Rating: NC17 for language, mentions of moderate alcohol usage and some explicit smut
Warnings: alcohol, smut
Summary: You never quite get over your first love. Jongin finds this out the hard way when he comes face-to-face with a ghost from his past.
Author's Note: My sincerest thanks to the Forjongin Mod for being so understanding and kind – I am truly in your debt <3. Much love to Ansa, Jenni, Gem and Karen for encouraging words, cheerleading and outstanding camaraderie!
Word count: 10.9k words
For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets may say.
late summer 2014
"Sorry!" Jongin yells apologetically as he bumps into a guy with dirty blond dreadlocks in his mad rush to get to his lecture on time. He sees the cyclist hurtling towards him just in time and jumps to the side to avoid a collision, only to crash into yet a human obstacle.
"Careful, kid!" A clear, masculine voice says as strong hands grip his shoulders. Jongin looks up to thank the stranger and sees someone who's not tall, but who's attractive in a quietly handsome way, with shoulders that are broad despite his narrow build. His faded jeans are ripped at the knee and he's wearing Ray-Bans and plain white tee which exposes collarbones that are pale and well-defined.
The clothes are perfectly ordinary but the man’s face is achingly familiar. It's a face he hasn't seen in seven years. Time has wrought subtle changes - the jaw is more angular and the face that had been so pretty at 16 has matured and become more masculine.
More devastating, Jongin thinks as his overworked heart threatens to pound its way right out of his chest. And only a small part of that is due to running across campus - not that he even cares about being on time for his lecture anymore.
Jongin reasons that this can't be the boy he used to know because fate couldn’t be that cruel (or that kind, depending on how you looked at it) but Jongin’s eyes fall upon it - the tiny, wispy mole above the man’s upper lip. It’s a mole he used to stare at secretly, one he knows all too well. There's no mistaking the small mark or the sensual curve of that shell pink mouth.
Jongin wants so much for this to be the boy he used to know, yet at the same time he doesn’t; he's not prepared. His heart needs to be swathed in layers of bubble wrap before he faces this ghost from his past because the last time he’d seen Joonmyun, he’d torn Jongin’s trusting heart into painful, jagged shreds.
What do I do?
It helps that Jongin’s wearing sunglasses and a snapback because they give him a temporary mask to hide behind. He just needs some time to think because he’s not ready to deal with the man recognizing him, or worse, not recognizing him. As he stands there, agonizing over whether to say hello, the young man dissolves from view, merging with the small pockets of students navigating this part of the campus.
"Wait!" He yells in delayed shock as the distance grows between them and he surges forward as he tries to close the gap. He can still make out the white tee and the dark hair, and that slender, alabaster neck.
There’s real panic suffusing Jongin’s movements now … if he doesn’t confront Joonmyun now, he might never bump into him again. So Jongin finds the adrenalin he needs to run faster, his legs pumping hard in a desperate attempt to catch up with his elusive quarry.
He sees the distant figure in blue and white enter the entrance to the Chemistry Building, the glass door swinging shut behind him. In a sudden burst of energy, Jongin sprints towards the door but when he finally clatters through it, it's to find an almost empty foyer with only three or four students loitering around. None of them are wearing white t-shirts or faded jeans.
As he stares at the glossy surface of the deep gray flooring, Jongin feels as helpless as he had seven years ago in the street between their houses - when Joonmyun had told him, eyes downcast, that he wanted things between them to stop.
Jongin stares at his laptop screen in his darkened room. He knows he shouldn't do this but he opens his Gmail app and clicks the write icon anyway. He usually only uses this address once a year - when he wishes Joonmyun happy birthday and gives him an update of his life in the past year. It's the dumbest thing really because Joonmyun has never replied. Not once. But he can't seem to restrain himself from writing that annual email. Jongin wonders if Joonmyun filters his emails or just deletes them without reading them. It seems too much to hope, somehow, that he actually reads them.
