Their victory is pretty much secured already, but the audience still roars when Luhan sinks yet another ball from behind the three-point line. He’s on a roll today; his body is buzzing with energy and excitement, and small part of him wishes the game would last a little bit longer.
Out of habit, Luhan scans the audience behind the home team’s bench, and he meets a very familiar pair of brown eyes. He can’t fight the confident smirk spreading on his face, and Luhan swears he spots a slight tint of pink coloring the boy’s cheeks as he turns his gaze away.
“Thirty seconds left! Defense, defense!” their coach screams from the sidelines, pulling Luhan back to the game.
As other members of his team fall back to defend their side of the court, Luhan waits for Sejong University’s point guard to receive the ball. Even with the exhaustion of the last thirty-nine minutes weighing his legs down, Lee Taemin’s moves are fast and sharp. Luhan is by no means awkward or clumsy with the ball – he’s the starter point guard after all – but he feels a sting of envy as he watches his opponent’s effortless ball-handling. Taemin’s form and accuracy needs some work, but his movements are so flawless it’s almost as if he’s dancing.
But as good as he might be, it’s Luhan’s job to make sure he’s not getting off too easy.
With some determination and a lot of footwork, Luhan manages to keep up with Sejong’s point guard. Their offence starts off fast, but as Taemin reaches his position in front of the three-point line, the game slows down.
Sejong’s giving their all, but they don’t get a proper opening before the twenty-four seconds are up and the offense ends with a bad shot from the left wing. Luhan’s already running towards the other end of the court as soon as the ball left the boy’s hands, and he sees a couple of his teammates following. Chanyeol gets the rebound without much of a struggle, and throws the ball far, aiming for a couple of meters in front of Luhan. When Luhan catches the ball, it’s two-on-one between him and Minseok and Taemin who’s fast on Luhan’s heels. He can hear their coach, his team on the bench and court and the audience chant his name and he makes his way to the basket with confidence, taking two long strides into the layup and jumping.
Luhan may not be the tallest player in his team, but when he jumps for the hoop, he jumps high. Except this time, he doesn’t throw the ball but passes it from under Taemin’s arms as the boy tries to block the shot. It’s a move he’s been practicing since he was nine, and Taemin falls for it. Minseok’s already waiting for the ball on the edge of the key, and he makes an easy shot with no distractions a second after the ball leaves Luhan’s hands. The game ends with the sound of the buzzer, and Hongik University wins with 79 to 64.
It’s a great feeling, and there’s a wide smile on Luhan’s face as he takes a quick breather to recover from the last second spurt. He lifts his shirt to dry the sweat from his face and scans the audience, trying to catch his breath. A strange pride swells through him and he feels almost smug when he sees the boy with the brownest eyes and wildest platinum blond hair watching him again.
The boy sits with two of his friends, as always, ignoring their animated conversation in favor of focusing on the game. Luhan doesn’t know the boy’s name, but he knows that the boy comes to every home game Hongik’s team has. He’s not sure why, but ever since the very first game of the season, the boy has caught Luhan’s attention. There’s something about those sparkling, curious eyes and pink lips that draws him in, and he wants to see that brilliant smile up close and personal.
And today he will, Luhan decides as he takes a final glimpse of the audience before getting his focus back to the court. Today he will see it.
The teams gather up for the final bow and they leave the court with a last final chant of their team name.
It was a good game, even their always so serious and hard to please captain, Yifan, has to agree, and he keeps his after game talk short. Everyone’s in high spirits and the conversation in the locker room is light-hearted and filled with promises of traditional free shots of soju at Jongin’s family’s restaurant.
Luhan is quick to start getting ready to head home. He jumps out of his shoes and throws his damp shirt back to his locker – he’ll wash it some other day – as the others are still talking about the game. He has to be fast if he wants to go through with his plan.
“Who would have thought you could jump that high with those short legs of yours?” Chanyeol, one of their center players, teases and pulls him into a sweaty half-hug. “Are you coming for the traditional victory shots? The night is still young.”
Luhan ignores the jab on his height and escapes from his friend’s grip with a disgusted shudder. “You’ll have to survive without me. I have an essay to write.” He picks up his towel and a bottle of shampoo (the cheap two-in-one with conditioner included kind) and strips down, hoping that the body wash someone left at the showers a week ago hasn’t ran out yet.
“Why are you in such a hurry? That essay isn’t going anywhere,” Chanyeol says, amused, as Luhan dashes to the showers, almost stumbling on a pile of clothes in his way.
Exactly seven minutes later, Luhan rushes out of the locker rooms, his shoelaces undone and hair still a damp mess. He searches the lobby almost frantically, watching countless people stroll past until he sees a flash of familiar platinum hair just outside the big glass doors.
