"Let's stop there!" Jongin yelled - his low, husky voice choppy above the roaring of the wind. ‘There’ was a wooden bridge up ahead. It was one of those covered bridges which could shelter one from the elements, from the sun, rain, wind. The gunmetal grey clouds had been gathering for some distance now and Jongin really really didn't want to get caught in a torrential rainstorm.
"We can make it home before the storm hits if we pedal really hard, Jongin!" Joonmyun had always been the risk taker, the more impulsive one in their tight unit of two.
"No, we can't!" Jongin's voice was urgent and Joonmyun relented as they sped up and eventually skidded to a stop on the echoey wooden planking. Leaving their bicycles lying on the floor, pedals still spinning, the boys practically flung themselves at the railing. Bodies flushed with adrenalin, they half hung over the edge as the wind rushed over and around them. It was exhilarating. The smell of ozone filled the air as the lightning began to electrify the atmosphere and deafening cracks of thunder drowned the earth in sound. It was like being under attack and they reveled in it.
"Bet you two bucks the lightning is going to strike over there!" Jongin grinned as he pointed at a spot beyond a copse of trees.
"Bet you three bucks it's gonna hit that tree." Joonmyun's eyes twinkled with lazy mischief as he indicated what looked like the tallest tree in the area - a solitary tree in the middle of a small glade.
"Fine, three bucks. But if I win I don't want the money."
"What the hell? What do you want then?"
"I'll show you if I win," Jongin answered mysteriously and his smile, the one that reached his eyes, was making Joonmyun giddy with need.
"But if I win then I'll never know, you asshole! Now I'm never going to get any sleep." Joonmyun shoved his shoulder and Jongin laughed at how annoyed he looked. But both boys went silent when warning flashes lit up the cloud bank. They stood beside each other, shoulders touching and faces solemn. Jongin had overtaken him in height the previous Christmas and was already two inches taller. If the younger boy continued growing, the day would come when their shoulders wouldn't even touch anymore.
Jongin's arm reached around Joonmyun's shoulders as they waited for the hammer to strike. It felt good. The weight on his shoulders felt like it belonged and Joonmyun had to restrain himself from slipping his arm around Jongin's waist. He'd been thinking about Jongin far too much in the past few months.
It had started with his smiles, his pretty smiles which crinkled his face with fine lines he wanted to trace with his fingertips. Then there was the way they just ended up leaning against each other, arms and legs entangled when they watched movies together on the living room couch. There'd been so many times he'd just wanted to lean over and kiss Jongin as the movie played on in the background. All those moments had added up to such a complicated, irrevocable knot of intense joy and exquisite pain for Joonmyun - one he both clung to and wanted to unravel.
The basketball sessions were the toughest challenge for him though. When they played one on one, they'd brush up against each other, grab each other roughly, slap and even hug occasionally - just like they'd always done since Jongin was ten and Joonmyun was twelve. But one day it had all been just too much for Joonmyun to cope with. That night, he'd jerked off to images of Jongin kissing him, Jongin with damp hair clinging to his face, sweat-sheened collarbones, shoulder blades and slender biceps exposed by his sleeveless, racerback jersey. He'd felt so ashamed and guilty afterwards, and he'd tried not to touch Jongin much at all afterwards.
He needed to stem the tide of these thoughts and feelings because Jongin was his dongsaeng. He wouldn't understand if Joonmyun kissed him like he wanted to. They'd always been best friends. He wasn't sure if he'd survive it if Jongin stopped being his friend because he couldn't deal with Joonmyun's less than platonic feelings for him. So he'd keep this unspoken shame buried inside himself for as long as he was able.
"Hit that tree, come on," Joonmyun chanted like that bolt of lightning could actually hear him. And as it turned out, the lightning couldn't because it struck the ground beyond the tree grove instead.
"I won." Jongin's voice was rife with disbelief. He never won when he bet against Joonmyun.
"No need to rub it in. Okay, fine, what's your prize?" Joonmyun's fist nudges Jongin's chin gently.
"But ... I didn't expect to win."
