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to wish for one thing in this humble life

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Jeongguk doesn't remember much the day he's born; in fact, it's safe to say he doesn't remember anything at all, but from what Namjoon's told him in the past, the day of his birth was complete and utter chaos. This chaos was induced by the one and only Kim Seokjin, a fairy notorious in their lands for bestowing gifts on newborn babies and newlywed couples alike.

Again, Jeongguk doesn't remember any of it, but Namjoon's recounted the story to him enough times already that Jeongguk can practically imagine the scene before him. His mother, looking exhausted as she lays back against the pillows, his father pointedly absent from the room because, as a merchant, his father isn't home much at all. He imagines the way Seokjin appears in the room, Namjoon holding a hand out and pleading for him to stop. "Seokjin, nothing good comes out of your gifts," he will say imploringly, but Seokjin will wave it off with an impatient hand, insisting that his gifts are meant to be blessings, not curses.

He imagines Seokjin bending over and peering at him curiously, swaddled in a mess of blankets. After a few moments, Seokjin will stand upright again, announcing his gift to the room. "I will grant this child the gift of obedience," Seokjin will announce proudly as Jeongguk's mother looks on in horror. "Any parent would be glad to have an obedient child in their midst."

Yoongi, who is silent for the most part will scoff from the corner of the room, and with a shake of his head will say, "What the fuck do you think this is, sleeping beauty or some bullshit?" to which Seokjin will give him an unimpressed glance over before disappearing out of the room.

That's how Jeongguk's imagined the day to be, from what Namjoon and Yoongi have told him.

He thinks it's safe to say it's the worst day of his life.

When Jeongguk turns five, his mother makes it out to be a grand celebration as she does with all of his birthdays. He is his mother's only child, and thus his mother has a tendency to spoil him, giving him all of her attention and her love. It's what Jeongguk misses the most, he thinks, his mother's warmth and her kind eyes.

He remembers how Namjoon bakes his favorite cake for him, and his mother implores him to eat the cake with a bright smile as she holds one of his small hands in hers. She watches on as Jeongguk finishes his first slice, and Yoongi crows in the background at how Jeongguk's become such a good eater.

"It must be due to the excitement," Namjoon says, his eyes twinkling with amusement as he cuts another slice of cake for him and sets it down on his plate gently. Jeongguk watches with bated breath, because even at the tender age of five he's already well acquainted with Namjoon's clumsy antics, so whenever Namjoon does something that requires coordination Jeongguk is always a little nervous.

His second slice of cake his much harder than his first, and he's only halfway through when he starts to cry, fat tears rolling down his cheeks as he forces himself to take another bite. "Jeongguk, what's wrong?" he remembers his mother asking, running a soothing hand down his back. "Do you not like the cake?"

Namjoon looks worried at this point too, as if somehow between his first and second slice something went horribly wrong with the cake. As if somehow Namjoon's cooking skills have suddenly become sub par, which Jeongguk thinks never will happen, because Namjoon's cooking will always be his favorite.

It's then that Jeongguk's mother gasps and grabs the fork and plate from him, shushing him as he, as if guided by a puppeteer's hands, reaches for the plate automatically. "Stop eating, my child," his mother says in hushed tones, reaching over to hug him gently, as if he will explode. Jeongguk almost thinks he will. "I was careless with my words, I'm sorry," she continues, and Jeongguk realizes in that moment that he wasn't eating because he wanted to eat the cake, but because his mother had simply told him to eat, and he had simply complied.

Jeongguk's mother is much more careful with her words after that incident, always asking him to do something instead of commanding him. Jeongguk is disappointed that his mother has to tiptoe around him all the time, but nevertheless she is no less loving towards him, no less kind.

When Jeongguk is almost ten, though, is when his mother seems to slip again, giving him an order without a way around it, or a way out. Jeongguk is out playing games with one of the servant's daughters when he tells her about his curse, and the daughter in question proceeds to order him about for half a day before Jeongguk gets tired of it and punches her in the face.

His mother is stern with him that day, pulling him to the side and telling him it's not nice to hit other people, especially girls. When Jeongguk explains to her that the girl was taking advantage of him and his curse, his mother's eyes soften at that. "My son, you must promise me something," she says, and Jeongguk can only nod as she continues on. "Whatever happens, in the future you must not tell anyone of your curse. No good will come from it if you do."

Jeongguk promises her, and that's what seals his fate.

When Jeongguk is seventeen, his mother continues on.

--

Jeongguk is standing in front of his mother's grave, listening to the hushed whispers all around him, speculations that his mother died due to a devastating disease that wasted her away from the inside, that in her last moments she was too weak to even move, face looking haggard and sullen as she struggled for her last few breaths. The rumors aren't completely wrong, but instead of a devastating disease it was just a mere cold that happened to last for far too long, until it turned into an infection that spread to her lungs.

Jeongguk doesn't remember ever feeling as helpless as the moments in which he watched his mother wither away; even his curse, for as potentially wretched as it may be, hasn't exposed him to the same feeling.

There's a boy who looks to be around his age that puts a hand on his shoulder while Jeongguk's in a daze, to which Jeongguk tenses up, peering at him. The other boy is wearing a solemn expression, as they all do when in the presence of a funeral. "I'm sorry for your loss," the other says in a low voice, and the other guests have already started to trickle away one by one, apparently having spent too long of their day in such a somber environment. Or perhaps, Jeongguk's been in too much of a daze to notice how much time has already passed. "Your mother and my mother were close friends at one point."

At that, Jeongguk allows himself to be surprised. "I don't think I've seen you around before."

The other boy gives him a small, sad smile. "We've never met. My mother hasn't been able to go out much ever since she got married."

Jeongguk nods in understanding. For his mother too, when she got married she became busy with the upkeep of the house while his father was away. Besides taking the time to take care of Jeongguk, there wasn't really much time for her to do much else.

Namjoon and Yoongi find the both of them still standing in front of his mother's grave in silence. Namjoon is the first to bow before them, which Jeongguk finds strange; even as their cook and his caretaker, Namjoon's never bowed before anyone before. "My sincerest greetings, Prince Taehyung," Namjoon says, and suddenly it makes a lot more sense. Yoongi too, gives a quick bow of his own.

Jeongguk reels back in shock, taking a few steps back. "You're the prince?" He doesn't remember his mother mentioning to him that she was acquainted with the queen of all people.

Taehyung shrugs sheepishly, reaching a hand out to introduce himself properly. "It's not a big deal, really," he insists as Jeongguk shakes his hand. "My name's Taehyung."

"Jeongguk," he supplies.

It's silent around them for a few moments before Namjoon clears his throat. "Prince Taehyung, would you like to join us for lunch?"

Taehyung lets out a small, easy smile at that. It's a lot brighter this time around. "I'd love to."

Later on the prince watches with amused interest as Namjoon trips over supposedly nothing and manages to drop a steaming mug of hot chocolate onto the floor. Jeongguk buries his head in embarrassment, while Yoongi throws a towel at Namjoon's head and cusses him out.

--

Taehyung and Jeongguk fall into an easy, steady friendship after that. Whenever Taehyung has a free moment he drops by Jeongguk’s home, bringing sweets with him as he animatedly asks Jeongguk about his day. Jeongguk doesn’t understand why Taehyung is so interested about his day, because Jeongguk doesn’t really do much compared to the crown prince of all people, but Taehyung is a hard person to understand at the best of times. Taehyung pinches his cheeks when Jeongguk gets mad, which isn’t very often, unless they’re playing chess on Jeongguk’s bed and he starts getting a bit too competitive.

Jeongguk’s father leaves shortly after the funeral, but comes back only three months later, interrupting the two of them when Taehyung hugs him from behind and tries to put some flowers from Jeongguk’s garden into his hair. His father bows before Taehyung who excuses himself, reverting back to a composed, collected state, flashing Jeongguk a small easy smile as he leaves.

It’s then that his father breaks the news to him; Jeongguk will be sent to finishing school, where he will be taught all the important rules of etiquette. “Too long have I neglected your education,” his father says gruffly, not relenting when Jeongguk protests. “You will travel with Lady Hongjoo’s daughters."

Namjoon looks worried when Jeongguk tells him that he’s being sent off to school; Yoongi on the other hand, flies into a fit of rage, claiming that his father is only trying to get rid of him from the house. Both are unhappy with this turn of events, but it can’t be helped. As much as Jeongguk doesn’t want to go himself, it can’t be all that bad, he reasons.

Namjoon sends him off with a gift, a book of fairy tales, he claims. That, and his tonic, which Jeongguk begrudgingly takes from him, complaining as Namjoon ruffles his hair with a laugh.

Taehyung runs up to the carriage just as he’s about to leave, placing a pocket watch into his hands and imploring for him to return home soon. “I’ll miss you,” Taehyung says fitfully, looking as if he’s tearing up. Jeongguk tries not to tear up himself, at the thought of having to leave his friend when they’ve only just grown close.

It’s really all that bad, he realizes, because for as dumb as Lady Hongjoo’s daughters seem to be, they quickly figure out Jeongguk’s curse on their own. Surprisingly Chaebin, the younger of the two, is the one that finds out first. Within a heartbeat Taehyung’s gift to Jeongguk gets taken away from him. Heejin, the older sister, orders him to not eat the food that’s been given to him whenever they’re being served meals. Jeongguk’s almost afraid she’s going to steal the book Namjoon gifted him as well, realizing during their journey that it wasn’t a book of fairy tales at all, but rather a magic book that allowed him to see letters and journal entries of the people he’s closest to, but Heejin looks at it with disinterest. Jeongguk is relieved.

When they finally arrive at finishing school, Jeongguk gets placed next to Jimin, who also apparently happens to be his roommate. Their first class right after arriving is painting class, which Jeongguk isn’t very good at, so he ends up just painting the whole canvas red.

The headmistress is displeased to say the least, sending Jeongguk back up to his room with no dinner. Jimin sneaks some food up into their room later, which Jeongguk is grateful for, and just like that, he manages to befriend another person.

Finishing school is some fucked up shit, but Park Jimin? He seems to be all right.

--

When Jeongguk opens up his magic book in the morning, he's greeted by a note first from Namjoon, who tells him that the prince stopped by earlier that day to drop off a gift for him. He doesn't say much else after that, just reminds Jeongguk to please drink his tonic and to remember to go to bed early.

The next message he reads is from Yoongi, which goes like this:

Look you motherfucker, I hope you come home soon because this Prince Taehyung of yours brought over a HAMSTER like what the fuck are we supposed to do with it??? Neither Namjoon nor I know how to take care of a fucking animal.

The next line is another message from Namjoon:

Yoongi you fucker you weren't supposed to let him know. Prince Taehyung said it was supposed to be a SECRET god damn.

Yoongi response is anything but eloquent and elegant:

Namjoon, I don't give a shit about what the prince wants, what the fuck are we supposed to do with it?? What the hell do hamsters even eat?

Namjoon's response isn't any better:

...I'll ask Seokjin what we should do.

Again, Yoongi:

No, what the fuck? Don’t ask him, he's a fairy, not the fucking animal doctor. He's useless anyway.

Namjoon's reply:

Don't be rude to Seokjin.

The next two pages of his book continue on much the same way, so Jeongguk rolls his eyes to himself and only skims the rest of the contents.

There's a journal entry written by Taehyung, detailing his experiences with making his military tours around the country and getting to see how different each of the provinces are. It's apparently Taehyung's first time going around the country, and Jeongguk's a little envious of how Taehyung gets to see everything that the country has to offer. Jeongguk himself, before going to finishing school, hasn't been able to set foot out of his own home, mostly because his mother was afraid of what would happen to him had he started roaming around.

On a separate sheet, Taehyung seems to have taken an interest in doodling, drawing out random symbols and miniature pictures. Taehyung must be really bored at times on his tour, Jeongguk decides, for him to start drawing idly as a way of passing time.

The door to his room suddenly opens and he's greeted by the sight of Jimin's head popping into the room frantically. "Dance class starts in ten minutes, what the hell are you doing," Jimin yelps, jumping onto his bed and slapping the shit out of his shoulder. "Get the fuck out of bed."

Jeongguk throws the magic book back in his bag and gets dressed in a record time of three minutes. Seven minutes later, both Jimin and Jeongguk barely make it to class on time, their dance teacher shooting them a reprimanding look before telling them to take their places in line.

Jeongguk usually doesn't mind dancing all that much, but the dancing their teacher has taken to teaching them seems to be some sort of lame formal ballroom dancing, which Jeongguk doesn't have a care for. Jimin seems to be holding his own rather well, but Jeongguk decides halfway through dance class that he'd much rather be doing cartwheels instead. Ballroom dancing is boring, so who can blame him, really. Also, he's going through a bit of a rebellious streak at school, since all his teachers tend to order him around and Jeongguk can do nothing but comply due to his curse.

Jimin turns around when he senses some sudden movement from behind him and proceeds to burst out laughing as Jeongguk cartwheels an impressively straight line across the floor. "Dude, what the fuck?" he asks, doubling over when Jeongguk finishes and then gives him a cheerful thumbs up.

Their dance teacher, however, is not amused in the slightest. "Jeongguk and Jimin!" she barks out, rapping some sort of stick onto her palms. "Go clean the hallway," she orders as punishment for disruption of class.

