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letters on a train to nowhere

lelouch
Title: letters on a train to nowhere
Author: peigurrrl
Pairing:  TaeKey
Genre:  Angst
Rating:  PG13
Summary: Taemin promised Key forever, yet here Key sits, writing letters to nobody on a train to nowhere.
Disclaimer: I had a witty comment about how ridiculous it would be for me to even dream of owning SHINee but then I lost it and I'm too tired to remake it. So there. I don't own SHINee.




==


Key wakes up. He wakes up to the sound of pounding on his door, his three cell phones ringing wildly, he wakes to the sound of his computer being roused from sleep mode with a dozen instant messages. He has been asleep for less than two hours and is not pleased to be awoken when he glares at the red numbers on his clock.

He answers the nearest of his phones, snappily, angrily, and lets the phone fall to the floor from his suddenly limp hand when the other end shouts their news at him. He sits down- he can’t stand on his feet with all the blood suddenly deciding to leave his body for another place that lets in a lot of cold and a lot of nausea and a lot of fear.

Why? Why would they?

He might have still been alive. He might have recovered. This is what Key thinks. There’s a smaller, more logical, more sane part that reminds him that would have been impossible. He was dead on all accounts but physically. It made sense.

The achingly hopeful side of him crushes the logic ruthlessly and hijacks his body. Key breaks things and screams and cries and hates and hates and hates. He ignores the increasingly panicked knocking on his door and ignores his bleeding feet from stomping in too many glass shards and ignores the snot dripping unattractively from his nostrils and focuses on hating.

And it’s a little bit funny, so he starts laughing, too. The door bursts open and someone that isn’t Taemin comes in and someone that isn’t Taemin holds him and someone that isn’t Taemin fails at keeping him awake because he’s only awake as long as Taemin is and he supposes he’s no need to stay awake any longer and it’s funny how hard it can be to make him sleep so he laughs harder and it’s still not Taemin so he hates harder.

Then Kibum falls asleep.

Dear Taemin,

There’s nothing wrong with my temper. Why can’t you just live with it?

Why can’t you just live?

I need you, Kibum


--

Kibum is okay with being alone. He sits on the bench in the compartment with the lights on and he doesn’t freeze or anything and he sits there with a portable writing desk and a sheaf of papers and a little stationery box full of pens and sits there and writes on his train to nowhere.

He sits there and writes letters to nobody, on his train to nowhere. He asks where he’s going, where he’s getting off. He tears the letters up into little strips of paper that he folds up into tiny stars to decorate the night sky with. Sometimes he thinks himself quite mad to be on a train to nowhere, writing letters to nobody. He thinks that at least he can’t become any madder, and then looks outside to see the madder red sky and writes a letter to nobody reminding nobody to use that color against the gold cloth of hat thirty-two’s silk flowers.

He considers that it might look nice on skirt seventy-nine’s lace side panel then remembers that skirt seventy-nine has a celestial blue feather print and the madder would clash in unacceptable ways with the blue and scraps that idea.

Madder red enamel.

He’d given a present once. A rosary of madder red enamel. A just in case. Jonghyun’s puppy had liked to chew on accessories and wooden beads had been a perfect target.

Taemin was so damn attached to that wooden rosary though, so he just thanked Key and left it in its little box and smacked Roo whenever the dog went near his old wooden rosary instead of wearing the red one.

But there, he’s not supposed to be thinking about this kind of thing, he knows better.

Dear Roo,

How are you?

Love, Key

--

Kibum is sewing sequins onto the edge of a shirt when someone knocks at his door. He calls for them to come in, the door is unlocked. Jinki appears, with dinner. Kibum clucks and sets down the needle and thread and fabric beside the box of sequins.

Taking the white bags of food he warns Jinki that he’ll throw it out and nobody will eat anything for dinner if it’s chicken, even as he walks towards the kitchen to get plates and utensils while Jinki struggles with shoes.

Jinki laughs and replies that it’s just Chinese food. Kibum rolls his eyes and begins unpacking. Jinki watches warily, because one can never be too sure what will send Kibum off to whichever deep recesses of his poor, ruined mind.

Not that it’s completely ruined, Jinki muses as he sits down at the dinner table, across from a brightly adorned mannequin. Kibum has made quite the name for himself in the fashion industry. His designs are highly sought after and valued. Kibum’s clothes are brilliant. Genius.

They’re just not really synonymous. With Key’s clothing designs, that is. And Jinki won’t claim to be an expert of any sort, no, there’s a reason he’s practicing medicine now rather than performing on a stage. But Jonghyun had put what everyone thought into words.

Key’s designs might occasionally have a touch of carefully applied madness in the overall mess of flatteringly tasteful cuts. Kibum’s designs are sprawling with unpredictable flares of madness detailing a shirt here, a hat there. Composing an entire season’s dress collection, overtaking every accessory he makes. Kibum can’t control it. He doesn’t even remember adding them in half the time but he always keeps them.

As one newspaper had gathered, they rang true with something that had become so integral to Kibum’s character. A long time ago. It had happened a long time ago.

Because Jinki’s become old, Jonghyun has kids, Minho is retired and married, and Kibum is still waking up. It’s been over twelve years, when Jinki stops to count the time. He doesn’t, not often. Because remembering is sad for him. Remembering is sad for everyone.

Except Kibum. For Kibum, remembering is worse than sad. And Jinki can still remember those first years when they had to do their best to keep Kibum from remembering. He wonders if Kibum can remember. All the drugs. All the blood. All the distractions. All the tears. All the screaming. All the pain.

