“You aren’t smooth at all,” Jaemin says, bumping their shoulders together. “How long do you think you can keep this up? I think everyone by now has realized you’re only here because of your new little crush.”
Renjun sniffs, insulted, and grabs the popcorn bucket from Jaemin's hands. "I have no idea what you're talking about. I'm only here to support my friends—in case you didn't know, they're part of this team," he says, filling up his mouth with popcorn.
"Yeah, just like they have been for the past three years," Jaemin replies. "And yet... every time Jeno or Mark called us to watch their practice, you just declined and said you didn't want to waste your time."
Renjun shrugs. "That was back then, dude. I'm a new person now. Suddenly, I like hockey."
Jaemin lifts one eyebrow. "You like hockey?" He snorts, rolling his eyes. "Yeah. Right." The words are laced with sarcasm and Jaemin chuckles in disbelief. "If Jung Sungchan suddenly had changed his name to hockey then I'd believe you. Dude, do you even know how the game works after all these years?"
Renjun huffs, refusing to acknowledge the Jung Sungchan part, and stares at Jaemin as he chews, taking his sweet time to draw his answer out as he tries to rake his brain for any piece of information. “It’s just like soccer but on ice—put some thingy on the other side of the rink and then bump and shove everyone until you get to do that.”
Taking a deep breath, Jaemin looks up and stares hard for five entire seconds. “You’re impossible.”
“Thanks,” Renjun replies, cheerfully.
He moves his attention back to the ice rink, filling his mouth with more popcorn, as he looks in search of him among all the guys who are already there.
27. Jung Sungchan.
It's impossible for Renjun not to find him when he's so damn tall — and handsome when he throws his head back, laughing out loud at something his teammate says; when he skates so gracefully on the ice, changing directions in the last minute, narrowly avoiding bumping into someone; when he's all concentrated and with his brows furrowed, sucking in his bottom lip as he listens to what their coach is explaining to all of them…
And… well. Maybe Renjun does have a crush. A tiny, little crush. But that's only for him to know and to suffer alone with it as he watches from the sidelines. Nobody needs to know that he’s pining for the new boy in the team for the last few weeks and that Sungchan really is the reason why he suddenly started to show up for their practices.
Renjun is sure he's doing a good job of hiding it, even though Jaemin insists on the opposite. Jaemin doesn't know shit, anyway.
"You're fucking staring," Jaemin mutters from the side, breaking Renjun out of his stupor.
Renjun colors a little. He doesn't fucking flush. He doesn't do that. Sometimes he just gets a little red and that's it. "I'm not. I'm looking at… Sicheng. Look at him go!" He says quickly, looking over the rink in search of something else that isn't Sungchan's pretty smile.
“Sicheng isn’t even here yet, you dumbass.”
Renjun falters. Frowns hard. Looks around in search of someone, brain working fast. "Hyuck, then...?"
But Donghyuck is still inside the locker room and they both know that when they can't hear Donghyuck's loud voice echoing throughout the arena. Renjun fills his mouth with more popcorn and chooses to stay quiet.
"Can't say anything else now?" Jaemin teases, drawling the words. Renjun stares hard at the front, looking at the boys that were already on the ice, talking with each other. Fuck. Sungchan is now talking with Jeno and looks very excited about whatever they’re discussing — all smiles and crinkled eyes. Shit. "I know I'm right, I don't even need you to say anything. Anyone can see that you're crushing hard... maybe even him knows that too and—"
"Shut the fuck up," Renjun hisses, shoving the popcorn bucket back into Jaemin's hands without looking away from the ice. "Go eat and keep your mouth full so you can't talk shit anymore."
The possibility of Sungchan (of anyone, really) knowing about his very tiny, very little, almost insignificant crush makes Renjun want to dig a hole into the ground and hide forever.
Jaemin cackles, though he accepts the popcorn bucket. "You're so whipped, dude," Jaemin says with his mouth full. "It's just you that can't see this."
