“You guys won’t believe what Lucas did this morning,” Mark says, dropping down into the vacant chair next to Donghyuck. “He like, totally-- He was trying to do a trick on his board--” Mark breaks out into one of his laughs-- the one that makes him sound like he needs the Heimlich-- and shakes his head, digging out his food from the depths of his bag.
“Oh, I’m sure we can imagine,” Donghyuck says, casting a furtive glance as Renjun, who’s looked up from his bio anthro textbook, and Jaemin, occupied sniffing at Renjun’s neck under the pretense of reading over his shoulder.
(Donghyuck should be glad Jeno’s up in NorCal for a UC-wide Ultimate Frisbee comp, so he doesn’t have to deal with an even larger mess.)
“No, like, this dude is crazy,” Mark says, taking his squashed peanut butter and jelly sandwich out of the plastic bag and taking a bite.
Donghyuck can’t watch Mark spitting sandwich everywhere, so he focuses on the screen of his laptop, where he’s meticulously arranging a study Spotify playlist. He’d rather be doing just about anything besides listen to Mark blab about his newfound friend.
“So he literally like, tripped and fell into the fountain--”
Donghyuck’s eye twitches, and he looks at his rose gold Beats, wondering whether it would be too obvious if he just put them on to block out the unwanted input of information. He’s pretty sure he’s being obvious right now, if Jaemin’s infuriating smirk is anything to go by. Donghyuck rolls his eyes.
“And he just went to class-- Like he’s soaking wet and he just like sits down at the front of the class, and the professor’s like, having a fucking hernia, right? And--”
The moment Mark sat down at their lunch spot two weeks ago, with the widest smile on his face, Donghyuck should have known trouble was brewing. And it had come in the form of the human disaster that was Lucas, the newest brother of NKT, and Mark’s latest best friend, apparently.
Lucas is hilarious, and charming, and a great dancer and he chugged most of a bottle of Jameson and didn’t even get tipsy, Donghyuck--
Every time Mark sees Donghyuck, there’s some new CLS (Crazy Lucas Story), because this guy is some sort of stand up comedian, allegedly, and Mark can’t wait to introduce them. “You’ll love him, Donghyuck, trust me,” Mark had told him, eyes wide and sincere.
(Donghyuck thinks the fuck not.)
He doesn’t know if Mark’s dense or deliberately ignoring the fact that Donghyuck has made it clear that he has no interest in meeting this personification of a catastrophe. (“He’s awesome, Donghyuck!”)
The worst part? Everyone else seems to agree with Mark. Donghyuck had yet to meet Disaster-Lucas, through a series of coincidences and his own very deliberate orchestration. Chenle and Jisung think Lucas is the second coming of Jesus, Renjun likes having someone to talk to in Mandarin because Lucas allegedly knows five languages, and Jeno had nodded his agreement in his own quiet way.
The only person who has ever rivaled Donghyuck’s utter distaste for including new people into their small friend group is Jaemin, but even he seems enamoured. (“I’d totally date him if I wasn’t dating two people already. That’s my max, unfortunately.”)
All in all, it’s extremely infuriating, because Donghyuck is the funny one of the group. He’s the charming, hilarious one. It’s his job to make his friends laugh, and he needs to be the center of attention at least fifty percent of the time or else he’ll absolutely shrivel up and die.
And currently, Donghyuck can feel his arteries clogging up. It’s harder and harder to get out of bed every day. His precariously maintained position in his friend group is being threatened by some upstart he’s never even met before. His will to live--
“So you’ll be at the party on Saturday, right?”
Donghyuck realizes, suddenly, that Mark is directly addressing him. “I’m sorry?”
Mark rolls his eyes-- a maneuver honed with almost two decades of practice, just for Donghyuck-- and sighs. “The NKT party. Lucas really wants to meet you.”
Donghyuck blinks in surprise. “He wants to meet me?” Realizing how pathetic it sounds, he clears his throat and stands up straighter. “Of course he wants to meet me.” It’s only natural. Donghyuck is the alpha here, and Disaster-Lucas should be grovelling at his feet, begging for his approval.
(Spoiler: He won’t get it.)
A party is the perfect place to establish Donghyuck’s dominance and make it absolutely clear that he has no intention of letting this gremlin into his friend group. Seven is perfectly enough, and this carefully curated equilibrium will not be disturbed.
Disaster-Lucas is going down.
Donghyuck flashes Mark a smile, and it’s all teeth. “I wouldn’t miss it.”
There’s something oddly nostalgic about the sixth floor of the old Biological Sciences building. The left wing is rarely disturbed by students, except during the peak of finals week when no other tables are available on the lower, more up-to-date floors. It’s one of Donghyuck’s favorite places to get away.
But currently, he’s not here because he’s trying to catch up on k-dramas without being disturbed by his friends. There’s a post-it in his hand with letters and numbers scrawled hastily by the librarian, and Donghyuck roams through the shelves of academic journals, trying to find a match to a title.
Renjun had warned him not to take Seo’s History of Neuroscience class. (“It’s an elective, it’s not worth it. Take Dev Neuro or something.”) Donghyuck hadn’t read the syllabus properly, and had somehow missed the part about a thirty-page paper about a neuroscience topic of his choice. Now, it’s four weeks into the quarter, the drop deadline for classes had passed, and Donghyuck’s stuck scouring the oldest part of the library for papers published by James L. McGaugh.
(Renjun was right, as he always is.)
Donghyuck pauses by a rack of Journal of Neuroscience copies, looking like they hadn’t been opened since the 1990’s, and figures he’s in the right place. He scans the spines carefully, and finally finds the issue he needs on the very top shelf.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Donghyuck hisses, reaching up, and his fingers barely brush the base of the shelf, even on his tip-toes. He huffs, before stretching up again, and it’s really no use. Donghyuck doesn’t really care that much about being short-- he prides himself in being petite-- but in these moments, it’s absolutely infuriating. If he could be Jaemin’s height, if only for five seconds, he could totally--
Donghyuck let’s out a strangled yelp of surprise when he feels a presence behind him. And then, there’s an arm, reaching up for the journal he wanted, and it’s being plucked off the shelf with ease, and held in front of Donghyuck.
Donghyuck grabs it with shaking fingers and turns quickly, and almost falls back against the bookcase. “Jesus--”
“Whoa there--” His knight in shining armor grabs Donghyuck by the waist and they narrowly evade the small disaster of bookshelves doing a domino-fall. “Sorry, I must have startled you.”
