Donghyuck doesn’t know much English, definitely didn’t bother to spend any time studying the two-year hiatus that had been forced upon them by the literal plague, but he knows enough, just the right amount to read the words ‘free tacos for life’ written on the menu board.
Sure, six hundred American dollars was a decent amount.
Sure, it is something that his manager will lecture him about later for swiping on the card that is linked to their company account, but six hundred dollars for an infinite supply of tacos?
What could be better than that?
Surely once they figured out what he spent the money on they would understand?
He may be a high school dropout, but anyone with basic math skills can figure out that this is a good deal, the only problem is - “It’s a wedding package, Haechannie, you’d have to find someone willing to marry you to get the tacos.”
Donghyuck wrinkles his nose in annoyance, and it’s only because Johnny is still live on Instagram and their czennies are watching that he doesn’t make a rude gesture in reply to Doyoung’s comment or Jungwoo’s resounding laughter and instead just says, “Excuse you, anyone would be lucky to marry me. If there’s anyone unmarriable here it’s you .”
The laughter only continues after that, loud enough to draw the eyes of Johnny and Mark, who had up until a moment before been recording every aspect of the Taco Bell while recounting the differences between the ones here, the ones that Mark had been to in Canada, and the one back in Seoul.
Technically they had come here to try the mythical Baja Blast, a sacred flavor of Mountain Dew that the Taco Bell in Seoul didn’t have, and that apparently the Chicagoan, and apparent Taco Bell enthusiast of the group had insisted was a near-religious experience for a first-time drinker.
Johnny had even gone live so they could show they could include czennies.
To be fair, Donghyuck hadn’t thought the drink was that great, but he had enough ‘acting in front of a camera and pretending to like things so we can get a CF’ lessons that he played it up perfectly acting like his first sip of Baja Blast was a completely life-changing experience, and earning himself an eye roll from Mark in return before the two English speakers had gone to explore.
“What’s so funny,” Mark asks.
Which really, famous last words,
He’ll later blame it on the two sips of his very cold twisted Baja Blast, but Donghyuck can’t help the words, “Marry me,” from slipping from his lips.
It’s worth it for the way Mark literally drops his own Baja Blast, twelve dollars worth of alcohol and a drink scientifically engineered to taste better at Taco Bell splatter across the floor, before a panicked - “Dude what? - spills from his lips, as his face starts to turn red.
Really it’s always been so easy to wind Mark up and get him all flustered.
Something that Donghyuck has been indulging in even more often since they officially started dating - in secret technically, but the whole band knew and their managers and various staff members who kept having to cover things up for them - a year ago.
“Marry me,” Donghyuck repeats again, more insistent this time, because what’s the point of having a boyfriend if not to marry him for a lifetime supply of subpar tacos.
“Ignore him, Haechannie just wants a free taco,” Doyoung says, “And he’s just trying you since both Jungwoo and I already told him no.”
“I didn’t want to marry either of you anyways.”
“But you want to marry, Mark ,” Jungwoo asks, voice low enough that it feels like a secret, and Donghyuck definitely blames the alcohol in his Baja Blast for the goosebumps that rise on his arms at the suggestion of that. “For a taco .”
“For life, hyung,” Donghyuck insists, the distinction is important here. “Free tacos for life , not just one taco, infinite tacos.”
“Wait, is that a real thing,” Mark asks, squinting at the menu board.
It’s not the easiest to see from their booth seats, definitely not for someone slightly tipsy who already has garbage vision, thankfully Johnny is better at seeing and finds it for them, “Six hundred dollars for a twelve taco box, a cinnabon delights cake, one set of wedding shirts, a photoshoot with the sauce bouquet, and thirty minutes of access to the Taco Chapel,” Johnny reads, “And free tacos for life.”
Donghyuck may not know what half of that means, but he knows the most important part of it - “It’s worth it for the tacos.”
“I’m pretty sure the fine print says that it’s not even a legally binding marriage,” Johnny continues, “You have to provide your own wedding license.”
“That’s even better! Fake wedding! Free tacos! Literally no downside,” Donghyuck is definitely being too loud.