"I'm not whipped," Renjun says, emphasizing the last word with a heavy tone. But, oh god, he’s so fucking whipped. Sungchan is talking with Jeno and he laughs loudly, throwing his head back. His helmet is on his hand and Renjun watches him smile wide, watches the curve of his neck. "I'm not."
"Okay, keep trying to convince yourself of this."
Renjun huffs, crossing his arms against his chest. He turns a bit to the side, choosing to fully ignore Jaemin until practice ends. Or when he gets too bored and has nothing else to distract himself. Whatever comes first.
On the rink, there are more people getting in now. Renjun can see Mark laughing together with Yangyang in one of the corners, their backs to the rest of the group as they talk about something.
Donghyuck finally comes out of the locker room with his hair ruffled and cheeks flushed. He immediately looks up to the stands and waves to them, receiving back a quick wave by Jaemin while he smiles wide.
Renjun is immediately on alert. "What are you guys doing?" He asks, turning to face Jaemin. Fuck his plans of ignoring Jaemin — this is something serious. "What are you guys planning?"
Donghyuck is a menace. Jaemin is a menace too. They both together are a dangerous duo.
And Renjun feels out of the loop of something very important by the way Jaemin is wiggling in his seat, not looking away from Donghyuck’s form.
From inside the rink, Donghyuck sends a big, big smile. Renjun feels fear running through his veins, and he can only watch as Donghyuck skates close to Jeno and Sungchan.
He should’ve fucking know.
Donghyuck pats Jeno and Sungchan on the back when he gets close, his voice sounding very loud as he yells, "Hey, guys!". He wastes no time in turning a little to the side, a smirk on his face, and eyes glinting with the promise of hell. "Hey, Renjun! You came here today!"
It grabs the attention of all of them there. The dread Renjun feels running through his veins quickly turns into something too hot that makes his entire body flush, and he can only stay frozen in place as he watches Jeno and Sungchan turn in the direction Donghyuck is looking at. They don’t hesitate in shouting some variation of "Hey!" and wave their arms.
Jaemin yells something back, moving so fast that he spills some popcorn onto the floor. Renjun weakly waves back, mouth too dry to pronounce any words.
Jeno is beaming in their direction — a bit too much, Renjun thinks. Too big. Too innocent looking. Renjun immediately knows he's part of whatever Jaemin and Donghyuck are plotting together. He mentally sighs; he should’ve known better.
But Renjun can't pay too much attention to him — not when Sungchan is smiling wide and waving his arm above his head, wiggling his fingers. Renjun doesn't swoon, but maybe he gets close to that. It’s just that… Sungchan is attractive. Very, very attractive. Even more when he's smiling in his direction and for him.
Renjun grabs the popcorn bucket back from Jaemin’s hands and looks away from the rink.
When practice ends, Renjun almost feels sad. He doesn’t remember finding hockey so interesting before; whenever he had been invited and actually accepted, he'd just keep doing some homework or spend time browsing a random social media on his phone, waiting for the moment his friends would be free and they'd be able to grab some food together.
But now... now he finds himself watching it. He still doesn’t get shit. There’s a little black disk thingy and they keep making it slide over the ice with their sticks, but Renjun doesn’t really pay attention to that thing or whatever the other people are doing. He’s too focused on Sungchan.
The thing is — Renjun tried to pay attention to the game. But Sungchan was just so tall and he just... grabbed his attention. That was it. Sungchan was tall and he looked even bigger with the uniform and all the equipment on, and Renjun couldn't help but look.
He isn't blind. Renjun knows that Sungchan is handsome. He has eyes and he can see that clearly. Very, very clearly.
...and Sungchan really is handsome. Maybe a little too much. It definitely shouldn't be allowed for someone to have eyes that pretty. Renjun is pretty sure about that. Definitely not allowed at all.
So when practice ends, he feels a little sad that he won't be able to see Sungchan skating anymore because he's really good at it. Renjun might not know much about the game, but he just knows that Sungchan must be way above the professional level. At least. He's just too good to be real.
And Sungchan also looks too good when he's bumping into people, pushing them away, all loud voice and harsh movements, deep into the game and focused only on that.
