“Your Majesty, some pressing matters have surfaced amongst the servants,” The lady spoke as she arranged the portable wooden table in front of the king. Her face was facing the floor as if she was afraid to meet his gaze.
Lee Guk raised an eyebrow at her act and glanced at the royal cuisine spread out before him. There are a few sesame rice cakes served tonight- he picked up the dish and set it aside for now.
“What is it that caught their interests?” he questioned Seunghee and poured himself some ginger tea, “Does it have to do with what the lords have been buzzing over these past few weeks?”
The Head Kitchen Maid sighed at his unamused tone, “You know how gossip spreads, my king.”
“Like wildfire,” Guk tapped his fingers on his ceramic cup, “it’s inevitable.”
They stayed like that for a few moments, with Seunghee rearranging the dried persimmons on the plate and Guk staring wryly at the quivering surface of his drink. Dinner was a warm, private occasion he shared with his people- a handful number of subjects, really.
They tended to stay away from serious topics during dinner. It was the only time the palace ever let them be, hence it was Guk’s favourite time of the day.
Enter Sooho, with his military garb and his hat tucked under his upper arm. The tall man smiled at both the king and Seunghee before taking a seat hurriedly across from where Guk sat.
“Am I late?” he looked around the chamber only to smile wider, “I’m not the latest!”
“Listen to him being proud,” The maid commented on the side.
“Where’s the latest one then?” Guk asked airily, smiling back at Sooho’s deflated reaction to Seunghee. “Is he still out or-” he paused, “What is he even doing this late?”
Sooho snorted as he chucked his sword to the corner of the room, “We went riding to check on the eastern borders earlier and his horse-“
“Param,” the king tacked on absentmindedly.
“Yes,” Sooho rolled his eyes at the correction, “Param’s front shoe fell out- turned out that the nails were loose. So I guess he’s fixing her up right about now.”
Guk nodded. Knowing how the other is, it wouldn’t be strange that animals would come as a higher priority than eating dinner. He took a tray Seunghee had carried in earlier and placed some of the rice cakes he’d set aside along with a few other dishes. He left the soup and grilled meat for starving Sooho to devour.
“Is he in the stables?” Guk asked as he counted the number of plates on the tray. That should be enough, he thought.
His General nodded eagerly, moving his chopsticks to pick up a slab of meat. Seunghee slapped his hands away and moved the food to Guk’s plate, “Your Majesty, he’d come soon enough,” she said exasperatedly, “You don’t need to go all the way there-“
“I’m going, Seunghee.” He chuckled quietly at her conflicted expression, “And don’t send servants running after me,” the king reminded as he stood up- balancing the tray in his hands.
“I…” Seunghee sighed in defeat once she saw the goofy smile he had on his face, “Don’t feed him any sweets before dinner, sire.”
Guk laughed heartily at her words, thinking that it sounded as if she was referring to a pet. He yelled out his promises- not intending to keep them whatsoever.
As soon as he stepped out of his chamber, Guk felt the warmth being stripped off of his skin, leaving him with the chilly breeze of the palace grounds. He ducked his head, having left his crown in the room, and walked stealthily across the yards.
The moonlight guided him, letting him see the winded paths and coating the palace with a sombre colour. He looked up slightly as he stepped on the cobblestoned walkway- witnessing the magnificence of the starry sky above them all.
“You really should have seen this,” he said with a tiny smile, shaking his head right after and carrying the assorted food in his hands.
When he finally reached the royal stables, Guk saw how the lights were turned on- the fire flickering as a shadow moved restlessly across it. The king stepped into the doorway and beheld the person he was searching for- bent next to a whiny steed with a chestnut mane. His straight eyebrows are knitted close in focus as his hands worked to tap the metal horseshoe tightly.
Guk set the tray on a nearby crate and silently walked to where the man was crouching, hoping to surprise him. When Param glanced at him, the king put a finger onto his lips to warn the horse from making a sound. Still, she huffed at him.
“Gukkie?” a deep voice called out, right before the man in front of him turned his head around, an excited smile adorning his face. The king glared at the horse for giving him away and it resulted in the other man’s laughter.
“Stop laughing, Hansung.” he said with no real bite, “Aren’t you supposed to be my personal guard?” Guk crossed his arms in front of his chest, “Why are you leaving me alone to eat dinner? What if I was poisoned?”
“Is it already dinner time?” the man’s eyes turned wide with realisation, “I… I didn’t realise.” He stood up with a start, brushing his clothes with a dusty hand hurriedly, “Let’s go back then.”
Guk took the other’s frantic hands in his and guided him to where the crate was, ignoring the other’s protests about his hands being dirty. To emphasize this, he pulled their hands up and planted a kiss onto the back of Hansung’s palm. This managed to stop the stream of protests and the king made them both sit onto a thick stack of hay.
“Gukkie… I was touching a horse with these hands,” Hansung averted his eyes away as his cheeks grew a warm shade of red.
“I don’t think Param minds,” he replied cheekily, pulling the tray to where they were sitting. Hansung scoffed at him and muttered a ‘you know that’s not what I meant’ before looking over to the item Guk brought around. “I got us dinner,” said the king.
The guard stared at the delicacies with a happy grin, already thrilled by the thought of food. He hadn’t realised he was hungry. “Here,” Guk lifted a rice cake with his chopsticks to the other’s mouth, “I saved your favourite.”
Hansung’s eyes crossed to look at the sesame treat the other was holding in front of him. He gave the king a brief, fond look before snorting in amusement, “I can manage to eat by myself, Your Highness.”
“As you said, you were touching a horse.” Guk replied effortlessly, a smug expression making its way to his face, “Thus, I shall feed you.” He nudged the other’s lips with the rice cake, prompting it to open.
“Have it your way then, you sneak,” Hansung bit onto the desert and chewed it, glaring at Guk playfully as he did. He looked down at the dishes and hummed happily at the sight of raw fish. The king shook his head with a smile as he ate a few spoonfuls of porridge.
Eating dinner with Hansung had always been his favourite pastime. Sitting there outside of the stables and sharing meals together was worth every torment he had to face when he sat on the throne. Which, as the days passed, becomes harder to bear.
“Are you sure we shouldn’t have just gone back to eat with Sooho?” Hansung quipped as he was fed another piece of raw, seasoned beef. “He’s getting married soon isn’t he?” he struggled to keep his mouth closed as he spoke, “We wouldn’t be able to eat dinner with him much longer.”
Guk was again, reminded of the General’s engagement to one of the Admiral’s daughters. They were suitable for each other, and also, conveniently in love. It was the perfect opportunity for both of their families since they had military titles. A perfect betrothal.
“He’ll manage.” The king said easily, picking up another piece of kimchi with his chopsticks, “It’s not like he’s going to leave us entirely.”
“No, he’s just getting married,” Hansung said with a little bitterness, “no big deal.”
Guk paused at the other’s antagonized tone and he looked up to see Hansung shifting uncomfortably in his seat. “Do you have something you want to tell me, Hansung-ah?”
His lover stopped his fidgeting, biting his lips in an act of hesitance, “Nothing.”
“We both know it’s not nothing.” He placed the chopsticks down on the tray, setting the food aside to face Hansung. The latter sighed in frustration, hands fisted the strands of prickly hay under them.
“Then that means we both know what it is,” The older man said evenly, “I think we should stop tiptoeing around it, don’t you?”
“Hansung, not this again please-“
The other evaded his touch, scooting back on his seat to increase the little space they had between them. “We have to talk about this, Guk!” he almost yelled out, “Do you know how much it hurts me to just think about it? I… I can’t pretend for you anymore!” Hansung took a sharp breath at the words he’d restrained in the deepest, darkest parts of his mind, “I can’t pretend to not listen to what everyone is saying… I can’t pretend to not care and… a-and I can’t pretend I’m happy all the time.”
Guk’s heart squeezed painfully at the last sentence, watching how much pain he’d exposed to Hansung just by loving him. “You don’t have to, okay?” he begged, too afraid to touch his lover just in case it might damage him further, “It’s my fault, I’m sorry Hansung,” the king choked out, “I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Hansung wiped his tears angrily, “Heavens be damned, I still love you.” A bitter, almost painful smile on his face, “We’re both to blame.”
The king watched as the other stood up, following him soon after. Hansung was laughing to himself softly, face turned up at the sky above them, “That’s it, isn’t it?” he said, “That’s the problem. I’d still love you no matter what.”
Guk stayed silent, letting the other’s words float around the cold air surrounding them.
“Just get it over with, Gukkie.” Hansung fixed his vision on the king’s conflicted expression, “I know who’s visiting in three days’ time.” He blinked rapidly to keep the tears at bay, “I know you have no other choice.”
Guk lifted a hand to cup Hansung’s dried cheek, “My choice will always be you- you know that.”
“I do, but who else does?” he held onto the king’s wrist with trembling fingers, looking lost and confused. “They’re sending the princess here to be wed, Gukkie. She’s to be wed with a king.”
“Hansung- it’s only a visit,” he reassured, moving his hand to rub the back of the other’s neck in comfort, “I won’t let it become anything else.”
