Pairing: Jongin/Junmyeon (with side Xiuhan and Chanbaek)
Genre: mild angst, romance, drama, smut, catboy!au, bookshop!au
Length: Chapter 6: Moving On, ~3.8k words
Summary: Bookstore owner Junmyeon hires catboy!Jongin as a live-in shop assistant. Junmyeon's wary of intimacy but Jongin is determined to get past his defenses.
Warning: tattoos and substandard smut
“Sometimes you can’t let go of the past without facing it again.”
― Gail Tsukiyama, The Samurai's Garden
The twelve feet of distance that had separated them a mere two nights ago had dissolved into the slightest whisper of distance between Jongin's chest and Junmyeon's back. Springy black hair tickled the tip of Jongin's nose, the mingled scents of cranberry and lemon filling him with lazy contentment. Junmyeon smelt good. So good. Cats had highly sensitive olfactory receptors so Jongin couldn't tolerate wearing fragrances of any kind on himself, only using neutral smelling soaps scented with cocoa and shea butter. He had been immeasurably relieved to find that Junmyeon's dresser wasn't lined with sleek glass bottles of heavily fragranced whiskey- and Chardonnay-colored fluids. This meant there were no woody, oriental or spicy heart notes to interfere with the base notes of Junmyeon's unique essence, and it was the only heady scent that Jongin craved--the only one that affected him in the most visceral of ways.
Closing his eyes, Jongin took a whiff of Junmyeon's snowy neck and his toes curled at the warm sensations that began to spread and gradually flood his being. Sunshine lapped at the pale column of skin so tantalizingly close to Jongin's lips and he hesitated for all of three seconds before dropping a kiss on the mole that lay on the left. Joonmyun’s skin tasted slightly salty beneath Jongin's tongue and the cat suddenly felt like he was drowning--his body helplessly turned on and his heart completely engaged by the man cradled in his arms. He needed, somehow, to convince Junmyeon to take a chance on him. But how would he convince him that he wouldn't hurt him like Baekhyun obviously had?
An unexpected twitching of limbs put an end to his soul searching and Jongin watched as Junmyeon stretched his sleep heavy muscles and opened his eyes blearily. When their gazes finally locked, Junmyeon's cheeks reddened slightly--like he'd been gripped by a sudden wave of self consciousness. Jongin's fingers stroked the dark fringe that fell untidily over his forehead before settling on his left cheek. Then, before Junmyeon had a chance to feel spooked, Jongin leaned forward and kissed him on the mouth.
"'Morning," Jongin said quietly, a ghost of a smile on his lips.
"You stayed." Junmyeon's voice was soft. . .wistful almost, as his fingers reached out and shyly traced the edges of Jongin's jaw.
"I told you I won't ever leave unless you ask me to," his fingers curled around Junmyeon's.
"I wasn't sure. . ." His words trailed off and Jongin lay his cheek on the milky expanse of his chest.
"I'm not going anywhere, unless you want me to." Gently, he placed his palm on the flat planes of Junmyeon's belly and his thumb began to rub soothing, sensual shapes on the sleep-warm surface while his tail wrapped itself lightly around Junmyeon's thigh. "Do you want me to? To go, I mean??" Jongin raised himself onto his elbows with feline grace before dragging his tongue over the tattoo on Junmyeon's left collarbone with agonizing slowness, moving over milky skin to nuzzle his neck and nibble on his earlobe. Then, his mouth moved southward so he could suck gently on Junmyeon's pale pink nipples before licking the quill inked onto his hip. The muted tingles of sensation awakened Junmyeon's skin, making him gasp.
"Stay. . .please stay." Junmyeon said just before he pulled Jongin towards him and their lips met in a kiss that was searing and tender. He could feel the weight of Jongin's tall, elegant body bearing down on him, anchoring his body and his soul. Sighing, Junmyeon pressed closer to him and stroked the satiny ears that drew his touch before surrendering himself entirely to Jongin's strong, insistent hands and firm lips. The cat's skin was as smooth as his own, but hot. . .so much hotter than his and Junmyeon moaned softly as Jongin's fingers closed over the silken skin of his cock and gently tugged it a few times before taking it in his mouth. . .
