“Do you like it?”
Lucas looks up at Jaemin and Jeno, beaming. “I love it! Thanks so much, guys.”
Renjun is eyeing the gift suspiciously. “It’s surprisingly nice, yeah. Very pretty.”
“Then why are you staring at it like it’s a Kai from Exo photocard?” Jaemin scoffs, frowning and leaning back against Jeno’s shoulder with his arms crossed.
The gift in question is an antique or at least an old-looking map of the world in a nice, wooden frame. It’s not very big, but it’s big enough that you could make out probably all the countries, except those really tiny ones, like Andorra (Lucas’ favourite). The paper is yellowish like the treasure maps in movies and creased in some places, and honestly, Lucas doesn’t remember ever being this excited.
“I’m trying to figure out what’s wrong with it.” Renjun turns the frame around in his hands and brings it closer to his face, inspecting it carefully.
“God, here you go again,” Jeno rolls his eyes. “Obviously there’s nothing wrong with it, because I give great gifts. If you’re trying to slam Jaemin, at least keep me out of it.”
“Uh, excuse you?” Jaemin turns his head to look at Jeno incredulously. “Literally who came up with the idea for this?”
“Pretty sure it was Jisung,” Chenle pipes up, looking innocently at Jaemin and cackling when Jaemin sends him a death stare.
“Ha, nice one.” Jisung fist bumps Chenle, barely managing it because he has to lean all the way past Mark and Donghyuck to do it. The two are in their own little world, currently not paying any attention to the rest of the table. Mark is holding his phone over Donghyuck’s lap with one hand and massaging the back of Donghyuck’s neck with the other, focused completely on the way Donghyuck is worrying his lower lip absent-mindedly as he scrolls down some website.
“Guys, this is the best gift ever,” Lucas says, taking the map from Renjun to admire it again. “I’m like, so happy right now, seriously. Babe, look how pretty–”
Renjun immediately smiles at him and scoots even closer, putting his arm around Lucas’ waist. “What do you wanna do with it?”
Hundreds of possibilities flash through Lucas’ mind. He briefly considers installing the map on the bedroom ceiling right above their bed, so that it’s the first thing he sees in the morning, but discards that idea when he realises how nervous he’d be about it falling down on him or Renjun while they’re sleeping. “I don’t know, what do you think?”
“It’s your birthday present,” Renjun pushes at his shoulder affectionately. “I don’t get a say.”
“It’s our apartment though,” Lucas counters, forgetting all about the map as he grins at Renjun, gaze flicking briefly down to his lips.
“Shit, you’re right,” Renjun’s answering grin is just as wide, “it kind of is our apartment.”
Their moment is interrupted by Chenle pretending loudly to throw up, and Lucas has to hold back Renjun from throwing himself across the booth to fight, except not really, because mostly it’s an excuse for them both to cuddle.
“Okay, for real though,” Jaemin says, reaching for the last, cold slice of Margherita, “I’m really glad you like it. We wanted to make sure it had Andorra and everything but it turns out Andorra didn’t even exist in 1800, so.”
“That’s okay!” Lucas reassures him. He puts the map back in the gift bag and sets it carefully on the floor between his feet, next to the other gifts. “Wait, it’s from 1800?”
“Yeah, that’s why it’s all yellow and shit,” Jeno explains, stealing the half-eaten slice from Jaemin, who doesn’t even protest. “I mean, it wasn’t actually made in 1800, it just shows the countries as they were back then.”
“Dude, I didn’t even notice.” He was too busy admiring the colours and the crinkles. He also doesn’t know much about either cartography or world geography (yet!), so there’s that. “That’s so cool, what the hell?”
“Why is Andorra your favourite, again?” Renjun asks, frowning slightly as he tries to remember.
“Because I got that giant pen from Taeyong hyung,” Lucas reminds him.
“Ohh, right,” Renjun hums before slurping down the rest of his coke. “The one that’s a bitch to write with.”
Lucas reaches for his own coke bottle and pushes it closer to Renjun. “Yeah, but you should see the jealous looks I get in class when I use it. I’ve made like, four friends already by just letting them borrow it for a while.”
