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Mystery Keys

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He’s not proud of it, but he’s not proud of a lot of the things he does.

Tormenting one guy seems tame in comparison to most of the shit he does, and really, Doyoung kind of deserves it anyway.

“You’re sure he’s single?” the guy asks fretfully. Yuta pats his shoulder and passes him another beer.

“My dude, I’ve known him for years, since we were all freshmen. If he had a partner I’d be one of the – no, I’d be the first to know. Kim Doyoung is completely single.”

The guy bites his lip. “Should I go for it?”

Ignoring the look Johnny shoots him from the other side of the keg stand, Yuta’s smile widens. “I mean, what could be the harm in asking?”

 “You’re right. I’ll go now.”

“Good luck, man. You’re in my thoughts.”

“Thanks.”

Yuta takes another beer and sighs, leaning back against the wall to watch the show.

“You’re awful, you know that?”

He just nudges Johnny further to the right, away from his line of vision. “Not the worst one here.”

“I know, but Jesus, Yuta. Every single party? When are you gonna give Doyoung a break?”

“When he learns some manners.”

Under Yuta’s watchful eyes, the guy who’d been stuttering and blushing only seconds ago approaches Doyoung with an almost convincing display of confidence, holding a hand out for Doyoung to shake. Yuta presses his lips together when Doyoung looks up from his phone, down to the offered hand, back up at the face, and then back to his phone. He makes no move to take the hand.

“Oh dear,” Johnny murmurs. “Not again.”

The hand gets shoved back into the guy’s pocket and he brushes off the rejection bravely, continuing to talk. Yuta can’t hear much of it over the music and the general noise of the party, but he catches a couple of words. Something about parents and major and jobs.

“He’s fucked up already,” Yuta says, more to himself than Johnny. “You don’t bring up the family in the first conversation.”

“Not Doyoung’s family, anyway,” Johnny agrees. “Is he trying to – oh god.”

Yuta tries desperately not to laugh as the guy presses closer and Doyoung’s expression shuts down completely. “He’s trying so hard to be smooth.”

“That’s not smooth, it’s invasive.”

The loud music cuts out for a second as the shitty old aux cord falls from the speakers, and a chorus of complaints drowns out whatever the guy says to Doyoung. Without music softening the world, as the cries die down, there’s a moment of almost perfect silence when Yuta hears Doyoung’s reply loud and crisp and so cold it could freeze someone’s balls off.

“If this is meant to be an attempt at alleviating yourself of your burdensome virginity I suggest finding someone else to practice on. I’m not interested.”

“Shit,” Johnny whispers.

Just as the guy turns away and runs into the crowd, face purple, Call Me Maybe begins to blast through the house again and a wave of celebration rises.

Doyoung goes back to his phone screen.

Yuta loses his shit.

“That was harsh,” Johnny says. “Really harsh. Jesus. You two are as awful as each other.”

Still laughing, Yuta raises his beer. “I’ll drink to that.”

 

-

 

Over the past year there’s been a couple of rules Yuta’s picked up in the game of sending innocent men to flirt with Doyoung – a list of things to avoid if success is the aim of the game.

One – Fairly simple, but number one is manners. The ones that get shut down the quickest are the ones that stumble over, drunk off their asses, drooling or snotty or worse. He really doesn’t like that.

Two – Don’t mention family. Doyoung’s family are well known (apparently), wealthy (also apparently, but Yuta can at least confirm his clothes look expensive), and as far as Doyoung acts, they don’t exist. Mentioning them is a big no.

Three – and the most important of the rules - Don’t touch him. Knocking Doyoung around, touching him without asking or invading his personal space... you might as well punch him in the face and call him a whore, because either way his face will tighten, and with burning eyes he’ll strip you down to your core with words that feel like lashes.

It’s almost a routine now, sending guys over to flirt with Doyoung and then watching as they go down the list of offending actions and turn his usually sweet face to stone. It’s funny, and it’s fucking hilarious watching Doyoung glower at Yuta as he hypes yet another guy up for the big question of, wanna go on a date?

Still kind of hurts though, because after Doyoung stalks off into the night to find Taeyong or Kun, Yuta has nothing to do but wonder why, though he didn’t break a single rule, he was rejected too.

 

-

 

A year ago Doyoung was sort of the same, sort of different.

He was definitely shorter, definitely more filled out, definitely more likely to smile, but still, his stinky attitude was the same.

They’d never really been friends – different majors and different circles meant that Yuta rarely saw Doyoung anywhere other than parties – but sometimes they’d catch a quiet moment and speak, and it was always nice. Always nice enough for Yuta to wonder why he never saw Doyoung with anyone but his close friends. While Doyoung seemed content to survive in his little sphere, Yuta was out fucking and getting fucked by as many people and as often as he could. He liked the excitement of it, the innate flirting that could lead anywhere, the feeling of a warm body against his own, a tongue in his mouth and hands in his hair.

“Is he a prude?” he’d asked Ten one day while they worked out.

Ten wiped sweat from his face, but didn’t pause on the treadmill. He was going so fast that Yuta kind of wanted to pause the machine just to see him go flying. “Is who a prude?”

“Doyoung.”

Ten laughed. “Doyoung? A prude? No.”

“He’s never with anyone but you, Taeyong, Kun, and Taeil.”

“He’s socially awkward at best and neurotic at worst.”

“And? He’s still hot.”

Ten shot him a sly glance he never should have trusted and said in a honeyed voice, “Yeah? Then why don’t you ask him out?”

So he did, but not because Ten told him to or anything. He did it because Doyoung was attractive and it was sad to see him so alone all the time, isolated even in a crowd.

At the next party Yuta attended, he found Doyoung in the kitchen, leaning against the wall beside an open window as if he’d rather stick his head outside than associate with anyone inside of the house. He looked as good as always; tall and slim and dark eyed; the only visible sign of his discomfort being the raw edges of his bitten nails and the red skin on the tips of his fingers.

“Hey,” Yuta had said, passing him an unopened bottle of water. “You good?”

Doyoung’s pretty eyes slid to him, eying the bottle a second before taking it with a mumbled thank you. “I’m fine. Why?”

“You’re always alone at parties.”

“I like my own company.”

“Then why bother coming?”

He received a faint smile for that. “Someone has to make sure Ten  and Taeyong get home alive, and Taeil works too many hours for the burden of the task.”

“Well,” Yuta replied, cocking his hip in a way he knew accented the curve of his thighs. “I heard from someone that parties are more fun if you get to know people there.”

“Really? Who told you that?”

“I don’t know, someone old and wise. Maybe Johnny.”

“Johnny is old, but he sure isn’t wise. Last Tuesday I saw him eat like seven hotdogs because Ten dared him, and then I saw him puke them all up less than twenty minutes later. He wasn’t even drunk, it was like, midday.”

Yuta had found himself laughing, delighted. “Well, maybe I was the one that said it then. Maybe you’ll enjoy the party more once you get to know someone.”

“And who exactly is this someone I’m supposed to know?”

“Me.”

“You?”

“Me.”

“And why you?”

“Why not?”

“Because you’re older. You’re attractive, outgoing, you have good fashion sense, you play sports, you work out, and you like sex. I’ll be honest Yuta, you’re wonderful on paper, but in reality I find you to be something else entirely.” Doyoung pushes away from the wall. “Thanks for the water, and thanks for the company. If you want a blowjob in the closet under the stairs you’ll have to find someone else, because I don’t get on my knees for a bottle of water and some half assed pity.”

