It was rainy, his skinny legs kept getting wet each time the boy would step on a puddle as he ran down the street. Wasn’t it supposed to be good weather today? It didn’t matter anyways because he was already late, his school ended just ten minutes before his training started but, luckily, the walk towards the swimming pool was just a few minutes away. Even so, because his teacher had decided to take five minutes to praise him for his essay (not that he was complaining, it was nice to be praised), Renjun had to run for his life even with the intense rain outside.
He runs up the little slope leading towards the main entrance and doesn’t stop until he’s inside the now empty changing room. Renjun huffs and takes his clothes off right away, then puts his swimming shorts on as quickly as he can and shoves his bag inside the locker. The boy stops in front of the big mirror and checks himself out slightly, his bony shoulders sticking out of his skin catch his attention right away and he sighs. When will I be buff? he thinks.
Renjun puts his swimming cap like a pro and adjusts it a bit before running towards the rest of his team, nobody seems to mind him being late for a few minutes not even his strict coach that simply rolls his eyes and keeps on talking. “So, we will now start training for the first semester competition.” He looks around checking if anyone looks unmotivated, after spending nearly a month only running outside to train their muscles after summer break some of them were already ready to leave the club. Renjun felt the same, he liked swimming, not jogging and doing pushups. “I expect you to do your best, always.”
And, with that, they enter the pool going to their positions right away. Renjun is behind a boy called Donghyuck who pretends he is way better than him (which was a big fat lie because Renjun was able to catch him before the lap even ended each time). At the front there was his best friend, Jaemin with Jeno. Wait. Renjun rubs his eyes, was that blonde hair peeking out of Jeno’s cap?
He doesn’t have much time to observe because the coach blows the whistle just a few seconds later. Jaemin shoots him a big smile before going underwater, Jeno following. “Did Jeno dye his hair?” He asks the boy behind him.
“Oh, yeah. It looks good.” He answers, a bitter tone to it.
Renjun hums in response and focuses on getting ready to swim, Jeno erased from his mind for a while as he moves his limbs skilfully. He adored swimming, and how he could drift away and simply swim, no pain in his chest or legs like when he had to run. Swimming was relaxing, even when he had to do it seriously.
They leave the pool to practice jumping, Jaemin no longer cares about being the first in line comes next to Renjun. He grabs the other closer as he places his arm on Renjun’s slim shoulders. “Sup? How was school?”
“Normal.” Renjun shrugs. “Dunno what you expect from me every time you ask that.”
“Hey, some day you’ll have something to tell me.” Jaemin laughs, his teeth brightening the whole place up. “You’re not boring Renjun, I know you’re thinking that.”
“Whatever you say.” He snorts, because he was indeed boring. He didn’t care for anything else than grades and how well he would do at swimming, his life consisting of coming home after practice and doing homework only to wake up and go to school and repeat the cycle. The only time he’d change it up was during the weekends where he’d either go out to eat with his family or Jaemin, sometimes Chenle as well. But Jaemin wasn’t asking for that, he knew that much, what his best friend wanted was to see if Renjun had finally found someone to invest his time on. “Don’t have time to waste on crushes.”
“They’re not that time consuming!”
“That’s why you have two and are failing one of your classes.” His best friend fights back and Jaemin pouts.
Renjun massages his shoulder as he steps out of the pool, everyone is putting on their slippers and heading to the changing room but he waits for Jaemin to stop talking to their coach to finally follow the crowd. “Why’d you talk to him?”
“I was asking him when the next competition would be.” The boy smiles. “Apparently in just about a month! He says we’ll have many but they’re quite small and unimportant.”
The showers were already full when they got there, Jaemin groans and pushes Renjun to stand with him next to the radiator. They wait for a while in silence, Renjun starts eyeing the males and a pang of jealously hits him straight in the gut. He had grown up with most of them, he had seen them turn from bamboo-looking sticks into well-built boys and yet, there he was, his body slimmer than most girls he knew.
Something grabs his attention away from that however. Jeno ruffles his now blonde hair around trying to dry it and Renjun stares in awe, it looks good. It fits the boy so much that, if Renjun hadn’t known him before, he’d think that was his natural hair colour. Which was impossible, but still. “Looks good as hell right?” Jaemin asks with a smirk on his face when he notices Renjun’s awestruck expression.
“Yes, it really does.” He coughs slightly. “Like, he really suits the hair.” Jaemin nods, and once Renjun tries to find the blonde again he’s gone from the showers.
Soon enough, people start to leave so both boys move from their places and try to find a free shower. “Pass the shampoo! I forgot it.”
“Again?!” Renjun whines but throws it across the room anyways, almost hitting one of his teammates in the process of doing so.
Jaemin shrugs and then gives him a thumbs up once the bottle lands perfectly on his hands. “You’re the best.” He exclaims as the substance squirts loudly all over his hand. Renjun just rolls his eyes and tries to finish as quickly as possible.
The changing rooms are always a crowded mess, they’re a large team and, on top of that, they had to share the space with regular people. There were two rooms for the changing rooms and yet, both were full. Then there were the individual cabins which were the first to be filled because nobody liked showing their butts to random old men, or their teammates for that matter.
“When can we move to the special changing rooms for the swimming club?!” Jaemin whines as they pass by a few males (and almost accidently touch them).
“When we win more than once during the competitions. Our team is shit and needs some motivation it seems.” Their leader, Mark, hears Jaemin’s whining and decides to butt in.
“Seriously?” The boy looks like he is in immense pain. “So never?”
“That’s not the spirit-“
“Fuck the spirit my buttlocks are being shown to people I don’t even know!” He whines one last time before putting his clothes on at the speed of light. Renjun is putting on his shirt when the other is back to whining, this time about his friend being too slow.
Renjun flips him off and puts his clothes on at his normal pace while Jaemin runs off to somebody else. The older looks around for him once he’s done and finds him speaking with Jeno and Donghyuck. He stares at the blonde for a few seconds (probably longer than what was considered normal) and gulps before going near Jaemin. “I’m ready.”
“Ah, Renjun!” Jaemin smiles brightly. “Renjun said your hair looks really good, Jeno.”
Jeno’s eyesmile is adorable but Renjun is too busy trying to stop his sudden coughing fit. “What the heck Jaemin?” He wheezes out but the other simply pats his back instead of giving him a proper.
“Thank you.” Jeno smiles with his lips pressed together and bows slightly. “I’m glad you like it.”
Renjun smiles back, awkwardly, but he manages to smile nevertheless. Once everyone would be gone he’d make sure to kick Jaemin’s oh-so-precious-buttlocks for putting him under the spotlight. Donghyuck wiggles his eyebrows but doesn’t say anything and the topic changes to something else as they leave the changing rooms and go up the stairs towards the entrance. “See you guys tomorrow!” Jaemin waves them off leaving him alone with Renjun, who turns around and shoots him a glare. “Woah, woah. What did I do?”
“Why’d you tell Jeno I found his hair cool?!” Renjun cries out, stomping his feet. “You idiot!”
Jaemin chuckles. “Chill, he liked the compliment.” The other pouts and Jaemin leans closer pretending he’s going to kiss him. Renjun flinches and fake gags right in front of his friend's face. “Pft, you’re grossed out by your bestie kissing you. Weak.”
“Shut up, I might get some disease from kissing you, you whore.”
He fakes a hurt expression but laughs right after. “Dude, I only kissed five people.”
“This year? Perhaps.” Renjun smirks and, before Jaemin can hit him, he's already running down the ramp leading into the sidewalk. “Goodnight Jaemin-ah!” He makes a big heart with his arms and keeps on running down the street.
His steps slow down after a while since his body was still sore from practice. Thankfully Renjun lived pretty close to the swimming pool, his parents had strategically chosen a house nearby the most important places in the area.
“I’m home.” He says loudly as he opens the door.
“Hello love!” His mom’s voice comes from inside the kitchen. “How was today?”
“Weather is awful, otherwise it was fine. My History teacher loved my essay.”
“The extremely strict one?” Someone else decides to join the conversation, Renjun nods at Doyoung who is sitting by his desk. “Seriously? What’d you get?”
Renjun moves closer towards his brother’s room and smirks. “Nineteen.”
“Out of twenty?!” Doyoung looks stunned and Renjun nods with a cocky expression. “Fuck you.”
“LANGUAGE!” Their mother yells.
Doyoung rolls his eyes and goes back to focusing on whatever game he was playing. Renjun goes to his room, that is right next to his brother’s, and closes the door. With his leftover energy, Renjun throws his bag near his desk and flops on the bed. “My muscles are dead.” He groans against the pillow, dinner totally forgotten as he dozes off.
Feeling out of place wasn’t unusual for Renjun, however he’d try his best to surround himself by people like him. So naturally, at times like these, in which he was dragged outside by Jaemin to meet people that he wasn’t comfortable with, Renjun really wished he could shrink and disappear.
Jaemin had ‘tricked’ him into thinking it’d be just the two of them hanging out but his friend, being the social butterfly he was, kept stopping to say hi to people and introducing them to Renjun, then those people would tag along without even asking. Renjun didn’t want to care but he kept fidgeting with his sleeves and trying to act more relaxed than he felt. He was sure Jaemin’s friends noticed how awkward he was, but none made a comment and he sure felt thankful for that.
