There were many times when Jongin woke up and stared around like he had landed from another planet and the alien ecosystem to which he was adapting still fascinated him greatly. From the way blankets felt heavier, the more he concentrated on his breathing, to the way his dogs ruined that concentration by wagging their tails in his face, Jongin often wondered who he was and why was he waking up.
His whole existence had been puzzling him since a child. He had asked his parents, yet, they ignored him because how could little Jongin know anything about life? Instead, they encouraged him to study day and night and become a little machine that never runs out of fuel. Machines do not have thoughts or needs. They can break. They fix them. Machines aren’t hard to maintain and they can run for decades with the right adjustments and updates. In the end, technology advances too fast and machines are replaced by newer, better versions of themselves. Jongin felt he was slowly becoming one of those vintage models, obsolete, yet admired by those who longed for something they never experienced beforehand or something they could never relive with the same excitement as in that first moment.
He sometimes wondered what would have happened if, as a kid, he had taken dance lessons, piano lessons, drawing lessons – any kind of lessons within the art spectrum. Everything was easy at that age. Creating while living in a never-ending adventure came naturally when his surroundings felt larger than the universe.
That morning, staring around again with a mug of coffee in front, he tried an imagination exercise. His eyes were set on the steam coming from the mug, but for the love of him, he couldn’t focus for more than a nanosecond. Not because he had no patience or because he really had no speck of creativity left in him. Jongin’s glasses disapproved faster than his mind when the lenses became foggy, so he abandoned the ridiculous idea and prepared for the day.
He had to leave for Singapore. Chanyeol failed to mention exactly what the Conference was about and what he should keep in mind. Jongin spent the following hours documenting himself among everything else on his agenda. It was the first time he felt an ounce of annoyance for taking over Chanyeol’s duty since there were two events he had to attend in Singapore and he didn’t feel like going there faster than planned. He excused himself earlier from work, still bitter, so he could pack up and everything.
While driving home, another ridiculous idea struck him. He pulled in the first parking spot he found and ran to the bookstore from where he usually bought all of the books in his collection. He promised Taemin he’d see what his novel was about and he’d be damned if he hadn’t finished it before their next date.
The woman at the counter had a puzzling expression when Jongin asked for the author.
“Lee Taemin? I do not think we have a Lee Taemin.”
“Nothing at all?” Jongin was sure that Taemin’s job was that of a writer and knowing he was friends with Wonshik, he wouldn’t take him as the type to lie about his profession just to look better in his eyes. Sure, the part about him publishing novels could have been an exaggeration and maybe Taemin only wrote magazine columns and such. Instead, he swam through the density of his thoughts and finally collected all the letters forming the title Taemin suggested him. “Red Moon on the Shore. Do you have that one?”
“I could check,” she nodded and turned to the screen of her computer, clicking and typing. “Uhm, we have some copies of that title. But the author’s Lee Jongmin.”
“Hold on,” the woman left the counter and went all the way to the back of the store. She returned after a minute with a book that had a mix of bloody red and black on the cover. She gave it to Jongin and waited until he looked over it and skimmed through a couple of pages. “Is this what you’re looking for?”
Jongin did check the summary, the author name and author’s short biography, just to make sure that Taemin hadn’t fooled him. It was too vague and there was no picture. With nothing to lose, Jongin bought the book and went home.
Behind the wheel again, with his feelings all over the place, he expected a lot that week.
A headache, for sure, for when the Conference was over and because of the ton of materials he had to carry back to Seoul. He was also looking forward to eating with a bunch of strangers and joining their conversations, even if he had no energy left in him after the plane trip. It was the perfect opportunity to master his skills of ‘I do not give a but carry on while I smile and nod’ because Jongin was all about not paying attention unless it was something crucial to his work. Most of the time, talks involved anything but his work, so he often was more than bored at meetings.
He was slowly withering like a tree without roots.
When he actually was at the Conference, at the Conference dinner, at his hotel room after it was all over, Jongin concluded he only cared about one essential detail – Taemin’s novel.
He started reading it since he had nothing better to do while flying to Singapore (he would have jumped out of the plane if he had to study another guide for the Conference). For some reason, people left him alone when they saw him immersed in the story. He had his headphones on too, just in case some smartass decided the book wasn’t enough of an excuse to leave Jongin alone.
What happened next baffled him.
Jongin felt like he had fallen for real out of the plane and straight in the middle of a story about murder and infatuation. Everything was strange and words of neon blue were swirling around him as he plunged further into the darkness. The story unfolded like an old movie, grainy and with sincerity, harsh, truthful, real, despite the fantastical analogies that carried on the odd plot. He was advancing through a tunnel, trapped in a pitch-black world. He was slowly suffocating from the thick paragraphs, until a single, simple sentence broke the spell and tossed him right into the light.
