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Jisung feels most at ease like this, in an empty gym surrounded by fallen volleyballs. He doesn’t usually listen to music when he practices on his own, the sound of the ball hitting the other side of the net after a successful jump serve is too satisfying not to listen to, so it’s quiet. Dead quiet; other than the sounds of balls hitting the floor and Jisung’s footsteps as he runs.

He picks up another ball, bouncing it a couple of times before taking a deep breath and turning around. Jisung’s jump serves have been unreliable at best since middle school, but now as a high schooler and a starter, he needs to have it under control. He throws the ball up and runs, eyes never leaving the ball, and slams it as powerful yet controlled as he can.

Jisung’s eyes snap to the other side of the court when he hears a loud smack, but not the sound of a volleyball hitting the ground. He looks up to find Chenle in a perfect receiving position, smug look on his face, and Jisung’s ball somewhere behind him in the sea of other balls from mostly botched attempts from Jisung at a jump serve.

“Asshole,” Jisung pants out, wiping the sweat from his forehead.

“That one was actually in! You’re getting better Jisungie!” Chenle tells him, way too excited for nine o’clock at night after three hours of personal practice.

Jisung sighs, walking over to the bench and his water bottle. He brings it up to his face without looking and glares at Chenle when he takes it out of his hand to flip it right side up. “Nice receive,” Jisung says after gulping down the rest of the water bottle.

“Thanks, Jisung,” Chenle beams and then flops onto the floor. “You missed the news from coach.”

Jisung sits down next to him, wincing at the pain in his legs. “What news?”

“Practice match with Chungdam next week,” Chenle says, rubbing Jisung’s thigh comfortingly when he notices the pained look on his face.

Jisung brushes his hand away, but still sends him a small, thankful smile. “How’d coach swing that? Last I heard they weren’t a school we had connections with.”

“I don’t know, but I heard their libero is super cool, I can’t wait to see how he deals with our serves.”

Jisung hums. They’re team isn’t known for amazing attacks, but they’re pretty good in the serving and receiving department. “What about their hitters?”

“I think they have this super cool wing spiker that got through Kyunggi’s blocks with sheer force. I’m pretty sure he’s their ace,” Chenle mimes spiking, eyes wide in awe, “how amazing is that Jisung?”

“Pretty amazing,” Jisung breathes out. Kyunggi High School is known for their blocks, the majority of their team being pretty tall. It’s impressive to watch but hell to play against.

They sit in silence after that, Jisung stealing Chenle’s water bottle and Chenle letting him. Jisung didn’t realize how thirsty he was until Chenle so rudely interrupted his private practice. He falls back until he’s staring at the ceiling, chest rising and falling softly. Chenle stares at him but Jisung doesn’t really pay him any attention.

A lots changed this year, Jisung thinks. Chenle and him have changed, in most cases for the better. Jisung feels weird, a little floaty, and he’s not quite sure what’s up with that.

Chenle breaks the silence after a beat. “Do you want to go practice spikes with Mark hyung? I think he’s still here.”

Jisung kind of wants to, honestly. “Are you sure he’s still here?”

“Last I saw he was practicing receives with Jeongin,” Chenle says, getting up from the floor. He looms over Jisung, shaking his head before holding a hand out.

Jisung takes it, letting Chenle help him up. “What kind of dongsaengs would we be if we didn’t take advantage of all of Mark hyung’s time?”

Chenle grins. “Horrible ones.”

~

Practice matches are usually fun, they don’t do a lot of them, but the ones they have done have all been enjoyable at the least. Jisung’s made a few acquaintances from them, including Seonho from Daeil and the manager from Whimoon Yeojin. Apgujeong has never done one with Chungdam before because, well, they’re kind of rivals. He thinks it started when Taeyong himself was in school, so it should be personal to him. That didn’t stop their coach from setting one up though.

Jisung’s nervous, he’s heard rumors about their team, specifically about their captain and setter, who’s apparently some sort of genius or something, according to the Research™ Chenle did last night. (Which was stalking their team members individual SNS accounts and, according to Chenle, their libero is not only amazing, but hot as fuck.)

From the way everyone’s on edge, you’d never think this was just a practice match, Jisung knows for sure that Mark has his Game Face on (it’s his normal face except with no smile. Honestly, it kind of makes him look dead in the eyes. Creepy.) and their coach is acting just as serious.

Jisung doesn’t see, more like feel, when Chungdam arrives. The atmosphere changes, if only slightly, and it throws him for a loop. Chenle’s vibrating excitedly beside him and Jisung sighs. This is gonna be a long match.

“Welcome to Apgujeong High,” Taeyong—their coach—says once the entire team files into the gym, “the locker room is over there, please feel free to leave your bags in there and change.” They all bow to him and head off into the locker room.

Jisung turns to Chenle who’s staring at the team with thinly veiled admiration. “This might be fun.”

“Might be? Of course, it’s gonna be fun,” Chenle replies, grinning up at him.

“I hope we win,” Jisung says, eyeing their coach chatting with Chungdam’s.

“It’ll probably be hard, but I do too.” Chenle beams at him, and Jisung returns the smile.

Jisung pinches his side. “Are you gonna try to hit on their libero?”

Chenle punches him in the shoulder. “You ass! I don’t want to hit on him!” Jisung stares pointedly at him. “Okay, maybe I do, but you can’t just start out with flirting, you have to ease into it.”

“Whatever you say Chenle,” Jisung says, rolling his eyes.

“Just because you’re socially and romantically inept doesn’t mean I am!” Chenle all but screams.

Jisung shoves his hand in Chenle’s face. “I am not socially and romantically inept!”

“Yes, you are.”

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“Am not.”

“Are too!”

“Fuck you,” Jisung says with finality, not wanting this hell to go on for any longer

Chenle laughs and bends down. “Love you too.” Jisung rolls his eyes.

“Oh,” Jisung says, looking down at the empty space by his water bottle, “I forgot my tape.”

“I think the majority of them are out of the locker room so you’re safe to go in,” Chenle says, not looking up from where he’s tying his shoe.

Jisung sighs, “I’ll be back.” Chenle mock salutes him as he turns around to make him way to the locker room. He thinks Chungdam is missing a pivotal member of the team as he observes the crowd of boys warming up on the other side of the court, but he might still be in the locker room, so Jisung doesn’t worry too much.

He probably should’ve worried just the teensiest bit, because he runs into someone as he walks into the locker room. Literally runs into them. Jisung may have a fast reaction time on the court but that’s about the only place he has it. It isn’t until the other boy is on the floor groaning as he rubs at his chest does Jisung realize what just happened.

“Holy shit, uh–oh–I’m sorry,” Jisung says, bowing slightly, and then using that to help the other boy up.

“You’re fine,” he says, and Jisung freezes when he finally gets a good look at him. “Are you oka–Oh, Jisung, long time no see.”

“Renjun hyung?”

Huang Renjun moved here from Jilin, China right before middle school. The same middle school Jisung went to. Jisung covers a gasp with a cough, because fuck, Renjun practically taught him how to toss. This is literally going to be a long match.

“Hey?” Renjun says, looking about as confused as Jisung feels.

“I didn’t know you went to Chungdam.”

“I didn’t know you went to Apgujeong.” Jisung stares at Renjun and he laughs. “How’s life going kid?”

