Summary: For their ten year anniversary, SHINee releases an album of their greatest hits. Post!SHINee Disbandment fic.
I've been toying with the idea of a future!au for a while, and even though people will sadface at the disbandment, I kind of like the concept of the boys being in charge of their own careers. Anyways, I just want to thank lyto and boyfolk for talking me through the fic, and also the lovely mousapelli for beta-ing ♥ Also, "The SHINee World" is the best thing to listen to while writing fics 8D This fic is inspired by my two most favorite SHINee songs.
I Don't Know Why
I Can't Move On
-마지막 선물 (Last Gift) (In My Room-Prelude), SHINee, "The SHINee World"
For their ten year anniversary, SHINee releases an album of their greatest hits.
Minho gets contacted by management in early February, when he returns home from taping another variety show overseas. He has three more emceeing gigs lined up that month and a completely full schedule for the rest of the year; yet, Minho takes one look at the faces of their old managers before calling his secretary, telling her to push back his work load for the next few months.
Jonghyun calls him a day later, excitement evident over the phone as he goes on about the track list. They’re no longer wide-eyes teenagers following management’s every move, afraid of asking questions and crossing the line. “I’m so excited,” Jonghyun says. “This is Lee Sooman’s best idea yet, but fuck him if he even thinks about making Kibum and I sing a duet again. That was the worst decisions since-”
“Hyung,” Minho cuts in, leveling his phone between his chin and shoulder while he looks through the pantry for something to eat. His sister-in-law had dropped by recently with a month worth of food, yet he can’t seem to find a simple pack of ramen. “Did you talk to Kibum about it?”
“Of course.” Jonghyun’s laughter is still as welcoming as when he was seventeen. “He’s booking a plane ticket right now. Honestly, I don’t know why he even keeps the lease on that apartment. It’s not like he doesn’t just rampage my place whenever he comes back.”
Upon their disbandment, Kibum had given everyone quick hugs and muttered something along the line of, “see ya, suckers,” before bolting out of the country. As far as Minho knows, Kibum now lives in New York and spends his time managing his boutiques and fashion empire, when he’s not busy being Jonghyun’s biggest fan boy. He had flown back to Seoul for Jonghyun’s solo debut, complaining about everything from Jonghyun’s hair to his stage outfit. Yet, Kibum some how managed to get them front-row tickets to Music Bank and listened tearfully as Jonghyun belted out lovely, unfamiliar ballads on stage.
“Huh,” Minho replies absently, heating some leftover rice in the microwave as he pulls out a jar of kimchi from the fridge. His phone beeps, signaling an incoming call, and Minho pops the microwave open in time to tell Jonghyun that he’ll call him back.
It’s his mother, calling for her weekly check-up. She rambles about Minho’s health (“Have you been eating well? You look thinner!”) and her new granddaughter. Minho makes a mental note to buy his niece some new toys before calling his manager to check his schedule for this week.
“Hola!” Taemin grins, first thing, when he spots Minho. He’s already on the third page of the menu by the time Minho sits down. Taemin’s hair is still chestnut brown, Minho notes as he watches the younger man take a sip of his drink. Taemin had made a solo comeback a few months after Jonghyun, his voice no longer raw with adolescent insecurities as he wooed the country with his dulcet piano ballads and drama roles.
“I saw your movie, by the way,” Taemin mentions when the waitress finally comes to take their order, gawking at them. She looks young, probably fresh out of high school. Minho supposes she spent her school years fawning at the SHINee posters on her wall, so he simply smiles when she fumbles with her note pad and takes down his order with a quick bow.
“Did you really?” Minho raises his eyebrows. He had been glad of finally moving out of the same repetitive, romantic male roles. Last summer, Minho spent two months running lines with Sunny-noona before shooting this winter’s blockbuster action film. Minho had decided to take a break from acting after that, opting to focus more on his emceeing duties. “How was it?”
“I thought it was pretty good, but I think my date was disappointed at the lack of a kiss scene.” Taemin’s mouth curves into a familiar, snarky delight as he laughs at Minho’s delayed reaction. “Anyway, so, what do you think of this album?”
Personally, Minho thinks the concept of re-recording all of their old hits is ingenious. The CD will no doubt sell out quickly, like their good-bye single had. Still, the idea of spending so many hours in the recording studio is daunting at best. Even with their current flexibility, Minho still winces at the memories of endless days spent in front of the microphone. “They still haven’t given me solid dates to meet with the project coordinator.”
