Soccer brotp vague uni AU with a side-serving of ~*romance*~
A/N: Throws fic into ever growing ocean of Exo college AUs and laughs bitterly at your pain
“This is the sort of shit you like, right?” Luhan hears Lay say, dim in his dream and muffled by his blankets. He rolls over with a groan to peek up at where he’s standing.
“How did you get into my dorm again?” he mutters, shielding his eyes from the obnoxiously bright sunlight coming in his tiny, grimy window. “And stop opening my curtains.”
Lay just sits on the end of his bed and waves a flyer in his face. “Here, I have class in like five minutes. Get up, lazy ass.”
Luhan unfolds it and stares. Indoor futsal soccer tournament, it reads, Players wanted!
“There’s a reason I didn’t bother trying out for the college team, you know,” he says, but Lay just waves over his shoulder, slamming the crappy plywood door on his way out. Luhan winces and tries to pull the curtains shut, throwing the flyer down amongst the mess of paper and clothes already strategically arranged on the slightly musty carpet. He gives up on trying to reach the curtains, harrumphing and throwing his blankets over his head in an attempt to block out the light.
It’s not until much later, after many hits of the snooze-button, that Luhan drags himself out of bed for his first midday class. The flyer crinkles under his foot and he picks it up, glaring at it accusingly before tucking it into his pocket. He did need the exercise, he supposed, and it would be good to make some friends who didn’t wake him up at ungodly hours and/or blast music next door at 3am and/or borrow his favourite shirt and never give it back and/or try and steal the care packages his mother sent him and- the list just went on. Friends who didn’t live in his dorm really sounded like a good idea.
When he turns up for registration he’s a little alarmed to note how many people look a fair bit older than him. He’s baby-faced enough as it is and he damps down the uneasy feeling of being watched. It’s only an amateur tournament run by the local gym complex; he should have expected for it to be a bit of a weird crowd. They’re set up on basketball courts easily converted with portable goal nets into an indoor field, and he crouches on the scuffed floorboards beside the net as he fills out the registration form. Someone crouches in front of him just as he finishes, and he looks up into a face that, somehow, looks even younger than him.
“Can I borrow a pen?” he asks, and he must be quick to smile because his eyes are already crinkling at the corners. Luhan clears his throat.
“Uh, yeah, here,” he says, and hands the one in his hand over as he finishes his signature.
“I’m Xiumin,” he says, sitting beside Luhan, and Luhan doesn’t know what to do. The guy has his pen, so it’s not like he can just walk off, but sitting there like an idiot isn’t particularly appealing either.
“Luhan,” he says, watching as Xiumin fills out his forms. Luhan sees his age – twenty, the same as his own – and then hurriedly looks away as Xiumin catches him looking. Xiumin smiles at him, his round face dimpling.
“You’re pretty young, right? We’ll probably be put on the same team. I think everyone else our age just plays at college,” he says, going back to his papers, and Luhan nods dumbly. Xiumin gives him back his pen, and Luhan squints up at him.
“Well see you around,” Xiumin says, and he hovers for a moment before Luhan nods, giving a brittle-bright Yeah, a smile already tugging at his lips.
Xiumin is right. The organisers seem to have put all the youngest together, and they’re on a five-aside team along with a short, stocky guy called Jonghyun, his much taller friend Minho, and a woman called Amber. When Luhan looks at her in confusion she just shrugs. “It isn’t against the rules.”
This satisfies Luhan enough, especially when he spends most of their first training session in the park next to the gym trying to keep up with everyone. It’s only an hour or two on a Friday night, but it’s already getting chilly with sundown, and Luhan didn’t do any exercise all summer. His lungs feel like they can’t decide whether to freeze or to burst into flames.
“Go on without me,” he gasps, keeling over in the damp grass during their last cardio drill, and Xiumin turns to laugh at him.
“C’mon,” he says, mock-serious, “no one's a martyr on this team,” and he hauls Luhan towards where the other three are collapsed on the non-existent finish line.
“Good hustle, team,” Amber says, and Luhan guesses that she’s decided to be captain. Fair enough, he thinks, considering that Jonghyun still can’t aim a kick for shit despite enthusiasm and Minho is far too competitive for rational decision making and well, Xiumin and Luhan certainly look the youngest, even if they’re not. And, Luhan thinks, clutching at his sides, someone who gets a stitch within the first five minutes of running has no business being captain anyway. They’ve only got one more informal training session until competition starts, and Luhan prays for some sort of miracle.