Jongin could finally breathe.
He closed the book and decided to leave the rest for later. He hadn’t noticed he was trembling until the flight attended softly asked him to buckle up. He was sweating and his heartbeat had gone wild.
With all of it still fresh in his memory, he succumbed back into that universe. The second time around, he had gone underwater. The pressure built on his chest and in his head. Jongin paralyzed from raw curiosity.
Then, it ended as abruptly as it began.
He abandoned the book by the nightstand and rolled on his back. The hotel ceiling was impeccable and the bed lacked the familiar bumps and irregularities he had home. He counted the shadows around him to calm down. He needed to keep his mind occupied with other things, so he wouldn’t regret eating up the book like some kind of scholar hungry for forbidden knowledge.
In the end, it didn’t help, not even when he thought about his parents, dogs or about the next day’s meeting. Or what Chanyeol was up to, specifically, how he was probably angering his soon-to-be in-laws with his obnoxiousness.
Jongin eyed the book. Taemin’s image flashed before him.
He wondered if he had ever had so much passion and drive to do something he could be proud of, something that made him waste days and nights at a time. Sure, projects were fun, the flames sometimes ignited during meetings and hanging out with Chanyeol, Sehun and his dogs marked another perfect day.
It wasn’t enough.
Jongin felt dizzy. Not the kind of dizziness normal people experienced. It was there only for a fraction of a second. If he were to describe it, he’d say that his soul split in two and the part that escaped his body was staring intensely back at him. Jongin could see everything through his double’s eyes.
He wondered what the miserable human in front of him was doing with his life.
Jongin was excited. Jetlag normally made him drowsy, but the buzz from a morning call had seized his other senses and ruled as undisputed king.
He had to waste two days in the small state before a second conference, the one Jongin initially signed up for and the one he was supposed to fly for, not Chanyeol’s. The morning after the first one, his assistant called. He hadn’t recognized her voice right away as he had barely got any sleep. It took him a bit more before he understood that everything had been canceled and there was no other use for him to stay in the country unless he felt like giving a couple of calls and saying hi to some businessmen.
Jongin chose not to prolong his stay. He immediately booked a flight back home through his assistant and, after calling Sehun to pick him up at the airport, he was home before evening. Funny enough, Jongin wasn’t so eager to step on Korean soil because of his dogs, friends, his bed at home or the comfort of his home country.
Sehun watched him hurry to shower, change and eat the last pack of ramyun in the house. Jongin almost choked as he slurped on the noodles.
“What’s up with you?” Sehun finally inquired. He was sitting with his knees up on the only armchair in the living room, while Jongin ate at the coffee table adjacent to the sofa. Jongin took his glasses off and placed them on the table while he slurped again. He thought he should also put his contacts on before leaving. Then again, glasses were a little better giving the state of his eyes after the long trip. Hadn’t Taemin also complimented him for wearing them? Jongin snickered in his bowl. “Earth to Nini, are you high?”
He looked at Sehun with noodles dangling from his mouth.
“Huh?” The moment he opened his mouth to talk, the noodles fell back in the bowl and splashed his clean shirt. “Aw, .” He put the bowl away and rubbed the spots with his fingers. He wet his thumb and repeated.
Sehun was still unsure what he was watching – his friend or a sketch comedy.
“Did they drug you there or what?”
“No, I’m fine, perfect!” Jongin gave up on fixing his shirt and ed it instead. He tossed it on the sofa and ate.
“You’re way too hyped. Did you get a raise?”
“No.” Jongin grabbed the bowl and drank the soup. He let out a satisfied sigh as he put the bowl back down and flexed his arm muscles. “Should I work out? How do I look?”
“Like a stallion, now spit it out.”
“You sure?” He tensed a little and pushed his chest forward. “Maybe a little? I’ve let myself go.”
“Ohhh,” Sehun placed his feet on the floor and parted his legs. He leaned forward, all a grin. “Is this about your new boyfriend?”
“Technically!” Jongin pointed at Sehun, still topless as Mother Nature intended. “We’re still dating. It’s nothing official.”
“Just don’t make out on the sofa. I live here too, you know.”
Jongin got up, grabbed the bowl and frowned. “We only kissed once,” he shook his head. “No, wait, twice. I doubt making out will happen soon.” He proceeded to the kitchen in order to wash his bowl and get ready for another date. He should really call Taemin first and confirm the said date. He couldn’t wait to proudly announce that he had read the novel he suggested and that he couldn’t wait to dig in his bibliography and see what else he could devour.
Sehun, on the other hand, had the time of his life when he saw Jongin heading straight to the wall (also going face-first into it) and he had absolutely no desire to warn him. If Jongin was too absorbed with his new playmate and too reckless not to wear his glasses, it was his problem.
