acatwhowrites: (Xiumin♡Poufsouffle represent)
A Cat Who Writes ([personal profile] acatwhowrites) wrote2017-06-22 07:54 pm

400 Meters

title: 400 Meters
players: Kim Minseok/Xiumin, Lu Han, Park Chanyeol
rating: G
word count: 1,570w
summary: Yes, Minseok is a cat. No, swimming is not a sport popular among most cats. Minseok isn't most cats, though.
a/n: Written for Luminfics. (prompt 3: The Hybrid Olympics bring together a wide range of hybrid types. An oddity, however, is the cat hybrid Minseok, who has qualified for the very uncat like sport of swimming. He takes his sport seriously, even if his competitors, like Luhan,don't know what to make of the oddity.)
I am not a swimmer. I can't swim. My athleticism is limited to land sports like volleyball and bowling, so if there are mistakes related to the sport or Olympic standards, it's totally on me and my lack of knowledge and poor research. Unfortunately, because I was so worried about the technicalities, I didn't get nearly as far with this fic as I'd've liked.
Read on: AFF || AO3 || LJ

Minseok is used to the stares and whispers, thrives off the attention and buzz of the stadium surrounding the pool. It's cool inside, a welcome shock from the humid heat outside; he shivers as goosebumps erupt over his skin. The air is never greater than 28 degrees Celsius in the aquatics stadium, and today, it is at the perfect temperature. The water thermometre reads the most ideal temperature, as well, so Minseok has a great feeling for today's events.

He unzips his heavy athletic jacket and stretches his arms, slapping his shoulders and throwing them back to loosen his shoulders. His ears sit forward, listening to the gentle lapping of the water against the edge of the pool. Stepping out of his sandals, he rubs the soles of his feet into the textured flooring.

"Morning, Minseok hyung!" A Golden Retriever jogs to the water's edge and dips a toe in with a delighted smile and eager wag of his tail before getting barked at by a coordinator. Chanyeol is a young swimmer, also representing South Korea, and competing in the Olympics for the first time. For an athlete, Minseok's considered old at 26 years, although he's only in his second Olympics competition and has no plans of retiring.

He ruffles Chanyeol's hair, tugging a silky ear fondly. "Did you sleep well?"

Chanyeol dances anxiously in place and tries to look everywhere at once without being too obvious that he's trying to look everywhere at once. Minseok thinks he looks like a little kid in a toy store. "Not really. I was too excited to sleep, but I did manage to get a few hours." His head gets stuck in his jacket; he pulls it over his head rather than unzipping it. Minseok's rather glad that the cameras aren't on and airing, yet, just because of moments like these. He tugs Chanyeol still and pulls at the zipper until he can get free. "Thanks, hyung."

"Try to remember that you're representing our country."

Chanyeol ducks his head with a sheepish grin and grateful wag of his tail. He perks up when he sees the rest of their team chatting with other nations' athletes, old friends and new from world championships.

The hairs on the back of his neck and base of his tail stand on end, pointing out someone's unwavering attention. Minseok looks cross the pool and notices one of the Chinese athletes sitting with his legs out in front of him, eyes trained on Minseok. The red jacket draped over the chair behind him reads LU in bold yellow.

Chanyeol's tail slows in awe. "Isn't that Lu Han?" he whispers loudly. The Chinese swimmer's face, prominent canines, and tall, wide ears are unmistakable, even from a distance. Chanyeol has one of his posters tacked to his wall. "He was the best freestyle swimmer six years in a row!"

Minseok holds up a hand in a wave. He recalls the list of lane assignments for his first heat. "I'm swimming against him. A couple lanes away, actually." Lu Han flinches and blinks, as though unaware he'd been staring. He doesn't blush, but he looks away and folds himself in half, reaching and holding his feet with his face in his knees.

"Huh," Chanyeol hums. His head tilts, an ear standing higher than the other. "I guess he's shy?"

"Maybe." Minseok forgets about it and rotates his shoulders, stepping from foot to foot to shake his legs out a little. He feels the weight of some stares on him, some in awe, some in curiosity, and others in adoration. His Twitter has been steadily filling with messages of support from fans and fellow athletes since he announced his return to the South Korean swim team.

