type: oneshot (2344 words)
pairing: broken 2min
rating/warnings: pg for character death
author's notes: inspired by and based off the song "campanella", which is in turn based off the story, "night on the galactic railroad". beta'd by hyungdeul~ ♥
Crease, crease, fold. Flip, crease, fold.
"Taeminnie, what are you doing?"
He looks up briefly, meeting the older boy's eyes. (Or at least he thinks he does. Can't really tell with that fringe anymore. It doesn't help that he's let it grow out, either.) "Making a paper airplane."
A pause, a near tangible pause. "Why?"
He purses his lips, observing his handiwork with a critical eye. "To reach him," he offers simply as an explanation.
A sharp intake of air, the sound barely suppressed. A strange thing for the usually unflappable Kibum who is surprised only if he lets himself be. He opens his mouth to say something, but Taemin beats him to it. "Help me?" Taemin implores.
Kibum closes his mouth and sighs. "What with?"
Taemin holds out the paper airplane. "Help me load it up."
And so they pile thoughts and memories onto the folded paper aircraft. Because it is so fragile, they can only put in a few things, the starkest things, like his cool, calm demeanor; his intense gazes and unshakeable charisma; his beautiful, beautiful smile; the way his eyes spoke the volumes that would never pass through his mouth.
Taemin tests the weight in his hands. Just right for flying. "Ready, hyung?" he calls out over his shoulder.
Kibum swallows and nods imperceptibly. His eyes are still shadowed behind his bangs, but Taemin knows that he is watching intently.
Taemin smiles brightly. "Okay! Here we go!" he shouts, throwing the paper airplane into the air.
The tiny aircraft soars smoothly into the air, cutting through gusts and zephyrs as it makes a graceful arc before falling down, down, down to the ground—
(—and suddenly, he is falling, the reassuring surface of wood beneath his feet disappearing as he tips over the edge, his frail body weighed down by gravity; his line of sight blurs spectacularly, bright spots of color moving frantically before giving way to an endless stretch of beautiful blue sky - a sight he admires so much that he doesn't even feel his body crashing through icy water, doesn't hear the chorus of voices shouting his name, doesn't notice the splash of water beside him—)
—and crashes in a crumpled heap of paper and recollections. Taemin rushes to its side with a cry of dismay, picking up the memories and trying to store them away safely.
Some meters away, Kibum gives in and folds (creases, folds) in upon himself.
"Hey. You know... It couldn't have reached that far, right?" Kibum asks through the palms pressed tightly to his face, a futile attempt to keep the wetness from spilling through.
Taemin fingers the paper airplane pensively before shoving it into his pocket.
Pump, pump. Streeetch. Pump, pump, pump.
"Taemin-ah, what are you doing?"
He looks up briefly, meeting the older boy's eyes. (His focus is briefly distracted by the roots that are starting to show. He doesn't really bother with bleaching it out to keep it even anymore.) "Blowing up balloons."
A pause, an uncharacteristic pause. "Why?"
He sifts through the different colored balloons, reaching out to grab whichever one remotely resembles periwinkle blue. "To reach him," he offers simply as an explanation.
Jonghyun's body stiffens in surprise, his jaw clearly defined as he grits his teeth. He forces his mouth to unlock, opening it to say something, but Taemin beats him to it. "Help me?" Taemin implores.
The older boy exhales noisily. "Blow up more balloons?"
Taemin nods, holding out a fistful. "And then after, we'll tie a basket to them."
And so they fill the balloons with helium gas, watching as they expand and rise up into the air, flights halted as they are anchored to the handle of a small woven basket. (Jonghyun comments that Kibum would have liked to play with the helium, and Taemin can only give a forced smile.) Afterwards, they pile thoughts and memories into the basket - it's bigger than the paper airplane, so Taemin can put in the more precious recollections, like how deeply he loved soccer; the way his books were always so impeccably stored and arranged while he wasn't reading them; how he always watched from a corner during their noraebang outings; the way his hand would clap over his mouth in laughter as he watched the others sing and dance without cameras trained on their every move.