 

-

 

He couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment it became a game to send guys to Doyoung just to watch the painful rejections, but he learns to relish each disgusted curl of Doyoung’s lip. He learns to love the glares and muted fury Doyoung sends his way, because he’s a masochist or something. He must be.

And hey – he’s not a complete asshole. Most of the time he doesn’t have to do anything other than keep Doyoung in his sights and men end up finding their way to him like moths to an antisocial flame. Yuta makes an effort to send away the ones that look to rude, too rough, to mean for Doyoung. The ones he shouldn’t have to protect himself from Yuta steers towards the beers, the nice ones too, the ones a little too soft for the poison. It’s the cocky ones he encourages, the men at university that think a scroll of thick paper is going to make them just that little better than everyone else. The ones that need taking down a peg or two, the ones that sneer at anyone without a heavy family name, the ones that deserve Doyoung’s polite but cutting wrath.

It becomes funny.

It becomes a game.

“Go for it,” he tells a guy lingering in the doorway to the kitchen. “I’m sure he’s super interested in hearing about your law course.”

“You think? Maybe he could introduce me to his father.”

Yuta laughs and slaps him on the back. “One thing at a time, dude. Go say hi.”

And the poor dude, eager and puppyish, lasts less than three minutes. Yuta watches from the sidelines as Doyoung rejects the drink offered to him, rebuffs any attempts to swap numbers, and then finally settles on saying, with a short sigh, “Your extensive CV isn’t an interest of mine, so unless you want to listen to me list the best hundred books of the past century, fuck off and don’t come back. The book list is all you’ll get from me.”

The guy waits for a couple of seconds, and Yuta watches as he laughs uncertainly, nudging Doyoung.

Doyoung just blinks, slow and bored. “Fine. You asked for it with your silence. The Bell Jar, by Silvia Plath. The Wood, by Murakami. The-“

“Seriously?”

Doyoung smiles thinly. “The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I happen to think that the Great Gatsby is overrated, but it’s definitely worth a mention. Of course, that’s not to forget-“

The guy leaves, and Doyoung’s thin smile drops. He goes back to his phone.

Usually by this point Yuta would be cackling away, but not this time. There’s an odd feeling in his stomach, not pity, not anger, but something in between. Indignation, maybe. Whatever it is, this time Yuta isn’t laughing.

He heads over to Doyoung, and without greetings, asks, “Are they all like that?”

“You send them over, shouldn’t you know?”

“Seriously,” he says. “Are they all that rude?”

“Men only care about getting what they want, myself included,” Doyoung says, not looking up from whatever he’s reading on his phone. “Yourself included too, Yuta. Why would they hesitate when it’s clear I won’t give them what they want?”

“To listen to the books you like.”

Doyoung looks up at that, but whatever burns is in his eyes doesn’t last longer than a second. “No one wants to know.”

“I do,” he says without thinking. “Why is Gatsby overrated?”

“Yuta!” someone shouts. “Body shots, stat! Get over here!”

Doyoung smiles again, small and sharp. “Let’s not pretend you care. Go do body shots, Yuta.”

“I’m serious,” he says hotly, but Doyoung cuts in before he can continue.

“I’m not going to fuck you because you’re good at pretending you have emotions beyond arousal. Go away.”

And fuck.

Why the fuck would he stay in Doyoung’s angry little corner when there are people that actually want to spend time with him? Why did he even bother?

“Fine,” he says. “Enjoy your night.”

Doyoung cocks his head. “Don’t I always?”

So he goes and does body shots, and when he sees another guy hesitating in the doorway, he slips out of Johnny’s grip and tells them to go for it, because it’s funny. Because it’s a game.

 

-

 

Yukhei, a freshman Mark had found in their first couple of weeks, quickly attaches himself to their group. He’s tall and handsome and sometimes so airheaded that it hurts, but above all else he’s sweet. He’s just a sweetheart.

But dumb in every one of the million languages he knows.

“So,” he says, squinting. “Why do we hate Doyoung again?”

They’re at a diner, and most of the conversation so far has circled around how Yukhei can eat even more than Johnny, which was terrifying to behold. Doyoung had walked past the window with Kun and Ten though, and when Yuta had practically hissed, Yukhei decided the lunch should instead focus on catching him up on two year’s worth of university gossip. (“I’m young and carefree,” he’d said. “I need to be told about the malice I wasn’t here for.”)

“We don’t hate Doyoung,” Jaehyun says. “Literally no one here hates Doyoung. Yuta is just grumpy because Doyoung rejected him like. Numerous times.”

“At least I shot my shot,” Yuta snaps. “Have you spoken to Taeyong yet, or do you just cry over his instagram with your hand on your dick?”

Johnny chokes a little on his fries but manages to swallow them down. “Can we just have a nice meal for once please?”

Jaehyun, flushing a deep red, says, “Taeyong is different than Doyoung and you know it.”

“And? Why does that mean you can’t ask him out?”

“He- “ Jaehyun sighs. “He’s made it pretty clear he’s not into dating or anything, and I’m gonna respect that.”

Yukhei nods. “Okay, I still have no idea what’s going on. Who’s Taeyong?”

“You haven’t met him? He’s with Kun all the time.”

“Oh! The skinny guy that looks like an anime character?”

Yuta laughs. “That’s the one.”

“He said he’d knit me a sweater for Christmas.” Yukhei takes a bite of his burger and then says to Jaehyun through the food, “You should wife him asap. He’s awesome.”

“Back to Doyoung,” Jaehyun says loudly. “As I was saying, no one hates him. He’s pretty cool, actually.”

“How would you know?” Yuta asks, telling himself it isn’t jealousy that makes his mouth curl. Jaehyun is hot in the kind of universally agreeable way that makes literally everyone stop and take a moment. It’s the dimples. The dimples and the charming eye smile and the way his hair seems to always fall perfectly. It would be annoying if Yuta didn’t adore him, but the thought of Doyoung’s eyes following him around campus leaves Yuta with a cramp in his stomach that isn’t caused by overeating.

“Have you ever spoken to him without some kind of motive? He’s fine. Funny as fuck, kind of snappy at times, but he’s mostly just a nice dude. He tutors a lot of freshmen, you know? Ten wouldn’t be so close to him if he were irredeemably assholeish.”

Johnny nods. “He helped me cram for my last round of exams, despite having a different major. His flashcard technique changed my life.”

“So you’re telling me he’s only a dick to me?”

Jaehyun flicks a fry at him. “Like I said – have you ever spoken to him without some kind of motive?”

“I guess not,” Yuta replies uneasily. “Is it really that simple?”

Jaehyun shrugs. “It’s worth a shot, right?”

 

-

 

Yuta sees Doyoung across campus the next morning, waiting outside of a store, leafing through one of his books.

Yuta approaches gingerly, but forces a confident smile onto his face as he stops in front of Doyoung. “Hey.”

Doyoung looks up. “Oh, hello. Your hair is red now? Is this a midlife crisis? I preferred it blonde. You look like someone dipped you in ketchup.”

“Why did I fucking bother,” he asks, more to himself than Doyoung.

Doyoung cocks his head and smiles, small and cruel. “I don’t know, Yuta. Why did you bother?”