Usually, Renjun feels like he doesn't have that many chances to look at him (his friends are big annoyances and won't let him live if they ever caught him looking in Sungchan’s direction), so the game is a great opportunity to do exactly that.
But now it has finished. And Renjun can't let Jaemin know that he was actually watching Sungchan and not really the game, so he pulls his phone off of his pocket and tries to play it cool as he opens his Instagram, mindlessly clicking and swiping through stories.
He's okay. He's so okay. His mind definitely isn’t filled with images of Sungchan being all badass and bodyslamming someone into the ground. Definitely.
As he tries to rake through his brain for a new excuse to use so he can convince Jaemin to come with him for the next practice too, suddenly there are shadows being cast over him, and when Renjun looks up, he drops his phone onto the floor.
"Oh, fuck—" he screams, trying to catch it in middle air but failing miserably, just watching his phone bounce against the concrete. He relates a lot to his poor phone. He also feels like that sometimes.
Standing in front of him is Sungchan. And Jeno and Donghyuck too, but Renjun only looks at Sungchan who sports a worried expression on his face as he gathers the phone from the floor.
"It's not broken," he says, voice sounding relieved, and he opens a big smile. Sungchan looks at Renjun, but then looks at the floor for a second, and to Jaemin, his face red. Must be from practice, Renjun thinks. They had just finished it and were still with their uniforms on.
Sungchan gives him the phone and Renjun picks it from his hand, their fingers brushing for a second. Renjun tries really hard not to stare at Sungchan’s face. He probably already is staring—fuck. Why the fuck is Sungchan so damn attractive?
Sungchan looks back at him when their fingers brush and Renjun blinks once.
Sungchan blinks back.
Really pretty eyes.
"...to the same place?" Donghyuck's voice sounds grating on his ears and Renjun breaks their eye-contact to look at his friend to try to understand what’s happening. He feels like he has just been ripped from a moment in an alternative universe.
He had looked at Sungchan’s eyes (and not imploded) and Sungchan had looked back.
"Let's eat, you loser," Donghyuck lovingly explains.
Renjun nods his head, feeling a little dizzy. Was Sungchan some kind of magical person who had cast a spell on him? Why was he suddenly feeling like that?
"Are… are you coming too?" Renjun asks, looking back at Sungchan, clearing his throat right after. His voice gets a little higher and Renjun prays to all the gods that he isn’t flushing too much.
(He probably is and he hates it. Maybe Sungchan would think that he’s only overheating because of his sweater and not because he has a fucking crush on him.)
Standing in front of him, Sungchan looks so fucking tall and Renjun feels his neck hurting just from trying to keep looking at him.
But Sungchan shakes his head, his smile turning into a sorry one. "I need to go home… My mom is waiting for me..."
Renjun continues looking at him and he swallows dryly, trying to discretely wipe his sweaty palms on his jeans. Sungchan sucks in a bit of his lower lip (in the same way he does when he’s very concentrated, some part of Renjun’s mind muses), his cheeks still tinged red and hair sweaty and curling slightly over his eyebrows.
Donghyuck clears his throat. Very loudly.
“I—I’ll be going now,” Sungchan stutters a bit, looking down at the floor, and hurriedly says a goodbye before almost tripping down the steps as he runs to the inside of the locker room. Literally runs.
Renjun sighs, watching his figure disappear inside the room.
From the side, Jaemin grumbles loudly. "God. Why the fuck do y'all stare so much at each other? Useless gays. Can’t you guys just fucking talk?"
Feeling his body heating up, Renjun only shoves Jaemin away from him.
Sungchan would only show up accompanied by some other boy and they’d talk very little. Mostly stare at each other, to be honest. Renjun couldn’t complain much — Sungchan was pretty and he didn’t mind looking at him; though talking with him once without breaking into a flustering mess would probably be a good idea.
So when Sungchan shows up all alone, Renjun can’t help but grip his phone tight in his hands. Oh fucking god.
Jaemin had just left to buy something for them and Renjun is sure — so fucking sure — that Sungchan had waited exactly for the moment Jaemin was gone.
"Hey," Sungchan tries to say cooly, but his voice breaks a little and he’s looking at somewhere over Renjun’s shoulders.