In the next training session it turns out that Minho is a delightfully reliable goalkeeper, and no one is more pleased than he is.
“Two birds, one stone,” Amber mutters, “now I don’t have to worry about him killing anyone,” and Xiumin hides his laugh behind his hand, taking a shot at the goal and missing wildly. Luhan snorts from where he’s laid out on the freezing ground, trying to catch his breath.
“It’s practically dark! And the goal posts are a backpack and a shoe. I’d like to see you try,” Xiumin says, pointing accusingly, and Luhan pulls a face at him as if to say, Fine, I will.
He ambles off the gentle lawn of the park into the bushland of the hillside, searching for the soccer ball. He manages to get a stick to the shins and probably some bugs in places he doesn’t want to think about, and when he gets back to their setup he eyes Xiumin with a bit of resentfulness. Xiumin just shrugs and joins Amber and Jonghyun a reasonable distance away. Minho smiles at him in a way that’s probably meant to be threatening. Luhan grimaces back.
Xiumin was right of course. The sun is setting past the bushland in front of him and any light that makes it through just hurts his eyes. As he sets up, Minho becomes not much more than a shadowy silhouette against the dusk sky. He pauses, takes a deep breath, and takes the kick. He feels himself wobble a bit, unpractised, and he cranes his neck as Minho sticks his foot out – but he makes it. He throws his arms up in celebration as the others clap before he realises that, well, he looks like a bit of a twit. He lowers his arms and turns to Xiumin.
“You thought you weren’t going to make it,” Xiumin says with a shit-eating grin, and Luhan tries to hide his satisfaction.
“Of course I knew I was going to make it. You’re just bitter,” and he sniffs before Jonghyun wrestles him away to talk strategy. Xiumin raises his first two fingers, like a peace sign, before flicking them to his eyes and then out at Luhan. Watching you.
Luhan sticks out his tongue and flips him his middle finger.
Their first game is a Wednesday night and he’s jittery with nerves the whole bus ride, his knees bouncing restlessly. He gets caught up in a loop between the essay he has due by Friday morning that he’s hardly started and worrying that he’s going to make an ass of himself playing. He takes a moment to steel himself before entering the gym complex, where the others are already getting warmed up. As Luhan joins them Jonghyun hands out pink shirts with ironed on numbers and Amber draws them into a huddle.
“From the looks of it, they’ve put the youngest team against the oldest,” she whispers, and with a glance Luhan agrees. Their goal-keeper is short and wide and grizzled and the rest of the team is various degrees of large and terrifying. There are beards.
Luhan rubs at his bare chin absent-mindedly before Amber continues, “Use this to our advantage. Speed and agility, okay? Let’s try that formation we figured out.”
It’s a nice sentiment but Luhan knows that they don’t really have a chance. The other team is clearly more experienced and more willing to get called up for penalties; Jonghyun is sent sprawling in the first five minutes. Minho fixes a bandaid over the scrape on his knee and Amber takes the opportunity to hassle the referee about keeping the other team in line.
At half-time Jonghyun does his best to rally them, Amber too busy staring daggers at the other team while Minho and Xiumin hold onto her arms meaningfully.
“We’re not going to win if you beat them up and get sent off, Amber,” Minho whispers urgently, and Jonghyun nods hurriedly. She probably doesn’t even reach any of their shoulders. While Jonghyun and Minho could probably hold their own, Xiumin and Luhan would have little hope of surviving the fight, let alone winning it.
Although to be fair, he thinks as play resumes, by the look of it Xiumin was hiding a fair amount of strength behind his young face and short stature. Luhan does his best to put aside that distracting train of thought after he’s blindsided by a defender and loses possession of the ball, limbs thankfully intact.
The second half doesn’t go much better than the first and they end up losing 4-1, Jonghyun achieving a surprise goal. Xiumin pats Minho on the back in consolation for goals let through and Minho says a quiet thanks, still sulky. Luhan is too busy being collapsed on the floor, trying not to throw up, his face prickling from the oxygen deprivation. He finally hobbles over to where his bag is sat under the drinks table and gulps down water with the others – at least he’s not the only one looking unfit after a summer of laziness. One of the guys from the other team is so violently purple in the face that Luhan’s a little worried he’s about to burst. He checks the time of his phone and starts - he’ll be cutting it fine if he wants to get the first bus. Xiumin stands at the drink table and Luhan sees the way that his eyes follow his phone. Luhan resists the urge to cover the back with his hand.
