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A Summer Melody

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Outsiders aren’t sure about what’s wrong with Baekhyun’s village.

To the unsuspecting travelers, the place is merely tricky to find and harder to leave. Given that it’s nudged between a dangerous mountain and a deceitful forest, it’s no wonder people go missing every now and then. However, any experienced merchant would argue that the village is haunted by evil spirits who’ll steal your belongings just as easily as they‘ll drive a man mad. 

If anyone cared to listen to the villagers, then they’d know the truth. The land isn’t treacherous or haunted, it merely has a fairy problem.

Some of Baekhyun’s neighbors act as though it’s no big deal and, to most of them, it really isn’t. Living near fairy grounds usually means one has to be careful about their bargains and make sure not to offend anyone. It’s rare to find a family that has suffered as much in the hands of the folk as the Byuns. 

Both Baekhyun’s father and grandfather mysteriously disappeared, his mother passed away way too young and without rhyme or reason. Scared she’d be next, his aunt ran away with half their money. Only Baekhyun and his grandma are left to carry out the Byun name.

Despite all of the tragedies and having to raise him on her own, his grandma never has resentment in her eyes, only happiness and love. All she asks in return is that Baekhyun follows simple rules like: don't talk to beautiful strangers; don't make promises you cannot keep and never, ever, eat fairy food.

As if Baekhyun would even know what fairy food looks like. 

Still, rules are rules and Baek knows better than to disobey, especially with his family lack of luck when it comes to magic. Besides, he can easily do his job as a tailor without breaking any of them and things have been going great lately! His Nana hasn’t been as sick these days, and they managed to save enough money to get them comfortably through winter. Today of all days, Baekhyun spent his day sewing without a single care for fairy tales.

Once he finishes his latest work, the tailor readies himself to go out, humming while listing all the chores he managed to complete today in his head. Baekhyun usually forgets one or two, but he never got the patience to write them down. Cheerfully, he announces to his Nana that he’s leaving to make another delivery to Yixing.

“Please Dearie… do you really have to go to that place? Can’t your friend come instead?”

Baekhyun stops at the door to look back at his sweet grandmother. Patiently, he gives her a reassuring smile and explains once again. 

“Yixing isn’t a friend, Nana, he’s a customer.” He doesn’t waste any time remembering her that he doesn’t have any close friends to visit him. “He ordered a new coat for winter, remember? I need to deliver it today.” 

Instead of replying, the old woman mutters to herself, her hands going back to the elegant dress she’d been working on for the past weeks. It’s the last order they got and it’s unlikely they’ll get more before spring, so it needs to go smoothly, just like this delivery.

Free from his grandmother’s meddling, Baek leaves to find his way to the dirt path in the woods that lead to Yixing’s house. Despite several warnings from the residents, the newcomer built his home in the forest when he first moved to the village. People rarely go there unless it’s utterly necessary, so sometimes Baekhyun will deliver him some goods in exchange for a few coppers. Today, aside from the coat, Baekhyun has half a dozen eggs and liquor in his bag for him.

Why anyone would live in fairy-filled woods is beyond Baekhyun, but he doesn’t get paid to make questions. Sure, the place is beautiful during spring but now, at the end of autumn, it looks just as dead and unwelcoming as everyone says it is.

Taking a deep breath for courage, as he has done so many times before, Baek starts his journey to Yixing’s house. Hopefully, his customer will be generous with his money since winter is so close. Despite what his grandmother and the other villagers like to believe, the road isn’t that dangerous, only long and somewhat scary.

The dried leaves crack under his boots and Baek makes a game out of stepping on the biggest ones. By the time he is almost at Yixing’s cottage Baekhyun is so lost in his game that he almost misses the deep red color staining the path.

A cold feeling settles deep in his stomach as he abruptly stops. At his feet, the fallen brown leaves near his boots are marred with blood. The dreadful color makes a trail to the woods, away from the path. Almost as if something, or someone, was dragged out of the way. Or maybe it crawled to the woods itself.

Baekhyun shivers.

“It’s just a hunter…” he decides, ignoring the part of his brain arguing that whatever it is that got hurt is too big to be a deer.

The forest is so quiet. When did the birds stop chirping? Or is it his heartbeat that’s making it difficult for him to hear anything but its loud thump?

Frozen in place, the scared tailor can’t help but notice another stain on a tree bark not far from him. A bloody mark shaped like a hand. 

If someone is hurt… I need to help.

Against his good sense telling him to run away, Baekhyun follows the bloody trail, straying from the path. Breathing deeply, Baekhyun ventures on between the trees until he reaches a clearing. During spring, this place would be filled with wildflowers and sunlight. Today, there’s only blood and a fallen man passed out on the dried grass.

“Are you okay?!” Baek shouts.

He ignores all red flags that his grandmother taught him to look for as he runs towards the injured man. Baekhyun doesn’t care that the man is a stranger, that his ears are slightly pointy or even that his clothes are finer than any cloth Baek has ever seen in his life, even though they are stained with blood. It’s a fairy. It has to be. Maybe even an elf for all he knows, but he doesn’t run away like his Nana would’ve instructed. For some God forsaken reason, all Baek cares about in that one moment is helping this man.

Crouching next to the stranger, Baekhyun is relieved to find out that the man is still breathing. He notices how the blood seems to be coming from around his chest. Reluctantly, Baek draws his hand near the wound to inspect further, only for it to be slapped away by the dazed fairy.

“Go away…” the man manages to say slowly, every syllable visibly bringing him pain.

"It's okay, I'm here to help."

"I don't need pity… from… a human, ugh-" He's barely done with his words before he's coughing up blood.

Baekhyun scoffs. "Sure you don't."

Baffled by this refusal, Baekhyun remembers being told something as a child — a crucial part of fairy tales that he had always thought was too silly to be true.

 

Fairies don’t accept favors, only trades. 

 

Great, how is he supposed to help now?

“What if I ask for something? Will you give me something in return for saving you?”

The elf stares at Baekhyun, or even past him. By now, his mind must be too fogged to think properly.

“Answer me!” The tailor begs, holding back from shaking the stranger. “I will only save you if you promise to give me something as valuable as your life.” 

It seems like forever before an answer comes, though only seconds pass by. The fairy breathes slowly, so painfully slow that Baekhyun has trouble filling his lungs with air as well.

“…promise,” the fairy finally says.

Without blinking, Baekhyun gets to work, taking a needle and thread from his purse.

“… you… a healer?” 

As he threads the needle, Baek takes a beat to understand what the fairy was asking.

“If I’m a doctor, you mean?” He laughs nervously. That would’ve been helpful, wouldn’t it? “No, I’m the village’s tailor.” 

The fairy pales even further — if that was even possible given how much blood he already lost.

“Don’t touch m-“ he tries to move away, but Baek holds him tightly by the shoulder, causing him to groan in pain.

“You already gave me permission to heal you, so stop being a handful and let me!” 

Honestly, he doesn’t feel half as confident as he is pretending to be. Baekhyun has never had to sew a person’s wound before. He heard about farmers who went through it due to work injuries, but the closest thing he can think of is working with leather.

