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All skin and no shame

...innocence is just an illusion...

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The Entire Ocean In A Single Drop...
Title: The Entire Ocean In A Single Drop...
Pairing: OT5
Rating: G
Length: Oneshot
Genre: non-AU
Disclaimer: I don't own anything apart from the story.

Summary: You are not just a drop in the ocean…

AN: Inspired by Rumi. All of us deal with grief differently… This is triggering for me and I need to work through it and this is how. I write to keep calm and I write to keep sane. You don’t have to read anything, but I have to write it.

The taller of the two doesn’t say a word. It is well after midnight and the chill in the air is absolute but he does not feel the cruel bite of winter. His grief numbs him to his environment and he simply follows the form of his leader just a step ahead of him, the trust is absolute and if Yunho were to have led him to the edge of an abyss, he wouldn’t have questioned it.

Lost in his thoughts, eyes shimmering with tears he is trying to contain till they are properly out of sight, his mind trying to make sense of what has happened.

His memories are disjointed.

Flashes here and there, the moments fleeting as they tease just a little out of his reach, his mind a jumble of thoughts as he tries to fit them into a coherent picture, but each puzzle piece seems to be doing its best to stay out of his grasp.

Late night suppers and ad-libbing different lyrics to their songs.

Letting their dogs play together as they chat about their schedules.

Random impromptu high note competitions surrounded by friends telling them to can it.

Getting drenched at SMTOWN for no good reason because all he did was empty a tiny water bottle.

Seeing a performance of his own group’s popular songs by their promising hoobaes destined to slay kpop.

Like another event so many years ago, he replays history in his head, capturing snapshots of the reel of moments in his head, but those snapshots are like trying to grasp wisps of smoke. It dissipates with every attempt to capture, much like the very essence of the man himself.

A smile so bright, a heart so big, a soul so pure, and a mind that wasn’t given the help he needed.

Dashing the back of his hand across his eyes, the movement angry as he rubs away the water in his eyes, he tries once again to make sense of this. To make sense that a treasured brother is gone. A brother who tried to ask for help, who did ask for help, yet wasn’t given the aid he so desperately needed.

Was it because of who he was?

Was it because of what he does?

Was it because of where he was?

Whatever the reasons were, they will never be good enough.

To him, if someone reaches out and asks for help, you help them.

The memories are mixed in with a whole lot of “what if” scenarios in his head.

What if he met up with him last month?

What if he didn’t have so many overseas activities?

What if he had hugged him a little tighter and laughed with him a little longer?

What if he had paid more attention and seen the tiny cries for help as he should since he is supposedly a genius?

Some genius…

Head bowed now, eyes clenched tight against the hollow feeling in his chest, his mind now mercifully blank as the thoughts he cannot control simply vanish into nothing, leaving him simply with the image and memory of a smiling young man who had so much to live for, but the world let him down.

Sitting in the darkness, staring at the blank television screen, everything in his home seems to trite and meaningless.

Was there something he could have done?

Would it have been any different if he had stayed?

Will the feeling of helplessness and despair ever go away?

This is not the first time he’s lost someone this way, but this feels worse.

So much worse.

A little brother who looked at him with eyes shining with love and admiration.

A look that never dimmed despite his troubles with the agency.

A small mercy at a time when it felt like everyone had turned their backs on him, and he couldn’t even blame them for it.

But in all that remained a shining light.

A little brother who didn’t pronounce judgment.

A little brother who continued to keep in touch and offer words of support.

A little brother who showed more concern over his hyung when it is he who should have been looking after him.

He’d spent hours playing the same videos over and over again, saddened by how few there were, and regretful that there weren’t more.

Why does it take a loss to remind you what’s important in life?

Family, friends, love, security, understanding, acceptance.

Not fame, glory, judgement, hate, bitterness, anger.

The taste of self-recrimination is thick on his tongue even though he knows he doesn’t really fall much in the second category anymore.

