It's a string of little things that first set off Doyoung's suspicions.
The first thing Doyoung notices when he opens the door is the smell of food coming from the kitchen. Really, it’s a little late for dinner - Doyoung had eaten almost an hour ago on the set - but the members have never been people who keep consistent schedules.
Doyoung isn't hungry, but he stops by the kitchen anyway to say hi and finds Johnny there.
Johnny glances up at the sound of Doyoung's feet on the kitchen floor. “You're done with your schedule?” His voice is mellow, the words a little slower than usual.
“Yes, finally,” Doyoung says. “I'm so tired. I feel like I've had nonstop things this month.”
“Hey, at least you don't have to do anything on your birthday,” Johnny says.
“You're right,” Doyoung agrees. He nods at the stove. “That smells really good, hyung.”
“You can't have any,” Johnny says immediately.
Doyoung feigns indignation. “Selfish!”
“It’s for Donghyuck,” Johnny explains. “Well– and me.” He laughs. “Hyuckie was really tired, so I offered to make food for him. He might have already fallen asleep though.” Another laugh – Doyoung can hear the exhaustion behind it. Johnny looks like he’s ready to slide down to the floor and pass out.
“Do you want any help?” Doyoung asks.
“Nah, I’m fine,” Johnny says, offering Doyoung a reassuring smile. “It’s almost ready to eat anyway.”
“Alright,” Doyoung says, a little reluctantly. “It’s sweet that you’re taking care of Donghyuck like this. I’m sure he really appreciates it."
Johnny laughs. “If I didn’t I’d kind of be a–” He stops, seems to rethink his words. “It’s just– It’s kind of my job, a little bit. And he works hard, so...” Johnny shrugs, smiling so, so softly. “He really deserves it.”
Doyoung leaves the kitchen not long after, but the fond smile on Johnny’s face stays with him until he goes to bed. He’s glad Donghyuck is so loved.
“No, I was thinking chocolate frosting.” Donghyuck's voice drifts in from the kitchen as Doyoung slowly makes his way there. “I don’t think that would go well with a lemon cake.”
“Chocolate?” Johnny asks. “I thought we were making it bunny shaped? Doesn't it need to be white?”
“Bunnies can be brown,” Donghyuck says. “But if you want to do lemon–” He stops talking abruptly when Doyoung walks into the kitchen.
“Hi,” Doyoung says.
“Hey, hyung,” Donghyuck replies. He sinks closer against Johnny's side almost defensively, and Johnny's arm tightens around him.
“Don't mind me,” Doyoung says, feeling their eyes on him as he makes his way towards the fridge.
“No, it's okay, we'll wait,” Donghyuck says, confusingly. They were just talking about flavors, so why is Donghyuck acting like it's a private conversation?
Doyoung finishes with the fridge in unnerved silence. He swears their eyes follow him the entire way down the hall.
“Donghyuck-ah, some of the members-”
Donghyuck squeaks in surprise at Doyoung’s sudden intrusion into his room.
“-are going out to eat; do you want to come?”
Donghyuck gives Doyoung a peeved look, face flushed and hair mussed. He’s on Johnny’s bed, close enough to the edge that it looks like he’s about to fall off, but Johnny’s arm is holding Donghyuck firmly in place.
“You could have knocked,” Johnny says, voice mild, if a bit annoyed. His eyes are contrastingly wide, betraying his own surprise.
“Sorry,” Doyoung says.
“No, I'm good,” Donghyuck says. “I'm hanging out with Johnny-hyung.”
It takes Doyoung a moment to remember the question Donghyuck is answering. “I think he's going to sleep,” Doyoung says. “Mark said he was tired. Right, hyung?”
“Okay, whatever,” Donghyuck says. “So we'll sleep, then.”
“Did you eat yet?” Doyoung asks, concerned. “You shouldn’t go to bed without eating.”
Donghyuck makes a frustrated noise and hides his face in Johnny's chest. “Go away,” he whines.
Johnny laughs. “I'll make sure he eats.”
Donghyuck strolls into the living room with all the confidence of a concert Haechan, though he's pouting slightly.
“Hyung,” he says, seeing Doyoung. “Have you seen Johnny-hyung anywhere?”
“No,” Doyoung says. “Why?”
“He's late for our date,” Donghyuck grouses. He fiddles with the sleeve of his shirt, drawing Doyoung's attention to his outfit – the type that accentuates his attractiveness and draws everyone's eyes to him, not the typical casual and trying-to-go-unnoticed that the members usually wear when they go out. If Doyoung's not mistaken, he's even wearing a bit of eyeshadow.
