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MONDAY

Yuta stumbles into the coffee shop at 10 past noon with a raging hangover and the vague inkling that he’s missed his first class of the day.

He pretty much never frequents this particular campus cafe: too pretentious, usually full of stuck-up business students with their MacBooks and iPads and luxury handbags that front as backpacks. If he has to pick up a coffee from anywhere, Yuta’s more likely to stop at the convenience store in the student union building.

(“Or you’ll just forgo coffee altogether and skip straight to day drinking at The Pit,” Jaehyun’s cackling voice tells him helpfully inside his own head.)

Still, Yuta’s extremely hungover and has a lecture at one that he can’t miss. There had been no coffee in the house -- though Johnny probably had a secret stash of expensive imported beans somewhere in his room, but Yuta wasn’t about to go kicking down doors before midday -- and the SUB wasn’t on his way to class.

So, pretentious coffee shop it is.

The shop is reasonably full when he opens the door, tables cluttered with students on their lunch breaks, typing away haphazardly on their laptops while trying not to drop sandwich fillings across the keyboard. Yuta rolls his eyes and steps up to the counter while scanning the menu board. He’s not really paying attention, which is probably why he’s so disarmed when he finally looks at the cashier.

“Hi,” the guy says, painfully earnest sounding and way too chipper for someone who makes drinks for people on the regular. “What can I get you today?”

The guy is fairly average looking in most regards. He’s about as tall as Yuta, with black hair that’s messily parted over his forehead. There’s a smattering of acne across his chin, lips chapped and a little pink looking. Pretty standard, as far as Yuta is concerned.

What catches him off-guard, though, are his eyes. Big, round, sparkly even behind his circular gold-rimmed glasses. Yuta feels instantly captivated.

A frown mars the face of the cashier. “Uh, are you okay?” he asks.

Yuta blinks, shakes his head. He hadn’t had time -- or functionality -- to style his hair that morning, and now he regrets it. He’d asked Taeyong to help him bleach his hair blonde and give him an undercut last week and he’d gotten more than a few appreciative looks for the efforts. When it’s not styled, though, Yuta’s aware he looks a little like a deranged, sleep-deprived human. Par for the course at university, but certainly not up to the standards Yuta holds for himself.

“Uh, sorry,” he mutters, reaching for his wallet. “I’ll just get a medium Americano please.”

The guy behind the counter smiles at him. “Sure,” he says, punching the order in. “Anything to eat?”

Yuta probably should. Nothing like trying to cure a hangover with a cup of coffee and an empty stomach. He glances over at the display case, eyes glazing over at the sheer number of items inside. “Um, do you have any suggestions?” he asks.

The guy grins. “Oh, man, yeah,” he says eagerly, sliding over to the case and immediately pointing at things. “Like, the breakfast sandwiches are really good but I’d 100 percent get the sausage one instead of the bacon ones. More bang for your buck, y’know? But if you like something sweeter we have these really nice cinnamon rolls. Not as good as those ones on Alma off campus but can anything ever really be that good? Or we have little pastries? Or if you’re like, one of those kinds of people that doesn’t want any heavy carbs we have yogurt and granola cups, but those are honestly just the same ones you can get anywhere on campus.”

Yuta’s head spins with the sheer information overload, but he can’t help but admire how cute the guy looks, talking about things he’s excited about. It’s cute. He’s cute, and if Yuta weren’t so spectacularly hungover, he’d definitely be flirting more. Still, even if his head is killing him, Yuta has enough self-preservation instincts to know he has to uphold his reputation somehow.

“Sure, cutie,” he says, which makes the guy shut up immediately. A faint blush paints his cheeks. Cute. “I’ll get the breakfast sandwich. And your name.”

The guy splutters, sliding back over to the register and punching in Yuta’s order. Finally, he manages to say, “Isn’t that my line?”

Yuta blinks. “Huh?”

The guy laughs, plucking Yuta’s card out of his hand and tapping it on the card reader. It beeps with approval. Yuta scowls. “I was going to ask you your name, for the cup, but you stole my line.”

Yuta tucks his card back into his wallet and says, “I’ll give you mine if you give me yours.” He paints his best, devilish smirk on his face and is pleased to see the blush return to his cheeks.

“Cheesy,” the guy mutters, plucking a cup from the stack next to him and pulling a Sharpie from his apron pocket. “Okay, you go first.”

Yuta leans forward, bracing himself on the counter. He tilts his head coquettishly, ignores how he can feel his hair flopping messily across his head. Of all the days he was going to forget to do his hair, it has to be today when he’s trying to put the moves on the cutest guy he’s seen all semester. “I’m Yuta,” he says. “Nice to meet you.”

The guy scrawls his name across the cup and slides it down the counter to his co-worker, who Yuta has only just noticed. He’s giving Yuta the once-over, severe scowl on his face. Yuta winks at him.

“Hey,” the cashier says, tapping on Yuta’s temple with his Sharpie. “Don’t flirt with my co-worker when you haven’t finished flirting with me, yet.”

Yuta drags away from the demon co-worker. There’s a distinct possibility that he’ll spit in Yuta’s drink while he’s making it -- it wouldn’t be the first time it’s ever happened to him -- but the hangover demands coffee, and Yuta’s not willing to dump this one out on a suspicion. “Sorry, doll,” he says. The cashier rolls his eyes, but there’s still a tiny smile tugging at the corners of his lips, like he’s trying his best to squash it down. “What was your name again?”