“That’s because no one knows where Jinki-hyung is,” Taemin answers simply, gracefully ignoring the way Minho’s head shoots up at the mention of their ex-leader.
Jinki had lingered in the industry for a year or so after SHINee’s disbandment, occasionally being featured on other artist’s albums and making small appearances on variety shows before finally dropping off the radar. People had high hopes for Lee Jinki’s solo career, yet he had simply disappeared, leaving behind nothing but a string of forwarding addresses. Minho still receives postcards on his birthday and during the holidays, always filled with the same neat scribbles of “how are you”s and “wish you guys were here”s.
Minho says nothing when their waitress returns with plates of food. He watches as Taemin picks up his utensils before replying, “I thought he was in Europe.” The last letter from Jinki had been filled with photos of Victorian architecture and snap-shots of foreign museums.
“That was a year ago, hyung.” Taemin makes a face. “Either way, management is tracking him down. The last I heard, he called Taeyeon-noona from Busan a month ago.”
Minho freezes. He hadn’t even known Jinki was back in the country. However, Taemin doesn’t pursue the topic any further, and Minho doesn’t pry.
In the end, they spend the rest of lunch exchanging scoops on upcoming projects, Taemin scribbling his hair stylist’s number on the back of a napkin before tucking it into Minho’s jacket pocket. Minho can only watch, torn between nostalgia and pride, as Taemin pulls out his credit card and then proceeds to autograph the back of his receipt for their waitress. It seems just like yesterday when their daily meals were planned so carefully by their house-mother, with the occasional cooking done by Kibum on special occasions.
“And, hyung?” Taemin grins when they’re about to part ways in front of the café, ignoring the way people are beginning to pool around them, taking photos. “When he does come back, try not to look like such a deer caught in the headlights, huh?”
When they first disbanded, Minho moved into a small flat with Jinki. He had still been young then, yet mature enough to understand the way Jinki slipped into his bed at night. They spent the first few month of unemployment in bliss, Minho finishing his university curriculum in peace while Jinki did the house work. At night, Minho would lay his head in Jinki’s lap while reading through his lecture notes, Jinki periodically looking away from the TV to stroke at Minho’s wild, auburn locks.
Minho remembers coming back from his lecture one day and finding the older man fixing the shower head in the bathroom. Jinki had laughed at the dampness of his shirt, making a comment about how the pipes sprayed like crazy as the light from the window caught Jinki's eye. At that moment, Minho thought he would be satisfied with spending the rest of his life with Jinki.
Minho graduated from university that spring. Jonghyun was too busy promoting his single to attend, and Kibum had sent him a last minute card apologizing for his inability to catch a flight back in time. Taemin, however, attended the ceremony with Jinki. Taemin had watched silently as Jinki congratulated Minho, a small smile appearing on Taemin’s face as he finally saw through the veil of unfinished kisses and midnight meetings in the bathroom. “Oh, I see,” Taemin had said simply before presenting Minho with the graduation gift he'd chosen with Jonghyun and Kibum.
They never really fought. Jinki had probably sensed Minho’s disappointment at his decision to not pursue a solo career, Jinki’s anxiety slowly building as Minho continued to be bombarded with countless offers and invitations. Furthermore, Jinki had even chosen not to renew his contact with SM, despite Jonghyun’s protest and Taemin’s silent disapproval.
“I want to do something with my life, Minho,” Jinki told him one night, his hand curled just above Minho’s chest. Minho had opened his mouth to argue, because, really, being an international idol and renowned singer really should mean something, but Jinki simply shook his head. After that, he spent countless days staring out of the balcony before finally packing his bags. “I’m going on a trip,” Jinki had explained simply.
Minho watched as Jinki packed their life into two small suitcases. “Where to?” He asked, lips pulled into a small line.
“I don’t know, but, Minho-ah,” Jinki replied quietly, setting his hands on Minho’s shoulder to pull him into a kiss. “I don’t think you should wait for me.”
“I see,” Minho replied quietly. He had even remained calm as he sent Jinki away, too busy being blind-sighted by the promise of television offers and new acting gigs to really weigh the situation fully. Had he been wiser, Minho would have fought, screamed, and begged Jinki to stay. But he didn’t, and that had been the end of his first love.
He tried dating after that, even managing to stir up the most scandals that year. He spent a good year in a serious relationship with his old publicist, a charming woman in her early thirties, before everything fell apart and he had to call Jonghyun for recommendations on a new publicity team. Minho had his fair share of romances with girls, and even spent a few months casually seeing Yoona-noona before deciding to just take it easy for a while.
