acatwhowrites: (Lay♡kissus)
A Cat Who Writes ([personal profile] acatwhowrites) wrote2016-07-02 02:28 pm

Strange fascination, fascinating me

title: Strange fascination, fascinating me
players: Zhang Yixing/Lay, Kim Jongin/Kai
rating: G
word count: 5,370w
warning/s: minor character death
summary: Newly crowned King Kai is given a coronation gift, a beautiful someone to dance at his command. He doesn't want to command anyone, much less someone so heartbreakingly sad.
a/n: Written for SFF_EXO.
Space is hard. I kind of regret choosing this prompt, but I liked the story I ended up working with. So thank you, my dear fairy Red, for letting me bounce ideas off you and get some good ideas. They jogged my mind a bit, although I will admit I was more lost than found while writing this, mostly because I did not want to make this into Star Wars, but all the terminology was coming from Star Wars, because that's what I really know. So I messed myself up a lot, but I ended up liking the story. Presentation could always be better, but it's pretty okay. The main alien races are pretty much human, but I was thinking of how to make races based off Mama powers. Decided it was too involved and to keep it as simple as possible. Bit of sci-fi, because they are on a foreign planet, and a bit of fantasy, with the creatures and bit of magic. The title comes from a David Bowie song, because I couldn't come with anything better at the time.
read on: AFF || AO3 || LJ

Way outside a far-off galaxy, separated from the inner system by a wide asteroid belt, orbits an exoplanet with no common name. It's called EXO, with a string of numbers behind it no one bothers to memorise, and it's mostly barren and cold. The inhabitants live underground. The closer to the core, the warmer it is. Outsiders can't imagine living on such a lonely rock, but it's home to a thriving humanoid population that has decided the best way to live is the most practical way. Hopes and dreams don't belong on EXO; ambition and drive are not for personal gain but rather furthering the community. They mine rare rocks that are found on no other planet within the system, but they're not proud.

EXO cannot be considered happy, but the people are content, alive, and thriving.

Living underground affords little opportunity to see the sky, forever a deep indigo with many stars and two glowing moons named Silvia and Avium. Few even acknowledge the moons; they're simply too far away and afford to practical use. There's no point in staring at the sky in general—everything important is on the ground. The few visitors to the planet, traders and space scum on their way to neighbouring galaxies, stay a couple of days , make a little money on the occasional curious customer, and leave with no substantial memory of the planet.

It's how most of EXO feels about their own moons. They're simply a feature of the galaxy.

That's about all Avium is. Long before people can remember, a large asteroid struck EXO, breaking free a large chunk that was then broken into even smaller pieces. Most floated away. Two remained in EXO's gravitational field, orbiting and evolving over time. Silvia contained active volcanoes and organisms. Avium contained little more than solid rock. Anything alive on Avium is more alien than the civilised universe cares to know about.

Silvia developed into a just as dangerous—but habitable—moon. Creatures and plants alike have ways of making irresistible sound, calling entranced prey into their jaws and vines. Species found ways to block their hearing, and the Silvian people eventually became deaf as a fool-proof defense, speaking with their bodies in a unique, flowing language and learning to use the trapping animals and plants to catch their own food.

Occasionally, someone is born with hearing, and it's no problem until they can walk on their own. Mothers tether the child to themselves, so they won't wander into the traps of sweet songs and playful laughter, but a single lapse of attention costs most of those children their lives.

A well-liked young couple gives birth to two deaf children; their third, and only daughter, is hearing. When she's old enough to be tethered, her parents send her to EXO, where she's safe but stifled and confused by the language. As she adapts to, she falls in love with the youngest prince, who is heir to the throne and responsibilities. He loves her as well, but emotions can't be expressed openly. It's weak and foolish. Privately, they're very much in love and freely show it, although his duties to his wife produce two sons. When the queen passes from space sickness, the prince marries the Silvian, and they have a baby boy.

