Lucas loves love.
He loves the heart-fluttering feeling of falling for someone, learning their likes and dislikes, having someone to hold close and snuggle with at night. He loves seeing the look in people's eyes when they stare at their significant other and watching them do little things to make their loved ones just a tiny bit happier.
Love is great. Renjun likes to read angsty novels with pessimistic messages and rant about all things cynical, but turns into a blushing mess the moment Lucas does so much as kiss his cheek. His short boyfriend, the biggest tsundere he knows, will wake up before the sun rises on certain weekends to cook breakfast for him and the other boys. All because he loves them.
He's glad that the rest of the NCT members are open and supportive about relationships. When Johnny and Taeil officially using the ‘boyfriends’ label, Yuta popped open a bottle of champagne to celebrate. When Jeno and Jaemin got together last year, Kun cooked them a whole feast for dinner. In Lucas’ eyes, love made everyone happier. If it were up to him, he'd set all of his friends up with blind dates (but sadly, he didn't get paid enough from his current activities to start his own matchmaking service. Maybe one day).
Lucas is hanging out with Johnny in the 127 dorms one day, scouting for a potential future business partner, when Mark walks by them with his phone wedged between his shoulder and his ear.
“Mhm. Okay, sleep well,” he says into the receiver.
For a moment, Lucas thinks he's on the phone with his mother, but he's quickly proven wrong when Mark ends the call with a “Goodnight, baby.”
Lucas drops the notepad and it clatters to the floor noisily. Mark doesn't seem to notice his distressed friend as he pockets his phone and heads into the kitchen, whistling nonchalantly as if nothing happened.
“Who was Mark calling just now?” Lucas turns to Johnny.
Johnny raises an eyebrow. “Donghyuck? His boyfriend?” he says it with a tone that makes the answer seem so obvious.
Lucas gapes. Since when did Mark have a boyfriend? Why didn't anyone tell him? How did he and this Donghyuck even meet?
“Why do you look so surprised? They've been together for ages.” Johnny picks up the dropped notepad and hands it back to Lucas, who stands there, stunned, trying to wrap his head around this shocking new revelation. Had he been neglecting his friend to the point that he wasn't even aware of the existence of his significant other?
Lucas scratches his head. “Huh. I guess I never noticed.”
He makes a mental note to look into it tomorrow.
The very next morning, Lucas camps out at the 127 dorms to conduct his very subtle investigation. Doyoung and Sicheng give him confused looks when they see the tall boy sitting at their dining table with an Intermediate Korean textbook and a mug of orange juice.
“The kids are too loud,” he explains to Doyoung, who just shrugs and continues on with his cereal.
Mark shuffles out of the hallway, hair messy and face slightly swollen from sleep. Lucas observes as his same aged friend pulls his phone out and checks his messages. He doesn't even seem to notice Lucas, completely bypassing him to flop down on the sofa.
And then it begins.
Mark giggles - Lucas is lost for words at the sound that comes out of his mouth - and holds his phone over his face, smiling to himself as he types back a response. Lucas watches, amazed at the giddy grin on Mark's face that doesn't falter for a whole five minutes. It's clear to anyone with eyes and one braincell that the boy's undoubtedly in love.
The rest of the dorms are empty as they were given a few days off, so hardly anyone is around to witness this spectacle. The people who do pass by, like Yuta, pay no mind to Mark's behavior. They treat it as if it's normal, and Lucas has to wonder how on Earth he was so oblivious this whole time.
When Mark's done texting, he gets up and moves to the table.
“Oh hey dude! Didn't even notice you there,” Mark greets. He pours himself a bowl of cereal and sits down across from Lucas.
Lucas flips the page of his book and pretends to be engrossed in his learning, twirling his pen for good effect. “Hm? Yeah, just getting some studying done, that's all.”
He eyes Mark as he crunches on his cereal, unbothered. The way he eats is a bit messy, little dots of milk splashing out of the bowl as he dips his spoon in and out.
“You seem to be in a good mood,” Lucas comments.
Mark looks up. “Do I?”
He nods. “Texting your boy?”
The blush that instantly appears on Mark's cheeks is shockingly adorable. He stirs his spoon in the milk, knocking the cereal bits around.
“Y-yeah,” he shyly answers.
Lucas decides to play it cool, so as to not make Mark uncomfortable. “That's cute.” After a few moments he adds, “We should go on a double date sometime.”
“Really?” Mark looks surprised at the suggestion.
“Yeah! You and Donghyuck, me and Junnie. We could go see a movie or go bowling or something.”
Mark smiles. “That actually sounds pretty great, thanks Lucas! Donghyuck does love watching movies.”
