“I mean, it’s a little strange, isn’t it? I actually took a sabbatical from work, to join this thing. Is my Korean okay? I’m forever worried that I am too rude, because in Mandarin there’s no such thing as formal speech structure and raising or lowering your speech structure anymore. My Korean sounds native? Thank you. I worked very hard at it before I made the decision to join preliminary auditions.”
-- ZHOU Mi (33), publicist.
“Why not? Was what I was thinking when Super Junior suggested I sign myself up for this. Have you heard them? They’re a good bunch of kids, even if I do say so myself. It was either this, or American Idol, and I think I trust our three judges a bit more than Simon Cowell.”
-- Henry LAU (30), music producer.
Previously on Sing! Idol,
Battle Challenge winner: KYUHYUN
Two weeks feels too long and like a flash simultaneously.
The ten of them are all back together again and there’s a lot of hugging and catching up from everyone, for all that everyone has been texting in the giant KakaoTalk group chat everyday. Changmin saw Hyukjae and Yunho, and talked to Kyuhyun near daily over text but still sometimes two weeks felt like two months, instead.
It was good to go home, to visit his team and work until Jinwoo and Hyunseok forced him to take the rest of the week off in the second week.
It was good to go home properly and finally have dinner with his family.
His mother spent half the dinner ripping his performances apart and the other half of it lecturing Sooyeon and Jiyeon that their big brother will be the winner of Sing! Idol, mark her words.
While her mouth ran on, she also piled too much meat into his serving bowl, so much that Changmin had difficulty finishing. He doesn’t have a small appetite.
At the sight of the leftovers, she interrupted her own postulating so she could harangue him about his “dieting complex, do you really think you are a celebrity now? Is that why you are not eating? Do you want to waste away? Do you want to trouble me so much that I have to go on that Hello! show, just to get their help to make you live your life like an upright man?”
Jiyeon rolled her eyes. Sooyeon filmed their mother on the sly just so she could snip her expressions into stickers and spam Changmin in his private KaTalk with them, whilst pointing out how some of Changmin’s expressions in Sing! Idol are right out of their mother’s face.
Changmin just smiled blandly at Sooyeon over the dining table whilst tapping out simultaneously on his phone, that’s because half my genes are hers, you idiot.
The producers interrupt their hugging long enough to let them know that if they wish to, everyone can have a room to themselves, since there are only ten of them now.
Changmin catches Kyuhyun’s eye. Kyuhyun mouths, I’ve got a case of white. Changmin shakes his head when Jooyoung asks him if he’ll like to pick his own room.
“Nah, I’m good rooming with Kyuhyun,” he says.
Jooyoung’s eyebrow arches, but he shrugs, accepting their decision. Likewise, Henry and Zhou Mi choose to stay roomed together too (“I get lonely and Mi is used to my chattering,” Henry offers when Zhou Mi sighs theatrically but didn’t contest the claim).
On the other hand, Yunho’s had a single room for his sole use ever since he won rock-paper-scissors amongst all the men when they first played for rooms on their first day, and Chanyeol’s used to having a room all to himself after Kyungsoo got sent home.
“By the way,” Youngmin says, straight-faced despite the fact that five cameramen have their lenses focused on the full-bodied hugs Wendy and Irene are doing to each other. “The next challenge is duets. We’re feeling like nice people this week, so you’re allowed to pick your own partner. You need to prepare both a duet with your partner, and also a solo song. The pair with the lowest score as voted by the audience will have to go up against each other with their solo song. Thereafter, the half of the pair with the lowest score will be eliminated.”
There’s a moment of silence as everyone processes this, and then utter pandemonium erupts.
Ten people are all talking at once, and some have resorted to physically pulling people to them to claim their partners. Amber and Wendy are both talking very loudly over each other and at him.
Changmin raises his voice. “Kyu.”
Kyuhyun looks up, ducking away from Zhou Mi’s grasp, and goes without missing a beat: “Fine, but I’m picking the song and I don’t feel like having Korean.”
“It’s not like you’re ordering takeout,” Changmin says without heat. He knocks his shoulder against Kyuhyun’s when the latter finally is able to fight his way over.