“Is that…Hello Kitty?” Xiumin says, his eyes wide on Luhan’s face. He’s flushed red, eyes bright, and he sounds like he’s not sure if his question is joking or serious. Luhan drops his phone into his gym bag and stares at it as he pulls on his sweater.
“Hello Kitty is like, The Shit, man. Iconic shit,” and when he looks up Xiumin is grinning at him disbelievingly. “What, it’s cute,” Luhan says, his defensive tone making him wince internally, and Xiumin hides his laugh behind his hand.
“No, no, you’re right. Totally cute.” Luhan chews his lip and glances at Xiumin as he swaps his soccer shoes for nicer sneakers. From anyone else it would have sounded sarcastic or mean, but Xiumin is still hiding a smile as he ties his runners onto his backpack next to a helmet and slings it over his shoulder. They say their farewells and Xiumin and Luhan end up leaving by the same exit near the car park.
“You’re driving?” Luhan asks, but Xiumin shakes his head.
“Nah, I ride my bike. Or I will, until the snow starts.”
“Oh, well – I’ll see you next game then,” Luhan says, a little unsure as they reach where his bike is chained up. “My bus stop is just around the corner, so.”
Xiumin nods, undoing his bike chain, and Luhan shuffles off. He’s almost at his stop when he hears the ring of a bike bell followed by a loud “Oi!”, and when he turns to the road he only gets a glimpse of Xiumin –his knuckles white on the handgrip, the edge of his smile, his back – before he’s sped off.
“Bye!” he shouts, but he doesn’t think that Xiumin hears him.
Luhan knows that if he wants to be an actual asset for the team he should probably be training in his own time, but shit was it cold at six am.
“How the eff do you do this every day,” he mutters to Kris through chattering teeth, pulling the hood of his sweater closer around his face and trying to keep pace with Kris’ swift jog. Kris just shrugs.
“You make sure that you get up and then you make sure that you run,” he says. It seems a hell of a lot more complicated to Luhan, who has to try and get his short legs to keep pace with Kris’ stride, and whose elbows keep knocking against his ribs weirdly, but Kris is looking all in the zone, so he doesn’t bother to protest.
They make it back to breakfast in time to arrive with the others, and even though Luhan tries to hide Tao spots him anyway.
“Out for a relaxing jog?” he asks, and Luhan glares at him over his coffee.
“Yeah, for some,” he says, eyes sliding to where Kris is looking all fresh and energised. Luhan rubs at the cooling sweat on his face and hopes he isn’t as red and blotchy as it feels. Tao just smiles at him.
Their next game is marred by unexpected rain and Luhan grumbles as he lands a foot in a deep puddle on his way inside.
“You look unfairly dry,” he complains to Xiumin as he tries to wring out his sopping wet sock.
“Yeah, I was lucky. Managed to convince my roommate to drive me,” he says conspiratorially, “although I have to help him on his next thermofluids essay.”
Luhan doesn’t know whether to ask what the hell are thermofluids? or what are you even studying? Before he can figure out what to say the referee is calling for the start of the game. Thankfully, being indoors and heated it’s not as horrible as it could be. By the end of the game Luhan is craving the cold wind of outside, shirt clinging uncomfortably with sweat. At least this game he isn’t collapsed on the floor. Maybe the morning runs were helping, he grudgingly admits, despite the pain.
“Good work on the draw,” Amber says, grinning around her water bottle and punching Minho on the shoulder. He shoots her a hurt look and she shakes her head as she rubs at where he hit him.
“Either of you two need a lift north?” Jonghyun says, hopping over as he pulls on his trackpants over his soccer shorts.
“We could fit both of you, even if it is a squeeze,” Minho adds, “and shotgun front seat. Those backseats are killer if you’re tall.” He does his best to glare at Jonghyun.
“Not my fault you’re a freakish giant,” Jonghyun mumbles, trying to untangle his shoes from the ends of his pants.