 Yuta sticks him the finger and leaves, and as soon as he’s out of sight he sends Jaehyun a very strongly worded text that insinuates the next time he offers shitty advice Yuta’s arm is going up his ass. Without lube.

 

-

 

Things were simpler when he was painfully in love with Sicheng, because at least then he knew why he felt like an idiot constantly.

“I kind of miss it,” he murmurs, stroking Sicheng’s hair as they cuddle. Sicheng’s university is a couple of hours away from Yuta’s, but they make a point of visiting each other at least once a month, and this visit has been nothing but shitty takeout food and snuggles. It’s exactly what Yuta had needed, because Sicheng always seems to know.

Sicheng moves a little in his hold. “Hm? Miss what?”

“Being stupidly in love with you.”

“You weren’t in love with me,” Sicheng says, not for the first time. “I was just your first real crush.”

“It was love.”

“We were penpals, not Romeo and Juliet,” Sicheng says. “And we were like, fifteen. You weren’t in love with me.”

“I was.”

“You loved me, sure, and you still love me. I know that, and it isn’t the kind of love that’s gonna fade any time soon, right? But when we met for the first time and kissed, you know as well as I do that there was nothing there. Nothing romantic.”

Yuta presses his lips to Sicheng’s hair and tries not to be weird about breathing in his comforting smell. “Until we met, though. How long did we write? Like, seven years? I really was in love with you, as much as a kid could be. It was easier to be moody and lovelorn back then.”

“Who’re you lovelorn for now?”

“No one.”

“Don’t lie to your first crush, it’s rude.”

He tickles Sicheng until they’re fighting, and then Yuta rolls off the couch and hits the floor with a dull thud. He stares up at the ceiling until Sicheng’s face comes into view, hovering above his own with the usual serene kindness he wears. “You’re so fucking beautiful, Sicheng, you know that? God.”

Sicheng smiles, for once wide and genuine. “Thank you, but that isn’t going to distract me. Give me a name.”

Yuta pulls him onto the floor and tickles him again until Sicheng is screaming, and only when he’s been tortured enough does Yuta say, “Kim Doyoung. But it isn’t love, okay? We just have this weird enemy thing going on and he pisses me off and I don’t get it.”

“Okay,” Sicheng says, as easy as that, and changes the topic. “Are we going out tonight?”

“Yeah, Johnny’s throwing a party since I told him you were coming to town. You know he loves you.”

Sicheng goes pink. “Cool. You won’t leave me alone though, right?”

“As if.” Yuta smacks a wet kiss against Sicheng’s forehead, laughing when he complains. “You’ll be begging to get rid of me.”

“Always.”

 

-

 

But Sicheng is way more intelligent than Yuta gives him for (which honestly he can’t be blamed for since they were both like seven when they started writing and Sicheng couldn’t speak Korean or Japanese so they’d had to fumble through dictionaries and weird drawings to communicate).

He just seems to see things that Yuta can’t, because one minute he’s at the other side of the living room, talking happily to Jaehyun with a huge glass of wine in his hand, the next he’s sat on Yuta’s lap, nosing into his hair and wiggling until he’s more comfortable, kicking Yukhei in the process.

Yuta just kind of accepts it for a minute before he realises he should be suspicious. “You good?”

“I was talking to Jaehyun,” Sicheng murmurs close to Yuta’s ear, barely audible, “And he pointed out Kim Doyoung when he arrived. His eyes went straight to you first, you know? So I thought maybe we should give him a show.”

“You’re awful,” Yuta says, delighted. “I love you so much.”

Sicheng smiles and looks over Yuta’s shoulder. Only his profile is visible from this angle, but Yuta doesn’t miss the way his eyes slip half closed as he leans back slightly, tilting his head for Yuta to press kisses to his neck. “I love you too, silly.”

Yuta laughs, low against his throat. “Is he watching?”

“Avidly.”

“I wanna look.”

Sicheng strokes a hand though his hair. “Don’t. That would give him some kind of satisfaction. Follow my lead, okay?”

“Okay honey,” Yuta says, pressing another kiss to Sicheng’s steady pulse.

Sicheng squirms, laughing a little, and tilts his head forward again so that he’s looking at Yuta with his heavy lidded eyes. “Yuta,” he says, just a little too loud. “I’m really tired. Take me home.”

“Okay sweetheart,” he replies, the same volume. He can’t stop smiling as he climbs to his feet with Sicheng still in his arms, helping him into a standing position slowly, gently so that he doesn’t stumble. “Let’s get you home.”

They say goodbye to everyone and head out, and just as Yuta closes the door, he hears Doyoung ask Johnny, “Who the fuck was that?”

So he can do nothing else but crush Sicheng into a hug in the hallway, full of petty satisfaction and love. “I adore you.”

“So buy me food on the way home,” Sicheng says, patting Yuta’s shoulder. “I deserve that.”

“You do,” Yuta replies, for once happy not to argue. “You deserve the best snacks in the world. I’m going to get you them, and you’re going to eat like a king.”

“I won’t be sharing.”

“I know,” Yuta says, shaking his head with a smile. “I know.”

 

-

 

“I’m sad I missed Sichengie’s visit,” Ten says on Monday as they run together around campus. “I’m really sorry, but I had recitals for the dance comp coming up and I couldn’t miss them.”

“It’s fine,” Yuta says, reaching out to squeeze Ten’s shoulder. “He understands. He said that next time you need to come visit with me so that you can teach him your contemporary routines.”

Ten laughs, delighted, and picks up his pace. “I’d love to, but that would be walking into a whole new war with Doyoung I really don’t fucking need.”

His heart spikes and he does a shit job of convincing himself it’s the exercise and not petty excitement. “Why would visiting Sicheng put you in the doghouse with Doyoung?”

“He doesn’t like him.”

Which actually kind of annoys Yuta. “The fuck? They’ve never even spoken to each other. How can he not like him?”

Ten frowns, confused. “They haven’t?”

“No.”

“But – Doyoung got back from that party ranting about Sicheng. Said he’s got a bad attitude or something.”

“I swear, they didn’t even say hi to each other.”

“Weird. Doyoung’s been really fucking weird recently.”

“How come?”

Ten blows out a breath and wipes his forehead. “I wish I knew. He internalises everything that matters. He’s always the first to complain about small things, but the second something actually bothers him he goes silent. It’s annoying; he should just complain about everything like I do.”

“Then he wouldn’t have any friends,” Yuta says innocently, batting his lashes, “Like you.”

Ten shoves him into a bush and then runs off, and Yuta has to pick thorns out of his arm as he runs after him, cackling madly.

 

-

 

After forcing away the third guy of the evening, Yuta figures Doyoung deserves a drink for all his hard work. It’s snatched from his hands and Doyoung takes a big mouthful before swallowing with a shudder.

“This is disgusting. What the hell is it?”

“Sambuca and something. Lemonade? I don’t know, Taeil made it, he’s on the drink stand tonight.”

“It’s repulsive.”

Yuta shrugs. “Give it back then.”

Doyoung holds it to his chest and scowls. “No. Why are you here, anyway? Don’t you have a boyfriend to fuck somewhere else?”

“Huh?”

“That kid you were with. Sicheng.”

“Sicheng isn’t my boyfriend.”