“Oh, yeah!” Baekhyun takes Yixing’s drink from the bag, half remembering something the village’s doctor mentioned to him once. “I have to pour this on you… and on the needle? I think?”

“You’re going… to kill me,” the stranger whines, wide-eyed. And for the first time, Baekhyun is relieved to think the injury may not be as bad as it looks… Only to immediately regret it when the alcohol makes the man’s face twist with pain.

And that was the easy part.

"Talk to me, try to think of something else." It probably won't help, but Baek can't think of anything else that might distract him. The man looks at him as if he's an idiot, and still, Baekhyun insists. "What's your name?"

"Chanyeol," the elf manages to grunt. "And you?"

"Baekhyun," he gives Chanyeol a relieved smile that might have been more reassuring if he wasn’t a tailor about to sew his wound shut. "Listen, I need you to be still. This is going to be painful." 

"You don't say..." Chanyeol answers, somehow managing to be sarcastic despite being out of breath.

Once Baek is done closing the man’s would, he rips Yixing’s coat to dress it, using the rest to cover the poor elf and protect him from the cold. Then, for a moment, Baekhyun just breathes. The fairy has long passed out — be it from the pain or from the injuries — and Baekhyun doesn’t know what to do next. He can’t leave him out in the cold, nor can he take Chanyeol anywhere on his own, the guy is huge!

Deep in thought, Baekhyun takes a strand of dark hair from the elf’s sweaty forehead, examining his features. Despite everything, he is terribly handsome. A handsome stranger. 

Grandma can never find out.

Now that the adrenaline is settling, Baekhyun himself is freezing in the chilly autumn air. They can’t stay here without shelter. Even if it wasn’t freezing, there’s enough blood to attract some wild animal. Baekhyun needs to act quickly. 

Hesitantly, he gets up, finally coming up with a plan.

“Sorry for leaving you alone, but I need to get help,” he whispers uselessly, the fairy can’t hear him right now. “An acquaintance of mine lives nearby. I’ll be back before you know it.”

 

Sadly, it takes much longer to bring the elf to safety than Baekhyun would like.

Yixing isn’t thrilled to find Baekhyun bloodied and shouting for help on his porch, and he’s even less willing to drop everything to go fetch some injured man in the woods without knowing what hurt the guy in the first place. It seems not everyone is as impulsive as Baekhyun, but it can't be helped now.

The weight of worry in his heart only settles when the fairy is safely inside Yixing’s house, covered with blankets and close to a cozy fireplace.

“Dear Lord, Baekhyun, did you close his would yourself?” 

Yixing turns to Baek with such surprise in his eyes that the poor tailor doesn’t know if he should be proud or ashamed of his handiwork. However, when Baekhyun nods “Yes,” Yixing’s eyes only shine brighter.

 “Woah, nice job! I wouldn’t know what to do if I was the one who found him.”

“Thanks,” Baekhyun says, sitting next to the wounded fairy. “But I need to tell you, I used your drink to disinfect the wound, and ruined your new coat to dress it.” 

“Oh,” his customer scratches his head in thought. He can’t bring himself to be mad about that. “Did you bring the eggs?” 

“Yes!” Baek perches up. At least he can deliver that! 

His smile turns awkward when he holds his bag with both hands and feels something icky and wet. One peek inside is all it takes to confirm his suspicion.

“Sorry… they’re broken. There’s only one left,” he says, grabbing the lone survivor and offering it meekly.

Yixing sighs.

“Well, I guess it can’t be helped.” He takes the egg and sets it carefully on the kitchen table. 

They both fall into silence then, unsure of what else to say in this situation. Outside, the Sun is setting, making the place even more unwelcoming in Baekhyun’s eyes. 

“Hm, don’t worry, I’ll look after him,” Baek says, pointing at Chanyeol as if there’s anyone else around for him to take care of. What he really wants to say is that there’s no way in hell he’s going to walk home in the dark. No sir. Yixing works as a woodsman, but nothing justifies picking such a scary place to live in. 

Besides, Baekhyun is the one that bargained with the fairy, and he doesn’t want to find out what would happen if Chaneyol were to wake up and find Yixing looking after him in his place. He will run back home first thing in the morning to talk to his poor Nana.

 

Thankfully, the woodsman agrees.

 

Now that they're sheltered, Baekhyun finally cleans Chanyeol's wound properly. The fairy seems to wake every now and then, too out of it to properly say anything. Dutifully, Baek looks after the elf for hours, making sure he is hydrated. At some point in the night, Chanyeol's forehead starts to warm up and, for a while, Baekhyun worries he might have a fever.

It's only at the crack of dawn, when Chanyeol's skin isn't as hot under Baekhyun's fingertips and his breathing is not as heavy and painful to hear, that the tired tailor lets his eyes close for a little while. Without much thought, Baek rests his head near his patient's.

 Just for five minutes, that's all the time he needs... 

 

"Where is he?" 

Baekhyun wakes with a scare. The Sun shines brightly through the window, though without any heat, and the fireplace has long gone out. However, the first thing Baekhyun notices is that Chanyeol is nowhere to be found. Only bloodied sheets rest where the fairy had been.

"Baekhyun, where did he go?" Yixing asks once again as if that would magically change Baek's answer.

"I… I have no idea." 

 

 

Nana gives Baekhyun the scolding of his life when he returns. She doesn't cry, but the puffiness in her eyes only confirms that it's only because she had already cried herself to sleep. Given their family history, Baekhyun feels like the worst grandson ever.

He doesn't have the heart to tell her about the fairy in the woods. Instead, Baek crafts an elaborate tale about a wild dog who stole his bag, and how Yixing was nice enough to let him stay the night after he spent the whole day searching for it. It's such an unlikely story he is half glad and half embarrassed when she believes it. 

For the rest of the day, Baekhyun is paranoid that Chanyeol would show up uninvited and give him a curse as payment for his help. It wouldn't be the first time something like that happens. But that was it, nothing else happened.

Then, two days after, Baekhyun is suspicious of every folklore that insists that fairies always repay their debts. It's not that he wants something in return, he would've helped Chanyeol regardless, but since then he grew to expect something for better or for worse. It would be nice if the fairy could give them some gold or a nice enchantment. Anything, really, so long as Baekhyun didn't have to worry about it again.

On the third day, Chanyeol comes and the poor tailor at last regrets his bargain.

Baekhyun is working on Yixing's new coat (again) when a heavy knocking scares both him and his Nana.

"It's so late," Baekhyun mumbles, getting up to answer the door.

Too abruptly for her old age, his grandma stands up and drops the fancy dress on the floor. "Don't open that door!"

But it's too late. Baekhyun is already staring up at their visitor. If he thought Chanyeol was handsome when he was hurt, now the man is outstanding. Somehow managing to look like prince charming in spite of his angry frown.

"Three days ago, you have helped me," Chanyeol says, causing Nana to gasp. "Now I will repay you in kind."

“Chanyeol,” his grandmother whispers, terrified. “Baekhyun, what have you done?”

Confused, Baek turns to her. This can't be right, since when does Nana knows a fairy? 

“You wanted something as valuable as my life,” Chanyeol goes on bitterly, ignoring the old woman altogether. “so I am here to give you my hand.”