They hadn’t let go. Because they were...

They were still SHINee, weren’t they?

Dear Lee Soo Man,

I, Kim Kibum (Key) of SHINee, would like to renew my contract. Same contract.

Sincerely, Key


--

Taemin jokingly asks Jonghyun if this is the reality he wanted, him and Key both ribbing Jonghyun as they sort through the suddenly increased amounts of fan mail after the media reveals Jonghyun’s relationship with Shin Sekyung.

Key follows up quickly, answering that it’s been the reality Jonghyun wanted since Hello Baby, and tears open another envelope, scanning the contents, and tossing it into the growing pile of papers to be shredded. Minho comes periodically to take them to Onew who patiently feeds them to the new gift management bought them: an industrial paper shredder.

Jonghyun pulls out two sheets of paper, looks them over briefly and then crumples them into paper balls to throw at the two. Taemin dodges and Key neatly smacks his own projectile back into Jonghyun’s face, thus beginning a small war of sorts. Minho comes back to find processed tree pulp whizzing through the air and Taemin sneakily fuelling the war by pre-crumpling the paper balls for both sides.

Taemin chirps happily that he’s America in World War II when Minho asks him what he’s doing. He explains that Jonghyun is France and Key is Japan, that he was just supplying them with weapons and being nice but Japan has decided to keep attacking America anyway so America was going to stop giving Japan weapons and ally with France, who built a very ineffective Marginal Wall.

Minho asks if Taemin meant the Marginot Line, and then asks to be Germany to prove how ineffective Jonghyun’s wall is.

Taemin very seriously informs him that if Minho wants to play, then he has to call Jonghyun France. Minho remembers now that Taemin has been studying World War II in school and is reading manga to ‘supplement’ his studies. Taemin then asks if Minho is okay with being his enemy.

Minho nods, with every intention of calling up his sunbaes to be Italy and Bulgaria and all the other axis powers when Taemin checks his phone and runs to answer the door through which Heechul marches through with Donghae and Yesung, announcing that China, Britain, and Russia had arrived to crush the insurgents.

Onew returns to the main room after shredding everything he has with nothing more to find the large majority of SM’s male artists chucking paper at each other. Key and Minho lose, badly, at the end and Taemin successfully coerces Key into baking a victory cake for him on the condition that no one else will eat it.

Which is fine, as Taemin does manage to eat all the cake by himself and then proceeds to burn off the calories at dance practice.

Dear Germany,

If it makes you feel better, we both lost to him.

Sincerely, Japan


--

The truck driver apologizes. He apologizes for the short three seconds of distraction, the three seconds of his wife texting him the results of their daughter’s biopsy. He apologizes for being distracted with the news that his daughter had cancer. He apologizes with a lifeless ‘sorry’ and Key can’t do much more besides accept the apology. After all, there are reporters and he’s an idol and he absolutely must keep appearances.

Jonghyun is there, holding him back from expensive property damage, in the hospital hallway that is empty of media, as he screams and rages because no, Mr. Truck Driver, ‘sorry’ is not good enough for taking away somebody’s everything. ‘Sorry’ is what you say for bumping into somebody, for spilling coffee onto somebody, for eating the last box of somebody’s girl scout cookies. ‘Sorry’ is not fair trade for-

for your career for your dreams for your future for your world.

Key doesn’t feel bad for taking comfort in the fact that there’s a little girl dying of cancer and that her father is devastated for it. Because that’s the funny thing about misery. It propagates. It multiplies and spreads and it loves company. And misery’s name is Kibum right now and he’s nothing short of ecstatic that there are people suffering like him. He could almost laugh, it feels so righteous. By the time the manager is released from his hospital room with a fractured ankle to show for the truck driver’s ‘sorry’, Kibum is laughing and he hates Taemin for being right because the laughter makes Key a little bit stronger and makes him feel less like breaking and he can tell the manager no, don’t cancel the fan meeting. He has news.

And of course, his contract isn’t over yet. And Taemin is still alive. Yes, he’s on life support, but he’s still alive. Yes, he’s comatose, but he’s still alive. He won’t believe otherwise. Won’t accept otherwise. He’s been SHINee’s Key for the past ten years. He’s been Taemin’s Kibum for the past three.

He can’t really remember how to be anybody else.

Dear Mr. Truck Driver,

Now you know. We both know. ‘Sorry’ really isn’t good enough.

Sincerely, Kim Kibum (Key)


--

Kibum is a teenager with a petulant attitude fresh from Daegu. He has this problem called caring too much. He has this problem called a temper. He has this problem called regretting.

And there are other things too. Kibum cries, Kibum wins water skiing competitions, Kibum aspires to be a singer, Kibum has uncanny imitation skills. Kibum’s first thoughts upon meeting Lee Taemin are that he thought there were child protection laws in place to prevent the exploitation of toddlers.

His first thought is followed up by feelings of annoyance. Kibum is the best dancer in the class. Kibum is who the teacher uses for examples. Kibum is admired by everyone. Kibum is summarily ignored by the tiny little boy who flows with a precision Kibum’s choppy but beat accurate style can’t match. The class still adores Kibum, of course, but they’re fascinated by little Lee Taemin.

Everyone grows up.

Key is a teenager with a mothering attitude fresh out of training. He has this problem called brutal honesty. He has this problem called arrogance. He has this problem called Lee Taemin.

