Genre: Fantasy!AU, Romance
A/N: I'll be mass posting the rest of the parts since I've actually finished it, I just am very very lazy, I'm sorry. Chanyeol is kind of an evil dick in this story, haha I'm not sorry.
By midday Suho feels like he is baking alive, the sand around him reflecting the sun like an oven and burning every inch of exposed skin. More than once he's seen water just on the edge of the horizon, and in a burst of desperation, he's run towards it, only to have it vanish into more dry sand and heat.
He thinks he must be losing his mind, wandering in an endless sea of sand, with no idea how far he's come or how to get back. When he runs towards another shimmering illusion of water and it evaporates, he finally slumps to his knees and sobs, ignoring how the sand burns through the fabric of his pants.
Through the haze of sunburn and thirst and despair, he clutches at his scarred left arm.
"Chen," he breathes, the word cracking in his dry throat.
Nothing happens. Suho slumps forward, buries his face in his hands and tries to calm himself, tries to find the strength to stand up again and keep moving, but he can't. He can't keep going through this desert. He's never going to find Chanyeol, he's going to die out here before he can save Chen.
Faintly, in the distance, there is the merest rumble of thunder.
Suho's head snaps up, searching the sky desperately. Clouds, dark and huge, roll across the sky, blotting out the sun. As he licks his lips, fat raindrops splatter on the sand and a few fall in his hair. Before long, the full downpour has started, centered on Suho.
"Chen," he half-laughs, standing up and reaching up to the sky, his clothes and hair plastered to his body. "Chen."
Faintly, he hears the voice of the thunderbird, singing the song Suho still remembers after all these years.
He laughs again and cups his hands, bringing as much of the rainwater to his mouth as he can, slurping it down greedily. He takes his shirt off and squeezes the water out of it and into his mouth, trying to drown the thirst that screams at him. When his stomach can't hold any more water, he puts his shirt back on and just lets the rain fall on his face, imagining that Chen is with him, laughing.
Rain for Suho.
The memory almost makes him cry. Chen might be dying, and Suho might never hear Chen's laugh again.
Abruptly, the rain stops, the clouds rolling back as though someone was pushing them away. Heat slams into Suho, drying his clothes and the wet sand around him almost instantly. A huge red bird, sparks trailing from its wings, swoops down, bringing a fresh wave of hot air that makes Suho feel like he's about to burst into flames.
As it lands, there's a burst of orange flame and Chanyeol emerges, stalking towards Suho. Smoke and embers trail from his skin as he approaches, his eyes wide with rage.
He grabs the front of Suho's shirt, the fabric turning black and smoking slightly as Chanyeol yanks Suho up and hisses in his face.
"How dare you."
Suho swallows and gasps for air, nearly fainting from the white hot touch of the phoenix. Chanyeol doesn't seem to want an answer as his skin bursts into flame, little tongues of it licking at Suho and leaving angry red burns.
A scream leaves Suho's throat before he can stop himself and he struggles furiously as the phoenix grins, the smile stretching his face too wide. Chanyeol's hand clamps around Suho's wrist and the flesh sizzles, a fresh scream of pain ripping itself from Suho's lungs.
"Your thunderbird misses you, human. Don't you want to see him again?" Chanyeol laughs as Suho screams in pain. Suho sobs, shaking in the phoenix's grip.
"Then I'll take you to him," Chanyeol coos mockingly, as two huge fiery wings unfold from his feather cloak and he leaps into the air. Suho screams again as the phoenix's other hand grabs Suho's unburned wrist, fresh pain lancing through him.
He thinks he passes out, because the next thing he knows, he's being thrown to the ground, shoulder banging painfully on a rock. He whimpers, too dazed by pain and fear to do anything else. A hand hauls him up and throws him again, Chanyeol's booming voice laughing at his distress.
He sobs and curls up in a ball, the burns on his wrists screaming at him. He's in a cave, he thinks, mercifully out of the sun, and the cold stone against his skin is a welcome relief from the heat.
The voice is quiet and weak, but Suho would recognize it anywhere. Shuddering, crying out in pain when he puts strain on his wrists, he pushes himself up and sees Chen, not three feet from him, inside of a huge iron birdcage.