But he did.

If even for a little while. However time is no friend of man and even a little is time wasted.

Lyrics play in his head, mixing, jumbling, making sense, yet not.

They’re not his own.

And maybe they are.

They say those who are the most tormented are the ones who can create the most beautiful.

He will settle for mediocrity if that truly is the case.

There has been darkness in his life, the taint of it so absolute he had been terrified that he wouldn’t be able to claw himself from that place, but he did.

And he knows that whatever darkness that blinded him momentarily had been infinitely darker for the young man who just couldn’t take it anymore.

He needed light, and he wasn’t given it.

He needed the sun, and he had been kept from it.

He needed brightness, and his mind told him he wouldn’t be able to take it.

And so he left.

When you seek for so long, and ask for so little - just a moment to step out from the darkness but there is no one there to take your hand, what else can you do?

What else can you do but step back into the darkness and let it consume you whole?

Sobs wrack his slim frame as he curls over, face pressed against a cushion, crying out his anguish.

He cries for awhile.

He’s lost track of time.

He hasn’t even checked his phones.

The crying is done for now, but the empty feeling remains. The numbness is there, and it makes him uncharacteristically clinical, assessing himself and the situation while he is safely at an arm’s length and unable to feel.

Not comparing, because no matter how similar two people’s situations may seem to be on the surface, and no matter how you try to walk in their shoes, there are always enough differences and enough of a lack of knowledge, to make each person’s experience incredibly unique.

No one’s lives should be compared.

What is difficult for one, might be easy for another.

Where an experience is painful for one, might be painless for another.

There are too many assumptions in their world, and it should be done away with.

The numbness dissipates slowly, the pain is skirting the edges and wanting to overwhelm him again, but within it is a well of gratefulness.

Grateful that he is simply happy to exist.

Grateful that he is able to acknowledge his frailty as a man and a human being.

Grateful that when he was in his darkness, that a hand had reached down to pull him out.

The tidal wave of pain held back for the moment crashes over him.

Why couldn’t he have been that hand to pull him out?

He refuses to give in.

He refuses to give in to the pain.

He refuses to give in to the despair.

He refuses to give in to the heartbreak.

He refuses to give in to the hopelessness.

He chooses to remember instead.

To remember how brightly he shone.

To remember how sensitive and openhearted he was.

To remember the care he showed his hyungs when they were hurting.

To remember the long hugs as if trying to imbue his own strength into the older men.

To remember his selflessness and how he still gave away as much as he could even when he had nothing left.

To remember how willing he was to cry out his feelings in front of everyone because it was nothing to be ashamed of.

He could learn something from the brilliant young man damned by a condition very few accepted or even understood in his country.

How much more can the industry take as the shock resonates so absolutely that it brings everyone to their knees?

Turning his body slightly, he keeps the younger man within his peripheral vision.

Sharing their fears, feelings, insecurities, hopes and dreams has been a slow but sure journey.

But is it enough?

How much is enough?

What if it isn’t enough?

Has he shared enough?

Have they shared enough?

The thought terrifies him so much that his steps falter, and the silent young man behind him almost bumps into him, but it doesn’t happen because they are in sync. Always in sync. His thoughts are mine and my thoughts are his.

But are they really?

Will he reach out to him if he were in this much pain that he felt that he should just give in to it?

Will he reach out to him and tell him the truth of his inner self and the quiet voices seeking to tip him over?

Or will he find out too late?

The fear is real and the regret is a stain on him.

Regret at being absent.

Regret in not seeing the signs.

Regret at not returning the same care he was accorded.

In many ways, he understand what it means to feel alone.

The path of a leader is a lonely one.

He needed to be strong and bear the burdens for the young and promising group.

He needed to be strong to bear the brunt of the censure on the group when things went wrong.

He needed to be strong and keep his group uplifted even when they are stealing sleep every second they can.

He needed to be strong when even at the top of their popularity, there were still unresolved issues that he had to fix.