And there are other things too. Key cries, Key is part of SHINee, Key aspires to be a fashion designer, Key is freakishly strong, Key waxes his eyebrows, Key loves life. Key has no first thoughts upon meeting Taemin for the first time because he’s introduced to Taemin bit by bit; he’s created by Taemin.

He’s also been created by SHINee, by SME, by his fans, by Kibum. So Key, Key belongs to everyone. And he owes them that. For creating him, he owes them his time, his caring, his tears.

But he can’t be Key without a SHINee. And SHINee is a group. SHINee is more than one person. SHINee is his future, is his life. And when Taemin is all that keeps it SHINee, Taemin becomes his future, his life. Taemin becomes everything. For existing, he owes Taemin everything.

It’s an expensive investment. It’s a dangerous investment. So Taemin will be his only investment. And now he has nothing left.

Dear SHINee,

If I ask for my deposit back, will I have to pay a cancellation fee?

Because I can’t afford it. I’m not expecting a return on my investment.

Yours truly, Kibum


--

Taemin likes to make up fairy tales. He often suckers Key into helping him come up with them and then acting them out. He’s childish like that, but it’s not a bad childish. So Key doesn’t mind, and he happily laughs along with Taemin when the princes in their story meet an unfortunate turn. Right now, before they go on stage, they’re making up a story to calm their nerves. Onew joins them- his headphones broke so he can’t listen to his music. He's confused right off the bat; he's come in in the middle of their story and isn't quite sure what a glitter butterfly is nor what it has to do with the purple unicorn's rainbow mane.

Taemin and Key chortle mirthfully at Onew’s inability to understand what’s going on before expanding the story to include their leader as well. He’s having just as much fun as they are two lines in. They don’t even begin to make up the ending of the story when they’re given their cue to line up, something which confuses Onew a bit. Shouldn’t every story have an ending?

No, they answer. The story will never end as long as they’re telling it. It will go on forever and ever- they’ll pick it up where they left it before they go on stage next time, and they’ll not finish it and it’ll just continue forever and ever. They don’t tire of throwing new monsters and princesses and twists and turns and more at their two characters and even if the characters die, they can make new ones. This is the beauty of their story, they explain. They can pick it up in the middle and never end it. Anyone can take part. Anyone can leave. But the story will never end.

It has to end eventually, though, doesn’t it? Onew thinks to himself, standing in place on stage just before the lights are thrown on full force and he launches himself into the song and dance. The dilemma of a story without end is dropped from his mind and he preoccupies himself with the performance rather than whether their ending will be happy or sad if it ends at all, which it really has to.

Dear Jinki,

You’re silly. But you’re still our favorite leader. That being the case, will you treat us for free, Dr. Lee?

Love, Kibum


--

Taemin gets off with a loud noise. The train’s brakes screech harshly, unprepared for this sudden stop. Key wakes up in fear, the glass of the train is all shattered and he doesn’t see Taemin.

“Taemin?” he whispers uncertainly.

There is no reply.

“Taemin? Taemin, where are you?”

He’s panicking, he finds it hard to breathe. Where has Taemin gone? Why is Taemin gone? Taemin can’t be gone. What is he supposed to do without Taemin? Because Taemin is gone. Taemin has gotten off the train. There’s no other explanation. Why? Where?

“Taemin!”

He doesn’t even know where he’s supposed to get off. Taemin was supposed to tell him. Taemin knew. Now Taemin was gone. Why? Why would Taemin go?

A whimper escapes his lips. Taemin couldn’t go. Everybody else had left. Only Taemin wasn’t supposed to go. Now Key is alone.

It’s frightening.

“...Taemin.”

“Kibum.” Whose voice is that? It’s familiar but Key hasn’t heard it in such a long time. Really he only recognizes Taemin anymore.

A face appears, and a large, reassuring hand sets itself on his shoulder. No. Go away, Minho. He doesn’t want Minho’s overly large hand on his shoulder with its deadening weight. He wants Taemin’s tiny hand. In his. Holding his hand.

He shakes Minho’s hand off. “Give me Taemin, you stupid frog.”

“Go back to sleep, Kibum.”

Well, he admits that Minho does have some good ideas. Even if he’s not Taemin.

Dear Seoul Zoo,

I have your frog. Give me back my mushroom and nobody gets hurt.

I’m not kidding, Key


--

Key finds himself a little bit. Afraid. To close his eyes.

“Go to sleep, hyung.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Why?”

“You came back.”

“I didn’t leave, hyung.”

Key stares at the red-haired boy who is absentmindedly stripping away layers of an apple’s stem. Blunt, thin fingernails scrape the rough brown off first and are similarly chipped away by the tough outer skin. Tender, young, fibrous green is underneath and Taemin pulls it apart string by string.

Key forgets a lot of things these days. He knows that. He’s worse than Taemin some days. But he knows Taemin left. Because the horror of Taemin leaving will never leave him. It keeps him awake.

“Where’d you go?”

“Narnia.”

Key’s lips pull back into a snarl, because he doesn’t take kindly to being mocked. Even when it’s from Taemin. Especially when it’s from Taemin.

There’s still a vestige of the Kibum who can’t stand insufferable, mouthy, smart ass brats embedded in Key. It is rather impossible to destroy with one such brat around. But it doesn’t mean he wants Taemin to leave. No, Taemin must never leave.

“Where did you go?”

“Just go to sleep, hyung.”

He will not, and says as much.

“Why not?”

“Because you won’t be here when I wake up.” Key whispers, giving name to his one fear. His eyes stare widely into Taemin’s, hoping the boy will understand and not insist again.