There are people staring.
He’s very used to it at this point, people are always staring at him even when he wishes they really weren’t, but this time it’s not because someone recognizes him, but because he’s yelling inside a Taco Bell, but it could be worse.
“You know, the tacos probably aren’t actually for life either,” Doyoung points out. “Things like this are always a scam, and there’s no way of knowing that once we’re back home they would even acknowledge this if it was true.”
A fair point, but they do have at least twelve more stops on this tour left in the United States.
Which means twelve more chances for free tacos.
“That’s not important,” Donghyuck insists, waving him off.
“Come on, Hyuck,” Mark says, letting out an awkward laugh of his own. It’s a defense mechanism, one that everyone here is very well aware of. “I can just buy you a taco, you don’t have to be weird about it.”
“So you’ll marry me?”
“No,” Mark says, eyebrows furrowed together in confusion, “But I’ll buy you another taco, okay?”
It’s no big deal.
It’s a dumb thing, a joke, not even a real wedding.
It definitely shouldn’t hurt like a real rejection.
So why does his stomach feel terrible and anxious at Mark’s refusal to play along?
Donghyuck takes another long drink from his admittedly kind of great Baja Blast, to try and bury the mild disappointment that surges through him, before turning to his next and only hope and saying - “Johnny-hyung, fake marry me for tacos, please?”
It’s easy to ignore Jungwoo’s “Oh my god” from beside him, but not as easy to ignore the way Mark crumples the napkin in his hand into a ball, as soon as Donghyuck finishes talking.
Not that Mark’s opinion matters since he was the one that rejected Donghyuck, but -
“Sure, why not,” Johnny replies with a shrug.
“No,” Mark jumps in.
Apparently, that’s his new favorite word.
Donghyuck rolls his eyes, before turning to Mark, “No what?”
“No, don’t marry, Johnny-hyung?”
“I’ll marry you,” Mark says.
“The moment has passed, I’ve moved on, set my sights higher, literally in this case,” Donghyuck says, gesturing towards Johnny, “Look, you had your chance to marry me, as we can all see I am highly sought after marriageable material, and if you’re not willing to get the tacos, then I simply have to move on-”
“I literally already told you that I’ve changed my mind,” Mark cuts him off. “I want to marry you… For the tacos.”
“You see that,” Donghyuck turns towards the nay-sayers Doyoung and Jungwoo, “That’s two suitors I’ve got, ready to fight for my love, unlike you two hags.”
“I’m not actually going to fight Mark, because he’d lose and we have a concert tomorrow,” Johnny says. “And I don’t want our manager to kill me if he can’t dance.”
“Ah, yes, because the alternative, which is the maknaes getting married in exchange for a box of tacos, won’t result in our manager’s disapproval at all,” Doyoung muses.
He is, of course, promptly ignored.
Because there’s something much more important on the table now, “So, are you marrying me, or what?”
“You’re supposed to get down on one knee,” Jungwoo calls out before Mark can answer.
Kneeling in Mark’s spilled Baja Blast wasn’t exactly on Donghyuck’s ‘World Tour To-Do List’ , but he has never been one to back down from a challenge, and he certainly isn’t going to stop now. So instead, he grabs one of the sauce packets and slips out of the booth, before getting down on one knee, and asking a question that makes way too many butterflies flutter in his stomach for this to be as much of a joke as he wants it to be - “Mark Lee, will you marry me?”
‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ unless that thing is marrying your bandmate at the Las Vegas Taco Bell, in which case it stays between the two of you, your slightly tipsy hyungs, acting as witnesses, one tweet blurry picture of the sauce bouquet tweeted out to all of your band’s Twitter followers, oh - and Johnny’s five million Instagram followers watching it live.
Really, who could have predicted that?
To be fair, as far as Donghyuck is concerned, it is really all SM’s fault.
After all, they were the ones that decided one of the perfect stops for 127’s American branch of their 2022 World Tour was Vegas, and that the best way to document the whole tour was to set the boys loose upon the night with instructions to take photos and upload them for their fans.