“Speak for yourself, Renjunnie. I’ve used it before and it was perfectly comfortable,” Donghyuck says, looking up from Mark’s phone and sending Renjun a sweet smile. “I think your hands are just tiny.”
“And I think you’re lucky you’re sitting so far away,” Renjun replies, and Mark laughs and pulls Donghyuck a bit closer just in case Renjun decides to attack him after all.
The party breaks up soon after that, because it’s a weekday and most of them have class early the next day. “So what?” Jeno tries to argue. “We can just pull an all-nighter, come on guys.”
“Sorry, dude,” Lucas says sadly, “I know it’s my birthday and I should be going wild, but I’m actually exhausted.”
They chat outside the restaurant for a few minutes before everyone wishes Lucas happy birthday one last time and heads home. Renjun takes Lucas’s hand and pulls him in the direction of the tram stop, excited to get back to their apartment, and proceeds to make him play rock, paper, scissors the entire way there to try and determine whose turn it is to do the dishes.
“You were so excited about that map,” Renjun says as he comes out of the shower and slips into bed next to Lucas. “It was so cute.”
“I like it so much! I don’t even know why,” Lucas admits. He wins a level in Toon Blast and shows it excitedly to Renjun, who kisses him on the cheek as congratulations. “It’s just so pretty? Like, it made me want to get into geography and memorise all the countries or something.”
“Yeah? That’s cool.”
Renjun doesn’t always want to cuddle, needs his space on some days, but tonight he shifts closer to Lucas and ends up lying half on top of him. Lucas stops playing Toon Blast and puts his phone away to hug him properly.
“Which gift did you like more, mine or theirs?” Renjun asks after a while. He surprised Lucas earlier that morning with his present, putting his hands over Lucas’s eyes and leading him into the living room, where a small azalea tree in a pink pot was waiting. Donghyuck and Chenle later insisted that Renjun must have forgotten to get Lucas anything and that’s why he didn’t have a gift to give at the restaurant, until Lucas showed them the approximately thirty photos he took of the tree as proof.
“It’s not blooming now, obviously, but it’s gonna have so many flowers in the spring. There’s no way to know what colour they’ll be so it’s gonna be a surprise. Personally I’d vibe with any colour, although if they’re blue, they’ll match our walls so that’d be cool!” He explained excitedly as he swiped through the photos, while Renjun looked at him with so much fondness that Jeno started teasing him about it.
“I thought it was obvious?” Lucas says now, blinking at Renjun. “I mean, there’s no comparison.”
“Good.” Renjun smiles in satisfaction before he squints at him. “Wait, you didn’t answer the question.”
Lucas stifles a smile, but Renjun notices and socks him lightly in the ribs. “Hey! The tree’s better, admit it!”
“Sure, babe, whatever you say,” Lucas says, trying not to laugh and failing. Renjun’s laughing too, but he tries to look annoyed as he punches Lucas again. Lucas pretends to be in more pain than he is, groaning dramatically and rolling onto his side, until Renjun stops him by climbing onto his stomach and looking down at him threateningly.
“Which one is better,” he asks, “a flimsy piece of paper stylised to look old, or a beautiful tree that will live and bloom in our apartment for many years to come? Think carefully.”
Lucas squirms and laughs under him, but in the end his fear of getting tickled wins (Renjun can be ruthless). “The tree! Obviously the tree’s better. It’s special.” He takes Renjun’s hands in his and hugs them to his chest just in case. “You always make me feel special, babe.”
“Okay, Once,” Renjun smiles, appeased, already leaning down to kiss him. Lucas meets him halfway.
The next day finds Lucas in the library, trying to concentrate as Jaemin and Donghyuck do their best to disturb him. Jisung tagged along in hopes that one of them would buy him food later, and he’s currently being an angel, quietly playing Pixel Art on his phone, the only one supporting Lucas on his quest to feel like a real academic.
Donghyuck just rolls his eyes when Lucas points this out. “Why would we even come here if not to gossip about our boyfriends like rich white girls in rom-coms?”
“I mean. It’s a library,” Lucas tries, but Donghyuck and Jaemin just stare at him blankly.
“Anyway, you should feel lucky, hyung,” Jaemin says, resting a hand on Lucas’s shoulder. “It’s usually the other way around, but since Renjun’s not here today, you get to gossip about him.”