“You are so stubborn, hyung,” Taemin said over the phone once. “If you miss him so much, why don’t you just ask him to come back?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Minho replied and changed the topic.
Jonghyun didn’t have very much to say on this topic, only periodically complaining about “that bastard, not even bothering to come back. I asked him a million times to be featured on my album, but he always makes up an excuse or another.” Kibum hadn’t been helpful either, too busy whining about his fall collection and how horribly swamped he was with fashion week.
Minho had hoped that Jinki would eventually come back, perhaps even showing up unexpectedly on his door step one day, despite the fact that Minho had moved out of their small apartment years ago. He had never been brave enough to attempt contact with Jinki outside of the casual postcards and rare letters.
Nowadays Minho wonders if his youthful ambition had really been his downfall.
What is supposed to be a quick schedule run-through turns into a full blown meeting when the door to the conference room flies open. Kibum looks up, ceremonially flicking a piece of his dark hair behind his ear while Taemin continues to tap his pen shamelessly on the table top. Jonghyun, however, regards their one of their old managers with some interest before asking, “What’s up?”
“I found him,” the man says, exchanging silent glances with the project coordinator.
“Well.” Kibum takes a deep breath. “Where is he?”
“Right here,” the man adds before a rather awkward Lee Jinki steps through the door.
Jinki hasn’t changed very much, considering the last time Minho saw him, Jinki had been twenty-four and hugging him goodbye in front of a stack of suitcases, looking impossibly small in one of his giant sweaters. Yet, here he stands, a signature smile on his face as he tilts his head in that boyish habit of his. “Hi,” Jinki says, voice familiarly warm.
“Hyung!” Taemin is the first to fly out of his seat, never once having forgotten those strong hugs bestowed to him in the earlier days of SHINee’s debut. He tackles Jinki, making him stumble a few steps back, smile impossibly wide as he embraces the shock out of Jinki. Jonghyun is next, pulling both of them into a tight hug, laughing about how “you still look like a little kid,” followed by Kibum’s whine of, “Get over here, you old fool, and what the hell are you wearing?!”
Minho joins them eventually, long arms wrapping around Jonghyun and Taemin’s back. It reminds Minho oddly of "Juliette’s" first win on music bank, except this time Jonghyun is not crying, and the silence is more comfortable than awkward.
“What’s wrong with my clothes?” Jinki asks after pulling apart. He examines his own jeans and shirt, a little fray around the edges but otherwise in good condition. “I’ve been working on an alpaca farm in Busan,” he says, as if that explains everything. “If I even wear anything presentable, they’ll just spit on me!”
“Really,” Kibum replies after a while, skeptical. “Were you really once a part of SHINee?”
“I think alpacas are cool, hyung,” Taemin supplies with smiling eyes, and Kibum is back to cooing at Taemin, complaining about how Taemin shouldn’t be allowed to be adorable at this age.
Somewhere along the line, Minho’s gaze meet Jinki’s, and he has to purposely pull away before making a fool of himself in front Jinki and his familiar chocolate-brown eyes. How the times have changed, Minho thinks, now that he’s one stuttering in front of their ever-so-calm leader.
Apparently, Jinki’s inability to get in contact with them was not for lack of trying. While Minho spent his days memorizing scripts and taping summer dramas in the freezing winter, Jinki traveled. Jinki went to Europe, learned German, worked on a farm, sank a boat, climbed a mountain, fell in love with a French girl, fell out of love, earned his pilot license ("Someone let you pilot a plane, really?” Kibum asked, dubious), and spent two whole weeks in the Brazilian wilderness with a group of natives and a sickly translator.
Jonghyun listens, eyes wide, while occasionally making comments of disbelief. Taemin stays quiet in silent awe. Kibum stops his sarcastic remarks after a while, opting to complain about how Jinki never visited him in New York. Minho says nothing and simply listens, wondering if he would have done the same had Jinki invited Minho to come with him so many years ago. He doesn’t allow the thought to linger.
“You’re weird, you know that?” Taemin tells Minho when it’s just the two of them in the elevator, Kibum and Jonghyun having dragged Jinki to their favorite bar to catch up. Minho has to be across town for another radio show in an hour, and Taemin has to record to Star King. He looks up when Minho doesn’t reply. “Being quiet never got you anywhere before, did it?”
Minho opens his mouth, but closes it when he realizes that he has no real method of replying to that. Instead he runs a hand through his hair and replies with a quiet, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Right,” Taemin says.
