There are thirty seconds left on the clock. Dream’s heart pounds in his chest, and his hearing is dull over the throbbing against his eardrums. The sound of the onlookers' filters in like static white noise, the roars and cheering and excitement causing his fingers to itch in anticipation. He sees the flurry of colours of the cheerleading squad as they bounce and dance through the air, the frills of their skirts billowing.
One more play. They just need one more touchdown to win. Six points and they make it to the next winner’s bracket of the season. He feels a bead of sweat roll down his forehead and into his eyes. It stings. His breath, hot, bounces off his helmet and back in his face, equally as warm. He’s sure his face is glowing red with the exertion the game has pulled from him.
He hears himself shout some numbers, the snap so engrained in him he could do it in his sleep. Punz passes the ball through his legs, and they begin. He rushes forward, the wind curling through his ears and hair damp with sweat. Dodge the big guy, number 53. Slip under the arm of 96.
Wall block. Impeding sack on his hands. His eyes dart, finding the open players. It’s only Sapnap. Not ideal - he’s defence, and they’re decidedly not that right now. But he can bob and weave out of the block and retake the ball.
He punts it backwards the 15 yards to Sapanp’s waiting arms. Sapnap hollers twice in reception. Dream spins around an incoming failed-sack, and deflects right to escape the barrage. He’s free again. 8 yards to success, to victory , all uninterrupted.
Sapnap locks eyes and returns the ball in a throw across the field. The ball glitters with white on the tanned hide as it spins in the air and directly into his arms.
He runs, ignoring the clip of toes on his heels. He slides, stomach first, into the end zone, with the ball cradled against his chest. He hears a violent roaring and isn’t sure if it’s the grass tearing beneath him, the crowd, or his teammates. The sound of a horn blares, signalling full time.
Dream rolls onto his back, staring into the starry sky above, blurred behind the stadium lights. He throws the ball in the air, pegging it into the sky like it will break the ceiling if he tries hard enough. The adrenaline thrums in his veins and muscles, a vibrating tension and urge to strike.
He feels the world come into view a little more. He differentiates between the clapping crowd, the team chants that come from their cumulative roars. He hears the rhythmic chant of the cheerleaders above them, the rustle of their pompoms. When he pulls himself up off the dirt, he’s nearly knocked back into it by Sapnap’s crash-tackle bear hug. Dream’s arms are pinned to his side, squeezed impossibly tight by his best friend’s affection. He feels himself lifted into the air, toes barely touching the ground, towering over Sapnap in his arms. Sapnap’s proud and loud celebrations fill the air like living exclamation marks, so emotive in his mannerisms.
“That’s my boy right there !” he screams, voice breaking on the final syllable. He doesn’t care. He’s too excited to care. Their teammates surround them, laughter and celebration filling every sensation. As Sapnap lets Dream free of his hold, he instead grasps Dream’s wrist in his hand and raises it high in the sky. Sapnap lets out a howling bark, their team following suit in the escalating aroof-oof-oof team chant. Dream laughs, overcome with glee that they did it, they clutched the game in the last second. Their boys all managed to come through. His laughter boils up from his belly, overtaking his whole body with it as it rolls through him.
Dream pulls his free hand up, grabbing Sapnap by the base of his helmet. He tips his head forward, knocking their foreheads together through the steel and padding that protects them. As he pulls back, the high adrenaline dulling but celebration continuing, Dream pulls off his helmet, holding it by two fingers hooked through the faceguard.
His eyes look towards the cheerleaders. He sees George, dark hair and reserved when he’s not on show but alive with energy during games, mid-air in a tumble. He sees the frills on his skirt, the way the pleated creases flair as he drops into the base group’s - namely Karl’s with minimal support - waiting arms. His eyes always return to George, his true North, in moments of bliss. Karl sets him down, their celebration over, and George turns to watch with a wide smile and excitement in his eyes. When George’s eyes land on Dream’s, Dream feels like the outside world melts away, and it’s just them and their adrenaline high. Dream can hear Sapnap’s praise and excitement, can feel the way Ludwig pats him roughly on his shoulder, can smell the disgusting scent of all of their sweat in a culminating cloud. And yet his eyes are tied to George. Dream knows he’s smiling, and red in the face from exertion. He knows his hair is sweaty and a mess. He knows George is looking. He offers a wink, tilting his chin up as he does.