The cashier’s eyes crinkle in amusement. He leans against the counter so that he and Yuta are only a breath apart. Yuta tries not to go cross-eyed. “You know, I think I’ll make you work for it,” he says. “Why should I give it to someone like you when you were just checking out my co-worker? Prove to me that you deserve to know my name.”

From anyone else, Yuta would’ve scoffed and let it go. No one is worth him letting go of his pride and grovelling, but there’s something different about this guy. It doesn’t feel like submitting to his whims; it feels like a game, and as long as Yuta feels like it’s all just fun, he’s down to play along.

“Fine,” he says, leaning back. He offers the guy his best dazzling smile. “Trust me, by the end of the week you won’t know what hit you.”

“Bring it on,” Cashier Guy says just as his co-worker yells, “Yuta, I have your fucking Americano and breakfast sandwhich now get the hell out.” Yuta cackles all the way to his one o’clock lecture.

 

 

TUESDAY

The fact that Yuta’s even made it out of bed before his 10 AM lecture is a feat in itself. The additional fact that he’s stepping foot into Pretentious Cafe -- Yuta’s still trying to get the name to stick, even if it’s just within the house itself -- is a goddamn miracle.

The shop is reasonably quiet, mostly because most people coming in are heading right back out the door again with their coffees, preparing themselves for a fun-filled morning of learning. Even the voice in Yuta’s head sounds sarcastic.

Cute Cashier isn’t standing at the counter today. Instead, Yuta gets Demonic Co-worker.

“Oh,” he says when Yuta approaches. “M -- he isn’t here today.”

Yuta -- Yuta hadn’t really thought this plan through very well. There were some pretty obvious details that he was missing out on, namely: that he didn’t know this guy’s schedule. “Like, he won’t be here at all today?” he asks.

“Nope,” Demonic Co-worker says, popping the p in his reply. “It’s his day off. Now, are you going to order something? Otherwise, you should probably go.”

“You should probably be nicer to your customers,” Yuta says, but he’s already pulling out his wallet. “What if I don’t come back?”

“Well, I already know you will because you want in my co-worker’s pants. Now, what do you want?”

Yuta eyes the guy suspiciously. Where does he get off on being such a snarky little shit? “How old are you?” he asks.

“18,” the demon replies.

“Yah, you’re a first year!” Yuta exclaims. “You should be nicer to me.”

“Why? Because you’re a sad, depressed fourth-year student that’s trying to bang my co-worker?”

Yuta very consciously does not correct the demon on the fact that he is, in fact, in his fifth year and debating whether to delay his graduation until next spring. Some people learn at different paces.

Yuta opens and closes his mouth. Then an idea hits him. “No,” he says. “Because I can get you an invite to the hottest party on campus this weekend.”

Demon Co-worker glances at Yuta skeptically. “You?” he asks.

Yuta frowns. “Yeah, me,” he says. “Why not me?”

You know someone in Alpha Delt?”

Yuta splutters. “Dude, I’m in Alpha Delt.”

Demon Co-worker’s face morphs through several different expressions at once -- skepticism, panic, respect -- before settling on mild disinterest. “You’re in Alpha Delt,” he replies, more like a statement than a question.

“Yes,” he moans. “I’ll get you an invite to the party if you tell me your co-worker’s name.”

“Uh, no,” Demon Co-worker says. “That’s cheating, and I will not betray my bestie like that for a party, thanks. I have a little more loyalty than that.”

“Fine,” Yuta sulks. “No party, then.”

Demon Co-worker eyes him speculatively. “How about a counter offer?” he asks. “How about you still get me a party invite but for the price of a free drink every time you come in here to hit on my co-worker?”

Yuta ponders this for a moment. Truthfully, it’s not that much trouble to get this kid on the guest list, and he does rather enjoy the coffee at this particular cafe, now that he’s had one of their Americanos. It would be nice to get a free drink every day, especially since Yuta isn’t exactly made of money and can, like, afford to buy this shit all the time.

Besides, after he gets Cute Cashier’s name hopefully he can keep mooching off the free drinks from him.

“Fine,” he says. “What’s your name? I’ll put you on the guest list.”

“Donghyuck,” the demon replies. He scribbles it down on a sticky note and sticks it to the middle of Yuta’s chest.

“And you’re bringing someone? What’s their name?”

Donghyuck just laughs. “You think you’re pretty slick, don’t you?” he asks. “Just write Plus One. I haven’t decided who I’ll bring, yet. Maybe my roommate. Maybe my boyfriend. Maybe my co-worker. Who knows?”

Yuta fumes. He shoves the sticky note in his pocket, glad that the cafe is pretty much empty and therefore devoid of anyone who might have witnessed his untimely downfall to a freshman. “You’re the absolute worst person I’ve ever met,” he fumes. “I’m cashing in my free drink. Get me a large Americano with an extra shot of espresso.”

Donghyuck laughs. “Coming right up, boss,” he says with a jaunty salute.

Yuta loiters at the end of the counter while Donghyuck makes his drink, idly scrolling through Instagram. He likes a few photos from some of his brothers, drops a comment on a friend’s post from Japan, and looks up when Donghyuck clears his throat. There’s an Americano sliding across the counter at him, followed by a napkin.

“Thanks, but I’m not that much of a slob,” Yuta says snarkily. It earns him an eye roll in response.

He’s just about to toss out the napkin in the garbage bin by the door when something catches his eye. Donghyuck’s written all over the napkin, and when he sees what it is, he almost drops his coffee.

