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is that a lob, because i'm about to smash you

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Hoseok is lucky enough that Jungkook managed to rope him into finding a gym with an outdoor and indoor tennis court so fast, but now that he’s here, he has to deal with getting used to an entirely new layout all over again.

He sighs. The gym he used to go to was shut down, and after a good two weeks of running around trying to find somewhere with good tennis equipment, here he is.

It’s a lot less fancy than his old one, but beggars can’t be choosers, right? Besides, Taehyung is waiting for him somewhere inside. The boy at the front desk doesn’t even glance at him until he softly knocks on the tabletop and clears his throat.

“Do you know where the tennis courts are?”

Without looking up from whatever game he’s playing on his computer, the boy answers, “Indoor tennis courts are down the hall, through the double doors, and on the left. For the outdoor courts, make a right and go through the glass doors, they’re behind the basketball courts.”

“Uh. Thanks?” He readjusts his tennis bag and heads towards the outdoor courts, finally excited to be on asphalt after so many days of not being able to play. The boy doesn’t look at him, still clicking away at his computer game, and Hoseok takes that as his sign to just leave.

It’s only when he’s halfway through the building and still hasn’t seen any glass doors when he realizes he might be lost. Okay, back up. He’s definitely passed by this exact water fountain before, it still has a piece of blue gum stuck to it. But everywhere looks the same, and he has no idea where the front desk is now (not that he would’ve been helpful), or whether he’s facing the front of the back of the gym, and there are especially no glass doors. Maybe he should retrace his steps? Or maybe try to find a map. Or another employee. Or anything, really. The sign in front of him says that the pool is at the next left, so maybe he can use that as a guide...

“Hey, are you lost?”

The sound comes from nowhere - Hoseok nearly jumps five feet into the air before he turns to see who the owner of the voice is. At the end of the hallway where he just came from stands another man, holding a water bottle in one hand, and a tennis racket in the other. His hair is... His hair is a rich purple color, held back by a black headband on his forehead. It looks nice. Better than that though, is the man’s smile. Hoseok nearly feels his heart drop three feet into the ground below him when the man smiles - he has deep dimples and fuck if Hoseok doesn’t think dimples are the cutest thing in the entire world. “W-what?”

“Are you lost?” Purple Hair With The Cutest Fucking Dimples Ever Guy asks again, pointing at his tennis racket. “You have a tennis racket. And you’ve been staring at the wall for like two minutes.”

“Have I?” Hoseok asks, the nervous laughter bubbling out of him uncontrollably. “I - yeah, I might not know where I am. I’m new here. You play tennis? I’m trying to find the outdoor tennis courts.”

Purple Hair With The Cutest Fucking Dimples Ever Guy laughs, except much more controlled and less like he’s about to lose his shit like Hoseok is. His voice is deep and smooth; Hoseok thinks his knees might literally start to buckle. “Yup, you’re lost. The outdoor courts are on the other side.”

“Then wait, why are you here?”

Purple Hair With The Cutest Fucking Dimples Ever Guy holds his water bottle up, giving it a little shake so Hoseok can hear the little drops of water splashing around at the bottom. “The fountains outside are kinda gross, though this one is...”

They both look at the piece of blue gum sticking off the side. “Maybe you should just buy a new water bottle?” Hoseok suggests.

Purple Hair With The Cutest Fucking Dimples Ever Guy laughs. “That’s probably the better idea. Come on, I’ll show you where the courts are.”

Hoseok ends up following him past the front desk and towards a hallway that the boy didn’t point out at all, where they make a pit stop at a vending machine outside the locker rooms. “I’m Kim Namjoon, by the way.”

“Jung Hoseok! I’m supposed to be here with my friend, but...” He pulls out his phone to find no new messages. Fucking Taehyung. “I guess he slept in? At least I can take a look around and get used to this place.”

Namjoon grins at him as he leans down to grab the water bottle from the vending machine. “That’s not fun. You can play with me and my friend if you want? It’s his first time ever holding a racket.”

He changes his mind - thank you Taehyung, thank whatever gods that your alarm clock or whatever didn’t go off today. Bless whatever higher power put this purple haired fairy named Namjoon into his life. “I mean... if you insist? After all, who am I to turn down a friendship,” he says proudly, which earns him another laugh. Perfect.

Namjoon takes him down at least three more hallways until they actually end up at a glass door. He can see the outdoor swimming pool to the right and the basketball courts to the left, and beyond that, the familiar green and red colored tennis courts. “The sun!” Hoseok gasps, running out into the light, “I thought I’d never see you again!”

When he turns around, Namjoon has his eyebrows raised, but not in a way that makes Hoseok feels like he’s being judged. In fact, it’s the opposite - he looks kinda impressed. “You like the sun? Really?”

“Is that bad?” Hoseok asks, as they walk past the basketball courts. He can already hear the sound of tennis balls being hit, and it makes him feel at home. Maybe this gym will be good to him. After all, it did bring him to Namjoon. “I mean, the sun like... gives us life and stuff.”

“I’m used to everyone thinking the sun is their biggest enemy,” Namjoon explains lightly. “Wanting to be pale and all that.”

Ah. Now that Hoseok looks at him, Namjoon does seem to have a nice tan going on. “I have no preference,” Hoseok replies easily. “Pale or whatever. The sun is my friend, even though I have to wear like, SPF It’s-Over-9000-Or-I’ll-Burn-Your-Face-Off.”

When Hoseok was young, he used to hate being ‘the funny guy’. No one ever took him seriously, and anytime he did talk seriously, it was waved away just as quickly as it came.

Now he fucking loves it. Namjoon laughs so hard he has to grab one of the lamp posts to stay upright, and his dimpled cheeks flush a deep red color that has Hoseok also grinning. “I like you,” he says, taking a deep breath before pushing himself back up. “Ah man, SPF 9000. Maybe I should invest. Have you ever had the inside of your ears burn? That happened to me one time...”

 

Hoseok gets a text from Taehyung when they reach the court where Namjoon's friend is waiting.

From Taehyung: sry i flaked!!!! some person spilled coffee on my shirt and i had to go back to chang e and then i got locked out of my apt and.... bad day... sorry hyung ;A;!!!!!!

“Your friend?” Namjoon asks, waving his own friend over to the small bench Hoseok’s seated himself on.

Hoseok lets out a small sigh and a nod. “No show. I should’ve expected it!” The person Namjoon was playing with reaches them, and Hoseok looks up to find someone who looks around his height, with full cheeks and downturned eyes.

“This is Jimin,” Namjoon introduces. “He’s new. Never held a racket in his life before today. Jimin, this is Jung Hoseok. I ran into him trying to get water. Apparently he’s new to this gym.”

Jimin grins down at him and holds a hand out. “Hey! My name’s Park Jimin.” He then turns to Namjoon, frowning. “I can probably only stay for another five minutes. I just got a call from my manager.”

“Ah, really?” Namjoon asks, a little forlorn, but when he and Hoseok exchange glances, realizes that he’s not too down about it. “That’s okay! We did a few thing today anyway, right? We did serves, backhands, and forehands.”

“Do you mind if I steal Namjoon for a few minutes before I leave?” Jimin asks. “Then you guys can play all you want.”

Hoseok laughs. “Do you really need to ask? You had him first.”

Jimin and Namjoon head to opposite sides of the court, and Hoseok watches them carefully as he pulls out his own racket. Namjoon seems to know what he’s doing. He’s not... particularly good, but he’s not god awful either. Jimin seem to be doing pretty well for his first day. He hits nearly all the shots back, although not all of them go over the net, or into the right box. Namjoon hits the balls hard, but his hand-eye coordination is a little lacking. A little being forgiving. But hey! Hoseok doesn’t play competitively anymore, and he’s here to make some friends. Although, perhaps friends isn’t the first thing he thinks of when he looks at Namjoon. He may not be a great tennis player, but he’s tall and attractive and laughs every time he makes a mistake instead of getting mad, which already has Hoseok tapping his feet impatiently.

It isn’t until Jimin finally calls it quits that he gets an idea, especially when Namjoon musses Jimin’s hair up teasingly and drags an arm over his shoulder as he walks back to Hoseok.

“Sorry we couldn’t really talk,” Jimin says, handing his racket over to Namjoon. “Maybe next time, though! If your friend joins us next time, we can play doubles or something. You’ll have to go easy on me though.”

“Naw, I’m not that great either,” Hoseok says, cranking up the fluff as much as he possibly can. “You’ve got a good teacher! I might need to snag him for myself later.”

Jimin laughs aloud with a knowing glint in his eye, especially when Namjoon’s face flushes again. “You can have him. He’s a terrible teacher. Anyway, nice meeting you. Bye!”

Namjoon and Hoseok watch Jimin head off until he’s not in their line of vision anymore, then turn to each other. Hoseok gives him a pleasant smile as Namjoon fumbles over his sentences. “I... Do you really need a teacher? You have your own racket though. I thought you played?” He likes having this effect on Namjoon.

“I haven’t played tennis in a while,” Hoseok lets himself say, and Namjoon grins at him like he just said Christmas was coming five months early.

Hey! It’s not a lie. He hasn’t played tennis in a while. After all, ‘while’ is subjective, right? For fun, he hasn’t played in like three weeks! Competitively, he hasn’t played since senior year of college, which was two years ago.

The fact that he was an Olympic qualifier doesn’t need to be said. It’ll be fine.

 

Scratch everything he said before. Namjoon is terrible. Maybe it’s because he was being compared to Jimin previously, but he seemed like an average player. Now that Hoseok's actually playing with him though, Hoseok thinks he might just melt into the floor. In more ways than one.

“You should probably twist your wrist like this,” Namjoon says, gently pressing his fingers into the bony part of Hoseok’s hand and turning. His touch is light and soft, and Hoseok has to physically keep himself upright from the tingles it sends up his arm.

He also has to keep his mouth shut from screaming YOU’RE AN IDIOT!!!!!!!!! because hitting a tennis ball from this angle would either have to be so precise it’s a drop shot (something way out of Namjoon’s skill level), or it would just go way over the court. If it doesn’t do either, the ball would be high enough for the opponent to spike it back easily.

“Oh, really?” Hoseok chokes out, as he and Namjoon pretend to swing the racket. “I’ll try to remember.”

“You don’t seem like you need tutoring,” he says, taking a step back. “You’re pretty good. I mean like, you have good posture and stuff.”

Hoseok takes the moment to hit the ball the way Namjon taught him to, dribbling it twice and then swooping his racket from below. “Nah, it’s really just-” He expects it to go flying way over the court, but instead there’s a loud twang! sound, and they both look down to see the tennis ball fall a few feet away and then roll to a stop. “Wha- Huh?”

Namjoon steps back to find out what went wrong as Hoseok stares bleakly at the tennis ball that barely reached the net. He doesn’t think Namjoon’s tutoring did that. Hoseok hasn’t hit a ball so terribly like that in... in... “Oh, your racket!”

Namjoon points to his side, and he looks down sourly, only to find his racket broken and bent. “What? That hasn’t- Why is it broken?” The noise he squeaks out is pitiful when he bends down to inspect his racket. If Namjoon hears, he doesn’t say anything and bends down to see what the damage is.

Oh, his poor racket. The plastic rim that holds the strings together has somehow snapped on the sides, unfixably so. How the hell could that have even happened? Hoseok stares at it blearily, trying to figure out what to do. This racket has been with him through at least three different tournaments, as well as getting him to nationals in college. Hell, this racket was with him at the Olympic tryouts. “My racket,” he says bleakly, and it sounds hollow to his own ears. “It’s broken.”

For a second he forgets that he’s pretending to be an amateur because Namjoon looks extremely perplexed as to why he’s so upset at his racket, and an anger flares up inside of him that is quickly quenched when Namjoon reaches out to try to place the rim in place. It falls right back down. “Um. I’m sorry?” Namjoon awkwardly says, other hand coming to scratching the back of his head. “How long have you had this racket for?”

“A while,” Hoseok admits glumly. He doesn’t know what to do now.

Technically, he does have another racket, but it’s the golden racket that he won for coming first place in the Seoul bracket in his sophomore year of college for singles. It has his initials engraved on the cap, which automatically means that Namjoon isn’t allowed to look at it. But also - it’s a trophy, and Hoseok would never actually play with it.

Namjoon clears his throat. “Do you wanna, uh. Do you wanna go and buy another racket, maybe? I mean... you can use my other racket for today. But after, we can go get you a new racket! If that’s... okay?”

Hoseok stares at his broken racket for a few moments before looking at Namjoon’s face, then past him to the bench where Namjoon’s other racket - the one Jimin has been previously using - lays. “I- Yeah.” He forces himself to smile. Stupid. It’s just a racket. He can mope about it later with people who would actually understand why it’s so upsetting. Not with someone he just met today by a water fountain with gum on it. “Sorry! That was just so- My mom gave me this racket as a gift,” he lies, breathing out. “I’m good! Yeah, lemme see what Jimin was using.”

Jimin’s racket is also blue, and all the strings are intact, but it’s Wilson, and Hoseok hates Wilson rackets.

His own racket is placed on the bench gently, so the strings don’t snap, and then he closes his eyes and takes a long, deep breath before he turns around with a huge smile on his face and his best A-game for appearing terrible and flirting amazingly.

If Namjoon can tell, he doesn’t say anything, and they go over backhand and forehand strikes for a half hour until someone else comes along and asks if they can use the court.

 

They exit the gym together, and Namjoon points him down a road he’s never been before, claiming that there’s a sports gear store that he usually goes to.

“What other sports do you play?” Hoseok asks, eyeing a coffee shop they pass. He could really use a pick-me-up right now.

Namjoon hums for a moment before shrugging. “Not much, really. I did figure skating the longest, but not much else. I play a lot of things, but I’m not good at much of it, and I only ever do it for fun.”

“Why tennis?” Hoseok can’t help but ask, idly thumbing his racket. “You have two rackets.”

Namjoon laughs shyly. “Ah... My friends were really into tennis last year, so they got me to play with them. I liked it, but I’m not that great. I liked it enough to buy two rackets though. What about you?”

“Uhh...” Hoseok doesn’t even know where to start. He’d been playing tennis since he was in elementary school, excitement fueled by his friends who all played with each other until they realized that no one could win against him, and so he moved on to competitions and tournaments. “I just... I’m just an active person, I guess? I play almost any sport. I did a lot of dancing in college. I still dance sometimes.”

Namjoon nods appreciatively, then points to their left, where a small store sits. “I get my ice skates from here, usually,” he explains, opening the door. “I got my rackets from here, too.”

“Oooh.” The store is small but it’s cramped with gear, and Hoseok’s eyes glitter as they rake over all of the equipment, from basketballs to lacrosse sticks to shoulder pads. There’s a row of tennis rackets in the back corner - he’s instantly drawn to it, trying to see if there’s anything that’s close to his faithful Prince racket.

“What’s your favorite color?” Namjoon asks, picking out a purple and black one. He examines it in the light before shrugging and placing it back. Hoseok watches him take out another one before putting that one back as well, and thinks back to the cafe they saw on the way here.

“Green. Man, I really want coffee.” There’s a brown and black one that looks just the right size, but Hoseok doesn’t like how long the handle is. He’s probably going to have to get grip tape at some point too, but he can’t do that in front of Namjoon, lest he wants to give away how much he actually know about tennis.

There’s a poke at his shoulder by plastic, followed by Namjoon’s voice, thick with conviction. “This one.”

Hoseok looks down to find a dark green and white racket with a black handle. It doesn’t look too bad, he thinks, gingerly taking it from Namjoon. It doesn’t feel heavy in his hand, and the grip tape that’s already on it feels sturdy in his hand. He likes it.

Hoseok gives it a trial swing, just in case, and is pleased to see that it fits his arm. “Good eye,” he tells Namjoon, who’s been watching him patiently. “I think I’m gonna get this one. Thanks!”

“No problem,” Namjoon says, grinning at him, then holds out his hand. Hoseok hands him the racket, then raises an eyebrow when Namjoon heads to the cashier. “I’m paying for this!” he calls out over his shoulder.