He needed to be strong and pull himself out of the depths of despair when his world collapsed and his strength no longer mattered.

He can be as strong as he can possibly be and it still wouldn’t be enough.

He knows that now.

He understands it now.

He accepts it now.

Strength is a multi-faceted concept, something sublime and meant to be fluid enough to shape around the situation and the need.

His version of it was unbending, uncompromising, and unfailingly striving and driving to be the best and more.

He can still be the best without feeling weakness in compromise.

There is no weakness in listening to the opinion of others who know better.

There is no weakness in taking counsel from someone younger who may have more to offer.

There is no weakness in accepting that some things are what they are and he will need to roll with the punches.

However all the crystal clarity and the 20/20 retrospective vision isn’t going to bring back the star whose light has finally been extinguished.

Why couldn’t he help?

Why didn’t he see how much he was hurting?

Why was he so blind to his own needs that he couldn’t see a cry for help?

He doesn’t know if it’s selfish, if it’s the leader in him, or if it is simply because he is human, but this has made him afraid.

He is afraid of losing what he has because he fell short.

He is afraid of driving someone away because of his own demanding ways.

He is afraid of the day he forgets how to compromise and it becomes the straw that broke the camel’s back.

What happened this week is a terribly painful reminder, and one he could have done without, and yet he is grateful for it too. A reminder that all of them have limited time in this world and he can only do the best he can with the time he has been given for you will never know when it is time to leave.

A reminder to hug those he loves a little tighter.

A reminder to tell those he cares about that he is there for them.

A reminder not to hide within himself because a human is a plant that needs to be watered every now and again.

They finally arrive.

It is the world’s longest roundabout way of getting there but it was necessary because the thinning traffic due to the early morning hours makes their movements a little more obvious, and he doesn’t want anything to detract from where the focus ought to be.

The ride up is silent, and his gaze is unwavering on the other man across from him trying to disappear within himself. He wants to hug him, but it is not him that the youngest needs.

Not today.

Not tonight.

He keys in the familiar numbers and the light shines red.

He tries again, because this always happens here. He doesn’t know if it’s the new apartment or a faulty lock.

He presses the numbers slowly. Perhaps too slowly, the pauses between numbers overly long and the silly lock resets.

It buzzes red once again, the sound obnoxious in the silence of the night.

He feels a nudge and he doesn’t even have time to turn before he feels a clammy hand palming off a plastic card to him.

He always forgets the card, but he never forgets the numbers.

It’s always good to have a back-up.

To have a steady hand ready to catch you when you falter.

He swipes the card and of course it lights up green.

The silence is once again broken.

This time by a stifled sob behind him as they enter the dark quarters of a normally vibrant and welcoming home.

A home with bright white walls and light bouncing from every corner.

Not the harsh dark emptiness greeting them now.

A light is normally left on to greet one or both, so they do not have to find their way in the dark, giving a guiding light at all times so that they may find their way easily.

Not that night though.

A stifled sob once again, but this time it is coming from somewhere within the cavernous darkness of the apartment.

He stands perfectly still, his eyes closed, his shoes still on as he listens.

He hears the deep shuddering breaths of the man behind him, additional sounds telling him he is hastily trying to rid himself of his shoes.

He hears a cough from somewhere ahead of him, the coughing is choked as the man struggles to inhale through his clogged nose.

The movement behind him grows more frantic, and he isn’t surprised to be pushed aside two seconds later.

He finally opens his eyes, not in a hurry, as his eyes adjust to the darkness.

He hears the reunion.

He hears the deep wracking sobs the youngest had been containing for hours upon hours, crying as if he will never stop.

He hears the soothing voice of the oldest, throat magically cleared when he finds a focus and a reason for him to be better.

They need each other.

He takes his time, leaving them to heal together.

