It took all of Chandler’s self-restraint not to throw his phone against the nearest wall when that reminder banner appeared on his screen. Instead, he just grabbed the pillow next to him and shoved it against his face, yelling into it as if that would solve all of his problems. But he knew that no matter what he did, he’d still be forced to go.
This was all university’s fault, really. Due to a pipe bursting above it, the entire dance studio became flooded and the floor was pretty much ruined. That was well over a month ago and it still wasn’t fixed, much to Chandler’s dismay. For the time being, they’d been relocated to the basketball courts in the main athletic center, a space occupied by both the basketball and volleyball teams. Since it wasn’t basketball season, it meant he was trying to schedule dance practice/rehearsals around the volleyball schedule, a feat that was proving damn near impossible as it seemed as if the volleyball team practically slept there.
Another issue was the volleyball team themselves. Chan had never liked them, even before the dance studio flooded and forced a relocation. He especially disliked their captain, though no one (including himself) was quite sure why. With the volleyball and dance team being the two best teams on campus, a rivalry was bound to happen between their two leaders, right? At least that’s what he tells everyone.
The past few weeks, Chandler had given up trying to schedule around the others and started calling rehearsals for an hour before volleyball practice was to start. Did he allow the rehearsals to run way into the other teams practice? Yes. The dancers were there first, so they couldn’t exactly be kicked out. Well, at least that was his logic. Until it completely backfired on him. As expected, a big argument broke out between the two teams, leading to forced joint team meetings that culminated with this damn retreat.
It wasn’t as if he was dreading this because he hated nature, he very much enjoyed hiking and being outside, it was that he knew he’d have to spend every waking moment with the volleyball team. Hopefully he’d get away from them when it was time to sleep, but knowing his luck and knowing the school’s desire to punish them, he’d be forced to room with a volleyballer.
Knowing he couldn’t put it off any longer, Chandler rose from his bed, packed his bag and exited his shared apartment. The interesting thing about time was that it had a way of slowing down when you wanted it to speed up and a way of speeding up when you didn’t want it to. And Chan was certainly experiencing the latter when he arrived at the school way sooner than he would’ve liked.
The ride over passed by in a blur, mainly because he put AirPods in and spent the whole time planning rehearsals for the weekend (and just because they were away from the school didn’t mean they could slack off on practices, not with a big competition coming up soon). He doubted they’d have an indoor area big enough for practices and grass was a no go due to the risk of sprained ankles, so they’d most likely be practicing in the parking lot. He’d have to go over it all with Kaden, the VP of group and Chan’s best friend, before making any decisions but he had a feeling they’d be in the parking lot.
Stepping off the bus, he assessed said parking lot before making his way over to the table with the keys and grabbing the one that had his name on it. Walking down the path that led to the cabins, Chandler stopped dead in his tracks when he realized he didn’t know what cabin he was going to since he doubted there was one named ‘Chandler’. Peeling off the sticky note with his name on it, he saw a big number 5 and so resumed his walk in search of cabin 5.
Thankfully, Chan was the first one to arrive and let out a relieved sigh as he shut the door behind him. Dropping his bag in a random spot on the floor, he pulled the hood of his sweatshirt up over his head before collapsing face first onto the bed. He remained in that position for a few minutes before rolling onto his side and curling up into a sort-of ball. Before he could drop into a doze, the door banged open and Chandler opened an eye to see who it was.
”Oh, hell no.”
And for the second time that day, he shoved the nearest pillow into his face and wished he could disappear.
James could only scowl at his folded clothes as he heard the amused snickers from the doorframe of his bedroom. Never did he think that there would come a day he'd envy Zachary Flint, his beloved flatmate but also member of the chess team for not having any responsibilities to attend to because of his "sports" team.
But then again this wasn't exactly a responsibility to be fulfilled for the sake of his team. More so, a punishment created by the headmaster as an attempt to give the opportunity for both the volleyball and dance team to make peace with each other after a month long feud. James knew that reconciliation wasn't going to happen if the dance team's "captain" (if he would even call him a captain) doesn't get off his high horse and admit he's been a downright tosser for hogging the court since him and his team's dance studio got flooded.
Couldn't the university just use whatever fund drive the dumb retreat is being covered from to hire people to fix that stupid studio?
Apparently not. If anything, the fixing of the dance studio has been delayed as another layer of punishment to both teams for the outbursts of their respective captains. James didn't know why, but he never did get along with the dance troupe's leader. Call it a result of pride, knowing that there is another competitive team representing the university and they're getting an equal amount of praise and recognition for dancing but James wasn't fond of them. His volleyball team have had disputes on whether or not dancing should even be considered a competitive sport. And the disdain for the dance team and everything they stand for only grew when their insufferable captain kept hogging the court an hour before James' team usually uses it. Always pushing the boundaries of time scheduling and getting all up in James' face when he told them to finally pack all their things and leave.
