Word count: 4,214
Summary: Sometimes, Kibum could not help but wonder about Jinki.
Sometimes, Kibum could not help but wonder about Jinki.
The first time that happened was when, in a night he woke up with a start because of some afflicting dream, he sat up on his bed, warm sheets circling his already covered feet, and noticed all the mattresses were occupied as usual, except for the one that filled the middle of the room. Confused, he looked around and shook his head, disheveling his black hair, as if he were trying to put away the possibility of still being asleep. As the compartment started to become more distinct, the dark spots at the corners of his eyes disappearing and taking clear shapes, Kibum concluded that there was, indeed, a member lacking.
Feeling around him, he found his cellphone hidden next to the cushion and checked the time. The numbers formed at the right informed him it was four in the morning. When he finished assimilating this new information, all the traces of sleep were gone, replaced by a wave of anxiety. These months sharing the dorm had taught him that, when Jinki threw himself on top of his bed, sometimes still dressed with colorful and sparkly costumes from some photo shoot, and even with all his make-up still intact on his face – that always managed to spark a torrent of complaints as far as Kibum was concerned, “You’re going to ruin your skin!” –, that meant he was only going to wake up the next day, blankets pulled till the top of his head and his breathing slow and regular.
Not even the early in the night activity of the other four members was able to perturb his sacred sleep. Not Taemin’s pencil traveling through his notebook while he revised some notes he would need to use on an exam in the near future; not Jonghyun’s irritating quirk of audibly humming some odd song of past years or recent days; not Kibum’s strident voice asking him to, please, shut up for just a single moment; not the sound of a pillow hitting Kibum’s face spot on before he was able to finish his last sentence, coming suspiciously from the spot Jonghyun had stood on just seconds before; not Minho’s low but sounding voice simply saying, “Hyung,” pointing towards the mountain of blankets that hid Jinki from the four pairs of eyes which, in that moment, looked at the center of the room.
Jinki just slept, as usual.
That was why Kibum descended from his bunk as quietly as he could manage, slipping on the last step because of his socks. He tumbled to the floor, sparking a loud sound that resonated in the silence, causing Kibum to stiffen where he stood, mentally wishing he had not disturbed anyone. When he realized he could only hear a soft snore coming from the direction of Minho’s bed, he freed the sigh stuck in his throat, and started walking firmly towards the door, turning the doorknob and finally getting out of the room.
A look around the corridor made him realize Jinki was in the bathroom, judging by the light that ran away through a slice of the unclosed door. The worry that had been filling Kibum up since he had opened his eyes and found the undone sheets was now fast and perilously turning into frustration. He was already brooding over some insignificant detail he could whine about if he really came to the conclusion that Jinki was only making a night visit to the restroom. Did he realize he had really scared him, and ––
When he was two steps away from the door, the tremor of the air around him started to reverberate with the sound of sobs, uninterrupted, afflicting, heartbreaking. Kibum ran immediately towards the room when it came to him that his inner fears had, in fact, materialized and that there was something very much wrong with Jinki, judging by the interminable cry he could hear louder and louder. He opened the door in an outburst, eyes full of such despair that he found it impossible to hide it behind his always present mask which never feigned anything but a simple carelessness.
Jinki removed his wet gaze from the enormous mirror he was looking at, turning to his unexpected intruder, a surprised expression covering each pore of his face. They looked at each other for a long and silent while, both letting their breath return to a normal level. Jinki was the first one to break the trance, turning the corners of his mouth upwards in a great smile.
“Kibum-ah,” he simply said. “Seems like you caught me practicing.”
It was then that Kibum took the role of being the leader’s main confidante, the only one in the group who knew about the one secret he hid. Jinki explained to him how, since he was very young, he had had an undisclosed fascination for the world of theater, even joining a little group of inexperienced actors when he was still in school.
“I never got a bigger role than ‘Boy 1’, with two, three lines at best,” he confessed during an afternoon they were chatting freely, when they were alone in the dorm. “I played a rock, once.”
