Title: A Vote for Me
Summary: [AU] It's election season and Lee Jinki is rapidly overtaking his opponent, Choi Minho, in popularity. But there's more at stake than national issues. Minho's group is planning to destroy Jinki's public image and things aren't going great in several of the mens' personal lives.
Warnings: Suggested sexual content, language
Notes: First major SHINee fanfiction. If there are some cultural things I messed up, please don't hesitate to tell me. Finally, thank you queen_anything for reading through this (so if anyone finds grammar/style mistakes, you can go after her.)
Jinki’s final words were still echoing through the still autumn air when the applause and cheering started up. As he stepped away from the podium, he surveyed the crowd and waved. People whose faces he couldn’t make out waved back. He let this go on for about a minute before finally bowing. The wide smile he wore remained on his face as he left the stage.
At the bottom of the stairs, a staff member gave him a Styrofoam cup filled with coffee. All around him voices congratulated him on another speech well done. As he made his way through the babbling and excited crowd, a hand gripped his arm, causing coffee to leap over the cup’s brim and fall on to his hand.
“Sorry,” the hand’s owner said with an embarrassed laugh. Jinki turned and pretended to be upset.
“You’re fired, Jonghyun!”
Jonghyun shrugged and, grinning, grabbed him by the shoulders. He found himself being maneuvered through the growing crowd. Shouts filled the air and a woman reached out for him while screaming “Lee! Lee!” He made sure to wave and nod to everyone around him.
The crowd was pushed back and they reached a black car. Jinki was immediately shoved through the open door by Jonghyun and clumsily made his way to his seat. More coffee spilled out.
Jonghyun shut the door and locked it before falling back against the seat.
“I think this is your biggest turnout yet, Jinki. If it keeps going like this, you’ll have no problem beating Choi Minho.” Jonghyun glanced out the window. The car was barely moving due to the crowd surrounding the car. “We should probably add more security, though.”
“And cups with lids,” Jinki said before taking a sip of the coffee.
Jonghyun made an exasperated sound and rolled his eyes.
“I’ll put it at the top of the list, Mr. President.”
For a moment, Jinki felt exactly like he did when they were both twenty and hanging out in their college dorm. Whenever this happened, it made his current situation seem unreal. Back then, he had never imagined he would be running for president with his best friend still right beside him. But, his surroundings didn’t let this surreal state of mind last long. People tapped the windows, Jonghyun spoke to the driver, and his skin was light red from where the coffee landed.
“I just have that interview tonight, right?”
“Yeah,” Jonghyun turned back to the driver. “Can’t you just take that way? It’d be faster.”
As the driver explained angrily why he wasn’t taking that way, Jinki pulled out his phone.
“Texting Juri again?”
He nodded and continued pressing buttons.
“She’ll leave you if you do that too much.”
Jinki knew anything he said would cause Jonghyun to start sulking and so he remained silent. Although Jonghyun was a good aide and organizer, he had never let go of some of his immaturities. Jinki decided to lighten the mood.
“Want to come over for dinner?”
“Yeah, if we ever get out of this mess.”
“What’s your motivation to be president?” the reporter asked.
“Well, when I was in the National Assembly, I saw a lot of issues that need fixed. For example…”
Minho was too engrossed with the picture on his desk to pay attention. In it, he was kneeling between his two sons on a soccer field, a hand on each of their shoulders. Both boys had long, unruly hair and large faces and they looked exactly like he did at that age. The picture had been taken back in the days when he had time to coach their team. Nowadays, he was lucky to see them before they went to bed.
Tonight was not going to be one of those nights. It was already ten o’clock and there was no way he was leaving anytime soon.
Besides himself, four people were stuffed into his small office. There was the woman typing his next speech, the staff accountant, his main advisor Park Chunghoon, and Taemin. Taemin was his publicist and was from the family of an influential donor who wanted him to have a top-position job. Minho questioned Taemin’s qualifications, but he couldn’t deny that he brought some cheerfulness into the group.
“Lee Jinki’s ideas are too idealistic and the public is eating it up! Why is no one questioning how he plans to execute these ideas?” Chunghoon said, forcing Minho to look away from his sons. “We need to push this harder in the next debate.”
Minho nodded and made a note of it, even though he knew the speech writer had done the same.
He didn’t really have a role in these late-night office meetings. He was well aware of the fact that he was only a figurehead for the party, running because of his family name and his father’s past fame in the National Assembly. They had used him instead of his father mainly because he was closer in age to Lee Jinki, which made them feel they had leveled the playing field.
No one mentioned the other reason for his candidacy was his father’s miserable defeat in the last election as well as his quick temper.