The scowl deepens, much to Yuta’s amusement. “He was all over you last weekend.”

“He’s been my penpal since we were kids. We don’t get to see each other often, so he was happy to visit.”

“That’s not what it looked like.”

Yuta smiles. “Why do you care, huh?”

The scowl deepens to the point that Yuta is half convinced Doyoung’s glare will burn his eyebrows off. “I don’t care. I just don’t understand why you’d waste your time annoying me when you have someone like that to entertain.”

“He’s gone back to his own campus.” Yuta shrugs and snatches the drink to have a sip, and – yeah, it’s gross. He needs to have a word with Taeil about using the mixers. “We both moved to Korea for college, but we ended up a couple of hours away. It’s still better than the whole China and Japan distance, but it’s not perfect. I probably won’t see him for another month or so.”

“What, so I’m your entertainment until then?”

“I guess so.”

Doyoung snatches the drink back and downs it, coughing slightly as he throws the empty solo cup aside. “Fuck you. Find someone else.”

“But no one’s as feisty as you,” Yuta says in a low voice, enjoying the way Doyoung’s eyes glint fire.

“Shove your drink up your ass.”

“I’d rather you shoved it up there for me,” he says.

Doyoung stalks off, but not so far that Yuta can’t keep an eye on him and send away the guys that want to bother him. Yuta figures he deserves the rest of the evening off.

 

-

 

Doyoung doesn’t come to another party for over a month, and Yuta’s life moves forward, oddly boring. He goes to class, he works out, he gets drunk, he flirts, he enjoys time with his friends, but Doyoung is a stiffly shaped hole in his life he hadn’t realised had been filled for the past year.

He’s absent, and then the one time Yuta is significantly late to a party, he’s back.

“Where’s Doyoung been?” he asks Kun, who has (for once) decided to attend a party. He usually avoids them like the plague, which is fair. He attends the movie nights, which is the important part.

“He had some external exams and needed to focus,” Kun says over his beer. His eyes slide to where Ten, after months of blissful ignorance, has finally met Yukhei, and is now in the process of trying to intimidate the shit out of him. “Should I get Ten off Yukhei?”

“No, it’s a rite of passage,” Yuta says, waving off the concern. “Trial by fire.”

“Are you sure?”

Yuta peers at Yukhei, who is pressed against the wall, laughing nervously at whatever Ten is saying. It’s kind of hilarious considering Ten is like, half Yukhei’s height, and Yukhei is doing a shitty job of hiding his boner. “Maybe intervene in a couple of minutes, but for now they’re fine.”

“If you say so.”

“Ten’s no asshole, if things get too much he’ll back off.”

Kun sighs. “I know, it’s just – sorry. This past month has been really stressful.”

“You alright dude?”

Kun laughs tiredly. “Me? I’m fine, it’s everyone else that’s the trouble.”

“I get that.”

“Doyoung especially,” he murmurs, more an admission than a conversation. He speaks to Yuta like it’s a forbidden secret, admitting that Doyoung is stressed. “His family love him, but they’re hard work. He’s been struggling a lot, with a lot of different things. We’ve all been trying to keep him above water.”

“Shit,” Yuta says, wincing. “That sounds rough. If you ever need a place to relax, you know my apartment with Jaehyun is always open, right? For any of you guys. You’re all welcome.”

Kun’s expression softens. “Thank you, Yuta. Do you think we could maybe talk one day about the way you – oh no, Ten, don’t start-“ he shoves past Yuta and pulls Ten away from Yukhei, conversation apparently finished as he drags Ten from the room, hissing something that sounds a lot like, “You don’t corrupt the freshmen like that you stupid little demon.”

With nothing else to do, Yuta checks on Yukhei. “Hey man. You okay?”

Yukhei nods quickly, eyes on the door. “That was Ten? The one everyone says is a cryptid?”

“Yeah.”

“Cool.” Yukhei nods again. “I think I’m in love with him.”

Oof. Ouch. “Bad decision, Ten isn’t one for romance.”

“I’ll find a way,” Yukhei says without concern. “He just told me he can swallow a whole banana without gagging. Well, he said he could but he’d never do it because he hates fruit. But like, the mental image is enough. You think he’d be up for fuck buddies? I could start there and then slyly add romance like the true master of love that I am.”

“Aren’t you straight?”

Yukhei nods again. The shakes his head. “I mean. I was? But now who knows. Man. Man, Ten is awesome.” His eyes widen. “Oh jeez, Doyoung looks really drunk.”

And Yuta’s attention is snatched from whatever plan Yukhei is hatching to focus entirely on Doyoung, pale and unkempt, hair messy, head tilted back onto some guy’s shoulder as he laughs, his whole body lax. He looks – he looks drunk. He looks exhausted and drunk and oddly vulnerable, and this guy just lifts a hand and strokes Doyoung’s hair out of his face like he has a right to touch him like that, and Yuta sees red.

He’s walking through the crowd before he realises it. “Doyoung, are you okay?”

Doyoung blinks his eyes open. “Yuta? Your hair is black now?”

His words are slurred and halting, like he has to think before each one. “Fuck, you’re wasted, aren’t you? Come on, I’m gonna take you home.”

“No,” Doyoung says, pouting. It shouldn’t be cute. It shouldn’t churn in Yuta’s stomach like he’s swallowed nails, but it does. “Don’t wanna go yet.”

“I can take care of him,” the stranger says, and Yuta bites back a snarl. The guy is tall, almost perfect looking, and Doyoung is letting him touch him. It all sits horribly, it all fits together horribly, like he hasn’t seen Doyoung for a month and now the pieces of the puzzle don’t fit together anymore.

“No offence but I don’t know you,” Yuta says lowly. “And because I don’t know you, I don’t trust you. Kun and Ten would want me to make sure I get him home, so that’s what I’m going to do.”

Doyoung groans again, but Yuta isn’t having it.

“I mean it,” he says. “Doyoung, can you stand on your own?”

“Of course I can stand,” he grumbles, staggering up and almost immediately back down. “Oops.”

Yuta sighs. “Can I – will you let me touch you?”

Doyoung’s eyes snap up to Yuta’s face, for a second clear of alcohol and everything else clouding his mind. “You’re asking?”

“Yeah,” Yuta says, wondering how many countless people have touched him without asking. Wondering how many of them Yuta had sent over, uncaring. “Can I help you up?”

“Yes,” Doyoung whispers.

So he circles his fingers around Doyoung’s scarily thin wrist and tugs him upright, then gets his other hand around his waist. “Come on baby, we’re gonna get you home now.”

Doyoung just looks at him, vulnerable without the usual sneer or anger. “Okay.”

The beautiful guy waves. “See you around, Doie!”

“Bye Jungwoo.”

Yuta curls his lip and walks a little faster. “You knew him? That’s something, at least.”

“We have classes together,” Doyoung mumbles. They exit the house, and the cold air seems to smack some sobriety into him for a brief moment before he groans and his head lands heavily on Yuta’s shoulder. “You’re too short.”

Yuta laughs, despite himself. “Damn, fine. Get yourself home without me and see how that goes.”

Doyoung lifts his head only to drop it heavily. “Threatening a drunk man is mean.”

“Maybe the drunk man in question shouldn’t have drank so much.”

“I had to.”

“You never have to drink.”

“My month sucked, stop nagging me.”