Jisung unfreezes. “It’s good, practice is going well.”

“What about your grades,” Renjun says jokingly.

Jisung’s brain supplies him with the memories of Renjun tutoring him in middle school. “Let’s not talk about that.”

Renjun laughs. “Alright.”

He’s suddenly struck with just how awkward this entire interaction is. It makes him kind of sad, Jisung thought they were pretty close in middle school despite the gap in age, but constant practice with somebody does that to a pair of people.

Jisung pauses for a moment, desperately trying to find a way to make this less awkward. He’s about to speak again when someone knocks on the door. “Hurry up, match is starting.” Chenle shouts and then walks away when Jisung yells back.

He turns back to Renjun. “We’re gonna beat you.”

“Good luck with that,” Renjun replies.

~

Jisung might’ve been a little over his head when he told Renjun that they were gonna win, but it’s too late to dwell too much on that. They’re between sets now, Chungdam having taken the first one, but moral is still high, his team had a lot of fun playing the first set.

He did learn that Renjun wasn’t the only player missing before the match started. Turns out their captain is missing, and it’s a damn shame, Jisung would’ve loved to play against Na Jaemin. He’s the top middle blocker in the country, and while that’s not the position Jisung plays, it’d still be nice to get blocking tips from someone as talented as Jaemin.

“Alright huddle up,” Mark breaks Jisung out of his thoughts. “We can get this set, I promise.” He looks a little frazzled, but Jisung doesn’t blame him. Chungdam is a tough competitor.

“Don’t worry captain, I’ve gotten used to #4’s spikes, I’ll be able to pick them up easier this time around,” Chenle says, large smile on his face despite how tired and frustrated Jisung would be if he was in his place.

Jisung claps a hand on Mark’s shoulder, reading the mood. “Yeah captain, don’t worry about us.”

“I’m not worried,” Mark says and the entire team snorts.

Hyunjin smirks at him. “Their genius captain isn’t here, so don’t worry about your spikes being blocked. They’re still good without him, but we can get through or around them.”

“I’m not worried about my spikes!” Mark squawks out, eyes darting around the circle.

Chenle hums. “Sure thing captain,” he says, stepping in front of him, and turning around to face the rest of the team. “Alright guys, their ace is trouble, especially his crosses. Let’s narrow up our blocks so we can limit him to straights, I can pick those up easier.”

“Their ace is beautiful,” Hyunjin says, sighing dramatically as he looks over at him.

Mark slaps him on the back. “Focus on the game, not on how you’re going to attempt to ask him out after it’s over.”

Jisung nods, half agreeing with Mark half wanting this line of conversation to stop. “Let’s focus on time difference attacks, those will get through blocks pretty easily.”

“They’re still a hard team to play against, don’t let your guards down,” Chenle says, addressing the entire team while Mark shakes his head behind him, “Let’s get this set!”

Chenle steps out of the way and bows to Mark, smiling cheekily as he does it. “Hands in guys, it’s my turn to lead the chant.” Mark stares blankly at him, annoyance clear on his face, “Of course,” Chenle drawls, “if that’s okay with you, captain?”

“Fine,” Mark says, admitting defeat, and sticks his hand out. Everyone places their hands on top of his.

“Alright, on the count of three say what ramen you want since Mark hyung’s buying us food after this,” Chenle says quickly, covering up a laugh when he hears the squeak Mark lets out when he processes his words.

Mark attempts to pull his hand away but Jisung doesn’t let him. “I didn’t agree to that!”

“You agreed to it when you became captain,” Jisung says, watching as the fight drains out of his eyes.

“3...2...1!” Chenle counts down loudly, shouting out his ramen order when he finishes. The cacophony of order’s gets the attention of Chungdam who stare at them in thinly veiled amusement as they break away from the huddle.

~

They win the second set but lose the third. Jisung’s not too sad about it, considering he’s getting free ramen once Chungdam leave.

Renjun comes up to him as they’re seeing the other’s off. “You played extremely well,” he says. “You truly are my junior,” it takes Jisung a moment to realize his tone is joking, and when he does, he smiles.

“You taught me everything I know,” Jisung says in the same tone, bending down enough to qualify as a bow. Renjun laughs, pushing him on the shoulder to get him to stop.

“I hope to play against you during the Inter-High,” Renjun says, hiking his bag up higher on his shoulder.

Jisung smiles softly at him. “So do I.”

“Renjun! Time to leave!” Their libero yells at them, and Renjun turns back to flip him off.

He turns back around and pats him on the back. “See you around Jisung.”

“Bye hyung.”

~

There’s this thing Jisung likes to call the God Fucking Hates Me Phenomenon that happens at the worst of times, like right now. It’s the day the brackets for the Inter-High are announced and time seems to be going backwards, or so slow it’s making Jisung want to die. That’s the God Fucking Hates Me Phenomenon, when you’re so excited to get out of class and time seems to be moving slower than usual.

Jisung almost breaks down in tears when the bell finally rings, but instead he shoves his textbook and notebook into his bag and runs as fast as he can to the gym, not even stopping to change.

“Who are we playing first?” Jisung wheezes out after he shoves the door open and spots Taeyong.

“Jungsan,” Taeyong says, then turns back to finish writing the first bracket on the whiteboard.

Jisung’s about to reply when someone runs into him from behind and they both spill onto the floor in a pile of limbs and groans. “Are we playing Chungdam?” the person who ran him over asks, not even caring that he’s on top of Jisung.

“Chenle, you’re an ass,” Jisung growls out after he jumps up and runs towards Taeyong, completely ignoring Jisung still on the floor.

“You still love me though,” Chenle says, turning around to wink at him.

Jisung glares at him. “Not at all.”

Taeyong pointedly ignores their argument. “We have to beat three teams before we play Chungdam, and they have to beat three teams as well for that to happen.”

“Oh, they’ll win, trust me.”

The rest of the team file in after that, varying stages of excitement on their faces. Taeyong turns to the group after the last member crowds around the whiteboard.

“We play Jungsan first.”

Mark looks away from where he was studying the bracket. “If we beat Jungsan and two more teams we’ll play Chungdam.”

“Chungdam? Again?” Jeongin says, worrying his lip between his teeth. “They beat us last time.”

Hyunjin hums. “Their captain wasn’t there either. I wonder what they’re like with him.”

“We played them last month, we know what to expect,” Mark says as an attempt to talk them down from worrying too much.

Jisung thinks about how wrong Mark is. “But what if they’re completely different with their caption?”

“That’s...fair,” Mark says after a moment.

Jisung looks around at the rest of the team and Taeyong, who all look a little nervous. “Plus, I’ve heard...things about Na Jaemin.”

“Are you saying you want to go watch them practice?” Taeyong asks and Jisung nods his head. “Just don’t get caught,” he says, shaking his head, but lets Jisung run off excitedly.

~

Jisung gets caught three minutes after he stops in front of Chungdam’s gym. It’s upsetting but knowing Jisung’s luck he sort of expected it. He turns around slowly after he hears someone clear their throat behind him.

“Hello,” the person who caught him—Jaemin, it’s Chungdam’s captain. Of course, it is—says hesitantly, confusion clear on his face.

“Hi…” Jisung was totally expecting to talk his way out of this situation, but his brain shuts down the second he sees Na Jaemin’s face. If he’s being honest, it’s his hair that catches his attention first. The soft pink compliments his tan skin almost too well, making Jisung’s throat dry up at the sight.

