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Right As Rain

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                Perhaps that was when their rivalry ended. Their hands bloody from each powered strike and dangerous kick. And as Woojin let his weight settle in between Chan's thighs, legs curling around to lock, their eyes met.

               It was insane to think it could all amount to this very moment, Woojin thinking of Chan's busted lip pressed lightly against his.

               Perhaps it was when their rivalry ended.

               But all that ran through his head was their beginning, the moment their rivalry began.

 

Prologue

 

               Fatigued eyes read the directions displayed on his phone once more, though he had just checked it not a minute ago.

               Line 9, last stop.

               His new apartment was a couple blocks from it—which seemed rather convenient. They were also just around the corner from his new gym which was even more convenient.

               Looking up, Chan surveyed the signage pointing him to the exit of the underground subway station. This was Line 9, the last stop: Seoul Sports Complex Station.

               Shouldering his large duffel bag, that in turn knocked his bulging backpack askew, Chan started walking up the subway stairs. He could tell it was still earlier in the day, though the absolute gray of the sky threatened an early night. Shivering slightly as he stepped on to the sidewalk, realizing that while he had peeked at the weather in South Korea, he hadn’t quite prepared for the brisk chill of Autumn. And watching as everyone breezed by him, bundled up in large scarves and thick jackets, Chan cursed his flimsy sweatshirt.

               To be fair, he hadn't thought it was going to be quite so cold.

               That just meant that the sooner that he got to his apartment, the better. And he'd go shopping once he was settled. In the meantime, he could withstand a little cold.

               Especially since, without realizing it, he was already grinning at the world passing him by. This completely new, completely refreshing world. His arrival in South Korea not only meant a giant leep forward for his career, it was also an opportunity to discover his culture again. Though he knew the language fluently, he had very much grown up Australian.

               Lips curling at the memory of his home country, Chan took a deep breath.

               Taking one step, then two, he started towards his apartment. He'd drop his stuff, call his parents to let them know he arrived before texting his new trainer to do the same. And ask where he needed to report, what time and anything else he may need to bring.

               Honestly, he had no idea what to do after that.

               So instead of waiting to text, he called.

               "Hello?" a deep voice answered, more gruffer than Chan had expected.

               "Hello Mr. Kim. This is—This is Bang Chan. I just got off the train and wanted to let you know I made it in alright."

               There was a bit of static, enough of a pause that Chan started to steel his jaw. Running through his short message, he found nothing wrong in his delivery.

               But then his new trainer's voice came through, much clearer and Chan realized he must have moved locations.

               "Ah that’s great to hear. Are you at the apartments then?" Mr. Kim asked.

               "Not quite, I am still walking."

               After a quiet chuckle, Mr. Kim spoke again. "Well, why don't you get settled in and then come by the gym. I'll have Jae send you directions so you can meet everyone."

               Chan just grinned, dimples deepening.

               "That sounds perfect. I'll drop off my stuff and then head right over." Then, before he could change his mind, Chan breathed. "Thank you so much Mr. Kim, I am… honored to be able to train with your program."

               "I hope you enjoy your time here. And please, call me Wonshik."

 

-

 

               The sound of knuckles slamming into the fabric of the punching bag was accompanied only by the melodic hum of Woojin's voice. He was currently listening to the soundtrack belonging to (one of) his all time favorite dramas.

               Though, as he repeatedly assaulted the bag, no one would ever know he was listening of heart breaking unrequited love.

               Stopping when he felt his muscles start to whine at each extension, Woojin quickly pictured what his trainer would bark, in his low but emphatic tone:

               "One more. You can do one more."

               Woojin did five more, perspiration painted arms dropping by his sides. Too tired to even wipe the sweat slipping down his temple, he simply shook his head. Unfortunately, his short brunette hair landed in his eyes as a result.

               His feet took him over to the closest wall and he uncermeniously sank down it, throwing his arms over his knees. His heavy eyes watched the others in the gym, finally coming down from the workout high to recognize faces and sounds other than his own. He tended to go blank when he was fighting, limiting every sense but his physical reaction to his mind's calculations.

               Now, he watched as there was the same slap and thud as his own hands made with each jab. All 6 of them were spread out, working on a different area. Personally, he hated the bag but it was only because it was the area he needed most work in. He was never a striker, grappling being more his forte.

               But when Kim Wonshik, MMA super star and ex-UFC Middleweight champion, tells you to do something, you do it.

               And that’s why he was here, wasn't it? To be as great as Wonshik.

               They were lofty dreams, the elder being one of the best MMA fighters in the history of South Korea. But Woojin was nothing if not determined.

               Pushing up from the wall, he finally dragged a hand through his sweat drenched hair, bending down to swipe his water bottle. Spraying it in his mouth messily, Woojin joined the other trainees as each neared the end of their session.

               Each day, they ended with a sparring session and two out of the 6 would face off. By then, their bodies had been pushed to their limits and exhausted. It definitely forced them to get creative, Woojin had realized with a slight smile. 

               Now, as he waited for everyone to finish their workout, he leaned against the ring with his hip, draping his arms through the plastic ropes.

               Suddenly, there was a screech of the metal garage door, the large industrial one that had once belonged to the steel containers factory and now belonged to the Jamsil Boxing and MMA Training Center.  Woojin felt his eyes stray to it, wondering who would be coming this late in the day. With his arms still dangling lazily, he watched with a little bit of interest, more reservation.

               There, standing, was a man just about his height, if not a tiny bit shorter.

               He had faded aqua hair now a blonde-ish color that curled slightly, longer than most as the back barely dusted his neck.

               His nose was strong and the most prominent part of his face—well, that and his smile.

               His fucking face changing smile.

               Feeling goosebumps break out along his spine, Woojin blinked.

               "Let me introduce you," he heard his trainer say, reaching out to welcome the newcomer. But his eyes would not look away, not from the way the stranger's perfectly proportioned body waltzed in as if no one had ever ruined his day.

               "Everyone, I'd like you to meet our newest trainee, Bang Chan."

               The stranger with a name met everyone's curiousity with a polite round of bows, raising after Woojin's to catch the brunette's stare. If possible, his mouth spread wider, perfectly white teeth glistening.

               Woojin's lips pressed together tightly.

Chapter Text

               "See you tomorrow, Woojin."

               Looking back from the dark roads glittered with street lights, Woojin nodded. He was one of the last people leaving the gym. Beyond its walls, the night lived on and people, mostly couples, enjoyed their evening out. It was Friday and work was done for at least the next two days.

               But for Woojin, the days all ran together and he would need to be up before the sun.

               It was not in vain, he reminded himself easily.

               Popping in his ear buds, Woojin started down the street. He lived just a 30 minute walk from the gym and he wanted to stop by to pick up dinner. His fellow trainees were good about cooking, always making sure to eat the best ingredients and the right proportions. He didn't have the time to think of groceries and meals and what not. There wasn't enough time in the day for that.

               So instead, he would pick up dinner from a place not far from his apartment, at a cluster of shops and stores that pandered to the working crowd during the day. At this time of night, there was only one that was still open.

               Pushing through the doors, bringing a heavy draft with him, he was immediately greeted by the smells of roasted chicken, steamed vegetables and ginger. Feeling his lips curl, Woojin found his favorite owner sitting at one of the empty tables. After 7:30 in the evening, it was a ghost town and now at near 10, the small restaurant was only open for him.

               Suddenly turning, the middle aged woman threw up her hands.

               "Finally!" she exasperated, though her dark eyes glinted with sentiment. At his bow, she playfully slapped his shoulder and waited for him to stand. When he did, she craned her neck to look up at him. "We closed the kitchen an hour ago, but we made you a plate."

               Bowing his head, he put his hands together. She slapped his arm with a large grin.

               "Seungmin went home, but he told me to tell you that he'll stay longer tomorrow." The woman started untying her apron and headed towards the back, waving her hand as she spoke. "I told him he can close tomorrow." Peeking at him, she huffed. "I won't be waiting around for you."

               Woojin chuckled, eyes wandering around the room. "It was a long day."

               Reappearing with a bag full of food and a smoothie in hand, she extended it out to him. Taking just a couple steps to her many, Woojin respectfully took the offering. He could feel the heat against his knuckles and he blinked at the container.

               Looking back, he raised a single eyebrow. The woman rolled her eyes and dismissed him, though her smile was relieved.

               "OK, so the kitchen didn't close quite yet."

               "Auntie," Woojin said softly. She narrowed her eyes. "Thank you."

               "Just promise you won't keep Seungmin out too late tomorrow. He needs to be studying," she said, putting a hand to her hip as she brushed her bangs from her face.

               Woojin simply nodded. He was exhausted and the walk here had felt like days, but he was glad he could see this woman's face. So close to his mother's own that he sometimes felt like he was staring right at her.

               Blinking, he raised the food and said his thanks once more before telling her to get home safely as well. They bid each other a goodbye with the promise to see each other soon.

               Woojin walked on against the wind, heard it howling next to his ears. It pushed his hair back from his forehead as it gusted, telling of an Autumn storm that was headed his way. But he didn't mind the cold—in fact he loved the chill. It invigorated him and reminded him of his own skin, of his own body. Even as his cheeks pinkened from the brisk breeze, Woojin didn't mind.

               Walking into his apartment building using the electronic key, he quickened his steps for the elevator. Someone was just pressing the up button, he could see and part of him, the tiny spiteful part, wanted to make them wait.

               But then he stopped mid stride. Not entirely sure why, but Woojin suddenly pictured it was the young man who had come to the gym. With his large sweatshirt and silly hair, he jabbed the close button. And he smiled as the door closed in front of Woojin's face.

               Blinking back to reality, Woojin noticed the person holding the elevator doors, giving him an expectant look.

               "Sorry," he apologized as he hurried onto the lift.

              

-

 

               "Thank you again," Chan said, taking the offered glass of water. "Your house is…"

               As he trailed off, Wonshik paused in taking a seat.

               "Amazing," Chan finished with a little bit of a flush.

               It was amazing, but then again, everything about Wonshik was amazing. From his amazing gym to his amazing house to his amazing dog—

               Which was currently chewing on his shoelace, actually.

               "Ah, get out of here," Wonshik shooed the pup, grinning widely when the dog did not obey.

               "I don't mind… Reminds me of my family's dog—hard headed but cute."

               Wonshik's laugh was infectious. "Sounds right."

               Looking around, the young fighter tried to think of his next words because this was Kim Wonshik and he had invited him into his house—which was fucking amazing—and Chan couldn't embarrass himself by being boring. Not when there was so much at stake!

               Eying a pair of glasses on the side table, the younger man started to ask when Wonshik interrupted him.

               "You know, you're very different than when I first met you," he said slowly, taking a sip of his own water. "You didn't smile once when I was in Sydney, not even when I asked you to come to Korea."

               Chan's mouth went dry. "Um. Well…"

               "You can be honest. I invited you here to get to know you, figure out what it is that you want to accomplish." Reaching down and dragging Butt from the tongue of Chan's shoe, Wonshik added, "And to make sure you get rid of the stars in your eyes."

               Barking in laughter, Chan was slightly relieved. The pressure was off. Wonshik already thought he was obsessed, couldn't really go lower than that.

               But he quickly calmed himself, allowing his shoulders to lower.  "I was different back there."

               "Back home?"

               Shaking his head, Chan ran a hand through his hair. "No, Sydney. At that gym."

               Wonshik stayed silent.

               "I had been there for too many years, each passing with more and more regret. I mean, I knew I wasn't the greatest but some of the guys there were trash. And everyone was getting selected, they all got contracts. And I just… I guess I was a little jaded towards the end."

               Wonshik's eyes went to the door as he scratched his chin with the back of his knuckles. "I guess that makes sense."

               "The jaded part?"

               "No."

               Chan swallowed.

               "I remember the first time I saw you fight," Wonshik started with a slight smile. "You were… you were magic out there. And you were so…" Their eyes met. "You were angry. I could see the fury pumping through your veins, I felt how incredibly livid you were."

               Shrugging his shoulders, Wonshik leaned back. "You don't find that very often. So I had to take you."

               Chan laughed, shaking his head. "They basically threw me at you."

               Wonshik joined in with a chuckle, eyes sparkling. "You'll show them then, huh?"

 

-

 

               "I am doing fine—I promise," Chan said with a sweet simper.

               His mother sighed but gave in as she kissed the camera, handing the phone to her husband. Chan's brow knitted a bit as he saw his father's face invade the screen. He simply adjusted the phone against the back of the desk, swallowing as they remained silent.

               "Your mother won't stop worrying. You should call often," his father said plainly. Chan nodded. "Now what is it like? Did you eat?"

               "You sound like mama."

               "Aish, you should stay there and learn how to respect people older than  you," his father complained though there was a lilt that spoke of comfort in there.

               "I met with Mr. Kim tonight. He is… Dad, he is so cool," Chan whined, head falling to his folded arms. He heard his father finally laugh, pointing out his son's small bald spot. "What if—"

               "No. I don't want to hear it, Chris."

               Chan peeked at the stern tone, glad he met his father's authoritative gaze. He could hear his mom in the background, chiding her husband for using that voice with him. But Chan loved it—needed it to course correct because he could go off road sometimes.

               And his father, though he wouldn't always say it, supported and believed in his son beyond measure.

               "I start weight training tomorrow. They said I am too slender," he mumbled with a quirk of his lips.

               "Did you give Jisung a call yet?"

               His mother echoed the sentiment and Chan laughed, sitting up straight and reaching for the phone.

               "I just got in today, I'll reach out tomorrow. He's probably busy—"

               "I talked to his mother, she said she made him put your number in his phone."

               Rolling his eyes with a sigh, one that he tried to hide the moment he remembered he was video chatting with his parents.

               "You'll thank us later, you two are good friends—"

               "Dad, we played video games when we were younger. That’s not… Its different when you've never met and—"

               "His mother said she'd love for him to have friends his own age. He's hanging around with a bunch of kids. She's ready for him to grow up."

               Chan looked away, biting his tongue. Han Jisung had to be 20 or 21 by now. Turning back to the phone, he flashed a wide smile. His father waved him off, muttering about how he wasn't going to text Jisung.

               Passing the phone like pros, Chan watched in amusement as his mother came back on the line.

               "Just promise you'll call him before the weekend is over."

               Blinking, Chan felt his face fall a little.

               "Ma—"

               "It doesn’t have to be like it was here, Chris," his mother said gently, eyes softening. She could joke a lot, it was probably where he got his wit from. And she certainly could be stern, which was probably where he got his temper from. But she knew him better than he knew himself sometimes and with one look, she could disarm the 24 year old in seconds.

               "I don't want it to be like that, either." Looking away, he sighed, losing his smile altogether. "I just…"

               "Let me give you some advice. From an old woman who has years of experience." She waited for his eyes to meet hers. "You don't have to be alone to be independent."

