When Jonghyun tells people he’s tired, many assume it’s because of his hectic schedule as both a late night radio DJ and a full time idol.
They’re not wrong, but it goes much deeper than that.
“Tired” doesn’t do it justice. He’s beyond tired these days.
It’s not just that Jonghyun can’t sleep; it’s the depression that leaves him feeling physically exhausted almost constantly. It’s the paranoia caused by his anxiety due to his lack of sleep. It’s snapping at his members because he can’t remember the last time he slept for more than 4 hours in a row.
On the off chance that Jonghyun manages to fall asleep, he is violently awoken by night terrors. The thought of sleep begins to scare him. Jonghyun knows he needs sleep to stay alive, but his body just won’t cooperate.
The bone deep ache that follows him throughout his workday is only made worse by the buzzing in his brain the second his head hits the pillow.
Jonghyun refuses to let his insomnia affect his work though. He drinks as much coffee as he can until he realizes how counterproductive it can be. Then he switches to tea and just hopes he can stay awake during his broadcasts.
Jonghyun wishes SHINee would come off of hiatus soon. Not just because he truly loves performing, but because it is much easier to fall asleep after a good performance. The love and energy he feels from his fans gives him the boost he needs to stay alert during the day which allows his body to regulate his awake/asleep timing.
It’s during breaks when Jonghyun suffers the most. Having free time is a blessing and Jonghyun has been an idol long enough to know that he’s lucky to be able to take year long breaks without worrying that his fanbase will move on. He trusts his shawols. It’s just that with all that free time comes the weight of Jonghyun’s thoughts pressing down on him. He doesn’t have the pressure of schedules to distract him, so his brain is free to wander.
Many times, he’s grateful that his brain is so active. It provides him with inspiration that he channels into his songwriting. He just wishes that his brain would learn when to shut up.
When it comes to home remedies, he’s tried it all: warm baths before bed, blackout curtains, aromatherapy, white noise generators, and a “sounds of the ocean” CD. He even almost considered Taemin’s suggestion of hypnosis. Almost.
With each failed method, Jonghyun falls more and more into despair.
He refuses to talk to his managers about his problem though. He doesn’t want them to worry about him as well. He’s already got his members hovering over him; he doesn’t think he could handle anybody else doing the same. He hasn’t even told his mother which he knows is a sign that something is actually wrong, but his mother has enough to worry about without knowing that her son is suffering like this.
While the rest of his members sympathize with the bone deep tiredness that comes with being idols for the past 10 years, none of them can truly understand with him, and Jonghyun is glad for that. He wouldn’t wish this gnawing feeling on anybody.
He figures he’ll wait it out. This can’t go on forever, right?
Minho suggests Jonghyun join him on morning jogs.
“It’ll help clear your head, hyung,” Minho says. “After a good run I feel so much lighter,”
Jonghyun, not one to deliberately hurt Minho’s feelings, agrees.
The two meet bright and early to begin a light jog around their dorm area, and Jonghyun doesn’t hate it. He knows Minho is holding back from what he usually runs, and for that Jonghyun is thankful. He doesn’t think he can go from zero to Choi Minho in one morning without severely injuring himself. Minho doesn’t try and attempt conversation at such an early hour, preferring to focus on his form, so Jonghyun is free to just experience what their neighborhood looks like as it shakes off the cover of nighttime and prepares for a new day.
Day by day, Minho extends their runs, subtle enough at first that Jonghyun doesn’t realize he’s passed that sign twice more than he usually does, but eventually he catches on when his legs and lungs begin to burn.
He can’t really get upset at Minho because Jonghyun is the one who joined in on Minho’s private time in the first place. However, this unofficial sleep therapy simply tires Jonghyun out in a completely different way. Instead of quieting his brain by exhausting his body, Jonghyun is stuck with an overactive brain and a body too tired to do anything about it.
Minho looks truly crestfallen when Jonghyun tells him he doesn’t think he’ll be joining Minho in the morning anymore, as if it’s his fault.