There’s a soft smile on his face and it’s for him. A pretty boy is smiling at Jisung prettily and oh god does he feel like he’s going to pass out.

Jaemin looks him up and down and Jisung’s face burns, but apparently doesn’t see anything to put him more on edge because he relaxes. “What are you doing here?”

Jisung thinks about lying, but oh boy is Na Jaemin cute, and Jisung legally can’t lie to cute boys. “Spying.”

Jaemin’s smile widens and he tilts his head to the side. “Why?”

God, Jisung is so gay. “We’re playing your team.”

“At Inter-High?” Jaemin asks, head still tilted, and Jisung might just lose his mind.

“Yeah, not like—immediately, but I have faith in us both winning our first three matches and playing against each other,” Jisung says.

Jaemin’s eyes widen. “Apgujeong?” Jisung nods. “Didn’t we have a practice match against you last month?”

Jisung fidgets. “You weren’t there.”

“You came here for me?” Jisung nods again. “Oh.” Jaemin lowers his head, and wait—is he blushing?

“I’m Jisung,” he says awkwardly, probably smiling that one smile that Chenle always says makes him look like a fucking loser.

“Nice to meet you Jisung,” Jaemin says, bowing slightly as he smiles, “Are you a first year?”

Jisung bows back. “Yeah.”

“Are you a starter,” Jisung nods, “What position do you play?” Jaemin asks excitedly, stepping closer to him.

“I’m a setter,” Jisung says, averting his eyes so he doesn’t stare too hard at his annoyingly pretty face.

“Oh wait, you’re that Jisung!” Jaemin says, the corners of his lips turning up.

Jisung blanches. “I think?”

“Renjun’s Jisung!” Jaemin clarifies, and Jisung had no idea Renjun talked about him enough for Na Jaemin to know who he is. Must’ve done it after the practice match, unless Renjun thinks about him from time to time.

“Oh,” Jisung says lamely, “Yes.”

“He didn’t tell me you were cute,” Jaemin says.

Jisung attempts to reply but can’t seem to get an intelligible thought out.

“Captain? Practice is starting…” Someone peeks their head out the door, eyes widening in shock when he sees Jisung, but he doesn’t say anything else.

“Oh? I’ll be there in a minute Yedam,” Jaemin says, turning back towards Jisung when the other boy disappears into the gym. “I’ll see you again, yeah?”

“We’re playing each other next month…” Jisung says, suddenly shy for some annoying reason.

“Right,” Jaemin says, cheeks pink. “Goodbye Jisung.”

“Bye Jaemin,” Jisung says.

Jaemin walks towards the door, turning around when he reaches it. “Are you gonna stay and watch?”

“For a little bit.” Jisung says.

Jaemin grins before disappearing into the gym.

~

Jisung grumpily stomps up the stairs on his way to Chenle’s bedroom, ignoring how his parents must think he looks stupid. He throws the door open dramatically. “You didn’t tell me Chungdam’s captain is genuinely the prettiest boy on Earth!”

Chenle looks up from his phone, grinning evilly. “He’s not really my type, but I see where you’re coming from.” Jisung groans and collapses on the bed next to him. “I’m assuming spying went well?”

“Well? I made a fool of myself in front of a cute boy! How is that considered well?”

Chenle rolls onto his side after Jisung flops onto the bed and buries his head in a pillow. “Did you get his number?”

Jisung screams into the pillow.

~

Jisung gets to see Jaemin a whole lot sooner than he expected.

“I have some good news,” Taeyong tells them one Friday after practice a week after Jisung meets Jaemin.

“Mark hyung’s gonna buy us ramen again? Oh, isn’t he just the loveliest captain in the world,” Chenle says, clasping his hands together as he pretend swoons.

Mark clenches his jaw, but otherwise doesn’t say anything. Jisung thinks he’s gotten used to Chenle and him by now.

Taeyong stares at him for a moment. “That’s up to Mark, but no, that’s not my good news.” Chenle pouts. “We’ve been invited to a week-long training camp at Chungdam.”

Jisung jolts in his seat. “What?”

“Chungdam…?” Chenle asks dangerously, eyes darting over to look at Jisung.

“Apparently their captain was sad he didn’t get to play against us last month, so he asked their coach if we could join them for their training camp,” Taeyong says.

Jisung stares incredulously at Taeyong. “Jaemin specifically wanted this?”

“Since when were you on first name basis with the captain of Chungdam?” Mark asks.

Jisung runs a hand through his hair. “We met when I went to spy on them last week.”

“Oh?” Hyunjin asks, wiggling his eyebrows

“It’s nothing,” Jisung says defensively, hugging his legs.

“I’m glad you’re making friends,” Taeyong says offhandedly to him before addressing the entire team, “Anyways, here’s permission slips for your parents. This will be good for us, now go get changed, you all smell.”

Half of the team surround Jisung as he stops in front of his locker. Jisung closes his eyes and takes a deep breathe, preparing himself for the stupid shit they’re about to say.

“Excited to see your boyfriend Jisung?” Jeongin asks, leaning against the lockers with an annoying smile on his face.

Jisung rolls his eyes. “He’s not my boyfriend.” His words are in vain, Jisung knows there’s no way they’ll believe him, especially not with the way his face heats up against his will at the mention of the older boy.

“It’s like a modern Romeo and Juliet!” Hyunjin supplies, pulling his shirt over his head.

“Is Jisung Romeo or Juliet?” Chenle asks, caring more about embarrassing Jisung than getting changed.

“Juliet.”

“He’s totally Juliet.”

“C’mon Chenle...he’s obviously Juliet.”

“Oh my god wait,” Sunwoo says, digging through his locker for his phone. Everyone turns to him in anticipation as he unlocks it, types a couple of things, and turns up the volume as Love Story by Taylor Swift starts playing.

“Sunwoo, my man, you are so smart,” Chenle says as Hyunjin starts to sing along.

Jisung stares at them. “You are all so annoying.” He slams his locker shut and shrugs on his jacket before making his way to the door.

The singing gets louder and more horrible as he walks past them. “Bye Jisung!!” Chenle shouts after him, “I hope you dream about your boyfie!!”

~

Chungdam has a beautiful campus, way cooler than Apgujeong. Jisung totally isn’t jealous. It’s not like there’s fucking trees everywhere and the place looks straight out of some popular Instagram post that got like 800 million likes, filter and all.

Their coach meets them out front as they file off the bus, a large grin on his face. “Welcome to Chungdam! I hope you all have fun this week, we’re certainly looking forward to it.”

“We’re glad to be here,” Mark says, bowing respectfully. The rest of the team follows him, and when they stand up straight Taeyong looks very pleased

Chungdam’s coach, who Jisung has no clue about his name, nods at Mark. “I have a member of my team on his way to show the team around while Taeyong and I talk about the logistics.”

“Jisungie!” Everyone turns their heads to find Jaemin running at them at full speed. He crashes into Jisung before he even processes what’s going on.

“Hello to you too Jaemin hyung,” Jisung says, wrapping his arms around Jaemin’s waist, pointedly ignoring the array of expressions on his teammates faces.

