shinee au, approx. 3500w.
I can’t believe I wrote SHINee fic. Epic SHINee fic for me, jfc. ANYWAY this is for pixeltoy aka one of my favourite
Concrit is welcome! Also, thank you nocturnes for looking this over for me, and for the title~
When Jonghyun wakes up, his eyes open to a jarring white. He squints against the brightness, feeling odd and disoriented, heavy-limbed and weighed down as if he hadn't slept long enough. The smell of antiseptic and sanitizer drifts over him, and even though his thoughts feel blurry and slow, he thinks that he is in a hospital, which explains the boring ceiling colour, but not much else. He tries to remember what might have happened for him to end up here, but then he is drifting to sleep again. His last thought is that he hopes that it wasn't anything too bad.
Hyung, I don't fucking care! I'm sick of this shit, I'm sick of you never being there --
When he wakes up again, he opens his eyes more slowly than last time. When he turns his head, he realizes that his arm is asleep because there's a dark-haired boy using it as a pillow at his bedside. He also realizes that his head is aching dully and that there is an IV attached to his other arm. He tries to shake the other boy off but he mumbles and furrows his eyebrows as he nuzzles Jonghyun's arm, which only makes Jonghyun try to shake him off some more. Then he's blinking sleepy, surprised eyes at Jonghyun, and suddenly Jonghyun's air supply is being cut off because the other boy just shouts his name and hugs him (or tries to strangles him, depending on how you look at it). And Jonghyun really isn't prepared to deal with this right now, this hospital and this IV and this headache and this weird boy who he doesn't even --
"Do I know you?" Jonghyun manages, when the boy loosens his grip at last. His voice sounds raspy from disuse, and the boy stares at him like he's gone crazy. Jonghyun is starting to get a little annoyed. "What?"
"Jjong, it's me," the boy says. Jonghyun's not really impressed and the boy seems to be able to tell because he huffs and glares, crossing his arms over his chest in what seems to be a characteristic pose. "It's Kibum, you dickface. How can you not remember me?"
Jonghyun really can't remember him, which is annoying because the boy really does speak to him as though he knows him. Jonghyun screws up his eyes, stares at the boy, and wills himself to remember. Then he thinks again about how he can't remember what he did last week, or what he did yesterday, or how he ended up here. It isn't hard to understand what the problem is after that.
The doctors say that it's post-traumatic amnesia. He got into a car accident, and the injuries to his head made him forget a lot of things, mostly people and details about his life during the last few years. It's no biggie, Kibum says with a confident grin, because as soon as they spend a whole bunch of time together it'll all come rushing back. That's usually how it is in the movies. Kibum is all big words, vivid movement, full of so much life that Jonghyun feels dull by comparison in his hospital clothes. It's not really a bad thing, though. The way Kibum looks at him -- eager and warm, despite how independent he seems to be -- makes Jonghyun think that he must have been a pretty cool person to have a friend like him.
More people come to visit him in the next few days, too -- Minho, who Jonghyun remembers from his high school math class, and Taemin, who is a stranger like Kibum. Jonghyun isn't sure if he likes or dislikes this new feeling of almost-experimentation, like he is trying to fit into the role or the life of some fictional character, someone that isn't him. Sometimes, someone says or does something and looks at him like he's supposed to remember it or get the joke or whatever. When they remember that he can't remember, the look of disappointment on their face doesn't live up to the constricted, uncomfortable feeling that curls in Jonghyun's chest, a cross between a strange sort of hurt and an even stranger curiosity. He wants to remember everything, he does, but there is still a part of him that revels in all the attention, the concern.
His personality is still essentially the same, his friends tell him. He still hums without realizing and he still talks a lot. They try to see him often, but Jonghyun ends up spending most of his time alone anyway. The doctors are keeping him for a few weeks to take care of his other injuries, but after three days of being surrounded by hospital walls and sterility, Jonghyun's restlessness gets to him.
His broken leg pretty much rules out any stealthiness, but Jonghyun figures he's allowed fresh air (at least, nobody's said otherwise), and he's only headed for the park behind the hospital anyway. His joints feel stiff at first, and he almost falls twice, but he gets out okay other than that, and no one stops him. It's a beautiful day and he spends a little while walking around the best he can, and then sitting on a bench and trying to compose in his head. When he gets up to leave reluctantly, it's only because it's starting to get kind of cold, and this is around the time his mom usually comes by with dinner. (He’d never admit it, but he looks forward to it all day.)
