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Quiescence of the Syzygy

Chapter Text

 


 

 

The gentle winds whimsically tugged and pushed themselves along, the sun’s tender touch at last peeking under the horizon to beckon dusk and her passionate dance as she once more painted the skies under the comfortably familiar black helm of night. Nothing but the sound of the ever-constant waves that kissed the soft, white bed of sand echoed across the hidden cove along the beach, save for the occasional rustle of aged paper and deep scrawling of a quill against it. There was a boy excitedly noting and drawing all he could onto the contents of the leather bound journal that sat by him, his chin resting on his free hand while he peered up at the sky above. His eyes were ones widened in wonderment as he watched and studied it, the slow and timid awakening of the white blinking orbs he knew to be the stars coming to life as he drew an exasperated breath.

 

“Beautiful,” he whispered.


The sight would never be one that he would tire of as he watched with eager anticipation when the moon hesitantly peeped from where her brother had since descended., using his free hand to turn the page with the one that didn’t have his chin propped up on it.

 

As if the moon would hear him, he gently encouraged,” Rise, light of the night. Don’t be afraid,” he quietly said, making certain to diagram the pattern of stars that now were being tugged amid the cordial embrace of night above him. Awe swelled within him like a familiar friend as he continued to scrawl diagrams and notes into the notebook, shifting so that was no longer lying on his stomach in his want to have a wider view of the skies. He didn’t want to miss anything, leaning his head back so that he had a full view of the skies before he continued,” follow your brother and take your place in the sky, moon.”

 

Truly, he never thought he’d ever see anything quite as wondrous as the slow ebb of the sea when her mother took to the skies, the moon’s comforting, silvery body quelling her now calm solace that settled only with the cold absence of the day.

 

When the moon rose so that her touch caressed the sea that slowly began to descend into a slowed sleep like the rest of the world, a small smile tugged at his lips as he rose, a familiar urge settling in his chest that grew with every beat of his kind heart as he continued to gaze up at the skies. Somewhere deep within him, he ached to be ever nearer to the stars as the earth’s tired sands lazily grasped while the warm ocean water lapped at his feet in their joined attempt to gain favor of his attention like a needful child that desired the notice of a parent.

 

Kneeling down, he allowed his smile to rise, the urge softly beating in his chest becoming persistent until he had no choice but to surrender to the song he always sung to the night sky as it lightly fell from his lips.

 

“Oh, sky above me, how far you must always be,

Allow the world to be as kind and free

As the winds and tide that willfully play at sea

Because among a place so wild yet leisurely, you may only have one destiny-“

 

He paused, closing his eyes to allow the warm ocean spray to settle around him like a watery veil as the stars above watched, a satisfied sigh leaving him as his shoulders fell, the tension that had wrapped itself around them loosening as the winds lightly caressed him and he heeded the elements that he silently hoped would become his affinity in the ceremony that was to come in the following hours where he would be chosen by one of the five elements amongst those of divination.

 

The boy continued only after the skies above encouraged him, the moon’s maternal and soothing stroke steadily rising to encase his strong, built form from under the cover of the mouth of the cove he had hidden away in, the silvery rays finally reaching him through the circular hole embedded in the ceiling that arched above him in her approval of his song that he sang to her every night, his mellifluous voice since marred by unrest as it was heavily seized by that which had heavily spread through his consciousness for the past few days. It was as if with the settlement of the sky above, his previous doubts suddenly came to life.

 

His voice had since shifted as the nerves began to rise again in the depths of his mind, the familiar words of dubiety flowing freely as the waters against his feet.

 

While I am in my singularity, amongst a world brought about by one epiphany,

I hope that you, the skies and stars above, can find your serendipity,

Because for me, while I feel so far sheltered from blasphemous blight

I can’t help but to succumb to solidarity’s sight

Even with this euphoria that hides so I cannot take flight.”

 

While his voice was smooth and carried under the gentle winds, what stirred within him was rough with ambivalence, the deepness of it, he was sure, more extensive than any trench the ocean before may have had.

 

Try as he might, he could not shake the nerves of incertitude that had since had time to settle deeply in his gut at the day’s dawn while they coiled within as the moon attempted to placate him, her presence, while serving to aid his physical tensions, only reminding him of the trial he was to face where he would establish his affinity for the divinatory magic passed only to that of his family. Whatever magic chose him, it would reside within him for the remainder of his life. It was a daunting thing to think about, really, but he’d done all he could to battle that adversary, pushing and ignoring such thoughts and emotions from his mind under the piercing glare of the sun while he’d tried to busy himself studying the planets and constellations within the opened ceiling of the observatory he made his home in when he wasn’t at the cove.

 

While those had certainly helped his spirits, he couldn’t entirely escape that which wanted to haunt him, the dubiety following him like a shadow he wished he could rid himself of.

With the sun’s blaring, cold absence and the moon’s calm, warm one, he had suddenly become restless in the deep anxiousness that dug into him like dragon talons in what magic would make itself as deeply a part of him as he was to be a part of it.

 

The boy wondered, not for the first time, if the stars, moon and sun ever doubted. If they ever had the thoughts that he did. He began again, the apprehension latched onto the slow, curious words that filled the night sky as he spun in a languid circle.

 

“While you are so resolved in your journey through the night,

Have you always been able to carry so much might?

So much life hinges on you, so knowledgeable and wise as you may be,

I wonder as I look up at you if you blink back with such glee

So help me to better see,

Are you locked in a cage of ennui?”

 

At his last word, he opened his eyes to notice one of the brighter stars blink fiercely at him, as if it wanted to tell him something. His mouth parted in surprise at the sky and how willingly it had answered him this time. It had been almost two weeks since the stars had heeded his song, but that didn’t stop the joy from swirling within him as he smiled tenderly upwards. The inquisitiveness carrying in his words like the ocean spray to his sun-kissed skin at the unspoken connection with the world above him, an invisible cord tugged tight at his chest.

 

He didn’t stop to wonder what that cord might be, too caught in the rapt attention of the night to fully notice as the want to better understand the now awakened skies as the stars above began to scintillate in a pattern that he could’ve sworn passed their light around to one another in that of circle that seemed to be trying to be engirdle something directly above him.

 

Tilting his head curiously with a small smile softening at the wondrous sight, the boy held out his arms as if to cradle the skies on his hands, his song becoming lighter now as empathy flooded him, a sudden realization hitting him that the stars, the moon’s beloved children, were trying to answer by way of blinking in the sky.

 

Of all things, the boy understood the necessity to be strong for others while having to keep all the loneliness and dubiety locked away in a cage within him for the sake of all who expected so much of him. Of that, he was certain he would share at least that sentiment with the quiet skies above.

 

It soothed him as the winds gently lapped against him with the waves and sand, the moon above smiling as the silvery rays warmed themselves around him as if to embrace him even deeper and closer than before.

 

“Ah, so that’s how you feel,” he whispered, the moon’s rays lending him strength as they settled on the skin his pants did not cover. He’d since shed the long black shirt in his seclusion from the world, needing to feel all that the skies and nature around him would give to him on his skin that had since began to itch with the anxiousness that gripped it.

 

The placidity was unhurried as it swept through him, doing away with the physical worry of his skin. He was grateful for it. The skies and nature around him seemed at peace with him as sat back on his knees, his eyes closing as he withdrew his arms from the sky.

 

He whispered, knowing the sky would not answer in form of a voice to respond, but he spoke anyway. He hoped if the sky could not talk, that it would listen with the same fervor it had since he was a child. “I would be lying if I said you didn’t help me to feel better, haneul, I only hope I can carry some of you with me when I go to the ceremony in a little while…”

 

He trailed off to hum his song once more, laying back on the bed of sand that welcomed him as the he lifted one arm to the moon as if in attempt to touch the source of the tender light that so warmly caressed him now.

 

For a while, he just laid there, basking in the fond nuzzle of the cool air that he was sure brought with it the benevolent, cordial light that felt as if it were cuddling against his very skin in attempt to soothe his spirits, the soft white sand beneath him supporting every curvature of a body corded with muscle after years of practice of climbing almost anything that he could in his adventures to be nearer to the sky as well as practice any weapon he’d been able to get his hands on ranging from swords, bows and spears.

 

Only a small dagger hung along his hip now, for the boy hardly figured there would be any feasible threat in escaping the palace to spend a few languorous moments amid his solace of the skies and sea.

 

After all, no one knew who he was even if they did somehow stumble along into the hidden cove that was embedded somewhere along the edge of Busan’s coast. No one had ever actually “seen” the youngest prince of Busan.

Jungkook himself didn’t agree with many of the practices his uncle, the king, had put forth, but he was appreciative of the rule in which the princes or royal children of Busan would not be revealed to the public until their eighteenth year in which was the year all youth of the age were claimed by their magical ability. In his uncle’s mind, it symbolized manhood. To him, it symbolized the end of his freedom and the ability to do as he pleased without worry over being watched by all, he thought with a groan.

 

While the young boy was thankful to live a life of royalty and had never taken his status for granted like so many other tainted nobility, he was loath to release the prerogative that came with being a hidden dweller among Busan’s skies. For he knew that his intrepid independence would be torn away from him the moment the townspeople were given their new prince.

 

And of all things, Jungkook would always value his freedom that would soon be taken away.

 

Alone with his thoughts that ran rampantly through his mind, the boy didn’t remember drifting off to the peaceful lull of the tired ocean waves, but when he woke, he simply laid there to listen to the sounds of the earth. It was peaceful, the gentle tap of the waves over his exposed feet and furtive winks that the stars would send his way even though he couldn’t see them to know for sure. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he enjoyed the serenity that was given to him in these quiet moments. He wondered if he would still be able to have these once he was revealed to the town of Busan that he was to be their next prince.

 

Although he hoped, he knew he would likely never be able to come to the sea and sky like this on his own ever again- his elder brother would ensure he was always watched over being the protective person that he was over his only brother. It was with the sudden gust of wind that blew against him that he hit the realization that he would, from this night on, always be watched, whether it be over his own guards or the townspeople of Busan.

 

While he knew he would be grateful to receive support and attention from his people, his mind went back to the stories his brother would tell him when he was first revealed to the world. How he was made to always be in the public eye with never a moment to still and have fleeting moments like these under the watchful eyes of their uncle and those he would one day rule over.

 

It wasn’t until he heard the amused chuckle behind hm that he had the faint inkling that he’d been watched for a little while, sure that his elder brother had used his magic to sense his troubled mind all the way out here. Then again, it could have been that the boy’s elder brother simply knew him so well that he didn’t need to use magic to know where he was. The boy figured it was probably the latter.

 

He kept his eyes closed to the world when a familiar voice reached him, his body slow to want to react in the sleep that still claimed it.

 

“You know, for someone who is so keen to be around his older brother all the time, you sure do like to disappear, little brother.”

 

The boy who laid in the sand did not speak at first, content with the sand that cradled him and a smirk that wanted to edge itself across his lips at the idea that he could fool his older brother into thinking he was still peacefully asleep.

 

At least then he would have more time to collect himself from what was to come.

 

After being as close as he was with his elder brother for eighteen years,though, he should have realized how readily the great Jeon Jung-Hyun would not fall for his antics.

 

A soft plop sounded from behind the boy, but he still remained motionless in the sand, hoping his act would steer his brother away in favor of giving him more time to soak up the calm of the skies. He wasn’t ready. Not yet.

 

It seemed, to his unfortunate dismay, that his brother had other plans.

 

“Don’t make me have to carry your sorry behind all the way back to the palace, Jungkook. You are far heavier than you look and I fear I may strain a muscle attempting to carry you there,” Jung-Hyun teased with a light lilt to his voice as he playfully jabbed at Jungkook’s left cheek.

 

The action emitted a deep sigh from Jungkook, who opened his eyes to his older brother who crouched down beside him. A grin was spread over the elder brother’s face and, while the younger boy had had a retort ready, he cast it away at the twinge of doubt that coiled itself in his gut at the excitement that bounded behind his brother’s countenance.

 

A wistful smile was all he was able to give to his elder brother as he sat up, not able to meet his brother’s eyes as he uttered, “I’m not ready, Jung-Hyun. I… I need more time to-“

 

Jungkook didn’t finish his sentence before his brother sat down, placing a hand on the younger’s shoulder to say,” Jungkook.”

 

It was all the younger could do to keep his eyes on the sand he absentmindedly was fiddling with as if it were the most interesting thing in the world, his brother’s voice clemently compassionate as he pressed again,” Hey, this about the ceremony, isn’t it?”

 

A slight nod was all Jungkook could give to the elder brother that peered down at his form that he’d made smaller by curling into himself as if that would block out the doubt that kept nipping at him. Understanding rolled forth in Jung-Hyun, the elder gently squeezing the younger’s shoulder as he looked above at the sky that Jungkook had always found so fascinating.

 

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” He simply asked, knowing the answer his younger brother was want to give to him before the words left his mouth.

 

“Yes,” Jungkook sincerely agreed, tilting his head upward to watch the bright, youthful constellation of Virgo twinkling brighter than the sun as she beckoned to Capricorn, his own stars and their counterparts flashing along as he tried to drift closer to waiting palm. Jungkook gazed up in the awe that twined itself around his words when he continued after some moments passed, “It is.”

 

The ease to which his younger brother spoke with such fondness elicited a chuckle from Jung-Hyun as he curiously noted the change in Jungkook when the subject was shifted away from the center of his worry to that of his utter fascination of the skies since childhood.

