o n e : : b a n a n a c h o c o p i e
The first time Jisung meets Zhong Chenle, they’re on the way up to dance club and haven’t moved in three and a half hours. Jisung’s been crammed into the back of the bus, between Jaemin and Donghyuck’s snipes and jibes, for what feels like a lifetime. His knees ache, his phone’s battery is falling dangerously low and he definitely needs to piss when the bus pulls into the rest stop.
Jaemin and Jeno rush off as soon as the bus has stopped, Doyoung chasing after them with a curse to make sure they don’t get in trouble. Taeil is much more sedate, telling them they’re leaving in twenty minutes and everyone should have a good stretch.
Jisung has about twenty thousand won to his name, and almost everyone he knows has rushed after Jaemin and Jeno to the bathroom. Instead of joining the quickly growing line of impatient teenage boys, he stumbles on stiff and sore legs towards the snack shop.
He’s not the only, he realises, that’s forgone the toilet trip. One of the other boys in the club, who he’s never talked to, is bent over the snack aisle and looking at everything with a wide-eyed interest. Jisung’s not sure what his name is, their groups had split off and holed up with one another on the buses, but he’s fairly sure the kid’s one of the Chinese exchange students.
The boy looks up, gaze fixing on Jisung through the mess of brown hair that covers his eyes. Hesitation hangs in the air for a long moment as he takes in Jisung’s rumpled jumper and ratty jeans. Jisung can’t speak, his voice caught in his throat because he hates talking to new people and he especially hates it when the hyungs aren’t with him. This boy is watching him, so carefully that Jisung just wants to turn around and walk away.
Then the boy’s head tilts to the side, and his smile doesn’t just light up his face, it lights up the store and the rest area and makes Jisung forget about how awful the last few hours of bus travel has been. It is, dare he say it, a very nice smile.
‘Hi,’ the boy says.
Silence hangs between them. The boy’s smile drops, and it becomes confused more than anything.
‘Oh, um,’ Jisung coughs and he gives a little half bow as he looks at the boy in front of him. ‘Hi. I’m Park Jisung.’
‘Zhong Chenle,’ the boy says, smile growing wide and bright again. Jisung can’t look away, not even for a moment. ‘Is this good?’
He points to some biscuits on the shelf, the sort of ones that your grandmother would give you because she lost all her tastebuds. Jisung’s nose immediately scrunches up, he can already taste the bland crackers on the tip of his tongue. ‘Nah, you want something like this.’
He grabs a packet of banana chocopies and before he knows it, Jisung is spending a precious five thousand of his hard-earned won to hand one of the pies over to the Chinese boy with the bright smile.
t w o : : m e l o n a
Chenle and Jisung are assigned to room together, because they’re the closest in age. They’re also assigned a third roommate called Kun, who is probably there to make sure they don’t break anything. He’d argue that he doesn’t need a babysitter, but Jisung couldn’t work out how to turn on the hot water in the shower on his own. Kun was very nice about showing him.
Kun seems nice, and smiles kindly for almost two days. At one point on the third day, it becomes less kind. Jisung’s not too sure exactly what happened, but there’s a fair bit of screaming from one of Chenle’s friends and then silence.
Jisung and Chenle have barely left their room, the heat of summer pressing down on them as they wait for the hours to crawl by. The only room that has a working air conditioner in the entire camp is the recreation room, and Jisung knows for a fact that everyone’s in there right now, trying to work through homework.
‘It’s hot,’ Chenle whines, ‘I feel like I’m melting.’
‘Why does summer have to be so hot?’ Jisung groans into his pillow, looking across at the other bed. Chenle’s star-fished out, wearing a tank top and shorts that are too big for him, and he’s scrolling through his phone. He looks grumpy and over-heated and it doesn’t suit him at all.
Jisung sits up, grabbing his cap from the bedside table. ‘Come on,’ he says, and he reaches over to drag Chenle up from the bed.
There’s a little bit of whining, and a lot grumbling before Jisung wraps his hand around Chenle’s wrist and pulls him out into the sunlight. It is, annoyingly, cooler than it was inside, but not enough to make Jisung glad to be outside.
‘What are you doing?’ Chenle says, as Jisung pulls them behind a car.
‘There’s a convenience store like five minutes away,’ Jisung says, trying very hard not to think about the fact that he’s a few inches off actually holding Chenle’s hand. ‘I want ice-cream.’