She worries throughout her pregnancy if he will be deaf or hearing, but he's born bright and healthy and very noisy.

She dies around the age a hearing child on Silvia is tethered. As he grows, he remembers less and less of his mother, only that it didn't seem like they ever needed words to communicate. She expressed herself with her whole body or even just her hands, as he sat on her lap. Being near her, he felt her well-being; he felt the people around him, and he was scared. They were so unlike his mother.

"Jongin, use your words," his father reminds him. Nearly every day, he's reminded to speak and not rely on pointing or other movement.

He learns politics and etiquette and leadership reads a lot, daydreaming about the stars in the sky he sees only in the atrium of his home, which is surrounded by a massive clear-stone dome with slight iridescent distortions. He wonders about the moons. The people on the moons. His mother, who came from a moon.

He's a young man when he meets another Silvian for the first time.

It's coronation day. Everyone wakes earlier than usual to make preparations for visiting dignitaries and diplomats, because even though they're a small exoplanet, they're still a part of the system and a recognised mining community as well as royal family. Presentation and hospitality are important; it's one of the few occassions the people make an effort to show the beauty of themselves and their home. Lights are placed around the carved palace and open atrium, greenery is cut and draped under archways, songbirds are sat in cages at intervals, and the princes are each bathed, groomed, and dressed in their finest.

The oldest two take it all in stride, but the youngest sulks and disappears as soon as he's able.

The woman who spent twenty minutes styling his hair looks at Jongdae, the middle prince, with a stern frown. "Make sure he stays presentable."

"Of course." Jongdae has a natural smile to his lips, but he widens it to an easy grin. Joonmyun, the eldest, is already looking over checklists to see that things are getting done in a timely manner, so Jongdae slips away without saying anything and heads to the atrium. It's pretty with the lights in the trees, but some have already been broken by the creatures that live among the flora and fauna. He pushes past a viscous veil of something blue-ish and shakes off clinging pink creatures that purr and atempt to pierce his skin and clothing with tiny teeth.


"Jongin's not here."

He looks up. Nestled in the fork of a couple thick limbs is a rehnmmao, a humanoid almost completely covered in light, spotted fur. His chest and arms are bare to the elbow, where hair thickened to cover down to large, long-toed paws. He smiles, teeth sharp and many. "You just missed him." He likes misleading whoever looks for the youngest prince. Although he's spent most of his life on the exoplanet, he still remembers his own tropical planet fondly and takes pleasure in leading the dull exoplanetarians into the muck of a swamp or the hanging tendrils of plants that eats anything they catch.

But Jongdae knows all this and smiles. "Your tail always twitches when you're playing. I need to see my brother. Where is he?"

"Look over there," he sighs and shifts to lie on his stomach, pouting now that his fun is ruined. He crosses his forepaws and sits his chin atop them, watching Jongdae with sharp eyes as the prince walks beneath his tree, tugging the hanging tail, and catching sight of Jongin's dark hair among a wild bed of vibrant gold and white flowers.


"Any time," the rehnmmao purrs.

Jongdae picks his way carefully through the vegetation. Much of it isn't native, like most creatures that live in it, cultivated by scientists or bought off of passing traders. Jongin spends most of his time in the garden, making his own observations and theories but never sharing any of them, because his research is born out of curious passion. The one time he tried to explain why he cried over a lizard devoured by a carnivorous plant, his father scolded him for being foolish. The plant was simply surviving, but Jongin didn't want that to mean the lizard had to die, so he cried.

Now, Jongin understands he is the lizard, and his culture is the carnivorous plant. It sits and waited until whatever food came along, struggling to survive but surviving so passively its life passed imperceptibly. For all the science and technology and research, their little exoplanet had little to show for it. All it wanted was to live quietly and keep living for as possible.

Jongin sits with his knees to his chest, watching a small insect struggle in the sweet sap of a boldly vibrant red flower. The petals close, muting the frantic buzzing.

