It was 7.24, and the brass porch light hung suspended from the ceiling overhead, casting a milky amber lampglow over Jongin's tall, slim frame. Standing outside the pristine, no-nonsense white door of the Do family home, Jongin’s body thrummed with a mixture of anticipation and dread. On the one hand, he was curious to meet Kyungsoo's mother and the rest of his family, but on the other, he feared that they wouldn't accept him - that they would find him wanting. But Jongin had never been the kind to walk away from a challenge, as long as there was something at stake which was important to him. And Kyungsoo most definitely meant something to him, Jongin thought as he pressed the doorbell. Nervously, he smoothed the fall of hair off his forehead, brushed non-existent wrinkles from the front of his jet black cashmere turtleneck, and straightened his black leather jacket. Before he had a chance to fidget with his jeans, the door swung wide open and just like that, Kyungsoo was standing there – slightly out of breath and handsome in fitted white jeans and an aubergine sweater. He was smiling as he opened the door but his mouth quickly formed an ‘o’ of surprise as he took in Jongin’s changed appearance.
"Jongin what did you ...?!!" Kyungsoo continued to stand in the doorway, clearly still in shock as he hadn’t let go of the doorknob.
"Your umma isn't crazy about dumb blond Asians and my dark roots have been showing for weeks. It was time." Jongin gave a wry smile. "I hope you like it because I’m going to have to buy Kris and Tao lunch and dinner for three days. I was supposed to leave my hair blond for at least 6 weeks so I had to bribe them into letting me cut it short. Evil s." He ran his fingers through his dark brown hair self-consciously.
"What did you do?!" Kyungsoo was still wide-eyed.
"You don't like it? I can dye it back if you want." Jongin’s hand fell to his side slowly as he watched Kyungsoo, the expression on his face teetering between worry and amusement.
"NO! This is just ... I need a moment to get used to it. I wasn't expecting you to not be blond tonight."
Jongin had always been beautiful to Kyungsoo but this beautiful stranger in front of him almost had him on his knees. He had removed the black piercing from his upper lip and the black knit turtleneck concealed his angel wing tattoos completely, making him look almost urbane and sophisticated. Almost … because there a wildness about Jongin which expensive, elegant clothes couldn't quite suppress. Kyungsoo couldn't help but admire the physical beauty before him but he abhorred the idea of Jongin covering up his tattoos and taking off his piercing. And it upset him even more that Jongin had even thought he had to hide such an essential part of himself. He would tell Umma about the tattoos and the piercing soon and she would just have to deal with the truth whether she liked it or not. But for now, he wasn’t going to sabotage Jongin’s efforts to look “respectable” in Umma’s eyes.
"Are you going to let me in, Soo? This jacket is expensive and warm but it's getting kinda cold out here."
“Kyungsoo! Is that your friend? Show him in then,” a woman’s voice drifted out from inside the house.
“Umma, we’ll be right back! I need to show Jongin something, ok? Ten minutes!” Kyungsoo yelled over his shoulder, his eyes never breaking eye contact with Jongin’s.
“Make sure you wear a jacket!”
“’Kay!” Kyungsoo replied before stepping out into the cold night and shutting the door firmly behind him.
“You didn’t bring a jacket,” Jongin stated the obvious and Kyungsoo ignored him as he grabbed his hand and pulled him along.
“What are we doing?” he asked quietly as they left the driveway and Kyungsoo took him to the end of the street.
“Why did you …?” Kyungsoo’s fingertips grazed Jongin’s lip where the piercing usually was.
“I didn’t want to ... I don’t know, i didn't want to freak your mom out?”
“Forget my mom. You don’t need to impress her.” Kyungsoo said earnestly as he placed his palm over Jongin’s cheek.
“But I want to, Soo.” Jongin said and a tiny rip opened up in Kyungsoo's heart at the subtle thread of need running through Jongin’s voice.
“Is that why you wore this too? Because you wanted to hide the tattoos?” Kyungsoo the soft knit collar of Jongin’s turtleneck, the cashmere feeling buttery soft between his fingertips.
“I didn’t want the tatts to get in the way.”