Jonghyun spends the afternoon letting Minho beat him in Mario Kart to make it up to him. He even pretends to be upset each time he loses.
Jinki has known about Jonghyun’s insomnia issue for almost as long as Jonghyun has suffered through it. Not only is it impossible to hide something from Jinki because of his role as both the eldest and the leader, but Jonghyun would never want to in the first place. Jinki makes Jonghyun feel warm and safe, his presence blanketing over Jonghyun in a way he desperately needs. Jinki’s attempts at helping ranges from “genuinely helpful but ultimately ineffective” to “what exactly did you Google to find this article?”
The juice debacle was a mixture of both.
“Look Jinki, I know you’re trying to be helpful but I thinking this much cherry juice is going to be…counterproductive,” he says gently as he gestures to the 2-gallon jug of juice Jinki ordered from a specialty store.
“What do you mean? I read it’s supposed to help produce melanin-”
“Melatonin,” Kibum corrects.
“And it’s supposed to help you sleep so I bought as much as I could. I figure the more you drink the more melatonin and the better you’ll sleep,” he smiles.
“First of all, the stomach can’t hold one gallon, let alone two. It’s only this big,” Kibum says as he holds up his fist, “And secondly, even if he did drink all of that, he’d wake up every half hour to go pee anyways.”
Jinki’s smile slips off as he realizes that his plan wasn’t as helpful as he thought it would be.
Kibum pats Jinki’s shoulder and takes the jug of cherry juice with him, silently muttering to himself about whether or not he could mix it with vodka. Knowing Kibum, he can and he will.
Jonghyun rises from his bed and gives Jinki a soft kiss, thanking him for the thought and asks if he would mind singing Jonghyun something to help him fall asleep. Jinki’s responding smile puts Jonghyun at ease, and he thinks tonight might be the night he gets the deep sleep he can only fantasize about.
Ultimately, it doesn’t work, but Jinki’s soft voice sure beats the buzzing he usually hears when he lays down so Jonghyun considers it a win.
Bless his heart, Taemin tries.
Jonghyun knows he does.
Maybe the hypnosis suggestion was a bit left field, but it just shows Taemin cares.
Unfortunately, hypnosis was actually Taemin’s best idea. His idea for scented candles was a good idea in theory, but ultimately blew up in his face.
“Maybe you should have asked Kibum before you went through his things,” Jonghyun says softly, petting Taemin’s hair to calm him down from the blowout he and Kibum just had.
“I really didn’t think he would mind though,” he whines, “Especially since he knows how much you need them.”
Sighing, Jonghyun continues, “Maybe he wouldn’t have minded if you took one or two, but taking all 12 of his specialty candles may have been a bit too much.”
Taemin is still pouting, so Jonghyun asks if he wants to watch an episode of Naruto to help him fall asleep. Taemin is already out of the room looking through his DVD collection before Jonghyun even finishes his sentence.
It’s not the way Jonghyun wanted to spend his night, but when he looks at Taemin completely enraptured in the scene on his laptop, he can’t bring himself to care.
After Taemin has replaced all of Kibum’s candles and promised to buy him the specialty candles that only come out during the holidays, Kibum cools down.
Jonghyun knows better than to try and talk to Kibum when he’s upset, he leaves that to Minho. Knowing Jonghyun’s luck, he would only make Kibum even angrier by accidentally trivializing the situation.
So he waits. He waits until one night when he is so unbelievably exhausted that he is willing to do anything to ignore the buzzing in his head, and that includes listening to Kibum talk about how the gender binary is a suffocating and ridiculous myth perpetuated by society and if he wants to wear a skirt during a concert, he will goddammit.