After Jinki left, Minho spent six month at their old apartment before moving into a bigger flat closer to the city. He had folded all of Jinki’s left-over clothes and stuffed the rest of Jinki’s belongings in cardboard boxes, sealing everything off with three layers of tape before pushing them in the back of his closet. Minho hasn’t touched Jinki's things since then, but every time he dug through his closet for a lost tie or misplaced belt, Minho would be reminded of the innocent stack of boxes that sat there, undisturbed, as if taunting him.
Minho gets Jinki’s new number from Jonghyun, who masks his surprise at the concept of Minho not having it in the first place quite professionally. Minho has no time to explain that he didn’t get the chance to get it from Jinki the first time, having been shoved on a train to Incheon by his manager the first thing the next morning to shoot a special with Donghae.
In a moment of haste, he calls Jinki after a five hour ride in silence. Minho sighs, leaning on the railing of his hotel room balcony and watching as night sky paints the city. Jinki picks up on the fourth ring, and Minho has to compose himself before beginning with a calm, “Hyung.”
There’s a pause on the other end before Jinki replies with a shaky, “Hi, Minho. How are you?”
“I’m good,” Minho answers reflexively, as if Jinki was a television host or a distant relative who Minho doesn’t have the time to explain things in great detail to. He winces a little at this, but continues. “I wanted to tell you that I still have some of your stuff from- from before. I’m out of town right now, but if you want to drop by my apartment and pick it up, I think Taemin can give you a spare key.”
“Oh,” Jinki says, sounding almost disappointed. “Why don’t I just wait until you’re back? Then I don’t have to break into your place?” He laughs, voice warm. Minho listens with a smile on his face, watching as his breath fogs up the night air. “Is that fine with you?” Jinki asks, just to be safe.
“Yeah, it’s fine,” Minho hums in return. There’s a knock on his door- probably the director, wanting to run over some last minute details. “Hyung, I have to go. But I’ll call you when I’m back in Seoul again, okay?”
“Okay, bye! And- Minho?”
“Yeah?” Minho asks, already reaching to snap his phone shut.
“I missed you,” Jinki says quietly.
The sincerity of the situation dawns on Minho. Butterflies he hasn’t encountered since his teenage years return to the pit of his stomach. Minho sighs quietly into the speaker before replying with a soft, “I missed you too,” and hangs up.
Minho goes back to Seoul a week later to find that the schedule of their recording has been delayed, simply because Jonghyun and Kibum are in an adamant fight with the coordinators about the track list. “The acoustic version of 'Juliette' has to be on there,” Jonghyun says over Kibum’s complaints about the remix tracks. “And why is 'The SHINee World' not on included? You know that was the opening for our first album!”
“You didn’t even like that song,” Kibum points out. “Switch that out and put 'GET DOWN' on there.”
“No one wants to listen to three minutes of you rapping in bad English,” Jonghyun resorts, adjusting the cuff of his shirt.
“The acoustic version of 'Juliette' was arranged for only your vocal range,” one of the coordinators replies calmly, tackling one problem at a time. “And it’s a completely different pace than the original version, you know that.”
“Ignore this fool,” Kibum is saying. “He would acoustisize 'Ring Ding Dong' if given the chance. Now, I think you should seriously think about adding-”
“Seriously, it’s been ten years, and you’re still bantering like kids,” Jiyoung-noona, possibly the only vocal trainer left from their trainee days, replies calmly from the sideline. The rest of the project committee falls silent. Jiyoung had personally been accountable for helping Jonghyung reach that high E during their "Replay" era, and even now, no one really has the guts to back-talk her. “What does every one else thinks about the current tracklist?”
“I like 'In My Room,'” Jinki supplies. “But maybe rearranged so it’s not just me and Jonghyun singing? I’d love to hear Taemin sing the chorus. He has such a pretty voice now,” he says, smiling when Taemin gives his hand a little squeeze.
“I want to do a duet with hyung,” Taemin adds.
“You want to record '내가 사랑했던 이름' with Jinki-sshi?” someone asks.
“No,” Taemin replies, undeterred. “I want a new track.”
“Aish, you’re trying to kill me,” one of their old managers says, suddenly taking a seat. In the end, they agree on expanding the project to 2 CDs with twenty-four tracks total. The committee makes no promises, but agrees to consider the possibility of adding a few new tracks as well. Jonghyun already has his notebook pulled out, and Minho has a sinking suspicion that he has already composed a whole chorus by the time the meeting ends.