Co-worker’s Schedule it says along the top, followed by dates and times for the whole rest of the week.

“I take it back,” Yuta says over his shoulder. “You’re my new favourite person ever.”

Donghyuck laughs. “See you tomorrow, Yuta,” he says.

 

 

WEDNESDAY

On Wednesday Yuta has his dreaded night class, so he checks the schedule Donghyuck had given him and traipses out to the cafe at four in the afternoon. It's reasonably busy stil, and he has to wait in line before he gets up to the counter, which is fine. It gives him more time to try and formulate his plan of attack.

Cute Cashier had wanted Yuta to prove his worth. It's hard without knowing what will impress him, though: should Yuta invite him to the party? Take him out to lunch? Buy him some flowers? He can't remember the last time he had to work so hard for a guy.

Not even the guy, really. Just his fucking name.

"Maybe it'll do you some good," Johnny had told him at breakfast that morning. Yuta had only been lured out of bed by the smell of eggs cooking and had managed to convince Johnny to make him some too. "The playboy gets played."

Yuta hates being labeled as a playboy. He knows it's because he likes to sleep around and he's in a frat, but he's not an asshole. He's just not ready to settle down. To him, the game is the fun part: after that is a great unknown. Yuta knows that relationships don't have to be boring, per se, but considering how stupidly domestic Taeyong and Doyoung are, he thinks maybe he'd like a few more years of running around before he finally finds The One.

He’s so distracted that he misses the fact that he’s made it the front of the line. Cute Cashier looks surprised to see him, but quickly schools his features into something impassive and neutral looking. “Hello,” he says. “What can I get you today?”

Yuta feels decidedly unprepared. He’s not sure what to ask for, what he might be judged for, so he balks. The person behind him coughs delicately.

“Uh, surprise me,” he says. “The only requirement is that it has a lot of caffeine in it.”

Cute Cashier’s eyebrows raise. “It’s four pm,” he says mildly.

“I have a night class,” Yuta replies, which at least earns him a sympathetic grimace from the cashier. It makes his nose scrunch up, which is just plain adorable. Yuta simultaneously loves and hates it.

“Okay, well, how about a medium espresso with a double shot?” the cashier asks.

Yuta shrugs. “Sure, sounds good,” he says. He goes to move down the counter when Cute Cashier reaches out and grabs his shoulder.

“Whoa, dude, you have to pay for that.”

Yuta peers around the counter and spots Donghyuk, steadfastly pouring milk into a steamer and trying his best to ignore them.

“Oh, Donghyuckie,” Yuta sings at him. Cute Cashier’s eyes widen as he looks over at his co-worker.

Donghyuck sighs, shoves the jug of milk back into the fridge and ambles over to the espresso machine next to the cash register. “It’s on me,” he grumbles. He won’t meet either of their eyes, but Yuta can’t be sure that’s just so he doesn’t burn himself as he steams the milk for the order he’s working on.

Cute Cashier glances between the two of them furtively. “What did you do?” he moans. The person behind Yuta grumbles indistinctly.

“Nothing that will hurt you,” Donghyuck promises. He pours the milk into the cup and yells, “Janet, I have your vanilla latte,” and practically slams the drink down on the counter. Some poor girl comes skittering up to the counter to grab it. “Yuta invited me to a party this weekend so I told him I’d buy his drinks every day this week.”

Cute Cashier’s eyes narrow. “What party?”

“Alpha Delt’s,” Donghyuck replies. He snatches the next order from Mark’s hand and gets to work on it. “Yuta’s a member.”

“Dude, that’s Taeyong’s frat,” the cashier hisses. “If you’d wanted to go I could’ve gotten you invited and saved you the coffees.”

“What?” Donghyuck and Yuta ask simultaneously. Yuta’s about to ask more questions when the person behind him in line says, “Can you please move the fuck on? Some of us just want to buy a goddamn coffee.”

Yuta sends her his best eyebrow raise over his shoulder, but shuffles down the counter anyway. He’s not quite sure what to do with the information that the Cute Cashier knows Taeyong but -- it makes things easier. Of course, he could just cheat and ask Taeyong the obvious: what’s the guy’s name, but now that Yuta feels like the ground is a little more even, he doesn’t mind working a little longer. It’s nice to know he’s got a fallback option.

“Here,” Donghyuck says, slamming Yuta’s drink down on the table. “I hope you pass out in your night class and embarrass yourself.”

It wouldn’t be the first time. “It’s not my fault you didn’t know your co-worker already had an in with the frat. That’s your own fault, kiddo.”

Donghyuck scowls at him. “I still hate you,” he declares, spinning on his heel and going back to his drink orders.

Yuta grins. Even the prospect of his night class can tear him down. He bounces out the door of the cafe, blowing a kiss to the staff on his way, ignoring their eye rolls and complaints. Yuta can practically taste the victory already.

 

 

THURSDAY

Yuta manages to gather quite a bit of intel from Taeyong about his nameless cashier -- minus the name of course. There’s no fun in the game if Yuta cheats. Taeyong had looked rather perplexed when Yuta had refused to find out what his name was, but he must have figured that it was just another patented Yuta eccentricity and had rolled with it. Bless his soul.

Yuta finds out that his cashier is a second-year arts student, majoring in creative writing and minoring in economics of all things. He intends to do a master's in journalism when all's said and done. He works at the coffee shop part time, is a member of the dance team, and is a major foodie because he can't cook worth a damn.