Jimin groans, shoulders slumping as he grimly grabs Jeongguk by the arm and drags him out into the hallway, already knowing where the cleaning supplies are located. It's not the first time Jeongguk's gotten them into some sort of trouble. "Can't we go one day without you disrupting class?" Jimin complains, fishing out a mop and a bucket for water. He tosses the mop at Jeongguk, who barely manages to catch it. "I'm really getting sick of looking at the floorboards here, you know."

"Trouble's my middle name," Jeongguk says solemnly, and Jimin whacks him with the thankfully empty bucket. It's not entirely true; Jeongguk wasn't that much of a troublemaker when he was a kid, but he fucking hates this school with a vengeance. Jimin's the only good thing that's happened in his life ever since he arrived here.

Jeongguk has no peace and quiet of any sort even during lunch or dinner, which is unfortunate because his favorite part of school are their meal times. They're in the midst of learning about dining etiquette or some bullshit like that while they're eating. "Remember students," dining etiquette teacher says. "Please remember to eat properly. No more than one bite should go into your mouth at any one point in time. If you are partaking in our hard boiled eggs, please make sure you cut those up into fourths before consuming."

Jeongguk looks up warily after he's proceeded to shove the whole egg into his mouth, his cheeks bulging out. He's just glad this dining etiquette teacher doesn't phrase her sentences in ways that make them seem like commands. "Oops," he barely manages to mumble out around the egg.

To his right, Jimin snorts at him and rolls his eyes. "Elegant." Then a pause. "Did you remember to take the shell off the bottom half of that egg before you stuffed it into your face?"

Jeongguk proceeds to spit the whole thing back out onto his plate. "Fuck," he mutters, wiping his mouth and picking the shell off slowly with his fork.

Jimin blanches and gags, then looks up to the ceiling and groans in frustration.

"Jeongguk!" the dining etiquette teacher screeches, giving him a disgusted glare. "Spitting your food back out onto your plate is not proper dining etiquette!"

--

Cooking class, Jeongguk decides, is simultaneously both the most dreadful class and the most fun class he's had to partake in. Dreadful, because Jeongguk really, really is not that great at cooking, and he briefly wonders for a moment how Namjoon's managed to create such great recipes for as clumsy of a person as he is. The cook has mad skill, it seems. He's barely finished making some sort of sweet potato dish this time around, and afterwards he's carefully placed everything on the plate because apparently presentation is important for some reason. When he picks the plate up to go show Jimin though, he quickly realizes the sweet potatoes have, after cooling down, managed to become stuck onto the plate.

Jeongguk's observing the dish mournfully when the idea suddenly occurs to him. "Jimin," he whispers, nudging the other who's busy making some sort of cake. "Look at this," he says when Jimin looks over, flipping over the plate slowly. The sweet potatoes remain stuck onto the plate, not moving.

Jimin's eyes grow comically wide, and he takes to holding a hand over his mouth to muffle his giggles. When he composes himself he whispers back fiercely. "What the hell did you do?"

Jeongguk just shrugs, because he really has no idea what the hell he's done to cause the sweet potatoes to come out this way. All he does is raise his eyebrows as he turns the plate completely over once more.

Jimin coughs a little and ignores him for the rest of the class, if only because he doesn't want to laugh out loud and get them in trouble again. He's made it his mission, it seems, to avoid cleaning anymore floors for the rest of the term.

--

Jeongguk's looking over his magic book again, reading over another journal entry from Taehyung and another sheet of what looks to be random scribbles, when another entry pops up from Jimin, which also looks to be a paper full of drawings. He looks over to the other who's perched on top of his bed, humming idly to himself over an open maths book.

Jeongguk shrugs, not blaming the other for idle drawing. Math, in his opinion, is probably the most tiresome class by far.

"What did you get on your last maths exam?" Jimin asks, continuing to doodle away before folding the piece of paper in half and starting to doodle on another sheet.

Jeongguk rubs his eyes and flips over to the next page, where apparently Namjoon's taken to writing down a new recipe for beef stew. "I got a four," he answers tiredly, muffling his yawn with a hand.

Jimin drops his pen and looks up at him in alarm. "That test was out of a hundred," he states blandly, as if that statement is somehow going to change Jeongguk's score.

"I am aware," Jeongguk drawls out, skipping over the recipe that he can't make sense of and turning to the next page, where Yoongi's taken to scribbling fiercely on a piece of paper and demanding him to come home if he can so that he can help take care of the hamster. Knowing Yoongi though, he probably just misses him, or something equally cheesy.

"I don't think you're going to pass that class," Jimin finally lets out, after continuing to stare at Jeongguk blankly for a few moments more.

Jeongguk just gives a careless shrug at this, unperturbed at the prospect that he might be failing a class. "I might not pass any of my classes at this rate," he reminds Jimin, because Jeongguk will always be a little shit and try to find any way out of listening to his teachers, no matter how petty it may seem. He happens upon a journal entry from his father at this point, detailing of an important wedding that is about to take place, and how most of the fairies in the land are going to be invited to this particular event.

"Jeongguk," a voice screams outside of their bedroom door, which Jeongguk presumes to be Heejin. "Come brush my hair!"

Jimin stares at the door and frowns. "Why the hell does she keep asking you to do stupid shit?" he asks, apparently not caring if Heejin's overheard him or not. His eyes narrow. "More importantly, why do you keep listening to her?"

Jeongguk groans, throwing his book down onto the bed and making his way to the door. "Because she's high maintenance and I'm nice."

"You are not nice," Jimin says with no hesitation at all, to which Jeongguk grabs Jimin's shoe next to the doorway and throws it at his head. Jimin squawks in protest, but before he can do much else Jeongguk's already out the door, following Heejin as she makes her way to her room.

Once they're in her room and she's perched on her usual chair while Jeongguk starts to brush her hair for her, is when Heejin drops the bomb. "I don't think you should continue your friendship with Jimin."

Jeongguk almost drops the brush at that. "Why the hell not?" he bites out, gripping her hair with more force than what is necessary.

Heejin winces, moving her head away from Jeongguk a little. "Don't pull so hard," she says, and Jeongguk's grip immediately loosens. "This is for your own good, Jeongguk. I don't believe your friendship with that Jimin boy is doing you any favors."

"I don't think it's any of your business who I choose to spend my time with," Jeongguk answers. "Besides, Jimin's my roommate."

"I don't think you're in any position to be discussing this with me," Heejin says sweetly, making eye contact with Jeongguk through the mirror. "Let me rephrase my previous statement. You will end your friendship with Jimin."

Jeongguk's heart sinks at that, and he wordlessly finishes combing both Heejin and Chaebin's hair.

When he's finally allowed to go, instead of going straight back to his room he heads out towards the garden, trying to figure out a loophole out of doing what Heejin wants. He spends nearly two hours making rounds at the garden, but he's unable to come up with a solution.

His next best course of action, he decides, is to pack up his things and leave before he has to end his friendship with Jimin, and head off to the wedding that all the fairies are supposed to attend so he can try to find Seokjin and break his curse once and for all.

--

In hindsight, Jeongguk thinks it was rather stupid of him to try wandering off on his own when he has a terrible sense of direction. He actually has no idea where the wedding is supposed to be, and he barely manages to make it half a day before he gets kidnapped by a band of ogres who tie him to a tree.

The ogres are looking at him thoughtfully before releasing him, full of laughter. "This one will jump into the pot himself if we tell him to," one of the ogres cries out, laughing as if Jeongguk's curse is the joke of the century. "Don't leave," he commands Jeongguk, and he's helpless to do anything but comply.

He spends a full night with the ogres, trying as hard as he can to just walk away. It's simple, he thinks, he just has to walk away and he won't get eaten up by bloodthirsty ogres, but try as he may, he gets dizzy even before he's barely managed a feet away from the camp, the ground spinning as he tries to take another couple of steps.

He finally gives up after what seems like hours, resigning himself to the fact that he's as good as dead. He opens up his magic book for what seems to be the last time, greeted with a half a page of doodles from Jimin. If Jeongguk squints, the doodles seem a bit sloppier this time, drawn in a frenzy, but he supposes Jimin was probably falling asleep as he was drawing.

The next evening, the ogres are busy arguing among themselves on what's the best way to cook Jeongguk, when a series of arrows fly into the camp, knocking each ogre out one by one into a deep slumber. Jeongguk looks around towards the source of the arrows, and he sees the prince of all people galloping up towards him frantically.

"Taehyung?" Jeongguk stares in bewilderment as Taehyung jumps off his horse and envelopes him in a hug before smacking him on the shoulder. "How'd you find me?"

"Let's just say I got extremely lucky," Taehyung says, not elaborating any further. He runs his hands down along Jeongguk’s arms, patting him down. “Are you hurt anywhere?”

"I’m fine,” Jeongguk grouses, shaking Taehyung off. If he’s honest, he’s missed Taehyung quite a bit, but he doesn’t want to show it. Taehyung however, doesn’t seem to be bothered by this at all, and just chooses to hug him again, holding him and crooning that he’s safe now.

Taehyung thinks it’s necessary at that point to assign Jeongguk a bodyguard, to which Jeongguk vehemently tries to reject. But the glare that Taehyung gives him is enough for him to give it up.

“I wish we could spend more time together,” Taehyung says mournfully, hugging Jeongguk again and running a hand down his arm. “But I’m already behind schedule. I’ll see you back at home?”

“Yeah, sure.” Jeongguk watches as Taehyung gets back on his horse, joining the rest of his knights as he sets off for another part of his journey, to another region of the land that Jeongguk will probably never get to see.

He finds out later his guard’s name is Hoseok, who more often than not takes to looking at him curiously, as if Jeongguk’s done something abnormal. “I hope you don’t mind,” Hoseok says after a while. “I’m sure Taehyung would’ve wanted to escort you home himself, but he has his tour to finish.”

“I understand,” Jeongguk replies. “Listen, though, instead of going home, do you think we could make this huge detour to this wedding I need to go to?”

Hoseok looks at him blankly now. “That’s...not what I was instructed to do. I’m supposed to ensure you get home safely.”

“You can still do that,” Jeongguk urges. “But it’s really important that I go to this wedding. This is like, life or death here man.”

It takes a few minutes more of prodding before Hoseok finally relents. “I mean,” Hoseok mutters, “I think you’re probably going to marry Taehyung at some point, so technically I can’t say no to you? But damn, I wish you had better self preservation skills.”

“I have that,” Jeongguk insists, then sets off into the direction he thinks he’s supposed to go. A thought suddenly hits him. “Wait, what do you mean marry?”

“I highly doubt your skills,” Hoseok calls out after him, ignoring his question about marriage, “because you’re definitely going the wrong way.”

Jeongguk curses under his breath and turns his horse around.

--

Once Hoseok’s managed to escort Jeongguk to the wedding, Jeongguk tells him that he can leave. “My father will be here,” Jeongguk says when Hoseok starts to protest. “You’ve already done enough. Once I meet with my father, I’ll go home with him.”

Hoseok finally relents, casting him a worried glance before setting off, presumably to go rejoin with Taehyung and the rest of his army.

Trying to find Seokjin at the wedding turns out to be a disaster. First, Jeongguk blanches when Seokjin gives the newlyweds a gift that they will stay together forever. Then, when Jeongguk manages to corner Seokjin and ask him to remove his gift that he's given Jeongguk, Seokjin just takes one look at him and smiles.

“You’re the boy I gave the gift of obedience to,” Seokjin observes, patting his shoulder. “Why would you want me to remove it? Be happy that you’re obedient.”

A surge of happiness flows through Jeongguk at this, and he bows, thanking Seokjin for his gift, that he’s happy to obey. He skips off, and then happens to run into his father a few moments later. “I ran away from finishing school,” he announces, to which his father gives him a wry glance.

“I figured,” his father says, but to his surprise he ends up taking Jeongguk home with him, instead of ordering him to go back to school. “I’m glad you ran away,” his father says later when they’re in the carriage. “I was actually going to fetch you myself. I’ve lost my fortune, you see.”

Jeongguk gasps. “Oh no.”

“Yes, it’s a terrible misfortune,” his father agrees, then looks him straight in the eye. “You must marry so that we may recover from this terrible predicament.”

“I’d be happy to,” Jeongguk answers him, nodding happily.

His father casts him a look of disbelief. “I’m sorry, say that again?”

“I’d be happy to,” Jeongguk repeats, slower this time. He doesn’t understand why his father is giving him such a confused look.

After some moments of silence his father sighs, shaking his head. “What did they do to you at that finishing school, I really wonder.”

--

When Jeongguk is back home, the first thing he does after he drops his bags in his bedroom is to head towards the kitchen. He hasn't seen Namjoon and Yoongi in what feels like forever, and he's sure they aren't expecting him to be home so soon. When he enters the kitchen, the first thing he says is, "I'm going to get married next month."

Namjoon looks up, gapes at him in surprise, and then proceeds to drop his wooden spoon onto the ground. His clumsiness, it seems, hasn't gone away. Yoongi looks up as well, looks back down at his work, and then looks up again. "I'm glad you're back," Yoongi manages to let out, then something seems to click in his head. "What the fuck do you mean you're getting married?"

"Did the prince propose to you?" Namjoon asks excitedly, forgoing picking the spoon back up and instead clapping his hands.

Jeongguk blinks at this in confusion. "No? Why would Taehyung propose to me?"