“Wait, what? No!” He doesn’t understand. They just met two hours ago! Sure, they got along great, and Hoseok absolutely thinks Namjoon is hot and would get on his knees for him in an instant, but it’s not like Namjoon broke his racket, or is in any way indebted to Hoseok or his racket.

He nearly knocks over a tower of footballs in his haste to run to Namjoon, but is waved away by him taking out his credit card and handing it to the person behind the front desk.

“Why?” he asks, when Namjoon hands him the bag. “I can’t just-”

“I felt bad,” Namjoon explains, pushing the bag into Hoseok’s chest once more, until he finally grabs it. “You just sounded really sad when the racket broke. I wanted to do something for you.”

Hoseok blinks. There’s a brief moment where they just stare at each other, Hoseok clutching the plastic bag and Namjoon looking at him abashedly. That’s so...

That’s so sweet. He can feel the heat rising into his cheeks and ears - his jaw drops open, he can feel the absurdity of it, but when he tries to close it, it just falls back open again.

This man - Kim Namjoon - has managed to just sweep Hoseok off his feet in less than an hour. Holy fuck.

The only thing that gets him back into reality in the not-so-subtle cough of the cashier behind them, and Hoseok quickly apologizes and moves out of the way so the person in line behind them can buy their things.

“Thank you,” he finally manages to say, as he opens the door for Namjoon. “It means a lot. Um... let me at least buy you coffee to make up for it.”

Namjoon waves him off. “You don’t need to pay me back, that’s not why I did it.”

“I know that,” Hoseok insists, “but one: I really want coffee, and two: I will feel better about this whole ordeal. Please. Think of it as like, a homecoming present, but for a friend. A friendcoming present.”

He’d already been subtly leading them towards the coffee shop he saw earlier, and opens the door to it as Namjoon laughs. “Friendcoming? That’s really- hey! You set me up. You knew we’d pass by here.”

“I did,” Hoseok admits. “And it worked. So you might as well go inside and let me buy you a coffee or something.”

Namjoon sighs, but grins at Hoseok anyway as he steps inside. “Fine, but only because you tried so hard. I’m a little touched.”

“Just a little?” Hoseok gasps, clutching his chest. The door closes behind them softly and the pleasant aroma of coffee beans fills the cafe. “Clearly I need to up my game. How about this, I buy you coffee and a sandwich?”

“Tempting, but I ate before going to the gym, so we’ll have to postpone lunch.”

Hoseok grins. “It’s a date then.”

Namjoon asks for an Americano while Hoseok gets a green tea frappe, and they settle in the seats by the window. “So what do you do?” Namjoon asks, taking a sip of his coffee.

“Data analyst. Boring stuff, just stare at numbers all day. You?”

“Video editor,” Namjoon replies, leaning back in his chair. His tennis bag slides down onto the floor, but neither of them pay it any mind. “I’m the one behind the scenes on variety shows adding weird filters on people and color correcting boy band's music videos.”

“The unspoken hero, right?” Hoseok grins at the way Namjoon flushes. “What? You know it’s true. Half of those children wouldn’t look half as good if it weren’t for those filters.”

“I thought they were mainly kids too, but there’s actually a lot of them older than me.” He pauses for a second, then his eyes widen. “Wait, what’s your age? I’m born in 1994.”

“Oh!” Hoseok laughs. “Me too! February eighteenth. What about you?”

Namjoon looks a little disappointed, but only a little. “Ahh... September twelfth.”

“Shall we try speaking informally?” Hoseok suggests, and smiles at the flush that travels up Namjoon’s neck.

“I-I guess...” he says, letting the banmal flow off his tongue awkwardly. “We’re friends now, right?”

“Of course! Can I have your number, friend?” He hands his phone over to Namjoon, who takes it and gives Hoseok his own. Once they’ve inputted their contact information in, Hoseok reaches for his frappe and lets the conversation roll off his tongue easily.

He finally gets to his apartment two hours later, all talked out and ready to collapse, but there’s still cleaning to do and dinner to be made, so Hoseok takes a deep breath, puts his phone down, and gets to work.

 

Taehyung finally makes up for bailing him later in the week, where they go to a park and practice hitting the ball back to each other. They only have six tennis balls, and most of the time is spent running around trying to find all the ones that went over the fence, and when Taehyung finally comes back when it’s his turn, they magically end up with seven.

“You have to be some kind of magician,” Hoseok says, catching the ball that’s thrown at him. “How’d you come back with an extra?”

“It was stuck in a tree,” is the reply he receives.

“You climbed a tree to get this?”

Taehyung grins, then hops in place. “Hurry up and let’s play an actual game! Serve the ball!”

For a moment he forgets that Taehyung only ever plays tennis for fun and serves the ball way too hard. It lands right by Taehyung’s feet, then bounces and hits the fence behind him. “Oops.”

“Hyung!” he hears Taehyung whining from the other side of the court. “Do I look like an Olympic player to you?”

“I mean! You definitely play better than the average person.” It’s a bad excuse, but it’s the only one he has. And it’s true! Taehyung only started playing tennis in college, but it turned out that he had amazing hand-eye coordination and had fast enough reflexes to back it up. But despite all the nagging and protesting, Taehyung never joined the varsity team, or even the intervarsity club. “Let’s a real game, then.”

Taehyung throws the ball back at him and demands, “Serve it like a normal person and not a super saiyan. Then we can.”

Hoseok rolls his eyes but hits the ball with much less force this time, and Taehyung hits it back easily. The first one to fumble is Taehyung, who catches the ball too high up on his racket, and the ball ends up on the ground right in front of his own side of the net.

In the end, Hoseok wins 6-1, and celebrates his victory by spraying Taehyung in the face with his water bottle.

“This isn’t fair,” Taehyung grumbles. “You were in the Olympics. Of course I lost!”

“I wasn’t in the Olympics,” Hoseok corrects, downing whatever is left in his water bottle. They’re sitting on the ground, in front of the net, where Taehyung mindlessly dribbles the magical seventh tennis ball.

“You were going to be,” Taehyung says. “You broke your wrist - Jackson told me. He said you got to the final round, too.”

Hoseok sighs, but doesn’t argue. It is true. He and Jackson were supposed to be the sports prodigies of their college: Jackson for fencing and Hoseok for tennis. He was going to make his debut in the 2018 Olympics as the newest addition to the tennis team. That much everyone knows. Everyone else knows that after the semi-final round, he broke his wrist and couldn’t compete anymore, forced to withdrawing. What everyone doesn’t know is that he didn’t break his own wrist in some accident. He closes his eyes, a soft sigh leaving his mouth as his head rolls forward.

Behind his eyelids: a flash of light, the solid plastic of someone’s tennis racket, and then the distinct crack of bone.

Then ambulance sirens.

Taehyung doesn’t say anything, just pats him on the shoulder and reaches forward to grab his own water bottle. Taehyung has always had an inkling of what may have happened, but never pushes for details.

A thought comes to him suddenly, and turns his head to look at Taehyung. “Good thing you missed out on Saturday. I made a new friend.”

“Oh? Without me?”

He grins. “Definitely without you. His name is Kim Namjoon. We’re the same age. He’s cute, too.”

“Just a friend?” Taehyung asks knowingly, and Hoseok can’t find it in himself to deny it. Namjoon is cute, and for their first meeting, they had gotten along almost instantly. Granted, that’s the effect Hoseok tends to have on people, and he knows that. It takes effort, sure, but he knows how to spin social gatherings around his finger until he’s the one who’s solely running the conversation without anyone noticing that he’s manipulating anything. It’s a win-win situation for everyone: he gets to feel at peace knowing where each topic is going, and everyone else gets to have the peace of mind that there won’t be any awkward lulls in talk. He hates those the most.

“For now,” Hoseok answers vaguely, remembering the way Namjoon had caught him off guard when he was given the racket. That was a rarity. “But... there’s a catch.”

Taehyung hums. “There always is, isn’t there? Let me guess, he’s like half your height, or he’s twice your height? Or he’s cute but has a terrible personality. Is he super airheaded?”

“Do you really think someone being airheaded is a problem? I know you.” Taehyung squawks, clearly offended, until Hoseok cuts him off again, “I don’t know tennis.”

Silence.

“You don’t know tennis,” Taehyung finally repeats slowly, staring at Hoseok. “But you do know tennis.”

“Not to him,” Hoseok clarifies. “I’m someone who just... plays for fun, and isn’t good at it. Needs tutoring.”

He can see all the gears in Taehyung’s head moving, piecing each part of Hoseok’s plan together, until the light bulb finally goes off. “You’re getting him to tutor you. You’re getting... He’s tutoring you in tennis. An Olympian?”

“I’m not an Olympian,” Hoseok reprimands softly. “And to him? I’ve maybe picked up a racket a few times. A few years ago. Need polishing. You know how it goes.”

Taehyung’s facade finally cracks. “You’re... You have a tennis tutor!” He cries out, slapping his knee in delight. “You’re flirting! By pretending to be bad at tennis! You!”

Hoseok watches him double over in laughter, tears streaming down his face, and grins too.

“God, this is priceless,” he gasps. “I’m gonna tell everyone. The gold medalist is pretending he doesn’t know how to play tennis just to get into some rando’s pants. How do you think Jackson hyung’s gonna react? Wonshik hyung? Minho hyung?”

They would be proud of me for finally getting some,” He says, shameless. This is definitely not the worst thing he could do to get into someone’s pants! There are hundreds of worse things.

“Sure. Yeah. Minho hyung, proud of you for being bad at sports,” Taehyung says in between giggles, wiping the tear tracks on his cheeks. “God. I need to meet him. Namjoon.”

“He’d be your hyung,” Hoseok chides. Taehyung just grins at him, poking him in the ankle.

 

The next time he and Namjoon meet, it’s on Friday after he gets off of work. It’s just them two, and for an entire hour, Hoseok pretends he has no idea how to dribble a tennis ball on his racket. It would be better if Namjoon at least knew how.

“I really don’t know why I’m teaching you anything,” he admits, when he picks up his water bottle. “I’m not that good or anything, I just think it’s a fun sport.”

“But that’s all that matters, isn’t it?” Hoseok hopes his smile seems authentic and supportive and not like he’s about to break down into giggles. “We’re not competitive or anything. Just having fun.”

It’s not a lie. It’s not. He doesn’t play competitive anymore. He’s here to have fun and possibly get a kiss or five out of Namjoon.

“Oh look, I’m doing it!” Hoseok yells happily, watching the ball bounce on his racket, before his hand ‘slips’, and the ball goes flying over Namjoon’s shoulder. “Oops.”

“You were doing it,” Namjoon admits, grinning. “That was impressive. Maybe you should teach me.”

“That sounds counterintuitive. Tutee teaching the tutor? I like seeing someone in charge, anyway.” Hoseok makes sure to keep his grin as platonic as possible, even when Namjoon’s ears turn bright red.

“Fine. Let’s see how well we can serve, then. You have to hit the ball into the opposite box.”

Namjoon motions for Hoseok to follow him to to the corner of the court, and promptly misses hitting the first tennis ball that he tosses into the air. At least his sheepish expression is cute, because if not, Hoseok probably wouldn’t be able to hold back the banshee scream he feels crawling up his throat.

It’s okay. He can do this - focus on the good things in life. Namjoon’s ass looks great in these tennis shorts.

Namjoon does manage to hit the next serve, and it’s a pretty solid one, too. It goes right into the middle of the opposite box before bouncing off towards the back. He turns around to hand Hoseok the tennis ball and grins. “Your turn, tutee.”

His smile is so dazzling that when Hoseok misses his serve, it’s not on purpose. Those fucking dimples...! “I-”

For a second he’s so caught off guard by how he missed hitting the ball at all, that he’s rendered speechless. Namjoon’s laughing at whatever expression is on his face, and it’s just then he realizes his mouth has been hanging open. Those dimples are far too distracting.

“You always act so surprised when you make a mistake,” Namjoon points out. “Are you a perfectionist or something?” Hoseok scowls, except at least he can safely say he isn’t lying when he admits it. The next serve he barely hits, simply because Namjoon’s laugh is still too distracting, and so the ball hits the net and drops down.

The final serve he hits so strongly that it makes a whizzing sound when it hits the line juuust in the box, before it bounces to the left and out the court. It’s not just a good serve, it’s an amazing serve. Even Hoseok is proud of himself for that one; he can’t imagine anyone hitting that back unless they were at his level.

“Woah!” Namjoon gasps, running forward. “That was amazing! How’d you do that? That perfectionism is definitely working out for you. That was a great serve.”

Hoseok’s smiles so widely it feels like it might outstretch his face, like a joker’s mask, and before he can realize it, the cold is seeping into his veins like dry ice. His face hurts. His chest hurts.

It wasn’t a good, great, or even an amazing serve. A flash of pain shoots up his wrist as he looks at the tennis ball Namjoon is running to go grab.

It was an Olympic serve.

 

“The bones seems to be almost entirely healed. The joint isn’t entirely back in it’s socket, but if you keep wearing the splint, and keep up with your physical therapy, that should also side right back into place.” The doctor fixes Hoseok with a pointed look. “You are wearing your splint, right?”

He hopes he looks guilty enough when he laughs nervously. “I wear it most of the time. Just not always.”

Dr. Park sighs, before walking over to the wall where his X-Rays are. “This is your ulna,” he says, pointing to the picture on the left. Hoseok watches mutely as the doctor points out the cracks, and the shift of his carpal bones. Half of the information about his tendonitis and carpal tunnel barely registers in his head; he just wants to go home. He’s tired of the doctor visits and the physical therapy visits and the counselor visits.

He’s tired of pretending not to hear the nurses talk about how he’ll never be able to play tennis at a competitive level again, about how heartbreaking it is, how short an athlete's career is, how it’s for the best, he can go back to being a normal kid again. How they just can’t believe someone would deliberately destroy his entire life like that.

“-can even start training for professional training by December,” Dr. Park finishes, staring at Hoseok in a way that means he knows Hoseok isn’t listening.

“December?” Hoseok gasps. “This December? 2017?”

“I have to admit, I’m being very optimistic when I say this, but it’s possible. Only if you wear your splint religiously,” Dr. Park emphasizes, pointing to Hoseok’s most recent X-Ray from two weeks ago. “And I take it that you’re keeping up with your physical therapist, Hobeom.” He turns around, then sighs. “I’ve ran out of prescription paper. Give me a minute, and I’ll be back to write up your pain meds.”

Hoseok nods at him meekly, then watches him leave the room. He can barely believe it’s been two years already. When he closes his eyes, he can still feel two hands pushing him into wall, followed by another grabbing his hand, followed by-

The two X-Rays on the lighted panel stare back at him.

 

It takes an entire minute and forty-three seconds for Jackson to notice him standing by the door, in which his eyes widen, mouth drops, and he throws his fencing mask on the ground. “You’ve got a lot of balls to show up here,” he calls out, but even Hoseok can’t find it in him to frown when Jackson’s sporting the biggest smile on his face that he’s seen in a long time. “Coach, half an hour break, please? It’s Jung Hoseok.”

“Take an hour,” his coach calls out, looking at him with such pity that Hoseok feels a wave of shame wash over him. Who else knows about him?

“You know what they call me,” Hoseok responds, laughing when he’s engulfed into a giant hug.

Jackson squeezes him so hard he thinks his ribcage might just cave in on himself. “Big balls guy?”

“I was thinking ‘big dick guy’, but yeah, we can go with that, too.”

“Only one or the other, we can’t have both,” Jackson says, voice full of mirth as Hoseok takes in the Olympic practice room. Even if the fencing room is separate from the main field, it’s still a sight to behold. “It’s nice, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Hoseok breathes. “Really nice.”

“Let me show you around,” Jackson says, pushing him out of the practice room. “The fencing room is probably the smallest, to be honest. You gotta see the exercise room, it’s unbelieveable.”

The fact Jackson keeps talking is more than helpful when with every room they pass, bile crawls up his throat more and more, until all he can manage is a squeak and a shake of his head when Jackson asks if needs to use the bathroom.