And he's Taeyong's cousin.

"We're really more like brothers," Taeyong says idly as Yuta flips through his gender studies textbook looking for page 623. God this thing is a paperweight. "We grew up together because our parents were always working. And I know M -- er, oh, sorry. I know he's an adult and can make his own decisions but I swear to god, Yuta, if you hurt him I will fuck you up and throw you out of the frat."

"God, who graduated and made you frat president?"

"Literally all of you!" Taeyong exclaims, but there's no heat to either of their words. Well. Except for Taeyong's threat. That, Yuta takes very seriously. Yuta is not exactly prepared to go looking for a room to rent in the middle of -- hopefully -- his last year of school.

The point, though, is that Yuta gains a lot of valuable information from Taeyong without explicitly cheating, so when he shows up at the coffee shop on Thursday after his morning classes, he's armed with all the ammo he needs.

"Hello," Donghyuck says from behind the cash register. Yuta frowns at him and cranes his neck around the espresso machine to find the object of his affection working on drinks further down the line.

"You're not really the person I wanted to talk to today," Yuta says. No point in mincing his words.

Donghyuck huffs. "Is that any way to treat your future brother?" he asks, and cackles at the incredulous look on Yuta's face. "I'm going to rush Alpha Delt."

Yuta pinches his nose. He had forgotten that their recruitment wraps up this week after the party and they'll start actually sorting through all their new pledges and weeding them out. Yuta can't imagine how his already chaotic frat will change with the addition of the Devil Incarnate.

"Excellent," Yuta replies. "Can I get a medium caramel macchiato?"

Donghyuck raises his eyebrows at him, so Yuta adds, "We're doing last minute party stuff today and I'm going to need both the sugar and the caffeine."

“Cutting it a little close, aren’t you?” Donghyuck asks as he writes Yuta’s order on a cup and sends it sliding down the counter to Cute Cashier. Or maybe Yuta will have to start referring to him as Cute Barista in his head now. Ugh. Getting a name would make everything better.

“Yeah, well, our prez thought it would be a great last minute addition to try and make a signature drink for the event so now we have to, like, decide on what it’s going to be and who’s going to pick up the extra booze and whatnot,” Yuta replies. He’s pretty sure he can weasel his way out of the booze run considering he doesn’t have a car to lug back the frightening amount of alcohol that they’ll need to pull this off.

Donghyuck shakes his head. “Once I get in, I’m going to introduce some organization to your fraternity,” he says, like Doyoung hasn’t been trying to do this for the last three years.

“Good luck,” Yuta says, and shuffles down the line to wait for his drink. It reminds him of the real reason why he’s at the shop today and he waits patiently for the Cute Cashier to appear at the end of the counter.

“Caramel macchiato for Yuta,” he says, as if Yuta isn’t standing right in front of him waiting. Yuta offers him his best dazzling smile, which just makes the cashier roll his eyes.

“Thanks,” Yuta says, grabbing his drink. Before the cashier can walk away though, he says, “Wait!”

Yuta’s honestly a little surprised that he stops, but he looks at Yuta with the most judgemental look in the world, and that sets Yuta’s nerves on fire, but he didn’t make it this far in university without gaining a little bit of confidence so he says, “Can I take you out?” before he loses his cool entirely.

It’s clear that Cute Cashier never thought Yuta would try and take him out on a date before learning his name -- Yuta is suddenly struck with the idea that maybe he thought Yuta would never take him on a date at all -- because his mouth parts in surprise and his eyebrows furrow. “You want to go out with me?” he asks.

Yuta nods his furtively. “Yeah,” he says. “I was thinking dinner? On Sunday? There’s that new Japanese restaurant down on the water that I thought might be nice to check out.”

Cute Cashier squints at him. “I heard it’s expensive there,” he says slowly.

Yuta knows this; he definitely checked out the menu before suggesting it, but he figures he has to go big or go home. It probably means he’ll have to budget his groceries more extensively this month, but that’s fine. “I don’t mind,” Yuta says.

At last, he catches a hint of pleasure in the cashier’s smile, like Yuta has finally done something to impress him. He opens his mouth to say something when Donghyuck knocks into his back.

“You know,” Donghyuck drawls. There’s a mischievous glint in his eye that Yuta immediately distrusts. “He really likes breakfast.”

The cashier looks momentarily confused, but one look at Donghyuck and suddenly they seem to be on the same wavelength. He grins and looks back at Yuta. “Oh yes,” he says. “I actually prefer going out for breakfast than any other meal.”

“And the sooner you take him out, the better,” Donghyuck adds.

Yuta doesn’t like where this is going.

“So you should probably take me out on Saturday morning,” Cute Cashier concludes.

Saturday morning. The day after the party. Yuta had planned on getting monumentally smashed, taking all of Saturday and half of Sunday to sober up, and then taking Cute Cashier out for dinner. This throws a very big wrench in his plans.

“Are you -- are you sure?” he asks, and curses himself for stuttering.

“Oh, very sure,” Cute Cashier replies. “Like, 100 percent, so totally sure.”

Fuck. “Okay, fine,” Yuta says. An idea blooms in his head. “You can pick the place, so I’ll give you my number and you can text me. Just give me, like, an hour head’s up because I’ll have to bus to wherever you pick.”

Cute Cashier looks surprised, which ruffles Yuta’s feathers. He knows he has a reputation around campus, and his looks don’t really help with it much, but he can be a gentleman if he wants to be; he knows how to treat a guy right. “Really?” he asks.

