by Suikazura Amai (吸葛甘い)
As a small child, his grandmother had warned him about the forest.
She had told him that there were faeries who lived deep, deep inside the forest, who would not hesitate in snatching him if he got too close to it, that they longed to take beautiful children away from their loving families and would do so in a heartbeat if they could.
Bailey hadn’t believed her, had written it off as the stories an old woman told children to get them to behave, and that was now proving to have been a mistake.
He had only gone into the forest to find Jonathan. Beautiful, clever Jonathan who had been such a huge presence in all of their lives and had vanished completely from their memories one midsummer day last year. Bailey had forgotten all about him, forgotten the months of friendship and the kiss they had shared as Jonathan told him that he had to go home, that he might not come back.
“Don’t forget me,” Jonathan had said, breathing the words into Bailey’s mouth as he’d pressed something into Bailey’s hands. Bailey had dropped whatever it was into the pocket of his jeans in order to better clutch at Jonathan’s back, and forgotten about it just as easily as he had forgotten about Jonathan himself.
It was the dreams that made him realise he had forgotten something. Dreams of darkness, of someone screaming, of a handsome boy staring at him through a cage made of glass and fog, dreams that had his fae touched eyes looking at Bailey like Bailey had broken a promise. Every time he woke up, the dreams stayed with him longer than dreams should, and it wasn’t until he put his hand into the pocket of a pair of jeans he hadn’t worn since summertime and found a bizarre rock with a hole through the middle of it that it made any sense at all.
It was a witch stone. He’d been told about witch stones when he was younger. They supposedly revealed the truth and could see through faerie glamours. The memories came rushing back the second Bailey brought the rock up to his eye to look through. A whole season’s worth of memories that had been stolen from him somehow, memories of a tall boy with dark hair and bright eyes and a smile as warm as summer.
“Jonathan,” he said, quietly, horrified that he had forgotten someone who had loomed so large over his life.
It took him a fortnight to find out where Jonathan was, and it had only taken him that long because he hadn’t wanted to believe his own suspicions. But when a faerie he managed to trap – using only the knowledge of old village women – had told him that Jonathan now belonged to the King of the Faeries he knew what he had to do. And he knew there was a good chance that he would probably die doing it, but it was the right thing to do.
Going after Jonathan was probably a bad idea. Especially with zero planning and no resources other than the witch stone in his pocket, but Jonathan was his friend. Possibly something more. And it really wasn’t like Bailey had much else going on right now, so he went into the forest and it had welcomed him in like it was expecting him. Cleared a path right to the center of it where a golden palace had sprouted out of the ground like a mushroom. Bailey felt the entire forest watching him, like it was holding his breath waiting for something to happen. He raised his fist, knocked on the door and was swept right through the entrance foyer into the court of the Faerie realm, where a ball was taking place.
To the naked eye it was mostly a blur, eerie forms of all shapes and sizes swept around the room in brilliant colors, too frantic in their movements to really make out. It was dancing, sure, but it did not look enjoyable.
“I demand an audience with the King,” Bailey said, and his voice was quiet but a strange hush fell over the ballroom as he spoke. “I demand to be given the chance to save my friend.” The faerie folk parted, giving him a straight line to the throne where a very tall, very handsome man was sitting.
Bailey had expected the King to look otherworldly, but he looked like an average man except for his peculiar height, strangely reflective eyes, and his dark, menacing antlers. Seeming amused by the disruption, he waved Bailey closer with a crook of his fingers.
“Who might you be, little thing?” the King asked, a smile on his face that felt like a threat.
“My name is Bailey,” he said, which was true enough, but not the whole truth. His grandmother had never been terribly clear whether faeries could hurt you with your name, or whether you could only control them with theirs but it felt safer to not hand it over. “And I’ve come to get my friend back.”
“Who’s your friend?” the King asked.
“His name is Jonathan,” Bailey said, and the King’s lips twitched a little.
