All of these chapters from this update (and this whole fic, really) is dedicated to the amazing, wonderful, and all-around LOVELY blindteddy , whose birthday has just passed recently and whose work at 2min_aday is both inspiring to me personally AND is what makes me feel extra-proud to be a part-time mod there myself.
Jun, I hope you enjoy this belated bday present/dedication...your Taeminnnie loves you lots!! ;w;)/ ♥♥♥
Oh, and I left you comment spots so you could have the very first comment on all these chapters, ok? Hope that helps~
IV. 알고있죠, 그댄 내 맘 모르죠.
[ You know, you don’t know my heart. ]
[ You know, you don’t know my heart. ]
After Minho came back from Canada, the rest of December’s schedule kicked into full swing, with a slew of award show appearances and enough performances to make anyone’s head spin.
The five of them were a little too used to it—rushing around in the early morning to get ready for a long day of interviews, recordings, and work—but it still made them unbearably tired sometimes. Whenever and wherever they could manage it, they slept. Naps in between car rides to and from the salons or the studios weren’t long, but they would have to do. It was certainly better than the two or three hours of sleep in total they got the night before.
It was definitely better than nothing.
Their schedules had been so filled up this year that their usual midnight Christmas celebration together (which usually lasted long into the early morning, depending on how tired they were and how much sugar the youngest and the oldest consumed) ended up pushed aside in favor of live broadcasts, family dinners, and hometown visits. So after the New Year came and went—bringing a revised but still hectic schedule for January along with it—Taemin was glad to spend the day with Jinki while the other three were out busy recording.
But when the cab they took brought them to the front of the SM building, Taemin started to wonder if today was really a free day, after all.
“Don’t worry.” Jinki must have noticed his expression and turned back to Taemin, flashing an easy smile. “We’re just stopping off. You said you wanted to go to the shopping mall, right?” It was Taemin’s turn to nod. “We’ll go after this. I just wanted to say hi to someone before we go.”
They went straight inside to the elevator after that, riding up to the fourth floor where the personal practice rooms were. A few trainees greeted them as they passed, but all the while, Taemin wondered why they came here. He knew for a fact that Yunho-sunbaenim and Changmin-sunbaenim wouldn’t be here (they were overseas) and their Super Junior hyung-deul weren’t there either (they were out promoting their new song).
So who would be here on the first day after the New Year’s celebrations had ended? Maybe the staff and a few of the company executives would be here, but that was—
“…Sunbae! You’re here, you’re here…!”
Taemin turned just in time to see a blur of blue, black, and red come out running down the hallway and leap headlong into Jinki’s arms. The older boy was completely unprepared for it, barely catching the other person in time, wobbling unsteadily on shaky legs as he gently let them down on the floor again.
As soon as he did, the jacket hood to Jinki’s mystery accoster slipped and revealed their identity.
“No, no, just Luna, Taeminnie!” Sunyoung chastised him with a small pout, brushing dark flyaway strands away from her face. “We’ve met before and we’re only a month apart, so no need to be formal with me.”
“Sunyoung-ah!” Jinki sighed, giving her a stern look. Taemin’s gaze wandered from the exasperated Jinki to the unruffled Sunyoung and he felt himself smile. If he didn’t know any better, he would have thought the two of them were a pair of lovers, quarreling over a serious disagreement. “How many times do I have to tell you I don’t like being jumped on?”
“You never told me that before, oppa!” Sunyoung chirped, effervescent as ever. Taemin snorted under his breath, covering his mouth with his fist. “Besides, last time you said I could call you anytime I wanted!”
“I said you could call me anytime, Sunyoung-ah.” Jinki seemed ready to relent now, patting the girl on the head as if she were a small puppy looking for attention. “But isn’t this f(x)’s holiday, too? I’m surprised you weren’t busy doing other things today.”
“Unnie-deul were all busy today.” Sunyoung’s smile wilted a bit at this remark, and Jinki winced in response. “That’s why I called. I was hoping you weren’t busy so we could maybe go out to karaoke again—”
“Again?” Taemin grinned, turning to Jinki just in time to see his face turn a brilliant shade of red. “You mean all those times you told Jonghyun-hyung you went out for karaoke with your friends, it was just you and Luna?”
“N-No! No, no, no; I-I can explain—!”
“Jonghyun-oppa’s nosy, that’s why.” Sunyoung interrupted the older boy’s stammering, wrinkling her nose in playful distaste before just as quickly looking up at Jinki with an apologetic smile. “We wouldn’t want him to get the wrong idea and tell everybody we’re a couple when we’re not, right?”
“M-More importantly…Taemin-ah, don’t tell anyone else about this, please?” Jinki spoke with a plaintive hitch to his voice, a sure sign that he had all but given up his leader persona at this point. “Not even Minho, okay?”
“I won’t tell,” Taemin promised them with a sage nod, chuckling a bit. “Your secret’s safe with me.”
(He couldn’t promise that he wouldn’t tell Minho, though – because if there was anyone who had been suspicious since the leader and the younger girl were spotted talking backstage at Dream Concert and who definitely needed to hear about this, it was Minho.)
It was nice to stand back and watch Sunyoung and Jinki talk after that, though.
Out of all the f(x) members, Taemin liked her the most. They were close in age, but that wasn’t the only reason why. It was because Sunyoung was genuinely and wholeheartedly nice, the kind of nice that made the worst of people try to take advantage of her and the loneliest of people want desperately to be her friend. She treated Taemin a lot like Jinki did, less like a dongsaeng and more like an old friend. She was a lot like Jinki in personality, too, especially in the way she could suddenly turn playful when something prompted that side of her.
