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"You didn't come to my game," Mark announced, choosing to declare his presence with a pout and a sulky face as Donghyuck remained unbothered, focused solely on the paper he was writing for a class. "Donghyuck!" Mark said a little louder this time, trying his best to effectively snap the younger out of the trance he was in—they were in the campus cafe anyways, Mark could be louder if needed. It would be a bit embarrassing, but simply being best friends with the Lee Donghyuck was embarrassing already, so Mark was used to it.

Donghyuck's neck snaps towards Mark's direction and his tense shoulders loosen as soon as he sees Mark's face. "Oh," Donghyuck says, eyes wide and mouth slightly ajar, his focus disrupted and his fingers stopped tapping against the laptop's keyboard, "Mark."

Mark rolls his eyes and chuckles, taking a seat in front of Donghyuck. "Would it hurt you to be a bit more enthusiastic about seeing me?" Mark asks, an eyebrow raised at Donghyuck and Donghyuck hums a small 'tsk' and crosses his arms with a smirk. "If I told you it would, in fact, hurt me, what are you going to do about it?"

Mark doesn't give a verbal retort and instead settles to kick Donghyuck under the table and mutter a small, and arguably fond, "whatever."

Mark draws his non-caffeinated drink closer, until the straw touches his lips and he takes a three-second sip, before confronting Donghyuck, "you didn't attend my game last Saturday."

Donghyuck avoids eye contact as soon as Mark utters those words, looking sheepish with blushy cheeks and a slight pout. "I knew you were free, then, too—you're always free on Saturdays because you always do your school work on Friday nights. You usually party on Saturday nights because you think it's better that way—you have more time to get ready and you don't have to drag yourself to a party after a long day of classes. So, what gives?"

Mark continues sipping on his drink, he isn't actually mad at Donghyuck—a bit sulky, sure, but not angry. Never angry. Mark knows Donghyuck supports him as a basketball player, as proven by the multiple times he's cooked for Mark when Mark was too tired to even breathe after practice and by the amount of times Donghyuck had been there to help massage his back when the knots on his muscles were a tad bit too intense.

"I'm sorry," Donghyuck starts to apologize, closing his laptop and choosing to look Mark straight in the eye to convey his genuine intentions, "I know I haven't been there for your games and I haven't been as supportive as I should and I don't even have an excuse 'cause I was just binging Kuroko no Basuke last Saturday—" Mark lets out an offended gasp at that and a small betrayed ‘without me?’, but Donghyuck continues, "I'm kind of just—uhm, well, this is embarrassing—but I'm kind of avoiding one of your teammates."

Mark lets out what sounded like half a chuckle and half a confused gasp, "wait—what? Did any of my teammates make you uncomfortable? Was Johnny's teasing a bit too much? Was Jaehyun flirting excessively with you again? Or did Lucas try to—"

Donghyuck laughs at Mark's frazzled response, "no, Mark—it's none of them. It's Sungchan."

"Oh— oh! Isn't he the one who confessed to liking you?" Mark asks, his head tilted to the side in confusion.

"Yeah. I got pretty guilty over rejecting him even if I don't owe him a yes—he's just too much of a sweetheart. It was endearing, sure, but you know I don't date younger guys," Donghyuck explains and Mark leans back, form more relaxed than it had been a few minutes ago, before commenting, "yes, because god forbid that the Lee Donghyuck date someone who isn't at least two years older than him."

"Hey!" Donghyuck says, laughing at Mark's unexpected sass, "you make it seem like I thirst for men ten years older than me. Just because I went on one date with Johnny doesn't mean I date people based on age!"

Mark roars in laughter as Donghyuck's flustered form waves his hands around to prove his point, "I just don't like younger guys 'cause I feel like a weird older brother figure—I automatically treat them like my younger siblings and that's really fucking weird. The 'eldest child' mentality is ingrained in me, Mark."

"Yeah, yeah," Mark nonchalantly waves Donghyuck off, "you don't like younger guys, we know that. But why exactly aren't you supporting your best friend's games just because of that high school senior? Did he make you feel guilty over rejecting him or something?"

And just like that, the switch between Mark’s modes is triggered once more and he's all up in his protective best friend mode, back hunched over as he leans closer to Donghyuck with squinted and calculating eyes. Donghyuck rolls his eyes and nods his head from side to side to say no, "nah, Sungchan was pretty cool about it. But he looked like such a kicked puppy that I couldn't bear facing him for the past month or so."

"So that's why even in practices you weren't coming in to cheer for us—Johnny, Jaehyun and Lucas have been pestering me for monopolizing your time, by the way," Mark mentions and Donghyuck snorts.

"But you don't have much to worry about anymore, though—Sungchan has his hands busy trying to woo the new Japanese transferee in your batch. From what I see, he's forgotten all about you, Hyuckie," Mark explains as he leans back into his chair again, "so you're free to mess around with us during practices again. Sungchan's been inactive in the team, too. He failed one of his math classes and the coach isn't having him back until he's got his grades back on track."

Donghyuck claps his hands excitedly and grins from ear-to-ear, "that's great to hear!"

But Donghyuck immediately backtracks and winces, realizing the context of his happiness, “—well, not great that he’s failing one of his classes, but you catch my drift.”  

"Oh, since you haven't been around our practices and matches much, you won't know this but we've got a new team member and he's immediately on the starting line-up. He's just that good," Mark tells Donghyuck, grabbing the fork Donghyuck used for the cake Donghyuck had ordered prior to Mark's arrival, and taking a bite of the said cake, too. Mark winces at the taste, forgetting about Donghyuck's extreme adoration for the taste of coffee, even in his order of desserts. Donghyuck laughs at Mark's scrunched up nose and contorted face, "that's what you get for eating my food. But really? Starting line up with, what, two months on the team?"

"Yeah. He got into the team in the middle of the first semester, he's from Germany, transferred here because of his older cousin—the guy I told you about, the one I found really hot but then realized he was Ten's boyfriend, Kun—but he's Taiwanese. He's our shooting guard, and he's one hell of a shooting guard. He's shorter than me but he can pass through Johnny with ease, man. His skills are on a whole 'nother level," Mark continued, pausing from time to time to sip on his drink, and Donghyuck listens intently as his best friend rambles about something that he was very passionate about.

"The fuck are they feeding kids in Germany, then?" Donghyuck jokes and Mark howls in laughter this time around. "He's pretty chill—he's in your batch. He's actually pretty damn cute, but he's my teammate so he's more like a brother, you know? He's such a sweetheart, too, and I swear Johnny and Jaehyun try their hardest not to coo at him like they would to a kitten. Lucas adores him 'cause he's got someone he can speak Mandarin to. He's really smart during games but our coach said the dude was smart during games and smart outside of games, too. Like, borderline genius," Mark chatters and Donghyuck finds his interest piqued by this mysterious god-like dude that has the entire NCT University basketball varsity team wrapped around his fingers.

"He's Chenle's favorite player, now, though—I'm finally feeling the stages of grief that Johnny, Jaehyun and Lucas all went through after Chenle announced that they were no longer his favorite player," Mark adds pitifully and Donghyuck itches to slap the pitiful pout on Mark's face away. Donghyuck stops himself and rolls his eyes instead, "of course he's Chenle's new favorite player—the guy seems like a god from how you described him. He's skilled and talented, plus he plays smart. Add to that the fact that the guy can speak Mandarin—"

"He actually speaks five languages—Mandarin, German, English, Korean and Spanish—"

"See? The man is practically perfect, Mark, you can't expect to compete with that," Donghyuck bluntly says, picking up the fork on his plate and pointing it towards Mark before he picks up a piece of dark chocolate and coffee heaven.

"Hey! I've been your best friend since we were three, can't you at least console me with this entire thing?" Mark sulkily says, the pout even more pronounced than ever and Donghyuck fights the urge to roll his eyes again—he can physically feel all the grey hairs growing on his scalp.

"That's the thing, though—I've been your best friend since we were three and that means I know exactly what you are and aren't capable of—surpassing this new guy's charm isn't one of those things you're capable of, Markie."

"Whatever, dude—just come to practice one of these days, alright? I want you to meet him."

"Alright, dude."

🐑🏀🌞

Donghyuck feels a tad bit guilty over not seeing Mark’s teammates often and over not being able to support his best friend because of something as petty as not being able to return someone’s feelings. Donghyuck adores Mark, as much as he doesn’t want to admit it, but he’d do anything for Mark. This would obviously include supporting his best friend in his journey to becoming one of the best basketball players NCT U has ever seen. 

Additionally, Donghyuck has grown to love Mark’s teammates as well. Donghyuck had even harbored a crush on Johnny for a few months, before they tried dating each other and discovered that it just wasn’t working and it would be better if they remained as friends. The fact that Mark’s teammates grew concerned over his lack of visits warmed his heart, but also made him feel a bit more guilty for missing out on their recent games.

So, Donghyuck thinks he would make up for it by buying the team Pocari and visiting them during their extended Friday practice as a surprise. Of course, Mark gets special treatment for being his best friend, and Donghyuck buys him his favorite snack, too. 

Donghyuck walks out from the convenience store with two large plastic bags in hand, filled with Pocari and several packs of Mark’s favorite snacks (Donghyuck bought several knowing that Mark’s generosity will end up with Mark sharing most of what Donghyuck bought with the team). Donghyuck hums happily, as he feels the excitement rush through his veins. It’s been a while, and he’s definitely excited to see the people Mark considers his family, and by extension, the people Donghyuck considers his family, too.

He stops for a moment, after his phone vibrates from the left pocket of his favorite ripped skinny jeans. Donghyuck grabs his phone from his pocket and answers the call, “hello?”

“Hey,” Mark’s voice crackles from the other side of the phone, and Donghyuck hears the bouncing of several basketballs from Mark’s end of the call. “I’ll be heading to our apartment late, do you have anyone who can walk with you?”

“Pfft,” Donghyuck says in response to Mark’s concern, “that’s very cute, you’re concerned for me. But I think you’re asking me whether or not someone can walk with me is because you’re scared of what I’ll be able to do if someone crosses me.”

“Okay,” Mark laughs, “you caught me. I won’t be able to bail you out of jail for murder, Hyuck.”

“If someone crossed me and I killed them, I can plead for self-defense,” Donghyuck points out as he continues walking towards the indoor court Mark was in. 

“But no—I don’t need someone to walk home with me. I’m on my way to see you guys.  I’ll wait for you until you’re done with practice,” Donghyuck further adds and he hears an excited squeak come from his phone, more static-sounding than anything.

“Oh for real? That’s cool! We can all get dinner afterwards, then. The guys miss you lots,” Mark excitedly chatters, and Donghyuck laughs fondly at the other boy’s excitement.

“Don’t tell them though, let it be a surprise.”

“Alright, see you in a few?”

“See you in a few.”

Donghyuck ends the call shortly after and pockets his phone again. Donghyuck picks up his own pace, walking quickly towards the indoor court, feeling even more thrilled about surprising the team after what he heard from Mark.

Three minutes later, Donghyuck is at the entrance of the indoor gym, hearing Lucas’ boisterous laughter and Johnny’s screaming even from afar. The bouncing of basketballs across wooden floors was a sound familiar and nostalgic for Donghyuck. He missed this .

The moment he steps inside the gym, Johnny screeches and greets him loudly, immediately stopping whatever he had been practicing from the basketball court. The gigantic center barrels towards Donghyuck, engulfing him in a massive bear hug, causing Donghyuck to drop the plastic bags he had been holding. 

“Hyuck!” Johnny excitedly huffed out as he carried Donghyuck excitedly, Donghyuck squealing in surprise, “Johnny! Put me down!”

“Johnny, stop keeping Hyuck for yourself,” Jaehyun teases as he walks over to where Donghyuck and Johnny had their mini reunion. 

Johnny pouts and puts Donghyuck down, ruffling Donghyuck’s hair as soon as he sets the younger man down.

“Hi Jaehyunnie,” Donghyuck says softly, his grin growing from ear-to-ear as soon as Jaehyun cages him in a tight hug, too. “Hey Hyuckie,” Jaehyun greets him back and Donghyuck can hear Mark and Lucas’ laughter ring closer.

“Donghyuckie!” Lucas excitedly squeaks out, the six-foot puppy that Lucas is emerging as soon as he sees Donghyuck, eyes brimming with excitement. “Lucas!” Donghyuck greets back with just as much excitement, opening his arms to welcome Lucas’ hug.

“Are those for us?” Mark asks, pointing at the two plastic bags next to Donghyuck, smiling widely in happiness. As soon as Donghyuck sees the happy and content grin on Mark, he’s reminded of why he absolutely loved going to Mark’s practices—Donghyuck feels absolutely silly for avoiding the practices because of something petty, specially when the look of absolute and genuine happiness on Mark’s face was worth more than any awkwardness Donghyuck could have felt with Sungchan.

“Yeah, I got everyone Pocari and got your favorite snacks, too,” Donghyuck tells Mark, and the grin on Mark’s face grows surprisingly brighter, the corners of his eyes crinkling in extreme happiness. 

The group walks over to the bench, where all of the team’s stuff is gathered, “where are the others?”

“The others left earlier, we decided to extend our extended practice even more as the starters,” Johnny explains, “we have a tough game on our hands next Saturday.”

Donghyuck hums in acknowledgement, but a speedy figure runs through the court within a flash, and then a sound of a basketball hitting the backboard is heard. 

“Yangyang!” Mark shouts, and the speedy figure halts to a stop and looks over to their direction and tilts his head to the side, similar to the look of a confused puppy.

Donghyuck holds his breath as he sees the handsome face attached to the body of the speedster. His eyes were wide and bright, brimming in what Donghyuck can pinpoint as passion and love for the sport he was playing, and his dark hair is held up in a headband that looks way too good to be legal for him. His facial structure looked like he had been handcrafted and sculpted by the Greek goddess of beauty herself, cheekbones high and jawline defined so well it deserves to be in Merriam Webster’s dictionary. His skin glistens and sparkles under the bright lights of the indoor court, glazed in a sheen of sweat that looks delectable instead of disgusting.

“Take a break, man! Come have some drinks with us and meet Donghyuck,” Mark says and Yangyang jogs over to them, a wide, gummy and toothy grin on his face and Donghyuck swoons. 

“Hey,”  Yangyang says to the group, and he reaches over to grab the Pocari that Donghyuck was offering him. “Thanks,” he smiles at Donghyuck, and Donghyuck has to press his nails into his palm to avoid screaming in panic.

“I’m Yangyang, I’ve heard lots about you from Mark and  the team, really,” Yangyang politely smiles, extending his free hand for a handshake, and Donghyuck is almost stunned to silence but Mark thankfully notices and nudges him subtly.

“Nice to meet you, Yangyang—hope these idiots told you good things, then,” Donghyuck rolls his eyes jokingly, and the team laughs and he almost lets out a sigh of relief that he was able to turn his charm on even after that panic. Donghyuck shakes hands with Yangyang and Yangyang was quick to add, “I would have gone for a hug, but I’m sweaty and gross so I’d rather not put you under that stress,” smile cheeky and eyes filled with mirth that looks very attractive on Yangyang that Donghyuck forgets how to breathe. 

Donghyuck blushes and chuckles, “it’s fine.”

Johnny, Jaehyun, Lucas and Mark exchange looks of knowing, noticing the ever-so-composed Lee Donghyuck who barely even blinks at Jaehyun’s aggressive and straightforward flirting stumble over a mere introductory conversation with Liu Yangyang.

Johnny couldn’t help the slight chuckle that erupts out of him, and he tries to disguise it as a cough as soon as Donghyuck shoots him a glare, “well, we’ll catch up more later over dinner, Hyuckie. Now, it’s time for us to practice even more, okay?” 

The other boys nod excitedly, and Donghyuck sees Yangyang almost vibrate in excitement. He almost coos at Yangyang, but composes himself to cheer on the entire team instead. 

If Donghyuck looked at Yangyang’s reaction and grinning face more than he did the other members, then no one has to know.

— 

“That was a great practice,” Johnny huffs, breathing ragged and his chest heaving as the team walks over to the bench, where Donghyuck had been sitting as he watched the group of men practice.

“Hmm,” Jaehyun hums, trying to catch his own breath, “t’was great but my body’s fucking done, man.”

Mark laughs loudly, the laughter resonating throughout the high ceilings of the gym, and Donghyuck rolls his eyes as he reaches for each of the members’ towels and hands it over to them. Donghyuck might as well be a team manager by the amount of time he spends fussing over them, but the paperwork was too much to bear for him. The guys thank Donghyuck with smiles and nods, but Yangyang—the beautiful, polite, and smiley boy that he is—bowed to thank him. 