“Really,” Yuta confirms. He tugs a napkin out of the dispenser and motions for Donghyuck to toss him his Sharpie. The paper crinkles under the tip as he scribbles his number, but when he’s done he pushes the napkin to Cute Cashier and says, “Here’s my number.”

“Thanks,” Cute Cashier says, sounding a little dazed. He carefully folds the napkin and tucks it into his jeans pocket.

“No problem,” Yuta replies. He checks the time on his phone and just about drops his coffee. He’s going to be late for the meeting and if he’s not on time he knows he’ll be stuck with the booze run regardless of whether or not he has a car or not. “Shit,” he mutters. “I have to go.”

“See you tomorrow,” Donghyuck beams.

“Yeah, yeah, see you,” Yuta replies, and runs out of the cafe.

 

 

FRIDAY

There’s really no better way to start a semester than with an all-out rager, Yuta thinks as he dances his way through the crowd of people who have taken over the living room of the house. They’re not far enough into classes that there’s anything to worry about except maybe what group they’ll end up with for a group project, and there’s no obligations to clubs or sports yet. Anyone who’s anyone has crammed themselves into their house on the row tonight, and Yuta is thriving.

He spends a ridiculous amount of time dancing in the crowd, plays a couple rounds of beer pong with Jaehyun, and takes a turn behind the bar handing out their signature mai tai drinks. Someone from his gender, race, sexuality and popular culture class from last year chats with him about the courses this year. Another person that Yuta met at homecoming in first year hands him a drink and spins him around the dance floor. Strangers slap him on the back and congratulate him on a job well done in regards to the party.

Yuta feels absolutely alive.

He doesn’t see Donghyuck arrive, but sometime past midnight there’s a tug on the back of his shirt, and when Yuta spins around it’s to find Donghyuck and Cute Cashier standing behind him. They look different without their aprons on, and Yuta can see the traces of eyeliner and glitter on Donghyuck’s eyes. “Hey!” Donghyuck shouts over the music.

“Hey, yourself,” Yuta replies, and hands two drinks from the mai tai station to Donghyuck and Cute Cashier. “Drink up!”

Donghyuck downs his drink in just a few gulps, but Cute Cashier looks at his own suspiciously. Smart. “Taeyong mixed it,” Yuta says, stepping to the side so that Cute Cashier can have a clearer look at who’s making drinks behind the counter. Satisfied, he gulps at the drink in his hand until it’s finished and hands the empty plastic cup back to Yuta.

“Thanks,” he says, wiping the back of his mouth with his hand. He grabs Donghyuck’s arm and says, “Let’s dance,” before dragging him into the crowd and away to Yuta. It’s fine. Yuta doesn’t mind the chase.

Now that he knows Cute Cashier is here, though, Yuta becomes very conscious of the fact that he’s going to need to be not hungover in the morning. He hates to be the guy that turns down drinks, but he’s not about to blow his chances at finally learning Cute Cashier’s name now that he’s so close, so he skirts around the edges of the party, chats with some of the more sober people he sees, and tries to look as inconspicuous as possible.

Sometime around 1:30, Taeyong catches him around the waist and shouts, “Can you clear out the upstairs? I’m trying to get this to wrap up in half an hour.”

“Why do I have to do the upstairs?” Yuta complains. They’ve locked all the doors, but it wouldn’t be the first time someone’s broken into their rooms just for a bit of privacy and a bed. Yuta’s thrown out a lot of sets of sheets that way.

“Because you’re the scariest looking and you’re also the most sober,” Taeyong replies. He’s not flat-out drunk, but he’s tipsy enough that Yuta knows he’s got no confidence in being able to remove people from where they’re not supposed to be.

“Fine,” Yuta says, “though I do think Johnny is scarier.”

“He’s being the DJ.”

“I thought you wanted people to leave!” Yuta complains, but he shoves Taeyong away and stalks up the stairs. He’s hoping no one is in his room because once he’s cleared out the top floor he’s probably just going to crash and go to sleep. He has a breakfast date, after all.

The upstairs is a t-shape. All down the main hallway, Yuta finds that the doors are blessedly locked. There’s a light on under one of the bathroom doors, but when Yuta knocks all he gets back is, “I’m taking a shit!”, so Yuta leaves that alone. The less he knows about that, the better.

When he gets to the end of the main hallway, he takes a look to the right and finds it dark and empty. Down the left side, however -- which happens to be where Yuta’s room is, just his luck -- there are two people standing in the shadows. Their voices are hushed, and it’s hard to hear anything over the pounding bass of the mix Johnny’s playing downstairs, but Yuta probably doesn’t want to hear what they’re saying anyway. He’s heard enough bad dirty talk in his lifetime that he doesn’t need to add this to the mix, too.

“Hey,” Yuta says, clearing his throat. The taller of the two shadows turns to look at him, but the smaller shadow doesn’t move. It sets off an alarm in Yuta’s head. “Upstairs is off limits. Time to beat it.”

Tall Shadow sneers, the glint of his teeth unnerving in the low light. “Fuck off, man,” he slurs. “I’m busy.”

Yuta’s usually a pretty chill guy, but he hates when people talk down to him, especially in his own house. He’s about to protest when the smaller of the two shadows squeaks and ducks out from under the other. “Yuta,” he says, and it only takes a moment for Yuta to register who it is: Cute Cashier.