Taemin pokes at the stone weight in the basket. Taking it out just a little makes the container rise slightly into the air. "Ready, hyung?" he calls out behind him.
Jonghyun's shoulders are tense again. Still, he sacrifices the hold of one arm wrapped tightly around himself to give Taemin a thumbs-up.
His eyes scrunch into a smile. "Okay! I'll let it fly now!" he shouts, pulling out the stone weight.
The container lifts up into the air, numerous helium-filled balloons carrying it up into the sky. They watch for a few minutes or so, and Taemin is certain that it must have at least reached the edge of the stratosphere when the balloons begin to pop one. by. one—
(—and suddenly he is popping out of a blissful drug-induced sleep, eyes flying open to a too-white room with beeping monitors and so many tubes hooked up to his arms; he thinks he has woken up to a nightmare because the people surrounding his bed are not his beloved hyungdeul smiling at him, telling him to wake up because he'll be late for school, but serious-faced men and women in white coats and a few people that could be his best friends if it weren't for their bloodshot eyes and aching silence and unsmiling faces and why was there one face missing—)
—and the basket falls to the ground, bursting apart from the impact.
Jonghyun bursts (pops, explodes) into tears, and Taemin can't really bring himself to even attempt at salvaging the pieces of memories scattered uselessly on the ground.
"It—wouldn't—t-that—too high—c-c-can't—" Jonghyun manages to say between huge, gasping sobs that wrack his entire body.
Taemin lifts his gaze to the sky, staring up at the blindingly white clouds until his eyes begin to water.
BANG, BANG, BANG. Screw, screw. Bang bang baNG BANG BANG.
"Taemin-goon, what are you doing?"
He looks up briefly, meeting the older boy's eyes. (And falters slightly, because it's a strange sight to see when his smile doesn't reach them.) "Making a spaceship."
A pause, a thoughtful pause. "Why?"
He picks at the pieces of scrap metal, searching for another portion that he could nail to the surface. "To reach him," he offers simply as an explanation.
Jinki blinks curiously, looking over at the makeshift aircraft that looks more like a racecar than a spaceship. He opens his mouth to say something, but Taemin beats him to it. "Help me?" Taemin implores.
The leader (if he could still be called that; if they could still be called a group) is clearly surprised by the request. "What with?" he asks slowly, unsure of what he could possibly do to help out.
Taemin holds out a hammer. "Help me bang in the nails. Then we can fill it up and launch it together."
And so they pound a few more strips of metal in, just for good measure. Jinki thinks that Kibum and Jonghyun would be much better at this than him, but he considers the tenseness of Kibum's shoulders and how he hasn't danced in weeks; the contrast of Jonghyun's alternating periods of silence and bouts of long wails to how Taemin hasn't shed a single tear, not even when they closed the door and watched the smoke thin out into the clouds, and decides it is better not to say a word.
Afterwards, they fill the spacecraft with all the memories Taemin can possibly dredge up of him, like how his heart had skipped upon seeing him in that female school uniform, false hair curling softly around his face; the way he would lean down to whisper into his ear and keep his head bowed as he listened to him in return; the way he felt, warm and solid against his body when he crawled into his bed after a nightmare; how they would sometimes meet each other's gaze in the large mirror during dance practice; how he would surreptitiously sneak pieces of meat into his bowl; the way his long, strong arms would reach out to pat his head or ruffle his hair affectionately before wrapping around his shoulders in an impossibly warm embrace, lips pressed into the crook of his neck to murmur "I love you"s against the skin.
The spaceship is heavy after they've finished piling everything into it. Taemin can barely get to it to budge, so it's a good thing that Jinki's there with him, pushing the rocket ship to the very top of the hill.
Taemin cups a hand over his eyes, squinting out at the sunset-dyed field. Just steep enough for a good take-off. "Ready, hyung?" he calls out behind him.
Jinki looks up from the backseat where Taemin has told him to function as co-pilot. "I think so," he calls back, and if he has any misgivings about whether they would actually fly, he keeps them to himself.
