Kyungsoo stared at his phone, feeling numb. His parents advicor, Mr Choi, had phoned him 10 minutes ago to tell him the news. Kyungsoo already couldn’t remember much of what had been said. Flight 198-B45 from Graice Island, engine failure, no survivors, my condolences. All of it echoed in his head, bouncing around in the large nothingness that just kept growing.
Your coronation will be in a month’s time, after the official time of mourning is over.
The last sentence replayed in his mind and Kyungsoo curled up into a little ball, pressing his phone against his face as if to hide behind it. What was he going to do? What the hell was he going to do? He wasn’t set up to be a king. He was never supposed to become kind. That was his older brother’s duty. But his older brother was gone now, along with both his mother and father.
Only Kyungsoo was left to take the title.
He blinked, feeling nausea slowly build inside him. What was he supposed to do? He would have to appear in public, and make speeches and appearances and all kinds of things. Things he hadn’t had to do before outside of selected days such as birthdays and their independence day.
His phone buzzed and Kyungsoo removed it from his face, looking down at the illuminated screen.
Breaking news. The royal family killed in an airplane crash. Youngest son set to take over the throne.
Kyungsoo felt the tears well up in his eyes, his breath growing short and his hands trembling. With rushed movements he unlocked his phone and opened up his contacts. He scrolled through the short list of names as his phone buzzed again, a message from Baekhyun. He ignored it, instead hitting dial and bringing the phone up to his ear.
His heart was beating more than triple pace of the beeps signalling the call was going through. He could hear his own pained sobs echo back through the receiver and bit his lip, trying to calm down and not give in to the growing panic of I’m going to be the king .
Finally they picked up, a calm voice coming from the other side of the line. Kyungsoo felt the little control he had over himself burst as his grandmother’s kind voice hushed him, telling him it would be okay. Kyungsoo could hear she had been crying too and for a millisecond felt guilty over not leaving her to grieve in peace, it was he son who had died after all, but then the panic overtook him once more.
“What am I supposed to do?” He asked through sobs.
Kim Junmyeon, certified speech therapist.
The sign was gold plated, a tiny screw in each of the four corners attaching it to the mahogany door. The carpet in the waiting room was cream coloured and the walls were a light bluish grey colour. A single couch along with a few chairs were situated around the room, all of them empty except for the brown leather couch where Kyungsoo was sitting.
His dress shirt felt both too small and too large at the same time. He usually only wore sweaters and jeans whenever he went outside but ever since... Nowadays he had to think of how he dressed in public. He was the new king. He had an image to live up to after all. And that image included being well spoken and not lisping of messing up pronounciation or forgetting words every other minute.
He thought about pulling up his phone for a moment but it didn’t feel very king like to scroll through twitter while waiting. But then, it wasn’t like anything he did ever felt especially king like. There was a reason why it had been Seungsoo who was supposed to take over the throne and not him. His brother was everything a good public person was supposed to be. He was well spoken and well liked. He had graduated school with great grades and had already worked up a good relationship with the public.
By now the title of King and Queen were more a formality than anything. Heshia had abandoned monarchy long ago and now the title of ‘head of state’ meant little if anything at all. They were expected to represent their country in international affairs, be there during national holidays and make charity projects. Kyungsoo’s own charity project was for endangered reptilians and amphibians and the only time his foundation got any press was during his birthday when they would run a small campaign and people pretended he wasn’t weird for having a pet lizard.
Kyungsoo felt his airways tighten up again, his vision suddenly blurry. He couldn’t do this! He really really couldn’t do this! How was he, the least liked out of the entire royal family, ever supposed to represent the country. He had barely gotten through his degree in international relations and couldn’t make a simple speech without messing it up. He was still mocked for having misread the name of Ponio and called them Paino during a statue uncovering three years ago. Three years ! And now he was expected to speak to the entire country on a regular basis. He truly needed help.
The mahogany door suddenly opened and a man stepped out. He was maybe an inch or so taller than Kyungsoo and wore a white dress shirt tucked into his suit pants and with the arms rolled up. His hair was swept away from his face and his gentle smile almost made Kyungsoo feel more at ease as it was directed at him.
“Mr...Kim?” The man asked and Kyungsoo nodded, standing up and grabbing coat in a tight grip to stop his hands from shaking.
“A pleasure to meet you Mr Kim.” Kyungsoo greeted in return, holding out his hand. The man, Kim Junmyeon, took it and gave it a firm shake, the same easygoing smile on his lips once again. Kyungsoo didn’t dare trying to return it. He felt slightly sick.
“You too, Mr Kim .” Junmyeon said, stressing the fake surname that had been given to Kyungsoo for privacy reasons and Kyungsoo felt his cheeks heat up. Junmyeon knew who he was, which meant he knew why he was here. This couldn’t be more humiliating.
“Come inside and we’ll have a quick chat.” Junmyeon spoke and gestured for him to enter the office. It was a spacious office with a couch to sit on, a desk with a two chairs opposite, a bookshelf full of books on language production and phonetics as well as journals regarding speech therapy. There was also a stereo, some yoga mats rolled up in a corner and a tea set on a small shelf mounted between the large windows. All of it was decorated in warm honey brown colours with orange accents. It looked a homey sort of tacky and Kyungsoo couldn’t help scrunching his nose up at the choice of colours, preferring darker colours himself.
“There is a coat rack just behind you.” Junmyeon said as he sat down by the desk and Kyungsoo obediently hung his coat on one of the empty hooks before sitting down opposite the therapist with an expectant look on his face.
“So.” Junmyeon said, smiling again before giving him a little nod. “Tell me about yourself.”
“Um...” Kyungsoo started, shifting in his seat. Should he just come right out with his identity? Or should he keep the fake name? It seemed like Junmyeon had figured him out but what if he just imagined things? It was a dangerous thing for a king if anyone found out he had to take speech therapy. He knew his assistant would fill Junmyeon in on everything when he was picked up, making him sign several vows of silence but at the same time... People liked to gossip, and especially about him.
Junmyeon gave him another encouraging nod and Kyungsoo looked down, feeling his stomach twist.
“I’m Doh Kyungsoo.” He introduced himself, casting a quick glance up at the therapist. Junmyeon didn’t seem to react to the revelation. So he had realized. Kyungsoo didn’t know if that made him feel better or worse. “I’m 24.” He continued, unsure of what Junmyeon wanted to know. Should he just jump right into it? He looked up again, feeling lost.
“Why have you contacted me?” Junmyeon asked kindly.
“Actually it was Baekkie- ah Mr Byun who contacted you.” Kyungsoo said, stumbling over the familiar nickname. Baekhyun had been his personal assistant since Kyungsoo was 16 years old and since Kyungsoo didn’t have a lot of public duties their professional relationship had quickly turned friendly.
“He’s my PA.” Kyungsoo explained. “But uh, we contacted you because I need some help with my speech before the cogronation.” Kyungsoo said, wincing at the pronunciation error. “ Cor onation.” He corrected quickly, quietly. Junmyeon only nodded. Kyungsoo fiddled with his fingers, holding back the urge to bite his already bitten nails. Jongdae, his stylist, had made him put on some sort of bad tasting nail polish in order to stop his nail biting habit. It wasn’t becoming of a king to bite his nails.
“And some after too.” Kyungsoo added after a moment of silence, unsure of what else he was supposed to say.
“And what do you want me to help you with?” Junmyeon asked, still smiling gently. Kyungsoo bit his lip, looking up at the therapist with unsure eyes. Hadn’t Baekhyun already briefed him on this? He asked just as much.
“Yes, but I would prefer to hear it from you since it’s you I’m going to help. What others perceive to be a problem and what you want help with doesn’t always match.” Junmyeon explained. Kyungsoo nodded. That made sense, a lot of sense actually. He tried offering up a small smile to Junmyeon who returned it with another encouraging nod.
“I lisp.” He said, getting the hardest part over quickly. “Not uh, not a lot. Just a little but enough so that people notice.” He looked down again, remembering the many times that topic had been brought up in relation to him. Last time it happened was on his brother’s birthday where Kyungsoo had in his excitement lisped the ‘s’ of Seungsoo as he wished his brother congratulations. Of course the periodicals had been all over him.
“And I can’t say some words...Or I can but- it’s like. I don’t know they just won’t come out right it’s like the letters become jumbled on the way out.” Kyungsoo explained, gesturing in the air as if to symbolize the mixing up of letters. “And I forget words, but I don’t know if you can help me with that.” He trailed off, feeling a little stupid. Not for the first time he wished he had been the one to die in that plane crash instead of Seungsoo. Then he wouldn’t need to deal with any of this. No one would miss him. Everyone was missing Seungsoo. Even he was missing Seungsoo. So so much. So much it hurt.
A tissue came into view and Kyungsoo looked up, seeing Junmyeon wordlessly hold out the tissue. Kyungsoo took it in a shaking hand, realizing tears were rolling down his cheeks. Quickly he wiped them away, trying to get himself back under control. A king wasn’t supposed to cry in public.
“I understand this is a sensitive subject.” Junmyeon said and Kyungsoo wanted to protest, to say he wasn’t crying because of that, but words failed him. Like so many times before. “But I want you to know that this is a judgement free environment. In this office you can say whatever you want, however you want.” Junmyeon continued and Kyungsoo snorted.
“I thought I was here to fix how I speak.” He muttered, dabbing at his cheeks again. Junmyeon gave a small laugh at his comment and Kyungsoo looked up, raising his eyebrows in question.
“We are here to help you with your speech yes but, this is still supposed to be a comfortable zone for you. If my patients can’t feel comfortable in my office I can give up on ever helping them.” Junmyeon explained, raising his eyebrows in return as if to ask if that explained anything. Kyungsoo nodded slowly, feeling anything but comfortable. But then again. He rarely ever felt comfortable.
“I need to lower my voice too.” He said instead of giving any sort of answer to Junmyeon’s statement.
“Your voice is already pretty low.” Junmyeon commented and Kyungsoo shrugged. It hadn’t been his idea.
“It will help give me a more firm and reliable image as a...” His eyes widened, his mind drawing a complete blank. He licked his lips, trying to force the word out. “A- a- a-” He wanted to smack his head against the desk. How could he forget the word for his future occupation. His future everything! It was literally the most important word in his life right now how could he forget it.
He waved his hand again, holding back the urge to snap his fingers like he usually did whenever this happened. He had to remember. This was plain stupid and embarrassing. Forgetting his own title when he was at the speech therapist out of all the things. The very same speech therapist that would teach him how to talk like a-
“King!” Kyungsoo burst out, pointing at Junmyeon who only smiled. Kyungsoo immediately felt himself flush and looked down, bringing his hands back into his lap. Gods, he was probably a lost cause.
“We’ll work on lowering your register when you speak too.” Junmyeon said and Kyungsoo dared to glance up, seeing Junmyeon look completely unphased by how Kyungsoo had completely forgotten the most basic word ever.
“Do you have any diagnosis with any kind of speech disorder or anything related to that?” Junmyeon asked and Kyungsoo quickly shook his head. He was just really really bad at talking. Junmyeon nodded and leaned back.
“And you said you needed to have all this done before the coronation, correct?” He asked and Kyungsoo nodded. “When is that?”
“In a month.” Kyungsoo said. “But it’s not public information yet so you can’t tell anyone.” He quickly added and Junmyeon nodded, promising to keep quiet. It had only been three days since the crash and the country was still very much in shock. The coronation would be announced when the public would be more susceptible to the news. Chanyeol, his pr coordinator, handled that part. Kyungsoo trusted him to do the right thing and make the right decisions. Right now Kyungsoo could barely decide what to have for breakfast without breaking down, much less decide how to handle a whole country’s mourning process in a way that was favourable for his new title of king.
“We’ll have to meet often then.” Junmyeon said and Kyungsoo nodded. “But I have time. If you want me to we can look through my schedule for the next appointment.”
“My assistant will contact you with my schedule.” Kyungsoo said, ignoring how the word ‘assistant’ came out as a slurry of sounds. He felt too detach to care about anything right now. It couldn’t be real. None of this was real and soon he would get a call from his mom asking him to come over for dinner. His team would handle everything.
“Okay, I assume I can just email him through the address he contacted me on?” Junmyeon asked and Kyungsoo nodded, standing up. He needed to get out of here. He needed to get home. He needed to feed Patpat. He needed to sleep for an eternity.
