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Jisung is 10 years old when he’s almost run over by a car one day as he’s crossing the street on his way to school. The very next day, Chenle is dispatched to his house; a tiny Chinese boy all by himself in a bustling Korean city.

“Nice to meet you,” the small boy says seriously, trying his best not to stumble over the unfamiliar syllables of a foreign language. He holds out a hand. “I’m your guardian angel from now on.”

Jisung accepts the hand with wide eyes, mesmerized by the white, fluffy wings protruding from Chenle’s back. Chenle follows his gaze, twisting to look over his own shoulder.

“Yeah,” he says, “they’re a little too big for me right now, but everyone says I’ll grow into them.”

 

Jisung is 12 years old when he and Chenle decide to watch a horror movie together for the first time. They’re squished together on the couch in front of the TV, and Chenle keeps apologizing for his wings and asking if Jisung can see. Jisung keeps insisting that he’s fine, but the truth is that he hides his face in Chenle’s left wing anytime anything remotely scary happens on screen. He almost can’t help it; they’re so soft, and this is what Jisung thinks clouds would feel like if he could touch them.

If Chenle notices his scaredy-cat behavior, he doesn’t make fun of Jisung for it. Then, halfway through the film, Jisung looks down to find that Chenle’s hand has somehow found its way into his own, and it’s his turn to hold his tongue.

 

Jisung is 14 years old when he starts middle school. Chenle still hasn’t grown into his wings, even though he’s technically a year older (in human years, anyway). He and Jisung are the only ones who can see his wings, so it’s not the bus driver’s fault that he would have shut the bus doors on the delicate things if Jisung hadn’t yanked the older boy forward at the last second.

Chenle still grumbles the entire way to school about it as Jisung attempts to placate him by smoothing out all the wrinkles in each individual feather.

It’s not until they get to school that Jisung takes a closer look at what Chenle is wearing. “Hey, isn’t that my shirt?”

Chenle looks down at himself. “Oh,” he says softly.

 

Jisung is 16 years old when he starts high school. He had a growth spurt sometime over the last two years and is now a good half-head taller than Chenle, so hiding behind the other boy’s wings won’t do anymore. The first year isn’t so bad, though. He has Chenle by his side wherever he goes and a good deal of upperclassmen friends that are ready to step in if anyone tries to beat them up for always sticking together.

It’s not until spring exam season that Jisung brings up a question that’s been on his mind for a while.

The two of them are holed up in Jisung’s room, each poring over a semester’s worth of worksheets in a half-assed attempt to review for finals. Jisung’s head is beginning to hurt and he closes his textbook before shoving it to the side of his desk, rubbing at his eyes. “Hey, Chenle,” he starts.

“Yeah?” the other boy asks from the bed. If the open book strategically placed over his face to block out the light is taken into consideration, Chenle has probably long given up, too.

“So I’ve been thinking…”

“There’s a scary thought.” Chenle’s words are muffled by the book.

Jisung wrinkles his nose. “I’m being serious!”

“Okay, sorry sorry,” Chenle finally takes the book off his face and sits up. He pats the space next to him on the bed and Jisung naturally goes. “What’s gotten you looking so worried?”

“What? I’m not worried,” Jisung doesn’t know why this feels so important to point out but it is. He clears his throat uncomfortably. “I was just thinking, like. What happens when I turn 18.” He can’t even look his guardian-angel-turned-best-friend in the eye.

“What do you mean what happens once you turn 18?”

Jisung chances a look up. Chenle has an expression of genuine confusion painted on his face. It shouldn’t even be this embarrassing to ask and he doesn’t want to dwell on why it’s so terrifying, but Jisung feels himself turning red as he forces his deepest fear out. “I mean, like, do you have to leave.”

Chenle frowns, “Do you want me to leave?” A part of Jisung’s soul dies at the idea.

“No!” he shouts too quickly, too loudly, and his cheeks flare when Chenle’s frown immediately curls up into a smile. “I was just asking… what the rules were…” The more Jisung tries to explain himself, the more Chenle’s smile grows, and Jisung begins to think that bringing this up was a very bad idea. He bites down on his lip before his mouth decides to say anything more stupid.

He’s sure that he’s given away something that Chenle isn’t supposed to know, which is why Jisung is so unprepared when Chenle lets out a peal of his signature high-pitched laughter and then launches himself forward, and suddenly Jisung’s arms are full of annoying (but endearing) guardian angel. “Don’t worry,” Chenle whispers into his ear, grinning. “I’ll stay as long as you need me, Jisung Park.”

“I don’t need you,” Jisung lies as he hugs Chenle back as tightly as he can, thankful that the other can’t see his flaming cheeks. Chenle’s wing brushes by Jisung’s face when he finally pulls back, and Jisung notices that Chenle’s finally grown into his wings.

 

Chapter Text

Chenle has a bad habit.

Chenle’s bad habit is slowly and systematically destroying Jisung’s will to live.

 

The boy has absolutely zero concept of personal space. It used to never bother Jisung before, but then somewhere in the middle of ninth grade - between watching his Mark hyung panic when he didn’t know the perfect gift to get Donghyuck for Christmas and then panic again when Donghyuck received chocolate hearts on Valentine’s Day from an anonymous someone who wasn’t Mark , Jisung decided that he never wanted to fall for any of his friends lest he suffer like Mark hyung.

Yeah, well. Joke is on Jisung now. Chenle’s bad habit of never leaving Jisung alone is completely and thoroughly ruining all of the younger boy’s plans to never like anyone.

Jisung scowls into his sandwich at the thought. Stupid, beautiful, wonderful Chenle with his fluffy hair and cheeky grins.

As if alerted by the thought of his name, Chenle glances at Jisung over his own lunch, catching sight of the unsightly glower he’s giving his innocent food. “You good?”

No. “Yes,” Jisung lies, slouching down in his seat. Maybe if he makes himself smaller, Chenle won’t see him.

Chenle isn’t fooled. “Are you sure?”

Darn Chenle and his uncanny ability to know whenever Jisung’s trying to weasel his way out of the truth. “I’m sure,” Jisung says, frantically thinking of an excuse. “I’m stressed about the language test I have tomorrow.”

Chenle leans in closer to Jisung’s side, placing a hand on his shoulder as he ducks to get a better glance at Jisung’s face. “You know you can tell me anything, right?”

“Of course!” Jisung all but yells. “Of course, Chenle, you’re my best friend, if anything ever happened you would be the first to know, I can trust you with anything—”

“Okay, in that case, can I ask you a question?” Chenle interrupts, looking earnestly at Jisung. Hopeful.

Jisung swallows and breaks eye contact. “Go—go for it.”

He shouldn’t have said that. Chenle’s hand, warm and heavy, wraps around the back of Jisung’s neck as he leans in again to whisper something, his lips barely brushing the shell of Jisung’s ear. BAD HABIT, Jisung’s mind screeches.

“I can’t hear you,” he says loudly, hoping that Chenle will back off and speak like a normal person for once. The whole thing feels too intimate for his poor crushing heart. Chenle giggles, his breath fanning across Jisung’s skin.

“I haven’t even said anything yet.”

“Well, then, hurry up!”

Chenle swats him but presses in even closer, and Jisung feels Chenle hesitate again when he takes a deep breath. He knows , he just knows what his best friend is about to ask and Jisung isn’t ready for this, oh no. The tension builds and if Chenle waits any longer, Jisung may actually spontaneously combust like those chemical reactions he learned about yesterday—

Chenle finally opens his mouth and that’s when Jisung’s brain decides it can’t take any more of the torture. “Yes!” he yelps, jerking away from Chenle’s touch. If he answers before Chenle can ask, they can avoid the awkward pause of suspenseful silence in between. “Okay, yes, you got me, I have a crush on you, I’ve liked you since freshman year before Mark hyung had the guts to ask Donghyuck to date him, yes it’s really been that long, Lele I have a huge embarrassing crush on you —”

His outburst is stopped by a gentle hand cupping his cheek. “Jisung,” Chenle’s eyes are wide, “please breathe.”

Jisung’s impromptu confession finally catches up to him and he looks back in sheer horror, eyes even wider. “Oh my god, Chenle, I just—”

“Relax!” Chenle’s bright smile puts Jisung’s feelings somewhat at ease. “If it helps, I like you, too. I just wasn’t expecting that.”

Jisung perks up. “Really? You do?” And then the rest of Chenle’s sentence registers. “Wait, why weren’t you expecting it? Weren’t you about to ask if I liked you?”

Chenle bites his lip and looks away, a blush coloring his cheeks. “... I was going to ask if I could have the rest of your honey butter chips.”

Jisung blanches and then does his best impression of the tomato that was in the sandwich he finished earlier.

 

Chapter Text

“Jisung Park!” It’s amazing that Chenle always knows who it is visiting him before Jisung even sets foot into the shop. Then again, not too many of their friends know that Chenle works here, and their hyungs are probably too busy with schoolwork to drop by as often as Jisung does.

“Hi, Lele. Let’s get milk tea after your shift today?”

“Yes, of course!” Chenle’s eager grin is infectious and Jisung beams back, his heart doing little somersaults in his chest. “My shift ends in half an hour, though, so you might have to wait a while.”

Jisung knows this. He purposely came by early today (skipping the last fifteen minutes of dance practice in the process) because he just wanted to see Chenle interacting with flowers and customers, both in full bloom during this season - but Chenle doesn’t need to know that. “It’s not a problem!” he calls back cheerfully as he makes his way to the tall stool in the back corner of the shop that unofficially belongs to him now. Jisung settles into the seat, dropping his backpack on the floor and pulling out a textbook. He knows he’s not going to be able to get anything substantial done when Chenle is so distracting in that soft sweater, surrounded by pastel blossoms, but it can’t hurt to try.

“Just wait until you see what I have for you today!” comes from the cash register, Chenle’s excited voice. Jisung smiles behind his book and idly swings his legs.

 

It’s a new tradition of theirs. Ever since Chenle started working at the flower shop, every Friday evening Jisung comes by towards the end of Chenle’s shift and waits for him while he finishes up his task for the day. They’ll stop to get milk tea or dinner on the way back to Jisung’s home depending on how hungry Chenle is, and then after eating they’ll crash in Jisung’s room, either working on homework or playing video games. Sometimes Chenle will head home before it gets too late, but other times he just sleeps over at Jisung’s.

The latter has happened so many times that Chenle has his own toothbrush and a drawer for his things in Jisung’s room. Jisung refuses to think too hard into what the implications of that are, but he knows that it’s a good thing that Chenle never carries a change of clothes with him because it means Chenle gets to wear Jisung’s, his small frame swallowed by the younger boy’s shirts and hoodies.

But Jisung’s favorite part of Fridays is this - Chenle always has a mini bouquet waiting for him in the back of the shop that he gives to Jisung after his shift is over. It’ll be a variety of whatever flowers haven’t sold throughout the week or maybe a bunch of one particular flower that Chenle thought was pretty and just had to show Jisung, but no matter what it is Chenle will always sit him down and explain the meaning behind the petals. Even though Chenle tells Jisung exactly how to care for the flowers and Jisung follows those instructions down to a T, putting them in water and feeding them daily and everything, they never live longer than a week. But it’s okay, because Chenle gifts him with a new bouquet every Friday. The thought alone is heartwarming.

