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Sing! Idol

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“Let’s go.” 

-- SHIM Changmin (32), chef, backstage interview snippet for Ep 14 the Semi-Final, second round. 


“This is it.” 

-- JUNG Yunho (34), choreographer, live studio interview for Ep 15 the Sing! Idol Finale. 


 

Previously on Sing! Idol,

Semi-Final winner: YUNHO

 

He turns from Yunho, to see Amber with her eyebrows raised and her gaze direct. Their cameramen are huddled behind her like a trio of hump-backed crows, in their black crew uniforms with their cameras propped up on their shoulders.

Just like that, Changmin deflates. “Er-”

Amber just smiles. 

There’s nothing hostile in her expression, but she’s also grinning very, very widely. 

Changmin suppresses a pulse of apprehension, and keeps his back straight. 

A line of sweat is trickling down the back of his neck, down into the not-quite-itchiness of the sequins lining his vest, beneath the jacket.

“Is this where I say something trite and suitably dramatic, like ‘you’ll have to go through me first’?” She darts a glance to the side at the numerous lenses aimed at them, lightning-fast, and turns back to Changmin again. 

Her teeth flash under the pen-lights of the cameras, beams of white light to better illuminate the dim alcoves that make up back-stage. “Because you’ll have to go through me first.”

Changmin meets her gaze, and lets himself smile back at her. “Let’s go.”

 

--

 

Changmin’s styling team has half an hour to get him freshened up for the second round. There isn’t much of a wardrobe change; just a switch in jackets, which Yoonju had insisted on when Changmin had first unveiled his song choice to her and the producers. 

Even without a wardrobe change, the adrenaline and exertion in performing a rock song means Changmin’s nearly soaked through with perspiration. They shove him into the showers with stringent instructions that he’s only allowed a three minute shower and for the love of God, Changmin, don’t wash your hair.

He emerges in the tee and exercise trousers they chucked at him, slightly befuddled, only to be pressed back in the makeup chairs and then he’s treated to the very strange experience of having his sweat-drenched hair washed and blown dried and styled when the makeup artists work on his face again.

The ladies are fast, but Changmin’s twitchy with anxiety, because he can’t do much in the chair. 

“Can I practise my song?” He asks, when Hyeyoung is tweaking the ends of his eyebrows with a brow pencil, muttering “why do you not maintain the grooming of these on your own too, what a crime.”

 “No,” Yoonju says, walking past with the jacket she wants Changmin to be in, cradled in her arms and perfectly pressed.

“Yes,” Hyeyoung murmurs, hand steady. “If you mean singing it while seated. If you mean getting up to actually practise it, I will stab you in the eye with this pencil.”

“Ten minutes,” Jooyoung interjects, poking his head in. He’s gone before he’s even finished talking.

Yoonju makes a growl in her throat. “Let him up to change, first. Unless you want him on national television like that. We’ll all be fired.”

“It’ll make for good ratings,” one of the assistant hair stylists volunteers, and shrinks when both Yoonju and Hyeyoung bend identical venomous glares upon her. 

Miraculously enough, they’re ready with three minutes to spare. Changmin’s dressed and styled again, standing in the little area right after the door to the studio. 

On stage, Hyunmoo is engaged in banter with Yunho, who’s seated in a chair like the Judges’, just by the section containing the past contestants. It’s looking like an interview of sorts, and the others are given mics to speak as well.

Taeyeon’s holding onto the mic now, but Changmin’s too nervous to properly focus on what she’s saying. 

He runs the steps through his head again, hands mimicking the memorised movements. 

Changmin can’t quite stop himself from bouncing a little on his heels. 

He swallows, hands clutched tight around his cap prop.  

Amber is next to him. They don’t speak to each other. 

But right before Hyunmoo cues them on stage, he looks at her, and she him.

They shake hands, very firmly. 

 

--

 

Hyunmoo makes them play gawi-bawi-bo again, like the PK Challenge, to determine who goes first. That was but a month back. Back then, it had been Amber and Changmin too. 

This time, Amber wins.

She lifts her chin and smirks at him challengingly. “Changmin should go first.”

He lets out a breath, and bows at her, to cheering from the audience. 

 

-- 

 

The executive producers had raised their eyebrows when he first shared to them the second song he wanted to prepare for the semi-final. 

Jihwan’s busy making sure his hands are steady on the camera, even as his jaw slackens, too.

“I see,” Soyoung says, after a long pause. The three of them exchange glances with each other. It feels significant, although Changmin can’t quite understand what they’re antsy about. “And this is your decision? Made solely by yourself?”

“Yes?” Changmin offers, confused. Youngjin coughs.

Changmin looks at him, and it comes to him, then: “Yunho didn’t influence me to do this.”

“We didn’t say that,” Youngmin is quick to interject, but Changmin pushes on. 

“Really,” he says earnestly. “If anything, it was Jaewon who did have an influence on this.”

“Oh?” Soyoung leans forward. Jihwan perks up a little.

“Everyone always seems to like it better when I try to dance,” Changmin shrugs, and scratches at the back of his neck. “That’s what he said, whenever I ask him for advice. You three, too. You get a lot more animated when I fall over during practice and netizens clip a thousand GIFs from the slow-motion edits of the footage.”

They have nothing to say to that. Youngjin looks a little embarrassed, but Soyoung and Youngmin just shoot identical smirks at him. 

“It makes for good television,” Youngmin spreads his hands. 

“I know,” Changmin nods. “That’s why I, yeah.” 

The three of them give hums of agreement, but it’s Soyoung who seems to feel that she should offer him a final warning. “It’s rather dangerous to do that in the semi-final, though.”

All of them pause, and Changmin smiles at her, while she huffs a long-suffering sigh. “I didn’t mean to make that pun.”

Jihwan’s giggling to himself, shoulders shaking behind his camera.

 

--

 

Changmin goes back onto the stage, and unhooks the one brass button holding his jacket shut. 

It’s vaguely pilot, or police-like. He doesn’t want to really think about how or where Yoonju got her inspiration for it, but it pairs well enough with the concept she’s worked out together with him. 

There’s a loud shout from the general direction of the Judges’ Table, “Changminnie fighting!”

It’s Yunho. The crowd titters. 

Changmin bows, and waits for the iconic synthesizer beat to start.

There’s a pause of absolute silence, the audience likely confused, until he flips the cap in his hands onto his head, and enunciates lowly into the headset hooked around his face, “the girl was dangerous.”

He ducks back beneath the edge of it, so that only the tip of his nose, and mouth show. 

They get it, then. The screaming starts.

 

--

 

In the aftermath of it, Changmin doesn’t feel bad.

He’s tried his very best, and even though it was a song choice where he barely sang, and he knows he’s only done the choreography decently, he feels tentatively good about it. 

At least it has been a surprise to the audience, and they seem to have embraced the fact that he’s tried

Hyunmoo’s gaping in exaggerated shock at him after the song ends, and they do a quick post-performance interview. 

Changmin barely remembers how it goes, and he’s still panting into his mic. 

Except that Hyunmoo keeps shouting “What a surprise! It’s only to be expected of our dark horse! Underdog! Dark horse!” in his face, and is clearly trying to think of more animal metaphors for him whilst the judges pretty much agree with his comment. 

BoA locks eyes with him, and says into her mic, “I’m proud of you, Changmin.” 