“I’ll ask him to contact you.” He heard himself say as he grabbed his coat, not even bothering to say goodbye before he was out of the door. He felt slightly guilty over leaving Junmyeon in such a rude way, the man was really nice after all, but he felt like he would pass out if he didn’t get out of the bright office soon. He would apologize next time they met. Knowing Baekhyun and his ability to get his way it wouldn’t be long before he was back here.
With shaking fingers he pulled the door open to the car waiting for him. He didn’t even have to tell the driver where to take him before the car was rolling. Kyungsoo laid down on the wide backseat, ignoring the driver telling him to put his seat belt on. He was the king. He could do as he pleased. And right now he wanted to disappear.
Please just let him disappear
The next day Kyungsoo is back in the same moderately comfortable chair in the same bright office. Junmyeon was sitting opposite him, Kyungsoo’s medical file opened in front of him as he read through the different kinds of speech therapy Kyungsoo had received before. It was a long time ago, back in school, when there was still an option that Kyungsoo would be more than just the spare son. Once he turned 14 he stopped having to go to therapy.
Kyungsoo blinked, trying hard not to fall asleep in the chair. He had barely slept last night, too anxious to get any proper rest until the early hours of the morning, and then Baekhyun had woken him up at 6AM to tell him he had an 8 o’clock appointment here.
“Kyungsoo.” Junmyeon said, making Kyungsoo jerk awake with a start. The other man gave him a gentle smile and Kyungsoo returned it to show he was listening. “Yesterday you told me you didn’t have any diagnosis that affects your speech.”
“Yeah.” Kyungsoo nodded tiredly, resisting the urge to rub his eyes. He never thought he would actually have to apply all those etiquette lessons he had when he was younger. But then again, nothing was the same anymore.
“It says right here you were diagnosed with dyslexia at 15, is that a mistake then or...?” Junmyeon asked carefully and Kyungsoo felt himself tense up.
“No it’s correct.” He said, pulling himself straighter in the chair. His dyslexia was not an issue known to the public and definitely not something his speech therapist should be sticking his nose in.
“It would have been great if you had told me yesterday so I could have planned accordingly.” Junmyeon mumbled, picking up a pen and making some notes on a notepad. Kyungsoo strained his neck to see what he was noting down, squaring his shoulders.
“I don’t see how that has anything to do with it.” Kyungsoo said, mustering up as much authority as he could. It wasn’t a lot. The dyslexia had always been a sensitive subject for him. It had caused him a lot of problems in school with almost everything and was just another example of how not cut out for the role of king he was.
“It has everything to do with it.” Junmyeon said, directing his gaze up at Kyungsoo with a raised eyebrow. Kyungsoo fought against the urge to back shrink back.
“How?” He asked, shifting in his seat again. He did not like talking about this, especially not when he was dead on his feet and his emotions were close to the surface. Too close for a king in the making.
“Well it’s a phonological processing disorder.” Junmyeon said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“A-” Kyungsoo begun before realizing he wasn’t going to be able to say all of those sounds without messing something up. “A what?” He settled for.
“A phonological processing disorder.” Junmyeon repeated and Kyungsoo raised his eyebrows in question. “It means you have issues with decoding and realizing sounds. Which is exactly where a lot of your speech problems come from.”
“No.” Kyungsoo said, shaking his head and frowning. Did Junmyeon really not know what dyslexia was? He would have to talk to Baekhyun about getting him a new speech therapist. Clearly he couldn’t be nearly as good as his reputation. “No it means I can’t spell and read properly.” He corrected.
“Yes that too.” Junmyeon said, closing the medical journal and directing his full attention towards Kyungsoo. He must have seen the confusion inside the king to be because he immediately launched into an explanation.
“I’m not entirely clear on it since it’s not really my area but as I understand it, the issues in phonological processing makes it so that you can’t internalize, or properly learn, spelling. The way you hear and process sounds makes it hard to make connections between these sounds and letters. The same thing with reading. So that’s why you have issues with spelling and reading. But outside of that, most of the issues you described yesterday are in line with what is observed in other dyslexics. Such as the jumbling of sounds as you speak and the tip of the tongue phenomenon.” Junmyeon rattled off and Kyungsoo blinked, trying to make sense of what I just heard.
“So my hearing is what’s broken?” He asked, not really understanding how it all connected.
“Not your hearing. The way your brain handles the sound your ears hear.” Junmyeon explained. “Although recently there have been investigations into morphological processing and its relation with dyslex...” Junmyeon trailed off, clearly noticing Kyungsoo had clocked out long ago. He offered up a smile and looked down at the table.
“Sorry. The reason why isn’t relevant. I’ll be able to help you anyhow.” He said with another gentle smile and Kyungsoo nodded, feeling like a small high schooler again, being told that no he wasn’t stupid, he was just broken.
“When do we start?” Kyungsoo forced himself to say, not wanting to dwell on the subject of dyslexia for much longer. Junmyeon’s eyes widened for a moment before that gentle smile Kyungsoo had started associating with him spread on his lips again.
“Right now.” He said, standing up and fixing his shirt. Kyungsoo blinked, not expecting the answer. “Come on.” Junmyeon said, waving at Kyungsoo to follow him. The prince slowly stood up, watching Junmyeon pull out what looked like yoga mats and roll them out on the floor.
“What are we doing?” Kyungsoo asked, slowly making his way over to the speech therapist and the mats on the floor.
“Breathing exercises.” Junmyeon said, laying down on one of the mats and patting the one next to him. Kyungsoo regarded it wearily, holding back the urge to fidget. Junmyeon’s hands pattet the mat once more, his eyes hopeful as he looked up at the other.
With a sigh Kyungsoo gave in and slowly laid down on the mat.
“Now what?” He asked, looking over at Junmyeon who was looking up at the ceiling, hands resting on his stomach.
“Now we breathe.” Junmyeon replied, inhaling deeply and closing his eyes. Kyungsoo frowned, expecting there to be more to it than just breathing.
“Just breathe?” Kyungsoo asked, shifting on the mat. It wasn’t very comfortable and his suit jacket scrunched uncomfortably at his lower back.
“Yes. Just breathe and relax.” Junmyeon confirmed, breathing slowly. Kyungsoo looked over at the therapist again, raising his eyebrows. What would this even be good for? He was becoming more and more suspicious of Junmyeon and his methods with every minute passing. But he was too tired to care. He just wanted to skip forward until everything was over and done with and he could return to his own quiet life. But that quiet life would never be his again. He was a king now, soon, and he would forever be in the spotlight.
He shifted again, trying to get the folds out of his suit jacket again so he at least could spend this moment comfortably. If all this was what Junmyeon said it was, just breathing and relaxing, then he should take advantage of the moment of quietness.
“You can remove your jacket.” Junmyeon said quietly, not breaking his slow breathing pattern. Kyungsoo stilled, feeling awkward for a moment at having been caught fidgeting, but quickly sitting up and pulling his jacket off. He folded it carefully, mindful of not wrinkling it too bad despite knowing Jongdae could easily get him another one, and placed it to the side before laying back down.
Right. Breathe, just breathe. He drew in a sharp breath, holding back the urge to shift again, and exhaled. Breathing. Easy. He did it all the time. Just breathe. And relax. Just relax. He drew another sharp breath, trying to figure out where to place his hands.
“Slower Kyungsoo.” Junmyeon said from his right, drawing in a slow deep breath as if to show him how. Kyungsoo copied it, although poorly. “Put your hands on your belly and feel your breaths.” Junmyeon said, gently tapping his own. It made a hollow sound. Kyungsoo looked over at the therapist, trying to catch his eyes, but Junmyeon had his eyes closed. So Kyungsoo just placed his hands on his own belly.
“Breathe in, and feel your belly rise.” Junmyeon said, his voice melodic. The therapist breathed in and Kyungsoo followed, trying to focus on both his breathing and belly. “Hold it.” Junmyeon continued and Kyungsoo did so, struggling more and more as the seconds went on. “And exhale.”
Kyungsoo let out a huff of breath, immediately drawing in another deep breath.
“Slowly, slow on both inhale and exhale. Try following me.” Junmyeon said, making a point of slowly drawing in a deep breath. Kyungsoo tried to copy once more, focusing on keeping in time with Junmyeon.
With each passing successful breath Kyungsoo could feel his body become heavier and heavier, his shoulders pressing into the mat and his eyes closing as if by themselves. Before he knew it, he was asleep.
He woke with a startle. A gentle hand was shaking his shoulder and Kyungsoo blinked, looking over to try and figure out who was touching him. Junmyeon looked down at him, that gentle smile on his lips. Why was Junmyeon in his bedroom?
Slowly the rest of the room came into view and Kyungsoo sat up, realizing he had fallen asleep in the middle of his therapy session. This was bad, really really bad. He only had so much time before his coronation and if he kept wasting it like this he could forget about the public ever having a good opinion of him.
“Sorry!” He gasped, blinking the sleep out of his eyes.
“Don’t worry about it.” Junmyeon said, patting his shoulder again before standing up. There was nothing that spoke of annoyance in him but Kyungsoo knew that what he had done was not okay.
“I’m really sorry. How long was I out?” He asked, standing up and grabbing his suit jacket. Junmyeon had sat down by his desk, looking at him with kind eyes.
“An hour.” He replied.
Kyungsoo faltered, almost dropping the suit jacket in his hands. He had slept for an entire hour? And Junmyeon hadn’t woken him until now? Who was this therapist?
“And you didn’t wake me?” He asked, annoyed at everything, but mostly himself.
“No. You needed the rest.” Junmyeon replied and Kyungsoo wanted to tear his hair out. He didn’t have time to rest! He was about to become a king! He had to be fully prepared in just a months time. An hour of sleep like this could have been spent on making sure he could actually talk.
“No! No I need to learn how to talk!” Kyungsoo protested. “And you’re supposed to teach me.” He gestured towards Junmyeon, who leaned back in his chairs.
“Kyungsoo.” Junmyeon said, his voice somehow making Kyungsoo calm down. “You needed rest. You weren’t in a state to take in information.” He explained and Kyungsoo sighed, covering his face with his hands.
“I don’t have time to rest!” He argued, his voice weak and shaky. He felt strung out, stretched and stretched until he was ready to burst at any moment. How was he supposed to handle an entire life of this if he couldn’t even handle four days.
“Sit down please.” Junmyeon said, gesturing towards the chair opposite him. Kyungsoo sat down, not finding the energy to protest. “Remember how I said this office is supposed to be a comfort zone for you. I can’t expect you to work on something as sensitive as lisps if you’re not at ease. Therefore it is my job to make you comfortable, and right now that meant letting you rest.” Junmyeon explained patiently, leaning forwards and holding out a hand. Kyungsoo looked at it, then at his therapist.
“But, I need to learn how to talk.” He protested softly.
“You already know how to talk.” Junmyeon said, smiling again. Kyungsoo wanted to snort, because he obviously didn’t or he wouldn’t be here, but for some reason he didn’t.
“Not good enough.” Kyungsoo, looked down at the hand still extended towards him.
“Of course it’s good enough. I can understand you perfectly. Your lisp doesn’t hinder understanding, neither does your articulation issues, and if you need slightly longer to say some things that doesn’t hinder any understanding either. Your speech is good. Now!” Junmyeon held up a hand, stopping Kyungsoo from saying anything. “I know that as a king, there are other expectations on you than that. I know that you do not meet that standard yet. But I also know that I can help you learn that before the month is up, and I want you to know that the way you talk does define who you are. You are you Kyungsoo, not other people’s views on your dyslexia, not other people’s views on your lisp, not not other people’s views on your title. Just you, okay.” Junmyeon finished softly, looking at Kyungsoo in a way that made the prince’s chest feel too small. He wriggled his fingers, hand still laying on the table between them, and slowly Kyungsoo reached over and placed his own in it.
Junmyeon gave it a squeeze, smile growing brighter. Kyungsoo felt himself return it. That was the first time someone had said anything like that to him and he hadn’t realized how much he needed to hear those words. Maybe Junmyeon did really know what he was doing.
“Now will you be better rested tomorrow?” Junmyeon asked, hand still holding Kyungsoo’s.
“I’ll try.” Kyungsoo whispered, chest swirling with emotions.
“That’s all I ask.” Junmyeon replied.
