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intricacies, intimacies

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On Mother’s Day, I wrote a letter for my mom. “You are the only true home I will ever know. I was brought to life in you, sustained by the shelter of your womb for 9 months, transformed into more than just a collaboration between two sets of DNA.”

I think home is where you can grow.

I think I gifted my mom a lie.

As long as you are by my side, I know that every day I will wake up more developed than the last, the universe inside of me expanding infinitely. You fill me in. You flesh me out.

I think I’ll try getting her a better gift next year. – 9:10 am, 2015 [ON THE BACK OF A FAILED MATH TEST]

 

The first time Donghyuck kisses him, Mark doesn’t know how to feel anything but lost.

His lips, at least, know what to do, and the rest of him should, too. But his hands, his knees, his hips—they pause, overwhelmed by the sudden influx of places to go, trying to chart the best order to visit them all in. Donghyuck is the city Mark’s wanted to know inside out since he was fifteen.

But he didn’t have a passport then, and dreams are so much more manageable unrealized.

The tough skin of his palms chafes against a wall studded with brick-grit instead of exploring Donghyuck’s hills and valleys, and Donghyuck eventually notices his grip, or lack thereof.

He pulls back, eyes fluttering, lips fuller than usual, and curls an arm around Mark’s waist like it’s allowed, like kissing him under the moon five minutes out of the Subway they had a sorry excuse for a date in is normal and not terrifying. (Then again, it’s not like Mark had refused.)

“You’re hesitating,” he says, words sandwiched in breath as he tries to get it back under control.

“I just don’t know…” where to start, he wants to say. But that would sound too much like an invitation for Donghyuck to cut a line down his torso and peer inside, so he settles on an evasive not-lie: “Yeah, I am.”

“No—don’t know what? Don’t know… how?” Donghyuck attempts to finish for him, and Mark almost laughs out loud because that couldn’t be further from the truth. He’s had everything mapped out for years, sweat-stained pages with rips and tears that kept safe itineraries for when he’d finally land at Donghyuck’s feet and be able to match his unwavering gaze.

Learning Donghyuck is not the problem; in fact, unlearning him would be more painful, like stopping breath from leaving the lungs, telling the heart it doesn’t need to pump blood.

But Donghyuck is clearly thinking, now, idle hands coming up to fix Mark’s shirt as he chews on the inside of his lower lip. “If you’re afraid of doing something I don’t like, I could teach you.” He smiles at Mark’s collar, playful. “It is a little disappointing that you don’t know me as well as I know you, though. Just putting that out there.”

Mark’s lips pull up at the corners, too, but for a different reason. “Teach me?”

“Yeah,” Donghyuck nods, leaning in to kiss Mark’s cheek. His lips stay pillowed there for a beat too long, like he’s committing the feel to memory, before drawing back and running a thumb over the chapstick-tacky skin. His eyes meet Mark’s, teasing just as much as they are serious. “I can teach you how to touch me.”

And how apt, really, for Donghyuck to attempt to bring the uncontrollable under his control. Mark might give them away from how much he’s glowing in the dark, leaking light through his pores at just how unreasonably happy Donghyuck makes him. Donghyuck tilts his head a little in question, eyes already looking unfocused like he’s making a list of all the ways he can help.

Mark could navigate Donghyuck blind, but he supposes a set of whispered instructions in his ear wouldn’t hurt. He lets a smile take over his face before nodding.

“Okay.” Saying no to Donghyuck has never been easy, anyway. “Teach me, Hyuck.”

 

 

 

After a lifetime of living in your hands, I hope I am buried in them, too. Let me trace a winding path from your wrist across your palm to the top of your nail. I promise to be firm because heavy hands build houses better than light ones. Pull me in to where your teeth dig into your lower lip, hiding a smile that knows I know the centre of your palm is ticklish, and that I’ll be spending extra time there because of it. Let me rub the weathered hardwood of your knuckles and recall where the scratches came from—the time I moved a heavy wardrobe, the time I dropped a glass and it shattered.