Sunshine streamed in through the beige curtains, bathing Jongin's dusky skin in champagne tinted light as he pushed slowly into Junmyeon. His eyes closed in rapture as he pushed all the way in, and began to slowly rock his hips. It had been years since Junmyeon had felt this kind of fullness and it was more pleasurable, more intense than anything he'd experienced before--and it had everything to do with the beautiful male moving sensually over him. Finally, Junmyeon wrapped his slim thighs around Jongin's waist as his thrusts picked up speed, growing more and more urgent. All broken moans and sweat-slick skin and desperate, groping hands, Joonmyun and Jongin groaned as they came more or less together. When Jongin sank on top of him, his body and energy levels spent, Junmyeon caressed Jongin's ears tenderly and the cat whispered close to Junmyeon's ear, "I won't ever leave, Junmyeon. I won't ever leave." And Junmyeon clung to him, not wanting to let him go.
"I feel like having mandu. I haven't had homemade ones in the longest time." Jongin announced when Junmyeon suggested sensibly that they should think about what to have for lunch.
"I'm fresh out of the frozen homemade ones my mom usually gives me. But we could pick some up from that takeaway place nearby."
"I meant I was going to make some, Junmyeon." Jongin chuckled.
"You can make dumplings? By hand?" There was definite skepticism now in Junmyeon's voice and the puckering of his brow.
"Yes, I can make dumplings. By hand." Fine laughter lines crinkled the skin beneath Jongin's eyes, animating his features in a heartbreakingly attractive way. "I was a kitchen hand in a Korean restaurant for 8 months, remember? I learned all kinds of neat stuff when I was there. I'm not your average bookshop assistant. I'm quite handy to have around," Jongin smiled and Junmyeon had to remind himself to breathe.
"It sounds like a lot of work," Junmyeon said dubiously.
"It's not, I promise. I enjoy working with my hands."
"I've never made mandu."
"I'll teach you. We won't even have to go out and get the ingredients because I bought them at the market yesterday. . .while you were having your shower."
"Mandu sounds good." Junmyeon nodded quietly and allowed himself to be pulled into Jongin's arms, sighing as their lips met and his tongue slipped into Jongin's mouth.
The large steel bowl was filled with minced meat and shrimp, as well as the cabbage, scallions, onions and shiitake mushrooms that Jongin and Junmyeon had chopped finely and mixed thoroughly together. The air was lightly flavored with the aroma of sesame oil, pepper, soy and ginger and Junmyeon watched carefully as Jongin demonstrated how to construct a dumpling. First, he placed a mandu pee on his left palm before putting a generous tablespoon of filling onto the center of the circular wrapper. Then, carefully, Jongin dipped his index finger in a bowl of water and wet the edges of the wrapper before folding it into a half moon shape. Then, he deftly folding the skin into tidy pleats, creating a pretty ripple effect.
"I must have watched my mom make mandu at least a hundred times but I never understood how to make them."
"You can't have been paying attention. It's not that hard." Jongin said and before Junmyeon knew what was happening, strong arms reached from behind him and strong hands held his wrists securely in their grip. He could feel Jongin's chest and shoulders pressing into his back, and Jongin's hipbones pressing into his buttocks and he had to tell himself to breathe normally.
"First, take a wrapper and spread it on your palm." Jongin instructed and Junmyeon did as he was told. "Now the filling." When the ball of meat and vegetables was in the centre of the thin wrapper, Jongin's long, slender fingers moved over Junmyeon's and manually guided him through wetting the outer edges of the skin, folding it over the filling, and finally manipulating the skin into pretty knife pleats. "See? It's not that difficult," Jongin's low, husky voice and his exhaled breaths tickled Junmyeon's right earlobe and the older man felt almost dizzy from the sensations but he forced himself to concentrate.