"Chen," he whispers, dragging himself towards the caged thunderbird. "I found you."
Chen starts to cry and reaches through the bars, straining towards Suho, harsh burns apparent along his arms. Suho reaches out as well, his fingertips mere inches from Chen's when pain lances through his ankle and he's dragged back across the rough stone floor. Chen screams and sobs, hands still outstretched.
"No! No, Chanyeol, please! Not him!" Chen's voice is strained and dry as he desperately throws himself against the bars, rising in pitch as Suho is dragged farther and farther away. "Please!"
Chanyeol's dark chuckle makes Suho shiver, tears already in his eyes. The phoenix drags Suho across the floor and into another chamber of the cave, dropping him in the center of the floor. Suho barely has time to breathe and collect himself before Chanyeol grabs him by the hair and yanks, forcing Suho's head back.
"Did you really think you could just come into my desert and free your thunderbird? Are you brave? Or just an idiot?" Chanyeol sneers, eyes cold despite the orange glow.
Suho swallows, trying to collect his thoughts. Flattery. Chanyeol is vain.
"You," he manages to get out through the fear choking him. "You really had a great plan."
"I did?" He says, brows furrowing together.
Suho nods as best he can despite the iron grip on his hair.
"You did," he replies, licking his dry lips. "I mean…poisoning Wu Fan and convincing humans that you were the god of light? That's something not anyone could pull off. It would take a real genius."
Chanyeol blinks for a few more minutes before a slow smile spreads over his face. He seems to swell a little.
"Well, it was a pretty good plan. After they humiliated me, I had to get my revenge somehow," he says, releasing Suho's hair and smirking as he inspects his nails.
Suho nods fervently, scrambling to his knees and wincing as his burns throb.
"Oh, of course," he agrees, "It must have been hard to convince Wu Fan to take the poison. How'd you do it?"
Chanyeol scoffs and a blast of dry air shoots through Suho's hair.
"That was easy. Wu Fan believed he was untouchable, so he never suspected I put poison in the wine I gave him."
"Really? How long did it take for the poison to put him to sleep?" Suho's mind races, trying to find questions that will lead the phoenix to reveal the antidote to the poison.
"Not long," Chanyeol replies with a shrug. "I used the strongest poison I knew of. He barely finished the cup before he was stumbling. The look in his eyes when he realized what I'd done was priceless."
Suho nods, biting his lip. He had to keep Chanyeol talking. As long as he was talking, he wouldn't harm him, and more importantly, he wouldn't harm Chen.
"You didn't poison Lu Han, though?" he asks finally, the only question he can think of that isn't too obviously leading.
Chanyeol shakes his head, settling into a more comfortable position on the ground.
"No. Without his brother he's hardly a threat, more concerned with waking Wu Fan than with trying to stop me." Chanyeol's smirk makes Suho's skin crawl. "Not that he could stop me. I've come too far to let him undo all my hard work. And anyway, from what I hear, he's poisoning himself just fine without my help."
"He is?" Suho asks, deciding to play dumb.
"Mm," Chanyeol hums, "apparently he thinks the way to cure the sun is to draw the poison into himself. Which is stupid, by the way, there's only one cure and that's not it."
"Oh?" Suho tries not to sound too desperate, his insides churning. He's close. He's so, so close.
Chanyeol laughs, grinning at Suho with a knowing look.
"You want to know? Plan on waking up the sun and making me into a laughingstock?"
As he speaks, his eyes turn harder and harder, fire springing up in a circle around him and Suho. Suho swallows hard.
"Who am I going to tell? You're going to kill me whether you tell me or not," he shrugs, trying not to betray how terrified he is.
Chanyeol seems to consider this, his flames dancing wildly.
"It has to be something extremely rare, almost impossible to get, to counteract such a strong poison," Suho adds, as sweat starts to drip down his face and neck. "You planned this too carefully to choose a poison with a simple antidote."
Chanyeol smirks as the circle of flames starts to become smaller, closing in on Suho.
"Very well. Since you are dead either way, I'll tell you the cure."