He grabs onto Baekhyun's wrist and drags him outside with ease. Nana screams, running after them with such despair, she trips near the door and fall miserably on the floor.

"Nana! Stop, let me help her," Baekhyun begs, but Chanyeol doesn't let him go. "Why are you doing this?"

"As a fairy king, the only thing as valuable as my life is my kingdom, which is what I have promised you. I must give you my hand in marriage." 

Weakly, Nana tries to get up but her arms falter and she falls back down. She raises her head, heavy tears falling down her cheeks, and reaches for her grandson with a trembling hand.

“Wait! At least let me say goodbye!” Baekhyun trashes around, failing to free himself from the iron grasp Chanyeol has on his wrist. “Nana!”

“Hyunnie!” 

The wind blows furiously around them, shaking the first snow in a whirlwind of white. Baekhyun stretches his free hand, trying to hold onto his dear grandmother. Tears coat her face, the same desperate tears that fall from his own eyes.

“Don’t eat fairy food, if you do–“

Then, with a blink, she is gone.

Or maybe it’s Baekhyun who is gone because, when he opens his eyes, he is nowhere near his village.

Chapter Text

The first thing that strikes Baekhyun is the unforgiving heat. As soon as the fairy releases him, he falls to the ground, knees hitting the bright grass beneath him.

Not brown and orange. Not dead or dying. The grass is green and warm to the touch.

With watery eyes, the poor human looks around, searching for any sign of his old village but finding an opulent garden surrounded by high walls instead. This must be a castle's garden. At the very least, the grey stones and high towers are what Baekhyun always imagined a castle would look like. Not far from him, amidst trees and summer flowers, colorful pixies swim in a marble fountain. There's a yellow shine around them, almost like an aura.

They're so tiny Baekhyun could fit one in his palm. Awed, he stares as one flies out of the water and dives right back in, splashing the other giggling pixies.

It looks refreshing... Baekhyun's coat weights him down further.

"How long are you going to stay there? It's disgraceful," Chanyeol sighs.

Baekhyun fists the grass but bites his tongue, promptly getting up. Once he is standing straight, he dries his tears with his sleeve, smudging himself with dirt.

Despite everything, Baekhyun tries to not let his voice tremble when he speaks. “Take me back.”

Chanyeol stares down at him, a hand resting on his hip and looking every bit as intimidating as a Fairy King should be. 

No.” 

Baekhyun could’ve sworn that the Sun grew even hotter with the denial.

“My grandmother needs-“ 

A high-pitched squeal cuts him off.

"His Majesty is back!" One of the swimming pixies announces, while the others singsong in answer.

"He's Back! Back!"

The three fly off from the fountain, joyfully swirling around Chanyeol and holding onto his clothes. Noticing Baekhyun, one of them stops to tug his hair. Up close, he notices her clothes are made of white petals and her eyes are adorably huge for her tiny body. "What is this? Human? Is this a human? I thought you went for a bride!" She flies all around him, her butterfly wings sparkling with fairy dust. “Is this your bride? Can I be your bride too?”

"Daisy, stop being annoying and go fetch someone to clean him up.” Chanyeol waves his hand dismissively.

The pixie - Daisy - hides her giggling behind her hands. "Filthy human! Needs cleaning."

"Get Sehun, Sehun will clean the filthy human."

"Sehun will be his filthy maid~♪"

Squealing with joy, the pixies spin in circles then fly straight by Baekhyun towards a huge doorway to a stone corridor.

Chanyeol says nothing more as he walks in the same direction.

“Wait!” The human calls, following behind with hurried steps. "You have to send me back home."

Chanyeol keeps walking without so much as a glance back, and Baekhyun has trouble keeping up. Even if the King is deaf to his pleas, Baek has no choice but to keep making them. "Please, my grandmother needs me. I didn't even get to say goodbye."

Still no answer. Though, this time, he is sure Chanyeol sighed again. They hurry through the vast corridor, their steps echoing with the human's cries for Chanyeol to stop. 

"I don't want to marry you!"

Baekhyun has to stop abruptly when Chanyeol halts without warning.

"You don't want to marry me?" The fairy King spins back with a snarl. "And what do you think? That I'm thrilled to marry bellow my status? No, stupid human, the last thing I want is to marry the likes you."

Trembling, Baekhyun crosses his arms in front of him. "T-then, just let me go back. Why go through all the trouble of keeping me here? Take me home!"

"Such are the laws of my people." Chanyeol tilts his head, speaking so slowly he might as well be talking to an oblivious child. "We don't lie and we certainly don't break our promises, even if they are made with stupid humans who don't know how to bargain."

Baekhyun's so frustrated he's about to scream. "All I wanted was to help you!"

Rolling his eyes, Chanyeol turns his back to him again. He makes a sudden turn into a room and the doors close themselves behind him before Baekhyun has the time to enter.

Promptly, Baekhyun's hands grab the golden doorknobs, who refuse to turn no matter how he tries.

"Let me in!" He bangs restlessly on the door. "Chanyeol, take me back right now!"

With each bang, anger fills his heart, replacing sadness with something bitter. If this stupid man thinks Baekhyun is going to marry him then he's out of him damned mind.

When his hands are red from all the knocking, Baekhyun kicks the door one last time before giving up and resting his head on it. This isn't helping... but what will? 

Without the adrenaline to push him on, Baekhyun notices his clothes are sticking to his skin, uncomfortably wet with sweat. A heated argument and anger were the last things he needed in such hot weather. Clumsily, he takes out his old coat. In his village, it was barely doing its job at keeping him warm against the chilly autumn air but now Baekhyun almost moans when his trembling hands manage to undo the last button.

The unforgiving sunlight shines brightly through the windows — a sad reminder that he couldn't be further away from home. 

It's okay, Nana. I'll be back before you know it. 

"There you are, there you are!" The high-pitched voice of the pixies come with a startle. One of them, wearing golden petals, grabs onto his sleeve and pulls him back with more force than it should be possible given her small size. Baekhyun has to hold his coat tighter so it won't fall. "Time for a bath, filthy thing."

"Not fair, Marigold! I want to be the one to escort the bride!" Daisy complains, sitting on his shoulder.

"A bride? But it's filthy. Better take three baths," she laughs in return, still pulling him forward and refusing to let go.

"It can't be Master's bride. It is barely a person," says the third pixie, a long-haired cutie with purple petals as a dress, but with venom in her eyes.

"Hey!" Baekhyun shouts, and the fairies click their mouths shut. "I'm not a thing, don't talk to me like that."

Marigold - the one on his sleeve - lets him go, looking down while Daisy smiles mockingly at her friends. "Ooh~ Lily is in trouble!"

Crossing her arms, the purple pixie huffs. "I never get in trouble. Master likes me best." She flies up to Baekhyun's face, raising a tiny finger to his nose. "Marriage is for the pretty and the rich and you are neither."

What the heck? 

Just today, Baekhyun has been kidnapped, insulted, and treated like an idiot. He will not take this from someone that's barely three inches tall. For heaven's sake, he doesn't even want to marry the guy! Why is everyone acting like any of this is his fault?