"What the fuck," Yoongi says again, taking off his apron and throwing it onto the counter, making his way towards Jeongguk. "Who the hell are you marrying then?"

"My father's setting me up for an arranged marriage to a rich girl," Jeongguk says happily. "Isn't it wonderful?"

Yoongi almost looks like he wants to hit him. Jeongguk doesn't understand why Yoongi's so mad. "He what," Yoongi demands, looking like he's about to spit fire. He turns towards Namjoon. "I'm going to kill him."

Namjoon looks worried, also coming towards Jeongguk. "You can't kill the master of the house," he tells Yoongi simply, who scoffs and grumbles, crossing his arms. "Jeongguk, are you completely sure this is what you want? You've only just gotten back."

"My father said I am to be married, so I'm happy to comply," Jeongguk answers. He doesn't understand why Yoongi and Namjoon look so worried; he'd thought that the news of his marriage would bring them happiness.

"Happy to comply," Yoongi repeats under his breath, his eyebrows furrowing.

"What in the world," Namjoon mutters while Jeongguk steals a meat pie off the counter.

"I told you he shouldn't have gone to that finishing school," Yoongi hisses, punching Namjoon in the arm. "They've brainwashed him, what the hell are we going to do now?"

"Let me think," Namjoon hisses back, rubbing at the temples of his forehead.

Jeongguk gives them both a curious sort of look before skipping back to his room, meat pie in hand.

--

A day later Jeongguk is sitting across from the girl he's supposed to marry, playing with his napkin nervously as the girl looks him over.

"I don't like him," the girl finally says to his father after their third course in the meal. "He's too quiet."

Jeongguk blinks at this. "I can talk more if you want me to?"

The girl gives him a distasteful look. "I don't find you particularly attractive either," she says, and Jeongguk supposes that can't be helped then. It's not like he can change his face, he thinks, as he deflates and leans back in his chair.

Jeongguk's father sighs, looking disappointed, and Jeongguk excuses himself from the rest of the meal, wishing the girl a pleasant journey before heading back into the kitchens. Once he's in there he plops himself down on the wooden bench, groaning and whacking his head onto the table. "She doesn't want to marry me," he announces.

Yoongi looks up from where he's viciously hitting some sort of dough with a rolling pin. "Good," he says, then frowns. "What the hell was her reasoning?"

"She said I was ugly and quiet," Jeongguk says, the table muffling his speech.

Namjoon snorts, setting his knife down from where he's cutting up a fruit tart. He grabs a plate and places a slice on it before sliding it across the table over to Jeongguk. "You are quiet, but I don't think she was in any position to call you ugly." There's a pause when Jeongguk looks up and picks up a fork, stuffing a big bite of tart into his mouth. "Why did you come back from finishing school so early? It's only been a few months."

Jeongguk chews vigorously and then swallows, almost choking on the dry crust. Namjoon raises an eyebrow at him and pours him a mug of cider. "I ran away from school, met up with my father at some wedding, and then I ran into Seokjin the fairy," he answers cheerfully, taking the mug gratefully.

Yoongi throws his rolling pin down onto the counter, which makes a loud smack onto the table. "You did what?" he yells, turning towards him to cast a menacing glare in his direction. Jeongguk looks up in surprise, not expecting Yoongi to raise his voice so suddenly. "You met with Seokjin?"

Namjoon hushes at Yoongi to be quiet before groaning and rubbing the temples of his forehead again. "That makes a little more sense," he mutters, thinking to himself for a few moments before speaking again. "Tell me, did Seokjin give you another gift?"

Jeongguk blinks at that, taking another bite of fruit tart. "No. I went there to ask him to take the gift back, but he just told me I should be happy with the gift he gave me."

"That fucking fairy," Yoongi grumbles, picking his rolling pin back up again.

Namjoon casts a wary glance towards Yoongi's direction before moving his attention to Jeongguk. "Jeongguk, don't listen to Seokjin. Don't be happy with the gift, just feel whatever you want to feel, okay?"

A surge of happiness rushes through Jeongguk before it's replaced with something more despairing. It's as if a haze has been finally lifted from his mind. "Fuck," he exclaims, dropping his fork and burying his face into his hands. "I fucking hate that fairy."

"That's more like it," Namjoon says wryly, patting him on the shoulder and letting him take a few moments to compose himself. "How are you feeling?"

"I feel like shit," Jeongguk mutters, then raises his head. "How the hell did you guess what happened?"

"I've seen Seokjin's work for years," Namjoon confides in him, going back to his work. "He has a pattern."

"You act like you've known him for ages," Jeongguk mutters, taking a sip of his cider before tackling the tart again.

"We have known him for ages, unfortunately," Yoongi grumbles, punching the dough this time and forgoing the rolling pin. "Three hundred years, to be exact."

Jeongguk drops his fork at this. "What."

Namjoon gives Yoongi a betrayed look, once again setting down his knife. "What the hell?"

Yoongi blinks in response. "Oh, I'm sorry, are we still keeping the fact that you're his fairy godfather a secret?" he drawls, crossing his arms again. "Because that bullshit is getting a bit old, even for me."

"Fairy godfather," Jeongguk repeats, staring at the both of them, his tart now forgotten. "You're my fairy godfather?"

Namjoon winces at this, rubbing the back of his neck this time. Namjoon seems to be in a lot of pain these days, Jeongguk muses. "Surprise?"

Jeongguk turns and points an accusing finger at Yoongi this time. "You're a fairy too?!"

Yoongi gives a shrug, looking nonplussed. "Kid, why do you think we haven't started aging or growing out gray hairs? We still look like we're in our twenties."

This is true, Jeongguk decides. He's always wondered why Yoongi and Namjoon look so young for their age, but he supposes that at this point with their revelation and all, he really doesn't have a clue how old they truly are. "You two can perform magic?"

"We stick to the small magic," Yoongi elaborates, waving a vague hand in the air. "Things like, making the soap produce extra suds, or some lame shit like that. The big magic only Seokjin's really known for."

"I keep on telling him to quit that shit, but he never listens," Namjoon's taken to saying mournfully, looking distressed.

"He's useless," Yoongi declares.

Namjoon shoves Yoongi's shoulder in retaliation. "I told you not to be rude to Seokjin."

Yoongi snorts in response. "Fine. He's only half useless."

Namjoon makes an indignant noise, and the two proceed to start bickering at each other again about Seokjin the supposed amazing fairy that doesn't quite know when to stop. Jeongguk's heard both sides of the argument countless times before, so he just goes back to his tart quietly, undisturbed.

It's at this precise moment when Yoongi and Namjoon are squabbling again that Hoseok makes his dramatic appearance, barging in through the kitchen door with a seemingly nonchalant expression. Namjoon and Yoongi both stop what they're doing to stare at the intruder.

"Who the fuck are you?" Yoongi asks, staring at Hoseok with an expression on his face that says he's not amused in the slightest that he and Namjoon have been interrupted. His hand, however, starts inching slightly towards a pot near him, which Jeongguk assumes is for self defense purposes of some sort.

Hoseok gives him an equally unimpressed stare in return. "How do you do, I'm supposed to be Jeongguk's bodyguard," he begins, then turns toward Jeongguk, pointedly ignoring the way Namjoon's and Yoongi's jaws both drop. "Apparently I really wasn't supposed to leave you there at the wedding, so that was my bad."

"You were sent here by the prince?" Namjoon asks curiously, eyeing Hoseok's armor and sword warily. For someone who's apparently lived as long as he has, Jeongguk assumes he probably hasn't had much experience being in the company of armed knights before.

"No, I was sent here by a band of trolls," Hoseok says blandly. "Yes, I was sent here by the prince. Although, speaking of trolls, you're not too traumatized about what happened with the ogres, right?" Hoseok asks, turning towards Jeongguk this time. "Prince Taehyung wanted me to inquire over your mental state."

"Er," Jeongguk lets out, looking between Namjoon and Yoongi wildly as the gears start to turn in their heads.

"Ogres," Yoongi repeats blankly, pinning Jeongguk down with the most unimpressed stare. "What ogres."

Hoseok looks confused by this turn of events. "I'm sorry, is this news to you? Jeongguk got kidnapped by a band of ogres after he ran away from finishing school."

Namjoon looks like he wants to faint; Yoongi, on the other hand, looks like he's two seconds away from whacking Jeongguk with the rolling pin.

Hoseok just stares at them both. "I'm assuming this is news."

"Well would you look at the time," Jeongguk declares loudly, scarfing down the rest of his tart in his haste and then washing it down with the cider. "Time for me to feed the hamster."

"Hamster?" Hoseok asks, his interest piquing. "What hamster?"

"Don't you dare," Yoongi borderline screeches, throwing a towel at Jeongguk's head furiously. "We can't fuck up the hamster's meal times, she has to be put on a strict schedule."

Hoseok gives Yoongi a wary look. "Dude chill, it's just a hamster."

Yoongi turns towards Hoseok, looking annoyed. "Look you fucker, I don't care if you're some knight in shining armor or not, that hamster has to be put on a timetable, all right? If we fuck up her meal times she's going to get fat and then die young."

Namjoon blinks at this as Jeongguk slowly manages to slip away. "Oops?" he says sheepishly.

Yoongi slowly raises his arm and points an accusing finger at Namjoon. "I fucking knew it," he seethes, and thus Namjoon and Yoongi proceed to argue again about the well-being of said hamster, while Hoseok stares at them for a minute more before slipping away and nosing around the kitchen.

Hoseok eventually decides to duke it out in the kitchen cupboard for the time being. Namjoon sighs tiredly and tells him he can do whatever the hell he wants since he was sent over by the prince. Yoongi, however, gives Hoseok an unimpressed look before finally relenting after much prodding on Namjoon's account.

--

A week later, Jeongguk's father announces that he will be married to Lady Hongjoo by the end of the week. He finds Jeongguk in the kitchen with Namjoon and Yoongi, both of whom are trying out a new recipe for a pudding of some sort. Hoseok, having heard his father come in, is currently hiding behind a wine barrel.

Namjoon and Yoongi both give Jeongguk's father blank stares after he makes his announcement, and without any further business to attend to in the kitchen, his father turns on his heel and walks back out the way he came in.

"I'm not the biggest fan of Lady Hongjoo or her family," Namjoon finally lets out after some moments of silence.

Hoseok's head pops out from behind the wine barrel cautiously before he finally stands up. "This isn't going to be another situation where the evil stepmother comes in and turns the household upside down right? I've heard too many stories about that already; what was that one book called? Sleeping Beauty?"

There's several more moments of silence before Yoongi speaks up this time around. "I think you mean Snow White."

Jeongguk decides not to add to the speculation; he already knows, when his future stepsisters set foot into the house, his life is going to be miserable to say the least.

True to his word, by the end of the week Jeongguk's father and Lady Hongjoo marry. What's unfortunate, though, is somehow through the flurry of hustle and bustle, Seokjin somehow catches wind of the marriage and invites himself to their wedding. Jeongguk looks on in horror as Seokjin congratulates the newlyweds graciously before bestowing them a gift of their own; they are, in Seokjin's words, going to love each other forever. The two look like starstruck lovers by the time Seokjin's done bestowing his gift, and Jeongguk thinks this day really couldn't get any worse, looking on in disgust as his father coos at Lady Hongjoo lovingly.

When Jeongguk reports back to Namjoon and Yoongi after the wedding is over, Namjoon makes the most distressed noise. "Seokjin needs to stop pulling that shit," he gripes. Yoongi starts to open his mouth, but Namjoon cuts him off at once. "Not today," he pleads, to which Yoongi relents, albeit begrudgingly.

When Jeongguk's father is about to leave on another excursion to go sell his wares, Lady Hongjoo, now his stepmother, finds out that Jeongguk's father is practically penniless. Jeongguk's father and his stepmother proceed to go through a whole hour of dramatic flair, with the stepmother claiming that his father doesn't love her, while his father insists that's not the case, and that if they truly love each other the stepmother wouldn't care that he wasn't bringing any property into the marriage.

His stepmother finally relents and lets his father go, and it's only another hour later when she barges into Jeongguk's room and tells him in the most poisonous, sickening voice to start packing up his stuff. "You'll be moving to another room, closer to the kitchen," she says primly. "I will not have you freeload here while I'm using my fortune to take care of this household."

The room that Jeongguk gets moved to is small, and has no fireplace; in fact, it's probably the smallest room in the house aside from the cupboard in the kitchen. It's not a problem now that it's near summertime, but he can see it becoming problematic when it gets closer to winter season. He wonders briefly if he's able to move to the kitchen once the colder weather hits, as he's unpacking what little belongings he already has.

His life goes to complete shit, though, the moment Heejin and Chaebin tell their mother about Jeongguk's curse. His stepmother proceeds to go through the usual process when people find out about his curse, asking him to turn around, for example, or to hop on one foot, or something equally as ridiculous. When his stepmother is finally content that Jeongguk has no choice but to comply with her commands, she starts to send him around the house to take care of different chores, whether it be to clean the windows, dust the bookshelves, or mop the floors.

Namjoon and Yoongi can do nothing but watch on as Jeongguk gets sent around the house to do various errands. "I thought your mother told you never to tell anyone about the curse," Namjoon hisses quietly once, as Jeongguk is rushing about, grabbing the mop and bucket out of the kitchen.

"I didn't," Jeongguk answers him, waving quickly as he makes his way out of the kitchen again. "The sisters found out on their own."