“What could you possibly want with my Knight?” the King asked, a smile on his lips. He turned slightly, looking at someone over his shoulder that Bailey couldn’t see. “Someone, fetch Tamlane. This human says they’re friends.”
Bailey’s heart skipped a beat in his chest when Jonathan was brought before him, and he was still so very tall, so very handsome. His eyes, the silver one in particular, looked clouded but when he looked up at the King it was in the same way he had once looked at Bailey, but with an added layer of something. Devotion, perhaps?
“Hello, dearest heart,” the King said, and then he was leaning down to kiss Jonathan, fingers curling against his cheek. He kept eye contact with Bailey the whole time, like he was proving a point instead of showing Jonathan any kindness. “Are you enjoying the party?”
“I am, my Lord,” Jonathan said, quietly.
“It’s for you, you know,” the King said, brushing a knuckle over Jonathan’s cheekbone. “To celebrate your staying with us forever. Isn’t that wonderful?”
“Very wonderful,” Jonathan said, and then seemed to notice Bailey standing there. He turned to look at him slightly, but there was zero recognition in his eyes. Bailey didn’t really know what he had been expecting; for Jonathan to seem more prisoner-like, he supposed? Or for him to look broken or damaged, instead of someone who looked to be cherished by the King. He’d had dreams of Jonathan where he was screaming, but here he was smiling and happy. Of course he was under some compulsion but, maybe, he had once come here willingly. Maybe this was his home? Maybe Jonathan was as fae as people had said he was.
“Jonathan,” Bailey said, wanting to touch him the way Jonathan had touched him before, wanting to force Jonathan to look deep into his eyes.
“Do I know you?” Jonathan asked, his attention suddenly on Bailey. stepping closer to him, reaching out to him — but then suddenly the King was behind him, a hand on Jonathan’s shoulder, drawing his attention away. Jonathan looked up at the King like he was the sun and moon and all the stars in the sky at once.
“I see you’ve met our guest,” the King said, stroking Jonathan’s cheek with the back of his fingers. “Now, my love, I need to ask you, have you ever met him before?”
Jonathan turned back and looked at Bailey again. “I… don’t know,” Jonathan said. “Perhaps in another life?”
“Tamlane,” the King said, turning Jonathan around to face him. “Why don’t you go and enjoy the party? I’ll get to know our new friend.”
Bailey did not want Jonathan to go, not even a little bit, but Jonathan smiled and walked away from them.
“Let’s play a game,” the King said, quietly.
“I feel this game will be rigged against me,” Bailey said.
“Perhaps,” the King said. “But it’s the only shot you have to get him back, isn’t it?”
“What happens if I lose?” Bailey asked, which felt like a reasonable question but the King laughed like it was a joke.
“Well, you have a few choices,” he said. “You could stay in the court with us forever, or I could let my riders hunt you down in the forest. Maybe a third option if I can think of one between now and sunrise.”
“What are the rules?” Bailey asked. “Of this game.”
“You have until sunrise to find Jonathan, and you have to hold onto him until the sun rises,” the King said. “If you don’t find him, or if you let go at any second, he’s mine forever. And you lose.”
“You’re not going to make it easy for me, are you?” Bailey asked.
“Where would be the fun in that?” the King asked. “Do we have a deal?”
His grandmother’s voice in his head, telling him to never make deals with the fae unless you had every single loophole closed – but there was no time. He had no time to make sure that he didn’t get double crossed by this deal. He looked up, to where Jonathan had been minutes ago but he was gone, lost to that blur of colour.
“Fine,” he said. “I accept.” The King smiled, all teeth and no joy. “When does it start?”
“Oh,” the King said, his hand against Bailey’s face to draw his attention back. “The game started the second you walked in. Good luck, Bailey Carterhaugh.”
He felt like he had just agreed to his own death, but it was the only option he had. The one bright spark of his life had been Jonathan, and his life had been so grey with him gone even though Bailey hadn’t remembered him.
