Pairing: Jongin/Junmyeon (with side Xiuhan and Chanbaek)
Genre: mild angst, romance, drama, smut, catboy!au, bookshop!au
Length: Chapter 8: Homecoming, ~4.1k 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
Each of us has his own rhythm of suffering.
― Roland Barthes
The intimate glow of candlelight had created a lazy, sensual ambience in the bathroom and Junmyeon loved how pretty the candles made everything look. Three thick stubs of ivory wax burnt merrily along the edges of the bathtub where Jongin had placed them earlier, despite Junmyeon's protests that the flames would make it too warm in the bathroom.
"Where's your spirit of romance?" Jongin had asked, chuckling.
"I don't have any," Junmyeon rolled his eyes but at the same time, he hadn't stopped Jongin from lighting each candle with a steady hand. Then it was a matter of moments before Jongin was standing inches away from Junmyeon, his palms a welcome weight on the smaller man's broad shoulders.
"Everyone needs a bit of romance in their lives," Jongin said as he slowly unbuttoned the forest green linen shirt that looked so good on Junmyeon, the rich color accentuating the paleness of his skin. Junmyeon watched the cat's face as he focused all his concentration on the task of uncovering more and more of Junmyeon's bare chest.
Slowly, Jongin eased the shirt off his shoulders and his lips brushed against collarbone, tongue tracing the letters inked elegantly over his skin as forest green fabric slipped to the tiled floor, landing with a whisper. Junmyeon swallowed, trying not to let the sensations overwhelm him as Jongin licked at his skin; his nipples just beginning to tighten when Jongin suddenly straightened, giving Junmyeon a much needed reprieve. Silently, Jongin laid one hand on Junmyeon's jaw and the other on his nape and pulled him in close, saying Junmyeon's name softly just before their lips met in a tender kiss.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Jongin asked when they ended their kiss with Junmyeon's hands buried beneath his shirt.
"Yes, I'm sure. We talked things out, Baekhyun and me. For the first time in years, I can really breathe again," Junmyeon said calmly as he pulled Jongin's raglan tee off to expose smooth, coppery skin. So much warmer than his own too-pale skin, Junmyeon thought as he dragged his palms slowly down smooth flanks to settle on slim, denim-covered hips.
"Is he going to make a habit of dropping by?" There was a mild edge of jealousy to Jongin's voice that made Junmyeon's heart catch and thrill to know that this beautiful cat was so possessive of him―quiet and completely unremarkable Kim Junmyeon.
"No, I don't think we'll see much of him at all, Jongin. We tied up all our loose ends today and I made it really clear that I wasn't interested in being friends and he's not going to push the issue." Junmyeon smiled as his fingers undid the button of Jongin's jeans and pulled the zipper down. Jongin pushed his jeans and boxers off impatiently and held Junmyeon close, nosing his neck, "Does that mean you're mine now?" His voice was low and chocolatey and full of unsaid things, and Junmyeon had to struggle to stay in control as Jongin's tail curled itself leisurely around his waist, the soft fur leaving a sensate path across his skin.
Then Jongin's nimble fingers were unbuttoning Junmyeon's chinos and peeling everything off so that it was just them standing there. Just inches and inches of bare skin, bare emotion, bare need, as their bodies pressed close together.
"Does that mean you're mine now?" Jongin asked again as his tongue circled an erect, pale pink nub, and a soft moan escaped Junmyeon's lips.
"I already was," Junmyeon's words were breathy from the effort of withstanding the sweet torment wrought by Jongin's tongue.
"Do you mean that?" Jongin's eyes were filled with elation and relief, and perhaps a touch of anxiety.
"Yes," Junmyeon barely got the word out before Jongin's lips moved over his hungrily, his arms tightening their embrace. And as Jongin's tongue swept into his mouth, Junmyeon's hands rose to Jongin's face and cupped his jaw, their mouths moving together hotly.
"I was already yours, Jongin," Junmyeon whispered as he nibbled on Jongin's earlobe and their hips pushed insistently against each other, dicks touching.
"Can I keep you always?" The back of Jongin's hand rested gently against Junmyeon's cheek and he nodded, with his heart in his eyes, "Yes, Jongin, you can keep me always." And Jongin's arms enveloped him in a tight, almost desperate embrace. For a brief moment, he felt as if he should make some noisy declaration of his love but he knew he didn't have to because Jongin understood. Jongin knew the map of heart―he somehow always had.