And then, let me take my colour-correcting lips and press them into the gouges until they are not noticeable from afar, because even though history has made them beautiful to me, you will never learn to like the way they look. – 4:09 pm, 2016 [ON A RED BANDANA]

 

The couch in the Dream dorm is perfect to fall asleep in, with its big, fluffy cushions, and seats you can only sort of feel the springs through. Worn down enough to feel like an old friend, fit any body perfectly. Sometimes, Mark thinks Donghyuck’s hands work in the same way.

Donghyuck tells him that may be true, but they only ever want to fit against one person.

“I like it when you hold on tight,” Donghyuck says, fingers slipping between Mark’s. The initial plan had been to watch something while waiting for the kids to come home from a schedule so they could go for dinner together, but then Mark’s hand had brushed against Donghyuck’s when he’d reached for the remote, and Donghyuck had transformed into a human lightbulb.

Mark squeezes until their hold is airtight, receiving a smile in response, Donghyuck emanating a dreamy haze in the evening’s reddish-orange glow. His skin is poured honey, varnished in thin pink. Mark often wonders how it’s possible for one person to look so good, to never fail to be anything less than breathtaking, but Donghyuck’s always been the untouchable type of beautiful (the unknowable type of beautiful).

“And you know when the pad of someone’s thumb runs over the bone of yours—yeah,” Donghyuck says quietly, a pleased smile stretching to the peachy apples of his cheeks. “That. Gets me all tingly.”

“Me too,” Mark admits, knowing that Donghyuck wants to hear it, proven by the way he looks up at him with crescent eyes, warm and alight with undeclared joy.

There’s something odd, almost embarrassing, about doing this, like they’re back in elementary school, desk partners who blush when someone says the word crush and blush harder when their elbows touch. But Mark thinks there are far more pros than there are cons. To love in dialogue instead of montage, lingering on every detail. To see a city as a local instead of a tourist.

I like it when you do this, Donghyuck says to him, and I like it because it makes me feel like this.

“That, too,” Donghyuck sighs happily, and Mark realizes he’s detangled their hands. His fingers are running aimlessly over the back of Donghyuck’s hand, instead. A small scowl breaks through Donghyuck’s pleased expression, and he shakes his wrist a little to derail Mark’s fingers from the scar he’d been rubbing over. “Not there.”

So Mark flits over the scars like he knew he’d have to do eventually and meanders to the very tips of Donghyuck’s fingers. He takes the hand between both of his and holds it up, planting patient kisses to every pad, every knuckle, every scratch and mole. Wordless and knowing, it feels much too special, like walking into that restaurant everyone kept telling him he had to go visit if he was travelling there and finding that everything they serve matches his palate perfectly. 

When he brings his attention back to Donghyuck’s eyes, they’ve scrunched into slits from the force of his smile. He leans in and kisses Mark, short and sugary.

“You’re stupid for me, Mark Lee.”

Mark sneaks a finger to the middle of Donghyuck’s palm in payback, sees the instant laugh that’s kept from bubbling past his teeth.

“Dating you is exhausting,” he announces in a way that makes it painfully clear he doesn’t mean a single word.

Donghyuck doesn’t get to reply because the kids come barreling in, but he does entwine their hands together again. And Mark makes sure he squeezes tight.

 

 

 

If you don’t fit against me at first, I will try again, and again, and again.

The first time I moved, I was 8, and I didn’t like the new yellow lights. They should’ve been white, like my old house. We didn’t ever replace them.

Here are some things I know:

Your spine never curves perfectly into my chest. Your head is always knocking against mine when we anchor our chins on each other’s shoulder. Your feet never know if they want to stand between, beside, or on top of mine. I will hold myself uncomfortably for you, let you manipulate every limb into a position that starts aching in mere seconds, but I will not move until you tell me I can, and I will watch the yellow light shimmer on your brow and feel safe. – 8:17 pm, 2017 [ON THE SOLE OF A SANDY SHOE]

 

“It’s in the very back,” Taeil shouts from the living room, which is just as unhelpful as the first three times he yelled it. Mark rubs his nose to warm it up, rifling through a couple more packages of chopped vegetables and beef patties. Their freezer is either a chocolate-bar-eating monster, or someone forgot to buy them.

