Author's Note: De-anon from the kink meme. This will be four chapters long. It is based loosely on The Ballad of Tam Lin. There are... a lot of changes, both to fill it out storywise and so I could try to keep it IC and true to the characters. Hopefully it still retains the spirit of the original. I might do some notes on the faerie lore I've included in this story, but although some things are of my own invention, much (most, really) is based on fae folklore and legends of the British Isles. Thank you for reading!

The Faerie Path

Chapter One

By Everything is Magic

A long time ago, so very long, in a land far away where roamed knights atop noble steeds and fair fae within forests green, there lived a young man, a knight of prestigious lineage and chivalrous heart.

Sir Alfred of Earncynn, strong as an eagle and just as swift, patrolled these lands; the meadows and forests and mountains that belonged to his Lord.

But unfortunately, today he was running late.

The forest was soft and mossy, a layer of fog dusting the ground below the feet of his horse. Alfred patted his flank. "I promise this is a shortcut, Centaurus. We're… still going the right direction, you know?"

He pulled at the cowl of his tunic and frowned. His king would be angry about now, angry that his most reputable knight, his pride and the strongest carrier of his banner, was late for a simple feast. He'd left his home early enough, assuring Matthew, his twin brother, that he'd be back within a few days. It was a one day ride to his king's castle, and he'd journeyed it so many times.

Alfred knew why the king wanted him at the feast so badly. He had a vested interest in Alfred, after all; an interest that involved him wanting Alfred to marry his granddaughter. Katyusha was as pretty as a flower and twice as sweet, and Alfred honestly wanted the best for her.

But… he had no interest in her, and he knew he never would. He'd known her since childhood, after all. He took a deep breath and stroked Centaurus's mane. Nevertheless, he was a knight of Earncynn, and his duty was to his kingdom first and foremost. And if his king insisted that he marry Katyusha, it was only heroic of him to do so, right?

The forest was getting darker, and he cursed under his breath. He'd never much liked the dark, nor the silence that came with it. It was just around sunset, but in the depths of the wood, it felt much later.

Goosebumps rose on his arm, beneath his clothing, and he shuddered.

Alfred wanted out of here, wanted to reach the castle and the warm hall and the feast… and even the dancing with Katyusha.

It was then that Alfred saw a light, bright and beckoning and glowing; peeking through a small path in the trees. He smiled, relieved. "Woohoo! Looks like I found the way out of the forest, huh? Guess I was going the wrong direction, just by a little bit." He laughed, scratching the back of his head.

Centaurus, his great white stallion, whinnied and stood firm, as if wary of the light that Alfred had chanced upon.

Alfred frowned and kicked his flank. "No time to be stubborn, boy, the hero needs to make his appearance at the feast tonight!" Besides, the light was warm, captivating, like a hearth in winter.

The horse lowered his head in resignation and began to walk forward, following the light through tightly wound branches and twisted trunks and walking slowly, deliberately.

Alfred slid his eyes closed and exhaled, attempting to calm his heartbeat.

When he opened them, he grinned in relief. Up ahead the forest cleared into a clearing, bright and rich and green, as if spring herself had just touched her splendor down upon it.

"See? Everything is-"

The light exploded, brilliant and blinding, and Alfred's eyes burned and his head pounded. And Centaurus bucked, throwing his rider off, dislodging him completely. Alfred slammed against the ground, the forest floor hard and unforgiving and his breath knocked out of him. Vaguely, he tasted coppery blood in his mouth, and he thought his head may have been bleeding as well.

He barely registered the sound of his precious stallion running away as he slipped into unconsciousness.

Softness, something like a pillow beneath his head, was the first thing Alfred noticed when he awoke. The second thing he registered, before he even slid his eyes open, was a throbbing pain in his head, as if someone had struck a hammer to the back of his skull. He groaned and cracked his eyes open, wondering if he'd been out for long enough that night had fallen.

It was still light, and the sun beaming down through the grove of trees caused his head to ache more.