Kibum could not help but laugh out loud, letting his voice envelop the air of the living room. The boy in front of him just smiled, a bit sheepish, running his hand through his nape and ruffling his hair on the way.
“That doesn’t surprise me in the slightest,” Kibum replied, hiding his mouth with his left hand to unsuccessfully dissemble his smile and leaning forward to, with his right one, fix the older boy’s hair again.
“Me neither,” was the answer he got, as Jinki’s laugh joined Kibum’s, both colliding, overlapping the exterior world.
That night, Kibum dreamed about smiling rocks.
“I actually considered joining an acting school instead of the academy, you know?” That proclamation came unexpectedly, breaking the comfortable silence that had been set among the two boys sitting side by side on the floor of the dance studio. They had stayed behind by themselves, stuck to Kibum’s promise, who had sworn Jinki would learn that more complicated dance move that same day, or my name isn’t Key!
“Why did you change your mind, then?” he asked, leaning backwards and resting his neck against the mirror behind him.
“Singing. I liked singing more.” He closed his eyes, running a towel across his face, from his forehead to his chin. Kibum merely looked at him, trying to grasp if the use of the past tense really meant what was going through his mind, or if he was overanalyzing those words. Jinki noticed, after a while, Kibum’s fixated stare and defied it, only managing to gather enough courage to smile weakly. Kibum did not need more to understand.
Sighing, he stood up in a quick motion, bracing the mirror for support when he ended up losing a bit of his equilibrium. He moved to Jinki’s front, watching him affectionately, not even trying to hide it as usual, due to his unshakable certainty that the other boy would not, not that day, not the day afterwards, notice the feelings that, involuntarily, contemplated him when his own gaze was inattentive. His fingers traveled to the older boy’s arm, and he pinched him, winning an exasperated look and an audible gasp. Jinki’s mouth lied half-open, waiting for an explanation.
“I can be your partner, if you want,” Kibum declared, crossing his arms beneath him. When he saw Jinki’s blank expression, he took his hand to his forehead in an impatient motion. “Acting alone is no fun. I can help you practice your dialogues. Or whatever.”
Kibum did not know a human’s smile could conquer such a large chunk of the face.
“Really? Really, really?”
“You’re going to have to play a princess.”
“It doesn’t get any more perfect than that.”
Jinki’s laugh reverberated in Kibum’s ears and he just smiled, so much that he had to check his own reflection to make sure he had not, somehow, just beaten Jinki’s record.
Kibum’s nightly routine then suffered a major perturbation. He kept on placing a good night kiss on Taemin’s head and fighting with Jonghyun when his voice was still a part of the room just as much as Minho’s books by the end table, a familiar sound Kibum knew he would never grow tired of, as familiar as the immovable pile of blankets that still occupied the central spot of the shared bedroom.
When Kibum lay his head on the cold pillow, waiting for his corporal heat to travel along the synthetic material, warming it up, he did not fall asleep immediately, woken by a sense of obligation as he knew the night had not ended yet for him and Jinki.
It was during those times that he wondered, when the silence wrapped him up like a protective mantle and blew on his thoughts, just as if they were colored paper pinwheels, twirling and twirling endlessly. In the past, he had found himself surrounded by gray tones, which would not stop pursuing him through direct and interminable roads, but, during the past few months, his pinwheels had been majorly covered by red shades. And that scared him, just a bit.
Sometimes, Kibum turned and turned on his bed, curling up on the already warm sheets, and he opened his eyes to the engulfing darkness, letting them get used to the change. He let his eyes go through the entire room, taking his time on each one of the members, especially Jinki. It was then he permitted himself to think egoistically, and he thought about how happy he was for the older boy had chosen to sing, to conquer the stage with his sweet voice, because Kibum believed that made it possible for them to meet, all of them, and spend all of those moments as a single element, divided in five parts that completed and fitted each other. And Jinki was, in that element, the central piece, touching all of the other four, putting them together as one.
It was always more or less here that Kibum resented what was going through his head.