Their meetings continued much in the same fashion. Junmyeon was kind and patient and Kyungsoo slowly started feeling like Junmyeon’s office is the only sane place in the entire world. In there the only thing he had to worry about is proper tongue placement, articulation techniques and pitch. Outside the office he was a king to be and had to answer to all the responsibilities that came with that.
They were planning the funeral and Kyungsoo had to decide not only on what press releases were the best but also what flowers they were supposed to use, what catering was the best, how and who would be invited, when the press were allowed to take pictures and when he would make an appearance to assure the public of his grief.
The last part had almost made him break down right there and then and Baekhyun had had to call a stop to the meeting so that Kyungsoo could go and calm down someplace quiet. Kyungsoo had ended up sitting on the toilet in a locked bathroom both for almost 30 minutes with Baekhyun and Chanyeol outside trying to calm him down.
But for some reason, the moment he had stepped inside Junmyeon’s office, things had felt better. It still didn’t feel good, Kyungsoo doubted they ever would, but it felt better. They had started with some breathing exercises, both of them on their backs on the floor. During these moment Kyungsoo always felt like he could pretend like none of this was happening.
They had worked on his lisp next and Kyungsoo couldn’t help but feel a little proud at the progress he had made. His lisp hadn’t been bad when he begun, by no means of it, but after a throughout explanation of how the mouth worked to produce the sound Kyungsoo had suddenly felt like he had almost complete control of over his lisp. Almost.
They had moved on to working on exercises that would help him lower his pitch right now. Junmyeon had made him stand up and helped him warm up his jaw and vocal chords so he wouldn’t hurt them. Kyungsoo, being beyond tired at this point from all the stress and bottled up grief, had spent most of the time giggling at the silly noises he was asked to do.
“Kyungsoo.” Junmyeon let out a huffed laugh as Kyungsoo giggled at the last rigmarole Junmyeon had asked him to do. “Could you please try to focus.”
“A box of misked biskits” Kyungsoo giggled, stumbling over the tongue twister once more. He doubled over, bracing himself on his knees as he tried to get himself back under control. This was not how a king was supposed to act.
“And a biscuit mixer yes yes let’s move on.” Junmyeon laughed, clapping Kyungsoo on the shoulder and helping him stand up. “Okay do you remember what you’re supposed to do?” He asked and Kyungsoo nodded, biting his lip to stop himself from laughing more.
He straightened up, relaxing his shoulders and trying to relax his jaw. He shifted until his feet were shoulder with apart, imagining he was rooted to the ground. With a slow inhale and exhale he was finally ready and looked over at Junmyeon, who gave him a nod.
“So what do you want me to say?” Kyungsoo asked, voice slightly lower than usual. It felt good. He felt authoritative like this. He wondered if this was how his father had felt whenever he addressed the public. Powerful. Kyungsoo drew in another deep breath, remembering watching his father speak on national holidays in awe. Suddenly his chest felt tight, the fact that he would never get to see that again making itself known to him and Kyungsoo’s shoulders immediately hunched.
“Anything you feel like, I want you to be able to speak casually and not just prepared speeches.” Junmyeon replied, placing a hand on his chest and back and slowly straightening him up. The hand lingered for a moment, supporting him and making sure he didn’t slouch again.
“I don’t know what to talk about.” Kyungsoo said, voice shaky. Junmyeon drew a deep breath and Kyungsoo followed, feeling the strength return to him again little by little.
“How about...something you’re passionate about. A hobby?” Junmyeon suggested, letting go of his chest but letting the hand on Kyungsoo’s back linger. Kyungsoo appreciated the small gesture. It made it easier to focus on the here and now and not on the fact that he was going through this completely alone.
“Well.” Kyungsoo cleared his throat, remembering the advice to swallow before speaking. “Can I talk about reptiles?” He asked, knowing it often wasn’t a subject people liked listening to.
“Sure.” Junmyeon smiled, patting him on the back before taking a step back. “Feel free to walk around too if you want to.”
“Alright.” Kyungsoo nodded, voice pitched low, and drew another deep breath. “Can I talk about Poto?” He asked.
“Poto?” Junmyeon raised an eyebrow at him.
“Yeah, He’s my pet lizard.” Kyungsoo explained, making sure to speak slowly and articulate properly. Junmyeon nodded at him and Kyungsoo went on. “He is a red tegu and he’s five years old. I got him from my grandmother when I graduated high school.”
“So he’s old then?” Junmyeon asked and Kyungsoo shook his head.
“No, they can live to be 20 years old. But generally their lifespan is maybe 12-15 years.”
“Really?” Junmyeon’s eyebrows rose and Kyungsoo nodded, feeling the excitement build in him as Junmyeon seemed really interested.
“Yes. He is really kind.” He continued, having to stop himself from speaking too quickly. “He spends most of his days basking under the heat light but he likes to explore the apartment too.” Kyungsoo explained.
“You let him walk around the apartment? What if you lose him?” Junmyeon had sat down on one of the armchairs, looking up at him with wide eyes.
“I keep an eye on him.” Kyungsoo reassured him. He would never let anything happen to his Poto. “And he knows where not to go. Poto is a good boy.”
Junmyeon laughed at that, nose scrunching up and cheeks growing round. Kyungsoo found himself mimicking the laugh. It felt good to laugh. It wasn’t like he had laughed earlier, out of exhaustion. This time there was genuine joy behind both of their laughs.
“You have to tell me where the name Poto comes from.” Junmyeon asked, wide smile still on his face as he looked up at Kyungsoo with interested eyes.
Kyungsoo felt himself blush, another laugh escaping him as he thought of the silly name. Really, it had been nothing more than a silly nickname to be used until he figured out a real name but for some reason it had stuck.
“His full name is Pot-eight-os.” Kyungsoo replied, focusing on keeping his voice deep and not letting it rise in pitch like it usually did whenever he was embarrassed or giggly.
“Potatoes?” Junmyeon asked with a surprised look on his face.
“No, no pot. Then eight, like the number, and then ‘o’ but in plural so ‘os’. It looks like Poto when written out so that’s why I call him that.” Kyungsoo replied, holding back a giggle.
Junmyeon still looked confused.
“It comes from this race horse supposedly named the same. They wanted to name him Potatoes but the person who was supposed to draw the name sign misheard them and thought they said pot followed by eight os. Pot-eight-os. So he wrote the name sign as such.” Kyungsoo explained, struggling to keep his voice slow and even. He didn’t care if it was true or not, the story always made him crack up.
“Wait, you’re telling me his name is Potoooooooo?” Junmyeon asked, drawing out the final vowel and cracking up at the end of it. Kyungsoo burst out into giggles, nodding quickly.
“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” Junmyeon got out between laughs, his shoulders shaking.
“I know!” Kyungsoo burst out happily, his own laughter growing in time with Junmyeons. “It’s so stupid.”
“I love it!” Junmyeon wheezed, clutching his chest with his hands as he laughed. Kyungsoo crouched down, head thrown back as he giggled. Junmyeon’s laughter was nothing more than high pitched squeaks and the sound of them only spurred Kyungsoo’s own laughter on further.
Kyungsoo had completely given up on trying to keep his pitch low. It didn’t matter anymore. Nothing of it mattered. Not when he could laugh this freely, not when he had found someone who appreciated the stupid name and didn’t mind him talking about his baby Poto. Not when Junmyeon was right there, laughing heartily with him like it was the most natural thing in the world.
Kyungsoo sighed, curling up further under the covers and pointedly ignoring Baekhyun who waiting for him next to the bed. He was supposed to be up already, supposed to be ready to go to his speech therapy session and then have a meeting with Chanyeol and Jongdae about some thing or another but he honestly didn’t care. He just wanted to sleep forever.
“I’m sick.” He mumbled, feeling Baekhyun’s eyes drill holes into the back of his neck. Being best friends with his PA was mostly a great things, it meant hanging out with friends more or less every day, but on days like this is was hell.
“I know you’re not sick Soo.” Baekhyun deadpanned. Kyungsoo ignored him. “You were perfectly fine yesterday and besides, unless this is life threatening I’m not letting you take a sick day. We have to decide the flowers and colour scheme for the coronation today or it will not be ready in time.” He continued and Kyungsoo curled up into a tighter ball at the mention of the coronation.
“Jongdae can decide what to do about the cogronation.” He mumbled, ignoring the slip up in pronunciation. “He will get his way anyway.”
“You have to be there Kyungsoo. If not for anything else then at least for appearances sake.” Baekhyun insisted, grabbing hold of his blanket and giving a tug. Kyungsoo whined, tugging back and making sure to keep it in a firm hold in case Baekhyun tried the same thing again.
“I’m sick!” He repeated, more decisive.
“You’re not!” Baekhyun insisted. “You were perfectly fine on the funeral yesterday.”
“I AM SICK!” Kyungsoo cried, his voice breaking as he turned around to give Baekhyun the best glare he could muster up. His throat felt thick, his eyes burning as he thought about the funeral yesterday. It still felt unreal, having said goodbye to his parents and brother. He hadn’t really ever thought about that day showing up, never having had to deal with a death worse than a pet, and he didn’t know how to feel.
The worst part was that he knew exactly how he was supposed to not feel. The funeral, something Kyungsoo had wished to be private, had involved about fifty people in important political positions and royalty from countries nearby. After the funeral there had been a small moment for the press as they walked out from the temple where the ceremony had been held and Kyungsoo had been terrified to appear as anything less than a king to be.
He’s still not sure how he made it through the whole ceremony without crying, but after, when he had been alone and had had no reason to not let the tears fall, he hadn’t been able to. He had barely slept at all during the night and when he woke up today every muscle in his body was aching. So no, he was sick. He would not get up. No matter what Baekhyun tried.
“Kyungsoo...” Baekhyun sighed but Kyungsoo quickly interrupted him.
“As your boss and the next in line to the throne I order you to cancel all my meetings today or you will be fired!” He threatened, feeling awful as the words left him. He had never pulled rank on Baekhyun before, never. They were friends, not boss and employee, but the fierce ache in his chest hurt so bad he wouldn’t couldn’t get out of bed today.
“Okay.” Baekhyun said, looking at him with shocked eyes. “As you wish Sir .” Baekhyun left his bedroom without looking back and Kyungsoo immediately buried himself in his blankets again, feeling ever worse. A stabbing feeling of guilt was twisting in his stomach, mixing in with the guilt of having canceled his meetings.
He was the worst. He had broke after just a little over a week with real responsibilities. Him being a king was just cruel. And not even only to him. He was supposed to be the face outwards for his nation, a pride, and he would let so many people down. He could barely even talk as it was and to be a voice for a whole country. Kyungsoo thought he would throw up.
“Kyungja.” Baekhyun’s voice asked hesitantly from the doorway. Kyungsoo turned around, looking at his PA with tired eyes. “Your speech therapist offered to hold his session here in your house if you weren’t feeling up to coming over. What do you want me to say?” He asked and Kyungsoo immediately felt a hundred times worse. Baekhyun was too kind, even after being shouted at he was still so kind and gentle.
“He can come over.” Kyungsoo mumbled, despite not wanting to face anyone ever again. He didn’t have the heart to boss Baekhyun around anymore. If he could avoid disappointing Junmyeon this way then he could at least try. But who was he kidding. The therapist would be disappointed in him once their session started. Kyungsoo couldn’t even imagine mustering up the focus for actually trying today. He should have just said no.
But it was already too late. Baekhyun had disappeared once more and Kyungsoo could hear him inform Junmyeon of his address over the phone in the other room.
“Want me to feed Poto before I leave?” Baekhyun asked, sticking his head into Kyungsoo’s bedroom once more. Kyungsoo swallowed, throat still feeling tight and chest still aching, and shook his head.
“I’ll handle it.” He forced out.
“You sure? You know I can do it with the chopsticks.” Baekhyun replied and Kyungsoo shook his head again.
“It’s fine. Thank you.” He said, meeting Baekhyun’s eyes. They were kind as they looked at him, full of understanding.
“No need to thank me, just doing my job.” He said and Kyungsoo looked away, reminded that Baekhyun’s job was actually to make sure he went where he was supposed to go and did what he was supposed to go. Now he felt even worse about having pulled rank on him.
“Bye.” Kyungsoo mumbled, curled up tight in bed.
“Call me if you need anything Kyungja.” Baekhyun said. “Anything, even if it’s just some more grapes for Poto.” He added and Kyungsoo felt his lips quirk up into a short smile.