“They weren’t serious about acoustisizing 'Ring Ding Dong,' right?” Minho hears one of the interns ask on his way out. Jinki laughs next to him, having heard it as well.
“It’s so different from before, isn’t it?” Jinki asks when Minho catches his eye. During their first few releases, they hardly had a say in their singing order on the tracks, much less the arrangements. They had simply been given sheets full of music and lyrics before being shoved into rehearsal rooms.
They stop walking when a few unfamiliar faces pass by in the hallway, the kids instantly bowing down to regard them with awe. Trainees come younger and younger every year, Minho notes. He wonders how it feels to debut in this day and age, after the rise and fall of DBSK, Super Junior, and even their seemingly infallible group. Minho stops when Kibum calls them from the elevator door, the other three already a good distance in front of them.
“We’re getting some food, you coming?” Jonghyun asks.
“I’m heading back,” Minho says instead. He has to pick up the birthday gift he ordered for his brother at the post office and run a couple of other errands. His secretary, Yunha, is in her third trimester, and while she’s the most effective multi-tasker Minho has seen, Minho simply doesn’t have the heart to make her drive around Seoul anymore with twins on the way.
“Mind if I come with you?” Jinki asks quietly by his side. “To pick up whatever you were going to give me?”
Minho doesn’t know if he’s quite ready for this, but regardless, he nods and leads Jinki to the parking garage. Gone were the days of the five of them crammed into one tiny van. Minho had spent his first drama paycheck on the down payment for this baby, and even Jonghyun’s silver porsche can’t beat the engines on this Audi.
They pull out of the parking lot in silence until Jinki finds a copy of Taemin’s debut solo single in the glove compartment. “You know,” Jinki says. “I bought a copy of this in a music store in Barcelona and spent a whole day blasting it on my old boom box. My landlady got so angry with me that she cut my electricity for days.” He laughs. “She was a short blonde woman who always wore an apron. She was so mean sometimes, but I remember, once, she let me pay my bill late on the condition that I sang 'Happy Birthday' to her granddaughter.” He sighs quietly.
“Hyung,” Minho says at last, not daring to take his eyes off the road. “You never explained how you got there.”
“I saved up,” Jinki replies thoughtfully. “I remember the plane ticket to London costing my entire paycheck from 'A.Mi.Go.' Not that we ever earned that much to begin with.” He pauses. “How are you doing? Just yesterday I saw you on the cover of GQ.”
Minho chuckles. “Did you buy it?”
“If I bought everything that featured you guys, I would be bankrupt already,” Jinki laughs. He stops talking when Taemin’s piano ballad begins playing, the two of them sitting in comfortable silence while they listen to their wonder boy maknae.
Minho now resides on the tenth floor of a high rise not all unlike their old dorm. He lives on a peaceful floor; his only neighbors consist of a business woman who doesn’t have time for television or music, a pair of elderly couple who still mistakes him for a member of Super Junior, and the owner of a Japanese restaurant who occasionally gives Minho coupons for the sushi bar.
“It’s a nice place,” Jinki comments when Minho unlocks the door. He spends a few minutes examining Minho’s kitchen before Minho comes back with boxes in his arm, setting them in the middle of the living room. “What’s in here?”
Minho doesn’t even remember anymore, so he watches with curiosity as Jinki tears through the taping.
Jinki takes out each item delicately, as if they have antiqued with age. He laughs upon finding an old red scarf he wore all the way through their tenth single, so much that their stylist had given it to Jinki as a gift after their promotions ended. “Do you remember this?” Jinki asks, dusting off the catalogue from Kibum’s first Spring collection that they had received in the mail a few weeks before Jinki moved out. “Kibummie got so mad when I mistook that weird cape for a table cloth.”
“It was a poncho, hyung,” Minho corrects, remembering perfectly well the one-sided argument that had ensued. Kibum had fussed for an hour over speakerphone at a confused Jinki while Minho laughed behind his book.
“You kept this too?” Jinki says, voice soft, when he pulls out an old broken umbrella.
Minho freezes. He remembers the umbrella quite well. A month after moving in to their first apartment, they had been caught in a sporadic summer rain storm on the way back from the park. Jinki had purchased the umbrella from a near by convenience store, but somehow managed to break it before getting back to the apartment. They had laughed, shirt drenched and hair wet, while Minho helped Jinki change into something dry. It ended with the two of them stumbling into bed, Jinki running his hand through Minho’s damp locks while they made love to the pounding of rain on the window.