“Can we do same-gender duet pairings? Are there same-gendered duets?” Chanyeol wonders, and shrinks back a little, when both Youngjin and Changmin go monotonously in tandem, “ yes and why not?” and Kyuhyun eyes him with raised eyebrows.
“I’m not suggesting anything-" Chanyeol tries to explain, and gives up, opting to dive over and under Taeyeon’s outstretched arm that’s dangerously near Yunho.
“Yunho is mine,” he tells Taeyeon’s rapidly darkening expression. “He’s my team member too, and it’s just the two of us men left on this team, so it makes all the sense in the world for me to pick him.”
Yunho just looks amused. There’s a lopsided grin on his face. He catches Changmin’s eye by accident, and Changmin looks away quickly.
There’s something odd sitting in his chest whenever he looks at Yunho now. It’s just jarring to see the man back in the context of the competition, after he came and made an appearance in Changmin’s real life during their two weeks off.
Damn Hyukjae for not warning him. Changmin knows Hyukjae knows about his crush on Yunho. He laughs too much whenever he sees Changmin’s face, to not to. He just hopes Hyukjae won’t leak it to Yunho, for laughs, until… Well.
Until whenever. Hopefully never, seeing how Changmin had fed him.
“If Yunho works with me, he’ll actually get to sing beautiful epic ballads,” Taeyeon is countering, expression closed. She’s got her arms crossed across her chest, whilst Chanyeol’s edged himself right up next to Yunho. “You’re just going to make Yunho rap with you.”
Yunho glances between the two of them. “Are you two fighting over me now?”
He actually sounds thrilled (and more amused), the demented man. He looks over at his cameraman. “Myunghwan, you’re getting this right? I feel so loved.”
Chanyeol faces off against Taeyeon, drawing his shoulders up and staring down at her. She’s in flats today since they’re not recording, and her head only comes up to his chest. It’s a bit of an unfair fight. She’s glaring at him steely-eyed, and he’s all but cringing. “You’ll just make Yunho sing some weepy epic ballad. ”
Yunho’s head swivels between them, like an umpire in an intense tennis match.
Chanyeol just sniffs at Taeyeon and targets Yunho instead, since it’s easier. Yunho’s easier, relative when compared to Taeyeon. “Yunho, you liked U-KNOW, right? You performed his Rising Sun the last challenge, so you must like him.”
“Oh, he’s not bad,” Yunho goes, mild.
The cameramen have scented blood in the water, and the majority of the lenses are trained on the potential vocal ménage à trois. It’s over before it’s barely begun, though. Chanyeol straightens to his full height, encouraged. “He’s got a new song out with this underground rapper, Giriboy. You wanna Hit Me Up?”
“Sure, because you get points for the pun,” Yunho says, still mild, although he sends an apologetic glance Taeyeon’s way. Who just sucks in a long breath, and turns abruptly to Henry, ignoring Chanyeol when he pumps a fist in the air in relieved victory. “You are partnering me and we are singing A Way Back Into Love.”
“O-okay,” Henry squeaks, morose.
“There’s this amazing veteran singer in Mandopop and we’re going to cover one of her classics even this particular song is not a duet,” Kyuhyun announces when he’s uncorked a bottle of white that night.
A promise is a promise, and Changmin just shrugs and goes, “yes, all right, sounds lovely.”
Kyuhyun peers at him. He’s seated at the desks, while Changmin’s folded himself cross-legged on his bed. “You don’t mind?”
“Didn’t you say you want to pick the song?” Changmin asks, pouring himself a glass and inhaling. It smells like peaches and apricots. “I just wanted to sing with you. You know how much I like your voice. You’ll need to help me practice the pronunciation though. Do you think Zhou Mi will help us if we ask him?”
Kyuhyun’s quiet, and then, slowly, “you say the sweetest things, Chef Shim.”
Changmin blinks, and looks more closely at Kyuhyun. “What?”
“What?” Kyuhyun retorts, but his shoulders are up about his ears and he’s gulping his wine down like it’s water.
Changmin finds himself grinning, against his own volition.
Kyuhyun takes apparent offence at Changmin’s face. “What!”
“Nothing,” Changmin hides the curve of his grin against the side of the glass. Kyuhyun’s busying himself tidying the desk, which is still spotless since they have been away a fortnight and the production team clearly went and got a cleaning crew in to take care of things.