“Promise.” He promised and Baekhyun smiled back at him before closing the bedroom door behind him. A minute later Kyungsoo could hear his front door opening and closing before the quiet click of a lock signalled Baekhyun’s departure.
On tired legs Kyungsoo stood up, having to try two times before his muscles carried him. He kept a hand on the wall as he walked out into his kitchen, pulling out some salmon, papaya and cherries from the fridge as well as a few frozen mice from the freezer. He popped one of the cherries in his own mouth, realizing he probably had to eat something but not being hungry at all, before making his way over to the dog bed in his living room.
“Good morning Poto.” He spoke quietly, pulling up the blanket to reveal his sleeping lizard inside. “It’s time to wake up.” He gently stroked a finger down the lizards head, moving his hand under his chin and giving the large cheeks a good scratch. The lizards blinked open a lazy eye at him before huffing once and closing it.
Kyungsoo found himself smiling at the behaviour. “I have salmon for you.” He tried, knowing how much Poto loved the fish. The lizard didn’t move, continuing to breathe slowly. Kyungsoo sighed, not having the heart to destroy another being’s morning. He stood up, leaving the blanked pulled away from Poto’s head, and grabbed a notebook and pen.
After scrawling a quick note to Junmyeon that he would be in the bedroom he put the salmon and fruits back in the fridge, leaving the mice out on the counter to thaw out, and placed the note on the small table by the door.
“Come here Poto.” He mumbled, bending down and lifting the lizard up with a huff. The lizard wiggled for a moment, not liking the rude awakening. But once he realized it was Kyungsoo who was carrying him Poto quickly settled down, his head resting on Kyungsoo shoulder as the prince carried him over to the bedroom. “It’s cuddle time.”
He laid back down, bringing Poto with him, and tucked them both in. Poto quickly settled in after some ‘digging’ with his head on Kyungsoo’s shoulder. Kyungsoo sighed, running a hand down the lizards sleep warm body and trying to make sense of everything that was going on inside of him. But the moment he started poking at the icy lump in his guts his eyes started tearing and Kyungsoo stopped, instead focusing on the feeling of his lizard in his arm and the cosy blanket covering them both.
He must have dozed off a little because the next thing he remembered was a gentle knocking on his bedroom door. He made a noise signalling that whoever was inside could come in.
“Good morning.” Junmyeon spoke and Kyungsoo mumbled out a reply, immediately feeling a hundred times more sleepy despite just having napped. He didn’t want to do any therapy. He didn’t want to have to function as a proper human in front of Junmyeon. He didn’t want to exists.
“There- um...” Junmyeon licked his lips, looking uncharacteristically unsure. “There are mice on your counter.” He said, pointing back out into the flat. Kyungsoo raised his head, looking at where Junmyeon was pointing.
“They’re for Poto.” He explained.
“Your pet? But- That many? It’s like four?” Junmyeon asked and Kyungsoo nodded, flipping down the covers and exposing Poto. Most people didn’t expect the size of him. He really was like a small dog. About 4’5’’ long, tail included and almost 12kg. He was a big boy. Kyungsoo always said so but people didn’t seem to listen.
Junmyeon let out a cry as Poto came into view and Kyungsoo winced at the loud noice, hearing Poto huff and feeling his tail move under the blanket. He quickly hushed the therapist, soothing his lizard with a gentle pet of his fingers.
“Don’t scream. He’s resting.” Kyungsoo spoke groggily, sitting up a little straighter and bringing Poto with him.
“He’s huge .” Junmyeon said as if Kyungsoo wasn’t aware of the fact that he had a gigantic lizard in his bed.
“He’s a big boy.” Kyungsoo spoke fondly, scratching Poto’s puffy cheeks as the lizard rearranged himself to lay across Kyungsoo’s lap instead.
“When you said pet lizard I thought like... I don’t know a gecko or something.” Junmyeon said, still not having recovered from the shock. He was watching wide eyed from the doorway, looking ready to run away if needed. Kyungsoo would have laughed if he didn’t feel so exhausted.
“I told you he was a red tegu.” Kyungsoo replied.
“Well how was I supposed to know they were that big!” Junmyeon gasped, gesturing towards Poto who was slowly stirring awake. Kyungsoo sat up fully, realizing he would probably too have to wake up soon and feed the lizard.
“You could have googled it.” Kyungsoo replied and Junmyeon opened his mouth as if to reply before closing it, frowning and then giving a nod. Kyungsoo did smile at this, some of the exhaustion leaving him as Junmyeon started inching closer, clearly fascinated by the lizard.
“Can I pet him?” Junmyeon asked. “Her? Him? It? Poto?” He quickly added, looking at Kyungsoo for what was the right words to use. It felt weird, having someone whose job it was to know how and what to say look to Kyungsoo, the word blind, for words. It made something odd stir in his chest.
“Him.” Kyungsoo replied. “And yeah, be gentle tho. He’s still sleepy.” He explained, showing Junmyeon how he could stroke Poto’s head in a way the lizard liked. As the therapist’s fingers touched the lizards scaly skin Junmyeon shone up, looking at Kyungsoo with wide eyes.
Kyungsoo found himself laughing in response, pulling a little at the lizards short legs in that way he liked. Poto must have noticed that something was not right considering he was receiving double the pats to normal, and lifted his head, looking straight at Junmyeon.
Junmyeon froze, eyes wide, until Kyungsoo told him to keep going and he hesitantly resumed the petting. Poto stayed still, lazily blinking as he was pampered.
“You’re such a spoiled boy. You wouldn’t handle a day without me.” Kyungsoo said and Poto looked over at him with the same unimpressed look, his tongue darting out. “Hungry?” Kyungsoo added and Poto blinked.
“I haven’t had breakfast yet.” Kyungsoo spoke, realizing he was literally still in his pyjamas. “Do you have time to...” He trailed up, realizing it was probably a stupid question. Of course Junmyeon wouldn’t have time to wait. He had other clients to take care of. This whole Poto petting session, even though it had been nice, had just been a whole waste of time.
“No problem. I’ll have a cup of coffee if that’s okay with you.” Junmyeon replied, taking a step back to give Kyungsoo space to stand up.
“You don’t have any other client you have to...?” Kyungsoo asked, pulling Poto up against his chest. The lizard buffed his head against Kyungsoo’s head.
“No. Only you today.” Junmyeon answered and Kyungsoo nodded, feeling a little bit more at ease. With a huff he stood up, Poto in his arms once more, and together they made their way out into the kitchen.
Junmyeon watched in fascination as Kyungsoo prepared food for Poto, asking about the calcium powder he was adding and if the lizard really ate cherries. Kyungsoo happily answered any questions. If there was one thing he could talk about for ages it was lizards. Especially Poto. Poto was his bestest boy. His baby. He even had a photo of him and the lizard together in his wallet.
Junmyeon was even more fascinated as Kyungsoo started feeding Poto, watching closely as Kyungsoo handfed the large lizard. He even went so far as to ask if he too could try and to make sure Poto didn’t accidentally bite him, the lizard wasn’t used to him after all, Kyungsoo had him use a set of chopsticks.
Once breakfast was over Junmyeon insisted they bathe the lizard first, and then set him up for basking and digestion before they started the session for the day. Kyungsoo happily went along with it, wanting to prolong the inevitable as long as possible.
Once Poto was happily resting under his heat lamp, a humidifier next to him in the closet Kyungsoo had set up as a basking room, the pair of them sat down in the couch, ready to start the session. They were going to work on articulation and pronunciation today and Kyungsoo knew from the start that it was going to be useless.
He felt like his body was moving about half a second behind his mind, so to make his mouth cooperate through the tongue twisters and long words was like swimming in syrup. He stumbled over the sounds, his own lisp more apparent to himself than it had been in ages, and he kept flipping sounds around.
“Kyungsoo?” Junmyeon asked softly and Kyungsoo realized he had been quiet for a whole minute, the word or tongue twister or rhyme or whatever he had been asked to say completely gone from his mind. All he could focus on was how this was going to be the rest of his life. As a King would he ever get a day for himself again? Would he ever be able to not have to think about how much he just can’t talk? He would have to spend every moment of every day trying to be someone he was not.
Was this how Seungsoo had felt all the time? Was this how his mom and dad had felt all the time? He should have tried harder when he was younger, tried to ease some of the load from Seungsoo. Maybe then they wouldn’t have died. Was this his punishment for being so lazy and stupid? Was this some sort of sick revenge for how awfully poorly he had done in school and how little he had managed to learn despite trying so hard.
He just wished he could get one more moment with Seungsoo. To apologize, to tell him how much he loves, loved, loves him one more time. He wanted to hug his dad just one more time, to have his mother kiss his hair one more time.
“Hey, is everything alright?” Junmyeon broke him out of his thoughts and Kyungsoo startled, looking back towards the therapist before nodding quickly. Yes! Of course he was alright. He needed to focus. He couldn’t waste this opportunity with Junmyeon.
“Sure.” He mumbled, his voice hoarse. His throat was hurting, his body feeling cold. Had he caught the flu? He couldn’t afford to be sick right now. He was already feeling guilty for taking a sick day today. He had to make up for all of that tomorrow. Just the thought had him feeling exhausted.
Something soft was pressed into his hand and Kyungsoo looked down, seeing a crumpled tissue. He frowned, looking up at Junmyeon. Did he need to blow his nose? He was feeling kind of stuffy now that he thought about it.
“You’re....” Junmyeon cleared his throat, gesturing towards his eyes. Kyungsoo blinked, his breath shuddering. “Here.” Junmyeon’s hand gently brought Kyungsoo’s own hand holding the tissue up to his face before pressing it against his cheek. “You’re crying.”
Kyungsoo blinked, feeling tears run down his cheeks and suddenly all he was feeling a thousand times worse. A loud sob made it though his lips and he quickly hid his face in his hands, ashamed that he was breaking down in front of Junmyeon.
“I’m sorry.” He forced out, lisping horribly and feeling even worse. He bit his lips, trying to stop the subs that were still tumbling out of him. He didn’t have time for this. He didn’t have time for emotions anymore. He was a King! He was supposed to be calm and collected. He couldn’t even to that! He was useless.
“It’s okay, take your time.” Junmyeon said, placing a hand on Kyungsoo’s arm. Kyungsoo shook his head, quickly wiping his eyes and nose as he tried to collect himself. The tears wouldn’t stop. Neither would the hole in his chest stop aching.
“You wanna tell me about it?” Junmyeon asked as Kyungsoo broke down into a new set of sobs, his frame shaking with the force of them. It was hurting to breathe. He managed to get enough air into his lungs to force out a reply.
“You don’t have to.” His voice was thick with tears, syllables mumbled horribly. “I’m sorry I’ll be fine. I just-” Another sob forced itself through his lips and Kyungsoo sniffed, looking away again.
“Kyungsoo,” Junmyeon’s hand moved from his arm to around his shoulders, pulling him closer to the therapist. “You’re not fine. That’s okay. I’m your friend, I won’t judge.” He whispered and Kyungsoo let out another wave of sobs, feeling his resolve break.
“I can’t do this Junmyeon!” He cried, pressing his palms against his eyes to try and stop the tears. “I can’t. I can’t even speak how am I supposed to? How am I supposed to be a king?” He blurted out, every word hurting on the way out.
“I can’t even handle two weeks of this. Everyone is so disappointed in me and I won’t ever be good enough. I’m just the stupid lizard nerd who can’t talk properly and who never manages anything and everyone just wishes it was me who had died instead of Seungsoo.” Kyungsoo burst out.
“No that’s not true Kyungsoo.” Junmyeon whispered, arms tightening around him. Kyungsoo shook his head, another wave of tears running down his cheeks.
“Yes it is! I saw! I saw it yesterday at the funeral. Everyone was looking at me and they were judging me and I was trying so hard to but I couldn’t even handle standing still properly. I can’t do any of this Junmyeon and I’m going to let everyone down and I’m letting you down and I’m letting mom down and and and.” His breath ran out, his chest cramping up as sobs overtook him again.
“Kyungsoo, that’s not true.” Junmyeon whispered, rubbing his back as Kyungsoo tried to get his breathing back under control. “I saw you yesterday and you were doing so good. You did everything right and I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it must have been to not cry at your family’s funeral.”