 

He was glad there was something that offered such serendipity for his younger brother.

 

Jong-Hyun was slow to speak once a comfortable silence had settled between them, the ocean’s hum a soft one as the waves reached along their feet, “You know, he started, sitting back to give his brother the space he needed to settle down,” When I was your age, I was worried about what magic would choose me, too. It was a strange, yet nerve-wracking day, to be sure.” His brother told him.

 

Jungkook’s eyes widened when he looked up at his elder brother at the new information Jung-Hyun had shared; his brother had always boasted about how his selection day had been one of pride and happy anticipation,” You…You were nervous, too?”

 

A chuckle carried in the air around them as his brother nodded, Jungkook’s dubiety taking a blow at the admission,” Oh, of course I was, little brother. I was so terrified, I locked myself in my room and didn’t let anyone in for an entire day until father had to have the doors to my room knocked down for fear of my health.”

 

Jungkook winced at that. He’d been only five or so at the time of his brother’s trial to which he had been chosen by divinatory magic as was custom of the royal family. Their parents had since passed on, their uncle taking the throne in their father and mother’s stead.

 

He had no memory of that period, had no memories of his father or mother as his elder brother did. For something so precious that he had missed, Jungkook would always envy his brother who had had time to spend and grow with them before they’d been so cruelly taken away.

 

Jung-Hyun was never reluctant to tell him of how beautifully bright his memories with their parents had been, the light and nostalgic air that surrounded his brother as he tenderly spoke of them brought with it nothing but peace and affection to Jungkook’s warm heart for the parents he’d never gotten to know.

 

He briefly wondered what his parents would have told him on this night of his claiming. If they would be so reassuring and loving as he imagined them to be from the way his brother always spoke so kindly of them. Deep within him, he knew they were looking on wherever they were, watching him with the same attention that he knew they always had.

 

The wind carefully brushed his cheek as if a mother reaching out to calm her child, and he is grateful for it.

 

When he looked back to his brother, he looked fondly upon Jungkook as he rose, holding out a hand in a silent offer to pull him up.

 

To Jungkook, his brother was nothing short of the hero that, time and time again, used his gift to safeguard and protect the kingdom of Busan in all the tales that he had heard the townspeople adoringly relay to their children in his many undercover visits to simply explore and learn more of the city and it’s people. No one in the kingdom had ever seen him, for it was custom of children of the royal family to remain unknown and unseen from the kingdom until they had become of age to be claimed by their magic, which was the eighteenth year of life.

 

For him, he wanted to be just like his brother. He wanted to make his brother as proud of him as he was of Jung-Hyun. After all, Jung-Hyun had basically raised him since birth. He owed it to his elder brother to live up to that which he’d spent all these years raising. Such was a difficult place to fill in his deep-seeded pride and love for his brother that swelled with affection when his brother would spill his stories, secrets wisdom with Jungkook as he shifted to look into the kind eyes of Jung-Hyun while grasping his hand.

 

Jungkook is swiftly pulled upwards, his brother’s hand moving somewhere when Jung-Hyun says, “You will be fine, Kookie-ah. Big brother says you will be, so please believe him.”

 

When Jungkook dipped his head, the gnawing of the doubt as strong as the force to which he had begun to chew on his cheek, Jung-Hyn moved back to shake his head, a smirk turning one of his lips up at his brother’s apprehensiveness.

 

Meekly, Jungkook replied,” What if the people don’t like me?”

 

Placing a hand on Jungkook’s head, Jung-Hyun ruffled the dark hazel hair until it fuzzed under his fingertips, “They will love you as your brother loves you, alright? Now, don’t push yourself like that, brother. I can almost hear all those thoughts buzzing around in that hard head of yours.” Jung-Hyun said, continuing in attempt to reassure the younger brother,” I know it’s hard, but you can do this. Your elder brother believes very strongly in you, little one.”

 

It was an intimidating thing- to be seen for the first time while simultaneously being obliged to earn the respects of all through a magical affinity. Still, such was the way of life in the kingdom of Busan, where magic existed to some form in all who dwelled there with the exception of an affinity for the elements of fire, water, earth and air. Such power had faded into extinction over time as had the existence of mythological creatures that once inhabited the seas and skies as the only creatures that possessed the strength to harness them.

 

It was only under the divinatory class of magic that Jungkook knew he would gain his affinity from, which had been worrying him sick over the last few days in the anxious anticipation that had come with his trial that had drawn closer and closer.

 

While the sea and sky had certainly been like salve to a wound in his nervous spirits, he couldn’t entirely erase the feeling that buried itself in his gut.

 

His elder brother must have sensed his lingering unease as it pulsed within him, deciding to tease him to lighten the heavy tension that had settled around them as he picked up the abandoned leather bound notebook to make a show of browsing the pages filled with ink in Jungkook’s utter devotion to his study,” Your notes are so hard to read I can barely make out the letters, by the way. Did something in the sky so profoundly catch the attention of you, little brother?”

 

At that, Jungkook’s eyes widened in surprise at his brother’s sudden change in behavior, running up to his elder brother in effort to take it from him,” Hey! Give it back, pabo!

 

Clucking his tongue in disapproval, Jung-Hyun, placed a hand out, effectively catching his brother’s forehead against his palm while Jungkook made every effort to take back the book in the form of him flailing his arms around. Momentarily forgetting that which had been a heavy weight for the last few days, a plan unfurled itself in Jungkook’s mind, his hands finding the white sand beneath him to curl around it as a playful grin edged along his lips.

 

“You should give that back to your little brother if you don’t want me to throw something at you,” Jungkook teased, flicking a brow of his own upward in his acquiesce to the dare.

 

A mischievous smile soon tugged at Jung-Hyun’s lips as he inclined his head, narrowing his eyes in a challenge,” Oh, I dare, little brother. If you want this notebook back,” he paused to lift the book higher in the air above Jungkook’s reach with an arch of a brow,” then come get it.”

 

He doesn’t give Jung-Hyun the chance to flee before the sand that he’d balled up in his palm is hurled at his face, heavy laughter emitted from the elder brother as a cascade of sand falls around him upon making contact with his face as Jungkook shouted,” I’m not done with you, yet, hyung!”

 

Spitting the sand that had made it’s home in his mouth, Jung-Hyun loudly teased,” We’ll see about that, my little welkin!”

 

A victorious thrumming passing through his center at the successful hit to his brother, Jungkook was left with a face full of sand in Jung-Hyun’s wake that flurried around him at the hard retreat of his brother along the hidden rocky trail that led out of the cove, no hesitation in the younger brother’s now smiling face as he swiftly made to follow the footsteps of Jong-Hyun with another load of ammunition balled in his hand.

 

“I’ll get you for that, brother!” Jungkook exclaimed as his feet began to carry him away from the sea. Surely there were worse things than being nervous over a trial. If his brother could do it, so could he. After all, the thought that he had his brother to support him filled his heart with a light contentedness he hadn’t known he could feel despite the coming trial.

 

It was with that thought that he released a light laugh into the tranquil night, a boy with hair the color of an azure sky during a spring day and warm, kind eyes tenderly watching on from the sea that Jungkook left behind him.

 

 


 

 

It took all but five minutes for Jungkook to slip back into the palace, opting to scale the walls up and over the greyed stone gates after sending a cocky grin to his brother who, in his defeat, made a feigned attempt of exasperation as he’d clutched at his chest before clumsily tripping over himself in his effort to escape Jungkook’s playful advance. The younger prince had tried to keep the airy laugh from tumbling under his lips, utterly failing as his brother made himself a new home on the ground, his hindquarters making contact on the stone with a thud.

 

Jungkook had been powerless to stop the deep laughter that fell rom his lips, a grin so wide claiming his cheeks that it hurt when he asked if his brother was alright, knowing from the stifled chuckle his brother emitted that he hadn’t been injured. A feeling of relief washed over him at the knowledge that no pain had come to his brother when Jong-Hyun had told him that he was unharmed.

 

It wasn’t before Jong-Hyun had tried to shoo Jungkook off with a flick of the wrist that the younger prince had all but tackled his elder brother into ground as Jong-Hyun finally chose to “surrender to the might of his kid brother.” With a final wave and nod to his elder brother, Jungkook had his precious journal returned to him before continuing on towards his quarters.

 

The nerves had been quick to claim him the moment Jungkook was alone again. Intent on keeping the rapidly growing nervousness from infecting his brother, Jungkook had decided to keep it to himself. He figured his brother had too many other things to worry about as he watched Jung-Hyn’s advisor lead him off as he’d sent his elder brother a final wave.

 

The young boy knew he needed to return to quarters quickly, lest he incur the wrath of the one who assisted him in these types of formal affairs. Not that Jungkook wasn’t capable of dressing himself or lightly painting his skin to give off a look of pure and utter perfection, but it was a measure his uncle required so that the king “had an image to give to the people so that he didn’t need to break his back trying to reign in a horse too wild for his control.”

 

Perhaps it was Jungkook’s innate want to simply be equal with those around him, or maybe it was that he was too kind to think of his caretaker as a servant like his uncle did, but he himself never called on an assistant unless he had to, preferring to give them the freedom he always craved when he was forced to remain enclosed within the palace’s walls like a caged bird waiting to fly away. Still, if ever he were made to call on an assistant, it was always the same one.

 

Said caretaker, he knew, was going to have a fit at his tardiness. He didn’t need to look at the skies or position of the moon to know he was late for his dressing. The fact sent a frustrated huff out of him as he prepared himself to be lectured for the next few hours or however long his attendant would deem fit to scold him for.

 

Still, he had come to deeply appreciate his attendant’s maternal presence. She was, perhaps, the only one in the entire palace other than his elder brother that he could say shared a bond with him as the one who had raised him beside his brother when Jung-Hyun was away on the affairs and political disputes their uncle often sent him away on. She’d been the one who always supported his love of studying the skies, encouraging him to note everything he theorized or thought after she’d helped him learn how to read and write.

 

He appreciated her more than he cared to admit. Next to Jong-Hyun, they were the two most important people in the world to him, for he’d never had the time or ability to befriend anyone outside the palace at the cold discouragement and forbiddance to mingle closely with the common folk as Jungkook’s uncle was always so keen to stipulate on the times that the young prince was, to his frustrated dismay, summoned for insubordination on the few incursions his uncle extracted himself from deep within the palace to ensure that young prince was within the gates of the grounds.

 

The irony was never lost on Jungkook that he had never had qualms with going against the will of his authoritative uncle, but Jungkook had never liked his uncle nor respected him, anyway. The man had a different woman in his bed every night, or so the handmaidens and guards would tell him when they quietly allowed him to be free from his cage to explore the world during the night.

 

It was only when he carefully padded across wooden floor and slid the dark timbered door back into place once he’d stepped inside the large rectangular room of his chambers did he release a breathe of relief, falling against the door before his eyes settled on his attendant, a hard scowl set on her wrinkled, aged face as she shook her head with frustrated disdain. The heavy stone earrings attached to her ears moved with the vigor of a tiger as quickly as she moved her head.

 

Amused, boy simply smiled and rose his arms over his head as if to hand over his defeat,” Sorry I’m late, lady Mavis. The skies called for me, again,” truthfully tumbling from his lips before her face softened and she began to ready him for the ceremony, his heart beginning to speed within his chest the longer that she worked.

 

If she noticed his discomfort she said nothing of it, giving him the time he needed to sort out his thoughts that were beginning to run wild as the dubiety began to weigh heavily down on him.

 

“Be calm, child,” was all that she’d said with a gentle and reassuring squeeze to his hand.

 

Throughout his preparation, she had not allowed him to look at her handiwork. It struck him as odd for her to do that, for she’d always given him the option to watch her work in the mirror on the rare occasions she had to ready him for any formal event. Still, he had an inkling that she had her reasons for doing what she was. He wasn’t one to go against her, choosing to remain still as she worked after earning five light taps to the hand and a frustrated glare from her when he’d tried to turn his chair around in the mirror. With a chuckle, he’d relented his attempts in teasing her, knowing that she wanted to complete his look just as much as he wanted to get out of it so he could tell her all that he’d learned from the skies.

 

She was always so fascinated by the knowledge and tales he continually told her.

 

By the time she was finished, he widened his eyes upon seeing the image that greeted him. He hardly recognized the hair that was black as a raven’s wing, it’s tamed edges curled upwards and to the sides so that one side fell along his forehead to give him an air of delicacy before the rest of it tumbled behind in soft waves.

 

His face had been painted to match the tone of his natural skin, but an oil she’d just applied made his skin look so alive as he were glowing against the soft light that touched his face as he absentmindedly touched his cheek, the silkiness of it emitting a surprised gasp as he let his hand fall to his side.

 

A light blush was powdered over his cheeks and a dab of silver coated along his eyes that reminded him of the pewter he would find embedded in the rocks of the cove he so often frequented. The material had been blended lightly underneath the end of his eyes and along the outer eyelid, catching in the golden firelight that emanated from the corner of his room where a fire blazed to life, the color adorning his eyes glowing a color that reminded him the moonlight as it caught in it.

 

That alone stirred a pang of affection to beat through his chest, one of his hands rising to gently squeeze her own,” I…thank you, Mavis. It-it’s wonderful,” he managed to get out through the warmness that began to blur his vision.

 

He knew Mavis had chosen that color purposely, and he silently thanked her once more for it. Perhaps she hoped that the reminder of the skies would give him strength. It did, he mused with a smile that reached all the way to his cheeks, his chest flooding with affection for his caretaker as he took in the rest of himself in the mirror set before him.

