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vive la resolution

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Doyoung is in his third year of college when he realizes that his resume is looking, in the most honest of words, completely bare.

It’s not like he’s an underachiever. Far from it. He was a straight-A student in high school, volunteered at the children’s center, and even made student council president his senior year. He had done all the right things to get into his first choice university and had only acted a little bit annoyed when Ten, who had spent more time trying to figure out how to sleep with Oh Sehun than finishing his homework, had also gotten accepted. It’s frankly a sore spot, but Doyoung will overlook it for the fragile sake of their friendship.

So no, Doyoung is not an underachiever. He’s got a respectable major (Economics) with a stellar minor (Political Science) on an ambitious track (Pre-Law) for the exact job he knows he wants (patent lawyer at an IP firm who makes fat stacks of cash). Doyoung knows which law schools he plans on applying to, has them ranked by preference, and has already drafted an LSAT study schedule, which will kick in this coming summer. Career trajectory is a game you have to play and Doyoung has it down to a science, has taken all the notes and ticked all the check boxes, he’s done practically everything he can, except it’s just that...

Law schools these days want something special. Good grades and a near perfect LSAT score only scrape the surface of what admissions are looking for. They want people who are well-rounded, people who are special, people who care

Doyoung does not care. Maybe he did, once upon a time, but Doyoung has long since stopped caring about anything but himself. Doyoung wants a well-paying job in a long-lasting profession that will allow him to work his ass off in his twenties and thirties and retire nicely with plenty of zeroes in his bank account. But in order to get there, he needed to get into law school, and in order to get into law school, he needed to pretend to care.

So he decides to join Model United Nations.

-

“Tell me again why you decided to tag along?” Doyoung asks, exasperated as he finally makes it to the fourth floor of the liberal arts building. The elevator is broken, has been since last year, and god , Doyoung’s ass better be stacked by the end of this semester because these stairs are a fucking workout.

“Why do I need a reason to tag along?” Ten peers innocently from behind his black fringe and the amount of bullshit in his tone makes Doyoung want to throw up. He briefly considers pushing Ten over the stairway railing.

“The flyer said it’s in room 420.” Doyoung ignores Ten’s snort of laughter in favor of scanning the hallway. It’s the first meeting of the semester and Doyoung would rather get there a little early, maybe get some face time with the board before all the members started trickling in. It’s already not ideal, joining as a junior, but his only other choice had been to reinstate membership with the debate team, which would’ve been the metaphorical equivalent of swallowing a knife. Doyoung would just rather not.

It’s a rickety wooden door, 420 engraved in rusty copper, and there’s a piece of notebook paper haphazardly taped to it. It says:

MODEL UN INFO MEETING - 7PM 

in bold, red marker. There’s a coffee stain on the left corner and whoever tore this notebook paper out had done it hastily, judging by the jagged rip on its side. Doyoung eyes it distastefully before twisting the doorknob.

“—and I’m telling you, no more cowboy hats —oh! Hello there!” The student at the classroom podium turns to face the intrusion and Doyoung is immediately met with the sight of what must be the most beautiful human being on Earth.

“Hi,” he stammers. “Is this Model United Nations?”

“Yes!” says the very attractive man, his soft hair flopping adorably as he talks. “Are you thinking about joining this year?”

“Yes?” Doyoung answers, distracted by the sheer amount of enthusiasm radiating from this person. The last time he felt any sort of excitement in his life was when the cafeteria announced that they fixed the soft serve machine, and even that doesn’t seem to hold a candle to how much this beautiful stranger must love Model UN.

“Great!” he exclaims. “What’s your name?”

“Um, Doyoung.”

“Well, hello Doyoung! My name is Taeyong, and I’m this year’s president. Take a seat, we’re just about to start the info meeting!”

Doyoung seats himself in the first desk he sees. He quickly glances behind him, realizing that there’s only four other people in this classroom, and one of them is sleeping. Is this it? he thinks. This can’t be it . Ten saunters to the desk next to one of the four people, slides effortlessly into the seat, and bats his lashes to reveal the absolute worst pair of bedroom eyes.

“Johnny,” he says, artificial surprise dripping from his voice. “I didn’t know you were in Model UN!”

“Uh, yeah,” Johnny says lamely. “Do I know you?”

Doyoung groans inwardly. Of course Ten has an ulterior motive. There’s no reason he would accompany Doyoung to this meeting other than for the express purpose of getting his dick wet. If this causes problems later, Doyoung will not hesitate to claim that he does not know Ten, only just met him today, definitely did not go to high school with that nutcase—

“Okay!” Taeyong says, clapping his hands together. “Before we begin, I would just like to welcome everyone to the first meeting of the year. I would also like to thank my board for getting things up and running. Jaehyun, are you taking minutes?”

Jaehyun, who looks like the human personification of an untoasted bagel, nods from his desk. His fingers are perfectly poised over the keyboard of a laptop opened to a blank Google Doc. A dimple forms on his cheek when he smiles blankly and Doyoung kind of wants to stick a finger in it to see how deep it goes.

“Great! Let’s get started then.” Taeyong dramatically dims the lights, hardly necessary since Doyoung can see clearly what’s on the projector, and switches the screen to a crudely made Powerpoint presentation.

To his credit, Taeyong is great at presenting. He clicks seamlessly through the slides, explaining what MUN is and what they do at meetings, and his voice is oddly soothing, delivering boring information at a frequency of decibels that Doyoung thinks he could listen to all day. There are cat GIFs sprinkled here and there throughout and Doyoung is especially unsettled by the picture of Putin in the conclusion slide, staring directly into his soul. He tries to not look right at it, because he probably won’t be able to look away if he does.

“Well, that’s about it,” Taeyong says, bringing the lights to normal brightness. “Anyone have any questions?”

“Yes,” Johnny says immediately, raising his hand. “Can I leave?”

“No,” Taeyong counters, just as immediate. “I need to talk to you about our budget. Anyone else?”

“Can I leave?” says the person who Doyoung saw was sleeping before. He unsticks his face from the desk and blearily rubs his eyes. “I’m late for soccer practice.”

“Yuta, there’s soccer practice at eight in the evening?” Jaehyun asks, deadpan with a single arched eyebrow. Doyoung is impressed by the dexterity it takes to appear so expressionless, yet so disdained. Jaehyun must have great control over his facial muscles.

“Yeah, it’s called conditioning. Something your inanimate ass wouldn’t understand,” Yuta spits back. “Are we done here? I really have to go.”

“I suppose it’s alright,” Taeyong says, thoughtfully holding his chin. “We’re not facilitating session today, so it’s okay if you go.”

“Cool,” Yuta mutters, slinging an Adidas gym bag over his shoulder. The last person in the room, the one sitting in the way back who Doyoung has not heard speak once, stands up too.

“Actually, I also have to run,” he says, and at least he sounds genuinely apologetic. “Sorry. See you next week?”

“Okay, Taeil.” Taeyong looks strangely unfazed by his members’ unwillingness to stay. He either desperately needed them or was incredibly dense and honestly, both those theories sounded pretty plausible to Doyoung.

“And Taeyong, one more thing,” Taeil says, dropping the volume in his voice even though everyone can still hear him, because there’s a whopping seven people in this otherwise empty classroom. “Judging by the numbers today, I think you’ll have to ask Mark…”

Mark ? Doyoung thinks. Did this club perhaps have more than five members?

“Yeah,” Taeyong agrees with Taeil, sighing deeply. It’s the first time this evening that his smile has truly faltered, a damper on his facade of optimism. In the next second, there’s the sound of chairs scraping against the floor. Johnny and Ten are on their way to leave too.

“I’ll just email you the budget later,” Johnny says, placing a placating hand on Taeyong’s head and ruffling his hair. His height is absolutely towering and he talks kind of like a jock, which gives Doyoung the impression that he belongs on the volleyball court more than the podium of a politics debate club. Speaking of which, why did it seem like all the members here were strangely athletic? Even Taeyong, with his small and lithe frame, looks like he could be a dancer or something, and Doyoung thinks back to his last visit to the gym, where he couldn’t get through two miles on the treadmill without hurling the contents of his lunch into a nearby trash can. Maybe he’ll try table tennis or something.

“Do you have to go?” Taeyong asks, an adorable pout accompanying his eye roll. Johnny just snorts and brings an arm around Ten’s shoulders.

“Yeah,” he says. “I just got asked out to dinner by—“ he turns to Ten, “—what’s your name again?”

“Ten,” Ten supplies helpfully and Doyoung wonders when the fuck in the last fifteen minutes did his friend manage to score a date.

“Yeah, Ten,” Johnny says. “And Wendy’s closes at nine, sooo …”

“Fine, leave,” Taeyong huffs, waving everyone out. It’s a mad scramble to get to the door, Taeil darting out as fast as he can and Yuta’s bag almost smacking Johnny in the face as he trips over his sneakers. There’s a whistling silence when the door slams shut and Doyoung looks at Taeyong, abruptly realizing that they’re the only ones left. 

“So, what did you think?” Taeyong asks, almost shy. Doyoung takes one look into his deep, imploring eyes, and knows for a fact that he is absolutely fucked.

“It was interesting,” he says. It’s not a lie. There was a cute GIF of a tabby cat wearing glasses on the slide about committee decorum. That was interesting.

“That’s good!” Taeyong gives him a wide smile and Doyoung’s heart beats so fast, he thinks it might knock out of his rib cage. “Are you thinking about joining?”

And that’s where Doyoung has trouble. It’s not like he has a problem with the concept of masquerading as a social justice warrior, negotiating his heart out in a conference full of exhausted, power-hungry students. Model UN was actually a well-respected form of debate practice and this chapter seemed to have a knowledgeable president with no shortage of passion for the subject. But the membership was, for lack of a better term, scarce. When Doyoung first walked in, he had expected a bustling room of ambitious speech kids and polisci majors, people he could maybe befriend and then crush under his foot as he used them as a step ladder to climb the ranks, maybe win a recognition award along the way. What he saw today was far from that.

As if sensing his hesitation, Taeyong leans closer and puts a comforting hand on Doyoung’s shoulder. From here, he can smell Taeyong’s cologne, a warm woodsy scent that’s distinctly floral, like the expensive candles his mother likes to light on weekends after they’ve cleaned the house. For a moment, he thinks about asking Taeyong what brand he buys, but contemplates if the appeal would be lost if the mystery was gone. Then Taeyong opens his mouth to speak and god , even his breath smells good.

“I know it doesn’t seem great at first…” Taeyong begins. He bites his lip and Doyoung suddenly realizes how plush they look. “But I really need more members to make roll call at the next conference.” Ah . So that’s what the issue was. “Everyone works really hard. And it’s fun, I promise!”

“When’s the next conference?” Doyoung considers briefly. Maybe he can finagle his way out of this somehow while still letting Taeyong down gently. He could put his name down but barely show up, like an absentee member. And if they really needed him, he could tag along to the conference, the bus ride shouldn’t be too bad—

“It’s in three months!” Taeyong answers cheerfully. “Meetings are here, every week at seven. One month before the conference, we start meeting twice a week for caucus practice and binder checks. And again, it’s super fun! I promise!!”

Taeyong glows with such a positive energy that Doyoung finds himself being sucked in, the great walls of his apathy slowly being broken down. Taeyong is the Sun and Doyoung is just tiny, tiny Mercury, pulled into the orbit of his gravitational pull.

“That does sound interesting…” he trails off, withering under the scrutiny of Taeyong’s hopeful eyes. 

“Awesome!” Taeyong gushes. “Would you like to sign up?”

I would like to take you to Red Lobster . Doyoung’s last two brain cells have apparently jumped ship and he’s resorted to thinking exclusively with his dick. Great.

“Oh,” Taeyong remarks, surprised. “Sure? I do quite like their cheddar bay biscuits.”

In horror, Doyoung slaps a hand over his own mouth. “Oh my god,” he says. “Did I say that out loud?”

“You did,” Jaehyun confirms, typing away at his laptop, and Doyoung belatedly realizes that he’s been here this entire time.

“Are you... transcribing our conversation?” Doyoung asks, fixated on the way Jaehyun’s fingers run furiously over the keyboard, not even stopping when he looks up to speak to Doyoung.

“Yes,” he answers plainly. “I have to take meeting minutes. What if someone who left early wants to know what happened after they left? I hardly think anyone’s memory is good enough to remember.”

Doyoung pulls an agitated noise. “I don’t think Johnny or Yuta care enough to read about the time I asked Taeyong out on a date .”

“It’s a date?” Taeyong asks, the shape of his mouth forming a surprised o.

“Uh,” Doyoung says nervously. Of course it’s a date, why else would anyone go to Red Lobster? He side-eyes Jaehyun, who is still typing. Good to know that he cares so deeply about making sure that Doyoung’s embarrassment is permanently documented for the viewing pleasure of whoever had access to the Model UN Google Drive. “It can be a date. If you want it to be?”

Realizing he now has leverage in this conversation, Taeyong’s eyes light up like a fucking Christmas tree. “Okay, it’s a date!” he proclaims. “But only if you sign up. Is that okay?”

Doyoung looks at him dumbly, trying to justify this to himself. Taeyong, with his angel eyes and honey brown hair, is such a fucking catch. If Doyoung gets to date him, then maybe it’s all worth it. Maybe it’s worth dragging his ass up these stairs every week, writing debate topics about shit like austerity and climate change. Maybe it’s worth taking time out of his day, involving himself with people like Jaehyun and Taeil. Maybe it’s worth registering himself for that conference, prepping a binder and packing a suit and damnit , he really needs that extra resume fodder—

“Yeah,” he blurts. “Put my name down.”

“Great!” Taeyong says. “Jaehyun, you got that?”

“Yeah.” Jaehyun looks at Doyoung, deadpan. “And what about your friend? Does he want to join too?”

Doyoung doesn’t even take a second to answer that question. He thinks about how smug Ten looked when he left with Johnny. If Doyoung was going to hell, he might as well take Ten with him.

“He’s in too. Where do I sign up?”

Taeyong slides out a piece of lined paper, handing him an ink pen with the efficiency of someone who regularly solicits petition signatures on the sidewalk at your local park. “Names and emails here, please.”

“Sure,” Doyoung says, scrawling the details down as fast as he can. Fast, this is all moving so fast. “Is that it? Are we done here?”

“My number?” Taeyong asks and Doyoung feels himself flush. Oh yeah, that would be helpful. He hands over his phone and watches as Taeyong keys in his contact information, tongue poking out between his teeth as he searches for the right emojis. Doyoung didn’t know that someone could possibly look so cute. Maybe it’s the furrow in his brow, maybe it’s the way he types so slowly with his thumbs, but Doyoung’s heart is stuttering when Taeyong hands him back his phone.

“Here you go!” he chirps. Taeyong 🤓 🇺🇳 💕 it reads, and Doyoung briefly wonders if Taeyong is a twelve year old schoolgirl.

“So, um. See you next week?” he says, awkwardly adjusting the strap on his backpack.