“Okay,” he said to himself, quietly. “Step one, find Jonathan.”
He stepped into the fray of dancers, all of them somehow facing away from him when he looked at them. Half of them, regardless of whatever gender they appeared to be, were in ballgowns that seemed both brand new and yet falling apart from age, and the other half were in the exact same uniform that Jonathan had been wearing. As he got close to one pair they would drift away, and as he walked deeper onto the dance floor the line of sight he’d had to the door or the throne vanished.
Be smart, Bailey, he thought to himself, and recalled a story of his grandmother’s from when he was small about a very clever girl who had saved her beloved from the Faerie Queen of Summer. She had pulled him off his horse during the Wild Hunt, held onto him even when he transformed into monsters. At the end of the story, she’d been allowed to keep her beloved, but Bailey had always wondered whether it was just a fake happy ending.
He supposed that by dawn he would know if it was possible.
Across the ballroom he caught a glimpse of Jonathan, dashed towards him, blocked only by other dancers, and when he made it to where Jonathan had been, there he was again suddenly on the other side of the room. He grabbed the closest dancer to him and turned her around to him only to find she was wearing Jonathan’s face, her golden curls looking strange framing his sharp features.
She only giggled, pulled away from him and turned back to the dance.
All of them had Jonathan’s face, but all of them looked wrong like they had looked at Jonathan through a mirror. Wherever Jonathan was now, he wasn’t here and Bailey knew it.
The faeries let him leave, their laughter following him out into the hallway like the worst kind of haunting. Wherever he’d ended up seemed to be some kind of servant’s entrance, quiet and empty, but maybe it’d give him a few minutes to formulate some kind of plan. Or at least catch his breath, or maybe sit down and curl up into a ball and try to contemplate what he’d done. Something along those lines.
So far, his plan was three parts. Part one was find Jonathan. Part two was hold onto Jonathan until sunrise. Part three, all things going well, was leave with Jonathan. All three parts were going to be equally challenging.
Some of his memories of Jonathan were still a little hazy at parts, but they were clear enough that Bailey felt that he could find his friend easily. He just had to trust his own judgement. It hadn’t let him down before all of this nonsense. His judgement and the stories of how to trick faeries.
And he’d thought his grandmother’s stories wouldn’t get him anywhere.
The King would have somehow lured Jonathan away from the ball, knowing that Bailey would get caught up in all of the dancers’ having his face. Jonathan loved parties, loved being the center of attention, and would have not left a party being thrown in his honour without somewhere else more fun to be.
For whatever reason, Bailey knew that he was still in the castle, still close enough that it was a chance that he could win, as slim as it possibly was. The castle itself was a maze, and felt strangely emptied, though Bailey supposed that all the occupants were currently in the ballroom enjoying the party. Why he hadn’t been chased after, hindered in some way, was strange but he supposed when he got closer to where Jonathan actually was it would be more of a challenge.
The palace itself was something out of a storybook, but twisted in a way that the world looked in a dream. Everything was golden and shiny, and there was art on the walls that looked like paintings from his own side of the veil but different again, always wrong. A famous portrait of a woman, but she had antlers like the king and was holding a monster instead of a dog. The paintings made his head spin when he looked at them straight on, so he forced himself to look away, walked as far as he could from them until he came to the end of a corridor where there were three doors. One was marked with the sun, another the moon and the third was unmarked.
“Hm.” He dug into his pocket and pulled out the witch stone. There was a slim chance it would actually help him at all but it was all that he had. His gut said to go with the unmarked door, but when he looked at it through the stone it just seemed menacing. The sun room also seemed wrong somehow, so Bailey pocketed the stone and went through the door marked with the moon and came out into a room full of his own reflection.
The door swung closed behind him and vanished. Perfect, great. This was at least more along the lines of what he had expected when playing a game with the Faerie King. He walked up to the first mirror and touched it, looking deeply at the reflection of himself.