The soft murmurs he can hear, he can practically see the man stroking his hand gently through the hair of their youngest, whispering words of comfort and nonsensical sounds that make no sense but convey love, and most importantly, understanding.

This is a safe place.

There are no judgments for tears.

There are no judgments for the occasional lapse from being a pillar of strength.

There are no judgments for simply being human for the owner of this safe place knows full well what it means to be this fragile construct that was created to populate the world.

To hurt.

To feel.

To care.

To hate.

To hope.

To fear.

To need.

To love.

This is a safe place.

He takes his time, taking in the shadows and avoiding the obstructions. He doesn’t know how their youngest did it, but even in the state that he is in, he managed to navigate his way through the narrow corridors and unerringly towards the light. Muted as that light might be, it is a still a light.

The sobbing is slowing, the hitching gasping breaths still loud, but the frantic desperate quality of it has waned.

The couch is small and narrow. He’s complained about it several times, but he only gets musical broken laughter in response and a chiding voice asking if he wants a couch big enough so he can suffer penance on it?

He really would rather not, and so he keeps his complaints to a minimum, offering no further belligerence towards the strangely small couch.

It is not really a home for entertaining anymore, not like it’s predecessors.

It is a home for one, sometimes two, occasionally three, and so far, never five.

It is a safe place.

He finds a space on it, barely enough, his ass skirting the edge of it, but he is comfortable enough, wrapping his arms around another fragile human just like himself and burying his face in the back of his neck, inhaling the sweet musky scent he knows so well.

He was right.

The other man is stroking through the hair of the youngest whose head is on his thigh, his face pressed into his stomach.

“Was it ever this bad for you? Was it ever this bad? You’d tell me if it ever got this bad right? Was it ever this bad? Please tell me…please, was it ever this bad? Would you have told me? Was it ever this bad? You know that no matter what, we’d come for you right? We’d catch you. You know that right? You know that? All you have to do is call and we’d come. Please…was it ever this bad? Please…please tell me, I need to know. I need to know how I can save you. I can’t do this. I can’t…please tell me. Was it ever this bad?”

The questions are broken, repetitive, the desolation in the voice is complete. The sobbing starts again in between each harsh sounding question, the fear is so palpable it makes hair stand on end.

The silence stretches and the sobbing is in earnest now, tears falling from the brokenhearted when there isn’t a response to his question.

“I don’t know if it was…” a soft voice, barely audible. “I can’t compare it, because I don’t know how he felt.”

“Did you ever…did you ever want to…did you ever…” the voice is choked, hesitant, unable to even complete his question.

“Maybe,” is the honest answer that the questioner is absolutely not prepared for.

Yunho closes his eyes, a wealth of pain filling him that he cannot articulate. They’ve had this conversation before, but it was without Changmin present. He presses his forehead against the back of a shoulder, breathing through his mouth and trying to calm his racing heart, his arms tightening around the blond man’s body, feeling hands clawing at his forearms as Changmin scrambles into an upright position.

“No. No…don’t say that. I want you to lie to me. No, don’t lie to me. No…no you can’t. You’ve never…you can’t.”

“I’ve never,” the oldest replies, his voice steady, seeing into the darkness and feeling the cold grip of fear paralysing the youngest.

He feels the clawed hands against his chest.

He feels the dig of blunt nails scoring his easily marked skin.

He can practically taste the denial and the fear and the pain a man so young should never be feeling.

“You…you said maybe.”

“Maybe I’ve thought about it, but I’ve never acted on it.”

“Never?” the hopefulness in that word is actually painful to hear.

Yunho feels a tear slip out.

“I only said maybe because I cannot remember, but I remember the pain and I imagine that maybe I did consider it. It was a very long time ago, Changminnie…please don’t think on it.”