When he gets to the hospital, he struggles to get the door open and hold his crutches at the same time, and when he finally gets through with a mixture of embarrassment and resentment, he looks up towards the elevators and catches a glimpse of a boy's profile. The person is wearing a dark coat and has an average build, and his face is wearing a distracted look as the elevator doors close and Jonghyun is left staring at them. He shrugs and starts making his way up to his room.
When he at last gets to his hallway (3rd floor, room 308), he feels a brief pang of happiness when he thinks someone is standing outside his room, peering in as though looking for him, but then he realizes that it is the person he saw going up the elevator before him. Then he realizes that the person is definitely standing outside his room, and then Jonghyun is standing less than two meters away from him. When he says, "hey," the person jumps, drops his briefcase and hastily moves to pick it up again. It's kind of funny, but Jonghyun holds back the laugh and smiles instead.
Then the boy just stares at him, an oddly panicked expression on his face until it morphs into something unreadable. Jonghyun starts feeling a little uncomfortable. "Do I know you?" he asks hesitantly. The longer Jonghyun looks at him, the more he thinks that the boy has the strangest look on his face, a mix of too many things for Jonghyun to read them all, but he thinks he sees a little bit of sadness, a little bit of wariness. Neither makes sense to Jonghyun, but a lot of things haven’t made sense lately. He wonders if maybe the boy is lost.
"I'm," the boy pauses, clears his throat. "I'm Jinki." His voice seems warm and somehow kind all at once, strangely familiar in a way that makes Jonghyun wonder if he knew Jinki before his accident.
"I'm Jonghyun," he offers. Then, because Jinki looks so awkward and keeps avoiding his eyes: "Do you have the wrong room?"
"I... no," Jinki mutters. He looks at Jonghyun at last. "I'm a friend of yours, from -- from college. Your music theory class in first year. We lived -- uh, lived together for a while. Roommates." He hesitates, eyes downcast again.
Jonghyun watches him for a few seconds: Jinki with his fingers wrapped around the handle of his briefcase too tight, his too-long bangs falling into eyes that look exhausted. Thinks, looks like we had a fight or something. Says, "Cool. You want to come in or something then?"
Jinki gives a small smile.
You'll come to my show tonight, right?
You told me it was a jazz cafe. Teasing.
Same thing. And everyone starts somewhere, you always say that. You'll come?
I... I don't think so. Not tonight.
Silence. Next time?
One thing that hasn't changed over the years is that Jonghyun likes to be right. He likes the fact that he thought Jinki seemed familiar (although Taemin and Key hadn't, which is strange but probably one of those weird coincidences of life). He also likes the fact that he thought Jinki's voice seemed kind, because he is right about that too.
Jinki takes a while to talk to him properly. He has to leave pretty soon because of visiting hours on the day that Jonghyun meets him for the first time, and Jonghyun isn't sure if he'll come again, but he comes back the next day, and the day after. He always visits in the afternoons and leaves a couple of hours before dinnertime, and every time he sits at Jonghyun's bedside, he seems to shed a little bit of his awkwardness. His hesitance seems to just be a part of him, but it’s odd to Jonghyun all the same, for reasons he isn't really sure of. The wariness in Jinki's eyes, he can't explain.
Jinki tells Jonghyun about how they started talking (a project they had to do together). Long pause. Jonghyun asks Jinki about school for a while, and then about himself, and when Jinki gets self-conscious, Jonghyun starts talking about himself instead, wondering whether he still had that guitar from 2004, what he was majoring in in college, things like that. Easing Jinki into talking more. Over the course of a couple of days, Jonghyun gets that Jinki is 22, doing his last year of pre-med ("Are you a genius?" got immediate protests, but Jonghyun thinks Jinki seems like the modest type), with a minor in music. Even though he tells Jonghyun the answer to everything he asks, Jonghyun still feels like Jinki is maybe holding something back, but he wants to wait and thinks that he'll learn whatever it is if Jinki wants him to.