He faces her and bows low at his waist to that, holding his position to the audience’s cheers. He keeps at it until Hyunmoo’s patting discreetly at his back, and he straightens to see the assistant producers making the sign for overrun, beyond the cameras.

 

--

 

It’s a fight that’s almost easy. 

Amber’s song choice is a rock ballad stripped down, and it’s no competition for the surprise Changmin’s just pulled. 

She knows it, and the audience knows it, but yet she still gives her all. 

Her voice soars, raspy and delicate, as she sits on a high stool, to deliver a near-acoustic rendition of One More Light. There is no other accompaniment than a lone piano, and one backup singer. 

In the wings, Changmin mouths along, there are things that we can have, but can't keep.

 

--

 

The votes are announced. 

Changmin is through to the finale of Sing! Idol.

It’s him versus Yunho, then.

 

--

 

He hugs Amber hard, when they’re gathered together back on stage. It’s just right before they break to prep for the finale, which is slanted for a mere six hours later.

In the background, the audience is alternating between screeching about the impending last challenge, and moaning that they have to leave. The members lucky enough to win a seat for the morning may not have that fate repeated, in the balloting of audience seats for the finale. 

Changmin hears none of this, clutching tight as he is onto Amber. 

He’s through to the finale of Sing! Idol. 

There’s a complicated mess of emotions in his stomach. The giant butterflies are starting up again. He’s happy. 

He’s happy! And yet, and yet.

And yet.

He’s through to the finale of Sing! Idol. 

She isn’t.

Amber grips him back equally hard, and stands on her toes to whisper in her ear, “I’m counting on you to win this.”

He draws back in surprise at that, blinking at her. Next to them, Hyunmoo is engaged in energetic banter with Yunho. “The winner is Yunho.”

“Can you see the future, now?” She teases, even as there are murmurs from the audience, as more people realise how close their heads are, bent towards each other. Maybe the fans are forming a new pairing in their heads. “How are you so sure it’s him?”

Surprise makes Changmin’s arms slacken around her. “It’s going to be him. He’ll win.”

Changmin’s fine with that.

He’s through to the finale! Of Sing! Idol!

He’s a finalist of Sing! Idol.

He’s in the finale of Sing! Idol!

“Really,” Amber says. 

But then Hyunmoo’s squeezing between them, laughing and looking just very slightly frantic, so they turn back to the cameras.

Changmin smiles and nods and smiles some more before they’re finally released to prepare for the finale. 

 

--

 

They’re guided backstage, him and Yunho, whilst Amber’s whisked off in another direction. 

Changmin cranes his neck at the nest of people she’s been herded towards, and spots Seohyun and Minho, and what looks like almost all of the production crew.

A breath by his ear; and Yunho murmurs, “I think they’ve got a live talk show segment thing that’ll be happening during the finale, in the breaks between us singing.”

“Hi!” Changmin jerks back around. The mutated giant butterflies flutter. “Hi.”

“Hi,” Yunho’s smiling at him, warm and teasing and affectionate. “That was quite a move you pulled.”

This man. This person. This… His friend. That he loves. He’ll be able to sing opposite his friend later, in a matter of hours.

He loves. This man. His friend. He.

His friend. Yunho. 

Changmin loves him, and this scares him and makes him exhilarated at the same time because he’s getting to properly go up against him in a little while and. 

This man. He.

Even in the privacy of his own head, Changmin knows he’s broken himself, just a little.

He shoves the entire complicated mess of emotions into some dark dusty part of his brain and promises himself that he’ll allow a panic attack in private later. 

When all of this is over and there aren’t cameras and Yunho is the winner of Sing! Idol and right, he should stop smiling at Yunho like an idiot and start responding to him. 

It's with some difficulty, but he pulls his focus back to his surroundings. 

Yunho’s still smiling very patiently at him, a hand hovering behind his back to ensure Changmin hasn’t walked into a door or a wall. 

“Was it okay?” Changmin blurts, conscious of the cameras following them, as they traipse behind Jooyoung in turn. He tries to keep his body angled from the lenses, and his voice low, so that this part of the footage is not quite usable, since Yunho and he have gotten their performance mics removed from them, and the crew hasn’t gotten to them yet, to wire them up. “Did you- how did you find it?”

Yunho sees what he’s doing and shifts too, so he’s walking while turning towards Changmin, leaning ever so slightly away from Myunghwan’s sight. “I think you shocked us all. Tiffany couldn’t stop shrieking, it was funny how the audience near her were all judging her.” 

“No, I mean,” Changmin fumbles, belatedly anxious, “did you like it.” 

“Oh,” Yunho says, and reaches out a hand, to grip at the crook of Changmin’s neck. “Of course I did. You practiced very hard, and it showed. It was good, Changminnie. You were good.”

The praise adds to the flip-flop of emotions running through Changmin, but he manages to smile through that, back at Yunho. “I did practice, I…”

He nearly walks into Jooyoung’s back while still speaking to Yunho, something that, judging from the snickers emitting from Jihwan and Myunghwan, they did get on camera. 

“I thought we trained you for the cameras,” Jooyoung snorts as he ducks away to the side in front of one of the bigger waiting rooms that’s usually dressed up for press and backstage interviews. 

He’s throwing them an unreadable smile that Changmin doesn’t quite comprehend. He’s got the door open, and they’re both through it, and then Changmin understands why Jooyoung was smiling.

“Big Brother!” Thing #1 and #2 chorus. The surround sound ambush nearly gives Changmin a heart attack.

He takes a reflexive step back, and bumps into Yunho. 

Who places a hand on his arm. To ensure Changmin’s balance, perhaps. 

Changmin looks down at Yunho’s hand. Then he looks back up, at the twin beaming faces of his little sisters, and a cold sweat breaks across the back of his neck, as:

“What is this? Why are you not greeting your mother? Unfilial boy. Why did I break my body to beget a great big lump like you?”

She’s done what she’s been threatening all these months. His mother is at Sing! Idol.

 

--

 

Technically, their nearest and dearest (numbering three pax each, as the producers helpfully inform after Changmin gapes and Yunho laughs in surprise) are at Sing! Idol. 

Jaeni and Hyejin hover behind the wall of cameras, and scribble instructions non-stop on their notepads, like ‘SMILE’, ‘Don’t look so shocked’, ‘Greet your own folks first, you can say hi to each other’s families later when we change tapes’, and ‘SMILE, CHANGMIN’.

Changmin registers vaguely that Yunho’s got people surrounding him too, including Mother, whom he’ll be sure to greet later. 

First. He has to settle things with the woman who actually birthed him from her loins over three decades ago.

Who is, currently, gazing at him unsmilingly, to the glee of Jihwan and Jooyoung, huddled off by the side. Thing #2 is actually filming them blatantly with her smartphone whilst Thing #1 is craning her neck by the door.

Changmin decides to tackle the easiest battle first. Without taking his eyes from his mother, he asks, pleasantly enough, “Sooyeon?”

“Yeah?” Thing #1 is distracted, and nearly falling through the open doorway, with how far she’s leaning out.

“Who are you looking for,” Changmin says. He thinks he sounds calm. 

The shock of seeing the three most important women in his life at once has certainly gone far in settling his happy disbelief that he’s actually in the finale of Sing! Idol. 

Changmin doesn’t know who has the bright idea of putting his mother in front of cameras, but he suspects the three executive producers have had a heavy hand on this. 