               Pursing his lips, Chan simply nodded.

               He'd put forth the effort to get to know people, to not retreat into his own bubble with these new people. With this whole new world.

               Wonshik had not seen him smile in Australia, which was funny because he couldn't remember stopping since he stepped off the plane. He was happy to be here, happy to be working with someone he admired. He was excited to see this beautiful country and meet new people.

               He was excited to fight, to show off a craft he had been cultivating for 8 years now.

               Smiling, he focused back on his mother's face. Her own lifted with a grin and she nodded.

               "You'll be fine. I will miss you dearly but you'll be fine."

 

-

 

               The next morning Woojin was stretching his hamstrings as they all huddled in the entrance of the gym, their shared body heat creating a slight fog around them. It was cold this morning. Their 5:30 am group run usually started a couple minutes late due to someone having to use the bathroom or having pressed their snooze button too late.

               Bending over, grabbing his calves, Woojin saw the pair of shoes walk up next to him. He stayed an extra 15 seconds for them to pass. But they didn't.

               Slowly straightening, he noticed the new guy. His hair was a little tussled, as if he had just rolled out of bed. His eyes were narrowed with the remnants of sleep—so maybe he did just roll out of bed. And when he grabbed his shoulder and started stretching alongside Woojin, the brunette's eyes widened.

               Bang Chan was smiling through his sleep softened face, staring at Woojin like he was happy to see him. There was a bit of trepidation but not enough to be telling.

               And for some reason, the energy he was pumping out made Woojin…

               Annoyed?

               Self conscious?

               Aroused?

               Eyes piercing, Woojin felt uncomfortable. It gave him goosebumps and nausea at the same time.

               So he did what he needed to, looking right at Chan's smile: he started to run.

Chapter Text

               "I can't explain it."

               "Well you're going to have to try… at least," Seungmin added, looking over his shoulder. They were unpacking produce into the refrigerator in the back of the small restaurant. It was a Sunday, and while he still had to train, they were sometimes given reprieve. Today, they didn't have to be at the gym until 1 pm.

               Woojin cut his eyes at his younger cousin, wanting to leave the comment at that.

               How could he put into words why he just didn't like Bang Chan?

               There wasn't some deep explanation or a hidden gem buried in Woojin's feelings—he literally just found the other young man aggravating. Everything about him was just aggravating.

               Chan's energy was too loud, too overwhelming. He could come into the gym and heads would turn, his aura spread out in every direction. And the others were all charmed, his smile seeming to grow with each soul he captured. There were so many things, he couldn't even begin to list them.

               But his fight style was the worst part.

               Woojin hadn't been fighting for long, at least not in MMA but he had a rhythm and an order. Even the others in the group made sense when they fought, had their signature styles. Woojin knew each of their executions.

               Chan didn't seem to have a style. He was all over the place—here, there, up, down. Sometimes he'd only do ground work, quickly working like a viper. Sometimes he was like a boxer, his jabs and strikes powerful and deadly.

               He seemed to be able to do everything.

               And that in itself, was annoying.

               "So is he hot?"

               Blinking, Woojin focused once more on the task at hand. His arms were full of lettuce and Seungmin was smirking at him. His young cousin wasn't normally flirty, tended to be a little mischievous only when they were with their shared friends. But one on one, especially with Woojin, he got a little more serious.

               So his question caught Woojin off guard.

               "I'll take that as a yes," Seungmin snorted, uncrossing him arms and heading back to the truck.

               Woojin couldn't move fast enough. "No! No, Seungmin, he is not."

               Following out into the rain, the brunette grabbed the younger man's sleeve. Judgemental eyes looked back, lips curling.

               "He's not. That's not… it," Woojin said slowly.

               "Ok," Seungmin relented, though his smile only grew. "It is interesting you felt you needed to run and tell me that."

 

-

 

               The first time Chan noticed that Woojin was a little reserved was when he had asked where the older man was going after a long day, maybe they could walk home together.

               He was met with silence.

               Then the greenish blonde noticed the ear buds in Woojin's ears. He quickly justified the scene as a miscommunication.

               The second time was a little more clear, the brunette directly ignoring whatever question Chan had asked. Looked right in his eyes, then away, turning back to his kick lunges. This time, he wore no ear buds.

               The third, and final, time was when Chan had been more deliberate. Hindsight being clear, he knew he had been petty. For an entire two weeks, Chan was essentially invisible to Woojin. He didn't acknowledge his existence whatsoever, no matter how hard he was trying.

               Everyone else at the gym had been so welcoming, even helpful. Which wasn't always the case when people were all aiming for the same goal. But it was different here, they weren't fighting against each other. It wasn't so much of a competition, more of an alliance. And the alliance was curious about him.

               Chan was something new, something different. Whether they were asking him to say something in English so they could laugh at his accent or they ooh-ed at his hair, not just the thick texture, but the color.

               Even Jae, their head trainer and Wonshik's personal coach, had laughed when someone had called him the Batman's Joker. Chan was still quite afraid of the Thai man but had simply chuckled and agreed, his faded green hair looking a little circus like. They had all shared a nice 10 minute break with that, enjoying the new member of their team.

               Well, all except for one person.

               Right now, Woojin was busy stumbling through the open garage door. It was currently raining outside, the last couple of days being a wet, cold mess. And when the brunette came in, he was met with wide eyes.

               He was thirty minutes late to their first set of the day, having already missed the morning cardio. And they all knew that meant, even Chan who hadn't been here more than a couple weeks had heard of Wonshik's notoriously strict schedule. Tardiness was not allowed.

               Chan's eyes followed as the near soaked Woojin walked over the rubber mats, shoes squeaking with each step. He hiked up his duffel bag, looking down as he passed Jae. The elder reached out and caught the fighter's arm before he made it to the locker room.

               Whispering something in Woojin's ear, Jae made it obvious he was not happy.

               Lucky for the trainee, Wonshik was still out of town and would not be making an appearance that week. But by the look on Woojin's face, he was not out of the woods and his solemn nod signaled he understood and accepted whatever punishment he faced.

               Chan recognized the moment it happened, knew he shouldn't have done it. But some part of him, the immature part that had been so easily and so thoroughly brushed off by the older fighter, reveled in this small knock down. And he smiled.

               Woojin's eyes crawled up and found his, widening at the grin on Chan's face before falling in a harrowing glare.

               "You think that's funny?"

               If it hadn’t been so cliché, Chan wouldn’t have smirked. But it was, and the energy that Woojin was finally emanating was like a source of light for the younger man. It had been almost two weeks of nothing—no good, no bad—from Woojin and for some reason, it was enticing to Chan. He was finally getting some attention.

               "I didn't say anything," Chan said formally, though his lips were still slightly curled.

               Woojin just stood, shoulders pressed back as they watched each other.

               "Woojin," Jae said sternly, breaking the staring contest. "Get dressed. Now."

 

-

 

               Swiping down his face with a towel, Woojin breathed through his nose. His chest heaved as he scrubbed at his sweat soaked hair. He had lost his sweatshirt halfway through training and now panted in a dripping tank top.

               Jae had not been bluffing when he said he was going to make sure Woojin was never late again.

               Face flushed, Woojin paid attention as Jae once again addressed the fighters.

               "The weather is changing and I can tell on all of your faces," the older man said, eyes meeting each of theirs as he looked at the group. "You all need to step it up. This was a long day but it can be longer."

               Woojin didn't look away when Jae focused on him.

               "Woojin," he called, pointing to the ring behind him. "Up there."

               There was a bit of surprise that reverberated through the group, no one having the guts to look away from Jae. Bang Chan did, though. He looked right over to Woojin as he pulled himself up slowly.

               Making his way onto the mat with still wobbly legs, Woojin continued taking open mouth breaths. He couldn't let them know he had no energy left, that each step felt like 10. If he did, then they would take advantage of his weariness.

               "I'll be nice and let you choose. Who do you want to fight?" Jae asked, folding his arms.

               The words were not harsh, though to the exhausted young men all sprawled out on the neoprene flooring, they were heavy.

               Woojin's eyes slipped over each face, flushed red and blotchy. They were all tired but he needed to find the most worn out. He'd have a chance at winning if he could do that.

               Passing over Chan, he found the down turned face of Youngjae. Perfect.

               "I want—"

               "I'll fight him."

               Everyone looked at Chan as he stood easily, their murmurs now passing between them.

               Woojin steeled his jaw.

               Pointing at Youngjae but watching Chan, he gritted out: "Come on."

               "Why not?" Chan asked, walking up to the ring, hanging his hands on the ropes. His face was turned up, the trails of sweat down his face illuminated by the flourescent lights above. His cheeks were pink as well, but they looked like blush on his sun kissed skin.

               Woojin ignored him easily. "Youngjae, hurry up so we can get this over with."

               Chan looked back over his shoulder at the young man in question. Youngjae was tentatively standing, looking between Woojin and Jae. Then back to Chan. 

               Grabbing onto the nylon ropes, Chan hopped up onto the edge of the ring. Slipping through easily, he straightened to his full height.

               "I haven't been able to fight yet—"

               "And you won't today." Making sure he caught Chan's eyes, Woojin tried to intimidate him as best as possible.

               Jae would ruin any chance of that, though. The trainer came to the ringside, looking at them both.

               "Woojin, I told you I'd give you the choice."

               Woojin could feel his body heat up, embarrassment coloring his face.

                "But it looks he decided for you."

               Blood simmering in his veins, Woojin's fingers curled. Chan turned back to him, the ghost of a smile on his face. He was certainly enjoying this.

               Starting to unwrap the cloth on his hands, Woojin muttered: "No gloves."

 

-

 

               Normally, the bouts only lasted five to seven minutes and were good natured in execution. It was to push the men past what they considered their edge. The point they couldn't go beyond. And it did, every single time.

               They always left feeling prouder than they had come in that day.

               But this was not a normal fight.

               The trainees were all gathered around the ring, eyes glued to the two fighters who were  bare knuckled and chugging water. Woojin was side stepping, trying to get some blood pumping into his legs which were still vibrating with fatigue. Chan hopped a little, stretching the arch of his feet before he grabbed his ankles. Jae leaned against the ropes, looking at both of them

               The tension was so thick, the humidity of the large gym felt good in comparison.

               "Alright, five minutes," Jae said. "Let's go!"

               The first step was taken by Chan, his soles light and Woojin narrowed his vision as he brought his hands up to guard his face and neck. He could hear his heart pounding in his ears, his arms yawning as he tightened his fist.

               Chan's hands were raised as well, though they weren't curled and his feet lead him straight to Woojin. He was not going to wait, though he wasn't quite in the stance to strike yet. Woojin backed up, Chan continued forward.

               "Stop running, Woojin!" Jae boomed, an intake of breath in reply.

               Suddenly, Woojin launched a right hook, Chan easily dodging it though it was enough to stall him. Now curling his fists, he raised them to sit in front of his shoulders. Feet starting side stepping, his body bobbing slightly.

               Woojin again stepped into his swing and tried for a right left combo, grunting as Chan once again dodged. This time, as his body tried to rebound from the position, Chan easily caught him in the ribs with a right jab.

               The other guys were now starting to voice their thoughts, telling Woojin to take him down. It was true—Woojin hated striking. He was a grappler naturally and if he could get Chan to the ground, he might have a shot.

               The blonde watched his eyes flit from the mat to the ropes.

               Dropping his shoulder, Chan rammed right into the side of Woojin, grabbing the back of his thighs and lifting.

               There was a collective gasp before the loud thud of Woojin's back slamming against the ground, his arms coming to shield his face. Chan was taking advantage, grabbing his hands while leaning into multiple elbows. Woojin gritted his teeth as he bucked his hips to get Chan in a position he could twist them.

               "Circle him!" Jae was hollering.

               Woojin could feel his blood start to boil, his anger that he always suppressed rising to the forefront. He could not allow that to color his judgement, not when he was exhausted and just trying to make it through this spar.

               Chan wasn't angry, though. His face, dripping with perspiration, didn't hold any malice as he threw elbow after elbow. In fact, he was starting to grin.

               Woojin roared as he bucked one last time, dislodging Chan enough to roll them over so that he was on top. The other trainees were hollering, warning Chan not to give Woojin his back—which he was half doing. The blonde didn't have time to correct, the brunette snaking an arm beneath Chan's and effectively guiding it back.

               Chan winced as his body pulled a little unnaturally, his forehead grinding into the mat as he tried to take the position away from Woojin. He knew if they stayed like this for any longer, he'd be submitted. And he didn't want to give the standoffish fighter that satisfaction.

               Leaning into the mat, Chan pressed his hips into the mat, spreading out and loosening the hold Woojin had on his body. His arm was still partially locked by Woojin's but the older man was losing ground to anchor on, the two of them finally slipping apart. The cheers from the audience made Chan start to laugh again.

               Woojin frowned as he struggled to stand, looking over to Jae. The Thai man shook his head.

               "Fuck," he cursed, chest heaving with his breaths.

               "Don't give up," he heard others say and it made his face wrinkle again, this time in anger.

               It had been more than five minutes and Chan didn't seem fazed, his eyes bright and his lips curled. The fucker was smiling and all Woojin wanted to do was wipe it off.

               That fueled his next attempt: a left hook that he powered with his right thigh. It slid against Chan's ear and in answer, the blonde bounced back before launching his own right jab. It landed on the corner of Woojin's left eye, cutting his cheek as it immediately swelled.

               "Shit! I am so sorry—" Chan was saying, the fighter's arms dropping as he came over to Woojin.

               The purpose of these weren't to injure each other and while Woojin had called for no gloves, Chan's eyes sagged as he tried to examine the damage.

               Pawing at Woojin's hands that covered his eye, Chan tried to press against the ballooning flesh to stave off some of the swelling. Jae was in the ring now too, asking to see the hit.

               Woojin blinked at Chan with his good eye, his faded hair soaked with sweat as it stuck to his glossy forehead. He wasn't smiling anymore, his eyes heavy with regret. It was all spelled out there, the emotion brewing behind them so easily readable. His fingers caught Woojin's and finally lowered it from his face.

               Chan's eyes studied Woojin, his open mouth quivering as he scanned. His left eye was completely swollen shut and all he saw Chan through was his right one, a faint haze coloring the other fighter.

               Chan's mouth curved and his white teeth grabbed his bottom lip for a millisecond. His hands tilted Woojin's face with his fingers lightly.

               "Ah, you'll be fine," he murmured sweetly.

               Woojin's half vision went red, his fists curling on their own accord as he dropped his shoulder and raised his fist. The uppercut caught Chan by surprise, the click of his teeth clashing resounding in Woojin's ears.

               Closing his eyes, he heard the others clamber into the ring, then felt Jae's arms ripping him away and pushing him to sit in the corner. He fell unceremoniously to the ring mat, resting his head against the pole.