So instead of saying I love you, Junmyeon said, "The bath water is going to be cold if we don't get in now." There was a smile in Junmyeon's voice as he stroked Jongin's nape and reluctantly, the cat's arms released their hold. Soon they were submerged in bath water to the waist, and Jongin was lathering bergamot scented bath foam onto Junmyeon's arms and chest with a sea sponge. It was a tight fit but they managed it, with Junmyeon's back resting comfortably against Jongin's hard chest.
"Are you clean enough yet?" Jongin whispered minutes later, as his hand slid down Junmyeon's chest and stomach and settled just below his navel.
"Yes," Junmyeon's answer was breathy and broken and he made no attempt to disguise the moan that escaped his lips as Jongin's fingers encircled his half hard cock and pulled, even as his teeth tugged gently on Junmyeon's earlobe.
"Are you sure I can keep you?" Jongin's husky whisper filled Junmyeon's ear as his right hand moved insistently over Junmyeon's dick. Being able to see it, visible above the water's surface, covered by Jongin's fingers then exposed, then covered again . . . it just made everything twice as intense and Junmyeon felt completely wrecked as the sensations overwhelmed him.
"Please," Junmyeon pleaded as Jongin's fingers played with his nipples while his other hand pumped Junmyeon's cock with increasing urgency. With shaking hands, Junmyeon reached behind him to find Jongin―Jongin who was poking sensually against his spine.
Warm breath tickled his nape as Jongin moaned, sending more ripples of pleasure across Junmyeon's skin and he knew he needed more. He needed more of Jongin. Making Jongin release his grip, Junmyeon shifted and turned till he was facing his lover. He positioned his legs so the backs of his thighs rested on Jongin's tanned, lean thighs and his heels fit into the shallow dimples above Jongin's ass.
"I want you to keep me always, Jongin," Junmyeon angled his mouth over Jongin's and sighed softly as his tongue slid inside as smooth as a dream, their breaths mingling and merging, sweet as wine. As the kiss deepened, their hips met, pressure building gradually with each thrust of their slick cocks.
"I need more," Junmyeon said as he licked and sucked one aroused, dusky nipple. Amid raspy moans, Jongin reached for the bottle he'd left on the floor by the bathtub.
Junmyeon inhaled sharply as Jongin's finger entered him, followed by a second finger a while later, and his hips began to buck in time to the lazy, then more and more consuming pace set by Jongin. He closed his eyes as the pleasure intensified, and then Jongin's palms were cupping his ass firmly as he positioned him carefully, his cock grazing Joonmyun's entrance in teasing sweeps. Moaning, Junmyeon gripped Jongin's shoulders and sank heavily onto his waiting cock, before raising his hips and falling onto Jongin again.
Over and over, Jongin entered him while his own cock pressed against Jongin’s belly. As Junmyeon rode him in quicker, stronger strokes, he felt himself coming undone. Jongin's hands interlocking with his, the cat moved into a more upright position before thrusting hard into him, calling his name and making him gasp with pleasure at the new angle. His lips left a trail of blooming purple marks on Junmyeon's pale neck and collarbones, and his tongue skated over the pretty moles on his left shoulder and on his neck.
From time to time, Junmyeon's knees bumped against the sides of the enamel bathtub, and riding Jongin in the confined space wasn't easy. But what little discomfort Junmyeon felt was soon drowned out by the buzzing pleasure as Jongin hit his prostate. . .over and over.
The water made gentle sloshing noises as Junmyeon's body rose and fell but the two lovers heard nothing of this as they picked up the pace. Driven closer and closer to the edges of climax, they panted and moaned and whispered each other's names in bliss.
"Forever, Junmyeon. I'm keeping you forever," Jongin said just before he made a final, powerful thrust that dismantled their hearts and bodies, and left them floating for seconds before they fell apart entirely.
Junmyeon watched, lips pursed, as Jongin sat cross legged on the shop floor with a pricing gun on his lap. He was surrounded by large, sand colored crates with their lids open, filled to the brim with paperbacks of varying sizes and thickness which Jongin had been tasked with unpacking, pricing and putting away on shelves. Somewhere, tucked away in another corner of the store with his own cluster of open crates, was Xiumin. Seeing Jongin at work was nothing out of the ordinary, it was nothing uncommon at all. What was unusual was the air of melancholy that clung to him.
It had been two weeks since Junmyeon had had his encounter with Baekhyun and things had been good―so good―between him and Jongin since. But for the past three days, Junmyeon had sensed a tinge of sadness coloring Jongin's smiles and jokes. He'd been giving him the space he needed but it was so unlike Jongin to be moody let alone melancholy that Junmyeon couldn't bottle up the concern anymore. He'd ask him tonight. After dinner.