His fingers hover over the keys hesitantly. He really shouldn't be doing this. It's not even Joonmyun's birthday. His head is talking loudly but his heart is determined to be deaf as he begins to type:
Hi hyung, I saw someone who looked like you today. Actually, I'm sure it was you …
fever ... summer 2003
It was one of the hottest summers they'd had in a long time and Jongin's bright yellow Spongebob tee stuck to his back uncomfortably. He was sitting on his bike, stationary, with one sneakered foot on the pedal and the other flat on the sidewalk. Jongin watched in awe as his neighbor's thin body leapt into the air and the basketball soared from his hand, sailing through the air and into the basket in an unerring arc. The basketball bounced a little wildly before rolling down the driveway in Jongin’s direction.
“Throw it to me!” Joonmyun calls out, shaking needles of sweat off his hair.
“I will if you teach me how to shoot hoops like you, hyung!” His ten year-old voice was brimming over with hope as he held the basketball in his still-small hands.
“You're too young,” Joonmyun snorted with all the blistering disdain a twelve year-old could muster.
“When I grow up then,” Jongin was nothing if not persistent.
“I'll be too busy to teach you by then.”
“So teach me now then.”
“Don't want to. Now give me the damn ball.”
“Go away, Jongin. You’re such a pest.”
“PLEAAAASE, hyung?” Jongin got off his bike and approached his neighbour, dribbling the basketball with no finesse. “I’ll give it back if you teach me, I promise.”
“Ugh. You're such a brat, Jonginnie.” Joonmyun whined and sighed a lot but in the end he taught Jongin (impatiently) how to hold the ball the right way, and showed him how to aim and shoot the ball with accuracy.
In a matter of days, Jongin's wiry body was weaving its way around the space in front of Joonmyun's garage as the boys played one on one. Joonmyun beat him every single time for more than a year because, I'm not gonna lie to you and make you think you're better than you actually are.
The first time Jongin had closed that divide between them and beaten Joonmyun, he'd ruffled the younger boy's hair with grudging pride before saying that he was going to whoop his ass the next time they played.
Sometimes he did. Sometimes he didn't.
late summer 2014
"You've been sulking for three days. Get over it, dude. You're sucking all the joy out of this place." His roommate says as he opens the windows. Jongdae and Jongin have been roommates for a year and Jongin has found out, often to his detriment, that Kim Jongdae does not come equipped with a filter. "What the hell is it even about anyway? You're carrying on like someone ripped your heart out of your chest and stomped all over it for fuck's sake."
"Someone did," Jongin mutters from under the pillow he's covered his face in.
"I've been trying to set you up with Soojung for ages. What about this weekend? It'll get your mind off whatever's broken you so badly." Jongdae's been hinting for months that his girlfriend Sooyoung's best friend is interested in Jongin. He's managed to put him off all this time without saying why but maybe it's time he just came clean.
"We could go for a double date, y'know, if you're awkward about spending time alone with her to start with."
"That's ... not gonna work, Dae," Jongin sighs and turns on his belly, burying his face in his mattress and covering the back of his head with his pillow like it will somehow keep all his problems at bay.
"Of course it is! Soojung's great company. Promise! She'll cheer you up. And let's face it, you're like this quivering pile of misery right now and it's just ... I can't bear to look, man. You look so whipped. Get yourself off the floor, for fuck’s sake."
"I don't ... I can't ... with girls." The words are muffled as he speaks into the pillow.
"What do you mean you can't with girls? Like you can't talk to them? You panic? Or ... oh. Oh." And for once, Jongdae runs out of words. Jongin blinks as he hears the realization seep into his roommate's voice.
"Why didn't you tell me before? I've been trying to set you up with a girl for months. I feel really bad now."
"It's not like you knew."
"So it's a guy who's got you all messed up now? You seemed fine up till three days ago. What the fuck happened? And do I need to beat up his ass?" If Jongdae has any reservations about Jongin being anything less than straight, he's doing a great job of concealing them.
"No! No! No one is beating up anyone's ass. He didn't even know it was me. We haven't seen each other or talked in seven years." Jongin finally removes the pillow and lies on his back again so he can see Jongdae's face.
"Seven years is a lifetime, Jongin." Jongdae's forehead is wrinkled with concern and his voice, tinged with sympathy. The part of Jongin that's proud knows he should resent the sympathy but his dejected heart just drinks up every tiny drop.