               He didn't want to look, he realized as he heard all the questions shot at Chan. He heard moaning, the deep whine vibrating in Woojin's chest.

               Woojin didn't open his eyes until he felt Jae yank him up, seething words and angrier that he'd ever seen his coach. He stared back as Jae told him to get out of his face. Then Jae stepped away, Woojin's eyes falling to the crowd huddled around Chan. There was blood on his tank top, dribbling over his chin as his hands held his mouth.

               While Woojin slipped away, his fatigued body shivering with adrenaline, he thought wryly and unfairly: Chan didn't have anything to smile about now.

Chapter Text

               Chan groaned when he stuck out his injured tongue, slowly licking his chapped lips. Pulling back, he gingerly flexed his jaw. He could still taste the blood even though the medicine was masking any real pain.

               "Ok, and I just sign here?"

               Dark eyes slid over to admissions desk, Jisung's honey blonde hair falling in his face as he bent to sign a piece of paper.

               Chan didn't have any one's number to call and when Jae demanded he go to the hospital, he had simply mumbled Jisung's name. Well, as much as one could do with a swollen tongue crowding his mouth.

               Frowning, Chan pushed the memories out of his mind.

               "Alright, let's go," Jisung sighed, giving Chan a look. "Don't try to talk," he said before the fighter could even try. The blonde's eyebrows shot up. "Actually, this'll probably be the best conversation we've ever had."

               Chan raised a playful hand, though his face didn't quite match his jest.

               The two had played video games against each other years ago, when they were both teenagers. Meeting on a global server, they had recognized they had similarities in culture and language. But also had a good report, their tit-for-tat friendship leading to many late night conversations.

               But Chan remembered Jisung as idolizing him a little more, looking up with 13 year old eyes at the then 17 year old Australian. Now, Jisung was taller than him and seemed confident beyond his years. He had also dropped everything to come to the hospital the moment one of the other trainees had called him.

               Walking to the car, Jisung pressed the remote to unlock the doors. It was fuzzy outside, microscopic droplets suspended in the air but it felt good against his skin. He had been burning up there, Chan's body still reeling from the blow.

               "My mom is going to flip when she sees your mouth," Jisung commented as he climbed in.

               "I just won't smile," Chan mumbled, barely intelligible.

               Jisung snorted in laughter, turning on the car. Then he looked over, giving a soft gaze. "I am glad you called me."

               "Why?"

               "I don't know. I thought… I didn't think you would, that maybe you'd think you were too cool for me now."

               Chan's forehead wrinkled, his chapped lips pressing together.

               "And I guess, you might still feel like that since the moment you call me is when you need help," Jisung continued, turning back to the parking lot. "But we're going to be friends, you can't say no at this point," he smiled.

               The older man simply watched, feeling his cheek twitch with the makings of a smile.

 

-

 

               Woojin knew he had it coming.

               And as he sat in Wonshik's office, the older man talking to Jae outside of the room, his head hung in shame.

               He shouldn't have done it—he knew that.

               But he couldn't help it, almost as if it wasn't his body. There was too much emotion bubbling up in him that it made him feel different. It wasn't as simple as he didn't like Chan.

               He didn't like his face. He didn't like his style. He didn't like his personality, his charm, his voice, his—

               "Kim Woojin," the bass of his leader vibrated against the walls and the brunette felt his chin meet his chest.

               Wonshik took a seat across from him, his chair rolling in to fit against the desk. Wonshik leaned his elbows against the top, joining his hands. His short sleeve shirt stretched against his body, his long arms covered in the intricate and winding lines of ink. The skulls on the backs of his hands mocked the young brunette.

               "I am so sorry, Mr. Kim," Woojin said, raising his heavy eyes to meet the older man's. He felt his throat hiccup as he saw the disappointment.

               "I know what it feels like, Woojin. I wasn't there, but I know how it feels to think you have to do something," Wonshik spoke softly. "However, I am old enough to know when I can… and cannot do that."

               Woojin simply nodded, taking a deep breath as he cast his eyes down once more.

               "I don't know why or what happened. I don't care," Wonshik emphasized lowly. "I don't care what Chan said, what he did, if he threatened you or if he is blameless in this situation." Leaning forward, his body language made Woojin meet his gaze once more.

               "I do not tolerate vindictiveness here. While we can be violent, we should never be spiteful. Part of my dilemma is that you've been here a while, I know you, Woojin. But that is also why I am so incredibly disappointed in your actions."

               The younger fighter closed his eyes, the knot in his throat swelling.

               "There are no three strikes here. This is your warning, Kim Woojin. If you do anything, at all, I will be asking you to leave. I won't stop you from finding another gym, I may even come to see you fight in other events. But you will never be welcome here again. Because right now, I am telling you what I expect of you. And if you can't respect me enough to meet those expectations, then we don't need to have a relationship."

               Woojin felt the tears start to brim against his eyelashes, the silence suddenly thudding against his head. His nails were digging into his palms, veins bulging.

               "Do you understand what I am saying?"

               "Yes," Woojin breathed, nodding.

               Wonshik pushed back into his chair, steepling his fingers. His eyes were burdened and they made Woojin want to sink into the floor, to never come back. Blinking at his trainer, his mentor, Woojin slowly stood and bowed deeply.

               "I am so sorry for my actions."

               It was all he had to say and by the look on Wonshik's face, that was all he wanted to hear.

               Woojin closed the door softly behind him, leaning back against it when he realized no one else was here. Wonshik had been called the moment it had happened, and actually flew back to Seoul the next morning. If the older fighter had done that to pile on the guilt, it had worked brilliantly, Woojin staring at the empty gym.

               Jae had cancelled training today.

               He wouldn't have a chance to apologize to Chan.  Not until tomorrow unless he went to see him at his apartment. But Woojin didn't know where that was, didn't have Chan's phone number either.

               And really, he thought, taking the stairs one at a time due to the soreness of his thigh, he didn't want to apologize to Chan. He didn't like Chan.

               Pulling his hood up as he wrenched the large door open, Woojin breathed the chilled air deep into his lungs.

               It was better that Chan hate him, too.

Chapter Text

                Three months later, there was snow in the air. It was uncommonly cold and the mid day sky looked white, no definition or edge. Just white and it threatened to unleash on them.

               Though that was highly unlikely this time of year, December not being a normally precipatory month. The mountains would get their snow, Seoul would just get the cold.

               And as Chan exited the large building, he bundled his large jacket around his chest. It didn't matter that they had just been sweating in the humid gym for the entire morning. Once the frigid air whipped around the group walk, they all shivered as a whole.

               Sungmin laughed as he commented on the Australian's chattering teeth.

               "You'd think you'd never experienced winter," he teased.

               "Wait, stupid question—do you all get winter down there?" Youngjae asked as the group of 8 all ambled towards the deli next door.

               It was lunchtime—the first of two—for the trainees and each day, they ate at the same place. So much so that they usually had lunch waiting for them as they crowded the small cafeteria. They mixed in with corporate workers and athletes from nearby sports parks alike.

               "That was a stupid question," Sungmin moaned, bumping Youngjae's slumped shoulder.

               Chan laughed, reaching out to cuff Sungmin. "No it wasn't… And yes, we do have winter. But its not your winter," he quivered for visualization. "Our winter is during your summer and never gets this cold."

               Back in Sydney, they had their cooler days. But it was never blistering like it was here and after coming from what he considered chilly, he now had a new appreciation for his homeland's climate. He was looking forward to the spring in South Korea though.

               "If it's too cold for you, perhaps you should go back then."

               Their foot steps slowed and a couple groans sounded out. Chan simply met Woojin's eyes, noticing how they seemed narrower than normal. He must be in a bad mood.

               "You'd like that. I still make you pretty worried, huh?"

               Woojin laughed without humor, rolling his eyes. He too buried his pointed chin into his zipped up jacket. "I guess I am just a little tired of hearing you complain."

               "OK, OK—stop guys. Can we at least eat in peace first before you start in on each other?" Boyoung pleaded, being one of the younger men training. He had no ties to either and, despite his age, often was the referree in their more serious arguments.

               Which they had plenty of.

               Over the past three months, ever since their first and only spar, the seeds had been sown. Woojin made it known he did not want Chan around, Chan replying with his own distaste of the older fighter.

               It didn't help that they were pretty well matched, though Chan edged out Woojin in almost every fight category other than grappling. It was a shame—the others had always wanted to see a rematch, a real one.

               But they couldn't be trusted and Wonshik had given them explicit instructions that they were not to fight.

               He had said, in front of everyone, he didn't want to put Woojin in a situation that could have him expelled.

               Chan had felt bad, but it was momentary. All he had to think of was the moment he had almost bitten the tip of his tongue off from Woojin's cheapshot uppercut.

               "Don't waste your breath," Chan said smoothly, giving Boyoung a smile as he reached to open the deli door. "He isn't worth it."

               Enjoying the uptick of anger surging in the air from Woojin, Chan went in and took a warm seat.

 

-

 

               "Channie!"

               There was a chorus of cheers after that—perhaps because Chan was finally done with his day and his friends had already been waiting half an hour after he had promised to show up. But here he was, holding up his arms as his friends all hollered for him.

               It hadn't taken him very long to find them, though he owed a huge part of it to Jisung. Who, true to his words, had not given Chan a choice of accepting his friendship. A drunk Chan constantly told him he would always appreciate that gesture.

               Jisung had introduced him to Changbin who he immediately liked, though the other was a little quiet in the beginning. It hadn't lasted long and once the two of them realized they had something in common—the appreciation for Australia—they hadn't stopped talking. Of course, Changbin's appreciation was a little different and it wasn't soon after that he met Felix. Chan had been surprised to learn they were both from Sydney and they had immediately reminisced about the beach. Felix himself had only been there for a couple years, attending the same school as Jisung and Changbin.

               After that was Hyunjin and Jeongin who knew each other from secondary school. They had been close with Felix first, then Jisung and Changbin and it felt nice that he was rediscovering Jisung the same way Hyunjin and Jeongin were.

               And after a month or so, the group really didn't do things "alone". There was always some sort of faction and Chan really couldn't remember the last time he had done anything social by himself.

               Pulling up a chair at the booth that was already full, Chan shrugged out of his jacket and laid it against the back. Then he looked around.

               The day had been long and he had been annoyed beyond belief by Woojin, more so than most days. But all that melted away when he saw the five young men in front of him.

               "Ugh, stop looking at us like that," Jeongin groaned. Turning to Jisung, he pointed at Chan. "He's not allowed to drink tonight."

               "Wait, why?!" Chan exclaimed loudly, face showing the offense. Not that he would, not when he was trying to get Wonshik's eye for a possible opener.

               Changbin laughed, leaning his arm on the back of Felix's chair. "Because you're already feeling sappy—we can just sense these things."

               "I am not!"

               Blank stares were sent around the table.

               "Fuck off," Chan laughed, reaching his hand up. A young server came their way and he quickly ordered a water with lemon.

               "What a long week," Felix said as he reached over and took a sip of his own water. Then perused the menu, all the while fending off Hyunjin's nit picking with him.

               "I know," Jisung added. "But its Friday so it'll be nice to sleep in tomorrow."

               They all threw Chan a pitiful look. He didn't have the luxury of sleeping in but it was alright, he had too much energy to sleep long anyways. Though, he did enjoy every now and then when they started late and he had a couple extra hours to clean.

               "I'd rather wake up early then have to go to school," he joked, saying his thanks when the waiter brought his drink.

               "Yeah, if I had a choice between being an ultra cool—"

               "And ultra buff?" Hyunjin added.

               Jeongin gave him a glare. "MMA fighter or a lousy student, it's obvious what I'd choose."

               Chan laughed, ruffling Jeongin's hair much to his chagrin.

               "Keep studying."

               The others laughed and it continued into the late evening, the group leaving only when they were told it was closing time. Tumbling from the restaurant, they all stood outside the entrance. Wrapped up in scarves and huddled in hoods, they bid each other goodnight though some of them were getting together the next day for a movie marathon. Chan watched them leave with a bit of envy swimming in his very full belly.

               Sometimes he wished he had more time in the day. Sometimes, he wished he had more time with his friends. It had been a while since he felt like he had any.

               Shaking his head, Chan stuffed his bare hands in the deep pockets of his long puffy jacket. He got to do what he loved, he was able to practice his craft every single day. He couldn't—and wouldn't ask for more.

               The lonliness would eventually dissipate as it did every night, Chan just needed to be patient.

 

-

 

               Ripping his sweater off, Woojin tsked his tongue when his tshirt came off with it. Standing in front of the lockers, he took his time untangling the light shirt from the much heavier sweatshirt. Shaking it out, he heard the voices of the others coming in. They had just finished their morning cardio and his skin was pink from the blood swelling in his veins, heaving his bare chest with each breath.

               Looking over, Woojin saw it was Youngjae and Boyoung, along with another trainee Sunho. They gave him a head nod in acknowledgment.

               They had always kept him at arms length—even before the entrance of Bang Chan. And perhaps that wasn't completely fair. He had always been respectful, but he had never been open. He wasn't there to make friends. He was there because he was good at fighting. Just as he was good at everything else he tried.

               It was no longer interesting or exciting. And it had long since made him everyone's enemy.

               Just as he was going to pull his shirt back over his head, he heard another person start into the small locker room, chuckling to himself. And normally Woojin tried to avoid any and all eye contact with Chan, just for the sake that it spiked his irritation everytime he saw him.

               But today, Woojin didn't look away. Instead, his eyes were glued to the younger fighter who sauntered in, pulling at his own sweatshirt. Woojin watched as Chan tugged it over his head, leaving him in an undershirt, his arms bare. And when he reached out to tussle his now white blonde hair, dopey smile painted on his face, the brunette couldn't look away from the small slice of rib cage beneath.

               "Your hair still creeps me out!" Sunho screeched, starting to wrap Boyoung's hands. It was customary that after cardio, they each wrapped their hands just as Jae had done back in Thailand, and just as how Wonshik had trained to do so.

               Woojin yanked on his tshirt and slammed the locker door. All four fighters looked over but he didn't stick around to see if they'd say anything. Plus, he needed to hurry up and wrap his hands.

 

-

 

               "Again," Wonshik grunted. Woojin huffed before stepping back, setting up the stance before he twisted his body and striking the speed bag in a high kick. Before Wonshik could say anything else, the brunette repeated it twice more. Wonshik was a fan of multiples.

               The veteran fighter's lip curled.

               "Again. This time, do something else," Wonshik instructed, folding his arms.

               "Anything?"

               Wonshik full out smiled. "Surprise me."

               Woojin returned the grin easily and proceeded to carry out the kicks, but this time between the fourth and fifth round house kicks, he added a lower kick, striking the bag in a location long forgotten by most stand up strikers.