Donghyuck presses a hand to his chest. “You think?”
“Sorry.” The guy flashes a megawatt grin, all teeth and charm and looking anything but sorry. “Was that the one you wanted?”
Donghyuck blinks at the guy, then down at the journal in his hand. “Uh, yeah.” He looks up at the guy-- he really has to crane his neck, it should be illegal to be this tall, on top of being ridiculously hot, what the fuck-- “Thanks.”
“No problem,” the guy says, and wow, that voice is doing a lot of things to Donghyuck, including causing a furious blush to climb up his neck. “I’m Yukhei, by the way, sorry again for scaring you.”
Donghyuck looks at the hand proffered and shakes it delicately. Yukhei’s hand dwarf’s Donghyuck’s own, and it’s not the worst thing he’s ever had to do. “Donghyuck. Thanks again for grabbing it for me.”
“Donghyuck,” Yukhei says, like he’s testing it on his tongue, and there’s a renewed interest in his impossibly large, dark eyes. “Nice to meet you.”
Okay, Donghyuck knows how to play this game. He raises an eyebrow and smiles wryly. “I’m sure it was, Prince Charming.” And then he slides past Yukhei (who had him somewhat cornered against the shelf, not that Donghyuck’s complaining) and walks past the racks, towards the rows of tables in the back.
Yukhei is following him.
Donghyuck tries not to get flustered and chooses to sit at the table furthest away, and sits facing away from the wall. Yukhei sits two rows away, facing Donghyuck, but doesn’t really look at him, taking his laptop out of his bag, a binder stuffed to the brim with papers, and headphones. He plugs in those headphones to his laptop, and gets to work almost instantly.
Donghyuck isn’t disappointed, exactly. He’s in the library with a purpose, and so is Yukhei. It’s not like they can suddenly drop their priorities and Yukhei will whisk him away on a date-- they only met two minutes ago.
He shakes his head, trying to focus. He really needs to read the McGaugh paper, because it’s the first he published on post-training drug administration, and it’s not available for free on PubMed, so he’d had to resort to old-fashioned print.
He digs out a notebook and pen, flipping through the journal until he gets to the section with the McGaugh paper, and starts reading. Halfway through the Materials and Methods section, his eyes start to blur, so he blinks rapidly and has to look away-- look up-- and ends up staring at Yukhei.
Donghyuck taps his pen against his bottom lip idly, considering. Yukhei is easily the hottest guy he’s ever seen in his life-- he’s got floppy, bleached-brunette hair, a casual-college-skater sort of clothing aesthetic, and diamond studs in his ears. He’s everything Donghyuck says he hates but secretly really likes. It doesn’t help that Yukhei smells excellent too.
Amidst Donghyuck mindless thirsting, he doesn’t realize Yukhei’s staring at him too, until his eyes refocus and notices Yukhei smirking at him. There are two ways Donghyuck could play this-- he could pretend this never happened or he could take full responsibility for checking out a total stranger at the library.
Donghyuck’s always been fearless, so he raises his eyebrows in expectation, a silent, yeah I was looking at you, so what?
Yukhei shakes his head, smiling, before focusing on his laptop. It takes Donghyuck all of his effort not to huff in disappointment. That didn’t go as expected. He glances down at the McGaugh paper again, determined not to let this stupid, wishy-washy boy eat into his research time.
And yet, two paragraphs in, Donghyuck feels eyes on him, and he looks up, only to meet Yukhei’s gaze. He narrows his eyes and mouths a what are you looking at? Yukhei just grins, resting his cheek in his palm and continuing to stare.
Donghyuck blinks, wondering if this is really happening. He’s not stupid, he knows he’s pretty, and he’s been flirted with more times than he could ever count. But this is new; he’s never been the recipient of such blatant and shameless interest, in the library, of all places, by a stranger, and a hot one at that.
Yukhei straightens up in his seat and pushes his headphones off, settling them on his neck, and Donghyuck wonders how he can make such a simple action look so damn attractive. “Come sit over here,” he says, low enough not to disturb the silence mandated by a library, but loud enough to Donghyuck to hear from fifteen feet away.
Donghyuck raises an eyebrow. Yukhei can’t really expect him to come to him, can he? He’s Donghyuck Lee, he doesn’t come to anyone. As if reading his mind, Yukhei shoots him a look, before getting up, grabbing his laptop, binder, and bag, and walks over towards Donghyuck’s table, before dropping down in the chair right in front of him.
If Donghyuck hadn’t mastered the art of bullshit, his eyes would have widened in utter shock.
“Hi,” Yukhei says, in a lazy drawl to match his relaxed slouch. His limbs are long enough that his feet brush against Donghyuck’s under the table.
“Can I help you?” Donghyuck asks primly.
“Nah,” Yukhei says with a shit-eating grin. “Just enjoying the view.”
Donghyuck rolls his eyes, huffing in annoyance, but blushing all the same. “Ridiculous.” He makes a show of going back to his paper, but the words run together. Trying to read research articles is difficult enough without cute library boys sitting in front of him.
Eventually Donghyuck gives up, sighing and dropping his pen down on the desk. “Can you please stop staring at me?” he asks, which is code for please keep staring at me. Yukhei smiles at him, unabashed.
“I’m sorry, am I distracting you?”
Donghyuck looks at him flatly. “What do you think?”
“What are you reading?” Yukhei asks, despite the fact that his attempt to start twenty questions is yet another distraction.
Donghyuck sighs, because he’s not going to get anything done at this rate, so he might as well indulge. “I was trying to get started on a paper for a class.”
“For History of Neuro?” Yukhei guesses, and laughs when Donghyuck looks sufficiently surprised. “Relax, I took it last year. I spent a lot of time here too.”
“Oh,” Donghyuck says stupidly. “Are you a neuro major?”
“Nah, biochem. It looked like it’d be an easy A, but--” Yukhei makes a face, coaxing a laugh out of Donghyuck. “Every time I hear Wernicke I get war flashbacks.”
Donghyuck bites back a smile. “I’m doing mine on McGaugh.”
“Father of memory consolidation, nice,” Yukhei says, with a nod of approval. Donghyuck blinks, because he hadn’t expected Hot-Yukhei to be an intellectual, on top of everything else. “I went to one of his seminars my second year.”
“You should have been a neuro major,” Donghyuck says, sufficiently impressed.