Jonghyun learns that Jinki's an only-child. He loves tofu, and books. He sucks at cooking, he likes mornings, he hates coffee. He knows a lot about Jonghyun, too -- his favourite clothes and his favourite songs and his favourite foods. Jonghyun likes learning these little details, likes trying to figure out what it was about these strangers that made him become close to them in the first place. He thinks that with Jinki, it might have been the way he looks like he's trying to hide a smile when Jonghyun is telling one of those jokes that no-one ever seems to find funny, or the way he sometimes looks at Jonghyun, just looks at him, like he is more interesting than science or music. Jonghyun can't pinpoint when it is exactly, but one day he realizes that what he looks forward to now isn't his mom's kimchi fried rice, it's Jinki's smile. It's Jinki.
I'm tired of this, hyung.
I don't want your excuses right now, okay? I'm going to go out. Karaoke bar or something.
When will you be back?
Sometimes Jonghyun starts telling Jinki a funny story or just something he remembers, and he'll be halfway through telling him about it before he realizes that Jinki might already know. It bothers him a little at first, then more and more every time it happens. "I want my memories back," he tells Jinki one day (he's still not capable of hiding anything, Jinki says, but with Jinki Jonghyun likes to think he doesn't try to anyway). Jinki blinks at him, and Jonghyun dives into talking about something else, how he misses things like walking around and having a girlfriend and going to karaoke bars. Sometimes he says things that make Jinki abruptly quiet again, that make that strange wariness come back, as if Jonghyun’s someone he doesn't know. Jonghyun wonders what was wrong about those sentences when Jinki avoids his gaze and says he's got to go, and Jonghyun wishes more than ever that he could just remember.
I want to forget everything right now. I fucked up again, Kibum, he hates me --
You're overreacting, Jonghyun. As gross as it is, he adores you.
Not anymore, with the way I flipped out again.
It happens. Just apologize, okay?
I... yeah. I just... I wish I hadn't said it at all, you know? I wish I could go back and fix things.
No-one can, Jjong. You've just got to do the best with what you have now.
"Yeah?" Jinki's reading a textbook for one of his health classes, and Jonghyun feels even more restless than usual, the sight of the blue sky through his tiny window drawing his eyes again and again.
"Did you know it's my birthday today?"
Jinki looks up at him at last, and he smiles. "Is it?"
"Yeah. Can I have cake?" Jonghyun gives his best puppy dog eyes, which really isn't necessary because Jinki is putty in his hands and they both know it.
"I'll go buy some." When Jonghyun deflates, Jinki smiles and continues, "You can come with me, if you like. Even though I know your birthday is in April."
Jonghyun tries to feign surprise. "Isn't it April?"
Jinki's voice is amused as he turns towards the wall to pick up Jonghyun's crutches for him. "Well, yeah, but your birthday's in a few days."
"I can still get cake now, though?"
Jinki sits next to him, close enough so that their thighs almost touch. He doesn't even seem to notice. "Yes."
"And again on my birthday?" Jonghyun's heart is beating rhythms on his ribcage.
"You would cry if I said no," Jinki teases.
No, Jonghyun starts telling him, he wouldn't. "Because you're here, I wouldn't," he says, words too fast, almost garbled, which always happens when he's nervous. He thinks Jinki doesn't understand and that maybe he heard something else because his smile disappears and he starts looking a little different -- like he did on that first day, pale, scared.
"Are you okay?" Jonghyun's voice gets softer with worry and Jinki looks unreadable again. "I said -- I said that if you're here, I wouldn't. I mean. That sounds kind of cheesy, I swear it's the fact that Kibum's been talking about the current love of his life again and it's driving me crazy, but anyway, what I mean is -- what I mean is that I like you, hyung." He pauses, tries to breathe slower, tries to breathe. "I like you."
Silence. Jonghyun's run over this in his head half a million times, but he still can't shake the hurt off. The nervous electricity of Jinki being so close is making him feel embarrassed and somehow ashamed now, instead of just the nervous elation. He tries to steady himself and look at Jinki again, but he finds himself looking at Jinki's hands instead. They're shaking.
Jinki says something, and when Jonghyun realizes he's missed it he looks up abruptly to see Jinki looking straight at him. Jinki looks away immediately. Jonghyun wants to reach up, brush his bangs back, run his fingers over Jinki's eyelids, his mouth. He wants to reach for Jinki's hand. Somehow, this distance between them now feels worse -- feels like more -- then there ever was on that first day in the hospital together, when Jonghyun still thought Jinki was a stranger.