Junmyeon's voice was like a balm soothing his frayed heart and Jongin shamelessly drank it all in as the other man read out word after elegantly phrased word from Like Water for Chocolate. Jongin's head lay in his lap and Junmyeon stroked his hair in a calming rhythm while he balanced the novel on Jongin's chest.
"Jongin?" Abruptly, the narrative stopped unfolding.
"Yes?" Opening his eyes, he looked up at Junmyeon's anxious face.
"Something's wrong and I want to help." Junmyeon removed his reading glasses, placing them on the side table with a click before giving Jongin a gently probing look.
"I don't understand."
"Something's been bothering you for days and I'm worried." Junmyeon's fingers curled around Jongin's tightly.
"Was it that obvious? And I thought I was hiding it well," Jongin sighed, a wistful smile on his lips.
"I don't think Xiumin picked up on it. I mean you were careful but when you were alone. . .I could tell." Junmyeon's fingers continued to caress Jongin's hair.
"Will you tell me what's wrong? You don't have to if you don't want to but I'm. . .you're worrying me and I don't want you to be sad. Was it something I did?"
"No!" Jongin eyebrows shot up in mild alarm before he turned and buried his face in Junmyeon's stomach. Sighing, he breathed in the comforting scent of faded laundry detergent, soap and Junmyeon. "I always get a little blue this time of year."
"Why?" Junmyeon's fingers cupped his jaw gently.
"It's the anniversary of my parents' death in three days." The words hovered in the air quietly before disappearing into the fabric of Junmyeon's shirt.
"On Friday?" Junmyeon asked and Jongin nodded.
"We'll go pay them a visit then."
"But the store―"
"Will be left in Xiumin's capable hands―don't even let on that you think he can't run the store on his own. He'd have your head."
"I'm sure he would," Jongin chuckled before growing serious, "But he can't manage all alone."
"Yixing is back for a week and he's been whining about how he needs to earn some extra money. There's this girl at his college he wants to impress, so I'm sure he'll be more than happy to work a couple of days at his old job," Junmyeon laid everything out very logically.
"My hometown is about 26 hours' drive from here." Jongin sounded doubtful as he nuzzled Junmyeon's tummy.
"I have a car and a driving license. I think we'll manage," Junmyeon chuckled. "We'll take the weekend to get this done, Jongin, ok? You can show me where you went to high school and where you had your first kiss―maybe you can even introduce me to the boy who gave you your first kiss," Junmyeon was obviously trying to lighten the atmosphere and Jongin appreciated it.
"I'm pretty sure she's married a nice, local boy by now so let's not upset her by showing up unannounced on her doorstep. I can show you where I had my first kiss though, if you want," Jongin finally smiled―the first real smile to settle on his lips all week.
"It was a girl?" Junmyeon asked incredulously.
"It was a stealth attack. She didn't ask me if I liked girls, okay? I was 14 and we were doing homework together at the public library. She asked me to help her find a book, and dragged me to the stack in the back corner. And while I was trying to find out what book she wanted me to help her find, she grabbed me and kissed me."
"Was it good?" Junmyeon watched him curiously.
"It was. . .okay. It didn't make my heart pound or my palms sweat but it felt nice enough," Jongin's ears turned a delicate pink under Junmyeon's intense scrutiny. He couldn't even remember the last time he'd blushed over anything.
"Do my kisses make your heart pound and your palms sweat?" Junmyeon asked teasingly as he leant his face close to Jongin's.
"You're blushing," Junmyeon grinned just before he kissed him and Jongin's lips parted so he could taste the salty sweet taste of Junmyeon on his tongue.
"Your heart is pounding." Junmyeon's right palm settled over his racing heart, and his left hand joined with Jongin's, "but your palms aren't sweaty." He looked almost disappointed and Jongin laughed.
"I'm not 14 anymore!" Jongin protested.
"Believe me, I know you're not 14 anymore," Junmyeon's hand slid meaningfully over the slight bulge in his pants.
"What happened to the quiet man I fell in love with?" Jongin's husky chuckles filled the room.
"He's still quiet. He just gets overcome with lust for his boyfriend on occasion," Junmyeon stroked his jaw, eyes tender with affection. "So I'm going to call Yixing and Xiumin in a while so we can work out when to start our road trip."
Jongin nodded as Junmyeon ran more logistic details by him, but he was only half paying attention, his mind too occupied by Junmyeon's use of the word boyfriend. It should have made him feel elated but instead there was a bittersweet pang in his chest. He told himself it shouldn't matter that Junmyeon hadn't used the word mate, but. . .it did.