Not convinced, the king’s guard gritted his jaw in a feeble attempt to keep himself calm, “It’s inevitable.”
“Stop,” Guk took the man before him in an embrace, burying his face into the crook of his neck and feeling his heart shatter when Hansung did nothing to return it, “Just- stop. I-I’m not losing you again. Please, I don’t want to lose you. I won’t let them-“
“Shh, Gukkie,” Hansung moved a hand up and down his back, “There are things even a king cannot change.” He said in a broken whisper, “It’s not your fault.”
But it was. Guk knew that it was.
Everything was caused by his own inability to choose between the love for his country and the love of his life. Without realising it, he was hurting Hansung, and that was something he’d vowed never to do.
He was a king who loves his country, but at what cost?
“I love you, Hansung-ah,” his fingers clutched onto the fabric of the other’s robe, feeling the warmth of the other’s skin through it, “and I’ll find a way to keep on loving you.”
A promise he hoped to fulfil.
Taehyung looked around the venue, lifting his dark aviators with a hand as he squinted his eyes to scan the crowd and the empty stage up front. The sun was relentless- shining brightly up in the sky like it was no one’s business.
He craned his neck to look over the row of heads in front of him and searched for his boyfriend in the throng of students- it wasn’t easy to tell them apart from the matching graduation robes and caps. Everyone was seated in the front row and Taehyung tried his best to spot the back of Jeongguk’s head from where he was sitting.
The Dean was droning through his speech on the stage- speaking to impress the parents and guardians present- convincing them that their money was well spent. Taehyung paid him no mind.
At last, he managed to find Jeongguk who was talking discreetly with someone sitting next to him. If Taehyung wasn’t mistaken, the boy’s name was Yogyeom. He probably was mistaken.
Automatically, like the model boyfriend he was, Taehyung lifted the camera he was holding to capture the moment. Jeongguk’s side profile was caught in the picture- mouth opened slightly in a whisper and his eyes mischievous as he conversed with his friend. Taehyung smiled fondly at the photo and saved it before proceeding to snap more memories.
When he was about to click another one, Younggyeom- or whatever- noticed his action with a smirk, nudging Jeongguk and pointing at Taehyung with a teasing attitude.
Jeongguk’s eyes searched for a bit before settling on his boyfriend sitting in the audience. His face brightened up considerably, a happy smile stretching to push his cheeks up. They were rosy from the heat of the sun, and Taehyung grinned as he took another shot.
“It’s a keeper,” he muttered to himself when he inspected the photo.
The Dean’s and Chairman’s speeches took forever, but Taehyung managed to sit through them without dozing off (blame the heat) just until Jeongguk’s name was called on stage.
A chorus of cheers followed as Jeon Jeongguk, now a Bachelor of Computer Science, walked towards the podium to receive his diploma. He shook hands with the man before taking the folder and facing the photographer.
Taehyung heard Jimin yell out an over-enthusiastic “OWN IT JEONGGUK! THAT’S MY COUSIN!” in a heavy Busan accent. He laughed as Jeongguk’s parents joined in the cheering, making the boy on stage blush profusely.
Despite the commotion, Jeongguk remembered to turn to Taehyung and held out a finger-heart to pose for the latter. Taehyung, as expected, took a dozen shots as his boyfriend’s blush worsened.
When the ceremony was over, and the hats had been thrown to mark the end of it, Taehyung rushed to his boyfriend’s side. He’d found Jeongguk being coddled by his mom and dad- protesting shyly in their hold.
“Jeonggukie!” He exclaimed, opening his arms to welcome the boy. “Congratulations, baby!”
Jeongguk’s mom snickered when her son almost leaped into the other’s arms. She gave an endearing nod at Taehyung and winked before pulling her husband away to give them space. Oh, was Taehyung grateful for her existence.
“Tae, oh my god, you came!” Jeongguk said elatedly, squeezing his boyfriend in a hug before moving to kiss him on the cheek. “You went all the way from Seoul- oh my god!”
The older one laughed, cradling Jeongguk’s head as he patted it lovingly, “Wow, you really have the worst expectations of me- how can I miss my own baby’s graduation?”
“Hyung,” Jeongguk rolled his eyes good-naturedly, “Since when did you come?”
Taehyung pinched his cheek as he cooed, “I hitched a ride with Jimin yesterday- thought I’d pay your hometown a visit.” He looked at the younger’s beaming face and smiled, “Busan air looks good on you, Jeonggukie.”
“It’s salty, just like him,” Jimin added evilly from the side, suddenly appearing next to the couple. “Come on now, break it up! I didn’t remember signing up to become a third wheel. Honestly, you guys. You’re the absolute worst.”
“Is that a poor, single person’s cry of help I’m hearing?” Jeongguk smirked as he nuzzled his nose against Taehyung’s temple. The latter laughed and indulged him by squeezing the nape of his neck, earning a pleased hum from his boyfriend.
Taehyung gave Jimin an apologetic smile when the other’s face soured, but did nothing to peel Jeongguk off of him.
“So you’re officially moving in to Seoul now, right?” Jimin asked, hoping to change the topic.
Jeongguk nodded, letting Taehyung answer it instead, “Yeah, Gukkie’s moving in with me after this,” he laughed at his boyfriend’s enthusiastic nods, “My apartment’s close to where he’s interning… so it works for both of us.”
“Thank God I moved out,” His bestfriend sighed, “I couldn’t even imagine living together with your disgusting asses.”
“There’s that cry of help again,” Jeongguk snorted at Jimin’s annoyance, “am I just hearing things babe?”
Taehyung, wary of Jimin’s wrath, covered Jeongguk’s mouth with his palm, muffling the near insults the other was spouting at his cousin.
Jimin glared at them one more time before shoving his bouquet at Taehyung and claiming that he’d go to search for Jeongguk’s parents. He didn’t leave out the ‘watch out, brat’ he saved for Jeongguk as he left.
“You know, I think we should go find your parents too,” Taehyung hummed as his fingers played absentmindedly with the other’s hair, “They planned a celebratory dinner at your house.”
“Ah, you’re right,” Jeongguk agreed, a little bit regretful as he pulled away from his boyfriend, “but before that… let’s take a picture together.”
Taehyung watched as Jeongguk called out to his friend, “Yugyeom!” Oh, that’s what it was, “Take a photo for us!”
A tall kid with auburn hair walked around the crowd to give Jeongguk a playful glare, “What happened to please and thank you, asshole?”
“Thank you Yugyeom,” Taehyung smiled brightly, reminding the boy of his presence. Yugyeom looked at the couple before sighing and snatching the vintage camera from Jeongguk’s outstretched hand, “God, you guys are so adorable it’s sickening.”
Jeongguk smiled smugly, “Yeah, what’s new.”
Ignoring the jib, Yugyeom stepped back to get a good angle and focused the camera before asking the couple if they’re ready. Taehyung looped an arm around Jeongguk’s shoulders and felt his boyfriend wrap his arms around his waist. He brought the yellow and cream coloured bouquet closer to their faces with his free hand and smiled for the camera. Next to him, Jeongguk did the same.
“Alright, now one, two… cheese!” Yugyeom spoke, and just as the camera flashed, Taehyung turned his head towards his boyfriend’s cheek as a surprise, only to land his lips on the other’s mouth.
It seemed that Jeongguk had the same thought in mind.
They broke apart laughing at one another and at the silliness of the situation, that was, until Jeongguk moved to capture Taehyung’s lips in a kiss- a real one this time- moving their mouths in tandem as he deepened their kiss.
Jeongguk stole his breath away, and the heat of the sunrays were warming the top of their heads, but Taehyung was so, so lost in love he didn’t quite care. Jeongguk started laughing into Taehyung’s mouth again and the latter bit his lower lip in return.
“Goodness, what is this,” Yugyeom’s voice was slightly revolted, “I didn’t sign up for this.”
Jeongguk didn’t spare a glance at his victimised friend, “Hmm, he’d get along well with Jimin hyung.”
Taehyung stopped himself from smiling at the comment and turned to Yugyeom to retrieve his camera. As Jeongguk refused to thank his friend in the background, Taehyung scrolled through the pictures they’d taken.
One. Smiling with Jeongguk at the camera in their previous pose.
Two. Their heads a little blurred in motion as they crashed their lips together. It looked messy.
Three. Taehyung backing up and Jeongguk openly laughing, his eyes crinkling at the corners.
Yugyeom didn’t hold back from taking a lot of pictures- since there are a lot of other ones which are either blurred or contained derp faces from either Taehyung or Jeongguk. He smiled softly as he scrolled through the pictures, not deleting any of them.
They looked happy.
“Babe,” Jeongguk squinted outside the car window to see the street signs lined across the darkened streets, “I thought we were heading back for Seoul.”
“So?” Taehyung chirped from the driver’s seat, sounding all too pleased with himself.
“So why are we turning to Gimpo Airport?”
Taehyung wiggled his head, his striking red locks bouncing as he did. Jeongguk couldn’t help but stare a little, transfixed by the new hair colour the other decided to try recently.
“Technically, that’s still in Seoul,” he chuckled at Jeongguk’s puzzled look, “I wasn’t bluffing.”
