This was the moment.
Or at least, it felt like the moment to Chan.
He was watching Woojin’s eyes, already narrowed and ember red, as they closed so slowly. The look on his face was an odd mix of excitement and contentment, as if he knew. As if Woojin knew he was going to win doing what he was doing, as if he knew he was right all along.
As if he knew there were butterflies in Chan’s stomach, drowning in a mix of want and envy and admiration.
Jaw loosening, Chan blinked as Woojin opened his eyes and stared right through the blonde, pulling his opponent's arm back in a tight arm bar.
Then his lips curled, in the sweetest smile Chan had ever seen. Woojin smiled miliseconds before his opponent quickly tapped his resignation against the brunette's short clad thigh.
That was the moment Chan realized how fucking attractive Kim Woojin was.
10 minutes before…
The rule were made clear—this was just an exhibition. There were no attempts of knock outs or wild submissions. Wonshik told everyone in his even, deep timber that this was not a contract fight. And he promised his fighters wouldn't treat it as such.
But as he sat on the side of the ring, his normally relaxed voice carried loud as each side hollered as Boyoung threw a rough, exciting left hook. Chan moaned physically as it missed and the youngest fighter backed up as the contender capitolized on the opportunity.
"Get back in there!" Wonshik yelled, pointing his finger at the couple. "Lean on him!"
Chan started to vibrate as he watched his teammate suddenly lean his entire body weight on the other fighter, forcing him against the ring ropes. It wasn't the same as their cage back in Seoul, but it would do as their bodies clinched together, wriggling as they both tried to get their body shots in.
Panting into the air, feeling the tension start to yawn, both fighters stayed unmoving.
"Boyoung! Do it!"
There was a second where Boyoung pressed forward, almost to the point where he was bending his opponent over the ropes and then launching his shoulder into his opponent's chin as he tied their arms up. Then another one. And one more—the other fighters shoulders slumped for a second, both gym managers rushing into the ring, putting a stop to the bout.
Chan was clapping, smiling widely as Boyoung bowed deeply to his opponent, walking slowly over to them. Taewoon, with his bruised ribs, gave him a low high five. Boyoung just laughed, wiping his face of sweat.
"You did good, kid!" Chan said with a pat to his head, the youngest fighter shaking his hair.
"I missed too many opportunities out there," the teenager moaned as he brought a curled, gloved hand to his ear.
There was suddenly heat at Chan's back and he didn't need to look to know who had raised the goosebumps along his spine. Instead he focused on Boyoung as he pressed a palm to his ear, whining slightly. He had gotten hit with a pretty good right and the blonde actually reached out, pressing just right inside the ear.
Boyoung's eyes widened as his own hand fell.
"How… What did you just do?" he mumbled.
Chan felt his lips spread. "Just a trick I picked up. It stopped the ringing?"
Boyoung smiled, nodding quickly.
Woojin didn't say anything but Chan had noticed he had looked.
Not that it mattered, the older man starting to stretch before slipping underneath the ropes onto the mat. The chatter from Boyoung's fight fell into a hush, although Wonshik was still talking with the other gym owner. When he pointed at Woojin, he smiled.
And for a moment, Chan wanted to be that person. He wanted Wonshik to look at him like that.
And for some reason, knowing it was Woojin Wonshik was referencing just made him that much more determined. He could be as good as Woojin.
Hell, he would be better than Woojin.
There was always the moments before Woojin threw his first punch where he knew exactly how the fight would end. Of course, it was always confirmed in hindsight but he just knew he'd win. There was something in the way his body felt loose and light. And there was something in the way his opponent looked so incredibly tense.
He could smell it off him if he couldn't see right to the core of how frightened his competitor was.
Not that Woojin was that intimidating—with his slow but steady gait and his dopey looking face. He normally tricked people with how near boring he seemed. He was methodical and patient, that was soemthing to be scared of. But his looks?
Not so much. And so Woojin knew his opponent wasn't scared of that aspect of himself. Instead, the other had seen his other two gym mates. The power that Taewoon brought to the fight, the tenacity and youth Boyoung boasted.
His competitor expected the same from Woojin.
But as Woojin's hands finally raised, Wonshik coming into view as his trainer and mentor's hollers reached him, the brunette knew he would not be powerful, nor would he be tenacious.
Instead, he would do what he needed to. In the least amount of time.