"Okay, now try it on your own." Jongin said patiently, but he continued to loosely cage Junmyeon's arms and wrists. This time, Jongin only had to help him to accordion and tuck the skin at the end. By the fourth dumpling, Junmyeon was doing everything on his own. He barely managed to place the finished mandu on the plate before he felt Jongin's tongue lapping at his earlobe and his erection nudging the base of his spine.
"Distract me Junmyeon, so I don't end up dragging you to bed," he whispered hoarsely.
"What if I want you to drag me to bed?" Junmyeon surprised Jongin and himself with a highly uncharacteristic boldness.
"Believe me, there's nothing I want more but we can't abandon the process halfway. As soon as that last mandu is on the plate, though. . ." His words trailed off meaningfully and Junmyeon chuckled, despite having to struggle with the worst case of blue balls ever.
"How do I distract you? I'm in need of distracting myself to be honest." Junmyeon joked in that slightly awkward way of his--like he wished he were more witty than he actually was. Jongin found it deeply endearing.
"I know you don't want to talk about it but I hope you'll tell me a little bit about your ex, Junmyeon. So I'll know what to do if I see him again, and my instincts tell me that I will. Soon."
"I. . ." Junmyeon hesitated, precariously balanced on the knife edge of indecision. The atmosphere had gone from relaxed to tense in a matter of seconds but as far as Jongin was concerned, it was something they needed to get out into the open.
"I won't force you but he knows more about me than I do about him and that makes me feel vulnerable and unprepared. The part of me that's cat is really struggling with that." Jongin released his hold on Junmyeon and sat across the small table from him, his hands beginning to move expertly as he formed one dumpling after another--tucking away his desires with iron determination.
"I've never talked about it with anyone. How things ended between us, I mean. . .But you're right, it's time I told you." Junmyeon picked up a wrapper and scooped some meat onto it. "We were working in the same firm when we met, Baekhyun and me. I was in the Editorial Department and he was in Publicity. I was into books and he wasn't," Junmyeon began and once he'd started talking about Baekhyun, he just kept going. They were in different divisions on different floors so they’d never actually met till a colleague introduced them at an office party. Baekhyun's easy charm and clever sense of humor had been difficult for quiet, reserved Junmyeon to resist. Coffee had turned into dates and dates had turned into sleepovers and Baekhyun had moved into his apartment two months after their first date.
Three months later, Baekhyun was complaining that Junmyeon's collarbone tattoo was false advertising, that it had misled him into thinking Junmyeon had a touch of something wild in him--that he had a sense of adventure. Baekhyun thrived on social interaction so he had been frustrated with Junmyeon who preferred staying in and reading a literary novel to going out drinking with Baekhyun and his friends.
Not long after that, he began mentioning someone who'd joined their little group of drinking buddies. Someone named Chanyeol who was a gym instructor. Chanyeol made him laugh--he had the best jokes. And he'd travelled to places Baekhyun wanted to visit one day. The more he mentioned Chanyeol, the more Junmyeon withdrew. The more Baekhyun tried to provoke some kind of reaction from him, the less Junmyeon said. They often went for days without saying anything to each other even though they never actually argued about anything specific.
Baekhyun spent more and more time away from the apartment they shared and one day, Junmyeon came home to an apartment that had been emptied of all Baekhyun's belongings. It was like he'd never even been there. The only trace he'd left of his eight months with Junmyeon was a single sheet of pristine white note paper. It had lain flat on the dining table, and the bold black writing had spelt out the words: I'm sorry. The only physical imprint of Baekhyun's presence in his life crystallized in seven letters and an apostrophe--there was really nothing at all for Junmyeon to cling to. Because the truth was that he had been jealous of Chanyeol and he hadn't wanted Baekhyun to leave him but he just hadn't known how to tell him. The way Baekhyun had just selfishly and callously left without a word had hurt him more than he could say and he had known he wouldn't make any effort to try and convince him to come back, but that hadn't made the abandonment hurt any less.