“Yeah, nothing me too,” Kyuhyun says nonsensically. He’s looking anywhere but at Changmin, suddenly and inordinately busy.
It’s actually quite hilarious how he’s fumbling for his phone, which is lying on the desk in front of him, but his gaze is forced upwards and somewhere on the ceiling. “I’ll just. I’m just. Let me just. It’s high but good for both our ranges. Play you the song and maybe later Zhou Mi yeah.”
Changmin goes to find Taeyeon, to wave his newly bought guitar at her.
When Jinwoo had barred him bodily from the kitchen in the second week off, he took advantage of that and dragged a still-laughing Hyunseok and Seonyeob to go buy a guitar, just so that none of Taeyeon’s lessons go to waste.
Her face is in its habitual blank expression, although there’s a slight crease to her left eyebrow. She must be quite surprised. She looks at the guitar, then at him. “A Taylor grand auditorium. Interesting.”
“Is it?” Changmin asks, suddenly worried and awkward. “My boss has a friend who dabbles, and he recommended this after he asked me a few questions to understand what I want to learn. Is it difficult to play?”
“For you?” Taeyeon gives him another long look. “If I say yes, you’ll take it as a challenge and learn it in three days, just to spite me.”
“I would never,” Changmin protests indignantly, and Taeyeon snorts. She doesn’t reach out a hand, having too much respect for the instrument to smudge one belonging to someone else.
Her eyes wander avidly over it however, and she says faux-casually, “your restaurant is doing well, huh.”
“Not my restaurant,” Changmin says automatically, then: “Wait, what?”
Taeyeon eyes him again, and she actually unbends enough to smirk. “I know precisely how much you paid for this Taylor eight-fourteen-ce V-Class deluxe. It looks brand new. Rosewood and spruce and mother-of-pearl, right? Not-your-restaurant is doing really well. Are you sure you need that one hundred million won prize money?”
Changmin really likes the song Kyuhyun has picked for their Duet Challenge.
He finds himself humming the tune, even before he starts on memorizing the pronunciation. Kyuhyun’s sent him the lyrics in hanyu pinyin form, as well as a YouTube link to a live version the original singer’s done on her latest tour. He’s looping her non-stop, earbuds firmly plugged in, just so he’s gotten the melody and key firmly down pat before he even tackles the language.
Her voice is a work of art, at times soaring and lushly epic, and other times husky and almost delicate. If Kyuhyun’s voice is a soufflé, he thinks, this Queen of Mandopop is an entire banquet by herself.
Changmin’s crooning the introduction under his breath, less concerned about the words and more about the emotion the piece evokes, when Yunho finds him. He literally turns from singing about shades of grey and blue to having his vision being filled with red, and a mouthful of wool.
“Oh,” he jerks, and the red is removed and he’s confronted with Yunho instead.
Yunho’s gotten his hair cut, in the last week after Changmin’s seen him. His hair went from longish and brushing the back of his collar, to severely buzzed at the nape. He’s left his fringe largely alone, just trimmed, and he’s fiddling with it right now. It’s un-styled as usual, and falling into his eyes.
He’s so handsome and warm and right there, a bolt of bright sunshine in winter, that Changmin’s breath catches in his throat, unbidden. Thank fuck Yunho doesn’t seem to notice.
“Sorry!” Yunho’s saying, laughing. There’s a bit of a flush to his cheeks that’s likely due to the nip in the air, because Changmin’s out by the garden singing like a madman and it seems like Yunho’s gone a bit daft as well, to join him.
It’s just mostly filled with dead trees right now since they’ve just rolled into December, but Changmin still finds it calming.
The bench is too cold to sit at now, though he’s got two bottom layers on, so he’s just hovering at the trees, canopy bare.
Changmin sees from the periphery of his vision that Jihwan and Myunghwan are huddled together at the backdoor entrance, cameras aimed at them. The mudroom by the backdoor has a very efficient heater. Weak bastards.
There’s a crescendo of violins, music swelling at the widening of Yunho’s smile, and some girl wailing about her heart being touched but her lover’s just out of reach, and. Right. Changmin’s earbuds are still firmly plugged in.