Donghyuck couldn’t help the wide and sunny grin that plasters itself on his face, and Jaehyun chuckles fondly at the team’s youngest, clapping a hand on the youngest’s back. “So polite, our Yangyang,” Jaehyun teases, and Yangyang smiles shyly at the other members and at Donghyuck. “Dude, Donghyuck’s going to start calling you mean names and overstepping his boundaries with you soon—no need to be formal with him,” Mark teases both Yangyang and Donghyuck, slinging an arm around Yangyang casually as Yangyang’s cheeks rise even higher as the grin on his face grows wider. “Hey!” Donghyuck takes offense in what Mark said, and slaps Mark’s arm in retaliation. “You make it seem as if I’m rude,” Donghyuck pouts, and the team laughs. “You mean to tell me that you aren’t, Hyuckie?” Johnny asks, an eyebrow raised as he teases the younger man. “Fuck you, Johnny,” Donghyuck says, giving the tall center the finger. “C’mon guys,” Lucas joins in the conversation, “Hyuckie isn’t rude to me at all! It’s only you guys he’s mean with. He’s a pretty chill dude,” Lucas adds, raising a fist in front of Donghyuck expectantly. Donghyuck grins at him and raises his own fist, letting Lucas collide his much larger fist with his own. “Or,” Mark begins, “you’re the only one he isn’t rude to—he plays favorites, this one,” Mark reaches over to ruffle Donghyuck’s hair, and Donghyuck tries to avoid the hand that aims to cause destruction but fails. Johnny and Jaehyun laugh and agree with Mark’s statement, and Lucas smirks, which Donghyuck sees as a concession to Mark’s argument. Yangyang looks around the team with wide, observant eyes, sparkling under the usually harsh lights and Donghyuck almost goes red in embarrassment over liking someone this much he had only met an hour ago.

Donghyuck rolls his eyes, “whatever, asshats. There’s a reason why Lucas is my favorite—”

“Ah, yes—he does help you find your conquests,” Johnny helpfully adds, tone teasing as his eyes become filled with mischief.  

Donghyuck’s eyes go wide in surprise over the sudden attack and he rushes to slap a mouth over Johnny’s mouth in fear of what the older may say, but the rest of the team laugh boisterously instead. “Well, I am quite a great wingman—my proudest moment was probably setting Hyuck up with Sunwoo. Sunwoo was a biter, right Hyuck?” Lucas joins in on the teasing and the laughter only grows louder.

Donghyuck gives up on trying to reach the two taller males who were teasing him and huffs out an annoyed sigh instead, crossing his arms for good measure. “Fine. He was a good lay. But that’s all there was to it, honestly,” Donghyuck admits and rolls his eyes. The group laughs and Donghyuck decides to include Yangyang in the conversation, “I promise I’m not as thirsty as these idiots make me seem—Jaehyun is still the most disastrous gay in this team, as well as the horniest. Just thank the world that you’re his teammate, otherwise you wouldn’t have been able to escape the wrath that is Jaehyun’s disastrous flirting,” Donghyuck directly tells Yangyang, looking him in the eye with so much sincerity that Yangyang couldn’t help but erupt in a fit  of (wondrous) giggles. Jaehyun lets out an affronted noise, but the rest of the group mumble agreements and Jaehyun merely sulks at the blatant judgement of his (lack of) flirting skills.

“Yo, it’s getting kinda late and I’m really hungry,” Mark says out of the blue, and Lucas begins to chant about wanting to eat like a petulant child. The team excuse themselves from Donghyuck to take a quick shower before they all catch up and eat, and Donghyuck merely nods and waits for them while he scrolls through his Twitter feed.  

— 

The group spent an hour conversing and laughing over dinner. 

They all went to Yangyang’s favorite hotpot place, after only a tiny bit of convincing from Yangyang. (Yangyang has the entire team wrapped around his fingers, after all.)

It was a Friday, but the restaurant they went to wasn’t as packed as they expected—probably because it was far too late into the night for dinner.

Bright, orange-tinted lights shine on their faces, bodies shaking with laughter and genuine happiness over Lucas’ funny stories, Mark’s awkward encounters, Jaehyun’s disastrous attempts at flirting, Johnny’s death over his classes, and Yangyang’s questionable amount of admirers.

Over dinner, the group learns that Yangyang was well-loved by everyone—not just the team. They learn about the group of kids herded by Kun and Ten, and at the mention of Kun, Mark blushed furiously as he’s reminded of trying to blatantly  flirt with the taken man. They also learn that despite Yangyang’s obvious intelligence and pristine grades, he also had a penchant for all kinds of trouble—but because of his personality, he had been able to minimize all the harms his trouble brings.

“So you mean professors just let you sleep at any class because even when you fall asleep you can still answer their questions perfectly?” Lucas asks Yangyang, eyes wide in shock and Yangyang grows red under the orange lights, suddenly feeling shy about being the center of attention.

“I mean—yeah. Growing up I read a lot of books and I was pretty advanced for my age.”

“Well, you may be a prodigy or something, but you’re still really great with people and you’re even up to date with technology and pop culture—you go against every bit of stereotype people have against smart kids. Athletic, cultured and handsome,” Johnny bluntly says, pointing his set of chopsticks at Yangyang as a lopsided smile settles on his face.

The group laughs and Yangyang does, too, but the blush on his face doesn’t fade.

“You’re still better than Mark when it comes to technology and you even have better game than Jaehyun,” Lucas says after finally swallowing the food in his mouth. Both Mark and Jaehyun let out small noises of offense, and Johnny, Donghyuck and Yangyang all giggle. “How could you say Yangyang has better game than Jae, though, Lucas?” Johnny asks, voice tinted with curiosity. 

“Well,” Lucas begins, “I met Kun and Ten and the gang after Yangyang and I bonded a while ago, and then we all went to a houseparty. This kid,” Lucas grins widely as he extends his muscly arm to ruffle Yangyang’s hair while Yangyang’s eyes crinkle in anticipation, face decorated with a warm, gummy smile, “is pretty fucking wild, you have no clue. Plus, he’s got guys and girls fighting to the death for his attention, man. All he needs to do is send a wink and people are worshipping the ground he walks on. Also, walked in on him making out with a guy shortly after we arrived. And then an hour later, he was kissing a girl, and the said guy.”

The table erupts in wolf whistles and entertained ‘oh’s’ and Yangyang grows red as a tomato, opting to bury his face in his hands to hide his embarrassment. Lucas laughs and pats Yangyang on the back after the blunt exposure and Jaehyun merely sulks, “fine, I concede. Yangyang has better game than I do.”

Donghyuck, however, even when teasing the newest addition to the team, couldn’t help but imagine how Yangyang would look like after a heated kiss—disheveled, messy hair, heavy breathing, glazed eyes, and swollen lips. Donghyuck stops, before his thoughts begin to drabble in dangerous territory, and he fully snaps out of it after Mark nudges him.

“It’s late and we’re all done eating,” Mark begins, “we should get going, before it’s too dark for Hyuckie and I to walk to the apartment.”

“Go ahead, guys. Lucas, Jaehyun and I are going to drop by a frat party on the way home, first,” Johnny explains, trying to stretch his long limbs in the tiny booth before they all stand up.

“How about you, Yang? We’re walking in the same direction, aren’t we? Come walk with Hyuckie and I,” Mark invites the youngest, but Yangyang merely smiles and politely declines, “ah, no—it’s okay. I still have to pick someone up before I go home.”

Yangyang stands up and gathers his things, and the phone in his hand vibrates with a text. Yangyang opens the message and smiles before saying, “yeah, I have to go now—he’s waiting for me. Bye everyone! It was nice meeting you, Donghyuck,” and the genuine smile Yangyang directs to Donghyuck made Donghyuck feel weak in the knees. Donghyuck simply returns the smile and the sentiment, and the group waves him off.

Mark nudges Donghyuck slightly, and this gets him moving to leave as well. They gather their belongings and stand up to say goodbye to the older boys, and the older boys walk them out the restaurant before heading the opposite direction.

Mark and Donghyuck walk in a comfortable silence, but of course Mark breaks it by saying, “so… Yangyang, huh?”

Donghyuck immediately blushes at the older boy’s teasing, and Mark begins to laugh loudly.

“Shut up,” Donghyuck murmurs softly, shoving Mark off of the sidewalk of the empty street. Mark laughs even harder and questions him even further, “he’s like, the epitome of your type though. A genius. Athletic. He’s easygoing and very charming. Also holds the same trouble-making sparkle in his eyes. What’s stopping you from getting yourself a boyfriend, Hyuck?”

Donghyuck rolls his eyes, “uh, gay panic? Have you seen me a while ago? I literally never lose my composure to anyone but out of nowhere, a transferee from Germany comes barging into our lives and suddenly, I can’t fucking flirt.”

Mark’s body shakes with louder laughter, his eyes nearly closing as his smile grows incredibly wide, tears forming in his eyes. To the unknowing eye, it would seem like Donghyuck was taking care of a drunk friend. But actually, Mark was very sober.

Donghyuck grumbles all the way home, as Mark falls victim to random bursts of giggles and laughter every once in a while. 

“Don’t worry too much, Hyuckie,” Mark says as he’s sobered up from his giggles, “you’ll charm him out of his wits. Once you overcome the gay panic.”

And then, Mark laughs again, and Donghyuck doesn’t fight the urge to punch his best friend in the arm.

🐑🏀🌞

“Liu Yangyang for three!” the announcer’s voice booms, and the crowd of students supporting NCT U erupts in loud and excited cheers. Donghyuck, as part of his best friend privileges, is able to sit right at the back of the bench, able to see the game itself up close. Seated next to him was Chenle, a well-known avid supporter of the basketball team, who sat next to Kun and Ten, the three of them shouting various phrases of support for Yangyang. Donghyuck giggles and decides to join in and cheer for Yangyang as well. After Kun, Huang Renjun, Donghyuck’s batchmate and classmate for one Philosophy class, was seated. Renjun and Donghyuck weren’t close, but Jaemin was their mutual friend, and since Jaemin had a habit of keeping the people he loves to hold close to him close with each other as well, Donghyuck and Renjun were close enough. Renjun seems to be the most dedicated out of the four men who were cheering for Yangyang, standing up in his seat and screaming his heart out as support. Aside from screaming his lungs out, Renjun was also wearing what Donghyuck assumes would be one of Yangyang’s jerseys, considering that the not-so-subtle “Liu” at the back, with the number 24. 

Donghyuck sees Yangyang look over their direction and smile brightly, sending a wink their way. Mark laughs in the court and slaps a hand on Yangyang’s back, and Yangyang looks over to him and raises a fist in anticipation of a fist bump. Mark returns the fist bump and the game resumes.

On Donghyuck’s other side was Taeyong, Johnny’s boyfriend, who was excitedly cheering for his tall boyfriend. Next to Taeyong, was Doyoung—Taeyong’s best friend, and Jaehyun’s all-time-crush.

Doyoung wasn’t as much of a screamer as Taeyong was (heh) but he had his moments, too. It seems to Donghyuck that Doyoung only ever cheered when Jaehyun was in action, but that’s not something he’ll tell Jaehyun for the sake of Doyoung’s pride.

The crowd roars once more as Johnny successfully defends against the other team’s center, being able to outsmart the other team entirely. As soon as Johnny gets a hold of the ball, he passes it off to Jaehyun who dribbles halfway across the court before the opposing team could even figure out what was happening. Mark and Lucas move in quickly to settle in their positions to the half-court, making sure they’re able to guard the other players from getting in Jaehyun’s way. Their actions support Jaehyun’s play and enhance Yangyang’s—by ensuring that the entire team’s focus is on the small forward, they increase the chances of leaving Yangyang unguarded and able to maneuver as he pleases. 

Out of nowhere, Yangyang speedily runs towards Jaehyun and the shooting guard receives a perfectly-timed pass from the small forward, speeding through the entire opposing team with the ball in hand. Yangyang’s quick and agile movements make it hard for the opposing team to track his actions and to predict his next move, and soon enough, Yangyang has gone through the entire team and the only thing stopping him from another basket is the opposing team’s center. The center was incredibly tall, but that had never been a problem for Liu Yangyang—instead, he whips out the ankle breaker, and impresses an entire crowd. Yangyang moves towards one direction in one swift movement, but fakes the tall center and gives him no room to recuperate from his mistake, as Yangyang quickly dribbles and lets the ball come to his other hand, the center finding it hard to see Yangyang’s high-speed movements, and finally moving towards his intended direction—the entire maneuver was so swift that the center could not comprehend what was happening within a split second, and because of his body’s natural tendency to try and guard the ball, he stumbles over his ankles as he tries to follow the quick ball. The center’s movements weren’t of his own accord, but was what his body would tend to do to defend their court from offensive players. But Liu Yangyang was unlike any other offensive player this center had seen, so after he stumbles and falls over, he doesn’t stand up immediately and instead watches Liu Yangyang shoot the ball. The center was only snapped out of the trance after the crowd let out a deafening roar the moment Yangyang scored once more, this time, from a well-timed layup. 

Yangyang runs back toward the team and Lucas greets him with a big smile and a hanging hand, Yangyang high-fives the power forward and smiles just as genuinely. Jaehyun ruffles his hair fondly and Mark gives him another fist bump, while Johnny just grins lopsidedly. 

“You’re doing well on the team plays, Yang,” Mark comments, “but our next plays will revolve around passes and offense, but you’ll have to take in defense now. We’ll give support to Jae and Lucas this time around, because the other team’s watching you too closely after what you did. Since we established your presence and it’ll  take a long while before you’re able to sneak up on them again, we’ll have to use that to our advantage and use your overwhelming presence for defense. Use the passes we all practiced. Johnny, you keep doing what you’re doing as center but don’t be afraid to handle the ball every once in a while and let that power forward in you come out. This would keep our plays varied and make it hard for them to keep up,” Mark calmly finishes and the rest of the team nod. 

The opposing team readies themselves and tries to assume the team plays that Mark had procured over the ten-second conversation, however, no team can ever go against Mark Lee’s on-the-spot team plays. 

Mark’s playing style is very much adaptive—he patterns his styles, movements and actions depending on the type of opponents he faces. Mark also has the ability to see an entire court’s movements. It was easy for Mark to adapt to certain plays and guide the group while they were in court, for Mark’s field of vision was wide and can see even the slightest of movements and change of pacing. Coupled with Yangyang’s ability to predict his opponents’ movements, their strategies tend to be dynamic and flexible.

 As the final quarter draws nearer and the gap between their team and the opposing team grows smaller, it was time for their team to push through with their final play.

The last stretch, as Mark would like to call it. This strategy relies heavily on Yangyang’s capability of handling the ball alone, and making it seem like he’ll be playing the expected “lone wolf” style, but in reality Yangyang was only lessening his entire team’s presence and making sure the focus is solely on him—in order to ensure that his team will be able to swoop in for more points. 

Yangyang steals the ball from the opposing team’s point guard, and the plan is set into motion. He runs through the court and avoids all of the opposing team’s defenses, until he’s finally met with both the small and power forward who have now been tasked to guard him. Yangyang smirks, expecting to be heavily defended, and gets into position for the ankle breaker, but instead of passing the ball to his other hand, he swiftly and sneakily passes it to Mark, who was left unguarded and open. Mark caught the ball and instantly shot for a three-pointer.

The ball went in, and finally, the two teams were at a tie. Lucas raised his fist in the air in joy, and Yangyang jumped in happiness, while Mark, Jaehyun and Johnny all grinned brightly. This was only the start of the play.

The ball moves again, the other team’s power forward immediately grabbing the ball the moment it passes through the basket after the three-point shot. Before the power forward could even make it to the half-court, Yangyang steps in front of the taller player and guards against the player. Yangang sees the slight twitch of the player’s left leg and he could tell immediately that the player intends to fake him and go for the more open path, Yangyang’s right. So, Yangyang immediately blocks the right lane and before the power forward can try and fix his mistake, Lucas blocks the left lane and they effectively force the player to pass the ball to his teammate. Unfortunately for the power forward’s teammate, the moment the ball moved to be passed to him, Mark had already seen the direction of the ball and was able to steal it. 

Yangyang and Lucas immediately move aside, giving more space for their point guard to run through, and immediately blocking the opposing power forward and small forward. Mark paces through the court, and does one of his infamous half-court passes that reaches Jaehyun. Then, Jaehyun swiftly maneuvers his way through the center, dribbling in varying paces to confuse the defenses, and then throws a bank-shot from the three-point line. 

Jaehyun smirks as soon as the ball goes through the hoop, and the rest of the team huff out chuckles at Jaehyun’s actions.

Donghyuck laughs with the team while he’s seated on the bleachers—Jaehyun always had a flair for the dramatics, wanting to make sure his actions inside the court elicits surprised gasps, keeping the audience on their toes.

Jaehyun looks over their (Doyoung’s) direction and sends Doyoung a flirtatious wink, and Doyoung rolls his eyes, but the red on his cheeks are far-too-telling. Taeyong whistles and teases Doyoung, but Doyoung merely mumbles a string of curses for Taeyong to stop.

The game plays on, and the gap between NCT U and the opposing team’s scores widen. NCT U garners a fifteen-point lead and holds out until the last minute. 

With thirty seconds on the timer, an opportunity arises and Yangyang is able to steal a ball from the opposing team’s center’s half-court pass and Yangyang sneaks through the opposing team’s defenses. Yangyang is met with the center once more, and the undampened spirits that the other possesses despite the gap in points makes Yangyang want to play even harder—he liked playing, knowing that the opposing team wouldn’t give up even in the most desperate of times. 

Yangyang plays around, knowing that the team couldn’t make a definite comeback for the last twenty seconds of the game, and the rest of NCT U’s team watches in amusement—they were watching the future of Seoul’s basketball scene, after all. Liu Yangyang was a different breed, and it was high time for the collegiate basketball teams of Seoul to recognize that.