He reaches out instinctively, lets Cute Cashier latch onto his arm and tuck himself behind him. If he wasn’t angry before, he is now: he hates the way Cute Cashier is shaking against his back.

“I don’t appreciate you terrorizing my guests,” Yuta says slowly. He’s suddenly very glad for how sober he is.

The other guy steps into the light. He’s no one that Yuta recognizes, but he’s got several inches on him and looks like he could bench press Yuta easily. Instead of stepping back in fear like his instincts beg him to do, he straightens his spine instead and tilts his chin up in challenge.

“Everything was fine, dude,” the guy says.

“Yeah, I don’t think so,” Yuta replies. He gestures to the main hallway and adds, “You should probably head home. Drink some water.”

It’s almost surprising how easily the guy acquiesces, but Yuta hadn’t really thought he was a bad dude anyway, not on purpose at least. He mumbles an apology as he ambles past, but Yuta makes sure to angle them so that Cute Cashier is always behind him. The guy disappears around the corner and everything goes quiet. Or, as quiet as it can get in a house full of party-goers.

It takes a moment, but Yuta suddenly becomes very aware of Cute Cashier still gripping his shirt tightly. He looks over his shoulder and asks, “That guy didn’t hurt you, did he?”

Cute Cashier’s eyes are blown wide and there’s a flush along the sharp jut of his cheekbones, though Yuta can’t tell if it’s from the alcohol or the encounter. His lips are red and kiss-bitten, and an unreasonable swell of jealousy rises in Yuta’s stomach.

“I’m okay,” Cute Cashier says finally, though he looks pretty shaken up. “I was -- he asked -- it was fun and then -- “

“It’s okay,” Yuta says, cutting him off. He manages to turn himself around so that they can be face-to-face and says, “Why don’t you sit down for a bit? My room’s at the end of the hall. I’ll find Donghyuck for you.”

It says a lot about how shaken up the encounter left Cute Cashier that he doesn’t make any cracks about Yuta trying to get him into his room. He just follows along as Yuta tows him down the hall by the hand and unlocks the door for them.

Yuta hadn’t bothered to clean up beforehand -- he knew he wouldn’t be bringing anyone back here, and he had hoped that the mess might deter anyone who broke in -- but now he’s regretting it. Cute Cashier doesn’t seem to mind, though. He ignores the clothes strewn across the floor with loose-leaf paper and sits down on the edge of Yuta’s bed, looking nervous.

“Hey,” Yuta says, stepping into the room. He leaves the door open a crack, trying to make sure Cute Cashier doesn’t feel cornered. “I’ll just be gone for a minute, ‘kay? I’ll grab Donghyuck and you guys can spend the night, if you want.”

“Here?” Cute Cashier asks, eyes wide.

“Yeah,” Yuta replies. Cute Cashier looks like he’s about to protest so he adds, “If you don’t want to, that’s fine. I can walk you guys back to the bus loop or the dorms or wherever. And if you’re worried about me, it’s fine.”

“I -- okay,” Cute Cashier says. He looks like he wants to argue, but maybe it’s the tone of Yuta’s voice -- tired and a little angry still -- that curbs his protests. He ducks his head, and he looks so small on Yuta’s bed that Yuta can’t help but step forward and tilt his chin up so that their eyes can connect.

“I’ll be right back,” he repeats. “Don’t open the door for anyone unless it’s me, okay?”

“Okay,” Cute Cashier mumbles and, on impulse, Yuta leans forward and presses a dry kiss to his forehead. He’s not sure what made him do it, but he can feel his cheeks heat in embarrassment as Cute Cashier looks at him with wide, surprised eyes, so he backs out of the room and shuts the door behind him, making sure to lock it before he’s rushing off down the hall.

By the time he makes it back downstairs, the music has been turned off and the lights are on. Taeyong’s ushering people towards the door, though there’s still a considerable number of guests just standing around with their drinks, chatting. Yuta stands halfway up the stairs and tries to pick Donghyuck out of the crowd. When he can’t see anything, he sighs and dives right into the mess of people lingering in their front entry.

He finds Donghyuck chatting with Johnny of all people over near where they had the DJ set-up. Donghyuck’s standing there batting his eyelashes at Johnny while Johnny just laughs and ruffles his hair. When he catches sight of Yuta he says, “Come deal with your little.”

Momentarily forgetting his mission, Yuta splutters. “He’s not my little,” he says. “He’s not even in the frat yet!”

“Yeah, but when he is, he’s yours to deal with,” Johnny says, much to Donghyuck’s protesting as well.

“Johnny,” he whines. “I wanted to be your little.”

“He has a boyfriend,” Yuta says with a roll of his eyes, easily picking up the flirtatious tinge to Donghyuck’s voice. Takes one to know one, he figures. He grabs Donghyuck’s elbow and adds, “And you have a friend who needs your help.”

Donghyuck’s demeanor changes in an instant, and though he drunkenly stumbles after Yuta through the crowd, he’s attentive and worried. “Is Mark okay?” he asks, and it takes Yuta a moment to realize that he’s talking about Cute Cashier. Whether it’s the drinks or the worry that has made Donghyuck forget about the game, Yuta isn’t sure. He’s momentarily disappointed, but the feeling is replaced by annoyance as he practically has to boost Donghyuck up the stairs due to how uncoordinated he’s become. “Where is he?”

“In my room, you fool,” Yuta huffs, pushing Donghyuck up the last two steps.