‘We can’t leave,’ Chenle says. But even as he speaks, he rises up a little bit and his eyes are filled with a discerning sharpness. ‘They’ll notice that we’re missing in a minute.’
‘Nope,’ Jisung shakes his head, ‘Mark-hyung’s in charge of cooking, so everyone’s going to be on standby. They’re just going to think we’re still napping in our room.’
Something like courage works through Jisung and he shifts his hand a little bit to interlock his fingers with Chenle’s. They can’t run, it’s too hot for it, but they sneak off the property through patches of shade and rushes of excitement.
The convenience store has an air conditioner, but that rush of ice and relief pales in comparison to the way Chenle’s eyes light up. The bars of ice-cream must be unfamiliar to Chenle. He bends over the freezer, mouthing the names of the different ice-creams before sighing and looking up at Jisung.
‘What’s your favourite?’
He grabs the green bars, letting the cool wash over him and hands them to the cashier. Sweaty hands pass over the notes to the bored looking employee, and Jisung bows quickly in thanks before they head back outside.
Jisung can feel Melona dripping over his fingers, melting under the fierce heat of the sun, as Chenle smiles over his shoulder.
He can’t look away, and in that moment Jisung feels breathless in the face of Chenle’s joy.
‘This is amazing.’
t h r e e : : c o c a c o l a
‘Jisung-ah,’ Jeno says, following him into the recreation room. ‘Can’t I have one of the bottles of coke?’
‘No, hyung, I only have two.’ Jisung’s not normally a whiny person, but he’s spent the last few minutes shielding himself from Jeno’s sticky fingers and he just wants peace. ‘Go annoy Donghyuck-hyung, he bought an extra one for Mark-hyung.’
‘But you’ve got an extra.’
‘It’s not for you.’ Jisung dodges Jeno’s arms again, wishing that he at least had a free arm to swat Jeno away. Jeno’s about as tall as him, but he’s stronger than Jisung and equally determined to get to the food that Jisung’s hoarding. There might be a genuine risk that Jeno will take his food. ‘Leave me alone.’
‘Jeno-ah,’ Jaemin’s voice cuts through the room. ‘I’ve got a spare one.’
‘At lease someone’s nice,’ Jeno says, no heat behind his words as his eyes turn up into a smile to take the bottle from where Jaemin’s stretched over one of the couches near the air-conditioner.
‘Sorry about that.’ Jisung manages half a glare before he drops the chips into Chenle’s lap. The older boy lets out a laugh, and he turns a smile up to Jisung. Jisung feels like he's been blinded a moment, and he stands there with his mouth half open before he snaps back into himself.
'It's fine,' Chenle says, patting the seat next to him.
'I've got to,' Jisung points over his shoulder to where Jaemin is smirking, 'join the asshole before he comes here and annoys me into following him.'
'Is he that bad?' Chenle asks, looking at Jaemin out of the corner of his eyes.
'The worst,' Jisung scrunches up his nose. 'Enjoy your snacks.'
'I will,' Chenle chirps, and he reaches up to catch Jisung's hand. 'Thank you, for getting this.'
'No problem,' Jisung tries to brush off the other boy's thanks, even as his cheeks burn red. 'I'll catch you before dinner.'
He stumbles across the room, away from the comforting smile and the kindness of Chenle, and hopes that Jaemin doesn't comment on anything. The older boy is already grinning, and it's like looking the devil in the face. Jisung hasn't been this nervous since Taeyong asked him to freestyle in front of the entire dance group.
'What was that?'
'Nothing,' Jisung says, slipping down next to Jeno. 'I don't know what you're talking about.'
'Have you been buying food for Chenle?'
Jisung has never been able to lie to Jaemin, not properly.
'You have! Has he been buying things for you as well?'
'No, he doesn't need to pay me back or anything. He's a friend, I just want to look out for him.'
‘You’re his sugar daddy!’ Jaemin cackles. Jisung hates him so much.
‘I’m not,’ he whines, pressing back into the couch.
‘You’ve never bought me anything, you barely let me take a sip of your coke. But Chenle gets a whole drink and a snack.’ Jaemin’s smile is wicked. ‘You spoil him because you think he’s pretty. I can’t believe it.’
‘I’m not a sugar daddy,’ Jisung hisses. He throws a pillow at Jaemin, who just snickers again. ‘It’s just that … he really likes honey butter chips? And I buy some, every now and again?’
‘Every day, you mean?