“Is that what I look like right now?” he asked himself, poking at his face. There was dirt smeared across his cheek and his hair looked less than great. “Focus, focus,” he said, quietly, then moved onto the next mirror; he reached out to touch it and his hand went through it.
“Oh!” he said. Illusions, great. For some, strange reason he hadn’t expected actual magic though he wasn’t sure what he had expected. He quickly stepped through the illusion mirror and into yet another row of mirrors. Of course.
He had never been fond of mazes. His sense of direction had always been hazy at best, and this maze was definitely designed to mess with him. He stepped forward, half expecting the mirror to be fake and was a little surprised when he banged his head into it. He swore, under his breath, rubbed his forehead and looked at his reflection again.
Jonathan wouldn’t want him when he found him. Who would want someone that looked like him? His nose was too large and his chin had been called weak on more than one occasion and his hair was truly terrible. It had always been such a boring, brown colour, but the light here made it look worse. Bailey closed his eyes, shook his head and turned around to go back through the illusion mirror he’d come through and found that it was suddenly real.
“Great,” he said. “Just great.”
He made eye contact with himself again, reached out to feel through the mirrors around him until he found one that wasn’t real and went through it. There had to be a way through the maze. Well, he supposed that there didn’t need to be. The King could trap him in here forever if he wanted, nobody had ever said that the Fae played fair.
His grandmother had told him that there was always a solution to every problem, even faerie ones. That they had to give you a tiny chance where you could win, because they couldn’t lie, and unbreakable deals were kinds of lies. That had always felt rather simplistic to Bailey, even as a child, but the working through problems part had always served him well.
He dug his hand into his pocket, pulled out the stone, and looked through it, which did nothing other than prove he looked as stupid doing it as he thought he did while peering through a rock. Sighing, he dropped it back into his pocket and considered other options. He could play the game, and solve the maze and probably never find Jonathan at all because he would be trapped in here his entire life. Or he could do something that was a little bit on the borderline of cheating. Well, that was probably the only way out of this room at all, so he did the only thing he could do and raised his foot, stomping into the middle of the frame.
The mirror shattered and the illusion flickered a little, like Bailey had damaged it with his act of vandalism. He smiled to himself, if only because the sound of glass breaking was a little bit cathartic, and then kicked another one and another one, until all around him were just broken mirrors and at the end of the maze, a door.
There was only the one door though, and there was nothing to guarantee that it wouldn’t drop him back in front of the three doors from before but it felt different somehow.
The handle turned easily, and Bailey walked outside into the night. Wherever he’d ended up was a balcony of some sorts and there, unexpectedly, looking out at the trees and the moon, was Jonathan. For a moment Bailey watched him, expecting it to be a trick but Jonathan didn’t move or change or anything, he just looked like he was enjoying a quiet moment away from a party being thrown for him.
Just in case it was a trap, Bailey looked at him through the witch stone and it was like his heart stopped in his chest for a second because it really was Jonathan. He didn’t change at all, just stayed the same but surrounded with a weird dark light. Whatever compulsion was over him, Bailey supposed.
He’d done it. He’d somehow completed the first step of the three-step plan of the night. Before anything could change, he dashed across the balcony and reached out, quickly, wrapped his fingers around Jonathan’s wrist and tugged him around to face him. Jonathan looked at him, confused, a little angry.
“What are you doing?” he asked, trying to tug his hand away, but Bailey held strong. “Who are you?”
“You’re coming with me,” Bailey said, though he had no idea where they were going. Maybe he could find somewhere quiet and out of the way where they could hide until morning. As if the King wouldn’t flush them out before then.
“Let go of me,” Jonathan said, putting his other hand on Bailey’s and trying to pry him off.
