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The Farthest Place

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Jimin isn't spoiled.

 

He didn’t exactly grow up in a very poor household - he’s the son of a merchant, and his family did quite well for themselves, and there was always food on the table when he was young. However, they were hardly rich, either. They were pretty careful with their money, not spending ridiculous amounts on new fashions, exotic fruits or sweets, silly trinkets, mostly just investing in their business.

 

But if he's being honest, Jimin would admit that if he wanted something, he usually got it. Probably because he's the youngest, as well as the family omega. Maybe he’s just a little spoilt, but at least he’s aware of it, he thinks. His family would maybe call him naive too, a little sheltered, but of course Jimin would pout at that suggestion.

 

So he's not poor, and he's not a member of high society, so he guesses that he must just be in the acceptable bracket of wealth for what the royal family are looking for at that moment. The king and queen had sent out a memo that had been read by all of the local town criers a week ago that the royal family were looking for young omegas to work up in the castle. An unspecified position, and an announcement that had caused quite a stir amongst the people of their town, since everyone thinks it would be such an honour to have someone in their family working in the castle.

 

Jimin is curious, so he’d decided to go to the marketplace at the allotted time. His high sense of curiosity is a part of his personality he's always been quite proud of, something his father had always encouraged, along with his ability to think independently. He's curious about whether he fits what the royal family are looking for. He's never really had the chance to work anywhere other than his father's shop in the marketplace, and it might be an interesting experience. Secretly he also thinks it would make his mama really proud, too.

 

It was a short walk, one of his alpha brothers accompanying him in the regular, overprotective fashion. When Jimin had arrived nothing seemed amiss, all of the stalls out and decked in fresh produce, plenty of people milling around. The only unusual thing was the ostentatious carriage to the side of the square. He realised that that was probably where he should be headed so he pointed it out to his brother, who lead the way. It's much easier for him to make his way through a crowd, being almost a head taller than Jimin and all.

 

"What do you think it will be?" Minho asks, and Jimin just shrugs.

 

"Dunno." His dialect, indicative of his middle class status, always comes through strongly when he speaks to his family. He tucks a hand into the crook of his brother's elbow so they don't get separated.

 

"What if they don't let me come with you? You gonna be okay on your own?"

 

"Probably? If I'm not safe at the castle, I don't know where I would be..." Jimin ponders. The royal family are well liked throughout the kingdom, known for their fair tax laws and the king's dedication to keeping the peace. Jimin hadn't felt unsafe as he left for the short journey; they could see the tops of the turrets and spires from the garden of Jimin's own house, it's truly not far at all. The royals always took the path through their town on their celebration parades, too, the last ones being the marriage of the crown prince, and the anniversary of the current king's crowning.

 

It turned out that he did have to go on his own, and he watched his brother get smaller and smaller in the distance as they drove away.

 

There hadn’t been many omegas that had turned up for the position, apparently, but that wasn't that surprising. Omegas make up the smallest percentage of the population, after all, and most omegas are mated when they reach maturity and no respectable alpha would let their mate move away to live in the castle to work.

 

But Jimin is unmated, his parents giving him a few extra years after he had begged that he wasn’t ready. He’s only nineteen, but it's pretty rare that omegas remain without a mate after eighteen, their families usually eager to mate them strategically to form bonds with other pack families. He’s thankful to his parents for not forcing him into an arrangement he doesn't want, although he guesses it might have a lot to do with their stable economic position, the connection to another pack maybe not necessary right now. Either way, he'll take that breathing room and run with it.

 

The journey to the castle is short, but Jimin doesn’t know any of the other omegas there and he already felt intimidated; a feeling that only grows as they approached the castle, a huge place, grey walls and strategically lifted high on large rocks. Ivy grows on some of the turrets, creeping up and adding colour to a place that might otherwise look foreboding. Still, a sense of awe washes over him, childish wonder at getting to ride in a big, beautiful carriage and get assisted down the step by an actual footman. There are some gasps of wonder from their party as they get to look at the castle for the first time up close and outside of their carriage.

 

After a flurry of movement and guided by many attendants they come to be stood in a small meeting room.

 

Before he enters the room he certainly doesn’t expect the king and queen to speak to them, doesn't think the others did either. Jimin doesn’t even know why he’s in their presence right now, has so many questions about what he might be asked to do. He lines up with four other omegas, the one to his left trembling like crazy. They all bow deeply and hastily when they realise who was in the room, the royal couple standing on a raised platform designed for this kind of small audience. Jimin has never been so close to them before.

 

King Wookeun is an imposing presence, not necessarily as tall as some of Jimin's brothers but still taller than the omega, and wearing the kind of clothing that's reserved just for royals. Jimin can't help but stare. He would think him imposing even if he didn't catch his scent. It's strong, the scent of alpha filling the meeting room, a room that isn't exactly small. For some reason Jimin thinks there aren't many rooms in this castle that are small. Certainly not the ones that the king would deign to be in. Then the king is taking a step forward, clearly addressing the line and clearing his throat to speak.

 

“Firstly, we would like to greet you warmly, and offer our thanks for accepting the invitation to meet with us. I am aware that you are not fully informed as to what the role is that you are here for. I am going to explain it to you, so that if you decide that you are not interested, you may leave.” The alpha eyes them all, and Jimin can smell four distinctive scents of distressed omega. Maybe the others think he smells the same; Jimin doesn't feel that distressed, though. Just intrigued.

 

“The position in question is confidential, and we would very much appreciate it if you did not speak of it past the walls of this palace due to the sensitivity of the issue,” the queen says, and that is curious, Jimin thinks. Her tone makes it clear that this is something on the edge of a threat. Jimin hadn't heard particularly scary things about Queen Hyerin before, but he believes her now. What would require such secrecy?

 

There's a long pause before the king continues. The omega girl next to him fidgets. “The position in question is that of a surrogate, of sorts. You will know that the crown prince is mated. Unfortunately, thus far his mate has not been able to produce an heir.”

 

A surrogate?

 

Suddenly Jimin realises where this is going. By the way the omega girl next to him tenses up completely, she seems to as well.

 

The king's words seem well rehearsed. “We are looking for a fertile omega to give us an heir to the throne. They will stay with us for six months, in which time if they are not expecting, they will receive fifty percent of the payment and be sent back to their home. Otherwise, they will bear the child of the crown prince and receive full payment. Afterwards they will then be required to leave the child in our care, and leave the castle, speaking to no other of this. Is this clear?”

 

Taking all of this information in is a difficult job; he realises after a few seconds that his mouth is hanging open. This really isn't what he expected, and it almost makes him want to laugh, an urge he squashes due to how inappropriate it is. It's so shocking, scandalous even, The royal family must be truly struggling to have to resort to such a thing.

 

His mind is already racing at the possibility. It’s a scary position, of course, and risky; unmated omegas having sex is dangerous to their social standing. Also it means giving up a baby, his baby, in the future. Although, he supposes it won’t be that hard, since the alpha that fathered it would be mated, and not to him. Also, this secret would be kept well guarded so Jimin surely wouldn’t have to worry about his reputation.

 

His mind strays to the vague image of the crown prince he has in his head. Somewhat imposing, handsome, regal, from what he's seen at the occasional celebratory parades where the prince had passed in his carriage, waving. Most of the image is probably fanciful as Jimin has never seen without at least ten people in front of him to separate them, has mostly just heard gossip about the alpha prince that would lead their kingdom next. Doesn't know what to do with this image, either, in combination with the idea that he would... well.

 

And then the queen explains the payment. “We will provide the omega that accepts with ten thousand pieces, and they can of course keep any clothing or items gifted to them during their stay. We hope that this is enough to persuade you to consider the position.”

 

“Wow,” Jimin whispers. He’s overwhelmed by mixed feelings of shock, disbelief, uncertainty and, well, excitement. This money, it’s a wildly high amount, and could see him live his whole life in comfort. He could give some to his family so they could live in true luxury, indulging in the things they want to, expanding the business, even. Could provide a huge dowry in order for him to get mated to a good alpha when he leaves. He's sure there's more, even, but he doesn't have time to think, not when he should be listening to the queen as she continues to speak.

 

"If any of you would like to take the opportunity to leave now, you may do that with our thanks for attending.” The king and queen do not look surprised when three of the omegas bow once again before almost scurrying out of the door. Jimin doesn’t move, mostly because he’s in shock. When he recovers he notes that he's standing next to a different omega girl that looks just about as nervous as he feels.

 

The king steps forward to the edge of the platform, looking between them. He really is so intimidating, a powerful alpha, doesn't even need to growl or use a stern voice to have Jimin ducking his head a little instinctively.  “The final decision will be made in conjunction with the crown prince tomorrow, if you return. If you remain interested we would like you to return at noon. We will give you some time to consider the proposition afterwards.”



--



Jimin goes home in a daze, and when he gets through the door his mother is immediately on him, questioning.

 

“Baby! How did it go? Were they kind to you? I hope it wasn’t too overwhelming for you,” she says as she fusses over him. Jimin accepts her attention, letting her scent him a little in greeting. She smells worried, a predictable reaction.

 

“No, Mama,” he sighs, wrapping his arms around her briefly before pulling away. Looking around he can see that most of the family have arrived home, those that live in the house and some of those that don't. He comes from a big family, three alpha and two beta siblings, the eldest being twin sisters that are both now mated and yet still seem to find their way back to their family home for meal times. Mama's cooking is best, it seems.

 

"Minnie! Tell us how it went! What do they want up there?" his brother Jongdae questions him as he's shooed over to the table by their mother. There are no words to describe how glad he is that he didn't miss dinner; his stomach had rumbled loudly the whole carriage ride home.

 

"Um," he says, mind searching for some kind of explanation for what he may be doing in the near future, if he accepts. The journey back had his mind completely preoccupied by the possibility of coming back the next day, knowing this meant accepting the offer.

 

"Oh, let him take his cloak off first, Dae," one of his sister chastises Jongdae, who just rolls his eyes. Jimin gets a moment of reprieve while seven of his family members set up the table, bringing the food and fighting over where to sit. Most of the time Jimin can't believe that all of his siblings are grown adults.

 

His seat is reserved somewhere near the meat, as usual, his father at the head of the table, the traditional alpha's position. His eldest alpha sister piles up his plate before getting her own food. Meal times have always been a tad competitive in the Park household, the three alpha siblings always so loud and the betas working their hardest to keep up.

 

When everyone has food Jimin is questioned again, however.

 

"Tell us about your adventure today then, Minnie," his mother says. He immediately goes tense, and tries to maintain some kind of relaxed composure so as not to alert them to his future lies.

 

"They want some kind of domestic helper. Just within the castle, mainly for the prince? It's a good position, really well paid," he improvises. It's probably not that convincing, but he's not known for lying, so he hoped they'll let it pass.

 

"Really? That's so interesting! Strange that they wouldn't hire someone with a lot of experience for a job like that." His brother frowns as he speaks, and Jimin immediately goes to correct himself.

 

"I mean- it's more like, a domestic servant, but higher up?" His brother still looks unconvinced, so Jimin continues to try and fill in the lie. "They said- said something about looking to help people. Omegas. Give them some kind of... experience? Monetary help?"

 

"We don't need monetary help," his sister, Sooyoung, grumbles from down the table. Always ever so prideful.

 

"Maybe not," his father considers. "But I'm sure Jimin's future mate will very much appreciate it if he has domestic experience, can run his own household. I do hope that he won't have to come back here for meals every day like you lot," he complains at the others, to their chagrin. Five voices immediately cry out in protest and he laughs.

 

"I'm just saying, Papa, he doesn't need more money for a dowry. We can get him that," Sooyoung mutters when the hullabaloo dies down. A small smile spreads on Jimin's face as he looks down at his plate and picks at his food. She's right, they could, but what the royal family are offering is still significantly more than whatever they could muster up, all of them combined.

 

"I think we could, yes, but don't you think the experience as well as the endorsement from the royal family is also worth a priceless amount?" he asks her.

 

Everyone seems to consider it for a moment before two of his alpha start arguing over a chicken leg. He takes a moment to slump and breathe while nobody is watching. This is harder than he thought, not telling the truth. There's no way he can, though, since he had been directly instructed not to. On top of that there's no way they would actually let him go, and he wants to make that decision for himself.

 

His favourite brother, the only beta boy, Minseok, is the one who actually speaks to ask Jimin the important questions in the end. "Do you want the position, though? Is it something you'll enjoy?" There's concern in his eyes, and it riddles Jimin with guilt although technically he's done nothing wrong apart from tell a little lie. For now.

 

"I'm not sure yet," he says quietly. That's certainly true. He doesn't really have any time to decide, either, and he's been robbed of the ability to ask his family for advice, the people that would normally be his everlasting support. "I'd have to move away for about a year. I wouldn't be able to see any of you guys at all."

 

"You don't have to do anything you don't want to do." The way his mother looks at him feels like he's being examined, and he maintains her gaze in another attempt to not arouse suspicion. "Don't feel pressured just because it seems like an impressive opportunity."

 

"Yes, Mama," he says dutifully.

 

"I think we should let you make this decision for yourself," his father announces at the head of the table, using his booming alpha voice to overcut the noise, and Jimin rolls his eyes to himself. "It's clearly a respectable job offer, being from the royal family and all. I don't think a year is too bad of a wait to find him a mate."

 

Jimin is sure that his mother's eyes remain on him for the rest of the dinner, and as they take their usual roles to wash up after. Sooyoung ends up shooing him away from the dishes (okay, maybe he's more spoilt than he realised) and his mother catches him on his way up to bed.

 

"Minnie..." she starts, taking his hands. She has the most comforting omega scent he has ever smelled; probably because she's his mother and also associated with so many of his happy, safe memories. "Please don't feel that you have to do this for money."

 

Tendrils of anxiety curl in his gut. He really hates lying to her in particular, always has. "What you makes you think I would be, if I took it?"

 

She sighs. "I'm not sure. But I'm your mother, I know you. You're a sweet pup, you try so hard not to burden us all..." she drifts off for a second, and opens and closes her mouth as she thinks. "The whole reason you don't currently have a mate is because you said you didn't want one, so we didn't force you. We always wanted to give you a little freedom, because your position doesn't usually allow for it."

 

Jimin nods. He's more than aware that that's the truth for omegas. "I know."

 

"Just... don't do something you don't want to do just for money. Especially because you'll be so far away, for so long..." She squeezes his hands, and he can't help but step into her embrace, laying his head against the crook of her neck and shoulder like he would when he was a pup. Cradling him close, she hums. "You're still my baby, you know."

 

He stays silent, because he knows. It doesn't make his decision any easier.



--



If he thought the journey to the castle yesterday was nerve racking, he certainly doesn't have the words for how he feels on the one he does to meet with the king and queen the next day. The other omega - whose name is Jisoo - had also chosen to make the journey again, so he guesses he has some kind of competition. He doesn't really think about it that much though, contemplating more whether or not he's making the right decision by coming at all.

 

A whole year without his family, that's, well. It will be a struggle, that's for sure.

 

Led to the familiar meeting room, he and Jisoo stand mirroring the way they stood the day before, except this time their entry holds so much more weight, both fully aware of the significance of the role at hand. The room is also less empty; several more people stand in small groups around the platform. Jimin guesses that they must be trusted people to the king, possibly advisors; they all bow when the king and queen enter the room.

 

Jimin feels many pairs of eyes on him, and the room is practically silent. The new mixture of scents is possibly the most intimidating thing, so many of the new people are alphas, the number of omegas in important positions such as that always limited.

 

It's difficult to muster up the courage to try and look at the royal couple in the eye, particularly the king, so he avoids it completely, eyes on the attendant that has been sent forth to speak. Their voice carries well throughout  the room, everyone remaining respectfully silent.

 

"The king and queen would like to thank you both for returning to us on this day. We understand that it is a difficult decision to make, to stay here for such a prolonged amount of time, as well as the sacrifices you will make."

 

It makes the rustle of movement from the left hand side of the room especially noticeable, the big, ornate wooden door being opened by a stiff-looking guard.

 

The man who sweeps into the room is undoubtedly the crown prince. Jimin has only seen him before in passing, and certainly never this close. Of course all he knew of the alpha were rumours; that he is a fantastic swordsman and strategist, that he has a bit of an ego, that he has an imposing presence.

 

The prince holds himself in such a way that it’s obvious he’s royalty, as well as militarily trained. He bows his head deferentially to his father, barely acknowledging those who bow to him as he walks past, and Jimin hears Jisoo's tiny intake of breath when he starts to head straight for them.

 

Today Jimin had dressed up in expectation of being judged - not that he hadn't the previous day, but this morning he had put effort into his appearance in a different way. Emphasised his unmated status with a low neckline, worn a few rings to draw attention to his small hands, something considered desirable in omegas. Tied a belt around his small waist to accentuate that too. Instead of respectful, he looks like he's attending a dance for matching unmated pairs. It had been so embarrassing when he readied himself at dawn, his cheeks reddening at the thought of dressing up for the prince's eyes, but as soon as he'd seen Jisoo at the carriage the feeling had waned as she'd looked much the same way.

 

Now, however, it dawns on him just what this was; he had dressed up for a mated alpha to appreciate. It's shameful, and he regrets it a little. There's something wrong there on an instinctual level.

 

Jimin's heartbeat increases as the space between them and the prince decreases. By the time the alpha stops a respectful distance away it's almost thrumming in his chest like a hummingbird's, or a rabbit’s. The latter might be a better comparison; he certainly feels like prey. The alpha has such dark eyes, it's hard to hold eye contact, they're so intense.

 

Prince Yoongi has an interesting face, Jimin thinks. It has the appearance of someone who doesn't necessary spend a lot of time in the sun, a tad pale, and the way his mouth purses is almost pretty. He has dark, thick hair, styled in the official manner with most of his forehead showing. Looks young, although Jimin knows that he’s older than him - there aren’t many lines on his face to indicate those few extra years, though. In fact, he has such soft features it might be difficult to determine his alpha status at first glance.

 

His demeanour, on the other hand, screams alpha. The steady gaze, the confident gait, as well as the broad set of shoulders. And his scent. So strong, earthy and warm.

 

It only becomes more potent as he nears, until it feels like the air is thick and hard to breathe. Jimin doesn't spend much time with alphas that he's not related to, so he's not used to or prepared for the feeling that takes over him then, the shiver that goes down his spine. He gets a strong urge to bear his throat, which is so ridiculous he spends around ten seconds berating himself in his head.

 

Jisoo's scent spikes when the prince comes to pause in front of her, and Jimin can smell fear and maybe also a little arousal. She fidgets a little; Jimin isn't even surprised by her reaction because he is experiencing something similar even though he's not even the one being examined.

 

"Can you tell me your name?"

 

"Jisoo, your highness," she near whispers. She sounds frightened, and Jimin wants to take her hand, but is afraid that it will seem disrespectful, so he refrains. The prince nods but doesn't spend much more time in front of her, and it's so obvious the way she slumps out of relief when he looks away.

 

It's like that tension is transferred straight to Jimin when he steps to the side, he brings his attention to him instead. His entire body freezes up.

 

"And you? What's your name, omega?" It's hard not to get distracted by that voice, it's gorgeous, smooth and authoritative. Jimin keeps his gaze at the prince's chin, partly out of respect and partly because he's really goddamn intimidated, to use one of his sister's favourite swears.

 

Tell him your name, the part of his brain that is actually conscious hisses at him.

 

"Oh, Jimin, Park Jimin," he croaks as he startles out of his reverie. To his left, someone chuckles. There's a hint of a smirk on Prince Yoongi's mouth that vanishes as soon as it appears, and Jimin frowns.

 

"How old are you, Oh Jimin?"

 

And now the prince is mocking him. Jimin's cheeks burn, he's possibly never felt more mortified in his life. All he did was get distracted and stutter, and now suddenly he regrets waking up this morning, regrets prettying himself up to just be mocked.

 

"I'm. Nineteen," he says hesitantly. He really just wants to melt into a puddle on the floor and get mopped up and thrown out that way. His statement earns another small nod, and then the prince is turning around and walking away from them already, back to where his parents are. Jimin lets out a deep breath of relief, and his head drops for a moment as he takes in what a mess he is, how badly he was affected by one alpha, a mated one at that. It's not really his fault; he's had such limited exposure to alphas his whole life, his siblings always working to keep them away and protect him. On top of that, it's the crown prince, such a powerful figure. He can't even blame the guy for laughing at him.

 

Jisoo takes his hand and squeezes for a moment and they exchange a glance, the expression in her eyes sympathetic. Letting another wave of embarrassment wash over him, he goes limp.

 

Looking at the prince again where he stands conversing with his parents, he can't help admiring his rich clothing, and the broadness of his shoulders through his military-style shirt. Jimin thought that the clothes that he’d worn today were expensive, a little showy, but they were nothing compared to the prince’s deep blue outfit. He jolts when he realises that the prince is watching him, sharp cat eyes focused on his face. Jimin instinctively makes himself smaller in response, then curses himself for it because he needs to carry himself better than that at court. If he’s chosen, that is.

 

After that disaster, he thinks it might be unlikely.

 

As the minutes pass, the people surrounding them also breaking into their own private discussions, he can't really figure out how he feels about that. On one hand, it means he gets to go home to his parents and forget this embarrassment, gets to to look after his mama, gets to witness which of his newly mated siblings first gets their partner with child. But, ten thousand gold pieces, the prestige that one gets from working in the castle...

 

Disappointment, he realises, is what is making his chest ache. He wants to do this, really wants it, with an intensity that he didn't have last night when he was missing sleep to consider whether he was going to come here or not. Maybe it's just because he got so close, a competitiveness drawn up from how he was raised to compete with five siblings of a higher rank.

 

There's no time to decipher the feeling as one of the official-looking people is stepping forward, the people around him falling silent. Jimin had been so busy wallowing in self pity that he hadn't realised that over ten minutes had passed, the three members of the royal family ending their conversation to turn to he and Jisoo, watching them expectantly.

 

"Park Jimin."

 

He actually startles when his name is announced, jolting and probably squeezing Jisoo's hand far too hard.

 

"You have been chosen for the position at hand. Do you accept?"

 

Jimin's mind goes completely, perfectly blank.

 

"Really?" he says in disbelief, before covering his mouth. There's some more chuckling from the king's advisors, and he watches as the prince turns to give them an unimpressed look.

 

The man nods, probably unused to such informal speech, but he doesn't offer any complaints. "The carriage you came here in will take you home so you can collect your belongings and so you can say goodbye to your family for a few days. You will be expected to return when three days have passed; we will send transportation to your home on this occasion. Is this clear?"

 

Jimin nods mindlessly, head still swimming at the implication of what this all means. He needs to pack his things, move to the castle. Has to say goodbye to his mother. Has to, has to...

 

He looks back at the prince, standing straight and watching Jimin with mild interest, expression giving Jimin nothing, no hint of acknowledgement or satisfaction or nerves at their situation. For the first time he wonders about how he is feeling, this alpha, a mated alpha, frustratingly without children, an heir to the throne, something he has a duty to provide.

 

Jisoo holds his hand through his shock, all the way to the carriage and the way home.

 

"You can always choose not to come back," she whispers as they rock with the movement of the carriage on the uneven road. "I'm sure that's why they gave you an extra few days." Her eyes are wide, probably feeling the trembles that periodically take hold of Jimin's limbs.

 

"I don't-" he starts, and stops when he realises that he doesn't know what he was going to say. Don't want to? He's not sure about that, not sure whether he wants to run away or he’s just suddenly overcome with nerves. His mind keeps skipping through the next three days, past the part where he moves into a new room within the castle walls, and straight to sharing a bed with Prince Yoongi.



--



The next three days pass so quickly as Jimin tries to spend time with all of his siblings and his parents, omegean instincts putting on edge as he prepares to leave his family home properly for the first time. He can't stop himself from scenting them constantly; they indulge him, probably sensing his anxiety as well as wanting to spend as much times as possible with him before he leaves.

 

He occasionally tries to ask subtle questions to his omega brother-in-law and his mother about pregnancy; the latter gets suspicious very quickly so he gives that up in an attempt to prevent some kind of interrogation. Lying to his mother has always been something he hated.

 

The time he spends with his family gives him enough time to for panic to fester. The sheer magnitude of the task at hand is starting to weigh on him, the amount of pressure that will be on him to successfully conceive a child. The royal family must be so desperate for an heir. On top of that he's realising that maybe he doesn't know enough about sex with alphas, how this going to work, and how the prince is going to treat him. He might be gentle, if Jimin is lucky. But if he's unlucky, well.

 

The way people gossip about their future king doesn't give him any clues. He hasn't heard that Prince Yoongi is particularly cruel, but he has neither heard that he is kind - any charity he does is kept quiet and it's not like Jimin has ever interacted with anyone that knows him personally. The alpha is mysterious, and maybe normally Jimin would find that a little impressive but right now it's just scary, and the way he'd looked at Jimin the first time they met did nothing to assuage that feeling.

 

But Jimin wants to be brave, and knows he can be. He may be a tad spoiled, a little sheltered, but being raised with so many alpha siblings has given him that trait. It's really necessary, sometimes, in order to fight their need to coddle him too much; he's never liked feeling useless or not proactive. And at the back of his mind, he knows that what he'll be doing at the castle will be worthwhile, and not just for selfish reasons like money or what he may gain in terms of his future. In the end, he'll be providing a couple with a child, giving two people the chance to be parents. All omegas deserve that chance, he thinks.

 

So he stays resolute despite his wavers and doubts, and doesn't change his mind about going.

 

His goodbyes aren't made any easier by this.



--



It's late in the day when the carriage arrives to take him from his home - he supposes he's received something close to four days with his family rather than three, and he's grateful. There are no tears apart from that of his mother who holds him and scents him for a full two minutes before letting him go.

 

"Be good," she whispers in his ear, and Jimin only nodded as otherwise he might cry too.

 

He's whisked through a flustered set of greetings upon arrival at the castle, the head servants standing to greet him as must be customary with a new arrival. He doesn't see the king or queen, not that Jimin minded that fact, didn't want to embarrass himself any more than he already had.

 

There is, however, a short formal greeting with the prince, who is a little cold and withdrawn. He has a perfect, almost haughty, poker face, and Jimin can’t tell whether he’s dissatisfied or not. Jimin is then been introduced to a boy named Taehyung, a beta his age who the queen had indicated is his attendant.

 

“Well, Jimin, we will have someone escort you to your rooms.” the head domestic servant is called Joohyun, an omega with a pretty smile that drops to a stern face when she isn't addressing him. He reminds himself to not get on her bad side. "You have free roam of the castle, but his highness will come to your rooms when necessary."

 

Jimin immediately blushes at the implication. The idea of that , the thing he'd actually been brought here to do, looms in his mind. He's not sure he's quite been able to wrap his mind around it yet.

 

It's all very much a whirlwind and Jimin barely has time to get his bearings. Then on the way out of the entrance hall, led by Taehyung, he catches sight of Prince Yoongi's mate for the first time.

 

Jimin recognises him from the parades, like he had with the prince; his beautiful side profile, the big eyes, the way he is dressed to befit a royal consort. Elegant and stunning in green, jewels on his neck and fingers, his small wrists. Daehee at first glance is intimidatingly lovely, like a faerie or an elf from one of his old story books. His expression is congenial, and he smiles in a way that Jimin would describe as proper, not overly expressive. In fact, one of Jimin's first thoughts is that he and and the prince were well matched; he's sure they look absolutely wonderful together, the picture of a perfect arranged mating; their ability to control their expressions certainly similar too.

 

Except there's a moment where Daehee's gaze falls on Jimin just before he walks through the door, and that controlled expression falters, freezing Jimin mid-step with how icy it turns. It really is just a split second before he's turning around to speak to the woman beside him again, and yet it chills Jimin right to the core. Naively, he hadn't considered that Daehee hadn't been consulted in the decision of whether to acquire a surrogate.

 

Taehyung narrates the journey to his allotted bedroom as his thoughts are consumed with worry about Daehee. The castle itself is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside and yet he can't even appreciate it. There's just something so utterly wrong about sleeping with another omega's mate without their permission; it's a sensitive issue even with their agreement, and probably the reason that the other omegas had walked away the week before.

 

"That portrait right there, that's Prince Taemin, the current king's brother... Are you all right?" Taehyung’s tone changes towards the end, the hand that was gesturing enthusiastically at said painting dropping out the air. Maybe Jimin's worrisome thoughts had been showing on his face.

 

Obviously these thoughts aren't appropriate for the attendant's ears, so he lies. "I'm fine. A little hungry, maybe. This place is too big, how do I not get lost?" he asks helplessly. He's not faking his concern; they have passed through so many corridors at this point, twisting up stairs and through several doors. The idea of getting lost in these huge hallways is terrifying.

 

"It's okay, I can help you!" Taehyung replies enthusiastically. "It's easy to learn, and it's not like you'll need to be in most of these rooms anyway."

 

The bedroom that Jimin has been allotted is luxurious, there’s no other way to describe it. The bed is huge and so soft, the room itself bigger than three of the bedrooms in his family’s house put together, probably. All of the furniture is made from dark wood, glossy and carved in intricate patterns. The view of the gardens is beautiful - since it’s summer, everything is blooming, and if Jimin opens the enormous double windows he can smell the flowers, the freesias right outside. He feels like he’s in a dream, a trance, like it’s far too good to be true.

 

"Well, this is it! I'll help you unpack your things, but I think tomorrow you'll have a fitting for some more clothes that you can wear at court and dinner and things like that. I think they're gonna bring some food too, if we wait a little. Are you sure you're okay? You're a little pale," Taehyung rambles off important information whilst he steps forward to press a hand to Jimin's forehead. He wonders how well Taehyung can smell his nerves; a betas' sense of smell vary a lot in their ability, usually nowhere near as accurate as an alpha's or an omega's, but Taehyung's nostrils flare as he gets close.

 

"I'm sure there's no need to worry," he says quietly. Jimin gives him a weak smile in response. He supposes that Taehyung is one of the best people he has to ask questions to, since he has clearly worked here for at least a little while.

 

"Do you- um." Jimin struggles with his words. How does he stay tactful and ask what he wants to? Taehyung waits for him patiently. "I just... do you know the prince, at all?"

 

"The prince? Not well, I'm only a lowly attendant," Taehyung quips, a grin on his face as he moves away to open one of Jimin's two boxes. The omega didn't see the point of bringing all of his belongings.

 

Jimin lets out a tiny laugh at that. "I just meant, is he, well, nice?"

 

Starting the job of taking out Jimin's clothing and put it in the wardrobe, Taehyung appears to consider this for a moment. "...I'm not sure. He's never rude to servants, never asks too much of us. I'm sure many of them would call him kind, in fact. Yet, he isn't exactly the most expressive of people, so I'm not sure I could call him nice. He's, well. He's a prince. He acts like one. Does that make sense?"

 

Jimin takes his words in quietly. From what Taehyung says, the prince doesn't seem likely to mistreat Jimin too badly. "Yeah, I think so."

 

"I don't think he'll hurt you, Jiminie," Taehyung smiles at him softly, before catching himself. "Can I call you that?"

 

"Um- yes, if you want to? One of my brothers always calls me Jiminie. The others call me Minnie."

 

Taehyung coos at him, laughing at Jimin's expression afterwards. They talk a little more about Jimin's family and he gets the feeling that Taehyung is trying to distract him, which he kind of appreciates. Food arrives to the room just as they finish putting things away and Jimin insists that he stay and share it, because he maybe feels a little scared of being alone in this new, strange place. The scent of everything is so unfamiliar and it's a little difficult to settle down. Luckily though, it doesn't seem that anyone has used the room for a while, there's no overpowering scent.

 

Jimin realises that it's more the absence of his siblings' mingling scents, the overall feeling of home that's missing.

 

The food itself is luxurious even by Jimin's standards, and it's not like he's had some luxurious foods before. He may need to re-think what his idea of 'luxurious' is. Before he knows it Taehyung is standing and collecting the plates.

 

"I'm going to take these dishes to the kitchens, I have a few other things to do tonight so I'll have to leave you, I'm afraid." He must see the panic on Jimin's face, because he pauses and kneels again. "Don't worry too much, it'll be okay."

 

What is Jimin worrying about, even? Being alone? That makes sense considering the eerie silence that envelops the room as soon as Taehyung leaves. Or maybe he's putting off the inevitable. The prince is eventually going to come and see him, he knows.

 

But as the minutes drag on into hours in his solitude, he wonders if he'll be receiving a visit tonight at all.

 

Waiting cross-legged on his bed, he thinks about Daehee and the way he'd looked at Jimin earlier. He isn't sure he's ever been looked at like that before. Sure, he'd received some dirty looks and borderline rude comments in the past when he's told people his age due to the fact that he's remained unmated for a little longer than is common, and sometimes he's been stared at for choosing to help with carrying things and some of the more active work at his father's business, since that is considered inappropriate behaviour for an omega. Nothing had the penetrative hostility of Daehee's glare.

 

There’s a knock at the door, and he’s brought back to earth.

 

“Come in,” he calls, filled with trepidation. Maybe it's a maid or Taehyung once again. He's not sure if he's hoping for that or not. He knows that avoiding isn't the best way to face your fears - he doesn't even know if this is a fear. Yet, his body tenses up out of anxiety and his heart starts to pound, stomach dropping a little as the prince appears from behind the door.

 

He freezes, rooted to his spot on the bed as the prince walks in, looking around in interest. His eyes settle on Jimin and the omega immediately wants to do that thing again, make himself small.

 

“Prince Min. I, um, didn’t expect you,” he blurted, and then curses himself for being so awkward and forgetting his manners, scrambling up to bow.

 

“You can call me Yoongi, it is okay.” The prince approaches, holding up a hand to stop Jimin bowing. Jimin kind of doesn’t want him to get any closer, his scent is so strong and has such a powerful effect on him even on the other side of the room, but obviously that’s stupid of him to hope. They’ll have to sleep together tonight, they're going to be close.

 

The thought sends a little shiver down his spine, fear or anticipation, he doesn’t know. He should have thought about this much more at the very beginning when he was offered this position. He didn’t realise it would be so hard, so scary. He feels vulnerable.

 

Remembering the resolution he made, he tries to knock himself out of that mindset mentally. He's going to do this, it's going to be worth it for so many reasons.

 

Everything's still kind of awkward. Jimin must be smelling distressed, his body betraying his worry, because the alpha is stepping closer. There's concern in the crease of his forehead, and when Jimin takes a deep breath to try and calm himself he realises that Yoongi is releasing comforting pheromones in response to him, on purpose or instinctually, he doesn't know. He closes his eyes for a moment, and when he opens them Yoongi is stood right in front of him.

 

Yoongi appears nervous, a completely different picture to how Jimin has seen him up until this moment. His hands are hovering around Jimin like he wants to comfort him, but he looks unsure.

 

“You do not need to- I am not going to hurt you, alright? I promise,” Yoongi is saying, and Jimin looks up at his face properly for the first time that night, and for some reason this placates him. He sees nothing scary at all. “We don’t need to do anything tonight, if you would prefer?”

 

Jimin tries to even out his breathing as much as possible; his first instinct is to take that opportunity and run with it, but he's not sure that he should. Yoongi has come so close now, Jimin can practically feel the heat radiating off of him. Even his voice has a powerful effect on him somehow, catching his attention and bringing it straight to the alpha.

 

“I don’t want to get in trouble,” he whispers, voicing his real fear. Yoongi shakes his head vehemently.

 

“No, that will not happen.” Yoongi sounds so certain, authoritative, and Jimin believes him immediately. It doesn’t stop the rising panic in Jimin’s chest, though, his breath coming fast and hard still.

 

Yoongi brings them to the bed with careful hands, sitting Jimin opposite him, both casually cross-legged, and visibly hesitates before taking one of Jimin’s hands in his. It's warm, maybe a little sweaty. Jimin focuses in on it, an anchor in his blind panic.

 

“Hey, why don't you talk to me about your family? Where do they live? Do you have any siblings?” Jimin can hear the way Yoongi tries to soften his proper use of their language, adapting a little to Jimin's dialect to try and make Jimin more comfortable. It's sweet.

 

He tries his best. “I have- have three, three brothers, and two sisters. I’m the only, only omega in my family.” His heart is still pounding. Yoongi squeezes his hand.

 

“I live, around- around half an hour from the castle. My father is a merchant, for fabrics. My siblings, the alphas, all work for him.” It’s getting better now. Jimin struggles instead not to lean into Yoongi’s solid alpha presence. His hand is so gentle wrapped around Jimin's.

 

“Are you the youngest?” Yoongi asks, and he does actually look interested, sincerely encouraging.

 

“I am,” he replies softly. Now they’re close and he’s a little calmer, Jimin can once again smell the way that Yoongi’s scent isn’t pure, it’s tinged with something else, something like sweet herbal tea. It’s Yoongi’s mate, he guesses. It makes him pull away.

 

“I’m sorry I freaked out. I won’t do it again.” He curls into himself, sinking into the soft bedding, embarrassed. The prince's face is more expressive than before for sure, and Jimin might even say he looks sad. He wants to apologise again but Yoongi shakes his head softly.

 

“Don’t apologise. I know how scary this must be for you. It’s something I have grown very used to,” he sighs.

 

Jimin frowns, confused. “I thought I was the first omega that had been chosen for this position?” They certainly hadn't told him about anyone else. But maybe it wasn't important enough for them to tell him?

 

“You are. But my mating, that was pre-arranged,” Yoongi says, before his words seem to catch up with him and his eyes widen. “I didn’t mean that in a disrespectful way to my mate, of course. I just- know what it's like. The unfamiliar.”

 

“It’s okay, I won’t say anything.” Jimin hugs his knees to his chest, and then loosens when he realises he's doing it again, the being small thing, like he's preparing to be attacked or something. To Yoongi it must look like he's frightened, and he doesn't want to make the prince uncomfortable like that. "Do we- uh. Can we really not do anything tonight?"

 

The prince smiles, a straight, wry thing, his eyes expressing what might be sympathy. "Of course. There is no rush. Six months is a long time."

 

They sit quietly, and Jimin isn't used to such silence, feels awkward in its presence. He wants to know more about the man he's supposed to be having a child with but has no idea how he's supposed to ask questions, what's appropriate. The prince looks so tired, too, looks like he should be in bed asleep at that moment.

 

His mother had always told him that it's in an omega's nature to worry, to care for others. Jimin can kind of feel it creeping up on him now; he really wants to tell the alpha to go to bed.

 

Yoongi catches his eye and smiles again. "Alpha, don't you need to sleep?" Jimin blurts out.

 

The use of his rank made Yoongi's eyebrows twitch up, and Jimin feels warmth creep up his neck. He hadn't really meant to do that.

 

"I suppose I should." The prince stretches, closing his eyes and cracking his neck to the side. When opened again his gaze settles right on Jimin once more. "I'm glad we could speak alone, omega."

 

Jimin can see a hint of the smirk that he'd seen once before, the first time they met, and now his face really is warm. It's so ridiculous, comedic, almost flirtatious, which in itself is so wrong. He clenches his fists into his bedsheets to stop himself from covering his face as Yoongi stands.

 

"Goodnight."

 

Jimin whispers his responding goodbye as Yoongi walks away. He kind of feels like the time that one of the huge rolls of fabric in his father's shop dropped on his head, disorientated.

 

He really hadn't expected his first night in the castle to go like this.



--



Jimin supposes that the next day is when he should be acclimatising, getting used to the atmosphere in the castle and understanding what he's supposed to be doing. He spends the morning getting fitted for new clothes and getting a tour from the first member of the royal court that he is introduced to, a beta named Jung Hoseok. Hoseok is effervescent, wonderfully happy and not judgemental of Jimin’s low societal position, probably due to the fact that he's not that high ranking himself, being the younger son of a small Count. Either way, it's an amazing relief to Jimin.

 

During the short tour of the palace gardens Jimin realises that he might not be spending too much time within the palace itself; the gardens are so beautiful, filled with luscious flowers and greenery, different sections within which he can hide away and read, maybe. He doubts he'll have much to do during the day, hopefully he won't be missed.

 

"I doubt you will see much of Yoongi during the daytime, he has many roles to fulfil," Hoseok had told him conversationally.

 

So, plenty of time to himself. Truly the dream job, he thinks wryly, then gets lost for a minute on why he thinks that may not be true. Paranoia, probably; it's not like he has anything to be less than gracious about. The prince was so kind to him the night before. He must go quiet because Hoseok is putting his hand on Jimin's shoulder.

 

"Don't worry, you shan't be bored! You have me to keep you entertained! And Taehyung is your attendant, yes? There will be never a dull moment," he laughs. Jimin manages a small smile. Hoseok seems to be friendly with everyone, including the servants.

 

They don't talk about what Jimin will be doing at night. Not that he would know how to handle something so private in a civil conversation, but he's very glad that Hoseok seems to treat him as a guest, rather than a servant or a whore.

 

Oh, that word. Whore . It has been rattling around Jimin's brain since his arrival, since Joohyun had told him about the way Yoongi would be 'visiting' him when necessary. It wasn't like the prince had treated him like one last night, he'd been so accommodating and kind, but when he thinks about his role it remains the word that comes to mind. It brings to mind the omega brothels around the city; would people really think he's any better than one of them? He'd always had a secret kind of respect for the omegas that chose to work in places like that, although it's such a complicated thing, some forced into the profession by hard times, and all of them so looked down upon by even the lowliest of peasants. Despite his admiration for those omegas, shamefully, he would be hate to be compared to one.

 

Surrogate is probably the better word, and the one he should use. He wonders what the people of the court  think of him as. Hoseok seems fully aware of his background, probably also what he was here to do.

 

"The king keeps a small court," Hoseok explains. "He trusts everyone here, so you can walk with freedom within the castle and grounds."

 

The idea of everyone knowing what Jimin's here for makes him a little queasy, his stomach turning a little. That word enters his mind once again.

 

"Everyone?"

 

"Maybe not the guests, the ones that only come for a few days," Hoseok admonishes. "They think you’re from a small noble family of another territory, visiting under the king’s protection.” He ruffles the omega’s hair gently and grins. "Let me show you some more important rooms you'll need to be familiar with inside the castle."

 

Jimin is still in awe of the the sheer scale of the place, how grand it is, so he keeps to walking slightly behind Hoseok on their way around, giving in to the omegean instinct to hide a little. The people he passes, those that aren't servants, don't spare him a second glance.

 

“So, here is where we’ll eat dinner, since you’re an important guest, you will sit on this side, over here.” Hoseok waves a hand in the direction of the wooden tables directly in front of the high table, where the king's seat is obvious, placed directly in the centre so all may see him.

 

Jimin furrows his brow. “I thought the royal family wouldn’t want me anywhere near them. They don’t want to be associated with the likes of me, surely.”

 

Hoseok blinks at him. "Image is important, Jimin. I know I said that the king trusts everyone here, but..." He hesitates for a moment. "We must maintain the impression that he is not embarrassed by you. It certainly wouldn't do any good to tuck you at the back of the room, or have you eat at the servant's quarters. You're going to be baring the crown prince's child, if all goes well. You would probably be sat at the high table if that wouldn't be considered disrespectful to Yoongi's mate."

 

It makes sense. Yet, this means that he will have to sit with so many unfamiliar people and try not to embarrass himself on a daily basis. He decides to change the subject before he gets too anxious as they leave to go change for dinner (another unexpected necessity. Jimin is learning a lot about new things he need to do regularly, today). "You call him Yoongi, without any titles. Are you close?"

 

Smiling again (Hoseok has a handsome smile, so Jimin doesn't blame him for smiling so much), he wraps a friendly arm around Jimin's shoulders. "We're around the same age, and we've been training together since we were young. Yoongi's a great swordfighter and pretty good with a bow and arrow too, although he's always been a better planner than a fighter. You should come watch me thrash him at training some time!"

 

This startles a laugh out of Jimin. He can't imagine Yoongi losing at anything, to be honest, so that mental image is unexpectedly funny. He can definitely visualise him as a good swordsman though, despite his smaller build. The alpha is probably very fast. Their kingdom hasn't been at war for some time, but Jimin imagines Yoongi riding into battle in full armour.

 

Then he remembers the worried, open expression on the prince's face last night as he held Jimin's hand through his attack of panic, and his stomach twists a little. He's always hoped that his kingdom would never see another true war, but had known that in the event that it did, they would be protected by their huge and very capable army. Trained for this situation, Hoseok, and of course Yoongi would almost certainly have to lead their army in that occasion. He's never known anyone personally that has joined the army; now for some reason the idea of war scares him a little.

 

He shakes himself out of that train of thought when he realises how dark it has gotten, his imagination clearly running wild due to built up anxiety of his own current situation. Hoseok leads him directly to his door as Jimin thanks him profusely - he's unconvinced that he'd be able to go around in the castle by himself without getting lost.

 

"If you ever need anything, I know you have Taehyung, but I'm here too, you can come to me anytime," Hoseok tells him before he leaves.

 

"Thank you. So if I had, uh, questions about court..."

 

"I'm your man!" The grin on the beta's face is ever so infectious. He reminds Jimin a little of one of his sisters, a thought that makes him smile a little wider.

 

He's left to his own devices as he changes his clothes for dinner, and just hopes he's dressed formally enough as he uses the advice that the tailor had given him just that morning. Walking down to the dining hall he takes deep breaths and counts his steps to try and calm himself. He wants to make a good impression, to make these people like him - he has to live here for at least a year, if everything goes to plan, so he would rather not be too scared to leave his room. He doesn't know what the members of the court actually think of him yet but he's determined to change their minds if it's something bad. If it's possible, anyway.

 

Where he sits he has a full view of the high table; everyone rises as the king enters, followed by the other members of the royal family. The crown prince sits to his father's right side, the seat next to him occupied by his mate. They really do look like a powerful couple. Prince Yoongi avoids his gaze throughout the dinner, only really looking between his father and Daehee. Actually, Jimin doesn't know if it's truly avoidance, as he may simply not think to look in this direction, the people sat on the lower tables not occupying his thoughts.

 

Jimin's own attention is divided between watching the alpha interact with his mate, and the people around himself. He has been seated between two countesses, middle aged omegas that seem to take an immediate liking to him. Their alpha mates, maybe not so much.

 

"How far from the castle is your home, omega?" one of the alphas asks during dessert, the first time he had deigned to speak to Jimin. The rest of the table suddenly pays absolute attention to their conversation. Jimin realises that he'd going to be judged on his answer, as well as the fact that the alpha had subtly suggested that Jimin's home was not the castle, making him an outsider to the group.

 

"Around a mile," he says cautiously. He lets them come to their own conclusions of where he must live; most of the poorest areas are over three miles away.

 

"So you'll have grown up with the castle looming in the distance? How wonderful that you get to come and stay here! It really must be a dream for a person such as you," he says, a jovial tone covering how insulting his words are. Jimin is glad that he's not sat directly next to any of these severely intimidating alphas, as then he may not be able to maintain his composure.

 

Apart from the snide comments he makes it through the dinner unscathed, distracted by the gossiping of the two women he's sat between and the fantastic food. Mostly he stays quiet, wanting to absorb as much as possible. He notices that much of the effort has been put into the quality of the food rather than frivolous decorations or table wear, a decision he admires. By the time he leaves for his room he's feeling pretty proud of himself, as well as absolutely stuffed from eating so much; so much had been pushed onto his plate.

 

Night falls and Jimin is dozing on his bed because he’s eaten too much rich food and his bed is too comfortable. He’s so sleepy that he misses the soft knock on his door the first time it comes. It’s slightly louder the second time and wakes him; he calls out unintelligibly. Whoever is there must understand because the door opens.

 

It's Yoongi, and Jimin had been so distracted that he'd forgotten somehow that this might happen tonight. He scrambles into a sitting position to face the alpha in a comical mirror of the night before, and Yoongi actually chuckles.

 

"You don't need to move, I'll sit with you. How was dinner?" he asks conversationally as he approaches the bed. He looks far more relaxed than before, not surrounded by so many people.

 

"Rich," Jimin says without thinking. "I mean! It was fantastic, thank you."

 

Yoongi shakes his head and looks at him weirdly. Younger, he looks younger here too. Or maybe it's the warmth of the candlelight in his room that contrasts so much with the earlier cold reflection of the stone walls in the hall, making him look like he's only just a little older than Jimin for once. "Do not- don't thank me. If you want to thank anyone you could go down to the kitchens and thank the staff there, though, I'm sure they will appreciate it very much, goodness knows they don't get told it enough."

 

Much like the night before, Yoongi prompts him to talk about his family and his life before he came to the castle. Halfway through a story about how his alpha brother hadn't learned to swim until he was fifteen and Jimin once had to save him from a fast flowing river one summer, he realises what Yoongi is trying to do - he's really still trying to make Jimin feel comfortable. A deep breath in tells him that there's a lot more alpha pheromones in the room than before, and the prince is probably doing that on purpose to get him used to Yoongi's scent, the feeling of him being close.

 

It works to some extent, the strong alpha scent less of a shock to his system now, but it's still so nerve wracking because Jimin feels like any minute he might be asked to take off his clothes.

 

But it doesn't come. Yoongi leaves after around an hour, the same as the night before, and Jimin is left very much confused. He wonders if he was supposed to do something, he doesn't know how any of this works, not really. Is the alpha waiting for a signal? He's sure he hasn't been releasing any of the pheromones that warn alphas away from omegas when their company is unwanted. It's certainly not like he finds the prince unattractive; the opposite, in fact, which makes Jimin endlessly guilty. He was always told that omegas are not supposed to find mated alphas attractive. Maybe there's something wrong with him.

 

It makes for a restless night of sleep.



--



He doesn't make the mistake of forgetting Yoongi's visit again the next night. He even goes so far as to ready himself physically as well as mentally, dressing in his nicer nightclothes and bathing in bathwater with nicely scented oils, sitting on his window seat instead of his bed in an attempt to not let himself fall asleep before the he arrives.

 

But this time alpha doesn't even come. The stars that he can see through his window twinkle at him mockingly, reminding him of how late it has gotten. He ends up dozing against the sill before he jolts awake, sighing before blowing out the candles and getting into bed.

 

The next night is the same, and so is the night after, and Jimin's anxiety starts to build for a whole new reason. Nobody comes to tell him why he isn't receiving any visits, so he's left to his own assumptions. What if he has done something wrong? Did he say something insulting when they had been talking the other night? Or did he do something during the day, offend someone at the dining table, or not follow the proper etiquette at some point?

 

Or what if Yoongi has decided that he isn't good enough? Not pretty enough, or just not worthy of carrying his child? This idea made him swallow heavily whenever it floated to the top of his overly clogged and stressed brain. Out of anything this is probably the thing that scares him the most. It would be a horrible rejection if he was told to go away now because Yoongi doesn't want him. He's sure it's part omegean instinct, that he doesn't want to be rejected by a potential alpha mate, but that just doesn't make sense because Yoongi is mated and he hasn't even been courting Jimin. Maybe it's just because Yoongi has spent two nights just talking to him, and if it were someone else, if he'd been back home and Yoongi wasn't a prince, Jimin would maybe consider them friends. It just makes the rejection so much worse, that Yoongi had gotten to know him a little and then rejected him.

 

For three days he flickers back and forth between feeling anxious to feeling like he's being extremely paranoid. He's been staying at the castle for less than a week, and yet he's been through more emotions and more stress than any other point in his life. It's so bad that even Hoseok, with his nearly non-existent sense of smell, can detect his worry. Taehyung had noticed immediately, and although he doesn't seem to know exactly what's wrong he makes many attempts to comfort him, mostly consisting of taking him down to the kitchens and feeding him with comfort food, distracting him by introducing him to his friends that work down there. It takes Jimin a while to build up the courage to tell Taehyung what's wrong.

 

"Tae..." The nickname was something he picked up in the kitchens, to the attendant's delight.

 

"Something wrong, Jiminie?" Taehyung watches him expectantly from his position at Jimin's closet door. Jimin is so glad that he has someone in the castle he can talk to. Taehyung has been unbelievably kind to him, their friendship blooming easily, Jimin made comfortable by Taehyung's lack of intimidating social status but also by how nice he is to Jimin, always.

 

"Kind of? It's... Prince Yoongi hasn't come to my room. For several days." He says it quietly, embarrassed, but Taehyung doesn't wince, doesn't even look surprised.

 

"Ah, he's pretty busy, y'know?" Jimin must appear unconvinced, because he moves to sit next to him on the bed. "Listen, believe me. You probably don't see him around the castle apart from mealtimes, right? It's because he has so much stuff to do, all the time. He's the only prince, the only heir to the throne, he does it all. Diplomacy, military meetings, domestic stuff, everything. Sometimes there's days where he doesn't go to bed at all because he gets caught up in meetings and still wants to train. Ask Hoseok, he'll tell you about their night time training sessions." He pats Jimin's back reassuringly. "I wouldn't worry."

 

Slowly, Jimin lets his body relax down, the tension leaving him bit by bit. He doesn't think that Taehyung would lie to him. Clearly he just needs to calm down, stop letting his instincts and paranoid thoughts run away from him. "I. Thought he might not want me."

 

"Jiminie," Taehyung says helplessly. "Don't do that. I can't imagine an alpha not wanting you, really."

 

Letting out a shaky breath, he slumps back onto the bed, arms splayed. If he's being honest he wouldn't say his fears have been completely allayed, but he maybe feels a little better. "So I should just. Wait? For him to come to me?"

 

Taehyung flops down so he's resting beside him, leaning on one arm. "I think so? He knows he has a duty to visit you. It's also possible that he's trying to give you some time to get used to the castle, to being here. To the idea of... spending the night with him."

 

Sighing deeply, Jimin flings an arm over his eyes. "I wish we could just get it over with."

 

"Get it over... Jiminie," Taehyung laughs breathlessly. "Is it not going to be your first time?"

 

"Yeah, it is, but this scary anticipation is doing nothing good for my poor heart. I'm too old for this."

 

Taehyung shoves him, really laughing now. "Don't be stupid. It's a big deal, you're being very brave."

 

"Brave?" Jimin hadn't really thought of it that way. "I get a reward, you know?"

 

"Yeah, but," Taehyung turns more to face him, "it's pretty frightening, your first time, right? And people always say it's important. And on top of that you're trusting a stranger... although I don't think Prince Yoongi would ever hurt anyone."

 

Jimin bites his lip. Taehyung is suddenly not making him feel any better.

 

"Ah, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you feel worse," Taehyung exclaims. "I'm sure everything will be fine. Have you spoken to him alone at all, before?"

 

"Yes, twice. He was kind. I just... Tae, I hate being left alone," he confesses.

 

Taehyung is grinning again. "It's okay to want attention, especially from handsome alphas, Jiminie."

 

Making an indignant noise, Jimin hits him lightly. "Don't say it like that! He's mated!" It's a pretty scandalous thing to say, all things considered. He's not here for the prince's attention.

 

"Does it matter?" Taehyung laughs. "You're sad because you're being ignored. I'm just saying, that's okay."

 

"I'm upset because nobody has told me how any of this works, and I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing here, and I feel like I'm not doing my job even though that's not even my fault!" He smacks a hand down on the bed. Taehyung looks surprised.

 

"Jiminie, I'm sorry."

 

"It's not your fault, don't apologise. I just wish I knew what to do," Jimin pouts. He knows he's being childish, lashing out due to frustration, but he's under a lot of stress. Luckily Taehyung doesn't look mad, just sympathetic.

 

"I understand. Just trust me when I tell you he's busy, okay? He has so much to do, a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. He'll come to you when he can, I'm sure." He raises a hand to pet Jimin's dark hair soothingly.

 

Jimin can't help but curl into it. "Maybe I don't like waiting around for some alpha to come to me," he still says petulantly.

 

"You probably should have thought about that before you accepted to come," Taehyung snorted.

 

Groaning, Jimin goes to pinch Taehyung's stomach, starting a play fight that lasts several minutes only for him to lose inevitably. It only takes his mind off the problem for a moment; he doesn't think he's going to be able to stop thinking about it until it's resolved.



--



That night he doesn't prepare for the prince to arrive in his chambers. He reads a little of a book that Taehyung had grabbed him from the castle library this afternoon, changes into comfortable night clothes, and falls into bed. There's a very tiny part of him that really does get annoyed at the thought of just having to wait for the alpha to come to him, that he can just not come at all, whenever he wants to, that makes him petulant.

 

Of course, this would be the night that Prince Yoongi finds his way back to Jimin's room.

 

"Jimin? Are you asleep?" Yoongi's voice wakes him from his light slumber where he was just starting to grasp the edge of real sleep.

 

There's a haze over him, his mind still cloudy when he opens his eyes, so when he says, "Yeah," it's completely thoughtless.

 

Yoongi perches himself on the edge of the bed while he wakes up properly, until Jimin's brain catches up and he sits up, blinking. Panic fully takes over his brain.

 

"I'm sorry," he groans. It feels like he's embarrassed himself again, despite the fact that Yoongi is shaking his head and patting his foot awkwardly through the covers.

 

"Don't be sorry. I am sorry, in fact, for not telling you the past few nights that I would not be coming. You weren't to know." His voice is rough, rougher than usual, even, and Jimin notes how tired he looks, wondered what has possessed him to visit when clearly he needs to go and get as much sleep as possible.

 

Duty, that will be the reason. The alpha has shown himself to be nothing if not conscientious of his own responsibilities. Then the omega’s brain finally, truly wakes up, and he realises that this is it. When he’s supposed to be sleeping with the alpha. Getting knotted, trying for a baby. The idea doesn't fill him with the same kind of fear that he had felt on the first night of his arrival, but apprehension still has him clenching and unclenching his fists in the sheets.

 

“Have you ever done this before? Please be honest,” Yoongi asks quietly, and Jimin shakes his head. He’s not irresponsible, he’s never slept with an alpha before. The most he’s ever had is messing around with a beta, a family friend’s kid. It would be crazy and stupid to sleep around like that without being mated; omegas that did that were often ostracised completely, disowned by their families. Still, that makes him terrifyingly inexperienced for this situation.

 

“Okay.” Yoongi shifts forward so he's sitting closer, opposite him. "Well I want you to know, that it shouldn't- shouldn't hurt, not really. And if it does, you need to tell me. In fact I would like you to promise me that you will."

 

A warm feeling spreads through his stomach. It means a lot that the alpha would look after him like this. Makes him feel slightly less like he's just being used. "Oh- Okay. I promise."

 

He puts his hands on Jimin’s waist, and it's like he's small, somehow, even though the alpha isn't even that much taller than him. Yoongi’s hands are so big. He has a feeling that he could probably lift Jimin easily. “If you want to ask questions, that's okay too, all right?”

 

Jimin nods once more. Hopes that Yoongi will take the lead, because he’s- he’s not shy, exactly, but he’s not sure exactly what he’s doing, and Yoongi… Yoongi is literally royalty. Moreover, Jimin doesn’t know how clinical this is supposed to be. That's definitely not a question he wants to ask out loud, however.

 

Luckily for him, Yoongi does take the lead. Confirms Jimin’s suspicions about his strength when he lifts Jimin onto his lap, making him squeak embarrassingly. He winces afterwards.

 

Their faces are very close, now. “And you’ll tell me if you want me to stop completely, yes?”

 

Jimin hadn’t expected to be shown so much concern, and it’s touching. Hadn’t expect the alpha to be so sweet to him. When his waist is squeezed to garner his attention again, he whispers a, “Yes.”

 

Yoongi’s scent is stronger and warmer than ever, drawing him in. It smells just a little like arousal, and Jimin would be lying if he didn’t feel it too, the anticipation in his stomach. On an instinctual level it feels kind of wrong, because Yoongi carries the scent of his mate too. He has to reassure himself that it’s okay, he’s supposed to be doing this. He wonders how the prince himself is feeling.

 

“I’m going to kiss you, now.” Jimin can feel Yoongi’s voice where they’re pressed up against each other. Jimin closes his eyes, digging his nails into his palms where his fists rest on the alpha's chest.

 

Yoongi kisses far softer and more gentle than he ever imagined the alpha to kiss. He doesn’t know what he expected - the handful of times he’s done before have been hasty, messy, not really that enjoyable but Jimin had done it anyway because he thought he should, and the boys he’d kissed had played to his praise kink, calling him pretty and it had made him a little easy for it. Not that he'd ever really let it get past kissing.

 

But Yoongi was completely different, and even though he knows that Yoongi is kissing him with a purpose, might not have ever wanted to touch him at all if they weren't put in this position, he does a good job of pretending if that’s the case.

 

Yoongi coaxes his mouth open, and Jimin uses his tongue tentatively, nervous that his kissing ability will be found lacking. When Yoongi pulls away a little Jimin maybe expects him to instruct him to be better.

 

Instead, Yoongi looks worried. “Are you okay? You smell… you seem so nervous. Do you want me to stop?”

 

Jimin doesn’t; it feels good, but also he doesn’t want to keep putting it off, because he’ll just feel more scared as time goes by. If they don’t sleep together tonight, it’s not gonna get any better tomorrow.

 

“No,” his voice comes out small, and he clears his throat. Yoongi rubs his hands soothingly against Jimin’s sides. “I think we should- tonight. I’m okay.”

 

Yoongi looks at him for a moment longer, before nodding and drawing him closer again.

 

Where his hands are positioned on Jimin’s waist is so hot. Jimin wants to take off his shirt so Yoongi can touch his bare skin, but he doesn’t know how to put it into words. He lets out a tiny noise into the kiss when he feels himself start to get wet, a vaguely familiar sensation. Wants to rub his thighs together as a natural response, but since he's straddling Yoongi's lap he can't. Maybe he squeezes the alpha's legs between his instead because those warm hands fall to his thighs instead, massaging at the muscles. Fingers grip the areas that are the most sensitive and this gets a reaction from his cock, too.

 

They're close, and when there’s a rumble in the alpha’s chest Jimin feels against his hands. "One thing," Yoongi grunts as he turns his his head for a moment, nosing into Jimin's hair and making shiver. "Try not to leave marks."

 

"Okay," Jimin says as he exhales a shuddering breath, eyes on the rise and fall of the alpha's broad chest. Apparently Yoongi can sense what he wants or maybe he wants it too because he's moving his hands up again, fingering the hem of Jimin's nightshirt.

 

"Can I take this off?"

 

Heart jumping, Jimin nods, helping Yoongi to pull the shirt over his head. Yoongi proceeds to duck his head and kiss at Jimin's chest, and all the omega can do is grip his shoulders tightly at the feeling. He's probably soaking through his sleeping pants.

 

It's so much more than kissing, and Jimin's instincts are at war. This is a mated alpha touching him in such an intimate way, and Jimin can smell Daehee on him in the way that happens when couples are mated. It gives him a kind of bitter taste at the back of his tongue. On the other hand, the most basic, natural part of him tells him that it feels so good, that this alpha will treat him well, to let him just take. It makes him immobile for a moment, that internal conflict.

 

His mind wins out, higher thought telling him that he needs to do this, he can't pull away. Maybe it's coupled with the way that Yoongi's hands lower to his ass and squeeze, fingers grazing the spot that he's sure is wet with his slick.

 

"Alpha," he groans out. It's really already like a sensation overload, and he hasn't even been completely undressed yet.

 

"It's okay," the prince soothes him with a gravelly voice, picking him up and laying him back again against the pillows. Jimin lets himself be manhandled, it's the easiest way, although he does reach up and tug at his shirt.

 

Pulling it off, Yoongi gives Jimin access to his upper body. There's more scars there than he expected, no doubt from training, a great contrast to Jimin's smooth, unblemished skin. He can't help but trace one on his shoulder distractedly, a thin line that looked like it came from a sharp blade.

 

"That was from Hoseok," Yoongi half-laughs, pulling off his own pants quickly as he speaks and leaving himself completely bear. Jimin's automatic response is to look away, his face reddening. It felt wrong to look at the prince openly. Digging his nails into his palms, he presses his thighs together, the pause in their activities giving him time to be embarrassed; he'd never been completely naked in front of someone that wasn't family before. Yoongi is so brazen.

 

Or possibly not, he thinks as he sees Yoongi's face, possibly just as red as his own. "I know it's embarrassing," he mutters. Jimin swallows. "I was brave and went first."

 

Laughing helplessly, Jimin gives himself a second to cover his face with his hands, allowing also a little groan. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be a confident seductress, to be able to take his clothes off freely and not have to deal with such an awkward moment. An awkward night.

 

When he moves his hands the alpha is still sat on his knees in front of him, Jimin's drawn up legs obscuring his gaze from the prince's crotch. "It is embarrassing," he agrees, before kicking off his own pants. His face feels so hot; he knows Yoongi can see everything. Covering his face again, he lays back down. Might as well let him look.

 

There's a short moment of silence before he feels the bed dip closer to his feet, and there's a hand on his bare knee. "Jimin." The bodiless voice is a little rough, deeper than before. "Can I touch?"

 

Letting out a soft sigh, Jimin uncovers his eyes, letting his hands rest on his warm cheeks instead. His thighs press together again instinctually when he sees Yoongi's face, his expression so obviously want . He nods.

 

The alpha comes closer like he's trying not to spook a wounded animal, and spreads Jimin's legs ever so gently to sit between them. He watches Yoongi inhale deeply, nostrils flaring, and the smell of slick must be so much stronger now, and it should be embarrassing but he can see with his own eyes the way Yoongi's body responds to it, cock lifting between his legs. Those big hands return to knead at his thighs and he has to take a shuddering breath.

 

Jimin hasn't really seen a grown alpha's cock before so it's kind of a surprise, but what's more surprising is his body's reaction to it. It's like his hole actually throbs , which is so lewd he mewls and goes to cover his eyes again. Obviously he has nothing to compare it to so he can't tell if the prince is bigger than average, but it's so big he wonders if what he knows of coupling is actually right, because surely that isn't going to fit inside him?

 

Yoongi's voice startles him. "I can't tell if you're unhappy if you cover your face," he says, a hand touching one of his wrists gently.

 

"I just, don't-" He flaps a hand at Yoongi's confused face. "I don't know what to do, okay?" He whines out of frustration.

 

"I understand," Yoongi murmurs, crawling up Jimin's body to kiss his sternum, his shoulder, his jaw. "It really is embarrassing for me, too."

 

Jimin kisses his mouth to stop him talking. He's too kind and Jimin doesn't know what to do with it, part of him just wishing that he would get a move on and just take him because he's going so slow and Jimin is so wet already and it's unfair how good the alpha smells, how nice his hands are, and he's trying to treat Jimin well and it's just not making him any less embarrassed. The length of Yoongi's cock drags against his thigh and he groans, rocking his hips up, and Yoongi wraps his hands around him to help lift his hips, inadvertently grazing his slippery hole.

 

In reaction Jimin basically convulses, whining into Yoongi's mouth because it's so strange and feels so good to have someone touch him there. He swears he gets twice as wet as he was before, and Yoongi pulls away with wide eyes, probably to check that he's okay. Upon seeing Jimin's face he repeats the action, a finger dragging over his entrance, and Jimin bites his lip to catch the wanton moan that almost escapes.

 

"You're so sensitive," Yoongi says wonderingly, and Jimin is so fucking embarrassed but wants to snap at him to do touch him again already.

 

He manages to reign in his tone just a little. "Yoongi," he groans. "Please just touch me properly."

 

Swallowing, Yoongi nods, taking everything in. "Can you turn over?"

 

Jimin complies, relieved for just a moment because now he can hide his face, but that feeling doesn't last long as he realises that now Yoongi has a full view of him, completely exposed. As Jimin grabs a pillow to hold onto, Yoongi starts to touch him.

 

First it's his thighs again, and the soft stroke up the inside has him muffling a giggle because it's ticklish. He hears Yoongi huff out a laugh in response before he strokes a hand down Jimin's back, the dip of his spine.

 

Jimin lets himself relax into his bedsheets. He has to admit that he barely even feels self conscious in a way, feels attractive, even, and he wonders what that says about him. Definitely doesn’t when Yoongi whispers, “pretty,” before pressing a kiss to his spine sweetly.

 

Too sweet, for what this is, and if Jimin wasn’t so turned on he would overthink it, but right now he’s aching in a completely unfamiliar way. Well, maybe not completely unfamiliar, because he if he were to compare it to anything it would be the same kind of ache he feels in heat, but it's certainly less urgent than that. It's completely different having an alpha present, knowing what he's about to do.

 

The alpha in question can see as well as smell, now, how wet he is, and Jimin grips the pillow he’s holding tightly at the rumble from Yoongi’s chest. Yoongi starts to rub his index and middle finger around his hole, spreading his slick, and Jimin doesn't know if he should be embarrassed too by just how wet he is. It'll probably make it easier, he reassures himself.

 

When Yoongi slides a finger inside, though, he jerks, and a clean hand comes to his lower back to hold him down with minimum pressure. "It's okay?" Yoongi asks him worriedly.

 

"Yeah," Jimin replies, because it doesn't hurt, it's just so strange. And it's not like he hasn't ever fingered himself before either, it just never felt like this. Continuing when Jimin gives the go ahead, Yoongi slides that finger in and out of him slowly, and the omega tries his very best not to get tense when another finger comes to press inside too. It's a little uncomfortable, and yet Jimin can't help but feel like his body is made for it, the slide is so smooth.

 

But Yoongi only takes his two fingers in to the first knuckle, dipping in so, so slowly, rubbing his rim in between times. After he spreads his legs in an attempt at encouragement that doesn't work, he resorts to begging. "Don't tease me, it's too much," he chokes out.

 

"M' sorry, gotta go slow, or it might hurt," Yoongi mumbles.

 

He makes Jimin endure minutes upon minutes like that, opening him up with two fingers properly, and then three. Jimin starts babbling nonsensically because it's more than just sensitive. He feels ready, wants to present, knows it will feel good if Yoongi slides his cock inside now, but the alpha just isn't giving him what he wants, and on top of that he keeps grazing something inside him that's fantastic, has him getting louder and louder every time Yoongi touches him just so.

 

“Yoongi, ah, ah, please!” He eyes rolling back into his head when the alpha rubs against his prostate. He feels- feels fucking easy, and he reminds himself that this is his job, he’s supposed to be doing this. He's sweating, too, and can feel Yoongi is too, his hand on Jimin's lower back so, so hot.

 

Then the fingers inside him are slowly pulled out, and Jimin actually wriggles his hips because he's suddenly not being touched anymore and he doesn't understand. Turning his head, he sees Yoongi shifting around, backwards a little, and is taken a little aback by how affected he looks; damp hair from sweat, eyes positively hungry, and his cock hard and red, wetness beading visibly at the tip. Jimin is reminded of the first day he met Yoongi, of feeling like prey.

 

Yet the alpha's voice stays unforceful, careful. "Can you get up onto your knees?" Helps him, too, with hands on his waist, to stay upright. The embarrassment is gone, now, his body filled with a throbbing want that has him arching his back to tempt the alpha closer.

 

Yoongi takes him just like that, bringing him up to his knees, and it barely hurts; it feels like his body is made to take it. He’s producing so much slick it’s obscene, the scent strong enough for even him to smell it, and the sound of Yoongi’s cock sliding in and out of him absolutely filthy. The way Yoongi fills him is so much, so good, he can't keep quiet, whimpering and outright moaning throughout.

 

Pulling out, Yoongi spreads his legs a little further and pushes him down gently by the shoulders, before sliding back in slow, making Jimin cry out once more. He spreads his thighs as much as possible and shoves his pillow down so he has something to rut his cock against needily.

 

“Fuck,” Yoongi groans. He starts a fast, steady pace, an easy slide, and Jimin just moans, a shiver travelling down his spine as Yoongi grazes something amazing inside of him. He's completely at Yoongi's mercy, and yet Yoongi doesn't seem to take advantage, not careful but Jimin doesn't even blame him, wants it just as hard. Despite the desperation he still seems to try his utmost for Jimin's pleasure, changing angles to best hit where Jimin wants most, tucking a hand underneath Jimin's pillow to press it up to his cock, a broad pressure that's so delicious. At one point he smoothes a hand down Jimin's back when the omega lets out a whimper.

 

"Yoongi, ah, you-" Jimin isn't even surprised by how weak his voice is, how shaky. His mouth drops open for a moment when Yoongi hits just right, and has to concentrate so hard to speak. "Want, want more, uh-"

 

"Hm?" A strained sounding Yoongi shifts forward so his hands bracket Jimin's shoulders, getting somehow even deeper, and Jimin whines because he doesn't really know what he wants, although he thinks he's going to come very soon either way. "Jimin, tell me what you want."

 

All Jimin can do is push his ass back with a frustrated cry, not having the words for what he needs, and push a hand under his hips to hold the pillow up to his cock. Yoongi goes a little harder in an attempt to give him something, hips smacking against him and gripping a hip with one of his hands to hold him steady. The noises are obscene and Jimin only gets louder and louder as he gets closer to coming. That's when he feels something bump against his hole, something widening at the base of Yoongi's cock, and he practically wails because that's it, that's what he wants.

 

"Please, please, give it to me, that, oh, please," he cries, and maybe Yoongi realises what he's aching for because he growls, hips slamming into him as his knot grows, pulling it in and out of Jimin who gets increasingly vocal about the painpleasure .

 

It keeps growing and that's how Jimin comes, making a mess of his pillow as the alpha above him thrusts into him animalistically. He prolongs Jimin's orgasm, the time it takes for him to come down from his high, until it's all too much, his body tingling with sensitivity everywhere but especially his rim.

 

Luckily Yoongi is close too, struggling to pull out each time now until he really can't, hips still jerking against him, and Jimin curls his hands in the sheets and holds on. The knot is huge, and now his mind is a little clearer he has no idea how they did that. His mouth drops open and he shudders when liquid starts to spurt inside him. It doesn't feel bad but it certainly feels strange, warm, and maybe even a little good. His mind starts to drift as he hears Yoongi panting above him, their hips locked together and now unmoving. It's like he's tired down to his bones.

 

It takes a while for Yoongi to come back to his senses, his cock spurting inside of the omega for minutes on end. When he does, he sounds panicked.

 

"Jimin, Jimin, are you okay? Did I hurt you?"

 

Jimin hears his name being called distantly, and snaps back to reality when Yoongi starts to move them so they're lying on their sides. The tiny distressed noise he makes has Yoongi wrapping his arms around him.

 

"Are you in any pain?" he's saying, and Jimin looks up at him where he's hovering over his shoulder. They're still connected so intimately, and he's starting to feel the awkwardness again. He'd really lost himself for a minute there, doesn't know if he should be ashamed of himself for it.

 

"I'm okay," he whispers, throat hoarse from making so much noise. He wonders how long they will be stuck together for. It feels so strange inside.

 

When he's sure that Jimin is unharmed Yoongi's expression is difficult to read, and Jimin thinks he looks a little angry but he doesn't say anything to Jimin about it. Laying down behind him, Yoongi removes all contact apart from where their hips are together, and the room falls painfully silent.

 

Jimin is so, so thankful when Yoongi's knot starts to deflate, and it doesn't take more than five minutes before he's pulling out very, very slowly. Everything is so sensitive there, and the sensation sparks something like arousal again in Jimin's gut, so he whines at Yoongi to be faster. The alpha complies silently, but the rush of liquid out of Jimin afterwards has him absolutely mortified.

 

As Yoongi pulls his clothes back on, stumbling out of the room in the dark because nearly all of the candles had melted down, Jimin rethinks what he's always thought about why omegas don’t have sex before mating. He always thought it was because it could get you ostracised, make other alphas not want you as a mate, all kinds of societal reasons. There's no way he expected for his first time to be so much, so much feeling, without him even being previously romantically attached to the alpha in question. It was the buzz that he imagines magic to feel like, and so passionate, even though he has no idea how he's going to look Yoongi in the eye again. Or, he cringes, Yoongi's mate.

 

There's no doubt in his mind that he would never, even forget this night, Yoongi's touch on his skin.

 

Chapter Text

"Is that good?" Yoongi's voice is low next to his ear, makes goosebumps prickle on Jimin's neck despite how hot he is, their position pressing them extremely close together. There's sweat gathering on his collar bones, the back of his neck, and his hair is damp when he tosses his head back on his pillow.

 

"Hmph," Jimin moans out, words escaping him for a moment. It is, amazing even, Yoongi working tirelessly with his thrusts, pleasure building so gorgeously. His thighs clench and unclench, his heels pressing into the alpha's lower back.

 

After that first time, the prince started to come to him almost every night. It’s always dark, even though it is summer and the days are long. Jimin grows to anticipate it, the way Yoongi makes him feel, it’s always so fantastic. The shyness from before has almost dissipated entirely; Yoongi has already seen everything there is to be seen, there doesn’t seem much point to hiding away now.

 

Sometimes at night when Jimin waits for the prince to come to him, or on a morning when he wakes, still covered in a kind of disgusting mixture of bodily fluids, he feels like a mistress. And he guesses that he kind of is, but for some reason he never feels like that during the time that they’re actually together. Needless to say, this brings another on another layer of guilt; it feels wrong to like it, to enjoy being touched by someone else's mate. Maybe he’d want to talk about it with Taehyung, his closest friend in the castle, but it’s shameful and he feels...depraved, even. It's such an intimate thing to admit out loud.

 

And yet, in the moment, with his legs wrapped around the alpha’s waist, all he can feel is the good.

 

“Hold your legs, if you- ah, can,” the alpha grunts, and Jimin immediately does as he asks, hands slippery on the back of his own sweaty knees. The angle is amazing, right there, and it has him shouting, practically vibrating under the alpha’s body.

 

Tossing his head from side to side, he presses his lips together to stop himself for asking for more. He’s always so wary that he’s being too loud, or too lewd, too inappropriate. Usually he loses all self control by the end, they both do, but he tries so hard to be restrained at the beginning, even if it feels like Yoongi’s taking him to a place where he’s flying.

 

He can feel Yoongi's knot growing, slipping in and out of him, and it has him whining and pressing down with his heels. The alpha is fairly quiet during this time, only speaking up to ask if Jimin is okay, to instruct him gently into a position. Otherwise his sounds are subtle and low, tiny growls and almost hums that make Jimin feel ever so warm.

 

He has to keep withdrawing his claws from Yoongi’s shoulders, wary of the ‘no marks’ rule, but every time he hits just right Jimin’s whole body tenses up, his back arching and rubbing his cock against Yoongi’s stomach. It’s an intimate position that really takes Jimin’s breath away when he looks up at Yoongi’s face, blinking past the haze of tears forming in his eyes from how good it feels; he's so close.

 

Another thing Jimin has learned is that the alpha's knot lasts a long while. This time it catches just before Jimin comes, and he lets out a low moan; he didn't know it would be so satisfying to feel so full there. Yoongi slides a hand in between them to grip Jimin's cock and Jimin has no way to stifle his low whine, his orgasm prolonged by the knot pressed into him, the warm spurt of the evidence of Yoongi's own orgasm.

 

He has to remind himself of proper behaviour again, to rest his head against the pillow instead of Yoongi’s shoulder despite the warmth and comforting scent. Usually the prince leaves as soon as his knot goes down, after checking that Jimin is okay. In the time in which they are folded together afterwards, though, they talk a little, meaningless things.

 

"Did you write to your mother?" Yoongi murmurs, breath tickling Jimin's cheek.

 

"I wrote the letter, I need to have it sent, Taehyung said he would handle it." He breathes steadily in an attempt to even it out. There's sweat cooling uncomfortably on his back, yet his front is still so warm where they're touching. He curls forward, just a little, to try and warm his arms. In front of him Yoongi screws his eyes shut and there's another wave of come inside of him. He's always wanted to ask the alpha what it felt like, coming for such a long period of time, but it always felt so inappropriate even after they'd just had sex.

 

Opening his eyes, Yoongi blinks at him sleepily. "Cold?"

 

"A little," he admits, and Yoongi is up immediately, pulling the top blanket over him while attempting to not jostle them too much. Ruts his hips up ever so slightly when he comes again. Jimin wonders if there's some way to plug himself up to keep it inside but that's such a dirty thought that he files it away with the others to not be said out loud.

 

He pulls the blanket over his shoulders, awkwardly trying to pull it over himself while being very aware that Yoongi probably doesn't want to lie underneath it with him. Yoongi has never indicated any interest in staying the night, and Jimin is kind of glad since that would probably be a tad uncomfortable with that situation. Of course Yoongi needs to go back to his mate, after.

 

Every time the door closes, Jimin is left with messed sheets and an attempt to confusedly decipher the look in the prince’s eyes. He seems so good at being detached, just having sex with someone and going straight back to his mate’s bed. They have barely kissed since that first night, either, although Jimin doesn't think it makes anything less intimate, since Yoongi's touch still brings warmth to his cheeks, every visit.


--


It turns out that the castle is so big Jimin can easily spend a day exploring it, peeking in the rooms in the different towers. There’s an absurd amount of bedrooms of varying shapes and sizes, and these are just the ones in his wing - Taehyung had told him that most of the occupied ones are in the West Wing, while he stays in the East. During his explorations Jimin notices that the ones surrounding his room are all empty. It seems a strategic move, he thinks wryly, at least no one will hear them.

 

It’s on one of these days that he stumbles upon a huge room on the east side of the castle; the word 'room' doesn't seem quite grand enough to summarise this place, he thinks. It's ceilings are so high, the windows on the right side taking up most of the walls and giving everything a light, bright quality despite the potential stuffiness of somewhere filled with things so old.

 

Because the room is filled, floor to ceiling, with books. There’s rows and rows of shelves, ladders being necessary to be able to grab the ones past the first shelf. Small brass plaques that label what kind of text is where, and Jimin can't understand most of the words on them, they're too long.

 

Taehyung had told him about this place -the library - had gotten a book for him that had been a little difficult for him to read but he'd powered through anyway. It was a fun story, even if it had made him feel a little self conscious about his reading ability. He decides to explore the room, look for a section that he recognises and pick out a book, but it's difficult. He's trying to determine what 'ethology' means, getting up on a ladder to see if the books will give him more of a clue, when someone clears their throat behind him loudly.

 

"Yah!" he shouts, startled. It had been so quiet, so peaceful, he really had no idea there was anybody in there. He turns to face a man who stands leaning against one of the shelves, looking amused.

 

"That's not my name," he says offhandedly. He offers Jimin a hand down from the ladder.

 

"No! I'm sorry, I didn't mean to snoop, I didn't think anyone was here..." Jimin trails off guiltily. He has no idea whether he has permission to be in here, after all.

 

"What are books if there is no-one to read them? Of course you can be here," the man says almost incredulously. He's quite a bit taller that Jimin, he realises when he's back at ground level, and a twitch of his nose tells him that this man is an alpha. His clothing is slightly more formal than than the servants of the castle he and has broad shoulders, and despite his spectacles is obviously extremely handsome.

 

Jimin fidgets in his spot as the man walks away, back to a small desk hidden behind one of the bookshelves he didn't see before. There's some rustling, before he comes back with an armful of books and starts to shelve them next to where Jimin is stood. Jimin wonders if he should leave, despite the man's assurance. He takes a step towards the door before he's startled by the man's voice once more.

 

"Could you not find what you wanted?"

 

"Um," Jimin dithers, "I don't know."

 

The alpha blinks at him. "You don't know if you found what you wanted?"

 

"No! I was looking for the stories?" Jimin confesses. He doesn't really know what he's looking for, to be honest.

 

"No need to be so worried, I'm just a librarian. I'm here to encourage you to take the books, not scare you away," he laughs. Jimin blinks at him. Apparently all the worrying he's been doing recently has made him dense; of course they have someone to help people in the library. "Do you want me to show you?"

 

Jimin nods, feeling awkward now the alpha had smelt his worry. "Please? I'm sorry, I just don't know how it works, the library..." he drifts off. He hopes the man won't judge him.

 

"Do you not have a library in your town?" The man asks as he waves Jimin in the direction of the other side of the room. It actually takes over a minute to get there, winding between the shelves, the place is so large.

 

"Kind of? There was a small library in my school. It was nothing like this." The wonder is probably evident in Jimin's voice as the man looks at him with an eyebrow raised.

 

"I can imagine. This place holds a copy of every relevant book in the kingdom." He waves his arm at the shelf that's in front of them. "This is the fiction section.”

 

" Every book?" Jimin says incredulously. It doesn't seem possible. "How?" He assumes that 'fiction' means stories and doesn't embarrass himself by asking.

 

The librarian nods proudly, a slight smile on his face. Clearly that was partially his efforts. "Yes, every book. When they're written out, one is automatically sent here. It's important to keep track of what is happening, and there are many in the castle with different specialisms who want to read in different areas. Do you have any idea what kind of book you're looking for?" He switches his attention to the books in front of him, running a finger over the spines, frowning in concentration.

 

"Oh," Jimin thinks for a moment, trying to phrase himself so he doesn't sound simple. "Well. Taehyung- My attendant brought a book from here for me the other day. It was fun, exciting. But it was... a bit difficult for me to read." He bites his lip, hoping the man got his point.

 

He looks at Jimin with interest. "You said you went to school?"

 

"Yes." Jimin tries not to let his self consciousness show through his voice. He'd attended school from eight years old to fourteen, but it wasn't considered very necessary for omegas to attend school, learn how to do mathematics, read old texts. Often many omegas from peasant families do not get sent to school at all; they are supposed to learn the skill of keeping a household running smoothly and efficiently. Jimin has always been pretty bad with a needle and thread, despite his mother's best efforts to teach him, and isn't the best cook, either. He's lucky that his father saw the value of Jimin learning to read and write and do basic mathematics.

 

"Do you remember the name of the book Taehyungie gave you? So I can get an idea of the difficulty of the writing," the librarian hums.

 

"Um, something about stars, and running? I don't quite remember..."

 

The alpha seems to think for a moment, eyes unfocused, before he snaps his fingers. "I know which one you mean. I can look for something a bit easier to cope with; do you want just one?" He starts to pull books from the shelves and pile them in Jimin's arms.

 

"Yes, one is fine!" Jimin panics, overwhelmed by the number of texts he's holding, for they're all very heavy, "I can just come back, right?"

 

"I hope you do." Jimin is led to a table and he picks a book based on the little summaries the librarian gives him of each one. Excitement fills him at the idea of getting to read them all in the near future; he'll have so much time to do that.

 

"If you have any difficulties, you can come and ask me, yes? My name is Seokjin. I can help you with anything," he says with a smile. Jimin thanks him, grateful that he doesn't have to ask Taehyung what some of the more difficult words mean all the time like he had done previously. Maybe he'll be able to improve his reading in the time he's here.

 

He remembers to introduce himself before he leaves. "I'm Park Jimin," he says, clutching the book to his chest. It's pretty heavy even by itself.

 

The librarian's laugh is loud, too loud for such a place. "I know who you are. I don't think there's anyone that permanently resides in the castle that doesn't."

 

For some reason Jimin didn't expect that. The library appears so isolated, like stepping inside was a door to another place entirely, a magical quality; it seems obvious that Seokjin would know who he is, now, but it almost felt strange to be reminded that they're still within the castle walls. Jimin wonders how many rooms there are to discover within the castle like this.

 

"Oh." He flushes a little.

 

"Come back soon, yes? I want to you to tell me if you liked the book, if it's still too difficult. We have to make sure you have something to do, hm?" Seokjin smiles at him, a genuine, encouraging expression that puts Jimin at ease. He nods, hugging the book, and waves over his shoulder as he leaves. Stepping through the large door returns him to the business and noise of the castle's lower levels, attendants bustling around. He wonders if Seokjin gets lonely in the library.


--


Jimin doesn’t see Yoongi much during the day; Taehyung was right to say that the prince is extremely busy. It's been approximately two and a half weeks in the castle, and Jimin is now being expected to integrate somewhat into court life - a truly terrifying prospect.

 

Taehyung comes to get him one morning, escorts him from his room to some kind of study room on the other side of the castle. He's to receive lessons on appropriate behaviour in court, and the fact that those even exist scares him so much, because he's going to have to remember so many rules, so many tiny details.

 

They have to wait in that little room for a while before a man comes stumbling in, looking very much like he was in a hurry to get there. He's carrying a load of books under his arm, a few rolls of parchment under the other. When he dumps them all on the desk at the front of the room - presumably the tutor's desk - one of the latter falls on the floor and he quickly bends down to pick it back up.

 

Taehyung snorts. "As loud an entrance as ever, Namjoon."

 

The gaze that Namjoon levels at Taehyung is very much unimpressed . He turns to Jimin. "Hello, my name is Namjoon and I'll be tutoring you on behaviour at court."

 

Jimin nods, getting out from behind his desk to bow. Namjoon is dressed in the garb of a royal advisor, richly embroidered and expensively dyed. Jimin is quite surprised that they would send someone so important just to tutor him.

 

Namjoon waves away his gesture of respect, however, in a way that very much reminds  Jimin of Yoongi. "Let's not be formal here, there is no need. I'm just here to teach."

 

"Speaking of which," Taehyung interrupts. "Do I have to be here?"

 

Rolling his eyes, Namjoon brings a chair over to the table where Jimin sits, sitting casually close. "No, you can go."

 

"Great! Good luck, Jiminie!" Taehyung practically bounces out of the room, leaving him to watch Namjoon rifle through his books and papers with a serious expression.

 

It takes a moment before he seems to be happy that everything is in order. "So," Namjoon turns to address him. "How much do you know about royal court?"

 

"Not much at all," Jimin confesses. In fact, he's tried very much to avoid the court so far, more than mildly panicked about what goes on in the staterooms.

 

"Okay, well, I'll start from the beginning and we'll go from there, how does that sound?" Namjoon goes to fetch clean parchment and ink and places it before Jimin, before blanching. "Can you, um, write?"

 

"Yes!" Jimin scrambles to pick up the pointed nib pen and dip it in the ink. "I can read and write."

 

"Oh, wonderful." Namjoon lets out a sigh and visibly relaxes. "You might find it helpful to take notes, or draw pictures if you would like. Just so you can remember things. It's important that you remember what I tell you."

