?

Log in

 
 
24 October 2013 @ 01:36 am
our last stand [one-shots/drabbles]  
Title: Our Last Stand
Pairing: Multiple pairings
Summary: A series of drabbles, some of which are long enough to be one-shots, featuring EXO members in a war setting. Each story starts in media res, and should be read independently. There are 18 stories in total.
Warnings!: Character death, foul language, sex, and underage crime.

#1:

They huddle by the rocks while rain beats down on them, soaking through thick uniforms and filling up their boots. Some try to use the chance to wash the grime off their faces, but most remain unmoving, vacant eyes fixed blankly on the horizon. Out on the frontlines and moments before they face the enemy, everything seem to have ceased to matter.

“Think we’ll win?” asks the boy squatting next to Zitao. He looks about Zitao’s age, and there is a slight lisp when he speaks.

“If the rain doesn’t freeze me to death first,” mumbles Zitao glumly, and the boy gives a small chuckle.

They don’t speak for another minute, and then Zitao starts fumbling through his pockets. He fishes out a dry joint and a lighter, and the other boy helps to shelter it from the rain as he lights it up. Zitao takes a puff and offers it to the boy, who takes an equally deep draught. It continues like this for a while as they pass the joint back and forth, feeling the nicotine wash the tension out of their bodies.

“My name is Shixun,” the boy says. The joint is now a mere stub. Zitao takes a final puff and then snuffs it out beneath his boots.

“Zitao.” He replies simply.

Perhaps it’s the nicotine, or maybe it’s the rain, but they begin to talk in earnest. Zitao is surprised to learn that Shixun is Korean, with a Korean name and all, and Shixun is surprised to learn that Zitao is a celebrated martial artist in China. They talk about their past, about their families, about home in a land that is nowhere near home.

“I think I miss homemade kimchi the most,” Shixun says at one point. “Nothing beats the taste of fresh kimchi.”

“That so? On the other hand, I find myself craving hotpots and steamboats. I would kill for a nice and steaming Sichuan hotpot right now.”

“I’ll eat it if you cook the meat for me. If we get out of this alive.”

“How old are you?”

“Nineteen.”

“I’m twenty. So you do the cooking while I do the eating.”

Shixun gives a slight pout while Zitao looks smug. When the smiles fade, they realize how desperately they have been wishing for things to go back to the way they were.

“Say," Shixun stares at the mud caked all over his boots as he asks. "If we make it through all this, what are you going to do?”

Zitao pauses for a while.

“…I’d wanted to take in a few students before all this happened. So I suppose I’ll open a school for martial arts. And, maybe a farm as well, just for the kicks.”

“With endless stretches of corn fields?”

“Yeah, huge corn fields. With a huge herd of cows too. I’ll name them all, every single one of them.”

“If I were you, I’ll name the first one ‘Steak’.”

“The second one shall be Cheeseburger, then.”

“And then Meatballs, Stew, Lasagna…”

“Stop it. You’re making me hungry,” Zitao grins and lightly punches Shixun on the shoulders. “What about you? What did you want to do before this?” Shixun pauses for a moment.

“Believe it or not, I was scouted to be a model before I got drafted. If not for the war, I’d be all made-up and pretty and walking on the runways of Paris, Tokyo, Milan...”

“And Seoul,” Zitao finishes for him. “You could go back to Seoul.”

Shixun shook his head sadly. “Not anymore. They won’t take back people who ran away. Besides, I’ll probably be a mutilated wreck by the end of this.”

“No, no you won’t,” Zitao whispers hoarsely as he shakes his head. “You’ll survive. We will both survive. And then I’ll be the proud owner of the largest corn field in China, while you’ll be the next biggest supermodel. Seoul will be rolling out the red carpets for you, and we’ll both die old and filthy rich and famous, in a grand villa just like the ones in those magazines...” his voice trails off.

“…You forgot the cows.” Shixun could only manage a weak smile. They cling to their dreams for a quiet moment. Just then, the scouts came running back with shouts of ‘the enemy is here!’ followed by the sound of gunfire in the distance. It happens all too quickly; suddenly everyone is scrambling to their posts and fixing their helmets as they prepare for a final stand against an enemy that they cannot hope to win, but they are still loading their rifles anyway.

Zitao gets up and turns to look at his friend one last time. He asks Shixun what his real name is. Shixun tells him and Zitao says it, the syllables rolling around Zitao’s tongue perfectly, as if he had been saying it all his life.

Oh Sehun.

The shouts and explosions draw close. Without looking at each other and without turning back, they tighten their grip on their rifles, and charge headfirst into the unknown.


