The first time Juyeon laid eyes on him was during one of Changmin’s dance performances.
He had attended Changmin’s event because they were friends, after all, but mainly because Chanhee had wanted to go together as a group and Juyeon couldn’t escape the planning without being called a bad friend. Truth be told, despite his interest in dance, watching performances like this wasn’t something he was too keen about. For the most part, it always made him itch to be up on stage as well; something that sadly, his engineering course didn’t give him enough time to do so.
There was also the heat that came with it since most events were held on the campus square instead of one of the air-conditioned auditoriums. Changmin was a Junior year performer now, which just meant he usually performed closer towards the end of the event, while the lower years went first. That meant Juyeon couldn’t escape earlier on since they haven’t cheered for their friend yet—pairing his impatience with the heat just made for an uncomfortable experience.
“I have an exam tomorrow,” Juyeon complained as the group took their seats near the front.
“We all know you’re smart enough to ace it without studying the night before,” Chanhee said cheerfully. “You’re the only nerd of the group, after all.”
At that, Haknyeon snorted, “that’s rich coming from a pre-med major. Don’t you have exams, hyung?”
Immediately, Chanhee shushed him by waving a banner in front of his face, blocking out the complaints that followed as well. He only stopped once Kevin voiced out how Changmin’s face on the banner might get wrinkled, and their efforts in actually designing and printing the thing would go to waste. Printing the banner was definitely a one-time only thing with how expensive it was, so they can’t risk destroying it if they wanted to use it for all of Changmin’s events.
Juyeon inwardly sighed at the thought. More events to go to.
“It’s starting, guys!” Jacob soon commented helpfully, as if they could miss the loud voice over the speakers announcing the same thing. The names of the students performing were announced along with the stage name they went by, if any. Ji Changmin—also known as just Q—was set to perform 4th from the last. That meant Juyeon had to go through an entire 15 performances before he could leave and still be considered a good friend.
The voice over announced their first performer of the night and Juyeon was soon lost in thought about how much he actually didn’t know what the exam tomorrow was about.
Just because they were freshmen didn’t mean that their performances were bad, though. Quite the opposite, really. Every now and then a performance would be impressive enough to garner screaming and hollering from the crowd, particularly from Juyeon’s group of friends, loud enough to draw his attention back to whoever was on the stage. It was during the last freshman’s performance that this happened, when an over-excited Kevin shouted “damn, Daniel!” as the rest of the crowd went wild.
Juyeon really wished he had paid attention sooner and not just because he missed what must have been a great move.
It was extremely rare for someone to catch his eye; so rare that a majority of his friends have sometimes wondered if maybe he just asexual or aromantic, but he knew that wasn’t the case. It wasn’t that he hasn’t ever had an interest in anyone, it was more of just that he’s tried to date around or go for people he found interesting, but things just didn’t feel right. Not when he had his soulmate’s name marked on his wrist. It just didn’t seem fair to date other people, even if there were cases of soulmates not ending up together.
He still had the small hope he'll meet his soulmate eventually. That it'll be worth the wait.
Whoever was on stage definitely piqued his interest, though. Even if he missed what made the crowd go wild, the rest of his performance was still no joke. His slim, pale body moved to the rhythm like it was nothing, paired with an intense gaze in his eyes that also managed to draw the crowd in some more. Juyeon knew how to appreciate good dance skills, but he also found himself appreciating how cute the boy looked, too. The freshman would occasionally send a bright smile towards the crowd; that was definitely cute.
Too bad it appeared to be the end of his performance.
As the announcer began to introduce the next set of dancers from the sophomore year, Juyeon nudged Jacob, who was thankfully the one sitting to his right. Any of the other guys would have made a big scene about his question and apparent interest in the dancer. He spoke loudly enough to be heard over the cheering crowd, but was careful to keep his tone low enough not be overheard by their other friends.
“Hey, did you catch his name?”
“Not really,” came the reply. Juyeon was ready to be disappointed, when Jacob continued, having caught on exactly why Juyeon was asking. He only ever asked about someone if he had hoped that that someone was his soulmate, after all. “I heard his stage name though, if that helps. He calls himself Hwall."
Unconsciously, Juyeon began to fidget with the bracelet around his right wrist. It was more of a wrap around, not too thick, but enough to cover his soulmark. When it had first appeared, a whole three years ago, he had actually been in the middle of a date with a girl from his old high school. He had wanted to get into a relationship before entering college, but the moment his soulmark appeared along with the look of recognition that passed over his date's face, he knew they'd end the night as just friends.