Jeongguk gets worked to the bone, the most out of any of the other servants they have in the house. It gets to the point where even Hoseok, as good natured as he is, starts getting impatient. "I don't understand why you listen to whatever they tell you to do," he exclaims, waving his arms wildly about.

Jeongguk pointedly ignores the comment about doing what he's told. "Why are you still here?" he takes to asking instead.

Hoseok casts him a wry glance. "Because the prince is rather concerned over your wellbeing. He's grown very attached, I must say."

Jeongguk pleads with him after that to not let Taehyung know about his situation. "It's a family affair," Jeongguk insists when Hoseok makes a noise of protest. "No good will come out of him knowing."

"Taehyung could help you out," Hoseok says, looking confused, as if he doesn't understand why Jeongguk's allowing himself to be put through this predicament. To be fair, Jeongguk would be equally puzzled if he were in Hoseok's position. "I don't think the prince would take it too well if he found out you were scrubbing the floors all day in your own home."

"I'll figure it out," Jeongguk insists again. "I don't want to make him worry while he's still touring the country."

At this Hoseok finally relents, because he too does not wish to distress Taehyung any further, not when the prince is already exhausted from touring the country. That, and he trusts Jeongguk that he will figure it out one day. "As long as it doesn't get worse," Hoseok says, and Jeongguk doesn't answer, simply because he doesn't think he can make any promises of the sort.

The only things that brings Jeongguk up from his dreary, wearisome days are the letters Taehyung's taken to sending him ever since he's gotten back home. They all start out much the same way, first detailing what he's done during the week. In the middle somewhere Taehyung will start to note how much he misses Jeongguk, and towards the end the letter will take on an optimistic tone, that Taehyung will be back soon and they'll be reunited again. Another year, supposedly. When Jeongguk writes back, he always makes sure to tell Taehyung that he misses him too, but more often than not he always makes up things about his day. He'll tell him that he's been reading books in the library, for example, when in reality he's had to dust off the shelves in the library and air out the curtains.

Jeongguk is lucky, he thinks, that at least his communication with the outside world hasn't been completely cut off by his stepmother and stepsisters, that at least he can rely on Namjoon to go to the market every couple of days to drop off his mail in town to be sent to the prince. That, and the magic book Namjoon gifted him, so that Jeongguk can see that neither Taehyung nor Jimin have dropped their habit of doodling randomly as a way of passing time. For some reason Jeongguk thinks with much amusement that the two of them would get along, if they ever happened to meet.

--

Chaebin takes to storming into the kitchen rather ungracefully one day, unannounced and uninvited. Yoongi looks up, takes one look at her and wordlessly drops whatever he's doing and takes off his apron. He takes to shoving Hoseok further along the wooden table and sitting next to him, crossing his arms and fuming.

The first thing Chaebin says when she settles down at the table as well, directly across from Jeongguk, is to make demands. "Give me your money," she tells Jeongguk, to which Jeongguk reaches into his pocket and hands her two coins. Hoseok makes a strangled noise of protest at that, which the rest of the room ignores. "Make me a pie," is her next demand, so Jeongguk takes out a bowl, thanking the stars that at least Namjoon already has a variety of pre-made pie crusts out on the table already so he doesn't have to deal with crumbly, hard to work with dough.

Chaebin doesn't specify what sort of pie she wants, so Jeongguk takes it upon himself to pick the greenest apples so he can make the most sour pie possible. Yoongi snorts and watches on in amusement as Jeongguk cuts the apples up into haphazard chunks before throwing them into the bowl, mixing it all together with barely any sugar and a shitload of cinnamon. Hoseok watches too, but since he's a knight who hasn't had much experience in the kitchens, he doesn't quite understand what Jeongguk's trying to do here.

To be completely honest, Jeongguk himself has no fucking clue what he's doing either.

The pie comes out of the oven looking sad and soggy at best, which Jeongguk is pretty sure isn't Namjoon's fault because the pie crust went into the oven looking solid. Namjoon gives the pie a disgusted look before setting it out in front of Chaebin, who manages to eat half of the pie in one go. She leaves the kitchen after she's finished, and half a minute later Yoongi finally stands up, takes the rest of the pie on the plate, and dumps it into the trash.

Hoseok frowns at this. "I'm sure the pie wasn't that bad? It must've tasted better than it looked."

"Trust me," Yoongi mutters, looking at the empty plate distastefully. At least, from what Jeongguk can see, Yoongi has warmed up to the knight quite a bit. "It's really all that bad."

--

Jeongguk quickly realizes that his least favorite part is whenever his stepmother decides to throw dinner parties at their house. It's his least favorite part, simply because his stepmother goes through the entire house in a frenzy, ensuring that the house is spotless before her guests arrive. Part of the duties, it seems, to make sure that the house's floorboards are free from dust or grease, which becomes Jeongguk's responsibility.

His stepmother also thinks it's a grand idea if Jeongguk cleans the floorboards with only a towel and a bucket filled with hot water, as Lady Hongjoo watches on. Jeongguk thinks his predicament is fine for maybe all of an hour before his hands feel like they're stinging. Spots of blood start to appear on his hands due to the towel he's using, and his stepmother always makes sure the water he's using to clean the floors is hot water, which doesn't make his situation any better. Every time he dips his hands back into the bucket, pain shoots up to his wrists.

Namjoon takes one look as his hands when Jeongguk heads back down into the kitchen after the end of his duties and wordlessly takes a medicine jar out of his pantry.

"You and I should just move out with Jeongguk and open up a bakery or something," Yoongi mutters to Namjoon as he gingerly starts to place the ointment on Jeongguk's knuckles. Hoseok looks on grimly as Jeongguk gasps, watching as the cuts start to go away on their own. "Anything to get this kid out of the house."

"Open up a shop with what money," Namjoon asks tiredly, placing a plate of food he's set aside for Jeongguk in front of him. Jeongguk tests out his knuckles once more before looking at the plate warily. Namjoon gives him a perplexed look. "Why aren't you eating?"

"Um." Jeongguk blinks at the plate rather stupidly, even though he knows he’s hungry. “Heejin told me to eat less.”

Hoseok makes an indignant noise. “I thought you said you were going to figure it out,” he says accusingly. “Now you’re scrubbing floors until your hands bleed? And they’re trying to control your food intake?”

Yoongi looks like he’s about to set something on fire.

“They’re not going to control his food intake,” Namjoon mutters, rubbing his forehead in annoyance. “Jeongguk, don’t listen to Heejin. Eat however much you want to eat.”

At this, Jeongguk proceeds to pick up his fork and start stuffing his mouth with potatoes. He’s famished after a long day of scrubbing floors without break, almost to the point where his hands are even starting to shake a little.

Hoseok’s eyes squint at this procession of events. “That’s it? Heejin tells you not to eat, you don’t eat. Namjoon over here tells you to eat, so you suddenly decide to eat?”

Jeongguk nods his head and then shrugs, not wanting to elaborate any further.

“You’re such a weird kid,” Hoseok mutters. “I don’t get why Taehyung likes you so much.”

The thing is, Jeongguk doesn’t really get it either.

--

The next letter Taehyung sends to Jeongguk makes him jump up with happiness before he sits back down on his chair slowly, realizing that he's made a mistake in thinking that he and Taehyung could become a possibility. The letter starts out much the same way, with the prince telling him how much he misses him, and the ending starts out much the same way as well, with Taehyung remaining optimistic that they will be reunited soon. 

What's different this time though, is that the prince asks if he has permission to court Jeongguk once he's come back from his tour.

Jeongguk's elation only lasts for a minute. A minute he thinks to himself that he'll finally know what it's like to be in love, but he quickly realizes that he can't allow himself to love the crown prince of all people. Not when he has this curse hanging over his head, and a step family that would do anything to feed into their greed. He realizes with dawning horror that his stepmother wouldn't hesitate to command him to kill Taehyung, even, if it meant that his family could step into power in the wake of the prince's death.

It takes Jeongguk two days of mulling over it for him to respond, but when he finally does, he tries to tell himself that he's made the right choice. That no matter how much Taehyung likes him, and how much Jeongguk likes him back, their love will be meaningless if Taehyung ends up losing his life because of it.

So Jeongguk makes a decision. He picks up his quill and begins to write, detailing the events of a lush and lavish wedding, that he is now married to a rich man and has moved away with him, far away from the capital. That it'll be pointless of Taehyung to try to find him, because Jeongguk has left his home without letting anyone know where he's headed off to, because he wants to live in peace and solitude with his new husband.

Jeongguk doesn't tell anyone of this until the afternoon after he hands the letter over to Namjoon. When Namjoon comes back from the market, Jeongguk finally breaks down, because even though he's made a decision he's still so unsure of it. The uncertainty will eat him away if he doesn't ask. "I made the right choice, didn't I?" he asks desperately as Namjoon rubs soothing circles against his back. "If the crown prince of this country is in danger, it means the country itself is in danger."

"You did," Namjoon assures him, pulling him in for a hug. It's rare for Namjoon to hug him these days, especially as he's gotten older. "I'm proud of you."

Somehow, Namjoon's praise doesn't make Jeongguk feel any better.

--

Hoseok has this habit where he tends to barge into Jeongguk's room without knocking if it's something important, or if he's panicking. So when Hoseok barges into Jeongguk's room a week after Jeongguk sends out his letter, he thinks he has a pretty good idea of what Hoseok's panicking about.

"Why did the prince," Hoseok begins flatly as Jeongguk's getting himself ready for another long day of chores, "send me a letter asking me if you got married."

Jeongguk casts him a blank look. The answer should be fairly obvious here. "Because I told him I got married."

Hoseok splutters indignantly at this, waving what Jeongguk assumes to be Taehyung's letter wildly around. "Why the hell would you do that?" Hoseok proceeds to yell, to which Jeongguk flinches in response. His stepmother and stepsisters don't know Hoseok's been living in the kitchen in secret, so Hoseok really should keep his voice down.

It seems Namjoon is thinking the exact same thing, because at that moment he barges into Jeongguk's room as well, and with a grim expression he grabs Hoseok by the shoulder and proceeds to drag him out of the room.

Hoseok protests at first. "Hey! Where are you taking me? I need to have a word with this kid over here."

"We are going to talk outside," Namjoon begins slowly, making sure to enunciate each word carefully. "Now. No, I don't care about your opinions," he continues when Hoseok opens his mouth to protest again. "Get your ass outside."

Hoseok must have some sort of unreasonable fear towards Namjoon, because he, instead of protesting again, proceeds to make his way outside.

The next half an hour Jeongguk hears the two of them going at it outside, arguing in loud voices with a number of curse words thrown in the mix for good measure. He makes his way to the kitchen to start his day, helping Yoongi first with breakfast preparations.

Hoseok eventually trails back into the kitchen quietly with Namjoon following close behind, and with slumped shoulders he sits down heavily at the wooden table where Jeongguk and Yoongi are making pies. If Jeongguk has to take a guess, he thinks Namjoon probably told Hoseok about his curse. The knight is silent for a few moments before speaking. "I'm sorry I yelled at you," Hoseok mutters, looking down at the table. "I'm really, really sorry I yelled at you. I just don't like seeing Taehyung get hurt."

Jeongguk gives a halfhearted shrug in response. "No offense taken." A pause. "You're right that I hurt him though. Probably."

When Hoseok looks up again, he looks determined. "I'm not going to respond to Taehyung's letter, so hopefully he assumes I refused to answer because I didn't want to confirm the bad news. But Namjoon promised me that we'd figure out a way for you two to be together. We just have to figure it out when Taehyung gets back."

Jeongguk, however, has no such hope. He shrugs again. "Sure."

Namjoon sighs heavily before pointing to the wine barrel. "Will you please hide behind that barrel for a while?" he asks Jeongguk.

Jeongguk looks at him warily. "Why?"

"I'm doing something I should've done years ago," Namjoon mutters, looking exhausted. Jeongguk is still confused, but he sits himself behind the wine barrel anyway, waiting.

Namjoon tells Hoseok to stand next to Yoongi, and afterwards he calls out, "Seokjin, I need you."

Jeongguk muffles a gasp as Seokjin appears moments later in the middle of the kitchen, holding some sort of pink stick in his hand. "Namjoon, it's been ages," Seokjin notes, looking around the kitchen cheerfully. "What can I help you with today?"

Namjoon stares at the pink thing in his hands. "What the hell is that supposed to be?"

"Oh, this?" Seokjin asks, looking at his stick. "I'm trying out a new concept. A new image, if you will."

"A new concept," Yoongi repeats rather blandly. Hoseok, to his left, still has his mouth wide open, presumably because he's never seen a fairy appear out of thin air before.

Jeongguk hasn't either, he reasons, so he can't blame him.

Namjoon shakes his head wryly. "Interesting. Anyway, I called you over because I wanted to make a bet with you."

At this, Seokjin's interest piques. "A bet?"

Namjoon turns towards Hoseok. "When did you say the prince was coming back again?"

Hoseok finally closes his mouth. "Er. In six months."

Namjoon nods, satisfied. "Look, Seokjin, I've thought long and hard about this, and I know we haven't always agreed on the nature of your gifts."

Seokjin crosses his arms. "Right."