He tried to picture a world in which Jinki, instead of taking the right turn, had preferred the left instead, climbing slowly but surely up the grievous road he had chosen for himself. With his heart clutched tightly, Kibum observed the Jinki in his mind, walking uninterruptedly, falling sometimes, but getting up right away with a smile plastered across his face. He would like to be able to measure that expression till the millimeter, so he could finally have some sort of weapon that allowed him to compare that Jinki to the real one, made of flesh and bones and love. Only then, Kibum thought, he would be able to stop navigating just like a compass-less sailor throughout a tormented sea of doubts.
“Kibum-ah,” he heard him call, low, low, just for him. “I think everyone’s asleep already.”
The younger boy rose silently, starting his downfall to the ground. Jinki was already standing, gleaming, expectant eyes, clear even in the surrounding darkness. They headed outside, walking in silence to the living room. Kibum then noticed Jinki had brought a ream of paper with him, held firmly on his right hand.
“Is that the script?” he asked, pointing towards it, and Jinki nodded, opening a page at random, grasping the sheets by the up corners and lifting them till they were leveled to Kibum’s eyes.
“I found one with a princess,” he said, with the faintest touch of malice on the corner of his mouth. Kibum just snorted, snatching the script from his hands in a fast movement.
“Are you the prince, then? Don’t tell me there’s a kiss.” He rolled his eyes, scoffing even, but all the while his heart jumped a little bit faster for a mere second. Jinki blushed.
“Of course not.”
Of course not.
Jinki’s voiced sounded excited, a little more piercing thanks to some news that remained unknown to Kibum. He averted his tired eyes from the computer screen, this time focusing on the older boy, an enormous curiosity bubbling in him that, as usual, he did not let be evident. In the midst of his ecstasy, Jinki tripped on a pillow, probably forgotten on the floor the past night, when Kibum, after being forced to listen to Gee’s chorus repeatedly for almost a quarter of an hour, had finally lost all of his patience and aimed at Jonghyun’s head, throwing the pillow he always kept at his feet, an habit he had gained some years ago. After the tripping came the inevitable loss of balance, but this time Kibum was fast enough, standing up very quickly and capturing Jinki before he was able to hit the floor with a thud, holding him firmly by his arms.
“Careful,” he just warned, mentally wishing Jinki would not take notice of how violently his heart was beating behind their pressed bodies. All of this took a swift instant, at the end of which Jinki recovered his normal posture without realizing Kibum’s heat was so close to him.
“Kibum-ah, I’m going to be in a musical!” His face shone with such happiness that Kibum felt his own opening up with a huge grin. “Can you believe this?”
“If it were someone else telling me, I probably wouldn’t.” Jinki laughed, letting go of Kibum’s arms and sitting on the bed that belonged to him. Kibum followed his example, sitting in a way their shoulders would not touch, but close enough to feel that tenuous warmth bristle the feelings submersed inside him, turning his red pinwheels strongly. “A musical. It’s a mix of the two things you enjoy the most.”
“I could hardly believe it when the manager told me. Me, in a musical!” Jinki looked at Kibum without adding anything else, but managing to have said everything that way. Kibum stood up shortly after, positioning himself right in front of Jinki.
“I think the time for me to retire has come at last then, right?” Kibum took his hand to his chest in a dramatic manner, giving a bow to an invisible audience. Jinki smiled.
“But hm, I think I’ll still need your wonderful acting skills to rehearse for the play,” Jinki confessed in between a laugh, holding Kibum’s closest hand. “It was thanks to you I was able to get better throughout this time, after all.”
And Kibum knew, as surely as he knew Jinki had again missed to notice he was blushing, that refusing was impossible.
The times the group was reduced to four members started to happen more frequently the next weeks, and Kibum tried to hide just how much that bothered him, aware that was his selfishness taking the better of him. He let his mind walk about in the breaks between recordings, breaking through the door of the rehearsal room Jinki was in, and remaining there, gazing at him with tenderness from a spot hidden from every other look. In the next instant, Jonghyun hit him lightly on the shoulder, causing his thoughts to disappear in a flash, whispering and informing him they had to go back to the studio. Kibum just sighed.
