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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.