Yangyang changes the direction of his body not once, not twice, but thrice within the span of five seconds. The agile player confuses all the defensive players the opposing team sends out to guard him, and the smirk on Yangyang’s face shows that this was a mere showcase of his skill and talent, unsubstantial to the turnout of the game. The confidence Yangyang radiates in court is one that can be spotted even from a mile away—Donghyuck feels the tension in the air and sees the fiery passion in Yangyang’s burning, bright eyes.

Finally, in the last five seconds of the game, Yangyang moves to take his shot.

In the last second of the game, the fifteen-point lead became a seventeen-point lead.

As the buzzer rings throughout the gym, NCT U students erupt in joyful roars and cheering, the team on the court bouncing around and hugging each other. The rest of the benched players run to their starting lineup, and the group happily rejoices over their victory. 

Kun, Ten, Chenle, Renjun, Doyoung, Taeyong and Donghyuck all jump up in excitement—Chenle letting out dolphin-like shrieks and Renjun jumping around with Chenle, while Kun and Ten engulf the two younger students in a hug, and Doyoung and Taeyong loudly cheer and jump while hugging Donghyuck, too.

As soon as Johnny led the team to bow in respect towards the opposing team and as soon as they thanked each other for the wonderful game, the entire team, including their coach and the benched players, moved to the center of the court and led their supporters in singing their school’s hymn. 

Johnny, Jaehyun, Lucas, Yangyang and Mark are standing front and center in front of the audience, cheerfully and passionately singing the hymn. As soon as the music stops, the basketball team bows in a perfect 90-degree bow to thank the audience for their unwavering support. As the team bows, the school cheers them on loudly once more.

After things have settled down and the audience start moving out of the gym, Donghyuck sees Renjun speed through the bleachers and run down to Yangyang, engulfing the boy in a massive bear hug. Yangyang opens his arms, welcoming a barrelling Renjun towards him. Chenle, Kun and Ten follow suit, but wait it out for a bit as Renjun peppers the boy’s face in light kisses. Yangyang’s smile grows impossibly wider, as he secures his arms around the other boy’s waist.

Donghyuck moves over to where Mark was, engulfing the sweaty point guard in a congratulatory hug.

“Congrats, Markie,” Donghyuck softly mumbles against the hug and Mark lets joyous laughter ring through his chest, Donghyuck’s arms tightly wrapped around his waist while Mark’s arms were squeezing the younger just as tightly. 

The pair of best friends scan the team—Jaehyun was shyly conversing with Doyoung as Doyoung congratulates the slightly younger man. Taeyong was kissing Johnny in what was borderline scarring for the younger members of the basketball team (unfortunately, it was hard to see the captain of the team swap spit with his boyfriend with utmost romanticism knowing that the captain was satan incarnate during practices). Lucas had both Dejun and Hendery clinging onto him from each side, congratulating their best friend for the victory. The trio were hovering around Chenle, Kun and Ten who were all showering both Yangyang and Lucas in congratulations. Renjun was still clinging to Yangyang, having both of his arms encasing Yangyang from the side, while Yangyang had an arm casually slung around Renjun’s shoulders.

Donghyuck feels his heart tingling at the sight, and he tries to step over the tiny crush he had been harbouring over Yangyang to stop himself before the feelings start to overflow and cause irreversible damage.

Mark whistles lowly as he sees what was directly in front of Donghyuck’s line of vision, “damn. I kinda knew Yangyang had a long list of admirers but I didn’t know he had a boyfriend,” Mark comments. Donghyuck sighs, “they seem like boyfriends, right?”

Mark hums apologetically, “yeah. Wouldn’t have egged on that little crush of yours had I known he was unavailable, Hyuckie.”

“It’s fine, Mark—you couldn’t have known,” Donghyuck glumly says, lips forming into a pout, but he stops the pity party immediately after he starts it, “but that doesn’t matter, because tonight is all about you guys! You fucking won, you asshole!” Donghyuck excitedly exclaims, ruffling Mark’s hair fondly and dragging him to the rest of the team.

“Hey! Congratulations, you tall motherfuckers!” Donghyuck yells out as a congratulatory remark for Johnny, Jaehyun, Lucas and Yangyang. They all laugh as they hear Donghyuck’s excited greeting and Mark absolutely roars in genuine laughter, “thank you, Hyuckie!” Johnny responds, walking towards the small, tan boy of boundless energy. Johnny brings him to a warm and happy hug. Jaehyun follows and engulfs him in a tight hug as well, kissing the top of his head for good measure. Lucas brings him for a side hug, having his hands full with a clingy and sentimental Hendery and Dejun. When it was Yangyang’s turn, Donghyuck was thankful that he could actually hug back a player without having to look up. Yangyang squeezes him tightly, wrapping his arms around Donghyuck’s waist and pressing his face on Donghyuck’s shoulder, while mumbling a small ‘thank you.’

Donghyuck’s breath hitches in his throat, the hug doing all kinds of things for his feelings, butterflies flying around his stomach in a violent storm, and Yangyang finally pulls away. The smile on Yangyang’s face reminds him of the light coming from the morning sun that peeks through from the curtains to wake him up every morning. Bright, yet comforting.

“You’re welcome,” Donghyuck manages to say, and he nods to Kun, Ten, Renjun and Chenle in acknowledgement.

“I’ll see you guys later at the victory party, right?” Donghyuck asks the group and they all nod excitedly.

“Not missing a victory party in my college life,” Ten excitedly says as Kun laughs and presses a fond kiss on his boyfriend’s cheek. “I’m coming ‘cause who else will handle his drunk ass?” Kun replies and Ten pouts sulkily at his boyfriend.

Yangyang rolls his eyes at the couple’s cheesiness, and responds, “yeah—Chenle, Renjun, Lucas, Dejun, Hendery and I are all coming, don’t worry.”

Chenle and Renjun nod along to what Yangyang says, and Donghyuck just smiles, as genuinely as he can while having to be subject to Renjun and Yangyang’s clinginess within a one meter radius, before he runs back to Mark again.

Donghyuck cages Mark in a back hug and doesn’t let go of him for comfort (until Mark had to shower, of course). Mark, surprisingly lets him.

Donghyuck arrives at Johnny and Jaehyun’s frat house an hour after the party has started. He’s walking alongside Mark, who’s wearing some black skinny jeans paired with a black muscle tank that showcased the muscles he’s amassed because of basketball. He wears a denim jacket over it, though, keeping himself warm against the biting weather. It was well into fall and the winds are harsher at night. Mark was wearing the pair sneakers Donghyuck had given him for his birthday, a pair of all-black Nike Air Force Ones that Donghyuck knew Mark had been eyeing for a while. Mark’s hair was slicked back, keeping hair away from his face. Donghyuck knows his best friend looks good, despite Donghyuck’s usual nagging that Mark was wearing clothes were too casual.

Donghyuck was wearing his infamous ripped skinny jeans, the ones he spent a questionable amount of money on—but he doesn’t really mind, knowing it makes his ass look expensive and his legs look like they go on for miles. He looks and feels good in it, that’s all that matters. He has a satin black cropped button-up shirt on, that stops just above where his jeans stop. He has his signature black Chanel belt on, and to make sure the entire look meshes together, he wears a black leather jacket that’s adorned by the various pins Jeno and Jaemin had bought for him as a gift. He wears a pair of chelsea boots to further elongate his legs, and he accessorized with an expensive watch Johnny had given him as a gift. Donghyuck’s mousy brown hair was longer than usual, but he curled it in large waves, and styled it to frame his face. He put on a bit of chapstick and a bit of highlighter, just to enhance his glow.

Donghyuck was turning heads as soon as he stepped foot into the frat house. Mark was, too—but of course drunk dumbasses would try to stick to Donghyuck more than they would to Mark. Before Donghyuck could even snark his way into a fight with a drunken bastard who has no regard for personal space, Mark pulls Donghyuck closer to his body, keeping a protective arm around the younger’s waist and leading him to where Johnny and Jaehyun were. 

They manage to get through the crowd of sweaty bodies, and Donghyuck's head snaps to the right as he sees an alarming sight before him. Lucas was seated at the living room couch, smiling widely and excitedly rambling in Mandarin, as he usually does when he's inebriated, but what Donghyuck finds surprising is Renjun straddling Lucas, clinging to the power forward and listening to his drunken rambles with a look of fondness on his face. Donghyuck couldn't help himself from tugging at Mark's arm to seek help with his confusion. Mark looks at Donghyuck and Donghyuck tries to subtly nod his head towards Renjun and Lucas's direction. Mark looks over to where Donghyuck was pointing at, and his eyes widen comically and lets out a confused, 'huh?' 

"Right?" Donghyuck says, his own eyes wide, his mind trying to come up with answers to the questions that trouble him without making it look like Renjun or Lucas were assholes. "Aren't Yangyang and Renjun—but Renjun and Lucas—huh?" Mark tries to rationalize, his eyebrows knitted together in confusion and Donghyuck giggles. "For someone who can create god-tier strategies during games, you're pretty dumb," Donghyuck teases and Mark blushes as he tries to retort, "you—you're confused too! You don't get to call me dumb!" 

The pair keeps walking and bickering towards where a crowd of noisy bystanders are gathering, knowing that Johnny and Jaehyun were probably at the center of all that. The crowd jeers and wolf whistles, and as Donghyuck draws closer to the crowd he sees a table set up for beer pong at the center of all the ruckus. 

"Oh damn," Mark says, "they already started, huh?" 

Donghyuck nods in agreement, immediately seeing the center and the small forward laughing boisterously and goofing around. 

"Who're the unlucky bastards who have to go against tweedledee and tweedledum?" Donghyuck snorts, and the crowd erupts in celebratory and congratulatory cheers for Mark the moment they catch sight of the point guard. Mark thanks them, smiling genuinely and returns the high-fives and fistbumps given by random students around them. They greet Donghyuck too, smiling widely and Mark tightens the protective arm around Donghyuck's waist as another set of drunken fools lay their eyes on Donghyuck, but Donghyuck merely chuckles and sends them a glare. 

"You'd think Johnny and Jaehyun are killing it but this new kid is butchering them," a guy that Mark and Donghyuck recognize as one of Taeyong and Johnny's friends says, and Taeyong laughs gingerly, "the new kid has a name—its Liu Yangyang." 

"Yangyang's playing against them?" Mark asks, pitch much higher than usual, and Donghyuck's mouth forms a surprised 'o.' 

Taeyong laughs as soon as he sees the two new arrivals' expression, and nods, "yeah—he's beating their asses. Yangyang doesn't only have talent in court, Markie. The dude's practically dripping in charisma and so much swag that he's got this entire crowd cheering against the hosts." 

"Of course he is—he learned from the best," Ten says, joining in on the conversation out of nowhere. A cat-like smirk is settled on Ten's face, while an angelic dimpled grin fashions Kun's face. Ten has an arm around Kun's waist while Kun has an arm slung over Ten's shoulders, the couple keeping each other as close as humanly possible. "Ten, Kun," Taeyong happily greets, moving in to hug the other couple. Kun and Ten return Taeyong's hug, and Mark settles for an awkward smile of acknowledgement for the two, and Donghyuck snickers right beside Mark. "Still not over your crush on Kun?" Donghyuck teasingly whispers, and Mark shushes him violently. Donghyuck giggles and he greets the couple, Ten moving to give him a tight hug, "Hyuckie, you're so pretty—you learned from me, too, didn't you?" Ten coos and Donghyuck laughs. 

Ten was right—Donghyuck did learn all that he knows from Ten. Ten taught him how to dress for parties and taught him how to subdue six-foot males who were too touchy for their own good. Ten taught Donghyuck everything he needed to survive. 

"I learned from the best, indeed," Donghyuck shamelessly says, and Ten squeaks in pride as he squeezes Donghyuck' cheeks and coos. "Ten, baby, Donghyuck worked hard on his makeup and you're destroying it, lay off on the boy, won't you?" Kun gently says, sensing Donghyuck's discomfort and Donghyuck sends Kun a thankful smile, which Kun returns. 

"Oh shit," Mark says from the side, and Donghyuck's head turns immediately towards Mark's direction. "What happened?" Donghyuck asks moving closer to Mark and trying to get a clear view of what was happening on the table. "Yangyang just cleared Johnny and Jaehyun alone," Mark says, eyes filled with awe and amazement, "he only drank two glasses." 

The crowd cheers for Yangyang, while Jaehyun pouts excessively at the loss and Johnny laughs even louder, hugging Yangyang to acknowledge him as a formidable opponent. 

Mark and Donghyuck move closer to the table, and Johnny's eyes immediately brighten the moment he sees Donghyuck and Mark. "Yo!" Johnny greets both Mark and Donghyuck with a hug, while Jaehyun settles for sending them a dimpled smile. Yangyang turns to their direction and smiles brightly at them, too. 

"Let Hyuckie play alongside Yangyang and go against you guys!" Mark excitedly suggests, and Donghyuck snickers, "Mark, I don't think Yangyang needs me to sweep tweedledee and tweedledum in a game." 

"It'll be fun, though," Yangyang agrees, and Johnny and Jaehyun whoop excitedly. Johnny and Jaehyun chant Donghyuck's name to encourage him, and the crowd formed around them follows suit. 

"Yangyang," Taeyong says, smiling brightly at the newest addition of the basketball team, "you'll now be partnering up with the best beer pong player NCT U has ever seen—Lee Donghyuck."

"Alright then, let's show these motherfuckers the future of NCT U—shall we, Yang?" Donghyuck smirks and Yangyang nods, face adorned with a cheeky smile. 

The game starts and the two younger students let their seniors go first, mumbling something about 'giving them a chance.' 

The crowd 'ooh' s' at that, and both Yangyang and Donghyuck couldn't help the giggles that erupt out of their chests. 

They work well together, surprisingly—they were able to play against the 'reigning beer pong champions' Johnny and Jaehyun, with ease. Within the first fifteen minutes, the reigning champions had downed half of the drinks on their side. After another ten minutes, Johnny and Jaehyun were drunkenly giggling. By the last five minutes of the game, Jaehyun was sulkily looking for Doyoung while Johnny was trying to get out of the game and flirt his way into the referee's (Taeyong's) good side—all while Donghyuck and Yangyang merely drank three cups each. 

The crowd cheers for both Donghyuck and Yangyang when the game ends, and they clear the beer pong table as another set of players take over. Donghyuck sticks close to Yangyang, knowing that Jaehyun was probably making out with Doyoung somewhere, and Johnny had snuck into his room with Taeyong. Mark was nowhere to be found—he possibly got bored of the game mid-way and clung onto Hendery or Yuta instead. 

“I can’t see Kun or Ten anywhere,” Yangyang sighs, taking two unopened cans of beer from the cooler and handing one over to Donghyuck. Donghyuck gratefully accepts the can of beer, and sighs, “Mark’s probably off clinging to another one of his friends.”

The pair moves to an empty spot on the couch, one far from the tangled messes of sweaty and drunken bodies. It distanced from the loud music and the crowded dance floor, so it gave them liberty to freely converse. Yangyang was first to sit down, brushing off the dust on the couch and tapping the empty spot next to him, telling Donghyuck to sit. Donghyuck sits down and faces Yangyang, wanting to keep the conversation between them and ensure that his focus remains on the transferee.

“Oh,” Donghyuck adds, remembering how he had seen both Kun and Ten prior to the game, “I saw Kun and Ten earlier before we started playing—not gonna lie though, they looked extra cozy. Wouldn’t surprise me if they’d left earlier.” Yangyang nods and decides to look for his phone to check his messages and Donghyuck does the same.

Yangyang’s face contorts into a look of disappointment as he checks his phone, “well, Kun and Ten are gone. I’m gonna have to catch a ride home with Dejun, then.”

Donghyuck takes this as an opportunity to get answers for the questions that have been bothering him since his arrival at the party, “how about Renjun? Didn’t you come with him to the party?”

Yangyang looks up from his phone at the mention of Renjun and smiles cheekily, mischief filling his big brown eyes, “oh, Renjun’s coming home with Lucas.”

Donghyuck tries his best to sound unknowing, controlling every bit of his microexpressions as to look innocent, tilting his head to the side in confusion, “he’s coming home with Lucas? I thought you were dating Renjun, though.”

Yangyang’s eyes widen and shock, and he flails his hands around to express his dissent over Donghyuck’s opinion, panicking as he tries to correct Donghyuck, “oh, no—Renjun and I aren’t dating! I’m hoping he and Lucas would get their heads out of their asses and date each other, though. Renjun and I are just best friends—our friendship is a lot similar to your friendship with Mark.”

Yangyang couldn’t control the embarrassed blush that floods his cheeks and Donghyuck just laughs and apologizes, “oh, I’m sorry—I just assumed ‘cause you were being very cute earlier after the game.”

(Donghyuck lets out  a sigh of relief at the back of his mind.)

Yangyang shrugs his apology off, “it’s fine, people always assume that. Mainly because Renjun acting that way helps with subduing the other persistent students who always try and get in my pants,” he adds nonchalantly, but it was obvious to Donghyuck that the slightly younger boy was bothered by his endless list of admirers. 

“Renjun’s always been one for hugs and shows of affection, and it’s not like I hate it—we’ve been best friends for so long that it’s just natural for us to be that close,” Yangyang explains, “plus, he was just really proud of me. It’s one of my first proper games in a while. He knows I’ve been off my game for a while, but I’m back on my feet after being able to adjust to NCT U and South Korea in general.”

“Well, that clears things up,” Donghyuck says, hoping that it sounds as subtle as he intends it to be. Yangyang just laughs shyly, “yeah. Don’t want you going around and thinking that Renjun was cheating or something.”