Lucas gives himself a little pat on the back as he watches Mark quickly shoot a text to his boyfriend. Mission: accomplished.
“Baobei,” Lucas strokes Renjun's hair as they spoon in his bed that night, “How long have Mark and Donghyuck been dating?”
Renjun, who's playing sudoku on his phone, hums. “They got together sometime during Cherry Bomb era. Or was it Limitless? I can't remember. Why?”
Lucas kisses the shell of Renjun's ear and the smaller boy wriggles in his grip. “Nothing much. I was just wondering why no one did anything for them when they became official.”
Renjun places his phone on the bedside table and turns around so that they're facing each other. He fixes Lucas’ fringe and says, “Mark likes to keep his relationship stuff lowkey. They're a little complicated, y’know. It took a long time for Mark to understand and accept his feelings.”
It seems that Mark and Donghyuck have known each other for quite some time, Lucas notes. He'd like to ask Renjun a little more about the couple, about Donghyuck specifically, but he gets distracted as Renjun begins pressing soft kisses along his neck.
“Forget about those two,” Renjun murmurs, reaching for Lucas’ hands. “Focus on us for tonight.”
Lucas is more than happy to comply.
Lucas doesn't really pry into Mark's love life after that and decides to let the whole thing be. It's important to respect one's boundaries, after all.
He's playing a board game with Mark, Chenle, and Jeno on Monday morning when the door slams open and Haechan bursts in.
“I'm back, losers!”
Jaemin and Renjun greet him from the kitchen, where they're preparing lunch. Kun, Ten, and Jungwoo went out for the day so it's just the eight of them in the Dreamies’ dorm.
Haechan saunters over to the living room and plops himself down between Mark and Jeno. He wraps his arms around both of them and pulls them close, giving them a big kiss on the cheek. Jeno yelps and Mark squirms, shoving Haechan lightly.
“Aw,” Haechan pouts, resting his chin on Mark's shoulder. “Didn't you miss me?”
The Canadian boy rolls his eyes. “Shut up.”
Haechan laughs gleefully and pinches his cheek, before settling himself down on the carpet. He uses Jeno's thigh as a pillow and drapes his legs over Mark's lap.
Lucas watches the whole thing with a fond smile. He's always amazed at Haechan and Mark's friendship, the way they stick together through thick or thin, the friendly banter they share at almost every moment. For a while, Lucas thought that Haechan harbored feelings for Mark, but he's happy to see that the fact that Mark has a boyfriend hasn't changed their relationship in any way.
“Hey, Lee Haechan!” Jaemin yells from the sink. “Get your lazy butt over here and help with the food.”
Haechan groans. “Coming, mom.” As he gets up, Mark suddenly grabs his wrist.
“My room tonight?” he asks.
Haechan ruffles his hair. “Sure. But I'm picking the movie this time.”
Mark's eyes linger on Haechan as he walks away, and Jeno clears his throat loudly.
“It's your turn,” he gestures to the board.
Mark blinks once, twice, and Chenle snickers for some reason. Lucas glances between Mark and the kitchen, slightly confused. There was something different about their little interaction, but he can't quite pinpoint what it is. He feels like he's missing out on something.
Mark picks up a card and reads it aloud. “All players pay you $500. Nice!”
“Aw man,” Jeno and Chenle chorus.
It’s a Friday night. Renjun and Lucas are walking home for dinner after a stroll in the park when they bump into Mark exiting the elevator in a hurry. He has a hoodie drawn over his head, the same way all idols do when they’re trying to be inconspicuous.
“Oh hey guys,” he greets, but his attention isn’t fully with them. His eyes flit around like he’s looking for someone.
“Have you seen Donghyuck? I’m going out with him tonight.”
Lucas frowns, because he didn’t see anyone waiting around for Mark. He thought he saw Haechan near the convenience store a while back so maybe he knows.
It seems that Renjun must’ve been thinking the same thing because he answers, “Maybe try the convenience store?” Lucas nods in agreement and Mark thanks them.
“Okay I will! Thanks.”
He’s a few meters away when Lucas calls after him. “Tell Donghyuck I say hi!”
Mark glances back, a slightly confused expression on his face.
“Uh… sure?” he says, before jogging off. Renjun raises an eyebrow at Lucas but doesn't follow up with a comment, so Lucas shrugs it off and heads inside.
As they ride the escalator in silence, Lucas winds an arm around Renjun's shoulders and massages him gently. He thinks about Mark and how difficult it must be for him to be in a committed relationship with a non-celebrity. Of course he and Renjun didn't have it easy either, but at least they got to spend a lot of time together. With that thought, Lucas leans in to kiss Renjun's temple.