 

Jisung peeks over the top of his textbook and catches Chenle behind the register, talking animatedly to one of their seniors, Donghyuck. Chenle waves his arms around wildly, gesturing to all the arrangements as he chatters at lightning speed, and Jisung accidentally laughs out loud when Chenle points to a selection of red roses and says innocently, “Mark hyung would love those!”

Donghyuck actually blushes before straightening up and sending a glare at Chenle, only making the younger boy look even more pleased with himself. Jisung doesn’t know how he does it, but eventually Chenle manages to talk Donghyuck into buying the roses.

That’s the Chenle charm for you , Jisung thinks as he watches on curiously when Donghyuck leans over the counter to whisper in Chenle’s ear, saying something that makes Chenle blush this time. His interest is only piqued even more when Chenle turns and gives Jisung a furtive glance that Jisung pretends not to see. When he finally makes a show of looking up from his book, Donghyuck makes sneaky eye contact before giving Jisung a flirty wink and exiting the shop.

Jisung is baffled. Could it be…?

He doesn’t have time to think about it, though, because then Chenle is calling his name, materializing in front of him with a bunch of light pink blooms, each flower head having hundreds of tiny petals tipped with white. Jisung’s heart does that weird skip-a-beat thing that it always does whenever Chenle ever so much as looks his way.

They’re very pretty flowers, and Jisung makes sure to tell Chenle so as he takes the bouquet, examining the buds, admiring how they look in the soft natural light.

“They’re camellias,” grins Chenle, his eyes twinkling with mischief. “I picked them out especially for you!”

“I like them,” Jisung says quietly, fingering a petal. “What do they mean?”

“Ah, I was waiting for you to ask! They mean, my destiny is in your hands . Isn’t that sweet?”

 

As he watches a telltale red flush creep up the side of Jisung’s neck as the younger boy stutters over the appropriate words to thank him for the flowers, Chenle thinks back to Donghyuck’s words.

The red roses really are beautiful ,” Donghyuck had said teasingly, “ I bet Jisung would love them, too.

Chenle bites down on his bottom lip, fighting a smile. One day.

 

Chapter Text

The hyungs are treating them to dinner because Mark hyung got into the prestigious university he’s been chasing since he was five. Chenle and Renjun are walking in the street, muttering to one another in Mandarin, when Jisung sees it happen out of the corner of his eye.

Renjun is reaching for Chenle’s hand, probably just to drag him along onto the sidewalk before he gets run over and not for any other reason (definitely not romantic in any way), but it doesn’t even matter. The second their fingers brush just barely, Chenle jerks away, startled. Renjun blinks.

“Sorry,” Chenle says, before Renjun can ask, “I didn’t mean anything by that. I’m just… not used to holding hands with people.”

Renjun looks like someone slapped him across the face for a second, but then his expression switches into something incredulous. “You? But you hold hands with Jisung all the time!”

Chenle suddenly finds his shoelaces very interesting, successfully avoiding looking at the rest of the group. “Uh, yeah. That’s different, because it’s Jisung. I can only hold hands with Jisung.”

Really?

“Are you guys even to- you know what, never mind. I’ll let you guys figure this one out on your own.” Renjun shakes his head and reaches for Jeno’s hand instead, his other hand guiding Chenle gently out of the street with a tap on the back. Jeno and Renjun share a meaningful look.

“Just wait,” Jeno mouths silently to Renjun. Jisung’s the only one who notices.

 

Chenle’s hand always slips in Jisung’s so easily, so naturally, like they were made to be linked to one another. Jisung always thought it was just how Chenle acts, how affectionate he is with everyone, but clearly that’s not the case.

Jisung is special, at least to Chenle.

(He’s not complaining.)

 

Chapter Text

Chenle is always the one who wakes up first.

He comes to, blearily rubbing an eye with one hand. For a moment, he’s confused about his surroundings — this is definitely not his own dorm room.

And then he’s reminded of the events of last night.

Walking all the way to the first-year dorms to visit a certain freshman, said freshman throwing himself straight into Chenle’s arms upon opening the door and consequently dragging him inside to help with his Mandarin homework. He remembers the homework being abandoned, takeout being ordered, a movie being played on Netflix, and then he guesses everyone fell asleep because he doesn’t remember the ending of the movie.

Everyone, meaning himself and the popcorn and Jisung.

Jisung.

The younger boy is still asleep, hogging over half of the twin bed — that’s tiny to begin with! — crowding way into Chenle’s personal space. Jisung has always been clingy when asleep; even when they were children, Jisung could never fall asleep unless he had something to hold in his arms.

His lanky limbs are entirely wrapped around Chenle. Chenle counts a leg thrown over his calves, an arm securely around his waist, Jisung’s head tucked into the curve of his neck. There’s a drying patch of drool towards the collar of Chenle’s shirt, and it’s really kind of gross, but it’s Jisung so Chenle can’t bring himself to mind so much.

Jisung, who looks much more angelic when asleep than he is when awake, with his smooth skin and nose that will occasionally wrinkle and long eyelashes that cast shadows over his cheekbones. He looks so… peaceful.

So, of course, Chenle has to ruin it. He reaches over and pinches Jisung’s nose — hard .

Jisung is awake instantly, gasping for air. He sputters out a stream of curses mixed with Chenle’s name over and over — “ I’m telling Mark hyung that you tried to kill me in my sleep! ” — and shoves Chenle so hard that he falls off the side of the bed.

Chenle laughs and laughs and laughs while Jisung glowers at him from his heap of blankets on the bed. Eventually, Jisung gives up scowling in silence and flops back down to his pillow, rolling over and pulling the blankets over his head with a scoff.

Chenle finally gets to his feet, proceeding to viciously yank the blankets away from the lump on the bed. “Oh no you don’t! Get up, Jisung Park.”

“Go away, Chenle,” Jisung-lump mutters. “Nothing that you can say or do will make me want to get out of this bed, so you might as well just leave, and maybe not return until you acquire some breakfast—”

“I’ll make you eggs,” says Chenle.

And Jisung gets out of bed immediately.

 

Chapter Text

Jisung should’ve been alarmed when Chenle had proudly proclaimed that he learned how to cook from Mark. Then maybe a crisis could’ve been averted.

As it was, he wasn’t the slightest bit worried because he was still in the process of waking up. Which means, it’s officially his fault that Chenle almost burned the kitchen down. If Jisung had been paying attention, maybe he would’ve heard that Chenle learned how to cook from Mark .

(For reference: Mark hyung is no longer allowed within fifty feet of any of their friends’ kitchens after he once singed off half of Donghyuck’s left eyebrow.)

“Jesus Christ,” says Jisung, staring in half-shock at the mess in front of him. Chenle frowns unhappily at his failed eggs.

 

It happened like this: Chenle’s first mistake was forgetting to put oil in the pan before cracking the eggs into it. When he’d realized, he compensated by dumping way too much in, and then he proceeded to turn up the heat on the stovetop “to loosen them from the pan”.

The eggs caught fire. Which is really what Jisung should’ve expected from the beginning.

 

“You said you knew how to cook!” Jisung cries, torn between being distraught and being entertained out of his mind. He’s slightly more distraught than amused.

“I thought I knew how to cook!” whines Chenle. “It’s harder than it looks!”

“How are you an… adult,” Jisung mutters under his breath. Chenle pouts.

Eventually, Jisung just sighs and takes over, telling Chenle to go wait by the breakfast table. Chenle insists on helping with at least something , though, so Jisung lets him make the toast and pour the juice. Jisung’s finished sunny side up egg has a busted yolk and it’s busy leaking all over the plate, but Chenle appreciates it nevertheless, planting an over-exaggerated kiss on the side of Jisung’s face. After he finishes laughing at Jisung for a solid year, of course.

(Jisung tells him to shut up and eat his egg.)

While Chenle digs in, pausing every once in a while to loudly compliment Jisung’s cooking skills in between his snickers, Jisung’s mind starts wandering. Before long he’s thinking that he and Chenle would never be able to get married because neither of them can cook and they’d both die without a source of nutrition other than cup noodles. And then, because his own logic doesn’t even make sense to him, Jisung spends the rest of the day staring at the curve of Chenle’s smile and wondering where the thought of marriage came out from.

 

The only conclusion: His heart is such a disaster.

 

Chapter Text

The cafe is nice at this hour. Not too busy, but enough people chattering softly to friends or working with their headphones on to give it that lively atmosphere. It’s Chenle’s most-frequented place on the entire campus, and his favorite spot is the corner table in front of the biggest window, the one right below the row of plants lining a shelf high on the brick wall. He comes so often that he’s good friends with most of the staff, and almost all of them have his order memorized.

When he walks in today with his backpack in tow, Renjun’s working the counter along with someone he doesn’t know who’s bent over, carefully drawing something in the foam on top of a latte. From this distance, Chenle can only make out vibrant blue bangs peeking out from under the boy’s uniform cap. Chenle waves to Renjun before making a beeline for his usual table, and his friend nods, signaling that he’ll have the order ready right away.

Sometimes Chenle just sits and plays games on his phone, maybe forcing Renjun or Mark to sit and chat with him after their shift, but right now he actually has an unfinished essay that’s due tomorrow and he came to work . Chenle pulls out his Macbook, plugs in a pair of earbuds, clicks open both Word and Spotify, and then he’s furiously typing away.

He’s so focused on the paper that he doesn’t notice what’s going on behind the counter of the cafe. Renjun shoves the blue-haired boy, gesturing to Chenle. The other boy keeps on shaking his head, protesting when Renjun hands him the ceramic mug with Chenle’s coffee. His complaints die down when Renjun firmly shakes his head and gives him one final push towards Chenle’s table, almost making him spill the drink.

It’s not really anyone’s fault that Chenle chooses the exact moment that blue-haired barista reaches his table to yank out his earbuds and stand up (to check on his drink, of all things), but he still feels downright awful when he knocks right into the other boy and sends cool liquid splashing over them both.

Shit !” Chenle cries, reaching out out of pure instinct to help right the other boy before he drops the mug as well. He’s so mortified, and god, it’s so lucky that he didn’t order a hot drink for a change or something. “I’m so sorry!” Chenle frantically apologizes, finally getting a good look at the blue-haired boy’s nametag, which says JISUNG, and then his eyes are traveling up to his face and—

his nose is so cute FUCK MY LIFE

Jisung blinks and glances down at his wrist, where letters are already being scratched into his skin with some invisible pen in a messy scrawl. “You’re joking,” he says. Chenle sputters, then yanks up his own wet sleeve. Jisung’s thoughts are written along the inside of his wrist in his own neat handwriting (much nicer looking looking than Chenle’s; he sends his soulmate a silent sorry).

why is he so attractive I’M KILLING RENJUN but he would look so good with purple hair

There’s a beat of silence as both of them take in what just happened, wide eyes and lips parted in surprise. Coffee drips onto the floor from their clothes.

“Seriously?” Chenle almost shouts, forgetting all about being sorry. “You don’t like my current hair?” He fingers the soft blond strands, somewhat indignant.

“I— what ?” Jisung all but screeches. “That’s not even what I said, thought, whatever. Besides, if you had purple, it would match my blue, and then we’d be, like — the power couple.”

Chenle considers. “Okay, yeah, you’re right. If you’re not busy after this, wanna go to the store with me and pick out a color?”