Yukhei shoots him a lopsided grin. “I’m a man of many interests.”
Donghyuck huffs again, because his face is turning hot again and it’s annoying. “What are you working on? You looked very busy,” he says, in an attempt to gain control of the conversation.
Yukhei’s face twists into one of mock pain. “I’m taking an upper div biochem lab with Lee. I have heartburn.”
Donghyuck makes a noise of sympathy. “Is that the one where you have to do a massive poster presentation as your final?
Yukhei’s eyes widen comically. “Dude, I don’t even know. I’m just trying to take it a day at a time.”
“My friend took it last quarter,” Donghyuck says, remembering Renjun almost knocking Jaemin out in a sleep-deprived craze writing his third lab report. “He’s really… anal about writing.”
“I’m gonna fucking die in this class,” Yukhei says, sinking further into his chair, and their knees knock together under the table. It startles Donghyuck a little, but Yukhei doesn’t seem to mind. It’s always a bonding experience, complaining to fellow science majors and commiserating in their mutual misery.
“If my friend can get through it, I’m sure you can too,” Donghyuck says, reaching forward to pat Yukhei’s hand consolingly. This elicits a grin from Yukhei, who straightens up and leans forward intently.
“Give me your number.”
Donghyuck laughs, giddy, but a little too prideful to admit it. “Well, aren’t you forward.”
“I’m a go-getter,” Yukhei says, instead of denying it. “Number?” Donghyuck bites back a smile as he pulls his phone out of his pocket, and watches Yukhei put in his contact information. “We should study together sometime. I can help with your paper, if you want.”
Donghyuck raises an eyebrow. “Why do I get the feeling we’re not gonna get anything done?”
Yukhei flashes him another toothy grin, and it’s impossibly charming. “I dunno what you’re talking about. Your face is great motivation.”
“Oh my god,” Donghyuck says, bursting into the apartment he leases with Renjun, Jaemin, and Jeno.
Jaemin’s making tea in the kitchen, Renjun is sketching at the kitchen counter, and Jeno is watching something on his laptop on the couch. Donghyuck plops down next to him with a sigh.
“Oh my god you’re in love,” Jaemin says, sitting at the coffee table across from them, grinning wickedly.
Donghyuck tilts his head to look at his friend. “How did you know?”
“You did that sigh,” Renjun informs him, not looking up from his sketchbook.
“What sigh?” Donghyuck asks, looking at Jeno, who shrugs, not looking up.
“The I-met-a-cute-boy sigh,” Jaemin says, before doing a dramatic interpretation of what is apparently Donghyuck’s Special Sigh. “So?”
Donghyuck blinks at him. “I met a cute boy.” It gets the reaction he’d been hoping for, and he grins as Jaemin pulls back his fist, like he’s going to clobber Donghyuck. “If you hit me, I won’t get to finish my story.”
Jaemin glares at him, before sighing and dropping his hand. “Fine. Spill.”
Donghyuck breaks out into a dreamy grin. “He’s just perfect. He’s my prince charming.”
Jaemin blinks at him stupidly, and Renjun finally looks up, looking equally taken aback. Jeno’s still engrossed in the anime he’s watching on his laptop.
“What... happened exactly?” Renjun asks, walking over to sit next to Jaemin on the coffee table.
Donghyuck sighs, preening at the sudden attention. “It’s like, right out of a Wattpad story. I couldn’t reach a book I needed from a shelf at the library, and he just like, appeared out of nowhere and got it for me.”
“So he’s tall,” Renjun deduces.
Jaemin snorts. “Most of the male population is taller than Donghyuck, but go off.”
Donghyuck shoots Jaemin a withering glare. “He was like. Super tall. Like maybe seven feet tall.”
Jaemin chokes on his tea. “Now you’re just fucking with us.”
“He smelled like the men’s department at Macy’s,” Donghyuck says, sighing again. Given his very delicate sensibilities, it was only natural that he was sensitive to smells. His army of scented hand lotions and shampoos were a testimony to that.
Most boys he’d encountered in college smelled horrible, which is why he’d been forced to take extreme measures to distance himself from them. In lecture, he sits in the aisle seat and puts his backpack in the next seat, telling people the seat is taken whenever they ask, because he can’t spend an entire hour sitting next to a peer of dubious personal hygiene. The things he has to do for his education.
“That’s weird,” Jaemin says, taking a sip of his tea and burning his tongue in the process. He coughs and glares at Donghyuck. “See what you made me do?” Donghyuck just rolls his eyes.
“Anyway. He was like. Totally into me. We talked about science and he asked for my number.”
Renjun raises his eyebrows. “When you said he was into you I thought you were just bullshitting. But he really asked for your number?”
“He totally did. And he put like, three heart emojis next to his name when he put in his contact info.”
Jaemin takes in a deep breath. “Okay, but what color were the hearts? The color is important to gauge his intentions.”
Donghyuck smirks. “It was the pink heart.” Jaemin gasps. “The double pink hearts.”
“No way,” Renjun says, smacking Donghyuck’s thigh with an unwarranted amount of force.
“Yes way,” Donghyuck says, rubbing at the stinging skin and wincing.
“Okay, but what’s his name? What’s his major?” Jeno asks suddenly, looking up. Donghyuck raises an eyebrow.
“Does it matter?”
Jeno scowls. “Of course it does. Do you need a reminder of every asshole you’ve ever dated?”
“Ugh, don’t remind me,” Donghyuck groans, before pushing himself to his feet. He wants to take a shower, put on a face mask, and text Hot-Smart-Yukhei. It’s in these moments that he’s glad he has a room to himself, because the apartment has two rooms but the trio prefers to sleep in two twin beds pushed together in a giant, adorably-sickening puppy pile.
“He’s different, though. I can feel it,” Donghyuck says, feeling a silly smile pull at his lips.
“Okay, but what’s his name?”
Donghyuck smirks. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”
Yukhei: hey ;)
Yukhei: i was thinking abt studying @ the library again tomorrow, same time
Yukhei: will i see you there?
Donghyuck: what’s in it for me?
Yukhei: my glorious presence
Yukhei: how do u like ur coffee
Donghyuck: i prefer tea
Yukhei: noted ;)
Donghyuck presses the 6 button on the elevator and lets the doors slide shut. He tries valiantly not to fidget, because he’d meticulously selected his outfit the night before, and he’d styled his anime-orange hair just so. He isn’t trying to impress Yukhei (he isn’t). Donghyuck’s always taken pride and care with his appearance.