“Not long enough, and I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t. I can’t imagine anything happening to Yunho hyung. When he gets crazy on stage sometimes I feel like my heart is about to stop. Every single fucking time he is on that pole I feel like my life gets shortened by a few years and I curse whoever suggested the fucking thing and why the fuck did we agree to it. By the end of this tour, I will have lost half my life just worrying about him and now I have to worry about you too and I—” he chokes off, trembling, falling face forward and almost clocking Yunho in the head as he presses his face against the smaller man’s chest. “I can’t. I feel like I can’t breathe properly…hyung…it hurts so much.”

This time the bout is longer.

Yunho has no idea where all the liquid is coming from. Changmin has barely eaten a thing or drunk a drop that day. He is at a loss, but he knows Jaejoong knows what to do.

This is a safe place.

The whispering starts up.

The murmuring of promises to be strong and avowals of love.

His hands never stop stroking and he coaxes the tallest of them to lay down and curl up however he wants, as long as he is comfortable.

His head finds a lap of course.

His hand finds a hand.

Linking fingers he closes his eyes, tears still falling but he seems to have eased a little.

Placing his hand over the other’s heart, he finds it beating steadily, and slowly.

The thudding of Changmin’s heart against his palm seems to resonate, making him deaf to everything but that.

So deaf that he doesn’t hear the door.

He doesn’t notice the silence of the other two.

He doesn’t realise that both of them have stopped breathing.

But he does realise the heartbeats are speeding up.

“What’s wrong?”

Instead of answering, Changmin gets up without a word and leaves the living area.

“What?” Jaejoong turns his head, confused, his cheek meeting dry lips that have no illicit intention.

Turning properly in the leader’s arms, he snuggles against the man and lays his head on his shoulder to take a breather, to lean against someone else for awhile as he struggles to manage his own sorrow.

There is a slight commotion, and a few odd sounds, and Jaejoong startles when he finally notices it, but Yunho’s arms around him convince him that it’s ok.

That everything is ok.

This is a safe place.

A safe place for five.

There is no room on the couch for all of them, but the two youngest sit on the floor willingly, knees touching each other’s.

The third taking up the space where Changmin had been.

The sounds of sobbing start again, but he is comforted by hands from four different men.

Four other men who understand how it would feel to lose a brother.

Even if the loss wasn’t permanent and even if the agony was temporary.

There is a lingering pain that will never be gone, and it has now manifested itself multiple times over.

“How was it?” A quiet voice asks, and Yunho feels a tentative hand against his calf.

“I could barely breathe,” comes the quiet reply, and he leans over to squeeze the man’s shoulder, acknowledging him, understanding him.

They fall into silence, apart from the quiet sobbing of the middle brother.

Time passes, the minutes ticking away inexorably, counting down and getting closer with each tick and each second, to the end of their own temporary existence.

“I think he’s asleep.”

“Let him sleep.”

Changmin leans forward and rests his cheek against the small empty space on the couch next to the body his hyung. He can hear the wheeze of the asthmatic man near his ear, the familiar broken breathing that sometimes kept him up at night when they were much younger, worrying him, and hoping the sound never ceases because of what it meant if it did.

He feels the prick of tears again.

He wishes it were other circumstances that they are here together.

“I have to return to the station in an hour. I can take him home.”

Again with the hesitance.

There is a note of worry in his voice.

“Have you slept, Junsu-yah?” Yunho’s voice is warm and kind, and he reaches out a hand to wrap around a shaved head and he coaxes it against his thigh. “You used to be able to sleep anywhere,” his voice is tired but you can hear the smile in it as he remembers. “Lean against me and sleep for awhile. I’ll wake you.”

This is a safe place.

Nobody comments on the tears that soak Yunho’s black pants.

Nobody comments on the intertwined fingers of the two youngest as they sleep upright, breathing in their older three.

Nobody comments on the unspoken words that hang between the five men as they bid each other farewell in the wee hours of the morning.

This is a safe place.

Everyone should have one.