"That looks bigger," Jongdae commened, sitting beside Jongin. "Wasn't it closer to a," he held his hands apart, "size before?"

"They grow fast. It's the roots that are the most impressive. They're halfway to the city, now, budding more plants."

"That can't be good."

"It's great for the plant," Jongin sighs and pushes a plump leaf down a bit with his forefinger. Releasing it, the leaf curls in around its stem. Once a predator would touch it or bite it, it would wrap itself around itself, and more parts would survive with the whole. "It's adjusting for maximum survivability. I think it's the only one of its kind, so it needs to find the best place to plant roots."

Jongdae nods. A many-legged insect the size of his hand crawls over Jongin's foot, leaving tiny, sappy footprints. "I hear the king's gotten you a special present for today's coronation."

"I don't want it," Jongin mumbles into his arms. The buzzing has stopped, and he sighs. Jongdae rubs his neck in a sign of solidarity.

A bird, squat and rather round with big eyes and a toddling gait waddles from the underbrush, ignores Jongdae, and drops a shiny pebble between Jongin's feet. The prince smiles and picked it up, rolling it between his fingertips so it catches the light. A necklace strung with similar crystalline rocks hangs under his shirt.

"It's uncut, at least, or I'd say he stole it—Ow!" The bird honks, a hissy sort of soo!, and nips Jongdae's earlobe, bringing tears to his eyes. Before he could swat at the bird, Jongin pulls it between his knees. Sitting or standing, it looks the same, but it's content to have the spot where its bill extended from its face rubbed.

"I really don't want to be king," Jongin admits quietly.

Jongdae nods. "And you really have no say in it."

"I'm nothing like him."

"No, you're not." Jongdae ignores the bird's wary stinkeye and pushes Jongin's hair that's fallen from its styling back into place. "For what it's worth, I prefer you this way."

"Yeah, but he doesn't. Neither will the people. They'll hate me."

"They can't. It's impossible to hate you." Jongdae makes them sway together, earning another cross soo! from the bird. "Besides, even if they did, they know I'd be next in line. The people will at least tolerate you; no one wants to see me king." Jongdae makes a habit of flaunting affection. For a culture of logic and thinking, it's almost offensive. No one ever says anything about it, because he is, like it or not, part of the royal family. "You'll be great. After a year, you'll be set as king, and no one can say anything against you. You'll be the boss."

Jongin groans. He doesn't want the responsibility of an entire planet. He has two older brothers, but their custom is for the youngest to become king, so the older children can help guide him. They're like a safety net of sorts, which he appreciates, but it is an overwhelming change, regardless.

The bird has nothing to contribute, although he does nuzzle his little beak into Jongin's palm when the princes stood. A servant waited quietly at the edge of the greenery, a persistent presence Jongin could ignore on any other day but a Royal Event.

He's fussed over and lead to his brothers, who fuss over him more and smile fondly when no one's looking. Guests, nobles and commoners alike, sit in the seats surrounding a centre floor that act as a stage for political congress as well as official events—such as coronations.

Jongin sits a beat after his brothers, ears hot from everyone's stares. He can't help but feel self-conscious, even when he knows the only judgement comes from his own anxiety making him fidget or slouch. Curiosity makes him look out at the people, passing over the faces he recognises and focusing more on the foreigners. They're all alien, to him. There's a very tall man who seems to shimmer with some sort of light that Jongin realises is fire; a much smaller man, an ice orc, with light blue skin and a frosty suit, frowning at his fiery neighbour; and a woman who appears halved, glamorous and seductive on one side of her body and plain, neutral on the other.

The king stands and presents a speech he could probably recite in his sleep, carefully glossing over Jongin's unwillingness to study and apply himself to the future of his people—which Jongin scoffs over, because he does care for his people; he cares, and that's the problem—he's a brilliant young mind with infinite potential and more than ready for his upcoming responsibilities as king.