"I'm sorry," Jinki seems to repeat, "I can't." Jonghyun knew it, but still a part of him had hoped, had thought --
"Why?" He keeps his voice quiet, and for the first time he wonders whether anything like this could have happened before -- whether anything like this could be the reason why Jinki was so withheld in the beginning. That would be exactly like him, Jonghyun thinks with a dim sort of bitterness, to go to a friend even if they did something like this to go and fuck things up.
Jinki's voice is quiet, too. "I don't want things to get bad between us again."
Jonghyun is missing something again, and he wants to shout, wants to cry with how fucking stupid it is not being able to remember his own life. He tries to even out his breathing, stay steady. "What do you mean?" His hand is on Jinki's before he realizes it, and Jinki's whole body stills abruptly, but he doesn't move away.
"I mean," he hesitates, and he stares at their hands, their fingers twined together.
Jonghyun tries to read something deeper in the misery lining Jinki's face; tries to understand. His fingers tighten around Jinki's almost involuntarily. "I don't care about what happened before, unless it was me confessing to you and that's what screwed it up last time too, and you don't like me," he says in a rush. He can hear his heartbeat in his ears, and feel Jinki’s warmth, still so close.
“No, that’s not --” Jinki fumbles again, searching for the right words, “that’s not what happened. I’m -- I’m the one who made you angry. I always…” Jonghyun’s stomach sinks. “I always hurt you. I was never there for you.”
“No,” Jonghyun says, equally quiet. “You aren’t like that.”
Jinki looks at him, and Jonghyun’s chest hurts at the emotions twisting Jinki’s face. “I don’t -- it doesn’t matter, I just -- I don’t want us to end up like that again.”
Silence. Jonghyun thinks about how he doesn‘t want to hurt Jinki, and about how Jinki would probably do the dumb thing and stay with him no matter how badly Jonghyun screwed up, but how he still shouldn‘t do it. Then he thinks about how Jinki comes here every day, how Jinki brought him his CDs without asking about which were his favourites, how Jinki looks after him when he’s getting lonely and always just knows. He thinks about the warmth of Jinki’s smile, his hands. About how Jinki still hasn’t moved away, and about how Jinki will maybe never move away, not unless Jonghyun makes him go.
“You’re right,” he says then, and Jinki’s face fills with a mixture of hurt and relief. He continues, “It doesn’t matter. I don’t care.”
Jinki stares at him. “Jonghyun, you don’t understand --”
“No, I get it,” Jonghyun interrupts. “But I like you now, and if I really haven’t changed that much over time, then I liked you before the accident too. I liked you a lot.” He looks back at Jinki, daring him to contradict him, but Jinki doesn’t. Then Jonghyun says, his voice coming out too fast: “You liked me too, right?”
Jinki doesn’t say anything, but Jonghyun thinks he’s right, because there is something familiar about this, the touch of Jinki’s hands and the curve of his smile. Jonghyun imagines their life from before and thinks about how it might have happened -- living together, Jinki and Jonghyun, waking up together in the mornings and asking each other about their days when they saw each other at the end of them. They’d do cheesy, romantic things like trying to cook together; things that would make Kibum cringe and everyone else tease them. And then the falling apart. Jonghyun’s own selfishness, he imagines, would have been the starting point. Things like I wish you would spend more time with me and I want to see you more and I’m doing my best, I wish you would too -- things that even Jinki would get tired of. Jonghyun can see it all reflected in Jinki’s face, the pain of things gone wrong, and wonders if he can do it right this time.
“I don’t know if I can try again with us,” says Jinki at last, voice more quiet than ever. “That’s why I didn’t tell you.” In an odd, guilty way, it makes Jonghyun a little relieved to hear that Jinki can be selfish, too.
Jonghyun holds Jinki’s hand a little tighter. “I… want to try.” There is a sense of déjà vu to this again -- Jinki’s eyes holding on to his, his hand clutching back like Jonghyun’s is anchoring him.
When Jonghyun leans forward at last, there is ancient familiarity in the soft, chapped feel of Jinki’s mouth. When he moves back, he sees Jinki’s smile under his closed eyelids like a memory, and when he opens them, it is there on Jinki’s face too, soft in the afternoon light that falls in from the window.