RATING: PG - 13
WORD COUNT: 4755
PAIRING: OnTae (Onew/Taemin), MinKey (Minho/Key), Jonghyun, OC
GENRE: Angst, Romance, Psychological, Friendship, Tragedy, Humor
WARNING: Character death
DISCLAIMER: More likely I'd find a pot of gold under my bed than Shinee would ever be mine except in my dreams.
SUMMARY: Common people struggle, but little we know about the pain Shinies carry. In life, there are catchers closer to the edge, very much closer than they themselves cognize. Wish there's a catcher for them.
For some time one can only wonder why are these things happening to one, but soon, too soon, it's made clear that wondering clicks to no end whils it's investigating the beginning and beyond. First sign one wanting revenge is sign of searching blame. Chain reactions are going on all the time. Where the first link lies, god knows. Perhaps it was lack of faith, so one couldn't be satisfied things go their way as they went. This fact really is unknown. Even for himself.
With or without faith in that dark corner under the railway bridge Lee Jinki felt cut out of the world, in sense that even god won't have any business there. Only a little creek, that was flowing straight under, could see him if there was light enough to reflect him below the bleak railway in a dughole he had curled himself. There wasn't a person in this world who knew about this getaway. Not anymore at least. There was only one body with a soul plus one soul who knew.
Knowing. This word all in meaning and existence ate his insides. Did knowing disappear with the brain or did knowing stuck as part of one's soul? Could it be, he was still here; knowing? Either case Onew didn't know which one was worse. Quilt for him was like handwriting on the wall - irrevocable. But that precious soul that he ached for wasn't here anymore. He was gone. His feelings were as inane as crying for the moon.
How can I even. The edge. The pain. I promise.
Onew stopped crying long ago. These weren't his thoughts anymore that would pound in his head. This was acceptance eating its way through his heart. Accepting his fault and blame as irreversible that is. It hurt. There aren't enough words nor feelings to describe how much. He knew what he had to do. No, not to get rid of the hurt he himself felt nor the quilt, but to show his atonement. He needed to pay the price and as life doesn't seem to estimate losses as fairly as should then one has to be one's self judge. So he thought. The determination kept him going.
* * *
“Hyung!” Taemin cheered seeing Onew stepping in the dance hall so early. Onew had been away almost a month, in Singapore doing a solo project, and they hadn't talked ever since he left. Well, he sent e-mails and messages how he was doing and vice versa but other than that they hadn't had any communication.
Taemin himself had been here from 5 o'clock working on a new coreography for their comeback. It was only a month away. Not many knew how little he slept so that he could come and polish every pose, step and move. Always more than ever. His uncertainty of himself was too embarrissing. To be honest, only Onew was the keeper of this secret. Just like Taemin has always been his confidant. Until recently. After christmas. Things had changed. The e-mails and messages were short updates of how he was doing or strict work-matters. Well, to a person aside would see his hyung not so different. He has always been dutiful and hard-working. But nevertheless. There's no reasonable explanation his hyung to be so distant. They were too connected not to care how other was doing. It wasn't the same. He wasn't the same.
Taemin walked to the stereo system and pressed pause. “You're back! I missed you like crazy! We wanted to visit you, but well you.. were busy? To be honest..,” he hesitated, but continued speaking to a wall “It's.. we haven't talked for a too long time. You didn't answere even one of my mails. And I can't understand why?” Silence. Taemin turned around only to see his hyung leaning his back to a wall and for some reason like a limp-cover book slouch on the floor.
“Hyung? Are you okay?”
Onew's head was heavily pecking, it looked like he had difficult time holding it up, it looked like.. He was drunk? No can be. Regardless the word him being a heavy drinker, actually there were only one or two rare occasions that he had been so much as drunk. Let alone 6 am in the morning.
Taemin stepped closer. “Hyung? Have you been drinkin'?”
And before Taemin could accept another silence, Onew fell on his side and burst into laughter, hugging his stomach “in the process”. Taemin was battling with bafflement of what he had missed. He took a frowning look around and then himself – wouldn't be the first time putting his pants on backwards or a bleaching stain of toothpaste on his t-shirt. Yeah, they've had lauged countless times about his clumsy habits of living contrariwise, but that wasn't the case now. Was it? Can't be he's drunk at this hour! Can he?