They were all sitting on the floor of a sketchy looking place, Jaemin was passing his blunt around but never asking Renjun if he wanted it. He didn’t need to, he already knew the answer. “Ima call Jeno.” He says and the rest nod, Renjun’s breath hitches slightly. “Sup, wanna meet at the usual spot?” The boy asks once Jeno finally picks up. “Cool, bring the stuff everyone’s here.”
Renjun frowns slightly, deep down he wished he was home. Not that the people weren’t nice, because they were but this wasn’t for him. The smoke and the talks about who made out with who at the latest party wasn’t the sort of thing he could say he enjoyed. “Jaemin.” He whispers and the other boy smiles brightly.
“I, uh-“ Renjun starts but someone else grabs the other boy’s attention.
“Jeno!” Jaemin stands up and hugs the blonde before making him sit next to him. “That was fast, were you nearby?”
Renjun looks up and observes the sight, Jeno is dressed in almost all black with a white cap and, even if the clothes are supposed to look casual, he still manages to make them look fashionable. “Yeah, I had to run some errands for my mom.”
“Such a good boy.” One of the boys teases and Jeno flips him off with a smile on his face.
Jeno’s eyes meet Renjun’s and go wide in shock, because well okay when was Renjun ever in these hangouts? “Hi!” He smiles widely at the older. “Good to see you here.”
Renjun shifts uncomfortably. “Ah, yes, good to see you too.” He tries to give him a genuine smile but probably fails. He felt like puking with anxiety but Jaemin was too busy chatting with one of his friends, so he doesn’t bother him and decides to entertain himself by observing his surroundings.
Donghyuck has his head on Mark’s shoulder as he plays with the older boy’s pants, the blunt passes around and Mark refuses it. Renjun feels somewhat better at that. “Hyuuunng.” The younger whines. “Why not?”
“Don’t like it.” Mark shrugs and passes it to the next person. Donghyuck rolls his eyes and snuggles closer, Renjun wonders if they’re dating but doesn’t dare ask, not even Jaemin. Who, by the way, is shamelessly flirting with one of the girls.
“Hey.” Someone whispers next to Renjun’s ear making the boy almost jump.
“You scared me.” Renjun groans and Jeno simply chuckles, coming closer than before.
“Enjoying yourself?” He asks and he places the blunt on his lips.
“I guess?” No, no he’s not and he’d rather be home watching anime, but Jeno can’t know that.
“Sounds like you’re lying.” The younger smirks. “Why’d you come?”
Renjun plays with the case of phone. “Jaemin wanted to hangout.”
“I did, but alone.” Renjun admits and shrugs. Jeno looks at him with pity in his eyes, he’d known the older for a few years now, it was obvious he wasn’t about this life.
“That’s what you get for bestfriending a social person.” Jeno smiles softly. “I can keep you company if you’d like.”
“No, you don’t need to! I can just watch, it’s entertaining enough.” He isn’t lying, however part of him also wanted Jeno to keep talking to him.
Jeno nods but doesn’t move away, their legs touch and arms brush every so often due to the closeness. Soon enough, Jeno was fully into the conversation and laughing along with the others, meanwhile Renjun observed the scene with interest. His world looked so different from these people, but somehow Jeno still felt safe to him, like a bridge to both worlds. It was odd.
It became dark soon enough and some of them headed home, in the end it was just Jaemin and the girl he flirted with non-stop throughout the whole evening, Renjun, Jeno and three other guys that Renjun didn’t bother remembering the names of. “You good?” Jeno asks once Renjun starts closing his eyes.
“All good, just sleepy.” He mumbles. “And bored, I guess.”
“Bored? No can do!” Jeno grabs his thigh, it sends shivers down Renjun’s spine. “Talk to me.”
“Anything!” The younger squeezes Renjun’s thigh slightly. “How’d you meet Jaemin?”
“We are childhood friends, met in primary school and have been friend since then.”
Jeno nods, and looks around trying to look for Jaemin. “Was he always like this?”
“Pretty much? I always had less friends and all that, and best grades.” Renjun shrugs, he didn’t care and never did, they somehow still worked together when they were alone. “But he did have an emo phase where he hated everyone. Well, except me.”
“Jaemin? Emo? Did he have a fringe or something?” When Renjun nods the other starts giggling. "No way! Send me pictures.”
“Don’t have your number.” Renjun says quietly and Jeno grabs his phone. “What are you doing?”
The younger chuckles and finishes doing whatever he was up to before handing the phone back. “There, I put my number in. Send them or I’ll hunt you down.” Renjun must’ve looked horrified because Jeno’s smile turns into a frown and he grabs the other’s skinny wrists. “No, no. Not literally, don’t look at me like that.”
“S-Sorry.” The older whispers and looks at his phone screen, Jeno had saved himself as ‘blondie~’.
“Are you scared of me, Renjun?” Jeno asks with serious expression, it was probably the most serious he had looked in all those years of knowing him. Renjun doesn’t answer, his eyes still glued on the screen. “Why?”
“Dunno.” The boy shakes his head, Jeno lets go of his wrists and places his hands on Renjun’s thigh once again.
“I wouldn’t.” Jeno whispers as well. “I wouldn’t hurt you.”
Somehow, Renjun believes him.
“Chenle seriously, I wanted to die.” Renjun whines to his phone with his Biology notes on his lap. It was Sunday afternoon, a day after the strange hangout and Renjun decided to call Chenle like he always did when there was something he needed to rant about. They had met in one of their swimming competitions, Chenle lived in a different city however they still had somehow become inseparable. “Jeno made it better but Jaemin just left me there to rot.”
“Why do you still call him your best friend again?” Chenle sighs. “Either way, next time just leave. Seriously pick your shit up and go.”
“It’s not that easy!” The boy cries out. “Jaemin would kick my ass if I did that.”
“He has no reason to do that when he’s the one leaving you alone when he knows you’re not comfortable.”
Renjun sighs and throw his notes somewhere on the floor. “I know, but- I hate when he does this.” The line on the other end is silent. “Like, I know he wants me to experience new things and all, but he just left me alone there! They’re scary!”
“Even Jeno?” There’s something in Chenle’s tone that Renjun can decipher.
“Jeno is…not really that scary.” He admits. “But even so, I feel weird around him.”
“Describe weird.” Renjun groans. “Jeno seems nice, every time I see him around he’s smiling.”
“I know. Jeno is nice.” The older sighs once again. “I’ll try to talk to Jaemin about it, but I doubt it’ll change anything.”
Chenle hums in response and, just a few seconds later, starts ranting about how his mother was unable to stop buying stuff on impulse. The previous topic quickly leaves Renjun’s mind completely.
The doorbell rings early morning. In just a few seconds, a very excited Jaemin is throwing himself on top of Renjun. “Jaemin!” The older cries out. “Go away from me, let me sleep.”
“Nuh-uh, it’s eleven you should be awake by now.”
“Your mother.” Jaemin starts to tickle his friend who tries his best to slap him anywhere he could get his hands on.
“I hate you so much, get off me!” Renjun kicks him in the stomach and the other grunts. “That’s what you deserve.”
Jaemin rolls his eyes and rubs his belly. “Just get up and shut up, ugh.” He says and walks out of the room, probably towards the living room where Renjun’s parents were.
Renjun hits his pillow and looks up at his ceiling, he knew Jaemin was coming over but he didn’t know it’d be at eleven in the morning. After a few minutes, he manages to wiggle himself out of his bed and walk out of his room. Doyoung’s bedroom door is still closed. “Bastard.” Renjun mutters bitterly, his brother would get to sleep how much he wanted meanwhile he had a hyper Jaemin waiting to be entertained in his living room. Technically, it was his fault for inviting him over, but he wouldn’t admit that to himself.
“Good morning angel.” His mother gets up and squeezes his cheeks. “What do you want for breakfast?”
“Uh, cereal will do but thank you.” Renjun smiles and heads to the kitchen, completely oblivious to the fact that his friend was following behind. He almost drops the milk carton when he turns around to find Jaemin smiling brightly in front of him. “Jesus Christ-“
“Nah sorry, just Jaemin here.”
Renjun rolls his eyes and grabs the cereal box. “You’re not funny.”
“I’d like to think otherwise.”
“Wait, you capable of thinking?” He snickers and Jaemin raises his fist in the air. “So, what were you talking about to my parents to make them believe you’re an exemplary kid?”
“Yah, I am one.”
“Are we going to ignore the whole smoking weed and partying part?” Renjun pokes his tongue out.
Jaemin comes closer, his fist still raised up high. “Fuck off.”
They chat about random things that happened in school during the week until Renjun finishes eating and they head to the room once again. “Wanna go out or?”
“What do you want?” Jaemin isn’t even looking at him, his eyes are busy scanning the room even though he goes to Renjun’s house more than three times a month and the room looks the same since 2015.
“We could stay and play WII.” Renjun shrugs, truthfully he still felt sleepy so going out did not sound very inviting.
The morning passes by quickly, they alternate between Mario Kart and some singing game Renjun’s dad had given him a few years back. Doyoung wakes up due to their singing and comes inside the living room looking like a zombie. “Can you guys like… not?”
