This is my entry for Infinite Possibilities Graphics & Oneshot Requests Shop's #IP5TH giveaway! The shop is awesome, seriously - super efficient and talented, and the staff is really nice as well! Congrats to Infinite Possibilities for its 5th anniversary! Please do check out the shop here, and I hope you enjoy this oneshot (also posted as a story on my account)!
Jongin had always been a child of summer.
It was a way of life for him, truly, a reality he had never once questioned before. Even since his childhood days, which he had spent chasing butterflies down dirt roads, fingers sticky with watermelon juice and dark skin glowing, he had loved the summer like his own mother.
Summer brought with it the sun, which seemed to shine especially bright just for Jongin back in those days; it brought juicy peaches dangling from neighbors’ branches that tempted naughty little boys with innocent eyes and not-so-innocent intentions; it brought laughter and joy and friendship, all with the burning intensity and fervor of a thousand summer suns.
Yes, Jongin had always loved the summer.
When EXO’s debut was confirmed for April 8, 2011, he’d told s the date must have been chosen so that a glorious summer would stretch out before them, not only literally but also figuratively. Just as the temperatures would soar and the flowers would burst into blissful blossom, EXO’s popularity would thrive in the heat of summer, he informed them sagely. But the only difference was that their summer would never end; no, no autumn would come for EXO, he was sure of that. Their legacy would burn on, uninterrupted, unchallenged, unfazed in the face of time.
The other members had chuckled nervously, patting his arm and telling him not to get ahead of himself. But Jongin knew he wasn't. They were twelve young, handsome, and talented boys, luxuriating in the heady pleasure of youth and their brotherly bond. Nothing could take them down, he thought to himself with a handsome, confident smirk.
Oh, how wrong he was.
The day the first member left, Jongin felt something akin to fear for the first time in a long, long while. Icy cold, it nipped at his toes, teeth razor-sharp and dangerous. What was it exactly? He didn’t know, but it worried him. Coldness had no place in the kingdom of summer, in the kingdom of Kai. Whatever it was, he pushed it firmly aside and ignored it, patching the icy scars it left behind with forced laughs and jokes told in a practice room that seemed suddenly all too large for himself and his ten remaining brothers.
But never mind. A child of summer was not meant to linger on sad thoughts or regrets for long, and so Jongin moved on with life. Long days at the dance studio stretched longer and longer; the sweat that beaded up on his sun-kissed skin rolled faster and faster. Practice was more important than ever now to sustain the eternal summer he had promised himself and s. Perhaps Jongin was arrogant, but he knew better than to fall behind in the practice room. Things would get better, he knew they would, because they were EXO, they were one, and more importantly, he was Kim Jongin, son of the summer itself.
Then the second member left. And then the third. And all of a sudden, Jongin could feel autumn’s chilly winds gusting into the kingdom he had built for himself, could feel the leaves of EXO’s Tree of Life withering and falling all around him. It started with arguments in the practice room over childish things, really: someone didn't clean up after himself, someone ate the last protein bar that someone else was saving, someone was still in contact with an ex-member the others had agreed to cut off contact with, and so on. The band of boys who had started out with the sun in their hands and the stars in their eyes was disintegrating as the members aged, transforming them into bitter, jaded men who laughed uproariously on talk shows but felt utterly empty and alone on the inside.
The worst part of it all, Jongin thought, was the feeling of inevitability that accompanied the whole process. Throughout it all, there was an overarching feeling of “yes, of course we’re all mad at each other over nothing at all, of course we can't even look each other in the eye anymore after having lived as brothers for the last three years, of course we’re pathetic and angry and disillusioned, because that's just the way life is supposed to be.”
Autumn had seeped into Jongin’s life without him even realizing, and he hated it. But even more so, he hated how powerless he was to stop it.
“Well, yes,” the other members would always say when he voiced his concerns, their eyes as blank and dead as the autumn leaves that so tormented Jongin. “That's how life works, you see. There isn't such a thing as eternal summer. Only children believe in that.”
Still, Jongin refused to give up. Perhaps he was the one son of summer left in this world, in this cold world that choked and wrangled and squeezed all the childlike joy out of living, But even so, he was determined to hold on to the rare moments of brotherhood that he still felt occasionally sweeping across the EXO dorm. He wasn't going to give up, no, not on the everlasting summer he so desperately wanted.
Years passed, and EXO’s popularity waned. Their former fans were mothers now, busy with their own jaded husbands and jaded in-laws and jaded friends, far too busy for a group of nine more jaded, angry men. The members no longer lived together, having earned more than enough money to live comfortably on their own, and Jongin couldn't remember the last time they had eaten a good meal together, or even had a proper conversation as a group. Looking at old pictures and photoshoots of the members smiling happily together hurt now; they reminded him of both what had been and what would never be again. Finding it far more beneficial to spare himself the pain, he instead buried himself in solitude.
So when the email came one day from SM informing him that the company had officially disbanded EXO, Jongin felt nothing at all inside. Over a decade of sweating, crying, and bleeding his soul out, and he felt nothing now but numbness, both inside and out. It was a strange, disembodied feeling, not like the panic of a drowning man, but more like the apathetic acceptance of a man who already drowned long ago and was only just finding out.
No thoughts of summer filled his head this time. No dreams of juicy peaches or clear blue skies. Just winter stretching on and on, cold and barren and lifeless. An eternal winter before him, never to end.
When Jongin was young, he once read a story about Icarus, the son of Daedalus who died when, giddy with excitement and childish naïveté, he flew too close to the sun. His artificial feathers incinerated by the blistering heat, he fell into the sea and never emerged again, body both burned and waterlogged beyond hope.
Yet Jongin had always wondered what truly killed Icarus: the sun, in all its alluring, false glory, or the sea, mercurial, cold, and inevitably victorious in the face of one boy’s struggles?
Now, decades later, he knew the answer.