 

Gone was the ragged long, loose linen shirt and even looser frayed pants that allowed the air to journey between the openness they allowed, instead replaced by expensive, colorful silks and satin.

 

He’d traded them for pants that hung loose around his legs, black like the night sky. His undershirt was tighter around his muscular form, a silver design weaving itself down his chest in a pattern resembling that of a fish’s scales to symbolize trade and wealth of Busan. Jungkook was caught in awe of the color of it as he moved- like that of his eyes, it seemed to call light toward it and glow brightly like the moon. His outer garment hung open on his chest, the black silk giving freer movement of his arms with the sleeves that hung loosely at his side. Accenting it all was a piece of silk that had been draped over his neck to sit atop his out garment, it’s length so long that he it touched his knees when he moved. The color of it was chrome, accenting the rest of his dark attire wonderfully as it, too, glimmered in the light of his quarters.

 

It was beautiful, the boy thought. He would have voiced as such, but he feared his voice would betray his emotion that began to flood him, opting instead to give a smile to his caretaker she returned it before moving away to open a moderately sized black box that sat upon the shelf carved into the wall sitting to the immediate right of his door.

 

Quirking his head in curiosity, he didn’t have time to rise to meet her before she turned back around, a warmness swimming in her eyes as she looked fondly at Jungkook who, the question prominent in his expression as he’d tilted his head to stare at her curiously at her, asked,” Mavis? What is that?”

 

“The final touch, moonlight,” She kindly answered before producing one of the only things his parents had left for him.

 

The diadem was his favorite piece of jewelry, calling all to its attention in the craftsmanship to which it had been borne, and the boy couldn’t help but wonder what his mother would say as his attendant lowered the thin silver band down over his hair until it rested against his temples, a delicate pattern embedded within it to resemble that of the night sky, small white diamonds encrusted inside to accent the teardrop shaped diamond black as the darkness that fell between his brows.

 

It was a beautiful thing, left to him by his mother for this very day.

 

 

He didn’t have to ask to know that his attendant had brought this for him on her own thought. His uncle likely had no idea the pretty little thing even existed, for he was too self-involved to really care about anything but himself.

 

Not that Jungkook could care about that right now, not with the kind look that she fixed him with as she came close with a tender hug, careful not to mess with her handiwork as she let out a shaky breath, “Be strong, moonlight. Be strong,” she whispered.

 

Compassion surged through him at her touch, her voice causing the heat that pooled in his eyes to break free of their captor, one tear trailing down his cheek as he hugged back with just as much vigor. All the anxiousness and nerves clutched at him when he pulled her in for a deeper embrace as if that would keep them at bay, but he was nothing if not in need of her reassurance as he tentatively spoke,” I don’t know if I can do this, Mavis… what if I can’t summon-“

 

He is silenced when a bony finger is placed against his lips, fiercely shaking her head to the side as her earrings clinked against themselves as she moved in a speed that shouldn’t have been possible for a woman so old. The sight caused a light laugh from the boy and she looked on in fondness as he did, speaking only when he’d quieted and the smile still lingered on his lips.

 

“You can and you will, my boy. Do not cry for that which you fear,” Her free hand gently wiping away at the tear that had slid down his cheek,” Your brother, nor I, have a single shred of doubt in you, moonlight.”

 

Her words rung true in his ears as they settled upon him. He knew that, despite his wavering confidence, he had Mavis and Jung-Hyun to support him. It was as if with that realization that some of the weight left his shoulders as he exhaled, returning Mavis’ kind smile with his own as he told her, “I will try to be strong.”

 

She nodded with a soft,” I’ll there the whole time, moonlight.” He hardly had time to bow to show her his respects before she all but pushed him out of his quarters into the waiting company of two guards that would escort him to the ceremony.

 

Each step closer to the courtyard brought with it unease that gripped Jungkook so fiercely he felt as if his legs might betray him, his breaths slowly becoming ragged and uneven as a boy with azure hair looked on from the shadows. With eyes as golden as the sun alight with interest, his deep voice was tinged in the waiting eagerness as he all but purred,” See you soon, young prince."

Chapter Text




 

 

“I must say, you’re not quite….” The old man reached for the grey, wiry beard as he gave a deprecating once-over to the young prince,” not quite what I imagined, highness, but it is well worth making your acquaintance, even so.” The court official flatly finished.

 

Jungkook swallowed the hurt sigh that wanted to leave his lips, choosing instead to lower his head as a sign of respect toward the elder as he slowly repeated the same thing he’d said to about half a dozen others before him,” Thank you for being so gracious, Soivyn. A pleasure to make your contact as well,” he lied, the hurt to which this man had regarded him causing a dull bitterness to settle on the shoulders he slumped the moment the older man had walked away.

 

The boy knew he would be remiss to be absent from his own ceremony as the youngest prince to be presented to the kingdom of Busan, but it was starting to become more difficult to breathe, to keep the calm mask of cool indifference under the very heavy, hardened glares of unimpressed court officials that had, to his growing dismay and discomfort, been thrust upon him since making his entrance to the throne room.

 

Ever since he’d first set foot in the room, he’d been fixed with stares that had not been kind as he’d taken his seat beside his uncle. Or rather, in front of the man-Jungkook had been informed beforehand by one of his guard escorts that his uncle had arranged for him to be seated in front of him so that his uncle “didn’t have to waste his precious breath on such trivial things as introductions over such a measly boy.”

 

Needless to say that that had done little to assuage the young prince’s wavering confidence, but Jungkook knew he should not have supposed such to be that far off from the typical crassness and harsh care to which his uncle had treated him his whole life. It was behavior completely in character for him; the man never cared about anything unless there was something to be gained in it for his own selfish agenda.

 

Now, a handful of court officials milled about before him, the wrinkles of their skin showing prominently against the shrunken and aged faces in the flavescent light that flickered idly in the room. The young prince had since become trapped in its heavy heat as the older men congregated in small groups to speak in quieted voices that Jungkook, with a sneaking suspicion, had begun to think were centered on the criticality to which they regarded him.

 

For some reason, each ambassador seemed to appraise him with such austerity that it was as if there was a gravity that he began to feel he might be crushed under. From all the downturned, disapproving expressions he’d received after simply being looked at by the men who’d become reproving after many years of age and lingering dissatisfaction with their stations, it was becoming harder not to squirm under the severity of it.

 

Wishing he could return to the cove or observatory and bask in the moon’s soothing presence, it was all he could do not to start to crumble under the weight of it all as one hand absentmindedly rises to fiddle with the blackened diamond that had since become very heavy between the ridges of his brows.

 

The young prince had tried to be as amiable as he could, but with the continual drops of his gut whenever another aged representative would come to pay their respects, he was finding it very difficult to do much else beyond the occasional smile and small, polite talk that he hoped the representatives would take to be genuine rather than a misguided aloofness. With the exigent nerves that ran as fast as the blood through his veins, though, it was intractable.

 

He squirmed under the scrutiny to which he thought they were likely conversing about him amongst themselves.

 

It was customary for the court officials to meet the royal children before they were presented to the public, and Jungkook thought on how he was going to handle the townsfolk if he could hardly even handle those who surrounded him now. He briefly wondered how Jung-Hyun had handled this ordeal; his brother had simply given him an encouraging nod and told him,” It might be a little hard at first, but it will get easier with time. Just be yourself and you’ll make it through.”

 

The thought elicited a sigh from the young prince. It seemed to him that being himself was not working if the furtive, unimpressed looks thrown his way are anything to go by. He fidgeted again-his shirt had since decided to cling to his skin in the sweat that cruelly ran along his back in the nervousness he was starting to feel like he was going to drown in- silently hoping that his uncle would have mercy on him and dismiss him to the courtyard behind the closed heavy wooden doors that barred the outside from him.

 

“You’re going to irritate me if you keep squirming so much over people as inconsequential as these, Jeon. I can practically hear that disgusting anxiousness that is burrowing into your very bones,” A cold, curt voice growled from behind his right shoulder.

 

The young prince doesn’t so much as turn the man’s direction, opting instead to chew at his lip in lieu of the retort he has on the tip of his tongue. As much as he would like to take a jab at his uncle, he doesn’t know if he can handle the wildfire that would start between them if he took his uncle’s bait right now. Not when he has so many eyes on him and a stomach that takes it upon itself to churn at the sight of those downturned expressions.

 

Even still, the boy decides to take a gander. Perhaps his uncle will have mercy on him. He had just turned eighteen, today, he mused inwardly.

 

It doesn’t work as well as he’d hoped.

 

Moving his hand from the teardrop shaped gem, he places it under his chin in effort to give off a look of some interest, casting his eyes around the room and trying not to linger anywhere for too long lest he has to burn another image of another contorted face clouded by the dislike to which he must have been regarded into his mind,” You know, I would be appreciative if you could at least try to understand how difficult this is for me, uncle. It’s not easy being put here like some kind of foreign creature while they all look and treat at me the way that they do.”

 

“They look at you like they should as the next prince of Busan. Get used to it.”

 

Jungkook attempted to conceal the wince that threatened to break his mask, but when he noticed the pinched brows and narrowed expression of a lone official who stalked by the corner of the room, that mask cracked. He wished the ease to which he usually voiced his opinions to his uncle were there when he questioned, “Oh, so they’re supposed to be looking at me like I’m some sort of wild creature they’re forced to commune with? Like they disapprove of me before they’ve even met me?”


His uncle fixed him with a cold glare he could feel pelting into the back of his head at that one. He answered in the form of a hiss,” Behave yourself, boy. I will not tolerate this behavior here in front of my court.”

 

Perhaps it is his nerves that attack him in that moment and spur the myriad of emotions that come next. All the young prince knows is that he is powerless to resist the irritation that burned with the beginnings of anger at his uncle’s insensitivity in his chest, allowing some of it to flow under his words as he countered,” Ah, yes, the court that you have constantly encouraged to be so kind in their behavior to your nephew,” the boy paused, choosing to stare somewhere between his feet so fiercely he briefly wondered that if he had an affinity for fire if he’d have burned a hole in the floor,” that court. My apologies, uncle.”

 

The older man sitting behind him bristled at that as he all but barked out,” You better watch your tone with me, you brat. This may be the day you’re claimed by a magical affinity, but so help me, I will not hesitate to destroy your precious little observatory your parents left you if you keep this up.”

 

The mention of his parents causes a grimace from the young prince. He doesn’t need to look back to now at his uncle to see that his lips had cruelly folded upward into a satisfied snigger that left his callous mouth. His uncle knew that he’d successfully treaded on the waters of a subject that always left a soreness clutching at the young prince’s heart where he knew he would never get to see his parents ever again.

 

The observatory itself had been built when Jungkook was still a babe in his mother’s arms, his father’s magical affinity of aeromancy driving the man to build it in hope that his youngest son would take to his love of studying and deriving knowledge from the skies and stars. Such was one of the only things the young prince had been told to him by his elder brother in the latter’s want to spare Jungkook the pain of their absence in the time he had been robbed of to spend with them.

 

Jungkook himself was grateful for this brother’s watchful protectiveness on that front, but right now his uncle’s harsh bluntness was a strong adversary to his already fretful spirits. The young prince didn’t realize he’d unknowingly been gripping the wooden arm of his gilded chair as hard as he was until a knuckle cracked, the small sound jarringly loud in his ears as he took a deep breath in effort to calm himself.

 

He would not play the game his uncle was daring him to engage in, he thought while he took another breath as if that would somehow sweep away the vexation that wanted to push the air from his lungs, his voice stronger than what he felt even with the lie that fell easily enough through his lips. With an obvious roll of his eyes he coolly quipped,” Your threat does not scare me, uncle. That is all that I will say on this. Maybe, had we been in a different situation,” the young prince emphasized with a small drop to his tone,” I would, but not here. Not now.”

 

“It had better be all that you dare try to say in my presence, boy. Just shut your mouth and sit there and look pretty,” His uncle rasped.

 

Mortification is the first to cling to the young prince as he inhaled at that.

 

Truthfully, Jungkook didn’t know what he’d been thinking to hope that his uncle would even empathize a little to what he was going through. The man had been made to be vile and heartless after many years fraternizing with his seat of power upon the kingdom. Abusing his power to have as many women as there was sand to a desert and calling upon the most sought after merchants to obtain the most luxurious silks and finest wines, he had fallen prey to the greed that had so fully consumed him in his selfishness and self induced pride.

 

It sickened Jungkook to his very core.

 

The boy gripped harder on the arm of his chair, hoping that it would not break under the force to which he clutched onto it. Jungkook knew, had his uncle and he been alone, that his uncle would likely have struck him so forcefully against his face for his words of defiance that there would have been vibrant yellow and purple to color the skin of his wrists and face along with the familiar pain that came with “disrespecting” the king of Busan.

 

While that was something Jungkook was certain he should have feared, his uncle’s vain vileness only inspired disappointment and anger in the boy. Both stirred within him now as if they had been asleep and had only just awoken. Despite that, the young prince was careful to keep his emotions in check as he absentmindedly rose a hand to his temple to run his fingers over the cool metal there to remind himself of his mother.

 

At the thought of her, the rage was lulled back into it’s sleep to leave behind a quiet disappointment as Jungkook’s lips curled into a wistful frown as he spoke under a quiet breath,” You’re one to talk about ‘pretty’ things, uncle. You don’t even know what that concept is any longer, do you?”