It hasn't even began but James knew that the retreat was going to cause a forest fire. Finally zipping up his duffle bag, he looks around his room one last time, garnering more laughter from his flatmmate. "You're not gonna die, Eggy. Stop acting like you are." Unfortunately, James didn't have the time to argue with him, having to catch up with the bus if he didn't want his team to slaughter him for leaving them on the retreat to deal with the dance troupe all by themselves. Instead he gave Zach a flick on the arm as a goodbye and headed off.
He wasn't the earliest, managing to get there right before the bus took off (much to the relief of his teammates) and he did his best not to channel his inner twelve-year old and glare at the other team he had to share the ride with. It will only get worse from here, he knew that to be true as dealing with them on the journey to the cabins was soon going to turn into having to spend time with them in the cabins. The headmaster made it a priority to make sure each member of the volleyball team would have to share a cabin with a member of the dance team.
Luckily enough, the ride went as smoothly as it could be. That, or James was purposefully blasting the music in his wireless headset so he could tune out whatever nonsense that was occurring throughout the trip. It was relatively long ride, from a Google search he made when he finally realized that the headmaster wasn't playing around, the cabins were far out of London towards the more country side of the UK. "A nature retreat" were the words he described it as, apparently there was a lake and a decent look nature trail to follow. If he didn't have to share this experience with the dancing dunces, James would probably be excited for this. He absolutely loves camping.
As the bus halted at its destination, reality hits and rids James of any of his prior fantasies for the trip. He waited behind for everyone else to get off the bus, the less contact he had with any of the dance team members the better. Once he did finally sway himself to leave his comfy spot on the bus, he was greeted by a lone key on a table prepared for them in the parking lot. On it, a sticky note with his name written on it, assumedly being the key to his cabin. Not bothering to run and catch up with his teammates who went on ahead, James took a peaceful route along the trail towards the cabin area. The calm before the storm, he might as well enjoy the lush forests before he had to get to his cabin (after the sticky note had fallen off on his walk to the cabins, apparently he was stuck in cabin 5)
The cabin itself wasn't hard to find, being arranged in numerical order and all, though the looks his teammates gave when they realized where he was heading did worry him. How bad could his roommate possibly be? James knew some of the dance members by face and some looked as approachable as they could get considering their rough history with James this past month. His second in command, Conrad, gave him a smile that screamed, "just hang in there" just when he was about to turn the doorknob (as it seemed that someone had already made it inside). This was all starting to get ridiculous, surely his team was playing tricks on him at this point—
Oh god no.
"Oh god no."
This couldn't be real. Not even closing the door behind him, James backed out of the room to check the cabin number again.
As much as he could hope, the cabin number was indeed cabin number 5. Which meant he had to stay with him.
Chandler Wu. The worst member of the dance team by far, and their leader too. Been a pain in his arse even before he lead his team to James' court, the two were like water and oil. Fire and ice. When the two met for the first time, they didn't like each other, creating what most would describe as a "rivalry"— not that there was a challenge that Chandler could beat him at, but James could agree there weren't many other words to describe the dynamic the two have. Enemies maybe. Nemesis. Rivals sounded more mature, even though the way they treat each other is anything but that, seeing that it was their immature fight that got the two in this situation in the first place.
A sigh of defeat exits James unwillingly as he stepped back into the cabin and finally closing the door behind him, sealing in his fate. He would laugh at Chandler suffocating himself with his pillow if he didn't want to do the same. He plopped himself on his bed (just on the other end of the room thankfully, it was a small distance from Chandler's but it will do) and set his duffle bag haphazardly beside him. There were creaks coming from the bed frame, giving way to the sudden weight dealt onto it, James wouldn't be surprised if it would break if he wasn't too careful. Curse the university for finding such a cheap retreat place.
The energy in the air was suffocating and the silence was killing him. Finally biting the bullet, James spoke,
If he kept up this suffocating act, Chandler would probably become one with the pillow, which honestly wasn't that bad of an idea considering how things were going. At least pillows were inanimate objects that didn't have the ability to hear or feel and therefore didn't have to deal with figuring out how to live with an enemy for an entire weekend. The pillow was the lucky one in this situation.
Chandler was not. Not in the slightest.
He heard James shut the door and begin to walk in his direction, but before he could worry about that, they changed course and soon the sound of creaking springs filled the room. Well, at least he managed to choose what must be the newer of the two beds since his has yet to creak in protest. Then came the words.
"I cant believe I'm stuck with you."
And Chandler just snorted (a sound muffled by the pillow) and rolled his eyes. If he were to retort, which he absolutely was going to, he'd have to remove the pillow from his face in order for his words to be heard, which he kind of needed to be. So with a dramatic sigh, he turned his head and let the pillow fall to the side.