“What are you all dressed up for?” Doyoung asks.
Donghyuck raises his eyebrows. “...I just told you?”
“I thought you were just going out to dinner,” Doyoung says. “It looks like you're trying to get someone's attention.”
Donghyuck stares at him in silence for long enough that Doyoung begins to feel uncomfortable. “We're just going to get dinner,” Donghyuck says finally.
He leaves it at that, and Doyoung can't help feeling odd about it.
“Do you think Johnny-hyung and Donghyuck have seemed unusually close lately?”
Taeyong looks surprised at the question. “They seemed the same as normal to me?”
“They've been acting very affectionate with each other and spending a lot of time together,” Doyoung says. “And they've been weirdly secretive. The other day I walked in on them talking about cakes and they refused to continue their conversation until I left.”
Doyoung doesn't miss the way Taeyong's eyes widen in understanding at that.
“I don't know, maybe they're just getting closer?” Taeyong asks. “I don't think anything weird is happening.”
Doyoung shrugs, but he doesn't let the idea go.
Doyoung stretches, muscles protesting after sitting in his room all day. Maybe he should have gone on a walk before he and Renjun started their drama marathon. Too late now.
It’s too bright outside his room, and dramatic murmurs come from some drama playing on the TV - Doyoung glances briefly in the TV’s direction, and the sight makes him pause.
Donghyuck is stretched across Johnny’s lap, his head laying on the armrest. One of Johnny’s hands is carding through Donghyuck’s hair, the other resting on his thigh, thumb intermittently rubbing small circles into Donghyuck’s skin. Donghyuck looks sleepy and contented, wrapped in peaceful bliss.
Doyoung releases a breath slowly and creeps forward, careful not to make his presence known as he makes his way to the door. They look too intimate like that for Doyoung to disturb them.
“Took you a while,” Renjun says, breezing past Doyoung into the dorm.
“Sorry,” Doyoung says. “I’m, I’m a little tired.”
“Oh.” Renjun looks apologetic. “You’re not gonna fall asleep while we’re watching, are you?”
“No, I’ll be fine,” Doyoung says. “Be a little quiet though? I think people are sleeping, on the couch.”
They pass Johnny and Donghyuck again on their way to Doyoung’s room. In the short time that has passed since Doyoung was here last, Donghyuck has shifted so that his face is pressed into Johnny’s side, obscuring his expression - though Doyoung suspects that he’s given in to sleep. Johnny’s right hand has migrated from Donghyuck’s leg to holding Donghyuck’s hand, which has crept under the hem of Johnny’s shirt and lays, fingers outstretched, against Johnny’s side.
Doyoung looks away.
The drama blares in front of Doyoung, music swelling with emotion, but Doyoung can’t focus. His mind keeps drifting back to Johnny and Donghyuck on the couch, wrapped up in their own gentle little world. It’s not that it’s rare for Donghyuck to be found cuddling someone - and Doyoung has been that person plenty of times before. No, it’s something else that feels so out of the ordinary.
Next to him, Renjun gasps at something happening in the drama, and Doyoung forces his attention back to the screen. He rubs his eyes. Maybe he is tired.
Or maybe the hypothesis he’s been circling for a while now isn’t so far-fetched as Taeyong makes it seem.
“Renjun-ah,” Doyoung says.
“Hmm?” Renjun doesn’t take his eyes off the screen.
“Can I ask you something?”
“This is kind of an important scene, so after it, maybe?”
Doyoung picks up the remote, too impatient, and pauses the drama. “You’re close to Donghyuck,” he says while Renjun gives him an indignant look. “Do you think you would know if he was... seeing someone?”
“I was just wondering,” Doyoung says. “He’s been acting kind of weird and secretive lately, so I thought...”
Renjun’s eyebrows raise dramatically, and he stares at Doyoung for a moment longer before he bursts out in laughter.
“He's not dating anyone, oh my god.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I'm sure, hyung.” Renjun takes the remote from Doyoung's hand. “I know what he's being secretive about, and it's not that, I promise.”
“You know? What is it?”
“You'll find out soon,” Renjun says cryptically. “Don't worry about it.”
He turns back to the screen and unpauses the drama before Doyoung can ask any more questions.
