cosipotente (cosipotente) wrote,

the heartlines of peculiar things ( i )

PG ; Minho/Jinki, Taemin
summary: Minho and Jinki have been dating for three years. They’ve had their ups and downs like all couples do eventually but they've managed to come out on top every time. Taemin is a tea maker in the family owned palmistry shop. When Minho comes to work under Taemin’s dad as a palm reader his relationship with Jinki is put to the test and Taemin may be the catalyst that makes or breaks them. It’s the eventual and inevitable passing of a prediction Minho made at the beginning of his and Jinki’s relationship.
word count: 6,122 AU

It’s the light kiss pressed to his temple that finally wakes Minho.

He’s been swimming in and out of sleep for the last half hour, dozing off and on beneath his blankets and the sunlight that pools squarely on his chest from the window above his head. The morning’s come too soon. Minho would do anything, give anything, just so he wouldn’t have to face the day. It’s not even the new job that makes him want to hide away.

It’s the eventual and inevitable passing of a prediction made what feels like a lifetime ago.

Minho’s eyes work themselves open as Jinki pulls away to put a necklace on. He’s dressed for the day in an ironed blue and black flannel button down and the tight black jeans Minho’s teeth have unzipped more than once. Minho gets an unobstructed view of the column of Jinki’s neck where it peaks out of the collar of his shirt. The fading bruises on Jinki’s skin make Minho smile. Something greedy and possessive stirs beneath his skin.

Just let me have him a little longer, Minho thinks. A little longer let him be mine.

As if he can feel Minho’s gaze, Jinki’s eyes find his. They’re soft, fond. Loving. Minho’s heart aches dully behind his ribs. He almost looks away but he wants to drink every detail of Jinki in. The last three years haven’t been enough. It’ll never be enough, Minho thinks.

He reaches for Jinki, tugs him down, and when Jinki’s mouth slides against his it’s minty fresh. It’s so familiar it hurts.

Minho resists the urge to run his hands through Jinki’s baby-pink colored hair. Instead, they curl loose around his forearms. He wants to keep Jinki here, with him, wants to press him into the cage Minho knows his arms could be.

He wants to breathe the words ‘don’t go’ into Jinki’s lungs until all he knows is Minho.

Minho doesn’t do any of that. He lets Jinki slip out of his loose hold, lets him leave their little apartment with nothing but a bright smile flashed at Minho. It says Good luck. See you later. I love you. Minho hopes his says the same.

Three years ago today Minho read Jinki’s palm, saw in the criss-crossing lines his own broken heart reflected back at him.

Today Jinki will fall in love with someone who isn’t Minho.

The bell above the shop door rings as Taemin is cleaning out a tea strainer.

Doing as his mom taught him, Taemin pulls it away from the water and taps it carefully against the bottom of the sink, loosening any remaining bits of tea leaves. He runs it under the water one last time, turning off the taps when nothing filters out of the strainer. He sets it beside the ceramic kettle on the towel near his elbow to dry.

Tea making, and all the little details that come with it (like kettle and strainer cleaning), is Taemin's job in the small palmistry shop his family has been running for generations. Before his "promotion" to tea maker, Taemin had been in charge of sweeping the floors and pasting the special-of-the-day flyers in the windows at the front of the store.

They were easy tasks to keep a rambunctious twelve-year old boy out of the way.

When his older brother made it obvious he wasn't going to help run the shop, choosing to study abroad instead, it was Taemin who took his place, sitting with their mom and learning the ways of the tea ceremony in the manner that she had been taught: total immersion through first-hand experience.

Taemin would stand beside her as she spoke to customers, or just glance at them as they walked in. She knew instantly what kind of blend they needed, even if they didn't, and she would serve them a tea suited just for their taste.

"Sense the customer," she told him. "Always trust what is inside of you to guide your selection."

Their shop's tea was complimentary to anyone who made appointments with Taemin's dad, but as a special service with a fixed fee, his mom would read the leaves left like sediment at the bottom of the cups. It was a mysterious, magical skill the younger him coveted more so than his dad's ability to read palms—he wasn't, and still isn't, too keen on the idea of touching strangers.