The younger man gazed at him in a suspicious manner, “You’re planning something.” He gasped at Taehyung’s widening grin, “No- you’ve planned something!” his eyes wandered around the car frantically, “Where are we going?”
Taehyung hummed, “How cute,” he said as he drove past a taxi, “It’s not like I’m kidnapping you.”
“You might as well have,” the other huffed in his seat, “Tae, seriously, where are we going?”
“You just graduated Gukkie, live a little!” The words were followed with a mischievous wink and Jeongguk didn’t know if he should be worried or excited for what’s to come.
When they arrived at the airport, Taehyung revealed that Jeongguk’s mom had conspired together with him by packing the younger man’s clothes for the trip. Jeongguk swore his mother liked Taehyung better than her own son.
They checked-in their baggage into the Airline and he blinked at the plane tickets that were handed to him.
탑승권 [BOARDING PASS]
성명 (Name) 전정국 (Jeong-Guk Jeon)
From/To 김포 (GIMPO) >>> 제주 (JEJU)
편명 (Flight) 7B0613
날짜 (Date) 07JUN
출발시각 (Dep) 20:00
“We’re going to Jeju?” Jeongguk stuttered, feeling a teensy bit overwhelmed. “As… as in the island?”
Taehyung smirked at the other’s flustered tone, “The one and only, silly.” He grabbed Jeongguk’s hand to pull him further into the airport, “I have so many things planned for us to do there!”
Everything felt nostalgic to Jeongguk, “You and your date-plans.”
“Hey, I don’t see you complaining, do I?” he grinned, proving himself correct when all his boyfriend did in response was chuckle incredulously.
Alas, it didn’t go as Taehyung expected it to- with their flight being delayed for a whole hour. He moped around saying that they’ve got Murphy’s Law and that the next thing they know, Jeju would be filled with thunderstorms.
Jeongguk laughed at the other’s sulking and pulled him inside a minimarket to buy him gummy bears. It cheered Taehyung up slightly, but as soon as Asiana announced they’d need another fifteen minutes for plane maintenance, Taehyung flipped and expressed his hatred towards all airlines by tweeting his rants.
“Why is the Wi-Fi here so damn slow?!” The redhead raged as the tweet buffered from sending.
Jeongguk actually thanked his ancestors once the airport building echoed their flight’s boarding announcement. Taehyung begrudgingly submitted his boarding pass to the staff and harrumphed inside the trunk leading to the plane, leaving Jeongguk to smile sheepishly at the lady as he passed through.
Taehyung was in a considerably better mood once they’ve settled in their seats. “Jeonggukie, you sit next to the window,” he’d said, “I don’t like heights.” So with an over exaggerated eye-roll, the younger moved to the said seat, laughing when Taehyung slapped his back lightly.
The flight ended faster compared to the time they’d spent waiting in the airport. Taehyung used Jeongguk’s shoulder to sleep on, ignoring the two little pillows he’d ask the air hostess for. They shared an earphone that was attached to the younger man’s phone, but Jeongguk ended up playing games on it when Taehyung fell asleep.
Jeongguk was in the middle of taking selfies with his sleeping boyfriend- two fingers up the latter’s nostrils as he smiled at the screen- when the captain announced their landing.
The plane jostled as it reached the ground and Taehyung threw an alarmed hand across Jeongguk’s waist, blinking up from his sleep in alert. Being a good boyfriend, Jeongguk laughed as he recorded the other’s reaction in Snapchat, saving it afterwards.
Taehyung noticed what he was doing and refused to talk to Jeongguk until they arrived at the baggage claim area. “I rented a car,” is all he said, looking curt as he turned to walk out of the airport. Jeongguk struggled to keep up with him as he pushed their luggage in a trolley.
Jeongguk offered to drive, finally earning Taehyung’s forgiveness and a quick peck on the cheek. He watched his boyfriend disappear into the passenger seat and collapse almost immediately after putting on his seatbelt.
Using a GPS and Taehyung’s notes, Jeongguk navigated through the island to find their hotel. The roads were dark and wet from the slight drizzle of rain (maybe Taehyung wasn’t wrong about Murphy’s Law) so he had to pull up a few times to study the digital map.
When they arrived in front of the hotel, Jeongguk was greeted with a valet and he gathered their phones and Taehyung’s notebook in his hands before nudging the other awake. Taehyung, still dazed with sleep, only nodded absently as he slid out of the car door. Jeongguk snorted at his antics.
Leaving the car and luggage to the hotel staff, Jeongguk opened Taehyung’s notebooks to see the check in details for the room they’ve booked. He wasn’t sure whether it was under his name or Taehyung’s.
What he found instead made him smile.
--------Jeju Trip Extravaganza-------
- Visit Tangerine Farm and eat err-thing.
- Hike Mt. Halla (bcs Jeonggukie is a gym rat)
- Canola Field (MUST!!)
- Go to Horse Park
- Visit 3-D Art Museum (bring camera!! And Jeonggukie)
- Beach beach beach
- Convince Jeongguk to extend our stay.
He looked over to his boyfriend who was knocked out on one of the hotel’s sofas and shook his head, flipping the pages again to search for the hotel notes.
“Hello, can I help you?” a man said pleasantly as he approached the reception. Jeongguk nodded and tore his gaze from the book, “Uhm, yeah. We’re here with a reservation under the name Kim Taehyung?”
“Kim Taehyung,” the man repeated as he looked over his monitor, his hand scrolling across the screen, “Ah, yes. The Honeymoon Package reservation for Mr Kim Taehyung,” he smiled at Jeongguk, “Congratulations, by the way.”
Jeongguk felt his eyes widen at the man’s words, “H-honeymoon…” he looked to where Taehyung was previously sleeping and saw that the other man was wide awake, his lips pulled up in a cat-like grin. “Kim Taehyung.” He bit the insides of his cheeks and faced the staff once more. “Yes, that’s the one.”
“Alright sir, this would be your room,” the man slid a card on the table, “The honeymoon package includes complimentary breakfasts for two. You would be required to check out in five days, and we hope you enjoy your stay.”
Jeongguk swallowed at the word.
“W… Wi-Fi password?” he let out rather lamely, a burning want to smack the grin right off Taehyung’s face.
As soon as he was done checking them in (and connecting his phone to the internet), Jeongguk strode to his awaiting boyfriend and glared at him, “Uhm? Hello?” he tossed his hands up, “You could’ve warned me?!”
“It was fun watching you suffer,” Taehyung stood up from his seat and slung a lazy arm around Jeongguk’s bicep, “Let’s go, baby. I’m tired.”
“Nu-uh,” Jeongguk pulled away slightly, “Don’t baby me.” He watched, with his best poker face, as Taehyung pouted, “Why did you get us a Honeymoon Suite?”
“There was a discount,” the older man whined, “Plus, complimentary breakfasts, Jeonggukie! Free food!”
Jeongguk sighed as they walked into the elevator together, letting Taehyung rest his weight onto his arm. He felt his heartbeat picking up its pace and hoped that his boyfriend wouldn’t notice.
The thing is, Jeongguk asked the receptionist earlier if there were any special promo’s and discounts for the Honeymoon Suite, guessing that was why Taehyung opted for the room.
“No, sir. We do not have discounts for the Honeymoon Package.” Was the man’s answer, his polite voice repeating itself over and over again in Jeongguk’s brain like a broken recording.
Guk eyed the palanquin being carried onto the palace grounds, noticing the obvious display of wealth from how magnificently the servants were dressed. They were either donned in gold or red, carrying banners with the Ming Royal Family Crest on them.
“Worried?” a female voice drawled next to him. He turned his head to the side to face his Imperial Mother. On these rare occasions, she’d come out of her solitude, having to go forth with her duty to welcome to royal guests. Her face was sunken in from the lack of food she was consuming and Guk’s eyes flitted at the heavy necklaces hung onto her thin, frail neck.
“Why should I be?” the king answered in a neutral tone, still keeping in mind Hansung’s presence behind him.
They were all standing in wait as the Ming Princess was escorted in. Everyone had made it a spectacle, gathering every royal family member to welcome the girl. He looked at all his cousins, uncles and aunts, not having seen them in quite a while.
“Oh, you know why, Your Highness.” His stepmother said in amusement, “If I’m not mistaking the High Emperor’s intentions, this might as well be the first time you’ll meet your future bride.”
Hansung shifted on his feet behind him, inhaling a deep breath that was audible to the king’s ears.
“We can’t be so sure now, Your Grace.” Sooho interrupted from where he stood. Guk saw the General’s comforting smile, feeling the weight on his chest easing a little.
The Empress Dowager scoffed at his words, “You’re in denial.” Her sharp eyes were trained on the king, making him feel unnerved from the receiving end, “All of you are.”
To Taehyung’s utter horror, the tangerine farm wasn’t in season, thus leaving them with a vast field of green, fruitless trees with fake tangerine decorations hung onto the branches.
Deciding not to waste their effort of visiting the plantation, Taehyung insisted that they take pictures with the plastic fruits. Jeongguk had wondered why his boyfriend was so adamant about spending time in the fruitless patch until he saw the other typing ‘do tangerines and oranges have the same flower’ into his Naver search bar.