But if he smudged his eyeliner a little more today and swiped his lips with his favorite strawberry lip gloss that he saves for special occasions, it’s not anyone’s business.
When he reaches their table (when did it become their table?), he’s relieved to find that Yukhei isn’t here yet. He sits down in his spot and gets out his notebook and laptop, arranging them exactly how he wants. He doesn’t have time to fret over much else, because Yukhei turns the corner, hands holding a drink tray, and he all but blinds Donghyuck with his smile.
“Hey,” Yukhei says, voice bright, but with a flirty edge. Donghyuck is surprised when Yukhei opts out of his seat across the table and takes the one right next to Donghyuck’s. “One jasmine tea, for a very special cutie.”
Donghyuck takes the cup held out for him and mumbles out a thanks. He opens the lid and sniffs tentatively. “Okay, not bad,” he says.
Yukhei grins. “Did I impress you yet?”
“It’s tea, Yukhei,” Donghyuck says, but yes, he’s kind of pleased. It’s just tea but it’s more than most of Donghyuck’s ex-boyfriends could say. “What did you get?”
Yukhei takes the iced drink out of the drink tray and takes a sip. “Americano.” When Donghyuck pulls a face, he laughs. “Why, you don’t like them?”
“Aren’t they super bitter?”
Yukhei shrugs, biting on the straw. “I’m not a fan of sweet things.” Then, he eyes Donghyuck, smirking. “Well, I like one sweet thing.”
Donghyuck narrows his eyes, desperately fighting the blush. “You think you’re so smooth, don’t you?”
“A little,” Yukhei says, smug. He holds out his drink. “Wanna taste? You never know until you try.”
Donghyuck isn’t one to back down from a challenge, so he leans forward and takes a small sip, ignoring the stupid part of his brain that chants indirect kiss indirect kiss indirect kiss. Donghyuck gags in disgust, reaching for his tea and taking a sip to wipe the taste from his tongue.
Yukhei laughs, taking his own sizable sip of his drink. “Well, it was worth a shot.”
“Devil juice,” Donghyuck grumbles, powering up his laptop. “Anyways, do you have a lot of work to do?”
“A bit,” Yukhei says vaguely, and Donghyuck raises an eyebrow, turning his head to look at Yukhei, and startles when he finds Yukhei’s wide, imploring eyes on him.
“Uh…” Pull yourself together, Lee. It isn’t like him to be this disarmed by a boy, but Yukhei has shown himself to be the exception to everything so far. Donghyuck can’t just flop into his arms, for goodness sake. He gets out of his seat. “I need to go get another journal.”
“I’ll come with you,” Yukhei says, standing up. Donghyuck looks at him dubiously. “What if it’s on the top shelf again? You might need my services.”
“Oh, just rub it in, why don’t you?” Donghyuck scowls, marching towards the bookshelves.
Yukhei laughs, keeping up with Donghyuck’s brisk stride easily. “I think it’s cute that you’re so tiny. You’re so cute.”
“I’m not cute, I’m terrifying,” Donghyuck corrects, ducking into a random aisle. Yukhei follows.
Donghyuck’s eyes scan over the titles nervously as he stumbles backwards. “I’ve been told I’m a very formidable opponent. You should watch your back, Yukhei.”
“Oh I’m sure,” Yukhei says, and suddenly, Donghyuck’s pressed against the shelf, Yukhei’s hands braced on either side of his head. “You seem very dangerous. I think you might just steal my heart.”
“Cheesy,” Donghyuck says, trying not to show how flustered he is inside. From this proximity, he can appreciate the fullness of Yukhei’s eyelashes, the mouthwatering scent of his cologne, the warmth his body radiates.
“Am I gonna need to come up with an excuse to kiss you right now, Donghyuck? Cuz I really want to.”
“You sure move fast.”
Yukhei shoots him with that same blinding grin. “Like I said, I’m a go-getter.”
Distantly, Donghyuck realizes how bizarre the situation is. He’d met this guy yesterday, and now they’re alone in an abandoned part of their school library, and Yukhei wants to kiss him. Things are progressing much faster than anticipated, but there’s something very magnetic about Yukhei, something that makes Donghyuck a little more reckless.
Fuck it, Donghyuck thinks, grabbing Yukhei by the front of his shirt, and pulls him down for a kiss.
It’s surprisingly sweet for something done on impulse. There are no fireworks, no sudden revelations. It just feels nice. Kissing Yukhei feels nice and comfortable and like Donghyuck’s been doing it for a thousand years.
One of Yukhei’s hands comes down to cradle the back of Donghyuck’s neck, and it’s large enough that he can trace the slope of Donghyuck’s jaw with his thumb simultaneously. Despite the rush of adrenaline, Yukhei keeps the kiss slow and sweet and almost decadent, like he really wants to take his time.
Yukhei’s lips are soft and plush and he clearly knows what he’s doing, pulling away just enough to have Donghyuck wanting more, before diving in again. Donghyuck goes on his tiptoes to press their mouths together a little more, a little harder, and Yukhei gets the message. He winds his other arm around Donghyuck’s waist, pressing their bodies closer together, and Donghyuck sighs, content. He hasn’t been kissed like this, ever.
Yukhei’s an excellent kisser, this much becomes obvious. Donghyuck has his fair share of experience, but this is really on another level. Yukhei coaxes Donghyuck’s mouth open gently, and sweeps his tongue against Donghyuck’s own.
Donghyuck retaliates by biting down on Yukhei’s bottom lip, dragging his teeth along it before letting it go. Yukhei kisses back a little harder, but there’s a pleased curve to his mouth that Donghyuck can’t help let out a soft laugh. Yukhei pulls back so he can grin down at Donghyuck, and it’s so warm and adoring that it makes a shiver run up Donghyuck’s smile.
Yukhei ducks down to kiss at Donghyuck’s neck, open-mouthed and mind-meltingly tender. “I could kiss you all day,” he murmurs into the skin right below Donghyuck’s ear.
“We’re moving a little quickly, aren’t we?” Donghyuck mumbles, gripping to Yukhei’s shoulders, because his legs have effectively turned to jelly. Yukhei pulls away from his neck to bump their foreheads together playfully.
“It’s just kissing, not a marriage proposal, babe.”
Donghyuck huffs, his face hotter than ever before. “I’m just saying.”