“How about The Hobbit?”
Taemin was holding a huge bucket of popcorn like a teddy bear. He had his hair pulled in a ponytail. Five piercings filled one of his ears, while the other side had an angel wing ear cuff that went along the outer cartilage until it met a little cross hanging from his earlobe. His fingers – quite tiny, Jongin observed – were also full of rings. He had a dark grey sweater covered by his usual coat, black jeans and boots. Taemin’s makeup was at minimum or non-existent. Jongin wasn’t sure, because, this time around, he was the one full of BB cream to hide the bags under his eyes. To complete his outfit, Jongin returned him the scarf and wrapped it around his neck. Taemin thought he had lost it and had been mourning its disappearance ever since, earning some more jokes about how he often lost or misplaced everything but at least he hadn’t lost his mind yet.
He invited Taemin at the movies. Once at the multiplex, Jongin briefly explained why he appeared out of the blue after he had initially told him he’d be away for a couple of days. It didn’t take long for them to joke about the weather and other things while they bought snacks first and only after decided on what to pick out of the December titles. After they took their seats, Jongin peeked at his date several times – Taemin was searching something on his phone – before he finally ended the silence.
“I’ve read your novel.” Taemin looked up. “And I’m curious about one thing.”
“Hmmm? You did?”
“Why did he leave?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” the phone rang. Taemin frowned and turned his back to Jongin while he answered. The bucket of popcorn was still in his arms. “I’m at the movies. Yeah,” Jongin waited patiently, “talk later.” He faced Jongin again and gave him a sheepish smile. “Sorry, it was Wonshik.”
“Is he good?”
“Yeah. I was supposed to have dinner with him and his boyfriend today, but I kind of ditched them for you.”
“Ah, I’m sorry,” Jongin cringed. Wonshik was going to murder him later for potentially breaking up his friendship. “I didn’t mean to change your plans.”
“It’s alright, they need some time alone anyway. I think we’ve done them a favor.”
Jongin tried to fake a laugh, but it wouldn’t come out. Instead, he was more concerned with what Wonshik was up to lately. He hadn’t mentioned anything about a boyfriend. “Does he have love problems?”
“Not that I know of.” Taemin shrugged. “He’s really thoughtful of his boyfriend, so he’s taking it easy this time.” Taemin flipped through his phone again. “Wait, I have a photo of them together.” He gave his phone to Jongin and pointed at the stoic man in a colorful red Christmas sweater with a reindeer next to a bubbly Wonshik. “That’s Taekwoon.”
Taemin leaned over, to make sure the next photo he flipped to was the right one. In that moment, the bucket fell from his lap and scattered a portion of the popcorn all over the floor. Taemin cursed and put the bucket on the empty seat beside him. He dropped to his knees and cleaned up after his mess.
Jongin saw everything and was ready to jump in. Taemin told him he could handle it.
With nothing else to do, he looked again through Taemin’s photos of the couple and smiled when Taekwoon finally let his guard down and changed his expression into a warm, happy one. He was rather cute, so he’d understand why Wonshik would pamper him.
Jongin also forgot the number one rule when it came to browsing images on some else’s mobile. Never go beyond the images the possessor allowed you to see, else, you might have a surprise and, often, it was a nasty one.
Therefore, when Jongin flipped through the photos, expecting more of the couple, he got instead a photo of Taemin wearing a dress, with wet hair, looking at the camera with eyes that dripped desire faster than water from a broken faucet. His first instinct was to go back from where he came. His second one, the one that took over too, was to flip further. In one of the photos, Taemin made sure that his thighs were visible.
Jongin pulled at his shirt. His face was burning from the heat.
Whatever kink he had was no one’s business, yet, he could have never guessed he’d go crazy after someone in a dress, nevertheless, after Taemin’s thighs. He panicked when Taemin finished cleaning and returned to his seat, so he flipped fast to the first photo of Wonshik and Taekwoon and gave back the phone like nothing happened.
He didn’t pay attention to what Taemin was telling him about the book. He barely paid attention to the movie too and even less when they got out in the cool night and headed to another café to enjoy some warm beverages.
He blamed the exhaustion on the way he processed everything, including how fast his body was reacting because of the way Taemin or his lips, the way he moved or the way he laughed while Jongin gave him a ride home.
The only time he finally was able to focus on his surroundings and to register fully Taemin’s words was when he parked in front of Taemin’s complex and the other leaned over him like last time. Instead of kissing him, Taemin smiled and asked, ever so softly, “Want to come upstairs?”
And all Jongin was thinking were thighs, thighs and thighs.
Because Koemi and I have been having a thing for Taemin's thighs for two years now. And, obviously, the Moon fic is not the same as the book in here. We just liked the title enough to use it lol