Baekhyun shoos her away with a hand as he'd do with a fly. "Well, being someone's favorite pixie is for the kind-hearted, and from what I hear you're far from that."

Still at his shoulder, Daisy guffaws like a drunken sailor as Lily's aura goes from bright yellow to a deep red and she flies away.

"Lily, wait!" Marigold begs, following after her.

Daisy keeps laughing and laughing, holding her tummy and gasping for air. When Baekhyun turns to look at her, she falls off his shoulder and it's thanks to pure reflex that the human manages to catch her. Despite the fall, she keeps laughing on his palm until there’s no air left in her lungs.

"Oh," she breathes in. "Oh, no. I could've died. SO funny," she says. And though Baekhyun can’t see what was funny about all that, he can't help but smile at her silliness. "Yay, now I'm the one who'll escort the bride to his room!"

Using both hands to push herself back up, Daisy jumps excitedly on his palm, every tiny jump a tickle that makes it harder for Baekhyun to take her seriously.

"Er, my name is Byun Baekhyun."

"Byun?! Oh, no. Bride is better."

"Right," he says, frowning. "If you won't call me by name, can you at least call me groom instead of bride?"

"Brides are cute! Grooms are blah." She puts her tongue out, disgusted.

"I- Okay?"

It may be impossible to properly argue with this pixie if she only gives this kind of answers. Baekhyun scratches his head with his free hand, trying to come up with something. He doesn't want to stay any more than he has to but, for the time being, it would be good to take a bath and have new clothes. Preferably clothes that aren't trying to warm him to death.

"You're Daisy, right?"

The pixie nods proudly.

"If you want to escort me, you have to call me by my name."

Daisy gasps in shock and falls back again, resting a hand dramatically on her forehead. "I-I can't... Yes, Baekhyun, I accept your trade. Your name for my company. I will guide you from now on."

Sweet victory quickly sours when Baekhyun notices that even something as simple as this is considered a bargain in this weird world. His mouth twists back into a worried line. This time it was a harmless trade, but he needs to be more careful if he wants to get back home in one piece. The last thing he needs is to make more deals with fairies.

As Daisy flies ahead, showing Baekhyun the way to his bedroom, the human lets his eyes wander the halls like he had been too desperate to do before. Baekhyun is half-amazed by the castle's grandness and half-eager to go back. He wants to explore and find out how big this place is almost as much as he wants to get out of his clothes.

Never in his life Baekhyun thought he'd get to see such a magnificent building. His village's houses are made of wood, and the stones that decorate its paths aren’t smooth or shiny, let alone intricate like the ones on the floor. And the statues... they're all over the place. Statues of all sorts of creatures, winged or horned, humanoid or beasts, all amazing to stare at until Baekhyun comes to a dreadful realization.

"Daisy, where is everyone?" 

Be it when Baek was following after Chanyeol or now, he doesn’t cross paths with any servants, no maids, no nobles, or villagers. Only he and the pixie walk these halls.

A place this big must need a lot of servants to maintain, so where are they?

The pixie looks at him and opens her mouth, her aura losing some of its shine before she promptly clicks her tongue.

"Up ahead there is Sehun. Sehun is your maid because maids are cute and butlers are blah."

"No, I mean-"

"Up ahead, up ahead! Inside, here he is!"

Eagerly, she waves her arms, and a heavy wind opens the set of double-doors in front of them. Inside, a tall, red-haired man holds a white robe. He stares at the newcomers with an annoyed expression, his pointy ears moving slightly.

"Fucking finally," he says, causing Daisy to gasp and cover her ears. "Don't blame me if the bath is cold."

The two try to strip Baekhyun out of his clothes, and he has to fight for his privacy, hurrying to the bathroom and locking the door. Something tells him that, if they could, Sehun and Daisy would get in and try to wash him too.

It's amazing how such a big bathroom can belong to only one person. The bathtub is gigantic — it could comfortably fit at least four more people, yet the only entrance is through his room. Tiredly, Baekhyun lets his clothes fall on the floor and washes himself, almost melting when the warm, rose-scented water touches his skin.

If the circumstances were different, he'd consider himself lucky.

 

Baekhyun takes so long in his bath that he is surprised to get back into his room and find Sehun still standing there.

"I got you new clothes, they're in there," he says, pointing to another door instead of a wardrobe. 

No way. Does Baekhyun have another room just for clothes?

"Though you'll need to stop by the tailor to get more. I'll let him know you'll drop by tomorrow,” the elf says, sounding bored.

"Erm, excuse me." It’s probably useless to ask, but he might as well try. "How can I go home?"

Sehun frowns. 

"What? You hate your bedroom so much? I spent hours reading it for you and you tell me you don't want to stay?"

Is there anyone in this place that isn't dramatic?

"Nevermind," Baek sighs, defeated. "Of course I'll stay the night..."

To prove his point, he falls face-first on the bed. If the twitch in Sehun's eyes is anything to go by, the fairy doesn't appreciate that he is messing the bed so soon.

Laying down, his tensed and muscles feel like stones. The longer he stays on that heavenly fluffy bed, the less he wants to get back up.

"Good. Excuse me then."

"Wait, just one more question," he starts, trying not to take Sehun's impatient groan to heart. "It was the dead of the night when I was... taken from the human world. But here is bright as day."

"Of course, His Majesty went to get you right after lunch," he explains. "Lily would never let him leave before eating a healthy meal."

They stare at each other. Baekhyun not knowing how to rephrase his question and Sehun not knowing what the fuck the human is trying to ask.

"How is it day here and night there?"

"Ah, that. Time in the mortal realm is all weird and slow," he shrugs. "When hours go by there, days go by here."

Relief washes over him. That means that, even if it takes him a few days to return, his Nana won't miss him for long. 

Or maybe that's what his father and grandfather thought too when they were spirited away… Maybe they believe that a few days have passed when it’s been years since they were last seen.

However, he'd argue that time in his village is just right, thank you very much.

"And what about the weather? We were getting ready for winter.”

"Are you serious? You're marrying the Summer King. It's always summer here."

Baekhyun sits back up, "Wait, I thought he was the Fairy King. As in, the king of all fairies.”

Sehun's eyes widen. "There are four of those. One for each season," he explains, tone dropping low at the end of the sentence. "You have no idea who you're marrying, do you?"

Instead of replying, Baekhyun turns on the bed, resting his head comfortably on the pillows. He won't be staying long, so fairy politics are lost on him. All he needed to know back home was to never talk to a fairy, and he still managed to mess that up. The less he tangles himself with these people the better.

Still... The Summer King, huh? No wonder it's so hot. Too bad he didn't get kidnapped by the Spring King, his palace must be way nicer to be in.

"I think I'll take a nap now, is that okay?" He yawns, eyes heavy now that they are less worried about his sweet Nana.

"You're the Prince, you tell me."

A Prince?

Baekhyun smiles half-heartedly.

"Yeah, right."

Maybe one day, if he is lucky, Baekhyun will make clothes for royalty. But he will never, ever, be a prince.

He doesn't even want to.

Exhausted from all the crying and fighting, the human falls asleep so fast he doesn't even hear the click of the doors when the servant leaves the room.