#2:

5 November 1943

Dear Luhan,

They told us to write letters in case we ever get the chance to send them out. I doubt you'll ever read this, but here goes anyway.

How have you been doing? I arrived in Yueyang yesterday with the main army, and we're setting off for Changsha tomorrow. They tell me that it's about a week's march away. I'm really quite exhausted from all this marching, but we have to press on or we will lose precious time.

On a lighter note, our scouts have brought us news from the other engagements with the Japanese troops. We've won in Changde! The good news has lifted the morale of the army significantly. Hopefully things stay the way they are.

I pray for this to end soon. I can't wait to go home.

Xiumin


-

16 December 1943

Dear Luhan,

It's a few more days to the Winter Solstice. Are you going to make rice dumplings again this year? I regret not eating more of your cooking while I could. When I return, promise me you'll cook me a feast?

We are in Changsha now, beefing up our defenses. The Japanese have been silent since their defeat at Changde, and it's giving me a really bad feeling. But I suppose no news is good news. Changsha looks like a wreck at any case; they haven't had time to rebuild since the battle here a year ago.

Oh, I heard something interesting today.They said Sun Quan gave his men rice dumplings on Winter Solstice before the battle. Do you think we will get any?

Luhan ah, I miss you.


Xiumin

-

24 January 1944

Dear Luhan,

Today's New Year's Eve, and there's nothing I wouldn't give up to fly home now and have a meal with you. This is the first Reunion Dinner that I've eaten without you. Instead of curling up at the fireplace by your side, I'm drinking a bowl of hot soup while being squashed in my bunk with nineteen other soldiers and nursing a cold. One of them, Yixing, has been taking good care of me so you don't have to worry. He's really nice. I think you'll like him. I told him that if we survived all this, I'll bring him back home for dinner so that you can meet him.

My wish for the New Year is... a secret. I'll tell you what I wished for in person when I'm home.

Please don't feel lonely without me and take care of yourself. I'll be back before you know it.


Xiumin

-

14 February 1944

Dear Luhan,

How are you? I bumped into an American soldier last week. He speaks really good Mandarin! He told me that 14 February is a Day of Love for the Westerners. What was the name again, 'Lovers' Day'? When I heard that, I thought of you immediately.

Happy Lovers' Day.

Xiumin


-

26 March 1944

Dear Luhan,

It's a very special day today. I wonder how are you celebrating it at home? No one here knows what's the significance of today, so I'll keep this a secret between the two of us.

I saw a bunch of local boys playing soccer in the fields today as I was transporting ammunition. They remind me of us. That was how we met, right? I have a guilty confession: when I first met you, I thought you were the prettiest girl I've ever seen. Imagine my shock when I realized that you're a boy.

Do you still remember the pact we made back then? I wish I can play soccer with you again.

Xiumin


-

20 April 1944

Dear Luhan,


Happy Birthday! I wish I'm by your side right now. They've stepped up training so I don't have time to write long letters anymore, but please know that my feelings have not changed. In fact, they have only gotten stronger over the years that I have spent with you.

I love you.

Xiumin

-


31 April 1944

Dear Luhan,

Something is up. The Japanese troops are re-deploying their troops unlike their strategies before. Everyone is confused. Things are not looking too good for us, but there is still hope.

Stay safe, please.

Xiumin

-


26 May 1944

Dear Luhan,

Luoyang has fallen. The Japanese troops are going to invade Changsha any minute now. There was a drone strike today, and I was almost hit. We have no idea who will be the first to face the enemy. I'm scared. Pray for me. I love you.

Xiumin


-

12 June 1944

Dear Luhan,

We've been forced to retreat into our base. Nearly half the army has been wiped out by now. Yixing and I are the only ones left from our bunk. I blew up three Japanese today, but I've lost count of how many I've killed.

It makes me sick when I think of how they, too, have someone waiting for them back home. Like how I have you. But I'll kill as many of them as I need so that I can keep you safe. If I die tomorrow, Luhan, I wish that the last thing I see will be you. But that's impossible, eh?

Xiumin


-

5 July 1944

Dear Luhan,

I'm still alive, but I doubt I will be by the end of the next 24 hours. The Americans have pulled out to Saipan. Yixing didn't make it; he was at our base when they dropped a bomb over it. I guess this is probably my last letter to you.

Luhan, I want you to know that I have loved you every second of the past 15 years of our lives together, and I'll love you in our next lives and every life after that. I'm sorry I can't keep up my end of the pact, to stay with you until you breathed your last.
Live on, and live well. For me.

Xiumin

-

"Woah, you're not kidding me. It's so creepy, you know," Luhan says with an involuntary shudder. "These letters addressed to someone with the same name who died so many years ago. It almost seems like they're addressed to me when I read them now! I mean, we even share the same birthday."