He just wishes that there was more of a heads up, but knowing the three of them, well. Even if he voices this wish, he doesn’t doubt Soyoung will look him in the eye and go laconically, “it makes good television.”

“BoA,” Thing #1 returns easily. “Look, I’m even in her fanclub t-shirt. Do you think she’ll sign my back for me?”

Changmin tears his eyes away from the impromptu staring contest he’s done with his mother -and which he just lost- to erupt, “you what?” 

He takes a second look at Sooyeon and yes, she’s got a yellow t-shirt on, with “JUMPING BOA” scrawled across her back in bold print, to his horror.

Jooyoung is having a field day just next to Jihwan, muffling his laughter behind his hands. 

He whips his head back to his mother and Thing #1; who are thankfully dressed in normal people clothing, although his mother’s hair is… bigger and more professionally coiffed than its normal wont. 

“Did you go to the hair salon to get your hair professionally set? It's big,” his mouth decides to say.

Hyejin hops on a foot behind Jihwan, with her notepad held up to her forehead: NOOOOO BE NICE TO YOUR MOTHER THE NATION IS WATCHING.

His mother’s mouth crumples into a frown. “You mannerless little shit, is this how you greet your mother?”

At that, he looks reflexively in Jihwan’s direction. His mother does too, after a pause.

“We’ll censor that,” Jooyoung reassures.

They go back to eyeing each other.

“Hello, Mother.” Changmin tries again. “Did you go to the hair salon. Your hair is big.”

She slides him a disgusted glare. “Did a dog eat your conscience? Your hairstylist did this, and she says I look very well indeed.”

“Much more deceptive-looking than usual,” he hums after a while, “and I learnt all about being an uncouth fishwife at your knee.”

“Insolent little cur,” she jeers, coming closer.

“Again, I have learnt much under your tutelage in my formative years,” Changmin smiles at her, which is when she actually comes forward to hit him very soundly on the arm. 

He yelps theatrically, because experience says that she’ll hit him for real if he doesn’t give a satisfactory reaction. 

Jihwan looks like he’s struck footage gold. The smirk on his face is so wide that it must hurt.

“Stupid boy!” his mother hisses at Changmin, haughty and imperious. “Don’t smile like that. It turns your face into a horrid mess.” 

“Once, coming out from your house, your neighbours mistook me for you, just less wrinkled, and taller,” Changmin says pleasantly, and laughs as she hits him again. 

They look up from their banter to see the whole waiting room starting at them in either undisguised shock or blatant amusement. 

Hyejin gestures like a madwoman to her notepad, DON’T BLAME US IF YOU GET BACKLASH FOR SHITTING ON YOUR OWN MOTHER LIKE THAT. 

Jooyoung is crouched on the floor, laughing quietly into a fist. 

Thing #2 hasn’t stop filming, and Thing #1 has stopped craning her head to come next to Thing #2 to murmur instructions, “no, zoom up closer, look, you need to get both their faces in frame. Look, they’re both making identical expressions, this is hilarious, we need to put this on Snow.”

Yunho’s got three people with him as well, and all of them are staring at Changmin and Changmin’s mother. There’s Mother, and a girl who looks too remarkably like Yunho to be anything other than his (elder? younger?) sister, and a tallish, rather handsome man.

His boyfriend?

No, it can’t be. Yunho would have said something, especially after the conversation they had in January. Maybe it’s a friend. But the producers did say ‘nearest and dearest’ and they hauled in Changmin’s mother and Changmin’s sisters and Yunho never did mention he had a brother and the man doesn’t look quite like him anyway so maybe that is his boyfriend, it’s all right, Changmin’s only a friend, maybe Yunho doesn’t feel comfortable talking about it despite their chat and ow, Changmin’s been hit on the arm again.

“Ow,” Changmin says, looking back at his own mother.

“Goodness,” Changmin’s mother sniffs, smoothing at her coiffure. “Look at how you make me go on. Disgusting boy.”

“Really now, Mother, do you wish to expose this side of you on national television,” Changmin offers jovially, and dodges when she tries to box his ears. “If you hit me too hard, I think my stylist will want to hit you then.”

“No,” Thing #1 pipes up. “Isn’t she the one who’s always beating you up in the behind-the-scenes snippets? Maybe she’ll help Mother smack you.” 

Hyejin looks at Jaeni, who’s over on the other side writing instructions to Yunho and his folks, and throws up her own notepad in silent exasperation. 

Before this ridiculous line of conversation can continue further, Jooyoung claps his hands.

It doesn’t have quite the impact when the three executive producers do as such.

“Are you trying to channel Soyoung,” Yunho frowns from across the room, but his gaze is twinkling. 

Jooyoung has evidently decided to pretend he can’t hear Yunho, even though Myunghwan and Jihwan are both swinging their cameras between the two of them. “We hope you guys like the surprise we’ve prepared for you!”

“What surprise,” Changmin scratches his head.

“You,” Jooyoung falters, and gesticulates wildly. “This? The surprise visit from your nearest and dearest? And that you’re having lunch with them? Which we are catering?”

Against Changmin’s will, his nose wrinkles at the mention of ‘catered lunch’. Also, “shouldn’t we be practicing?”

Jooyoung just rolls his eyes and makes a slashing gesture at both cameramen. “Editors, please take note. We’re not using this section of the raws. Too boring.”

Laughing, Yunho comes over to stand next to Changmin. His shoulder knocks against Changmin’s while he’s grinning at Jooyoung, “sorry, sorry. We’ll behave.”

“I always behave,” Changmin says.

The mutated butterflies in his stomach are back with a vengeance. They possess his body, to lean him into Yunho’s side slightly.

 

--

 

They’re being ushered to lunch. But before that, Changmin suppresses the burn of curiosity in his stomach (who is the man chatting so familiarly with Mother?) and introduces Yunho officially to his own mother. 

To his utter astonishment, his mother takes to Yunho and Yunho’s, like a duck to water.

“Mother, this is Yunho,” he starts, and blinks. His mother gives Yunho an actual smile that she usually reserves for her top students. “You’re even more handsome in real life than on television.”

“What,” Changmin says. He’s confused.

“Oh,” Yunho replies, polite. 

He bows a deep bow at the waist, all ninety-degrees straight-backed dignity, and holds the bow for five too-long seconds. Changmin reaches over and pulls ineffectually at the back of Yunho’s jacket, because it’s just his mother, and not the President. 

After too long, Yunho’s straightening, and still smiling. “Thank you so much, Auntie- may I call you auntie?”

“You can call me anything you like,” his mother purrs -purrs!- and gives him her hand to shake, which Yunho does. 

They smile at each other, all beaming satisfaction, and Changmin’s mother goes, “thank you for letting our Changmin meet you in this lifetime. He’s learnt a lot. Thank you for taking care of him through the challenges, I do follow them, you know, every single one of the episodes.”

What,” Changmin says again.

“Lunch!” Jooyoung cheers, slightly tight around the eyes, because it’s evident that no one in the room is interested in following his schedule. The cameramen are taking this chance to change tapes. In the corner, Thing #1 and Thing #2 are exchanging Kakao handles with the girl that looks remarkably like Yunho, while the man -whom Changmin can’t quite still discern his relationship to Yunho- leans against the wall next to her. 

“My younger sister,” Yunho offers, when he sees where Changmin’s gaze has landed. “And my best friend. Those are your sisters too, I guess?”