Alfred smiled. Maybe he could still catch his horse and get to the castle by a reasonable, albeit still late, time. Sure, he was in a lot of pain, but whatever, he'd traveled and fought in way worse condition, being a knight.

His shoulder blade seared in pain as he lifted his arm. He winced but ignored it and continued, touching his hand to his head.

Alfred felt soft cloth, wound tightly around his forehead.

"What the…"

Every joint aching, he pushed himself into a seated position, a moment of dizziness overcoming him as he did so.

The clearing was beautiful. The grass was green and perfect, tall in some places and lush everywhere. Trees dotted it periodically, some brimming with fruits that Alfred did not even recognize. One tree was especially large and thick, with low branches that would make climbing it simple. There were no fruits upon it, but its leaves shone brighter than the others.

There were large stones arranged in a circle in one area of the clearing, and inside the circle was a garden, beautiful flowers of every color carefully displayed and obviously well cared for.

Alfred glanced back to the thick tree, and he noticed that up in the branches was… something that looked like a bed, boughs tied together, grass laced on top of it and leaves over that.

He wasn't the only person who had been in this clearing, that much was for sure.

A rustle, and he snapped his head around, grimacing as he did so.

"You're lucky," he heard the voice before he saw the speaker. "Being thrown off a horse? Even with your chest plate, you could have been hurt much worse."

From behind the large tree emerged a man, fairly short and slender, but by no means weak looking. Sandy blonde fringe and large, dark eyebrows rested over vivid green eyes, sharp in color as the grass he walked upon.

He wore baggy green pants, cut raggedly right above his bare ankles and feet and a threadbare white tunic, short sleeved and tied around the waist with a scrap of green fabric. Despite his paltry clothing, he didn't give off an impression of… a lack of cleanliness or even poverty. He was obviously well taken care of.

"You…" Alfred spoke, watching the man come closer.

"You can thank me later," the man interrupted him, a scowl on his face. "Right idiotic you all are, following a pixie-light like that."

Alfred raised an eyebrow and stifled a laugh. "A pixie what? Listen, I've got somewhere to go. Have you seen my horse?"

"You're not going anywhere," he said. "Not for a few months, at least. And besides, you've been asleep half a day, so I expect you're already late for your engagement."

The knight's mouth dropped. "But I-" He ran his hands over the grass, realizing now, that it was covered in morning dew. "What are you even going on about, man?"

The green-clad man's eyebrows furrowed, and he crouched down next to Alfred. "Please listen to me carefully."

Alfred surveyed him closer now. His arms were lean, but obviously muscular. One was slightly thicker than the other, a clear mark of a longbow wielder. A gentle dusting of freckles on his cheeks led up to his…

Ears. Which sloped up gently and tapered to a point.

And he had just said… pixie-light? Alfred's mother had told him stories of the fae often as a small child, but he'd never been one to believe in such things. Quite the opposite, honestly. Ghosts? Sure. Faeries? That was ridiculous. He knew what pixie-lights were, and he knew what this man appeared to be. He even had the brilliant green eyes that Alfred's mother had told him were a signifier of the fae.


He gaped, rather like a fish. The man huffed. "While you're swallowing air, let me explain, all right?"

Alfred merely nodded.

"I'm Arthur, Arthur Kirkland to be more specific, but please just call me Arthur," he began. "You see this clearing you're in? Let me put this simply, all right? If you leave it within the next few months, you will…" he cleared his throat, "you'll die."

Alfred inhaled sharply. "Wh-what? How you know? I mean that's-"

"Because I've seen it happen," Arthur said, his green eyes flashing regret and a frown on his lips. "Blimey, too… many times."

He closed his eyes and sat down entirely next to Alfred. "This is a prison. Not just for you, but for me as well."

"It's a pretty… nice prison," Alfred offered, a weak smile on his lips.

Arthur snorted. "A prison is a prison, and it's not as lovely as it looks. Step beyond the barrier of those trees, and you will die." He pointed toward the edge of the forest, where the clearing ended. "If you survive until summer solstice, you'll… be free then."