Minho hadn’t dared to throw the umbrella away, but now, standing here, he wonders if he looks like a nostalgic fool who can’t let go.
“Thanks for keeping everything for me,” Jinki speaks up at last, cradling the boxes in his arms. “Maybe I should get back to the hotel. My last cab driver got mad at me because I kept on giving him wrong directions in the dark.”
“You’re staying at a hotel?” Minho asks slowly. He has assumed that Jinki would be crashing with either Jonghyun or Taemin, but upon second thought, he realizes how unlikely that thought was. Kibum would no doubt be terrorizing Jonghyun’s flat, and Taemin barely spends any time in his own apartment. “You can stay here, if you want,” Minho offers.
Jinki looks torn. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” he says, armed with a boxful of memorabilia from their failed relationship.
“Look,” Minho runs a hand through his hair. His bangs are getting obnoxiously long again, and he can’t help but clench his fist a little at the curled tips of his perm. “Whatever happened was a long time ago. I don’t want things to be awkward between us. This doesn’t mean anything. You’re my hyung and my friend. You need a place to stay and I have an extra room, so take it for what it is.” He goes to the kitchen for a glass of water when the older man doesn’t reply, and comes back to find Jinki beaming at him.
“I’ll stay for the night,” Jinki concedes with a small smile, “But only if you let me cook.”
Despite Minho’s doubts, Jinki had apparently learned a thing or two from his stay in Europe. He manages to salvage food from Minho’s horribly bare cupboards and even used Minho’s oven. The last time anyone dared to bake something was when Minho had to look after his niece, who demanded homemade cookies until Minho finally conceded and bought a pack of cookie dough from the corner store.
They eat with the television on, Jinki doing the dishes afterwards while Minho catches up on news on the internet, periodically looking up from his laptop and staring at Jinki’s back through his reading glasses. Minho doesn’t get any sleep that night. He tries to read the book Jonghyun gave him for Christmas last year, but finds it too hard to concentrate.
This is ridiculous, Minho thinks. He’s no longer an impressionable teenager who shares a bedroom with four other boys, yet the only thing he really wants to do is to crawl into bed with Jinki and pretend he’s sixteen again.
Minho goes to a meeting early the next morning and comes back at night to find Jinki sitting in the kitchen.
“Hi,” Jinki says awkwardly. “I didn’t know when you were going to come back, and I didn’t want to leave without notice so...I cleaned...and cooked.”
“Stay as long as you want,” Minho shrugs and goes to wash his hands.
Jinki doesn’t leave that day, or the day after.
“I think Taemin has a girlfriend,” Jonghyun says, first thing, when Minho goes back to his apartment one afternoon after filming Star King. Behind him, Jinki is mouthing an apologetic ‘I let them in, sorry!’ “He keeps making comments like ‘Oh, I spent all night with Lucille.’ Do you think he’s dating a hot foreigner?”
Minho waits for a minute for Jonghyun to continue, but upon Jonghyun’s expectant stare, he dares to ask. “What’s your point? Taemin is twenty-four.”
“He’s too young!” Kibum shrieks suddenly, clad in a purple cashmere sweater. “I won’t allow him to be seduced by some ho who’s only in it for his money and body!”
Minho is too old to be having this conversation (again), so he massages his incoming migraine and heads for his bedroom, throwing himself on top of his mattress with such a force that his old soccer pillow from elementary school bounces off the bed. He manages to catch five good minutes of shut eye before Jinki pokes his head in. “Come in,” Minho mumbles against his pillow.
“Do you want me to kick them out?” Jinki asks. “Jonghyun is raiding your fridge now.”
“Taemin dated an Italian model when he was twenty!” Minho blurts out instead.
“Okay?” Jinki tilts his head. “That’s...nice?”
He doesn’t add that the model was also a boy. Minho takes a deep breath and wills himself to shut his mouth before going too far. Instead, he sighs into his bed and allows Jinki to rub soothing circles down his back.
“Tired?” Jinki asks. “Take a nap. We have to meet in the studio in a few hours. I’ll wake you up then.”
Minho is knocked out cold before Jinki even finishes talking.
He wakes up hours later to find the others gone. There’s a note on his beside table of left without you. Go back to sleep~ You deserve a break ^^” next to Minho’s cell phone/
Minho flips around and goes back to sleep.