Normally, Jonghyun would join right in on this conversation, but he’s just so drained that he can only nod his head at the appropriate times and let Kibum talk himself tired as well. Jonghyun’s head begins to droop around the time Kibum begins talking about how makeup has no gender, and by the time Kibum reaches the topic of toxic masculinity and how it’s crippling men, Jonghyun’s head has fallen into Kibum’s lap. Kibum just chuckles and begins running his fingers through Jonghyun’s hair as he tells him a story about this outfit he saw for Commes Des and how he needs to find something complimentary for Garcon as well because he doesn’t want Garcon to think he favors one son over the other.
Before Jonghyun knows it, he’s wiping the drool off his mouth and looking up at Kibum’s sleeping face as well. He’s hesitant to check his phone for the time, doesn’t think he can handle knowing he only took a 5 minute nap, but when he unlocks his phone he actually gasps.
3 p.m.? How in the hell…?
“Bummie,” he nudges Kibum’s thigh to try and rouse him, “Bummie wake up.”
Kibum groans and pushes Jonghyun’s hand off, complaining that it’s too early to be annoying.
“Kibum,” Jonghyun says, “it’s 3 in the afternoon.” He sits up, barely holding in his joy.
“Wait,” Kibum scratches his head, “you’re just waking up?”
Jonghyun eagerly nods his head, growing happier at the fact that the simple movement doesn’t hurt despite having his head in Kibum’s lap for almost 14 hours.
Which, speaking of, “I really need to pee.”
Kibum just laughs and points him in the direction of the bathroom.
The second he leaves Kibum’s room, he hears a wolf whistle from the couch where Minho and Taemin are playing on the Wii and Jinki is refereeing.
“Looks like someone had a good night,” Taemin teases.
“Yeah,” Minho joins, “we were almost going to send in a search party. I suggested we slide food under the door like prison, but Jinki wouldn’t let me waste any rice.”
Jinki shrugs, “Why waste good food?”
Jonghyun only smiles, “You guys, we just slept.”
“I’m sure you did,” Minho winks.
“No really, we just slept. I slept. This whole time,” This time Jonghyun can’t hold his smile back and begins to laugh happily.
The three in the living room begin to realize why he’s so happy begin to grin as well. Minho even gets up to give Jonghyun a congratulatory hug, but Jonghyun asks him to wait until he has a chance to go pee.
Minho raises his hands in surrender and unpauses his game as Jonghyun takes care of his business.
From the bathroom, he can hear Kibum getting the same treatment he did, wolf whistles and all. It doesn’t take long for the whistles to turn to shouting and for at least one pillow to be thrown in Minho’s face. Jonghyun wouldn’t have it any other way.
It becomes a habit after that. Jonghyun will come to Kibum’s room on the especially rough nights when his body just can’t go one more minute without some form of a recharge. Sometime’s they’ll talk, other times they’ll watch TV. On rare occasions Kibum will simply scroll through his SNS while running his fingers through Jonghyun’s hair. Jonghyun doesn’t say anything, but those nights are his favorite. Just being with Kibum is a gift, but having his attention on Jonghyun without expecting anything back in return? There’s nothing better in his mind.
Eventually, Jonghyun spends so much time in Kibum’s room that his own room seems so cold and empty. He couldn’t sleep in there even if he didn’t have this problem. It’s not warm enough, it doesn’t have Kibum.
One night Jonghyun goes to Kibum’s room after getting home from the Blue Night show and finds the room empty.
That’s weird, Bummie’s never out this late when he doesn’t have a schedule.
He almost gets his phone out to text Kibum to ask where he is, but he sees Jinki rummaging in the kitchen so he goes to ask him first.
“Oh hey Jonghyun,” he mumbles as a rice cake hangs out his mouth, “What’s up?”
“Have you seen Kibum? He’s not in his room.”
“I think he said he had plans with Kibum,” Jinki replies.
Confused, Jonghyun asks, “Is that code for he went to go jerk off or…?”
“No no,” Jinki laughs, “Kim Kibum, his model twin. I think he said they were going to get dinner or something. I think it’s because of that shoot they did together a while ago.”
Disappointed, Jonghyun thanks Jinki before heading back to Kibum’s room to wait up for him.