“I finally got in contact with that gossip magazine,” Taemin added in eagerly. “They didn’t have a lot of free time, so I set up to meet them for breakfast tomorrow morning at six. Is that okay?”
Chunghoon glared at Taemin.
“You should have mentioned that earlier,” Taemin let his head drop a little. “It’ll work, though. I want you to come too, Minho. It’ll make them trust you more.”
Minho nodded once more and started to watch the TV. The calm face of his opponent filled his vision.
He vowed mentally that he would defeat him.
The light was out in the hallway, so Jonghyun climbed up the concrete stairs in the dark. As he went, he sung. He wanted to shout the words, but kept his voice low so he wouldn’t disturb his already irritable neighbors. Normally, he didn’t care what they thought, but tonight he was in a bad mood and didn’t want to start a fight.
Still singing, he got his door key out his pocket and lifted it to the lock. Right as he stuck it in, the handle moved and the door began to open. Jonghyun shut up and gripped the key tight, waiting for the signal to attack or run.
He did neither when he recognized the man in the doorway.
“Kibum? I thought you were still in America.”
An exhausted Kibum nodded and opened the door wider. Once inside, Jonghyun took his shoes off and set his shoulder bag on the floor. The single room apartment was lit only by the TV screen, its screen showing Jinki’s interview. In front of it, Kibum had unrolled Jonghyun’s futon. Except for a few scattered stacks of paper and clothing, the rest of the living area was bare.
“When did you get back?”
“A few days ago. Something came up at work, so I had to cut the trip short. They can’t run anything without me,” Kibum said as he sat back down on the futon. Jonghyun joined him. “I see you sold off your table. Are the child support payments that bad?”
Jonghyun replied curtly, “I just didn’t need it anymore.”
“That’s true...I’ve been watching this interview with your candidate. I’ve been trying to find some flaw in him.”
Jonghyun smiled at this.
“You’re not going to. The only thing wrong with the guy is that he’ll trip on stage and try to make it into a bad joke.”
Although Kibum’s bangs, brushed over to one side, blocked most of his eyes from Jonghyun, he could still see them narrow.
“You can find something in everyone’s past.”
“Not Jinki’s. Why are you stuck on that, anyway?” Jonghyun asked suspiciously.
“I was just wondering.”
“Well, you never have good intentions when you wonder.”
“That’s not true,” Kibum objected. With a breath his voice went from whiny to cheerful. “I do have another question, though. What time do you have to get up tomorrow?”
“As I said, you’re never up to any good when you wonder.”
Jonghyun sighed and the suddenly pushed Kibum back against the mattress. His lips just as quickly covered Kibum’s. His ability to talk gone, Kibum wrapped his arms around Jonghyun’s waist and pulled him closer. Jonghyun’s nose was soon filled with the scent of Kibum’s cologne. He could feel the stickiness of chap-stick against his own lips.
When Jonghyun finally pulled back, Kibum laughed.
“You know what, you’re right not to worry about Jinki. You should worry more about yourself. Imagine the dirt they could dig up on you.”
“I guess it’s a good thing that I have Seoul’s top gossip guru under my control.”
Kibum scoffed. “You wish.”
Kibum pulled Jonghyun back down to him.
The beeping of his alarm woke Kibum. He reached out for his phone to turn the sound off, but found himself held back by Jonghyun’s embrace. He struggled against the muscular arms, trying not to wake up Jonghyun in the process. As he did this, he blew at the hair that was falling into his eyes.
Somehow, he finally managed to squirm away from Jonghyun and turn the alarm off. Behind him, Jonghyun shifted his position and ended up on his back. He could hear his steady breathing, which had just been tickling the back of his neck.
Kibum got up and went to the small closet. He picked out a suit from his small, away-from-home wardrobe. He then started to carefully make his way to the bathroom.
“I missed you.”
“I know. Go back to sleep.”
Taemin checked his phone. No one else had shown up at the Western-styled restaurant, but he was also thirty minutes early. He yawned, regretting the loss of minutes better suited for sleeping. He wished there wasn’t such a need to impress Chunghoon with his dedication to the team.
As he watched businesspeople walk, a black Mercedes pulled up before the restaurant. A man in an expensive looking gray suit got out and looked around. Taemin was soon distracted by the eyeliner and styled hair.
He was still staring when the man approached him.
“Are you part of Choi Minho’s group?”
Taemin nodded and quickly got up.
“Yes. I’m Lee Taemin. I was the one who arranged the meeting.” He made a quick bow. The other man didn’t return it.
“Lee Taemin? I haven’t heard of you. You must not be very high-up.”