Which worked out well enough in any other city.
But Las Vegas is known for three things:
First and foremost - gambling, which is illegal and definitely off the table even for the American of the group.
Secondly - drinking, obviously.
And finally, and most importantly, the ease at which any person can get married just about anywhere they like, including, but not limited to Taco Bell.
The fact that they don’t immediately get put on a plane and shipped back to Korea is a miracle, and Donghyuck knows he really shouldn’t try to push things at this point, but he’s hungover and sitting next to his boyfriend ( husband? ) in a hotel conference room with their managers (the 127 manager and Mark’s own personal manager) sitting on the other side of the table, and he can’t help himself - “I don’t see what the big deal is?”
“You don’t see what the big deal is,” his manager repeats, in a very tired tone.
It’s a rhetorical question.
But Donghyuck just shrugs.
“We had an agreement, do you two remember,” Mark’s manager says, “That for the well-being of your onscreen chemistry, we wouldn’t put a stop to whatever is going on between the two of you, but in exchange, you would be discreet .”
“Which is such bullshit anyways, because-”
“Hyuck, please,” Mark cuts him off.
Donghyuck wants to protest, to continue arguing on their behalf, but Mark’s fingers slipping in between his own stops him. He can feel Mark’s ring - cheap, plastic, dollar store mood ring, but still resting there on his left ring finger - pressing into his hand, and clenches his other fist tightly to keep its twin safe.
“It wasn’t a real wedding,” Mark explains, always the more composed of the two of them. “It’s not like legally binding or anything, we can just say it was a joke, make some statement or something?”
“Neither of you are saying anything,” their manager replies, “The Company is drafting an official statement, in the meantime, the two of you are to stay off any social media and stay away from each other as much as possible. Do you understand?”
Mark’s hand squeezes against his tightly, a reminder that this separation isn’t forever, despite the way that Donghyuck’s stomach feels like turning (and not just because he’s hungover).
It’s Mark that attempts answers for the both of them, “Yes, we understand.”
“Oh and Donghyuck-ah?”
“I understand,” he replies, even though it pains him. “As far away from Mark as possible, got it.”
“And throw out that shirt, we need all of this brushed under the rug with as little complications as possible.”
Like hell he’s going to throw out his priceless - six hundred American dollars - ‘Taco Groom’ shirt.
“Yeah, so, I’m not doing that.”
Normally his hangovers don’t last long enough that they’re still lingering there by the time they arrive at the concert venue, but there’s something about the normally comforting neon green lights of their fans' lightsticks (which normally offer him comfort) that seem just a little bit too bright.
He’s still giving it his all, despite the churning sick feeling that has settled over him all day.
Definitely a lingering side effect of that deceptively alcoholic Baja Blast, and not at all caused by anything else.
Like the negative comments that netizens had left on articles about his fake wedding.
Or the ten different lectures he had gotten today.
Or the fact that Mark is on the opposite end of the stage from him because they aren’t supposed to be talking to each other or even breathing the same air for the rest of the tour if they know what’s good for them and Donghyuck…
He can tell that his energy is off.
Knows that the fans can probably tell too and it sucks.
This whole situation sucks.
Maybe, in hindsight, the tacos were not actually worth it.
And since he knows SM is working on some sort of statement to be made after this concert, they probably won’t even be able to get their lifetime supply of tacos, which means really the only thing they got out of that six hundred dollars was a box of tacos, a blurry taco bouquet photoshoot that had to be deleted off of twitter, and a whole lot of trouble.
He’d switched the mood ring to a different finger in an attempt to play nice, but glancing down at it now, Donghyuck can see the black of a bad mood staring back up at him.
Maybe that’s why he does it.
Or maybe it’s just because he’s sick of having to hide all of this constantly.
Like sure, the Taco Bell ceremony wasn’t real, it was a joke but that didn’t mean that one day… Maybe… if Mark wanted to too… That he wouldn’t-
He’d zoned out, missed the question, but they do the same bit at every tour so he’s just about sure what the question was, even as he blurts out, “What?”
