“You on the team?”
Thomas looks up from his drawing and raises a hand to shield his eyes from the sun.
The boy addressing him sighs like Thomas isn’t worth taking the effort to repeat himself. “Are. You. On. The track team?”
“Oh—Oh, no, I just sit out here sometimes—” He closes his sketchbook gently, “I’m actually working on something for Visual Art—”
The boy crosses his arms—muscled, Thomas thinks with a tilt of his head, imagining the lines that would recreate the tautness beneath the boy’s skin, the colors that he could mix to get the tan just right.
“Hey, shank. D’you hear me? You can’t be here while we practice.”
Shank? Thomas thinks, and decides he’ll never understand the slang the jocks use at this school, nor will he ever understand why at this point he straightens his back, looks the boy dead in the eye and asks “Says who?”
But apparently Thomas is more taken aback by his response than this guy is, because he bends down and leans far into Thomas’ space, a hand on either side of legs.
Their noses are almost touching and the guy says “I do.”
(Thomas leaves—of his own free will, of course.)
That night, Thomas fills up about six pages of his sketchbook with rough drawings of that boy on the track team.
He doesn’t know why. In fact, it kind of pisses him off.
Because honestly he’s been stuck in a rut lately but the sketches, incomplete and simple, are good. Better, actually, than anything Thomas has made in, well, kind of a while.
And it’s alarming how fast he’s working, how eager his hands are to get the image of that boy out of his brain and onto the paper, all those sharp strands of hair and the sun-darkened cheeks. Thomas hates to admit it, but that douchebag was kind of… beautiful.
But then Thomas gets stuck when he tries to draw him running.
He has the bent limbs and the knotted shoelaces, but Thomas just can’t make him move. He draws light lines, erases, dark lines, erases, smudges, erases, erases, erases and Thomas decides there’s no way he can’t go back to the track.
Practice is nearly over but Minho can hardly think about running when he sees that the art geek from the other day has decided to show his face again.
“That kid’s pushing his damn luck,” he mutters with his fists on his hips, looking over at to where he’s sitting for the thousandth time in the last hour.
“What’s the big buggin’ deal?” Newt asks from behind him, attempting to clip back his hair. “The guy wants to sit there and doodle, there’s no rule against it.”
“’Cept mine,” Minho says, and when Newt snorts Minho gives him a hard look, “What? The team doesn’t appreciate random weirdos watching them run.”
“You’re doing that thing again, where you say ‘the team’ when you really mean ‘just you’,” Newt responds, sticking his hair pin in at random angles to no avail.
Minho’s eyebrows knit, because Newt’s observation is spot on as always. “Ok, fine, I don’t like it. That should be reason enough.”
“Minho, since when do you give a damn about people watching you run?”
“I don’t, but he—”
And Newt snaps his fingers, “No, I’ve got it—it’s because he’s cute.”
Minho’s face reddens, and it has nothing to do with the sun. “Shut up.”
“No, I get it. Can’t have your crush see you acting like the asshole captain you are, but you can’t look like a pansy in front of your team. Bit of a tight spot—Christ!” He tangles up his fingers in his bangs—which will not stay out of his face—and shouts to his teammate a few yards away, “Gally! C’mere and help me with this.”
Gally walks over from where he’s stretching with Ben and Alby and before he can say anything Minho groans, “Can we not talk about this with Gally?”
“We don’t have to talk about it,” Newt answers innocently while shoving his bobby pins into Gally’s hands, “Here, do it for me.”
Gally slides a pin into Newt’s hair and says with his teeth bitten down on another two, “Talk about what? You trying to hide something from me, slinthead?”
Minho sighs, already finished with the discussion, although Newt evidently is not when he points to the boy on the bleachers erasing at a book on his lap and says to Gally, “You see that kid? Minho’s in love with him.”
But Gally says as if Minho’s not right next to him, “Yeah, I know. He wouldn’t stop looking over at him the other day when he was here.”
“He—I was assessing the situation, that’s what runners do—”
“That’s another way of saying ‘Checking him out’.” Gally says flatly.
“No, it isn’t!” Minho insists, but Gally isn’t paying much attention to him, anymore.
“You’re oddly good at that,” Newt says when Gally’s finished, patting the hair that’s been pulled tight across the top of his head. He looks up at Gally, who says, “No, you’re just oddly bad at it, for the one who has the hair.” But he smiles at Newt and Newt smiles back.