"He's the first person I ever liked. You know how that is. I don't think you can ever really shake it off. And there are things I need to tell him which he never gave me the chance to say ... but I'll probably never see him again." Covering his eyes with his arm, Jongin exhales and it's a broken little sound.
"Okay, that's it. I can't watch this pity party. We're taking you to a club on Saturday night. Who knows? You might even bump into Mr. Heartbreaker there."
"Jongdae, please. Life is not a Korean drama," Jongin snorts. “I still can't believe our paths even crossed again. I mean I've been a student here for almost two years and I never saw him till Monday. I'm pretty sure I've burned up my quota of 'fateful encounters' with that meeting."
"Where's the optimism? Well even if you don't see him, you might meet someone interesting at the club; or at the very least get wasted?" Jongdae laughs and Jongin throws his pillow at him.
"Don't mock my pain." Jongin growls but he can feel a subtle lifting of his mood already. His heart feels lighter now that he's finally told Jongdae the truth about why he's stubbornly resisted his efforts to matchmake him with girls the past two years. And above all else, Jongin's so thankful that his roommate hasn't flipped at the revelation.
fever ... fall 2007
When it happened, the autumn air was crisp with the scent of leaves on fire, and the street that separated their houses was lined with slashes of burnished gold and burnt reds. The asphalt was carpeted in fallen leaves and the sky was a riot of salmon pink, lavender and lilac. The world was aflame but the vivid colors and smells were just muted impressions on the edges of Jongin's senses as he stared at the 16 year old boy standing before him.
Joonmyun had texted him eight minutes earlier - asking Jongin to meet him outside. His expression was cold, dispassionate. It worried Jongin.
"So ... I'm leaving tomorrow." He pushed his hands into his pockets in a jerky, awkward gesture.
"On a holiday? Where to?"
"Not a holiday."
"I don't understand." There was bewilderment and the beginnings of anxiety in Jongin's voice.
"My mom got a better job so we're leaving."
"I don't understand." Jongin shook his head like this would somehow make the words go away, make them not real.
"We've packed up all our shit. The movers picked up the boxes this morning. It's just a few suitcases left and we're driving out in the morning. You'll be in Trig class, I guess." Joonmyun shrugged, his eyes trained on the leaf-littered ground between them.
"But hyung," Jongin's chest felt heavy, all choked up. The tears hadn't come but he could already feel the pressure behind his eyes and in his throat. "You can't go. You're supposed to be here!" His hand gripped Joonmyun's arm desperately.
“I’m sorry, Jongin.”
Why was he so calm?
Why was Joonmyun so calm when Jongin’s heart was thundering so hard and so loud he felt like his eardrums were going to implode? Warily, he asked if they’d be playing basketball the next day – just like they always did on Wednesday evenings. His hands were cold. Why were they so cold?
“JONGIN!” Joonmyun shouted his name harshly, cutting right into the younger boy’s cloud of denial. “This is it. I’m saying goodbye now. Do you understand?”
“I don’t want to say goodbye,” Jongin shook his head, his cheeks wet with tears as the fall breeze gently picked up strands of his fine, black hair.
“You can either say goodbye or not say it - doesn’t change the fact that I won’t be here tomorrow.” Joonmyun’s voice was unbending, reinforced with threads of steel. Jongin knew that voice; he knew it would be close to impossible now to change his mind.
“Promise me you won’t forget me, hyung. Promise me we’ll still be together?”
“I … can’t do that, Jongin.”
“You can’t just go!” His arms enveloped Joonmyun in a desperate, clumsy embrace. And for a brief few seconds, Joonmyun returned the hug, his hot breath fanning Jongin’s neck. Then he was slowly extricating himself from the protective shell Jongin had formed around him.
“I can’t stay. I’ve got to go with my mom, you know that.”
“Text me every day?”
“Ah … I'm not one for keeping in touch.”
“It's better this way.”
“But I need to know you’re doing okay and I n-”
“Shhh.” Joonmyun’s index finger was cool against Jongin’s mouth and the younger boy closed his eyes, his tears forming messy tracks down his cheeks. He ached so badly to have Joonmyun’s arms around his thin, shaking body and to feel Joonmyun’s bony shoulder beneath his chin; but the other boy was keeping his distance.
“Promise me you’ll write, hyung.” Jongin was a broken record but he didn’t care. He had to try.