He took a step closer and squatted down hugging his knees so that his head could rest on them. He hoped that at this distance he could confirm alcohol by the smell, but nope, nothing. Maybe his hyung really was laughing with no reason what so ever. As Onew's laughing was fading he decided that he needed to bring the topic up again. After the events on christmas, having been avoided, he himself needed to ask and know if it was his doing that Jinki didn't want to talk to him. Others were sure he had found a lover in Singapore, let it be brought to notice that he didn't assert the contrary but still, his friend was acting fishy and to be even more honest Taemin, for some, not-very-sure-how-obvious reason, hated the thought Jinki having a special someone. But before he could gain up the courage to ask anything Jinki had already bolted up and was now standing, alerted, in front of him. Taemin glared up to see his expression of bewilderment.
“Yaah! Boy!” Jinki jelled making Taemin jump up in daunt. He trusted his hyung with all his being but now, he was a little frightened by the elder being so abrupt. And the fact that at some point in mean time, Taemin weren't called Taemin nor Baby, as Onew sometimes nurturingly called his younger, anymore. Now, for his hyung, he was Boy. Is the Boy practicing his vocals? Maybe the management could give the Boy a little more time. Just a Boy with no name what so ever. “What's with the ugly ass bird! What's it doin' here!? You've rummaged in my stuff already, haven't you!? It's not yours to begin with! Whatta putz! Argh!” Onew was clearly in rage. Taemin had never seen him this way. He was always calm, prudent but never had he seen him scream or being the slightest bit hot under the collar. Taemin was scared stiff and utterly confused what the other was referring to.
Before he could gain himself of being shouted at, Onew was already racing off in the direction of the stereo system. He picked Taemin's keys and started prying something off as the keys jingled. Then it hit him. The chicken! The little keychain his hyung had given him for being such a clutz all the time. Just to make sure that Taemin would this time, for this thingy as now his precious, keep it close and wouldn't lose another pair of keys as they were tired of changing the locks all the time. So, from that moment on, he would always have to look after the little chicken which was representing his best friend. The thing itself was really, as alluded, ugly, but nonetheless Taemin cherished it with his all and kept an eye on it extremely carefully. He also knew that Onew wasn't that big with gestures, so this meant in real so much more. All the more what Jinki had said to him when he presented it, “So. You won't get lost, and if there's no Jinki nearby, then you know I really am. Just... Don't get lost, get it?! Lose it and I feed you to the angry chicken army. Pinky-promise!” he ended enthusiastically just to smooth the tension for being too cheesy. Actually, he suspected, the elder didn't want Taemin freeze to death outside waiting now and then because he was too polite to call and interrupt anyone or naturally saving him from the bitchery he received from others.
Taemin tried to shake off the startle and calmly moved beside his boiling friend who was still battling with the keys, obviously making no progress because his hands, in fact his whole body, was shaking so hard it was miraculous he even could stand. He mumbled something. Taemin could hear it better as he got closer. “Take it off.. take it off..Shit..” He just quietly watched Onew raping his keys in puzzlement. He did it for minutes but finally seemed to get exhausted. Noticing Taemin by his side he held them out for him and said irritably: “I can't! Just friggin take it off, boy!” He repeated himself as Taemin made no move to take the keys. He just traded stares between Onew and the keys. Jinki certainly wasn't in place to be patient and let out a growl which was cut short as Taemin placed his hands on the extended hand, palming the keys with one and the back of Onew's hand the other. This gesture made him shoot his eyes into Taemin's in shock. Why? “Why.. what the heck you think ..”
“When did you last sleep?” Onew was again cut short.
“What's that got to do with.. I don't know even... You have a death wish?!” His voice was now threatening and furious. “You petty little thief. You don't fool me. You hear me!? I can see through this act you're trying to pull off.”
“And what's that?” Taemin asked with much more confident than he thought he had.
“You're false. I'm not even going to.. Just let go!” Onew tried to shake Taemin's grip away but was taken by surprise as the next second he found himself in the arms of the younger. Taemin used the time his hyung was still baffled and hung onto him even harder as he whispered in tears, “Don't ever say that, that I'm false. Don't swear. Listen. I don't know what's going on with you. But I'm here. And real. I know, I'm sorry, I made you scared at christmas. Is it because of that? Is it? If.. then.. Don't shove me away. I won't break. Now.. I know that if I had you ...”
“Get off me!” Jinki shouted angrily pushing Taemin away making the other trip on the stereo. “I don't know what you are and what in the fucking hell you're talking about. Cut it out!” He begun again with the prying and this time had more luck as he got the bird, threw the keys on the floor and gave a fierce look to Taemin. “People like you make me disgusted. You ever touch my stuff again, I swear..” He couldn't end the sentence, instead he just stormed out leaving hurt-looking Taemin behind.