Yukhei smirks, but there’s nothing degrading about it. “And I’m just saying--” Yukhei swoops down to kiss Donghyuck again. “I’ve been wanting to kiss you since I saw you yesterday.”
Donghyuck breaks the kiss to stare at Yukhei, who looks very sincere. “Well uh… that’s good. Because same.”
Yukhei grins. “Good,” he says, dropping a kiss on Donghyuck’s waiting mouth.
Not to be outdone, Donghyuck raises himself on his tiptoes and kisses Yukhei back firmly. “Fine.”
“Fine,” Yukhei shoots back.
Yukhei covers Donghyuck’s mouth with his own, effectively shutting him up. And that’s the end of that discussion.
“Hey guys,” Mark says, coming to their table, looking like he’s in a hurry. “I have bible study downstairs in like five minutes so I can’t stay.”
“Then why are you here?” Donghyuck asks.
“I just wanted to make sure you guys are still coming to the party on Saturday.”
“We’ll be there,” Renjun assures, speaking on behalf of both of his boyfriends, who are busy feeding each other curly fries.
Mark snaps his attention to Donghyuck. “And you. I want you to look me in the eyes and promise me you’re coming.”
Donghyuck puts up a hand in mock offense. “Scout’s honor! I’ll be there. There’s nothing I’d rather do.”
Mark narrows his eyes. “Fine. And don’t avoid Lucas, okay?” Dammit, caught.
“Promise,” Donghyuck says. “I won’t partake in any Lucas-avoiding activities on Saturday.”
Mark shoots him one more look. “Good. I’ll see you guys later. The party starts at ten! Be there or be square!” And then he’s scurrying off, in that dumb overachieving way of his. Donghyuck remembers hating Mark most of his childhood, mostly because his mother’s favorite past time was comparing his achievements to his cousin’s.
At twenty, Donghyuck knows better. Mark is lame and boring, and hopelessly pining after some grad student named Jungwoo. It’s a wonder he’d even gotten into an exclusive social frat like NKT, but these are questions Donghyuck doesn’t have time to ponder over.
“So, any new developments with CLB?” Jaemin asks, finally looking away from Jeno.
Donghyuck raises an eyebrow. “CLB?”
“Cute Library Boy,” Renjun supplies. “Since you won’t tell us his name.”
“Which is whack, by the way,” Jeno interjects.
“Do you think I’d really risk sharing such sensitive information with you guys? I don’t want you stalking his social media or trying to embarrass me.”
“You say that like we care enough to put effort into embarrassing you--” Jaemin coughs when Renjun elbows him in the stomach.
“We won’t meddle, promise,” Renjun says.
“Your promises mean nothing to me,” Donghyuck says with a dismissive wave of his hand. “Anyways, you might meet him soon.”
“Oh?” Jaemin asks.
Donghyuck grins, feeling a little wicked. “I’m gonna invite him to the party on Saturday.”
“Oh,” Jaemin says, smirking.
“It’s perfect. I really don’t wanna spend the whole night having to come up with reasons to avoid Mark and Disaster-Lucas. If CLB comes, I can just make out with him all night.”
“Wow, you’re a real modern day Einstein,” Jeno drawls.
Donghyuck sits back in his chair, feeling like a cat who just caught the canary. “What could possibly go wrong?”
“So, I have a question,” Donghyuck asks, finally managing to pry his mouth away from Yukhei’s.
“What’s up?” Yukhei asks, but his eyes are a little glassy. His head lolls back on the couch they’d found in a far corner of the library, and his hands keep sneaking under Donghyuck’s shirt.
“There’s this party on Saturday…” Donghyuck starts, feeling oddly nervous. A part of him is braced for rejection, like Yukhei isn’t really that into him, even though Donghyuck’s been sitting in his lap for the better part of an hour. It's easy to talk all this up to fast-burning attraction between two strangers, but the truth is that they get along exceptionally well, even when they aren't kissing. They never really run out of things to talk about, and Donghyuck hates that the library closes at nine every night, because it cuts their conversations short every time.
Yukhei blinks several times, and his eyes come back into focus. He appraises Donghyuck’s artfully disheveled state, and the swollen red tint to his mouth. “The NKT one?”
Donghyuck blinks down at him in surprise. “Yeah, that one.”
Yukhei tilts his head. “What about it?”
“Uhm…” Donghyuck traces a finger along the deep cupid’s bow above Yukhei’s top lip in abject fascination. “I was wondering if you… wanted to go? With me. If you’re free. It’s okay if you’re not, I just--”
Yukhei stops Donghyuck’s rambling with a firm kiss. “Funny, cuz I was gonna ask you the same thing.”
“Really?” Donghyuck can’t help the surprise that colors his voice.
“Really,” Yukhei confirms, and Donghyuck really can’t think of another word to describe him in that moment, other than utterly charming. This is better than he could have anticipated-- like everything’s working out a little too well. It’s not something he dwells on, because he has better things to do, like kiss Yukhei until the library closes.
(Maybe next time they kiss, it won’t have to be in an abandoned part of the library.)
loml?: u know that bazzi song?
sunshine: which one lololol
sunshine: it’s only one of the most overplayed songs of our generation
loml?: it reminds me of u lmao
sunshine: didnt peg u as the possessive type wong
loml?: im not usually
loml?: perhaps i am a changed man
sunshine: wow im rlly that powerful!
loml?: ur just now figuring that one out?
sunshine: CAN U STOP FLIRTING WITH ME JUST ONCE
loml?: why :( dont u like it :(
sunshine: im just SAYING
sunshine: is that all u do?? is that ur job???
loml?: maybe so
loml?: cute :( i wanna kiss u
sunshine: well ur just gonna have to wait until tonight mister
loml?: the day is going by so slow :(
loml?: but speaking of tonight
loml?: what r u gonna be wearing ;)))))
sunshine: im gonna call the COPS
loml?: i just wanna know what ur wearing so i can be prepared
sunshine: for??? what???
loml?: for u to knock me off my feet ;)))
“Are you talking to CLB?”
Donghyuck looks up from his phone at Renjun’s reflection in the mirror. “How did you know?”
“You have that foolish smile on your face every time you look at your phone,” Renjun says, rooting through the drawers until he finds his favorite copper eyeshadow. “It’s cute though. You seem happy.”
Donghyuck smiles softly, because he expected that conversation to go a little differently. “Thanks. He’s really nice.” And then, more quietly, “I think I like him a lot more than I should right now?”