Yuta‘s hand tightens on Doyoung’s waist. “Why’d your month suck?”

“Why not?” Doyoung opens his eyes and looks up at Yuta from his shoulder. “I like your hair black.”

“I mean, that’s the natural colour. If I didn’t suit it I’d kind of be fucked.”

He smiles, gummy and cute, and it’s like Yuta’s wading through something, like he’s trying to run away but there’s something in Doyoung’s eyes that’s trapping him, thick and sticky like honey. “Accept the compliment, Yuta.”

He sniffs dramatically. “You only like me when you’re wasted.”

“You’re only nice to me when I’m wasted.”

“Is that what you think?” Yuta asks.

Doyoung lowers his gaze and rolls his head off of Yuta’s shoulder. He tries to stand without support but staggers, and Yuta grabs his hand before he can fall into one of the parked cars lining the streets.

“Careful, baby.”

Doyoung tugs at his hand, but Yuta doesn’t let go. “Get off me.”

“I have to keep you upright somehow.”

“I live around the corner, you can leave me here.”

“No can do. I’m getting you tucked into bed and nothing less.”

Doyoung sighs, but he stops trying to tug himself away. Yuta rubs his thumb over Doyoung’s knuckles – maybe for thanks, or praise – he doesn’t really know why, but it just feels right to do.

The night is mild and without the bickering, it’s almost a pleasant walk. Yuta tries not to ogle Doyoung’s ass as they walk, but he’s only human, and Doyoung’s ass is pretty fucking great. He’s wearing tight slacks and a loose fitting baby blue shirt, the collar open to show the slim line of his throat, the sleeves rolled up to show the expensive watch on his wrist and the way his wrist bones jut from his skin. For a man so pointy, his face is so oddly rounded. His profile under the streetlights is soft, the slope of his nose gentle, his small chin smooth, his pretty eyes heavy.

“Stop staring at me,” Doyoung says.

“I can’t help it,” Yuta admits. When Doyoung’s eyes widen and a flush starts to creep up his neck, he panics. “You’re too tall, I mean. I feel like I’m losing somehow.”

Doyoung snorts. “Of course. That’s because you are losing.”

 He stops at the driveway of a nice looking house, on the small side but well kept. It’s pretty obvious by the flowers in the garden that Taeyong lives there. “Wow. No wonder Ten never has parties here. You guys would probably kill him, right?”

“He’d do it before we could. He’s even cleaner than we are.”

Yuta would have choked if there was anything other than his tongue in his mouth. “He is? He hides that well.”

“He acts like I’m the only mystery, doesn’t he,” Doyoung says as he fumbles with his keys, trying one after the other to see which the right one is. Why does a college student have so many keys in his pockets? Why does Doyoung carry like seven fucking keys in his pants?

“Why do you have so many keys?”

Doyoung squints down at him. “You don’t have this many?”

And for some reason that’s it.

That’s just it for Yuta.

“Go on a date with me,” he says.

Doyoung stops wiggling the door handle. “Excuse me?”

“I’d like you to go on a date with me.”

“Why? Why the hell do you want to go on a date with me?”

His eyes are wide and dark and unseeing and Yuta couldn’t formulate a coherent response if he fucking tried. “Because you have a pocket full of useless keys and I want to buy you dinner.”

The door groans under Doyoung’s hand and swings open. “No,” Doyoung says quietly. “I won’t. Thank you for walking me home, Yuta.” He walks inside and closes the door, and Yuta hears the lock turn.

He goes home.

When Jaehyun finds him the next morning, still in bed at eleven, he frowns, suspicious. “Have you been to the gym yet?”

“No,” Yuta replies, staring at his ceiling. “I’m skipping today.”

“Okay. Buy me lunch.”

Because Jaehyun has a way of comforting that doesn’t even feel like comfort, because he knows Yuta’s scorpio ass wouldn’t accept any coddling. So Yuta heaves himself out of bed and buys Jaehyun lunch, and when Ten, Taeyong, Johnny and Taeil rock up, he ends up paying for theirs too, because he has a lot of emotions he doesn’t know how to process and for some reason treating his friends helps.

“Thanks for getting Doyoungie home,” Taeyong says over his ice cream. He smiles at Yuta happily. “He’s suffering a bad hangover today but he appreciates you looking after him!”

“Tell him he’s welcome,” Yuta says, looking anywhere but Taeyong’s big, pretty eyes. For some reason he feels guilty. He feels like he has something to hide, something to be sorry for. Something he needs to say to Doyoung, though he doesn’t know what.

 

-

 

He doesn’t see Doyoung for a while, but this time it’s fine. He needs this space. He needs the time to focus on carrying Ten home from parties, to help Johnny in his weird mission of learning how to bake fresh bread to alleviate stress, to help Jaehyun gather the courage to say more than five words at a time to Taeyong, who remains completely oblivious, lost in his own world of biochem and dance.

Besides, it’s not like he orbits around Doyoung like a pathetic little moon or anything. Fuck that. He’s as cool as Jupiter, at least according to Mark.

“Doyoung’s cool too though,” Mark says, slurping his ramen, splattering sauce on Yuta’s notes, which, quite frankly, sucks. “He’s like. Jeez, I don’t know the planets. Mars is one right?”

Johnny shakes his head. “Did Sailor Moon teach you nothing?”

“I watched Naruto.”

Yuta puts his notes back in his bagpack to protect them. “Juicing my notes was bad enough but now you tell me you’d rather take info from Boruto’s fucking dad instead of Sailor Moon? I feel like I don’t even know you.”

“I watched One Piece, where does that put me?” Yukhei asks.

“You’re on thin ice. I’m still disappointed.”

He hangs his head. “Sorry, I just loved Luffy.”

“Kids these days,” Johnny says, shaking his head again. He lifts his head a little and meets Yuta’s eye. “Though I heard from Ten that Doyoung is very fond of Sailor Moon. Why don’t you ask him who his favourite is next time you see him?”

“Why don’t you eat shit and die?” Yuta asks sweetly.

Yukhei gasps. “This is a library, not a coliseum! Save your verbal jousts for another location, please.”

Mark snorts. “God, you guys are weird. I miss highschool.”

“You just miss Donghyuck, don’t kid yourself,” Johnny says.

Yuta high fives him as Mark splutters, and the swords are sheathed.

 

-

 

And then he sees Doyoung again, and reverts back to the simpler life form of Yuta with the intelligence of an ancient slug. Simpler times, simpler mindsets.

“Hi,” he says.

Doyoung looks up from the books he’s taking from the library. He frowns. “Hey. Can I help you?”

“Uh... no? I just wanted to say hey.”

“Then hey.”

“Johnny said you like Sailor Moon.”

Doyoung’s frown turns into a glower. “Are you trying to mock me again? Jesus, can you get another pastime Yuta? I’m over this now.”

“I wasn’t-“ but Doyoung walks away, and Yuta’s slug brain doesn’t have the capacity for knowing he should try and catch up. It just tells him to go home and climb into bed, so he does.

 

-

 

“You’re acting like an idiot,” Sicheng says the next month.

Yangyang nods. “If you spoke to me like that I wouldn’t wanna date you either. You sound like a dick.”

Yuta grunts from his spot on Sicheng’s couch. “Fuck off. You’re like twelve, why are you even at this college?”