"Are you implying I can't run this store myself?" Xiumin gave Jongin a hard stare. Jongin swore he must have been a CIA interrogator or a mobster in his past life, because he could channel the cold menace thing more intensely than anyone else Jongin had ever known.
"As if I'd dare!" Jongin held his hands up in a gesture of surrender. "I'm just telling you I might have moved some things around and I'm just giving you the list of new locations. That's all. I'm not implying you can't run the store―do I actually look that stupid?"
"Fine," Xiumin gave him a disgruntled look, his lips set in an intimidating line.
"I swear I'm not stupid enough to imply you can't manage this place on your own," Jongin laughed.
“You’d better not be or I’ll have your nuts.”
“I like my nuts just where they are, thanks,” Jongin nodded in amusement as Xiumin clapped his shoulder affectionately.
"Whoa, too early in the morning to be talking about castration,” a cheerful voice interjected and Xiumin growled at the newcomer.
“It’s too early in the morning to be this cheerful, Zhang Yixing. I swear you’re not human―you must be some kind of fairy or troll or something, for fuck’s sake. Get out!”
“You should. . .probably have some coffee or something. A power nap maybe? Then maybe you won’t be a complete ogre,” Yixing said calmly before turning to face Jongin, “Junmyeon hyung didn't say why you guys were making this trip but enjoy yourselves, man. Xiumin and me, we got this. Also! I can promise we'll sell hella lot of books these two days because. . .Yixing is back," he announced confidently before making a dramatic, fluid dance move that looked like a perfectly executed jazzy pirouette.
"Are you fucking listening to yourself?" Xiumin snorted in disgust.
"Watch me do it," Yixing's grin was confident but stopped short of being smug. Jongin suspected that if Yixing had been reckless enough to give Xiumin a cocky grin, the older man would have smacked him upside the head.
"Watch you fail, you mean?" Xiumin crossed his arms over his chest.
"Sticks and stones and all that, but trust me, those books will be flying off the shelves," Yixing winked at them before leaving the room.
"The clichés and the size of that ego," Xiumin shook his head in disbelief but he couldn't quite mask the deep affection he clearly felt for his former co-worker. What had it been like for someone as reserved as Junmyeon to share an apartment with a person as extroverted and talkative as Zhang Yixing? Jongin couldn't quite imagine it and one day, he needed to ask Junmyeon how he'd survived the experience.
As Jongin turned to exit the room, Xiumin said in a subdued tone of voice, "Whatever's been bothering you lately? I hope you find some answers. If you need more time, y'know, to sort things out? Yixing isn't heading back to the city till Wednesday. He wants to impress some girl by taking her to an Ed Sheeran concert and that's going to take money he doesn't have enough of. Yet. So he'll probably be happy to work the extra days."
"I. . .thanks," Jongin nodded a little self-consciously, "but I think we'll be okay."
"Well then, enjoy yourselves and remember to practise safe sex." Xiumin's face was deadpan as he dispensed the advice. As Jongin gaped, Xiumin walked nonchalantly past him, the vestiges of a smirk settling on his pixieish features.
Clearwater was a sleepy Midwestern town with a population of 873. White picket fences formed neat little borders around quaint houses with pretty, well-kept gardens, and the town's main street was populated by small shops painted in muted colors like beige, stone and mustard.
"It's much prettier than Bakersville," Junmyeon commented as he parked the car in front of the brownstone building that housed the Clearwater Public Library.
"It's changed so much in three years," Jongin said distractedly and Junmyeon's hand squeezed his knee in a comforting gesture.
"Well, I think it's pretty. Now show me where you had your first kiss."
"I still don't understand why you'd want to see where I got my first kiss. It was a lifetime ago."
"Milestones are important," Junmyeon insisted stubbornly. Jongin sighed and eased his lanky form out of the car. He knew there was no point arguing with Junmyeon. He was a quiet and easygoing man but once he made up his mind about something, Kim Junmyeon was an immovable wall.
And Jongin kind of liked that.
The stacks looked very much like they had the last time Jongin had been here―when he was 16. Nothing significant had changed. The carpet was darker than he remembered and there were more work tables and carrels than there used to be, more books on the shelves. But while the area had been dense with students the last time Jongin had been here, it was completely deserted now. It was a Thursday morning, Jongin supposed, so most kids were likely trapped in school.
"Is that where she kissed you? That girl?" Junmyeon pointed at the last stack in the row, parallel to the back wall.