He pulls one out, out from his right ear.
Yunho’s saying something, but Changmin interrupts with a too loud “You cut your hair!” before he realizes how rude that sounds.
Yunho laughs again, and scruffs at his fringe. At least he’s bundled up in a warm-looking woolly jumper and jeans today, and his feet are in sensible boots. “Ah, yes. It was getting too long, and my mum was nagging at me, so off I went.” He thrusts out the handful of red again at Changmin. “Before I forget! I’ve held onto it for too long, I’m so sorry.”
“Oh!” Changmin looks at it blankly, and does a double-take. It’s his university hoodie. It feels like eons ago, when he loaned it to Yunho.
He accepts it, and gives it a cursory glance, but finds his attention arrested.
His hoodie, that manky old thing, Changmin knows he does take care of it. But now it’s freshly laundered and neatly pressed; there’s even crisp lines ironed onto the shoulders and the seam of the sleeves, and it smells -he holds it to his face- just like the softener he uses.
Changmin throws a glance at Yunho, who’s pinkening even more due to the cold. Thinks about the conversation they had, that night after bumping into each other in this self-same garden. “Your mum?”
“You remembered,” Yunho gives a little chuckle, and a helpless little shrug that is oddly charming. “Yeah, she got to my clothes again. But I wanted to wash this before I return it to you, anyway. It didn’t seem good otherwise.”
Changmin wishes someone would capture this moment and GIF it, this small quirk of Yunho’s lips, instead of nonsensical short clips of Changmin ripping mics off of stands and giving angry unfocused snarls when he’s blinded by stage lights.
Speaking of GIFing. He darts a look at the cameramen and shifts a little so he’s got his back to them and half-hides Yunho in the process.
This conversation feels private.
Changmin still remembers Yunho’s lack of expression when he struggled to explain why his mother takes trains up to Seoul monthly to see him. He waves Yunho off in response, “you didn’t have to. This old thing literally has been around for a million years since my university days.”
“It’s still very well loved and well kept, and thank you for lending it to me. I used it well,” Yunho insists, nodding towards where Changmin’s folded it back up and tucked it by his side. They’re quiet, smiling at each other, and then:
“I really like the food you made that day.”
“How’s your mum? I bet she’s super proud of you.”
They both say at the same time, a rush of syllables.
They exchange glances and laugh.
“She’s doing well.”
“I’m glad you did. It was fun doing that for Hyukjae. And you.”
There’s another mutual pause, and Changmin can’t control his laughter, lifting a hand to gesture at Yunho to continue instead. He doesn’t dare to say anything because knowing his luck, he’ll just open his mouth and they’ll talk over each other again.
Yunho stifles his own chuckling and elaborates, “I went down to visit her and she insisted on coming up right after that anyway, so I actually saw her for a full week.”
“I will kill my mother before I put myself in close quarters with her for an entire week,” Changmin says, and immediately feels like the worst sort of smug squandering unfilial bastard because Yunho had already mentioned he doesn’t have many opportunities to see his mother often and this is just rubbing it into his face that Changmin’s got his family bothering him everyday oh dear oh dear fuck.
But Yunho’s clearly not offended. He’s thrown his head back and howled in laughter at the overcast skies, as though Changmin’s told a brilliant joke.
The cameramen shift and Jihwan drifts slightly closer, still a creature bound by material comfort and the lure of the heater.
Changmin hopes the cold is a persistent ache in Jihwan’s bones and he’ll fling himself back closer to the heat.
“Do you and your mum talk like that all the time? It sounds super fun, but how do you know when she’s being serious and when she’s playing around?” Yunho wants to know. He’s very close, and Changmin just doesn’t want this moment to ever end.
He finds himself digging his phone out from his back pocket, swiping absentmindedly silent the ballad that has been playing.
Normally Changmin’s an absolute stickler for personal privacy.
He doesn’t even let Hyunseok know his passcode, and his boss is privy to more than a few of Changmin’s embarrassing secrets. He finds himself opening his KakaoTalk in front of Yunho however, tapping until it’s open to his chat with his mother.
There’s just something in Yunho that feels trustworthy.
Maybe it’s how he’s treated Changmin so far, with nothing but earnestness and respect even when Changmin’s not very good at talking or singing or being funny on camera.
