(originally posted on Cup O’ Porn)
Kim Jae-Min was taller than I’d expected, probably because Cole McGinnis is a solid, broad-shouldered man but also because Cole thinks of Jae as being smaller and everything I’d learned about Jae was solely from Cole’s point of view. It was much like Godzilla would think a komodo dragon is small. Perhaps smaller to a giant lizard but no less deadly.
He was also prettier than he should have been. Dangerously pretty. I could see why Cole lost his heart to him. More than one heart was broken when he came into the café and I waved at him. He gave me a wave back and then pointed to the counter, silently asking me to wait a moment while he ordered. Pretty certain I heard a disgusted hiss to the left of me but I valiantly ignored it.
Jae carried himself easily, unaware of his sensuality even when more than one woman’s gaze followed him. Some were bold, letting their eyes roam up his long legs and lingering over an ass I couldn’t quite catch a glimpse of yet. One of them smiled seductively when he glanced around but that coquettish expression faded quickly when Jae turned towards the board to see the café’s specials. No, those golden-flecked brown eyes only had the time of day to the coffee choices listed on the wall. He ordered a quadruple sweetened espresso and padded over to where I am sitting.
He’d dressed casually, almost a little carelessly. Faded jeans torn across the knees and slightly ripped in places on his thighs, they look worn from use and not from acid dripped in a factory. The oversized white man’s shirt looked borrowed from a larger man, probably his lover, its sleeves rolled up to his elbows. Two rows of a braided rope and beads bracelet were his only jewelry and it shone in spots, as if his fingers ran some of the edges smooth.
Coming over to my table, he gave me a shallow bob of his head, sending a faint whiff of his green tea cologne towards me. His shiny black hair is longer than the picture Cole showed me, the sides curving down his neck and falling forward when he slid into the booth seat across of me. It’s an artless crows-wing colour, nearly blue under the white track lights. Its hue make his eyes gleam, specks of gold spice caught in cinnamon.
Cole definitely had good taste in men.
“Hello.” His words were flavoured with a hint of Seoul and honey, rolling soft and slightly deeper than I’d imagined. I was right about the shirt. The rich white cotton is embroidered with a discreet monogram on the fold of the chest pocket, a royal blue CKM embellished with a black block border. Nervous, he began playing with the corded bracelet and smiled only briefly when the counter girl brought him his coffee.
“I’m glad you came,” I said, hoping to ease his fidgeting. He looked surprised for some reason, his long lashes sweeping up towards raised eyebrows. “No, really. I am. There’s been a lot of people who’ve been curious about you.”
“That does not help anything,” Jae murmured. “There’s really nothing to be curious about. But Cole-ah…he asked me to come so…here I am.”
His words are a dab of hot butter sliding into hot rum and his mouth pursed, drawing attention to the fullness of his mouth. If I hadn’t been certain of his beauty, it became glaringly obvious now. Kim Jae-Min could entrance a dead man. He’s a sensual creature, masculine but with more than a hint of ethereal androgyny.
“If you’re uncomfortable with any of these questions,” I began, “You can skip them. Some of them are very…intrusive.”
“Maybe answering them will kill the cat, yes?” His mouth quirked, showing a dash of the macabre humour I’d heard he possessed. “I’ll do my best.”
“Do you want to start easy and work up to pushy, or just start straight into the meat of things?” I wanted to give him a choice, especially since his face pinked slightly when I mentioned the type of questions I’d gathered.
“Easy.” The smile was back, shyer this time but still sweet. Jae’s eyes warmed and he dropped his gaze, those lashes flicking down towards his high cheekbones. “I’ll try not to run out screaming.”
“Please, don’t,” I begged. “I like getting coffee here.”
We shared a laugh and his shoulders relaxed. A familiar song began playing on the café’s speakers, something from Big Bang’s early days and Jae’s long fingers tapped at the wooden table between us.
“First question, are you building a portfolio for a gallery showing and are you hoping to do photography as art and not just for weddings and parties?”
Surprisingly, this pulled a raspy chuckle out of him. The shy smile went back to a quirky slash.
“Funny question?” I asked.
