Rating: PG (Will be NC-17 later since requester asked for smut.)
Warning: None, so far
Genre: Age Gap/Steampunk AU
Wordcount: 1400 (out of 55 000)
Disclaimer: I am not associated with SME in any way. I do not own SHINee. This is just for fun.
Summary: Minho and Key are both orphans, growing up in the same flea-ridden orphanage, high above the sprawling city streets. Even though six years separate them they have come to form a strange alliance: Every night they sneak outside to watch the airships go by in the skies, dreaming of their escape. Though now, for the first time, as Minho is turning legal, age threathens to separate them.
A/N: Ok, here it is. The first look at the fic, forged from the winning prompt in the fic prompt poll. I was just gonna write and post a short teaser on tumblr, but then I couldn't stop writing, and it formed into a prologue instead. And instead of torturing you with longer passages on tumblr with tiny font I'm publishing it here. I won't post the rest until it's completely finished (except for the occasional teaser), so you'll have to do with this in the meantime. I hope it's at least enough to whet your apetite. Suffice it to say, I'm really excited for this story! I hope after reading this you will be too :)
EDIT: All parts are now up!
FIND ME BENEATH THE STARS /
There is a soft tap on the window, barely heard for someone who isn’t listening for it. Kibum, however, is. He sits up directly on his hard, narrow bed. The room he shares with three other boys is quiet, there’s only the soft sound of the others snoring. None of them seems to have heard what he's heard.
As soundlessly as he can Kibum puts his feet down on the cold floor and stands up. The floorboards are old and dry and prone to creak, but Kibum has done this enough times now to know exactly where to place his feet to not make a sound.
Minho’s pale face outlined against the night sky on the other side of the window always makes his heart beat a little faster. This is the best time of the day in Kibum’s opionion. It looks like it’s a clear night outside.
He undoes the latch and pushes the window open slowly. Cold night air enters the room. The other boys shift in their sleep, pulling at their blankets, but doesn't wake. Minho smiles and reaches his hand through the gap and pulls Kibum through and out onto the chilly shingles of the roof outside.
Turning around and crouching Kibum closes the window behind him, leaving only a gap big enough for him to push it open again when he returns.
They’re pretty high up – all over the city buildings are stacked on one another in mottled, towering structures, reaching for the sky like multicoloured antstacks. They're built like that to conserve space and the orphanage is close to the top of one of these structures. It’s a long drop to the narrow, muddy, crowded streets below.
They’ve done this plenty of times before without accident however, and Kibum feels safe with his hand tightly clutched in Minho’s. The buildings are very close to each-other, the curved rooftops overlapping and Minho and Kibum cross them with little trouble. Wherever there is a gap Minho jumps first, and then reaches out to help Kibum across, lifting him by the waist with practiced ease.
They’re almost six years apart but Minho has always treated him like an equal. Kibum has never really understood why - there’s nothing differentiating him from the other emaciated, dirty kids at the orphanage, at least not to his knowledge. Minho however, has always stood apart from the others. Ever since he walked through the door five years ago he’s been popular with everyone, children and staff alike. Although perhaps not with the Matron of the orphanage who looks disapproving on him breaking the rules so often.
Kibum has to suppress the urge to laugh, imagining the look on the Matron’s face if she would ever find out they've done this almost every night. Minho is Kibum’s hero. One day he hopes he’s going to be just like him; handsome and brave, and most of all, caring. Minho might be a rulebreaker, but he’s the nicest person Kibum knows. He’s never heard him utter a bad word about anyone (except perhaps the Matron), and he’s always there to help anyone in case of trouble.
About Kibum’s high opinion of him Minho is totally oblivious of course. Kibum guards his feelings more close than anything he owns. He’s been hurt and abandoned too many times not to. Minho is the only person in this world he's come to trust.
They finally reach the highest point of the block, on top of an old tea house. The slight wind carries with it the scents of tea, candlewax and incense from inside. It’s a familiar, safe smell, the best smell Kibum knows, because he associates it with these quiet moments with Minho.