“I- I don’t want to do this anymore.” Kyungsoo sobbed, turning to press his face into Junmyeon’s chest. “I don’t want to be a king! I just want to be me!”
“You can still be you.” Junmyeon tried and Kyungsoo shook his head. Couldn’t Junmyeon see he had to be a king? And Kyungsoo wasn’t good enough to be a king. He had to be like Seungsoo, or his dad, or everyone who came before him. He had to be anyone except himself.
“Yes you can. Kyungsoo don’t be so hard on yourself. You’ve done so much progress in these past two weeks I’ve known you. You’re going to be amazing at your coronation speech and everyone will love you. I know it.” Junmyeon whispered. Kyungsoo didn’t reply, sniffling pathetically into Junmyeon’s shirt. It was wet from tears and snot and that made him feel even worse.
“And people are not disappointed. I’ve only read good things about you. Everyone is impressed with how quickly you’ve stepped up to the role and how much responsibility you’re taking. People have nothing but sympathy for you. They’re going to love you, just like they loved the King, Queen and Prince Seungsoo.” Junmyeon continued, rubbing his back. Kyungsoo sniffed, taking a shuddering breath as he listened to the other.
“Are they really impressed?” He asked, doubting that was actually the case.
“They are.” Junmyeon confirmed. “And so am I.” He added, pulling Kyungsoo closer to him in a hug. Kyungsoo wrapped his own arms around Junmyeon chest, revelling in the warmth from the other. Once again Junmyeon seemed to know exactly what to say. Kyungsoo wished he had that ability too, but right now he just wished he had Junmyeon even more. There was something about the other man that made him feel at ease.
“Can I cry a little bit more?” Kyungsoo asked, sniffing. He had a lot of tears still left inside of himself and he didn’t know the next time he would be able to let them out. Junmyeon let out a little laugh, rubbing Kyungsoo’s back as he swayed side to side.
“Of course. I’ll be here if you need any more words of comfort.” Junmyeon spoke and Kyungsoo felt a small laugh of his own bubble out of him before he closed his eyes, letting himself let go of the grief he had been holding back ever since he found out about his family’s death.
Kyungsoo smoothly pushed his arms through the sleeves of his suit jacket, shrugging his shoulders to make sure it hung correctly on his frame. He had spent the morning doing speech therapy with Junmyeon and it was now time for a meeting with his pr department to discuss how the coronation would be broadcast. He was not looking forward to it but thankfully Junmyeon had been able to distract him and put him back in a good mood. The other always managed to do that somehow. It was like no matter how Kyungsoo felt the moment he saw Junmyeon he immediately perked up.
“Hey Soo.” Junmyeon spoke and Kyungsoo turned around, feeling his cheeks heat up at the nickname. It was new since Junmyeon had visited him at home a few days ago and it always managed to make his stomach fill with a wonderful fluttering feeling.
“Yeah?” Kyungsoo replied, fumbling with the buttons on his suit jacket as he watched Junmyeon smile up at him.
“Want to meet up tomorrow?” Junmyeon asked, hands sternly clasped together and resting on the desk in front of him. He looked like a principal and Kyungsoo felt himself smile at the sight. Junmyeon always looked so relaxed, why would this question make him so tense.
“Of course.” Kyungsoo replied. “We have another session planned tomorrow, don’t we?” He added, suddenly unsure. They had a session planned every weekday until the coronation to make sure he was thoroughly prepared.
“Well yes.” Junmyeon begun, a pink hue appearing on his cheeks. “But I was thinking more of meeting up outside of our session.” He clarified.
“Outside?” Kyungsoo asked.
“Well yes. Like...for coffee or something.” Junmyeon said, clearly trying very hard to sound unaffected. Kyungsoo felt his lips spread up into a smile.
“Like a date?” He asked, fighting a blush of his own.
“Yeah, kinda exactly like a date.” Junmyeon clarified and Kyungsoo felt like he had swallowed a whole swarm of butterflies.
“Sure.” Kyungsoo replied, feeling his cheeks hurt as Junmyeon shone up into a bright smile. A moment later he felt his own smile fall, remembering something crucial. “I can’t go to a café through.” He added. “I’m not, my pr team has decided it’s probably for the best that I don’t make any unplanned appearances to the public before my coronation.”
“Oh.” Junmyeon breathed, his smile falling as well. Kyungsoo didn’t like the look of that. He wanted Junmyeon to smile all the time.
“You can come over for dinner instead?” He suggested, fiddling with his still unbuttoned suit jacket. Junmyeon perked up again, leaning forwards eagerly.
“I’d love that.” He replied. Kyungsoo felt his whole being fill with anticipation.
The evening next day Kyungsoo was filled to the rim with nerves. He hadn’t dated in ages. And when he had it had only ever been café or restaurant dates. It had never progressed to at home dates and now he felt completely at loss. What was he supposed to do?
They had decided on dinner and a movie but everything else? Was he supposed to have wine at home? He didn’t drink wine so he didn’t have any and now it was too late to pick up wine but if he didn’t would Junmyeon think it was weird? But what if Junmyeon didn’t drink either then having wine would be even weirder! And was kimchi spaghetti even good date food? Everyone he had ever made it for said it was delicious and Jongdae, who was in a successful five year relationship with his boyfriend and therefore the closest Kyungsoo had to an expert to consult, had said it was okay. But now as he looked at the food waiting on the stove it felt completely wrong. Weren’t you supposed to have steak and red wine on a date?
At least he was dressed up nicely. He actually felt good about his outfit, even if he had had to call Jongdae in for an impromptu styling session. Jongdae had been happy to help though. He had even brought a nice little baby button up they could put on Poto and a small black bowtie. Now Kyungsoo and him matched.
Kyungsoo turned his attention away from the stove, knowing it would only make him more stressed to think about the food. Instead he decided to do something that always managed to relax him, take a selfie with Poto.
The lizard knew by now that if he cooperated Kyungsoo would give him some mango and therefore only squirmed a little as Kyungsoo hiked him up into his arms and positioned him so you could see the bowtie. A few snaps into the small photoshoot the sound of someone knocking on his front door echoed through the apartment. Kyungsoo startled, almost dropping his phone, and quickly put Poto back on the floor before giving him a small piece of mango.
Junmyeon was here. Kyungsoo hurried over to the mirror in the hallway to make sure the coif Jongdae had put in his hair was still looking good before he took a deep breath. He hesitated with his hand on the door handle for a long second before pushing it down and pulling it open.
Junmyeon’s bright smile met him on the other side and Kyungsoo could immediately feel himself relax.
“Hello.” Junmyeon said with a smile. There was a bouquet of flowers in his arms and a box of strawberries in his hand. The flowers were bright yellow and of a veriety Kyungsoo couldn’t recognize. They were almost as pretty as Junmyeon’s smile.
“Hello.” Kyungsoo replied, feeling himself smile broad enough his cheeks hurt. Junmyeon shifted, holding out the flower.
“These are for you.” He said and Kyungsoo accepted them, inviting the other inside. “And these,” Junmyeon held out the strawberries next. “These are for, well for us but also for Poto.” He said and Kyungsoo felt his stomach flip.
“You didn’t have to get Poto anything.” He said and Junmyeon shrugged, removing his jacket and toeing off his shoes.
“They’re for us too.” He spoke and Kyungsoo silently thanked him. The sound of claws sliding over wooden floor reached his ear and Kyungsoo turned around, seeing Poto shuffle into the hallway with a curious look.
Junmyeon immediately gasped, grabbing hold of Kyungsoo’s arm as he took in the lizard. Poto had mango stuck to the side of his mouth and his bowtie had become crooked but he still looked very handsome on Kyungsoo’s opinion.
“He’s dressed up?” Junmyeon asked, his voice oddly high pitched. Kyungsoo looked over at the other, seeing him stare at the lizard with bright, happy eyes.
He crouched down, scratching at the floor to get Poto to move over. The lizard perked up at the sound and quickly hurried over. Junmyeon made another high pitched sound as the lizard looked up at him.
“Wanna hold him?” Kyungsoo asked, looking up at Junmyeon whose mouth fell open.
“Can I?” The therapist asked.
“Of course.” Kyungsoo replied, bending down to scoop Poto up. Like always the lizard squirmed when Kyungsoo first picked him up but quickly settled down. Kyungsoo turned to Junmyeon who looked at him with confused eyes. With quiet mumbles Kyungsoo instructed him how to best hold the lizard and soon Junmyeon had Poto in his arms. The lizard looked a little disgruntled but soon settled down.
Together they walked further into the small apartment, Poto securely held in Junmyeon’s arms. Kyungsoo put the strawberries away in the fridge before making sure the flowers had water and a nice spot with sunshine.
“I’ve made some kimchi spaghetti.” Kyungsoo spoke, gesturing to his the food on the stove. Junmyeon hummed, licking his lips before looking over at Kyungsoo with a bright smile.
Something big, warm and fluffy suddenly exploded in Kyungsoo’s chest, making him feel as if he was made out of clouds, or a thousand fluttering butterflies. The sight of Junmyeon, Poto in his arms, standing in his kitchen and looking completely at home. The guest slippers on his socked feet, the cardigan that made him look a little bit like an old man. Everything about it looked so right, felt so right.
Before he could think about what he was doing he had leaned forward pressed his lips against Junmyeon’s, his fingers running through the thick dark locks and messing up the carefully styled hair.
He jerked back as though burned, his eyes wide as he realized what he had done. Junmyeon were looking back at him with equally wide eyes, shock apparent on every muscle of his face.
“I’m sorry.” Kyungsoo gasped, turning away and trying to busy his hands with something, anything. He ended up spilling all of his chopsticks out into the sink and the horrible clatter of metal against metal seemed deafening in the quiet room.
“Kyungsoo.” Junmyeon spoke softly and Kyungsoo turned around. The therapist still had Poto in his lap, the lizard oblivious to Kyungsoo’s emotional turmoil, but the shocked expression had been exchanged for a soft smile. “Come here.”
“Why?” Kyungsoo questioned.
“Just,” Junmyeon gestured for Kyungsoo to come closer. “Come here.” He repeated.
Kyungsoo took a few hesitant steps forward, continuing to inch forward until he could feel Junmyeon’s breath against his own. The other’s eyes were so warm, like hot chocolate after a cold winter walk.
Poto chose that moment to start squirming, wiggling his short legs around as he decided being carried around was no longer what he wanted to do. Kyungsoo immediately lept into action, taking the squirming lizard from Junmyeon and putting him down on the floor.
“Sorry, he gets like that-” Kyungsoo didn’t have time to finish the sentence before Junmyeon had grabbed him by the lapels of his shirt, pulled him close and kissed him. Kyungsoo gasped, bracing himself against Junmyeon’s chest as the other pulled him close.
He could feel one of Junmyeon’s hands gripping his waist, the other in his hair. Junmyeon’s lips were eager against his own, nibbling slightly at his bottom lip. Kyungsoo let out a whiny moan, fingers curling in Junmyeon’s shirt.
They pulled apart, Kyungsoo vaguely aware that the hairstyle Jongdae had worked so long on was now ruined. He could feel himself smile, stupidly wide, but didn’t really mind. Junmyeon was an amazing kisser.
“Wanna eat my ass?” He asked.
A second of silence passed between them.
“I mean! I mean wanna eat? Wanna eat my food! Not, not my ass I don’t want you- I mean I- I made pasgetti and I’m asking you if you wanna that not anything else although I mean if you want something else then, FOOD WISE that is, food wise not like-” Kyungsoo rambled on quickly, a burning blush on his cheeks.
“Spaghetti is fine.” Junmyeon interrupted and Kyungsoo quietened, looking away. Junmyeon’s lips pressed against his cheek affectionately and Kyungsoo looked back, a small chuckle escaping him.
“I’m sorry.” He apologized, not really wanting to step out of Junmyeon’s arms.
“There is really no need.” Junmyeon replied, not really letting go of him.
They eventually managed to tear themselves away from each other and Junmyeon helped Kyungsoo set the table and reheat the food before they sat down. The food was eaten under comfortable conversation. The topic of Kyungsoo and his interests seemed to be Junmyeon’s favourite and Kyungsoo found himself rambling on endlessly. He wasn’t really used to people wanting to get to know the real him and at first he had been hesitant to truly answer the questions but as he started speaking the better it felt.