"I know, Jonginnie. Now show me what you want. A bet's a bet." He turned towards him and all that smooth tawny skin and curved bottom lip was suddenly too close - so close that Joonmyun couldn't breathe. The wind ripped at Jongin's hair, making a few strands fall messily across his forehead; and he wanted nothing more than to push that hair aside and kiss him on the forehead.
He needed to make these feelings stop. He needed them to just ... stop.
"Hyung," Jongin's eyes were intense, so intense. Joonmyun had never seen them look this way.
"Please don't hate me," Jongin whispered as he closed his eyes, leaned forward and kissed him on the mouth. It was a tentative kiss, gauche and inexpert but Joonmyun was just as inexperienced. As Jongin's lips moved shyly against his, the only thing going through his mind was: He likes me back. Jongin likes me back.
As the wind tugged at their faces and hair, and the rain began coming down in sheets, Joonmyun's arms reached around Jongin and held him so close their collarbones clashed and chests touched. They were safe from the rain but tiny drops of wet still ricocheted off the railing, landing on their overheated skin.
Slowly, almost reverently, Joonmyun held Jongin's face in his hands and said, "I could never hate you." He pressed his nose against Jongin's neck, inhaling the scent of his skin.
"I could never hate you, Jonginnie," he repeated as he kissed the corner of Jongin's mouth. Then, urgently, he pressed his lips to Jongin's, his tongue sweeping into the boy's eager, hot mouth.
Jongin tasted of yesterdays and tomorrows.
Jongin tasted of forever.
And Joonmyun knew in that single moment ... he knew he would always love this boy.
late summer 2014
"Wake up, Jongin. Can you hear me?" His voice sounds a little lower pitched than he remembers, more grown up. Jongin doesn't understand. Isn't his hyung sixteen years old?
"Jonginnie? Are you okay?" Cool fingers brush his forehead and the sofa sinks a little as someone sits down beside him. Smiling sleepily, Jongin shifts and eases his head onto Joonmyun's lap. He feels safe, content, as his hyung strokes his hair. It's the best dream he's had in a long time and he doesn't want it to end.
"Jongin, they're locking up the club so we have to leave now." Strong fingers cradle his cheek.
"But hyung, I'm having the best dream. You're here and you're with me and I don't want to wake up."
"It's not a dream." Jongin swears he can hear a smile in that voice. His hand reaches out and holds one slim, denim-clad knee.
"You're actually here?" Jongin opens his eyes but refuses to move - especially when Joonmyun's hand is running over his hair.
"Yes, I am. I only served you three beers tonight, Jongin. You can't possibly be that drunk?" Joonmyun shakes his head skeptically.
"Did you mean what you said? About talking?" Jongin turns his head so he's looking up at Joonmyun, whose hand settles on Jongin's neck, his thumb rubbing gentle circles into sleep-warm skin.
"It's seven years too late but yes, I meant what I said. But we need to get out of this place now before they lock us in and we end up spending the night on a zebra print couch."
"That actually sounds g-"
"NO." Joonmyun's tone is final as he tries to hoist Jongin up into sitting position.
"We need to talk, not spend the night in this club." He pulls Jongin by the hand and they head for the exit. His grip is strong ... like maybe he won't let go this time. Jongin's heart skips a beat and dares to hope.
It's Joonmyun's idea to walk along Echo Beach and Jongin agrees immediately. He doesn't even care where they go as long as they do it together. Neither one of them wants to have their heart-to-heart talk in McDonald's or a greasy 24-hour diner, so the beach seems like the perfect solution. Never mind that it's almost 4 am when they finally get there.
Hand in hand, they pick their way across the sand in the darkness. The path down to the beach is lit in restrained, golden light but the strip of sand itself is cloaked in moonlit shadow. Pant legs rolled up to their knees, they walk on the ocean's edge - the briny water curling and foaming around their ankles as grains of wet sand squelch between their toes. After a few minutes of strolling along the shoreline, Joonmyun suggests they climb up to a flat section of the terrain, so they can sit there and watch the sun rising. They finally manage to find a suitable spot overgrown with tall, luxuriant dune grass.
"Did you miss me, hyung? Did you think of me at all after you left?" Jongin's fingers instinctively tighten around Joonmyun's - afraid he'll slip away again.
"Yes, I missed you. I never wanted to but it happened anyway."
"Will you leave me again?"