Hours by her side awakened something in him, something he had viewed as magical back then. By fifteen he was preparing the teas, knowing as his mother did what blend suited the particular person who sat on the sofa outside of the room where his dad did palm readings.

Taemin had taken over the tea preparation two weeks after his sixteenth birthday, when his mom died. Now twenty, Taemin is more skilled at the position than his teenaged self could have imagined.

He dries his hands on the red apron wrapped around his torso. Taemin changes his relaxed posture to something more attentive, shoulders straightened and a smile plastered across his face. This too, is a ceremony he's perfected since his mom's death.

Except it all sort of falters, leaves him limp, when he catches sight of who’s walked into the shop.

Choi Minho is the palm reader Taemin’s dad has taken on as an apprentice. They’d met months ago, briefly, when Minho came in for the interview. Taemin hadn’t bothered with familiarizing himself with Minho. He’d hoped Minho wouldn’t show up, that he’d shirk the responsibility, but here he is: the tall, dark eyed embodiment of changing times.

The reminder that Taemin’s dad has limited time left in this world.

"Welcome," Taemin says with cool geniality as Minho makes his way over to the counter. "My dad’s in the reading room."

A tight smile pulls at the corners of Minho’s mouth, a mouth Taemin knows would taste like cream and bergamot. The smooth mix pours across Taemin’s tastebuds before he can close himself off to it.

Taemin’s face remains blank and the small smile falls from Minho’s lips.

“Thanks.” Minho says.

Taemin tries not to care about the strange tone in his voice. When they’d met before, Minho’d been all smiles and easy laughter when Taemin’s dad made one of his lame jokes. Today, there’s a somberness to Minho that Taemin finds difficult to ignore.

It floods the back of his mouth like a bitter aftertaste.

“Where can I...?” Minho asks gesturing at his coat.

Taemin swallows thickly, it barely helps dispel the taste, and comes around the counter.

“The closet is over here.” He leads Minho across the store and down an aisle of angelic statues until they reach the wooden staircase that leads up to the modest apartment Taemin lives in with his dad. Built into the stairs is the coat closet. Taemin opens it without preamble.

Minho adds his coat to the free peg between the ones holding Taemin’s sweater and his dad’s fraying cardigan. Once upon a time, his mom used hang her own coat or scarf there. Taemin has to physically resist the overpowering urge to move Minho’s coat to one of the other available pegs by resolutely jamming his hands in his apron pockets.

It’s just a jacket, Taemin tries to tell himself, but it feels like so much more than that. It feels like a knife, the one that’s been sitting placidly between his ribs since his dad’s announcement of taking on an apprentice, pressing ever closer to his heart. Minho’s coat inches the knife forward.

“You okay?”

Taemin starts in place blinking rapidly to fight the burning in his eyes. Minho is staring at him, not unkindly, and Taemin feels heat creep up his neck.

“Yes.” He says quick as a bullet and just as final.

Minho is the one left blinking in Taemin’s wake as he turns back to the storefront. Minho takes in the rigid set of his shoulders as he trails quietly behind. He knows Taemin doesn’t want him here, sees him as an encroaching outsider—which, yeah, he is—but Minho isn’t trying to be. Chiromancy just happens to be something he’s good at it and this is just a job, a foot in the door for bigger things, but it bothers Minho that Taemin thinks he’s here to steal from him in some way.

Plus, the kid’s being a little rude. Minho didn’t miss the frosty welcoming earlier, had hoped it was a quirk of Taemin’s, but it didn’t take Minho long to realize he was being blanked. Minho’s got enough on his plate with his prediction hanging over his head like an axe waiting to drop. He doesn’t need Taemin’s misplaced anger as an extra side dish.

When they cover the short distance across the store, Taemin taking up his post behind the counter once again, Minho stops short. Slightly behind Taemin, a gauzy face smiles back at him.

Minho is what society calls an oracle. There are millions of others just like him around the world gifted with some sort of divining ability. Minho is a chiromancer—a palm reader—discerning the future written in the lines of a person’s hands. A common thread among the younger generation of oracles is being born double-gifted, usually with the second sight.