"Right," Namjoon says, nodding again. "So, I'm making a proposition, a deal if you will. How about you do a test run on some of the more common gifts you give out for six months, and if by the end of six months of living them out you still believe your gifts are blessings, I'll stop nagging you whenever you perform big magic."

"We're trying to work out some sort of truce," Seokjin elaborates, giving Namjoon a curious look. "Some way to settle our differences once and for all, after hundreds of years of arguing."

"Exactly," Namjoon agrees, making a vague sort of gesture with his hands. "I'd try it out on my own with you, but you know I've always been against big magic."

"I'm assuming one of the gifts you want me to test out is the gift of obedience," Seokjin says matter-of-factly. "Since the boy you've been caring for was given that gift."

"That's the most important one," Namjoon confirms. "It doesn't matter how long you choose to be under that spell for, or what other gifts you choose to test out, but that one for sure."

Seokjin considers Namjoon carefully for a few moments more before nodding. "Sure," he says, and then disappears out of the room.

When Seokjin's gone, Hoseok finally speaks again as Jeongguk gingerly stands up. "I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that was the fairy that cursed Jeongguk?"

"Yup," Yoongi replies, picking up a pot rather violently and getting back to work on cooking breakfast. "I'm assuming the general plan is to make Seokjin realize his gifts are shit, and then hopefully he'll reverse all the ones he's cast."

Namjoon nods and then shrugs, picking up a pan for himself to get started on some eggs. "It's the best I could come up with. Seokjin's oblivious, but he's not stupid."

Jeongguk, however, for some reason tries not to be as hopeful as the rest of them. He has a feeling that even after the six months are over, it's doubtful Seokjin will remove the curse for him.

--

A week later, Yoongi stares at Hoseok as he continues lounging at the wooden table, yawning as he polishes off his armor. "Didn't the prince tell you to leave?"

Hoseok continues to polish his armor. "Yeah, why?"

Yoongi continues to stare at the top of Hoseok's head. "The fuck you still doing here?"

Hoseok looks up at that. "He said I could leave since Jeongguk got married," he says flatly, then points to Jeongguk, who's busy rolling out meat pies with Namjoon. "The kid's not married, so technically I have to stay."

Namjoon takes a few of the cooked pies and tries to shove them into Jeongguk's mouth, imploring him not to listen to his stepsisters and that it's important for him to eat. "I'm starting to actually hate them," Namjoon mutters when Jeongguk shakes his head and waves his hand impatiently, trying to signal to him that there's no way he can fit that many pies in his mouth. The other relents, allowing him to eat at his own pace.

Namjoon, Jeongguk thinks, is still a little shaken up ever since he found out Heejin had ordered him to start eating less because it wasn't good for him, the same way she did back when he was travelling with her to finishing school. Thankfully Namjoon had caught on rather quickly, so these days it's a lot of back and forth between Heejin telling him to stop eating, and Namjoon telling him not to listen to her.

There's not much cleaning to be done since Lady Hongjoo is out for the majority of the day, and Yoongi asks him if he's hungry before sending him off back to his room after he says no.

When he washes up and heads to bed, he opens up his magic book and is greeted first by nonsensical drawings from both Taehyung and Jimin, before there's a journal entry from the latter. This is surprising to Jeongguk, because in all the time he's known Jimin, he's never seen a journal entry from him before.

The contents of the entry surprise him even further; Jimin starts out by saying that the prince happened to visit him during his tour, and they both happened upon the topic of Jeongguk. Jimin details how Taehyung told him that Jeongguk had gotten married, which Jimin is puzzled by because he always thought Jeongguk was going to get married to Taehyung, at least based on how much Jeongguk talked about the prince while they were away at school.

Jeongguk slams the book shut, not wanting to read further.

Once the winter months draw near, Yoongi and Namjoon are debating furiously among themselves about what they should do about Jeongguk's room, as Hoseok watches on worriedly. "I'd be fine with doing a bit more magic just so he doesn't freeze to death," Namjoon starts to say. "But you know I'm absolutely shit at fire."

"You always fuck up when it comes to fire," Yoongi agrees easily without a moment's hesitation. "You probably will burn his room down along with the rest of this house if you even try."

Namjoon looks put out by this, but says that it's the truth.

"Can't he just move into the kitchen?" Hoseok inquires. "He can take the cupboard, I'll just sleep on the floor or something."

Yoongi shakes his head. "His stepmother is a sadistic motherfucker, so there's no way she's going to allow him to move to the kitchen. Besides, she likes to barge into his room in the mornings and yell at him to do some sort of chore, so even if we sneak him in here I don't think it's going to work out."

"It'll be fine," Jeongguk insists, not wanting the three of them to debate even further about his room. "It probably won't even be that bad."

Hoseok casts him a disbelieving glance. "You moved the hamster into the kitchen," he points out.

"Hamsters get cold easier," Jeongguk reasons, which is utter shit he's pulling out of his ass, but it's the only thing he's got.

Namjoon looks at him warily before sighing heavily. "I'll cast a spell on your blankets. It won't be much, but at least it'll help." He gives Jeongguk a pointed look. "Just make sure you don't kick them off like you normally do."

Jeongguk says he'll try, but he can't make any promises here. He's always been an ugly sleeper.

--

Once winter hits, it ends up being every bit as cold as Jeongguk was hoping it wouldn't be. He struggles to fall asleep sometimes, wrapping the magic blanket around him snugly, and early in the morning he always ends up waking up, teeth chattering as he tosses and turns in bed, trying to fall back asleep.

More often than not, he ends up getting out of bed early to get dressed and head down to the kitchen, where Namjoon and Yoongi are already awake. "The blanket isn't helping, is it," Namjoon says mournfully a few days after Jeongguk's gotten out of bed early again, warming himself up by the fire. "I wish there was a way for me to make it stronger. Maybe I should call Seokjin over."

"It's fine," Jeongguk insists, shivering all the same. "I'm just turning over a new leaf, starting my day early."

Namjoon gives him a look that says he's unconvinced, but he doesn't push it. Instead, he wordlessly hands Jeongguk a bowl of soup, who takes it gratefully and sits down at the table. He's only halfway through his meal, though, when Lady Hongjoo screeches at him for him to go outside and clean the glass on the windows.

Yoongi throws his ladle back into the pot vigorously. Hoseok startles awake at the sound, launching himself out of the cupboard and opening his eyes blearily, sword already in his hand. "What happened?" he manages to get out, his eyes blinking rapidly.

"Go back to sleep," Yoongi hisses, shoving Hoseok back into the cupboard and slamming the door shut. In a much lower voice, he continues to complain. "What the hell is she trying to do by sending you outside like that when it's freezing cold? Can't she wait until midday?"

"She wants me dead," Jeongguk intones, already handing his bowl back to Namjoon and grabbing a sponge and bucket. "At least if I lose my fingers to frostbite, I'll be less attractive and the prince won't want me anymore."

Hoseok pops out of the cupboard again. "The prince would want you, whether or not you have all your fingers intact."

Yoongi rolls his eyes and proceeds to shove Hoseok back into the cupboard again.

Jeongguk sets off for the freezing world outside, trying to remain cheerful. Without even knowing it himself, he's already counting down to the day that Seokjin is supposed to come back.

It's the only hope he has left, really, and even then it's dreary at best. Jeongguk doesn't want to be disappointed again.

--

True to his word, Seokjin comes back after six months, crashing into the kitchen this time rather violently instead of appearing as elegantly as he did the first time.

Namjoon coughs at the dust Seokjin brings in with him as Jeongguk scrambles to hide behind the wine barrel. "No need," Namjoon wheezes out, waving a hand in front of his face to try to clear up the air some. "If you could just sit, that'd be great."

Jeongguk sits next to Yoongi who sits next to Hoseok, all four of them waiting with abated breath as Seokjin composes himself.

Seokjin finally looks up. "Well the verdict is, my gifts are absolute shit."

Hoseok cheers as Yoongi gives Seokjin an unimpressed look. "Well, I'm glad you finally noticed," Yoongi says in the most monotone voice possible.

"What exactly happened?" Namjoon asks, pouring out a mug of hot chocolate and handing it to Seokjin, who takes it gratefully. Thankfully, he doesn't drop the mug this time.

"I spent three months as a squirrel and three months as an obedient kid," Seokjin explains, taking a sip of his hot chocolate. "I figured it was the most fair, since those are the two gifts I bestow the most often."

"So how was being a squirrel for three months?" Yoongi asks, raising an eyebrow. "I'm guessing you were cold and shit."

Seokjin nods in agreement. "Cold as hell, let me tell you. Also, I could never manage to get enough to eat." He shudders. "Anyway, after the three months I turned myself into a kid. I thought it was only fair that way, since I usually give the gift of obedience to newborns."

Namjoon nods as well. "That makes sense. How was that?"

Seokjin pins him down with the most furious gaze. "Let me tell you, I had the worst parents ever. They always told me to sleep on the floor, and the food they told me to eat was always scraps or things that were already rotting." He takes a look at his mug fitfully, setting it down. "I'm the absolute worst."

Seokjin makes no move to continue on further, just staring down at his mug with a somber expression, so Jeongguk speaks up. "You aren't able to get rid of the gift for me, are you?"

Seokjin looks up at that, looking apologetic. "I wish I could," he says softly. "But that just requires more big magic on my part, and I'm not sure I really should be performing any magic at all anymore."

Jeongguk nods at this; it's what he was expecting at any rate. His life's never been easy for him in terms of his curse. "I don't blame you," is what he finally says, and Seokjin looks torn between looking sad and looking grateful. "I hate the gift, but I don't blame you for wanting to stop performing magic."

Seokjin leaves shortly after that, and Jeongguk excuses himself up to his room. Yoongi doesn't ask him if he's hungry this time, letting him go without a word.

When he buries himself under the covers that night, he finally allows himself to cry.

--

In the six months after Jeongguk's written to Taehyung with the news that he's gotten married, he hasn't gotten a single letter from the prince again. It’s what Jeongguk was expecting would happen, but his expectation doesn’t mean it hurts any less. When he dreams, he allows himself to dream of a world where Jeongguk isn’t cursed, where Hoseok’s reports back to the crown prince are filled with honesty instead of half-concealed truths. He imagines Taehyung rushing into his home and declaring that Jeongguk will live at the palace now, away from the family that doesn’t love him, and will never choose to love him.

It’s silly for him to imagine such things, Jeongguk knows, that he should focus on the reality of his situation and make do with what he has. But his imaginations are all he has left of Taehyung’s smiles, and the way he hugs Jeongguk without a care in the world for what else that may be happening around them.

If Jeongguk had any ounce of self preservation, he would have forgotten it all now. But he can’t.

When Hoseok brings news of the royal family hosting a series of three balls in order to find a suitable match for the prince, Jeongguk's heart drops again. "You should go," Hoseok suggests, handing him the announcement. "You can hide your face with a veil or something."

Jeongguk shakes his head. "If he's hosting the dances, doesn't it mean he's moved on?"

"No, that's not what it means at all," Hoseok disagrees, motioning for Jeongguk to sit down next to him at the table. "Look, I've known Taehyung for a long, long time. The king and queen are probably just hosting these as a formality, but the prince is loyal. I know it may be hard for you to believe, but if it's not you, there's no one else he will marry."

“Taehyung never asked me to marry him,” Jeongguk contradicts, because it’s true. Taehyung’s last letter to him was only asking if he could court Jeongguk once he came back from his tours, and not much else.

“The prince asked to court you, yes, because he didn’t want to scare you off by moving too fast,” Hoseok says. “From what I know of though, he was already toying around with the idea of proposing to you.”

Jeongguk takes a few moments to consider this. "What if he finds someone better?"

Hoseok pins him down with a serious expression. "There's no one else for him. At least use this chance to see him, since the royal family doesn't host such public events that often."

Jeongguk supposes Hoseok has a point. It's his only chance for a while to see Taehyung again, without him knowing who he is. Whether the prince ends up choosing someone to marry by the end of it all, Jeongguk has no control over.

The days before and leading up to the dances go by in a frenzy, Jeongguk being kept busy with preparations. The day of the dance, Jeongguk spends his time trying to figure out how to curl Heejin and Chaebin's hair, as well as helping them with their makeup. Yoongi casts him a look of disbelief when he finds out what he's been busy with. "I don't understand how they expect you to know how to fucking curl hair, or do makeup," Yoongi grumbles as he and Namjoon help Jeongguk get ready. Namjoon has gotten him a mask that he can wear from the local markets, and Jeongguk puts on one of his old suits he managed to keep after he moved rooms.

Namjoon summons Seokjin once more, explaining the situation to him and enlisting him to help him with an invisibility spell. Both Namjoon and Seokjin escort him to the location, since they decide it’s best if they help Jeongguk remain mostly invisible during his travel. "Make me proud,” Seokjin crows when they make it to the entrance of the venue, slapping him on the back for good measure and all but shoving him towards the doors.

After Jeongguk’s made his way inside, he’s overwhelmed by the sheer number of people in the room already. He’s looking around the room anxiously, not knowing where he should stand or if he should situate himself near a wall, when he loses sight of where he’s going and ends up bumping into another man.

Jeongguk must be literally the unluckiest man in the world, because the person he ends up bumping into happens to be none other than Prince Taehyung. His heart drops with a thud.

“Oh, I’m so sorry about that,” Taehyung apologizes at once with a smile, as if he’s the one that wasn’t paying attention to where he was going. “Are you all right?”