"So that's how it ended? He just left?" Jongin rested his hands on the table top and watched Junmyeon carefully. He'd let the other man talk unhindered and this was the first time he'd said anything since Junmyeon had begun deconstructing the past.
"Yeah. That night in the market? That was the first time we'd spoken since he left. This is a small town so it's not easy to avoid a person for three years but we did a pretty good job of it. He'd started work in another publishing firm a few weeks before he moved out so that helped." Updates about Baekhyun had filtered in through conversations with mutual former associates or clients over the years but friends and family knew better than to pain Junmyeon with on-dits about Byun Baekhyun.
"Do you still care for him?"
"I think I did that first year after things ended but now it's just. . .I don't really know. Betrayal? And seeing him always makes me feel shitty. Like I wasn't 'enough', like I didn't fight for myself. . .I don't really how to explain it, but seeing him just screws me up."
"I think he may show up again soon." Jongin said quietly, his face serious. "He was curious about you at the market, curious about us. He seems like the sort to act on his curiosity so I'm expecting him to come looking for you soon, and I need to know how you feel about that."
"I don't want him in my life. I don't want to be made to feel like I'm not good enough." Junmyeon stated simply as he placed a finished mandu on the indigo dish between them. To Jongin's relief, Junmyeon's heartbeat remained steady and calm.
"I'm glad." Jongin took Junmyeon's hands in his. Their fingers were a little sticky from the dumpling skins but neither one of them really paid it any attention. The conversation about Baekhyun had cast a pall over Junmyeon's mood and Jongin too, had been reticent after. But eventually, they resumed the mandu making and ended up with forty dumplings--comprising Jongin's twenty-six perfectly formed ones and Junmyeon's fourteen slightly misshapen ones. Jongin stored half of the mandu for some future meal before pan frying the rest.
"It's delicious." Junmyeon declared after taking the first bite.
"Don't sound so surprised, Junmyeon. I'm not a bad cook," Jongin sounded amused as he dunked his mandu in the vinegar soy dipping sauce he'd prepared earlier.
"No, you're not bad at all." Junmyeon smiled wistfully before popping the rest of the dumpling into his mouth, and Jongin somehow had the feeling he wasn't just talking about his prowess in the kitchen.
Junmyeon was seated comfortably on the fabric sofa with his reading glasses perched on his nose; Jongin had said it made him look sexy in an intellectual way and Junmyeon had rolled his eyes. His face serious, he read Laura Esquivel aloud as Jongin's head lay nestled in his lap. They'd been taking turns to read over the past hour, losing themselves in the magical storytelling style the Mexican novelist employed. The low timbre of Junmyeon's voice weaved effortlessly in and out of Jongin's consciousness and his limbs were practically boneless with contentment.
But the spell was abruptly broken by two very loud raps on the front door. Junmyeon peered through the peephole and opened the door straight away. Who could it be?, Jongin sat up abruptly.
"Hyung!" A couple of inches taller than Junmyeon, the handsome young man in the doorway was dressed in a black tank and low slung black jeans.
"Yixing!" Junmyeon said delightedly and gave him a warm hug. He was smiling at Junmyeon--his dimples making him extremely attractive and Jongin felt a little pang in his gut which felt a little bit like jealousy. This had to be the Gossamer Books employee who had lived here before him, the one who had gone to the city a month ago to study dance.
"I came back for my mom's 50th birthday. Dinner was last night but I'm only heading back to the city on Tuesday. So anyway, I'm here to drag you out for drinks. Xiumin and Luhan are there already. It's happy hour at Finnegan's and God forbid those two boozers should lose even 2 minutes of that hour," Yixing laughed.
"I wouldn't mind some Kilkenny. It's been months since I had some." Junmyeon said longingly.
"I was given instructions to bring Jongin too?" Yixing announced belatedly and peered curiously over Junmyeon's shoulder. Jongin took that as his cue to walk over to where they stood.
"Ah, this is Jongin. He took over your job and your room after you left." Junmyeon introduced and reflexively, his palm drifted to Jongin's back and rested there.