“Well, I do, so you can wait out here. Take a look around if you want.”

That’s also nice, because it gives Hoseok a moment to clear his head and stabilize his mood. The drive from Seoul to Pyeongchang was a hefty two hours, which gave him enough time to think over what Dr. Park had told him earlier. If he kept to his therapy and medicine (and wore the damn splint), he could go back to professional play in half a year. He’d still have to wear the splint off the courts, but he could do it.

When Jackson comes out of the bathroom, the first thing he says is, “Hey, you’re wearing the splint.”

“Might as well, right? If I want this thing to heal on time.”

They walk more, Jackson pointing out the different facilities and rooms, until they end up at the double decker doors that Hoseok has seen in pictures countless times again. “You ready for the big guy?” Jackson asks. He opens the door before Hoseok can even answer, and they both look into the stadium.

The Stadium. The Olympic stadium. The place where Jackson and Hoseok were both supposed to be together. Even if Hoseok was supposed to represent South Korea and Jackson represent China, they still were friends who went to the same college together.

It’s huge.

It’s huge, and it’s unfinished, but it’s the most beautiful thing Hoseok’s ever seen. Even with the stadium lights off, the floor sparkles and the chairs shine. “It’s amazing, isn’t it?” Hoseok asks.

Jackson doesn’t even hesitate. “Yeah,” he whispers, and they walk onto the middle of the field.

He’d first gotten a text from Yoongi two days ago saying a few members from the Chinese Olympic team were visiting, which meant that Jackson was back in Korea. He’d considered ignoring everyone until they went back to Beijing, but Dr. Park gave him a little more confidence he didn’t know he had.

“December,” he says, and turns to see Jackson looking at him questioningly. “I can start training again in December if I don’t do anything stupid.”

It’s almost amusing to watch Jackson’s face go through a series of emotions: confused, realizing, surprised, and then elated. “December? This December? Don’t fucking joke around with me, Jung Hoseok, I- Oh my god.” He stares at Hoseok’s face, waiting for him to deliver the punchline to a very ill-timed joke, but it never comes. “You’re serious, aren’t you? Holy shit, you really- JUNG HOSEOK! You better not do anything fucking stupid!” And then he’s grabbing Hoseok and spinning him in the air like a rescued damsel, screaming at the top of his lungs.

Hoseok laughs too, feels it fluttering out of his throat like butterflies, until he can’t breathe and there’s tears streaming down his face and oh god, he’s crying? He’s crying and laughing when his feet are back on the ground, and Jackson is grinning at him with that face, like he watching Hoseok’s rebirth, and maybe he is. Hoseok definitely feels like a new person. He feels like a part of him he lost a long time ago has come back, even though that puzzle piece hasn’t completely put itself back in place, it’s trying to wiggle itself deep into his body.

At first, visiting Jackson felt like a stupid idea, because there’s no way he was going to drive two hours and back just to visit him during his tiny break and be sad about his life, but now he feels great.

He’s still crying, but it’s not sadness. Hoseok feels great; he’s happy he came down. “I can’t- I can’t join the Olympic team,” Hoseok hiccups, wiping his tears away roughly, “but I can get a proper coach again. A-And I can train for the tennis tournaments. Maybe in... In another half a year, I can go to Wimbledon. Or- or US Open-”

He legs give out when he breaks down into sobs again, putting his face into his hands while Jackson kneels down next to him and rubs calming circles on his back.

 

Instead of going up into the bleachers, they sit down on the turf where they are, in the middle of all the glamour. By now Hoseok’s calmed down, but he still has to push back a hiccup every so often.

“I just can’t believe it,” Jackson says angrily, poking at the intersections of two of the circles in the Olympic symbol. “Someone actually did that to you. Every time I think about it I just get so angry.”

Hoseok sighs. This is why no one knows. To say he’s gotten over it would be the biggest lie of the century, but he’s come to peace with the fact that nothing he says or does will ever change what’s happened. It’s just the way life goes: it’s never fair. The only people who are aware of the story behind his wrist injuries are his parents, his team at the hospital, and Jackson.

“It’s so sinister?” he asks incredulously. “They actually- They actually cornered you. Because they knew you were gonna be the one picked. Everyone knew.”

His fist automatically clenches, and another flare of pain shoots up his arm, albeit dulled by the splint compressing his bones together. “Look at me now,” he sighs, and they sit there until Jackson’s hour break is up.

They walk through the hallways in silence, until Jackson faces him carefully. “Do you wanna see the-”

Hoseok shakes his head before he can finish. “I’d rather not. Not yet, at least.”

“Gotcha. Well, I’m going to be in Korea for another week! I’m planning to go to Seoul on the weekend. Will you be free?”

Hoseok grins. “I hope so, it’s my break.”

“Great, I’ll see you around, then,” Jackson states, and they exchange goodbyes before the door to the fencing practice room closes behind them.

For a brief second, he considers going by himself, just for a quick glance, to see the tennis courts, but changes his mind and head back to his car.

 

Hoseok and Namjoon have been texting almost nonstop since morning, ever since Hoseok decided he wanted to vent about the girl who spilled his green tea frappe on the floor, and in turn, Namjoon had his share of annoyances to tell, from the intern who lost one of the hard drives to the idol member who had too many NG’s to weed through until he could actually put the video together. Now it was nearly evening, and Hoseok was considering order take-out when Namjoon’s text makes him pause.

From Namjoon: Are you free?

From Hoseok: now?

From Namjoon: Yeah! Uh
From Namjoon: I may have been ditched. By my friends.
From Namjoon: Now im sad and lonely

From Hoseok: sounds like a personal problem

From Namjoon: :(

From Hoseok: where are you?

As it turns out, Namjoon isn’t very far from him at all. There’s a small pocket of shops a few blocks down from his apartment where Namjoon’s friends have supposedly ditched him. He quickly changes from his button-down to a t-shirt and kicks the door behind him shut while shoving a piece of gum into his mouth.

 

“You come here often?” Hoseok asks, grinning when Namjoon nearly jumps out of his skin.

“Do you always do that?”

“What?” Hoseok asks smoothly, watching Namjoon’s face flush. “Come to people’s rescue when their friends ditch them? Depends on the person.”

He sniffs, taking a quick glance down at his cellphone. “You think I’m lying, don’t you?”

“I don’t, only because I think you’re the type of person who’s probably a bad liar. So what’s the plan for tonight? What were you and your friends supposed to do?”

“We were supposed to go see a movie, but if you don’t want to...”

“Movie? I’m down, I haven’t seen a movie in a long time. What movie?”

Unsurprisingly, Namjoon lists out a couple of action movies his friends had been eyeing, and thus they go and end up having to sit in the seats in the very front, which makes for a very sore neck two hours later.

“Well, that was a waste,” Namjoon sighs, tossing the empty soda bottle into the recycle bin. “I thought there’d be more plot to it.”

Hoseok laughs. “Are you a movie critic? Do you analyze everything? Sometimes you just gotta enjoy the guns and the girls. Watch this.” He crumples the paper popcorn bag into a ball and tosses it at the trashcan, smirks when it gets in. “Clean swish.”

Namjoon mumbles something under his breath that sounds a little like don’t enjoy and analyze and girls. Hoseok pretends he doesn’t hear, but smiles a little wider. “Well, now what?”

“Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t wanna go home and do my laundry, so you can either push me to do the inevitable, or we can find something else to do.”

Namjoon sniffs. He opens the door for Hoseok, and points out, “I’m the one who picked the movies. Now it’s your turn to think of something fun to do.”

“I thought your friends were the one who picked out a movie?” Hoseok replies just as easily. His smile might be chesire-like now, with how Namjoon’s ears flush bright pink. Fine, he’ll take pity on Namjoon anyway. “There’s an arcade nearby. I don’t know about you, but I’m always in the mood for Fast and Furious games and DDR.”

Namjoon, as it turns out, may not be good at tennis, but he’s great at racing games. Like, too good at racing games. And games in general. Hoseok feels personally attacked. (Maybe he’s just bad, and Hoseok happens to be worse? It’s probably that, but Hoseok doesn’t want to admit that.)

“You said you danced!” Namjoon accuses. Hoseok is too busy looking despondently at his DDR grade to respond.

“I-” The words come out all garbled as the red D flashes at him vindictively. “I did. I do. I just... How did- This isn’t fair!”

Namjoon looks much too smug. He didn’t even get a good score, just higher than Hoseok. “That’s what they all say.”

“Fine,” Hoseok settles on, picking up his phone and the little roll of tickets they’d managed to collect. “It’s just a game. What prizes do you think we could get with this?”

They have eighty-five tickets. “A tootsie roll?” Namjoon asks, then laughs when Hoseok hits him on the shoulder. “Fine. A lollipop. Two lollipops. I’m being serious, look at the prize numbers!”

As it turns out, he is being serious. They decide on two lollipops and a slap bracelet, which Hoseok decides to slap on as many body parts as possible.

“Really?” Namjoon asks, but his eyebrows are raised in pure amusement, watching the bracelet fall to the floor in between his feet.

“It was close,” Hoseok points out.

“It hurt.” Namjoon rubs the side of his neck that’s red from where Hoseok tried to slap the bracelet onto. “My neck isn’t small enough.”

“Neither is mine. There!” Hoseok slaps the bracelet onto Namjoon’s ankle. “Wow, that’s haute couture if I’ve ever seen it.”

Namjoon looks down at the neon yellow bracelet, then sniffs. “You don’t look like you’ve ever seen it.”

Hoseok laughs so hard he has to hold himself up on the trash can. “I just came out here to have a good time and I’m honestly feeling so attacked right now.”

Namjoon laughs too, popping the lollipop into his mouth as they exit the arcade together. By now it’s dark outside, and the moon is full in the sky. “Am I seeing you at tennis tomorrow?”

“Are you leaving?”

His phone tells him it’s nearly eleven, and he still hasn’t done his laundry, or eaten, so yes, he is going to go home. “I have to wake up early tomorrow,” Hoseok says, peering down at his phone. “Do you not?”

Namjoon shrugs. “I don’t have to go in until eleven.”

“Lucky,” Hoseok mumbles. “Well, I have to be bright and up at seven. But I had fun, even though I found out that I’m a sore loser about nearly everything, and you’re overly critical over all forms of media.” As an afterthought, he adds, “I guess that makes sense, since you edit videos for a living.”

When they part ways, Hoseok maybe walks home with an extra skip in his step. Maybe.

 

Hobeom makes Hoseok bend his wrist in ways that has him on the verge of tears. They’ve been at it for ten minutes longer than his actual period, but in both of their defenses, it’s because the patient who is scheduled to come in after Hoseok hasn’t showed up, and Hobeom is also excited about the doctor’s sudden announcement.

“How are you hanging in there?” Hobeom asks, twisting his wrist just enough for Hosek to start clenching his jaw.

“Good enough,” he mumbles, and yelps when his arm is pushed a bit further than usual. “It’s bearable.”

Hobeom makes him make a tight fist for five seconds and then let go. “Is it bearable, or are you pretending it’s bearable because you’re excited?”

“I’m not just excited,” Hoseok says, frowning. “Shouldn’t I be pushing myself anyway?”

“Push yourself too hard and December will become December of 2018,” Hobeom warns, opening up Hoseok’s hand so he can massage his palm. “Have you tried to get in contact with your coach from college? Aren’t you still in contact?”

“I am,” he says, looking up at the clock on the wall. They’re now fifteen minutes past their time, but no one says anything. Maybe everyone else in the physical therapy clinic is secretly excited for him too, even though nobody is making any mention of it. “But I haven’t told Seijin hyung yet. I’ll probably call him sometime this weekend.”

“You definitely should. How are you feeling?”

“Good. It doesn’t hurt that much yet, it always hurts more when I get home.”

Hobeom flicks his head, laughing, and makes him put his palms up and then back down. “That’s not what I meant.”

Hoseok laughs as well, wincing a little bit at the tightness of his wrist. It still doesn’t hurt, but there’s definitely tension, which is probably from the fact that he’s starting to wear his splint again. It hurt more when he was wearing a full brace, so he should accept the small victories. “I feel really good. I haven’t felt this hopeful in a really long time. It feels like I’m getting part of my life back,” he admits softly.

“Now isn’t that the best thing I’ve heard all day?” Hobeom is grinning at him in such a way that Hoseok’s heart rises in his chest, and he grins back too.

“Must’ve been a boring day,” Hoseok jokes, and gets another flick on the head.

“You’re taking advantage of my kindness like this? I should’ve kicked you out a long time ago.”

Hoseok just laughs, and lets Hobeom take his palm and start to massage it again.

It’s a good day, indeed.

 

He’d been texting Namjoon all day, ever since he woke up and sent a good morning!!!!! :) text at six in the morning, except now it’s nearly eight in the evening and Hoseok thinks he might have a problem. A very Namjoon-shaped problem.

When Namjoon asks him if he wants go out for drinks with some of his friends, it takes almost all of his willpower to say no. But hey, Hoseok is a responsible person, and so even if Namjoon has all the excuses in the world to go out drinking on a Wednesday night (due to the finalization of some music video or something, he’s already forgotten), Hoseok does not.

Heading out now! Sure you don’t want to come? is what Namjoon’s SNOW message says, and Hoseok shakes his head disapprovingly before taking a quick picture of his sink where his dirty dishes are currently taking up residence.

He busies himself with cleaning his apartment, since he’d been slacking ever since he’d started wearing the splint religiously, and turns the TV on to a local tennis tournament so that he has background noise to distract himself with.

 

Right before Hoseok is about to go to bed, his phone rings, and he stops from where he’d been about to take his shirt off and goes to check the caller ID. Namjoon - of course. “Hello?”

“Hello, Hoseok?”

“The one and only.”

He hears Namjoon laugh, voice deep and throaty, as well as background noise. It sounds like he’s still at the bar. “I’m sure there are other Hoseoks in the world.”

“Yeah, but I’m the only one that’s me.”

Namjoon hums approvingly. “Philosophical, I like it.”

He doesn’t sound drunk, but Hoseok knows better than that. “Why’d you call?” he asks, pressing the speakerphone button so he can change into his pajamas.

The answer comes later than expected, which nearly confirms his suspicions. “I don’t know, it seemed like a good idea. Did I wake you up? Were you about to sleep?”

“I don’t like liars, Namjoon-ah,” Hoseok teases. “You’ve been drinking, right? Is this your idea of a bootycall?”

He hears that laugh again, only quieter. “Were you hoping this was a bootycall? I think we’re both a bit too sophisticated for that.”

“Does sophistication really have anything to do with it?”

A pause. “No, not really. I guess you’re right. Seriously though, did I wake you up?”

“Do I sound like someone who’s been woken up? And, seriously though,” Hoseok mimicks Namjoon’s tone, “are you drunk?”

“I’m not! I had a few drinks, yeah, but I’m actually on my way home now. I just thought I’d want some company. And my friends told me to call you.” His voice sounds slightly slurred, but Hoseok can live with this answer.

Hoseok grins. “Why would your friends do that?”

“Uhh...” No answer comes for nearly an entire ten seconds, until Namjoon finally says, “I guess they’re all interested in my new friend. I don’t make them very often.”

“Sounds like a personal problem,” he replies, picking his phone up and getting onto his bed.

“Actually, it’s an introvert problem. Not sure if you’d relate.”

Hoseok hums playfully, even though they both probably know the answer. “Yeah, no. Can’t relate. I’m in my bed now, by the way. If I fall asleep, I’m going to blame you for being boring.”

“I just can’t get a break, can I?” Namjoon asks with a chuckle. “Don’t worry, I’m almost home anyway. How was your day?”

Hoseok bites back a you should know, since we’ve been texting since basically forever, but doesn’t, and simply goes on to talk about any possible details he hasn’t fulfilled Namjoon in on.

Somewhere in between Namjoon’s story about how he accidently broke three shot glasses in the same night to him ranting about how his friend almost got them thrown out, Hoseok does end up falling asleep. He can’t help it! Namjoon’s voice is just... so rich, so pleasant to listen to, like melted chocolate.