“You’re hopeless, shove over.” Donghyuck appears in the kitchen out of thin air, slightly nudging Mark before squeezing into the space between him and the fridge. He stretches bare arms into the back and, after less than five seconds, miraculously pulls out a box with cartoon ice-cream bars dancing on the front. “How hard was that?”

Twisting his neck to judge Mark, he rattles the box, but all Mark can focus on now is Donghyuck’s fine eyelashes and chapped lips, his button nose and messy hair, still drying from a shower, the subtle texture to his skin that memory alone has Mark’s fingers buzzing. At times like this, it’s hard to believe Mark doesn’t start daydreaming halfway through schedules out of sheer proximity to Donghyuck.

The box is shaken again, harder. Mark blinks.

“I swear I checked the same spot.”

“Looks like it’s time for a visit to the eye doctor,” Donghyuck clucks his tongue before turning back to leave, but the door is still open, and he’s moments away from walking right into it when Mark’s hands scurry to grab his hips reflexively, herding him back into his chest.

“Looks like it is,” Mark laughs into Donghyuck’s hair, who makes various sounds of protest but doesn’t attempt to move out of Mark’s hold. It’s been a while since they’ve had any alone time at all, and although today is a day off, Doyoung gets strangely neurotic about not having movie nights with everyone at least once a month.

Mark shifts his feet apart when Donghyuck leans back, making room for another set of legs. Nosing into the citrusy scent of his hair, he can feel his skin shedding the cold coming from the open freezer.

Donghyuck’s got a half-sleeve on, and they really should move, or at least close the door, but neither of them attempt to do anything but stand pressed against each other. And Mark knows, knows how much Donghyuck likes to be close like this in particular, knows how much he probably wants Mark to take him all the way into the coil of his arms—they’ve watched too many romcoms together for him not to. But he wants to entertain Donghyuck’s proposal.

So, watching goosebumps ripple up Donghyuck’s forearms, he softly says, “Hyuck, teach me how to hold you.”

And Donghyuck doesn’t refuse, or ask, in a tone of disbelief, now? He just hums, sets the box back in the freezer and places cold hands atop Mark’s, guiding them until they’re safety-barred across his waist. His head bumps against Mark’s as he melts further back, and they both laugh a little.

“Like this,” Donghyuck says, smile in his voice. “All or nothing. And if we were alone, I’d want you to—”

Mark’s hands are already moving before Donghyuck finishes his sentence, slipping under his shirt and eliciting an undignified noise. Donghyuck’s waist heats up the pads of Mark’s fingers.

“I said when we’re alone,” eye-roll apparent in the way he says it. He twists in Mark’s hold to face him, but doesn’t pull away.

“Technically, we are alone in the kitchen.” Mark rubs innocent hands up and down Donghyuck’s side. “And I’m cold. You’re like a human heater.”

“There are more flattering ways to call me hot,” Donghyuck informs him, barely holding back a shiver when Mark’s hands slide to his back. He looks like he’s trying not to smile, corner of his mouth twitching every so often, and it’s so endearing that Mark doesn’t know what other option he has left than to lean in and kiss him.

With an isolated zone, it’s easier to touch. Mark eases Donghyuck into the kiss, lets him bring a hand up to the back of Mark’s neck and draw closer before his own hands start wandering. Thumbs inching over Donghyuck’s ribs one by one, Mark’s dimly reminded of piano keys. Donghyuck is a song waiting to be written, and Mark puts together chords across his ribcage, taps a drumbeat against his newly taut stomach, warms up his throat while rubbing his palms over Donghyuck’s waist and sings—

“Like this?”

“Yeah,” Donghyuck murmurs against his lips in harmony, adoring as can be. “You learn fast.”

Someone is definitely going to walk in on them and tell them off for delaying movie night soon, but for now all Mark pictures is street-performers composing atmospheres fit for the tourist attraction they sway near, guitars and keyboards and throats and smiles, and he leans back in to taste their names off Donghyuck’s lips.

 

 

 

Do you like it when I pull your hair? I think you do. Back home, I used to pull on the curtains next to my bed before falling asleep. We don’t have curtains at the dorms, only blinds, maybe that’s why I like pulling on your hair, too. It relieves your scalp, you say, and that’s all I need to know to never stop. I want that—to be the place you don’t have to search for comfort, but expect it.