Their mom comes behind him and places her hands on the boy’s shoulder. “First of all, it’s time for you to wake up. Secondly, they actually sing very well so don’t go around spreading your negative energies.”
Doyoung is about to speak again but is cut off by Jaemin. “If you’re about to trash our singing, fight me.” He narrows his eyes and Doyoung copies him.
“All of you sing very well!” She sighs dramatically. “Just ignore this angsty creature over here, kids.”
The younger snort at the offended look in Doyoung’s face, the boy is about to square up but his mother drags him out of the room before he can say or do anything else.
They’re laying on Renjun’s balcony floor sunbathing while the sun is still up, the noise of traffic and of people chatting on the street being the only thing disturbing the peaceful atmosphere. Renjun opens one of his eyes and instantly regrets it when the bright sunshine burns his cornea. “I wanna dye my hair.” He says and Jaemin reacts almost instantly.
“Really?!” The boy smiles widely. “What colour?”
The older sits up and rubs his chin. “Grey? Light brown?”
“Yes! Yes, when do you want to do it?” He clasps his hand together. “Today? We still have time.”
“I didn’t ask my mother, though.”
Jaemin grabs his wrist and forces him to stand up. “We’re gonna ask now.” Renjun groans but the other pretends to not hear it and drags him inside the bedroom. Jaemin practically runs around the house trying to find Renjun’s parents and, when he finally finds them cuddling on the couch watching some sort of show, he starts talking without even waiting for Renjun to catch up to him. “Renjun had a brilliant idea!”
“When does he not?” Renjun’s mom chuckles.
“Would you let him dye his hair?” As soon as the words leave his mouth, a panting Renjun appears by the door.
His parents look at each other for a few seconds before turning back to Jaemin. “Uh, well.” They look at Renjun who comes closer with small steps. “I guess so? If you ruin it then it’s your own fault, though.” Jaemin jumps happily and forces Renjun to copy him. “There’s some money in my purse.”
Just as they were about to leave the room, someone calls out for them and they stop in their tracks. “I will love you even if you go bald, son.” Mr. Huang says and everyone snorts but Renjun who looks at Jaemin with pleading eyes.
“Jaemin I’m not sure-“ He starts but the younger is already dragging him away once again.
“We’re going to make you the hottest bitch out there.” Jaemin laughs almost manically as he grabs some money from the white purse. “If you go bald, I guess we already know who you’ll be for Carnival.”
“I am not going as Aang, fuck you.” He crosses his arms.
The other bats his eyelashes annoyingly close to Renjun’s face. “I can go as Katara if that makes you feel better.”
“It doesn-“ He starts but Jaemin is already out of the door.
They’re told to sit down and wait for their turn as soon as they come inside, the lady hands them a few books filled with pictures of different looking haircuts and Jaemin has the time of his life making fun of some of them. “This one, do this one.” He snorts and points as a woman with only one of her sides shaved.
“That’s what will happen to you if I end up losing my hair because of this.” He mutters through his teeth and sinks in his seat.
“Your idea, not mine.” He shrugs and flips the page. “Plus, if Jeno bleached his hair that many times and isn’t bald, then you’ll be fine.” Renjun knows he’s right, but the irrational part of his brain is yelling that it is a bad idea to dye your hair and that he’s going to be bald and ugly.
After what seemed like hours, one of the ladies finally calls out for him and Jaemin has to physically make him stand up by tugging at his arm. He sits on the big black chair and looks at himself in the mirror, his dark hair looked just fine and contrasted prettily with his pale skin. “Why did I ever think this would be a good idea?” The boy cries out quietly enough that only he can hear.
“So,” The hairdresser smiles and runs her fingers through Renjun’s dark locks. “What do you want?”
Renjun looks at Jaemin in the mirror and his friend gives him two thumbs up. “Uh, light brown? Or ash blonde?” He gulps but she nods frantically, which he had not expected at all.
“Oh yes! Such a great choice I think it’ll fit you perfectly!” She visibly brightens up and rotates the chair so Renjun is facing her. “Let’s wash your hair first, yes?”
He loves when people touch his hair, or getting massages in general, however the angle at which his head has to be positioned hurts his neck so badly that he can’t focus properly on how good the woman’s fingers feel on his scalp. She washes his hair twice, which seems a bit excessive since he showers every two days, but it doesn’t matter because the sweet smell of strawberry makes him forget the neck pains for a few minutes.
Once he’s back on the original chair, Renjun touches his hair and silently says goodbye to it. “This will be a long evening, with lots of bleaching.” The woman warns him. “So get ready.”
It does, indeed, take many hours. Renjun tries his best to ignore the reflection in the mirror by playing with his phone or talking to Jaemin who seems more pleased about the whole ordeal than him. “You’re going to look so fine.”
“Thanks, meaning I don’t look good now.” Renjun rolls his eyes.
“You just look like a typical pretty boy.” He shrugs. “Now everyone is going to acknowledge you!” Perfect, that was literally the last thing he wished and now there was no going back.
Sometimes it would burn, like someone was pouring boiling water on his head and he couldn’t make it stop. The hairdresser said it was normal due to the bleaching, but that didn’t make Renjun less nervous about the whole thing. “Is my scalp going to come out alive?” He whines and she laughs but doesn’t answer his question. So, no, it wasn’t.
Finally the bleaching came to an end and he had to decide which colour he wanted, he refused to stare at the mirror but Jaemin made sure to take some pictures of bleach blonde Renjun even if he had begged for him to put his phone away. “You’re an asshole.” He growls while two of the hairdressers are busy touching his hair.
“I’m aware.” His friend chuckles. “You look good! I’ll show you later.”
Renjun still has his eyes closed, but rolls them nevertheless. “What is going on right now?” He asks the ladies surrounding him.
“We’re putting the dye on, darling.” One of them reply. “Your friend is right, you look good. And this dye will look even better than the blonde.”
He mutters a ‘Thank you’ but doesn’t believe a word of it, he was sure he would have to come back a few days after to dye it black once again. After the women were done with their job, Renjun finally opens his eyes and stares at himself. His hair was poking out everywhere with some blue looking substance covering it. “I didn’t ask for blue.” He starts to panic but the hairdresser places her hand on his shoulder and shakes her head.
“No, no. That’s going to be ash blonde, don’t worry.” She gives him a motherly smile and he relaxes.
“That’s an excellent idea, though.” Jaemin’s voice comes from somewhere behind him, he doesn’t bother trying to figure out where. “You can be a smurf for Carnival instead of Aang.”
“Which? Brainy smurf? Then you can be the lazy one.” Renjun snorts.
“Nah, smurfette would be more appropriate.”
Renjun stands up and looks around for his friend who is sitting by the window with his phone in his hands, he glares at him once their eyes lock together. “I’m going to strangle you.” He threatens.
“Kinky.” Is all he says before moving his attention to his phone once again. “I’ll ask Jeno if he wants to join our little smurf cosplay.” He whispers, but Renjun is too busy observing his hair to hear it.
That was not him, well it was, but not quite. He looked older, the once black locks were now pretty ash blonde just like he had chosen and it made him at least two years older. Jaemin is awe struck behind him, almost as badly as he is. “Holy shit.” Renjun croaks out and touches his hair to make sure it is real. “It looks good?”
“Of course it does! I told you so!” The hairdresser giggles.
It takes a few minutes for both boys to come back to their senses, Jaemin blinks three times and starts messing with the newly dyed locks like a kid that just got new toy. “Woah my little Renjunnie looks amazing!” He pampers.
Renjun slaps his hands away and fixes his hair. “Guess I won’t be Aang nor Smurfette this Carnival.” He chuckles and finally gets up. “Let’s go, if I don’t leave right now I might end up spending hours playing with my hair.”
They say their goodbyes to the women and, as soon as they step out, Jaemin goes back to playing with Renjun’s hair shamelessly. “I might kiss you.” He blurts out.
“What?!” Renjun pushes him away. “Stop, you’ll make it greasy with your oil filled hands.”
“They are clean believe me or not.”
“Well, I don’t. I know you didn’t clean them after you ate that pack of chips this evening.”
Jaemin opens and closes his mouth. “I forgot about that.” Renjun doesn’t ever bother rolling his eyes or glaring at him, he had no energy left from all the hours they had spent inside the hairdresser.
As soon as the door to his house is opened, there are two pairs of hands on his hair and the boy groans loudly. “My baby! You look so beautiful!” His mother yells and his father stands next to her with a big smile on his face.
“So handsome, I can’t believe I created him.” The man snorts and then there’s a third person by the door looking at him wide eyed.
“Holy guacamole.” Doyoung whispers. “That is not my little bro.”
Jaemin elbows Renjun’s ribs lightly and smirks. “Yes, it is and he is ready to go out there break some hearts now.”
After a long session of compliments, Renjun pushes them all away and checks if his hair is not a greasy mess on the big mirror by the entrance. “Okay, enough, no more touching my hair.”
“But it’s so soft now!” Mrs. Huang pouts and comes closer again.
“No!” He protests and moves away slightly. “You’ll have lots of time to appreciate it, enough with the touching.”