“Well, I was actually looking for more tame assumptions—like you three being in a polyamorous relationship,” Donghyuck admits, and Yangyang giggles, “well, that would be a very hot relationship and I would have been jealous of Renjun if that were the case, honestly.”

Yangyang laughs boisterously at Donghyuck’s confession, full-blown, to the extent that he’s bending forward to catch his breath. “What?” Donghyuck sassily asks, letting out chuckles of his own, “I mean, I’m pretty sure ninety percent of the student body would think so, too.”

Yangyang rolls his eyes, finishing the can of beer he was drinking, and laughs. “Sure,” Yangyang noncommittally agrees, a cheeky smirk on his face,  face dripping with unrelenting sass and sarcasm. Yangyang gestures towards the cooler, asking Donghyuck if he wants another beer. Donghyuck nods and Yangyang stands up to grab two beers for them. 

Donghyuck’s gaze follows Yangyang, and it was only then  that Donghyuck was able to take in the entirety of what Yangyang was wearing a simple black v-neck tucked into a pair of black skinny jeans that were ripped at the knees, He was wearing a dark green bomber jacket over the entire outfit and his wrist was adorned with an expensive gucci bracelet and watch. Donghyuck recognizes Yangyang’s shoes as one of the shoes Johnny had been sulking about once—he remembers Johnny crying over its price, too. The shoes, although quite flashy (“it’s meant to be flashy, Hyuck—Travis Scott collaborated with Nike on it, of course it’s flashy!” was what Johnny had told him, when he confessed to not understanding why Johnny would cry over the pair of shoes), put the outfit together well. Donghyuck thinks Yangyang pulls the entire outfit off quite nicely.

On Yangyang’s way back to where he and Donghyuck were seated, a random girl he recognized as one of his classmates congratulates him and blatantly flirts with him. Yangyang didn’t want to rudely cut the girl off, but no matter how many times Yangyang tells the girl that someone was waiting for him, the girl did not listen. Yangyang looks over to Donghyuck and sees his batchmate smirking and laughing at his demise, until he sends Donghyuck some puppy eyes and a look of utter desperation. 

Donghyuck decides he’s had enough fun when Yangyang finally pulls all the stops and gives him full-blown puppy eyes, big brown eyes sparkling under the variety of lights from the dancefloor,  pleading for help. “Yang, what’s taking you so long?” Donghyuck loudly and abruptly shouts, calling out to the younger man so that the girl would see exactly what was happening. “Oh shit—Hyuck, sorry, I was just talking to a classmate,” Yangyang says, playing along and running off to where they were originally seated, leaving the girl staring at them in shock.

“Thanks,” Yangyang says, handing Donghyuck the other beer that he got. “Be thankful that I’m weak for cute guys with pretty eyes,” Donghyuck teases, and Yangyang bites back, “I am pretty damn thankful for that too, baby—don’t worry. You better be thankful I’m a sucker for pretty boys with painted nails and cute pins on their leather jackets, too.”

Donghyuck can’t avoid the violent tinge of red that creeps on his cheeks as he glances down on his painted nails—he’s glad that the rainbow nail art decorating his fingertips pulled through.

Donghyuck isn’t exactly sure how he was able to come home to his and Mark’s shared apartment, after the number of drinks he and Yangyang shared began to blur and merge into an incoherent mess.

Donghyuck opens his eyes, groaning as the pounding on his head starts—the usual, after a night of heavy drinking. He looks around his room and sees that all the things he brought to the party last night were still with him, thanking heavens that Donghyuck was arguably a responsible (enough) drunk.

Donghyuck remembers flirting excessively with Yangyang, though. He also remembers Yangyang flirting back. 

‘That would be a bit too hard to forget,’ Donghyuck thinks.

Donghyuck smiles happily, knowing that he had a chance with the human who has become the object of Donghyuck’s interest and affection.

But before he could even rejoice and pat himself on the back for a job well done, he groans in frustration as he’s reminded of one major detail—he didn’t get Yangyang’s number.

The problem could easily be solved if he would just ask Mark for Yangyang’s number, really—but that would entail having to admit to his persistent and very inquisitive best friend that he did have a crush on one of Mark’s teammates.

Donghyuck has more self-respect than that. He will not stoop so low as to seek Mark’s help for his love life.

🐑🏀🌞

“Donghyuck!” A booming voice calls out to Donghyuck as he walks from the social sciences building to the campus cafe, and Donghyuck scans the area around him to look for the familiar voice.

“Hey,” the voice says again, much closer than before, and Donghyuck immediately connects the voice to the older man who crowds his vision. “Hey, Johnny,” Donghyuck greets back, confused as to why the older man seems to have sought him out and ran to catch up with him—judging by his worn out and heaving form— and then he asks, “what’s up?”

“Well,” Johnny tries to start, but immediately pausing and putting a hand to his chest as an attempt to catch his breath, “I have a favor to ask of you.”

Donghyuck turns his body to face Johnny entirely and tilts his head to the side in what would hopefully portray his confusion, and his face adorned with a weary and careful expression, “what favor?” Donghyuck hesitantly asks, and Johnny’s eyes immediately widen at the thought of wrong implications that must have plagued Donghyuck’s thinking. Johnny hurriedly clarifies, “nothing bad! I just need you to help with Yangyang in his Korean class. He’s pretty great conversationally, but in terms of writing and reading he’s been struggling. His grades on the subject are dropping and we can’t have that because the coach won’t let him play starter if he fails, so I was thinking you could tutor him—I know you aced that class and I think it would be best if Yangyang learns it with someone he’s familiar with.”

Donghyuck thinks about it for a moment, opening his mouth to answer, but Johnny cuts him off, “please? He said he’s willing to pay for your lunch for the entire week you help him study and I’m willing to do that too—”

Donghyuck giggles and puts a hand on Johnny’s shoulder, putting a stop to Johnny’s rambles, “I’ll do it, Johnny. Just give him my number and text me the details. My schedule is pretty open, anyways.”

Johnny’s face morphs from one of desperation to one of complete and utter happiness, “oh my god! Thank you, Hyuck! Turns out we didn’t need to use your incapability to say no to Mark after all!” Johnny teases and Donghyuck rolls his eyes in annoyance, but a smile still remains on his face.

"You're headed to the café aren't you?" Johnny asks him, casually slinging an arm around Donghyuck’s shoulders. Donghyuck nods, letting the much taller man do as he please, walking side by side with him towards the direction of the café. “Hmm,” Donghyuck hums as affirmation and Johnny begins to ramble on about his classes to fill the silence as they walk towards their destination. Donghyuck lets out occasional laughter, over Johnny’s shenanigans. The matching toothy grins that they wear don’t fade as they converse freely.

“Hey,” Yangyang stands up from his seat to greet Donghyuck with a hug that Donghyuck happily returns. Yangyang pulls away and smiles brightly at him, “thanks for agreeing to help me—I’m just doing really badly at this class and all my teammates were raised in foreign countries, too,” Yangyang jokingly says, eliciting hushed laughter from the other boy, “and Jaehyun speaks Korean infused with so much English that even I think he needs to be tutored in Korean.” 

“Don’t worry about it,” Donghyuck honestly admits, “I’ll be happy to be of help.”

“But, I am curious though—Mark said you’re really good at languages and from what I’ve heard, your Korean is already pretty good. I doubt a genius like you would have a hard time with grammar and stuff,” Donghyuck raises an eyebrow inquisitively, keeping his voice light as to not sound condescending.

Yangyang merely giggles, “well, yeah—I do pick up languages easily, but this class is just really confusing for me. When I explained to Mark why it was confusing, he said it was probably because the class was discussing material with older dialects and then would bounce to more contemporary works with slang. I asked him to take a look at my class materials the other day, and that’s what he said.”

“Hmm,” Donghyuck hums, reaching over to the reading materials laid out on the table in front of Yangyang. Donghyuck scans the titles of his reading materials and chuckles, “no wonder you’re having a hard time—your professor is making you jump back and forth between eras.”

Yangyang exasperatedly sighs, sitting back down on his chair as he signals Donghyuck to do the same. Yangyang grumpily slouches and pouts, “I’ve been studying the material all week but I can’t seem to comprehend it.”

Donghyuck takes a seat in front of Yangyang, flashing him a bright toothy grin, straightening his back and giving him a cringey two thumbs-up, “don’t worry! I’m here to help your struggling brain in comprehending this messy pile of readings!”

Yangyang laughs quietly, remembering that they were in a library and had to keep quiet. Donghyuck asks Yangyang to cover what he knows and his notes, and Yangyang willingly complies.

Donghyuck attentively listens to Yangyang, nodding along to the foreigner’s explanations. “It seems like you already have a good grasp of the material,” Donghyuck hums in approval, “we’ll just have to go over vocabulary and grammar, and perhaps the implicit messages of the words used. This would be easy, but you’ll have to get even more familiar with the language in a short amount of time—which, I don’t really think you’ll have much of a problem with, honestly.”

“Alright, should we start now?” Yangyang excitedly asks Donghyuck, leaning over the table to get closer to Donghyuck and the reading material. Donghyuck stares at the other boy for a moment, taken aback by how excited the Yangyang was, shown by the full, gummy grin and the large sparkly brown eyes, filled with so much eagerness to learn. 

Donghyuck finds himself automatically grinning at Yangyang’s eager (and cute!!) form, “let’s start.”

They end up meeting everyday for the next three weeks, every moment that Yangyang and Donghyuck were from class. During their free Saturdays, they’d meet up and study at whoever’s apartment was cleaner that day. 

Additionally, Donghyuck found another way of helping Yangyang get even more comfortable with the language. Donghyuck encouraged Yangyang to send memes that were contextualized to the South Korean culture, heritage and history. Donghyuck started it, until Yangyang felt comfortable enough to message Donghyuck everyday with a new meme in hand. It was absolutely endearing to Donghyuck how Yangyang would simply send the meme attached with a simple, 'Hyuckie :DDD.' 

(Honestly, the additional activity wasn't just to help Yangyang be more comfortable with the language—it also became something that Donghyuck looked forward to each day.) 

“Hmm, this one’s pretty good,” Donghyuck comments, smiling at Yangyang, his eyes brimming with pride. “You’ll be submitting this critique, right? It’s a perfect balance between critical commentary about how it’s plot and implicit messages are generally questionable and an understanding of the contextualized culture within the text,” Donghyuck hums approvingly and Yangyang grins, the corner of his eyes crinkling in happiness. 

Yangyang lays down the carpeted floor of his living room, celebrating the fruit of his labor and exhaustion. “Fucking finally,” Yangyang cheers, laughing uncontrollably as he’s laid down on the floor. “Congrats, Yang,” Donghyuck laughs, cheering alongside him. Donghyuck pats the slightly younger boy on the thigh, “you now possess enough knowledge and understanding to finish this class with a bang.”

“Thank you, Hyuck,” Yangyang says, his tone of voice shifting to a far more serious one, expressing genuine gratefulness as he turns his neck to look at Donghyuck straight in the eyes. Donghyuck blushes at the sudden eye contact, but he tries his best to acknowledge Yangyang’s gratefulness without exposing his tiny crush, “you’re welcome, Yang—glad I was able to help you.”

Yangyang beams, and sits up straight again, easily lifting his upper body that Donghyuck is left to wonder just how strong his abdominal muscles and core really is. Yangyang shakes off the dust on his shoulders and moves to keep his notes and reading materials, and Donghyuck helps him. As soon as Yangyang has put it in a neat pile on the center table, he stands up and extends a hand for Donghyuck to take as well. Donghyuck grabs Yangyang’s hand and ignores the butterflies that flutter about in his stomach,  standing up next to him. 

“Let’s go out for dinner,” Yangyang says, “my treat—as a thank you for helping.”

Donghyuck quickly refuses, “Yang you don’t need to—I told you I was willing to help without any fee.”

Yangyang lets out a ‘tsk,’ “You’ve refused my countless nagging to treat you for lunch, so the least you can do is let me treat you for celebratory dinner, please?” Yangyang says, doe eyes widened and staring right through Donghyuck’s soul, in the puppy eyes that Mark has told Donghyuck about repeatedly—the eyes that no one in their team could ever refuse.

“Fine,” Donghyuck relents, and a smile on his face appears the moment Yangyang does an adorable victory dance right in front of him.

Yangyang excitedly jogs over to the coat rack and grabs Donghyuck’s coat for him. Donghyuck laughs at his excitement and grabs the coat from Yangyang’s hands. Yangyang quickly gives Donghyuck his shoes and he then proceeds to choose which shoes he’d be wearing for the day—Donghyuck was more than amused to see that his shared shoe rack with Renjun housed 75% of his sneakers, leaving only 25% of space for Renjun’s shoes. 

Yangyang finally decides on a black and red pair of what seems to be air force ones, and they head out into the biting, chilly nightlife of Seoul. 

“Hyuck!” A cheery voice calls out to him as he’s peacefully seated in one of the campus’ benches in the university garden. Donghyuck was playing a new game on his phone, patiently waiting for Mark’s class to finish, so that they could spend some time shopping together.

Donghyuck looks up momentarily from his phone,  trying to scan the area to look for the source of the voice.

Donghyuck’s eyes immediately widen as he sees a cheery Yangyang excitedly jogging over to where he was seated. 

“Didn’t you just finish taking your test for your Korean class today?” Donghyuck asks after he checked his calendar on his phone, surely enough, his calendar was marked with a notification about Yangyang’s exam. 

“Yeah,” Yangyang says happily, “I finished first so the prof was able to grade it immediately.”

“I got a perfect mark, Hyuckie!” Yangyang excitedly cheers, jumping up and down in joy. Donghyuck immediately stands up and shrieks with the other boy, engulfing the shooting guard in a warm congratulatory hug. 

“That’s great Yang, oh my god—congrats!” Donghyuck says brightly, lips curving up into a wide smile, and eyes lit up with a sense of pride.

Yangyang is the first to move away from the hug and his face is obviously glowing in happiness and relief—he sends a toothy and dimpled smile to Donghyuck’s way, and Donghyuck’s heart squeezes. “I couldn’t have done it without you, Hyuck!” Yangyang tells him gratefully, and Donghyuck just shrugs, “this is thanks to your hard work and effort, too, Yang.”

“Well, I kind of—” Yangyang starts nervously, though his face was still adorned with a kind smile. Yangyang refuses to meet Donghyuck’s eyes, shifting his weight from one foot to another, and rubs the back of his neck before deeply sighing. Donghyuck looks at him expectantly, waiting for  what he had to say, and Yangyang just says, “I kind of want to take you out on a date. As thank you for helping  me, but also because I’m like really, really interested in you and I find your company very nice and I find you super cute and—”

And oh my god, Donghyuck finds it so hard to not just coo at the nervous boy in front of him and squeeze his cheeks in adoration. “Sure,” Donghyuck agrees, a shining gleam on his face as he accepts Yangyang’s offer.

“Wait—did you just—you’re willing to go on a date with me?” Yangyang asks in shock, but the nerves on his face quickly fades and turns into a bright smile. “Yeah, I agreed to a date with you Yang. If it wasn’t obvious, I kind of had a crush on you, too,” Donghyuck confesses and if Yangyang wasn’t smiling then, he was absolutely grinning by now. 

“Oh my god—okay that’s, uh—that’s really cool. Holy shit,” Yangyang continues to ramble on, and Donghyuck doesn’t resist his want to hug Yangyang tightly. Donghyuck engulfs Yangyang in a tight hug which surprises Yangyang, but Donghyuck merely giggles and mumbles against Yangyang’s chest, “you’re very cute, Yang.”

“You’re very cute, too,” Yangyang says cheekily, finally regaining composure, letting his finger slide under Donghyuck’s chin and lift Donghyuck’s face up to have the slightly smaller boy look up into his eyes directly. Donghyuck’s heartbeat quickens, seeing the mischievous smirk on Yangyang’s handsome face. Suddenly, Donghuck is all-too-aware of Yangyang’s arm wrapped tightly around his waist and how close Yangyang’s face was to his own. Donghyuck takes in a deep breath, and Yangyang lets go of him slowly. 

Yangyang checks his phone, “I have to go and meet with Renjun now, though—Let’s talk about the details of our first date through text, okay?” 

Yangyang looks at Donghyuck with an expectant grin, and Donghyuck is given no time to recuperate from how fast his heart had been beating, so Donghyuck just settles for a nod, “yeah—we can talk about it later.”

Yangyang waves him goodbye and beams, before jogging towards another direction.

Donghyuck’s eyes are still wide with disbelief as he tries to comprehend exactly what happened. He puts his hand on his heart, trying to feel if his heart’s erratic beating had calmed down, “Liu Yangyang, you will be the death of me,” Donghyuck groans, slumping over to sit down on the bench once more.

He grabs his phone and texts Mark in his panic. 

 

duckie: MARK WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU (sent, 11:34am)

marklee: im omw to u lmao chill. class just got done, what happened? (sent, 11:38am)

duckie: fucking run i need to scream about yangyang (sent, 11:38am)

marklee: again? (sent, 11:39am)

🐑🏀🌞

“Oh my fucking god, I’m going on a date with Liu Yangyang,” Donghyuck says, pacing around the living room stopping to check his watch, “in approximately two hours.”