 

 

"He doesn't want to marry me," The affronted fairy King mumbles to himself, shaking his head. Impatiently, he paces around his office with two sets of eyes staring at him. For years, they’ve watched their precious King throw tantrums, but it never made it easier to watch. “He was talking like I’m thrilled to have him here! I have better things to do than to entertain a spoiled mortal!"

“Majesty, Majesty, I know you’re upset but please don’t make a tempest,” Lily begs, hugging his cheek.

Outside, the clouds hang heavy, clouding the Sun. Yet Chanyeol barely notices it. He has endured his fair share of bullshit for some time now, but this one — this mortal — takes the cake.

“Lock that thing up in the tower. Never think of it again,” Lily whispers, only half-joking.

“Make the human happy. Happy people don’t misbehave,” Marigold suggests from a safe distance.

A flash of lightning cuts the sky, followed by a roaring thunder that muffles the pixies’ screams, but not the king’s anger.

“And what is it he’s unhappy with?! Just one look and it’s clear that my castle alone is more luxurious than any mortal kingdom.”

Choking on a sob, Marigold hides behind the quill on his desk, leaving Lily to fight this battle alone. Slightly shaking, the courageous pixie pets his head.

“W-well… even filthy mortals can miss their families. I miss Master when Master’s gone.”

With that, of course, the pixie wants Chanyeol to send his stupid groom away. Though that’s lost on him. 

He raises his hand for her to sit on, his proud eyes turning into a confused look.

“Perhaps you’re right, Lily.” 

She puts her hair behind her ear, shining white. “I often am!”

“Show-off,” Marigold clicks her tongue, still hiding, but they pay her no mind.

“Very well then,” Chanyeol says, putting Lily comfortably on his shoulder. The Sunlight shines through the window again as they share a conspiratorial smile. “Let’s make that thing happy so it won’t bother me anymore.”

 

 

Baekhyun doesn’t dream during his nap. He’s so heavy asleep, that he might’ve woken up the next morning if Sehun hadn’t barged in, screaming murder. 

"Time for dinner!”

"Ugh, I'm not hungry," Baekhyun complains, his treacherous stomach immediately betraying him with a growl.

Without pause, Sehun steals a pillow from under his head. "If you don't eat dinner with His Majesty, I will be scolded. And then I will make sure you never rest a full night for as long as I work for you."

Baekhyun is about to dismiss him, ready to sleep without a pillow, when he jolts up, remembering that fairies can't lie.

"That's a bit much, isn't it?” He laughs worriedly. 

Sehun doesn't even blink.

"Here, your clothes."

Like the tailor he is, Baekhyun spends more time analyzing the cloth and the fine work put into it than he does getting ready. It's impeccable, made with the kind of dedication Baekhyun would love to put into a dress if he had the funds and his works didn't have a set deadline imposed by inexperienced customers.

Besides, the fact that he has to eat with his so-called fiancé is no incentive to leave his room any faster. 

Once again, Daisy is the one to escort Baekhyun, singing their way to the dining room. He'd thought he and Chanyeol were going to eat by themselves but, as soon as they arrive, Daisy flies around the table with her pixie-friends, arranging a plate with more fruit then they can eat together.

"Easy on the grapes, Marigold," Chanyeol warns, and the pixie begrudgingly returns one of them. Still, she could easily be crushed by the mountain of grapes she pilled for herself.

Besides the fruit, there are all sorts of vegetables and different meats: pig, cow, and fish. Baekhyun could literally choose anything he'd like. There are so many options, two people would never be able to eat all of this - pixies are too tiny to count. 

This isn’t a simple dinner, it’s a feast.

“You’re late.” Chanyeol’s tone is heavy, his finger impatiently taps on the table. Clearly, the King isn’t used to waiting for others, which doesn’t win him any points with the peasant human.

“I was taking a nap. I didn’t get to sleep the night back home since, you know, you kidnapped me.”

The tapping finger stops and Chanyeol’s eyebrow goes up. Praying his legs won’t fail him, Baek walks to his seat on the other side of the table with his head high. Their seats are so far apart, it gives him a confidence boost that immediately shatters when he looks at the King again and sees a forced smile on his lips.

“I see. You were tired.“ He glances Lily’s direction, who motions with her hands for him to move on. “It must have been… tough.” 

Lily gives him the thumbs up and marigold covers her eyes.

What is going on?

Every once in awhile, Lily sends him an angry look and moves a little closer to Chanyeol. Baekhyun pretends not to notice, eyes trained on the great selection of delightful foods in front of him. Hopefully, that will spite her more than if he gave her any attention.

"I know there's too much, but I didn't know what you like,” Chanyeol says, filling his plate.

 “Thank-“ Baekhyun bites his tongue.

No. There’s no way he’s going to thank the fairy for anything. Not until he is back home. Perhaps he should, if only for his safety, but the annoyed gleam on the King's eyes is proof that he finds Baekhyun a nuisance, rather than a valued guest.

Baekhyun stares at all the food, his stomach screaming for attention and suffering from the delicious aroma that fills the room, and yet he can't bring himself to touch any of it.

 

Don't eat fairy food, if you do-

 

Damnit, what was Nana trying to warn him about? What happens when a human eats fairy food?

Is this an attempt to poison him?

"You're not eating." Rather than making a question, it sounds like Chanyeol is accusing him of something.

“I... I’m not hungry.”

The sound of the silverware hitting the table makes everyone in the room jump out of their skin. Everyone but the tall, stern elf that dropped his fork on the plate.

“So you refuse to eat with me," he complains, ignoring Baekhyun's nonsensical answer. "A proud peasant as a groom, what a nightmare." 

“Maybe I’d be more willing to eat if it was my grandma’s food!”

As the voices grow louder, the pixies group together, hugging one another.

“Starving yourself won’t change my answer!” Chanyeol bangs a hand on the table. A juice jar falls over on Marigold's grapes, squishing them while she watches impotently.

"You will have a dead groom, then. Because I won't eat until you take me home!"

"Fine!" 

"Fine!"

Both stand up, rushing to different directions and leaving the crying pixies to clean up after them.

 

Who needs to eat anyway? One way or another, Baekhyun will persuade the thick-headed Elf to let him go.

Just you wait, idiot.

Chapter Text

Baekhyun’s day begins with a bang and what he believes to be a mild heart attack. The doors to his room burst open and screams startle him awake. Baekhyun almost falls off his bed before he realizes it's just the pixies bringing him breakfast, not an ax murderer ready to hunt him down. Surprisingly, he might have preferred the murderer.

While Lily pulls the curtains open and Baekhyun groans at the bright light hurting his eyes, Daisy and Marigold set the tray with bread, butter, and fruit on his lap. The bitter scent of hot coffee makes his mouth water and turns his stomach over with temptation.

"I'm not hungry," he lies.

“Eat, eat, eat! No one likes cloudy skies!” Daisy says as if that sentence made any sense. She balances a forkful of watermelon with her tiny arms and feeds it to Baekhyun. The human turns his head and moves away but she follows relentlessly. Trying to crawl away from the vicious fairy-food, Baekhyun knees the tray, spilling hot coffee everywhere.