There is no softer fabric than the strands of your hair, and I know you like it when they curtain your eyes and I brush them aside, when we can’t quite see each other and then we do—because often I am blind to everything else in the world except you.

I look at you to remind myself I have eyes. – 1:30 am, 2018 [ON THE INSIDE OF A PACKET OF MAKEUP WIPES]

 

The strange thing about dating Donghyuck is that it feels like they did everything out of order. When they were just friends, it felt like they were already dating. Now that they’re dating, it feels like they’re married (even if something as simple as touch is being taught between them).

Mark doesn’t like thinking about it too much because he might jinx their longevity, pull the cliff that leads to an expiration date closer just by hoping they never fall off, but it’s in everything they do. It’s in the way he wakes up before Donghyuck on weekends and forgets which reality they’re living in for a moment. He’ll look at his fingers and expect to see a ring, or wonder why the walls to their room are so bare, or why Donghyuck looks so young when their love is so old.

In their true reality, it’s insane of Mark to even graze these thoughts. It’s been a few weeks, and Mark’s already jumping at the chance to measure time in longer units, start talking in whens instead of ifs. But he can’t help it, not when they do things like this: dip into a bubble bath together with nothing but their boxers on because while Mark may feel like they’re past the threshold of dating, it still stands that they’ve never let their hands dip below the waist.

“I’m all wrinkly,” Mark mouths into Donghyuck’s shoulder. He brings a foamy hand out of the water and shows it to him, wiggling his fingers. “We need to get out before I turn into a freeze-dried version of myself.”

Everyone’s out today, thankfully, so there’s no chances of anyone walking in and accusing them of tainting the purity of the bathroom or something else equally ridiculous. Mark’s free to wander the streets alone in this city and take in every last detail. The trees, the architecture, the make of the cars, the sound of the birds.

He finds he likes nature best when it pertains to the natural slope of Donghyuck’s neck, among other things.

“Ah yes,” Donghyuck intones seriously, taking Mark’s wrist to conduct a closer examination. “Finally, proof that you are, in fact, secretly an 80-year-old man.”

Mark playfully bites his shoulder, which has him apologizing begrudgingly, jerking away from Mark’s chest to save his skin.

“Can’t you massage my hair for a while before we get out? Everything’s been feeling tight lately.” Donghyuck slides down in the tub, knees poking out of the water so his head can rest on Mark’s sternum. Mark hasn’t even replied yet, but he supposes Donghyuck knows that Mark can never turn him down.

Every moment spent with Donghyuck is a privilege, Mark has learned. Even when he’s terrified or embarrassed or angry or invisible—breathing in sync with Donghyuck, giving him his heart as a pillow, putting a hand in his hair to detangle any thoughts that get stuck there, it’s all an honour. Time spent with Donghyuck never leaves Mark spent.

Donghyuck is vast and hosts hundreds of thousands of tourists, and Mark thinks it also means something that he’s the only one in the crowd that leaves a trail of scorched footsteps as he moves forward. Step, burn, step, burn, step, permanent, step, remember this city, step, remember how the city only remembers me.

“Mm, pull on the side a bit.”

He doesn’t have a camera, but Mark makes sure to capture the moments with his eyes. The glisten of Donghyuck’s shoulders, the space between his lips relief floats through, the wet snakes of hair curling around Mark’s fingers. Mark stops pulling for a moment to press a kiss onto his crown, strands sticking to his lip as he pulls away.

Forever is the size of a bathtub. The capacity of Donghyuck’s lungs, breathing in and out peacefully. The number of teeth peeking through his small smile.

Forever is the winding road Mark has walked a hundred times over and is only now starting to realize will never lose its enchantment.

 

 

Home had concrete legs when all I wanted it to do was move. Yesterday, you made me watch Howl’s Moving Castle with you, and I didn’t tell you at the time, but I’ve seen it before. Big, gangly spider legs that move like they’re unsure of each step they make, that is what I enjoy seeing the most in the movie. That is what I drew my house to look like when I was 10, and my teacher called me inattentive. Told me the assignment was to draw my house, for what it was and not what I wished it to be.