Suho watches the flames fearfully, a stray spark catching on his sleeve before he snuffs it out. Chanyeol moves closer and leans down close to Suho's ear.
"The antidote," he whispers, breath blazingly hot against Suho's skin, "is a thunderbird's rain. It's the only thing that can wash the poison out of the sun."
Suho's eyes flick to the opening where Chen's cage can just barely be seen and Chanyeol chuckles, pulling away and standing at the entrance to Suho's chamber.
"And now, I bid you farewell, human. As long as you live, I cannot truly kill the thunderbird. Do me a favor and scream, would you? It would break Chen's heart."
Before Suho has a chance to respond, the fire circle converges on him all at once and he screams, fingers scrambling for Lay's feather. The pain is blinding and he can hardly breathe, every inch of his skin shrieking in agony. Finally his blistered fingers close on the miraculously untouched feather, and he pulls it out, sobbing helplessly as he drops it.
He slumps on the ground, still aflame, and weeps, praying to anyone, anything, for the pain to stop. At this point he would welcome death. As a creeping darkness starts to take ahold of his mind, he senses, rather than feels, the flames go out.
Hands touch him and Suho sobs again as a fresh wave of agony washes over his raw skin.
Lay's voice pierces the fog of pain and Suho tries to lift his head, crying out when just that small movement almost makes him black out.
"Sh, sh, don't move," Lay says, his voice thick with tears and fear. "I'm going to take you away from here, Suho. Don't move."
Suho clings to consciousness. He has to tell Lay the cure. Chen isn't safe. He has to save Chen. Chen.
"Chen," he rasps out hoarsely. He can't see Lay but he feels Lay pick him up and he whimpers. "No, you…have to…Chen. Get Chen."
"Sh, Suho, you're hurt," Lay replies quietly. "I can't take you both."
"Take Chen," Suho says again, with as much firmness as he can when he's so close to blacking out. "Chen is the antidote. His rain…wash out the poison. Take Chen."
"Suho…" Lay's voice shakes, pleading with Suho.
"Take Chen," Suho pleads back, desperately clutching at Lay's hand. "Please. Please, Lay. Save Chen."
Lay sobs and presses his lips as gently as he can to Suho's forehead.
"I will be back for you," Lay whispers, before laying Suho back on the ground. "I swear I'll come back for you."
Suho smiles faintly, the darkness welcoming him as he lets himself slip away.
The sun dances across Suho's eyes and he squeezes them shut briefly before opening them, noting, with a slight shock, that he is no longer in pain.
An unfamiliar face looms above him, all long lines and thick eyebrows and luminous gold eyes framed by shining golden hair.
Suho blinks at the man above him for a while before the man finally speaks, his voice warm and rich and deep.
"Hello," he says, and Suho blinks again, trying to fit the pieces together.
"Hello," Suho finally replies, lifting a hand to his face. The skin is rough, callused and tanned, but untouched by fire. "I'm dreaming, aren't I?"
The man nods and takes Suho's hand, lifting him up to stand. The man towers over Suho, taller even than Chanyeol, his top half bare except for bands of gold on his upper arms. His lower half is wrapped in a loose robe of golden feathers that drags on the ground, and his whole body emits light and warmth. Even without an introduction, Suho knows who this man is.
"Wu Fan," he whispers, sinking to a knee. Wu Fan immediately pulls him up, a smile softening his harsh face.
"From what I have seen, I should be the one bowing to you," Wu Fan says, inclining his head. "I saw you taken by Chanyeol's templars, and I saw you tied to a stake. I saw Kyungsoo take you away and I saw Xiumin's sacrifice. I saw you walking through the desert and I saw Chanyeol take you away. You have risked much to wake me."
Suho nods, looking at his hands, remembering it all and especially the pain that wracked his body.
"Maybe you'll be offended, but I didn't do it for you, my lord. I just wanted to save Chen," Suho looks up at Wu Fan, who raises an eyebrow.
"The thunderbird?" Wu Fan asks, stepping back to sit on a flat rock.
Suho nods and sits in front of the sun, legs folded underneath him. Wu Fan's eyes rove over Suho's body, resting on the scars on Suho's left arm.