“I won't write. And I won't reply. Let's just not, Jongin. Let's just stop.” His voice was dead and he wasn’t looking at Jongin anymore. When he turned in the direction of his house, Jongin knew he really had said his goodbyes.
The sublime pastels which had colored the sky earlier had now faded to moody violets and blacks. The sun had gone down while they were talking and Jongin hadn’t even registered the sunset. As Joonmyun walked away, Jongin shut his eyes and sat down on the pavement, hugging his knees together.
It was so cold. Why was he so cold?
late summer 2014
Jongin always forgets how fucking noisy it is in a club until he's actually in one. He's already regretting letting Jongdae talk him into coming. The dance floor at Second Chances is a pulsating sea of gyrating limbs and glittery hair, of spangly silk and too-high hemlines.
There's so much energy. Far, far too much of it. The frenetic motion, the blinding flashes of harsh white strobe light and the invasive bass sounds are all knitting together to give Jongin the beginnings of a headache. He knows he has to get off the dance floor and head somewhere quieter (preferably his dorm or a serene coffeehouse) if he wants to avoid getting a pounding headache.
Jongdae and Sunyoung are lost in their moves and he barely manages to gesture to Jongdae that he's going to get a drink. His roommate nods, waving him off, and Jongin bolts from the dance floor before Jongdae has a chance to reconsider. He knows he's just being paranoid though, because Jongdae's too enthralled by the swishing of his girlfriend's shimmery halter neck dress to actually give a shit what his roommate is up to.
Jongin had been so relieved when they'd picked Sunyoung up from her dorm earlier that evening, and it had just been her - no sign at all of the tall, stunning Soojung. He'd been so relieved, because whether he liked it or not, Jongin found himself mourning the loss of Joonmyun a second time. The last thing he needed right now was to have tortured conversation with a girl who was interested in him but whom he had no hope of ever being interested in.
The thought of having a solitary drink depresses Jongin so his eyes begin searching the room for familiar dark brown hair and sullen eyes. It doesn't take long to pick out the smooth, milky biceps and the jaguar print top. He's about to approach his neighbor and drag him to the bar when he notices hands on Sehun's waist ... hands that are traveling from his hips to his ribs. A wiry, red-haired man is pressing slow, sultry kisses against Sehun's neck while their hips move sinuously together. The music is just an excuse, Jongin thinks, shaking his head.
When had Lu Han arrived even? Whatever, everyone's got someone so I guess it'll just be me and my beer.
Sharp waves of shame roll over Jongin and he cringes at how whiny that had sounded in his head. He can’t go on this way; it’s time to move on. Squaring his shoulders, he heads for the bar.
The bar is a sophisticated amalgamation of glossy black granite surface with recess-lit frosted glass front. The bartender has his back towards him as Jongin sinks onto a white leather bar stool. Jongin's never seen a bartender quite as small built, not that his lack of height is getting in the way of his speed behind the counter. Jongin enjoys watching as the man moves around with a swift, almost catlike grace. Dressed all in black, he's got broad shoulders, slim hips and thighs. He’s compact and attractive – from behind anyway.
Irrationally, Jongin wishes it were Joonmyun behind the counter. There's a small twinge beneath his ribs as he wonders if he'll ever find Joonmyun again. He'd been so close. Joonmyun's eyes had been veiled by the reflective aviator lenses, but what Jongin had seen of his face that afternoon had been enough to haunt his daydreams. And the mole above those curved, pale pink lips. Jongin couldn't allow himself to think about that mole.
"That's a nice shirt you got there," the bartender says and Jongin looks up and ... almost loses it because it's Joonmyun. He's smiling; and it's an almost sexy smile that makes it difficult for Jongin to remember how to breathe.
Joonmyun's wearing a black version of the ivory mandarin collared shirt Jongin's currently wearing, and it's tucked into black jeans. His sleeves are rolled up to the elbow and his forearms are slim and more muscular than Jongin remembers. The elegantly formed arms and strong hands are in perpetual motion as Joonmyun pours and mixes drink after drink for thirsty club goers.
He looks incredible in black. He always has, Jongin realizes. He'd just been too young to appreciate it when they were teenagers.