"You think I asked to be roomed with you?" he began with a bitter chuckle. "I'd rather float in a lake full of crocodiles while using a cactus for a boat than share a room with you," He wasn't lying. Not really. "Would also rather walk barefoot across a football field made up entirely of plugs and legos than spend a minute near you but look where we are." It was clear that the universe wasn't on either of their sides.
Maybe they could switch? Find someone on the volleyball team who'd want to room here and then go room with the dancer in that cabin? But he had an odd feeling that the two of them were being watched closely and any sign of switching would not go over well. "This rooming thing is still a punishment. The school is still punishing us.... as if this stupid forced retreat wasn't enough." he finished, voice full of nothing but bitterness.
Chan was well aware of how childish he sounded and how childish he was acting but he couldn't help it. He and James had disliked each other the moment they joined their respective teams and it just increased tenfold when they became president and captain. There was no way he could just accept this entire retreat and rooming situation with open arms. It just wasn't possible. Not with their history.
Before he could dwell on it any longer, his phone dinged with an incoming notification. Pulling it out of his pocket, he waited for his face to be recognized and then opened the text from Kaden.
the 1 and only kaden navarro > are we still practicing at 1:30? found an old bball court by the cabins that we can use
chandler wu is my boo < 3 > yes. and cool, beats the parking lot practice i was planning on. make sure to bring ur speaker
the 1 and only kaden navarro > already packed and ready. see u soon
Not bothering to say anything else to James, Chandler stood and walked over to his bag that he'd manage to drop by the door, grabbed it and then walked back. Honestly, he didn't really need to change, could just strip off the jacket and hoodie should he get too warm. So with that thought in mind, he flopped back down onto his bed and opened Spotify, wanting to make sure the rehearsal playlist was ready to go. He knew it already was though and was using it as an alibi to ignore the other presence in the room
James didn't know what was worse, the depressing state of the cabin and his frail bed or the roommate in front of him. At least he didn't have to see Chandler's cranky face as he continued to suffocate himself with his pillow like an angsty teenager. For once, the two had something in common, not wanting to be in this situation.
The muffled snort of the other would have managed a laugh out of James if he was anyone other than Chandler. Instead he rolled his eyes when the dancer's pompous face came peaking out of the probably-not-memory-foam pillow. He wished he had stayed covered so the volleyball captain didn't have to listen to the dramatics that came out of his mouth. Mentions of crocodiles and cacti, football fields and legos. Knowing Americans and their sport culture (or lack thereof) James didn't even need to ask for which football was Chandler talking about.
"Well there's a lake not so far away, maybe you'll get lucky."
No shot would there be actual crocodiles in the lake. Maybe Chandler could settle with sleeping with the fishes. Literally.
"This rooming thing is still a punishment. The school is still punishing us.... as if this stupid forced retreat wasn't enough."
James for once stayed silent in a huff. Admittedly (although James will never give him the satisfaction), Chandler was probably right, the headmaster wouldn't make this process as easy as what seemed to be laid out. Besides, no one from the volleyball team would want to take James' place, no matter how much they love him. The team knows Chandler not as someone to be intimidated by, of course not! He just has the habit of being... aggressive. Most of the time, kicking the dance team off of the court fell onto the shoulders of "big man captain James". Because of the one time James called in bedridden with the flu and Conrad had to bite the bullet and fill in, having to be the one to ask the dance team to leave. James was pretty sure he heard sniffles and tears from the call that came shortly after, with Conrad miserably asking if he could be placed on speaker and get Chandler and his squad to leave.
This was going to be a shite show. Dealing with him on their relatively short, yet heated disputes on the court was draining enough. Sharing a cabin with him for the duration of the retreat was another dimension entirely. James never had qualms sharing spaces with other people, he had a flatmate for Pete's sake. He's far past the awkwardness of sharing an intimate space with others. But somehow, Chandler was different. Maybe it was the uncertainty that he wouldn't use anything against James during the duration of the trip. Surely the dancer wasn't above blackmail and the like, anything to get a rise out of James.
The ding of Chandler's phone caught James' attention in the silence of the room. As curious as a person James is, he chose not to visibly pry into the secrets the other's phone probably holds. Leaving him to listen to the tapping of Chan's obnoxious fingers as James glanced around the surroundings, unimpressed.
A part of himself wanted to be angry at the lack of creaks or concerning cracks from Chandler's bed from his careless flop after preparing god knows what. If both Chandler and James were at a disadvantage by fate, Chandler still somehow had the upper hand. Maybe it was James' turn to scream into a pillow, there was nothing better to do anyway.
Boredom quickly consuming him, James decided that maybe small talk wouldn't be worse than nothing. Prying be damned, a curious man like James was the king of prying into other people's business.
"Planning on going somewhere, twinkle toes?"
As if it wasn't more than obvious.
"I reckon the headmaster has prepared us some activities to do. I looked into this pig sty, and there are a couple of things that can be done."
It was disappointing that James had to be stuck with the dance team, camping, fishing, and the like were things he's found pretty enjoyable.