Taemin smiles and across to pat Key’s hand reassuringly. “I’ll wake you up before I go.”

“Why are you going? Where are you getting off? Don’t go.”

“Sorry, hyung. I can’t stay. I have to get off.”

And Key doesn’t understand. He can’t understand. Why would Taemin get off? He has to stay. Stay forever. Taemin isn’t allowed to get off. He can’t just. Leave.

Why doesn’t Taemin understand?

“How dare you.” Key replies simply.

“Bye, hyung.”

The glass doesn’t blow out this time. There is no heart-stopping, ear-shattering sound. There is only Taemin, leaving their compartment. Taemin, sliding the door shut. Taemin, gone.

And Key is alone.

Dear Conductor of Train to Nowhere,

Where does my ticket have me leaving? You see, I lost my half, but you should know where, right?

Yours truly, Kim Kibum


--

They’re sitting in the back of the van, the very back seat, away from Onew in the front, Jonghyun and Minho in the middle, right before them. Key has fallen asleep, exhausted, and Taemin as well, resting his head on Key’s shoulder so Key can rest his head on a fluffy crown of hair rather than a bony shoulderblade. Onew sneaks a camera to Jonghyun who turns in his seat and snaps a picture of them with a grin, simultaneously blinding and waking the two with a bright camera flash. Key chucks a hairbrush at him before snaking his arms up to wrap around Taemin’s head, protecting him from the light.

Jonghyun snickers and Minho punches him, telling him to leave them alone; they have to get up early to MC tomorrow’s Music Bank.

Dear Car Accident,

You couldn’t have waited to happen until I was there too?

Sincerely, Kibum


--

Jinki and Kibum have been sharing a flat, the two of them both bachelors, both too preoccupied to ever become otherwise. So Minho and Jonghyun trust Jinki to look after Kibum. The problem is when Jinki calls late, too late in the night, it’s almost morning really, and he’s just back from being on-call and he can’t find Kibum anywhere and they’re all afraid but Jonghyun lives too far so Minho walks Jinki through a list of places to check for Kibum even as he gets out of bed himself to look for their lunatic.

Bathroom.
Closet.
Other closet.
Walk-in closet.
His closet.
Workroom.
His workroom.
Kitchen.
Living room.
Under the bed.
Balcony.
Bathtub.
Under the sink.
Linen closet.
Under all the sinks.
Pantry.
Roof.
Basement.
Basement closet.
Basement bathroom.
Storage room.
Garage.
Yard.
Treehouse.
Playground.

Minho finds Kibum at the train station. With a portable desk and a stationery box full of pens and a sheaf of papers, some written on, some drawn on, some still blank, waiting for their letter to nobody.

Minho doesn’t know that part though. About the letters to nobody. Kibum smiles slyly to himself, thinking himself terribly clever to have kept this great secret from Minho. Minho doesn’t know why Kibum is smiling, only that his friend looks incredibly deranged, sitting in an empty train station, clutching a desk and papers and pens, wearing fluffy red slippers with outrageous pom poms and.

And a shirt that looks familiar and big on Kibum’s gaunt frame. Minho curses, because he thought he’d told Jinki to throw out all of Taemin’s clothing and told Jonghyun to watch what Kibum buys. And he can’t help but respect Kibum’s eye for clothing that he manages to remember what Taemin’s size was. Taemin had filled out a bit before-

Before he died, Kibum finishes sounding well and very crazed, setting the papers down, unaware of when they’re blown into Minho’s face because Kibum isn’t looking at Minho. His dazed, poor, unfocused eyes are staring past Minho at something else, perhaps the train to nowhere. He informs Minho of how Taemin had been the same size as him before Taemin had died and Minho knows that it was larger than Kibum is now because Jinki worries at him about how Kibum not even just refuses to eat. Kibum forgets to eat because Kibum’s got this annoying, looping, selective memory going and forgets to eat about as often as he forgets that Taemin is gone.

It takes every ounce of self control that Minho has not to hit Kibum when he sees the letters to nobody. It would be wrong, of course, to hit Kibum. Because Kibum is sick. Kibum is sick and sad and all but given up and he can’t help writing these letters to nobody.

Minho wants to force the logic into Kibum’s head. Make him see that what he’s doing is stupid and hurtful and pointless and to just move on. But Minho can’t because Minho doesn’t really understand what it’s like to lose everything. Minho doesn’t know what it’s like to lose himself. Minho chose to leave, after all.

And Minho is fairly certain that there’s no room in Kibum’s head for reality or logic, not right now. Taemin took that bit of sanity with him to the grave.

Dear Taemin,

I’ve been thinking. Do the princes ever have their happy ending?

Surely they’re getting tired by now.

Love, Kibum


--

Taemin wakes him up.

“Hyung, get up. Jonghyun came back with the food.”

Key blinks in confusion. When had Jonghyun gone to get food? Why would Jonghyun get food? Amber had only eaten an apple from the entire bag, there should still be plenty of food. He reaches past Taemin to confirm this.

“Taemin, where’s all the fruit I packed?”

“Fruit? Hyung, you only packed cake.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“I...” Key frowns. He can’t remember. He’ll have to take Taemin’s words for it.

Jonghyun enters their compartment and Key is distracted by his best friend’s arrival, even as Taemin focuses on the woman walking in after Jonghyun.

“Hi, Sekyung! How’s the baby?”

“Baby...?” Key questions, turning his head around to look at Taemin in question.

“You’re really so forgetful, hyung. Sekyung had a baby, remember? They named you godfather and you don’t even remember. That’s no good, hyung.”

