Fandom: SHINee, Exo
Characters/pairing: Taemin/Kai (Jongin)
Summary: It's not easy to be Taemin's friend. Taemin/Kai and Exo!fic.
Jongin befriends Taemin because it’s the easy thing to do, the two of them clustering together by the water coolers during break, huddling by the corner of the rehearsal room while sharing funny links on cyworld. They walk home together after practice, sharing the earphones as they listen to Michael Jackson songs on Taemin’s ipod while waiting at stoplights, Taemin tapping his feet to the beat.
They are the youngest trainees in their dance and vocal classes, Taemin’s voice uneven but his movements sharp and mesmerizing as he glides across the dance floor. Taemin helps him with dancing during the weekends, when they share peppero and take turns paying for the DDR machine in the arcade.
Taemin debuts in 2008, and Jongin is once again alone, the silence more overwhelming than the jealousy building in his chest.
Taemin sends him postcards as SHINee travels around Asia. Jongin has an impressive collection of famous landmarks from China, Thailand, and Taiwan by the next spring. Taemin’s texts are as brief and elusive as he is in real life, but on paper he is surprisingly thoughtful.
Where are you going now, Jongin wants to ask as his collection SHINee singles and repackaged releases steadily grows. He used to think that Taemin was only marginally more promising than himself, but everyday Jongin grows more restless knowing that the distance between them is only getting larger.
One day, Taemin comes to his house with an armful of snacks. “This is imported from Indonesia,” Taemin tells him as they sit on Jongin’s floor, Taemin playing with Jongin’s new phone while Jongin digs through Taemin’s box of rejected fan presents.
Taemin is intrigued with the alien shooting game on Jongin’s phone, refusing to relinquish it even after Jongin gets a message notification. “Jongin-ah,” Taemin laughs, bringing the back of his hand just above his chin, voice as soft as ever. “Aren’t extraterrestrials so cool? They can travel through space and shoot down buildings.”
“You’re so fucking weird, hyung,” Jongin replies, snatching his phone back. They play a few rounds of 2v2 and heat up the left over kimchi jjigae. Taemin flips through Jongin’s magazine collection while Jongin burns movies onto CDs for Taemin.
“Does that one have Emma Watson in it?” Taemin asks.
Jongin makes a face at him. “I’m not downloading a movie just so you can watch your imaginary girlfriend.”
Taemin puts a baseball cap and surgical mask on when he leaves. Jongin tells him that he looks ridiculous, but Taemin laughs anyways.
In the winter, Jongin becomes Kai, and everyone makes a conscious effort to stop using his real name.
“It doesn’t mean that you’re officially in the group,” management tells him. No, Jongin thinks. It just means that SM has their eyes on him, the pressure to perform perfectly heavier than Jongin can ever remember.
“Let’s work hard together,” one of the Chinese trainees tell him in broken Korean, and Jongin is surprised to find that in comparison to everyone else, Jongin is still so young.
Taemin is in Japan for the majority of 2011. His letters are now written half in Japanese, a byproduct of Taemin’s twisted sense of humor. Jongin gives up on searching for characters on the internet and buys a small Korean-Japanese dictionary, making up some odd excuse when Chanyeol asks why he is practicing katakana during break.
“Why are you learning Japanese?” Chanyeol presses on. “Roohan-hyung!” He calls across the room, and Lu Han wearily makes his way towards them. “Teach Kai-goon something funny in Chinese.”
“Teach me something funny in Korean, then,” Lu Han says, and they spend ten minutes exchanging obscure slang. By the time Sehun and Tao come over to their spot, Jongin is laughing so hard that he can barely remember the Japanese he just memorized.
For Chuseok, Jongin goes to temple with his family. Two days later he’s back at rehearsals, their manager inexplicably irritable. Everyone goes to the Chinese dorm after practice. Chanyeol brings all the left over songpyeon from home while Jongin’s mother gives him a weeks worth of chap che. The Chinese boys make pot stickers and Jongin rolls around Lu Han’s floor while they watch 2NE1 on tv.
After they say grace, Chanyeol adds a little, “and please let us debut this year!”
“What is the first thing you will buy with your paycheck?” Jongdae asks, using a can of milkis as a microphone as he mock interviews Sehun.
“Eh,” Sehun pauses around a mouthful of pot sticker. “Maybe a new ipod?”
“I’m going to buy umma a designer bag for her birthday,” Baekhyun adds.
“I’m going to buy my mom a house,” Tao says.
“Shush, you,” Lu Han laughs and pushes Tao, stuffing another dumpling in Tao’s mouth. They stay like this, eating more than necessary. Chanyeol convinces Jongin to do cartwheels against the wall, and they let Lu Han time them doing handstands until both Jongin and Chanyeol collapse on the ground, laughing yet wanting to throw up at the same time.
Jongin wonders if this is what Taemin and SHINee sunbae-nim do in their free time too. He also wonders if Chuseok will be like this next year, and the year after that.
Taemin comes back in December. He’s waiting outside of the changing room after rehearsals one night, when Exo’s choreographer finishes drilling the last bit of their debut choreography down. Taemin is thinner than Jongin remembers, eyes crescent as he hands Jongin a potted plant. “Congratulations on your debut, Kai-goon!”
“Hyung!” Jongin whines as he stares at the plant. “You’re supposed to give me flowers or send me a wreath.”
“I’m waiting for us to perform on the same stage,” Taemin tells him. “Maybe by then, this plant will turn into a tree, but I’ll still look forward to it.”
Jongin thinks it’s true. They had both been seedlings when they met. Growing together, even when they’re apart, hadn’t been something Jongin anticipated from the beginning. Even if it takes three more years for SHINee and Exo to stand on the same stage, Jongin knows he is one step closer to that day.
B/C MY SOURCES TELL ME THAT TAEMIN AND KAI ARE BFFS. Or something. But my sources are also not always reliable.
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