“Don’t forget, the meeting is at seven!” Taeyong says. “Oh, and Jaehyun, would you please add them to the listserv—“

“Already done,” Jaehyun says, cold and emotionless. “I’ve made reservations at Red Lobster for next week at eight, so you guys can go right after the meeting.”

“Then it’s settled!” Taeyong claps his hands together with a note of finality. “Can’t wait to see you next week!”

Doyoung leaves in a daze. His phone, now containing Taeyong’s phone number, burns a hole in his pocket. And on his calendar—an event notification for the next Model UN meeting, followed by a Red Lobster date set up so kindly by Jaehyun.

And they say that modern romance is dead.

-

Mark, as it turns out, is Taeyong’s little brother. Even with Doyoung and Ten’s added participation, the club was still short three members of the minimum ten needed to send a team to the conference. As Taeil had insisted last week, Taeyong recruits his little brother and asks him to rope in as many friends as he can. He brings just one.

“Don’t know why I’m here instead of rushing a business frat, but mom doesn’t let me drink, so it’s not like that would’ve worked out anyways.” Mark bursts through the door with the force of a bear and its frame creaks ominously. Behind him, another boy no older than eighteen pokes his head in.

From what Doyoung can gather, Mark is a freshman accounting major who wears Gildan hoodies and thinks he’s cool for owning a beat up pair of Jordans. Donghyuck is the best friend that’s been dragged along who doesn’t hesitate to make it clear that he’s incredibly adept at committing verbal assault.

“Has anyone ever told you that you look like a rabbit?” Donghyuck asks, casually taking a seat right next to Doyoung when there are thirty other perfectly free desks in the classroom. “Not the cute Easter bunnies, but the ugly ones with big teeth? Donnie Darko?”

Doyoung scowls in response. Not many people know this, but the crude language he picked up from bickering daily with Gongmyung could make a sailor blush. He’s about to rip this kid a new asshole when Jaehyun unexpectedly cuts in.

“Lay off, Donghyuck,” he says, ungluing his eyes from his laptop. “If we scare him away, then you’re in charge of recruiting extra members.”

“Shut up, doughboy,” Donghyuck snips. “I don’t need to be taking orders from a sentient loaf of broad.”

Doyoung truly appreciates Jaehyun’s efforts, he really does, but the force he exerts in an effort to not burst into laughter nearly causes him to pop a vein. A laugh threatens to escape but he manages to bite down hard on the inside of his cheek and instead emits a noise that can somewhat be passed off as a strangled cough. Jaehyun gives him a pointed look, then reattaches his gaze back to his laptop screen.

“That’ll be in the notes,” is all he says.

Taeyong and Taeil walk in not a minute later, immersed in deep discussion —about what? Doyoung would love to know. He leans slightly forward and strains his ears to find out what could possibly cause Taeyong, the absolute love of his life, such distress.

“...even with that, it’s just nine,” Taeil whispers none too subtly. “One more, Taeyong. We need one more!”

“Alright,” Taeyong sighs, setting his backpack down by the podium. “I’ll ask—.”

“Yes, thank you,” Taeil says, satisfied. “That would be perfect.” He gives Taeyong an awkward pat on the back before retreating to his usual spot in the back of the classroom.

As Donghyuck and Mark set up the projector under Jaehyun’s watchful eye, Taeyong comes to Doyoung’s desk and nudges him on the shoulder, playful and cute. The level of familiarity they already have is astounding.

“Hi,” Taeyong says, his smile shining with the light of a million suns. “You’re here.”

“I am,” Doyoung replies, not quite sure why they’re staring deep into each other’s eyes while stating obvious facts. His retinas threaten to burn out of his sockets but he manages to maintain eye contact.

“We still on for tonight?” Taeyong asks, his mouth forming a small, demure smile. It’s a stupid question. Of course they are, Doyoung wouldn’t miss it for the world.

“Yes,” he replies, almost robotically.

Taeyong’s smile breaks out into a genuine one, his eyes disappearing into crescents. “Okay, I can’t wait!”

It’s honestly embarrassing how a conversation that’s barely exchanged ten words has Doyoung’s face up in flames. “Can’t wait,” he repeats, dazed.

Taeyong gives a little wave before returning to the podium and Doyoung swears he sees sparkles and little hearts shoot out of his palm. The illusion is broken when Johnny walks through the door, Ten hanging on his arm flirtatiously. Yuta trickles in behind them, making himself comfortable in a desk by leaning back and propping his feet up, a pair of sunglasses perched precariously on his nose even though they’re indoors and the sun is about to set.

“Okay!” Taeyong says when everyone is finally settled. He throws his arms up in excitement. “Committee is now in session! Welcome to the second official meeting of Model United Nations!”

“Taeyong,” Johnny says, rubbing his temples. “Can you please not run the meetings like we’re in General Assembly? It’ll let the power get to Yuta’s head-”

“Decorum! DECORUM!” Yuta shrieks, punctuating each syllable with the slam of a dark, wooden mallet against the top of his desk. Where the fuck did he get that? “Delegate Seo, that comment was out of line. Please apologize or else your speaking rights will be rescinded.”

Johnny exhales sharply. “You see what I mean? We never should’ve made him Gavel Guard.”

“Gavel Guard?” Doyoung asks. “What the fuck is that?” There’s a lot of similarities between MUN and any old debate club, but this is one thing he’s never heard of.

“Every session needs a debate moderator, and we usually rotate the board members for this role,” Taeyong explains calmly. “But at some point, it became too difficult to keep track of whose turn it was, so now that responsibility permanently belongs to Yuta.”

“Yes, exactly,” Yuta says, crossing his arms. “I moderate with the gavel. Permanently. I am the Gavel Guard, facilitator of debate. Guard of the Gavel, if you will.”

Jaehyun snorts. “Yes, that’s what you are formally,” he says, furiously typing away. “But let’s not pretend that this isn’t just a position we gave you so you could feel special. I still can’t believe Taeil let you put it into our by-laws.”

Special ?” Yuta snarls. “At least I’m not some glorified secretary who’s obsessed with taking notes- ”

“OKAY!!!” Taeyong says, flapping his arms frantically. “Stop fighting! Yuta, you’re still the Gavel Guard. But I’ll stop calling session at every meeting. Is that okay??”

Everyone remains silent, which Taeyong seems to take as a positive sign. 

“Alright,” he says, happily shuffling his papers. “Our first and only order of business is to sort out the committees. Each committee is assigned two delegates and together, they will research and debate a variety of topics related to that committee.”

“Um, Taeyong?” Taeil interrupts. “Do you know what country we’ve been assigned?”

Taeyong’s face twists, as if he’s tasted something sour. “They haven’t told us yet, which is weird,” he answers. “They’ve been a little slow this year.”

“I heard it’s because there was a sudden change in sponsors,” Jaehyun interjects, eyes still trained on his laptop.

“Well, they’ll probably get that handled soon,” Taeyong says. “It’ll be a little hard to do research until we get our country, so your only job today will be to meet up with your partner. Get to know each other! You’ll be spending a lot of time together, so it helps to be familiar! Jaehyun, do you have the list?”

“Yes.” Jaehyun hands over a crumpled piece of notebook paper.

“Johnny and Yuta,” Taeyong reads. “You guys will take DISEC.”

“Dope shit,” Johnny says, exchanging a high-five with Yuta. “Y’all ready for some nuclear proliferation?”

“I think you mean nuclear non -proliferation,” Taeil corrects.

Johnny waves him off. “I know what I said.”

Taeyong, who completely ignores the entire exchange like a kindergarten teacher speaking over five year olds, continues reading off the assignments. “Mark and Donghyuck, we’ve put you in ECOFIN.” 

“Awesome!” Mark and Donghyuck both exclaim, and the two of them delve into a complicated handshake that involves elbow taps and jumping jacks.

“Doyoung and Ten, you’re in Legal. Taeil and I will take the Security Council. And Jaehyun, you’re in the World Health Organization by yourself. But don’t worry, we’ll get you a partner soon.”

“Okay,” Jaehyun says robotically, fingertips clacking against the keys. “Do you have any idea who it is?”

“I’ve got some people in mind.”

Doyoung briefly considers if he should take Taeyong’s cryptic statement as some sort of real-life foreshadowing, but thinks better of it when he dejectedly realizes that he’s been paired with Ten.

“Wow,” Ten says, scooting his desk closer to Doyoung’s after Taeyong ordered everyone to break off into their teams. “We should get familiar. Wanna play some icebreakers?”

“I’ve known you since we were babies shitting in our diapers,” Doyoung snaps. “I’m surprised you’re even here.”

“It’s not my first choice of company,” Ten admits, picking at his nails. “But Johnny seems pretty serious about it. Sounds important. And besides, the conference does seem like it could be fun.”

Doyoung suppresses a snort. “Really? He seems serious about it?” He gestures to the corner of the room where Johnny and Yuta are playing Pokémon Go.

“Well, what he said was more along the lines of: this is really important to Taeyong .”

“Oh,” Doyoung frowns, wondering just how long Taeyong and Johnny have known each other. “They seem close, don’t they?”

“Sure,” Ten says, bringing his hands to cradle Doyoung’s face. “But enough about Johnny. I heard you have a date later?”

Doyoung recoils in disgust. “Can you not touch me ,” he hisses, slapping Ten’s hands away. “And yes, I have a date after this. Somehow. Don’t really know how that happened.”

“Oh, I know exactly how it happened,” Ten says wickedly. “Jaehyun really gets every last detail in there.”

“Shit, people actually read the minutes?” Doyoung genuinely thought that Jaehyun’s records would stay untouched in a dusty cloud folder that nobody opened.

“Oh, Doyoung,” Ten says, thoughtfully tapping a finger on his chin. “You really know nothing about running a club, do you? This is why you got kicked off the debate t - ”

If Ten had finished that sentence, Doyoung would’ve strangled him. However, he doesn’t get to experience the joy of wrapping his fingers around Ten’s neck and choking the life out of him because Yuta chooses that moment to stand up and announce to the room:

“Sorry, gotta go. Soccer practice.”

“If he’s leaving, then I’m going too,” Johnny says, getting out of his seat too. “Ten, you coming?”

“Be right there!” Ten gathers his things and turns to shoot an obnoxious wink in Doyoung’s direction. “Have fun tonight.”

“Thanks, I’ll try,” Doyoung deadpans.

After the jocks leave, no one else really wants to stick around either. Mark tugs Donghyuck’s sleeve, insisting that they’re late for Bible study (on a Tuesday ? Doyoung thinks. It must be a euphemism for a wild party or something) and even Jaehyun starts packing his things up, albeit leaving his laptop out probably in case anyone decides to say something of value or mildly embarrassing so he can take it into the minutes.

It’s nearly eight and Taeyong is still in deep discussion with Taeil about god knows what. Doyoung tries his best not to appear impatient but the Uber will take at least fifteen minutes and he’d rather not eat dinner too late. It’s bad for digestion. Taeyong takes immediate notice. 

“Sorry, Taeil,” he apologizes. “But I have to go.”

“We’ll pick this up next week,” Taeil agrees. “I’ll draft the voting blocs, just make sure you have a game plan for unmod caucus.”

“I’ll email the sec gen too,” Taeyong adds. “I have a feeling that they’ll spring a special committee on us this year.”

Even with Taeyong’s stellar presentation last week that included an entire slide about MUN vocab, Doyoung barely understands even half of what they’re talking about. To him, this indicates that Taeyong and Taeil are the only ones who truly give a shit about this club. Two out of the nine people in their membership actually gave a flying fuck about Model UN. Doyoung feels like he’s on a sinking ship, doomed from the start, with no one to blame but himself. After all, he is the one who willingly got on in the first place, tempted by their illustrious and frankly, smoking hot president. But, he thinks, if all else fails, at least this can be an extra two lines on his resume.

“Ready?” Taeyong smiles, lightly tapping his fingers on Doyoung’s desk.

“Yes,” Doyoung says, scrambling to shove everything into his backpack. “I’m ready.” He pulls the last zipper tight and stands up way too fast, legs wobbling as the dizziness rushes to his head.

“Are you alright?” Taeyong asks, concerned. He’s suddenly much too close, placing a warm hand behind Doyoung’s neck to help steady him. From here, Doyoung has to look down to get a full view of his face and god, he really was beautiful from any angle. Taeyong’s fingers on his neck are cool to the touch but burning hot on his skin.

“I’m fine,” he says quickly, leading them out the door lest he implode. “You want me to call a car?”

“That won’t be necessary,” Taeyong replies, reaching into his pocket to pull out a ring of keys. “I can take us.”

-

“I still can’t believe you drive a Tesla,” Doyoung marvels as Taeyong pulls into the parking lot.

Taeyong just shrugs. “Good for the environment,” he says, and Doyoung tries not to think about how loaded his family must be to let him drive around their shitty campus in a car like this.

Though it’s a Tuesday, Red Lobster is filled to the brim with customers and Doyoung finds himself strangely grateful that Jaehyun had the foresight to call ahead. As they slide into a cozy booth, Doyoung comments, “Thank god he made reservations.”

Taeyong hums in acknowledgment. “Yes, Jaehyun is good for things like that.” He flips open a menu. “I don’t know what I would do without my VP.”

“I thought Jaehyun was secretary?” Doyoung asks, perusing the selection of pasta.

“Oh, we don’t have a secretary,” Taeyong clarifies. “Not enough people. But Jaehyun is more than happy to fill in the gaps. We’re truly lucky to have him.”

Doyoung almost snorts. “Well, he’s certainly very, ah ...detail-oriented?”

Taeyong doesn’t appear to pick up on Doyoung’s sarcasm. “Jaehyun has always been a neat person, but he’s extra dedicated to MUN now that he doesn’t have soccer to fill up his time anymore.”

“He played soccer?” That wouldn’t have been Doyoung’s first guess but he supposed that it does make sense. Jaehyun has a tall frame and broad shoulders. His body seems naturally built for sports, even if his face was more suited to things like volunteering at your local animal shelter.

“Yes, he was on the university team with Yuta,” Taeyong confirms, still immersed in the menu. “They were even slated for co-captains at some point.” It’s hard not to catch the caveat in his sentence.

“He doesn’t play anymore,” Doyoung observes.

Taeyong’s eyes dart up in dull alarm, like he’s almost said something he shouldn’t have. He seems to consider for a moment, and the brief flicker of hesitation disappears immediately. “He tore his ACL halfway through last year,” Taeyong explains. “It landed him in a hospital bed for more than a month, so he quit the team. I’m telling you this so you won’t bring it up later. As you can imagine, it’s a—”

“Sensitive topic, got it,” Doyoung nods. “Are you ready to order?”

“Almost,” Taeyong says. His expression turns coy as he taps the cocktail menu. “Wanna drink?”

Doyoung would laugh if he wasn’t so surprised. “How do you know I’m 21?” he asks, quite sure that he’s never disclosed his age in the three conversations they’ve exchanged since they met.

“It’s in your student profile,” Taeyong mumbles, suddenly finding great interest in his cuticles. “Saw it when I added your name to our roster.” He looks up at Doyoung, waiting for a response.