Mark observes the younger boy from the sofa, snacking on some crackers he found opened on the center table. He pauses the movie he was watching on Netflix and turns his body to watch Donghyuck helplessly pace around instead.

“Yes, you have a date with your crush in approximately two hours,” Mark assures him, “now why the fuck are you pacing around the living room like a madman?” Mark asks, one of his eyebrows raised.

“Mark—did you not just hear what I said? I said I was going on a date with Yangyang!” Donghyuck stops to look at his best friend straight in the eye, as if the answer to Mark’s question was obvious. “Yeah, and? You and I both know he’s a chill dude, there’s no way in hell he’d be an asshole just because he’s going on a date with you,” Mark reasons, “god, dude—I’ve never seen you this nervous about a date. And I’ve seen you before you go on dates with more dudes that I can even remember.”

Donghyuck fully stops at what Mark said and groans, flopping over next to Mark on the couch.  Donghyuck grabs a throw pillow and buries his face on it, screaming into the pillow in frustration. Mark observes him, munching loudly on the crackers. 

Donghyuck sits up suddenly once more and turns his body to Mark, and Mark stops chewing in shock, owlish eyes staring back at Donghyuck, waiting for him to start rambling. “It feels so fucking weird ‘cause I’ve never felt this nervous over a date either,” Donghyuck sulks, “like, I used to go on dates without an ounce of nerves because I’m Lee Donghyuck—I radiate charm!”

“But suddenly, Liu Yangyang comes into the picture and I’m rendered speechless for far more times in the past few months that I’ve come to know him than my entire life!” Donghyuck complains and Mark simply chuckles.

“Well, my friend, that’s what you call gay panic —I’m glad you’ve stepped down from your pedestal and started flirting like us mortal gays. It’s better this way, I promise,” Mark cheekily replies, feeding Donghyuck a cracker to try and appease his misplaced nervousness.

Donghyuck opens his mouth and welcomes the cracker, chewing slowly as he thinks, before he smashes his face into the throw pillow once more and shrieks in (gay) agony. Mark rubs his back comfortingly, and he hears Donghyuck’s muffled mumbling, “what if he doesn’t like me?”

Mark hums, “well, then that’s too bad. You’ll have to get over your crush and face rejection with grace, because that’s who Lee Donghyuck is—you fall, but you fall gracefully. But, I do think there’s little to no chance of him not liking you, Duckie,” Mark appeases him, naturally slipping into the comforting tone he uses on Donghyuck, Donghyuck’s childhood nickname naturally rolling off his tongue. “Trust me on this one, Duckie, okay? Just be yourself and everything will fall into place. If things fall apart instead, I’ll always be by your side to help you pick up the pieces, anyway, so don’t worry your pretty little head about it,” Mark tells him and Donghyuck wails. Donghyuck immediately sits up properly and then throws himself onto Mark, trapping the slightly older boy in his arms for a secure bear hug. 

Mark handles the surprise hug well, easing into the embrace naturally and slipping his arms around the younger’s torso instinctively. “Love you, Mark-hyung,” Donghyuck mumbles against Mark’s shoulder, “thank you for everything.”

Mark laughs, “Love you too, Duckie. Thank you for everything, too, Duckie.”

“Now go start getting ready for your date,” Mark encourages him, slapping him on the back to get him off. 

“Let’s go start looking for outfits!” Mark excitedly announces and Donghyuck snickers, “bold of you to think I’ll let you help pick out my outfit with your fashion sense, Mark.”

Donghyuck moves to run to his room to escape Mark’s wrath, and Mark immediately stands up, “what’s that supposed to mean!?”

“I literally declined an opportunity for afternoon cuddles with Xuxi for this one, Yang,” Renjun pointedly says, “this better be fucking good.”

Yangyang’s eyes widen as his eyebrows scrunch together in confusion, “shit, I didn’t tell you?”

Renjun raises an eyebrow, “didn’t tell me what, exactly, Liu Yangyang?”

“Oh it’s nothing bad—I promise!” Yangyang hurriedly says, trying to save himself from Renjun’s unwanted wrath.

“You expect me to believe that, Liu Yangyang?” Renjun questions him more pointedly, walking closer to Yangyang.

“Yeah I just—I have a date with Donghyuck tonight?” Yangyang casually says and Renjun immediately stops with his act of hostility.

“What the fuck!? And you only tell me now!?” Renjun excitedly says, “okay, I forgive you for tearing me away from Xuxi—but what the fuck? Since when?”

“Well I asked him out the other day and then we settled the details and I’ll be taking him out on a date later tonight,” Yangyang briefly explains, while Renjun listens attentively. 

“I thought I told you why I wanted you here for this afternoon but I guess not,” Yangyang honestly admits, “sorry for robbing you of time with Xuxi,” he apologizes, but Renjun merely waves him off.

“I was just kidding, Yang—you know I’ll be here for you no matter what, right? You don’t have to tell me shit, just tell me you need me and I’ll be there,” Renjun tells him as Renjun reassuringly clasps his hand around Yangyang’s shoulder, “you’re my best friend, and you’ve done that for me more times than I could count—me getting a boyfriend won’t ever change that.”

“Okay,” Yangyang nods, “thank you, Junnie.”

“You nervous, little sheep?” Renjun asks, rubbing his back comfortingly. “Yeah—but good nerves. Like, I’m hella excited but nervous at the same time, you know?” Yangyang admits, “I think—I think it would be similar to what you felt before you went on your first date with Xuxi.”

Renjun immediately softens up, his shoulders relaxing from its tensed position, lips curling into a small smile, engulfing Yangyang in a warm and familiar hug, “I’m happy for you, Yang.”

Yangyang wraps his arms tightly around the smaller boy, letting his chin rest on Renjun’s shoulders, as they sway from side to side in the middle of their kitchen, an activity they used to do as children to draw out comfort from each other. 

“Let’s go find you an outfit now, though,” Renjun tells Yangyang, patting the younger boy’s butt to tell him to start moving, but Yangyang merely groans and snuggles further into Renjun. Yangyang squeezes Renjun tighter and nuzzles his nose into the crook of Renjun’s neck, his soft, dark hair tickling the side of Renjun’s neck. Renjun giggles, but quickly composes himself and  pats Yangyang’s but even harder to make him move. 

Yangyang finally moves to cover his butt from any further harassment, and laughs as he runs to his room to look for suitable clothes.

The two agreed to meet up on an up and coming quaint little Italian diner a few blocks away from the campus. Donghyuck had seen some pictures from Johnny’s instagram, and it looked stunning—Johnny had told him it had a great atmosphere for a date. Johnny had taken Taeyong out on a date to the said place, and he vouched for the restaurant’s cozy and quiet ambience. 

Yangyang had offered to make their reservation, and Donghyuck hesitated at first, he wouldn’t want Yangyang to shoulder the responsibility of the entire date alone. Yangyang reassured him, then, and said that if it would make Donghyuck feel better, he’d let Donghyuck take responsibility for the second date. At that, Donghyuck agreed.

Yangyang arrives at the restaurant first, taking in  the simplistic beauty that the diner offers. The place really did have a lovely and comfortable ambience—it was relatively empty, only two tables seating two couples. 

The clerk welcomes him and leads him to a more secluded part of the diner, and Yangyang simply smiles and bows in gratitude. Yangyang takes a seat on a booth that was right up against the wall, and he texts Renjun about arriving on the diner safely. Renjun texts him a ‘good luck’ message, accompanied by a string of heart emojis.

Yangyang sucks in a deep breath, patting down his clothes. Renjun encouraged him to wear some of his more casual clothes, but had berated him the moment he reached inside of his closet for a sweater. Instead, Renjun told him to layer up and wear something simple and monochromatic. So, Yangyang settled for wearing his favorite pair of black skinny jeans, ones adorned with tasteful rips around the knees and thighs ( “Thotty, but not too thotty,” Renjun commented, “that’s perfect!). Yangyang chose to tuck in a fitted black and white striped long-sleeved turtleneck in his pants, layered with an oversized black denim jacket. Yangyang chose to wear his black and white Adidas superstars—trying to keep his outfit as simple and cohesive as possible. Renjun had discouraged him from choosing something flashy like his usual streetwear style, but Yangyang thinks this outfit was able to keep his usual streetwear fashion albeit being a more muted version of his usually flashy outfit choices. Renjun had taken the liberty of fixing Yangyang’s hair, styling the younger’s hair upward and away from his face.  

Yangyang taps at his phone nervously, checking on Donghyuck’s messages for his whereabouts. Thankfully, the waiter had seen him nervously tapping away at his phone and came to save him by giving him two copies of the menu, so he could browse the food as he waited for Donghyuck.

As Yangyang browsed through the pages of the menu, taking note of what he’d want to order, Donghyuck messages him that he was at the diner. Donghyuck walks into the restaurant, and Yangyang stands up to wave him over casually, a gummy grin settled on his face adorably. Donghyuck looks over towards Yangyang, and Donghyuck smiles with his whole face. His lips curl upward, his tiny dimples peek through and his eyes crinkle at the corner. Donghyuck starts walking over towards Yangyang, and he feels his nerves crawling back up to bother him again.

Donghyuck was dressed in a pair of denim skinny jeans with rips right at the knees. He had a black satin button-up shirt tucked into the pair of jeans, a black Gucci belt embellishing his waist. Donghyuck wore thin-framed glasses and a silver necklace to accessorize. On his feet were black chelsea boots. Donghyuck lets his relatively long brown hair fall over his face messily in waves. 

Yangyang finds Donghyuck extremely handsome in how he was dressed, and Donghyuck thinks the same for Yangyang. Donghyuck comes closer to Yangyang’s chosen table, and Yangyang simply opens his arms to welcome Donghyuck in a hug.

Donghyuck opens his arms to receive the hug, “hey, have you been waiting long?”

“Nope,” Yangyang replies, “just came in a tiny bit earlier than you did.”

Yangyang helps Donghyuck sit down, and Donghyuck smiles at the gesture. As soon as Donghyuck settles down, Yangyang sits down on his side of the booth as well.

“Let’s order first, before we talk and stuff,” Yangyang says, looking over to Donghyuck’s eyes to gauge his reaction. Donghyuck hums and nods as he looks back over to Yangyang, “yeah—we should order first. Johnny said the pizza here was great.”

“Then we should probably order two pizzas? And then let’s share a plate of spaghetti or carbonara, whichever you’d prefer. I also know you love chicken, so let’s get a plate of garlic butter chicken, would you like that?”

“Yeah, that’s good—let’s get two different flavors of pizza so we can share that, too. And I think I’d be down for some spaghetti right now,” Donghyuck nods and hums approvingly at what Yangyang has chosen to order. 

“What would you like to drink? I think I’ll be having a strawberry italian soda,” Yangyang says.

“What’s that?” Donghyuck asks Yangyang and Yangyang replies, “oh, italian soda was one of my favorite drinks from a diner I used to frequent in Germany, but it’s basically carbonated water with flavored syrup, and they usually add cream at the top and it’s just a sweet and refreshing drink.”

“I’ll have the same, then,” Donghyuck replies, and they call out to the waiter to order their food.

The waiter takes their order shortly, and they begin to converse freely as they wait for their food.

“Well, honestly, I’m pretty nervous. This is the first time in a while that I’ve been on a date,” Donghyuck admits, chuckling to himself and Yangyang chuckles along with him.

“Hey, don’t be so nervous! This is my first time in a long time, too,” Yangyang confesses, “basketball takes up too much of my time.”

Donghyuck snorts, “yeah—but you’ve got hundreds of people lined up, wanting to date you.”

“You do, too! But honestly,” Yangyang replies, “they don’t really matter. Renjun had always been there to help me keep them distanced but because Renjun and Lucas are dating now—which I totally support, because those two have been pining for way too long, I’m happy that they have their shit together—and that means they keep on bothering me again.”

“Not to be mean or whatever, like I’m just genuinely curious—but why do you avoid the people who like you?” Donghyuck asks, and the waiter arrives with their drinks, so they thank the waiter first before Yangyang tries to respond to the question. “Frankly, it’s not that I mind that they like me or whatever. I’m flattered, really, that these people can even end up liking  me. But,” Yangyang starts to explain, “there are times when they take things too far. Like, sometimes, I’d find some people staring at me while I’m studying in the library, and it gets really distracting. If Renjun is with me, usually he tells them off, but now that I’ve been alone recently, I would just send them a smile and hope they don’t bother me any further. Then, there are also some who would follow me around during parties and would give me drinks and stuff. It just makes me feel super vulnerable—like, I have all this unwanted attention and I don’t even know why. People say it’s ‘cause I’m a varsity player, but I don’t see any of my teammates being hounded the same way I am.”

Donghyuck sighs for Yangyang, immediately feeling sad for the slightly younger boy, “yeah, that can get pretty damn annoying. When Mark was a freshman and I was still in high school, he got hounded like that, too. But then he started dating Daniel and they laid off of him, but then they broke up and they hounded them, too. When I came into university and he clung onto me, people stopped again. As for Lucas, I think Lucas was able to handle the attention quite well—but now that Renjun is in the picture, I think it helps. Jaehyun is too busy chasing Doyoung, and pretty much the entire student population knows that Jaehyun would not send even a wink to anyone else but Doyoung. Johnny, on the other hand, is very much in love with Taeyong. And well, no one can ever compete with Taeyong.” Donghyuck then adds, “but yeah—I don’t think NCT U has ever hounded a person as much as they hound you. Personally, I think it’s because you’re cute, handsome, kind, and you can speak many languages. You’re like a basketball genius, and an actual genius, too.”

Yangyang simply laughs, taking a sip of his italian soda, “thank you for the compliments, I guess.”

Donghyuck laughs too, and he takes a sip of his italian soda and immediately falls in love with the sweet and creamy treat.

“Wait, holy shit, this is so good,” Donghyuck’s eyes widen as he stirs his drink excitedly. Yangyang’s shoulders shake with laughter at the sight of Donghyuck’s cute antics.

“But I hope dating me will help them lay off for a bit, though,” Donghyuck says, “I can get quite possessive.

The bright smile that creeps up on Yangyang’s face makes Donghyuck want to kiss him senseless, “I don’t think I’d mind if you’d be possessive, though.”

— 

Overall, the date went great. Yangyang paid the bill, despite Donghyuck’s insistence on splitting it—merely saying, “I’ll let you handle everything on the next date, instead,” complete with a cheeky wink that melted Donghyuck’s heart.

Yangyang walked Donghyuck back to his apartment, them exchanging funny memories along the way, and Donghyuck saw exactly just how charming Yangyang could be—Donghyuck felt comfortable with Yangyang, like he didn’t have anyone to impress. Yangyang had unknowingly let Donghyuck feel completely accepted, and that was something Donghyuck had realized as they walked back towards his apartment.

They didn’t kiss on the first date, though—Yangyang mischievously saying something about how “kissing was for the third date.”

Now, Donghyuck steps foot into his apartment and immediately runs over to Mark’s room to flop into Mark’s bed and screech. 

Mark isn’t all-too-alarmed at Donghyuck’s arrival and Donghyuck’s screeching, but was rather amused, shown by the expectant smile on his face.

“The date was good?” Mark asks, and Donghyuck screeches more in response.

“The date was so good that I wanted to ask for his hand in marriage right then and there,” Donghyuck admits, voice muffled against one of Mark’s pillows.

🐑🏀🌞

After the fourth date, Yangyang couldn’t resist asking Donghyuck to be his boyfriend. And obviously, Donghyuck said yes. 

Really, Donghyuck was stupid, but he wasn’t stupid enough to turn down his crush’s proposition.

So now, here they were, Yangyang patiently waiting for Donghyuck outside of his classroom. Yangyang wanted to wait for Donghyuck so they could go have lunch with Mark outside campus—they had a free afternoon, and Mark was willing to be the third wheel, so it was a relatively smart plan.

“You’ve been waiting for long, babe?” Donghyuck greets Yangyang with a kiss on the cheek, as soon as he steps outside of the classroom. 

“Not really, but Mark’s been texting me nonstop about where we are,” Yangyang chuckles, greeting his boyfriend back by engulfing him in a tight hug and pressing a quick peck on Donghyuck’s soft lips.

Donghyuck groans, “I know—he’s been blowing up my phone since five minutes ago. We should start walking towards where he is,” Donghyuck says, slipping his arm around Yangyang’s waist as Yangyang slings an arm around Donghyuck’s arms.

They walk together towards a grumpy, pouty, and hungry Mark.

“I’m beating Johnny up,” Donghyuck angrily announces, as Mark and Yangyang simply groan in exhaustion. 

Donghyuck had to drag both Mark and Yangyang over his and Mark’s shared apartment, as Renjun had to drag Lucas out of practice as well. Lucas had collapsed into Renjun’s bed immediately the moment they arrived home, so Donghyuck had told Renjun that he would take care of Yangyang instead, as he knew how much of a handful Lucas could be in a haze of exhaustion.

Taeyong had to pick Johnny up from practice as well—Doyoung was hanging out with Taeyong when Donghyuck had called Taeyong to inform him of Johnny’s stupidity, and Doyoung went out with Taeyong to fetch the giant. Jaehyun, being lonely as he is, begged Doyoung to help him so he could take the opportunity of being assisted by his long-time crush.

So, Donghyuck was left alone in trying to drag the team’s point and shooting guard home. 