"I don't want to."
“Then don’t.” Jongin grabs Joonmyun's arm, "Please don't make me go through that again. Please don't leave." Jongin had promised himself he wouldn't beg but this is Joonmyun and he has to try.
"I don't think I could, even if I wanted to. I barely made it the first time," Joonmyun's finger traces the curve of Jongin's bottom lip and it's intoxicating, sweet. That deep ache low in his gut is spreading already as Joonmyun closes the distance between them. The kiss, when it happens, is full of desperation, bruising almost in its intensity. Their tongues explore and invade and pleasure, and just melt away the years they've spent apart. Joonmyun's hands slip under ivory linen and caress the broad expanse of Jongin's back as their mouths chase each other. It’s a mixture of instinct and yearning that has them grinding their hips together, the pleasure so intense Jongin feels like he might actually die.
When they finally break apart, they're panting - lips swollen with passion and eyes dark with pent up longing. Jongin is no longer the 14 year old who'd dared to kiss his hyung while a thunderstorm crashed around them. And Joonmyun is no longer the equally inexperienced boy who had kissed him back. They've both grown taller and their bodies are wider set, and lean rather than thin. Their bodies are different but their hearts ... their hearts haven't changed at all. There's so much Jongin still needs to learn about Joonmyun but he knows this much at least - his hyung still loves him.
Jongin's turning this thought over and over in his head when Joonmyun's lips slide over his again and he guides Jongin down onto the ground beside him. The sand is hard beneath his back and the fresh sharp smell of crushed grass pricks at his nostrils. But Jongin barely registers all this as Joonmyun's tongue licks all around the inside of his mouth. His cock twitches as Joonmyun's fingers brush against the bare skin of his collarbones, his chest, and his abdomen as they undo Jongin's buttons one by one.
The need is escalating and Jongin tries to reach for black buttons on black cloth but Joonmyun pushes his hands away. Later, he says huskily, moaning softly when Jongin's lips leave a scorching trail across his neck and jaw. When Jongin's shirt is finally unbuttoned, Joonmyun licks the taut flesh of his stomach and pulls at one dark nipple with his teeth, while his hands grope for the waistband of Jongin's jeans.
Jongin doesn't care how loud his moans are at this point - there's no one here to judge anyway but the moon and the stars. He bucks his hips as Joonmyun strokes his erection through zippered denim. He pushes hard into Joonmyun's hand as he drags the brass tab down, relieving the constraint of the fabric on Jongin's cock, inch by sinfully slow inch. It's almost dawn and the late summer air is cool, pebbling Jongin's nipples and making him shiver. When Joonmyun's mouth glides over the tip of his cock and all the way down its length, though, the slight chill is the last thing on Jongin's mind.
"Oh God," he barely manages to gasp as Joonmyun takes him in his mouth again, even as he wraps his fingers around his shaft and moves his fist up and down at a maddeningly slow but devastating pace. The double assault leaves Jongin a moaning, writhing mess - the knowledge that it's actually Joonmyun pleasuring him after all this time only deepening the sensations. Jongin watches as the other man’s mouth and fingers move over him, faster and faster, and the pressure builds and builds until the slightest touch might send him spiralling. When Jongin finally reaches that blinding point, his eyes shut in bliss and he moans Joonmyun's name as he shudders and comes.
Later, Joonmyun procures tissues from somewhere and wipes him off carefully before arranging himself on Jongin's chest like a heavy, breathing blanket.
"We haven't ... talked much," Jongin says sheepishly. Sated, he snuggles up against Joonmyun.
"We have a whole lifetime to talk," Joonmyun says as he dusts his belly with kisses. "I missed you so much, Jonginnie. I'm so sorry I never told you."
"Why didn't you ever write, you asshole? Or call?"
"I was scared ... but mostly just stupid."
"I know you were stupid but what were you scared of?"
"I was scared you'd leave me, I guess."
"So you left me instead? You douche!" Jongin grimaces and punches his arm but there's no real bite to it.
"Douche, asshole, prick … I'm all of those things for what I did to you. I have no right to ask for a second chance but now that we've found each other again? I'm going to keep on asking until you take me back." Joonmyun's voice and his eyes are full of remorse and ... maybe anxiety? Maybe even fear. Jongin knows he should make Joonmyun suffer like he's made him suffer, at least a little. But they've already lost so much - time, milestones, everything.