"Yeah, it is a nice shirt. We have good taste." Jongin says and tries not to die at how lame his joke is. He especially tries not to die at how much it hurts that Joonmyun doesn’t seem to remember him.
"Undeniably," Joonmyun's left eyebrow lifts in amusement. "What drink can I get you?"
"A beer?" Jongin’s vague answer makes Joonmyun laugh. It's not easy to hear Joonmyun's husky laughter over the booming of the speakers but what little he can make out still manages to create a warm buzz in Jongin's belly.
"Dude, we've got so many kinds here. Would you like ..." and he reels off a long list of brand names: exotic European ones like Hoegaarden, Alhambra Reserva and Erdinger, plus more familiar brands like Miller and Budweiser.
"I ... could you maybe recommend one?" Jongin had been too mesmerized by the timbre of Joonmyun's voice to really pay attention to any of the names he'd mentioned.
"Sure. You look like someone who'd go for a smooth beer, so I'm gonna get you a Hoegaarden white ale." And Joonmyun's giving that not quite smile again - the one that ignites Jongin's insides.
"Okay." Jongin nods, praying he doesn't sound as star struck as he feels. Joonmyun spins on his wheels in a graceful motion and retrieves a cola-colored bottle from the dark recesses of the bar. There's a sharp thud as glass meets granite.
"This is one of my favourite beers. Let me know what you think." This time, it's a grin - not that it even matters because Joonmyun's grins and almost-smiles are equally devastating.
"I bet you say that to all the boys," Jongin mutters before he can stop himself.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Customers! I bet you say that to all the customers.
"I could have sworn I heard boys," Joonmyun chuckles and it's a warm, trickling sound that's even more destroying than his smile and grin. With dawning certainty, Jongin knows he’s not going to make it out of this club with his sanity or his soul intact.
"Maybe?" Jongin's cheeks are hot and he's pretty sure it's not from the few sips of alcohol he's had.
"I don't say it to all the boys." Joonmyun says as he slides three pineapple-garnished glasses of citrusy cocktails across the slick granite. "Chanyeol," he calls to the waiter, who is currently wiping liquid stains off a table nearby. He's way over six feet and would have looked imposing if not for his easy grin and friendly eyes. Taking in Chanyeol's outfit, Jongin realizes that all the waiters and bartenders are dressed in black - it's not just Joonmyun. But while the waiters and waitresses wear tight, short-sleeved cotton tops, the two bartenders on duty wear tailored, long-sleeved mandarin-collared shirts. The other bartender, a regal long-haired woman called Boa, is working at the counter on the flip side of the bar area, so it's just Joonmyun over here.
"Thanks, Myun," Chanyeol nods as he transfers the glasses onto a sheer, perspex tray before striding off.
"Two piña coladas and a frozen cranberry margarita! Fuck these fancy drinks. Doesn't anyone drink whiskey on the rocks or gin and tonic anymore?" The waitress complains as she slaps an order chit on the counter. Joonmyun just laughs as he retrieves the piece of paper, scanning its contents.
Jongin likes her edgy, asymmetrical blonde quiff and the way she crackles with vibrant energy as she tells Joonmyun about how some drunk asshole had tried to come on to a bunch of girls and grabbed one of them. Someone called Tao had apparently thrown "the dick" out of the club straight after the incident. Joonmyun calls her Amber and Jongin thinks the name suits her.
Knowing he’ll just have to wait for their conversation to resume, Jongin sips his white ale. It's subtle and smooth, just as Joonmyun had described, and he's enjoying it. But then he'd known he would like it even before he took that first sip because Joonmyun had always liked the same things he liked.
He wonders if that's still true – whether they’d still end up making more or less the same food and drink choices if they went out for dinner together. When they were in high school, it hadn't mattered if it was the school cafeteria or a diner or McDonald’s, Jongin and Joonmyun had often ordered the same things. But so much could have changed in the past seven years and there's so much Jongin no longer knows about Joonmyun.