Key’s head spun, when had Jonghyun even gotten married to Sekyung?

“Five stops ago. Before Minho got off, but after Onew got off.”

Oh.

“Have some food, hyung. You might feel better. You can take a nap too. I’ll wake you up before they get off.”

That sounded like a good idea. Key follows Taemin’s suggestions, helping himself to the food and lets his eyes fall closed once again, and slumps into Taemin’s shoulder as the younger man chatters away to Jonghyun and Sekyung.

Dear Sekyung,

Sorry about the antis. Wait, why am I apologizing? Take care of him, okay? I only have one best friend.

Love, Kibum


--

Kim Kibum is an identity Key is slowly overcoming and he insists Taemin help him with this. The company didn’t give Taemin or Minho or Jonghyun a stage name, only Kibum and Jinki. Kibum is now Key and Jinki is Onew.

Kibum know why, too. Why he has the strange stage name. Because he’s not special enough otherwise- not talented enough, not good enough, not outstanding enough. And Kibum admits that he’s jealous- jealous that Taemin was assigned lead dancer, Minho was assigned lead rapper. He’s not about to compete with his leader or best friend over lead singer.

Taemin tells him that he doesn’t need to be lead anything, because he’s Almighty Key. Kibum tells Taemin to shut up, isn’t having the title of maknae good enough? Taemin rolls his eyes and cites Kyuhyun and Changmin as proof that even the maknae must be good at something, whether it’s having the fanbase’s most popular voice or being able to scream through seven octaves. And Taemin can hardly sing with his poor breath control or rap with his soft and gentle manner of speaking. So all that’s left is dancing.

Kibum scoffs and calls Jonghyun over to put Taemin through his singing exercises again then decides Taemin needs more calories for all the dancing. He bakes Taemin a cake that night. Taemin scarfs it down like he’s never going to be able to eat again and thanks Kibum for his hard work by going to dance for another two hours.

Well. Kibum supposes the lead dancer title isn’t entirely undeserved on Taemin’s part and that the feeling of being appreciated for his baking rather than ridiculed is a nice feeling as well. Bit by bit, Taemin helps him build the character of Key.

Through things like mocking Taemin’s nervous blinking habit and practicing microphone hand-offs, babying Taemin like everyone else purely because it got Taemin’s attention when nothing else could, Key shapes himself. There’s Jonghyun and Minho and Onew of course but mothering Taemin is what he centers his new character around.

Taemin doesn’t really like being treated as a baby. He accepts his fate after a while, though. Key sees this when Taemin doesn’t even look at him when being fed candy; the boy’s attention is focused on a tinfoil makeshift microphone.

Key is not happy about this development and changes accordingly. Or, he tries to but the fandom is established and he is forever Taemin’s mother. And management always taught them as trainees that consistency is important in the fandom.

He’ll still take any chance he can get to assert himself in the fandom as what Minho currently is, ridiculous though it may be.

Dear Shawols,

Minho is straight and Taemin is mine. Just to make things clear.

Love, Key


--

The rain beats heavily and leaves the window pane Kibum rests his face on cold. He sees his breath fogging the cold, stagnant air before him and sees his fingertips have turned blue. There are no lights in this compartment. There have never been lights. There will never be lights. The nights are darker now, with the rain and heavy storm clouds blocking out the blue-white light of stars and the moon.

His breath is so white it almost becomes a light source.

Kibum won’t move. He should, he thinks he should. He might freeze to death. He should get up and move. But it’s really very cold and he’s not inclined in the least to get up and move and walk about the train until he warms up. Which he won’t, unless he gets up. Which he won’t, unless he warms up.

Kibum likes to think himself into doing nothing like this, with these cycles that feed upon each other.

The other compartments are probably warmer. Does SHINee still get two compartments? Because he remembers the other one had lights.

But are they still SHINee? He wants to think there is. He wants to lie to himself until he believes it. As if there can be a SHINee without a Jonghyun, a Minho, an Onew, a Key.

As if there can be a SHINee without a Taemin.

Everyone has gotten off the train. Some at different stops. Some for different reasons. Some for a break. Some forever. Even Key got off. Key jumped ship when Taemin left. And there’s only Kibum now. Sitting in an ice box of a compartment, watching his fingers turn blue. Watching his breath crystallize into white fog. His cheek turns numb against the icy glass. The condensation freezes and glues his skin to the pane. Well. He can’t move even if he wants to. It would hurt.

“Kibum.”

He doesn’t move. Jonghyun brings in a bright light with him and it brings tears to Kibum’s eyes. The sudden light hurts.

“You need to sleep, Kibum.”

“I’m afraid, Jjongie.”

Jonghyun sits down beside him on the bench, and the air is warmer with Jonghyun there. “What are you afraid of, Kibum?”

“If I close my eyes... Will I still be in the same world when I open them again?”

A warm hand, calloused from playing a guitar, large enough to span Kibum’s face, lays itself down and slides closed the unblinking eyes.

Jonghyun’s voice is heartsore and tired and sad and so very quiet. “Go to sleep, Kibum.”

“I’ll never wake up.”

Jonghyun can’t help but think that perhaps that would be for the best.

Dear Jonghyun,

I hearby denounce our best friendship. Setting my alarm clock to wake me up early just so I make breakfast for you all is cruel and undeserved treatment. I was already cooking dinner for Taemin when he got home at three in the morning yesterday.

I’m just kidding, you’re still my best friend.

By the way, did you want your eggs scrambled or sunny side up?