Jaemin squeezes him one last time before pulling away. He smiles to him and then bows to the rest of the team, who are slow to react and bow back. “I’ll show you guys where to put your stuff!”

Jaemin chatters excitedly as he walks them to the rooms they’ll be staying in, not really caring that the only member of Apgujeong’s team he knows is Jisung. He talks to the rest of Jisung’s team like they’ve known each other for years, and they take it in strides, talking back with just as much familiarity.

He leads them to the gyms after they drop their stuff off, Jisung not really paying attention to the conversation, too busy taking in the scenery.

“Isn’t that right Jisung?”

Jisung’s pulled out of his head by Jaemin, who looks at him expectantly. “Huh?”

“You came all the way here just to see me last week?” Jaemin looks fond.

“Oh, yeah,” Jisung says, pointedly ignoring the way Chenle cheekily looks at him.

Jaemin walks them into the gym where the rest of Chungdam’s team are.

“So, this,” Jaemin says, gesturing to the gaggle of teenage boys standing across from them, “is my team.” They all wave with varying amounts of enthusiasm. Chenle waves back excitedly and Jisung watches as the older members of Jaemin’s team’s expressions soften.

Mark steps up, putting his leader persona on high. “Hello. I’m Mark and this is my team.”

~

Jaemin finds him looking out a window in one of the many hallways of the second floor later after everyone’s been banned from the gyms so they could get some sleep.

“Hey Jisung,” he says, sidling up to him, purposely bumping Jisung’s shoulder with his own.

Jisung unconsciously leans into him. “Hello.”

“How was your first day of camp?” Jaemin asks, voice low so as to not break the tranquil atmosphere.

“It was enjoyable,” Jisung says, which is true, it’s a new experience that he’s glad he got to have. Still, he’s a bit worn down, exhaustion having taken refuge in his bones.

“That’s good,” Jaemin says, nodding his head. “What’d you do during your free practice?”

“I was supposed to practice blocks with Hyunjin, but he disappeared like ten minutes into it,” Jisung messes with the sleeve of his jacket. There’s a loose thread hanging from the cuff, he’ll have to ask his mom where the sewing kit is when he gets home.

“That’s…suspicious,” Jaemin says. “Now that I think about it, Jeno disappeared too.”

Jisung stares at him for a moment. “You don’t think…”

“I mean,” Jaemin says, a stupidly attractive smile on his face, “Hyunjin is Jeno’s type.”

Jisung sighs. “No. That’s not happening. I refuse to let that happen.”

“Why not?” Jaemin says, a laugh clear in his voice.

Jisung pouts. “All week they’ve been making fun of me for knowing you, and I know that they wouldn’t think twice about Hyunjin dating Jeno.”

“And why wouldn’t they?” Jaemin has that one smile on his face, the one that makes Jisung want to either punch him or kiss him, and it makes him want to curl into a ball.

“Probably because he’s a hyung, but it’s still annoying.”

Jaemin smiles at him, big and bright Jisung pauses for a moment, the way Jaemin’s looking at him making his mind reel. He swears Jaemin’s eyes flick down to look at his lips, but just as he recognizes it, he’s back to staring into Jisung’s eyes and he’s pulling away.

“It’s late, you should go to bed,” Jaemin says softly.

Jisung has the overwhelming urge to touch Jaemin, but he resists. “Yeah.”

“I’ll walk you to your room,” Jaemin says, a hand hovering over the small of Jisung’s back. Selfishly, Jisung starts walking a beat too late, making Jaemin’s hand make contact with his back. He doesn’t pull away, just smiles, and continues on his way.

Jaemin drops him off at the room Apgujeong are staying in with a smile on his face and an unspoken promise of seeing him in the morning. Jisung watches as he turns and walks away, the blood in his ears pounding.

“How nice of your boyfriend to walk you back to your room,” Chenle comments.

Jisung pays him no mind, sighing as he thinks about how ridiculous he’s being.

~

By the end of the training camp Jisung has a fat, humongous crush on Jaemin. The planets must be aligned perfectly because he also gets his phone number. According to Chenle, none of those things are a problem. According to Jisung, both of them are. Chenle thinks he’s overreacting at first, but his opinion changes three days after they get back from the training camp.

Jisung bursts into the locker room with a look of pure determination on his face. It’s amazing the panic doesn’t show up, but little victories.

“Na Jaemin is the worst thing to ever happen to me,” Jisung announces, getting the attention of all of his team members.

Chenle, who has heard this specific rant a something 800 times, doesn’t look up from his phone while saying, “What’d he do this time?”

Jisung shoves his phone into his face. “This.”

Chenle sighs, flicks his eyes up to look at Jisung with a look that says something like ‘why are you such a gay disaster’, and grabs the phone. “He…texted you? That’s the problem?”

“Yes! Yes, that’s the problem!”

“What’d he say?” Hyunjin says. Jisung has half the mind to make some jab about his confusing relationship with Jeno, but ultimately decides against it.

Chenle raises the phone again, does a double take, and starts reading. “Jisungieeeeeeee,” he drags out for about ten seconds until Mark hits him on the shoulder. “How was your day? Was it good? Send me a selfie it’s been years since I’ve seen that cute face of yours.”

Sunwoo whistles. “Damn, he’s bold.”

“I’m losing my fucking mind,” Jisung says as seriously as he can manage.

Chenle purses his lips, thinking for a moment, before nodding. “Flirt back.”

“Do I look like someone who can flirt?”

Chenle hands the phone back to Jisung and claps his hands together. “Alright! Team sleepover this weekend! We can teach Jisung how to flirt.”

“No, no, no.” Jisung says, trying to push Chenle onto the floor. “We are not doing that.”

Chenle slaps his hands away. “Fine, but you have to send him a selfie.”

“That’s not happening.”

“Jisung!! Do you really wasn’t to be responsible for making Jaemin sad?” Chenle asks, hitting him right where he’s weakest. Damn him.

Jisung gives up. “Fine.” He holds his phone up to take a quick selfie.

Chenle grabs the phone out of his hand the second after the shutter sounds out throughout the room. “No,” he says, shaking his head, “you can’t send him this.”

“What’s wrong with it?” Jisung asks, offended.

“It’s horrible. The quality is horrendous and you’re not even smiling! C’mon Jisung, you can do better than this.”

Jisung’s face heats up as he snatches his phone back. “You are so fucking rude to me,” he says while typing out a message of have to go to practice. will send one when i’m done.

He pretends to not see the way Hyunjin and Chenle roll their eyes at him, instead occupying himself with changing into his practice clothes.

(Jisung ends up sending him a mirror selfie after practice. His hair is drenched with sweat, damp bangs pushed up off his forehead, and it’s Chenle Approved. Jaemin replies with a selfie of his own in which his cheeks are too pink to be a coincidence.)

~

“Please explain this to me,” Jisung’s hanging off Mark’s couch upside down, glaring at his phone screen that’s sat on the floor a couple centimeters from his head.

“Explain what?” Mark asks, looking up from his homework.

Jisung slides the phone over to him. “This.”

“Jaemin texting you?” Jisung nods. “What don’t you get about it?”

“We’re rivals hyung,” Jisung says.

“I mean, technically yes, but he wants to be friends. Don’t let the match get in the way of that. I know you’re not the best at making friends,” Mark says.

“Thanks for having faith in me hyung,” Jisung says sarcastically.