“Wait,” Lucas looks up from his stack of atlases, widening his eyes at Jaemin. “Renjun gossips about me? What does he say? Does he say anything bad?”
“That’s for us to know and for you to find out,” Donghyuck tells him mercilessly. “Ask your boyfriend if you’re so curious.”
“Communication is key to a healthy relationship,” Jisung speaks up, close to completing a picture of two bunnies sleeping in a basket.
“And how would you know?” Donghyuck wonders.
Jisung fixes him with a glare, flushing a little. “Just because I’ve never been in a relationship doesn’t mean I don’t know things.”
Jaemin coos. “Aw, Jisungie, your time will come.”
Donghyuck ruffles Jisung’s hair and turns back to Lucas, who’s been trying to get his attention by poking his arm for the past minute. “Jesus, hyung, calm down, it was a joke. We don’t actually gossip about our boyfriends, god, do you think we’re twelve?”
Lucas sighs in relief.
“Well, unless we get drunk,” Jaemin corrects. “And only if they’re also present. Otherwise it’d be mean and immature.”
“Okaay,” Lucas frowns. “But then does it even count as gossip?”
“It does if they’re asleep or something,” Donghyuck explains.
“That doesn’t make any sense, though?”
“It makes perfect sense,” Donghyuck scoffs, exchanging glances with Jaemin. “You can’t argue with logic.”
Lucas gives up. “You know what, I’m just gonna get back to this,” he says, turning his attention back to his stack of atlases. He manages to tune everything out for a while, focused on leafing through each atlas and deciding whether he vibes with it or not. Soon he has a pretty big pile of the ones he does vibe with – too big a pile. There’s no point checking out all of them at once, especially since his geography adventure is only just beginning, so Lucas decides to leave the decision up to fate.
He pokes Jisung. “Continent.”
“Pick a continent,” Lucas repeats.
“Uhh... Europe?” Jisung guesses.
“Damn, I thought you were patriotic,” Lucas hears Donghyuck say, but he leaves Jisung to fend for himself; his focus is back on the atlases. He picks out the one devoted solely to Europe and thumbs through the pages again. “Yes, this will be satisfactory...” he mutters to himself, feeling like a true researcher. He takes a picture and sends it to Renjun, who texts back right away despite being in class.
yeah im starting small!!
quickest path to success
omg wait europe has andorra is that why
I FORGOT :D
Renjun sends him a photo of the Andorra pen tucked between the leaves of the azalea tree. Lucas feels he has no choice but to go crazy and send thirty different hearts in response, grinning down at his phone like an idiot.
u still havent named the tree btw O_o
waiting for the inspiration to strike
“Please tell me you’re done studying continents or whatever it is you’re doing,” Donghyuck whines in Lucas’s ear suddenly. “I want fries so bad. You said you’d buy us food, remember?”
Lucas does not, in fact, remember saying any such thing, so everyone sets about convincing him that he did.
“If not for us, do it for Jisung,” Jaemin says finally, grabbing Jisung by the shoulders and shaking him. “He’s still growing! Do you want him to be this height forever?”
“Hyung, I’m already taller than you,” Jisung protests feebly.
“Guys, chill, I’ll buy you fries,” Lucas laughs. “On one condition, though. One of you please go check out this atlas for me because I think that scary girl is still on her shift.”
“She’s not scary, she just really wants your number,” Donghyuck rolls his eyes, handing the atlas to Jisung, who sighs, but takes it and heads towards the counter. Jaemin helps Lucas gather the rest of his books from the table unasked and Lucas, not for the first time, decides he has the best friends ever.
“I know I could just look it up on the internet and be done,” Lucas tells Renjun later that day as they’re waiting for the pot to boil, “but learning from old books is so much cooler. Makes me feel like a medieval scholar or something. I only need a pair of glasses and I’d be set.”
“You can take mine,” Renjun says, leaning against the counter. “Or not, actually. They’d give you a headache.”
Lucas makes a sad face, but he can’t argue with the truth.
“I know what you mean, though.” Renjun reaches up to fix Lucas’s hair. He has to stretch his arms to do it, and it’s so cute that Lucas can’t help but put his hands on Renjun’s waist and lift him up in the air for a few seconds. Renjun flails and slaps him on the shoulder.