Everyone groans but nods and goes away to what they were doing before. “I have to go, my mom already sent me a message like five minutes ago saying she’s waiting for me outside but I was having too much fun with your hair.” Jaemin smirks.
“I could tell.” Renjun says bitterly but pulls his friend into a tight hug and waves him goodbye by his door. Once the car drives away, Renjun runs to the bathroom. He had so much homework to do, but his hair was so mesmerizing that he totally forgot about being the good student he was. It was so odd looking at himself because it did look like him, but at the same time it didn’t. And he loved it, loved looking new and fresh.
Maybe he did not regret this one life decision.
Being the centre of attention sucked. His classmates were crowding around him taking turns at touching his hair and Renjun was on the verge of yelling for them to leave him alone but Jaemin gives him the look so he fakes a smile.
“You look so handsome!” One of the girls exclaims and twirls a strand around her index finger.
There are a few sounds of agreement and Jaemin smiles like a proud dad. “Ah, thank you.” Renjun chuckles awkwardly, pretending the best he can that he wasn’t worrying about whether his hair would look awfully greasy after they finally stopped playing with it. Why were they so amazed by it, anyways?
It only stops when the teacher enters the classroom and slams his books on the table, Renjun sits next to Jaemin with a loud sigh. “You’re on the rise.” Jaemin bumps his shoulder on his friend’s playfully. “What’s with that look?”
“I fucking hate it.” The boy mutters as he opens his pencil case and takes a pen out. “I hope the hype dies down soon.” Jaemin looks offended but doesn’t say anything else since the teacher had already given them a dirty look and he didn’t want to risk getting in trouble.
The sound of the school’s bell never sounded so sweet, Renjun grabs his things and sprints away from his classmates before any of them can touch his hair again. Jaemin had already left school an hour or so ago so he walks down the street alone silently praying that his swimming team would not have the same reaction as his classmates. Much to his disappointment, the moment he steps inside the busy changing room, everyone starts yelling and whistling. “Dayum Renjun!” Donghyuck raises his eyebrow. “Looking good.”
Renjun mutters a quick thanks and tries his best to dodge whoever tries to come too close to his hair. The hype dies down way faster and he’s thankful, the boys go back to getting ready for practice and so he does but stops when he feels someone’s presence next to him. “Yes?” He asks as he looks up, Jeno is leaning against the wall shamelessly staring at him.
“You look good.” He blurts out and chuckles. “Why did you dye it?”
“Honestly?” Renjun licks his lips nervously and busies himself by placing his things inside one of the locker. “I thought your hair looked nice and got curious about dyeing my hair.”
Jeno’s eyes widen slightly. “Seriously? Well, I’m glad I dyed it then.”
The older lets out a breathy laugh before slamming the locker shut and walking out of the room, his daily tolerance of social interaction was starting to run out. He was already late for practice anyways.
Practice went as it always did, they did their stretching exercises and Jaemin almost broke Renjun’s arm in the process once again then the real thing started and Renjun felt he could finally relax for the first time that day. Donghyuck’s feet hit his face in a total for three times, but he was used to that too since the other still refused to switch places. Renjun was starting to think he just wanted to be right behind Mark during practice.
There was something so pleasing about how his muscles ached after each practice (whenever he’d tell Jaemin that his friend would look at him like he was some sort of masochist), knowing he had given his best let him sleep better at night. Jaemin looked just fine, however. His friend kept jumping here and there, telling everyone about his new target and how she was obviously into him.
Renjun doesn’t even bother with it and fast walks his way to the showers which are almost full by the time he gets there. He places his shampoo and shower gel near his feet and turns on the water, his body relaxes almost instantly as the boiling water runs down his body. It also goes tense once again just as fast when someone speaks up to his right. “Hey, uh, you should use this special shampoo when you dye your hair.” Jeno points at the bottle he was holding with ‘Coloured Hairs Only’ written in big letters. “You can use mine!”
The boy blinks a few times before smiling softly, Jeno smiles back and hands him the shampoo. Renjun analyses the bottle for a few seconds before pouring the substance in his hand and placing the bottle on the floor next to Jeno. “Thank you, I didn’t know.”
“No problem.” The blonde replies with his eyes closed as the water his him straight in the face. Renjun finds himself staring and turns his back to the younger, his eyes drift toward someone else whose smirk is so big that almost fills his whole face.
“Shut up.” Renjun mouths at Jaemin who simply shrugs, pretending to have no clue what he meant.
Jeno thankfully leaves a few minutes after with a quick goodbye, his luck doesn’t last long because he is soon replaced by Jaemin. “So,” He starts and Renjun washes his hair the fastest he can. “My little Renjun is finally showing interest in someone?”
“First of all, I’m older.” Renjun growls. “And, no. What makes you say that?”
Jaemin laughs, laughs. “You think I’m stupid? You looked at Jeno like he was a piece of Korean beef.”
“I did not.” He protests and turns off the water. “I’m going.”
“You can run, but you can’t hide!” The younger shouts as Renjun steps out.
“I fucking wish I could.” Renjun murmurs to himself and takes his bag from the locker a bit more aggressively than he should.
Jaemin takes ages in the shower and, by the time Renjun is fully clothed and ready to go, the younger walks inside the changing room with Donghyuck by his side and a big smile on his face. Renjun would often wonder if Jaemin had somehow glued a permanent smile onto his face, he couldn’t remember the last time it wasn’t there. “You’re going?” He eyes Renjun up and down.
“I can wait, if you want.” Renjun offers with a shrug but Jaemin shakes his head, a few droplets of water land on his face. “Then I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Halfway through his way up the stairs, someone grabs his wrist and he freezes on his spot. “Don’t look so mortified.” Jeno snorts and lets go of Renjun’s bony wrist. “Thought you’d like some company.”
“Ah.” He rubs his nape. “I live nearby so I don’t need to wait for the bus.”
“I see.” The other shrugs and starts walking up the stairs. “Doesn’t matter.”
It takes a while but Renjun finally unfreezes and follows the boy, unintentionally analysing his broad back. He moves his eyes to somewhere else before Jeno turns around once again, his heart hammers in his chest and he mentally scolds himself for being so nervous. “I’m going now.” Renjun murmurs but Jeno stops him by, once again, grabbing his wrist. He wants to protests but the younger is quicker.
“It’s raining.” He says but Renjun’s brain doesn’t process it so he points to the door. “You sure you want to go?”
“It’s fine, it’s not that bad.” Renjun presses his face against the glass door, his hair was still wet anyways, so why not? “Thank you, though.”
Jeno wiggles his arms slightly so that his bag would slide down his arm and rummages through it with a frown on his face. Renjun watches the scene curiously and snorts when the younger curses under his breath.
He finally finds what he was looking for, a simple black umbrella with a logo of some sort of on one of the sides. “Take it.” Jeno shoves it on the other’s hands.
“Jeno, no.” Renjun furrows his eyebrows and shakes his head. “You’ll get wet without it!”
“I take the bus, it’s okay!” He insists.
The older eyes the umbrella in his hands, part of him wanted to give it back but the other wasn’t so keen on getting soaked wet. “I- Thank you.” The boy looks up at Jeno with a shy smile. "I'll give it back tomorrow.”
“See you tomorrow, then.” He smiles.
Renjun copies the gesture without being aware of it. “See you tomorrow.”
The day of their first competition finally comes around. Renjun wakes up early morning, before anyone else is awake, and gets ready quietly. The streets are just as quiet as his house, only a few cars would pass by every five minutes or so, the boy feels somewhat scared but pushes himself to think of something else.
As he kicks the fallen brown leafs on the grown, Renjun wonders if he will do well enough. If they’ll finally be moved to their allocated changing rooms or not, it had been so long since the whole team had done well. Usually, it’d be Jeno or Jaemin winning medals and the rest getting average results. He wanted to be better than average this time.
Ahead, there is already a crowd forming around the bus. Renjun speeds up, the cold morning breeze had already made the tip of his fingers numb and the prospect of warmness just ahead was motivational enough for him to stop his lazy walk. The boy enters the bus at light speed and searches for Jaemin who was sitting at the back with the rest of his group, he waves at him and his friend waves back. “Renjunnie! I thought you’d never come.”
“I woke up later than usual.” He admits and throws his bag on a free seat.
“Lazy are we?” The coach shows up behind him making Renjun shriek. “Already? The day has just started.”
“Sorry sir.” The boy lets out a breathy laugh.
His coach decides to ignore him and raises his voice. “Is everybody here?!” There is a choir of ‘yes’. “Good, even if someone is missing they deserve to be left behind for being late.”
There’s this ‘ritual game’ they always play when they have to go somewhere as a team, and Renjun absolutely hates it. They split into two teams and each team choses a number randomly from one to how many they are per team. Then they discuss what the dares can be, and usually they’re not exactly what Renjun wishes they were. One was usually kiss on the mouth, two was kiss on the cheek, three was a French kiss, four was sitting on someone’s lap, five was taking a piece of clothing and so on for how many players they were.
He always tries his best to ignore them the moment someone suggests to play but Jaemin, being the little bitch he is, would force his friend to tag along with him. Every single time. Renjun didn’t have a say in it, before he could even protest the other was already shouting. “Renjun is joining!”