Minho was blessed at birth with his ability to palm read as well as see the dead.

The woman behind Taemin is round faced, dark haired, and with a few exceptions, looks just like her son. She is the exact, if faded, copy of the woman Minho spied in the photographs decorating Mr. Lee’s office.

She smiles at Minho placidly over her son’s shoulder.

Minho wants to ask, the question is pressing behind his teeth, but he can tell by the curious way Taemin eyes him that he has no idea his mother is lingering at his side. Minho’d hazard a guess that Mr. Lee is also unaware of his wife’s presence.

This isn’t how Minho expected his morning to go.

The ire from a few minutes ago bleeds out of him under the ghost’s gaze. Minho sighs, hand skittering through his hair for lack of anything better to do, and he drags his eyes back to Taemin’s face.

“You’re not a very nice kid.” Minho grumbles leaning on the counter and resting his chin on his fist. If Taemin wants to play with fire so be it. He pokes Taemin’s cheek where it’s quickly turning red. “Not cute. At all.”

Minho pushes away from the counter and makes his way to the reading room where Mr. Lee is. Taemin’s sputtering chases away a bit of the storm clouds crowding Minho’s head.

By noon, Taemin’s mood is as dark and thunderous as the storm outside. Rain pelts the windows and every so often there’s a sharp rapport of lightning. Sometimes, when it cracks, he swears he can feel it resonate inside him. More than once, he thinks if he caught Minho by the wrist he’d electrocute him and that thought pacifies him a little.

The only time Taemin is pulled out of the vacuum of his own anger is when a customer comes through the door. There aren’t many with the storm outside keeping people indoors, but there’s enough to keep him decently distracted.

A few high school girls buy tarot cards, giving Taemin sweet smiles that light up his skin in a different way. One of the shop’s regular’s, an elderly woman, comes in for her daily cup of watered downed oolong tea. Taemin’s cheeks are aching from her pinches when she leaves. A small group of nine-to-fivers on break bustle in, mostly to take shelter from the rain. They poke and prod a few things, meandering down aisles talking in hushed tones, and leave just as suddenly.

Around two, Taemin’s mood has improved considerably. He’s one-hundred percent sure it has everything to do with not seeing Minho’s freakishly handsome face for a few hours. The weather hasn’t improved but he’s no longer relating to lightning and wanting to fry Minho alive. The rain is a pleasant undertone to the traditional music playing on the shop’s speakers.

Taemin, slumped over the counter with his head nestled in the crook of his arm, dozes.

“Do you do that often?”

Taemin almost knocks the little ring display over when he jerks up. It titters threateningly before his hand settles on it. He manages to right it without a single ring coming off but he cuts Minho a sharp glance anyway. How long had he been there?

“Excuse me?” Taemin responds. If there’s a bite to his tone, they both elect to ignore it.

Minho leans against the counter and Taemin finds himself under the scrutiny of this stranger. His hackles raise; was this guy raised without manners?

“Sleep on the job.” Minho finally says. “Do you do it often? I’ve been here for a few minutes.”

“I’m sorry,” Taemin doles out insincerely. His dad isn’t around to enforce the “be kind and courteous” rule. “Is there something you wanted?”

Taemin expects to be called out for his thinly veiled rudeness. Minho clearly had wanted to say something to him earlier before going all weird, staring at Taemin like he’d seen a ghost. Like he is now.

The scathing comeback on the tip of Minho’s tongue dies in his throat. She’s there again, half-in half-out of Taemin’s shoulder, guileless smile and depthless black eyes. He’s almost tempted to tell Taemin, wipe that smug twist off his lips, but Minho isn’t cruel. Besides, he needs this job.

Minho swallows the remarks, and his pride, sliding his gaze from the barely there woman to her more than present son.

“Your father would like some coffee and I’d like tea.” Minho tacks on a saccharine smile just to see the way Taemin’s jaw works.