 

Biting his lip, Jimin nods, adjusting himself to write. He'll probably be glad of the notes, he suspects he's about to receive a lot of information.

 

"Are you ready to start?" Namjoon asks, and when Jimin gives his affirmation he starts to lecture, his voice changing ever so slightly to be more authoritative and firm. "So, the royal court is what you can consider the centre of the kingdom. It's extremely important, for many reasons, but one of the biggest ones is maintaining the idea of status."

 

"The king should be surrounded by important people that he has chosen. The way the court is arranged restricts access to the king and queen, as they want to maintain the idea that being in their vicinity is an honour. King Wookeun wants to keep his courts as exclusive as possible, so those of higher status must try extremely hard to 'get in' as it were." He pauses, looking at Jimin. "Does that make sense?"

 

"Yes, I think so." Jimin looks at his notes sadly. His handwriting has always been very messy, they will be hard to re-read. "What is it that I will have to do?"

 

"Well, I'll start with the things you won't be expected to do. You won't need to go hunting, as an omega it's just not required. You obviously do not need to attend advisory councils, or basically anything that takes place on a morning, apart from the occasional breakfast." Namjoon lists. Jimin wonders how much Namjoon has to do on a daily basis.

 

"You will," he continues, "have to go to the staterooms for some time, most days. It's important to show your face, maintain a presence that suggests that you're not mysterious, and that the king is not tucking you away in your bedroom."

 

His words remind Jimin of Hoseok's, from his first few days in the castle, the insistence that he sat near the King's table to maintain this image.

 

"But what do I do in the staterooms? What do people do?" This is the question that muddles his mind the most. When he was little, he and his siblings would play-pretend to be the king and queen and the royal courtiers; it just consisted of parading around and bowing a lot. It was a boring game, usually ended quite quickly.

 

"Play cards, talk to people. The right people - almost exclusively omegas. you must not flirt or engage with unmated alphas who might try to court you."

 

Jimin's eyes widen. "Court me? Why on earth would they do that?"

 

Namjoon shrugs. "Probably they'd be a visitor, or extremely stupid. I would just go out of your way to avoid them if something like that happened."

 

"Has it happened? To you? Wait- I mean, I don't mean to be rude-"

 

Namjoon laughs quietly. "Don't worry. It has, and they normally persist past you being uninterested, but in your case you should have plenty of eyes on you, and looking out for you."

 

Jimin is imagining Namjoon being harassed by strange alphas at court and it makes him wildly uncomfortable. "Did you have people looking out for you?" Jimin asks worriedly. Namjoon seems like such a gentle soul; it would be so upsetting.

 

"Once Yoongi threatens them away, they usually leave me alone, yes," he says dryly.

 

This startles a laugh out of Jimin, as he didn't expect that. "Are you close?"

 

"I'm a trusted advisor to him and his father, yes." Jimin can detect a hint of pride in Namjoon's voice. "Hence me being asked to tutor you."

 

Jimin nods once more, fiddling with his pen. He wants to ask the questions that he never has time to ask Yoongi, or the questions that seem to arouse suspicion in Taehyung. "Can you tell me… what does- what does the prince do? At court?”

 

Apparently Namjoon is unbothered by the inquiry, so he lets out a breath he didn’t even know he was holding. "Well, of course he attends all of the councils, as well as assists the king in some decision making. Prince Yoongi has been present for councils since he was eighteen years of age, since he presented. Normally he will also do some socialising, as much as is necessary, as of course he must uphold good relations with those the king trusts at court."

 

It really is a lot of work. “Is he… well, good at it? Was he good at it at the beginning?”

 

“He is good at strategic decision making, military wise and also in domestic disputes. He was always a pretty fast learner, and he grew up here, unlike you, Jimin. I wouldn’t worry or compare yourself to the prince. And if you have any questions for him, I am sure he won’t mind answering, you know.” There’s another similarity to Hoseok there, in the expression on Namjoon’s face when he talks about Yoongi. So affectionate, even if it is slightly more veiled than Hoseok’s boisterous enthusiasm.

 

Namjoon sends Jimin away with a book he’s not sure he’s going to be able to read, but he’s a little embarrassed to tell Namjoon that, so he just accepts it without a complaint. It looks like Jimin’s going to have less free time than he expected, but it doesn’t seem like the worst thing, especially if it stops people at court looking down on him. He knows that he can be polite, he just needs to remember everything Namjoon has told him and look his best. And, he thinks wryly, hope he doesn’t encounter Daehee.


--


Two days later and Jimin is expected to put his lessons into practice. Taehyung comes to his room to help him pick out an outfit. It’s important, apparently, to get the balance just right, between expensive and showy, as court appropriate clothes must be, and clothes that aren't going to attract too much attention. The tailor that had measured him had gone a bit wild with the amount of things that he'd sent Jimin, post measuring, and he had a huge wardrobe full of luxurious clothing.

 

But Taehyung is something of an expert at clothing, as it seems, and he is very helpful in telling Jimin what kind of neckline is appropriate for what time of day. Jimin tries his best at remembering what he's being told but he's a bit overwhelmed with information at the moment.

 

Led to the correct stateroom, he gets a squeeze on the shoulder before Taehyung leaves. Upon entrance he gets a few mildly assessing looks, mostly at his outfit, but he realises that the people in the room are mostly composed of the omega mates of the important alphas at court and this calms him just a little. Most of the people that are outwardly rude to him at the dining table are probably participating in the councils.

 

"Jimin! So nice of you to finally join us!" Miyoung, one of the omegas that sits next to him at in the dining room, sweeps up to him, her gown looking like it's laced far too tight. Jimin is suddenly glad he didn't choose the corseted option Taehyung had laid out for him this morning. "Come sit!"

 

He almost stumbles as he's tugged in the direction of a table, set up with an intricate display of a fine tea set - it takes a moment to realise that it's not a display, it's actually being used by those who sit there. Miyoung waves at an attendant as soon as they sit and a teacup is placed in front of him in its saucer.

 

"That's a beautiful blouse, Jimin, you do look fit for court! We were just trying to persuade Soojung to play for us, wouldn't that be wonderful?" One of the women asks, and Soojung sighs from across the table.

 

Jimin smiles awkwardly. "I'm sure it would be lovely to see you play, Countess." He's not exactly sure what instrument Soojung plays, at the back of his mind hopes that he won't be asked to play, his lute skills probably considered extremely subpar.

 

As Soojung gets up to play, an attendant bringing over a large and very beautiful harp, Jimin tries to drink his tea and smile at the other omegas at the table; he's almost scared to drink, his cup looks so delicate.

 

Overall the day isn't too painful; he stays in the stateroom for maybe three hours in total. They discuss a lot of fashion and people he doesn't know so he just tries to follow their conversation without drawing attention to himself, smiling politely when anyone looks his way. One of the men at the table is as excellent harpsichord player and gets up to play several times, to the joy of the other courtiers. Those who can play instruments get praised so much, he makes a mental note to start practicing his lute again if he can get a hand on one.

 

There's a lot of standing up and greeting people, and apparently he isn't supposed to do anything for himself; he goes to pour tea but Miyoung stops him with a quick hand, signalling an attendant to do that for them. Ultimately it's a little boring, but they at least don't ask him questions or try to humiliate him, probably wary of making a scene with someone who has been invited to court by the king and queen.

 

It becomes easy to see why everyone there is so borderline obsessed with fashion; everyone just sits around, looking beautiful like it’s their job. Technically it probably is, Jimin thinks. It’s strange, like everyone is sitting and waiting, anticipating for something to happen, a small excitement, but nothing comes.

 

Miyoung catches his attention when she addresses someone across the table from them. "Donghae, I forgot to ask! What did you settle on wearing for the queen's birthday ball?"

 

"Birthday ball?" he questions Miyoung quietly when Donghae has finished talking about his tailored blue suit. Namjoon had warned him that he would be expected to attend some of the events but he didn't realise something would be held quite so soon after his arrival.

 

"Yes, it's in about a month's time. I'm sure you will have much fun!" Miyoung laughs, and Jimin makes another note to ask Taehyung or Namjoon or someone about what he's supposed to do. Will there be a feast? New people to deal with? Dancing? He isn't that upset by the latter, he does love to dance, but he has no idea who exactly he should be dancing with if that's the case. He opens his mouth to ask her another question when several people rising to their feet near the entrance catch his attention.

 

A small entourage has people standing and bowing, and it's after the man blocking his view bows deeply that Jimin sees that it is headed by Daehee.

 

Impeccably presented as always, Yoongi’s mate easily outshines the courtiers stood around him - Jimin wonders if his entourage are given specific instructions on how to dress so as to not do such a thing. Though, Jimin also thinks that even if Daehee was wearing rags, he would still look regal, all the clues in his posture, the way he turns his head. The jewels that adorn his wrists and his neck, right over the hint of his half-hidden mating bite, do make the fact hard to avoid though.

 

"I must remember to ask Daehee where he gets those wonderful brooches," he hears Donghae mutter behind him. Jimin is less concerned with the omega consort's fashion - although he does look exquisite as always - and more with how he hopes dearly that he won't come in this direction.

 

He's not lucky. Daehee sweeps over to him with those member of court that everyone knows as his 'hands' and Jimin has to stand and wait as he stops to shake everyone's hands that he finds of any importance. He starts to sweat and hopes that it isn't visible, can already tell that Yoongi's mate will be able to smell how intimidated he is by him.

 

So far Jimin hadn't come face to face with Daehee at all since they eat separately and he's easy to avoid due to the presence of the swarm of courtiers that usually followed the consort around. Jimin is fine with this lack of interaction because he’s really terrified of the way Yoongi’s mate looks at him. Not that he deigns to look Jimin's way very often.

 

"Your Highness," Miyoung greets Daehee with a bow. "It is wonderful to see you today. Will you be joining us?"

 

Smiling back at her, Daehee's eyes stay eerily blank. It's so difficult to tell what he's feeling or thinking, he masks it so well. He doesn't even smell angry - nor does he smell happy.

 

"No, I will be heading to the queen's room, I wish to discuss some things for the arranged activities this evening. I will see you there, no doubt." His eyes fall on Jimin once more, and when he speaks a playful tone barely masks the contempt in his voice. "Of course, I don't expect our guest here knows how to play cards. You are certainly excused from attending."

 

There's a slight atmosphere of awkwardness at the table after Daehee drifts away. A few people avoid looking at Jimin and he has a feeling that he should be feeling embarrassed, being so publicly dismissed and all. Maybe he would feel humiliated if it didn't make him so relieved. At least he wouldn't have to spend the evening in close proximity to the consort, can maybe take a walk in the gardens this evening instead.

 

When he leaves the stateroom after three hours, he feels like he needs a long walk to get rid of the cramp in his ass, thighs and back. A glance towards the rooms where Daehee disappeared to has him catching a glimpse of movement, and he’s just about to turn the corner when a bright red catches his eye. The largest neighbouring kingdom’s colours are easily recognisable, something that anyone who is vaguely involved in trading would identify instantly.

 

It’s probably normal, having envoys come to the castle from nearby kingdoms. Maybe Jimin will get to speak to some of them, ask them what it’s like there. He resolves to try and do that at some point in the next few weeks. It’s not like he’s ever going to go somewhere that far away in his life.


--

 

Jimin’s room is his little haven, although actually he admits it’s not that little, it doesn’t exactly feel like he’s trapped in a tiny cell. Still, it’s where he can go in the knowledge that no-one will bother him, except maybe Taehyung and Yoongi at night.

 

He doesn’t miss his family yet, but he knows that it’ll happen soon enough. He knows that they’re okay, they don’t need him there, exactly, but being in a strange environment is hard on his instincts. Even though it’s a shocking idea because of how often there’s an alpha in there, he’s only really comfortable in his room. Yoongi’s scent permeates the air, the bedding in particular, even though Jimin is certain that it's been changed. He always leaves the window open, too, during the day, and yet despite the fresh scent of the gardens, Yoongi's earthy scent remains.

 

A familiar quiet knock disturbs the peace of his room. Yoongi enters upon Jimin's call, turning and closing the door behind him. Already, Jimin's thighs start to tingle; it's like he's been trained in response, his body already warm for the alpha. He doesn't know how he feels about that, the excitement and anticipation that jumps in his stomach when Yoongi is knocking on his door.

 

"Hello," Yoongi greets him quietly, approaching the bed and already kneeling to unlace his boots.

 

"Hi," Jimin whispers back. He knows there's no people in any of the rooms surrounding him, doesn't know why they're always so quiet at the beginning. "How was your day?"

 

Grumbling from his chest, Yoongi makes a dissatisfied face. "Not great, I would say. There are some issues that we're having trouble resolving." He sits on the edge of Jimin's bed and the omega shuffles closer.

 

"Is it to do with the visitors I saw here today?" he asks carefully, nodding when Yoongi looks at him expectantly before reaching for Jimin's shirt. He still looks for Jimin's permission, something Jimin is still endlessly surprised by.

 

Sighing, Yoongi pulls Jimin's nightshirt over his head. "Somewhat. They are quite unhappy with father's approach to some things. Don't worry about them, although I would advise staying out of the way of any of the representatives in the castle," he says seriously. There's a frown creasing his brow that Jimin has an urge to cover with his hand, smooth it away.

 

"I will," Jimin promises, which at least makes Yoongi smile a little. He always seems so burdened, it's kind of sad.

 

"Good."

 

They don't talk much after that, concentrating on removing the rest of each other's clothes, Yoongi running his hands all the way up Jimin's thighs to his ass when they're both naked.

 

"Can you turn around?" the alpha murmurs, and Jimin does, leaning down on his elbows. This position in particular still brings heat to his cheeks, presenting like this is just so lewd. Often it's easiest this way logistically though, much more comfortable in the aftermath when Yoongi's knot has caught inside him.

 

"Can I?" Feeling warm lips press to the base of his spine, Jimin nods, ready for Yoongi to use his fingers although at this point it’s really not necessary. They have sex every night, his body is always ready to accept Yoongi like it’s natural.

 

His legs are spread, pushed apart by Yoongi’s hands, and Jimin squawks as Yoongi pushes his face between them, using his tongue to lap at his rim. The move is sudden and catches him completely off guard. And Jimin, he didn’t even know that you could do that, but it feels so good, can’t help but push his ass back onto Yoongi’s face. It's kind of hard to breathe, he can't get used to the slow way Yoongi traces his rim, his body responding by producing slick quickly and in abundance.

 

Panicking, Jimin lets out a desperate sound. "Alpha! It's- hn, it's wet, don't-"

 

Yoongi pulls away. "Are you okay?" His voice is rough and yet so full of concern. Jimin allows himself a moment to let his heartbeat slow and his body relax after that mini panic.

 

"It was- I got wet," he says helplessly, wanting to reach for a pillow but they're just out of reach. Behind him he hears a strange sound, and looking back he sees that Yoongi is covering his mouth with a hand, hiding a smile.

 

"That's okay. Did it feel good?" He rubs the omega's lower back gently, soothing, and Jimin takes another few deep breaths to calm himself and stop his thighs shaking. "I can stop if you want."

 

"So it was okay?" Jimin blurts. "It's supposed to? I don't understand."

 

Yoongi's eyes widen a little at that, and he nods. "Yes, if you like it, if it makes you feel good, that's good. If it doesn't, I'll never do it again, okay? I'm sorry I surprised you, I thought you knew what..." he trails off. Mixed with the familiar scent of Yoongi's arousal, Jimin can smell his panic, despite him remaining outwardly calm. He has pulled away, too, not touching Jimin at all.

 

"It's- it's okay. It was good, just, I haven't... I didn't know," Jimin stutters lamely. "I thought it would be kind of nasty for you, if..."

 

Shaking his head, Yoongi tentatively places a hand on the omega's lower back. "No, it's not bad for me at all, I wanted to. It's not.. nasty." The word seems strange in his mouth, and Jimin kind of wants to laugh at the strange expression on his face. They haven't had an awkward moment like this since the first night they spent together.

 

He shifts, not knowing whether he should sit up from this exposed position. "Uh, should I..." he doesn't actually know what to say, what he should do. Yoongi's hand is a strong point of heat on his back, a touch that is enough to keep him aroused, but the alpha isn't moving otherwise. He licks his lips and Jimin remembers how that had felt on him, wants it back but doesn't feel like he can ask.

 

"Alpha..." Yoongi raises an eyebrow at him and Jimin finds his words. "It's really not bad?"

 

Yoongi shakes his head once more and shifts closer, directly behind Jimin once more. "It really doesn't. Do you want to try again?"

 

Jimin bites his lip and nods, getting another reassuring smile in return. Despite the reassurances, he still feels his stomach swoop with a strange kind of nerves. Why does it still feel like they're doing something so taboo? He doesn’t know why Yoongi would want to do that to him, as it’s not going to get him pregnant.

 

Slower this time, Yoongi lowers himself so his face isn't visible anymore and uses his hands to spread Jimin open, the action alone drawing a tiny throaty noise from the omega. The press of Yoongi's tongue is unlike anything he's ever felt, it's warm and soft and yet firm enough to make him shake from how good it feels stroking against the sensitive skin. The noises that accompany the feeling almost make him hotter, it's so wet and lewd.

 

The alpha has his hands wrapped firmly around Jimin's thighs, not letting him escape even if he rocks forward, and actually growls when Jimin feels himself release another wave of slick. He's so enthusiastic, more so the longer he stays in between Jimin’s thighs, pressing his face further and further forward so he can use his lips too. All the while Jimin whines and cries and trembles, eyes rolling back at one point when Yoongi’s tongue slips inside and licks, slow, against the inside of his rim.

 

He brings Jimin closer and closer to the edge, so close he might come. But that's no good if he's going to be knotted, he won't be able to handle it, so he reaches back to tug at one of Yoongi's hands on his thigh in an attempt to get him to stop; his words aren’t working right now. At that moment, Yoongi sucks on his rim and he falls forward, unable to hold himself up on one arm.

 

"Stop, m' gonna- Yoongi," he cries out, the end muffled into the bedsheets. Thankfully Yoongi does pull away, his breath ragged, and when Jimin turns his head he can see how wide his pupils are blown.

 

"You ‘kay?"

 

Nodding vigorously, Jimin moans, spreading his legs and hoping Yoongi will get the message. It doesn't take much movement for Yoongi to come between them and spread his cheeks, and yet he’s still so far away - Jimin reaches back again and tugs on one of his forearms pathetically. He doesn’t think he’s ever felt this sense of urgency before, the need to have Yoongi take him now , be rough, knot him.

 

The omega is so glad when Yoongi pushes inside him, fast, and Jimin tries so hard to hold himself in the realm of upright as he starts to get fucked mercilessly.

 

Everything is so wet from Yoongi's earlier ministrations that it doesn't hurt one bit, apart from maybe the way Yoongi's fingers grip his hips and thighs. Jimin's toes curl as the alpha's hips smack into his again and again, and it's more out of control than Yoongi's ever been with him but he wants more, can't stop crying out for the alpha to give him more . He's not sure it how it got to that point but it's like his mind is focused on it, he can't think of anything else except how good Yoongi feels inside him.

 

The feeling just builds and builds as Yoongi hits him just right until Jimin's legs collapse; he spreads them wider as if it will somehow get his cock even deeper. When he moves, Yoongi moves with him, his stomach pressed along Jimin's back. They're both sweating so much at this point, it’s hard for Jimin to grip the bed with his hands, and he feels even hotter with the alpha pressed right along his back. One of Yoongi's arms curls around his waist and pulls his hips back; the other one slides up the omega's thigh, over his hip, and he starts to fist Jimin's cock.

 

"Yoo- oh!" Jimin almost shouts, orgasm hitting him like a horse drawn carriage at full speed. Yoongi's knot is growing inside him and it lasts for so long tears come to his eyes, and when he plummets back to earth the alpha's knot is taking inside him.

 

There's a growl that sounds awfully like his name and Jimin can see, despite his blurred vision, Yoongi reaching out for the bedsheets and gripping them hard. Just as he closes his eyes, his body shaking from sensitivity, he hears a ripping sound.

 

As they come down Jimin can't bring himself to move a single inch. He can't stop trembling, either, and it's like there's a ringing in his ears. The most he can do is let himself go pliant as Yoongi pulls him onto his side, spooning him.

 

"Jimin? You're shaking, are you hurting?" Yoongi sounds panicked, wrapping an arm around Jimin's waist and pulling his back against his chest completely.

 

"No," he croaks. Well, maybe his thighs do just a little, but it's more like his body is so sensitive it doesn't know what to do. The knot pressed so deliciously up inside him probably doesn't help. The sweat on his skin is cooling with his body and it's pretty typical that he feels cold, but normally he can control the need to squirm into Yoongi's body heat. Not today, however. His dizzy brain wants the alpha to roll on top of him and keep him warm.

 

"I can get you some muscle salve if it does- oh," Yoongi is cut off as he comes again, inside, and Jimin hums at the feeling. The feeling is so satisfying; another hazy thought floats by, that he hopes he gets pregnant this time.

 

His head falls right back to the side. It probably won't take very long for him to fall asleep - he never has when Yoongi is still inside of him but there's a first time for everything. He's just so comfortable.

 

The knot goes down while Jimin dozes, drifting in and out. He thinks Yoongi might be napping too, his breath is steady against the nape of Jimin's neck. What makes him actually snap awake is the sensation of Yoongi slipping out of him and the feeling of wrong wrong wrong that accompanies it; he whines, hand immediately going to his behind in an attempt to stop the come slipping out of him.

 

"Shh, it's okay." He realises that Yoongi is murmuring to him soothingly, turning him onto his front very carefully and arranging his blankets around him. He smells so comforting, probably trying to soothe Jimin that way too.

 

Another full body tremor runs through him and he feels Yoongi clumsily rubbing his cheek on the omega's head. There's a protective arm snaking around his waist once more and Jimin relaxes once more.

 

It takes Yoongi much longer to leave, that night. Jimin whines into his pillow as Yoongi moves away but maybe he doesn't hear, because the next thing Jimin hears is the click of the door closing. An ache fills his chest, a strange feeling of worthlessness, despite the lack of actual coherent thoughts in his head; he falls asleep again mere moments later.


--


Jimin wakes the next morning with a jolt like he's waking from a bad dream, the same sense of anxiety that has fresh sweat building on the back of his neck. It takes him thirty seconds to shake himself out of it, rubbing his eyes and relaxing back into his bedspread.

 

Except the feeling doesn't really go away; the ache in his thighs is joined by one in his stomach, a strange sense of yearning tilting the corners of his mouth downwards. Ideally he would get an hour or two more of sleep, but he feels dirty, covered in dried sweat, slick and come as well as fresh sweat from this morning. There's little to no chance of that happening, so he gets up and goes to get Taehyung in the hopes of getting a bath drawn for him. He puts the feeling in his heart down to homesickness of some kind, a kind of loneliness that he's finding in the quiet of his solitary room.

 

Taehyung isn't very good at mornings, is more subdued than normal as he helps Jimin draw a bath. Jimin lets him go in order to bathe alone, his head a little muddled. Maybe he also doesn't want Taehyung to see the bruises that are blossoming on his hips and thighs. They don't hurt to touch, aren't as big as the ones he'd gotten as a child when he'd fallen while playing, but they are still obviously there and he doesn't want to be teased for them.

 

Looking at the bruises while in the bath, Jimin tries to assess how he feels about them. Certainly not mad or upset, he doesn't regret anything, but it's definitely confusing. Last night it was like his head was in a completely different place entirely, a primal one, his focus narrowed down to one thing, how much he wanted. He remembers how satisfying it was when Yoongi's knot took, how good it felt to present and be completely surrounded by the alpha's scent.

 

Lowering a hand, he presses his fingers to his lower stomach, stroking it gently. There might be a pup in there , he thinks. The heir to the throne .

 

He wonders if that kind of sexual chemistry is normal, between all alphas and omegas. Surely it must be. Once more, Jimin is left wishing he knew more about sex and mating and just, everything that comes with alpha and omega interactions. He doesn't even really know how to detect the signs of pregnancy, when that eventually happens. His mother had always talked about feeling a great sickness, and her feet swelling up to the point where apparently they never went back down to normal, and Jimin didn’t believe it but it’s not like he can confirm that.

 

He's dressed and ready when Taehyung reappears, looking much more chipper and awake. "Hey, I need to take you for an appointment with the royal physician," he says. There's something a little off with the way he says it, like it's an unfortunate event, or something. Jimin narrows his eyes.

 

"What is it?" he questions Taehyung suspiciously.

 

"He's... uh, well, not that great. You'll see." Taehyung rolls his eyes at Jimin's expression. "It'll be fine, he's just got a reputation for being a bit blunt, is all."

 

Jimin is starting to get used to the feeling of being hustled around, taken from one place to another to do what's required of him. The physician is unsurprisingly on the other side of the castle, a twenty minute walk to a clean-looking room that smelled very much the same as the apothecary's that Jimin used to visit with his mother.

 

The doctor is a beta, as so many physicians are, as they are usually immune to the pheromones of alphas and omegas alike and it's easy to treat everyone without territorial or fear responses. He barely acknowledges Jimin’s greeting, launches straight into a question and answer session about Jimin’s age, when his last heat was, if Jimin eats well in the castle.

 

It feels like Jimin is being bamboozled by far too many questions and too much information at once, and then the man starts to pile small boxes up in Jimin’s arms, boxes that smell like strong medicinal herbs.

 

"You will need to drink this tea, every day, to increase the chances of pregnancy occurring. I will also be giving you some other supplements, and possibly trying to induce a heat if nothing happens within a few months."

 

Jimin pales at this. Heats are absolutely horrible, painful and draining, and he wasn't due one for at least five months. He'd kind of assumed that he would get pregnant before that happened, didn't think he'd have to be concerned about it while he was in the castle.

 

"A heat? Is that... really necessary?" he asks hesitantly.

 

"Possibly. As I said, we will see what happens in a few months. I am also aware that the prince is due his rut quite soon, and you will have increased chance of conception in that time." The physician is so nonchalant as he says it, like it isn't a huge deal for Jimin that apparently he's going to be spending Yoongi's rut with him.

 

"How soon?" Jimin squeaks. He hasn't been warned of this at all, has no idea how to deal with an alpha in rut. That wasn't something he'd even considered having to do when he took the position; it seems instinctually wrong for an alpha to spend a rut with someone other than their mate.

 

The doctor hums, seemingly unconcerned. "I am unsure on the time period, the prince's ruts are usually fairly unpredictable. I can tell you that usually they last three to four days. It will be an excellent opportunity, if you are not already pregnant by that point in time."

 

It's disconcerting, being talked about almost as if he's not there, without any concern for how he might be feeling. The longer he's in that room, the smaller he becomes, shrinking into himself as the physician talks about how much more likely he is to get pregnant while Yoongi is in rut, or he is in heat. The man must have little to no sense of smell for pheromones because he hasn't noticed how distressed Jimin is at all - or maybe he has and just doesn't care.

 

"Now, I can give you some advice on your positioning and some tricks that are known to be quiet helpful for conception..."

 

When Jimin eventually gets to leave, he does it with a distinct need to lie down and sleep for a week. It's like everything catches up with him and he feels so, so overwhelmed.


--


When he's not pandering to members of the royal court in the staterooms or dining rooms, Jimin loves spending time in the gardens. It’s so beautiful there. The rose bushes are one of his favourite places, the yellow ones in particular; they're so bright, like sunshine. Jimin likes that he can be completely surrounded by greenery that blocks out so much light, and yet each flower brings its own little halo of brightness.

 

It helps that it's so quiet there, too. Many of the court seem to enjoy (or get told that they must) going walking in the garden with their little parasols in little groups; there's a  courtyard right in the centre, next to a huge, intricately designed water fountain where they all sit. It's very much the same as the courtrooms, except outside they have attendants to fan them when it gets too hot in the sun. The rose bushes are quite far from that place.

 

Sometimes he does like to explore, though, try to find the best place to sit and read. There are decorative benches that can be found in little secluded areas, and he finds that they are usually accompanied by a large amount of shade. It's at one of those he finds himself after the meeting with the physician. He feels like he needs the privacy.

 

The shrubs on the left hand side of the west entrance look like they could be hiding something interesting so he chooses that direction. Wandering over, he winces as the expensive leather shoes he’s been given to wear are still a little uncomfortable, despite being fashionable and Jimin being sure that they’d be something he would ask for otherwise. He has a strong urge to take them off but if someone saw...

 

He laughs quietly to himself at the prospect. No one in the castle would probably ever talk to him again.

 

Rounding the shrubs, a series of arches comes into view on which greenery has been encouraged to grow, and it forms a tunnel of sorts. Red flowers grow in between, and Jimin finds himself wishing he knew more about flowers. Maybe he'll be able to find one of the many people that surely work in the gardens and ask them.

 

He spots a bench there, tucked away next to a large patch of the flowers. There's just enough light let in through the large holes in the archways it allows him to read his book with ease. It's good, the story, and even if he still struggles with a few of the words it's much easier that the first one. He makes a note to go thank Seokjin as soon as possible, tomorrow maybe, and go ask him about the words that he's been carefully noting down since he started the book.

 

The sound of light chatter can be heard, making it's way over to where Jimin sits, and a quick peek through the space between the greenery allows him to see distantly where some of the court is gathering. Jimin admittedly doesn't know much about how matches are made at court but he has a strong suspicion that there's some formal courting going on between one of the omega boys that has just come of age, and an alpha that keeps ostentatiously presenting him with gifts. It's very entertaining to watch, especially from afar when he doesn't need to control his own expressions.

 

He's giggling, eyes on the alpha's unnecessary posturing, when he sees Yoongi sat by his mate. They are talking to each other with their heads close together and Jimin can't see Yoongi's expression but he can see Daehee's, the intimate way they talk behind the fan that Daehee is holding in front of him; he looks unhappy. Their bodies are held apart, presumably for the sake of public decently, but the way that Yoongi places a hand on his mate's lower back is so familiar, an attempt at subtle comfort that Jimin feels he probably shouldn't have seen.

 

Daehee turns back to the rest of the group, lowering his fan, and Yoongi shifts back a little away from him, signalling the end of their conversation. Yet, the alpha's hand remains on Daehee's lower back, hidden from sight.

 

Blinking and turning back to his book, Jimin tries to rid himself of the unsettled feeling he has, the uncomfortableness that makes him cringe a little. He can't quite put a finger on what it is; maybe it's just the guilt that he's been feeling since the first time he saw Daehee, the first time that Yoongi left his room to go back to his mate's bed. But that's not his fault, he's just doing his job.

 

Maybe it's his base instincts acting out, the inherent wrongness of having sex with a mated alpha - having sex with a mated alpha and liking it. If it is his instincts, he can't imaging what Yoongi must be feeling.

 

He abandons any more attempts to read, standing up and brushing himself off before he heads back up to his rooms - before he remembers the way Yoongi's scent lingers there too. Quickly changing his mind, he heads to find Taehyung or Hoseok or just something to distract himself.

 

Halfway up the steps to the west entrance, he starts to get the creeping feeling that he's being watched. He turns, scanning the small crowd that's a little distant at this point, and his breath catches in his throat as he spots Yoongi looking right at him. Upon being caught the alpha looks away immediately, but that moment of eye contact sends a shiver down Jimin's spine.

 

In the end he decides to head back to his room. Maybe a lie down on his bed is exactly what he needs.


--

 

Chapter Text

Whenever Jimin visits the library, he always notices that it is empty of people. A word that usually comes to mind is desolate , but it’s not quite right, as there’s nothing bleak about the place. It’s so clean and bright and filled with such wonderful things, as well as the comforting smell of leather and parchment and wood.


But the fact is that he has never seen anyone in there at all, except for Seokjin, of course, who is a constant, hardworking presence. He had asked the alpha about it one day, and the he had laughed.


"There are some visitors," he had said. "Often it is attendants who take books for their masters. It's very difficult to get those books back, sometimes."


Jimin had asked if it made him lonely. It was a moment before Seokjin replied.


"Occasionally I feel lonely. There are some people that visit frequently to keep me company." He smiles secretively. "Like you. But otherwise, books are my company."


Jimin has always wanted to ask why Seokjin doesn't have a mate; he's handsome and a kind alpha, still young, there's no reason why he couldn't be mated. He has never quite found the right moment, though, to slip it into a conversation. It's probably not a big deal, anyway; it’s not as though Seokjin doesn't have plenty of time for a mating ceremony.


Today, Jimin heads to the library to exchange the third book that he has read while being in the castle. It is his favourite so far, just the right reading level for him - although he still has a few words to ask Seokjin about - and the story had been, well, beautiful. An adventure story, with a band of young people that had run away from home together to escape the varying pressures of their life. A mixture of alphas, betas and omegas, they had all overcome their fears and the boundaries presented to them. Jimin had been completely lost to it, had spent a whole day reading in the gardens, curled around the book.


So when Seokjin asks whether he liked it, he of course gushes about it for minutes on end.


"It was amazing! I loved it so much, it was so exciting and made my heart all warm..."


Listening to him patiently, Seokjin continues to organize books on one of the shelves, wiping them with a duster. He's very careful with the way he picks up each one, working quickly and efficiently. By the time Jimin has finished ranting, he has dusted and sorted through a whole row.


"I have a list of words," Jimin says shyly, arms wrapped around the book and the list in his arms. "Are you awfully busy, or can you help me with them?"


"Of course, show me." It doesn't take them long to go through the list, Seokjin explaining carefully in ways that are easy to understand. He's very kind, Jimin thinks. Reminds Jimin of an older version of one of his brothers.


“What’s ‘ redamancy ’?” Jimin asks him as they come to the end of the page. He had been writing little notes everywhere, and now the page is full, his fingers covered in ink. Stopping for a moment, he presses his fingertips to the top of the page, making little fingerprints.


“It’s loving someone and being loved in return,” Seokjin explains easily. “I’m surprised that that word showed up in your book. I didn’t realise there would be romance.”


“There was.” Jimin draws a little flower next to the word and its definition. “A beta boy, and an alpha girl fell in love. It was very sweet, I enjoyed reading those parts too. I feel like I learned a lot.”


“What about? Love?”


"Hm… maybe? Or maybe just what it’s like, for betas that fall in love or want to get mated. In fact, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. There are actually so many things that I wish that I had asked my parents or my siblings about now," Jimin muses. "Pregnancy, mating, there's so much I don't know."


"If there's things you want to know, you can always ask," Seokjin says, raising his eyebrows slightly. "You have a physician at your disposal, after all."


Thinking of the royal physician makes Jimin feel a little queasy, again reminded of the prospect of an induced heat, as well as how little the man seems to care about him on a personal level. "Uh, I'm not, um, super comfortable talking to him."


Seokjin tilts his head, considering. "If you can tell me more specifically what you want to know, I might be able to help. I don't consider myself wise or all knowing, but I may be able to find you some helpful texts. And if you cannot read them, it may be that I can read them and tell you."


"Would you really?" Jimin perks up. Seokjin is so kind. "That would be amazing."


"Yes, I will make a list now, if you would like me to. Where would you like to start?" Seokjin pulls out some parchment and puts on his strange spectacles, which Jimin has realised make his eyes comically big if he sits at just the right angle to the librarian. He hides his smile.


"My father always used to say that mating is like... having a string tied around your ankle that's tied to another person too, but the string is made of diamond." Jimin's gaze shifts away from Seokjin, goes a bit glassy as he pictures his parents sat together by the fire at home. "But he never told me how it actually feels , you know?"


Seokjin acknowledges him with a hum, writing quickly. "Go on."


"Also, I don't really know what it feels like to be pregnant. Or much about any of the symptoms, past sickness. Or what I should be doing when I get pregnant, what I'm not allowed to do... Does that make sense?"


"Alright. I will look for something for you, there should be some romance books that talk about mating somewhat. The ones about pregnancy may be more like medical texts, but I will assist you as much as I can." He laughs. "It's not like I can give you any advice on either of them, from personal experience."


Jimin giggles. "Thank you, so much."


Seokjin peers over his glasses, and it brings Jimin to another fit of laughter. "Is there any reason why you're curious about mating?" the elder asks him.


Jimin shrugs. “I’ve had a lot of time to think alone recently, and being around everyone at court who so often didn’t choose their mate… I was just wondering how it felt, feels, to be mated to someone. I’d always kind of dreamt of it?”


"I think many people do." Leaning his face in his hands, Seokjin looks deep in thought. "I've only heard that it's truly wonderful if you're in love with the person you mate."


"And if not?" Jimin wonders, surprised.


"I have no idea. There's much I do not understand about how it feels, for anyone." Seokjin gestures around him. "I guess that we will just have to try and find out."



--



The days pass slowly for Jimin. His days spent at court, needless to say, are the slowest, and he finds himself having to put up a facade of sweetness more over time. It's difficult to make the same conversations over and over again interesting, and most of the people he finds superficial and snobbish.


After nearly a month participating in courtly activities, his want for the pretty things that he used to covet has been put into perspective by all of the spoiled people around him. The importance of fine clothing, jewels, and the newest fashions has become somewhat dull, and Jimin has no idea how the inhabitants of the castle can care about something so inconsequential quite so much.


As time goes on it also feels like the pressure is increasing, like people have their eyes on him, always watching. He sees the way that people's eyes linger at his waist, as though attempting to judge whether it has thickened, and the way his closest 'friends' at court sometimes sniff at him in a way that suggests that they're waiting for his scent to change. It's disconcerting, and possibly the worst part is their badly hidden disappointed expressions when they realise that he's not yet pregnant.


And it's not for lack of trying, either. Jimin has been drinking the tea the physician gave him, has been sleeping with Yoongi as often as ever - read, every night - to no results just yet. He wouldn't be worried about this, really, since Yoongi doesn't ever pressure him in any way, never seems concerned that he hasn't conceived yet, but he does just because of the impatience of the people around him. A small voice whispers to Jimin, reminds him of the possibility of an induced heat if he doesn't get pregnant soon, although he doesn't know how long it would take for such desperate measures to be put into place.


He doesn't have many more encounters with Daehee; Yoongi's mate has taken to outright ignoring him, something that many people at court take to be an even worse snub than the veiled verbal humiliations he's received in the past. Jimin, however, takes it as a gift that he doesn't have to interact with the omega. Ultimately, his experiences with him haven't given Jimin too much of a wonderful impression of him. For all he knows, though, Daehee might be a much nicer person behind closed doors, around people that he likes. Being around him still brings on such a complicated mixture of feelings for Jimin that he'd rather not unpack.


"I'm trying not to sound ungrateful. But," Jimin starts, and then presses his lips together. He and Taehyung are in the kitchens, and he doesn't want to complain about his boredom in front of so many hardworking people, but it feels like he's going a bit insane. Taehyung watches him from where he's putting a tea set together.


"But?" There’s a twinkle in Taehyung's eye, half a knowing smirk on his face. Jimin feels like he may be being laughed at.


"I'm so bored, Tae!" Jimin whines, collapsing down against the counter and resting his cheek on his arm. "Court activities are possibly the most tedious thing I've ever had to sit through, and it would be fine if I had anything to do in the rest of my time, except read."


"Is that what you do with Prince Yoongi at night? Read?" Taehyung remarks, clearly trying to suppress a cheeky smile. Jimin throws him a dirty look.


"Don't say things like that." Sighing, he sits up on his stool a little more, propping his face in his hands. "Am I acting spoilt?" he wonders out loud.


"Honestly, I don't think so. It's difficult to adapt to being in such a place. You had much more freedom at home, right? And I know that other people that have come here to the castle, even the attendants, get bored."


Jimin nods, a little sad. He's starting to miss his home, his family. It's not that he doesn't have friends in the castle, but he yearns for the feeling of being surrounded by people who love him so much, give him affection. The comfortable scent of somewhere he was at peace, never on edge. He doesn't want to say all of this out loud, as it might ruin the mood of he and Taehyung’s time together.


"I miss doing more exercise, honestly. It feels like I'm sitting and wasting away... Don't," Jimin says, glaring at Taehyung who had just opened his mouth to make another rude comment, he's sure.


"Actually," Taehyung laughs, "I was about to suggest that you go to the training yard, if you want some exercise. I haven't actually been, but I know that the omegas at court go sometimes, so they must be allowed. Maybe you could learn how to use a bow an arrow!" he says, increasingly eager.


Jimin considers it quietly for a moment. It sounds exciting, he has never tried anything like that before, but he is willing to try it, maybe. A cure for his boredom.


"Maybe I'll try it. Can you tell me exactly where it is?"




--




The training courtyard is a small distance from the east side of the castle, and when Jimin approaches it he understands why there is need for such distance. The fighting is so loud, shouting and clanging that carries as far as ten minute's walk away.


The training area is large, full of young alphas and a few betas, and it doesn't feel quite right for Jimin, being there. The alpha pheromones are strong, sweat and a light kind of competitiveness from the sparring area, and it keeps Jimin very much to the sidelines after he walks in through the stone archway. He knows that he's allowed to be here and yet he feels kind of unsure about it, like he has broken an unspoken rule.


"Jimin? What are you doing here?" A turn has him watching Hoseok jog up to him, clearly weighed down by his slightly dented armour. That’s unexpected; for some reason Jimin had thought armour to be more polished, more, well, pretty . Instead, the silver colour is dull and there is a big dip in the centre, over Hoseok's chest.


"I'm, uh." What is he doing here? Jimin isn't sure he knows anymore. He flounders for a moment before settling on, "training?"


Hoseok blinks, looking more than a little confused. "What... do you mean?"


"Uh." Heat starts to creep up Jimin's neck, and he can feel a few pairs of eyes on him, something he confirms when he looks around. "I thought I could, um, try and do something more with my time, and... get some exercise?"


"Oh. Jimin..." Hoseok looks half amused, half surprised still, and pulls Jimin off to walk along the side, a hand on his shoulder.


Together they walk past several sparring areas, Jimin flinching when an alpha swings a sword vaguely near him at one point, even though the stranger is going in the opposite direction. Hoseok pulls him a little closer, further away from the fighting.


"Do you know anything about the things you see here? Have you tried any before?" Hoseok doesn't sound mean or condescending in any way, just a little baffled, still. Being in this environment now, Jimin doesn't blame him. He wonders if any omega has come here with the intention of training before. He has a feeling that Taehyung was quite wrong.


"I thought...maybe I could practice with a bow and arrow?" Jimin shifts his weight from foot to foot. Now he's here it seems like a stupid idea, and he has a strong feeling that even if they let him train, they'll watch him like a hawk and possibly even laugh at him.


Suddenly there's a loud, jarring clang from the sparring area that has them both turning their heads sharply to see what happened. A few people are rushing over, crowding around a fallen person, and Jimin hears the sound of someone apologising profusely rising above the murmurs of concern.


"Yoongi," Hoseok calls out, concerned, startling Jimin once again. "Are you alright?"


The figure on the ground pulls off his helmet, and Jimin's heart jumps when he sees Yoongi's face, twisted in pain.


"M' fine," he grunts, waving away some of the people that are starting to crowd around. He allows one of them to help him up, his mouth set in a hard line and free hand tugging at the straps of his breastplate on his back.


"I'm so sorry, Your Highness, please forgive me." The man, or boy, rather, that had been apologising before is following Yoongi and his assistant to the bench situated close to where Jimin and Hoseok stand together. His face has gone extremely pale, and Jimin isn't surprised in the slightest. It must be a terrifying prospect, the idea that you might have badly injured the crown prince.


The prince shakes his head, grimacing when his breastplate is finally pulled away. "Do not worry, I certainly should have blocked that blow," he says, almost wistfully. "Do bear in mind that this is training, though, Jisung. Try not to hurt anyone too badly." With a wave, he dismisses the boy.


Jimin turns back to Hoseok. "Will he be okay?"


"He'll be fine. I saw Jisung's swing, he should have definitely blocked it. Serves him right, really." Hoseok laughs at Jimin's mildly horrified expression. "You still want to train with us?"


"Train?" They're interrupted by Yoongi's sharp question, and Jimin wants to shrink away when he sees the way that Yoongi is squinting at him critically. He's certainly never looked at Jimin that way before.


"Jimin wants to learn how to use a bow and arrow," Hoseok explains. "He thinks it would be a good solution to his boredom."


At this, the alpha sat assisting Yoongi looks up from where he's assessing the damage under Yoongi's shirt. "Do you think we come here out of boredom, Omega?"


"No! I don't, I'm just..." Jimin is lost for words, his cheeks reddening quickly under the scrutiny of the man, and Yoongi sat just behind him. He looks to Hoseok for help, panic welling up in his chest.


Hoseok steps in with an attempt to save him. "I don't think he knew what it was like over here, right, Jimin?" he laughs. "He probably changed his mind as soon as he walked through the archway. It stinks, and everyone is far too serious."


Swallowing, Jimin nods. His instincts are telling him to run, far away from these hostile alphas, even though they're not even doing much. The alpha he doesn't know turns around again, back to Yoongi, muttering something that Jimin doesn't quite catch but is sure isn't that nice.


"I am going to walk him back," Hoseok announces, putting a hand between Jimin's shoulder blades to lead him back in the direction of the castle.


"You probably shouldn't come back here, Omega," Yoongi calls out, and Jimin ducks his head, humiliated. The use of the title in particular has him shrinking into himself. He can't decide what hurts the most; the fact that people could clearly hear the prince's words, or the fact that it's Yoongi saying such a thing to him, a clear dismissal.


"I hope you do not let what they said get to you," Hoseok is saying, concern evident in his tone. "Alphas get a bit... short, when they're training. There's a lot of pheromones in one area. Are you okay?"


Jimin nods, even though his fists are clenched tightly. He just wants to go and hide in the kitchens with Taehyung, or in the gardens somewhere, tucked away. His head is positively spinning, a kind of shock settling over him, because he really didn't think that Yoongi was like that, would speak like that. It ached.


Going back to his room later that evening has Jimin a little uncomfortable, because of course Yoongi's scent lingers there, reminding him of his earlier humiliation. As night falls, he half thinks that Yoongi won't come, would be angry with him, or maybe even know that Jimin is upset with him.


Turns out he's wrong, the knock at his door coming as the stars start to glitter in the sky.


"Yes?" Jimin calls out shortly. He has no idea how he's going to handle this. Is Yoongi going to want them to have sex, even if Jimin is upset with him and doesn't know if he wants to?


Upon the opening of the door, Jimin knows immediately that something isn't quite right. "Good evening," Yoongi says, eyeing him warily where he sits at his favourite spot, the window seat.


"Is it?" Jimin asks.


Yoongi winces. He makes his way over to where Jimin is sat, slowly, and Jimin notices that he's limping, just a little. If it's possible for him to smell wounded, or vulnerable, Jimin thinks he does now. The sparring incident earlier must have bruised him up a little. Jimin hates that he's a little worried, tries to push it down.


Stopping next to the window seat and putting his hand against the wall to lean, Yoongi sighs. "Jimin, I came to apologise. I was extremely rude to you earlier, and I am very sorry for it."


"What?" This certainly is an unexpected turn. "You're sorry?"


"Yes." Yoongi's gaze is imploring. "I am. And I very much hope that you can forgive me for speaking so callously."


"Oh. Did you... I thought you were angry at me," Jimin says helplessly. At that, Yoongi's expression turns mildly panicked.


"I was no- I wasn't angry, I swear it." Yoongi, painstakingly slowly, takes to his knees next to Jimin's seat. It places him lower that Jimin's eye level, which makes him flush. It's a vulnerable position, and feels instinctually wrong between alpha and omega as well as between royalty and, well, nothing close.


"Then what was it? I mean," Jimin scrambles to sit up, facing Yoongi properly and giving him his full attention. "I do understand that omegas don't normally take an interest in training, but I didn't mean to offend anyone..."


"Oh, Jimin, I know that. I am sorry." Yoongi does look genuinely remorseful, and places his hand over one of Jimin's on his knee. "Omegas do not- don't usually come to the training courtyard. You probably noticed that it's full of tetchy alphas, frustrated and competitive. It wouldn't be good for you, that kind of environment." He makes a face. "I know I sound patronising."


Jimin shakes his head. Yoongi's hand is warm on his. "You don't think I can handle myself?"


"No, it's that... It wouldn't be the enjoyable escape that you want it to be. Alphas in that kind of environment are rude and crass and will treat you..." The tips of the princes ears turn pinker by the second. "Not well."


Sighing, Jimin nods, and goes to stand up and stretch. Yoongi tries to follow him, but his progress is so slow that Jimin offers him a hand.


"What happened earlier, when you were hit?"


Yoongi makes a face. "I was stupid, should have deflected a blow. It hit my side, and when I fell down, I landed badly on my leg. I'm lucky it was a training sword, and therefore not very sharp," he says wryly. "I spent too much time sparring today, exhausted myself."


"Is it...quite bad?" Jimin asks hesitantly. He's not completely sure whether he should be being nice to Yoongi yet, whether he's forgiven.


"It's... not great. My side is quite bruised." Yoongi sighs, sitting next to Jimin when he sits down on the bed.


"Can I see?"


When Yoongi lifts his shirt, Jimin gasps a little, because it actually is bad. The skin of his left side is reddened and sore-looking, the worst areas darkening down to a dark purple already. It'll probably get worse, too, since it's only probably been eight hours since it was caused. Jimin wonders how much strength that kid put in to hurt Yoongi this badly.


"Oh, Yoongi, that must hurt so much," Jimin chokes out, hand hovering over him. His body feels frozen, it's such an unexpected sight. Yoongi's not big, but he's very strong, something Jimin has first hand experience of, so to see him so injured is jarring.


Jimin feels like something is whirring to life within him, and instinctual need to protect Yoongi, who is in so much pain, take care of him and make him rest. He's reminded that every time he sees the prince he's always exhausted, that he has never seen the alpha sleep. He must get three or four hours of sleep a night, maximum, from what Jimin knows of his schedule.


"Do you want to lie down?" he asks, his body waking up to reality slowly from its trance as his brain starts to put in order the things he can do. The first is to give Yoongi a moment of rest.


"Uhm, I didn't think you would want..." Yoongi leans away as he speaks, awkward. It takes a moment for Jimin to realise what he's saying.


"No! I don't, I just- You look so tired, and you're in a lot of pain. You should rest," Jimin says stressfully, hands flapping around a little. He really wants to pull Yoongi down against the pillows, but there's no way he'll be able to do that without hurting him.


"If I do that, will you say that you forgive me?" Yoongi smiles a little sadly, something that would have probably been a smirk if he didn't look so drained.


Rolling his eyes, Jimin fists a hand in Yoongi's shirt, tugging just a tad. "Okay, I forgive you."


Jimin pouts, pulls out his best persuasive moves, and Yoongi follows his tugging without a fight. His stomach swoops when Yoongi's face contorts in pain and he has to calm his breathing. He hopes there's no permanent damage.


"Did you get much sleep last night?" Jimin wonders aloud.


"Hm? No. I had to get up to greet the ministers sent from the neighbouring kingdoms. And it will probably be the same tonight - it's quite difficult to sleep when it feels like your side is being gnawed on," the prince says dryly. "The lack of sleep is quite normal, though."


Worrying his lower lip between his teeth once more, Jimin casts his eyes down Yoongi's body and back up to his face. There isn't much he can do; Jimin's mother would have a whole kit of herbal lotions and potions for such an occasion.


"I could... uh. You said your body is sore? I could massage your legs for you," he offers, somewhat awkwardly. He thinks he could help, if he has soreness in his muscles; his mother had given them plenty of times to him.


"Ah... Jimin, we have people in the castle to do that for us, you know?" Yoongi draws his legs up towards himself. "You do not need to... do that."


"And how often do you take advantage of that, honestly? Tell me, are they sore?" Jimin's dialect is strong when he's annoyed, slurring a little more that normal, but he feels anxious when he speaks with such a voice, the volume slightly raised. It goes against his instincts to speak to an alpha like that, but he's kind of annoyed at Yoongi for not letting himself rest. "You could get sick like this."


Yoongi holds up his hands in surrender. "Alright! Yes, they are sore. I do not want to treat you like my personal attendant, is what I am trying to say."


"I offered," Jimin mutters, scooting forwards and closing his hands around one of Yoongi's calves.


"I know, I just didn't know if it was out of a warped sense of duty," Yoongi groans, voice dipping lower into a growl when Jimin digs his fingers in gently. "Shudder to think that I look out for your wellbeing and intentions."


Doing his best to massage away the cramps, Jimin can't help the way that his lips twitch up ever so slightly. He pushes down the urge to laugh, until he sees Yoongi doing the same thing.


"You're annoying," Jimin mumbles, casting his eyes down to his own hands once more. The words trigger a low chuckle from the alpha, but when he looks up again, Yoongi is pressing a hand over his mouth. "Don't laugh at me!"


This just makes Yoongi laugh more, until he stops, clutching his side. "Ouch."


"Don't do that, either! You really are annoying," Jimin huffs teasingly. His fingers have moved down to the ankle of Yoongi's right leg, and he hesitates just for a moment before lifting Yoongi's foot gently into his lap and pressing his fingertips into the sole. "I shouldn't be doing this, should I? After how you treated me today, Your Highness."


He has no idea where this bravery is coming from, puts it down to his general feeling of relief after Yoongi had said that he isn't mad at him. Yoongi doesn't seem to mind his potential impudence.


"You said that you forgave me. I am really sorry," Yoongi says mournfully. "I lost my temper after I was injured, I was annoyed at myself. I truly regret taking it out on you." Then, in a move that nearly has Jimin lose his balance despite the fact that he's sitting down, he pouts.


His eyes widen. "What is that?"


Mouth straightening out in a line, Yoongi sighs. "I can make it up to you, if you would like me to teach you how to shoot with a bow and arrow at night, when there are less people in the training area."


"Really?" That would be really fun - wouldn't cure his boredom problem during the day, but he would take Yoongi on that offer just to prove a point, now. "I would really like that."


Yoongi smiles, and holds out his pinky finger. Jimin looks at it confusedly.


"You're supposed to wrap your finger around it, like this," Yoongi says, demonstrating when Jimin gives him his hand, wrapping their little fingers together. "My uncle taught me that, when I was young."


Their fingers contrast so much in size, it's cute and comical at the same time. "Why?"


"Like a promise." Yoongi nods, mock seriously.


Jimin, still befuddled, returns his attention to Yoongi's leg. He decides to change the subject. "You said you had to meet some people this morning?"


"Yes. It was a long day," the alpha sighs. "Tensions are high, which makes for some terse councils. They are n-....aren't very fun to attend."


"I can imagine." The staterooms where Jimin sits in a state of boredom are, at least, not really that stressful, since people aren't usually openly hostile with him. "Everything is fine though, right?"


Humming, Yoongi lets his head tilt back on the pillows, closing his eyes. "I hope that it will be. It isn't really in my hands."


Jimin moves to Yoongi's other leg, and they speak a little more about court, the different visitors that will be coming and going this week - they both avoid mentioning Yoongi's mate. Over time, Yoongi seems to drift closer to sleep, and it makes him a little more loose lipped; he tells Jimin about a few of the visitors he should avoid at court because they aren't very nice, and alphas that might be rude to him.


Halfway through telling Yoongi about the few books he had lent from the castle library, he realises that Yoongi is drifting off. Eyes sliding closed, his mouth keeps falling open ever so slightly, and when he realises what he's doing he always jerks, eyelashes fluttering. Often that motion is accompanied by a flinch and a hiss as he tenses the muscles of his aching abdomen.


"Hey, you should probably go to bed," Jimin says, patting Yoongi's knee to get his attention. The responding grumble he gets make him laugh a little - Yoongi's eyes open almost immediately after.


"'M sorry." He blinks, disorientated. "I did not mean to come here and prevent you from sleeping, or use you like some kind of massage physician."


"It's fine. Like I said, I offered." Standing, Yoongi frowns ever so slightly as he reaches for his boots. Jimin gets an almost uncontrollable urge to lace them up for him, and he shakes himself out of it. He's not Yoongi's slave.


"Goodnight, Jimin, I'm sure I will see you tomorrow." Yoongi gives a little wave as he leaves, and for some reason it's a little more awkward than than how their encounters would normally end. Probably because they didn't touch intimately at all.


"Goodnight."


Lying in bed after climbing under the covers, Jimin wonders whether he had forgiven Yoongi too fast. He did seem apologetic, hadn't tried to touch him, had given valid reasons, but Jimin had been kind of overwhelmed. Something like that has never happened to him before, an apology of that kind; of course, alphas had been rude or derogatory to him before, but it had never hurt quite that badly.


Jimin decides to remain on his guard. If Yoongi does something like this again, the chances are that he shouldn't trust him. He needs to be careful and look out for himself, now that he doesn't have his family around him.



--



"Jimin!"


Hearing the call of his name, Jimin turns around in the hallway he thought was empty to see Hoseok walking towards him with purpose. "Hello, how are you today?" he asks with a bright smile. He doesn't get to see Hoseok as much as he would like to, as he spends so much time with the omegas at court, whereas Hoseok is not restrained to such activities.


"I'm well. I was looking for you, actually," Hoseok grins, throwing an arm over his shoulder. They resume walking in the direction of the dining hall for dinner. "I wanted to know if Yoongi had apologised."


"Apologised?" Jimin thinks back to last night, the remorse on Yoongi's face. "He did."


Dramatically, Hoseok heaves a sigh of relief. "Oh, give thanks. I went to him yesterday, after I took you back to the castle." He presses his lips together. "I was quite angry, but I think he was angry enough at himself for the both of us."


Jimin's eyes widen. Hoseok had hidden that well in front of him yesterday after the incident. "Oh."


"Yes, he was quite upset," the beta hums. "Not at you, of course. He was dismayed at how he had spoken to you. Did you forgive him?"


"Me?" Jimin asks dumbly.


"Yes, you." Hoseok watches him closely. "You have the right to be upset too, Jiminie."


"He was really upset?" Hoseok nods wordlessly. Jimin bites his lip, considering. "I did forgive him," he admits. "Do you think I should have?"


"I think that is completely up to you. I can vouch for Yoongi's character, he's a good man, a good alpha. I'm not sure what came over him yesterday, but he was... maybe not distraught, but somewhere close."


To hear that Yoongi's feelings were apparently genuine brings him a feeling of relief, to know that he wasn't being manipulated last night and Yoongi was being serious. He wonders if he will really take Jimin to the training yard to learn how to use a bow and arrow.


"Okay. Well... I just, hope he doesn't do something like that again?"


Hoseok nods, face serious but mouth twitching. "If he does, he'll be getting worse than a little bruise on his side from me."


Ducking his head, Jimin smiles gratefully. He's glad that he has people like Hoseok that truly seem to care about his well being, as opposed to the people at court who stare at him like he's a dog they're trying to breed.


Hoseok goes out of his way to sit near him in the dining hall, charming his way through the ladies that Jimin usually sits between. It makes for a much more entertaining dinner, he must admit, as Hoseok is a born entertainer, liked by so many at court, even the alphas at the table laughing boisterously at his jokes.


But Jimin is distracted, eyed drifting to the high table as he sees Yoongi struggling somewhat. The wooden chair must be quite disagreeable, and although the alpha is clearly trying to hide it, Jimin can see how uncomfortable he is.


It's surprising to Jimin that he doesn't just excuse himself, go lie down on the comfortable bed he surely has, but then again, the alpha would probably see that as a sign of weakness, or not fulfilling his duties properly, or something.


More surprising is his own reaction, his instincts again rearing their head with an itching need to care. Jimin doesn't think he has ever felt like this before; with his family he would feel protective or the need to care when they were sick, but not quite in the same itching, prickling sensation he has right now.


"You alright?" Hoseok puts a hand between his shoulder blades, and Jimin immediately turns his gaze towards his table once again. Luckily no-one else seems to have caught on to where his attention has been directed.


"Yeah, sorry." He shies away from Hoseok's questioning gaze. Yoongi has plenty of people to be worried for him, there's no need for him to seem so interested.


And yet... he can't help but glance at Daehee, try and assess his reaction, if he is worried too. But Daehee is so outwardly composed, smiling and talking so politely with everyone around him, he gives nothing away. The times where he does look at Yoongi, he doesn't look concerned at all.


With some difficulty, Jimin tries to involve himself in the conversation at his table for the rest of the meal, laughing at Hoseok as well as how the ladies at the table love him and fawn over him. Jimin's beta brother and sister definitely would love Hoseok, would wish they had that kind of sway over omegas. There's one omega boy on the next table over that seems to have taken a great interest in the beta, keeps surreptitiously looking over to him, and Jimin would honestly swap chairs with him if he could.


After dessert - apple and plum pie that Jimin will certainly go compliment the kitchen staff on later - and everyone stands again as the people on the high table leave, Jimin once again finds himself watching Yoongi. He seems to struggle going down the stairs of the platform, and yet still pauses and turns around to offer Daehee his hand in assistance.

 

--



"Come in," Jimin calls out, his regular response to Yoongi's nightly knock. He eyes Yoongi as he rounds the door and closes it, makes his way over to where Jimin is sat on the bed. "I didn't expect you to come tonight."


"You didn't?" Yoongi's eyebrows raise ever so slightly. His eyes widen a little when he does, and it's cute, makes him look younger. "I always do."


He sits down on the bed very carefully, and his face is turned away as he bends over to take off his boots. Jimin can't see his expression, but his breathing is ragged; the omega imagines the uncomfortable face that Yoongi made at the dining table today, and his stomach swoops.


Still, Yoongi's face looks calm when he turns back to Jimin, reaching out to pull Jimin's sleep shirt over his head.


Jimin pauses for a long moment, allowing Yoongi to take his shirt but doing nothing to assist, all the while biting his lip. He knows that it'll hurt Yoongi, potentially a lot, if they have sex tonight, but it seems that Yoongi doesn't seem bothered by it at all, and Jimin understands that it's just duty, Yoongi is doing what is expected of him to lessen his own load, but selfishly Jimin also still wants it.


"Do you really want to still be here? If you're in pain you can just go to bed, it's not a problem," Jimin says.


At Jimin's words, the Yoongi sighs and the pretence of 'fine' falls away from his face and posture. He sits down onto the bed very carefully, one hand on his side. "Was it really obvious? I was trying very hard not to appear troubled," he says, melancholy seeping into his voice.


"No! I mean, I was watching you closely, at dinner. Because I saw your injuries last night, not because I just stare at you, all the time. Um," Jimin hurries to reassure him, wincing at the way he's probably exposed himself for staring.


Mentally he's also trying to figure out a way that they can do it without hurting Yoongi. It's always that Jimin is underneath him, so maybe they could switch it around?


"It is alright, I believe you," Yoongi sighs, cracking his neck from side to side. This close, Jimin can see the shadows under his eyes, the lack of glossiness, like they're too dry. "I truly do not force myself to be here, though, Jimin. It's not like this-" he gestures back and forth between them, "is the worst hardship for me."


"It's not?" Part of Jimin had always assumed that it is a hardship, to a great extent, even, so this is news to him.


Yoongi's gaze drops to the bedsheets between them, just for a moment, with a small smile on his face. "Alphas are rather awful." Looking back at Jimin's face, the smile has vanished, leaving in place that same melancholy. "Or, possibly, it is just me."


"I don't think you're awful," Jimin says, blinking confusedly. It's not like the alpha had been anything other than patient and careful with him so far, more than was necessary, even. "You've been kind to me."


Yoongi says nothing, just watches Jimin, the same forlorn expression on his face, until Jimin starts to feel self conscious. Pinching the fabric of Yoongi's pants, he tugs him persuasively up the bed, a startling mirror of yesterday.


"Lie down," he mutters. There's a question in there still, deference due to their differing ranks, but Yoongi, surprisingly enough, does as he is told and settles on the pillows with a small flinch when he stretches his injured side. His eyes don't leave Jimin as he straddles the alpha's hips, being ever so careful not to put his weight on Yoongi and not touch his aching side.


"We don't have to," Yoongi says softly, hands positioned on his own stomach. His hair looks fluffy on Jimin's pillows.


Jimin scoffs. "I should be the one saying that."


"I promise it does not hurt that much." Yoongi's eyes widen cutely a little once again.


"If you mean that..." Jimin swallows, hands drifting down to the top button of Yoongi's pants. "We can do it this way?"


Jimin sees the moment that it clicks for Yoongi, when he understands, and his resulting nod has the omega diligently working to take off Yoongi's pants without him having to move too much. It takes them minutes longer that usual, and twice Yoongi tries to work to intervene, but Jimin pushes him down gently each time, and the pants come off. The alpha's hands settle naturally on his hips.


"Do you want to just leave this on?" Jimin asks, referring to Yoongi's shirt, and receives a hum and a nod in response. Yoongi's eyes are focused on his chest, his thighs, occasionally flickering up to his face, and the heat of his gaze warms Jimin. Balancing himself with a hand on Yoongi's healthy thigh, he brings his other hand behind him to his hole, his body starting to react to Yoongi's touch already. Jimin wonders, not for the first time, whether he should be embarrassed at how wet he gets for the alpha so fast.


He's never really done this part before either, it's always Yoongi doing the touching, and now that they're here Jimin is glad of it. Has to close his eyes to close out the awkwardness, although he can't quite escape that warmth, the knowledge that Yoongi is watching him. Sliding his fingertip just inside, he feels the warm wetness, spreads it around his rim and relaxes his body to take Yoongi's cock.


"Go slow," Yoongi warns suddenly, and Jimin nods, flushing high on his cheekbones, down his neck. He very much intends to go slow in order not to put Yoongi in any more pain.


Shuffling on his knees, he puts himself in a better position, and reaches down to wrap a tentative hand around Yoongi's cock. He hasn't really done this before either, touched that hot skin, felt Yoongi get harder against his fingers. It's curious, interesting, the weight of it feels like a lot; the way Yoongi's breath hitches very quietly when Jimin runs his thumb over the tip even more so.


His heart thrums as he positions the head at his entrance, his body automatically grinding down into it ever so slightly. It's difficult to get a grip on his sheets with his knees, he has no idea how Yoongi does it. He's also going to have to be very careful not to rest his weight on the alpha.


Yoongi brings him out of the little trance he was in with a squeeze of his waist. "You're doing well," he reassures quietly.


And Jimin didn't realise how much he needed that reassurance, but he sighs out a breath, lets himself relax fully. Waits just a moment, before lowering himself just a little, letting the head of Yoongi's cock slip inside.


The alpha's eyelashes flutter, and his hands momentarily tighten on Jimin's waist. The warning of go slow echoes in his head, so he takes his time edging down until Yoongi is fully inside, and he's resting his weight on his own knees. They both let out a sigh at the feeling simultaneously, and then make eye contact, laughing breathlessly.


Sitting there for half a minute, Jimin gets used to the feeling of that familiar stretch. Yoongi's hands drop to his thighs, kneading gently. His thumbs stroke gently along the sensitive insides, and Jimin's breath hitches. He really likes being touched there.


"Okay?" he asks falteringly, as though he's not the one in control of this situation. It almost doesn't feel like it, from the way Yoongi looks at him so calmly. So unaffected. Jimin wants to make it so he is not as composed, feels as good as Jimin feels when the alpha's cock is inside him. Right now he's so caught up, he forgets to breathe through his nose, mouth parting so he can pant quickly, if quietly.


"Whenever you're ready," is what he gets in reply.


He won't let his instincts run away with him this time, focuses on controlling everything to the millimetre as he slides up and then back down again, his slick making everything smooth and easy - or it would be if it weren't for the mild strain of his thighs.


At first for Jimin, it's about the sensation of being filled, how it satisfies something deep within him. As the minutes pass, it becomes a need to go harder, and to find just the right angle to make him feel the best. He speeds up a little, which has Yoongi growling a little in his chest, and spreading his legs, although that makes him wince. Jimin gives him a stern look.


"Don't move," he mutters. He almost expects a challenge, an order to go faster, since he's pretty sure that's what feels best for the alpha, but he gets nothing. Just a little nod and hands slipping back to his waist.


He focuses again, shifts and starts to roll his hips, make circular motions instead of just going up and down, licking his lips and tilting his head back. It's so different like this, being able to find what he enjoys; not that it wasn't amazing before, with Yoongi giving it to him, but this is a whole new experience. He likes being able to find things for himself. About himself.


"Ohhh," he sighs out when he gets it just right, repeats the motion again, and again, finding a rhythm. His toes curl and uncurl under his thighs as he rises and falls, swapping between biting his lip and letting his mouth fall open as his body starts to respond to what he's doing. His own cock leaks as he starts to make quiet little hiccuping noises, going a little faster while still being wary of not letting his ass smack down onto Yoongi's hips.


A soft, deep moan has him glancing down at Yoongi, whose eyes are fixed on Jimin's mouth, but drop down to where he's inside of the omega, before going back up to meet his gaze. Jimin is once again reminded of how pretty the alpha is; he looks so alive right now, with flushed cheeks and bright eyes. Jimin wonders how difficult it must be to let an omega have control like this - but just looking at him, Jimin wonders if he minds at all.


Maintaining the same tempo proves to be harder as time passes and Jimin feels a slow climax building. His thighs start to shake, Yoongi gripping them once again to help keep him steady, and Jimin wants to put his hands down to help him balance but can't touch Yoongi's abdomen. His hands clench into fists, flail a little before Yoongi catches them, holds them so Jimin can use them as a point of balance.


The quiet stream of varied noises coming from Jimin's mouth only increases in volume as time goes on, and he reaches his climax just as Yoongi's knot starts to catch inside him.


"Be careful," Yoongi warns as Jimin continues to rise and fall on his cock, despite the oversensitivity. Jimin ignores him, focuses on the occasional squeeze of Yoongi's hands over his when the knot slides in. Maybe he's a bit lost to it, now, but he's still trying to be gentle.


"Jimin, don't- it's- uh," Yoongi groans, letting his head fall back and his neck strain as the knot slots into Jimin for the final time, too big to pull out. He clutches Jimin's hands hard as he comes inside.


Jimin doesn't have anywhere to go, then, can't slump on top of Yoongi even though he's exhausted. Luckily his sleepshirt is close by so he can shrug it on to avoid the cold.


"Ah, come here, lie down," he hears just as his eyes close - just for a moment to rest, of course. Yoongi manhandles him down even though Jimin whines that he's going to hurt himself, tries his best to keep his weight off Yoongi at all times. He has to admit that it's much more comfortable on his pillow, though.


There's a deep, warm feeling of comfort and satisfaction in his bones, despite being positive that his thighs are going to ache tomorrow. The scent that emanates from Yoongi suggests that he might feel the same; he smells... not happy, but satisfied. It's a good scent, one that Jimin would be willing to press his face closer, to his scent gland...


Yoongi pulls away, hands going to Jimin's hips as he pulls out his already deflated knot. Jimin must have dozed a little. "I have to go now, Jimin. Sleep well," Yoongi whispers. Jimin looks up at him and there's a prolonged moment of eye contact.


It's broken when Yoongi pulls the covers over Jimin securely. The omega hums, content and so close to sleep.


"'Night," he mumbles.


The door clicks shut, ever so quietly.



--



Semi-frequently, Jimin writes letters to his mother, tells her about what the castle is like, to some extent, and reassures her that he is doing well, has made friends, is eating plenty and staying healthy. In return he gets letters with little anecdotes about his siblings, their mates, his father's business, that make him feel reassured and more that a little homesick.


He always writes his letters at the beautiful, glossed mahogany desk in his bedroom, tucks them in an envelope and gives them to Taehyung to send away. It's strange, though; when he's in the other places in and around the castle, with the possible exception of the library and when he's alone in the gardens, he has an ever present feeling of anxiety, of people watching him. In his bedroom, however, the feeling always dissipates. He feels safe, comfortable. He is not sure what makes his bedroom different to the rest of this still-so-unfamiliar place, but he's grateful for it.


It’s a complex contradiction, feeling trapped, claustrophobic, in the huge castle, and yet feeling so content in his bedroom; part of it possibly is due to the people around him when he's outside of it. There's few people he feels truly comfortable with.


Four days after Yoongi's injury and everything seems like it had returned to normal; the alpha recovers fast, the bruising fading to yellow and then fading away. Jimin is somewhat jealous of how fast he heals - has been jealous of his siblings his whole life for that reason.


One thing he has found out about pregnancy from Seokjin's research, however, is that omegas heal faster during it, one of the only beneficial side effects that will protect the baby. So Jimin has that to look forward to, he guesses, although he will still have swollen ankles, heartburn, indigestion, and a myriad of other things to deal with too.


Jimin examines the bruise that next night when he and Yoongi are locked together. Yoongi's eyes are closing as he strokes his fingers over it with a featherlight touch, but he cringes away.


"That tickles," he groans, but his eyes stay closed. Jimin snickers at him.


"Big bad alpha is ticklish?" Jimin mocks, without thinking, falling silent when Yoongi cracks an eye open to look at him. He is opening his mouth to apologise when he feels Yoongi pinch his side.


"Disrespectful pup," the alpha grunts, mouth twitching. "Like you're not scared of the big bad alpha."


Jimin makes an indignant noise and shoves Yoongi's uninjured shoulder with minimum force. As they lapse into silence, he considers it for a moment.


Of course he's afraid of offending the alpha, of doing something that's wrong because he doesn't know what the boundaries of social interaction should be between a prince and his... surrogate? It doesn't feel like the right word for what this is, what he does. Never has he been truly afraid of the alpha, not from their first private meeting. Yoongi has always been respectful, careful. Discounting their encounter in the training field the other day, which... Well, Jimin is ultimately willing to give Yoongi the benefit of the doubt, this time.


There's another spurt of come inside him but Yoongi doesn't even flinch, and a closer look has Jimin noticing that he's dozing, the lightest of snores from his chest. After a minute as Yoongi's cock slips out of him, he doesn't even stir, and Jimin is happy to let him rest for a moment. He had done a lot of work to make Jimin feel good, tonight, his injury impeding his abilities much less, and is probably completely exhausted.


Except that moment stretches on into minutes and soon becomes around an hour, Jimin is guessing, and Yoongi doesn't move. He wants to get up and blow out the remaining candles, to go to sleep, himself, but his anxiety is extremely high about Yoongi staying in his bed for a night. Does he not have to go back to his mate? Does he want to stay with him, or has he just fallen asleep before he could move? Should Jimin wake him? Will Yoongi be mad if he wakes him if it was intentional?


Jimin's anxiety only mounts the longer the prince sleeps. He goes to blow out his candles, makes a little bit of noise in the hope that that would cause the man to awaken.


All of which to no avail. He stands and panics in his nightshirt before getting back into bed. If he stares hard enough, maybe Yoongi will wake up? A low noise makes him startle.


"Hm, sleep?"


Jimin clears his throat. He didn't expect that to work. "Ah, Yoongi, do you need to, uh, go?"


Eyes remaining closed, Yoongi's brow furrows ever so slightly, his mouth pouting, before his face smooths out. "I'll just stay here," he slurs, and Jimin isn't convinced that he knows what he's saying or doing at all. But he's so obviously exhausted, the idea of waking him makes Jimin feel so guilty.


And yet, the fact that the alpha is here and not with his mate makes him feel even more guilt-ridden. It's like there's no way he can win.


"Okay," he whispers uncertainly. He curls into his sheets, the bed easily big enough so that they can both sleep and not touch. Grabbing a pillow, he holds it against his chest, unsure whether he should sleep facing or away from the alpha, whose breath has evened out once again. "Okay."



--



By the time Jimin wakes the next morning, Yoongi is gone, the bedsheets cold. Jimin is unsurprised, aware of the prince's busy schedule that starts so early, but it still gives him a weird feeling in his tummy that the bed is so empty after he has to psych himself up for a few minutes to open his eyes.


Yoongi's scent remains in the room in the alphas absence, stronger than ever, and it even makes Taehyung wrinkle his nose as he comes to help draw Jimin's bath, choose his clothing.


Jimin is tired for no apparent reason, feels it in his head and muscles as he walks down to the staterooms, sits with Miyoung at his usual table. The collar of his dress shirt is itchy today, too, and he wants to tug at it. Wants to go lie down in his bed once again, really, but it's not really possible.


The whole court is present in the staterooms, today being a rather important day that he had almost forgotten about, a large congregation of people from different kingdoms meeting in the council rooms. Of course, Jimin isn't privy to all of the details of such a meeting, and has only vague curiosity as to what it's for. Wants to keep out of the way, anyway, for fear of being interrogated by a guest and embarrassing the royal family with his presence.


But the court bustles with energy, the sudden excitement of guests, even though there are few of them. Everyone dresses in their finest and most fashionable clothes and sits, poised and radiant at their tables. That's probably why Jimin's outfit is so uncomfortable, he thinks, the day being warm and the newest fashion being high, stiff collars with intricate lace.


Despite the excitement, it turns out to be very much a regular day, the guests tucked away in the meeting rooms with important figures such as the king and queen, the prince and his mate, and all of the royal advisors. Next to him, Miyoung shifts uncomfortably in her dress, a large affair that's embroidered with pink roses and silver thread.


That is, until there is a scraping of chairs coming from the main meeting room, the double doors opened and held by attendants in preparation for everyone to exit. Everyone stands automatically, and the king goes first, nodding solemnly as a visitor in the nearby kingdom's colours speaks with a somber expression. The queen walks behind with her attendants, and just behind her is Yoongi.


The alpha is deep in discussion with Namjoon, watching the advisor with serious eyes. Just behind them is Daehee, whose gaze Jimin avoids immediately. Some of the people emerging from the room seem to be in more positive spirits, and some of the alphas start to mingle with the omegas in the stateroom.


As people walk past, Jimin breathes in and over the assault of new scents, he picks up something strange. Rich, a little like burning, like the smell at the start of a new fire. It's enticing, wonderful, and he can't help but tilt his head up slightly, sniff to get more of it.


In a reaction he's never had to a scent before, his mouth starts to water.


A couple of the people around him start to whisper, but at that moment Daehee looks over, head angled in that way he always does, regal like he's looking down his nose at them. They all quiet.


It stays that way until the royal family leave the room, and the murmurs start again.


"Well then, I expect that you will be called for an appointment with the physician soon Jimin," Miyoung says airily. Jimin just looks at her, confused. She pats his cheek, laughing a little.


"The prince is going to be in rut, soon, my dear."


--



Chapter Text

At home, Jimin's alpha siblings' ruts usually lasted around three days from what he can remember. He always resented that it lasted a little less time than his heats did, whined about it to them. Ultimately, though, he didn't see his siblings at all over those three days; they were confined to their rooms, always emerged afterwards looking wrung out and a tad frustrated.


His sister, Sooyoung, seemed to have it the worst - for at least two days after her rut had finished she would fall asleep wherever she was, around the house or at work. Minho, his brother, would drink gallons upon gallons of water during his rut. Jimin used to bring it to him when their mother was busy, leave it outside his door out of the mild fear that he would walk into Minho's bedroom and see something he shouldn't.


None of his siblings' ruts were a big deal, under any circumstances. But then again, they weren't crown prince of the kingdom.



--



As Miyoung predicted, he is sent to see the physician only a few hours later. He is examined for anything that might be wrong, gets prescribed a fertility tea and given no information whatsoever, simply told to go to his bedroom and get some rest. It's disconcerting, the worst part being his lack of knowledge about what's going to happen. He doesn't know how ruts work, doesn't know when Yoongi will come to him. How long he will stay.


There are voices outside the door of the physician’s room just as he finishes being assessed, and he quickly adjusts his shirt when he realises that the physician probably has no qualms about letting strangers inside when he is in a state of undress.


When Physician Lee answers the knock at the door, however, he recognises Yoongi’s voice.


"I will prepare the things he needs," he hears the doctor say at the end, and then Yoongi is rounding the door and approaching him. Normally Yoongi's scent is always strong to Jimin, but today it's somehow even more potent. The space of the room is small, yet they could be in a broom closet for how strong that scent is. Usually Jimin feels a lot more comforted in the alpha's presence, but not today; today he feels antsy.


"Hello," Yoongi greets tiredly. "I came to talk to you."


"Are you going to give me the information I'm lacking right now?" Jimin asks, half a quip and half genuine nerves, evident by the way his foot jiggles up and down on the floor. Joining him where he's sat on the edge of the examining bed, Yoongi pushes a hand through his hair and kicks his legs out in front of him. His eyes are red.


"I will tell you anything you want to know. I thought that Physician Lee might not have told you much." Yoongi grimaces. "I am sorry, I really do not want you to be scared by this."


"I'm... I'm not scared." Sitting up a little straighter, Jimin reminds himself to stop curling in on himself and making his body smaller. Right now Yoongi's scent is making it hard not to, though.


"No? That is good. I have to ask, what do you know of alpha ruts?""


"Not much." Jimin shifts awkwardly. When he was in school, there were a lot of jokes and crude things said about that kind of thing. About omega heats, too, but Jimin had learnt that many of those things weren't true when he got his first.


"They are fairly similar to heats, in a way. A similar drive, itch under your skin. It's tiring, right?"


They are; heats are massively draining. "Yeah. Is there many ways that it's, um, different, from a heat?"


"Apart from the obvious, I'd say it's more painful and less frustrating. Alphas don't nest, either, they're less attached to the place where they have their rut. Does that make sense?" Jimin can feel Yoongi watching him carefully. He meets his eyes and nods. Wants to show he's not afraid.


"Are they... will you be..." The omega shifts again awkwardly. There is one thing he might... he's not worried, but he wants to be prepared. Yoongi is quiet, doesn't interrupt. "...aggressive?"


"I do not turn into a monster. Do not worry." Yoongi places a hand on his shoulder, a warm, reassuring weight. "I will look after you."


He's reassured to some extent, but Jimin realises that he's more worried about Yoongi in this situation. If a rut is anywhere near as exhausting as a heat... Yoongi is going to be very uncomfortable, and the alpha is already so tired. He didn't have any of the time to prepare physically. Jimin wonders whether that's just normal for him. He also wonders if he himself will know what to do.


"What will you do now?" Jimin asks, trying not to get too bogged down in his thoughts.


"I am relieved of my duties for some time, I should certainly get some rest, before it starts." Yoongi rises with a sigh, and Jimin resists quipping that he can hear his bones creaking. Physician Lee is only on the other side of the room, he doesn't want to seem insolent. It seems wrong, too, to share something like this, how informally they speak to each other, with a stranger.


"Yoo- uh, Your Highness," Jimin corrects himself. "Will you be staying with... just me, for the duration?" He has to ask, it has been playing on his mind all day now, but he realises just how awkward it sounds just as the words leave his mouth. They've never really talked about Daehee at all, or alluded to him in any way, the topic being discomfiting for Jimin in so many ways.


Yoongi nods. "It would be quite difficult to leave, once I am with you. I hope that does not make you uncomfortable."


When Yoongi leaves, Jimin is given the tea he is supposed to be drinking and ushered out of the office. During the walk back he encounters a few people from court very briefly, and the way they watch him makes him surprisingly even more uneasy than the way Physician Lee does. It's less clinical, more judgemental, and Jimin thinks back to that word that had occupied his mind during his first few days in the castle. Whore.



--



Jimin can recognise the distinctive way that Taehyung knocks on his door, the quirky pattern of knocks he always does, and opens the door to find the beta's arms full of a large silver tray. It's laden with fruits and bread, a large water jug, and two cups. Jimin steps aside immediately to let him inside his room.


"Oof, this thing is heavy," Taehyung grunts as he deposits it on the bedside table, shaking his arms out afterwards. Turning around, he surprises Jimin by wrapping him up in a hug.


"Hey, Tae, are you okay? Something wrong?" Jimin flusters, wrapping his arms around his friend automatically.


"Hm? No, I just won't be seeing you for a few days. What am I gonna do?" he whines playfully. He squeezes Jimin tighter. "That food is for both of you, for the first half a day. Make sure you drink lots of water, even though it might be hard to stop and eat."


"Oh, right." Squeezing his hands into fists nervously, he lets Taehyung go. "So we'll just... stay in here?"


"Yes, since this room is so isolated you won't be disturbed. Are you feeling okay?'


"I'm..." Jimin thinks about it for a moment. Wildly nervous, sure, but okay. "I think so?"


Nodding, Taehyung takes his hand and pulls him to the window seat. As they sit down, he takes on a serious expression. "Now, Jiminie. It's important that you know that if you feel like Prince Yoongi is going too fast, you can tell him that you're hurting, or to slow down. If he does something you don't like, you tell him. Okay? A rut isn't an excuse for treating you badly."


Jimin opens his mouth, surprised at the sudden serious talk. He wants to tell the beta that Yoongi said he would look after him, but that makes him blush. It sounds naive even in his head - he wonders if he’s wrong to just believe everything the prince says, trust in him quite so much. Jimin doesn't know what a rut is like, never mind what Yoongi's is like in rut, specifically, so maybe he shouldn't make the assumption that he'll be fine, should be on his guard.


"I'll tell him," he says instead. "I don't think- I hope it's not necessary."


"I hope I haven't made you more nervous," Taehyung sighs. "I just... you deserve to be treated well, Jiminie."


Jimin takes his friend's hand, smiling at him a little. This conversation is so heartfelt, and he appreciates the sentiment so much, appreciates having Taehyung worry about him. He decides to lighten the mood; melancholy and concern doesn't suit Taehyung's usually joyous features.


"Is that why you sent me to the training grounds to train? You thought the alphas would treat me well?" he teases.


Taehyung groans, wrenching his hand out of Jimin's grasp in order to cover his face. His "I didn't know!" comes out muffled, and Jimin already starts to laugh. "I said I was sorry! I really did think that omega's went there to train, I wasn't trying to embarrass you!"


Jimin cracks up, holding his stomach as he laughs. Taehyung had already apologised for this, had been horrified when Jimin had told him what had happened at the training courtyard, and Jimin believed that he wasn't trying to humiliate him. His expression when he had told the beta what happened was proof enough.


It is still funny to bring it up, though, has Taehyung trying to tickle him out of revenge. After a few minutes of that, Taehyung tells Jimin regretfully that he has to leave. The omega doesn't want to be left alone with his nervousness, but he smiles and waves Taehyung goodbye faux-cheerfully anyway, doesn't want him to be worried about Jimin. He hates being a burden.



--



Jimin hates the anticipation that only continues to build in his gut after Taehyung leaves. For a little while he tries to sit on his window seat, read the latest storybook he'd gotten from Seokjin at the library, but he can't focus properly on the words or take in the story at all. Tries to nap, but can't stay still enough to doze; tries to write a letter to his mother, but he doesn't have anything to tell her. He doesn't exactly want to go into detail about what he'll be doing for the next few days.


He wishes that he had more time to do some research with Seokjin about this kind of thing, or even just ask the alpha what a rut is like more in depth. Although he does kind of understand, from the alpha's perspective, how it feels, because of what Yoongi had told him and what he knows of his siblings' ruts. It's more that he's lacking information about what he should be doing, how he's going to feel. Wishes he could ask his mother, or one of his sibling's mates. Wishes that he'd put more effort into finding out about these things, before he left for the castle.


His life before he came here was so... he's beginning to realise just how apathetic he was about knowing about the future, how ignorant. Jimin wasn't sheltered, the information he wants now was readily available to him, he just didn't want to look for it, didn't care to.


In his room he is brought a kettle full of hot water so he can drink his fertility tea. It tastes like grass, if he's honest, and it's probably one of the worst things he has ever had to ingest. The sun has just about set - the days are getting a little shorter now, the air a little less warm. He's dithering whether he should get into his sleep clothes, or wait and see if he's sent anywhere else tonight, when there's a knock at the door.


"Come in," he calls out automatically.


It's probably the earliest that Yoongi has ever come to him, and today he brings that scent of earthiness and heat and a hint of arousal. He smells very much stronger than hours earlier in the physician's room, and Jimin guesses that this is Yoongi here in his room to stay.


"Good afternoon." Yoongi looks a little awkward, and Jimin has something of a flashback to the first time Yoongi had come to visit him, the nervous tension between them that night. From the way Yoongi hovers between the door and the bed, an outsider would think they hadn't had sex every night for the last week.


"Why are you standing there? Come sit down, Taehyung brought us some... grapes?" Jimin looks at the food on the silver platter, nonplussed. There's definitely some imported fruit there that he hasn't seen before. The bed dips as Yoongi sits beside him.


"Those are grapes, yes," he says, amused. "Is there something there you do not recognise?”


Jimin picks up the sliced fruit with the hard rim. It's slightly green, the part that he supposes that he should eat being white. It doesn't smell particularly strong, has a light, sweet aroma. "I don't know what this is."


"It is honeydew melon. It comes from a kingdom about a week's straight carriage ride away, so it is quite expensive, I am not surprised you have not tried it before. You should." Yoongi jerks his head slightly, indicating that he should eat the piece in his hand. He's maintaining a little bit of distance, which is fairly unusual to their situation, unnerving.


Jimin puts the fruit back, bearing in mind that he should probably save it to eat later. He doesn't exactly feel hungry right now.


"How are you feeling?' he asks Yoongi carefully. If he looks closely, he can see that Yoongi is more tense than he normally is when he comes to Jimin's room. Just as tired, though, the exhaustion evident under his eyes.


"Not to sound like a twittering bird," Jimin starts, smiling wryly. "But you look really tired."


Yoongi sighs, stretching his neck out. "It is not the worst that it has been."


"Alpha, you should maybe get some rest." Jimin tries to tease, but the way Yoongi looks at him when he calls him alpha, it's almost hungry. Jimin really hopes he isn't blushing.


"Why is it that you are always telling me to rest, hm?" Yoongi complains suddenly, smirking. "Do I seem like an old man to you?"


"Maybe," Jimin answers faux seriously. "I think you may start to look much like one, if you continue to get so little rest." Yoongi laughs at that, a deep chuckle. Even his laugh sounds tired. "Can you... Can you rest now?"


The alpha nods, leaning down slowly to untie his shoes. This is familiar now, part of their routine, although it's not quite the same right now since Jimin suspects he might have just persuaded Yoongi to take a nap, rather than coming to bed in the other sense. Yoongi pauses to look up at him. "That is, if you are alright with me sleeping in here. I can go to another room, if that would make you more comfortable."