I think, if asked now, I would draw you and your long, honey legs that have me fumbling to keep up, that keep me moving, moving, moving. I would take pencil crayons and mark in red everywhere I want to leave you a reminder of me, up and down and in and out until you needed to take a break and I could finally catch up. – 1:26 pm, 2019 [ON THE BACK OF A MIRROR]

 

“You just want a massage.”

“You wound me,” Donghyuck sniffs as he tumbles onto the hardwood beside Mark. Their reflections are a sticky, cloudy mess in the mirror. “I’m doing what you asked—"

“What you suggested.”

“—and kindly showing you how I like being groped—”

“Don’t say groped, Hyuck—”

“—so you should really be thanking me.”

Under the dim lights of the practice room, Donghyuck’s victorious grin is blinding. He maneuvers himself until he’s sitting in front of Mark, legs slung over his crossed lap so his heels tap right over his lower back. Mark gives him a tired look.

“Everywhere?”

Donghyuck waves a flippant hand in the air. “You’re never gonna need to know how to work anything below the knee.”

Mark nearly throws a water bottle at him. Just because they’re the last ones left in the practice room doesn’t mean the odds of someone walking in or overhearing them are impossible. Careful consideration (and, honestly, a weak will) stops him from resorting to violence, ultimately giving in to the expectant look in Donghyuck’s eyes. His lips curl up when Mark places his palms over his knees, skin trapped in a sheen of sweat.

“How about we switch things up?” Mark asks, thinking.

Donghyuck makes a confused noise. “How?”

“I can try figuring things out for myself, and you can stop me if I’m wrong.” He wants to show Donghyuck, just subtly, that he does know him, does know how to get from one place to another without needing a map. And Donghyuck is always up to try something new.

He thinks for a second, then nods, leaning back on his wrists. The crook of his knees fit over Mark’s perfectly, a warm seal.

“Give it your best shot.”

First, Mark’s fingers branch out over the hill of his knees, gentle and slow. Donghyuck’s legs have always been nice to look at, all symmetrical and lean and even, but with so much attention and time to spare, Mark finds a chink in the armour. He rubs circles into Donghyuck’s left knee while thumbing over a small scar just off the edge of his right.

“What’s this from?”

“Soccer,” Donghyuck replies, frowning a little at the scar. “I tripped and fell over where someone had apparently left a broken glass bottle on the field. I didn’t know until I was bleeding.”

Mark studies his face for a moment, gauging. Donghyuck has always had a low tolerance for imperfections, especially when it comes to himself, and it shows now as he looks on at the scar, almost disappointed. Mark looks back down at it, and smiles when he notices something.

“You know it’s shaped like the moon,” he flicks his eyes up to Donghyuck, smiling. “And you’ve got stars on your face and neck. And you’re Full Sun. An entire solar system in one person.”

“Are you hearing yourself right now?” Donghyuck pretends to cringe, but his happy mouth betrays him. 

The scar tissue rubs smooth under Mark's fingertip, and he moves past it. Goosebumps start dotting Donghyuck’s legs as Mark’s hands proceed higher, sailing closer to his thighs. He keeps his light touch for the most part, then pauses, hears Donghyuck’s breath fill up the space between them, squeezes like he’s testing a toy. Donghyuck stays silent, and Mark looks up, fingers inching further up his shorts until they just rest flat on the tops of his thighs, don’t move.

“Good?”

Donghyuck nods, eyes darting down to Mark’s lips which he purses almost immediately, trying for serious while his amusement tucks itself away behind it. “We’re not going to. Not here.”

“Think of the thrill.”

“Of losing our jobs? No thanks.”

Donghyuck slaps on his devil-may-care smile, and then he’s moving closer, legs moving up Mark’s lap until their thighs are touching and he can cross his ankles behind Mark’s back. Mark keeps his hands stubbornly still under Donghyuck’s shorts, even when he brings a hand up to his cheek.

He doesn’t do anything, though. And he certainly doesn’t say anything Mark could’ve expected.

Gaze soft, smile melting into something fond, his thumb rubs over Mark’s cheekbone. “When you touch me, I always feel so important.”

Mark catches his eye, sincere under his lashes. Murmurs, “You should always feel important.”

Donghyuck shakes his head, hand travelling down Mark’s neck, coming to rest on his shoulder. “I do, but it’s different when it’s you.”