“Hoseok? Jung Hoseok? Are you there? Did you really fall asleep on me?! Ah, I can’t believe... fine. You’re lucky you’re cute. Good night, sweet dreams.”

 

Another physical therapy session goes by where Hobeom scolds him for not having yet called his coach from college. He’d been meaning to, but... It doesn’t feel real yet. The splint on his wrist still feels more like a deadweight than anything, and Hoseok just wants to play some tennis seriously without wondering when his arm is going to give in. “I’ll do it today,” he promises as Hobeom walks him back out to the front desk.

“I better hear results next time I see you,” Hobeom says, then waves him goodbye.

The clinic isn’t too far from a nearby park, so he takes his sweet time staring at his phone screen and breathing in the outside air, wondering how exactly to word this. The phone call tone is a recent girl group song that only makes him more anxious as he paces back and forth.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Seijin hyung?”

There’s a brief pause, then, “Hoseok-ah? Is that you?”

“Yeah,” he says, and laughs awkwardly. “It’s me. How are you?”

“Me? I’m fine, I’m still coaching. But... what about you, you stupid kid? You promised to keep in contact with me after your injury! Now you’re calling me after an entire year and a half? I should kick your ass.”

They, surprisingly, fall back into conversing naturally. Seijin doesn’t react as excitedly as everyone to the news of Hoseok possibly coming back to professional play, but stays calm and talks Hoseok through all of his options. When he starts to play again, when is the most likely time he can actually enter a competition, who his new coach will have to be, where he’ll practice, for what is he going to practice for, and how will he do that while still having routine checks at the hospital.

“I know it seems like everything is too much,” Seijin hyung says, “but you’re not the first athlete to be injured and come back to the scene, and you won’t be the last. It takes time, but everything good takes time.”

“Yeah,” he says, finding a bench in the park next to a rose bush. “You’re right.”

“Of course I’m right,” Seijin hyung replies, laughing, as Hoseok sits on the bench and kicks his feet out absentmindedly. “If you go ghost on me one more time, I will really kick your ass.”

“Sorry hyung,” he apologies again, for the hundredth time. “I won’t.”

“Good. I’m going to hang up, I have children coming in for practice. Bye!”

There’s the click of the call disconnected, and Hoseok puts his phone down onto his lap and leans his head onto the back of the bench, looking up at the sky. He sighs.

Everything good takes time.

 

Namjoon and Hoseok don’t meet again until the weekend, which is nice because it gives Hoseok time to think. Despite what his friends may think, he likes his life orderly and structured. Falling for a person he just met three weeks ago doesn’t fall into orderly or structured.

But Namjoon is sweet and kind, even if he sucks at tennis, making Hoseok’s trying-to-suck-at-tennis scheme even harder than usual. Not that there’s a norm for this, he doesn’t think. Look at Hoseok, being the pioneer of trying to flirt. He hasn’t dated anyone in a long while - not since his wrist injury, at least. So when he shows up to the gym with his splint wrapped carefully around his wrist, Namjoon raises an eyebrow and motions at it. “When’d you get that?”

Despite the fact that it’s August, Hoseok wishes he was wearing a long sleeved shirt. “I’ve had it,” he admits, peering down at his wrist. It doesn’t hurt, at least not yet, but he can feel how weak his right arm is compared to his left. “I just haven’t worn it until now. Don’t worry about it!” Don’t ask about it.

Namjoon seems to understand the unspoken statement. “Wanna play a mock game?” he asks, and Hoseok grins, always ready to play, even if he has to fake everything.

 

Hoseok loses, 6-4. It’s the first time he’s lost in a long time, and for a moment he’s almost humbled by how humble Namjoon is, until he remembers why he even lost in the first place. “You sure you’re new to tennis?” Namjoon asks later, as they hit the ball back and forth mindlessly.

“I never said I was new,” Hoseok points out. The ball flies over Namjoon’s shoulder and hits the net. “Just that I was rusty.” Hoseok has a bad feeling, all of a sudden. Call it instincts, or intuition, but...

“You don’t look rusty,” Namjoon sniffs, jogging after the ball. “Hey, wanna try a drop shot? Look!”

“Drop shot?” Hoseok asks. That’s way out of Namjoon’s skill level. Maybe just practicing, but in a real game? There’s no way-

Namjoon angles his racket just so, and the ball sails right over the net before it falls onto the ground and bounces once before rolling away. “See!”

Well. Hoseok looks at the tennis ball which lightly hits his feet, then stops moving. That was definitely impressive for Namjoon’s level. “Wow,” he forces out, bending down to pick up the ball. “That was really cool! Show me?”

Namjoon spends the next fifteen minutes teaching him how to do a drop shot, out of which Namjoon himself doesn’t know how to do it entirely. It’s cute. At least Namjoon doesn’t pretend to be better than he is (unlike someone else Hoseok knows, who might be doing the opposite. Suddenly he feels like a bad person).

When the ball Hoseok hits falls to the ground right before it hits the net, Namjoon pauses for a second and looks at his posture. “Maybe... turn your wrist like this? C-can I touch it?” he gestures to the splint.

“Yeah,” Hoseok breathes, suddenly aware of the fact his wrist hasn’t hurt at all. “Of course.”

“Let me know if it hurts.” Namjoon, with the gentlest of touches, turns his wrist so the racket is more horizontal. “Maybe you should like, swipe it? Does that make sense? That’s what I did, at least.” He makes the motion of swinging the racket, then wraps his hand around Hoseok’s forearm and does it again.

“Feels fine. Let's give it a try,” Hoseok says, smiling, and turns around to grab one of tennis balls, only to see-

Namjoon gasps, then laughs. “What are you doing here? I haven’t seen you in forever!”

What?

To Hoseok’s misfortune (luck, karma, whatever you wanna call it), there’s none other than fucking Jackson Wang standing at the entrance of the tennis court entrance, arms crossed and eyebrows raised as he looks at Namjoon and Hoseok. Fuuuuuuuck.

“Hi, you two,” Jackson says slowly, looking from Hoseok to Namjoon. “I didn’t know I was going to run into you.”

“Me?” Namjoon asks, then turns to look at Hoseok, eyebrows furrowed. He can see the gears in his head moving. “You guys know each other?”

Jackson takes one long, hard look at Hoseok’s flushed face, and the realization crosses his face in stages: wonder, surprise, understanding, and then-

Hoseok wants to fall into the ground and disappear forever. “Why are you laughing?” Namjoon asks, looking at Hoseok for help. “What’s wrong with him?”

“Oh my god,” Jackson wheezes, resting his body on the court door for support. “You’re- You guys- When did you guys meet? What are you guys doing?”

“I’m teaching him how to play tennis,” Namjoon says bitterly. “What are you doing here?”

“I can see that.” Jackson has an eyebrow raised as he stares at Hoseok, smirking. “I told Hoseok I was gonna visit him over the weekend. Our friend Jungkook told me I’d find him here.”

Hoseok wants to just. Not exist. Wants the asphalt to split in half and drag into him into depths of hell. The apocalypse could happen now and he’d thank the devil. It should happen. “We know each other from college,” Hoseok forces himself to explain. “How do you know Jackson?”

“I also know him from college,” Namjoon says slowly, and everyone looks at each other in silence. “So... we all went to Seokyeong University?”

“We did!” Jackson cheerfully replies. “So... you’re teaching Hoseok how to play tennis?”

The radio silence is unbearable. Jackson looks like he wants to take a picture of Hoseok’s face and frame it in his living room. This little shit, he fucking knows.

Namjoon looks oblivious. “Not teaching. He just said he’s a little rusty.”

“That, he is,” Jackson states simply, still looking at Hoseok. “Aren’t you?”

“What’s wrong?” Namjoon asks, and that’s the cue. If Jackson isn’t giving him away, then why stop now?

“Nothing! I just- Jungkook didn’t tell me anything,” Hoseok says. He forces a shit-eating smile on his face. The bigger, the faker, the better. “I wish I knew you’d be here. I’ll kick his ass later.” Not a complete lie. “If we’re gonna chat, why don’t we head off the court?”

 

They find themselves back at the same cafe Namjoon and Hoseok went to the first day they met. Every few minutes Jackson looks at Hoseok and starts laughing, and at one point when he steps on Jackson’s foot, and Namjoon asks if there’s something going on.

“Nope, nothing. I just. Haven’t seen him in a long time. This is how we show love,” Hoseok says, smiling. He takes a sip of his mocha to deflect attention from himself. “How’s training going?”

Namjoon gives him a long, hard look, which he pointedly does his best to ignore, until he gets a text message.

From Namjoon: Seriously is there something wrong???

Oh. Oh. Namjoon thinks Jackson is being mean to him. Or something like that. Which... isn’t false. He is! Very mean. Just that Hoseok probably deserves it for being the dick that he is and keeping up this facade for so long. But he’s still being mean.

To Namjoon: nooooooo it’s an inside joke just ignore us LOLLLLL

“-and then we had to wait for Taehyung, and Hoseok and I had to clean the entire sports equipment room by ourselves, it was the fucking worst.” It takes Hoseok a moment to realize he’s talking about the first day of his Olympic tryouts.

Namjoon takes a moment, and then asks, “Why was Hoseok with you?”

Silence.

“Uhh...”

Hoseok stares at Jackson, hope he’s glaring, even if a Hoseok-glare isn’t very intimidating at all.

“He was the towel boy!” Jackson quickly says, and Namjoon bursts into laughter.

“Were you really?”

He’s going to kill Jackson. He’s never going to make it to the Olympics, everything will be fine. He just had to get rid of the evidence. Hoseok’s cheeks are burning up, and by the way Jackson is also howling with laughter, his ears are probably completely red already.

“Only for a short time,” Jackson amends. Slightly. “He had to. And he offered to do it anyway before.”

Well that isn’t a complete lie, either. Namjoon buys it, which is good. The conversation then shifts, and Hoseok finds out much more about Namjoon then he previously knew. Not that he knew much.

He used to be an underground rapper. He still makes music sometimes. He can speak English fluently. He likes being cute (“No I don’t!” Namjoon yells, and Jackson just laughs and pushes him off his chair). He used to be an Instagram model (Hoseok secretly follows the account when no one’s looking). He set the kitchen on fire once in their sophomore year.

“But seriously,” Jackson says, completely stone faced. “Don’t let him into the kitchen.”

“He can’t be as bad as Taehyung,” Hoseok says, but Jackson just shakes his head.

“I lived with him the year before I moved into the athlete dorms. Don’t.”

Namjoon sheepishly looks down at his Americano, no excuse to make for himself. “I try...”

“I’ll cook for you one day,” Hoseok promises, and Namjoon looks up at him, eyes wide and mouth slightly parted. It’s cute. He’s cute. This is definitely what Jackson meant earlier by Namjoon liking being cute.

“Yeah, sure. It’s a date.”

“OOOOOOOOOHHH, IT’S A DATE,” Jackson nearly shrieks, grabbing onto Namjoon’s shirt and shaking him vigorously. “I’m surprised you guys aren’t dating yet? What’s up with that, huh?”

“We’re not-” Namjoon stutters. “I mean, we just-”

“We just met,” Hoseok helps him out. “Like, three weeks ago.”

And?”

And we’re not you,” Namjoon says. “We... We’re friends.”

“Yep.”

Jackson takes a look at both of them and sighs, picking up his iced coffee. “Whatever you say. Fuckin’ losers.”

 

When Hoseok goes home, Jackson comes with him, and the moment he puts his tennis bag down by his shoes, Jackson points at it. “You have a lot of explaining to do.”

Which leads to half an hour of awkward, flustered sentences and stammered words while Jackson does his best to not laugh right into Hoseok’s face. Apparently his best is not enough. “What?” Hoseok asks for the tenth time. “Is there something wrong with Namjoon?”

“No!” Jackson cries out, wiping away tears. “God, not at all. He’s a really good guy, actually. A little hipster, but. It’s just. I can’t believe- Hoseok, you’re an Olympian - shut up, don’t argue with me, you are - you couldn’t think of any other way to get his attention? At all?”

“Spur of the moment!”

Can you tutor me in tennis? Oh, me? No, I’ve just won over ten tournaments and have a buttload of trophies,” Jackson mimics. “You clearly need a tutor. And he has no idea? None?”

Hoseok fidgets a little in his chair, fingers coming down to play with the rim of the glass of water. “I think every time we play tennis, a little bit of the lie disappears, and one day he’ll just be like, ‘Yeah, I figured the whole time’.”

He can feel Jackson staring at him with his are you fucking serious? look. Which, yes, he is. Unfortunately. “That’s not- That’s now how it works, you idiot,” Jackson says, suddenly very serious. “You can’t try to create a relationship with someone when you’ve lied about one of the most important things in your life. Hoseok, it- Trust me, this shit is hilarious, but this is the kind of thing that only applies in movies and books. If someone lied to me about something like this? Maybe for a little bit I’d be like ‘haha, okay, funny while it lasted’, but for a long time? Unforgivable.”

Hoseok knows. He knows this. It’s just... hard. He doesn’t want to break up the giant lie that he’s so conveniently made up, and doesn’t want to possibly hurt Namjoon’s feelings which would then hurt his own feelings and even more possibly ruin their friendship, and Hoseok really, really doesn’t want that. He likes Namjoon! Even just as a friend.

Which is the problem. He can’t bare the truth to Namjoon without explaining why, and if he explains why, that would break the friendship instantly if his feelings aren’t reciprocated. And who knows what Namjoon thinks? Definitely not him. Which...

“Wait,” Hoseok says, looking up. “You don’t mind me wanting to go out with Namjoon?”

Jackson raises an eyebrow before grinning. “Yeah, man. What the fuck? You both need to get laid like ASAP. The sooner the better- ouch!” Jackson peels away the dish cloth thrown at his face and grimaces. “What was that for? I support you!”

“Strange way of showing it,” Hoseok mumbles.

Jackson throws the dish cloth back at him. “I just gave you my blessing, okay! Take it or leave it.”

He sniffs. It appears the odds are just never in his favor.

 

Namjoon and Hoseok meet again that Wednesday at the tennis courts, before Hoseok’s physical therapy session. Except... they don’t get very far in their playing because halfway through Namjoon accidently lets go of his racket, and it snaps in half the moment it hits the ground.

“Uh.” Namjoon stares at his racket. “That’s never happened before.”

Hoseok laughs as Namjoon picks up the two broken pieces and tries to put them together. “Jackson told me you break everything you touch.”

Traitor,” Namjoon mutters under his breath. Then, “I do not! I mean, sometimes I do. But not always. What do you want to do now, anyway?” The way he responds to his racket breaking is quite the opposite of Hoseok’s reaction from a few weeks ago.

“Uh...” The racket looks unfixable, unless someone has krazy glue. Not that Hoseok would ever be okay with super glueing a racket together, but for someone like Namjoon, maybe he wouldn’t mind... “We could play another sport? Basketball...?”

The look on Namjoon’s face is answer enough.

“Okay, well... now what?”

Namjoon hums as he puts the pieces of his tennis racket back into his tennis bag. “I dunno if I want to be here right now. Do you wanna go somewhere else? We could, like... I dunno, eat food. Or something.”

Very articulate. Then again, Hoseok doesn’t know what to do either. They stare at each other blankly, waiting for an idea to strike.

 

“Seriously? You’ve never seen it?” Namjoon asks, holding out a cup of sliced chicken to Hoseok.

He shrugs, picks up a piece, and plops it into his mouth and chews slowly. They’ve made their way to a nearby park and picked up cup chicken from a street vendor, and now they’re seated at a small metal table. “I’m not really a movie person, honestly. I’m even less of a drama person. I just... don’t watch things often.”

“You should,” Namjoon says eagerly. “I mean, there’s a lot of trash to weed through, but when you find a director who knows just how to capture the essence of a movie, it’s perfect.”

Hoseok has no idea what he’s talking about. “Uh huh. I guess?”

“I’ll show you,” Namjoon tells him, picking up another piece of chicken. “Come over sometime. I’ll introduce you to the world of filmmaking.”

Hoseok laughs. “Sure, whatever, movie critic. Sounds like a date.”