Knowing how seemingly prepared the headmaster was in arranging all of this, James wouldn't be surprised if there was a bulletin board somewhere which talked about the schedule of the ragtag group forced to be in the camp grounds. This entire retreat was made to give them the opportunity to get along. But it also gives Chandler every opportunity to somehow kill James in a tragic "accident".
Chandler pretended as if he hadn’t even heard the comment about a lake being nearby. For one, there probably weren’t any crocs and there definitely weren’t any cacti since the only ones he knew of existed in New Mexico and Arizona, both far away from here. Plus, he had no desire to go near a lake right now, so feigning ignorance was the way to go.
He heard the huff and smirked in satisfaction, knowing he was right without having to be told (not that he’d ever be told). The school was punishing them, that fact was obvious to the both of them, but the fact that he’d managed to render James “speechless” so to speak made him immensely satisfied.
It was now that Chandler became consciously aware of the differences in the beds, how James’ seemed to squeak every time he breathed and Chan’s barely made a sound even when he just flopped back onto it. To add fuel to the fire, he made a show of moving around a lot and sort of expected to hear a single creak at least. But when there was nothing, he just grinned over at the other and went back to finalizing the playlist on his phone.
”Twinkle toes?” Chandler repeated, not bothering to look up from the screen. ”Mmm, that’s cute,” he hummed, licking his lips and causing his tongue piercing to catch the glint of the sunlight. ”Say it again.” It was obviously said sarcastically but he wouldn’t put it past James to actually say it again. ”But to answer your question, yes, I am going somewhere.” He didn’t bother to say where since he had a feeling he’d unfortunately be followed and the location question would be answered.
When there was less than a minute until he had to leave, he checked the weather app and saw it was warmer than he thought. Well damn, there went the no changing plan. Sighing, he rolled off the bed, picked the bag up and dumped the contents right where he’d been previously laying. Then he shrugged off the jacket and pulled the hoodie over his head, standing there shirtless as he rummaged through the pile on his bed for a tee.
The second one was found, Chandler yanked it on and headed for the door, slipping his phone into his pocket. ”Haven’t heard anything about these so called activities, so until I do, I’ll pretend like they don’t exist.” That part was easy, the pretending things didn’t exist. He’d remain dancing on this basketball court until he was physically dragged away from it to participate in whatever the hell these retreat activities were.
Hand on the door knob, he turned it and opened the door but turned back to James before leaving. ”Why do you care where or why I’m going somewhere?” he wondered. "Shouldn’t you be more focused on your little volleyball team instead of worrying about me and what I’m doing?” And then he was gone, the door snapping shut behind him.
He wasn’t quite sure where he was going but after walking a few feet from the cabin he saw the basketball courts with Kaden and a few others already stretching. The second he arrived, the VP came up next to him. ”What took you so long?”
”Just having a little chat with the roomie,” Chan replied, synching the bluetooth on his phone with that of the speaker. Bless Kaden’s soul that he knew better than to pry so he just nodded. ”Don’t be alarmed if a few of or all of the volleyball team decides to grace us with their presence shortly. Just ignore them and keep going.” he continued. He didn’t know why he had this feeling that their rehearsal would be interrupted, but he did. And he was ready for it.
The challenging grin on James' face would have been more convincing if he hadn't had a faint tint of red on the apples of his cheeks. He didn't know Chandler sported a tongue piercing. Not that a simple piercing can unravel the captain! He just had an interest in shiny things, and the light had hit the piercing just right. It distracted him. And that's why his cheeks were just the tiniest bit red. Yeah.
Who even liked piercings anymore? It was probably his bodily reaction to seeing a piercing, that's it. James always had an antsy feeling when it came to needles. It was the reason why James never considered getting a piercing— overrated anyway. He only managed to get his tattoo in one piece because he strategically wanted it on his spine where he couldn't see the needles when it was getting done. And the image of Chandler willingly going to a piercer and getting a needle stuck through his tongue—
Yeah that's it. That's why had a moment's hesitation.
Back on track, James rolled his eyes like he usually would at Chandler's lack of conversational skills. Always keeping small talk small, though that could probably be because he's talking to James Egidius Pangan and it's a known fact that any man named Chandler Wu hates talking to him.
Was James curious to know where Chandler was going? Of course, if the dance team was up to something, James wanted to know what. They only just arrived at the camp grounds yet the dance troupe had already found an area to loiter in. A taunt was festering on the tip of his tongue, James was ready to push the dancer more and comment about his aloof attitude. Play along to the little cat and mouse game the two shared.
But then Chandler took off his shirt and the words died on his tongue before they could leave him.
Sudden heatwaves weren't a thing, right? Because James felt like he was burning. He's been a part of volleyball teams since secondary school, he's seen the bare backs of nearly all of his teammates before. This wasn't supposed to feel any different. Normally, he'd just acknowledge the shirt change and move on with whatever he was doing. But with Chandler, he couldn't look away, or at least not as quick as he would have wanted. He thanked whatever god looking over him that Chandler couldn't see him practically gawk at him as he was looking for a new shirt to wear.