Jeongguk has to clear his throat a few times before he can respond. “I’m fine, that was my fault. I wasn’t watching where I was going.”

“The crowd must make you nervous,” Taehyung presumes, reaching a hand out. “My name’s Taehyung, if you didn’t know already.”

“I didn’t,” Jeongguk replies, taking his hand, starting to feel uneasy when Taehyung’s eyes widen at the contact. He quickly pulls his hand away. “My name’s Jeonghyun.” Belatedly he wonders if he should have chosen something else for a fake name, because now he’s quickly beginning to realize how similar Jeonghyun is to his own name.

Taehyung gives him a curious look. “Have we met before?”

Jeongguk’s totally screwed this up. “Er, not that I know of? I think I’d know if I met the prince of all people,” he says, laughing nervously and rubbing the back of his neck. “Yeah, pretty sure we’ve never met before.”

Taehyung, thankfully, seems convinced enough, giving a careless shrug before looking on at the crowd. When he turns back to Jeongguk, he says, “Listen, I know you probably came here to dance, but I’m getting sick of the crowd already so I think I’m going to head outside for a bit.” Taehyung regards him for a moment more. “You’re welcome to join me, if you’d like.”

When they’ve made their way outside, it’s a long time before Taehyung speaks again. “You probably decided to participate in the dances with the intention of getting married by the end of it all, but I’m not looking for a partner right now.”

Jeongguk blinks at that, and toys around with the idea that Hoseok might have been right. “I didn’t come here with the hope of getting married,” Jeongguk answers him with a snort, and it’s the truth for the most part. “I just came here to follow the crowd.”

Taehyung casts him a wry glance. “You looked pretty uncomfortable back there for someone who was just ‘following the crowd’.”

“Yeah well, I’m beginning to realize this sort of stuff probably isn’t my thing,” Jeongguk mutters, and Taehyung lets out a laugh at that.

“Well, I’m glad,” Taehyung decides, clapping Jeongguk on the back cheerfully. “Just wanted to clear that up before we become friends.”

Jeongguk, honest to god, doesn’t know what to do besides stare at Taehyung. “What makes you think we’re going to be friends?” he asks, then belatedly realizes this might be a little rude of him, especially considering he’s speaking to the prince of all people. Not that Taehyung would mind, Jeongguk knows he wouldn’t, but technically the person talking to Taehyung right now isn’t supposed to know that.

Taehyung gives him an amused look. “Just a feeling,” he says cheerfully, and of course, Jeongguk thinks, of course Taehyung would respond with that. He doesn’t expect anything less of him, if he’s being honest.

Taehyung practically spends the rest of the time allotted for the dances talking to Jeongguk outside, and it’s only when Jeongguk starts to shiver that Taehyung leads them back inside. Jeongguk feels as if he’s living through getting to know Taehyung twice, with the way Taehyung starts to relive his childhood, with the way he details his experiences with each of his siblings with a sort of fondness only Taehyung is capable of achieving.

It’s not the most ideal situation, but Jeongguk takes what he can get.

--

When Seokjin and Namjoon arrive to escort Jeongguk back to his home, he’s greeted by the sight of Yoongi and Hoseok peering down at a pot in the kitchen rather intensely. “What’s going on?” Jeongguk asks warily as he changes out of his suit and back into his working clothes. He takes some soot from the fireplace for good measure and pats his face with his hands while Seokjin looks on in disgust.

“Seokjin’s teaching me how to make a different kind of chicken soup,” Namjoon says cheerfully, shoving Yoongi and Hoseok away so that he can watch over the pot instead. The pot that seems to be bubbling on its own, apparently.

Jeongguk raises a disbelieving eyebrow at that. “Seokjin can cook?”

Seokjin swats him over the head. “I’ll have you know, I gave Namjoon all the recipes he’s used over the years. I’m sure he’s been feeding you well.”

Yoongi snorts at this. “Jeongguk, you’re lucky you weren’t born a hundred years earlier. It took decades for Namjoon to sort his shit out and learn how to cook properly.”

Seokjin nods solemnly. “It took a lot of patience, but Namjoon finally got the hang of it.”

Namjoon opens his mouth, looking as if he’s about to protest that he’s really not all that bad, when he moves his arm out and accidentally knocks over Hoseok’s mug of hot chocolate.

Hoseok looks at the mug balefully before sighing and picking up a broom and a mop. “Do you have a spell to cure this poor cook’s clumsiness?” he grumbles to Seokjin as he bends over to clean the mess up. Yoongi proceeds to help him, reaching a hand out and moving all the shattered pieces of porcelain off to one side with a sweep of his magic.

“That would require extremely big magic,” Seokjin replies cheerfully, shaking his head. “Bigger magic than anything I’ve ever tried, to be sure.”

Namjoon squawks indignantly and throws a leftover chicken bone at Seokjin’s head.

--

His luck seems to only get worse, Jeongguk thinks to himself wryly, when on the second day of the ball he comes face to face with Jimin of all people. Jimin, who’s supposed to be in his hometown out by the sea, has apparently decided to show up at the dance as well.

Jimin raises an eyebrow when he sees him. “Jeongguk?” he asks curiously, tilting his head a little.

“Nope,” Jeongguk denies vehemently, shaking his head so hard his mask is in danger of falling off. “Definitely not who you think I am. My name’s Jeonghyun.”

Jimin gives him a look in return that says he’s unconvinced to say the least, but before he can say anything further Taehyung whisks Jeongguk away, giving Jimin a cheerful wave and telling him he’ll catch up with him later before dragging Jeongguk off outside again. “Jeonghyun,” he hears Jimin mutter under his breath.

When Taehyung brings up at some point in their conversation again that he’s not looking to marry anyone, Jeongguk asks if Taehyung is okay with not having children. “You like kids don’t you?” Jeongguk lets slip.

Taehyung looks surprised by this. “How did you know that?”

“Uh.” Jeongguk wracks his brain for a reasonable answer. “I mean, you seem to be the type who would want kids, I think? You talk about your siblings enough as it is.”

Taehyung seems satisfied with his response, and Jeongguk allows himself an internal breath of relief. “Even if I were to marry, I don’t think I’d be able to have kids,” he says easily. “I know the invitation welcomed both ladies and lords to the dances, but I’ve already fallen in love with a man around my age.”

“Oh.” Jeongguk doesn’t know what to say after this.

Taehyung snorts. “Besides, I have so many younger siblings as it is, I’m pretty sure one of them will end up having kids instead of me.”

This is true, Jeongguk thinks. Taehyung really has a shitload of siblings, so many that Jeongguk sometimes forgets one or two of them when he’s counting them off in his head.

The night of the second ball goes on much the same way as the first one did, except when Namjoon and Seokjin escort him back into his home, it’s not a minute later when Jimin of all people comes barreling in through the kitchen. “Jeon Jeongguk, I need to have a word with you!” Jimin shouts into the kitchen.

Hoseok flips over and falls onto the floor from where he’s napping on the bench, Namjoon and Seokjin both turn to stare at the intruder, and Yoongi takes one look at Jimin and panics, grabbing a pan and throwing it at his head.

Jimin, of course, gets knocked out after the pan hits him square in the face. Jeongguk watches on in horror as Jimin falls to the ground, blood trickling steadily out of his nose.

“What the fuck are you doing,” Namjoon yells at Yoongi, rushes over to help Jimin, and proceeds to trip over a slightly raised floorboard. No one makes a move to help him off the floor.

Hoseok is eyeing Yoongi warily. “Damn dude, you do more damage than I do with my sword.” Yoongi shoots him a look that says fight me bitch.

Seokjin is the one that eventually makes his way over to Jimin and starts to heal his bleeding nose after Jeongguk explains that Jimin’s his friend from finishing school, waiting patiently beside him as Jimin comes to. “He must have somehow followed us here,” Jeongguk says, watching over Jimin’s seemingly lifeless form worriedly. “He recognized me the second he saw me at the dance floor.”

“I think we should tell him,” Seokjin says, looking worried as well. “If he’s followed us all the way here, he must have witnessed our magic already.”

“It means he’s determined as well,” Namjoon agrees.

When Jimin finally wakes up, Seokjin helps him off the floor and tells him to sit while Yoongi of all people takes it upon himself to explain Jeongguk’s situation to him, giving a short summary of Jeongguk’s curse and why Jeongguk’s decided to stay away from Taehyung, thus concealing his identity at the dances.

"Poor Jimin," Hoseok says mournfully after Yoongi’s finished explaining his part, patting Jimin on the head gently as the other presses at his nose gingerly, making sure he's been completely healed.

Jeongguk stares at the both of them. "How the hell do you know Jimin?"

Hoseok looks up in surprise. "Oh, don’t you know? Jimin's one of Taehyung's knights too. Taehyung sent him over to go to finishing school with you to make sure you were safe."

Jeongguk's mouth drops open. Namjoon, on the other hand, has taken to choking on his mug of cider. "Why the hell would he do that?"

Hoseok seems to hesitate at that. "I'm assuming this is news again."

"Because he cares for your safety you dumbass," Jimin spits out, huffing and taking a huge gulp of his own drink before slamming the mug back down on the table. "It's no big deal," Jimin insists when Jeongguk continues to stare at him in disbelief. "Hoseok over here got sent to boarding school with two of Taehyung's younger siblings when they wanted to go."

Jeongguk continues to stare at Jimin blankly.

Jimin snorts. "You're welcome, by the way, for saving your ass from those ogres after you ran away. Why'd you take off so suddenly anyway?"

Jeongguk blinks at this. "How were you involved in that?"

"I sent Taehyung a letter right after you booked it, via the royal family's messenger bird," Jimin explains. "We always write letters to each other in code to keep in touch."

Jeongguk gapes again. "I thought those were just doodles?"

Jimin gives him a look that says he's about five times over and done with Jeongguk's shit for the day. Jeongguk can't blame him, really; he’d be done with his shit too if he got hit in the face with a pan and then got overloaded with the finer details of Jeongguk’s miserable life. "If you think the crown prince of this country takes to doodling on pieces of paper without good reason, you really have no idea who you're dealing with here." He stares him down again. "You didn't answer my question."

It takes Jeongguk a moment to respond. "Heejin ordered me to stop being friends with you, so I decided to run away instead," he finally lets out all in one breath.

"Oh." Jimin's expression seems to soften at that. "Don't listen to her. Be friends with me if you want to."

Jeongguk finally relaxes. "Thanks," he mumbles.

"You know," Jimin finally starts to say after some moments of silence. "I think I've gotten the gist of the situation from Yoongi here, but if it's the country you're worried about, you know Taehyung would abdicate for you right? He has plenty of siblings that are capable of taking over for him should he choose to do so."

"That's exactly the reason why I don't want Taehyung finding out about this curse," Jeongguk grouses. "It's not fair for him to spend so many years preparing to rule the country, only to have him throw it all away."

"His stepfamily is scary," Hoseok continues. "Even if Taehyung were to abdicate, he'd still be in danger."

Jimin takes this in with a solemn expression, thinking to himself for a few minutes before giving Jeongguk an easy smile and patting him on the shoulder. “No need to worry, I’m sure Hoseok and I will figure something out. We just have to be creative.”

The only way Jeongguk is able to figure out a life with Taehyung, he thinks bitterly, is if his step family magically gets sent into the dungeons for whatever reason.

--

“How’d you manage to follow me home anyway?” Jeongguk asks Jimin later on, the latter making himself comfortable with a few blankets laid out on the kitchen table.

Jimin gives him a jaded look. “Invisible or not, there’s these handy little things called footprints.”

Magic at times can really be useless, Jeongguk reasons.

--

By the third dance, Taehyung’s apparently warmed up to him enough that he decides he wants Jeongguk (technically Jeonghyun) to meet his parents. Jeongguk’s never met the king nor queen before, even when he was still friends with Taehyung, so he doesn’t see this as too big of an issue.

It ends up being a bit of an issue though, when the queen takes one look at him after he’s finished bowing and paying his respects, and says, “You remind me of an old friend I used to have once.” She sighs, looking dejected. “She passed away a little over a year ago, bless her soul.”

Jeongguk wills himself not to choke up at the mentioning of his mother.

“You mean Jeongguk’s mother, right?” Taehyung asks. “I thought the same thing too, that he looked a lot like Jeongguk, but this is Jeonghyun. He’s from another province in this country, the same one Jimin’s family lives in.”

“I liked Jeongguk, from what you’ve told me about him,” the queen takes to saying woefully. “Whatever happened to him?”

“He got married,” Taehyung says dully, and his mother lets out a brief oh before smiling at Jeongguk and wishing him a pleasant evening, Taehyung excusing the both of them and leading the way to the gardens again.

“Jeongguk’s the one I was telling you about,” Taehyung explains once they’re outside, sitting himself down on a bench and motioning for Jeongguk to follow. Jeongguk settles down beside him, waiting. “The man I wanted to marry.”

“Oh.” There’s not much else Jeongguk can say after that, so he stares at the palms of his hands instead.

“Do you think it’s pathetic of me?” Taehyung asks after some moments of silence. “That I still love him?”

“Maybe as time goes on, you’ll learn to love him less,” Jeongguk tells him slowly.

“I hope you’re wrong.” Taehyung sighs before continuing. “Sometimes I wonder, if I had moved a little faster, if that would have changed anything.”