So there he was, watching as two of his teammates makeout in the back of the bus. The coach is completely oblivious to what all the shouting is about and Renjun seriously wishes he could switch bodies with him. “Jaemin I don’t want to do that.” He whines but his friend shrugs him off.
His turn does come around at some point, luckily after a really long time, and the boy only needs to take a piece of his clothing. “I’m lucky today.” He mumbles, mostly to himself, as he takes his jacket off.
“No jam!” Jamin frowns but soon forgets it and goes back to paying attention to the game. Renjun doesn’t care if he’s not fun, he wasn’t about to turn into a slut and take his pants inside the bus in front of his colleges. Jaemin would, he knows he would. “Renjun again!”
Renjun’s head snaps up, he was not expecting his turn to come around so soon once again. “Me?!”
“Yes, Jeno said four to six. You have to sit on his lap.” His friend says excitedly but Renjun would rather die.
“Can I pass?” He whispers to him, making sure the rest can’t hear him.
“Dude, Jeno will be offended.”
And that is the reason why Renjun was currently on top of Jeno’s legs trying his best to relax but failing miserably. “It’s only for five minutes.” Jeno chuckles and puts his arms around Renjun’s waist making the older choke on his spit. He knows it’s so he doesn’t fall, but still.
Five minutes feel like an hour, he wonders if his bones are poking the younger’s legs, or if hes too heavy (he snorts right away at that) but Jeno seems to be the happiest he could get judging by the permanent eyesmile in his face. “All good?” He asks after a while noticing how Renjun still hadn’t relaxed. “You look tense.”
“I- I never like-“ Renjun wheezes out. “I play the game but-“
“You beat your foot.” It's a statement but Renjun nods nevertheless. The name of the game was ‘Beat your Foot’ which came from the fact that, if you really didn’t want to do the dare, you could beat your foot and deny the request. He never meant to offend anybody whenever he’d do it, he just didn’t want to give his first kiss away like that or kiss someone he didn’t like. “Low blow, dude.”
“I didn’t want to reject you, though.” He whispers, secretly hoping the blonde hadn’t heard it. Jeno doesn’t answer back, but his hold becomes tighter and Renjun feels as if he can’t breathe anymore.
“Five minutes are over!” One of them shouts and Jeno lets go reluctantly.
“It’s cold now.” He pouts and Renjun chuckles nervously before running back to his place.
The game keeps going, Renjun is only picked again once more and beats his foot against the floor as soon as the word kiss is heard. Everyone groans but keep going without complaining too much and Renjun is glad, he too hates being the party pooper.
Finally the bus came to a stop, which meant the game was over. Renjun sighs in relief and they all leave the bus. “Alright, you guys already know how this works. There are crackers for you to eat if you were dumb enough to not bring a snack, there’s also water because we can’t have you passing out. Stay close and don’t go wandering around when your turn to swim is near.” The coach informs. “Let’s get some medals, yeah?”
There are a few snorts here and there, but for the most part everyone seems excited about the prospect of winning something.
They find a good place and throw their bags into a pile. The competition wouldn’t start for a while so they gather around and chat, Renjun sits near Jaemin who won’t shut up about his newest party affair to the rest of his friends. Jeno meets his eyes and raises his eyebrows, Renjun copies him and they both chuckle. “What are you laughing at?!” Jaemin looks at the older with an offended expression.
“It wasn’t about your story, don’t worry.” Renjun promises and his friend nods, going back to telling his story.
“I’m going to check on my parents.” Jeno cuts the boy and waves everybody goodbye.
It’s silent for a while, then one of them speaks up just as the blonde disappears out of sight. “Guys, have you noticed how big Jeno is?!”
Renjun furrows his eyebrows, what? Yes, Jeno was considered tall and all that, but everyone could see it from miles away. “Dude, what?” The one to his right chuckles.
“Like his dick, you can see it through his fucking shorts.” He explains and Renjun coughs loudly, not even Jaemin who starts patting his back can stop the fit. “Nobody else noticed?”
“Yeah, I did.” Jaemin shrugs. “Good for him, I guess. I would be more interested if I wasn’t like, into girls and all that jazz.”
“I’m into girls as well, dude.”
“Sure doesn’t look like it.” Jaemin wiggles his eyebrows and looks at Renjun worriedly. “You good now?”
“Uh- Yeah.” Renjun croaks out. “Better.”
When Jeno comes back, Renjun can’t get himself to look at him. Not that it was the blonde’s fault but his brain kept telling himself to look at places that were definitely not the face and Renjun couldn’t take the risk of that happening.
His plan works for a while, but he can’t ignore the other for the whole day, so when Jeno starts talking directly towards him, Renjun almost chokes on his spit. He tries to stay calm and not move his gaze lower than the other’s head, but then Jeno spreads his legs and his plans go straight down the drain.
The dude was right, you could see it and Renjun hates himself for not looking up straight away. Once his eyes meet Jeno’s once again, the blonde is blushing and he closes his legs with a loud slap. “I’m-I’m sorry!”
Jeno just laughs it off and keeps on talking like it never happened. It happens a few more times, though, but Jeno never mentions it. Renjun doesn’t know how to feel about that, and he secretly hopes the other would go away so that he wouldn’t embarrass himself further in front of him.
“Why can’t I stop looking?!” Renjun mumbles to himself once he finally leaves. The boy gets up after a few seconds of mentally scolding himself and tries to find his coach in the middle of the crowd. “Coach?”
The man moves his attention from the pool to the boy standing next to him. “Yes, Renjun?”
“Could I possibly go away for a bit? I’m going to go see my friend, he’s from another team.” He asks, hoping with all his strength that the man would say yes.
“I trust you, don’t miss your round and we’re all good.” The coach smiles softly and pats his on the back.
Renjun bows a few times before running as fast he could through the middle of the crowd.
Hanging with Chenle and Jisung ended up always in him thirdwheeling no matter what. Not that they were the typical lame couple that wouldn’t stop being all over each other, but Renjun did not understand their inside jokes and would often feel left out. It was only normal, Chenle and Jisung saw each other almost everyday and Renjun only saw them a few days every two months.
He stares at the two with a blank expression and goes back to eating the cracker from the pack he had stolen from his coach. Chenle was laughing loudly at some stupid joke Jisung had blurted out that made no sense to him. “Dude, they’ll think there’s dolphins in the pool with that laugh of yours.” Renjun glares at Chenle who pokes his tongue out and tries his best to contain his laughter.
“Where’s your boyfriend?” Jisung smirks and Chenle almost lets out a laugh.
“My what?!” He chokes on the cracker, Chenle throws him a water bottle right away. “He’s not my boyfriend!”
“Oh, so you know who I’m referring to then.”
Renjun would’ve punched him but he knew Chenle would kill him if he did, so he tries his best to sound calmer than he felt. “I’m guessing Jeno since your boyfriend over there can’t keep his mouth shut.” Both of them freeze on the spot and Renjun smirks to himself knowing he had touched a sensitive topic. “Oh, my bad. You guys aren’t dating.”
Jisung snarls and pokes Chenle’s side so that the boy would leave his lap. “Try me.”
“I’ll strangle you, bitch.” Renjun wiggles his fingers on the other’s face.
“He will, so sit down.” Chenle giggles and pushes Jisung back onto the chair. “When do we have to go?” He asks obviously trying to change the topic.
“In an hour or so, my coach said I could go out and eat lunch so there’s plenty of time.” The older takes a small bite on a new cracker.
“Why didn’t you?” His friend furrows his eyebrows.
Renjun shrugs. “I barely see you, I thought it’d be a good idea to spend some time together.” He admits and Chenle squeaks loudly before throwing himself on top of Renjun. “The chair is going to break!”
“Fuck it! That was the lamest shit you’ve said to me in months.” He places a loud smooch on the older’s forehead. “I thought you didn’t want to be with your team or something.”
That too. “Get off me.” Renjun pushes him away. “Jisung might get jealous.”
The youngest snarls once again and points his middle finger dangerously close to Renjun’s nostril. “I will kill you, noodle boy.”
“You look like bamboo stick yourself.” Renjun snorts, eyeing the boy up and down. “Don’t know how Chenle hasn’t broken your bones.”
“Did you just call me fat?” Chenle gasps, Jisung’s expression goes from offended to smug in a matter of seconds. “He might not be able to kill you by himself, but the two of us would. Don’t test your luck.”
Renjun throws his arms in the air in surrender.
Waiting for your turn to compete is always nerve-wracking for everybody, they’re told to wait inside a special room without any information about how long their wait will be. Renjun’s nails suffer the most, he wouldn’t stop biting them due to the stress even if Chenle tried his best to stop him from doing it. “They look ugly now, good job idiot.” His friend scolds but Renjun just shrugs. “Why are you so stressed?!”
“I want to do well this time.”
“You always do.”
Renjun sighs loudly. “Not good enough.”
“What do you usually do for hundred meters backstroke?” Jisung butts in.
“I think my best was one minute and twenty or so seconds.” The older pouts. “It’s seriously not good enough, I need to get better by at least ten seconds.”
Chenle pats him on the back softly. “Hey, I believe you can do it! Fighting!” He cheers and Jisung copies him.