Messing with the younger kid is definitely more amusing than thinking about what Jinki is doing, if he’s going to come home today and in his low tones tell Minho he wants to finish with him. All day Minho’s mind has been half on his work and half on the various scenarios of Jinki meeting someone new that refuse to leave him alone.

Minho slides his cellphone from the pocket of his dress slacks. He runs his thumb over the screen, dragging his bottom lip between his teeth.

“Girlfriend troubles?” Taemin hopes the smile stretching across his face is sympathetic; it’s completely forced. He sets the tray with the coffee and tea down a little harder than he should.

Minho shakes his head resisting the eye roll that pulls at his sockets. “Boyfriend.”

Taemin only blinks as Minho pockets his phone and then takes the tray.

“I feel sorry for him.” Except Taemin’s voice sounds too awed for his words to have any bite.

“Hey,” Minho rumbles. “I’m a great boyfriend.” He throws a wink over his shoulder as he heads back to the reading room.

Taemin snorts but he isn’t given the chance to mull over Minho’s confession. The bell over the shop door jingles when it’s opened admitting two older guys with arms slung around each other as they share an umbrella. They’re laughing softly; one wrestles the umbrella closed, but it’s loud in the quiet of the shop.

Taemin isn’t sure why he leans in to hear more, why the sound sinks into his skin, down inside his bones, and settles warm and heavy there. He feels sun-drugged as if from somewhere far away someone is singing him a lullaby. It’s something sad and beautiful at the same time, something that pulls at him. His eyes droop threateningly the closer the platinum blond guy comes to the counter.

Taemin sounds almost drowsy when he speaks.

“Welcome,” he offers slowly. It’s hard to even blink much less speak coherently. “Do you have an appointment?”

Mismatched eyes, one iris milky blue and the other crisp gold, meet Taemin’s.

He’s never felt so sleepy in his life. Taemin finds it incredibly difficult to keep his head up.

“Ah!” The blond exclaims.

His ring covered fingers snap annoyingly in Taemin’s face trying to keep him awake. Between languid blinks the other guy with pink colored hair approaches the counter.


“He’s got no protection on. You know the rain makes the call worse.”

“Pull him back.”

Taemin wishes they’d shut up. Let him be. But they don’t.

A cold hand winds around Taemin’s wrist leaching the syrupy warmth from his bones.

“Sorry, kid. You’re too old for nap time.”

Taemin stands, dazed for a moment, blinking down at the rings laying against his skin. He follows the hand up the arm it’s attached to in slow motion until he’s back to staring in mismatched eyes. There’s a barely-there glimmer around the one called Jonghyun; Taemin schools his face to keep his shock hidden.

Taemin’s never met a siren, even a half one as Jonghyun seems to be, before.

The fingers retract and Jonghyun winks at him.

“Are you okay?” This comes from the other guy. He gives Taemin a soft smile but there’s concern in the way his eyebrows meet.

Taemin blushes and it takes him, stupidly, a few seconds to find his voice. “Yes,” and then lamely, “thank you.”

Jonghyun leans against the counter. The bitter tang of sea salt, as if he’d just drank from the ocean, floods into Taemin’s mouth.

“Do you have an appointment?” Taemin asks again. It’s a miracle he gets that out without choking. He hopes Jonghyun says no and defers to his friend instead. There’s no way Taemin can concoct a blend when his senses are drowning in salt.

“I do,” Jonghyun says dashing Taemin’s hopes. He hitches a thumb at his friend. “This one is looking for someone. Maybe you know him?” He gives Taemin a sly look.

Taemin cocks his head.

“He’s tall. Eyes like a frog. Not particularly handsome. Says he works here?” Jonghyun ticks each description off on his fingers.

“Jonghyun.” His friend chides but Taemin sees the way he’s biting back a grin.

“Jinki-hyung.” Jonghyun returns in the same tone. There’s an infectious mischief in his eyes that makes them almost glow.

Taemin wants to laugh, because frog-eyed Minho, and it presses against his ribs painfully, but they’re customers and he’s an employee. He simply presses his teeth into his cheek and pulls the appointment ledger out of the drawer under the register.

His mom, like her mom before her, stockpiled leather bound notebooks like they were going out of style.