He bends a toothy grin at Changmin’s mother. “You all have the same eyes and nose. Auntie looks like she's your older sister.”

Changmin stares in shock as his mother titters. Titters! 

And now she’s reaching out to pat Yunho -gently!- on the arm, unlike the vicious way she tends to backhand Changmin on the same body part. “You’re not just good at performing and singing. That pretty voice is good at giving compliments too! Oh, thank you so much for befriending this uncivilised boy. It's his honour.”

“Auntie, Changminnie is so sweet and nice and smart, it’s my pleasure. You’ve raised him really well, you should be proud,” Yunho is all earnestness and charm, and he’s smiling down at Changmin’s mother and patting her on her hand. 

“He’s all right, I guess,” Changmin’s mother allows airily, without looking away from Yunho. 

Changmin doesn’t know who to stare at more. Yunho, his mother, or the man -Yunho's best friend? Shouldn't that be Hyukjae?- in the corner.

“Hello!” Jooyoung raises his voice even more, when it’s cleared he’s still being ignored. “Lunch! You only have an hour before you’re back in final rehearsals for two hours because you only have one-and-a-half hours for final hair and makeup!”

That, more than anything, is enough to galvanise him and Yunho into moving their families along, and for Changmin to make his mother stop flirting.

 

--

 

Lunch has been had. Changmin suffers a second near-heart attack when it turns out that it’s lunch together with all three of the judges, and he has to witness BoA meeting his mother. 

All of them are gathered at a very large round table, and someone in the crew was evil enough to sit his mother next to BoA.

They’re both some places diagonal to Changmin’s seat, so he can only watch on helplessly. 

Shockingly, there is no bloodshed nor fits of hysterics. Although his mother does go very, very quiet and her eyes are very, very bright. 

BoA just smiles and smiles and there are hugs and his mother goes very red and the producers have to lead her away “for a little lie-down”, as Youngjin explains.

The rest of them try to hide their amusement, while BoA is apologetic. But she recovers her composure quickly enough when Thing #1 all but forces her with beseeching simpers to sign her Jumping BoA t-shirt, and even provides a fabric marker to smoothen the process.

“Your eyes are just like Changmin’s, all lethal,” BoA informs her, to Changmin’s sputtering consternation across the table. 

 

--

 

Changmin makes his greetings to Yunho’s mother while his own is still off… somewhere trying to be calm.

“Mother,” he goes to her post-lunch, and apologetic. Yunho’s somewhere off the side of the room and conferring with the producers on something or other, and Changmin's own sisters are amusing themselves by bribing(?) Jihwan to show them some of the raw footage he's recorded. “I’m so sorry it took me so long to greet you.”

“Darling boy, hello!” she’s dimpling up at him, Yunho’s grin bright on her face, and she’s got both of her hands around his. Yunho’s younger sister and the best friend whom Yunho still hasn’t elaborated on is next to her and gazing at them, curiosity written all over on their faces. “Don’t worry about it, you were sat all the way around the other side. You look so handsome. Good luck! You’ll win this!”

“Ah,” he shies back, startled, “no, that’s- you’re very kind! Thank you! Yunho will win this.”

“Goodness, darling,” she gives him a mock-frown, “whoever heard of someone admitting his rival will win, without a fight like that. Chin up!”

The way she rebukes him is so similar to Yunho that Changmin shrinks slightly, and nods, and she laughs and pats him on the back. 

“Besides, I’m sure your mother will prefer it if you actually work at winning,” she suggests, all sweet and sly. Changmin nods along before he registers what she’s saying.

“Oh!” He blinks at her, thrown off, “have you two met?”

“We were in a room together for three hours while waiting for you and Yunho, dear,” she raises her eyebrows and giggles. “Of course we’ve met. She's lovely.”

“Is she,” Changmin says unthinkingly, and then he ’s the one laughing when Yunho’s mother gasps and taps him on his much-abused arm. “Dear! Your mother is very proud of you, you know.”

“Yes, er,” he’s scuffing at the back of his neck in embarrassment, while she blinks up at him. His face is on fire and his ears are burning. “Yes, I er, I do know. We just talk like that to each other sometimes, sorr-”

She takes pity on him. “The two of you are very sweet together.”

“Thank you,” Changmin says again on rote, and with some desperation, welcomes the relief of Yunho coming over with a brisk, “Changminnie, come on, we’ve got to go rehearse, bye Mum, see you later, love you, come along, Changminnie.”

 

--

 

It’s final rehearsals, and a blur of checking marks and mics and preparations and ensuring their in-ears are tweaked to a volume just so , and Changmin running his three songs for the finale again and again in his head. 

He would like to do that in actuality too, but the producers have forbidden it. They take his handheld mic away,  after he runs through his song choices four times consecutively, with the studio’s live backing band. 

“Rehearse them in your head if you must,” Youngmin says crossly, when they all but drag him off of stage so the crew can re-set for Yunho’s final dry run, “but no, you’re not singing through them for all four hours till the telecast. We need you to conserve your voice for when you and Yunho go live!” 

“Go live,” Changmin repeats faintly, once again being reminded that he’ll be in the finale of Sing! Idol in a matter of hours. And then he’s hustled back to the dressing rooms, because he and Yunho aren’t allowed to watch each other’s rehearsals, and Yoonju walks him through all three of his outfits again for final tweaks.

It’s the first time he’s seen them in their final form, without her tacking stitches and bits and pieces of fabric sticking out here and there, because she was still making her final edits up till the previous night. 

“Wow,” is all he can offer, after a long period of awestruck silence. “I just… Wow.”

“Ha, yeah, kid,” Yoonju sighs, brushing imaginary lint off of her shoulder. “I’m amazing, aren’t I?”

“You are,” he says honestly, and smiles at her when she looks thrown off by that. 

“Well, yes,” she blusters, and comes over to pull hard on his ear. “You’re not so bad yourself. Go on now, get. Try them on so I can see if I have to take any seams in.” 

 

--

 

“I understand the thought you put behind this,” he offers some minutes later and with tentative caution through the dressing room door, “but couldn’t you have put sides to this thing?”

Now that the tacking stitches are removed, the lack of sides to the jumper is more obvious. It’s all just... empty space. 

There’s an irritated sigh filtering through the door. 

Yoonju goes in slow deliberation, “which one are you trying on now?”

Changmin looks down at himself. “The third outfit.”

“What about the other two?” A tapping sound just outside the door. Likely Yoonju’s shoe-clad toes on the floor, Changmin thinks. 

He clears his throat. “The other two are okay, I think. They’re comfortable. It’s the same pair of boots for all three outfits, right?”

There’s a pause. Yoonju goes carefully, “you don’t have a problem with the collar?”

“The-” Changmin looks at the prop in question lying innocuously on the blue coat he’s just shed. “It’s a choker, right? For the second set?”

Another pause, and Yoonju says, all cheerful, “sure! If you say so.” 

He wisely decides to not pursue that, not when she’s rapping on the door and going, “so it’s just the third outfit? That one is the simplest, you know.”

“Yeah,” he stares at the mirror, and lifts his arm, and gets startled once again by the expanse of ribs and chest the movement reveals. “Rather too simple, maybe?”

“Are you questioning my design aesthetic?” Yoonju sounds so offended that Changmin cringes back a little. Just in case she can open the door, even though the lock is bolted from the inside. “No!”

A menacing “good” drifts in through the wood. 