Thankfully, Yangyang wasn’t as tired and didn’t need as much assistance as Mark, being able to walk by himself and only needing to be observed carefully. Yangyang’s boundless energy and stamina was truly tested for their practice today, but he wasn’t as fatigued as the other members. Mark’s legs, on the other hand, had turned completely into jelly and thus, needed Donghyuck’s physical support as they walked back to their shared apartment. 

Now, Mark was lying on their couch face-down, while Yangyang was seated with his back against the couch, staring right into space.

Seeing the two tired players completely spaced out made him want to laugh, but also made him want to slap Johnny upside the head, for making the team have to struggle this much. 

Donghyuck took the remote and turned their television on, putting on the netflix series Mark had been binging to keep them entertained.

“I’ll be cooking us dinner,” Donghyuck announces as he sets the remote back down on their center table, “but you guys have to take showers, alright?”

The two players groan in acknowledgement, Yangyang saying he’d go first to give Mark more time to rest. “You can borrow some of my sleep clothes, babe,” Donghyuck says, “so you can use your change of clothes tomorrow. You are sleeping over, right?”

“Yeah, I think after I eat I might end up crashing,” Yangyang admits sheepishly, as he stands up and rubs the back of his neck. Donghyuck laughs at Yangyang’s admission, “it’s okay—we fit in my bed well, anyways. Just text Renjun about it so he doesn’t freak out.”

“Yeah, I’ll text him after I shower—do I just get some sleep clothes from your closet?”

“Yeah, go choose whatever,” Donghyuck replies, and Yangyang nods and goes into Donghyuck’s room to look for clothes.

As soon as Yangyang slips out of the living room, Mark mumbles, “disgusting.”

Donghyuck laughs and slaps Mark on the back, while Mark grumbles in pain, “you’re just jealous I still have to take care of you while your teammates have flowering love lives.”

“I don’t think I’d call Jaehyun’s love life flowering,” Mark says and Donghyuck giggles. 

“Whatever you say, Markie,” Donghyuck singsongs, “I’ll be cooking kimchi fried rice, and I can heat up some leftover pork from when we ordered the other day.”

Mark plants his face further into the throw pillow, wincing as the movement pains his sore muscles, “okay.”

“I should teach you how to cook,” Donghyuck says out of nowhere, as he’s placed comfortably between Yangyang’s legs, cased in a snug hug. Donghyuck’s arms were pressed comfortably against Yangyang’s chest, their long legs intertwined with each other. They were watching random food videos on youtube, and Donghyuck hears the laughter reverberate in Yangyang’s chest.

“That’s impossible, babe,” Yangyang replies and Donghyuck merely scoffs. “Excuse you? I was able to teach Mark how to fry an egg, and I’m pretty sure Mark is more of a lost cause than you are.”

Yangyang giggles again, “okay, I’ll let you teach me how to cook.”

Donghyuck sits up, looking straight into Yangyang’s eyes to look for any sign of insincerity, “you’re not joking?”

Yangyang laughs, staring right back at Donghyuck’s eyes, and he peppers Donghyuck’s face in soft kisses, starting at the forehead, then he kisses each of Donghyuck’s soft cheeks and Donghyuck erupts in giggles. Yangyang continues until he’s reached Donghyuck’s lips, and Yangyang presses a much longer kiss. Donghyuck deepens the kiss, opening his mouth to entice Yangyang into dipping his tongue into Donghyuck’s mouth, wrapping his hand around the collar of Yangyang’s shirt. Donghyuck bites into Yangyang’s lower lip when Yangyang doesn’t explore Donghyuck’s mouth with his tongue, and Yangyang simply laughs and pulls away. Donghyuck whines at the loss of contact, and Yangyang replies, “I’m serious, baby. Now, let’s head to the kitchen, okay?”

“Okay,” Donghyuck poutily agrees, sitting up properly so he could stand up. As soon as he stands up from the couch and pauses the video, he offers a hand for Yangyang to take. Yangyang reaches for Donghyuck’s hand and stands up. Donghyuck drags Yangyang to the kitchen, excitedly hopping towards the refrigerator. 

“I’m teaching you how to cook kimchi jjigae,” Donghyuck says as he looks for the necessary ingredients and hands it over for Yangyang to take, “it’s relatively easy, and I’ll be guiding you all throughout, so there’s literally no chance for failure.”

“I love how much faith you have in me, babe,” Yangyang says, giggling, “but I’m a disaster.”

Donghyuck hushes him, “I knew that from the start and I’m still dating you, aren’t I?”

Yangyang laughs and wraps his arms around Donghyuck’s waist in a back hug, following the slightly older boy as he moves over towards the  marble counter. 

“Let go of me so we could start,” Donghyuck laughs, trying to unwrap Yangyang’s arms around his waist. “No,” Yangyang petulantly whines, keeping his arms on Donghyuck’s waist immovable. 

“C’mon, baby,” Donghyuck says, successfully taking Yangyang’s arms off of him as soon as he mutters the nickname. Donghyuck laughs and faces Yangyang, putting a hand on each side of Yangyang’s face, giggling as he observes Yangyang’s pouty lips and wide eyes. “That’s unfair,” Yangyang whines, “you know I’m weak for that.”

Donghyuck settles for a laugh and pats Yangyang’s face lovingly, “I know. That’s why I used it—so we can start now.”

Donghyuck turns around and grabs the package of meat on the counter. He faces Yangyang again and presses the package of meat against Yangyang’s hands, “start by cutting this up first.”

“Fuck exams,” Donghyuck curses as soon as he steps out of the lecture hall. Yangyang laughs as soon as he hears his boyfriend’s voice. Yangyang turns around to greet Donghyuck with a smile, but instead, he was met with a zombie-like Donghyuck, fatigued and tired, as made obvious by the droopy eyes and bags that decorate his usually bright eyes.

Donghyuck looked like he was about to fall over after another step, so Yangyang’s quick reflexes instinctively moved him to put an arm around Donghyuck’s waist to guide his boyfriend as they walked.

“Baby,” Yangyang says, his voice dripping in concern, “can you even walk?” 

“Hmm,” Donghyuck hums absently, his eyes blinking much slower than usual.

“Okay,” Yangyang says, “I’ll text Lucas to see if he can drive us.”

“Hmm,” Donghyuck hums again, and Yangyang leads Donghyuck to a bench to keep him seated as they await Lucas’ response. 

Yangyang texts Lucas and looks over to Donghyuck, and he immediately sees his boyfriend napping at the bench uncomfortably, nothing to support his head.

Yangyang chuckles and sits down next to Donghyuck, letting Donghyuck’s head fall over to his shoulder. Yangyang’s phone vibrates and thankfully, Lucas texts back telling them to stay put, so Lucas could drive to them.

Donghyuck’s little snores alert Yangyang of exactly how deep Donghyuck’s nap had gone. Yangyang chuckles as he looks over to Donghyuck’s face, Donghyuck’s lips were apart letting out adorable snores, his eyebrows relaxed, unlike how it had been a mere few minutes before. Yangyang brushes Donghyuck’s hair away from his face, making sure he can see Donghyuck’s peaceful sleeping features. 

Lucas’ car comes into Yangyang’s peripherals, and he gently stirs Donghyuck awake.

“Baby, Lucas is here,” Yangyang whispers, rubbing Donghyuck’s head to get him awake, “c’mon, let’s get you up.”

Yangyang stands up and guides a sleepy Donghyuck to the edge of the sidewalk, and Lucas’ car comes up to them.

Lucas unlocks the door at the back, and Yangyang opens the door. As soon as Yangyang opens the door, he carefully urges Donghyuck to sit in the backseat. 

“Damn,” Lucas says, taking in Donghyuck’s fatigued form. “Hyuck looks like he’s been through some shit,” Lucas comments, and Yangyang laughs as he settles right beside his boyfriend.

“He has been through some stuff,” Yangyang admits, and Lucas simply smiles at him. 

“Thanks for picking us up, ge,” Yangyang says to Lucas, and Lucas merely waves him off as he exits the campus.

“Don’t worry about it,” Lucas replies, smiling at Yangyang through the rearview mirror. “Anything for my two favorite freshmen,” Lucas happily adds, and Yangyang chuckles. “Does Renjun know that?” Yangyang asks and Lucas snorts, “of course he does! He knows you and Hyuck are my favorite freshmen, but he’s my favorite person so he still wins.”

“Right,” Yangyang says, laughing at the idea of a jealous Renjun.

“Plus, Renjun can wait for me for a few minutes. Pretty sure he’d kill me if I didn’t pick you guys up and made his best friend suffer,” Lucas says and Yangyang giggles, “that sounds like Renjunnie, alright.”

Lucas hums as he drives to a route he’s familiar with, after dropping Mark and Donghyuck off too many times that they could count. 

Yangyang’s phone vibrates, and he sees a text from their basketball team’s group chat. 

marklee: @yangliu @lucas where r u both?? frat party at jaehyun and johnny’s 2nite, we’re at the frat house for dinner and pre-gaming (sent, 6:04pm)

suhjohnny: children come on oveeeer. taeyong, doyoung and jaehyun are cookingggg (sent, 6:04pm)

jae: johnny get ur ass over here, taeyong asked u to bring over the beer dumbass (sent, 6:05pm)

“Lucas,” Yangyang starts, and Lucas looks at him through the rearview mirror, “hmm?”

“There’s a party at Johnny and Jaehyun’s. Mark is already there for pre-game and dinner. I obviously can’t come, but can you come?” Yangyang explains and asks the older boy.

“Yeah—text them for me and tell them that Renjun and I are down. Can you text Renjun for me, too?” Lucas says, and Yangyang nods.

“Renjun says he’s down and will be getting ready,” Yangyang informs Lucas, and Lucas simply smiles. 

He starts texting Renjun and Renjun immediately replies with an affirmation.

yangliu: lucas is dropping hyuck and i off at mark and hyuck’s apartment. he says he’ll drop by later with renjunnie (sent, 6:06pm)

marklee: oh shit yeah hyuck just got done with exams and he fucking powered thru all-nighters throughout exam week. he crashed?? (sent, 6:06pm)

yangliu: yeah. as soon as he stepped outta class he crashed hard. dont worry ab him tho, mark. he’s telling me to tell u go have fun and get laid :]] i’ll take care of him so i won’t be coming to the party!! (sent, 6:07pm)

suhjohnny: damn alr tell hyuckie to rest well and we’ll get wasted on behalf of him :// good luck yang!! we’ll keep markie safe and let him sleep over tonight so don’t worry ab ur boyfriend’s best friend either (sent, 6:07pm)

marklee: yup, tell hyuck to not worry ab me!! i’ll be fine. mostly. but yeah thanks for taking care of hyuckie yang <33 (sent, 6:08pm)

jae: damn johnny take mark away from the beer hes already sending everyone hearts (sent, 6:08pm)

“I informed them that you and Renjun would come in later,” Yangyang tells Lucas, and the other boy simply grins and thanks him. 

Soon enough, they’re in front of Mark and Donghyuck’s apartment entrance. 

“You need help with carrying him up their unit, Yang?” Lucas asks, gesturing towards Donghyuck. “Yeah, I think it’d be much better if I had help, ge,” Yangyang admits, moving to get out of Lucas’ car. Lucas turns the engine of the car off, and moves to get out of the car to help Yangyang. Yangyang steps out of the car and gently nudges Donghyuck, “Hyuckie, we’re at your apartment now. Will you let Lucas and I carry you up, baby?”

Donghyuck sleepily groans and mumbles, “okay. Hold me tightly so I don’t fall.”

Donghyuck has his eyes closed but he makes grabby hands at Yangyang, and Yangyang found Donghyuck so adorable that he wished he didn’t need to disturb Donghyuck’s cuteness.

Yangyang snaps out of his reverie as soon as he feels Lucas’ presence behind him, and he grabs Donghyuck’s hand to lift the smaller boy out of the car. As soon as Donghyuck is able to stand up on the sidewalk, Lucas closes and locks the car door, and is quick to place himself on Donghyuck’s other side for support.

They carefully make their way up to the third floor, where Donghyuck and Mark’s unit is, without much struggle. Yangyang grabs Donghyuck’s keycard from his wallet while Lucas holds onto the smaller boy. Yangyang opens the door, and Lucas helps Yangyang bring Donghyuck to his room. Donghyuck flops to the warmth of his bed almost immediately, and both Yangyang and Lucas giggle amusedly.

“Are you both good now?” Lucas asks, and Yangyang nods.

“Yeah, thank you, gege,” Yangyang says gratefully, hugging Lucas tightly as thanks. Lucas laughs and ruffles Yangyang’s hair, “anything for you both.”

“Take care of Hyuckie, okay? I’ll tell Renjun you aren’t coming home tonight,” Lucas says, moving towards the front door.

“I will, Lucas,” Yangyang says, “take care of Renjun, too—he’s due to get smashed tonight. Drive safe, okay?” Yangyang tells Lucas, while the much taller boy laughs and nods, “will do.”

Lucas leaves the apartment unit, and Yangyang goes to Donghyuck’s bedroom to observe his boyfriend.

“Are you hungry, baby?” Yangyang asks as soon as he sits down on Donghyuck’s bed.

“Hungry for cuddles,” Donghyuck sleepily mumbles, his face squished against his pillow cutely. Yangyang has to resist the urge to take a picture of his boyfriend’s sleeping face.

“You should eat real food, baby,” Yangyang says, “but since I still can’t cook without a responsible person’s supervision, I’ll just order for us. Jjajangmyeon good enough for you?”

“Mhmm,” Donghyuck agrees, his eyes remain closed. “Okay, then, after eating, you’ll get all the cuddles you want,” Yangyang tells him and Donghyuck whines. “I want cuddles while we wait for food,” Donghyuck grumbles and Yangyang laughs, giving in to the tired boy laid in the bed beside him.

“Fine,” Yangyang relents, “scoot over.”

Donghyuck smiles in his sleep and moves to leave a space for Yangyang. As soon as Yangyang settles into the bed with him, Donghyuck’s arms are quick to snake its way around Yangyang’s waist. Donghyuck immediately pushes his face against Yangyang’s chest, and he hears Yangyang chuckle at his antics. Yangyang presses a kiss on top of Donghyuck’s head, and the smile on Donghyuck’s face grows wider. 

It was twenty seconds until the buzzer signifies the end of the game, and both teams were at a tie. NCT U was up against another formidable opponent that Donghyuck forgot the name of. It was the second game he’s watching as Yangyang’s boyfriend and Mark’s best friend—a definite upgrade from when he used to come only as Mark’s best friend.

Renjun was seated next to him, and Donghyuck thinks they’ve grown closer over the year more for Yangyang than they ever became closer for Jaemin. Renjun was cheering loudly, and every member of the audience was on the edge of their seat, knowing that whatever will happen within the next twenty seconds will change the direction of the game. 

Donghyuck was shouting supportively next to Renjun as well, alongside Chenle, Kun, Ten, Doyoung and Taeyong. 

The opposing team’s point guard rushes through the court and grabs a hold of the ball, and the other side of the court booms in cheering. But Donghyuck knows better—the smirk on both Yangyang and Mark’s face tells Donghyuck that the two had a plan and that involved letting the other team think they have a chance at a buzzer beater.

But as  the clock ticks slowly, Jaehyun blocks the point guard’s path, and out of nowhere, NCT U’s freshman ace, Liu Yangyang  sweeps in to steal the ball. The crowd erupts in cheers and roars, Donghyuck and Renjun are now standing as they scream verbal support at Yangyang. 

Yangyang smirks and speedily runs through the court, outsmarting each opposing team’s player, and successfully shooting a buzzer beater with a mere second on the clock.

Everyone holds their breath, waiting for whether or not the shot was counted.

As the counter increases by two for NCT U’s team, the expectant crowd roars in school pride and cheering. 

On the benches, Taeyong and Doyoung hug happily, Chenle jumps around in excitement while Kun and Ten hug in celebration as well, dragging Chenle into the hug. Renjun and Donghyuck face each other and cheer together, hugging each other tightly over the victory.

On the court, Lucas barrels into Yangyang, carrying their youngest in happiness for the clutch. Jaehyun and Johnny follow suit, Mark in tow as they approach Lucas and Yangyang. The five of them engulf each other in a group hug, but the rest of the basketball team on the bench are quick to join the celebratory hug, too.

When things settle down, both competing teams bow at each other in gratitude for the game, and the captains shake hands. 

They sing the school hymn to celebrate the victory, and Donghyuck feels a very warm type of fondness bubble in his heart as he sees Yangyang’s sparkly eyes be filled with happiness. The smile on Yangyang’s face is something that Donghyuck wants to see everyday, and that’s when Donghyuck knew— he was in love with Liu Yangyang.

When the team was allowed to come nearer to the benches, Donghyuck made his way to Yangyang quickly.

Yangyang is surprised by Donghyuck’s sudden appearance, but before Yangyang could even express his surprise, Donghyuck presses his lips against Yangyang’s warm ones. 

Yangyang melts into the kiss and Donghyuck pulls away, a wide smile on his face. “Not that I don’t appreciate the congratulatory kiss, but, what’s got you this happy, baby?” Yangyang asks with an eyebrow raised in questioning.

“I love you,” Donghyuck says, and Yangyang’s eyes widen in shock. Donghyuck smiles and wraps his arms around Yangyang’s torso, Yangyang’s mouth is still slightly ajar in shock, and Donghyuck giggles. 