               But Woojin was trying to become a better standing fighter and that was one area that could easily lead to a stumble and then he'd be able to get to business on the ground.

               Wonshik hmphed and uncrossed his arms, signalling for Woojin to stop.

               "What?"

               The older fighter shook his head. "I enjoyed that," he explained, much to Woojin's relief. "Where did you learn that?"

               Pressing his lips together, the brunette didn't need to answer. His brain scrambled for a second or two in an attempt to lie. But this was Wonshik he was talking to and reading body language was a deeply ingrained skill.

               It was why the veteran fighter was so successful at winning.

               Wonshik sighed, looking over the gym expanse to Chan who was currently at the weight training station. Then he came back to Woojin.

               "You two need to get over this petty spat."

               "It's not… I don't allow it to interfere with my training here—"

               "That's not my worry, Woojin," Wonshik said sternly. He reached over and knocked on the younger man's head. "You're hard headed. And so is he… its almost like you two are competing for that title."

               "I am focused," Woojin said, getting in the stance to continue doing round house kicks once more. Wonshik chuckled.

               "I'll say this: sometimes its good to be stubborn. You win titles that way," he spoke lowly. "But most times, its just detrimental. Don't let your hard head ruin future success."

               Holding Wonshik's eyes, Woojin finally nodded. His trainer did the same, telling him to continue for the next 15 before meeting him at the ring.

               Before Wonshik could get too far, Woojin called out to him.

               "Yes?"

               Smiling slightly, Woojin dropped into a bow. "Thank Taekwoon for the advice."

               Barking into laughter, Wonshik quirked an eyebrow. "What, it didn't sound like me?"

               "It sounded more like him."

               The older man nodded with a pleased smile. "He'll be happy to know he's rubbing off on me. 15 minutes and then the ring," Wonshik reminded before walking away.

Chapter Text

               There was something going on, Chan could feel it.

               It was a good something, the others around him all smiles and even Jae had been joking with them earlier in the day. And Chan had been killing it all week—like actually murdering every work out. It was true he was going harder than most weeks but he needed a chance to prove himself in South Korea, in front of Wonshik.

               Chan could remember when he had spotted the MMA fighter in the stands of his paltry gym fight and how excited he had been. And then how embarrassed he had been immediately after. Because it was such a shit show and his old company hadn't done any promotion of the ticket, the small school gymnasium barely half full.

               But Wonshik had seen something in him.

               And Chan wanted to make sure that Wonshik had no regrets with his choice.

               Now they were all lined up in front of the ring after a full day of workouts. It was a Tuesday, the only reason Chan remembered that was because he had dinner with Felix and Changbin later on, the two being the most accommodating of his schedule.

               "OK, I'll let you all go in a couple minutes but I have an announcement," Wonshik said as he leaned against the ringside banister. Everyone immediately stopped talking and Chan felt the excitement start to brew in his chest.

               For some reason, he just knew it was something good.

               "I have been in talks with a boxing gym in Busan. They just started to get into the MMA world and we thought it'd be great if we showed them some of our talent."

               Immediately the murmurs began and Wonshik started to smile, a rare sight but it was apparent he was excited himself.

               Chan grabbed his hands behind his back to keep them from shaking.

               "We'll have three bouts and I've picked the fighters who are going to be exhibitioning. Now," Wonshik spoke sternly. "We couldn't have everyone fight so if you weren't picked, it is nothing personal. It doesn't mean you're lacking—and if you are, we'd have already had a conversation about it."

               Chan was half listening, half thinking about what it would be like to represent his new gym in a spectacular show of force. He'd have to look his challenger up online, make sure he could use his research to get the better of him.

               "For the three fighters selected, just hang back and we can go over the details. For everyone else, Jae will send you the final details of the matches when they're ironed out. I expect each and every one of you to be there."

               Chan looked over at Woojin, feeling his lips curl. He'd finally get to show that asshole what he could really do, what he was capable of.

               "Boyoung, Taewoon," Wonshik began listing off and Chan grinned. "And Woojin."

               There was a stuttering silence, a couple of the other trainees looking to see Chan's reaction. But he just kept watching Wonshik, as if there was going to be another name read. As if it was going to be his name called.

               Then he realized the others had all started towards the locker room, Youngjae pulling on the back of his t-shirt to nudge him to do the same. Chan blinked and then glanced back as Wonshik talked to three chosen fighters.

               That should have been him.

               Yeah, Boyoung was pretty amazing for his age but he still had so much to learn about pace. And Taewoon was a beast of a striker but he lacked in the other areas. And Woojin…

               Chan gritted his teeth, recognizing his anger laced disappointment as he made it into the locker room.

               He had hoped to show that picking him was not in vain, that he had not trained for 8 years to be a mediocre fighter. Chan wanted to finally be able to prove himself.

               Before he could reconcile that thought, he shot out and kicked the bench, the metal screeching across the concrete floor. The others in the room all looked at him, eyes wide. Youngjae immediately came to his front and put a hand on his chest.

               He didn't need to say calm down, Chan knew he shouldn't have lashed out. But he needed to get rid of this energy somehow, otherwise it would build and build until he exploded.

               "We all will get a shot, Chan," Sunho said and his tone was a bit incredulous.

               "I know," Chan said quickly. "I know that, I just… I really wanted it."

               "We all do."

               Eyes following from one face to the other, Chan nodded shallowly. Then he bowed his head, running his hands through his bright blonde hair. "I'm sorry."

               There was a chorus of understanding and hopeful replies, the fighters in that small locker room encouraging their newest members.

               And as they all showered and/or changed, Chan simply righted the bench he had kicked and sat on top of it. He wasn't trying to dwell but he needed to process the why. He knew he wasn't the greatest to ever live, but why not him?

               Why Woojin instead?

               That thought was accompanied by the older fighter entering the room with other two selected trainees.

               Chan saw red for a second, feeling his blood burn in his veins.

               And when Woojin met his eyes, revealing a slight smirk, Chan couldn't help the shaking of his body. He had always had way too much energy and most of the time, he could expend it in a healthy manner. Part of that was why he hadn't given up on MMA after so long.

               Now, though, that resolve to keep it productive was slowly slipping.

               "Maybe next time," Woojin snorted at him, his smirk growing into a large, mocking smile. "Maybe not, though."

               Chan leaped from the bench and before Woojin could blink, his back was slammed against the lockers, narrowly missing a line of handles. The blonde fisted his trembling hands in the other's sweatshirt.

               There was hollering, some young men even running out of their showers to see what was going on. Youngjae was trying to pull Chan off, Woojin was trying to pull him back for a proper fight. Jae skidded in just in time to witness the two screaming at each other.

               "You're lucky I am not paying you back for the cheap shot. I'd knock your fucking teeth out!"

               "Eat shit!" Woojin yelled back, trying to get through Taewoon and Sunho.

               "Both of you, shut the fuck up!" Jae hollered and everyone in the room looked towards the entrance.

               Wonshik was right behind Jae and Chan breathed out forcefully, furrowed brow relaxing into resignation.

               "My office, both you. Now."

 

-

 

               Felix looked at Changbin again, raising his eyebrows. The black haired boy shook his head.

               "Fucking prick," Chan groaned, frowning as he took another sip of his beer. It was his fifth and he was very much tipsy.

               He'd pay for it tomorrow but right now, he just wanted to get Wonshik's calm, incensed tone out of his head.

               Felix reached over and slapped Changbin's shoulder, all out pointing. Chan wondered if they realized he could see them.

               "Why don't you give it a rest?" Changbin suggested, giving Felix a happy now look. Then he sighed towards Chan. "I mean… you did kind of start it."

               Chan simply paused in his swig and stared at the younger man.

               Felix just lolled his head back against the couch, shaking it as Changbin put his hands up.

               "OK, OK maybe right now is not the time to talk about it. Just… you wanna stay here tonight?" The younger boys both looked at the clock on the wall. "It is pretty late."

               Chan immediately felt bad. He didn't want to over stay his welcome, and he definitely didn't want to be that friend. He appreciated that Felix and Changbin wanted to spend time with him and their apartment had always felt a little like home.

               "I'm sorry," he slurred, suddenly feeling the emotions pressing forward. "I'm so sorry—I should go."

               "Chan, it's not a big deal at all!" Felix jumped up, reaching for the fighter as he started to leave. "I just have class in the morning and we know you have workouts." His face softened, his freckles cute at this angle. "Why don't you stay the night?"

               Chan inhaled through his nose, looking over Felix's shoulder towards Changbin. He was now standing and looking like he wanted to say something too.

               But instead, Chan didn't stay to hear it. "No, I should go home. I'll sober up on the train ride. Thanks again for tonight."

               He could hear their slight distress so he pasted on a goofy smile. "I'm good, I promise."

               As Chan slipped into his jacket, he told the two that he'd text them when he got in.

               "Promise?" Felix asked in English and Chan, again, gave a wide grin.

               "Yeah. Goodnight you two."

 

-

 

               Chan texted Felix and Changbin that he was safe and sound in his bed, thanking them again for allowing him to vent. They returned it with genuine words.

               But as Chan pocketed his phone, he pressed away from the neon bar and headed into the middle of the dance floor, the dark flitting around him. In front of him stood the man that had been eyeing him the entire night and Chan wasn't going to let him get away.

Chapter Text

               "Holy shit, you look like a ghost, Chan," Boyoung gasped as Chan joined the rest of the group in front of the large gym doors. He wasn't late, but he looked as if he had literally walked straight out of a coffin.

               "Fine," the blonde mumbled as he started stretching. Then stopped and held his stomach.

               "Fuck, you're not going to make it today," Youngjae cursed, handing Chan a water bottle.

               Woojin just watched, a small slice of him chastising Chan for being so dumb. It was obvious he was hungover and if Wonshik caught wind of that, he'd be in bigger shit than they already were.

               But as Chan resumed stretching, Woojin caught sight of a large bruise like blotch on the side of the younger man's neck. It was stark against the pallor of his complexion. In fact, there were two.

               Something in Woojin's belly tightened uncomfortably.

               Chan looked over and Woojin immediately faced forward, starting off the run.

 

-

 

               Over the next couple of weeks, Woojin made an effort to focus only on his training. He would not allow anyone else's negativity (or the confusion over how he was feeling) to affect him.

               He put mental blinders on didn't consider anyone else as he blew through work out after work out. He had even started eating a little cleaner though it was easier to do when he had this goal at the end of the tunnel.

               He had heard some of the other trainees muttering about how it wasn't even a contract match, just an exhibition.

               Which was correct. And Woojin had fought in more spectacular fights before. But this one was different.

               He wouldn’t think how, it just was.

               And as he finished going over some Jui Jitsu moves, Woojin looked over at the only other person left in the gym.

               Chan was wearing the treadmill out at the back of the gym. His grey shirt was almost black with sweat and his hair lay against his forehead, pink cheeks bouncing with each stride. Woojin closed his eyes and completed the move in his head.

               Chan was always there when Woojin came in early and he was always the last person there at night. The others were starting to get annoyed with him too, and how serious he had become since Wonshik had announced the fighters a week ago.

               Youngjae was trying to help but Chan had simply apologized and focused on whatever circuit he was at. It was dangerous, he was over training—everyone could see that.

               Woojin opened his eyes to see Chan finally slowing. His head hung, as his legs fell into a cadenced trot. Then a casual walk.

               Deciding it was probably a good time to call it a night, Woojin sat in the middle of the mat and started stretching. It would have been nice if he had a partner but he had never asked one of the others to help and Jae only did it when he noticed.

               Looking over at the sound of metal clinking, Woojin watched as Chan started putting weights on the bar which was right next to his mat.

               "Stop fucking staring at me."

               Blinking, Woojin gritted his teeth in response.

               Finishing his stretching, he stood tall and pushed back his own sweat drenched hair. Then he looked right at Chan.

               "See you tomorrow, Channie."

               Chan stopped his press up mid press, freezing for a moment before resuming. This time his repetitions were fast and a little haphazard, so much so Woojin was sure he was going to injure himself. That would sure teach him a lesson.

               But the brunette couldn't allow those thoughts to stay long—or any thoughts for that matter. He didn't need to be distracted for tomorrow's fight, least of all by Chan's ever apparent dismay. 

              

-

 

               Minho had smiled sadly, like he was happy but he was also feeling left out. As spacey as he could be, he definitely cared about Woojin. And as one of his only friends, and sole roommate, he couldn’t help but want to be supportive.

               "Its going to be ok," Woojin said, shaking his brunette hair to cover his forehead, fresh from a shower. But that, too, was a bit of a lie. It wasn't that he was per se nervous. It was just that this fight meant a lot. Not only to Woojin whose back broke out in perspiration at the thought, but Wonshik as well.

               And finally, he'd be able to show that Bang Chan that he was just as talented.

               Although, that was a silly thought.

               Because who cared what Chan thought?

               "So when will you be back?"

               Woojin pressed on the shorts in his duffel bag before dragging his hand to zip it closed. Looking around his room, he checked off his mental list and then face Minho once more.

               "Tonight. Its just a day trip."

               Minho nodded. Then ran his hands through his silky hair, sighing when Woojin flung the bag over his shoulder.

               "You're so transparent," Woojin laughed easily and looked straight at his roommate. "If I could invite you I would. It'll be fine."

               "What if no one cheers for you?"

               Holding his chest that bulged slightly under the weight of the strap cutting across his front, Woojin pretended to be wounded.

               "Wow, that one stung."

               Minho sighed dramatically.

               "I just don't want a grumpy Woojin returning in the middle of the night."

               "Very funny," Woojin rolled his eyes. "How about if I lose, I call you and you can talk me off the ledge."

               Raising an eyebrow, Minho shook his head. "You won't. But I will hold you to it. Just make sure to give yourself a break if it doesn’t go the way you want. You were always way too hard on yourself and I hate to see you go…"

               "Quiet?" Woojin offered thoughtfully.

               Minho smiled handsomely.

               "I'll make sure to have fun while I win," Woojin promised and his roommate followed up with a snide remark.

               And an hour later, when he climbed onto the train headed to Busan, Woojin thought of his roommate. About how he worried over Woojin at a time when Woojin should be worrying over him. It hadn't always been that way.

               The two had met in university, having a historical art appreciation class together. It was an elective they had both needed to complete their graduation requirements. So when they had been paired up for a month long project, Minho had the audacity to laugh at the one thing the ever so brilliant Woojin could never do: draw.

               It had been a relief at the time.

               There was no pressure on Woojin to do something well and both of them had received a barely passing grade for what had been dubbed the easiest course that semester. But it satisfied the requirements and when it ended, the two had a casual conversation about what they were going to do with their Thursday evenings now that the 3 hour class was over.

               "What about fried chicken?"

               That had been a couple years ago and while history saw Minho thrive in his career of dance instruction, it found Woojin becoming more solitary and excluded.