This was beyond him. This wasn't his hyung anymore. It definetly looked like him but it couldn't be. His hyung never swore, never was he mean, way more there wasn't an evil bone in his body. Hell, he was so kind, people just could use him and he wouldn't probably even notice it because if he could and have the powers to do something, he did, there were no two ways about it. And all that with pure sincerity. Where did he go?
* * *
I cannot bear with this anymore. I'm no good. I can't with the blame I give myself every single day and the blame others don't give me, but ,oh how much I deserve. It confuses me how long you've put up with it. I don't have anything to give you but still there you are, being mine. I'm not worthy of you. If there was any person who could've saved me, it were you. But I can't be saved. I don't want to, I'm already so dead inside and the only part that isn't existing in nothing is the part that loves you so dearly. I'm selfish for myself but selfless for you. You'll be better without me. You'll be sad at first, blaming me even more and knowing you, even blaming yourself, but it'll pass. I need you to be happy. I can't bring you this close to the edge where I'm standing. I'm falling in such speed it's even too hard to write this to you. Hurting you is the last thing I want, but it's the only way not be hurting you any longer. It must end.
I don't know what's ahead of me. Is there nothing or something. Anyway it's better than this never ending pain. I need to breathe or not breathe at all. If there were guardian angels, I'll be yours. I'll definetly pledge on that spot if they let me. I promise. Eventually, it gets easier.
Know this. I will always love you as much as one can ever love anyone. In me, it's just not enough. But the alive part. That part is only yours and always will be yours. Forgive me, I wasn't strong enough.
* * *
“So. Your riend is having a hard time. What do you think, why is that so?” Dr. Myung asked sitting across him on the similar couch as Taemin. The silence fell when Taemin thought of an answer, absentmindedly looking around the room as if the walls could give him one.
“If I only knew,” he sighed defeated. “He doesn't recognise me. I knew he would act strange but after the christmas I thought he'd be even more protective or clung onto me the least. It would've been so him. But no. As soon as I was starting to make progress here and put safely into the hospital he turned away. Well, actually he had to go away but I know him! At first I thought he needed the break and kept the distance. I just, I don't know what to think anymore. I'm scared for him. I feel like. It has always been about me. Me wanting to kill myself, me wanting him, me wanting to be the centrepiece of the world. It has always been me, me, me, me... But after all, he saved me. Maybe I thought that this was a reward to him?!” He groaned in frustration and hid his face with palms supporting his elbows on his knees. “I can't believe how egoistic I've been. It's just amazing!” he chuckled with painful grin.
“So. You think this is selfish – you attempting a suicide and wanting a friend to be supportive?”
Taemin peeked behind his fingers and muttered a curse. “I can't ask him so much. I've given him nothing but bother and worry. There's only so much a person can take and he has taken everything and far too long. Right?” He didn't know why he needed the confirmation. She never gave it to him. And right now, it actually wasn't necessary because he knew himself that he was now strong enough to be there for him.
After the attempt to take his own life everything had been so chaotic. He has been lingering in between of two worlds, one wanting to live, other just finally fade away. He was so blinded by the depression that he didn't see nor hear anything correctly. It wasn't over, he was still ill in heart, but healing. Now he eventually understood words Onew had spoken to him. You won't get lost and if there's no Jinki, then you know I really am. Just... Don't get lost, get it?! He was so apologetic towards him not being able to keep his promise. It wasn't about that creepy chicken in the first place and the fact he lost keys. It was already then when the elder sensed Taemin was losing himself. Not being able to stay by his side all the time and change his chemically broken brain he tried touching younger's heart as a place of conscience and giving him a real thing, reminding him how he was cared for. Unfortunately, he got lost and although Onew really was with him, he didn't appreciate that. Why couldn't he see in front of him where life was really embracing him in the face of this gorgeous and good friend as Jinki was. He knew he made the progress so quickly because of the meds but this helped him to look around a bit, view some things objectively. He didn't want to continue taking them for ever. He knew he'll be soon able to have a Self that could just rely on people loving and maybe some day a self-esteem above zero. Although he thought Onew would be there for him, supporting like he always had. Okay, yeah, they had been friends only for 3 years but this really felt like eternity. They were connected in every level. It may sound foolish and peachy blah but it was a fact Taemin simply knew without a rational explanation.