Minseok laughs at his friend as they look through the exhibitions in the museum, examining the relics from the second Sino-Japanese War, peering through the windows to a world long-past and gone.

"Don't you find it very sad?" asks Luhan, his eyes fixed on the collection of old letters that were dug up and preserved in ornate glass casings after the war.

"Sorry?" Minseok raises a brow at the question.

"These letters," Luhan's hand glides across the top of the glass. "They were never delivered, were they? The Luhan from the past never got them, never realized how much his friend loved him, and he never even knew how his friend died, did he?"

Minseok contemplates for a moment and picks Luhan's hand off the glass, lacing their fingers together. "Nah," the words tumble out before he realizes it, "I'm sure he's read them somehow."

"How can you be sure?" it's Luhan's turn to raise a brow at Minseok in confusion. Minseok smiles.

"Just a hunch."


#3:

When Jongin sleeps, he dreams of men on fire, dim through the shroud of mist. He sees them drowning in flames, writhing in agony before everything shifts, and then he dreams of disfigured faces looming over him, white eyes writhing in their sockets and skin melted like candle wax. He thinks that maybe he recognizes them. Why did you leave us to die? They ask hoarsely, as they reach out to rip Jongin apart.

When Jongin wakes up, he wakes up screaming in the hospital ward and startles the nurses making their rounds. The line between dream and reality blurs as he sits there, breathing heavily as he takes in his surroundings. He sees a white room - clean white walls and bed sheets and uniforms, and everything reek of disinfectant - and when he looks down, he sees tubes sticking out of his right wrist. His left hand instinctively reaches for them.

"Please, sir! You have to leave them in!" a nurse rushes over and grabs his wrist. The touch of bare skin against his causes him to wrench his hand out of her grip. He freezes, just as shocked at his own reaction as the nurse is. "Wh...where am I?" Jongin asks tentatively.

"You're in Goseong Hospital, sir, don't worry. You're in safe hands." The nurse reassures him soothingly, but Jongin shakes his head.

"No," he whispers, voice trembling. "I have to go back. They need me." He starts clambering out of his bed but the nurse tries her best to restrain him. "Let go of me!! I have to go back there!"

"To do what?" asks a figure in a white coat who had appeared out of nowhere. He has a delicate voice, but the words that he speak are anything but. "We lost at Kaesong, soldier. There's nothing there for you to go back to. We've. Lost." He emphasizes the last two words, slow and deliberate.

Jongin stops struggling as the news sinks in and hits home. He opens his mouth to say something, but it comes out as a sob as he feels the tears flow hot and wet down his cheeks. He hears the nurses say something in hushed voices, something like "...poor thing...and no family to go home to..." Jongin wants to jump up and hit them, maybe force them to take back their unwelcomed sympathies, but instead he just sits there unmoving and unsure.

"I'm sorry" the doctor offers as he leaves to give Jongin a little privacy.

When Jongin falls asleep again, the monsters are replaced by misshapen shadows dancing around him. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, they chant in thin, haunting whispers. Jongin keeps trying to reach out to them but his hand always stops short of a few millimeters. The shadows circle him, chants growing louder as if in mockery, and that is when Jongin realizes that he is all alone.

"You could at least try to keep yourself alive," says the doctor with a purposeful nod at the untouched plate of food when he checks on Jongin the next day. Jongin says nothing, continues to keep his eyes fixed on empty air, and the doctor just tries again anyway.

"What are you going to do when you're out of this place?"

A minute of silence passes, and then Jongin turns to the doctor and looks him in the eye.

"What, pray tell, can you expect a dead man to do?"

"You're not dead. Your heart's still beating and you're actually on the road to recovery, if you would just eat." The doctor points out stubbornly.

Jongin gives the doctor a ghost of a smile. "Just because the heart beats doesn't mean the person is still alive."

"I restarted it myself. I should know."

"And you suppose I should thank you," snaps Jongin, temper rising, glancing at the doctor's name tag. "Dr. Do? Tell me, have you ever seen the skin melt off the face of someone you cared about? You see the end result, but you don't see the process. Don't say that you know, when you can't even come close to guessing how it feels like to have survived when everyone didn't. And you know what? I wish you had just fucking left me to die with the rest!!"

He stops himself before he could say anymore, fists clenching the bed sheets as he pants because it hurts so fucking much to admit it. The doctor regards Jongin through his eyelashes, expression unreadable. When he speaks again, Jongin nearly falls off the bed in surprise.

"Tell you what, why don't you work for me here?"

"I... What!?"

"You heard me," the doctor says insistently. "I want you to help me out in the wards once you're discharged. We have more casualties coming in everyday, and we certainly could use an extra pair of hands around here."