"Hey," Renjun replies, gulping.
Sungchan is already in his uniform, all bulky and big. And he looks so fucking good. It isn’t fair at all. Renjun is only a human and he’ll probably turn into a puddle soon if nothing else happens.
"Do you wanna…. uh… sit?" Renjun asks, feeling his neck aching a little. “You’re too tall and my neck hurts.”
Sungchan goes red in the face, but he tries to play it cool and shrugs, “Sure." He sits next to Renjun and tries to, nonchalantly, move and rest his elbow on the edge of the seat, resting his chin on the palm of his hand as he looks at Renjun, but Sungchan’s elbow ends up missing the edge of the seat and he almost falls from his place.
He goes even more red in the face and Renjun laughs loudly, feeling his heart squeezing inside his heart. He’s too endeared by everything that Sungchan does.
Sungchan gives up and sits in a relaxed manner, laughing together with Renjun, and the tension that had been brimming between them just breaks.
"Why are you acting like this?” Renjun says after they regain their breaths, his cheeks aching a bit from all the smiling. “Pretending to be all cool like that?"
"I'm trying to impress you. Is it working?" Sungchan replies quickly, lifting his eyebrows, a smiling tugging at the corner of this lips.
Renjun sees that he’s trying to be confident and forward, but Sungchan doesn’t even look at him in the eye when he says that. Still, he feels his heart stutter inside his chest and the words are spilling out of his lips before he can even realize it, "Do you want it to work that bad, is that it?"
Sungchan gets rendered into silence, his cheeks going red, and he grips his own knee. Realization hits Renjun hard in the face and he gapes a little about the fact that yes, Sungchan wanted to impress him. Oh, god.
He licks over his lips, his heartbeat probably something too quick to be healthy. He opens his mouth to say something, his mind screaming at him to be bold, to do something, but then Jaemin’s voice sounds out behind him and Renjun sees Sungchan immediately getting up.
“Hey, Injunnie, got us some of that new sandwich they have now but I didn’t know if—”
Sungchan leaves quickly with rosy cheeks and a stuttering bye. Renjun stares hard at Jaemin.
“Why the fuck are you looking at me like that?” Jaemin asks, snorting. “I just bought you food. Were you guys even talking or just staring all creepily at each other like you guys do?”
Renjun huffs, frustrated, and grabs the sandwich from Jaemin’s hand, biting down hard.
“Dude, at least unwrap it first, what the fuck.”
Renjun continues going to the practices. He doesn’t have any more excuses. Sometimes not even Jaemin joins him and he’s alone at the stands, listening to a podcast while he waits for practice to end.
Jeno looks at him with curious eyes while Donghyuck is still a fucking menace and keeps trying to push Sungchan over him at any given opportunity. Renjun realizes that his friends are fucking dumb because it seems like they just don’t see how he does talk alone with Sungchan, thank you very much. He doesn’t need anyone’s help.
Sometimes, before practice, Sungchan gets ready first and he climbs the stairs to the stands to sit next to Renjun and they talk briefly before he needs to start his practice. Sometimes Sungchan is the first to finish his shower so he can catch Renjun at the end and they talk before others start to finish getting ready, hairs still wet and dripping with water.
They even add each other on Instagram and Renjun spends a few too many minutes scrolling through Sungchan’s feed, trying not to end up liking an old picture of him.
When he sees the green circle around Sungchan’s story, Renjun needs to let out a little wheeze before he immediately goes to add Sungchan to his Close Friends list too. And then reply to his story.
It’s a story that turns into another and another. And then DMs start to become something more frequent until Renjun can’t remember how he never talked with Sungchan before when it all just feels so natural and so right.
Online, Sungchan is a lot bolder. He sends him kissy emojis, cute boyfriends posts while going “look, it could be us 👉👈” or “what if 😳😳” and Renjun replies with the heart reactions in every message and goes “well, u aren’t asking me out so it can’t be us” and Sungchan only sends a laughing emoji back.
And it’s all good until, the night before their first official game, Sungchan sends him a cute picture of two cats hugging and goes “they’re on a date!!!”.