"He marked you," Wu Fan remarks, looking Suho in the eye. Suho nods, there's no point in lying.
"He did it to save my life." Suho's fingers trace the scar tissue and he holds Wu Fan's gaze.
Wu Fan nods and crosses his arms, face impassive. Suho looks back at his hands. Something about this doesn't feel right. He's never stayed this long in Wu Fan's dreams. By now he'd be waking up, leaving this strange mountain and facing Chanyeol's wrath, or maybe Lay and Chen, if they have rescued him.
"Aren't you going to send me back?" He asks Wu Fan, not looking up from his hands.
"No," comes the reply, and Suho looks up, hands twisting together.
Wu Fan sighs heavily and looks into Suho's eyes.
"You are dying."
Somehow, he's not surprised. No doubt he'd been burned beyond all help by Chanyeol's flames. But the news still brings a lump to his throat that he has difficulty swallowing around.
"Oh." He says, looking back at his hands, which have started to shake.
"I am sorry." Wu Fan's voice is soft and surprisingly gentle as he puts a hand on Suho's shoulder. Suho nods, blinking back tears.
"You can't…do something?" he asks quietly, looking into the sun's face desperately. Wu Fan shakes his head apologetically.
"For all my power, I can't heal you. All I can do is keep you here in my dreams to ease your passing. But…" Wu Fan pauses, frowning a little. "Once I wake, you will die. I am sorry."
Suho nods again. There's nothing he can say. He opens his mouth, searching for words, and then closes it again, pressing his lips together to stop them from trembling.
"Is Chen alright?" he finally asks.
Wu Fan nods.
"Yes. Yixing took him away safely. My brother is preparing to bring him to my resting place as we speak."
Chen is safe. Relief washes over Suho and he smiles, letting out a shaky breath.
"My family?" is his next question.
"Safe. Yixing will continue to watch over them for many more generations."
"Zitao?" Suho remembers the young nomad boy who clung to him the last time he slipped into Wu Fan's dreams.
"Ah, the boy Xiumin marked. Chanyeol has no knowledge of his existence. Xiumin hid him to the best of his ability, and the boy will live his life far from harm," Wu Fan answers.
"Xiumin…he stopped Chanyeol so I could escape. Is he dead?"
Wu Fan shakes his head.
"He almost died, but the bond he shares with Zitao kept him alive. He is very weak, but he will survive."
"And Kyungsoo?" The sylphid who watched over him despite his idiocy and saved him from Chanyeol's wrath.
"Kyungsoo is hiding, but he is keeping an eye on your family. He pretends to hate humans, but he has taken a liking to your little brother," Wu Fan chuckles lightly.
Suho manages to smile but it slips off his face. Sehun. Sunny. His mother. Chen. He'll never see them again. Without warning, tears start to slip down his cheeks and he sobs, curling up in a ball. Wu Fan seems taken aback and he pats Suho's back awkwardly, brows furrowed together.
Suho cries until he's gasping for air and hiccuping, head aching from how hard he'd been sobbing.
"I'm sorry," he mumbles, wiping his face on his shirt.
"It's alright," Wu Fan replies, seemingly unsure of how to deal with a crying human.
Suho sighs, sniffling slightly, and looks up at the sky, thin and blue above him.
"What will happen to me?" He wonders out loud.
Wu Fan moves to sit next to him, a soft glow illuminating Suho's skin from the right.
"Long ago," he begins, speaking quietly, "my brother and I came into being. For countless ages he was all I needed, and I was all he needed. And then one day, when we were chasing each other across the sky, he looked down. And he saw the humans. And from that moment I knew that I had lost a part of his heart. I was so terribly jealous, but hurting them would only make Lu Han sad, and I could never hurt my brother.
"Lu Han kept watching them, and when, one day, he saw one die, he was devastated. We knew of death, saw the other creatures of the earth live and die, but somehow this was more tangible to my brother. He descended to the earth, left me alone in the sky, and went to see the dead human. The human's spirit clung to the body, even after death, scared and alone, and Lu Han tried to speak with it, but it didn't hear him. After a time, Lu Han said it simply floated up into the sky. He tried to follow it, tried to see where it went, but it slipped away from him and flew past the sky."