And what is Mark to do when the city's lights only seem to shine for him? 

He leans in to kiss Donghyuck, lips melting against his in a gentle warmth, hands hot on his thighs, time freezing briefly to balance out the heat. When he leans back, he says, “You need to stop saying stuff like that, I’m losing all my backbone.”

“I’ll keep you in check,” Donghyuck promises, hands tracing patterns up and down Mark’s back. One palm splays itself at the bottom of his spine, the other at the top. External rods of support.

When Mark leans in again, he’s thinking of gutted suitcases, innards stuffed into hotel wardrobes.

 

 

I’ve been looking at you for so long now that I do not need to ever look again in order to retain the contours of your face. The thing is, though, I like you so much even this chore of turning back to you again and again, despite its futility, is not a chore. I want to:

1) Hold you with my eyes.

2) Hold you between my hands.

3) Hold you when it hurts.

4) Hold you even if I can’t.

Do you remember when I took you to my house and you pointed out the stain on my wall next to the closet? It was a half-hearted brown, lingering like a ghost on the paint. I’d been seeing right through it because of how long it’d been around, how long it’d been since I’d given up trying to get rid of it.

Donghyuck, I want:

5) You to be the stain that never washes out of me, that never wanted out of me.– 9:22 am, 2020 [ON AN OLD PHONE CASE]

 

Like pamphlet people, Mark lies on his stomach, and next to him on the bed, Donghyuck lies on his back. Some nights are like this—quiet, seeing, more discovery than not. Sometimes, they’ll talk until words become suggestions of sounds and clay hardens their lashes, and Mark loves those nights, but there is something else entirely, something truthful, to be loved about when they lie like this, heads turned towards each other, just looking, just breathing.

Mark can talk his way through any interaction with any stranger, but to feel comfortable in silence is next to holiness.

Donghyuck’s got his hands folded over his stomach, and Mark’s are under the pillow. Every so often, their eyes will meet and crinkle up, twin smiles painted on their faces, but outside of those meetings, Mark is free to stare for as long as he wants at every part of Donghyuck that is too beautiful to praise through words alone, and Donghyuck is free to do the same.

When he was younger, Mark used to wonder why staring meant being creepy.

He thought it was something appreciative. There were entire galleries where all did was people sit and stare, and what was the big difference between people and art? Were they not exhibitions in their own rights? He liked looking at his friends sometimes, admiring them because his voice hid inside his eyes and spoke through them when his throat didn’t feel right.

He’d look right up until they laughed and told him to knock it off.

Donghyuck never tells him to stop, all greens, no reds. 

Donghyuck’s cheeks are stained glass, always lit up no matter the colour. His eyes are softened around the edges, always gentle when they don’t hold intention. His ears are made to be whispered sweet nothings, neck made to bridge loving lips travelling from his collarbones up to his jaw.

The small eyebrow scar is where Mark’s planted himself currently, and he has to reach, has to touch, so he takes an arm out from under the pillow and lets the pads of his fingers land safely on top of it.

Donghyuck looks at him, gaze inquisitive, curved, but Mark just does a half shrug best he can lying flat and rubs at the spot a bit, messing up the shape of his eyebrow. Donghyuck laughs, breathy, and Mark works the rest of his face with his fingers just like that, so full of love he has to maintain eye contact with Donghyuck so it has somewhere to flow, so he doesn’t burst open from it.

His hands are old travellers across the planes of Donghyuck’s face, stroking his cheek, cupping his chin, thumbing his smile, bumping into his nose, swiping under his eyes. Donghyuck must know, must feel that this is a lesson he’ll never need.

He stops, hand resting on Donghyuck’s chest.

I love you, he sends with desperate eyes, hoping Donghyuck can hear it. I love you and I think I’d leave everything behind to stay here forever, cured of wanderlust, roaming through every nook and cranny until I knew you better than you knew yourself.

Donghyuck closes his eyes, turns his head to the ceiling. His cheeks are lit up pink, and his hand goes on top of Mark’s. He squeezes, and Mark buries his smile into his pillow.