Changmin lowers his arms. His abs vanish, to his relief, covered once again by sturdy black wool. “I guess it’s not so bad if I keep my arms down.”

And the rest of it does look good. 

Then again, anything Yoonju makes for him usually is, because she’s so talented. Not that Changmin will tell her as such. She is scary enough without him stroking her ego.  

“There you go,” Yoonju’s back to being cheerful again. “Now come out so I can do a final review of those sides.” 

“You mean the lack of these sides,” Changmin can’t resist. 

“I mean I’ll box your ears,” Yoonju threatens.

 

--

 

Youngmin comes by to relay the time.

“Two hours to live, everyone,” he shouts in ringing tones. He sticks his head into the waiting room that’s been assigned to Changmin’s styling team and him, and darts on with his words drifting behind him. “Hair and makeup now, chop chop, it’s live and we can’t be late!” 

“Wow. Two hours,” Changmin says numbly. 

His phone lies fingerprint-smudged in his hand and opened to his Notes function, where Changmin’s going through the lyrics of his song choices. The last thing he wants is to go on stage and then forget all his lyrics. Even though Yunho’s going to win, it doesn’t mean he should make a fool of himself on national television. Live.

Right. Fuck. It’s going to be a live telecast. The finale is going to be broadcast live.

He’s in the finale. Of Sing! Idol. 

Changmin is, against all odds and by some crazy twist of fate, a finalist.

He pinches himself hard on the arm at that thought, and breaks out into a cold sweat from the pain.

The mutated giant butterflies in his stomach wriggle, perky after he’s managed to forget about them, for just a little bit.

“Don’t sweat,” the hair stylists say in unison. He’s got three of them hovering over his head with hairbrushes and a blowdryer. “Don’t you dare sweat, or we’ll wash your hair again in an hour, see if we will.”

 

--

 

“One hour,” It’s Youngjin this time.

Changmin’s trying to practise his first song on his Taylor, but his fingers are sweaty and they keep slipping on the strings and it’s not helping that his eyes have to stay close as Hyeyoung draws eyeliner on him.

“Can you stop shaking?” Hyeyoung wants to know. “Shake more and I’ll really stab you in the eye, see if I don’t.”

His fingers press down on an G and slip down to a D instead, with a screechy twang. 

Stop sweating,” Yoonju orders in exasperation from somewhere behind him. “We need to get you into your first outfit in about ten minutes. Can you stop, I don’t know, secreting water?”

“Maybe we should stop feeding him tonics,” a junior makeup artist suggests.

“We can’t,” Jihwan interjects. “He needs to keep his voice warm. Go to the loo before you change.”

Changmin just keeps as still as he can, and sweats silently in the makeup chair. 

He clutches his Taylor in nerveless fingers, and wishes for time to either halt or speed up, instead of trickling by in such a slow, painful trot.

 

--

 

Before he knows it, it’s five minutes to broadcast, and Yunho and he are cooling their heels (not) just off-stage. 

It’s a different studio this time. Not their usual. Rather, it’s a larger one that the broadcast station usually reserves for their end-of-year award ceremonies. 

When Changmin had stood on stage for rehearsals a couple of hours ago, there was a distant part of him that shied away from how large the set is, and how many audience seats there are surrounding the wide expanse of hardwood and metal.

His heart is beating hard, rabbit-fast. Changmin’s actually faintly surprised it hasn’t thumped its way out of his rib cage yet.

Three hours more, he promises himself. Just three hours more and there’ll be time for a panic attack, when Yunho has won. He just needs to try his best to sing, and be normal, in the meantime. 

Beyond the set’s doors, there’s a roar of sound that says Hyunmoo is already working his magic on the crowd.

A gloved hand stretches in his line of sight, which has been aimed at the floor all this while. It wriggles its fingers at him. 

It means he has to look up and finally straight on at Yunho, instead of sneaking glances like he’s been doing the past quarter-hour.

He doesn’t quite dare to look directly at his friend.

The man opposite him looks both like and unlike Yunho at the same time. Changmin’s seen him dressed up for the competition before, and both dressed up and semi-dressed and fresh-faced right before the makeup artists get to him. Yunho and the stylists working on him have never been the type to stint on dramatic outfits and stylings. 

But today… 

Today, the only word that comes to Changmin’s mind is “majestic”. 

He’s got his hair brushed back from his forehead, and the makeup artists have got sharp black eyeliner expertly drawn on him, and they did something to make his gaze all hooded and domineering. His lips are wetter and pinker than they should be, under the fluorescent lights of the hallway. And all that’s only neck up.

Yunho’s looking like a Disneyland escapee again from neck down, except that it isn’t a fairytale prince, but a king that Changmin is staring at. 

There’s still inordinate amounts of embroidery and pleated gold thread and brass buttons involved in his looks. Changmin does a double-take. Are those rhinestones glittering at the collar, down to the higher cut of his black coat in front and going all the way down to the split tails at the back? 

At least he’s got a white shirt and tie on the inside, and his black trousers are normal enough, save for the self-same glittering that runs down the lines of his legs. 

Changmin can’t stop staring at those. They accentuate how long those legs are. 

Thanks to the rounds of promotional activities they did a few weeks ago, and crazy things that MCs make their guests do for ratings these days, Changmin knows their precise length and the fact that they are two centimetres longer(??) than his own.

It had tickled the MC and Amber and Kyuhyun more than it should have, because Changmin’s got a visible inch in height on Yunho. 

“The stylists went a bit crazy,” Yunho explains, slightly apologetically in response to Changmin’s silent ogling. 

“No,” Changmin blurts out, honest. “You look good.”

In contrast, Changmin himself is relatively dressed down, wearing only a simple black blazer and black trousers. Yoonju has paired that with a simple round-neck vest for him, and no shirt. 

His fingers are still sweaty around his guitar case, but that can’t be helped. 

“You don’t think I look like a military bandmaster?” Yunho asks.

Changmin laughs at that. And then he just keeps laughing.

When he finally lifts his head again, Yunho’s smiling at him. “Better?”

“Better,” Changmin manages, impossibly grateful. Yunho’s forever helping him. “Thank you. Again.”

Yunho doesn’t say anything else, but he strips his gloves off, to grip Changmin by the elbow of his blazer. 

The studio door opens.

One of the assistant producers barely glances at them, harried. He flaps a hand at them, and barks into his headset, “they’re with me. Thirty seconds to entrance.”

 

--

 

They draw lots. Yunho’s picked to go first.

‘Going first’, Hyunmoo explains for the benefit of the live studio audience that’s larger in number than what they’ve seen so far, means Yunho will get to perform each of his three song choices in three individual rounds, right before Changmin’s performances. 

In each round, after both competitors perform, the audience will be allowed to vote via the remote controllers paired to their seats, but the results will not be displayed. Instead, the wider audience viewing from their television screens and laptops and tablets around the country will also be able to cast their votes using their registered accounts at Sing! Idol’s official website, for a selected amount of time after each performance.

Once the pocket of time ends, that particular round of voting will be closed.

After the third and final round, all three rounds’ worth of votes will be tallied and revealed in one fell swoop to everyone in the studio- the audience, the two competitors, the judges, the rest of the Sing! Idol twenty, Hyunmoo himself- as well as the rest of the country. 

Thus, the inaugural winner of Sing! Idol will be born.

“Simple enough, yes? Yes!” Hyunmoo beams up at the audience, and they back at him. “Are you excited? Because I know I am!”