Jeongguk knows well enough that time was never the issue here. “We can’t live off of hopes and dreams.”

Taehyung regards him carefully. “No. I suppose we can’t.”

--

The third ball comes and goes without much drama or grandeur, and Jeongguk lets out a sigh of relief when Namjoon and Seokjin manage to escort him back to his home without any hiccups along the way. He packs his suit up for the last time, storing it away in his trunk before donning on his usual clothes and rubbing his face with soot from the fireplace.

Jimin and Hoseok are huddled around the kitchen table, drawing up what seems to be an elaborate, extremely frantic, rather large game plan on a long scroll of paper. Jeongguk thinks they’ve probably been at it for hours, ever since he first left to go to the dance.

“We could just order Jeongguk not to listen to his step family anymore,” Hoseok suggests, waving his hands around wildly. “I just thought of this.”

“No,” Jimin replies bluntly, pinning Hoseok down with a severe stare and dropping his quill. Hoseok deflates instantly. “Listen, that’s not going to work. First of all, if he gets married to Taehyung the whole country’s going to know who Jeongguk is, which means his step family will know where to find him. Second of all, if they do manage to figure out where he is, they’d probably climb through one of the palace windows or some utter bullshit like that. They track him down, order him to start listening to their commands again, and then he’s basically fucked at that point.”

Hoseok gives Jimin a disbelieving stare. “Do you really think the palace guards will let his step family slip in like that?”

Jimin gives Hoseok an indignant look. “You know as well as I do the palace guards are incompetent as shit.”

Namjoon looks at the both of them incredulously. “Aren’t the palace guards supposed to be knights too?”

“Nope,” Jimin and Hoseok both say in unison.

“Something about the balancing of duties. Palace politics as usual, this shit is never perfect,” Hoseok continues to elaborate, waving an impatient hand.

“I’m glad,” Yoongi manages to drawl out in the middle of Hoseok and Jimin’s debate, “you two think so highly of the palace guards that are supposedly in charge of protecting this nation’s royal family.”

Jeongguk is seriously the unluckiest man alive, because just as Jimin is about to open his mouth to reply, there’s three sharp knocks on the kitchen door, followed by a quiet, “Namjoon?” from outside. Jeongguk proceeds to inhale and choke on the soup he’s eating, dropping his spoon and staring at the door in horror.

Kim Taehyung, it seems, has decided to pay them a visit.

“I’ve got this covered,” Hoseok says a tad bit too confidently, and before anyone can stop him he opens the door and marches out, quickly slamming the door shut behind him.

“I mean,” Yoongi starts to say, staring at the door. “That was pretty stupid of him? If I were the prince, I’d be suspicious as fuck if I found out he was still staying here.”

Jeongguk jumps out of his seat and proceeds to run to his room in record time. Once he makes it into the room, he slams the door shut and wishes he had a lock, running over to his small window and peering out of it cautiously. Hoseok, it seems, has taken to arguing heatedly with Taehyung outside as a means of ‘taking care of it’.

“You told me he was married!” Jeongguk hears Taehyung yell while Hoseok tries to shush him and ask him to keep his voice down. “He didn’t have a ring on his finger when I saw him earlier!”

“First of all, I didn’t say shit,” Hoseok declares. Jeongguk slaps a hand against his forehead. “Second of all, the kid supposedly hasn’t been in town for months, how would you know about his ring finger?”

It’s at this inopportune moment when Jimin decides to show up, standing next to Hoseok. Jeongguk groans and asks himself why the universe chose to give him such idiotic friends. Knights really have no brains, it seems. Taehyung points an accusing finger at Jimin. “What the hell are you doing here?” He waves an impatient hand, as if indicating that Jimin’s presence isn’t really what’s important right now. “Forget it, I’m assuming Jeongguk’s already home since he left a little while ago. He’s probably exhausted from attending all those balls.”

“Good point. Er, what balls,” Jimin says unconvincingly. Jeongguk groans again; Jimin’s never been a good liar. Hoseok makes an indignant noise and whacks Jimin with his still sheathed sword.

Taehyung rolls his eyes and shoves the both of them, barreling his way into the kitchen. “Where is Jeongguk!” Taehyung yells into the kitchen, then it seems he doesn’t even bother waiting for an answer, barreling out of the kitchen through the other door and stepping into the hallway. There’s lots of clunking as the prince makes his way up the stairs, and Taehyung marches past the room Jeongguk’s in, heading straight for what used to be Jeongguk’s old room. Jeongguk hears the door open before slamming shut immediately after. Footsteps can be heard trailing into the hallway after the prince. “Which room is he in?”

“What makes you so sure Jeongguk’s here?” Yoongi demands. “His stuff isn’t in his old room anymore, which clearly indicates he moved out.” Yoongi, the only voice of reason, it seems.

“If you think,” Taehyung proceeds to start saying slowly, as if he’s really trying to get his point across this time, “a mask is going to cause me to not recognize Jeongguk of all people, you really don’t know who you’re dealing with here.” Taehyung makes his way back down the hallway and stops in front of Jeongguk’s door. “You guys all have been eyeing this door, so I’m guessing he’s in here.”

“Uh, no,” Seokjin says in the most confident voice possible. “He’s definitely not in that one.”

There’s a pause. “I don’t believe your words for shit,” Taehyung declares. “You’re a fairy.”

Namjoon whistles under his breath. “Burn.”

“Speaking of burning,” Yoongi says, and it’s silent in the hallway for a long time.

“Yoongi,” Namjoon starts out. “I thought you said you didn’t know how to work with fire.”

“I don’t,” Yoongi answers.

“There’s a wooden spoon in your hand,” Namjoon continues. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet, but you just lit it on fire.”

“I don’t know how to work with fire,” Yoongi repeats. “All I know is how to destroy things with it. Prince Taehyung, with all due respect, if you open that door I’ll fucking burn you with this.” A pause. “Respectfully.”

Jeongguk internally takes back any thoughts of Yoongi being the reasonable one here.

Taehyung apparently thinks Yoongi’s threat holds no weight. “Jimin, you’re a bad liar,” Taehyung declares. “Is Jeongguk in this room?”

“Um,” Jimin lets out. “No.”

“Thanks,” Taehyung mutters, and that’s when things utterly go to shit and the door to Jeongguk’s room opens. Jeongguk’s best course of action, at that point, is to launch himself out of the room and try to book it out of there before the prince can catch him.

Jimin and Hoseok both decide apparently, that the best they can do is to literally grab Taehyung by the arm, one on each side, and hold him down. Taehyung makes an indignant noise of protest, yelling about betrayal of friends and treason. Seokjin sighs as this goes down, waving a hand. The fire puts itself out from the spoon Yoongi’s holding; Yoongi gives Seokjin a betrayed look. Namjoon just mutters a prayer to himself.

“I can’t believe we’re doing this,” Jimin bemoans.

“All these years of training for knighthood just to end up fighting it out with the prince,” Hoseok mutters.

Jeongguk hears the main doors downstairs open and stops, almost halfway down the stairs already. He turns back, running and grabbing Taehyung by the arm. Jimin and Hoseok promptly let go as Jeongguk starts to drag Taehyung away. “You have to leave,” Jeongguk hisses.

Taehyung gives him a bewildered look, pulling back. “Why?” he says in a voice that is way too loud for the situation they’re in.

Jeongguk hushes him hurriedly. “Please just leave,” he begs in a whisper, but he pulls his arm to no avail.

“What’s going on, why are you telling me to leave? And what’s up with your face, you look like you threw yourself down the chimn-”

“What is all this commotion?” a sweet voice calls out from behind them, and when Jeongguk turns around, almost halfway out of the hallway, he sees his stepmother standing there, looking at the group with a sick sense of amusement.

Jeongguk, he knows, is just fucked at this point.

--

Jeongguk’s stepmother asks Taehyung to stay over for tea, opening up the doors to the parlour and asking him to sit on one of the couches. Taehyung slowly takes a seat, eyeing Lady Hongjoo warily, and Jeongguk makes no move to sit down beside him.

Heejin and Chaebin are sitting on another couch across from their mother, glaring at Jeongguk. Another reason why Jeongguk doesn’t care for sitting down. The rest of his group has been sent to the kitchen, as they are not allowed to join them in the parlour.

“I do apologize for not making my introductions, Prince Taehyung,” his stepmother begins. “I am the well established Lady Hongjoo, and these are my two daughters.” She gestures to Heejin and Chaebin in turn. “I recently married Jeongguk’s father, so I am now his stepmother.”

“Well-established,” Taehyung takes to repeating dryly. “Never heard of you before.”

Lady Hongjoo laughs a little behind her hand, looking nervous. “I’m sure we will become well acquainted with one another in the future. My daughters tell me that you and Jeongguk have been friends for quite some time.”

“Yes,” Taehyung answers. He doesn’t make any effort to elaborate any further; Jeongguk has a feeling the prince has already taken a disliking towards the lady in question, what with how short the other man is being right now.

His stepmother laughs nervously again, looking a bit perplexed by Taehyung’s sudden rudeness. “My apologies for the state of Jeongguk’s dress. He always insists on cleaning the chimney out every other Sunday.” His stepmother casts him a pointed look. “Isn’t that right, Jeongguk? Tell the prince, my dear, that you’ve insisted on helping clean the chimney.”

“I wanted to clean the chimney,” Jeongguk mumbles automatically.

“What a sweet boy of you, to help the servants out with their duties,” his stepmother says. Jeongguk wants to gag. His stepmother turns back towards Taehyung. “Since you’ve so kindly taken to visiting our home, would it be presumptuous of me to think that you have chosen a partner tonight, after the dances?”

“You’re right, that is presumptuous of you,” Taehyung answers her, looking determined. “Perhaps it would be too forceful of me to ask Jeongguk to be my partner for life, but from what I’ve witnessed here already, I would like to move Jeongguk into the palace.” He gives Lady Hongjoo a severe stare this time. “I don’t believe this home is suitable for my friend to live in anymore.”

His stepmother’s face brightens up at that. “I don’t believe it would be forceful at all of you if you asked Jeongguk to marry you.” She turns to Jeongguk now. “Isn’t that right, my dear? Tell us, my son, that you’d like to marry the prince.”

This is it, Jeongguk thinks. This is exactly the moment that Jeongguk was dreading would happen, that he’d be forced to marry Taehyung against his will, forever tied together in life to a man that he loves, but cannot marry. A man that he will inevitably end up hurting, a nation that will most likely fall due to his step family’s greed for money and power. It’s unfair, that after all of Jeongguk’s efforts they’ve come to this point, that after months of pulling away and pushing back, the end result is the same.

He’s already feeling dizzy, the ground swaying beneath his feet as the words struggle to come out of his mouth. It’s a litany of back of forth in his mind, that he will marry Taehyung, that he won’t marry Taehyung, that he has to say he will marry him, that he can’t. The bile is already rising up his throat, he feels sick to the core, the danger is imminent, the happiness will be fleeting. He thinks back to the time when he was trapped in the camp with the ogres, always doing things against his will, doing things that could’ve gotten him killed. That so many of those who have ever found out about his curse have, without fail, mistreated him, taken advantage of his helplessness for their own pleasure.

He’s sick of it, and it’s as if years worth of pent up anger wells up against his chest; he’s mad at those who’ve taken advantage of him, but he’s even angrier with himself for being unable to stop it. That no matter how hard he tries, or what he does, or how much he wishes for it, he will never be free.

And then, it’s as if a cord snaps, a spring loosens, a house of cards crumbles and falls. “I won’t marry the prince,” Jeongguk spits out. It’s that he won’t marry the prince, not that he doesn’t wish to. It’s an important distinction. “You can’t force me,” he says, and he hears his step family gasp out in surprise.

Taehyung looks dumbfounded. “I would never force you,” he says, looking distressed. “I didn’t come all the way here to force you to do anything. I just wanted to clear things up.”

“You need to leave,” is all that Jeongguk responds with, grabbing a hold of Taehyung’s arm and pulling him towards the kitchen. The kitchen, which has been his safe haven for nearly a year now.

“Jeongguk!” his stepmother cries out, enraged. She stands up from her perch on the sofa. “I command you to stay.”

Jeongguk ignores her, dragging Taehyung out of the parlour and into the hallway, back into the kitchens where Taehyung first entered. Five men stand up suddenly from their seats around the kitchen table, looking on warily as Jeongguk proceeds to push Taehyung out the kitchen door.

Once they’re outside, Taehyung firmly takes his hands into his in an effort to stop him. “Tell me what’s wrong,” Taehyung says softly, and no, it’s not right for Taehyung to be so gentle with him when Jeongguk all but broke his heart.

“Please, just go back to the palace,” Jeongguk pleads with him desperately, wrenching his hands away from Taehyung’s grasp. “It’s not safe for you to be here.”

“Why would it be any safer for you, here in this house?”

Jeongguk shakes his head at this, shivering from the cold as Taehyung wraps his arms around him. He doesn’t deserve this. “It’s not safe for you to be here with me,” he chokes out, leaning in all the same when Taehyung draws him in closer. “Please Taehyung, don’t you love me?” It’s a cheap trick, Jeonguk knows, to use that against him, but he knows no other way.

“Of course I do,” Taehyung replies without missing a beat. There is no hesitation in his answer. “Do you love me?”