It made him wonder about something, though.
“Hyung,” Taemin asked, once he and Jinki had finally reached their original destination (the shopping mall) and were sitting at a quiet booth in a corner of the food court, “what do you think love is?”
Jinki nearly choked on his drink, coughing for a good ten seconds before gasping out his hoarse retort.
“W-Where did that come from?”
“I’m just wondering.” Taemin frowned, not sure why he was even disgruntled by Jinki’s reaction. “Since you and Luna are so close ‘n all…I just figured you’d have a better idea than me…”
The leader stopped in mid-protest (to the part about his closeness with Sunyoung, most likely) hearing Taemin’s last whisper of a remark and smiled. Weird. He hadn’t been expecting that reaction, either.
He wanted answers, not more questions. Taemin pouted, hoping he could win over his hyung with a bit of cuteness – but Jinki remained impassive, leaning back in his chair, gentle eyes sparkling with sudden mirth.
“I wonder, too.” The older boy tipped forward again, steadying himself with a surprising amount of grace. “When you fall in love, how do you know it’s love for sure? Is that what you’re asking?”
“…I guess so.” Taemin at last replied, after a moment’s hesitation. “I mean, I’m not even sure if it’s love or not, but—”
“Love,” Jinki exhaled, “isn’t an easy thing to figure out. Just like there are different kinds of people, there are different kinds of love, too. We’re talking about romantic love, though, right – not the kind of love you have for your family or your friends?” Taemin nodded slowly, hoping Jinki couldn’t tell how anxious he was to hear the rest. “Then I guess I can give you a bit of advice…”
“Honestly…I’ve been in love before. To someone…close to me.” Interest piqued, Taemin leaned forward, wondering why Jinki was using the past tense. “It didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, but I learned a lot. About love, about people…about friendship.”
“You mean Key-umma?” Jinki’s head snapped forward so quickly that Taemin was sure he would get whiplash. The reaction wasn’t surprising in and of itself, though. “Everybody but Key-umma pretty much knew you had a crush on him, hyung.”
“I guess Minho must have told you, huh?” Jinki sighed, expression resigned as he slunk back into his chair. But Taemin shook his head, surprising the older boy. “Then, how did you…?”
“It was really obvious.” Taemin said truthfully, but he felt a wave of sympathy hit him from the look on Jinki’s face. “I’m sorry, hyung…”
He always had his theories about Jinki and Kibum, but he didn’t really expect to have them confirmed so easily. Still, the longing looks, the lingering touches, and the overt concern for the headstrong diva of the group – Taemin knew that Jinki didn’t treat everyone like that, so he always had his suspicions about the leader’s feelings for Kibum. Jinki was always generous when it came to the members, but Kibum never even had to ask for a seat or a drink; before he even said a word, Jinki had already brought it for him, as if he were able to read Kibum’s mind before his request was voiced.
Kibum never spoke a word about it to Taemin, but Jonghyun had dropped hints to the maknae about how awkward he felt showing intimacy with Jinki around. Now Taemin knew it wasn’t just because of Jinki’s father-like tendencies.
“It’s okay.” Despite the hurt in his eyes, Jinki’s smile was as bright as ever. “Like I told Minho that time, I’m mostly over it now. And the two of them…Jonghyunnie and Kibummie…they’re happy together.” Then, a touch softer: “I’d be a horrible person for ever trying to compromise that.”
I know you wouldn’t, Taemin bit his lower lip at the realization, hands clenched tight in his lap. You’re always trying to make other people happy, hyung…I know that. That’s how you are.
But still. Compromising your own happiness for the sake of someone else’s? The thought of it alone made Taemin’s heart ache. Maybe that made him the selfish one, but if there was something that Taemin wanted badly enough to go after, he would do it.
Even if it meant that he was wrong, he would be willing to take that risk. Especially when it came to the matter of love.
“If Jonghyun-hyung ever broke his heart,” Taemin spoke looking down at his lap, not daring to look up at Jinki’s sad eyes again, “would you step in then? I mean…do you still love Key-umma that much?”
Jinki sighed, the look on his face already answer enough for Taemin.
“Let’s go home.” Taemin stared at Jinki, who was already picking up his tray as well as Taemin’s. “You said you were getting tired of shopping earlier, right? We might as well head back to the dorm, then.”
The entire cab ride back to their dorm, Taemin didn’t dare bring up his question again.
But Jinki was unbearably quiet, too, so at least the feeling was mutual. The only time he spoke at all was before they went around to the back door of their apartment complex, offering an awkward smile and a stuttered apology.
Taemin only smiled and shook his head. “It’s okay, hyung…I’m sorry for bringing it up. We don’t have to talk about it anymore if you don’t want to.”
It wasn’t until they were walking up the stairs that Jinki grabbed his sleeve to slow him down a bit and spoke again.
“About what you asked me earlier,” Jinki began, silencing Taemin’s almost-protest to it with a brisk continuation. “I think love is different for every person. So there probably isn’t one answer to your question. I think…it’s something you’ll have to figure out as you go along.”
(Love, Taemin decided right then and there, was like a battlefield – where victories and losses could be tallied by either party, but it was only when both sides came together that the struggle and sacrifices counted in the end.)
[ to be continued. ]
Current Music: Jordin Sparks - Battlefield