumbled, nodding his head and throwing the tablet in his mouth, gulping down a whole glass, before passing it back. "What happened before I fell unconscious?"

 

"We were talking about our soulmates," Donghyuck answered, putting the cup away and then taking a seat on a chair next to the bed. His gaze lingered on Mark's finger before he looked up at him. "And I told you about how you were wrong about me not loving you."

 

"Donghyuck." Mark's voice came out strained as if he was trying his best not to burst into tears. "You don't need to pity me. That's not what I meant by mentioning how we were friends. I don't want you to force yourself to—"

 

"Oh my god, do you ever just shut up and listen?" Donghyuck groaned loudly, throwing his head back in annoyance, and then running a hand through his already messy hair. The sweat pooled around his collarbone, and the state of his clothes gave Mark the assumption that he hadn't been out cold for too long. "Mark, I'm not doing this out of pity or anything."

 

"Then... why are you doing this? You don't believe in love, you never have. You always found a way to bring down love stories, criticize people and relationships, and have always hated the idea of soulmates."

 

"I'm doing this," Donghyuck threw his hands up, his body language showing how frustrated he was, and Mark made a note to stay quiet till the younger had finished. "Because I love you! I have since we were younger, and I do believe in love. I love soulmates, and I've read every single stupid romance book on that stupid shelf of yours, and everything I said about love were not my opinion, but just my brothers!"

 

"You...love me?" Mark left his mouth wide open, and Donghyuck moaned loudly again, holding his head in his hands. A blush crept up Mark's face, but he quickly shook it away. "Then why did you pretend to hate everything related to it?"

 

"Because," Donghyuck raised his head, his tanned skin was a darker shade, and not many people could tell when he was blushing, but Mark could. "I was scared we wouldn't end up being soulmates, and that I'd have to see you be with another person, all happy and sappy, whilst I would be with another person, who'd most probably fall in love with me, because I'm that amazing, but I wouldn't be able to love them back. And all of that would be because you would be the person I would be loving. It was so selfish for me to want you, want to be with you, or even love you from afar, knowing there was a high chance of me ending up with someone else, and that's why I despised my thoughts, my feelings...love."

 

"Why did you cut it?" Mark whispered, still shocked by the sudden confession, and he was scared Donghyuck might be able to hear his heart beating against his chest in the silence of the room.

 

"Cut what?" Donghyuck raised his eyebrows, confused by the question, and Mark fiddled with his fingers uncomfortably.

 

"The red string?"

 

"I should be asking you that, Mark hyung," Donghyuck said, his sharp eyes making Mark cower in the blankets, and his harsh tone reminding him that he had done something so stupid. 

 

"I thought you didn't love me, and that if you were to find out we were soulmates, you would end up hating me." Mark bit down on his lip, the guilt rising up inside him, ready to bubble out of him through tears. 

 

"Mark hyung." Donghyuck sighed, his hands dropping to his lap, and his voice sounding so dejected it made Mark's heart ache. "I could never hate you, sadly, the only feeling I have towards you is love, and I can't seem to change it. I've been waiting for our red strings to appear so that I could check to see whether or not we were soulmates. I've been watching you restrict yourself from developing crushes on people in our class, your worst one being Jaemin. I—"

 

Donghyuck paused, his toes curled in, and his hands clenched into fists and he tried to calm his erratic breathing. It was clear he was disturbed by everything, and Mark felt horrible for never noticing Donghyuck's feelings. If he had known, he could've changed so many things. Or maybe, if Mark didn't run away on Donghyuck's birthday, been a little braver and spoken about how his feelings towards the younger, all of this wouldn't have happened. And Donghyuck wouldn't have been in so much pain.

 

"Donghyuck," Mark said, holding his hand out, gently placing it over Donghyuck's and flashing a small smile at him. "I also—"

 

"No you don't." Donghyuck shook his head, jerking his hand away and refusing to hear what Mark had to say. "I thought you did, from the way you reacted to Lucas, but if you really did, then you wouldn't have gotten so upset to see that we were soulmates, you wouldn't have tried to cut off ties with me and I completely understand, you don't have to—"

 

"No, listen," Mark cut him off, realising that his misunderstanding caused Donghyuck to misinterpret his actions into something worse. "I was just scared that you would not want to be around me anymore and that you yourself would want to cut the string. I thought I was doing you a favour, no matter how much it hurt me."