“Ouch- Stop it, Daisy!”

"Oops," Daisy smiles, still wielding the fork like a weapon. Hastily, she makes a blunt attempt to push the food in his mouth, but Baekhyun slaps the fork out of her tiny hands. The clinking sound of silverware hitting the wooden floor sounds triumphantly in his ears.

Desolated, the pixies stare at the fallen food and spilled coffee. Once again, the human managed to ruin their meal.

"I can't believe it! You will make the skies gray again!" Marigold cries out, her usual golden shine becoming slightly blue.

"How dare you, Filth !" Lily turns to Baek. "Marigold is crying! She’s the most annoying when she cries!”

"Marigold is always crying," Daisy argues. "Leave the cutie human alone!"

Marigold and Lily gasp, turning their impetuous focus to her. Energetically, the three start to push and pull one another, angry screams so high-pitched, Baekhyun can barely understand a word. Great, now not only is Baekhyun famished and wet from spilled coffee, he's also about to have a migraine from all this shouting. Furtively, the human side glances the door. The pixies are immersed in the fight, it would be so easy to get away.

"Hey!" Against his better judgment, Baekhyun raises his voice to get their attention. "Stop fighting, you'll get hurt!"

He lunges forward, grabbing Marigold and Lily with one hand each. They screech and slap his thumb in protest, but it only tickles a bit.

"So you'll eat? Eat, eat!" Daisy shines, flying around erratically.

"No, Daisy. Now please, the three of you, get out of my roo- HEY!" A deep sting hit him as teeth pierce his thumb and he lets go of Lily. She smiles at him victoriously, displaying teeth smeared with his blood. "What is wrong with you?"

"Oh please, a pixie's bite barely hurts," she rolls her eyes.

"Only your pride!" Marigold adds.

Daisy sucks on her thumb, staring at the human with bright, hopeful eyes. "Can I bite too? On the nose, please ."

"What? No!! Now leave, the three of you!" Baekhyun frees the fairy from his grasp and points to the door. Honestly, he should've sneaked out when he had the chance.

"Tsk, stingy."

"Come, girls. Leave the thing to starve,"

"Starve, starve and let us have Sunshine forever!" Marigold shows her tongue, banging the door on their way out.

Baekhyun's first instinct is to hop back to bed, cover his head with a pillow and try to get back to sleep, but not only are the sheets ruined, but he is on a ticking clock. Every minute Baekhyun spends away from home is another minute for him to slowly starve to death, or worse — try his luck at eating fairy food. He must find a way back before he's too weak to walk properly, there's no time to waste.

Given that he's just a human, Baekhyun doesn't know the first thing about traveling between realms. The only plan he came up with last night was to make his way back to the gardens and see if there's some sort of portal there. It may be a weak plan, but it's better than staying locked in his room waiting for that stubborn King to have a change of heart.

The clothes Sehun gave him are too thin and fragile for an escape, but his old coat is no were to be found so they'll have to do. Carefully, Baekhyun peeks out of his room scared to find another servant waiting to beg him to eat.

Just like the day before, the halls are empty. Only the white statues are there to witness his escape. Every time the human turns a corner or opens a door, he comes face-to-face with one of the ghastly things. They're awfully life-like and posed in such ways that it seems they might move given the opportunity. Baekhyun is all alone to venture on aimlessly, yet he can't shake the feeling that he’s being watched.

Instead of making it to the gardens as planned, Baekhyun stumbles upon a gorgeous room. A set of stairs covered with a red carpet lead to a golden chair decorated with rubies. The throne room , Baekhyun notes to himself, awed by the grandness of it. The ceiling is painted with images of beautiful elves worshiping a golden Sun, and the windows are so big and crystal clear that they fill the whole place with light, even though it's cloudy outside. Instead of hanging from the ceiling, the crystal chandeliers fly in place, twinkling magically every now and then.

Sadly, Baekhyun doesn't notice half of the wonders of the throne room, eyes going straight to the handful of statues in there. It's as if they're drinking from empty cups and laughing without a sound. One of them, a tall lady with a daring dress, is posed to hold her hands to her chest and stare at something in adoration.

Taken by curiosity, Baekhyun walks closer to the statue, the back of his head tingling the closer he is to her. The look on her face... It's as if she is in love. Standing beside her, the human spies at the direction she is looking, ending up staring at the throne.

"Oh please, Chanyeol has a statue that's infatuated with him?" Baekhyun laughs nervously, though he doesn't know why.

Despite being made entirely of stone, the lady's clothes look like they'd be soft to the touch. His hand moves on its own, eager to brush the cold stone with its fingers.

"What are you doing here?"

Baekhyun jumps in place, tripping back and hitting his back against a broad chest. He looks up and comes face to face with an unamused Chanyeol. Without the scowl clouding his features, the elf is undeniably handsome. His dark eyes alone are worthy of the thousand tales humans tell about him. With a tilt of his head, Chanyeol reminds Baekhyun that he’s expecting an answer.

"I- hm..." The human falters, stepping away from the king as if he's on fire.

Chanyeol barely blinks. If he noticed how flustered Baekhyun was with their closeness, he doesn't mention it. "Well?"

"I wanted to see the garden again," Baekhyun says. It’s as close to the truth as he dares to get. So far, the Fairy King has been lenient with him, but Baekhyun doesn’t want to push his luck in case Chanyeol decides to lock him in a tower somewhere and throw away the key.

The King cocks an eyebrow, fighting back an amused smile. "You were looking for the garden... in my throne room?"

"I'm lost." Baekhyun shrugs. Honestly, he's too relieved to feel embarrassed about his wacky sense of direction. This may be the first time he's happy to see a fairy, even if it is just because the empty halls and creepy statues were starting to get to him. "Is that a problem?"

"No, of course not. You're allowed to go anywhere as long as you don't cross the outside gates." Something somber crosses the King's eyes as he says those words but he's back to his cocky smile so fast Baekhyun is sure he imagined it. "I'll arrange for someone to give you a tour, a Prince shouldn't get lost in his own castle,"

Mentally, Baekhyun can only wish that someone will be higher than three inches. Sehun wasn't pleased to answer his questions, but at least that fairy didn't bite. To his surprise, instead of leaving or calling a servant right away, the King offers him his arm.

"Come on, I'll escort you to the garden for now," he says, and no matter how hard Baekhyun looked for it in his eyes, he just couldn't find any disdain hidden in them.

But he won't be fooled by appearances. Just like the night before, the King's kindness doesn't feel genuine, only better practiced.

"I can follow you just fine." Baekhyun walks past the King.

Chanyeol closes his hand into a fist, mumbling to himself.

"Make the stupid human happy..."

"Excuse me?"

"Nothing," Chanyeol says. This is going to be harder than he thought. "Let's go then."

 

 

Ideally, Baek would make a mental map of the way to the garden, but he keeps getting distracted by Chanyeol's sharp profile and his low voice as he walks with his hands on his back, making small talk. It's beyond ridiculous, the only good thing about the elf is his appearance, but Baekhyun can't help it. He's only human after all, not used to beings with pointy ears and enchanting smiles, even if Chanyeol's smile isn't as truthful as Baekhyun would like. Step after step Baek has to remind himself that none of Chanyeol's questions about his first night in the castle and if Baek's room is to his liking don't mean that he cares.