Perhaps it was just the product of James overworking himself while trying to figure out what the plans of the dance troupe were. Chandler changing his shirt out of the blue and so casually caught him off guard. Sure, let's go with that. It made sense to go a little red after seeing someone he loathed change so nonchalantly in front of him. He'd get used to it the more they had to share the same cabin.
Coughing to both show the displeasure towards the other's answer and to genuinely clear his throat after feeling as if his entire breath stopped prior, James looked to the floorboards to cover his trace.
"We just got here, how could you know about any of the plans or lack thereof?"
As much as James hated the idea of discovering activities for them to do, he didn't like the idea of running away from his problems either. If they had to build a fire or do some silly trust exercises, so be it.
"Maybe you'll find out on your little journey."
James watched the other walk towards the door, the bed frame creaking at his small jump of surprise when Chandler turned to face him once more. His words left him dumbfounded, it was a good question. Why did he care so much? Dumbfound quickly turned to a surge of panic when the thought of the volleyball team finally crossed his mind. They had a tournament just two weeks from now! How could he forget?
What has gotten into me?
Words couldn't formulate fast enough for James to reply before Chandler slammed the door on him, leaving him alone in his thoughts. He had to get his head in the game, a two week away tournament usually turned James into a dictator. Yet here he was, sitting on a cruddy bed and doing absolutely nothing. James couldn't stand for that, he was gunning for gold. He grabbed his phone and shot a text to Conrad, telling him to meet him outside his cabin so they can have a morning jog and talk about practice plans. After, he texted the rest of his members in their groupchat to look around the campgrounds for a bulletin board which may have an agenda. He might as well take any activities forced on them into consideration as he and Conrad prepared a training schedule.
It didn't take long for Conrad to come knocking on the door, sympathetic smile and volleyball in hand. "How's your living situation, cap'n?"
"Terrible. How could the headmaster pair up me with him?"
Conrad laughs much to James' anguish.
"I don't know if he wants reconciliation or homicide."
He decided not to mention to Conrad the awkward experience he had staring at a shirtless Chandler, instead complaining about the cruddy bed and cruddy (and totally fully clothed the entire time) roommate throughout their jog around the trail.
"Don't get all Chandler crazy on me, Eggy." James groaned. An inside joke the team shared since apparently their captain had the tendency to have nonstop rants about Chandler and it was hard to stop. It wasn't his fault that Chandler created issues for James to go nonstop about, complaining about his stupid attitude, stupid team, and stupid ability to be as untouchable to the headmaster as James is. "The basketball court is just around the corner." Right. Before he completely forgot about volleyball practice throughout the retreat, Conrad and him had found out that the camp had a basketball court upon their little research into it.
When the two arrived at the court and found Chandler and his dance troupe doing their thing, James couldn't be surprised. Of course they planned on going to the same area to practice. Even in a new location, they always seem to be forced to share.
He muttered before feigning a smile.
"Hey twinkle toes, fancy seeing you here."
James never intended on interrupting their practice, but if it would get them off the court faster, he'd be willing to be a little bit obnoxious.
"Now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever fully seen your team rehearse. Mind if Conrad and I sit in?"
It's not like they had a choice in the matter, James didn't plan on going anywhere.
Though Chandler was absolutely positive the volleyball team was going to come and crash their party, he didn’t know when. Could be now, could be in a few minutes, could be in an hour. So might as well move forward with as much rehearsal as he could, no point in wasting anymore time.
Tying his trademarked bandana around his forehead, just under his hair, he turned to Kaden. ”Should we show them our new choreo?” By this he was referring to the dance they choreographed last week at Chan’s apartment. And then he just laughed at the look on Kaden’s face since it was clear the other was taken completely off guard.
”It’ll be fine, promise. You choreographed half of this, remember?”
The other dancers had cleared to the edges of the court to make room for Kaden and Chan, looking at them excitedly and whispering amongst themselves. He had just raised the wrist with his watch on it and pressed play on Jeremih’s ‘Don’t Tell Em’ when he heard the twinkle toes echo across the court.
”Now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever fully seen your team rehearse. Mind if Conrad and I sit in?”
It wasn’t as if anything Chan said would matter in the long run. If he said no, they’d stay regardless, so the dancer just ignored them and nodded at Kaden, signaling to continue. They’d just pretend that James and co weren’t even there, something he was all too used to. Following the lead of the leader, Kaden also ignored them and began to dance.
‘Don’t Tell Em’ ended amidst loud cheers and cat calls from the other dancers and he just grinned at Kaden and then over at them before pausing the music. Now it was time to begin the plan to drive the volleyball team away. They’d start with a song they’d recently been working on before diving head first into the more “provocative” songs. Normally he’d never do any of the songs he was planning to as the first dances of the day, but since he knew simply telling the others to go away wouldn’t do anything, felt he had to do whatever was necessary.