“The key to a successful business is good bookkeeping,” she’d say when Taemin would peek over her shoulder as she went through the notebooks.

Any and all shop business was to be documented in one of the many thick tomes. Inventory. Receipts. Expenses. Divination details. Appointments. Each one had a notebook to be kept in.

Taemin drags his fingers down the list of the today’s appointments, matches it up with one written down in the ledger. There’s only one Jonghyun penned in for Minho.

He clears his throat, resolutely keeps a lid on his laughter, and comes around the other side of the counter.

“If you’d follow me then,” Taemin says dutifully to Jonghyun. To Jinki, he politely says, “Excuse me.”

He leads Jonghyun to the waiting area.

The front of the shop is separated from the back via a sliding partition. Taemin gently pushes one side away from the other and invites the two inside with a wave of his hand. The back is set up like a small parlor. A vintage loveseat sits against one wall while bookshelves and various bric-a-brac fill the rest. On the other side of the room is a second partition separating the waiting room from the reading room. The space where Taemin’s dad does his divinations is nothing more than an alcove filled by candles, a low table, some small cushions.

He can just barely make out the murmur of his dad’s deep voice as he speaks to Minho.

When Taemin was little he used to fall asleep under the table in the alcove as his dad read to him. As he got older, he’d read by himself when the shop closed. There used to be a small lamp that projected thousands of tiny stars all over the room that Taemin had been fascinated with.

While Taemin could pick out tea blends just based on someone’s presence, he hadn’t been allowed to do any of the tasseography; divining from the patterns in the tea leaves. His age may have stopped him from reading tea leaves around his mom, but he had tried it once, in secret, a month before he turned sixteen.

It was the first, and the last, time he had done any sort of divination.

The reading room, with it’s star specked walls, was the room he’d snuck into, his mom’s tea cup in his nervous hands, to do his first tea leaf reading. He hasn’t stepped foot in it since.

Taemin drags his eyes away from the partition and focuses on the customer at hand.

“Please, have a seat. I’ll be back with your tea shortly,” he says to Jonghyun as he sheds his coat and gloves. Without the layers of clothing, Jonghyun shimmers a bit more, looks a little less human and more like something that would drag you down into dark waters with a smile.

“It’s rude to stare.” Jonghyun chides but his tone is amused.

Taemin ducks out with a blush burning his face.

Jinki isn’t at the counter when Taemin returns. He thinks he spots soft pink colored hair bobbing between bookshelves. Taemin turns to the tea prep area.

Making teas is Taemin’s favorite part of working in his family’s cramped, dusty little shop. It’s mindless work and for him, it doesn’t require much effort. He’s just good at it.

Taemin loses himself in the preparation of a tea that will never pass his lips.

“We never put ourselves in a position to take from others,” his mother’s voice is in his head as if she’d just imparted that particular piece of advice to him hours ago. “Don’t drink from the cups reserved for customers. Don’t drink their blends.”

“Why?” Taemin had asked. He was always asking why back then.

His mom had taken his face in her hands, mint and orange rind wafting around him, and told him plainly, “Because, sometimes their things become your things and you won’t always want them.”

Taemin hadn’t understood then and he still doesn’t now, not really. He’d learned to stop asking why, though. Taemin considers himself more of a student of the school of asking why not. If something is meant to be, it will be.

The universe is incredibly particular like that.

For Jonghyun, Taemin creates a simple matcha latte blended with a soft note of vanilla and almond cream. He puts the cup on a tray with small plate rice crackers and makes his way back to Jonghyun.

He misses Jinki’s curious gaze.

“Sorry for the wait,” Taemin says as he steps into the parlor.

Jonghyun has made himself comfortable on the loveseat, flipping through a book. Taemin isn’t surprised when he takes a peek at the cover that the book is an ancient copy of Ondine, the romantic tragedy of a knight and water nymph.

Taemin sets the tray on the lacquered low-table table and offers him the cup. Jonghyun sets the book aside, but not before placing the ragged gold tassel of a bookmark between the pages he’d been on, and takes proffered tea. Taemin waits until he drinks the first sip before he explains the blend.