‘… Oh, my god,’ Jisung looks up at Jaemin, ‘I’m his sugar daddy. Hyung, I’m too broke to be a sugar daddy.’
f o u r : : p e p e r o
‘We’re here to buy dinner,’ Taeyong stresses for the fifth time since the minivan pulled into the market’s parking lot. ‘That means vegetables, not candy. Buy what you want with your own money but I’m not paying for anything that’s not on the shopping list.’
‘Damn,’ Chenle groans as he and Jisung take a trolley. ‘I left my wallet with Kun-ge, I can’t get any snacks.’
‘We can get Taeyong-hyung to buy it.’ Jisung looks up from the list in his hands, filled with boring things like carrots and kitchen towel.
'I don't think he will,' Chenle says, casting a look to where Taeyong is picking between two very similar cabbages. 'He just said that he wasn't going to do that.'
'You can't tell anyone this,' Jisung says, chucking some random onions into the cart because they probably need that, 'especially not Mark or Jeno. But I am Taeyong-hyung's favourite. He'll definitely buy some for us if I ask.'
Chenle looks at Taeyong again, whose stern brow is dipping even lower to inspect the plants in front of him. There's probably something about picking out cabbages that Jisung will have to learn as an adult, but he's more concerned about the now and the more fun things in life. He really hopes that when he grows up, he won't be as serious or intimidating as Taeyong trying to pick out his cabbages.
'Promise,' Jisung says. 'Do you know what you want?'
Chenle bites his lip, looking at Taeyong with still that little bit of trepidation. If he were any of Jisung's other friends, he would have leapt on the idea of buying a snack and taking advantage of Taeyong's weak heart. But Chenle is considerate, in a way that most of the assholes that Jisung's friends aren't.
'Pepero?' Chenle says after a moment, and Jisung tries not to focus on the fact that Chenle, once decided, is really really cute. 'Yeah I think I want Pepero.'
'Do you have a favourite flavour?' Jisung asks as he throws in a cucumber (Taeyong can cook with that, right?) and leads Chenle to the biscuit aisle. The wall of Pepero is larger than the ones in the convenience stores, and he can tell that Chenle is a little overwhelmed by the choice, and decides in the interest of being a good person, that they should get a couple. 'I personally like chocolate, but cookies and cream are good as well. Also the almond ones.'
'Are you sure Taeyong-hyung will be okay with us getting this many?'
Jisung looks away from the growing pile of biscuits in the cart to where Chenle is standing. 'I'll pay Taeyong back, don't worry. Just get what you want, we can have a midnight snack session when Kun-hyung sneaks out to look at the stars with Ten-hyung.'
Chenle laughs, loud and bright.
Back in their cabin, his wallet is probably weeping at the thought of another ten thousand won being spent on snacks, but the way Chenle's eyes light up makes it worth it. Jisung tries not to think too much about that.
(They forget the kitchen towel.)
f i v e : : h o n e y b u t t e r c h i p s
Jisung has learnt, from the past few weeks of camp, that Chenle's all-time favourite snack is honey butter chips. Between workshops and team-building activities and sneaky trips to the convenience store when no-one was looking (they got caught once, but bribed Taeil with some milk tea), they had probably eaten more honey butter chips than any other snack Jisung had bought for Chenle.
So, he thinks it's only right that their final snack sharing adventure be a packet of chips and some iced tea that the clerk at the convenience store recommended. He also bought some chocolate, but Jeno had been quick to take that in the moments of every settling onto the bus.
'Are you sure you don't want to sit with your friends?' Chenle asks, as the bus pulls away from the campsite. 'I don't mind, if you want to sit with the hyungs.'
'They're annoying, I don't want to sit with them,' Jisung huffs. It does not help that every time he turns around, Jaemin is wiggling his eyebrows and Donghyuck looks a second away from cracking a too-loud joke. Renjun, who Jisung didn't even know until the third day of camp, has joined in on the teasing and keeps saying that Jisung is cute and his dates with Chenle are cute.
They’re not dates, Jisung insists, just regular midnight snacking plans.
(No-one believes him, not even Taeyong who just shook his head and smiled when Jisung asked to borrow money at the supermarket.)
'I like you more,' he admits. Chenle grins at the words, settling into the bus seat a little lower. They’re heading back home, back to the real world of Seoul and separate schools and dance clubs. 'I hope that we're not going to lose contact after this trip.'
'I won't let us, don't worry.' Chenle pats Jisung's thigh in what is supposed to be reassurance. It sort of helps. ‘You should never have given me your kakao id.'