“Fucking giant, I swear to god,” he complains, but smiles back at Lucas before lowering the gas under the already boiling water and throwing some pasta into the pot.
“What were you saying earlier?”
“Oh.” Renjun turns to him and gives him a small smile. “I just wanted to say that I get it. Remember last year when I went a bit crazy and typed out all the dialogues from the first, like, three Glee episodes just because I felt like it?” Lucas smiles, because he does remember. What a moment that was. “I think sometimes you just gotta put some effort into something for no reason, you know?”
And Lucas smiles again, pressing Renjun against the counter and kissing him because as always, Renjun really gets what Lucas was trying to express. “How long before the pasta’s ready?” He mutters, leaning his forehead against Renjun’s.
Renjun pulls away and scrambles for the pasta package. “Like, eight minutes?”
Lucas grins and lifts Renjun onto the counter, stepping between his legs. “Perfect.”
The doorbell rings.
They both groan and exchange frustrated looks before Renjun jumps off the counter and goes to answer the door. “Mark Lee, if that’s you again, I swear to fuck–“
“Yooo,” Mark says, lifting a hand in greeting. Renjun sighs and ushers him in wordlessly.
“’Sup, dude,” Lucas greets him, coming out into the hallway to give Mark a high five. “You gotta stop cockblocking us like this.” Mark just chuckles, looking like he’s not sure if Lucas is joking, and Lucas decides to take pity on him. “We’re making pasta, come on in.”
“Thank god, I’m actually really hungry,” Mark admits. He washes his hands and joins them in the kitchen, sitting down on his favourite chair and eyeing the atlas Lucas left on the counter earlier. “Hyuck wanted to get frozen yoghurt for dinner, even though you can’t even call that dinner, it’s definitely more of a dessert, right? Right?” He waits for Renjun and Lucas to nod before he continues. “Exactly! So I told him that, and also that I can’t eat yoghurt, and he told me I’m a loser and called Jeno and went with him instead. Turns out we don’t have any food at our place, so I thought, why not pay my two best friends a visit?”
“Damn, that’s crazy,” Renjun says distractedly, pulling a fork out of the drawer.
“This might be my fault,” Lucas confesses. “We went for fries earlier and I bought Hyuck a double portion. It’s no wonder he didn’t want actual dinner.”
Mark sighs. “Just give me some pasta and we’re good.” He glances down at his phone and his face clears. “Hyuck just sent me a selfie from the frozen yoghurt place.”
Lucas leans over to see. “Wow, he looks so pretty.” He makes a mental note to compliment Donghyuck on his new scarf next time they meet.
“I know, right,” Mark smiles dreamily as he saves the photo to a folder exclusively for Donghyuck’s selfies. Lucas would clown him, except he does the same thing with the photos he gets from Renjun.
“The pasta will be kind of shit, hope you don’t mind,” Renjun announces as he takes a jar out of the fridge. “They only had green pesto left in the store when I went.”
Mark winces slightly. “Haha, that’s fine.”
Lucas looks at him with sympathy. “Sorry, dude. But, hey! Jaemin promised to cook before the movie tomorrow! You’re coming, right?”
“Yeah, of course.” Mark cheers up at the thought of Jaemin’s cooking. “Nice atlas, by the way.” He picks it up and opens on a random page, which showcases aerial ports across Europe.
Before Lucas can brag about the several capital cities he’s already memorised, Renjun suddenly stops in his tracks and says, “oh shit.” He looks at Lucas with wide eyes, “we forgot to hang up the map in the end! Lucas, we have to do it today or Jaemin will kill us.”
Lucas slaps himself on the forehead. Mark laughs, as always amused by him; it’s one of Lucas’s favourite things about Mark. “He wouldn’t kill you, he’d just sulk and insist that you two don’t care about him and his friendship means nothing to you.”
“You’re right,” Renjun says, “Lucas, we have to do it today or I will kill Jaemin tomorrow.”
They choose a spot in the living room above the sofa, next to a portrait of Renjun and Lucas which looks like it was drawn by a five year old, but was actually a gift from Chenle. One hour, seven nails and two band-aids later the map is hanging on the wall, uneven but beautiful. The three of them stand back and regard it carefully.