“If I say yes, can we stop by my door first? I really don’t want to be wearing coffee-stained clothes for the rest of the day.”

 

“I hate this!” Jisung whines an hour later at the nearest convenience store, in the middle of picking out two boxes of pastel lavender dye. “Now I have Renjun’s name on my skin forever, what the fuck. I look like a murderer.”

Chenle giggles, looping an arm with Jisung’s. The other boy’s favorite hoodie is soft on his skin. “If they come for you, I’ll visit you in prison every week,” he promises, snickering before leaning up to press a kiss to Jisung’s cheek.

“Every week only? Where can I file to get a new soulmate?”

 

from: RENJUN

jeno what the fuck

i just helped jisung find his soulmate during his shift at the cafe

i was trying to embarrass him in front of chenle cause it was their first time meeting and jisung totally thought he was cute

so i guess it kinda worked out in jisung’s favor

but like wtf do i get anything for this

am i a god

 

To: RENJUN

get mark and donghyuck together first and then we’ll talk

 

Chapter Text

Zhong Chenle drinks coffee. Makes sense, since he’s always bouncing off the walls with his abundance of energy, screeching excitedly into everyone’s ears. He’s spirit personified, and Chenle moves through life so fast, a constant whirlwind of noises and bright colors that can’t be blocked out. It’s impossible for everyone else to catch up.

Everyone except for one person.

In contrast to Chenle, Park Jisung prefers tea. He’s the more toned-down version of Chenle in some ways; they’re both labeled “cute” by everyone but quick-witted enough to knock their hyungs down several steps. If Chenle overwhelms those around him as a first impression, then maybe the effects of Jisung on his surroundings are more subtle, taking longer to work in their ways. Jisung is the kind of person that grows on you slowly, sneakily, and then you’ve fallen for him before you even realize what’s happening.

(Ask Chenle, he would know.)

One shows their affection in warm, full-body hugs while the other sticks to gentle, tentative brushes of fingertips against forearms. Chenle is the type to ask all of their mutual friends what to do with his newfound feelings for Jisung the moment he’s figured out what that heartwarming sensation he feels whenever the younger smiles at him is, but Jisung mulls and sits on his emotions and otherwise keeps them to himself until one afternoon, after way too much coaxing from Donghyuck, he spills out his entire heart to him and Mark hyung.

(The hyungs don’t even bat an eyelash because, oh no, they saw this coming a long time ago.)

Chenle is the one who always insists on paying when he and Jisung go out to eat “because he’s the older one!” but what he doesn’t realize is that he’s getting paid back because Jisung is well aware of his loyalty to Apple, and he sends Chenle an iTunes gift card each month to pay for his music subscription.

When Jisung is upset, Chenle knows the exact things to whisper in his ear as he embraces the younger boy in his arms, and when the situation is reversed, Jisung will crawl into Chenle’s bed with him and hold his hand until they both fall asleep.

Chenle does things in a straightforward manner. He finally makes the plans to ask Jisung out directly - imagine his surprise when he finds out that Jisung has already been stealth dating him for over a year.

 

Chapter Text

Jisung is caught off-guard the first time that it happens.

He blames it on being way too tired to function. It’s finals week and he’s about ready to drop dead from studying; it’s a miracle that his subconscious even has the energy to recall things that are not the concepts he’s learned in class over the past year.

At first he doesn’t realize that it’s a dream. Jisung is playing Super Smash Bros. with Chenle in their dorm as usual, their shoulders pressed side to side as they fight to off each other’s characters. It’s not until Jisung is on the verge of winning, sarcastic comments about to leave his mouth, that Chenle says simply, “Hey, Jisung.”

And when Jisung’s eyes leave the TV screen for just the barest of moments in order to see what Chenle wants, the other boy crowds into his personal space and kisses him.

It catches Jisung by complete surprise and he drops his controller, hearing it clatter to the ground as his free hand comes up to wrap around the back of Chenle’s neck, tugging him closer when he starts to pull away. Chenle settles into Jisung’s lap and they continue kissing and it’s… nice.

Well . More than nice.

When they finally pull apart and Jisung glances up, Chenle’s eyes are shiny, his cheeks flushed a pretty pink. It occurs to Jisung that Chenle kissed him as a distraction to prevent him from winning their game and probably did not anticipate this turn of events either.

Jisung doesn’t even care that he lost. He starts leaning in again, but before their lips can touch — he wakes up.

It’s pretty disappointing from there. Jisung scowls furiously at the dorm ceiling for so long that eventually the water stops running in the bathroom and Chenle comes out from his shower. Jisung turns to look at him, and he looks exactly the same as he did in the dream, making Jisung’s scowl deepen.

“Good morning to you, too,” Chenle says.

 

The second time it happens, Jisung instantly knows that he’s dreaming. Still, he figures there’s nothing wrong with going along with his subconscious; he’s not hurting anyone, after all.

He doesn’t know where they are this time — it seems like they might be outside on a walk together? Clearly some sort of alternate reality, since Chenle can’t even step a toe out of their dorm without complaining. Jisung offers an arm to Chenle, who loops their elbows together, and they walk quietly, the only noises made by their feet crunching on the fallen leaves.

Chenle is the who breaks the silence. “Have you ever kissed anyone?”

Why is Chenle asking this? “No,” says Jisung. Why is he answering? “Have you?”

“No,” admits Chenle. Jisung pretends not to know the reason for his sudden relief.

“Do you want to?” he asks, partly out of curiosity and partly out of necessity. “Kiss someone, I mean.”

Chenle makes a face. “I should kiss someone, right? We’re in college.”

“But do you want to,” Jisung presses. He feels a small pang of disappointment when Chenle shakes his head.

“It’s more like — I only want to kiss this one person?” Oh .

“Who?” asks Jisung, before he can consider whether or not he really wants to know the answer. “I didn’t know you liked someone,” he says dumbly.

In response, Chenle stops walking and gives him this ugly, exasperated face before wordlessly tugging Jisung down by his shirt collar and pressing their lips together. Their mouths have barely even touched, though, when Chenle pulls away with a panicked look, probably shocked at his own boldness.

“Sorry, I should have asked if I could before—”

“Stop talking,” says Jisung, leaning down to kiss him better this time — but of course he doesn’t get to.

“Really?” Jisung shouts when he wakes up. He hears a groan from the other side of the room and follows the noise to see his roommate curled up into a ball, wrapped in blankets.

“Why did you have to go and wake me up?” Chenle complains in that whiny morning voice of his. “I was having such a good dream.”

 

So sometimes, Jisung feels a little bit bad for dreaming about kissing his best friend. When it happens for the third time, he’s not even surprised anymore because nowadays whenever he dreams about Chenle all they seem to do in his mind is lock lips and do gross couple things.

“You’re cute,” Jisung mumbles from his spot on the couch, trying to tug Chenle closer. He’s been trying to get the other to abandon his chemistry textbook for the past half hour, without avail.

“I know,” Chenle says without budging. “Stop trying to make me fail.”

“You won’t,” Jisung promises. “Come cuddle.”

Chenle considers. “What do I get if I do?”

“The privilege of cuddling with me?”

“You’re a dork.”

“Yeah, okay,” Jisung says, finally giving up and scooting towards Chenle himself. Chenle giggles and tries to barr him with the textbook, but Jisung manages to get his arms around Chenle anyway, chin sunk in his shoulder. “Sucks to be tiny.”

Chenle closes his textbook, twists his neck to meet Jisung’s eyes — before his eyes are fluttering shut as he leans in, tilting his head to the right to avoid bumping their noses. His palm is warm on Jisung’s cheek and they’re kissing and Jisung could die happy in that instant.

Chenle is always the one who initiates it, but he’s also the one to pull away first. “Now let me study in peace.”

Jisung whines and tries to kiss him again, but Chenle dodges and tries to shake him off. And then he keeps trying to shake him off.

Jisung snaps awake, Chenle’s face looming over him and his hand moving Jisung’s pillow unnecessarily back and forth. “Jisung! Get up, I need you to get the pancake mix for me. You put it up too high last time and now I can’t reach,” the older explains.

“Sucks to be tiny,” Jisung grumbles and rolls over, pulling the covers over his head. He knows he’s going to get out of bed anyway, despite his own words, to reach the box Chenle wants because he’s whipped and there’s nothing he can do to rescue himself from this horrible black hole of feelings.

Chenle waits.

After a moment, Chenle hears a soft curse and then Jisung emerges from the blankets. He smiles, satisfied.

 

The cafe is quiet. The food is good. Chenle is so beautiful he could cry. Jisung doesn’t know anything else.

“I dare you to do something,” he announces suddenly, surprising Chenle. The other boy’s eyes narrow.

“What is it,” Chenle asks suspiciously. He takes a sip of coffee, eyes squinting at Jisung over the rim of the cup.

“I dare you to kiss me,” Jisung says, proud of himself for thinking of that one. Now Chenle can’t back out.

Chenle’s expression immediately softens into gentle amusement. “Jisung, you know you can just kiss me, right? We’ve been dating for eleven months.”

“Yeah, well, I wanted you to be the one to kiss me —” he’s cut off by Chenle’s lips briefly covering his own. Jisung’s about to kiss back when Chenle pulls away. He frowns, “Can I kiss you again?”

“Sure,” Chenle laughs, tilting his head and presenting his cheek to Jisung. Jisung’s totally about to cheat and duck to kiss his boyfriend’s lips instead but —

He doesn’t even get to.

Jisung pulls the most disapproving expression he can make as soon as he is in full control of his facial muscles, just to let the sleep gods know exactly how he feels for them waking him up right then. At that exact moment, Chenle walks in, already dressed for class.

“Sorry for not waking you today,” Chenle apologizes, making a beeline for the charger and battery pack on his desk. “You looked really tired last night when we were studying, so I thought you could use the extra sleep since you don’t have class today.”

Jisung says nothing.

Chenle finally gives him a cursory glance on his way out. “There’s something wrong with your face,” Jisung’s best friend tells him.

 

The fifth time is kind of weird because Jisung makes it so. They’re lounging together on their dorm’s living room floor, leaning on pillows and staring at the ceiling. Before Chenle even has the chance to ask if Jisung wants to play video games, Jisung blurts out, “I need your help.”

Chenle sits up immediately, the beginnings of a grin playing at his lips. “Yeah? What is it?”

“I have feelings for you,” Jisung says. It’s easy for him to say because this isn’t real, after all. “I need your help so I can tell you in real life. Because, you know—” he waves around helplessly, “—this is a dream.”

“Okay,” Chenle agrees easily. “This is a dream. Practice with me. What would you tell me?”

“I love you,” Jisung says, and Chenle’s smile is so pretty that he thinks his heart will explode glitter and confetti. “Is that good?”

“I think I would like that,” Chenle says, and then Jisung asks if they can kiss. Chenle laughs at the way his cheeks redden and teases, “I thought you said this was a dream.”

Jisung makes an indignant face and says, “Doesn’t mean that I don’t want to hug and snuggle and stuff while we’re here!”

“Come here,” Chenle says and tugs Jisung closer with a loose fist in his shirt until their lips touch.

Jisung kind of loses track of time after that, honestly, but he’s distinctly aware that when he wakes up, there’s an ache in his neck and a puddle of drool on the papers that he fell asleep on. Someone’s draped a blanket across his shoulders.

