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Second Chances

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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 another 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.”

“Pleaaaase, hyung?”

“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.

So thankful


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."

"Don't what?"

"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.

“And now?”

“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.

fever ... summer 2007


"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.

"But hyung,"

"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."

"I know."

"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 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.