 

--

 

“Any last words,” Hyunmoo asks of them, “before we begin?”

Yunho smiles at him, and at the audience, and at the cameras “I never thought I’ll get this far, even though I want to. Of course I want to. But it’s never been a sure thing, so I’m happy I’m standing here tonight. Thank you. I’m just a boy chasing a childhood dream, so I just want to thank all of you, for allowing that.”

He bows, to much applause.

Changmin squeaks something out, when Hyunmoo turns to him. It probably pass muster, because Yunho turns to beam at him, and there’s clapping from the crowd.

He doesn't quite remember. It’s the finale of Sing! Idol.

 

--

 

He heads to stand next to the Judges’ table, where he ends up half-facing the audience and half-facing the stage. 

Several of his supporters in the audience had groaned loudly, when he had drawn the lot to go second.

Privately, Changmin likes it this way.

His position, just off the stage proper but still within the studio, allows him unprecedented access to watch Yunho as he performs.

Yunho’s first song is both a show-starter and a show-stopper, in every sense of the words. He’s got backup dancers, a shout-out to his dance academy, and there’s an infectious, almost military beat (Yunho’s joke earlier makes more sense now) and Yunho’s pirouetting and jumping and at one point his dancers even crouch down in a piling formation for him to stand on. 

“Drop it low,” Yunho snarls into his performance mic, taped to the side of his cheek.

His hands are ungloved. Changmin remembers with a start that Yunho never did put them on again, after they spoke, right before their cue to appear in the studio. 

There’s a gentle poke to his knee, discreet.

Changmin tears his eyes away from the stage and looks down, to where BoA’s still got a finger raised, her arm mostly hidden behind the Judges’ Table.

She’s the judge sitting closest to him, and within easy touching distance.

He stares at her blankly while she brings up her hands, as if to cough. 

Her mic is abandoned on the table. 

Behind her cupped palms, she says very very very softly, “close your mouth, Changmin.”

Changmin clicks his teeth together with a click. 

“Turn back,” she smiles, still murmuring into her knuckles. He reads it more from her lips than hear her say it.

Changmin turns back to the stage, and to Yunho.

 

--

 

It’s Changmin’s turn, after Yunho heads stage left whilst still bowing. 

“Oh, ho,” Hyunmoo says with undisguised glee. “Looks like our Chef Bambi is starting very differently!”

Twitching slightly at the nickname the nation's apparently decided he should have, Changmin just settles on his stool mutely. He adjusts the tuning pegs, and the mic stands, and tries for a smile. 

He can feel the very edges of his mouth trembling. He does his best to steady them, looking into the glaring flare of the stage lights, “this is the amuse-bouche.”

The audience answers that with another swell of applause. Thing #1 and Thing #2’s voices rise above the cacophony, “Chef Bambi cooks and sings better than all your daughters-in-law, South Korea! Fighting Shim Changmin!”

He can’t help but squint in confusion at the audience. That pulls a ripple of laughter from them.

“Please behave,” he says into the mic. Little traitors. He hopes his mother will box their ears. Though it is equally likely that she refrains from that, purely to vex him.

The laughter sounds again, when he shakes his head and bends over his Taylor, and pauses one, two beats, before he strums the first set of chords.

“Saying I love you,” he starts, fingers plucking out a melody that he’s played over and over, and over in the past weeks, “is not the words I want to hear from you.”

 

--

 

For the second round, Yunho’s in ripped blue jeans.

He’s looking unexpectedly playful with colourful trainers and a paint-splattered, washed-out denim jacket that shouldn’t work, because he’s got a plaid shirt beneath, and a t-shirt under that

On him, somehow it works. 

The second time he sings you’re in sexy blue skinny jeans while doing a beautifully flowing bodywave across the stage, Changmin catches Kyuhyun’s eye by pure accident. 

Next to him, Hyukjae is getting elbowed non-stop by Donghae.

Kyuhyun mouths words at him, exaggerated gesticulations that screw up his entire face. It can’t be anything good, so Changmin turns back to the stage before the cameras are onto them.

It’s no hardship anyway, because it’s Yunho performing. 

 

--

 

Changmin walks on stage to a “whoa!” from Hyunmoo.

He smiles ruefully back at the MC. He can’t even hide behind his hair now, so he ducks his head into a half-bow and straightens, making sure to not slouch and mar Yoonju’s creation with unnecessary creases. 

The choker -collar?- is a cool line of leather against his throat, when he swallows.

Behind him, his pianist takes her seat at the Yamaha grand that has been rolled on stage by the crew moments ago. 

Her dress is the same shade of blue as Changmin’s coat, and she’s the one that gets even more cheers from the crowd.

Changmin can feel himself grinning at that, proud. 

Pleased, he indicates to her with a wave of his hand to Hyunmoo, garnering a cry of “and who is this! What a surprise!” from the MC. 

“How are you, Wendy?” Hyunmoo meanders over to her, bowing theatrically with a hand out. She lays her hand on his while going demurely, “I am well, of course.”

The illusion is ruined when she throws her hands into the air the next second, “but still not as well as Changmin is! Right, guys?”

Hyped up, the audience indulges her with another cheer.

Changmin can feel his ears warming up. To stave off his own focus on the embarrassment, he steps on his mark, just off the side from where she and the piano are, and enunciates softly into the mic, “this is the main course.”

He’s not dancing for this round, because it’s a bit beyond him to remember two sets of choreography. But when he had recorded himself performing it and sent it to the Kakao group chat he has with the executive producers and judges days and days ago, BoA and Jaewon and even Jongkook agreed with his suggestion that he should be mobile and moving for this piece. 

Now, Wendy looks at him. 

At his nod, her fingers begin, staccato on the black keys, as the studio drummer joins in with an easy beat. 

In the middle of the piece, when Changmin comes right up to where the rest of the Sing! Idol twenty is sitting, and bends over to tell Taeyeon “I like it when you say don’t stop” lowly in English; she swats at him with an unimpressed glare. 

The audience laughs when he reels back, and she softens enough to curl the edge of her mouth at him, and offer a reluctant wave at the cameras. 

 

--

 

It’s fast becoming a blur of breathe, perform, breathe, perform, keep breathing

His hair is freshly-washed and blow-dried again. The hair stylists card gentle hands through it, to spike what passes off as his fringe now with some gel.

For the final round, Hyeyoung goes simple on his face, and only runs a brow pencil over his brows, because “I know you want to show the essence of who you are, but brows au naturale will just make you look like a ghost under those lights, be practical, Changmin.”

Now Changmin’s being shoved into his final performance outfit. Yoonju reaches out without ceremony, to yank hard and up at the waistband of his black jeans. 

Ouch,” he says, horrified.

“Don’t snivel, it’s not attractive,” she advises, and then runs a bullish finger down the bare line of his ribs, to check for stray threads.

“Haaaa,” Changmin nearly hits her in the face out of startled reflex, and only barely catches himself when she stares at him, unamused. 

The hem of his jumper flaps against his chest, whisked up by the abrupt motion. Changmin uses his half-lifted arm to grab at it instead.

“Two minutes, come on, Changmin, Yunho’s already standing by,” Jooyoung calls out, whisking him away from Yoonju with a heavy hand at his back, and walking fast. 

The tap of their footsteps seem to be chanting last round, last round, last round at him. 