“They won’t, Jongin. I promise.” Kyungsoo held both of his hands in his.
“They make people look at me different – make them judge me.”
“I’ll deal with my family, Jongin. You shouldn’t have to change who you are because of them.”
“You thought I was going to mug you the first time we met. And you were trying to run away when I first spoke to you. It’s happened to me lots of times. I don’t want to see that look on your umma’s face the first time I meet her. I just want a … chance.”
“Just let me do this. The first few times. Until she gets to know me better. Please?” Jongin's voice was quiet, quiet as the hushed whisper of snowfall.
“Oh Jongin. Just remember that it doesn't matter, ok? The tatts - they don't matter to me and ultimately, they won't matter to Umma. She's over protective sometimes and she may stomp on the ground and yell a bit but she always comes through for me. That's why I told her I was gay years ago. She knows what's important. She'll see beyond the tatts so I don't want you to feel you need to hide anything that's a part of you.” Kyungsoo sighed sadly as he moved closer to Jongin and wrapped his arms around him. And Jongin released the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding and sank hungrily into Kyungsoo’s embrace. Kyungsoo reached up to kiss Jongin, enjoying the feel of Jongin’s soft, bare lips beneath his, with no cold metal to for his tongue to navigate around today. Lacy wisps of white vapor escaped as their mouths came together and drew apart, and Kyungsoo whispered Jongin's name as he learned and relearned the contours of his mouth.
“We should go back in. You must be cold.” Kyungsoo could feel Jongin’s warm breath caressing his forehead and his arms pulling him close as he spoke, “You don’t have a jacket on. You should have listened to your mother, Soo.” Jongin said teasingly before groaning as Kyungsoo punched him on the arm.
“That’s not funny, Jongin.” Kyungsoo glared at him before leaning against his chest, smiling as he felt the distant beating of Jongin's heart beneath his cheek. Sighing, Kyungsoo agreed reluctantly, "I'm so not looking forward to the noise, but you’re right, we need to go back in. I should warn you, my family is really loud okay? I mean it's just this wall of noise sometimes and my dad and I just give up. Maybe they'll behave themselves because you're here but I can't really see that happening."
"You're exaggerating." Jongin scoffed as they walked back up the driveway, fingers entwined.
"I'm not. I wish I were." And it was then Kyungsoo stopped in his tracks as realization dawned on him that he hadn't seen Jongin's white Yamaha, "I didn't see your motorbike. Please tell me someone didn't steal it."
"It's really cold tonight so I took the car instead."
"You have a car? Then why do you use the motorbike?"
"I like the motorbike, Soo. And the car ... was something my parents insisted on getting me when I turned 18. I didn't want it but they've never cared much about what i think anyway. So I don't use it much unless it's really cold or wet or snowing."
"Is that it?" Kyungsoo turned and pointed at the sleek, silver SUV parked on the street. He hadn't noticed it earlier because he'd been so preoccupied with Jongin's metamorphosis.
"Yeah. My parents chose it and just gave me the keys on 18th birthday."
"It's an Audi?" Kyungsoo didn't know much about cars but he did recognize the four interlocking rings on the grill.
"A Q3. It's a good car but ... I don't really think of it as mine." Jongin stared at the ground, avoiding eye contact and Kyungsoo took it as a cue that he didn’t want to discuss it.
"Okay. C’mon, we'd better go back in." Kyungsoo began towing him across the dimly lit driveway.
The sitting room was done in warm earth colors - siennas, coppers, beiges and browns - and Jongin liked the way everything was put together. It appealed to his artist's eye for color. The cosy and welcoming Do family home was also the antithesis of the Kim family residence which was decorated mainly in elegant, but forbiddingly cold shades of black, white and silver.
"You must be Jongin," a petite, middle-aged woman with perceptive eyes offered her hand. She was pretty in that soft, slightly faded way in which women of a certain age were attractive. And she was smiling at him with curious eyes.
"Hello, ahjumeoni." Jongin bowed slightly and shook her hand. He was careful to use his right hand - the one without the finger tattoos. Kyungsoo felt a little twinge that Jongin felt he had to conceal them, but Kyungsoo suspected the tattoos themselves were probably just another way for Jongin to hide himself. To his great relief, Umma continued to observe Jongin inquisitively – not showing any outward signs of agitation at all.