The boy is standing outside the sports facility, a big gym bag on his shoulder and typing a message on his phone. His friends are nowhere to be seen and he doesn’t seem too busy. It’s the perfect opportunity for Luhan to approach and make his move. So he takes one deep breath to build up his courage and steps forward.
“What did you think of the game? Sejong put up a fight until the last second, huh?”
Startled, the boy looks up from his phone. There’s a pause before he answers, looking around hesitantly, as if he’s not completely sure Luhan was talking to him. “It was a good game.”
An awkward silence follows the short, flat answer, and Luhan rubs his neck nervously. This really wasn’t what he had in mind when he planned the conversation in the shower earlier.
“So…” he starts, trying to come up with something to say, “do you play?” Luhan gestures at the bag still hanging on the boy’s shoulder.
“Yeah, I’m in our school’s team,” the boy answers, still avoiding Luhan’s eyes. Luhan can’t decide if he’s shy or just wants to escape the situation. In any case, Luhan’s determined to keep the conversation going. “I go to Kyungbock High School.”
“You’re in high school?” he asks, somewhat shocked – Luhan could have sworn the boy was at least a college freshman. The boy has a tall and slim build, broad shoulders and a stoic aura; nothing in him screams teenager.
“I’m a senior, though,” the boy answers quickly, finally meeting Luhan’s eyes. “I’m graduating in a couple of months.”
This puts Luhan at ease. At least the boy isn’t a minor.
“You must have applied to some universities then. Is that why you are here? To check out Hongik’s basketball team? I’ve seen you at quite a few games.”
The boy nods, looking more relaxed. “Yeah, Hongik was my first choice but I figured it would be good to see the team before applying,” he answers with a small, almost sad smile. “You’re all really good. I’m not sure I’d make the team even if I got accepted into the school.”
“I’m sure you’ll make it if you practice hard,” Luhan says, trying to cheer up the younger. “What position do you play?”
“Well then you are in luck! Two of our centers are graduating this year and there’s an opening in the team,” he says with a smile.
The boy opens his mouth to answer just as his phone buzzes in his hand. “Oh, I need to go. Mom’s here to pick me up.” He fidgets a bit, before turning to Luhan. “It was nice meeting you… Lu Han, was it? I mean that’s what it says on your jersey, I think.” There’s the most adorable blush spreading on the boy’s cheeks, reaching all the way to his ears. He rubs his neck nervously and continues with a small bow, “I’m Sehun, by the way.”
Luhan just stares in awe as the boy, Sehun, talks and stumbles with his words, and now he sees it; the young, shy and cute high school senior, peeking under the boy’s handsome and expressionless face. He only manages a short yeah, you too as a response before Sehun’s already walking towards the parking lot.
Seeing Sehun’s retreating back, Luhan realizes he missed his chance and panics. “We’re having a practice here tomorrow!” he shouts after the boy. Sehun turns around, looking at him curiously. “We stop at six and I usually stay a while afterwards, practicing my shots and just hanging out. You could stop by. Only if you have time, of course! I could give you some tips for the trials and… stuff?”
Luhan wants the ground to swallow him because what the fuck is he even saying, but he doesn’t have a chance before Sehun takes a few steps closer again. “Really? You’d do that for me?” He looks excited, his eyes almost sparkling, and suddenly, out of nowhere, Luhan feels heat rising to his cheeks and a swarm of butterflies messing up his stomach. Damn, that boy is attractive.
“Yeah, sure,” he manages to say, kicking the few pebbles near his toes, almost uncharacteristically shy.
A loud sound of the car horn startles them, and Sehun glances behind his shoulder. “Mom’s waiting,” he says and takes a couple of steps backwards, towards the parked cars, “but I guess I’ll see you tomorrow? If you’re absolutely sure about this?”
“I am, don’t worry,” Luhan answers with a smile. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
And for the first time, Sehun smiles back at him, his eyes forming crescents and mouth stretching so wide Luhan sees his cute, little canines. And it’s the most beautiful and genuine smile Luhan has ever seen.
“Lu, do you want to stay for a while and practice shooting with me?” Chanyeol asks after their coach finally ends the two-hour-long practice, thanking them for their hard work and reminding everyone to do some stretching at home. Like everyone else, Chanyeol’s dripping with sweat and he must feel dead tired, but there’s still a challenging glint in his eyes as he spins his ball on his index finger. “You could test your aim against the Iron Wall of Seoul.”
“You can’t call yourself an iron wall if you can’t even block the shots of someone half your size just because he had – and I quote – a cute smile,” Luhan says, thinking about their last game and not-so-subtly rolling his eyes. “And yes, I am staying but you, on the other hand, aren’t. We can practice shooting some other day.”
His other teammates are already heading to the lockers but Chanyeol stays rooted to his feet, looking like a kicked puppy. “But I have time tonight! Come on, just for a little while.”
“Look, Chanyeol, I just can’t right now.”