Alfred frowned. "C'mon, that's stupid. I'm a knight, the hero of Earncynn." Arthur's ears perked up at that. "What's stopping me from just leaving right-"

Arthur grabbed his arm, and his eyes grew dark and angry. "Moron! Do you have any idea what you're messing with here? The Unseelie Court could not care less if you're a knight or a bloody king."

He pulled out of Arthur's grasp, jumping to his feet, despite the pain. "You can't keep me here. You're just a-"

"I can, and I will!" Arthur got to his feet and roared, snatching Alfred's arm once more. "I refuse to watch another person die! I refuse to allow the Unseelie to kill another innocent human just so they can remind me of my place!"

Arthur was holding onto him with his other hand now; the one that Alfred had noticed looked stronger. And it was strong. Insanely so, and Alfred, even with his uncanny strength, struggled against it.

Not to mention, Alfred was in a ridiculous amount of pain. His back felt like a giant bruise, and his head throbbed. He sighed and relented. "This all sounds pretty crazy, I'm not going to lie."

Arthur huffed. "Didn't your parents ever warn you about the fae?"

"Well… yeah my mom told me lots of stories, just like every mom does, but… like I believed them, you know?"

The faerie-man mumbled something like 'git' under his breath. "Well they are very real, and they're very dangerous, I'll have you know. I'm an asset to the Unseelie court, or the Unblessed Court, if you know them by that name?"

Alfred nodded. "The evil ones?"

"Evil is a simplification, but yes, they are rather malicious most of the time," he replied. "I am the best longbow man in the world." He puffed up his chest in pride at that. "…And unfortunately, the fae agree with that. I didn't want to be a part of their court, and so they keep me here… imprisoned, and only allow me to leave when they need my skills for the hunt."

Alfred bit his lip and frowned. "That… stinks. So where do I come in?"

"At first I tried to escape their hold many times," he said, and Alfred swore his expression was a guilty one. "But they grew angry and eventually they decided that it was… necessary to continually remind me of their strength and power."

The knight moved to sit back down, and Arthur sat with him, still holding his arm. "And…?"

"Every spring, right after the spring equinox hunt, they lead one human into my prison."

"What's that supposed to prove? Can't they just wait here with you until the summer comes?" Alfred queried.

Arthur chuckled darkly. "Oh if only it were that easy." He ran a hand through his short, choppy hair. "What's your name?"

"It's Alfred, Sir Alfred Jones of Earncynn," he answered.



Arthur waved a hand and cleared his throat. "Never mind. Alfred, the fae can read your heart, and they will… try their best to tempt you and trick you into trying to leave. I don't know what they make you see, because I can't see it myself but…" he shuddered, "eight humans, mostly they use maidens, have been led into this clearing, and only two have survived until the solstice."

Alfred gulped. "But why would they- just to keep you from rebelling, they kill innocent people?"

"It doesn't matter what it takes, Alfred," Arthur murmured darkly. "They care not about life, as long as it means that it keeps me here and available for their use."

He allowed his hand to go lax on Alfred's arm.

Alfred slapped his hands on his knees. "I can save you."

Arthur's cheeks pinked at this (a fetching look, if Alfred dared to say), but he shook his head. "Don't be daft. Let's just focus on keeping you alive."

"But I mean it. I'm a hero."

"And let me show you around the clearing, Alfred. It will be your home for a long while, after all…"

Alfred stood up and followed him, half wondering if what Arthur said was true. It would be almost a fortnight before he discovered how real it all was…

He'd chosen to stay. He'd thought long and hard about it, the first day after he'd awoken, and in the end decided that well… Arthur obviously wasn't completely lying. There were magical elements about, and he couldn't deny that, as much as he wanted to.

Alfred was… out of his element here.

There was a stream leading into a small, deeper than it looked pond at the edge of the clearing. The pond was a pleasant enough temperature to bathe, and the spring water was drinkable. He'd never seen clearer water, more perfect and pristine, than it.