“Ah, this boy, never paying attention,” Doyoung chides, while their fans reply with a mix of cooing and laughing, as if he doesn’t know exactly why Donghyuck is so distracted.
Still, Donghyuck has a part to play, he can’t be dealing with complicated emotions, he has to be Haechan, everyone’s favorite maknae, so he pouts dramatically, very in character , while Taeyong, their ever responsible leader, repeats the question - “What’s one word you would use to describe the tour so far?”
“Ahhhh,” Donghyuck draws the word out dramatically, pretends to think for a second, before asking, “Can I have two words?” while holding up two fingers for emphasis.
The crowd replies before his hyungs can, cheering him on, because Haechannie always gets his way.
“ Baja Blast! ”
“The two of you are going to go live and explain that this whole thing is a joke and that you’re just friends, and then we’re going to leave this godforsaken city behind and-”
What had been Mark’s favorite word last night, becomes Donghyuck’s favorite word tonight.
For better or for worse.
His manager sighs, SM definitely doesn’t pay this man enough to put up with all of 127’s shit, which like is on them and on Donghyuck, because while SM definitely does pay Donghyuck enough to lie on camera (a skill he has spent over half his life perfecting) this is the one time he’s putting his foot down and refusing to do so.
For the tacos.
“If we admit that it’s fake they’re going to take away my free taco for life card,” Donghyuck says, “I spent good money on that.”
“And caused an international scandal,” his manager points out.
Which is true, but still…
It was always coming eventually.
“Can’t you reason with him,” Mark’s manager says to Mark.
“I normally don’t try to take part in arguments that I know I will lose,” Mark replies.
Another sigh from the managers.
“But it was a joke, right? The two of you aren’t… Whatever is this,” his manager says gesturing between them, “It isn’t at that point, correct?”
Mark glances at Donghyuck, and Donghyuck purposely looks away.
Because looking at Mark would mean admitting the truth, that while this is a joke, something that started mostly to spite Doyoung and Jungwoo and to get free tacos for life , the idea of being married to Mark… It’s not one that he wants banished away forever.
Just not one that he can handle right now.
But maybe one day.
Because the way he had felt, standing there, a little tipsy, in their matching ‘Taco Groom’ shirts, saying vows that they had come up with on the spot, that was real.
More real that he’s ready to admit.
“Yeah, we did it for the tacos,” Mark answers for him, understanding what Donghyuck feels without him actually having to say it, because after all these years, they know each other a little too well, “But we’re not going to go on live and tell fans that we don’t have feelings for each other, because that would be a lie, and I don’t feel comfortable lying to czennies about this.”
“Mark, you’re supposed to be the more reasonable one here.”
“Look, you’re welcome to make an official statement, and I’m sure Hyuck agrees, we’ll stay off social media for a while-”
“Sure,” Donghyuck mumbles, that much he can agree to.
“-But I don’t want to lie…”
The managers have always been weak for Mark, because he’s good and sweet and barely ever steps out of line (except when he does and marries Donghyuck in the Vegas Taco Bell just to make sure that Johnny doesn’t - and also for the free tacos, obviously), which is why it’s not at all surprising when they do cave giving into the idea of letting the company brush this off as nonsense or variety content or fanservice after they both promise not to post anything to their personal or the 127 social media account for the duration of the tour.
“You know, it wasn’t actually a joke though,” Donghyuck says, once their managers have left them alone in their hotel room, “I meant everything I said in those vows.”
“Oh good, cause this would have been really embarrassing if only one of us meant it.”
Mark tugs him into their hotel bed, wrinkling the sheets, but laughing lightly against his lips as he pulls him into a brief kiss, before asking with barely a centimeter of space between their lips, “Why do I always let you get me into trouble?”
“Because you love me?”
“For better or for worse.”
“For richer or for poorer.”
“In sickness and in health.”
“In Baja and in Blast.”
There’s an official statement made by the time they land in the next city.
Something that brushes it all under the rug.
And it should all stop there.
But there’s also a Taco Bell in the airport when they land and well, Donghyuck has never been the type to let things go quietly - “Hey, husband, let’s go get our free tacos!”