"Yeah." Jongin's smile was amused as he nodded―why was Junmyeon so fixated on this whole first kiss thing? The next thing he knew, he was being towed along to the very spot where he'd received his first kiss from a bold 14 year old with mischievous eyes, freckles and chestnut braids.
"First kiss, huh?" Junmyeon pushed Jongin gently so his back was against the wall. The intoxicating scent of old books threatened to overwhelm Jongin's senses but the smell faded into the background as Junmyeon leaned closer to him―so close that all Jongin could process was Junmyeon. All he could take in were Junmyeon's subtle cologne and faint traces of soap, his pretty eyes, the smooth texture of his skin and the slightly soft texture of his lips as his mouth slid over Jongin's. His tongue gently traced the edges of Jongin's lips, and he whispered, "I love you, Jongin."
Jongin watched as Junmyeon pinned his hands to the wall, then he closed his eyes as Junmyeon reached up to kiss him. As his lips parted, Junmyeon's tongue stole in and they shared the sweetest of kisses. And when it was over, Junmyeon's arms slipped around Jongin and pulled him close.
"Your heart is beating so fast Jongin, and your palms," Junmyeon slid his left palm over Jongin's and grinned with satisfaction, "are a little bit sweaty." Jongin laughed and it was a rich, deep sound in the stillness of the library.
"I must be 14 again," Jongin smiled as he hugged Junmyeon tight and his lips pressed a kiss against his jet dark hair.
"You must be. So. . .who did you say gave you your first kiss in this library?"
"Well, that was Hayley Hunter."
"But―" Junmyeon protested.
"But you gave me the first kiss that counted. And you said you weren't romantic at all, Kim Junmyeon." Chuckling, Jongin leaned down and they kissed a little longer, till Jongin heard footsteps in the distance and they broke apart almost guiltily, crouching down quickly. Out of sight behind the stacks, they held hands like giddy teenagers and tried to be as quiet as they could.
The middle-aged librarian walked past the area without stopping, completely unaware there was even anyone in this section of the library. Her footsteps, muffled by the carpeting, couldn't be heard at all after a while. Jongin gave a sigh of relief before sitting on the floor and leaning against the wall behind him.
"That was close," Junmyeon said softly as he slumped beside Jongin on the floor.
"That's Mrs. Bridgerton―I swear she's been here since I was in diapers."
"I'd rather not think of you in diapers," Junmyeon chuckled before pulling Jongin close so they could continue erasing Hayley Hunter's kiss from Jongin's memory.
The clouds were a dirty gray and the breeze blowing through the cemetery felt like cool, damp fingers on his skin. Junmyeon gazed up warily at the sky and hoped the rain would hold off a while longer till they were back safely in the car. He didn't want Jongin to be in any kind of discomfort.
Between the two men, they'd pulled out what meager weeds grew near the joint tombstone for Kim TaeBong and Cho MiSu and cleaned up the granite as best they could. Finally, Jongin had carefully placed a bouquet of lilac hued hydrangeas on the joint tombstone. They'd picked up the flowers at the downtown florist and Jongin had spent ten painstaking minutes choosing the stems with blooms that were the exact shade his mother had favored. At some point he'd told Junmyeon that his mother had planted bushes of hydrangea all over their garden because they were her favorite flower. And he'd wondered if there was still a profusion of hydrangeas in front of his old house along Battersea Street.
"Let's drive by and have a look," Junmyeon had suggested, and Jongin had agreed―his face a conflicted mix of curiosity and trepidation.
The walls were now painted a fresh shade of mint green and the house and garden looked well maintained. . .but the hydrangeas were gone. The current owners had planted some pink and white flowers which looked cheerful and robust, but Jongin had said they were nothing like the pretty purple flowers he remembered from his childhood. Not quite sure what to say, Junmyeon had finally settled for, "I'm sure they were beautiful, Jongin."
"They were." His smile was so sad and Junmyeon's heart ached for him. Keeping his left hand securely on the wheel, he'd reached for Jongin's hand and held it tightly, and hoped it was enough.
Now, Junmyeon stepped forward and placed his palm on Jongin's shoulder. He said nothing; he knew it wasn't the time for speaking.
"Will you hold me?" There was devastation in those quiet words and Junmyeon folded his arms around Jongin's broad back and narrow waist without hesitation. His hands stroked Jongin's back in soothing circles as he buried his face in Junmyeon's shoulder in grief. Helplessly, Junmyeon closed his eyes as he felt the moisture seep into his shirt. Then he tightened his arms around Jongin, and whispered, "It's okay, Jongin, I'm here."
I'll always be here.