“I have tons of faith in you, I wouldn’t have hand-picked you as a started if I didn’t.”

“What if he’s using me or something. Trying to get secrets out of me,” Jisung asks and then starts whining when Mark cracks up.

“Jaemin has like, the biggest, dumbest heart eyes for you Sung,” Mark says, wiping the tears from his eyes

Jisung stays quiet as he slowly falls from the couch to lay on the floor. “Are you sure?” he asks after a moment, voice small.

“I’m sure Jisung.”

“I think I like him,” Jisung says after a moment, after Mark’s gone back to his homework and forgotten about Jisung’s crisis for the time being.

Mark looks up, and Jisung will never tell him this but he’s secretly thankful that Mark’s taking him seriously and not laughing at his confusion at the situation. “If it makes you feel any better, I think he likes you too.”

“But does he like me like that.”

“Sometimes I forget how young you are, and then you say shit like that and I’m all like ‘oh right, I spend most of my time around literal children’ and I regret every decision I made that got me here,” Mark says, reaching a hand down to dig through his bag.

Jisung snorts. “Oh yeah hyung, I’m wondering if a boy likes me, like like likes me.” Mark bows his head as he laughs, momentarily stopping his voyage into the bottom of his bookbag.

Mark raises his head to the sounds of Jisung’s choked giggles and seemingly finds what he was looking for in his bag. He throws something at Jisung. “Here, ruin your teeth. You have no reason to need comfort food right now, but I’m still giving it to you in the hopes you’ll let me finish my homework.”

Jisung picks up the lollipop and gasps. “Goody two shoes Mark Lee carries around lollipops in his bookbag? How scandalous hyung.”

“Shut up! Shut up Jisung. Please just let me finish this,” Mark groans, tossing a balled-up piece of scratch paper at his head.

Jisung throws it right back at him. “I’ll leave you alone if you let me play with your Switch.”

Mark sighs, stands up, marches over to his dresser, pulls out the Switch, and gently hands it to Jisung because he may be annoyed but he’s not going to take it out on his poor Switch. “Have fun. If you annoy me one more time, I’m kicking you out of my house.”

Jisung sticks his tongue out at him.

~

The first couple games of the Inter-High go quickly, Apgujeong beating them with a practiced ease. It’s good, moral is high, but the thought of the next team they’re playing is loud in the back of his head.

Chungdam and Daeil are currently in their second set, Chungdam having taken the first one, and whoever wins is the team they’ll be playing against next.

“Jaemin does well under pressure,” Mark comments, chomping on a banana.

He’s not wrong. Jaemin takes the pressure of an official match with grace, bright smile on his face no matter who gets the point, and array of nice killl or nice receive or that’s alright, we’ll get the next one or couldn’t be helped, don’t mind spilling from his mouth according to what happened.

It’s not just Jaemin that’s amazing, their whole team works together like a well oiled machine.

Renjun’s game sense is on par that of a professional athlete, his ability to read the other team for filth making Jisung scared for himself but also incredibly jealous. Just in the last ten minutes Jaemin’s seen Donghyuck pick up balls he thought were impossible to receive. Jeno’s cross is just as terrifying in an official match, even more so than it was during practice.

“What’s the score?” Jisung asks, trying to catch a glimpse of the scoreboard from his seat.

Chenle hands him an apple. “25 to 24. Chungdam’s in the lead though.”

Hyunjin whistles. “Damn, I’d hate to get into a deuce with them, their entire team’s stamina is scary.”

Jisung flashes back to the training camp, how enthusiastic they were to practice and continue practicing. He shivers. “Please don’t put that image in my head, I think I’d die.”

“Oh, Jisung, I’ve been meaning to ask you something,” Chenle turns to him with the most devious smile Jisung’s ever seen on him to date.

His lips are curled up and Jisung can practically smell how bad this is going to go. “Ask away.”

“So, is this like, a winner buys the loser dinner situation? Or is Jaemin going to be a gentleman and pay no matter what?”

“I hate you,” Jisung says, voice too quiet to be heard over the laughter of his teammates.

Hyunjin lightly shoves him in the shoulder. “We should hate you; I mean, you are dating one of our rivals.”

“I’m not dating him!” Jisung says, shoving a bit of banana in his mouth

“You two text all the time,” Chenle points out.

“Doesn’t mean we’re dating,” Jisung says, glaring at him.

Chenle rolls his eyes. “You want to date him.”

“No, I do not.”

“Why not? Imagine all the blocking tips he could give you,” Chenle says, wiggling his eyebrows. His innuendo is horrible, but everyone laughs anyways.

“You are the worst person I’ve ever had the misfortune of meeting,” Jisung deadpans as Chenle sticks his tongue out at him like the child he is.

Chenle’s cut off from responding when a loud, long, whistle sounds out through the entire gym. Jisung jumps up from his seat, eyes searching for Jaemin. He finds him in the middle of a team hug, while the other team stares at the ball that landed on their side in horror.

“They won,” Jisung whispers. “They won!” he says louder this time, spinning around to hug Chenle.

“Why are you so happy? Now we’re going to have to play them,” Mark says.

“When have you ever backed down from a challenge?” Hyunjin says, raising an eyebrow at him

Everyone smiles at each other, determined.

“Let’s win this,” Jisung says.

Mark nods, and everyone follows. “Yeah, let’s get it!”

Jisung pulls away, a look of disgust on his face. “Eww Mark hyung, we’ve talked about this.”

“Yeah C’mon Mark hyung!” Chenle says, joining in on the teams’ daily session of Make Fun Of Mark Hyung.

Jeongin raises his hands to his ears. “Do you want my ears to bleed again?”

“Think of the children Mark hyung,” Hyunjin places his hands over Jeongin’s and then fully covers his ears.

Mark stares at them. “Why do you all hate me?”

“How could we ever hate you? You buy of ramen all the time!” Chenle says, blowing a kiss at him.

Mark slaps the kiss out of the air. “I buy you ramen against my will! I can’t wait to be done with this stupid season, think of my poor wallet!”

“Just say you hate us and want to get rid of us and go!” Jisung says, glad the attention is off of him.

Taeyong shakes his head when Mark looks to him for help. “What do you expect me to do?”

“Tell them to respect their captain?” Mark says like it’s the most obvious thing in the world.

Taeyong thinks for a minute. “Nah.”

The entire team cheers.

~

“Jisung! Wait up!”

Jaemin catches Jisung as he’s heading outside to board the bus. He had been left behind by the rest of his teammates. Usually Mark would stay with him, but he kind of started everyone ganging up on him earlier, so he’s being petty for the time being.

“Jaemin hyung, congrats on the win against Daeil,” Jisung means his words, he’s still trying to get away from think of Jaemin and him as rivals, but he likes to think he’s mostly there. A win against Daeil is a feat in itself, and Jaemin deserves the congratulations, rivalry or not.

“Thank you,” Jaemin says, bashfully bowing. “Their blocks are so cool; I could learn a lot from them.”

Jisung could learn a lot from Jaemin, more than he was able to learn in the weeklong training camp that felt so short after everything was done. He wants to learn more from Jaemin, but he doesn’t know how to make that happen with the fact that this game will end the fall season for whoever’s team loses.

“We play each other next,” Jisung blurts out. He cringes as soon as he gets the words out, not appreciating how blunt he sounds.