"I should make you wait seven years before I give you an answer."
"I'll wait seven years if that's what it'll take to convince you."
"You're just saying that."
"The way I see it, I never stopped loving you all this time. I've already waited seven years for you, so why wouldn't I wait another seven?" Joonmyun takes Jongin's hands in his, eyes burning with sincerity and love. That's when Jongin's tears come and Joonmyun wipes them away while his own tears threaten to fall.
"I'm so sorry I hurt you, Jongin. I'll try my best to take away all that hurt, even if it takes seven years for you to trust me again."
"Lucky for you I don't even want to wait another seven minutes," Jongin grumbles, awkwardly wiping the moisture from his cheeks.
"Is that a yes, you'll take me back?"
"It's a just kiss me, hyung," Jongin says and he's crying again as Joonmyun hugs him and kisses away the tears. "If you try to leave me again I swear that's it. I won't take you back. No more chances."
"I won't leave you again, Jonginnie. You'll have to kick me out on my ass," and he seals his promise with a kiss that's both passionate and sweet.
"You still owe me a proper explanation for freezing me out."
"But it can wait. Now that we've sorted out the next seventy years of our lives, I think you're wearing too many clothes." Joy, relief, love and lust are coursing through him, and Jongin is a heady tangle of emotions as he licks a path up Joonmyun's neck. His fingers reaching for black shirt buttons, he sucks on Joonmyun's earlobe and presses against Joonmyun’s hips and feels his cock growing heavy again.
There would be plenty of time for explanations later.
It's 5 am and Jongin and Joonmyun are exhausted, but they’re too wired, too caught up in the fever of first love recovered to care that they haven’t slept. Sitting side by side on the grass with their knees up, Jongin's left arm is draped over Joonmyun's thighs and his hand cups one knee possessively. They watch, both silent, as the dark sky is streaked through with ribbons and banners of champagne gold, pale orange and misty lilac. They just soak in the beauty as the sun emerges from the horizon and scales the sky.
"Why didn't you send me any photos? After that first year?"
"You read them!" Jongin yells accusingly.
"Every single one.” Joonmyun looks down guiltily as he admits the truth. “When you told me you'd enrolled in my university, I couldn’t believe it. I’ve looked out for you everywhere since I got that email, but I never found you. Who knew you'd crash back into my life again this week? When you told me you'd seen me on campus, I got so upset because I thought I'd missed my last chance to see you again."
"Why didn't you say anything? Why didn't you just email me for fuck's sake? You're such a moron, how are you even a postgrad student?" Jongin can't quite keep the bitter edge out of his voice.
"Who knows why this stupid heart of mine does the things it does. The number of times I wanted to reply and tell you everything. But I'm stupid like that. And a coward. What if I'd actually written and never heard from you again?"
"You're such an idiot, Kim Joonmyun!"
"I know. But why didn't you send me any selcas after? I wanted one I could carry around in my wallet where you didn't look so sad."
"I looked sad because I was sad. I wasn't sure if you were even reading those emails, hyung. I felt stupid enough writing them year after year. Sending photos just seemed too stupid. Besides, even if I'd sent you more selcas, you wouldn't have carried them in your wallet anyway."
"Yes I would." Slowly, he reaches into his back pocket and takes out a battered, black leather wallet, flipping it open. Carefully, he removes a wrinkled photograph and places it across Jongin's knees. It's the selca they took together the afternoon Jongin had kissed him for the very first time. They had leaned over the railing while Jongin held the phone out as far as he could, and snapped the photograph. They looked so young and so happy. So in love.
"It's getting a little old. I should print a new one."
"I should too," Jongin smiles as he pulls his own wallet from his pocket and produces the same weathered photograph. “Actually, it’s been seven years. We should probably take a new selca of ourselves, hyung.”
"We're a pair of fools." Joonmyun looks so sad when he says this that Jongin hugs him close.
"Lovesick fools," Jongin gives a self-deprecating smile before kissing Joonmyun hard on the mouth. "Can we stop being stupid already?"
