edit: it wouldn't let me add my love ranger tag :(
It’s the automatic answer to the question he hears every time before a fight (“are you ready to go?”, like they’re going to go get milk or out for a drink), the words ringing loudly in his ears, swimming through his veins. He’s in that weird mood again. He doesn’t even have the words to describe it, not really; ‘anticipating getting the shit beaten out of him’ is probably closest, but even then not quite.
Wonshik slaps him on the back and drags him forward into the ring, pressing him up against the wire of the cage, the metal digging into his back making him focus. He fights shirtless—they all do—and under the harsh lights of the cage he can see the spectators staring at his body, the slim lines of his waist, the muscles that tense underneath his skin, weighing him up. There’s a few grimaces, but mostly smiles; a lot of people have bet against him tonight. That’s fine. He is used to being the underdog.
He steps into the ring opposite them then, Han “Rampage” Sanghyuk, tall and broad-shouldered and… huge. The difference is height is only a few centimeters at most but still he feels himself shrinking back, even though this is what he does. He has gone up against men bigger than Sanghyuk before, and he’s won, every single time. This city does not know his reputation. They don’t care. Sanghyuk is the reigning champion, and they have come to see him beat his opponents into a bloody pulp. That is fine. He is happy to prove everyone wrong.
“Listen,” Wonshik says, coming around in front of him and staring him in the eyes. Over his shoulder, Sanghyuk’s coach—a graceful man with a lovely smile who’s apparently made a killing mentoring younger fighters; Hakyeon, his name is—is doing the same thing. “You’ve done this before. He’s bigger than you—” Sanghyuk's not built, not jacked, but thick, and Taekwoon’s mind wanders to places it shouldn’t, “—but you know how to beat that. Don’t underestimate him, and don’t let him land a hit.”
He leans forward and kisses Taekwoon on the forehead, his pre-match blessing, and then he’s gone.
The ring is filthy, Taekwoon realises absentmindedly. The strips of fabric wrapped around his hands were once white, probably, but are now a filmy sort of grey that makes him feel sick to look at. Instead he looks up at Sanghyuk, narrows his eyes. Sanghyuk’s younger than him, but there’s an air of confidence about him—arrogance, really—that makes him seem ambiguously older. It’s ominous, but Taekwoon puts that out of his mind. He’s here for one reason and one reason only, and it’s not because illegal cage fighting pays well. He actually enjoys it, in a perverse sort of way. God only knows why.
They step forward and touch fists, and up close Taekwoon can see just how attractive Sanghyuk is—his nose is remarkably straight, considering their chosen profession, and his lips are quirked up into a distinct smirk that has Taekwoon blushing, although he isn’t sure why. There is something about Sanghyuk that has piqued his interest, and not in the way that Taekwoon wants to find out more about his fighting style. This is decidedly more carnal in nature, but he shoves those thoughts away. Not the time or place.
When Sanghyuk moves to throw a punch, Taekwoon takes a step back and exhales, breathing out and making himself a blank state. This is how he fights: bare, devoid of emotions and even thoughts; empty. It’s comforting, in a weird way. Like this, not thinking but just acting, relying on his instincts, it is so easy to duck and weave and avoid Sanghyuk’s punches and kicks. He’s a flashy fighter, surprisingly quick for his size, so Taekwoon is never standing still—but that’s how he likes it. When Sanghyuk goes for a high kick, Taekwoon ducks; when he tries to swing for his head, he sidesteps it neatly.
“Bastard,” Sanghyuk snarls some time later. They’re both sweaty and exhausted, and for a moment they just regard each other.
“Yes,” Taekwoon agrees, and then whirls and kicks Sanghyuk directly in the head.
That would be a knockout on anyone else, but Sanghyuk just sways a little, staggers back to the cage, grips onto it and glares balefully at Taekwoon. His chest is heaving, little beads of sweat covering it, and once more Taekwoon realises how fucking beautiful he is, especially when he is angry like this. He’s so distracted with this realisation, though, that when Sanghyuk pushes off the cage and barrels into him with a roar he is taken by surprise and they both end up on the filthy floor together.
His strength does not lie in grappling; he tends to get overpowered easily, since he has long long limbs that aren’t very strong. He’s good at moving and dancing around, dodging punches, not wrestling. He knows he needs to get out of here before Sanghyuk can pin him—and he’s doing his damned best, too. Taekwoon lands a punch on his side, his kidneys, and Sanghyuk howls in pain, allowing Taekwoon to get his legs out from underneath him and kick him in the chest. Sanghyuk retaliates by launching a savage kick into Taekwoon’s side, winding him completely, and he pauses for a moment. In that moment, Sanghyuk takes advantage, and takes his hand—no, he’s going for an arm bar, and—Jesus, he’s strong—
He rolls forward, placing his legs within kicking distance, and this time he does not hold back. One—two—three—Sanghyuk takes three kicks to the fucking head before he lets go of Taekwoon’s arm, but Taekwoon does not stop there and gives him another for good measure before diving for his arm, reversing their positions completely. Now it’s Sanghyuk who’s in the arm bar, but he’s too disoriented by the kicks to counter, and before he can do anything Taekwoon strains and yanks his arm back. It hurts like a bitch—he knows, because Wonshik’s done it to him a thousand times over, in training—and he feels strangely gratified at Sanghyuk’s guttural scream. He doesn’t tap out until Taekwoon arches even more, and when he does Sanghyuk’s scream becomes piercing, his other hand slapping the ground helplessly. Taekwoon relaxes, giving Sanghyuk his arm back, and takes a deep breath in. He is empty no longer.
“You did it,” Wonshik’s saying, standing over him. He looks slightly bewildered, and Taekwoon knows why. “You beat him with a fucking arm bar, of all things.”
“Is he okay?” Taekwoon replies, taking Wonshik’s proffered hand and staggering to his feet, assessing the damage. His side hurts from Sanghyuk’s kick, but he’ll heal. He’s had worse injuries. At least there’s no blood this time.
Wonshik cocks his head towards Sanghyuk, who’s clutching his arm as he leans against the cage, a towel around his shoulders, Hakyeon flitting around him. Their eyes meet, and a shiver runs down Taekwoon’s spine. That glare carries more weight than the punches they were just throwing, and it’s meant to be menacing but he’s still just… intrigued. Fuck. He’s always been weak for pretty boys.
“He will be,” Wonshik says, and Taekwoon turns away. “Well done. I didn’t think you’d win that one.”
“Thanks for your confidence in me,” mutters Taekwoon in reply, turning away to step out of the cage.
Sanghyuk finds him in the locker room later—or what management has co-opted as a locker room, which is really just a grimy bathroom with a bench and a sparse shower in the corner—and backs him up against the wall, one hand wrapped loosely around his throat, the other splayed on the wall next to his head. “You,” he growls, and Taekwoon stares at his lips as he talks, “are infuriating.”
“Not used to losing?” he chokes out, and Sanghyuk squeezes a little harder.
Their faces are so close together that it’s indecent, really, but Sanghyuk knows that. They have both been perfectly aware of that flicker of attraction between them since it first appeared, and when Taekwoon reaches for Sanghyuk’s waist he isn’t rebuffed, the touch allowed. “No,” Sanghyuk says, and loosens his fingers a little so Taekwoon can breathe. “I’m not.”
“Get used to it,” Taekwoon says, and yanks Sanghyuk in for a vicious kiss.
wolfodder, you're up next!