“Yes, because mostly what I shoot is for showings or galleries. I only do events to pay the bills. My photographs are…personal, usually, when I’m shooting…it’s like a zen place for me. So I don’t share things until I’m done.” He retrieved his phone out of his pocket, turning the screen around to show me an upcoming announcement. “I’m one of the three photographers being shown at this gallery. Most of the shots are from behind the curtains at Dorthi Ki Seu but some are of Scarlet at home. Cole and I will be there for the opening.”
“The next question still deals with photography of sorts. What do you see as the most beautiful in Cole and have you tried to capture that beauty with your camera?” I crossed a set of queries off of my list and caught the edge of a blush working up from his throat. “For example, have you taken pictures of Cole after you’ve had sex?”
He’d just taken a sip of coffee as I framed the last question and Jae choked on the liquid. Grabbing at a napkin, he wiped at his mouth and his eyes narrowed slightly, exposing the wildness I knew Cole saw in him. “These are the easy questions?”
“Yep,” I replied with what I hoped was a reassuring smile. “The curious also seem to be a bit on the perverted side but still, curious.”
“Aish.” It was a odd noise, an inflection of sound and hiss unique to an Asian speaker. I’m not certain anyone outside of many Asiatic cultures would understand its use; a blend of embarrassment and apology mingled with a bit of frustration. Jae ran his left hand through his hair, disheveling the strands slightly, creating a bit of distance between himself and the question.
Taking a moment to think, and drink more coffee, he finally said, “I’ve tried to shoot pictures of Cole but he doesn’t take it seriously enough to sit still. Usually he does something… embarrassing and taking a shot of him after we’ve…” The blush grows until his pale cheeks are hot and he has to look away, focusing on something else rather than me sitting across of him. “I don’t think I could share that. Not yet. Maybe some day but not yet.”
Thankfully, the waitress delivered two glasses of chilled water with lime slices to our table because I’d begun to fear he’d combust in front of me. He gratefully picked up the glass, running the icy smoothness over his face a moment before taking a big gulp. He met my eyes, a faint trace of his bashfulness left in his expression. Clearly, his mind is on moments he’d shared with his lover because he’s ducked his face down again to rub at the spreading heat.
I swayed the conversation away from the intimacy of his thoughts. “And the other? What you find most beautiful?”
“Probably his hands,” Jae replied softly. “They’re rough sometimes. From the gym or when he boxes with Bobby. When he touches me, it’s like raw silk. I can tell they belong to a man. There is a… grit to them and they snag on my skin. It does something to me inside. I can’t explain it. It drives me…to want him.”
A table near us has a cupcake brought to them, the café workers singing a rousing but off-key rendition of a Happy Birthday I’ve never ever heard. His attention is on the sparkler stuck into the frosting and then when the haphazard choir finished, it flicked back to me.
Luckily, I have the next set of questions ready.
“These seem to crop up a couple of times so I’m going to combine them.” I scratch down the list, trying to make sense of my own handwriting. “What was the first thing you noticed about Cole McGinnis that attracted you to him and when did you realize you were in love with him?”
Jae puffed out his cheeks, thinking. His gaze is wandering again, catching on the bright colours of the café. He’s a people-watcher, assessing things around him as if framing them for a shot. His face seems unreadable but there are little clues of his interest; the catch of his eye on something or the slight tremble of his fingers as they play with the edge of a napkin.
“Probably the first thing I noticed was how big he is.” Jae cleared his throat, shifting slightly. “Not tall… more like he is loud. Everything about Cole is loud. Not his voice but just his… presence. He’s handsome but childish, like a little boy. Does without thinking sometimes. He can push into your space just by being next to you. He’s only a few inches taller than me but he always seems… large. It can be.. overwhelming. He was overwhelming. I knew I wanted him. Seeing him at the door, I wanted him but… it didn’t seem feasible. Now, it still doesn’t seem feasible but it’s…worth it.”
“And when you knew?”
“When did I know I loved him?” Jae laughed softly. “When I woke up in the hospital and I was so drugged up until I couldn’t think straight. I asked him to go look for Neko-chan, even though I thought she was dead. I just couldn’t… let her be dead. When he came back and told me he’d found her, I knew he was someone I couldn’t let go. If he could bring a cat back to life for me, I knew he could do anything…would do anything for me. No one had ever… cared about me like that before.”