When they reach their destiny, Baekhyun walks to the fountain and hunches forward, dipping his fingers in. The crystalline water is cold to the touch, refreshing as it seeps through his fingers and relieves the stinginess of Lily's bite.

He chances a glance back at the elf observing his movements. Great, how is he supposed to explore the garden for some sort of portal if Chanyeol won't leave him be?

Though Baekhyun sees a couple of statues in the distance crouched as if to tend the flowers he's not as troubled by them this time around. Birds chirp lively from the trees and bees fly from flower to flower buzzing along with the pleasant summer breeze. Here in the open, the statues aren't as ghastly because they're surrounded by life.

Breathing in the fresh air, Baekhyun dries his hand with his clothes and looks around with wide eyes. Hopefully, he looks like an awed visitor instead of a stubborn mortal looking for a way home. There's no portal in sight, at least not one Baekhyun can see, and no marks on the grass of ancient runes or anything of the sorts. The flowers aren't stuck in vases nor are they neatly arranged by type. They're free and wild, making their own beautiful arrangements. Even the fountain is embraced by vines. Here, no man-made structure can overcome nature.

"Do you enjoy being outdoors, Baekhyun?"

Another boring question. It's vague enough that Baekhyun won't mind giving an answer yet personal enough to make him open up. For as long as Baekhyun can remember, he always loved to run and play under a deep blue sky, that's part of the reason he didn't mind walking all the way to Yixing's house in the woods to make deliveries. With time, he had to replace short days of playing outside with long days of sewing behind locked doors.

"Yes, I guess I do," Baek explains curtly.

"Let me give you a tour," Chanyeol gets closer, once again offering his arm. "If we follow the stone path, you'll get to see the entrance to the castle."

Baekhyun is thorn between refusing his hand once again or caving in for the sake of keeping the appearance of a willing guest when his stomach makes its presence known with another hurtful growl. Wincing, Baek hugs his belly, urging it to stop making noises. A tailor's life may not be glamorous, but he's not used to going without food.

"You still haven't eaten," Chanyeol notes with dissatisfaction. "I ordered my pixies to feed you.

Ordered ?

"I didn't feel like it. It's my choice to eat when I choose to," Baekhyun scoffs.

"What do you gain by being stubborn?" Chanyeol barks, then catches himself and tones down. He's been trying to keep his cool but at every turn all the human does is insult him and for what? An old woman and a miserable life as a peasant. "There are worse fates than marrying a fairy King," he muses.

"Really? I can't think of a single one," Baekhyun spits back without pause. This jerk thinks too highly of himself and it's up to Baekhyun to put him in his place. Anyone who has a statue to gaze at them lovingly deserves to be taken out of their high-horses. "Especially if the Fairy King in question goes out of his way to make the groom feel like a burden on their first day together." Chanyeol stiffens, his smile faltering. "So excuse me if I'd rather marry a poor peasant back at home than some snobbish elf who can't get himself a groom without resorting to kidnapping."

In a flash, Chanyeol is upon him, a firm arm holding Baekhyun's waist to his. Baekhyun gasps and hits him in the shoulder but the man doesn't budge, holding Baek's fist in place so he can't move or hit again. "To marry an elf," he purrs sweetly, though with a heat in his eyes that make the human stop squirming. "would bring you great fortune. I could be good to you, I cannot lie or cheat. In my kingdom, mortals don't age and with my touch," Chanyeol leans closer, whispering in Baek's ear and sending chills down his spine. "lovers are wholly satisfied."

Trapped like a mouse, Baekhyun is suddenly aware of how close they are. Chanyeol's thumb caresses his waist with a silent promise that turns his cheeks red and Baek looks away. Getting the reaction he wanted, Chanyeol laughs mockingly and lets him go as abruptly as he had caught him, smiling as the human trips back without him to hold him up, but manages not to fall.

At the end of the day, humans are all easy to tempt.

"What good is a mortal husband? Your kind is as trustworthy as a cornered cat." Chanyeol raises his head, words no longer honeyed, but stern. "You bring me no riches, no status, nothing but headaches and crying pixies. I'm the one who should be throwing tantrums left and right."

"THEN TAKE ME BACK HOME!” Baekhyun screams.

"I CAN'T!"

Hungry and humiliated, the human sits on the fountain and looks up, fighting stubborn tears from falling down. Frustration finally got the best of him but he still has enough pride to refuse to let that brute glimmer in his misery.

"She looked so small ..." he trailed off to stop a sob as the last memory of his grandma fallen on the snow came to him. "If you had a heart, you'd understand. Humans can lie, but at least we can love too."

With his heart in pieces, Baekhyun looks down. Chanyeol sighs and kneels in front of him, but the human evades his gaze by hiding his face with his palms. If only the fountain was louder, then Baek could sob in peace knowing that the running water would drown out the sound. But as it is, he can only swallow his sadness before it overflows. Neither of them moves, Chanyeol patiently waiting for the human to compose himself before carefully taking his right hand.

"Don't touch me," Baekhyun protests weakly, but Chanyeol pays him no mind, brows stitched together as he stares at the smaller's tiny bite mark.

"What happened?"

"Lilly." The answer tastes bitter in his tongue, and Baek's mood doesn't improve when Chanyeol smiles proudly.

"I'm the only one allowed to hold her."

"Duly noted," Baekhyun huffs. At least when he's focused on anger the human doesn't feel the urge to cry.

Chanyeol brings his hand to his lips, resting them on the wound. Baekhyun's heart jumps, and somehow he manages to stay still and not slap the taller away. "Your pixies were rude to me today," he says, if only to distract himself from the softness of Chanyeol's lips on his skin.

"Don't worry, they're just mad there's no sunshine to bathe in." Chanyeol backs away but doesn't release the human.

"I don't see how that's my fault."

"The weather changes to fit my mood," he explains.

The human rolls his eyes. "So? That just proves it isn't my fault."

They stare at one another, the rude human and the proud Fairy King, both too stubborn to understand each other's point of view. Chanyeol releases his hand, smart enough to realize that if the mortal wants a fight, he'll have it.

“I’m not a monster, Baekhyun. Regardless of how I feel about you, I take no pleasure in watching you starve yourself over nothing.”

"Over nothing ? Is that what my Nana is to you? I know we humans don't mean much to you but that doesn't mean-"

Chanyeol raises a hand to cut him off, his voice sounding as tired as he looks. "That is not what I said and you know as much."

Baekhyun huffs, not giving in. Crossing his arms, he looks away at the statue of a horned fairy just in time to watch a bird land at a nest on its head.

"Look, this is your second day here. You've refused my food so far and I ask you to end this now. Before it becomes a real problem and you end up hurting yourself."

"I wouldn't have to hurt myself if you took me back home."

It takes Chanyeol a lot to suppress his groan. For how much longer must he repeat himself? They can't have the same argument every time they see each other. Eternity is long enough as it is. They're both trapped in this bargain, so it's best to just live with it rather than fight fate at every turn.