The impressed raise of Jonghyun’s brows sets off something warm inside of Taemin. It may not be the most original, but he’d tried find something beneath all the bitter sea salt he can still taste on the back of his tongue.

“It’s a matcha latte,” Taemin says, “blended with vanilla and almond cream.”

He can’t tell Jonghyun how the flavors were chosen mostly because Taemin doesn’t know himself. The process has always been a mysterious thing to him. Not even his mother could unravel the hows and whys to it.

“It’s not bad,” Jonghyun murmurs contently. He seems to glow with pleasure.

“It’ll be available for purchase after your session, if you’d like to take some home.” Taemin says.

“Thanks,” Jonghyun says tipping his head. “I’ve got something for you, in return.”

Taemin makes to politely reject his offer but a look on Jonghyun’s face stops him. Like he has to give Taemin something in return.

Jonghyun works one of his many rings off. “It’s kind of a rule.” He says and holds it out to Taemin looking embarrassed.

The ring is no simple thing when Taemin takes it. Delicate wire painstakingly wrapped and sculpted to look like tiny coral with larger silver beads to depict barnacle. In the center is a cloudy aquamarine gemstone. Despite the artistry, it’s a more conservative piece of jewelry compared to the others decorating Jonghyun’s fingers.

Which is probably why he gifts it to Taemin with such ease.

“Thank you.” Taemin says unashamed of the awe in his voice. He slips the ring onto his index where it fits perfectly.

He shoots Jonghyun a surprised look. Jonghyun merely waves it off.

Taemin gives him a small smile, a polite bow, and leaves him to drink his latte as he waits.

Jinki is in the storefront when Taemin returns. He’s got the little menu that displays the shop’s teas and snacks in one hand while he curiously picks up the jewelry displayed on the counter.

When he notices he’s being watched, Jinki gives Taemin a wide smile. It transforms his face from boyishly handsome to something that toes the line of incredibly handsome.

Taemin’s stomach drops. Like he’s standing at a great height looking down.

“Can I help you?” The question trips lamely out of his mouth as he slips behind the counter. Being this much closer to Jinki, he notices his eyes for the first time. They’re a deep brown broken up by faint rings of gray.

Taemin thinks they’re beautiful.

“Your teas,” Jinki says, his smile still fixed pleasantly on his face, “they’re special aren’t they? You’re an oracle.”

“No.” Taemin replies too fast. “I mean. No. Not really?”

He isn’t. He isn’t because he chooses not to be. Taemin refuses to be.

Jinki must read that in his face. “I didn’t mean to pry or make you uncomfortable.” His smile tilts on apologetic. “The drink you made my friend wasn’t on the menu so I wondered how you had picked his favorite flavor tea so easily.”

He looks at Taemin like he’s magic.

Taemin’s cheeks burn under his gaze. It should definitely be the other way around; Jinki looks far more magical than Taemin will ever be in his whole life.

For the first time ever, in his entire history of working in the shop, Taemin leans against the counter top and flirts with a customer.

“That’s my little secret.” He says with a wink at Jinki.

It’s clumsy and embarrassing but there’s a giddy thrill in his veins when Jinki laughs low and warm. The sound sets off a strange fluttering beneath Taemin’s skin. It makes him think things like: I want to make him laugh all the time. His smile could end all the world’s problems.

I want to kiss him.

“Will you use your secret tea powers on me?” Jinki asks leaning in as well.

There’s a hopeful lilt to the question that Taemin can’t ignore. He nods shyly.

Taking a measured breath and slowly letting it out through his nose, Taemin opens his senses. Part of him can’t help but wonder if kissing Jinki, tasting the warmth of his mouth and feeling the softness of his full lips, would make reading him easier. Against the countertop, Taemin’s fingers curl.

The distinct citrus flavor of Earl Grey floods the back of his mouth. On the tip of his tongue, Taemin tastes the tangy, smooth sweetness of honeybush and vanilla. Something sharper settles low in his throat. Taemin swallows and tastes blood.