“Took you long enough,” that someone says from across the room without looking up. Chenle has his own notebooks open but Jisung can clearly see that he’s been fooling around on his phone for a long time now. “That must have been a really good nap. You were out of it.”

“It was a pretty good nap,” Jisung admits, warm from the blanket. Or from the dream. Speaking of—

“What were you dreaming about? You kept saying romantic nonsense things in your sleep,” Chenle asks, casual. Jisung can tell he’s barely even paying attention when Chenle smiles at something on his phone.

Jisung shuffles across the room with the blanket wrapped around him, a walking burrito. He peeks over Chenle’s shoulder at his unlocked phone, curious. The device is open to the home screen, and he sees that Chenle’s set a picture of him asleep as his wallpaper.

“I look ugly,” Jisung says directly into Chenle’s ear.

Chenle gasps and whips around, almost falling out of his seat. “How could you say that! This is the cutest picture I’ve ever taken in my life and I will fight you if you dare insult it.”

 

The sun is really nice. Light filters into the bedroom through their sheer white curtains, the ones Chenle had insisted on getting “for the aesthetic” while Jisung rolled his eyes. They’re curled up together on Jisung’s bed at Chenle’s insistence, because it’s the one that’s closer to the window and natural light is best for taking pictures. Their piles of work lay forgotten on Chenle’s bed. This is everything Jisung has ever wanted: the two of them enjoying a lazy afternoon together, laying on their sides and facing each other with their legs tangled, basking in the ambience.

The whole setting has an ideal, dreamlike quality to it. Jisung’s heart is gone.

Chenle has his eyes closed. Jisung did, too, but then he decided to take a peek, letting his eyes travel over Chenle’s eyelashes, nose, lips. A slight breeze blows Chenle’s bangs to the side.

“I can feel you staring,” Chenle says, eyes still closed. A smile plays at the corner of his lips.

Ever so slightly, Jisung shifts his body forward until he’s close enough to rest a hand on Chenle’s hip. The other boy opens his eyes at the touch and Jisung watches, mesmerized, as Chenle’s gaze darts down to Jisung’s mouth.

Chenle reaches out and slowly curls a hand in the worn fabric of Jisung’s shirt, pausing in contemplation as Jisung’s heart beats fast, hummingbird wings fluttering in his chest. Eventually, Chenle takes something in Jisung’s eyes as silent permission to continue and tugs him in the rest of the way, connecting their lips.

It’s gentle and fast and slow all at once, and Jisung makes a soft whine in the back of his throat when Chenle pulls away. Jisung leans in again, knowing he won’t be able to — and Chenle is still here?

Jisung stares, struck. He’s frozen still. “Why do you look like someone took your brains out of your head,” Chenle says.

“This is the part when I always wake up,” Jisung admits uncertainly, confusion coloring his voice.

“Wake up?” Chenle repeats. “You think this is a dream?” He tilts his head, trying and failing to hide a smile. “You dream about kissing me?”

“No!” At Chenle’s disappointed expression, Jisung coughs, “... yes.”

Chenle’s eyes light up again. “How many times?”

“Too many,” Jisung mutters, certain that his face is red. He tries to turn his face and look away, but Chenle catches his chin and gives him a quick, delighted peck.

“That was easier than I imagined,” Chenle says, elated. “Getting you to admit your feelings.” The words make Jisung cringe.

“I can’t believe that was it,” he whines, suddenly remembering. “That was so anticlimactic! I even practiced my confession!”

“You think you needed to dramatically confess?” Chenle asks, snorting. “Jisung, that’s really sweet, but I knew we were going to be a thing probably even before you realized you were in love with me. You’re so painfully oblivious. I was tired of waiting for you to make the first move.”

Jisung pouts and kisses Chenle again to shut him up — and finally, Jisung doesn't wake up. Eventually, they have to stop pressing kisses to each other’s faces when someone’s phone rings, but even then Jisung doesn’t mind too much, knowing that they can pick up again whenever they want.

Finally. This is real.

 

Chapter Text

Jisung’s going to drop out of school the first chance he gets.

“I failed,” he announces, plunking down into the empty seat next to his best friend. “Guess I won’t be graduating.”

“I’m sure you didn’t do as badly as you think you did,” Chenle says airily. The other boy doesn’t even spare him a glance as he flips the page of his chemistry book. “I think the test was pretty easy.”

Jisung scowls. “Well, congratulations. I’m glad you’re having a good life.”

“Jisung, you really have to learn to be easier on yourself—”

“It was a hard test! You’re just a native speaker!”

“Mandarin isn’t too bad, at least there’s not fourteen different tenses like in Spanish—”

“Go over the test answers with me?” Jisung wails, scooting unabashedly into Chenle’s personal space. He only slightly forgets about his stress when Chenle wraps an arm around him.

“Yeah, okay,” Chenle agrees amiably, closing his textbook. “Nǐ tài kě'àile .”

“What does that mean?” Jisung asks, eyes wide. He really only recognizes the first character. Maybe that’s a testament to how little he really knows.

Chenle stares back, almost unbelieving, for a second. Then the side of his mouth quirks into a grin, “It means you’re stupid.”

Jisung squawks and Chenle laughs like there’s some inside joke he’s not sharing, holding Jisung tighter. “Kidding. Which ones weren’t you sure about on the test?”

“Do you remember the answers for the listening section?”

Jisung worries the entire time that Chenle pauses to think. “They were B, C, A, A, I’m pretty sure,” he finally says, and Jisung doesn’t have time to pretend he didn’t just almost flinch out of his seat. “Did you miss any?”

Jisung pales. “Are you sure those were really the answers?”

His voice is so small that Chenle immediately rushes to placate him. “Hey, it’s okay if you missed those! Listening is only five percent of your score. I’m sure you did a lot better on the reading and vocabulary.”

“I don’t know,” Jisung mumbles, bottom lip caught between his teeth. “How do you say sell ? It’s mǎi, right?”

Oh dear. He shrinks down into his seat even more when Chenle shakes his head. “That’s buy. Sell is mài. But it’s an easy mistake to make!” he hastens to add when he spots Jisung’s shoulders starting to tremble. “I’m sure even native speakers might have gotten them mixed up.”

“We shouldn’t be in the same class,” Jisung mumbles, ducking his head into the curve of where Chenle’s neck meets his shoulder. “My mandarin is tài chá le .”
“You mean chà ,” Chenle points out helpfully, rubbing Jisung’s back. “You just said your Mandarin is too tea.”

“I’m not going to be able to maintain an A this semester,” Jisung groans into Chenle’s sweater. He really can’t take it anymore. “Wǒ bēngkuìle ! I’m transferring out of this class next week!”

“I shouldn’t have taught you that,” Chenle mutters under his breath, gently pulling Jisung up so he can look him in the eyes. “I’m here to help, okay? I’ll tutor you until your grades are back where they belong, and as long as you work as hard as you are now, I know it’s going to be alright.”

Jisung still looks hopeless for a moment, but then he nods. He has to take a second to collect his thoughts, translate in his head, but when he does — “ Nǐ shì wǒ de dàn ” — he finally stutters the words out, taking extra care to get the pronunciation right, and Chenle’s eyes sparkle brighter than he’s ever seen.

Maybe this won’t be so bad.

Until Chenle bursts out laughing.

“You were close,” Chenle wheezes, pulling out a post-it note so he can write down the correct phrase. “I know what you meant, though. And same.”

Jisung looks at the scrap of paper Chenle passes to him, where nǐ shì wǒ de dá'àn is written in neat, blocky penmanship. He doesn’t know what he actually said, but Jisung smiles anyway, figuring he’ll learn soon.

It’s a start.

 

Chapter Text

“Chenle.”

A blonde head moves in Jisung’s peripheral vision. Chenle’s sprawled over the red and white checkered blanket, basking in the afternoon sunlight. Jisung sticks out his foot and nudges the other boy until he opens his eyes. “What.”

“Did you pack anything other than fried egg sandwiches?”

Chenle pouts. “Is there something wrong with fried egg sandwiches?”

“Yeah, well, this is the last time I ever ask you to pack the food.”

“I put other things in the picnic basket, too. Like… water.”

“I just want you to know that I’m only about to eat all of these out of hunger, not respect for your cooking,” warns Jisung, flipping the basket upside down and dumping its contents out. Chenle’s method of packing is to put each individual sandwich in its own plastic baggie, and if Jisung wasn’t so enamored, he’d punch his roommate for wasting the precious commodities that as broke college students, they can’t even afford in the first place.

“Here, I got you,” Chenle says, opening up a baggie and holding out the sandwich in front of Jisung for him to take a bite, how sweet -

but when Jisung opens his mouth and leans forward, Chenle moves his hand farther. (Of course, Jisung doesn’t know why he thought otherwise.)

Jisung fixes him with a look. “Stop that.”

“Stop what?” Chenle grins innocently, and Jisung squints at him.

“You’re not subtle,” he says.

In response, Chenle leans in and drops a soft kiss on Jisung’s cheekbone; Jisung can feel the older boy’s smile against his skin. “How about now?” Chenle asks, and Jisung sighs.

“Eat your eggs, Chenle.”

 

(“I can’t believe I’m about to admit this, but… the egg sandwiches were actually good.”

“Yeah, they’re the only things I know how to make, so I’ve gotten a fair amount of practice.”)

 

Chapter Text

“Say zinnias,” Chenle always says after every time he brings Jisung flowers for fun. Or, “Say roses,” or “Say chrysanthemums.” Jisung always rolls his eyes, but he repeats after Chenle anyway because it makes the other boy smile.

“What are they this time?” he hears himself ask. One day he won’t be so weak to everything Zhong Chenle requests, but today is not that day.

“Okay! These are red dahlias. They mean betrayal. So like, these could be nice if you wanted to give them to your enemy. They look pretty though, don’t you think?”

“Uh huh.” To be honest, Jisung doesn’t remember half of the flower meanings that Chenle explains to him. It’s not that he isn’t trying, because he is, but he just never particularly cared about flowers until Chenle started bringing them to him weekly.

But what he does remember is the way that Chenle’s eyes sparkle every time he’s giving one of his mini introductions, and if it means Chenle’s eyes will always have that bright, excited look, then Jisung will gladly listen to a thousand flower lessons for his best friend.

 

Jisung can’t remember when it started, but he just knows that at one point, the flowers went from playful to friendly to romantic, and the reason he knows this for sure — Jisung ends up remembering the symbolisms just because he’s left constantly wondering if Chenle’s doing it on purpose or if maybe he’s just reading too much into things. Chenle always says that he’s bringing Jisung the flowers that don’t sell, but it seems awfully suspicious that these types aren’t selling in the middle of February, the literal month of romance.

(He’s not imagining the blush that Chenle always gets on his face when he gives them to him, right?)

“Anyway,” Chenle continues with a shaky voice and rosy cheeks. “Yellow acacias signify the value of true friendship and can indicate a secret love. Sweet, right?”

 

“Repeat after me,” says Chenle, slowly. Somehow Jisung knows that this time will not be like the others. “Sunflowers.”

“... sunflowers.”

“Okay, so sunflowers. Legend has it that when Spanish explorers reached the Americas, they thought sunflowers were made of real gold. Of course, they were wrong, thus the name false riches…”

Chenle is rambling, more so than usual — and it’s obvious why.