Jaemin smiles at him, not seeming to mind how stupid Jisung sounds. “We do.”

The match is inevitable, if they didn’t play each other tomorrow it would’ve happened maybe next week or month. Jisung shouldn’t worry, it’s not like he’ll never play again or never see Jaemin again. They’re friends now, at least in Jisung’s eyes, and it’s not like it seems like Jaemin’s going to drop him depending on the results.

“Fighting, hyung,” Jisung says, suddenly very ready for the match.

Jaemin tilts his head in that way that makes Jisung’s insides feel very warm, and he raises a hand to boop Jisung’s nose.

“Fighting, Jisung.”

~

Jisung doesn’t get much sleep that night, instead staying up to review as many Chungdam matches as he can and having to remind himself to stop staring at Jaemin every five minutes.

This match is interesting, keeping Jisung on the edge of his seat. Chungdam’s opponent is good, but they’re better. Jisung watches with abrupt fascination, watching as the volley takes so long, he loses count of how many times the ball has gone over the net.

He loses it when Jaemin runs to the left side of the court, the receive having been off, and tosses the ball. They get the point, but Jisung doesn’t pay much attention, too focused on the fact that there’s literally nothing Na Jaemin can’t do.

If Jaemin pulls something like that tomorrow Jisung doesn’t know if he’ll be able to stop himself from dropping to his knees right then and there and pray to every god out there.

~

“Nervous?” Chenle asks him the second they start their warm up.

Nervous would be an understatement, but Jisung takes it in strides. He’s vowed to do his best, not for him, but for all the third years. Sure, they’ll still have the Spring Tournament after this, but he’s not sure if they’ll stay for that.

Jisung hopes they do, it’ll feel weird not being able to make fun of Mark every practice.

“Not at all,” Jisung says coolly, because he’s cool like that and not at all thinking about a future where he can’t make fun of Mark with ease every single day.

Chenle hits him upside the head. “Loser. I know you are.”

“Then why did you ask?” Jisung asks, rubbing his head while he looks at Chenle with betrayal in his eyes.

“I wanted to hit you,” Chenle says simply.

Jisung’s about to call him an ass when Mark calls for everyone to line up to practice hitting. He gets in position by the net and allows all the thoughts that aren’t about volleyball to drain out of his head. Jisung realizes at a worrying moment that most of the thoughts in his head that aren’t about volleyball are all about Jaemin.

He fucks up that toss. “Sorry!” Jisung yells out to Jeongin, who lunges to the side to attempt to try to get it over the net. He manages, but Jisung still asks him to get back in line so they can try again.

It’s not until both teams warm ups are over that Jisung realizes Jaemin was watching him the entire time they were practicing spikes. Creepy? Maybe a little bit, but not that much, because the way Jaemin watched him with awe in his eyes and a dumb smile on his face made Jisung feel warm inside.

~

The referee calls for both captains and Jisung watches as Mark and Jaemin stop in front of each other. Jaemin bows, because he’s nice and a gentleman, and Jisung watches as Mark’s brain short circuits before he hastily bows back. They shake hands after that, Jaemin smiling in a not cocky way—which he really wasn’t expecting—and the ref calls for heads or tails.

Jisung watches as the coin is tossed up and words are exchanged, looking hopeful as Mark walks back to their team. “We’re serving first.”

The team perks up in excitement, they usually have better starts when they serve first. “Mark you won’t yell at me too long if I miss a receive because I’m too busy staring at their aces biceps, will you?” Hyunjin asks, cheeky smile on his face as he looks behind Mark, straight at Chungdam’s ace.

“Fucking get in line and bow,” Mark growls, pushing Hyunjin towards the court. Hyunjin, despite Mark’s best attempts, manages to catch Jeno’s eye, and winks as he flirtily waves. Jeno raises a hand in response, waving back, cheeks suspiciously red.

~

Jisung realizes just how terrifying Chungdam are as an opponent when they’re almost done with the first set. They scoreboard reads 19-21, not a very large lead, but a lead, nonetheless. He takes a deep breath as he catches the ball Mark throws his way. It’s his serve and he’s afraid of fucking up his serve.

The whistle blows and Jisung takes one last breath before tossing the ball up and stepping forward, jumping right before he hits the line. Somewhere in the back of his mind he thinks about how perfect the toss was right before he swings his arm.

Jisung lands to the sound of a whistle and silence. He looks up in shock to see that nobody on Chungdam’s side of the court has moved, and the ball Jisung just hit bouncing towards the back wall. The ref at the back of the court holds an arm out towards Apgujeong’s side. Everyone starts screaming at the same time, Mark tackling him in a hug.

Jisung got a service ace, and the look of pure adoration on Jaemin’s face made him want to curl into a ball on the court floor and cry.

The ball is thrown to him again, a chorus of Nice serve’s sounding out from their side of the court. Jisung takes a deep breath and repeats the same steps he did last time.

Jisung watches as the serve is (unfortunately) received by Donghyuck, sent straight to Renjun, and he prepares himself for Jeno, who’s running perpendicular to the net, terrifying smile on his face as Renjun jumps, eyes trained on the ball.

“Wait for it,” Hyunjin says, eyes trained on Jeno.

Jisung, Hyunjin, and Jeongin jump at the same time as Jeno, and time seems like it slows as the referees’ whistle blares throughout the gym. He lands in a state of confusion until he sees the ball coming to a stop on their side of the net.

“A dump?!” Taeyong yells from the sidelines, their manager Yeri putting a comforting hand on his shoulder.

Jisung whirls around to openly stare at Renjun’s smug face as he cheers along with the rest of his team. Mark makes eye contact with Taeyong who immediately calls for a time out.

“That was so cool!” Chenle says as soon as they huddle up. He turns to Jisung. “Why can’t you do cool stuff like that?”

Jisung hits him on the shoulder. “Quit being mean.”

“It’s my job to be mean to you.”

“No, it’s your job to pick up Jeno’s spike, which you’re doing a pretty shit job at doing.”

Chenle pouts and sticks out his tongue, taking the water bottle Yeri gives him. “How is it that he’s gotten that much better since we last saw him?”

“I don’t deny that their ace is a threat, but that setter,” Taeyong stresses, running a hand through his hair. “Jeongin, keep an eye on him. Read blocking, we’ve talked about this,” he adds.

“Can I ‘keep an eye’ on their ace?” Hyunjin asks, like he hasn’t been doing just that the entire set.

Taeyong nods. “Yeah, do your creepy flirt thing and try and knock him off his game.”

“My flirting isn’t creepy!” Hyunjin objects, but Taeyong just waves him off.

“Just, keep an eye on #3, make sure he doesn’t get away with any dumps again,” Taeyong sighs.

It’s obvious the team is frazzled by the dump. Renjun is smart, he knew they weren’t expecting a dump then, considering Renjun had been favoring Jeno the entire set. Jisung’s about to say something to get them back to focusing on winning when Mark beats him to the punch.

Mark sighs. “Guys, c’mon. That was a surprise but we’re ahead right now. We just need to keep doing what we’re doing, and everything will work out. We can take this set, I promise.”

Chenle stares at him weirdly. “Why are you talking like that? Who are you, our captain?”

“You’re all horrible,” Mark says, sighing.

Jisung pinches his cheek. “You love us.”