"No, you don't need to, just... sleep here, it's fine." Jimin doesn't see the point in having servants prepare another room just for Yoongi to sleep in, and although he didn't say that he would go back to his own room, Daehee's room, the thought makes him feel a little strange and wrong, so he stands up to make room for Yoongi to lie down. "I'll just sit over there. I have a book to read."


So Yoongi lies down on his bed, Jimin moving over to the window once again. He tries to focus on the page he's reading, kept by the bookmark that Namjoon had given him when he had heard from Jimin about his interest in reading and how he visited the library frequently. Tries not to think about what Yoongi thinks about his scent, since he's sleeping in a bed that’s so imbued with it. He has to tell himself that the alpha mustn't mind it, Jimin shouldn't be self-conscious, because otherwise Yoongi wouldn't sleep here.


Unsurprisingly to Jimin, Yoongi sleeps for some time, the exhaustion clearly weighing on him deeply. Throughout the time he sleeps, though, the scent of rut in the room increases exponentially until Jimin even considers opening the window he's sitting at. It makes the back of his neck hot, and he can't deny that he's getting a bit wet in response.


The anticipation only mounts for him while Yoongi dozes peacefully, and Jimin wishes that he could lay down and nap, too, to pass the time, but by now the scent and feeling in the room is too strong, there's no way he could fall asleep. Furthermore he doesn't want to wake Yoongi or make him uncomfortable.


So he has to just sit and fidget until Yoongi wakes up. The alpha sleeps for about an hour in total before stirring, and Jimin doesn't doubt that it's because of his rut that he does.


Yoongi is hard, cock curving to the side in his pants. He looks around confusedly, blinking the sleep out of his eyes, and calls out softly; "Jimin?"


There's something about Yoongi's eyes, Jimin can tell that the rut has settled in. His pupils are blown wide and he looks just how Jimin would imagine a man under a spell to look. He doesn't move to Jimin urgently, though, just turns towards him when the omega lies out beside him.


Jimin takes a deep breath in and he's almost assaulted with Yoongi's scent. It has completely transformed, so rich, all alpha and raw sexuality.


"Does it hurt?" he asks, shifting closer and putting a hand on the alpha's forehead. He's warm, a little warmer than usual. Yoongi tilts his face up into his touch, and Jimin automatically goes to brush the hair away from his eyes.


"Something like that." Still doesn't move to touch Jimin though, just watches him through slanted eyes. His voice is a sleepy mumble. "The beginning's always strange. Just feels like too much. Feels like... wanting."


The knowledge that they will be here for three days plays at the forefront of Jimin's mind. He brings his other hand forward, rests it on Yoongi's stomach, feels it tense up. He has innumerable times to get pregnant, right? Yoongi doesn't necessarily need to knot Jimin every time.


He just really wants to help Yoongi somehow if he's hurting. "Is this okay?" he asks, a little shyness creeping in as he touches the highest button on Yoongi's pants. He hasn't done only this with Yoongi before.


Rubbing his face, Yoongi nods wordlessly, although he lets out an audible relieved breath when Jimin undoes his buttons, frees his swollen cock. Maybe Jimin is overthinking, but he seems to look bigger, somehow. Redder. It looks like it might hurt.


"I'm just going to... just like this," Jimin near whispers, moving closer and wrapping his hand around the base. On the first stroke up, Yoongi moans lowly, and proceeds to cover his face with a hand.


That doesn't last long when Jimin starts to stroke him properly, his cock starting to leak immediately and making the hot slide of his hand all wet. He fists a hand in Jimin's shirt, wraps the other around him to pull the omega a little closer. This means that his mouth is uncovered, however, so the noises he makes are easily audible to both of them. Swears and grunts fill the small space between them, Yoongi's breath coming fast and hard. Jimin tries twisting his wrist on the upslide, and Yoongi thrusts into it.


"Fuck, 'm sorry," he pants, eyelashes fluttering. It's so strange having the alpha apologise to him like this, the pheromones he's emitting making Jimin want to submit, if anything, do what Yoongi wants. Yoongi seems to be holding himself back in that regard, however.


"Yoongi, it's okay," he says, bearing his neck ever so slightly in a move of tactical submission. "Alpha, take what you need."


Yoongi swears loudly at that, starts to thrust into Jimin's hand quickly. The omega has to bring his other hand down to grip Yoongi properly, give him a proper channel to thrust into. Meanwhile Yoongi buries his face in Jimin's shoulder, presumably to muffle his increasingly loud noises. Jimin has never seen him so frantic, not even in their roughest of times together. A small thrill goes through him as he thinks about Yoongi doing this to him later, and he doesn't know if he should be abashed by that excitement, or if he can just blame it on how Yoongi's rut is affecting him.


Because it is. Jimin can't say he's unaffected by Yoongi's state, his willingness to use Jimin's hands to get off; he's sure that he would probably be more turned on if he wasn't so concerned about helping Yoongi so that it doesn't hurt so badly.


Abruptly, Yoongi shoves his hips forward and his face in Jimin's neck, reaching the hand that was fisted in Jimin's shirt down to his own cock. The omega realises that he's wrapping a hand around where his knot grows, maintaining a tight pressure judging by the tension in his hand. He groans, low and more desperate that Jimin has ever heard.


"Ah," Yoongi gasps into Jimin's throat, the first spurts of come shooting all over Jimin's hand, both of their pants. There's so much, his clothes are probably ruined, he thinks. Not that it matters at all.


Jimin curls up into himself as Yoongi comes down, watches Yoongi’s breathing slow over time, his chest rising and falling, muscles relaxing.


Eventually the alpha speaks. "I'm sorry about your clothes," he mutters.


"It's okay," Jimin murmurs absently, wondering what to do with all of the mess on his hand. He ends up just wiping it on his trousers since they're already dirty. Yoongi is relaxing incrementally, face not pressed quite as hard into Jimin's shoulder. His breath is warm and slightly damp, and as Jimin looks down at the back of his head he has an urge to stroke his hair again.


Yoongi's knot is still swollen in his own hand, but it doesn't take long at all for it to go down. It's a strange experience to see it like this since Jimin is usually on the receiving end. He doesn't know whether he should talk, try and distract Yoongi from the discomfort he's clearly feeling, or stay silent and let him rest.


He tries words. "Do you like honeydew?"


"Hm?" Raising his head, Yoongi looks up at him. His eyes are a little red. "Do I like the melon?"


"Yes." Jimin waits for an answer, or alternatively a rebuttal if Yoongi is too overwhelmed for conversation right now.


It takes Yoongi a little longer to respond than normal, and it seems hard for him to focus, but he does. "I do. I like the smell, and it is very refreshing to eat, especially when it is a hot day."


"You like that kind of smell? It's very sweet. I usually like flowery smells the most. That's part of why I like to spend so much time in the gardens," he rambles. Yoongi nods, eyes on his face. They both ignore him wiping his hands on his own pants.


"Do I... What do I smell like, to you?" Jimin can't help but ask, if hesitantly. There's a more implicit question there, do I smell good? Yoongi’s mouth purses; he looks like he’s considering it carefully.


"You smell like. A blend of particular things. Summer berries, and something fresh. Like a flower. A... carnation, I think," Yoongi answers eventually. "I like how it smells on you."


Flustering at this, Jimin looks away. It's flattering, and he fights a blush. He's probably not successful. "I think you smell like something warm?" he blurts.


Yoongi raises an eyebrow at him. "Warm?"


"Yeah." Jimin doesn't elaborate, too embarrassed and also unable to describe what Yoongi smells like, exactly. "It's different right now though."


"Different?"


"More like... well," Jimin pauses awkwardly. It's hard to voice this too, how Yoongi's scent is making him wet and hot all over. He thinks Yoongi must understand, because he’s being pulled closer to the alpha, their crotches pressed together. He realises with a start that Yoongi is still hard.


“Warmer?” Yoongi teases, and the omega is torn between pushing him away because he’s probably making fun of him and grinding up against him. He himself feels warmer, a desire to be touched spreading through him. Yoongi's hands feel so nice, he can't help leaning into his touch, despite his annoyance.


"Don't be mean." He tries to sound grumpy but it comes off as breathy when Yoongi's hands slide down to his ass. Grinding forwards has Yoongi's face slackening out of that little smirk he had. Sweet revenge.


"Okay." The alpha says, throat bobbing.


Jimin doesn't know if he's prepared for what these next few days have in store, but he doesn't think he'll stop wanting Yoongi to touch him, so maybe it will be okay.



--



The first time they have sex when Yoongi is in rut it's similar to how they've had it before. There are some slight differences - the slight haze to Yoongi's eyes, the hint of sloppiness to his thrusts, the pheromones that make the air around them a little harder to breathe.


“Hah- Alpha, I’m-”


He’s also noticed that in the heat of the moment he finds himself slipping into calling Yoongi Alpha more often than not. It only spurs Yoongi on, makes him growl, and sometimes Jimin even finds himself baring his neck in automatic submission. He lets these behaviours slide, since he knows it’s just instinct.


However, in some ways it's just the same. Yoongi still touches him gently in that way he always does, listens to his calls, makes Jimin feel good. There's visible signs of him restraining himself, but Jimin doesn't feel like the alpha has lost control.


Yoongi's knot goes down faster than usual like this, and he recovers much faster, too. Jimin is young, though, he can keep up, at least for now. And Yoongi isn't insistent, goes to spread Jimin's legs or roll him over with a question on his face every time. Even when Jimin is oversensitive, fifteen minutes since he last came, it still feels pleasurable to have Yoongi inside of him; he doesn't know whether that's the pheromones or whether his body is just greedy for Yoongi's touch.


They don't communicate much in words for the first few hours. Yoongi asks if he's in any pain, if he's tired, and Jimin confirms that he's not, and then they continue. Jimin knows that it's always in his best interest to be honest and it's almost nice to be taking a break from the facade he has to put up on a daily basis when he has to leave his bedroom, go to the staterooms and be proper. Here with Yoongi, they talk in short, honest words, or body language.


As a plus, he's not missing out on any exercise at the moment. Not with the amount of muscles that he's working in the different positions that Yoongi takes him, he thinks wryly.


At first it’s on his hands and knees, but Yoongi goes so fast and hard that he almost immediately drops down to his elbows, arching his back and moaning wantonly into his pillow. Then it’s on his back, his legs spread and held up, and then his legs are thrown over Yoongi’s shoulders and he’s bent in half. His stamina is shocking.


Eventually they collapse, taking advantage of the short break in Yoongi's constant need in order to eat the fruits that Taehyung had brought them, and to drink water. It's a hot day, their sheets already ruined from the amount of sweat as well as come everywhere. Jimin tries to fix it and move them around, but gives up quickly because they really can't be saved.


"Here," Yoongi grunts, passing Jimin a large cup filled with cool water. Jimin practically moans after the first swallow.


Yoongi pours him more after he finishes, and Jimin makes himself drink this one slowly in an attempt to not make himself sick. "How are you feeling?" the alpha asks him around a mouth full of grapes.


Jimin assesses his condition, head to toe. His head aches a little, probably because he needs water, and his throat is hurting too, but that's his own fault for being so vocal. He won't mention that part, because it's a bit embarrassing. He's feeling a little sensitive from the waist down, sore leg muscles and ass, despite the amount of slick he's produced over the past few hours; probably another contributor to his dehydration.


“I think okay? Really thirsty,” he confesses. Yoongi is already starting to be ready to go again, he can tell by the way he shifts around, the way his eyes drift to Jimin’s body like he can’t help it. He has moved back from Jimin, separated them with the tray between them, visibly trying not to touch.


“Good, that’s good. You might need to… remind me to break,” Yoongi explains, sitting back against the headboard and closing his legs, tucking his knees up. He’s hiding how hard he is, although Jimin would be willing to go again, if asked. He gives himself another few minutes of rest, glad of how considerate Yoongi is being, before he moves their food tray and crawls up to the alpha.


Somewhere between the third and fourth hour of Yoongi’s rut, Jimin had an idea of something he could do to give himself a small break, something that the one beta he had messed around with oh so long ago had asked him to do, but he wasn’t brave enough to want to try. The boy had explained it to him, however, so Jimin knows what to do, somewhat. He decides to try it now; if Yoongi hadn’t rejected his hands, he wouldn’t reject his mouth, right?


He hasn't done this before, not really, but he has a feeling he knows what will feel good.  He doesn't think that Yoongi will turn down any kind of stimulation if he's honest with himself, and he trusts that Yoongi won't hurt him, or anything.


Lowering himself to be level with Yoongi's crotch, he settles on his stomach, wetting his lips while making eye contact with the alpha. Wraps a hand around Yoongi's cock, the knot already starting to swell just a little at the bottom.


"Jimin," Yoongi says, stiffening. "What are you doing?"


"Helping." He wiggles, getting comfortable. This position means he's not sitting on his sore behind, which is good. "Do you not want it?" Glancing up, he looks for any discomfort in Yoongi's face. Doesn't find any, only a hint of surprise.


"No, I- You don't have to do anything you don't want to, Jimin. Don't feel like you have to do something for me." Yoongi worries at his bottom lip when he finishes his stuttering little speech, and Jimin smiles.


"I want to. Let me know if I do something wrong," he mumbles, ducking his head to press his lips to the tip. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Yoongi's hands flying to grip onto the bed sheets, his own thighs.


"Huh- I don't think you- ah," Yoongi inhales sharply when Jimin starts to lick at the head of his cock slowly. Keeps it light to tease, just wants to get used to the feel, the taste.


Tracing his tongue over the slit, he thinks about the logistics of where everything goes next but ends up coming to the conclusion that it might be best to just go for it.


"Jimin," the alpha sighs out when Jimin takes him into his mouth. It’s more than he expected, harder to fit, but he works with it, hides his teeth and slides his tongue on the underside, lets his head drop down so more moves smoothly inside.


It feels good to make Yoongi feel good. It's a simple thing; maybe now he kind of understands why Yoongi sometimes uses his mouth on him, gets him wet like that. This seems to have an impact on his body, too, he can feel himself getting wet once more, although he doesn't really feel the urge to come. Wants to just help give Yoongi some relief. The alpha is so tense under him, thighs and stomach muscles clenching up rhythmically, following the pattern of when Jimin's head goes down, his cheeks hollowing.


He's probably going far too slow but he can't really go any faster, he keeps wanting to cough every time the head gets near the back of his tongue. If he goes anything other than extremely slow it gets kind of loud, too, which makes his cheeks redden. For a while he tries to control that but eventually realises that there's no point, stops trying and just lets himself be noisy, smacking and sucking noises harsh in the quiet room.


In order to concentrate properly he has to lower his eyes, or close them completely, but he finds himself disappointed that he can't see Yoongi's reactions. When he gets the hang of it, though, a noisy rhythm, he does get a reward in the form of Yoongi opening his mouth, expressing how much he likes it through sound.


“Fuck, Jimin, you don’t even know-”


He groans softly when Jimin gives himself a momentary break, tonguing at the slit once again. Chances a glance up at Yoongi's face to see something that looks like... admiration.


"You're doing so well, Jimin. Omega," he rumbles. Judging by the twitch of his lips, it's supposed to be teasing, but right now Jimin can't quite take it that way. The gravely tone of the alpha's voice in combination with the word sends the slightest of shivers down his spine. Yoongi's eyes are so dark, fixated on Jimin's mouth. He lifts his hand to Jimin's jaw, wipes a little wetness from just below his bottom lip.


The praise has Jimin so, so warm, lowering his head once again to avoid Yoongi's gaze, although he can still feel it on him when his lips return to Yoongi's cock.


It takes a lot of coordination to move his hand and lower his mouth at the same time, but Jimin is pretty good at keeping to a beat, manages after a few moments of struggle. Jimin gets a little lost to it, keeping the rhythm, stopping occasionally to lap at the head, bring his lips to the slow growing knot at the base, or even lower to Yoongi's balls just beneath. They're slightly swollen, maybe a sign of his rut, and Yoongi makes a noise somewhere close to a mewl when he touches them, ever so sensitive.


He's so focused that he barely notices Yoongi touching him, soft touches to his shoulder, his cheek. Feels it a little more when he runs a hand through Jimin's hair, because he has always loved that feeling, makes it known by the contented purring moan he makes when his mouth is still full. It has Yoongi jolting, feet lifting up either side of him.


“Omega, you can- Put your hand here.” Yoongi guides his hand down, gently, and Jimin let's him take it so it's wrapped around his knot, instead. Squeezing ever so slightly has Yoongi actually growling, and a hand tightens in his hair. Jimin moans again, and his hair isn’t being pulled, exactly, but he can feel Yoongi’s hand there, the encouragement to move as the grip relaxes and tightens as he bobs up and down. He kind of likes the guidance.


The struggle not to move clearly becomes too much for Yoongi, who tucks his legs up underneath him and thrusts, just a little. Jimin is a little worried about having to cope with it, but then Yoongi is crying out a moan, his knot swelling up fully in Jimin’s hands. The omega tightens them, aware of the need for pressure there.


He's expecting Yoongi to come, but doesn't know what to do with that - should he have him come in his mouth? That sounds dirty, but the next option is Yoongi coming on his face, which is equally so. A little shudder passes through him at the thought, the arousal thrumming through his veins a little more urgent than before. He rocks his hips down on the bed and the decision is taken away from him when Yoongi wraps a hand around the himself, catching the mess in his hands.


Jimin smacks his lips. They’re a little sore. “Okay?” he asks.


“O- Yes, more than okay,” Yoongi stammers. “That- I-”


Jimin watches him expectantly. Closing his mouth with a snap, Yoongi sighs. “Do you need some more water?”



--



Halfway through the second day they're both really starting to tire. For Jimin, this manifests in laziness, his spoil side showing as he opens his legs and lets Yoongi do all of the work. For Yoongi it's a battle between exhaustion and his urges that keep him going, needing to get off.


But it's kind of fun, in a way. Jimin can laugh with Yoongi when something ridiculous happens, when there's a strange noise or one of them slips, when Yoongi gets too tired to continue and flops down, bringing Jimin with him.


Yoongi doesn't give much away of how he feels. Jimin knows how he himself is feeling, but it truly is always difficult to judge when it comes to the alpha. He seems to restrain his rut urges a significant amount, less of a burning fire and more of a simmer. Jimin has to wonder how much is he holding back for the omega’s sake. Is he always like this in his ruts? Is it normal?


At a time that Jimin assumes is near their regular dining time they both start to smell hot food, and Yoongi peeks outside of the door to find meals left for both of them. Basic stuff, meat sandwiches and more fruit, but it's so satisfying that Jimin moans after the first bite. Yoongi raises an eyebrow at him and he splutters with a laugh.


"'S good!" he protests, covering his mouth. His stomach muscles ache when he laughs.


Yoongi grins. "I know. When I was very young, I went through a phase of eating nothing but these. Breakfast, lunch and dinner." He grimaces a little. "I ate so many that when I stopped eating them, I wouldn't touch them for about two years."


"One of my brothers was like that," Jimin says thoughtfully. "But with corn."


They sit close, and Jimin tells Yoongi about the different kinds of pies that his mother would make using the fruits that are on the platter. Yoongi nods along, listening despite fidgeting more as time goes on. It's admirable how much he controls himself, Jimin thinks. He sees the way that Yoongi restrains his movements, pulling the sheets over his lap to hide how he's growing hard once more. Yet, he still manages to make Jimin laugh talking about some of his misadventures in his childhood involving sneaking into the kitchens and stealing food. It very much sounds like he was spoiled by the kitchen staff, being royal family's only child. Very interesting that the prince has turned out to be so grounded despite that; Jimin never hears him complain much about anything.


"Have you tried this one? It's called a lychee," Yoongi says, lifting it to Jimin's mouth, who doesn't open up quickly enough and has the sweet ball squished against his lips. The juice gets everywhere, and he yelps indignantly.


"Hey! Don't do that, you'll make a mess!" he pouts, making Yoongi laugh.


"Don't you think we've already made a mess?" Yoongi questions, his teeth showing when he grins. It's true, Jimin realises, so he gets his revenge; rolls his eyes and takes a bite out of his sandwich before offering to the alpha. He's still laughing when he takes a bite, somehow doesn't expect Jimin to shove half of the thing in his mouth once.


"N- Uhhhh," Yoongi groans, closing his eyes. His expression has Jimin cackling, struggling to chew and swallow the bite in his mouth.


"It's good, right?" Jimin snickers, and Yoongi narrows his eyes at him. What ensues is something close to a food fight, and Jimin mentally apologises to the attendants that are going to have to clean these sheets. They will probably have to be thrown away.


There's fruit mush everywhere, and it's with a slight sense of shame that they clean what they can up afterwards, placing it on the tray in a sad little pile.


Sighing, Jimin moves the tray, carrying it to just outside of his bedroom door to be taken away. He wants to write a note to the attendant that will take it away apologising for the mess, but before he can Yoongi is catching him by the wrist and tugging him to the bed again.


"You have juice… let me,” Yoongi says, leaning forward with his hand outstretched. Cupping the omega’s jaw, he wipes at his chin with his thumb. Jimin isn’t looking at Yoongi’s face, is reaching for another piece, but when Yoongi doesn’t pull away he looks up.


The tip of his thumb tugs on Jimin’s bottom lip ever so slightly, the alpha’s eyes are focused there. Jimin's toes curl a little as he realises what Yoongi is probably thinking of, the memory of being settled in between the alpha's legs earlier resurfacing in his mind. It had been fun, having Yoongi under his thumb, almost. His own eyes drop to between Yoongi's legs, where his cock is exposed once more.


"Do you want me to...?"


Yoongi's eyes snap up to Jimin's once more, and he looks almost embarrassed. "No! I mean..." He pauses, makes a slurping, questioning sound. "I do not want to do anything you do not want to. You... It was... good."


"Good? That's good," Jimin says, wondering where this is going. He wouldn't mind putting his mouth on Yoongi again, but he's not going to do it if Yoongi doesn't want it. "I don't know what you're thinking right now," he confesses.


"I want to..." Yoongi trails off, and there's so much lust in his gaze when it flits to Jimin's mouth once more, and then down his body. The atmosphere in the room plunges from the lightheartedness of just moments before into something much heavier. Anticipation curls in Jimin's stomach, and his body starts to prepare itself for another round. A twitch of Yoongi's nose and Jimin knows that he can smell it, too.


"Come here," Yoongi directs, and Jimin shuffles forwards so Yoongi can touch him. He's immediately placed down on his back, and he blinks in confusion when Yoongi slides his hands up the omega's thighs, kneeling between his ankles.


"Put your legs up," Yoongi says, voice an assertive contrast to the gentle encouragement of his hands on Jimin's legs. Jimin's calves go over Yoongi's shoulders, his hands curling into fists on his stomach at being so open and on display. By now that feeling should have gone away, but his heart still thuds a little harder than normal at Yoongi's eyes taking him in.


"What-" He doesn't get to finish his question, arching his back as Yoongi wraps a hand around his half hard cock, stroking the underside of the head with the pad of his thumb. He can see the tip of Yoongi's tongue peeking out just before the alpha lowers his head, and laps very lightly at the slit.


It's almost unsure, shy, even, and Jimin would probably giggle if he wasn't shuddering at the feeling. It's like being touched with a finger but better, wetter, softer. He keens not so quietly when Yoongi, licking his lips, proceeds to close them around the tip.


“Yoongi- But this isn’t…” Jimin gets out, flustered. “Your knot-”


“It’s not important. Want to," Yoongi says, muffled. His breath is hot where Jimin is most sensitive, and when he feels lips dipping down to where his hole is probably leaking, the alpha makes an interested sound, humming as he laps there, too, before moving back up.


Jimin understands why Yoongi was straining so much when their positions were reversed; the sensation of Yoongi's mouth around him, slow as he is, is something consuming, electric. It's so hot, slippery and soft, even when Yoongi occasionally catches his teeth, it only makes him shiver from the sensitivity, not pain.


And when Jimin brushes the back of Yoongi's mouth, the alpha pulls away immediately, clearing it, but the omega parts his lips in a moan. Squirms even more when Yoongi's mouth disappears from view and his hands spread Jimin open to tongue at his hole. It's almost hungry, his enthusiasm increasing the more he seems to taste, little grunts and groans muffled by the way he presses his face closer.


When Yoongi emerges to return to Jimin's cock, the omega's hands move quickly to cover his own reddening face. Yoongi's chin, his mouth and upper lip, even his nose, are covered in Jimin's slick.


"Alpha," he whines, Yoongi watching him with dark eyes, humming with his mouth full. He's slower in his movements than Jimin was, more teasing, although it may be just that he doesn't want to choke. Makes up for it, though, by almost burying his face in Jimin's ass every time he pulls off, and sliding two fingers inside of him, thrusting them in and out, just as excruciating.


"Can't," Jimin pants, "won't last, if you need to- Need to-" It's so difficult to speak when Yoongi is giving him so much, and it doesn't look like he will stop, but Jimin can't come if Yoongi needs to go again, he'll be far too oversensitive to handle it.


But Yoongi is gone, engrossed in rut haze, and Jimin has to put his feet on Yoongi's shoulders and push, lightly, for him to pay attention. The sound of his mouth leaving Jimin's cock is obscene, and Yoongi's brow furrows in confusion.


"Alpha, fuck me," Jimin pants, trying to put every ounce of urgency in his voice, spreading his legs and tilting his head back. Yoongi is on him in seconds, and Jimin can't help the deep, satisfied almost-purr as he pushes inside.


Yoongi's hips start moving quickly almost immediately, holding himself up on his elbows and thrusting deep and hard. It's so satisfying, has Jimin moaning deep and throwing his head back. Apparently tasting Jimin has Yoongi extremely riled up; his motions are desperate, knot already growing, and slides a hand between them to jerk Jimin off.


“Omega, feels so good, the best,” Yoongi groans into his ear, and any other time maybe Jimin would laugh at how he sounds, incoherent and almost ridiculous, but he’s too taken up in the way Yoongi is bumping his prostate quickly and efficiently. He comes for the nth time that day and it’s actually almost painful, but Yoongi doesn’t stop. Fucks himself into Jimin until his knot catches and he can’t move anymore.


“I’m going to do that again. When this goes down,” Yoongi gasps breathlessly into his shoulder.


Jimin shivers at the ghost of the memory of Yoongi’s mouth on him. He won’t disagree with that.



--



They watch the sunset through Jimin’s window, the sky changing colours as they rest together for another half an hour. The oranges of the sky light up the room, pinks and blues in a gradient that are so beautiful to watch. It almost makes up for Jimin not being able to go and sit amongst his favourite flowers for the last few days. They keep a competition for who can spot the first star.


Despite Yoongi's knot deflating much faster, Jimin still spends a lot of time stuck there, on Yoongi's lap or with Yoongi pressed up behind him. This gives him a lot of time to talk to Yoongi, when the rut haze isn't taking over his mind, or to just think.


He thinks about what Yoongi told him about ruts earlier, how he seems to have told the truth about everything. Certainly he has been careful with Jimin still, despite the frustration of his state coming out when his knot gets close to swelling up. He was right when he said he doesn't nest, either, seems to care very little for their surroundings, very different to Jimin when he's in heat.


Not only when he's in heat, though. Jimin has caught himself a few times as he tries to arrange the bedding and pillows differently, make the space smaller and more contained somehow. Yoongi doesn't disturb his efforts, goes to fix it when he does by accident. Unusually, too, when the omega thinks about his friends in the castle, thinks of visiting Seokjin in the library or going to the kitchens with Taehyung, a sense of wrongness overtakes him, almost nausea.


Picturing the staterooms and the people there provokes an even stronger disagreeable feeling. It's difficult to unpick, feels instinctually wrong in a different way; he almost feels anger. Therefore he avoids it, focuses on the present, on Yoongi and Yoongi's touch and drinking as much water as possible.


They get into a little pattern or routine, going two or three rounds and then dozing, Yoongi pushing Jimin down to nap or even just rest when Jimin tries to touch him past the third time. It helps keep Jimin afloat for the meantime, not get too overwhelmed by exhaustion. It's repetitive, but it works.


It's like teamwork, they work together to keep each other somewhere close to okay. Although Yoongi might still be hard, he makes Jimin rest, and similarly Jimin helps Yoongi, going for a second or third round even though he's overstimulated or it's just not possible for him to come again.


This is the scene they face just as morning of the third day approaches; Jimin on his back, legs spread and Yoongi between them. Jimin's own cock is soft, but Yoongi's knot  is swelling once more, a now familiar sensation for Yoongi. They're facing the door, a different position on the bed because the bedsheets near the pillows are so disgusting, and Jimin is just holding on for his life. Yoongi has reached the point where he clearly has to fight his animalistic urges significantly, hips moving fast and almost harsh against Jimin's ass.


The thing is that even though Jimin doesn't feel the urge to come right now, he still likes the feeling of Yoongi inside, of being filled up. He feels like his body is made for this, slick drenching his hole and Yoongi's cock, body opening up for the alpha.


That's why he still moans when his prostate is grazed, when Yoongi spreads his legs a little wider to wrap them around his waist, and when Yoongi nips at his ear. He's so sensitive. Yoongi's knot is growing, and he's halfway to begging the alpha to knot him already.


But then there's a knock at the door.


Its quiet. Jimin barely registers the creak of it opening, but he does register Yoongi's growl, the way he immediately grabs Jimin, smothering him protectively. It happens so fast, Jimin's heart leaps into his throat, fear being his first instinctual response.


Tilting his head back, though, he sees a terrified-looking beta girl at the door, frozen in place with a tray in her arms. Yoongi growls again, louder and in warning, and Jimin feels him start to move in her direction.


Thinking fast, he hooks his ankles around Yoongi's and flips them so he's on top, and Yoongi was clearly not expecting an attack from below because he goes easily, eyes widening. Jimin does his best to cage Yoongi, just hoping that he won't get growled at, too, because surely his resolve will completely crumble.


"Go," he calls to the girl urgently, and she snaps out of her fear, turning around and closing the door behind her. There's a moment of silence where he can hear the slight rattle of her placing the tray on the floor, and then soft, scurrying footsteps as she leaves.


Then he looks down at Yoongi.


He looks shocked, the upset clear on his face. His hands, previously settled on Jimin's waist when he was flipped, fall away weakly. The omega's stomach drops in panic. He must have done something wrong


"I'm sorry." He shrinks into himself, pulls away so he's kneeling between Yoongi's legs. The alpha sits up, reaching for him.


"Hey, don't-"


"I- I didn't mean to," Jimin stutters, and he's not sure if he could put into words what he's apologising for, but he knows that it just feels wrong, doing something that asserts some kind of dominance over the alpha when he's so sensitive.


"Don't apologise for that, I am glad that you stopped me. I could have really hurt that girl." Yoongi's mouth twists down in a frown, and he looks even more distraught than when he had hurt Jimin's feelings the other day. "I am sorry that you even had to."


"No, you shouldn't... She shouldn't have been in here, Yoongi. She should have definitely been taught better," Jimin hurries to comfort him. "I don't think you would have hurt her."


Ducking his head, Yoongi presses his hands to his face. There's even a slight tremble to them, and Jimin is reminded how overwhelmed he must be feeling right now; he's still hard, too. If a stranger had invaded his space when he was in heat, Jimin would have reacted just as badly.


"I wish I could apologise. She looked so scared." Jimin moves closer, and the air is tinged with the smell of distress and remorse. It's a jarring contrast to the ever present scent of Yoongi's arousal in rut.


"You can, Yoongi, it's okay, you can apologise after." He pulls Yoongi's hands away from his face gently, and Yoongi doesn't protest as he sits on the alpha's lap. Pushing him down gently, he places a hand on Yoongi's stomach, unsure whether he still needs to get off; he appears to have been shocked out of it. "It's okay, you didn't do anything wrong."


Yoongi's lips are still downturned, a frown furrowing his brow. "Fuck," he mumbles to himself almost angrily.


Jimin doesn't believe that Yoongi should feel this bad for something that was basically out of his control, as well as the fact that nothing came from it. He bites his lip, instincts also on high alert because of the distressed scent in the air, a need to comfort Yoongi itching under his skin. He's unsure how Yoongi will take to it, whether this is appropriate at all, but it feels right so he moves forwards anyway, hesitantly leaning his cheek against Yoongi's shoulder, basically lying on top of him.


He starts to nuzzle gently into the skin of his shoulders, his cheek, his neck in an attempt to comfort him. When Yoongi turns his head ever so slightly in the other direction, he takes it as an invitation to continue, moving up to the alpha's thick, dark hair.


It takes a while for the alpha to fully relax under his ministrations, for that scent to go away for the most part. Eventually though, Yoongi wraps his arms around him loosely. He's still hard, and Jimin is about to ask whether it's okay to touch when he looks up to see Yoongi dozing.


It makes him smile, and he lays his head down to catch some rest too because they really need to sync up when they do that. He hopes that he helped just a little, knows that when the rut ends Yoongi can just apologise to that girl; hopefully they won't see any other visitors. He has to stop any angry feelings from bubbling up in response to someone intruding on their space like that, which is so out of character for him. He blames the pheromones in the room for bringing out his instincts, like with the nesting. That must be the case.



--



Things feel a little different when they wake. Jimin can tell that Yoongi is deep in his thoughts, staying quiet and a little withdrawn. He tries to keep Yoongi's spirits up, doesn't want him to be upset with himself over something he couldn't help.


At one point, still in the early morning, he suggests moving to the window seat. The day is already warm, the last of the summer's heat making them sweat and making Jimin's head ache. The room is well insulated and the amount of physical activity they're doing only increases the temperature. At least they can open the window if they sit there, let the fresh air inside; the humidity of mid-summer has passed, and a cool breeze may grace them occasionally.


Yoongi bends his knees to fit on the seat on his back, and they end up having sex there too, Jimin riding Yoongi as best as he can on the wide ledge. Afterwards he settles on the alpha's chest, very aware of the way he wraps his arms around Jimin's waist, not tight but certainly not loose. There are birds twittering outside, and Jimin can smell the flowers in the garden.


Yoongi's rumbly voice breaks the peacefulness of the moment. "Jimin." The omega hums. "Are we friends?"


That certainly wasn't a question that Jimin had been expecting. There's a hint of vulnerability in Yoongi's expression, something that makes Jimin pause and think for a long time about his answer.


Are they friends? They certainly spend a lot of time together, speak informally most of the time when they're alone, too. Jimin feels comfortable in Yoongi's presence, and he has no doubt that Yoongi has tried hard to make it so.


And yet, their encounters are a means to an end; even now, when they spend a straight three days in each other's company, it's with the intention of getting Jimin pregnant. Otherwise, Yoongi would spend this time with his mate.


Oh, his mate. It must be difficult, being without Daehee during this time when he's so vulnerable and instinct-driven. Of course, Yoongi's first choice for who he would spend his rut with would be his mate. It would be easier for Yoongi, Jimin thinks, if he and Jimin are friends. More comforting.


It's not like they don't have reason to believe that they have some kind of friendship, despite the circumstances. Jimin likes spending time with Yoongi in the simplest of ways, because the alpha is considerate and funny and responds well to his teasing. Maybe he doesn't know him all that well, but he thinks that he learns more about Yoongi all the time.


His gaze had drifted away, so he returns it back to Yoongi's face. They're so close, laid out like this, he could probably count Yoongi's eyelashes. He has a little scar just above his eyebrow, but otherwise his face is smooth, bar some very fine lines under his eyes and where he smiles, a little reminder that he's a handful of years older than Jimin.


"I think so," he muses. "Do you want to be my friend?" That's the real question, he guesses. Would a prince want to be friends with a commoner?


"Yes." There's a certainty to Yoongi’s voice that takes Jimin aback. He blinks for a moment before smiling.


“Okay then, we are. This means you have to treat me well, you know.”


“I treat you well!” Yoongi exclaims indignantly.


Jimin nods. “Yes, you have to, because you’re my friend.”


“You’re impossible,” the alpha grumbles. Jimin hides his smile, going back to lie on the alpha’s chest. Yet, something niggles at the back of his mind and won't quite let go; are they allowed to be friends?


He’s certain that many people, important people, would say no.



--



As the end of that day comes to a close the fatigue is really starting to get to Jimin. He has essentially missed three nights of sleep, only managing to doze lightly for a few hours at a time, and since Jimin has come to the castle he has been rather spoilt with sleep. His body isn't taking it well; everything aches, in the same way that happens when he gets sick, a bone deep, miserable soreness. There are bruises on his thighs, and hips, and one on his shoulder from when Yoongi had gotten carried away and bit him there. In the moment, Jimin hadn't minded, had really liked it, even, but right now it truly hurts.


Between his legs is a whole other story. His rim is puffy and so, so sore, despite the amount of slick he has produced in response to Yoongi's hunger, and even though the alpha hadn't been insistent on knotting him they had, so many times, because Jimin is aware that he's supposed to be getting pregnant right now. And maybe he'd gotten a little carried away too, Yoongi's scent having a potent effect on him, body and mind. He can't say he hasn't enjoyed it though, being the focus of Yoongi's want and attention; even being stretched on the alpha's knot feels at least a little bit pleasurable, even when he's sensitive and aching.


But at this point he's very much ready for it to be over. He thinks that Yoongi feels the same, judging by the way that he wears a permanent, exhausted crease on his brow, and his limbs shake every time he has to hold himself up for a long period of time. His refractory period has increased, however, his knot holding for little longer too, so Jimin thinks that the rut must be coming to an end.


Jimin has never dealt well with pain. Whenever he would play rough with his siblings at a young age, chances were that he would end up sobbing and with numerous bruises on his peach-like skin. At one point he was effectively banned from that kind of play, yet had sulked about it for days because he hates being left out. Maybe it's because he's an omega, injures easier than most, but he can't lie - amongst his omega friends, he was the biggest crybaby.


So it's not much of a surprise to him when, as Yoongi goes to touch him once more after a half-hour's break, he starts to sniffle.


"Jimin?" Yoongi sounds extremely panicked, eyes wide and frozen still as he makes an aborted reach for Jimin's hand. "What is it? Are you hurt? I am so sorry, please tell me what I can do."


The omega's nose has filled with snot - he's not a pretty crier - and he tries to wipe his eyes and nose both as the tears start to spill down, but ends up making a mess. He scrubs at his face, annoyed that his tiredness has made him this way and wishing that pain didn't do this to him. The tears are more out of frustration and lack of sleep than anything, and his brain is telling him to stop and get on with it, he's actually fine, there's nothing wrong, it'll be over soon. And he truly believes that, too, but his body is having an adverse reaction to everything it's been put through for the last few days; something he could have probably dealt with if it wasn't for the lack of sleep.


"'M fine," he gasps, aware of a sudden, overwhelming scent in the air that's difficult to figure out when his nose is blocked but smells like fear. "'M just, just tired, hurts."


"Jimin, ah, can I touch you?" Yoongi requests carefully, reaching out again. Jimin nods, curling into it when Yoongi wraps both arms around him mindfully, avoiding the parts where Jimin has bruises. Tilting his head down, Jimin fights his tears hard, his breathing fast and ragged. All the while Yoongi whispers apologies to him, rocking him ever so slightly.


Jimin feels sad and mostly just pathetic and he hates it with a passion, knowing that if he'd just gotten a few more hours sleep he would be completely fine, that this is probably just his body's way of telling him to stop and rest, but he knows that there isn't much further to go and he can do this, he can.


"It's so stupid, I'm fine," he groans. Yoongi doesn't quiet him, but looks nothing short of alarmed. There's a hand in Jimin's hair, stroking gently, and Jimin tries to focus on that to calm down.


"If you would prefer for me to leave," Yoongi says slowly, "I can do that now. It is not a problem. You clearly need some time to rest."


"No!" The idea of that, of Yoongi just walking away, has Jimin's heart speeding up in panic. "Don't leave, I'm fine, there's nothing wrong. I'm just... I'm so tired." His voice cracks towards the end of the sentence, and he clears his throat quickly. He has a strong urge to cling to Yoongi's waist, which is strange, since Yoongi leaving would probably be good for his condition right now. And yet, the idea of him going and waiting out his rut in another room, all by himself, makes a knot form in Jimin's stomach. Or the alternative, of Yoongi not being alone, makes him feel curiously sick.


"Just tired? You're not in pain?"


"I..." Jimin hesitates. "Just a little. Probably not more than you." That's half a lie. His pain truly isn't bad, nothing sharp or piercing, just aches, like he had ran for ten miles yesterday without stretching properly. But it's unlikely that Yoongi is feeling the same amount of physical pain as the omega.


Narrowing his eyes, Yoongi looks at him judgmentally. There's a tick in his jaw, a visible sign that he's clenching it. He doesn't look like he believes Jimin one bit. Jimin isn't sure he can blame him, his nose is still running and eyes are still red, the tears coming to a slow stop, although if Yoongi leaves he has a feeling he might start blubbering again.


Jimin makes a concentrated attempt to make himself look less like a fool, sitting up and pulling away from Yoongi's comforting embrace marginally. "Don't go, Yoongi. I'm okay, I promise."


"Omega." Yoongi's voice is so strong, a tone he has never used on Jimin before. It captures Jimin's attention, has him directing it to Yoongi and Yoongi only. Makes him want to listen. An alpha's command. "Tell me. Does it hurt so badly that I need to leave?"


Jimin swallows. He can't lie to Yoongi's face like this. "I... I don't think so. Not yet? If, if it goes on much longer, then maybe... but right now I can manage it, I think I can, as long as- as long as you're not-" He stops, doesn't know how to say it, how to ask Yoongi to not be too rough with him, especially because he's in rut, Jimin doesn't know what the full extent of his self control is. So far the alpha has seemed to lose himself at his peak every time, and Jimin really understands that, so this might be asking for too much.


"Not what?" Yoongi drops his hand down from Jimin's hair to the back of his neck, holding it steady. His thumb is on Jimin's pulse point, and Jimin has to stop himself from shivering under his gaze. "Don't be scared, you can tell me."


"Not rough. Not that you've been very rough with me, just, I can't- it hurts, more, that way."


Yoongi's lips part, and his eyes widen ever so slightly. Jimin wants to reassure him again, tell him that what he'd been doing so far had been fine, but before he can do more than open his mouth Yoongi squeezes him.


"I can control myself better. Hurting you... it's the last thing I want. I wish you had told me if it was too much for you."


"No, you didn't, I didn’t need to, I liked it." Jimin feels himself get warm at the admission, and fights the urge to hide his face in his hands or Yoongi's bare chest.


They stay wrapped up together for a little while more, enough that Yoongi starts to fidget, and he's clearly trying to hide it from Jimin but they're sitting too close against the pillows for him not to notice. His cock has been hard practically the whole time, since he had been approaching Jimin for another round when the omega had started to cry. Jimin wonders at his self restraint. He very much suspects that ruts aren't as easy to control as Yoongi lets on.


Yet he still pushes Yoongi back gently so he has access to touch, wrapping his hand around his cock, the weight so familiar now. The alpha sighs, and leans his head on Jimin's shoulder.


"How much longer?" Jimin wonders, unsure whether Yoongi will even know the answer.


He gets a hum in response before Yoongi speaks properly. "I think it depends on whether I knot properly or not. If not, I think a few more hours."


The implication is there, knot you , but he thinks that the alpha is giving Jimin a choice, not assuming that they have to do it like that. "And if you do?"


"I think it would last a while. It might hurt a bit more," Yoongi says softly. He sighs again when Jimin twists his wrist. "We don't have to, Jiminie."


The nickname makes Jimin smile, a refreshing use of his facial muscles after how he screwed his face up to cry, before. His face is probably still a bit messy, but at least his nose isn't running anymore. He shakes his head. "It's okay. It'll be over faster in the long run, right?"


Yoongi makes a face at that. Sensing an incoming protest, Jimin just goes for it and nuzzles into his chest, parting his legs where they're tucked up so Yoongi hopefully picks up the scent of his slick, his hole wet in response to Yoongi's growing scent of sexual frustration. There's something close to a choking sound that comes from Yoongi's throat, followed by a groan.


"You're making it hard for me to treat you so carefully," Yoongi rumbles, and Jimin glances up in mild alarm but Yoongi is smiling, laughing a little, even. The alpha puts his hands on Jimin's waist and guides him onto his lap.


This way, they're sat close, almost chest to chest, and Jimin realises with heated cheeks that this is really Yoongi making sure that he's not rough; there's no way he can thrust up, since his legs are stretched out on the bed. It's an intimate position too, and Jimin doesn't exactly know where to look. There isn't quite the same animalistic fever present between them as there was a day before, and everything just feels. Quiet.


"If it hurts, tell me." Yoongi sounds very stern and serious, and Jimin nods seriously in response.


The sensation of Yoongi's cock filling him for the last time is simultaneously easy from the familiarity and painful from the stretch. Jimin is so ready for a rest from this, ready to lie down and just stay there for hours, but Yoongi still smells good, and there is arousal there, simmering under Jimin's skin, despite being only half-hard. He's still wet, too, but it's so difficult to move he ends up just rocking on the alpha's lap, moving his hips instead of using his poor thigh muscles to lift up.


He's determined, though, to bring on Yoongi's knot, and to finish this.


His muscles go through phases of tensing and relaxing, and when he's relaxed it's good, feels right, even, but when he's tense it's pretty awful. Makes him want to lay his head on Yoongi's shoulder and just, sit. Twice he does actually have to take a break, stay still for a moment, and the alpha doesn't say anything, just caresses his hands up and down Jimin's arms until he's ready to move once more.


Yoongi's hands, at least, feel good on him. Wonderful, even. The omega leans into his touch as he strokes his hair, his arms, his thighs. Gasps when those fingers draw patterns down his neck, the other hand on his chest circling his nipple. It's Yoongi's touches that have him at full hardness, one of the alpha's hands dropping to encircle his cock and rub tiny circles into the tip with his thumb.


It's easier to move and give Yoongi friction when he's being touched, so he takes advantage of it, lifting halfway off the alpha's cock and sliding back down again, picking up the pace. He's quieter than usual in his pleasure, hitching breaths instead of moans, whimpers instead of harsh cries.


"Careful," Yoongi chokes, but Jimin doesn't know if he's talking about the omega or himself, because he looks like he's ready to break, turn Jimin over and start thrusting. The way he looks at Jimin is like nothing he has ever seen directed at him before, so much desire, and yet he isn't acting on it, his hands conscientiously moved from Jimin to be bunched in the bedding.


It's so hard for both of them, Jimin realises, and they really just have to get through it together. He musters up any bravery that he has and cups Yoongi's face in his hands. Shuddering, because Yoongi's cock is currently grinding up against the spot inside of him that makes everything hot, he presses his lips to the alpha's jaw.


Jimin actually feels him exhale, his muscles loosening incrementally. "Jimin," is what he rumbles next, and turns his head to nose at the omega's cheek.


The last part is easier this way. They're not kissing, but they're so close, and Jimin does brush his pouted lips along Yoongi's jaw, his cheeks. He thinks, he hopes, that it helps keep Yoongi calm, bring him back down to earth. It's still painful, and when Yoongi's knot starts to grow he cries out in pain, louder whines that he struggles to silence. The alpha nuzzles him more in response.


"It's okay, let it out, you don't have to be quiet," he encourages Jimin weakly. Underneath him, Yoongi's thighs are vibrating with trembles, presumably from the strain of not thrusting up. Jimin continues to grind down and he groans.


When Jimin comes from the stimulation it's weak, barely a dribble, and he wishes he hadn't afterwards, it brings him back down to just aching, the knot growing inside of him until it's stuck. He sits perfectly still, shaking.


He can feel the tears gathering on his lashline once more, and he closes his eyes to stop them falling. Resting his cheek on Yoongi's shoulder, he focuses on evening out his breathing. The alpha stays perfectly still except for the hand that strokes lightly on Jimin's lower back.


"Is it bad?" When Jimin opens his eyes, Yoongi looks so genuinely concerned, so worried, and Jimin doesn't have the heart to tell him that yes, it hurts, doesn't feel good anymore. There's nothing they can do about it though, Yoongi can't pull out, so it doesn't make sense to make him feel bad for it.


Not trusting himself with words, he shakes his head.


"You're trembling," Yoongi states quietly, and he's starting to look like he doesn't believe Jimin's ruse. He tucks Jimin even closer against him, and whispers in his ear, voice guilt laden. "I'm sorry."


"It's okay. No more now," Jimin sighs. Yoongi nods, pressing his lips against Jimin's cheek again. They're a little dry; they both probably need water. "We did it."


"We did," Yoongi acknowledges, voice low. "You did."


As he sits there, he thinks that he has never been more eager for time to pass. His proximity to Yoongi seems to help a little with the pain, though, ever so gentle and encouraging. He wonders if the knot hurts Yoongi, too, whether it's tender.


Yoongi's heart beat is a little faster than normal, but the rhythm is strong, Jimin can hear it from where he rests his head on Yoongi's chest when the alpha leans back so they can be more comfortable. His throat is tight with the want to cry, yet the tears don't come, squashed by Yoongi's fingers in his hair, the kiss he presses to Jimin's forehead.


“No more now,” he mumbles, ready for some well earned sleep.



--



When Yoongi leaves, he doesn't do it when Jimin is sleeping. Instead, he wakes him with a hand on his cheek.


"I will return to my own quarters, now. Please make sure that you rest for the entirety of the day. Soon an attendant will bring you some food and more water, and it is important that you eat everything they bring, okay?"


Jimin nods, curling into himself under the sheets. It's colder without Yoongi there. "'Kay."


There's a tick in Yoongi's jaw, and he doesn't move from where he's sat on the edge of the bed. Just watches Jimin, hand resting on the omega's side. Jimin's eyes are so heavy with sleep, it's hard to keep them open to look back.


"You going?" he mumbles almost intelligibly. His eyes close, and when he opens them Yoongi still hasn't moved. "Yoon'?"


"Yes, I am," Yoongi replies softly, and Jimin feels the weight leave the bed as his eyes slip closed once more. "Rest well, Jimin."


Jimin does rest well. He sleeps for hours, all night, and wakes in the daytime with Taehyung shaking his shoulder. The first thing he sees is the tray on the nightstand full of food, and he feels exhausted just looking at it, it's piled so high.


"What?" he grumbles. He wants to sleep for at least another five hours, no less.


"You need to eat, Jiminie. Prince Yoongi told me personally to wake you up and make you. Come on, sit up," Taehyung coaxes.


Yoongi. The alpha isn’t there, and his fresh scent has faded; he must have not been present in the room for at least a few hours. A pang of hurt hits him, completely irrational, of course; Yoongi surely has other things to do, so much responsibility on his shoulders.


It's so hard to move, but over Taehyung's shoulder he glimpses a pile of fresh sheets, and that motivates him to stand up and stagger to the window seat to eat. His bedsheets are truly disgusting right now, and he says as much.


"Yeah well, you're not in too great a state either. Do you want a bath? I can have someone make you one while I change your sheets." Taehyung helps Jimin to sit down as the omega groans at his aching muscles, before handing him a teacup.


"You have to drink this tea, Physician Lee sent me with it." Taehyung winces in sympathy when Jimin takes the first sip. As always, it tastes like grass, but it soothes his sore throat somewhat.


"I have some muscle salve too, if you're hurting?" Taehyung says over his shoulder as he starts to strip the bed. Jimin starts to turn red as he realises what kind of a mess his friend is cleaning up.


"Uh, Tae, I can do that, if you want," he says awkwardly.


Taehyung shakes his head, laughing. "It's alright, I got it. Please make sure you eat, or Prince Yoongi will be angry with me. I'd prefer not to face that," he snickers. Still embarrassed, Jimin starts to nibble on some bread.


"Where's that muscle stuff?" he wonders out loud. "My thighs are killing me." Taehyung finds it for him on the tray, a little pot, and he starts to rub it into his legs. It's cooling, and Jimin really hopes it works - it could give him a few more hours of sleep.


"When do I have to start going back to court? Is Yoongi already there?" he questions Taehyung as fresh sheets are pulled over his bed. Jimin opens the window to let fresh air into the room. The last time he was sat here was with Yoongi, the memory fresh in his mind. It’s strange to not associate the space with alone time and reading.


The thought makes him pause and swallow. He's aware of a strange feeling that he's experiencing in his gut. It's almost hollow. He also feels a little cold, even though the sun is out and warming his back through the panes of glass.


Maybe it'll get better when he takes a bath. "You don't need to go back for a day or two, at least. Prince Yoongi is already about and resuming his duties, though. In fact, he's been called away on an emergency trip, and will have to leave tomorrow." Taehyung smiles. "So you can take a little rest, for now."


"Oh." Jimin has to resist the urge to pout. He was somewhat looking forward to seeing Yoongi again, tonight, even. He wants to speak to him, ask how he's feeling, scold him for not resting more, too, probably. "Where is he going?"


"He's travelling with those visitors from the next kingdom along. It seems to be quite an important trip, the servants have been rushing around trying to have everything prepared in time," Taehyung explains, eyeing him. "I would have thought that you would be glad to have a break. I didn't know if maybe..."


"Maybe what?" Jimin asks, confused. He picks up an apple to munch on; he really was hungry.


Taehyung grimaces, and Jimin nearly misses it because he turns away straight away to tend to Jimin's pillows. "Maybe you wouldn't want to see him for a while. You probably got sick of him, right? I was worried if maybe... he would hurt you." He glances back at Jimin momentarily. "Although you don't look hurt.”


Jimin stops himself from making an indignant noise. "He didn't hurt me! He wouldn't," he says, and bites his lip. The idea that Yoongi would hurt him in some way seems ludicrous now - he had tried so hard to look after Jimin. The omega would like to think that that was mutual, too. He tries not to get defensive, because it's not like Taehyung knows the prince very well, and he's probably just trying to be a good friend.


"And I'm really glad, Jiminie, I was worried. You seemed so nervous, beforehand. I know you'd never done anything like this before," Taehyung explains. "I want to hug you, but you kind of smell right now, and I'd rather not have that on me."


Jimin snorts, rolling his eyes to hide his embarrassment. He wonders if he smells like Yoongi. The thought makes him strangely satisfied, even though he simultaneously really wants a bath and to cleanse himself of the mess. He's starting to think that maybe Yoongi's rut has messed with his head a little, after being in a room with such concentrated alpha scent and giving in to his instincts for pretty much three days straight.


He takes a bath after (almost) finishing the plate, and it's warm and wonderful and afterwards he feels so much better, even though that sensation of emptiness is still there. There's something very unfamiliar about it; he's never felt like that after a heat before, even though the circumstances are so similar.


The bedroom feels so empty when he's alone; for three days and nights Jimin had company, but now the loneliness is returning, somehow even worse than before. He has to try and distract himself with his book, by writing and sleeping, but it doesn't quite work.


He falls asleep that night in clean sheets, stomach full and needing to pee every half an hour from the sheer amount of water than he has drunk over the course of the day, but something still feels off. He puts it down to needing to get back into a routine, boredom and homesickness. For the first time he finds himself wishing that he could visit Taehyung and stay in his room, or just somewhere in the caste that isn’t quite so isolated, so quiet.


Just as he drifts away, eyes on the window and the stars outside, he can’t help but think that he would give up his comfortable, ornate four poster bed for some company.



--



Taehyung asks him the next morning if he's feeling up to leaving his room, and when Jimin agrees enthusiastically he takes them to Namjoon's classroom where his tutor sits at the teaching table, Hoseok by his side. Jimin is surprised to see them, but elated - maybe spending some time outside of his room will cure him of his loneliness.


"I was thinking of teaching you how to play cards," Namjoon explains to Jimin. "It would mean that you can participate in some of the evening activities at court."


"Oh, thank you," Jimin says. He would actually rather not attend those activities, since most of them are arranged by Daehee and he very much likes to avoid the omega whenever possible. He is glad for Namjoon's kindness, though. "I would love to!"


There are three popular games played at the betting tables at court, and it turns out that Jimin already understands one of those rather well, having played with his siblings as a child. Namjoon decides to just teach Jimin one today, and Taehyung joins them for some time, but eventually he has to leave and attend to other duties. Jimin is left alone with Namjoon and Hoseok, who clearly know each other well as friends. The way they speak is familiar, without titles. They’re quite entertaining together.


Jimin has noticed, however, that Hoseok isn’t particularly good at cards. “How are you feeling?" Hoseok asks him interestedly, not paying any attention to his hand at all.


"I'm... okay," Jimin replies slowly. He places a card down and looks to Namjoon for confirmation that he's doing the right thing; on receipt of a nod he settles back down to look at his cards. "I slept a lot, yesterday."


Hoseok grins. "That's good. Get lots of rest. You'll have an excuse to get more, soon, I have a feeling."


Jimin frowns for a moment, not understanding, but it clears when he realises what Hoseok is talking about. "Ah."


For three days, he hasn't really thought of what pregnancy really means. He was preoccupied with the act of getting pregnant, but mostly just helping Yoongi through the pain of his rut. Now he has time to think about how things will change when he starts to show signs, and he's not sure how he feels about it. His body will feel strange, right? Will he be required to go and sit at court most days, still? He can't imagine that would be very comfortable.


Will Yoongi still come and see him? Surely there will be no need for him to, if Jimin is already pregnant. Maybe it would even be frowned upon to do so. An inexplicable sense of melancholy settles in his chest at the thought. That's followed immediately by a more familiar guilt - if Yoongi doesn't have to visit him, then he can spend his nights with his mate, once again. Someone who Jimin had barely thought about during Yoongi's rut, and when he had it had been with automatic, instinctual discontent.


"Jimin? It is your turn," Namjoon prompts him gently. Jimin shakes himself out of his thoughts, placing down another card, wishes he could shake himself out of how he's feeling right now.


The games lasts until mid-afternoon and Namjoon says he has to leave, he and Hoseok need to go and say goodbye to the party and guests who will be leaving soon. Jimin wanders back up to his room by himself, considers getting his book and going and sitting in the garden for a few hours. His room just feels so empty.


He's almost to his room when he glances out of the window and sees the party all gathered to leave. The king and queen are doing formal parting wishes with the visitors, and he sees a few other important members of court dressed for travelling, getting into carriages and saying their goodbyes. Attendants stand at the carriage doors, holding them open - the cars are bigger and far more ornate and elaborately decorated than the one that Jimin had arrived in, had thought was so beautiful.


Hoseok and Namjoon are there, he sees them shaking hands and clapping Yoongi's back, friendship obvious even from this distance. He can't see Yoongi's face from here, though, can't see whether he's still tired, if he's rested at all or eaten well since he left Jimin's room the day before. He wishes he could check.


Behind Namjoon he sees Daehee, and isn't surprised but his heart still jolts a little. Especially when he steps forward, holding out his hand, and Yoongi bends at the waist to kiss it.


Jimin turns away from the window, takes a step towards his bedroom, and then another. The hollow feeling in his stomach is spreading, seems to affect his legs, makes his fingers feel a little numb, filling his chest. Taking a deep breath in suddenly becomes hard and he has to make himself quicken his steps, a feeling akin to nausea rising in his throat.


Not akin to nausea - just outside the door of his bedroom he realises that that is in fact what it is, the feeling swelling in his stomach, his mouth filling with saliva. Leaning against the bedframe when he gets inside, he makes a hurt noise. Something isn’t right.


He bends over and throws up into his chamber pot.



--



Chapter Text

After Yoongi's rut, the castle seems to watch him twice as much as before. It's stifling, and Jimin feels like he can't breathe for the heavy weight of people's eyes on him whenever he's in the staterooms. Jimin doesn't look any different to before, there's really nothing to see, so it just annoys him.

 

He has something of a short temper these days. It's worsened by the questions that he is asked, not even subtly; people openly asking about Yoongi's rut, how he's feeling afterwards, if there was a moment where he felt he might have gotten pregnant. He really struggles not to give rude answers, not to snap at people for being so brazen. It's so intrusive - he doesn't want to share details of his time with Yoongi. It would feel wrong to do so, it was just between them.

 

Jimin wonders how Yoongi has managed to deal with the constant questions and invasions of privacy for his whole life. It must have been worse for him, must still be worse, because of his birthright. He grew up in this place, essentially has not known peace.

 

The questions are so constant that Jimin even snaps at those that are supposed to be his friends.

 

"So, how are you feeling? Tell me, are you broody yet?" Miyoung fusses over him when he sits at their table, and Jimin already wants to get up and leave. That's the fourth question he has received today, and he's sure that he couldn't count on his fingers how many he's gotten this week, today being the fourth day since he returned to court. His presses his lips together, taking a big, calming breath, in and then out.

 

He can't be rude, can't upset people in a place such as this. Has to stay level headed. "No, I'm not. I don't feel any different."

 

She looks disappointed. Jimin has never thought that Miyoung meant him any ill, but he has noticed that she looks at him very much like everyone else. And he understands it, he does, that people are excited for him to get pregnant, for there to be a royal heir, and that ultimately he isn't that important in the equation. Nobody has to truly care about him, how he feels, because it is not important; only the end result is.

 

"Ah well. Do tell me, lovely, if you do, yes? There will be a great many celebrations when you are with child! I am truly excited for them! A different type of dress will be necessary, of course." For a moment, he thinks that Miyoung is talking about him, his clothing and how it will change, but as she starts to mutter about actual gowns and embroidery he shakes his head. Of course fashion is the thing on her mind, how it will change and she will dress in response.

 

He retreats into silence as she starts to expand on this issue with their nearby neighbours. It's not exactly true, what he said, that he doesn't feel different. He does, just not in the way that that people suggest when they ask him intrusive things.

 

"Speaking of dress, what colours will you be wearing at the ball, dear one?"

 

Jimin had very much forgotten about the queen's birthday ball. Events are moved around so frequently by the king and queen to suit the royal schedule. The ball had been moved for Yoongi's rut, because of course they couldn't have such a big celebration without the crown prince, and now again for the state visit. It seems to Jimin that the royal family move things just because they can, forcing people to work around them, be ready to come to the castle at a moment's notice. A subtle demonstration of power. Or not so subtle, Jimin doesn't really know.

 

As for his outfit, Jimin is fairly unconcerned. Taehyung will probably help him find something. Hopefully he won't need to see the tailor again, although Jimin hasn't really looked in his closet, mostly just leans towards the clothes that are the most comfortable, which unfortunately never seem to be in fashion at court. He's sure that he'll have to wear something ruffled and tight for the ball. At the thought, he has to stop himself from pulling a face.

 

"I'm not sure."

 

Miyoung looks like this is the most dramatic thing that has ever happened to her. "Oh, my! If you were my child, you would have at least three... Remember that green is not a colour you should be wearing, and teal is very fashionable right now-”

 

Sometimes Jimin forgets that Miyoung is significantly older than him; in fact, he is fairly certain that she has young children, but they are kept far away from court, and he has never seen them. He has noticed that people very rarely speak of young children here. They only seem to become relevant when they present.

 

He wonders what the child he will carry's childhood will be like, growing up at court.

 

Today, however, the queen has made her grand entrance to the stateroom, is socialising somewhat with a few chosen members of court. Based on the behaviour of the people around him for the past few days, he's not that surprised when she starts to approach him.

 

Queen Hyerin is less present in their stateroom than even Daehee, who only appears once or twice a day. Namjoon had told him that it is to maintain the illusion of exclusivity of the royals' inner circle. It works, from what Jimin has seen of court, and the attempts to try and speak to queen, gain an audience, are never ending. The king doesn't seem to involve himself in such things, so the members of court, particularly the omegas, are fixated in speaking to the queen, trying to gain her favour. Jimin can only imagine the benefits of such a thing, but he actually very much prefers the royal family's lack of presence in the space that he needs to be.

 

There's something infinitely intimidating about the queen; maybe it's just that Jimin knows her status, but he doesn't think that's it. Despite being a beta, it's almost as though she carries herself like an alpha, with an air of confidence and knowing her worth. It's less stifling than that of Daehee, but it is still difficult to know how to speak to her, particularly for Jimin who has such little experience with these things.

 

The queen's gowns are always so large, and they themselves separate her from the anyone around her because the skirt is so big, has so much volume. They contrast so much with her delicate features. Today the dress is a deep, rich red, and even the colour itself is intimidating.

 

"Jimin, you look well. Will I have to be calling for the tailor to have your clothes re-fitted, soon?" Hyerin's smile is light, polite, but her eyes still flit up and down his figure quickly. Jimin feels his cheeks heating up.

 

"Um, I'm not sure, Your Highness," he says awkwardly. He hides his fidgeting hands behind his back in an attempt to look more proper. "I hope so?"

 

She nods, eyeing him again almost critically. She is shorter than him, and Jimin is sure that she is wearing heeled shoes hidden by her dress, but she still makes him feel small, somehow. "That is good. I hope for some results soon, do keep us informed."

 

"Yes, Your Highness." Jimin doesn't know exactly who he is supposed to be informing, but he guesses that Physician Lee tells both the king and queen what his condition is like after he visits. He doesn't have the opportunity to ask, anyway, because the queen is walking away without so much as a goodbye. He bows along with everyone else at his table, listens with half an ear to Miyoung's chattering about how wonderful it must feel that the queen comes to talk to him directly.

 

"Yes, so wonderful," he agrees dully. Wondering what the physician says about him has anxiety creeping up on him a little, paranoia over whether his employers think he’s doing a bad job. It’s rather foolish, but he already isn’t feeling his best, so it almost feels plausible in that moment. He tries to banish the thought from his mind.

 

Leaving the stateroom has also become something of an ordeal. So many people, alphas, betas and omegas alike, try to talk him into staying a little longer, attending evening activities, so they can talk to him more. He thinks that his presence might have become something of a status symbol, has seen Miyoung's smug expression when other people ask him to come sit with him. It's possible that networking would benefit him somewhat, but it's tiring. Just sitting in the stateroom is tiring, he doesn't want to have to inflict more socialising on himself. At least sat with Miyoung, he knows that he doesn't have to do any of the talking.

 

"No, I do have to go, I apologise," he says, bowing his head respectfully to the Count that is attempting to get him to go for a walk with him in the gardens before dinner. He would much rather go to the gardens by himself, hide away from everyone.

 

"Ah, well do consider coming and sitting with us tomorrow! I would very much like to learn more about you," he says, and Jimin nods, can't even address this man by name because he doesn't know who he is. "You can tell us about how you must be feeling! Have you found yourself using your chamber pot more, recently?"

 

"Er, no," Jimin replies shortly. "I have to. Go change, for dinner, now." He gives more respectful nods, backing away slowly. He is finding it harder and harder to care about the snappishness of his responses, not when people are asking about how often he needs to relieve himself.

 

When he finally manages to escape, his mind strays back to Physician Lee, what he might be telling the king and queen about him. The doctor isn’t particularly kind of him, and he has no idea what the man really thinks of Jimin. The omega can’t help but fret.

 

He also wonders, ever so briefly, what kind of treatment Daehee received over the years in which it was expected for him to get pregnant. Stops that train of thought in its tracks when he realises how discomfited it makes him; it must have been so much pressure. At least Jimin can leave here, if it doesn’t happen.

 

But leaving… somehow the thought doesn’t comfort him that much.



--



It's difficult to be able to catch Namjoon in order to speak to him. The castle is huge, of course, and most of the time he is busy in the important meetings that Jimin is not allowed to attend. He is also part of the king's inner circle, and therefore stays wherever the king is, in those rooms that Jimin isn't privy to enter. Jimin knows that Namjoon won't be going to the training courtyard, however, because of his omega status, so when most of the alphas and betas at court go to train, it is Jimin's opportunity to find him.

 

There are still countless places he could be though, and Jimin has to resort to sending the advisor a message through Taehyung, who is always the best person to turn to in these cases as he seems to know everyone in the castle. At least to some extent, anyway. He feels somewhat awkward about it, because he knows that he doesn't have a good reason for requesting his company, so he hopes that Namjoon isn't too busy. Jimin has always been kind of awed by how important Namjoon is, how much the king seems to care for his opinion, despite him being an omega.

 

"Hello Jimin, you wanted to see me?" Namjoon smiles at him so kindly, it always puts Jimin at ease.

 

"Yeah, I haven't in a few days. I wanted to ask you something? If that's okay?" Jimin pushes a hand through his hair, nervous even though he's pretty sure Namjoon won't turn him down. He's always been pretty forthcoming with information when it comes to Jimin, treated him like a true friend.

 

"Of course you can. Would you like to take a walk with me?" Namjoon gestures towards the door, and Jimin nods.

 

Namjoon takes them through some quiet hallways in the castle, and they only very occasionally pass an attendant scurrying in the opposite direction. It makes Jimin feel safe in asking something about the king and queen. "I wanted to know," he starts, and then stops. "I was wondering what the king and queen say about me. When I'm not around. If... If they're... disappointed? Or just. What Physician Lee has been saying about me. Do you know?"

 

Namjoon looks at him and Jimin doesn't quite see pity, more like understanding. "Physician Lee gives them updates on your condition, but mostly just tells them what he has prescribed, tells them you are healthy and show no signs of conception just yet." He places a comforting hand on Jimin's back. "He does not speak ill of you."

 

Jimin lets out a breath he didn't even know he was holding. That's very reassuring. "I'm. I'm glad."

 

"Try not to worry. The king and queen are aware that conceiving a child does not necessarily happen overnight, and that it takes a little while to even show any signs, anyway. Do not feel pressured."

 

Jimin nods absently, thinking about how Namjoon must be unaware of how the people at court are watching him. He can feel the weight of their stares, their questions, and it is certainly difficult not to feel pressured. The problem is that he knows just about as much as them, so their questions are pointless. It dawns on his that he might actually, really be pregnant right now, from Yoongi's rut or just before, and he wouldn't even know.

 

"Is there some kind of test that I can do, to see whether... I am?"

 

"Well, the omega consort had some... false positives, as diagnosed by the last physician. He was let go from the castle, but there is a certain amount of distrust that the royal family have now in pregnancy tests. It is very doubtful that they will have you take one at all," Namjoon explains. "It will become obvious, after some time."

 

That's interesting information, although unfortunate for Jimin, as he really does wish that he could just know . Namjoon walks them to a large window from which light pours into the corridor, and they pause there, admiring the garden which still blooms so brightly. Jimin wonders what it will look like in winter. For some reason that makes him think of Daehee again.

 

"Are- Are you and Daehee- the omega consort, close? Friends?" Jimin asks him, wondering if finally he could speak to someone who knows the other omega. His hopes are dashed, however, when Namjoon shakes his head.

 

"Not really. I do not think that he has many close confidants here in the castle. It is quite difficult for him, I think," he muses.

 

Jimin frowns. "What do you mean?"

 

Humming, Namjoon looks thoughtfully out into the gardens. "Well, I am not sure of how much you know of where he is from, but it's quite far from here. The customs are quite different, the people have different manners. I can imagine that it would be quite difficult to come here and learn a new way of living, even if Daehee was came from a wealthy family of influence, which he certainly did."

 

"I didn't realise it was so different," Jimin confesses, surprised. He'd known that Daehee had come from a kingdom around five straight days' ride away, and that it was an excellent match for trade purposes. There were also rumours of a rather massive dowry. He doesn't know much, though, it's not like the royal family discuss that kind of thing with the public. "It must be hard."

 

"It is. I once travelled to that kingdom, and I noticed that their courts are far bigger, and you should also bear in mind that the people speak a different language there. Not just metaphorically,” he chuckles. “They really speak a different language. The way they treat omegas is quite different, too."

 

"Oh, right." Truthfully, in an ideal world Jimin would love to sit down and have this conversation with Daehee; he loves hearing tales of what it's like in other kingdoms, has never travelled outside of this one. However, he knows that Daehee doesn't seem to appreciate his company, and that he himself has mixed emotions when it comes to the other omega, including a guilt that still pervades him despite the other emotions that have taken over him recently. It's doubtful that they will ever be able to sit and talk.

 

It's a shame, because Jimin would at least like to know what he is like as a person. They've barely spoken at all, and Daehee has always been cold to him.

 

Namjoon doesn't seem to notice his dilemma, indicating that they should carry on walking, heading in the direction of the dining hall for dinner. "If that's all, why don't you tell me about what you're reading nowadays? Has Seokjin given you anything interesting?"

 

They discuss books all the way down to the hall, and Namjoon gives him some recommendations of books he may like, becoming particularly enthusiastic when Jimin tells him of his love for the historical setting of the book he is currently reading. When Jimin asks he also tells him about the other kingdoms he has visited, and reminds Jimin that he should ask Yoongi for stories too, since the prince has apparently travelled even more than him.

 

Jimin walks away to sit at his usual table, a little relieved and his spirits lifted temporarily by the distraction. Namjoon is so level headed, so kind to him, his personality really just puts Jimin at ease in his company. It makes him wish that he could spend more time with the other omega. It might help him.



--



Since the rut it has been difficult for Jimin to sleep. That feeling of loneliness pervades, an ache in his chest that only grows when he is alone at night, in a bed that just doesn't seem as comfortable as it was before. He lies awake trying to figure out what it is that's wrong. Something is amiss, and he's not sure what it is.

 

And it only seems to worsen over time. As each day passes it weighs heavier on his heart, and he struggles with it, moving past it to try and be positive, to smile at Taehyung's affection, Hoseok's jokes. He thinks it's probably almost all homesickness, missing being surrounded by his family, their comforting scents. He writes home as much as he can to try and counter it, takes solace in his mother's letters, her small family updates, but it isn't very effective.

 

He doesn't feel the same about his bedroom anymore, doesn't feel like it's his sanctuary. The time he does spend there seems to be taken up in listlessly staring out of the window, limbs half-numb like all of his energy is being sapped by his aching chest, his overtired brain. In the daytime he spends as much time as possible outside of it, trying to distract himself from that feeling, talk to the people he wants to keep close. It's how he finds his way back to the library in search of Seokjin's company.

 

"Hey, Jin," Jimin calls out when as he steps inside the library. "Are you busy?"

 

"No, I’m over here," he hears called in response from the left side of the massive room. He follows the voice as Seokjin continues to talk. "Did you know that libraries are usually quiet places, Jimin?"

 

"No," Jimin answers with his voice still raised, laughing to himself. "Are they?"

 

"Yes, usually they are places of quiet study and writing." Seokjin is almost bellowing, and Jimin rounds a corner to spot him halfway up a ladder in front of the Local History shelf. He's grinning to himself, matching the one on Jimin's face.

 

“Ah, I apologise,” Jimin says, switching to a whisper. “I will try to be more respectful so as to not disturb all of the other people here.”

 

At that Seokjin gives him a dirty look. The library is as empty as it always is, Jimin still yet to see anyone come here other than himself. The alpha clambers down the ladder, arms empty of books, and it seems like he reads Jimin’s mind. "You are not the only person that visits the library. There are some people that come here every single day," he complains, lifting the ladder easily to place it at the side, out of the way.

 

"Ah, of course not. I am sorry for disrespecting... the library," Jimin's broad smile doesn't falter. Seokjin extends a hand, and Jimin thinks he’s going to place it on his shoulder to lead him away, but instead he pinches the skin of Jimin’s cheek. “Ow!”

 

“Don’t be rude.”

 

Jimin laughs and pushes him away playfully. “I like that the library is empty. Means I can monopolise your time.”

 

“Good. I was just thinking of you, actually. I have some things for you,” the alpha explains. “Come here.”

 

He leads Jimin to his desk, an organised chaos of books and papers, and searches to find what he wants. It takes him a moment, and Jimin takes those few seconds to appreciate how much work Seokjin does, how he is helping Jimin even though he must be so busy.

 

"Okay, I have compiled a list of symptoms of early pregnancy from the reading I have been doing. Here." Jimin is handed a piece of paper with a list written in clear, neat handwriting on it. Scanning it, he sees the words 'sickness' and 'fatigue' before he glances back up.

 

"Thank you," he says, smiling at Seokjin brightly. He receives a crinkled eye-smile in response.

 

"No problem. I will give you an updated list, when you... when it is necessary." He sits down in his chair, and Jimin plops down on the chair in front of the desk, looking down at the list again. "Are you feeling well, recently?"

 

Annoyance rises in Jimin then, yet again on the receiving end of another question. Before he came to the castle he didn't know that he had such a problem with repeating himself, that it made him so frustrated.

 

"I am fine ," he snaps.

 

"I- Well, I apologise," Seokjin says, looking fairly flabbergasted. Jimin immediately feels awful for lashing out. The alpha is one of the only people in the castle that shows genuine concern for his wellbeing. "I was just hoping that you were recovering well after the prince's rut."

 

Jimin blinks. That certainly isn't what he is usually asked. "What do you mean?"

 

A small frown flickers across Seokjin's face. "Ruts are quite hard to cope with. For both an alpha, and their... companion.  I hadn't seen you since before the rut, so I wanted to check on your health, because it often takes a while to recover."

 

"A while... really?" Jimin remembers the day after the rut, feeling sore and tired, but not much else. "It wasn't very bad. I slept it off in... half a day?"

 

Seokjin's eyebrows raise quickly. "Oh? That's good. Fairly unexpected but, I'm sure you dealt with the prince's aggressiveness well."

 

The need to be defensive rises again in Jimin's throat. He swallows it down. "He wasn't aggressive."

 

This seems to really surprise the alpha. Jimin didn't realise that it would be so unexpected. "That's... That is good. I am very glad."

 

There is a moment of silence, and Jimin tries to get out of whatever headspace he is in where he feels so sensitive about this issue. Maybe it's just because he knows how well Yoongi treated him throughout their three days together, how much he tried. It feels wrong to allow someone to think that he hurt Jimin in some way. Even if it means not thinking twice before snapping at an alpha.

 

Jimin realises an apology is probably necessary. "I'm sorry that I... that I snapped at you, I'm just- just..." He frowns, looking down at his hands in his lap. He feels so lost.

 

"Jimin," Seokjin says gently, reaching across the desk. "It's okay. Do not worry. As long as you are well, that's what is important."

 

Jimin nods, curling in on himself somewhat. He lowers his eyes and listens to the sounds of Seokjin fussing around his desk, the silence filled with the fluttering noises of ruffled paper, the soft thumps of books being stacked.

 

"Here," Seokjin breaks the quiet. "I found another book you may find useful, since you were asking about mating. It's a romance, but I skimmed through and saw that the couple mate in the book - it may help to give you an idea, although it will be somewhat romanticised."

 

He hands Jimin the book, the omega taking in how small and thin the thing is. "Thank you, that's really great, I'll read it as soon as I can. It's so short?" he rambles, keeping his tone light and trying to move on from his foolishness. He opens it to find that the paper is much thinner than the books he normally gets from the library.

 

"Yes, well, these books are printed cheaply in order to get more readers, and they are more popular amongst people with less money to spend on such things. They are short escapes." Seokjin looks a little proud of himself. "I think it should be at your reading level too, as these short stories are written often by people with less of an elaborate education than the people you meet here, for example."

 

"Thank you. You've done so much for me, I'm sorry I was rude to you," Jimin says, wishing he could do something to make up for it. "I've had... A lot of questioning done to me, lately."

 

"Ah." Understanding dawns on Seokjin's face, and then sympathy. "I understand. If you’re made very uncomfortable, though, you should say something to Yoongi. Or possibly someone else at court that you trust?"

 

Jimin has a feeling that Seokjin doesn’t understand the workings of court that well. “I will… think about it,” Jimin says eventually. He’s fairly certain that no-one could stop the way the court works, however, the way that his information is not valued as private. He is a public commodity, in a way.

 

“Alright, well. Feel free to spend the rest of the day here, if you are trying to hide. You can keep this lonely old man company.”

 

Jimin smiles at that. He glances down at the list that the librarian had so carefully prepared for him. “Wait. What is ‘trapped wind’?”

 

Seokjin bursts out laughing.



--



After their post-rut card playing session, Namjoon deems him able to go play the game he already knows as part of the queen's planned evening activities, something put in place as a somewhat replacement for the rescheduled ball. He feels nervous, not in his abilities as he has been playing this game since childhood, but of having to interact with these people around alcohol, and of going where Daehee tried to exclude him. Unfortunately for the omega consort Jimin was issued an invitation to this particular event, as well as all the others hosted by the queen. In fact, it is only Daehee that never issues him invitations.

 

Therefore, several hours after dinner has finished and when he would normally be going to bed, Jimin returns to the staterooms to find them quite empty. He hears the indistinct chatter of people, thought, and follows the noise to find rooms that he has not yet been in. An attendant opens the door for him and he thanks her with a small smile.

 

Inside, there are five large tables set up quite differently to what Jimin is used to - green cloths cover them and chairs are spaced evenly around in a semicircle. Attendants are stood around close, holding large decanters full of red wine. Everyone already seems in good spirits, raucous laughter bursting from various tables at different times, and some occasional groans and cheers; Jimin realises that many of the people at court will have been drinking since dinner.

 

He hovers awkwardly for a moment, unsure where he should sit. "Jimin!" a loud, familiar voice calls over the racket, and Jimin turns his head to and fro, trying to find the source. Eventually he realises that Hoseok is waving at him from the largest table in the centre of the floor. He approaches slowly, looking carefully at all of the different people that are also sat there.

 

It's with a start that he realises that this is something of a replacement high table, with both the queen and Daehee sat with various people surrounding them, eyes on their cards. Jimin is really not sure that he is allowed to sit here, but Hoseok doesn’t seem to care at all.

 

"I did not think you would come!" Hoseok near-shouts, excited. He pulls Jimin down into the chair next to him, and Jimin wonders how much he has drunk already. The redness of the beta's neck, along with the volume of his voice, suggest that it’s quite a bit.

 

"I didn't realise it had already started," Jimin says, looking around. He's on time for the invitation, but the party is already in full swing.

 

"Ah, everyone really just continues drinking after dinner. Some people are excited to gamble," Hoseok explains, throwing an arm around him. "Here, you can have some of my coins to play with."

 

Jimin thanks him quietly, settling into his seat and waiting for the current round to be finished. His presence hasn't caused much of a stir, thankfully, neither of the queen or Daehee looking up from where they are having conversations with the people next to them, or those standing watching them play. Everyone looks in good spirits, and Jimin relaxes ever so slightly. Maybe it will be a good evening.

 

Jimin is pretty good at the game, is pretty good at judging odds; he's had so much practice over the years at home, his eldest sister always acting as the dealer and his siblings being ever so competitive. He manages to win some money, too, and he laughs as Hoseok drunkenly applauds him, he himself having lost most of his money. Luckily, this game doesn't involve Jimin competing against other players, so he stays out of the way of everyone else.

 

The first two hours can't be described as peaceful, not with how drunk most of the people around are, but it is fun. Hoseok is excellent company, and even if he tends to go into something of a drunken daze occasionally, he makes Jimin laugh. When offered the wine, Jimin refuses; he doesn't want to embarrass himself in front of all of these people, would rather just watch.

 

He is continuously offered wine by the attendants around him, though, until Hoseok has to tell them to leave him. "He does not want to drink, although I am sure he would appreciate some water," he says to the young man that approaches him for the sixth time that night. Jimin smiles at his friend in thanks.

 

"Oh, he will not want that. I am sure he is happy with the fertility teas," the woman next to Daehee giggles, the red flush of alcohol colouring her face and clashing in a rather ugly way with her pink gown. Jimin blinks. He didn’t realise that his prescribed teas are common knowledge, although if he thinks about it properly, it shouldn’t have really been a surprise to him.

 

"Those teas are disgusting," Daehee interjects. "I very much doubt he will be enjoying them."

 

This has Jimin almost dropping his cards. The omega's tone was almost sympathetic, and when he glances across the table at Daehee they have a moment of eye contact and there's almost, almost understanding there. Jimin drops his gaze, shy.

 

Anything he may have gained from that interaction is lost, however, after the queen leaves, and everyone's attention turns to Daehee. There is a small commotion as everyone stands to bow as Queen Hyerin does, which is comical, many of the party too drunk to be doing anything other than sitting in their seats, Jimin watching amusedly as they sway and even stumble occasionally. It's all a far cry from the composure that he witnesses in the staterooms by day.

 

The tables reshuffle slightly afterwards, people moving around slightly, and Hoseok pulls him along so he can sit next to another omega that Jimin recognises but can't quite put a name to. Maybe he's tired, but eventually he registers the pretty boy as the omega that had been staring at Hoseok some time ago, when they had been sat together at the dinner table. He's in the middle of smirking to himself at the turn of events when a very loud voice startles him.

 

"Can someone play for us? I think we need some music."

 

"Yes, that would be wonderful," Daehee says, now just two seats down from Jimin. The volume of his voice doesn't rise above normal, and yet everyone stops to listen, and soon there are at least three volunteers. An omega ends up setting up to play the lute, not far from the middle table.

 

"I wish I could play an instrument," Hoseok laments, slumping to the side. "It was never something I preferred to do when I was young, despite my lessons."

 

Jimin smiles as Hoseok's head lolls to the side. "Me too, I always preferred dancing to playing the lute. My mother tried so hard to encourage me, and I practiced it for around ten years, and yet I still am not very good at it."

 

"Oh!" Jimin snaps his head in Daehee's direction once again at the exclamation. The omega is looking right at him. "You play the lute? Of course you should show us, do not deny us the pleasure," he says lightly. A smile plays about his lips, but when Jimin looks to his eyes, they are cold.

 

Under the table, Jimin clenches his fists. He doesn't know what to do to not embarrass himself; he has seen people at court play their instruments, all very classically trained and technically good. There is no way that he can live up to that.

 

"I'm sorry, I can't- I'm rather terrible at it," he tries to explain. His stomach clenches when this is met with a round of boos.

 

"Oh, that is truly a terrible excuse. I know that you are not familiar with the ways of court, but if the omega consort asks you to do something, you should do it." Daehee's tone has an edge of something harsh, and it makes Jimin nervous, ashamed.

 

"I'm- I'm sorry," he stutters helplessly. The people around them are staring, now, and Jimin shrinks from their attention. None of them will stand up for him, he's sure, because no-one would think to argue with the prince’s mate. He's also sure that his cheeks are getting red, and he's just. So embarrassed.

 

"Ahh, I don't think we want Jimin to play, if he says he's bad," Hoseok slurs. "Soojung is better at playing, wassit. Harp?"

 

"Yes, I play, I can play next, Your Majesty?" Sooyoung stands, swaying, and Jimin almost gasps with relief when everyone's attention is turned away from him. He looks at Hoseok, who meets his gaze, a lot sharper than the omega expected. His friend jerks his head towards the door, and Jimin takes the hint.

 

He really doesn’t want Daehee to push; this is his chance to escape. It’s already been over two hours, surely an acceptably long time for him to be here. "Excuse me," Jimin says quietly, and rises from his chair. Fear seizes upon him when Daehee looks his way, but Hoseok distracts him with some vague shouting when he loses his hand.

 

Jimin walks away quickly, skin on the back of his neck crawling as he hopes and prays that he won't be called back, that someone won't speak to him. He feels like he’s going to be sick. The distance between his table and the door seems to be so much bigger than it was before, and every time he has to duck around someone, a drunk man celebrating, an attendant pouring wine, it adds seconds onto the time it takes to leave.

 

But he does. He reaches the door, gets out into the corridor, and lets out a deep, shaky breath. His legs shake in the same way as he walks away, the feeling of being watched gradually fading.

 

For the first time in days, he feels like he's safest in his bedroom.



--



Jimin settles down amongst some flowers that his mother always used to call Carolinas to read the story that Seokjin gave him. He refused to attend court today, doesn't care how it looks, he just feels so uncomfortable there. He needs a day to just, hide away. The jasmine vines offer him that, shelter from the sun when he hides beside the neatly trimmed hedge next to them, as well as protection from prying eyes.

 

He doesn't think it will take him long to read the book at all. It’s is fairly short, and feels like reading a dream - it has that vague, surreal quality, certainly not realistic. Jimin can tell by the way everything goes so smoothly, everyone is so happy.

 

It’s very typical of what people expect. An alpha girl and an omega boy, and the alpha courts the omega, very romantically of course. Then the alpha asks omega’s family for his hand, and then they mate. As simple as that. There are no disagreements over dowry, no rejections by the omega’s family because they don’t think the alpha is a suitable mate. No unrequitedness in feelings, no struggles over mismatching social standings.

 

It makes Jimin scoff. He knows that there are very few stories like this in real life; three of his siblings are mated, and only one of them has a story comparable to this. Still, even then, he’s sure that Sooyoung wasn’t this wildly in love with her now-mate when they got mated. It was more of a good decision, a good match, convenient and with an omega girl that she liked.

 

Jimin knows that whenever he dreamt of being mated, it was always to someone he loved, because that really is the dream scenario. The love story between the boy and girl is so perfect; he has to admit that stories like this make it easier for him to believe it might happen, just a little.

It’s easier, he supposes, not being part of the nobility. His parents weren’t overly concerned with having him marry for status, and his family aren’t concerned with politics like noble families are.

 

Jimin hopes that he will be able to mate for love.

 

The story glosses over the part where the couple mate, the actual bedroom mating, and Jimin doesn’t mind all that much. He’s disappointed, though, that the story is so short. It doesn’t continue much past the couple’s mating, and he only gets a brief glimpse of what it’s like to be mated, how it feels.



Seulgi can feel Jihoon where he is at the market, a low thrum in their bond. She can’t quite feel what he’s feeling, but can sense that he is not troubled.

 

Until, suddenly, he is. There is a growing tension, vague, and if she didn’t focus on it, she wouldn’t have noticed at all. But it's there, something makes her uneasy, triggers her need to protect. Something is wrong with Jihoon, he's uncomfortable, unsafe.

 

She doesn't hesitate to drop what she's doing, drop her axe and start jogging in the direction of her omega.

 

It takes her less than ten minutes to get to town, and she can sense where Jihoon is - maybe she couldn't on a normal day, but today isn't a normal day. Today she needs to save her omega.

 

Jihoon's scent, that sweet vanilla that Seulgi wears like her own mark, is slightly soured, and she follows it to where Jihoon is being crowded against a stall by a large alpha. Her omega looks scared, and Seulgi's blood boils.