Kibum doesn’t return until much later than Jonghyun thought he would and by that time Jonghyun has already fallen in and out of sleep too many times to try it again. Kibum slips quietly into his room and slowly gets changed into his pajamas. He lets out a surprised noise when he sees Jonghyun in his bed, but only gently pushes him over so he can get into bed as well.
No matter how hard he tries Jonghyun just can’t sleep that night.
He’s just too cold.
It becomes a pattern. Kibum goes out with Kibum (still confusing) until all hours of the night. They go to clubs together, they get dinner together, Kibum goes to Kibum’s fashion shows. They take selcas together and joke about how the twins are back together.
Jonghyun thinks it’s weird. Why would you joke about the person you’re dating being your twin brother? It’s gross. They’re being gross.
Maybe he’s being childish, but hey, blame that on the sudden lack of sleep.
His body aches like no other. It seems like after finally knowing what a good night’s sleep feels like, it’s even more reluctant to go back to a state of deprival.
He’s going through Kibum withdrawals and it absolutely sucks.
The lack of sleep after such a long stretch of restfulness slaps Jonghyun flat on his ass. He feels so frustrated because he was doing so well. His quality of work was improving, his mood was better, and he just felt happier.
For a moment he wants to turn his feeling of helplessness into anger. He wants to snap at Taemin when he asks another stupid question about Kibum's whereabouts. He wants to tell Minho to piss off with his bullshit positivity. He wants Jinki to leave him the hell alone so he can at least suffer in solitude. Most of all though, he wants to yell at Kibum; it's his fault after all.
Except it's not. It's not Kibum's fault and Jonghyun knows it.
It's not Kibum's fault that he wants to be happy and that he's found it with Other Kibum. It's also not Minho's fault, or Taemin's, or Jinki's.
Jonghyun feels horrible for even thinking about being so cruel to his members when he knows they only want to help him. They're his family and they don't deserve to be treated the way Jonghyun has been treating them.
He knows this so he makes it his mission to apologize as profoundly to each member, but especially Kibum.
The cold shoulder he's been giving is almost as draining as his lack of sleep and he knows it's especially cruel to Kibum. He's extremely insecure about his relationships with people, so for Jonghyun to cut him off almost completely must be throwing Kibum for a total loop.
Thinking about it makes Jonghyun feel even worse and he resolves to talk to Kibum as soon as he gets home from his schedule.
He sits waiting outside Kibum's room, almost dozing off into a fitful sleep when he hears the front door open. He shoots up in time to see Kibum waving Jinki off to bed with a smile. That smile immediately drops when he sees Jonghyun waiting for him and Jonghyun has to actively try not to cry.
"Bum-" he starts, but the cold glare he receives tells him that nicknames aren't going to fly tonight.
"Oh look," Kibum sneers, "he remembers me. How nice."
He shoves his way past Jonghyun and into his room and takes off his jacket angrily.
"Kibum, I'm sorry," Jonghyun says meekly.
"Oh? You are? What for?" Kibum stage whispers, conscious of their sleeping members. "Was it for ignoring me and treating me like a stranger in my own home? Or for making me feel like absolute shit every single time you looked at me like I just killed your family? Please tell me Jonghyun, because I would love to fucking know what I did to deserve this bullshit."
Kibum is heaving as he waits for Jonghyun's response, his entire body wound tight as a drum.
"And another thing," Kibum says, "you have a lot of nerve to try and apologize and ask for any type of forgiveness when I don't even know if I want to forgive you. Did you think about that? I mean you must have had a lot of time to think about it while you were plotting on just how to make me feel so awful. God, Jonghyun, what did I do to you to make you hate me so much?"
Kibum's voice breaks and ducks his head to hide the tears welling up.
Softly, Jonghyun walks into Kibum's room and closes the door behind him.
"You didn't do anything Kibum."
"It's my fault. I was jealous and I turned into a horribly cruel person and I am so sorry that I hurt you."
"What the hell do you have to be jealous of, Jonghyun? What was it that I did that was so offensive to you?"