Bailey shoved him against the wall of the palace, clenched his fingers tight. He’d dug his nails in, probably deep enough that he was drawing blood but he didn’t want to look. Couldn’t look. He just kept looking at Jonathan’s face trying to make sure he’d made the right choice, grabbed the correct Jonathan. He pried Jonathan’s other hand away from his hand, linked their fingers together and looked into his mismatched eyes.
“We’re friends,” Bailey said, putting himself up on tiptoes to be as eye level as he could with the much taller Jonathan.
“I don’t know you,” Jonathan said, but he sounded unsure. Just a little, though maybe ithat was just wishful thinking.
“We’re friends,” Bailey said again. “We snuck up onto the roof of the priory to watch the New Year’s Fireworks. You snuck into my midterm exams just so I could look at you if I began to panic. You always have candy in your pockets. You love the colour blue but hate wearing it because you think it clashes with your eyes, and you are the brightest, shiniest person in any room you enter.”
“Please, just let me go,” Jonathan said, but there was no emotion in his voice. He sounded so resigned to his fate, whatever it may be.
“Not until sunrise,” Bailey said.
Jonathan was still struggling, and Bailey had one last idea and if it didn’t work he didn’t know what to do. He used his free hand to dig the stone that Jonathan had given him all those months ago out. “You gave this to me,” he said, quietly. “And I think maybe it’s time to give it back. And if it does nothing, if you still want me to let go, I’ll let go and let the King do to me whatever he wants but at least I’ll have tried.” He held it out, and Jonathan held his other hand out, accepted it and looked at it for a moment, before he held it up to his silver eye and looked at Bailey through it.
Whatever haze was there cleared and Jonathan laughed a little. Quietly at first until it ended up a little more manic and he tried to pull his hand away from Bailey’s again before stopping suddenly.
“Bailey,” he said, lowering his hand to look at him again, properly this time. He pulled him into a one armed hug. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to rescue you,” Bailey said.
“What?” Jonathan asked. “What did you do?”
“I made a deal with the king to free you,” Bailey said.
“What were the rules?” Jonathan asked, taking the lead and pulling Bailey back into the castle and into a door he hadn’t seen before. More servant’s runs, he supposed. It was still ominously quiet in these back sections of the palace and it did not put Bailey at ease at all.
“I had to find you and hold onto you until sunrise,” Bailey said.
“Did you specify which sunrise?” Jonathan asked, swinging Bailey around to face him.
“Look, I only had a few minutes to hash this all out,” Bailey said. “I just wanted to rescue you.”
Jonathan laughed, dropped his head into the crook of Bailey’s neck and pressed a kiss there gently. The simple act warmed his heart a little, proved maybe a little that it hadn’t all been in his head before Jonathan had vanished on him. “You’re the greatest person I have ever met, Bailey Carterhaugh. Come on, I know somewhere we can go.”
Jonathan led him into a huge bedroom, and Bailey somehow knew that it belonged to the King. It wasn’t gaudy or anything, just large and comfortable and obviously belonged to the most important person in the palace. A tree had grown through the wall, shading the bed in its canopy. Bailey had no idea how anything stayed alive while growing inside a building, but he knew that if he asked Jonathan the answer would just be magic-related, and Bailey was so sick of magic.
“Should we be in here?” Bailey asked.
“Honestly, there’s probably nowhere safer,” Jonathan said. “Not many people are allowed in here and all of the ones who are won’t be coming in here tonight.”
“What about the King?” Bailey asked.
“Oilbhreis doesn’t sleep,” Jonathan said.
“That’s his name?” He’d kind of just assumed that his name and his title were one. In retrospect, that was silly, of course he had a name, all Fae had names, and if you had their true names you had a power over them. So, of course The Faerie King was just a title. Of course he had a true name.
“It’s one of his names,” Jonathan said, flippantly. “The one he gave me when I came here. I don’t think it’s a name we can use to trap him in any way, if that’s what you were thinking.”
“How did that happen?” Bailey asked.