“Yes, which is why I need you to do this for me,” Jeongguk implores him, pulling away now to look him in the eye. It doesn’t occur to him that this is the first time that he’s admitted his feelings for the other, instead his mind racing a mile a minute as he continues to panic, needing to get Taehyung as far away from here as possible. “This is important. You have to let me go.”

The look Taehyung gives him is anything but compliant. “No,” he says, determination in his voice. “I thought I lost you once. I’d be a fool to let you go again.”

Jeongguk chokes up again, and to his horror he can feel wetness start to prick at the corners of his eyes. “You’re an idiot,” he exclaims, pushing him away when Taehyung tries to draw him in again. “You’re going to die because of me.”

Taehyung gives him a confused glance. “Why would I die?”

“Because I’m fucking cursed,” Jeongguk bites out, and even he can hear the bitterness dripping in his voice. “No matter what anyone commands me to do, I’m forced to comply. If someone told me to stab you in your sleep, I’d do it in a heartbeat.” The bitterness, that is reasonable, but when Jeongguk replays the words in his head, the sentences that just came out of his mouth, he stops.

No.

The words themselves, those are nonsensical.

Taehyung is looking at him with wide eyes as Jeongguk slowly turns around, trudging back into the kitchen. The prince follows him, but Jeongguk makes no move to push him away again or to ask him to leave, his thoughts muddled, his mind wary. When he’s back inside, the other five are still standing, muttering among themselves hurriedly, in rushed whispers. Then turn though, when they hear Jeongguk come in.

“Jeongguk?” Jimin asks hesitantly, seeming to deflate a little when Taehyung enters the room as well. “Are you okay?”

“I am not okay,” Jeongguk decidedly states, his eyes wide. He turns to Namjoon, who is looking at him anxiously. “Give me a command.”

Namjoon stares at him blankly at this sudden request. “Er, uh. Stand on one foot.”

Jeongguk doesn’t move.

Namjoon’s eyebrows furrow, looking confused now. “Jeongguk? Listen to me, stand on one foot.”

Again, Jeongguk makes no move to comply.

Yoongi seems to be catching on as well. “Jeongguk, turn around,” he says, and then promptly gapes when Jeongguk takes one look at him and then shakes his head.

He feels lighter. Lighter than he’s felt his whole life.

Four heads turn to look at Seokjin questioningly, who looks defensive, shaking his head. “Don’t look at me,” he retorts. “I didn’t do shit. The kid must have gotten rid of it on his own.” He looks at Jeongguk now, warmth in his eyes. “Congratulations, you’ve gotten rid of the gift of obedience.”

“Okay,” Taehyung pipes up now, sharing a look with Hoseok. The two of them then proceed to grab Jeongguk by the arm this time, one on each side now, as they pull him as gently as they can out of the kitchen. They don’t have to put in much effort, because Jeongguk is still in a daze from this turn of events.

“Where the hell are you taking him,” Yoongi grouses, looking displeased.

Taehyung blinks. “The palace. I thought that was fairly obvious. You may follow us, if you’d like.”

“Sounds good,” Seokjin says, and in a flash seven men appear in front of the palace gates, four of them stumbling a little as they gather their bearings.

Yoongi whirls around, pinning Seokjin down with the most furious glare. “I thought you said no big magic anymore,” he seethes.

“Oops,” Seokjin says blandly, shrugging. “My hand slipped.”

Jeongguk finally breaks out of his daze, taking a look at his surroundings as he processes where he’s at now. “Wait! I still haven’t gotten my watch back from Heeji-” he blinks as said pocket watch is dangled in front of his face.

Namjoon gives him a sheepish grin, dropping the watch into Jeongguk’s outstretched hands. “Oops,” he says wryly. “My hand slipped.”

--

“So,” Taehyung huffs, looking weary after giving Jeongguk, Namjoon, and Yoongi a extremely brief, abridged tour of the palace. Namjoon and Yoongi have set out for the palace kitchens, wanting to take a look at where they’re supposedly to be working from now on, with Seokjin following them because he wants to see what kind of ingredients the palace uses. Jimin and Hoseok have all but disappeared, presumably to take care of their knightly duties. “I can show you my room, and then I’ll take you over to one of our guest rooms where you can get comfortable.”

Jeongguk nods, already overwhelmed by how startlingly huge the palace is to him already, and Taehyung leads the way. Jeongguk only looks into Taehyung’s room briefly before the other is already ushering him out, saying that he must be exhausted from the day’s events.

There’s already a bath waiting for Jeongguk when he’s led to the guest room, Taehyung closing the door behind him as he makes his way out. Jeongguk takes his time washing up, the water growing tepid by the time he steps out of the bath, and puts on a pair of clothes set out for him on the bed.

Jeongguk paces around the room after that, not really knowing what to do at that point, before he huffs and marches out of the room and into the hallway, heading back towards Taehyung’s room. There’s a palace guard on watch, eyeing him curiously as he stops in front of the door. “I’m here to see the prince,” Jeongguk says, which he thinks sounds kind of lame but he’s never talked to a palace guard before, so who can blame him.

The palace guard just sort of stares at him, blinking for a few moments before moving to let Jeongguk in. Jeongguk spares a brief moment to think that Jimin and Hoseok were right, these palace guards suck if one of them’s let Jeongguk in so easily into the prince’s quarters already.

“What are you doing, you’re in your nightclothes,” Taehyung hisses when Jeongguk all but lets himself in, hopping out of his bed and running up towards him. “Did you seriously walk out there like this?”

“I didn’t see any other clothes I could wear,” Jeongguk retorts stubbornly, crossing his arms. He then proceeds to walk up to Taehyung’s bed and then face plant directly into it.

There’s a few moments of silence before Taehyung speaks again. “I’m not going to bed you before we’re even married,” he lets out blandly. “I haven’t even proposed yet.”

Jeongguk flushes, his cheeks growing red. “That’s not what I came here for. I just wanted to clear things up.” It’s an echo of their previous conversation.

“I think I understand quite a bit of it already,” Taehyung murmurs, but all the same he flops onto the bed next to Jeongguk, drawing up the covers, wrapping it around the both of them.

Jeongguk doesn’t understand where he’s gotten his sudden boldness from, but he inches closer to Taehyung, like a worm. “Your bed is super comfortable. And warm.”

When Jeongguk looks up, Taehyung’s blinking at him rapidly. “It’s all right, I guess.”

“I’m glad you have a fireplace,” Jeongguk mumbles into the pillow, already feeling drowsy. There’s a certain heaviness settling into his limbs, but it’s a good kind of weight. “My room didn’t have one.”

There’s another moment of silence before Taehyung speaks up. “I’m going to kill them,” Taehyung grumbles, making a move to get up and get out of bed.

“No,” Jeongguk implores, and tries not to whine. “Don’t kill them. I’m tired.”

Taehyung sighs, relenting and calling out for a servant to get another blanket. When the blanket arrives, Taehyung takes it and proceeds to wrap it around Jeongguk, effectively trapping him into it like a cocoon.

“No,” Jeongguk says again, reaching under the blanket and wiggling around until he feels Taehyung’s body flush against his. Taehyung sighs again, this time wrapping the extra blanket around the both of them tightly before reaching an arm out underneath the blankets to wrap around his waist. Jeongguk hums contentedly, about to fall asleep when the door to Taehyung’s room slams open, and he jerks in surprise, head popping up.

“Oh shit,” Hoseok says, reeling back. “I uh, I thought you might want to talk. I guess now’s not the time?”

The look Taehyung gives Hoseok says he’s not amused in the slightest. “I expect a full report in the morning,” he orders, to which Hoseok nods vigorously in agreement as he backs out of the room as quickly as he can while still looking respectful. “No details will be left out.”

“No details needed,” Jeongguk takes to muttering grumpily, pulling Taehyung in closer. Hoseok gags from the doorway and takes his leave, slamming the door behind him. “You have to be here when I wake up, okay?”

Taehyung laughs a little at this, patting his head softly. “Of course.”

--

Jeongguk ends up sleeping for almost a full day, the weariness of his year seeming to catch up to him and take its toll. When he wakes up, he blinks in confusion when he’s greeted by the sight of Taehyung lying next to him with proper clothes on, looking at him in amusement. “Good morning,” Taehyung says, then snorts. “Or should I say, good evening?”

Taehyung watches on in amusement as Jeongguk groans into the pillow, embarrassed that he’s managed to sleep for almost a full twenty-four hours. Jeongguk washes his face, still embarrassed, as Taehyung calls for dinner to be brought up to his room.

“Did they at least feed you back at your house?” Taehyung asks. He almost looks afraid to find out the answer.

Jeongguk looks up from a mouthful of bread. “Yeah, Namjoon always made sure I ate.”

“Really,” Taehyung says, looking skeptical. “Because I happen to remember from Hoseok’s report that the oldest sister would order you to not eat.”

“It was a lot of conflicting commands,” Jeongguk finally relents.

Taehyung looks furious by this, saying that he should send his step family into the dungeons for mistreating him. “At least a year of hard labor,” Taehyung says when Jeongguk begs him not to. “In return for forcing you to suffer for an entire year.”

“Please don’t,” Jeongguk says. “I don’t want to have anything to do with them anymore.”

Taehyung finally relents after several more minutes of prodding, and by that time Jeongguk’s already finished his meal, eyes drooping. Taehyung leads him back into bed, where Jeongguk knocks out once more. “Sorry,” Jeongguk apologizes right before he falls asleep, and Taehyung tells him that it’s okay, that he should rest.

Apparently it’s not okay, because Jeongguk ends up falling ill with a cough and a fever to boot. Jeongguk vaguely remembers Taehyung saying, “Shit,” as he places a cool hand on his already burning forehead before he falls back asleep.

Jeongguk’s fever breaks after four days, Seokjin looking over him worriedly when Jeongguk wakes up. “Taehyung?” Jeongguk croaks out, the sweat causing his bangs to stick to his forehead.

Seokjin rolls his eyes at him. “Breaks a four day fever and the first thing he says is ‘Taehyung’,” he grumbles, leaving the room to fetch the prince, who comes running in from a state affairs meeting to see him.

“Can I send your family to the dungeons now?” Taehyung gripes, placing a hand on his forehead again to make sure his fever really is gone. “You must’ve gotten sick from sleeping in that cold room all winter.”

Jeongguk wrinkles his nose at this, moving his head away and pointedly ignoring the comment about the dungeons. “Are you sure you should be staying so close to me? What if you end up getting sick?”

“Seokjin gave me a magical immunity booster,” Taehyung says flatly.

“Aren’t you supposed to go back to your meeting?” Jeongguk retorts as Taehyung hops into bed and starts trying to feed him soup, bowl courtesy of Namjoon. “We can’t have you slacking every time I get sick.”

“Hush,” Taehyung admonishes, but his voice is all fondness. “I was worried, okay? I didn’t want you to end up like your mother.”

Jeongguk falls silent after that, and once he’s finished his soup Taehyung wraps the both of them up in blankets again. “I’m sweaty,” Jeongguk complains, trying to push the blankets off, but Taehyung is having none of it.

“Are you warm?”

Jeongguk gives up and snuggles up to him, burrowing his head into Taehyung’s shoulder, sweat be damned. “Yeah, I am.”

--

Later on in a different part of the palace, Namjoon pours himself and Seokjin two mugs of apple cider before settling himself down with a sigh. They're sitting across from each other at one of the many wooden tables the palace kitchen has to offer, as Seokjin eyes his mug of cider warily.

"Listen, I'm not going to lecture you or anything," Namjoon starts to say, "I just want to know the truth."

Seokjin finally relents and tentatively takes a sip of his cider. "Sure, you know I don't keep any secrets from you."

"You broke it, didn't you?" Namjoon doesn't think he has to elaborate any further for Seokjin to catch his drift.

Seokjin sets his mug back down on the table heavily, raising an eyebrow at him. "What makes you think Jeongguk didn't break it on his own?"

"Jeongguk may have a strong willpower," Namjoon explains slowly. "But you're the strongest fairy out there by far. There's no way a mere human could have broken through your magic like that, no matter how much they wished for it."

Seokjin regards him for a few moments more before sighing. "This stays between you and me," he says as he picks his mug back up again.

A heartbeat later Namjoon nods. "Sure," he says easily, and that's the end of it.

--

Namjoon looks on with mild disgust as Jeongguk picks all the strawberries off his fruit tart. “I thought you stopped playing with your food ever since you were like, five.”

Jeongguk’s eyebrows furrow in concentration as he manages to get all the strawberries off his slice and onto the plate. “Taehyung likes strawberries,” he mutters stubbornly. Taehyung beams at him and presses a kiss against his cheek.

Jimin groans loudly, slamming his head onto the table. “I fucking can’t,” he whines pitifully into the wooden surface with a despondence that is way too dramatic for nine o’clock in the morning. “You two are overly domestic and gross.”

“Speaking of gross,” Yoongi drawls out. “I heard one of the servants muttering something interesting about the prince’s sheets the other day.”

“How intriguing,” Seokjin says wryly, raising an eyebrow. “The wedding’s not for another month at least.”

Hoseok looks mortified, casting Yoongi a betrayed glance. Yoongi gives a unbothered shrug. “I really, really did not need to know any of that.”

Jeongguk drops his fork and hides his face behind his hands.

The crown prince, as royal as he is, manages to inelegantly choke on a strawberry.