Renjun pauses the meticulous application of his eye makeup and stares at Donghyuck through the reflection. “What do you mean babe?”
“I mean, we’ve known each other like, less than a week. But I already feel like I’m… like obsessed with him or something.” Renjun’s eyebrow warrants further explanation, so he continues. “Yesterday he had a biochem lab and I had physics lecture, so we couldn’t meet up, and I felt like I was in… withdrawal or something.”
Renjun hums, considering, as he puts the eyeshadow away and uncaps the eyeliner. Distantly, they can hear Jeno and Jaemin arguing about something in the living room-- something about Jaemin not being allowed to wear a fucking harness to a frat party--
“I think you guys are in that phase… I can’t even call it a honeymoon phase because you guys aren’t Official yet. But like… when you’re first getting to know someone and you wanna be around them all the time. It’s okay to feel that way, Hyuckie. What’s important is that he reciprocates.”
Donghyuck feels a jolt of insecurity then, forged by years of dating wash-ups. Renjun turns his head then, and smirks. “Judging by those hickeys, though, I’d say he definitely reciprocates.”
Donghyuck’s hand flies up to his neck, littered with several pink and purple marks. “I didn’t think you’d notice.” It’s not like they were huge hickeys or anything.
“They’re not that bad, but you know me. I notice everything.”
“Yeah,” Donghyuck sighs. “You do.” He inspects himself in the mirror, craning his neck to look at the skin at all the different angles. “Should I cover them up?”
“Depends on whether you want Mark to go into cardiac arrest or not. He doesn’t know about CLB yet, right?”
“Ugh,” Donghyuck groans, having mostly forgotten about Mark’s protective-older-brother schtick he insists on keeping up, despite him being as intimidating as a mouse. “Whatever.” He picks up the BB cream Renjun holds up and dabs it carefully on his neck. It’s not exactly the best coverage, but it’ll hopefully keep Mark off his back.
“Okay, let me see you,” Renjun says, turning to face Donghyuck and holding him at arm’s length. Donghyuck stays as still as he can under Renjun’s scrutiny. “Okay, you’re good to go. The glitter’s a nice touch.”
“I try,” Donghyuck says with a flick of his hand. He gives himself a once-over-- he’s in a loose grey v neck, an army green bomber jacket, and his lucky ripped black jeans. He’s also borrowed one of Jaemin’s chokers, carefully applied eyeshadow and eyeliner, and tinted his lips. He’s trying to get boyfriend-ed tonight, so he’s gotta pull out all the stops.
“Let’s go see if dumb and dumber are ready,” Renjun says, tugging Donghyuck out of the bathroom. They walk into the kitchen to see Jeno and Jaemin polishing off several shots of tequila. (They take pregaming very seriously.)
“Want one?” Jaemin asks, holding out a shot glass to Donghyuck, who shakes his head. He wants to be sober for tonight.
When the Uber drops them off in front of Greek Row, Donghyuck remembers why he hates frat parties with every fiber of his being. Everyone is rowdy and obnoxious and loud. Absolutely shameless and messy and overall just eugh, but Donghyuck is used to them, after being dragged to so many of them with his friends.
(He’d rather be third-wheeling Chenle and Jisung on their date night than be doing this, really.)
(But he’s got something to look forward to, for the first time.)
(He’s not walking out of the NKT house without a boyfriend.)
The throb of the bass is audible, even from across the street. There are red cups littering the front lawn, someone wearing bed sheets as a perverse toga running down the sidewalk screaming, and someone is throwing paper streamers out of one of the second floor balconies. Donghyuck feels sorry for whoever ends up on cleanup crew in the morning. (He hopes it’s Mark.)
Donghyuck takes a deep, steadying breathe as they walk through the open door of the NKT house, an obscenely lavish house-mansion, the largest house on Greek Row. The interior is decorated like several college boys tried their hand at interior decoration and failed miserably. The centerpiece of the whole house is a several-feet-wide picture of this year’s class, dressed impeccably in suits and posing stiffly for the camera.
The place is absolutely packed, and Donghyuck grimaces, having to duck and weave his way through throngs of people to make it just past the foyer. He almost gets beer spilled on him twice, and several people call out to him, but with how loud the music is, he can’t discern where anything is coming from.
And then, like a beacon of light, Donghyuck spots Yukhei. He’s got his back turned, but Donghyuck knows it’s Yukhei-- he’d spent so much time pawing at those broad shoulders, so he should know-- and he sighs in relief, flicking a hand through his styled hair, before walking towards him.
As if sensing Donghyuck’s presence, Yukhei turns around, and wow-- if Donghyuck thought casual, everyday Yukhei was attractive, party-Yukhei is on a different level of attractive. His normally floppy hair’s been combed and styled back, he’d replaced his diamond studs with small back hoops, and that leather jacket-- Donghyuck thinks he might choke. (But not before he sues for emotional damages. What the hell is Yukhei Wong doing, looking like that?)
But it seems like he’s not the only one, judging by Yukhei’s appreciative smile as Donghyuck approaches. The closer he gets, Donghyuck’s heart thumps more violently against his sternum.
And then Donghyuck notices Mark, standing next to Yukhei. They make eye contact, and Mark’s face lights up with a smile. He waves Donghyuck over excitedly (as though Donghyuck wasn’t walking towards them in the first place).
“Dude, you really made it!” Mark says, running forward and slinging his hand around Donghyuck’s shoulder in a way that tells him Mark’s already had a little too much to drink. “I wanna introduce you to someone very important!”
Donghyuck shoots Yukhei a panicked look as Mark leads them closer. Before either of them can open their mouths, Mark starts talking. “Donghyuck, this is Lucas. Lucas, this is my brat of a cousin, Donghyuck.”
The next several seconds proceed like Donghyuck’s caught in some sort of time loop. He wonders if he knocked back half a bottle of tequila and didn’t realize before coming here, because there’s a high-pitched ringing in his ear that happens only when he’s spectacularly drunk.
He looks at Yukhei, trying to school his features as a flurry of emotions run through him. Yukhei-- Lucas? What even is his real name?-- opens his mouth, then closes it, seeming similarly taken aback.
“Finally you guys met.” Mark slaps Yukhei’s stomach. “Between me and you, dude, I thought Donghyuck was trying to avoid you all this time,” Mark says, in what he probably thinks is a whisper, but is spoken at normal speaking volume.