Taehyung discovered that yes, they did have similar looking flowers, and that was enough reason for them to stay longer than Jeongguk would have liked.
When Jeongguk was paying for the chocolate covered tangerines he’d gotten for his mom, a large, black-winged butterfly fluttered onto his nose out of nowhere. The younger man supressed a terrified scream as his eyes crossed to look at the scary face of the insect.
“T-Tae! Oh my God, it’s hideous up-close!” he yelled, throwing his pride out the window, “Get it off, get it off oh my God, I don’t wanna touch it!”
Instead of helping him or making fun of him, Taehyung just stood there, mesmerized at the sight of the butterfly. Jeongguk was about to shout at his muted boyfriend when a tear dropped down his cheek.
The butterfly flapped its wings away from Jeongguk’s face and flew over to Taehyung, circling above his head before flying out of sight.
Taehyung’s eyes were brimmed with tears as he laughed, laughed, and laughed some more. He crouched down to the ground and covered his face with his hands, a weak string of laughter out his lips.
“Babe… Taehyung… w-what’s wrong?” Jeongguk sat down next to him, a crease between his eyebrows forming in worry. “Tae-“
The words stopped when Taehyung pulled out something from his shirt pocket- a small, cream coloured talisman with orange blossoms embroidered all over it. Jeongguk’s eyes took in the black butterfly floating above the flowers- an addition to the design of the charm.
“It… it appeared after you left,” Taehyung’s nose was pink from the crying, “and I thought you were never coming back… b-but you did…” his voice cracked a little, “You came back.”
Jeongguk laughed softly at the other’s crying face, ruffling his crimson hair fondly with a hand, “Now you’re the silly one. Of course I’d come back.” He wiped the other’s tears gently with the inside of his wrist, “Always.”
Taehyung nodded, remembering their promise, “Me too.”
“Sooho, what should I do?” he asked under the privacy of his throne room, the conversation remained only for his and the General’s ears alone.
The latter looked away, “Whatever causes less damage, Your Majesty.”
“Jeonggukie,” Taehyung panted, his face red with exhaustion as he reached out his hand, “Water… give me.”
A worried crease appeared between Jeongguk’s eyebrows as he watched his boyfriend crouch onto the earthy walk-way. They haven’t even gotten that far, but the other was already in a terrible shape to begin with. “Are you sure you don’t wanna go back?” The younger man pried as he passed the water bottle (which was already half empty no thanks to Taehyung) into his hands.
“No!” The man pushed his red, sweaty locks out of his forehead, “I said we were going to climb up this mountain so we will!” he gulped the water greedily which made Jeongguk sigh, “I promised Nana I’d take pictures!”
“This is gonna take forever, babe.” Jeongguk deadpanned, letting Taehyung take his hands as they began walking again. “You don’t have to force yourself like this… I’m fine, really. I don’t need to hike a stupid mountain-“
Taehyung glared at him, a sheen of sweat matting his golden skin, “You don’t trust I can do this?!” his loud volume attracted the attention of some nearby grandmas that were strolling by. “What- am I weak, Jeon Jeongguk?” he challenged as the other tried shushing him down, “DO I LOOK WEAK TO YOU SON.”
“Oh fuck, please, stop.”
The redhead gave him a little huff and brushed past his shoulder tauntingly. Too bad Jeongguk could only find it cute.
“See you at the top, Jeon.” Taehyung smirked, running ahead up the trekking path and leaving Jeongguk agape as his shiny red hair bounced out of sight.
Jeongguk inhaled slowly and shook his head, starting his walk again without Taehyung. He looked at the little map he got at the tourist information centre and circled a few photo ops, ready to test out his new camera that he’d let dangle around his neck.
The view was extraordinary, really. It was just a shame that Jeongguk was too focused in staying alive as he walked up the steep steps and the un-ending trekking trail. He wondered how Taehyung was managing with all the exercise.
As he struggled up with his burning calves, Jeongguk paused numerous times to take pictures of the sceneries he came across. Little houses were lined up here and there with colourful rooftops and the expanse was an inviting lush of green, under a bright blue sky with fluffy, white clouds. It looked like a miniature city and Jeongguk took every opportunity to capture the scene.
He got to the top earlier than he predicted and dropped into a sitting position on a nearby tree stump. All the trekkers were gathered at the large field that made up the highest peak, and he tried to catch his breath as he scanned for his stubborn boyfriend.
A haggard looking Taehyung bounded over to him, latching onto his bicep and pouting. He was giving him The Look, which usually meant that the redhead wanted something and Jeongguk was in no position to deny.
“This was a bad idea,” Taehyung started, making Jeongguk chuckle under his irregular breathing. “I really am not a fan of heights,” his tone was sheepish and he looked at the ground as he took a deep breath in, “Let’s go down now.”
“Pictures, Tae,” Jeongguk reminded, “That first and then we go.”
So they made the most out of the view, posing like they were shooting for the cover of a magazine with Taehyung’s arms circled securely around his arms. Jeongguk noticed how the other refused to look down the cliff and smiled as he patted the other’s hand comfortingly.
Taehyung posed enthusiastically for the photos he was going to send for his grandmother and half-assed the rest because fuck it, he just couldn’t be bothered anymore.
Jeongguk almost got a major beating when he suggested that they do the Titanic pose at the edge of the field with Taehyung in the front. His boyfriend was not too keen on the idea of accidentally falling to his death.
When they’re finally out of poses, the couple went down the mountain with more exhaustion. Taehyung convinced the younger man to give him a piggy-back ride halfway down the path and Jeongguk somehow agreed. He nuzzled into the other’s shoulders, fanning his boyfriend occasionally with the map Jeongguk brought.
“So, we’re going back to the hotel now?” Jeongguk asked as Taehyung sat himself in the driver’s seat of the car.
The redhead smiled widely at him, looking much less tired than Jeongguk probably did, “Nope.”
The younger one groaned, “Babe-“
“You’ll love this one, I swear,” Taehyung said with conviction, eyes positively gleaming as he started the vehicle.
Jeongguk whined, slumping his back against the seat of the car, “But I love you more,” he tried, “and I wouldn’t mind spending this vacation locked in our Honeymoon Suite doing absolutely nothing.”
Taehyung raised an eyebrow at the statement, “Nothing?”
“Well,” Jeongguk gave out a tiny smirk, “Not nothing.”
“As appealing as that sounds,” The older man deadpanned, rolling his eyes a little, “we’re already nearing the next location so suck it up, baby.”
Their car entered a small parking lot and Jeongguk tried his hardest to remember what came after hiking the mountain in Taehyung’s list. He hoped it wasn’t something physically taxing because his feet were killing him.
As it turned out, Taehyung was more sensible about their next activity, keeping in mind Jeongguk’s beat up condition. They walked into the famous Canola field, fingers linked as they stepped carefully between the chest-high plants.
Taehyung looked over at Jeongguk and bit down a smile when he saw the latter’s enchanted expression, his clear doe eyes wandered around the area with wonder and his lips were slightly parted open in awe.
The bright, almost fluorescent yellow of the flowers flooded the land, making it seem as if they were drowning in a fragrant sea of topaz. Some of the people were sight-seeing and others were taking pictures. Meanwhile, both Taehyung and Jeongguk decided to stay lost in their own little world a bit longer; just because.
“This is epic,” Jeongguk turned to face his boyfriend with an open smile, looking younger than he was, “I love it here.”
“I thought you loved me more?” Taehyung gasped with mock-insult.
The younger one scoffed, “I love you most, but these plants make their own food! You can’t even survive without a microwave, Tae.”
“That’s why I’ve got you Gukkie,” his boyfriend said without missing a beat and made silly winking faces as he walked further into the thicker part of the field, “My boyfriend slash chef slash handyman slash survival kit slash love of my life,” he took a deep breath, “slash future husband question mark?”
Jeongguk’s laughter stopped shortly at the words and he looked up to Taehyung nervously biting his lower lip, gnawing at the reddened flesh with little mercy. His eyes were downcast and Jeongguk noticed the increasing blush around his cheeks and the tips of his ears.
“Are you…?” he asked dumbly, still unable to process the entire situation.
Taehyung ducked his head even further and buried his face into his hands, “Oh God, oh God. I didn’t mean to… well I did, but…” his words turned into a gargle of panic as he blushed to his roots- face now matching his fiery hair. “I-I didn’t plan that.”
Jeongguk stood there, dumbstruck, as the other man kept on awkwardly babbling to himself. There was an odd silence between them which wasn’t entirely unpleasant- just a bit uncertain. The younger of the two could feel his heartbeat spiking up as his palms grew clammy with sweat. Suddenly all he could see was Taehyung, bright red and unforgivingly beautiful as he stood surrounded by the cluster of Canola flowers. A few petals flew around from the course Jeju winds and they ended up getting stuck in Taehyung’s silky strands.
Jeongguk felt himself move- legs walking nearer to where his boyfriend was standing and hands reaching out for the latter. He peeled his boyfriend’s hands away from his face and Jeongguk guided them so he could kiss the soft skin on the back of Taehyung’s palm.
“With you, anything,” he answered, feeling his cheeks hurt from smiling so much.
