Genre: Fluff, Romance, Humor, Fantasy
Length: ~8.2k words
Summary: Jongin enters the Faerie Realm in search of a fallen star and finds cranky, potty-mouthed Kyungsoo instead. Neil Gaiman's Stardust au
This Stardust au fic was written for chocoyeol as part of the Kaisoommer fic exchange. It's my first foray into fantasy au and I hope you'll like it ♡
An owl hooted in the distance and pale moonglow dappled the footpath with silvery light. Two figures were ambling companionably through the meadow - one a tall, broad shouldered lanky male and the other, a willowy girl with long, honey blonde hair that looked more like a dull brown in the eerie light of the moon.
"Will you let me kiss you?" The tall, gentle-eyed boy Jongin was shy by nature, and it had taken him the better part of twenty minutes to gather the courage to ask this of the beautiful girl walking beside him.
"But you're just a shop boy, Jongin, why would I let you?" Luhan raised a haughty eyebrow as she gave Jongin a mildly disdainful look. Luhan was the prettiest girl in all of Wall, the small village where they lived, and Jongin had been in love with her for the longest time. Not having any luck with a kiss, Jongin had reached for Luhan's hand and to his delight, she had allowed him to hold it.
The night sky was an inky blanket studded with tiny points of cold, white light; and Luhan happened to be looking in the right direction when one of those diamond pinpricks came loose and fell, earthbound, in an elegant shower of luminescent sparks.
"A falling star," Luhan said ... to no one in particular.
"I wonder why a star would fall, when it's been secure in that spot in the sky for so long. What makes it decide one day that it wants to free fall? I wonder if stars fall from the heavens because they want to take a holiday on earth," Jongin said speculatively.
"What an odd thing to say, Kim Jongin. You make it sound like stars are alive. They're just pieces of rock that happen to shine, that's all." Luhan said almost contemptuously.
"If you say so. But never mind the star, Luhan. May I have a kiss?"
"But you kissed me when you were fifteen and you let me kiss you last summer." Jongin pointed out carefully.
"Well that was last summer. I am not the same person now." She waved her hand dismissively.
"If I can't have a kiss, then what about your hand in marriage?" Jongin watched Luhan hopefully but it looked like she was preparing to say no. Then her expression suddenly shifted to one of mischievous curiosity.
"All right," Luhan said unexpectedly.
"Do you mean that?" Jongin asked eagerly, with hope in his eyes.
"Yes. I will marry you IF," she says imperiously, "IFyou bring me the star that just fell beyond The Wall."
"But it's beyond The Wall, how will I possibly get to it?" Jongin inquired warily for it just wasn't something that villagers from the village of Wall did. They did not go to the lands that lay beyond The Wall; they did not enter the Faerie Realm except once every 9 years when the fey folk held their Faerie Market. Only then were the gates opened up so villagers could seek entrance.
"Well, if you're serious about marrying me then you'd better find a way then, hadn't you?"
The fledgling hope that had soared briefly in Jongin's chest now plummeted, transforming into a cold, hard lump - much like the rock he was going to have to locate if he was ever to have his Heart's Desire.
Meanwhile, in a glade beyond The Wall that separated the realm of Faerie from the village of Wall and the rest of the human world, a thunderous crack shattered the tranquility of the night before it was quiet again. A pale champagne glow pulsed from a thicket of hazel, and it looked like a living cloud of glittering fireflies were hovering and dancing above it.
Suddenly, a husky male voice could be heard somewhere in the shrubbery, "Ouch." Then whoever it was swore clearly and loudly, "Fuck, fuck, fuck. That fucking hurts."
"Father, I need some advice!" Jongin stood, panting at the doorway to his father's bedroom. It had always been just the two of them and Jongin had never known the woman who'd brought him to this life, only to disappear from it. If 37 year-old Chanyeol had ever resented being a single parent, he had managed to conceal it very well from his son. A towering, boyishly handsome man blessed with an innate sense of fun and mischief, Chanyeol had perhaps always behaved more like an affectionate older brother than a father to Jongin but it had always worked for them.
"You need advice from me? Damn, things must be bad. Tell me you didn't accidentally set fire to the wood shed? Or are you consumed with guilt because you told an untruth to the love of your life? Wait, tell me you did not knock up the love of your life because I would have to seriously reprimand-"
"Father! I don't have time for your jokes now. This is serious," Jongin gave his father an exasperated look, feeling, not for the first time in his brief lifetime, that Chanyeol might have been his father but he often felt like he was the older of the two. He'd run all the way home after leaving Luhan at her family residence and he had no time or patience for time wasting - he had a fallen star to catch. Tonight, if possible.
"All right, it's serious. No more jokes. What's the matter, son?" And just like that, Chanyeol's expression transformed from pixieish to earnest as he turned his chair around and watched his son expectantly. He'd been sitting at his desk, writing what looked like a letter with nothing but a tallow candle for illumination. Sighing, Jongin entered the small bedroom, sat on the edge of the bed built for two (although his father had never brought anyone home to share it, to the extent of Jongin's knowledge) and flopped backwards with his arms spread out like an albatross.
"You know I've had feelings for Luhan for a while now?" Jongin stared holes in the ceiling as he waited for his father's answer.
"Ahhh, you mean Kim Jongdae's youngest daughter? I've been trying to put that out of my mind since you told me. I'll be honest with you, Jongin, her father is an utter prick and I fear that apples don't often fall far from the tree."
"Are you calling the woman I love a prick?!" Jongin asked in aggrieved tones.
"I am doing nothing of the sort," Chanyeol snorted, "I'm merely saying there's a distinct possibility she might be a prick, considering her genealogy." To which Jongin showed his father a firmly raised third finger in response. As he always did, Chanyeol laughed heartily, "I'm glad you've got some fire in you, son. I've always wondered how you turned out as shy as you did considering your mother and I haven't a shy bone in our bodies."
"My mother wasn't shy?" Jongin's ears pricked up at this afore unheard of fact about his mother. Chanyeol rarely spoke of the woman he had made a child with and it was one of the few things he was ever reticent and secretive about.
"No. She was as bright as the sun and burnt with an incandescent fire that couldn't be contained."
"I've never heard you speak so passionately or poetically about anything, Father." Jongin's quiet voice was seasoned with not very subtle lashings of curiosity.
"I've ... never felt so passionately about anyone or anything." Chanyeol said wistfully.
"Why did she leave?"
"She didn't leave, Jongin. She was never here to leave."
"Then how?" Jongin turned so he was lying on his tummy, eyes blazing with inquiry.
"I suppose it's time I told you," Chanyeol gave a loud sigh of resignation before walking over to the bed and nudging Jongin to the left. The mattress sank as Chanyeol landed none too gently on his back beside his son.
"I met your mother at The Faerie Market - the one that happens every nine years, if you recall. She was selling enchanted crystal flowers and she ... I guess she took a liking to me because she gave me one of those flowers without her mistress's knowledge and asked me to meet her that night in the field behind the market. She was the tiniest, most beautiful thing I'd ever seen, with long, black hair that hung down to her waist and eyes full of secrets." Chanyeol's eyes grew distant, like his mind and heart had traveled somewhere far removed from his tiny bedroom in their tiny cottage in the tiny village of Wall.
"Her mistress? Was that her employer then?" Jongin was in a terrible hurry but the thirst to know more about his lost mother was taking precedence now.
"I'm getting to that, son. Be patient. Well, I sought her out that night and we talked and then we ... well, things happened and we made a child that night." The tips of Chanyeol's ears went red at the admission and then he set his embarrassment aside and continued his story, "She told me she'd been enslaved by her mistress, the witch-woman who owned the glass flower stall. She was bound to the stall by a long silver chain tethered to her wrist and ankle. But she told me she she wouldn't be a slave forever. When the moon lost one of her children, when a star fell from the heavens, she would be free again."
"But Father, that's why I'm here! I need to leave home tonight. When Luhan and I were out walking, we saw a star fall somewhere beyond The Wall and Luhan said she'd marry me if I recovered it for her. But I don't know how to go about it. I don't know how to enter Faerie. I know you know how to get there, please show me!"
"I'll take you as soon as I finish telling you about your mother. This is important, Jongin, so listen carefully. We only ever spent that one night together and I never saw her again, but approximately 9 months later, there was knock on my door a few hours after moon fall and there you were, a babe wrapped in a blanket that looked as if it'd been woven from moonbeams. You were sleeping in that wicker basket on my doorstep and I saw you and my heart knew you. And I knew you were mine and that I would keep you with me always."
"Father, I ..." Suddenly overcome with feelings, Jongin couldn't find the words. They had always been close but they spoke of lighthearted, manly things - not slippery, nebulous things such as emotions.
"But it looks like I'll have to let you venture forth on your own tonight. We'll leave together but I'm afraid we'll have to part ways once we get beyond the Wall. We have individual quests to complete. You will look for your star and I will try to find the Faerie woman who has had my heart in her keeping for close to two decades. The moon lost one of her children tonight and I must try and find your mother and hopefully she'll remember me and want me too."
"What's her name?"
"Baekhyun. Her name is Baekhyun," Chanyeol said distractedly and then his eyes focused and he stood up with purpose, "Right, we need to get ourselves sorted. We'll pack some food, water and clothing and leave immediately. And once we are safely in the Faerie Realm, I'll introduce you to a man on the other side who will be able to assist us."
The Wall that kept the people of the Faerie Realm apart from the villagers of Wall was constantly guarded by a pair of faerie sentinels, and Jongin's father had reminded Jongin to stay in the shadows and out of sight. Chanyeol eventually brought him to a section of wall obscured by dense foliage. Concealed behind the leaves was a narrow gap which the two men hastily slipped through, sneaking past the sentry guards and stepping furtively into the other Realm.
Chanyeol had then brought Jongin to meet a rather eccentric man with deep set dimples called Yixing who had laughed for a whole minute when Jongin had told him what he was looking for. And then he'd laughed for another minute when Jongin admitted that he was bringing that star back to a girl in exchange for a kiss and her hand in marriage. Jongin didn't often protest about things but the man was getting far too much enjoyment out of laughing at him. He was getting ready to say something when Chanyeol squeezed his arm in warning, be quiet.
Finally, when Yixing had ceased vibrating with laughter, he'd said, "You'd do well to find a girl who'll kiss you without asking for the earth. I'm sure you'd be able find girls willing to kiss you for far less. This girl of yours sounds like a right prick." Jongin had bristled at this and was about to defend Luhan's honor when his father hissed, "We need his help. Don't anger him. He owes me a favor, that's the only reason he's helping us. But if you upset him, he may just refuse to aid us."
So Jongin swallowed his indignation and not long after, he found himself in possession of a thin chain crafted from cat’s breath and fish-scales and silver mixed with moonlight. The 10 foot long chain had loops on both ends and all Yixing would tell him was that he'd need it to bring the star back to Wall.
The man had also given him a wax candle - a magical one the size of a crabapple, that could help the holder to cover great distances in the blink of an eye. It would bring him to the star in no time, but he had to retrieve the star before the flame on the candle went out or he'd have to find his way back to The Wall on his own. And the journey on foot (unaided by magic) would take a month at least, which made Jongin anxious. A lot could happen in four weeks. Luhan might decide she didn't want the star or Jongin after all, and Jongin vowed right then and there that he'd get back here before the flame gutted on the candle.
Then it was Chanyeol's turn to confer with Yixing and obtain whatever items he needed for his quest. The dimpled man refused payment, only saying he no longer owed Chanyeol for helping him all those years ago. After sharing an affectionate hug and extracting a promise to see each other again back at the village, father and son parted ways - Chanyeol setting off on his own while Jongin stood restlessly beside Yixing.
"Ready? I'll light the candle for you and then you hold it in your right hand and walk to your star. You'll be there in a flash. But don't dawdle and get yourself back here before the flame goes out. Understand, lad?"
"Yes, sir," Jongin agreed and held the candle up to be lit ...
It was so quiet in the thicket that the sounds of grass being trampled and dry summer leaves rustling seemed deafeningly loud. Jongin had no idea where he was going or what he was looking for exactly. All he knew was that it was a fallen star and that it would most likely resemble a massive lump of misshapen rock. Jongin wasn't any closer to locating the star now than he had been fifteen minutes ago. Surely a shooting star would create some kind of crater? And surely the heat would cause some kind of fire? But where was the fire? Where was the smoke?
It was extremely puzzling, and it felt a lot like looking for a needle in an extremely large haystack. As his eyes roamed over the thicket, he saw, unexpected signs of movement amidst the shrubs. An unearthly light was radiating from the greenery, bathing everything in a pale golden aura. Intrigued, Jongin began walking towards the light but he stopped abruptly when a figure dressed entirely in tawny silk suddenly emerged from the bushes. The small built, slender male with hair that looked the color of clover honey, attempted to stand before promptly falling over.
"Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck, fuuuuuck that fucking hurts," the boy swore loudly and unmistakably as he lay crumpled on the ground.
"Nice to meet you too," Jongin commented in a voice that was dry and more than a little amused. As a rule, Jongin was always self-conscious around strangers but the boy's spectacular display of profanity had stunned him so much it had actually dispelled his usual reticence. He studied the heart-shaped face with its pale, pale skin, and piercing eyes which snapped with pain and impatience. But even with all the irritation and discomfort etched into his face, the boy was extremely handsome, Jongin thought.
"Fuck off! You'd be cussing too if you'd broken your leg," he retorted, sarcasm dripping off each crisply enunciated word.
"Oh ... I'm so sorry. I didn't realize you were injured. Here, let me find something you can lean on," Jongin said hastily and searched around the underbrush till he found a fallen branch that would make a serviceable splint. Then he helped the boy up into standing position and propped the crutch under his armpit - all this achieved with a seemingly endless litany of fucks in the background. The last thing Jongin had expected to find in the middle of the forest, in the middle of the night, was a potty-mouthed youth.
"You're rather enamored of the word fuck, aren't you?" Jongin asked pleasantly as he tried to support the boy's weight with a carefully placed arm.
"You would too if you were in this much pain, you insensitive prick!"
"Right, okay then. Moving right along," Jongin muttered awkwardly, "What are you doing in the middle of the forest in the middle of the night anyway?"
"Plummeting from the sky and breaking my leg, that's what," the boy declared bitterly and Jongin wondered if he was always this cantankerous or whether it was the pain of his injury that was making him so ill-tempered and hostile.
"The sky? Plummeting?" Jongin repeated in a daze, realization slowly seeping in.
"Are you deaf as well as stupid? YES, I FELL THOUSANDS OF MILES AND LANDED BADLY AND BROKE MY FUCKING LEG!"
"But you're not a rock," Jongin looked and sounded completely perplexed as he stared at the boy in awe.
"Of course, I'm not a rock!" The boy punches Jongin's arm hard and glittering dust fell from his arm as it moved.
"But stars are supposed to be rocks that shine, aren't they?" Jongin asked stupidly as he gave him a fearsome glare.
"I can shine, but I am not a stinking rock."
"Yes, yes, I see that now," Jongin mumbled sheepishly before trying to distract him by offering food.
"Stars don't eat food. We eat nothing but darkness, and we drink nothing but light," he scoffed. Jongin sighed. It was going to be a very long night ... he could tell.
"Do you have a name? I can't very well call you Star ... well, unless it's your name, in which case I'll call you Star."
"For the love of fuck, no, my name isn't Star. I just happen to be a star. It's Kyungsoo," the boy said impatiently as he hobbled along in the semi-darkness.
"Good evening, Kyungsoo, I'm pleased to make your acquaintance. I'm Jongin," he introduced himself shyly.
"Why the hell are you wondering around the forest in the middle of the night, anyway? It's not really a thing humans do? I should know, I've spent years watching you twits."
"I'm looking for a ... fallen star." And that was when Jongin suddenly remembered the chain in his keeping, the one Yixing had given him, the one he'd instructed Jongin to keep wrapped around his wrist until he needed to use it. Luhan wanted the star and Jongin wanted Luhan - she was his Heart's Desire after all - so even though Jongin felt bad for the star, he knew what he had to do. The delicate chain felt like quicksilver in his hand as he unwound one end of it and slipped the loop over Kyungsoo's slim wrist, securing it firmly. And as he did this, the loop around his own wrist tightened; it was almost as if they'd been bound together by moonlight, silver, fish-scales and cat's breath.
"What are you doing, you fucking idiot?" Kyungsoo raised his wrist in anger.
"I made an oath to return home with a star," he explained - trying not to sound as wretched as he felt.
"Whatever it is you plan to do with me, I will not cooperate. In fact I will do everything in my power to make your life hell for doing this to me, you contemptible slug," the star announced in chilling tones before adding for good measure, "You fucking asshole."
"Right, I'll admit I deserve that," Jongin nodded sheepishly, "But I had to take those drastic measures for love. You're my only hope, Kyungsoo. Luhan is the prettiest, smartest and sweetest girl in the entire world, and I must have her."
"And this creature of sweetness and light is so lovely she sent you here to torture me?" Kyungsoo asked in acid tones.
"Well she promised I could have anything I wanted, including her hand in marriage if I came back with a fallen star. But I was expecting to find a diamond or a rock, not a boy."
"I beg your pardon but I am not a boy, and I don't want any part in helping you win over the love of your life, whose idea of being sweet is making you do evil things like clap chains on helpless stars. This is just bollocks, I don't mind telling you. And why must I be dragged into this? I was perfectly happy rolling around in pain on my own. I did not need you to come along and take me prisoner."
"But I did it in the name of love," Jongin insisted, "I just need to show you to her and then I'll let you go, I promise. You have my solemn word."
"I know nothing of love and your word, solemn or otherwise, is of no worth to me. No, actually, I have that wrong. I do know something of love from watching the inhabitants of Earth over the years, and I can tell you that this girl you think yourself in love with, is setting far too high a price on her regard. If she actually, truly loved you, she wouldn't set you such a ludicrously impossible task as bringing home a star! It's a fool's errand so you might as well release me now."
"But Kyungsoo," Jongin was beginning to argue when the candle he was holding in his right hand began to gutter. Too late, he remembered Yixing's admonition to not dawdle, and watched helplessly as the enchanted candle flickered one last time and extinguished.
"Damn." Jongin swore softly because it had never been his nature to cuss.
"What is it?"
"Looks like we have a long walk to Wall ahead of us." Groaning with frustration, Jongin kicked himself mentally. How could he have been so distracted he'd forgotten to get them back to Wall before the flame went out?
"You have a long walk ahead of you, you mean," Kyungsoo corrected him, "I'm not walking anywhere far with my injured leg."
"Do stars sleep?" Jongin's voice was full of tired resignation as he tried not to think about how a few minutes of argument had just led to an entire month of additional travel. Jongin was furious with himself for his lapse in concentration. Why had he gotten so caught up in fencing with Kyungsoo?
"Yes. But not at night. We shine at night. Obviously."
"I'm glad for you, but I'm not a star and I need to sleep and this looks like a good place to stop - since we're not in a hurry anymore."
"But-" Kyungsoo began and stopped mid-sentence as Jongin sat on the ground, placed his satchel on the dewy grass, lay down and went to sleep.
"Dolt," Kyungsoo kicked the ground with his one good foot, "Clodpole. Idiot."
It was a fortunate thing that stars healed much faster than human beings, Jongin thought. They'd been journeying for 3 days now and Kyungsoo was barely even limping anymore. His hair was a lustrous caramel that never seemed to go limp or lank. And the long sleeved shirt with flowing silken sleeves and matching trousers he wore seemed to repel dirt as they remained a luminous, ethereal gold no matter how much dirt Jongin and Kyungsoo walked through.
But the fact that his leg was better and he should have been in less pain by now did not seem to have done much at all for Kyungsoo's temperament. He still snapped and snarled at Jongin and drenched him in sarcasm every chance he got. Jongin tried to be as patient as possible because he was, after all, guilty of holding him captive. Their days were filled with the tedium of traveling across quiet countryside and to Jongin's relief, when Kyungsoo wasn't being antagonistic, they actually managed to have decent conversations and found they had much to talk about.
"Why did you fall from the sky, Kyungsoo?" Jongin asked one day, as they traversed an emerald meadow dotted with daisies and buttercups.
"Why? Don't you mean how?" Kyungsoo raised a curious eyebrow.
"Well, both actually. I mean can stars make themselves fall to the earth? And if they can, why would they?"
"When stars fall, it's usually due to two things: one, we need some time away from the isolation of being stars, in which case we can wish ourselves to be on Earth. We leave streaks of light behind us as we free fall and we eventually land on our feet, unhurt. And then we're free to roam as we please for up to a week before we must take ourselves up to the sky again and beyond so we can reclaim our usual spot in the heavens. The earth needs starlight to alleviate the darkness in the nighttime so we can't be away for too long. Do you see?"
"Yes, I see. But you broke your leg so ... you're not on Earth because you chose to be, are you, Kyungsoo?"
"No, I'm not. And it seems you're not a complete idiot after all. I fell to Earth the second way. I was literally knocked out of the sky by a huge topaz. I believe it's a gem called the Power of Stormhold, which is worn by the Master of Stormhold. He must have flung it into the sky in some fit of insanity and I happened to be the unfortunate sod in its path. Curse that prick, whoever he is. May his armpits be infested with lice for the next two centuries for giving me a fractured leg," Kyungsoo declared with seething passion.
"Armpit lice. Indeed," Jongin flinched at the mental images. "But why would anyone throw something so valuable into the sky?"
"Who even understands humans and their fickle, illogical ways?"
"I am not fickle. Nor am I illogical," Jongin insisted mulishly.
"You just entered the Faerie Realm alone in search of a fucking star just so you can marry a girl. Which part of that sounds logical to you?"
Jongin had to admit Kyungsoo had a valid point so he bit his tongue.
On the 7th day of their journey, Kyungsoo was walking in smooth, easy strides beside Jongin - no one would even know he'd broken his leg a mere week ago. Jongin was a good 4 inches taller than his companion and for the past week he'd been shortening his much longer stride so they could move in tandem. It had become a habit and at least a few times a day, Jongin would peek at Kyungsoo, and marvel at how a person this small could have a personality so large. Luhan was taller than Kyungsoo but her personality was a cold slip of a thing compared to Kyungsoo's dynamic, irascible, foul-mouthed one.
It was a good thing it was summer, because that meant the water in the rivers and creeks were just warm enough to bathe in. Jongin said a little prayer to the man Yixing who had shoved a set of ensorcelled clothes into his satchel just before he'd left to search for the fallen star. They didn't require any cleaning and stayed spotless and odorless. His body, on the other hand, required regular washing so he tried to take a dip in a brook or a river at least once daily. It was fortunate that the Faerie Realm seemed to be overrun by bathing spots.
He always had to stay close to the bank though, as Kyungsoo and him were tethered together. The star usually turned his back on him and grumbled bitterly about the indignity of being chained to a human, and the even worse indignity of being chained to a human going about his daily ablutions. The profane tirade usually lasted at least two minutes and Jongin couldn't help chuckling quietly with amusement as he cleaned a day's, sometimes two days' worth of dirt off his body.
Stars apparently did not require any form of washing for Kyungsoo was in a constant state of pristine perfection. Jongin suspected all manner of dirty things were intimidated and terrified of the star and his razor sharp tongue, and dared not go anywhere near him let alone cling to him. So it was very odd to Jongin that he himself, who was usually so reserved around people other than his father, was not very much intimidated by Kyungsoo at all. It was very puzzling indeed.
They'd been traveling across verdant countryside for two weeks now and Jongin had dispensed with his dinner half an hour earlier. Another blessedly helpful item the sainted Yixing had dropped into his satchel had been a crude, earthenware bowl which apparently popped out food at meal times. Jongin was heartily sick of bread, cheese and apples by now, but at least he never actually went hungry.
Kyungsoo sat quietly beside him, arms wrapped around his knees. Jongin had seen Kyungsoo angry, bored, disgusted, amused and indifferent, but he had never seen him look wistful.
As he pondered what to say next (because it seemed as if he should say something), Jongin lay on the still-dry grass, his left hand pillowing his head. To his surprise, there was a rustling of silken fabric and Kyungsoo lay down beside him, with a mere ten inches of space separating them. The scent of apples, lemons and spring leaves teased the edges of Jongin's senses, making him lightheaded. A few days before, the star had stumbled over a patch of uneven ground and Jongin had caught him in his arms awkwardly, breaking his fall. In those brief moments, he'd discovered that Kyungsoo smelt of crisp lemons and apples and freshly bruised leaves. It had been the most dizzyingly captivating scent and Jongin had been careful to keep his distance afterwards.
"Do you miss them? Your brothers and sisters? And your mother the moon?" Desperately ignoring the sensory assault, Jongin turned to peek at Kyungsoo's face curiously.
"Not exactly? We're not ... what you'd call a close-knit family, Jongin. There are so many of us - 15 daughters and 10 sons. And we all inhabit our little corner of the galaxy and meet only very rarely."
"That sounds like such a lonely existence."
"It is, I suppose rather lonely," Kyungsoo admitted quietly, "We meet as a family perhaps once a quarter century? I'm sure it's been at least twenty-two years since I last spoke with my siblings. And my mother is a distant figure we pay our respects to but whom we barely know.
"Twenty-two years? Just how old are you?!" Jongin's eyebrows shot up in a blatant display of shock and disbelief.
"Did you think I was 19? I am a star for fuck's sake. You seem to keep forgetting this very inescapable truth." Kyungsoo snorted (but not unkindly).
"But you look younger than me!" Jongin tried not to splutter but he didn't think he was doing a very good job of it.
"Stop spluttering. I'll celebrate my 276th birthday this coming January. A mere babe compared to most stars, and certainly I am the youngest of my siblings."
"You're 276," Jongin muttered, awe and disbelief lacing each word.
"You don't look 276," Jongin said just before his hand reached out and touched Kyungsoo's smooth, alabaster cheek. He didn't know why he'd done it and he didn't know why Kyungsoo didn't knock his hand away in outrage - all he knew was that Kyungsoo's skin felt warm and wonderful. Where Jongin's fingertips touched his cheek, lambent gold light flickered beneath the skin. It was slightly unnerving but mostly, it was incredibly beautiful and Jongin was fascinated beyond words. Jongin's fingertips tingled intensely where they rested on the star's glowing skin. Kyungsoo looked startled but he remained quiet (for once), watching Jongin intently with mild confusion and ... something else in his eyes.
And so it was that for a brief 5 seconds of time, the shy village boy from Wall dared to touch a star ... and the star let him.
Eventually shaking off whatever spell had overtaken him, Jongin withdrew his hand and mumbled an apology. He didn't dare look at Kyungsoo for the rest of the night and the conversation soon petered out. But neither one of them moved from where they lay and Jongin's fingertips continued to tingle in a distractingly intense way long after they'd left Kyungsoo's cheek. His heart buzzed and clenched in the most alarming way and he had to fight down the urge to touch Kyungsoo's face again. What was wrong with him? He was in love with Luhan, wasn't he?
Jongin's head and heart continued to spin as they lay there in the darkness. He tried to fix on an image of Luhan but he kept seeing Kyungsoo's face and the way his skin lit up with that lambent glow. What was wrong with him? The need to turn and look at Kyungsoo was incredibly strong but Jongin somehow restrained himself from doing it. Finally, after minutes and minutes of wrestling with himself, the toll of walking all day made itself felt and Jongin could feel himself fading away.
Kyungsoo lay quietly beside him but Jongin knew Kyungsoo didn't sleep at night. He wondered what the star did while Jongin slept, now that he was no longer able to shine down on the earth and he was angry at himself for overlooking this. He'd have to do something about it so they traveled part of the night and slept part of the day. It was only fair, he thought as his eyes closed and his weary limbs surrendered to sleep.
That night, Jongin dreamt of a star who liked to curse, and whose skin lit up when he touched it.
By some unspoken agreement, they never referred to that moment where Jongin touched Kyungsoo's cheek, and the two subsequent days were slightly awkward, with Jongin and Kyungsoo being far more reticent than usual with each other. But by the third day, things were more or less back to an even keel and the insults were flying back and forth by the fourth day. Jongin had never been so relieved in his entire life to have someone call him a fucking imbecile.
"So what's the appeal of all that water then?" Kyungsoo's words floated over the surface of the lake, carried by the light afternoon breeze. Jongin usually tried to bathe when the day was at it'shottest so he wouldn't catch a chill.
"I don't know. It's refreshing? And you feel clean after. I mean I know you never get dirty, Kyungsoo, but it's just ... water feels good against your skin. Especially on hot days like today. It's cool and invigorating."
"You say that like you actually expect me to stick my toe in that nasty lake."
"But you should. After all you can't get water up where you usually are. If you don't dip your toe in now, you'll be wondering later on why you hadn't stuck your toe in when you had the chance."
"As if," Kyungsoo retorted but Jongin saw him surreptitiously toeing off his elegant gold mules. They must have been made from some kind of leather but Jongin had never heard of leather the shade of gold.
"You'll like the water, I promise." Jongin said and gave the lightest of tugs on the silver chain that bound their wrists together.
"Stop that. There's no need to remind me that I'm basically your prisoner," Kyungsoo said scathingly, but there was no real bitterness or vitriol in his tone.
"I'm sorry, Kyungsoo. I truly am. It's just 8 more days before I show you to Luhan and then this ordeal will be over for you. And you can have all the favors you want. I will do anything for you!" And Jongin hated to admit it but that final declaration had a ring of truth to it which was extremely worrying.
He told himself to keep to his course and tried to call up the memory of Luhan's face ... and struggled. He'd known her since she was a child; he knew what she looked like, so why was it so difficult to picture her in his mind?
"Be careful what you say, Jongin. I might make you honor your words one day. Turn around. And don't look or you will regret it for the next few decades," Kyungsoo warned in menacing tones.
Grinning, Jongin turned to face the the opposite bank. He could hear the faint susurrus of silk against silk followed by a liquid plop and a string of curses, "Fuckfuckfuckkkk, why didn't you warn me how cold the water was? Damn you, Jongin!"
"It's not that c- OUCH!" Jongin groaned as Kyungsoo punched him in the arm.
"You mean it's fucking freezing!"
"Kyungsoo, it's not that cold," Jongin rolled his eyes.
"I knew I shouldn't have trusted you." Kyungsoo punched Jongin again and the other boy laughed in spite of the pain. Then Jongin quietened abruptly when he realized they were standing but inches apart - water swirling lazily around Jongin's waist and Kyungsoo's chest. He was the most beautiful creature Jongin had ever seen, with his intense eyes that held so much fire and feeling about anything and everything, and full lips the shade of crushed raspberries. It didn't even matter that he'd never looked at a boy this way.
All he knew was that he no longer cared about bringing the star to Luhan - he hadn't cared for some time now. Luhan had never made Jongin feel half the things Kyungsoo made him feel, even though Jongin had imagined himself in love with the village beauty for years now. After only 3 weeks, Jongin had shared more of himself - his hopes, his dreams and his fears - with Kyungsoo than he'd ever had the opportunity to share with Luhan in all the years he'd known her. She hadn't really been interested to know much about him at all. Jongin could see this now.
And the truth was Jongin didn't want to bring the star to Luhan because he wanted to keep Kyungsoo for himself.
"Kyungsoo?" Jongin was overcome by a feeling of déjà vu as he recalled the time Luhan and him had walked home together all those weeks ago - just before they'd glimpsed a fateful shooting star.
"Yes?" Kyungsoo stared at him intently, and there was something in his eyes that told Jongin that maybe Jongin wasn't just a captor he tolerated because he had no choice.
"Will you let me kiss you?" Jongin asked softly.
"Why the fuck should I, when you're basically dragging me to some brat of a girl so you can marry her."
"What if I don't want to do that anymore?"
"There's no reason why you should suddenly do an about turn."
"What if I want to keep you for myself? What if I only thought I was in love with her when I was actually just in love with the idea of being in love with her? What if I never knew her well enough to be in love with her in any way that counted?"
"And you promised to retrieve a fallen star for her? You're an IDIOT! And if you say otherwise -" Kyungsoo looked as if he was going to launch into another diatribe and this was not turning out well at all for Jongin.
"No, you're right, of course. I am a complete idiot," Jongin agreed solemnly.
"Aren't you going to argue that you're not? You always protest when I call you a fool." Kyungsoo eyed him suspiciously.
"Well, in this case I really was a fool. But I can't say I regret it either since my being stupid over a girl was what led me to you."
"You put a chain on me, you asshole!" Clearly, Kyungsoo was going to take some convincing. It was a good thing Jongin was as patient as the sea and persistent too.
"Yes, I am both an idiot and an asshole. All these things are undeniably true."
"You made me walk 20 days to get to this brat of a girl that you apparently do not even love, you imbecile!"
"Yes, I am an idiot, an asshole and an imbecile. Will you let me kiss you?"
"YES! NO, I mean no!" Kyungsoo hit Jongin's shoulder.
"Yes or no? Will you let me kiss you, Kyungsoo?" Jongin asked softly and Kyungsoo never answered as he made an impatient noise, grabbed Jongin's face in his hands and kissed him. Jongin's heart was pounding and his stomach alive with butterflies as their lips met. And it was sweet, so sweet, and Jongin was drowning in apples, lemons, and spring leaves as he breathed in the scent of the star in his arms.
As Kyungsoo wrapped his hand around Jongin's nape and pulled his face closer, their kiss deepened, and Kyungsoo's skin began to glow with a muted champagne light. Everywhere their skin made contact, Jongin's skin tingled - just like the time he'd touched Kyungsoo's cheeks all those days before.
"Was that a yes?" Jongin asked just a little cheekily when they finally moved apart and Kyungsoo's response was to kick him in the shin. At least he wasn't wearing shoes, Jongin thought as he rubbed the tender skin.
"I'm not amused," Kyungsoo glared.
"Will your skin always glow when we kiss?" Jongin asked as his fingers trailed over Kyungsoo's shoulder and tiny points of light danced beneath the skin.
"Maybe. I've kissed other humans before but this is the first time this has ever happened. Perhaps it will only happen this one time," Kyungsoo shrugged noncommittally.
"I think more research is in order," Jongin smiled before leaning forward and capturing Kyungsoo's lips with his own. And to his utter satisfaction, Kyungsoo's skin began to glow ...
"Now we just have to get back to that man Yixing to ask him how to remove the chain. I'm so sorry I put you through this. I'm an awful person."
"Yes, you are the most awful prick. As for the chains, we don't need Yixing," Kyungsoo scoffed and for a few moments, his right arm glowed and then the chain slid off both their wrists and onto the ground with a metallic chink. "Done," he announced smugly.
"But you could have taken it off right at the start instead of yelling abuse at me for 3 weeks! You didn't even have to go anywhere with me! Why didn't you just remove it directly?"
"Because I was curious about you and I wanted to find out more about you and just fuck off because that's all I'm saying about the matter."
Jongin gave a long suffering sigh. Being in love with a star was going to be a challenge, especially one as volatile as Kyungsoo, but Jongin couldn't bring himself to regret it. Not one bit.
After approximately 30 days of travel, Jongin and Kyungsoo found themselves at The Wall that divided the village of Wall and the Faerie Realm. Hand in hand, they walked to the other side, surprising the Guards.
"Oi! You can't just waltz in here!" One of the guards yelled authoritatively at them and Jongin turned around and shouted, "We'll explain later! Must go!" Then he dragged Kyungsoo by the hand and they began running as fast as they could with the guards in pursuit. Jongin would never have done anything so daring a month ago, but then Jongin now was rather more self-confident and assertive than he had been a month ago. He'd had to come out of his shell to withstand Kyungsoo's blistering verbal attacks, and he'd done quite well for himself.
They ran along the winding country paths, closer and closer to the village until finally, they were standing in front of a familiar wooden door attached to an endearingly familiar cottage. The front window was a waffle of golden light - his father had to be back from Faerie!
"Father! Father, it's me!" Jongin rapped the door hard with his knuckles, his left hand gripping Kyungsoo's much smaller one tightly.
"You're home! And safe! With all limbs intact!" Chanyeol shouted euphorically as he opened the door, a wide smile on his face, and hauled his son in for a bear hug.
"Father, this is Kyungsoo," Jongin placed his hands on Kyungsoo's slim shoulders and pushed him to the forefront.
"Hello, Kyungsoo. I'm going to assume that gold is your favorite color?" Chanyeol smiled warmly as he indicated Kyungsoo's clothing and shoes.
"Hello, Jongin's father. I suppose I like gold well enough. I didn't really have a choice in the matter. My clothes have always been made from gold fabric. My siblings all have their own color as well. The first chance I get, I shall wear something which isn't gold."
"Excellent!" Chanyeol rubbed his hands together approvingly even if he wasn't altogether sure what the boy meant.
"Kyungsoo is the star I went in search of," Jongin announced abruptly, reaching for Kyungsoo's hand. Jongin had always been shy and had never been the demonstrative sort, so Chanyeol was surprised by the handholding. It was very unusual behavior for his son.
"I thought stars were rocks?" Chanyeol sounded puzzled.
"I am not a damned rock!" Kyungsoo protested and Jongin knew he should be thankful that Kyungsoo had toned down the profanity by a notch or two.
"Is there something you're wanting to tell me, son?" Chanyeol asked as he brought them further into the cottage.
"I ... I won't be bringing the star to Luhan anymore."
"Merciful heavens! I'm so glad you finally saw the light! That silly, self-centered child is not worth your time,"
"Well, it doesn't really matter whether she is or not because either way, I'm not bringing Kyungsoo to anyone."
"Oh!" Chanyeol's eyebrows shot up for a few seconds before he began grinning, "Oh, I see."
"So I'll just have to pay her a visit to tell her that there will be no lasting arrangement of any kind between us after all."
"About that ... you won't have to worry about seeing her as Luhan got married to that boy Sehun 5 days ago. It was all very sudden. Your mother thinks she's in the family way."
"Luhan is pregnant," Chanyeol announced carefully.
"I understood that part and it concerns me not at all. You said my mother thinks ... MY MOTHER? You found her, Father?"
"Who was that at the door, dear?" A woman with compellingly mysterious eyes and waist length, raven hair wandered out of Chanyeol's bedroom. The Faerie woman Baekhyun looked a little younger than Chanyeol and she was absolutely stunning.
"You're my mother?" Jongin asked and he felt Kyungsoo's hand rest reassuringly in the small of his back.
"You must be Jongin," she smiled slowly and approached him and before he knew it, he was in her arms and she was apologizing for missing the first 19 years of his life, and promising she'd make it up to him. Chanyeol stood behind a tearful Baekhyun and engulfed both her and their son in his arms.
As Jongin stood in his parents' embrace with Kyungsoo's hand on his back, Jongin said a little prayer of thanks to Luhan for being a silly, self-centered child. For she had inadvertently brought Jongin far more happiness than he could have ever hoped for with her ridiculous demand to retrieve a falling star ...