And the food every day was the same; various fruits from the trees, many types of which Alfred had never tasted. They were all ripe and perfect and delicious, but Alfred admittedly, longed for a platter of hot roast beef and roasted potatoes.

Arthur had another bed, further up in the boughs of the trees, for Alfred to sleep in. It was comfortable and soft, and the pleasing smell of grass and earth filled his nose as he dozed off every night.

The more time that Alfred spent in the clearing, the more he realized that it was in no way ordinary. The weather was always ideal, and the spring, which Alfred… never managed to find the source of, was always clean, and the fruits on the trees never diminished, no matter how much they ate. If he sat or lay down in the grass, the indentions caused by his body would always vanish within minutes.

All in all, it was… more agreeable than any prison he'd ever imagined.

It helped that the company wasn't bad.

Alfred glanced over at Arthur, his cheeks flushing a gentle pink. He was helping the faerie tend his garden, the beautiful array of flowers kept within the stone circle. Arthur had explained that the fae had allowed him at least this, to entertain himself in his prison.

It was an ever blooming garden, full of blossoms from every reach of the world, flowers from lands far beyond where his people had discovered. The scent was overpowering and intense, but Alfred had grown used to it over time.

It had been almost two weeks, after all.

Gardening wasn't exactly something Alfred had ever envisioned himself doing, but there weren't that many other things to do in the clearing. And… Arthur always got really into it. Plus, although his bruised back and mild concussion were almost healed, they still ached enough that he didn't feel like doing anything heavier.

Arthur was grumpy and sarcastic, and he scowled more often than not. Considering his situation, Alfred couldn't entirely blame him.

At first, Arthur wouldn't talk to him much. He gave him answers when he asked questions, but he avoided engaging in lengthy conversations, and he scoffed when Alfred would go on a tangent (which was quite often).

But over time, perhaps because Alfred was so persistent, Arthur finally began to talk more. The two fell into an easy, comfortable banter, and both of them were shocked out how quickly the awkwardness dropped away.

Arthur began to loosen up, and every once in a while, something Alfred said would even make him smile or laugh lightly, which always caused warmth to pool in the knight's stomach and a beaming grin to cross his face.

Alfred's biggest accomplishment, he thought, was when he'd managed to pull Arthur into the pond, fully clad, for an intense splash fight. He'd sputtered and yelped and grumbled and fought it at first, but then he'd smirked and shoved an enormous splash of water at Alfred.

He'd cheered and splashed him back, and a competitive but playful battle had commenced.

It had ended with them both on the side of the pond, out of breath and laughing. That evening they'd dried themselves around a small campfire, sharing fire-baked fruits as they did so.

If they were going to be imprisoned, Alfred had explained that night, they may as well make the best of it.

Arthur's eyes had widened, and it had looked like he was going to argue, but then his expression had settled into a small, barely there smile.

The fae had tried to tempt him, just as Arthur had warned. The first time it had been a cake, Alfred's favorite kind, placed directly outside the clearing.

It looked delicious, but he'd given it an odd look and merely walked away. "A cake, sitting in the middle of the woods?" he'd told Arthur. "Who would fall for that?"

The faerie had looked rueful before shaking his head. "It's a bit ludicrous, but… they start out small, you know? Little temptations that don't require much magic on their part. If they can get you to leave without doing much work, it's easier for them." Then he'd grasped Alfred's forearm and frowned. "But… it will get much worse. Be careful. Whatever you see, whatever you hear, don't pay it any mind."

Arthur was right. A few days later, after exiting the pond, he'd seen movement in the woods. Within moments, Centaurus had trotted out, his saddle sideways, battered from disuse. His mane was littered with twigs and his fur was muddy, and Alfred had almost leapt out unthinkingly to greet his beloved stallion.

He'd whinnied and made eye contact with Alfred, padding the ground sadly with one front hoof. His eyes were lonely, larger looking than usual, and Alfred had thought… if he could reach out just once to pat and comfort his Centaurus.

Alfred had reached out his hand, a comforting smile on his lips.

And stopped.