Taehyung blinked several times in disbelief before mirroring Jeongguk’s overjoyed expression.
“Anything and everything.”
Princess Zhu Shanhua was the seventh daughter of the High Emperor of Ming, and she was one of his favourites it seemed. Her servants catered to her as if they were born to do it- fussing over her when there really weren’t much fussing to be done.
Lee Guk stared dully at the young girl seated across from him. She was a dainty little thing with pale, white skin and jet-black hair. She had surprisingly round eyes, making her look more youthful than she already did. If he hadn’t known better, he could’ve mistook her as a child.
“My apologies for my stiff tongue,” he said in fluent Mandarin, “I haven’t spoken the language in quite some time.”
The Princess blinked at him owlishly, “There’s no need. You speak well enough, Your Grace.”
Hansung was sitting idly in the corner of the room, tuning out the foreign conversation and pretending he didn’t understand the words. Guk sighed forlornly as he took a sip of his tea.
“I hope everything is to your expectations,” the king added politely, “if you’re feeling any discomfort, feel free to inform me.”
Shanhua covered her mouth with a hand as she drunk out of her cup, “I suppose- since I will be staying here for a while.”
“If I may ask, Princess,” Guk watched her fold her hands on top of her lap, “Until when do you plan on visiting?”
For a few moments, the room was completely silent. Even Hansung who was busy daydreaming turned to look at what was happening with the king. The girl frowned at him, a crack of emotion in her smooth face, “Visiting?” her voice was puzzled, “Who informed you that I was merely visiting, sire?”
The king’s personal guard turned stiff, quickly averting his gaze to the ground and gripping the sword he’d placed on a table. Guk stared at the girl sitting opposite him and tried to make sense of her words. “Why have you come then, if you’re not here for a visit?”
“Hadn’t the High Emperor sent a letter to explain the arrangement to your Imperial Mother?” she asked, genuinely concerned, “She ought to have told you.”
Guk gritted his teeth unconsciously, cursing the heavens for his stepmother, “No. It appears that I have been ill-informed,” he sighed tiredly, “What was the arrangement?”
Shanhua’s expressionless face grew a bright pink, her eyes turning furious, “Our marriage arrangement,” she breathed out in disbelief, “How could you not know- I… I have never been so ridiculed!”
She stood up, letting her purple and pink silk frock brush the edges of the tea table in haste. The king was still paralyzed in his own thoughts, only able to form a barely coherent ‘sorry’ as she exited the tea room in a flourish.
That left him alone with Hansung, who was just as still as he was, but was probably less surprised as he had been expecting this outcome. Guk saw his lover take in a single, quivering breath as he grabbed the sword on the table and tucked it back around his belt- preparing to leave.
“Hansung-ah,” he called weakly, not hoping the other would even respond.
“I need to inform General Sooho about the Princess,” his voice was strained as he kept it calm, “I’ll take my leave now, Your Highness.”
Guk stood up from his seat and ran before the other man could reach the doorway, standing in front of him with a pleading look on his face, “Love, please. Talk to me.”
“This is an urgent matter Your Highness,” hurt flashed across Hansung’s eyes as he continued formally, “Please let this servant go.”
“No,” the king whispered, holding the side of his lover’s face with trembling fingers, “No, don’t leave me. P-please, I can’t do this without you.”
“Let go, sire.” Hansung’s tone was final and Guk couldn’t make himself move as the other brushed past his shoulder. He couldn’t chase after him because the king witnessed the kind of pain he was subjecting Hansung to.
What Guk saw in his lover’s eyes when he looked into it wasn’t the usual love and adoration they always held, but instead a mix of confusion and… fear?
If there was a time where Hansung would need to be afraid of him, Guk wished it would never come.
A boy was smiling at him.
He knew him. He knew his shy smiles and determined eyes.
If Taehyung could smile at the sight, he would.
If Taehyung could touch the boy, he would.
So why wasn't he?
"Hansung-ah," the boy called hesitantly. Taehyung couldn't decipher the worry that was lining his expression. Why was he so distressed?
Taehyung heard himself speak- but it wasn't coming from him. The voice he heard was hardened with weariness and fake nonchalance.
"Love, please. Talk to me.” The boy pleaded, and Taehyung didn't know why he was silent. What was he doing? He should go and comfort him.
What was he doing?
The boy was asking for him not to leave.
Taehyung was surprised he'd left.
He woke up with Jeongguk bundled up in the duvet next to him, feet thrown over Taehyung's thighs and arms warm under his neck.
Taehyung looked up at the ceiling with a daze, scratching at his eyelids to brush off the remaining sleep. To his side, was Jeongguk- his face muscles were relaxed in slumber and his lips slightly dried as it slacked open. It was unusual for Taehyung to wake up first, being the night owl that he is, so seeing the younger man in such a state is a rare occurrence.
He pushed himself further up so he could study the other's expressionless face. Taehyung smiled a little at the tiny scar on the other's cheek. It was an endearing aspect of Jeongguk- and so was his eyes, and his big nose, and his thinner upper lip. Taehyung thought they were all beautiful in the most Jeongguk way.
His hands slowly reached for the other's hair, brushing the dark fringe back from his forehead and carefully removing them from falling into his eyes.
Jeongguk was in a deep sleep and Taehyung knew better than to disturb him (since he'd been complaining about his fatigue yesterday), so he stretched his neck up to ghost his lips over the other's left eyelid, barely kissing it, just brushing over his eyelashes, before he pulled away quietly.
Taehyung was tangling his limbs out of Jeongguk's when a groan was heard from the sleeping man, "Grope me all you want, but don't leave," His voice was thick with sleep and scratchy with the lack of it.
The redhead's lips twitched up into a little smirk as he made his way back into the other's arms, "Mornin' baby."
"What happened to being allergic to mornings?" Jeongguk opened one lazy eye to look at Taehyung. "Why are you up and kissing me already, hm?" he questioned playfully, "You're being so productive today."
Taehyung giggled and hugged his boyfriend under the blanket, the cold pads of his fingers finding comfort in Jeongguk's body heat, "Tease me all you want Mr Clingy-pants," he moved a hand up to catch onto the other's earlobe, fondling with the array of piercings lining Jeongguk's ear. "Why? You afraid I'm gonna leave you all alone?"
"Terrified," and for a split moment there, Taehyung caught onto a hint of sincerity in his playful tone. He was suddenly reminded of his dream where Jeongguk- or was it Guk? - was telling him to stay. It was odd, to say the least.
"Tae?" His boyfriend's voice broke through his train of thought. Taehyung immediately shifted his gaze to meet Jeongguk's, blinking confusedly.
"Babe, do you need coffee?" Jeongguk supplied, guessing that his off behaviour was from the lack of caffeine. Taehyung smiled quickly and gave a loud smooch on the other's chin before letting his head find purchase under Jeongguk's jaw.
He sighed contentedly, "Nah- let's just stay like this for a while," he chuckled when Jeongguk let out a hum of agreement, "For forever."
"Easy there, tiger," Jeongguk had a helpless smile on his face, "We still need to complete that list of yours."
Taehyung whined, "Says who?"
"Seokjin and Namjoon hyung would want updates," he reasoned, feeling Taehyung wither next to him, "and your grandma would want to see us doing other things than 'uselessly wasting oxygen', so unfortunately, we gotta go."
The redhead wiggled a little to reach his phone that had been placed on the dresser to charge the other night. He looked at Jeongguk with a raised eyebrow, "Should we call the lucky couple?"
"And risk Seokjin hyung's wrath?" The younger asked, "Sure."
Taehyung dialled a number before turning on the video-call option, positioning the camera so it could capture them both on screen. The call rang for a few more times without anyone answering before Seokjin's sleepy face appeared on screen.
"Hey rats," he said as a greeting, "how's the weather over there?"
Taehyung scoffed at the older man's words, "Gorgeous!" he said exuberantly, "How's Seoul?"
"Seoul is effectively draining my soul," Seokjin deadpanned, rubbing his face with a hand before shooting out finger guns at the screen. Taehyung and Jeongguk groaned simultaneously, "When will Joonie finally sweep me off my feet to some tropical paradise?"
"I'm already sweeping the floor in our apartment," Namjoon piped up from the pile of pillows in Seokjin's background, "Ain't that enough for you, dearest?"
Seokjin rolled his eyes in an exaggerated manner and ignored the question, "Enjoy it while it lasts, you two," he glared at them through the screen, "Enjoy it all you can."
"What's that supposed to mean?!" Namjoon yelled indignantly from where he was laying down, and again, getting omitted from the conversation.
Jeongguk shook his head fondly at his hyungs, "We're planning to go to a museum today," he said, at which Taehyung's expression brightened.
"Yeah!" he leaned closer to the screen in excitement, "It's a 3-D Art Museum and I've been dying to check it out!"
The younger one smiled at Taehyung's jumpy reaction. He swooped in to peck the apple of the other's cheek, making Seokjin coo at them like an overexcited parent.