“I think it’s fine,” Renjun decides, breaking the silence.
Mark tilts his head to the side. “I don’t know, it still looks a bit uneven.”
Renjun puts an arm on Mark’s shoulder and lowers his voice dangerously. “Lucas is literally wounded, there’s six new holes in this wall, and we’ve run out of nails. Tell me it doesn’t look even again.” Mark just puts his hands up in defeat. Renjun turns to Lucas, his eyes taking on a fond expression. “And what do you think, babe? As long as you like it, that’s all that matters.”
“I think that something’s weird,” Lucas says slowly. He takes a few steps closer to the map and inspects it carefully.
“I told you it’s uneven!” Mark exclaims, but Lucas shakes his head.
“No, that’s not it,” he bites the inside of his cheek in thought. “I like that it’s uneven. It’s just that Europe looks weird here.”
“Babe, don’t forget this is a 19th century map,” Renjun reminds him, coming up behind Lucas and hugging him around the waist. He stands on his toes and puts his chin on Lucas’s shoulder, “the countries are supposed to be different, right?”
Lucas’s arms automatically come up to cover Renjun’s. “Yeah, but still. I don’t know. Hold on, I’ll check something–“ He gently disentangles himself from Renjun’s hold and gets his atlas from the kitchen. He turns the pages for a moment, fully focused, while Mark and Renjun play thumb war on the couch.
“See, this is what I mean!” Lucas exclaims after a while, having found confirmation of his suspicions. He joins Mark and Renjun on the couch and points at a spot on the old map south of the Baltic sea. “Here! I know the borders have changed a lot since 19th century, but there’s a whole huge country missing here. As if it just vanished.”
Mark gets a text from Donghyuck and immediately loses all interest in the map mystery, but Renjun squints at the spot Lucas is indicating. “Uhh... you mean Poland?”
“Yeah!” Lucas nods. “It’s weird because I just checked that it existed back in the 17th century, ‘cause it’s on this map here,” he finds the page in the atlas. “The borders are different, but it’s still Poland, right? But here,” he gestures again at the map hanging on the wall, “it’s just gone. No borders at all. And then here, on the contemporary map, it’s back!”
“Okay,” Renjun says, not really understanding why Lucas is going crazy but ready to support him. “Is it not this way in your atlas? Is the map wrong?” He gasps excitedly. “Oh my god, did Jeno and Jaemin give you a map with a mistake on it?”
Mark snorts. “You’re really out to get those two, huh?”
“We have a bet going on,” Renjun waves his hand. Lucas smiles at him fondly before turning his attention back to the book.
“I can’t check if Jeno and Jaemin’s map is wrong,” he realises with a frown. “There’s no map of 19th century Europe in this atlas.”
“Dude, are you having a dumbass episode?” Mark asks. “Just look it up on your phone.”
“No, I said I wasn’t gonna use the internet for this,” Lucas groans. “I want to feel like a medieval scholar.”
“You’ll solve this mystery, I’m sure.” Renjun shifts to sit in Lucas’s lap and starts stroking his hair. “We can go to the library together tomorrow if you want?” Lucas nods, hiding his face in Renjun’s neck and hugging him closer. “Nice. I’ll tell Jisung to come in case this turns out to be conspiracy theory material. But it won’t! Because there’s a perfectly good explanation for this and you’re going to find it.”
His words already make Lucas feel a lot better. And then Mark looks up from texting Donghyuck, sees them cuddling and laughs nervously. “Haha, what are you guys doing?”
Renjun looks at him and says, completely serious, “Hyung, sometimes I think you’re homophobic,” and Lucas laughs so hard he almost throws Renjun off his lap. He focuses on teasing Mark, pushing away all thoughts about vanishing countries and maps that don’t make sense to deal with them later.
“Of course we didn’t give Lucas a map with a mistake on it!” Jaemin stirs rice noodles in the pot with so much force that Jeno, currently glued to Jaemin’s back, has to lean away to avoid getting hit. “What the fuck, Renjun.”
“I don’t know, I wouldn’t be very surprised if we’d done it,” Jeno says, quickly dodging Jaemin’s elbow jab.