               Gone were the days where Minho would burn dinner and Woojin would still eat it, telling him how good it was because the older didn’t want it to scar him. He used to constantly praise Minho on his talent and skill, his perseverance and dedication when things got hard.

               But over the past year, Woojin found himself doing less and less of that.

               Looking out the window, he watched as they pulled away from the station. Placing his earbuds in, Woojin pressed play once more, Park Won's melancholy washing over him.

 

-

 

               They were all standing in front of the much smaller gym and it reminded Chan of his first one back in Australia. He had barely been a teenager and he had been invited by a neighbor, just for fun. Chan hadn't been interested in boxing or wrestling, being more into hopping around a field or shooting a basketball. He liked those sports. But wrestling? Boxing?

               Chan had realized immediately that what he had been imagining was not at all what he was seeing.

               This was all out fighting, with different techniques and styles and just men going berserk. It wasexplosive energy but controlled execution. It was everything he had ever wanted to be apart of.

               The thought brought a nostalgic smile to Chan's face.

               He felt like the 14 year old who had first stepped foot in a boxing gym and had his mind blown.

               It wouldn't be another 2 years before he would start training in mixed martial arts, but maybe that’s what was special about this moment. It had changed his entire life.

               "What are you smiling about? Excited to see your boyfriend up there?"

               Cutting his eyes at Sunho, Chan wanted to ignore him. Over the last week, there had been a different edge to their jesting. And it was not all their fault—Chan knew he was creating the distance with his attitude.

               But ever since that night, he had realized how comfortable he had become. How complacent he was that he hadn't been the first one on Wonshik's list. He vowed he would become better, that's what he needed to do.

               And he wasn't there for friends.

               Plus, he was not at all excited to see Woojin fight. There were too many memories of when he had been so worried that he had bruised the brunette's face. He was repaid with the uppercut of a lifetime.

               So no, he was not excited see Woojin fight.

               Realizing he had lost his smile, Chan looked over to Sunho. "No," he replied evenly. "Just thinking of when I first stepped foot in a boxing gym."

               He noticed Youngjae's lips twitch.

               "I remember the first time I saw my dad fight. It was… I wasn't supposed to see it because they did it in secret. But I went into the shack behind our house and there was so many people there," Youngjae drifted off.

               "What did your mom think?" Sungmin asked, coming up behind them.

               Youngjae laughed. "She was right there, screaming at him to put his hands up."

               The group tittered as a whole and Chan felt his dimple start to deepen. They went on to share their stories, of how they had gotten into the sport. And while Chan had been briefed on how they had come to Wonshik's, it was nice to discover how different they all were. The urge to fight was borne out of something so different for all of them.

               "Everyone ready?" Jae asked, ushering them in. The trainees not fighting were instructed to meet right inside the entrance and that they'd go in as a group.

               The gym was definitely smaller and the area of practice was not quite as intricate, but for the most part, equipment looked like equipment. And the four young men and two women standing in the ring all wore the same faces as the fighters walking up to greet them.

               Met with cordial salutations, the groups introduced themselves. Wonshik gave a small speech and talked about the program they were in. He talked about himself and how he had been practicing mixed martial arts since the tender age of 10. How he had fought in Thailand with Muy Thai veterans during his teenage years and how he had not stopped fighting for Korea since.

               Chan could feel his cheeks spread with each word and when he glanced at the others, their faces mirrored his. It felt like an honor to represent Wonshik and all his endeavors with the program.

               Seeing his mentor, tattooed and grinning, while he proudly spoke about his fighter, their strengths and dedication, Chan knew he wanted to be something like that, someone like that.

               "So, should we move to the ring then?"

Chapter Text

               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.

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.

               And scared.

               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.

               "For good."

Chapter Text

               Since the bus ride back to Seoul the week before, there had been an awkward sense of courtesy. The entire gym felt lighter now that the two eldest trainees were not quarreling. In fact, there seemed to be an air of humor as they all returned.

               Wonshik had heralded Boyoung as the next sensation, to which the teenager graciously bowed. But it was true—he had a raw type of talent that melded instinct and nature with strategy. He had said he had learned from watching Woojin.

               That had made the brunette smile, because truth be told, he didn't want to be a shadow to the rest of them. He didn't necessarily need to be in the spotlight, like Chan, but he wanted to be a good role model at least. That was where part of the joy came from.  

               There was no joy in winning when you won all the time.

               But he'd never admit that.

               "Hey, you want to help me wrap my hands?"

               Startled from his reverie, Woojin looked over to the mop of platinum blonde currently looking at him. Bony wrists outstretched, the brunette regarded them with skepticsm.

               This was also new.

               Their vibe had always been too intense for Woojin and he found himself wanting to trade places with anyone else in the room. Because Bang Chan made him feel odd and there wasn't an easy way to describe how he wanted nothing to do with the younger man.

               And yet, wanted everything to do with him at the same.

               Woojin had had crushes in the past—this was not that. He had lusted after others—this was also not that. He didn't think it in him to truly hate someone—and for some reason, there was a resounding understanding he did not hate Chan.

               There was something, though, that always kept Chan at the back of Woojin's mind. Not far from his every day thoughts and though Minho joked about the small grin he'd get thinking about the blonde, there was some truth to it. It had been easier when they disliked each other. Because that was clear and easy to understand.

               This was not easy to understand, weird and oddly enticing.

               When Chan smiled, Woojin melted.

               And he didn't appreciate feeling disarmed so easily.

               But that was because Woojin had always been good at everything (except drawing) and to encounter something, someone, that could reduce him didn't feel… right.

               It felt something else.

               Woojin didn't have time to think, though, because as Chan thrusted his hands in his personal space, closer than they had ever amicably been, there was also the screech of the gym doors. All eyes flew to the entrance and once Woojin recognized who came through, his edges softened slightly.

               "Who is that?" Chan wondered aloud, the others crowded in the stretching area all looking to their feet. Or the ceiling. Either or.

               So Woojin answered easily, "None of your business."

               And he had meant it jokingly serious. Because Jung Taekwoon wasn't any of their business. And if Wonshik wanted people to know, he'd let them know. Until then, it wasn't for them to speculate.

               Chan's brow furrowed, cheeks bunching. "I was just asking," he muttered, taking back his hands slowly. Woojin focused on him once again. But as he was about to apologize for his curtness and reach for his wrists, Chan spoke again. "Wait… Does he know Wonshik?"

               Woojin's eyes slid over to where Taekwoon was talking with Jae, laughing shyly. He loved watching Taekwoon smile, his entire face lighting up in delight. His elder could be stoic and scary—two things Woojin had encountered when he first met his piano instructor years before.

               All it took was a moment where they sang together for the brunette to get behind his soon to be mentor's walls. Woojin couldn't help but smile at his friend, giving a nod when the black haired man's eyes caught his. Lips curling, his smile turned into a wide simper.

               Then, everything happened at once.

               Wonshik appeared, smiled just as widely—lovingly. And in a show that wasn't new, but definitely rare, he pulled Taekwoon close. If they had been anywhere secluded, Woojin was sure there would have been a kiss to follow. He had seen enough of them to know the familiar dance. But this wasn't anywhere hidden, this was Wonshik's gym.

               And as all turned away against the barely there public display of affection, Chan stared outright. Woojin turned to him and grabbed his wrist, yanking him closer.

               "I'll help you," he rushed out, hoping distraction would work.

               It didn't, as the blonde simply looked over his shoulder at the couple by the gym door. Then he looked at Woojin, pretty eyes hallowed.

               "Holy shit."

 

-

 

               Chan had to decide whether to pay attention to the fact that Wonshik was close—very close—with the gorgeous man by the door. They were laughing with each other, their height, their legs—their everything making the perfect pair. Or examine and re-examine his words to figure out what could have possibly made Woojin look at him the way he was. But the older man was not letting go of his wrists so that, at least, was a positive sign.

               Still…

               Eyes crawled back over Woojin's shoulder.

               Before he could finish his thought, Woojin had narrowed his eyes.

               "What does that have to do with you?" came out, controlled and lower than Woojin normally sounded.

               Immediately, Chan's defenses spiked down his spine.

               He felt the familiar trappings, starting to tire of this game. But as he felt Woojin's fingers along his palms, there were two warring feelings:

  1. Excitement from the soft touch. So much so that he wanted to curl his own hands around the long fingers, enjoying their warmth. Chan always had such cold hands, the contrast was tempting.
  2. Then there was the aggravation that was slowly growing. It made him want to grip those fingers and break each and every one of them, then dominate the brunette in a show of force.

               The duality was not lost on the blonde, that Woojin took him to such places so quickly. It didn't make sense.

               But it felt good, the now anger surging through him as he watched Woojin frowning at him. Ripping his hands away, he steeled Woojin with dark eyes.

               "I am allowed to wonder—"

               "No. You aren’t."

               Chan's blood started boiling. "Yes. I am."

               Youngjae had since walked away, Boyoung as well. Sunho and Sungmin fell into the background though they had a perverse interest in the whole thing. They didn't disappear as the others. But that just fueled the blonde, who had been so nice and so understanding. Even as Woojin rebuked his offers or his greetings, Chan kept at it. Because he had seen that look the brunette wore as he won his bout.

               It was the first time Chan recognized the enjoyment inside Woojin.

               But his patience had worn thin and now he was fucking pissed, muscles vibrating. He was allowed to speculate about what he saw with his own two eyes. It wasn't as if he was being disrespectful or judgmental. Hell, who was he to judge when he—

               Woojin was leaving but Chan wasn't done yet.

               So instead, the younger man impulsively acted the way it worked in his mind: beginning middle end resolution.

               Except they had already been through the beginning and were barrelling towards the end.

               "I am not done talking to you," Chan spit, angrier than he realized.

               Woojin spun around and pinned him with blazing eyes. "Excuse me?"

               Chan steeled his spine once more, ignoring that he was being disrespectful to his elder. "You don't just walk away from me."

               "You think?" the older man questioned, void of any emotion as he stood straighter. It fanned the flame as Chan squeezed his fists.

               "I just—he's obviously close with that guy," he explained, as if offering that would convince Woojin he was right. But the brunette just continued to stare. Chan flexed his jaw. "I have the right to ask—"

               "What gives you that right?"

               Unable to hold back, "Are you fucking Wonshik? Is that why you're so mad right now?" Chan bellowed, partial smile rising to cover his incredulity.

               Because, if he thought about it, why was Woojin acting like this? And why did Wonshik smile every time he was around or talking about Woojin? Why did he always look after the older fighter?

As if it dawned like a rising sun, Chan's anger turned jealous.

               "You are, aren't you?" he whispered, eyes squinting in judgement. "Holy fuck, you are."

               "I am not!" Woojin finally responded stepping closer. "You are pretty unbelievable."

               Chan ignored him easily, tutting his tongue as he crossed his bare arms. "No wonder you didn't get kicked out for almost splitting my tongue—"

               The rest of his sentence died as Woojin tackled him, the two falling unceremoniously to the padded ground. Reaching up, Chan pushed his hands at Woojin's chest to keep him from gaining the upper hand. He had already witnessed what the fighter could do on the ground.              

               Something in that thought incited further fury and twisting his hips, Chan tried to switch their positions.

               But before he could, someone had yanked Woojin away, others dragging Chan by the armpits. Without looking, the blonde knew he was in trouble. Even though he only had eyes for Woojin, he could feel Wonshik's energy swarm above the two and when the tall elder stood between them, Chan didn't have the decency to look at him long.

               Irate was an understatement.

               Chan looked at Woojin once more, the most animated than he had ever seen, but this time he was talking to the man that had come through the doors and started this whole thing. His eyes, though. Woojin's eyes were trained on Chan.

               "I am so fucking tired of you two fighting in my gym," Wonshik ground out. "Everyone out!" he roared, a stunned silence folllowing his demand. They all looked from one to another. Wonshik took a deep breath through his nose, eyes closing as the air seemed to leave the room. In an instant, everyone started scurrying, emptying the near full gym until it was just the three.

               "You don't leave this gym until you figure your shit out," Wonshik seethed, dark eyes narrowing as he looked between the two. "Otherwise you're both out…"

               Woojin frowned. Chan pursed his lips.

               "For good."

Chapter Text

               They hadn't said a word to each other since watching Wonshik slam the door. The background noises of the empty gym pushed in on them as they both stood waiting.

               Waiting for the other to cave.

               Waiting for whatever was supposed to happen to… well, happen.

               And it just choked the tension tighter and tighter until Chan's vibrating muscles were quaking.             

               One small push and—

               "So you and Wonshik, huh?"

               Woojin's head slowly angled his way.

               "I guess I can see it," Chan murmured with restraint. His jaw was clenching as he spoke and he needed to release this energy soon, fast. Otherwise…

               "You have no idea what you're even talking about," Woojin spat, lip turning up and it was not attractive on him.

               "He favors you, we all see it."

               That got the light behind the brunette's eyes dancing and if Chan hadn't stumbled upon that, he might have felt lost to how he was going to refrain from imploding. But Woojin had just given him his fuse and his lips curled childishly.

               "How long has it been going on?"

               Woojin's own pointed jaw steeled and Chan took a step closer.

               "Does his boyfriend know you're fucking him—"

               Chan didn't get to finish as he caught the punch to his jaw, stars shooting from his closed eyes. Flying into the weight machine not far from them, the blonde started laughing, flexing his jaw and blinking away the tears in his eyes. It wasn't from the hit—it wounded, but he'd been hit harder and he could tell Woojin hadn't tried to hurt him.

               No, the tears were from excitement, the packed carbonation from being shaken but not opened and Chan knew when he got like this, there was nothing he could do but fight.

               Woojin stood ready opposite him, Chan grinning outright as he lunged into a flying left hook.

 

-

 

               After the first couple of blows, their fighting had turned wild. It was in space that Woojin realized he had never fought anyone like this, narrowly dodging Chan's flying knee. The blonde's left eye was swollen shut and so the slightly off trajectory had given Woojin enough of a moment to easily try for a take down.

               Chan slipped right through his arms and instead, spun in his arms, catching his jaw in a spectacular back handed elbow. Grabbing it, Woojin tasted the metal of his blood, spitting as it crowded his mouth. Sweat dripped down his temple, heat dusting his lashes as he gulped in air.     

               The blonde simply put his hands in guard again.

               Woojin smiled.

               Chan's grin melted off.

               He was enjoying himself, he realized as he attacked the younger man, trying his best to take him to the ground once more.    

               This time, with an uncharacteristic groan, Chan let himself be overpowered. His arms coming to his face to shield from the hammer fists raining down. Woojin settled heavily in between the younger man's thighs, planting one hand by the side of Chan's pink tinged hair and switched to elbows.