 

The question had barely left his lips when the grand, wooden oak doors before him were loudly, yet slowly, pulled agape. The old wood whined in defiance of being disturbed as the newcomer moved on doddery legs, His beige, neutral robes did little to hide the bones that jutted from washed-out, ghostly skin. All eyes of the court members looked on as they muttered amongst themselves while he hobbled forward. Folds of cracked skin surrounded his eyes, the hair that would have been running atop each of his eyes and head had long since fallen away with being claimed by old age as he huffed with considerable effort.

 

It would only occur to Jungkook later on that the older man had never closed the doors behind him.

 

The trepidation was quick to grip Jungkook, for it coursed as fast as the blood through his veins with each step the older man took to make himself nearer to the young prince. He was a smaller man, but Jungkook recognized him all the same as the man slowly came closer to the young prince, stopping only when he was near respectable distance to offer a stiff bow with the sound of cracks that popped from between his thin bones.

 

Wanting to rid himself of the beginnings of a lump that stubbornly began to form in his throat, the young prince gulped,” Chief Advisor Nuirye,” he watched as the older man looked up from the floor, nervousness racing up the young prince’s spine when he imagined the familiar disgruntled glare from under the older man’s eye folds,” Welcome back to the palace. Did all go well while you were away for my uncle’s marriage negotations?” He finished, one hand absentmindedly balling the material of his own robes into his hand as he silently hoped he sounded stronger than he felt.

 

The man before him was the one who pulled the strings of his uncle behind the scenes while his uncle dallied in the throes of riches and women. Following his uncle’s ascension to the throne, the man had turned him into a creature of greed just like himself. He was a silent figure who always shadowed the young prince’s uncle, a man who had been alive for many years longer than any person ought to be and had been taken over by wealth and women, as Jungkook’s uncle had been, after losing his family to sickness that had spread all over Busan decades ago.

 

Nuirye had been the one to leave welts, scars and bruises to the young prince’s sensitive skin when his uncle was too engrossed into himself to care on the times that the man had overseen Jungkook in his “lessons,” whether those had been when the young prince had not wielded a sword the right way or didn’t remember the right arrangement of equations and combinations of the mathematical problems he’d always had a hard time attempting to deconstruct and figure out. Among other things, Jungkook had learned what it meant to be fearful of another human being-Nuirye had been sure to teach him that.

 

His gripped the fistful of the robe he tightly clutched until he was sure there would be whitened knuckles if he looked down, wholly tensing for what he saw when the elder inclined his head from the tight bow he’d given as the man spoke in an uncharacteristically adenoidal tone,” Greetings to you, Prince Jeon. The negotations you speak of,” he paused to put a shaky hand to his temple, rubbing it as if to remember something,” Ah, yes. The marriage negotiations for your uncle…they went well, young prince.” He slowly answered as Jungkook stiffened in his chair.

 

In the throes of his thoughts, the young boy doesn’t hear the annoyed grunt his uncle is sure to make loud for everyone to hear from behind him. Something was off about the man, Jungkook inwardly knew. His eyes had strangeness to them that the boy had never seen before as they stayed stuck somewhere along forehead, never meeting the young prince’s eyes. On another day, Jungkook would have thought the man was just fixated on the black diamond that rested against the ridge of his brows in the material, greedy person that he was in his abnormality, but there was something more to his behavior if his physical appearance were any indication of his strangeness. It was as if there was a thick film that had clouded over his aged eyes, a trait that was uncharacteristic for the elder. His voice also afflicted with a foreignness the boy had never heard him speak with before.

 

The smart thing would have been to assume some kind of sickness had made its home in the man, but Jungkook couldn’t let himself believe that; there was an uneasiness that rang ferociously in his mind and he was helpless in battling it away with the nerves and self consciousness that already coiled in the pit of his stomach. He’d never seen anything like this before.

 

Taking a breath in hope that it would give him some relief, the boy kept his expression passive despite the inner turmoil, his voice leaving him surprisingly steady as he tried to maintain the mask of indifference that had since begun to crack,” I see. Well,” he gestured to the men around him and to the uncle that sat torpid behind him,” I am sure that my uncle and the rest of the court are pleased to see your safe return.” He finished, his brows drawing together in puzzlement that he should not have had for the man as he waited for the elder to respond. All the while, Nuirye continued to rub at his temples as if to clear something within his mind, his now clouded eyes shifting between Jungkook and his uncle who sat uninterested behind him with a yawn.

 

Jungkook watched with curiosity as the man took a barely perceptible step backwards, his head lolling slightly to the side as if listening to something. The young prince, totally confused by the behavior, tried to see if there was some physical ailment the elder had sustained while he’d been away at another kingdom as he narrowed his eyes at Nuirye to lean forward in effort to further inspect the elder. It it was then that he heard something. Through the hushed voices that still pervaded the throne room, Jungkook could have sworn he heard someone singing. It was a slow, unhurried tune, the words inaudible through a soulful voice among the din made by the rowdy crowd of townspeople that waited in the courtyard to see to their prince. It was beautiful as it trilled deeply along to a vibrato, the voice decidedly masculine as the note evened out to that of a crisp, clean syllable accented by a graceful hum. Just as quickly as he thought he’d heard it, though, the song was carried away by the winds, its owner’s abrupt silence replacing it.

 

Jungkook drew his brows deeper together at that, wondering if anyone else had listened to the voice. As Jungkook looked around the room to see if maybe there had been another elder who had heard it, he got the distinct feeling no one but Nuirye had perceived it if the continued murmurs and disparaging looks from the court officials were any notification. With a sigh, the young boy shook his head before turning his attention back to the elder that stood before him.

 

Perhaps the nerves were getting the better of him, he thought.

 

Before Jungkook could ask the elder if he too had heard the voice, Nuirye’s stance became rigid as a board, the uncharacteristically adenoidal voice stronger this time as he spoke,” Quite. I am certainly… overjoyed to be back. I knew I had to get back here so that I could be present for such a…special day.” He drawled with a loudness that should not have been necessary with all the high walls and ceilings that easily permitted sound to carry throughout the room.

 

“I see. I wasn’t aware that you were so eager to return, Chief Advisor Nuriye,” Jungkook answered thinly.

 

The young prince looked on with uncertainty while his dislike for the man nagged at him in the back of his mind, not knowing what to do in the face of the strange behavior and obvious lie as he mulled over the elder’s words in his mind. On any other day, Jungkook knew that Nuirye would have preferred scrubbing the palace floors to having to involve himself with the young prince. Such had been made clear with how often the chief advisor would all but scream about how much he despised Jungkook whenever the young prince had failed to get his lessons right or when Jungkook would happen to sneak past the chief advisor’s chambers during the night. On the young prince’s frequent trips to the observatory or the hidden cove, it was seldom that he didn’t overhear the drunken barks of slurred complaints that the man would often blurb on about before being lulled to bed whatever woman he’d chosen to satisfy himself for the night.

 

Having the sensitive heart that he did, the young prince had lost count in how many times he’d had to cry himself to sleep at the disappointment that he’d seemed to bring while his brother had been away and had been unable to offer him his kind, reassuring company.

 

Jungkook hadn’t realized he’d zoned out until the elder’s voice cut through the silence that had begun to smother him as the boy pushed out a heavy breath while Nuirye’s motionless expression remained fixed somewhere on the young prince’s robes,” Incidentally, I came across something interesting regarding you while I was away.” The elder lifted his arm up as if it were being controlled by a puppeteer, his bony fingers outstretching as he pointed at Jungkook while the nerves suddenly struck the young prince’s midsection to make him visibly tense up. The young prince had automatically begun to assume the worst, for the man never missed any opportunity to remind Jungkook of his inadequacy and inferiority against that of Jung-Hyun. If the old man noticed anything about Jungkook’s behavior, though, he didn’t say anything about it. Instead, he asked,” Would you like to know what, young prince?”

 

The young prince immediately assumed that rumors about him of some kind had been birthed and grown in the towns that were spread across the kingdoms of the land. Word spread faster than wildfire throughout the kingdoms that were allied with each other, and while the young prince could take some ease in the knowledge that his brother’s love for him carried in how and what he spoke of Jungkook, rumors and words spread from town to town were often mixed along and misconstrued with each rendition that was retold.

 

Gripping the ball of robes tighter, the prince nodded, hoping that the elder would not seize the chance to make a foolish child out of him unless escaping during the day and night after he’d finished most of his princely duties was enough to warrant foul talk amongst the townspeople. The fact that Nuirye was the one to tell him only worsened that worry that energetically stirred in Jungkook’s gut.

 

“If you would, Chief Advisor,” Jungkook said with a tight nod, not trusting his voice to hide the worry that would betray his inner turmoil if he said much else.

 

The old man didn’t wait for the young prince to settle his spirits, choosing instead to continue with a faint slur to his words that only Jungkook could discern after having to listen such speech on the nights he had the unfortunate displeasure of listening to in order to flee the palace for the cove or observatory, “I had happened upon this while I was visiting Daegu to arrange seaport trade with that kingdom. It is there that I had the fortunate happenstance of making the company of someone who has heard much about you, Prince Jungkook.”

 

Swallowing the groan that wanted to leave him at the thought that the man had brought a foreign aged court official, Jungkook questioned, “Oh?”

 

As if the man had heard his groan, he straightened himself to give an adenoidal garble,” My contact is not old like I am, I assure you, young prince.”

 

Jungkook’s earlier question had settled in the air for a fraction of a second before the young prince bit back his anxiety in favor of the wavering curiosity that ebbed along the back of his mind at what had inspired someone to come all the way from Daegu, a kingdom that was twenty days away by ship and thirty by horse. For someone to come to the kingdom of Busan, they must have been very eager indeed to make the acquaintance of him, Jungkook mused. To hear that whomever it was that Nuirye had brought with him was younger only addled the young prince’s already fraught self.

 

Jungkook watched as the elder lowered his hand, waiting for any sign of the elder’s usual harsh, cruel disposition that was absent in the way the man stood and spoke. When the man simply offered a slight dip to his head, Jungkook’s his own voice filled the air around them, “Who is it that you brought along all the way from Daegu to meet with me, then, Chief Advisor? Why have they come here tonight?” Jungkook asked without with curiousness devoid of any accusation or bitterness. Nuirye had never brought anyone back from his trips to other kingdoms before, and while the young prince didn’t like the elder, he couldn’t find it within himself to associate the same feelings he harbored against Nuirye on someone he hadn’t even met yet. The young prince had never been one to judge another unless those he cared about had been wronged, but then again, that list extended to his only friend and brother, Jung-Hyun.

 

The drawl was longer this time when the elder spoke, the whites of his eyes unmoving as he did, “While I would answer your questions, young prince,” the man hobbled to the right as he turned, sweeping one shaky arm toward the opened doors as if to welcome an invisible newcomer to the room,” this individual was adamant that I give them the ability speak on their own account so that they could foster a relationship built on the words of two youths rather than by an old man.” He haggardly stated as if speaking was starting to become too exhausting an effort when he turned his attention to the doors that had been left ajar.

 

“Won’t you come in now, boy?” The elder drawled, the folds of his eyes falling closed as if the silvery moonlight that streamed in from beyond was too much for old eyes.

 

With his brows drawing together yet again, Jungkook tried to reason past the odd behavior of the elder, but could find nothing to explain it. He considered rising to see if the elder was alright, but the feelings that ran rampant inside him kept him tied to the chair.

 

“Wha-“ His voice hesitantly makes out as the zephyr-like padding of footsteps sound from beyond the room, the gentleness to which the owner moved brought to the young prince only by the calmed winds that had brushed against the young prince’s skin-it had since become dewy in the oils and cold sweat that coated it. When Jungkook moves his eye line away from the slowly bending elder that has since started to lower his head as if to bow once more, he can discern a shape materializing ahead of him.

 

At first it looked as if a thin line of sea foam had washed ashore and was gliding toward him, but bathed in the silvery luminosity of the moon, a figure soon seems to form itself from it. The figure is entirely draped by white that holds itself around a confidently moving body. There is something that catches in the brilliance of the light, too, something that seems to be strung around the upper half of the figure as they amble closer.

 

The young prince can only watch as the curiosity wraps him in its embrace, a flicker of interest battling that of the anxiousness that ebbed the longer he looked as he leaned forward to better see what is coming closer.

 

Through the tall, faded and dull green hedges that stood quietly on either side of the doors, the figure continued to come nearer, the white of their clothes casting a soft glow over them as the piece of jewelry that draped itself over nearly the entirety of their neck glimmered and made a proud show of dancing to the colors of the rainbow in the diamonds and sapphire that swirled and spun delicately around each other. Silence gradually falls over the room like an ocean wave when the figure finally steps across the threshold between the stony cobbled walkway and marbled floor, the calculated, softened clicks of shoes reverberating around them until they stop before the young prince.

 

Jungkook hardly notices any of it. He is far too caught in the mysteriousness that cloaked itself around the person in front of him. Whoever they were, they’d kept their head lowered so that neither the moon’s luminescence nor the golden firelight of the throne room could touch whatever hid beneath in the shadows that reigned under the cowl’s hood to which the mystifying face and identity remained hidden.

The figure bent one knee before the young prince, placing a hand over his chest in a sign of respect as their head dipped slightly downwards.

 Jungkook can only tilt his head, not knowing who this person could be before he tentatively entreated,” You don’t have to bow to someone who doesn’t rule you, friend of Nuirye. Won’t you rise so that I may know who you are?”