Well, it’s not as embarrassing as accidentally liking someone’s year-old Instagram picture, but it’s a start. The prospect that Taeyong is interested in Doyoung is absolutely thrilling. Sure, he said yes to this date, but that could’ve just been a ruse to get Doyoung to join MUN. This, however, is something. This, Doyoung will take.

“What’s my major?” he asks, amused. “You must have seen that too, right?”

“Econ,” Taeyong answers, blushing brightly but refusing to break eye contact. “Pre-law track. You’re smart, aren’t you?”

Doyoung nearly glows at the compliment. “Only a little,” he shrugs, unable to control his smile. “What are you? Global Studies?”

“Ah, no. I’m in the business school.” Taeyong twists a napkin under his fingers, almost sheepish. “Finance and marketing.”

“I see,” Doyoung remarks, tilting his head in contemplation. That definitely wasn’t his first guess. “I take it that Mark is following in your footsteps?”

“Oh, no, ” Taeyong laughs. “Mark chose Accounting. We couldn’t be more different.”

Well, that’s a little off from how Doyoung would put it. He thinks back to four years ago, his own aversion to coming anywhere near an engineering field. As if he needed one more thing to offer up for comparison with Gongmyung. The memory leaves a bitter taste. He compresses the thought.

“So, drinks?” he says instead. “Don’t you have class tomorrow?”

Please? ” Taeyong asks, looking up his lashes. “Just one?” The sight shoots straight into Doyoung’s chest, makes him weak. As if he could say no.

“Okay,” he says. “Count me in.”

Taeyong is, in all manners of speaking, absolutely captivating. He smiles shyly when complimented, gasps adorably when he’s surprised, and has just the right amount of funny stories to keep the two of them entertained throughout dinner. The only thing that Doyoung is able to materially gather from their conversation is that Taeyong is really cute. From his habit of laughing behind one hand to the way his eyes crinkle when he smiles, Taeyong is just really fucking cute. Doyoung might be getting too presumptuous here, but he thinks he’s falling a little in love, which is mildly alarming since they’ve known each other for like a week.

“ - and that’s why I said no more cowboy hats!” Taeyong exclaims, twirling linguine around his fork. “I don’t care if Johnny says that’s how they do it in the Midwest, it’s just not a good idea.”

The anecdote is amusing but the number of times Johnny has popped up in this conversation raises another concern. “Are you guys close?” Doyoung asks, unable to hold back. The man in question is aloof and towering, and Doyoung finds himself wary.

“Johnny? Oh please,” Taeyong waves dismissively. “He’s a huge teddy bear. I’ve known him since middle school . Yuta too. They’re practically my brothers at this point.”

Ah, Doyoung thinks. The power of long-term friendship. “I figured as much,” he says. “They otherwise don’t really seem like the type to—“

“—to join a political debate club?” Taeyong finishes. “Yeah, I know. I dragged them to the first info meeting when we were freshmen because I was too scared to go alone. They’ve been nice enough to stick around since, although I’m sure they couldn’t care less about the stuff we do.”

Oh. So Taeyong knows they don’t care.

“Does that bother you?” Doyoung asks, thinking about their blatant indifference and Taeyong’s willingness to overlook it. “Does it bother you that they don’t care?”

Taeyong stays quiet and for a moment, Doyoung fears that he’s somehow crossed a line — Ten likes to say that when Doyoung was created, God gave him too much factual brilliance and compensated by withholding his emotional intelligence. While Doyoung does find it hard to be empathetic at times, he defends that he’s still capable of being nice. It just takes a little more effort.

“Sorry,” he blurts. “If that question was a bit - ”

Taeyong reaches across the table and plucks a biscuit from their basket. He gingerly breaks it in two and gives Doyoung one of the halves.

‘You’ve got to help my finish these,” he says, stuffing a piece into his mouth. “So we can ask for another basket and take them home.”

“Oh,” Doyoung says dully. “Okay.”

He takes a small bite, about to fully accept his punishment for being an insensitive jerk, when Taeyong speaks up again.

“It doesn’t bother me,” he says, smiling as if to reassure Doyoung that his feelings aren’t hurt. “I don’t mind because I know that they come just to spend some time with me. And besides, I believe everyone could use a little bit of MUN in their lives, don’t you think? 

Doyoung doesn’t quite understand what Taeyong means by that, because he knows plenty of people who live happily without subjecting themselves to hours of current events research. But he doesn’t say anything because Taeyong looks so content, telling Doyoung all about the crazy things that can happen during conference, and it would be a shame to shatter anything at this point.

-

Every relationship has its honeymoon phase but a little known fact is that every friendship has one too. Doyoung knows this is true because within the first month of knowing Sicheng, they cleaned out half his Netflix queue and probably went through more bags of Cool Ranch Doritos than what was medically recommended. There was a time, long ago, when he saw Kun almost every day instead of just once a month. Time and time again, the point remains: every friendship has its honeymoon phase, then it cools down. This is fact.

Every fact, however, has exceptions. The anomaly here is that the honeymoon phase with Ten never ended. It’s been literal decades since they were first introduced to each other as infants and Ten is just as likely to burst into Doyoung’s apartment today as he was back in elementary school when Doyoung’s mother kept the front door unlocked with the knowledge that Ten would always turn up sometime after class ended. Maybe Doyoung should stop making copies of his keys for Ten but it’s force of habit at this point. Who else was going to water his plants while he was out of town? Certainly not Sicheng.

This is why Doyoung is completely unsurprised when he returns home from class and finds Ten lounging in his living room.

“What do you want?” he says, neglecting all pretenses of a normal greeting. Then he notices that Ten has his laptop open, papers laid out on his coffee table. Is Ten actually doing work ?

“Why do you always look so surprised when you see me being diligent?” Ten asks, offended.

“I’m not surprised,” Doyoung amends, schooling his face into the most neutral expression he can muster. It’s incredibly fake. “Good to see you too. What are you working on there?”

“I thought we could get started on our committee research,” Ten says, scrolling down the trackpad of his laptop. “International law can get tricky, you know?”

The mention of MUN nearly petrifies Doyoung. “Oh,” he says, stricken. “I assumed that we would just wing it half an hour before the next meeting.”

Ten rolls his eyes, none too friendly. “You might want to change your approach. How did your date go, by the way?”

Doyoung flops onto his couch, his head hanging over the armrest. “Oh, Ten. He’s perfect .”

“Wow, that good?” Ten cocks an eyebrow. “How far did you get?”

Doyoung makes a disgruntled noise. “He let me hold his hand, if that counts.”

To be fair, they had done a little more than that. They had stopped after drink number one because Taeyong needed to drive later. He had parked on the curb outside Doyoung’s apartment and offered to walk him to the door. At the sidewalk, their hands awkwardly brushed so Doyoung made it more awkward by lacing their fingers together. Then Taeyong kissed him good night with a peck on the cheek. That last part sounds so wretchedly vanilla that Doyoung purposely omits it.

“Are you planning on making this a prolonged thing?” Ten asks. “Although I guess you do have to, at this point.”

A frown makes itself present on Doyoung’s face. “Ten,” he says. “As much as I would love to pound his ass into the mattress, I think Taeyong’s the type to take it slow. So yes, this is prolonged.”

“Oh, that’s such a pity.” Ten has the audacity to sound sympathetic. “I’ve already hit several home runs with Johnny, if you know what I mean.”

The bit of fear that Doyoung had of Johnny goes down a little, as well as some respect, but he can’t judge too much since he has Ten over here, sprawled out on his couch.

“Well, I wish you the best of luck with that,” he says. Ten snorts at the thinly veiled sarcasm but the joke’s on him because Doyoung isn’t being sarcastic at all. Whatever was going on between Johnny and Ten, he sincerely hoped that it would last as long as possible. It would become incredibly problematic if the original incentive Ten had for joining MUN disappeared, inevitably leave Doyoung to brave those fourth-floor stairs alone. It would also, Doyoung realizes, leave him as a lone delegate in their committee. That sounds like way too much work for a commitment he’s only pretending to care about and Doyoung abruptly remembers why he joined this stupid club in the first place.

“Whatever,” he says, pulling his laptop from his bag. “Let’s just do this research and get it over with.”

-

Doyoung knows he joked before about becoming a social justice warrior but he wishes he didn’t jinx himself like that because it turns out that Taeyong kind of is one.

It started out small. Taeyong would wrinkle his nose when Doyoung walked into meetings with a plastic straw sticking out of his drink or lightly scold him when he threw things out in the wrong recycling bin. Doyoung isn’t one to violently slap the clipboard out of someone’s hand when they try to get him to sign some environment-saving petition, so he takes it all in stride. Everyone’s got their flaws and maybe Taeyong’s only one is that he’s a little bit annoying about saving the Earth.

But being apathetic is one thing and being apathetic while trying to date someone who thinks protests are a regular Tuesday afternoon activity is something else entirely.

It’s hard to ignore these things when the amount of time they spend together only increases. It used to just be Model UN meetings and text conversations (if the crazy-hot scale applies, then Taeyong might be certifiably insane, so Doyoung is trying to take it slow here, you know, see what he’s getting himself into), but now they talk every day, nearly see each other every day. It’s like a runaway train, barreling through the tracks with no chance of stopping, and Doyoung isn’t sure if he wants it to stop. Taeyong is so nice and sweet and pretty and the more study dates they go on, the more meals they shared, and the more time they spend together as a whole— it travels to a point where Taeyong’s radical tendencies are getting increasingly harder to ignore.

At first, it seemed like Taeyong was solely concerned with the environment. But slowly, Doyoung began to realize that his interest is spread out across multiple camps, including gay rights. Doyoung always thought that he did enough for the gay community by simply existing, but its apparent that Taeyong disagreed with that sort of sentiment. Or any sort of sentiment that justified doing nothing as the right thing.

Doyoung receives a Facebook event invite one morning for a queer pride march in the next town over, which he promptly decides to ignore because one, it’s a Saturday , and two, there were many things he could better devote his time to than parade down a street under the hot sun in multi-colored clothing. He later comes to regret this decision because it lands him into a floundering conversation with a very sad Taeyong, who had apparently purchased matching rainbow flags for them to wave around.

“You could’ve told me you were busy,” Taeyong pouts and Doyoung writhes in silent agony because he hadn’t been busy at all. He slept in until one in the afternoon that day and then wrote half the intro paragraph of his econometrics term paper. It was, by general standards, a pretty productive day.

“I’m sorry,” he apologizes, bringing a hand to Taeyong’s cheek in what he hopes can be interpreted as a gesture of comfort. Taeyong, in many manners of speaking, is quite similar to a cat and he leans into the hold, seemingly appeased by physical touch.

“Okay,” he says, pressing a soft kiss to Doyoung’s palm. “Just let me know next time.”

It’s nothing, really. Just the light touch of Taeyong’s lips, absolutely searing on the skin of Doyoung’s hand. The mood has instantly slipped into something more desirable, electricity in the air as Taeyong opens his eyes in slow motion, staring deep into Doyoung with his beautiful eyes.

“Promise?” he says. A simple question, but Doyoung would give his life at this moment if Taeyong just asked.

Doyoung manages to keep his cool. An astounding accomplishment, but he has little time to congratulate himself. How he responds in the next three seconds will determine his happiness for life, or at least the next couple days. He places his free hand on Taeyong’s waist and pulls him in, their chests nearly flush.

“Promise,” he says before leaning down to kiss Taeyong.

There’s something wonderful about kissing someone for the first time, vividly exciting and transient in the brief moments where the gap between lips finally close. Doyoung feels high on it, ecstatic when Taeyong kisses back in equal measure. He sucks on Doyoung’s bottom lip, moving his tongue in a manner that destroys any assumption of inexperience, and Doyoung is thrilled, can’t wait to do this again when they haven’t even finished now. Can’t wait to kiss under the isolated cover of library study dates, steal them in the brief moments before before Taeyong had to leave for exec meetings (which Doyoung is pretty sure is just fifteen minutes of Taeyong talking, Jaehyun typing, and Johnny blankly staring at their Excel budget sheet before eventually closing it without making any changes). Can’t wait for more moments like this, where they’re buried deep in the privacy of Doyoung’s apartment, sharing this moment on the comfortable cushion of his living room couch.

Taeyong whines, high in the back of his throat. His hands curl around Doyoung’s shoulders, hanging on for dear life as he’s thoroughly kissed. Doyoung inhales his exhale, enamored by how desperate Taeyong seems, readily opening up as he lets Doyoung lick into his mouth. It’s good, it’s so good, and it’s about to get better as Doyoung trails his fingers along the hem of Taeyong’s shirt, inching up and under the fabric to revel in the touch of Taeyong’s bare waist—

Taeyong abruptly breaks the kiss, pupils dilated and lips slick with spit but expression completely serious. 

“We should go,” he says, pushing back. He moves to stand up.

Doyoung blinks. “What?” he says after finally gaining control of his bodily functions, but not before taking a brief moment to wistfully mourn their lack of proximity.

“The meeting is in half an hour,” Taeyong explains simply, already gathering his things like they didn’t just have the hottest makeout session on this very couch. “We’re doing a workshop on unmoderated caucuses today! It’ll be so fun, do you want to come help set up?”

And this is how Doyoung knows that this— whatever it is that they have going on between them —is real. The response flies out of his mouth without any thought and he can practically hear Ten calling him whipped.

“I’ll come,” Doyoung says, immediate and with no deliberation at all. His own lack of hesitation terrifies him, but he doesn’t really have time to think about that as Taeyong grabs his hand, smiling sweetly.

They leave together, the rainbow flags left forgotten on Doyoung’s coffee table, and that had been that.

That incident turns out to be the equivalent of slapping a bandaid on a stab wound. Some weeks later, Taeyong, in his frustration of seeing Doyoung use disposable plastic water bottle after disposable plastic water bottle, buys him a reusable one. To be specific, an 18 ounce black Hydro Flask with interchangeable lids. Yes, one of those fancy thermos bottles that cost fifty dollars and takes forever to open. Doyoung regards it with muted horror as he takes it out of the gift bag.

“Do you like it?” Taeyong asks, his eyes practically sparkling.

Doyoung shoves it back into the bag. “I love it,” he says. Like a liar.

It’s not that the water bottle is bad. It’s great, actually. It looks aesthetically pleasing, keeps hot and cold temperatures for up to five hours, and fits perfectly into the side pouch of Doyoung’s backpack. It’s almost painful how considerate Taeyong had been in his choice of gift. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a gift. Doyoung’s problem with this isn’t that it’s a fancy water bottle, but that it’s a fancy water bottle given to him by Taeyong .

This is the first physical thing that’s been produced from their relationship. Up until now, it’s been emoji-ridden texts and flirtatious glances across the room during MUN meetings. And furious makeout sessions on Doyoung’s couch, ever since they moved on from the rainbow flag debacle, though Taeyong seemed hesitant to take things any further despite having no problem at all with sucking purple hickies into Doyoung’s neck. (It’s fine. Doyoung knows he’ll be rewarded in due time.)