Located in the bouquet of sunflowers (tied together with a ribbon, no less!) there’s a notecard. A notecard that reads out, in Chenle’s neat hangul: will you go on a date with me?

Jisung stares. Blinks.

“Say yes,” Chenle demands.

Jisung pauses, then says, “We haven’t been going on dates this entire time?”

And he watches as Chenle’s expression lights up so fully, so impossibly, so out of place like a Christmas tree in the middle of June.

(Jisung’s always been an advocate for celebrating holidays year round, though.)

When he looks up again, Chenle’s pouting. “Sunflowers are always so expensive because everyone wants them to express any form of happiness,” he complains. “I had to buy these beforehand this time! Literally there went all the money I earned from working the extra hours. I’m broke—”

Jisung leans forward and kisses Chenle’s cheek, interrupting him.

“... it was totally worth it, though,” Chenle whispers, wide-eyed.

 

Once, Chenle asked Jisung what his favorite flower was:

“Uhhh... I don't really have favorite flowers,” Jisung had said. “I just like everything that looks aesthetic… haha sorry hyung,” he admitted sheepishly at Chenle’s disappointed expression, the way his face fell.

But now. Jisung thinks that if he had to choose a favorite, they would be sunflowers.

 

Chapter Text

There are three things that Jisung will never tell Chenle, three secrets that he will take with him to his grave, three undeniable facts that would actually send him to his deathbed if his best friend ever found out.

 

One: That time during Mark’s graduation party, he accidentally walked in on Chenle’s older brother Renjun making out with Jaemin in the bathroom. He backed out of there immediately upon realizing what was going on, and then he had to trek up a flight of stairs to use the bathroom upstairs.

Maybe this one isn’t so much about not telling Chenle as not telling anyone , because Renjun and Jaemin don’t appear to be dating, and he doesn’t know if they’re both still hung up about Jeno, and it’s really just none of his business. The situation between the three of them is… complicated, to say the least, and Jisung doesn’t want to cause unnecessary drama. Especially among his closest group of friends.

So. That’s that.

 

Two: Chenle can’t draw to save his life.

(Okay, so Jisung doesn’t really know if this one is a secret, but it’s something that he’ll never mention to the other boy’s face because he’s really not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings.)

Seriously, though. The face Chenle drew on his balloon rabbit when they were fooling around with some party decorations was the stuff of nightmares. The terrifying thing was embedded into the insides of Jisung’s eyelids for weeks . It’s something he hopes to never have to see again; he’s prepared to stop Chenle from getting ahold of any markers again if it comes to that.

Which leads us to…

 

Three: He is absolutely, completely, irrevocably in love with Chenle, and this is maybe the scariest thing he’s ever had to encounter in his short seventeen years of existence. Worse than the balloon rabbit from hell. Despite Chenle’s lack of artistic abilities, Jisung still wants to marry him, so that’s how he knows this love is realer than anything else he’s ever felt.

It’s not the same love he feels towards Mark when he tutors him in physics and then drives him home (“The equation for rotational motion acceleration isn’t the same one as linear acceleration, Jisung - by the way, do you want anything from McDonald’s?”) or the same love that he feels towards Donghyuck for making him feel at ease when he was new to the neighborhood (“I treat Jisung as if he’s my real little brother,” Donghyuck declares, and Chenle snickers before whispering, “I feel bad for your brother!”) or even the kind of love he feels towards Renjun, who unknowingly mothers him when necessary (“You already know Chenle’s going to love your gift for him, you don’t even need me to reassure you. I’m going to do it anyways, though, because I’m a good friend”).

The kind of love he feels towards Chenle is the breath-stealing, toe-curling, want-to-hold-hands-and-adopt-a-pet-together kind of love, the kind that leaves you on top of the world when it’s requited and leaves you heartbroken otherwise. And Jisung might not have gotten top marks in biology, but he knows enough about hearts to know that they work best when not-broken.

So that’s why for now he’ll keep his mouth shut and pray to the heavens that Chenle’s just as oblivious as Jisung is gone .

(That is, very very very much so.)

 

Chapter Text

At age 18, there is nothing that Jisung Park wants more than to move to New York City.

 

It’s January, and he’s in love with the crowds of diversity, the never-ceasing noise of traffic at night, the way you always feel a bit alone with your thoughts but at the same time you’re never alone enough to really think — you just feel. He’s in love with the juxtaposition of exhilaration and calmness he gets from the top of the high-rise buildings built with steel and glass and ingenious architecture, how he’s soaring yet grounded with the wind whipping through his bangs. He’s in love with the bright colors and muted pastels of the street fashion and niche diners that are always OPEN in vivid neon. And most of all, he’s in love with the person he sees himself becoming in the city — self-sculpted, independent, and sure of himself. Always moving briskly through life, yet warm and ready to learn, love, live. Ready to experience.  

(Chenle has always laughed, sparkling, and called Jisung an artiste whenever he recounts his dream .

He’s right.

Honestly, if Jisung didn’t crave that financial stability in addition to approval from his family, he’d become a street dancer. God knows he has the talent for it.)

 

It’s March, and his university applications have been long sent, and the beginnings of the responses are coming. He lies awake at night, chewing his fingernails until the edges are jagged like the fears he carries in the back of his mind. Almost sharp enough to pop the bubble of hope in his chest.

At the end of the month, it all comes to a head. He’s accepted to several schools, one of them being a college in the center of Manhattan, and he smiles as he tastes victory on the tip of his tongue when Chenle hugs him tight in congratulations.

 

It’s April, and everything is already falling apart. On a Friday night, Jisung doesn’t know how to feel — his parents are arguing over how to afford his dream school and he’s lost all over again like the time he was little and couldn’t find the exit of the movie theatre until the walls started closing in. The tears are coming nonstop and Jisung, he picks up the phone and dials the only number he knows by heart and waits, hearing it ring and ring and ring until Chenle’s familiar lilting voice chirps, “Hello?”

And Jisung had been so sure that Chenle wouldn’t pick up, that he was too busy working, and he sobs in relief, blubbering out an apology about how late the hour is, but he just hears Chenle tell him to stop apologizing.

“What’s wrong?” Chenle asks, and Jisung is ready to open his mouth and brush everything off because it all seems so silly but he sniffs a bit too hard and his voice wavers and he can practically hear the narrow of Chenle’s eyes as he says, no room left for argument, “Wait right there. I’m coming.”

It’s the middle of the night and the stars are out but five minutes later, Chenle’s at Jisung’s doorstep, his shirt sweaty because he ran all the way over from the next street.

Jisung says, “You shouldn’t have.” He’s still infinitely grateful, though, and Chenle knows him well enough to hear the sentiment in his voice.

Chenle calmly invites himself inside and locks the door behind him before sweeping Jisung into a tight hug.

Then he sits and talks with Jisung about all his fears, his hopes and goals, until it’s midnight and Jisung, he feels much better even though the two of them haven’t even reached any new groundbreaking conclusions. Jisung still knows what’s coming, what he has to do — but now, it’s not as frightening.

“If you want to be there, I believe that it’s fate. You’ll get there someday,” Chenle says simply, reaching for Jisung’s hand, tangling their fingers together. “And when you do, I’ll visit you.”

“If I get there, I’m going to buy the most expensive touristy postcard I can find, and mail it to you, and it’s just going to say you were right on the back. The whole postcard,” Jisung nearly ties his tongue in knots in his rush to get the words out—

“I’m going to come visit you,” interrupts Chenle.

“And I won’t have anything but a small, shabby apartment,” says Jisung, still talking fast. “And of course I’ll be poor and won’t have groceries because it’s New York, so we’re going to have to eat fast food—”

“Burger King,” says Chenle, wheezing. It’s ironic because Jisung has applied for a fifty thousand dollar scholarship sponsored by the food chain, but he’s not nearly outstanding enough nor poor enough to receive it.

“... Burger King,” Jisung pauses. “And I’ll say, I would like to thank not only god, but Burger King—

Chenle dissolves into giggles after that, and his laughter has always been contagious. Jisung feels the corners of his own lips lift.

Just the tiniest bit.

 

So at age 18, Jisung seals his desire and longing away in his heart. And he chooses to go to a local university that his parents don’t have to struggle to pay for.

 

At age 22, Jisung’s walking across a stage to get his degree. In the crowd, one of his college friends is Facetiming Chenle, holding up an iPad because his best friend couldn’t be there in person, but he’s still adamant as ever to support Jisung always.

Back in Jisung’s room at home, an acceptance letter from graduate school waits for him.

(The second his ceremony ends, he’s in his car, gearing up to drive to Chenle’s campus to surprise him. His best friend graduates tomorrow, and he wouldn’t miss it for the world.)

 

At age 24, Jisung can’t take it anymore, can’t stand the direction that his life is going in, thinks that if something doesn’t change he’s going to suffocate and die.

Jisung does something. He drops out of graduate school.

And he fights with everyone he knows about the decision he’s made — everyone except the one person who holds his hand through it all, making time for him even though he’s states away dealing with his own battles in law school.

Jisung can’t help the way his heart swells at the thought.

 

At age 26, Jisung sends Chenle a postcard. He leaves a return address that’s not his location of residence. Chenle arrives, not knowing what to expect, and it’s — well . He wouldn’t have seen it coming but at the same time he’s not surprised.

 

At age 28, Jisung unlocks the door of his apartment and lets Chenle in. He sees the way Chenle’s eyes travel over every detail of the living space; it’s small like they’d always imagined, the refrigerator definitely isn’t stocked with enough vegetables, Burger King wrappers litter the living room floor in front of the coffee table, and the curtains are maybe definitely the wrong color. But otherwise it’s the same as they’d always talked about.

(The only thing that’s new: they never talked about the wall that’s furnished entirely with a mirror covering the space. The sides of the mirror are covered with photographs of students in motion - dancers at the professional studio where Jisung teaches.

They never talked about how one day, Jisung would start up his own dance studio.

They never even dared to think about it.)

“Jisung,” Chenle gasps quietly. His voice does nothing to rise over the roar of traffic happening in the streets below Jisung’s apartment building, and yet Jisung hears him loud and clear. “You made it.”

A beat passes.

“I made it,” Jisung quietly agrees, and then he takes Chenle gently by the shoulders and pushes him out to the tiny balcony.

It’s absolutely Jisung’s favorite place to be in the entire world at night. They stand side by side with their arms hanging over the railing and look down at the city below, bright and alive, illuminated by twinkling stars and glowing signs. The cars rush by with impatience, horns blaring and red lights blinking; the wind ruffles Chenle’s hair and Jisung’s bangs and leaves them both pink-cheeked, speechless.

(Maybe words aren’t really needed in this moment, though.)

“Thank you,” Jisung whispers, letting the breeze carry his words. Chenle hums in acknowledgement and then, because they’re both feeling bold tonight, he leans his head down on Jisung’s shoulder. It works because of their height difference.

“Anything for you,” Chenle replies. Jisung doesn’t have to look at him to be able to hear the smile in his voice.

And — yeah. Jisung is still in love with the city and he’s working towards being that person he always wanted to become. That hasn’t changed.

But now he’s realizing that all this time — he’s been in love with Chenle, too, and no one ever said he couldn’t have both.

He closes his eyes, content. The silhouette of the city skyline is imprinted behind his eyelids.