"No, I refuse to-" Jongin starts.

"Or do you have a better plan in mind?" the doctor folds his arms, smugly watching Jongin's last line of defense crumble. Without waiting for Jongin to answer, he gets up and dusts off his coat. "Fantastic. We'll start work when you're fit enough to be discharged, so you better take the chance to rest now because I will be working you hard" he says as he turns to leave.

"Oh, and call me Kyungsoo."

In the days following Jongin's discharge, he is mercilessly thrown into the front lines of hospital duty. Kyungsoo keeps to his promise of working Jongin as hard as he possibly can; the first task he gives Jongin is to wash and disinfect a thousand towels using nothing but two tubs. Jongin swears that Kyungsoo must be Satan personified, and as much as he hates the doctor to the core, he still obliges. "Do you honestly enjoy doing this to me?" he questions once, and Kyungsoo positively beamed at Jongin. It is the first time Jongin sees Kyungsoo smile in earnest, but it chills him to the bone all the same.

The first time he sees Kyungsoo in a surgical room, Jongin nearly loses his nerves. It was an air raid, they said, but the sudden influx of badly burnt victims very nearly cripples the hospital's operations as every staff is deployed to every available surgery room. Kyungsoo watches as Jongin disinfects his hands and pulls on his gloves. "I didn't want you in here, ever." Kyungsoo murmurs. It makes Jongin wonder why for a whole of a minute before Jongin understands what Kyungsoo meant. The next five hours pass in a flurry as they cart in victim after victim, and Jongin scrambles to hand Kyungsoo the correct tools in their race against time. The degree of injuries got worse as time wore on, to the point where Jongin wonders how can they still be alive when their insides are so horrifically mashed that Jongin can't even see distinctive organs anymore? More than once, Jongin had to turn away from the stench before he throws up as it conjures memories of the battlefield. Kyungsoo, on the other hand, soldiered on steadily, never losing his concentration as he performs operation after operation.

Wiping the trickle of perspiration off Kyungsoo's furrowed brows as the doctor works furiously to stitch up his patient, Jongin thinks that maybe Kyungsoo might be a good guy after all. A really, really good guy.

Slowly but surely, Jongin gradually understands why Kyungsoo forced him to work in the hospital. Watching patients fight their way back from the gates of death and recover under his watch, Jongin wonders if he has the courage to do the same. It gives him a renewed purpose. "Do you still wish you had died with your comrades?" Kyungsoo likes to ask teasingly sometimes. Jongin just swats the doctor with surgical gloves in reply, cheeks burning from embarrassment.

With Kyungsoo, Jongin finds that he also experiences a lot of firsts.

Walking into Kyungsoo's office one day, Jongin sees Kyungsoo asleep for the first time and almost forgets how to breathe. Kyungsoo is dozing on one arm at his desk, the warm glow from the setting sun catching his features and highlights his full, red lips. His hair looks brown and soft in the light, and Jongin resists the urge to run his hands through it just to feel it for himself. Why hadn't he noticed how good-looking Kyungsoo is before this? Jongin muses as he stands next to Kyungsoo, not daring to move a muscle in case he breaks the moment. He stays like that for a long while, and then Kyungsoo wakes up and starts asking Jongin if he's already done scrubbing the surgery room floors.

It happens all so quickly. Jongin finds himself falling dangerously in love before he could catch himself.

The first time he kisses Kyungsoo is also the first time he sees Kyungsoo cry, hunching over a little girl's body on the surgical table as it grows colder by the minute. Jongin gently pries a sobbing Kyungsoo away from the corpse and wraps hims arms around Kyungsoo's thin frame as he sobs into Jongin's chest. "I could have saved her," Kyungsoo chokes out, voice muffled against Jongin's shirt. "I could have stopped the bleeding earlier if..."

"You did all you could, Kyungsoo. There's nothing more you could've done for her."

Kyungsoo slowly raises his head to look at Jongin, eyes wet with tears. Jongin feels his last wall tumble down without a fight as a voice at the back of his head goes 'screw this', and then he tilts Kyungsoo's chin up and presses their lips together. His heart jolts as Kyungsoo kisses back, unsure at first, and then with a little more certainty.

When Jongin sleeps now, he no longer dreams of anything, a long stretch of much-welcomed silence filling up the void instead. Waking up, he doesn't need to open his eyes to know that Kyungsoo is right next to him, warm and soft and beautiful. He snuggles closer without thinking, burying his face in the crook of Kyungsoo's neck. When Kyungsoo asks him what he's thinking of in moments like these, Jongin simply grins and holds Kyungsoo a little tighter.