 

Donghyuck remained silent as Mark sat up in bed, swinging his legs to the side and shuffling forwards, his arms reaching out to grab Donghyuck's shoulders, smiling as the younger didn't flinch from his touch. He pulled the silver-haired boy towards himself, wrapping his arms around the younger and tucking his chin over his shoulder, letting out a deep sigh. All of this was such a waste of time, if only they spoke about this before. 

 

"Lee Donghyuck," Mark muttered, tightening his grip on the younger when he felt him attempt to pull away. "My best friend of—hmm—ow!" He paused, pretending to think before giggling when he got pinched on his stomach by Donghyuck, "Okay, okay, sorry —Thirteen years. The guy who once jumped off a cliff with me when we wanted to break our bones, which was a failure because there was water under us. The guy who stuffed my bed with cheese because I forgot his about 12th birthday. The guy who has the best voice I've ever heard. The guy with the cutest, roundest, and prettiest—"

 

"Ah shut up, just get to the point will you?" Donghyuck grumbled, slapping Mark's chest but not pulling away (he was clearly enjoying this). Mark chuckled before pulling away from the younger, the smile on his face widening and he softly ran his hand down Donghyuck's hair, to his neck before cupping his cheek.

 

"What I'm trying to say is," Mark rubbed circles on Donghyuck's cheek, leaning forwards and connecting their foreheads, the sudden intimacy between them making Donghyuck break eye contact and clear his throat. "I also love you Lee Donghyuck."

 

And with that, an explosion occurred in the room. A red light flashed, and the two covered their eyes by instinct. The same feeling they experienced a year and two ago erupted inside them. Mark opened his eyes, lowering his hands and staring in awe as a red coloured glitter-like object flew around in the room, a buzzing sound following it and Mark felt his stomach flip. The powder dropped from the ceiling, scattering across the floor and then started rolling in on itself. A line formed, and soon it became a whole thread, lacing with another one and floating towards Mark and Donghyuck. One side of the edge curved around Donghyuck's pinky, tying a knot carefully, whilst the other edge laced round Mark's finger, building a loop and passing through it. As it completed the process, something Mark will always remember, the light dimmed out, and the two were left alone in the room, shocked and surprised by this sudden change.

 

"Well…" Mark started, his eyes still wide and mouth parted, "That happened."

 

"Mhm." Donghyuck hummed, reaching forward for Marks hand and interlacing their fingers, a sweet sound of happiness coming from him as he eyed the string as it shortened. "So, you love me, huh soulmate?"







-





"Soulmate can you—" Mark let out a grunt, making Donghyuck pause and look at him with confusion. "What's wrong?"

 

"Stop calling me that," Mark mumbled, turning around in the bed so that his back was facing the younger.

 

"What?" Donghyuck asked, sitting up in bed and shuffling forward, placing his hands in Mark's arm and leaning closer to him. "Stop calling you what?*

 

"..." Marks words came out intelligible, and Donghyuck frowned even further, trying his best to get even closer to Mark in attempt to understand what he was saying. "Don't call me soulmate."

 

"Soulmate? Why not?" Donghyuck now sat up properly, tilting his head to the side because he just didn't understand why Mark didn't want to be called that. Mark decided to not reply, and instead huffed once again. Donghyuck eyed Mark shift uncomfortably on the bed, almost as if he was waiting for Donghyuck to continue questioning, but the younger didn't let him fulfil his wishes. 

 

Trailing his hand down Mark's arm, Donghyuck raised himself and jumped up, landing on Mark with a thud. The older yelped and tried pushing the younger away, a string of curses that Donghyuck had never heard him say before escaping his mouth. Donghyuck held himself up a little, giving Mark enough space to move around on the bed, so that his back was against the bed. 

 

"Markie." Donghyuck cooed, swinging his leg over Mark's waist and straddling him. "Why don't you wanna be called soulmate?"