Maybe it’s his unshakeable conviction that Changmin’s so much more than he actually is.
Or maybe Changmin’s just really shallow and it’s just Yunho’s beautiful smile and beautiful eyes and beautiful everything.
Yunho drifts a finger over Changmin’s phone screen, right over Changmin’s mother’s latest reply about how Changmin needs to stop stripping on national television before her close friends start thinking she has a gigolo for a son and he will bring nothing but shame and dishonour upon their family. “Oh, she loves you so much.”
He sounds a little wistful.
“Funny way of showing it,” Changmin mutters. But he’s got a grudging smile leaking into his voice and he knows Yunho can hear it. The other man looks up then, and because he’s got his head tilted towards Changmin’s phone, and Changmin’s leaning over it too.
They’re very close.
He’s got long eyelashes, Changmin realizes, sweeping and straight. They frame his eyes, a sooty emphasis against their cat-like tilt. The lashes on his left eye are tangled in the ends of his fringe, and when he blinks again, his hair ruffles, very slightly. His irises are very dark.
Yunho opens his mouth on a breath. The curve of his lower lip is voluptuous. It’s pink and slick with moisture, because Yunho’s just darted his tongue out to wet his own lips. There is a mole on the left of his upper lip. A beauty mark. His pupils are little pinpricks of the deepest black.
Behind them, very close, Henry asks, very loud, “are you two playing Eye Contact for Six Seconds?”
“Fuck,” Changmin says, jumping about a foot in the air. He finds his footing but Yunho jolts in shock, treading heavily onto Changmin’s toes and then staggering very slightly before regaining his balance.
“Either that, or you’re trying to look up each other’s nostrils,” Henry says. “Why are you trying to look up each other’s nostrils?”
“What the fuck is wrong with you Henry are you trying to fucking kill people this is fucking reality television not a fucking horror film you fucking need a bell to be put on you can you fucking please go the fuck away, ” Changmin states with feeling.
“So, clothes.” Kyuhyun starts.
Changmin just looks at him with dead eyes. “Please make sure we don’t get Yoonju. Please.”
“Can we actually pick our stylists?” Kyuhyun wonders. “Aren’t they the ones that draw lots to pick us?”
“I don’t care what you do.” Changmin enunciates. “I don’t care who you bribe. If you want me to sing, I will. If you want me to cook, I will. Just no Yoonju. She will go insane -even more insane- and she will dress us up in twin clothing and it will be very dramatic and very revealing with a lot of shiny fabrics and we will both look like Japanese porn stars out to make a quick buck on Korean national television. Please. No.”
Kyuhyun looks at their surroundings. No cameraman, although there’s the ever-present hallway cameras. He looks out the window. He looks at Changmin. “Porn stars?”
“My mother already called me a gigolo.” Changmin says. “We will not have Yoonju dressing us this challenge.”
“Your mother needs therapy,” Kyunhyun suggests. “Maybe with you in tow, too.”
“A psychiatrist would need therapy from my mother,” Changmin dismisses. “No Yoonju.”
Changmin doesn’t know how Kyuhyun pulls it off, but they get shuffled to be dressed by one of the calmer stylists, called Sanghee instead.
And then he does, because Kyuhyun’s wiggling his eyebrows at him and pulling him into the kitchen, and he’s got all three executive producers seated at the counter together with Hyejin and Jaeni, the writers. There are eight cameras.
“Did we bribe the senior production team, Counsellor,” Changmin says rather than asks. They all erupt into laughter, and Kyuhyun shrugs. “Yeah. But hey, at least Sanghee is just going to put us in sane, normal people jumpers and jeans. Just glammed up. Right, producers?”
Youngmin’s got his chin propped up in a hand, but he’s smiling. “That depends if we get amazing footage today that’s going to bring us another first in the ratings.”
Kyuhyun waves a dismissive hand. “It’s Chef Shim and he’s cooking for the cameras. Of course it’ll get you good footage.”
“Hmm,” Youngmin says, but Soyoung’s got a hand on his arm and Jaeni interrupts with, “we got you different ingredients, Changmin! You can have a look and see what you want to do. We’ll interview you and Kyuhyun too, during it, so please remember to look at the notepads for the questions.”