Yangyang smiles, peachy cute and devilish. “I might be twelve but I’m a certified genius, thank you.”

“It’s a sad fact of life that he’ll probably rule the world one day,” Dejun says.

Kunhang nods from Dejun's lap. “You just have to accept him as your overlord while he still allows you the gift of speech. One day he might take it away.”

“If I came to this college I’d probably beat you up, kid,” Yuta tells Yangyang. “For your own sake, you know?”

“You think that, but he’s oddly endearing,” Sicheng says. “He brings a little flavour into the monotony.”

“Ten would love him.”

Sicheng sighs like all the pain in the world is behind the thought. Which, it kind of is. “Yeah. He really would.”

 

-

 

He goes home. He works hard, he hands in assignments on time, he parties.

He sees Doyoung again, in the kitchen of a house party, like always.

He sees a guy, tall and skinny, crying, clinging to Doyoung’s arm.

“Please,” the guy says, voice high and shaky, “Please, you don’t understand, I’m failing and this would change everything for me, you could save my whole fucking education if you just-“

Doyoung removes the hand from his arm and stares, expressionless. “I don’t owe you anything. I don’t owe you your education or your future career. I don’t owe you my family or my money or my time. Leave me alone.”

“But-“

“I won’t say it again. Leave.”

The guy pushes past Yuta, a hand over his mouth, eyes streaming.

“Jesus,” Yuta says, eyeing Doyoung. “Weren’t you kind of harsh?”

Doyoung smiles, small and warped. “Isn’t this what you want from me? Entertainment?”

“The kid was crying.”

“What, tears aren’t funny?”

“No, Doyoung. They’re not.”

“But the rest? That’s fun, right? Funny? When you send them over and I push them away? That’s hilarious, right? You find that funny?”

Yuta blinks rapidly. A storm is brewing behind Doyoung’s eyes that he doesn’t understand. “I mean, yeah. I do.”

Doyoung’s back straightens and his expression falls into nothing once more. A carefully blank face that hurts even more than anger could when he says, “Alright. You find it amusing? That’s fine. You’re really so lonely and void of closer personal relationships that you find joy in tormenting strangers and a guy that’s rejected you? That’s fine. Enjoy it then, because it sounds like you need it. I’ve always been a big advocator of charity.”

The cold of the beer in his hand, the drunken buzz clouding his thoughts, the dull ache in his chest that flares when Doyoung meets his eyes merge to one sensation. Yuta finds himself saying carelessly, without thought, “Careful baby, don’t waste your poison on me. Save it for someone interested in you.”

There’s a fraction of a second where Doyoung’s mask cracks, and Yuta gets a glimpse at something agonising, writhing beneath the surface, before Doyoung closes down again and laughs, void of amusement, void of anything other than barely repressed hurt. “Fuck you, Yuta.” He stalks off into the crowd, and when Yuta finally shakes off the shock and runs after him, he can’t find Doyoung anywhere.

He pokes Taeyong’s shoulder, disturbing him from messing with the aux cord. “Hey, where’s Doyoung?”

Taeyong peers up at him with his inhumanly big eyes, open and friendly and Yuta thinks, not for the first time, why isn’t my type people that are actually nice. “Hi Yuta! Um, sorry if you were looking to speak to him, but he just left. He wasn’t feeling good, so he’s gone home. He should be coming to the party on Friday though, if you wanna speak to him then?”

“Thanks, angel. Enjoy your night.”

Taeyong goes pink and smiles. “You too!”

When he finds Johnny in the garden, he’s frowning down at his phone. Yuta kicks his ankle. “Yo, what’s up?”

“Nothing, Ten’s just being weird. He went home before I could give him notes from yesterday’s class, which was the whole reason he even came tonight.”

“Why’d he go home?” Yuta asks, despite the feeling in his gut that’s almost dread.

“I don’t know, he just said something’s up with Doyoung. You know how they are; at each other’s throats one second and thick as thieves the next.” He sighs. “It just means I brought all my notes for nothing. I’ve been so paranoid about getting them wet.”

“I can take them back with you if you like,” Yuta offers, stomach twisting. “I’m gonna head off now anyway.”

“Oh, that’d be great thanks. You good?”

“Sure man.”

 

-

 

Ten refuses to speak to him the next day, despite still using the treadmill next to him.

“You’re just like every other fucker than think they’re entitled to someone,” he spits, turning the speed up until he’s sprinting too fast to speak.

Yuta leans over and turns it back down to a steady jog. “What the fuck do you mean? I don’t feel like I’m entitled to anything.”

“Then why’d you keep making him suffer like this? You’re either entitled or ignorant, and both are shitty.” He turns the treadmill back up.

Yuta turns it back down. “I don’t know what you mean. Making him suffer?”

Ten turns off the treadmill suddenly, and he pants for a couple of seconds before glaring up at Yuta with his hands on his knees. “How the hell do you think it makes him feel to go to a party and get accosted by multiple guys that aren’t even interested in him? Once would be bad enough but this is every single party, Yuta.”

“They’re interested in him,” is all Yuta can think to say. “Why else would they approach him?”

Ten laughs and wipes the sweat from his face. He shakes his head, eyes burning. “I love you dude, but you’re something else. Ask someone else to spell it out for you, I’m fucking bored already. See you later.”

 

-

 

But he doesn’t ask, because asking would be admitting there’s something beyond what he sees, and that’s scary. He doesn’t wanna consider the fact that he’s being an asshole.

Still, at the next party, he sees Doyoung glaring, and the urge is there. The urge to tug his hair and say mean things, watching a blush rise up Doyoung’s slim throat, listening to him spit fire and ashes. God, Yuta really is a masochist.

A guy heads over to Doyoung’s corner, tall and handsome and keen, and something burns inside Yuta. He grabs the guys arm and tugs him away. “Don’t,” he says quietly. “Doyoung’s not interested.”

“I haven’t even ask-“

“He’s not interested.”

“Jeez, fine.” And the guy backs off. It must be something in Yuta’s expression as he watches, because no one else approaches Doyoung after meeting Yuta’s eyes.

The evening passes slowly, boring in the tiny kitchen Yuta refuses to leave. Doyoung doesn’t look at him once, and when the clock hits two in the morning, he leaves without lifting his eyes from his phone screen, leaving Yuta alone in the slowly dying atmosphere of a party past its peak.

 

-

 

Jaehyun knocks on his bedroom door the next morning, hair wet from his shower, skin blotchy from the steam. “Dude, why’re you in such a funk?”

“I’m not in a funk, I’m studying.”

“You’re listening to Sara Bareilles. Loudly.”

“Your point?”

Jaehyun sighs and leans against the doorway. “Last time you listened to your Bareilles playlist was in first year when that guy you were dating went to prison and never wrote back. Is someone in prison?”

Youngmin had been a great boyfriend. He’d not been great at carjacking though, which was why he’d been caught. Yuta had been pretty torn up about it at the time, but now? He’s not sad. “I swear dude, I’m fine.”

“If you’ve got this playlist on maybe your subconscious is trying to tell you something.”

“I doubt it.”

Jaehyun groans, clearly exasperated. “Look at it through my eyes. You went to a party last night and came home completely sober. You haven’t been to the gym today and you’re holed away in your room actually studying for once, listening to the playlist you made when your boyfriend found a new toyboy in jail. Does that sound normal?”