The water bottle is real and it freaks Doyoung out. It’s just a fucking water bottle he thinks and somewhere buried in there is a comment about how physical possessions are unimportant in the grand scheme of things. But philosophical permanence or not, the water bottle exists and its existence torments Doyoung. He can’t even so much as look at it without thinking of Taeyong. Taeyong, with his angel face and soft hair. Taeyong, who’s only weakness seems to be that he cares too much about everything .

“I don’t get it,” Ten says as they climb up the last flight of stairs. “It’s a water bottle. If you guys break up, you can just throw it out. Or better yet, give it to me. Hydro Flasks don’t come cheap, you know.”

Doyoung agrees. Hydro Flasks don’t come cheap. If he and Taeyong break up for whatever reason, it would only make sense for him to somehow find a way to dispose of it. He could probably fetch a decent resale price for it on eBay. (Why the fuck would he give it to Ten? He sees Ten nearly every day, which is counterproductive to the goal of getting rid of the bottle, and seeing Ten actually use it would probably exacerbate the problem instead of solving it.)

“Sure, you can have it,” he says as noncommittally as possible.

“And Jesus, would it kill you to put some concealer on your neck? If I didn’t know any better, I would say that Taeyong’s teething or something.”

Whatever snarky retort Doyoung has to that dies in his throat because he flings open the door to Room 420 and comes face-to-face with someone who looks very very familiar.

“This is Jungwoo!” Taeyong introduces, and Doyoung’s blood turns to ice water in his veins. “I’ve brought him over from our school’s debate team. Starting today, he’ll be our tenth member!”

“Oh, Doyoung,” Jungwoo says. “What a pleasant surprise.” His tone implies that it’s not.

“Hello, Jungwoo,” Doyoung says diplomatically.

“You guys already know each other?” Taeyong says, relentlessly cheerful. “That’s great!”

How Taeyong and Jungwoo know each other is beyond him, but what Doyoung does know is that Jungwoo is a prominent member of their university’s prestigious debate team, which means he is more or less completely tuned into the drama of Doyoung’s seasoned past.

Generally speaking, the expulsion of Doyoung from the debate team was not the tumultuous affair that people made it out to be. Doyoung, in a moment where he was unable to hold himself back, had simply said something he shouldn’t have and everyone, including himself, had decided it was best that he leave. In most situations, Doyoung likes to think he knows how to compromise. He knows how to pretend and how to lie, most of the time. This was not one of those times.

Needless to say, there was a lot to unpack as to why he had acted out the way he did, but judging by how unexpectedly invested in MUN he was becoming, it was probably going to come to light soon. Maybe even today. After all, tonight is when they have their first mock debate scheduled.

“For our first practice round, we’ll start out with something general,” Taeyong suggests. “Let’s do environmental policies.” Of course . “ Yuta, are you ready to moderate?”

“Always,” Yuta says, taking Taeyong’s place at the podium. The polished wood of his gavel shines menacingly. “Debate is now in session.”

Johnny immediately raises his hand.

“Yes?” Yuta acknowledges.

“Motion to set speaking time to thirty seconds.”

“Motion accepted, I need two delegates in favor.”

“Um, point of order,” Taeil interrupts. “Motions to set speaking time are not valid until the second committee session. Or debate, in this case.”

“Fuck,” Johnny swears. “I completely forgot about that rule.”

Doyoung’s eyes dart around the room, briefly assessing his own lack of knowledge. He’s not a complete asshole, so he did manage to carve out half an hour of yesterday to lightly read over the procedural rules. But the pace of this meeting is happening much too quickly for someone with his inexperience. Maybe he’ll ask Taeyong for some one-on-one help (which might lead to other, less educational activities. Doyoung likes to keep an open mind.)

“Taeil’s correct,” Yuta announces. “We generally do not set speaking times in the first session. However, I will allow a speaker’s time limit of one minute due to the fact that we don’t have all fucking day here. All in favor, please raise your hand.”

Everyone seems to raise their arms, so Doyoung weakly throws up his hand too.

“Motion passed.” Yuta lightly taps his gavel on the podium. “I will now open the floor to speakers, with a speaking limit of one minute.”

“Just a reminder,” Taeyong says. “The point of this debate is so we can get practice. I would prefer if everyone spoke at least once today!”

Donghyuck’s arm shoots up.

“Donghyuck, you have been recognized,” Yuta says. “Your sixty seconds start now.”

“Thanks, man,” Donghyuck says. He stands up and places his hands on his hips. “So, like, get this. People everywhere are dying, which is concerning I guess , but that means we also forget that Mother Earth is totally dying too. We’ve got oil spills, we’ve got climate change, we’ve got plastic straws threatening the extinction of turtles . So I guess what I’m saying is that people need to step the fuck up and stop the Amazon from burning. Thanks. I yield my time to the chair.”

“Very good!” Taeyong compliments. “You’ve presented your point, provided some facts, and offered a plan of action, although some of those statements do lack correlation. Great job! Who wants to go next? Remember, everyone should speak at least once!” 

Doyoung doesn’t know if Taeyong is being nice or if he actually thinks Donghyuck did a good job, because Doyoung has seen third graders come up with better speeches. But the thought is quickly overtaken when Ten raises a hand, quickly glancing behind to shoot Doyoung a smug look as Yuta calls out his name. Nothing good can come from this.

“Ten, you have been recognized to speak.”

“Good evening, delegates,” Ten greets cordially and Doyoung literally wants to throw up. “Donghyuck’s speech here really set the tone but I can’t help but think that this debate needs a little more direction. Perhaps a call to action with material substance. So I would like to propose a resolution which bans the production and sale of disposable plastic water bottles. Benefits are that...there would be less litter? Yes, thanks. I yield my time to the chair.”

Doyoung rolls his eyes. Ten’s entire speech was complete horseshit. He’s in the middle of thinking about considering the possibility of maybe speaking next when Jungwoo lifts his arm.

“Jungwoo, you have been recognized to speak.”

Doyoung steels himself for what’s about to come next. Of course, his best friend and worst enemy would be teaming up to find some way to piss him off. The multiverse likely exists but Doyoung is pretty sure that there is no world where he doesn’t reside in a living hell. Honestly, he should’ve anticipated this.

“Hello, everyone,” Jungwoo says in that fake NPR voice of his. “I would like to commend my colleague, Ten, for presenting such a profound idea. I would also like to lend my support by providing a second to his resolution. Moving forward, we would simply require a majority vote to pass this monumental proposal. I implore you to vote for, not against. After all, shouldn’t every day be Earth Day?” He pastes on a smile and it’s so fake that Doyoung isn’t sure what’s more plastic, Jungwoo or the water bottles that Taeyong wants him to stop using.

“Wow!” Taeyong exclaims. “We’ve already got a resolution on the floor. Yuta, may I speak next?”

“Of course, president. You have been recognized.”

“Thanks!” Taeyong projects the presence of an unconditionally proud parent as he stands up and brightly claps his hands together. “First off, I just want to say that I’m very impressed with what we’ve seen so far. Session can get long and redundant, but I’m glad to see that we’ve moved so quickly to the topic of a resolution. On that note, I would also like to lend my support for this resolution. Implementation wouldn’t be easy, but it would definitely help the environment!”

Doyoung feels something inside him snap. Model UN is fake, he knows. Nothing they discuss in this room will ever leave or take form outside of here. It’s all just pretend — that’s what they’re doing, pretending . They’re pretending to be diplomats who are pretending to solve world issues by pretending to write committee resolutions. All of it is not real .

But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t at least try to keep it realistic. A ban on plastic water bottles? Are you fucking kidding? Ten had clearly pulled that out of his ass. And what’s worse is Jungwoo’s full support of the matter, which Doyoung is fully convinced that Jungwoo only offered as a way to piss him off. Doyoung knows, has seen Jungwoo expertly tear down the most sound arguments with an arsenal of facts and statistics. Ten’s proposal is flimsy at best, full of holes and weaker than a piece of paper flapping in the wind. It’s the kind of thing that wouldn’t last two seconds on a real debate floor.

And the thing that really gets Doyoung, that irritates him beyond belief, the real cherry on top , is Taeyong’s willingness to readily accept everything at hand. It’s fine that he hates straws and displays higher than normal enthusiasm for recycling. It’s fine that he hates litter and bought Doyoung a fucking expensive water bottle, but does Taeyong really think he can change the world? Does he really think a resolution like this would fly in an actual conference?

What? ” Doyoung bursts, incredulous and uncontrollable. “You can’t be serious.”

“Delegate Kim!” Yuta nearly screeches, banging his gavel ferociously. “You have not been recognized to speak!”

Doyoung is smart and if he was smarter, he’d keep his mouth shut. But he is who he is, and who he is is someone with a relentless nagging in the back of his head, telling him that he always needs to be right .

“May I be recognized to speak?” Doyoung asks through gritted teeth.

Yuta crosses his arms. “Only if Taeyong yields his time.”

“I yield my time,” Taeyong says quietly, peering at Doyoung with honest curiosity. If only he knew what was coming.

Yuta grunts. “Doyoung, you’ve been recognized.”

Doyoung stands up, because he wants to assert dominance and when he speaks, he wants all eyes in the room on himself. The only thing worse than being hated is being ignored.

“Are you guys comedians?” he begins. “Because this resolution is a fucking joke.”

Mark audibly gasps.

“Here we go,” Ten whispers.

“Ah,” Jungwoo murmurs.

“I know there’s only a couple people in this room, but it’s absolutely preposterous that a one-clause resolution could move forward so quickly. Not to mention the fact that the clause is not only generalized but extremely broad, offering no specification or detail as to how to go about execution.”

Doyoung whips his head back, glaring at Ten. He continues,

“You cannot simply assume that banning plastic water bottles will lead to less litter. There needs to be research or at least statistics calculating the percentage of litter that’s contributed by plastic bottles. What if it’s less than one percent? What good will eliminating plastic bottles do? Not to mention the economic repercussions. Do you think the plastics lobby will stand for this? What about the consumer? Disposable water bottles may be wasteful, but they present a convenient and cheap method for drinking and transporting liquid. Not everyone can afford expensive non-disposable bottles—“

“Like the fancy one you have?” Jaehyun interjects.

Yes ,” Doyoung huffs. “Like the one I have. If we’re trying to save the Earth, then the intent should at least be layered with plausible compromises which—“

“Time,” Yuta calls out.“Your sixty seconds are up.”

“I’m not finished,” Doyoung scoffs, frustrated at being interrupted for the second time.

“Point of order,” Taeil says. “Doyoung, you can motion to extend your speaking time.”

“Thanks, Taeil.” At least someone here was trying to be helpful. “Motion to extend my speaking time.”

“Motion denied,” Yuta objects. “Taeyong wants everyone to speak at least once today and like I said before, we don’t have all fucking day here.”

Irritated, Doyoung pathetically folds himself into his seat, dissatisfied at the unfinished state of his speech. As Mark raises his hand to speak, stuttering through some stats about ocean pollution, Doyoung feels a light nudge on his arm.

He turns around to see the wide-eyed face of Taeyong and all the anger in Doyoung’s body immediately dissipates, replaced with dismay. Here it goes , he thinks. He’d snapped, went off on all his peers, unable to avoid his habit of preaching to an audience, and now Taeyong knows how much of an asshole he is and they were going to break up. It was going to happen sooner or later, he just didn’t think so soon.

“Great speech. That was good,” Taeyong whispers. “You were really good.”

“Thanks?” Doyoung whispers back, surprised at how calmly Taeyong is handling his outburst. “You’re not upset?”

“Why would I be upset?” Taeyong asks honestly. “You’re so good at arguing. That’s the kind of skill that we need at conferences.” And then he turns his attention back to Mark, leaving Doyoung nonplused.

“Yes, Doyoung. You’re quite good at arguing,” Jungwoo says from behind Doyoung. “It was nice to see you in action again.”

“Oh, piss off,” Doyoung mutters, not even bothering to turn and look at Jungwoo. That’s where most people made their mistake— assuming that Jungwoo looks as mean as he sounds.

“By the way,” Jungwoo adds as an afterthought. “I like your water bottle.”

“Thanks,” Doyoung croaks. “I like it too.”

-

Somewhere down the line, Doyoung realizes that if taken seriously, Model UN is actually a lot of work.

The week before the conference, or Crunch Week, as Johnny likes to call it, coincides with the end of midterms. So not only is Doyoung completely sleep-deprived from pulling two all-nighters for his Advanced Macroeconomic Theory exam, but he also has to show up to MUN meetings and pretend to care about things like human trafficking. There was a time in his life when he could simply go home after class and pass out until the next day, but it’s a distant and profound memory. He can barely remember what it was like to bask in such a luxury.

“Good news, guys!” Taeyong announces, way too cheerful for someone who fell asleep on his finance textbook at four in the morning (Doyoung remembers looking fondly across the desk before realizing that he himself still had five more chapters to review).

“Good news?” Donghyuck asks. “You’re cancelling this meeting and sending us home?”

“No,” Taeyong replies. “We finally got our country!”

“Dope,” Mark comments. “What is it?”

Taeyong turns to his VP, an uncharacteristically blank smile on his face. “Jaehyun, would you like to announce that information?”

Jaehyun mirrors his exact expression and shakes his head, an alarming emptiness in his eyes. “No, president. The honor should belong to you.”

“No, I insist,” Taeyong says.

Jaehyun twitches. “No, I insist.”

There’s about another thirty seconds of prolonged eye contact, a silent war waging between them that Doyoung finds most unsettling, but he soon finds out why. Taeil throw his arms up in frustration, huffing irritably.

“It’s fine, I can break the news,” he snaps. “We’ve been assigned North Korea.”

A beat of silence.

“Oh, no way—“

“Is this a joke?”

“I’m psychic,” Johnny says, a wild look entering his eyes. “I told you we would get to nuke things.” Beside him, Yuta whoops in excitement.

Jungwoo’s face pales slightly and Doyoung finds the color most satisfying. “So I have to negotiate in the World Health Organization...as North Korea?”

“Correct,” Jaehyun confirms, typing savagely as he no doubt captures all their reactions to this news for the minutes. “Although I wouldn’t say North Korea. Formally, it’s the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK for short.”

“This is nothing,” Taeil scoffs, nose buried deep in his research binder. “Just be glad we didn’t get Djibouti. Or worse, France .”

“True,” Johnny agrees. “I’d take Kim Jong Un jokes over booty puns any day.”

The scraping of chairs on tile grates on Doyoung’s ears as everyone moves seats to break off into their respective pairs. Ten sighs dramatically, flopping over Doyoung’s desk.

“I can already hear it,” he complains, the back of his hand perched on his forehead. “All the delegates are going to call us out for human rights violations. We’ll never live it down.”

“I think it’s fine,” Doyoung says, furrowing his brow. “We can play devil’s advocate. It’ll be fun.”

Ten rolls his eyes. “You’re right. It’ll be so fun. I just can’t wait.”

Doyoung is about to assert how Ten’s sarcasm is not appreciated but the clear sound of Jaehyun’s voice cuts him off.

What do you mean you have a game the weekend of the conference?”

“It’s fine, I already told coach,” Yuta says, holding his hands up defensively, “I won’t skip the conference.”