Jonghyun clears his throat around the lump he feels forming and says, "You left me."
Dumbstruck, Kibum lifts his head and shoots an incredulous look at Jonghyun.
"Left you? I left you?"
Jonghyun sees that he's only upsetting Kibum more and tries to backtrack.
"No, that's not what I meant. I just, I came home one night to your room and you weren't here and Jinki told me you were on a date with some model named Kibum and I thought I was okay with it because he made you happy but I just couldn't be happy because I was so fucking tired because I can only sleep when I'm with you because you make me feel more safe than anybody I've ever met and I am so sorry that I hurt you Kibum, I really am. I understand if you want to hate me forever because I deserve it but I just wanted you to know that I am so sorry for hurting you and making you feel like I stopped loving you, because I could never do that."
Jonghyun takes in a large breath and the tears flow against his will. He tries to cover his mouth to hide the sobs because he doesn't want Kibum to think he's trying to guilt his way out of this situation, but he just feels so awful. All the frustration and insecurity come rushing out at once and before Jonghyun knows it, he's crying on the floor of Kibum's room.
He can't imagine how uncomfortable Kibum must be right now, but he's too drained to slink back to his own room to wallow in his own misery.
He doesn't hear anything over the sound of himself crying so the yelp he lets out when Kibum pulls Jonghyun into his arms is completely justified.
Kibum is running his fingers through Jonghyun's hair and shushing him until his tears become nothing more than loud sniffles.
"Jonghyun, you need to talk to me about these things," he says gently but firmly. "I can't read your mind here, so if you're hurting because of me I have the right to know what I'm doing that's hurting you. And if you had bothered to ask about me and Kibumee, you would know that we aren't dating."
Jonghyun looks up in confusion and Kibum sighs.
"We've never officially or unofficially dated each other. We're good friends who enjoy each other's company. We hang out together if we're in town because we're both so busy, but it's never gone any further than that."
"But I thought you..." Jonghyun starts.
"Had sex?" Kibum finishes. Jonghyun slowly nods.
"Sometimes we do, but calling your own name during sex just gets confusing after a while so we stopped. And even if we didn't have sex, I would still be spending time with him because he's my friend and I like him."
Jonghyun looks away embarrassed, but before he can profusely apologize again, Kibum grabs his hands and intertwines their fingers.
"I like him," he repeats, "but not in the way that I love you."
He tilts Jonghyun's head up by the chin and presses a soft kiss to Jonghyun's forehead, then his fluttering eyelids, his puffy nose, and finally, his lips.
"I need you to know that there is no way a friend of a few years could ever replace you in my heart. But I also need you to know that I'm going to keep spending time with Kibumee when we both have the time because he's a good friend and he makes me laugh, okay?"
Jonghyun nods dumbly, and lets Kibum pull him off the ground.
He sits on Kibum's bed while he goes to fetch a cup of water for Jonghyun to drink.
"I don't want to have to deal with you having a headache tomorrow morning, so drink up."
Jonghyu complies and awkwardly holds the cup once he's done.
He waits for Kibum to change into his pajamas before he gets up to say goodnight.
What he doesn't expect is for Kibum to pull him back into bed and hold him tight.
"Where do you think you're going this time, huh? I thought you wanted to get some sleep."
And like that, Kibum begins to doze off, but not without a kiss to Jonghyun's temple.
That night isn't the best night's sleep he's ever had to be honest. His nose is blocked up from crying and it's causing wild sinus pressure, but he looks at Kibum sleeping and thinks that even if tonight isn't the best, tomorrow night will be. The night after that too.
Jonghyun's insomnia isn't magically fixed after that night. He still has nightmares and days when even Kibum's soft reassurances and scalp massages can't lull him to sleep. He knows that this is something he's going to deal with for a long time, but as long as he knows Kibum is on his side he isn't as afraid as he used to be. Now he even looks forward to sleep each night, and that's a miracle in and of itself.