Namjoon consequently chokes on the piece of chicken, making a sound that seems like a cross between a wheeze and a chicken squawking. “A date?” he croaks out.

“It was just a figure of-” He pauses when he remembers the conversation with Jackson the other day. “I mean- It was just a joke... Right?”

“Yeah!” Namjoon wheezes. He pounds on his chest and clears his throat. “Yeah, of course. Jackson’s weird like that.”

“Isn’t he?” Hoseok tries to shove down the awkward laughter that bubbles up his throat. “Y’know,” he finds himself rambling, “in our sophomore year, I was a TA for expository writing class, and there was this one time I was talking to Heeyeon and Soyu before class started, and someone in the class before was trying to push past us except they tripped and spilled coffee all over my shirt - it was iced coffee, don’t worry - but I was wearing white, and instead of apologizing, the guy was like, ‘holy shit, my dude, you are RIPPED,’ and pointed at my stomach in front of the entire class and long story short that’s how I became friends with Jackson.”

Namjoon doesn’t laugh.

Fuck.

Well, he does, but it’s a kind of distracted laugh. Which is kind of insulting, because it was a funny story. How dare Namjoon not think it’s also funny. He may have to reconsider everyth- “Are you?” he asks.

“What?”

“Are you ripped?” Namjoon stares at him, lips tipped upwards in an amused smirk, and Hoseok isn’t sure how he’s supposed to process anything that’s going on right now.

“Uh... I guess? I don’t know. That’s not really a statement you make about yourself,” he says. “And I’m not going to take my shirt off in a public park so you can decide.”

“Wow,” Namjoon says in a dry, monotone voice. “That’s all I wanted in life. To see you shirtless. That was my plan the entire time, you’ve discovered my true intentions.”

“Have I?” Hoseok deadpans, meets him dead in the eye, because two can play this game (have been playing this game, Hoseok isn’t an idiot), and the reaction is instantaneous: Namjoon’s cheek’s flush, and he averts his eyes to the ground. Great - take the win, now repair the situation. Hoseok should be a motivation speaker for how to navigate awkward social situations. He’s already got this conversation wrapped around his pinky finger. “I can’t believe out of my entire story, you picked that to focus on.”

Namjoon sniffs. “What else was I supposed to focus on?”

“Well, the point of the story was to showcase how Jackson is a strange creature that no one can understand. Also, you’re supposed to empathize with the whole coffee spilling on me thing.”

“Never happened to me, can’t relate,” Namjoon says, eating another piece of chicken.

“Asshole.”

Namjoon just grins.

 

Both Hobeom and his Dr. Park are proud when they see him show up to the hospital with his splint, except Hoseok doesn’t have the heart to tell them that he’s tired of watching people he knows win competitions on TV and update their SNOW stories with practice sessions, so he swallows down the bitterness like a pill that’s a little too big and puts his best smile on his face.

“December really isn’t that far away,” Dr. Park tells him, as if Hoseok doesn’t already know that. Fucking doctors, always stating the obvious. The problem is that December isn’t now, and Hoseok can’t tell the difference between his X-Ray from two hours ago and the X-Ray from a month ago.

It’s been more than a month since he’s me Namjoon. How interesting.

He barely listens to Hobeom talk to him about what exercises and stretches he should be doing at home, just nods mutely and smiles when he’s prompted to.

When they both catch on, Dr. Park dismisses him with a small shake of his head, and Hobeom pats him gently on the back as he exits the hospital. On his way out, he sends Taehyung a quick text and jogs to the nearest subway station.

 

Taehyung nearly spikes the tennis ball right into Hoseok’s face, who manages to jump out of way right in time for it to go flying over the tennis court fence. Again.

“You really have to work on that,” he says, staring at the the trees behind them. “I’m not... I’m not getting that, if that’s what you were thinking.”

“I’ll get it later,” Taehyung says, and picks up another tennis ball lying around his feet. “Are you ready? It’s 30-15 now.”

“Yup!”

Taehyung’s serve is much better this time, and Hoseok can hit it back easily, where it goes into the opposite box, near the back, and Taehyung also hits it. They go back and forth until Hoseok accidentally trips over himself and misses the ball.

“Yeah! 30-30!” Taehyung cheers, jumping up and down. “I told you I’d beat you at some point.”

“You haven’t beaten me yet!” he calls out back, brushing the dirt off of his pants. “Don’t get cocky.”

Taehyung just shrugs. “I’m always cocky.”

Which is true. Hoseok can’t argue with that, so he doesn’t, just tosses Taehyung the tennis ball he’d missed.

Taehyung wins that set, so Hoseok doesn’t go easy on him when it’s his turn to serve, hitting his first serve with a topspin so Taehyung ends up running the opposite way. The next one he spikes, except Taehyung almost hits it back. It hits the metal rim of his racket and goes out of bounds.

“Jesus, hyung,” Taehyung groans, after he loses without ever scoring a point back. “You’re really amazing at serves, aren’t you? How are you actually supposed to play tennis if no one can get past that stage?”

Hoseok grins at him and tosses him the tennis ball, and definitely does not feel guilty about Namjoon. He doesn’t. Not at all.

(He feels so fucking guilty.)

 

Namjoon’s texts the rest of that week seem seem to be full of angst over his work schedule and how everyone at his company is stressing because the new boyband is set to debut in a month and the music video hasn’t been finished, which is apparently not his fault, because he can’t work on the music video when the song itself is still being edited.

From Namjoon: So yeah I’ve been working overtime pretty much every day this week... including today

To Namjoon: it’s 8pm... still?

From Namjoon: :( At least I get to work from home!

Hoseok had been sitting at home himself not really doing much - switching in between conversations with Namjoon and Hyeri, watching youtube videos, when he finally decides to pester Namjoon into giving him his address.

To Namjoon: i’m coming over! with coffee! no excuses, put on pants u fiend

From Namjoon: Ouch. I thought you wanted to see me pantsless.

To Namjoon: only on thursdays :-)

From Namjoon: It’s entirely possible for you to be here until after midnight.

He barely manages to roll his eyes while tugging a loose sweater on over his head and making his way down to the local bakery at the corner of his block.The last time they went to a cafe together Namjoon had gotten an Americano, but it’s eight in the evening and there’s no way he’s getting something with that much caffeine, so he ends up buying a hot chocolate and a strawberry milkshake instead.

Namjoon’s house is a fair half hour walk, but at least he doesn’t have to take the subway, and the weather is so nice Hoseok is thankful for the opportunity to get lost in his head. His splint feels a bit heavier than usual, but at least it isn’t painful. His emotions have also been much clearer these past few weeks, ever since the doctor gave him a potential clear for December. He’d been diligently doing his stretches at home in his free time and wearing the splint constantyl that his co-workers have been asking his arm has gotten worse. All in all, the fact Hoseok can see the light at the end of the tunnel has brightened not only his his mood but also his outlook. The future doesn’t seem as muddy and distorted anymore. It will be hard, yes, but doable. And that’s what counts.

Hoseok pokes the camera in front of Namjoon’s apartment complex so he can’t see his face in the home monitor when he comes, but Namjoon opens the door anyway. Maybe he doesn’t have any sense of self preservation. They would need to work on that - Hoseok has maybe too much.

“Your delivery has arrived,” he greets, trying to toe his shoes off in the doorway with his hands occupied. “Do you want the hot chocolate or the milkshake?”

“You told me you were getting me coffee.”

He grins and presses both drinks into Namjoon’s hands so he can untie his sneakers. “Ah, but Joon-ah, I lied.”

“And here I was, thinking you were a good person,” Namjoon replies back wistfully, putting both drinks on the coffee table. “I’ll take the hot chocolate, if that’s okay with you.”

“Good, I wanted the milkshake anyway.” Hoseok actually doesn’t have a preference, but Namjoon smiles anyway and makes a comment about brainmelding, or whatever. He’ll let him live with that thought. “So... I’m allowed to sneak a peek at this music video, right? What kind of concept is it?”

Namjoon shrugs. “It’s your typical schoolboy concept. It’s all very manufactured, I can’t get into it, honestly. Here, let me show you around.”

Hoseok misses his chance to joke about Namjoon’s elitism when he’s dragged around the quaint, little apartment. It’s not much, but it’s nice. There’s the main area, which is connected to the kitchen, a bathroom, and then Namjoon’s bedroom.

“You sleep with this many stuffed animals?” Hoseok asks, mouth open. “Really?”

Namjoon looks offended. “What’s wrong with my stuffed animal collection?”

“I-” The bed is full of stuffed animals, all of them toppling over each other. It’s so... so... He has to, he just has to. “You’re so cute, Joonie!” he squeals, turning to pinch Namjoon’s cheeks. “Jackson was right, you’re fucking adorable!”

“Get off of me!”

Namjoon is lucky he swats at Hoseok’s left arm, and he knows it too, because the apology comes out right after he retracts his arms and let them drop down to his side. “It’s fine,” he says. “See? Cute.”

He doesn’t get a distinct reply this time, only nondescriptive muttering under his breath as Namjoon leads him to the couch where he has his laptop, mouse, and speakers on the coffee table. They sit on the floor, in the space between the table and the sofa. “Viola. This is where the magic happens.”

“So what are you working with?” Hoseok asks, looking at the array of clips on the screen. He has no idea what anything is supposed to do, and so Namjoon explains the parts of the video editing program and then dives right into it, eyes automatically focusing on the little bits of the clipping tool and everything else that has already slipped Hoseok’s mind.

He places his head on Namjoon’s shoulder half an hour in and points to one of the two clips Namjoon had been debating between putting in the second chorus. He gets a pat on the head in thanks, so Hoseok thinks they’re good.

Two hours into Hoseok interjecting his opinion randomly and staring at Namjoon’s computer screen, his eyes start to droop, and his arms come up to wrap around Namjoon’s waist. For a split second, Hoseok feels him stiffen up, and thinks he may have crossed some line, but then he relaxes, and Hoseok gets another head pat before he dozes off.

 

He awakens to Namjoon shaking his shoulder, and then his face falling for a split second before Namjoon pushes him back against the couch. “You awake?”

“Uh... yeah. I think.” His eyes are still blurry around the edges, but Namjoon’s face is pristine, looking down at him with almost... worry? “What’s wrong?”

“Your arm was bent weirdly. I moved it, but... Does it hurt?”

Ah. That explains the soreness of his wrist. He’d figured that was from his physical therapy session earlier, and maybe part of it is, but that’s one mystery solved. “I’m good, just a little strained, but nothing unusual. I had PT today anyway.”

Namjoon nods thoughtfully, then reaches forward to push some of Hoseok’s hair out of his face. “Well, I finished. It’s not the best work, but it’s a mediocre song anyway, and it’s passable enough for management.”

Hoseok is awake enough to snort and shake his head. “I was gonna say you probably did a great job anyway, but you really are such a pretentious person.”

Namjoon laughs and makes no effort to argue with him. He’s proud of his pretentiousness too! What an elitist. “Tell me anyway.”

“I bet you did a great job,” Hoseok says, and Namjoon grins until his dimples are showing and looks down. Fuck, he’s adorable. Hoseok wants to kiss him until he's breathless. “And you’re shameless.”

Namjoon bats his eyelids. “Only for you, babe,” he replies, and laughs again when Hoseok makes a disgusted face.

“You need to do better than that.”

Namjoon’s eyes widen comically before he gasps, “What, ‘babe’s not enough for you?”

Hoseok laughs this time instead. “Yeah, I expect to be picked up at seven with a bouquet of roses. A candlelight dinner is a bonus.”

Namjoon shakes his head, but he’s still grinning. “High maintenance.”

“Yup. Actually, I need to get home to take a rose bath and do a face mask,” he jokes, and as an afterthought, adds, “But seriously, what time is it?”

The time, it turns out to be, is much later than it should be.

“It’s one in the morning? Holy, I gotta get home.”

“Sleep here,” Namjoon automatically says, leaning his chin on the couch so he’s looking up at Hoseok with those puppy-like eyes. His own eyes narrow in retaliation - it’s too rehearsed, Namjoon definitely has done this before. He knows how to make that face on demand.

“You’re cute,” he says, patting Namjoon’s cheek. “But if you think I’m going to deal with fighting through crowds of children trying to get to school in the morning, you’re sorely mistaken. I’ll text you when I get back.”

He gets up, and feels Namjoon also standing up behind him. “At least let me walk you out.”

“No babe this time?” Hoseok retorts, and Namjoon laughs.

“Nope. I’m sad, babe.”

“Sucks to be you.” After Hoseok puts his shoes back on, he opens the door and waves Namjoon goodbye, along with a, “I’ll see you at tennis!” and then heads home.

There’s only one thing that’s going through his mind as he makes his way through the dim-lit streets, uncaring of the fact he’s going to be exhausted tomorrow at work.

He’s fucking whipped for Kim Namjoon.

 

When Namjoon shows up to tennis the next week with a completely functional racket, he’s about to ask if he actually did superglue the racket together. Until he remembers from when they first met that Namjoon had had two rackets.

In this meeting, every time Hoseok pretends to be terrible, the guilt crawls a little further up his throat. Namjoon is such a patient teacher, and always willing to explain things (even if they’re not entirely correct), and takes the time to show Hoseok how to do things as many times as Hoseok asks.

He also doesn't miss the way Namjoon steps closer to him, breathes into his ear when he speaks, and lets his fingers rest on Hoseoks body longer than it should. He’s also pretty sure Namjoon doesn’t miss the way that Hoseok lets this all happen.

“This sucks,” Hoseok grumbles, when he misses his serve. The tennis ball goes into the furthest box and hits the back fence sadly.

“You’ll get the hang of it,” Namjoon reassures him. “Serving is the hardest for most people, I think. I know I’m definitely not that great at it.”

Hoseok wants to agree, but that would be rude, and also that would be quite out of character for his already out of character Hoseok. Jeez, he needs to rethink his life choices.

“Here.” Namjoon hands him another tennis ball. “Another one.”

Another one,” Hoseok mocks in his best DJ Khalid imitation, tossing the ball into the air. He makes sure to hit the ball with the side of his racket so it hits the net and falls down, rolling away. “Welp.”

“Welp,” Namjoon echoes, staring at it.

 

Namjoon invites him over a week later to watch movies, and Hoseok only makes fun of him for his elitist film collection once - a feat he’s quite proud of.

“How about this one?” Namjoon asks, handing him a CD. “It’s called 20.”

“Never heard of it.”

The sigh Namjoon lets out in response is heavy. “Can’t believe... we can’t get through this many movies in one day.”

Hoseok smirks as he puts the CD on the coffee table, even if Namjoon isn’t looking at him. “Sleep over?”

“Not even in two days,” Namjoon replies, either not registering the euphemism or just flat out ignoring it. He really is a film critic. “How about this one? How do you feel about horror?” He finally turns around to hand Hoseok to DVD case, and raises an eyebrow at Hoseok’s expression. “What?”

“Uh, me and horror don’t really get along.”

Namjoon’s eyebrow raises as he smirks - it’s very sexy, but Hoseok also knows what that look means, so the shiver that goes down his spine is very confused as to whether it wants to go to his dick or not. “You’re afraid of horror movies?”

“No!” Hoseok says much too quickly. It doesn't go unnoticed, because if anything, Namjoon’s smirk seems to grow more catlike. “I just... have a hard time? I don’t avoid them, I just don’t see them that often! There’s a difference. I’m not seasoned. Or, uh. What’s the word?”

“You’re not seasoned,” Namjoon repeats. He can imagine how amusing Namjoon finds this situation - usually Hoseok is the one teasing him, but now the tables have turned. “Hey, it all starts somewhere, right?”

Hoseok blanches. “No,” he says. “No. I-I won’t. If you do, I’ll run out screaming. Or... I’ll kick you in the face. It’ll look like an accident, I promise.” It takes him a moment to realize Namjoon’s laughing, probably it’s hard to hear over how ridiculous he sounds, stuttering his words out. “What?”