“So you’re skipping the game ?” Jaehyun’s mouth forms the thin line of a frown. “Yuta, you’re captain.”

“So you’d rather me skip the conference?” Yuta counters, annoyed. “We’re barely making the minimum, you want me to just leave?”

“That’s not what I said .” Jaehyun’s voice grows higher in volume. The room is still populated by Taeil and Taeyong’s deep discussion and Donghyuck’s background chatter, but Doyoung and Ten fall silent, watching the exchange out of their peripheral vision.

“Then what are you saying?” Yuta asks. “How can I possibly be in two places at once? What do you want me to do—“

“I don’t want you to do anything,” Jaehyun interrupts. “You should’ve just told me earlier. We could’ve worked something out—“

“Why won’t you get off my ass about this?” Yuta hisses. “Honestly, why am I even here? Even being around you is a bad idea. I should’ve listened to Donghae when he said I shouldn’t date a teammate—“

Jaehyun nearly explodes. “I’m not your fucking teammate!” he yells and even though it’s not directed at him, Doyoung feels his blood run cold. It’s the first time he’s ever heard Jaehyun cuss and suddenly, that soft voice of his isn’t so friendly anymore.

The room goes quiet, silent except for the sound of Jaehyun’s heaving breaths, evidence of how worked up he’s getting. 

“Have someone else take the rest of the minutes,” he says, slamming his laptop shut. He gathers his things in record speed and bolts out the door, footsteps echoing as he leaves.

A moment passes and Yuta stands up too.

“I’ll be at the gym,” he mutters, slinging his bag over his shoulder.

After that outburst, nobody really feels like being productive anymore. Even Taeyong seems to have lost some enthusiasm, shuffling everyone out with instructions on where to meet later. It concludes the last meeting before next week’s conference. Doyoung didn’t think time could fly this fast.

“Yuta and Jaehyun. Is this something we should be worried about?” he later asks when they’ve retreated to the comfort of a library alcove. It’s nearly ten and Doyoung longs to eat instant ramen and pass out but Taeyong had insisted on completing some last minute work before retiring for the night, his distaste for procrastination apparently even greater than his hatred for plastic straws.

“They’ll probably be fine,” Taeyong says, eyes never leaving his laptop. Doyoung takes a peek, watching Taeyong draft up their hotel arrangements.

“Oh, don’t put Johnny and Ten in the same room,” he advises. “And don’t put me with Jungwoo.”

“Then we’ll be apart,” Taeyong frowns, dragging Doyoung’s name into the other room. “I guess it’s inevitable, if I’m trying to put Yuta and Jaehyun in separate rooms.”

“That bad?” Doyoung asks, raising an eyebrow. “Have they always been like this?”

“Kind of,” Taeyong answers. “But it’s been like this from the beginning. I wouldn’t worry too much.”

He sounds completely unconcerned, so Doyoung decides to drop it. There is, he decides, a lot he doesn’t know. 

-

When Doyoung was young, he had learned how to survive by living in the cold shadow of his older brother.

It’s not like he had a choice. They lived under the same roof, for one. And the parents of any overachieving, successful child would of course want his younger brother to follow in similar, if not the same, footsteps.

To be fair, Gongmyung wasn’t mean about it. Neither were their parents. No one was. It was simply the unfortunate side effect that all second children face. The invisible punishment for being born later.

It wasn’t terrible, mostly. People knew him, because of Gongmyung. He was regarded well, because of Gongmyung. And as he grew up, he was always Gongmyung’s brother before he was Doyoung. A constant stream of comparisons, people sitting on the edge of their seats, waiting to see if he would ever be as good as Gongmyung.

Doyoung certainly did not let that consume his entire identity, but he will admit that it greatly shaped his person. Motivated him to do better, to achieve excellently, and most of all, to be different. A small seed planted in his heart, the grown desire for diverged paths. The day Gongmyung graduated high school, it had been cold and cloudy, the gold of his stole standing out brightly against the grey sky. The flowers Doyoung handed to his brother were still wet with condensation. Gongmyung had shone with the smile of someone marching on to the next chapter of their life. Certainly no small feat to step so bravely into the unknown.

And as family and friends huddled together for pictures, rivulets of conversation slipped in through the cracks. Doyoung, you must be so proud , someone said. An aunt with no children of her own. Will you do the same? 

The sky opened up to let fine rain fall through, and a smile became present on Doyoung’s face. The camera flashed.

No , he had thought. Perhaps not .

-

Because there’s only ten members in their club, the school can’t even grant them the funds to rent out a bus. Instead, they have to cram everyone into two minivans: Johnny’s beat-up Subaru and a Honda Civic courtesy of Donghyuck’s mother.

Taeyong ends up driving the Honda. Donghyuck’s mom had specifically given him a list of people she was okay with driving her car and Donghyuck and Mark’s names were not on that list.

Doyoung is allowed to sit in the front, a sweet privilege granted to him over Donghyuck, Mark, and Yuta, who crowd the seats behind him like ants. However, Doyoung barely gets to enjoy this luxury because he knocks out the moment they hit the highway. The next time he opens his eyes, Taeyong’s parked the car at a rest stop.

“I’m going to the bathroom,” he says, turning off the engine. “You need anything?”

“No,” Doyoung mumbles, rubbing his eyes. Yuta and Mark are huddled together, watching a movie through the tiny screen of Mark’s phone with shared headphones, and Donghyuck is nowhere to be found.

“Alright,” Taeyong says, opening his door. “I’ll be right back.”

There’s about ten seconds of peace and quiet between the time Taeyong leaves and when the door opens again. Taeil slides into the driver’s seat. The back door opens and Johnny comes in too, occupying Donghyuck’s spot. Yuta and Mark are no longer watching their movie. The locks bolt shut. Doyoung realizes that he’s trapped in here.

“Um,” he says slowly. “Hi?”

Johnny speaks first. “We don’t have a lot of time here, so I’ll make it quick. What are your intentions with Taeyong?”

Yeah ,” Mark says. “What do you want with my brother?”

“What is this,” Doyoung mutters. “The Taeyong Protection Squad?”

“That’s exactly what this is,” Yuta says in a tone that is mildly threatening at best.

“Haha, yeah. That’s actually the name of our group chat,” Mark says. “Want me to add you?”

“Mark, no ,” Johnny scolds. “Stay focused.”

Doyoung snorts. “Are you guys really trying to give me a shovel talk in the five minutes that Taeyong takes to go to the bathroom?”

“Ten, actually,” Taeil says smugly. “I asked him to get me some McDonald’s.”

“Oh, that’s so smart!” Mark comments. “Do you think it’s too late to text him to get me some fries?”

Doyoung restrains himself from rolling his eyes and takes a second to assess his situation. Johnny looks like someone who used to drink milk straight out of the carton and Mark is probably one of those annoying kids who whine about rationed Xbox time. Where Doyoung’s concern lies is Yuta, who can drop kick his face with no trouble at all. He’s also wary of Taeil, although he isn’t sure why. The guy just vaguely gives off the vibe that if he really wanted to, he could probably kill Doyoung.

“I like Taeyong,” Doyoung says honestly. “That’s all there is to it.”

“Are you sure?” Johnny asks, narrowing his eyes. “Ten told me you only joined to boost your resume.”

Doyoung swears under his breath, making a mental note to murder his best friend later. “Why does anyone join anything in college?” he reasons. “Joining Model UN and dating Taeyong are mutually exclusive. And how do you know he’s not the one stringing me along?”

“He let you sit shotgun,” Mark says bitterly. “He definitely likes you.”

Yuta jabs a finger at Doyoung, glaring sharply. “But seriously, Taeyong really cares about this club and for some reason, he cares about...whatever it is that you guys have going on. If you ruin any of those two things, I won’t hesitate to kick your head in harder than a penalty goal.”

Doyoung doesn’t know what that means (again, what the fuck are sports?) but it sounds painful and he would very much like to keep Yuta’s feet away from his head.

“Okay,” he says, colored with disdain.

“For real,” Mark continues. “Taeyong really likes you. You gotta nurture that love, man. Like a baby chick. Put it in the PokéCenter, you know?”

“It’s not that we hate you, Doyoung.” Taeil sounds completely earnest. “But Taeyong really, truly loves Model UN and this is probably his last year in it. We just want to make it the best for him.”

“Wait, what?” Doyoung asks, bewildered. “What are you talking about? Taeyong isn’t graduating for another year, why would he leave—“

Shit , incoming,” Yuta interrupts. “You guys gotta go.”

“I’ve got my eye on you,” Johnny warns, giving Doyoung a pointed look. Then he leaps out of the car, Taeil following close behind.

The driver‘s seat door opens again. “What was that all about?” Taeyong asks, making himself comfortable behind the wheel. “Why are Johnny and Taeil sprinting across the parking lot?”

“Exercise, maybe?” Mark supplies. “Did you get my McDonald’s?”

“Oh, that was for you?” Taeyong remarks, turning the key. “Donghyuck took it. He said he’s joining the other car.”

What .” Mark scrambles to unlock the door. “My McChickens!”

But it’s too late. Taeyong has already started driving.

-

Roll Call is bright and early the next day at eight in the morning. An hour before, Doyoung drags himself out of the warm comfort of his and Ten’s shared bed and heads downstairs to join the rest of his team for breakfast at the hotel’s cafe. By the time he gets there, all seats are full except for the one next to—

“You look like shit,” Donghyuck says, leaning against the table with a Starbucks cup in his hand. “Did you get hit by a bus last night?”

Doyoung groans, peeling his face off the table. He hadn’t gotten much sleep on account of pre-conference anxiety and Ten’s flailing limbs. More than once, he had woken up from being kicked or slapped. It had taken all the self-control in the world to not throw his best friend out the window. 

“Shut up,” he says, eyeing Donghyuck’s coffee. “Can I have some?”

Donghyuck looks at him stoically for a moment. “Sure,” he replies, handing it over. “You look like you need it.” His voice is laced with pity.

“Thanks.” Doyoung takes a sip. He turns the cup in his hand, as if examining the white exterior could possibly give him a clue as to what’s inside. “What the fuck is this?”

“It’s a flat white,” Donghyuck answers. “No sweetener, two extra shots, pump of vanilla, and a spoonful of protein powder.”

Doyoung promptly spits out the coffee. “What the fuck?” he says. “Why is there protein powder in there?”

“Gives it an extra boost, you know?” Donghyuck takes the cup back. “Thanks. Are you going to clean that up, by the way? It’s quite disgusting.”

Doyoung looks down. In his haste, he had spewed the liquid all over his research binder. The pages are stained brown. Ten would not be happy. Doyoung makes a distressed gurgling noise.

“Can you make that sound again?” Donghyuck asks, holding his phone up at eye level. “I didn’t get it for the snap.”

“Fuck off,” Doyoung grunts. He picks up his binder. “I’m going to find a printer.”

“Good luck with that,” Donghyuck waves, sipping casually from his abomination of a drink.

It’s easier said than done. By the time Doyoung had navigated their labyrinth of a hotel, located the computer room, and reprinted all the soiled pages, he’s running well behind schedule.

“Hurry up,” Ten goads as he watches Doyoung struggle with putting on his socks.

“Sorry, it’s not my fault that Donghyuck’s morning drink of choice is rat piss.”

“How do you know what rat piss tastes like?” Ten says, holding the door open impatiently.

Doyoung rolls his eyes. “It’s an expression,” he replies. “You got everything?”

Yes ,” Ten answers, exasperated. “You’ve asked me like, five times already. When are you going to stop pretending that you don’t actually care about this conference?”

“I don’t care about this conference,” Doyoung says, grabbing his blazer off the chair. “I care about winning an award. And Taeyong. Those things just happen to be inherently tied.”

“Oh, sure .” Ten shuts the door and they start sprinting down the hallway. “Could you be any slower? I bet the opening ceremony has already started.”

Ten is right; by the time they’ve entered the assembly hall, the conference staff are halfway through some grand speech, introducing their board and sponsors. They do their best to cause the least amount of commotion to get to their seats, but Doyoung is pretty sure he stepped on nine people’s toes just weaving through the rows.

“What did I miss?” he huffs, plunking down in a free seat between Taeyong and Johnny. “Nothing important, I hope.”

They’re introducing their last sponsor onstage (and no doubt, the most generous in donations, judging by the ass-kissing speech the secretary general is currently preluding with), and Johnny swears under his breath. 

“Oh, fuck.”

“What?” Doyoung whispers. “What’s going on?”

He turns to Taeyong, who has gone completely still. A certain kind of dread spreads across his face and he looks just so beautifully miserable that Doyoung is almost afraid to ask what’s wrong. Beside him, Mark is rigid in equal measure, staring up at the stage with wide eyes.

“I didn’t know he was gonna be here,” he mumbles.

“Same,” Taeyong echoes, eyes glued ahead. It’s like a reverie that can't be shaken.

“Johnny, what is going on?” Doyoung asks, downright bewildered. Did he miss something here? Are they all seeing something that he isn’t?”

“Oh, you don’t know,” Johnny says, more to himself than to Doyoung.

“I don’t know what ?”

Taeyong quietly clears his throat. Doyoung immediately diverts his attention.

“Are you alright?” he asks.

“Yeah,” Taeyong answers. “But there’s probably one thing you should know.”

He points a finger at the man speaking onstage.

“That’s my father.”

-

So.

Doyoung wasn’t really listening when Taeyong’s father was being introduced onstage, but he does catch a full name. Under the convenient obscure of his binder, Doyoung manages a quick google search, which reveals a list of achievements and accolades longer than a CVS receipt.

The ceremony is almost over, so Doyoung scrolls fast. He catches words like conglomerate and shareholder , and it seems like Taeyong’s family is not just loaded, but super fucking loaded. That would explain why Taeyong drives a Tesla.

Whatever. It’s fine, no big deal. It’s not like Doyoung’s perception of Taeyong has changed terribly. The ceremony ends and everyone starts streaming out, eager to get to their first committee session. It’s crowded, people swarming out the door, and Doyoung wraps a hand around Taeyong’s, who squeezes back appreciatively. They’ve almost escaped, about to breathe the fresh air of the hallway, when—

“Taeyong!”

Taeyong’s father is quick to flag him down, eager to speak to the son who hasn’t yet left (since Mark had immediately fled the moment people started leaving). There’s a small window of time in which it would have been appropriate for Doyoung to say “Well, I’ll catch you later” and casually make his exit, but by the time Taeyong lets go of his hand, that window has long since passed. Taeyong’s father is here, standing in front of them, and Doyoung is rooted to the spot as if there are nails hammered through his shoes.

He’s a tall man, dressed very well, and Doyoung wonders if Taeyong or Mark ever bemoaned the fact that height wasn’t included in their inheritance. “Hello,” he greets. “Who might this be?”

“This is Doyoung,” Taeyong introduces. “He’s one of our newer members.”

“Hello,” Doyoung says frantically, sticking a hand out.

“Nice to meet you.” Taeyong’s father had a strong handshake and his eyes crinkle when he smiles. Up close, the family resemblance is unmistakable.

Doyoung flounders to respond. “You as well, sir.”