He tried his best to let this new project of Jinki’s stay out of his mind, unsuccessfully so far. Because this time there was a small possibility, remote, irritating, that Jinki would realize deep inside everything he liked, acting really was what he enjoyed the most. More than singing. More than the group. More than the members.
More than Kibum.
His pinwheels turned and turned incessantly, every new worry dyeing them in purple tones, getting darker and darker with time. He pondered on the past night, when Jinki had arrived at the dorm as the first sun beams penetrated through the fairness of the blue curtains, landing on his bed still dressed, still with his shoes on, doing nothing more than sighing profoundly before falling asleep, a note of extreme tiredness in his hoarse voice. Kibum had not been able to enter the land of dreams till that moment, and that scenario only blocked the passage of said frontier even more.
“Kibum, wake up!” Jonghyun warned him before the recording was resumed, poking the younger boy gently. “You’ve been really spaced out, lately.”
Kibum looked at him from the corner of his eyes, sighing afterwards and running a hand through his hair, which by that time had been suffering changes every week, a clear signal that he was, deep inside, as indecisive and inconstant as his highlights. At the PD’s signal, he turned to the center of the studio, arranging the hairdo he had slightly messed up just seconds before. He then took both hands to his temples, massaging them while telling himself he needed to concentrate on the task he had at hand.
Suddenly remembering the premiere of the play in a week did not help the execution of that order.
The watch he had on his wrist, discreet and black, informed him there was still ten minutes to go. Kibum arranged himself on the theater’s chair for the millionth time since he had arrived, a feeling of nervousness in his belly though he was not part of the group that was going to take the stage in an outburst that night. Sometimes he would look around, watching the ample space being fulfilled, as the heap of people at the entrance presented their tickets, moving forwards till their respective seats with crumpled paper cut in half firmly in one hand. The restless boy had gone through said ritual more than thirty minutes ago, when he had gotten there before any other member of the audience.
He stood up a little, consequently broadening his field of vision, relaxing his expression into a smile when he took note that the majority of the seats were already occupied by people with the most varied levels of experience. He returned to his own quickly, noticing afterwards he had two men sitting on the two seats by his side. Although he refused to take off the large hoodie that camouflaged him a little in the midst of the crowd, he felt grateful he had not for company the group of laughing teenage girls who were sitting two rows behind. He looked at his watch, seeing he still had five more minutes of leisure.
He had literally ran to the theatre some hours earlier, taking the train – fortunately quite empty – till he got to the broad avenue which lodged the building he was now in. After Jinki had left early in the morning, he had coughed violently, sneezing when it was convenient, warming up the thermometer with a flashlight he had hidden beneath his pillow when Minho was distracted, all in trying to convince the other three and, mostly, the manager he was incurably sick. He had the feeling Jonghyun had not fallen for it, but he joined the game, smiling maliciously when he was the last one to leave the room, closing the door behind him and letting Kibum finally be by himself.
It was a last-hour decision, really. He had woken up to Jinki trying to leave his bed as quietly as possible, which meant, of course, he had tripped, first on the sheets, and then on his own feet, grabbing the nearest bunker with a desperate expression. When he finally got out of the room, Kibum had been awake for a long time, a smile painting his lips while he stretched, putting his hands behind his neck soon after.
It was then he realized he would bitterly regret it if he did not take part in Jinki’s day.
The nervousness that boiled inside him was even bigger for that was the first time Jinki would show up as Lee Jinki in front of an audience, all of his body a locked up, sole mind, while Onew waited patiently on the other side of the door. Kibum thought (hoped!) it would then be simpler to carry out his herculean task of finding out what occupied the tallest landing of his passions. After all, when two equally powerful and competitive driving forces meet, a battle between those fronts is inevitable, as certain as the day following even the darkest of nights.
Almost as a reply to this last thought, the lights started to slowly diminish, involving the audience in a veil of blackness and taking to an abyss all the voices that, some seconds before, echoed through the air. The boy’s dark eyes focused on the stage, just as the exhibitionist mooring it was, glowing thanks to a stream of light that pointed to the center, calling every single gaze to that one point. A short silence followed.