Yangyang then puts his hands on each side of Donghyuck’s face gently, tilting Donghyuck’s head to the side for ease of access. Yangyang initiates the kiss this time—chaste, but burning with leftover passion from a heated basketball game. Yangyang was the first to pull away, pressing his forehead against Donghyuck, and he smiles—a smile brighter than the smile he had on his face when he won the game. “I love you, too, Hyuckie. "

🐑🏀🌞

“Renjun asked for Mark’s number from Lucas,” Yangyang brings up casually, as he and Hyuck were cuddling in Donghyuck’s bed with a drama playing in the background.

“Lucas told me that they’re planning something, so we should be ready for it,” Yangyang laughs and Donghyuck groans. “I just know Mark’s going along with whatever Renjun wants,” Donghyuck comments, “Mark’s as spineless as a worm.”

Yangyang comforts Donghyuck by kissing Donghyuck’s knuckles one by one, “don’t worry about Mark too much—Renjun is pretty scary but I promise he won’t harm a teammate of mine.”

“That doesn’t bring me comfort as much as you think it would,” Donghyuck pointedly says, glaring at Yangyang. Yangyang giggles and presses a kiss on Donghyuck’s forehead instead, and just like that, the anger and anxiety in Donghyuck’s body is soothed. 

“We just have to get ready to go along with whatever our best friends plan, okay?” Yangyang mumbles, looking deeply into Donghyuck’s eyes as they lie down on the bed face to face, legs and arms intertwined with each other, the drama long-forgotten. “Okay,” Donghyuck relents, and Yangyang starts playing with Donghyuck’s hands and fingers again.

Donghyuck looks over to Yangyang and sees the younger boy focused on the drama once more. ‘Liu Yangyang,’ Donghyuck sighs, ‘oh, the things I do for you.’

 

“Oh,” Yangyang hums excitedly, “So they really weren’t planning anything bad!”

“What?” Donghyuck asks.

“Renjun just texted me and told me to clear my schedules and your schedules for tomorrow. We’re having an exchange of best friends day!”

An exchange of best friends?”

“Yup, I’ll be spending the day with Mark and you’ll be spending the day with Renjunnie!”

‘Well,’ Donghyuck thinks, ‘fuck.’

Donghyuck and Renjun are friends—they really are. Even if both are snarky in their own regard, and hanging out together really means that  more than a few snipes and retorts will be exchanged, but that’s fine. They have yet to slit each other’s throats in frustration, so that’s a good thing in Donghyuck’s book.

However, Donghyuck hasn’t exclusively hung out with Renjun alone . And that is all kinds of intimidating by itself—but now that he’s Yangyang’s boyfriend and Renjun is Yangyang’s best friend, and the person who knows him best, Renjun is a thousand times more intimidating than before. 

Now, Donghyuck and Renjun are seated next to each other in Yangyang and Renjun’s living room.

“I don’t want this to be awkward,” Renjun admits, five minutes into their little hang-out. “Neither do I,” Donghyuck agrees, but the both of them were still stiff in responding to each other.

Renjun then sighs, “look, I’ve known you for the past year or so, and you’re sassy and all, I don’t think you should hold back at me just because I’m your boyfriend’s best friend or whatever. I enjoyed bickering with you when we got together with Jeno, Jaemin and the rest of the gang.”

“Okay,” Donghyuck nods, “sorry—I just, I know you mean a lot to Yangyang and I’m kind of inclined to want to make a good impression on you.”

Renjun snorts, “oh, Donghyuck—the moment you started bickering with me, my impression has always been good. Kun and Ten already adore you even before you were Yang’s boyfriend, so you’re pretty much set on who you need to make a good impression on for Yangyang.”

“What do you want for lunch, by the way? Is hotpot good? I can order from this place Yang and I love,” Renjun asks, grabbing his phone to key in an order. 

“Yeah, hotpot is good,” Donghyuck replies. “You can turn on the netflix while I figure this order out,” Renjun says, “Yang told me you haven’t watched He is Psychometric yet, and honestly, that’s disappointing and I can’t have that for my best friend’s boyfriend—so, we’ll binge all 16 episodes today.”

Donghyuck laughs loudly from Renjun’s unexpected remark and nods, “alright.” Donghyuck sets up the tv from the couch, waiting for Renjun as he browses through netflix’s assortment of dramas, before locking into the targeted drama.

Renjun sits next to him and puts his phone down. They start the drama and Donghyuck finds his shoulders relaxing, easing the anxiety that pools at his stomach.

A few episodes in and Donghyuck finds himself enjoying the easy banter between him and Renjun, the bickering transforming into vicious commentary about the characters and the lack of their rationality for the sake of plot.  

— 

They were on the 13th episode, and Donghyuck finds himself at ease with Renjun. No longer does he feel intimidated by Renjun—for the most part, he doesn’t feel the need to impress Renjun either.

“Hey,” Renjun starts, as the scenes become less intense.

“Hmm?” Donghyuck hums, glancing to look over at Renjun.

“I just wanted to thank you for being there for Yangyang,” Renjun admits, “you make him feel so loved—and I know he doesn’t have a shortage of that, god knows that boy has everyone wrapped around his finger—but it’s different with you. He finds comfort in you and sees you as a safe space—and that’s something to be thankful for, Hyuck. I’ve been Yangyang’s safe space for the past 20 years, and he’s been mine, too. And now, Lucas is my safe space, too, so I’m glad Yangyang found you.”

Donghyuck remains silent, looking intently at how Renjun’s eyes seem to shine with a certain fondness, one that seems to be reserved only for his best friend, “I know he’s happy with you, and I see it in how he smiles, how he laughs and how his eyes sparkle—and I’m not scared, because I see it in you, too. You wear the same lovesick smile that he wears, so I know you love him just as much as he loves you. I don’t doubt that at all.”

“But,” Renjun pauses, “as Yangyang’s best friend, I never want to see him hurt. I know how Yangyang gets when he’s hurt, and its not a state that any of his friends ever want to see him in. So, I only have one request for you: I know you can’t promise to never hurt him, because in relationships, people are bound to get hurt. But don’t ever break his heart.”

Donghyuck gulps but Renjun doesn’t falter, “Yangyang is the kindest human being I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and he’s the strongest, too—It takes a whole lot of hurt for his heart to break. So don’t ever cross that line, and we’ll be good.”

Renjun eases back into the couch as he reverts his focus on the drama, and Donghyuck finds his voice.

“You’re right,” Donghyuck starts, “I can’t promise I won’t hurt him because sometimes, I get mean when I’m tired or anxious. Sometimes, I’m too selfish. Sometimes, I don’t care about what the people that care about me think. Sometimes, I’m too stubborn. But Yangyang—” Donghyuck pauses, trying to gather his thoughts. Renjun is looking at him, observing him intently.

“Yangyang makes me want to stop being like that. He makes me want to be better for no one else but myself. He’s special to me and I love him. I promise that I won’t break his heart,” Donghyuck swears. 

“And if in the rare case that I do,” Donghyuck says, “I’d want you to personally slap me in the face hard and drag me to the pits of hell.”

Renjun’s eyes brighten and he laughs, genuine and unabashed, “okay. I promise to do that, too.”

— 

“I can’t believe Donghyuck tricked me into shopping with you,” Mark grumbles, “he said it would be a fun hang-out thing to do with you, but now that I’m thinking about it, it’s probably ‘cause he wants me to get rid of some of my clothes, doesn’t he?”

Yangyang laughs and nods, “I wouldn’t put it past him, I think. But I will enjoy this bonding time, though. I do love shopping.”

Mark waves him off as they stroll around the mall, “yeah, yeah. I guess you’re tasked to be my fashion police, aren’t you?”

Yangyang mischievously smiles, nodding his head slowly as Mark’s shoulders fall even more. 

“Well, where do you usually shop?” Yangyang asks, changing the subject as they aimlessly walk around. “Hmm, Nike?” Mark thinks, before adding, “I don’t—I don’t really care for fashion all that much so whatever’s comfy is good, I guess.”

Yangyang laughs, “then let’s head to Nike. Once you pick up some stuff you like, I might be able to pick up your style and help you choose some clothes you’d like.”

“You know what?” Mark stops to look at Yangyang, and Yangyang stops to face him, “just to spite Donghyuck, I’ll completely go with the flow for you, man. I trust your style and your taste more than I do his, anyways.”

Yangyang laughs, and Mark does, too—Mark slings an arm around Yangyang and they happily walk to Nike, a place that’s very familiar to Yangyang’s senses.  

They enter the store and are greeted by a cheerful store clerk. Both Yangyang and Mark politely smile and greet him back, refusing his offer for assistance gently. “It’s okay—I know this store like the back of my hand,” Yangyang jokes and both Mark and the store clerk laugh, even if Mark knows that there is nothing but truth in what Yangyang said.

“What do you want to look for first? Hoodies or like, jackets? I notice you like to pair them up with jeans for your day-to-day outfits on campus,” Yangyang asks, scanning the store for hoodies that would catch his attention.

“Yeah, they’re my comfort wear. Most of my hoodies are old though, so I gotta throw some out and replace them with new ones,” Mark explains, following Yangyang’s line of sight with his own eyes. “Are you not opposed to color?” Yangyang asks, as they walk towards a section that displays a variety of hoodies. “No, not really. Would like some basic neutral pieces first, though,” Mark admits, and Yangyang nods.

Yangyang immediately takes a hold of a plain black hoodie, with a small white check on the left side. It was simple, and the fleecy material was thick and soft, and at the price point, it was worth it. “This one’s basic, but it’s of great quality for the price,” Yangyang shows Mark the piece and Mark hums, “I really like that,” Mark says as he runs his hand over the hoodie. “I’ll get this,” Mark adds, putting the hoodie in his basket.

They return back to their browsing, Mark and Yangyang humming along to Travis Scott’s Yosemite as it plays through the store’s speakers. “Hey Yang,” Mark calls out to Yangyang as they stay on opposite ends of a certain rack. Mark takes out a color-blocked black and white hoodie and puts it against his torso, “do you think this would look alright on me?”

Yangyang’s eyes widen and he smiles, rushing over to Mark, “that would look really good, Mark! Pair it with black skinnies, just a simple sneaker—either your favorite white or black converse or even  the ones Donghyuck bought for you—it’s definitely comfy and your style, but with more personality.”

Mark grins, “okay, I’m getting this, too. I’ll go pay for them now, ‘cause I want to eat lunch and we’ll have to visit more stores later for more formal wear. Donghyuck’s been bugging me to have more clothes for other scenarios, says that I ‘won’t be a college student for the rest of my life,’ and he’s kinda right,” Mark says, rolling his eyes at his Donghyuck imitation. Yangyang laughs and pats him on the back, “I won’t tell him that you said he’s right, if that makes you feel better.”

Mark stops and stares at Yangyang’s smiling face, and a wide and excited grin places itself on Mark’s face, “this is exactly why you’ve been my favorite boyfriend that Hyuck has ever had, so far.”

— 

The two decided to eat at a burger joint in  the mall, both boys craving a sense of familiarity.

“I mean Canada doesn’t do much of burgers but the meat there is so fucking good,” Mark reminisces, after he and Yangyang have both ordered separate burgers and decided to split for a whole pizza. “I only ever got a whole lot of burgers when we’d visit New York. And pizza. New York Pizza is on a whole other level.”

“Yeah—I get what you mean. Germany isn’t known much for burgers but they grill a lot of meat, too. I miss the food there, even if I would willingly eat anything and everything anyway,” Yangyang replies, feeling a similar sense of nostalgia Mark was feeling.

“Now that we’re eating though,” Mark starts, “I think you and Hyuck know that the main purpose of this is to give you both the ‘hurt my best friend and I’ll hurt you,’ talk. Plus, for Renjun and Donghyuck to get to know each other more. ‘Cause obviously, we both know each other pretty well already—I’ve known you for far longer than Hyuck does, too.”

Yangyang nods, letting Mark continue, “but I just want to tell you that Hyuck’s really happy with you—like, for the longest time, I’ve never seen Hyuck as happy and as comfortable as he is with you. People always think he’s able to open up easily with everyone because he’s such an extrovert, but I’ve known him since we were kids and I know it’s hard for him to truly open up to people. He’s been sticking to me simply because I give him the ability to be completely himself, but now that he has you, I’m so happy you’ll share the burden of this with me, too. There is no other person in the world I would happily share the space with, but you, Yang.”

“Like bro,” Mark says, reverting back to his normal tone, “don’t get me wrong—Hyuckie and taking care of Hyuckie will never be a burden for me, but to finally see Hyuck be truly and genuinely comfortable with someone else is so heartwarming. I love him with my entire heart and I’ll always be by his side, so seeing someone love him and adore him the way that I do, and even more, because god knows I’d be unwilling to makeout with Hyuck,” Mark jokes and Yangyang laughs loudly, “it’s so great. Hyuckie puts in a great amount of trust in your relationship and in you.”

“Please don’t do anything to break it,” Mark continues, “and as his best friend, I put in a lot of trust in you, too. So, keep proving to me that you deserve to be trusted this way, okay, Yang?” Mark asks, ruffling the younger boy’s hair with a small smile.

Yangyang’s face completely brightens, eyes big and sparkly paired with a gummy grin, “I promise I won’t ever intentionally break both of your trust. I love Donghyuck and he’s the best boyfriend I’ve ever had, I don’t think I have any intention of letting go of him, at all. And Mark- hyung, I’ve grown to know you as my older brother figure too, you know? You protect Hyuckie and take care of him, and by extension, you do the same for me. I’m thankful for that, and I’m glad you trust me enough to share Hyuck’s safe space with me.”

Yangyang’s grin falters a bit, “but, I have to be real with you, you know? I want Hyuck to be with me for long, but the future is always uncertain. I may have to let go of him or he may have to let go of me, so we can pursue what’s best for each of us. Even if I don’t want that to happen and I’ll work hard to ensure that it won’t happen, the tides may shift and there may be things we can’t control. But it makes me feel at ease, knowing that even when tides change, I know your friendship with Hyuck will remain the same.”

Yangyang looks down and Mark’s heart aches at how genuine and pure Yangyang is, but Yangyang continues, “If we end up hurting each other, I know you’ll always be there to make sure Hyuck gets healed. Just knowing that you’re always there for him, makes me feel better, too.”

“Oh my god, Yang, you’re the sweetest being to walk on this planet,” Mark coos, gently squeezing Yangyang’s cheeks and Yangyang’s mood brightens, “I get why Renjun is so goddamn protective of you, oh my god, you precious little bean.”

Their food arrives and it completely disrupts Mark’s cooing, they thank the waiter and Mark quickly puts a slice of pizza on Yangyang’s plate, “look, you’re one of the best things to ever happen to Hyuck, and by extension, to me, too. You’re now my secondary best friend! Specially since you don’t bully me into buying clothes!” Mark cheers and Yangyang laughs.

“I know I have to give you the ‘if you hurt Hyuck, I’ll hurt you,’ talk but bro,” Mark starts, “after that shit, I know I don’t need to worry about that. Now, I gotta tell you that if Hyuck hurts you , tell me—I can knock him out with a punch for you.”

🐑🏀🌞

“Holy shit, in the past three years I teamed with Yang I never got the opportunity to watch him play as a part of the audience,” Mark says out of nowhere, while Lucas nods in agreement and both Renjun and Donghyuck roll their eyes. “He’s a fucking beast, man,” Mark admits, watching the younger boy run  through the entire court within a couple of seconds, avoiding an entire team of six-foot players in his way, “I’m suddenly thankful I got to team with him instead of go against them.”

Johnny chuckles from where he was seated next to Jaehyun and Taeyong, “the kid improved so much since the last time I watched him play.” Jaehyun nods in agreement, while squeezing Doyoung’s hand in excitement, “yeah, it’s pretty amazing how he managed to improve so much. They’re in the championship game for the nationals, and his team is filled with rookie aces, too.”

“Still surprised that Jeno agreed to joining the team just because Yangyang gave him the puppy eyes,” Renjun snorts, and Donghyuck replies, “well, I’m not that surprised—even you don’t have the power to resist Yang’s puppy eyes.”

“Yeah,” Lucas agrees, a blinding smile on his handsome face, “we can’t ever say no to the dude.”

"We may have graduated and the members may have changed, but I don't think that would ever change," Johnny adds, "everyone is still a sucker for Yangyang's puppy eyes." 

"Kun taught him well," Ten says from where he was seated with Kun, "no one can ever say no to Kunnie, either, right? Not when this bitch pulls out the sparkly eyes." 

The group laugh, but their attention was quickly returned to the game, as Yangyang performed another god-like pass towards Chenle and Chenle shot a three-pointer. The group collectively cheers for their team, and once the excitement settles down, Donghyuck finds himself reminiscing with Mark. 

"Damn, it's Yangyang's and your last year in college now," Mark reminds himself, "Yang's team captain now, and he's the best captain this team has ever seen. No offense, Johnny." 

"None taken," Johnny chuckles, "I'd have to agree with you on that though, dude. He was able to group these insanely talented kids and earn their respect." 

"He even got Jeno to join out of nowhere, and find passion in it, too," Jaemin said from beside Kun, "I still remember Jeno's reluctance, but then he attended one practice and saw Yangyang have so much fun, that all the reluctance faded into willingness," Jaemin adds, chuckling fondly as he's reminded of the memory. "He's a great small forward," Jaehyun says, "he's naturally gifted in athleticism and he handles the ball and the court well." Doyoung smiles from beside Jaehyun, a fond expression on his face after his boyfriend praised his honorary son. 