Renjun slips their fingers together and leans his head onto Lucas’ shoulder with a small smile, and Lucas feels his heart swell at the little gesture.
In the back of his mind, he wonders if Mark's clingy with his boyfriend too.
“Lucas?” Kun's head pops up from behind their bedroom door. “Taeyong said they need help upstairs for Johnny's surprise party. Do you mind going with Chenle?”
Lucas places his bookmark in the book he's reading and gets up. “Sure!” He's always down for a good surprise party (although the last time he tried surprising Renjun, the short boy slapped him in the face by accident).
When he goes up to the dorm, Taeyong assigns him to cake duty with Mark and Haechan while Chenle skips off to do decorating with Sicheng and Taeil.
Lucas is about to enter the kitchen when he hears someone yelling.
“Mark Lee!” It’s Haechan. “Give that back!”
Lucas peers around the corner to see Mark holding a piping bag over Haechan’s head, grinning cheekily. The cake next to Haechan is mostly done, with pale blue icing around the sides. There’s a tiny figurine of Johnny that hasn’t been put on yet, as well as a little camera and a USA flag.
Mark seems to be entertained by Haechan’s distress, laughing as he dodges the vocalist’s hands. He dances around the kitchen, whooping in glee. But then Lucas sees the mischievous glint that appears in Haechan’s eyes. The tanned boy grabs a handful of flour and tosses it at the back of Mark’s head. It catches the older boy off guard, and when he whirls around, Haechan jumps up to snatch the piping bag back. He quickly swipes a bit of frosting onto Mark’s nose and giggles.
“Get back to work, idiot.”
He turns back to the cake, and Mark just stares at him. He has that same dopey look on, the same one that he had when they were playing the board game and Haechan sauntered away. Lucas finally pinpoints the emotion - fondness.
But then Mark steps forward, wrapping his arms around Haechan in a sudden back hug. Lucas’ eyes widen as Mark hooks his chin on Haechan’s shoulder and interlocks their fingers so that they’re both holding the piping bag and the cake turntable. They look so unexpectedly domestic together.
Lucas’ mind spins. Were Mark and Haechan… having a fling?
In his confusion he bumps into the fridge, causing all of the magnets to rattle. Mark and Haechan jump apart in surprise.
“L-Lucas!” Haechan stutters, cheeks red. “Hi!”
Mark looks sheepish, embarrassed, and he mumbles a hello before turning to the sink to immerse himself in some dishwashing. Lucas tries to appear calm, shooting Haechan a friendly smile, but his heart is hammering fast. Did he just see something he wasn’t supposed to? Wasn’t Mark dating Donghyuck? What was happening?
The rest of the afternoon passes by excruciatingly slow. An awkward air fills the small kitchen, and Mark and Haechan barely glance at each other. Lucas feels stifled in the strange tension between the two but luckily Jungwoo comes in towards the end and everything seems to return to normal. Later that night, Johnny comes home from NCT Night Night with Jaehyun and tears up at the cake and all of the heartfelt letters from the rest of the members.
And amidst all the singing, laughing, and eating, Lucas almost, almost forgets about the incident in the kitchen.
Lucas doesn't like to start unnecessary drama, you see. He's a man of peace, of harmony, of empathy. He's not about to jump to conclusions because of one out of context interaction. So he lies in bed, hands folded over his stomach as he stares at the ceiling.
Kun's soft snores are strangely calming, and for a moment Lucas considers waking him up so that he could have someone to talk about his issue with. He could tell Renjun too, but the boy would literally skin Mark and Haechan alive if he found out they were indeed engaging in inappropriate activities behind Donghyuck's back.
Besides, Lucas doesn't have any concrete proof. It was just one backhug. They could just be really, really, really close friends.
It's a thought that he drifts off to sleep with, only feeling slightly unsettled.
“You look terrible,” is the first thing Jaemin says to him in the morning.
Lucas grunts. He barely slept, tossing and turning every five seconds. Kun’s snores had escalated into violent sounds but plugging earphones in didn’t help at all.
“I kept waking up in the middle of the night,” he explains.
Renjun walks in with a mug of tea. When he sees Lucas’ disheveled state, he walks up to him and cups his cheek with his free hand, eyebrows creased in worry.
“Xuxi? Are you feeling alright?”
“Don’t worry,” Lucas says, placing his hand on top of Renjun’s. “I just had a rough sleep.”
Renjun doesn’t look too convinced, but thankfully doesn’t pry. He tiptoes up to give him a sweet kiss on the lips and sits down at the table to eat breakfast with Jaemin.
Lucas tries to keep his mind occupied with other things, like asking about the webtoon Chenle's been reading or the game that Jisung spends most of his afternoons playing. It works for the most part, and he eats his breakfast in peace.