Taeyong’s father gives a friendly nod before shifting his attention. “To be honest, Taeyong, didn’t even know you were still in Model UN. It’s quite a surprise to see you here.”

“Oh, you know,” Taeyong laughs. “I thought I’d just stick around. Help them out a bit, nothing big.” He waves a flippant hand and in that moment, Doyoung wonders if he’s been living a complete lie.

Nothing big ? he thinks, reeling. Taeyong is the president of their chapter, that wasn’t nothing big . He ran their meetings, meticulously planned workshops, and stayed up countless nights helping members with research and practice. When he wasn’t out picketing in front of city hall or whatever, Taeyong basically lived and breathed Model UN. Did his father, for some odd reason, disapprove of his involvement with an educational, skillful club activity? Doyoung is baffled and it takes considerable effort to not let it show on his face.

“Well, I’m glad you’re having fun before buckling down next year.” Taeyong’s father claps a hand on his shoulder, radiating every bit of a proud parent. Doyoung doesn’t understand what’s going on.

“Thanks,” Taeyong says, giving a small smile. He tugs on Doyoung’s sleeve. “I think we have to go. Don’t want to be late for committee.”

“Alright, don’t let me keep you.” Taeyong’s father gives them a two-finger salute before walking away, a secretary scurrying up to him. He doesn’t bother with a second look back, having no doubt switched his attention to the next item on his busy agenda. He probably didn't even know what they did at these conferences.

“Sorry,” Taeyong apologizes. “I really didn’t know he was going to be here—“

“Taeyong,” Doyoung says, unable to repress the question that’s been bothering him ever since Taeil had cornered him in the car. “Are you quitting Model UN next year?”

The tension that bleeds into the silence that follows could kill a weaker man. But Doyoung isn’t weak and he also wants an answer.

“I don’t want to,” Taeyong finally says, biting the skin of his bottom lip so hard it nearly turns white. “But I just don’t think I’ll have the time.”

Doyoung scrunches his brow. “What do you mean?”

“I have an internship next semester.” Taeyong refuses to look at Doyoung, his eyes trained on the space above him instead. “It’s at my father’s company.”

“So you’re leaving?” Doyoung flinches back in disbelief.

“No!” Taeyong says, and Doyoung really wishes they weren’t having this conversation in an empty assembly hall, where the distress in Taeyong’s voice echoes clear across the rows of seats. “They have me working through the school year. I’ll still be around campus. Doyoung, I’m sorry. I know should’ve told you earlier—“

Doyoung laughs and it comes out harsher than he expected, an empty and hollow sound. “Do you even want that job? You can’t expect me to believe that this is what you actually want to do.”

“Don’t say that,” Taeyong fumes, accusatory. “Do I have a choice? Even if I don’t love the job, I can like it just fine. It’s what I’m studying for, Doyoung. This for my father, I have to do it—“

And here’s the thing: Doyoung gets it. Doyoung is no stranger to shadows, has tried all his life to crawl out of the shadow of his own brother. Taeyong exists in the giant penumbra cast by his father and if Doyoung had felt cold, then Taeyong must be freezing. There is something to be said about living your life with a predetermined bar, set for you long before you were even born.

But Doyoung also cannot imagine a Model UN without Taeyong. He had only joined in the first place because of Taeyong and it’s unfathomable, thinking what it would be like next year without his constant nagging, the way he endearingly cares too much about every little thing. Isn’t it funny? How Doyoung had been dragged into this, kicking and screaming, begrudgingly coaxed into committing. He had slowly inched into the concept and now he’s submerged in deep waters, so deep that he’s thinking about a next year . A next year that will mean nothing if Taeyong isn’t there too. It’s selfish, Doyoung knows, but he’s allowed to be selfish if it’s Taeyong. Especially if it’s Taeyong.

“We should go,” he says, tapping his wrist in a gesture of time. “Or we’ll actually be late.”

“Okay,” Taeyong agrees, his voice shrinking. “I’ll talk to you later?”

Doyoung just shrugs. “Sure.”

-

It’s alarmingly difficult to forget their little tiff. Even with the distraction of a volatile debate, Doyoung finds it hard to not think of Taeyong.

He’s able to slip into his role easily, speaking smoothly when it’s their turn on the Speaker’s List. Ten offers snippets, more than happy to let a Doyoung take the reins on this one. It’s fine, his strong suit has always been on paper. Doyoung puts him to work instead, drafting the skeleton of what should become a solid resolution by the end of the committee.

It goes by fast, a whirlwind of procedural motions. Doyoung is able to call out several on his own, smiling proudly when the dais compliments his initiative. The pride soon morphs into guilt when Doyoung sits down and realizes that he’s only gotten so good—because of Taeyong. All those practice sessions and focused workshops, he’s practically got the handbook memorized by now—because of Taeyong. He’s doing well today—because of Taeyong. And he’s only here—because of Taeyong.

The chair calls out lunch break, a flurry of hungry students rushing out the room. Ten ditches him quick. Johnny , he says, as if that’s explanation enough. Doyoung is about to text Taeyong—is this lunch break long enough for them to talk things out?—when there’s a tap on his shoulder.

“Hey,” she says. “Where are you headed?”

It’s Norway, a tiny and tenacious girl who had boldly introduced herself to him during their first unmoderated caucus. Doyoung stares at her placard, wondering if he’ll ever know her real name. Probably not—unless he was looking to make friends here that lasted more than two days, which he wasn’t. He figures he’ll just call her Norway, just like everyone else has been calling him DPRK. That’s when he notices that she’s alone.

“My partner got the stomach flu last week, so I had to roll in stag,” she answers when Doyoung asks why.

“That’s unfortunate,” he comments.

“It really is.” She looks not at all sad about it. “So, do you want to get lunch?”

Doyoung mulls it over. He remembers Taeyong giving him a rundown of what conference is like. Don’t underestimate the power of lunchtime networking , he said. You can solidify your best alliances that way. Doyoung figures his conversation with Taeyong can wait another couple hours because frankly, he’s not looking forward to it.

“Sure,” he replies. “We can get lunch.”

“Great.” Norway holds her binder close, leading them out of the room. “North Korea probably has no business doing anything with Scandinavia, but your resolution sounded really good. Did you write it?”

“No,” Doyoung answers, pulling out his phone to send a quick message. “My partner wrote it.”

 

[12:06]

don’t wait up for me - I’m grabbing lunch with another delegate

 

All the real restaurants are crowded to the brim, filled with a mix of students and unlucky hotel patrons who clearly did not have the foresight to check that there was a collegiate conference going on this weekend. The only viable option left where Doyoung doesn’t have to wait an hour in line is a tiny cafe which sells off-brand salads that seem to be composed mostly of shrettuce. Doyoung chooses the one that looks the least withered and pays an entire eleven dollars for it at the register.

“You’re a debate kid, aren’t you?” Norway says. “I can tell by your language, you’re way too aggressive for a MUN person.”

“I am,” Doyoung admits, ripping the plastic strip off his salad container. “You too?”

“Yeah,” she replies, unboxing her own sandwich. “Was it obvious?”

Doyoung thinks about her combative speech. She almost made Germany cry after criticizing the EU bloc’s working resolution, tearing it down clause by clause and obliterating it into pieces. It was really a sight to see.

“Um, just a hunch,” Doyoung lies. He fishes around for croutons and comes across a dead fly, sprawled on the limp spinach. His appetite drains like water down a sink.

“So how did you join?” Norway continues, blind to Doyoung’s silent agony. “I’m trying to decide if I should stick with this. It’s kind of fun, I guess. The people are a little weird.”

Doyoung laughs, thinking about the members he’s grown fond of. “Yeah, the people are pretty weird,” he says, racking his brain for a proper answer. Saying he joined because he wanted to bang Taeyong doesn’t really seem like the right thing to say. “I— uh, joined because of my boyfriend.”

“Oh,” Norway says, eyebrows flying up to her hairline. “That’s definitely one way to get involved.”

“I guess.” Slightly annoyed, Doyoung pulls out his binder and opens it up to his resolution-in-progress. Ten’s neat handwriting stands out boldly against the lined paper. “You said you wanted to talk about resolutions?”

“I did,” she says, pulling out a half-written resolution of her own. “I can get Denmark and China on board. How do you feel about co-writing?”

“I’m not opposed,” Doyoung replies. A voting bloc would actually take a huge weight off his shoulders, so long as his name was first on the list of authors. He was gunning for an actual award here, not Miss Congeniality.

“Perfect,” Norway remarks, finishing the last bite of her lunch. She looks at Doyoung’s untouched salad. “Um, are you not eating?”

Doyoung thinks he’ll probably puke if he sees that fly again. “I’m not that hungry,” he says, quickly capping the lid. “Did you want to combine the clauses we already have?”

“Yeah, so I was thinking—“

She’s cut off when a horde of students suddenly run by, one of them stopping in their tracks and back-pedaling to their table.

Yuta ?” Doyoung says. He looks at the crowd of people rushing to the lobby. “What is going on?”

“Hello, Doyoung and random girl,” Yuta greets. “They’ve posted the special committee assignment.”

“Oh, shit ,” Norway says, quickly gathering her papers. “Let’s go see what it is.”

In all honesty, the conference staff could have found a better way to announce the special committee than to staple a piece of paper to the hotel’s lobby bulletin. Like, say, a quick and convenient email. Instead, Doyoung finds himself crushed against masses of people, all clambering to get a look.

“What does that say?” Norway asks, a good deal shorter than most people.

“General Assembly,” Doyoung reads. “Full participation required. Time is TBD.”

“Fuck, that means everyone has to be there,” Yuta remarks. “TBD probbsly means it’s in the middle of the night.”

Well, that sounds awful.

“And what about the discussion topic? God, why the fuck am I so short?” Norway curses.

“It—damn, I can barely see.” Yuta pushes at the people around him, squinting hard. “It says...sustainability. UN Sustainability Protocol.”

Doyoung has no idea what that means. “The what?” he asks.

“It means the environment,” Norway explains, gesturing her hands vaguely. “You know, like pollution. Climate change and shit?”

Oh , Doyoung thinks.

Fucking great .

-

“The environment!” Taeyong gushes. “Isn’t that so fun? I can’t wait!”

They’re crammed into one of their hotel rooms, sitting on the ground in a circle, like preschoolers. Taeyong has them going around, one by one, sharing how their day went. Like preschoolers. Perhaps in another life, Taeyong would’ve been great in a job with kids.

“I’ll go first,” Taeil offers. “Taeyong and I brokered a peace deal with Canada and co-authored two resolutions about ending starvation and the prevention of human trafficking.”

Johnny boos. “ BORING ,” he shouts. “Yuta and I tried to legalize nukes and when Russia wouldn’t cooperate, we challenged them to a dance battle.”

“That sounds wonderful,” Jungwoo sniffs. “As expected, we were checked for multiple human rights violations and no one wanted to form any alliances with us. Quite sad, isn’t it, Jaehyun?”

“Definitely,” Jaehyun says emotionlessly. He moves to stand up. “Anyways, the ice machine is broken, so I’m going to check if they have any at Starbucks. Anyone want to come with?”

Taeyong tilts his head in question. “Ice? Why do you need ice?”

“Donghyuck got in a fist fight with the United States,” Mark explains helpfully.

“Yeah!” Donghyuck roars, rolling up his sleeve to reveal a nasty bruise on his forearm. “He had it coming! He called us poor, that’s just straight-up racist . I had to teach him a lesson, you can’t say that kind of shit and not expect to get beat —“

“You what ?” Taeyong screams, hands flying up in distress. “You can’t do that, what if we get disqualified?!”

“It’s fine, I talked to the moderators,” Jaehyun says calmly. He puts his hands on his hips. “Now, who’s coming to get ice with me?”

Doyoung sees his chance and takes it. “Me,” he says, sticking an arm up. “I’ll come with you.” He’s been starving ever since skipping lunch. Plus, this was the perfect excuse to postpone the fact that he still had to talk to Taeyong, though he’s really just delaying the inevitable at this point. He pretends not to notice Taeyong watching him exit with Jaehyun.

This is how he thinks it’ll go: Taeyong will tell him that there is nothing that can be done to prevent him from leaving Model UN next year. Then he’ll cry a little because the thought makes him sad and Mark will probably hear about it later, which means he’s going to tell Yuta and Taeil, who will definitely come find Doyoung and try to kill him. 

Assuming that Doyoung manages to fight the two of them off, he still has to face Taeyong and answer the bigger question: is he going to stay? A couple months ago, that would’ve been easy to answer. But Doyoung isn’t so sure now. Will he stay? What if he stays and realizes he hates it—realizes it had only been fun because Taeyong had been there? Or what if he leaves and what he has with Taeyong crumbles apart? What if they have nothing left to talk about? It’s strange to think how much time they spend together because of this stupid club and making a decision now is too…

It’s cowardice, Doyoung knows. But he needs just a little bit longer to think.

“You alright?” Jaehyun asks. “Didn’t you say you wanted something to eat?”

Doyoung blinks, realizing they’re next in line.

“Oh. Yeah, I did.” He grabs a sandwich off the shelf, not bothering to read the label. It’s fine, he could probably eat anything at this point.

“Will that be all?” the cashier says, ringing up his sandwich. Seven dollars? For this tiny thing? Jesus , this weekend was really bleeding him dry.

“Can we get a cup of ice too?” Jaehyun asks.

After Doyoung pays, they hang back. Sorry , the cashier had said, gesturing to the long line of people waiting at the counter. We’re behind on drinks right now, it’ll take a couple minutes . More than fine with Doyoung, who’s dreading the thought of seeing Taeyong again in a non-group setting. He unwraps his sandwich and takes a bite—cold cheese and slimy turkey. Whatever, it’s better than nothing. At this point, Doyoung is so completely resigned to his fate that not even the taste of wet bread can bring him lower than he already is.

“Are you doing alright?” Jaehyun says, and Doyoung nearly chokes on his food. Out of all the crazy things he expected out of this weekend, an emotional conversation with the most robotic member of their team was not one of them.

“Could be better,” Doyoung answers honestly. “Why do you ask?”

“Oh, you know.” Jaehyun shoves his hands into his pockets. “You and Taeyong seem off today.”

“We do?” Doyoung didn’t think anyone had noticed. He inhales the last of his sandwich and balls up the plastic wrapping, shooting for the trash can. He misses.

“Don’t worry, it’s not that obvious,” Jaehyun reassures. He graciously picks up the litter and throws it out. “I’m just unnaturally good at noticing things.”

“That makes sense,” Doyoung says faintly. “How else would you take such good minutes?”

Jaehyun preens under the compliment, pulling his lips back to form what’s probably supposed to be a smile but mostly ends up looking like he’s in pain. It’s okay, Doyoung will give an A for effort.

“So tell me,” Jaehyun says. “What’s wrong?”

For a moment, Doyoung considers making up a lie, just to get Jaehyun off his back. But then he figures that Jaehyun probably already had a good idea of what’s going on, he’s only just asking as a courtesy.