Yukhei’s eyes flash a little with hurt, and Donghyuck’s stomach churns with guilt and confusion and panic. Mark is so drunk, he doesn’t notice that neither of them are talking. “It’s so cool that y’all are getting along. Finally, everybody knows each other!”
“We’ve met before,” is the first thing Yukhei says, not taking his eyes off of Donghyuck. Mark’s eyes widen comically.
“Oh for real? Small world! How did you guys meet?” Mark looks expectantly at Donghyuck.
“I--” Donghyuck takes a step back. “I have to go--” And then he runs.
“Renjun,” Donghyuck hisses into his phone. Currently, he’s crouching on top of the lid of a toilet, locked in a bathroom on the second floor. The music makes the walls vibrate, and it’s almost creepy, how the muffled bass sounds from in here, but it’s better than being out there, with Yukhei-Lucas-Whatever-His-Name-Is.
“What the hell, Donghyuck?” Renjun asks, voice slightly muffled by yelling in the background.
“Why weren’t you answering the phone the other ten times I called you?” Donghyuck asks petulantly. He can practically see Renjun rolling his eyes.
“It’s a party, Donghyuck. Do you think I can hear my ringtone?” Renjun sighs. “What’s going on? You wouldn’t call unless there was an emergency.”
“You’re right, this is a fucking emergency. I need you to evacuate me from the premises.”
“What about him?”
“He’s CLB, Renjun! They’re one and the same!”
There’s a pause, like Renjun’s processing the words. And then a wheezing laugh. “Ooooh my god, that’s… that’s so fucking perfect-- hey babes, guess who CLB is?”
Donghyuck curls his free hand into a fist. Is this what his so-called best friends were going to do in a moment of crisis? He can hear Jeno and Jaemin cackling in the background, before Renjun comes back on the line.
“How the hell did you not know that?” Renjun asks.
Donghyuck makes a strangled noise at the back of his throat. “He said his name was Yukhei!”
“Well, yeah, that’s his real name. Only Mark calls him Lucas, cuz he’s an idiot.”
“Why did I not know this?” Donghyuck asks, waving his arm around frantically.
“You kinda zone out whenever you hear Lucas’s name.” Renjun has a point, but Donghyuck won’t admit it. Not tonight, when his whole world is falling apart at the seams. “Oh don’t be so dramatic,” Renjun says, and Donghyuck realizes he’s said that out loud.
“How can I not, Renjun? I made out with my arch nemesis.” Donghyuck feels his eyes tearing up. What had happened to his principles? He fraternized with the enemy. What does that make him? All of his morals… compromised.
“Okay, first of all, he’s not your arch nemesis. You’re just jealous because he’s getting more attention than you. Yukhei didn’t even know you.”
A sudden thought strikes Donghyuck. “Oh my god, what if Yukhei… knew I was Mark’s cousin. He’s probably talked about me, right? So my name would have come up in conversation? What if he… deliberately… seduced me?! Oh my god! He seduced me! I was seduced!”
“Stop yelling, oh my god.”
“He knew. He definitely knew,” Donghyuck rambles. The more he thinks about it, the more plausible it becomes. “He knew I was the alpha, that the only way to take me down was through getting to my heart. I really underestimated him, but he plays a mean game--”
“Alpha? What the fuck are you talking about?”
“Renjun. This is worse than I thought. This is all just-- it’s just an elaborate scam!”
“Okay, nothing you’re saying is making sense. I know you didn’t have anything to drink, so I’m not gonna worry about you. My advice is to find Yukhei and talk to him. Otherwise you’re gonna lose an arch nemesis and a future boyfriend.”
And then the line goes dead. Donghyuck pulls his phone away from his ear to look at the Call Ended screen, and makes an indignant noise. How dare Renjun hang up on him in his time of need?
“No, you’re Donghyuck Lee,” he mumbles to himself, hopping off of the toilet because his calves are burning, and turns to the mirror. “You can handle this. You can handle a conniving, obnoxious, evil, stupidly hot--” Donghyuck slaps himself in the face. “Focus. You can handle this. Just go up to Yukhei and show him who’s boss. He will not upstage you. You’re wearing Gucci. ”
Donghyuck exhales sharply and nods at his own reflection. He squares his shoulders, unlocks the door, opens it, and--
Runs right into Yukhei’s chest.
“Whoa--” he says, catching Donghyuck by the waist, and Donghyuck stumbles back in surprise.
“You--” Donghyuck says accusingly.
“Me?” Yukhei blinks at him, confused. “Listen, I’ve been looking for you everywhere.” He eyes the space behind Donghyuck’s shoulder. “Were you hiding in the bathroom?”
Donghyuck huffs, lifting up his chin. “I needed to use the facilities.”
“For half an hour?”
“Do you know how long it takes to achieve this kind of perfection?” Donghyuck asks, waving a hand in front of his face.
Yukhei shoots Donghyuck a lopsided smile. “I thought that was all-natural.”
For a moment, Donghyuck stands there, gaping at Yukhei, who really has some nerve-- “You-- I’m not doing this with you right now,” Donghyuck says, before brushing past Yukhei, attempting to get to the stairs, but Yukhei blocks his path.
Donghyuck splutters. “This-- flirting thing? I won’t be seduced by you, Yukhei Wong-- or whatever your name is.”
Yukhei frowns. “My name is Yukhei. Why are you freaking out right now?”
“Then why does Mark call you Lucas?” Donghyuck asks, exasperated.
Realization seems to dawn on Yukhei. “Oh, that’s my rapper name.”
Donghyuck opens his mouth, then closes it. He lets out a sharp exhale. “I-- I didn’t think this could get worse, but it did. Oh my god.” He presses his hand to his forehead. “I need air.” He tries to sidestep Yukhei, but isn’t fast enough. “Yukhei, let me go.”
“Not until you tell me why you ran off earlier. When you saw me, you looked like you saw the Holy Ghost or something.”
“Oh, don’t flatter yourself. You’re more like a poltergeist.” Donghyuck tries to duck past Yukhei again, and almost gets past him, but Yukhei catches his wrists.
“You’re avoiding me, and I think I at least deserve an explanation? Because I thought we were chill, like an hour ago.”
“Well, we’re not. We are definitely not chill.”
Yukhei’s eyes take on a pitiful look, and it looks very strange, considering his stature and aura. “Wanna explain it to me, then?