 

"What are you doing?" she hisses, and the alpha's head snaps in her direction. "Can't you see he's mated?"

 

The man raises his eyebrows at her, impudent with a challenge in his eyes. "I'm not sure that in this case it matters," he says airily.

 

Making her way around to where Jihoon is standing, a touch to his hand has the tension she can feel through their bond dissipating. He steps closer to her, and that in turn quiets the anger and protectiveness she feels inside, just a little.

 

"It matters," she bites out. "Don't approach mated omegas, you monster of an alpha. He clearly didn't want to talk to you."

 

The alpha's nostrils flare, and Jihoon edges behind her, ever so slightly. When the alpha steps forward he whimpers, and Seulgi exploded in anger. She squares up to him, ignoring the height difference, and stares him straight in the eye. A growl rises in her throat.

 

The people in the market who surround them all fall quiet, the possibility of a fight right in front of them very real. Seulgi pulls herself out of her angry state at the sound of another whimper behind her. When she focuses, she can feel how worried Jihoon is, how distressed; he must be for her to be able to feel it so strongly through their bond, it's not like it's normal to feel your mate's emotions.

 

"We're going to leave," she hisses at the alpha, "and you're never going to speak to him again. Do you understand?"



For some reason, Jimin’s nausea is returning.

 

Usually for Jimin, reading is something of an escape. He can get immersed in another world, another adventure, usually a place where the main character isn't as restricted as he is in their movements, and just enjoy it. With this story, however, reading has the knot in his stomach coming back, his shoulders slumping with a heavy weight.

 

So this is what it's like. He didn't quite realise how deep the mating connection goes, a link between two souls that allows them to feel close to one another, even if they're apart. The story has given him some insight, and now he sees that people who are mated can't truly be lonely.

 

The ability to not be lonely. Jimin finds himself wishing he had that.



--



Taehyung, the good friend he is, has picked up on Jimin's low mood - part of him wonders if it's because he can smell it on him, or if it's just how much Jimin has been struggling to smile as much lately. Either way, he works hard to try and cheer Jimin up.

 

"I like this one," the beta says, holding the shirt part of a pretty set up to Jimin's frame. Jimin nods along, not really paying attention. This is the fourth outfit that they've looked at in an attempt to find something to wear for the upcoming ball. It's difficult to find the right balance of something nice, something that will make him look good and fashionable, and something that won't draw too much attention to him. Apparently it's very important that he doesn't try and upstage any of the royal family in any way.

 

"It's okay," Jimin says listlessly. He's kind of tired of this already, wants to lie down and do nothing, stare out the window and maybe imagine himself back at home.

 

"Just okay?" Taehyung eyes him, disappointment in the turn of his mouth. "You not having a great day, Jiminie?"

 

He's having a terrible day, only getting worse and worse as the hours pass. There's nowhere where he feels himself, and after yesterday he really wants to be nowhere near Daehee - he dreads having to see everyone at dinner in a few hours time. Reading Seokjin’s story also didn’t help at all. He shakes his head, not sure he wants to put it into words, or worry Taehyung.

 

"Hey, I know something that might cheer you up. Come with me," Taehyung says, a mischievous smile spreading on his face. Jimin takes the hand that is offered to him then, letting himself be lead out of his room and down the hallway.

 

At first he thinks that Taehyung is taking him to the gardens, but he is taken out a different entrance, in a similar direction to the training courtyard, but not quite. As they walk, he starts to detect a distinct and familiar smell, something grassy and a little unpleasant, and as they round a corner Jimin begins to realise what it is.

 

Taehyung has brought him to the royal stables, a large brown building tucked away against the side of the castle. When they start to near it, he starts to hear the sound of horses, the clop-clop of their hooves and snorts, and a few voices inside. For the first time in a while, excitement starts to bubble in Jimin's chest.

 

He's not afraid of horses, likes them a lot, even, and always would stop and feed the ones that belonged to the merchant that owned the shop beside his father. His mother would always chastise him for stealing carrots and apples from the pantry. It has been a while since he has been able to do that.

 

Taehyung is practically bouncing with excitement, and when he looks at Jimin it's like he knows how much Jimin would like it here. "How did you know I love horses?" Jimin wonders.

 

"Just a guess. You're a kind person, soft hearted. It would make sense that you like animals," Taehyung explains, grinning. "If you didn't, I was just going to have you watch me ride one and fall off."

 

This has Jimin bursting into laughter. "That would be funny."

 

"But since you do like them," Taehyung starts, taking his wrist and tugging him in the direction of the wide stable entrance, "We can go pet them, and ride them a little, maybe."

 

"Wait, really? They'll let us do that?" Jimin says in hushed tones as they enter the stable. There are a few stable hands standing around, none of them giving them a second glance, so they mustn't have a problem with them being there.

 

"Of course! Let me just find someone... Hey!" Taehyung calls out, startling Jimin. The horses don't startle, and Jimin realises that they're probably trained for this kind of thing. These are the horses that lead the royal carriages through huge crowds, they need to be able to cope with noise.

 

They're bigger, grander that the horses that Jimin has seen before. Of course, he'd be surprised if they were the opposite. They look so noble, so beautiful, Jimin really wants to reach out and touch.

 

He's about to, when a voice calls out at him. "You won't wanna go fo' that one! He's a biter."

 

Quickly pulling his hand back, Jimin turns to face the girl that had just spoken. She's shorter than him, a beta, with a cute round face, and she smiles at Taehyung with a lot of familiarity.

 

"Hyuna, this is Jimin. I brought him for some cheering up, he needs to snuggle something," Taehyung explains with a mock serious tone. Jimin stops himself from rolling his eyes.

 

"Ah," she nods, taking in Jimin's appearance. His clothes are probably a little too expensive to be here, and it's not like he cares, but it's somewhat of a giveaway of who he is. Taehyung has maybe even talked about him. "We'll need a cuddler, then. This way."

 

She waves them deeper into the stables, down a row of horses - there's so many, Jimin is taken aback, although he knows he shouldn't be - and right to the back. Hyuna grabs a bag on the way, and hands it to Taehyung as soon as they reach the horses there.

 

"These ones are all sweethearts, won't bite you unless you're stupid," she grins. That makes Jimin hesitate, but then Taehyung grabs his hand, putting it on the horse in front of him's nose.

 

Jimin makes a surprised noise, but after a moment he starts to stroke it. "He's so cute," he sighs. Taehyung hands him a carrot top from the bag in his hand.

 

"He's lovely. Taehyungie's favourite, isn't he?" The beta nods, and Hyuna joins Jimin in petting the beast's mane.

 

"I didn't realise there would be quite so many in here," Jimin confesses, and Hyuna nods.

 

"Well, you gotta think, some of th' kids belong to guests or member of th' court, and some are personal riders," she explains.

 

"Personal riders? Oh wait, I think I understand." Thinking about the number of people in the castle that probably have their own horses has Jimin takes aback. He runs his hand gently over the horse's long face, it's big eyes watching him. It even lowers it's head so Jimin can pet it more, and the omega coos internally. He's about to ask whether it has a name, when another thought strikes him.

 

"So the king and queen have their own personal horse?" Jimin asks, eyes diverted to reach for another piece of carrot in Taehyung's bag. He doesn't look at his companion as he feeds it to the animal.

 

"Yes, of course. The queen's is a little shorter, and the king has th' most expensive horse I've ever seen bought here. Do you want to see them?" Hyuna indicates the direction in which these horses are, and Jimin nods.

 

Again they follow the beta, who has a confident stride; it's clear that she's very much at home in this place. Jimin notices that the horses here seem bigger, more physically attractive, stronger.

 

"This one is the queen's horse, and that over there is the king's." Hyuna gestures towards the different horses, and nods when Jimin holds his hand out to pet it.

 

"Does- Where is the prince's horse?" He looks at Hyuna, but out of the corner of his eye he sees Taehyung watching him; a surreptitious glance tells him that his face is blank, his eyes focused on him. He hides a wince.

 

"Look to your left- Yes, that one," she points out. Jimin steps towards that direction automatically, drawn to the horse that belongs to Yoongi.

 

It's a deep chestnut brown colour, and has intelligent eyes, that's the first thing Jimin sees. It's also not the biggest horse in the stables, but still looks lithe and powerful. "Is it a boy or a girl?" he asks.

 

"A girl. Her name is Bee, and she's another sweet one. You're okay to touch her, she doesn't usually mind."

 

Jimin does, nearing her gingerly and easing into petting her. When she shows no signs of distress whatsoever, he smiles, petting her properly, running his hand over her flank. He's startled into a laugh when she leans her head down and butts it against his cheek.

 

"I think you have a way with them," Hyuna notes. "She's normally quite nervous."

 

"Really?" Jimin says, secretly excited by the prospect.

 

"Yes, normally we wouldn't train a horse that nervous, but the prince insisted, took a liking to her. She got in a bit of an accident, when she was young, it wasn't pretty. Stable master wanted to put her down, but Prince Yoongi was here learning to ride at the time, kicked up a fuss. He started crying, and y'know, no-one says no to the heir to the throne," she chuckles.

 

Looking up at Bee, he can imagine why Yoongi would be quite taken with her. He imagines a young version of the prince sobbing over a poor, hurt foal, and his heart clenches up a little. "Is she okay to ride, trustworthy? I just mean, if she was injured..."

 

Hyuna smiles. "She's fine. Not the fastest, but the prince knows her well. They're a good team. While you're here, would you wanna ride one? I can go get one saddled up, if you do wanna."

 

Jimin is reluctant to leave Bee, for some reason, but he nods anyway. When Hyuna leaves Taehyung steps up next to him.

 

"What was that about?" Taehyung asks, tone light. Jimin continues to avoid his gaze, feels like he has done something wrong.

 

"Nothing. I was just curious," he explains, trying to find something to change the topic to. "Are you going to ride one? Or are you really scared of falling off?" he tries.

 

"Ah, no, I can ride a horse, I'm just a bit clumsy sometimes." Jimin turns when Hyuna calls them, and Taehyung grins at him. "I'll show you all my skills."

 

In the little courtyard outside of the stables, Hyuna helps him up onto a smaller filly (his eyes widen when he feels how strong the beta is when she helps to lift him a bit, and Taehyung sniggers), and leads him around the area. He asks lots of questions about the horse, the stables, Hyuna herself, and she answers them all patiently. She has a great sense of humour, and Jimin decides he likes her.

 

Taehyung doesn't fall off, but Jimin can't say he demonstrated many skills in front of him, trotting around the courtyard on a slightly bigger horse and without an attendant leading him, but still going very slow. He struggled getting off the horse though, which has Jimin sniggering.

 

As they walk back to the castle afterwards, he intertwines their fingers. "Thank you, Tae," he says gratefully.

 

Taehyung smiles at him. "Anytime, Jiminie. We should come back soon, if it makes you feel a bit better. I should have really brought you sooner, but I only thought to ask Hyuna if it were okay to bring you a couple of days ago. You haven't seemed that happy lately." He doesn't pry anymore, and Jimin is glad. He's not sure he can put his feelings into words, anyway.



--



Jimin agonises for a long while about going to watch Yoongi's- the travelling party's arrival back at the castle. Unfortunately the decision is made for him, as he dragged there by a bouncy Hoseok, unable to protest for fear of being suspicious.

He wasn't even sure why he feels so strange about it, although when the party starts approaching on the paved stone path up to the castle's grand entrance, he thinks he may be starting to start to understand.

Daehee stands at the front of the gathering, along with the king and queen, and seeing him there reminds Jimin of the upset in his stomach from almost two weeks ago, when he had seen Yoongi with him before Yoongi left. It doesn't rise again in the same way, but a knot forms in his stomach instead, a dull ache.

He wants to unpick it, but doesn't really know where to start.

The royal carriage, indicated by the presence of the intricate gold detailing on the doors that the other carriages don't have, is brought forwards by some tired looking horses that are immediately attended to by stable-workers that were standing ready to receive them. The door is opened and Yoongi steps out, greeting his father and mother with short bows, and Jimin can't see his face, not really, but from the alpha's body language Jimin thinks he might be somewhat agitated. Just that has Jimin tensing up, wondering if maybe Yoongi is tired, or someone upset him on the trip.

When he steps towards Daehee, Jimin looks away. He can't help himself, looks towards the rest of the small arriving party, the attendants opening the carriage doors and the passengers stepping out. It feels... bad, bitter, and he makes himself feel guilty for behaving in such a way, even if he doesn't understand the way he's behaving at all.

The king and queen turn and start to approach the rest of the court, and Jimin is stood fairly far along the line thankfully and knows when to bow, doesn't miss his cue. There are some polite smiles and nods from them both, and just behind them Daehee and Yoongi follow.

Daehee has his hand resting on the crook of Yoongi's raised elbow, a traditional pose for an alpha escorting an omega, and Jimin looks at it and doesn't really feel anything. So maybe he's fine, maybe he's stopped being ridiculous now, he thinks, and he almost, almost breathes a sigh of relief. But then Yoongi and Daehee walk past, and Yoongi glances at him.

His gaze is impassive, his face expressionless, and Jimin's chest aches. He's overcome with it, blinking rapidly and looking down at his feet. Has to try and ground himself somehow, and reaches for Hoseok's hand.

"Jimin? Are you alright?"

The omega takes a deep breath. He should be alright. There's no reason for him not to be. Yoongi wasn't really greeting anyone from the line, why would it matter that the prince didn't greet someone as unimportant as Jimin?



--



Jimin waits that night for Yoongi's knock, but it doesn't come. The hours pass with no sleep, and that ache anchors itself in Jimin's gut. At least he has a reason for it now, although he still doesn't understand why. He's not a spoiled brat, he doesn't need his friend's attention on him all the time. He didn't realise that he must be so used to the attention, from all of it that he received at home all these years.

 

It's the next night, the night before the queen's birthday ball, when Jimin gets to speak to Yoongi again. He comes to Jimin's room, knocks on the door, just as normal. For the first time, Jimin considers pretending to be asleep, not answering the door.

 

And he doesn't even know why. He has no reason to be angry at Yoongi. Wants to see him, even, has missed talking to his friend. But since the previous day, he's been angry- no, not angry, but has felt strange, about Yoongi. It makes him want to kick his bed out of frustration, not the feeling, but the fact that he doesn't understand it. His head feels like it's been dragged a mile through the dirt by Hyuna's cart horses.

 

When he really sits and assesses himself, he realises it's a deep mixture of feelings. Partly instinct. He just wishes he could read them better, find out what his instincts are trying to tell him about the alpha.

 

"Jimin?" he hears Yoongi call softly, and he huffs. He can't just ignore him.

 

"Yes?" he calls back.

 

Yoongi peeps around the door, eyes wide. "I thought you might be sleeping. How are you?" he asks, approaching the bed.

 

Jimin is already tucked under the covers, and he sits up, but doesn't move to get out. The alpha is halfway across the space when his scent hits Jimin.

 

And that something within him settles. His body relaxes into the bed, and for a second, he wants to reach out for Yoongi. He doesn't, because he has control of himself, but the urge was there. And it's terrifying.

 

"I'm, I'm," he stutters, and Yoongi sits next to him, eyes searching him. "I'm fine."

 

"You look much better than when I last saw you. I was hoping you got a lot of rest. And ate a lot. And managed to read a lot of your book. Did you finish it?" He speaks quickly, and Jimin just nods along.

 

"Yes, yes I did," he says. He feels like he's in a trance when Yoongi reaches out, touches his wrist, and he leans into the touch. It feels nice. Yoongi's hands are warm.

 

"I did not come last night, I thought you would appreciate another night off," Yoongi explains, eyes searching. His eyes keep drifting over Jimin's face, only once dropping to the exposed skin of his chest where his nightshirt is unbuttoned at the top. Like his hand, his gaze is warm, and he looks at Jimin with something close to a teasing smile on his face.

 

"I didn't need it," Jimin says, and then bites his tongue. He feels like he's right on the edge of stupidity, and he needs to back off. There's clearly something going on with his mind right now, he needs to be careful, or he'll say something foolish he doesn't mean. Like that he missed the alpha.

 

"Oh? I apologise, then," he laughs. "Everything should be back to normal now. At least until..." His smile drops, just a little. "For a while."

 

"For a while," Jimin repeats.

 

There's a moment of silence, and it's almost comfortable. Jimin turns his wrist, letting it fall more into Yoongi's hand, encouraging. He wants Yoongi's touch right now. Wants him to make him forget. That feeling he's had for two weeks is gone in that moment, and he knows that Yoongi will make him feel better, distract him from all of that. He always does make Jimin feel so good.

 

He turns his hand, gripping Yoongi's wrist lightly and tugging. "I don't need to rest, anymore."

 

Yoongi nods slowly, and gradually there's more heat in his eyes, in the way they look at him, drop to his chest, drag over his neck, his mouth. "If you're sure. I don't mind waiting a little longer.'

 

"No," Jimin shakes his head vehemently. "Stay."

 

Yoongi kneels in front of him, lifting his nightshirt gently before slowly bending in front of him to mouth at his chest. His lips are gentle, but send shivers down Jimin’s spine. Something so small, yet it already has his toes curling in anticipation. When Yoongi brushes his sensitive and already pebbling nipples, he lets out the softest of sighs. Lets himself relax into it, the safety of Yoongi's presence. He'll have more time to think, tomorrow. Later.

 

Jimin pushes the fact that he can ever so faintly smell Daehee to the back of his mind.



--







Chapter Text

The morning after Yoongi's visit, he's alone - has been since last night, when Yoongi had left as Jimin had started to drift to sleep. Jimin had woken up in the middle of the night, the knot returning to his stomach, a feeling of sickness having him shift around, unable to sleep. It's sad, and he hates himself for it a little bit, but he pretends that Yoongi is there, just so he can get back to sleep. Tells himself it's just because it feels less alone.

 

When he takes his morning bath, he can't help thinking that last night maybe Yoongi stayed longer than he would have a couple of months ago. On the other hand, maybe that's just wishful thinking. Jimin doesn't know what he feels, it's all so hard to understand. All he knows is that he has never felt like this before. He considers, briefly, that he might be ill, but it seems kind of unlikely. This isn't like any illness he has had before.

 

So he tries not to think about Yoongi. He has plenty of other things to concern himself with right now, anyway, like the ball that he doesn't feel anywhere near ready for that’s happening today, or the list of symptoms that Seokjin gave him that is still tucked away inside that romance book.

 

Jimin had used the piece of paper as a bookmark as his other marker is currently in the other book he's reading, but now he has finished the romance, it seems silly to just keep it there. Really, he needs to get it out and read it, but he had put it off, distracted by everything else. He doesn’t have to visit court for long today because of the arrival of the guests, so after his bath he comes back to his room, pulling out the list from between the thin pages.

 

It's short, and the first thing - nausea - is something that Jimin knew already. The rest has his eyes widening slightly. They don't seem pleasant. Tiredness, increased urination, weight gain, headaches, increased strength in instinct. The scent and mood changes parts don’t seem quite as bad, or the nesting, but overall it doesn’t look like a fun time ahead.

 

After just a few minutes, a recognisable knock on the door interrupts his reading. Taehyung. "Jimin? Mind if I come in?"

 

"Of course," Jimin says absently. He closes the list, puts it on his bedside table. He'll think about that later. "Anything wrong?"

 

"No, course not, I was just wondering if you wanted some help preparing yourself for the meal, and setting your clothing out for the ball? There are many guests here today, I also wanted to tell you about how you will be presented to them," Taehyung says, heading to the wardrobe without waiting for Jimin's permission. He probably knows that Jimin would give him it anyway. "I think you should wear the purple, for dining."

 

Jimin blanches. "Presented? What does that mean?" Images are conjured up of him being paraded in front of all of the guests, and panic overtakes him as he imagines their faces, judging him for being the crown prince's plaything-

 

"Yes, you need to be given some kind of identity and role in the court- Hey," Taehyung interrupts himself, seeing Jimin's expression. "Don't worry, everyone is announced when they enter the hall, barely anyone will notice. Particularly if you arrive early. It's okay, Jiminie." He reaches out to rest a calming hand on Jimin's shoulder.

 

Taking a deep breath, Jimin rests one of his own hands on Taehyung's. "Sorry, I'm just... It's making me nervous. I haven't had much time to think about it..."

 

The beta smiles at him understandingly. "I get it. Don't worry! It'll be fun! Hoseok and Namjoon will be there, and there will be wonderful music, beautiful gowns..."

 

Jimin stops listening to most of what Taehyung is saying when he realises the romanticised nature of his view of court. Of course, he's only trying to help Jimin feel better, but the omega has a sneaking suspicion that the ball will be quite boring as an event.

 

He lets his friend dress him up in semi-formal clothing for dinner, noticeably finer than the clothes that he usually wears, and he starts to get an inkling that he will have to do a lot of maintaining appearances tonight. On the other hand, maybe that means that all he has to do is look good, nod and smile. That would be ideal, he thinks.

 

"So, if anyone new is introduced to you, you tell them that you are the son of Lord Jung Yunho, and you have been sent to court whilst your father is travelling - no-one will question it, as he is a lord with a fairly limited amount of land and hasn't been seen around in a long while. You are the royal family's temporary ward."

 

"Lord Yunho... Okay," Jimin says, taking it in. It doesn't seem that difficult, or like it will attract too much attention, which calms him down immensely.

 

"Now, there will be a feast for the guests, but you can just sit with the people you normally sit with and they will cover any questions you may be asked. Miyoung is good at talking, no?" Taehyung explains with a grin. Jimin nods, Miyoung does talk a lot, he probably doesn't have to be worried about questions.

 

"So just... sit and look pretty?"

 

Taehyung cackles, lifting the purple jacket out of Jimin's wardrobe and holding it out for the omega to slip on. "Yes, that's great. I'll come back and help you get ready, yeah? It'll be fun."

 

Jimin isn't sure about that, but he'd rather be spending time with Taehyung than the people at court, so he takes what he can get.

 

Mealtimes have been altered slightly to fit in the ball, and therefore Jimin finds himself heading for dinner much earlier than normal. He actually hesitates at the entrance, however, as there are more people than he has ever seen before in the main dining hall, and it's rather terrifying. He hadn't sat and watched them arrive, so he didn't realise quite how many guests there would be. He hopes the ballroom isn't too crowded.

 

There are three guests sat at his table, all one family, it seems; the alpha mother, a countess who seems overly pleased to have been invited to such a close seat to the high table. Her daughter looks bored, another alpha, pretty and bored-looking. He sits next to Miyoung, offering her a sweet smile.

 

"Jimin, that colour looks wonderful on you. This is Countess Kim and her mate, and their daughter Hwasa."

 

"Who is this?" the Countess interjects before Jimin can even greet them. Jimin has to force himself not to roll his eyes. "I have not seen you before, I think?"

 

"I'm-"

 

"He is the son of Lord Jung, a visitor to the castle for a short time. The king and queen are treating him very well, of course." Miyoung speaks over him immediately and he slumps back in his chair slightly, a small smile coming to his face as he realises how little work he will have to do in this situation. "Last night he did well to best most of the high table when we were gambling, I dare say he's very much enjoying his time here. I myself drank a little too much last night..."

 

Jimin casts his gaze around to the rest of the hall, sees Hoseok entertaining his table rambunctiously, and Namjoon in deep discussion with those at his own. The table where most of the king's advisors are located looks subdued, serious, and Jimin wonders if it's irritating for them to have to talk about serious matters in such a loud place. It would probably look bad if any one of them skipped a feast for the castle's guests, though.

 

One of the guests addressing him brings his attention back to his own table. "So, Jimin, tell me, how many alphas are courting you in the castle right now?" Hwasa directs to him, ignoring Miyoung's drivel about fine wines that her parents somehow look invested in.

 

"Um, none?" Jimin answers automatically, taken by surprise at the question. He doesn't know what the proper answer would be, since he isn't being courted by any and couldn't name any if he had to, but the way Hwasa smiles in satisfaction says that he should have said someone, at least.

 

"Ah, really? But you're so lovely," she exclaims, voice dropping ever so slightly. Jimin shifts, uncomfortable. "I would be very happy if you saved a dance for me, tonight."

 

"Oh. Um..." Jimin searches for something to say in order to answer her; he doesn't want to make it seem like he's interested, but doesn't want to be rude. He didn’t expect an alpha to be so direct with him with their interest, and it puts him on guard. "Alright."

 

Jimin is distracted from her answering smile by the arrival of food, the meat dishes being traditionally placed in front of the alphas; thankfully Miyoung's alpha mate seems to have warmed up to Jimin somewhat, Miyoung and her omega friends clearly having long discussions with their alpha mates behind the privacy of closed doors about treating Jimin kindly. He's sure that it's probably because they stand to gain from their friendship with Jimin, and not because they care about how he is treated as a person, but he'll take it.

 

"Steak and kidney pie, my lords and ladies," the serving attendant announces, before bowing out.

 

Jimin grimaces, because he has hated the dish since childhood. He's just accepting the fact that he will have to wait for the next course to have something substantial to eat when the smell hits him.

 

He knows the smell of this pie, it was his father's favourite. His mother would make it fairly often, and Jimin would cook alongside her, make a different pie (his favourite is chicken) that he could eat instead. It had never bothered him too much, he is used to it.  But right now, when it wafts over to where Jimin is sat, it makes his stomach turn almost violently. He covers his mouth, suddenly afraid that he's going to be sick.

 

"Are you alright?" Miyoung asks him, concern evident in her eyes. Jimin manages a nod, trying to squash the nausea, a headache building up behind his eyes. He starts breathing through his mouth to avoid the smell.

 

"I don't like the pie," he chokes out.

 

"Ah, of course, but do not worry! There will be more to come, the king only provides the best for his guests," she simpers, and it's mostly directed at the new people at the table, he realises.

 

There really isn't anything he can do, he can't leave, he just has to stay and deal with it. He almost wants to tell everyone to not eat the thing, because surely if it smells that bad, something must be wrong with it. Aware that this will give a negative impression to the guests, he keeps his mouth shut.

 

The rest of the dinner goes without a hiccup, with the pie being removed quite quickly for another course, to Jimin's relief. He avoids eye contact with Hwasa, trying not to encourage any conversation, because he's really just not interested. Whatever her intentions are for asking him to save her a dance, he’s apprehensive, doesn’t want to talk to strange alphas. Not just her, but any of them. Call it a gut feeling.

 

After he finishes with dinner, he doesn't stay to drink with the rest of the guests, excuses himself to go get ready. He's already somewhat tired from the day, wonders if he can fit in some kind of nap before he changes.

 

The list of symptoms is still on his bed when he gets to his bedroom, and he disturbs it when he lies down, so he picks it up to place it on his bedside table. A thought has him picking it back up again as his head rests on the pillow, scanning down the list.

 

A handful of the symptoms resonate with him in a way that makes his heart rate increase slightly. Hasn’t he been moody lately? Nauseous?

 

It’s not helpful for his attempt to take a nap, and he ends up just lying and thinking about it, nervous but mostly unsure. He wishes that there were some way for him to know for certain, either way. The idea that he may be carrying something inside him, right at this moment, is terrifying; and yet simultaneously Jimin finds himself a tiny bit thrilled by the idea.

 

He might be carrying a baby. For the past two months, he’d been caught up in the castle, court life, Yoongi. There was always the intention of conceiving a child on his mind, but he rarely thought past that, since it seemed so far away. Now, though, that might not be the case.

 

For the first time, he wonders how Yoongi will react to the idea.

 

After an unsatisfying rest, Jimin gets ready as quickly as possible for the ball, bearing in mind Taehyung's advice that he should arrive early in order to attract less attention. The beta stops by for a few minutes, helps him fix his hair, arguing with him over what shoes to wear (Jimin wants to wear the comfortable ones) before disappearing off to assist in the preparations. Jimin realises how stressful events such as these must be for the castle's staff, particularly when the dates are moved around so much.

 

He's pulling on his shoes, an uncomfortable leather that he's sure are going to make his feet terribly swollen but Taehyung had insisted on him wearing, when there's another knock at the door.

 

"Taehyung," he says, exasperated, as he goes to open it. "You don't need to knock and wait every time- oh."

 

It isn't Taehyung but Hoseok that is standing at his door, hesitating right on the threshold of Jimin's room. He holds a box in his hands, and Jimin just blinks at him.

 

"I have been sent with a gift," he says, smiling a little. He looks very handsome in a light yellow colour, with delicate gold embroidered patterns all over the shirt, and Jimin can imagine that if Hoseok wanted to win any hearts (or hands) tonight, he would certainly do so. "It's from the royal family, they wish for you to have something to wear tonight."

 

"Oh. But I'm already wearing something?" Jimin frowns, looking down at himself. Hoseok laughs.

 

"Not clothing. You can open it yourself, I am sure you will like it." He passes over the box, and Jimin looks at it in confusion.

 

"I- Thank you?"

 

"Don't thank me," Hoseok laughs a little. His eyes drop down to the box. "There are other people to thank."

 

Hoseok's smile dips just a little into a frown, something tight in the set of his mouth, but Jimin doesn't have a moment to question it before that winning beam of sunshine is back again. "I'm sure it will make them very happy if you wear it."

 

Nodding, Jimin turns the box over in his hands. He wonders what it is, exactly. “Of course I will.”

 

Hoseok grins one last time. “I will see you downstairs soon, then. Look for me, I want your first dance,” he chuckles.

 

Jimin can’t help but smile back, the thought of dancing definitely an enticing one. He wonders if Hoseok is a good dancer. “It’s all yours.”

 

When Jimin has closed the door after Hoseok leaves, he immediately starts to unbox the gift. It’s a box within a box, the second one being a very delicate, engraved wooden thing that fits in the palm of his hand. It could be the gift, but Jimin is pretty sure he isn’t expected to wear a box, so with careful hands he opens it.

 

When his eyes settle on what is inside, he inhales a sharp breath. It’s a very delicate pair of silver earrings, the kind that dangle and twinkle in the light. Minuscule jewels are dotted over the metal, and Jimin doesn’t really know anything about stones, but as far as he knows, they might be diamonds.

 

It seems unlikely that a person such as him would be gifted diamonds, however. Sitting on the edge of his bed, he carefully, with hands that shake ever so slightly, takes one of the fish hooks out of the fabric to admire it, held up against the light streaming through the window. The earring itself is made of two tiny, straight metal parts, attached to the hook. Jimin hasn’t worn an earring like this ever, has only admired the cheap ones at the market stalls that he’s never bothered to buy, the nice ones too expensive and the cheap ones too easy to discolour.

 

He removes the studs from his own ears, little things he doesn’t think about anymore, he hasn’t changed them since he came to the castle, didn’t bring his jewellery with him because he was afraid that people would laugh at how cheap it is. These earrings are so beautiful, though, he’s certain nobody would turn their nose up at them. It slides into his piercing smoothly, rests as a comfortable weight; when he turns his head, he feels it move, brushing against his cheek.

 

He picks up a mirror from his bedside drawer when they’re both in place and just stares in awe at how pretty they are. Wonders if it is acceptable to wear such a thing everyday, or if it’s that’s a bit too much. He can’t help but wonder why he would be gifted such a thing, doesn’t know what he did to earn them. The thought that maybe they’re trying to make him less like a commoner, so he does actually pass for the son of a Lord, crosses his mind; maybe he had been embarrassing himself in his cheap studs, before, embarrassing the royal family by extension.

 

Panic and embarrassment rise in his throat at the idea, queasiness once again hitting him. He has to put effort into calming himself down, rationalising that if that was the case, someone would have told him by now. Of course the royal family just wanted him to fit in by wearing something expensive.

 

And looking pretty , he thinks as he turns his head from side to side, the earrings swinging. Maybe he’ll attract an alpha’s attention tonight; an uncomfortable thought, but it’s pushed to the back of his mind in the wake of another that is more concerning and he chastises himself for immediately. Still, a voice in his head whispers to him that a certain alpha might like them on him. It’s inappropriate but yet still has him feeling warm from head to toe.

 

He shakes his head. He shouldn’t think such things. Yoongi probably won’t even glance his way tonight.



--



Jimin has never visited the grand ballroom in the castle; it's very far from his bedroom as well as from the staterooms, and he still has something of a fear of getting lost in the many hallways of the place. So, when he reaches the room after having to ask for directions from attendants twice, he's completely taken aback by how massive it is.

 

It's of course the first thing he notices, the second being how intricately decorated the place is, grand in every sense of the word. Windows - or glass doors, he realises - cover one side of the room which allow the last of the day's light to spill in, and tiers of candles are set up along both sides for when that disappears, as well as three enormous low hanging chandeliers too. He supposes that the atmosphere in the room will be quite different when the sun has set.

 

The floor is made of marble, a glossy quality to the intricate symmetrical patterns, something that Jimin thinks might even make him dizzy when he dances. The patterns form circles of different sizes that look like their own detailed suns, and they're bordered by a large circle - or a circle inside a circle inside a circle, and so on. Jimin gets so distracted admiring it he almost misses his name being announced by the attendant that is standing next to the door.

 

"Jung Jimin, son of Lord Yunho Jung."

 

His arrival earns very few glances, and Jimin is relieved to know that the name he has assumed won't earn much attention. As he walks down the marble staircase - something that must have been designed for optimal viewing of those making an entrance, he realises - he does earn a few looks, however.

 

The clothes that he has been provided by the royal family do seem to be both expensive and at the height of fashion, and he just wishes that this was mirrored in their comfortableness. He must admit that they fit perfectly, though, the shirt hugging his waist and pants tight on his thighs, so tight that he fears they may rip. He hadn't noticed the rest of his clothing being this tight, but it must be that these are for a special occasion.

 

He shifts uncomfortably with people's eyes on him, looking for someone he knows to go and stand (and hide) with. After a moment, he spots Namjoon standing on the other side of the vast room, so he hurries in that direction.

 

Nobody is yet dancing, the music playing from the corner of the room a quiet, calm affair. Jimin has to step around many a huge ball gown in order to reach his friend, his shoes squeaking a little on the floor.

 

"Oh, hello, Jimin! You look so well!" Namjoon exclaims. Jimin ducks his head when the handful of people with Namjoon turn and look at him, embarrassed by the way their gazes assess him.

 

"Thank you," he says. "You too, you look... amazing." It's not an exaggeration, either, Namjoon is dressed in purple and looks like he could very much be one of the members of the royal family, so regal.

 

"Ah, no need to compliment me. Look, Hoseok is coming." Namjoon directs his gaze to where Hoseok is entering the room alone, and in such light colours he truly does stand out. As they wait for him to approach, Namjoon introduces him to the advisors he is standing with who all look very much like they would rather not be in the ballroom at that moment, annoyance obvious in the creases of their brows.

 

"Jimin, those earrings look marvellous on you," Hoseok says by way of greeting. He clasps arms with Namjoon, a handshake of familiarity. "I do hope that the king arrives shortly, I would like to get to dancing."

 

"A one track mind," Namjoon chuckles. "Do you dance, Jimin?"

 

"I do," he replies hesitantly. "I'm not sure it'll be the same as the kind of dancing that people do here. I may have to sit some out."

 

"There is no sitting tonight!" Hoseok spreads his arms, and when the volume of his voice attracts some attention from a nearby circle of people, he grins at them charmingly. Jimin wishes he had that kind of confidence, but he supposes that Hoseok is very comfortable in this space. "If you don't know a dance, then I will teach you."

 

He smiles at Hoseok gratefully. Now that he is safe with good company, Jimin takes the opportunity to look around the ballroom once again. It really is overwhelmingly huge, and he understands the need for the number of the musicians sat on one side of the room, the amount necessary to fill the room with sound. Looking up, he admires a giant mural on the ceiling, beautiful colours and tiny details, gold paint running throughout the huge image that adds to the opulence of the room. It's a space made to be filled with people, to be admired, that's for sure. Jimin is also certain that he has never been somewhere created to be so beautiful, although he still thinks that the castle gardens in full bloom are more lovely.

 

The people, though... there is an air of pompousness, and the way that everyone visibly judges each other is making Jimin anxious. He thinks that it's an ugliness that brings down the beauty of the room. Despite the loveliness of everyone's clothes, there is something awful about their gazes. The atmosphere of such an event, clearly much more formal than that of an average day at court, is so unfamiliar to Jimin, and he feels uncomfortable in it. Everything just seems like it's not real, a fakery that Jimin doesn't understand, he doesn't know why anyone would enjoy a whole night of this. He doesn't know how he will - he hopes that he will be able to leave early, maybe. Secretly, he had hoped that the ball would be an opportunity for fun; he realises now that there is to be no fun when an image has to be upheld.

 

People arrive in couples, mostly, with the occasional single person entering - Jimin notices that the more important guests and the members of court that Jimin knows are in the king or queen's inner circle arrive later, fashionably late, even. They seem to want to attract attention.

 

Soon the ballroom is filled with people, mostly keeping to the sides of the room. They all look so splendid, so lavishly dressed, and Jimin hopes that he is dressed to fit in. His colours suit him, he thinks, blue the colour of a cornflower and silver embroidery. It's not quite as eye catching as Hoseok, who looks bright like sunshine, or Namjoon, whose colours are rich and deep, but still okay, he thinks. Hopes that people keep glancing at him because he looks good, and not because he looks out of place.

 

He startles when a loud sound comes from the entrance, and when he turns his head he sees two attendants standing at the entrance with horns held up to their mouths. The announcer clears his throat, before calling out clearly, "the crown prince, Min Yoongi, and his mate consort, Min Daehee."

 

A grand entrance, indeed. Everyone turns to watch as they appear, Daehee's hand resting delicately on his mate's arm. Jimin had thought, for some reason, that mates would try and match their colours at events such as these, but that appears to not be the case; the omega is wearing red, and Yoongi an almost contrasting forest green. There's that familiar feeling again, an ache in his stomach, and Jimin has to stop himself from huffing in annoyance at his own innate response.

 

It's almost, almost easy to ignore when he focuses on Yoongi alone, though. Of course, he is always handsome, but even surrounded by all of these people dressed in their best, the prince stands out. His jaw is as sharp as his eyes, the thickness of his jacket highlighting the broadness of his shoulders, looking relaxed yet proper, intimidating yet Jimin knows he doesn't need to be afraid; he knows Yoongi, after all.

 

Jimin remembers his first thoughts upon seeing the alpha, remembers thinking that he was almost pretty - now he wouldn't deny such a thing at all. Yoongi has such a pretty mouth, soft nose, thick eyelashes, and it almost contrasts with his sharpness, but Jimin thinks it works well. He likes looking at Yoongi.

 

The people in the middle of the dance floor part to allow the couple through, and they step up onto the platform on the other end of the room where four chairs are located. Not chairs - they're something closer to thrones, somewhere for the royal family to sit and watch the rest of the ballroom from an elevated place.

 

More horn blowing announces the king and queen's entrance, and there are quite a few appreciative sounds and little gasps as the queen's dress comes into view. Jimin assumes she won't be doing too much dancing tonight, not with how heavy her gown is; it almost drowns her, makes her look much smaller, yet her head is still held high, and Jimin wonders if he's imagining the hint of a smirk on her face as she descends the stairs. If her aim was to look like the richest person in the room, she will have achieved it, he thinks. The gems sewn into her skirt glitter in the light of the sun and the candles. When they reach the platform she steps forwards to make a speech.

 

"I would like to thank you all for coming to attend my celebration today. I know there has been some difficult times recently, and many of you feel troubled by some recent events, but I hope you can still enjoy yourselves tonight, celebrate fine things. There is an abundance of champagne, and I very much expect you to drink it all." Titters spread throughout the standing attendees at that. Jimin can't help a wry smile, himself; he knows how much the members of court like to drink, saw it first hand last night. "I look forward to watching the dancing, I wish you a good night!"

 

Applause fills the ballroom as the queen turns to sit with her mate on their respective thrones. Jimin is a little jealous of their ability to sit down, as his toes are already starting to hurt in his shoes, but there are no chairs in sight. Probably another power move on the part of the royals, but it's mostly just an annoyance for Jimin - he doubts it will be considered proper to dance barefoot.

 

As the band prepares to start playing, Jimin decides to watch, first, see what kinds of dancing people will partake in. Hoseok leads the people that walk out into the centre of the floor, having asked Namjoon to accompany him.

 

At first it’s a simple waltz, those not dancing clearing out to the balcony and the other side of the hall as the floor is taken up by swirling dresses and spinning couples. The music swells up and Jimin casts his eyes over to where the band are sat with their variety of instruments. They're the best players that Jimin has ever heard, that's for sure, and the sound is so mellifluous and lovely, it has him itching to dance already.

 

He knows how to waltz, knows lots of dances from the celebrations that they would have in their town square. It comes naturally to him, he has always been light on his feet, graceful. That's why he doesn't really feel nervous when he watches all of the couples on the dance floor; part of him knows that he could do a far better job than at least half of them. He'll be average, at the least.

 

His excitement doesn't even dampen when Yoongi and Daehee step onto the floor, assuming the dance hold and starting to move. Jimin just looks away, watching his friends instead - Hoseok is a wonderful dancer, and he and Namjoon look superb together. They look like they're talking, which explains why Namjoon fumbles a step occasionally, and Jimin's lips twitch into a smile when he sees them both grinning, Hoseok supporting Namjoon subtly to make sure he won't fall. They have such a great friendship, Jimin realises, and he wonders how long they have known each other.

 

"Jimin, you look splendid!" Miyoung calls, gaining his attention as she starts walking towards him with a glass of champagne in her hand. He watches, amused, as she finishes it and immediately picks a new one off the tray of a passing attendant in a move that seems very well practiced.

 

"Thank you, my lady." She fusses over him, and Jimin eyes follow the glass as it tilts and spills a few drops of golden liquid onto the floor. "Miyoung-"

 

"Oh, don't mind that, dear, someone will clear it up. You look so lovely, I'm sure everyone will want to dance with you tonight." She sounds almost jealous as she speaks, wistful, and Jimin wishes that he could offer to dance with her, but he's sure it won't be looked upon well, an omega dancing with another omega.

 

"Will your mate dance tonight?" he asks instead.

 

"Him? No, I am sure he would rather drink the cheapest wine in the kingdom than do that," she almost scoffs. "I can see that you already have an admirer, though!"

 

Jimin looks around, and it doesn't take long to spot Hwasa standing not far from them, watching him. Panicked, he searches for Hoseok with his eyes, who said he would dance with him first. There's something that makes him very uncomfortable about dancing with her, and he can't quite put his finger on what it is - maybe it's just that she's a stranger.

 

He's in luck. "Excuse me, Miyoung, do you mind if I steal Jimin away?" Hoseok appears behind him, a hand going to Jimin's shoulder. Jimin leans into it, relieved.

 

"Of course, of course!" Hoseok doesn't wait for Miyoung to start speaking, and immediately is tugging Jimin towards the dancefloor. With a raised eyebrows, he looks at Jimin knowingly.

 

"Thank you for saving me," Jimin laughs. He stands opposite Hoseok, waiting for a new song to start so they can begin. "I suppose I won't be able to say no to anyone when they ask me to dance tonight?"

 

Shaking his head, Hoseok smiles sympathetically. They wait for the beta to arrange them into a waltz hold, Jimin's hand on his shoulder and a large amount of distance between them. "You can only try and stall, until there is a dance with less touching involved, like a country dance. Those will come later, if you can make the partners you don't want to dance with wait a little."

 

"Oh! I didn't realise there would be country dances." Those aren't Jimin's favourite, but definitely are a good opportunity to avoid getting too close to Hwasa, or anyone else he doesn't know.

 

Hoseok leads them in a smooth rise and fall as they start to move, and Jimin immediately settles into it. The beta is an excellent partner, and Jimin feels safe with him, hopes that he will get to dance with him more as the night goes on. It's almost relaxing, the pattern of box steps part of Jimin's muscle memory, and if he focuses on the beta he can almost forget about all of the people there with their sharp gazes and unkind thoughts. When he does glance around, he sees that Daehee has returned to his seat, Yoongi missing from his side.

 

"You're so light on your feet, Jimin," Hoseok compliments, and Jimin smiles, eyes crinkling up.

 

After they have become comfortable in each other's partnership, Jimin goes to spin, but realises that most of the dancers in the hall aren't doing flourishes such as that, only turning with their partners in a closed hold. He feels Hoseok squeezing his hand, attracting his attention once again.

 

It's almost like he can read Jimin's mind. "Do not worry about what others are doing, dance in the way you wish to," he says, lifting their hands slightly, an initiation. Jimin nods, letting the hand on Hoseok's shoulder fall away so he can be turned. As he spins, he wishes that he were able to wear a gown, just to see it flutter around him.

 

"Again," he demands, as soon as he's back in Hoseok's hold. Hoseok laughs, and does as he asks. The music rises and falls with them, full and bright.

 

It's like a breath of fresh air into Jimin's lungs, the dance, and when the song ends he hardly wants to let go. Hoseok steps back from him with a regretful expression, and he can't help but pout, ever so slightly. He has a strong feeling that he won't find as good of a partner as the beta again.

 

As another beta approaches him, a girl he has seen around court before, he thinks he'll just have to make do.



--



Jimin dances for an hour straight, with many different partners, including Hoseok three times, which he supposes is the maximum they can dance together without it seeming like Hoseok is attempting to court him - he's happy to follow the beta's lead on these kinds of unspoken rules.

 

Multiple people approach him at the end of each dance, which at first is extremely overwhelming for the omega, but after the first few times he takes it as an opportunity to avoid dancing with alphas and betas that he thinks might be trying to express some kind of intention towards him. Fortunately, he's attracting a lot of attention from all kinds of people, including mated members of court that he's vaguely familiar with, so he manages to stay comfortable for now.

 

Whenever a dance ends, though, it's like he returns to his senses, and has to take notice of all of the people watching him. Jimin doesn't feel the eyes on him when he's moving and turning, but they're hard to ignore when each song ends. He can't help ducking his head, trying to avoid it, feeling a little like it's bad if he attracts attention like this; it's not like he's available to be courted, and he doesn't want to raise any unnecessary questions. He glances around, and neither Namjoon or Hoseok look concerned by it so he guesses he's probably okay.

 

After finishing his third dance with Hoseok, though, he catches sight of Yoongi where he is standing in a group of people, presumably socialising. Or not, because he doesn't seem to be paying much attention at all to their conversation; his eyes are on Jimin, and automatically the omega looks away when they make eye contact, used to having to do so. A moment later, when usually it would be safe, his eyes return to the alpha, and his eyes widen slightly when he finds that gaze still on him, an amused expression on Yoongi's face.

 

It's hard to miss, after that moment, how Yoongi watches him as he dances. The fact occupies his mind as he continues to accept different partners, and he doesn't want to say that he's moving with the alpha in mind but he can't help but think that he wants to be extra graceful, light on his feet, turn his face up towards the golden light of the candles above him. He doesn't care much about other people's admiration, but with Yoongi, it brings a kind of light to Jimin's chest, a warm flame of his own.

 

So it is with regret that he takes a short break when the band director calls for an interval in the music, announcing that the country dances will begin afterwards. He walks back to where Namjoon and Hoseok stand and he can feel his limbs starting to ache already.

 

"You are a diamond in this rough, Jimin," Hoseok announces when he reaches them. He has to hide a smile as he ducks his head, flattered. "No wonder everyone cannot help but watch you."

 

Namjoon agrees, nodding. "Yes, you out-danced many of the people here. I imagine the omegas looking to attract the attention of the eligible bachelors and bachelorettes are quite upset."

 

"I hope not!" Jimin flails, suddenly panicked. That's not what he wanted at all. "I didn't mean-"

 

Both of his friends start laughing. "Do not worry about that, everyone always stares at pretty people. I think everyone is rather taken aback because they have not been introduced to you before, they do not know anything about you, so it is rather unexpected," Namjoon explains, placing a comforting hand on Jimin's back.

 

A sudden familiar voice at Jimin's shoulder startles him. "What are we laughing about?"

 

"Taehyung," Namjoon hisses as Jimin snaps his head around to look at the owner of that voice. Taehyung is dressed in the attendants' event uniform, all black, and holding a tray of mostly full champagne glasses, looking completely at ease. Jimin just gapes at him and his boldness to approach them.

 

"Serving you champagne, sir," Taehyung chips in reply, and Hoseok is quick to take one, making it look like Taehyung isn't just coming to talk to them. Jimin giggles, picking up a glass too. He has never tried champagne.

 

He watches Namjoon try and shoo his friend away while the beta laughs quietly, and takes a sip of the drink in his hand. It’s overbearingly tart, a sourness that makes him flinch but isn’t any more pleasant on the way down his throat, either. Coughing, he hands the glass back to Taehyung.

 

"Are you not going to dance again, Namjoon?" he manages to get out when he finishes spluttering. As far as he is aware, Namjoon hasn't danced all night, apart from that one occasion with Hoseok.

 

Namjoon hums. "Maybe, if Yoongi- Prince Yoongi asks me, or Hoseok, but it is not really my favourite pastime."

 

"Ah." Jimin doesn't relate to that feeling, but he nods anyway.

 

"Besides," Namjoon continues pensively, "there isn't anyone here I would otherwise want to dance with."

 

Jimin does relate to that part, however. Hoseok makes a disappointed noise. "Does this mean you won't be joining the country dancing? It's a lot simpler..."

 

Namjoon winces. Jimin has a feeling that he doesn't find it that the case at all. "Maybe," the omega mumbles.

 

"I want to. I need to just watch for the first round, though, and see how it is here," Jimin explains. It looks like the band are settling back into their positions now, so he gestures that Hoseok should go and find a partner. "I'll stay with you, for a little while," he says to Namjoon with a smile.

 

Watching again, he takes in the way that most of the guests seem to have loosened up somewhat, most likely due to their alcohol intake, and their gazes seem a lot less mean. Maybe he's just imagining it, however, high on being able to dance for the first time in such a long period. Turning towards Namjoon slightly, he tries to make it seem like he's not interested in taking a partner, although he's still approached by two insistent alphas. His omega friend just waves them away with the insistence that they are taking a short break.

 

Jimin notes that Yoongi isn't dancing, either, just talking with some other guests, and he avoids making eye contact with him; he feels mildly embarrassed by his earlier behaviour, dancing with Yoongi in mind, and now it feels so audacious that he had those kinds of thoughts with Yoongi's mate still in the room.

 

The mate in question has remained seated for most of the time so far, and Jimin wonders if he enjoys dancing at all. Of course he had looked elegant doing so, but Jimin is positive that everyone at court has received dance lessons at some point in time. In fact, Daehee looks positively bored by all of the proceedings.

 

Jimin is glad that he can’t say the same, because actually he is having more fun than he ever expected to. It's quite easy to get swept away by the beauty and fine music when he has something to distract himself with. He's quite looking forward to dancing again already, since the country dancing doesn't seem much different to anything he used to partake in during his youth, in town halls and street parties and the like.

 

By this time, the sun has set, leaving the candles as the light source for the rest of the evening, and there are plenty of them - they heat the room, along with the many warm bodies that exert themselves in dancing. He is thankful when attendants come and open the doors behind him, letting in the cool night air - Autumn must be fast approaching. It also helps to air the room of the buildup of strong scents, intense due to the amount of sweating and the different responses of alphas and omegas during courting. Jimin has no doubt that there is a serious amount of flirting happening tonight.

 

Speaking of which, he still owes a dance to Hwasa. Jimin is grateful that she hadn't been insistent, but he's hopeful to get it over with now, during the country dances; he makes eye contact with her when he finds her across the room. The dance round is over by the time she reaches him across the huge space.

 

She bows, her gown a deep, deep purple-blue with a very low neckline, and Jimin has to admit that she is very beautiful, her skin radiant and tanned, her eyes breathtakingly sharp.

 

He just... doesn't feel anything in her presence.

 

"I would be honoured if you would let me have this dance," she says, offering him her arm, and he takes it with a smile despite not really wanting to touch her bare skin.

 

"Of course," he agrees, allowing her to lead him to join the formations of different people. He's not particularly concerned with the dance itself, since from what he has seen, it's a lot simpler than he has taken part in in the past. They start facing each other, and he barely has to touch her hand when the music begins again and they start bobbing steps in one direction, turning and repeating the same in the opposite. As they circle each other, shoulder to shoulder, Jimin puts effort into meeting her gaze to not seem impolite.

 

"How long will you be at the castle?" she inquires, and Jimin takes a subtle deep breath in, steeling himself for questions.

 

"A few months. When will you and your family be leaving? Will you stay for long?" He replies ambiguously and attempts to direct the conversation back to her. They cross each other and circle the respective people next to them, and then return, him resting his hand on hers as lightly as possible.

 

"The invitation to come to the castle does not have a set period," she starts, and panic wells in his chest - he really doesn't want to have to deal with her for weeks on end. He'd hoped that she would leave tomorrow even. "I would of course not want to overstay my welcome."

 

"I think there has been some tensions recently," he says hesitantly. "I'm not sure court would be enjoyable for you at this time." They repeat the walking steps from before, up and down, and circle each other. Jimin hopes that the next dance will be slightly less tedious.

 

She makes a face, and Jimin thinks she may be about to disagree, but then she is nodding. "Yes, I am aware, and I do agree. I hope that everyone is still treating you well, regardless."

 

At the smile she directs at him at that, Jimin ducks his head. Of course it is far more complicated than she would ever know. Despite her clearly referencing the people at court in general, the words remind him of Yoongi, of how he treats Jimin every night, and how well he still treated him during the alpha's rut. As they circle the people next to them he looks around at the people dancing near to them, and his heart leaps into his throat as he sees the alpha not two people down from him. Jimin receives a small smile.

 

His face flushes a little, he's sure, and it's the nth time that they have made eye contact that night but for a split second he wonders if the alpha had known that Jimin had been thinking of him. He looks back to Hwasa when he rejoins her to repeat the forward steps once again. Swallows his moment of distraction down.

 

"They have treated me very well," he manages to get out. He keeps his face blank when she turns her hand and squeezes his, just a little, but still more than Jimin is comfortable with. He doesn't know why he's being like this, it's quite out of the ordinary; he has danced with alphas before at dances back home, and normally he doesn't care who his partner is, just gets lost in the steps, the movement. Maybe it's the monotony of this dance, or maybe it's something else, but all he can think about is how he doesn't want Hwasa to touch him, how her scent is overly strong and cloying.

 

It's difficult not to look to Yoongi every time Jimin circles the person next to him, not to rob Hwasa of his attention, but he still ends up doing it. When the song comes to an end he bows to her, nods absently when she suggests another dance later, but is happy to walk away.

 

Two alphas approach him immediately to be his partner, and he's about to accept one when Miyoung's mate is suddenly pushing towards him. Jimin's eyes widen, trying to come up with things he's done wrong - Kangin never spoke to Jimin in a kind way, only at the dining table and usually just pointing out things the omega does wrong, or that he wouldn't understand certain things because he came from a less wealthy background.

 

"Um- Sir?"

 

"I would like to request a dance," the alpha proclaims. Jimin takes in his words, and he's sure there must be a frown of confusion on his face, but Kangin doesn't falter, just looks at him expectantly. Truthfully, Jimin is intimidated by him, by how tall the man is as well as by how little he seems to care for Jimin at all, so he nods a little in weak acceptance. The other alphas walk away disappointed, but Jimin doesn't care about them, only the fact that Miyoung had said that her mate didn't want to dance, doesn't like it. He hopes she won't be angry with him for accepting.

 

The music is far too jolly and bright for how Jimin feels in dancing with this man - he wishes that he could just dance with people he likes, his friends and some other omegas that won't try and intimidate him or try and flirt with him. He feels some kind of relief at the announcement that this dance would be in four couple sets. At least he will spend half the time not even facing his partner, just stepping around the other dancers.

 

"Have you danced much tonight, Sir?" he asks carefully as they position themselves opposite each other in the lines. Maybe Miyoung was wrong and her alpha had danced with her, and Jimin is worried for nothing.

 

"No, I am not one for dancing. I could not help but take one from you, however. Sometimes one must indulge themselves in pretty things."

 

A shiver goes down his spine at that. He has never really been spoken to in such a way before, and the feeling of discomfort lingers, hard to brush off. He is grateful when after circling each other, they turn in opposite directions, weaving in between the six other dancers in their row.

 

He's less surprised this time Yoongi is there, at the opposite end of the row, and Jimin is on the opposite site to him so they don't have to circle each other but he still can't help but glance the alpha's way again. The proximity is somewhat calming, helps him to focus and get through the dance when he has to touch his partner's hand, make eye contact or link arms with him.

 

"I suppose you are glad that I saved you from dancing with those alphas, just before. No need to thank me," Kangin sighs, something smug in the look in his eyes as they step forwards and backwards as a pair.

 

"Um, thank you?" Jimin tries, not really sure what he should be saying. If only he were better at small talk. "I'm sure your mate is excited to dance with you, after this." He doesn't miss the annoyance on the alpha's face as he walks away once more, and they are called to weave between the two lines, this time.

 

This brings him to circle Yoongi directly, he realises, and his heartbeat increases it's pace just a little as they approach each other. They're not required to make eye contact with the other people in the formations, but he and the prince do as they come up to be shoulder to shoulder with each other.

 

That moment is drawn out, only two counts of four as they turn, but it almost feels like more. Jimin knows that there's a way he's supposed to act around Yoongi, that there's a way Yoongi is supposed to act around him - especially in front of the guests - but it all seems to go out of the window for that split second as they stare at each other. Jimin tries to judge the alpha’s expression, but all he sees is an intensity that warms him as Yoongi's eyes take in the omega's face up close. They can't speak to each other, and they don't break that rule, but Jimin wants to, wants to ask what he's thinking.

 

The spell breaks as they part again, and Jimin is left hoping that his scent didn't spike or anything stupid like that, anything that would give him away, although he's not sure what exactly he would be giving up. It's with a certain sense of dissatisfaction that he completes the rest of the song with Kangin, hoping that he will go and dance with Miyoung after this, at least.

 

"Thank you for the dance, Sir," he says, bowing politely. He backs away from the alpha before he can say anything else.

 

He decides not to dance any more rounds, if anyone saw him looking at Yoongi... Well, he's sure it wouldn't turn out well for him.

 

Coming back up to where Hoseok and Namjoon have come together once again, he sees them in a deep whispered discussion, concern on Namjoon's face where he faces his friend, with Hoseok's back to Jimin. They break apart when Jimin nears them, and the way Namjoon looks and Jimin and then away is disconcerting.

 

"Did something happen?" he questions as he reaches them, and they share another look; Jimin's hands clench into nervous fists.

 

"No," Hoseok says eventually. Jimin isn't convinced. "But I think the omega consort will be leaving in a moment. Turn around so we can greet him, Jiminie."

 

Doing what he's told, he turns to see Daehee walking down the steps to the platform,  nodding at those who bow to him along the way. Jimin steps back so he won't encounter him directly, and bows when he nears, fully not expecting him to even glance Jimin's way.

 

But of course Daehee is well trained, polite and well versed in etiquette procedures, and Jimin is stood with important members of court, so he does look their way. Gives Namjoon a polite nod, another incline of the head to Hoseok, and then looks away, but not before giving Jimin the briefest of indecipherable looks.

 

It's not really surprising, but he hates that he doesn't know how Daehee thinks of him. He's so good at concealing his emotions; it could be anything from hatred, disdain, or even indifference. It frustrates him that he'll probably never know, especially with the rising anxiety he has that Daehee could have been watching him look at Yoongi so frequently tonight.

 

Any of the light feeling he had from dancing before dissipates as Daehee makes his exit, and all of the tiredness in his muscles and his feet returns. His body somehow feels twice as heavy.

 

"I might go to bed," he tells the others quietly.

 

"Really?" Hoseok look disappointed. "You do not like the country dances?"

 

Jimin decides that lying is probably the way forward here, because he doesn't want to have to explain things that he doesn't fully understand, himself. "Yeah, I'm just not fond of them." He looks around, the party still pretty much in full swing, the voices of the guests louder than they were at the beginning of the night, mixed scents and spilled champagne and the smell of burning candles filling his lungs as he takes a deep breath. "And I am quite tired."

 

"Oh, then of course you should rest," Hoseok says, and Jimin doesn't miss the way that Namjoon watches him closely. "If you would like to have one last dance, though, I would love to be your partner. We should be able to waltz again, soon."

 

It's tempting, and Jimin moves his weight around on his feet as he thinks about it, biting his lip.

 

"Okay, one more, and only with you."

 

The grin he receives in return is blinding, and Jimin can't help but smile back. The band takes a break again at that moment, so Jimin knows he won't have to wait long. He hides somewhat with Namjoon and Hoseok at the edge of the room near the glass doors, letting the cool, barely-there breeze of outside cool him down.

 

A lot of the guests look slightly worse for wear, slightly less impressive than when they had made their entrances. Miyoung's necklaces are askew, her hair not as neat in her up-do as a few hours ago; Donghae, one of the omegas that sits with them in the stateroom, has his sleeves rolled up, a sheen of sweat on his brow, collar ruffled. The Countess he met earlier is swaying on her feet, empty champagne glass in hand.

 

Yoongi sits on his chair next to his father, looking less ruffled - Jimin wonders whether he has been drinking, because it doesn't seem like it at all. He sits so straight, it's such a contrast to how Jimin normally sees him, or how he was during his rut, slumped against Jimin's pillows or his window seat, exhausted.

 

"The band is back," Namjoon nudges him, and Jimin looks for Hoseok who had magically disappeared once more. He spots him talking to that same omega that had seemed to be keeping an eye on the beta, and he smiles. It drops when Hoseok wanders back over to him, dismay clear as day in his gait.

 

"Everything alright?" he asks, concerned. All he gets is a wry smile.

 

"He's wearing a courting gift." A deep sigh lifts and lowers Hoseok's form. Nonetheless, he offers Jimin his arm. "Doesn't look like I have much of a chance, now."

 

They walk back out into the dancefloor, standing opposite each other as the band readies itself, about to begin playing once more. "Why? You could still try," he offers. "Is it..." An alpha, he doesn't say, but Hoseok catches his meaning, nodding.

 

"Yes, there's really nothing I can do. He's wearing the gift, after all..." The music starts, and Jimin squeezes the beta's hand in an attempt at comfort.

 

Whatever song that the band is playing is fun, playful, and he decides not to care about whatever people think and truly enjoy the next few minutes, dance how he wants to. Hoseok works with him so well, listens to all of his cues and even starts to initiate spins and twirls, even once lifting him by the waist. Unlike before when he was lost to it, Jimin can feel the eyes on him, and he dances for them, even, aware of how he looks, the shapes his body makes as he twists and turns. Aware that someone might be watching.

 

It feels like the music changes to fit them, although that might all be in Jimin's head, in a daze as he and Hoseok probably take up more of the dancefloor than is proper, although it's worth it for the smile that has reappeared on the beta's face.

 

He probably hasn’t felt this free since he came to the castle. It’s almost like he’s flying. It makes him sad that he might not feel like this again, doesn’t know if there will be another ball within his time here.

 

The feeling is eased slightly when he sees Yoongi watching him from his seat with warm eyes.



--



"Jimin, wait." Jimin's head snaps around as he hears Yoongi's low voice behind him. The alpha is walking down the corridor towards him in quick strides, and Jimin feels his whole body heat up from being on the receiving end of his gaze. Now there's no people around, Jimin feels much less bold.

 

"Yoongi," he says thickly. "I didn't expect you to come... to come so soon."

 

"There was not much to stay for. I will escort you back to your room," Yoongi replies, something of a smile in the twitch of his lips. He offers Jimin his arm, which Jimin takes hesitantly. "You must be tired now."

 

"I am," Jimin admits. There's no chance of taking his shoes off to walk about the castle now. "My feet are really hurting."

 

Yoongi laughs. "I can imagine. You really danced for hours. You looked like you were enjoying yourself."

 

"I did." Jimin's mind drifts back to the ballroom, how light he felt. "It was so much fun. Did you have fun?"

 

Yoongi grimaces. "Probably not as much as you. I don't enjoy dancing quite as much as you, I think." He pauses, to look at Jimin once again, his voice dropping ever so slightly. "You were rather wonderful to watch."

 

Swallowing, Jimin remembers Yoongi's eyes on him in the hall. He didn't think Yoongi would be so bold as to mention outright that he had been watching Jimin. The heat the omega felt before only increases, his palms a little sweaty. Luckily he thinks Yoongi's jacket is thick enough so it doesn't soak through.

 

Halfway up the second set of stairs, Jimin starts to hobble, he can't help it. He's really dying to take his shoes off - Yoongi seems to notice his pain when they reach the top.

 

"You seem really in pain," Yoongi notes, dropping the arm that Jimin was holding. He has barely a second to feel something like disappointment before Yoongi is wrapping a cautious arm around his waist.

 

Suddenly Yoongi is a lot closer than before. "Lean on me, it'll make it easier."

 

As soon as they get inside his bedroom, Jimin sits on the floor in order to take his shoes off. He throws them across the room in the direction of his wardrobe. He wiggles his toes and breathes a sigh of relief.

 

"A tip for the shoes, stuff them and leave them in the wardrobe when you get them. It can help, just a little," Yoongi says, slipping off his own.

 

"Okay, I'll remember that. I hate these shoes so much." Jimin pouts to himself at the state of his swollen feet, the bottoms aching despite the lack of pressure being put on them. He jokingly holds his arms up as though Yoongi would pull him up, and yelps when the alpha actually does with a long suffering sigh. The omega is pulled right into his personal space, staggering on his poor feet. Jimin hopes to himself that he won't have to do much walking tomorrow. Before he can complain again, though, Yoongi is speaking in a soft, serious tone.

 

"I regret that I could not dance with you tonight," Yoongi murmurs, fingers reaching up to brush one of Jimin's dangling earrings. His fingertips brush Jimin's cheek.

 

The omega is completely taken by his gaze - he's sure Yoongi has never looked at him like this before. Maybe in his rut, but that doesn't feel real to him, not in this way.

 

In some ways Jimin wants to hide from it, cover his face, but there's a bigger part of him that wants to meet that look with his own. Yoongi had confirmed that he'd been watching Jimin for at least half the night, but it's not like Jimin could deny that he hadn't been doing the same to the prince, his eyes on his hands on his various partners' waists, the purse of his mouth when he focuses.

 

His mouth. It's right in front of Jimin now, relaxed into a natural pout. They don't kiss, not really since their first night together, but Jimin is gripped by a want to lean forwards and let their lips brush. He remembers, vaguely, what it felt like, but back then, even just a few months ago, Yoongi was a complete stranger. Now...

 

They said, weeks ago, that they are friends. Jimin has never wanted to kiss a friend, however, and he knows, very rationally, that he shouldn't. It's not something they need to do at all, for what they are.

 

And yet. He remembers Yoongi's mouth being so soft, remembers them being at a perfect height to kiss. They are, now, too, where they're stood close, with Yoongi's hand still resting on Jimin's cheek, ever so lightly. When Jimin looks up at the alpha there's something satisfying that yet, somehow makes him apprehensive, about the fact that Yoongi is doing the exact same thing. His gaze flits between Jimin's eyes and mouth, and it's almost too much to handle.

 

They're leaning into each other, he realises, and it would just be so easy to just. Let himself lean forward. Or let himself be kissed.

 

Panic has him unrooting his feet from the floor and tangling his hands in Yoongi's shirt, he backs up until the backs of his thighs hit the bed, lets himself fall so he's sitting, his hands dropping to the waist of Yoongi's pants. It's a relief to his conscience to create some distance between their faces, he can't be as tempted this way.

 

Unbuckling the alpha's belt has him tempted in a different way, however. Yoongi is barely hard, but a brush of Jimin's fingertips to his clothed cock has him twitching. Down here, Yoongi's scent is strong, musky, and when Jimin looks up, Yoongi is looking at him with the same heated expression and Jimin feels. Wanted.

 

"Can I?" he says, hands hovering over Yoongi's belt and hoping that the implication of his words is clear. He swears that Yoongi's eyes widen ever so slightly, but he still gets a small nod of approval.

 

Unbuckling his belt and unbuttoning his pants carefully, he frees Yoongi from the confines of his clothes, half hard and hot to touch. He glances up again just to check he’s okay to do what he wants to, and Yoongi looks far from opposed, so he leans in, lets his lips brush against the head. Up the shaft, and back down the underside, just firm enough, with his hand around the base, so Yoongi hardens in his grip. When he wraps his lips around the head, tracing his tongue in shapes, Yoongi makes a sound that satisfies Jimin to his core.

 

“Jimin, you’re making this difficult,” the alpha huffs, voice strained nonetheless. Humming, Jimin glances up at him in question, but Yoongi just ends up swearing at the feeling in combination with Jimin sliding slightly further down. The omega catches on when he sees Yoongi’s unsteady hands flailing slight, and reaches up with his spare hand to guide them to his own hair.

 

It’s difficult, using his mouth on Yoongi like this, but Jimin enjoys it anyway. Enjoys feeling Yoongi trying hard to restrain himself from pulling Jimin’s hair, his thighs shuddering occasionally when Jimin does something he evidently likes. It has him starting to get hard, himself, the memory of Yoongi doing the same thing to him not that hard to grasp on to, and when he shifts he can feel himself starting to get wet, too.

 

A panicked sound snaps him out of his reverie, pulling off to see Yoongi looking sheepish. “Y’ okay?”

 

“Yes, just, nearly-” Jimin’s eyes widen when he realises what Yoongi was saying, didn’t realise the knot starting to grow in his palm.

 

“Sorry,” he has to clear his throat to get out, and receives a shake of the head in response. Yoongi’s hands close fist in the material of his shirt.

 

“Come on, I want to undress you,” he mumbles, making Jimin’s cheeks get warm. Instead of letting Yoongi pull him up, he pulls the alpha down instead, so they’re both on the bed. His shirt is about to go over his head when his hands fly to his earrings.

 

"I should take these off-"

 

"Leave them on," Yoongi interrupts. "I just- They're lovely on you. I will be careful, I promise."

 

Nodding slowly, Jimin lets his hands fall away. His shirt is pulled over his head.

 

It's like all of the tension and eye contact from the night just keeps building, and Jimin is waiting for it to snap but it just. Doesn't. Just heightens with every single touch, every piece of clothing they remove. Soon Jimin is lying under Yoongi, both of them completely bare, and Yoongi barely has to lay his hands on Jimin for him to whimper with the strength of what he feels from it.

 

Sitting back on Jimin's thighs, Yoongi makes distance between them, and Jimin has a moment where his head clears a little and he realises just how hard he's breathing. There's around half a second where he tries to regulate it, but then Yoongi is grinding down onto Jimin's cock, and dragging his fingertips down Jimin's chest. The omega swears he's not usually this sensitive, but he still arches his back, voice caught somewhere between a whine and a moan.

 

"You are so stunning," Yoongi says, voice hushed. Normally Jimin is sure that his reaction to that would be to hide, or tease Yoongi, but he just sounds so genuine, almost awed, and he can't react. His tongue is tied when he searches for a joke, and he wants to distract the alpha from looking at him like that, it's just too much.

 

"Come on," he mumbles instead, fingers reaching for Yoongi's cock to wrap around and stroke him slowly. He kicks his hips up to try and disturb Yoongi on top of him, try and get him off so he can get inside Jimin already, but the alpha seems in no rush to be moved, grinding his hips on Jimin's own cock and thrusting forward into the omega's hand in a rhythm. It's well coordinated, and Jimin wishes that he'd seen more of Yoongi's dancing earlier, so he could witness what he's like, how good he is, because judging by this it wouldn't be bad at all.

 

"Jimin," he groans, eyes falling shut, and the omega is tempted to have him get off like this, come all over Jimin's chest - the thought sends a pleased shudder through him - but that's not what they're here for. He focuses, decides on using dirty tactics.

 

"Alpha." Yoongi's eyes open and focus at that, and Jimin presses his lips together. He lifts his hips up again. "I'm wet for you."

 

Swearing under his breath, Yoongi slides himself backwards on his knees so he is kneeling between Jimin's legs instead. The omega parts them readily when Yoongi's hand's curl around his thighs, and he dips his head to look, breathing in the scent.

 

"You are," Yoongi croons, and Jimin's muscles tense up hard when he lowers his head even more, lips ghosting over his hipbones, down his v-line. Noses over his stomach, and Jimin can feel the warmth of his breath, the tickle of his mouth. “I would taste you, but I do not think you want that.”

 

Jimin would kick him for his teasing if he wasn’t so right. Instead he threads his fingers through the alpha’s hair and tugs lightly, putting on a persuasive pouts and simultaneously hooking his legs around Yoongi’s back. “Please,” he sighs, pressing down with his heels ever so slightly.

 

Yoongi acquiesces, clearly reluctant to move, but slowly making his way up Jimin’s body, brushing his mouth across the soft skin in not-quite-kisses. The omega’s hands fly to his shoulder, nails digging in when he stops to trace a nipple with his tongue.

 

“Can you just-” His speech is interrupted when Yoongi jerks away, grabs the pillow next to Jimin and places an encouraging hand on his hip, coaxing him to lift them so he can put it underneath them. When he repositions himself over Jimin, it’s chest to chest, his cock sliding through the wetness between Jimin’s cheeks. Their noses nudge together and Jimin’s heart thumps hard from the proximity in combination with the arousal thrumming through him.

 

Closing his eyes, Jimin lets himself take it in, the body heat, Yoongi’s fingers ghosting down his side, his breath on Jimin’s lips. “Do you want my fingers?” Jimin can feel his voice too, because they’re so close. He shakes his head. Last night Yoongi had made up for the time apart, prepared him so well with his fingers and tongue while the omega’s face was shoved in his pillow - he doesn’t need it again, just wants Yoongi inside him already. The thought of the alpha’s’ knot has his body releasing another wave of slick, and he thinks Yoongi can feels it where he’s lazily dragging his cock through the mess. He groans.

 

Shushing him, Yoongi reaches down to guide himself inside, but Jimin just moans softly at the intrusion. The alpha pushes in gradually, letting Jimin adjust nice and slow, shifting his hips back and forth the tiniest bit.

 

He decides to settle one of his hands at the back of Yoongi's neck, the other going to his lower back to encourage him forward. When his eyes flutter open, Yoongi's gaze is still fixed on his face, just as intense, and just as close. The worst kind of temptation.

 

"Move," he breathes, squeezing the back of the alpha's neck marginally to urge him on.  And Yoongi does, positioning his knees on the bed for leverage and his forearms either side of Jimin's head. He moves slow, and one of his hands is brushing through, clenching and unclenching, in Jimin's hair.

 

It's like a dance, the way they fit together, the way they move. Two partners who have practiced together many a time before, moving in tandem, mirrored motions. In this position Jimin can feel Yoongi's hitching breathing, his little gasps, which mingle with his own in the little air there is between them.

 

Somehow Jimin knows that neither of them are going to last long tonight. His own cock is trapped, rubbing and smearing all over Yoongi's stomach muscles, and that combined with the slow, deep pace the alpha has set already has him choking out quiet whimpers. It feels wrong to be loud tonight. Like this should be kept just between them.

 

It's not like Yoongi is faring any better, his fist clenched into the pillow next to Jimin's head, although the one in Jimin's hair stays gentle. Their mouths are still so frustratingly close and Jimin is so close to just leaning up-

 

But then Yoongi is leaning down, but not for a kiss; the hand in his hair tightens, coaxing his head back but mostly to the side, and Yoongi is nosing across his cheek, down to his jaw. Down and back to his ear, which he nips at, pulling at the lobe and teeth clicking slightly against the metal of his earring.

 

"Yoongi," Jimin gasps, his back arching as those thrusts increase in pace suddenly so he can rub his cock on Yoongi's stomach easier, give himself some friction. He can feel Yoongi's knot growing, the slide of the length against Jimin's walls building up the pleasure until his own stomach muscles are clenching hard and he's whining.

 

"'S okay," Yoongi gasps roughly, "come on, Jiminie, I'm gonna- my knot-"

 

Jimin comes to the feeling of Yoongi's lips pressed to the sensitive skin just under his ear, heart pounding and thighs shaking around Yoongi's waist. He's glad that Yoongi doesn't last much longer, his body so sensitive he's trembling in Yoongi's hold. The warmth of the alpha coming inside of him is almost even too much, and he tries to curl up, arms tucked to his chest, but the action is made impossible by Yoongi's weight on top of him.

 

Luckily Yoongi realises, turns over and tucks him close. He’s so, so tired, and it’s so easy to press his face into Yoongi’s shoulder, inhale his scent, let his sore muscles relax. The hand that moves to his hair is soothing, the arm curled over his waist makes him feel safe.

 

There are alarm bells ringing distantly in his head, though, and he knows this is bad. This comfort, how close they came, how hard Jimin's heart was pounding. And the way he acted tonight in front of everyone tonight was bad, and Daehee was right there, he might have even seen.

 

Pulling back a little, but not too far, he looks at Yoongi’s face. It’s relaxed, calm, but his eyes are open and watch him right back. The hand in his hair doesn’t fall away, keeps stroking. They share a moment of poignant silence, still connected.

 

Yoongi must know that everything is too much. Yet, Jimin doesn’t know how Yoongi feels, doesn’t know what he’s thinking; as far as Jimin knows, this is all just lust to him.

 

He doesn’t even know what it is to himself. He can identify, now, the pull in his stomach towards the alpha, an instinctual want to curl into him, breathe in his scent, but he doesn’t know if something has caused it, or if it’s just. His feelings.

 

Maybe his troubles show on his face, because Yoongi is frowning. “Are you okay? Does it hurt?”

 

The omega almost wants to laugh, because yes it does, but not in the way Yoongi is referring to. “No, I’m fine.”

 

Humming, Yoongi encourages him forward once more, this time ducking his own head to nose at Jimin’s shoulder. It’s unexpected, so much so that Jimin can’t stop his breath from hitching. “Are you wearing a perfume?” the alpha questions, voice unsure.

 

Jimin frowns, because he’s pretty sure he didn’t put anything on - perfume always tickles his nose. “No?”

 

Pulling his head back to rest against the pillow, Yoongi’s face is the picture of confusion. “Really? Because I could swear that you smell different. Like… It is rather silly.” He huffs out a laugh. “Like, warmer. It does not really smell like perfume, it is not much different, but…”

 

His eyes widen suddenly, and Jimin blinks at him. He hates how endearing it is, but at the same time he’s rather concerned. “What?”

 

“You… Jimin, you smell different,” Yoongi says almost helplessly, like he can’t explain, and it takes a moment for Jimin to catch on.

 

“Smell… oh.” Scent changes . The words echo back to him from reading them just this morning.

 

In front of him, Yoongi’s shocked expression turns into an elated one. “Oh. Jiminie, this is…”

 

The omega feels the thrill from this morning return twofold. A baby, Yoongi thinks he’s actually going to have a baby. “Oh gosh.”

 

As Yoongi pulls him in close for a tight hug, the terror from earlier makes a belated appearance too. His hands squeeze into fists and he tucks them between their chests to stop his hands from trembling. He’s scared to know what this might mean for him, but simultaneously he can feel the excitement radiating from the alpha, which in turn gives him a soft, bubbly joy.

 

It’s hard to be truly scared when Yoongi is so happy.



--



Chapter Text

Jimin's brother's mate, Ryeowook, is the only person that Jimin knows to have given birth to a child in his own living memory. It was two years ago, a lovely baby girl, and Jimin is now ashamed to say that he hadn't paid much attention to what was going on. He hadn't been the least bit interested in Ryeowook's experience at the time, how he was feeling, what pregnancy was like past a growing bump.

 

Before Jimin had come to the castle, he'd asked his brother-in-law what it was like to be pregnant.

 

"Is it difficult to walk?" he had asked, thinking about how round Ryeowook's stomach had been at the time. He remembers touching it once; it had seemed so strange, despite the innate familiarity of the image.

 

"Not really," the other omega had laughed, and Jimin grinned at the omega's impression of a waddle. "It's just like, you're heavier, but your body is strong enough to carry it."

 

"Okay." Jimin had thought about it for another moment, before asking, "Does it hurt?"

 

"What, exactly? Childbirth is very painful, but I'm sure you knew that already," Ryeowook mused. "The pregnancy itself didn't hurt, but it might be different for everyone. It shouldn't hurt, or that means there's something wrong, no?"

 

Jimin had been reassured, then, that everything would be fine when he came to the castle - easy, even. Bent over his sick bowl now, though, he feels bitter at his past self for not asking more detailed questions.

 

It's been almost three months since he moved to this grand place, and Jimin considers himself a changed person. More independent, less naive. He knows now that he knew very little of life, living at home, coddled by his parents and siblings. If he spoke to Ryeowook now, he would know what to ask, what advice he needed to seek.

 

Unfortunately his brother-in-law isn't here, and Jimin very well cannot write to his mother and ask either, so he is left to ask Seokjin to find him information from texts written by doctors, and one time for him to go to Namjoon, although that hadn't gone very well. He does wish that his mother had forced him to learn things about pregnancy, to sit and listen to her experience, but he supposes that before coming to the castle he had been stubborn in that respect.

 

He would have asked how to deal with the symptoms that plague him every day, the nausea that sometimes lasts for hours (and yet sometimes mysteriously disappears on some days), the fact that on some days he wants to sleep all of the hours away. What he can do to stop himself from needing to use the toilet an increasing amount of times throughout the day. Maybe they wouldn't have known, but he could have at least been comforted by their reassurances, talked about how it had been the same for them, too.

 

It's when he's bent over a bowl, being sick for the third time in a morning, that he misses his family the most. He just wishes there were someone to rub his back, joke with him about how it will be over soon (how long will the sickness last? The full five and a half months?), and make him feel a little less alone.

 

He knows that everything is fine, Physician Lee had told him so clinically on his last visit, but it's still nerve wracking to be doing this by himself.

 

Yoongi had been the first person to realise that he had fallen pregnant, of course, and from there it was like a domino effect; he assumes that Yoongi told Hoseok and Namjoon, who appear to be his closest friends in the castle, because they both grinned at him so brightly a couple of days after the ball upon the return of normal court life after the guests had left. Seokjin must have figured it out by himself, as it seems unlikely that anyone could have told him - he had hugged Jimin tightly after the omega had said that he had been sick that morning, commented that he couldn't smell anything yet but congratulated him anyway.

 

The last few weeks have just been a mess of confusion and feelings for Jimin, and he has been trying so hard to think it through, to calm himself, lie on his bed and breathe deeply and try and understand what's going on with him, around him, burt it's just so extremely difficult.

 

It doesn't help that things just haven't happened how he expected them to. He expected for people at court to notice quickly, first of all, due to the amount of time that they seem to spend watching him; and yet, there are no less stares than normal, but people just don’t seem to have realised yet. Or maybe they suspect and are waiting for some kind of confirmation - Jimin is happy for them to remain ignorant, at least for the first two months, as if something bad is going to happen, it’s going to be then. Jimin takes to wearing looser shirts, unbuttoned jackets, because they hide him more, self consciousness plaguing him.

 

"Dear, that jacket is awful and fits you terribly, please do not wear it tomorrow," Miyoung sighs next to him at their table. Since the ball she has been quite short with Jimin, not her usual excitable, talkative self with him; talking to everyone else, though, she seems the same as ever.

 

Jimin must have really upset her by dancing with her mate, but he doesn't know how to fix it - he had tried to apologise, but she had brushed him off. Every day in the stateroom now makes him a little bit sad, because the person who he spent most of his time with now ignores him most of the time.

 

"I will find something else tomorrow, Ma'am," he replies quietly. He catches the smirk on  Soojung's face as she glances at his midriff, and decides to wear something similar again tomorrow anyway. He wants to hide just a little longer, while he can.

 

"Jimin, you must come to the games tonight," Donghae says conversationally from across the table, and Jimin freezes momentarily from where he was picking up his teacup.

 

He reminds himself to snap out of it, taking a sip before replying, eyes on where he puts his cup down on its saucer gently. "I'm not sure I can, I am often quite tired after dinner these days."

 

It's not untrue. Jimin is tired from hiding himself away, as well as a side effect of being pregnant too, probably, but it's not the main reason that he would like to avoid attending the evening activities.

 

"Ah well, soon you will move past the early phase and you can join us again," Donghae replies with a soft smile, and Jimin just nods.

 

He can hardly tell the complete truth, that he has an appointment with Yoongi to go to the training courtyard for an archery lesson. That Yoongi has still been visiting him, despite the fact that they don’t need to try to conceive anymore.

 

It had started with an unexpected visit, two nights after the ball. Jimin hadn't expected anything, so was startled by the knock at the door. The night before, he had not waited up for Yoongi to come at all, had curled up in bed with the knowledge that he would stay alone for the night, and many nights to come.

 

That night, however, he had only had a fleeting hope that it was the prince knocking at his door, before he had banished it from his mind. It was ridiculous to want such a thing.

 

But it was Yoongi, entering hesitantly upon Jimin's call to enter, eyes wide in the moonlight coming through the gap in the curtains that Jimin never closes properly.

 

"Were you asleep?" he had whispered, a guilty expression on his face.

 

The omega shook his head before realising that Yoongi probably couldn't see. "No." He doubted that he would have been able to sleep the whole night, too caught up in his thoughts. "Why... Is there something wrong?"

 

"I would hope not." Yoongi sounded amused as he came closer, until he was sitting on the edge of the bed. "I wanted to- I wanted to see you."

 

At that Jimin had made a small surprised noise. Yoongi hurried to explain, reaching for him and encountering his knee under the covers.

 

"I just... wanted to see you. Are you feeling well? You should probably go to see Physician Lee tomorrow, so he may check up on your health. And..." The pup is left unspoken.

 

"Okay," Jimin acknowledged quietly. "I'm. I'm okay. I don't think there's anything, um, bad."

 

"Good, that's good," Yoongi whispered, squeezing Jimin's knee. "I want to, want to know, okay? I want to know how you are feeling. Especially if it is bad, but also, just. Everything." He sounded so genuine, and Jimin was taken in by it, and by Yoongi's scent, so comforting. He was tired, wanted to slump in Yoongi's hold, even though Yoongi was barely touching him. "But hey, I also promised you something, right?"

 

"Hm?" Jimin's brain was so overwhelmed by the fact that Yoongi was there, and couldn't really catch up to what he was saying, but he remembers Yoongi’s little smile at his own words.

 

The alpha had taken him to the training courtyard, just the next day. The bubble of excitement that expands in his stomach at the thought of their few nighttime visits outside of the castle should probably worry him, but it's just so fun, so enjoyable to learn something new, to have Yoongi teach him something.

 

It's such a contrast to how he feels right now sat in the staterooms. Part of him feels bad for not trying to move past it, just get on with it with a positive attitude, but he's just so uncomfortable, so constantly self aware.

 

Even more so when Daehee sweeps into the room on one of his visits, Jimin hoping dearly that he will not approach his table. It's so difficult to look at Yoongi's mate right now; it's like part of him wants to apologise for something, although he's not sure what for. As he nears, Jimin feels like he's repeating events, remembers the first time Daehee had approached their table in the staterooms and had snubbed Jimin. It feels like there's so much more weight in the other omega's gaze now, like so much more has developed since then.

 

"Ah, Donghae, Miyoung, Soojung," Daehee greets some of the other omegas at his table, and Jimin swallows when he is left out, hopeful that he will not be addressed. "I look forward to seeing you at the tea party tomorrow, I hear that the kitchens have been ordered to make many fine cakes for us, recipes from my own kingdom. I trust that you will be going?"

 

There's a chorus of "of course!" from all of those addressed, and Jimin's eyes drop to the floor when Daehee looks to him now, instead. His palms are sweaty from the stress, and he wonders how he must smell right now, if his distress is evident.

 

"I suppose it might be difficult for Jimin to come, you must be very tired. The cakes might upset your stomach a little more too, which is not what we want! The first few months of pregnancy are so difficult" Daehee laments, and Jimin's head snaps up to look at him. Surely he's didn’t just- "Of course you should take the time to rest."

 

Jimin's mouth drops open to reply but no words are forthcoming; a buzzing fills his ears, but he can still hear the whispers around him. He hears whispered exclamations of “ pregnant ?” as well as many others he cannot make out. His stomach protests with nausea at the acidic wash of panic and dread.

 

Has no doubt that everyone is staring at him now, if they weren't before.

 

"I-" He stops again.

 

Daehee gives him a look of dismissal, and he knows that this conversation is over. Turning his back to Jimin, he starts to walk away, stopping to greet another omega with a polite, if somewhat haughty, smile, completely uncaring of how he has just affected Jimin's life at court.

 

Swallowing, he looks to the rest of his table, wiping his shaking hands surreptitiously on his trousers. Some of them look away upon eye contact, but most do not, continuing to stare at him, or his midriff, to be specific. He sits back down, immediately wishing he didn't have to, that he could just leave and go be somewhere else in that moment.

 

Pressure, even heavier than before, weighs on his shoulders, and he stares at the table rather than looking at all of the people around him. He has no room to move now if something goes wrong. It creeps up on him that he is now an omega that got pregnant outside of mating, and he wonders with a certain kind of dread what everyone must think of that. There's a difference between sleeping with an alpha outside of mating, and getting pregnant without a mate.

 

Of course, they would have found out eventually, but he had hoped that it would be more of a gradual thing, rather than what Daehee just did. He had just hoped that he would have some more time to get used to the idea himself. It's foolish, he knows, as he has already had nearly three weeks to do so, but he can't help but wish that he could have kept it a secret, something shared between close friends, and he and Yoongi, for just a little longer.

 

As he looks up and to those around him in the stateroom, still whispering behind their hands, some joyful and some appearing mildly disgusted, he thinks that was something of a childish dream.



--



It feels like there are two different sides to Jimin, now; the quiet side that he puts on at court, that face which he hides behind as people watch him constantly with beady eyes. On the other side there is the one he wears with Taehyung, the one where he is relaxes, and just, well, happy. Taehyung always makes him smile.

 

They are currently on the way to the stables again, adopting a slow pace to admire the last of the blooming flowers on the way. There are some apple trees very close to the large wooden structure, and Jimin expects that there will be fruit there soon. Autumn is fast approaching.