It's not him. It can't be.

But it looks so much like…

Alfred then shook his head. "If it were him, he'd try to cross into the clearing, right? Why wouldn't he?"

Listen to Arthur…

He'd walked away, and within a few steps, the whinnying and scampering of his horse vanished.

Gardening wasn't as bad as he thought it would be. It was fun to use his hands, to dig in the soil and plant new seeds. And because of the magic of the clearing, the results were… almost instantaneous. Flowers blossomed within days. Alfred wondered how he hadn't run out of his space, considering how quickly the flowers grew.

"They blossom swiftly, but that also means… they die sooner," Arthur explained, patting a spot of earth. "Magic is like that. It's beautiful, but it's not usually quite as perfect as it first appears."

Alfred watched Arthur, watched as he ran his palm over the soil, smoothing it. The underneath of his fingernails were dirty, and his hands were callused, from both living in the wilderness and from using his longbow. He sat in the center of a patch of red and gold flowers; roses and something that Alfred couldn't identify, yellow petals surrounding a deeper golden bloom as if they were a wreath. There was a small smile on his face, and his green eyes were warm, almost content.

"Yeah… not so sure about that."

The faerie's eyes darted up, and his cheeks flushed brilliant scarlet.

Alfred's own eyes grew wide, and his face heated as a small part of him acknowledged… what he'd implied. He gestured in front of him.

"I just mean- you know, magic is pretty great. Like that spring and pond? It's amazing… and the fruit is good and… "

"Git," Arthur sighed, a frown crossing his lips, and went back to tending his garden.

Sometimes Alfred woke up in the middle of the night to voices, pleas of 'help me' and even crying from outside the barrier. The first few times, he left his bed, once coming face to face with a small child, balled up and crying, begging him to show her home.

It hurt him to turn away, but he did so. The voices still came, stronger, louder, and he steeled himself against it and ignored them, as much as his chivalrous nature protested at doing so.

Arthur always slept soundly through it, his light snores not even punctuated by Alfred's quiet departure from his higher bed in the tree.

But while most nights that it occurred, Alfred managed to tune out the whispers and voices upon the breeze, sometimes, when they were especially forlorn and miserable sounding, he struggled more with it. Those nights, he'd never go to see what was out there, too afraid of what he might find.

Those voices reminded him of ghosts, spirits of the dead weeping for his attention, and… Alfred's fear of ghosts was crippling. He had trouble sleeping those nights, and it took all of his will to not leap down into Arthur's bed and cuddle up against him.

Two and a half fortnights into his time with Arthur, one finally snapped his resolve. A voice on the wind, desperate, raw, nothing but a child, called his name, "Alfred."

He screamed, rather unheroically, and jumped into Arthur's bed, clinging on to the faerie's arm for dear life.

Arthur yelped and tried to pull away, but Alfred's grip was too strong. He opened his eyes and frowned, a flush crossing his cheeks. "W-what in the bloody hell are you doing? Are you barmy?"

In the moonlight, Alfred's eyes were huge and blue and terrified. "S-sorry. Thought I heard a ghost and…"

"There are no ghosts."

"Yeah, I know," he said. "But… sometimes the fae try to call me outside the barrier at night, and it sounds like ghosts and…"

He bit his lip, his face going pink. "I...can'treallysleep."

Arthur let out a puff of air, and his lips quirked up in a fond smile. "Well… I suppose that there's room for two in my bed."

The knight heaved a sigh of relief, loosening his hold on Arthur's arm. "Thanks…"

"Honestly, you can be such a child, Alfred," he replied with a chuckle.

"Shut up," Alfred whined. "It's scary!"

Arthur turned on his back, resting his arms behind his head and staring up at the moonlight peeking through the branches. Alfred followed suit.

But within moments, his eyes averted to Arthur instead. He tended to find staring at the faerie more… interesting than staring at the sky.

He was surprised to discover that Arthur had had the same idea and was watching him. They both blushed. Alfred cleared his throat.