“Oh, are these are the Top Ten interviews?” Changmin queries. He vaguely remembers Jooyoung briefing him that this will happen since they officially number ten contestants strong now.
Hyejin beams at him. “Yup! Zhou Mi, Irene and Taeyeon have already done theirs. Kyuhyun suggested to combine both of yours.”
“And while I’m cooking?” Changmin looks to the writers to confirm. Then he looks over at Kyuhyun, laconic.
Kyuhyun starts laughing.
“Wow, Kyu.” Changmin deadpans. “So you get to laze around and possibly also issue orders while I slave away at the stove? So enterprising.”
Hyejin and Jaeni look like they’ve just struck lottery. Kyuhyun just cackles again. He’s made himself a cup of tea and he sits himself at the smaller table off the side, with his profile towards the cameras and at an angle where even the closer mid-shots will be able to capture him once Changmin starts bustling around the kitchen.
They spent the whole night like that and somehow the writers wheedle Changmin into actually preparing proper food, for all they started with a million false starts and Changmin having to redo his meat prep, because he keeps forgetting to answer questions or look at the notepads.
The executive producers make him make beef short ribs, the team having splurged, and Kyuhyun teases them for being corrupt and eating their own budget.
Changmin is happy, because he (hopefully) comes off as semi-coherent in the segment.
Although. He keeps trailing off mid-sentence, more concerned with what’s on the stove than talking, and Kyuhyun has to wade in to help the writers prompt him, or even guess at what he is trying to say.
But at least he sounds like less of an idiot compared to the introductory interviews at the start of this crazy journey.
They’ve started the recording session, and it’s apparent every pair’s pretty decent except for Irene and Zhou Mi. Somehow there is zero chemistry between them, and their performance is made all the worse because Irene is singing in Korean and Zhou Mi in Mandarin.
Even the judges look a bit puzzled by the performance of their duet, if it can be called that.
“It’s kind of a train wreck,” Amber trails off, and Chanyeol starts guffawing, although he’s not quite mean about it.
Him and Yunho are standing side-by-side, dressed in matching gangster rapper bondage wear. It’s clear at a glance that Yoonju’s the one dressing them this week. They have on oversized sunglasses and Chanyeol’s still looking marginally spiffy in comparison but, but.
Yunho’s outfit is completely ridiculous and there’s chains on the two of them everywhere.
Changmin’s maybe going a little cross-eyed looking at the chain that’s looped through Yunho’s leather trousers that also somehow links to the one crossing his chest which is then in turn connected to the one that somehow goes behind his back and is attached to his right earring.
Standing across them, dressed in matching cream coloured trousers paired with jumpers in different shades of blue layered over white shirts with Kyuhyun, Changmin feels nothing but relief. Although there’s something about the way the biker chains are draped tightly across Yunho’s skin that. Well. Hmm.
“Objectification is bad,” he says out loud, and then ducks his head when everyone turns around to give him a collective side-eye.
Even the cameramen are judging him. Changjoo, who was previously Hyukjae’s but now is assigned to cover them as part of the B camera unit, snorts.
Not Yunho though. He just raises his eyebrows a little at Changmin in askance, but there’s a little smile flirting about his lips. Changmin feels his own mouth shaping into an answering simper.
Kyuhyun leans in, breath uncomfortably warm against Changmin’s ear. “And yet you are totally obvious in your objectifying. If you stare any harder, you’ll burn a hole through him and Chanyeol will probably strangle you with those chains because you destroyed his win.”
“Shut up,” Changmin mutters back with a bland smile plastered on his face for the cameras. “You’re really not funny, Counsellor.”
“No?” Kyuhyun shifts even closer. Yunho isn’t smiling anymore. Changmin doesn’t quite understand his expression, but his eyes dart between Changmin and Kyuhyun a few times before he turns, facing the stage instead to watch the tragedy that is Irene and Zhou Mi.
Changmin deflates a little, and elbows Kyuhyun in the gut because the latter is practically standing on top of him. “Counsellor, I’ll like to raise an objection regarding a lack of respect for personal space.”