 

Chapter Text

Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a young prince named Jisung who set out on a quest to search for his princess. Word is that she had been locked away in a tower by an evil witch who wanted to use her bones to make soup.

(Or maybe that’s the wrong fairytale? Whatever.)

From sunrise to sunset, Jisung would ride through the Great Scary Forest on his trusty steed, searching for the tower where he might find his One True Love.

He’d never had any luck until today.

The tower is hidden deep in the forest, but it’s not too difficult to navigate the trees by day. The real reason he’d never been able to locate it before is because of the nearby waterfall. The rushing noises of the water mask the singing coming from the top of the tower, a lilting melody sung by the most beautiful honeyed voice Jisung has ever heard.

(If he’s honest, he thinks his princess is way more talented than any of the ones from nearby kingdoms. Though, he has to admit that Joohyun really is the fairest in all the land. That’s a title no one can steal from her.)

When Jisung cranes his neck to look up at the stone tower, it’s somewhat of an issue for two reasons. One, the clouds are moving swiftly today, so that gives the tower the illusion of falling down towards him, and yeah. Kind of freaky since that wouldn’t be fun at all.

And two, stretching his neck that far back kind of puts a lot of strain on his injury from last month’s Dance-Off.

(Although, the injury had totally been worth it to see the expression on Prince Jeno’s face when Jisung had beat him.)

Nonetheless, because Jisung is nothing if not determined, he valiantly does his best giraffe impression and calls, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!”

From the top of the tower, the singing abruptly stops. A short silence passes before a voice breaks it, tentatively admitting, “Um… I think there kind of, might be a problem.”

But the young prince is not to be deterred, and despite no golden locks tumbling down to aid him, Jisung manages to scale the ivy walls of the tower all the way up until he accidentally misjudges his weight at the window opening and tumbles all the way in. There goes his chance of a suave first impression.

And the first thing that he notices is, yeah, his princess is blonde, but maybe a more accurate title would be his… actually, he has no idea who this boy is.

Jisung furrows his brow, adjusting his crown. It’s really rather inconvenient to be wearing it at all times; sometimes the stylists of NCT Kingdom make the dumbest decisions. “Um. Who are you?”

The beautiful boy frowns. “I’m Prince Chenlerella, of course. I also go by just Chenle, though. Are you here to return my shoe? I lost one from my favorite pair of sneakers at that SM Ball last Friday.”

“I—what? What fairytale is this? It’s not Rapunzel ?”

Chenle’s frown grows deeper. “No, this is Chenlerella .”

“But… I’m the prince of this story!”

“Um, I don’t think so. I’m the prince.”

“But you’re supposed to be my princess! You’re not even a girl,” Jisung points out, dumbfounded. He wants to maybe cry. “Everything is all wrong.”

Chenle sighs, a great big deep breath straight from those powerful lungs of his. “Oh, kid, you still have so much to learn about your sexuality. Listen, come kiss me and then let’s get out of here.”

Jisung has never been this scandalized. He gasps.

When Jisung’s body stays rooted in place, Chenle quirks a brow. “What’s the matter? Unless you don’t want to kiss me?”

In actuality, Jisung wants to kiss Chenle’s soft-looking, pink lips very much — and he’s going to have to think about the unexpectedness of that sudden thought later — but he blurts anyway, because his brain loves to sabotage his own chances at happiness, “But we just met, like, two seconds ago!”

Chenle’s eyebrow climbs higher. This boy is full of talents; god how Jisung wants to die. “So?”

“What do you mean, so? I’m expected to find a princess! What’s going to happen when I don’t marry her?” Jisung is so very bewildered about this whole situation.

“Beats me,” Chenle shrugs, and then takes a step forward. He winds an arm around Jisung’s neck and presses himself closer. “I’m suspecting that’s not going to be my problem, though.”

The way his voice sounds at just a whisper makes Jisung shiver — and yeah. He gives up and leans in.

(If he wants to marry Chenle instead of the princess he’s expected to find — well, who’s to say that he can’t? Love is love, after all.)

 

Jisung stares across the practice room at Chenle, who’s learning the choreography of Boss from Winwin. He’ll never admit it, but he’s kind of jealous of how well all the Chinese members get along together. Chenle misses a step and almost trips, laughing brightly when Winwin saves him from doing a majestic faceplant at the last second. Jisung swears he sees Chenle’s teeth sparkle. (He makes a mental note to ask which brand of toothpaste he uses later.)

“Fuckin’ weird dream,” Jisung mutters under his breath, mesmerized. He takes a long sip from his water bottle and tries to shake the curve of Chenle’s smile from his memory.

 

Chapter Text

“I hate you, Chenle.”

“Right back at you, Jisung.”

Two pairs of hands furiously scrub at the classroom windows. Two pairs of lips refuse to talk to the other person in the room besides hurling the occasional insult.

Until Chenle breaks the silence again, because of course he never learned how to keep his big mouth shut. “You know, this is entirely your fault…”

If possible, the scowl on Jisung’s face carves itself deeper into his features. “How?! No, you were the one that passed the dumb note to me right when Teacher Kim turned around—”

“I didn’t do this! If you had taken it when his back was turned, like I planned —”

Why were you even trying to pass me a piece of paper in the middle of class in the first place!” Jisung scrunches up the sponge in his hand, trying to quell the urge to wring soap water over Chenle’s head. Or just pick up the bucket altogether and pour it over him. One of the two options would make him shut up, right?

Because I had something important to tell you! ” Chenle screams back. It’s a miracle the window in front of them doesn’t shatter. Jisung kind of wishes it would so he can get out of this stupid argument. Chenle is so stupid why does he even like him god.

Jisung begins calmly, “Why are you raising your voice at me —”

“YOU STARTED SCREAMING FIRST!”

“ACTUALLY, I DIDN’T!”

“IT’S BECAUSE I LIKE YOU, DUMB-BUTT!” Chenle yells, and before he can stop himself, hurls his wet sponge at Jisung’s face.

It hits its target with a loud smack! that resounds through the now-quiet room.

“Oh shoot,” Chenle says, stunned in place.

“I’m so sorry,” Chenle says, rushing over to Jisung’s side and wiping his face gently with a clean towel.

“Jisungie, are you okay? I really didn’t mean it,” Chenle says, when Jisung is still quiet. Worry leaks through his words.

By some miracle of god, Jisung manages to find his voice long enough for him to croak, “You like me? Did you mean that part?”

“No—Uh, wait, yes! Yes to that part! Wait — I mean!” Watching Chenle stutter to explain himself is cute in the way that Chenle is absolutely not supposed to be. “Um…”

Jisung watches with fascination as Chenle digs his hand deep into his jeans pocket, pulls out a note. The very same note that landed the both of them in after-school detention with this miserable task of cleaning the windows. They’re both lucky it didn’t get confiscated by Mr. Kim, now that Jisung thinks about it.

Jisung reaches out for the note, but he’s still surprised in a way when Chenle drops it directly into his outstretched palm. He looks at it blankly for a few seconds — because he’s honestly not sure Chenle won’t snatch it directly back up, out of embarrassment maybe, but nothing happens.

“You can open it, you know,” Chenle says, the barest hint of annoyance peeking through his voice that would be indiscernible to anyone that didn’t know Chenle as well as Jisung does. (Later, he’ll chalk it up to apprehension about his confession. Jisung will forgive him with a sweet kiss on the cheek.)

Swallowing, Jisung unfolds the paper in his hands.

Hey Jisungie~ do you have a pencil? Cause I want to erase your past and write our future <3

“Oh god,” Jisung gulps, cheeks flaming, and accidentally drops the worst-yet-loveliest note of his life straight into the bucket of soapy bubbles.

 

Chapter Text

Home is…

Chenle.

(No, wait. Scratch that, it’s way too cheesy. Yikes.)

Home is the 7/11 convenience store where Jisung met Chenle for the first time?

(Much better.)

 

Jisung has read before in all the fiction novels, heard in all love songs: love and feelings are supposed to make you nervous, on edge, giddy. The only reason it takes him as long as it does to realize the love he has for Chenle is because the other boy doesn’t do any of those torturous things to his heart.

Chenle makes him feel at ease, safe. They are loud and boisterous and comfortable together, and Jisung wishes he’d known that before looking all around for something that was at his side all along.

The moment Jisung knows he’s in love isn’t particularly eye opening or dramatic. It’s just the last piece clicking together in his mind.

They’re at Mark’s house. Jisung has just finished shaking out chips onto a plate, jar of salsa ready at hand. And Chenle sidles up to him and doesn’t even ask before reaching for a chip and dunking it into the sauce… and that’s when Jisung just knows. Just knows that him and Chenle are so close, and no one will ever love him as much as Chenle does, though he hasn’t said it in any way but platonically. Knows that they know each other through and through; they are one another. The same mind, young and playful, separated into two different bodies.

Chenle speaks, talking with food in his mouth and one hand half heartedly covering his lips, perfectly normal like Jisung isn’t over here having the epiphany of his life. “You know what we should do,” he says, not waiting for Jisung to guess or ask what. “We should go see if Renjun is on his shift. And if he is, we should stick around and bother him until he promises to treat us to hotpot.”

Jisung wants to say that’s mean, Chenle , wants to say Chenle you’re so stupid it’s the middle of summer what do you want to eat hotpot for but what he says instead is, “I think we should get married someday.”

Chenle grins wide, unfazed. Like he was expecting Jisung to say that, like they’re discussing what vegetables to order when Renjun undoubtedly takes them out for hotpot later. “I know,” he says easily. “Preferably when we’re both older and more stable in our lives.”

And Jisung nods, because he knows that these are feelings that aren’t going to change.

 

Jisung is tired. Tired of feeling this ache in his chest that hurts more every time he’s pushed away by someone else he loves, every time he goes to the table for dinner only to be met with full plates and empty seats, every time he’s reminded of the fact that he has a house to live in but not a home.

It’s twilight, and he shouldn’t be out this late unless he wants to be yelled at when he returns. It’s a hot evening and the air is muggy and buzzing with insects. But right now the emptiness behind his ribcage is eating its way into his stomach and Jisung doesn’t stop to think twice before pulling open the door to the convenience store by the corner of his street and walking straight inside.

The only other person there is the boy asleep by the counter. Jisung doesn’t spare him a second glance before he’s browsing the shelves and reaching to grab anything that catches his eye. A bowl of instant noodles, a can of soda, a box of strawberry-flavored pepero. Anything that’ll fill his stomach and push back against the emptiness making a home there.

Jisung almost dreads the moment when he’ll have to shake the boy at the counter awake, the boy with straw for hair. He’s never been good at confrontation, always has been better at going unnoticed in the background. But the moment he puts the food in his arms down by the cash register, the other boy’s eyes snap open.

He straightens immediately and stifles a yawn, doesn’t even make a move to rub at his eyes. Pretending that he was never asleep at all. “What took you so long?” he says to Jisung, like they know each other, like this is not Jisung’s first time ever making eye contact with this boy. “I was bored out of my mind waiting for you. Wait, let me tell Renjun you came.”

Jisung is so - speechless. “Who?” he asks, ignoring the bigger questions at the front of his mind.

“He’s had dinner ready for like, at least an hour,” the boy says, probably hasn’t even heard Jisung’s question. He’s reaching for a door behind him that Jisung swears he didn’t see when he came in.