“I guess not.” He thinks about it, about Doyoung, but he doesn't feel sad. He just kind of feels numb, like he’s been sat in icy water too long. Like the honey he’d been stuck in has frozen. “Maybe I’m finally going through puberty.”

“Don’t make me ring Johnny.”

“Nooooo,” Yuta groans immediately. “He’ll bring his psychology textbook and make me talk about my childhood.”

“If you don’t want the Johnny therapy then climb out of whatever hole you’re rotting in. I’ll give you until Monday before I ring him.”

He slumps into his laptop and groans until Jaehyun leaves, then rightens himself and stares back down at the powerpoint he’d been staring at blankly for the past hour and a half.

After some soul searching (he googles ‘reasons to be sad when u don’t know ur sad’) he rings his mother despite the cost of the call to Japan. “Mama?”

“My baby!” she screeches.

He turns Sara Bareilles off. “Am I a bad person?”

There’s silence for a moment before his mother speaks again, this time at a normal volume. “Sweetie do you need to come home for a while? Are you alright? Do you want me to visit?”

His eyes burn and he blinks it back. “Thanks, but I’m okay. I’m just... I don’t know. You’d tell me, right?”

“Of course I would. You represent the Nakamoto family; if you weren’t making me proud I’d smack you right back into place.” Her voice softens. “But Yuta, you’ve never made me anything other than proud. I’m proud of everything you do, sweetie. I was proud when you were six and finally stopped wiping your snot on people, and I’m proud of you now for thriving in a different country all on your own. Your father feels exactly the same. What’s going on?”

“I think I’ve been acting like a dick.”

“Oh,” she says. “Well sweetie, there you go. The fact that you can acknowledge it is better than most people, right? Has this been aimed at someone, or just in general?”

“It’s been aimed. I thought I was being funny, you know, but I think... I think I was just being mean.”

“Talk to this person,” she says. “Apologise. Understand that forgiveness might not be forthcoming, but that it’s their right to give it to you or not. Apologise and then forgive yourself, sweetie, because everyone has moments where they’re not kind. What makes you a good person is trying to learn from your actions.”

“Thank you,” he says, swallowing back his emotions. God, the Bareilles playlist really had been a bad idea. “I miss you.”

“I miss you too,” she says softly. “And Yuta, sweetie, remember that you’re my baby. I’d know if you were a bad person, and you’re not. You’re my pride and joy. Go say sorry and get back to being my little tiger.”

 

-

 

And because he’s scared Ten will tear him a new asshole, he decides that Kun and Taeyong are probably the safest bet for a start into his reparations.

“Not that I don’t get it, because I totally do,” he says, putting his books down on the table. He interrupts their study date with no care for the studying, or the sign above the door that says SILENCE IN THE STUDY ROOM. “But why do so many dudes proposition Doyoung?”

Taeyong scrunches his nose. “Weren’t you one of those guys?”

“I mean yeah, but I feel like it’s actually kind of weird. No matter how hot he is, no one should be getting the kind of attention he receives, especially someone so blatantly disinterested. Right?”

“You... you seriously don’t know?”

“Know what?”

“Who his father is?”

Yuta frowns. “...No? Is this a trick question?”

Kun shakes his head slowly. “Doyoung’s father is one of the country’s best lawyers. His mother is a chef; his elder brother is an actor. He’s from a family of successful people.”

“And?”

“Seriously?” Taeyong looks bewildered. “Why did you ask him out?”

“Uh. Because he’s hot? And I kind of wanted to take him for dinner until he opened his mouth?”

“Think about it, Yuta. We go to a good university with a lot of aspiring lawyers and a lot of aspiring actors. Everyone knows his father. There’s a reason he hates people talking about his family when they meet him. It’s the only reason people ever want to meet him in the first place.”

“Oh,” Yuta says faintly. “Oh.”

I don’t owe you anything. I don’t owe you your education or your future career. I don’t owe you my family or my money or my time. Leave me alone.

“So...” he says, more to himself than Kun or Taeyong, “These guys I’ve been encouraging aren’t like. They aren’t interested in him? They’re just using him to try and get, what, a reference? An autograph?”

“Usually, yeah,” Taeyong says, mouth twisting. “Some of them get really mean, but the ones you send over are usually harmless. Still, I don’t think it helps.” He goes pink. “Not that it’s any of my business what you do, Yuta, but I think Doyoung would appreciate it if you’d stop encouraging them. It makes him feel bad about himself.”

“I’m such a fucking idiot,” Yuta mumbles. “I’m so stupid. Prehistoric slug kind of stupid. What the fuck is wrong with me?”

Kun pats his hand. “There there, you’re not that bad. People have done worse things, and despite his attitude, Doyoung is a very forgiving person. I’m sure you can talk to him.”

“I just – I just assumed that because I’m so fucking in love with him that everyone else is too.”

Kun stops patting. “You’re – hm?” he clears his throat, blinking. “Sorry, you’re what?”

His brain catches up with his mouth. “I mean I like him so much. Like. I don’t know him well enough to love him. Do I? Am I being overdramatic?” He wheezes. “Fuck. I wanna date him so badly.”

“I think... he just kind of thought you were teasing him,” Taeyong says carefully. “He thinks you know about why those guys try and talk to him - we all did, but we tried to tell him that you wouldn’t fake your own feelings. Still, he’s stubborn, and he has a long history of people faking themselves around him.”

“At least I’ve never faked anything,” Yuta mumbles. “I was just a major asshole.”

“There’s no time like the present to right the wrongs of the past,” Kun says. “Even if you remain unforgiven, a genuine apology can change more than you realise.”

“The English department is hosting a welcome evening tonight and Doyoung is helping out,” Taeyong adds. “I’m not saying that you should corner him when he can’t leave, but that’s kind of what I’m saying. He likes to make dramatic exits, so don’t let him try.”

 

-

 

So despite reading a handful of books over his college career, Yuta finds himself balls deep into a conversation with two avid students of literature. He has a free solo cup of shit wine in each hand and absolutely no idea what they’re talking about, but he nods along where he can. He hasn’t even seen Doyoung yet, but he’ll wait as long as it takes.

“This isn’t your usual crowd. Are you looking to change majors?” someone asks him.

And of course – it’s Jungwoo. Smiling prettily and offering him a pamphlet.

Yuta lifts the wine in his hands and shrugs. “Uh, I wish I could take a leaflet, but my hands are tied.”

“Allow me to help.” Jungwoo plucks one of the cups from his hands and downs the wine, then places the cup to the side and presses the leaflet into Yuta’s palm. “There we go, problem solved.”

“Yeah,” Yuta says faintly. “Listen, I know that you know I’m not here to change majors. Have you seen Doyoung?”

“Frequently.” Jungwoo glows when Yuta glowers. “In fact, he’s hiding from you right now, sitting in an empty office with his chin resting on his knees, waiting for you to leave. Isn’t that nice?”

“Not really.”

“No, it isn’t. Why are you here?”

Yuta clears his throat. “To confess my undying devotion. Or something.”

“Hasn’t your game gone on long enough?”

“This isn’t a game,” he says, snappier than intended. “Sorry. I’m sorry, I just – I know I’ve been a dick but I didn’t know any of the shit about his family and I just liked watching him be mean to people, it might be a kink or something. The bottom line is I want to apologise and I want to tell him that despite what he thinks, I meant it when I asked him out. I still mean it.”