After the formal winners are announced and the hype dies down, after their coach gives them the post-game rundown of what worked and what didn’t and how they could tighten up their plays, they shower the grime from their bodies. Every muscle aches in the best way, reminding him of a job well done. The hot water against his tired muscles is like a caress of recovering care as he scrubs at the sweat and dirt. He listens to the shower-banter from his team as they clean up, all varied in their expression of it, but all peaked in joy at their victory. Dream lets the taste of their excitement settle on the back of his throat, and hopes it sticks there for good. Smelling far more friendly, Dream and Sapnap take their stinking gym bags with helmets clipped on the sash and dump them in the trunk of his car, their helmets thudding dully as they land atop one another. As Dream lets Sapnap’s singing soothe him into a meditative calm, despite the tough lyrics and heavy bass, he drives them to the diner uptown.
They find Karl and George leaning against barricade posts by the entrance when they arrive. Karl is still in his cheer uniform, with his muscular, thick legs under his skirt and exposed stomach beneath his crop top, arms hidden safe from the cooling air by a hoodie far too big on his frame. It looks familiar, like he’s seen it before. Karl is as expressive as always, his arms flailing as he explains whatever is on his mind, his nails glowing blue under the light that bounces off the polish. George stands, much quieter than Karl, in jeans and a t-shirt that swims on his frame. George wears the uniform, toned and gymnast legs under the skirt and lithe torso under the short top, but he does so begrudgingly every game. Dream isn’t surprised he’d changed, but a twinge of disappointment bursts through him before rescinding once more. Sapnap bounds towards the duo, hyped up on the adrenaline and win as it courses through him still an hour later, and swoops Karl into a hug from behind.
“ Karl ,” Sapnap slurs, and it sounds like a prayer. He hooks his chin over Karl’s shoulder, rubbing the scruff of his chin into Karl’s collarbone. He pulls away, standing to Karl’s side, an arm wrapped around his waist and hand resting on his hip, thumb hooked into the waistband of Karl’s skirt. “You look so good in my hoodie,” he drawls, and Dream can practically hear the cartoon hearts bulging from his eyes.
Ah. So that’s why it looks familiar.
George looks up to Dream, a small smile on his face of...contentment? George raises a hand slowly and gives a tiny wave to Dream, welcoming him. After fumbling over his own tongue in his mouth, Dream finds the words as they bounced with a thousand thoughts of George, George, George .
“You did such a good job tonight, George” he compliments. Dream knows they’d put countless hours into the throws, flips, and synchronicity of their routines - equally as many as Dream’s team had, but the throws George is involved in are far more risky than Dream being tackled in full safety gear. George bristles under the praise, rolling his eyes.
“Me? You’re the one that won the game, idiot, ” George retorts. Dream pretends the taunt doesn’t feel like a prayer when it comes from George’s lips. “Karl just saved me from eating dirt a few times,” he deflects. Always deflecting, never accepting, no matter how hard Dream works for him to believe it. And yet he will keep at it until George accepts it wholeheartedly.
They sit in a booth together, the rest of the team and their friends whooping and congratulating as they go. When they sit, George slides into the window seat, comfortable but keeping to himself, his hands in his lap, knees close together and feet tucked under the seat. Dream sits beside him, reclined against the cushion, his arm along the cool steel along the top of the seatback, cupped around where George sits, nowhere close to touching George, but in his space, comfortable. His foot closest to George lifts up and rests atop his knee that sits by the exit. Sapnap sits window side, legs spread wide under the table, his feet knocking against Dream’s with how he lolls himself into the booth. One arm presses against the window sill, the sleeve of his letterman pulled up and creased at his elbow. The other arm lies along the back of the booth seat in a mirror of Dream’s own. Karl sits with a foot on the edge of the bench, knee tucked up under his chin.