"Indeed, that may be true. But I can't do that. You've made your side of the story known, Baekhyun, but never stop to consider mine. I am physically unable to break a promise, and I promised you my hand in marriage and all the responsibilities that come with it. That is the only thing I have that is as precious as my life, and you can't be a fairy’s groom on mortal grounds. I understand that I could've been gentler bringing you here and I plan to be more careful in the future."

"That's it?" Baekhyun laughs incredulously. "You understand you could've been gentler ? No apologies?"

"I'm a Fairy King," he says with a lopsided smile. "We don't apologize so easily."

Baekhyun clicks his tongue, resisting a smile. This idiot doesn't deserve it , he thinks to himself. But... maybe Baekhyun has his fair share of guilt in this story. It's not for lack of warning that he made a bad deal with a dying fairy. At the time, with blood pouring from his wound and cold air freezing his lungs, Chanyeol would probably have agreed to any demand. Baekhyun should’ve asked for a simple blessing or at the very least a chicken that laid golden eggs.

So what if he asks for something else now?

Baekhyun chews on his lips, eyes back on the bird cleaning its wings, but not really seeing the animal. If he can't go back, maybe Chanyeol could bring his Nana to live in the palace too? She could marvel over the clothes and explore the castle with him. It's not the life they'd imagined but it's not a bad one to live.

The bird flies off, leaving him no choice but to stare at the marble statue — creepy and lifeless in spite of its beauty, just like the rest of this place. No, he can't damn his poor Nana to this empty palace. Whatever life he has to suffer, Baekhyun will endure it on his own. He looks back to the Fairy King, who's eagerly awaiting an answer, his gaze falling to his feet as his cheeks heat up in shame.

"...fairy food..." Baekhyun whispers.

"What did you say?"

"What happens if I eat fairy food? Is it poisonous?" The question that has been haunting him finally leave his lips, though Baek feels like an idiot for making it.

“Oh... I was a fool.” Chanyeol’s eyes soften, doing weird things to Baek’s stomach.

It's the hunger . The human reminds himself. Just the two days of hunger getting to me, and definitely not his stupid eyes.

Blind to the mortal's inner turmoils, Chanyeol shakes his head. "Yes, of course that’s what's been bothering you. I completely forgot…” he mumbles to himself, getting back up. Then, he stares right at Baekhyun, all signs of weakness gone from his features. Before Baekhyun is the same entitled fairy King who stole him away. “The food I offer you is not enchanted and you’d notice it right away if it was. There’s a glow to fairy food that is hard to miss.”

“You mean–“

“You’ve been starving yourself over nothing and I hope you’ll stop now." 

Always ready to embarrass him, Baek's stomach growls again, and the human groans into his hands for the lack of a hole big enough to fit himself in. He should've just asked... all that food last night and he didn't get to taste any. 

Chanyeol chuckles, even a feisty human can be adorable on occasion. "Fairy food isn't poisonous," he says, compelling Baek out of his shell. "In fact, you'll never taste anything sweeter."

"But it does something," Baekhyun presses, composing himself. No use feeling stupid now. "Otherwise, my grandmother wouldn't forbid me from eating it."

"Yes, humans who eat fairy food can never return to the human world. They get stuck in our realm and no spell, no enchantment can change that."

Trapped in fairyland.

Forever .

Baekhyun gets up abruptly, holding onto the King's sleeve. "How about another bargain?"

"Baekhyun, I don't think-"

"No, hear me out.” This is crazy, Baekhyun knows it even as he paces around excitedly. He could keep searching for a way back on his own without any proof that he may find one. Or ... he can just have Chanyeol make a way back for him.

Yes, this could work. Even if Baek went back today without the King's help, Chanyeol could easily kidnap him again, but not if he has permission to escape. This is risky, but it’s the only way. Baekhyun thinks over every word, every syllable that's about to leave his mouth. He can't bargain with his grandmother's life by bringing her here, but there's nothing stopping the human from bargaining for something else. He turns on his heels, waving his arms at the intrigued fairy. "Hide a portal back to the human world somewhere in the castle. If I find it, I get to go home and you'll leave me be."

Taking one step closer to the human, Chanyeol laughs incredulously. "Are you proposing a game? You do realize that for it to be a bargain I need to gain something as well.”

Despite the sarcasm, curiosity gleams in Chanyeol's eyes and his ears twitch for more details. Baekhyun's not sure if the shiver inside him is from the adrenaline of making a new bargain, fear of what could go wrong, or simply hunger.

"You'll be rid of me." Baekhyun points to himself, making his point with a cheeky smile.

Chanyeol circles him like a shark, slowly but ready to strike at any moment. "No. That's not good enough. You're not as annoying as you think," he says, all business. "Besides, it's good to have a new face around. Someone else to distract my pixies for once."

"You-" Baekhyun tsks. He was hoping Chanyeol would see the light, understand that this is an easy answer for their predicament. The thing is, Baekhyun doesn't have anything to offer besides, well, himself. And Chanyeol already has that in a way.

But not in the one that matters.

"Set the date of our wedding. It needs to be at least one year and a day from now," he starts, remembering that fairies love intricate deadlines. "If I find the portal before the ceremony, you’ll leave me be forever, but if I don't..." he breathes, grounding himself. "I'll eat fairy food and never bother you to take me home again."

"I see..." Chanyeol halts in front of him, eyes glistening with the proposition while his head thinks over every possible loophole. His mortal Prince has finally proven to be interesting. Rashly, he grabs the human by the back of the neck, forcing Baekhyun to look him in the eye.

"Why would you make such a bargain? That's a dangerous game for you, and I have nothing to lose by playing it."

" Exactly . So playing it shouldn't be a problem," Baekhyun insists, not backing down despite the elf being mere inches away from his face.

The problem with making bargains with humans is that they're never willing to hold their end of the deal. If Chanyeol agrees to this — and that's a big if — he needs to make sure Baekhyun isn't planning on cheating. Chanyeol lets him go, but Baekhyun stays in place, staring the King proudly in the eye, taunting him to take the bet.

"A year and a day is too much," Chanyeol says. "Seven weeks is more than enough to plan a wedding."

Baekhyun wrinkles his nose, waving at the castle. "Your palace is huge!"

"Not huge enough," Chanyeol shrugs. “Surely a brave human like yourself can find a mere portal in seven weeks.”

"Seven months then."

"Three, and you'd better accept the deadline before I back off entirely," Chanyeol says with a boyish smile.

Son of a bitch! He's enjoying this. This is why fairies are so dangerous to humans. The only reason Chanyeol has to toy with the deadline is because he wants Baek to squirm. Let him have just enough time to finish his task, but not enough hope that he'll make it. Though neither of them wants to marry, Chanyeol would rather have the satisfaction of winning this bet than let Baekhyun go home too easily.

"Fine," Baekhyun answers between gritted teeth. "But I have conditions."

"Oh, I sure hope so," the King nods, offering his hand yet again. "You may tell me all about them on the way to the kitchen.”

As Baekhyun takes Chanyeol’s hand, the cloudy skies give way to Sunlight once again.