Love, Kibum


--

Taemin sits next to Key. Or rather, across from. This is the arrangement when they're on trains to nowhere. SHINee gets two compartments in the train. Taemin always sits in the same compartment as Key. Or Key will sit in the same compartment as Taemin. Sometimes Jonghyun or Minho or Onew will be there as well. But Taemin is there. He's always there.

Key doesn't think Taemin will ever not be here. They sit in that compartment staring out the window at the blur of scenery turning to night sky and city lights and stars to a rising sun and dawn and weave their story. Jonghyun and Minho and Onew pop in occasionally. Sometimes they sit for a while, join in on the story. Sometimes someone else will arrive. But it's Key and Taemin through it all.

Taemin asks Key to sit beside him. Key argues that the bench isn't long enough for both of their sprawling sitting habits. Taemin insists. Key caves. It really is cramped on that bench, and they sit back to back with their legs bent up but still extended on the seat. Taemin's bony spine digs into Key's back and Key's shoulder blades almost hurt, the way they grind against Taemin’s own shoulder blades.

Amber pays them a visit and laughs at their position before helping herself to an apple from the bag of snacks that Key brought for Taemin. She says she's getting off soon; her parents want her to pursue something more realistic, more stable.

Key hadn't known that their train passed through America. Taemin laughs at him, it only passes through every year, silly. Key falls asleep easily to the sound of Taemin's laughter and the rhythmic rocking of the train. He hasn’t visited America in a while, he thinks, but if Taemin says that the train passes through every year, then he must have.

Dear Amber,

I can’t believe you said I looked like a mouse! And in front of Taemin! He didn’t let that one go for months, have you any idea the pain and suffering you caused me?!?

Anyway, I hope you’re doing well in America.

Love, Key-hyung


--

Key supposes they are still SHINee. Even if the contracts expired, even if he and Taemin are the only ones to renew their contracts as SHINee, even if Jonghyun re-signed as a solo artist and Minho left the company for the Olympics team, even if Jinki decided to pursue a career in medicine, they are still SHINee.

Taemin is a much better singer now. He leads them both. And Key, Key plays support. Because really, Taemin is still lead dancer, Minho is still lead rapper, Onew is still leader, Jonghyun is still lead singer and Key is still Almighty Key. He is everything, can do anything.

The fandom is erupting with drama and rumors and stories and fiction. Key looks at some of it. He finds himself Taemin’s mother, Taemin’s rebound, Taemin’s lover, Taemin’s brother.

If the fans got anything right, it is perhaps that he is Taemin’s everything. Or is it the other way around? Key is really too disoriented to figure out such complicated things. But either way, he likes to believe it’s true. Best to invest in something that will never leave.

He really, truly believes that of Taemin. Taemin will never leave.

So he walks onto that stage with Taemin by his side, walks into that studio with Taemin by his side, walks into that train station with Taemin by his side, boards the train with Taemin by his side. Taemin never indicates any intention of leaving. Taemin is why Key doesn’t leave. Taemin is why they are still SHINee.

Dear Livejournal,

I am three angst fanfictions away from suing your asses into next year. Fluff and smut or nada.

Sincerely, Anonymous


--

Lee Taemin is a lot of things. Lee Taemin is pretty. Lee Taemin is young. Lee Taemin is the youngest member in SHINee. Lee Taemin is strong. Lee Taemin is fragile. Lee Taemin is as dependant on Kim Kibum as Key is dependant on Lee Taemin.

Lee Taemin is never going to leave. He is never going to leave Kim Kibum, he is never going to leave Key.

Because Taemin doesn’t think Key could handle it. He thinks that Kibum will not be able to handle it. And if Kibum can’t handle it, Key will break. Key can only smirk and laugh and pretend to be strong as long as Kibum is untouched.

And Taemin sees, Taemin sees how easily touched Kibum is. The elation of a successful concert, the feeling of tens of thousands of people cheering you on and loving you and supporting you. The relief that they haven’t given up on you even when you’ve given up on yourself, the knowing that you’re not holding onto merely a thin thread of spider silk, but thick handfuls of hopes and promises and love and support. Kibum feels these things and breaks through Key, rolling down Key’s makeup-painted face in shining beads of emotion.

Taemin doesn’t have a Key to protect himself so he chooses to laugh and smile instead. He tells Kibum this, just in case Key ever leaves. It’s more effective, in Taemin’s opinion, because this way Taemin will never break through, because there is nothing for Taemin to break through. Taemin will merely laugh. He will be strong. Because he has something he must be strong for.

And it doesn’t matter if Kibum cries because Kibum is always there with a biting criticism or remark for childish, immature Taemin and Kibum is always there with a smack to the head or a reprimand. And it doesn’t matter if Key isn’t strong and breaks because Key is always there with advice or a common sense know-how for spoiled, princeling Taemin and Key is always there with a cheering piece of candy or dessert.

They are always there with a home for Taemin to return to, with a shoulder when laughing doesn’t work, with comfort Taemin hadn’t expected any longer, with everything Taemin knows he could never hope to earn because somehow, some why, their love is really, truly, well and unconditional.

So Taemin loves him because he loved Taemin first. And Taemin will always be there because he wants to be, because he needs to be, because Taemin was given a choice and Taemin chooses to be.

The fact that that is a choice he made really makes all the difference. The fact that he had a choice. Taemin knows and Kibum knows and they’re both a little sad that Minho and Onew and Jonghyun chose differently but there was a choice, after all.