Taehyung elbowed his boyfriend, flustered, as he adjusted the wobbly smartphone in his grip. Jeongguk smirked at the camera and Seokjin's eye roll was only a given. "A-Anyways," Taehyung hated how he stuttered and how his boyfriend's smirk widened, "That's our mission of the day. I promise I’ll send you the photos later!”
Seokjin huffed resignedly, “You do that, Taehyung-ah,” he glanced at his collapsed boyfriend on their bed, “Thanks for letting me live vicariously through you guys.”
Jeongguk let out a rather obnoxious ‘you’re welcome’ before he pushed his finger onto the end call button.
“Hello, Jin.” The king stood desolately amongst the fallen leaves of a large orange tree. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”
He looked at the crusted trunk of the plant, at the little lines that ran across the surface of the wood. He listened to the chirping birds that nested on the sturdy branches and noticed the neat stream of ants crawling onto the protruding roots of the tree.
Even in death, his friend was full of life.
“I went to town today,” he breathed out, feeling tears burning at the back of his eyes, “Sneaked out, really. Hansung didn’t go with me this time. The clowns still did those dreadful skits in the marketplace, and the children were just as loud as you always said they were. Some of them grew up, some of them stayed.” He felt a gush of wind caressing his cheeks, “They asked me where you were, and I told them that the ahjussi who always brought sweets for them went somewhere and got married. Then they asked me when I was getting married myself.”
Guk stared as he watched his tears fall onto the dried, dead leaves. “I told them ‘soon’.”
“And they don’t know,” he whispered, his hands shook at his sides, “That if I were ever to marry, it would be for them. It would be for their parents, and for their grandparents. It would be for their brothers and sons who would have to lose their lives if a war took place. For the wives and children that would be left behind, cowering and praying for their loved ones to return.”
Guk swallowed the bile rising up his throat, “I know my responsibilities. It’s not like I haven’t witnessed my father do the same as I grew up. Being able to find happiness is a forbidden blessing to us.” He slumped down to crouch in front of the tree, “But I’ve ignored it, choosing to believe that my happiness wasn’t a taboo- that I was an exception. I chose to hurt the one I love most.”
“He makes it difficult, you know?” Guk smiled bitterly at the ground, “He’s just so easy to love, it made me forget that what we have is impossible. I don’t want to choose, I don’t want to give up any of them. I might be too greedy for my own good, but love isn’t measurable. And you cannot choose one over another.”
The king stood up with a start, arms moving up to steady himself onto the tree trunk and hunched over, feeling the stomach acid rising up his throat and spill out. He hacked and retched onto the cold earth. His mouth tasted vile and his nose burned painfully. Nobody knew.
Taehyung felt a sense of unease when they arrived in front of the museum. He didn’t know if it was because of the strange dream he had or if he’d eaten something funny for breakfast.
Jeongguk was a few steps away, talking to the ice cream vendor and holding two vanilla ice cream cones. Taehyung gazed at his boyfriend’s smiling face, so relaxed and carefree compared to the one that was staring back at him in his dream. It had been a while since he thought of Guk- the timid king he’d met and grew to love.
“- Museum?” the lady’s voice was prying him back from his thoughts. Taehyung blinked, still out of it, as he nodded sheepishly. He assumed she was talking about the museum tickets he was purchasing.
The transaction ended normally with Taehyung receiving two paper tickets and with less money in his pocket. He walked to Jeongguk and grinned when he had on a little ice cream moustache above his upper lip.
“Don’t,” Jeongguk warned, glaring slightly as he gave Taehyung his ice cream cone. “Please don’t be gross.”
Taehyung whined, “But I wanted to re-enact cliché k-drama scenes!”
“Fat chance,” the younger one licked across his lips, cleanly removing the remnants of the ice cream.
“I’ll get you one day, Jeon.” Taehyung claimed dramatically, “Just you wait and see!”
Jeongguk pretended he wasn’t blushing and moved along as he tugged Taehyung towards the entrance of the museum. There were two entrances and Taehyung handed the staff their tickets. They were permitted entrance into one of them and Jeongguk strolled in with his boyfriend in tow.
Taehyung was still focused on his ice cream as he walked when he felt Jeongguk stop next to him. A loud splat was heard and he looked over to find the younger’s ice cream dropped on the floor.
“Oh no, Gukkie!” he shouted in vain, “Do you want to share mine?”
But his boyfriend didn’t respond, still staring at something in front of him with his mouth agape. Taehyung waved his hand in front of the other’s unresponsive face and whipped his head around to see what the whole deal was about.
Taehyung’s eyes widened at the sight of a giant, naked butt standing in the distance. It was a statue with no upper body and it was facing the other way, giving the couple a full, clear view of sculpted ass.
He let out an affronted squeak.
Jeongguk looked back at the sign next to them and sighed exasperatedly at the ‘Jeju Love Land: Sex and Health Museum’ in huge, bold letters.
“Tae… what the actual fuck?!”
The older man shook his head in confusion, eyes wide and innocent as he held up his hands, “I… I don’t know! I just bought tickets and the guy let us in here!” he said before he gasped in realisation, “I bought the wrong tickets.”
Jeongguk refused to look at the giant, indecent sculptures and chose to glare weakly at Taehyung instead, blaming himself for entrusting Taehyung with the tickets. “One is 3-D art and the other is 3-D dick. How- and so help me- How could you mix those up?”
“I… I-I wasn’t paying attention!” The other shouted, “I was thinking of something else!”
“What could you possibly be thinking about in that scenario?” Jeongguk rested a hand over his face as he groaned.
“You!” Taehyung blurted out, “I was thinking about you, okay?” he grumbled, “I don’t know, but I had a dream last night and-“
Jeongguk laughed, cutting off the other’s sentence as he did. “Tae,” he smiled in amusement, “You’re not seriously telling me that you bought tickets to Love Land with me in mind, are you?”
Taehyung blinked at his words, feeling heat creep onto his face, “N-no, it’s not like that…” he took a deep inhale as Jeongguk kept smirking mischievously, “Oh what the hell,” he waved a hand dismissively and pulled his stupid boyfriend with him, “Let’s go take dick pics.”
Jeongguk balked at his words, “Say what now?”
“Gotta get our money’s worth, Gukkie.” He winked at the younger, enjoying how the tables have turned to his advantage. Jeongguk’s mouth was wide open in apprehension as they passed a few of the statues, ears gradually turning red as Taehyung forced them to a stop in front of every exhibit- staying longer than needed to just to rile Jeongguk up.
He laughed when Jeongguk cringed at some of the more explicitly themed sculptures, intentionally asking Jeongguk to take his pictures as he posed.
The younger almost dropped the camera when Taehyung said (quite loudly) “Gukkie! Click a photo of me eating that ass!” and Taehyung thought he could’ve died of laughter. Jeongguk didn’t stop blushing throughout the whole trip, refusing stubbornly when Taehyung asked him to pose together on top of a giant, green penis-boat.
They found a food area where they sold genital-shaped bread and ice cream (Jeongguk wondered about the well-being of the perverts who built this place), which Taehyung welcomed with enthusiastic open-mindedness. Jeongguk just didn’t get it.
“I’m not touching that,” Jeongguk said, his face contorting at the sight of the penis-shaped bread, “Nada. Not a chance.”
Taehyung bit onto the end of the steaming pastry, winking at his boyfriend when the other gave him a hopeless look. “Finish your meal, Jeongguk,” he resisted the urge to giggle at the obvious innuendo, “Don’t just play around with it.”
The other had to pause. “Stop.”
“You know what, it’s actually pretty delicious.”
“Don’t,” Jeongguk’s tone deflated when Taehyung made an over-the-top show of swallowing his food. “Oh my God, you suck.”
Taehyung smirked scooping ice cream into his mouth, “You bet, baby.”
Jeongguk, realizing his error, stood up from his chair and sighed at the sight of his boyfriend’s teasing expression. “I’ll wait for you outside.”
“No, Gukkie, don’t leave me!” the other man took one last bite before joining him, “Let’s go together, okay?”
“I’m not leaving you Tae,” Jeongguk sighed, subdued.
Taehyung’s unease returned with full force at the words. It wasn’t as if his boyfriend said anything wrong, but why was he feeling so anxious all of the sudden?
He looked on as Jeongguk walked to the exit of the park. His back was facing him, and it didn’t feel right. The sight itself seemed lonely to Taehyung for reasons he couldn’t understand.
“You coming?” Jeongguk muttered begrudgingly as he paused in his steps. He looked back at Taehyung and the redhead felt a crushing sense of relief at the other’s usual demeanour. Nothing was out of place.
He walked quickly and held onto his boyfriend’s hand when he reached him, “Yeah,” Taehyung said, standing next to him with a little smile, “I’m here now. Come on!”
They walked out of the museum with Jeongguk feeling like he’d lost ten pounds and Taehyung questioning the haunting anxiety that loomed over them that day.
The weather was cloudy and glum by the time they arrived at the fields. Jeongguk parked the car next to the road just before Taehyung bounded out of the car to meet the horses.
He shouldered the car door closed and held his camera in his hands. Taehyung was way ahead of him- running recklessly to the fenced fields with his brightly coloured hair tossed wildly from the winds. Jeongguk walked slowly, nearing his eye to the camera to take a couple of shots. He looked at the photos and played around with the brightness and exposure to finally get the right settings.