 

"How is the sickness?" Taehyung questions him, swinging their joined hands between them.

 

"Not too bad today," Jimin sighs. "It's up and down. Some days are completely fine."

 

Jimin had told Taehyung almost a week after Yoongi had noticed his change in scent, when he had finally started to believe it himself. He'd really started to take note of his symptoms, and after throwing up one morning three days after the ball, he'd concluded that it must be true, even though the fact made him want to curl up in a little anxious ball and never leave his bedroom. Since the beta didn't seem to notice much amiss, he had to drop hints.

 

It had been a sunny afternoon. "Taehyungie," he had said hesitantly. "I think I might need to get my clothes altered soon."

 

"Hm?" Taehyung had been distracted finding him a jacket to wear that was suitable for the last of the summer's heat. "You'll get new clothes for winter, do not worry about being cold, Jiminie, it's fine."

 

Letting out an amused breath, he pressed down a wry smile. "That's not what I meant."

 

Taehyung turned to him, frowning. "What do you mean, then?"

 

He didn't know why it was so nerve-wracking; Taehyung is his closest friend, had been nothing but kind to him. Swallowing, he placed a hand on his stomach, which he thought was still fairly flat, but he had known that he had gained a little weight all over, had sat on the bed and looked at himself properly, the morning after the ball, just after Yoongi had woken up and left.

 

Eyeing him, Taehyung's frown deepened. His gaze fell to Jimin's hand, and it took him a full ten seconds for a look of understanding to cross his face, mixed with shock. "Oh, Jiminie. You're..."

 

Jimin nodded. "I think so. And- And so does Yoongi."

 

An ear splitting squeal fills the room, and suddenly Jimin was being smothered by the beta, squished tightly against Taehyung's chest. He had laughed when he was rocked side to side in Tae's excitement.

 

"I'm so glad for you! Ah, Jimin, this is so great." Pulling back, Taehyung had taken the omega's face in his hands and squished his cheeks, too. "Prince Yoongi must be so happy.”

 

That had brought a smile to Jimin's face. Yoongi had been so happy, he remembers the sweet smile on his face, the sparkle and excitement in his eyes when he had kissed the top of Jimin's head when he had left the morning after the ball. "Yeah, I think so."

 

"It's so wonderful," Taehyung said dreamily. "You're going to be paid so much!"

 

Jimin's smile had faltered at that.

 

In the present, as they sit in the same spot in his bedroom as the day Jimin had told his friend the news, Taehyung is grinning. "That's good! It will pass soon I am sure. You look so well, otherwise, bright. Pretty Jiminie.” Rolling his eyes, Jimin shoves him lightly.

 

"Don't be silly. The only difference is that I look bigger." He ignores it when Taehyung shakes his head. It's not untrue, many of his older clothes are almost unwearable because they are now so tight, particularly around his thighs, his stomach. "Let's not talk about that, though. I am quite tired from constantly thinking about it."

 

"What should we talk about instead?" Taehyung wonders as they reach the stable doors. "My inability to court a potential mate, or be courted, while I work within the castle walls?"

 

"What?" Jimin is taken aback by the sudden turn in conversation, as well as by that particular revelation.

 

"Sorry," Taehyung grimaces. "That's a bit out of the blue. Maybe we can talk about horses, instead, hm? You've much improved at riding."

 

Jimin comes to a stop, Taehyung pulled back by their joined hands. "Taehyungie," he starts, unsure, but he can feel the concern in the creases of his own face. "Are you alright?"

 

There's a moment of quiet, and Jimin doesn't miss the sigh Taehyung lets out. "I am- I'm okay. It's... I'm just... a bit. Lonely."

 

Mouth popping open, Jimin's eyes widen. Understanding, still mixed with that surprise, washes over him. He had no idea that Taehyung felt this way, he hides it so well, almost always wearing a smile. "So you can't be mated at all?"

 

"Not as long as I remain here," Taehyung says, smiling wryly. They've never talked about Taehyung's mating prospects before - suddenly Jimin feels bad for their conversations always revolving around himself, Yoongi, his pregnancy, his own family. When talking about himself, Taehyung had never mentioned his own family, always talks about his interactions with other people in the castle. He always seemed so happy here, so Jimin had no reason to suspect that he may be secretly unhappy, or that his position is so limiting.

 

"I'm sorry, Taehyungie. I didn't know."

 

"Of course you didn't! You have no reason to be, it's not like I am being mistreated here.  And we're the same age, it's not like all of the betas at our age are mated. I'm complaining for nothing." Taehyung waves away Jimin's worries with a flippant hand, but the omega isn't satisfied. There's no way that he would bring up such a thing so randomly if it hadn't been on his mind.

 

"Is there anything you can do?" Jimin asks quietly, ignoring Taehyung's attempts to wave him away.

 

Sighing, his friend slumps a little. There's something in his eyes that makes Jimin want to pull him into a hug, something so melancholy. "No, there isn't. It's the rules, castle attendants and staff cannot be mated. It's a distraction, they say," he explains.

 

Jimin squeezes his hand where they're still linked. "You can't leave?"

 

Taehyung shakes his head. "No, they pay us very, very little. When I leave it will be many years into the future, when I have saved enough money to keep myself afloat."

 

Jimin doesn't really know what to say to that. He does hug his friend then, despite a small noise of protest; he has a feeling that Taehyung needs it.

 

"Don't worry, Jiminie, it's fine. It's just been on my mind a lot lately, with you being... well." He makes a funny face, wrinkling his nose and his eyes twinkling with amusement. Jimin rolls his eyes at him. There's some noise coming from somewhere close to them in the stables, so they step apart.

 

"Taehyungie-" Jimin starts, but is interrupted by a call directly to their left.

 

A stable hand stands there, looking severely unimpressed. "Oi, what are you two doing canoodling in 'ere? I'll call the guards-"

 

Panic sets Jimin's heart pumping fast and his body turning cold and then hot. He's about to interrupt the man, who looks red and like he really is going to call for them to be dragged out of there, when Hyuna steps out from behind the man, looking amused.

 

"Leeteuk, it's just Taehyung, leave him alone. They've come to see me, haven't you boys?" she grins, and Taehyung immediately approaches her with a simpering smile that has Jimin hiding a laugh.

 

"Of course, I just wanted to see you. It's hard to go even half a day without you, I just miss your face so much. It's the one thing I see when I close my eyes as I fall asleep-"

 

Hyuna manages to listen up to a point with a straight, serious face, but when Taehyung starts to talk about how he sees her face in the dust that collects on the surfaces of the spare bedrooms, she cracks up.

 

"Alright, alright, that's enough. I've got time to help you, if you wanna ride today. I assume that's what you've really come for," she laughs, taking Taehyung's elbow to spin him around and walking off in the direction of the horses that they usually ride. Jimin falls into step with him behind her.

 

Taehyung's words still weigh heavily on his mind, and he can't quite shake the image of his friend's melancholy expression. He takes the beta's hand once again.

 

"I hope... I'm sure it will turn out well for you, in the end," he says quietly.

 

He gets the smallest of smiles in return. "I hope so too."

 

Hyuna saddles two horses for them while they watch, a process that Jimin enjoys seeing and learning about. He wonders if Hyuna will let him do it one day soon, when he can finally list off all of the steps and things to check. It would be really great if he could do it all by himself.

 

While riding, she compliments how much better he has become, which earns a grin from Taehyung when he blushes just a little at the praise. He has to admit that it's a lot more comfortable now, he can happily ride at a trot, mostly by himself. It's not that easy to get on and off, but he supposes that's why Hyuna always picks a smaller horse for him. Watching Taehyung mount his horse is always a rather funny experience, and he suspects that their friend picks a horse slightly too large for him for that reason; the mirth in her eyes gives him strong reason to believe this to be true.

 

Just before they leave, Jimin makes a small detour while Hyuna and Taehyung talk, walking through the rows of horses with the bag of carrot treats, stopping to feed the ones that he knows are nice. He doesn't set out with a goal in mind; at least, he tells himself that, but he can’t help but stop when his feet lead him to Bee's stall.

 

She's as sweet as ever, and he gives her a couple of carrot pieces, petting her coat and letting her sniff him. His friend's voices approach him, still distant, and he can't help but think about his earlier reaction to the stable hand's threat to call the guards.

 

The panic had been so strong, and Jimin tries to decide why that is. Was it just a fear of getting into trouble? Of the king and queen being disappointed in him? The word canoodling echoes in his mind; what would the king and queen think, if they heard the word canoodling in relation to him? Or is it someone else he fears hearing that word as used for him?

 

"You really like her, huh?" Hyuna wonders as she comes up to pet Bee alongside him. He can feel Taehyung's presence, just behind them.

 

"She's pretty," he gets out eventually. Doesn't say anything else, and he hopes that Taehyung won't ask him, on their way back up to the castle.

 

Hyuna hums. "That she is. And a clever one, too. She likes you a lot," she notes.

 

"Yeah," Jimin agrees quietly. Behind him, Taehyung says nothing at all.



--



"Jimin, are you ready?"

 

Just finishing tying his cloak, Jimin approaches his door. "Yes, I'm ready." Yoongi stands on the other side, wearing similar, simple clothing. Jimin closes the door behind them as they leave, joining Yoongi to walk shoulder-to-shoulder down the hallway.

 

"You may be a little cold," Yoongi says, concerned, eyeing Jimin's current wear. "We won't stay out too long."

 

"It's alright, I'll be fine," Jimin shakes his head, smiling a little. "I don't mind."

 

Opening and closing his mouth, Yoongi looks like he might protest but thinks better of it. Instead he offers Jimin his arm, which the omega takes, tucking his hand in to the crook of his elbow.

 

"Let's try and hit the target consistently today, yes?" Changing tack, Yoongi teases him with a smirk.

 

Jimin pinches his arm lightly. "Don't be mean, I'm really trying!"

 

"I know!" Yoongi laughs, laying his other hand on Jimin's to stop the pinching. The encompassing warmth makes Jimin swallow. "You are getting better already, I am only teasing."

 

Grumbling, Jimin looks away, looking around the entrance hall, so unnerving at night in the dark, empty of people. It's quite far from the rooms in which the evening activities are held, and the echoes of the sounds of the party cannot even be heard distantly. He and Yoongi are alone, the only people they normally encounter being attendants who take barely any notice of them.

 

It's a short walk to the training courtyard, one that Jimin is quickly becoming familiar with. At first it had felt a little awkward, he was nervous, having never left the room with Yoongi, their encounters always so private. The training courtyard only ever has a handful of people in it, and not consistently; sometimes they are completely alone.

 

Tonight is one of those nights, although their first night was not. Jimin had been tense, three alphas he did not know training in the opposite end of the area, although Yoongi was completely unperturbed. They are close friends, Yoongi had explained quietly, confident, and Jimin shouldn't worry.

 

He had still been somewhat uncomfortable in their distant presence, and the omega thinks that maybe Yoongi noticed, because since then there had been fewer alphas in the courtyard, or none at all.

 

Either way, they are alone, and Yoongi immediately goes to fetch the practice bow and a quiver of arrows. It is a tad chilly and Jimin draws his cloak around himself as he looks around, the courtyard so much less intimidating a place without all of the alphas and betas in training here. He had built up quite an image of the place in his mind after the first visit, after walking away so embarrassed and frightened.

 

"Would you like to go first?" Yoongi draws his attention as he speaks, approaching him to set the quiver on the ground and offering out the bow.

 

Jimin shakes his head. "No, you go. I'll watch."

 

Acknowledging him with a hum, Yoongi brushes his cloak back to be behind his arms, freeing them to lift his bow and revealing how he adjusts his stance. Every move flows as he picks up and arrow and notches it, no clumsiness or mistakes.

 

Drawing the string taught, Yoongi lines up to the target and Jimin admires his posture. He can never help it - presumably Yoongi has perfected the position over years of training and practice, so Jimin should copy and learn. But also, Jimin can't help but think that there is much else to be admired.

 

His feet hip width apart, Yoongi stands with his back completely straight, facing Jimin with his left arm extended out in front of him. He grows slightly taller, Jimin thinks, hand held up to his jaw, the string touching his lips, pouting ever so slightly. The omega can't help the way that his eyes focus there, instead of on what he should, the posture and his demonstration. It had been the same the first time Yoongi had shown him what to do, but Jimin had felt a whoosh in his stomach. Hadn't realised what it was, until after an hour or two of watching demonstrations, he came to understand that it was simply that Yoongi looked very attractive.

 

Even more so when Yoongi could hit consistent good shots, centred around the bullseye time after time.

 

Jimin can't say that he can do the same. "No, breathe in and hold it, you know better," Yoongi almost teases next to him. He always stands close, monitors what Jimin is doing intently, had been diligent in showing Jimin how not to hurt himself, carefully rolling down his sleeve so if the string hit his wrist it wouldn't hurt him as badly.

 

Picking up another arrow gingerly, Jimin does as he is told when he notches it, drawing the string back once again. It still makes him kind of nervous to do this with the alpha watching him so closely, his scent strong in the air despite them being in the open. Makes it hard to concentrate, even.

 

Especially so when Yoongi touches him, gently correcting his posture, his arm placement. It's barely there, but still feels just on the edge of too much.

 

At the beginning, it had felt somewhere close to professional, the way Yoongi taught him, corrected him and gave advice. That had slipped fairly quickly, giving way to something much more comfortable between them. Well, at least in how they speak to each other. Jimin can't say that he isn't somewhat on edge during their lessons, standing together like this.

 

And it makes him feel guilty, a feeling he cannot push down in the way he used to when it was Yoongi visiting him as they attempted to conceive. There's nothing necessary about the prince bringing him here; he had claimed that he was fulfilling his promise to teach Jimin, but the omega had never expected him to keep it. Not when Yoongi is so busy, when Jimin has already conceived and Yoongi has no reason to continue seeing him. Not when Yoongi's mate lies in his bed, alone.

 

What makes it worse is his own reactions to the alpha, instinctual or no, in body language and in words. He can't help responding to playful teasing, giggling at Yoongi's jokes, can't help the warmth that he feels from his touches. Can't help but remember how it felt for Yoongi to touch him more, have his mouth on him, be inside of him.

 

Now he has time to look at Yoongi's own motivations, and he doesn't know if the alpha is being a friend, fulfilling his promises and checking on the wellbeing of the omega who is carrying his child, or whether it's something else. Sometimes, Jimin cannot help but think that it could be more, and the potential of that something makes him feel desperately worse.

 

He lets the arrow fly, hitting near the outside of the target, but the target nonetheless. "Well done," Yoongi congratulates him with a smile. "Keep going and I will correct you as you go along."

 

They continue like that for a while, Yoongi keeping him in check, at one point moving behind Jimin to rest a hand on his back, his waist, to stop him from leaning to the side too much. A whisper of "relax," does nothing to do so. Jimin is very aware that where Yoongi has one of his hands he can most probably feel where his waist has thickened, the side of the small swelling of his stomach.

 

Jimin tries very hard with the next shot, still managing to awry, but less so. "I think I really have gotten better!" he exclaims excitedly, receiving a grin in response.

 

"You have. You'll get better with practice, too." Yoongi hands him another arrow to notch, which he does carefully. "It takes time to notice a pattern in what you are doing, so you can fix it. Try holding your right hand a little closer to your jaw"

 

When Jimin lets this arrow go, he does what Yoongi asks, and feels the string slide past his lips this time, feels the softness of his cheek wobble slightly. It doesn't hurt, but he's sure it looks a little silly - the thought is compounded by Yoongi's muffled huff of amused laughter.

 

He levels Yoongi with as much of an annoyed gaze as he can muster. "Don't laugh."

 

Covering his mouth, the alpha attempts to hide his smile. "I am sorry. It's very cute."

 

Jimin is stuck somewhere between hitting Yoongi with the bow and smiling. "Don't..." He's not quite sure what he wants to say. Don't call him cute? Don't be so annoying?

 

Suddenly Yoongi adopts a grave face, but not before a slight twitch of his lips that Jimin doesn't fail to catch. "I do apologise. Unfortunately I think in this case it is rather true."

 

Jimin does hit him then, lightly, nearly causing the alpha to fall off balance and to the floor. He yelps before he manages to straighten himself, and Jimin takes it as revenge, cackling to himself.

 

Yoongi messes with him when he goes to hand Jimin the next arrow, pulling it out of reach several times as he goes to take it before Jimin has to grab his wrist and yank it out of his grip. “You’re so annoying.”

 

“I am sorry,” Yoongi, says, sounding very much the opposite.

 

Usually they spend no more than two hours outside practicing, before Yoongi escorts him back to his room once more.

 

"Do you mind if we go a different path, tonight? I would like to drop by the stables," Yoongi asks as they finish putting away the equipment. "Just for a moment, I promise."

 

"That's alright," Jimin agrees. He wonders if he could mention that he had been there just today, that he had made progress in riding - would Yoongi praise him for that, perhaps? - but he isn't sure whether that's actually allowed of him. He has never thought to ask Taehyung whether what they are doing is technically allowed. "I like horses," he offers instead.

 

"Really?" The alpha perks up at that. "Oh, then I want to introduce you to someone!" He offers Jimin his arm once more, and Jimin takes it, appreciating the warmth from standing so close to him.

 

The omega has a sneaking suspicion of who that someone is, but he doesn't say anything, just lets Yoongi lead them. There's a bounce in his step, an eagerness, and Jimin thinks that it reflects the general improvement in Yoongi's mood over the past few weeks - not that he had seemed to be in a bad mood before, but now he appears less tired, more of a brightness to his eyes, and Jimin sees him sporting a small smile a lot more often around the courtrooms or the dining hall. He likes seeing Yoongi smile.

 

There are guards at the stables, the doors closed for the night, and Jimin tenses as they approach, but both of them just bow to Yoongi respectfully. Part of Jimin relaxes, because he's with the crown prince, of course there is no reason for him to be worried about being somewhere they're not allowed to be. On the other hand, he wonders what this looks like to these guards, the mated prince walking arm in arm with an unmated omega in the night.

 

After opening the door for Jimin, Yoongi goes to light a lantern so they can make their way through the lines of stalls easily. There's a smile on Yoongi's face and they haven't even done anything.

 

"You like horses a lot?" Jimin asks, staying close as to see better in Yoongi's light.

 

Pressing his lips together, Yoongi nods. It's almost eager, and Jimin wants to coo. "Always have, since I was a young child. Riding lessons were my favourite of any of the tutoring I received; I used to beg to be allowed to stay out and carry on when I was supposed to go and have language or mathematics lessons."

 

"How old were you when you started to learn to ride?"

 

"Seven, maybe? Quite young. It is considered compulsory for members of nobility to have them." Yoongi takes his hand and tugs him in the direction he wants them to go, and Jimin realises that yes, he's definitely taking him to meet Bee. He hides a smile.

 

"You would ride one into battle?"

 

Yoongi laughs at that. "Yes, but usually they're used for hunts. I have to admit there has been less hunting this year, because there has been some... political difficulties. I am rather glad, in a way, as I never took that much of a liking to the sport. Ah, here we are."

 

They've reached Bee's stall, and she's laid down in the hay, sleeping rather peacefully - Yoongi calls out to her and she stirs.

 

"Baby Bee, wake up," Yoongi calls again, unhooking the door to her stall and going inside, leaving the lantern on the wooden side.

 

Jimin hesitates at the door while the alpha goes and kneels beside her, running the palm of his hand along her flank. She seems a little reluctant to wake, and Yoongi doesn't push her, just pets her gently and laughs when she snorts at him before putting her head back down.

 

"You can come over here, she won't mind if you touch her," Yoongi says in a loud whisper. He looks so happy, his teeth showing as he smiles. "This is my horse, Bee."

 

"She's asleep," Jimin notes, and Yoongi laughs.

 

"Yes, she has always been fond of sleeping the days away. I think she sleeps for me, catches up on all the sleep I miss." He looks so fond as he speaks, almost looking younger from the way his eyes crinkle and his teeth show; it's such a contradiction to how he looks when Jimin sees him around the castle, attending to his royal duties.

 

"How did you end up naming her Bee?" Jimin asks, a question he had wondered about the first time he encountered the horse.

 

"Ah," Yoongi clears his throat, a little embarrassed sounding. "I was ten at the time, and, uh, liked bees."

 

"Liked bees?" Jimin laughs, an image of a tiny ten year old prince running around after bees in his head. "That's sweet. You never got stung?"

 

"On the contrary, I did, and it made me so sad I nearly cried, both times. I started to stay away from them after that, because I realised that I could hurt them, even though normally I never did. Bees are normally very gentle. Like this one," he explains, indicating the horse next to them. "I promise she is very lovely when she is awake."

 

"I believe you," Jimin says, remembering her head-butting him gently for more treats earlier in the day.

 

They stay there for a few minutes, Yoongi seemingly lost in thought as they both stroke Bee's smooth chestnut coat. Eventually he looks at Jimin, the same smile still on his face, if a little more pensive.

 

"I loved learning to ride so much, I do hope that my child does too. I think I could be a good riding teacher. If I have the time, of course." Towards the end, he sounds a little wistful, and Jimin has the urge to hug him, or something. It must be so difficult to be king, or even crown prince, and also have time to spend with your children. He wonders if the current king had managed to do that successfully.

 

"I hope so too. You can teach them with Bee, maybe," he says instead of voicing his thoughts. It's another very cute mental image.

 

"That's what I had hoped for," Yoongi agrees, excitement in his voice. "She is a tad shy, but one of the least intimidating horses I have ever met, so I won't have to worry about her scaring them. Maybe someone will need to hold their hand still, though." He looks down at her and then back up at Jimin, his smile fading. Jimin wonders what he's thinking.

 

There is another moment of silence, and it's awkward as Jimin doesn't know what to say, unsure of where Yoongi's thoughts have gone. Soon Yoongi is muttering that they should head back up to the castle. When he stands, he holds out a hand to help Jimin back to his feet, letting go just to place it on his back when they exit the stall and he closes the door behind them.

 

The walk back is quiet, the silence only disturbed by the rustle of leaves in the wind and their light footsteps on the path. Yoongi appears lost to his own thoughts, so Jimin doesn't bother him, just draws his cloak tightly around himself to keep out the chill. He has plenty of his own things to think about, like the fact that he needs to write to his mother, or Taehyung's words from earlier that day, or how all of these evenings with Yoongi must be somehow illicit. He wonders if Daehee knows where his mate goes, more than half the nights of the week. How much he cares.

 

Yoongi walks him right back to his bedroom as always, and the alpha has just bid him goodnight, turning to walk back down the hall, when Jimin speaks up.

 

"Yoongi- Is this-" he struggles, trying to phrase what he wants to say correctly. "Are we... allowed? To meet like this?"

 

Turning back to him, Yoongi seems to take in the worried expression that Jimin is sure is occupying his face in that moment, and looks to be considering his words. It takes him a few seconds to reply.

 

"I promised you that I would teach you how to use a bow and arrow, and I do not break my promises." He looks serious, and compounds his statement with a touch to Jimin’s wrist. "I also think that I am within my rights to check on the wellbeing of the omega that is carrying my unborn pup."

 

Yoongi’s fingers are warm on the skin of his wrist, and Jimin misses the feeling as they fall away. “Okay,” he near whispers, unsure of what to say. It seems reasonable, and Yoongi knows the rules better than he does, he’s sure.

 

Yet, an unsettling feeling has him tossing and turning that night, when he lies down to sleep. He thinks over Yoongi’s words, again and again, trying to let them soothe him into not worrying that he’s doing something wrong, somehow. It eventually becomes a game of not thinking about the words, settling on Yoongi’s low voice, the sound itself more soothing than anything else.

 

As he drifts off, Jimin can’t help but think that the alpha had left something unsaid.



--



One thing that Jimin had observed during Ryeowook's pregnancy was how little help he seemed to need, how he just went about his daily life, past the first month at least, as he remained extremely strong throughout the time he was pregnant. Jimin had also noticed this of the women that had come into his father's shop, how they would happily carry boxes around, walk to the market on their own.

 

Seokjin had told him, weeks ago, how omegas heal faster during pregnancy, the strength their bodies gain in order to protect their child, and at the time Jimin hadn't thought much of it. Still is fairly unsure of when that will start to occur, when he will move out of this stage of sickness and tiredness, when the next one starts where he becomes strong. He has composed a mental list of questions to ask Seokjin, and is approaching the library with the intention of asking when he sees Hoseok exiting the library's main door.

 

He's too far for Jimin to call for his attention, so he leaves it be - there is no book in his hand, so Jimin assumes he must have been returning one. As soon as he enters the library, taking a deep breath in of that familiar scent of books and every so slightly of his alpha friend, he spots Seokjin at his desk.

 

"Hello!" he calls, catching his friends attention immediately, who starts. Jimin laughs at his wide eyes. "Are you busy?

 

"No, of course not." Looking a little caught off guard, the alpha sits down at his desk, waving Jimin over. "Never busy for a friend."

 

"Does Hoseok come in here often?" Jimin asks as he approaches, placing his book to be returned on the wooden surface when he gets there. He wonders what Hoseok had been reading; he would have thought that it would be Namjoon that made his way to the library more often than the beta, but he supposes that he doesn't know whether Namjoon does come here or not.

 

Seokjin stays quiet for a moment before answering. "Sometimes," he says, leaning forwards on his elbows and smiling. "I told you there are other visitors."

 

Humming, Jimin pushes his book forward. "Well, I guess I believe you now. I brought you this back, I finished it last night."

 

"Ah, how was it?" Seokjin inquires, picking it up to examine it. Jimin swallows, always a tiny bit paranoid that Seokjin will find fault with the state of the books he brings back, although he never has.

 

"Good! I still think the second book you gave me was my favourite." He watches the alpha place it on the pile of books that he assumes are to be sorted and returned to their proper shelves.

 

Biting his lip, he thinks about how he's going to approach the issue of finding out the information he wants. Part of him hates having to ask Seokjin to do reading for him, wishes he could just do it himself, but he believes the alpha when he says that the books that Jimin wants are of a very high reading level, too high for him.

 

"Is there anything in particular you would like me to find for you this time?" Seokjin asks as he stands up, already looking towards the shelf on which he always finds Jimin's books.

 

Jimin sees an opportunity. "Actually, do you think there is something you can find with a pregnant omega character? Preferably from their point of view?"

 

Clicking his tongue, Seokjin shakes his head. "I very much doubt it. At least, not the kind of story you would like to read. It is not usually omegas that write stories to be published, and I personally have never read a book where a character is with child. I think there aren't many omegas encouraged in the direction of writing."

 

Disappointed but unsurprised, Jimin nods, following Seokjin to the bookshelf. "That's okay. It would be nice to find out more, though. About what it's like, I mean."

 

"I understand. From what I have read, though, once your early symptoms pass you can expect an increase in strength, and the chance of illness is unlikely. Do you know how far along you are?"

 

Jimin shakes his head. "No, Physician Lee hasn’t said. He has probably given an estimate to the king and queen, though." The fact that the royal family most likely knows just as much, if not more, about his wellbeing, despite him being the one that is with child, is ever the ongoing irritation to him. "Next time I have to go, I will ask him to tell me."

 

"Well, I think that it is around two months when your current symptoms will wane, a third of the way through. So you can look forward to that," Seokjin grins, patting Jimin's shoulder. Turning back to the shelf, he leans forward to examine it closely. "I will try and look for a book for you, but I do think that you may have to just learn as you go. It is unlikely that you will receive many more negative side effects, apart from weight gain, if you count that as a negative."

 

Pursing his lips, Jimin considers it. He can't help the fear of the unknown. On the other hand, there is a certain appeal to just sitting and letting everything happen, letting the changes and experience come. There is mainly one question that niggles at the back of his mind, and he thinks that if he has that answered he may be able to do just that. "Do you think... Will my movements or actions be restrained, as time goes on? I mean... will I have to stop... doing anything in particular?"

 

Seokjin looks mildly surprised by that. "Do you mean by the pup, or by the royal family? Because if it's the former, I very much doubt it will be an issue. You will get stronger, not weaker, as time goes on. I have not known many pregnant omegas in my time, but I am sure that is almost always the case."

 

These words settle that something within him. He hadn't realised that he had been pressing his blunt nails into his palm, but he loosens his fist, looking down at his hands. Curiously, he asks, "does that mean that you think I will be restricted by the royal family? Why is that?"

 

A few books now sit in Seokjin's arms from where he has pulled them down off the shelves. "As you have seen, the castle receives a lot of guests, and the royal family may not be comfortable with having you be seen pregnant. I am not sure how they will choose to approach it; I would also assume that the omega consort will have fewer public engagements over time."

 

"Oh, right." He hadn't thought about that, but of course it makes sense. Of course Daehee will be affected, too. He doesn't have time to dwell on it any more, because Seokjin is shoving the pile of books in his arms, and he has to readjust his weight to cope. "Gosh, these are heavy."

 

"I apologise," Seokjin grins at him. "Alright, so you need to choose what kind of story you want..." He goes on to briefly detail what the books are, what kind of genre, and of course Jimin immediately goes for an adventure story. He wants something he can get lost in.

 

Seokjin hands him the book, and Jimin hesitates to leave. He should, but he likes spending time with Seokjin; he's so funny and very clever, entertains Jimin despite him most likely being an annoyance, an omega bothering him while he tries to do his job. It's the latter thought that persuades him not to sit down, to reluctantly step backwards.

 

"I should go," he sighs. For a moment he can imagine that Seokjin looks disappointed at his words, but then he smiles again and waves him away.

 

"Off you go, then. Tell me how you find the story, I think it's an interesting one." Jimin agrees, waving goodbye as he approaches the door. A loud noise has him turning around, though.

 

"Jinnie, I forgot- oh."

 

Hoseok stands at the open door, an expression of surprise on his features. Jimin pauses mid step. Jinnie?

 

"Oh, Jimin! I didn't realise you were here, should I come back later?" the beta stays at the door, eyes wide. The latter part of his question seems to have been directed at Seokjin, who Jimin turns to see shaking his head.

 

"No, Jimin is just leaving, and it's not like there isn't enough room in here for three people," he jokes. It eases the tension that Jimin hadn't even realised was thickening the air, a combination of his own surprise and Hoseok's uncertainty. That uncertainty is still there when the beta takes a few unsure steps into the hall.

 

Eventually he pushes himself to speak. "Yeah, sorry, I'm going," he stutters out awkwardly, and starts walking again. He's surprised yet again when Hoseok puts a hand out to stop him as he nears the door.

 

"Wait, Jimin, since I have caught you alone-" he looks to the side at Seokjin, who immediately walks away to busy himself at a bookshelf, out of hearing range. It certainly is, as Hoseok speaks in such a hushed voice even he can barely hear. "I want to talk to you about something."

 

"Yes?" Jimin doesn't know what Hoseok might mean, so he just watches him expectantly.

 

"Well..." Visibly swallowing, Hoseok seems to struggle choosing his words. "Namjoon and I have noticed that... something is going on, between you and Yoongi. And we just want you to be careful."

 

Jimin's heart drops to his stomach, but he makes a strong attempt at keeping a straight face. "What do you mean?"

 

The beta shakes his head, putting a hand on Jimin's shoulder that he's sure is supposed to be comforting, but instead feels heavy. "I am not accusing you of doing anything, Jiminie. It is just... a very difficult situation, and we do not want either of you to get hurt."

 

Jimin's first reaction is panic, scared that he has been found out, is going to get into trouble - but for what? He hasn't done anything wrong, as hard as he searches his brain for something. Maybe there is something there he has been avoiding, but he really doesn't think he's actually done something.

 

Hoseok's words quell his worry on that issue, but that leads him to consider what the beta is talking about otherwise. What have they done? What do other people think he has been doing?

 

"I don't know what you're talking about," he manages to get out eventually. He finds himself infinitely thankful that Hoseok doesn't seem to have a very sensitive nose for smells, as he is sure that he smells very distressed at that moment.

 

His friend looks a little disappointed at his words, but nonetheless squeezes Jimin's shoulder before letting his hand fall away. "Ah, alright. I will not bother you any more. I just..." He pauses there, breathes a small sigh. "Yoongi is my best friend, and I would hate for either of you to be hurt. Please believe that I only had good intentions." He nods sincerely, and steps back with a respectful nod.

 

Jimin eventually realises that this is his cue to leave. Somehow he feels like he needs to apologise, but since he doesn't know what for, he turns in a daze, walking towards the library entrance.

 

Turning as he leaves, he sees Hoseok standing with Seokjin, a solemn look on the alpha's face as he listens to Hoseok speak, the beta having his back to Jimin.

 

The expression haunts Jimin for the rest of the day.



--



When he isn't hiding in the library or in his bedroom, he has to face the repercussions of Daehee's careless words in the stateroom. Careless may not be the word to use, Jimin thinks bitterly; the omega's words were most likely very intentional.

 

From a detached perspective, it might be interesting to observe how people treat him, knowing the news. Jimin had expected some kind of congratulations, maybe, or doting of some kind, and he does in fact have some omegas at the dining table push more food in his direction, but that is as far as it goes. No congratulations are forthcoming, and the questions people ask him do not lessen, just change slightly - now people ask about his symptoms, whether his sickness has past, or they simply give him advice on how to dress fashionably around his growing stomach.

 

An interesting development, however, is how Jimin has started to receive a great many gifts from the people of court. Never directly from the giver, but brought to his room to be opened. The first time it had happened, Taehyung had brought him a large pile stacked in his arms and Jimin had looked at him bemusedly, thought maybe they were new clothes that fit him better.

 

Instead, Taehyung had grunted out a, "gifts for you," before dumping them all over his bed.

 

"For me?" Jimin asked, no less confused.

 

"Congratulatory gifts, of a sort."

 

It had taken Jimin some time to open them all, and it has turned into something of a routine every few days, Taehyung bringing him gifts and them sitting and opening them on his bed.

 

It would be more enjoyable if it turned out that any of the gifts are for him. No, instead they are all baby related things, which at first Jimin had thought still sweet, until he realised that he won't be able to use any of it, all baby clothing and blankets and toys and trinkets. Not one thing that he can wear or use. He has had to send all of the gifts on with Taehyung, where he supposes they will go to Daehee. The beta had grumbled about having to take them around the whole castle, and Jimin caught on then as too why the gifts had not been presented by the givers themselves - they had most likely been sent to the royal family first.

 

His mind is drifting while he writes a letter to his mother when he realised how ridiculous the whole thing is, and all an attempt to gain favour with the king and queen or Daehee. He is simply the middleman in all of it, because ultimately these gifts are bought with the intention of use under another omega's care, and to give a positive impression to the royal family. It's probably not important at all that he opens them. The gifts appeared so quickly after Daehee practically announced the news, Jimin thinks that people must have had this stuff prepared already, ready to send and try and make a good impression. One realisation after another;  he suddenly understands why there weren't any verbal congratulations, and Jimin realises eventually that those must be going to the prince and his mate, since an heir has finally being conceived.

 

Tsking, he returns back to writing. Except even when he focuses, it's still difficult to write to his mother; he's running out of things to say. She asks so many questions in her replies, but he doesn't know how to answer most of them, hates spinning lies further than he has to. Sometimes he even forgets that he is supposed to, goes to talk about his symptoms or Yoongi or ask for advice, and has to stop himself.

 

He misses his mother so much it hurts sometimes.



--



The royal gardens aren't quite as they were when Jimin arrived at the castle; the cool winds of autumn have arrived, bringing with them a slow process of decay. There are still flowers and greenery everywhere, of course, but there is a yellowness to many of the leaves, some of the the flowers wilting and drying out. Jimin feels like there might be rain approaching.

 

Still, the gardens are a beautiful place to sit and read. Since he has been excused from court activities for the day, he ventures outside to enjoy the last of the watery sunshine, knowing that soon the days will be much cooler and wetter. The party is spread throughout the courtyard where the members of court always sit, tables and chairs assembled; in fact, one of the only differences to the arrangement in the staterooms is that many of the party now wear hats, Jimin notes with amusement.

 

Jimin settles within watching distance, amongst some blue penstemon flowers that don't have a strong smell, but the bright colour brings a smile to his face. The members of court never look his way, and he supposes he probably fades into the background, not wearing the bright, fashionable clothing that he would normally don at court. Maybe if someone were to glance at him he would look like a gardener, and he's happy if it stays that way. He is sat far enough away from the paths that people don't come across his little bench, and he can read in peace.

 

The book he's reading is about a sailor's adventure, and he has never seen the sea - he makes a lot of notes, words he doesn't know cropping up every few minutes, mostly boat related things that Jimin is curious about. It's a little tiresome, but Jimin is a little excited at the thought that after reading this book he will have a huge pile of new knowledge to think about.

 

There is some background noise, the sound of bugs and birds, along with the distant sound of laughter and conversation mixed with the tinkle of teaspoons on teacups. It's so nice to be uninvolved in that world, if only for an hour or two. Occasionally he will take a break from concentrating on the text, since a lot of the words are completely nonsensical to him, and he looks up, around the gardens around him.

 

It's a little saddening that soon everything around him will turn brown and dry, an absence of colour. Although he supposes that the grass will survive, probably yellowing just a little, all of the flowers and the leaves on the trees will surely melt away. There are some evergreens around, and he will probably have to go and sit amongst those if he wants colour. That's assuming that the weather doesn't become cold and harsh.

 

He glances over at the tables, and can just about make out a lot of familiar faces, all of which concerned with each other and not him. When he observes for a while he picks up that Miyoung seems to be enjoying herself, the centre of attention as she waves one of her hands while seemingly telling a story. Next to her, Soojung laughs, and Jimin can just about make out Daehee behind her, the way he holds himself very recognisable.

 

It's with a jolt that he realises that Yoongi is sat beside him. Jimin can't quite see the expression on his face, but he's turned away from the table slightly, giving an impression of disinterest, and Jimin wonders if he's thinking about how to leave a boring conversation, or change the topic to something more interesting. Or maybe he's thinking about political matters, something more important than a silly social tea party that he has to attend because it was arranged by his mate.

 

And then he turns his head in Jimin's direction. Or Jimin swears that he does, that he's looking right at him. The omega's breath hitches, losing his grip on his book which he promptly drops to the floor. He bends down immediately to get it, and when he looks back Yoongi has turned his head away once more.

 

Breathing deeply, Jimin attempts to calm his racing heart. It was just the surprise, he didn't expect anyone to look this way, he tells himself. He tries to focus back on the book in his lap, but he has lost his page; he sighs before flicking through and trying to find it again. He finds that he can't even remember what page, what part he had read up to. Annoyed at himself, he slumps back on the wooden bench, casting his gaze around him. Ends up eventually looking back at the crowd of courtiers, and swallowing when he finds Yoongi looking at him again.

 

It's like the queen's ball all over again, except this time the rest of the guests aren't drunk; if they were to look at the prince they would see him looking Jimin's way. The omega remembers how it had felt then, having Yoongi's eyes on him, and it's with a rising sense of panic that he remembers Hoseok's earlier words, the concern in his eyes. Suddenly he understands how bad this must look. I would hate for either of you to be hurt, he had said.

 

How bad it actually is . Because hasn't he been feeling like this for weeks, a slow development of feelings that he has been trying to ignore due to pure confusion as to what they are. But now he can't ignore it, not when people are starting to notice. Not when Yoongi is looking at him so often and he likes it so much.

 

Jimin likes it so much when the alpha looks at him, when he touches him, when he even speaks to him, and he just can't help but want , all of the time. It sounds so pathetic when he really thinks about it, and Jimin starts to feel his breathing quickening, his limbs start to shake. So many questions muddle in his head; how did this happen so quickly? How can he want someone that is mated?

 

So much doubt fills him, because he just doesn't know if this is normal, if it's just his pregnancy messing with his head. He doesn't know when that started, so can't say for sure that it's not all a temporary effect, his instincts forcing him towards the alpha that helped him conceive. It's just not logical, these feelings, because Yoongi is mated and there's just no possibility of anything truly happening between them - he belongs to someone else.

 

And the biggest question. How can he continue to spend time with a mated alpha, knowing and admitting all of this to himself? How can he cope with the guilt of doing such a thing? Cold envelops him, the slight breeze around him suddenly making him shiver and his fingertips turn cool to touch, but the sun hasn't dipped behind any clouds. Jimin knows that he's not a perfect person, but this seems like more than just one step too far - more like a hundred steps, a betrayal. Since the first day in the castle he's felt guilt over sleeping with another omega's mate, carrying his child, but this is so much more, so much worse.

 

He wonders with sickening shame what his mother would think of such a thing.

 

Jimin wishes that he knew where this is all coming from, why this is happening to him. The tea party in front of him suddenly seems twice as far away, and yet when he makes eye contact with Yoongi again - he's sure he is, why else would Yoongi keep looking this way - it burns, piercing like Yoongi is stood right in front of him. And he still likes it. A familiar feeling under his eyes starts to build, the precursor to tears.

 

All of this for a prince that Jimin isn't even sure he knows well at all. He has known him three months, and that would be enough, probably, if it were a normal situation, but even though he and Yoongi have spent nearly every night together for those months, for many of them they barely spoke. It was all just touching and feeling and then Yoongi would just... leave.

 

But no, that's not quite fair to himself. There's a lot of Yoongi he knows, he's sure. He knows his sense of humour, how his actions and expressions at court do not necessarily reflect him, because of how differently he acts around Jimin. Of course that could all be fake, but surely Yoongi has no reason to put on an act around him, Jimin thinks. He reflects back on how the alpha had looked yesterday with Bee, how happy had been, and surely that can't have been Yoongi misleading him. Or, he thinks wistfully, how gently he had been with Jimin all along, when he had no reason to be.

 

Ultimately though, Jimin realises bitterly, it doesn't matter if Yoongi is genuine in his presence. He is still mated, and Jimin still feels this way, and that's wrong.

 

What he’s feeling now is just attraction, he’s fairly certain, which means that it will most likely fade over time. Somehow it seems unlikely, though, if he continues to spend as much time as he does with the alpha. Maybe with some distance, the feelings will fade away.

 

Blinking, he realises that there are tears gathering on his lower lashline. He rubs a hand over his face to wipe them away, standing abruptly.

 

He decides right then that this needs to stop, that he can bring a halt to it. Now he has addressed his feelings, he should have the power to stop them. Before he stupidly lets it get too far.

 

When he walks away, back to the castle, he hears the same birdsong, the same rustle of leaves through the wind, and the same laughter and conversation from the party.

 

This time though, he doesn’t let himself look over.



--

 

Chapter Text

The sun is shining when he meets Namjoon at the castle entrance, although the sunlight is watery and the air cool. Any parties outside now feature all of the courtiers wearing their thin, fashionable cloaks, and are fairly short-lived. Today is not one of those days, however; he and Namjoon are the only ones in sight, apart from the occasional gardener sweeping up the first fall of Autumn leaves.

 

"How has it been at court for you, recently?" Namjoon asks him as they approach a bench near some browning hedges. "Have they been treating you well?"

 

Jimin grimaces a little. "As well as they do normally. I don't belong here, and they know it. At least they're not openly hostile," he says honestly.

 

"I am surprised that they do not try harder to befriend you." They sit down, automatically tucking their cloaks around themselves.

 

Jimin sighs. "They do. I just know that it is not coming from a genuine place. And some of them turn their nose up at me and put no effort in at all."

 

"Ah, well, those people are most likely trying to get into the good graces of Prince Yoongi's consort. As you may have guessed, he... does not hold you in high regard."

 

Jimin nods, because he knows, and he understands why. Daehee probably has even more reason to dislike him now, since his bump is so visible, even though the other omega wasn’t acting any different towards him during their limited interactions at court. A visit to Physician Lee told Jimin that he's around the three month mark, over half way through, and everything that he knows about pregnancy has come to fruition; he feels strong - invincible, almost - and his sickness has passed. He no longer feels tired, but he can't say that the needs to relieve himself all the time has really left. He can deal with that, though.

 

His stomach has grown, enough to be cupped within two hands, but almost too much for even that. He does have small hands, after all. Unfortunately for him this means that since he has passed most of the awful early symptoms, he is very much expected to rejoin and participate in all of the court activities with full energy. Jimin asks Namjoon, one day when they arrange to meet in the gardens, if he couldn't just make excuses for himself, say that he feels tired or sick, but this had been met with a rather alarmed look.

 

"No, I do not think that would play out well for you. If you spread the rumour that there is something wrong, it will not look well for the royal family, or you, in particular; if something goes wrong at this point, people would consider it your responsibility, the consequence of one of your actions, as omegas so very rarely fall ill past this point. Normally it would also be the fault of the mate, too, but..." Jimin makes a face at that. "Well, yes."

 

Jimin nods solemnly. He doesn't really understand why it would have to be his fault, but he does comprehend that it would look bad for the royal family, for Yoongi - Yoongi has already struggled so much to procure an heir, and Jimin had been chosen by them all. "I understand," he says, voice bland.

 

"It is not that bad, is it?" Namjoon winces at himself. "Well, maybe court is quite tiresome. But it is only a few hours a day. I am not aware that there is some kind of visit expected soon, but maybe there will be? And then you will be permitted to hide away all you like."

 

Putting on a smile, Jimin attempts to pretend that he is happy with that outcome. "That would be great." He can't help but feel somewhat grouchy, uncomfortable. It's pretty much a constant state for him at the moment, but that isn't Namjoon's fault, he's only trying his best to reassure Jimin. Alas, two months is a long time to spend at court when he feels like this, like he's about to vibrate out of his skin with discomfort. It's a combination of the people, the pressure, and the feeling that nothing truly makes him happy anymore.

 

Sometimes Jimin feels like he goes days on end without a real smile.

 

But at the same time, he feels like two months is not long enough. He rather hates it at court now, but the idea of leaving makes him panic, like he's not ready for that change. The time has hardly dragged by while he has been here, and it had been exciting in a way at first. He had taken more pleasure from interacting with his friends, from observing court, and from, well. Seeing Yoongi.

 

Namjoon interrupts his thoughts with concern in his voice. "You are not unwell, are you, Jimin? Everything is alright?"

 

"Yes! I'm fine!" Jimin hurries to reassure him, flapping his hands a little. "I don't think there's anything wrong with me or- or the pup."

 

This earns him a bright smile from his friend, and Jimin has to catch himself from touching his stomach protectively. For some reason he feels like that's somehow inappropriate, particularly in front of people. Yet, he finds himself wanting to do it more and more, recently.

 

As his stomach grows, it has become difficult to ignore the fact that there is a life growing within him, a pup that shares part of him. Jimin knows it's not his, he knows , but he can't help thinking about it several times a day. As time goes on he gets into something of a routine, even; he absentmindedly greets the pup good morning when he wakes up, thanks it for giving him a peaceful night's sleep - it hasn't started moving much yet, although sometimes he does feel butterflies in his stomach and thinks that might be it - before going about his day.

 

He can't really help the way his eyes stray to his stomach while he bathes or changes, and inevitably ends up thinking about it then. When he sits at the table during dinner or for tea in the staterooms he can't quite sit as close as before, and he thinks about it then, too. In his mind he slowly starts to refer to it as a they , as he slowly comes around to the idea that it's a real person, not just some kind of bloating or sickness that will go away after a while.

 

Maybe it's because of loneliness that he finds himself talking to them occasionally, sometimes in his head, and sometimes even out loud. Just small comments, like how he had been thrown off balance when he stood up because of his changed body, or when he stretches out of a position he has held for a while when sat in the gardens reading. Sometimes it's just the occasional thought about how the weather is particularly cool, or how annoyed he is at someone at court for being rude to him. He likes to think that the pup can hear him somehow, and it makes him just a little less lonely. After all, he reassures himself, maybe they are a little lonely in there too.

 

Jimin realises that he and Namjoon have been sat in silence for quite a while, so he clears his throat and attempts to revive the conversation again, swallowing the fact that he finds himself drifting off into his own thoughts more and more often these days, particularly concerning the baby. "I haven't spoken to Hoseok in a good few days, how is he?"

 

"Ah, busy. There is a lot going on right now, as you might have guessed. Hoseok is quite a skilled communicator, and as a beta he puts people at ease, not overtly dominant or submissive. It makes sense that he would be sent as an envoy." Something in his tone has Jimin believing that Namjoon is upset about this in some way; he wonders if the omega thinks that he would be a more skilled communicator or negotiator during conflict.

 

"Have you missed him while he has been away?"

 

Jimin had intended it as an innocent question, as he knows that Namjoon and Hoseok are close friends, but the way that Namjoon's eyes widen a little and he turns his head away sharply gives Jimin whiplash, it's so unexpected.

 

"I- No."

 

Eyebrows raising, Jimin blinks in surprise. "No? Aren't you... Did you fall out, recently?"

 

"No, we didn't." It's difficult to understand the tone of Namjoon's voice. Jimin feels like he's missing something obvious, or lacking something. It seems like Namjoon isn't going to be forthcoming with information, however, and he doesn't want to push, so he just moves on with a sigh.

 

"Next time, maybe we can meet in the library?" he tries, shifting the conversation away from Hoseok. "I wouldn't mind meeting somewhere warmer. And you know Seokjin, the librarian, right?"

 

"Uh- Yes, that would be fine." Jimin was trying to help, but the change in topic seems to do nothing for Namjoon's nerves. He gives Jimin a quick smile, despite that. "Yes, I know Seokjin."

 

"Okay," Jimin says, mystified. "Lets meet up soon, then."

 

As he watches the other omega, he can't help but think that there must be a lot going on that he doesn't know or understand.



--



The rise in tensions within the castle seems to affect Yoongi significantly, too. Jimin notices the tension in his shoulders, the crease in his brow, whenever Jimin sees the alpha around the castle, in the staterooms and at dinner. He never mentions it to Jimin, though, so there isn't much he can really think.

 

Jimin spends quite a lot of time thinking about how to avoid Yoongi. It's very difficult as Yoongi comes to him so often to check on him and arrange an archery practice, or to walk him to the training courtyard. The problem with that is that Jimin realises that he's spending at least a small part of his day with Yoongi, every day. Not that he doesn't enjoy it, but he knows that he enjoys it too much, and his resolution to put a stop to his burgeoning feelings still very much stands. The best way to do this in Jimin's opinion would be to avoid him altogether, but Yoongi just comes to him so often, and there isn't much he can do about it.

 

Probably Jimin could tell him that he didn't want to practice with him anymore, that he doesn't enjoy it, or something. Maybe could give an excuse, but Jimin doesn't really have anything that's believable. Plus, he doesn't want to disappoint Yoongi, even though he is sure that the alpha would hide it from him well. Of course, he has the right to check on the progress of his unborn pup, to see if Jimin's health is good. There's no way to avoid him completely.

 

But Jimin still tries to make excuses when it feels like it's becoming too much. The first time he wears something that isn't a loose shirt and a jacket, when his old clothes had become too uncomfortable to be manageable, he wears something new made for him, and his growing stomach is very prominent. He deals with the stares at court all day - had time to mentally prepare himself for them, at least - but when it comes to nighttime and seeing Yoongi, he isn't prepared for the way Yoongi looks at him. At first it's shock, and then almost... admiration. It's very hard for Jimin to cope with.

 

On top of his, Jimin is fairly sure that Yoongi just enjoys spending time with Jimin; they are friends, after all. He sees Yoongi smile a lot when they are together, look slightly less tense than during the day. Jimin certainly doesn't want to rob Yoongi of any potential happiness. Although, he might be wrong in that, might be deluding himself yet again. It's all so confusing.

 

"Hello." Yoongi stands in front of his bedroom door, his back straight and a smile that, despite it's hesitance, still seems warm. Jimin closes the door behind him.

 

"Hello," Jimin says, a polite greeting and a polite responding smile. He takes the arm that is offered to him out of that same courteousness, but refrains from pressing himself up against Yoongi's side, keeping his distance. They begin the walk down to the exit nearest the training yard, and Jimin keeps his eyes on the walls, the windows and the floor. It's easier when he doesn't have to look at Yoongi.

 

The alpha must be able to tell that Jimin hasn't been as warm recently, and Jimin always tries not to think about what Yoongi might think about that. Once or twice, Jimin has told Yoongi that he's too tired to go out, that his feet or his back hurt. This worked better when it was still early on, but as soon as Physician Lee had confirmed that he's past the first stage it becomes unconvincing as he is very much supposed to be getting stronger, isn't supposed to be tired. He's not a great actor, and has looked in a mirror recently - he knows he looks well, as if Taehyung and Hoseok and even Yoongi haven't been telling him that fairly often anyway.

 

"So, how was your day?"

 

The small talk that they make is ever so painful, but Jimin acquiesces to it, speaking about his day when Yoongi asks him, because he doesn't actually want Yoongi to think that he hates him. "It was fine. I saw Namjoon today, in the gardens, and sat out for a little while. Not too long, the weather is really getting cold."

 

"It is," Yoongi agrees. "Make sure you dress warmly, you don't want to get sick. Did you eat well at dinner? Was the food to your liking?"

 

"It was fine. The food is always good here." There had been no more incidents like the steak and kidney pie, which Jimin is very thankful for. "I go to compliment the kitchen staff several times a week."

 

"Oh? I am sure they very much appreciate that."

 

Jimin wonders why Yoongi continues to try and talk to him or do things with him at all, since he is clearly uncomfortable. His wooden words, his body language, it all indicates that he is uneasy. Even the silence is awkward now, when before their silences were usually so comfortable, and there are plenty of silences now. Jimin doesn't want to fill them, because he doesn't want to encourage any conversation that might make him think well of Yoongi, or encourage any playfulness.

 

Unfortunately however, the alpha does, babbling and rambling somewhat, even if the things he talks about are bland or superficial. It's almost like being in the courtrooms, except without the accompanying confidence of the speaker; Yoongi seems out of his comfort zone, nervous even. After failing to get Jimin to speak, he often begins to talk about his day.

 

"Hoseok should be back soon, and after a few days there may or may not be some visitors soon, I am not quite sure. If there is then there will be somewhere else given to you so you can spend some time out of the eyes of the outsiders. Daehee will too-" Jimin looks at him in surprise, as Yoongi so very rarely mentions his mate in front of the omega, particularly by name; he catches the alpha's visible wince, before Yoongi presses his lips together in a tight line and goes silent for a few minutes.

 

Directing his gaze to the ground, Jimin attempts to push away how Yoongi saying Daehee's name made him feel. He draws his cloak a little tighter around himself to hide from the chill of leaving the castle, and Yoongi must notice.

 

"I do think that we will start to get a lot of rain and some storms, soon. Be careful not to get caught outside in one."

 

"I will try," Jimin replies dutifully, although he doesn't really understand Yoongi's concerns. Nobody else has been so worried about him, not when they seem to be confident in the knowledge that Jimin is pretty invulnerable to illness, as well as being generally healthy and strong. Yoongi's attention to such things is a little overwhelming for Jimin.

 

Instead of focusing on Yoongi or the awkwardness between them, Jimin distracts himself by talking to the pup in his head. I don't mind the rain, playing in it was fun when I was a pup. Maybe you will like it too.

 

They arrive at the courtyard and go through the usual routine of Yoongi fetching the things they need, while Jimin waits at the archery area. The wind is fairly mild, yet occasionally leaves will be picked up and swirled around, a dry rustling sound that fills the air. He agrees with Yoongi; it does feel like it is going to rain.

 

The quiet is interrupted by a sudden clang that makes Jimin jump right out of his skin, whipping his head around to find the source, heart pounding. He's quick to find it; a figure is stood in one of the sparring pens, his back to Jimin as he swings his sword expertly, against no opponent but the air.

 

The man turns and Jimin catches a glimpse of his face, which has him saying "Hoseok?" rather loudly in surprise. The beta turns, blinking at him when he catches sight of Jimin there, all alone. He must look quite strange, Jimin thinks.

 

"Jimin? What are you doing here? Are you alone?" Hoseok sounds completely bewildered, and Jimin can't blame him.

 

The omega opens his mouth to reply, but another voice cuts through the air before he can. "No, he is with me. I did not realise that you had returned," Yoongi says, walking past Jimin to approach Hoseok for a hug filled with familiarity.

 

"Yes, my visit was cut short." Hoseok grimaces slightly. "We have much to discuss-" Jimin is sure that the beta glances at him then, "-but it can wait for tomorrow, of course. I had just come to do some practice."

 

Jimin hears Yoongi clear his throat. "Alright. I will hear the report tomorrow." Hoseok's eyes glance back at Jimin once again, and Yoongi coughs. "I am teaching Jimin how to use a bow and arrow."

 

The beta looks so genuinely surprised, it's like he hadn't known at all - maybe, Jimin thinks, he really hadn't. It is possible, since it is probably not something that Yoongi would like shared throughout the castle. Jimin had only mentioned it to Taehyung once or twice, and he certainly didn't know how often they meet at nighttime.

 

"Oh?" Hoseok says, an eyebrow quirking up.

 

"Yes, I am sure you will not find us obtrusive. Feel free to ignore our presence while you train," Yoongi remarks, seemingly offhandedly. He turns his back to his friend as he walks back to Jimin, who can't take his eyes away from the frown on Hoseok's face, the visible concern.

 

I would hate for either of you to be hurt.

 

"I brought two bows," Yoongi says when he comes back, placing a quiver of arrows on the ground between them. "We can both practice at the same, time, this way. You can still ask me for advice, whenever, and you can watch me, too."

 

"Alright," Jimin agrees easily, secretly very thankful that Yoongi will be concentrating on something other than him the whole time. He's notching an arrow ready for a practice shot when Yoongi makes a soft, worried noise.

 

"Remember to roll down your sleeve, so if the string catches..." He reaches for Jimin's exposed wrist, before seemingly thinking better of the action. The omega rolls down his sleeve himself, muttering an apology with a hint of embarrassment.

 

They take to practicing, and Jimin knows that he's much more consistent with his shots now, not completely accurate but hits the target every single time now. He wonders if he would be able to practice on a moving target, but he dismisses that quickly as he doesn't really think it's possible, as well as not wanting to ask Yoongi about it.

 

"Lift your elbow. That's it." Yoongi commentates beside him, and Jimin manages to hit the next shot so, so close to the bullseye he can't help but smile at least a little.

 

He notches the next arrow, drawing the string back and aiming before he feels a gentle touch to his elbow, a slight correction. It takes him slightly longer to line up the shot and focus properly, but when he does, he hits right next to the last arrow.

 

"Yes!" he exclaims quietly to himself. He swears that he hears Yoongi chuckle.

 

"Remember to keep that elbow down and your hand close to your face, and you should start to get very consistent," Yoongi comments. "You have really improved so much, I am proud."

 

Those words have Jimin fighting reddening cheeks. He hates so much how much he likes them, as well as Yoongi's correcting touches, which come far less often than previously - whether because of the tense atmosphere between them, or simply his general improvement, he doesn't know. The corrections are a lot more gentle, careful, he thinks, and Yoongi doesn't stand nearly as close as before. Not that that affects the fact that Jimin can smell Yoongi’s scent, still so strong despite the respectable distance. When Yoongi touches him just then, though, he thinks he feels something strange in his stomach, a soft thrumming.

 

"Thank you," he mutters, avoiding eye contact with the alpha. He doesn't know when Yoongi had stopped using his own bow to watch Jimin, but he's increasingly aware of the eyes on him, and it puts him on edge, so he lowers his arm. "Uh. Can I- Can I watch you again, please?"

 

Blinking at him, Yoongi nods quickly before picking up an arrow. Jimin allows his eyes to stray, not wanting to look at the alpha for too long, and ends up glancing back at Hoseok behind him.

 

This does nothing to ease the tension within him, as Hoseok is staring right back. He's looking between them, and Jimin knows, he knows that they haven't done anything wrong; Yoongi barely touched him, and only in a way that will help him, and yet he feels panic and guilt curdle like sour milk in his stomach.

 

He hears the arrow hit the target, and he looks back to Yoongi. "Uh. Thank you."

 

Yoongi just frowns at him. "Are you okay?"

 

Inhaling sharply, Jimin picks out another arrow, which he notches slowly, eyes down. "Hoseok is watching us," he whispers softly.

 

He doesn't see Yoongi's reaction, attempting to focus on the task at hand; he ends up almost not hitting the target, going far too much to the left. It takes a second to realise that it's because of the slight shake to his hands, his breathing coming a little too fast and making it difficult to hold and shoot.

 

"Do n- Don't worry about him," Yoongi says, his tone soothing. "Just focus. What other people think is not important."

 

Jimin swallows and hands Yoongi his bow so he can go and collect the arrows that are stuck in the targets. Focusing on the task helps him to calm down a little, quell that tumultuous feeling in his stomach. By the time that he turns around, he has mostly recovered.

 

Yoongi is looking at Hoseok, who is returning his gaze. The alpha is frowning, and Jimin wonders what kind of conversation they are having, but neither of them look happy. The spell is broken when Hoseok turns away, bending down to pick up the things he has left on the floor.

 

“I will see you tomorrow, Yoongi,” Hoseok calls over as he stands up straight. “Goodnight, Jimin.”

 

“Goodnight,” Jimin says, perplexed. He watches Hoseok stroll away without a backwards glance, until Yoongi touches his elbow.

 

“Come on, let's practice a little more, and then we can go back inside,” Yoongi suggests quietly.

 

They really don't stay out much longer after that; Jimin's fingers start to get cold, which isn't that helpful in terms of archery, it turns out. His training sessions are generally quite shorter, now; Jimin frequently cuts them short, claiming to be done for the night, or the awkwardness simply becomes too much for them, which appears to be the case for tonight.

 

"Would you like to go back? It's getting quite cold," Yoongi says, speaking over the wind which had picked up ever so slightly, ruffling his hair and catching Jimin's cloak.

 

"Yes, I don't know how to shoot when it's windy, anyway." Jimin shivers, pulling his cloak around him when he hands over his bow for Yoongi to put away. The alpha eyes the motion before he turns to take the equipment away once more.

 

Hoseok may have left the courtyard, but the way he had watched them both together earlier, it won't leave Jimin's mind. He can't help but think back to the similar way that Namjoon looked at him this morning. Like they know something.

 

Jimin doesn't even comprehend anything himself, he has no idea what they might know or understand.

 

A knot forms in his stomach, and he just feels so much. So... sad.

 

As they walk back to the castle, Yoongi doesn't make many attempts at small talk, but he does try to arrange another night to see Jimin. "Would you like to meet again, the night after tomorrow?"

 

If Jimin is honest with himself, he wants to say no. It's too much, this feeling of guilt and the idea that he's doing something bad weighing on his chest. Staying silent, he keeps his eyes on the floor, trying to think of a reason, an excuse to say no.

 

But when he turns his head to face Yoongi, tell him no, the words get stuck in his throat.   There's hope in Yoongi's eyes, and it's with a crushing sense of helplessness that he realises that he can't do it.

 

"Okay," he croaks out. It earns an eyesmile from Yoongi that he has to dig his nails into his palms in order to not return.

 

The walk back is excruciating, taking twice as long as normal - or maybe that's just in Jimin's mind. In his peripheral vision he is aware that Yoongi keeps looking at him, and when Jimin checks he sees that it's his midriff the alpha can't stop staring at.

 

When they reach the staircase that leads up to the long walk to Jimin's room, the omega stops, Yoongi coming to a halt in turn. "Are you alright?"

 

"Yes, I'm..." Jimin bites his lip. "I can walk back the rest of myself, it's okay."

 

"Oh, you... Are you sure?" Yoongi is taken aback, and Jimin clamps down on the need to apologise before it slips out.

 

"Yes, I'll be fine. You can go to bed, or... whatever."

 

Shifting from foot to foot, Yoongi appears torn. For a few seconds he doesn't speak, and Jimin thinks that he might be about to refuse, and walk Jimin up anyway.

 

"You don't want me to?"

 

Jimin hopes that his sharp inhale of breath wasn't audible. "I- No. I am okay by myself."

 

Disappointment shines in Yoongi's eyes when Jimin manages to drag his own to the alpha's face, but he doesn't say anything. Nods and steps back respectfully, and clasps his hands behind his back. "Alright."

 

I'm sorry . "Goodnight, then," Jimin replies, voice going quiet. The atmosphere is so awkward, and he doesn't want to meet Yoongi's eyes like this. He also doesn't miss the mildest of distressed scents from the alpha, although his face has been rearranged into something blank.

 

"Goodnight."

 

When Jimin turns around to leave, his skin is crawling, with self hatred for doing this to Yoongi, who is supposed to be his friend. After reaching his room, it's with stiff movements that he changes clothes and lies down on his bed.

 

That night, he stares blankly at the window for a long time before he manages to fall asleep.



--



The number of gifts that Jimin receives has only increased over time, as well as becoming more luxurious and expensive, bigger. Of course, Jimin still has to open them before sending them away once again.

 

At the beginning it had been something of a novelty, unwrapping pretty things, even if they weren't for him. Gradually, though, it became more tedious; it's quite a boring task, occasionally a lot of effort on Jimin's part. At least that's what he tells himself - it's not because the things that he receives are often so lovely, or so small, made to fit a tiny newborn pup.

 

Little rattles and pretty, delicate mobiles made of detailed gold stars, soft blankets and furs and embroidered tunics and tiny, tiny socks. This child is certainly going to be spoiled with many pretty things. At least they will want for nothing.

 

Not like if it were mine , Jimin can't help but think.

 

The king and queen had also sent a gift, a formal event gown for the pup, for its first event, and opening that one had made him somewhat queasy. He didn't need to see that - although he supposes the thing is intended for their son, and not for him at all. Maybe Yoongi and Daehee admire these gifts together in their quarters.

 

Daehee had even sent him a gift, and when he had read the tag for it and seen who it was from Jimin had actually laughed out loud. A present for himself, basically. It was lovely, too, a very expensive-looking set of tiny hairbrushes for a small child, intricately designed. Jimin doesn't know what point Daehee was trying to make, but he knows that the move didn't exactly make him feel good.

 

He is currently relying on a limited handful of people to make him feel happy. Limited, and growing smaller.

 

"You're gripping too tightly with your legs," Hyuna explains, tapping his left knee where she is stood next to his horse. Immediately Jimin follows her advice, Jimin lets his legs fall slack in the stirrups. He's just at a walk - Hyuna won't let him go any faster than a trot, which he understands, really. "Good. Stay relaxed and she will too."

 

Hyuna is an excellent riding teacher, and Jimin never has any doubts about following her instructions. When she tells him to maintain good posture, or not draw up his knees, he does so. In this time they spend together he likes to try and get to know the beta, particularly now as he needs less and less help and advice with riding.

 

"How long have you worked here?" he asks as he passes her for the second time on his way around the little paddock by himself.

 

"Seven years. I did my training here; my brother, too. I haven't worked anywhere other than the castle my whole life," she answers. "Look where you're going, not at the horse, Jiminie."

 

She must have heard the nickname from Taehyung, who is currently getting his horse saddled in the stables. It brings a little smile to his face, and he wants to direct it at her but he knows that she will just tell him off for not concentrating on what he's doing.

 

Sometimes his thoughts do stray, though, as the practice becomes somewhat monotonous. He has plenty of things to think about, after all. Right now it's Bee, who Jimin went to greet whilst his horse was being saddled; he can't help visiting her for at least a minute every time he comes to the stables. She's so sweet, has such a lovely temperament. Jimin often finds himself thinking back to when Yoongi 'introduced' them, the open affection on the alpha's face as he knelt to stroke his hand along her mane.

 

Earlier Jimin had given her a handful of treats, unable to resist her big, brown eyes as they seemed to beg him. She's greedy, isn't she , he thinks to the pup. I do think you'll like her, though . She's so gentle.

 

As he passes Hyuna again, she has to give a little wave to get his attention. "Hey, Jimin, I'm just going to help Taehyung for a moment - don't go too fast, remember," she reminds him, and he agrees with a nod and a smile.

 

He feels confident to be by himself, especially when the horse is just walking. It's peaceful, and he likes the gentle rocking motion, up and down. He checks his posture and hold on the reigns again to see if they are correct so Hyuna won't tell him off. He's just about to wave to Taehyung as he sees the beta appear at the stable entrance, when a loud sound has him jolting.

 

"Hey! Can we get a couple of horses saddled now," a sharp, booming voice suddenly calls from not that far away, and Jimin doesn't even have time to gasp before his horse is rearing slightly, spooked by the loud noise.

 

His body tenses as she spins, jumping a little on the spot, and his heart leaps into his throat as his backside leaves the saddle. He doesn't know what to do, how to right himself, his hands reflexively leaving the reigns as she throws her head to the side and leaving him without anything to hold onto. When she kicks her back legs and jolts forward a little, he loses his seat and topples off.

 

It's not far to fall, and he wasn't really thrown, but he still yelps, landing on his side and mostly catching himself on his arms. The ground isn't that hard, and he feels a very light scrape on his palms and one of his elbow, his jacket getting muddied immediately.

 

His horse stumbles away from him as soon as he is off, and his heart continues to thunder for a few seconds before he realises he's okay, he's fine, nothing happened. Breathing a deep breath, he lets his body relax, before someone is yelling his name.

 

"Jimin! Are you okay? Oh my gosh, what on earth-" Taehyung exits the stable on his horse, but instantly is attempting to dismount, and it would almost be funny if it were not for the concern on his face. Behind him, Jimin sees Hyuna's eyes widen as she gasps before running over to him.

 

"Jimin, are you hurt? Did you fall on your stomach?" Hyuna touches him frantically, searching for nonexistent injuries. Still a little in shock, Jimin shakes his head.

 

He has to take another deep breath before he can speak again. "No, I'm fine, really." He makes an attempt to sit up but she pushes him down firmly, fear evident in her eyes as she tries to look him over, his reassurances falling on deaf ears. "Hyuna, really, my stomach didn't even touch the ground. It was barely a jolt."

 

"Jimin, please tell me you're alright," a horrified Taehyung gasps over Hyuna's shoulder, before dropping to his knees beside them both.

 

"I'm okay, Taehyungie, I promise," he utters, and he sees finally the panic break in Hyuna's expression, her rigid back slumping a little as she finally seems to believe him. "I wasn't even winded, it wasn't long to fall. She got spooked." Jimin looks around for his horse but sees her being taken away peacefully by another stablehand.

 

"Knotheaded alpha assholes ," she hisses. "They should know better than to do that here. It was the shouting, right?"

 

Jimin nods, finally sitting up as both of his friends back off a little. He takes stock of his body and finds nothing amiss, nothing aching. It's interesting, actually; he wonders if his bones have gotten stronger, or something, because he thinks that it probably should have hurt a little. He puts a hand to his stomach and examines his feelings, and doesn't think that his instincts are telling him that something went wrong.

 

"You should be fine," Taehyung says slowly, "you're past the first stage, and all... I'm allowed to be worried, though. Can't have you hurt." There's still an upset set to Taehyung's mouth, and Jimin reaches to pinch his cheek without thinking. That has his expression changing, at least slightly.

 

"Help me stand up and I'll show you I'm fine," Jimin chuckles. When they both lend him a hand to be pulled up, he brushes some of the mud off of himself, wincing ever so slightly at the scrapes on his hands. "I need to wash these, though."

 

Taehyung makes a noise of understanding, taking one of Jimin's wrists to examine his palm. "I'll take you back to the castle. Can you walk?"

 

Jimin levels him with an look that he hopes reads as unimpressed, and Taehyung holds up his hands in surrender. "Alright, I will take your word for it."

 

As he turns and begins to walk away, Jimin looks to Hyuna, who still seems a tad out of sorts. "Are you okay?"

 

She nods, but Jimin doesn't quite believe it. "Yeah, just... I can't have you getting hurt, falling off a horse. I shouldn't have left you alone. I'm really sorry." Jimin doesn't even pause, just steps forward to wrap her in a warm hug.

 

"It's alright, nothing bad came of it. I'm very strong," he quips in an attempt to make her smile, and it does kind of work. He drops one of his hands in order to squeeze hers. "I'll come back and say hello again soon, I promise."

 

"Okay." She says this with a wry smile, like she doesn't quite believe him, and Jimin gives her another small squeeze to the hand before he follows Taehyung to where he stands. He waves and she waves back.

 

They start the walk back around to the castle entrance, and it really does feel like Jimin hasn't taken any kind of a fall at all. He grins at Taehyung, who smiles back, looking less and less worried by the minute.

 

"Since you're so strong right now, maybe you want to take on some of my duties?" Taehyung remarks wittily. "You can probably lift a lot more things than I can without getting tired."

 

Jimin rolls his eyes. "Would you like to take on some of mine? Go and sit at court and talk about fashion for three hours straight?" His friend opens his mouth and Jimin continues before he can say anything. "Oh, you probably would, actually."

 

"I know it is not as awful as you try and tell me," Taehyung starts, and Jimin makes an indignant noise. He pushes Taehyung playfully, who doesn't hesitate to push back, making him stumble and laugh.



--



Taehyung takes him to see Physician Lee, who cleans the scrapes on his hands and doesn't seem all that concerned with his fall. Afterwards, he and Taehyung joke around all the way up to Jimin's room, where he leaves Jimin to have a few hours of rest before dinner.

 

Just before he goes, he peeks his head around the door. "If anything comes up, do go see Physician Lee, won't you?"

 

"Yes, Taehyungie," Jimin sighs affectionately.

 

After removing his shoes and jacket and putting them away, he potters around the room for a little bit before he climbs onto his bed. He has a few hours before he needs to do anything.

 

"I feel like it's been a long day already, let's have a nice rest, hm?" he addresses to his bump quietly as he makes himself comfortable against the pillows. His book is on the nightstand, so he picks it up and flicks through it to find his page.

 

He manages to read around three pages, only having to stop once to note down a word he doesn't understand, before loud, fast footsteps have his eyes snapping towards the door, his body tensing. The steps get closer and closer and Jimin becomes more and more alarmed, and he is about to call out to ask what is wrong when the door is nearly slammed open. To add to Jimin's shock, it's Yoongi that stands in the opening, hair out of place and panting slightly from exertion.

 

"Jimin! What happened?"

 

If earlier Taehyung and Hyuna had looked worried, Yoongi looks downright terrified. He kneels in front of Jimin where he is sat on the bed, hands flitting first to grip his shoulders, then to cup his face, and then to hold his hips. Jimin just shakes his head in confusion.

 

"What?"

 

"You fell!" Yoongi's voice is a little high, frantic, and Jimin has to grab his hands from where they keep moving around him, over his bump.

 

"I'm fine, it was nothing! How did you even find out?" As soon as he words are out of his mouth, he almost rolls his eyes at himself. "Physician Lee."

 

"I came here as soon as he told me." Yoongi's eyes continue to scan over him, seemingly checking for injuries, and Jimin holds his arms out to the side, having nothing to hide. Belatedly he lets go of Yoongi's hands.

 

"It was nothing, I wasn't hurt. I didn't think Physician Lee would say anything." He says that last part to himself, a little frustrated, but of course the doctor would go and tell the royal family every little thing he knows.

 

"You didn't tell me you were riding horses! What if something happened?" Yoongi itakes Jimin's wrists in his hands instead, and appears to be in disbelief that Jimin is truly unhurt. Jimin doesn't miss his sharp intake of breath when he sees the little scrapes on the omega's hands, or the hurt noise as he brings Jimin's palms close to his face to inspect them.

 

"I'm strong, and Hy- the stablehands don't let me go fast at all. Really, Yoongi, nothing is wrong with me. There's no need for me to be bedridden for six months," Jimin sighs, a little exasperated. Yoongi is older than him, surely he knows more about what omega pregnancies are like, knows that his body is strong enough to cope with all manner of things right now, can protect his baby.

 

Pausing, Yoongi seems to take in his words, and although he still appears quite on edge, he drops Jimin's hands. He doesn't move from where he's kneeling in front of him, though, and the position makes Jimin fidget, his toes curling into the rug under his feet.

 

Yoongi sighs. "Will you tell me what happened? All I heard is that you fell. Why were you on a horse in the first place?"

 

"I was just-" He decides to omit Hyuna from the story as to not get her into kind of trouble. "Just learning to ride. It's fun. Someone yelled, really loudly, and the horse spooked, and I fell. She didn't really throw me off, I just... lost my balance a bit. Scuffed my hands, but that's it, I swear."

 

It takes Yoongi a long time to calm down, his lips pressed into a line as he listens to Jimin speak, nodding along occasionally. In a way, Jimin feels bad for keeping the horseriding from the alpha, but he has never been told not to do things like that, so he doesn't know why he feels so strange about it. It's not like he even got hurt.

 

"You- You enjoy horseriding?" Yoongi asks a little while after he finishes speaking. He sounds almost tentative.

 

"Yes, it's fun! I think I am getting better at it?" Jimin can't help the excitement that tinges his own voice. "I really do like horses. I mean, you know that already... I used to feed the cart horses in the town."

 

The alpha huffs a laugh at that. "Why can I imagine you doing that very vividly?"

 

"It was a big part of my childhood!" Jimin grins, and the tension between them dissipates. "You're... You're not going to stop me from riding, are you?"

 

Yoongi's hands have come to rest on Jimin's knees, warm through his pants. He watches Yoongi's expression go through indecision and unhappiness, before settling on resignation."I am not going to control what you do. However... I can't say it's a good idea. I know that nothing happened this time, but..."

 

It's during this stare off that the butterfly feeling that Jimin has experienced before comes back, but in a slightly different place, and a little stronger. His mouth drops open a little when he realises that this really is most likely the pup kicking its little feet. One of his hands moves automatically to touch his own stomach.

 

Yoongi immediately frowns. "What is it? Is something wrong, does it hurt? Should I call for the physician?"

 

"No," Jimin says distractedly, running his hand over the skin of his stomach to see if he can feel the sensation on the outside, but it seems like it's too insignificant. "But I think they're... they're kicking."

 

Jimin is glad that he looks up at that moment, because he gets to witness Yoongi's face completely change, lighting up in something he can only describe as wonder. His eyes go wide, and excitement lilts in his voice as he breathes, "really?"

 

"Yeah, I can't, um." Jimin continues to try and feel it on the outside but he really can't feel anything. "I can't really feel it on the outside? But on the inside, it's like, fluttering."

 

Slowly, Yoongi reaches up, as if to touch Jimin's hand or his bump underneath it, but then he stops himself and withdraws. "I am sorry, I won't-"

 

"No, you can," Jimin catches the alpha's hand and brings it to where the sensation is on the inside before even considering the action, although afterwards he wishes he didn't behave so impulsively. They are left in a position where Yoongi is still kneeling, one of his hands resting very lightly against Jimin's stomach, while Jimin wonders what to do. Should he raise his shirt to make it easier to feel? It seems a bit unnecessary when it doesn't seem like Yoongi will be able to feel the kicking anyway, although the feeling is still there, fluttering away.

 

The awkwardness becomes obsolete when he sees Yoongi blinking, his lips parting slightly as he stares at Jimin's stomach in a way that should probably make him self conscious, but doesn't really at all. He just feels. Happy.

 

Because that's what he sees on Yoongi's face, too; overwhelming happiness. "Does it feel strange?" the alpha asks him very quietly.

 

Jimin almost wants to laugh. "A little." He doesn't make a move to stop Yoongi when he brings his other hand up to touch the other side of his stomach, and notices the way his hands are quite a bit bigger than Jimin's, and can almost cover the bump. Almost, but not quite. He really is getting bigger.

 

Yoongi shifts a bit, and Jimin is opening his mouth to tell him to get off the floor when he asks, "does it ever feel uncomfortable?"

 

"Not really? Sometimes it's strange when I'm sat at a table, or roll over in bed, or something. Normally it's okay? At the beginning it was, when I was sick, and all of that. Do you want to. Come sit on the bed?"

 

At that, Yoongi snaps out of his slight daze, standing up and moving to sit next to Jimin on the bed. His hands don't move. "But you don't feel any of that anymore, right?"

 

Jimin shakes his head. He turns to face the alpha some more, carefully tucking his legs underneath him as to not disrupt where Yoongi's hands are placed. "No, not anymore."

 

They sit in silence for a little while after that, a comfortable quiet, and a soft pitter-patter of rain starts to fall on the window, and Jimin glances outside to see that the sky has turned almost completely grey.

 

"I have... wanted children for a long time." Yoongi's voice is quiet when he breaks the silence, and when his own eyes fall back on the alpha's face he looks pensive, lost in his own thoughts. Jimin stays quiet, lets him speak. "If I did not have any, of course that would be okay too. But this..." He swallows, and Jimin's heart speeds up a little. The omega can feel the honesty, the rawness in Yoongi's words. "This is amazing. Thank you."

 

"You don't need to thank me," Jimin says automatically. Although, he reminds himself afterwards, there's nothing wrong with Yoongi thanking him. He's doing the prince and his mate a service.

 

Yoongi's mouth opens and closes. "I feel like I owe you so much." His eyes flit over Jimin's stomach, up to his face, and down to his feet. "I feel like I should be rubbing your feet, or doing something to help you."

 

Jimin laughs at that. "My feet don't hurt, but you can rub them if you want." A memory resurfaces, and he giggles again. "Remember when you were injured?"

 

Frowning, Yoongi seems to take a minute to remember. "Oh, yes. I am glad that you were not hurt like that, today. I was- I was truly worried that something had happened." He sounds so vulnerable, Jimin can't look at him. He shifts, the feeling that uncomfortable knot tightening in his stomach once again, that guilt and feeling of wrongness . The thought that he isn't supposed to be spending all of this time with Yoongi anymore nags away at the back of his mind.

 

He clears his throat slightly. "Don't you... need to be anywhere?" Yoongi only looks at him, befuddled. Jimin tries to clarify. "You've been here for a while."

 

"Hm? No, no more meetings for today." The alpha gives him a little relaxed smile, and Jimin swallows the hurt that brings him.

 

"I meant- I meant, be with your mate."

 

On his stomach, one of Yoongi's hands tenses and relaxes. His gaze is heavy and hard to meet, but Jimin does in an attempt to get Yoongi to take his question seriously.

 

"No," Yoongi answers eventually. "He does not need me." Maybe Jimin looks disbelieving, because he smiles ruefully, his voice a reassuring rasp. "He will not mind if I am not there."

 

And Jimin wants to believe him, he really does, but for the first time he finds himself really questioning Yoongi's words. The earlier feeling of excitement at happiness that he had felt in Yoongi's presence, the pure joy he had felt radiating from the alpha, has stopped affecting him, leaving to regress back into the greyness of before. Short lived euphoria.

 

It's normal for Jimin to get used to scents, normal to have them fade into the background so as to avoid a complete sensory overload, or he just blocks them out as Jimin spends more time with people - the exception being when someone is when someone is angry, or distressed. With Yoongi, though, it is different. Jimin has noticed himself picking up his scent all of the time, constantly being able to breathe in and smell him when he is near, even when Yoongi is calm. He doesn't know why, but he does know that it's extremely frustrating for him. Especially because of how much it affects him. Yoongi's scent reminds him of warmth, and summer nights, and messed bedsheets, and it makes him ill with how ashamed he is about it.

 

The rain continues to patter against the window, and Jimin gets distracted looking outside, watching the sky darken gradually, his mind full of complex thoughts and heart heavy. Despite his inner turmoil, his body seems to have decided that he is extremely comfortable, and a few times he even feels his eyes growing heavy, his limbs completely relaxed. Eventually he realises that the pup has gone quiet too, the foreign sensation in his stomach coming to a halt.

 

He touches Yoongi's hand lightly to gain his attention. "They've stopped kicking," Jimin murmurs. "I think they've fallen asleep."

 

"Ah." Slowly, Yoongi seems to come to his senses, withdrawing his hands.

 

Yoongi stretches when he stands, and Jimin wonders how long they have been sat there together. It could be minutes, it could be an hour. And he's glad that Yoongi could spend some time with the pup, he is. Especially in this moment, when Jimin first felt it kick.

 

But at what cost , he thinks bitterly, nursing something that feels like a wound, inside, something he has to put pressure on desperately to stop himself from bleeding out. It has been growing for so long, now, splitting him apart. Jimin is determined not to let it kill him.

 

"Eat well at dinner," Yoongi says as he straightens his jacket, giving Jimin another of those relaxed, happy smiles. Jimin nods, returning the alpha's wave as he leaves.

 

When the door closes, he flops back onto the bed. “Are you happy?” he sighs at the pup.

 

He receives only silence in response, and he scoffs affectionately.



--



For all of his occasional blindness to what is happening - Jimin still laughs about him not realising that Jimin was pregnant until he told the beta explicitly - Taehyung is clearly aware that something is happening with Jimin. He corners him about it, the day after Jimin fell off of his horse.

 

"So, are you going to tell me what's going on?" Taehyung levels Jimin with a meaningful stare, and the omega can't help but shrink away from it. He doesn't know what Taehyung knows, so he doesn't quite know how to answer.

 

He tries being evasive. "I don't know what you mean." He wonders if his friend has spoken much with Hoseok, since he knows that they are friendly, too. The look that Taehyung gives him is almost irritated, and Jimin makes himself just a little bit smaller. His bump prevents him from tucking his knees up in the way he might have done before.

 

"I know something is up with you," the beta says after a short pause. "I know you're... not well? Unhappy? You've been acting strange lately." He hesitates once more. "It's like... like the light has been sucked out of you."

 

Jimin swallows. The empty feeling in his stomach gapes, makes the deep breath he takes in feel like nowhere near enough at all. He doesn't know what to say, how to tell Taehyung what he's feeling, because he can barely explain it to himself. On top of that, he doesn't know what Taehyung would think, if he would consider Jimin the bad person in this scenario. There's a possibility that his friend will look at him with horrified eyes, call Jimin a whore, a snake. Or any of the other horrible things Jimin can't help but think about himself, late at night when he cannot sleep.

 

"Taehyungie..." Jimin starts, but he doesn't have the words to continue, so he doesn't. Just looks at Taehyung with pleading eyes, hoping that Taehyung will just drop the issue, let them continue as they are.

 

"Jiminie," Taehyung replies, moving closer on the bed, their thighs pressed together. He  wraps an arm around Jimin's shoulders, and Jimin doesn't feel any less rotten. "You don't have to hide from me. I'm your friend." A brief look of worry and self consciousness crosses Taehyung's face. "Aren't I?"

 

"You are!" Jimin exclaims, taking hold of the hand that is placed on his shoulder. "You are. I just... It's complicated, and I don't- I don't want you to think badly of me. I'm just not..." Not a good person , is what he wants to say, but it doesn't quite come out, the words stuck in his throat. He clears it, swallowing back the tears that are threatening to well up in his eyes. Now is not the time for that.

 

"Jiminie, please, let me help you. You look so sad..." Taehyung trails off, and Jimin finds himself looking down at his own lap, ashamed at the worry in his friend's voice, how it's him that did that.

 

"I'm sorry," the omega near whispers. His vision is cloudy, eyes turning hot, and he closes them quickly to prevent any tears from actually falling. He doesn't want to make the beta worry any more than he currently is.

 

Making an upset noise, Taehyung leans into him, wrapping his other arm around Jimin too and nosing at his hair as they sit in a hug. He rocks them side to side ever so slightly.

 

They sit like that for a little while, Jimin keeping his eyes closed to keep the tears away. The only sound in the room is that of the rain against the window, and Taehyung's steady breathing under his ear when he turns his head. Jimin wishes he could enjoy this, enjoy being with his friend, without something dark and mildly horrifying clawing away at his insides.

 

"Jiminie," Taehyung eventually breathes, and Jimin only makes a small noise of acknowledgement in response. He had a feeling he's not going to get out of this conversation that easily. "I'm going to tell you what I think, from what I have seen, and you can tell me if it's right or not. Okay?"

 

Fingers intertwining into Taehyung's shirt, Jimin nods, a tiny movement. For a moment, he's happy to just let go, let someone hold him and not think . Just for a minute.

 

"I started to think, when we first went to visit the horses, and you wanted to see Prince Yoongi's horse. And also, you said that Prince Yoongi was good to you, during his rut, which means he must have tried very hard... And after, when he told me to wake you and make sure that you ate, he was very insistent. Worried, even." Taehyung frowns, clearly thinking hard. "I don't know what is going on between you two, and I feel that it may be too complex for me to understand."

 

The thought of Yoongi approaching Taehyung while Jimin was still asleep after the alpha's rut, making sure that he would eat and be looked after properly, makes Jimin's heart stutter. "I never knew," he says slowly, "never knew why people kept asking me if I was alright, after... after the rut."

 

"Well, usually it's not exactly enjoyable for an alpha's partner, no? It's non-stop, and they can be... well, aggressive?" The beta looks a little unsure. "That's what people always say, anyway. It's not like I have ever experienced it."

 

"That's not-" Jimin bites his lip, considering. "I've only been with him, but. He wasn't like that. And it's not like it was... bad, for me. I wanted it." The last part has his cheeks heating up a little, but it's an important to him that Taehyung knows that Yoongi didn't do anything he didn't want. Suddenly, he remembers something. "He asked me if I wanted him to leave, before it was over, even."

 

His friend's eyes widen slightly at that. "Oh."

 

“Yeah.”

 

“You… Do you think you’re in trouble?” Taehyung asks him hesitantly.

 

“I’m trying, trying my hardest, Taehyungie.” He sounds desperate, and he can’t even hide it. “I don’t want- I don’t want to make a mess. I don’t want to be a bad person.”

 

The noise Taehyung makes is alarmed, and Jimin feels himself be squeezed. “You’re a good person, Jimin.”

 

Swallowing the ‘am I?’ that bubbles up, he turns his face into Taehyung’s chest. “Thank you for being my friend, Taehyungie.”

 

“You deserve good friends. And lots of love, too,” Taehyung mumbles in reply.

 

Jimin’s heart aches at the words.



--



Yoongi is a man of routine, Jimin has realised; he likes to come to Jimin’s room at a certain time, and apologises for being late, despite the fact that he never tells Jimin the specific time that he will come. That’s why, when he appears at Jimin’s door one afternoon, before dinner, even, Jimin is more than a little taken aback.

 

“Yoongi?”

