But then there were the differences, the so many differences that made him feel dizzy, overwhelmed, lost. The different sights and smells and flavors of Beijing. The feel of foreign syllables, strange in his mouth, vowels that were too round and inflections too subtle for his untrained ears to discern.
When cast into EXO, Jongdae had felt on top of the world. Korea's next shining star, backed by one of the biggest labels in the industry. But then he was placed in EXO-M, the Mandarin subgroup. Gone was the familiarity. The lilting accents of his country, the sharp city-lines of Seoul. He was being forced to fit into the well established circle of China's music sphere, only to find that his edges were too hard, too square.
Jongdae was not alone. Minseok, too, shared in this newness, the sense of complete confusion that came with being in another country. But while Jongdae felt frantic, Minseok liked it. He took pride in being the foreigner, in his inventory of cute Mandarin phrases. The awkward accents and bun-cheeked smile worked for him. And he was earnest, oh so earnest. The fans loved that.
But Jongdae (Chen now, he thought) didn't have the charm to be the cute foreigner. All he had was his voice. So he wrapped himself up in this singular solace, belting his heart out whenever he could, remaining silent during the rapid-fire Mandarin exchanges on TV shows. Because, really, that was all he could do.
There had been an interview in which the fans were doing their fanchants, cute little things in Mandarin they had probably made up. And the MC had given them a weird look and said, "Stop, guys, they don't even know Chinese."
And it had been an awkward five seconds before Kris cleared his throat uneasily and said, "Actually, four of us are Chinese." That had shut the MC up.
At the time, Jongdae had smiled like a marionette on strings, the entire conversation going completely over his head.
When the exchange finally had been translated back in at home, Jongdae had felt his cheeks flush with embarrassment, because for him, those words spoke the truth. How could he appreciate his fans when he didn't even know what they were saying? How could he even deserve to be liked by them with such a huge cultural and linguistic barrier? It wasn't fair to them. It wasn't fair to him.
"Hyung," he mouths into his phone later that night, his cheek pressed tight into his pillow. "Hyung, I'm so lost here."
"Jong-ah," Joonmyun murmurs, "Don't worry. You'll be okay. I promise."
It's not so much what EXO-K's leader says back to him, meaningless words over the miles of distance between Beijing and Seoul, as it is hearing Korean again. It's something familiar to him, something like home. Suho, he decides, was probably appointed leader for a reason. For all that he is smiley and bright and cheery, Joonmyun is made for crises like these, for preventing tired breakdowns and amending self-doubt.
Jongdae hears the other members of K in the background. Jongin and Sehun giggling—about something stupid, no doubt—Baekhyun's sweet, dulcet tenor and Chanyeol's explosive laughter. These sounds reach out and wrap around him from Seoul, a city he sorely ached for. He hears Kyungsoo ask softly Is it Jongdae? and then Joonmyun tells him he has to go, because they have Music Bank the next day.
"Promise me you'll do well, okay hyung?" Jongdae says before hanging up. And he hates what he hears in his voice: uncertainty, bitterness, jealousy. A hard lump forms in the back of his throat. He wipes his eyes with the back of his hand and pushes his nose into his sheets.
Jongdae hears the door open a little while later. Probably Kris, he thinks, and pulls the blankets tighter across his face.
He's surprised, then, to hear Luhan instead. "Jongdae-yah?" he whispers, and Luhan's beautiful accent reverberates through his and Wu Fan's room.
If it had been Kris, Jongdae thinks to himself, he would have been fine. But with Luhan, he cannot hide. Luhan, whose bright clear eyes were always alarmingly soft. He couldn't lie to him.
"Ge," he says quietly from under his covers, and hear Luhan's light footsteps pad closer to his bed until Jongdae feels his weight press down next to him. He turns to look up at his face, and there's sadness in Luhan's eyes, an all-too familiar sadness.
Jongdae knows that Luhan also aches for Korea—not for the city or the people, but for a specific person. Still, he could—did understand. Jongdae blinks blearily up at him, and Luhan takes his hand.
"You miss him, huh?" Jongdae asks him quietly. Luhan gives him a tired smile.
"It's okay," The elder boy says softly to him. "We'll see them soon."
Jongdae squeezes his hand.
"I know," he says, and smiles back. "I know."
sobs, my poor baby orange ;~; i'm glad to see he's doing better now! if you squint, you'll see some hunhan ;)
this is my first exo fic >v< if you liked it, i would appreciate a fic rec on tumblr! :>
thanks for stopping by~