Taehyung, no doubt, was already interacting with the animals when Jeongguk arrived. He was crouching a little- his shoulders slumped to level his face with a brown-coloured horse. The animal had no harnesses, free to roam and nibble on any grass it liked. Jeongguk spotted a few other horses dilly-dallying about the area.
A couple of other curious tourists were taking pictures here and there, but they weren’t enough to create a crowd. Jeongguk took the opportunity to immortalize the image of the barren field with a couple of pictures.
Taehyung was petting the horse’s head and Jeongguk would’ve worried if it was anyone else, but this was Kim Taehyung- and nothing could ever hate Taehyung.
He lifted his camera again to take pictures of his boyfriend, smiling and cooing at the tall horse. Taehyung noticed him a moment later, smiling brighter and hands thrown wide around him in a carefree pose. Jeongguk snorted but kept taking more photos, indulging Taehyung as the other threw in more whimsical poses.
The horse huffed loudly, making Taehyung jump and step back in surprise. Jeongguk grinned at the scene and pressed on the shutter. Miffed, Taehyung decided it was his turn to handle the camera. The younger man relented easily, passing Taehyung the camera as he moved to stand next to the chestnut steed. Jeongguk looked at the horse for his boyfriend to take candid shots of him and smiled when Taehyung complained about how ‘hipster’ he was being.
The horse had clear, brown eyes that matched its mane and Jeongguk guessed it belonged to someone from how clean its coat is, and from the well-maintained horseshoes it had on.
“You remind me of Param,” he said to it in amusement, receiving a quite harrumph in return.
The flashy camera sounds paused and Jeongguk looked to Taehyung in a questioning gaze, confused as to why the other had stopped taking his pictures. Taehyung was staring at him with widened, empty eyes, seeming as if he wasn’t looking at Jeongguk at all.
Jeongguk was about to ask what was the matter when Taehyung let out a deep, frustrated breath. He ran a hand through his red hair, pulling at the strands and clawing at his scalp. Taehyung’s body folded as he ducked with his hands on his forehead and Jeongguk found his feet planted to the ground.
A whimper was what brought Jeongguk back from his state of shock. Taehyung was sweating, looking tired out as he held onto his head. The younger one rushed up to him and felt his face between his hands, skin warm against his cold fingers.
“G-Gukkie,” he breathed, “hurts.”
Jeongguk’s heart jumped to his throat, worried at the paled colour of Taehyung’s face. He took the camera from Taehyung’s hold and tossed it around his neck, eyes searching for any sort of injuries on the other’s body. “Tae… what’s happening?”
“Ah,” Taehyung squeezed his eyes shut, “My e-ears are ringing.”
Panicked, Jeongguk walked them back to the car and guided his boyfriend to the passenger seat, reclining the chair so that the other could lie down. “Taehyung, I’m taking you to a hospital, kay?” he said to no one, feeling sweat clamping up his hair. “Y-you’re gonna be fine.”
Taehyung’s hands caught his arm before he turned around, and Jeongguk saw his dark brown orbs turn wild in fear as he spoke, “No, Your Highness,” his deep voice was raw, “don’t go.”
Confused, Jeongguk stilled as he stared at Taehyung’s face. The other was frowning, fingernails digging almost painfully into Jeongguk’s skin. “Don’t leave me, please, I’m sorry.” He said again, making Jeongguk’s head spin. “I’m so sorry, Gukkie.”
“Taehyung?” he said cautiously, evoking no reactions from the man in front of him.
His boyfriend merely stared at him, his pupils were shaking and sweat was trickling down the side of his face. His full lips were pale and dried, and it didn’t help when Taehyung bit onto them, ripping the skin and letting the colour red bloom onto the surface of his chapped skin.
“Hansung?” Jeongguk tried hesitantly, speaking entirely on instinct.
At the name, the other’s face lightened up, a few tears dotted the corner of his eyes and Jeongguk didn’t know if it was actually his tears, sweat, or a mixture of both. Taehyung- no- Hansung was looking up at him through his lashes, his cheeks dulled of colour.
Jeongguk thought he saw a weak smile on the man’s lips before his eyes fell shut.
“You can’t do this to him,” Sooho’s voice interrupted his silence. Hansung looked up to see the other man settle next to him, looking at the same direction he’d been staring off to. The king was there, walking with the Chinese princess through the palace gardens. He was accompanying her for the day.
Hansung looked away from the sight of Guk smiling politely in the distance. “I’m not doing anything.”
“It’s not his fault,” the General said in a neutral tone, “This whole thing is bound to peril from the start. One misstep and we’re all done for.” He sighed, “I’m just saying that you should consider his part in this.”
“I’m not hoping for a miracle, Sooho,” the younger one said, hearing the princess’ tinkling laughter from across the pavilion, “anything’s better than waging a war.”
Sooho nodded, eyes downcast and hands finding the back of Hansung’s shoulders. His touch was warm through the fabric, and Hansung felt his breathing hitch at the comfort. “I prioritize your happiness,” the General spoke, “Both of you. So if you need to get away from everything, I can-“
Hansung cut him off with a smile and a headshake. “I’m fine.”
The king was still chatting with the young girl when his uncle showed up, appearing to have been on a walk himself. Guk smiled genuinely at his relative’s presence and Hansung’s heart twinge at the sight. He looked the best smiling just like that.
“I’m just fine,” he said again, watching silently as Guk excused himself to catch up with his uncle.
When Taehyung awoke, he was in a much better condition than he was before. Although, Jeongguk was still wary from the lack of colour to his cheeks. They were in a nearby hospital (which was not at all anywhere near their previous location) and Jeongguk was sitting next to the IV drip that was connected to one of Taehyung’s wrists.
“Morning, sunshine,” Jeongguk said with a little smile as he brushed Taehyung’s hair back.
The other was silent- still disoriented from his new surroundings. Nurses were busy walking to and fro, and the doctors were hurriedly talking as they walked in little flocks. A young doctor walked in when Jeongguk called, looking into Taehyung’s stats and nodding with approval after she examined Taehyung’s condition, “You had a concussion, which led to losing your consciousness, so I’m going to prescribe you some painkillers in case you’d have headaches,” she said calmly, letting the words sink into Taehyung, “I’d advise to stay in the hospital a bit longer to rest,” the doctor said aside to Jeongguk, “He’s still a little dehydrated.”
Jeongguk nodded readily, his left hand squeezing Taehyung’s open palm, “Of course, thank you very much.” He smiled at the doctor and watched her leave behind the curtains.
“G-Gukie,” Taehyung’s voice was off-sounding to his own ears, “How… how long was I out?”
His boyfriend scooted his seat closer to Taehyung’s face, both hands now holding Taehyung’s in his. “For a little about five hours? I think?” he smiled at the redhead’s gaping mouth, “How are you feeling, love?”
“Shitty,” Taehyung pouted, “I think I ruined our vacation.”
Jeongguk’s laughter was light as he buried his face into Taehyung’s tummy, tickling the other a little with his breathing, “That’s what you’re worried about?”
“Oh, c’mon, I used up most of my off-days for us to have fun in Jeju!” he protested weakly, an inevitable fondness to his voice, “And here you are, waiting on your sick boyfriend like a doomed protagonist of a cheesy morning telenovela.”
“That’s strangely specific,” the other quipped, shifting his head so that his right cheek was resting on Taehyung’s abdomen, eyes staring into his, “but I’ll gladly wait for you. That’ll never be a problem.”
Taehyung blinked at the last sentence, suddenly reminded of the things he’d seen, the kind of fate they were given back then. “Jeonggukie…” he started, making Jeongguk hum in question, “What happened to Guk?”
Jeongguk seemed to have expected the question, closing his eyes when he took a deep breath in. When he opened them again, Taehyung swallowed nervously at the resolute undertone in his gaze. “I’ll explain tomorrow,” his lips tugged up into a loving smile, “Sleep first, Tae.”
Taehyung, who hadn’t realised he’d been yawning for a straight five minutes, was suddenly tempted at the idea. He raised a hand in front of Jeongguk’s face, “Promise?”
Jeongguk supressed a laugh at that, but held up his own hand to twirl his pinky-finger around Taehyung’s, not letting go even when Taehyung was fast asleep.
“Y-Your Majesty, are you sure?” The older man sitting before him gasped, “This… this isn’t something to be taken lightly.”
Guk shook his head solemnly, “No it isn’t, but it’s what’s best for Joseon.” He said, clenching his fists, “I’ll never abandon it.”
The man stared at him with a questioning look, still not convinced, “I don’t understand.”
“You don’t have to,” Guk smiled, “This isn’t a choice for kings to make.”
The miniscule grains of sand stuck onto the skin of his feet and under his toenails, but Taehyung hadn’t minded, wiggling his toes further into the sandy surface to bury them. His sandals were with Jeongguk who was carrying a backpack. It was just after dawn and the sun was mildly lighting up the sky, only painting it a soft sort of yellow as the shadows of birds passed through the misty clouds.