Touching gloves, Woojin easily started the pace, bouncing from foot to foot before doing a simple cadenced side step. Blinking, he raised his fists as the opponent threw a hasty left hook, but in a surprise, followed it up with a leg kick.
Satisfaction bloomed in Woojin's chest as he grabbed the ankle of the man across from him. The fear in his eyes expanded into panic, bright and uncontrolled. Hopping on one leg, the fighter tried to rip and run—but it was not so easy.
And when Woojin moved with him, he pulled the younger man into him. Shoulder dropping, the brunette fluidly grabbed the back of his competitor's thighs and lifted.
There was a suspension in noise, a groan releasing from the fighter's throat before he was slammed down unceremoniously on his back. As the head of his opponent smacked against the mat, there was a moment of pause that Woojin capitalized on, climbing over the body and setting up a strategic submission.
Then, in the blink of a slow eye, Woojin easily got the right arm of his opponent wedged—and pulled counter to how its naturally set—firmly between his legs. Drawing, Woojin finally smiled, understanding in hindsight how he knew he would win this.
And he did, eyes opening as he looked right at Chan as he won.
Woojin didn't leave his mind the rest of the day, even as they ate lunch as group. Even as they boarded the private bus Wonshik had rented just for this. Even as Woojin ignored him, walking right past the open seat next to Chan and instead, sat four or five rows behind them.
But this time, Chan couldn't stop himself as he got up and walked towards the brunette.
They all stopped talking.
Stalling in front of the seat Woojin sat in, Chan did a quick peek over his shoulder. They were all watching.
Wonshik looked ready to pounce if need be.
But they'd be sorely disappointed if they were looking for a fight.
Instead, Chan sat down in the opposite row, placing his hands palm down on his thighs. He could feel Woojin's interest but he didn't want to rush this. So he just let the bus roll on, waited until everyone sat back down and returned their normal conversation.
"Youngjae looks restless, you might as well say what you want to say and return to your friend," Woojin finally said to the silence, now scrolling through his phone. If Chan could see better, he'd swear he was reading a webtoon.
"I wanted to give you…"
Woojin looked up and beyond the edge of his hoodie. Chan looked up from the brunette's phone.
"Um, I just wanted to say that I think…"
Woojin's brow scrunched.
Chan gulped suddenly.
"Are you reading a webtoon?"
Wookin rolled his eyes and turned back to his phone, where he was, in fact, reading a webtoon.
Chan grinned. "You did really well out there."
The brunette looked up again, turning his head to look at Chan's sincerity. The Australian gave a wide smile in return.
"Don't look so surprised."
"I am allowed to look surprised," Woojin countered and quickly threw a glance to the front of the bus. Everyone was once again waiting with baited breath.
"Well, I mean it. You have a… way about it. I couldn't look away, honestly," Chan breathed, shocked at his own words. But it was the truth and he needed Woojin to know that. "You have a special way of fighting."
Those same eyes that had looked right through him earlier were now looking right at him. They weren't bright, instead a bit sleepy and very nonchalant. But it was different now, wasn't it? It felt it and Chan felt his cheeks pinken a bit.
"Are you sick?"
The blonde groaned and finally just turned to Woojin. "No, look… I know we have had our… differences. But accept this as the compliment it is."
"I was asking because your face is turning red."
"I am just really hot right now, fuck." Chan stood at that, realizing his ears were probably pepper red by now. But he was getting flustered and he didn't quite know why.
Woojin didn't either, it seemed.
"Just, good job."
Pacing back up to the front, Chan tried to will his blush away. Even Youngjae was watching him like he had sprouted a second head. The blonde held his hand up as he sank into his seat, ignoring any questioning looks his gym members had for him.
It was best not to try to understand why all of a sudden, it seemed like he and Woojin were on safe terms.
It was definitely best not to try to understand why Chan was all of the sudden nervous around the brunette.
The civility wouldn't last though, as Sunho had predicted.
The next time Chan would be so close to Woojin, it would be as they fought bare knuckled and crazed.
"You don't leave this gym until you figure your shit out," Wonshik seethed, dark eyes narrowing as he looked between the two. They had already traded a few blows before being forcefully separated, and now both were locked in place by their trainer's anger. "Otherwise you're both out…"
Woojin frowned. Chan pursed his lips.