“I’m glad you found each other then.” Moving on to the next question, I asked, “Living in America, in a culture where we prize the idea of the pursuit of happiness, how do you resist the temptation to turn your back on your heritage in order to pursue your own happiness?”
“Temptation?” This time his chuckle is laced with sarcasm and it took me aback. Suddenly, the elegant graceful young man sitting across of me became wary, a street wisdom edging into his movements. “There’s no temptation there. My happiness is…like a sand trap made of gold dust. I might want it but I know I will suffocate if I get caught in it. Cole is… too rich of a soul for me. He enriches me but oh…he could kill who I am. It’s a…struggle but he’s willing to wait for me. He’s said so.”
“We’re almost at the end.” I only had a few left and he was getting more fidgety. I was prying deep into places, Jae hadn’t necessarily examined himself. “If push came to shove and you had to really fight for Cole — stand up for him —would you do it without hesitation?”
“That’s a hard question,” He mused. “There have been times when I’ve wanted to step in. When his mother…when Barbara and he were in the kitchen together. I wanted to hurt her. Deep inside, that’s what I wanted but I knew it wouldn’t do any good. He wouldn’t have let me. But, if you’re asking me if I would die for him, then the answer is yes. Dying would be easy. Knowing when to step aside and let him do what he needs to do, that’s hard. I hesitate then. I want to hurt someone who’s hurt him and I know I shouldn’t…that I can’t…that’s when I’m helpless.”
My coffee was gone and there wasn’t much left of his espresso. He excused himself to snag a couple of refills, returning with a latte for both of us. Bending over to grab at the sugar packets, he pulled them over before sitting back down. I took the time to examine his butt, taking my cue from the women sitting near the door who ogled him openly.
Cole was a very lucky man.
“Here, these are easier,” I said after flipping my sheet of questions over. “Well, less sexual. Sort of.”
“Sort of?” Jae shook his head. “That scares me.”
He took his time sweetening his coffee, thinking on the question. “Most important? I think he knows everything that’s important. He digs, you know? You don’t realize it but he ferrets things out of me. Sometimes I don’t even realize it. He can’t help it. He charms things out of people.”
“That’s him. Not you,” I point out.
“Aish.” That word again, harsh and sibilant. “I’ve never…danced for him. I don’t think he knows I really like dancing. I’d want to do that for him one day if…he didn’t take it wrong. I worry about that.”
“Only two more questions to go.” I marked down my list, finding one I knew some people wanted to know. “How do you really feel about Bobby?”
“Bobby? Oh, that’s… bad.” His head shake was becoming very familiar and I laughed at the slightly evil expression on his face. “You sure?”
“Oh yeah, I’m sure.” I tapped the paper. “More than one person asked.”
“Bobby…” Jae’s honey rasp became an amused whisper. “Oh, I have taken a picture or two of him. He’s…cocky enough to like it. Let’s see… what I can say about Bobby?”
“Take your time,” I offered. “You can be as honest as you want to be.”
“Bobby is…he doesn’t understand fidelity. Or rather, he might but he doesn’t believe it’s for him. I don’t think he believes it for Cole either.” Steepling his fingers, he took a moment to turn his thoughts over then leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. “Bobby…he doesn’t trust me with Cole. He thinks I’ll break Cole’s heart. I can’t blame him. I don’t…want to hurt Cole but right now, we don’t know where we’ll be. I think he’s a good friend.”
I raised an eyebrow. I’d mastered that as a child when I’d tried to convince myself I was a Vulcan and Jae chuckled.
“He is a good friend. He was there for Cole when Rick died.” Jae cradled his latte, licking at the foam around the edge of the cup. “He’s also a whore and checks out my ass every chance he gets. That’s what I think about Bobby.”
“Do you want to talk about how you feel about Rick?” I hedged in a question of my own. He looked away, a pretty statue frozen in someone else’s grief.