“Thanks guys, I wish you two lots of luck too.” Renjun smiles softly and tries his best to not go back to biting his nails. Chenle was right, they looked ugly now.
He’s staring blankly at the floor when someone pats his shoulder lightly, Renjun looks up to find Jeno grinning at him. “Came by to wish you good luck!” The boy exclaims and Renjun swears he can see Chenle and Jisung smirk from the corner of his eye.
“Ah,” He scratches the back of his neck. “So considerate, thank you.”
“It’s nothing! The whole team is out there waiting for you to swim.” Jeno points at the little window, there were lots of people from different teams gathered up at one side of the pool waiting for their teammates’ turn.
Renjun smiles brightly. “I hope I do well, I’m really nervous.” The stupid sensation in his stomach wouldn’t go away no matter what, he felt like he could puke at any second.
“Don’t be! Just do your best, this is for fun anyways.” The younger shrugs and places his hand on Renjun’s bony shoulder. “I’ll get going now, fighting!”
As soon as the blonde leaves the room, the other two boys are already throwing themselves on top of Renjun teasing him about how his boyfriend was super supportive and how cute it was. Even if it was annoying, it managed to get his mind off the competition and neither of them noticed when they were being called by the lady. It was only when she screamed their names that reality hit them and Renjun started shaking all over the place.
“Seriously, this isn’t even a serious competition. Stop or you’ll pass out.” Chenle whispers as they walk to their allocated lanes.
They split apart, Renjun being in lane two, Jisung in the fifth and Chenle in the seventh. Renjun takes his shirt off and wiggles his limbs as a warmup. Then, when the man who was in charge of counting the time he’d take to complete the lap warned him they’d be going up in just a few minutes, he puts his swimming goggles and cap on and moves away from the white chair. He’s shaking, and that’s bad, but he can’t help the stupid nervousness roaring inside him.
Ahead, his teammates are waving and chanting his name. Renjun waves back and lets out a shaky giggle, he just wished he wouldn’t let everybody down and get a medal.
The first whistle is heard, Renjun jumps inside the pool right away. The water is freezing which doesn’t help with how shaky his limbs were but he tries his best to get into position nevertheless. There is a curt pause and then the second whistle echoes inside the hall, Renjun dives in. He tries his best to remember his coach’s advice, move your legs like a mermaid, stay underwater for as long as possible, look graceful but don’t forget speed.
Renjun closes his eyes tightly together and comes out of the water, he starts moving his legs as quickly as he can while his upper body moves with grace. Arms out, hand pointing at the ceiling, arms in. He knows the end of the pool is close once the stairs show up in the corner of his eye, so he looks back slightly and gets ready to turn.
He can hear the chants now and turns, the wall in right in front of his face and he flips. His feet touch the wall and he pushes the hardest he can but time suddenly seems to stop, Jeno is in the front with his fist in the air and a smile that could blind anyone. Renjun smiles back and smoothly moves his body in a wave-like motion, it is only then that he remembers his competitors.
There’s no one by his side so he panics. Am I that far back? He wonders and starts moving faster upwards. Once he’s out of the water, the boy starts swimming like his life depends on it and forgets the world around him. Forgets Chenle and Jisung, forgets his teammates, forgets Jeno, because the only thing inside his head is not being the last.
His hand smashes against the wall and he looks to his side, nobody. “What?!” He furrows his eyebrows. There are loud yells coming from the other side of the pool, his teammates are jumping up and down and yelling like crazy monkeys.
Then he notices the rest of the boys are still swimming. He had been first.
Renjun smiles wider than ever before and raises himself to look at the board with the times, one minute and eleven seconds. “Holy shit.” He mumbles. “I made it?!”
There is a final whistle signalizing it was over, Renjun looks for his friends and finds Chenle speaking (yelling) to Jisung a few meters away. He snorts and follows the boy next to him towards the stairs, his legs are shaking so badly that Renjun thinks he might fall at any second. He grabs his things, not bothering to put his shirt on, and wobbles his way to his team who greet him with more shouting. “Renjun you did so well!” Jaemin yells the loudest and hugs him tightly. “I’m a proud mother.”
He’s about to complain and say he’s older than Jaemin but it doesn’t matter, not when he had gotten the best result of the team so far. Jeno comes closer, his eyesmile making Renjun’s legs shaky once more. “I’m proud of you.” He squeezes Renjun’s shoulder and the older giggles softly.
“Thank you. I made it!” He exclaims.
“Yes! Yes, you did.” Jeno’s smile widens.
In the end, Renjun is third place overall. Everyone promises to buy him dinner for winning a bronze medal for the team and the boy couldn’t be happier, free food was always welcomed.
However the day was far from over and Renjun still had medley relay to do. He was back inside the room but, this time, with three other teammates. Renjun went first doing his speciality; backstroke, then came Donghyuck with breaststroke followed by Jeno who was in charge of butterfly and it ended with their ace; Jaemin with front crawl. “Fighting guys!” Jaemin cheers noticing how Renjun was starting to look nervous once again. “Let’s just do our best and see how it turns out, yeah?”
Donghyuck doesn’t even care about what is going on, he was too busy eyeing the window for obvious reasons and drooling all over his swimming trunks. “Dude, you better not be a lazy cunt like always.” Jeno hits the other in the chin to close his mouth. “If you want to impress Mark then do your best.”
“Wait what- I never said-“ He chokes out but shuts up once Jeno and Jaemin give him the ‘we know’ look. “Fine.”
“Good!” Jaemin exclaims and slaps Renjun’s thigh softly. “Hey, stop stressing over it.”
“Coach says that if you fuck up the beginning then it’s basically over.” Renjun sighs.
“You did so well just a few hours ago! You’ll be fine.” Jeno gives him two thumbs up. “Your friend is coming, by the way.”
Renjun raises his head and looks around, Chenle is walking their way with Jisung and two other guys he has seen around. “Hey!” He greets them all with a big smile. “How are you?”
“Renjun over here is a nervous wreck.” Jaemin chuckles.
“When is he not?” Jisung teases and Renjun looks ready to strangle him right in front of everyone.
Jaemin has always been a good mood maker so it’s no surprise that, only a few minutes after, the mood had totally changed. Chenle was now in the middle of explaining who was going to do what in the medley relay, Renjun was so focused on hearing what his friend had to say that he had, in fact, forgotten all about how nervous he felt. “Jisung over here, he does the front crawl. I do breaststrokes. Tae goes against Renjun and Hong is in charge of butterfly!”
Jeno looks at his opponent with a smug expression that doesn’t go unnoticed by Renjun, he knew the blonde always had a manly aura around him due to his sharp features and strong body but that expression tripled the effect. Renjun gulps and drifts his gaze towards Chenle who wiggles his eyebrows at him noticing the look Renjun had previously given to Jeno. “Stop.” The older mouths but his friend finds it way too amusing to tease him to stop.
They’re called by the same woman as before, Donghyuck takes his sweet time getting up from the chair making them all late. “If you don’t stop trying to annoy us I will actually hit you.” Jeno threatens and Renjun tries to ignore the stupid feeling growing inside his stomach caused by the blonde’s tone of voice.
Chenle’s team is right next to his this time. They take their shirts off and help each other put their caps on, then chat for a while until the first whistle is heard and everyone wishes Renjun good luck before the boy jumps inside the water. “It’s fucking freezing.” He cries out and the rest laugh.
They’re all crouching down so that they can see Renjun as he gets into position with his head in-between his arms. “You’re the best Junnie!” Jaemin says and Renjun snorts but his heart squeezes inside his chest at the cute nickname.
The second whistle is heard and Renjun flies into the air before he dives in, he repeats the same steps and tries to get his mind to wander so he doesn’t feel pressured by his competitors. He thinks of winning a gold medal, how awesome it would feel, how praised he would be.
He makes a turn and gives his all not caring if he’d reach the wall exhausted, he didn’t have to swim anymore for the day so it didn’t matter anymore. The moment his hand hits the wall, he catches a glimpse of Donghyuck jumping on top of him to start his turn. “You were first! Again!” Jeno shouts just above his head.
The older takes his cap and goggles off and smiles widely. “Seriously?!”
“Yes! You did a bit worse but only by two seconds and you were still first!” Jaemin adds.
Renjun gets out of the pool and watches as Donghyuck swims, they’re still first but not for much. “Let’s go Jeno, beat their asses dude!” Jaemin shouts and slaps Jeno’s butt.
The older looks at Jeno expecting the other to look pissed, but the boy laughs loudly and steps on top of the stand. “Good luck.” Renjun whispers and Jeno looks to his side.
“Cheer for me, yeah?” Is all he says before putting his goggles in place.
Donghyuck reaches the wall and the blonde dives in gracefully, Donghyuck soon joins them and the three observe the other as he submerges. “GO LEE JENO!” Jaemin shouts and Renjun flinches.
He would yell at Jaemin to shut up, but the view of Jeno’s back muscles whenever his arms left the water were too hypnotizing for him to do anything else. “Are you wet, Huang Renjun?” Someone asks next to him and he doesn’t need to turn his face to know who it is.
“Shut up Chenle, you’ll be swooning over Jisung’s arms once his turn comes around too.” He spits out, Chenle doesn’t even bother denying.