               He only got one or two in before, mustering up the remaining bit of energy in the room, Chan bucked his hips to dislodge the wide stance Woojin had him trapped in.

               The two froze as their bodies met with purpose, the silence turning loud in their ears as Chan's hands lowered slowly from his face. Woojin's other palm came to ground himself as their labored breaths met and mixed.

               Perhaps that was when their rivalry ended, their hands bloody from each powered strike and dangerous kick. And as Woojin let his weight settle deeper in between Chan's thighs, the younger man's legs curling around to lock, their eyes finally met.

               It was insane to think it could all amount to this very moment, Woojin thinking of Chan's busted lip pressed lightly against his.

               Perhaps it was when their rivalry ended.

               But all that ran through his head was their beginning, the moment their rivalry began.

               And how Woojin had wasted months before finally doing what he had wanted to do ever since he saw Bang Chan's smile.

               Leaning down, the brunette closed his eyes as Chan tilted his head up. Their lips, slick with sweat and blood, slipped along each other gently. Mouthing against one another, Chan's hand curled into Woojin's side.

               Opening his mouth in response, Woojin kissed Chan slow. Shifting slightly, groaning as the pressure in his ribs solidified, the older man let his weight fall to his forearm as he brought his other hand to Chan's face.

               Fingers digging into the blonde's jaw, Chan's own hands dragged up his back as he sucked on Woojin's tongue.

               Feeling his body undulate into the heat beneath him, Woojin ground his erection into Chan's, pulling away with a gasp. The blonde quickly brought him back, swallowing his moans as they rutted against each other.

               This time, their energy sprawled out in every direction, turning amber in the stuffy gym. The smell of neoprene and sweat sat deep between them, but their taste was all either could think of. The pulsing of pleasure with each movement, Woojin whined as he pulled away once more. This time Chan let him stay that way.

               But their foreheads slid against each other's as their bodies continued rut against one another. Chan's fingers grabbed at the back of Woojin's neck, curling as he moaned loud and final in between them. The older man easily fell in love with the sound, panting as his inner thigh muscles spasmed.

               "Please," Chan said in English, Woojin clamping his eyes shut as he shuddered through his own orgasm.

               Stalling, they both stayed still until Woojin's arms shook.

               Chan blinked at him, corner of his lips curling slightly. Woojin watched as the younger man's face changed.

               Leaning down to kiss him, the brunette collapsed soon after, Chan's exhausted laughter echoing off the gym walls.

Chapter Text

               Everyone had no idea how to act.

               The day before, Woojin and Chan had been at each other's throats. Today they hadn't said one cross word to each other. Not that they had said anything to each other, actually.

               There seemed to be a barrier between them as they never got close. When one would head towards the weights, the other would cross the room and start on the bags.

               Even Wonshik was watching with apprehension.

               When he had come in, he had expected to find the two in pieces. Instead, the duo was very much alive. Quiet, but that wasn't surprising. They were also slightly battered—Chan sported a healthy black eye and the right side of Woojin's jaw was marred with a deep red/purple blotch.

               But the biggest difference for the entire gym was the true shift of energy.

               Woojin and Chan no longer hated each other.

               Everyone could feel it, the tension that had been lifted from the air as they all finished their training sets for the day.

               Perhaps locking them in the gym wasn't such a bad idea, after all.

               "You didn't lock us in here," Woojin commented as he motioned for Wonshik to raise the pads again. The older man had gotten distracted thinking about the peculiarness of his training group.

               "You don't know that," he finally answered, a deep rumble in his throat as he saw Woojin's lips twitch. "Yall were in here a while."

               Woojin stopped and straightened from his striking posture. "How do you know that?"

               Wonshik outright chuckled when he saw the alarm in the brunette's eyes. Raising the pads, he instructed Woojin to strike.

               But in a non-typical manner, Woojin just squinted. "Do you have cameras?"

               Wonshik's jaw dropped. "Why?" he asked slowly.

               Shaking his head, Woojin averted his gaze and instead got into stance.

               "Come on, now!" he goaded, mouth slipping into a slow smile as he heard Wonshik's laugh.

 

-

 

               Chan finished his set and looked over at Wonshik who was training with Woojin. He was holding pads, and while that was not out of practice for the veteran fighter, Chan thought back to his earlier musings.

               Then he blinked the thoughts away, watching Woojin punch Wonshik's hands.

               The man was a skilled striker, he just needed more confidence in it.

               Chan bowed his head as he twisted his lips to quell his indulgent smile. It was harder than expected because his eyes kept crawling back over to the brunette. He was sweating, on his last sets and the dark auburn of his hair had turned chestnut with perspiration. Woojin had also lost his shirt, now working out in just a tank top and sweatpants.

               Wonshik was laughing at him, Woojin grinning back.

               But that didn't matter, because the night before, Woojin had kissed Chan.

               Closing his eyes in rememberance, he could feel his cheeks lift as he thought of the petal soft lips on his. The taste of Woojin heady as they pressed against each other. The blonde remembered the way the older man's back felt beneath his palms, how thick and steady he had felt above him. Woojin had been interesting before.

               Now he was fascinating.

               "Hey!"

               Youngjae was snapping in front of his face, Chan coming to as he crossed his eyes on the hand at his nose.

               "I have been calling you," the younger man whined. Then he looked over to Woojin who was stretching. "So…"

               "I told you, everything is settled," Chan said to his friend. Youngjae, out of all of them, had always been the one he gravitated towards. Even in the beginning, when everyone was being so nice, Youngjae just felt more genuine than the others.

               Not that they weren't.

               He just felt more.

               And now, he and Chan had established a tradition of walking home together, their apts just down the hall from each other. They shared occasional dinners and rarely, late night snacks. Though when given any real amount of time, Chan tried to spend it with Jisung and the group like he was tonight.

               "You ready to head home?" Youngjae asked, pushing his washed hair back. He had already showered and was just waiting for Chan.

               The blonde immediately felt guilty, looking over to Woojin once more.

               This time, the brunette was watching him back.

               Lips curling at the corner, Chan looked down to the bench he was sitting on, smashing his lips together to get rid of his smile. Then he looked up into Youngjae's face.

               "Yeah, let me just shower."

 

-

 

               "Who is Woojin?"

               Chan looked up from his food, his crossed legs holding the pizza box steady. Jeongin was holding the now black haired man's phone. His hair was currently in a showercap, the dye still setting and when he snapped to what the youngest was saying, he couldn't get the words out fast enough around the food in his mouth.

               "Is he calling?"

               Jisung stopped his conversation to look over at the interest. "Who is he?"

               Chan ignored him easily. "Throw me my phone, please," he bordered on begging. Because once Jeongin knew you wanted something, he turned evil.

               "He's not calling."

               "Ok," Chan rolled his eyes. "Just throw it to me."

               "Hmmm, he might have texted," Jeongan sang. "I should read what he said—"

               The black haired man nearly toppled the entire pizza over with how quickly he got up. Snatching his phone with a glare, he didn't have time to give the youngest a true look. Instead, he needed to see what Woojin had said—

               Blinking, Chan's brow furrowed.

               "There's… there's nothing from him," he murmured, eyes raising.

               Jeongin was overcome with laughter. Felix threw his friend a solemn face, though none of them could feel sorry. Their youngest was not to be trusted. And he knew it.

               "Someone named Youngjae asked about Woojin," Jeongin finally got out, swiping a thumb to clear his tears. "Yall got in a fight?"

               Before Chan could get on the boy about his intrusion (along with how disappointed he truly was that Woojin hadn't been reaching out), Jisung poked his head into the conversation.

               "Is that where you got your black eye?!" he questioned loudly.

               Sheepishly, Chan waved it off and returned to his pizza, this time with it on the table beside him as he sat down on the floor.

               "No, I mean yes. But it was… not bad?" he ended awkwardly. He didn't know how to lie about this, nor did he know how to say to his friends that he totally came in his shorts as his arch nemesis dry fucked him.

               Chuckling, Chan shoved a piece of pizza in his mouth.

               But Jisung was smarter and he sank down to stare at his friend. Chan stopped chewing.

               "Spill."

               "There is nothing to—"

               "Spill."

               Looking at the face of Han Jisung, up close and personal, Chan simply groaned.

               "Nothing."

               "Bullshit," Changbin said sweetly. Chan wrenched his neck to give the other a glower.

               "The name certainly sounds familiar."

               "I think my hair needs to be washed—"

               "Its fine," Jisung said easily, reaching for and taking the slice of pizza from Chan's long fingers, placing it blindly on Chan's glass coffee table. "Who. Is. Woojin."

               Now Hyunjin was crowding him as well and when the eldest looked around, he realized there was no way he was getting out of this without admitting to who Woojin was. And he didn't trust himself to keep quiet when he finally got the chance to relive that moment.

               The moment that changed everything.

               Suddenly, there was a knock at the door and all heads whipped towards it. Breaking out in a wide smile, Chan squeezed from in between his friends. Shrugging his shoulders, he walked to the door pretty satisfied with the distraction.

               Jisung stood, Hyunjin sank into the couch. Chan answered the door, whipping the metal open to—

               "Woojin?"

               All chatter behind him stopped and the brunette raised his eyebrows slightly. Then he licked his lips, eyes then focusing on the shower cap atop Chan's head.

               "Again?" the older man remarked. "What color?"

               Chan blinked. "Huh?"

               Woojin pointed slowly toward Chan's hair.

               "OH!"

               Then remembering his friends were just on the other side of him, Chan stepped forward and pulled the door close behind him. Woojin took a step back as their chests met.

               "Sorry," Chan apologized, bringing his hands forward to steady the other. Although he knew he didn't need it—Woojin's core was admirable.

               "It's fine."

               "Wait," Chan said, tilting his head. "What are you doing here?"

               As if to say this wasn't normal, because it wasn't. They weren't friends, they weren't even enemies at this point. But whatever they were, and for as long as Chan knew Woojin, they had never seen each other outside of training activities.

               Now, the brunette was at his door, wearing jeans and a sweater covered with a long down jacket. It was frigid outside and Chan could have sworn he could see the pink of Woojin's cheeks. It painted him that much more attractive.

               "Did you need something?" he asked when he realized the older man wasn't answering.

               Woojin simply looked down the hall then back at him, mouth poising as if he wanted to say something but couldn't quite form the sentence. Then he cast his eyes down.

               Chan forgot he was wearing a shower cap, focusing only on how spectactular his view was the moment.

               "I asked Youngjae where you lived," Woojin said with a sheepish raise of his eyes. "I hope you don't mind."

               Shaking his head, Chan tried at an understanding smile.

               Woojin started to return it.

               Suddenly, again, the door opened and Chan barely had time to reach behind him and slam it shut. Grunting as his friends tried once more to open it, he leaned towards Woojin.

               "What did you need again?"

               "Are you busy?"

               "No," Chan jumped. "Not at all."

               Woojin's eyebrow raised. "Then what is that?"

               "Babysitting."

               "Babysitting?" Woojin chuckled. It made Chan want to see a full out smile.

               But before he could entice one, Woojin looked back at the hall before he settled back on Chan. "Well, I just…"

               "Yes?"

               The brunette swallowed loudly. "I'm not going to say anything about what… what happened yesterday."

               Chan's spine slowly steeled and he found himself just as slowly comprehending what Woojin was saying. Or implying. Or whatever it was that he was doing.

               "Y-yeah," he responded dumbly.

               The tug at the door knob stopped.

               "Just, so that we don't have to worry about that getting out."

               "That?" Chan echoed, hands falling to his sides.

               Woojin had the decency to blush, then he stood taller. "The kiss."

               Chan's brow furrowed, regarding Woojin with a direct gaze. "You came to my apartment, having asked another of our trainees where I live, so you could tell me you were going to keep this a secret?"

               Woojin opened his mouth. Then shut it.

               Chan smiled.

               "This?"

               Chan's fingers smoothed over Woojin's ears as he stepped into him deliberately this time, mouth covering his in a fluid sweep. It didn't matter he was wearing a shower cap, the brunette's arms coming around his waist easily as he tilted his face into their kiss.

               Pressing forward, Woojin walked Chan into the door, squeezing him between his body and the metal. Reaching for his mouth again, Woojin's tongue teased his, teeth nipping at the younger man's bottom lip.

               Woojin sighed between kisses, hands delving beneath the other's large tshirt.

               Chan reached behind him for the doorknob, holding it closed as they made out.

Chapter Text

                Woojin stood outside Chan’s apartment, they having shared their last kiss of the night. There had been a shy regard as the now black haired man slipped back into his home.

                He stood and listened to Chan’s friends hollering at him, laughing with him as he dodged muffled questions Woojin couldn’t clearly hear. They were yelling, practically, and it sounded like a mess lay just beyond the metal door. But it made Woojin start to smile none the less, Chan’s loud laughter joining the barrage of noise.

                The brunette wasn’t quite sure why he had come that night.

                In fact, Woojin had chastised himself as he showered in the gym for how many times he had looked over at the other during training.

                But as he had pulled on his jacket, ready to trek to Minho’s studio so the two could have a drink before heading home together, the corner of his mind where Chan had always lived suddenly lit up. And something said that he needed to talk to him about what had happened.

                Although when he had seen the younger man, he thought with a flush, that was definitely not what they did. Talk, that is.  

                No, instead of calling the one time incident what it was and assuring the other that he had no intention of spreading it, those familiar feelings started blooming in his chest the moment he landed in front of a bright eyed Bang Chan. Pressing on his lungs, Woojin felt the discomfort of pressure that always resulted from seeing the younger man’s smile.

                That hadn’t changed. That hadn’t been overnight, he acknowledged as he stood in front of the other’s apartment door.

                It was just now, he knew what that smile felt like. Woojin had such intimate knowledge of that mouth and it was startling how quickly he could abandon his purpose given the chance.

                But Woojin could refrain, he had trained himself in the art of restraint.

                Chan, on the other hand.

                Woojin’s lips curved as he finally turned away from the noise. He heard his name one last time before deliberately taking measured steps back down the hallway towards the apartment complex’s exit.

                Chan didn’t quite know how restrain anything. It was why his fighting was so wild, so unpredictable. He did whatever came in to his mind and then contemplated after. Woojin had watched Chan enough to see him tire himself out jumping from one technique to another.

                But it was also the reason why he was so fucking spectacular to watch.

                The night chill suddenly engulfed Woojin as he stepped through the lobby doors and he easily buried his smile into his collar, starting the journey to Minho.

 

-

 

                The next day, though, their remembered kiss(es) were far from mind as they both finished training, still keeping their distance. It had been a pretty good day.

                That was until Wonshik, just in the gym for the latter part of the session, called Woojin and Chan into his office as they all walked towards the locker rooms. Heads tilted, both stopped. The rest of the trainees gave sympathetic looks, Youngjae whispering a good luck when he passed. Chan caught the back of his head as he swept his eyes over to Woojin who stood equally still.