Scrolling through Spotify on his watch, Chandler finally came across the song he wanted and hit play. It took the other dancers a second to realize this was ‘Say It’ and get in their positions. Usually there’d be no hesitation since they knew exactly what they’d be practicing but since Chan threw a curveball on everyone, there was a bit of confusion. Luckily, they were all talented enough to overcome it.
After ‘Say It’ ended came ‘Kiss It Better’ and Chandler sent an apologetic look to Adrianna as she rushed over to him once the music started, confusion written all over her face. Now the real fun came. ”Look right at them the entire time.” he whispered to her, referring to James and Conrad sitting over at the far end. And if she was taken aback by that request, she didn’t show it and just started dancing.
The entire time he was dancing ‘Kiss It Better’, Chandler was looking at James, trying to gauge his reaction. Was he uncomfortable? He couldn’t tell, not from this far away. If he wasn’t uncomfortable yet, hopefully ‘Company’ would do the trick. Brushing the gravel and dirt off of his palms and ignoring the stinging that came with it, he simply looked at Kaden and the VP came right over. ”Company.” he mouthed and Kaden nodded.
The two leaders held center stage for the first part of the song before stepping to the edges of the court. Though he held eye contact with the volleyballers throughout ‘Company’, as soon as he was “off stage”, he didn’t dare look over at them. Instead, he focused on his palms which were a lot more irritated and painful than before thanks to the additional floor work.
Only when everything was over did Chandler finally look over at James. ”Hope you enjoyed the show,” he began, trying to gauge the other’s reaction. ”Fancy staying any longer?” And he prayed that answer was a no because he was fresh out of dances that could potentially drive them away.
James was willing to give credit where credit is due (or at least mentally he could). Chandler's team was good at what they did. It made sense why they won so many awards in the competitions they took part in. But out of all the talented dancers in their team,
why could James only look at their bratty leader?
What started as a thoughtless challenge, a trick to get Chandler and his team off the court, quickly developed into what could only be entitled as "The Downfall of James Egidius Pangan" written by Chandler Wu himself. Conrad had given him a incredulous look upon his words requesting a show. The entirety of the volleyball team avoided dance competitions their university's dance squad competed in for the sake of pettiness, in honor of upholding the two team's beef. Anyone in James' social circle who didn't somehow manage to also be in Chandler's did the same in solidarity (all except Zachary of course, who seemed to live off of making fun of anything James stands for).
He was nothing but amused at the first dance between Chandler and whom he assumed to be his second-in-command. Of course the other would pretend James wasn't even there. A similar tactic James used himself whenever the dancers would spend a few more minutes in the volleyball court to glare and sneer.
Though his amused smirk didn't last as the dance numbers went on. He first had his doubts when he noticed how provocative the choreography was getting but when he spared a glance at Conrad and saw his freckled vice-captain burning red, he fully realized the game Chandler and his crew were truly playing. He felt stupid for not thinking that Chandler would not stoop that low. And yet, no matter how aware he was of the crew's intentions, James found himself falling for them nonetheless.
James has had his eyes locked on Chandler since they began, and at some point he had realized that Chandler was looking at him as well. For some odd reason, it struck a nerve in the volleyball captain. For the first time in a long time, James felt transparent to the gaze of another. He had history playing against countless of teams, hundreds of crowds both in-person and television viewers watching his games, analyzing his every move. The last time he felt nervous over watchful eyes, it had been his first ever game broadcasted on national television. Surely, one man's eyes on him, while he was just watching him dance no less, could make his legs feel like jelly.
"She's pretty good." James heard Conrad murmured from his side.
James hadn't even noticed the other dancer paired with her captain. It was only at the mention of the other did James break eye contact with Chandler and look at the other dancer.
She was indeed, good but no matter how hard James tried to focus on her, his eyes still drifted back to Chandler Wu. The female dancer (he really only knows the name of their insufferable captain, huh?) had an intense eye on the two volleyball players and James could only pray that she didn't notice his inability to focus on anyone but her captain.
By the time Chandler finally cut eye contact with him, James looked to the side, feeling his cheeks burning more than they did prior in his cabin. His entire being seemed to relax when the all the music came to a close and the dance crew seemed to be finished.
Conrad had to jab at his arm for him to realize the dance captain had asked him a question. James tried to regain himself with a scoff, looking back to Chandler with unreadable eyes.
"I can be here all day, doll."
It was a lie, James felt like he'd melt into a puddle if they continue with choreography like that. But he couldn't let down the team with his weird reactions to Chandler all of a sudden (this was all new right? James surely didn't act like this all the time around this guy... right?)