Taemin’s face burned despite the chill wind. He couldn’t think of a way to answer such a rude comment.
The man continued.
“I’m sure you already know, but I’m Kim Kibum.”
Taemin nodded. He knew the name, but he didn’t realize that the founder of the Key tabloid magazine would be the one to show up.
There was an awkward silence before Kibum crossed his arms and said, “Why don’t we wait inside? It’s too cold out here.”
They were soon seated across from each other. Kibum ordered the both of them tea and pulled out his phone. Taemin tapped his fingers against the hot cup, occasionally checking the front entrance for any sign of Minho or Chunghoon.
Five minutes into the wait, Kibum put his phone down and joined Taemin in looking at the entrance.
“What do you do exactly, anyways?”
Taemin turned to face Kibum. He had his arm propped up on the table and leaned his head against his open palm. His eyes were half-opened.
“I’m in public relations. I deal mainly with statements.”
Taemin knew he should feel insulted, but he couldn’t help agreeing. “It is. I don’t see how your job’s much better, though.”
“I give all the boring jobs to my staff,” he said before yawning.
Kibum flashed a sly grin, but his answer was serious.
“Yes. I just got back from a trip to America and still haven’t adjusted. I went to New York City. If you ever go, don’t bother with the Statue of Liberty. The stores are the best part in the entire place. I went into-”
Kibum’s phone beeped, stopping him mid-sentence. Taemin sighed inwardly, glad to have been saved from what he expected was a long story about the store. He ran his hand across his cropped hair and checked his watch. It was 6:35, five minutes past their meeting time. It wasn’t like either Minho or Chunghoon to be late.
A rapid series of clicks filled the air as Kibum started replying to a message. The front doors opened, but revealed an older couple. Taemin sunk down in his chair.
Kibum finally shut his phone and stared at him. Taemin made an effort to return the look for as long as he could, but eventually his eyes drifted to the door.
“Your boss isn’t making a very good impression so far. I hope he doesn’t think this is some throw-away meeting.”
Taemin straightened up. Right as he was about to answer, the front doors opened once more. This time, Minho walked in, followed by a red faced Chunghoon. Minho spotted the pair first and came over quickly. He bowed.
“I’m sorry I’m late. Something came up at home.”
Formal introductions were made, Taemin was seated next to Kibum, and breakfast was ordered. Chunghoon was the first to bring up the reason for their meeting.
“We found your magazine’s article on Roh Jungwook very interesting. How did you find out about the sexual harassment?”
“Oh, the candidate for the Democratic Labor Party? One of my ex-girlfriends is on the staff and she asked me to reveal it. We weren’t originally interested in covering politics, but we changed our minds after the feedback for that article.”
“His ratings have dropped pretty low since you published that. He may actually drop out the race soon.”
Kibum shrugged and smirked. “Sometimes that’s just the way things go. So, who are you asking me to ruin?”
Chunghoon frowned at Kibum’s straightforward question. Taemin had to try hard not to smile, glad to see Chunghoon realized what they were dealing with. Kibum continued.
“It’s Lee Jinki, right?”
“Yes,” Minho replied.
“He isn’t a huge threat to us, but we’d like to bring his popularity down a few notches. Just as a security,” Chunghoon said.
Kibum took a sip of his tea and seemed to be thinking.
“I have a very reliable source in Mr. Lee’s campaign and he’s confident that it’ll be hard to get anything on him.” He put down his cup before adding, “And we don’t just make things up for Key.”
“Who’s this ‘reliable source’?” Chunghoon asked.
“Come on, you wouldn’t give away the names of all the people funding your campaign, now would you? It’s the same for me. You’ll just have to trust me when I say he knows what’s going on over there.”
“It sounds like you have your hands into everything,” Minho said. Taemin couldn’t help but be surprised whenever he spoke.
“Well, knowing things about people is how I make my living. If I wanted, I know I could find something about you.”
Minho’s face didn’t change expressions as the two momentarily locked eyes. Taemin felt a little uncomfortable. He thought Chunghoon must have felt the same way, because he frowned deeper and spoke.
“Part of this deal would be you not reporting anything negative on our candidate.”
“I figured that,” Kibum said while pushing his bangs away of his left eye. “I was just making a point.”
“Good, now this is how much we’re willing to pay…”
As Chunghoon and Kibum discussed money, Taemin looked over at Minho. He looked like he had given up on paying attention and simply stared past the two. Taemin reached across the table and lightly tapped Minho’s forearm. The other man blinked a few times as he faced him.
“Is everything okay?”
Minho glanced over at Chunghoon and Kibum, who were arguing, before answering.
“Sunhee was upset this morning. It’s nothing serious, though.”