After Jongin had greeted Kyungsoo's Umma, he greeted her husband. Kyungsoo's Appa was a kind looking, reserved and rather distracted looking man. At a glance, Jongin could see that Kyungsoo had gotten his fire from his mother and his calmness from his father.
"So you're the boy who's got my brother all lovestruck." A tall, slim woman in her early to mid-20s appeared in the doorway. She wore horn-rimmed glasses and and had an intelligent stare that made Jongin feel like he was being closely scrutinized and assessed.
"Noona!" Kyungsoo protested loudly and Jongin couldn't hold back a chuckle.
"I hope so." He gave her a disarming smile while Kyungsoo shot him a dirty look.
"I am NOT lovestruck." Kyungsoo said adamantly while his noona snorted in disbelief.
"This is Hyewon, Kyungsoo's middle sister. She's studying law at Carlisle." Kyungsoo's mom interjected before things could escalate between the two siblings.
"And I'm Hyeyoon." Slightly plump and around 5' 4", Kyungsoo's eldest sister had a chubby cheeked toddler balanced on her hip. The one year old looked tired and cranky and Jongin eyed him warily – hoping he wouldn’t launch into a massive temper tantrum anytime soon because he was showing all the signs. Kyungsoo had told him a week ago that Hyeyoon's husband was an irrigation engineer who had been assigned to a project in Uganda for six months. It hadn't made sense to bring baby Seungchae to a Third World country, so Hyeyoon had moved back in with her family until he returned from overseas. "So now my house is even noisier!" Kyungsoo had groaned. But he'd also added it was kind of nice having a baby around - when he wasn't crying anyway.
“Right, now that everyone has met Jongin, let’s just start dinner, shall we?” Umma said cheerfully and everyone shuffled out of the sitting room. Jongin hung back a little and whispered to Kyungsoo, “They don’t seem very noisy?” And Kyungsoo replied ominously, “Wait. You’ll see.”
Kyungsoo’s Umma and his sisters talked a lot, and they did it animatedly and loudly – ever so loudly. They dissected and argued over every minutia of their lives while Kyungsoo rolled his eyes and Jongin listened in interested amusement. He had never been in the epicenter of such conversational chaos and he wasn’t quite sure how to react, but after the initial shock, he found himself almost enjoying the noise. It was refreshing compared to the tomblike silence of his house. During the course of dinner, Jongin was interrogated on everything from what he was studying to what his parents did, to how he and Kyungsoo had met. Before he had a chance to even compose his answer to the last question, Kyungsoo interrupted to say it was really none of their business but since they wanted to know, they’d met at a bus-stop and that was all either of them was going to say on the matter. Hyewon inhaled deeply like she was about to pepper them with more questions but her elder sister took one look at Jongin’s guarded expression and Kyungsoo’s mutinous one and changed the topic.
At some point, Hyewon informed everyone that there was a cute guy in her Constitutional Law class who kept staring at her, and whom she was positive would ask her out by the end of the month. Kyungsoo’s Umma complained that her new food processor was the most useless thing ever and it was driving her up the wall. Hyeyoon cheerfully announced that Seungchae had just cut a new tooth. Umma mentioned that the Parks across the street were going back to Korea for the Christmas holidays. There was just an endless stream of data pouring forth and Jongin was fascinated by all of it. And last but not least, there was the aggressive debate between the three women about some Korean drama called The Heirs. Jongin didn’t have a clue what was going on and calmly ate his rice and bulgogi and kimchi jjigae, while the women disagreed over the way the plot was developing and analyzed the actions of the characters. Like Jongin, Kyungsoo and his father were eating stoically and not contributing at all to the conversation. As Jongin took a sip of water, he felt Kyungsoo’s hand settle gently on his thigh. Then Kyungsoo leaned in close and asked him in hushed tones, “How’re you holding up?” and Jongin nodded as if to say, “I’m fine.” And he was fine, he really was.