 

 

Lee Donghyuck. I am so, so lucky. – 4:11 am, 2021 [ON A POST-IT NOTE STUCK TO THE LID OF A—

 

“Hyung, what’s this shoebox for?”

Mark only half-hears the question, too caught up in wondering how his closet looks so completely wrecked when he’s only been wearing the same three shirts for the last week. Cleaning days are the worst, but he's almost grateful Taeyong's instated them after seeing the post-tornado wreckage of his wardrobe.

"Mark hyung."

Mark looks over his shoulder. Donghyuck’s sitting at the base of his bed. He’s been surprisingly helpful this morning, quickly finishing up his own room to come help Mark with his. An ulterior motive is probably at play, but Mark was too desperate for help to question him.  

In his hands, he’s holding a—

“Put that away,” Mark says, eyes widening in recognition. He sinks down to Donghyuck’s level, but is quickly reminded of Donghyuck's penchant for doing the exact opposite of what he's told to do when he makes a wild grab for the box and only manages to snag air. Donghyuck's eyes sparkle mischievously, arms keeping the box out of reach. 

“Must be important, then.”

Hyuck—”

His second dive works out even worse than the last, and he finds himself hugging the floor as Donghyuck’s light feet hop onto the bed. Before Mark’s even fully stood back up, he’s already got the box open. Faintly, Mark wonders if they should have a talk about the importance of setting boundaries (although, Mark probably would’ve showed him at one point anyway—just, when it was less embarrassing to do so).

Donghyuck takes the items out slowly, clearly confused as to why Mark was guarding them with his life until he picks up what Mark recognizes as the very first entry. A red, bolded 43% comes into view as Donghyuck uncrumples the piece of paper, and Mark sighs, already anticipating the hundreds of different jokes Donghyuck will have locked and loaded once he’s finished reading.

He waits for them, but they never come.

Donghyuck definitely makes it to the bottom of the page, but all he does after that is look up at Mark, lips slightly parted, before going back in to read another, then another, one by one. He’s painstakingly careful in handling the artefacts, applying a delicate touch like they might all crumble if he’s too rough, too hasty. He reads and reads, every interval in which he looks at Mark with eyes shinier than the last.

This is what it must be like, Mark thinks, to run through a city shouting in glee about how much you’ve fallen in love with it.

Donghyuck is slow in putting everything back, and he closes the lid at last, touching the post-it note before moving the shoebox over and patting the space in front of him. Mark goes easily, folding himself in front of Donghyuck.

Donghyuck reaches for his hands, Mark vacuum-seals their hold, Donghyuck looks at Mark's collarbone.

“You did not need those lessons.”

Mark laughs, surprised. “Maybe. But you asked.”

“But I asked,” Donghyuck echoes, looking at Mark now with tender eyes. “And how could you say no?”

Mark smiles, only a little embarrassed. Donghyuck is nothing short of breathtaking under the morning sun. He shrugs. “I still learned something, though. That we have time, and I don’t have to think so hard about where to hold you first.”

Donghyuck is still looking at him in that way, like scorched footsteps over his skin burn good, burn best. And then, softly, he asks, “2015?”

They've never fully breached the topics of when and how, but Mark doesn't think it's all that hard to believe. Still, his laughter is laced with nerves, and his palms are clammy. Donghyuck holds on just as tight all the same. 

"2015," he confirms. "Is that weird—”

The next few words are knocked out of him with the force of Donghyuck's hurricane hug. It's a little awkward because he has to lean so much, crossed legs in the way, but Mark tilts forward to make it easier, wraps his arms around Donghyuck to stabilize him, closes his eyes at the feel of his hair on his cheek.

Head over heels was a stupid, stupid expression before Mark met Donghyuck. 

"I hate you," Donghyuck complains, muffled into Mark's shirt. He's shaking a little now, and Mark nuzzles in closer, kisses right above his ear. 

"And I love you." He adds, quieter, gentler. "You know that, right?"

Mark eases an arm under his shirt like a safety bar, has the other reaching up to tangle fingers into Donghyuck's hair. Later, he'll hold Donghyuck's hand and kiss the fingers he held Mark's heart in. Later, he'll slide his palms up his thighs and kiss the lips he gave his own heart through. Later, later, later. 

For now, though: "I do."