Jeno’s already on his way back once he looks back, the muscles on his arms were his new centre of attention. He comes out of his daze once Jaemin shouts for them to wish him luck, Donghyuck and Renjun give him some encouraging words just before Jeno hits the wall and the ace dives in.
Renjun crouches down and smiles at Jeno who is panting loudly. “You were excellent.”
“Was i? I’m glad. Are we far ahead?”
The older looks up and nods. “Yes, and Jaemin is just going to beat their asses even more.”
Jeno chuckles at that and moves out of the way for Jaemin who is already coming back while the rest are still on their way to finishing fifty meters. Renjun yells his friends name as loud as he can, the three of them create a little fanchant just a few seconds before the boy smacks the wall and then the chant turns into a mess of screams. “We fucking won!” Donghyuck screams so loudly that Renjun was sure even the people outside the pool could’ve heard it.
Jaemin hugs Jeno, who didn’t leave the pool after his turn was over, and they almost drown while they’re at it. “How fast were we?” Jaemin asks once the two of them finally leave the pool.
“Three minutes, fifty seconds.” Renjun answers.
“Damn, that’s the best we ever did. We’re on fire my dudes.” Jaemin does a tiny victory dance before they head to their team where they’re received with praises and more victory dances.
They end up winning in first place, Renjun can barely believe how well the day had been going for them. He was going to take two medals home, a bronze and a gold one, that was something he never thought he’d accomplish.
“I’m proud of you.” The coach pats his back later in the evening, when he’s relaxing as he watches other people swim. “You’ve improved a lot.”
“Thank you coach.” He bows his head down slightly. “I will try my very best from now on.”
Everyone is getting ready to give moral support to Donghyuck who is warming up on the other side of the pool, Jaemin holds a banner with their swimming club logo on it while the rest pass around the water and clear their throats. “He thinks he’s the shit anyways we don’t need to do much.” Jaemin snorts and cries out soon after when Mark’s elbow smacks against his ribs. “Protective boyfriend.”
Mark shoots him a sly smile and gives Donghyuck a thumbs up, the other makes a heart with his arms in response. Everyone gags but the two couldn’t care less and keep sending each other hearts until the whistle is heard and Donghyuck steps on the stand. “FIGHTING HYUCKIE!” Jeno yells.
As soon as the boy dives in, his teammates start chanting his name. Renjun joins in, adrenaline pumping in his veins even if he wasn’t the one swimming. Donghyuck smiles brightly once he comes closer to the wall, Renjun can see Mark do finger hearts to him from the corner of his eye.
Donghyuck doesn’t come first but he had broken his personal record so everyone greets him with loud cheers. The coach seems the happiest Renjun had seen him in all the years of coaching them, it was a nice sight and he hoped the team would keep on getting such good results.
Chenle shows up with Jisung by his side while they wait for Jeno’s turn to swim. “Who’s going now?” His friend asks.
“Jeno.” Renjun murmurs and the two boys share knowingly looks. “Shut up.”
“We didn’t say anything.” Jisung shrugs.
“I can read your mind.” He smirks and turns to Chenle, changing to Mandarin. “He is thinking about hugging you in his mind.”
Chenle’s cheeks turn pink and he laughs awkwardly, Jisung looks like a lost puppy. “What? What did he say Lele?”
The nickname doesn’t help the situation one bit and the shade of pink grows darker on Chenle’s pale skin. Renjun ignores Jisung and keeps on going. “How much longer is he going to pretend he is straight and not madly in love with you?”
“Just as long as you will take to admit you like Jeno.” Chenle pokes his tongue out and Renjun chokes on his spit at the remark.
“Jeno?! What are you guys talking about?!” The youngest stares at both of them with an exasperated look. “Stop being such bilingual assholes and tell me.”
“You now know how I feel whenever you guys make inside jokes right in front of my face.” Renjun says, ignoring Jisung’s pleas to tell him what they had talked about. Chenle didn’t seem to want to explain either even if the younger promised to buy him whatever food he’d want if Chenle told him.
After a few more minutes of waiting, Jeno comes out of the room and walks towards his allocated lane. Renjun follows him with his eyes, the shirt he had been given with their club’s logo was starting to become too tight on him making his chest prominent. His tight jammer swimsuit wasn’t helping either, his legs weren’t exactly thick but they were muscly and perfectly shaped. Renjun’s face heats up and he looks away.
Chenle pokes his shoulder to get his attention. “Stop denying it.” He whispers even though he’s speaking in Mandarin. “What are you so afraid of?”
“I don’t know. Rejection? I never felt this before, it’s scary.” Renjun admits and Chenle smiles brightly at that.
“It’s okay. But just so you know, you’re being a hypocrite by pushing Jisung to understand his feeling when you’re scared of the same thing he is.” Once he faces Chenle and sees how serious he looks, Renjun sighs deeply.
“I know. I never understood why he didn’t just ask you out. I do now.” He bites his lip and looks over to Jeno who was massaging his arms. His shirt was no longer hiding the perfectly sculpted body, Renjun’s mouth goes dry. “It’s so scary.”
His friend pats him on the back and rubs his cheek on Renjun’s shoulder. “Hey, there is no rush. That’s why I don’t care if Jisung takes years to come to terms with it, I like what we have. Don’t think too much about it.”
He won’t. Well, he’ll try not to at least. “Thank you.” Renjun murmurs and sidehugs Chenle. “Love you.”
“Love you too.”
The whistle snatches his attention away, Jeno dives in perfectly and comes out of the water a few seconds after. The view takes his breath away, Renjun swears he is trying to not focus so much on big Jeno’ muscles are but he can’t. He notices he isn’t cheering like everyone else and forces himself to join, but his gaze drifts back to the blonde and he lets his mouth hang open without even noticing.
Jeno touches the wall and looks up at them with a smug smile on his face, Renjun can’t get himself to do anything before the boy is already on his way back. The view was even more distracting now, he analyses how Jeno’s muscles contract and relax without thinking twice if he was being obvious or not. He probably was.
Renjun had seen the sight before. In fact, he had seen it just a few hours ago during relay, but in the middle of the crowd he didn’t feel awkward staring. Everyone else was too busy shouting and showing support to care about what he was doing, everyone but Chenle. “Don’t pop a boner in public like this, Junie.”
“I did not!” He whisper yells but looks down to make sure.
“Ah! You checked.” His friend teases and Renjun slaps him on the shoulder. “You zoomed out so bad, seriously.”
Renjun can feel his face heat up again, he knows Chenle is right and he hates it. “Let’s- Let’s not talk about this.”
Suddenly everyone starts yelling and Renjun turns to see Jeno with his hair poking out in weird places, swimming stuff in his hand and with a bright smile on his face. He’s still panting, his chest rising up and down quickly, but he still jumps along with Jaemin. “Nana I made it!” He says excitedly.
They lock eyes and Renjun smiles shyly before stepping forward and giving him a short hug. “Congrats, broke a new record?”
“Yes, personal one but still.” Jeno is smiling so brightly, Renjun feels as if he might faint by just looking at his face. “I’m pretty sure I’ll gain a medal as well.”
“I’m really happy for you.” Renjun doesn’t even notice that he too is smiling just as brightly as the blonde.
They’re broken apart by their teammates who also wanted to give their congratulations to the boy. Jeno doesn’t stop staring into Renjun’s eyes, however. The older drifts his eyes away one he starts to feel his legs getting wobbly.
Chenle seems to like Renjun’s team way more than his own and, after all the competitions are over and they have to wait for the winners to be announced, both him and Jisung decide to join in their conversations. Nobody seems to mind, and Renjun is glad because it means he gets to spend more time with his friend.
“Nana, how’s your back? You said it hurt before.” Jeno pokes the other’s back and Jaemin flinches.
“I’m ticklish stop that.” He slaps Jeno’s hand away. “It’s okay, but still hurts a bit.”
Renjun furrows his eyebrows, he didn’t know there was anything wrong with his friend’s back. “What’s wrong with it? Please see a doctor.”
Jaemin smiles softly and shakes his head. “It’s just a little bit of pain, but I will if it continues.”
The topic changes but Renjun can’t stop thinking about the fact that Jaemin hadn’t told him, it wasn’t supposed to matter so much but why did Jeno know and he didn’t? Was Jaemin hiding it from him? Most important of all, was Jaemin actually okay?
“I bought croissants.” Their coach interrupts the chatting. “Because you guys gave me such good results today.”
Hell breaks loose, everyone tries to get a croissant before they run out. Even Chenle joins and the coach doesn’t stop him, probably already fond of the boy (who wouldn’t be? He just had a talent for making people like him right away). “Oh my god they’re just the way I like them.” Renjun grins at his coach with his shiny croissant in his hand. “They’re so soft, thank you!” The coach brushes it off and walks away with his very own croissant in his hand.
Just as everyone starts eating, a loud voice comes out from the speakers announcing that the results will be out in about five minutes and that the swimmers should gather on the very far back of the pool where the podium stood.
Renjun follows Chenle excitedly, he was sure he was going to win something from the calculations the coach had done. A few of the teammates stand up with them, but for the most part they stay seated chatting and eating. Jeno walks beside him with a cocky expression on his face, Renjun wishes he could be so confident in his own results one day.