Namjoon waves his hand dismissively. “Nothing. I just- Fine. You win, no horror. But I get to have a compromise. What do you say about a psychological thriller? No jump scares or anything, I swear. It’s a detective movie.”

After staring at Namjoon’s face for an indecent amount of time to see if he’s lying (also because he just wants an excuse to stare), he finally concedes, “Fine. Only if we can have popcorn.”

Namjoon barks out another laugh. “I figured that was a given. Fine - can you get the popcorn while I set this up? Packet’s in the first cabinet next to the fridge.”

Hoseok does as Namjoon says and starts up the popcorn in the microwave to go find Namjoon fiddling with the settings. “What do we need subtitles for?”

“It’s in German,” Namjoon supplies helpfully. Hoseok stares for a moment, appreciating the lines of Namjoon’s shoulder and back, then shrugs. German, Korean, whatever.

 

Halfway through the movie, Namjoon puts the bowl of popcorn on the side table next to him and looks to see Hoseok’s reaction.

Hoseok only knows this because that’s the moment he reaches out to grab a handful of popcorn from the bowl and ends up with his hand on Namjoon’s thigh, very close to his crotch. “Why’d you have to move the p- Why are you looking at me?”

Namjoon purses his lips. “I wanted to see how you felt about the movie so far.”

Hoseok shrugs, reaching over Namjoon to grab the bowl. “It’s okay. I don’t see how this could pass your criteria for amazing movies, but I gu-Fuck!”

His hand had been pressed down on Namjoon’s thigh for support, but he leans too far and his hand slips, which ends up with him falling onto Namjoon’s lap. “Woah,” Namjoon breathes, hands coming up to grip at Hoseok’s hip. “I didn’t think you were clumsy?”

“I’m not!” Hoseok protests, unsure how to maneuver his body with his arm trapped in between Namjoon’s legs and his torso without accidently grabbing his dick. Whatever - Namjoon will have to deal if that happens. With a huff, he hoists himself up and nearly clambers onto Namjoon’s lap. “Seriously, why’d you put the bowl all the over here? How am I supposed to concentrate?” Hoseok’s about to grab a handful of popcorn, but pauses when Namjoon is strangely silent.

He grabs the bowl of popcorn and moves to put it on the coffee table, but freezes when Namjoon’s hands grip his hip more tight. It’s miniscule, the difference, but Hoseok can feel it and that’s what matters. “What?”

“I-”

He puts the popcorn bowl back on the side table and peers down at Namjoon, who seems just as surprised as he does.

And then a thought crosses his mind.

Sure, the position they’re in is a little scandalous, but they’re both two grown adults who can handle a little awkwardness, especially for popcorn. But...

“You planned this,” Hoseok accuses, suddenly aware that he really is just straddling Namjoon. “All of it. From the very beginning, didn’t you?”

“Define very beginning,” Namjoon answers, which just confirms everything.

Hoseok stares at him and tries to hold back a shudder when Namjoon’s thumb slips under his shirt, resting on his hipbone. “You know, other people normally just ask.”

“I don’t know if I’d put you under the category of normal.”

“I’ve never heard that one before.”

“Really?” Namjoon asks, grinning. “I’ll take it as a victory.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“Are you just gonna sit here in this very compromising situation and banter or- mfft!

Namjoon, Hoseok decides, is all talk and no action. He puts his hands onto Namjoon’s shoulders and pulls him into a deep kiss, lets his tongue curl around Namjoon’s at a painfully slow pace, and grins when he hears him whine. It’s surprisingly high pitched and desperate - Hoseok decides he wants to hear more of that.

He leans forward to press their chests together, and Namjoon makes a pained, strangled noise, bucking his hips upwards, and he hisses, hands moving to fist the collar of Namjoon’s shirt. As far as kisses go, this is alright. They’re not sure what each other likes, though the way Namjoon’s hand comes up to hold Hoseok’s head in place as he sucks his tongue into his mouth is super hot. Everything is super hot right now. He maybe trembles, and now it’s Namjoon’s turn to smile against his lips.

“Is- is this okay?” he hears himself ask, and it’s the first time he’s felt Namjoon hesitate about the ordeal. He opens his eyes to look at Hoseok, who’s staring right back at him with uncertainty.

“Yeah,” Namjoon breathes. “It’s fine. Actually, it’s fucking amazing. Do more, please.”

Well. If he insists, right?

When Hoseok tilts his head to nip at Namjoon’s collarbone, he shudders, and his hands tremble. Namjoon pushes at his shoulders and so Hoseok pulls away, looking up at Namjoon, hair tousled and lips red and swollen. He looks amazing, and Hoseok feels just a little prideful that he’s the one who made him look that way. It’s a great feeling. Namjoon breathes deeply, looking up at him through hooded eyes.

Namjoon stares at Hoseok’s lips as he purses them, and dips his head downward, only to glance back up at Namjoon to smirk and lick his lips slowly. He groans as a familiar heat builds.

“I- you-”

Namjoon leans forward and swallows Hoseok’s sentence with his lips, hands moving downwards towards his belt loop in anticipation. He wants to see more. Hoseok groans, grabbing a fistful of Namjoon’s hair, pulling his head up to meet his lips, capturing Namjoon with another slow, lazy kiss.

Maybe they’re going too far. It’s possible, but Hoseok doesn’t care. He’s super turned on and Namjoon is under him and all too willing, and as far as both of them are concerned, this meeting was probably a long while coming.

He presses his hand against the front of Namjoon’s jeans and palms his crotch, watching Namjoon squeeze his eyes shut and gasp loudly. Hoseok can’t even believe how amazing the reactions Namjoon gives are. He’s so responsive, each touch eliciting some reaction. Namjoon bites his bottom lip, trying to suppress a moan when Hoseok palms him again and unzips his fly. “Okay?” he asks, and Namjoon nods his head furiously.

Namjoon brings his hands down and under his shirt, feeling the skin there. Hoseok sighs softly at the sensation, and Namjoon groans again when Hoseok licks up his jaw line, nibbling at his earlobe.

“Good movie,” he whispers teasingly, and Namjoon laughs, hands coming down to cup his ass. “I get why- oh!

The moan tumbles its way out of his mouth involuntarily when Namjoon gently presses his thumb against Hoseok’s entrance, and Namjoon just grins wickedly. “You talk a lot,” he says.

He presses the palm of his hand to Namjoon’s dick one more time, and his hips buck up. Hoseok likes this game of pseudo-dominance, wants to see how far he can take it. “I do. Is that a problem?” He slips his hand into Namjoon’s pants and under his boxers, slowly dragging his hand up Namjoon’s length. The moan he gets is deep and so, so satisfying. “Doesn’t sound like one.”

“Shit, Hoseok, oh god.”

“Is this what you planned for?” Hoseok asks, biting back a laugh. Namjoon’s eyes flutter closed when he pulls his dick out out of his pants, jerking him steadily. Hoseok thinks his favorite sound might be the heavy pants Namjoon can’t help but breathe out. “I bet you have condoms and lube stashed somewhere around here too. Am I right?”

“God,” Namjoon groans, one hand coming up to fist Hoseok’s hair. Again, he denies nothing. “Do you ever shut up?”

“Depends on-”

The groan Namjoon makes this time is less sexy and more exasperated, before he finally gives up and kisses Hoseok fiercely, wet and filthy and oh-so-good - Hoseok can feel himself slumping against Namjoon, desperately seeking friction for the quench that ignites his bones. He grinds down with a sigh that Namjoon swallows instantly, pulling on his hair and batting Hoseok’s hand away from his cock. “Can I?” he asks.

Hoseok likes being a little shit sometimes. “I thought you had this planned out.”

“I’m going to take that as a yes,” Namjoon states, then grabs Hoseok’s shoulder and flips them so Hoseok’s back is against the couch and Namjoon is hovering over him.

“Could’ve at least let me taken my shirt off first.”

“I’m going to buy you a muzzle,” Namjoon hisses, but he pulls Hoseok’s shirt over his head, and then his own. “And a ball gag. And a- what’s that thing called?”

“Kinky. Who’s talking now, huh?” Hoseok asks, reaching up to attach his lips to Namjoon’s collarbone, trying to suck a bruise into the tanned skin. Namjoon’s hands skim up and down his body, ticklish, until they get down to his pants, and Namjoon fumbles with his belt, until he finally opens Hoseok’s jeans and pushes them down enough for them to be kicked off. “Your turn.”

“Patience,” Namjoon says, reaching under the couch, and Hoseok actually laughs aloud.

Really? One, your dick is already sticking out, and two, really? Under the sofa? And three, I wanted to suck you off.”

Namjoon is caught in between rolling his eyes and groaning. It looks like he got punched in the face. “I just laid you down.”

“Life is all about adapting,” Hoseok says with a smile, and changes places with Namjoon. “Did you know-”

“I don’t want to know,” Namjoon cuts him off, as Hoseok pumps his length.

“Did you know,” he continues anyway, “that I have been dreaming about blowing you since the first day I fucking saw you? Even with your ugly headband and gym shorts, I- I swear I was gonna just get on my knees right then and there.”

“Jesus Christ, Hoseok,” Namjoon groans, throwing his arm over his eyes. His mouth parts and chest rises and falls - Hoseok can’t help but watch as he leans down to lightly suck at the head of his cock. Pride swells inside of him at the whine he receives.

“Didn’t think you were so sensitive,” he says, then, like everything Hoseok does, goes as far as he can go, sucking Namjoon into his mouth and going down as his mouth will let him without gagging. The scream he receives is glorious, fingers carding themselves into his hair, easing Hoseok off of his dick. He licks up a stripe up to the head, then swirls it around and back down, watching Namjoon pant and gasp and beg him to go faster.

He’s so hard it hurts, but who cares when Namjoon is just oh so sensitive, so pliant, so weak for him, so much he has to grip Namjoon’s hips to keep them from shallowly thrusting into his mouth. His cheeks hollow when he sucks, and Namjoon cries out blindly, shoving at Hoseok’s shoulders, off of him, and takes a long, heaving breath like hasn’t breathed oxygen in a very, very long time.

“You can’t just-” Namjoon groans, biting on his bottom lip. He looks so hot like this, Hoseok wants, no, needs Namjoon inside him. “You can’t just do that and not expect me to come in like .5 seconds.”

“.5? Here I thought I was good. Clearly I need more practice.”

Namjoon shakes his head, lazy grin stretching across his face as he actually grabs the lube and condoms that were under the couch. “You just don’t stop talking, do you?”

“Never.”

“How do you want this? D-do you want to... Or should I?” Namjoon is blushing, actually blushing. He’s lying underneath Hoseok, naked, after receiving (in Hoseok’s opinion) a fucking fantastic blowjob, hard as a rock, and yet he’s blushing and being able to ask the most simplest question ever.

“I would love to ride your cock,” Hoseok purrs, nipping at his ear. “Or you could fuck me into this couch until I don’t remember my own name like a good boy.”

Namjoon outwardly moans at the pet name, and rolls them over until he’s on top again. His eyes are blown back, large black eclipses that glow from the light of the TV, still blaring something in German or whatever. Hoseok doesn’t care, he could probably do this all day - stare up at Namjoon’s face, spend forever just looking, trying to commit each feature to memory. He’s so beautiful - the curve of his eyes, the lilt to his smile, and god, those dimples. He’s perfect. Hoseok’s so lucky.

“I’m so lucky,” he whispers gently, hand coming up to trace along Namjoon’s cheekbones, and the touch is so intimate that Namjoon splutters and fumbles with the lube and spills some of it onto Hoseok’s stomach (or maybe he just spills it because that’s how Namjoon is - Hoseok doesn’t know and doesn’t care).

“Sorry,” Namjoon whispers, haphazardly coating his fingers and bringing them down to Hoseok’s entrance.

Hoseok just laughs, because how precious, but then one finger is pushing gently into him, and he sighs softly, getting used to the intrusion. “You’re so cute.”

“No I’m not,” Namjoon bites back, pressing in until he’s knuckle deep. It’s feels good, but it’s not enough, so Hoseok rolls his hips down, revelling in the way Namjoon’s eyes lock onto his, bright and focused with intent. “Another?”

Yes, god,” Hoseok demands. “I’m not a doll.”

This time, Namjoon is the one that laughs, and Hoseok is the one that croaks out a groan when he pushes in a second finger, twisting and curling upwards until Hoseok feels sparks zap through his body, and his eyes roll back into his head. “Good?” Namjoon asks.

“Yes,” Hoseok admits, gasping when Namjoon thrusts his fingers in and out, fucking Hoseok slowly, until there’s three fingers in him, stretching and filling him up until it’s not enough anymore. “But it’d be better if you were actually fucking me.”

Like magic, Namjoon slips his fingers out at the statement, and takes a moment to open the plastic wrapping and roll the condom onto himself, stroking himself until the lube is evenly coated.

When he pushes himself inside Hoseok, the stretch burns just enough for it to set Hoseok’s veins alight with pleasure, coursing through him like an avalanche, until he’s grabbing Namjoon’s face and kissing him wetly, sucking on his tongue and pulling at his until Namjoon is moaning weakly, pulling away to gasp and whine, where Hoseok moves his attention to his neck and tries to suck a mark into the soft skin there. “Are you gonna fuck me?” Hoseok breathes against his jaw. “Are you gonna fuck me until I can’t walk tomorrow, Namjoon?”

“Fuck,” Namjoon groans, then slams into Hoseok so hard he’s pushed backwards onto the armrest, and a cry tears itself out of his throat, raw and jagged - Namjoon has the audacity to smirk at him, then capture his mouth in another bruising kiss as he pounds into Hoseok, fingers running up and down his torso, thumbing at his nipples and tracing the lines of his hips.

“You’re so good, oh god,” Hoseok breathes, hands coming up to claw at Namjoon’s back. “Harder, jesus, Namjoon- You’re so good, so so good like this, oh my god-”

Namjoon slides in and out of him, hot and heavy and everything perfect, Hoseok is going to dream about this moment for months. Namjoon, so perfect and pliant for him, fulfilling his every whim and fucking him mercilessly all while making those, sweet, soft moans; Hoseok is never going to get enough, he knows this, is going to make it last, hopefully forever, but forever is relative because the moment right now, Namjoon brushing up against his prostate and crushing Hoseok’s mouth with a bruising kiss, this moment feels fucking timeless. There’s an eternity between now and Namjoon reaching down to stroke Hoseok’s own cock, hard and forgotten in between them as he gasps, “Hoseok, I’m so close, I’m going to come, Hoseok.”

“Are you?” Hoseok asks, just to rile him up, just to watch the flush on Namjoon’s face deepen. “Are you going to come for me, like a good boy?”

“Yes,” Namjoon cries out, fucking into him so hard the sofa knocks against the table and the bowl of popcorn and remote controller and whatever the fuck else was on it go crashing onto the floor. “I’m coming, Hoseok-”

Namjoon’s jaw drops, slack, and Hoseok watches as the pupils of Namjoon’s eyes blow out, staring straight into his own, eyebrows furrowing sweetly until Namjoon almost looks concerned, the moan so deep and guttural it sounds like it was pulled out of Namjoon’s soul itself.

Namjoon’s hand on Hoseok’s cock doesn’t let up though, dragging up and down, smearing precum all along his length and digging his thumb into the slit and twisting his wrist until Hoseok also gasps, his orgasm washing over him like a tidal wave - unstoppable, overloading all his senses until he can’t feel anything else but the lightening, the shallow heat of the aftermath, and Namjoon’s soft kisses against his neck.

He smiles, post-coital bliss washing over him as he mindlessly strokes Namjoon’s hair. “Who got talkative at the end there?”

The laugh he receives is felt more than heard, by the short puffs of breaths on his collarbone. “You did.”

“Okay, put the blame on me,” he replies, scratching lightly at Namjoon’s nape, and they lie there for a few minutes, until Namjoon groans and rolls off of him, reaching down to grab his phone. “Good movie, huh?”

“Shut up.” Namjoon swats at him lazily, then takes a few steps away. “I’m going to go sleep, in my bed. I was gonna invite you to join, but I don’t think I want to anymore.”