Luhan looks at Jonghyun, forlorn. “I’m going east.”
Xiumin shakes his head. “Nah, my roommate is picking me up too.”
Amber shrugs. “C’mon then, we better be off. I said I’d meet Krystal in an hour.”
Luhan follows them to the exit and stares out at the pouring rain. He’d probably make it to the bus stop alive, if very very soggy.
“Forget your umbrella?” Xiumin says from behind him, and Luhan jumps a little.
“Yeah, I’ll have to wait until this lets up,” he sighs.
Xiumin rummages through his bag, pulling out a small fold-up umbrella, and he shoves it to Luhan. “Here, I won’t need it,” and when Luhan looks up his eyes are intent on Luhan, face earnest.
“Are you sure?” Luhan asks, his hands already reaching for it, and Xiumin just nods with an easy shrug. “Thanks.”
When he gets to the gate of the gym complex he turns back. Xiumin is leaned against the dank concrete wall outside the exit, under a small awning. He looks dwarfed by the building. Luhan waves at him uncertainly, unsure if he’s watching, but Xiumin waves back enthusiastically. Luhan’s thankful that the rain hides his stupidly large smile.
The rain lets up by the weekend, the sky bright and frozen blue, and Luhan draws the others away from their studies long enough to drag them to a local park. He grabs a soccer ball on the way out and bounces it on the concrete path as he leads the way, feeling probably unwarrantedly cheerful, at least until Tao snatches the ball from his grip and throws it back to Kris. There’s an impromptu game of piggy-in-the-middle and Luhan resists the urge to whine about unfairly tall creeps as he tries to get the ball back.
“Fucking basketballers,” he says instead, still waving his arms about in a vain attempt to intercept a pass as they reach the park. Lay takes pity on him, grabbing the ball for him as Kris messes up Luhan’s hair good-naturedly before Luhan has a chance to stop him.
“Hey!” he says, doing his best to sound genuinely upset, before booting the ball as hard as he can at the other side of the empty park.
“Go on, fetch,” Lay says, pushing at him, but Luhan just says “Race you!” before bolting off. Lay humours him, laughing as he trails behind. Luhan lets Lay boot it away, dribbling back to where Tao and Kris are settling in beside the basketball court, soaking up what warmth they can get from the sun.
“We’re not playing basketball,” Luhan says threateningly and Tao tuts and rolls his eyes before standing.
“Whoever wins 2-aside soccer picks the next game,” he says, sticking out his hand, and Luhan shakes it as menacingly as he can.
Luhan and Lay lose, and he spends the basketball game digging his elbows into ribs and complaining about height advantages.
On Sunday morning Luhan’s woken by the sound of his phone.
“Whazzup,” he mumbles, still burrowed deep into his blankets against the cold morning. Today was meant to be his break day from the jogging and the biting wind and frost and urgh, mornings.
“Everyone here is freaking the fuck out and if I hear another word about the classification of soils I am going to go completely nuts,” someone says, and Luhan blinks.
“Um, who is this?”
There’s a short bark of laughter. “Sorry, sorry, it’s Xiumin. Do you want to meet up at a park or something? You’re the only person I know who isn’t going to hassle me about studying and who understands the therapeutic nature of kicking the shit out of a soccer ball.”
Xiumin must have his number from the team contact list, Luhan guesses. He knows he’s got a whole lot of studying to do today, but surely a couple of hours of fun can’t hurt. “Yeah, sure. Wanna get the rest of the team together for a practice?”
Luhan hears him sigh. “I already called them, they’re all busy.”
Luhan sits up. “Oh, so I’m your last resort?”
Xiumin groans. “No, stop. That’s not what I meant. Are you near the 63 bus line? There’s a nice park right near the end of that.”
Luhan realises with a start that it’s the same park from yesterday. “I think I know the one. I’ll see you there in like an hour.”
When he gets there Xiumin is already sprawled on the ground, making grass angels in the sun. His sweater has ridden up, a pale strip of skin above the line of his jeans, and Luhan averts his eyes.
“Are we going to play soccer or what?” Luhan says, leaning over him, and Xiumin squints up at him. Luhan steps back as Xiumin clambers up, quick to get out of his space.
“Bet you ten bucks I win,” Xiumin says, snatching Luhan’s soccer ball before he protests.