Taemin nods his affirmation and runs back to the spacecraft. He slides into the front seat, pulling on a set of goggles that Jinki hadn't noticed before. "Okay, I'm starting the countdown!" Taemin exclaims. "Three!"
"Two!" Jinki follows obligingly, tucking his limbs into the ship.
"One!" Taemin yells, and kicks off the ground with his feet. The spacecraft lurches forward, and suddenly they're rumbling down the hill, teeth clacking painfully against each other as the wheels spin crazily over the clumps of grass.
Jinki automatically closes his eyes, but Taemin forces them open, a look of determination set across his face. "This time," he thinks.
("You're my favorite dongsaeng," a deep voice says affectionately.)
"Hold on, hyung. Right now..."
("But I'm your only dongsaeng!" is his laughing reply.)
"I'm coming to meet you."
("You're still my favorite," he says gently, honestly.)
The rocket ship snags on a mound of dirt and soars through the air. And for one glorious moment, Taemin is flying through the atmosphere, crashing through the pull of gravity and diving into the Milky Way, and there he is, arms stretched out to him, lips pulled up at the corners in the sweetest smile he has ever seen.
( I love you most, too. )
The vehicle crashes into the ground, tumbling and rolling in a horrible tangle of scrap metal. Jinki's arms automatically wrap themselves around Taemin's body, shielding him from the worst of the impact—
(—and suddenly he can't breathe like his body wants him to, precious oxygen diluted in the seawater that completely surrounds him; his arms and legs kick out instinctively, pushing him to the surface but there's just not enough strength in his thin body, and his lungs are on fire, screaming at him in agony because there's no air left and he never really thought he'd die from drowning, not that he ever thought about death at all, but he kind of regrets things now: the food he'll never try, the dances he'll never learn, the things he'll never get to say...
... and suddenly, there is a large hand wrapping around his forearm, pulling him up with incredible strength, and Taemin squints his eyes open just a little; Minhohyungisthatyou? but there is only water rushing through his ears and the salt stings his eyes, so he seals them shut again; he lets himself be tugged to the surface, not noticing how his body was now being pushed up instead of pulled along, nor how the strength in the powerful arms is slowly diminishing, and when he finally breaks the surface of the ocean, letting air swamp his abused lungs, he feels the hands that have been supporting him suddenly...
... suddenly slip away—)
—and the spacecraft finally falls apart, a broken scrapbook of loose nails and metal pieces. The two bodies bounce out onto the grass, rolling around entwined together until they finally come to a gentle stop.
When Jinki is certain that the world is not spinning crazily anymore, he loosens his arms from where they have been wrapped tightly around Taemin. The older boy moves back, quickly assessing the other boy for signs of injury. Miraculously, he is unharmed, and Jinki breathes a sigh of relief.
"Taemin-ah," he calls into the boy's frozen face; he completely disregards the way his own forehead has been cut open, a thin line of blood painting itself from the middle of his hairline to the top of his right brow. "Taemin-ah, are you alright?"
Taemin trembles furiously, ripping the goggles from his head, and launches himself at Jinki's chest without warning.
Jinki cannot stifle the exclamation of pain and surprise, but quickly quietens upon hearing the soft sobbing of the boy in his arms. He sits up and gathers Taemin to his chest as he finally allows himself to cry.
"I knew—I knew it would never reach him, hyung! I really did know!" Taemin wails into his neck, small hands fisting into the material of his shirt. "But all I wanted was for him to hear... I just—I wanted to tell—He never heard me—"
(their manager was the one who had to break it to him)
"I'm sure he was always listening," Jinki says softly.
(watching his body being pushed into the kiln to be turned into ash and spirit)
"I just wanted it to reach him... I just wanted to reach out to him..." Taemin sobs.
(lying in bed, unable to sleep because his body is missing from the bunk bed)
Jinki bows his head, blinking back his own rush of tears.
(his books are all dusty now; no one dares to touch them)
"I knew I couldn't reach him. But still, I—"
But still, I...