 

He doesn’t hear the annoyed scoff behind him, his attention set on the figure that gives a slight nod, a deep yet gentle voice emitting itself from the person before Jungkook as they rose,” As you wish, your highness.”

 

A breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding catches in his throat when piercingly warm eyes connect with his, their color bright as the sun as Jungkook’s own widen at the sight of the beautiful man before him. With a face that looked like it had been crafted from the gods themselves, each side was perfectly proportioned and symmetrical with the other. His eyes framed a perfectly straight, elegant nose that was accented with a full lips, the lower one thicker and much more plump than the upper. They had been painted a light pink like the wing of a cardinal and for some reason, Jungkook found himself wanting to touch them in how soft they looked before being pulled back to the inviting warmth of golden eyes as the man gave a flick of a dark brow as if to say,” See something you like?”

 

Not realizing he’d been staring at the man’s lips, embarrassment was the first to strike him through, but he didn’t linger on it too long before moving his eye line south, his cheeks burning at being caught.

 

Dressed entirely in white, the man wears a cream collared linen shirt that is buttoned to leave a small patch of golden, sun-kissed skin in the shape of a ‘V’ down his chest, a cowl pulled over his head and falling down the sides of his front all the way to his waist and draping itself over his elbows. The cowl itself was like the kelp fronds Jungkook often saw swaying along to the currents and song of the seas when he would venture into deeper waters to better study the connection between the seas and skies.

 

His body, as far as Jungkook could see, was one corded with muscle if the defined way his chest pressed against the material that covered it was any indication.

 

The man’s hair was hidden under the cowl that rose above it, but Jungkook was too caught in his gaze to care. He was the most beautiful thing that the young prince had ever seen, Jungkook realized with finality and a pang through his gut when the man mirrored his own reaction, tilting his head to the side and running his eyes tentatively down Jungkook’s own form.

 

Unlike that of the court officials, the way this man looked at him was almost…tender, Jungkook thought as the man slowly took in his own features with a smirk that the young prince couldn’t help but to mirror. The young prince did not see any scorn or distaste in the man’s eyes, but rather something akin to interest that deeply swam along his pupils that curiously flicked from place to place along Jungkook’s own body until finally circling around his face to settle on his eyes.

 

Somewhere deep within the recesses of Jungkook’s thoughts, he hoped the man found him as attractive as he found him. He’d never seen any human being as beautiful as this one.

 

Swallowing, the young prince gingerly wondered aloud, his voice tinged by the captivation to which the man had rendered him incapable of suppressing,” You are…Who are you?”

 

As if on queue, Nuirye stepped beside the man who stood before Jungkook to clear his throat, the man’s bright orbs still fixed on Jungkook as he looked on with interest, “Prince Jungkook, please allow me to introduce-“

 

“My name is Kim, highness,” the man took a step forward to give a small bow, silencing the elder as Nuirye stepped back,” Kim Taehyung.”

 

“Kim Taehyung…” Jungkook played with the name as it tumbled from his lips, the unusual name filling his chest with a warmness that only grew as Taehyung rose with a wide, boxy smile now gracing his lips.

 

The intrigue coloring Jungkook’s curiosity about Taehyung, the young prince coaxed,” You have a beautiful name, Kim Taehyung,” he watched as the man visibly crinkle his eyes in approval of the complement, “May I ask how you happened upon Nuirye and why you came here?”

 

Taehyung made a show of putting a finger to his jaw as if in deep thought, but Jungkook could see through the show of it if the exuberance that all but bubbled from his response was any indication as the man continued to give the young prince a view of his whitened teeth that shown brilliantly under the boxy grin,” Oh, I’m sure your advisor has already told you where I come from, but, as for how he and I happened to come across each other, well… “ The man’s eyes flitted to Jungkook’s chest before meeting his gaze again,” I happened to be in Daegu to sort out some business about ceasing relations with them if they kept hunting and coming after the wildlife that my people depend on to survive. We stumbled upon each other and here we are,” Taehyung completed, throwing one arm out to gesture to the elder behind him.

 

Jungkook lifted a brow at that. He’d never heard of any kingdom situated amid the sea. Drawing them together, the young prince tilted his head to the other side like a lost puppy. To Kim Taehyung, he found that to be adorable and decided he would comment on it later. Right now, he was more than willing than to answer the young prince’s questions after watching him for so long from a distance in the sea.

 

“I haven’t heard of a place among the sea, Taehyung. What do you…” Jungkook paused, searching the golden eyes and intrigued expression the man gave him for an answer as he tried to calm the blood that was rushing wildly through his veins and fluttering against his chest,” You said ‘your people.’ What do you mean by that?”

 

Flashing an amused grin, the man chuckled, wholly entertained by the prince that sat so adorably in front of Taehyung in his want to learn more about him,” I come from a place farther than Daegu, my prince. You see, I am actually the heir to a place called Atlilantia.”

 

Disbelief caught in Jungkook’s intake of breath and he silently hoped Taehyung hadn’t heard it. It seemed the latter had if his deepened grin were any indicator. Taehyung ardently wished he could tell Jungkook the whole truth as he watched the prince cutely struggle to put the pieces together through the small crinkles that had appeared over his forehead as his brows had drawn even closer together. No, Taehyung thought with a shake of the head, you can’t tell him much else for his own good. You must complete your mission and keep him safe.

 

Whispers erupted around the two, but neither heard them. Neither was willing to move or break eye contact. Too caught in each other’s curious gaze, they continued to study each other. Jungkook was the one to speak again, the intrigue of the man standing before him only twining itself deeper into his mind as the man’s answers only yielded more questions from the young prince. That wasn’t to say that Jungkook didn’t appreciate the sight of Taehyung, though. The man was a welcome distraction to the entire ordeal of his commencement ceremony.

 

The fact that the man was so ethereally beautiful and stirred a different kind of franticness his chest had absolutely nothing to do it with it, he tried to deny to himself. With the longer that he looked at Taehyung, though, that thought was impossible not to acknowledge.

 

Jungkook briefly wondered if Taehyung would find him repulsive for thinking such things, but Jungkook was powerless to resist it. Not with the way the man kept looking at him.

 

Putting a hand to his shirt, Jungkook nervously ran his fingers over the material of it,” So, you mean to say that you’re to become a king soon enough?”

 

Taehyung only nodded, his grin still brightly prominent on his face,” I do, my prince. I have been very eager to meet you from the stories that I have heard of the boy who studies the stars with such fierceness no scholar can hope to outwit him after writing three entire tomes worth of knowledge to be had about them. A boy who is so skilled with a bow and sword that no warrior can outmatch him.” Taehyung airily finished.

 

“I-I don’t know about all of that,” the young prince said, blood rushing to his cheeks as Taehyung a playful wink.

 

Jungkook didn’t know if he wanted to hit his brother for exaggerating his proficiency with weapons and knowledge of the skies or if he wanted to hug him. While the young prince had since learned how to wield any type of weapon with such skill that the best palace guard couldn’t even keep up with him after many years of mental discouragement and physical reminders to his skin for initial incompetency with them by his Nuirye and his uncle, he wasn’t one to brag or loudly proclaim his ability to wield them. He preferred to keep quiet about that aspect of himself, for he had always strove to be as humble as he could be with such examples of his uncle and chief advisor to be templates not to base one’s character off of. As for his knowledge of the skies, that was something he kept quiet about as well, though he was always very proud of what he ascertained and unlocked through the secrets of the sky.

 

Taehyung’s brow inched upward as he inclined his head,” Do you deny those claims, then, your highness?”

 

The man himself knew both to be true-he’d watched Jungkook write the tomes and examine the stars with fascination in his beautiful brown eyes, had heard the anguished huffs and groans as the young prince swung his daggers, swords or spears against the winds that had made it their mission to be his invisible opponent on the endless nights he had trained tirelessly to become proficient in handling each and every one.

 

It was Taehyung’s secret that he found himself unable to look away whenever the young prince shed his shirt to practice archery or swordsmanship; the gleam of the young prince’s skin against the soft moonlight almost made him look as if he were glowing in his well defined, muscular body that had been built after years of training in the art of weaponry and combat. To Taehyung, there were not many sights that were more transfixing than that. He enjoyed watching the young prince’s expression always become so steely and focused as he cut through the air of the night whether it was with a sword or a bow, his determination as strong as his will that Taehyung knew to be more steadfast than any human he’d ever seen.

 

Jungkook searched the man’s eyes, seeing the curiosity that dipped between his golden irises. The young prince tapped his finger against his chest as if that would stop the pounding of the vessel beneath it. Is he trying to test me? Jungkook thought as he found the words to answer, trying to keep the nerves from getting the better of him as he slowly shook his head, watching with befuddlement when a knowing look crossed Taehyung’s expression,” I can’t deny them, as they true, heir of Atlilantia, but is that your reason for wanting to meet me in person?”

 

The man only gave a mischievous arch of a brow as he shrugged his shoulders,” Does one really need a reason to wish to support you on the night of his commencement? It’s not every day that you turn, eighteen, you know,” Taehyung finished with a playful grin. At the sight of the man that beamed at him, Jungkook was helpless to return the smile that Taehyung so warmly gave to him.

 

A ghost of a chuckle came from the young prince as he put a hand over his mouth in attempt to stifle it, “Fair enough, Kim Taehyung, I appreciate that more than you may know.”

 

It was only later that Jungkook would realize that in the entirety of his commencement ceremony, Taehyung had been the only one to make him smile.

 

“Good, your highness. I am pleased you accept my support. As such, I would like to give you something,” Taehyung moved closer to Jungkook, the young prince’s heart beginning to speed against his chest as the moon’s silvery light caught on the man’s necklace to gleam and shine the colors of the seas and stars in its brilliance as Taehyung wrapped a hand around it as if to fiddle with it while he moved until he had situated himself less than a foot away from Jungkook.

 

In their proximity, Jungkook noticed a small diagonal scar that was hardly visible if not for how close the two of them were. The boy briefly wondered about it, but the moment he looks at the rest of Taehyung’s sculpted features, he’s unable to look away.

 

“Taehyung, you don’t have to-“ Jungkook is silenced by golden eyes that gently entreat his own as Taehyung kneels once more, one leg slowly folding under while the other was bent in front of him. The young prince could only quirk his head to the side, utterly lost at what was happening but unable to look away from the kind gaze that was fixed on him.

 

He hardly noticed when something smooth and warm was pressed against a palm he had left open on his thigh as Taehyung whispered,” Think of this as a blessing, young prince. You are more special than you know, but things will only get more difficult from here on. Needless to say,” Taehyung closed the young prince’s fingers around whatever lay against his palm while he inclined his head upward,” You have the sea's favor. I will feel more at ease during the ceremony now knowing you have that.” Taehyung’s eyes flicked to their hands before rising, taking slow steps backwards to leave from where he’d come.

 

At loss for words in incredulity of what the man had just said, Taehyung only gave him a knowing smile before retreating into the night, the nervousness that had beat against the young prince’s chest quickly falling away while Taehyung disappeared from his world as quickly as he’d appeared.

 

Jungkook didn’t look at what he’d been given until later, not trusting himself to his wild emotions in front of the rest of the court as they all looked on with narrowed eyes and hardened expressions while the young prince closed his grip tighter around the object that he’d been given.

 

It was all he could do not to think about the golden eyes flecked with warmness and the kind smile of the heir of Atlilantia until the time came to be presented to the rest of the town that waited with baited breath for the next prince of Busan to be claimed by his magical affinity.

Chapter Text

If the young prince of Busan had been jittery around the handful of aged court officials before, that was nothing against the nervousness that dug its sharp talons into him now. With each step he took through the immense crowd of people that unhurriedly stepped back for him as he passed, his hand lightly trembling-it lay hidden beneath his robes-while it firmly gripped the object that Taehyung had given him as if that would assuage the shaky feeling while he continued to move along despite the unstable protest of his legs. His heavy footfalls were loud in his ears; the walkway of cobblestones cold on his feet in the places that the grass had not taken control over.

The young prince refused to look away from the slivers of light that escaped through the dark clouds above him, not confident enough to keep from falling under the weight of the hundreds of pairs of eyes that were trained on him. He thought it odd that the skies had allowed the darkened hands of the clouds to smother the moon and stars, but he didn’t have the state of mind to think too deeply on it. Afflicted with the nervousness that only snared his muscles more fiercely the longer he continued to walk, it was difficult to do anything other than count his breaths and hope his legs that felt as if they were now made of lead wouldn’t betray him. Murmurs sounded from all directions as the boy exhaled an unsteady breath, the quietness of it lost to the steadily increasing voices that trapped him from each side as he made to be closer to where he needed to be.

With the object that the strange, yet mystifying Taehyung had given to the young prince pressing against the clammy skin of his palm, Jungkook wondered if his brother was watching or if the strange yet peculiarly interesting heir of Atlilantia had stayed per his word. Jungkook couldn’t bring himself to try to search for either of them among the sea of people that had since parted to his left and right, though. The anxiety was sure to, if it were possible, grip all of his muscles of his upper body even harder and render them incapable of moving anything but his legs as he tried focusing on breathing to the restless seas ahead of him.

“Breathe, Jungkook. You can do this,” the young prince thought to himself as he closed his eyes to listen to the ocean, the nerves snaking around his core before he began to count to reorient his sporadic, short breaths that cruelly had begun to leave him in quick bursts as the mutters grew louder.