“Taeyong’s leaving the club next year,” Doyoung replies, picking at a loose thread on his sleeve. If he keeps pulling it, he’ll probably unravel the whole seam. “I found out when we talked to his dad.”

“I see,” Jaehyun says, calm and knowing. “We’ll be quite lost without our president, won’t we?”

“Yeah,” Doyoung says, realizing that Jaehyun is right. It’s not just him. They would all be lost without Taeyong. Who’s going to stick around, make those dumb powerpoints and edit everyone’s speeches? Staying up late to print their handouts and organize the chapter constitution? Not Johnny, that’s for sure. Perhaps Taeil? No, he’s graduating.

“Cup of ice!” a barista calls out. They soundlessly walk to the counter.

“Thanks,” Jaehyun says, padding his grip with a napkin so the ice will melt slower. “Let’s head back.”

The elevator ride remains silent until halfway up, when Jaehyun decides to interrupt with an unsolicited piece of advice.

“I don’t think you need to worry too much,” he says. “Whatever you choose to do, I’m sure things with Taeyong will remain the way they are. Even if he does have a Taeyong Protection Squad watching you at all times.”

“Oh, you know about that?”

Jaehyun pauses strangely. “Um, Yuta told me about it.”

“You guys are back on speaking terms now?”

Jaehyun looks a little uncomfortable, jostling the cup in his hands. The ice rustles precariously. “Yes,” he answers. “Something like that, I guess.”

Well, that’s a mystery that Doyoung would love to be kept in the dark about.

“What do you mean by that?” Doyoung asks instead. “How do you know things will stay the same?”

“Okay, things won’t stay the exact same , but Doyoung—look. Do you know what I realized after I left the soccer team?”

Doyoung blanches because this isn’t a conversation he ever thought he would be having past the snippets that Taeyong left him in passing. “What?” he asks, actually beginning to feel curious.

“I’m a physics major, Doyoung. I don’t really give a crap about debate or politics. Or at least I didn’t think I did. I only joined because Yuta suggested it and I needed to do something without soccer taking up so much of my time anymore. But before you know it, I’m taking the minutes for this club like a maniac.” He shakes the cup, deliberate this time. Doyoung hears the ice scrape against the sides.

Jaehyun continues, “I like Model UN. I like it a lot, even though I only did it because I was bored. Forgive me for using a scientific metaphor, but we’re not ice, Doyoung. We’re water, did you know that? A liquid changes shape to accommodate whatever container it’s currently in. But in the end, the contents are the same. Things change, but not everything. Whatever happens in the future—you guys will be fine.”

And isn’t that what Doyoung wants? For everything to be fine? The elevator beeps.

“Thanks, Jaehyun,” Doyoung says as they step out into the hallway. “I never thought I’d be receiving relationship advice from the Pillsbury Doughboy, but there’s a first time for everything, isn’t there?”

Jaehyun smiles, for real this time. His dimple shows prominently.

“Of course,” he says. “Anytime.”

-

Taeyong is asleep by the time they get back.

“He wanted to rest,” Taeil explains from where he’s camped out on the couch, watching television on the lowest volume. “You should get some too.”

So Doyoung dives into bed next to Ten, relief rushing through him the moment his head hits the pillow. Exhaustion catches up quickly, the late nights adding to the fact that he had to run from committee to committee all day today. Even to the backdrop of Mark and Donghyuck bickering over a Hearthstone game, Doyoung gradually and steadily falls asleep.

His peace doesn’t last long. Whatever spirit had possessed Doyoung into thinking that Model UN would be an easy extracurricular activity should honestly be exorcised and cursed into the deep depths of hell because at approximately half past midnight, committee board members start pounding on every hotel room door, screaming bloody murder.

“EMERGENCY! CALL TO ORDER!” they yell. “THE SPECIAL COMMITTEE IS NOW IN SESSION.”

Doyoung wakes up with a yelp and promptly rolls out of bed. He hits the floor gracelessly and Yuta, who had clearly anticipated the wake up call, records the whole thing and sends it to their group chat.

“Aw, you’re so cute,” Ten says, replaying the fall over and over again on his phone as they shuffle out into the hallway, haphazardly dressed in a strange blend of formal clothing and sleepwear.

“Can you please put that away?” Doyoung grumbles, feeling self-conscious as they step into the assembly hall. He only had time to pull on some jeans and a button-down, but the room is full of delegates in various stages of undress and it makes him feel a little better. Donghyuck hadn’t bothered at all, still sporting fuzzy socks and sweatpants, glaring at everyone around him as a challenge to criticize his outfit. 

Doyoung spots Norway, who is wearing the same clothes she had been in earlier. Her makeup looks too perfect and Doyoung gets the feeling that she probably didn’t even bother going to sleep.

“So which one is your boyfriend?” she asks, cupping a hand around her mouth, which inevitably makes their conversation more suspicious.

“I’m not telling you that,” Doyoung scowls, still irked at being woken up so abruptly.

“Okay,” she shrugs. “I’ll find out eventually.”

Their talk is interrupted by the booming voice of the secretary general, who instructs the students to organize themselves by chapter and country.

“This is a test of endurance,” he says, towering ominously over the microphone. “As well as coordination. There’s a reason we’ve made this special committee a completely mandatory exercise for everyone. Make use of this time— it’s not often you’ll get a chance to speak in front of five hundred people. And because tonight is just full of surprises, we’ll give you a head start. Let’s start this session with forty-five minutes of unmoderated caucus.”

To say that all hell breaks loose is an understatement. The second the timer starts, delegates are scrambling to locate their peers, other students they’ve formed alliances and friendships with in their previous committees. There’s kids running, crawling under tables, shouting country names. It’s dizzying, the sheer amount of people in this room. This is something that Doyoung has never seen before and paired with his lack of sleep, he begins to feel physically nauseous.

“Are you alright?” Taeyong asks. He looks worried, placing a hand on Doyoung’s shoulder. The gesture is small but it immediately melts the tension between them. Doyoung is too tired to keep up this cold shoulder charade.

“I’m fine,” he sighs. “Just a little overwhelmed.”

Taeyong smiles, small but meaningful. “Sounds like you need some expert guidance.” He claps his hands together, beckoning their team to gather closer.

“What’s going on?” Mark asks, rubbing his eyes. “How are we supposed to get anything done?”

“Yeah,” Donghyuck agrees. “This is straight up anarchy.”

Johnny steps forward, a towering beacon among them. “Taeyong, what’s the plan?”

Their president reaches into his binder (when did he have time to grab that? Doyoung didn’t even have the foresight to bring his phone) and takes out ten identical copies of a list, handing them out to his member.

“I took the liberty of compiling all registered universities and the countries they represent,” he says. “They’re grouped by continent and region. We’re going to divide and conquer.”

Doyoung scans the sheet, neat nine-point font with color-coded brackets, meticulous to a fault. When did Taeyong have time to do this? His heart sinks, faced again with the fact that no matter if he chose to go or stay, it wouldn’t change the fact that Taeyong would leave. Would no longer be here to nitpick every little thing, to better the performance of his members, putting in everything not for the prestige or laurels but simply because it was what he loved doing. 

“Stay in your committee pairs,” Taeyong instructs, his normally soft voice authoritative in this loud room, leading like he was born to do it. “Mark and Donghyuck, take South America. Don’t talk to the United States. Taeil and I will cover North America. Doyoung and Ten, see what’s going on with Scandinavia and central Europe. Yuta and Johnny, you guys will talk to the African countries but please do not challenge anyone to a dance battle. Jungwoo and Jaehyun have east Europe and Asia, but leave Singapore to me. I feel like they’re going to put up a fight.”

Taeyong regards his members expectantly. 

“Forty-five minutes may seem long, but it actually isn’t that much time at all. Work fast, we’ll meet back here when there’s five minutes left.” He smiles, a proud expression even though they haven’t even begun to work. “You guys got that?”

There’s a chorus of agreement from the team, Taeyong commanding at the helm with his head held up high while his tiny body remains engulfed by the sweater that he fell asleep in. It’s cute, so much determination inside such a small person and oh , Doyoung won’t even deny it, he’s going to miss this. He’s going to miss this a lot. It really won’t be the same without Taeyong.

“Alright, team break!”

-

It’s easy to find Norway again, because she was looking for them too.

“I would introduce you to my team, but they’ve either split up with other people or went back to sleep.”

Ten raises his eyebrows. “Is that allowed?” he asks, clearly assessing the possibility of sneaking off with Johnny. “They won’t get caught?”

“Probably not,” Norway shrugs. “How would they check? There’s like a billion people in here.”

No ,” Doyoung hisses, grabbing Ten’s arm. “We need you here to write. Do not leave.”

“Okay, alright,” Ten huffs, untangling himself from Doyoung’s grip. “I’ll stay. What do we need to do?”

“We need to find Sweden and Denmark,” Doyoung answers, scanning the room for familiar faces. “And then we can start writing clauses before getting Germany and France on our side. Italy’s pretty weak, they’ll probably do whatever Germany says.”

“How about this?” Norway proposes. She takes out papers from her folder, sorting through them before pulling out a packet of three, cleanly stapled at the corner. “I did a bit of research beforehand. Can you guys adapt this into a resolution? I can get Sweden and Denmark on our side easy, and then we can look for the others later.”

Doyoung takes the proffered papers, speed-reading through the words. “You wrote this today?” he asks. Taeyong had been prepared, but this is beyond his scope. It’s a fully written resolution, numbered and sectioned to a tee. “Is this allowed?”

“Of course not,” Norway answers easily. She waves the papers in her hands. “These are all past resolutions passed from previous conferences. Doesn’t hurt to use your resources, you know? Let me know how much you can finish, I’m going to find Sweden.”

And then she’s off, leaving Doyoung with a dilemma in his hands.

Pre-written resolutions , he remembers Taeyong saying. Its bad form. What’s the point of conference if you’re just going to show up with the work already done? Passing resolutions might win you awards but it doesn’t solve anything. Conference is all about teamwork and negotiation. I won’t allow it.

But, Doyoung thinks, as he watches Norway dart across the room, schmoozing people’s socks off, does he have a choice? This is the best alliance they’ve got and an opportunity this good—it might be the only chance they have to pass anything in this hellhole.

Doyoung sighs. “Ten,” he says. “Can you write the operative clauses? I’ll take care of preambulatory.”

-

The gavel bangs hard against the podium as the secretary general calls the third session of the night.

“Whoa!” Mark exclaims, suddenly waking up from the nap he was taking on Taeyong’s shoulder. “What’s going on?”

Taeyong nudges his brother lightly. “Come on,” he says. “We have some things to discuss.”

There’s currently two resolutions on the docket: 4.0, which Doyoung and Ten has written with the undercover help of Norway, and 5.0, which Taeyong and Taeil had co-authored with delegates from Singapore and Madagascar. Taeyong and Norway has both strongly advised against bringing either of them onto the floor too quickly, which turned out to be the right suggestion based on what happened to resolutions 1 to 3. It was a bloody massacre, nearly two hours of debate dedicated to tearing them down, reviving them with amendments, only to kill them again when not enough votes were gathered.

“So which one are we backing?” Yuta asks, eyes darting around inquisitively. “I don’t think we should sponsor more than one resolution. It’s too risky.”

“4.0, obviously,” Norway butts in, and Doyoung irritably wonders when the Schengen bloc managed to assimilate into their group. There’s at least thirty people here and it’s beyond awkward having them listen in on the team’s internal discussion.

“Why?” Taeil asks, bristling. Doyoung would too, if his work was being passed over so easily.

“I’m not saying your resolution is bad,” Norway defends. “It’s actually pretty good, although—“ she wrinkles her nose, “—I would do without that clause about banning plastic water bottles.”

Doyoung snorts. They had Jungwoo to thank for that.

Norway continues. “But 4.0 has more signatories and is also significantly less radical than 5.0, which I think the moderators will favor more. We’re trying to get votes here, not save the world. I hope you can understand that.”

It’s silent for a moment, but Taeil relents.

“That makes sense,” he admits. “I’m fine with either. Whatever is most likely to get passed.”

“So what are we going with?” Jaehyun asks, bringing them back to the original question. “Johnny? Thoughts?”

“Um,” Johnny says with the tone of someone who can’t distinguish what they’re choosing between. “I defer to Taeyong.”

And suddenly, Taeyong, who has not spoken a word of discussion up until now, becomes the center of attention. All eyes are on him, waiting for him to make the call. They’ll likely do whatever he says, that’s what happens when you’re the president . But Taeyong only looks at Doyoung, his gaze never faltering.

“Doyoung,” he says. “What do you think?”

It’s an admission of confidence Doyoung never thought he would receive. It’s Taeyong, placing his judgment in Doyoung’s, trusting him to lead them down the right path. Doyoung is floored, almost overwhelmed, but it’s a choice he has to make. It’s a choice Taeyong is letting him make.

“What are we risking here?” Doyoung asks, more to himself than anyone around him. “We need to get this passed, right?”

Passing resolutions is not the sole purpose of committee, Doyoung knows. But ending session with no resolutions at all would be the worst possible scenario. 5.0 is progressive, unapologetically rebellious with an agenda greener than envy. If Doyoung was on the other side of the table, would he vote for it? No, probably not. It’s much too risky, way too revolutionary. In ordinary circumstances, he wouldn’t go a hundred feet near it. Taeyong probably knows this— and yet he still asked Doyoung to choose.

“We’re going with 4.0,” Doyoung decides. This would be most beneficial for everyone involved. He’s doing the right thing...right?

“Okay,” Taeyong agrees. He smiles plainly. “I’ll go tell Singapore to take off our names.”

“Great,” Norway grins. “At this rate, we’ll be guaranteed an award. You made the right choice.”

“Thanks,” Doyoung says quietly.

He still isn’t so sure.

-

They’re on the last speaking session of the night before the remaining resolutions will be brought onto the floor for a vote. The clock reads 4am. Half the room is asleep, the other half fueled solely by caffeine and the burning desire to pass at least one fucking thing. This will be the last chance they have.

“Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” the secretary general announces. “You’re up.”

There’s a few chuckles across the room, as expected when North Korea is next on the Speakers’ List. That isn’t what makes Doyoung nervous. He’s been dealing with this shit all day (and night). What makes him nervous is what he has to do next. His hands nearly shake as he steps up to the stage.

What you have to do is very simple , Norway had explained. Go up there when it’s your turn and pledge your support to 4.0. All the other resolutions are basically dead in the water. We’ve got this in the bag.

Norway is wrong. This isn’t simple at all. Doyoung carefully stands at the podium, poised over the mic, and looks down at the crowd.

It’s people sleeping in their chairs, mostly. Some empty seats too, Doyoung figures that there’s some students who definitely snuck off in the midst of the chaos. The conference staff hangs out on the sidelines, tiredly waiting for the Speakers’ List to exhaust so they could close debate and go sleep. Norway is awake, of course, and so is Taeyong. They make brief eye contact and Taeyong smiles, giving him a thumbs up. You can do it! he mouths and no , Doyoung thinks. He really can’t.

In reality, he takes maybe four seconds to make his decision. But time seems to shrink, everything around him in slow motion as a revelation washes over a Doyoung. And suddenly, it becomes very simple.