Or maybe that’s just Changmin’s brain eating itself, as usual. 

He matches Jooyoung’s pace, as a thought occurs to him, slightly overdue given how it’s already the final round: “So what does the audience do when both Yunho and I are changing outfits?”

Jooyoung just looks at him like he’s soft in the head. “The previous competitors are performing either solo or in sets, of course. And we do talk segments. Did you think it would be dead air? We’re live.”

“Oh,” Changmin manages. That makes sense, although it wouldn’t have to him, before Jooyoung said it.

He says as such. 

It makes his favourite assistant producer give an amused scoff, “that’s why you make a living out of feeding people, and not entertaining people. Come along, chop chop, walk faster, let's have those long legs work for their salary.” 

 

--

 

The third(!) and final(!!) round has Yunho in, of all things, a simple black suit, and well-tailored trousers. And what looks like nothing beneath the suit. 

Changmin eyes the plunging vee of his jacket in coy fascination, from the periphery of his sight. He tightens his fingers around his mic. 

Hyunmoo is saying something, and the cameras are on them, and. He doesn’t know if Yunho knows Changmin’s staring at him from the corner of his eye, like a peeping tom. 

In any case, Yunho turns to face him properly, and extends a hand to him. 

It’s outstretched just like how it was so many months ago. 

Like how it was, when Changmin hung up on his mother in Sing! Idol mansion the first day proper and turned to see a smiling stranger. 

This time, instead of holding it gingerly with two fingers and a thumb, Changmin reaches for it and grasps firmly. 

Everyone and everything else fades to white noise in the background.

Yunho’s palm is very warm in his. His fingers are curled tight in return, about Changmin’s palm.

“Good luck,” Changmin tells him. He’s glad his voice is steady. “Let’s try our best.”

“Yes,” Yunho says. He’s smiling. “Let’s.”

 

--

 

Back when Changmin was first informed that three songs would make up the final challenge, he knew that he should look at his final selection of this singing thing like how he looks at the other thing governing his life. 

Cuisine. Food. 

Flow, structure. It's all about the storytelling. 

Sometimes there are six courses, nine courses or even twelve to a proper meal, in Changmin’s line of work. 

But at the end of the day, if you break things down in structure, it would just be three acts. 

Amuse-bouche and appetizer. Savouries and the main course. Dessert. 

Beginning. Climax. Wrap up.

Before he had worked out his first two song choices, Changmin already knew absolutely what he wanted to sing for his final song. 

In a way, he's come in full circle. 

It's the song Hyunseok caught him belting in the kitchen 2am one night, high off experimenting with the summer menu he had in mind.

It’s the song that, Hyunseok tells him much later, tipped his hand into signing Changmin up for Sing! Idol behind his back.

The begonia topping Changmin had created then, frozen by way of liquid nitrogen, was a perfect spread of red and gold, smooth and lovely.

He had put the frozen flower on his tongue, where it had stayed whole and shining and perfect for one brilliant second. Then it crumbled into tart sweetness upon his tongue. 

Changmin wants to recapture that single note of bittersweet happiness he had experienced then; and celebrate the beauty of the transient.

He comes out of his own (rather pretentious!) musings, only to hear Yunho, already on-stage and preparing to perform his final song choice, tell the audience almost conversationally, “this is the final song I’ll sing in Sing! Idol. I wrote this, with the help of some very dear friends-”

At that, Henry waves very enthusiastically, from where the rest of the contestants are seated. Yunho breaks off, to wave back at him. 

The audience sighs, charmed. 

“-because November this past year was a very, very special time for me,” Yunho finishes. 

Bowing low, he holds the pose for five, ten seconds, before straightening to beam a bright grin at the audience, and the cameras. 

Yunho’s eyes find Changmin’s then, standing as he is just off the side of the Judges’ Table.

“So please enjoy November With Love, and thank you for everything,” Yunho tells Changmin, and lowers his head to wait for the studio band. To begin.

 

--

 

It's a love letter to him, Changmin realises abruptly, standing there with Yunho's amplified vocals wrapped around him like a warm embrace. Like Yunho’s hands. 

“My heart froze in the cold wind of early winter,” Yunho croons huskily.

Eyes shut and a hand splayed against his waist, his voice is a beautiful smooth arc whilst his fingers flutter a slow beat against his blazer, “it has changed, after meeting you.”

It’s a love letter written for him. For him. For Changmin. 

In November, Yunho had cared enough about a fellow contestant, enough to ignore that they’re supposed to be in competition with each other, that retaining Changmin on the show meant that his good friend was forfeited in his stead. 

In November, Yunho had appeared out of the blue, during a time when Changmin was back in his real life and at his real job, to eat Changmin’s food, properly made and properly presented, and he had looked at that and picked out immediately the story Changmin had wanted to tell, with his food, and he had said to Changmin with utmost sincerity, “you have so much talent and it just shines through.”

In November, he gave Yunho his hoodie, a spur of the moment thing, because Yunho had shivered in the cold, and yet. But.

Standing there like this, listening to each line Yunho infuses with almost dreamy melancholy, matching each line of the lyrics to his own -to their- memories, Changmin can’t run anymore.

Nor hide behind the denials he’s used to fob off so many people, and himself.

Nor ignore the times when he played dumb, when the friends he’s made here offer teasing comments, or knowing laughter. 

This song is the final straw. This song tips the scales. This song is.

It had felt impossible. It feels impossible. It shouldn’t have been like this.

Who is he? He’s just Changmin. Yes, he loves Yunho, and he’s faced that and accepted that about himself months ago. 

But. He doesn’t deserve this. He doesn’t deserve bright, shining Yunho. He’s never thought about reciprocity.

It’s impossible.

And yet…

And yet.

Every line that Yunho sings is familiar somehow; passages of a story that Changmin’s read. That Changmin’s lived through.

Yunho’s voice soars, and soars.

There’s a thread of huskiness even in the way he belts out the chorus and it’s perfect in its imperfection. 

Changmin’s fingers are so tight about his own mic that it hurts, a distant, dull sort of pain. 

It should be impossible.

What Yunho probably doesn’t realise, because Changmin’s never truly given him a chance to, or given himself a chance to, because it had seemed so impossible. 

What Yunho likely doesn’t realise is. 

Changmin’s heart has changed, too, because of him. Because of Yunho. Because of this.

 

--

 

He doesn’t know how he gets on stage after that. It’s likely pure muscle memory and survival instinct honed in his lizard brain.

All Changmin remembers is that single, fleeting glance Yunho throws at him; before Yunho bows again to the audience.

Then he walks to stage left quietly, with applause trailing behind him. He goes without another look backward.

Hyunmoo asks him something, and Changmin answers something else about desserts and whatnot, but. He can’t, for the life of him, quite concentrate. 

Until the drummist starts, and the guitarist strums the first note.

Until the crowd hushes, expectant. 

Changmin remembers to bring up his mic then, and he truly understands something else Yunho just said, a little while ago.

This is the final song that Changmin will sing for Sing! Idol. 

After this, the competition ends. Everything will change again, or maybe even go back to the way things ought to be. 

Somehow the sentiment grounds him in the moment, and helps him to belt out to the rows and rows and rows of people, “Forever love, forever dream, このままそばにいて.”

With courage he previously wouldn’t have thought he had, before he joined Sing! Idol, before he met Yunho, before all and any of these; Changmin closes his eyes, and just sings.