Taehyung looked back to Jeongguk and saw him put down his backpack on a tall rock. He was also barefooted now, running towards Taehyung with a blissed smile on his face. “Morning beaches are the absolute best,” said the younger.
“Oh and you’d know, my Busan man,” Taehyung batted his eyelashes mockingly, “You’re such a sun child.”
“Not my fault I had an actual childhood,” Jeongguk rolled his eyes, fitting his finger through Taehyung’s own and urging them both towards the lazy, white waves bubbling off the shore.
They stood at the edges of the constantly moving water, feet slowly sinking into the wet sand under them. Taehyung was happy he could see right through the clear waters, eyeing several little crabs disappearing into the sand and a couple of sea urchins floating idly. He reached down to poke a sea cucumber that was sticking onto a rock.
He pouted, “They’re harmless!” he defended, “I ate them before!”
A harsh shiver wracked through Jeongguk’s entire body at the mention, “Please, don’t bring that up again. They’re nasty!”
They argued further until Jeongguk threatened to leave the other to go back to the hotel, so Taehyung said goodbye to the sea cucumber with a little wave.
They were walking on the beach hand in hand and Taehyung couldn’t help but giggle when he saw his boyfriend fixing his hair repeatedly, only to have his hard work spoiled by the rogue, salty winds of the sea. Jeongguk shoved him lightly, pretending like he was trying to push Taehyung into the sea.
“Hey Tae,” Jeongguk said when they were sitting on the dried part of the sand, brushing his fingers through the surface in random strokes, “You know… I…” he sighed, messing up the lines he’d drawn.
Taehyung watched with full attention as Jeongguk’s index finger wove through the sand again. He was writing something. Taehyung’s eyes widened with recognition at the familiar Hanja.
“Oh, I know that one.” He said with a soft smile, “Hwa Yang Yeon Hwa? Was it?”
Jeongguk blinked in surprise at the man next to him, “You still remember it?”
“The most beautiful moment in life,” Taehyung scoffed, “I remember all the cheese you said.”
The younger one’s ears heat up at the words, shaking his head in amusement. “Yeah, uh, I’ve been thinking about that lately.” His hand stilled, resting on the warm sand, “I mean… You can only say that something is the most beautiful when you’ve seen everything that beauty has to offer. Beauty is only visible at the very end of it all; in this context, at the very end of life.” Jeongguk looked between his bent legs and Taehyung witnessed a more mature approach to the other’s expression, “Hwa Yang Yeon Hwa is inspired by the beauty of a flower- which dies after it has bloomed, ending it’s fleeting beauty.”
“And I have, I mean, died,” Jeongguk said with no malice in his voice, “Well, at least I still remember what it’s like.”
Taehyung’s lips parted slightly at the information. They were all new to him.
“Y-you mean… Guk… you remember everything?”
Jeongguk chuckled at that, “Nah. I can’t remember every little detail,” he waved his hand to make out his point, “but just like Seokjin hyung, I’m pretty much aware of my past life. I’ve seen enough of it to be familiar with it.” He looked at Taehyung before wiping at the sand clinging onto his cheek. His hand lingered and stayed there. Taehyung let it be so. “And after seeing all of that… really…” Jeongguk sent Taehyung a sincere smile, “Hwa Yang Yeon Hwa.”
“Jeongguk,” Taehyung’s words faded with him not knowing what to say.
“We lived happily ever after.” Jeongguk smiled, “Well- at least I did. I could only hope you were happy after I was gone,” he coughed when Taehyung looked confused, “I died earlier than you.”
Taehyung gasped softly, unconsciously leaning into the other’s touch, “I could live with that… at least we weren’t the gay version of Romeo and Juliet,” he said, pulling laughter out of Jeongguk, “but still.”
“Ah, we definitely were a better love story than Twilight.” Jeongguk quipped, feeling lighter as the sun gradually turned warmer. “Jokes aside, you can just search up what happened with King Lee Guk online, y’know. We’re in the 21st Century after all.”
“The perks of having a famous boyfriend,” Taehyung rolled his eyes as he pulled out his phone. He opened the browser and was about to type when he hesitated. His thumbs twitched and recoiled from the screen.
“Would it make me cry?” he asked aloud, eyes not wavering from the screen. Jeongguk shifted next to him, “Babe, it won’t change anything. I’ll still be here with you.” His boyfriend placed a comforting hand onto the small of his back, and that was all it took for Taehyung to regain his courage.
He quickly typed the king’s name into the search bar, feeling his heart pounding loudly against his chest, but focusing onto Jeongguk’s warm touch on his body. A Wikipedia page turned up in the results, and instead of Taehyung, it was Jeongguk who tapped onto the link.
Taehyung could not believe his eyes when he scanned through the entire Wiki page, looking at it over and over again to make sure his vision wasn’t lying to him.
What Taehyung found did make him cry, but Jeongguk didn’t worry for they were tears of joy.
“Are you going somewhere, Hansung?”
The man turned around in a jolt of surprise, dropping his wrapped up bow and arrow on the mattress behind him. “Your Highness.” He breathed out, “No, I was just… I was uh…”
“Packing.” Guk completed his sentence, looking at the pile of clothes on Hansung’s floor and biting on his tongue to conceal his hurt, “I see.”
“Your Highness, I-“
Something snapped within the king, “Stop calling me that!” he didn’t realise how loudly he’d shouted until he saw Hansung’s face, full of disbelief.
The older man breathed out, “I can’t, Your Hi-“
“Yes!” Guk walked up to him, leaving little distance between them in consideration of Hansung. “Yes you can- I… you can stop calling me that now,” he said with relief flooding up his chest, “You can stop calling me that period.”
Confusion passed the guard’s eyes, “I… what do you mean?”
“I’m not a king anymore.”
The words weren’t received right away, hanging in the air as if to taunt the two lovers to start another argument, but Hansung could only manage a very clueless ‘what’ in response.
“I’ve abdicated my throne,” Guk said slowly, searching Hansung’s face for a reaction, “I handed it to the next in line- my father’s younger brother- Lee Sung. He was the rightful heir before I was born. I talked to him about it, and he thought I was crazy to even consider this,” he laughed, a genuine one, “but it’s not like anything’s changing. I’m not turning away from Joseon.”
Hansung, who’d been quiet, balked at the suggestion, “Nothing’s changing?!” his voice was borderline hysterical, “Right… just switching kings. Not a big deal at all.”
“A king is only a title,” Guk explained with patience, “A name to blame if anything went wrong. It’s a face, Hansung. Nothing more.” He said, taking a seat on the guard’s mattress, “I figured that I didn’t really need to rely on it to prove my loyalty to this country. As the king’s right hand and advisor, I could do everything I’ve been doing up till now… just without a crown on my head.”
A pregnant silence ended his words, the only sounds heard was the song of the crickets outside the window. Guk bit onto his lips out of nervous habit and waited for Hansung to respond. The guard was still standing, looking at the floor in deep thought.
“So…” Hansung started uncertainly, “You could just… give away the crown like that?”
“Well of course not,” he scoffed at the thought, “I had to tell everyone that I was unable to carry-on the bloodline…” Guk smiled at the white lie, “They’d definitely remove me from the throne in that case.”
Hansung’s eyebrows furrowed as he sent the other an exasperated look, “You made them think you’re infertile?” a humoured snort, “Really?”
“Oh, details, details.” Guk rolled his eyes, “The point is, I’m not on the throne anymore. So you can stop being ‘Your Highness’ this and ‘Sire’ that. You hear me?”
“Alright, Gukkie.” Hansung smiled softly, “You’re not going to regret this?”
“The throne was uncomfortable to sit on, so no.” The younger one replied, “I can let His Highness sit there while I tell him which Lord to trust and which to ignore.” Guk grinned at the idea, “What’s better than being a king is being able to change the mind of one.”
Hansung outright laughed at this and sat next to the former king, feeling his cheeks burn at the constant smiling he was doing. “I wasn’t leaving, by the way.”
Guk merely quirked up an eyebrow, letting Hansung speak, “I was just throwing out old belongings since my little brother is coming of age. I was planning to pass these onto him.” He rolled his lower lip between his teeth, “I was never planning on leaving you, Gukkie.”
Guk let out a breath of disbelief, which slowly turned into a series of laughter, the overjoyed sound bubbling out his lips and prompting Hansung to join in. They held onto each other, feeling all sorts of warm and contentment as their stomachs started hurting from all the laughing.
Hansung was still catching his breath when he felt Guk’s breathing on his lips. He looked up to see the other’s eyes and was awestruck with the beauty of them- the clear, determined promises that were written along Guk’s dark brown irises. The promises he’d kept.
The air between them was delicate and mystified, and it turned electrifying when Guk’s lips finally brushed against Hansung’s. This close, Guk could feel Hansung’s eyelashes tickling his cheek when his eyes fluttered shut.
Hansung opened his mouth to let their tongues slide languidly together, holding onto Guk’s hand and putting another arm around the younger’s neck to pull him closer. Their bodies were flush against each other, heat emanating from both of them. Hansung’s hand went to cup the other’s face while Guk held onto his waist.
“Thank you,” he breathed into the other’s mouth, “Thank you for forever.”
Guk smiled, “Thank you for the impossible.”