“Well, now we know you didn’t,” Renjun shrugs.
“Yeah. Your map didn’t lie,” Lucas says gravely. He’s sitting slumped at the kitchen table and watching Renjun draw on his tablet. “I found a book on the history of Europe and figured out why they didn’t include Poland on there.”
“Because of partition!” Lucas exclaims with a fire in his eyes. “They just took it apart.”
“Who?” Jaemin frowns.
“Three other countries, doesn’t matter which. They each took a part of Poland and claimed it as their territory. And it happened three times, so by the end of it Poland had no independent territory left. It basically stopped existing. That’s why it’s not featured on your map, or any map from the 19th century. It stayed that way for over a hundred years before they got back their independence. It’s fucked up,” Lucas finishes, shaking his head.
“I’ve heard of worse things happening in history,” Jeno mutters.
“Of course worse things have happened,” Lucas frowns. “Doesn’t mean this isn’t sad, though.”
“It does sound pretty awful,” Jaemin agrees, throwing sliced chilli peppers together with the sizzling onions.
Renjun has listened to Lucas explaining the partition of Poland three times so far, and he can’t quite muster any more outrage or sympathy for the Polish people than he already expressed earlier. So he doesn’t say anything now, just kisses Lucas on the cheek and sets a reminder on his phone to buy more of those gummies Lucas has recently been obsessed with.
“Anyway,” Lucas says, shaking off to calm himself down, “I’m just glad I found an explanation for it. All that research made me feel like I belong in academia.”
“Ew,” Jaemin says. “Happy for you, though. Babe, pass me the cauliflower.” He takes the cauliflower from Jeno and starts cutting it into tiny pieces. “And how’s the inferior birthday gift doing?”
“Warsaw is doing amazing, thank you very much,” Renjun replies, calmly adding another layer to his drawing. “Just goes to show how superior my gift-giving skills are.”
“She’s growing new leaves!” Lucas adds proudly.
“Warsaw?” Jeno looks confused.
“That’s what I named the tree,” Lucas explains.
“Yeah, no, I gathered that,” Jeno scratches his head. “I just don’t really get this sudden obsession with Poland, dude.”
“I don’t really understand it either,” Lucas admits, shrugging. “I’m just going with the flow.”
“Ah,” Jeno nods wisely. “Good for you.”
“We’re no longer hoping for blue flowers,” Renjun says, looking fondly at Lucas. “Only white and red will satisfy us now.”
“Hell yeah!” Lucas confirms. No one speaks for a while and companionable silence falls over the room, until Chenle and Jisung show up and the kitchen becomes very loud very quickly. Jeno teases Jisung, who’s pulled out his laptop and is warning everyone that he won’t be watching the movie because he needs to write an essay that’s due tonight.
“Why did you even come then?”
Jisung blinks at the obvious question. “For the food, duh.”
“Of course he did,” Jaemin coos. “Come taste this, Jisungie, tell me if the sauce is good.”
Mark and Donghyuck arrive last, carrying a bag of snacks and two tubs of ice cream for dessert.
“Hyung, I was waiting for you to tell a story!” Chenle attacks Mark with a back hug, squeezing even harder when Mark groans in pain.
The kitchen devolves into happy chaos. Renjun has to put away his tablet because Donghyuck keeps trying to mess up his drawing, cackling whenever he gets a reaction out of him. Jisung, in a move that Lucas thinks shows incredible maturity and self-discipline, sits down at the table and starts working on his essay, but gets distracted every time Jeno shows him something on his phone. Outside, it’s cold and dark, a typical January evening, but here, the room is filled with talking and the smell of stir fry noodles. And all is right in the world, Lucas thinks to himself as he laughs at his friends’ antics.
He’s just finished updating Mark on the map situation when Jaemin announces that dinner’s almost ready. “Oh, thank god,” Lucas says, stretching his arms over his head. “I’m so fucking hungry.”
“Dude, tell me about it,” Mark agrees, before calling out to Jaemin over the noise. “Smells amazing, Jaemin-ah!”
“Why, thank you, hyung,” Jaemin calls back over his shoulder. “Hope you like it. I had to modify the recipe because these clowns barely have any vegetables in the house. I’m looking at you, Renjunnie.”