As they reach the edge of the roof Minho lets go of Kibum’s hand and lies down on the slanting, slightly concave roof. Breath in his throat like always Kibum is quick to lie down on his back, right next to him, their arms just touching.
They don’t say much.
They almost never do.
Above them the night sky stretches out like a big marine canvas. It’s mostly clear, only the occasional cloud drifting across the shower of stars above. Silently the airships float in front of the heavenly backdrop, the lights of their many lights and lanterns like colourful stars of their own.
Occasionally Minho will reach up with an arm and point out a specific one. No words are needed: Kibum already knows all the names and models thanks to Minho’s many lessons. His eyes follows the dark contours of a large battle frigate floating by with barely a whirr of its engines high above.
Minho dreams of becoming an airship captain on a ship just like that. An impossible dream, because only nobles can become officers in the army, but neither of them ever mention this fact. Dreams are frail, precious things in the orphanage. Lifelines of the finest thread. To cut one is to kill.
Kibum turns his head, abandoning the sight of the ship to look at Minho instead. He often does this, but Minho doesn’t seem to notice, and if he does he doesn’t mind.
Kibum likes watching Minho watching the ships, perhaps more than he likes watching the ships themselves. The dreaming look on Minho’s face, the excited glimmer in his eyes, as he watches the huge airstriders is something he only shows at these times, and Kibum feels special he’s the only one who gets to see it.
Minho might be kind, but just like the other kids at the orphanage he wears an invisible armour to protect his true feelings during the days. To show weakness, even excitement, might get you hurt, or provide someone else with fodder enough to harm you. It’s only in these precious moments that Kibum feels he’s really close to Minho. Like he’s touching his very soul.
Minho’s hand is lying relaxed on the terracotta shingles beside him. Hesitantly Kibum reaches out and takes it in his. He’s never dared to do this before, but tonight he feels a little braver than usual. Feeling the slight touch Minho turns his head a little, and offers him a small smile, a smile that makes Kibum’s insides feel like they’re filled with molten gold.
It’s the last time they’ll get to do this. Tomorrow is Minho’s eighteenth birthday; he’ll turn legal and the orphanage has no obligation or will to keep him anymore. There are hundreds of other children, vying for his place. Even if life in the orphanage can be a struggle on most days, it’s nothing compared to life outside it. In there at least they have a roof over their heads, and food on the table, even if it's not much.
Kibum would like nothing more than to go with Minho, but he’s too young. Minho will have trouble enough finding himself a job, to keep himself off the streets – he can’t be responsible for a twelve year old kid as well. Kibum knows that, so he hasn’t even brought it up as a suggestion. Besides, the Matron would never allow him to leave.
She still hopes someone will come and adopt him, though Kibum doesn’t know why. Who would pay to raise him? He’s too old, and nobody ever comes to pick a kid up from here anyway, there are better places to find less emaciated, less flea-bitten, less disillusioned kids.
Minho came to the orphanage already too old, after having lived on the streets for years, and there was never any hope for him to get adopted, no matter his many charms. If some couple were to show up, ready to adopt a scruffy kid, they would pick someone younger, not already so shaped by the harsh world outside the orphanage walls; not someone who knows more about pilfering people off their belongings than math, history or religion.
“You promise you’ll come for me?” Kibum’s voice is but a weak whisper. He’s almost afraid to form the words, afraid Minho will take back what he’s said before, but he needs the reassurance, he needs to know he didn’t just dream it.
“The moment you turn eighteen I’ll come for you,” Minho repeats his promise.
“The twenty-third of September?” Kibum asks, careful to repeat the date, afraid Minho will forget it.
“The twenty-third of September,” Minho vows.
“And you’ll write to me often before then? You’ll come visit me?”
“As often as I can.”
Kibum squeezes his hand a little harder and turns back for the stars and the floating ships, reassured for now.
As he lies there, feeling that small fluttering in his chest, as if tiny butterflies mingling with the molten gold, he doesn’t know no letters will ever come to him, and that this is the last he’ll see of Minho for a long, long time.
For now he’s blissfully unaware of such things.