Jongin watches the crowd with rapt attention, ears trained on his father's speech and the cues for him to stand, kneel, rise, recite oaths and promises, accepting his new name—Kai—and finally taking his new place in the king's center throne. The cloak placed over his shoulders is heavy and well-worn, smelling musky with books and his father.

"Congratulations, King Kai."

The king finally raises an arm, and a couple of servants gently guide someone Jongin has never seen before into the hall.

He's breathtakingly beautiful.

And Jongin's heart beats poetry for the first time.

Before Jongin was born, aliens in shiny silver suits that reflected and amplified the light to blind the moon people captured a Silvian child.

He grows up on foreign planets, learning language and speech he wouldn't use on other planets and missing the free movement and expressions of his birth moon. When he's told he's being given to the king of an exoplanet, he doesn't even know it's the planet at the outer rim of the galaxy that his home moon dances around and follows on its long, lonely orbit.

Yixing faces the silent crowd, trying to control his heart that beats wildly in his throat. All around him, he feels little more than mild curiosity, suppressed desire, and—somewhere right in front of him—anxiety.

A boy, dressed in black with gold embroidery around the neck and hems of his sleeves, sits in the very middle of a line of large chairs. An older man is stoic and intimidating in his silence to his left. An older man to his right wears a carefully indifferent mask, but a third young man has the slightest smile of geniality and encouragement. Then there's the boy, slouching a little with hunched shoulders and looking at the oldest man without turning his head. He blinks rapidly, swallows, casts a quick glance towards Yixing, then peers at the man again. He's the most expressive person in the room, and his anxiety grates on Yixing, riling his own emotions.

The man raises a hand for silence, and not a foot shuffles on the gleaming stone floor. Everyone—including the boy—looks to Yixing. There's heavy expectation in their eyes, weighing onto him, but he doesn't really mind. A long time ago, he taught himself to accept whatever happened, and it freed him in such a way that most slaves could never imagine.

Maybe there's music—he feels vibrations of something through the floor that shimmy over his ankles—but it's as soulless and uninspired as most of his audience. He was told on the transport that his sole purpose on the foreign planet was to entertain the king's son, as a coronation present. What the exoplanet people saw as a form of exercise or entertainment was the entire life force of Yixing's people and home moon, and he never let himself forget it.

He bends at the waist, bowing to the royals in greeting, and sweeps his arms wide to acknowledge the rest of the audience, but he focuses on the boy. He seems to notice, too, no longer peeking at the older man, and sits a little bit straighter but still slope-shouldered. Attention evidently isn't something he wholly welcomes.

Yixing understands. He twists a wrist in the air and pulls his arm down, shutting invisible curtains and cloaking them in their own world.

Round brown eyes follows each movement with unmasked curiosity. His anxiety and nerves slip from his shoulders to pool at his feet and slide under his chair, momentarily forgotten. Yixing bends a knee and spins, extending his opposite leg out to kick away all the nerves that tug on them with excessive gravity. Expression is freedom. It's communication and equality and enrichment—a tucked elbow, pulling clenched fists to his chest—holding in honesty in favour of manners or logic is illogical—he cuts slender fingers across his throat and drops his head to his shoulder.

Even from a distance, Yixing sees the boy's chest still, as if he held his breath, and Yixing pulls both arms sharply to his chest, crosses them to clutch at the shoulders of his loose tunic, and throws his arms out. They rise up, and his sleeves catch the light, shining and shimmering like precious gems.

If anyone in the audience finds his dance odd or off-putting, no one makes any indication of it. Nothing Yixing can feel to attend to, at least, because the boy's emotions seem to flood the room, pouring from his slack-jawed mouth and lapping at Yixing's ankles and driving him to bend down and scoop them from the floor to save them from being trampled.

He's ushered from the floor and prodded in the back to bow before the young king, who nods and swallows with another nervous look at his father. When he's lead away, he looks over his shoulder and smiles when he catches the boy's eye. It's okay.