“夜明けに震える心を抱きしめて, oh! Stay with me.”

 

--

 

Absolutely no time is left to them, not even for a quick breather. Not even just one minute, left to their own devices and away from the always-present cameras. 

Changmin yearns to grab Yunho and pull him aside, even if it’s for thirty seconds.

But he can’t. They can’t.

Instead Yunho’s brought back on stage the second that Changmin lowers his mic, and the studio backing band puts down their instruments.

There’s a part of him that still can’t believe, now that it’s happened, that Yunho did that right on the finale of something that has always been clearly so important to him.

Changmin’s no expert, but even he knows that in entertainment, the audience is looking for a high. For a proper climax. Even he knows that-

His mind shies away from the thought. 

“Wow!” Hyunmoo keeps saying, “Wow!”

“A truly strong showing from both our finalists,” he praises, ushering both Changmin and Yunho to stand centre-stage, “from our hot favourite and our dark horse! Wow! Impressive, aren’t they, ladies and gentlemen?”

Another swell of noise from the audience. The judges are on their feet, and the rest of the Sing! Idol twenty, and oh, oh

Members of the audience are getting up, too. 

There’s a standing ovation. People are giving him and Yunho a standing ovation.

Warmth around his left hand makes him look down, and. Yunho’s hand is wrapped around his.

He looks back up, startled. 

Yunho meets his eyes, and tilts his head, and Changmin understands, then. 

Their hands clasped together, they turn to face the audience, and bow. 

When they’re upright again, Hyunmoo’s shouting, and waving a red envelope lined in gilt, “but there’s no time to waste! Audience members! Viewers from all over the country! I’ve got in my hands- the result for tonight’s showdown!”

Another chorus of cheers greet his proclamation. 

“Before I open it,” he crows, to the audience’s loud consternation, “judges! Come! Time to say a few words!”

Changmin knows his hand is sweaty. It must be a horrible feeling, for Yunho to grasp onto that, and feel all that dampness.

He tries to wriggle it free surreptitiously. 

Yunho holds fast. 

He tries again, but Yunho just tightens his grip. Changmin gives up.

The judges look at each other. Jaewon is the first to pick up the mic. “I have nothing to say, only that I am very, very, very happy with how far these two have pushed their own boundaries, and how far they’ve both come.”

He passes the mic to Jongkook, who goes, “on one hand, I’m bitter that this has basically come down to a competition between Jaewon and BoA.” 

Too-loud laughter from Hyunmoo, and the audience greets him, and over at the Sing! Idol section, Kyuhyun flings a dramatic hand over his eyes, and falls back in a fake swoon. 

Jongkook waits for the tittering to subside, then, “but I have to say both Yunho and Changmin put on a very fine show tonight. I don’t know who the winner is, in that envelope that Hyunmoo is waving around. I really don’t know, because it can go either way.”

Deafening cheers greet his statement. A huddle of schoolboys right behind him raise the gigantic fansign in their hands and shout, “Yunho!”

The gaggle of aunties in the opposite section shush them very loudly. BoA picks up the mic. 

She smiles, and turns to look at the audience as well. “I don’t think I’ve said this publicly before. A long time ago, Yunho and I met. It was in an SM Entertainment practice room that was dressed up for auditions. We were both very, very young.”

Someone in the stands shrieks, shrill, “so it’s true!” 

Next to Changmin, Yunho inclines his head. 

BoA laughs impishly, “Yes, it’s true. It must be nearly twenty years since, right? I will say only this, and I believe my company fully backs me on it. In hindsight, we lost a gem that day when Yunho didn’t join us as a trainee. Look at him now!”

Yunho bows again. The audience are shouting so loudly that Changmin’s surprised the rafters are still standing. Changmin himself has taken his hand away from Yunho, so that he can clap long and vigorous and loud.

“And Changmin,” BoA looks at him. “I am very, very, very proud of you. It has been an honour to see you fight, and win, round after round, against your greatest competitor. Yourself. I’m extremely happy that I got to use my Judge’s Chance for you.”

The audience loves that. Changmin just folds himself over at the waist, into a deep bow. 

When the cheers have petered out, Hyunmoo strolls back to centre-stage with a casual, “so I guess I should open this…”

That gets the audience going again. 

After much teasing, Hyunmoo finally works the edges of the envelope open. They are all treated to his face as he scans the results, inscrutable save for a very slight widening of his eyes.

At the front of the stage, the camera operators pull in for close-ups of him from varying angles. 

“Well,” he says at last. 

The studio is silent, a pregnant hush. “Well, now.”

“Tell us!” Someone cries, from high up on the stands, and someone else joins in, until it’s too noisy again, until Hyunmoo holds up a staying hand. 

“Well,” he says again. “Without further ado. Wow! All I can say is: wow. South Korea has spoken!” 

Zhou Mi shouts from the contestant section, to chuckles and excited agreement from the audience, “tell us what she said, then!”

Beside him, Chanyeol pulls a face, and gets a hand around his face to gag him in one exaggerated movement, generating another wave of commiserating laughter. 

Hyunmoo shakes his head, and puts a finger to his lips. 

At a cue offstage from the crew, the backing band starts a low, ominous drumroll. 

“The winner of Sing! Idol is,” Hyunmoo intones dramatically.

He pauses, to let the drums do their job. 

Shrieks from the audience have reached a feverish pitch. Changmin can barely pick out shouts of Yunho’s name, and his, through the unintelligible screaming. 

He reaches for Yunho’s hand again.

Yunho lets him, and threads their fingers together. 

“-Shim Changmin. Congratulations!”

What?

 

--

 


CHANGMIN’S SETLIST: FINALE


YUNHO’S SETLIST: FINALE

Saying ‘I love you’ is not the words 

I want to hear from you 

It's not that I want you not to say

but if you only knew 

How easy it would be to show me how you feel

More than words,

Is all you have to do to make it real.


-- MORE THAN WORDS.

결국 멈췄던 시계는 제 길을 가 

두고 봐 내가 개척하는 딴 세상 

이제 그만 Drop it low 

제발 그만 Drop it low 

이제 그만 Drop it low 

제발 그만 Drop it low

 

 

-- DROP

새까만 건반을 두드릴 때 (Piano) 

새하얀 건반 사일 오갈 때 (Piano) 

몹쓸 악상이 피어나 (No no no no) 

When you play on my piano, I go go go (Piano) 

I like it when you say ‘don’t stop’ 

I like it, don’t stop.


-- PIANO.

You’re in sexy blue skinny jeans 

숨도 못 쉬게 넌 날 안아 줄 것만 같아 

You’re in sexy blue vintage jeans 

좀 더 어른처럼 넌 날 다뤄 줄 것만 같아 

How does it feel?

 

 

-- BLUE JEANS.


Forever love, forever dream 

このままそばにいて 

夜明けに震える心を抱きしめて 

Oh! Stay with me.

 

 

 

 

-- FOREVER LOVE.


이른 겨울 찬 바람에 얼어붙은 내 마음이 

그대를 만나게 된 후로 변했어 

11월의 첫눈처럼 설레던 그 시간에 나는 

바보처럼 멈춰졌어 

나를 떠나지 마세요 나를 떠나지 말아요 

우리 울고 웃던 그 곳에서 

나를 떠나지 마세요 (떠나지 마세요)


-- 11월… 그리고 (NOVEMBER WITH LOVE).

 

--