It felt nice to be allowed to just talk sometimes. To just talk and not have to say something. Junmyeon already knew how horrible his speech could be so he didn’t have to concentrate on everything he usually did. And in some backwards fashion way it seemed like his speech was almost better when he didn’t have to think about it.
Once dinner was done they moved on into the living room. Poto had laid down in his dog bed long ago and huffed quietly as the pair entered the room. Kyungsoo made sure to put a blanket around him he could burrow into and go to sleep before they put on a movie.
They didn’t get to see much of the movie. Both of them were still too on edge from the make out session that had been cut short earlier and made sure to more than make up for it. Junmyeon’s hands were gentle on his skin as Kyungsoo straddled him and the touch of their lips sent sparks up Kyungsoo’s spine.
Junmyeon stayed the night, but they didn’t end up doing anything more than making out. As he lay there, expecting another night of sleeplessness as he thought and thought and thought about how lonely he was and everything he needed to do Kyungsoo was kind of grateful for that.
Junmyeon’s presence against his side was a greater comfort than any words could ever be. He was there for Kyungsoo, for the real Kyungsoo, the Kyungsoo almost no one knew now that his family was gone. He didn’t mind the dorky interests, the lisping or the forgetting of words. He didn’t mind that Kyungsoo had never really been good at school despite liking to learn because school had been the complete opposite of learning for him.
Junmyeon was his therapist, yes, and they probably shouldn’t get involved like this, but more importantly Junmyeon was his friend. He was someone who actually listened to Kyungsoo and who actually heard what he was saying. The fact that Junmyeon was here, holding him close, despite them not having fucked spoke volumes to him.
He felt cared for, important, in a way he hadn’t in a long time. He had never been important enough to be number one in anyone’s eyes until the death of his family. And even then it wasn’t really Kyungsoo who was number one, it was Prince Kyungsoo and Prince Kyungsoo had to be so many things real Kyungsoo was not.
But to Junmyeon he was number one. He, the real Kyungsoo, was the most important.
“Sleep Soo.” Junmyeon whispered in his ear, pressing a kiss to the back of his neck. “Thinking can wait for tomorrow.” He seemed to be almost asleep and Kyungsoo found himself smiling at the endearing slur to Junmyeon’s words.
“Good night Myeon.” He whispered, closing his eyes and pulling Junmyeon’s arms closer around him.
“Sleep well Soo.” Junmyeon whispered, snuggling closer.
Junmyeon and Kyungsoo continued to meet up almost every single day. Most of their meetups were their speech therapy sessions but they still made sure to meet up outside of that. Mostly at Kyungsoo’s place since Junmyeon was so fond of Poto but Junmyeon had also invited him into his place once or twice.
And so the days continued to pass, and pass, and pass, far too quickly for Kyungsoo’s liking and suddenly the coronation was just around the corner. Tomorrow, tomorrow was the coronation and Kyungsoo felt anything but ready.
The robe was heavy on his shoulder, his hands sweaty as he carried the replicas of the crown jewels that weren’t to be taken out of their vault until tomorrow. He could see his team standing by the side of the long walkway to the altar where the arch-bishop waited for him, looking severely mismatched in his ceremonial headpiece, shorts and short sleeved polo with a priest collar.
They were waiting for him, everyone was waiting for him, and Kyungsoo couldn’t move. He couldn’t do this. All he could think of was when he himself, barely four years old, had seen his own father walk the same path after his grandmother had given over the throne to him. He had looked so regal with all his medals and the pompous music and Kyungsoo knew that no matter what, he would never be able to fill that image himself.
How was he supposed to fill the shoes of someone like him? How was he supposed to fill a space he was never supposed to fill? He wished Seungsoo was here to tell him what to do. He wished his father was here with his stupid dad jokes which Kyungsoo missed so so badly. He wished his mother was here to hug him and tell him he would be okay. If they were here he could be king. He could be king for them. But they weren’t and Kyungsoo simply couldn’t.
“Music Queue!” Leeteuk, the royal event organizer called and the bombus sound of horns and strings filled the cathedral. Kyungsoo startled, his feet taking a stumbling step forward as he tried to find the right rhythm to walk in.
“Wait!” Leeteuk held up a hand and Kyungsoo froze. Oh right, he wasn’t supposed to start walking immediately. He stared at the event organizer who gestured to him to start walking when the first verse kicked in and Kyungsoo took another stumbling step, feeling smaller and smaller with every meter he walked.
Junmyeon was standing next to Baekhyun, having been called in to help Kyungsoo during the speech. He was not going to be here tomorrow. Kyungsoo wished he would be but list of guests had already been finalized and no last minutes changes could be done, not even by a king to be.
Kyungsoo looked at him as he walked, wondering what Junmyeon was seeing right now. If he was seeing what Kyungsoo was feeling. Was he also seeing a small, scared man who didn’t know what to do, who wasn’t even supposed to be here to begin with. Was that was him and Baekhyun was talking about?
Kyungsoo stumbled again, almost dropping the replica of the royal apple. Leeteuk made a noise as Kyungsoo got his feet back under him again, asking him to focus. Kyungsoo nodded, swallowing thickly as he continued the long walk to the altar.
Slowly he kneeled down, looking up at the priest. The next part of the coronation were a set of three promises he had to do to the crown and the people. This was the easy part, all Kyungsoo had to say was ‘ I solemnly promise to do so ’ three times over before he kissed the bible, allowed them to place the crown over his head and proclaim him king.
The hard part came after, when he would walk back down the cathedral and out onto the square in front of it where the people would be waiting. Then he would hold his speech, his very first speech, as a king.
Or throw up and pass out, which felt infinitely more likely right now.
He could vaguely hear the arch-bishop start rambling up the first promise and drew a deep breath, trying to think through his speech once more before it was time. Him and Junmyeon had been practising the speech and nothing but the speech for the past week and Kyungsoo was certain he could do it in his sleep. But to hold it in front of an entire nation and both keep his voice low, his lisp away and not mess up any words he wasn’t so sure of.
But he had to.
He heard himself agree to the first promise, the second, the third, before he leaned forward and kissed the bible held out in front of him and felt the replica crown being placed on his head. It was time, and Kyungsoo wanted to cry.
“Awesome!” Leeteuk’s voice rang out in the cathedral as he took a step forward. He clapped his hands together once as he looked everyone over before fixing his eyes on Kyungsoo. “Prince Kyungsoo, remember your cue please. And if you could speak just a tiny bit louder during the oath that would be great. Otherwise great. Remember to keep your back straight and if you don’t know where to look you can memorize the window behind the altar while you walk down it.”
Kyungsoo nodded, sucking in a deep breath. Did this mean he wouldn’t have to do the speech today? He hoped so. If that was the case then he could go home soon. His grandmother was coming later in the evening and he had promised to have her over for pizza and reruns of planet earth, a childhood tradition that was strictly theirs. If they were done soon he might even have time to go get some snacks before she showed up.
“Anyone want to run that through again?” Leeteuk asked, looking around the cathedral. He was met with headshakes and silence. Kyungsoo felt himself perk up a little more. He might even have time for a nap if they were done now.
“Awesome.” Leeteuk clapped his hands together again. “Time for your speech Kyungsoo.” He said, turning towards the king with a smile and Kyungsoo felt the air go out of him.
“Now?” He asked, noticing the squeak in his voice. Leeteuk’s eyebrows rose, an amused smile playing on his lips.
“Yes now. We’ll be doing it in here though. We don’t wanna go outside with the press out and about.” He said and Kyungsoo nodded weakly, clearing his throat. He could see Junmyeon walk over towards him, smiling gently. Unlike every other time Junmyeon had smiled this time he felt only worry and anxiety and none of the usual comfort.
“Ready when you are.” Leeteuk said, sitting down in one of the pews. The rest of the staff present followed suit. In the end only him and Junmyeon were left standing.
Kyungsoo cleared his throat, wishing he didn’t have to hold on to the crown jewels so he could adjust the cloak. It felt as if it was choking him, tight around his neck. The air was thick as he breathed, heavy as it settled into his lungs. It felt almost like smoke.
“Dear people of Heshia.Throughout this memorable day I have been uplifted and sustained by the knowledge that your thoughts and prayers were with me. I have been aware all the time that my peoples, spread far and wide throughout our beautiful country, were united to support me in the task to which I have now been dedicated with such solemnity.” He began, his voice breaking at the last sentence. He didn’t want to make this speech. It was not his speech to make. He should be listening to Seungsoo thanking the people for their support, not stand here and speak empty words to an empty cathedral with an empty heart.
“One more time from the beginning please Prince Kyungsoo. Remember your ‘S’s. And please speak a little slower.” Junmyeon spoke before Kyungsoo could continue. He swallowed, nodding before starting over from the beginning.
He made it a few lines longer before he was interrupted again, this time due to the rise of pitch in his voice as he thanked the people for standing behind him. He nodded harshly as Junmyeon reminded him of the techniques they used to keep his voice pitched low. He knew all of that already. Couldn’t Junmyeon see he was trying his hardest.
The third time he barely made it a few lines into the speech before he got interrupted. Kyungsoo didn’t even know why this time. His heartbeat was pounding so loudly in his head, his vision blurry as he tried to focus on the speech so he could just finish it and go home and just try to survive until the coronation tomorrow.
The fourth time he got interrupted by Junmyeon he ignored the speech therapist. He knew everything Junmyeon was telling him already. He didn’t need to be told to annunciate, he didn’t need to be told to breathe deeply, he didn’t need to be told not to slur his words or speak too quickly or that it was certainty and not certaility that he was supposed to say.
Her knew all of this already.
“Kyungsoo.” Junmyeon’s hand landed on his shoulder and Kyungsoo shrugged it off, losing his place in the speech. He drew a deep breath, trying to start over but not at all remembering where he broke off. He could feel the tears rise in his chest, he could feel the air run out of his lungs.
He couldn’t do this. He didn’t want to do this. He wasn’t going to do this.
With shaking hands he thrust the replicas of the golden apple and scepter into Junmyeon’s hands, pulled off his cloak and started running down the long red carpet leading towards the exit and square. He could hear the clanking of the replica crown bounce against the old stone floor behind him. He didn’t care. He didn’t care about anything. He just wanted to get away.
He turned left at the entrance and into the bathrooms before closing the door behind himself and crawling up on the toilet seat. His body was trembling, breath shaking with every inhale. He could feel tears burn in his eyes and pressed his palms against them, trying to hold them back. He knew Baekhyun or Chanyeol or some other assistant or whatever would soon come to collect him and he didn’t want to be caught crying. Not when he had already stormed off.
He could hear the door to the bathroom open and sniffed, sucking in a deep breath and holding it in an attempt to collect himself.
“Kyungsoo?” It was Junmyeon’s voice and Kyungsoo frowned, not having expected the therapist to be the one to come after him. In actuality he had prefered if he hadn’t. He was still slightly mad at Junmyeon. He knew he didn’t actually have a reason to be mad but he was still mad.
“In here.” He sighed, knowing he couldn’t hide away in here for the rest of the day despite badly wanting to.
Slowly, the door handle into his booth was pulled down, as if Junmyeon was testing to see if it was locked or not. Once he found out it was unlocked he pushed the door open, peeking his head inside and raising his eyebrows questioningly at Kyungsoo.
“What happened Soo?” He asked, stepping inside. Kyungsoo sniffed and shrugged, not knowing what he was supposed to say to that.
“I can’t do this.” He answered honestly, roughly wiping away a stray tear with the palm of his hand.
“Yes you can, you’ve practised this so so much.” Junmyeon said, crouching down in front of him and resting his hands on Kyungsoo’s feet.
“I know but-” Kyungsoo sighed.
“Is it the lisping? Because I know you can do that too. We’ve worked on the technique. Just remember to think about your tongue position and keep your jaw relaxed.” Junmyeon reminded him and Kyungsoo shook his head.
“No, No Junmyeon it’s-”
“Is it your pitch? Because as I said when we begun your voice register is pretty low to begin with. If there is one thing you can skip tomorrow it’s definitely that.” Junmyeon continued and Kyungsoo huffed, licking his lips as he tried to find the words.
“No, what I’m trying to say is-”
“I know Kyungsoo. It’s okay to be nervous, I would be too in your shoes-” Junmyeon started again and Kyungsoo felt himself snap. Did Junmyeon honestly think this was nerves? Did he honestly think Kyungsoo was just some crybaby who ran away the moment he got a little nervous.