Taemin would always remember the first time they met. It was the first meeting of the rookies after the company had chosen the 5 idols for a new group called Shinee. It was spring and Taemin was having a nervous breakdown; being obviously too early waiting in front of the SM building. For him being too early meant like an hour. This opportunity was a lot to him, if not everything. The dream. Finally a way to prove himself. Escape. He didn't even remember when he was that happy and that scared at the same time. He felt millions of butterflies attacking his stomach attempting to break free – violent but joyful. He played with the hole in his ripped jeans as he watched the building in awe. Taemin's mind was ever so absent that he almost didn't register a someone casually greeting him and standing by his side.
“So. You must be the baby, maknae, am I right? I am, I know.” The man was assure. Taemin keeked aside to give a surprised look at the other.
“I guess you are,” Taemin smiled seeing the man wasn't much older than him and appeared to be one of the most handsome guy Taemin ever had engaged his eyes on. The other gave the younger a beaming glance. “I guess. I am. Here,” he held out his hand. Taemin was first taken aback of the contact but took the hand nonetheless. “My name is Lee Jinki. I hear I'm the leader. So I take, you can call me your Highness.” The fallowing drop-dead-bleed-in-my-pocket gleaming smile made Taemin almost forget his inner havoc as he laughed along. “Well-well, your Highness. Lee Taemin. Name according to the ID.”
“Sweet.” Jinki asserted impishly biting his lower lip. A short, awkward, silence fell between them until Jinki broke it. He reached out to stop Taemin tearing his jeans and tilted his head smiling. “You know. There's this little café just around the corner. You seem tense. Don't you flip out now baby. Now's the fun only beginning. Look. I'll treat you a cup of camomile tea. No sugar. We need you neat and even. Sounds in, huh?” Taemin look the elder and nodded rolling his eyes at how nonchalant the other was being.
As they were sitting in the café they clicked right away. Jinki was easy to talk to. He lost the sarcasm at some point and was simply just sincere and took a lot interest in Taemin's life. It was then when the younger boy hoped they could become the bestest friends. And he wasn't wrong. More so, soon Jinki became his shelter and love of his life. Taemin never had the courage to confess his feelings but he didn't think it necessary. He was simply glad to have him as his best friend. Other stuff in the middle could ruin it and this... he could not let that ever happen. So he kept it for himself and that was okay.
“So you think the reason he's having difficulties is due to you, I understand?” Taemin pushed the flashback away as the doctor spoke and watched the time and stood up. “Pardon Sunsaengnim.“ The therapist had repeatedly told Taemin to speak informally with her but the boy just couldn't get past the formality. “I'm so very sorry,” he repeated, “I forgot the time. We have to cut short. We have an afternoon interview on the radio. Lord, how the time flies.” He grabbed the bag from the couch, bowed and flew out of the cabinet before dr. Myung could even say anything.
He didn't want the guys be late because of him. They always picked him up from the therapist just to be sure all the talking wasn't too intense and the Littlest knew he could get the support when needed. Although he never talked about what had happened he knew they knew. And he was so very thankful for them not asking too much. Although Key acted like a big macho man ready to beat the living crap out of anyone who even slightly looked crookedly at Taemin. Minho and Jonghyun weren't as heated and on guard all the time. They still made ill-timed jokes, true not as much, but didn't treat him like it was only a matter of second when the boy would go and hang himself. They will probably come with the van today as Onew was back again. Jinki was always driving – he had always been a little Big! freak on how one could never drive safely enough. Key would probably be like an annoying rooster, alerted by his side because he just got his driving licence but hadn't had a chance to show off his powers behind the wheel forwhy Onew took the keys to Singapore. Taemin wondered if he did that on purpose.
As Taemin closed the gateway he was surprised to see not see only their usual van but smiling and ecstatic Key waving from a Mini Versace Cabriolet. Taemin was simply in awe. How did this happen?! Key finally got the car he drooled for? Well, he always had an expensive taste when it came to pretty things. Taemin remembered Key going on and on about this car for like ever. The vehicle was black with golden-yellow leaves and flowers painted on it and natural black-leather furnishing – a bling-bling which described perfectly the owner's fancy of exquisite things. The old van as a contrast looked absolutely medieval.
Key enjoyed the astonishment on Taemin's face but not for too long, almost immediately jumping out of the car, hands outspread to present his jewel. “Whatcha think?! Isn't it just a darling to look! Come! Quick! You're the first one after me, of course! - to have a permitted look at it!”