“Oh my god, were you doing something with him?” Donghyuck asks, spinning around and tipping into the wall. “Because I’ll cut your dick off.”

“I was not doing something with him,” Yuta snaps. “But I prevented someone else from doing something.”

Donghyuck makes a wounded noise in the back of his throat and reaches for the nearest door handle. Yuta rolls his eyes and steers him down the hall and then to the left when the hallway splits. “My room is this way, you demon,” he says. When he gets to the door he knocks and says, “I found Donghyuck,” before opening the door.

Cute Cashier -- Mark, his brain supplies helpfully -- is asleep. He managed to kick off his shoes and reposition himself on the bed, but he’s pretty much passed out. Yuta hates how endearing and soft he looks in sleep, like something precious for him to wrap up and keep.

“Sorry,” Donghyuck whispers, startling him. All the fight seems to have gone out of him, and he sways dangerously on the spot. “I can wake him up and take him home.”

Yuta shakes his head. “I told him you guys could stay here tonight. You’re pretty drunk anyway.”

Donghyuck doesn’t argue, just holds onto Yuta’s shoulder while he stumbles out of his shoes before face-planting on the bed. Unlike Mark, he seems wildly unconcerned about where Yuta will be spending the night. At this point, Yuta’s not even surprised. He just turns off the lights, shuts and locks the door, and then heads downstairs to help Doyoung and Taeyong do some minimal cleaning up.

 

 

SATURDAY

Yuta wakes up on Saturday on the living room couch to a sunbeam blinding him and the sound of pots and pans banging in the kitchen. He’s not super hungover -- he has past-Yuta to thank for that miracle -- but his mouth is still extremely dry and his body aches in weird ways that he thinks he can only attribute to dancing pretty raucously at the beginning of the night.

He stumbles his way into the kitchen to find a glass of water and is surprised to see Donghyuck standing over the stove while Mark’s flopped across the kitchen table. Both of them look up when Yuta comes in.

“Uh, hi,” Yuta says, reaching into the cupboard for a mug. He fills it with tap water, chugs it, and then fills it again. His guests don’t say anything.

Both of them look worse for wear, though Donghyuck more so mostly because he looks extremely hungover. Mark just looks emotionally drained.

“Do you need some ibuprofen?” Yuta asks, finally breaking the silence. It seems to snap them all out of their daze, because Donghyuck goes back to rummaging in their fridge and Mark stiffens up.

“That would be great, thanks,” Donghyuck says, emerging with a carton of eggs. Yuta’s not sure what gave him the idea that he could raid their fridge, but he watches as Donghyuck cracks the entire carton into a bowl and whisks it up. Clearly, he’s cooking for everyone, which is polite.

Yuta grabs the bottle of ibuprofen from the downstairs bathroom, swallows a couple pills while he’s there, and takes the rest back to the kitchen. Donghyuck’s got the eggs scrambling in the pan, so Yuta leaves two pills and a glass of water next to the stove before dropping down into a seat at the table with Mark and offering him his own set. Gingerly, Mark takes the proffered pills and swallows them down one after the other in two quick gulps of water.

“Thanks for letting us stay, Yuta,” Mark says at last, like even just swallowing the pills have made him feel better. “And sorry for making you sleep on the couch.”

“It’s fine,” Yuta says, because it’s true. He wouldn’t have let Donghyuck and Mark stumble their way across campus last night. It’s better that they were here. “Seriously, it’s all good.”

“Okay,” Mark says. He looks tired, but he offers Yuta a tentative smile and says, “I think I owe you something, too.”

“Oh?” Yuta asks. At the stove, Donghyuck begins shoveling the scrambled eggs into a bowl.

“Yeah,” Mark says. “I told you that you had to convince me you deserved to know my name, and, well, consider me convinced. My name is Mark.”

Yuta opens his mouth and then shuts it again. It’s not like he forgot about his efforts, but once Donghyuck had drunkenly spilled the beans the night before, it seems -- anticlimactic. “I know,” he says sheepishly.

Mark looks surprised. “You know?” he repeats. “I -- did Taeyong tell you?”

Yuta shakes his head as Donghyuck plops down at the table with a bowl full of eggs, a plate, and a fork. It’s a little disconcerting how well acquainted he’s becoming with their kitchen. Hopefully Yuta can graduate this year and not have to live under the same roof as Donghyuck when he undoubtedly moves into the house next year. “No, he did,” he says, pointing at Donghyuck.

Donghyuck’s got a mouthful of eggs halfway to his mouth. “What?” he asks. “No I didn’t.”

“Yeah, you did,” Yuta replies. “Last night, when I was trying to get you up the stairs. “You asked me if Mark was okay.”

Donghyuck groans and ducks his head. When he peeks up at Mark from under his bangs he says, “Sorry, dude.”

Mark doesn’t look overly upset the way Yuta thought he would. Maybe a little resigned, but also begrudgingly accepting, like this is a regular occurrence with Donghyuck. “It’s okay,” he says. “Thanks for being concerned.” He reaches out to grab Donghyuck’s fork, but Donghyuck slaps his hand away.

“You can’t have any,” Donghyuck says immediately. Yuta can hear someone thumping down the stairs.

“Why not? You used 12 eggs,” Mark complains. Behind Donghyuck, Taeyong appears in the doorway, looking very confused by the scene at the table.

“Because,” Donghyuck says, waving his fork around and narrowly missing Taeyong in the process. “This guy is supposed to take you out for breakfast!”