Sapnap orders far too much food for himself. George orders nothing full well knowing this. Dream keeps it simple, stupid, and gets a cheeseburger he knows will keep himself happy. Karl requests two Monster energy drinks, and when asked what flavours, he tells the waitstaff “Surprise me.”
As they chew on their (Sapnap’s) fries, and Sapnap gnaws a chunk of greasy meat and cheese from semi-stale bread, he asks the question Dream knows to expect after a good game.
“Celebrate and get high with me later, Karl?” Sapnap asks around the mush of food in his mouth. He doesn’t bother to hide it, either, hands still firmly holding the burger together or risk it falling to pieces. He’s gross, but predictable, which makes it not-gross, somehow. Karl huffs a single breath of laughter. He pulls a french fry from Sapnap’s plate, the fry limp but a crime scene of ketchup.
“God, no, I’m too tired. It would just send me to sleep,” Karl declines. His reasons are valid, though, any reason would be. “I'm sure Corpse would be down, though,” Karl compromises, “I’ll text him and ask.”
And yet… “ Karl , you’re so boring ” Sapnap complains, throwing his head back. He’s not upset, just dramatic, movements exaggerated by his excitement during the night. Karl rolls his eyes, sliding his foot from the bench to the aging linoleum floor.
“Yeah, yeah, big cat, I know I am,” he concedes, not an ounce of negative emotion in his voice, only a flood of affection. Dream groans at the pet name.
“You can’t keep calling him that, Karl,” Dream reasons. He gestures vaguely to the entity that is Sapnap and his aura with his hand that crooks around George’s place in the booth. “We all know he’s a dogboy,” he elaborates, as though the answer is obvious. And it is - Sapnap is through and through a dogboy. Why else would he howl and bark on the field like he does?
Karl snorts, reaching back to their (Sapnpap’s) plate, swirling a golden and too-crispy fry in ketchup. “Have you seen him in the ears, then, Dream?” Karl asks, playful and suggestive.
“Oh come on ,” Dream offers in response, not biting the bait. But they’re not having it, now, and are dragging Dream into their well.
“Yeah, Dream, put me in the ears, let me show you how good of a master you could be,” Sapnap taunts, words dripping with something dark. Dream can’t tell if his eyes are menacingly dark with lust or with the bait of a challenge.
“You’d probably like it, freak,” he mutters, his shit-eating grin taking any bite out of the words. He watches the way it makes Sapnap both glow and cower. His eager flirting takes precedence and wins by a landslide, though.
“Care to test out the theory?” Sapnap asks, all bark and no bite. His adrenaline-high grin gets hidden behind his burger, his laughter burbling out through his shield, contagious until they’re all giggling. As they’re laughing, a stranger approaches, wearing stripes painted on their face to match their team colours. They gesture at Dream to catch his attention
“Hey, kid, that play was incredible,” they compliment, nodding at their own words, “You’re among the greats, I just know it,” they praise. Dream thanks them, rubbing the back of his neck, humble under the attention. He knows he’s good - he’s more than good. But the direct attention from strangers feels like a world of eyes on him sometimes. The stranger pats his shoulder and continues on in search of their party of friends further in the diner.
Once out of earshot, Sapnap speaks up. “God, Dream, that play was so fucking sick, bro,” he praises, a repeat, albeit more discrete, of his earlier praises screamed on the field. “If I was gay, I’d suck your dick for it in celebration,” he jokes. Dream isn’t sure about which part he’s joking.
Karl immediately drops his grip on the fry he was bringing to his open mouth, the sauce splattering against the steel. “I’m your boyfriend ,” Karl cries, incredulous and in faux-distress. Sapnap doesn’t flinch, gesturing his hand to the open air in a continue with your argument gesture.
“ And ?” he asks, pausing momentarily to let Karl sputter as Dream and George laugh, “I’ll suck yours too, doll, damn.”
Dream loves his friends so, so much.