"If it's… okay, I have a question…"

Arthur always avoided answering questions about his past. Alfred had told him a lot about himself, his history, his family, his experiences as a knight. Arthur had relayed anecdotes about his time in the fae's prison, and even some stories of the hunt, but little else.

Nothing about his life before the prison. And whenever Alfred brought it up, Arthur changed the subject immediately. He shoved aside the idea of asking it again tonight; instead deciding to bring up something else that had been bugging him.

"Well, spit it out."

Alfred nodded. "I was just wondering… you said that the fae almost always sent maidens in here. Why maidens? And well… I'm not a maiden so…"

"Quite obviously," he chortled, and Alfred was definitely imagining the way Arthur raked his eyes appreciatively over his form. "And… I suppose because they wanted me to fall in love with one of them. It would… hurt more if they died then."

"That's… cruel," Alfred rasped, his lips forming into a thin line. He hesitated before continuing, "Did you ever… fall in love?"

"Never," he answered. "I befriended a few of them. One of those women even survived. I hope she's doing all right now. She deserved it…"

Alfred's frown intensified, and he reached over, gently patting Arthur's arm. "But… you said there were guys too?"

"Just one boy," the faerie said, his voice going quieter. "A sweet young thing… last year. Perhaps they thought I'd bond more with a child, like a younger brother or some such."

He was almost afraid to ask the next question. "Did he- "

"He died," Arthur interrupted, his voice catching. "The first to go out of all of them."

He rubbed a hand over his eyes, but Alfred caught a glimpse of wetness before he did so. "Just a small child; lonely and scared, of course he was easily led out…"

Alfred found himself wrapping the smaller man in a fierce embrace, one arm around his center and the other soothingly, reassuringly, running his fingers through his short sandy blonde hair. "Arthur," he spoke into his shoulder, "oh… Arthur."

Arthur froze up for a moment, before returning the embrace, running his fingers in circles on Alfred's back.

"As for why you? I… imagine it's because all the women weren't doing the trick." He didn't elaborate on that, but Alfred had a feeling.

Seven weeks into Alfred's stay, his bruises were more than entirely healed now, and he felt as good and strong as new. Better, actually. Arthur explained that the fruits provided optimum physical strength, which the fae deemed necessary for him to stay in shape as their archer.

And it showed.

He'd never even seen Arthur's longbow before now, and upon thinking about it, he'd decided that it would be… kind of great to see who was touted as the best longbow man in the world in action.

There was a hole in the large tree, one that Alfred had noticed before but never investigated, and that's where Arthur hid his bow; almost as tall as Alfred, yew, with a bowstring of silk. It was a beautiful piece of weaponry, higher in quality than anything the knight had seen on the battlefield before.

"This clearing isn't even large enough to really show the strength of the longbow," Arthur lamented with a sigh. "But I can still shoot an arrow or two."

"Great," Alfred said, leaning back against on the rocks in the meadow.

Arthur's cheeks went pink, but he nodded.

He removed his shirt, pulling it off over his head as if it were nothing.

Alfred's blue eyes grew large and he fought a blush unsuccessfully.

It wasn't the first time he'd seen Arthur without a shirt, but watching him pick up his long bow and adjust it, nicking an arrow and pulling it back, showing the sinewy strength in his form as the muscles in his body tightened and firmed with the draw, was different.

A look of concentration was on his face, an almost intent fire in his eyes as he readied his weapon. Alfred gulped, because he'd seen that look so many times before; amongst his fellow knights. He assumed he also held that expression when he wielded his sword, the blade that was almost an extension of himself as a knight.

Alfred found that his throat felt a bit dry, and that his heart was beating faster than normal.

Arthur was… beautiful.

Strong and assured and… grumpy, yes, but also compassionate and intelligent and caring. Unexpectedly sweet and funny in his own odd way and…

Amazing to look at; really, really amazing.

Alfred was more than familiar with the pressure on of a man like him, a young man from a prestigious family, to marry. He'd met so many women, from sweet Katyusha to her harsher sister, Natalia. But none of them had ever ignited anything within him; no feelings outside friendly fondness, no attraction.