Who on their team, other than Taeyong, Taeil, and Doyoung, cared about which resolution they chose? Definitely not Johnny, who aligns himself with Taeyong every time they ask for his opinion. Mark and Donghyuck are dead asleep on each other’s shoulders and Jungwoo is just along for the ride, scrolling through Instagram instead of bothering to see Doyoung make his speech. Ten might care, since Doyoung forced him to write half of Norway’s resolution, but Yuta and Jaehyun— they aren’t even here. Doyoung notices just now that their seats are empty.

If he went back on his word, who would Doyoung be letting down? His team? Himself? Or is he already letting down Taeil, who spent so much time writing 5.0? Is he letting down Taeyong, who poured his heart and soul into every corner of this conference, eyes shining brightly as he told Doyoung it didn’t matter what he wanted, it’s what’s best for the team that matters? But, Doyoung thinks, what’s best for Taeyong is what’s best for the team. This, he knows to be true. You guys will be fine , Jaehyun had said. Whatever you choose to do. They will be fine.

So Doyoung chooses to do this.

“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would like to rescind its support of Resolution 4.0.”

His voice rings loud and clear across the assembly hall. Doyoung catches sight of Norway, who looks absolutely scandalized but somehow, not surprised at all. Taeil’s eyebrows have flown past his hairline. And as for Taeyong— well, the look on Taeyong’s face is enough to light up the next lifetime of rainy days. Doyoung thinks he’ll keep it in his heart forever.

“We would like to add ourselves as a signatory or Resolution 5.0,” he continues. “Thank you. I yield my time to the chair.”

Doyoung steps down from the stage, a great burden lifted from his chest. Norway rolls her eyes when he navigates the rows to sit down.

“I think I figured out who your boyfriend is,” she mutters when Doyoung takes his seat next to her. “Good luck getting an award now.”

Doyoung just smiles in response.

Some things, he decides, are worth it.

-

5.0 doesn’t get passed, obviously. Norway motions to bring both resolutions to the floor for a vote and the winner is obvious before anyone even raises their placard. Doyoung saw it coming from a million miles away.

“By majority vote, Resolution 4.0 has now been passed,” the secretary general announces, the bang of his gavel resounding loudly.

Their team stays silent (mostly because they’re all asleep) as the whole room claps in celebration. But as Taeyong looks straight ahead, taking Doyoung’s hand in his own and lacing their fingers together, Doyoung finds that he just can’t bring himself to be upset.

The moment they close debate, everyone rushes out the hall with the same urgency they had after the opening ceremony. Doyoung hangs back with Taeyong. He’s in no hurry to leave. They need to talk anyways.

“Hey,” Norway says, tapping him on the shoulder. “I never got your name.”

She looks exhausted. Doyoung realizes that she’s probably been up for nearly twenty-four hours, and then he realizes that they’ve all been up for just as long. It’s tiring, this conference. He wonders why people would do this willingly. Why he did this willingly.

“It’s Doyoung,” he answers. “What about you?”

“My name is Sejeong,” she says, grinning mischievously. “Remember it, because I’ll definitely see you on the circuit next year.”

Next year . Would there be a next year?

“Yeah,” he agrees. “I’ll see you next year.”

“You’re making friends,” Taeyong observes later. “I’m proud of you.” He’s still holding onto Doyoung’s hand, which is perfect because Doyoung doesn’t plan on letting go.

“That’s the only thing you’re proud of?” Doyoung asks, one eyebrow raised. “If I recall, I sacrificed a great deal of work just to appease your inclination to stop global warming—“

“Oh, shut up,” Taeyong says, slapping his arm. He seems to have more strength than what should be humanly possible his tiny body, so it almost sends Doyoung careening over the carpet as they round the corner to the hallway of their hotel rooms.

“That hurt, I’m suing,” he says, digging around his pockets for his key card. “Once I ace the LSAT, graduate from college, get into law school, graduate law school, and pass the bar exam, it’s over for you.”

“Okay,” Taeyong says, smiling brightly. “I’ll wait.”

They stop in front of the room that Doyoung shares with Ten and Jaehyun. He turns to face Taeyong straight on, not wanting to leave his company just yet.

“Look, Taeyong. I—”

“Thank you,” Taeyong interrupts. “For what you did today. You didn’t have to, and I know you didn’t want to. But you did, so. Thank you.” He leans forward, closes his eyes, and sweetly places a kiss on Doyoung’s lips, chaste but more intimate than any kiss they’ve ever shared before.

Taeyong opens his eyes, the brightest beacon in a dark world. Everything around them ceases to exist and for a moment in time, all else fades. For a moment in time, sound is silent, and all Doyoung hears is blood pounding in his ears. For a moment in time, the world is nothing but Doyoung, Taeyong, and this tiny space between them. And for a moment in time, everything just felt kind of— perfect.

“We should get some sleep,” Taeyong laughs nervously, and the reverie breaks before Doyoung can drown under the suffocating weight of his emotions. Ah, young love.

“Okay,” he agrees, fingers hovering over the door knob—

“Wait,” Taeyong says. He places a hand on his chest to halt him and Doyoung tries not to focus on the warmth of his palm. “Do you hear that?”

“Hear what?” Doyoung frowns, straining his ears. There’s a distant, so very distant, soft thumping noise. The telltale signs of sheets rustling, the sound of—

Yuta ,” Jaehyun moans. Doyoung jumps nearly a foot in the air.

“What the fuck,” he hisses, immediately putting as much space possible between him and the door. This is a very traumatic experience that is will require multiple therapy sessions to unpack. It’s a good thing Taeyong is rich, because it’s going to be very expensive.

“Looks like they made up,” Taeyong laughs, taking this way more lightly than he should. “Just come back to my room. I can lend you my extra pajamas?”

“Are you sure?” Doyoung asks. “I can just sleep in the lounge—“

“Doyoung.” Taeyong holds him by the wrist, and the smile he gives Doyoung could light a thousand candles. “Just come back with me.”

In the pallid light of the empty hallway, five in the morning with exhaustion seeping through his bones, Doyoung believes that there’s nothing else he’d rather do than fall asleep next to Taeyong.

“Okay,” he says. “Lead the way.”

-

It’s the last day of finals, basically the only time where everyone is still on campus before taking off for winter break, so the club does the most sensible thing a club should do at this point in the year: they throw a huge rager inside Taeyong’s nice apartment. The excuse is that they’re celebrating the end of the semester. Well, that and—

“You fucker!” Johnny shouts, enveloping Doyoung in a bear hug. “I can’t believe you did it! You won us an award!”

“Let me go,” Doyoung chokes. He struggles futilely against Johnny’s long arms. “It wasn’t anything big— let me GO, it was just a Verbal Commendation-”

“But it’s something,” Yuta smiles. He holds up his drink. “To Doyoung!”

“TO DOYOUNG!” everyone cheers, including the random people they invited who probably have no idea what they’re talking about.

(“Are you sure your roommate doesn’t mind?” Doyoung asks, lugging cases of beer onto the counter in preparation for tonight.

“Nah, he doesn’t,” Taeyong waves off. He starts opening bags of chips and dumping them into bowls. “Jongin is always at his girlfriend’s. Krystal? Or Jennie? I don’t remember.”

“Is that so?” Doyoung watches Taeyong carefully arrange the snack bowls. “So what you’re saying is that your apartment is a lot nicer than mine and you practically live alone?”

Taeyong looks up, his glasses slipping adorably down the bridge of his nose. A smile forms on his face and Doyoung doesn’t miss the playful glint in his eyes.

“Doyoung, that’s exactly what I’m saying.”)

Taeyong’s got an abnormal amount of strength in his little body, so it only makes sense that he has a tolerance to match.

“You hold your alcohol really well,” Doyoung observes, well on his way to being buzzed after the last round of shots. The others fare no better in their various levels of intoxication but Taeyong looks poised, not even a single flush of drunken glow on his skin. It’s unfair, really, how good he looks in any situation.

“Thank you,” Taeyong says, blushing slightly, and a Doyoung slaps a hand over his mouth.

God , did I say that out loud?”

“You‘ve got to stop doing that,” Taeyong replies, smiling so hard that Doyoung swears it takes up half his face. “Follow me.”

“What?” Doyoung asks, allowing himself to be maneuvered from the kitchen to the hallway, no one else sparing a single glance as they escape the party to take refuge in the room that rests in the far corner of the apartment.

“I’m just so proud of you,” Taeyong says, shutting the door behind him, and Doyoung realizes that this is the first time he’s ever been inside Taeyong’s bedroom.

“Oh, thanks.” He turns pink under Taeyong’s praise. “That means a lot.”

“I’m serious,” Taeyong continues. He sinks to his knees in front of Doyoung. “I’m so proud of you.”

“Oh my god,” Doyoung groans, frozen in his stance as Taeyong moves to unzip his jeans.

Doyoung isn’t hard yet, but the sight of Taeyong on his knees is more than enough to get him going. He swells in Taeyong’s palm, who smiles up at him with way too much affection for someone about to give a blow job.

“Is this actually happening?” Doyoung asks, bringing a hand to Taeyong’s cheek. It’s a stupid question, but being with Taeyong makes him forget all sorts of things. An unfortunate side effect of being in love.

“You’ve been good,” Taeyong says, briefly closing his lips around the head of Doyoung’s dick. He sucks lightly before releasing, smiling demurely. “And good boys deserve a reward.”

Then he leans forward and sinks in completely, saliva dripping obscenely down his chin as he takes all of Doyoung into his mouth, tonguing at the flushed skin. He provides a modest pace, eyelashes fluttering closed as Doyoung grips his soft hair. It’s good, it’s so fucking good. He’ll probably be finished in the next fifteen seconds.

Muffled noise permeates through the walls. Yuta is probably turning the volume up so they can transform the living room into a dance floor, which Doyoung appreciates because that means no one can hear him groaning as Taeyong curls his fingers around his thighs, beckoning Doyoung to fuck his mouth.

“Taeyong,” he warns lowly, close to the edge.

Taeyong whines, a high-pitched sound that shoots straight to Doyoung’s dick and he comes, hips jerking forward as Taeyong keeps himself in place, tears welling at the corners of his eyes. Doyoung gasps, eyes never leaving Taeyong as he pulls back to suck at the tip, soothing Doyoung as he nears to completion. He swallows everything, releasing as Doyoung comes down from his high. 

“God,” Doyoung says, threading his fingers through Taeyong’s hair. “Is this real life?”

“I sure hope it is,” Taeyong giggles. He shifts uncomfortably, sporting a hard-on of his own.

“Can you fuck me?” he asks, still panting from exertion.

Doyoung hauls him up for a kiss, reveling in the feeling of Taeyong’s tongue against his.

“Yes,” he answers. “I most definitely can.”

-

“Why did you hold out for so long?” Doyoung asks. He’s starfished on the bed, sweaty and naked except for a pair of boxers, with an equally sweaty and naked Taeyong curled into his side.

“What do you mean?” Taeyong asks, lifting his head up to rest it on Doyoung’s chest. His chin digs uncomfortably into his sternum but Doyoung chooses not to say anything. Oh, the power of love.

“Before the conference, you wouldn’t even let me take off your shirt,” Doyoung explains. He runs his hand up and down Taeyong’s back, reveling in the contact. “And correct me if I’m wrong, but we’ve fucked almost every day since coming back. Did I pass some sort of test? Is that what it was all about?”

“Oh,” Taeyong says, tilting his head in brief contemplation. “I had to make sure you would stay somehow.”

“Stay?” Doyoung asks. “Like, stay with you?”

“You would’ve stayed with me regardless,” Taeyong laughs, displaying a surprising amount of self-awareness. “I had heard about you from Jungwoo. You were a star on the debate team. I needed you to stay with Model UN.”

Doyoung unhinges his jaw in shock, completely floored at Taeyong’s statement. He had shown up to Model UN with primarily self-beneficial goals —to receive the most but give the least. But Taeyong had turned it around into something so completely different. Doyoung will admit: he’d been played, clearly, for a naive fool this entire time.

“I’m good, right?” Taeyong laughs, bringing a finger to Doyoung’s chin and clicking his jaw shut. He kisses Doyoung square on the lips and smiles, unashamed at being found out. Once again, Doyoung finds that he just can’t bring himself to be upset.

“Yeah,” he says. “You’re pretty good.” Doyoung looks at Taeyong, nothing but fondness in his heart, and for the first time in a very long time— he realizes that he cares.

He cares a lot.

-

6:58

Shit , Doyoung thinks, racing up the stairs to the fourth floor because even after two years, they still haven’t fixed the goddamn elevator.

He can practically hear Taeyong scolding him. Punctuality is important, especially when you’re trying to set an example for the younger members. Whatever, he thinks. It’s not like Taeyong is president anymore.

He opens the door to a bustling room, new and old members mingling among the rows of desks.

“You’re late,” Ten snaps. He looks at Doyoung judgmentally. “On the first meeting, too.”

“Fuck off,” Doyoung replies. “I had an LSAT info session. Did you get everything ready?”

“But of course, your highness.” Ten tosses him the remote to the projector.

“Thanks,” Doyoung says, walking past a desk that’s currently occupied by—

“Jungwoo?” Doyoung gasps. “What are you doing here?”

“I had a lot of fun last year,” Jungwoo says, and for once in his life, he looks genuine. “I’ve brought some debate team members too. They said it sounded cool.”

Doyoung stiffly waves at Lucas and Kun. It’s weird, seeing old colleagues in a setting like this. But it matters little, because Doyoung’s got his work cut out for him today. He takes his place at the podium, briefly scanning the room.

There’s Mark and Donghyuck in the back with their business school friends. Yuta’s off to the side, talking to some soccer team members that decided to tag along. They’re all sitting next to Jaehyun, now capable of showing some semblance of emotion, who nods at Doyoung in acknowledgement. His laptop is open, no doubt open to a blank Google Docs page that will, by the end of the hour, be filled with meeting notes.

Ten sits at the front with Johnny, some of Ten’e dance crew members also in the mix. It’s a big crowd this year, a lot of people Doyoung has to impress by the end of this meeting. But it’s fine. As long as there’s at least ten of them willing to stay, that’s really all he can ask for.

He’s about to start the meeting, but there’s an unread text on his phone—

 

[7:04]

have fun today! 

and good news - I think I can come to the meeting next week!! 

the department head is taking a vacation for two weeks so interns are being let off for a bit :))

 

Doyoung smiles to himself, typing a quick response before putting down his phone. He picks up the gavel (which Yuta has finally agreed to give up after they collectively abolished the Gavel Guard position) and bangs lightly on the wood of the podium. The room turns quiet.

“Hello,” Doyoung greets. “Welcome to the first Model UN meeting of the year.”

He looks at Ten, who gives him an encouraging thumbs up. It’s a shame that Taeyong can’t be here, but it’s fine. Doyoung will tell him all about the first meeting when he gets off work for the night. Staying up to talk means less hours of sleep but some things, Doyoung knows, are worth it. He continues,

“My name is Doyoung and I’ll be your president for this year.”