"Yes, let's stop," Joonmyun whispers as his mouth seeks Jongin's again. “I love you, Jongin.”
“I love you too.”
fever ... almost winter 2012
Joonmyun never went out on his birthday, never accepted invitations from friends to go out and celebrate - get happy, get lucky, get wasted on the day he turned a year older. No matter how much they pressured him and tempted him and gave him shit, Joonmyun never said yes. You'd think they'd have stopped trying by now but his friends were incredibly relentless. It had been easier in high school because he'd just told them he was grounded and they'd left it at that. But college students were completely different animals. Lucky he was just as stubborn as they were.
He usually picked up something quick to eat on the way home and when he was back at the dorm, he'd launch his Gmail app and wait. He usually had a show or a movie playing in another window, or his Kindle in his lap, but his eyes would keep wandering to his mail browser window.
It usually arrived sometime between 8 and 9 in the evening - never earlier, never later. And when it did, Joonmyun would open up the mail folder marked 'First', because Jongin was his first love, first kiss, first ... everything.
Jongin was his everything.
The most recent emails were the five dated one year apart, which he'd received on December 8th - his birthday. Beneath those were at least thirty emails Jongin had sent him that first year he left. He'd wanted so much to answer each one but he knew he wasn't strong enough for a long distance thing where they'd write and Skype, and drift apart. He wasn't about that life. He wasn't quite sure how this was any better but at least this way no one would ever have to cling desperately to a dying relationship. When Jongin finally stopped writing to him, that's when things would finally stop. There wouldn't be any angry words and hurtful lies. No broken promises. He didn't want his memory of Jongin to be tainted by broken promises.
When his father had left his mom and him, citing irreconcilable differences, he'd promised 8 year-old Joonmyun he'd write and call. Six sloppily written emails later, the news had more or less dried up. He hadn't wanted that for Jongin and himself. So he'd decided to sever all the threads that tied them together. Or at least he'd tried. But here he was, waiting for his annual email with all the longing and craving he'd never wanted to feel for the boy he'd never wanted to walk away from.
Before he opened the email to read, he dragged and dropped it into Jongin's folder so it would always be where he could find it. He smiled as he read about Jongin's adventures in the past 12 months. Jongin never sent any photos. He always hoped to see caramel skin and generous lips and that smile that made his heart ache, but there were never any photos - not beyond the fifteen or so selcas of 14 year old Jongin he'd received that first year after he left.
The sad smiles in those photos had broken his heart and he didn't look at them so often. His heart always fell when he opened up his birthday emails and saw no paper clip icon; but it wasn't like he could say anything about it, because then he'd have to admit he'd been reading and rereading his emails all these years. God, how he'd reread and reread them.
Why couldn't he just let go of Jongin? Just forget about him and let him go? Why couldn't he just go to him? Go back to his hometown and see him? What was he so afraid of?
Maybe one day he'd have the courage to click reply and carve the insides of his heart onto the screen and send the words to Jongin. Then he'd tell him how sorry he was for leaving him behind. He'd tell him how much he wished he could see him. He'd tell him how much he missed him. And above all, he'd tell him how much he loved him.
But not this year. Maybe one day he'd do it. But not today.
Maybe one day.
epilogue ... almost winter 2014
For the first time in seven years, Joonmyun isn’t spending his birthday alone in front of a computer. They end up having grilled shrimp at a quaint seafood restaurant overlooking Cottesloe Beach, Jongin insisting he wants to take him out for a nice dinner on his birthday. The Blue Heron is an expensive restaurant and Joonmyun tries to convince Jongin to let him pay but his boyfriend ignores him, of course.
The air has a strong bite to it but they decide to eat out on the terrace anyway. Jongin had made an early booking so they get to enjoy a blazing sunset as they share an entrée of smoked salmon carpaccio. There’s a brief pang of regret as Joonmyun recalls another sunset from years ago, when he'd said goodbye to Jongin and hurt them both so completely. But it’s only a brief moment that evaporates when Jongin steals some capers and a wafer thin slice of salmon from his plate.
“If I’d known you were going to be this distracted, I would have taken you to McDonald’s!” Jongin teases.
“I’m not distracted. I’m all yours, I swear,” Joonmyun protests.