Doyoung was planning on cooking something today, but when he nears the kitchen he finds that it's occupied.
Johnny and Donghyuck are cooking something together – like they always seem to be doing, nowadays. Doyoung is about to leave when a snippet of conversation reaches his ears.
“Oh - baby?” Donghyuck says.
“Could you get the salt?”
Baby is not a foreign term to NCT - not by a longshot. Several members like to sprinkle it into conversation when they’re teasing and flirting with each other, and sometimes the older members call the Dreamies that way - it’s normal enough to be innocuous, usually. But just now - with the background of Johnny and Donghyuck’s strange behavior, the word tossed so casually - it stands out to Doyoung.
The suspicions return.
“You know when we were talking earlier and I said that Johnny-hyung and Donghyuck seemed really close recently?”
Taeyong sighs. “This again? I told you, I think you're imagining things–”
“I think I've figured it out.” Doyoung says.
“...Oh?” Taeyong asks, a little nervously.
“I think they're dating.”
“Dating,” Taeyong repeats slowly. “You think Johnny and Donghyuck are dating each other. And that's why they've been so secretive.”
Doyoung huffs. “Why are you acting like it's so outrageous?”
“I really doubt they have any interest in each other,” Taeyong says. “I mean, our Johnny and Donghyuck, seriously? I think you're imagining all of this.”
“You haven't seen what I've seen,” Doyoung says. “Or you'd agree with me.”
“You've become a conspiracy theorist.”
“No, I haven't!”
Doyoung really should have known, but he's still surprised when he sees Taeyong speaking to Johnny and Donghyuck in hushed tones, a giddy smile on his face. Johnny is holding Donghyuck's waist as if to say, “This is my boyfriend. Say hi.”
So Taeyong was in on it the whole time! Doyoung seethes.
“I have a bone to pick with you, Lee Taeyong,” Doyoung says as soon as Taeyong walks through the door to his own room.
Taeyong gasps, startling backward. “Yah! Doyoung-ah!” he hisses. “Don’t scare me like that!”
“I think it’s deserved,” Doyoung says. “You betrayed me.”
“What?” Taeyong squawks. “How?”
“You were plotting with Johnny-hyung and Haechan,” Doyoung says. “So spill. What’s their secret?”
Taeyong crosses his arms. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. We were just talking.” His words sound too rehearsed to be genuine.
“They told you that they're dating, didn't they?” Doyoung says.
“No,” Taeyong says. His tone is unconvincing. “They're seriously not dating.”
“You promised them not to tell me, I know, I know,” Doyoung says dismissively. “Just encourage them to tell me about it too, and I'll forgive you.”
Taeyong shakes his head, eyebrows raised, like he's pretending that Doyoung is a lost cause, but Doyoung knows better.
Today is finally Doyoung's birthday, and Johnny invites Doyoung out to lunch to celebrate.
At first, Doyoung forgets his suspicions, but halfway through lunch he realizes that now would be the perfect time for Johnny to tell him that he and Donghyuck are dating. So he waits, trying not to seem eager, for Johnny to bring it up.
But... Johnny doesn't. By the time they're eating dessert, Doyoung thinks Johnny might have changed his mind.
“Is there something you want to tell me?” Doyoung asks, impatience getting the better of him.
Johnny stares at him in confusion. “...Happy birthday?”
“Not that,” Doyoung says impatiently. “Look, I noticed you and Donghyuck acting weird and secretive recently. I already sort of figured it out, so you can tell me.”
“What? I have no idea what you're talking about,” Johnny says, straight-faced.
“Come on, it's my birthday, and I already know anyway, so you might as well just tell me.”
“I really don't know what you're talking about.”
Doyoung pouts. “Nevermind,” he says. “Keep your secrets, then.”
“Doyoung-ah,” Johnny says suddenly, moments after they've entered their building. He stops walking and turns to Doyoung with a grin. “I have a surprise for you.”
“Close your eyes.”
Doyoung balks. “Here? Why can't we wait until we get home?”
“No, it has to be here.”
Doyoung sighs and closes his eyes. “Now what?”
“Just hang on a second, keep them closed.”
Johnny's voice drifts off a little at the end, like he's going somewhere, and Doyoung shifts anxiously, yearning to follow him, but he stays put.
Distantly, Doyoung hears Johnny say, “Oh, sorry,” and opens his eyes in confusion.
Johnny is halfway across the room, stepping into the elevator.