“You’re free to buy our groceries,” Renjun replies, struggling to keep Donghyuck in a chokehold. “We’re not gonna stop you, are we, Lucas?”
“No, that’d be great actually,” Lucas laughs. “There’s a new cashier at our store and she’s kinda scary.”
“Oh my god,” Donghyuck says, exasperated. “Hyung, remind me to explain to you what flirting is.”
“How about not,” Renjun suggests with a pleasant smile, releasing Donghyuck and crossing the kitchen to sit on Lucas’s lap. Lucas barely has the time to kiss him before Chenle demands everyone’s attention and launches into the story of how their RA finally found out about the drawings he made on the walls of his and Jisung’s room once while drunk.
“With permanent marker,” Jisung adds, shaking his head resignedly.
“Aren’t you rich enough to just bribe her?” Donghyuck asks, stealing a pack of gummies from Mark and ignoring Jaemin’s glare, who hates when they eat sweets before dinner when he’s the one cooking.
“That’s the twist!” Chenle slaps him on the shoulder excitedly. “Cause like, yeah I am, and my mom keeps offering to buy us an apartment anyway,” he pauses to high five Jisung, the two of them muttering “bros for life” in unison before Chenle continues, “but get this. She wasn’t even mad! She asked if I was an art major, and I said no, and she was like, you have a lot of talent, and I was like, thanks? And she smiled and asked if she can take a photo, and said that if I do an okay job repainting the walls myself, she won’t file a report or whatever it is they do.”
“How the fuck are you gonna repaint the walls without making them look even worse?” Jeno wants to know.
“I don’t know,” Chenle shrugs, “hire painters?”
“What’s the RA’s name?” Renjun asks. “She sounds awesome.”
“It’s Lia,” Jisung tells him. “And she is. She’s always so friendly, and she said she likes my posters. And she showed me photos of her pet bunny.”
“Well, good luck with smuggling painters into your dorm room, I guess.” Mark pats Chenle on the head. “Jaemin, will you get mad at me if I ask when we can eat?”
Lucas laughs and rests his forehead on Renjun’s shoulder for a moment before they all get up to help transport the copious amounts of food into the living room (“I’m never cooking for all six of you at the same time ever again, I swear to god.”) Lucas waits for everyone to settle down in front of the tv and puts on Let It Shine.
“Okay, everyone shut up, for real this time,” Renjun shouts over everyone as the movie starts. “Just once, I want to watch a movie with my friends without pausing fifty times or missing half the dialogue–“
“You talk the most during movies out of all of us, though?” Donghyuck says innocently, hiding behind Mark when Renjun throws a half-hearted punch his way.
In the end no one manages to stay quiet, of course. Not even Jisung, who sits with his laptop but takes breaks from working on his essay to join in and sing along to the songs. Lucas finishes his noodles and sits back, putting an arm around Renjun’s shoulders and looking around the room. Everyone’s busy eating or talking over the movie. Jeno and Jaemin are sitting squished together in the only armchair; Donghyuck, his head on Mark’s shoulder, is laughing at Chenle’s impression of Pastor Jacob. Warsaw the azalea tree is standing peacefully in the corner, the Andorra pen still tucked in between her leaves.
Warsaw makes Lucas think of Poland, and he glances up at the 19th century map hanging above the sofa, wishing he could see the country on it. There’s not much he can see from this angle, but he imagines the borders of Poland, its shape familiar to him by now, drawn on the paper in red lines. It feels right.
Renjun nudges him in the ribs, snapping him out of his thoughts. “You good?”
“Yeah,” Lucas smiles and accepts the pack of gummies Renjun gives him. It’s his favourite kind, and Lucas kisses Renjun on the cheek, feeling a wave of love and happiness wash over him.
“Hyung, pay attention, the next scene is so good,” Chenle whines at him from his spot on the floor, leaving Lucas no choice but to reach down and ruffle his hair before focusing on the movie again.
Renjun shuffles into the living room at 3 am that night to find Lucas lying on the couch in his pyjamas and gazing up at the framed map. He turns his head when he hears Renjun walk in, and they look at each other sleepily for a moment before Lucas opens his arms wordlessly. Renjun shuffles over and sinks into the hug, sighing happily at how warm Lucas feels.