Even without his growing lack of interest in dating, most people also tended to stay away from those who were already marked. In Juyeon's case, his good looks and overall intelligence made it hard for people to just give up on him that easily, hence why he was dragged into dates now and then. He started every blind date he was set up with with the fact that he already had a soulmark. Sometimes, the people he would date would also have their own soulmark, and would try and convince him that they could ignore it and break fate's rules.
Maybe he was a bit of a romantic at heart, but he could never really do it.
"Was his actual name announced?"
His eyes flicked to Juyeon's wrist for a moment before Jacob smiled apologetically and shrugged, "I don't think so. It probably was at the beginning, but I didn't hear it. Maybe you could ask Changmin once this is done? He might know."
Asking Changmin meant waiting until the event was over if he wanted an immediate answer—which also meant he couldn't leave before the event ended like he had originally planned. Silently weighing the two options in his head, Juyeon wondered if it was actually worth it. Not only was it unsure that Changmin even knew the guy's name, there was also the uncertainty of whether it matched what was on Juyeon's wrist. However, the opposite result where he does know the name and it does match definitely weighed more. With that in mind, he decided to wait it out.
Changmin was, unsurprisingly, useless with the matter.
"A freshman?" He exclaimed loudly, wide eyed at Juyeon's question. They had met up with him after the event and decided to celebrate the successful performance at a bingsu place near campus. Juyeon had tagged along with the sole purpose of asking, voicing it out only when he was left alone with Changmin while the others went to order. "You're interested in a freshman? Lee Juyeon, a fr—"
"You make it sound like I'm some sort of criminal," Juyeon complained. He was only two years older, after all.
Changmin laughed good-naturedly and shook his head, "it's not that and you know it. This isn't like you, Juyeon, but since I am a great friend regardless, I’ll offer my help. The last one to perform, right?"
A nod from Juyeon and a few seconds of pondering later, the brown haired boy's face lit up—sparking a light of hope in Juyeon as well as he waited for Changmin’s answer.
Hope that was quickly diminished.
"Not his stage name," Juyeon groaned, sure he mentioned the same when he first asked. "His real name, Changmin."
"I have no idea, we don't refer to each other by our real names during practice."
"What, you go around being called Q all the time?"
Changmin grinned, "pretty much. I don't get to talk to the freshmen as much either, so I can't ask the others. I can try if you really wanna know though. Do you think he could be your soulmate?”
As if things could get any worse, it was at that exact moment that the rest of guys decided to return to their table. Haknyeon, ever the gossip king, perked up immediately once he heard their current topic; his wide eyes turned towards Juyeon, then back to Changmin, then finally back to Juyeon as a bright smile appeared on his face. Chanhee appeared nonchalant, but Juyeon could tell he’ll be prying the information out of Changmin sooner or later. He might as well come clean.
“What’s this about Juyeon-hyung’s soulmate?” Haknyeon asked, wiggling his brows as he emphasized the last word.
Changmin glanced at Juyeon, silently asking permission.
The latter sighed, “go ahead.”
“Juyeonie here is interested in one of the dancers earlier!” He blurted out, earning a collective and clearly exaggerated gasp from the group.
Chanhee clapped his hands, “which one, Juyeon? Is it one of the seniors? I knew you wouldn’t have stayed till the end if you weren’t looking forward to watching someone perform—“
“Hey! Do you mean he wouldn’t have stayed for me?” Changmin interjected with a feigned look of hurt.
“—so which one is it?” The other boy continued, ignoring his friend as he stared at Juyeon, eyes filled with excitement.
Juyeon fidgeted in his seat, suddenly over-conscious about how everybody was looking at him. Chanhee, Haknyeon, and even Changmin all had matching mischievous looks on their faces, even if the latter already knew what he was going to say. Kevin was polite enough not to bombard Juyeon with questions as he waited, while Jacob already knew what everything was about, anyway.
He sighed, “it’s one of the freshmen, actually. The last one to perform. Hwall?”
Chanhee’s mouth turned into a perfect ‘o’ shape.
“Don’t worry, hyung!” Haknyeon said excitedly, patting Juyeon on the shoulder. “We’ll help you get to know him! Right, Changmin-hyung?”
Even if that was meant to comfort him, Juyeon couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread settle within him instead. It doubled when Changmin agreed.