He swallows. His throat is dry. The emptiness in his body has lessened somewhat, like it senses the presence of this strange boy and feels threatened. “Can you at least tell me your name?”

“Yeah,” the boy says, pausing to yank open the door (“Renjun! He’s finally here!”), “It’s Chenle. You’re hungry, right?”

For once in his life, Jisung feels almost full - but he nods anyway.

 

(Who cares if it’s cheesy? He doesn’t, not anymore.)

Chenle is home. Home is Chenle.

 

Chapter Text

Chenle is Jisung’s first kiss. Jisung isn’t Chenle’s.

Actually, he’s not even Chenle’s last kiss.

 

Not even a full ten minutes after Chenle and Jisung have locked lips for the first time, Jisung’s wandering through Mark’s living room when his eyes decide to betray him and he spots Chenle on the couch, perched in Jaemin’s lap in the name of experimentation. It shouldn’t hurt nearly as much as it does - he knew the kiss they shared probably didn’t mean the same thing to Chenle as it did to him - and yet Jisung is still crushed, heart shattering like fragile glass.

But then again, what else should he have expected from Chenle? Jisung might as well have taken his own heart and thrown it to the ground, jumped on it for good measure. At least that would have hurt less than giving it to Chenle, only for him to leave it displayed on a bookshelf in a plastic case, forgetting all about it as he sets out to conquer another.

In the end, he can’t blame Chenle. He can only blame himself for catching feelings for someone he can’t have.

 

“I just want to try something,” Chenle says, his bottom lip full and inviting. Reddened from how he bites down so much. He shifts a bit closer, angles his body so that Jisung has to look up at him. So that Jisung has to see how his lashes cast perfect shadows on his cheek, how Chenle’s eyes are dark and inviting.

“Okay,” Jisung agrees easily, ignoring the frantic beating of his heart and how it’s trying to warn him to stop, don’t you dare kiss him, anything but that . He ignores it; he’d do anything for Chenle.

Jisung is somehow not surprised when the older boy begins to lean in.

And he’s even more unsurprised when later, all he feels in his chest are the prickles of regret. The same regret he tasted on Chenle’s lips, the flavor buried underneath something hopeful and bittersweet.

 

Chapter Text

Jisung lays sideways on the wooden floor, strips of his figure illuminated by beams of daylight filtering in through the slats in the window blinds. Chenle sneaks a peek, pretending like he’s not mesmerized by Jisung’s lean figure, how long his legs are.

Except he really, really is.

It’s crazy. Only recently has Chenle had the time to look, really look , at his best friend. When did Jisung get so tall, his jaw so sharp? Was it a sudden change, or has this been going on under Chenle’s nose all along, just that he never noticed?

“It’s so hot in here,” Jisung says, turning over onto his side, meeting Chenle’s eyes.

Yes, Chenle thinks, you are.

“You’re welcome to take off your shirt,” he says instead, half-joking but he wouldn’t mind if Jisung went for it. Jisung snorts.

“I wish it weren’t monsoon season,” he continues. “Actually, scratch that. The heat isn’t so bad but it’s so humid .”

Chenle pauses his train of thought to consider. Maybe it’s the weather that’s getting to him? It’s the kind of weather that makes sweat drip down the sides of necks, t-shirts sticking to backs and even the AC only makes the situation remotely better. At this point, it might even be better outside - at least there would be a light breeze to blow against hot skin, cool off Chenle’s mind a bit.

But the two of them are stuck indoors, and Jisung is super bored, and Chenle’s thoughts are hazy, foggy to the point where he’s having a difficult time forming coherent thoughts.

Great.

 

Chapter Text

(8am:)

It’s a beautiful morning. Jisung is just rousing from the hazy dregs of sleep, basking in the rays of daylight spilling into the bedroom. It’s quiet, it’s peaceful -

“IT’S TIME TO WAKE UP,” Chenle shouts, wrenching apart the curtains. Sunlight combined with the high-pitched screeching of Chenle’s voice assaults Jisung’s every sense, and it’s. Oh my god so loud and annoying and Jisung physically cannot .

“Go away!” Jisung yells in response, voice still hoarse from slumber. He launches a pillow at Chenle and silently cheers when it hits the other boy smack in the face with a triumphant thump .

Ok, Jisung will admit it. Mornings can get a bit chaotic sometimes.

 

(The night before:)

A finger pokes into his shoulder, followed by a whisper. “Hey, Chenle.”

Chenle hums, loudly enough to acknowledge that he heard Jisung, but still softly enough as to not disturb the drowsy atmosphere. He rolls over onto his side, crowding into Jisung’s half of the bed. “Yeah?”

“I can’t fall asleep.”

A snort escapes Chenle before he can stifle it. “Okay, and? What do you want me to do about it?”

Jisung socks him in the arm. “Chenle, don’t be like that,” he complains, “Pleeeeeeease.”

“Please what?” Chenle goads, because he’s an asshole like that. (Not really. He just likes to hear Jisung say the actual words.)

“UGH, Chenle!”

“I’m waiting!”

“Fine!” Jisung whisper-yells. “Uh… Chenlecanwepleasecuddle.”

A smile twitches at the corner of Chenle’s lips, the kind that turns into the sort of shit-eating grin that Jisung always wishes he could smack away. “What was that?”

“I hate you,” Jisung says flatly, making sure to give his boyfriend a look that shows exactly what he thinks of his nonsense.

Chenle laughs softly, scooting closer into Jisung’s personal space and opening his arms. “Come here.”

“Can I be the little spoon tonight?”

The blonde-haired boy pretends to consider it, making Jisung whine with impatience. “Yeah, okay - just for tonight, though.”

(It’s a lie. He always lets Jisung be the little spoon because, y’know. Love and that other romantic shit.)

And that’s how the night ends: Chenle’s body curled protectively around Jisung’s, his arm wrapped around Jisung’s waist. Eventually, their breaths will even out and syncopate with the ticking of the alarm clock on the bedside dresser.

The best way to fall asleep. Heartbeats synchronized, blankets cozy. A warmth that’s not entirely the result of the covers spreads through Chenle’s body, reaching from his ears to his toes.

 

Chapter Text

For as long as he can remember, Jisung has loved going on walks with Chenle in the fall.

It’s kind of their thing. It started when both of them would hole up at the library on campus to get work done because neither of them could concentrate in their respective dorm rooms - they figured that out real quick. One of them (usually Chenle) would insist on staying way past a reasonable hour, and then Jisung would be forced to sit and wait on him whilst surfing the web (because he’s not a procrastinator like Chenle, goddamnit, and he finished his essay hours ago).

“You know I can walk home by myself after I’m done, right?” Chenle would ask. “You don’t have to wait for me to finish.”

“Yes, I do,” Jisung would rebuke stubbornly, sitting his ass down in one of those cushy couch seats meant for silent reading, except he was always playing Candy Crush. “Someone of your size walking alone in the city after dark? Practically asking to get murdered.” He’s sure the librarian probably gave him lots of dirty looks.  

But there was something so nice about walking back to their dorms together afterwards. If it wasn’t too late and the park was still open, they’d cut through and tread amongst the trees in comfortable silence, maybe too comfortable. On those nights, it felt like Jisung could say anything and Chenle wouldn’t be surprised, like he’d just nod quietly and whisper back an agreement.

 

Tonight is one of those nights. They’re walking through the park on an October night, and it’s gotten a lot chillier over the past three days, to the point where Chenle pulls his jacket tighter around himself and a smile threatens to pull at the corner of Jisung’s lips because he looks cute , all bundled up like that. Midterms start next week and Jisung knows he’s probably going to die, so maybe that’s why he’s severely tempted to spill all his feelings right into the open between them - right here, right now. He’s half sure that the words will be covered up by the shadows of the thick foliage anyway.

(Maybe if he’s lucky, they’ll catch on the stars and be illuminated by the moonlight.)

He doesn’t get the chance to, though.

“Hey, can I hold your hand?”

“Can you - what?” Jisung splutters, feet almost tripping over nothing (you’d never guess him to be the dancer between the two of them). “Come again?” He’s not quite sure that he heard that right.

“I asked if we could hold hands.”

Ok, scratch that. Even his ears aren’t stupid enough to make the same thing up twice. He heard what he heard, but the question is why . “We’re not together?”

“Yeah, I know,” says Chenle, just the slightest hint of irritation coloring his voice. If Jisung wasn’t Jisung and therefore Chenle’s best and oldest friend, he’d have never heard it there. “I don’t really think that’s important, though. I just want to go through the motions, you know? Like I’m craving physical affection and the actions, but it doesn’t matter to me that we’re not actually together or dating or whatever.”

“Oh.” But it matters to Jisung because he literally falls asleep to thoughts about holding Chenle’s hand and getting to kiss him in the car when they go to fast food drive-thru’s. Whoops. Part of him does not understand at all how Chenle can be so blasé about the how thing, but he guesses that’s where they’re different. Chenle’s always been able to live in the moment without much thought and put things behind him as soon as the mood changes, but Jisung has a tendency to… overanalyze .  

(But he always goes along with what Chenle says because he’s stupid .)

“Yeah, alright, I guess,” he says, slipping his hand easily into Chenle’s outstretched one. Chenle is fucking freezing. Jisung doesn’t know what he’d been expecting, but he’s somewhat surprised when they fall again into a familiar silence.

They’re almost at Chenle’s dorm building before someone speaks again. “You’re good at this,”

Chenle says it so quietly that he might as well not have said anything at all.  

“Huh?” Jisung says, entirely too loudly for the atmosphere of the night (he sees Chenle wince out of the corner of his eye as he spins to face him). He won’t lie, he’s too busy being distracted (busy thinking about how their fingers fit together just right). “What was that?”

Chenle clears his throat, looks down. Avoids Jisung’s questioning gaze, which is searching Chenle’s face for something he’s scared both of finding and not finding. “I said you’re good at this - uh, hand holding, I mean. It feels almost real,” Chenle reveals, blushing the barest hint of red at the admission.

Because it’s real for me, Jisung wants to say, but something in him forces him to bite down on the words before he goes and ruins something he spent too long building up, chasing after. He makes a mild hum of acknowledgement instead.

(He pretty much regrets it right after, but it is what it is. He can’t tell if that flicker in Chenle’s eyes is disappointment or relief.)

 

“This is me,” Chenle says when they arrive outside his building, rather unnecessarily considering this is about Jisung’s millionth time walking him home. “So I’ll just-” he turns towards the revolving door.

“Right-” Jisung takes a step backwards.

“I’ll see you-”

“Tomorrow, yeah?”

“Of course.”

Neither of them let go of the other’s hand. They stare at each other, each waiting for the other to make the first move. Chenle’s lips part - he exhales a puff of breath - then he thinks better of whatever he meant to say and closes his mouth again.  

(It’s okay. Jisung’s already waited for practically a lifetime. He’s sure he can last another short while, until Chenle’s ready.)

“I’ll see you,” Jisung says carefully, and he lets go of Chenle’s hand, now warm. “Don’t stay up too late, alright?”

Chenle’s cheeks are pinking again. “I won’t,” he promises. “Text me when you make it back to your dorm.”

Jisung gives a half-wave. “Don’t worry about me,” he says. And then he turns and starts walking away before he can do something dumb like kiss Chenle goodnight.