 

“Hello,” Yoongi begins, and Jimin can immediately tell that something is off, even more than he has been around Jimin, recently. Jimin stays guarded, and it takes him an embarrassingly long time to realise that the alpha is carrying something, a package in brown paper. “I hope you are not busy, I just needed to stop by for a moment. I don’t need to come in.”

 

“Don’t be silly,” Jimin says automatically, wincing immediately when he realises how much like his mother he sounds. Don’t be silly, come in!

 

Yoongi’s smile is a lot like a grimace, but he accepts the invitation. Jimin closes the door behind him. "I brought you something," the alpha begins, indicating the package in his arms. "It is not wrapped decoratively, and I apologise for that. But it is getting cold, so I thought you may need this."

 

He lifts the thing up, presenting it to Jimin, who takes it in his arms automatically. It's heavy, but pliable, which suggests fabric. "Oh," the omega says, rather stupidly. "I didn't expect a gift."

 

"Really? I hear that you have received a great many recently," Yoongi chuckles, and Jimin forces a dry smile onto his face at that. Him receiving gifts is a little inaccurate, he thinks.

 

"What is it?" he asks, instead of disputing the statement. Shaking his head, Yoongi smiles. Jimin isn't quite sure, but he thinks that he detects something different in it. Something nervous, almost.

 

"Open it and find out."

 

With a certain amount of trepidation, Jimin starts to unwrap the parcel. He doesn't know how to feel about Yoongi giving him a gift.

 

The cloak is blue, a similar colour to that which he wore to the ball, a soft, almost muted colour, but still beautiful. It has a deep, rounded hood, easy to hide in, and the material is thick and heavy. A winter cloak, for certain. It seems to have been made perfectly for Jimin's height, too, and instead of a fabric tie it has a pretty silver metal clasp.

 

"It will keep you warm," Yoongi murmurs, and Jimin takes a moment to breathe before he looks back up from the gift. There's something soft in Yoongi's eyes, and it makes Jimin want to shy away. He hugs the cloak up his chest, the fabric hiding him somewhat, but it doesn't help.

 

"Thank you," he eventually gets out in reply.

 

It earns him a genuine smile, and Yoongi lifts a hand, indicating towards the cloak. "Try it on?" It sounds like a question, not an order, and slowly Jimin nods before unclasping the tie in order to open it up.

 

It really is quite heavy, so he doesn't place it on his shoulders correctly when he swings it around himself; Yoongi steps forwards immediately to help him, pulling the sides of the cloak around as Jimin brings the clasp together. It's unfamiliar, and he fumbles with it before Yoongi murmurs a quiet "let me help," guiding Jimin's fingers so the metal clicks into place. The alpha's expression is focused, and Jimin finds himself watching that rather than the tie. His scent is the only thing that Jimin can smell, and he very briefly considers breathing through his mouth to avoid it, before realising how stupid that would make him look.

 

When Yoongi's hands are removed from the clasp, they smooth over Jimin's shoulders, adjust the sides of the cloak once more so they fall properly around him, hiding his form.

 

"It fits well," Jimin almost whispers, although unsure why - it's not like anyone is around to hear them, or like he has to keep this a secret. Yet, the moment feels so private, he feels somehow like he should.

 

Nodding, Yoongi looks him up and down, before his eyes return to Jimin's face, his expression now unreadable. Under the fabric, Jimin's hands clench into fists as they continue to look at each other, seconds passing by, and Jimin realises that they're shaking a little.

 

"Now you can spend some more time outside, if you would like to," Yoongi utters softly. "I know that you like to spend time in the gardens during the day. There is another tie, wait," he steps forward into Jimin's space once more, lifting one side of the cloak to reveal a small hanging piece of fabric. "You can tie it, too, so the material will get less caught in the wind. It's heavy too..." he rambles, and Jimin finds himself nodding along whilst being his heart does backflips in his chest.

 

It's a touching gesture, that Yoongi has thought about this, done this, for him. Just for him; this isn't a present intended to be used by someone else, for the pup. It's Jimin's.

 

Yoongi clears his throat suddenly, speaking up a little louder. "Anyway, I should go. I know that you are probably tired." He starts to walk backwards towards the door, and Jimin is suddenly seized with guilt that he has been treating Yoongi this way. It's not Yoongi's fault. Jimin shouldn't let a gift change his mind, but somehow he can tell that it is meaningful to the alpha.

 

Or maybe it's wishful thinking. It's with self hatred bubbling in his stomach that he says speaks a little too loudly. "Wait!"

 

Turning from where he had just started to open the bedroom door, Yoongi looks up, startled.

 

"Sorry. I just-" Jimin approaches him hesitantly, fingers gripping onto the material of the cloak, clenching and unclenching. He wants so badly to reach for Yoongi, touch him, somehow. "Thank you. I love it. I'm..." His own breath catches as he tries to express himself, speak to Yoongi honestly, for once, but on the spot he's so overwhelmed. It's all too much, all of this.

 

Yoongi just watches him, before reaching forward and touching Jimin's hand, gently. "I know."

 

The blood rushes to Jimin’s head, and he is sure that his cheeks are red, but he just feels hot all over. That acknowledgement, he’s sure that Yoongi knows . He feels sick with anxiety.

 

Yoongi moves his hand to Jimin’s shoulder, and squeezes once. "If you don't wear that one, wear another. Stay warm, yes?"

 

“Yes,” Jimin chokes out. It feels like he can barely breathe, and he’s only partly relieved when Yoongi leaves, walking out and closing the door softly behind him. The other part of him wants to call for Yoongi to stay, because he doesn’t want to be alone.

 

Jimin's fingers shake as he attempts to undo the clasp around his neck, and it takes him several attempts before he manages to do it successfully. The heavy blue material falls to the floor and he turns, legs weak, to pick it up.

 

He needs to fold it, maybe or hang it in his wardrobe, but he finds himself gripping the fabric tightly between his fingers, bringing his trembling hands to his chest. Stumbling backwards, he almost falls onto the bed, his breaths beginning to come fast and hard until he's practically gasping.

 

It's awful, all consuming, the feeling that he's doing something incredibly bad and has no power to stop it. He doesn't know what's worse; the way Yoongi had looked at him, so much care and worry and understanding in his eyes, or the fact that Jimin feels exactly the same as he did weeks ago when he had made a resolve not to let this happen. The same, or worse.

 

Jimin isn't familiar with love, not really. He loves his family, his mother, his father, his siblings. But romantic love, he doesn't know what that's supposed to feel like. The stories he has read with romance describe it in different ways each time, and Jimin certainly hasn't felt anything like an explosion, or a sudden realisation. He doesn't know what love is supposed to feel like, so he doesn't know if this is it, if this is what it is.

 

If it is, he doesn't want it.

 

It could also be the pregnancy messing with him, and Jimin clings onto that hope desperately although there’s handfuls of reasons for it to not be true. Jimin has to say, though, that his instincts have always sent him towards the alpha, even when they didn't know each other. For all that, though, Jimin still thinks of Yoongi's happy smile and the way his nose scrunches, or how much he makes Jimin laugh. The way he had kissed Jimin on the forehead, when his rut was coming to an end. And now Yoongi forms the other half of the puzzle he carries with him now, that swells his stomach.

 

A puzzle he hasn't figured out yet. As he curls into himself instinctively at the thought, and protectively around the pup, he starts to realise the extent of his mistakes. He doesn't know this pup, hasn't even met them, but whenever he thinks of them, he thinks of them as a part of Jimin. He is already thinking about what they will be like, what they will look like. Whether they will look more like him, or more like Yoongi. And he talks to them, all of the time, and he shouldn't, they're not his.

 

But they are , part of him thinks stubbornly.

 

For the first time, he regrets taking the position. He curses himself for being so stupid, so naive . How could he have thought that this would be easy? Of course he couldn't know that he would want Yoongi like this, that any of that would happen. But to assume that it would be easy to carry a pup, give up a baby that is part his? How could he not think about it?

 

How is he supposed to fight himself, his instincts, when he is having Yoongi's pup, and when Yoongi treats him as he does? It is worse, too, to know that Yoongi has always treated him this way, has always been gentle and kind. Hugging his pillow close to himself, he finds himself wishing that the alpha could have just be distant or cold towards him, and then none of this would never have happened.

 

Half of him still doesn't believe that it is happening. It's crushing him, the weight of it all, and it feels like it has all happened so fast but it hasn't, not really. He cannot believe the extent of his own denial. Most of all, he just doesn't know what to do.

 

He wants to go home. Wants to run away and back into his mother's arms, where he had no responsibility, no real worries. It hurts so much, and he's just so scared. He hates feeling so helpless.

 

Since he came to the castle, he hasn't really cried much. There was the time during Yoongi's rut, when he was tired, and then in the gardens, when he had realised his feelings - it was nearly a month ago, now. He isn't shocked, though, when he feels the first tear slip down his cheek, ever so quietly. At home, it had been something of a weakness, to cry; it didn't earn him equality or anything other than sympathy from his alpha siblings, if he started snivelling away, so he stopped himself. It felt weak to cry.

 

But Jimin has to admit now that he is weak. He's weak, and there isn't anything he can do about it.

 

This time, he doesn't fight the tears. Lets the sorrow wash over him like water, and shivers as his face goes hot and then cold from the wetness. Noises escape his mouth, and eventually he remembers that there's no point in holding them in, because there's nobody around to hear. The bedrooms around his are all empty.

 

He’s supposed to be getting ready for dinner, but he just can’t bring himself to get out of bed. His eyes must be red and his face is probably puffy and swollen - overall he probably looks awful, but mostly he just wants to hide away.

 

Hours must pass as his cries eventually fall silent, and the flow of his wounds a little less, but he remains on his bed, his body heavy. It feels like there’s actual pain in his chest, and he thinks that it’s probably all just self hatred, at this point. The sky grows dark, the stars not visible due to the grey clouds, and Jimin mourns that, too. He turns his face into the sheets, dirtying them, and wraps his arms around himself.

 

He doesn’t hear the knock at the door, when it comes, but he hears Yoongi’s voice.

 

“Jimin? Are you alright? You were not at your table at dinner- Jimin?” The alpha’s voice turns from soft to panicked, and Jimin can’t even turn his head as he approaches, he doesn’t have the energy.

 

He needs to, though, makes himself, because he needs to tell Yoongi to leave. “Yoon-” His throat is so tight, it’s difficult to speak, and he has to clear his throat twice.

 

“What is it? Talk to me, Jimin, please,” Yoongi begs, leaning over him on the bed. He goes to kneel next to it, and Jimin reaches out and pushes him away weakly. Yoongi freezes completely. “Jimin?”

 

“Don’t,” he croaks. “You need to go.”

 

“Why- Please let me help.” Yoongi’s hand jerks up, as if to touch him, and Jimin bats it away. Jimin has never seen him look so hurt.

 

“No. This is- this is a mess,” Jimin probably sounds wrecked, but he doesn’t care. He has failed to stop himself, his feelings, and it’s all gone too far. “You know- This isn’t-” His voice breaks, and he can smell the fear and distress from Yoongi, but he soldiers on. “We can’t do this. You need to go. This needs to- needs to stop.”

 

“Stop?” Yoongi asks quietly. Jimin feels his eyes grow hot with more tears, and he pushes the alpha away again in retaliation.

 

“Get out.”

 

“What- Jimin-”

 

“Get out!” Jimin wants to scream because Yoongi isn’t listening, he doesn’t understand, and maybe he did scream or something because Yoongi’s eyes are widening. He’s so shocked and hurt and Jimin did that -

 

“I am going,” Yoongi finally utters, holding his hands up in surrender.

 

Jimin nods, waving his arm towards the door, and covering his face with his other hand. It’s unsurprisingly wet. Yoongi hesitates at the door, and Jimin follows him just to usher him out of it completely, whilst also not looking him in the face.

 

“Jimin.” The alpha’s voice is surprisingly wet sounding. “I am so sorry.”

 

“Don’t. Just- Just, please, go,” Jimin says, with as much strength as he can muster.

 

As soon as Yoongi is outside and the door is closed, he collapses against it and slides to the floor, a fresh wave of tears welling up. Ready to fall.



--

 

Chapter Text

Jimin is lying on his bed, eyes on the greyness of the sky outside the window of his bedroom. It's almost always grey now, winter creeping through autumn like a cold fog. On one occasion, Jimin had woken to find frost on his windowsill. The ground is hard, the deciduous trees mostly having rid themselves of their leaves for a bare look, one that filled the gardens with brown rather than the green of summer or the reds and yellows of autumn. The latter had passed so quickly, it feels like Jimin might have slept through it.

 

"Are you cold?" Taehyung questions him softly, brushing a hand through the omega's hair where his head rests on Taehyung's lap. Jimin shakes his head almost imperceptibly. His body has been coping with the cold well, without him having to do much at all.

 

He just wishes that his body could cure him of the sickness of loneliness.

 

"Are you?" he asks up at his friend. Taehyung hums, and Jimin reaches for the blanket at the end of the bed with some difficulty, shifting a little closer to bring Taehyung a little more warmth, who murmurs his thanks.

 

After they have settled down into silence for a little while longer, Taehyung speaks up again, voice still quiet enough not to break the peace. "What kind of day is it today, Jiminie?"

 

The omega takes a little while to consider the question. Taehyung has been there for him for the last two months, through the roughest days, just after he had banished Yoongi from his bedroom for him to never return, where Jimin had been a mess of guilt and self hatred and tears.

 

The first time he had seen Yoongi after their altercation and Jimin's breakdown after being given the cloak, it was in the stateroom the next day. Jimin had gotten no sleep whatsoever, and had to wash his face with cool water in an attempt to calm the red puffiness of his eyes.

 

He was sitting in his normal seat, attempting to listen to the chatter of Miyoung and Donghae beside him, and out of the corner of his eye he saw a door open; a small party of advisors walks out, passing through the stateroom. It had been easy to spot Yoongi following them, and Jimin had turned his head away immediately.

 

It's easy to pick out Yoongi's scent in a crowd, so he avoids breathing in through his nose. When Yoongi passed behind him, he swore that he could feel it, the hairs on the back of his neck standing up, a shiver down his spine. When he was sure that Yoongi had passed by, he had let out a deep breath of relief.

 

Yet, his mind had still drifted back to the idea that maybe Yoongi had looked for him, seen him there at his table, for the rest of the day. Although, his worst nightmare was Yoongi coming to talk to him, pulling him out for a conversation that he wasn't ready for.

 

But he hadn't. Still hasn't attempted to talk to him at all, although Jimin has made eye contact with the alpha many, many times when they have been in the same space. Jimin wishes he knew what Yoongi is thinking; it feels like he's repeating his first few weeks in the castle, when Yoongi was a mysterious figure, a prince who he didn't know at all.

 

Taehyung was there for him then, too, a few weeks later when Jimin's tears had long dried and he was filled with pure anxiety about what Yoongi would do, what would happen. Jimin had remained on the edge of a panic attack at the thought of Yoongi approaching him, but of course there is part of him that still wished he would. He missed the Yoongi that had been his friend, who had cared about him enough to bring him a winter cloak, had kept a promise to teach him archery.

 

It's probably a selfish thought, but Jimin is just very, very lonely.

 

That's what Jimin is now. An empty shell, alone and trapped. He can't even go out into the garden really anymore, because it's so cold and nowhere near as enjoyable, but also because of the small number of guests present in the castle that Jimin must hide from. Taehyung is his only constant companion, and even he must leave in order to attend to his duties. Jimin suspects, somehow, that the other staff let him off easily from being occasionally absent from being with Jimin; whether that is on the royal family's orders, or simply because Taehyung is so charming, he does not know.

 

They spend many hours like this, silently together, and Jimin loves Taehyung for it so much. The beta may not always know what he's thinking, but he seems to know what Jimin needs. Jimin relies on him so much, at this point, it's probably unhealthy. Unfortunately, he doesn't really have anyone else.

 

What kind of day is it today?

 

"A dull one," Jimin settles on. It's barely halfway through the day, but he is fairly certain that it is true. Jimin isn't allowed to attend dinner or go to any of the rooms even near the staterooms; he is confined to a small part of the castle, in order for people not to see him. On top of that, he feels guilty seeing Hoseok and Namjoon because he knows how much they care about Yoongi, so he now sees them a lot less too. He can't even see Hyuna because of his restriction in movement, but he also doubts very much that he is allowed to ride anymore, anyway.

 

So Taehyung is his company. And, in a different way, the pup he is carrying is too. It's not quite the same, unfortunately, and them being there doesn't prevent that empty feeling of loneliness that curdles in his stomach, but it’s something of a comfort. Jimin can't help but speak to the pup more and more, finding solace in the movements he can feel, the little kicks and turns. Sometimes, Jimin thinks he has felt them hiccup, somewhere just below his belly button. Maybe he also takes a little bit of comfort in the idea that this tiny, pure soul will come out of this situation, and he tries hard to hold himself together, for the sake of that.

 

Jimin hears Taehyung sigh ever so slightly. "And is that a good thing?"

 

"I'm not sure," Jimin says thoughtfully. "I suppose I would rather have a dull day, than a bad one."

 

"I suppose," Taehyung echoes. Jimin watches his toes wiggle, one of Taehyung's large hands still combing its way through his hair. "Hoseok asked about you, today."

 

His automatic reaction to that is to tense up, try and make an excuse, but he pushes that down in favour of a more neutral response. "Did he?"

 

"Yes, he wanted to know if you are well. He said he missed you," he explains. "I told him that your health is good."

 

Jimin can't help but smile wryly at that. It's quite funny that Taehyung avoided using the word 'well'. It's true that his body is healthy, though. "Thank you."

 

"I think he would like to see you. The guests currently here will leave in a day or so; maybe you could arrange something then." When Jimin doesn't answer, Taehyung nudges him again. "Seokjin wants you to visit the library soon, too."

 

Sighing, Jimin turns so he is on his back, looking at the underside of his friend's chin. "I will visit the library as soon as I can. I definitely want to." Jimin has just been reading whatever Taehyung brings him from the alpha, usually accompanied by a little note with some word definitions to assist his reading. Still, he misses talking about the stories, misses Seokjin's humour.

 

"Good, that'll stop him whining at me. I think he wanted to ask you for tea, even, so I'll ask him what day. You can look forward to it," the beta chuckles, pinching Jimin's cheek ever so slightly.

 

"If you say so," Jimin sighs, very quietly.



The most recent book he had been given is thankfully not a romance, but another adventure story, this time with an omega protagonist. The note tucked into the first few pages had read:

 

I've been searching for stories like this, for you - I found this one from a few kingdoms over, and had it translated. Stay strong, Jiminie.

 

The fact that it was translated makes it a little choppy, a little strange in wording sometimes, but rather than letting that affect how much he likes the book, he feels a little proud of himself for being able to recognise the difference. Plus, the story is absolutely captivating, and Jimin has never read anything like it. An omega girl, who, after being betrothed to an alpha she doesn't love, runs away from home, and has to attempt to live by herself. Normally in the books Jimin reads, an omega is never like this, always subservient to some degree, following the suggestions of people around them. Jimin never wants to put the book down.

 

His favourite line is I can be brave, she thought to herself. She had travelled these roads before, and she could just about remember which way to go, all on her own .

 

It's a welcome escape, and Jimin reads it and then reads it once more as he waits for the guests at the castle to leave. He actually wishes that he could keep it, but he doesn't know how Seokjin would feel about that.

 

He doesn't know if he should look forward to being able to go to the staterooms and attend at court once more, because on one hand it may cure his isolation, but on the other even the omegas that he sits with in the stateroom have become less than barely interested in tolerating him.

 

Jimin had noticed the decline several weeks ago, and it had been a downhill journey from there. Everyone seems to be very much ready for Jimin to leave the castle, putting in no effort whatsoever to talk to him, even occasionally ignoring him or cutting him out of conversations completely. He had to sit silently, although the silence this time is not self imposed; he wonders whether if he had been more charming, a delightful conversationalist who cared about fashion and gossip and was sweet to everyone, would they care about him now, at the end. He thinks that it's possible, at least with a few of the people that he sees and speaks to frequently, like Miyoung - but Miyoung has seemingly never gotten over the embarrassment of her mate dancing with Jimin and not her.

 

Jimin wishes he could say sorry, but the time for that has long passed. He thinks that he will have many regrets, after leaving the castle.



--



It is difficult to dress, now, around his body, which has grown so much. Of course he has a new winter wardrobe, full of luscious dark colours and jewel tones, and he doesn't exactly feel unattractive, but everything is rather awkwardly shaped. On his first day back after a two week guest visit, he opts for a loose, billowy white shirt, tucked in so he appears neat, and is glad that Taehyung is not around to criticise his fashion choices; he just wants to be comfortable.

 

Sometimes he finds steep staircases difficult to manage, as he is somewhat off balance, recently, but there is nobody around to help him so he manages by himself. The walk into the staterooms that previously would have attracted so many gazes and attempts to have him sit at different tables has become a great attempt at ignoring him altogether, so the walk is all the shorter. He gets a brief smile from Donghae as he sits down, but otherwise feels like a child at the grownups' table, like when he was younger and his parents would invite friends to the house, but he couldn't go the night without attention from his mother.

 

Miyoung sweeps into the room not long after his entrance, her green dress so big it nearly takes Jimin's chair off balance when she brushes past. He greets her good morning with the rest of the table, although of course that goes ignored, and settles in for a long day of boredom.

 

"Donghae, how was the fitting, tell me. Did you manage to get those hats? There is such a demand for the feathers..."

 

"Yes, yes..." There is a great ensuing discussion about the appropriate feathers for hats, and Jimin amuses himself thinking about how fun that is going to be, everyone at court parading around with massive hats and large feathers. His half-smile is wiped from his face as Miyoung turns to him, her back straight and head tilted down to look at him even though she's shorter than him.

 

"Jimin, I am quite disappointed in your inability to dress yourself, despite your endless resources."

 

He can't help but flinch at that. Her tone is more acidic than the lemon tarts the cooks in the kitchens seem to favour making on a regular basis, and her gaze is even worse; combined with those of the rest of the table as they also turn to him, he wants to hide away. He far prefers being ignored.

 

Soojung speaks up, a little more gentle, but the disapproval is still clear. "Yes, you do look rather... unsophisticated, shall I say. Of course, it is not you yourself..." she trails off, and Jimin fists his hands in the tablecloth where his hands are on his lap.

 

"Ah, I'm sorry. I will, um. Try harder," he croaks. He loses the interest of a few of the table then, although Miyoung isn't quite finished with him.

 

"I am not sure whether that is quite accurate, Sooyoung dearest; I do think he has something of a natural lack of refinement about him. Well, you will not be around court for much longer, I suppose."

 

There's something awful about being rejected by a group of omegas, those who are supposed to protect. There must be something really wrong with him. Retreating into himself, he hunches over a little before correcting his posture. No need to give them anything more to snipe at him about.

 

Miyoung's words echo in his head for an hour as he sits, and he is reminded of the inevitability of him leaving the castle. When he thinks of being at home, he feels nothing but relief; he is so close to seeing his mother again, having her hold him and take care of him in a way he has missed so much. Eat her cooking, play with his siblings, see the progress that they have all made with their own little families.

 

But leaving. The act of leaving, of just walking away from everything here, has nausea bubbling in his stomach. He has had time to narrow this down to three things - leaving his friends being the first, which saddens him to no end. He loves Taehyung, such a sweet soul who cares so much, and deserves so much. The others, too, even if he sees them far less, have been so kind to him, and he knows that he will miss them greatly.

 

Jimin has become so unused to being addressed in the staterooms that any speech directed towards him startles him greatly. This time, it is an attendant over his shoulder, addressing him politely.

 

"Sir, you have been requested for an audience with the king and queen."

 

"The..." he gapes, heart rate picking up in his chest. A glance around the table sees a variation of expressions from surprised to downright annoyed. Jimin very much regrets not dressing himself better. "Now?"

 

Smiling, the attendant bows slightly. "Yes, sir. It is an invitation to afternoon tea."

 

Trying not to panic is difficult in that moment, and Jimin can't say he does very well. He probably has the appearance of a startled rabbit, to go along with his so-called unsophisticated outfit. His knees shake as he stands. "Alright, ah, can you, um, take me?"

 

"Of course, come this way."

 

Jimin stumbles, actually stumbles, as they make their way out of their stateroom and towards the centre rooms where the royal family usually reside. They pass the doors to the council rooms, and Jimin feels eyes on him for the first time in a while - usually he would never go in this direction, is never allowed in these rooms, he is not close enough to the king or queen to do such a thing. This will probably anger a great many people at court, someone like Jimin being taken for a direct audience; he wonders how many people will be there.

 

The wind is knocked out of him by an invisible force when he reaches the double doors of the room, seeing the lack of people inside. There are two attendants, stood surreptitiously to the side, and the king and queen sit in the centre of the room. Alone.

 

Jimin's palms start to sweat as he takes a step inside, almost forgetting to bow. His eyes lower naturally when he straightens up, falling on the expensive rug beneath the tea table.

 

"Good afternoon, Jimin. Do come sit," Queen Hyerin calls out, and Jimin can't help but over-analyse his own every move as he comes closer and sits down. Is his posture bad? Does he look ungraceful or clumsy?

 

"We wanted to invite you for tea, and to check on your wellbeing, first of all, of course!" Queen Hyerin says with a false cheeriness that immediately has Jimin raising his eyes to look at her. She is, at least, less intimidating to make eye contact with than the king, who is dressed in an unnerving blood red, but her words snag somewhere in his brain with a question. Physician Lee feeds back to the royals every time he goes to check on his health, Jimin knows, so he blinks at the queen for a moment.

 

"I am well, Your Highness. I have nothing ill to report," he replies.

 

Possibly the confusion is evident in his voice, as she quickly goes to wave at the food and drink on the table. "Help yourself, everything is wonderful, I assure you."

 

"Thank you," he says awkwardly, unsure whether he would like to eat directly in front such important figures. A glance at the king sees him looking only vaguely interested, deep lines on his face forming a permanent frown. If Jimin hadn't seen him before, he would think that it was directed towards him.

 

He takes a cake as the queen calls for an attendant to pour the tea, and uses his fork to eat a small slither of it. It's gorgeous, and he has to stop himself from taking a huge bite; he wonders if the cake tastes better in this room simply due to how grand it is, or whether the king and queen simply get the best cakes.

 

It's not just the cakes, or the rug, he realises as he glances around; everything in the room is absolutely luxurious. Jimin thought that he had seen the full extent of such a thing, but clearly that's not true, not judging by the amount of gold and rich mahogany and intricate tapestries in the room. There is another great mural on the ceiling, detailed and shockingly beautiful. The omega imagines that it would take him at least half a day to admire everything in such a room.

 

"I am certainly glad that you are well, and Physician Lee reports that you are growing perfectly well, too." The queen smiles at him politely, and there is something almost patronising there, like Jimin is a child, or a little stupid. Jimin most likely does not help himself by the way he nods along dumbly.

 

The king's voice, deep and authoritative, has his heart leaping into his throat with how it breaks the quiet and polite chatter. "Of course, we did not bring you here simply to ask if you are well. We must instruct you on the process of you leaving the castle, after the pup has been acquired."

 

Acquired . The king is brusque, seemingly very much uncaring of Jimin's feelings about the matter. Jimin does not miss the slight curl of his lip as he addresses the omega, and he wonders whether he has done something to offend him, although Jimin has never truly spoken to him directly - his interactions with the king have always been minimal. Sitting up even straighter, he attempts to make himself look more respectable. "Yes, Your Grace."

 

"What will happen," the queen begins, "is that you will have a small period of rest after the birth, of one day. Then you will be provided with the payment for your services, and we will of course provide you with a method of transportation back to your home. If you wish to leave before even one day, you may do so."

 

Jimin's mouth opens slightly as he listens to the other omega's words. "Earlier...?"

 

"Yes, of course it is inappropriate for you to remain here afterwards." The king's eyes are so dark, Jimin hadn't quite realised before now, but when they settle on him, it's unnerving. He finds himself nodding in agreement, although his mind is racing. One day, that is all he has to say his goodbyes. To meet the pup - although, he realises with a sickening jolt, he doesn't know if they will be taken away from immediately, anyway - and to say goodbye to Yoongi.

 

Not noticing Jimin's inner turmoil, the queen continues. "I am sure that you are very much looking forward to going back to your home."

 

Jimin swallows and then swallows again, suddenly having to fight the instinct to curl around his stomach. He doesn't, counting his breaths in his head and clenching his jaw, forcing himself to be proper and listen.

 

"We are excited to have another addition to our family. I am sure that the prince and his consort will take to fatherhood very well."

 

"Yes, they- they will," Jimin manages. The image of Daehee is conjured up in his mind, holding a pup, Yoongi's pup, who is dressed in one of those delicately pretty event gowns Jimin had been gifted with. It's like a very sharp knife is being pressed into Jimin's chest, very slowly. He smiles through it, polite as ever.

 

"So, you understand the order of events?" the king asks, clearly ready to leave the room. Jimin manages a nod, which might be rude, but it's as much as he can do while he holds himself together. "Then I will be leaving. I have many things to attend to."

 

Queen Hyerin and Jimin stand as the king leaves without giving him a backwards glance. As she calls an attendant over, Jimin uses her moment of distraction to put his hand to the underside of his bump, something of a self-comforting gesture. He drops it when she turns back to him.

 

"Well, Jimin, help yourself to some more cake! I am sure that you find it rather delicious," Hyerin says with a small smirk.

 

Very much befuddled by this, Jimin reaches for another cake slowly. An attendant comes and pours more tea, and Jimin realises as he takes a deep breath that the air is a little easier to breathe, the absence of the king's alpha scent letting him relax, just a little. Although, he has to admit that the queen's company is not all that relaxing or thrilling, it's less intimidating than the king. Being in such close proximity to him makes Jimin feel strange.

 

They eat in silence, Jimin lowering his head and trying to eat as quickly as is proper in order to leave as soon as possible.

 

As he is lead back through the corridors, Jimin tries to relax the muscles of his body, bit by bit. The words of the queen are still rattling around in his head, but he gives himself the smallest, grimmest mental pat on the back at how well he held himself together in there. Jimin doesn't think he's reading too much into it when he says that the king and queen seem to think of him as very disposable.

 

I can be brave , he thinks to himself. But, gosh, is it hard. He doesn't know what he's supposed to do with the swirling pit of mixed emotions and hurt. As if sensing it, or probably just moving around, the pup kicks, winding him ever so slightly. I need to be brave .



-



Seokjin had apparently been very serious about inviting Jimin to eat in the library, although Jimin is rather shocked; books and tea don't seem like they would mix very well, and Seokjin cares a lot about his collection. Still, Jimin heads there on a cold afternoon, glad that he had thick, lined jacket to wear as he walks the chilly halls of the castle, far more grey than Jimin had perceived when he had first arrived. It's been a while since he has been able to see Seokjin, and he can't help but look forward to meeting with him.

 

On entrance to the library, however, he is rooted in place when he realises that they are not alone.

 

"Jimin! So good to see you!" Hoseok laughs as he comes closer, bringing the omega into a one armed hug. Over his shoulder, Seokjin smiles at them, although when he and Jimin make eye contact he at least has the shame to look a little guilty.

 

"Hoseok, I, um. Didn't know you would be here," Jimin utters awkwardly. The hug is a little awkward too, with his bump separating them, and Jimin is rather thankful when it ends.

 

"Of course, it is a surprise!" There's a knowing look in Hoseok's eye, and Jimin sighs to himself. Obviously he knows that Jimin was avoiding him. "Namjoon is here too, come sit down!"

 

As he is led to a table with a tea set already set up, Jimin cannot help but feel like he is repeating a day, the anxiety he feels exactly the same as that he felt as he was invited to tea with the king and queen. It shouldn't be like this, these are his friends, but it's with bitterness in his heart that he accepts that this is his fault. It is he that has been avoiding them, and he that let himself grow to have feelings for Namjoon and Hoseok's best friend.

 

"Seokjin, nice to see you again," he says tentatively, and the alpha immediately goes to hug him too, Jimin feeling a drop of hesitant relief that he seems happy to see him. "I didn't... I didn't know that you were so close with Namjoon and Hoseok."

 

"Maybe close is not the word," Seokjin muses, a flicker of worry across his face. "It does not matter, anyway; I arranged tea because they missed you, and I had a feeling that you would not have a problem seeing me."

 

"I- Yes," Jimin says helplessly.

 

"Actually I have some work to be doing, if you don't mind starting without me." He is given a handsome smile, before Seokjin is standing and brushing himself off, heading back towards his desk. It's with a sense of desperation that Jimin hopes that he comes back soon.

 

"So, how is it being back at court? I presume you wish that you no longer had to attend to those duties," Hoseok says with a grin. Jimin returns the smile uneasily.

 

"It has been... as expected." Hoseok pours him some tea, which Jimin takes and picks up as something to do with his hands.

 

"I hope people are still treating you well," the beta frowns, and Jimin is trying to formulate a reply as he opens his mouth when a familiar voice interrupts them.

 

"Jimin, it is wonderful to see you," Namjoon says from behind Jimin, and he comes to sit next to Jimin with a smile. He places a book on the table beside him. "Bedtime reading," he says with a chuckle as he sees where Jimin's gaze is directed.

 

"It is good to see you too, although unexpected." Jimin thinks that he hides the slight bitterness there very well. "How are you, Joonie?"

 

Namjoon smiles tiredly. "I have been in many meetings over the past few days, so this is a wonderful respite. It is beautifully quiet in here."

 

Jimin really admires the elder omega and his strength, the power he wields despite his status. He has never really seen an omega be so influential, although it's possible that he has not truly been looking.

 

"Has it..." Jimin doesn't really understand what has been going on in the castle, and it's not like he should, so he does not know how to phrase an intelligent question on the issue. "Is everything okay?"

 

Namjoon tilts his head to the side, considering, and Jimin sees Hoseok take a sip of his tea. He's watching Namjoon closely too. "I think it will be," Namjoon says eventually. "There is not anything for you to worry about."

 

"Namjoon knows what he's talking about," Hoseok interjects, and smiles a little. "I do not think there is anyone better to be handling such things."

 

Now, Jimin might just be imagining things, but he swears that he sees Namjoon's skin grow a little pink. He is almost too busy staring at it to notice when Seokjin comes back, sitting himself in the spare seat at the table after placing a small plate of cakes down.

 

"I asked for these from the kitchen," he explains. "Help yourself. What were we talking about?"

 

"How great Joonie is at his job," Hoseok chuckles before Namjoon can say anything. There's a frown on the other omega's face when Seokjin makes an understanding noise.

 

"Ah, that makes sense. I am sure that the king constantly sings your praises," Seokjin says lightly, and Namjoon scoffs, although his cheeks have gotten a little warmer.

 

It's strange, and Jimin has never seen all three of them together before, didn't even know that they knew each other that well, but it doesn't take long to see that they are all extremely comfortable with each other. The way that both Seokjin and Hoseok look at Namjoon when they are teasing him is affectionate, and for some reason, it has him thinking about Yoongi.

 

"Everyone in the castle must be busy then," he tries, and looks down at his cup. He takes a sip, and makes eye contact with Hoseok over the rim of the teacup.

 

"Well, yes. Yoongi in particular is under a lot of strain recently. He has many things to be concerned with." Namjoon looks at him too when Hoseok speaks, and Jimin doesn't doubt that he means Jimin, amongst other things.

 

"I hope it will get easier for him soon," he dodges. He regrets bringing up the topic, didn't realise they would be so forward about it.

 

Namjoon nods. "Yes, I think he has really been struggling."

 

Swallowing, Jimin tries not to snap at them both. He doesn’t know why they are saying this to him; it isn’t like he can do anything about it. Bitterness as well as a deep ache in his gut take anchor, and suddenly his tea is a little hard to drink.

 

He hadn’t known that, either. But of course he wouldn’t, he and Yoongi hadn’t had a conversation in around two months.

 

Clearing his throat, Seokjin clearly decides to take the conversation into his own hands. “Jimin, tell us how your family is. You write home to them regularly, right?”

 

The conversation is diverted, the rest of the tea fairly uneventful, and Jimin is reminded of how nice it is to spend time with all of them. They go together really well, the other three; they speak to each other in a way that is different to how they all speak to Jimin, with the ease of long term friendship and knowing each other well. The fact that Seokjin is an alpha does not seem to affect Namjoon in the slightest when it comes to him being outspoken - he seems happy to speak loudly about how the library needs more current political texts from other kingdoms, while Seokjin just watches him with a little smile.

 

When the cakes are finished, mostly courtesy of Seokjin himself, and Namjoon begins to get antsy, Hoseok announces that they should probably leave Seokjin to clear up. They bid Jimin goodbye with

 

"Jimin, one moment, please," Seokjin calls for him, and Jimin glances back to see Seokjin holding a book, most likely for him.

 

"Yes?"

 

"This is for you. Bring the last one back as soon as you can, alright?" the alpha explains as he hands it over. Jimin can't help but take it reluctantly, thinking of how much he enjoyed the last one.

 

"I really loved the translated one. Thank you for finding it for me," he admits, wrapping his arms around the leather. Seokjin smiles, pleased.

 

"That is wonderful. I will try and find you ones like that, in the future." Jimin steps back, ready to leave, but there’s something he is curious about. He feels like there is something he doesn’t know, or doesn’t understand.

 

"What is going on with you three?" he asks abruptly. Seokjin flinches, and Jimin flails a little, a little scared of speaking to an alpha in such a way.

 

"You know," Seokjin sighs, "you can only mate one person, at a time."

 

"One person..." Jimin's mind scrambles to comprehend, but he doesn't quite get there. Is there some kind of strange love triangle?

 

The alpha levels him with a steady gaze, and Jimin works to meet it until Seokjin looks away to the ground with a sigh. "It is very complicated. Do not feel the need to worry, though, Jiminie. Focus on yourself."

 

Biting his lip, Jimin nods, deciding not to push Seokjin more on the issue. There's a slump to the alpha's shoulders that hints at tiredness and strain, and Jimin doesn't want to make it any worse.

 

He takes a step back, ready to say goodbye, but Seokjin snaps out of whatever place he was in to catch Jimin's elbow. "Wait, I wanted to say something else."

 

Jimin grips the book tighter instinctually to stop himself from reaching for his stomach, the alpha's touch having an adverse reaction on him, making him want to shake it away. It's gone before he has to do anything, and Seokjin continues speaking as though nothing has happened, despite most likely noticing Jimin's change in scent to something more than a little uncomfortable.

 

"I know Namjoon said that Yoongi is not well, and I know that you probably care about him-" he starts, narrowing his eyes when Jimin makes what is most likely a slightly disgusted face at himself. "-but I do think that you should think of yourself first. You have... an unfortunate situation, and I just... would like you to be careful."

 

"Careful?" Jimin's mouth drops open a little. "I tried that. I'm already here. I'm already avoiding him. I don't know what more I can do." His voice cracks towards the end embarrassingly, but to make up for it he adopts a glare at Seokjin, who remains unaffected. Sad, even.

 

"Alright, just. Take care of yourself, yes? You are important to all of us."

 

The anger Jimin feels dissipates at those words, leaving the omega feeling disappointed in himself, although he knows that he believes his own words. What is he supposed to be doing, now? He is helpless.

 

As he walks away from the library, he thinks about Seokjin's words from just before his warning. One person . Yoongi has his 'one', Jimin knows. He has thought about it over and over, let it keep him up at night. He knows that Yoongi's mating was arranged, yet he doesn't know anything of their relationship. Yoongi had always been so quiet on that front; Jimin had been happy to go along with it. Busy basking in the alpha's attention, he thinks bitterly. Maybe Yoongi had done that so as to not upset Jimin. Or maybe, maybe it was because Jimin wasn't important enough to understand his relationship with his mate.

 

And why should he?



--



The pup keeps him up all night that night, kicking away at him, and Jimin feels like he should be frustrated but he can't find it within himself to be annoyed at them. There must be something keeping them awake, keeping them restless. Eventually he starts talking to them, humming a tune his mother used to when he runs out of words, and then, as Jimin starts to see the sky lightening outside, the pup settles.

 

Unfortunately, Jimin then doesn't. His eyes are heavy but his mind will not stop flitting around, and his heart is beating a little too fast. Heaving a great sigh, he sits up and stretches; he can, very faintly, hear some birdsong outside.

 

He decides to use his time by re-reading and replying to the last letter his mother sent him, because he has been struggling to do so, recently. She had sent news of Ryeowook being with child yet again, and his father's good health after a passing illness, and at this point in his loneliness and solitude it just feels like he is not needed in his old home. His mother writes that she misses him, asks him questions, but it's like part of Jimin doesn't believe it.

 

She mentioned his coming home, though, which again makes that strange war of feelings surface once more. He wants to be at home, but leaving is so terrifying.



Dearest Mother,

 

I am glad to hear that you and father are well. Please send Ryeowook and Sooyoung my congratulations, I am ever so happy for them. Soon they will have their own little family just as big as ours.

 

Jimin pauses in his writing, feeling the urge to rest his hand on his stomach. The pup is calm, presumably sleeping, and not doing anything at all to disturb him, so it's a strange instinct, but after a minute he moves past it.

 

You asked me about Taehyung - he is well, although there has been a lot of work to do in the castle recently, and he is very busy.

 

Jimin pauses to scratch that last bit out. We are very busy.

 

I have been keeping up with my reading! I don't know what I will do when I come home, since there's no way I will be able to have access to as many books when I'm back at home. I will have to beg Father for some pocket money.

 

My health is good, and I am looking forward to coming home.

 

That part is hard to write, and he struggles over what to say next. She hasn't mentioned it, but his mother must have noticed the decline in frequency and length of his letters recently. He really doesn't know what to say, anymore; he cannot tell her about the things that plague his mind, or ask her advice, even if he wants to with his whole heart.

 

I wish that I could ask your advice on some things, but they are rather difficult to explain, and far too convoluted for letter form. Recently I had something of a falling out with a friend in the castle who means a great deal to me, and I just know that you would know what to do.

 

I wonder if you will be able to tell that a great many things have changed about me.

 

I love you. Stay in good health.

 

Your Jiminie.



He writes until the sun rises, finally, it coming much later now winter has come upon them. There has been no rain, but the sky is grey, and Jimin feels very much as though it will rain soon. Or maybe tomorrow.

 

A knock on the door has his head raising. "Jiminie," Taehyung says quietly as he peaks his head around it. "Bit of bad news."

 

"Hm?" Belatedly, Jimin checks his face for tears, to find his face dry. He must be all cried out.

 

"There is going to be some visitors soon, some kind of emergency thing, the staff are all losing their minds about it. Anyway, you will have to stay here for a few days again. Is that okay?"

 

Jimin nods quickly, giving Taehyung a smile so he doesn't try and investigate if Jimin seems a little worse for wear. His eyes certainly feel a little swollen from lack of sleep. He also refrains from remarking sarcastically that he doesn't really get to be 'okay' with that or not, he just has to deal with it. "Thanks for letting me know. Is that from tomorrow?"

 

"Yes. The room down the west corridor will be available to you as usual. Are you writing to your mother? Would you like me to take that, or are you not done?"

 

"I'm finished." Jimin turns back to the letter in front of him, the ink having mostly dried. he folds it and seals it, heading over to hand it over.

 

"Did you not have a good night's sleep, Jiminie?" Taehyung asks, concerned. Jimin waves it away with the excuse of the pup moving.

 

"I'll try and get some more now, do not worry. Thank you, Taehyung." He practically closes the door in the beta's face, if with an apologetic smile.

 

The thing about loneliness, Jimin thinks, is that it is particularly difficult to cope with when it is self inflicted.



--



Jimin hasn't seen Daehee in a long while, as he is confined to a different and presumably more luxurious area of the castle while guests come and go. Occasionally Jimin catches glimpses of him in the large apartment that Jimin has been given as a space to go in order to leave his room and avoid the guests; it had been that glimpse that prompted him to not want to leave the safety of his room for the last few weeks. He hates interacting with the other omega, hates how it makes him feel so small.

 

It is Taehyung that forces him down to the west corridor apartment, "for fresh air," he had said, although Jimin isn't sure how that works. He much prefers the sanctity of his bedroom, but he his back has been giving him pain since he has been sat awkwardly in his window seat for so long, so he eventually he half-heartedly acquiesces.

 

There are six rooms in the west corridor apartment, all connecting and full of lavish furniture. Some books, too, although Jimin brings his own, still occupied by the translated book that Seokjin had given him and he had yet to give back. Jimin doesn't know who the castle's guests are, but he mentally thanks them for giving him an excuse not to go to the library and hand it away.

 

He picks a spot near a window in order to get more light, and settles down to read. The attendants that pass through barely disturb him, only stopping occasionally to ask him if he would like tea, or something to eat. Jimin refuses the latter, stomach a little uneasy ever since his sleepless night, a day ago.

 

A few hours pass peacefully, the pup only occasionally waking to kick and shift around a little. It has Jimin smiling, even when there are kicks to his bladder that make him seek the use of a restroom. The minutes pass quickly, his book a welcome escape.

 

That is, until Jimin hears the footsteps of several people at once and loud voices. He may be tucked away in one of the back rooms, but the sound of the first door opening is unmistakable. His eyes find the doorway, and he watches closely for movement.

 

After a moment he finds his answer. A handful of members of court pass by the doorway to his room, and Jimin recognises them, he just cannot put names to the faces. He has a suspicion, which is confirmed when he hears a voice call out, telling everyone to quieten down. It's unmistakably Daehee, a cool, calm voice with the slightest accent as the volume is raised.

 

Jimin's book falls closed as he mentally flails a little - should he leave? Surely Daehee doesn't want him here, and Jimin doesn't want to be around him. He's not sure that there is a way to do so, however, without attracting the attention of the other omega and all of his attending friends.

 

His arms wrap around himself automatically in a protective position as he thinks, considering his options, a little panicked. The chatter in the next room is at a fairly low volume, but Jimin can still pick out words, although after a few seconds he becomes sure that the language they are speaking is not his. Occasionally there are words or sentences he recognises, but the rest of the time it is all strange sounding, a little harsh on the ears. It takes him an embarrassingly long time to realise that they must be speaking the language of Daehee's home kingdom.

 

Jimin has never heard anything like it before, and he wonders how the rest of the courtiers there do, if Daehee had maybe taught them. He is musing on that when someone appears at the doorway, blinking at him in confusion.

 

"Oh, there is someone else here," he says blithely, and disappears again. Jimin scrambles to stand, a difficult task due his new off-balance centre, and a two more omegas peek around the corner as he does so. He can't be sure, but one of them snorts, and he thinks that it was probably at the sight of him.

 

Making sure to pick up his book, he walks quickly towards the exit, holding his breath when he reaches the room where Daehee and everyone else is sat. Jimin doesn't even have to look properly, just glances past to see that they are all in their best fashion, huge skirts and gorgeous colours, elegant waistcoats and yes, large hats. Such a contrast to him, dressed comfortably for a day out of court.

 

He has almost reached the door, cheeks creeping with heat as he hears chuckles behind him and a few whispers. "Are you in a rush?" one of the girls asks, giggling all the while.

 

Clenching his jaw, he shakes his head. He almost jumps out of his skin when he hears Daehee speak up next.

 

"Rude of you not to greet us, then."

 

Jimin is expecting a smug or mocking smile when he turns to bow, but Daehee's face is impassive. "I apologise." He just has to stand there, after, waiting for a dismissal, because he has a strong feeling that he will be scolded otherwise.

 

"Are you quite well?" Daehee asks, raising an eyebrow. Surprised, Jimin opens his mouth to answer what would appear to be a polite question, but the other omega apparently isn't finished. "I think you must be unwell, to forget such politeness in front of the future king's consort and other high ranking courtiers."

 

The blush on Jimin's face deepens, and he's sure that his skin is not a horrible tomato colour. "I- I really do apologise for my rudeness. It will not happen again."

 

"I am sure it will not." Daehee rises from his position on the chaise lounge, and strolls over to Jimin, waving a hand at the other courtiers scattered around who immediately return to making conversation and not looking at Jimin. "You will be leaving soon, anyway, so I suppose you will not need to struggle with such things for much longer."

 

Biting his tongue, Jimin nods, the most he can do considering how sick Daehee's words make him feel. He watches as Daehee's eyes flit down to his large stomach and back up, and as he hums to himself.

 

"Physician Lee says that your health is well, and I am glad of it. I suppose that you are excited to leave the castle."

 

Jimin has to stop himself from opening and closing his mouth like a fool, stuttering out a  "yes," before clenching his jaw. He doesn't know why Daehee is talking to him at all; maybe he is simply mocking Jimin, and taking pleasure in making him feel insignificant. The other omega raises his eyebrow at him again, and Jimin tries to formulate a better reply. "Yes, I am, um, looking forward to seeing my family." After a few more seconds of Daehee's stony expression, he realises how insensitive that probably was, to someone who is literally kingdoms away from their family. "You must be excited to have your own family."

 

His own words hurt him, but he is more concerned in that moment with pleasing Daehee so he can leave and hide in his bedroom once more. He also can't help but notice, now that Jimin has had time to breathe, that he can smell Yoongi on Daehee ever so slightly, and when he realises Jimin wants to leave twice as much.

 

Daehee presses his lips together, looking like he is considering it. "Having an heir will put the kingdom in a great place of stability, as I am sure you know. Of course I will have to consider some candidates for governesses and nursery hands." He waves at the door. "You may go.”

 

Jimin's mouth goes dry. Thoughts of leaving go out of the window as he becomes preoccupied by the idea of the pup being handed off to nursery hands and governesses, into the world of a royal upbringing. Something he hadn’t really thought about before.

 

Ignoring Daehee's dismissal, he says, "nursery hands?"

 

“Well, yes. Who else will run the nursery?” Daehee narrows his eyes. “You were dismissed.”

 

Irrational anger bubbles up inside him, and Jimin’s mind is too busy to even try to reign it in. He feels his jaw clench, his fists balled up so his blunt nails press into his palms, and the other omega is looking at him like he is an insolent child. Maybe he is.

 

“Maybe I wasn’t ready to be dismissed,” Jimin hisses. “You know, you may be a noble, but that does not mean that you can be an awful person.”

 

Shocked at Jimin’s outburst, Daehee steps back. Jimin knows, he knows, that this is something he could be punished for, and yet he still gives Daehee one final nasty look before he turns around and walks away.

 

“I will dismiss myself,” he says, loud enough for the other omega to hear.

 

When he is more than three corridors away, the haze in his mind clears somewhat, and he realises what he has just done. That was so, ridiculously stupid, and he has no idea what came over him - it was like he was completely taken out of his mind, blinded by thoughts and a strange anger.

 

It was the word nursery that triggered it, he is sure. He feels like a weakling, as well as a deep self hatred coursing through his veins for being so naive, and not thinking about his position and what is to come in the future, for avoiding all of it like an irresponsible child.

 

He remembers that even Yoongi had worried whether he would have the time to teach his child how to ride. Of course, Daehee would have many things to attend to, many duties alongside his mate, when Yoongi becomes king. He knows that children are not present at court, but he had somehow thought that the heir to the throne would be an exception.

 

And yet, somehow his mind had become taken with thoughts of Yoongi raising the child, teaching it to ride a horse, and although it was difficult to think of the baby in Daehee's arms, Jimin had always imagined them being taken care of by a warm, loving family. Not nurses and governesses and the things that should have been obvious to him.

 

His instincts had come in the way of his rational thought, and now Jimin is sure that he will face consequences. If he had been rational, Jimin is sure that he would not have said such things, or acted like he had any right to be angry about anything even vaguely concerning the upbringing of the pup.

 

Because he doesn’t have the right.



--



Jimin doesn't cry. He refuses to, not any more. He reaches his bedroom and closes his door with shaking hands, and starts to pace, up and down.

 

He holds his bump in his hands, the walk having put the pup to sleep, apparently, but the need to touch and to hold within him as strong as ever. The need to protect, a flare in his instincts that has him angry as well as the constant sadness he has felt for the past two months, although he doesn't know what at, exactly. Life at court for children? This will have been in place for years on years, all children raised in the same fashion. Nobody had even lied to him about it. Or was he angry at himself for agreeing to give up his own pup to such a place, to give up his own pup in the first place.

 

Because it is part of him, this pup. Part him, and part Yoongi. He already knows, somehow, that this tiny person is so wonderful, and deserves so much.

 

"You do, don't you," he whispers. The pup doesn't respond. "You deserve all the love in the kingdom."

 

It's all he can think of, now, even when he tries to tell himself that this is normal for the heir to the throne. His pup being raised by strangers, nurses and physicians and nannies and random people, and being kept at arm’s length by their parents.

 

But of course he doesn't know this for sure. For all he knows, Daehee may love the child, raise them as his own. Part of Jimin, a big part, just can't believe it, though; not after he had spoken to Daehee earlier. The other omega had appeared so unexcited, and it brings an ache to his chest.

 

And he wants Yoongi to fix it.

 

He is so far from calm, anger and self righteousness straightening his back and making him narrow his eyes. An idea takes place in his mind, and at the back of his mind he knows it's a bad idea, but by time the thought fully forms itself he is marching out the door.

 

He doesn't know where Yoongi's apartment will be, just that it will be somewhere in the West wing, which is unfortunately where everyone else will be - he has the common sense to remember to avoid people on his way there, taking the route to the apartment where he and Daehee are allowed to spend time when guests occupy the castle.

 

When he reaches there, he has to figure out the safe route that Daehee would presumably take back to his rooms. He finds a small corridor, and after listening carefully, he deems it quiet enough to be empty.

 

Luckily for him, it is approaching dinner time, which means that everyone has gone back to their rooms to change. He hopes that Yoongi will be there, and not at a council meeting, or something. As he walks a little further, he starts to take deep inhales, trying to decide whether he can really pick up Yoongi's scent, or he's just imagining it.

 

He doesn't think he is, because he swears that it gets stronger. At the end of a corridor he spots a large door, and he has a strong gut feeling that that's it, that's Yoongi's room. Not just Yoongi's - Daehee's too. The likelihood of Daehee being within these rooms is high, but Jimin pushes through that fear. It's not important, he has something he needs to say.

 

Still, he hesitates for a second before knocking on the door. There's a long moment where Jimin waits with baited breath, hoping that Daehee does not answer.

 

"Jimin?" Yoongi is standing at the door, his waistcoat undone, hair slightly ruffled, like he had just been changing. His mouth has dropped open slightly in surprise. "What- Is there something wrong?"

 

Jimin swallows the lightness he feels in his chest that Yoongi would ask if he is okay, rather than chastise him first for being in this area of the castle. He makes his voice sound as confident and authoritative as he can as he says, "I need to speak to you."

 

It's difficult to ignore how Yoongi smells distinctively worried, his scent overwhelming now they are this close. It's been two months since he has spoken to Yoongi directly, and he realises now how good that was for his attempts to do the right thing; now they are here, Jimin just wants to step closer.

 

He doesn't, but the instinct is there. "To... Are you alright?" There's clear panic surfacing in Yoongi's voice and the way his body tenses, and Jimin gives a quick sharp nod. He doesn't want Yoongi to turn him away because it isn't some kind of emergency of his health. When he doesn't say anything else, Yoongi jus continues to look at him in worry, until it probably becomes clear that Jimin is here for something important.

 

Glancing behind him for a moment, Yoongi closes the door behind him, stepping out into the corridor. "Let me find somewhere, then."

 

Jimin follows Yoongi quietly as he heads off back in the direction from which Jimin came, and after a few twists and turns they seem to have left the area where all of the bedrooms are, reaching a smaller room, tucked away.

 

"I used to hide here, when I was a child. Nobody will find us," Yoongi says, indicating a slightly less fashionable looking couch in the corner. Jimin tentatively sits on the edge, the alpha sitting beside him, a respectable amount of distance between them.

 

Taking a deep breath, Jimin readies himself to speak, in a way that he completely understands is disrespectful and a little dangerous to speak to an alpha, as an omega. "I spoke to your mate, today."

 

"My... Really?" Yoongi looked truly shocked, now. "Was he rude to you? I am so sorry-"

 

"No," Jimin interrupts. "That's not important. But it brought to my attention something that I haven't really thought about before, about- about the pup. I know that it works different here, I know that there are different things... and that you will be busy, as king."

 

Yoongi nods, watching him with an intense gaze that Jimin can't meet, it's too much. At least it feels like the alpha is truly listening to him.

 

"And I want to- to ask you-" he falters, and out of the corner of his eye he sees Yoongi's hand reaching towards him before pulling away. Jimin wraps his own arm around his bump, around the pup, as a comfort instead, and centres himself, purposefully pulling his eyes up to look at Yoongi and make eye contact. This is important. "I want to ask you, to promise me, that you will love and care for this pup, and be there for them. I know it's a lot to ask, but I need to know that they- they will be happy."

 

There’s a whoosh sound as all of the air seems to leave Yoongi’s lungs, and the alpha deflates in front of Jimin’s eyes. The emotions on his face are so raw, it almost hurts to look at. “I think I understand, and I am not sure what I can give you what you ask for, Jimin. Not in the way you ask.” Looking down at his lap, Yoongi watches his hands curl up into fists and loosen, several times. "There are many restrictions, as king. I was raised in this way, too. Sometimes I would go days without seeing my parents. I want to be different this time, of course I do, but-”

 

“Then do it,” Jimin interrupts. ”If you want to…”

 

“Of course,” Yoongi agrees softly. “I do not want to seem like some kind of coward. I want to raise o- my child. I will promise you, though I- that I will love them, with my whole heart. You have my word." The alpha looks back up at him, and it feels like Jimin is being hit in the face. For one, he believes Yoongi. And maybe it is just because of his feelings for him, but Jimin wants to believe him, so badly. Wants to believe that Yoongi will do this, maybe not for Jimin, but for himself.

 

Overwhelmingly, though, he is hit by the fact that after these months, the avoidance and pain and the constant mental torture about how Jimin is a bad person for wanting him, he still feels this about the alpha. It still feels like this to be in his presence.

 

It feels like a clear summer's day on his skin, waking up from a good dream, warm bedsheets and the joy of hitting the target with a bow and arrow. It's tinged with all of the horrible things, too, but Jimin resents that what he feels is so wonderful, anyway. It makes it difficult to look at Yoongi, particularly when he looks back at Jimin with such concern.

 

"I believe you," he breathes on a sigh. There's relief there, somewhere, but it doesn't make the situation any easier, not really. He now just has to face the rest of what is to come. "Thank you."

 

They sit in silence, and Jimin begins to muster up the energy to stand and leave, even though his instincts are telling him to stay with the alpha and breathe in his scent, when Yoongi speaks again.

 

"Jimin… I have missed you."

 

Jimin's mouth goes dry. He isn't here for this, this wasn't what he came for. He makes to stand, but Yoongi is quicker.

 

"Wait, please. Give me a minute, I need to apologise."

 

"Apologise?" the omega croaks out weakly. He doesn't understand what Yoongi would have to apologise for.

 

"Yes." Yoongi's voice is firm, and he draws himself up, even though the way he looks at Jimin is mournful. Jimin's automatic urge is to comfort, but he holds himself back. "I have been unfair to you, in so many ways. I indulged in... in this, without thinking about the impact that could have on you, or the consequences." He gestures back and forth between them, and Jimin nods in mute understanding, his cheeks burning. "I am so very sorry."

 

Watching his face, Jimin freezes, unable to do anything at all. He understands what Yoongi is saying, but not why the apology is necessary. "I don't.... Why are you apologising to me? Shouldn't you be doing that to...to..."

 

"No," Yoongi sighs, and Jimin sees it almost in slow motion as Yoongi reaches for his hand. After a second he becomes aware that it is because Yoongi is in fact reaching for him very slowly, giving him a chance to pull away. He doesn't, lets the alpha's long fingers curl over his, a gentle hold. "It's you that I made cry, and it- it-"

 

Yoongi's scent is becoming more and more bitter, and it feels like Jimin's heart stutters to a stop as he sees his mouth twists down, upset, and his eyes grow red and a little wet. His response is something close to panic, because he has never seen Yoongi cry, and the image is so jarring, an alpha crying like that right in front of him.

 

"It was awful, and I hated seeing you like that. You deserve so much better. I wanted- I wanted to come and say this to you, after that day, but..." Jimin turns his hand slightly to grip Yoongi's fingers. "You told me to leave, and I wanted to respect that."

 

"So... you're sorry for... spending so much time with me?

 

Yoongi shakes his head, clearing his throat. It sounds wet. "No. I am sorry that I did that, whilst making you uncomfortable with the way I did it. I touched too much, approached you in a forward way." He sighs, closing his eyes momentarily. "I am sorry for wanting you so much it took over my mind, made me stupid."

 

It feels like Yoongi's words wrap around him, around his head, his chest, his throat, until Jimin cannot breathe. For so long, all he has thought of is how wrong it is to want Yoongi, to want him to hold him or kiss him or just touch him, all the time. Selfishly, he had never thought about what Yoongi could be feeling. "Yoongi..."

 

"I am sorry for falling for you, and making you deal with it in this way. I know you must think that I am some kind of awful, irresponsible alpha, and I do not want you to think of me like that, although I suppose it cannot be helped, since my actions have been so reckless."

 

"It wasn't just you," Jimin blurts, before biting his own lip harshly. Yoongi frowns, so he makes himself continue. "I did- I did too. I was bad too."

 

"Bad- No, you were not, Jimin, please do not think that," Yoongi says quickly, desperately, almost. He reaches for Jimin's face just as slowly as he had reached for his hand, and when he eventually cups his cheek, Jimin feels a tug in his chest, like he almost wants to cry, sadness and relief. It's like everything is coming to the surface, all the pain, all the guilt, and he wasn't prepared for all of this today.

 

"But I was," he whispers. "I am. Because I wanted, too." As the words wash over Yoongi, his face changing as he is taken aback, Jimin decides to be completely honest. Even if it hurts him worse. "Want."

 

"Want," Yoongi repeats quietly. The omega's heart drops as his hand is left, Yoongi's fingers withdrawing, but he tells himself that he deserves that. That is, until Yoongi brings that hand to cup his other cheek, his thumbs stroking the skin. It's dry, Jimin isn't crying, but he still feels like his insides are being squeezed, in a sharp kind of pain.

 

The omega nods, and adds, "I thought it was just me."

 

"That's... Jimin," Yoongi sounds so helpless, and it echoes so much of what Jimin is experiencing, it resonates within him. There's a short pause, the quiet making it even harder for Jimin to breathe. "I am sorry it happened like this."

 

This makes Jimin smile the tiniest bit, wryly. "How would you have preferred it?"

 

"I would have preferred if I could court you," Yoongi says immediately, levelling him with such a serious gaze that Jimin is winded, and can't help but believe him completely. "I would ask your family's permission to mate you, and have you no matter what the dowry. Fall in love with you happily, and make you happy, however I could. Have a family, if you wanted one, and when you want one. Live together, until we are old. In another lifetime," he says as his voice turns absolutely wretched, "maybe I could have."

 

"What?" Jimin croaks, and his whole body start to tremble. The pup is kicking, but he feels like he's not really there, feels everything so distantly. All he can see are Yoongi's dark eyes, the aching sorrow there, and the regret.

 

"It is more than simple wanting, Jimin. I hope you know that. I would like to think that I would not let simple desire affect me so."

 

For a split second, Jimin allows himself, for once, to get lost in that fantasy. In another life, Yoongi mating him. Bringing him home to Jimin's family. Waking up to him asleep beside Jimin, every morning. Raising their pups together, in a way where they receive all of the love and attention they deserve from parents who adore them.

 

And having someone to adore him, too. And that someone being Yoongi, who he has been so scared to want, has tried to stop himself so much that it occupies most of his waking thoughts. Being able to look after Yoongi, too, and love him freely. Jimin doesn't want to call what he feels now love, but if he was allowed to nurture it, who knows how wonderful it could have become.

 

"I didn't know," he whispers weakly.

 

"I thought you did." Yoongi looks like he is taking in Jimin's face, tracing all of his features with his eyes. He looks nothing but tired and sad. "I thought I gave myself away, at the ball, when you were dancing and I saw you see me watching you."

 

"Maybe I did know, then." Closing his eyes, Jimin breathes in deeply, and lets it out once more. "I don't know what to do. I haven't for so long. I feel so helpless," he confesses. It feels good to say the words out loud, even if they won't achieve anything.

 

"I understand."

 

And for a second, when Jimin utters those words, he feels a little less lonely.

 

When we leave this room, we will have to continue as before , Jimin realises. It won't even be long until the pup is due. They don't have any time, confession or no. This whole moment was meaningless, futile.

 

Jimin has done a lot of holding himself back, over the past few months. Trying not to do things, feel things. Surprising himself and his emotions to the point of real pain. His morals are still at war with him, and he knows that they must be for Yoongi, too, the need to do what is right and fair.

 

But he wants to take one more moment to be selfish. Just one, because he knows that he won't get any more.

 

"Yoongi," Jimin says thickly. "Kiss me."

 

The transformation of Yoongi's face is something astonishing. Jimin watches it unfurl with a sad kind of wonder; the shock, and then the want, as well as the heartache, the latter two being equally obvious in the spike of his scent. Waiting for an answer has Jimin feeling a kind of peace, within him, because at least he knows that the alpha wants to, even if he decides that they should not. It's almost as good as a kiss. Almost.

 

"I do not want to hurt you even more than I already have."

 

"Does it matter?" Jimin asks frankly, and Yoongi makes a hurt noise, his fingers stroking Jimin's cheek.

 

"I want it to matter," Yoongi mutters. Coming to a stop at the corner of Jimin's mouth, his eyes flicker from there to the omega's eyes. "How unknowing I was, when I kissed you on that first night, so many months ago."

 

Jimin nods, understanding that feeling completely. And then, very slowly, Yoongi is leaning in.

 

There's something between them, Yoongi's stomach pressing up against Jimin's swollen one lightly as he moves forward, and both of them are breathing unsteadily, and Jimin's heart is surely going to beat out of his chest, but he realises that there is nothing he wants more in that moment. One of Yoongi's hands drops to rest on Jimin's side, covering part of the bump.

 

And when their lips touch, for a split second, it's like Jimin forgets everything. Like a deep exhale, letting go of it all, and all he can feel is Yoongi's mouth, his hands, and the warmth of his body, as Yoongi kisses him so carefully, like he himself is scared that the moment will shatter.

 

It's chaste, and would be sweet if this could be a sweet moment, but it isn't. There is no rush to either of their movements, and Jimin kisses back with all the feeling he can muster, because Yoongi had given him such heartfelt words and Jimin hadn't truly given them back, but he can give Yoongi this.

 

It's prolonged by both of them, both moving back in when they kiss would naturally break, extending it for minutes on minutes. Eventually, Jimin runs out of air.

 

He hovers there, their lips still touching, as light as a feather, and Jimin keeps his eyes closed. Wants to keep the moment, just for a little longer.

 

It doesn't last, though. All of those awful feelings of guilt and wrongness creep back in, but mostly just a sense of horrible finality. He makes a tiny, helpless noise as Yoongi pulls away, kissing him just as softly on the forehead.

 

"Yoongi, I can't-" he cuts himself off, and he doesn't know what that kiss did to him but it  has unleashed a wave of emotions that he thought he had locked down. It's hard to keep his voice steady, and it cracks multiple times when he speaks. "I don't know what to do, it's so much, I can't- you, the pup-"

 

Wrapping his arms around him, Yoongi pulls him into a tight hug. He can practically smell Yoongi's anguish, as well as being able to feel how unsteady he is, how shaky his breaths are. "I know," he mumbles into Jimin's hair. They stay there like that, and Jimin breathes Yoongi in, his scent something that Jimin is fast realising will never not affect him.

 

"It's so bad," he confesses, face pressed into the alpha's shoulder. "So bad I would even be willing to stay." There's a rumble in Yoongi's chest, and Jimin screws his eyes closed. He's just being honest, he doesn't even know if Yoongi would want him to stay. "Not that they would ever let me."

 

"You would not want it," Yoongi murmurs. "I know that you are unhappy here, I see you, all the time. The last time I saw you happy was at the queen's ball, and that was months upon months ago." Rubbing his cheek against Jimin's hair, he sighs. "I have long been resigned to a life that I have no say in, a lack of control, but it doesn't have to be like that for you, Jiminie." The nickname makes his heart jump, and Jimin sighs at the feeling. "You have so much to be excited for, when you leave this place. Do not get caught up in this. In- in me."

 

When Jimin opens his eyes, he doesn't look at Yoongi, he looks down between him, to where the pup is still kicking away inside. "Easier said than done."

 

"Jimin." Yoongi looks at him directly in the eye. Jimin’s breath hitches. "Listen to me. I think you should do whatever you need to do."

 

Taking the time to absorb the words, he nods slowly. He doesn’t know what to do with that, not really. But Yoongi wants me to be happy is what echoes through his mind.

 

For some reason, he thinks that the words will be most meaningful when he has already left the castle.



--



Every step back to his room has Jimin aching. His back hurts and he feels so drained, like he has done a whole day's work at his father's shop without a break. There have been too many emotional shocks, too much of whatever it is that courses through him and makes his heart pound like he needs to run or fight whatever is scaring him.

 

He decides that he cannot be alone, not tonight. Halfway back to his room, he decides to head to the servant’s quarters, to find Taehyung. Maybe he can convince the beta to stay with him tonight. Jimin doesn’t need dinner, maybe he can simply stay in Taehyung’s room in the meantime.

 

It’s awful that despite everything, Yoongi saying that he wants him makes him so irrevocably happy . At the same time, it is horrible, because there is nothing they can do with that. There is nothing he can do to fix it; their lives - Yoongi’s, in particular - have been taken out of their own hands.

 

Bitterly, he thinks about how unfair it is, but in kind of a distant, hazy way. He accepts it, almost. The kiss was just a seal, a final reminder of what he could not have. He knew this already, of course, had known it for months, but that moment, in that room, was like a moment of closure.

 

Passing a familiar set of rooms, he heads down a staircase, trying his hardest to rid himself of the tight feeling in his gut that he attributes to regret and melancholy. Somehow, he doubts that it will go away fully for a long time.

 

It’s two more corridors down that he realises that it’s not an emotional effect, this knot. There’s a pain building in his lower stomach. For a few seconds, it’s bearable, and just confusing, and his mother’s words - it’s probably just trapped wind! - spoken so frequently in his childhood as she rubbed his stomach, comfort him for a moment, and he lets out a little giggle at the thought.

 

Not a few steps later and Jimin realises that whatever this is is not trapped wind. He is stopped in his tracks by a tight, tight pain in his stomach.

 

"Oh," he gasps quietly. "Oh, oh." It hurts so much, like something is squeezing inside of him, and one hand immediately goes to cup his stomach, worry and fear taking over him.

 

He slowly slides down to one knee, his eyes screwing shut at the terrible, terrible pain.

It might pass quickly, but the shock of it keeps him on his knee, shock that quickly turns into panic. Is something wrong?

 

The pain distracts him so much that he doesn’t feel his pants get wet until the liquid has spread to his knees.

 

Something must be wrong.

 

“Help,” he cries out weakly, so pathetically quiet he wants to scream. A moment later, after clearing his throat, he really does. “Help!”



--




Chapter Text

It feels like forever, but the pain actually probably lasts less than a minute. Half a minute, even, and then he is left kneeling on the floor and feeling like all of his breath was knocked out of him. His pants are wet, and he makes a disgusted noise as he makes to stand again on trembling legs.

 

He has to find help. He has no idea whether something just went wrong, whether that was normal, whether the pup is in danger. Fear seizes through his heart once more as he thinks of the pup being in danger, a life that he is supposed to be protecting.

 

As he stands, he stumbles a little, holding onto the wall for support. There are people ahead, he knows, and it won't take him long to walk, but his legs are shaking from the shock and how downright scared he is. He calls out again, hoping someone will come and find him. "Help! I need help, here!"

 

Nobody responds.

 

Drawing in a deep breath, Jimin takes a step forward, and then another, slowly making his way down the hallway. His back is aching, a constant, dull pain that doesn't match up to whatever he was feeling in his lower stomach just before, but still terrifies him. What if he did something wrong, and hurt the pup?

 

He turns a corner, and now he can hear voices; there's a set of stairs, steep and winding, that he knows he has to make his way down, and he feels tears well up in his eyes.

 

"Please help, someone!" If he could just be louder, he is sure that someone would hear him. Wetly, he clears his throat as he comes to stand at the top of the stairs, the hand that is holding him up against the wall weak and shaky. When he calls out next, it's much louder, echoing down the staircase. "Help!"

 

He is just going to have to brave the stairs. Bending his legs so he will not be thrown off balance, he takes the first step down. But then, a voice has him stopping in his tracks.

 

"Hello? Who is that? Do you need help?"

 

Jimin nearly sobs with relief. "Yes, please, I'm here, please help me," he croaks, hoping to everything dear to him that they hear. The sound of loud footsteps nearly has him crumpling back down to his knees, before two figures appear as they make their way up the stairs, the first one going immediately to him and putting a hand around his waist to steady him.

 

"Oh gosh, is that-"

 

"Yerim, go get help," the beta woman with her arm around Jimin's waist hisses at the other girl, and she turns straight away to run back down the staircase.

 

"Taehyung, please get Taehyung," Jimin manages to get out, letting himself lean on the attendant. He doesn't know whether she heard, but next thing he knows he is being pulled back down the corridor from which he came.

 

"Let's get you back to your room, Sir," the woman says firmly. Jimin focuses on his steps, blinking the tears out of his eyes that threaten to fall.

 

"I'm scared," he chokes out. "I don't know what's happening."

 

"Well, from the looks of you, you've gone into labour," she says, not unkindly. "I think your water broke."

 

But that's just not right, Jimin thinks, because he had weeks to go. Or maybe he didn't, he doesn't know. All he knows is that he was in no way prepared for this.

 

"I'm not ready," he says helplessly, although his legs have gained a little strength underneath him, the shock of the pain having passed. The beta makes a sympathetic noise, but doesn't offer him much in the way of comfort.

 

It doesn't take long before they reach his bedroom, and the attendant helps Jimin onto the bed, promptly helping him to remove his ruined trousers. When he sees no blood on his thighs, he breathes a sigh of relief, although his heart is still beating far too fast. It's still too early.

 

"Arms up," the beta instructs, and Jimin's shirt is lifted away and replaced by a long night shirt. The attendant is gentle with him, but he can't help but wish that it were someone else there, like Taehyung. Or Yoongi.

 

He doesn't even know if Yoongi will come. It might not be considered appropriate, or necessary. His palms dampen, and he leans forward in an attempt to ease the pain in his back.

 

"What do I do now?" he asks the attendant, voice weak. At this point, she looks about as confident as Jimin does.

 

"Just wait," she says eventually. She turns slightly, stepping towards the door, and Jimin outright panics.

 

"Please stay, I don't- I don't want to be alone," he utters.

 

The moment is long where she stands there, unmoving, until she steps closer and sits beside him on the edge of the bed. Jimin focuses back on regulating his breathing to a steady in and out, and trying to find a way to sit comfortably.

 

After a few minutes, the pup starts to kick at his ribs, and Jimin wants to cry again from the relief that they are alright, still moving, still there.

 

After a little while of silence, the pain in Jimin's back starts to worsen, and he feels a tightening in his stomach. Pain builds and builds there until he is grasping the beta's hand so tightly he is sure that he is hurting her, and he lets go. Pressing his lips together, he forces himself to stay quiet as he starts to rock backwards and forwards, trying to ease it.

 

After seconds go by of the pain heightening, he lets out a low noise. The sensation starts to dissipate after a few more seconds, and his whole body starts to relax again; he realises that he was holding his breath a little, and realises that he really shouldn't do that. Or maybe he should, he doesn't actually know. He's so scared that he will mess something up.

 

It's not too long before he starts to hear a commotion outside, and loud footsteps, like someone is running - and the door almost bursts open, a windswept looking Taehyung at the entrance.

 

"Jiminie, the physician has been sent for, he will be here soon, what happened?"

 

"Taehyungie," Jimin breathes, and Taehyung covers the space between them in quick, long strides, taking the place of the other attendant who is already rushing out of the door.

 

"Wait, Yongsun, please have a bath run for Jimin," Taehyung calls to her, waiting to receive her nod of assent before he turns his attention back to the omega. He folds Jimin's hand carefully between his, and looks at him carefully from head to toe. For a moment Jimin lets his instincts take over, and he leans in to tuck his head under Taehyung's chin, for a few seconds of safety.

 

It's not quite the relief he wants, though, and he still feels like he's about to shake out of his own skin from the nerves.

 

"It was- I was just walking, to find you, and then it hurt and I was really surprised and worried and then my legs were wet-"

 

"Hey, hey, it's okay," Taehyung soothes gently, a hand stroking through Jimin's hair that has started to dampen from sweat. "The physician is coming, and he will check if anything is wrong. This might be completely normal, don't worry."

 

"But they're early, Taehyungie," Jimin breathes, sitting straight again and attempting to find somewhere comfortable to sit. "What if I did something wrong, and the pup is coming early, and-"

 

"Jimin, Jimin, it's okay, it's not your fault."

 

The omega wants to believe him, he really does. Something in him just won't settle, though, a feeling of wrongness that he doesn't want to believe is because there is something wrong with the pup, but his mind keeps straying there.

 

A sharp knock on the door is all the warning they get before Physician Lee is strolling in, giving no greetings and raising an eyebrow at Jimin, sat where he is on the bed.

 

"You will need to lay back in order to let me examine you."

 

Jimin can't scramble to comply, but if he were able, he would - instead, Taehyung helps him get into a position where he is lying on his back, his legs bent at the knee with his feet planted on the sheets. Since he can't see past his legs, Jimin can't see the doctor as he kneels there, so instead he looks at Taehyung's face, his reaction to Physician Lee's examination.

 

Fighting any discomfort he feels at being touched, because the touches are very gentle and Jimin is more overwhelmingly concerned for the pup, he curls his toes against the bedding and tries to hold very still. It's an excruciatingly long amount of time before Physician Lee stands once more, wiping his hands on a towel on his waistband, expression blank.

 

"Everything looks to be fine," he says brusquely. "How far apart are the pains?"

 

Jimin's mouth drops open slightly. "Um, I don't know. How far apart should they- should they be?"

 

The beta tsks in response, frowning at Jimin. "That depends." He doesn't say anything else, nothing to comfort or calm Jimin. It leaves him deeply anxious, and the rising panic makes him want to berate the man for not truly reassuring him or trying to make sure that Jimin is calm, or maybe even happy. The latter is far too much to ask for, he knows, and maybe it's his body putting him so on edge or making him so emotional, but he just wishes that the people around him would care. Would try and make him comfortable and relaxed, the way that he is sure his own family attempted to make Ryeowook when it came time for him to birth his pup.

 

With a deep sigh, the doctor's hand dips into the pocket of his long jacket, pulling out a flash of gold. "Time it on this," he instructs, handing a gold pocket watch to Taehyung, who takes in gingerly. It looks expensive, so Jimin is not surprised.

 

"You're leaving?" Jimin asks, panic evident in his voice. He wonders what he must smell like right now, and if that's why Taehyung who is ever so sensitive to scents is holding his hand so tightly.

 

"There are several things that you will need for the birth that I clearly do not currently have with me, and I must go to prepare." He gives Jimin a strange look, like he doesn't understand his panic. "It will be some hours yet before you are ready."

 

As the doctor leaves, he addresses Taehyung, and Jimin feels entirely stupid. "I must update the king and queen on your condition. I will return to check on him soon."

 

"Will-" Jimin swallows the name that comes up, in his head rephrasing the question he was about to ask. "Will the royal family be coming to, um, see the birth?"

 

Apparently such a question was a mistake. Jimin can actually see the way that the physician tries not to openly scoff at him, he is so bad at hiding his derision. "It is not my place for me to know. I advise that you rest as normal for the next few hours, and like I said, I will return shortly."

 

Jimin hears more than sees him leave, as he looks away from the man that has caused him nothing but upset for months. "I will be glad to never see him again when I- when I leave here," he mutters.

 

"At least you know that he must not be worried if he is willing to leave you," Taehyung comforts him. Ever so sweet, he pulls down Jimin's nightshirt, covering his modesty. "Hey, let me help you with a bath, yes? Get you clean and more comfortable." His best friend stands, holding out his arms to help Jimin up. Nodding, Jimin gets to his feet without help, but takes his arm just in case as they walk.

 

The bath is almost ready by the time he and Taehyung get there together, and when Jimin climbs in it does help relieve the ache in his muscles somewhat, although he gets another bout of pain while in there, and his friend holds his hand through it.

 

As Jimin steps out of the tub, his legs tremble ever so slightly from the echo of the pain, and he makes an annoyed noise. "This is making me feel so weak," he murmurs frustratedly. Taehyung just looks at him in surprise.

 

"But this such a demonstration of your strength, Jiminie." Taehyung helps him back into a nightshirt, and they move back into his bedroom. "Your body is so strong, is managing this just fine, Physician Lee even said so. And you are strong, too," he says, squeezing Jimin's arm. "You are scared and that's fine. That doesn't make you weak."

 

Jimin tries to take in those words, accept them as truth. There's a sense of impatience within him that just isn't possible to satisfy, like he's a sitting duck, because all he has been told to do is wait. Maybe if he fully understood what was going on it wouldn't be as bad, but somehow he doubts that idea. In the end, it's just a waiting game that he will have to deal with.

 

Another pain catches hold of him as they sit on the bed, and all of the muscles in his body tense up. He flaps his hand at Taehyung, who at first just thinks that Jimin wants to hold it - it takes the omega thirty seconds to get out that he wants to know how far apart the pains were.

 

"Twenty two minutes, Jiminie.”

 

"Ow," he replies helplessly, and Taehyung actually laughs.

 

"I know. I was actually there when my youngest brother was born. It wasn't really different to this," Taehyung reminisces. "I think you're doing really well."

 

Footsteps in the corridor alert them both to someone's presence, and Jimin gives a little sigh. "I suppose my room will be a very popular location for the next few hours." The steps are far more panicked than even Taehyung's were before, and Jimin can't help the paranoia, wondering whether someone is being sent with bad news, whether it's Physician Lee, when a the footsteps come to a stop before the door.

 

"Can I come in?" The voice is so familiar, deep, and terse, and Jimin lets out a little noise, whether pain or relief or something he doesn't know, to hear Yoongi's voice right then.

 

Taehyung looks to him, before calling out an questioning, "yes?"

 

The door opens slowly, cautiously, and eventually Yoongi's face comes into view. It changes immediately as he spots Jimin, becoming something Jimin has never seen before. He looks almost frightened, and steps forward seemingly against his own volition. "Jimin."

 

"Yoongi," Jimin manages to get out, strained. The alpha takes another step towards him, and Jimin notices how pale he is, how wide his eyes are. "You came."

 

This breaks the spell, and Yoongi makes his way straight to Jimin's side. He holds his hand out for Yoongi to take, before Yoongi can even hesitate to hold it.

 

"I came as soon as I could-"

 

"It's alright," Jimin interrupts on a sigh. He breathes in Yoongi's scent, and something deep within him settles. Moving closer to nuzzle into Jimin's hair, Yoongi seems to be doing the same; Jimin hears his shaky exhale. Out of curiosity, Jimin raises his hand to Yoongi's chest, and the alpha's heart is absolutely thundering. As he feels it very gradually slow, he doesn't mention it.

 

"Has Physician Lee been here?" Yoongi's voice still carries urgency, so Jimin nods quickly to reassure him.

 

"Yes, he said everything looked fine."

 

"Um," Taehyung says, shifting away from them slightly. He looks uncomfortable, and Jimin's stomach drops as he remembers that this isn't usual behaviour with the crown prince, would look quite shocking from an outside perspective. "Jimin?"

 

"Taehyungie-" Jimin pauses, unsure what to say.

 

"Do you want me to go?" the beta asks, unsure. He looks between Jimin and Yoongi where they are sat close, Jimin being unwilling to pull away any more than he is currently.

 

"No! You don't have to," Jimin reassures him quickly. "I don't want you to."

 

But then Taehyung looks at Yoongi, and Jimin understands that he wasn't really asking Jimin. The omega turns to look at the alpha too, to assess his expression and challenge him if needed, but Yoongi is already shaking his head.

 

"No, Jimin wants you to stay, you should stay, Taehyung. I trust that you know a great deal of things from Jimin anyway," he says, and Jimin lets out a quiet breath of relief.

 

Clearing his throat, Taehyung continues to look between them hesitantly, although he nods his assent. It takes a second for him to collect himself, and Jimin wonders what kind of interaction he has had with Yoongi previously; it may be that it was very guarded, proper, as an attendant would speak to the crown prince. He hopes that his friend isn’t too uncomfortable. When he does speak, he mutters something about getting Jimin comfortable, and he gingerly moves forward to help him.

 

Jimin scoots back and settles against the pillows. Yoongi stays directly by his side the entire time, and Jimin leans into his touch, wanting more when he brushes his fingers through Jimin's hair or moves a hand down to massage at Jimin's back.

 

"How has it been, so far?" Yoongi asks him. "Painful?"

 

"I think you might see, in a few minutes," Jimin says darkly. He is trying to mentally prepare himself for another pain, and he thinks his back ache is getting a little worse, which probably means that there is one coming. Yoongi nods, eyes a little wide, and Jimin thinks wryly that he is probably unprepared for Jimin's reaction.

 

"I am going to get some towels, Jiminie," Taehyung says, standing. "I will be back in a moment, I promise."

 

Jimin gives him a weak smile, and watches his back as he leaves the room. Finds himself hoping again that Taehyung is not too intimidated by Yoongi’s presence, because he really needs his friend at that moment.

 

"Are you feeling okay?" Yoongi asks him quietly. He has taken Jimin's hand, and he can't tell whether Yoongi's hand is sweating too or if it's just Jimin's.

 

"I'm-" Jimin automatically goes to say that he's okay, he's fine, Yoongi doesn't need to worry, but looking in Yoongi's eyes, he remembers being so honest with him, just hours before. "I'm scared."

 

The alpha swallows visibly at that, and reaches up to cup Jimin's cheek with his spare hand. "Me too," he admits. "But you are going to be just fine, Jiminie. And so will the pup."

 

The pup. Jimin finally feels a little bit of excitement, that they will finally be here, the little person that he has been talking to for months, who has probably stopped him from going insane from loneliness. It's not really his place to be excited at all, but he cannot really help it.

 

“I don’t know what’s happening,” he admits, a little ashamed.

 

“That is alright. Physician Lee is a good doctor, and he would not lie about your wellbeing. He will make sure everything will go well. Me, too, although I can do very little.” He pauses to let that sink in, before making an attempt to distract him. ”Do you think it will be a boy or a girl?" he wonders, just as Taehyung walks back in with his towels. Yoongi drops his hand from Jimin's face, but brings it so he is holding the omega's hand between two of his, instead.

 

"I do not know. I do not think it matters too much," the alpha says with honesty. "Do you have a feeling?"

 

Jimin thinks on it, but all he feels is the start of another pain, moving from his lower back and tightening his lower stomach. "Taehyung, how long has it been," he chokes out as he leans forward, clutching his stomach. Yoongi's fingers tighten on his other hand, but Jimin just closes his eyes tight, light spots swimming in the black as he tries to think through it.

 

"Almost exactly twenty minutes," he hears Taehyung say, and Jimin doesn't know what that means, but at least he can tell Physician Lee that the next time he comes back. He can't help the low moan that escapes, the pain making his legs tremble.

 

And then Yoongi's scent is spiking, concern and an instinctual attempt to soothe, and it might be in Jimin's head but it feels like it helps, just a little.

 

"Breathe," the alpha reminds him gently, and Jimin stops holding his breath in, taking steady lungfuls of air that's clouded with Yoongi's scent and therefore a little easier to breathe than before.

 

The pain peters away slowly, and Jimin falls back against the pillows, his back sweaty. Huffing, he blows a few strands of hair out of his eyes. Hearing an echoing huff from Yoongi, his gaze drops to the alpha who is still sitting so close.

 

"Don't laugh at me," he says weakly. Yoongi shakes his head, and before Jimin can even blink, he lands a soft kiss on the omega's cheek.

 

"You are amazing," he murmurs. "Doing so well."

 

Jimin's heart stutters and then just aches, this a horrible reminder of what he cannot have. Still, he is grateful for it, that Yoongi is here, the most comforting of presences. He could do it without him, he thinks, but he doesn't want to. Instead of answering, he squeezes Yoongi's hand.

 

Taehyung approaches the bed and hands Yoongi a wet towel, sitting on the opposite edge to the alpha. Jimin thinks that the only way he could feel safer at this moment is if he were giving birth at home, with his mother present.

 

Yoongi interrupts his thoughts as he wipes the towel over Jimin's forehead gently. Jimin didn't even realise he was that sweaty there, and he then becomes aware of the fact that he must look like a huge mess. Not that it matters.

 

"Do you think it might help you to walk around?" Yoongi asks him.

 

That sounds exhausting, and yet better than his current state of restlessness while cooped up in bed. “No harm in trying,” the omega huffs, pushing himself up on his hands.



--



A pattern forms, and they time the pains as each one comes and goes. Jimin recognises that the first pain in the corridor was not as bad as he thought - it was more the shock of the pain, and the stress that it caused. He realises this after they begin to worsen over time, getting closer together, too, until it feels like Jimin is simultaneously having his stomach squeezed and his energy completely sapped, every time. Twenty minute gaps become ten, and the light fades from the sky as the sun sets. Jimin doesn't even want to ask Taehyung what time it is, just focuses on the decreasing gaps between the pains.

 

Physician Lee had checked on him twice more, eyeing Yoongi without comment and confirming that everything is progressing fine. Apparently the baby will be ready to come when the pains are closer together, so Jimin has Taehyung time it carefully on the pocket watch.