Hoseok rolls off of the couch and grabs both of their clothes. “Well don’t suddenly start getting selfish on me, I just gave you the best orgasm of your life.”

“You don’t know that,” Namjoon says, groaning when Hoseok tosses the bundle of clothes at him. “What was that for?”

Hoseok’s already in the kitchen, grabbing two glasses. “Were you just going to leave the clothes on the floor like caveman? At least pretend you don’t care about wrinkled shirts.”

“I don’t,” Namjoon mumbles, but carries the pile of clothes into his bedroom and takes the glass of water from Hoseok gratefully. While he’s doing that, Hoseok takes the time and folds each article of clothing individually until there’s two night piles for his and Namjoon’s clothes, then drains his own glass and follows Namjoon onto the bed. There they both fall asleep, legs tangled in each other’s.

 

Hoseok gives Namjoon a kiss when he wakes up, laughing when he’s swatted away so that Namjoon can curl himself into the blankets more. “I’m leaving, stupid,” he says, flicking at where Namjoon’s head should be. “I have to go to work in two hours.”

“No,” Namjoon groans, hands reaching out to grab at Hoseok. He dodges them, and sits on the edge of the bed, just far away enough for Namjoon to not exert the effort. “Stay here.”

Hoseok laughs. Namjoon’s face is all scrunched up with sleep, face flushed. “I’d rather not be fired. I only have two hours.”

“Two hours?” Namjoon asks incredulously, tossing the covers back over his head. “Two?” he repeats, voice muffled.

Hoseok sniffs. Two hours is not a long time! “Well, I have to shower, make breakfast, wash these clothes, go for my jog-”

“Oh my god.” Namjoon’s head resurfaces from the cocoon of warmth, mouth open and eyebrows raised. “You’re a morning person, aren’t you?” He looks at the clock on the nightstand, then back at Hoseok. “You are! It’s not even 6AM yet,” he acuses.

“Why waste the day?” Hoseok leans in and presses another kiss against Namjoon’s lips, then his cheek. Honestly, he kind of wants to just sit here and kiss Namjoon all day. But again, he has priorities, and really doesn’t want to get fired and jobless before he can play tennis again. “I’ll text you later. Don’t oversleep.”

Namjoon mumbles something incoherent as he leaves his apartment, feeling light on his feet and giddy in his heart.

 

The meet the next day for lunch, at a small cafe, where they hold hands under the table and Namjoon kisses Hoseok on the side of his mouth when no one’s looking, and they grin at each other until Hoseok tells him to finish his food. He feels sort of like a teenager again, with his heart pounding and his cheeks blushing. But it’s a good type of feel, and this time he actually feels like he has control of himself and his environment.

“One of the boybands has a concert coming up, so I’ll probably be working overtime a lot this week,” Namjoon tells him, mindlessly poking at his food with his chopsticks. “There’s just two of us - me and my friend Seokjin, who have to edit all the intermission videos. But if I get done by this Friday, we should play tennis on Saturday!”

“It’s a date,” Hoseok says, smirking. “An actual date, this time.”

Namjoon laughs, dimples showing through even when he covers his mouth with his hand. Hoseok just cannot get over how cute he is! He wants to smush him. Or shrink him and keep him in his back pocket. “Should we tell Jackson?”

“Might as well, right?” Hoseok asks, thinking back to Jackson and Hoseok’s last exchange. He should probably get back to him. Not that he has anything better to update him with, but Jackson had warned him that stalling would only end up worse for the both of them. “He should be back in China by now, so we’d have to message him anyway.”

“Oh, right.” Namjoon nods thoughtfully, then picks up another piece of radish. “I guess so. We can message him separately, I suppose.”

Hoseok nods and reaches over to pick up his tea to swallow down the guilt. He’ll do that later.

 

The dreaded text comes much sooner than he thought it would. It’s not even the end of his workday when Jackson messages him back.

From Jackson: did you tell him yet????????????

To Jackson: you could at least congratulate me first...

From Jackson: ill congratulate u when ur not pretending like you didnt lie to get into namjoons pants

From Jackson: like i said, it was funny at first but the jokes gone too far and feelings are gonna get hurt. better to do it now than in december, right?

Hoseok sighs, the fluorescent words staring back at him accusingly. Jackson’s right, he knows, but the lie he’s spun has been drawn out for long that’s become an entire web, intricately woven, except the only victims stuck in it are Namjoon and himself. Although it seems like the way to cut the strings is easy, Hoseok feels paralyzed - like his arms are stuck to the walls and he doesn’t know where or how to start anything. But he has to somehow.

To Jackson: i will, i promise.

He doesn’t get a reply, which is as much as he expects. As far as Jackson goes, that’s the furthest he’ll go when it comes to scolding Hoseok, but Hoseok knows he’s still angry and disappointed in him. Hell, he’s disappointed in himself too. He’s run out of excuses, and now he has two options: continue lying, possibly get away with it which will probably lead to an unhealthy and unfulfilling relationship that will break up sooner than later, or he can spill the truth, admit his mistakes, and leave the options in Namjoon’s hands.

Neither sound very good, but he’d be lying if he said he didn’t know which option he was going to choose. Now it just matters about how he’s going to do it. Which... brings up another block. How is he going to do it?

The end of his workday does come, eventually, and the entire time walking home is spent wondering what the best course of action to take is. A text would be bad. There’s no way he’s just going to text Namjoon an apology and expect that to be it. If anything, that would be throwing fuel onto the fire. Gasoline, petrol, whatever. It’d get bad very quick, and very terribly. A phone call? Also seems a little inconsiderate, but definitely better. It’s a maybe. Hoseok will keep that option on the table as well. Then there’s meeting in person. That’s by far the most smart thing to do but... it’s also the scariest. It’s also on the table. It has to be.

When he gets to his apartment, shutting the door behind him and toeing his shoes off, he’s met with the sight of his golden racket, hanging precariously on the wall above his TV. Well. the racket’s always been there, half tool, half decoration, entirely trophy. The handle side faces him, and he can see the glimmer of the gold-plated English letters JH on the cap - his initials. It’s been four years since that tournament, but that’s still his favorite prize.

The final was two hours after his statistics midterm, and had gotten nearly zero sleep the night before. He’d stepped onto the tennis court that morning, fueled purely by espresso shots and energy drinks, nearly seeing doubles of everything (which was a funny joke later, because haha, get it, doubles? Yes, I know I was playing a singles game, it was a joke. His friends just have a bad sense of humor.), and won 6-0. A clean sweep.

There we go! Hoseok finally comes back to reality, remember where he is and what he should be doing, stepping out of the entryway of his apartment and into the kitchen to make himself a cup of coffee. He knows how he’ll do it. It won’t be easy, but is anything important ever?

But first:

 

Yoongi is cranky, but when is he not?

“I thought you liked your kids,” Hoseok says, sliding a shot glass over to him. All they’ve gotten in between them is a plate of haemul pajeon and fried squid, but it’s enough, and more important, Yoongi agreed to pay tonight.

They haven’t seen each other in nearly two months, but things are usually like that in between them. Aside from a few bantering texts, and tons of SNOW pictures with ridiculous filters, their meetings are few and far between, but never draining. Maybe that’s just Hoseok speaking as an extrovert, but he knows Yoongi enjoys his existence, even if he’ll never admit it aloud. How else would they still have been friends since high school? So when he messages him asking to meet up and rant about their lives, Yoongi is more than willing to accept, which leads to where they are now, on Wednesday, cramped together in a small table in the far back of a discreet bar.

“I do,” Yoongi replies, after he’s done swallowing a piece of pajeon. “It’s their parents I can’t stand. One of them fucking reported me to the principal. For being too hard on her child. Y’know - the same child that broke their violin and blamed it on their classmate. So yes, I was hard on her? Fucking... How about you teach your kid some goddamn manners.”

Hoseok pours him a drink as he listens. Yoongi has been tutoring kids in music for years, but only recently he’d been able to become an actual music teacher at some elite music academy. Unfortunately, that comes with obnoxious parents, and Yoongi has more than his fair share of horror stories.

“What about you?” Yoongi asks, fingers cupping the small glass, and they wordlessly tip it back, Hoseok groaning as he does, not wanting to get into it while also wanting very much to talk all about it. “Something gotta be up for you to call me just to drink.”

“We can do other things!” Hoseok protests, looking around at the people sitting in their vicinity. “Just that it’s the middle of the week and it’s late. You said this was the only time you were free.”

Yoongi shrugs, picking up another piece of squid with his chopsticks and plopping that into his mouth. “Who needs sleep? Not me. I am a creature of darkness.”

“Oh,” Hoseok says, grinning, and Yoongi groans because he knows what’s going to happen. They watched Batman together when they were in college, and it turned out that Hoseok did a fantastic Bane impersonation. Which meant that at every awkward moment he just had to do it to embarrass everyone in proximity. Usually Yoongi. He puts the empty shot glass to his mouth and quotes, “You think the darkness is your ally. But you merely adopted the dar-

“Jesus christ, shut up,” Yoongi snaps, kicking his shin under the table. “The waitress is going to think we’re serial killers.”

They look at each other, and like a spark was ignited, they start to laugh uncontrollably, Hoseok banging his hand on the small table so that his chopsticks go flying and Yoongi’s eyes scrunch up and his head tilts back.

See, this is why he chose to speak to Yoongi.

I was-” Hoseok chokes out in between laughs, the shot glass nearly rolling out of his hands, “I was born in it! Moulded by it!

Yoongi’s still laughing, but means it when he says, “You’re actually going to get us kicked out. Stop stalling and tell me why you’re here.”

He places the shot glass back on the table, calming down. “Fine. It’s about... It’s about a boy.”

“That’s it?” Yoongi looks thoroughly unimpressed, and Hoseok stalls even further by pouring them both more drinks. “You have a crush.”

“It’s more complicated than that,” Hoseok says slowly, staring at the pancake in front of him. And then he begins to explain, from the very beginning, everything that led up to the current predicament he’s found himself in. Thankfully, Yoongi is a good listener, and only interjects once to call him an idiot (which is expected), so when he finishes, he ends it with an anti climactic flourish of his hands. “And now here we are,” he says. He reaches for the drink in front of him, and so Yoongi follows, and they drain that one too.

“It’s really not that complicated,” Yoongi tells him when the glasses are placed back on the table. Hoseok busies himself with the pajeon. “You just gotta put your big boy pants on and tell him that you fucked up, you’re sorry, and that you’re trying to fix things.”

Hoseok nearly chokes on the pajeon at the mention of big boy, but pushes through, swallowing it uncomfortably. “I know that, but it’s just like... what if he hates me? And like, never wants to see me again? I’d understand that. I’d probably do that if someone did what I did to him to me.”

“Hate you? Hoseok, have you ever met yourself?”

“Every day,” he replies proudly, and Yoongi groans at the terrible joke. “But I’m serious. You can’t just laugh this thing off.”

Yoongi stares at him long and hard, and maybe it’s the alcohol thrumming in his veins, but Hoseok suddenly finds it very hard to meet his gaze. His face flushes, and he ends up averting his eyes, looking at the almost-finished pajeon and squid. He feels like he should be ashamed, and maybe he should - his lie that as a single thread has expanded to a web and is now stuck to him like marionette strings. “I’ve been trying to hate you for the past fifteen years of my life, Jung Hoseok. If he can manage to do it before me, then I’m going to beat this kid up.”

It takes Hoseok a moment to think, but when he does, a giant grin spreads across his face. “Aww, hyung, are you saying you love me?”

Yoongi groans, grabbing the soju bottle from Hoseok’s side of the table and pouring them drinks, even as Hoseok protests. “I’m saying I tolerate you,” he corrects. “And that there’s really no way this kid is going to hate you. I, like, promise and all that.”

Hoseok laughs. “You promise? Really?”

“I do,” Yoongi states, surprisingly serious.

Hoseok doesn’t know what to say to that.

 

Come Saturday morning, Hoseok wakes up before the sun comes up and groans, pressing a pillow over his head. For the first time in a really, really long time, he doesn’t want to get out of bed and do anything. Not even for coffee.

In three hours he’s supposed to meet up with Namjoon to play tennis, but...

He sighs, rolls over to get his phone, and then faceplants into the mattress. There’s no missed calls or messages, which isn’t too unusual, since Hoseok is pretty quick at replying to everything he gets, but there’s three emails from work he needs to respond to, as well as a reminder telling him to wear his splint.

Well. He is doing that, at least, so he gets points for crossing something off the never ending list of stressful things in life. Fuck. Speaking of stressful, he should really text Namjoon. After a moment of deliberation, unlocks his phone and opens up his messages.

To Namjoon: hey!! im not rly in the mood for tennis today... wanna come over instead?

It doesn’t really seem complete, but there’s nothing else Hoseok knows to say, so he leaves it as it is. Once he presses send, he stares at the phone screen, wishing for Namjoon to suddenly be awake and reply, but the world doesn’t revolve around him, so he takes a deep breath, steels himself, and gets out of bed to make breakfast. A long day is awaiting him! He might as well get on top of everything he’s able to.

 

The response comes an hour later, once he’s washing his dishes.

From Namjoon: Yeah, sure! Same time?

To Namjoon: yup, sounds good!

As soon as he puts the phone down, he puts the plates and cups back into the cupboard and moves to pick the trophy racket off of the wall and move it to-

He stares at the golden-plated racket in his hand. Move it where? Also, what does he do with the obvious nails on the wall that were hoisting the racket up in the first place? To his bed? What if they end up in there? To the closet? That just seems rude - his trophy is a prize, not... stuff. It’s not junk to keep hidden away in a closet. He sighs, puts it back on the wall, and runs back to his phone.

 

“Just put it in the closet,” is Taehyung’s suggestion, once he’s caught up with the situation, and Hoseok tries his best not to sigh outwardly. “It’s fine, it’ll end up back on the wall anyway.”

“Yeah, but-”

“You’re going to show it to him anyway,” he continues. “Just put it in your closet, hang it if you have to, then bring it out and show him when you finally get around to admitting that you’re a liar with good dick.”

Taehyung.”

He hears Taehyung’s muffled laugh through the static of the phone and frowns, letting his shoulders slump forward and arms droop to his side weakly. He’s right - he should just put the trophy into the closet, and then put it back up later. Two hours in a closet isn’t going to ruin it forever.

“What are we supposed to do?” he asks, once he realizes that there’s no plan at all and Namjoon is just going to come over his house to do jack shit. Great. Hoseok doesn’t know what he’s doing. He doesn’t like that feeling at all.

Taehyung doesn’t seemed fazed at all, but that’s probably because he can hear the sounds of Overwatch in the background. “Just talk. Aren’t you good at that?”

“Yes, but... Usually there’s a topic, or something. Won’t it seem weird if I invite him over just to talk?”

Taehyung curses, then lets out a deep groan that has Hoseok rolling his eyes.

“Who are you playing as?”

“Sombra,” Taehyung answers automatically. “And inviting him over to talk is definitely not any weirder than it is to invite someone over in the guise of watching movies but actually planning to fuck them.”

“But- Netflix and chill, right? It’s a thing.”

“Yeah,” Taehyung replies. “The same way talking is a thing. You guys are on the cusp of dating anyway, I don’t see the problem. You should get used to this.”

Hoseok takes a deep breath and reels himself in. He doesn’t have an answer to that. “I... I guess so. Alright. He’ll be here in half an hour, so I’ll call you later. Cool?”

Taehyung makes a vague sound that sounds like an affirmative, and with that, Hoseok ends the call and takes a good look around his apartment. Is it clean enough? Is everything in the right place? Does it all look presentable?

Well. No matter what it looks like, he’s run out of time. This will have to do.

This is it, he guesses. Be all or end all.

 

Approximately forty-five minutes and a ‘sorry, I’m running late!’ text later, Namjoon appears at his front door, decked in a sleeveless shirt and ripped jeans. He looks... unfortunately attractive. Unfortunately for Hoseok.

“Come in,” he says, after Namjoon greets him. “I hope it isn’t too messy for you.”

Namjoon toes his shoes off, takes a few steps, and then turns around to raise an eyebrow at Hoseok. “Seriously? Are you making fun of me?”