“No!” He barked and Junmyeon’s mouth snapped shut. “No you’re not listening to me! You’re just like everyone else!” He sniffed, his chest hurting with each word. “You think I’m fucking nervous? You think that’s what this bullshit is about? You sit there with your words and your language and you think I am nervous?” He questioned, glaring at Junmyeon with everything he could muster.
The therapist didn’t reply.
“Words don’t belong to me!” He cried, feeling a wave of frustration about to leave him. “They never have! And they never will! And everyone is trying to force them onto me! But they can’t, because my brain is broken and I can’t do words and language and all of that. I can’t! I feel like an alien every time I’m asked to talk! Like everyone knows that I’m not supposed to be able to and they think I’m cheating.” He laughed, the sound coming out broken.
“You know what the worst part is? Everyone pretends like there is nothing wrong with me but everyone knows . They all know and you all try to still act as if I can do this stupid speech thing. It’s like you’re all setting me up for failure just so you can laugh at it behind my back when I ultimately do fail! And you dare ask me if I’m nervous? Fuck you Junmyeon!” He could feel tears roll down his cheeks, feel his chest hiccup with sobs.
“You know what, you know what.” He added, because he couldn’t stop even though every word was burning on the way out. “You know what’s actually the worst. The things I’m actually good at, like reading, I’m not allowed to be good at. People act so surprised when I say I like to read because I’m supposed to be a just a stupid dyslexic who can’t even spell their own name.” He stopped, breathing shaky as he let the tears take over. He could feel Junmyeon’s hands shift on his feet but couldn’t read the other’s expression through his tears.
“I’m sorry.” Was the first thing Junmyeon said, his hand squeezing Kyungsoo’s ankle gently. “I’m sorry Kyungsoo. You’re completely right. I wasn’t listening.” He continued and Kyungsoo blinked, not expecting that as a reply. Usually whenever he got upset over his dyslexia people would only apologize for show. There was always a ‘but’ connected to the apology.
“No you weren’t.” Kyungsoo spoke before he could stop himself.”
“I wasn’t.” Junmyeon agreed. “I am sorry for that Kyungsoo. And I am sorry you feel that way. You’re right. I hadn’t even thought about how you feel and why you might feel like you feel. I am the one who is nervous, because I want you to succeed. But I didn’t stop to think of how that pressure might feel for you. And I am sorry for that.” Junmyeon apologized once more, hand gently stroking up Kyungsoo’s calf.
“However, I want you to know something Kyungsoo.” Junmyeon continued, giving his calf another gentle squeeze. Kyungsoo lifted his head from where it had been buried in his hands. “Words belong to everyone, you included. No matter what anyone else tells you words belong to you too. And it’s going to continue to do so no matter what a bunch of stuck up journalists or royalty say.”
Kyungsoo gave a snort, feeling a small smile pull at his lips.
“No it doesn’t.” He said. He was fine with it, really, most of the time. He had grown used to it.
“Yes it does. Your words deserve to be heard just as much as anyone else’s. And you know what, tomorrow, you are going to be heard. The whole nation will be listening to you and your words. And they will hear the words of someone who bravely, and proudly, did what was asked of him when no one had any right to ask anything. They will hear someone strong, someone who the people can rely on to keep representing Heshia with the same strength and quality as all of his predecessors. You’ll do amazing tomorrow, and I know that no matter what happens your words will go down in history as just that, your words that definitely belong to you.” Junmyeon spoke, smiling up at Kyungsoo.
Kyungsoo felt something warm grow within him, the smile on his lips widening as Junmyeon kept speaking.
“You really think so?” He asked. Junmyeon nodded proudly. “But what if I mess up? What if people can’t understand what I’m saying?”
“Then that’s their own fault for not listening.” Junmyeon spoke and Kyungsoo let out a small laugh. Junmyeon smiled at him, reaching out towards his hand. Kyungsoo let him take it, let him pull him off the toilet seat and onto his feet.
“I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you.” Junmyeon said as they came face to face.
“It’s fine.” Kyungsoo said, taking Junmyeon’s other hand.
“No it’s not. Please tell me if I ever do it again.” Junmyeon replied, squeezing Kyungsoo’s hands. Kyungsoo’s lips quirked up once again and he slowly leaned up to place a kiss on Junmyeon’s lips, a silent promise between the two of them.
“Ready to give it another go?” Junmyeon asked when they pulled apart and Kyungsoo nodded, determination strong in him. His words were worth being heard, and he was going to speak them with all of his voice.
Together they exited the bathroom. Baekhyun, Jongdae and Leeteuk were waiting for him outside, worried looks on their faces. Kyungsoo knew they could probably tell he had been crying, with his red rimmed eyes and dried tear tracks, but thankfully neither of them commented.
“I want Junmyeon at the ceremony.” Kyungsoo spoke, loudly.
“Prince Kyungsoo, we can’t add another guest this late.” Leeteuk said, looking uncomfortable.
“Yes. You can and you will.” Kyungsoo continued, not backing down. He was going to be heard. He was not going to fold.
“We don’t have any room.” Baekhyun spoke, taking a step forward.
“You do, in the pews at the front.” Kyungsoo spoke, remembering the layout he had been shown so many times before.
“Those are strictly reserved for royalty.” Leeteuk explained gently.
“And there are royalty sitting in in rows further back that can be moved forward.” Kyungsoo replied.
“The empty seats in the front rows are reserved for the mother, father and siblings of the King.” Leeteuk begun but Kyungsoo cut him off.
“Well there aren’t any, or else none of us would be here right now. So move those people up and make sure Junmyeon gets a seat.” Kyungsoo spoke, his voice breaking at the mention of his parents. The seats had been kept empty as a symbol for the lost King, Queen and crown prince but Kyungsoo was not going to back down. He knew he had his family with him even without their empty seats. They were always with him.
“As you wish Prince Kyungsoo.” Leeteuk spoke with a bow before walking away, Jongdae in tow. Baekhyun stayed behind, looking at Kyungsoo with raised eyebrows.
“You’re going to become bossy now that you’re King?” He asked but Kyungsoo could clearly hear the laughter in his voice.
“I wasn’t too bossy, was I?” Kyungsoo asked, worriedly looking over at Junmyeon. Junmyeon smiled back at him, nudging him with his elbow.
“Nah, a little shortie like you can never be too bossy.” Baekhyun joked, punching him lightly in the shoulder and Kyungsoo sighed, rolling his eyes.
“Watch it Byun.” He laughed, punching the other back. “Or I’ll remove you from the after party guest list.”
Kyungsoo could hear the murmur of voices coming from inside the cathedral. It was like the buzzing of bees, incessant and anxiety inducing. Today was the day, the big day, the day with capital D. His coronation. Today he went from being Prince Kyungsoo, the forgotten prince, to King Kyungsoo, someone Kyungsoo had determined to make his family proud of.
“I will be heard.” He said to himself, staring into the mirror image inside the small dressing room he had been given. He was wearing his military uniform in deep navy blue, holding his meger set of medals from his mandatory service in the military between 18 and 20. He had the royal sash wrapped over his chest, holding a set of small portraits of his late family. Around his shoulders hung the heavy snow white fur cloak embroidered with the royal crest on the back. He had to admit he did look kind of regal, especially when he straightened up.
His hair had been carefully styled into a side part and Jongdae’s hired makeup artist Minseok, who also happened to be his partner of five years and someone who had helped out with Kyungsoo’s styling more than once before, had spent about 20 minutes on making sure he looked picture perfect. He had even managed to do something with some dark brown powders that made his nose sharper and his cheekbones actually show through beneath his chubby cheeks. It made him look more like Seungsoo and his mom. His dad he was already the spitting image of with his wide eyes, button nose and hamster cheeks.
“I will be heard.” He said once more, pulling at his uniform and squaring his shoulders. The Kyungsoo who looked back at him looked like someone worth listening to. Someone who language and words belonged to.
The door opened behind him and Kyungsoo turned around, spotting Baekhyun standing in the doorway with a surprised look on his face.
“Damn Soo I will have to start calling you your highness if that’s what you’re going to look like from now on.” His PA said as he walked inside, looking Kyungsoo up and down. Kyungsoo felt himself smile and gave Baekhyun a push.
“Shut up, you know you would never.” He said.
“Yeah, nah I wouldn’t.” Baekhyun agreed, grinning at Kyungsoo before walking a lap around him. “Joking aside you look amazing Kyungja.”
“I do?” Kyungsoo asked, holding out his hands to properly show off the cloak. Baekhyun nodded, coming to a stop in front of him.
“You think the people will think the same?” He asked, holding back the urge to bite his nails. Jongdae had been really incessant with the bad tasting nail polish and for once Kyungsoo actually had nails that weren’t completely broken down. He wanted to keep that at least for his coronation.
“Kyungsoo.” Baekhyun started and Kyungsoo looked up. The other never used his full name. “You’ll do great. You give yourself too little credit. The people are ecstatic to finally see you and the news have talked about nothing but how amazing it is that you’re stepping up to fill your father’s spot so soon. You’ll be an amazing King.”
Kyungsoo felt his chest grow warm, a bright smile on his lips. With a quick step forwards he wrapped his arms around Baekhyun, hugging him close. Baekhyun’s arms quickly wrapped around him in return, squeezing him tightly.
“Thank you Baek.” He spoke earnestly.
“Always little man.” Baekhyun replied, pulling back to smile at Kyungsoo. “Now, are you ready to do this?” He asked.
Kyungsoo gave a sharp nod, pulling at his jacket once more. Baekhyun gave him a pat on the back before gesturing towards the royal sceptre and apple that was laying on a satin pillow by the door.
With shaking hands Kyungsoo moved forwards to grab them. They were heavier than the replicas and as he raised the scepter the large gem in the middle glinted in the sunlight filtering in through the small window.
Baekhyun opened the door for him and slowly Kyungsoo walked outside, positioning himself in front of the large wooden doors leading into the cathedral. They were closed for now and wouldn’t open until it was time for him to enter.
Jongdae came running as soon as Kyungsoo had positioned himself, quickly fixing his cloak so it was spread out nicely behind him and picking a few dust particles away from his uniform before gripping Kyungsoo’s arms and smiling broadly at him.
“You ready, King Kyungsoo?” He asked, a teasing smile on his lips. Kyungsoo nodded, thanking his friend for everything he had done. Jongdae’s smile grew wobbly for half a second before he nodded, straightening the portrait of Seungsoo on Kyungsoo’s sash and walking off towards Baekhyun.
“Alright, I’ll give you a countdown Prince Kyungsoo.” Leeteuk said from the side and Kyungsoo nodded, squaring his shoulders as the first note of a trumpet started playing. The doors slowly began to swing open and Kyungsoo could feel the eyes of everyone in the pews turn to look at him.
From the corner of his eye he could see Leeteuk raise his hands, five fingers spread, and lower finger after finger in a silent countdown. As he reached zero the choir started singing the first verse and Kyungsoo took his first step, staring blindly at the large glass window behind the arch-bishop.
The walk up to the altar seemed shorter than yesterday and as he stepped up the three small stone step and the choir sung their last note Kyungsoo couldn’t remember if he had seen anyone at all on the long walk down the middle aisle. He kneeled down, lowering his head as the arch-bishop addressed the people.
From the corner of his eye he could see a camera man crouching down to get a shot of his face and Kyungsoo quickly looked away, locking eyes with a spot on the red carpet. The memory of his father telling him how annoyed he had been at just that particular spot at his coronation flew though his mind and Kyungsoo felt himself smile, his eyes glowing glossy. Somehow it was comforting to know that they had both been here, distracted by something stupid, during arguably the most important days in modern Heshian royal history.
The arch-bishop rambling off the first promise registered in his mind and Kyungsoo drew a deep breath, making sure to speak from his belly when he replied:
“I solemnly promise so to do.”
The second and third promise quickly passed by, Kyungsoo replying the same to each question. Next, the bible was lowered into his field of vision and Kyungsoo lowered his lips to the cover, making sure to keep it there for a second as he heard the rapid fire of flashes go off. The press were only allowed to document this moment and when the crown was placed upon his head and Kyungsoo knew he had to make sure they got their money shot or they wouldn’t be so rule abiding next time. Chanyeol had given him a throughout talk about it the day before yesterday.