… one, two, three… two, two, three… “ He silently enumerated, keeping the rise and fall of his chest in tune with the uneven, fitful flow and ebb of the ocean’s waves as he tried to drown out the mumbles of those who looked on with hard anticipation that was set by judgmentally narrowed eyes and tightly crossed arms. He saw none of it with closed eyes, but oh, how vividly he could imagine it if the thought of how the elders had treated him would be anything to go off of.

He didn’t need to see to know where he was going, his legs continuing to take him along the cobbled stone as he battled the nerves that flashed their sharp teeth at the thought of how many hundreds, if not thousands, of people looked on around him. It made him want to shrink again under the weight of it with how heavy it all was.

Under the harsh, unyieldingly merciless physical training Nuirye had been sure to throw the young prince under, Jungkook had had many years to memorize the path he now walked. As a child, Jungkook had spent many long and grueling days on these grounds -Nuirye had persuaded his uncle that it was never too early to wield a sword at the ripe age of six years old-to practice using bows, spears, swords and daggers with the gardens being his training area. “A prince must always be able to defend himself if he is to amass proper respect from those who would undermine him with the wild tongue of a blade,” Nuirye had said while he snidely sniggered with contempt as he’d watched the young prince struggle over and over again throughout his many ‘lessons.’

Jungkook squeezed his eyes shut as if to stop the memories of pink scars and purpled bruises that had marred his skin when he hadn’t hit the bulls eye of the target with his arrows, when he had been so easily disarmed and knocked to the ground as cruel eyes and a sneer looked down at him, the sharp tip of a blade resting against his midsection.

It was only the delicate smoothness of the object against Jungkook’s hand that he rubbed his index finger against, the gift that Taehyung had given him, that gently pushed his violent memories of pain away. The image of the man from Atlilantia instead replaced them as Jungkook swallowed. He silently thanked Taehyung for his gift and kind words when no one else had given him any, hoping that Taehyung really had chosen to stay like he’d said. Perhaps if all else failed, Jungkook could take comfort in the fact that he would have some kind of ally among the field of wolves that stalked around him. It was reassuring to the young prince that he had someone who supported him if the thought of those warm, kind eyes did anything to quell his unending apprehension. He only opened his eyes once he neared the edge of the walkway that abruptly stopped before a grand, gilded pavilion. Jungkook could hear the wild roll of the tide that collided with the rocky cliff that jutted out behind it.

In his thoughts, Jungkook didn’t see the pair of golden eyes that were fixed intently on him as Taehyung slowly but surely waded through the crowds wanting to stay nearby the young prince. He didn’t see Taehyung move to stand directly beside the wooden pavilion that had been gilded with gold and greyed stone that twined around each other in each pillar shaped around an octagonal pattern to hold an ovular roof embedded with a reddened array of woodwork that twisted in on itself. The heir of Atlilantia could only watch with a quieted frustration set through furrowed brows while he watched Jungkook’s nervousness all but ooze from his shaking form while the young prince walked. To anyone else, it probably looked like the young prince was indifferent and calm as he could be, but Taehyung knew better.

The heir of Atlilantia could distinguish the series of trembles and rapid rise and fall of the young prince’s chest that would flow and ebb from the young prince’s muscular form not unlike that of the sometimes agitated ocean waves that Jungkook would find himself near on some of the nights he visited the cove. He wanted to help Jungkook, wanted to do something besides stand there and let the kind, handsome prince suffer the nervousness that Taehyung had come to know so well from the many nights he’d quietly watched the prince from the cover of the seas.

Taehyung’s eyeline dipped to the wrist the young prince had entangled somewhere in his robes only one time for him to guess that Jungkook was likely gripping something very hard against his chest if the silken wrinkles that quivered near the skin around his wrist was any indication. In the depths of his mind, Taehyung wondered if Jungkook was clutching at the endowment he’d given to him.

Taehyung really hoped that he was, the thought coming with a grimace as he watched the young prince lightly chew at his cheek while Jungkook dipped his head lower as if the low utterances and expectant stares were too much to bear.

There’s suddenly a fierce sense of empathy that strikes Taehyung through, the heir of Atlilantia leaning forward to whisper in the silent hope that the wind carries it to him,” Jungkook, remember what I told you. The seas are with you.”

When Jungkook pauses his movements, he briefly turns, eyes opening to quickly scan the crowd as if it is too much to handle settling on anyone for too long. Taehyung rises onto his toes, settling his gaze onto Jungkook so vehemently in his hope that the young prince will turn his attentions to him so that he may see those beautiful brown eyes that remind him of ocean jasper once more. “Please…look at me, young prince,” Taehyung thinks as the Jungkook finally meets his gaze. The young prince’s eyes widen, much to Taehyung’s mirth, at the sight of the surprise that colors his handsome features. There is nervousness brimming along the sides of his eyes, but Taehyung can’t help giving a full smile when the young prince slowly arches both brows as if it say,” You’re really here?

Taehyung is helpless to keep the chuckle from joining the murmurs and whispers that sound all around them, wishing he could be nearer to the young prince’s side. It was difficult, if Taehyung were being honest with himself, to remain so close yet so far after having watched the young prince from the world of the seas for all of his life. The heir of Atlilantia discreetly points to his chest-he is curious about what Jungkook is holding so tightly in his robes-lifting a brow of his own as a playful smirk edges along his lips. He thinks he has some idea of what the young prince so tightly clutches. Jungkook seems to understand the silent question Taehyung asks, looking down at his chest before catching Taehyung’s golden ones once more with a redness that tinged his cute, puffy cheeks that Taehyung had wanted to squish for the longest time.

Taehyung found the sight adorably endearing.

Jungkook blinked when he heard someone shout amid the indiscernible mutters around them, jarring him out of whatever moment that he may have had with Taehyung as the heir of Atlilantia himself shakes his head to try to clear the fog of distraction that had settled over him at the sight of Jungkook, “Remember your reason in coming here, Taehyung. He will be alright, It’s just a ceremony, after all,” he inwardly reminded himself, tearing his eyes away from the young prince to furtively cast a wary glance at Jungkook’s uncle who sat seated above the balcony of the second level of the palace to overlook the ceremony. He watched as the older man all but pulled a poor young woman down onto his lap, one hand disappearing around the back of her greyed silk dress while the other splayed itself over her stomach as he spoke into her ear. She winced at whatever he’d said, a sickening twist of his lips turning them upwards as his hand began to move down her stomach.

A wave of uneasiness washing over Taehyung at the sight of the man who all but screamed his heinous vanity and selfishness, he slowly moved his head back to where it had been when the older man looked out at something beyond him and made a wry, disdainful face and a cruel gleam flashed in his eyes at whatever he was looking at. When the heir of Atlilantia followed the trail to what the older man had been staring at, Taehyung’s vision settled on the still moving Jungkook.

Taehyung had to bite back the growl that wanted to leave him when the realization set in.

“He hasn’t even given Jungkook a chance to be claimed, yet, the idiot.” Taehyung thought with an annoyed huff as he watched the young prince continue along the cobbled pathway, a roll of thunder sounding in the distance.

Truthfully, he didn’t think he’d ever understand how humans were such fickly condemnatory creatures. From the years spent watching Jungkook from the seas, the young prince was the only one to appear different in Taehyung’s eyes. He was the only one to seem so… so pure and full of wonder.

His expression mildly softened when the young prince opened his eyes again-he must’ve closed them again after Taehyung had made contact with him-glad that Jungkook had not seen the ugly, contemptuously pompous uncle that critically assessed him from above with a woman on his lap.

For Jungkook, it was all he could to keep walking after meeting the piercing gaze of Taehyung. For someone that he’d only met just an hour or so before, Jungkook couldn’t understand the relief that was quick to lap his toes, slowly rising higher when Taehyung had given him that boxy smile that he couldn’t bring himself to look away from before the man had pointed to his chest. From there, the embarrassment had swelled and he’d been powerless to keep the blood from rushing to his cheeks after looking back to a knowing expression from Taehyung, a wider smile tugging at his full lips.

The young prince didn’t know if he’d have rather hit whoever had broken their moment or if he wanted to thank whoever had spared further redness from his cheeks at the new type of nervousness that battled the existing inhabitant of anxiety in the pit of his stomach.

The crowd quieted, the wind coldly running its prickly fingers over him as he turned so he could lower himself down to sit on heels of his bared feet. He faced the crowd now, the clouds trapping the moon’s light above him as the young prince tried to keep himself calm under the heavy expectation and judgment of all who looked on ahead of him. Out of the corner of his eye, the white cowl that hovered over the kind gold eyes of Taehyung billowed, the young prince wondering when he’d gotten there but glad to see him, nonetheless. The ocean stirred restlessly agitated behind him when Taehyung nodded as if to tell him that it would be alright as a wave crashed into the rocky wall behind him. He could almost taste the sea’s spray on his tongue.

It was strange to him that the sea had become so agitated with the absence of the moon’s touch this late into the night, but the thought didn’t occur to him for long. He slowly stilled under the circular opening that had been cut into the top of the pavilion to admit a few dim streaks of silvery light to cast thin lines over Jungkook’s tensed body. The hardest part was yet to come, but Jungkook was proud that he’d made it through the walk without tripping over himself or succumbing to the nerves that were becoming more energetic with the longer that he had spent navigating along the walkway.

Now, he waited with a harsh anticipation that gnawed at him for the town’s only mage to specialize in the reading of magical auras. With the power to be able to distinguish what kind of magical affinity was harbored by an individual, the strength of it and even if one existed in a person, this was the only person allowed to assist with commencement ceremonies of the youth. They were the only individual to have the approval of the king to assist in the ceremonial process because of the knowledge only they were able to possess and training by other mages of the same magic to draw an affinity from dormancy to life.

When the whispers finally quieted, Jungkook gripped the object Taehyung had given him harder against his palm as he moved his hand to his lap, willing the slight tremble of his hands to go away and hoping that it wasn’t half as noticeable to the crowd. He heard the clicks and clacks of beads and bangles before he saw who was coming toward him, the lightness of his gut seeming to twist around itself with each footfall that came nearer. He willed himself to look up, to see the impassive stare thrown upon his seated form as the middle aged woman made her way to him from under the thin veil of reddened hair that had become streaked by grey. Wrapped entirely in a dull brown and red robes, gaudy looking bangles and beaded bracelets encircled her arms, legs, neck and ears to leave no part of her skin visible besides that of her face.

Thunder rang out from somewhere along the seas, breaking the silence that had settled around the gardens as the woman finally entered the pavilion to stare down at Jungkook while she bent forward to give a respectful, yet slow bow while she said,” Prince Jungkook.”

Jungkook could only offer an incline of his head as he straightened, trying to push down the nerves that energetically beat to the frantic rhythm of his heart when he looked away, just for a second, to see the narrowing of many, many sets of eyes behind the woman who stood in front of him.

The young prince tried not to move when the woman put out a hand, a passive look written across her features when she waved it over him as she’d done to others many times before. A faded orange glow came to life across her palm before almost instantly dying, to which she said, “Hmm, it seems like your affinity still is dormant, young prince,” she moved to stand behind him, crouching to lift her arms as if to beckon some invisible being into her hands,” But I will do my best to help you draw out your affinity.”

Jungkook nodded, her announcement doing little to calm his frenetic nerves as he closed his eyes, willing this to be over soon and trying to envision the sky cleared of the darkened clouds and menacing thunder that warned of lightning to soon intrude the skies.

When another round of thunder cracked in the sky, the young prince looked behind him, pulling his brows together in the silence of the woman who sat behind him,” Lady Enissa, what exactly are we doing? I don’t know how this is supposed to work, so…” He trailed off when she opened her eyes, fixing him with a puzzled expression,” I am trying to read you to see what kind of affinity might be sleeping inside you, highness,” she answered as she were confused he’d even asked the question.

Chewing at his lip, he tried not to fidget under the way to which she looked at him,” Oh, well, I didn’t know. Sorry.”

As a prince, Jungkook had been forbidden to interact with the townspeople before he was presented, so naturally he had never seen a ceremony among his people, either. While he’d visited the town of Busan many times over, the ages of the people who dwelled there were kept unknown to him and thus he was never present for any affinity to be claimed by an individual. He had only heard that the claiming ceremonies were conducted in the privacy of the townspeople’s homes after passing by a group of men talking about their sons one night when he’d wandered near the tavern.

 Enissa sat back on her knees, one hand moving to rest on his shoulder while the other stayed raised into the air as she released a sigh,” Honestly, did your brother tell you how the ceremonies usually go or did he forget in that big head of his?”

Jungkook tapped his finger against his hand, not wanting the memory to come crashing through his mind. The young prince had been far too young when Jung-Hyun had been claimed, and though he’d been persistent in asking what his older brother’s ceremony had been like, Jungkook could never bring himself to get very far upon seeing the glassiness to his older brother’s eyes before the man could turn away to cover his face with hands in effort to stifle the tears that were quick to escape whenever he was asked about that fateful night. It had been the night that their parents had passed on.

Jungkook shook his head, looking somewhere along the floor as his head slightly lowered when the guilt tore through him,” My brother never told me about his ceremony. I tried to ask, but… I guess I just never had it in me to want to know so badly.”

“You didn’t think to ask your uncle, then?” She quickly asked as if in disbelief that he’d never thought to do such a thing.