 

The whole time, Yoongi remains by his side, holding his hand and wiping his sweat and massaging his back. It's Taehyung that fills the time with chatter and funny stories, however, as Yoongi stays fairly quiet, unless offering the occasional encouragement and asking Jimin if he needs anything. They don't talk about anything serious, and somehow Jimin feels like the time for that has passed, and he thinks Yoongi may feel the same way. Jimin is almost glad of it, doesn't want to taint these moments with Yoongi with horrible thoughts.

 

After around two hours, probably (it’s around six or seven pains, Jimin thinks), there's a knock at the door, and Taehyung looks at them questioningly as he stands to answer it. Jimin shrugs, and Yoongi doesn't look any less baffled. Jimin doesn't recognise the voice on the other side of the door, either, or the face when Taehyung steps aside to let the man in.

 

"It's someone for the prince," Taehyung says, mild surprise in his voice.

 

It's an attendant, who averts his eyes immediately from Jimin, heading straight for Yoongi. Jimin resents the way that the alpha has to let go of him, straightening up to be approached. The attendant bows and looks nothing short of extremely nervous, but still steps up to whisper in Yoongi's ear.

 

Jimin only catches the words 'emergency' and 'problem', the rest completely inaudible, and when the attendant steps back, there is an irritated twist to Yoongi's mouth.

 

"I see. Well, tell them they will have to do without me just for now," Yoongi says after a moment, gesturing to Jimin as if in explanation. The attendant immediately frowns, and Jimin catches on to what is happening; he wants Yoongi to leave with him. So soon after he arrived; and Jimin thought they would have some peace. How naive of him.

 

The stranger steps forward to whisper in Yoongi's ear yet again, more agitated this time, and he doesn't even look to be finished when Yoongi stands up, causing the man to step away in alarm.

 

"Alright," Yoongi practically hisses, and Jimin sees even Taehyung flinch. "Tell them I will be there shortly. And that I am not happy."

 

Jimin's heart picks up, because Yoongi is going to leave him and the thought sends panic zipping down his spine and curdling in his stomach. When the alpha turns to look at him, his jaw is clenching rhythmically and Jimin can smell the distress coming off of him in waves.

 

"Jimin, I have to go. I promise that I will be back as soon as I can. I gave explicit orders that I am to be left alone for the next few hours, but-" he says, his voice rough. Jimin presses his lips together in an attempt not to cry, and waves his hand towards the door.

 

"Go. There's still plenty of time left," he mutters, more of a reassurance to himself than to Yoongi. There's a lot of unspoken emotion in Yoongi's eyes, and the attendant is still there, so he knows that the alpha cannot act on any of it, but that's fine.

 

It's fine. Jimin can manage by himself for a while.

 

As Yoongi walks away, he looks back at Jimin, that same intensity in his gaze, but Jimin can’t meet it for long. He looks to Taehyung instead, who is already crawling towards him on the bed to situate himself close.

 

“Do not worry, I’m not going anywhere,” the beta whispers, something of a smile on his face. Jimin wishes he could relax into that, be satisfied, but he can’t, and he will just have to deal with that. Letting his head fall back, he mentally prepares for the next pain he can feel coming, willing away the tightness he feels in his throat.

 

That passes with some difficulty, and Taehyung calls for someone afterwards to get them something to eat. He doesn’t leave the room, even though it takes far longer to have someone come to them than the alternative of him doing so, and Jimin is grateful. Particularly when he isn’t alone to go through his next pain, which hurt more and more each time.

 

“Fruit and bread for you,” his friend announces cheerfully when it arrives to the room in the hands of a flustered looking attendant. “Do you want me to feed you?”

 

“I think I can manage,” Jimin hums. Still, Taehyung sits close and shares between their plates, and Jimin is reminded of mealtimes with his siblings.

 

Jimin’s siblings who he will see, less than a day after this is all over. And Taehyung- his best friend doesn’t know. There hadn’t been time to tell him, and Jimin had been so distracted over the past few days, so caught up in the news itself and everything else, that he put off telling him until it was too late, and they don’t even have time anymore to spend just. Being friends.

 

Jimin has to tell him now. They don’t have much time left.

 

"Taehyungie," Jimin calls quietly. "I only have a day left."

 

The beta frowns at him in confusion and mild alarm. "What do you mean?"

 

"They told me, a few days ago. I have a day after the pup is born to leave the castle."

 

Taehyung's mouth drops open, and he immediately rushes closer, walking on his knees so he is right next to Jimin on the bed.

 

"A day- I don't understand, why so little time..." Jimin can't reply, he doesn't know himself, so he just shrugs, trying not to let the sadness of the idea choke him. The fact that he will have to leave Taehyung in a day's time, his closest friend, and probably the closest friend that he has ever made, sickens him - that on top of the idea of leaving Yoongi, and everyone else, too, makes it feel like a dark cloud is hovering over him.

 

"It's okay, just.... Will I even be able to say goodbye to the others?" he wonders sadly. Taehyung gives him a sympathetic look.

 

"I will try and find them and have them come and say goodbye. Don't worry about that right now," he replies, squeezing Jimin's knee.

 

The omega can only sigh in response. "I think... I think that it's not thinking about things that has put me here, Taehyungie." Not thinking properly about the pup, giving birth, trying to avoid his feelings for Yoongi. Even not considering everything properly before he came to the castle. There is just so much.

 

“There is no way to change what is already done.” Tilting his head slightly, Taehyung smiles at him weakly. “I think that it is more important what you do next. You will learn from it, right?”

 

It seems far too simple, far too dismissive, for his current situation, but he cannot expect Taehyung to understand - even though this thought makes him feel awfully world weary. “I hope so.”



--



The pains get closer and closer together, seven minutes and then six, and then five. Jimin knows that he doesn't have much time left. Each one leaves him feeling more and more exhausted and a little bit closer to tears out of frustration, but he composes himself in the short space he has to rest afterwards, every time. Taehyung stays, and it's not the same as having Yoongi there but it's still a comfort. He keeps things more lighthearted, and stops Jimin from getting lost in his own fears.

 

Jimin spends most of the time between pains with his eyes closed, listening to Taehyung's rambling comments about the pup being too excited to wait to come out, that clearly royalty listens to noone. He knows that all of the work is to come, and wants to conserve his energy.

 

"You will need to push, soon," Physician Lee notes rather offhandedly. At that Jimin flails a little, looking to Taehyung in panic, who attempts to soothe him with a short explanation of what the doctor means. Apparently it will come naturally, although Jimin isn't really sure what that means or what it will entail. He has never felt more young and out of place than he does at that moment, not at any tea parties or events or days spent at royal court.

 

And when it starts, it hurts worse than anything else Jimin has ever felt.

 

It hurts like there is something huge sat in his lower stomach, pressing and pushing and burning, and Jimin can't let it out or push because Physician Lee gives him this look of irritation whenever he so much as tenses his thighs. The breaks are non existent at this point, a constant ache that has him struggling to breathe.

 

Another pain comes, and the doctor taps his knee to get his attention. "On this one, you need to push," he states straightforwardly, Jimin nods weakly in response. He can do that.

 

The next ten seconds pass by so slowly, and Jimin feels a drop of sweat make its way down his face from his hairline, his ragged breaths the loudest thing in the room as Taehyung sits silent beside him, pale faced. Jimin's toes curl as the discomfort heightens, and he tightens his fingers in the sheets as he wait for Physician Lee's word.

 

"Now."

 

The next thirty minutes is pure torture, and Jimin doesn't bother to try and stop the tears slipping out as he follows Physician Lee's instructions, the pain never really stopping. He mostly reassures himself, Taehyung having gone so quiet.

 

"I don't remember my mother being in this much pain," he says quietly, wiping Jimin's forehead. "I think I was kept in another room, for this part."

 

"S'alright," Jimin slurs, eyes fluttering shut for a moment. He’s so tired.

 

Jimin senses Yoongi's approach before he arrives, his senses on high alert, and Yoongi's scent being ever so recognisable. The accompanying feeling is indescribable, a tangled mixture of relief and bittersweetness.

 

It’s not a dramatic entrance; he is breathing as instructed, his eyes closed as he rests in between pushes, and he hears Yoongi's quick footsteps as they approach the bed. When he opens his eyes, the alpha is kneeling on the floor beside it.

 

"You're back," he gets out weakly between heaving breaths. Yoongi nods, taking his hand again.

 

"Yes. I will not leave again," he promises, and there’s such a deep sense of apology in his expression and countenance that Jimin decides then not to argue. "Is everything fine?" he directs at Physician Lee, who gives him a sharp nod, eyes trained between Jimin's legs.

 

"I think I'm- I think they're nearly here," Jimin dares to utter. It's true; Physician Lee hasn't been updating him, but it feels like the pup is nearly there. Almost.

 

Covering their linked hands with his other one, Yoongi lifts Jimin’s up from the bed like he is announcing the winner of a tournament, before bringing it back down again. "You are doing so wonderfully. All by yourself, so good.”

 

When Jimin smiles, it’s more like a grimace, but he really does appreciate the sentiment. Yet, there is another thing on his mind.

 

"Does Daehee know?" Jimin asks between pants, clinging onto both of his companions tightly. "Is he coming?"

 

Either there’s something in Yoongi’s scent or his face, Jimin can’t quite tell, but he seems off. In that moment of pain, though, he cannot find it within himself to detangle it. "He does know. But I do not think he will come."

 

Even Taehyung makes a surprised noise at that. "He doesn't want to see the pup when it is born?"

 

Jimin can't help but interrupt with a moan of pain, swearing and causing Yoongi to move to wipe his tears away with the damp towel he uses for Jimin's forehead. When he gets the pain under control once again, he looks to the alpha to answer, still. The idea that Daehee does not want to see the pup, a child that will become his own, is inconceivable.

 

"I-" Yoongi pauses, and Jimin finds himself thinking about his and Daehee's bond, once again - that ever present thing between them that taints them so much. Yoongi surely has an inkling of what Daehee thinks, or is feeling, about all of this. He can't say he doesn't know, or Jimin will know it is most likely a lie. "No, I do not think he does."

 

Now is not the time to be angry or upset at such things, Jimin tells himself. Still, it is hard to ignore. Collapsing back after another pain, he pulls air into his lungs as steadily as he can. Needs to stay calm, so he can work hard, for the pup.

 

"You’re so very brave," Yoongi murmurs, eyes wide, and those words skitter across Jimin's skin. He inhales them, lets them echo around his head. Brave, he's brave, he can do this.

 

"I can see the head," Physician Lee warns Yoongi, and Jimin tightens his hold on the alpha's hand. So close.

 

The next two pains have Jimin groaning and wailing so loudly he has a feeling that people three floors up will be able to hear him. Yoongi keeps his eyes on the omega's face, his gaze as steady as the stream of encouragements from his mouth. He wipes Jimin's tears, Jimin himself too exhausted to do anything about it.

 

"One more, I think," the doctor says brusquely, and Jimin screws his eyes shut as another tear falls. He feels the gentle press of lips to his forehead, and then the lips are at his ear.

 

"Jiminie, I..." Yoongi whispers. At first, Jimin doesn’t hear the utterance at all, almost drowning it out with the sound of his own harsh breathing, but then Yoongi cuts himself off a second time. Jimin brings his gaze to the alpha, who looks so, so emotional. He doesn't ask him to clarify, doesn't want to, because now is not the time for a declaration.

 

And it wouldn't matter anyway, not really.

 

Yoongi wipes his brow once more, and Jimin nods shakily. "One more," he grits out, centring himself for when he feels ready.

 

Yoongi's hand is big in his, a little rough, and slick with sweat, but Jimin grips it like a lifeline. One more push and the pup will be there, and Jimin will have done that. So close, he thinks to the pup, and it's that combined with Yoongi's words that gives him that strength he needs.

 

That one more lasts what feels like a small lifetime. What starts as a deep groan ends up a yell of pain, and Jimin focuses in on Yoongi's hand in his to get him through, the alpha gripping him back with the same strength. Taehyung encourages him, the volume of his words rising steadily with that of Jimin's voice.

 

And then suddenly, it's over.

 

The cries of the pup fill the air where Jimin's moans of pain had previously been, and Jimin's eyes automatically fill with tears at the sound. "Are they okay?" he manages to gasp, although he is ignored. Between his legs, Physician Lee is using some kind of tool, and picking up a blanket; beside him, Yoongi is pressing kisses to his knuckles.

 

"Are they okay?" he repeats again, more insistently, shaking his hand so Yoongi pays more attention.

 

The alpha's gaze snaps to the pup, bundled into a blanket in the physicians arms, and he snaps at him. "Lee."

 

If Jimin weren't fixated on the crying bundle in the beta's arms, he would care more about the way he flinched, the shock on his face. Instead, he watches the pup for tiny movements through the thick blanket, waiting for him to say that the pup is okay, is healthy.

 

"She is fine. Completely healthy, if a little early." He steps closer to Yoongi, who suddenly looks a lot less commanding, his eyes going wide. "Would you like to hold her, Your Highness?"

 

Her . Yoongi seems to be thinking the same thing. "It's a girl?" he questions quietly, and Jimin's breath hitches as the doctor nods.

 

Yoongi's eyes have dropped down to the little girl in his arms, which hold her ever so slightly awkwardly. He looks to panic slightly, making abortive steps to sit on the bed, and then on the floor, before walking around to the window seat, settling there with the smallest of smiles on his face.

 

There's something still pressing between his legs, and Physician Lee goes back to kneel there, squinting. Jimin can't even bring himself to panic, even though he doesn't know what is going on, because the pup is right there. A little girl. Somehow Jimin already feels empty without her.

 

"Push once more," Physician Lee orders him, and he does so weakly, not even looking down. Something passes through, and then Jimin is being wiped down with a towel. His legs fall closed just as Yoongi looks up at him, wonder in his eyes.

 

"Is she..." he whispers, drifting off when he realises that he doesn't know what to ask. He knows that she is healthy. He doesn't need to know anything else. It's not his place to.

 

Yet, he's still yearning to be closer to her. Maybe Yoongi smells it on him, because he's standing and coming closer, and it feels like Jimin's heart is beating out of his chest. She looks so small in Yoongi's arms, it's hard to believe that she's real.

 

The alpha sits at the edge of the bed, and Jimin can't look away from her. The part of his brain that isn't being completely controlled by his instincts is not letting him ask to touch her, to hold her, so he just stares, but Yoongi just must know because he's drawing in a deep breath before asking quietly, "do you want to hold her?"

 

Jimin shouldn't. He knows he shouldn't, he has been stopping himself from doing bad things, things he knows are wrong, for weeks, months, even. But he can't stop himself from nodding, from holding out his arms for Yoongi to place her there.

 

She's such a tiny pup, and so light, Jimin lets out a little surprised noise when he is holding her. So tiny; it's in her face, too, tiny little nose and mouth and closed eyes, her skin a little dirty and very pink. It's easy to hold her in one arm, so Jimin uses his other hand to move the blanket slightly. Her little hand peeks out, five teeny fingers that spread and curl back together slowly.

 

His breath whooshes out of him and his heart plummets at the sight of her, so beautiful and so small. She keeps making noises, gargling cries, and in the background he can hear Physician Lee saying something to Yoongi but Jimin can't make it out. It's like everything has narrowed down to this one precious little person, and Jimin can do nothing but stare at her, rocking her a little.

 

And her scent. So soft, and somehow so familiar; Jimin lifts her a little higher and breathes it in. He can't describe it, it's so sweet and fresh and warm, and he wants to bottle that scent and wear it forever.

 

Jimin watches her open and close her mouth, turning his head towards him a little, and he smiles at her helplessly.

 

"Jimin." Yoongi is saying his name, he can hear it, but he doesn't want to look up and away from the little pup - it's when someone reaches for her, or in their general direction, even, that he startles, flinching away and tightening his hold on her.

 

Physician Lee makes an angry noise. "I told you not to-"

"Do not presume to be able to tell me what to do," Yoongi snaps at him, drawing himself up tall. "I would like you to leave us for a moment."

The doctor seems very much against the idea, narrowing his eyes and opening his mouth to reply, but a quick hiss of "now" has him turning and walking away immediately. Turning to Taehyung, Yoongi looks at the beta pleadingly.

"Jiminie..." Taehyung looks uncertain, like he doesn't want to leave Jimin's side.

"Please," Yoongi says quietly.

Taehyung looks at Jimin for a moment longer, before he gives in. "I will be right outside, Jiminie."

And then they're alone. Jimin's eyes drop once again to the little girl in his arms, and she squirms a little, despite having gone quite quiet. Despite her being a little strange looking, Jimin can't help but think that she's just so pretty.

"Jimin..."

Yoongi's voice is so low, so hurt, so sad. He says Jimin's name like he is about to give him the gravest of news in the world, but Jimin can't focus on it when the pup is in his arms.

"Jiminie. Please." Yoongi is stood next to the bed, Jimin can feel his presence, his scent so strong. A hand enters his peripheral vision, slow and hesitant, and there isn't an instinct to flinch away, this time; probably because Yoongi approaches him like he is a scared animal that is about to bolt.

“What?” Jimin whispers, loathing to disturb the pup.

“You…” He pauses, and drops his hand to gently touch the blanket around her, over her stomach, before touching her little hand.

“Isn’t she lovely?”

“She is,” Yoongi agrees, barely a murmur.

Neither of them speak for a little while, and Jimin loses part of himself to watching her. She’s so small, but Jimin can’t quite wrap his mind around the fact that he feels like she’s so important.

The feeling of Yoongi beside him is calming, and he can feel the slow rise and fall of the alpha’s chest against his arm, and for a moment everything is peaceful. Every time the baby girl gargles his mouth can’t help but twitch into a half smile.

It’s Yoongi that breaks the silence, shattering it despite his soft, careful words. “Jiminie… They want to take her to the wet nurse, to feed.”

Jimin’s arms tighten around her, before he forces himself to relax, not wanting to hurt her. It makes perfect logical sense, but Jimin has never felt more possessive, more angry over something being so wrong.

He looks up at Yoongi, and the alpha raises his hand to Jimin’s hair, stroking it back away from his forehead. It’s still damp, and Jimin thinks he should probably be very cold right now, but he isn’t. Maybe it’s his body, still retaining that pregnancy strength, or maybe it’s the pup in his arms, and Yoongi by his side. He wishes Yoongi wasn’t looking at him like that, though. Wishes his faze were as warm as it used to be, when they were in bed together, or even just learning archery out in the gardens.

Instead, Yoongi’s gaze is full of grief. Absently, Jimin wonders if Yoongi can tell what he is feeling. A wet nurse… Of course, she needs to be fed, now. And Jimin can’t do it, he’s not allowed.

‘’How did they find a wet nurse so quickly?“  he croaks weakly. ”I didn’t think anybody was ready.“

“I’m not sure,” Yoongi says, and Jimin believes him, because he genuinely seems confused. “I think maybe Physician Lee had one called for. Or there was one waiting…”

 

The last part makes Jimin’s stomach ache in a way it shouldn’t, in a way it has no right to. They were so ready for him to leave. Are so ready.

 

He only has a day.

 

He turns slightly so he can see Yoongi's face. "Do you- Has a name been chosen for her?"

 

"No, I think it will be brought to discussion with my parents. Is there... If you suggest something, I can put it forward - have you thought of something?"

 

She doesn’t look like anything yet, Jimin thinks; just a small, slightly squashed looking bundle, but he knows that one day she will be the ruler of this country. It seems like far too much for someone so fragile, and the need to protect her from that is strong now he holds her in his arms.

 

Of course, he doesn’t know her yet, but he feels as though he might know her best. And he does think of a name when he sees her; maybe if he tells Yoongi, she may actually be called that one day. He can but hope.

 

“Eunmi.” Jimin strokes a finger along her cheek. “It’s what I think, when I see her.”

 

“Eunmi.” It sounds sweet in Yoongi’s voice, too, and Jimin’s heart aches over it. He hopes dearly that she will get that name. Something Jimin will have given her, since he has been unable to give her anything else.

 

The time is approaching where Jimin needs to hand her over, he knows, but he really doesn’t want to; it’s like his body isn’t letting him raise his arms, isn’t letting him move relax an inch.

 

“Yoongi,” he whispers helplessly.

 

“I know, it’s okay.” Yoongi’s words are a little slurred, and he leans in to kiss Jimin’s forehead. "You have- You have a minute, it's okay."

 

A minute. They sit in silence for what is probably much more, Jimin stroking the tip of his finger over the skin of her arm, her hand. She opens and closes her mouth in response, and Jimin doesn't know a lot about babies, but it seems like she might be happy.

 

When Yoongi reaches down slowly for the bundle in Jimin's arms, Jimin doesn't fight. He lets her go, scooped up against the alpha's chest, and as Yoongi stands, rocking her to soothe her after the disturbance, it's like an ache of emptiness spreads from his own chest where she lay before, his now empty arms. It spreads from there to the tips of his toes, crawls up his throat until it feels like he's choking.

 

Yoongi leaves the door open when he steps outside, and Jimin can see Physician Lee approach him, sees him whisper to the alpha, and Yoongi, after a moment, reluctantly hand her over, his jaw visibly ticking.

 

It feels like Jimin can't move, his muscles evaporated and strength drained. Dully, he thinks that he expects to be left alone, now, but instead Yoongi turns around and heads back into his room, closing the door behind him. Jimin doesn't feel surprised; he doesn't feel anything, can't find it within himself.

 

As Yoongi maneuvers him to sit back against his chest, their legs kicked out beside each other, and holds him. It doesn't help.

 

He just feels hollow.

 

“What were your nurses like? I mean, when you were young…” Jimin trails off, unsure of the direction he is going in with the question. He guesses that that doubt from before Yoongi had made the promise to love her must still be lingering within him, because there is such a lack of confidence within him on the topic.

 

That hesitancy increases as the silence spans seconds and into minutes, Yoongi clearly struggling to come up with something to say in answer.

 

“They were fine. Quite strict, but that is understandable. I had new ones fairly frequently, as I grew older, so if one was not so nice, at least they would not be around for long." Yoongi sounds accepting of this, like it were completely normal and not to be questioned at all, and this only has Jimin more concerned.

 

"Did your parents listen, if you told them they were not kind to you?"

 

Yoongi's silence speaks volumes, and he must be able to sense how distressed that makes Jimin as he starts to rub the omega's back, a soft, "I am not like my parents," falling from his lips presumably an attempt to be comforting. Jimin turns to look him in the eye, and he looks apologetic. The last thing that Jimin wants to see.

 

"Look after her," he eventually says weakly. "Make sure she's happy. Please..."

 

Yoongi doesn't say anything, just leans down so he is level with Jimin. He looks at him for a long time, and Jimin doesn't hide, he's too tired. His eyes must be red, and his skin feels sticky with sweat, but he meets Yoongi's gaze. The alpha needs to know how serious Jimin is. This little girl is what matters.

 

"She is really beautiful, huh," Yoongi murmurs, instead of answering. Nodding mutely, Jimin's eyes drop to his lap, finding himself picturing her in his mind. He doesn't know if she looks like himself or Yoongi, since she's just too small, but it's with another pang that he realises that he might not ever know for sure. When will he see her again? At the parades the royal family do, through the town? The distance will be so great, he will not even be able to make out her features properly at all.

 

"So beautiful." His hands screw up into his sheets, ruined beneath him with all kinds of fluids and sweat, towels coming too late to save them. "She... She deserves all of the love in the world. I knew it before I even met her." Looking back up at Yoongi, he sees his pain reflected in his eyes.

 

"Jimin..." The omega closes his eyes as they start to get hot and wet. Yoongi's next words are spoken with a renewed strength and volume that startles him. "Look at me."

 

"Remember I told you," he starts, his face serious, "that you should do whatever you need to do?"

 

It less than a day ago, of course Jimin remembers. Jimin blinks at him, confused, and it causes a tear to run down the side of his face. He can barely feel it.

 

"Just..." Yoongi trails off, looking a little less composed, and presses his lips together for a moment. "Remember that. I want you to- to do what you think is right."

 

Jimin just stares at Yoongi blankly. The alpha seems to know more than what he is saying out loud, looking at Jimin with so much regret and resignation, and Jimin wishes he knew what he is thinking.

 

Yoongi leans forward, resting their foreheads together, and Jimin mirrors him when he closes his eyes. “Follow your instincts, and do what you think is right. You know?”

 

Their lips are so close, and for a hot second Jimin remembers their kiss, just yesterday.

“I don’t know,” Jimin whispers helplessly. “But I’ll try.”



--



Taehyung comes back to find Jimin staring at his empty hands and immediately pulls him into a hug that does nothing to soothe him. He takes the omega for a bath to wash him of all of the mess and sweat on him, and Jimin can barely lift his legs to get into the bathtub. Not because he has no energy, but because he feels so heavy and just so unmotivated to move. He inhales and exhales as normal, but it doesn't feel like he is receiving what he needs to breathe, for his mind to function. It's just a mess of emotions and instincts that have never felt stronger.

 

They do not speak while Taehyung helps him wash; the beta must be able to read his face, or maybe his scent is telling, although Jimin doesn't know what it would reveal, because there is not one dominant sensation within him.

 

When they get back to his room and he lowers himself onto his bed, staring at the canopy, an attendant comes. They tell him that by this time tomorrow he is to have left the castle with his belongings and the payment that will be moved to his room in an hour or so. The man seemingly had come straight from the king, wearing the uniform of an attendant of someone important, and he has never encountered a servant so rude. Taehyung tells him to leave quite sharply, although Jimin worries afterwards that he may get in trouble for doing such a thing.

 

"Do not worry about that," the beta says flippantly, waving his hand. "They shouldn't be bothering you right now, you need to rest. Will you try and get some sleep?"

 

"I'll try." At this point, Jimin is lying on his side, his voice empty of emotion, but Taehyung must know. He knows Jimin better than anyone in the castle. Giving Jimin's hair a gentle stroke, his hand lingers on the omega's forehead before he stands and heads towards the door.

 

"I'll be back early afternoon, just... Try and sleep, please, you need it."



Jimin lies awake for hours on clean sheets with clean skin, his mind refusing to quiet. The sun rises outside his window, casting a soft, wintry light into the room, but he doesn't have the energy to close the curtains.

 

And because he has hours, it is enough time to make sense of his emotions, assess what he is feeling and why. Seeing and meeting the pup - Eunmi, Eunmi - has triggered something within him, that much is clear. His instincts are raging, a hard tug in his stomach that forms base thoughts in his mind like hold and care and feed . It is almost similar to how it feels during a heat, but at the same time it is completely different, accompanied by none of the usual symptoms like high temperature or cramping. Instead, Jimin's listlessness slowly transforms into the urge to move, which, when not acted upon, has him curling up from the ache in his body.

 

He tries to sleep, he really does. Knows that he needs the rest, but he cannot relax when his mind is so busy, when his body feels tense and ready to jump or run at any moment.

 

It's not good. The sensations are accompanied by one of dread, because he does not know what to do with all of it. At first, when Yoongi had taken her from his arms, he had accepted it - or thought he could. But now, he is not sure. He's torn in half, because he knows what he is meant to do, but it just feels so wrong.

 

Because what he knows is thus: the castle is not a pleasant place in which to live. The people are superficial and harsh, selfish and uncaring, and there are no children at court, as they are hidden from view until they present.

 

Maybe it would be different for the heir to the throne, but Jimin doesn't know that for sure. It may also be true that he is demonising the castle somewhat in his mind, but he can only judge off of what he knows, and the people he knows, and how unhappy everyone sees here, past the grand facade.

 

And Daehee... Jimin cannot know whether he is being unfair to the other omega, as his interactions with him have been limited. Yet, their interactions have for the most part been so unpleasant, Jimin there is not much else he can think.

 

Or Yoongi. Yoongi, who loves him. He had promised Jimin that he would love their pup, too, but had still left the room, had proved what Jimin had come to realise anyway; that he would not be able to be there for the child as they grow up. May not even be able to give Eunmi those riding lessons he wants to, because he simply does not have time. The image of Eunmi, young and pretty and full of life, sat in a stuffy nursery somewhere tucked away in the castle, absent of parents and surrounded by replaceable nursery staff, is the one that pervades him.

 

Every single part of him tells him, just knows that this is wrong. Not just an instinctual reaction spurred on my his body after the birth, but a collection of all of his ideas, his morals, the way he was raised.

 

When two attendants arrive to the room with his payment, stored in a large chest, Jimin cannot even greet them or thank them, his throat too tight and his heartbeat increasing to alarming levels. It sits there in the corner when they leave, a nagging presence, big and dominating in a room that Jimin has realised is not even that big, not compared to many of the others in the palace.

 

Do what you think is right . Yoongi must have known what he was doing, must have had intentions when he said those words, even if he didn't make it clear. The words have dug their claws into Jimin and refuse to let go.

 

The idea he has creeps in slowly, first an absent thought, but as the hours pass it becomes something a little more. Spreads its tendrils to the farthest corners of his consciousness until it's all he can come back to.

 

What is 'right'? What has he been chasing, all this time?

 

Jimin wonders if he will ever have an answer.



--



"I sent a message to Hoseok, told him that you would be leaving, and that you would like to see him- Jiminie?" Taehyung only manages to shut the door behind him quietly before he most likely spots Jimin sat up on the bed. He practically runs over, pressing his hand to Jimin's forehead and checking him all over for anything visibly wrong. He must really look that much of a state.

 

"Taehyungie," he says, having to clear his throat when his voice cracks. "I'm..."

 

Taehyung's hands fall to Jimin's shoulders, rubbing gently. "What is it? Do you want me to call for the doctor?"

 

Shaking his head, Jimin just looks at him, lost. His thoughts are like a scattering of caught flies in a complicated web, and he doesn't know how to collate them, to put them into words for Taehyung to understand. They're mostly feelings, and it's difficult to put those in particular into words.

 

"Jimin?"

 

"I just..." Jimin swallows, scared of saying the words he has found out loud, although he knows, deep in his soul, how true they are. "I don't know if I can live without her."

 

Taehyung doesn't say anything, his mouth forming a tight line. Jimin rushes to explain more.

 

"I need to know that she's happy, that she's loved, that she's more than just safe and rich. I don't know- I'm not sure-" He stops, calming himself to continue. "Here she would be the latter. But I don't know that she would be loved."

 

"You do not think that Yoongi would love her?" Taehyung wonders, his eyes widening in confusion.

 

Jimin bites the inside of his cheek. He knows that here he sounds awful, unfair and selfish. But he knows that some parts of what he's thinking are true, and therefore maybe he isn't being that unreasonable in what he feels. Maybe. "He... You saw, Taehyungie. He had to leave, even though he said he would stay. And he wasn't back for hours. I understand," he cuts over Taehyung when he tries to open his mouth. "I do understand why he had to go. But how many times will he do that, with her?"

 

Taehyung doesn't say anything more, just watches him with big eyes, a shocked stare. Jimin continues, the flow of his thoughts for the last six hours not stopping.

 

"And Daehee, he didn't even come at all. He doesn't care, Taehyung, you didn't hear him, yesterday-"

 

"Yesterday?"

 

"When he was talking about nannies and nurses and governesses like he didn't care and he wasn't even excited to meet her, it was like he was barely thinking about her at all, and I just know that he won't look after her, Taehyung, I know-"

 

"Hey, shh, it's- I can't tell you it's okay, but please calm down," Taehyung brings his hands up to squeeze Jimin's forearms, a grounding feeling.

 

“I can’t, she… Did you see her, Taehyungie? She’s- She’s-”

 

“I saw you with her,” the beta admits. He hesitates before opening his mouth again. "You... I think I saw, when your faced changed, and you… It looked… right."

 

Jimin squeezes his eyes shut. The affirmation of such a thing from another person who is somewhat removed only makes the doubts in his head much louder, the idea he had earlier coming to the forefront of his mind again and again.

 

He doesn't mention that Yoongi told him to do what he thinks is right. He keeps that between them, like a secret.

 

"So, what do you want to do?"

 

Jimin licks his lips, his mouth going dry. The prospect of saying what he has been thinking about out loud seems even more ridiculous the further along he gets in his thoughts. When he speaks, his voice is barely audible, hardly a whisper.

 

“What if- What if I took her with me?”

 

The beta inhales sharply. "But that's- that’s treason!"

 

"I know."

 

"And you will never be able to go back to your family, and how will you be able to provide her with everything she needs? Do you even know how to take care of a pup?"

 

"I- It wouldn't be easy-"

 

“No, Jimin!” Taehyung’s hands fly to his hair, tugging out of stress. “You would be executed if you got caught!”

 

Jimin stays quiet, because he knows it’s true. He knows how absurd it is, understands, but the need to protect that pup was so strong within him- is so strong, he can't think of anything else.

 

"I just don't know what else to do," he confesses, reaching for Taehyung's hand. The beta takes hold of it immediately, his fingers tightening with a strength that Jimin wishes he could have. "Maybe I won’t be able to do it, or manage on my own, but Namjoon is an omega and is just so… It feels like he can do anything, and maybe. Maybe I could too. I just don't know if I can leave her, and I don't have any time , I have to leave in a matter of hours. And her parents- Yoongi and Daehee-"

 

Exhausted with having been awake for twenty-four hour and running on nothing but empty fumes, Jimin starts to break down, his shoulders crumpling as he begins to cry. His breaths keep getting caught as he tries to draw them into his lungs, so it feels like he's drowning, and it doesn't ease in the slightest when Taehyung draws him into an embrace. All he can think about is that pup, his pup, being kept somewhere else in the castle with only nursery staff for company for the rest of her young life, in such a horrible, oppressive place such as the castle, where hardly anyone ever seems to be truly happy.

 

He clings to his best friend as his last source of comfort, a solid pillar of support. "Do you think I'm crazy?"

 

Taehyung's arms only tighten further. "I think... you have reasons to think the way you do. You were never happy here, and I understand your fears, I do, but..." He pulls back, waiting for Jimin to look at him. "I just don't know... if it is worth your life."

 

"If she is," Jimin says immediately in response, drawing himself up so his back is straight. He says his next words with all the certainty he has, "And she is."

 

All he receives in response is a stare, Taehyung's expression a mixture of awe, shock, and a little fear. Despite his own unsteadiness of form, Jimin keeps his gaze unwavering. For some reason, he needs Taehyung to know that he's telling the truth, that he truly believes what he is saying.

 

“This just seems… Jiminie, since I have known you, you have always been so concerned about doing what is right.”

 

Jimin’s throat feels thick and wet. It’s difficult to speak, because he understands what he is saying. “But it isn’t a case of breaking rules, it’s about doing what I think is the best thing to do. And, I think this is right. I'll just-" He swallows, mind racing. "I'll just not take the payment."

 

Taehyung inhales sharply. Jimin hurries to add to that statement, very aware that he probably sounds extremely stupid.

 

"I mean, I can- I can sell some things that I have, to get some money, I'm sure. I have lots of expensive clothes, and- and some earrings."

 

Nodding slowly, Taehyung looks at him, and then seems to lose focus. His lips part slightly, his gaze drifting off a little to the side. Jimin doesn’t want to interrupt, so instead he watches Taehyung’s expression slowly morph into something like resolve. He visibly clenches his jaw, and Jimin senses discontent, too.

 

"I have some money," Taehyung says eventually. His gaze refocuses on Jimin, and he doesn't let Jimin interrupt. "All of my savings, up to this point. I think it would be enough for a while."

 

"No, Taehyung-"

 

"Do you really think that you will be able to survive on a pair of earrings for the next few months, Jimin?" Taehyung cuts in sharply.

 

"No, but, it's yours," Jimin says desperately. "You said you wouldn't be able to leave! You can't leave without any money, can't get mated until you can go, that's what you told me."

 

Taehyung shakes his head, just ever so slightly, and gives Jimin a small, wry smile. "I would go with you, of course."

 

Jimin's voice dies in his throat. All he can manage is a weak, "what?"

 

His friend nods, more confidently this time. "I can... I can ask Hyuna to help, to get some horses ready so you can get away. It probably wouldn't be that difficult to distract the pup's nurse... Or maybe I could get someone to help? And then you can get her.”

 

Jimin blinks. That's a lot of planning that Jimin hadn't even thought about before, when he had had hours to do so. All of these thoughts had stayed vague in his mind, a general idea that he had doubted could come to fruition. Now Taehyung has spoken it into existence, it seems real. Possible.

 

“Do you really think we could do it, and not get caught?” he asks, lowering his voice. Taehyung makes a face.

 

“Honestly, I do not know. I know the castle well, and the surrounding area, and I do think that we could, maybe, manage to get out. But what happens from there....” Taehyung leaves the space blank for Jimin to fill in, and he swallows harshly. They could do this. He could take his pup.  

 

The word take feels too simple, not taking into account all of the factors, all of the things that Jimin knows. Yet, save is too much, because he knows that he may be being completely selfish and he will have to live with that for the rest of his life, if he survives the escape.

 

He clings to the fact that Taehyung had agreed, had seen and seems to understand his plight, is willing to support his potentially dangerous behaviour in order for Jimin to be happy. Doesn’t know what he did to deserve someone like Taehyung, but has never been more grateful for someone’s presence in his life.



--



Packing his things isn't much of a chore. He chooses his winter clothes only, and a few expensive items that he might be able to sell later on. He knows he won't have much room on the horse, and has never ridden a horse with any extra weight on it, so he doesn't know if that will affect it in any way. Doesn't want to pack too much, because it might slow them down.

 

Some of Jimin's clothes are far too extravagant and flashy to not be conspicuous, so he avoids them. Picks out the blue cloak that Yoongi had given him as a gift so he can wear it as he leaves. It's certainly the warmest thing he owns, and he'll need that in this cold weather. He hopes that he can keep Eunmi warm enough; he'll have to be careful.

 

His mother has helped him pick most of his old wardrobe, had mended them when they wore through with holes, and Jimin finds his throat tight as he looks over those pieces of clothing, buried at the bottom of his closet.

 

He had never imagine that he wouldn't be going home to his mother. At times, that had been all that had got him through his time in the castle, the idea that he would be able to go home to his mother's loving embrace, his siblings' loud company. It probably hasn't quite sunk in just yet, the idea that he might never see her again. No, not might - there's no way he can see her again, he will be a fugitive, it would just put her in danger, his whole family in danger of being executed. He can't do that to them. He won't.

 

And right now, at that moment, his priority is his pup. Any doubts he has lingering in his mind around the subject are so small, absolutely nothing in the face of the anguish at the idea of walking away and leaving her here in this horrible place.

 

He is sure that his mother would have done the same for him, or for any of his siblings.

 

Tucking his earrings away carefully in one of the bags, Jimin finishes up packing pretty quickly. He is psyching himself up, telling himself that it won't look suspicious if he carries all of his belongings downstairs to the stables since he is supposed to be leaving tomorrow, as he approaches his door. Opening it while laden with bags has him nearly falling over, as none other than Hoseok is standing there on the other side with his fist raised to knock.

 

"Jiminie! I brought Hoseok here to see you," Taehyung says as he peers around the man in question, who is laughing off their encounter. The omega's bags are pulled away from him by Taehyung, who gives him a slightly sad look.

 

Judging by the lack of the same feeling on Hoseok's face, he hasn't been told that Jimin is to leave. The beta sweeps Jimin into a joyous hug instead, lifting him up a little, with a loud, happy noise.

 

"Ah, I heard about the birth! Everything went alright?" Putting Jimin down, Hoseok looks him up and down. "You look so well!"

 

"I-" Jimin doesn't know what to say, how much to tell. He can't tell Hoseok of his plans, that much is obvious; he does not know how much he can trust him not to tell others. Even the beta telling Namjoon would put Namjoon in an extremely difficult position. Jimin doesn't even know what to say about the birth, or Eunmi. He doesn't know how he is supposed to act - is he supposed to be detached?

 

"I did not expect to see you up and about so quickly! Are you sure you are okay to do so?" Hoseok continues to ask him, concerned. "Do you want to sit down?"

 

"Uh, yes, okay, let's do that," Jimin manages, going to sit on the bed in a moment of relief. Hoseok closes the door behind him, coming to sit beside.

 

"I haven't seen the pup yet, or spoken to Yoongi! Who does she look like? I wonder if she will look much like any of Yoongi's grandparents much-"

 

"I have to leave, tomorrow morning," Jimin blurts out. Hoseok falls silent immediately, a look of abject shock on his face. "They gave me- I have rules, and I need to leave within a day. So, I just wanted to say goodbye."

 

Shock turns to hurt and then to anger, and then Hoseok is crying out in outrage. "A day ? That is completely unreasonable! How are you- Why-”

 

“I don’t know,” Jimin says dully, because it’s true, he doesn’t. His mind feels like it has been put to roast in a coal fire, cooked down to mush from lack of sleep and an overwhelming half a day. He has no idea why the king and queen would want him gone so quickly. “I’m sorry.”

 

“What- no, do not apologise, Jiminie, this is not your fault at all. Come here.” Opening his arms, Hoseok beckons him into an embrace. Straight away he goes to pet Jimin’s hair and rub his back simultaneously.

 

“Maybe there is something I can do- ?”

 

“I don’t think so,” Jimin breathes, reluctantly pulling away from Hoseok’s warmth somewhat. “I just needed to say goodbye.”

 

Mouth forming around the word, Hoseok’s face goes straight to heartbreak, and Jimin is pulled into another very tight hug. “Will you come and say goodbye to the others?”

 

Jimin had been afraid of this question. “I’m not sure I can.”

 

Now, Jimin isn’t a very good liar at the best of times, and he is not convinced that in front of all of his friends he would not break down and tell them everything, which would put them all in a very risky position. He isn’t even sure that he can spend a very long time with Hoseok without giving something away, although he loathes the idea of kicking him out of his room.

 

“Oh Jiminie, I know goodbyes hurt, but…” It is possible that Hoseok sees something in Jimin’s face, because he trails off, biting his lip. The omega looks at him pleadingly. “I can tell them for you, if that is what you really want.”

 

“Please.” Swallowing, Jimin battles with himself over the next thing he wants so desperately to say. Eventually he blurts it out - what is the reason in hiding now, anyway? It is not as if Hoseok or Namjoon or Seokjin don’t know what is going on between them, anyway. “And can you- Can you please look after Yoongi?”

 

This gains him a ever so slightly watery smile. “Never would have thought to do otherwise.”

 

“And say sorry to Namjoon and Seokjin, for me. I wish I could speak to them, but I just…” Jimin has to clench his jaw, a little too close to tears for comfort. “I need to pack, too.”

 

A hoarse laugh echoes through the messy room. “Maybe we will see each other again one day, hm? I hope so.”

 

Jimin fervently hopes not, as if that were to happen he is sure that it would be in terrible circumstances for him, but he doesn’t say that out loud.



--



Taehyung takes a while to come back to his room after Hoseok leaves, and Jimin is left to pace, still feeling surprisingly strong, his heart thrumming a little too fast to let him get any rest, either.

 

Eventually though, Taehyung does return, and he tells Jimin exactly what their plan is. Jimin is very much willing to follow Taehyung’s advice, as he is very experienced when it comes to the layout of the castle and the staff. They plan so Taehyung will come and meet him, completing the last of the night’s duties so as not to arouse suspicion. This way, they will also make much less noise.

 

When everything is in order, Jimin can only wait for the hour that Taehyung has told him that he will be able to go and find Eunmi. They had agreed that Jimin would leave at night, when there are fewer people around, he has already broken out into a sweat; he approaches the part of the castle where the nursery is situated on unsure legs, trying to avoid any attendants he hears on the journey there as he is sure that they will be able to smell his fear.

 

They have a very short window where the attendants in the castle will be mostly asleep, the period where almost all of the nightly duties have been completed, and before anyone wakes to start preparing for the day ahead. The castle’s staff work for most of the hours of the day, so they need to be careful to go then, when they have the precious minutes they need to get as far from the place as possible before anyone begins to wait.

 

Taehyung had given him exact directions as to the room where Eunmi will be with her wet nurse who will be sleeping in the next room, and Jimin repeats them under his breath, padding down the hallways - as he gets close to the room, he tries harder to hide, although it isn't really necessary as it is very quiet. Each corridor stays drenched in darkness, allowing him to move fairly quickly, his cloak sweeping a little behind him.

 

The corridor where the nursery is located has slightly better lighting, and Jimin finds it easy to approach, although he hesitates when he comes close; he doesn't know whether the wet nurse or whoever is watching over his pup is still present inside.

 

As he arrives at the door, he makes his steps very soft, listening carefully for any sounds within. Hearing nothing after a few minutes, and unwilling to stay exposed in the corridor much longer, he opens the door, just a crack so he can peek inside.

 

Thankfully, the room is empty. Jimin eyes the door to the room adjacent, aware that the nurse could come in at any time, stepping inside and closing the door as quietly as he possibly can. He winces at the click it makes, the old wood heavy on the hinges. Then, with baited breath, he begins to approach the crib in the middle of the room.

 

Jimin had painted a picture of his little girl in his head, committed it to memory the moment that he had had to let go of her, hours earlier, but she's even prettier than he remembered. So tiny and beautiful, it's easy to get distracted by it, and he just wants to stand and stare at her, even though that would bring disastrous consequences upon him.

 

As he gets right up to the crib, he thinks that she looks a little like Yoongi. Maybe something about the mouth, or the nose, but just half a day ago he had thought that  she didn't look like anything much at all, so it is possible that he's being delusional. Maybe Yoongi is just on his mind.

 

Thinking of the alpha makes him bite his tongue, because he knows that what he is about to do may hurt him most of all, even if Yoongi had given him his blessing indirectly.

 

This is the last moment where he could change his mind. It should be a great moment of indecision, hesitation before he goes to take her in his arms, but there isn't. He just leans down slightly, scooping her up slowly, gently, making sure to support her head and hold her in the way that his instinct tells him is right.

 

She doesn't cry, just makes a soft sound that Jimin takes to be curiosity. He takes just a second to release a breath of relief, something he didn't even realise he was holding, representative of all of the urgent tug towards her that he had felt all day dissipating.

 

“Hello, baby,” he greets her softly. “Are you going to be quiet for me?”

 

Walking down to the stables with her in his arms is the scariest thing he has ever done. Luckily, she doesn't cry, and the corridors are empty, but Jimin's senses are working so hard to listen for footsteps or sniff out any oncoming new scents that would threaten his escape. He flinches every time he hears the ghost of voices, most likely echoing from a different part of the castle, or when his own steps seem overly loud.

 

The path that Taehyung has given him is empty, though, and his scurrying steps seem to go unheard. He is two corridors away from the main entrance of the hall when he hears another set of footsteps for real.

 

His breathing stuttering, he stops in his tracks. There's a moment where he realises that he has no idea what to do; there's no way that whoever is walking towards him won't find him suspicious. He'll be caught, and handed in, and they will take Eunmi away-

 

He ducks into an alcove, hiding in the shadows. There's nowhere else to go, and he will just need to wait with baited breath to see if the person sniffs him out.

 

Or maybe Eunmi will cry, and that's how he will be outed. He glances down at where she is settled in the crook of his arm, and rocks her ever so slightly, trying his hardest not to let his clothing rustle.

 

Pad, pad, pad . The steps become muffled by a rug on the floor, and Jimin knows that the person has turned in his direction. Covering his mouth with the hand not holding the pup, he muffles the sound of his own panicked breathing. Please, please let it be a beta , he thinks to himself. Please don't let them smell us .

 

He holds his breath as they pass him, and catches a full glimpse of their side profile - because he doesn't breathe, he can't tell what the man in the attendant's uniform is. His heart drops into his stomach when Eunmi squirms a little, opening her mouth, opening and closing it a few times.

 

Jimin only breathes out when the attendant has turned the corner, and he does so slowly, his whole body wracked with shudders of the aftermath of fear.

 

Leaning down, he nuzzles his nose into Eunmi's cheek softly, wrapping both arms around her to hold her close. Her scent is calming - not enough, of course, but he takes solace in it, reminds himself that this will all be worth it when they are both out and the farthest place away from the castle as possible. Safe, and maybe even happy.

 

His legs are trembling as he continues towards the entrance, covering the ground he needs to as quickly and silently as possible. When he reaches the crisp air of outside, sighs with relief, but only allows himself that for a moment. There is still so much further to go, so many hurdles to get over.

 

As he walks around to the stables, Jimin doesn't drop his guard, and tucks Eunmi under his cloak, making sure she can still breathe but yet stays warm. He can see the moisture of his breath in front of his face, and he realises that the ride away will be extremely cold, but as long as Eunmi stays snug under the cloak, he supposes that it doesn't really matter.

 

Eunmi makes a gurgling sound and he has to pause to shush her before he reaches the stables - he remembers that there are usually guards around the stables and panics once again. He is stuck between the stables and the castle, and there's no way he can go back inside right now. It's then that Eunmi lets out a little cry, and he rocks her a tad frantically. What does he do now?

 

Jimin manages to quiet her down, although he knows that he needs to hurry, because he is sure that she will need feeding some time soon, and at that point who knows whether she will stop crying or not. In the meantime he is hugging a wall, taking some of the weight off his shaking legs, which feel like they might actually collapse under him as he is so scared.

 

The omega is debating what to do, shifting from foot to foot, as he spots movement from the side of the stables. It's a person, he realises quickly, and he doesn't have time to even freeze in place before they're beckoning him, their arm the only thing truly visible in the moonlight. It's slender and feminine and-

 

It's Hyuna, of course it is; he sees her face when she steps forward slightly, the pinch of her frown and hard set of her mouth. Jimin hurries over to her to be pulled inside of the stables quickly, no guards in sight.

 

"We have to work quickly," she whispers. "I will just be one more moment, everything is nearly ready."

 

"Alright." Cautiously, he edges away from the door to stay out of sight. Eunmi has calmed with his movements, and Jimin spends a moment looking at Hyuna, wondering if she will be in significant danger after this. "Where are the guards?"

 

"They're changing shifts, so that's why I gotta be quick. Stay away from the door, that's it. Just need to make sure your stuff won't fall off when you're riding."

 

So it's out of his hands for the moment. Jimin casts his gaze around at all of the horses, all sleeping. It has been a while since he has been here - not that anything has changed. Hyuna is swearing under her breath, struggling with something, but Jimin cannot put Eunmi down in order to help, so he hangs back, before remembering something else.

 

Bee is here. Yoongi had wanted to teach their pup to ride on her, had been so excited for it. Jimin is robbing him of that, he realises. A sick feeling forms in his stomach as he thinks about Yoongi, who he will be leaving here alone. Well, not alone, as he has his mate and his family, and yet Jimin suspects that he is far more lonely than he might seem.

 

While this is going through his head, he finds himself approaching Bee's stall. She has always drawn him in, and now Jimin can admit to himself that it was because of Yoongi, and the knowledge that she belongs to him, matters to the alpha so much.

 

There isn't much time, he knows, but he thinks maybe he could introduce them, at least.

 

She's sleeping now, just like the pup in his arms, but Jimin still opens the stall door and kneels beside her anyway. Stroking his hand over her nose has her awakening, huffing and kicking a little, and Jimin brings Eunmi down slightly so they are close.

 

“Eunmi, meet Bee. That’s your- Your father’s first baby,” he explains, voice almost inaudible. He gives the horse another stroke.

 

Bee is still sleepy, so it is not a particularly exciting meeting, but Jimin still wishes that Yoongi were here for it. He deserves happiness, is such a good person at heart, and Jimin believes that from the bottom of his own. Jimin just hopes he finds it.

 

“Jimin? You’re ready to go, c’mon, let’s go,” Hyuna calls, voice still hushed and urgent sounding. Clambering to his feet carefully, Jimin whispers one last goodbye to Bee before following the sound of it back to the horse that Hyuna has saddled for him. She takes hold of Eunmi for him, cooing in surprise when she squirms.

 

“Thank you so much, you didn’t need to do this, I’ll never be able to tell you-”

 

“Don’t worry about it, you and Taehyung are important to me,” she cuts in straightforwardly. “Now, just remember everything I taught you, and remember to stay calm on him, okay? He’s the friendliest horse in the stables, and he will take care of you if you take care of him. His name is Pep.”

 

Getting situated is the easy part. Taking Eunmi back is a strange added weight, a little imbalance in his stance that he has to readjust for, and he tucks his cloak around himself so he can ride a little faster, keeping both of them warm. He checks and double checks himself and that his posture is proper, because it’s not just about his safety anymore.

 

“Thank you, anyway,” he whispers. Hyuna just gives him this beautiful smile, showing her teeth, and pats his knee affectionately.

 

“Look after that pup, and look after yourself. Now, get out of here.”

 

Jimin doesn’t have to be told twice.

 

The path he was told to take out of the castle is empty and unguarded, just as Taehyung said it would be, and Jimin keeps to the fastest pace he is comfortable with, glancing around him constantly and hoping that he won’t encounter anyone more. It will be all down to luck, and putting his trust in Taehyung, from now on. And that is only until they get away from the castle. If they manage that, they have a whole other journey to begin.

 

Turning back to the castle momentarily finds it peaceful - Jimin knows, however, how that will change over the next few days. It may be within an hour that Eunmi is discovered to be missing, Taehyung’s magic wearing off eventually, and then Jimin will be in grave danger.

 

A very tiny part of him wishes that he could turn back, because he never got to say goodbye to a handful of people that had become very important to him. Namjoon and Seokjin. Yoongi.

 

Although, Jimin does have a strong feeling that Yoongi knew, had tried to tell him that he would understand. Because this is what Jimin thinks is right, and this is what he needs to do.

 

He clings to that, clings to the hope that Yoongi’s heart isn’t breaking like a part of his is as he rides away into the night.



--






Chapter Text

Summer was once Yoongi's favourite time of year. When he was young, he was permitted to spend his free time taking Bee out of the stables and riding her, learning and bonding with her until he could read her mood, communicate what he wanted to her with the slightest touch. The sun would warm his back, his face, and his skin would turn a few shades darker, his lungs filled with fresh air that smelled strongly of flowers and grass and the lusciousness of such a fruitful season.

 

Now, he does not truly feel the change of seasons at all. It has become a matter of slight changes; wearing a thicker cloak in winter, thinking of how the seasons affect the transportation of goods across the kingdom, the potential effects on a camp of troops. It barely affects him personally.

 

It is the late summer sun that Yoongi wakes up to that morning. That, and an insistent attendant, their touch confined to his shoulder and speech soft, polite.

 

"Time to wake, Your Highness."

 

Yoongi has never been that good at mornings, and he always grumbles a little as he wakes. Rolling over, he brings a hand to his face in order to rub the sleep out of his eyes.

 

"In a momen'"

 

The sun rises early at this time of year, and it prevents Yoongi from falling back to sleep. Across the long room Daehee does not stir from his slumber, well acquainted enough with this early morning routine to be able to ignore it.

 

The sun has barely risen in the sky, and Yoongi has had around four hours of sleep. Normal, he would say, although it is still difficult to rouse himself and force his body out of bed. Staggering towards the window, he opens the heavy curtain and looks outside.

 

Sometimes he misses it, misses the slight freedoms of childhood which he is now certain he remembers through some kind of warped vision, like looking at something at the bottom of a pool of water. He knows that in comparison to now, of course his youth would appear to be full of freedom and time in which he could do as he pleased. In juxtaposition to another child's daily life, however, he understands - more so now than a handful of years before - that he had barely any freedom at all.

 

Jimin helped him see that, in his own way. Jimin, who tiptoes back into Yoongi’s thoughts so often, who seems to permeate every aspect of the alpha's life despite only being in it for such a short time, and having left it just under a year ago.

 

"Is the green suitable today, Your Highness?"

 

Yoongi nods, stretching out his aching body as his attendant prepares his clothing. There is not much time before he is required to be downstairs and attending breakfast with those that he would be present at councils with for the rest of the day. He allows the attendant - Jeonghan, his name is, a new boy - to dress him, as they stay quiet so as to not disturb Daehee.

 

Jeonghan also helps him arrange his hair and wash his face, and within minutes Yoongi is heading down to the dining hall to eat. A practiced routine.

 

The first meal of the day is available for those in the castle for several hours, hot items constantly replaced and cold ones occasionally refreshed. It is a luxurious spread, an expensive one, he knows, and he is quite used to such a thing. He can never force himself to eat more than a few pieces of fruit or a pastry, however, never one for an overload of rich food.

 

The high table overlooks all the other tables in such a way that Yoongi feels on his guard every morning, aware of everyone’s eyes on him. When the table is empty apart from him like this it makes it even more obvious, and the time has long passed where Yoongi would wish dearly that he could invite others to sit with him. There are many guests in the castle now, foreign dignitaries and people of importance that do not look at him kindly as he sits above them. Despite feeling uncomfortable with their gazes, Yoongi has accepted that the situation will not change due to his father’s insistence that the high table remain somewhere which only the king may invite guests.

 

At least Yoongi does not have to put on a face of false happiness, if he must sit alone.

 

It is one of many small things that make the significant guests of the castle so unhappy, and Yoongi is of the opinion that it would help immensely with relations if he were to sit with them, to dine and drink with these people that ultimately will decide the fate of the many meetings they will attend, but Yoongi cannot imagine the wrath of his father if he did such a thing.

 

Catching the eye of an emissary from the kingdom nearest the border to the royal castle, Yoongi accepts the alpha’s sneer with a blank face. It is interesting that the other alpha chooses to be so blatantly rude, as when they are close he is much more apprehensive. Intimidated by Yoongi, even. His antics are therefore almost amusing, or would be if they were not so alarming in the grand scheme of things.

 

Yoongi wonders what the alpha’s reaction would be to Yoongi inviting him over to eat, but that thought is followed by a reminder of his father’s temper. He remembers explicitly a scene where Yoongi had been dragged off by the ear at a very young age, maybe six or seven, because he had dared to crawl under the tables to go play with another boy at dinner, as the other boy had been simply the son of a duchess.

 

His father had become so, so red, so angry, it was terrifying. Had called Yoongi a disgrace while Yoongi curled up as small as he could to avoid any kind of attack. It had been the first time his father had spoken to him all week, and it was for something so awful; it was one of Yoongi’s earliest memories of interacting with his father, in fact.

 

“Good morning.” He looks up to see Namjoon approaches the table, voice slightly deeper, rougher, than normal when he greets Yoongi. He smells extra sweet, even more so than his normal omega scent, and Yoongi concludes quickly that his friend had taken a bath with some heavily scented products within the last hour. Not Namjoon’s preference, he knows, but emphasising his own natural scent with roses is still preferable to smelling like Seokjin.

 

“Good morning Namjoon, did you sleep well?” he replies, abandoning his attempt at eating for the distraction. He had seen Namjoon at the advisors’ table when he entered the room, so presumes he has already eaten, and stands to join him.

 

“I did.” Something in his tone is unmistakably content, and Yoongi, having known Namjoon for many, many years, recognises it instantly. There’s something satisfied or even happy about his scent, too, and it brings a small smile to Yoongi’s face, even though simultaneously there is a tugging in his chest.

 

He opens the door for Namjoon to step through, and the omega narrows his eyes at him. “Do not smile like that.”

 

“Why? I am glad that you slept well!” Yoongi says indignantly while his smile only widens. Namjoon simply rolls his eyes at him, leading the way down the corridor to the meeting rooms. The morning sun coming through the windows is bright enough to blind them, and they both raise a hand to shield their eyes from it.

 

The sun also has Namjoon squinting his eyes, emphasising the lines on his face that Yoongi sees have deepened considerably in the past year. It is rather unsurprising, considering the amount of strain that Namjoon has been under recently, the amount of work he has had to do. Yoongi would also not be shocked to find the same changes in his own face; he has found more gray hairs on his own head than he can count on two hands within the past few months. Between him and Namjoon, though, they have plenty enough reason for it.

 

Arriving at the meeting room, the doors are opened and their chairs pulled out by attendants, Yoongi and Namjoon going immediately to sit on the right hand side of the king’s. The table they sit at is huge and oval shaped, the chairs cushioned and ornate, with the king’s at the head of the table. It is so large that it often proves difficult to hear the speech of the person who sits at the other end, making it very difficult to be used for important discussions such as these, but the king is insistent on it. Thus meetings often dissolved into raised voices, not conducive for any kind of positive results.

 

But Yoongi is ever so cynical about these things now. Namjoon is a little less so, having a little more of a positive outlook; Yoongi hopes that it pays off. He wants nothing more than peace for his kingdom, but at this point, it just seems to be looking less and less likely, although he is not quite ready to face the idea of war.

 

Gradually other people begin to enter the room and take the seats around the table. There are just a few representatives from various neighbouring kingdoms, but most of the guests are from the kingdom closest to the east border nearest the castle. They all wear the bright reds of their kingdom's colours; they are also all alphas, an interesting choice, quite indicative of the aggressiveness of their position.

 

Yoongi hopes Namjoon can cope with it. He chastises himself for the thought immediately afterwards, as he knows he shouldn't doubt his friend. In fact, he doesn't doubt that they have so far avoided war because of the omega's negotiations and placations.

 

"When will the king be gracing us with his presence?" one of the alphas addresses Yoongi, and Yoongi draws himself up, checking his face to ensure that he is maintaining a blank expression.

 

"When he is ready."

 

This does not appear to impress the alpha, who wrinkles his nose, although he does not dare to challenge Yoongi. Everyone at the council looks grave and upset before they even begin, and that is not a good sign of what is to come.

 

A few minutes later Yoongi's father enters in a traditional formal grand entrance, with an announcement by an attendant and the opening of the double doors.

 

Taking his time to approach his seat, he steps confidently, barely sparing the guests a glance, nodding at the short bows of his advisors, instead. This tactless approach has Yoongi flinching inwardly; the first of many, most likely.

 

The aggressiveness of the alpha scents clouding the room is beginning to spike already, and Yoongi attempts to keep himself calm in the face of such anger. It will not gain them anything, after all. He glances to the side at Namjoon, who he knows can deal with such things, but still, he cannot help but worry.

 

A raise of the king's eyebrow has the omega clearing his throat, drawing the attention of everyone in the room. "Without any objections, so begins the hundred and twentieth meeting concerning the disputed border between our two kingdoms, and the other issues that have come to pass since the earliest time two springs ago. Ambassador Kibum has the floor."

 

Said ambassador stands, his eyes already narrowed and posture rigid, making eye contact with the various advisors on Yoongi's side of the table, and then Yoongi himself, something akin to real loathing in his eyes. Yoongi has seen this emotion emerge - and he knows that it is loathing, or something close to it, because of the scent emitting from the alphas on that side of the table - over many months, that transition from general respect, to upset, to anger. Simultaneously, Yoongi's hopes have dropped away, replaced with a dawning sense of desperation, a terrible gut feeling.

 

Thus begins two hours of hostile and antagonistic talks which Namjoon attempts to mediate quite unsuccessfully, despite his best efforts. The people in the room are all nobles, all highly educated and of high birth, but the tension has them snapping like animals or peasants in the mud, the aggression in the room almost at the level of that of the training courtyard.

 

At least in the training courtyard, it is not the lives of a whole kingdom directly at stake.

 

Yoongi refuses to let them intimidate him, and scares them with sharp looks, but it does nothing to resolve their issues. Intimidation ultimately does nothing, and will continue to do nothing.

 

Really, he wants to be able to speak to them with a smile, make them comfortable, charm them so they walk away with a positive image of him, of his father, of the kingdom, but it is yet another thing that his father forbids, that he was taught strictly not to do when he was first brought into the staterooms as a young man.

 

Most likely it is also out of the realms of possibility, the alpha thinks with a grimace as he stands, watching as the guests march out of the room without so much as a respectful nod in their direction. He does not really have the skills for such a thing. He has never been particularly good at meeting new people, at making them feel at ease, even if he wishes to be so. Had struggled as a child and teen, and then as a young adult; struggled meeting his mate to be, who had been just as fretful as he, even though the omega tried valiantly to hide it. Struggled with Seokjin, too, a man who means so much to his best friends.

 

Others would most likely be much better at it, he knows, but that thought leads his mind down a dangerous path of self depreciation, something Yoongi does not have time for in the current moment.

 

Namjoon's shoulders are slumped in a subtle way that Yoongi spots immediately when they stand to leave, and Yoongi guides him with a hand on the shoulder as they pass through the doors. It probably does little by way of comfort, not when anyone can see how hopeless the situation is becoming.

 

They do not have long before the advisors are supposed to reconvene, to review plans for the stationing of more troops along the closest borders, but Yoongi needs air and Namjoon definitely needs a break.

 

"Step outside with me?" the alpha requests quietly, to which Namjoon nods in agreement.

 

Outside they breathe in warm summer air and Yoongi's head begins to clear. The tension in his body leaves, very slowly, as he pushes away all that pent up anger. He does not have to maintain any kind of 'face' in front of his best friend, so he lets his expression fall into what he feels, which is mostly misery.

 

The anger, it is the same kind of deep set frustration that itches down to Yoongi's bones, makes him want to lash out or tear at his own hair because he has no control. It is what he remembers from throughout his childhood, the frustration that he was so restricted, could not do anything he wished after presenting as he was under such watchful eyes, had such great expectations resting heavy on his shoulders. That same kind of frustration is what has him clenching his jaw throughout breakfasts and meetings, as it claws at him, his weakness and powerlessness.

 

"What do you think?" he eventually dares to ask. Staring out to the distance, to the castle walls past the gardens, Namjoon's face does not change much except for a small downward curl of the mouth.

 

"I... I am not sure whether it is within my abilities to help us come to a peaceful solution," he admits.

 

"Joon, do not berate yourself over this, we both know it is out of our control," Yoongi cuts in sharply. Namjoon's lips thin out as he presses them together, going white around the edges, and Yoongi softens his tone. "How long do you think we have?"

 

Sighing, his friend turns his eyes to the sky. "I think it very much is dependant on the actions of the king, and how aggressive he appears in the coming weeks. And, the kindness of our enemies."

 

"Is- Are we using 'enemies', now?" Yoongi asks quietly, not attempting to hide the fear that creeps into his voice. Enemies means defense, it means aggression. It means war.

 

"What would you call our relationship with them? Peaceful?" Namjoon says the last word so derisively, if he and Yoongi were not as close as they are, he surely would have faced a great punishment for impudence. Raising an eyebrow at him, Yoongi wordlessly questions the tone, and Namjoon mutters an apology. Suddenly he looks very vulnerable.

 

"I do not know... We are in grave danger, you know this. You must. I am... I am worried," he confesses. "Not for me so much as Hoseok, or Seokjin, or you..."

 

The mention of Seokjin has Yoongi's spine straightening automatically, a response he has little to no control over, and should have moved past long ago but his instinctive urges have never left him regarding the other alpha.

 

He nods rather than replying, because he does relate to Seokjin's experience very deeply. Namjoon, as the face of all of the discussions, is in a particularly dangerous position, as well as Hoseok as a well known emissary and favoured member of the court. Seokjin not so much, but of course Namjoon would still be concerned over the alpha that is almost his mate.

 

Although that may not be an accurate way of thinking, as it appears very much unlikely that they will be mating any time soon - or Hoseok and Seokjin, either, not when it would leave one of them out. It is all a very foreign concept to Yoongi, them as three, and he has tried very hard to wrap his head around it, to comprehend what Namjoon and Hoseok are feeling. They are his best friends, and he would always have fought for their right to love each other, he just did not expect there to be another factor in the equation to complicate it so much further.

 

It is possible that he will never comprehend what they are to each other as three, and he does not know how it will work as they go forward - and he feels deep, unnerving anxiety whenever he thinks too long on the fact that they have kept what they have a secret thus far.

 

He has seen them together, as a three, and the way they interact is something wonderful, even if it does appear cursed if simply because of how taboo such a relationship is. Has watched them grow closer slowly over a long time, watched the bonds form and the dynamic between Hoseok and Namjoon change. And Seokjin... he was ever present, maybe even the catalyst of it all, because Hoseok and Namjoon had been friends for many years before any of this began.

 

Seokjin is also an alpha who Yoongi is still, to this day, completely unfamiliar with. Of a lower status, too, so both Namjoon and Hoseok are risking their reputations twice as much in engaging in whatever affair they are.

 

No, he is being too harsh - it is not simply an affair, he knows this. He just does not know Seokjin, and that has always done something to make his protective instincts flare.

 

If there is something he can understand, though, it is impossible love.

 

Yoongi has worked hard to protect them, their relationship, although it has been much easier due to the current climate - people are too busy thinking about themselves, fleeing the castle or obsessing over the dangers of the antagonistic neighbouring kingdoms to look too closely at the courting between the king's best advisor and the prince's best friend.

 

Still, they had fought over it. What had begun as a calm discussion about logistics, about Namjoon smelling a little too much like Seokjin on a daily basis had ended up with Hoseok storming off, enraged.

 

Yet Yoongi cannot claim himself as the innocent party, having made one too many comments about Seokjin's status - "He is almost an attendant," he had said offhandedly, this time - and not realising that this may be a sensitive topic for his friends. Later, Hoseok would tell him with wet eyes that they already knew they obstacles they faced, and the inequalities between them, had already argued amongst themselves over it, and he could not help but react badly to Yoongi's words.

 

Before that, just after Hoseok's furious exit, Namjoon had quietly and disappointedly reminded him that Jimin was hardly aristocracy, either, and Yoongi had still loved him.

 

"It is quite different," he had replied, struggling to find his voice. His chest ached. "I had never hoped for any chance of happiness with him. I gave it up. And I fear for you."

 

Leaving him alone with his thoughts, Namjoon had left to go after Hoseok, and Yoongi had been consumed for the hundredth time by thoughts of what could have been. This was when Jimin's leaving had been fresh, an open wound.

 

That is most likely why Hoseok had come back so quickly; he has been Yoongi's friend the longest and knows how much Yoongi was- is hurting over Eunmi and Jimin.

 

It took them a while to move past it all, but they did, of course. Yoongi loves his friends far too much for anything such as this to get between them. Although his anxieties about them are always taking a seat with them at the table when they are together, he knows that it is mostly loneliness, as they both have two people they love.

 

That is why he makes a small, personal vow, standing there with Namjoon in that moment, that he will protect them. Keep them safe, together, because that is what they want - what they need.

 

"We need to discuss a plan, for that." He meets Namjoon's eye steadily. "For you three. The coming weeks will be difficult, and you are in danger."

 

"No more than you," Namjoon directs at him sharply. His eyes narrow. "What are you planning? I hope it is-"

 

Yoongi interrupts him firmly. "I am planning on keeping one of my kingdom's best assets for the future, yes. Like I said, we can talk over it. With- With Seokjin, too."

 

Despite appearing unconvinced, Namjoon gives a small acknowledging nod nevertheless. Yoongi gives him a pat on the shoulder, the only familiarity he can show to an unmated omega during the day, when Namjoon cannot carry an alpha's scent, and indicates that they should go back inside.

 

"Once more?"

 

A grimace of a smile graces Namjoon's face, and Yoongi wishes fleetingly that he could just hug his friend.

 

"Yes, let us go."



--



Yoongi is heading towards the next council meeting when he is stopped by a messenger stepping towards him quickly, as close to a jog as possible in such an environment. His hair is ruffled, and Yoongi suspects that he was in fact running through the corridors to get to him. On spotting the beta heading towards him, Yoongi pauses and moves to the side of the corridor in order to be approached more easily.

 

"Your Highness-" He bows hastily, breath coming a little too quick. "I have some news, do you have a moment?"

 

"Of course, do we need to be in private?"

 

A short nod from the messenger has Yoongi leading them into a side room immediately, holding the door for him and leaving him a little flustered.

 

"Ah- Thank you-" He visibly hesitates before speaking again, and Yoongi gestures for him to go on. "It is news from the search party in the north."

 

Yoongi's heart skips a beat. The search party for his daughter and for Jimin has not had any success in looking for the pair so far, but every time he is sent news, despite it being a regular occurance, he feels deeply anxious.

 

"They have found a trail, heard rumours of an omega with a young pup. They say the rumours sound like the Park boy," the beta explains quickly. "They say he has been moving around the north countries, over the border to and fro so as to not be caught. The party want your go ahead to seek permission to follow as far north as necessary."

 

As Yoongi takes this in, his heart calms significantly. He stops himself from letting out a relieved breath, or showing any visible signs of how pleased he is. Although, he supposes that it would not be out of place to look pleased, if it looks as though Jimin may be caught.

 

"Of course, send word that they may do as they see fit in the north countries, as long as they remain undercover. Stay out of sight of any soldiers, as they will not take well to our kingdom's colours at the moment although I am sure that the search party know this already." One of the only things that the party does know, Yoongi thinks.

 

The messenger bows immediately, already taking an eager step backwards towards the door. "Yes, Your Highness, right away."

 

"Thank you for your service, and your... zeal." The young beta smiles, shy and pleased, and Yoongi nods, indicating that he may leave. He takes a moment for himself after the messenger rounds the door.

 

Of course, the search party have no idea that what they are following is just rumour, and certainly will not lead them to Jimin. Not in the north countries, when Jimin had fled in a south-east, towards one of the most neutral of kingdoms.

 

Yoongi remembers Taehyung's visit to him after Eunmi was born, clear as day. Remembers the tension in his posture, and the way he had asked for a moment alone with Yoongi, much like that messenger just had before.

 

But Taehyung was - is - much smarter, and much more subtle when he has to be. When he had stood in front of Yoongi in Yoongi's apartments, alone, he had also been much more bold, looking at Yoongi directly in the eye. It had surprised him, as he did not know the attendant to be so openly impertinent towards his superiors.

 

"Your Highness. I just wanted to give you an update on Jimin's health. He is well," Taehyung had said lightly, and his tone immediately had Yoongi on high alert. It contrasted too much with his posture, was too light in consideration of the subject matter; Yoongi knew that Taehyung was Jimin's closest friend.

 

"Oh? That is good."

 

"Yes. I have been spending lots of time talking to him, telling him stories to distract him from his tiredness when he has to wake up and eat," Taehyung continued, and Yoongi's eyes zeroed in on the beta's face, attempting to read him as he chattered seemingly idly. For anyone listening in that knew Taehyung, they would know that that kind of chatter was not out of the ordinary. "I have lots of things I haven't told him about myself, still. I told him about my family in the south-east."

 

There was a pregnant pause where Taehyung quirked an eyebrow, ever so slightly. Yoongi had nodded, acknowledging, and indicated he go on. The south-east. One of the small handful of countries that was not currently behaving in a hostile fashion with their own. Known for their low population and greenery.

 

"I told him I would like to visit there, one day."

 

Then, in that second, Yoongi had understood exactly what Taehyung was telling him. It was not a surprise, not when he had told Jimin, hours earlier, to do what he needs to. He had seen the way that Jimin had looked at their daughter, felt the shift in the air, the change in scent as Jimin held her.

 

Clearing his throat from the sudden wetness he felt there, he had nodded. "It is quite a safe place, I have heard."

 

A moment of understanding passed between them, and although Yoongi was not sure why Taehyung had chosen to tell him this, not when it put them in potential danger, he appreciated it all the same. Would treasure the knowledge of where Jimin and Eunmi where going, and the fact that it was probably the best location for which they could go.

 

"Yes, well, I just wanted to inform you on Jimin's condition. I will take my leave." Taehyung bowed informally before stepping towards the door, and Yoongi scrambled mentally for some way to thank him, to wish him well. He knew, then, that he would not see Jimin again.

 

"Take care of Jimin well, please, Taehyung," Yoongi articulated the words carefully, so if anyone were listening, they would think his tone is light, that he did not care about the subject matter. "Thank you, for coming to tell me."

 

"Of course, Your Highness." And then he had left, left Yoongi alone to accept the crushing reality that he would never see his daughter, or Jimin, again.

 

The next twelve hours were suffocating. Hiding his feelings from Daehee was the true challenge, and required great acting on his part; as did reacting to the news that Jimin had escaped, relayed by an attendant. He had to maintain the facade of grief and anger in front of his friends and then his family, too, and then the rest of court. Court life had somewhat prepared him for such an act, he remembers thinking wryly as he had made himself completely unapproachable, feigning at snapping out of frustration at those who spoke to him.

 

From that point onwards, though, Yoongi made sure to appear ferocious in his pursuit of Jimin - a treasonous thief, as far as everyone else knows - whilst directing the search parties in the wrong direction altogether. He makes up lies about how Jimin had mentioned having family in the north, about how he had said he had always wanted to go there, and sends the search parties all in that way.

 

So far, there had been no fruitful findings.

 

Simultaneously,Yoongi had set about attempting to protect Jimin's family. Interviews were conducted with them, but he made sure to send only people he trusted to not be too harsh. It had helped that Jimin's true role was always a secret, and even in the letters that Jimin's tearful mother provided, there was never any evidence of where Jimin may be. It meant that no questions could be asked that might reveal the true nature of Jimin's occupation in the castle, and the family as a whole went unscathed.

 

Apart from the emotional impact, of course. But as far as Jimin's family know, he ran away with a beta in the castle that he fell in love with, as he did not see a future for them together within the bounds of their current lives.

 

The last part hurts to recall, but Yoongi is satisfied that Jimin's family think he is happy somewhere.

 

Yoongi himself tries not to think about Jimin's whereabouts too much, as it can leave him terrified. He is still thankful that Jimin asked him to teach the omega how to use a bow and arrow, rather than to use a sword.

 

He hopes that it helped him, somehow. Or maybe not. Yoongi does not want to wish conflict and potential harm upon him, even though a part of him is quietly confident that Jimin would be able to handle himself. Then again, Jimin is not alone, he has Eunmi to protect.

 

The people at court, the visitors, they cannot see him in such a state of fear - any kind of show of weakness, like a scent that gives away how scared he is, would put them in a very vulnerable place. So, Yoongi avoids the thoughts that plague him about how he should not have let Jimin hold their pup, having known he would get attached and that it would cause nothing but a mess.

 

But he has many weaknesses, and one of them was Jimin. He had been from very early on, and the sight of him staring at Eunmi was far too much for the alpha to take.

 

And when Jimin held her, well. Yoongi was shocked by the magnitude of Jimin's reaction. Although, he probably should not have been. The thing is that he understands, because the moment Yoongi held Eunmi, he loved her too.

 

He just had loved Jimin first. Enough to give them a chance.

 

After Jimin had left, and Yoongi had acted out his horror and shock and anger, he had looked through Jimin’s belongings under the guise of looking for clues. He had, of course, found nothing of use, but to Yoongi the absence of many things spoke to him more.

 

He had not found the blue cloak that had been a gift from himself, and that touched something deep in his soul. The image of Jimin wearing it to stay warm, to wrap Eunmi and shield themself from the elements, made Yoongi ache whilst somewhat pacifying the deep instinct to protect, to care for the omega.

 

Not that Jimin needs it, not really.

 

To this day, that particular shade of blue always reminds Yoongi of him.



--



"Can you stop moping?" Daehee hisses at him, lifting his chin in order for an attendant to place an expensive set of jewels around his neck. "I can smell it."

 

The alpha bites his tongue. Daehee did not always have a mouth willing to challenge him, and sometimes it startles him. They are currently back in their bedroom on opposite sides of the room, though facing each other.

 

"Did something happen?"

 

Concern and confusion permeate Daehee’s tone, and Yoongi presses his lips together. "I received some news today... about Jimin. Supposedly a trail has been found," Yoongi sighs. Daehee raises a sharply groomed eyebrow.

 

"Oh, really? And what, you are worried for the sake of him?"

 

Yoongi struggles to control his breathing at that, feeling like he has been winded. Of course his mate saw straight through any pretenses he might have come up with. "I- I cannot help it. He has my daughter..."

 

The omega does not appear to believe that to be the only reason at all, silently giving Yoongi a rather condescending look. He is the master of disdainful expressions, Yoongi thinks wryly. It was his permanent expression when Jimin was in the castle; something Yoongi chastised him for frequently, whilst trying to tell him that Jimin was not a peasant, comes from a family of some wealth. However, it did nothing to pacify Daehee’s dislike and general discontent with Jimin’s presence in the castle, and Yoongi could not ever know or understand how he felt about it. Maybe he was not meant to.

 

Thankfully, Daehee changes the subject. "What about progress today?"

 

He must already know. Must have been able to sense Yoongi's frustration and hopelessness throughout the day, and that is where all of the anxiety that Yoongi can feel him experiencing is coming from.

 

"Not good," the alpha replies quietly. Nodding, Daehee looks down at the ground for a little while before he lifts his gaze back up, straightening his shoulders. Resignation.

 

He does not speak again until their attendants have left, Yoongi almost ready to head down to the dining hall. Adjusting the sleeves of his dinner blouse, Daehee clears his throat. "Has my family sent word?"

 

This has Yoongi dropping his own eyes to the floor. It is not his fault, but the need to apologise still bubbles up on his lips as he murmurs a, "No, no word."

 

His mate nods once more before turning towards the door, letting his face fall back into his usual expressionless mask. It feels so wrong to be able to feel Daehee's aching sadness in that moment, and even unnatural to not comfort him, but Yoongi knows that it would be very much unwelcome.

 

Yoongi knows pain like that, felt it the night that Jimin left and he realised that he could not go after him. His instincts were rioting because he could not go to him and protect him, knowing anything could happen to him. That pain stayed strong for days, deep within Yoongi - stopped him sleeping, stopped him eating. Led him to actually considering just running away and trying to find them, but he had fought it because it would just put Jimin in so much more danger.

 

Plus, there was Daehee. Yoongi will not leave his mate, is committed to him, even if they are not in love, not even close friends. Their bond cannot be broken, and if Yoongi left, who knew what would happen to him.

 

Dinner is usually an uneventful part of his daily routine, although an even more uncomfortable affair than breakfast. The presence of his family and mate cement that, alongside the unkind gazes of the foreign dignitaries - just a few months ago, it would be less of an issue, easier for Yoongi to blur into the background somewhat, but now so many members of court have left, this is not possible.

 

Yoongi does not truly miss them, though. He has little love for the people that are so vapid, so unkind. The way they treat the attendants is truly reprehensible behind closed doors, and they had shown themselves to have no loyalty, many of them leaving quickly in the night without a formal goodbye to any of his family. His father obviously took great offense, and despite disliking a great many of them, Yoongi does not look forward to having to witness the consequences for them in the near future.

 

If they come out of the current situation unscathed, that is. Next to him, Daehee shifts, sending him an annoyed look that would have been easy to miss had Yoongi not felt his irritation through their bond.

 

"I can smell how angry you are. Try and calm down before you cause a fight in the hall," he remarks in a pleasant tone, his face staying neutral. The next moment, he smiles politely at one of the dukes on a close table who appears to be halfway to drunk already. Yoongi hides his own, despite wanting to laugh at his antics, reminding himself that there are many reasons to be getting inebriated at the moment.

 

The atmosphere in the dining hall is a subdued one, far quieter than it once was. It had been Daehee that pointed it out to him, when it began to happen; he had been enjoying the quiet, but his mate was disturbed by the development. Sure enough, only days after he had mentioned it to Yoongi, members of court began to slip away with their various excuses. The castle is half empty now, and it is not like the king has ever kept a large court in any sense.

 

"If there is to be a fight, it will be in one of the meetings. I am surprised every day that nobody has come to blows," he sighs back, voice quiet. The drunk duke is making enough noise easily for their conversation to be covered.

 

There's a spike of worry from his mate, and Yoongi does not attempt to comfort him as, again, it would most likely be unwelcome, as well as obvious to all of those around them, and that is not the image they are supposed to maintain. The feeling is not new, anyway - it has been a constant simmer for several months, so Yoongi knows that he is fine.

 

Daehees eyes dart around the dignitaries, a split second where his masks slips, and then returns once more. Picks up a spoonful of dessert and chews, before saying slowly: "Yoongi, something is brewing."

 

Taking in the words, Yoongi looks down at his plate to try and hide his face while he attempts to comprehend them. "What makes you think so?" he asks eventually, a casual murmur to anyone listening in.

 

"Just... Something. Believe me," the omega insists shortly. Yoongi does, too, knows that Daehee can be very perceptive. When he wants to be, that is. Yoongi has not yet forgotten the incidences with Jimin and the upset Daehee caused.

 

"I do."



--



There is an advisory meeting after dinner, what  was once an emergency meeting that has become a daily occurrence due to the urgency of the situation at hand. After this, darkness falls, and Yoongi makes his way outside to meet Hoseok for a training session.

 

That is a habit that is hard to break, has been ever since they were children: the daily training to better their skills. He and Hoseok had the same swordmaster, had taken lessons together in their youth, and Yoongi feels very much like the need for training was ingrained in them by that alpha. It is certainly not a negative thing, Hoseok always says,particularly in the face of a potential war.

 

Hoseok is already at the courtyard when he arrives, warming up with a training sword in one of the pens. The sight itself is exhausting, but Yoongi does not pause in his approach.

 

"Good evening," he calls, fingers going to the tie on his cloak. The night has something of a chill about it, the sky clear and moon bright, lighting the courtyard wonderfully. They will not even need to light torches.

 

"Evening! I brought you one out." The beta indicates the other training sword leaning against the fence of the pen with a tired grin. "I am ready for a heavy session if you are. And I am sure you are, plenty of pent up aggression to get out, right?" He laughs after, not quite as loud or bright as normal. Yoongi gives him a small smile in return, thanking him for bringing out another sword as he throws his cloak over the fence and out of the way.

 

He stretches somewhat before entering the pen with the beta, breathing deeply and attempting to rid himself of any lasting aggression, as contrary to what Hoseok said, he does not want to take that out on his friend. Stepping inside, Hoseok gives him another grin.

 

"Long time no see, stranger."

 

"Missed you too," Yoongi quips back, rolling his shoulders. He adopts a fighting stance, knees bent slightly, and mentally reminds himself to come down to train earlier in the night. He must miss Hoseok so often, getting caught up and only coming down around midnight some nights, and Yoongi reprimands himself for it. He cannot check on the wellbeing of his best friend if he never sees him.

 

"How was today?" the beta questions, the jovial tone of his voice still consistent, but Yoongi knows that the beta will be extremely concerned. He wonders what Namjoon has told him.

 

"Not good. I am worried, Seok," he confesses. "They hate us."

 

"They? Just the ambassadors, or the kingdoms?"

 

"I... am not sure." Yoongi raises his training sword in mirror to Hoseok's and taps them together lightly, a pre-training habit they have had with each other since their early teens. "But these alphas, they are the deciders. Whatever they relay back to their kings is what will be regarded as the truth - it was the same when we sent you, yes?"

 

Hoseok nods, and Yoongi's thoughts flicker back over the events of the day, the review of the issues, the steady rise in the tensions of the room to the point where he wanted to open a window to let fresh air inside, allowing the scent of angry alpha to dissipate.

 

With great clarity he remembers beginning a sentence with the words, "If we could begin trade again with the two kingdoms that have cut us off-", only to receive actual hisses from several of those around table. It was aggravating as well as intimidating, and Yoongi felt as though he could do nothing as Namjoon stepped in to prevent the ambassadors from the closest kingdom from storming out.

 

But mostly, it had Yoongi feeling absolutely helpless. His people are starving; it is not an exaggeration that two of the four neighbouring countries to theirs have cut off trade with the kingdom altogether.

 

These meetings, they should focus on re-opening these trade lines, allowing food and supplies back into the kingdom, but so far there has been no progress on that front. Nor has there been any progress in attempting to get the troops at the borders of the kingdom to stand down.

 

On the latter issue, Yoongi can understand their unwillingness to concede. The troops- their troops along the borders, have been treating the neighbouring kingdom's villages like their own personal playing fields, acting like savages, and Yoongi had not even known. Had not known until it was being brought up by angered officials visiting the state on an emergency visit, just at the beginning of last summer.

 

Upon hearing the news, he was devastated. Yoongi is supposed to be a general , even if the title is just superficial, and he has not truly been allowed to give any orders when it comes to their troops, Yet, he had not known what was going on in his army, had allowed all of this to happen right under his nose.

 

The guilt consumed him for days, weeks, even - he had only become distracted by the introduction of a new member of the castle, the person that was supposed to provide him with an heir. Even then, it weighed on him - still weighs on him, leaves him exhausted in the wake of having to get up every day and face the fact that under his watch, people are have been put through so much pain and hardship.

 

The voice of Ambassador Kibum from hours before is what echoes through his head, then. "We need to be shown a sense of accountability," he had insisted, fingers clenched into fists by his side. At that point, he had been visibly shaking with rage. Yoongi clamped down on the urge to hide Namjoon behind him, because he would probably get a punch to the face for his troubles from the omega himself. "Punishing the soldiers would be a good start. Then maybe the queen would consider re-opening the trade routes. After that, we would need evidence that the peasants in your own countryside ," he pauses for effect, glaring at Yoongi, at Namjoon, and all of the advisors in turn, "are no longer being neglected. There is no excuse for treatment that is equal to what I have seen in actual war crimes ."

 

Yoongi had not disagreed with his points, but was certainly not permitted to openly agree. Then, as though he had not been taking it seriously in the slightest, his father had left. Walked out with his nose turned up in disgust, smelling like anger and aggressiveness that Yoongi knew he would most likely take out on the poor attendants in his apartments.

 

He made attempts afterwards at negotiating for more time, more leniency, but it was with fear that he watched the alphas around the table stay unresponsive. The fact that they showed so little respect for him in this way barely troubled him at this point; he simply wished that he could right all of these wrongs, settle all the land disputes and all of his father’s crimes against his own people that he had been so unaware of for so long.

 

Training is not the time to be distracted, so Yoongi forces himself to focus. Hoseok is much faster than him, has a kind of lightness on his feet that the alpha has always been jealous of.

 

The last time he got distracted, it gave him a massive bruise on his waist that healed quickly but was still horrible to sleep and walk and exist with for several days first. It was just a kid who did it, too, and Yoongi can picture his panicked, apologetic face almost as well as the image of Jimin walking into the training courtyard that had caused the whole thing.

 

His scent had knocked Yoongi off kilter, distracted him to the point he had missed dodging the young alpha's swing and it had hit Yoongi's side, hard. For a split second before that, though, he had looked up to see Jimin stood there, and he had looked ethereal.