“But––” Chanyeol tries to argue but stops when he sees something behind Luhan. “Oh, I see. You finally had the balls to talk to the boy.”
Luhan spins around and sees Sehun standing at the doorway to the gymnasium, eyeing the two of them curiously. Luhan looks back at his friend and the wide, shit-eating grin on his face worries Luhan and Chanyeol needs to leave before he gets any stupid ideas.
“You need to go. Right now!” Luhan hisses, trying to push Chanyeol towards the locker rooms – and away from Sehun – but, unfortunately, Chanyeol’s a good fifteen centimeters taller than he is, and Luhan can barely nudge the giant.
“Is this a date? Are you going to first show your skills in basketball, and then have hot shower sex afterwards? I can give you a few tips how to make things run smoothly – if you know what I mean. The trick is not to use water based––“
“You are the worst friend ever!” Luhan all but screams, punching Chanyeol’s arm with every word. “You’re the reason I’m going to die alone.”
“Fine fine fine, I’m going,” Chanyeol laughs and lifts his arms in surrender. There’s still that wide grin on his face, and, for a self-proclaimed best friend, Luhan thinks Chanyeol’s enjoying bullying him a little too much.
After forcefully escorting his friend out of the room, Luhan finally turns his attention back to Sehun. The boy is still standing awkwardly in the doorway with his large gym bag, shifting his weight from one foot to another. Luhan takes a deep breath and swipes his damp bangs off his face before jogging to the boy.
“Sorry about that, my friend had something he needed to talk with me,” he explains with a sheepish smile.
Sehun just nods, tight lipped, and doesn’t comment. He’s wearing a pair of sweatpants and a classic Adidas hoodie, and Suddenly Luhan realizes that he must look like shit in his old, size-too-big Los Angeles Lakers t-shirt and hair dripping with sweat. He really wishes he had had time to take a shower and maybe change into something sleeveless (despite Chanyeol calling his arms chicken biceps).
“Anyway, there’s a bathroom just around the corner if you want to change. I’d show you the locker rooms but they might be a bit crowded right now.” And Luhan would rather die than leave Sehun unsupervised in the same room with Chanyeol and his other teammates.
“That’s fine,” Sehun assures and turns to the corridor behind him. “To the left after the corner, right?”
While Sehun’s in the bathroom, Luhan plans their practice session. He decides to keep it simple and make Sehun do some basic stuff and showcase his skills. That should give Luhan an idea about his level and what he should improve on before coming to try out for the team.
Sehun enters the gymnasium a couple of minutes later, wearing a pair of shorts and a simple white t-shirt. He leaves his stuff by the door and takes his ball from the bag, bouncing it a couple of times to test the feel, and walks to Luhan.
Hoping that Sehun doesn’t have too big expectations for the night, Luhan goes over the plan. “So I was thinking we could warm up with some ball-handling and shooting and later play some one-on-one as, along with basic gameplay, those are the things the coach is going to focus on at the trials.”
“Let’s get started then,” Luhan says and picks up his ball from the floor, dribbling it to a bit further so he can look Sehun eye to eye. It’s slightly nerve-racking, having Sehun staring at him like a hawk, and Luhan prays that his hands don’t get too clammy. “You are a center so ball handling and doing tricks isn’t the most essential part for you, but it’s important that you can do all the basic things, like dribbling behind your back and between your legs, with confidence,” he continues and demonstrates some of the moves. “I’ve seen center and post players that are really good at shooting and making openings for scoring, but horrible when it comes to actual ball-handling.”
Sehun nods and takes a better stance before copying the moves. It’s a bit stiff and the boy’s probably a somewhat nervous, but he goes through with the moves without much trouble.
They continue like that, Luhan showing what the players are asked to do at the trials, and Sehun doing his best to follow. Luhan finds out that, despite what the boy had said the day before, Sehun is actually a really good player. His ball-handling is a bit rough at the edges and he’s not as confident with his actions during their one-on-one games as he should, but his shooting is accurate and fast – definitely above the average. He has a good chance to get into the team next year if he keeps practicing hard.
Throughout the practice they grow a bit more comfortable with each other and the conversation becomes less awkward and forced. Luhan quickly learns that Sehun is actually quite expressive and talkative when he breaks out of his shell. It’s almost endearing.
After a while, the shirt Sehun changed into starts clinging to his damp skin, and Luhan can’t help ogling – sweaty and out of breath is a great look on Sehun. (And Luhan might be a bit smitten.)
When they finally sprawl on the gym floor over an hour and a half later, they are both exhausted. Luhan had been so caught up playing against Sehun that he had lost the track of time, and they ended up staying far longer than planned. But Luhan doesn’t really mind – even if he has to stay up late to do the studying he has been neglecting, as he had enjoyed himself after all. Sehun’s great company, and the content smile on the boy’s face is a reward in itself.