A vibration came from his pocket, relieved to find a temporary out, James fished out his buzzing phone to see a notification from his team groupchat.
a concussion waiting to happen (percy) attached a photo > you're not gonna like this, cap
Attached was a picture of a bulletin board, and pinned onto said board had been a timetable. Fishing, food preparation, campfire icebreaker, partner obstacle course? From the looks of the itinerary planned for their retreat, James was correct about a schedule planned for them. Though he didn't expect the schedule itself to remind him of the activities he did when he attended a summer camp when he was younger. Beside each activity had the planned time and location, places that even James didn't realize the retreat had. Since when did this place have a rope course? They sure didn't promote it on their website.
the big man > does the world have it out for me???
a concussion waiting to happen (percy) > it gets better. look at the shit under the time table
Under the time table, there seemed to be a fine print. James already wanted toss his phone, but instead he zoomed into the picture to get a better look. It was a bullet list with a couple of rules to be followed through out the retreat and the activities.
Keep in mind the following guidelines:
- All members of each teach are required to attend and participate.
- Photographic proof of each activity is mandatory to confirm the performance of each scheduled activity.
- Each student must be partnered with their assigned cabin-mate for the activities.
There was probably more below but James could only fixate on the third guideline. Each student must be partnered with their assigned cabin-mate for the activities. Which meant James couldn't simply power through the activities, train his heart out for the upcoming tournament, and just saunter back to his cabin to pass out in order to successfully avoid Chandler as much as possible.
James must've been a serial killer in his past life to be fucked over so bad presently.
He didn't even glance at the prayer emojis his teammates were sending, instead he groaned and without warning shoved his phone in front of Conrad who looked at its contents, already familiar with James' whiny attitude. "You should probably share with the rest of the class, Eggy." He was given a god awful pat on the back as a form of sympathy. Even his vice-captain was showing him torment on the worst day of his life.
"It seems that the headmaster doesn't trust us enough to squash our 'rivalry' ourselves. My boys found an activity schedule."
James sauntered towards Chandler to show him the photo, holding it up just a little bit higher than needed. If he couldn't have a whining session like he normally did when he was upset over something, he'd at least be smug about getting Chandler on his tip-toes.
The fact that James had to be poked in the arm by the other volleyballer to come back down to earth confirmed Chandler’s suspicions—James was, in fact, enjoying the show. Chan didn’t know what to think about that.
Though he was too far away to tell for sure, he’d felt eyes on him the entire time he’d been dancing, eyes that felt very different than those of the other dancers who viewed him countless of times per day. These were searing and had him practically trapped under the gaze. Yet instead of shying away from or freezing under it, it just encouraged him to dance harder. Made Chan want to keep the eyes on him instead of driving them away.
Now he knew who they belonged to.
And he was positively shocked to discover that he didn’t really mind. Not in the slightest actually. Kind of liked having the eyes on him, in fact. Holy fucking shit to that.
He’d never tell anyone though. No, he’d take the fact that he liked having the volleyball captain’s eyes on him with him to the grave. Completely unsure what to make of his newfound discovery, Chandler busied himself with checking messages on his watch. Anything to help distract him from the fact that he liked and wanted James eyes on him.
Then the owner of said eyes finally began to speak and Chan looked up. He wished he didn’t though, because . . . what? His eyebrows shot up in surprise, almost completely disappearing behind the bandana he was wearing when he heard ‘doll’. Where did that come from? He was fine with twinkle toes but doll? He wasn’t too sure how he felt about it.
Whatever. Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, he locked the screen of his watch and then walked over to his bag, the rest of the dancers following. Now was as good of a time as ever to take a water break, especially given how much more they had to practice and how hot it was outside.
”Alright,” Chandler starting, capping his water bottle and throwing it back on top of his bag, ”Kaden and I are going to start teaching you the Don’t Tell Em choreo. We’re going to have to teach a little quicker than normal since we leave for the Paris competition on Thursday and I want to include it in the setlist. Now—“
”Chan,” He was interrupted by Adrianna before he could go on. ”Incoming.”
He didn’t even have time to ask who was incoming when he heard the “intruder” start to speak. Yeah, he wouldn’t trust them either, to be honest. They’d already proven their inability to get over the schoolboy grudge multiple times. Why would this time be any different? But then the word ‘schedule’ registered in his mind. ”Schedule? What, are we in elementary school now?” As far as the head of the University saw it, they probably were. Were sure acting like it, anyways.
Chandler stayed still as James approached him, wondering what on earth the other could want from him now. He didn’t have to wonder for long. Rolling his eyes when the phone was purposely held above his line of sight, he sent James a very unamused look. Instead of jumping up and down to view the image like he knew the captain wanted him to do, Chan just reached up and grabbed James’ wrist (much harsher than he would’ve had it been anyone else) and brought it down so he could see.
The more he read, the more his eyes narrowed in displeasure. Of course. Of course they’d be partnered with their cabin-mate and of course they’d have an activity pretty much every hour of the day. This was a punishment after all. But it meant that he had to spend every second he breathed with James and also meant finding a time to practice became a lot more difficult. They’d just have to practice in the dark after the day’s activities ended, which wasn’t the end of the world, but was a lot harder to see and meant less sleep.