“I’ll love you if you win this set,” Mark shoves him off, but then Chenle pinches his other cheek and he admits defeat.

Chenle hums. “How about, you buy us ramen if we win this set.”

“Chenle, at this point that’s a given,” Mark says right before Chenle beams and pounces on him, wrapping his arms tightly around Mark’s shoulders. “You don’t get ramen if you don’t win! Now let me go and get back on the court.”

“Sir yes sir!” Chenle salutes as the ref blows the whistle, signifying the end of the time out.

~

They end up taking the set, Jisung considers it a miracle. Chungdam don’t look too put off by it, which puts him on edge, but his team look happy, so he doesn’t think about it too much.

Taeyong gives them some speech about knowing they could do it and to not let their guard down as they enter the second set and shoos them off to grab their stuff in preparation for switching sides.

“Alright guys, just one more set. We got this,” Mark says.

“How long do we have until the second set starts?” Chenle asks, bowing slightly as he takes a towel from Yeri.

“Did the excitement of the game make you forget how everything works?” Jisung says.

Chenle sticks his tongue out.

“Guys, guys. We have two and a half minutes left. Make sure to drink some water,” Mark says.

“Damn, Chungdam puts up one hell of a fight,” Hyunjin says, using the bottom of his shirt to wipe the sweat off of his forehead. Shortly after Jisung hears a grunt of pain and looks over to see Jeno profusely apologizing to Chungdam’s #8, who he apparently just ran into.

“What…went on between you and Jeno during the training camp?” Jisung asks, eyeing Jeno’s flustered demeanor.

Hyunjin winks at him. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

“On second thought,” Jisung starts, “I wouldn’t.”

Hyunjin just shrugs and turns away. Jisung stares at him for a moment before shaking his head.

Jisung looks up from his water bottle and makes eye contact with Jaemin. He hesitantly waves, the small smile on his face growing bigger when Jisung waves back.

“Get back on the court!” Taeyong yells right before the whistle blows.

Jisung exhales nervously, seeing that in the new formation Jaemin’s right across from him.

“Fighting,” Jaemin says softly.

Jisung smiles. “Fighting.”

~

The second set doesn’t go as well as the first, and the third seems to be following the same pattern. They’re at a deuce, Chungdam and Apgujeong both at 24, and it doesn’t look like it’s changing anytime soon.

In a split-second Mark slams the ball down on Chungdam’s side.

25-24

They counter with combination attack, all of their wing spikers running up at once, but Jeno inevitably scores the point.

25-25

Jisung’s tired, so, so tired, but he can’t lose. He can’t let his team down.

26-25

The frustration on Jaemin’s face is clear as day, but he still manages to send a smile Jisung’s way when he catches his eye. Jisung almost feels bad for the dump he pulls off after that. Almost.

26-26

Deuces are never fun, they’re tiring and all around horrible, but the weightless feeling that comes with finally getting that two-point difference and being the winner makes it all worth it.

Jisung hopes they come out the winner.

28-27

Bile threatens to claw its way up Jisung’s throat as he watches Jaemin fall to the ground. For a terrifying moment he doesn’t get up and Jisung thinks this is it, it’s over, Chungdam will never be able to finish the set victorious after watching their captain leave to go to the nurses’ station.

But then Jaemin gets up, sending his coach a tired smile, and gets back in position like nothing happened.

This is going to be so much harder than Jisung originally thought.

29-28

Jeno’s serves are just as terrifying as his spikes, but Chenle’s still able to get them up with little to no difficulty, sending the ball Jisung’s way like it’s nothing. High and away from the net, Jisung repeats in his head as he watches the ball get closer and closer to him, ready to set the ball to the only person that deserves it right now.

Mark takes off, running towards the net as Jisung sets it just how he likes it. He avoids the block but Donghyuck picks it up, sending it to Renjun, and time slows as Jisung watches Jeno jump.

It’s beautiful, Jeno’s midair form, Jisung understands Hyunjin’s infatuation with the ace. That doesn’t stop Hyunjin from calmly giving him instructions for the block. They jump when Hyunjin says, and later when Jisung watches the recording of the match he’ll be able to see where they made a mistake clear as day, but now in the middle of it with his head spinning he does as he’s told and watches with a terrifying focus the way Jeno smiles as the ball practically stops in front of him.

That moment seems to last forever, but the next part is too fast to process. Before Jisung even lands the referee blows the whistle once, and then twice, longer this time, and Jisung knows with sickening finality that they’ve lost, even without looking at the ball or the scoreboard.

Later, as they’re lining up to shake hands with Chungdam Jisung chances a look at the scoreboard: 30-28.

Renjun bows to him, not a full 90 degrees but still, it’s more than Jisung’s expecting. “Next year you’ll be a terrifying opponent,” he says, “I fear for my dongsaengs.”

Jisung bows back. He may be tired but he’s not disrespectful. “Good luck in college hyung.”

Jaemin doesn’t say anything to him when they shake hands, just lingers for a moment or two longer than he should. He can’t help but feel a little disappointed, expecting something more, but not sure exactly what.

He does catch Jisung when he’s taking a breather outside of the gym before heading to the bus to go back to school. “Jisungie!”

Jisung turns around. “Hey hyung,” he says, the fatigue finally setting in. God, they had a deuce up to 30, how did he not realize he was tired before now.

Jaemin holds a hand out and it takes Jisung a moment to realize what he’s asking. He huffs out a laugh and slaps his hand away, breaking out in actual laughter when Jaemin looks at him like a confused puppy.

The expression falls away when Jisung pulls him into a hug. Or, at least he thinks it does, he really can’t see Jaemin’s face when his own is pressed into the crook of his shoulder, but he assumes it’s been replaced with another smile or something equally as cute as his pout and furrowed brow.

“Congratulations,” Jisung whispers into the sweaty skin of his neck.

Jaemin doesn’t say thank you, just freezes for a moment before squeezing him tighter and whispering back a goose bump inducing, “I hope to play you again in the future.”

Jisung thinks about it for a moment. “I do too, hyung.”

~

The game that decides who’s going to nationals is intense, but of course Jaemin takes the pressure with an air of nonchalance and plays just as well as he did during their game, maybe even better.

It’s towards the end of the fourth set when Jisung realizes how fucked he is. Jisung’s seen Jaemin toss before, but only on video. Watching it in real life pulls all of the breath out of his lungs and stomps on his heart simultaneously. God, Jisung has it bad for this kid; really, really bad.

He runs down to the doors to the court the second the final whistle blows. Chungdam won, they fucking won. Jaemin’s team is going to represent their prefecture in the finals. Jisung’s never felt this proud of someone else in his entire life.

Jaemin spots him the second he walks out of the gym, huge smiling getting even larger, and he drops his bags on the floor and takes off running towards him. Jisung catches him, of course, because he really, really likes Jaemin and this is the highest he’s felt in a long time.

“You came,” Jaemin whispers into his ear, not loosening his hold on him.

Jisung squeezes him even harder. “Of course.”

“You came,” Jaemin says again, this time with more intensity.

Jisung pulls back to look Jaemin in the eyes and raises a hand to cup his cheek. “You did amazing.” The intensity of Jaemin’s gaze on him sends his mind reeling, but he doesn’t pull away.

“Thank you,” Jaemin says, leaning into Jisung’s hand.