It’s no choice at all to force someone. So Taemin stands by and waits as Key glares and sulks and yells and sneers during the day and Taemin lies beside a crying Kibum with a promise of forever at night. He can’t offer much else.

Lee Taemin is, Kibum reflects in those rare lucid moments when he is rational and calm and awake and sane, a liar.

Dear Little Girl who Died of Cancer,

Were you a liar too?

Sincerely, Kim Kibum


--

End of the line, Nowhere! This is the last stop! Last stop!

Passengers please remember to retrieve all your luggage!

The train will be sent off to maintenance!

Please be careful stepping off the train!


“Wake up, hyung.”

“Taemin?”

“Right here. Don’t forget your stuff.”

“No, I won’t forget.”

Dear Kibum,

Open your eyes. And when you see him standing there beside you, don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to close them again. Because even though the world may change, he promised, remember? He promised us forever.

Yours truly, Key


==

A/N: Anyone confused? No? Kudos, because I am. Anyhow this is what stress does to me and I needed a break from Half Acre so this happened. Hope you all enjoyed... or something. Althoughwhyyouwouldenjoycrazykibumanddeadtaeminisbeyondmeyoucruelheartlessbastardsdon'tevenstartonmebeingtheonetodothistothem.

By the way guys, lustblown and I recently opened a new taekey comm and to celebrate, there's a greatbigenormousdubulgesized contest. We'd love it if you guys participated =D Okay, I'm done, glitter and unicorn kisses for you all!

tags~:

Comments

( 29 unicorns — tell me! )
ziggymok
May. 6th, 2011 07:06 am (UTC)

This is absolutely beautiful, compelling and heartbreaking.

You did lose me a couple of times, because things get a bit confusing and slightly psychotic.

Otherwise, it was a great read from start from finish, and i enjoyed the random jabs of humour (or at least what i thought was funny).But why wouldn't you enjoy crazy people? Maybe im some sort of sadist who enjoys seeing characters/people in pain, or maybe a masochist who enjoys the pain. e_e idek

Anyhow, hope you do well on your ib/ap exams (you graduating soon?), and i look forward to more works~

peigurrrl
May. 7th, 2011 08:19 pm (UTC)
You. Thank you so much, that's so nice of you to say :)

I lost myself negl, it really was so psychotic. And confusing. Crazy people are confusing. True facts.

haha I'm glad you enjoyed it and there were definitely random insertions of humor in there. I can't help it, depressing stuff is just. Too depressing. I don't enjoy crazy people because I'm surrounded by them. And myself. Maybe you are. Tsk tsk, bad of you. Conform to society's standards! I'm kidding, of course.

I hope so too! I'm done with school in little less than twelve days and I graduate at the end of the month ^^ Hope you'll like anything else I write, haha. Thanks for reading and commenting =D

Edited at 2011-05-07 09:23 pm (UTC)
tinyscribbles80
May. 6th, 2011 07:58 am (UTC)
Gawd!!! this is a gorgeous piece! I don't know what to say other than that. The letters, they evoked so many feelings I can barely describe T_T
peigurrrl
May. 7th, 2011 09:26 pm (UTC)
Awww, thanks bb~ glad the letters were so prosauce xD they were honestly really interesting to write. hope they didn't make you cry ^^'
qkslvr
May. 6th, 2011 08:15 am (UTC)
That was beautiful...i think?

I like it...perhaps?

Very insightful...maybe?

Giiiirl, i started reading this at 8am and i'm in no way, shape, or form ever have a chance of understanding this madness. Ahehe.

But, i'm happy for that li'l dose of taekey to fend off my half acre withdrawal. :)
qkslvr
May. 6th, 2011 08:17 am (UTC)
Oh, and the letters were just lovely. I especially liked the one for seoul zoo, the first one, and the last. Oh, and the one for lj. Heehee.
peigurrrl
May. 7th, 2011 09:32 pm (UTC)
LOL the seoul zoo letter. Even in taekey angst, i still manage to throw in a bit of Meanho bashing OTL and the lj one, guys, two more angsty taekeys and Key's gonna sue livejournal. Just a warning. they have such capacity for drama though it's amazing and I'm absolutely going to capitalize on it while i can

So glad you liked the first one, threw it in on a whim. thanks for reading, girl~!
peigurrrl
May. 7th, 2011 09:29 pm (UTC)
This comment. I laughed reading it, fer srs.

Giiiiirrrrrl you gotta get sleep, it's good for you or something crazy like that xD the tl;dr version is this: taemin dies and key goes insane. the end.

Sorry about your HA withdrawal~ >.< hopefully i'll have time to write the next chapter soon. AFTER WEDNESDAY *^*
qkslvr
May. 8th, 2011 04:21 pm (UTC)
I know that, duh. Was half-zombie, NOT braindead. (okay, is there a difference?)

And, dude, i spelt it wrong. I should've said "gurrrl"

And i am NOT excited and checking my calendar to see how many more sleeps til wednesday. Nope.
peigurrrl
May. 8th, 2011 11:17 pm (UTC)
I think it depends on which half of you was zombified~

and yeah, it would have been so boss if you had but "Giiiirl" is totes acceptable -3-

LOL I'll try to get the chapter started by wednesday, i wouldn't even expect it until next week xP
chocolatos
May. 6th, 2011 12:56 pm (UTC)
i truly cried reading this. taekey is beautiful, and the last letter is just.. idk, key.. you love your baby that much huh?

thank you for sharing sweetheart
peigurrrl
May. 7th, 2011 09:43 pm (UTC)
Dx don't cryyy.