He knows he's an anomaly in the swimming world. A cat, willingly competing in water? Almost unheard of. Not uncommon, just unusual. Minseok's loved the water since kittenhood; his mother taught him and his siblings to swim. Their fur is water resistant, silky when dry but flowing through the water. The long tail isn't much of a rudder, like dogs' tails, and Olympic rules forbid tail wrapping, so he had to learn how to keep it close to his body when performing turns underwater. Every millisecond counts.

The announcer's voice booms over the loudspeakers, calling swimmers to line up at the pool. The first heats are about to begin. Every other day alternates three and four events; Minseok's best event, the 400 medley, is first, then he'll have a few days before the first 4x100 relay heat with Chanyeol and then the final--if they qualify--on the last day. Everyone is buzzing with nervous energy, shifting in place and throwing their arms around in stretches as they shake off their nerves and find their focus.

Minseok catches Lu Han's eye again as they approach the blocks; Lu Han looks away again. Weird. He pulls his goggles off his forehead and situates them over his eyes, distorting the arena.

There will be two heats. Minseok swims against Lu Han and six other athletes, most he's competed against before, in the first. He is one of the shortest of the group and, of course, the only cat. With his ears covered, his tail is a giveaway, and he keeps his expression cool at the looks he feels from other competitors and the spectators.

Cameramen ready their equipment. Minseok can almost see the commentators from where he stands and is half curious what they'll say about him. He's made waves in the media as a feline swimmer; just this morning, a reporter from Japan had cornered him and questioned him about his feelings for the day. He had to dig pretty deep to remember his Japanese, but the reporter--a small, round-eared cat herself--had left looking pleased and pink-cheeked with a selfie Minseok willingly posed for in her phone.

The referee's whistle trills, and they step onto the raised starting blocks, feet positioned and fingers in line with their shoulders.

Take your marks...

Everyone tenses, waiting for the buzzer. Minseok breathes deep and releases it through his mouth. He's ready. Up here, he only sees the water. His lane is all that exists; no one's beside him, and there are no bleachers of people. He's calm and poised, muscles coiling like a compressed spring.

The buzzer sounds, and Minseok doesn't hear the splashes as they dive.

Throwing his legs straight, he dives from the platform and cuts through the water, slipping into its embrace like he's coming home.

Two lengths of the pool throwing both arms over in butterfly, watching the banners flutter from the ceiling in backstroke, cleaving through the water in breaststroke, and finally casting quick glances to his left and right with his typical crawl, he finally touches the wall and pulls his cap and goggles off. It's over. Four hundred meters, eight laps, and Minseok clings to the floating line markers. His ears stand upright again, and he shakes his hair, sending water flying, as he scans the boards for his name and time.

He qualified, finishing third after Lu Han and an American poodle.

With a muted cheer, he pumps his fist and allows himself to smile. Swimming may not be about winning for him, but there is a definite rush when he gets closer to the medal rounds.

They take their time gathering at the edge of the pool to climb out of the water. Coaches clap their shoulders and accept wet, excited hugs. Minseok spies his family in the stands, holding signs they'd made with his name in Korean and English. His dad shakes the Korean flag proudly.

He returns to the plastic chair he'd left his jacket and pants. It's freezing outside the water, and his sopping tail feels like ice against his legs. He towels off quickly and pulls his pants on, letting his jacket hang open. His goggles and cap are wrapped in his towel; he'll dry them properly once he returns to the locker room, after Chanyeol's qualifying heat.

The other swimmers offer congratulations and praise, which Minseok returns with a smile. His English has improved since swimming on the world stage, but other languages still sound entirely foreign.

He's not too surprised when Lu Han greets him in Korean. "Hi."

"Hello." Minseok returns the bow. "Congratulations on placing."

"Thanks! You, too. I didn't think cats could swim as well as you."

It takes a lot of effort to keep his fur from bristling; Minseok even manages to find a smile. "We cats can do a lot of things, whether you think so or not." The other swimmer's eyes widen, probably translating Minseok's response in his head and trying to pull together a damage control explanation. Minseok doesn't give him the chance, excusing himself with another small bow. He can feel the tension between his eyebrows and the knot between his shoulders and just wants to jump into the pool to swim a hundred laps and prove to everyone, once and for all, that he is a cat who loves water and swimming. It has nothing to do with species and everything to do with the grace and power of the sport and the feel of the water.

He leaves and meets Chanyeol and the rest of their team in the hall, accepting the bone-crushing hug and congratulations and ignoring the heavy stare at his back.

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