“My family sent me into the forest as a tithing,” he said, quietly. “I was a strange little thing. Mismatched eyes, was always wandering in to the forest. So, they figured I was the best choice when the village elders decided that there needed to be a sacrifice to the Fae at the changing of seasons. The King took a liking to me, I suppose. He snatched me up onto his horse and I’ve lived here ever since.”
“How did you end up at school?” Bailey asked, because nothing about the life of a tithed child suggested that he would end up away from the forest studying ledgers at some second tier school.
“He sent me away,” Jonathan said. “And it broke my heart because I loved him. I wanted to stay here and be by his side and he said that to make that decision I needed to know what it was like to be away. So, I left. I walked for days until I found a town that felt familiar and that’s where we met. But I was only supposed to be gone for a year. I don’t think he intended me to want to leave forever though.”
“I guess that’s a risk you take when you send someone away,” Bailey said. “Maybe they’ll find something else worth staying away for.”
Jonathan smiled at him, a real legitimate smile, and reached for Bailey and pulled him close. “Let’s just make the most of this,” he said, “before we forget each other again, before the King has some dogs tear you apart and makes me watch.”
“That’s… will that actually happen?” Bailey asked, and Jonathan shrugged and leant in to kiss him.
Jonathan kissed him like it could be the last time he got to, his spare hand on Bailey’s face, drawing him in closer. They’d been holding hands now for long enough that it felt natural, that Bailey knew that when it came time to let go it would feel like something was missing. The kiss felt as sad as the last one they’d shared.
“You came to rescue me,” Jonathan said, in quiet awe, like he had just come to this conclusion. Like, nobody had ever gone out of their way for him before, or seen him as something worth rescuing. He laughed, a musical sound and kissed Bailey again, gently, like he was precious.
“Of course I did,” Bailey said, pressing gentle kisses into Jonathan’s skin wherever he could reach.
“You shouldn’t have come,” Jonathan said. “You were safe where you were.”
“I forgot you,” Bailey said. “And then I remembered you and missed you so much. I just wanted to make sure that you were safe.”
Jonathan smiled and sat down on the bed, manhandled Bailey into his lap and kissed him. “So we have until sunrise, right?” he asked. “Possibly the nearest sunrise and not a sunrise ninety years from now.”
“I hope the nearest sunrise,” Bailey said, and grinned. “My grandmother always told me not to make deals with the fae.”
“Wise woman,” Jonathan said. “Though I note you didn’t follow her advice.”
“No,” Bailey said, smiling still. “I’ve never been very smart.” He leant in and kissed Jonathan again. “I could die tomorrow, so let’s have a good time before I die?”
“Okay,” Jonathan said, pulling Bailey closer to him.
It was hard to undress someone, even a little bit, while holding onto their hand like a lifeline. He was so conscious of Jonathan’s hand in his own, how they fit together, and he needed to be just in case he accidentally let go. He’d come so close and didn’t want to fail here, at what could be the final hurdle. Bailey had no idea how much time had passed since he had made that deal with the King in the ballroom but it felt like so many hours and yet no time at all.
He fumbled with the buttons on Jonathan’s uniform, golden like everything else, pushed his shirt open as far as he could. Jonathan laughed, kissed him again, still laughing. “Your hand is so cold,” he said, caught it in his other hand and brought it up to kiss his fingers gently.
“Sorry,” Bailey said, smiling. He rested his forehead against Jonathan’s and let Jonathan touch him through his pants. Jonathan managed to get both of them out of their respective pants and underwear enough that he could get some measure of friction between them. He wrapped his hand around their lengths and stroked. Bailey whimpered, had to consciously think about not letting go of Jonathan’s hand to grab onto him with.
That would be some end to his sad life, losing a faerie bet to have sex with a boy he liked. He really didn’t know if it would be worth it. The fear was kind of making things better though, more intense. Jonathan stroked them together again, and it was all kinds of things Bailey hadn’t really felt before. It was more rushed than he had wanted it to be, than he had imagined things would be when he found Jonathan safely, but it was what he was getting and it might be the last thing he did. Jonathan did something with a flick of his wrist and the noise that came out of Bailey surprised them both.