Chandler increased the pressure of his grip on James’ wrist before flinging it away from him and walking back over to his bag. He gathered everything, zipped the bag up and then threw it over his back before walking back over to where everyone was. ”You said we have fishing now. Well let’s fucking fish.” he snapped, starting to walk off and back to the cabin. ”Praying it’s at my crocodile lake so I can push you in and watch.” he muttered quietly, though figured others could still hear him.
Even if there weren’t any crocs, which there definitely weren’t, he still wouldn’t mind pushing James in. Now back at the cabin, he dropped his bag on the floor next to his bed and began to change for a second time that day, thankful that all of his clothes were still spread out on the mattress. He wasn’t sure what he should wear to fish, though figured a pair of basketball shorts and an older t-shirt would suffice. Honestly, it probably didn’t matter what he wore. The proof picture they had to take wasn’t going to be hung in a museum and he’d also probably fall asleep halfway into the activity, so it was comfort over fashion time.
Of course, Chandler would find a way to ruin whatever fun James had left in him. He rubbed his wrist to quiet the buzzing pressure Chandler's iron grip had given him before placing away his phone.
"You need me in perfect shape if you want us to catch anything."
Sparing the sympathetic look from Conrad and the amused smirks of Chandler's dance team, James followed after his cabin-mate. There was no way in hell we were going to get his jacket wet from Chandler throwing him in. And it was sure to be too hot for his hoodie.
”Praying it’s at my crocodile lake so I can push you in and watch.”
He scoffed, there was no one James had ever met that was as violent as Chandler.
"If I remember correctly, weren't you the one who wanted to take a dip in your croc lake? Wouldn't want to take that away from you."
Chandler was going down with him if he dared to push him in the lake. But to not take any chances, James opened his duffle bag and fished out a pair of his default workout clothes that he wouldn't mind getting wet.
"But I hope it's your croc lake too. Glad we could agree on something."
James was, well, James Egidius Pangan which meant he would look good no matter what he wore. Even if they were a mundane look composed of a white muscle tee, black basketball shorts, and his sneakers. Besides, the headmaster wasn't going to display it on the school's website or anything and god knew James was going to delete any photo proof that the retreat ever happened. He planned on coming back to his flat, ignore Zach's insistent attempts to talk about the retreat, delete any pictures off his phone after submitting them, and get plastered drunk to truly forget about everything.
When James' jacket hit his mattress, James realized his actions and stopped. Was he really going to pretend that changing in the same room as Chandler was fine? Like the dance numbers earlier hadn't made him feel like he was burning alive? Fuck that. Officially never happened. Again, he was James Egidius Pangan, changing with other men was as common as rainy days in spring. His back was facing away from Chandler so he could just tune out his existence completely if he wanted to.
To hell with it. He stripped to his boxers only to shuffle on his basketball shorts. The tattoo he had on his spine was of a Sampaguita he got to surprise his grandma for her 87th birthday after he couldn't make it to her birthday due to a game. The same tattoo he got purposefully on his spine to avoid even a peak at the needles that were needed to make it. He'd at least give it time to shine in the crack of sunlight the cabin window gave before he covered it back up with the thin cloth of his tank top.
James gave a moment to stretch his arms, he didn't realize that all that standing he did earlier left himself stiff.
"All that standing earlier made me stiff as a board."
He said mostly to himself but the size of the cabin made it audible to the man behind him. Once he felt his arms relax he stopped to pull on his tank top. The armholes gave a generous allowance which gave the chance to see sections of his torso. Not that he necessarily minded, James liked to show off what he had.
Slipping back on his sneakers he combed a finger through his hair and for the first time since he started to get changed, faced Chandler.
"I'm gonna go ahead, I wanna enjoy time away from you as much as possible."
He flashed a coy smile (which helped hide his displeasure for the entire situation) before going on his way.
God bless Percy for being the first one there with the fishing gear set to the dock. James felt a wave of relief finally breathing his own for once, air that hadn't already been tainted by his cabin-mate was like a holy grail. The lake itself was massive, no website photos did it any justice as it expanded across the horizon. The rowboats docked started to both make sense and add a sense of dread. Chandler and him on a boat. In the middle of the lake. Fishing. Zach was going to steal his phone for photos just to see if their fishing trip wasn't just a fever dream James made up.
Percy tossed him two fishing rods and a tin full of bait. "Where's your roomie? Conrad texted that you two were holding each other's hands to go change after you made him dance for you."
"Enough with that shit."
James said through gritted teeth.
"I made the mistake of challenging to see them dance just to scare them off the basketball court here. And I..."
"Hated every second."
He haphazardly placed the equipment in the nearest boat before glancing down at the calm waters of the lake.
"You don't think any crocodiles are living here do you?"