Maybe somewhere in Jinki’s bloodline there’s vampire. (Taemin pointedly does not think about Jinki’s teeth pressing into the tender skin of his neck.)

It’s as intriguing as it is intoxicating.

Taemin also faintly tastes something familiar but it’s hidden under the rich flavors of Jinki’s presence.

“You’re blending me, aren’t you?” Jinki jokes.

Taemin can’t help himself, the thrill of Jinki’s attention coaxing a bit of confidence out of him. “You taste very interesting.”

He pushes away from the counter before Jinki can say anything but Taemin doesn’t miss the soft huff of laughter. It settles between Taemin’s ribs like spiderweb, sticking in all the right spots.

Taemin turns to the ancient lacquered chest of drawers behind him. It’s an old thing, passed down in his family for generations, that has thirty small drawers with dividers. Each one holds an individual cloth sack of leaves, sprigs, or dried petals.

He prepares the tea all the while surreptitiously glancing at Jinki. He tries on the mood rings, one for each finger, as Taemin mixes Earl Grey with ground honeybush and vanilla sprigs. Jinki smiles when he catches Taemin’s eyes, wiggles the rings at him, and Taemin’s fingers trip over themselves as he roots in the tea drawer for the glass container holding the dried blood orange.

Carefully, Taemin spoons out a small heaping of the blend into a ball-shaped strainer with the rest of the ingredients.

Jinki’s pulling the rings from his fingers when Taemin drops the strainer into a cup. It’s a plain ceramic dish painted lilac. Something about it suits Jinki, maybe because of the color of his hair or the gentle smile on his face as he strokes the dangling display of crystal pendulums hanging from the branches of a fake bonsai tree.

Taemin takes the electric tea kettle off its hot plate and carefully pours steaming water over the strainer. Slowly, the aroma of the blend wafts around him.

“It smells delicious,” Jinki says. He’s even got his nose in the air, scenting. His fingers tap restlessly on the counter.

Taemin laughs in a short huff. “It should steep a little longer.”

Jinki’s reply is a look that says Taemin should learn how to control water temperature and Taemin holds his hands up innocently.

“I just make the tea.” He admits.

“I guess getting a leaf reading is out of the question, then?”

It’s an innocent question. There’s no possible way Jinki could know and yet, Taemin freezes.

A cold panic skitters under his skin like the legs of a dozen tiny insects. It’s completely disgusting and uncomfortable, and Taemin can’t control it. Even his breath has hitched from the feeling.

There’s no way Jinki could know that nothing good ever comes out of Taemin reading tea leaves, that he brings death and sorrow when he looks into the bottom of a cup.

He can’t know.

There’s a static fog in Taemin’s head. In it, the ugly black shapes of his mom’s death omen rise like corporeal things. A car. A broken body. A casket.

Jinki’s hand slides warm and soft over his own.

The crawling panicky sensation is replaced by the slow build of tiny electrical storms shooting up Taemin’s fingers to his wrist and travelling the length of his arm to burn across his chest. It’s clears the fog in his head like a comet streaking through the vast darkness of space.

“Vampire.” Taemin huffs out in surprise. The sudden evaporation of his spiraling thoughts leaves him feeling off-kilter and breathless. It feels exactly like they’d been sucked out of him.

Jinki laughs, a rich staccato sound, and that’s how Minho finds them when he and Jonghyun emerge. Jinki’s hand is still on Taemin’s and he’s got a wide smile stretched across his face.

Taemin doesn’t miss the thunderous expression Minho tries to hide. Doesn’t miss how hurt he looks. It makes his skin feel tight, too small, to fit across his bones. Taemin also finds his throat filling with burnt cinnamon and soured cream and that’s what he’d tasted from Jinki earlier, the familiar undertone he couldn’t place.

He places it now. Taemin had tasted Minho mingled with Jinki.

It clicks and understanding sinks in like an anvil in an ocean, and he feels so stupid. The boyfriend. Jinki is the boyfriend.

Taemin slides his eyes to Jonghyun’s blank face but can’t find the strength to pull out of Jinki’s hold.

Minho looks between them, Jinki hasn’t turned around yet, and that stings.