After dinner, Jongin found himself seated in the living room with Kyungsoo’s Umma and Hyewon noona while Kyungsoo helped his father to prepare coffee. He had tried to join the other men in the kitchen but Umma had insisted that he stay out here because he was a guest. The dining table had conveniently camouflaged the tattoos on his left hand as he held his chopsticks and ate with his right. But now Jongin felt exposed as he sat awkwardly on the sienna hued couch. Nervously, he curled his fingers and rested his fist beside his thigh, keeping the letter tattoos as far out of sight as possible.
“So Jongin, how did you and my brother meet?” Hyewon asked.
“Um, like Kyungsoo said, we met at a bus-stop. Near the Community Center where he teaches.”
“Do you teach there too, Jongin?” Umma asked as she dandled an irritable Seungchae. Hyewoon had apparently gone upstairs on some mysterious errand, and left the baby with her.
“No, no I don’t, ahjumeoni. I just happened to be in the area.” Jongin didn’t think it was a good idea to mention that he’d been hanging out at a bar nearby. Then before the women could ask him any more tough questions, Seungchae decided to start screaming and crying at ear-shattering levels. The baby's grandmother stood up quickly and tried to calm him down. Cooing and singing to the howling Seungchae, she walked around the sitting room, rocking him, but his wails only got increasingly loud. After a few minutes, Hyewon tried her luck since there was still no sign of the baby’s mother. Jongin watched silently as she, too, failed to quieten the baby. Finally, after watching the two women struggle with the baby for a few more minutes, he spoke up, “Can I try?”
"You have experience with babies?" Hyewon asked dubiously.
"Just pass the baby to him, Hyewon. He can't do much worse with Seungchae than we've done." Umma instructed impatiently and Hyewon reluctantly handed a red-faced bawling Seungchae over to Jongin, who took him carefully and confidently into his arms.
"Hush, baby, hush," he said slowly and gently in his low, husky voice as little Seungchae howled, his little fists held high. Holding him close to his chest, Jongin walked sedately to the window, the baby's back in comforting, downward movements. He stopped in front of the window and began swaying his arms and singing in an almost whisper that only he and Seungchae could hear,
When my time comes
Forget the wrong that I've done
Help me leave behind some
Reasons to be missed
Don't resent me
And when you're feeling empty
Keep me in your memory
Leave out all the rest
Leave out all the rest
Jongin repeated the verse a second time and by halfway through, the little body in his arms had stopped its angry fidgeting and the wracking sobs were paced further apart. By the end of the third round, baby Seungchae was sleeping fitfully in Jongin's arms as he hugged him to his chest and breathed in the pure, sweet fragrance of baby bath soap and sleeping baby.
"Thank you, Jongin. You did a great job of calming him down. I'll take him now." Hyeyoon was beside him with arms held out and Jongin felt a slight pang as he passed the sleeping baby back to his mother. Then Jongin looked up to find the entire Do family staring, awestruck at him - Kyungsoo, included.
"Do you have a much younger brother or sister, Jongin?" Umma asked point blank.
"I ... no, I'm an only child."
"Then how are you so comfortable with a crying baby?"
"Minjung ahjumma who cleans my house - she has two grandchildren. Her daughter drops them off twice a week at my house because she works on those days. They're 3 and 5 now, but they've been coming over since they were babies. I used to help ahjumma calm them down - usually when she was in the middle of cooking."
"I see." Umma nodded thoughtfully, "But your parents are okay with the cleaner bringing her grandkids to their house? It's not exactly, well, professional?"
"Minjung ahjumma has been with us since I was 8. And my mother didn't want to deal with the house not being cleaned 2 days out of 6 so she agreed to it. She's never home during the day anyway so it doesn't matter to her."
Kyungsoo shook his head mentally – it was never a good thing when Umma said I see twice in 5 minutes. But he shoved that concern out of the way as he went back to pondering on Jongin's ability with babies. It was yet an additional layer to the conundrum that was Kim Jongin. He wondered what he'd surprise him with next.
Ping. Ping ping ping. Ping.