The woman is already announcing some of the winners when they reach the place, a few boys go up the podium where they’re given a medal and a man snaps a few pictures of them before the woman keeps going.
“Hundred meters backstroke-“ She starts and Jeno grabs Renjun’s wrist harshly. “First, Yooguk.” A tall boy starts walking towards the podium with a smile that resembled the one Jeno had before. “Second.”
Jeno’s hold goes even tighter, the coach had said he would be third but everyone always hoped he had made a mistake in comparing the times from all the other swimmers. Renjun can feels his arm go numb due to Jeno’s strength but doesn’t dare open his mouth to complain, not when he secretly enjoys the gesture.
“Kim Jisoo.” She keeps on going and Jeno groans, his hold finally loosening. “Third-“
“Huang Renjun.” The blonde whispers, Renjun look up at him and swears that the other’s eyes are sparkling.
“Huang Renjun.” The woman announces and his teammates yell loudly all around him.
Renjun is pushed by Chenle to walk because he suddenly couldn’t move, his brain had frozen completely even if he had expected to win. He somehow manages to step on the podium with his team’s banner in his hand (he has no clue when it had even made its way there) and bows his head down so a different woman can place the medal around his neck. “Say cheese, Junnie!” Chenle shouts and the boy smiles brightly at that.
The moment he steps down, he’s being engulfed with hugs by his team. “Thank you guys, seriously.” He wheezes out. “But I can’t breathe.”
The announcements continue, Chenle ends up winning a medal too, bronze just like Renjun’s. He hugs his friend tightly once he comes back from the podium and Chenle almost makes him deaf with his loud dolphin giggle.
“Thousand and five hundred meters freestyle.” The woman says and Renjun furrows his eyebrows, he doesn’t remember watching Jaemin swim today, he had assumed they hadn’t done that competition today. “First, Na Jaemin.”
Renjun’s breath is knocked out of him, had he not watched his best friend swim? Jaemin is smiling brightly, but not even that makes him feel better. His so called healing smile made him feel worst, had Jaemin noticed he wasn’t there to support him? When had it even happened? “Jeno.” Renjun whispers and the blonde snaps his head to the side. “When… When did he swim?”
“Around lunch time.” The other’s answer is curt and he goes back to yelling praises to Jaemin.
Lunch time. He had been with Chenle, he thought his team wouldn’t swim anymore since the coach had said they could go out to eat. There is a weird feeling building inside his stomach, he feels as if he could puke. Jaemin didn’t seem to mind he hadn’t been there for him, how could he not? He had been a shit friend whereas Jaemin had been there every single time to support him and chant his name as loudly as he could.
He watches the other as he flashes his smile to the camera, seemingly fine. He can’t even hug him once Jaemin comes back, the guilt starting to consume every single fibre of his being. “Jaemin.” He croaks out once the boy is let free by the others. “I didn’t-“
“I know.” He smiles nevertheless. “I’m sure you got a reason.”
“First place, Lee Jeno.” The woman interrupts, Jaemin lets out a loud scream and shots fingerguns at Jeno.
Renjun can’t focus on Jeno, on how happy and beautiful he looks standing so up high. Can’t focus on the eyesmile he gives the camera. He is too busy watching Jaemin with sad eyes, how could he be so okay with it? He wants the other to be angry, that’s what he deserves.
Jeno comes back and Renjun stays in his place, Chenle notices and starts bombarding him with questions switching between Korean and Mandarin. Renjun ignores it all, he just wants to speak with Jaemin but the boy is too busy hugging Jeno like his life depends on it. Was he going to lose Jaemin to Jeno?
If he wasn’t so busy overthinking everything, Renjun might’ve noticed the sadness that flashed in Jeno’s eyes once he noticed Renjun hadn’t moved to congratulate him. Chenle does notice, though, and smacks the back of his friend’s head harshly. “Dude! Stop, now! Jeno wants you to go congratulate him.”
Renjun snaps out of it, thankfully, and runs to Jeno. “Congrats, we couldn’t expect anything else from our great Lee Jeno.” He tries his best to joke around, to sound relaxed, and he hopes Jeno buys it.
“Thank you, means a lot.” The blonde gives him a soft smile and tugs Renjun’s shirt, giving him a quick hug once Renjun is close enough. “Everything’s good?”
“Yeah, all good.” He lies.
Jaemin is talking to two other boys when he finally finds him, he almost feels bad when he asks him if they could talk privately but Jaemin seems fine with it. “What is it?”
“I’m really sorry, I know how important it is to you-“
“It’s okay Renjun.”
“It’s not! Stop it, the coach said I could go so I thought no one was going to swim from our team I’m really sorry.” Renjun feels like he might cry from all the guilt running inside his body. “Why aren’t you mad?!”
“It’s not worth being mad about that, this isn’t even a real competition dummy.” Jaemin flicks his forehead. “Don’t stress about it so much, I know you feel bad but let it go, okay?”
Renjun nods slightly and looks down at the floor. “Okay.”
His friend tsks and pulls him closer, hugging him so tight he started to feel lightheaded. “Let’s go, they might announce the medley results soon.”
They walk back just in time, the woman looks so tired of talking but still manages to croak out the last results of the day. “Four hundred meters medley.” She starts and Jaemin looks at Renjun, excitement evident. “First place, NCT.”
Renjun opens his mouth wide, everyone around him is yelling and chanting their team’s name as loudly as they can. He starts walking once he notices Jaemin moving away from him to join Jeno and Donhyuck on the podium, a few people pat him on the back and he thanks them quietly.
He had never been so up high, it feels incredible to be first. Renjun touches both his medals on his chest, pride bubbling inside his chest making the guilt dissipate for the time being. Jaemin pulls the three boys closer and tells them to smile as brightly as they can, Renjun doesn’t need to be told twice and shows the camera the biggest smile he can muster.
The changing rooms are a mess, there are a few people from different teams exchanging swimming caps and Renjun smiles fondly at that remembering how he had met Chenle. The boy had come up to him randomly and asked for an exchange, they somehow ended up casually chatting about how their day had gone and that’s how it all had started. Renjun looks at Chenle who is getting ready by his side and mentally thanks destiny for doing its job.
Renjun looks around trying to find Jaemin who is talking to boy from a different team, he calls out for him and asks if he should wait but his friend shakes his head. “You can go, I’ll see you outside!”
He walks out of the changing room with Chenle, the noise dissipating as soon as they close the door behind them. There are a few parents waiting for their kids at the entrance but he isn’t expecting his parents to be there as well since they always left as soon as Renjun finished swimming. “My baby!” His mom shouts and pulls him for a hug. “You did so well, I’m a proud mom.”
His dad hugs him as well, whispering little praises in his ear. “Thank you, I’m really happy too.” Renjun grins.
“Chenle, you won too right?! Congrats.” His mom pinches Chenle’s cheeks lovingly and his friend giggles.
“Thank you Mrs. Huang.”
“I’ll get going, I just wanted to congratulate you. Oh! And this.” She pulls a bag of chips out of her purse. “I’m sure you’re hungry, you deserve it.”
Renjun gives them both one last hug before they enter the car and drive away. Chenle steals his chips as soon as the car is out of their sight but the boy doesn’t care, he is too happy to get mad at Chenle.
They part ways with a tight hug when their respective buses show up, Renjun enters the bus first and waits for the rest to come outside from the changing rooms. One by one, the boys starts to fill the bus, Jaemin shows up with Jeno by his side a few minutes later. “You guys took ages.” Renjun complains.
“Had to show off how good our team is getting to other teams, they better watch out.” Jaemin wiggles his eyebrows and sits next to him. “Our new ace is forming right in front of their eyes.”
“New ace?” He furrows his eyebrows.
“Yeah, you.” Jeno butts in and throws his bag under his seat. “You got the potential to have as good results as Jaemin.”
“Bullshit.” Renjun snorts. “Want some?” He points at the bag on his lap.
“Your dick? No thanks.” Jaemin laughs loudly earning a smack on the back of his head from Renjun.
“No chips for you. Jeno? Want some?”
Jeno tries his best to contain his laughter and grabs a handful of chips, Renjun would normally complain but nothing could ruin his mood that day. Not even Jaemin’s terrible jokes.
Thankfully for him, the rest of the boys forget to play their stupid game during the ride back home. They were too busy telling stories about their day and gushing about their good results, Renjun gladly hears the stories; laughing along with everyone else at times.
It is already dark when the bus comes to a stop, the boys get out and say their goodbyes. Jaemin hugs Renjun tightly, rocking their bodies slightly before saying goodbye and running towards his mom’s car.
“Where’s my hug?” Someone says just as he turns around, ready to walk home.
Jeno is standing in the now empty sidewalk with his arms wide open, Renjun chuckles before accepting the hug. “Goodbye” He whispers.
The blonde squeezes his tiny frame. “See you soon.”
It’s only once Renjun is on his bed, limbs sprawled lazily, that he remembers he won’t be seeing Jeno for almost a month since he was going to China during his Christmas vacation. He groans loudly.
No Jeno for an entire month, suddenly his vacation didn’t sound as promising as before.