The semi-darkness is broken by the intermittent flashing of the ghostly strobe lights, and Jongin wishes it were brighter in here so he could see better. Joonmyun's high cheekbones and prominent eyebrows stand out though, even in the dimly lit bar area. He moves with a fluid efficiency, suspending bottle after bottle high in the air and tipping various kinds of alcohol into waiting, exotic cocktail glasses filled with ice chips. Jongin watches, hypnotized, as electric blue liquid sloshes around in a bottle labelled Blue Curaçao.
"Y'know, I wasn't going to say anything but ... you remind me of this kid I once knew." He agitates the cocktail shaker a few times with a few smooth flicks of the wrist, and then he's pouring piña colada into a tall, fluted glass and garnishing the drink with a maraschino cherry and a small pink umbrella.
Caught in a whirlwind of what-ifs, Jongin takes a moment to consider what to do next. Perhaps it’s the beer he’s consumed that makes him reckless, but he decides that he can’t just sit back quietly and risk not seeing Joonmyun again after tonight. He has to say something. Just something … anything.
"Maybe I am the kid you once knew."
"I d-" Joonmyun stops moving for a few seconds as Chanyeol collects the drinks and whisks off. Jongin lifts the sweating beer bottle to his mouth and takes what he hopes is a nonchalant swig before gripping his left earlobe between his thumb and index finger in a nervous gesture. It's a bad habit he's had since he was a teenager, something he needs to kick. Joonmyun used to say he'd never be a decent poker player until he stopped doing that.
"Jongin?" The look of shock on Joonmyun's face is unmistakable.
"You don't look so happy to see me, hyung," Jongin's smile has a sad edge to it.
"That's not ... I'm just, I wasn't expecting this, Jongin. I haven't seen you in 7 years and you look so different from when you were 14 and ..." Joonmyun's words trailed off.
"Seven years is a long time. I grew up." Only a few quiet words, but Jongin's eyes are full of secrets. He hopes Joonmyun doesn't notice.
"How are you, hyung? Am I still allowed to call you hyung? I've no idea what you've been doing with yourself all these years."
"I ... Hyung is fine. You can always call me hyung," Joonmyun sounds almost wistful and a little seedling unfurls in Jongin's chest.
A little hope.
"Where did you go? I mean after you left?"
"I moved around a bit the first few years - Mom's job," he shrugged like that explained everything.
"Have you been happy?"
"Ah, y'know, I got by." A tight smile, and it's one that Jongin remembers too. Before Jongin can say anything else, the androgynous Amber returns for the drinks and vanishes almost as quickly as she'd appeared. Suddenly, they're alone again.
"So, I saw you on campus a few days ago."
"Snapback and sunnies. That was you? I should have known." Joonmyun's expression softens.
"I didn't think you'd recognize me. How did you know?"
"It was your lips. The shape of your mouth," he says distractedly and Jongin can tell the exact moment Joonmyun realizes how incriminating that explanation sounds, because that’s when his eyes shift downwards. He'd always done that when he was younger - when he was embarrassed. He’d look down, cheeks burning a dusky pink. It was too dark now to tell, but Jongin knew instinctively that if he placed his palm on Joonmyun's cheeks now, they'd be just a touch too warm.
“You remember the shape of my mouth?”
“Yeah, I guess I do.” Joonmyun drags his hand through his hair.
“I remember yours too,” Jongin gives a shy smile and it’s enough to dissolve the tension as Joonmyun returns the smile. And for a while they just play catch up on the last seven years, while Joonmyun mixes up drink after drink, decants glasses of white and red, pours draft into chilled beer mugs, and dispenses bottle after bottle of beer.
Slowly, the lost years take shape ... missing pieces, recovered. They'd both been in two to three semi-serious relationships, but nothing which had lasted longer than a few weeks. Jongin had never been able to drum up appropriate amounts of passion for anyone else, and to be honest, he'd never had the heart to even try. He wonders why Joonmyun had abandoned his failed relationships. Selfishly, Jongin wishes he might've been one of the whys.
It turns out Joonmyun is doing a Masters in Biochemistry, and Jongin laughs, asking how a Biochem major ended up working part time as a bartender.
"But it makes total sense, Jonginnie. I always did like mixing chemicals together."
Without warning, Jongin's heart fractures and breaks all over again because no one has called him that in seven years. Even though the name is shouted and the situation is anything but romantic, it still hits him hard.
Why is it so fucking noisy in this club?