"C'mon!" Kyungsoo grabbed Jongin by the hand and pulled him out the front door. "It's sleet!" Kyungsoo yelled ecstatically as he flung his arms out, palms up. Jongin had never in his life gotten excited about weather but he held his arms out, wincing a little as the frozen raindrops stung his face and his palms. He stared at the tiny crystal spheres on his palm for the seconds it took before the heat of his skin melted them.
"BOYS GET IN HERE BEFORE YOU CATCH A CHILL! DON'T BE IDIOTS!" Umma was bellowing from the threshold and Kyungsoo waved at her cheerfully and she waved her fist agitatedly in return.
"We’d better go inside now before she goes ballistic. Anyway, that hurts after a while." Kyungsoo laughed and he turned to look up at Jongin, eyes alight and smiling so radiantly that Jongin's heart forgot how to beat for a little while. Three weeks ago, if someone had told him he’d be having dinner with his boyfriend’s family and catching sleet in his palms in front of their house, he would have scoffed at them and told them to off. And yet here he was and what was more, he wasn’t resenting it. He didn’t do boyfriends and he didn’t do families. What was even happening to him?
Kyungsoo’s Umma was still standing by the door when they re-entered the house. She had a disapproving look on her face as she told Kyungsoo off for running out of the house like a maniac, putting himself and Jongin at risk of catching pneumonia. “You didn’t even wear any jackets!” she added to her tirade.
“But we were only out there for like 2 minutes, what’s the worst that could’ve happened?”
“Do not sass me, Soo. Anyway, it’s not safe to drive on the roads with all that sleet so Jongin, you’re spending the night.” Umma announced firmly, leaving no room for argument. “Kyungsoo will lend you some clothes to sleep in - although they might be a bit of a squeeze for you. You’re so much taller and larger than him. The pants will be really short I think. My son stopped growing when he was 16 -“
“Umma, stop. Please. You're over sharing. Jongin doesn't need to hear about my growth patterns. And if you could leave me a few shreds of dignity by not sharing any more embarrassing life details with Jongin, that would be really good. Please? I've precious little dignity left as it is after tonight's dinner since you were like a leaky bucket telling Jongin every embarrassing thing that's happened to me since I was two." Kyungsoo said sarcastically.
“I barely told Jongin anything, for heaven’s sake. I need to save up some stories for the next dinner, see?”
“You can’t be serious?!” Kyungsoo shouted in disbelief.
“When do I ever joke?” Umma raised an eyebrow at him.
It was past midnight when they finally said goodnight to the rest of the Do family. Jongin sat on the edge of Kyungsoo's neatly made, queen size bed and watched while Kyungsoo rummaged around in the closet for some suitable sleep clothes. Almost as an afterthought, Jongin sent a brief text message to his mother before placing his phone on top of Kyungsoo’s prussian blue comforter: Staying at a friend's. Sleet on the roads.
"This should be big enough." Kyungsoo said contemplatively - biting the corner of his lip as he stretched the dove gray cotton fabric across Jongin's broad shoulders. Jongin watched Kyungsoo's expressive face and the way he chewed on his bottom lip and he had to smile at how earnest Kyungsoo was in everything he did. He also had to tell himself to stop staring at that tempting lower lip, but that was another story.
"And this will be a little short for you but it should fit." Kyungsoo held up a pair of navy blue plaid flannel drawstring pajama pants. Not saying anything, Jongin's arms slid around Kyungsoo's waist and he pulled him closer, settling him between his knees before he buried his face in the other boy's chest, breathing in his male scent and absorbing his warmth.
"Mmmm?" Kyungsoo hummed as he the back of Jongin's head.
"Do you think your mom likes me?" Jongin's words were slightly muffled by the aubergine colored fibers of Kyungsoo's woolen sweater.
"Of course she likes you. She mentioned a “next dinner”. Umma is pretty direct. Also, if she didn't like you she wouldn't have told you so many embarrassing things about me that you could use to blackmail me with. She's horrible. I can't believe she told you so much ugh." Kyungsoo grumbled, his hand curving itself around Jongin's nape.
"Well, I think she's great." Jongin said quietly.