'But still,' Jisung insists, popping open the bag of chips and trying to not be obvious in how happy he is that Chenle is happy, 'people do that. They text each other a lot at first, but then they forget and next thing you know we'll text each other every three months and only see each other at camp.'
'How about this then,' Chenle turns in his seat, pinning Jisung in place with unusually serious eyes, 'are you free Saturday?'
'I should be.' Jisung had intended to spend the next two weekends lying on the couch until he had to go back to school. But if he has to meet up with Chenle, he supposes he doesn't need to play games all the time.
'Then you should meet me at Jamsil station at nine o'clock. To make sure that we definitely see each other enough and we don't drop out of contact. I’m not going to let it happen.'
Jisung can't help smiling, can't help the excitement that rises at the thought of seeing Chenle again outside of this trip. Away from the mess of older brothers and friends, and just be themselves together. 'I can't wait.'
Chenle smiles up at him, for a moment too long, before taking the packet of chips out of Jisung's hands and eating a handful.
When Jisung turns to the back of the bus, Jeno, Jaemin, Renjun and Donghyuck are all making kissy faces at him. He's so glad he won't see them until school starts again.
p l u s o n e : : l o t t e w o r l d
Jisung doesn't realise that he and Chenle have never hung out unsupervised, apart from a few sneaky trips down to the convenience store, until he's waiting at exit four, fifteen minutes before he's supposed to meet up with Chenle.
The last week has been quiet, apart from when Chenle's blown up his phone, and although Jisung had looked forward to sleeping in and not constantly having to be going through foundational drills, he found himself bored. The promise of hanging out with Chenle had been there, and now that it was here Jisung found himself almost nervous again.
What if, after a week away, Chenle realised the only reasons they were friends were snacks and forced co-habitation? What if, after a week away, Chenle realised he didn't want to be Jisung's friend with space and time? What if, after a week away, Chenle didn't smile at Jisung, didn't laugh in that way that made Jisung feel like he'd done something right?
'You're in your head again,' a voice says, too loud in his ear, and Jisung jumps in surprise. Chenle backs away and his cackle of laughter is so ugly and genuine that all of Jisung's doubts melt away in a second. 'Did you miss me?'
'I did, yeah,' Jisung admits, and Chenle's smile softens. He leans into Jisung's side, looping their arms together and begins to frog march them out of the station. 'What are we doing, anyway?'
'Well, I figured that since all we've been doing for the past month is dancing or gaming. We should probably do something a bit different. So, I thought Lotte World!'
Jisung panics, because most of his savings had disappeared through a combination of paying for the dance trip, and then eating snacks the entire time he was there. He would love to go to Lotte World with Chenle, would love to see him having the time of his life, but at the end of the day? Jisung is a somewhat broke teenage boy with impulsive spending habits.
'I'm, uh, not sure if I can...' he trails off because this is embarrassing, he's spent the last few weeks paying for everything. He stalls to a stop and tries to ignore the way confusion crosses Chenle's face. 'What if we just looked around the shopping centre instead?'
'Nonsense,' Chenle's grin grows, 'it's on me anyway. I already booked the premium passes anyway.'
Jisung tries not to choke on air. He does not succeed, and Chenle slaps his back a few times. 'Premium passes?'
'Yeah,' Chenle shrugs, 'I figured since you paid for so much when we at dance camp. Anyway, I hope you know that this is our first official date. I'm not going to settle for anything less than perfect. Go big, or go home.'
Jisung can't speak, knows that he looks like an idiot with his mouth open in surprise, but Chenle doesn't seem to mind from the laugh that he lets out.
His mind bounces between premium passes, and date. He doesn’t know which word scares him more.
‘You don’t need to do this,’ Jisung says, and Chenle looks up with a little confused tilt of his head. ‘Paying for the passes, going to Lotte World. You shouldn’t do it.’
‘Jisung,’ Chenle reaches up to cup Jisung’s face, turning his head to look at him with just a sparkle of something in his eyes. ‘Just this once, it’s your turn to be the sugar baby.’
Jisung groans, his head dropping forward, ‘You heard that?’
Chenle laughs, ‘Yep!’ He steps back, holding a hand out for Jisung to take. Jisung tries not to focus on the fact that Chenle’s hand is very small in his, that his own hand is very sweaty, and that they’re on a date. ‘Don’t worry. I thought it was cute.’