Jungkook could only grimace at that. As if he would ever go to his uncle for anything like that. The man’s harsh insensitivity to anything but himself and the fact that he treated the young prince so cruelly was only the crack that had shattered the thin layer of ice that had been left of their relationship. Not wanting to stir rumors, the young prince could only respond with a glum,” Let’s just say he and I are not in a position to be able to talk about such things so freely,” he stiffened as he tipped his head to the side so that she could be sure to him,” It would be better for both of us if we just moved on and started with this thing, I think. This isn’t getting us anywhere.”

The woman behind him didn’t express her sympathies if she had any. Instead, she lifted the hand that was on his shoulder to join the one in the air, saying,” Fine, then. I need you to repeat after me, highness. It doesn’t matter where you look, so when I chant these words, I want you to say exactly what I do. Alright?”

Jungkook remembered Mavis telling him about the magical chants that aura mage would craft to draw out the affinity of those they were made for. Each chant was different for each individual, as it depended on what a given person seemed to be drawn to or have a connection with, but each were necessary to draw out the magical affinity of everyone who dwelled in Busan. Jungkook wondered if or how Enissa had figured out what he had a connection to, but he supposed it wasn’t too hard to figure out if his visits to the cove and observatory against the tomes he’d written were anything to go by.

Jungkook lifted his head as he nodded,” I understand, Enissa. I’m ready.” When he peers up, he briefly catches Taehyung’s warm gaze, the man giving an encouraging nod before flicking his chin toward skies. That playful smile still graces his lips and Jungkook is, if only for a moment, eased by his show of support. He doesn't see that Taehyung's eye line never strays from him in the intrigue that soars through the heir of Atlilantia's chest.

When Jungkook follows the slight curve of Taehyung’s finger up to the sky, he’s greeted by the satisfying sight of darkened clouds that have parted to allow the gentle light of the moon to fall eagerly down over hm. The stars are blinking enthusiastically as if to encourage him when the woman behind him begins to chant.

Under the soothing light of the moon that peers gently down at him from above, Jungkook silently thanks it for the smooth caress of it against his skin, the nerves that had been awake within him being pushed into a slow slumber as most of them cease their wild thrashings against him. The young prince took a deep breath, expelling it softly as if to breathe out all the negative energy when he repeated with a voice that became more confident and loud with each word that he spoke.

“Hear me, seas and skies,
never too far for you to surmise,
where I will be under the stars and their guise,
but I ask you now so that I may rise”

The young prince paused, waiting for the woman behind him to continue while Taehyung looked on, unable to look away from the way the moonlight shined down on him like a beacon. It cast its silvery color over the young prince’s prominently sharp jawline, his face no longer shrouded by the mask he’d been trying to wear but set in the familiar determination of a hardly set jaw and eyes that looked deeply up at the moon above. Taehyung was hardly able to stop himself from giving a slight smile at the sight as the woman behind the young prince ceased her chant so that Jungkook’s own voice filled the area around him; it had been made stronger by the comforting presence of the moon, no doubt, Taehyung thought.

“Please bless me with your favor,
So that I may carry the might of you who are much greater,
I now beckon you forth,
So that you may come see me all the way down to earth.

When the final word fell his lips, the moon’s light seemed to grow brighter against his eyes, the winds swirling around him as the nervousness in his gut was all but washed away like a tidal wave. Energy seemed to seep into the skin that the moonlight touched and it was all Jungkook could do to throw his eyes open in surprise. The hands he’d folded over his lap turn over and the young prince releases a gasp, his eyes widening when a line of silvery light journeys across the creases in the middle of it. The unknown power energetically bounds from his hands to his arms, spreading over his body until he’s almost glowing in the brilliance of it. For the second time during his ceremony, the boy smiles when he peers excitedly up at Taehyung from his place on the ground.

Behind him, Enissa steps back, her jaw almost to the floor as the crowd before Jungkook excitedly begin to shout and cheer.

A fascinated Taehyung only watches with interest, his golden eyes set on Jungkook’s when the young prince tips his head back as his power courses through him.

Jungkook himself is so caught in the warm, gentle energy that is coursing into him from the light of the moon that he doesn’t see the glow begin to fade when the silvery light is smothered by the hands of the darkened clouds that bellowed with thunder as the seas behind the young prince thrashed restlessly. As soon as the moon’s light leaves a thunderous darkness in its wake, the energy that had been running through him abruptly dissipated as if it had never even come.

“What-” the young prince pauses to stare with widened eyes and furrowed brows at his hands, the first raindrop marking the skin of his cheek as it trails downward to land on his palms that he keeps turning over as if that will bring back the sliver of silver light that had been resting there,” What happened?”

The crowd of townspeople quiet themselves, turning inwardly to each other to whisper as Enissa, her jaw still not quite connected with the upper part of her mouth, rises to hold a palm out over Jungkook. The underside of her hand once more glowing an orange color as her brows inched inwards to crease before her hand fell against her side as she took a step back, a gasp coming from her lips.

Silence had engulfed the entire courtyard as Jungkook tried to find any semblance of the power that had coursed through him, utterly dumbfounded at the abrupt absence of it when it had been so sure to permeate his whole body only seconds earlier. He turned look back at Enissa, tilting his head,” Enissa…. What happened? Was I claimed?”

The woman only stared back at him like he was one of the mythical beasts of the legends he’d been told about as a child, taking another step away from him until she nearly collided with the pillar of the pavilion in her hastiness to get away from him. One hand twisted the bangles around her arm while she silently invoked a charm as if there were some bad omen that lingered in the air around Jungkook.

Jungkook could only dip his head down to stare at his lap, his own palm closing around the soft object from Taehyung as thunder rolled behind him. He didn’t know the normal series of events that were supposed to happen during the claiming, but an uneasy feeling stirred in the pit of his stomach at how quickly whatever energy had been within him had disappeared. How the people before him had begun to move away from the pavilion as the young prince was the plague itself and they were trying to slowly flee from it.

It took the flash of lightning behind the young prince for someone to call out from the balcony of the palace on the second floor, the familiarly cold, irritated grunt festering over the entire gardens,” Well, Aura Mage Enissa? What power has the misfortune of residing in the boy?”

Her response was immediate, the disbelief all but dripping from her words as she stammered,” H-He doesn’t, your majesty.”

At first, the words don’t register to the young prince. Ever since he’d been born, he’d always admired how his brother had been able to use his power to save the kingdom, had always admired the stories spread about him as people spoke of him with revered awe. He’d hoped that someday he could be like Jung-Hyun, and when his parents had passed, he’d vowed to be like his father and wield power descended from the skies to safeguard his kingdom and homeland. In all of his years of life, he’d never heard of a person that didn’t have an affinity in some shape or form. To his uncle, a man who prided himself on power and had become drunk off it, Jungkook shuddered at the thought of what he might do to him.

The man had always harvested a heavy, harsh hate of Jungkook from as far back as he could remember. He had only been housed amid the castle walls because of the reluctant resistance and disapproval of his court at ridding the castle of the young prince before he could “be of use to marry off to whatever kingdom they could pawn him off to for assets or before his affinity had presented at the age of eighteen, “Nuirye had said during one drunken night walking the castle grounds. Jungkook had just finished his archery training, his arms too sore to scale the palace walls to escape to the observatory before he’d fallen against the trees to hide in their shadows, the tears of an eight-year-old boy sinking into the snowy ground.

It was then that the light drizzle of rain began to fall. Shocked inhales and exhales overtook the crowd that moved away from Jungkook while the king pushed the woman who had been sitting on his lap off as he rose. No one saw the menacing expression contorting his face as his lips snaked upwards into a disgustingly satisfied sneer when his thin irises constricted his sight on the seated prince in the pavilion,” Oh? Come again, mage?”

“He is- He is not with any power or magical energy, your majesty,” She took a final step out of the pavilion, turning from the prince to disappear into the crowd as the king who sat above hid his sneer behind the cover of his sleeve.

“No…it can’t be… you’re wrong!” Jungkook cried as he fought the hot prickling around his eyes that warned of impending, shaking his head vigorously as he tried willing the energy to return him to prove that they were all wrong. They had to be wrong. They just had to be, he silently hoped.

Raising his hand to the sky, he pleads for the energy to return, wishing with everything he had for something to happen. He’s left with nothing but the cold tears of the sky as his own break free of their cage, the cruel defeat dragging his arm downwards to rest uselessly at his side.

“My, my…how unfortunate” the king emphasized with a feigned saccharinity that made a chill run down the young prince’s spine,” Say, my beloved subjects, what do you think I should do with someone who has no magical affinity to keep the legacy and power of your mighty empire alive, hmm?” He finished, pressing a hand to his temple to make a show of being in deep thought.

Rain began to fall with more insistence now, but Jungkook found his muscles utterly unwilling to move as if rooted to the spot in his emptiness left by the absence of his affinity. He took a shaky breath, the sound of it squelched by thunder that screamed around him. When the first villager, with no hesitation, loudly called out,” We cannot allow such an anomaly to exist among us, highness. I say that we banish him!” He completed, pointing a hardened expression at Jungkook while all the people around him nodded and screamed their voices of agreement.

“He’s a freak!”

“How could he belong here when he doesn’t even have a power?”

“How disgusting he is to be powerless. I would hate to be him.”

The voices of the villagers filled the air around him, and dread was the first thing to engulf Jungkook’s insides, biting and chewing within his chest as he slowly shook his head, wishing this was all just a bad dream. He tried to get up, the heaviness to which his limbs weighed making much difficulty for him as he somehow pulled one leg under himself in effort to rise. When the flash of lighting struck the seas far off from his right, Jungkook could only fall back on his heels, pushed over by the harsh winds and the rain that pelted him as he sat slumped and wholly at the mercy of his uncle to decide his fate. Tears ran down his cheeks, the hotness of them feeling as if it were burning against the cold bombardment of water from the skies above. All the while, he shook his head, “No…this can’t be real. This has to be a really, really bad dream. Wake up already, Jungkook!”

Above him, his uncle’s sneer widened if it were possible, moving to lean forward over the thick stone as he waited for his subjects to quiet when he put out a hand. His eyes snake along the crowd, slithering along to find their victim until they land on Jungkook. With a loud, raspy voice, Jungkook’s fate is sealed when he coldly asks,” Banishment seems like it would be too easy for him, don’t you think?”

“What could be worse than banishment, your highness?” Someone asked from the depths of the crowd that backed away from Jungkook.

Jungkook’s stomach twists in on itself at that. He inwardly curses, his head lifting from where it had dipped in shame near his chest in attempt to lock with his uncle’s. The man’s yellowed eyes are set in malice that flash in the lightning that strikes along the seas, but Jungkook doesn’t see that. With the water that rains down hard on him from the hole in the ceiling and tears that make his vision hazy, he doubts the look he returns to his uncle is of the usual challenge and resistance it usually held whenever he was forced to commune with the cruel man.

The king’s question is meant for no one in particular, but the crowd can only watch, half in anticipation, half in the unknowingness to what the king would decide to do with youngest prince of Busan. The king makes a feigned, exaggerated huff as if the choice is difficult- he is inwardly overjoyed to see Jungkook, the thorn in his side ever since his father had bequeathed the care of the little oaf to him, look so lamely pathetic under the folds of his silks that he couldn’t wait for the guards to tear to shreds along with what little must have remained of his sad pride-gesturing toward the guards on either side of him in a sweeping motion with his arm out while narrowing his eyes venomously at Jungkook,” Get rid of him.” He wickedly ordered.

The king would rather enjoy using his power to humiliate him further, he thought with a dark laugh.

It was if the air had left Jungkook’s lungs when the words finally reached him. No matter how hard he tried, the air kept eluding him, refusing to pass through his lungs as his hand slipped and fell from the dagger that rested by his hip under his robes. The palace guard that had been stationed around the gardens, all once, swept across the area as the townspeople receded, their red robes flapping wildly about in the winds while menacing expressions of bared teeth and narrowed eyes greeted him from the masks they wore. It wasn’t long before longswords and spears were all trained on him.

With his body beginning to tremble once more under the rain that knifed at his skin, Jungkook made to try to rise again, his leg folding and bending underneath him as he fell limply back to the floor. He bit back the cry of frustration when his back hit the floor, his body unwilling to cooperate with him despite the fear that wracked his core while the rain bore its agitation so forcibly that he felt as if he were pinned under it as it fell harshly over him. With his vision so blurred by the rain and his own hot tears, all he could make out were red blobs that continued to close in on him as they neared the pavilion.

The fear was near choking him now as he shifted his weight onto his elbows, hoping the expression he gave matched a semblance of the heavy betrayal that settled within him under the guise of the pain that still sat around the back of his head. He doesn’t know why, but when he sees the cold flash of silver, he thinks of warm, golden eyes and a boxy smile. The name leaves his lips under a whisper while the thunder above bellows, and then he closes his eyes to await the strike he knows will end his life, “Taehyung…”

The blade never makes contact with his body. Instead, the ocean water fiercely rises from either side of the pavilion to rush to the fallen young prince’s aid, effectively forming a watery shield over the front of his body as the guards all stepped back in confusion. The sword had lodged itself into the water, staying in its place before clattering to the floor as the waters receded when a familiar deep voice sounded from behind Jungkook with a sigh,” You know, I was really hoping I wouldn’t have to do this, but it looks I’m going to have to punish you all for trying to harm my innocent prince, here,” Taehyung finished, walking forward into the dim silvery light that had run from the restless clouds above, his eyes flashing in a fierce, sharp warning that had the guards stepping back in response.