 

"Its—" Mark closed his eyes, and Donghyuck tried his best to not laugh out loud. Watching Mark get so stressed over a single word was hilarious, and he looked so adorable. His eyes shut tightly, and his nose scrunched up. Opening one of his eyes, Mark stared up at Donghyuck with doe-eyes. "It's embarrassing…"

 

"Awh you baby." Donghyuck giggled, cupping Mark's cheeks and leaning forward. As if on instinct, Mark's eyes fluttered closed and Donghyuck had to chew down on his lip to stop himself from laughing. Just as Donghyuck's lips brushed against Mark's, a weird feeling stung through the younger, and he jerked back, looking up at the ceiling, before bringing his hands to his mouth and letting out a loud sneeze. 

 

Silence followed the sneeze.

 

A few seconds went by.

 

Awkward…

 

"Did you just sneeze before we could've even kissed?" Mark hissed, and Donghyuck burst into fits of laughter. "It's not as if you're allergic to me!... Are you?"

 

"Oh my god, no Markie." Donghyuck fell onto Marks chest, quickly crawling back up to his face and cupping his cheeks once again. "Sorry Markie…." Finally closing the gap between them, the two sighed as they lips touched. It had been 2 weeks since they had started dating, after a lot of awkward interactions, where they would get close to each other, about to kiss but then shy away on the last second.

 

Donghyuck liked kissing Mark. He liked the warmth that spread through him as Mark's lips pressed against his. He liked the way Mark made sure to go slow, taking his time to make Donghyuck feel special. He liked it when Mark would caress his cheek, as if he was so precious and delicate, almost as if he would break if Mark held him too tightly (he wouldn't, but Donghyuck enjoys the feeling). 

 

Donghyuck also likes it when Mark gets desperate sometimes. The first time he saw this was after their first kiss. He wrapped his arm around Donghyuck's waist, pulling him close enough to make their bodies flush together. His other hand ran through Donghyuck's hair, before dropping to his neck and massaging it. The soft noises Donghyuck let out were drowned out as Mark would swallow them down. 

 

Since both of them were inexperienced, Mark never kissing because he cared about his firsts, and Donghyuck never looking at anyone but Mark, it was important for both of them, to feel right. 

 

Donghyuck slipped a hand down Mark's shirt, pressing his warm hand against Mark's cold body, and smiling as the older squirmed under his touch.

 

"Okay okay, before we get excited, let me remind you that we have school in an hour," Mark said, pushing the younger away and pointing out the fact that they had managed to stay awake through the entire night (because of the movie they were watching, not because of their kiss). 

 

"Can't we just skip," Donghyuck whined, wrapping his arms around Mark and placing his head of the latter's chest. He continued his pleas, thrashing around the bed until Mark finally spoke up.

 

"But we need education!" Mark protested, putting his hands on Donghyuck's waist and hugging him tightly. "I mean, you never even use your head, it's just for decoration."

 

"Hey!" Donghyuck pouted, but stopped his movement, choosing to cuddle into Mark's neck instead. The two stayed still for a while, their eyes closing despite the sun rising outside.

 

Other than Johnny and their parents, no one else knew about their relationship, mostly because ever since graduation everyone was busy applying at places and searching for accommodations, but also because they were too lazy to tell anyone about them. At first, Mark was eager to tell everyone, happily bugging Donghyuck about it continuously, and asking him when they could go out. But then when Donghyuck told him to calm down, so that they could recover those few months they missed out with each other, before telling the others, he stopped hyping it, and decided to stay on the down-low with the younger.

 

"Hyuck?" Mark called out a few minutes later, brushing his hand through the younger's hair and humming along to something, although his eyes were dropping and he was on the verge of sleep, he wanted to talk to Donghyuck.

 

"Yeah?" Donghyuck answered, his voice coming out slurred and Mark felt a little guilty for perhaps waking the other up.

 

"I uh—love you," Mark said, feeling his face heat up even though it wasn't a big deal since they had been dating for a while and passed those few words to each other before, he still felt his heartbeat fasten and palms get sweaty.

 

"I love you too Markie, now can I sleep?" Donghyuck mumbled, tightening his grip on Mark and whining when Mark scoffed loudly. 

 

"Fine, fine, you big baby."