Luhan rolls his eyes but sticks his hand out. “Fine. I hope you enjoy being poor.”
Xiumin just tuts. “Cocky,” he says, eyeing Luhan sideways, and then he points to where Luhan had dumped his stuff. “My goals,” he says, and turns to point to where his own bag is, a good 30 yards away. “Yours.”
Luhan nods and Xiumin kicks off, knocking Luhan’s shoulder heavily with his own on his way past. Luhan whines indignantly. “Hey! I wasn’t ready!”
Playing one on one alone like this is odd, Luhan thinks, but nice. There’s no one to care about the rules, and they quickly resort to roughhousing. They’re about the same height, and Luhan knows he’s surprisingly strong and wiry for his size, but Xiumin still ends up winning most of the time. Xiumin manages to hook his leg between Luhan’s, pushing across his chest, and as Luhan falls he makes sure to cling to Xiumin with all his might. They tumble to the ground and lay there, looking up at the sky and trying to catch their breath.
“Who won?” Xiumin murmurs eventually as he sits up to pull his sweater off, warm from exertion. Luhan watches the muscles of his shoulders shift before flicking his eyes away guiltily. “I wasn’t counting.”
“Neither,” Luhan admits, before continuing curiously, “So what are you actually studying that you need to know about dirt?”
Xiumin scrunches his nose. “That’s not me. My roommate’s majoring in civil engineering, but I do mechanical.”
Luhan whistles. “Cool, is that like, fast cars and building bridges and things?”
Xiumin laughs. “Sort of. It’s more boring than it sounds. I think he wants to do his thesis on concrete. Mechanical is much more interesting, trust me,” he says, smug, and Luhan hides his amusement.
“So I guess you’re at Utech?” Luhan sees Xiumin nod out of the corner of his eye before turning to him.
Luhan shifts uncomfortably. “Uh, I’m doing international relations at CNU. I live at the dorms on campus.” Xiumin snorts derisively, just like Luhan thought he would.
“Oh, politics,” he says disdainfully, and Luhan shoves at him. He’s closer than he expected, and Luhan can see the smattering of freckles over Xiumin’s nose and cheekbones. The rough patch of skin on his lip from biting. Xiumin just watches him and Luhan blinks, caught. He rolls away, breathing in the fresh smell of grass after rain.
“Oh!” Luhan says, looking for a distraction, and he crawls over to where his bag is, thankfully close. “Your umbrella,” he says as way of explanation, chucking it over. Xiumin looks down at it, oddly thoughtful, but when he looks up he’s smiling gratefully, if a little strangely. Something about it doesn’t reach his eyes.
Luhan’s phone buzzes with a text from Lay, the usual impolite I NEED U 2 DO MY HOMEWORK 4 ME WHERE ARE U ALREADY CHECKED DORMS. He sighs and gathers his things. “Sorry, I gotta go.”
Xiumin nods and collects his backpack. “Walk me to the bus stop? I forget to check which stop to get my bus from.”
The walk is quiet, the silence more calm than awkward, and Luhan is busy thinking of just how much work he’s got to cram in the next few hours to really notice how contemplative Xiumin seems.
“So is it like a thing?” Xiumin says out of the blue, and Luhan starts, looking at him in confusion.
“I mean, the Hello Kitty. Is it all cute things or?”
Luhan almost bursts into laughter at Xiumin’s expression, eyebrows drawn and his lips pursed in thought. Red-bean steamed bun, Luhan thinks a little dazedly, just like the ones I grew up with.
“Yeah, baozi, I totally have a fetish for kawaii,” he scoffs, pinching at Xiumin’s cheek, and Xiumin scrunches his nose as he pushes him off. Luhan leans against him like he did during their game, determined not to be shifted.
“What does that even mean?” Xiumin says, his tone scornful as he cranes his face away futilely. This close, Luhan can smell the lingering sweetness of grass, the clean homely scent of worn clothes, his cologne. He swallows a little, noting the surprising bulk of Xiumin before he lets go hastily.
“Dumpling head, yeah,” he says, resisting the urge to stick out his tongue and giving a last jab at Xiumin’s face instead.
“Gee, thanks asshole,” Xiumin shoots back, but it’s good natured, and Luhan tucks away the warm, secret feel of the smile that lights up Xiumin’s face.