Renjun could play it cool and joke like he always does, but he just sends: “win the game tomorrow and take me on a date and it could be us”.
Sungchan only sends some laughing emojis back before he replies, a few minutes later: “wait. are u serious??? like, really serious???”.
“sure, why not” Renjun sends back, biting his lower lip. “only if u want tho”
The answer comes immediately: “yeah” followed by an “omg”.
It’s weird to sit on the familiar seats and have so many people around him. Renjun is used to being the only one there (or just Jaemin next to him, bugging him incessantly).
But, even weirder than that, is the idea of what will happen after the game.
He and Sungchan have been dancing around each other for a long time now, so to have the weight of this different thing hanging around them is weird and strange, but also heart-fluttering and Renjun just can’t fucking wait for it.
For the first time in a while, Sungchan doesn’t join him in the stands before the game starts. And it’s kind of weird to only see him already on the rink, but Renjun knows it’s their first game and Sungchan couldn’t just abandon everything just to flirt with him for a second or two.
Renjun has been learning a little more about the game, but he still gets lost in looking only at Sungchan and misses a lot of what happens. It’s not really his fault. Sungchan is just too good and he does look amazing with the uniform on.
Renjun is a weak, flawed human. He could admit to that. Especially when Sungchan looks at where he’s seated and waves.
When the game ends, Jaemin is grinning wide, his body still thrumming with the victory of their friends. He pulls him down the stands and they keep waiting for the arena to clear and for their friends to finish getting ready to leave. And while Jaemin is waiting so they can eat together, Renjun is waiting for a different reason.
And god. Just the thought of that makes his heart race and hands start to sweat.
Oh fuck, it’s really happening.
Jaemin checks the hour on his phone for the hundredth time and puts his head inside the locker room, screaming a “Come on! We don’t have all the time! Hurry up, Lee Donghyuck!”
But he only receives yells and a “Go away! You aren't a member of the team to be here!" that makes Jaemin roll his eyes.
When they come out, Jeno is holding Donghyuck’s bag and they’re still with their hairs wet, laughing loudly. Jaemin quickly joins them, naturally falling into their rhythm, and Renjun would do the same thing, but this time he stays in place.
Jeno is the one who notices his absence first, looking over his shoulder and spotting him next to the locker room still. “Renjun?” He asks, confused. “Aren’t you coming?”
Donghyuck rolls his eyes and moves his hand. “Come on, come on. I’m starving and I need to eat something now.”
But Sungchan finally comes out of the locker room and his hair is fucking dry and styled. Renjun stares hard.
"So... a date?” Sungchan says, lips curling at the corners. “We did win.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Renjun shrugs and sticks out his hand. Sungchan immediately holds his hand and Renjun feels himself going red. His hand is huge. Renjun doesn’t even try to look at Sungchan’s face — he’d probably just fucking break his neck while trying.
Jeno makes a choked noise while Jaemin wheezes out a “What the fuck, Renjun.”
And Sungchan squeezes his hand, saying, “Okay, let’s go, then.”
They walk past their friends and Renjun sticks out his tongue. He just catches Donghyuck’s voice asking “When the fuck did they even talk with each other alone?” before they’re too far away to listen to anything else.
Sungchan clears his throat, voice breaking a little, “You’re… uh… you’re looking very pretty tonight.”
Renjun stays staring straight ahead. Their hands are a little sweaty and Renjun has no fucking idea from who it is. Probably them both. “Thanks,” he says. “You too. You… You played well tonight.”
“Well, I had to,” Sungchan answers quickly. “Or else I wouldn’t have a date.”
On the outside, they’re greeted by the cold winter and shiny stars. Renjun smiles, turning to face Sungchan. Jesus fucking Christ, he thinks, my neck is going to hurt so fucking bad.
“You would've still gotten a date even if you had lost.”
Sungchan lets out a little high-pitched noise that he tries to drown out with a cough. Renjun smiles and squeezes his hand tight. Fucking same, he thinks, trying not to make any noise of distress or die on the spot. Fucking same.