“That’s totally not how we speak in the courtroom, Chef Shim, talk about contempt of court,” Kyuhyun curls his lip at Changmin, and takes Changmin’s answering eye roll as invitation to drape himself along Changmin’s side, chin hooked over his shoulder.
The cameras are rolling and they’re all crowded stage right, so Changmin just hisses back, “Kyu, you’re really heavy and I’m already sweating beneath this jumper, so shove off already.”
“Your cameraman kind of looks like Christmas has come early. Mine too,” Kyuhyun points out, and Changmin looks over.
Jihwan’s got the lens trained on them, which is the norm. He’s also practically pasted onto the viewfinder of his mobile camera, which is not quite the norm. And Kyuhyun’s right; there is a terrifyingly large grin on his face, and a twin smile reflected on Kyuhyun’s cameraman.
He turns his face away from the cameras so it looks as though he’s whispering to Kyuhyun, and narrows his eyes viciously.
Kyuhyun gives a theatrical shiver and sidles back a step, but his mouth is twitching like he’s going to let loose a loud laugh any second and they’re in the wings and the producers will kill them if Kyuhyun disrupts the painfully awkward way Zhou Mi is holding Irene’s hand with two hesitant fingers and how Irene looks like a martyr tasked to lie back heroically and thinking of England.
So Changmin claps a hand over Kyuhyun’s mouth and hauls him close just so he can act as a straitjacket for someone who’s clearly lost his wits.
Kyuhyun struggles, mumbling stifled protests and snickering snorts against Changmin’s palm. Changmin curves his other arm around Kyuhyun’s chest and hangs on grimly.
He catches Yunho’s eye again, but Yunho just blinks twice and leans over to murmur something to Chanyeol. His mouth is very close to Chanyeol’s ear.
Changmin feels a pulse of something and digs an unforgiving elbow into Kyuhyun’s side, palm still clamped onto Kyuhyun’s face, until the other is tapping frantically at the back of Changmin’s arm, and everyone crammed in the wings is looking at them.
Yunho cocks his head. “Changminnie, I think Kyuhyun can’t breathe.”
Changmin releases Kyuhyun. Who then takes an obnoxiously long and loud inhale of air, unrepentant even when Wendy whispers in horrified glee, “You’ve done it, Kyuhyun. Soyoung is looking over and hoooooly shit her face.”
“We are rolling on set, people, this is not a schoolyard playground,” Soyoung stomps over, hissing, and everyone shuts up even though she’s clearly louder than Kyuhyun had been and more than a few audience members look over.
Kyuhyun and Changmin go last.
Outfits and set-wise, they’re one of the more sedate pairs for this week. There are no props these week. It’s just the two of them. Changmin wants that to be enough.
They stand far from each other, diffused stage light playing over the distance between them.
Kyuhyun’s sufficiently recovered from whatever lunatic fit that had befallen him earlier, to look suitably pensive. The backing band is a mini-orchestra this time round, with three strings, drums, a piano and two flutes. They tune to concert pitch, the A note pulling loud and long.
The stage lights dim, and the spotlights come on, a bright white halo each trained on them. The pianist begins, a slow tinkling waterfall of notes, and the violins come in. The cello offers a single mournful note in counterpoint.
Changmin starts it off first, low and melancholic. He closes his eyes and sings wondering, of guessing at the moods of the sea. Kyuhyun enters then, and it’s such a joy to listen to his low voice describing how he’s had to endure sleepless nights tormented by the thought of a lover out of reach.
He pulls his tone up, arching high into the chorus, vibrato long and rich. Then Changmin allows himself join Kyuhyun, taking over the main melody line.
He turns blindly. The lights are a blank daunting wash of white, and he still hasn’t mustered the superpower of seeing through them, but he’s memorized Kyuhyun’s position on stage.
Changmin lets himself go, belting out the notes at the direction he knows Kyuhyun’s standing at. They sink into the second stanza and it’s Kyuhyun’s turn again. Like they’ve rehearsed, over and over and over, Changmin sings in harmony, in a minor key, taking the backseat as second vocal and going an octave up to emphasise the pretty little tilt in the melody.
They swap, and swap again, their voices bobbing and weaving about each other, pushing against each other only to blend together.
Changmin closes his eyes, losing himself in the refrain, in the music. In himself.
They win the challenge.