They don't meet face-to-face again until later, although Yixing sees glimpses of the king from the spot he's taken to and left at while guests roam around and socialise politely. There isn't as much energy as Yixing expects; other gatherings he's seen, party or not, were vibrant with laughter and singing and joyful energy. Here, it's muted. It almost feels as though insects buzz in his chest, where there should be multitudinous waves of emotions.

There is a marked pull of curiosity from outside, where he sees a large forest that reminds him of the vague memories of home. It's vibrantly coloured, and he sees plants he remembers picking with someone he assumes is his mother. Something rustles a violet bush, disturbing the flowers and causing them to wilt and fall. Yixing looks to the somber gathering; no one's watching him, so he walks out from the carved architecture and looks up to see a shimmering bubble so large it encases the whole of the greenspace and beyond. Behind the dome, much too far to reach, hangs two silvery moons among the stars, and Yixing feels an ache he's lived with for most of his life.

He's distracted by movement and turns just in time to see a long tail disappear behind a thick copse of trees. The curiosity is heavier there, and Yixing follows it with little caution, although he regrets it when something heavy hits his chest and shoulders, sending him sprawling on his back. Twigs dig into his shoulders, and there's a flat rock under his butt, but the weight on top of him is heavy with curiosity and a little bit of hostility.

It's a familiar alien, furred and territorial but ultimately friendly and loyal to those they like. Yixing befriended a few in the years he travelled the galaxy, so he relaxes, showing no threat. He feels the hostility ebb away and the curiosity spike as he's sniffed and pawed at.

In no time at all, he's deemed harmless, and the alien lowers the rest of his body onto Yixing with a weaving tail in the air. It's not comfortable, but Yixing doesn't mind; this is the most affection and friendliness he's witnessed since being brought to the planet. He thinks the creature has fallen asleep, but an ear twitches and hits Yixing's chin, then they're sitting upright with an eager smile.

The young king ambles through the trees, looser and more relaxed than he'd been earlier. He trips over himself when he sees Yixing on the ground, but he smiles when paws pick at his shoulders. His mouth moves, like he's speaking, but Yixing can't read what he's said upside down.

He sits up and touches his ears, shaking his head. He can't hear.

The king starts to say something, blushes a bit, and corrects himself. "Jongin," he enunciates, pointing to his chest. Gesturing to the deadweight hanging on him, he introduces "Sehun." Yixing can tell they're friends, and they're probably close in age. Jongin disentangles himself enough to sit with his back against the trees just to have Sehun claim his lap as a pillow.

They don't speak, then. Jongin just wants to get away from the press of people; Yixing doesn't mind the company. Their silence isn't a burden. Speaking without words is possible, and Jongin remembers his mother.

He waves a hand to get Yixing's attention. "Where are you from?"

Yixing holds an arm perpendicular to his chest with the opposite arm upright, fingers outstretched, and moves it forward and back along the bottom arm. Then, holding his thumb and forefinger almost touching, he touches his forehead and extends his arm upwards. Forest moon.

"Silvia?" Jongin points up to the sky beyond the dome. "That's our moon."

Yixing tilts his head back to see the moons through the canopy. This is the closest he's been to home, and he still can't reach it.

Jongin tries to use his hands to speak, mimicking Yixing, who's surprises but delighted and eagerly teaches him how to use his body. Some of it is familiar, most is completely new and unlike anything Jongin's been taught by the planet's teachers.

Jongdae will sit in on the lessons, sometimes, often goofing around and seeing what will make Yixing laugh or vehemently shake his head. Joonmyun is less open and cautions his brothers. He won't tell anyone, much less their father, but it's still risky.

There are times when Yixing has nothing to say, but he's restless, tasked with nothing but dancing for Jongin, and he moves aimlessly. He releases his mind from everything and gives instinct control.