“Yeah. He almost butchered us for congratulating him. Saying we have no respect for beaute what so ever,” Jonghyun muttered as he crawled out of the van revealing his yellow hair.
Minho was right behind him putting upon an playful lip pouting. “But we have the highest respect! He just has paranoias the car would like us more than him. Which it will, as soon as it gets to know the real devil You!”
“Yah! Jinki! Back us up!” Jonghyun added as hea leaned to look into the van but soon turned around sealing his mouth with a finger. “Guess he needs a couple more seconds to rest.”
“Pipe down, will ya! You're going with the van!” Key gave them a demonic grin but it changed into a wide smile as he turned to Taemin. “So, it's just you then. Neat! Come on now, we don't want to be late for the interview because arguing with these two here.”
But those two, before he knew it, were already climbing on the back of Key's car. “Oh come ooooon Kibum! How can you be so. We promise, we'll be dolls! Truly!” Jonghyun pleaded as Key gave them a burning look. He was capable of make anyone intimidated with just a glance. It worked like a charm but with these two, especially Jonghyun, they just got even more worked up and intentionally liked to push his buttons. “We so will! Look. Seatbelts on and all. We won't make a peep,” Minho added briskily before Key could protest. And yeah, he gave up. They didn't have enough time to horse around.
Taemin noted that Onew still hadn't come out of the van. He needed to see him. After the incident in the morning it was impossible to get hold of him. Although Taemin felt ill as the words Jinki had said hurt, he had the need to assure him he was there for him no matter, even if he didn't want him anymore. “It looks simply... not simply – absolutely superb! Love it! Congrats Kibum for your first darling.” He forced an almost honest smile on his lips. “But I think somebody should be driving with hyung nonetheless. You three take the car, I'll go with hyung.”
Taemin wasn't very good at hiding his emotions and Key obviously read the anxiety that was boiling in him. He sighed and walked to him a worried expression on his face. He lowered the volume as he spoke. “Although I'd give my pink tie if I didn't have to ride with Hosie and Bosie there for the first time. But Jinki's really off today, he fell asleep as soon as we got here. Told us to wake him up if you came. Think he would use some time away from the crowd and you're probably the escape he needs.“ Doubt that! “Here. We can manage the interview just the three of us there.” He saw right away the reluctant look on Taemin's face and before the younger could open his mouth to protest he expressed his insistence with just a raise of his hand to tell Taemin to shut up. He leaned forward and whispered into his ear: “I've got it babe. Go, before I change my mind.”
Key walked over to the car and cried at Jonghyun and Minho who were joking about something as they stroke the leather seats. “Yah! Bozoes! I find a grain of dirt and I promise I castrate every single limb your body has hanging out.”
Taemin watched as he got in the Cabriolet and with just a look at the boys backseat, Key announced Taemin and Onew won't be coming along. He saw the two get serious for a moment but as Key turned the ignition Jonghyun raised his fists in the air and cheered, "We're so gonna cover that Black Eyed Peas song in the name of our Kibum. Kiboomboomboo!!“ He sang on as Key ma maneuvered out of the parking lot.
"You'll be fine guys. Drive safe!” Taemin cried after them, amused how much of a teaser Jonghyun was.
He walked over the car and opened the door to climb next to Onew who had bended onto the wheel as he circled it with his arms for support. He was probably tired to death. Taemin observed back of his head, feeling his heart beating its way out of his chest. He could hear Onew's rapid breathing. Taemin struggled whether to wake him up or not, knowing Jinki wouldn't get proper sleep like this. He was crashed out. Even others agreed he needed to take a rest. That's never a decision taken lightly. Being an idol meant being an Idol with initial capital letter. Of course, everybody are having their moments in life that are harder than others but the Idol contract didn't foresee mental breakdowns. It was actually surprising how flexibly they took the information about Taemin being absent for three weeks. Onew and Key did all those arrangements. Although for his dislike they certainly ignored discussing it. They just got it. Well, that was what Key said to him. Onew had an urgent matter in Singapore right after all formality with Taemin was taken care of. That's when he left him.
Taemin decided not to wake him. He pulled a hood over his head, so passersby wouldn't recognize him. He would let his hyung sleep. And when he wakes up he'll talk to him and they would fix this. And things will be ... Just like old times.
I only know that I can change
Everything else just stays the same
So now I step out of the darkness.
(Staind - "Fade")