“Minho-ah!” Jinki is sitting on his bed by the time Minho wakes up again, excitement written all across Jinki’s face. “You won’t believe this, but we’re now recording five new songs for the CD! Taemin and I are doing a duet that Jonghyun wrote the lyrics for and- get this, they actually made a piano version of '산소 같은 너!' I can’t wait to sing it, and-”
Minho takes a look at his alarm clock. In the darkness, the digital display reads a sharp 1:20 AM. Minho puts one hand on the small of Jinki’s back before pulling him down on the empty side of the bed, flipping around to go back to sleep.
“Don’t you find it awkward that you’re not together anymore, yet you’re still acting like a married couple?” Kibum asks a few days later, when the others are taking a break while they (to Jonghyun’s disbelief) re-record "GET DOWN."
“We’re just friends,” Minho hums in return. Regardless, he clutches a little bit tighter at the microphone stand.
“I always thought you were more ambitious than that,” Kibum continues. “You’ve always been good at going for what you want and getting it, but Jinki isn’t like that, and we both know it. He’d rather suffer silently than to impose on anyone. Now, what does that tell you?”
It tells him that Kibum should mind his own business, but Minho doesn’t say that. Instead, he shrugs absently and replies with a quick, “You read too much into things.”
Minho pays a visit to his niece that weekend. His older brother is turning thirty, and Minho manages to get his favorite soju shipped in from overseas. Minho helps his sister-in-law cook dinner while Heijin bounces around the kitchen, pulling on the end of Minho’s apron and demanding his attention.
“You spoil her too much,” Minho’s father comments from the living room, where he’s busy watching a soccer game with the birthday man. “And stop buying her so many expensive things. There must be something else you could be doing with your paycheck.”
“Grandpa!” Heijin whines and makes a cute face.
Dinner is a rowdy affair with the men of the family arguing over the results of the recent World Cup. Minho’s mother, a quiet woman in her fifties, shakes her head with a smile. Heijin skitters off after her second bowl of rice to watch tv, and everyone pauses when the entertainment news host suddenly stops talking about YG’s new girlband and begins speculating over SHINee’s comeback album.
“You’re releasing music again?” Minho’s father asked. “Aish, and here I was, hoping you’d finally start a family and give me a grandson.”
“Minho-ah is still young,” his sister-in-law offers with a smile. “Besides, he’s very successful, so we can’t expect him to drop everything right now, can we?”
“Can you at least settle down in a long-term relationship, then?” His mother wants to know.
“Eh,” Minho says and suddenly flashes back to the image of Jinki cooking in his unorganized kitchen. Their pestering stops when Heijin comes back with a soccer ball and insists that they play a quick game with her in the backyard, despite the cold March weather.
Jinki goes to visit his sister in Daegu for a few days, and Minho wakes up one day to find uninvited guests occupying his living room, once again.
“No, seriously, tell us who she is!” Jonghyun is demanding when Minho walks out of his room in sweats. Taemin is busy insisting that he has no clue what Jonghyun is talking about while Kibum sits at the kitchen table, handing Minho a cup of milk. “How can you hide this from us?” Jonghyun continues. “You used to be so obedient!”
Taemin rolls his eyes. “I’m twenty-four, hyung.”
“Still not old enough!” Kibum screeches. “Just tell us who Lucille is!”
“Lucille is the name of his grand piano,” Minho cuts in flatly, sipping quietly at his milk.
“Are you serious?” Kibum stares. “You named your piano?”
“You name your clothing line!” Taemin retorts, looking awfully presentable in his blazer for this early in the morning. It’s then that Minho realizes that it’s actually already mid-afternoon, and Minho has slept in late for the first time in a really long time.
“That’s not the same thing!” Kibum is saying. “It’s for my fashion line! That’s how everyone does it!”
“Anyways!” Jonghyun coughs rather awkwardly. “That’s not why we called this meeting. We’re here to talk to you about hyung, Minho.” He clears his throat. “This is an intervention.”
Minho massages his temple in return.
“Seriously,” Taemin adds on. “Tell us about you and Jinki-hyung.”
“There’s nothing going on.”
“Minho,” Kibum deadpans. “You can’t bullshit us. You were never any good at it.”
“There’s nothing going on,” Minho repeats, taking a seat. “We’re just living together until the recording is over, then he’ll run off again to who knows where and I’ll stay in the exact same place I’ve always been.” Waiting for him to come back, Minho doesn’t add.
“It’s nice to know that even after so many years, you’d rather be a silent, complicated fool than to be honest with your feelings.” Taemin speaks up first, an uncharacteristic scowl on face.