Doyoung’s eyes widen, and he breaks into a sprint. Johnny is really abandoning him here; how dare he?
As Doyoung nears the elevator, its doors begin to close.
“Hyung, wait, don't-”
If Doyoung thought he'd get a break from the teasing on his birthday, then he was wrong. The elevator doors close on Doyoung's face with Johnny cackling behind them.
“You'll pay for that, Suh Youngho!” Doyoung shouts as soon as he opens the door.
The apartment is completely dark.
“Johnny-hyung?” Doyoung calls out more timidly. “Are you in here?”
A door opens suddenly, and Mark's face appears, lit up by the orange glow of candles.
“Happy birthday to you,” Donghyuck's voice sings from right next to Doyoung's ear. Doyoung startles, tripping over his own feet and nearly falling over.
“Happy birthday to you,” other voices chime in. Mark smiles widely as he sings. “Happy birthday, our Dongyoungie, happy birthday to you.”
Doyoung blows out the candles, plunging the room into momentary darkness, and then the lights turn on, revealing copious balloons and a banner hung on the walls.
“Happy birthday, hyung,” Mark says, grinning with a cake in his arms.
“You guys were planning a party for me?” Doyoung asks in bewilderment. “This whole time? I had no idea.”
“Yeah, that's because you're oblivious, hyung,” Donghyuck says.
"I can't believe you didn't catch on," Taeyong says. "Johnny and Donghyuckie are terrible at keeping secrets."
"How can we be terrible at it if Doyoung-hyung had no idea?" Donghyuck says, raising his eyebrows and smirking. "I think we were great at keeping a secret."
"That's only because he misinterpreted everything you did," Taeyong says. "You should have heard the conspiracy theories he kept telling me-"
"Taeyong-ah," Doyoung whines.
"-Seriously, he was convinced you two were dating."
The members collectively break out in laughter, and Doyoung hides his burning face in Taeyong's shoulder as the sounds of laughter wash around him. Doyoung picks Johnny's out from the rest. It sounds... manufactured, a little unsure. Doyoung peeks his head up to look at Johnny as teasing comments pour in.
Johnny and Doyoung's eyes meet, and Doyoung finds an odd, uncomfortable expression on Johnny's face. Johnny quickly looks away, for once shying away from eye contact.
“How could you believe anyone would want to date Donghyuck?” Renjun asks, earning him an indignant squawk and leaving him dodging away from Donghyuck's hands.
“Take it back, Huang Renjun!”
Doyoung sighs, and decides to lay the mystery to rest – even if a part of him whispers that it doesn't add up.
It’s been a long day, and Doyoung is looking forward to unwinding in his room. Now that his mystery is solved, he can truly relax.
Doyoung passes the kitchen quietly, startling a little when someone is in there – the light is off, so it's fair. He glances over at them automatically.
Johnny and Donghyuck are standing in front of the fridge, holding each other in a way that looks too intimate to be casual affection. Johnny brushes some hair out of Donghyuck's face and tucks it behind his ear, that familiar soft smile on his face, and Doyoung is not falling into this rabbit hole again, damn it! He's had enough of being teased for their weird behavior-
Johnny kisses Donghyuck once, twice slowly, cupping his jaw tenderly.
Doyoung makes a strangled noise somewhere in his throat, and Johnny startles, pulling back with a jolt.
“Doyoung-ah,” he says in surprise. His face has gone red, and his smile sheepish.
Donghyuck lets out a long-suffering sigh. “Okay, fine, we’re dating, you were right, congratulations on being observant, yes, we were together this whole time, good job, you’re the worst.”
“Why didn't you admit it earlier?” Doyoung asks accusingly.
“We were kinda busy planning your party, so we weren't really planning on telling people yet,” Johnny says. “And then, when Taeyong said you'd thought that, I didn't want to overshadow you by telling everyone right there.”
“You could have told me when I asked you at lunch,” Doyoung says.
“That's what you were talking about? I thought you were trying to get me to reveal your surprise party.”
“You let everyone make fun of me on my birthday!” Doyoung seethes.
Johnny and Donghyuck both laugh with obvious glee at Doyoung's misery.
“Sorry,” Johnny says. “I'll make it up to you – how do you feel about getting revenge?”
“I'm... listening?” Doyoung says, confused.
Donghyuck seems to read Johnny's mind because a devious smirk spreads across his face. “Shall we prank the members, hyung? Before we tell them?”
Ohhh. Doyoung grins back.