And then, absorbing the light, Jinki finally revealed himself, walking towards the middle of the wooden stage with a frown. He stopped short, looking around him without pausing on anyone in particular, and took both hands to his face in a sad, almost exhausted motion. He sighed, fixing the glasses that had slipped down his nose before turning to the audience.
“My father has died tonight.”
His words, said with his usual smooth voice, rang strongly all around Kibum. He breathed in unconsciously, keeping that breath inside him. Jinki walked to his right, falling back a bit almost as if he were dizzy, without knowing which step to take afterwards. With one hand stuck to his hip, he ran the other through his hair, sighing once again. As if his gaze had signed an exclusive contract with Jinki’s profile, Kibum only saw the older boy in front of him, suddenly so different, almost as if he were truly seeing him for the first time only in that moment. Consequently, he did not take notice of a woman a bit older than both that was hastily making her way till where Jinki stood.
“We’re all waiting for you, Joobong,” she warned, letting her hand fall to his shoulders and pushing him to the back, where a small group of people already formed a line of shadows. Jinki, or maybe it would be more appropriate to call him Joobong, nodded faintly while he joined the others, a funeral march covered in black. The man who stood to his right put his hand on his shoulder.
“We’re going to start, brother,” he said, while both turned to the front and a soft, melancholic melody filled the ears of everyone in the room. Jinki eyed his black shoes looking defeated, before he raised his chin, took a deep breath and, finally, let his voice vibrate every molecule of air in the room, in a low tone at first, making it grow with each new note, taking form, volume and confidence.
Kibum stared at him ecstatically, his pinwheels turning fast, unable to keep immobile because of that profusely sad song. Each word that escaped Jinki’s lips daubed each of them with red paint, one by one. Suddenly, all of Kibum’s worries were forgotten, strangely replaced by an overwhelming feeling of peace. To him, peace always walked hand in hand with a free day in winter spent under the warm covers and Jinki’s periodic visits to his hideout, only to check for himself if Kibum was sleeping or not, or the pleasant breeze during an afternoon in spring playing with the ends of their hairs, a smile dancing on their faces while they saw the world passing through them from the open window. In that moment, however, peace was just the piano, Jinki’s voice and Jinki, so strong, so fragile, so paradoxical.
The play proceeded without paying attention to Kibum’s state, definitive proof that time is impatient and stops for no one. The audience clapped at the right times, laughed at the right times, while Kibum did nothing more than try to retain the performance in front of him as much as possible. When the last breath of the last song soared for a few seconds before disappearing completely, light returned to the room, shining again upon the orderly rows of all the spectators. All of them rose almost simultaneously, bursting in deafening claps pointed by lots of juvenile screams that had been suppressed during that time.
Jinki wore one of those record-breaking smiles of his, breathing in and out in a faster rhythm. His eyes passed by Kibum and stayed on him, so foreign on the first row as he was the only one still on his seat, and his expression changed in a heartbeat to a satisfied surprised, followed by a smile so wide his eyes became mere lines above his cheeks. Kibum then found strength to stand up, throwing himself in an interminable, sonorous clapping fit, while mouthing, “You were fantastic.” Jinki, as a reply, took both of his hands to his head, forming two imperfect arcs. Behind Kibum, the group of teenage girls screamed louder, as if that imitation of a heart had been directed at them. Kibum, contrary to what he thought, did not mind.
For he had noticed, mere moments before, that Jinki’s smile shone a little bit more intensively when he sang.
A/N: First, a huge, huge thank you to nautisch for beta-ing this for me. ♥
This is obviously inspired by Onew's musical and by this picture. I played around a bit with the symbolism of some colors, particularly when it came to the pinwheels. The red shades indicate, of course, love and passion, whereas the gray ones evoke sadness and despondency. There's also a small reference to purple, which may symbolize worry.
And well, that's it. I hope you enjoyed it! (: