The first of September is cooler than the first of August by about five degrees, and it’s better out in the gardens now.
“I knew I’d find you here,” Chanyeol says. “You didn’t come to the library today. Or yesterday.”
“I spent the day with Kris,” Baekhyun says. “Yesterday.”
“Not just breakfast?” Chanyeol asks. “I’m glad you’re both trying.”
“What do you mean?”
“Did you know people are more beautiful when they’re in love?” Chanyeol says, and then he laughs. “I sound stupid, but I’ve read that before..”
“Kris is nice,” Baekhyun says. Nice like the weather today. Nice like a good pair of socks. “It’s not like I hate him. I think we could be friends.”
“You’re not supposed to be friends with him,” Chanyeol says. “You’re supposed to marry him.”
“I know that,” Baekhyun says, squatting down by the pond. He almost falls in as his clothing gets caught under his shoe. “I think the flowers here are sad.”
“They’ve seen a lot of a few very sad people,” Chanyeol says. “Are you sad, Baekhyun?”
“Not when you’re around.” He dips his fingers in the water, and splashes some at Chanyeol. It gets in his eyes and on his shirt, the white shirt going clear. Baekhyun looks away. “How do I cheer the flowers up then?”
“My mother used to sing to them,” Chanyeol says. “She’d put me on her lap and sing.”
“Your mother?” Baekhyun makes a cup with both of his hands in the water, lifting it two palmfuls out of the water and letting it stream out through his fingers.
“You reminded me of her,” Chanyeol says. “When you were out in the gardens by yourself that day.” He laughs. “I’d been hearing from Zitao about how when people glared at you in the hallways you glared back. And about how you didn’t speak a word of Mandarin.”
“I know a few words.” Baekhyun laughs. “I know even more of them, now.”
“I thought it was cool how proud you were. You had to have been scared, but you wouldn’t let it show on your face.” Chanyeol bumps him with his shoulder. “That’s what reminded me of my mother. That’s why…”
“Why what?” Chanyeol dips his own fingers into the water, and the silver backed fish come racing to his fingers. Baekhyun has always wondered how deep the water goes. He thinks it’s pretty deep, since he can’t see all the way to the bottom.
“I must have food on my hands,” he says. “They never pay this much attention to me.”
“You’re not answering the question, Chanyeol.”
“Why I showed you my mother’s garden,” he says, and Baekhyun’s head jerks up to stare at him in surprise. “My father built this for her.”
“How did she die?” Baekhyun asks, and it seems less bad to grab his hand in the water, like the slight obfuscation of the ripples means it’s alright to slip his fingers between Chanyeol’s.
“Heart condition,” Chanyeol says. “Everyone’s heart is always broken, here at the palace, one way or another.”
“What about yours?” Baekhyun asks, and then he feels terrible. “You don’t have to answer that.”
Chanyeol chuckles and hits his other hand against his chest. “My heart is doing okay.” His smile wavers when he looks down at their hands. “For now.”
One of the fish bites at Baekhyun’s knuckle, and he snatches his hand out of the water. “That little mother fuc-“
His robe is so heavy that pulling back only brings him up halfway. His headpiece starts to slip, and he tries to grab it, and ends up falling forward and into the water.
The water is deep. Deep enough that Baekhyun’s toes barely scrape the bottom at first. His head is under the surface of the water, and he gets a mouthful of water when he screams. He starts to swim upward but his robes are too thick and unwieldy.
He needs air, his limbs flailing in an attempt to get back above the surface.
Arms wrap around him, then, and he’s being pulled upward by them. When his head breaks the water he gasps in a huge gulp of air. “You’re okay,” Chanyeol says. “I’ve got you, Baekhyun.”
“Thank you,” Baekhyun says, after he climbs out of the water, Chanyeol flopping down beside him, breathing heavily. Baekhyun coughs and feels the icky pond water in his throat. “That was about to become a completely different fairytale.”
“Can’t let you drown, Rapunzel,” Chanyeol says, pulling Baekhyun into a hug as he shivers. “Do they not teach you how to swim in those towers?”
“I can swim just fine when I’m not weighed down by so much material,” Baekhyun says. “I could barely move.”
“It’s a good thing I was here to save you, then,” Chanyeol says. “It’s part of my princely duties.”
“Thank you, my prince,” Baekhyun says, covering up the tremble of his voice with the playful flirting he’d refined with Lu Han.
He expects Chanyeol to laugh, but instead, Chanyeol’s face falls, and he looks at Baekhyun with water dripping from his eyelashes and onto his smooth soft cheeks. “I wish I was,” he says, and Baekhyun’s heart leaps, like a frog, up into his throat, hanging out there as Chanyeol looks into his eyes.
“You…” Baekhyun begins, but then he doesn’t because if he asks the question do you like me as much as I like you he isn’t sure which answer, ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will hurt more.
“I’m not your prince,” Chanyeol says, not letting Baekhyun down from the circle of his arms, even though Baekhyun must be too heavy in all of these robes. “I don’t think I should forget that.”
“I know,” Baekhyun says, and he buries his face in Chanyeol’s neck and feels the beat of Chanyeol’s pulse against his forehead like a constant reminder.
Zitao helps him out of his robes when he arrives, dripping, back to his room. “You’re not smiling,” Zitao says. “Why?”
“I want to go home,” Baekhyun says. “I want to write fantasy novels, not live them.” Zitao doesn’t understand the second part, but he pats Baekhyun’s cheeks and smiles at him reassuringly anyway.
“Magic is hard,” Zitao says. “Everything is hard.”
“Ain’t that the truth,” Baekhyun says, as Zitao stands by with a frown of his own as a servant eases him into a green robe for dinner.
Chanyeol doesn’t look at him from across the table, and Baekhyun has a sudden vision of the rest of his life.
He internally rattles at the bars of this cage he never wanted, but externally, he smiles, and pushes the seafood around on his plate.
“Are you looking forward to the wedding?” The Emperor asks in stilted Korean, and Baekhyun forces himself to smile.
“Yes,” he says, and doesn’t mean it at all.
The last two weeks before the wedding pass agonizingly slow. It would be better if Baekhyun didn’t feel so far away from Chanyeol, but Chanyeol won’t look at him, and Baekhyun is getting married.
Lu Han looks so very tired. “Getting ready for the ceremony, huh?” He looks around at all the special ceremonial robes.
“You should have kissed the frog,” Baekhyun says. “I told you you’d be jealous when it turned into royalty.”
“I am jealous,” Lu Han says, kicking at Baekhyun but not quite long enough to reach him from his chair. “If you tell anyone, though, I’ll feed you bleach.”
“Why don’t you just marry Kris instead?” Baekhyun looks at the robes laid out and thinks they’d fit Lu Han, as well.
“You’re the one who has to,” Lu Han says. “You’re the one that kissed the frog and turned him back into a prince.”
“Kris doesn’t love me, you know that right?” Baekhyun’s nails feel nice going through his hair. His roots have grown out, black blending not very seamless into blond, and it needs a cut and a touch up that Baekhyun would only trust his own hairstylist to do.
“You don’t love him, either,” Lu Han says. “I can tell. You talk about him like you talk about Jongin.”
“How is that?”
“The same way you talk about your plants,” Lu Han says. “With mild consternation.”
Lu Han looks at the robes longingly. Baekhyun wishes as much as Lu Han does that it were Lu Han marrying Kris tomorrow.
“He was looking for you,” Baekhyun says, because Lu Han is dumb if he can’t see the way Kris is stares at him longingly whenever he comes to visit. Then again, Lu Han was dumb enough not to know Kris was the crown prince in the first place, so Baekhyun won’t put anything past him. “He was waiting for you to kiss him.”
“What?” Lu Han’s hair is back to blond, and as he looks at Baekhyun with dark, wide eyes, Baekhyun thinks he looks as pale as a ghost like this. “Me?”
“That’s why he was following us.” Baekhyun looks around the room again. “He loves you.”
“Well, he’s marrying you,” Lu Han says, and Baekhyun does notice the crinkles at the corners of Lu Han’s eyes, just as Kris had mentioned. Because you notice things like that about the people you love, Baekhyun thinks.
Like he notices Chanyeol’s ears and the way his nostrils flare when he laughs and the squareness of his fingernails except the ones he keeps a bit longer to pluck at his guitar.
“No,” Baekhyun says, “He’s not.”
Lu Han glares at him suspiciously, and Baekhyun smiles, sure in his decision. “It’s not hot enough for you to blame whatever crazy thing you’re thinking about on heat stroke.”
“I’m leaving,” Baekhyun says. “Tonight.”
“Baekhyun, there are… I mean, there are a lot of old Chinese legends, and all of them have consequences when you break a magical promise.” Lu Han purses his mouth. “You’re not doing this for… me, are you?”
“I am,” Baekhyun says. “But I’m also doing it for me, too.” He chuckles. “I never thought I’d end up engaged to an actual prince.” He starts unfastening his robes. “Lu Han, I can’t just sit here and wait to marry Kris when I’m so in love with Chanyeol it’s eating me up.” Lu Han kicks at the floor. Baekhyun is out of breath, like he’s just run a race. “Or Prince Canlie, I should say.”
“You know…” Lu Han hesitates, but Baekhyun can see the hope in his eyes and it just strengthens Baekhyun’s resolve. “You won’t be able to stay at the palace, once you end things with Kris.”
“I know,” Baekhyun says. “I’m counting on that. It’ll make things simpler.”
“You won’t be able to see either of the princes again.”
“I know,” Baekhyun repeats. “I’m going back to Korea.” He grabs Lu Han’s arm. “It would be kind of embarrassing for Kris if there was no one around to marry him tomorrow. You should stay here.”
“But, Baekhyun, are you sure…” Lu Han’s eyebrows gather in the middle of his forehead. “Do you know what the consequences will be?”
“I have an idea,” Baekhyun says. “But it seems to me I’ll have to face them either way.” No way that Baekhyun can see has him ending up with Chanyeol. It might hurt more than never being in love again to be in love always, but never able to touch or kiss or just have. “Whether I leave or stay, it’s going to suck.”
“How are you even getting out?” Lu Han asks, and Baekhyun grins at him, offering him thumbs up, like when Lu Han used to watch from the sidelines of Baekhyun’s hapkido tournaments.
“I don’t know yet,” Baekhyun says. “But there’s someone I can ask for help.” He lays his outer robes on the bed one by one. They’re hard to take off without help, and Lu Han stands up to help him peel them off.
They both look up when the door opens, but it’s only Zitao who looks back and forth between them with confusion, and then a slow understanding.
“Boxian is leaving?” Zitao asks, and Lu Han begins to speak to him rapidly and nervous in Mandarin. Zitao nods along, and when Lu Han is finished, Zitao’s lips curve up in a small grin. “I’ll take you,” he says.
Baekhyun smiles at him thankfully as Zitao walks past him, opening an ornate wooden drawer beneath the bed that Baekhyun had never even noticed and hands him a pair of jeans he recognizes as his own. “Where…?”
“I brought them along when we brought you here,” Lu Han says. “You were only wearing your pajamas and a T-shirt. You were so embarrassing.”
“Sorry about that,” Baekhyun says. “I should have thought about my appearance while I was busy being petrified of the transforming frog-man!”
“Sarcasm makes you look ugly,” Lu Han says, and Baekhyun punches him in the chest for old times’ sake. Lu Han laughs, picking up Baekhyun’s computer case and handing it to him. Baekhyun takes it from him, the weight familiar on his shoulder.
“Well laughing makes you look ugly,” he says. “And you’re ugliest when you’re laughing at me.”
“Good luck,” Lu Han says, as Baekhyun fastens his jeans and pulls his pajama shirt, the one he’d been wearing the night this all started, over his head. It smells like aloe. “Don’t get caught.”
Baekhyun gestures to the robes, and sighs at Lu Han’s hair. “You either.” He smiles at Zitao. “Zitao is a great bodyguard,” Baekhyun says. “He won’t let me get caught.”
He leaves Lu Han behind in his room, hoping that will somehow work out, but believing that at least that part of this whole fairytale should. “Where are we going?” Baekhyun whispers, and Zitao puts his finger to his lips to call for silence.
“Where you want to go,” Zitao says.
Baekhyun follows Zitao through the halls. They go a way he’s never gone before, and Baekhyun realizes that these are the back halls, the ones the servants use to stay a step ahead of the people they serve at all times.
They return to the main hall in front of a set of doors Baekhyun recognizes. “These are Chanyeol’s rooms,” he hisses at Zitao, and Zitao nods.
“Where you wanted to go,” he says, and then uses a large key from his pocket to unlock the double doors.
Baekhyun follows him in through the first set, and Zitao stops in front of the second set, pushing the key into Baekhyun’s palm. “You can’t leave if you don’t say goodbye,” Zitao tells him, smirking slightly, and Baekhyun blushes as red as the robes he isn’t planning to wear tomorrow. “I’ll come back.” Zitao looks down at his watch. “One hour.”
Baekhyun opens the doors alone. He sets his laptop down by a chair near Chanyeol’s bookcase, next to a stack of books that threatens to fall if Baekhyun were to look at it funny. “Chanyeol?”
Chanyeol isn’t asleep. His lights are off, but with the moonlight that filters in from outside Baekhyun can see that he’s awake, his eyes on the ceiling. At Baekhyun calling his name, he sits up, his covers falling from him to pool at his waist. His chest is bare, and Baekhyun likes the way his collarbones stick out sharply beneath the line of his shoulders.
“Baekhyun?” Chanyeol says, before he buries his hands in his blankets. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to say goodbye,” Baekhyun says. “Or Zitao wanted me to say goodbye.”
“What are you talking about?” Chanyeol says. “Aren’t you locked up in the tower until the prince saves you?” Chanyeol rests his head against his headboard. “Your wedding is tomorrow.”
“Lu Han’s in my room,” Baekhyun says. “He’ll look enough like me in all the robes and makeup that anyone who isn’t from the palace will be confused for as long as it counts.”
“But why…” Chanyeol’s hand feels around the table next to his bed until he finds his glasses, slipping them onto his face. “Baekhyun, we read about what might happen…”
“Lu Han and Kris are in love with each other,” Baekhyun says.
“And what about you?” Chanyeol asks. “You can’t leave. You’re supposed to marry Kris. If you marry him, even if… Even if it will be hard, there’s always the garden.”
“I’m leaving,” Baekhyun says again. “I can’t marry someone else, Chanyeol.”
“Someone else?” Chanyeol frees one hand from his blanket, reaching up to cup Baekhyun’s face.
“You were wrong, before,” Baekhyun says. “You are my prince.”
“Baekhyun…” Chanyeol’s hand curves around Baekhyun’s neck. He’s shaking, Baekhyun thinks. Baekhyun is too. “You’re not mine. You’re...”
“I’m not anyone’s,” Baekhyun says. “Right? If Lu Han marries Kris tomorrow, I’ll never be anyone’s.”
Chanyeol looks torn. His hand stays at the back of Baekhyun’s neck, and Baekhyun moves closer, getting onto the bed and taking a chance, straddling Chanyeol’s hips so he can look at him in the eyes.
“Since I’m leaving,” Baekhyun asks, “can I kiss you?”
“But Kris…” Chanyeol says, and Baekhyun puts his thumb over Chanyeol’s lips.
“Not my prince,” Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol laughs, so quietly, and lunges forward to kiss him.
If he’s only going to have one chance to kiss Chanyeol, Baekhyun is going to make sure he’ll never forget it, mapping the inside of his mouth with tongue and teeth. Emotions try to claw their way out of him as he tastes Chanyeol’s moans, and feels Chanyeol’s breath against his lips, tiny puffs of air that are as intoxicating as the sounds.
Chanyeol’s hands slide down Baekhyun’s back and then back up under his shirt, touching skin he’s never seen. “Baekhyun,” Chanyeol says, rocking his hips upward, “can I…”
“Yes, yes,” Baekhyun says and he pulls back long enough to raise his arms over his head, and Chanyeol lifts his shirt up and off so that they’re chest to chest.
It’s as hot and humid in the room now as it had been when Baekhyun stepped off that flight from Beijing. But everything is different now, because Baekhyun had come to Beijing looking to clear his head and he’s leaving with the taste of Chanyeol on his lips.
He kisses down Chanyeol’s neck, licking along the vein and feeling his pulse beneath his tongue.
“I’ve wanted to kiss you for a long time,” Chanyeol says, his hands dancing along the waist of Baekhyun’s jeans. “Ever since the time....” He gasps as Baekhyun sucks hard enough to leave a mark. “That time when you rolled up my sleeves.”
Behind Chanyeol’s ear is sensitive. Baekhyun sucks and bites at it, leaving marks that will last long after Baekhyun is gone. Chanyeol doesn’t stop him, his hips pushing upward more insistently and Baekhyun slips his hands between them, exploring Chanyeol’s chest with spread out hands.
He scratches lightly at Chanyeol’s nipples and leaves lines on his chest, and Chanyeol’s hands cling to Baekhyun’s thighs, squeezing every time Baekhyun’s nails cross sensitive bits of skin.
“Is it alright?” he asks, pulling at the waist of Chanyeol’s pajamas, and Chanyeol nods furiously, the both of them suddenly scrambling to get rid of clothes, desperate to touch bare skin.
“Your skin is so soft,” Chanyeol says. “Softer than all of that silk.”
“Too cheesy,” Baekhyun says. “I like fantasy novels, not harlequins.”
They laugh, but then Chanyeol’s hands dip low enough to grab at Baekhyun’s ass and pull him in, and they’re lost in each other again.
There is something terrifying in the way Baekhyun’s heart feels so full right now. Because this is it, he knows that, but he doesn’t want this to be it. He wants to know how Chanyeol will looks naked and pleased in his bed when the sun rises.
Baekhyun moves down Chanyeol’s body, fingers bumping along each rib and diving below Chanyeol’s navel, running astride the jut of his narrow set hipbones until he’s at Chanyeol’s erection.
Chanyeol gasps as Baekhyun holds him in a loose grasp. “You have such lovely hands,” Chanyeol says, a smile in his eyes, and Baekhyun wishes they had more time. That he would be able to touch Chanyeol like this again, someday, and hear his low rumbling groans as Baekhyun takes him into his mouth.
Chanyeol’s thighs are smooth under his hands as he pushes them further apart, and Chanyeol’s choked whimpers go straight to Baekhyun’s cock as Baekhyun runs his tongue around the head, trying to coax more noises from Chanyeol so he can add them to his mental notes; file them away with everything else for when he leaves this whole twisted fairytale behind.
Chanlyeol comes without sound, the first thing Baekhyun’s ever seen Chanyeol do quietly, and he tastes bitter on Baekhyun’s tongue. When he looks up, Chanyeol’s eyes are glazed and his mouth is fat and swollen from kisses and bites.
Baekhyun can’t believe he’ll only get to see this once.
Chanyeol yanks him up none too gently. Baekhyun’s cock pushes into his hip, and his mouth seeks Baekhyun’s eagerly, not minding the taste of himself on the roof of Baekhyun’s mouth. Baekhyun grinds into him, and Chanyeol grinds back. “Your voice is lovely, too,” Chanyeol says. “Everything about you.”
Baekhyun comes just like that, breathing into Chanyeol’s neck as Chanyeol tells him all the things he likes about him, one by one against his forehead like a goodbye letter.
They kiss long and slow, Chanyeol’s hand gripping Baekhyun’s hips so hard that Baekhyun can’t even think about moving. They kiss and kiss and kiss until Baekhyun can’t feel his lips and his jaw hurts.
“Don’t leave,” Chanyeol murmurs into his mouth, and Baekhyun pecks at the corner of his lips.
Chanyeol’s arms go slack as he drifts off to sleep, and his eyes close even as he fights it. Baekhyun looks at his face, trying to record the way he looks, and the way his skin feels as Baekhyun strokes his arm one last time.
“Hey,” he says to Chanyeol’s sleeping face, when he’s sure Chanyeol won’t rouse, “I love you.”
He extricates himself from Chanyeol’s embrace and wipes himself off with tissues, knowing there’s no time to sneak a shower. Then he pulls his jeans on quickly, and his T-shirt. He doesn’t look at Chanyeol again, instead moving toward the door. He grabs his laptop and exits, closing the doors behind him. Zitao is waiting for him.
Baekhyun wonders what he looks like, all red eyes and smelling like sex. He hands Zitao the key with finality.
“Are you really going to leave?” Zitao asks, and Baekhyun whispers “yes”.
He follows Zitao into the side hallways, saying goodbye to Chanyeol and the palace, and looking straight ahead toward home.
The first thing Baekhyun notices when he gets off the plane in Incheon is the breeze. It’s that slice of fall Seoul always get before winter sets in hard, and Baekhyun takes a deep breath of it. The second thing Baekhyun notices, when he sees his ride waiting for him, casually dressed in white capris and a blue button up, is that Jongin’s hair is even blonder than his own.
“Hey,” Jongin says. “Welcome home.” He grins. “I thought I’d be late, but I was just on time.”
“Hey,” Baekhyun says, voice crackling at the sight of a familiar smile in a familiar place and Jongin looks at him in a panic.
“Don’t cry!” Jongin says. “You know I don’t know what to do with crying people!”
“I’m not going to cry,” Baekhyun says. “I don’t have anything to cry about.” He pats Jongin on the arm.
“You don’t have anything?” Jongin asks, searching for a suitcase. “Just the laptop?”
Baekhyun waves his passport, which has luckily been in his computer case. “No,” he says. “Just me.”
“Then lets get you home,” Jongin says. “Your neighbor, Kim Junmyeon… He’s been watering your plants.”
“That’s a relief,” Baekhyun says, and gets into the car.
“I saw the royal wedding over in China on TV this morning,” Jongin says. “Saw Lu Han marrying that prince you were engaged to. Even the prince looked surprised by that.” Jongin clears his throat. “On second thought, please tell me you don’t want to talk about that either.”
“I don’t,” Baekhyun says, and turns on the radio as loud as it will go.
Baekhyun turns off the internet after the fifth mention of the crown prince’s wedding. It’s not that he resents them getting married; he doesn’t, and the Empress’s pleased smile and Lu Han’s fluent Mandarin rendition of his required speech probably pleases the people as much as they do her. He does, however, feel unsteady and somber when he sees Chanyeol standing behind Kris, his right-hand man, with a worn smile on his face and an anxiousness in his eyes that Baekhyun is responsible for.
With the internet off, there’s not much to do but look into the text document Baekhyun’s been slowly adding into since he arrived at the palace. He has notes about Chanyeol, notes about Kris... Even more revealing are the notes about himself.
He starts to write before he can think better of it, feelings spilling onto the page easier than they ever have before.
He goes back to work for the first time the next day and Jongdae makes an alarmed noise at him that’s somewhere between a rooster at dawn and an injured pup. “Do you get jetlag flying from China to Korea?” he asks, and Baekhyun sighs.
“No,” he says. “I’ve been working on a novel.”
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Jongdae says, as Sehun glares at him from his desk way too near the door, and Minseok waves in a sedate hello.
“I’m going to finish this one,” Baekhyun promises.
Baekhyun’s neighbor, Kim Junmyeon, knocks on his door four days after he gets back.
“I heard you’d returned,” he says, holding out Baekhyun’s house keys. “You know, when you said you wanted me to look after your plants for a few weeks, I didn’t know that meant a few months.”
“I thought you’d stop,” Baekhyun says. “I’m so sorry, I had no idea I’d be gone this long.”
“It’s okay, I didn’t mind,” Junmyeon says, grinning. “Besides, you’re pretty cute, so it was no bother.”
Baekhyun smiles back at Junmyeon. “Thanks,” he says. “I really appreciate it.” He doesn’t feel anything. No pleasure at the compliment, no spark of interest. He doesn’t know if it’s the broken magic at work, or if Baekhyun is just so full of Chanyeol that there’s no room for anyone else.
“Not a problem,” Junmyeon says, and Baekhyun closes the door, resting his back against it for minutes afterward before he returns to his laptop, sitting down and getting back to writing.
It only takes him two months to finish a draft of his novel. He devotes hours to it every day, trying to record every frustrated emotion he can’t make go away.
It takes him almost the whole of another month to work up the nerve to show it to anyone. “How’s the book you’re writing coming along?” Jongdae asks him, and Baekhyun gags as he tries to tell Jongdae it’s finished.
“I think it’s...”
“Send it to me,” Jongdae says. “Let me look at something you’ve written, for once.”
He emails the manuscript to Jongdae on a Friday, and Jongdae corners him about it the following week, after the Wednesday deadline rush that has all of them buried under piles of last minute submissions.
“Baekhyun,” Jongdae says, stopping Baekhyun as he heads to the fax machine, “I finished.”
“You finished what?” Baekhyun asks.
“Your book,” he replies. “I finished reading your book.”
“Oh,” Baekhyun says. “What did you think?”
“It was really, really good, Baekhyun!” Jongdae says. “Really good! I loved the lords, you know, and I loved Rapunzel. The way she was caught between obeying the curse and following her heart.”
“Yeah,” Baekhyun says. “I wanted her to really be put in a lose-lose situation.”
“It created a lot of tension! I thought she was going to marry the first lord, toward the end there.”
“It wasn’t an easy choice,” Baekhyun says. “For Rapunzel, I mean.”
“It was nice to read something different,” Jongdae says. “I love cliches, but this one was done a little differently.” Jongdae leans against the wall. “You’re good, Baekhyun. I don’t know why you’ve never showed me a whole story before.”
“None of them ever felt finished enough,” Baekhyun explains. “This one feels finished.”
“The only thing is,” Jongdae says, “the ending was so unsatisfying.”
“That’s how life is,” Baekhyun says. “Sometimes you don’t get a good ending. Sometimes you just have to keep going.”
“But this,” Jongdae says, waving Baekhyun’s manuscript around, “isn’t real life! It’s a fairytale, Baekhyun! I wanted to read a happily ever after.”
“Then what you need,” Baekhyun says, walking around Jongdae so he can use the fax machine, “is a different story. This is how my story ends. That’s the way it is.”
“It doesn’t have to,” Jongdae says. “Isn’t it your story?” Jongdae frowns. “You can write a different ending, if you want.”
Baekhyun answers his phone without looking at the ID. “Byun Baekhyun,” he says. “Hello?”
“Byunbaek,” Lu Han says, and Baekhyun almost drops the phone.
“Lu Han,” Baekhyun says. “Tell me all about, I don’t know, everything?”
“The Empress thinks I have deplorable manners,” Lu Han says, “but she likes my Beijing accent.”
“That’s good to hear,” Baekhyun says. “You’ve already won her over, then.”
“How are you?” Lu Han asks. “I could talk about Kris, and the palace, but you already know about that. So tell me about you. How are you, Byun?”
“Not bad,” Baekhyun says. “We’re busy at work. Lots of boring novels this month, too, but a couple of interesting ones. Minseok is in talks to get an English translation for one of them, actually, so that’s interesting, and...”
“How are you?” He’s more insistent. “Not your job. No one cares about your job. You don’t even care about your job.”
“I care about my job,” Baekhyun says half-heartedly. “Minseok cares a lot about our job.”
“Baek, don’t make me hit you.”
“You and what army?” Baekhyun asks. “Don’t mess with a hapkido champion.” Lu Han laughs, and Baekhyun thinks he sounds happy. “I’m cold.”
“No one asked about weather, either. You’ve probably got the heat so high it feels like Beijing summer in there, but you’ll complain as soon as it gets hot outside again.”
“I wasn’t talking about the weather,” Baekhyun says, pressing the heel of his palm into his chest. “I just feel really cold.”
Chanyeol had been warm. Baekhyun remembers perfectly the taste and heat of his mouth, and the fire in his eyes.
“Oh,” Lu Han says. “I think Canlie is cold, too.”
“There’s nothing we can really do about that,” Baekhyun says. “I made my decision for everyone’s benefit.”
“Aren’t you lonely, Baekhyun?” Lu Han asks, and the answer is yes.
“I can handle loneliness,” Baekhyun says. “I’m glad you’re happy.”
“I am,” Lu Han says. “Thank you.”
“I’m going to go now,” he says. “You’re boring now that you’re married.”
“You were always boring,” Lu Han retorts. “Except when you were drunk.”
“Avada Kedavra,” he says, and hangs up. There’s a chill in his flat. Baekhyun turns up the heat until the mirrors start to fog, but he can still feel the cold in his bones.
Baekhyun thinks about Chanyeol all the time. When he wakes up, when he goes to sleep. In his dreams, he and Chanyeol are sitting side by side on the steel bench in their secret garden, holding hands. When he wakes up, he is alone, and Baekhyun is afraid of loneliness now.
Baekhyun leaves the office late. It’s November, and he’s already wearing his warmest coat, a puffy one with a furry hood that Jongin had told him made him look like an arctic explorer.
The sidewalks are a little icy, and Baekhyun watches his step as he heads toward the subway, his hands jammed in his pockets.
When it’s time to cross the street, Baekhyun looks up to wait for the walk sign to glow blue.
That’s when he sees it. A frog. He blinks, trying to clear his eyes, and it’s gone. Baekhyun swallows and curses at his brain for making his heart leap like that.
He makes it down into the subway, shuffling into a train and ignoring the press of people on their way home from work. He unzips his jacket to loosen his tie.
Something cold brushes against his calf, and he looks down and sees it again. A giant frog, slimy and wet and looking up at Baekhyun like he’s possibly been looking for him.
Baekhyun’s chest feels impossibly tight. He looks up, away from the frog, and doesn’t look back just in case it disappears. He gets off at his stop, and the frog follows him. He can hear it, leaping footprints on the ice, and he sees it, too, when he turns the last corner to his flat.
He goes inside, leaving the door open long enough for the frog to hop inside, then walks over to the stairs. Baekhyun only lives on the second floor, so it only takes two minutes to ascend them, and another few moments to get to his door.
He unlocks it with shaking hands.
The frog follows. It watches Baekhyun slip out of his dress shoes and pad into his hallway. After a few steps, Baekhyun stops and turns around, dropping to his knees. “Are you really here?” he asks, and the frog jumps closer. “Or am I imagining this?”
The frog doesn’t answer. Of course it doesn’t, because it’s a frog. Baekhyun licks his lip and wonders if he’s lost his mind.
“I might be imagining it,” Baekhyun says. “I thought Lu Han and Kris getting married would make it stop hurting that I couldn’t be with Chanyeol.” Baekhyun stretches a hand out, and the frog hops closer. “I thought I wasn’t supposed to be able to fall in love again. That that was my punishment for walking out on the curse.”
The frog feels gross beneath his fingertips, but it’s reassuring that the porous skin feels exactly as Baekhyun remembers it.
“Then I realized it wouldn’t be that easy,” Baekhyun says. “Because I don’t need to fall in love again. Because I had already fallen in love with you.”
The frog peers at him, and Baekhyun swears its eyes are just like Chanyeol’s.
“The last time I kissed a frog, it got me into a whole lot of trouble,” he says. “But I guess I’m stupid enough to do it again.”
He takes a giant gulp of air, filling his lungs, and then he drops a kiss right in between the frog’s eyes.
When he’s shoved back to the floor by a lapful of naked man, he allows himself to exhale.
Chanyeol drops kisses all over his face, and Baekhyun laughs, his hands sliding on all the smooth, human skin and heat, Chanyeol’s warmth chasing away all traces of the November cold. “I’m here,” Chanyeol says. “I came here for you.”
“But,” Baekhyun says, “how did you—“
“I’m twenty-five,” Chanyeol says, “and unmarried. Plus you know I couldn’t leave the palace to come looking for you before. You’re persona non grata back at home, remember?” He kisses Baekhyun on the lips, sucking on the lower one and biting down hard enough to make him squirm. “So I was kind of in a hurry. And I love you.”
“It’s magic, Baekhyun,” Chanyeol says. “And now, I am your prince.” He kisses Baekhyun’s nose, and then his lips again, and Baekhyun pulls him down, tighter, Chanyeol’s thighs on either side of his hips and Chanyeol’s face close enough for eskimo kisses. It is winter, so it’s the perfect time for them.
Baekhyun will never let Chanyeol go again. “It is a fairytale,” Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol nuzzles his neck, as though he’d missed Baekhyun as much as Baekhyun missed him.
Jongdae will be happy, Baekhyun thinks, to see Baekhyun revise his story. Rapunzel will get her happy ending after all.
“Hey,” Chanyeol says, “Since I’ve already broken all the rules to come and find you...” He laughs; it’s loud and the neighbors can probably hear Chanyeol laughing through the walls. “What do you say to traveling the world with me?”
“What if you get kidnapped?” Baekhyun says, sliding his hands up Chanyeol’s bare forearms and grabbing at his elbows, confirming to himself that this is not a dream.
“Then you can write a book about it,” Chanyeol says. “What do you think?”
“I think we’ll live happily ever after,” Baekhyun says, and smiles so wide his cheeks hurt.
A/N: Malay, I don’t know why this is so long but I tried my best with my rusty Baekyeol skills and about 4 myths and 2 fairytales all smushed together, and I hope you enjoyed it, even just a little. ^____^ I used parts of three of your prompts. Can you guess which three? <3