When Jongin watches, he understands the sadness that weighs Yixing's arms and legs down and keeps his face towards the ground. He feels heavy and tied down; Jongin understands. He knows that sadness, even if Yixing doesn't realise he's sharing it.

Some weeks after being gifted Yixing's company and befriending him, seeing how much sadness there is, he gets up from his seat and moves body with Yixing's rhythm. If the Silvian is shocked, he hides it with a sweet smile.

There is no music; the beat is in their hearts.

"Do you miss home?"

Of course. Yixing pauses, then holds a fist to his forehead and pushes it down to his other hand. What I remember of it.

Jongin sits. The short bird is there, smuggled into his room from the atrium, and he pets its bill. He's suddenly nervous and won't meet Yixing's eyes. "What if I could take you back? Would you go?"

I'd like to, but I like being with you, too.

Sometimes, Jongin catches Yixing staring at his mouth, and he's not sure why. He'll ask, "What is it?" and touch his mouth, but there is nothing to wipe away, and Yixing would just wave a hand—It's nothing; he's just distracted.—but Jongin still wonders. Maybe he's talking to himself without realising.

He finds out why Yixing stares one late night, as they sit on the balcony outside Jongin's bedroom. Jongin's reciting the names of stars and constellations he recognises; Yixing's watching him speak with hooded attention.

He turns to Yixing to ask him if he knows the stars differently, or to show him how the people on the moon refer to them, only Yixing is closer than he had been minutes before. He's leaning into Jongin, now, shoulder to shoulder, and Jongin goes a little cross-eyed watching Yixing's face inch closer.

There's a wild inkling of what this means, but he must be wrong. It makes no logical sense.

Yet why else would Yixing kiss him?

He means to ask, but he forgets with the feeling of Yixing's lips against his. They don't touch aside from lips and shoulders, but it's enough, and Jongin feels Yixing mirror his smile.

It's not their only kiss. When Jongin shyly admits that he likes behing kissed—by Yixing, at least—he's woken with kisses, falls asleep after nighttime kisses, and is surprised with kisses at any unexpected moment.

"You know," Jongdae says after one of the more tedious official meetings that the whole family had to sit in on, "there's nothing that says you can't marry him."

Jongin trips over his foot and blushes when a cluster of workers looks his way. "That's not funny."

"I'm not being funny. I'm serious. I had to read all of those boring books of laws and rules with Joonmyun. He almost made me memorise them," he whines crossly. "Believe it or not, we've actually had a fair number of foreigners marry into the family. My mom came from an asteroid; she wasn't from here. Your mom came from Silvia, like Yixing."

"Isn't the point of marriage to make an heir?"

"Well, it's kind of an expectation but not a rule. The marriage is more for image. 'Look how stable and happy we are.' According to the books, it's totally fine to just adopt an heir. Relying on blood isn't the most practical way to do things, especially when some decades ago there was the space sickness that only effected certain blood. If everyone's the same, we all die."

Jongin feels sick. "Wonderful."

"Seriously, Jongin. It's okay to think about yourself once in a while. If you try to be like our father, you're just going to burn out." He nudges Jongin's side. "I can tell you're happy with him, and that's a pretty rare thing here."

Jongin nods, because it's true, but it's also hard to stand out even more in a culture that values neutrality and practicality and not feel pressured. He returns to his room and falls onto his bed. Yixing watches from the balcony a few moments but crosses the bare floor to sit beside the king. He kisses the back of Jongin's neck, then his cheek, when Jongin turns his head away from his pillows. Rolling onto his back, he shyly takes Yixing's hand and laces their fingers together, palms facing.

It's a bit difficult one-handed, but Yixing asks What's wrong? Jongin's stressed and helpless, and that makes Yixing feel stressed and helpless and worthless when he doesn't understand.

Jongin squeezes his fingers and points out the open doors. Silvia sits low, only partly visible. Let's go to Silvia.

Jongdae and Joonmyun both support the idea and help schedule a shuttle to the moon. It's a small craft, only suited for short distances, and it's not very fast.