“I’m going to be so sore at the practice tomorrow,” Sehun groans and puts on the Adidas hoodie again. “It’s a miracle if I can get out of bed in the morning.”
Luhan chuckles and watches as Sehun stretches his arms, trying to work out the kinks in his tired muscles. “Yeah, the last twenty minutes were a bit of an overkill,” Luhan admits and gets up, flicking dust off his shorts. He, too, can feel the dull ache weighing down his moves.
“Thanks for tonight,” Sehun says and picks up his bag from the floor. “I really appreciate it, and I feel like I learned a lot. I had good time, too.” He’s smiling again, a cute, almost shy smile, and Luhan feels like melting into a puddle of sweat and happiness right then and there.
“I guess I’ll see you around.” Sehun does a small wave with his free hand and starts walking towards the front doors.
Luhan just stands there and shouts a quick bye after him, still a bit dazed.
It takes approximately twelve seconds for Luhan to realize what an idiot he is, and run after the boy.
“Sehun! What are you doing this weekend?”
2 months later
Luhan doesn’t really feel his legs anymore and his lungs are practically screaming for oxygen, but he’s not slowing down as he makes his way to the basket after a steal. For the first time during his time in college, they are so close to the victory and there’s no room for mistakes. With the last two long strides he closes up to the basket and jumps, scoring two points for the home team. The whole room erupts in cheers as Hongik’s team takes the lead for the first time since the game began, just as the last two game minutes start rolling down.
The opposite team’s coach calls for a time out, and Luhan’s grateful. The fatigue and nerves are really starting to get to him, and he needs some water and time to breathe to keep his head cool.
Walking towards the bench, Luhan spots a familiar face in the audience. Sehun looks very nervous, and he fidgets on his seat in the first row. It’s cute. Noticing that he got Sehun’s attention, Luhan brings his middle and index finger to his lips for a brief kiss, and proceeds to extend his arm with a high arch, pretending to throw the kiss at the boy – just like he would do with a basketball. It’s incredibly cheesy, but it works, and Sehun stops jumping on his seat and hides his flushed face in his hands instead.
“That was the most cliché thing I’ve ever seen,” Chanyeol says and makes a face, dragging Luhan away and stopping him from embarrassing his new boyfriend any more. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
“You’re just jealous because you have no one to be cheesy with,” Luhan retorts and jogs the last few steps to the benches, leaving his grumbling friend behind.
It has been a long and intense game, and everyone’s at their limits. Even Yifan who’s famous for his ice cold nerves looks tense. But Luhan’s not worried. They had a rocky start, but they have been catching up steadily during the second half of the game, and now they are finally in the lead. If they continue like this, victory is within their reach.
“We’re leading so let’s keep our offences long. Do not shoot if you’re not sure you can make the shot, there’s no hurry. Keep your heads cool. We got this,” Yifan instructs, looking at each of the other four players on the court in the eye.
After the last shouts of fighting, the team is sent back to the court.
The last minutes of the game are by no means easy. Their opponents manage to keep the score difference by one point, always scoring right after the home team. But time’s on their side, and as the referee blows the whistle to end the game, Hongik has won 67 to 66.
It doesn’t hit Luhan straight away. The audience is shouting and screaming, his teammates are running from the bench to the court, and Chanyeol tackles Yifan to the ground, screaming we did it over and over again. It’s not until Minseok pulls him into a huge group hug that Luhan realizes they have won. They won the last game of the season – of the whole school year.
They have won the entire tournament.
As soon as he can wiggle himself out of the hug, Luhan runs through the court to the bleachers, only one goal in his mind. Sehun’s already got up from his seat, waiting to congratulate him, but Luhan has other plans. The moment he’s in the close proximity, he catches Sehun’s face between his hands – probably smudging the carefully painted blue sevens on Sehun’s cheeks – and pulls the boy into a kiss.
Usually, Sehun’s a bit shy with PDA, but Luhan’s enthusiasm must be contagious because he feels the boy leaning into the kiss after the initial shock wears off. Sehun’s skin feels cool under his fingertips, and Luhan almost forgets where they are when he runs his fingers through Sehun’s hair and sucks his lower lip gently. Luhan’s in his own personal heaven, but his teammates are calling him back for the final bows and pictures, and Luhan reluctantly pulls back.
“Wait for me by the locker rooms, okay?”
Both Sehun’s lips and cheeks are a shade of irresistible pink as he nods, and Luhan gives his lips a one final peck before running back to the court.
Before they leave the venue, Luhan insist taking a picture together with Sehun. It’s one he keeps in his wallet for many years to come; Sehun standing with the winning trophy in his arms, cheeks still smudged with blue face paint, and Luhan with his arms around his boyfriend’s middle, both of them absolutely glowing with happiness.