He straightened his head and the cathedral quieted once more. He looked up, seeing the arch-bishop in front of him. The old woman slowly turned away and Kyungsoo swallowed. This was it, in just a moment’s time he would officially become King of Heshia.
As the old woman bent down to grab the crown the bright rays of the sun shining in through the large window hit his eyes, blinding him. He could hear the snap of a few cameras go off and dimly registered that someone was going to lose their journalist licence. The next moment the sun was blocked by the arch-bishop once more and Kyungsoo swallowed.
“With this crown I crown thee, Do Kyungsoo, son of King Jeongsoo and Queen Sohyun, brother of Crown Prince Seungsoo, and descendant of the great Queen Rong who founded our nation, King of Heshia by the power vested in me by the Gods of our universe.” She spoke, loud and clear, before placing the crown on his head.
The thunder of flashes going off the next second was deafening and Kyungsoo swallowed once. The crown was heavy, but steady, against his scalp and slowly he rose to his feet, making sure to keep the sceptre tucked close to his chest and the apple in a firm hold.
He turned, facing the people as a King for the first time. His eyes slid over the guests in the pew, barely recognizing half of them. His grandmother he spotted at once though, sitting in the first row with a proud smile on her face. He held back the urge to smile back.
What caught his eyes next had him smile before he could register what he was doing. Junmyeon were sitting a few rows back, squeezed in between some lower royals from a neighbouring country and the school minister. There were tears in his eyes and his hands gave a small wave in Kyungsoo’s direction.
As the loud sound of trumpets started up once more Kyungsoo scolded his expression, slowly beginning to walk back down the long church aisle towards the doors leading outside. He was careful not to step on his cloak and soon he had the rhythm down, his head held high and his breathing steady as he walked.
The iron doors separating the inside of the church with the square outside it opened and the roar of thousands upon thousands of people cheering hit him. He faltered for half a second before pressing on, knowing that as a King, he had a duty towards his people no matter how frightening it might be.
The sunlight was warm as it hit him and Kyungsoo held back the urge to squint. There was an ocean of people in front of him, all of them cheering and waving the Heshian flag. Around the top of the stairs leading down to the square stood a row of military officers, protecting the royal family. The public was separated from him by yet another barrier made up of police officers and local volunteers.
His ears picked up the sound of footsteps behind him and Kyungsoo turned his head, watching his grandmother come out to stand next to him. No one else would be joining him on the small balcony. This was strictly reserved for the royal family.
“The people of Heshia, please remain quiet during the royal address.” One of the military personnel spoke, their voice amplified by speakers set up around the square. Kyungsoo swallowed, taking a step forward up onto the mic. The inner calm that had followed him during the ceremony suddenly wavered, the thought that if he messed this up it would go down in history as the first thing he did as a King.
He licked his lips, making sure his feet were shoulder with apart and that he felt grounded before drawing a deep breath. Slow and steady. He could do this. He deserved to be heard.
“Dear people of Heshia.Throughout this memorable day I have been uplifted and sustained by the knowledge that your thoughts and prayers were with me. I have been aware all the time that my peoples, spread far and wide throughout our beautiful country, were united to support me in the task to which I have now been dedicated with such solemnity.
“Many thousands of you came to Kusan from all parts our wondrous nation to join in the ceremony, but I have been conscious too of the millions of others who have shared in it by means of internet and public broadcast in their homes. All of you, near or far, have been united in one purpose. It is hard for me to find words in which to tell you of the strength which this knowledge has given me.”
He took a deep breath, pausing. The square was almost dead quiet, everyone hanging on to every single word he was speaking. During rehearsals the words had felt empty, but now, here, with all of his people gathered, he felt the truth behind them. For the people it was worth it. For the happiness he had witnessed today he could find the strength he needed to be a king worthy of the Do family name.
“The ceremonies you have seen today are ancient, and some of their origins are veiled in the mists of the past. But their spirit and their meaning shine through the ages never, perhaps, more brightly than now. I have in sincerity pledged myself to your service, as so many of you are pledged to mine. Throughout all my life and with all my heart I shall strive to be worthy of your trust.
“Although my experience is so short and my task so new, I have in my parents and grandparents an example which I can follow with certainty and with confidence.”
At these words he had to take a pause, the memory of his family hanging heavy on his shoulders. He could feel the same solemn atmosphere lower itself over the square, the memory of an entire nation’s loss still raw. Kyungsoo sucked in a shuddering breath, mouth working wordlessly for a moment. A gentle touch landed on his back and he looked over, seeing his grandmother smile at him. He drew in another breath, steadier this time, and turned back to the people.
“There is also this. I have behind me not only the splendid traditions and the annals of more than a thousand years but the living strength and majesty of Heshia; of societies old and new; of lands and races different in history and origins but all, by the Gods of the universe’s Will, united in spirit and in aim.
“Therefore I am sure that this, my Cogronation, “He heard the error the moment it left his lips and felt himself grow pale. He closed his eyes, waiting for the laughter and the leers. None came. He opened his eyes again, seeing the people, his people, still focused on him with attentive eyes. Junmyeon’s words repeated themselves in his head: if they don’t understand that’s because they aren’t listening . He continued“ my Coronation is not the symbol of a power and a splendour that are gone but a declaration of our hopes for the future, and for the years I may, by the grace and mercy of the Gods of the universe, be given to reign and serve you as your King.”
The square erupted into cheers once more, impossibly louder than when he had first entered it and Kyungsoo couldn’t hold back the shocked expression, turning towards his grandmother with wide eyes and an open mouth. She smiled at him, pride in her eyes, and gestured towards his mouth. Oh shit right, he had to act like a king. He closed his mouth, trying to scold himself back into a neutral expression as he turned to face the people again. He could hear the smatter of cameras as he looked out over the square. He made sure to turn slightly to the left and right per Chanyeol’s wishes so the press would be happy. After a minute or two the military personnel from earlier announced the departure of the King and Kyungsoo turned around, walking back inside the cathedral with his grandmother in tow.
Once he got inside Baekhyun, Chanyeol and Jongdae immediately rushed forward to them, all talking at once. Someone helped relieve him of the crown and the crown jewels before he was pulled into a tight hug.
“I’m so freaking proud of you man!” Baekhyun spoke, almost lifting him off his feet by the strength of the hug. Kyungsoo laughed, hugging back with all his might. “You were ice cold out there! That was the best speech I’ve ever heard in my life.”
“No.” Kyungsoo laughed, shaking his head. Baekhyun set him down, ruffling his hair roughly as he insisted that it had indeed been the ‘best shit ever’.
“Hey hey! Don’t mess up his hair he needs it for the dinner later!” Jongdae cried, pulling Kyungsoo out of Baekhyun’s grasp and into a hug of his own. “You did so good!” He cried, bouncing on his feet as he hugged Kyungsoo. Kyungsoo laughed again, trying to bounce in rhythm with the other. Jongdae pulled away, grabbing his head and roughly placing a wet kiss against his hair, making Kyungsoo laugh even louder.
“Hey! How come you can mess up the royal locks?” Baekhyun asked, punching Jongdae in the arm.
“Because I style them.” Jongdae shot back, putting out his tongue at Baekhyun who maturely returned the gesture.
“My turn!” Chanyeol called, wrapping his long arms around Kyungsoo and actually pulling him off his feet this time. Kyungsoo groaned, squirming in the other’s grasp but returning the hug the moment he was set back down.
“You’ve got to see this Soo.” Chanyeol said the next second, pulling out his phone and opening up twitter. “You know that photographer who took a photo when they weren’t supposed to? Well, they got the money shot.” The social media manager thrust his phone into Kyungsoo’s hands, a picture filling his screen.
It was the picture taken when the arch-bishop had moved to pick up the crown and showed a kneeling Kyungsoo, bathed in sunlight and with his head raised up towards the high window. The sun around him made it look like he was glowing, but the important part hid behind him, in the shadows. Kyungsoo knew it had to be a trick of the light, but he still felt his breathing falter for a moment. Behind him was a shadow, probably created by his own body blocking the sunlight, but it bore an uncanny likeness to Seungsoo. The way the shadow was positioned made it look like it was watching over Kyungsoo as the younger brother took Seungsoo’s place, almost like a guarding angel.
“Look.” Chanyeol spoke, exiting out of the photo and showing the caption. The legacy lives on . “I allowed it for publication because people will most likely see the King in the shadow, and it could promote even more positive views of your coronation. I hope it was okay with you.” Chanyeol explained as Kyungsoo remained quiet.
“It’s not dad, it’s Seungsoo.” He whispered, drawing in a shaking breath before looking up at Chanyeol. “Thank you.” He smiled, pulling the other in for another hug. Chanyeol hugged him back before suddenly freezing and pulling away.
Kyungsoo looked up, confusion on his face before he turned around, spotting Junmyeon a few meters away.
“Myeon!” Kyungsoo breathed, feeling his heart beat faster than it had out in front of the town square. He rushed forward, ignoring everyone else, and wrapped himself around the other. He could hear Junmyeon laugh, the best sound in the world, and he looked up, meeting the other’s eyes for a short moment before pressing his lips to Junmyeon’s.
He could hear the gasps of the people around him but he didn’t care, not when Junmyeon’s hand cradled his cheek so gently and his lips tasted like love liquified. He sighed, running his hands through Junmyeon’s carefully styled hair and messing it up in that way that he knew made the other look so fucking hot.
“I did it!” He said as they pulled apart for a moment. Junmyeon pulled him back into the kiss, arm around his waist holding him close.
“I know, you did so well.” Junmyeon spoke against his lips before resting his forehead against Kyungsoo’s.
“I messed up once but I remembered what you said. And it worked!” Kyungsoo laughed, rubbing his nose against Junmyeon’s.
“I told you you could do it.” Junmyeon replied, pressing another soft, slow kiss to his lips. Kyungsoo giggled, adrenaline running high in his system.
“Now is this why you suddenly got so interested in speech therapy?” His grandmother spoke behind them and Kyungsoo jumped, pulling away from Junmyeon. He saw his grandmother look at the pair of them, eyebrows raised in interest.
“Well uh, he, he-” Kyungsoo stammered, at a loss for words. “Grandma, this is Junmyeon, my um...boyfriend?” He looked over at Junmyeon who was blushing bright red, looking frozen under his grandmother’s gaze. “Junmyeon, this is my Grandma.”
“Hello your highness.” Junmeyon spoke, bowing stiffly. Kyungsoo pulled at the back of his suit to make him straighten up.
“Oh drop the formalities, I’ve already heard Kyungsoo gush enough about you to make my ears drop off I don’t need him to swoon over your politeness as well.” She said, hurring forward with a small laugh before pulling Junmyeon into a warm hug, ignoring a spluttering Kyungsoo.
“Queen Jeongsook, but you can call me Grandmother.” She said as she pulled away, holding out a hand for Junmyeon.
“Kim Junmyeon. Speech therapist.” Junmyeon introduced himself, seeming to have recovered somewhat from the surprise of the old queen interrupting them.
“I hope I get to see more of you in the future. You seem like a nice person and I would hate it if something were to happen between you and Kyungsoo and I would have to revoke your licence.” She said with a gentle smile, still shaking Junmyeon’s hand. The therapist had paled, eyes wide.
“She’s joking!” Kyungsoo quickly shot in. “Right grandma?” He shot her a pointed glare but she only smiled in reply.
“Your royal highness. Please prepare for the dinner.” Leeteuk thankfully interrupted them before things got too awkward. Kyungsoo sighed, watching his grandmother wander off with Leeteuk and her own team.
“You have any other hot speech therapist friends?” A voice asked from behind and Kyungsoo rolled his eyes so hard he was sure he pulled a muscle.
“Baekhyun I swear to god.” Kyungsoo said, turning towards his best friend who only laughed.
“You know you love me Kyungja.” Baekhyun laughed, dogging out of the punch Kyungsoo threw his way.
“Ignore them, they’re stupid.” Kyungsoo mumbled to Junmyeon as his trio of friends giggled, clearly enjoying how flustered he was getting.
“I don’t mind them.” Junmyeon replied, wrapping his arms around Kyungsoo and pulling him close again. “After all, I’m the one who’s dating a King.” He said with a wink before capturing Kyungsoo’s lips with his own.
Kyungsoo sighed, smiling into the kiss. He knew that with Junmyeon by his side, he could manage anything.