“Am I what?”

This is like... immaculately clean,” Namjoon tells him, looking around. “My apartment hasn’t been this clean since I’ve moved in.”

“Oh,” Hoseok says, then laughs. “Well. That will take some having to get used to. I’m what the kids call a neat freak.”

“Very charming.”

Hoseok leads him to the kitchen where he pours the both of them a glass of water, and unlike what Hoseok’s anxiety had been telling him, the conversation progresses very naturally. Namjoon doesn’t ask why Hoseok didn’t want to play tennis, and instead fills in with tidbits of his daily life and what his job has been like the past week. Hoseok does the same with his admittedly much more boring job, all while thumbing the edge of his splint, where his thumb is.

Namjoon must notice, because he fixes his posture and asks, “I know you said not to worry about it, your splint, but I am. Did you hurt yourself? Are you okay?”

Whatever Hoseok had been about to say disappears from his mind in a flash of lightning when Namjoon looks at him with those piercing eyes. “I-”

“It’s okay if you don’t wanna talk about it,” Namjoon backtracks, but Hoseok shakes his head. This is what today had been all about right? He should appreciate the perfect transition when it happens.

“No, there’s definitely a reason why I wear this. I... Hold on. I’m gonna bring something out, and uh... You’re not gonna like it. Are you ready?”

Namjoon doesn’t say anything, but watches Hoseok as he disappears out of the kitchen and grabs the golden racket from the closet. He takes one look down at it, sighs, then steels himself. This is it. This is the moment where it all falls apart or if Hoseok is able to move on with this relationship with nothing dragging him down.

When he walks back out into the kitchen, Namjoon looks down at the trophy, eyebrows raised. “What’s that-”

“I lied,” he says quickly. “I have to admit something. I lied to you. This... Do you wanna hold it?”

Namjoon looks even more bewildered, but nods anyway and holds out his hands. Hoseok gently places it into his hands and awkwardly shuffles to his side of the counter.

When Namjoon doesn’t say anything, just continues to look over the racket, Hoseok continues, “I’ve been playing tennis since I was in elementary school. I’m... I’m I guess what you would call a tennis prodigy.”

“Why would you lie about that?” Namjoon asks, and for a second Hoseok is so off put by the emotion in Namjoon’s voice that it takes him a while to realize that it’s humor. Namjoon finds this funny.

“How else was I supposed to talk to you?” Hoseok asks. “You were really hot and I wanted to get to know you, but your friend was there.”

“Jimin?” Namjoon asks, the ends of his mouth quirking up. Hoseok wants to yell at him, because he doesn’t find any of this funny at all. He lied for months.

“Yeah, Jimin. What you’re holding... That’s a trophy I won in sophomore year of college. I was first place in singles out of every single college in Seoul.”

Namjoon let’s out a low whistle and takes one more took at the tennis racket. “This is gold, right? No wonder.” He turns it over again, admiring the detailing on it, then flips it so that the JH is showing. “These are your initials, aren’t they?” Hoseok nods silently, and Namjoon hands back the racket to him. “I mean...”

Hoseok places the racket on the countertop in between them and waits for the rebuke to come. It has to come, Namjoon can’t just... act like what Hoseok did is normal. Or good.

Namjoon starts to laugh. Hoseok stares at him, mouth open. He’s laughing. Namjoon- “You thought I was that hot? I mean, I know I am, but like... Me, really?”

“This isn’t funny!” Hoseok protests, but Namjoon’s dimples are showing, and god dammit, okay, maybe it is a little funny... But still!

“You suffered through all my bullshit tennis lessons just to get into my pants? Why would you put yourself through that - there’s, there’s definitely hotter people out there.” He laughing so hard there are tears in his eyes, which he furiously wipes away while Hoseok doesn’t understand how to process this. “You put up with my shitty lessons and were probably dying to correct me just because you though my face looked nice? Didn't you want to throttle me? You probably could've dated another tennis player or something.”

“But they’re not you!” Hoseok protests, and so Namjoon sobers up, although he’s still grinning cheekily. “Why aren’t you upset?”

“When you first asked me to come here, I was expecting the worst,” Namjoon confesses. “I expected you to say that you regret that night we spent together, and that you just wanted to be friends. Or that you didn’t want to meet anymore.”

Hoseok’s lip trembles. God dammit, he’s not going to suddenly start crying, especially not after Namjoon was just laughing. “I’m afraid you’re gonna regret me! And you should! I lied about something huge.”

It occurs to Hoseok that Namjoon is not understanding the gravity of what tennis is to Hoseok, especially when Namjoon just shrugs. “I’m not saying what you did was good, but... I like you, and you like me. Granted, if we really are... going to be in a relationship, then it’s important to not lie to each other. So this could be a good lesson for both of us.”

Okay. That’s fair. It’s definitely a good lesson to take in regardless of whatever else Hoseok has to say, but it still... He needs to explain in a way where Namjoon gets it. “Yeah, I... Yeah. You’re right, of course. It was just... How do I explain? There’s a little more to why I lied. Aside from, y’know, the whole wanting to get into your pants thing-”

Namjoon snickers, and he can’t help the flush the runs up his neck, and Hoseok looks down, only to see the cloth of his splint, and sighs. Of course.

“Let me answer your original question: why do I wear this splint?” He raises his arm for emphasis, watches Namjoon look at the splint, then back into Hoseok’s eyes. “I was supposed to be in the Olympics,” he says slowly, letting the words sink in. “Jackson and I, both. He was going to go to China, and he did, obviously, but I was in try-outs for here. And then...”

He sighs, again, looks down at his splint miserably. “You broke your arm?” Namjoon guesses.

“Someone else broke it,” Hoseok says. “Never found out who, but they fractured my wrist in four different places.”

“Oh,” Namjoon croaks out. The smile is entirely gone, and now Hoseok is the one who feels bad. He doesn’t want Namjoon to feel upset over this, it’s Hoseok’s problem, not his. “Do you wanna... talk about it?” he asks carefully.

Hoseok pauses for a moment, considers his options. This, he supposes, is their strange way of getting together, making the relationship Official and whatnot. Which means that since Namjoon is gonna have to hear all about his physical therapy sessions and his doctor appointments anyway, he might as well spill it all now. “Yeah,” he replies, voice cracking when Namjoon reaches over to gently grab his hand. “Sure.”

And then the full story comes out. Jung Hoseok, tennis prodigy, won every single competition and tournament he’s ever been in, trying out for the Olympics in his senior year of college, where, if he passes, would get official training from famous coaches and join the South Korean team. Of course there are competitors, there always are, but none that would actually cause bodily harm to get their way in. Looking back, Hoseok probably should’ve taken safety precautions. It’s the Olympics. How many of these children’s parents were banking on their kids being the one to hold the flag?

He’d been coming out of the locker room out of the quarter-final matches, when two people had pushed him against a wall, one hand to his mouth, another hand pulling out his arm. There was a third person holding a rusty tennis racket, and he knew what was going to happen.

He tried to scream, of course he did, but it was all too fast. One breath, and the crack ricocheted throughout his body. Those assholes - they didn’t even bother calling anyone for help after. He had to pull his phone out of the bag and call Jackson to come and get him.

It’s been two years, Hoseok explains, and he’d just gotten the green light from his doctor to be able to go back to playing tennis professionally at the end of the year.

“Are you okay now?” Namjoon asks, after Hoseok finished talking.

He shrugs. “I mean, my wrist isn’t fully healed. Probably another few weeks max before-”

Namjoon shakes his head and moved his hand, re-adjusting them until their fingers are linked together. “No, I mean you. Are you okay?”

This makes Hoseok pause. Is he... okay? What a loaded question, how is he supposed to even go about answering that? “I... I guess,” he says awkwardly, staring at their intertwined fingers. “I definitely feel better than I did before. I mean... before everything was just hopeless, you know? But now things are better. I feel better. Good. I feel good. Yeah.”

He knows it all sounds very awkward and forced, but Namjoon doesn’t push for anything more, and Hoseok is thankful for that.

“So... you weren’t the towel boy?” Namjoon asks.

“What?”

“Jackson said you were the towel boy. But you weren’t, right?”

Hoseok stares at him for a long moment. “Why is that the one thing you remember?”

“I dunno! Jackson said you were the towel boy! Were you or were you not?”

Hoseok wants to faceplant onto the counter, but then he could possibly ruin his trophy. “No, what the hell?”

“You could’ve been the towel boy after the accident!”

“Who the fuck would let a person with a broken arm run around handing out towels?”

“I don’t know, capitalism?”

What?” This is not how Hoseok expected this conversation to go at all. And he’s not sure whether he’s thankful for that or not. “I’m supposed to be going out with you?”

Namjoon grins and squeezes Hoseok’s hand. “You said it, no takebacks!”

Hoseok had planned so much. So much! He even had his whole ‘I didn’t really want you to know I could have been in the Olympics also because it makes me seem less like a failure’ monologue planned out, yet here’s Namjoon just... not caring. Maybe not not caring, but not letting Hoseok wallow in his angst. Maybe that’s a good thing, he doesn’t know. Nothing went according to plan, and now he doesn’t know what to do. What he does know is that Namjoon is a fucking twat.

And he’s okay with that (kinda).

 

“I’m going to teach you how to really play tennis,” Hoseok says, dribbling the tennis ball on his racket effortlessly. Namjoon’s trying not to look like he’s super fucking impressed, but that’s exactly what he looks like. Good. Hoseok’s been waiting for this moment for a long ass time. No more pretending he doesn’t know how to do a lob! Or a backhand! Or even a front hand, god. How did he survive? He’ll especially get back to Namjoon when it comes to serving. “Like, really play.”

“I knew how to play tennis before!” Namjoon groans. He reaches out to try to grab the ball, but Hoseok easily moves it away. “You hid this from me the whole time? How painful was that?”

Hoseok tries to forget the memories. “Painful enough. First off, your posture is terrible. Grotesquely terrible. No I’m not exaggerating. Put your arm like this.” He pulls on Namjoon’s arm until it’s much lower, then turns the racket so it’s at a slight angle. “This is where you wanna keep your racket. If you have it higher-” He adjusts the racket so, “it’ll go high into the air and either go out of bounds or be high enough for the opponent to spike it back.” He pushes the racket until it’s lower. “Too low and it won’t even go over the net.”

“I hate you,” Namjoon tells him, and Hoseok laughs. “Fine. Like this?”

“Yeah. Well, more like this.”

Namjoon watches Hoseok play with his fingers before sliding them over the handle of the racket and pushing it more down. “You didn’t know anything different! You just wanted to hold my hand, didn’t you? Fuckin’ creep.”

“Yeah, okay, hold your racket the way you normally do,” Hoseok snaps back, but there’s mirth in his voice and Namjoon is on the cusp of laughing again. “I dare you to try to verse me.”

“Fine! Fight me.”

“Fine!”

In the end, Hoseok wins, 6-0. Of course. Namjoon is a good sport, besides the fact that no one is taking it seriously, but Hoseok still gloats anyway, because hey, he’s been waiting for a long time to play like he normally does.

“You should’ve given up after it was 45-love,” Hoseok tells him, “the very first round. I’m impressed you kept going.”

Namjoon huffs, faceplanting onto the asphalt. “Do I look like a loser to you?”

“Do you really want me to answer that?”

Hoseok also joins Namjoon on the ground, who turns over to face him. “Yes. Wait, no. Don’t. Fucking Olympian. I should’ve known the entire time! You were way too good, even for faking. You were already too good at the start to ask me for help, but I went with it anyway, because what do I know, right?”

“Exactly,” Hoseok is grinning down at him. Namjoon’s still ranting, although it’s in good humor, but Hoseok is too distracted by his dimples and his eyes squinting in the sun as he tries to glare up at Hoseok, and, of course, the plumpness of his lips. “You remember when Jackson said you were cute?” he asks, cutting Namjoon off.

“Hm? Yeah. Why?”

“Because you are,” Hoseok says, then leans down to kiss Namjoon. “Very, very cute.”

Namjoon sniffs when he pulls away, but grabs onto the collar of his shirt. “Fuck you.”

“Not in public!”

Hoseok receives a roll of the eyes, but not before Namjoon is pulling him back down into another searing kiss, full of tongue and wandering hands and things that aren’t appropriate for a public tennis court.

He’s okay with that too.

 

 

PROLOGUE

 

“Are you okay?” Namjoon asks, watching Hoseok pace back and forth. “Do you need water? Some painkillers? A kiss?”

Hoseok shakes his head rapidly, turning once again when he reaches the end of the lockers, and walks the other way towards Namjoon. “I need to calm the fuck down, is what I need to do.”

“You should sit and conserve your energy,” Namjoon says, grabbing his arm and pulling him down next to him on the bench. “Take some deep breathes. You’ve practiced, you’re gonna do great.”

“I know,” Hoseok says, which is a lie, because he doesn’t, what if he fucks up and loses 6-0? That would be a nightmare. An actual nightmare! He can already imagine the headlines: INJURED ATHLETE COMES BACK TO PROFESSIONAL PLAY AFTER THREE YEARS ONLY TO DISAPPOINT. “But like, what if I don’t?”

Namjoon sighs, then pries the tennis racket out of Hoseok’s hand and sets it next to him. “You’ve practiced for a long time, you’re gonna do great. If we didn’t believe in you, none of us would be here.”

“You guys are just nice-”

“Jackson flew in from China just to see your debut performance,” Namjoon says very seriously, then holds his fingers up and starts listing off people. “Taehyung, Naeun, Wonshik, Minho, Taemin, and Hyeri are here for a fact. There’s probably others as well. Hoseok, we’re here because we have faith in your ability.”

Hoseok forces himself to take deep breathes and close his eyes. He can do this. He’s waited three years. It’s been five months since he’s taken the splint off, and seven since he’s started dating Namjoon. “I change my mind,” he says suddenly, sitting up straight. “I need a kiss.”

He waits, but it never comes, and turns to look at Namjoon. He’s biting on his lower lip to keep from laughing.

“Well?” Hoseok asks, and Namjoon snickers before rolling his eyes playfully and leaning in to plant a small kiss on Hoseok’s lips. “That’s it?” he asks when Namjoon pulls away.

“I’m not giving you a boner before your debut match,” Namjoon says.

“I can’t believe-”

Hoseok stops mid sentence when he hears footsteps approaching, and they both turn to see his coach, Sihyuk, walking in. “There’ve you been. I’ve been looking everywhere!”

“I’m trying to calm him down,” Namjoon says, and kicks his ankle. Hoseok stops tapping his feet, something he didn’t even realize he’d been doing. “Emphasis on trying.”

“You have five minutes Hoseok, and then I expect you to come out to the bench,” he says, then walks away, leaving them alone again. Coach Sihyuk had been harder than any of his coaches in the past, but that’s partially why Hoseok felt ready enough to enter a competition again.

Granted, it’s not a very big one. It’s barely being broadcasted on local TV, but it’s professional, and being here means that Hoseok’s finally back in the game after three years. “Five minutes,” he says, looking at Namjoon. “You have five minutes.”

He expects to get another eye roll, but instead Namjoon grabs his face and kisses him open-mouthed, so dirty that Hoseok’s knees buckle even though he’s sitting down and his hands fly behind him on the bench to prop himself up. Namjoon kisses him so lewdly that he back automatically bends, and one of Namjoon’s arms goes around his waist to support him.

When Namjoon pulls away, Hoseok gasps breathlessly and wide-eyed, staring at the one piece of hair on Namjoon’s head that won’t stick down the right way. He opens his mouth to say something, realizes he doesn’t know what to say, then closes it and gulps.

Namjoon smirks and gives him a light push. “Your five minutes are up.”

“Fuck, I’m gonna get a boner,” Hoseok says, and receives a warm laugh.

“But you’re not nervous?”

Hoseok pauses, wonders for a moment if the dirty make out session they just had in the locker room has made any marks on Hoseok’s appearance. “No...?”

“Good. Now go and win, babe.”

Well. Hoseok isn’t going to say no to that.