“You didn’t know about his family?”

“I’m Japanese; you think I give a shit about Korean family politics? I’m here for school and memories, not gossip.”

Jungwoo smiles, and this time it’s slightly less ‘I’m sweet but I could also stab you several times while smiling like this.’ “Well, I suppose it isn’t my place to stop you. Go back into the corridor and he’s in the third room on the left. Be nice, please.”

“I will. Thank you.”

“Don’t be a stranger!”

Yuta finds himself laughing. “You’re kind of scary.”

Jungwoo giggles. “And you’re smarter than you seem.” He takes the other wine from Yuta. “Now go save Doyoung from his self exile.”

“You got it.”

 

-

 

It would be funny if it were someone else pressed against a wall, cowering from Yuta. It would be funny if it were Mark about to be tickled to within an inch of his life, or Jaehyun about to get his ass handed to him in a sparring match. But this is Doyoung, and the fact that he’s face falls into dread when Yuta opens the door isn’t funny. It isn’t amusing in the slightest, it just makes Yuta feel sick with guilt.

“Hey,” he says, gently, as if Doyoung is a cornered animal. “Mind if we talk?”

“It doesn’t look like I have much of a choice.” The words come out hollow, like Doyoung has already given up, and it hurts more than Ten’s punishments ever could.

“I’m not going to force you,” Yuta says carefully. “I’m done with that. I’m not going to make you listen to anything you don’t want to hear, I fucking swear it. I’m just here to ask. If you tell me to fuck off, I will.”

“Speak then, before I get tired of it.”

“I’m sorry,” is the first thing he says. Doyoung doesn’t react, so he continues, tripping over his words in an attempt to get them all out before he’s tempted to set himself on fire. “I’m really fucking sorry for everything, Doyoung. I don’t know what I was thinking – I don’t think I was thinking. At first I just kind of watched you reject all those guys and girls because it was funny, you have such a smart mouth and it’s so fucking sexy, but then when I tried to talk to you and you shut me down too I guess I got... childish. Pulling on your pigtails kind of childish, since I kept teasing you. That was wrong, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything else, too. For forcing you into interactions that made you uncomfortable, for being so mean whenever we spoke, for treating you like shit. For treating you like a game, when you’re a person, a person I respect and admire. I’m sorry.”

Doyoung is silent for another tense moment. “Is that it?”

“Yeah, I think so.” He pauses. “Oh wait, I also have no fucking clue who your family are. I genuinely don’t. I just thought those dicks were accosting you because they found you as hot and oddly charming as I do. I never would have encouraged them if I realised that none of them actually cared.” He laughs awkwardly. “I probably would have tried to keep your for myself.”

“I don’t understand you,” Doyoung says quietly. “You can drop the act now. If you’re sorry then I forgive you, but please stop lying to me.”

“I’m not lying,” Yuta says. He sits on the floor opposite Doyoung, close enough to touch but far enough not to smother. “I mean it Doyoung.”

“I’m Kim Doyoung. Without the Kim I’m just Doyoung; without the money and the family fame I’m just Doyoung and I don’t know who that is. There might not be a person worth knowing.”

It breaks Yuta’s heart. “I think you’re great, Doyoung. I wanna read Gatsby to understand why you think it’s overrated, I wanna know what each of your million keys unlocks, I wanna walk you home at the end of a party and kiss you at the door. You’re so smart it’s scary, you’ve got a tongue like a knife which is the hottest fucking thing, and you’re kind. You’re a good friend and upperclassman. I want to know more about you, but what I do know I think... I think you’re amazing, baby.”

“If you’re lying,” Doyoung says with a shaking voice and burning eyes, “It won’t be fucking funny. If you’re lying now I’ll kill you.”

“Ten would beat you too it,” Yuta says. “He’s a really fast runner.”

Doyoung laughs weakly and scrubs at his eyes. “Fuck. I’m so pathetic, Yuta. I liked you when you treated me like shit and I don’t know what to think of you now.”

“You don’t have to think anything,” Yuta says. He hopes he’s making his mother proud. “I didn’t tell you this to force you into anything. You don’t have to like me; you can hate me if you want to. I just... realised you deserved the truth. And I wanted to apologise, and to tell you that the way I acted wasn’t your fault. It was entirely me being a dick. I’m sorry.” He stands up. “I’ll leave you to your literature evening now, I think I’ve deprived the department of you long enough.”

“Okay,” Doyoung whispers, not moving from the floor. “Thank you. For telling me.”

“You’re welcome.” Yuta smiles, and weirdly he feels sadder now than he had before. “See you around, Doyoung.”

 

-

 

Jaehyun sticks his head into Yuta’s room the next morning. “So. Am I gonna have to ring Johnny?”

“I fixed it, don’t worry.”

“You look even worse than before.”

“Just come and hug me.”

Jaehyun flops on top of Yuta and squeezes tight. “It was a trick question, by the way. Johnny is on his way, you know he gives the best cuddles. The life advice might be crap, but at least you get the superb cuddles.”

Yuta sighs. “I guess.”

 

-

 

Doyoung seems to avoid parties for a while after the literature evening.

Taeil shrugs, mixing Yuta some kind of lethal combination of sambuca and gatorade. “He only really came to see you anyway.”

“I’m sorry. What?”

“He’s had a crush on you for ages.” Taeil squints. “I know I’m out of the loop because I actually focus on my studies and not on drama, but seriously? You didn’t know?”

“No,” Yuta says. “I didn’t.”

Taeil sighs. “You’re all so hopeless. I hope age brings you clarity.”

“Fuck,” Yuta says, sipping the acidic mess in the solo cup he’s passed, “Me too.”

 

-

 

He’s sat in the kitchen, alone, thinking vaguely of taking a trip back to Osaka, when someone taps on his shoulder. “Would you like a drink?”

He hums, scrolling aimlessly through his facebook feed. “I’m good thanks, Taeil’s already poisoned me.”

“Oh. I’ll have to have words with him. How is our date tomorrow going to go if you’re vomiting all morning?”

He’s never moved so fast in his life. “Doyoung?”

He looks kind of queasy, but as beautiful as ever. “Hey. Didn’t think I’d find you sat in the kitchen alone. Isn’t that my spot?”

Yuta shuffles over. “There’s room for two.”

And surprisingly, Doyoung sits. He’s silent for a minute before sighing. “This is awkward. I wanted to be brave and tell you that we’re going to lunch tomorrow and that you’ll be paying, but now I don’t know how to say it.”

“I mean... you just did.”

Doyoung smiles, a little insecure, a little amused. “And? Are we going to lunch tomorrow?”

“Yeah,” Yuta says, trying desperately not to kiss Doyoung all over his stupidly soft face, “We are.”

“Good.” Doyoung reaches into his pocket and offers Yuta a key. “This one’s for my car. Do you want a lift home? If you’re good you can kiss me on the cheek when I drop you off.”

“God,” Yuta says, reverent. “You’re so bossy. We’re gonna argue so much.”

Doyoung's smile widens. “It just means we can kiss and make up, right?”

“God,” Yuta repeats. “Our friends are gonna hate us.”

Doyoung laughs, and it’s a squeaky, nervous sound, so piercingly cute that Yuta’s never going to forget it. “That means we’re doing something right.”