Yixing is used to flying; Jongin has never even been on the planet's surface. They can't talk, because the shuttle is so loud, but Yixing's calm. Jongin watches his home get smaller and feels kind of sad, but the forest moon gets closer and closer. It loses its silvery glow and becomes more green.

They land in a clearing, on a poured pad large enough for a craft ten times the size of the short-distance shuttle.

Humidity makes moisture hang in the air as splashes of colour. Everything is vibrant, from the sky to the trees to the flowers and the animals Jongin catches sight of before they hide. He recognises a few species, including the carnivorous plant he can't bear to kill at home. Through it all, there's a distinct, clear voice filtering through the trees. Jongin looks around, but he can't tell who's singing. It's pretty.

Yixing tugs his hand, eager to explore, and Jongin follows.

The Silvian people live in huts and hollowed out trees wider than any tree on the exoplanet. They're all pale and slender, like Yixing. Children openly gape at Jongin, a current of curiosity buzzing among them as the new duo move through what seems to be the town centre.

One child, braids hanging to her waist, wears a sort of harness with a lead tied to a belt worn around the waist of a women Jongin assumes is her mother.

The singing and laughter haven't stopped. When Yixing pulls his hand again, Jongin notices the child is just as distracted.

"Can you hear that?"

She looks at him in wide-eyed confusion. She can hear, but she can't understand.

He cups a hand around his ear and spins lightly on his toes. Do you hear music?

The Silvian adults look scared. Yixing's hand tightens around his own, but no one says anything, so he ignores it as best he can.

It's a constant, though, and stronger at night. Jongin and Yixing sit out in the open after a meal of thick red fruits, pink meat, and leafy violent salad. The singing is louder, and Jongin thinks he hears laughter. He asks Yixing what it is.


He falls asleep to the sweet music; Yixing sleeps to the steady thmp thmp of Jongin's heart.

They wake up to absolute anguish. Silvian families cling to one another, tears streaking their faces and toneless cries clawing from their throats, as the woman Jongin saw wearing the belt tying the little girl to her side walks unsteadily through the crowd with a wrapped bundle in her arms.

Jongin sees a white blonde braid dangling from the bundle and understands the danger of the music and night-time laughter. He understands, too, as the woman enters the outskirts of their town, that his hearing isn't a gift or a benefit on this moon. It's a death sentence.

Yixing feels the compassion, fear, and sadness pour over Jongin like an autumn shower. It leaves them both cold and uncertain.

The woman returns empty-handed and gratefully falls into her family's waiting embrace.

They spend another night together, not sleeping so much as cuddling in emotional exhaustion. Yixing stays close, distracting Jongin with squeezed fingers or kisses when the king looks to the forest. Yixing taps Jongin's arm to get his attention—pulled yet again to the unseen source of the fatally pretty song—and sits up. He gestures between them, touches his cheek, cradles his arms and lifts them both upward. Let's go home.

Jongin's confused. His eyebrows dip. "This is your home."

My home is wherever you are, and you can't live here without staying in a cage. The only sure way to keep him from entering the forest and following the singing is to lock him up, and Yixing has experienced it enough to never wish it on anyone. I can always visit here, right?

It's an easy decision. Home is with Jongin; Jongin is king of a small exoplanet with too stringent a culture and not enough expression, but it can change. One thing the universe always demonstrates is the ability to evolve.

Jongdae greets Jongin with a big hug when he and Yixing leave the shuttle, and Jongin's surprised when Joonmyun's there, too, hugging him fast but tight. A small crowd's gathered to welcome them back, and while the hugging has them side-eyeing and shuffling a little, more than a few have smiles on their faces, showing that they're glad for his return.

They do care about Jongin, just as much as he cares for them; they just don't know how to express it. Maybe, given time and patience, the exoplanet can change. With Yixing to help him, Jongin's willing to try.