"Are you okay?"
"It's just ... I haven't heard that name in years."
"Yeah. That one." He takes a hurried swig of beer to hide his loss of composure.
"No one else called you that, did they?"
"It was just you."
"Ah." The bottle of Absolut Citron lands on the counter with a gentle thud.
"Did you miss me at all, hyung?"
"I ... You know what? Let's talk after my shift. I don't really want to yell out our private business here. Unless you've got other plans?"
"My friends ditched me." This isn't necessarily true because Jongin was the one who'd texted Jongdae and Sehun earlier, telling them he'd find his own way home. Sehun had been typically blasé, replying with a basic K. Jongdae, on the other hand, hadn't been able to resist a less than subtle show of curiosity:
That bartender is cute. 100% approve. Make sure you get his number ... and his pants off.
Laughing, Jongin had responded with a perfunctory fuck off, Kim Jongdae!
Jongin's not quite drunk, not quite sober, and he’s in a state of controlled euphoria as the alcoholic buzz settles into his bones and muscles. His back aches a little from perching on the stool all evening but the discomfort barely impinges on his senses; they’re too occupied with being in Joonmyun's gravitational orbit again. His skin is alive with anticipation and barely contained excitement because Joonmyun wants to talk after his shift, wants to spend more time with him.
As he tends bar, Joonmyun continues to reveal random fragments of his life and Jongin collects each one, storing each fragment for careful reexamination later. To his relief, none of the other clubbers seem inclined to sit at the counter and chat up the bartender, so he's had Joonmyun all to himself for most of the night. He knows he should give him some space and maybe dance a bit at intervals, but at the same time, he's scared that if he takes his eyes off him for more than a few seconds, Joonmyun will vanish into the night like he had seven years before. So for now at least, Jongin isn't budging from his spot at the bar.
The crowd in Second Chances slowly whittles down to almost nothing. Finally, at 3am, glaring fluorescent lights flicker on and flood the area. Jongdae and Sehun had left the club with their respective dates almost half an hour earlier. They’d known better than to approach him at the bar for details and had left without saying goodbye. It was in keeping with their established bro code to leave the other person alone when they got lucky. They knew there would be plenty of time for Q&A the next day.
A tall, hawk-nosed waiter whose ears are shot through with multiple obsidian and steel piercings, tries to nudge Jongin off the bar stool - presumably to help him to the exit. It's a routine aspect of the club's daily operations after all, to clear the premises of all conscious and semi-conscious bodies in various stages of inebriation.
"Tao, wait! It's cool, just leave him. He's um ... an old friend. I'm giving him a ride."
"He should at least move to one of those sofas. Y'know, before he falls off that stool and gives himself a concussion. He's come fucking close a few times." Tao's deep hazel eyes give Joonmyun a sharp, assessing look. Jongin can just see them talking through narrowed eyes, as his cheek rests on cold granite.
"Also, he's using the bar counter as a pillow. I don't think you want to be wiping him down with soapy water - nice as it smells."
"I get your point! Maybe move him to that couch?" Joonmyun points at the zebra print couch and Tao gives a long suffering sigh before helping Jongin none too gently from the stool to the sofa.
“Is he your boyfriend?” Tao asks and Jongin holds his breath as he waits for Joonmyun’s answer.
“He was … a long time ago.” Joonmyun says quietly.
“I’ll have to convince him he wants me again.” There's no cockiness in the words. In fact, there might even be lashings of insecurity.
“Dude, I don't think he needs any convincing. He sat here all fucking night! I mean you're good company and all, Joonmyun, but I wouldn't sit on an uncomfortable bar stool for hours just to talk to you. No offence.” Tao chuckles and Joonmyun snaps the dish towel so it hits the tall waiter’s arm.
“I hope you're right. I really need you to be right.” He turns to look at Jongin, who manages to shut his eyelids just in time.
The two men banter for a minute or two more before they get back to their nightly clean up routine. Tao starts wiping down tables and stacking up chairs while Joonmyun washes and dries glasses. Then he sprays cleaning liquid on the counter and wipes it down. Amber's mopping the floor nearby, rapping to a Linkin Park song. It's a comforting hum of activity and Jongin finds himself falling asleep for real.