Given, it was written with the intention of being sad and I do mean to make people cry because I'm mean like that but well.

Have some tissues, dear.

AND YEAH KEY LOVES TAE THAT MUCH. THAT MUCH. FER REALZ. IT'S TRUE LOVE. /crazierthankey

You're welcome ^^ thanks for reading and commenting <3
cr187
May. 6th, 2011 02:31 pm (UTC)
so sad, i'm practically crying right now. in all honesty the only reason i'm not is because i'm in the library and i don't want people to see me crying because they'll think i'm having a mental break down from studying for my Economics final.

love love love love love love love love love love this story.

it's beautifully written and i rarely like to read sad stories because who doesn't love a happy ending?

peigurrrl
May. 7th, 2011 09:59 pm (UTC)
is it bad if I laugh out loud when I read this comment? Oh finals. I doubt anyone would judge you, hon xD But on the plus side, it prevented you from crying?! I'm glad ^^

Love you for loving this story~

Thank you for the compliments =) and apparently I don't because I'm a lamer who doesn't believe in them OTL Happy you took a chance on this sad story though haha. thanks again~
cr187
Jun. 17th, 2013 06:06 am (UTC)
Just want you to know I decided to read this for this first time in two years and I still bawl my eyes out every time. My roommate came out just to give me his tissues mumbling something about girls and our emotions hahaaha.

Still so heartbreakingly beautiful.

Seriously, thank you for this story.
peigurrrl
Mar. 11th, 2014 05:01 am (UTC)
Hi, I finally got back on lj after throwing my life away to college and games and work and I saw this and just awh, it really made my day, you're so nice, thanks again so much for reading and loving <3
cloudyday2sb
May. 6th, 2011 03:04 pm (UTC)
this is absolutely emotion-evoking and poignant in so many ways i can't even describe this properly... the letters were beautiful and said so many things that Kibum was too scared to say out loud. this is really amazing:D just sayin'~
peigurrrl
May. 7th, 2011 10:04 pm (UTC)
I don't even- I just- you are such a nice person! I'm glad you enjoyed the letters, I had fun with them. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
nami_go
May. 6th, 2011 06:40 pm (UTC)
after hold on for so long i let my tears drop during the last letter from key to kibum T^T
it's really beautifully written. i love how you describe their characters and emotions through key's letter.

love it *thumb up*
peigurrrl
May. 8th, 2011 03:51 am (UTC)
-pats- there there it's okay. They're together in the end. Maybe. it's sort of a happy ending?!

I'mma just sit here and soak up the compliments like the happy girl-with-no-life that I am =D thanks a bunch for reading and commenting <3
tsme89
May. 7th, 2011 06:42 am (UTC)
I love TaeKey dynamics so much. ;_; <3 They end so sadly 99% of the time though. boohoo
peigurrrl
May. 8th, 2011 02:59 am (UTC)
haha that is such true facts. i really shouldn't add to all the angst taekey but they have waaaaaaay too much potential for this shit xD and I'm a bad person. Thanks for reading and commenting, bb~
indiesnopp
May. 8th, 2011 10:32 am (UTC)
...let me die. JUST LET ME DIE! *sobs*

this fic was so fucking good!And had so many hearbreakin, heartwarming and priceless moments!
Key hating the Umma thing!
the letter to livejournal!! (MTE KEY MTE!)
them being eachothers everything....

I'll come back when my heart heals again...
peigurrrl
May. 8th, 2011 10:12 pm (UTC)
noooo I can't do that! you must live, I insist.

glad you liked it :) lol key hating the umma thing. I don't imagine key would like being called taemin's mother any more than a girl would like being called their best friend/lover/sibling's father, yanno? And I sympathize with Key too. Just not enough to do what he wants LOL

May your heart make a quick recovery, darling~ thank you for reading =D
taekeyholic
Oct. 15th, 2011 04:26 pm (UTC)
Oh my god, this was so sad!
but beautiful <3

and keys letter to the shawols....

god, thhis comment is so needles OTL
^^
peigurrrl
Oct. 22nd, 2011 12:04 am (UTC)
nono, this comment was much appreciated, thanks for taking the time to read it!! I'm glad you liked it ^^
mylika
Apr. 3rd, 2012 07:51 am (UTC)
To be honest I was so lost the first time I read it but after that I swear this became one of the best slash!fics I've ever read in my life and considering the facts that a) I don't read slash and b) I don't ship TaeKey, your writing must be absolutely amazing. I literally cannot express my feelings rn, and I shall go cry after I write this and LAWD.

/sobs forever. I adored the whole war with tiny shreds of paper part and them being the countries in WWII and fasdjkvnejh. Every part was just so emotional and perfect and idek how to describe this.

Just. Thank you. Thank you for writing this.

The world has become a better place. (I'm not even kidding.)
ridiculouso_o
Apr. 3rd, 2012 04:04 pm (UTC)
you owe me some glue to fix up my soul
it's shattered after I read this
kthnx
nyaongtokki
Apr. 3rd, 2012 08:30 pm (UTC)
This is so heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. It's absolutely amazing. I admit I was lost at times, but then everything made sense again. I love mad!Kibum and the way you express it. I love your writing. I love this fanfic. I love you for writing it. I love everything ;A; ♥♥♥♥
The most amazing part is, you know that feeling you get when you finish reading a good book? I feel just like that right now. This was a very long fanfic and it was totally worth it because wow, it's added to my favorites and it's never leaving that list ;3; ♥
( 29 unicorns — tell me! )