                And now, sitting in front of Wonshik’s desk for the third or fourth time, Chan took a deep breath.

                Wonshik’s heavy eyes slid from Chan to Woojin slowly.

                Then he nodded, stapling his fingers as he leaned back. His chair creaked slightly and the noise rang loud in the very silent room.  But he knew why they were here and why they were being disciplined with silence. Disappointment was the headiest of tactics and it was working brilliantly on the two young fighters.

                Chan prepared himself for whatever was ahead.

                “You two seem to be getting along.”

                Both of their heads whipped up. Then they dared to look at each other, neither making a face. Then Woojin looked back to Wonshik easily, but silent. Chan took his cue and did the same.

                Wonshik nodded again, sinking back into his chair. “I struggled with what to even say to you… and when. I admit,” he said with a chuckle. “I was ready to expel you both the next day. I had it in my mind that you two just couldn’t get along. And I would have the unfortunate task of telling you two to leave.”

Chan didn’t find it as funny and when he looked over to where Woojin was squeezing his knuckles, it didn’t appear he found the humor in the situation either.

                “And then I come in here to find you two fine. Perfectly fine,” Wonshik mused, leaning over his desk once more. Pointed, tattooed elbows steadied him as he tapped its surface idly. “You weren’t talking to each other but there had been no murder, no crime scene and I think I was just as flabbergasted as everyone else.”

                “We’re sorry to worry everyone—”

                “I am not done speaking,” Wonshik said sharply and the slight smile on his face turned frightening. He wasn’t laughing because it was funny, either. He was dead serious.

                Chan leaned back in his own chair, turning his eyes downward once more.

                “I went home last night thinking that my problem had solved itself. That two of my best fighters had finally gotten over whatever was going on.  Which was fucking great because I don’t like to deal with stuff like that.

                “But then it kept me awake and I realized it wasn’t fair to the rest of your team that you two act out repeatedly, continue to disrespect myself and Jae as if we should just be grateful for a break in the clouds.”

                Wonshik’s tone was now the sound of midnight in the woods—dark, troubled and overwhelming.

“I realized it wasn’t fair to us that I don’t share how disrespectful you two have been. So this is your official notice.”

                Chan gulped but continued to look at his lap.

                “Your chances have run out here,” Wonshik said somberly and waited for them to acknowledge what they were hearing before continuing. “If you two so much as get into a heated argument in the gym, you’re out. I do not and will not condone such behavior any longer. You owe it to your team, you owe it to Jae and you owe it to yourself to understand how serious this is.”

                With energy commanding so, Chan and Woojin both looked up at their trainer.

                “Do you? Do you understand what I am saying to you both?” Wonshik asked lowly, eyes narrowing on each of their faces.

                There was a chorus of yes amidst solemn apologies and though Chan had known this was coming, it didn’t make him feel any better about it. He didn’t want to disappoint Wonshik. He didn’t want to waste anyone’s time. He certainly didn’t want to disrespect his team. He just wanted to be…

                Looking at Kim Wonshik, how physically close he was to the veteran fighter, Chan struggled with ending that thought. Wonshik had been fighting for years, never gave up despite his own trials and tribulations. Never allowed an injury or personal items get in the way of becoming a great mixed martial artist. He was a respectable person all around.  

                And Chan wanted to be like him.

                So the black haired man resolved to get his act together, starting right that moment.

                “You can go,” Wonshik boomed, standing. His tone was still full of authority but less now, more brotherly. Chan looked back, wanting more of that as well, hoping he hadn’t ruined any chances of it.  

                Turning towards the door to the office, he filed in line behind Woojin. Watching the other’s back through his shirt, Chan replayed the words disrespectful in his head with each flex of Woojin’s shoulders.

                Wonshik suddenly reached out to his shoulder, his phone sandwiched between his ear and his own shoulder as he stopped Chan from descending the stairs Woojin was halfway down.

                “Wait here, I want to speak with you in a second.”

                The black haired man’s eyes grew but he nodded quickly. Then he looked at Woojin who just watched back, brow bunching slightly as he also tried to read the situation. Wonshik retreated back into the office and half closed the door.

                “Shit,” Chan cursed as he leaned against the railing, burying his hands in his hair. Woojin started walking again, though he looked up when he got to the bottom. “Am I done for?”

                The brunette shook his head. “He’d have told you back there. He’s not a liar.”

                Chan’s eyes closed. “You’d know.”

                “Hey,” Woojin warned lightly. “You heard him, we can’t fight anymore.”

                Draping his arms over, the black haired man just let his head hang towards the other. Woojin leaned against the banister at the bottom of the stairs.

                “It’s probably nothing.”

                “Then why didn’t he say it back there?” Chan challenged.

                Woojin gave him a look that said he was trying to help. The younger man’s face softened as he recognized it late.

                “I’m sorry.”

                “You don’t always have to show your emotion to express yourself,” the brunette spoke.

                Chan watched him, biting his tongue with a quick remark. He was trying to help—and he was also trying to make sure they didn’t get in trouble again.

                “I’ve only ever been emotional.”

                The tip of Woojin’s pointed canine threatened to show as he scoffed. “I’ve noticed.”

                “Be nice,” Chan warned this time, though he was very much enjoying this.

                Woojjn tilted his head. “Youngjae isn’t here to walk you home, you think you can get there by yourself?”

                Woojin wasn’t leaving and Chan was enjoying the break in the mood. They had been so angry with each other for so long, yet they had made out the day before—for the second time. Now they were back to reality and it all felt so surreal.

                “Is that your way of saying you’ll take me home?”

                Jaw dropping, Woojin’s eyebrows shot up slightly. Since he was looking up, his hair had fallen back from his forehead attractively. Chan just smiled in return.

                But before Woojin could say no—they both knew it was a no—Wonshik reappeared and started to speak, though he stopped when he spotted Woojin at the foot of the stairs.

                Losing his smile, the brunette gave a curt nod, wishing them both a good night before walking towards the locker rooms. Chan watched him leave, avoiding the inevitable.

                Then the younger fighter turned to his trainer, readying for whatever else Wonshik had to say.

                “Your eye looks better.”

                That was not what he had expected and Chan simply agreed, running a tender finger across it. It was still pretty purple but the swelling was all but gone and it no longer ached when he blinked.

                “I wanted to chat with you about what I said in there,” Wonshik went on, leaning against the same railing. He was taller than Chan, his limbs longer so whereas Chan’s belly button rested against the metal, Wonshik’s hip sat heavy against it.

                “Am I in more trouble?” Chan asked, focusing on where Wonshik met the railing.

                “No more than you were a minute ago,” Wonshik answered honestly. He then dipped his head and caught Chan’s eyes. “But you have a different outcome in this, Bang Chan. If you two get kicked out, Woojin simply finds a new gym. Hell he might not even continue training,” he said off handedly. “Either way, he’d have no trouble finding a place to join. But you… you’d have to find a new sponsor, Chan.”

                Eyes narrowing in an attempt to clear the emotion—the same one Woojin saw so clearly a moment ago— that pushed forward at the thought. It was a coping mechanism Chan had been using since he was young, to squint when he felt the biological reaction of tears press against his eyelids. He brought his top lip into his mouth and bit thoughtfully.

                “You know I can’t sponsor you under an athletic visa if you don’t train with me. You remember the time and money it took to get you out here—”

                “I do,” Chan rushed out. “And I am beyond grateful you did.”

                Wonshik sighed, angling towards him again. “I know you are, Chan. I am not saying this to make you feel worse. I just need you to understand that you and Woojin have been acting like there aren’t consequences to your behavior. And you need to start recognizing yours in particular are much more dire than his.”

                Chan nodded, then met Wonshik’s earnest gaze and nodded more emphatically.

                “I understand. And I will make you proud of your decision. I do not want you to have any regrets when it comes to me.”

                The corner of Wonshik’s mouth curved. “I’ll always have regrets. About you, about the rest of the group. About being the person I want to be, the fighter I am. A man does not live a full life without having at least one.” He placed a hand on Chan’s shoulder. “But I don’t want needless regrets. So I look forward to how you are going to do well here, starting today.”

                Chan stepped back into a deep bow.

                “I will try my best for you.”


_

                Wrenching the gym door open, Chan ambled into the dark, wet night. As if he hadn’t known it had started raining, he held his palm out, puffs of condensation bleeding from his nose as he regarded the street light next to him.

                Woojin figured he should make his presence known before he scared the man.

                But Chan had already caught sight of him and paused in his inspection of the surroundings. His face cutely scrunched up and if it weren’t for the fact that he was getting rained on, Woojin wouldn’t have mind watching that face a bit more.

                “Pull up your hood, you’re going to get sick,” the older man said instead, cursing how fatherly he sounded.

                “What are you doing here?”

                Woojin couldn’t admit that he waited. And he also couldn’t admit that he had intended not to walk Chan home because that might mean something more than what he wanted, but there was something in the dejected look Chan had given him at the top of the stairs.

                There was something in the way he looked absolutely defeated in the glow of the street lights.

                It was like seeing the sun slowly get blocked by a thick, never ending storm cloud. Chan’s presence had been like that most of his time at the gym, never really allowing rays to filter through—most of that Woojin’s doing.

                But yesterday had felt a little different, hearing him with his friends, seeing how cheeky he had been before they had kissed in his doorway. It had felt like the sun on his face after a long rainy season. And now that same sun was disappearing once more.

                So Woojin stayed.

                And he was going to walk Chan home.

                “I was just joking earlier,” said man spoke, now pulling his hood over his wet hair. Luckily it was a short walk to his apartment, Woojin thought.

                “I know.”

                Chan regarded him with suspicion. “Then why does it look like you’re coming with me after all?”

                “I have to pass your apartments on my way home.”

                That got a tiny smile on the black haired man’s face and while his doubts were plainly stated, he started walking all the same. Then he looked back at Woojin.

                “Do we get to hold hands?”

                Chuckling before he could stop it, the brunette shook his head. “Absolutely not.”

                Chan smiled, stuffing his bare hands in his coat pockets. Then he threw his head back exaggeratedly. “Do I at least get a kiss goodnight?”

                Woojin reached out to cuff Chan, the other laughing as he evaded it. But their eyes met and their mirth was shared.

                “Stop talking,” Woojin insisted, giving Chan a small simper. It wasn’t much but it fed the younger man, his nod one of satisfaction.

                And so, as they walked just around the block to Chan’s apartment building, Woojin realized it didn’t matter.

                It didn’t matter that he had kissed someone considered an enemy, let alone a prospect of something more.

                It didn’t matter that he had used anger to avoid how special Chan made him feel when he smiled.

                It certainly didn’t matter that they were walking side by side, shoulders brushing every now and then as if they hadn’t been at each other’s throat days before.

                None of that mattered because this felt natural and organic and… good.

                Eyes grazed over the side of Chan’s face, his poignant features, his soft skin. Woojin realized just how long it had been since he had felt good.

Chapter Text

               And so it went, an easiness settling into the two fighter's complicated relationship. There were no more snipes and if there was anything resembling such, they'd meet eyes and one of them would remind the other that they were now dependent on each other. If one got in trouble, they both got in trouble.

               Everyone else seemed to sigh with relief, the young men realizing the affect they had on their fellow trainees. Wonshik's words never strayed too far from their thoughts.

               So the two threw themselves back into training, each a little different than the others. But this time, instead of trying to burn off the immense heat resonating between them as they had before, they worked in tandem and trained better, harder, smarter.

               And while they didn't always train together, they were normally the two to start off the 5 am runs just as they were the last ones remaining in the gym, the night lights flickering on as they pressed.

               Chan was working towards finally showing Wonshik what he could do.

               Woojin was working towards… well, he wasn't quite sure anymore.

               He wanted to be like Wonshik, he knew that. But as he, Chan and Wonshik all leaned against the ropes, yelling for Boyoung to press forward, there was a different type of delight in his chest as the younger listened to his not-as-loud directive to stay low.

               Boyoung was able to dodge Sunho's high right jab. Wonshik cast Woojin a look before returning to the friendly spar.

               Chan gave him a beaming smile, but it was just for a second before his eyes were back on Sunho, telling him to end it.

               Woojin's grin was tamped down by his own excitement, even an hour later as he finally emerged from the locker room and started towards the doors. Chan was still there, which was not surprising at all since he was normally the very last person to leave. But despite how much he wanted to stay and just… be around the black haired man, Woojin kept walking.

               "You leaving?"

               The brunette stopped from putting his earphones in, eyes finding Chan as he stepped away from the bag. His hair was dripping sweat and clinging to his head, the perspiration following the line of his jaw to his neck then down into the worn collar of his shirt. It was supposed to be light gray, his shirt, but it was almost black with moisture and Woojin followed it back up to the younger man's tired smile.

               "Mmmhmm."

               Chan sauntered his way and Woojin found himself biting the inside of his cheek.

               "You got plans or something?" Chan hummed, mouth twisting mischievously.

               They had kissed one more time since the last time and it had been an accident—if a rushed meeting of lips could be considered an accident. But they had been at lunch with the rest of the team and when Woojin had been coming out of the bathroom, Chan had turned the hallway corner to go in. Colliding impressively, their arms had shot out to each other—partly out of shock, partly for the need to stabilize their bodies. And like a lock mechanism clicking into place, it just made sense to stay that way for a moment longer than necessary. And then it made even more sense when Chan smiled, Woojin wanting to taste it and this time their mouths met in the middle. He had never been so spontaneous but it had been amazing, their ears perked to any noise as their heads angled languidly.

               Chan cradled his cheeks when their tongues met.

               Woojin didn't realize he had been missing that touch.

               But after, when they had waded through the questions of what took them so long—and why they both returned together, Woojin realized why he liked to plan and know and prepare.

               His face had been red hot and Chan had simply laughed, digging that he couldn't take the heat. And as easy as it had been before, Woojin had become grumpy because that was easier than having to deal with his discomfort. Chan effortlessly stirred something in him and they were still trying to navigate that.

               Well Woojin was still trying to.

               Chan had it all figured it out, it seemed.

               "Fat chance," Woojin said, returning to the present as he saw the look Chan was giving him. It was always nice to recognize, though. Chan wanted to be close to him, too. Letting his lips spread, he added, "You still have to shower."  

               "I can make it quick," the black haired man said, reaching for the hem of his shirt. In the next instant, he had ripped it off and it hung from his still wrapped hands.

               Woojin rolled his eyes, having seen that chest too many times to count and reached for the hand that wasn't holding the shirt. With soft fingers, he deftly started to unwrap. Chan was smiling at him again as he watched, though this time it was tender and it was just a reminder that he wasn't very good at hiding himself.

               "So is that yes?" the younger man coaxed, lifting his other hand once Woojin finished with the one. The brunette started on it without looking up.