A few dry clicks in the back of his throat and then, finally, “Hyung.” He pointedly ignores Jinki’s hand on Taemin’s. He even sounds pleasant, plasters a smile on his face that hurts. “What are you doing here?”

At last, Jinki turns.

There’s a shy look on his face, a look Minho is achingly familiar with, but rings dully in Minho’s chest.

“I came to see you. To see your work.” Jinki says smiling.

He has no idea, Minho thinks. He has no idea that their relationship is crumbling around them. Jinki’s forgotten and Minho’s burdened with remembering.

“I work in the back,” he says as fondly as he can manage.

“That’s why I sent him,” Jinki hitches his thumb at Jonghyun with a secretive smile. “Under cover. I had it all planned.”

Despite himself, Minho warms as usual under Jinki’s attention.

“Plus,” Jinki continues, “I’ve just been made a special cup of tea. One of a kind, for my mouth only. Right?” He turns to Taemin with a gentle smile.

Minho is, by nature, a passionate person to the point of being called competitive. His blood has just always run hotter. He’s quick to anger and even quicker to fall into the acidic claws of jealousy. Maybe he was born under a bad sign. Maybe it’s blowback from his gifts.

In any case, his blood boils at the soft look Jinki gives Taemin.

If Minho really thinks about it, he isn’t even upset at Jinki. They’d had several long discussions about their relationship over the years, communicated openly about what they wanted from each other. Jinki’s interest in an open relationship, in possibly adding a trio to their duo, was an avenue they discussed in depth as well.

“As a species, we have the greatest capacity for two things.” Jinki said over beers and take-away almost a year into their relationship. “Cruelty and love. To combat the cruelty of the world, we should love more. We should love longer, deeper, and comfortably. I’m comfortable loving you, with what we have being enough, but I’m also equally comfortable sharing my heart with another.”

Minho spent months thinking about that. Researching open and polyamorous relationships. It took a lot of self reflection and introspection to set aside the almost indoctrinated thoughts that love could only happen between two people. Because he did love Jinki and he didn’t want to discredit his beliefs and desires.

He wouldn’t be a cage for Jinki.

It had taken awhile for Minho to come to peace with Jinki’s larger than life heart. He had to analyze his fear and jealousy until he realized most of it was petty and unproductive, and even toxic.

So no, if he thinks about it, Minho isn’t angry with Jinki who had made it clear where he stood on their relationship. He isn’t even angry with Taemin because he’s got no idea about any of this.

Minho is angry at himself and it’s easier to lash out than to understand.

Which is why he doesn’t think about any of that when Jinki and Jonghyun finally leave; Minho distracting Jinki from drinking the tea Taemin prepared for him.

He catches Taemin roughly by the elbow as they are closing up shop. Mr. Lee, puttering around upstairs.

“You don’t get to talk to him.” Minho hisses as Taemin tries to jerk his arm free. “Or serve him your weird tea. All you get to do is stand behind the counter with your dead mother.”

He lets go of Taemin with a shove, leaves him to finish alone, and storms out of the shop.

[ next ]

Notes: if you’ve made it this far, forgive me for the crazy pov jumps. it’s intentional but i know it comes off ridiculous. i’m sorry. and i guess while i’m making apologies, sorry for screwing up characterizations? it’s been awhile since my last shinee fic and to be honest, i don’t follow them as closely as i used to.

i made up a bunch of lore for this as well, particularly concerning sirens ha ha. they don't have to physically open their mouths to sing, the call of the siren is something inherent and kind manifests like an auditory hallucination. odysseus used beeswax as protection against them in the myths so in my lore, i was thinking stones or crystals similar to beeswax in color such as yellow jade and jasper, as well as yellow aventurine. the ring jonghyun gave taemin wasn't for protection. in my weird siren lore, when one is given a personal gift (such as the tea taemin makes) a siren must give up something personal in return that suits the person they are giving it to in someway.

onew inspiration & jonghyun inspiration.

started: 2013-09-13
Tags: *wip, fandom: shinee, length: chaptered, medium: kpop, pairing: jinki/minho, rating: pg
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