"Nice to meet you, Jongin. I hope you're taking good care of hyung," Yixing gave him a cheeky smile which was reminiscent of Xiumin's.
"I try." Smiling, Jongin shook his hand, "Nice to meet you, Yixing."
"Ok. Bar first! Talk later. We've got 43 minutes before Happy Hour is over. Let's go!" And he was walking out their door, leaving a trail of crackling energy behind him.
"The dance teachers are. . .evil. I swear to God they are so evil! But the challenges they set us? I've learnt so much from them. So yeah, school's been great. I miss working at the store and hanging out with you guys though. Talking about the store, how's it holding up without my sparkling personality and good looks to charm all the female customers?" Yixing joked as he sipped his Miller Lite and Xiumin burst into laughter. Beside him, Luhan chuckled in amusement.
"Have you seen Jongin? I don't think the store's female customers are missing you all that much, dude." Xiumin snorted.
"I haven't noticed. . ." Jongin began to protest but Xiumin cut him off.
"Dude, you're too modest. The number of female customers that frequent the store has shot up dramatically since you started working there. Right, Junmyeon?"
"I wasn't really paying attention," Junmyeon answered carefully and Xiumin didn't argue but his eyes were twinkling with mischief. As Junmyeon took a long sip of creamy Irish ale, he tried to ignore the stab of jealousy at the idea of women and other men checking Jongin out. Over the past few weeks he'd seen a few female customers paying him an excessive amount of attention and Junmyeon hadn't liked it one bit and he’d refused to analyze why he'd been so upset. He had no doubt now, though, what those feelings had been. More than a little dismayed, he took a long sip of Kilkenny. Before the glass bottle landed on the glossy black surface of the bar table, Junmyeon felt the reassuring weight of Jongin's palm on his knee and his silver gray tail curling around his thigh. It felt almost like he was being. . .claimed--and Junmyeon liked the way it made him feel.
When they got back to the apartment, Jongin and Junmyeon's bodies were buzzing from just enough food and alcohol that their skins were highly sensitized; every touch and caress felt like unbearable friction and the pleasure was almost too much as their hips ground together and their lips pressed insistently together and their mouths traveled over chests and abdomens, hips and thighs. As Junmyeon's cock plunged into Jongin one last time, he moaned the cat's name onto his nape, then his lips brushed against Jongin's shoulder as they both shuddered and came within seconds of each other.
Tired in the aftermath, their hearts and bodies lay entwined as they drifted off to sleep in Junmyeon's bed.
"I'm looking for Kim Junmyeon?" Jongin was moving boxes of books in the stockroom when he tensed abruptly--recognizing the somewhat smug voice he'd first heard in the Cereal aisle of the Safeway across the street three nights before. Standing up in a swift, feline motion, Jongin headed for the exit, listening intently to the voices in the front of the store.
"Whom shall I say wants to see him?" Xiumin asked carefully.
"Tell him it's Byun Baekhyun. He'll know who I am," the man offered almost breezily, which immediately made the ever cautious Xiumin put his guard up. He didn't like smooth talkers--Jongin could tell from the rhythm of his heartbeats.
"I'll tell my boss then. Hold on, please." Xiumin gave Baekhyun the polite and neutral smile he reserved for first time customers and old customers he was wary of, before heading for Junmyeon's office.
"Baekhyun, how can I help you?" Jongin appeared before him, giving Baekhyun a smile which was very much like the one Xiumin had just given him.
"I'm actually here for Junmyeon. Your co-worker has just gone to get him for me." Baekhyun's phrasing seemed deliberately provocative but Jongin refused to let his words get to him. Before Jongin had a chance to say anything more, he felt Junmyeon's arm settle around his waist. And in the background, he heard Xiumin's muffled gasp of surprise as he watched his boss touch his co-worker in a manner that could only be interpreted as possessive.
"Why are you here, Baekhyun?" Junmyeon's voice was surprisingly strong and full of resolve.
"I came to see you--what other reason could there be?" There was that charming smile again.
"Of course you didn't come just to see me. Now, I want to know why you're really here."