Chapter 7

Chenle & Mark: Not a Love Story

“Mr. Lee, come here for a second.” Chenle decided to talk to Mark after another day’s work. “Let’s shoot some hoops.” He told the boy. Mark easily showed a confused expression so Chenle repeated, “let’s play basketball together.”

 

“Sir? Now? But I don’t really play with other people.” Jisung was still in the room fixing things up. He looked at Chenle and mouthed, “I told you so.”

 

“Well, maybe it’s time for a change. I’ll go easy on you as this is your first time so don’t worry.” Chenle gave Mark a wink to which the latter replied, “I don’t know. I still have ~”

 

“Workday is done. Take some time to relax and have fun. I won’t take no for an answer. Let’s go. Jisung, come with us. You are our referee.”

 

The three-headed to Chenle’s place. Mark was awestruck upon seeing the huge mansion right in front of him. It looked like a house from the dramas his mom used to watch.

 

“Is this…” Mark looked at Chenle with wondering eyes.

 

“My house? Yes, this is my house. Let’s go inside.” Chenle grabbed Mark’s arm gently, like supporting a little boy, and escorted him to his house.

 

“Come on, this way.” Chenle excitedly led Mark to the court at the back of his mansion. Mark’s jaw dropped. His eyes widened in awe. Words couldn’t find their way out of his mouth. He was too focused on what's in front of him that he didn’t notice that Chenle left for a minute.

 

When Chenle returned, he was bringing with him a pair of basketball jerseys and holding them up for Mark to see. The CEO had also changed in his own pair of basketball jerseys.

 

“You don’t want to be playing in your work outfit don’t you?” Chenle asked Mark while the former was smiling at him like a father. Mark grabbed the basketball jersey from Chenle.

 

“The bathroom is just right there,” he pointed out a door on his right. Mark shyly muttered, “thanks Sir,” and left to change his clothes.

 

Jisung was questioningly eyeing Chenle to which the latter noticed. “What is it now Jisung?”

 

“I thought you rented an indoor court? Did I miss anything? Why did you bring that boy to your house?”

 

“What’s wrong with bringing him here? Besides, there are no more vacant courts left.” Chenle averted his gaze away from the prying eyes of his best friend.

 

“Oh really? You think I’ll believe that?”

 

“No” Chenle softly responded. His head looking down at his feet with his hands in his pocket to hid its shakiness.

 

“You even lent him your jersey. Oh, not just any jersey. But your favorite one signed by Stephen Curry himself.” Jisung was piercing his gaze to his now flushed best friend’s face.

 

“I know that. That’s the first pair I grabbed and I ~” Chenle now looked up to meet Jisung’s curious expression.

 

“Oh my god Chenle. Don’t tell me you like this boy!”

 

“What? Jisung! No! Hell no! It’s not what you think, okay.”

 

“Then what?” Chenle was grateful that the bathroom door finally opened. He called Mark up, approached the boy, and left Jisung who was shaking his head in disbelief.

 

Chenle and Mark warmed up first before the actual play. They did some shooting until their body, or rather Mark’s body, has grasped the new ring and court he’ll be playing at.

 

Jisung, together with the other two, went in the middle of the court to start the gameplay.

 

“On my count, 1, 2..” Jisung blew his whistle and threw the ball up for the jump ball. Chenle was the first one to grab the ball and he immediately ran to the ring and did a lay-up. A quick point was given to the CEO.

 

Mark’s turn to handle the ball. He’s dribbling it pretty well. Chenle was finding it a bit hard to follow the ball on Mark’s hand. When Mark noticed that Chenle is getting a little confused already, he seized the opportunity to do a spin before doing a jump shot from the 3-point line.

 

Both Chenle and Jisung were surprised.

 

“I know I told you I’ll go easy on you. But if there’s one thing you need to know about me, I hate losing.” Chenle's eyes were now fiery.

 

“I hate losing too Mr. Zhong. So if you may excuse me. I’ll go and shoot another point.”

 

That was probably the first time Chenle saw Mark’s face lit up. And he liked it.

 

The game went on with the two exchanging points here and there. Jisung barely did his job as the referee as he was too busy admiring the gameplay of the two men in front of him. And that’s when he saw it, Chenle’s satisfied and happy face.

 

“How I wish I can make you happy like Mark does, Chenle.” Jisung softly muttered to himself.

 

The game ended with a score of 40-37, in favor of Chenle. The boys were clearly exhausted. Jisung both gave them some cold water and a towel.

 

“Thank you Mr. Park.”

 

“Thanks Ji,” Jisung was taken aback. It’s been a while since Chenle called him by his nickname Ji.

 

“Mark, stay for dinner okay,” Chenle looked at the boy with begging eyes. How could Mark say no to that? “Okay, Sir. Thank you,” Chenle’s heart melted inside when Mark smiled gratefully him.

 

Over dinner, the three of them couldn’t help but talk about work. Chenle and Jisung don’t know how to change the course of the conversation to something more directed to Mark’s personal life.

 

In the end, Chenle tried to start a new topic. “I noticed you handled the ball pretty well, Mark. Where did you learn basketball?”

 

They could notice Mark was a bit hesitant to answer and talk about himself but after seeing the sincere father-like smile of Chenle in front of him, he proceeded in answering his question.

 

“I just watched people play them and I guess I picked them up quickly and practiced.” Mark went back to eating after.

 

“So no one taught you how to play? Like a brother or a father?” Chenle asked.

 

Mark stopped from eating again before answering them with a soft, “None. I only lived with my mom.” The atmosphere suddenly became weird. Jisung stepped into the conversation to break the awkward silence.

 

“Wow, it’s already 9 in the evening. Mr. Lee and I better get going.”

 

“Mr. Lee’s not yet done eating Ji.” Chenle said while looking concernedly at Mark.

 

“Oh I am already done, Sir. Sorry I wasn’t able to finish my food. I’m afraid I am already full.”

 

“That’s okay Mr. Lee. No need to apologize. I hope the food tasted okay with you and that you’re not only saying you are full out of courtesy.” Chenle did his father-like smile again. Mark couldn’t help but get soft when he does that.

 

“The food really tastes delicious, Sir. I really enjoyed it. Thank you.” Mark genuinely smiled back at Chenle.

 

“Alright, then. Ji, can you drop off Mr. Lee to his place?” Because Jisung can respond, Mark retorted, “Oh Mr. Zhong there’s no need to. I can just commute to my place.”

 

Jisung interrupted, “Mr. Lee, there are no public transportations around this area.”

 

“Go on Mr. Lee. Jisung wouldn’t mind dropping you off. Besides, we invited you so it’s just proper that we bring you back safely.” Mark wanted to tell off his brain to stop being soft when Chenle smiles at him and gives him some puppy eyes. How can he resist?

 

“I understand Sir. I will let Mr. Park drop me off at our place. Thank you very much for inviting me for a game and dinner.”

 

“You’re welcome Mark. I hope it’s okay that I call you Mark outside of work?”

 

“Yes Sir, you can call me Mark.”

 

“Wonderful. You guys take care on your way. Ji, text me when you get home.”

 

“I will Lele,” Jisung gave Chenle a quick hug before he and Mark left. Chenle was dumbfounded, “Did Jisung just called me Lele?”

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