“Woke up an’ you were gone,” he mutters, voice raspy from sleep.
Lucas starts to say something, then clears his throat and tries again. “Sorry.”
“’S okay.” Renjun turns his head and presses his face into the crook of Lucas’s neck. He’s drifting already by the time Lucas speaks.
“Can’t stop thinking about the Poland thing. Don’t even know why it makes me so sad.”
“If it makes you sad, then it makes you sad,” Renjun mumbles sleepily. Lucas huffs, amused, and hugs him tighter before continuing.
“Like, the bully aspect of it? Three ganging up on one. That’s sad. But mostly the fact that Polish people were still going about their business, being Polish, but to the rest of the world it’s like they didn’t exist. Like, everyone else just pretended that Poland wasn’t a thing for 123 years. 123 is a neat number, but still.”
“’S fucked up.”
“Yeah,” Lucas agrees with a sigh. “And now every time I look at this map I think about the partition mess and get sad. I’m a clown.”
“You’re not a clown,” Renjun argues, yawning. “You just have a big heart. A big, Poland-oriented heart.”
Lucas laughs, his whole chest shaking with it, and presses a kiss to Renjun’s hair. They fall asleep like that, Renjun’s face hidden in Lucas’s neck and their legs tangled together, and in the morning they don’t hear the alarm blaring in the bedroom and wake up around noon, having missed half their classes already.
“Fuck it,” Renjun decides. They order pizza and turn on Animal Planet, ready to do absolutely nothing for the rest of the day. “I had an idea,” Renjun says while they’re waiting for the pizza and watching an alligator cover her nest with vegetation to protect her eggs. “Actually, Chenle inspired me yesterday with that story about all the shit he’s gotten away with in his room.”
“I’m all ears, babe,” Lucas says, trying to open a pack of Oreos with his eyes glued to the screen. “But make it fast ‘cause I think the baby alligators are gonna hatch soon.”
“Okay, okay,” Renjun laughs. “It got me thinking about how long it’s been since either of us went ape with some markers, you know? So basically what I’m saying is, we can put the country on the map!”
“Huh?” Lucas looks away from alligator eggs on the tv to frown questioningly at Renjun.
“We can just draw it on!” Renjun’s grinning excitedly, clearly proud of his idea. “Why not? The lack of Poland on the map is bothering you, so why not just put Poland on the map and fix the whole problem?”
“It was a gift,” Lucas protests, but to be honest, Renjun’s idea makes more sense the longer he considers it.
“You said yourself that every time you look at that map, you feel sad.” Renjun leans forward, his face earnest despite the spark of mischief dancing in his eyes. “How is that okay? Lucas, I just want you to be as happy as possible. I’d paint Warsaw’s every flower white and red to make you smile. And if slightly ruining a gift from Jeno and Jaemin is what it takes to make you happy, then I’m willing to face all consequences, including Jaemin’s wrath.”
Lucas can’t help but smile. “What about Jeno’s wrath? You gonna shield me from that too?”
Renjun snorts. “Yeah, I’m not worried about that, and you shouldn’t be either. So what do you say?”
Lucas grins, already feeling lighter than he has in days. “I say let’s fucking do it.”
Renjun cheers and pulls a red marker out of the pocket of his sweatpants. He flips it in his fingers, waggling his eyebrows at Lucas. “Now?”
Lucas thinks his heart might burst, he’s so helplessly endeared. “Damn, you came prepared. How long have you been carrying that around?”
“Since yesterday,” Renjun replies, kicking Lucas in the shin. “What about it?”
“Nothing, nothing,” Lucas laughs. He grabs Renjun by the legs and pulls him across the couch and into his lap. “You’re insane to me, you know that? I love you so much.”
Renjun raises his eyebrows, shifting to get more comfortable in Lucas’s arms. “Uh, I hope so. I’m a genius. You’re lucky to have me.”
“Yeah,” Lucas agrees happily. He leans forward to bury his face in Renjun’s neck, wanting to be as close to him as possible. Renjun slips his fingers into Lucas’s hair, melting into the hug, and Lucas knows he feels the same way. “God, I really am.”