“You guys!” Minho says, suddenly feeling very third-wheel.
“Why don’t you ask him if he wants to eat with us after practice?” Newt suggests absently.
Gally takes Minho’s shoulders and spins him in the direction of the bleachers, “That’s a good idea, go do that.”
And suddenly Minho is being pushed. “Wait—guys, stop! He’s—”
Minho stumbles when Gally gives him a last hard shove, and the kid on the bleachers finally looks up to see him on all fours at the bottom of the bleacher steps, tripped up in the dirt.
And the both of them stare at each other like they’ve been caught with blood on their hands.
“I—I’m sorry, I’ll go,” Thomas says, tossing his pencils into his bag and regretting spreading his stuff out so much.
“Listen—” Minho begins, but in his haste Thomas knocks his sketchbook off of his lap. It lands open, fanned out on the concrete. A few loose papers he had stuck between the pages scatter, and one of them lands a foot away from Minho’s shoes.
And Thomas nearly falls trying to grab it before Minho can pick it up and see exactly what it is, but Thomas has never been that fast and Minho has been fast since the day he was born.
“Hold on…is this—is this me?”
If this were any other situation, Thomas would say Aren’t you sharp? but Minho more or less has the upper hand here, holding a picture of himself that Thomas had drawn without him knowing, so Thomas coughs and says “Maybe?”
Minho isn’t listening. “You… you’ve been drawing me.”
Thomas rushes to explain, “I mean—not since the other day—”
“Let me see the rest,” Minho says—demands—and Thomas blushes.
“Listen, if you’re going to stalk me and draw pictures of me during practice, you’re going to let me see.” Minho holds out his hand, palm up. “So let’s have it.”
Thomas looks him in the eye and wonders if he can get away with getting the hell out of there, but Minho is blocking the way down the bleachers so he picks up his sketchbook and hands it over slowly.
And Minho opens it—Thomas swallows hard when he sees how he spreads out his long fingers to hold it with one hand—flips through it. “These aren’t bad,” Minho says, turning the page. “Really good, actually,” he admits, quieter as he traces the line of his jaw on the paper.
Thomas runs his palms up and down his thighs nervously. “I—um, to be honest, I’m not that great, I just—you, ah, makes things easy for me.”
Minho raises an eyebrow, and Thomas wonders how far this is going to go before the line between flattering and disturbing is crossed, but Minho just says, “Guess you should be thanking me for looking so good.”
Thomas blinks, and the corner of his mouth twitches upwards. “Yeah, I guess so.”
Minho takes another lingering look at the sketchbook before handing it back. Thomas puts the loose paper back into it before shoving it to the bottom of his bag.
“So I guess I’ll be going, then,” Thomas blurts, and starts rising from his seat before Minho says “Sit your ass back down.”
Thomas looks up at him, “Excuse me?”
Minho clears his throat, avoiding Thomas’ gaze and squinting at the sun, already half set. “Me and the team are gonna grab dinner after this. I’m actually inviting you, so you don’t have to sneak around if you… if you want to come.”
Thomas blinks, his fingers tightening around the straps on his bag. “Oh.”
“You don’t have to, I mean, but—”
“Yeah, I’ll come,” Thomas says, and suddenly he’s grinning, “Thanks.”
Minho looks at him, runs a hand through his hair. “Oh—good. Awesome.”
“Oi, Minho, quit chatting with your boyfriend and get over here!”
Thomas and Minho both turn to see Gally with his arms full of folded agility ladders. “How long does it take to ask someone on a shuckin’ date?”
Minho pulls off one of his shoes and throws it at Gally, who dodges it easily and walks off to put the equipment away, laughing with his head thrown back.
“Not a date, obviously,” Minho tries to clarify, but Thomas won’t stop smiling.
Minho shakes his head, and turns to go. “I’ll meet you back out here after we finish up—Oh, and one more thing.”
“I still can’t have you here during practice.”
Thomas face falls, but then Minho says, “You distract me.”
“I do?” Thomas says, his expression somewhere between shocked and satisfied.
“Yeah,” Minho smirks, “So if you still want me to model for you, we’ll have to go somewhere… private.”
Thomas’ jaw drops, and Minho heads for the showers, happy he’s had the last word.