“She is, actually. But if you tell her I said that I will deny everything.” Kyungsoo chuckled. Then Jongin’s phone buzzed. Message from Mother: Noted. Kyungsoo’s heart fell at the impersonal response. Jongin gave the screen a desultory glance and said nothing, opting to bury his face back in Kyungsoo’s chest. Kyungsoo ached for him but he didn’t ask Jongin about it because he didn’t think he’d want to talk about it.
“Jongin?” Kyungsoo’s palm rubbed soothing circles on Jongin’s soft cashmere clad back.
“Hmm?” Jongin mumbled as his mouth moved over the sensitive skin of Kyungsoo’s neck.
“I miss seeing your tattoos. Maybe it’s time you tried my shirt on for size.”
“Soo, did you just … ask me to strip?” Kyungsoo could feel the imprint of Jongin’s smile against his skin.
“Of course not. I asked you to try on my sleep shirt.”
“If you say so.” Jongin chuckled as he got ready to take off his turtleneck. He paused for a little while as he realized Kyungsoo had never actually seen him shirtless, and he felt self-conscious all of a sudden.
“Well? What are you waiting for, Jongin?” Kyungsoo held up the gray long-sleeved tee helpfully and Jongin shut his eyes and took the sweater off. Jongin heard the sharp intake of breath before he saw the look of utter captivation on Kyungsoo’s face. And the next thing he knew, Kyungsoo had one hand on the tattoo on his arm and the other on Jongin’s neck.
“You’re so beautiful.” Kyungsoo said simply just before he kissed the embellished skin on first Jongin’s neck, and then his arm. Meanwhile, Jongin gasped at the gentle contact of Kyungsoo’s lips and tongue against his marked skin, and of his hands tentatively exploring his chest.
“Promise me you won’t hide your tattoos again, Jongin.” Kyungsoo’s expression was solemn as he said the words.
“I can’t do that.” Jongin shook his head quietly.
“I’ll think about it.”
“All right, I’ll accept that for now. Now you’d better put this on before you catch a chill and more importantly, you need to cover yourself up so I don’t end up attacking you under my parents’ roof because that just sounds wrong on so many levels.” Kyungsoo sighed as he carefully fit the collar of the gray shirt over Jongin’s head and helped guide his arms through the sleeves. It had always been too big for Kyungsoo but it was a perfect fit for Jongin.
“Thanks.” Jongin sighed and enveloped Kyungsoo tightly in his arms and somehow the other boy knew Jongin wasn’t just thanking him for the shirt.
“We’d better get ready for bed then. I’ll go wash up first and I’ll leave a new toothbrush on the sink for you to use, okay?”
They spent the next hour lying in bed, arms and legs entwined as they talked and exchanged lazy kisses. Maybe it was because they both knew that Umma was just 15 feet away but they couldn’t bring themselves to do much more than kiss and cuddle. Just before they drifted off to sleep, Kyungsoo asked Jongin what song he’d sung to little Seungchae that had calmed him down so and he burst into unrestrained laughter when Jongin admitted that it was an a capella version of the Linkin Park song Leave Out All the Rest.
“Oh my God, my boyfriend sang a rock song to my nephew?” Kyungsoo used the word ‘boyfriend’ without thinking and then corrected himself because they had never actually talked about such things to each other, “I’m sorry Jongin, I didn’t mean to say –”
“Boyfriend? Why wouldn’t you say that? It’s the truth after all. Now go to sleep.” Jongin said just before he kissed him good night one last time and settled back into a spooning position. Kyungsoo ached with unspoken joy as he said ‘goodnight’ and snuggled closer to the warmth against his back that was Jongin. And as Kyungsoo’s eyelids slowly drooped shut, he thanked the weather gods for sending sleet …
A/N: As usual, this was a really tough chapter to write – I say that about most of my chapters but this one seriously kicked my . I hope you guys don’t hate it and that you’ll let me know what you think and if you like the story, please up vote it? Because votes and comments keep me going and I’ve been struggling a lot with the whole writing thing lately. I worked really hard on this 4.6k chapter though so i hope you guys enjoyed it.
And thanks to these people in tlist answered my dumb questions about sleet: charliebnim, GollumPanties, kiska_blah, fatal_fangirl, nungonju & Dark0Dreamer!