 

Of course Yoongi had thought he was pretty from the moment they met, had chosen Jimin for the position for superficial reasons. But just then, it had knocked the wind out of Yoongi, even before the blow. The fact that Jimin was there at all caused an innate reaction in him, to protect and cover, and it was all Yoongi could think to try and get Jimin away from there.

 

Yet, although it worked, and it got Jimin away from a group of testosterone filled alphas that might have hurt him or touched him without his permission, the way he had sneered at Jimin afterwards is one of the most shameful things Yoongi has done in his living memory.

 

That was summer.

 

Summer was once Yoongi's favourite time of year, and Jimin had entered his life in summer; thus, he reminds Yoongi of the season in such a way, all warm skin and seeming to glow from within, happiness and youth. His smile brightened Yoongi's day, everyday, even towards the end when the omega was wan and sad, and the alpha did not get to see Jimin's smile up close, just across the room, distant.

 

He may associate Jimin with sunshine, but it is at night that Yoongi finds himself thinking of him the most. So often did Yoongi see Jimin bathed in candlelight, or moonlight, and this is the part of the day in which Yoongi has the most time to think, by himself. The archery practice area is the worst for that, and Yoongi finds it difficult to pick up a bow and arrow anymore.

 

"You'll have to be a bit more precise than that," Hoseok says, amused, after a particularly inaccurate swing from Yoongi. He has been almost embarrassingly weak today, Hoseok beating him out for three out of four matches so far.

 

"Ah, 'm not-" Yoongi pauses to catch his breath, pushing back the hair that had escaped from its styling to flop over his forehead. "Sorry, I will try harder. Bit distracted."

 

Hoseok nods, wiping sweat away from his forehead. "I understand. Careful, though, I do not want to hurt you by accident."

 

Yoongi smiles wryly, the words so coincidentally matching up to his thoughts and reflections.

 

They start again, trading words of encouragement and constructive criticism without any mean undertones. A light wind stirs around them, rustling the leaves on the nearby trees and helping to cool Yoongi and the sweat gathering on his brow, on his back. He manages to focus better with Hoseok's encouragements, so he is able to get in some proper practice.

 

“I think we are done for the night,” Hoseok pants, dropping his sword in order to lean on it heavily. Yoongi gives him a tired grin and a pat on the back.

 

“I think we are both getting old. I am sure we used to be able to stay out much longer, Seok,” he laughs, and flinches away from where Hoseok tries to smack him. “It is alright, just remember I am always going to be older than you, either way.”

 

There is something about the way Hoseok’s smile fades there, the atmosphere falling as he looks at Yoongi for a long moment. The silence goes on for a little too long before he speaks again.

 

“I hope so.”



--



Three days pass, and Yoongi follows the same routine as always. It is strict and unforgiving, the only time he really gets to stop and think is at nighttime as he makes an effort to join Hoseok for training. They watch his father's rage grow by the day. It becomes a kind of monster present in the room with them, always ready to rise up and make itself known.

 

Rising that day had been hard, and as he headed down to breakfast, Yoongi feels very much as though he may still be asleep.

 

He sits down at the high table and indicates for an attendant to get him some porridge, which he accepts with thanks. It is after a few spoonfuls that he starts to look around him, taking in the scene of the main hall, awash with weak early morning light from the windows.

 

Something is out of place, he realises. The tables are far sparser than they have been even during the past month, and the closest table on which the ambassadors sit is completely empty. There has not been a morning in which they have not been in their seats, eating breakfast and sending Yoongi judgemental glances, and so their absence sends chills down Yoongi's spine. He tries to think whether there would be a reason why they would be missing, and comes up with nothing.

 

Namjoon is not at the advisor's table, either, which is also somewhat sparse. Yoongi focuses in on those that are there and can sniff out their discomfort. They murmur amongst themselves, glancing occasionally at the empty envoy table, and it is enough to have Yoongi's stomach churning. He stands and heads immediately to the door, steps quick as he heads for Namjoon's bedroom.



--



"Joon, we have a problem." He strolls straight into Namjoon's room, which he immediately regrets as he comes face to face with Hoseok's half undressed body. He holds up a hand to block out the sight, his own cursing joining Seokjin's, who remains on the bed, before a fully dressed Namjoon steps in front of him.

 

"What is it?"

 

"The envoys are all missing. Was there something..." Yoongi comes to a halt in his questions when Namjoon's face drains of colour completely, and there is a sharp shift in his scent, which goes from relaxed and content to downright fearful .

 

"Yesterday," he almost whispers, and Yoongi does not even react as Seokjin rises from the bed and approaches to stand at Namjoon's side, concern evident in his own alpha scent. "Yesterday, they were so angry. Kibum said that today may be our only chance to concede. Do you think..."

 

Yoongi's mind is racing. "They left for their own safety?"

 

Namjoon nods, and behind him Hoseok curses quietly.

 

"Fuck. We need to speak to my father. I will assume he was told." Yoongi's eyes narrow, not focused on anything, but a bitter rage is bubbling alongside the anxiety in his stomach. "Why was I not informed. Why not you?"

 

"I suppose that is irrelevant now," Namjoon sighs, although his tone betrays his irritation; Yoongi knows him too well. "I think we may have little time left."

 

Yoongi's mind, no longer scrambling itself into a mess, sets itself straight with key priorities that he needs to address. First thing he needs to do is to speak to the king, and to see if the emissaries sent word of why they were leaving, if they have spoken to him of their terms. Next is to send word to rally the troops in the locations along the border - Yoongi's heart drops when he realises how unprepared they are. They all thought they had more time.

 

There is no way they can win.

 

There is a higher priority, then.

 

"You need to leave," he states straightforwardly, addressing Namjoon. His gaze falls on Hoseok behind him, who has stepped forward. "Both of you. It is not safe for you here."

 

"Leave? You cannot be serious. We are staying with you," Hoseok blurted immediately, shaking his head. He reaches for Yoongi, taking hold of his wrist, simultaneously looking at the other two before admonishing, " I am staying."

 

"No, Seok, you know what is going to happen if you do. I will not have your deaths on my hands." Yoongi's voice is firm, although the idea of being left behind makes him more unnerved than he could possibly begin to articulate. That is unimportant in the face of the current situation, however. "Leave, right this moment. A small party should have a good chance of not being detected."

 

"Yoongi." Namjoon sounds shocked, hurt, and in an opposite move to Hoseok has pulled away from them, his scent betraying his panic. "You really cannot expect us to-"

 

"I think he is right." It is Seokjin's voice that rises above Namjoon's then, his presence in the room previously almost unnoticeable. "You are in danger. Joonie, you especially. You have been saying for days, weeks even, that we will not win a war."

 

Namjoon turns, and Yoongi watches as they have some kind of fight just through stares. Seokjin does not attempt to assert his dominance, his scent not spiking or becoming overwhelming - although Yoongi understands that Namjoon can probably pick up small changes in it far better than he can.

 

Hoseok steps between them, murmuring something to Seokjin that Yoongi does not quite catch, and he suddenly feels as though he should not be there, like he is intruding on a very private moment.

 

"I would go with you, if you would let me," Seokjin says softly then, looking between his two lovers, and Yoongi steps back a little, trying to make himself invisible to them. Not that it matters; he doubts they would notice him anyway.

 

Hoseok makes a hurt noise. "Do you think we would leave without you?"

 

"I am not leaving," Namjoon hisses, and Seokjin goes to him then, taking the omega's face in his hands. He whispers something, and Yoongi can almost tangibly feel Namjoon's growing unease, his hopelessness. Hoseok looks to Yoongi, pressing his lips together, before speaking up once again.

 

"Where would we go?"

 

"The best place would probably be one of the peaceful kingdoms. Go north-east, or south-east. Lay low there, for if we do come out unscathed -" the word is said reluctantly, as Yoongi knows how unlikely it is, "-you may then return, or you may be able to provide support. Think about it, Joon." Yoongi switches his focus to Namjoon, who has turned towards him in Seokjin's embrace. "You will be more useful to us somewhere safe."

 

"At least come with us," Hoseok says desperately. "You and Daehee. Surely it does not make any more sense for you to be here than us."

 

"That is not really an option." Though, he wishes desperately it were, but he does not say that. "And I do not know if Daehee would go. No, think of yourselves, please. This is important." He ends with a plea, looking at them all imploringly. It takes a lot not to let his voice crack. "I am the crown prince, I cannot abandon my role."

 

They are not safe here. I need them safe.

 

Namjoon scoffs. "You know that is bullshit. You do not want to be here. Your people do not love you. Your father puts them through nightmares and refuses to fix his wrongs, in order to live in luxury." His voice begins to raise, deep and booming, but Yoongi stands his ground, grimacing nonetheless. "Your titles are false, and if you remain here you will most likely be executed. You know all this." His face twists, angry, as he steps out of Seokjin's arms. "And yet you will not leave. Yoongi-"

 

Yoongi catches his "I know, Joon, I know. But it is my duty. I have remained ignorant for far too long. The wrongdoings of my father rest on my shoulders. I am not blameless. You know this, surely."

 

Both Hoseok and Namjoon protest this vehemently, and even Seokjin looks critical. Clenching his jaw, Yoongi reins himself in from giving them an actual order - something that would not go down well with Seokjin there, he is sure. "We do not have time for this."

 

"Yoongi-" Hoseok starts, but then Namjoon holds his hand up, and he stops, turning to him with wide eyes.

 

"If you wish for us to go, we will go." He sounds so resigned, weariness written all over the lines of his face. Yoongi remembers there conversation only days ago, and Namjoon's own wishes to keep Hoseok and Seokjin safe. The lingering glances to his lovers just confirm to him Namjoon's thought process, and he has to suppress a small, sad smile. "But please, promise us that you will plan to come with us."

 

Yoongi opens his mouth to disagree, but Hoseok speaks faster. "Yes, at least plan to. It makes no sense to stay, not if you think you will lose the castle. Strategically it is so weak... Just, promise us, Yoon. Then I will not fight, either."

 

Swallowing, Yoongi finds himself cornered. He opens his mouth, but cannot protest, not if this is the condition that gets his best friends to leave. His gaze flickers between the three of them, the exhaustion in Namjoon's posture, Hoseok's tight fists at his sides. Seokjin's hand on Hoseok's waist, rubbing, reassuring. They need to stay together, Yoongi decides. Need to be out of harm's way.

 

"Alright. I will make plans. But you must go now." Seokjin immediately begins to move, going to Namjoon's wardrobe to collect his belongings. Hoseok steps towards him, reaching out, and Yoongi lets himself be held.

 

"I will see you again soon,” Hoseok says as he pulls back, gripping Yoongi’s shoulders tight. The alpha gives him a tight smile. If they have more time, maybe it will be possible.

 

Namjoon is next, holding him tight. "Your father's decisions are not your own," he whispers.

 

Taking a deep breath, Yoongi tries to believe it.



--



After saying goodbye, Yoongi is a little unsteady on his legs as he approaches the council rooms. As he grows closer, though, the anger he felt before begins to rise again. He has never had trouble reigning in his alpha instincts, even around Jimin, apart from a handful of occasions - when he was in rut, for example. Right in that moment, however, he is not sure he will be able to avoid violence with his father.

 

When he reaches the council rooms where the king is, however, and he can smell the tension in the room from outside, he prevents himself from making a dramatic entrance. Allows an attendant with a very pale face to open the door for him, and steps inside whilst taking a deep breath to calm himself.

 

The first thing that he sees is his mother, sat on a chaise lounge seemingly moved purposefully into the room just for her. He watches as she slaps the hand of one of her two handmaiden omegas away with her fan as she attempts to rearrange her dress. Her face is drawn, anxious, as she looks at his father on the other side of the room.

 

The king stands surrounded by his war generals, not his usual advisors, and this is the first sign to Yoongi that something is very wrong. They look down at a map of the kingdom, figurines placed here and there to represent their troops as well as those of their adversaries. It is immediately apparent - almost comically so - that they are outnumbered. Yet, the king's countenance is clearly one of anger, his scent intimidating, as he speaks sharply to the alphas around him.

 

Those close to Yoongi, attendants and advisors, all turn to look at him in fear before taking clear steps backwards in fear. As he approaches the table the generals also begin to look towards him, falling silent from their discussions. Eventually he stands right on the opposite side of the table to his father, who continues to bark orders to those who are no longer listening.

 

Yoongi does not doubt that all of the generals know his anger from not being sent for; when he glares at them sharply, a few of them even bow in his direction apologetically. However, the scene in front of him is far more concerning than any tantrum he could have had over not being sent for despite his rank. When he speaks, his voice is harsh and incredulous.

 

"You intend to go to war?"

 

The king does not even spare him a glance. "I think you can very well see what is happening. If you are not going to assist us, get out."

 

"Did they not send word, give us conditions to be met? An offer of surrender?" Those around the table shift uneasily. Yoongi's jaw clenches hard, fury burning within him.

 

His father has the gall to ignore him completely, speaking to the general next to him instead, asking questions that the other alpha answers after a moment of hesitation, looking at Yoongi.

 

A direct look at the general to Yoongi's left has him spilling everything. "There was a note, Your Highness, a warning of war unless we surrender immediately. It was passed to us in the early hours. We have been planning since." He looks to the king and then back to Yoongi, and the message is clear: the king never considered surrender, and intended to take them all down with him.

 

He raises his voice even more. "We are planning to fight, despite our few numbers, and the terrible placement of our - unprepared, may I add, troops?" There is venom in his voice, and the room stays dead silent. "Never mind the fact that our troops are starved from lack of provisions due to the trade cut off? Even though food has been prioritised for troops instead of peasants who are starving?"

 

The words finally seem to penetrate his father's thick skull as his eyes roll up, and he meets Yoongi's harsh gaze with his own murderous one. It is as though everyone in the room draws breath, holding it as they stare.

 

"Surrender is not an option," he hisses. Narrowing his eyes, Yoongi leans forward on the table on his hands.

 

"And why is that? Because your pride will not allow it?" There are a few murmurs around him, and he leans back abruptly. He has never felt so much rage. "This is your last chance to make right your wrongs, and you are going to throw it away?"

 

His father shoves himself back from the table and the alphas around him scramble to move out of his way as he rounds it, headed straight for Yoongi, who stands his ground.  They end up standing close enough that Yoongi can see the way his nostrils flare, the red of his bloodshot eyes. He looks vile, nothing like the impressive sight he once was. It even feels to Yoongi as though he has lost some of his height, putting them at more of an equal level, although that is impossible.

 

"My wrongs ." The king spits as he speaks, and a muscle twitches in Yoongi's cheek as he stops himself from reflexively wiping his face. "And what are those, my dear son?"

 

A growl rises in Yoongi's throat, provoking one from the other alpha, too. "You know your wrongs. Do not pretend. Your people are starving because of your own greed, and you allow your lords to take advantage of the peasantry so much that they cannot provide for their own families, working themselves to the bone with no provisions for any kind of care available to them. Do not speak as though you have not committed treason against your kingdom."

 

Suddenly the other alpha is much closer before, fisting a hand in Yoongi's shirt and growling in an attempt at intimidation. Yoongi still does not back down. "And these called wrongs, did you do anything to prevent them?" Fingers catch the skin of Yoongi's chest as he twists his hands, and Yoongi suppresses a wince. "Are you sure that it is not simply you that feels wronged?"

 

And Yoongi knows, he knows what his father is referring to. Remembers the coldness in his eyes when he informed Yoongi that Jimin would only be allowed twenty-four hours in the castle, that he would not under any circumstances allow a commoner to remain here any longer than necessary. The way he had not relented despite Yoongi breaking and resorting to begging, and how he had known Yoongi's feelings and yet still shown no sympathy.

 

The sight and feeling of a more powerful alpha trying to dominate him in such a way should have him backing down, but knowing that he is mocking Yoongi over this, over Jimin, has him fuming. He shoves back, sending his father stumbling.

 

"Do not stay blind to your own faults! Not when it has put all of us on the brink of death." Yoongi only receives a scoff in response, and it puts him on the edge of physical violence. No-one in the room would hold him back. They all must know that even if they leave now, they would be chased down by the troops that are presumably on their way at that very moment.

 

"Hm." He nods to himself, and Yoongi's heart pounds in anticipation. "I knew that you would be a disappointment." His father's voice is clinical, almost light. "Too small. Too weak. Never was controlling enough. You have not even provided an heir."

 

It should not hurt as much as it does. His father should not mean anything to him, but being seen as such a failure in his eyes, it claws at him and any deep insecurities he may have, as well as how much he misses his daughter. His daughter, who he is not even sure he may call as sucht, as he has had no part in raising her.

 

He does not even know if she is still alive.

 

Yoongi realises that his reaction is combined with Daehee's, the words affecting him as they always do when they are reminded of their failure to produce an heir. It is that which spurs him into stepping back and away from the monster in front of him.

 

“You- It is clear that nothing I can do would change your mind. I hope that you reconsider. For all of our sakes, and your people’s, Jaein.”

 

He has never used his father’s name before. It was whipped into him as a child just how disrespectful that would be, that he should address the king as such. Right now, though, his father does not have an appearance of a king. He takes one last look at the man in front of him, the state in which he is in, so far beyond saving. So full of hatred and bitterness, and so stubborn he would be willing to get all of them killed in order to not admit his wrongdoings.

 

Then, Yoongi walks away.



--



Yoongi hears as soon as half an hour after his confrontation that their troops on the borders have been defeated, and that the enemy forces will arrive at the castle within an hour. He and Daehee wait in their bedroom, listening to the distant noises in the castle, and watching members of court leave.

 

Daehee stands by the window, and Yoongi moves to be beside him. The omega's arms are crossed so tightly it looks like it could hurt. Just this once, Yoongi allows himself to try and alleviate his mate's distress; a light hand on the shoulder, a comforting scent. Daehee does not shrug him away, but does not otherwise react. Just gazes out, eyes occasionally flickering around to focus on different things on the horizon.

 

There is a chill in the room, the air outside the window eerily calm, and Yoongi is sure that he has never seen the castle gardens so quiet in the midst of summer. A deep sense of dread weighs down his limbs as he looks out, over the castle walls and to the specks of the town houses in the far distance. Over the trees and the hills, to where their end approaches.

 

Daehee's scent is sharp, acrid with fear. Yoongi wants to be able to tell him not to be afraid. He holds his tongue.

 

"I am sorry," he says instead. Another apology for another life. Maybe he will never be able to stop.

 

He hears Daehee swallow, but there is no reply.

 

Everything is so quiet.

 

They stay like that for minutes, but what feels like hours. Watch as out in the front courtyard a countess climbs into a carriage clearly laden with her belongings. Her footman gets her away quickly, and no-one comes out to stop her.

 

And then it is silent once again. That is, until there are rapid footsteps in the corridor, and both of them tense.

 

Daehee looks at Yoongi, and the alpha stares back, his heart thudding in his chest as though it is attempting to escape.


He is scared.

 

The door bursts open.

 

"Your Highness, there are soldiers approaching over the eastern hill. They have already overwhelmed our own. They are arranging carriages for you downstairs."

 

Yoongi swallows. In front of him, Daehee closes his eyes, shaking his head once.

 

"No." His voice is thick. It almost hurts to speak.

 

Clearly shocked, the attendant speaks out of turn when he replies. Yoongi wonders if he realises. "But, Your Highness-"

 

Yoongi looks at him sharply. "I said no. Leave us now."

 

"Yes, Your Highness." Yoongi does not watch him leave, turning back to his mate, instead. The omega's shoulders have squared, his back straightened so he is taller than Yoongi. The only things betraying his fear are his scent and the slight shaking of his curled fists.

 

When Yoongi takes his hand, his own is trembling too.



--

 

Chapter Text

 

Drip. Drip. Drip.

 

If asked, Yoongi would say that he knows the castle well. Extremely so; knows all of the good hiding spots, all of the quietest places, the secret passages. The best places to cause mischief, or from where to see the paths and roads surrounding the place, to spot incoming visitors.

 

He learned this when he was a child, of course, and when at the age where he was able to run and hide away in the most obscure of corners he understandably had some reservations about some areas of the castle.

 

Drip. Drip-drip.

 

One of those places was the kitchens, as even though he was able to clumsily steal food from there while the cooks pretended not to know, the large area was intimidating. He always worried that he would be run over by a bustling chef or attendant carrying too many dishes.

 

His parents' bedroom, too, was out of bounds, although he could not say that he was particularly excited about visiting it. He associated it with punishments and serious conversations, embarrassment and fear, and so he did not feel the need to break that rule and explore inside.

 

Drip. Drip.

 

The last place that Yoongi had avoided exploring in his earlier years was the dungeons.

 

Cold - so cold, and so dark, the dungeons were buried in the lower levels of the castle, and always felt to him like the walls were about to collapse around him at any moment. There were several entrances, not just the one accessible from within the palace, but whenever he neared one he would swerve away, unnerved by the discordant sounds from within; voices, banging. Echoes.

 

For a few years, he did dare to venture down. In his early teens, just before presenting, when he had something of a daring streak, he would muster up the courage. This was often when there was a friend alongside him, like Hoseok or a castle guest his age, and he wanted to appear impressive. It was always an unnerving experience as despite there not being many prisoners kept within those walls, the emptiness felt almost as harrowing to experience as encountering the shady figures that would be placed there.

 

There are two separate 'corridors' of cells, so the space in between is narrow. The prisoners are segregated even further, though, cutting up space into tiny sections separated by thick bars. As there were so few people kept there, they were spaced out in order to prevent communication.

 

At least, that is what Yoongi had heard. In the times he had gone down there, he had never actually spoken to anyone. Instead, he and whoever else would creep down one of the sides, glancing furtively around to try and see if there was anyone in the cells. It was so quiet other than their own muffled footsteps and whispers and the dripping of water somewhere; the whole place looked to Yoongi like it could be full of leaks.

 

They would only get so far before one of them - or all - would be spooked by a noise, or a flash in the darkness, something that looked like a pair of eyes or a hand. Running outside, Yoongi would laugh, heart pounding and absolutely exhilarated but with a distinct feeling that he did not want to go back down there for a long while.

 

Yoongi often finds himself thinking of this now, in his free time. Free time is something he has an abundance of, after all, and the surroundings - the dark dampness of the cell - are a strange thing to remind him of his childhood, but that specific memory is not really a bad one.

 

Shifting so his back is no longer resting on the bars of their cell, Yoongi stretches out before returning to his slumped position. His muscles are stiff and his bones are aching, but there is no way to be comfortable. In fact, Yoongi does not think he has been comfortable in over three months.

 

It is a long time. Torturously long. Yoongi has never spent so much time doing nothing at all, and if it were not for the occasions where he was taken up into the castle for questioning he thinks he could have gone insane.

 

When they had first been put in this cell, the same cell since the beginning, as he and Daehee were never moved, Yoongi did not expect to be kept there for long. Expected a swift trial or an execution, because keeping the heir to the throne locked up is a severe risk for anyone to take, guards or no.

 

He is thankful that at least they did not put Daehee in another part of the dungeons. The fear that he feels from his mate through their bond is palpable, almost overwhelming, although the omega shows little of it outwardly. As they are together at least Yoongi can attempt to comfort him, comfort his friend. Additionally, the presence of another person has undoubtedly helped to keep him somewhere near sane. 

 

Occasionally the quiet of the cells is broken by a harsh sounding cough or a wheeze. There are people in the cubicles surrounding him, he knows, but it takes a lot of energy to turn their way. The alphas and betas in the cell opposite are always quiet, avoiding Yoongi's eyes at all times. They must think that he put them here. He does not blame them.

 

Not all of the cells are in use, though. He remembers Count Hangeng being in the cell next to them before he passed in his sleep. That was unsurprising, as his health had been extremely poor for many years; Yoongi just wishes that he could have passed somewhere comfortable and warm, surrounded by his family. He was not a bad man. Had spoken up when he felt there were wrongdoings, had never engaged in illegal activities, was loyal to the crown.

 

Yoongi wishes that all of that could have earned him something more in this life.

 

Falling into a fitful sleep for a few hours, Yoongi does not dream. The tapping of the heels of a pair of boots is what wakes him. Waking in the cells is always disorientating, but a grunt from Daehee somewhere to his left helps him somewhat in drawing himself up, awake. 

 

Approaching footsteps are never a good thing.

 

Yoongi’s heart rate increases as the tapping gets closer. It seems to stop every few paces, and if he listens closely, he can hear shuffling noises. He guesses that the prisoners are being fed, although this is still not necessarily a positive thing. The guards can be very unkind. Yoongi shifts around to hide Daehee from view as much as possible. 

 

“Prince Min!” a voice crows at him as they get near, booming in the quiet. Yoongi flinches again when he recognises it. “Your royal banquet.”

 

The door to the cell opens with a loud creak and there is a loud smacking sound as the food tray hits the floor. The guard’s torch lights the immediate area, and Yoongi has to squint at the sudden assault to his eyes. He smells bread and something else he cannot put his finger on. There is no time to react before he is being thrown onto his back, kicked in the chest by a heavy boot. He cannot help the pained groan that escapes.

 

“Enjoy your meal. If you can.” When the guard returns to the cell door, the light allows Yoongi to see his face, and there’s a glint in his eyes that terrifies Yoongi still, despite being almost accustomed to seeing it. It hides somewhere within almost all of the guards, although this particular one, Yoongi has encountered many times before. 

 

He is looking at Daehee over Yoongi’s shoulder, and something crawls its way up Yoongi’s throat. 

 

There is a moment where he nearly says something, the words on the tip of his tongue, but he is afraid for Daehee, of what the guard could do to him in his current state. The likelihood of getting medicinal help for his mate is extremely low, he knows because he has tried many times. Will continue to, but not here, not when Daehee is so vulnerable.

 

As the door to the cell closes and the footsteps fade, Yoongi feels his heart begin to slow. The spot on his chest where he was kicked aches deeply, and the bruise that will arise probably will not fade for some time, like the rest of his injuries that continue to throb and burn. He approaches the tray of food, wincing when he sees the size of the tiny portion.

 

“Daehee,” he whispers, picking up the slab of bread. It does not appear too mouldy, at least. “Daehee, there is food. Do you want some?” He crawls closer to the bedframe, leaning down close to his mate’s head.

 

“No,” is all he gets in response. It is more of a groan than a word, but Yoongi feels the sharp feeling of nausea, displaced in his own starving body. Slumping against the wall next to Daehee’s head, Yoongi sighs. There is no point in reiterating the argument they have had so many times, that Daehee needs to eat. It is hard to do so when most of Yoongi’s arguments include how Daehee will not be able to stay awake if he does not eat, or that he will not get any better. Both very much moot points.

 

Instead, Yoongi starts to chew on the slab of bread. It is dry, and there is not much else on the tray - a cold bowl of oats and water, a small piece of cheese. Yoongi halves that, keeping some for Daehee if he changes his mind, along with the last of the bread. He takes a few half-hearted bites of oats before his stomach lurches and he has to stop.

 

Sitting against the walls of the cell had become increasingly difficult as Yoongi had lost weight, lost any fat that would have made it more comfortable. Now, he can constantly feel the knobs of his spine against the cold of the wall or the bars of the cell. Both his and Daehee’s clothes hang extremely loose - Daehee’s even more so. This, in combination with the filth coated on them, makes them look like some kind of street beggars, Yoongi is sure, but Yoongi just wishes that what they were wearing when they were arrested was thicker, warmer.

 

“Let me know if you want your meal,” he sighs, words so quiet they carry to Daehee only, he is sure, but still sounding far too loud in the darkness.

 

His mate does not reply.


--


Hours blur together in the most excruciating way in the dungeons. There is no way to tell the time of day down in the cells, no sunlight whatsoever, and the guards barely ever pass down the rows to check on them. Yoongi suspects this is because they are also intimidated by the place. Certainly he himself is now.

 

So many hours of the day to be filled, and Yoongi has nothing to fill them with. It is far worse than any day filled with lessons or filled with council meetings that he has ever experienced. Every day is dark and monotonous, boredom combined with the tension of even the whisper of the approach of an oncoming guard keeping them both in a place of constant mental discomfort to accompany their physical soreness.

 

So Yoongi turns to fantasy. He constructs imaginary worlds in his head - or perhaps not worlds so much as lives for himself - such as ones where he is raised in an altogether different place, has different parents, a different means to live.

 

In one life, Yoongi is a farmer in another kingdom. He spends his days herding animals and milking cows and collecting eggs early on a morning from the chickens. Of course, he does not know what a farmer's day really looks like, but he can imagine, and fill in the gaps with things that may or may not be true. He imagines the scent of soil based off that of the palace gardens, harking back to the feeling of digging his fingers into sun-baked, freshly watered earth as a young child, before he would immediately be scolded for it.

 

In another fantasy Yoongi imagines himself as an innkeeper. He welcomes guests inside his home, keeps track of the finances, gives his guests directions around the city. Changes the bedding after each new visitor, cleans out the rooms, opening the windows for fresh air. It is more of a hectic life than that of a farmer, Yoongi imagines, as city life is busier; but as a business owner, he would be respected. He would rise early in the morning, but never before sunrise as he was used to in the castle. 

 

As he has so much time, he can imagine every tiny detail of one of these lives. One thing is consistent, though, even though he sometimes tries to imagine it differently.

 

Jimin is always there. 

 

It is an impulse he cannot control. Yoongi always finds him early in their lives, and they come together easily like it is predestined. In his life as an innkeeper, Yoongi meets Jimin at a market, falls for his scent amongst so many others and introduces himself, buying the omega a peach as a gift before they part. Then he would court him, learn about him and what he loves, what he hates. He would buy him so many books as courting gifts he does not have the shelves to store them, and then build him the shelves himself. Save up for beautiful jewels that will never match the beauty of this boy he has fallen for, and follow him blindly as he plays with Yoongi during their courtship, makes him work hard to prove himself trustworthy, kind, a good mate.

 

In the fantasy where he is a farmer they are betrothed from Jimin's birth, an arranged mating with a happy ending where Yoongi courts him, loves him from their youth, and neither of their families ever want to rip them away from each other. He can make him laugh, and it would be so easy and happy with no obstacle between them. Yoongi imagines Jimin as carefree, someone who can do as he wishes as there are no boundaries to him, whether that be learning to read and write despite their positions in life, or filling the garden of their small cottage with blushing pink roses. 

 

The alpha imagines that wants are simple if you have happiness.

 

Today Yoongi daydreams of being a carpenter. He knows little to nothing about woodwork, however, so glosses over those parts; he can visualise a workshop, has been inside a handful of times before, so that is enough. Jimin and he are mated and they already have Eunmi, who has grown to present as a beta. He envisions talking to Jimin about her, her dowry. Not wanting to let her go, putting off her mating for a few years, if that is what she wishes, as they both want to keep her at home. They have a handful of other children, too, although Yoongi finds them all difficult to visualise properly, he imagines them all with Jimin's smile.

 

A sharp cough interrupts his thought process, one that sounds positively painful to the owner. Yoongi turns his head quickly in the direction of the sound and the outline of his mate appears in his line of vision. Briefly, Daehee meets his eyes, before closing his again tiredly. Maybe he had just woken himself up with the coughing. It would not be the first time. 

 

“Sorry,” Daehee croaks. It is almost as painful-sounding as the cough.

 

“Do not worry,” Yoongi whispers. He never knows what to say when it comes to Daehee’s pitiful state.

 

Those that had invaded the castle had started to pull Daehee in for questioning at around this time, and it was only the second day of it when Daehee came back smelling of blood. He had slumped onto his bed and Yoongi had been afraid to ask what happened, or if he had given any information away. By the fact that he and his mate continued to be taken and questioned, tortured for hours on end, he guesses that Daehee had said nothing of Namjoon or Hoseok. Yoongi also suspects that he would know if Daehee had told them about Jimin or Eunmi. It is a small relief but a welcome one, and he is grateful to Daehee for it.

 

But Yoongi does not know how his mate got so sick. At first, he thought it may just be dehydration or hunger. He himself could barely stand it. But something was not right. They had both been starved for days, weeks even, and it did not feel the same. Then, he began to smell it; the faintest taint to Daehee’s scent. Next it was how he could feel through the bond how it was so much more than just weakness. There was pain, so much pain, which only got worse.

 

Though it is clear that his mate had suffered for it. His sickness had become not long after the questioning had begun, and Yoongi suspects an infection. Yoongi had begged for help from the alphas that questioned him, only to be laughed at, and any begging towards the guards only got him a kick or a slap if he is lucky.

 

It hurts to think about, and it is not something that is easy to confront. They have never discussed it, and perhaps this is the advantage of being mates. They do not need to state the obvious.

 

In that moment, Yoongi can feel curiosity rise in Daehee, an unusual, weak peak in consciousness. It is rare that he stays awake long enough - or cares enough - for a feeling such as this, so it immediately draws Yoongi’s attention to his body on the bed.

 

Daehee’s voice is very soft, questioning. “Were you thinking of the omega?”

 

Although he is not quite sure why, Yoongi’s first instinct is to panic. Daehee had not sounded accusing, simply curious.

 

“I am just asking… Often you feel the same, when you get lost in your thoughts.” Daehee’s voice goes in and out of coherence, rasping and croaking. “But you feel happy. I was just wondering if it was him.”

 

Yoongi hesitates, clearing his throat. “Uh. I do think of Jimin often.”

 

There is a hum, something close to a chuckle. “That omega certainly did capture your attention quickly.” Something about the way he says it, the omega, grates on Yoongi’s already worn patience. Again, it is not openly derisive, but Yoongi knows what he is thinking and how his mind works.

 

“His name is Jimin. I know you know it,” he says sharply. Annoyance is quickly followed by regret through their connection, from both ends. Yoongi does not want to snap, not now. Daehee meets his eyes guiltily.

 

“I am sorry. He just- He was…” He sniffs. “He was from… a different place. Different circumstances.”

 

“I know.” Yoongi sighs. “I know it was not easy for you.”

 

Daehee had never expressed as much, not out loud, but his actions spoke louder than words could have. Of course, Yoongi could feel how Daehee felt about Jimin himself, but hearing from Hoseok and others at court certified in the alpha’s mind Daehee’s deep dislike for the man who had technically come to help them.

 

“It is not-“ The omega makes a frustrated sound followed by one of pain and Yoongi winces. “I did not know the ome- Jimin. I just did not think him suitable for the role.”

 

A lie, and both of them know it, but Daehee also knows that Yoongi will not argue with him. Not now, not when his weakness is something that hovers like a cloud in the air between them. Yoongi is also not that insensitive - he knows that it is a feeling of inadequacy that haunts Daehee, his actual lack of want for children be damned.

 

“Alright. Not something you need to worry about now.” 

 

Yoongi can sense that Daehee is not finished, is struggling with something, so he waits expectantly in silence. He hopes that it is not another sly barb directed towards Jimin. He does not know if he can cope with any more bitterness.

 

“I am glad, though. That it was him.”

 

Swallowing, Yoongi opens his mouth and promptly closes it once more. 

 

“He- You were so happy. Some of the time, at least. Almost all of the time, if you were alone together. During your rut… I had never experienced you feel so much, the excitement and nerves. The worry for him.” A short, hacking, wet cough interrupts him, and perhaps he wants to say more but decides better of it as he swallows, sighing out another small, “I am glad.”

 

Heart thumping, Yoongi crawls slowly over to the bed. Daehee’s eyes are closed and the alpha can feel no warmth from his body, but this close he can hear the rasp of his breathing. “Thank you,” he breathes. 

 

At the entrance of the dungeons, Yoongi faintly hears the guards changing places. Perhaps that signals a new dawn, or perhaps the fall of night. Letting his eyes fall closed, Yoongi wishes for the hundredth or thousandth time that someone would come and help his mate, treat him and take away his pain. 

 

The dungeons stay silent.


--


“Come on, you’re coming with me.” It says a lot about Yoongi’s malnutrition and exhaustion that he does not even wake at the opening of his cell door. He is lifted by the armpits not at all gently and hauled out of the cell, stumbling to prevent his feet from dragging on the floor as he is pulled along.

 

Going up the stairs causes him to stumble multiple times as he is pulled too quickly. The natural light after the door to the dungeons nearly blinds him. It is too much movement too quickly; his vision swims as he is tugged into a familiar room not far from the dungeons, one that knows is near the kitchens.

 

There is relief as he is sat on a chair of some sort, and his head drops as he attempts to recover from the exertion. He barely registers the shuffling of feet around him as his arms and legs are strapped down. The restraints are leather, tight and unyielding. Yoongi knows by now not to bother trying to get out of them.

 

A hard slap across the face is what brings him back to reality. He focuses first on the pair of boots in front of him, and then the scent of alpha in the air. A familiar alpha. Yoongi closes his eyes for a moment and breathes, in and out, before opening them once more.

 

The woman in front of him stands with her legs hip-width apart, black boots firmly planted on the floor. Her arms are folded across her cleanly pressed military uniform, and the buttons on her jacket gleaming distractedly in the sunlight coming through the one small window into the room. The way she looks at Yoongi is calculating. 

 

“Wonderful to have you back in our company, Yoongi.”

 

The lack of respect or titles would have once been offensive to Yoongi, but now he stays silent. He does not spend much time looking at the alpha, dropping his gaze once more to the floor.

 

"I am excited to have the same conversation with you yet again. I am sure you know what I am going to ask you."

 

Exhaling hard through his nose as that is as much of a laugh as he can manage in that moment, Yoongi nods tiredly. He takes a deep breath in, taking his time. This is the easiest part, might as well draw it out. ”I am not going to tell you where they are." 

 

“Alright.” A chair is placed in front of Yoongi, the thud of the legs hitting the tiled floor making him flinch.

 

"Tell me again. What were you doing, the day that the castle was taken?" 

 

A deep breath. Yoongi has told this tale many times before. 

 

He hopes this time it will end less violently on behalf of his interrogators.

 

“On the morning,” he begins, “I woke and headed to breakfast early as normal. I ate for a while and notices that the ambassadors of the surrounding kingdoms were missing from their usual tables.”

 

The alpha’s face remains impassive. He wonders what gain she will make from his kingdom. She is young and a noble; it is likely she will profit greatly from his demise.

 

He wonders if anyone she knew was hurt under his father’s tyrannical rule, and his own blindness. 

 

“I realised something was amiss. I stood immediately and headed to our advisor, Namjoon’s, rooms; I spoke with him. I then headed to the war rooms.” 

 

Stopping to cough harshly, he has to attempt to choke it back when the alpha starts to tap her foot impatiently. “I- huh- I then stayed there and fought with my father to attempt a surrender. I did not see the purpose of putting more of our men at risk just to be slaughtered.”

 

He looks up to see the woman raising her eyebrow sharply, assessing Yoongi's form. “It is interesting that you always tell us that you met with Advisor Kim, and yet you never detail your conversation.”

 

Yoongi manages a wry little laugh at that. “It is of no interest to you.”

 

Her face hardens and Yoongi is prepared for the slap he receives, his head thrown to the side with the force of it. It probably would not bruise, but Yoongi’s state is not good right now, the lack of nutrition making his body weak. His cheek throbs.

 

“I have to insist again. What was it you talked to Namjoon about?”

 

Eyes flicking warily from her hands, fingers decorated with large rings, up to her steady gaze, Yoongi wets his lips. He could lie, has considered it before. She has no reason to believe that he would suddenly change his mind, however. There are no new stakes at hand. Instead, he shakes his head.

 

The alpha steps to her feet quicker than he can even process, grabbing a fistful of his hair and yanking his head back. A shocked noise of pain escapes him. “And I suppose, General Min, that you will also continue to lie about not seeing Jung?”

 

Hoseok was never part of the story he had constructed. He tried to leave as much information out as possible, attempting to not imply that Hoseok and Namjoon left together, as well as omitting Seokjin completely. 

 

“Ah-“ he groans out, pain burning through his scalp as she tugs again. “I did not see him that day.” While lying, Yoongi likes to make steady eye contact with his interrogators. This way he can best judge whether they believe him or not. Not that there is anything he can do about their reaction; he just likes to know if there is severe pain in his immediate future. 

 

Today, he fears the worst. “Let us say you did not visit your friend in this period. Did you receive any correspondence from them, before or after you visited your father’s war rooms?”

 

“No.”

 

When she steps in front of him once more, Yoongi has to force himself to not shrink away. Her eyes are full of barely concealed fury, and she is terrifying. 

 

Her name is Chungha. Yoongi had learned it on his first visit with her, just after she had punched him in the stomach, the large stones on her rings catching sharply on his skin. Not that Yoongi could ever use her name, not without being hurt rather viciously. 

 

Although, there are certainly worse ways in which they could have tortured him. Yoongi takes this as a sign that they are not experienced in torturing their political prisoners or prisoners of war; certainly a good sign for the kingdom that will be created under the new leadership. He is distantly thankful for that, and it is a thought that comforts him through the pain he feels in his whole body.

 

Yoongi cannot protect himself as she swings for his stomach, a powerful punch. The impact knocks the breath out of him, has him feeling nauseous with nothing really to vomit back up. He groans, coughs again while leaning over with his head between his legs.

 

There is no rest. She yanks him up by the hair again, holding him up at arm’s length.

 

“I am sure you are aware that we do not believe your lies, Min. If you do not tell us the location of Kim and Jung, you will face consequences that you are not prepared for, much more than the pain that you have received so far. We know that you know where they are.”

 

Although he remains silent like every other interrogation, Yoongi senses that something is coming. 

 

He wonders if maybe they have kept him for long enough. If he has possibly reached the end of his time there altogether.

 

“I do have some news for you that might make you change your mind. Your father is planned to be executed in three days.”

 

”You will face the same fate if you do not cooperate with us. Tell us where they are.”

 

Yoongi feels as though his every micro expression is being judged. The word father grates on him deeply and Yoongi is fairly sure that she knows it. He has told this woman in great detail of his role - or lack of it, in many cases case - of the crimes that his family are accused of. She knows of the hatred he holds for the king. 

 

“You will face the same fate. If you do not cooperate, you and your mate will be executed, and let me promise you right now that you do not have much time left. After your father is dead, you will be the next target.”



A laugh bubbles up in Yoongi’s chest that he barely attempts to stop. “I do not know where they are. I could not give you the answer even if I wished to. And-” He stops to groan in pain, slouching to the side. “I very much doubt that I will be spared after all that has taken place in my kingdom.”

 

A short pause, then the alpha - Chungha is her name, it pains him to remember and he is not permitted to speak it, anyway - is coming to stand right in front of him. She kneels slowly, and her scent is overpowering, hostile, aggressive. Yoongi does not have the energy to flinch back.

 

“Oh, I do not know,” she says mockingly. “I think there might be a place for a castrated, broken alpha prince to stand behind the new king and his government. A nice picture of peace and support. There will be no revolts in your support, with you and your mate infertile and no heir in sight. Your pathetic presence may be good for our image.”

 

It should hurt. Yoongi knows that she is trying to emasculate him, to break him to do her bidding. To remind him of how far he has fallen, and his weakness and inability to fight back.

 

A misinformed attempt. Yoongi would not do anything to fight against the new king. He knows that the treatment of the people is likely to be a hundred times kinder now, knows that they would not accept Yoongi as their king. And of course, she is right; he does not have an heir. Ludicrously, this almost makes him smile. Clearly, no-one knows of Eunmi’s existence. 

 

His reaction must be lacking for her liking, as Chungha’s face screws up in momentary annoyance before smoothing out. She lets go of his hair and steps back, smoothing her clothes and considering him as if he is her least favourite dish presented to her for lunch. 

 

“Take him back to his cell. Perhaps he will reconsider his silence, considering the short deadline.”

 

Yoongi closes his eyes as his restraints are removed and he is dragged back down to the dungeons. His stomach aches, the place where the alpha’s knuckles had sank feeling nothing but a sharp pain. Another bruise, he thinks. Not that he would be able to tell any of them apart, at this point. 

 

Being dropped in his cell most likely incurs a series of other bruises as the guards are less than careful. As his eyes adjust to the dark he makes out Daehee lying in the exact position he was when Yoongi left, chest rising and falling infrequently. Too infrequently.

 

“Daehee?” he whispers. It’s a terrifying moment where there is complete silence.

 

Then, an exhausted voice. “Yes?” 

 

Letting out a relieved breath, Yoongi slumps back into his usual spot on the ground. The cold has already begun to settle into his bones, the smell of rot and damp washing over him anew after the brief reprieve. He reaches over and takes Daehee’s hand, finding it deadly cold. 

 

A brief squeeze. His mate does not reciprocate.


--


There's a sheen on Daehee's brow, a sickly colour to his skin that Yoongi has never seen before and sends his own stomach lurching out of panic.

 

The feeling in his chest is ever present. Yoongi cannot describe it, cannot put into words what it is; he just knows that it is so very wrong.

 

Every time Daehee closes his eyes, Yoongi can feel it when he sleeps. Could feel it anyway, but now it is something else. Like his mate fades away, just a little too much, and it makes Yoongi want to shake him awake each time. He had at first, had shaken him until Daehee's weary brown eyes were focused on him once more, but he had just looked so exhausted Yoongi could not bring himself to do it any longer.

 

Settled instead with living with that feeling in his chest, the panic that goes alongside it. The guilt too. Because he cannot save him, cannot do anything to help his own mate, not when he is stuck just as helplessly behind bars with him.

 

What kind of alpha is he, that he cannot protect his mate?

 

It affects Yoongi too in other ways - he can feel Daehee's pain, his weariness, and the sickness in his body, through their bond. But it is making him sick too, he suspects, has him feeling the actual symptoms, although not as acutely. It amplifies the pain Yoongi is feeling tenfold because he knows everything, can see and feel it, and it hurts so much and he can't stop his suffering-

 

"Yoongi, alpha, stop," Daehee mutters weakly, his head turned in Yoongi's direction barely. It hurts to move even that much, Yoongi knows.

 

"Sorry," he whispers, voice low in order to not attract the attention of the guards. They are strict and will not hesitate to punish the prisoners for speaking to each other, they have both seen it.

 

"There is nothing you can do, do not make me say it again." The omega's hand shakes as he scratches his neck, and Yoongi pushes his hair away from his forehead. He feels so cold.

 

A lump rises in Yoongi’s throat and he does not reply. An idea takes root in his mind; he wants to hold Daehee, thinks maybe then he can share whatever body heat he has with the omega. He hesitates. Daehee has never been very receptive to touch.

 

After a few seconds of deliberating, however, Daehee reaches out. Yoongi knows how much effort that must cost him physically as well as emotionally, and he moves as quickly as he can.

 

He lifts Daehee as gently as possibly, flinching at the noises of pain he causes, before settling behind his mate, his back against the wall. Drawing him as close as possible, Yoongi makes sure that he does not disturb Daehee's wounds, just rests his back against his own chest. It feels like they are intertwined, completely. They never sit like this, barely ever shared a bed, barely ever kissed, even in the beginning. Yet, they are still mated, still feel so much of each other.

 

But somewhat less, every day. Because Daehee is fading- Daehee is dying , his mate is dying.

 

Yoongi did not know that it would hurt so deeply . But, he supposes that is simply the nature of a mating bond. A connection of souls. Of course it would hurt.

 

He cannot imagine how much worse it would be if maybe they had been in love.

 

A small, pained noise escapes Daehee's mouth, and Yoongi raises a hand back to his hair so he can stroke it comfortingly. Murmurs consoling words, even if they both know that they are empty. He just wants to keep the omega warm, at least, since he cannot solve his pain.

 

"It's okay," he slurs, nosing at the top of his head, far past the point of caring about how dirty Daehee's hair may be. His mate's scent is so tinged with infection and decay it is sickening, and Yoongi only knows that his own scent is comforting because of the response he gets through their bond, Daehee showing no outward reaction.

 

Once upon a time, this kind of movement would have had Daehee stiffening, shifting away slightly with a frown that indicated very much that he would prefer that Yoongi not do that, even if he did not voice it out loud. Could not voice it, as of course he could not be so bold as to go against his alpha, that is how he was raised, but could give Yoongi signs.

 

And Daehee was bold, it is true, especially for someone of his standing and from his kingdom. When they met, he did not even look Yoongi directly in the eye, and it took some time for him to do so. Months, rather than hours or days.

 

He had come into himself, though, when Yoongi kept his distance, and Yoongi truly hopes that the relationship they had formed does not cause Daehee to feel any discomfort or anger. It was not the best of situations, but considering neither of them could escape it, it was not the worst. 

 

“Try and sleep,” he suggests gently, feeling Daehee nod in response. It takes a little while before his head lolls to the side, breathing evening out. Yoongi adjusts himself so he's a little more comfortable, ready to stay there for the next few hours. 

 

Perhaps it satisfies the part of him that needs to protect, the part connected to Daehee, because he finds himself drifting off, too. His body is so weak, feels like it is being drained of everything, any energy or will to stay awake. 

 

He naps for a few hours, then, drifting in and out of a slumber he cannot quite seem to grasp and pull over himself. When he wakes, it is to a crick in his neck, his limbs like lead and head aching. It takes a long moment to put a finger on what else is wrong. 

 

There is a hollow feeling in his chest. Taking a few deeper breaths, he panics a little as the feeling just seems to expand with each inhale - he does not understand what it is, what is happening. Is it some kind of sickness? Something in the lungs? 

 

It aches. Feels cold and like something is missing there, like someone has reached inside of him and pulled something out. Like something in him has died.

 

Almost frantically, he sits up, pressing a hand to his chest. His heart is beating fast, but he doesn't feel anything strange there.

 

But then Daehee slumps to the side, and the panic is replaced by pure dread. Dread, and then a feeling of knowing .

 

“Daehee?” he whispers, afraid. Yoongi reaches out for him tentatively, going to touch his shoulder.

 

His body is firm, cold. 

 

Lifeless.

 

“Oh,” Yoongi whimpers helplessly. His breath shakes out of him, and even though he inhales, it feels like he receives nothing to help him breathe. The sound of him hyperventilating fills the air as he turns Daehee gently, and his eyes fall on his mate’s face.

 

A sob is forced out of him, a deep, choked off noise that is followed by a flurry of limbs as he scrambles off the bed. He falls to his knees beside the wooden frame, any strength he may have had completely sapped from him. 

 

"'M sorry, sorry," he gasps for air as he takes Daehee's hand, and his thoughts come to a halt, circling around and around on apologies and regrets.

 

Sorry it had to be this way. Sorry that you could not be happy. Sorry I could not help you. Sorry I could not protect you.


--


Yoongi cannot look at the sight in front of him any longer, even though his instincts will not allow him to move away from the bedside. He turns his face away to avoid it, feeling his mouth tremble, his throat drying up. If he calls for help, he will be punished for being so loud. On the other hand, if he does not call, then the body- then Daehee will start to- start to-

 

His brain feels like it is falling apart, his mind like a big ball of tangled yarn that is being stretched out without attempting to first undo the knots. His body is so weak, all nausea and shakiness and lack of ability to grasp anything or even move, and Yoongi realises that even if he wanted to call out he is not sure that he could.

 

Resting his head on the splintered wood of the bed, he lets his breath out in a shudder. He feels suddenly so much colder like something has been sapped from him, leaving him shivering. The dungeons have always been cold, and Yoongi starts to get a creeping feeling that maybe he will not survive them himself.

 

Yoongi has never experienced such an all-encompassing feeling of emptiness. It is disconcerting how it feels as if something has been physically removed from inside of him; like he has been through a surgery and something was extracted, with irreparable damage done along the way. 

 

And that is just the physical nature of the loss. Yoongi struggles just as much with the fact that his mate is dead, gone. Someone he was bound to protect. Not only is he a failure, but a man’s life was cut short, an innocent person, dead because of him.


And now he is alone. 

 

It takes a full day for Daehee’s body to be removed. The guards see it when they bring their food, and yet do not touch it, leaving it with him. Fuzziness starts to creep around the outside of his mind, and he can almost delude himself into thinking that it is so he had time to grieve, that they are showing him a kindness.

 

Of course this is not true, and when they finally come to take his mate away Yoongi must cover his ears so all he can hear is muffled thumps and an abnormally loud ringing, closing his eyes so tight it hurts. 

 

When he opens his eyes the cell seems abnormally large, far too big for just himself. Or perhaps it is he that feels abnormally small. The scents in the air sicken him when he attempts to take some deep breaths. He retches. 

 

Closing his eyes, he tries to sink into fantasy. Instead he finds nothing but darkness.


--

 

Chapter Text

Somehow, Yoongi can sense when his father is to be executed. Maybe it is in the excitement of the guards, or perhaps there is simply a sense of unease amongst those being kept in the dungeons, but Yoongi can feel when the morning approaches.

 

It is a tug in a sea of endless cold. In the days after Daehee is taken away, Yoongi barely opens his eyes.

 

There is an awareness that his end is near too, but he cannot bring himself to care. There is no will within him to open his eyes, nevermind fight for himself. There is nothing to be done, anyway. All he can do is withhold the information he has about Namjoon and Hoseok, about Eunmi, and wait for them to get tired of attempting to force him to speak.

 

There is a tapping sound coming from another cell. Yoongi did not realise it at first, the sound blurring together with the sounds of dripping and his mind off somewhere else, somewhere more idyllic and peaceful once more. The tapping interrupts his dream state, bringing him back around to semi-consciousness. He frowns, disorientated and searching for the source.

 

A grating sound. Footsteps. Yoongi’s stomach lurches automatically at the latter and he goes still. He did not realise that they would come for him so soon after the execution, but he supposes that it is something of a blessing. 

 

At least the suffering will be over.

 

More grating sounds, and a shockingly loud clanging noise. It does not sound as though it is coming from the regular exit that the guards would use; Yoongi is not sure, his mind feels so heavy, confused. There is movement in the dungeons, and no, that is definitely not coming from the entrance-

 

There is a scent so familiar it makes his stomach drop. Dread builds in his stomach and he moves, the movement stuttered and cut short when it causes him great pain. All he knows is that a familiar scent should not be in this place, whoever it is. 

 

“Your Highness.” That is a familiar voice too. Pure panic now floods his chest like acid. He turns his head quickly, erratically, trying to get a good look at who it is, his mind in complete disarray. His cell unlocks with a jangle of keys and a scraping sound. 

 

“Who-” A familiar face finally swims into view. “Jeonghan?” 

 

“Your Highness, you need to stand, come on-” His former attendant’s face is pinched and a little pale, his eyes darting around as he stoops to take hold of Yoongi’s arms and lift him. Yoongi watches the surprise on his face as Jeonghan is able to lift him as easily as he probably would a sack of flour.

 

“Why-”

 

“Quickly, Jeonghan!” The beta behind him hisses, glancing around them furtively. “We don’t have any time left!”

 

“Can you stand, Your Highness?” Yoongi automatically attempts to get his feet under him, and his knees buckle immediately. Jeonghan supports him and they begin to move out of the cell, and then it hits Yoongi what is happening. 

 

They have come to take him out. To rescue him. 

 

He is going to get out. They want to take him somewhere safe. 

 

He is going to live. 

 

“No,” he croaks. 

 

They do not seem to hear him, his voice weak and unused. He tries again. “No, just go,” he croaks, and this time they turn and blink at him. Their steps hesitate. 

 

“Your Highness? What do you mean?”

 

Yoongi thinks of Daehee, of how his life was cut so short, and because of him. Of how he did not get to leave the cell on his own two feet. Of how Yoongi could not save him. 

 

“I should not- should not get to-”

 

“We don’t have time for this,” the second beta hisses again, fear evident on his face. He leans forward and grabs Yoongi’s unsupported arm, lifting him back on his feet where he had slumped once more. “We need to meet the others, now.”

 

“What’s happening?” A new voice, and one that shocks Yoongi into tripping onto his knees. Eyes wide, he looks forward into the dark.

 

Seokjin steps forward, his face half hidden by the hood of a cloak. Like the others he wears the uniform of a guard, but he carries a knife. It is bloody. Jeonghan starts to stammer.

 

“He- He doesn’t want to go, Seokjin, I don’t-”

 

“What do you mean? We’re here for you, now we need to go,” Seokjin says urgently, leaning into Yoongi’s space to look into his eyes. His face changes slowly when he must see something of what Yoongi is thinking. 

 

Dragged forward another few steps, Yoongi feels all of his accumulated injuries begin to flare up severely, the pain zipping up his legs and sides, burning hot and cold. He groans. “No, just go, please-”

 

“Yoongi.” The use of his name, unfamiliar on Seokjin’s tongue, has Yoongi looking back at the other alpha. There is something grounding about his presence, almost comforting. With everything hazy at the edges, Seokjin remains at the centre of his focus. “You need to come with us.”

 

Seokjin reminds him of more peaceful times. Occasional visits to the palace library, the excitement of his closest friends coming together and finding a mate. Golden light, crisp pages, leather bindings. Jimin, smelling like said library, the pile of books on his bedside table. 

 

Jimin did all of this. Made the decision to run away, into a completely unknown future. With less help, even, less people to protect him and keep him safe. He was so brave.

 

Turning his head slowly away, Yoongi looks through the bars and can almost make out the spot where Daehee lay.

 

Why should Yoongi get to survive?

 

“I- I cannot.”

 

The sharp scent of panic clouds the air as the two betas’s panic reaches a new height, and in front of him Seokjin simply looks resigned. For a moment there is no movement, the rescue party shocked to a standstill, until the sound of a door opening has them all flinching.

 

“Let’s go ,” Seokjin hisses, his demeanor changing completely. He grabs for one of Yoongi’s arms and yanks , and the pain in Yoongi’s body is indescribable.

 

He moans in pain as the rescue team begin to carry him forwards, presumably to whatever exit they are using. Yoongi feels himself begin to fade away as the pain becomes too much to bear, his jaw clenched as he attempts to fight back weakly. He wishes to tell them to leave him, to escape quickly so no-one will get hurt. 

 

They are moving so quickly, Yoongi’s body cannot cope. He realises that he is genuinely close to passing out and renews his efforts. Seokjin seems to realise this as they approach the exit, and after the other alpha pauses for a moment to look at him, Yoongi thinks he may be considering just leaving Yoongi there. 

 

Then Seokjin punches him in the stomach, and everything goes black.

 

--

 

Yoongi does not register much of the following escape. Being on horseback, being carried and held by different individuals. Seokjin’s scent. Pain, all over his body, and being fed water. 

 

When he eventually wakes, he breathes too deeply and the air is too foreign to him. He coughs immediately, choking until someone helps him turn on his side. 

 

He is lying on the ground, surrounded by the smell of grass, of trees. It is almost overpowering, Yoongi has not smelled such a thing in so long, so used to the damp and mold of the dungeon.

 

“He’s awake!”

 

Scuffling noises, and then Seokjin’s scent surrounds him. Slowly, he blinks his eyes open.

 

“Good to see you’re alright, Sire,” a high pitched voice calls from his left, only vaguely familiar. It is Seokjin’s eyes he meets first; the other alpha seems to be checking Yoongi’s injuries, many of which have been bandaged. Yoongi realises that his skin has been cleaned, his old clothes presumably thrown away and replaced with new ones. Fine travelling clothes. 

 

He attempts to speak but only manages another cough. Someone hands him some water which Seokjin has to help him drink, his hands shake so significantly.

 

“I can take the pack next time-”

 

“I’d say another two hours…” 

 

“If his injuries aren’t too bad-” Yoongi tries to listen in to the distant conversations that are taking place nearby, tries to get an idea of how many people are in this rescue party, but his head begins to swim. 

 

“Take it easy,” Seokjin advises. Looking up, Yoongi makes eye contact with him and finds he cannot hold it. He looks so knowing. 

 

When Yoongi does eventually recover the ability to speak, he finds that he does not know exactly what to say. After a little while, sitting on the fact that he is here, he is outside of the dungeons, he is alive, he looks to Seokjin.

 

“Why did you not leave me when I asked you to?”

 

Slowly, the camp falls quiet. The rustle of leaves overhead breaks the silence, and Yoongi attempts to ignore the fact that everyone is listening in. 

 

“We came to rescue you. I’m sure you know why we would do that,” Seokjin says, a little dryly. “I decided that the prince’s orders are not valid when he is not in his right mind.”

 

Not in his right mind. It makes sense, Yoongi supposes. 

 

And yet, he still feels the same way as he did back there. Like he deserved to die back in that cell.

 

“Did… Did Namjoon send you?” The rest of the group begin to gather around the temporary camp. Yoongi feels somewhat like an animal being examined, all of these new eyes on him. He recognises a few nobles that he had trained with in the past; presumably they decided to remain loyal to his family. Or maybe just to Namjoon. The omega does have a lot of amazing leadership potential.

 

There are around nine or ten people there in total. He recognises Taeha and Ahin, beta sisters that had bested him on the archery field more than a handful of times. Seokjin, and an omega that Yoongi is sure he has seen before in the castle as part of the serving staff. The beta man who had helped drag him out of the dungeon. Yoongi’s heart stops when he does not immediately spot Jeonghan, but then he appears over on the other side of their small camp, scurrying over.

 

“Where are we?”

 

“We rode through the night; we’re miles from the castle but we shouldn’t stay here long,” Taeha explains. “We headed further east, since that is where we all ended up migrating after the attack a year ago.”

 

It takes him a moment to process everything. The rescue, a group of people- there must be a group, somewhere, that does not align itself with the new king. Probably including those who exiled themselves by being a part of the last regime, and maybe a handful of others. 

 

None of the people in this small party seem to oppose being there to rescue him. They look at him with reverence, even; Yoongi finds himself immediately uncomfortable. He sits up in an attempt to make himself look less vulnerable. Pain wracks through his body, but he ignores it. 

 

Seokjin hums, looking apologetic. “Sorry about your stomach. Couldn’t really have you fighting us anymore. Needed you out of there, or it would have been something of a wasted mission.”

 

“It is alright,” Yoongi murmurs. Exacerbating his pain was a smart move on Seokjin’s part, really. “I do not think there was any long term damage.”

 

“This was, of course, all Namjoon’s doing.” There is something of a grimace around Seokjin’s mouth as he says it, although there is affection there, too. “He has insisted throughout that you are the best choice to lead us.”

 

Lead? Yoongi’s first reaction to that word is panic, followed by fear. He is sure that his people will understand that he was in a position to stop their suffering over the past few years, and yet had not. As much as he loves them, he is certain that they will not forgive him, even if he claims to have been ignorant of his father’s wrongdoings. After all, an ignorant king is hardly better than a cruel one. 

 

“What- Why?”

 

A tilt of Seokjin’s head. “Because it is a good place to start. And Namjoon does not trust the new administration. Although things are improving in the kingdom, there are still some things that he thinks are not quite right.” He raises an eyebrow. “And because he believes in you.”

 

The crux of it. Namjoon may believe in him, these people may all think that he may make a decent, even good ruler. But so many people out there will disagree - or even be disgusted by - that concept alone. 

 

Including himself. 

 

“I do not think,” Yoongi says slowly, “that this country will want me as their king.”

 

Seokjin’s expression appears carefully neutral. “Oh?”

 

“No.” Yoongi clears his throat. “And I do not think it would be wise for me to attempt to gain support if the conditions within the kingdom are improving.”

 

There is a general uneasy feeling, an unrest in the camp. Probably the party is angry, dissatisfied that they have rescued Yoongi for naught. When Yoongi looks to them, though, many of them look understanding, if sad. 

 

“Where will you go, Sir?” the young beta speaks up. 

 

I do not want to go anywhere , is Yoongi’s first thought. He did not want to leave that cell, wanted to perish there with his mate. He does not feel as though he has the energy to do anything else. As he looks around the camp, he considers spinning a tale in order to go off by himself and die without guilt. He does not really have any family left, except perhaps Hoseok and Namjoon, but he does not know if he can face them after everything that has happened.

 

No family. No, he thinks, that is not quite right. He has a daughter, or had a daughter, once. Somewhere. Although, he is sure that he had very much lost the right to fatherhood a long time ago. He has had no part in raising his daughter, does not even know where she is.

 

Or whether she is alive. Jimin … 

 

Finding Jimin, finding Eunmi… The idea of seeing them both alive gives him the tiniest spark of hope. Just knowing what happened to them, whether they managed to get out okay- Yoongi yearns for it. Has yearned for months upon months to just know

 

“I have a… quest of my own. I will venture out alone. South.” Yoongi looks at Seokjin, and he knows, Yoongi can tell. He nods imperceptibly. 

 

Yoongi takes a deep breath to steel himself. According to Taehyung, Jimin and he were travelling to the south-east kingdom. From this location, that could be as much as a week’s ride away. Then the search would begin.

 

He has no idea where to start. 

 

“You will need to be mindful of your injuries, sir- I mean,” the alpha that is addressing him looks frustrated as she attempts to figure out how to address him. Yoongi waves away her worries quickly.

 

“Yoongi is fine.”

 

“Ah- alright. Well, I am not sure how long you will be able to manage by yourself. You need to recover,” she explains. Approaching him, she hesitates slightly before reaching for him, seeking his approval. He nods and she begins to go through his multitude of injuries, reminding him that he is also severely malnourished and needs to prioritise staying well fed.

 

“We can give you some supplies,” Jeonghan pipes up. “And some money! But I am afraid it will not last you long…” 

 

“Do not worry about that. I will manage just fine. Please do not give me all of your supplies,” Yoongi replies hastily. He is not in the condition to stop Jeonghan, however, as he begins to rush around and collect things. 

 

“It’s not a problem, Sir!” 

 

--

 

“It’s not a burden,” Seokjin says quietly as they both watch the movement of the camp later that night. “You taking the supplies you need. I just want you to know that. We aren’t in a bad position, Joon has everything covered.”

 

A lump forms in Yoongi’s throat that he has to swallow down. How Seokjin can read him so well, he does not know. “Thank you,” he says simply, a little lost for words.

 

“Take a walk with me.”

 

They walk- or rather, Yoongi hobbles slowly, around the camp. They are surrounded by fairly heavy foliage, the greenery preventing any passing travellers from catching a glimpse of the group whilst also blocking out most of the setting sun,

 

Yoongi breathes in deeply. He is not sure whether he will ever be used to being able to breathe fresh air again.

 

They round the corner to where the horses are tied, and Yoongi counts one for each person. Seokjin pauses, eyes on the horses, and Yoongi looks over them once again.

 

“Is that-” 

 

Chestnut brown is not a particularly unusual colour on a horse, but this particular shade makes Yoongi’s heart lurch. 

 

“It was Jeonghan’s idea. He recognised that she’s yours,” Seokjin explains. “We knew we needed to steal a few of the horses for the getaway, that’s what a few of the others were working on while we…”

 

Yoongi does not intend to tune out Seokjin talking, but once his focus switches to the horse in front of him, he cannot pay attention to anything else. 

 

Bee’s eyes have always been a window into her soul, Yoongi thinks. So intelligent, and yet so kind and warm. As he approaches her he likes to think that she can remember him. When he reaches out, she waits to be petted, lets him step close and rub her nose gently.

 

“Hey, baby,” he says softly. She snorts and nudges him. Yoongi almost sinks to his knees right then and there. His eyes begin to sting. “I missed you.”

 

“I’ll leave you alone,” he hears Seokjin say. When Yoongi hears him leave, he does not hesitate to wrap his arms around Bee’s neck.

 

The ache settles into his bones once more as he stands there, but this time it feels more like tiredness. He feels so old. Bee’s presence is a comfort that he did not know he needed, a warmth that both eases him and forces him out of the numbness that he was just beginning to settle into. 

 

He wishes he could say that her presence eases that part of him that feels wholly empty. He cannot escape the feeling that Daehee should be somewhere here. Not speaking to him, or necessarily even bringing him any joy. Just, existing. Being alive. 

 

Bee snorts again. Yoongi moves to sit them both down. Her flank is so warm, her weight and presence so solid and familiar. Mentally, he thanks Jeonghan for such a kind and smart gesture, reminds himself to do it in person later. 

 

He does not feel any less empty. Maybe, though, he feels a little less alone.

 

--

 

He goes with the party as far as the road goes east, before it splits between north and south. He takes the opportunity to recover his health somewhat, to regain some strength, although every morsel of food that he accepts from them he feels guilt for. 

 

When they eventually reach the crossroad, the party makes camp, and Yoongi senses their hesitation over leaving him. It is interesting the way they look at him; in a pack of nine, there are so many emotions. Yoongi can see anger and upset, as well as a general lack of surety. He does not know how important the members of this group are to Namjoon and Hoseok’s cause - if they are part of the leadership, they may be wondering where they will go now, what they will do. 

 

Yoongi hopes that they understand that there is no reward in staying loyal to the old cause. If they do not trust those now in power, their best bet is to stay underground, to protect the people that might not get protected otherwise. He tells Seokjin so as the latter readies Bee with the supplies which Yoongi attempts again to refuse.

 

“I do think that was Namjoon’s plan,” Seokin muses. “So far he has done a superb job of keeping us out of sight, despite the search. I think he just wants the best for the kingdom.” He looks at Yoongi and raises his eyebrow. “I don’t want to say that putting you on the throne again was an excuse to come to your aid. But…”

 

Throat dry, Yoongi nods. Another time and Yoongi would have felt grateful for that sentiment. He should feel grateful. Someone died for him because of him- Another person died because of him. He has his life handed back to him. 

 

But here he is, not wanting it. He wishes he could talk to Namjoon. He always seemed to know what to say, what to do, has such a practical mind he can help anyone sort through their emotions. Yoongi misses him so much. 

 

“I wish I could thank both of them. Please tell them- Tell them I love them, and to live happily. And that I wish I could go to them.” Wish I deserved to be able to do that , is what Yoongi leaves unspoken. Seokjin seems to understand anyway. He places a comforting hand on Yoongi’s shoulder.

 

“I will. They love you too. I had hoped that you would come back to them, but…” He squeezes Yoongi’s shoulder gently again. “Now I see that’s not really possible. They wanted to come here, too.”

 

“Thank you for stopping them. I am guessing that is what you did?” Yoongi asks, forcing a chuckle. He and Seokjin share a look of understanding. 

 

“Hoseok was particularly difficult to convince.” Seokjin’s tone is dry. “I am very glad that I came, though, however much danger was involved. I am glad that I can tell them that you did not die in there.” Immediately after speaking, he winces.

 

Yoongi’s chest aches at the reminder. It truly does feel as though something is missing there, and that the space inside is cold and hollow. He turns to pet Bee to distract himself. 

 

He wishes he could go to Hoseok and Namjoon now, but he does know if he can face them after everything that happened. The fact that his father would do that to his own people… And Yoongi had done nothing to stop it. Namjoon had to try and fix all of it, he and his mates were chased out of their home because of his failure to do his duty. 

 

Finished with preparations, Seokjin steps away from Bee. “Well then. You’re ready to go.”

 

“Thank you, Seokjin. I cannot imagine how brave a decision it was to come here without your mates, to come to the aid of someone you barely know…”

 

“I would do anything they asked of me,” Seokjin says simply. “And, for the record, I am glad you are safe. No-one deserves to die like that.” 

 

Yoongi swallows, saying nothing. His mind vehemently disagrees.

 

Looking at Seokjin now, Yoongi realises that he had misjudged the other alpha. He had always been so afraid that he would hurt Namjoon or Hoseok; he did not know Seokjin well enough to trust him before. He had always existed on the periphery of Yoongi’s life. He should have known, really, after the way that Seokjin had taken in Jimin and helped him that Seokjin was a good person.

 

After all, he had come for Yoongi. Even though he is fairly sure that this was just the wish of Namjoon and Hoseok.

 

“And Yoongi- Know that I think, that we all think, that you are extremely brave, too. Surviving all of that… And losing your mate, must have been difficult beyond words.” 

 

Yoongi does not feel brave. He feels small. Small and incompetent, a terrible alpha and a bad friend. He does not say this, keeps it to himself; he does not want Seokjin to relay that as his last words to the people he loves the most. 

 

“Thank you,” he says slowly, “for giving the opportunity to search for- for Jimin, and the baby. And to see light again.”

 

There is so much sadness in Seokjin’s eyes. Yoongi feels as though the other alpha can see right through him. Unexpectedly, he is pulled into a hug.

 

“Take care of yourself.”

 

As he waves goodbye to Seokjin and the others, the other alpha’s words echo in his head. 

 

Brave. Ah, how he wishes he was.

 

--

 

Getting out of the country takes longer than Yoongi hoped for, and he uses most of his supplies over that time. By the time he reaches the border he has encountered enough situations to put him on edge constantly. 

 

He has learned to avoid any main roads and densely populated areas - in fact, to avoid all people if he can. It is possible that this will improve the further he gets away from his kingdom from which the people recognise him from numerous parades and visits to their villages, but he is not sure he is willing to take the risk. Everyone has also been on high alert, very much aware of his escape. 

 

This has led to terrifying situations; hiding in alleys and behind hedges, begging Bee silently to stay quiet. Going for days without food because he is too afraid to speak to anyone for fear of recognition.

 

The money runs out quickly. Eventually this becomes going for days without food because he does not have the means to obtain any. 

 

Yoongi searches for over a month. At least, that is what he thinks - he is not counting the days, and it is difficult to know how much time has passed, really. His mind has latched on to one thing, and one thing only; find Jimin, and find Eunmi. Make sure they are safe.

 

However, he has had no luck whatsoever in finding any trace of them. The moment he had crossed the border into the south-east kingdom - no small feat, something that involved him taking Bee over a river at a deep point, putting them both in so much danger - he has been on high alert. Yet he has not been able to find anyone that knows of their whereabouts, every person he has met looking puzzled at the mention of an unmated omega with a young daughter.

 

As Yoongi continues to search, he is aware that his own condition continues to worsen. He is ceaselessly thankful that he has Bee. The horse knows what he is instructing her to do without really any force being required from him in directing her, and so he spends most of his days slumped over her back, exhausted.

 

He is no physician, has no idea what is truly wrong with him. He doubts it is an infection, as he does not feel the same as- as Daehee did before he passed. Still, his body is extremely weak. His hunger and thirst are constant, being unable to satiate it as he is unable to purchase food, and is unwilling to steal it from the people who have already starved under him for months. His injuries do not heal, stay aching and deep, preventing him from moving too fast unless he is to pass out.

 

The kingdom is not large. Any further east and Yoongi will be approaching the capital city, he knows, but still, he finds no-one. Slowly, poisonous thoughts begin to infect his mind. What if Jimin is not here? What if he is in another kingdom?

 

What if- what if he and Eunmi did not make it out in the first place?

 

The capital city is certainly not a place he wishes to be, neutral kingdom or no. Bounty hunters will be aplenty, as well as any number of people that could recognise him. There's a slim chance, but it is still possible.

 

So, as his options run out and he has to accept that not only is it unlikely that he will find Jimin, but there is a significant chance he will not have much longer. If he does not die from starvation, he will most likely get caught, so he resigns himself to this. Tiredly thinks that there is not much to live for anyway. It will not be a tragedy if he dies.

 

--

 

As if it knows of Yoongi’s state, as his state begins to truly weaken, the rain begins. A torrential downpour lasting days as he crosses into the southern countries, warmer than the rains of home but still enough to chill him to the bone. Bee trots on obediently as he slumps on her back, the rain enough of a pressure on his bruises to cause pain.

 

These conditions continue for days. Yoongi tries his best to keep Bee healthy, to find them shelter where he can, but it never offers much of a comfort; he cannot pay for lodgings, and in the shelter he can find outside, he will never get dry.

 

It is raining particularly badly one night as he follows a rustic path around the back of a small farm in order to avoid the main road to the city, which he can tell is nearing. A sign he passes indicates that it may be another three days’ ride. Reading it sickens him, and he steels himself for the upcoming need to take more small roads, as avoiding the main road is definitely in his best interests. 

 

But as the night starts to fall, Yoongi wonders if he will even make it that far. Bee begins to flag and he pulls her over, vying towards a barn for shelter. He does not venture inside, but stays under the lip of the roof. He ensures that Bee has shelter and grass to graze on, and just. Lies down. 

 

Yoongi realises that getting up will be a gargantuan task. He is exhausted to the bone and in so much pain he does not think that there is anywhere on his body that is pain free. 

 

More than that, though, the will seems to be leaving him. As he lays there on his side, breathing and watching the raindrops gather and drip down the wood of the barn through the cracks, it is almost like an out of body experience. He considers idly whether there is any point in rising again in the morning. 

 

He has searched hard, he supposes. His chest aches at the thought that he has found no trace of Jimin nor Eunmi, and that there may not be anything to be found. Worthlessness creeps over him. He should have done more, helped Jimin escape, made sure that he was safe. He deserves so much more than what Yoongi gave him. 

 

Darkness falls. The edges of Yoongi’s vision are hazy; he starts to see shapes in the grass that he has to blink away. He is so hungry. Sleep comes and goes, but it is not true, restful sleep. Not the sleep that Yoongi wants.

 

“You need to close your eyes to sleep, you fool,” a light voice comes from behind him. It startles him, but he does not have the energy to flinch; before he can move, a hand ghosts down his arm, down his side. It does not hurt.

 

That voice, though. So recognisable.

 

“Jimin?”

 

Yoongi is shushed quietly, and he feels their body- Jimin’s body, press up behind him, an echo of a position they have taken many times before. 

 

Fingers ever so gently comb through his dripping hair, Jimin’s other arm curling around his chest, which aches, throbs with the beat of his heart. 

 

“It’s okay.” His voice is so soothing, so sweet. Too quiet; Yoongi wants to tell him to speak up but he cannot make himself open his mouth. “It’ll be alright.”

 

He still feels so cold. He wants to tell Jimin to hold him tighter, warm him up. He wants to ask, where is Eunmi? Is she getting wet?

 

“Close your eyes, that’s it.” Yoongi wants to protest, wants to say that he does not want to close his eyes so he can continue to see the omega. That persistent empty sensation inside him has assuaged ever so slightly - in fact, all of his feelings have numbed out, faded slightly like washed out paint. 

 

Jimin’s presence is such a sweet comfort. Yoongi wants to tell him that he has missed him, missed speaking to him, missed his laugh, his warmth. The feeling in Yoongi’s chest is not the same as it was all that time ago, when he had last seen Jimin; instead, there is just a sad yearning. His presence is so soothing, though. Yoongi feels as though he could stay here forever, rain and all.

 

“Jiminie,” he rasps. “Don’ let me go.”

 

“Don’t worry, I won’t,” Jimin’s voice promises. Gosh, it hurts. Yoongi wants to believe that it is real so badly. 

 

It gets darker and darker. He can barely feel the cold anymore. 

 

“Just go to sleep, that’s it.”

 

It is so easy to close his eyes when Jimin is there to tell him so. He lets himself get lost in the sensation of Jimin’s fingers in his hair or stroking his cheek, his quiet humming. It gets harder and harder to open his eyes, or think concrete thoughts at all. 

 

Yoongi finds himself not wanting to.

 

The rain is constant over the next few hours, and is the only thing that Yoongi is truly aware of, its sound and the feeling of it on his skin. Everything is dark in a very familiar way; Yoongi is reminded of the cells in the castle, the way his body felt like it was giving in, so close and just waiting for the end. At least here he can breathe fresh air. 

 

He remains suspended there, his mind drifting slowly as if he is sailing in a calm lake, detached from his body and the pain. 

 

He is not sure what wakes him. Perhaps it is the rain coming to a stop, silence finally falling on the secluded area. Opening his eyes feels like a daunting task. For a long period, he wonders if he can.

 

It is a strange smell that finally forces him to open his eyes. He thinks that he may be hallucinating still; there is a load of bread about a foot away from him. Yoongi frowns at it, blinking, but it does not go away. 

 

A few minutes pass. Yoongi closes his eyes, but when he re-opens them, it is still there. 

 

Taking a few deep breaths, he musters the energy to reach out. He fumbles with the paper that surrounds it, cheap wrapping paper that has protected it from the wetness of the ground. 

 

There is a note tucked in there, and Yoongi really does think that he is hallucinating.

 

Hello, stranger! You looked a little rough out here. We’re not hard up for wheat, and my mate makes a pretty terrible loaf, so feel free to take our leftovers. 

 

Yoongi wants to cry. 

 

The bread smells so good, supposedly terrible or no. He should eat, save his starving body. This would give him the energy to get up, to carry on for a few more days. Maybe even reach the city.

 

His chest aches almost debilitatingly as his fingers digging into the crust, except he knows it is not his injuries. What if… What if, he simply did not eat the bread?

 

How long would it take him to fall into the sleep he wants so badly, he wonders? 

 

A day? He thinks a day may be enough, in his current state. Whoever provided him with this bread rescue most likely owned the barn he was sleeping under; they would probably take Bee. If they were kind enough to attempt to feed him, he thinks they may be kind enough to her.

 

His body may be something of a nuisance, but possibly they would just think that he had died from his injuries rather than starvation, once they see them. They should not feel guilty. 

 

What else is there? 

 

He takes a shuddering breath, remembering the ghost of Jimin’s fingers in his hair last night. His mind is so cruel to have tortured him with something like that, with something he will never have again.

 

As the minutes pass, he comes to recognise that he cannot give up. Finding Jimin and Eunmi, making sure they are safe - he may not be able to do anything to help them, but at least he will know. If he knew, he thinks, he would truly be able to sleep in peace.

 

The bread tastes like heaven, small burnt or grainy parts aside. Yoongi wishes he could thank the stranger that left it for him, feels guilt once again - perhaps his kingdom had inflicted harm on these people, too. 

 

Either way, he thinks bitterly, he hopes it ends soon.

 

--

 

There is a large house ahead. It stands right to the side of the path that Yoongi is currently travelling on - a path that he is starting to suspect he should not have taken. He needs to ask for directions towards the main road, the one that will take him to the city, and this house is the first Yoongi has seen in probably a mile of forestry. It had been several days since he had been able to earn some food - from a day's physical labour, mind - and needless to say, Yoongi is very hungry.


The problem is that the occupants of this house are most likely very wealthy, judging by the size of the place, and Yoongi is rather afraid that he will be turned away due to his state when attempting to ask.


So he approaches the house with caution. His body is sore, but he tries to force himself into some better posture and looking somewhat more respectable.


Perhaps Yoongi is struggling even more than he thought, as he does not notice that there is someone in the front garden of the house until he is almost upon it. The man is carrying small wooden crates full of various fresh foods and does not appear to be struggling despite the load. Swallowing, Yoongi calls out to get his attention.


"Hello there! I do not suppose you could tell me which path I can take to get to the city?"


When the man turns and Yoongi gets a good look at his face, he sees just how much younger he is. Probably just of age, and he can see a mating mark on the lower part of his neck. Yoongi is close enough to smell the alpha scent of him, and cannot catch the scent of a mate.


The boy's eyes widen when he catches sight of Yoongi and he hastens to place the crates down, moving closer. Bee is too exhausted to even flinch away.


"Are you alright, traveller? You look very unwell. Do you want to come inside?" His handsome face is twisted in concern, and his face possesses a brightness, a youth, that Yoongi has not seen for a long time. He does not know whether it brings him joy to see, or just makes him ache.


"No, I need to head towards the city. I do appreciate the offer, though." The boy purses his lips, and Yoongi watches him shift from foot to foot.


"Will you at least take some water for your horse?" He steps back, waving his arm somewhere behind him; presumably there are some kind of stables behind the house or a water trough. Yoongi debates with himself for a moment at that. Bee is obviously flagging and in need of water, and to refuse this offer would be selfish.


"Alright," he agrees reluctantly. At that, the other alpha gives him a wide smile, his front teeth a little large and rabbit-like. He indicates for Yoongi to follow him around the house, and Yoongi considers dismounting before he realises that he probably could not get back up again.

 

Reaching a hand out, the boy looks up at Yoongi for permission to touch Bee, and Yoongi nods tiredly. “Have you travelled far?”

 

“Ah, yes. For some time,” he answers vaguely. He swipes a hand over his heavy eyes, flexing the stiff, cold fingers of his other hand before stretching up. 

 

His cloak must shift as he moves, as the younger alpha gasps. When Yoongi looks down at him he is covering his mouth as though embarrassed, turning his eyes away from Yoongi.

 

Yoongi must be something of a terrible sight. It is difficult to meet the boy’s eye.

 

The air is filled with the sound of Bee drinking deeply and the odd bird calls of the woods around them. After a minute or so their new companion clears his throat and Yoongi looks at him.

 

“I was about to eat, would you like to share some bread? Or, if you are truly in a rush, I can pack it for you?”

 

Immediately, Yoongi’s first instinct is to refuse. He despises taking from people. He has done nothing to earn any kindness from this boy.

 

The open eagerness in his eyes makes Yoongi reconsider. Looking around quickly, Yoongi assesses the size of the house, remembers the stack of food crates that the young alpha was bringing into the house. Surely, he could afford to offer food to someone who looks to be in need.

 

Swallowing the voice that tells him that he does not deserve it, that his suffering is the price he should be paying, he nods. His voice croaks as he says, “I- Yes. Thank you. I would appreciate a package very much.”

 

Another grin stretches the young alpha’s lips, and Yoongi watches him practically bound inside before letting his head hang low. Exhaustion is eating at him, and he truly is grateful to be given another meal. His ribs throb with every beat of his heart.

 

By the time the young man comes out once more, Bee has had her fill of water and is grazing on the grass of the garden. Yoongi hopes that the family that live here does not mind. 


“Here.” A pack of food is tucked into Yoongi’s saddlebags quickly. Not small, but not large enough to unbalance Bee, who barely seems to notice. “There is water in this flask, too. The road that you need to take is only a little further ahead; there is a fork in the path, and you should take the one straight forward. The one to right will lead you back to the north.” 

 

“Thank you.” Flailing a little internally, Yoongi struggles with the need to thank the alpha more, to pay for the food, somehow. It is impossible, he realises, so he settles for dismounting in order to grasp the boy’s hand properly. 

 

“It’s no problem. Have a safe journey!” Yoongi is pulled into an embrace, the kind he has seen a few times around the south, familiar and yet somehow ritualistic. First, he is reminded once again of how far he is from the place he grew up, but then something else catches his attention.

 

It is almost as though there is something familiar about the alpha’s scent.

 

It is not possible, so Yoongi shakes himself out of it quickly. It is difficult to mount Bee once again, but Yoongi manages somehow, hiding his pain from the stranger next to him.

 

“Oh, by the way, make sure you don’t accidentally take the path that forks off to the right,” the boy says as Yoongi begins to move away. Looking over his shoulder, Yoongi catches his expression, and it is suddenly rather serious. “You don’t want to go down there.”

 

Yoongi acknowledges him with a nod and a wave. As soon as he returns to the path, the house quickly falling out of sight behind more trees, he begins to think of pausing to eat the food he was given, and has to force himself to wait until nightfall when he will be forced to make camp.

 

The encounter with the kind stranger almost reinvigorates him. As Bee trots along, he takes the time to admire the scenery around him. The foliage is slightly different to that which surrounded the castle in which he grew up, presumably due to the warmer climate, and it remains green in winter rather than the brown of his home kingdom. Yoongi is thankful of that; he does not think he would have survived very long if he had to face the elements in the north.

 

Perhaps it is the fact that he is paying so much attention to his environment for once that he catches the scent of something in the air. Contrasting with his surroundings, it is a flower of his home kingdom, carnations. Something he found in the castle gardens many times in his youth.

 

It is so out of place, it makes him pause. It is then that he notices the path leading off to the left, half hidden by the trees. 

 

Another deep breath in has him actually bringing Bee to a stop. It is strange how much of a pull he feels towards that scent, even though it is so weak he can barely catch it. In fact, every exhale has him thinking he imagined it. 

 

For a second though, it is like the pain in his chest, his sides, has vanished as he inhales the scent of home once more. It is a strange experience overall, one that has him turning down that path to follow it. He does not know what he will find, almost thinks it might be nothing and nearly turns around when he sees nothing of immediate interest after a minute or so.

 

But then he hears a faint shout. Almost a squeal or a scream, and he hastens Bee’s pace in order to investigate. It might be that someone needs help, after all.

 

He rounds a corner, following the sound of running and yelling, and his heart lurches as Bee startles. She rears up slightly, whinnying loudly in protest, and after quickly getting over the shock he shushes her.

 

It takes a second to calm her down, but he focuses on that, not wanting her to bolt or throw him. Overall unusual behaviour for her, so he quickly glances around to ascertain the reason for the commotion. 

 

There is nothing to either side of them except trees and bushes. He looks down. 

 

A young child is looking up at him in shock, eyes wide and sat on her behind. 

 

Bee must have almost trampled them, and Yoongi goes to apologise or ask if they are alright, but the words get caught in his throat.

 

The child looks familiar. Something about the curve of her cheeks, or her nose; or maybe it is her eyes, something about the shape or colour. She blinks at him once, before bursting into tears.

 

It is quieter than Yoongi might have expected.

 

“Eunmi?!”

 

Yoongi does not register the word; instead, he catches that scent once more, that familiar identifier that makes his stomach lurch. His eyes snap up and he freezes.

 

It is Jimin.

 

There is no time to take in the differences in Jimin’s appearance, the way he approaches Yoongi. All the alpha registers is his scent, the same as it always was, and the fact that it is Jimin . Jimin, standing right there, calling the child- calling their child , right in front of him. 

 

Yoongi cannot breathe. Distantly he realises that Jimin has called Eunmi and she has stood up and wobbled into his arms. He lifts her easily as if well practised in the movement.

 

Jimin .

 

Perhaps sensing his uncertainty, Bee shifts uneasily. The pain in Yoongi’s body seems to have lifted away, his vision narrowing down to one thing. 

 

Jimin has one hand on the back of Eunmi’s head as she pushes her face into his neck, scenting him. The other is wrapped around her tightly, and he leans her away from Yoongi in what looks very much like an instinctive move.

 

When Yoongi’s eyes finally focus on his face, he sees the hard set of his mouth, the tension in his jaw. A frown creases his brow, and the alpha sees his nostrils flare from picking up Yoongi’s scent.

 

Fear. All he can see in Jimin’s eyes is fear.

 

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