It’s alright, though. One day.

(He doesn’t see the way Chenle’s gaze trails after him until he rounds the block and disappears out of sight.)

 

Chapter Text

To be fair, Jisung reflects, the whole thing wouldn’t have happened if Chenle didn’t have the ridiculous idea to bleach his hair over spring holiday in the first place.

“Why do you even want to go blonde?” Jisung asks after his best friend announces his brilliant idea. “It’s going to completely destroy your hair. You’ll actually have straw on your head.”

Chenle shrugs. “I think I’ll actually look pretty good with blonde, don’t you think so?”

Well, yeah, of course Jisung thinks so. Not the point though. “It’s not allowed,” he says instead. “You’re gonna get written up for a dress code violation, and they’ll make you dye it back to black anyway before the week is over.”

“Worth it just to see the look on everyone’s faces,” is Chenle’s response.

 

So yeah. That’s how the whole thing started. And Jisung supposes he would’ve been fine with that - it’s not any of his business what Chenle does with his hair, after all - if the older boy hadn’t fucking roped him into it .

“You’re absolutely sure you want me to do this?” Jisung questions for about the six hundredth time in the last hour.

He can’t see Chenle’s face but he doesn’t have to in order to see the roll of Chenle’s eyes in his mind. “Yes, Jisung, yes. I trust you not to mess up, okay?” Jisung’s sure he isn’t imagining the hint of exasperation in his tone, though. The older boy is sitting in a chair by the sink in Chenle’s bathroom, with his back to Jisung and his side to the mirror, because Jisung hadn’t wanted his best friend to see his own incompetence when it comes to hair-coloring treatments.

“What if it doesn’t look good? Hahahahaha what if you hate me forever,” Jisung asks.

“Whatever you do, it can’t be that bad,” Chenle says with the same confidence that Jisung wishes he possessed. He doesn’t sound the slightest bit concerned for the state of his scalp. “I mean, that one time you dyed your hair it came out looking pretty nice, so.”

I had Renjun’s help that time. “If you say so,” Jisung replies, unconvinced. He clips a towel around Chenle’s shoulders and begins taking the contents out of the unassuming box of convenience store dye. “Okay, but let me just say again, you’re not allowed to hate me if it turns out bad.”

“It’ll be fine,” Chenle says with a wave of his hand. “I trust you.”

 

“I am never trusting you again,” Chenle says three hours later, when he’s finally been allowed to look in the mirror. “What the fuck, Park.”

He diddly darn screwed up. Jisung sighs, not for the first time in the past hour. “I warned you ahead of time, okay? I’m really sorry, but also this is your own fault for making me participate in this…” he searches for the right description but upon failing to find any he deems adequate, settles on, “... project of yours.”

“I look like grass.” Chenle’s reflection has its eyes narrowed and gaze locked with Jisung’s. It might be scary if Chenle wasn’t, like, two feet tall and about as harmless as a butterfly. How not intimidating.

Jisung scowls right back, not about to put up with Chenle’s bullshit. “It was an accident! Bitch, you did this to yourself.”

They pull faces at each other in the mirror, each expression more stupid than the last, until finally, Chenle barks out a loud laugh and the tension bleeds out of his shoulders. “At least I match the season, yeah? Green is a spring color?”

“Definitely,” Jisung grins, flashing bright white teeth. “I can see the school paper headlines now. ‘Senior Zhong Chenle dyes his hair green for Spring Holiday.’ How cute, hyung. Very… festive.”

(Cheekily, Jisung notes that this time he doesn’t have to imagine Chenle’s eyeroll.)

 

Chapter Text

“Hold out your hands.”

It starts when they’re young. They’re five years old, it’s been a grand total of sixteen minutes playing together on the first day of kindergarten, and Chenle carefully presses a soft white feather into Jisung’s chubby outstretched fingers.

“For you,” a tiny Chenle declares, matter of fact. Back when they were the same height, Jisung fondly remembers. “So we’ll always be together.”

(Later, when he’s older, Jisung might wonder where the hell Chenle picked it up from and if the bird had some sort of weird disease or something. But for now, he just takes it with a bright smile.)

 

So, yeah. Chenle likes to give Jisung gifts, whether it be a grand gesture for a friendship milestone or holiday, or a small trinket when he’s just feeling generous. From a handmade bookmark when they’re eight years old, to a whole sequence of twenty-five gifts leading up to Christmas when they’re fifteen - Jisung treasures them all and puts the tangible ones either on his desk or a shelf in his room when he’s not using them, clearing away an entire layer of clutter and old papers so he can have somewhere to display his most prized possessions.

(Someday, he swears, he’ll get an actual trophy case. Preferably after he’s rich and famous.)

And it’s not like Jisung doesn’t give Chenle presents for holidays, too. Sometimes, though, he just feels like they lack the same sort of crazy-perceptive thoughtfulness, like how Chenle always just knows without being told exactly what Jisung’s missing in his life and gets him whatever it is. Jisung knows what Chenle likes, knows his preferences like the back of his hand, and yet he always feels like his own gestures are missing some of that special fairy pixie dust that makes everything Chenle does so magical.

He promises himself that he’ll make it up by going all out for Chenle’s birthday this year. He means it: surprise party with the whole gang, the newest iPhone to feed Chenle’s Apple loyalty, literally he will steal the fucking moon if he has to. His wallet will cry, but that’s a sacrifice he’s ready to make. Jisung’s prepared to do anything and everything within his power for that dumb boy that he loves so, so much.

It’s going to be great.

 

Jisung honestly, truly, plans his ass off for Chenle’s birthday. He plans like he’s never planned before; has put in all the effort and meticulous detailing into the party that he should’ve alloted to studying for his Mandarin midterm exam, emptied every single metaphorical pocket of every single metaphorical pair of pants he owns for pennies, actually looked up the logistics of stealing the moon (watched the Despicable Me film yet again) before deciding that particular escapade might be a little difficult to achieve.

But yeah. He’s really thought of everything.

Which is why he’s super caught off guard when the weeks leading up to Chenle’s seventeenth birthday are kind of weird.

That is to say, Chenle’s acting kind of off.

Chenle??? Off??? The Chenle that’s only been sick, like, twice in his entire life? The one that is never nervous for anything and waltzed, severely underprepared, into his end-of-year presentation during their sophomore year and didn’t even break a sweat? And somehow still aced it?

Exactly.

Really darn peculiar. Especially since Chenle is never fazed by anything.

Jisung lies awake in his bed at 3 am wondering what the origins to the strangeness between them are. Has the other boy somehow figured out what he’s planning, despite all his best efforts at hiding it? Is Chenle offended that Jisung stole his thing? Is that what this is? He can’t for the life of him work out why suddenly his best friend of almost twelve years is suddenly so, for lack of better word, skittish around him. Like a newborn colt that hasn’t fully learned how to balance on its legs, or something. (Chenle was always the more poetic one between the two of them.)

But before he’s puzzled out the answer, the big day is here - and, well, it’s not like he can suddenly cancel that bouncy castle he already reserved, so. Jisung resolves that the show will have to go on.

 

He’s leading Chenle by the hand up the porch steps of his house. They’re coming back from a morning trip to the mall, where he’d gotten Chenle his decoy gifts, they shared a matcha cake together, all that jazz. Gone through all the customary birthday celebrations. Chenle thinks they’re going to spend the rest of the day playing video games, but in actuality Mark hyung and the rest of the crew are already inside Jisung’s home, having finished setting up the party while Jisung had taken Chenle out. The bounce house is hiding in the backyard. Everything is perfect and ready to go.

Except when Jisung unlocks the front door and is about to push Chenle past the threshold, the other boy suddenly draws back and says, “Wait.”

FUCK . Jisung silently prays that the others heard from their positions and aren’t about to spring out from the dark. They should hold off until Jisung gives the official signal and switches on the dining room lights.

“Yeah?” Jisung says, clearing his throat and hoping the older boy can’t sense his onset of panic. “What is it?” More importantly, is he about to find out why Chenle’s been acting unlike his easygoing self?

He doesn’t know if maybe he sounds impatient, or what, but Chenle looks really serious, and a feeling of general unpleasantness and dread is settling in Jisung’s stomach. “I have to do something first,” he says, gaze impassive.

Oh no. This is it, where he’s going to tell Jisung that he’ll never give gifts as good as him, and then he’s going to dump Jisung and make Renjun his new best friend, and then  they’re going to move back to China together… oh no.

Jisung swallows. “Go ahead.”

“Um, actually,” Chenle says, and now he, just barely, looks equally as nervous as Jisung feels? “It’s more of a… request? I just really want this one thing, and it’s to give this gift to you? Even though it’s my birthday! But that just means you can’t deny me, so. Haha.” The laugh is weaker than Jisung’s stomach, which is, in his current state, not doing so well and so very weak. “Close your eyes, Park. And hold out your hands, like always.”

And Jisung is absolutely bamboozled as he does what Chenle asks . What on earth does this boy want so badly that Jisung had zero idea of beforehand? He wants to give something to Jisung? On his own birthday? What is going on anymore?

He doesn’t know what he’s waiting for, but he doesn’t expect at all when - Chenle steps forward and takes Jisung’s hands gently, his lips softly landing a kiss on the slope of Jisung’s cheek. Startled, Jisung opens his eyes in shock, and Chenle looks softer and more shy than he’s ever been, warm eyes lighting up with a brilliant hope.

“Hooooly shit,” Jisung says, at a loss for words, trying and failing to stop the smile that’s threatening to pull at his lips. Finally realizing what he’s been unable to see this entire time. Chenle seems to get the message, though, because he looks so, so excited that his eyes shine.

“Jisung Park,” he asks eagerly, bending (he’s still standing on the threshold) to look closely at Jisung’s face. “Do you like me?”

Jisung yanks his (sweaty!) palms away from Chenle’s grasp, hides his face in his hands, and makes a muffled noise of distress - something that Chenle clearly interprets in a positive manner because he just beams, all perfect and radiant. Like a sunflower . Jisung tries to scoot his feet backwards, away from Chenle, but it doesn’t work because Chenle puts a hand out and stops him.

“Good,” Chenle says, biting his lip, pulling Jisung’s hands away from his flaming cheeks and his entire body into the house, “Because I like you too. A lot.”

And then, this is usually the part where they kiss for the first time ever , right, all soft and romantic except Jisung really doesn’t want his first kiss to be in the dark, and so he foolishly fumbles along the wall and flicks on the lights because he fucking forgot , okay, and Mark and the others choose this particular moment to pop out from behind the kitchen counter and yell, “SURPRISE!”

“Oh my god,” Chenle screeches, stumbling and tripping over thin air. He doesn’t fall, though, because he still has a tight grip on Jisung’s wrist.

(Actually, that’s a lie. He totally falls. And brings Jisung crashing down with him.

Somehow, Jisung can’t bring himself to care. He’d fall for Chenle any day. Cue the others’ groaning.)

God awful timing, their friends. Also, possibly (very) embarrassing that all his hyungs were there to see the most intimate moments of Jisung’s entire life.

(Later, he decides that it doesn’t matter. Jisung still gets that kiss, after all the others have gone home and Chenle’s pressed a small jewelry box into his hand. It’s a thin necklace with a feather pendant. And it was definitely worth the wait.)