Donghyuck blinks at him, grasping at some verbal explanation for the panic and guilt and confusion. Yukhei doesn’t know Donghyuck long enough to understand that he’s petty and jealous and high maintenance. Everything feels like it’s crashing down, right before Donghyuck’s eyes.
“At least dance with me? Once?” Oh god, Yukhei looks almost heartbroken, and Donghyuck feels a lump forming in his throat. He’s not good with the sad puppy eyes, and Yukhei has that look perfected.
Donghyuck lets Yukhei take his hand and lead him down the stairs, weave them through the crowd, until they end up in the middle of the dance floor. There’s a bass-boosted remix of some Top 50 song playing, and Yukhei pulls Donghyuck close, hands on his hips as Donghyuck slings his arms around Yukhei’s shoulders.
It’s hard to make eye contact, so Donghyuck keeps his eyes glued to the floor. After a minute, Yukhei sighs, pulling them closer until his chin is resting on Donghyuck’s shoulder. “Wanna talk about it now?” he asks, and his mouth is right up against Donghyuck’s ear, so he hears the words with perfect clarity.
Donghyuck presses his face into Yukhei’s neck, fingers running through the silky hairs at his nape. They’ve known each other for less than a week and yet, this all seems so familiar. Yukhei’s smell, the warmth of his body, the timbre of his voice, every part of him comforts Donghyuck in a bone-deep way that he didn’t know was possible. It occurs to him that maybe, Yukhei is one in a million.
Donghyuck’s stomach churns, and suddenly, he feels very, very foolish.
“I’m sorry,” he mumbles, into Yukhei’s neck. “I panicked.”
“Why?” Yukhei asks, running his hands soothingly up and down Donghyuck’s back.
“I--” Donghyuck huffs, annoyed at himself for not being able to verbalize a rational explanation. “I was jealous of you.” Before Yukhei can ask, he continues, “Mark was talking about you so much, like you were the funniest, greatest person of all time. And my friends all really like you too. I felt like… I was gonna get replaced or something. In my head, Lucas was like, my worst enemy.”
“Does my being Lucas change things?” Yukhei asks, pulling away to stare at Donghyuck seriously. Donghyuck realizes that they’re not even dancing, but he doesn’t mind. He feels like they’re in their own little bubble. He can’t even hear the music anymore.
“Yeah,” Donghyuck says, shaken by his own honesty. “It changes everything.”
Yukhei tilts his head. “And why’s that?”
Donghyuck blushes. “Cuz I like you.” He reaches up and brushes some of Yukhei’s fringe back. “You’re nice and smart and funny and you spoil me even though we barely know each other and you’re just-- you’re special.”
Donghyuck ducks his head down with the force of sheer embarrassment. “I’m sorry I ever thought badly of you, especially since I didn’t know who you were.”
“My reputation precedes me, I guess,” Yukhei says, and Donghyuck can hear the smile in his voice, so he looks up. Yukhei uses the opportunity to duck down and kiss the tip of Donghyuck’s nose. “You’re so funny, sunshine. No one could replace you.”
Donghyuck blubbers something incoherent, because he doesn’t know how to respond to that. Yukhei just laughs good-naturedly, understanding Donghyuck’s predicament. “You don’t know how your friends talk about you. They love you so much. Honestly…” Yukhei laughs nervously. “I was scared to meet you tonight. I was afraid I’d make a bad impression.”
“I called you Disaster-Lucas in my head,” Donghyuck concedes with an almost-delirious giggle. Yukhei smiles at him helplessly. “But wait. Did you really not know who I was? In the library?”
“I legit didn’t even think about it. Honest. Wait did you--” Yukhei’s eyes widen. “Did you think I was trying to play you or something? Is that why you were so--?” Donghyuck looks down again, embarrassed. “Jeez, babe, I would never do that to you.”
“I know that, stupid,” Donghyuck mumbles, slapping Yukhei’s chest. “I know you wouldn’t.” He chews on his lip, considering. “Anyways, I’m really sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Yukhei laughs, bending down to press their mouths together in a firm kiss, before pulling away to press their foreheads together. “Honestly for a second there, I thought I’d never get to kiss you again.”
“That’d be a nightmare,” Donghyuck says, leaning up to kiss again. After a minute, Yukhei laughs into his mouth.
“I really really like kissing you,” he admits, the words whispered against the corner of Donghyuck’s mouth.
“Good. You should keep doing it,” Donghyuck says, trying to sound annoyed, but there’s a giddiness in his chest, spreading to his head and fingertips. Before Yukhei can swoop in again, though, Donghyuck presses a finger to his lips. “But first. Are you gonna ask me to be your boyfriend? Or? What’s up? What are we?”
Yukhei’s smile sets off a million butterflies in Donghyuck’s stomach. He could spend the rest of eternity looking at that smile. “Donghyuck, be my boyfriend? So I can kiss you all the time without it being weird?”
Donghyuck can’t help but laugh at that. Maybe Mark was onto something-- Yukhei really is funny and charming. “I like the sound of that,” Donghyuck says, and Yukhei looks at him with so much adoration in his eyes that it knocks the air right out of Donghyuck’s lungs.
“Now kiss me again.”
“Yo, man,” Mark says, plopping down next to Jaemin on the couch. Jaemin tears his eyes away from watching Jeno and Renjun kissing to shoot Mark an annoyed look.
Mark points to the dance floor, where Donghyuck and Yukhei are kissing. “Did I like? Miss something?”
“Oh,” Jaemin says, inspecting his nails. “Yeah they’re like, together or whatever.”
Mark’s eyes look like they’re gonna pop out of his head. “Since when? ”
Jaemin shrugs. “Like Monday.”
“Lucas is putting the moves on my baby brother?”
“Okay first of all,” Jaemin says, with an annoyed click of his tongue. “He’s your cousin. Second, he’s not a baby. Third, stop calling him Lucas. That’s not even his real name.”
“It’s a cool name!” Mark says, a little too loud, maybe he shouldn’t have had any of of that jungle juice. “I’m gonna give him the shovel talk. If he breaks Donghyuck’s heart--”
“I’m pretty sure Yukhei could bench press you with one hand,” Jaemin points out. "He'd snap you like the twig bitch that you are." Mark splutters, face turning an amusing shade of red. “Now, can you go bother someone else?” Jaemin turns his body face his boyfriends, a serene smile forming on his face as he stares at them. “I’m kinda busy.”