Minho can only stare. “Are you going to let him get away with talking like that?” he asks Kibum.
“What?” Kibum asks with a smirk. “Taemin is twenty-four already. Get with the program.”
“Don’t avoid the problem on hand, Minho.” Jonghyun cuts in. He stops when Minho suddenly gets up and grabs a bottle of water off the counter before heading towards the door. “Where are you going?”
“Out for a run,” Minho says, tying his shoelaces.
“It’s three in the afternoon!” Kibum stares. “Aigo, fine, just keep running away from anything that doesn’t go right in your life! That’s not how I raised you and Taemin!”
Minho stops. He back tracks his steps, pokes his head back in, and replies with a calm, “You never raised me or Taemin, Kibum. And, your poncho looks like a table cloth.” He dashes down the stairway before Kibum can pick his jaw up from the floor.
“Wow,” Jonghyun says. “Wow.”
“I liked him better when he didn’t talk,” Kibum mutters.
Jinki comes back a few days later, just in time for them to record "Replay" again. He blinks when Minho suddenly corners him in the apartment, one hand settled on the wall behind Jinki’s head and the other reaching for Jinki’s hand.
“I’ve been thinking,” Minho begins. “We’ve known each other for too long, and what’s modesty between us?”
“Right?” Jinki says, not sure where this is going.
“I missed you. Every day of my life, I thought about what would have happened had I asked you to stay. When this project wraps up, I can’t let you slip out of my life again without telling you the truth. I love you." I’ve loved you ever since I was eighteen, and I’ve never, ever stopped loving you. Please don’t leave again. I’m sorry. The last part is left unsaid, but his feelings are still there, lingering in the air.
Jinki says nothing a first, shrinking a little into the wall before pulling Minho in for a hug. “I know, Minho-ah.” They don’t really say much after that, Jinki quietly fisting tighter at the back of Minho’s sweater while Minho kisses him, lips pressed together as Jinki hums softly.
They end up in Minho’s guest bedroom, Jinki trailing a hand down Minho’s chest as he undoes the buttons of Minho’s shirt, one by one. Minho kisses along the side of Jinki’s jaw until he gets to the familiar spot behind Jinki’s ears that makes Jinki’s breath hitch. Minho remembers every spot of Jinki’s skin, every dip of his body, but he wants to think that this is different from before, as he rocks their hips together, Jinki breathing sharply down Minho’s neck until they both come.
“Is this okay?” Jinki asks, running a finger along the crevices of Minho’s abs as they lie in bed, sunlight spilling out of the window curtains.
“We’ll make it work, hyung.” Minho smiles against Jinki’s neck, suddenly eighteen and vulnerable again. He welcomes the feeling, slipping his hand silently into Jinki’s while they enjoy each other's company.
Their best-of album sells more than 100,000 copies in its first week, fans flooding all the top music stores in the country until it sells out completely, and SM has to release more re-packaged copies from the studio. All five of them guest on the eighth anniversary edition of Brave Heart and talk about their experiences since SHINee’s disbandment, and what this album really means to them. All five don the jackets from Kibum’s new fall line and laugh when Hodong attempts to pick Taemin up again, this time, to no avail.
By that fall, Jonghyun and Taemin pool together enough money to start their own vocal and dance school, their second contract with SM having expired by that summer. Kibum suddenly decides to leave Bryant Park for a while and stay in Korea to work on his line of workout wear. Minho begins to star in a 200 episode sitcom with Jung Juuri and Seohyun.
Jinki starts teaching courses at the vocal school, laughing when Minho picks him up one day in a baseball cap and aviator glasses. “I have students who just want to listen to me sing all day,” he says when a group of girls giggle while passing them.
“So why don’t you?” Minho asks with a grin.
Jinki only laughs. They spend most of that fall babysitting Heijin while Jinki converses with the elderly couple on Minho’s floor, even going as far as listening to trot with them. At some point they redecorate the apartment and put all of Jinki’s old stuff back where it belongs. Jinki restocks the kitchen while Minho sets up their trophies from Best Album of the Year on the bookcase.
“Here,” Minho says one day, setting an envelope on top of Jinki’s desk while Jinki lies on their bed, reading glasses perched on the bridge of his nose. “This is a letter addressed to you.”
Jinki opens the letter and gasps when he finds two tickets to Paris for Christmas. “Kibum will be so jealous,” he laughs.
“Well, too bad Kibum is not dating me,” Minho grins. “You are.”
“That’s always nice to know.” Jinki smiles, and leans in the close the gap between them.
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