Maybe this was why.

Arthur let go of the bowstring, and the arrow flew, swift, precise, and perfect.

He never saw where it landed, because it went far outside the clearing. Not to mention, he wasn't paying that much attention to the arrow anyway.

"Wow, Arthur, that's really good," Alfred said, standing up and brushing his pants off.

Arthur tensed and lowered his bow, a flush on his face. "Well of course. They don't call me the best in the world for no reason."

Alfred laughed. "I'm pretty great as well!"

"At the longbow?"

"No, my sword. You know the one I was wearing when you found me?" Alfred said. He jogged over to the tree and swung up into the branches, grabbing his blade, which he stored on the far edge of his bed.

"Ah, yes. Considering that I see you polishing it every other day…" There was a wry smile on his face.

Alfred shrugged, jumping back down. "Gotta keep it nice and shiny and heroic."

Arthur cocked an eyebrow and crossed his arms. "Very well. Show me what you've got."

"But there's no-"

"If I can shoot at nothing, you can spar with the air."

The knight scratched the back of his head. "Fair enough…"

He hesitated for a moment before pulling off his shirt. It wasn't at all necessary, but if Arthur was going to show off his… body, it was only fair that Alfred do it right back.

Alfred glanced at Arthur, hoping for a reaction. He got one, in the form of a blush and a clearing of his throat.

"S-stop showing off and get on with it!"

"Stop what?" Alfred asked, blinking owlishly.

"Never mind…"

Alfred readied his position, closing his eyes for a moment and imagining a soldier across from him, perhaps one from the kingdom Earncynn was currently at war with, Carleswæn.

The knight's movements with his longsword were swift, powerful, intensely strong, but not what one would call graceful. He was an unpredictable opponent, he'd been told, with an eye for strategy and possibly too much courage for his own good. And it showed in the way he moved, the way he stepped and slashed and struck.

Arthur looked suitably impressed when he had finished, and Alfred beamed widely at that.

He stabbed the sword into the ground and rested his elbow on the hilt, attempting a confident smirk. "Pretty great, huh?"

"Q-quite good," Arthur responded, with a slight cough and a flush on his cheeks.

Alfred pulled the sword out of the ground and held it in front of him once more. "Y'know what Arthur?"

"Yes?" Arthur stepped closer to him, his quiver on his back and his longbow still in hand. He was still shirtless, and Alfred's face reddened. He was mere inches from him now, and he looked-

A glance up to one of Arthur's gently pointed ears interrupted that pattern of thought.

He was a faerie.

Alfred sighed, berating himself inwardly for not realizing it sooner. Not that he was a faerie. He'd realized that on the first day. But that…

His mother had told him so many tales as a child, of the fae and their courts. And although he had believed them all to be mere stories, he still recalled them.

A faerie's beauty will draw you to them. It is merely a part of their existence, of their natural magic. One look at a member of the fae, one stare into their green eyes, and you can so easily become captured.

He tried not to look at Arthur, tried not to stare into his deep green eyes, the color of the grass and the leaves that filled the clearing, all of it built by magic.

It's only human of us to be attracted to magic, for it is something beyond what we can understand and what we are…

"Alfred?" Arthur queried, looking at him quizzically.

And even with that realization, he still couldn't stop seeing Arthur as beautiful. Damn.

"Oh I was just thinking," he faked a laugh, awkward, "we'd make a pretty good team, huh?" He swallowed something thick and heavy in his throat and tried to laugh again. "Of course I'd be better but…"

"S-shut it," Arthur stuttered. He shifted, looking nervous. "Although… I suppose we would."

"Yeah," Alfred sighed. "Too bad," he murmured.

"Too bad about what?" Arthur raised an eyebrow.

"That we're stuck in here, of course," Alfred lied.

"O-oh… right. Suppose I'll be putting my longbow back then…"

"Y-yeah… same."

Alfred felt his heart clench, and something prickled at the corner of his eyes.

It wasn't real, was it?