“No,” Jae finally purred. “That’s Cole’s pain. I won’t scrape at it. He deserves to have that love in his heart. I don’t feel like I’m competing against Rick. I think I’m loving the man Rick left behind — the stitched together pieces of that man. Bobby had a hand in that healing. I’m grateful for that. Cole’s… good. And I don’t mind his heart belonging a bit to Rick. Is that the last question?”
“No, that was a bonus round,” I tried to look apologetic but probably failed.
Jae stretched his arms out, working a kink from his neck. The collar of his borrowed shirt shifted and I spotted a dark purple splotch marbling the skin beneath his right ear. A small love bite but a deep one. “No problem. Cole-ah is supposed to meet me here. I have a little time.”
“Last question, promise.” I crossed my heart. “If Cole developed a crippling allergy to Neko, what would you do?”
“Ah, funny you should ask that.” He lowered his chin, that black hair falling into his eyes again. “I didn’t know this…and I don’t think Cole knew it either but he is a little allergic to cats. He didn’t say anything but whenever I brought her over, his eyes watered a bit and he was…stuffy. He told me it was hay fever. It was spring so….” He shrugged, elegantly lifting his shoulders. “I didn’t think it was anything but then it didn’t go away when summer hit.”
“Shit,” I whispered. “How bad is it?”
“He’s better. I guess he got used to her. He’d never been around a cat so he didn’t know. Now, I think he’s built up a kind of immunity.” A dimple slid into view on his cheek. “And well, he takes a daily pill. It only gets really bad if she sits on his face…which she does like to do. She can be a brat but she loves him. I think he likes her too.”
“Or maybe I just love you that much to put up with her shit.” Cole cast a shadow over us and he hovered momentarily over Jae.
I could see him straining not to touch his lover. It was all he could do not to lean over and kiss the man’s full mouth. Edging Jae over along the booth seat, their hands touched, fingers sliding over their palms in a small dance of warm skin. Jae glanced about the café, a hint of insecurity in his tight mouth but a wink from Cole whispered it away and he scooted over the red vinyl, making room for the detective to sit down.
Jae-Min was right. Cole McGinnis seemed to heat the air around him, drawing people like a flame. Our counter girl popped up out of nowhere, suddenly eager to refill our coffee cups but Cole waved her off, snagging Jae’s latte from the table. Gulping a sip, he placed it back down in front of his lover and Jae picked it up, turning the ceramic around until he got to the spot where Cole drank from. Lifting the cup, he placed his mouth on the edge, the lip still wet from Cole’s mouth and sipped.
“You almost done?” Cole grinned at me. Spotting a faint pink on his lover’s cheek, he poked at Jae’s ribs. “What did she ask you? What I was like in bed?”
“I couldn’t answer that one,” He retorted. “I fell asleep trying to remember.”
“Ouch.” Cole shivered dramatically. “I am bleeding. Inside but bleeding.”
“We’re good,” I said, releasing Jae from his torture. “Thank you for your time. I appreciate it.”
Reaching across the table, I held my hand out for Jae to shake. He returned the courtesy and lightly shoved at Cole to move back out. The detective grumbled but slowly edged back across the seat. Their hands tangled again, a swift touch on the table nearly too quickly for anyone to notice but obvious if one was looking for it. Since I was looking for it, it was easy to spot.
“Thank you,” Jae-Min murmured. “I’m glad we met.”
“Next time, it’ll be my turn,” Cole promised, hooking an arm loosely around Jae’s shoulders. He let it rest there for a second then pulled away, walking towards the door without another word. Winking at me, Cole grinned. “He loves me. Can’t you feel the love?”
He was gone before I could respond, striding through the café’s glass doors to catch up with his lover but I could have told him yes. In every flicker of Jae’s expression and cant of his head, I could tell he loved Cole. Maybe not enough to overcome the obstacles between them but deep enough for Jae to risk his heart. Leaving a tip on the table, I gathered up my notes and closed my book. Cole was right. He was next. As soon as I gathered a long enough list of embarrassing question for him to answer.
Unless other wise marked for credit, photos were purchased for use from stock photography sites. All others are royalty free and under creative commons copyright. Credits for the following: vegasandblog for photo six.