Out of the corner of his eye, Jisung sees Jeno wander away from the rest of his team, heading towards a familiar looking figure. If this were any other day Jisung would voice his suspicions, but today Jaemin’s going to nationals and Jisung’s so fucking proud of him, and that’s the only thing his brain has the capacity to focus on.

For a split second Jisung thinks Jaemin’s going to lean in and close the gap between them, but he doesn’t. “Captain? We need to leave,” someone from Jaemin’s team breaks them out of their little bubble, Yedam or something.

Jaemin’s eyes flick down to Jisung’s lips one more time before he steps away. “Okay. Start loading the bus, I’ll be there in a minute.”

“Have fun on the bus ride home,” Jisung says, throat dry.

“I’ll try,” Jaemin shoots Jisung his usual smile, but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes.

Jaemin gives him one last hug before turning around and walking away.

~

[4:35] jisung: hey
[4:35] jisung: i heard about the semifinals

[4:35] jaemin: jisungie!!!
[4:35] jaemin: yeah :(( we did our best though!!!
[4:35] jaemin: can i call you?

Jisung furrows his brows and presses the call button next to Jaemin’s name. “Your preference towards phone calls instead of texting never fails to confuse me.”

“Hello to you too,” Jaemin says, laughing softly. He sounds tired, which Jisung supposes is valid.

“Hello. Any particular reason for today’s daily phone call?”

“Well...since we’re not rivals anymore can we officially be friends now?”

“I thought this was us being friends?”

“You acted like we weren’t!”

“Hyung, I stayed up practically every day for weeks talking with you, I went to all of your games I could after you beat us, I don’t do that with people I’m not friends with.”

“Oh.”

“So,” Jisung says, small smile on his face, “friends?”

If Jisung closes his eyes he can see the smile he’s sure is on Jaemin’s face right now. “Friends.”

~

Jisung vaguely registers the screeching sound of the gym door opening, too caught up in whether or not his last jump serve went in. He’s squinting his eyes trying to remember where exactly it landed when someone behind him clears their throat.

“It was out,” the person says, and Jisung turns around, a look of exasperation on his face. “You were close though,” he adds belatedly.

Jisung takes a couple seconds to unpack the situation. Na Jaemin stands in front of him, practice clothes still on, but by the way he’s hugging himself Jisung thinks it might be colder outside than he expected. His gym bag has been discarded haphazardly by the door.

The sense of deja vu it gives him is overwhelming, throwing him straight back to the first time they met.

“What are you doing here?” Jisung asks, sinking down onto the floor as his exhaustion catches up to him.

Jaemin walks forward slowly, reaching a hand out to offer Jisung a water bottle. “I wanted to see you.”

Jisung stares at the water bottle and then him. “How did you know I was here?”

“Chenle texted me,” Jaemin says sheepishly, shoulders relaxing when Jisung takes the bottle.

“I’m fine,” Jisung says after downing half of the water.

“You look tired as hell,” Jaemin says softly, sitting down next to him.

Jisung sighs, laying down until his cheek is resting on Jaemin’s toned thigh, and closes his eyes. “You beat us.”

“That we did,” Jaemin says, fondling stroking a hand through Jisung’s sweaty hair. “But you guys put up a hell of a fight.”

Jisung smiles. “Yeah we did.”

“You still have two more years,” Jaemin says after a beat, his hand slowing ever so slightly.

“What if I told you I wanted to play against you again?”

“Jisung,” Jaemin laughs softly, “I’m expecting that to happen.”

“I’m gonna beat your ass in college.”

Jaemin pokes him in the cheek. “I’m looking forward to it.”

It’s quiet for a few moments, both of them lost in their imaginations. Jisung thinks about it, really thinks about it, beating Jaemin in a match. For some reason, the thought doesn’t appeal to him as much as it did before the Inter-High. Jisung’s suddenly overcome with want, for Jaemin, but most importantly, wanting to play with Jaemin.

“Speaking of college,” Jisung starts before he can stop himself, “where are you going?”

“I have a scholarship to KNSU,” Jaemin says.

“Cool.”

It’s here, in Apgujeong’s gym B that Jisung realizes Jaemin sort of crept into his life somehow. He didn’t want it, at first, all the attention from him, but now he craves it. Should it concern him? Maybe, but he doesn’t care. Jisung wants Jaemin in his life, in any way possible.

“I’m really glad we became friends,” Jisung says, breaking the soft atmosphere.

“I am too.”

~

Trying to get anything done while Jaemin sits across from him anxiously tapping a pen against the table is proving to be incredibly difficult. He’s supposed to be writing an essay, but Jisung can’t concentrate on anything other than Jaemin’s hands.

“What’s wrong?” Jisung asks exasperatedly, not bothering to look up from his laptop.

Jaemin shakes out of his weird trance. “What? Nothing.”

“You’re being weird, tell me,” Jisung says, a bit slower this time.

Jaemin smiles at him, but it doesn’t quite cover up the hesitance in his eyes. “It’s nothing Sungie, don’t worry about it.”

He does, but still goes back to writing his stupid essay on why some girl in some story was messed up in the end. Jisung really hates literature classes. Jaemin will tell him what’s wrong when he’s ready, he trusts in that.

It’s ten minutes later when Jisung’s on the home stretch when he finally comes clean. “I have a crush on you,” Jaemin blurts out of nowhere.

Jisung finally looks up from his laptop and stares at him. Jaemin has a hand slapped over his mouth, eyes wide, and the parts of his cheeks he can see are pink. He sighs. “Hyung, you really couldn’t wait until I was done with this essay to tell me that?”

Jaemin lowers his hand, eyebrows furrowed. “No...?” The way he slowly tilts his head in confusion has Jisung feeling a little too warm inside. He’s so damn cute.

Jisung sighs again, turning his attention back to his laptop. “I’ll answer you when I’m done.”

“That’s so unfair!” Jaemin whines, dropping his head down onto the desk.

“What’s unfair is you distracting me from an essay that’s worth a quarter of my grade.”

“.... A quarter?” Jisung nods. “Shit.”

When he finally types out the last word of his essay Jisung pushes his laptop to the side and leans across the table to pull Jaemin into a short kiss. Jaemin’s obviously very surprised, but he kisses back with as much vigor Jisung would use if he wasn’t nervous as shit.

“I like you too loser,” Jisung breathes out after they break apart.

Jaemin’s eyes are still closed, but his lips are set in a soft smile. “Technically you’re the loser, considering I beat you.”

“It was a deuce up to 30, don’t get too cocky,” Jisung says, briefly considering pushing his away, but the warmth Jaemin brings against him is too addicting to get rid of.

“Still beat you,” Jaemin mumbles against his lips.

Never mind. Jisung pulls back and shuts his laptop loudly. “You know what? I take back my crush. Do you know if Renjun hyung is single?”

Jaemin whines. “You are so mean to me. Renjun? Seriously?”

Jisung shrugs. “I thought he was pretty in middle school.” Jaemin whines even louder. Jisung leans forward to cup Jaemin’s cheek in his hand, thumbing against his bottom lip, promptly shutting him up. “But I think you’re prettier.”

Jaemin smiles stupidly at him and Jisung rolls his eyes at him, lifting up a notebook to cover what he considers the dumbest blush ever on his face.