Yuta blinks and glances at Mark. After all the excitement that had happened after midnight, he’d forgotten that the reason he’d sobered up was because he was supposed to take Mark out this morning. Clearly, Mark had also forgotten.

“Uh,” Mark says, looking down at himself. “I’m pretty sure no one is going to want us to show up at their restaurant. I smell like a bar.”

Yuta laughs. He can’t help it. Everything about this entire situation is absurd. He’d imagined that he’d get Mark’s name out of him at breakfast, but now that he already knows it, he feels a little -- intimidated by the idea of a date. It’s not that Yuta doesn’t date people, it’s just -- it’s been a while.

“You can go home and change,” he offers. “I can still take you out for breakfast.”

Mark looks at him. Despite the dark circles under his eyes and how oily his skin is, Yuta thinks he looks good. Real. Yuta’s always been distrustful of people who look too perfect in the morning; he’s glad that Mark looks a bit messy.

“If it’s okay,” Mark says slowly, “I, uh, was wondering if your dinner offer was still open for tomorrow night?”

“Ooh, where are you going?” Taeyong asks, startling Donghyuck hard enough that he drops his fork. It lands on his plate with a clatter that rings in Yuta’s ears.

“Oh my god,” Donghyuck says as Taeyong sits down and spoons a helping of eggs onto his own plate. “When did you get here?”

“Oh, just now,” Taeyong replies. He glances over at Yuta. “I didn’t know you were seeing someone, let alone my little brother.”

“It’s new,” Yuta says easily, despite how hard his heart is thumping in his chest. He had forgotten that, at some point, he’d have to tell Taeyong he was seeing someone that was so close to him that he’d ascended past official boundaries on the family tree.

He turns back to Mark, takes in the embarrassed flush on his face, the determined look in his eyes. “Sorry, Yongie,” he says, though he doesn’t sound especially sorry. Taeyong must pick up on it, because he just shakes his head and sighs.

Yuta is endeared. He likes that Mark is willing to share this development with his family, that he’s willing to defend Yuta from Taeyong’s scrutiny. Yuta knows his name, his major, his job, and nothing else. He’d love to get to know him more. “Dinner tomorrow sounds great,” he says. “I can pick you up from your shift?”

Mark flushes even redder, clearly surprised that Yuta’s memorized his schedule from the napkin Donghyuck had given him earlier in the week. “I -- yeah. That would be fine, thanks.”

Taeyong coos at them from around a mouthful of eggs, clearly over the surprise of finding his little brother in his kitchen being seduced by one of his frat brothers, before turning to Donghyuck. “You made these?” he asks. Yuta takes the opportunity to stand up and grab two more table settings so that he and Mark can eat too. “Huh, we should just skip formal recruitment and offer you an invitation if you’re going to cook for us regularly.”

“Doyoung would like that,” Yuta says, handing Mark a plate and shovelling a helping of eggs onto his own.

“Hmm, yeah, I’ll have to talk to Johnny about it,” Taeyong replies. He lapses into silence, like he’s used up his allotment of social interaction for the day.

Slowly, the house wakes up around them. Yuta introduces his brothers to Mark and Donghyuck, laughs at the way everyone babies their new houseguests. Donghyuck preens under the attention, but Mark constantly looks to Yuta for guidance. It makes something bright and warm fill Yuta’s chest. He’s suddenly looking forward to his date tomorrow.

“I could get used to this,” he says to no one in particular. He catches Mark’s eye and winks at him, laughs at the way Mark blushes even harder before being dragged into a conversation with Johnny about music.

Even despite the lingerings of a headache, Yuta thinks it’s a pretty perfect morning, all things considered.

 

SUNDAY

Yuta steps into Pretentious Cafe at 4:30 feeling slightly overdressed. Granted, his usual attire consists of joggers and various neutral coloured t-shirts, but he feels a little out of place in his dark jeans and clean button-up shirt. No one glances at him, though, so it makes him feel more confident about striding up to the counter.

Donghyuck’s on cash today and he eyes Yuta judgmentally. “Can I get you something?” he asks, faux sweetness in his voice. Yuta rolls his eyes.

“Yeah, I’ll have that barista behind the counter,” he says. Mark scoffs as he finishes adding whipped cream to the drink he’s preparing. “I’ve got a hot date with him.”

“Sorry,” Mark says. He pushes the drink across the counter and calls out for a Mina to come collect her frozen choco chill. “Let me just ditch the apron, I’ll be right out.”

“Take your time,” Yuta says. He sits down at an empty table to wait, ignoring the fake retching Donghyuck is making. “I waited all week for this, I can wait a little longer.”

Mark sends him a cheeky wink and disappears into the back room behind the counter. When he comes back, he’s changed into a clean shirt and he’s done something to his hair so that it’s pushed off his forehead. The late afternoon sunlight reflects off his glasses. “Okay,” he says, a little breathlessly. “I’m ready.”

“Awesome,” Yuta says, standing. He offers Mark his hand, which makes Mark giggle, but he takes it and allows himself to be led out of the cafe. “Prepare to be wined and dined within an inch of your life.”

Mark laughs again, this time loudly. He looks a little embarrassed, but mostly just please, like maybe no one else has ever treated him to an expensive dinner like this on the first date. “I’m looking forward to it,” he says. He squeezes his hand and says, “Thanks, Yuta.”

Yuta grins at him. He can’t remember the last time he was so excited for a date. “Any time, Mark,” he replies. “Any time.”