“Good. Happy birthday, hyung.” He smiles, leaning forward to give Joonmyun a tender kiss. It’s been almost five months since they got back together and Jongin’s smiles still have the power to overwhelm Joonmyun when he isn’t expecting them. But Joonmyun doesn’t mind because just having Jongin back is more than Joonmyun had ever dared hope for. They've had their fun and tender moments as well as their mild disagreements and shouting matches, and Joonmyun doesn’t regret a single one of those moments.
He’s just so grateful for Jongin. Every single day, he’s grateful.
Jongin presses the power button on the remote control, cutting off the noise abruptly. Getting off the bed, he mutters something about going to brush his teeth and Joonmyun shakes his head as he sees him enter the bathroom with his phone.
“Why do you need your phone while you brush your teeth? You are so going to drop that phone into the toilet one of these days!” Joonmyun snorts as he grabs his own phone from the bedside table and goes into his gmail. He retrieves the draft he’s been working on for months and hesitates for all of five seconds before clicking send. Now that he's done it, he hopes Jongin’s phone doesn’t end up in the toilet for real.
“As if!” Jongin yells over the sounds of brushing.
Joonmyun’s getting ready to retort with something sarcastic when he sees the email alert on his phone: 1 new message from ChelseaForLife@gmail.com. Why was Jongin emailing him from the bathroom? He can’t have had enough time to read the email. It’s not possible.
Impatiently, Joonmyun opens the email, and laughs when he sees the email subject because this is the seventh year running that he's seen those words in his mailbox. He opens the email and reads:
Dear hyung, Happy Birthday! I bet you weren’t expecting to get one of these this year but here it is anyway.
The message is littered with obnoxious smileys, lame jokes and anecdotes about his life that year - some of these things Jongin has shared with him already and some are completely new to him. It's so much like all the other birthday emails Jongin has sent him in the past, except some of the stories include Joonmyun now and it makes him so happy it actually aches - in that space right beneath his ribs.
There's one other thing that's different about this email. For the first time in seven years, Jongin has sent him a selca. And he looks so handsome in that ivory mandarin collared shirt he wore that first night at Second Chances. It’s still Joonmyun’s favorite and he’s always trying to con Jongin into wearing it. His boyfriend has some kind of smirk on his face like he's trying to look sexy. It makes Joonmyun feel all kinds of things and he likes it; but he decides he's going to make Jongin take one where he's not trying to be anything ... one where he's just Jongin. Joonmyun loves that Jongin the best.
“I can’t believe you replied every email I ever sent you.” Jongin sits on the mattress beside him, looking dazed and shell-shocked.
“I should have sent all those replies years ago. Just let me grovel, okay? To make up for all the shit I put you through.”
“But hyung, I don’t expect you to. I mean we’re back with each other, I wasn’t expecting you to do this. It's been years.”
“Well, you’re getting them anyway. You’d better read them, Jonginnie. I spent months writing them for fuck’s sake.”
“Of course, I'm going to read them!” Jongin glares at him, offended.
“Good! But not tonight. It’s my birthday and I have plans for you and they don’t include reading emails.”
"Do you?" Jongin raises an eyebrow as Joonmyun's hands reach around his waist and drag him closer. Joonmyun may be be four inches shorter than Jongin but he's always been the stronger. Sighing, Joonmyun pulls Jongin onto the mattress beside him and they reach for each other with eager hands and eager mouths.
"Happy birthday, hyung," Jongin's voice is like melted chocolate as he kisses Joonmyun and sucks possessive cranberry marks onto his chest and the curve of his hip.
"Jongin," he gasps at the hot, wet slide of Jongin's tongue and mouth over his cock. He moans as Jongin's elegant hands imprint sensual, pretty patterns on his skin and make him feel more loved than he’s ever felt. When Jongin finally enters him with a whispered I want you so much, I'll always want you, the tears almost fall.
Joonmyun had known all those years ago, when Jongin kissed him for the first time, that he tasted of forever. Tonight, as Jongin moves inside him and nips his neck and tongues his nipples and whispers his name, he knows it will always be true. As his orgasm hits him hard and he clenches around Jongin and melts into his warm brown skin, his entire being is flooded with just one thought ...
Jongin is forever.