Taemin had only met Minho’s wife a few times. She rarely spoke and always looked unhappy, so his opinion of her wasn’t exactly positive. Chunghoon, on the other hand, was very clear about his dislike for her, often complaining about her lack of involvement in the campaign. Minho usually ignored him when he started the “absent first lady” rant.
Right next to them, Chunghoon and Kibum finally shook hands, signifying an agreement. Judging by the look on Chunghoon’s face, Kibum had been the winner in their little match. He ate the last bit of his food and stood.
“I’ll contact you if I find out anything. And this is my personal number. I always have that phone on me,” he said, giving Chunghoon a business card. “Pleasure meeting you all.”
With that, Kibum left. Chunghoon gave the card to Taemin.
“I want you to keep in contact with him. Try to befriend him; it’ll let us keep a closer eye on things.”
Taemin wanted to groan, but took the card and stuck it in his jacket pocket. His expression must have been obvious, because Chunghoon spoke again.
“I don’t like him either, but he will be useful to us.”
Jonghyun was typing on his laptop when Jinki entered the office. He spoke without looking away from his computer screen.
“I have your notes for the debate tonight typed up. I can send them to you when you want them.”
“Thanks. Um, did I need to get to that charity event at ten or eleven?”
“Eleven. All you’re going to have to do is stand there and look pretty.”
“I’ve got it covered,” said Jinki, putting his hands behind his head and thrusting his chest out in an exaggerated pose. Jonghyun laughed and shook his head.
“You’re supposed to draw the crowd in, not scare them away.”
The phone on Jonghyun’s desk started ringing. He picked it up and answered it. Several “yeses” and a thank you and then Jonghyun put the phone down.
“That was the advertising people confirming the TV spot.”
Jinki sat down before his own laptop and began opening emails. They were mostly memos and reminders. There was also an updated schedule.
“You’re so efficient, Jonghyun, it’s scary.” He scrolled through the schedule and stopped on a date. “Lunch with Pak Hyo? Ugh, damn it, I don’t like him.”
“Sorry, he insisted on it. He’s probably looking for a cabinet position.”
Another ringing sound came, this time from Jonghyun’s phone. He looked at the screen. “Shit.”
“Who is it?”
“Oh. Better answer it.”
Jonghyun sighed and got up.
“I don’t know if I’ll come right back. If you need anything, just get on my computer.”
Jonghyun pressed the answer button and walked out the room.
“I need more money.”
“I just sent you some two weeks ago. How is it that you need more?”
“I just signed Kwangho up for piano lessons. “
“Why are you getting an attitude? I thought you wanted him to learn music.”
“I don’t see why you need more money for it!”
“I just do. I want it by the end of the week.”
The call ended. Jonghyun shoved his phone into his pocket and continued walking down the hallway. He passed by several office doors and went through an exit door to the stairs. He rushed down five flights before he reached the entrance to a small courtyard. Across the green lawn was a bench, but he didn’t sit down. Instead, he started pacing in front of it.
He couldn’t ask Jinki for an advance and he couldn’t skip out on the creditor. Not paying Buja was also out of the question because there were several threats she could make and follow through on. This left very few options. He could pawn the TV or he could ask Kibum for money.
He paced a little while longer and decided he didn’t really need the TV.
Aides rushed in and out the dressing room. Someone dropped Minho’s notes in front of him while the woman in charge of his makeup and hair made a final check of her work. Next to him, Chunghoon was talking about the host of the debate and little things Minho could do to win that man over.
Finally, it was time to start heading to the stage. As they walked down the hall, Minho’s phone began to vibrate in his pants pocket. The number on the screen was from his home.
“I have to take this.”
“You don’t have time. The debate starts in five minutes,” Chunghoon yelled.
“It won’t take long.”
Chunghoon’s face began to redden, but Minho answered the phone. The small voice of his older son, Minki, came across the receiver.
“Mommy left and hasn’t come back.”
Minho stepped away from his small group and stood still.
“Did she say where she was going?”
“No. Can you come home? We’re scared.”
Minho shut his and eyes and leaned against the wall. Minki was breathing heavily and he knew he heard Junsu crying in the background. When he opened his eyes again, Chunghoon was gesturing to his watch.
“I’ll be home in a little while. You two can go into my room. It’s safe there. Okay?”
“Good. I love you.”
“I love you, too, Daddy.”
Minho shut the phone and resumed the walk down the hallway. A crowd was gathered before the stage entranceand Minho could see his three opponents in it. Soon, as each candidate was called up, a wave of cheering filled the large auditorium. Minho took a deep breath, stood up straight, and tried to focus on what was coming as he made his way onto the stage.