After all the dishes are washed, Lucas decides to return a book to Jaehyun. He heads upstairs with the book tucked under his arm, humming Candle Light under his breath.
When he opens the door, the first thing he sees is Mark and Haechan on the sofa. Mark has one arm wrapped around Haechan's waist, and the younger boy is leaning his head against his chest as they watch a show together.
Now on any other day, Lucas would've just dismissed it as a friendly gesture between friends. But the events in the kitchen replay in his head, and all of a sudden he's hyper aware of how Mark strokes Haechan's side gently and the way he slides his hand onto his thigh. Haechan doesn't seem to mind it one bit.
Lucas swallows hard and walks to Jaehyun's room, trying to digest the unpleasant feeling in his stomach. Did any of the other hyungs know about this?
Jaehyun's opening the window when Lucas knocks and enters the room. The older boy smiles his handsome dimpled smile.
“Lucas! How was the book?”
Lucas places it back onto the bookshelf. “It was good, hyung. I enjoyed it a lot.” He looks around the room and remembers that Haechan is his roommate. There's a framed picture of him and the other 00-liners on his shelf, as well as a polaroid of him and Mark somewhere on what seems to be a rooftop.
“Can I uh, ask you something?” Lucas doesn't look at Jaehyun, but walks closer to Haechan's shelf. He realizes that there's a whole pile of polaroids of him and Mark, even one where Mark's kissing his cheek. The date scribbled on it is recent.
“Go ahead,” Jaehyun replies.
“So I have this friend back in Hong Kong, and I saw him doing something problematic on his Instagram story,” Lucas lies. “Should I confront him about it?”
“Hm. If you're close to him, then I don't see why not. People should be told when they're doing something wrong, even if they're not aware of it. But I suppose it also depends on the extent of how problematic it is,” Jaehyun taps his chin thoughtfully.
Lucas ponders his words. Maybe Mark's just so comfortable with Haechan that he doesn't realise what he's doing. But Haechan's also partly at fault too. Lucas sighs to himself. Jaehyun's right. He really needs to sit them both down and have a talk. It's just not fair to Donghyuck.
Lucas thanks Jaehyun and marches out purposefully into the living room. He's about to call them out when he sees Haechan sitting on Mark's lap, kissing the living daylights out of him. Mark's hands are gripping Haechan's hips tightly and his eyes are closed.
Lucas’ whole plan to have a civilized, productive conversation with the both of them goes out the window.
“What the actual HELL.”
Haechan makes a noise that's halfway between a whimper and a choke, and Mark shoves him off.
“Lucas!” Mark gasps, wiping the spit from his mouth. Disgusting.
Lucas shakes his head. A little part of him had been hoping that he was reading too much into the whole thing, but he was clearly wrong.
“Mark. Haechan. I thought you guys were better than this. Especially you, Mark Lee.”
Mark looks a little disorientated, but Lucas just keeps going. “Have you told Donghyuck yet? Were you even planning on telling him?”
Haechan sits up, looking a little lost. “Tell Donghyuck what?”
Lucas groans. Why was this so hard for them?
“About you two! About… whatever this is!” he gestures between them.
Mark looks completely bewildered. “What are you talking about?”
Their confusion has Lucas faltering for a second. It’s enough time for a towel-clad Doyoung to come in yelling, “Lee Donghyuck, I TOLD you not to use my shampoo!”
He throws a wet loofah at Haechan, who screeches as he dodges it.
Lucas pauses. Lee… Donghyuck? He thinks long and hard about everything, feeling a bit constipated as he does so, and then everything falls into place.
“Wait, you’re Donghyuck?” Lucas asks, pointing at Haechan. The realisation that dawns on him is both hilarious and a little pathetic at the same time. When Haechan nods slowly, Lucas begins to chuckle. And guffaw. And then he’s on the floor, holding his stomach as he rolls around laughing at the incredulity of the whole thing.
Haechan was Donghyuck the whole time! It makes total sense. The lingering touches, the sweet gestures, the banter with flirtatious undertones. Lucas had just misunderstood the whole situation, thinking they were different people, but in fact they were one and the same.
Mark and Doyoung stare at him, utterly lost for words. Haechan - no, Donghyuck, pokes Lucas with his foot.
“Are you going to tell us what’s so funny, big guy?”
By the time Lucas is done telling everyone the story, including the rest of the Dreamies, Renjun just laughs and pats his broad chest. “You’re so silly, Xuxi.”
Lucas pouts. It was an honest mistake! Hell, Jisung didn’t know who Yukhei was until five months after they met each other.
“Next you’ll be asking me who Yoonoh is,” Renjun laughs.