"Hell, I remember when Chenle just clung onto Yangyang as his favorite player in the entire world. Now he's playing with him and he's leading the team alongside Yang inside the court, strategizing and all that shit. Years of watching basketball and playing basketball casually paid off for him—the way he thinks of team plays and sees the court is definitely unique and unpredictable," Johnny chuckles and Lucas adds, "still can't believe that Yangyang had the longest period of being Chenle's favorite player. Lucky." 

"Jisung, the shy kid that he is, is an amazing power forward though," Lucas comments, "definitely more strategic than I am. He's nimble too, even if he's long-limbed. Quick on his feet and his plays can't be predicted easily. He doesn't rely on a single play pattern." 

"Oh my god, Hyuckie," Mark starts, "remember when you avoided our games because Sungchan was there? Holy shit now he's the team's center," Mark muses, laughing out loud as he slaps his best friend on the back in excitement. Donghyuck scowls, "oh my god, Mark, it's been years, please—even Yangyang teases me and Sungchan about it, holy shit. Let go of it, dude." 

Mark nods his head 'no,' but before Donghyuck could try to harm his best friend seated beside him, Johnny comments, "Sungchan has improved so much, too. He's a good center. He's the core of the team and he's able to defend well." 

“The other team has a lead on them though. A small gap, but they’ve got a few minutes left to either close the gap or let the gap widen,” Jaehyun comments. and Lucas simply laughs in response, “we all know how Yangyang always reserves the best plays on the last five minutes of the game, if the game is going according to his plans and predictions.”

“Judging by the serious look on Chenle’s face, everything is going exactly how they wanted it,” Mark adds. 

The group shifts their focus entirely on the game that is happening before them, and just in time for them to see Sungchan defend their side of the court effectively from the opposing team’s six-foot-two power forward. The successful defense warranted a rowdy set of cheers from the audience and Sungchan charmingly smiles at his teammates. Yangyang grins and nods at him for a job well done and Chenle gives him a clap on the back. 

“It’s hard to penetrate their defences,” Jeno comments from Yangyang’s side, and Jisung whines and agrees with Jeno. Yangyang giggles, “yeah, but Chenle and I were right—they lack agility, coordination, and speed. Use that to your advantage, confuse them and up your unpredictability, it takes time for them to move their longass limbs,” Yangyang advises, and both forwards nod.  Yangyang cheers them on, and they run all across the court to execute another play.

Yangyang, Chenle, Sungchan, Jeno and Jisung all keep their defenses tight, letting the opposing team run through with offenses for the next minute or two. The main goal Yangyang and Chenle set for this part of the game is to amp up the other team’s complacency and anticipation, but also to exhaust the long-limbed players. Considering that the other team surpassed the team when it came to height, being composed of six-foot players, which means they utilized more energy in movement than NCT U’s varsity team did. The first two minutes of the last five minutes of the game is dedicated just for that and Jeno, Sungchan and Jisung will spend their time making sure the team doesn’t score above six points, letting the play for the ball draw out for two minutes. Yangyang and Chenle will spend the two minutes confusing the members in any way they possibly can, using steals and faking shots only to be utilized as passes.

The opposing team’s power forward grabs a hold of the ball, and Jisung directly defends against the power forward. They have a minute to draw out the play, before NCT U will sweep in to overpower their towering defense with fast-paced and unpredictable offense. The power forward is relentless, towering over Jisung’s height,  and using it to his advantage. The power forward utilizes an overhead pass to pass the ball towards their point guard but Jeno was quick on his feet to steal the ball with a jump. Jeno’s jumps have always been able to reach great heights, his leg strength incomparable to any other player on the court.

Jeno steals the ball and plays with it for a few moments, dribbling the ball everywhere and in between his feet, in order to draw the opposing team’s attention to the ball and the ball only. With twenty seconds left on their own team’s timer, the opposing team's small forward steals the ball from Jeno.

The small forward makes it to where Sungchan is in mere three seconds, but is met with Sungchan’s unshakeable defense. But Sungchan glances to the side to check for his captain’s signal, and Yangyang nods, so Sungchan fakes a misstep and lets the small forward pass—by the time the small forward realizes it was a trap that would lead him to Chenle’s quick reflexes as Chenle had been stationed right behind Sungchan, Chenle was already able to grab the ball and run towards the opposite direction.

Their own timer meets zero, and the new timer for their last offensive play starts—the game starts for Yangyang, and Yangyang races through all the other players, and none of the other players were able to track his movements.

Mark laughs from the sidelines, and the entire group looks at him, “Yangyang’s game is starting now.”

Lucas joins in on the laughter with a knowing look, and both Johnny and Jaehyun whine at them to let them know Yangyang’s plan, so Lucas relents, “well, you see, Yangyang has always been a genius, right? He adapts to each game. The past two minutes one would think that NCT U was just failing to defend against the other team, but their movements tell us exactly that. They played those two minutes to exhaust the other team’s players because Yangyang knows his team is much more speedy and agile, and that his team has better stamina. Add to that the mental exhaustion both Chenle and Yangyang put the opposing team through—they couldn’t predict NCT U’s movements and had to rely on instinct alone, and the fact that both the point guard and shooting guard were confusing them just exhausts their entire being.”

“So, for the next three minutes,” Mark adds, “hold onto your seats because Yangyang’s rapid play will occur. An overwhelming offense that would penetrate the defense the other team has so carefully crafted. Thinking about it now, this is the best possible match-up and worst possible match-up for NCT U.”

“Normally, people would think it's the worst because it's a bunch of tall guys, and not-so tall guys,” Jaehyun comments, “but to Yangyang, it's the best because they can utilize their speed to the fullest potential.”

“Exactly,” Johnny hums, “plus, their height leaves them to be easily blindsighted. People always assume that your field of vision expands in court the taller you are, but it’s much easier for an opponent to focus your attention on something else.”

“We all know Yangyang is especially good at that, too,” Jaehyun finishes. “He’s been teaching Chenle, too—so there’s no doubt Chenle has picked up a few skills from him,” Lucas adds and the alumni starters all hum in anticipation of the game.

Their attention is quickly grabbed by Chenle on the court, as Chenle runs through and overcomes a series of six-foot players with his five-foot-eight stature. Before Chenle faces the center, the point guard scans the court for their shooting guard and meets eyes with Yangyang. Yangyang gives him a small nod, and Chenle passes the ball quickly to Yangyang—as expected, the opposing team’s center was able to grab the ball mid-pass, but Jeno was already aware of the other team’s play, which is why before the center could even conduct an overhead pass, Jeno had nimbly stolen the ball and passed it  back to Yangyang, who was anticipating the ball. As soon as Yangyang was able to touch the ball, he grabbed it and dribbled through the other team’s defenses who were running on instinct. As usual, Yangyang was able to predict their instinctive moves and were able to counter them, leading NCT U to another two-point shot.

The crowd erupts in cheers, the six-point gap between the two teams closing in, being reduced to four points. The play doesn’t end there, however, as NCT U doesn’t let the opposing team grab a chance of holding the ball at all—as soon as the ball goes through the basket, Jisung successfully grabs at the ball again and passes the ball to Yangyang, who has now moved into the three-point line. Yangyang was open and left undefended, the opposing team had no time to intercept Yangyang’s accurate three-point shot, and within the span of a minute, Yangyang had successfully scored five points.

The crowd cheers wildly again, Renjun, Lucas, Mark and Donghyuck all shouting out cheers of encouragement for their favorite captain, Liu Yangyang. Johnny and Jaehyun join in on the ruckus, enjoying the thrill that basketball gives them on and off-court. Jaemin, Taeyong, Doyoung, Kun and Ten all screech supportive statements as well, not as rowdy as the others were being, but definitely still loud.

The opposing team calls for a timeout, and NCT U regroups near the benches to cheer each other on.

“Everything’s going as planned, but we have no room for error now—I want everyone in this team to enjoy this last game of the season, okay? Winning seems close, but winning is unimportant if we don’t enjoy these last two minutes,” Yangyang grins widely at them. “I won’t be thanking all of you as your team captain just yet,” Yangyang adds, “I still have to train you for the rest of the year, and we have some other games, too. But, I will tell you now that this game would be impossible without all of you. Now as we head back for the last two minutes, I want everyone to enjoy these moments, okay? We’ll continue on with our team play, as it’s working—don’t be too uptight if they have possession of the ball, that doesn’t matter, as long as we’re able to grab it right back. The other team is tired, but they’ll do everything to win—it would be disrespectful if we don’t give them our all to win, too. So, guys, let’s enjoy this game,” Yangyang tells the team, and the entire team cheers the starters on. Their coach hypes them up and expands on points they can use for strategy, and the starters all nod with understanding.

As the timer starts to run again, NCT U’s team comes to court in full power—re-energized with an energy that can only be garnered with a genuine love for the sport.

All the alumni of the team sitting as part of the crowd smile widely, and Johnny, as someone who had gone down as a respected captain of the team, proudly says, “Yangyang is doing so well to lead the team—the aura they exude on-court after the timeout is totally different from before the timeout,” Johnny pauses to chuckle fondly, “even the opposing team feels it.”

Donghyuck looks over to the opposing team and he does see it—he sees how thoroughly confused and intimidated the giants were, to a bunch of smiley and happy five-foot-something players they’re up against.

Yangyang’s grin is genuine, and that’s when NCT U knows Yangyang is out to have fun—luckily for them, when Yangyang has fun, a known side effect is victory.

The game starts and none of the two teams relent, balancing each other’s offenses and defenses—but Yangyang was never a firm believer of balance on-court, always wanting to disrupt peace and cause an instinctual battle between the teams. When Yangyang tells the team to have fun, he’s telling the team to trust each other and to play—play without a strategy in mind, just play with trust and a strong bond in each teammate. 

 So, Yangyang steals the ball from the opposing small forward, and takes the ball to the other side of the court alone, he scans the court and sees Chenle’s openness, so Yangyang passes the ball to Chenle. Chenle quickly grabs the ball and shoots a three-pointer, successfully adding a two-point gap between them and their opponent.

Now that NCT U was on the lead, the opposing team grew agitated—as soon as the ball passed through the basket, the opposing team’s power forward grabbed the opportunity to take the ball. He sped through the court and found himself face-to-face with  Jisung, who was able to steal the ball. Jisung stole the ball but the opposing small forward was able to steal it from Jisung again. This time, though, Yangyang grins, anticipating such plays, so he nodded at Jisung for a job well done of causing a distraction and Yangyang takes away the ball from the small forward in a split-second.

Yangyang initiates another rapid drive, dribbling and passing the ball to Jeno across the court, only for Jeno to pass to Chenle. They confuse the opposing team and quickly get through the opposing team’s defenses this way, and Chenle finally passes back the ball to Yangyang for a three-point shot. Yangyang does indeed shoot the three-points once more, and they now have a five-point lead with thirty seconds on the clock.

“Ge,” Chenle says, running beside Yangyang, “do the thing for me, please?” 

Yangyang smiles and ruffles Chenle’s hair fondly, “sure—let’s make the last shot of the season a memorable one, then.”

There’s twenty seconds on the clock, and Chenle looks over to Jisung, who was handling and defending the ball. Jisung nods to Chenle, which leads the opposing team’s defense to Chenle, thinking Jisung would pass to the point guard, but all they did was leave Yangyang open. Jisung passes to Yangyang and Yangyang grabs the ball as he runs through half the court, not one member of the team able to comprehend his speed and able to defend against him in time. Yangyang reaches the end of the line of defenders tasked to defend against him easily, being able to outsmart four out of the five, and then Yangyang is met with a six-foot-five muscle-machine of a center. 

Yangyang faces the center, an expression of exhaustion but stone-set determination on the center’s face. With newfound excitement, Yangyang grins cutely, and busts out the infamous ankle breaker. 

Yangyang moves towards one direction, but fakes the tank-like center. The center struggles to track Yangyang’s movements and predict his actions, especially as Yangyang rapidly dribbles and passes the ball to his other hand. The center instinctively moves to grab and defend the ball, but due to his inability to catch up with Yangyang’s precise movements he trips over his own ankles trying to follow the ball. Yangyang takes this as an opportunity like any other. The center takes some time to regain consciousness over his body acting instinctively, and the other defensive members struggle to comprehend what had happened between the shooting guard and high-ranking defensive center—which leaves Yangyang completely open as he adds two more points into their lead.

The buzzer rings throughout the court, and NCT U students erupt in roaring cheers of victorious laughter, celebrating their varsity team’s national collegiate championship.

Chenle immediately clings onto Yangyang, his high-pitched, loud laughter ringing through everyone’s ears, happiness dripping from his beaming face. Yangyang hugs the younger boy tightly, an equally victorious grin on his face, and Jeno comes third in running towards them for a group hug. Jeno wraps both guards in a tight hug around his muscled arms, and both Jisung and Sungchan come last. Jisung’s eyes are brimming with tears of joy, and Chenle makes it a point to laugh at the youngest of the team. Sungchan wraps his long limbs around the entire group, and soon enough, confetti and streamers surround them to signal the end of the basketball season. The rest of the team barrel in and engulf the starters in a group hug, and the coach stays back for a moment, eyes filled with pride as he basks in the glory brought upon by the five boys he’s consistently trained.

The announcers gleefully announce this year’s champions, and the entire NCT U crowd all roar in joyous cheering. Yangyang gathers the entire basketball team, and awaits for their opponents in the middle of the court.

Both teams bow at each other in gratitude for the memorable game, and the opposing team’s captain shakes Yangyang’s hands firmly. “You and your team are wonderful,” the center said, “it was a pleasure to be able to play against you guys in the finals.”

Yangyang bows politely in a perfect ninety-degree bow, and simply grins at the other captain, “thank you—it was an amazing game my team and I enjoyed playing, too.”

Next, Yangyang gathers the entire team to bow in front of the NCT U student body who have come to support them, thanking the students for their endless support and cheering. After bowing, the crowd erupts in more cheering, and Donghyuck couldn’t help but feel his chest boom with pride—when Donghyuck looks around, the people around him wear similar faces as he does. Yangyang’s previous teammates all have a look of pride and knowing on their faces—Renjun, Kun and Ten all look like they were on the brink of crying.

Then, the announcers announce the start of the ending ceremonies. The top three teams who competed in the national championship were awarded trophies, and Yangyang was granted the privilege of receiving the trophy as the team’s captain and leader. Yangyang comes up to the stage, walking with a bright grin. The two other captains on stage give him bright grins, a sense of happiness for the smallest captain on stage. One of the captains gives Yangyang a friendly ruffle to his hair, and Yangyang simply ducks and smiles warmly at a friend he’s come to know because of basketball. 

After a picture is taken of the victorious captains, they announce the most valuable player of the season. All teams listen in anticipation, and Yangyang’s world seems to stop as the announcer says, “Liu Yangyang!”

The NCT U team runs over to celebrate with Yangyang, and all the other captains and teams cheer respectfully to celebrate the well-deserved award granted to Yangyang. At this point, Kun, Ten, Renjun and Donghyuck all had tears in their eyes, watching a teary Yangyang accept the award and medal on-stage.

The crowd erupts in cheering, and Donghyuck even hears a few people who weren’t from NCT U talk about Yangyang’s skills that deserved the award. The entire scenario warms Donghyuck’s heart, and a tear falls from his eyes. The smile on his face, however, shows how such tears weren’t one of defeat, but rather, were tears of complete and utter victory.

The ceremonies finish, and all the alumni and their group of friends rush into the court to greet the team.

“That’s our captain!” Johnny excitedly says, engulfing Yangyang in a bone-crushing hug. Jaehyun, Lucas and Mark all follow suit, peppering their youngest in affection and pride.

“Hey,” Yangyang greets them happily, “the team did pretty fucking well, too.”

The alumni begin to divert their attention to the younger ones, Chenle still clinging onto Yangyang immediately after Johnny lets go of Yangyang, and Jeno wrapping an arm around Yangyang’s shoulders, too.

Renjun, Kun and Ten all give Yangyang affectionate greetings, too—Renjun hitting  Yangyang repeatedly for making him cry in happiness.

Donghyuck waits for his turn, observing the team and his group of friends indulge in the happiness that the team’s win had brought them. Jeno eventually untangles himself from Yangyang after seeing Jaemin, and Chenle soon joins Sungchan and Jisung’s shenanigans. Renjun, Kun and Ten all follow Chenle to congratulate the younger members, and Donghyuck takes this opportunity to approach Yangyang.

“You did so fucking well, baby,” Donghyuck says, tears filling his eyes, “I’m so proud of you.”

Yangyang laughs at the sight of Donghyuck’s teary eyes, using his thumbs to wipe away Donghyuck’s tears, “thank you, baby—you helped me reach this, you know? Every time I couldn’t feel my legs and I didn’t eat well, or I overexerted myself, you were there for me, taking care of me. So this is your victory as much as it is mine.”

The smile on Yangyang’s face is absolutely breath-taking, so Donghyuck indulges himself and presses a chaste kiss on Yangyang’s lips. “I love you,” Donghyuck says, and Yangyang quickly replies, sincerity dripping from his words like sweet honey, “I love you, too.”

Liu Yangyang may break ankles, but he sure as hell doesn’t break hearts. Especially not Lee Donghyuck’s.