"Past the sky?" Suho whispers, looking at Wu Fan.
The sun nods.
"I have seen it happen. And each time, the spirit looks happy, or at least at peace. They do not see me, or my brother, or anything else, and sometimes it takes longer for them to leave their body, but eventually they fly past the sky. I do not know what happens after that, however, and I never will. I am, I think, still jealous of humans." Wu Fan's smile is gentle, and he puts a hand on Suho's. It's warm and calming and Suho smiles back, just a little.
"I'm still scared," he whispers, pressing his lips together.
"I will stay with you until the end," Wu Fan says, squeezing Suho's hand. "You have done much for my brother and I. It is the only way I can think of to repay my debt to you."
Suho nods and smiles thinly, looking ahead.
"I just wish I could've seen Chen one last time. I never told him I loved him. I never…" His voice breaks and he covers his mouth, fresh tears surging up and drowning him in grief. Grief for the life he'd never live, the people he'd leave behind, the things he'd left unsaid, all of this pours over him and he cries again, the sobs almost painful as the reality of his death crashes into him. For all of the powers of the mythic beings around him, none of them could cure a shattered boy burned beyond recognition.
Wu Fan wraps an arm around him and says nothing, because there is nothing to say.
"Would you like me to punish Chanyeol?" Wu Fan finally says, making Suho look up, eyes red and nose dripping slightly.
"Wh-what?" he rasps, barely recognizing his own voice.
"If you desire it, I will punish Chanyeol," Wu Fan says quietly, golden anger radiating from his skin. His voice is calm and quiet but Suho can almost feel the pure rage roiling under the surface and it scares him slightly.
Suho considers it. If he desired it. But he doesn't desire it. Maybe it's foolish, maybe it's crazy, but right now he doesn't want revenge. All he feels is the creeping numbness he has come to associate with death. Still, Chanyeol can't be allowed to do this again.
"I don't think Chanyeol deserves to be the phoenix anymore," he sighs out, leaning his head on Wu Fan's shoulder and soaking in the warmth of the sun. "He hurts everyone in his path."
Wu Fan hums quietly, seeming to soak this in.
"A fitting punishment, I think," Wu Fan murmurs.
A song floats through the thin air and Suho sits up straight, straining to catch every note.
"Wu Fan. Would you do something for me?" he asks as he stands, not taking his eyes from the dark clouds that creep up the sides of the mountain and surround the summit as the song continues.
"Of course," Wu Fan says, standing up as well, his radiance undimmed by the shadows cast by the heavy clouds.
Suho smiles faintly as the rain starts, soft, gentle rain that feels like Chen's lips on his face. His memories of Chen flash before his eyes. Their first meeting, Chen's song, silver eyes curved into crescents, a cat-like smile, jet-black hair, the scent of rain and feathers and the tang of metal, their first kiss, the warmth of Chen's skin, the bell-like sound of his laughter and his fearless proclamation that brought a lump to Suho's throat and made his heart feel like it was healing and breaking at the same time.
I love Suho.
He closes his eyes, cherishing each raindrop on his skin and wishing with all his strength that he might be able to see Chen again.
"Tell Chen I love him," he finally says, voice steady despite the roiling emotions in his chest. No point in wishing for the impossible.
He doesn't hear Wu Fan's answer, because at that moment lightning crackles through the clouds and thunders rumbles in his ears and the rain pours down on him and the sun. His lips tremble as he feels the dream around him start to fall apart. Darkness slips into the corners of his vision and he turns to Wu Fan, who holds his hand and nods, even as Suho starts to feel himself falling deeper and deeper into a terrifying blankness.
"I'm scared," he whispers again, as tears slip down his cheeks.
Wu Fan kisses his forehead, but Suho barely feels it, barely feels anything, can't even see the blinding glow of the sun.
"I swear you will not be forgotten," Wu Fan says, and Suho can only just make out the words before the dream shatters around him and he's tumbling down, blind, deaf, and unable to feel.
For a brief, shining moment, he thinks he sees Chen. But then everything goes dark.
Don't worry, that's not the end of it, there's still some loose ends to tie up.