“Shh,” Jonathan said, laughing, let go of them to enclose Bailey’s other hand around them, closed his own hand around it all.
If this was how he died, with his dick out on the King of the Faeries’ bed, maybe it would be worth it. He closed his eyes, leant in to kiss Jonathan, and relaxed into the sensation of it. Jonathan’s fingers were long, and his hands were so warm, and if they got out of this he wanted a repeat performance where they could take as long as they wanted. If they got out of this Bailey was going to spend a whole day touching him with both hands instead of just one.
At least he was holding onto him, no matter what happened. Bailey laughed, and leant back to look at Jonathan, who looked at him quizzically. “One of the rules said I had to hold onto you until dawn; yeah, well I’m holding onto you, all right,” he said, and Jonathan laughed too. He stroked his thumb over the head of Bailey’s cock, rubbing the wetness gathering there over the both of them, and smiled when Bailey whimpered again.
“So noisy,” Jonathan said, and leant in to kiss him again, and any noises he could possibly make due to the friction and wetness were swallowed by Jonathan’s mouth. Bailey had wanted to last longer, wanted this to last until dawn if they could, but he came quickly and almost unexpectedly, spilling over their hands. He wrapped his fingers around Jonathan’s length, stroked him fully and quickly until Jonathan came with a shout, his fingernails digging into Bailey’s hip.
Bailey pressed their foreheads together until they caught their breath, and then brought their combined hands up to kiss Jonathan’s knuckles. “I vote we do that again when we get out of here.”
Jonathan smiled, like sunshine and warmth, and wiped his hands on the plush cover of the bed they were sitting on. “Come on,” he said, tucking Bailey back into his pants before he fixed his own clothes. “Let’s go and wait for the sun to rise.”
Outside, the sun was rising and the forest they could see through the window seemed brighter, less scary. Bailey expected to feel something, to know that this game was over, but he just felt tired. He leant his head on Jonathan’s shoulder and closed his eyes for a second, let the warmth of the sunrise fall over his face.
“Did you actually want to be rescued?” Bailey asked, quietly, suddenly needing to know whether he had done the right thing in coming here and disturbing whatever life Jonathan had here. “Have I wasted my time in coming here after you?”
“I… this is my home,” he said. “I grew up here. I have friends, people I care for. But… when he sent me away it made me see there’s more out there than just this forest and I think that I want to see more of it. It doesn’t mean I won’t come back here maybe in the future, but I would like the chance to make that decision myself.”
“Faeries aren’t big on free will, hey?” Bailey asked, smiling.
“Not for the humans they steal, no,” Jonathan said. “I’m glad you came, if only so I don’t spend the rest of whatever life I have under thrall of somebody I thought I loved. I’m glad I had this time with you, at least.”
“What do you want the outcome of all this to be?” Bailey asked, because Jonathan had been wishy washy about it every time Bailey asked, and he supposed that made sense. He was asking Jonathan if he wanted to give up his entire life for something that might not last. Something fleeting and human. “Do you want to stay here? Do you want to come back with me?”
“I think I want to leave,” Jonathan said, and that was still too indecisive. There was a pause and then he said, “No, I know that I do. I want to leave and see the world, and I’d have you come with me if you’d like?”
Bailey was pretty sure that what he was feeling was relief. Sheer relief for not wasting his time, relief for not ruining Jonathan’s life here at the Faerie Court. “Do you think that it’s over?” he asked, still clutching at Jonathan’s hand.
“I don’t know,” Jonathan said, and turned to him, leant in to kiss him gently.
“I guess there’s only one way to find out?” Bailey said.
“Are you ready?” Jonathan asked, raising their hands up towards the light.
“Ready,” Bailey said, and let go.