AN: SHINee was my introduction to kpop, and while I got distracted by TVXQ six months later, they were never forgotten. I know my writing is disjointed but it reflects my thoughts. I can’t seem to create order in the chaos and it’s frustrating me. My husband is my safe place. He will always be my safe place.
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I m trying to look from the bright side to his dead. Trying to think he is free now. In peace now. And I m thanking to God that Yunho, Changmin, Junsu, Jaejoong, Yoouchun are breathing, holding despite all their struggles. As much as they breath I satisfied. It's enough for me. Thank you for sharing this. And I m glad you found your safe place. Take care

Oh gosh ;; thanks for sharing <3

thank you.. and im still searching for my safe place.. ^^

Damn, now you've really made me cry. You've really captured this beautifully and reflected all our fears in it. Thank you.


I still can't believe with what just happened.. i heard the news from my brother (me and my mom was driving for 10-11 hours and we just arrived at my brother's place and he just said there's a kpop idol who died and his name start with kim.. i swear everthing's stop)..

I hope with everything's happened in their lives.. they'll get stronger and stronger. And hopefully that they'll always remember that they have family, friends and especially love whenever they're feeling down, lost even when they're happy..

Thank you for this tears-jerker-yet-heart-warming shot

So very powerful. And such a tragic setting.

Thank you for writing this. It's been a difficult time. I remember when I first saw Oxygen. And then wore it out because they were so young and they HAD it!

Many people pay for the way they use their fame, but it just seems so wrong that Jonghyun should have to pay that ultimate price. He was so earnest and seemingly guileless, unafraid to show his heart.

So sad now.

this is beautiful. i needed this. thank you

I needed this. Thank you.

i know this is your way of coping and i thank you for it. but reading this made me remember and right now i'm crying. crying because it still hurts.

TVXQ was my introduction to kpop back in 2008 but i got to know SHINee because of them too and while i ended up as a cassie, SHINee has a special place for me. they were like my little brothers, just as they were TVXQ's. reading this and how you wrote it made me cry and remember.

"this is a safe place"

you're right. everyone should have one, more so everyone who suffers from the demons in their mind. you're also right, this is a terribly painful wake up call for all of us that we are all humans and we're not perfect because we suffer and feel pain.

what happened with jjong is a painful reminder that as bright as he was and as helpful, big-hearted and talented as he was, we never know how and what he feels most especially when he's alone.

thank you, nikki. you've worked hard. you've done well. i mean it. because your writing made me and a lot of other people feel better. so i hope you feel better, even if it's just a little bit.

It'sbeen more than a week and I still can't grasp it. I laugh and then I get quiet, and then I remember he's gone.

And I'm glad that our boys had a safe place. That they went through it and got through it. I remember the time when Jaejoong was so thin, drinking, partying, smoking here and there. Boxes of tissues nearby. He was such a mess and we saw it. If we could just get into the screen and reach out for him. I'm glad that Yunho and Changmin had gone to shrink. IDK about Yoochun and Junsu, but they had their family. I'm just so glad that they're still here. Tho I worry most of the times when they get busy. I really hope they still have a safe place. Always.

Thank you for this heartwarming oneshot. We can all get through this. We'll be okay. Someday. One day.

what happened is so sad. it should not have happened. he should have had a long successful life. all the should haves. but it is life, full of uncertainties. people come and people go. this is certain. what matter is we do best every day until our last breath. and he did well...you did well Jonghyun-ah.

This is difficult for me to read, not because it was not good, but cause it's so good it gave me so much feels.....feelings that I do not wish to revisit again.

TBH, when TV5XQ was splitting, I did have this fear that one of them might go into depression so badly that he might just make a devastating decision to end his life, especially Jaejoong cause at one point, he lost so so much weight that it was rather scary. Everyone could see how depressed and sad he was then.As a matter of fact, Homin was not in good shape then too.

I'm so glad that that period is no more. Even though we might never see TV5XQ on stage again, I am glad that they are happy with their life now. That's all I ever wanted from them, for them to be happy and live the life that they've always wanted.

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