               "No. I have to pick up dinner—"

               As if he had summoned the moment, the large gym door screeched open. There in the threshold stood Woojin's cousin, Seungmin, greeting him with a wide wave. Woojin dropped Chan's hand.

               "Wait, you're not done."

               The brunette didn't answer as he stalked over to the entrance, face drawn as his mind worked out why his cousin would be at the gym.   

               "You weren't answering," Seungmin answered the unasked question.

               Patting his jacket pockets, Woojin realized he had thrown his phone in his duffel bag resting against his back. He must have not noticed the vibrating, he thought with a frown.

               "Is everything ok?"

               Seungmin nodded, then looked past him to Chan. Woojin asked to redirect his nosey kin, "So then, what's up? Why did you come all this way?"

               "It's not too far," the youngest laughed. Then focused on Woojin's face. "Don't worry, nothing is wrong."

               Chan was headed over to them, Woojin could just feel it and he felt the skin of his chest start to flush with heat. Looking over his shoulder, he thought of something to say to keep the other away. But when he watched the curiosity mixed with protectiveness paint the other's face, Woojin couldn't deny it gave him butterflies.

               "I'm Woojin's cousin, Seungmin."

               All eyes fell on him and he gave Woojin a "you weren't moving fast enough" look.

               "Ah," Chan sighed, eyes squinting as he gave a cordial bow. "I thought you two looked similar."

               "We do?" Seungmin asked, sizing up the brunette to his left. Chan laughed. Seungmin's eyes suddenly widened.

               Woojin swooped in. "Well, we were just leaving. I'll see you tomorrow?" he asked, trying to divert Chan's attention.

               "Actually, I was hoping for a tour of the place," the youngest said instead and Chan's head whipped towards him. Before he was going to answer, Woojin stepped in between them. He glared as best he could.

               "We don't have time. And actually, don't you need to be at the diner?" he ground out, Chan's heat at his back.

               Seungmin's smile returned from its shit eating, secret revealing tone to a normal, more sympathetic one. Woojin's brow furrowed as the man behind him was quickly forgotten. He knew that look.

               "Your parents are in town," Seungmin said quietly.

               Woojin looked up towards the ceiling. He hadn't needed his cousin to even say the words, the look alone telling enough.

               "They didn't say they were coming," he mused lowly.

               "Mom just told me, said to come grab you and meet at the restaurant."

               Woojin nodded shortly, knowing he couldn't get out of it. And while this had been unexpected, he was grateful his cousin had come to give him a heads up.

               Then realizing Chan was still behind him, he turned quickly, a pink blush creeping upon his cheeks.

               "Sorry," he apologized as Chan shook his head. "Well, we have to get to dinner."

               The black haired man gave him a brilliant look. "Of course, sorry for… just like standing here awkwardly," he laughed. Woojin found his own mouth curving.

               "You should join us. Have you eaten?"

               Both men looked over to Seungmin who wore his own face and Woojin was starting to get exhausted of his cousin.

               "I wouldn't want to intrude," Chan was saying.

               "It's not a bother. Our family owns the place so I am sure we can accommodate one more."

               Woojin gave an outwardly caustic look this time but Seungmin ignored it, looking into Chan's face for an answer.

               The young man was side stepping, looking between the two cousins. He wanted to come, that was so incredibly obvious but Woojin's energy was stopping him.

               Good.

               "I would hate to come if it made you uncomfortable—"

               "It would."

               Both Seungmin and Chan immediately looked at Woojin, jaws dropping slightly. The brunette groaned.

               "I mean, it… My family doesn't really get the fighting thing. I would hate to put you in the middle of that," Woojin said gently. But Chan's feelings were already hurt even though he was nodding, lips spreading in another smile. This one was not genuine and Woojin felt himself crumble. "What about tomorrow? We could pick something up on our way out and you can come to my place?"

 

-

 

               Chan felt like he had just been pushed off a cliff.

               But somehow had landed safely on his own two feet.

               And at the bottom, as he was dusting himself off, he was told he had just won the lottery.

               "We can do that," he answered calmly, biting his lips to contain his excitement.

Chapter Text

               Chan's friends were texting like mad, his phone making a continuous grinding sound on the bedside table. He had messaged their group near one AM, hoping everyone would read it the next morning when he would be busy training. He sometimes did that to get out of actually having to talk.

               Especially with his group who tended to freak out and that in turn freaked everyone else out which then freaked out Chan, who hadn't even been freaked out in the beginning.

               They had nearly caused the black haired man a conniption when they found out about he and Woojin's bathroom kiss.

               But that thought was accompanied with such endearment because he had never felt anything like the friendships he was developing. He had never had best friends back at home—he now had two in Jisung and Changbin, not to mention how close he had grown to Hyunjin, Jeongin and Felix.

               Chan's phone ringing brought him out of his thoughts and he thanked the universe for the break in texts, but then groaned when he saw it was Changbin calling.

               Answering, he was hit with three voices at once.

               "Would you answer FaceTime if we called you? Felix said not to."

               "What do you mean he asked you to dinner?"

               "His family owns a restaurant?"

               Chan didn't know which one to answer first and found himself staring up at the ceiling, silent.

               His friends continued without him.

               "He wouldn't answer so we might as well just ask now: when and where is this dinner happening?" Jisung said the loudest and Chan chuckled.

               "Not telling."

               "Dammit, you can't just unload something like that and not expect us to ask!"

               "Wouldn't mind telling you all if I didn't think you'd show up."

               Jeongin sounded thoughtful. "He does have a point."

               "Hush. We're not going to show up. And personally, I don't care where you're going," Changbin said easily. "I am more interested in his family owning a restaurant."

               "Not getting free food, either."

               There was a groan and then laughter. Chan place the phone on his chest and closed his eyes.

               "OK, so you're going to a restaurant to eat with the man of your dreams," Hyunjin mused. "What are you wearing?"

               "What am I wearing?" Chan repeated, having not thought about it. "I mean, we're going after work outs. It's not like I am coming home."

               "Chan, you are going on a date. How the fuck are you not going to dress appropriately?" Jisung implored.

               "Wait, it's not a date. We're just getting dinner and bringing it back to his place." Chan paused, then brought the phone to his ear. "That's not a date, right?"

               "Um, that is not a date. That is Chan finally getting some dick—"

               "Fuck, don't panic him," Changbin muttered. "Plus we have children on the line."

               "Um, I know my way around—"

               "HUSH!" resounded from every corner of the conversation, stopping Jeongin's proclamation, whatever it may have been.

               "He's lying anyways," Hyunjin laughed. "Ok, back to Chan's date."

               Chan grimaced. "It's not a date, right?"

               "Sure," Jisung said quickly. "So what are you going to wear for your date?"

               "Woojin needs to see you in a different light. We need him to fall in love with you the moment he sees you—"

               "I'm sorry what?" Chan asked, now sitting up.

               "You need to wear something that is easy to get out of," Hyunjin hummed.

               "I am sorry, what?"

               "Dammit, why are the youngest so bad? Why aren't you two asleep?" Changbin chastised and Chan put his head in the hand not holding his phone.

               "Chan, don't listen to anyone. Just do whatever you were planning on 10 minutes ago," Felix finally got a word in.

               "That's horrible advice, babe," Changbin laughed. Jisung agreed and Jeongin pretended to be throwing up.

               "I am hanging up," Chan groaned.

               "Wait! Wear something nice!"

               "Don't forget cologne!"

               "Shave!"

               Chan's thumb tapped the end button, dropping the phone to his lap. Scrubbing his fingers through his hair, he replayed bits of the conversation back. Then sighed as his shoulders slumped.

               Was this a date?

               It wouldn't be horrible if it was. But did Woojin think this was a date?

               And why would he wear something different if Woojin didn't think it was a date?

               But then again, what if Woojin did think this was a date and ended up disappointed because Chan was in sweatpants and a long sleeved shirt?

               "Ugh," he sighed, falling back to the bed. Now he was definitely not going to get any sleep.

 

-

 

               "You look like you had a rough night."

               Chan peered up at the voice that was such a mix of low and warm and shook his head. Woojin shouldered his bag higher on his back. Going back to tying his tennis shoes, his really nice and hardly ever worn pair, Chan simply answered, "My friends drove me crazy all night long."

               Woojin gave a faint chuckle. "Well if you want to reschedule—"

               "Nope."

               Standing, Chan let his designer sweatshirt fall over his skinny workout pants—those barely worn as well. He had opted for casual, but he'd be damned if he didn't do upscale work out well. First date or not, he'd have no regrets.

               The two walked out of the locker room together, telling the few others goodbye. Jae was talking on the phone so he simply waved them off, the fighters ignoring how everyone watched their backs as they left.

               "You look nice," Chan commented as they started on their way, hefting his backpack.

               Looking down, Woojin laughed. Chan grinned when he saw the glimpse of the brunette's teeth.

               "You're being funny," he accused, though his smile didn't disappear.

               "I'm not. You totally pull off the MMA look."

               "Shut up, Chan," Woojin chuckled, looking over.

               "So where are we picking up food?" the younger man asked, partially because it was a gusty evening and with the sun below the horizon, the street lights did little to protect them from the cold. Chan was starting to regret not having an actual jacket.

               "Um. Well, I figured you wanted to see the restaurant."

               Chan stopped walking. When Woojin noticed, he turned around and gave him a look.

               "Come on," he whined slightly.

               "That's cute," Chan commented then returned to the point: "You're taking me to your family's restaurant?"

               "Yes. Now come on before I change my mind."

               Chan hurried back to Woojin's side, puffs of warm air leaking from his mouth. Woojin just continued looking forward though he was shaking his head slightly.

               "You're making it something, I can see it on your face," he said into the night, Chan pursing his lips.

               "Am not. But it kind of is," he challenged, Woojin raising an eyebrow.

               "How?"

               "Well," Chan said slowly. "You didn't want me to come yesterday. And now you've had a change of heart. That's something, isn't it?"

               Woojin caught his eyes as they walked, separating only when they side stepped a fire hydrant. Chan noticed that the brunette didn't return to him as he had.

               And instead of talking, Woojin quieted. Their journey had turned slightly cold so Chan kept his thoughts to himself as they continued.

               Stopping at a door illuminated with a dim light, Chan looked around. Everything was silent, no one on the streets, no one in the office buildings. It's what he pictured when someone said ghost town.

               "Come on," Woojin said gently, gaining the younger man's focus once more. Then his hand outstretched.

               Chan grinned.

               "You like to do sweet things when you're trying to evade."

               Woojin returned the look. "I am not evading."

               "Mmhmm," Chan said, grabbing the hand regardless. Their fingers, both calloused from their training, gripped each other as they walked through the threshold and right into the sweet, savory smell of stew.

               On a cold night, there was nothing better and Chan tilted his head towards the scent. He noticed distantly there were no other patrons and if he wasn't distracted by Woojin's palm pressed against his, he'd think the kitchen had closed.

               Instead, a familiar face popped out from the back, two handfuls of take out food raised in offering. Woojin groaned at his cousin, Chan just found Seungmin that much more awesome.

 

-

 

               "So your aunt is actually the owner," Chan clarified.

               Woojin shrugged his shoulders. "She runs it, yes. But its hers and my mom's. It's a joint business."

               Turning the corner, he grabbed Chan's hoodie and pulled him along as the other continued walking straight.

               "Sorry," he said bashfully. "So your mom owns the restaurant too? Does she work there?"

               Another decidedly heavy silence was threatening to blanket them and it wasn't Chan's fault. It was Woojin's really. He wasn't being very forthcoming. But how did he explain the situation with his parents?

               "My aunt is like a second mom to me," the older man said, readjusting the food in his grasp. "That's why Seungmin and I are as close as we are."

               "That's nice."

               Woojin looked over. "Do you have any family here?"

               At the shake of the black haired man's head, he wrinkled his brow. "All in Australia?"

               "Yup. Everyone moved not long after we did, I guess. Don't have many aunts or uncles anyways. And it's not like I really had the time to spend either," Chan mused.

               "Yeah, with training, everything else just kind of goes to the back burner," Woojin added, looking down the block to the front of his apartment building. His back broke out in an uneasy sweat from the thought that in one night, Chan was experiencing so much of him. It was oddly satisfying in addition to absolutely terrifying.

               Did this mean something?

               "It's nice to have someone who understands."

               Woojin smiled to himself. "It is."

               "Wait."

               The brunette turned towards the other, seeing his serious face as he stood in the cold, shoulders bunching from the wind. He was holding the other bag and Woojin wanted to say if they kept this up, their food would be just as ice cold as they were. But the look on Chan's face stopped any more thoughts and instead he just listened.

               "I just want to tell you… I don't know if you thought of this as a date—"

               "You think this is a date?" Woojin gasped.

               "No! I—I don't, that's not—I meant that I didn't know if you did. Which you obviously don't," Chan grumbled.

               "Do you think this is a date?"

               Chan groaned outright. "No, I don't. And even if I did, I wouldn't say so now."

               Woojin snickered but hid it once the younger man gave him a hard glare. "Sorry."

               "All I was saying is that, despite everything that's happened," Chan caught his eyes in a meaningful gaze, "I am glad we are… where we are, if that makes sense."

               Strangely, it made all the sense in the world.

               They were two people aiming for the same goal who could talk and joke and fight and get angry. Woojin understood Chan when he said he didn't have time. Chan understood Woojin's excitement when watching Boyoung impress them all. They could tease each other and even though it had been so hard before, it had settled into something genuinely comfortable.

               "I like that we are becoming friends," Chan finally said.

               Woojin blinked back at him. He liked it too, though he didn't have the guts to say so like Chan. He was so good at bearing his emotions and dealing with everything after. The brunette bit the inside of his lip and nodded.

               "Me too," he whispered.

               Lips spreading in magic, Chan's whole face changed with his smile and it was not lost on Woojin how his body reacted. He remembered how scared he had been when he saw that smile for the first time, unable to decide what to do—run and hide, stay and bask.

               "We should go," Woojin said just as softly, then nodded towards the bags in their hands.

               "Oh, right." Chan laughed hesitantly then followed as Woojin started toward the entrance to his apartment complex's lobby.

               They didn't say anything more as they made their way to his apartment, Chan counting the numbers out loud as they walked down the hallway. Then as they stopped, Woojin opening the door with his key card, Chan slipped their hands together once more.

               Looking at it, the brunette didn't object and when he looked back at Chan, he was smiling himself.

               "Friends can hold hands."

               Pushing in, palms connected, they finally made it through the door.

               "You're back!"

               Both men looked at the man sitting cross legged on the couch. Then to the small kittens he held in his outstretched arms.

               "Look what I found!" Minho beamed, two meows ringing out. Then, his roommate's eyes dropped to Woojin and Chan's clasped hands before bouncing back up. "Holy shit, look what you found."