“Who are you and who do you think you are to go against my order, boy? “From above, the king’s looked on with narrowed eyes, the sight of water being manipulated to protect Jungkook being something that no one had ever seen before as he pointed at Taehyung who looked at him with annoyance set through a lightly clenched jaw. The heir of Atlilantia only stared at him in silent defiance, the steadiness to which he kept his trenchant glare surprising the king in his boldness before Taehyung shifted his attentions to the fallen prince. Taehyung crouched before Jungkook, shielding him from the harsh looks of all that would harm him. He ignored the loud, irritating shouts of disdain from the king behind him in favor of attending to Jungkook.

You poor thing,” he inwardly cooed, taking in the sight of torn silk that must have been the work of the rain and wind as large rips in the fabric of his overcoat ran from the very bottom all the way to his shoulders. The shirt he wore had since clung heavily to his skin, small circular holes dotting the exposed parts that the overcoat did not cover so that sun-kissed skin peeked from underneath. His crown had somehow stayed exactly where it had been when Taehyung had first seen him, but weather had no been kind to the young prince under the scrutiny to which his people had trapped him under. The young prince quivered as the cold winds pushed at them.

He looked utterly defeated and Taehyung was helpless to succumb to the wave of compassion that washed over him. He released the series of snaps and buttons that held the hood of his garment to that of the piece that draped it along his shoulders, making sure to keep the hood over his face as he wrapped the other piece around the young prince’s shoulders. He figured his body heat paired with the material that the garment had been made would be enough to warm the young prince for now.

Satisfied when some of the shakiness of the young prince’s body lessened, Taehyung spoke again, it was a light call of the young prince’s name, the hardness to which he’d spoken all but gone from him as he searched the young prince’s form for injury before settling on his closed lids again, “Jungkook.” The young prince shook his head, the shame nipping at him for the emptiness he felt that the energy had left in its wake. Taehyung’s expression softened as he pressed again, his hand impulsively moving upward as sympathy swelled within him, “Jungkook, are you alright? Can you look at me?”

“I can’t look, Taehyung. I’m just…I’m just a freak like they said,” the young prince choked out through a small tremor that overtook his body to Taehyung’s own dismay that seemed to trickle over him as his body shielded Jungkook from rain.

Wanting to help him, Taehyung shook his head at that, knowing how wrong he was but unable to say such with so many people around,” No, young prince. You’re not a freak. You can't let arrogant humans like this fill you with lies like that.”

The young prince only shut his eyes tighter at that as if that would make all his grievances go away. Taehyung’s brows creased in concern as he bent lower over Jungkook’s form; his feet had been pulled under him while he sat dejectedly and sullenly on his heels with his shoulders slumped so that his arms fell limply at his sides. By way of answering he shakily whispered,” I don’t know what else I can believe, then, Taehyung.”

Jungkook didn’t want to see the disappointment he thought would be riddled in the man’s eyes. He didn’t know if he’d be able to take it on top of the harsh, biting rejection and betrayal of his people. It was all too much, he thought with a muffled sob as he moved his hand to clasp over his mouth as if that would keep the sound from being released into what little distance there was between them. Taehyung wanted to pry his hand away, to do something to ease his broken spirits as he watched a lone tear trail down his face. He let his hand continue to move until it settled upon the young prince.

The young prince only opened his eyes when he felt the light weight of a hand over the top of his head, patting him as if he were a bunny or some small, frightened animal in gentle strokes. Kind golden eyes greeted him with a small smile as the heir of Atlilantia softly reassured,” It’s going to be alright, young prince. I won’t let anything happen to you.”

“Why? Why did you save me in the first place?” Jungkook peered up at him, the worry that he too would reject him being washed away by the warm presence that came from being caught in that kind gaze.

The heir of Atlilantia did not hesitate in his response,” Because I wanted to, “giving the young prince a reassuring grin when Jungkook only looked at him from a mess of wet lashes and large doe-eyes that were so beseechingly entreating for aid amongst uncertainty and aloneness. Taehyung had every intention of answering that call, wanting to keep the tears and pain away from Jungkook ardently after watching from the sea for so, so very long.

It sickened him to see the young prince be treated this way.

When the young prince wiped away the tears that had remained on his face, Taehyung gave another pat to his head,” That’s it, Jungkook. Now, I need you to lay low right here while I take care of some business.” Taehyung finished as his expression began to harden, a fresh vengeance beginning to storm in his eyes as he detached himself from Jungkook. The young prince was left with a coldness that spread over his body in the absence of the man’s comfortable warmth he hadn’t known Taehyung to possess until he’d moved away, wondering why the man seemed to take the treatment his own people had given him so personally.

A raspy voice tinged with aggravation slithered all the way over to the pair, the king all but barking out,” When I ask a question, I expect it answered, boy. Now, you can suffer the wrath of the king of Busan for your insolence,” the last word being emphasized with an outstretched hand as the older man summoned his power to throw it upon Taehyung.

Endowed with the power of constriction, the king possessed the ability to tighten, narrow or compress anything he desired so long as it was of a small size. Many had succumbed and fallen helplessly to the power that had since been marred by the darkness and greed of a vain and selfish man who valued power above all else, for the man had not kept his seat over the throne for being kind. There had been stories told of the man that were passed around the village like a shadow under the helm of night. They were quiet whispers, but still pervasive ones that found themselves passing along under hushed mouths and quieted voices. 

His target, as he stood with a sneer on his wrinkled face, was now Taehyung. 

“I would appreciate if you didn’t interrupt me when I’m trying to talk to my new friend. It’s annoying. Kind of like you,” Taehyung called out as the king hurled his power forth. He stood tall and unaffected under the wicked glare the older man set upon him, watching with amusement when the king’s sneer slowly slid into a ghost of a frown as the king’s brows inched closer in confusion at how Taehyung remained continued to remain upright.

”What? How is this possible? You should be trembling under the greatness of my power!” He frustratingly bellowed. When Taehyung only looked back at him with a snide glint to his eye, the older man was quick to slide his venomous vision behind Taehyung as he attempted to reach the unsuspecting young prince who looked with wide eyes at the heir of Atlilantia.

Taehyung only shook his head in disappointment, stepping protectively in front of Jungkook as he offered,” Nice try, highness, but that won’t work on him, either. He is protected by my affinity, so your attempts to hurt him will be fruitless, just like your sad reign.”

The shock that bolted through Jungkook was more prominent than anything else, but there was something else that stirred in his chest as he watched Taehyung, utterly captivated at the man’s boldness in facing the king himself after choosing to take his own side despite what had happened. The fact that he somehow had the power to resist his uncle’s power and protect him in the process, well…

He…he’s amazing,” Jungkook thought as he gripped the small object Taehyung had given him in his hand, pulling the short cloak the man had given him tighter around himself.

In front of him, Taehyung smirked,” What’s wrong, your majesty?” He flicked a dark brow upward, “Can’t use your pathetic little constriction spell to make us fall to your disgusting, pitiful feet?” His voice strongly echoed across the gardens, eliciting the hairs on the arms of the villagers stand up in response as they backed away. Inwardly, Taehyung was glad that he’d given Jungkook what he had- the little thing had done its job well in protecting the young prince from the power the king held.

Veins had since begun to pop out from the king’s neck as he drew a heavy breath, one hand clenching along his side as he only stared back angrily with silence as his response. Taehyung was pleased to see the man struggle, wondering if the simpleton was even capable of forming a coherent thought at being treated the way he was. He wanted to make this man pay for humiliating and degrading the young prince who sat behind him.

The king himself harshly pushed away an advisor that neared him in effort to dissuade him from engaging in the fight, trying in vain to summon more power to his arm, irascibly yelling out,” Guards, finish him!”

Taehyung challengingly set his darkened irises harder upon the men, taunting them as he coolly taunted,” Oh? So you all wish to take me on? Are you sure?” He emphasized with a flick of a brow, his power surging to life within him as he raised an arm to call forth the magic that he could feel washing over him like a tidal wave. The men before him answer by way of stepping toward him.

There are about thirty warriors that take slow, heavy steps across the gardens, their weapons raised with intent to kill if the murderousness that hangs around them like a sickness is any indication. Taehyung allows them to continue about halfway across the gardens until he has had enough of them, the fingers of his raised hand curling inward as he calls forth the power of the seas once more. He envisions the wild ocean waves powerfully scaling along each side of the cliff until they rise high enough in the sky that darkened clouds are replaced by walls of water that restlessly await the call of their master while the men below tremble in fear, their weapons clattering uselessly to the floor as they stare up at angered seas.

Taehyung smirks, curling his fingers back out and sweeping his hand in a circular motion as the water quickly falls on each side to engulf each warrior that had tried to near him. The heir of Atlilantia releases them from their watery cages only when their bodies stress so much that they can no longer thrash or fight the power of his affinity. He had not killed them, but he had made it so that they would be out of commission for the time being.

There is a blur of movement above him, and Taehyung relishes in the sight of the king who now shakes with fear under hunched shoulders as he shrank back when he looks at Taehyung. The man pitifully threw his arms out, “Please, don’t hurt me. I will let you have the boy. Just, please… don’t hurt me. I’m too valuable to die!”

As if Taehyung would ever consider any human more worthy of his attention than Jungkook. The so called king's statement causes a dead laugh covered in indifference as he stares down at the pitiful man. Disgust crinkles Taehyung’s nose while Jungkook winces at the ease to which his uncle had cast him away. He doesn’t see the irritation flare in Taehyung’s nostrils as the heir of Atlilantia snorts, the defiance all but dripping from his words as he took a step forward,” I have no need to hear what you want, you ignorant idiot,” Taehyung emphasized as he spat, gesturing toward Jungkook who hid behind him,” You have treated this creature despicably and I am, frankly, disgusted to even waste my power on the likes of you. The only reason your men and you won’t die today is because I don’t think Jungkook would approve of me dispatching anyone that he used to live among.”

With his arm still raised, Taehyung called the power that resided within him, beckoning it forth as the small puddle of water that had fallen around the king’s feet from Taehyung’s earlier attack quickly enveloped his form, circling around him until a whirlpool encased him as a sigh leaves Taehyung when he flicks his hand to the ground before him. The whirlpool languidly moves from the balcony across the garden until hovering over the ground in front of Taehyung.

Taehyung turns his hand around, making a show of picking at his fingers like they are more important than the swirling vortex of darkened water that hides its prisoner inside. When he feels like it’s been long enough, Taehyung relaxes his hand as it falls to his side, a grin greeting the king that lamely clamored along the ground by Taehyung’s feet as he gasped for air when the vortex touched the floor to fall sleepily away from them.

The older man grabbed for the ground as if afraid it might disappear, fear shaping his eyes as he struggled to breathe. If the humiliation wouldn’t be enough to shake the man’s self-fueled ego, perhaps the fear of him would, Taehyung supposed when he turned to say,” Let that be a lesson to you in what happens when you decide to make an enemy of the seas, you fool. I’ll be on my way, now.” Golden eyes settled on Jungkook’s as the heir of Atlilantia slowly made to come his way, the softness of them bright in the sliver of moonlight that peeked from the crying clouds. It was so different from the way Taehyung had been with his uncle.

Caught in those eyes, Jungkook doesn’t realize he’s falling from the cliff until strong arms wrap tighter around him, the dark embrace of slumber claiming him as he pierced the surface of the wild seas as lightning flashed through the thunderous skies.

Chapter Text

A warm hand passed along Jungkook’s hairline in slow circles, the gentleness of it like ocean waves lapping against him through the dull headache that sat idly in the forefront of his head. He should have moved away or stiffened as was his response whenever anyone but his brother touched him, but he couldn’t find it in himself to stir under the light, cordial presence that surrounded him, a warm and tender heat enveloping him that all but rolled off of the man who sat patiently silent beside him. When he tried lifting his eyelids to see who was gently stroking him, there was a heaviness that dragged at the young prince’s eyelids when he gradually, but so very languidly, started to regain the elusive consciousness that had steadily evaded him while he battled through the quiet darkness of slumber. It had been all too eager to claim him once he’d broken through the wild waves of the ocean. 

 

“What was I doing before that?” He managed to slew the words together in his mind through the fog that was making it difficult to cling to any one thought for longer than about a fraction of a second.  He honestly couldn’t remember what he’d been doing or where he had been. All he knew was that he was laying on something smooth, the surface of whatever it was comfortably pliant and cool under his skin. With each new thought he tried to concoct, though, the headache snatched the thoughts away before he could even finish them, punishing him with swift hot pounding against the back of his head. He groaned at that, the hand that had been softly caressing him reluctantly stopping before a decidedly deep, concerned voice fills the air. He knew that voice. It sounded familiar, though he didn’t know why.

 

“Jungkook? Are you alright? Can you hear me?” 

 

He’s slow to lift the eyelids that want to refuse his efforts under how weighty they are but driven by a need to see the owner of the voice, Jungkook does. There is a familiarity in that voice that has him needing to see, if only for the sake of how whoever it is has to be tied to him in some way. Perhaps they could give him some answers since he couldn’t seem to recall much of anything right now.

 

The first thing he notices are eyes as golden as the sun. They are trained so intensely on him that there are small crinkles along the man's furrowed brows, the concern swimming in them so prominent that Jungkook-momentarily forgetful of the vengeful headache- can’t help but to tilt his head in curiosity as to why such emotion was directed at him, a heated arrow of pain shooting up his neck in punishment. He tries, he really tries to keep his face impassive and collected as he’d done all his life, but it’s next to impossible with the way the man with the golden eyes looks at him as the young prince grimaces when the pain hits him. Hard.

 

The man who sits beside him sucks in a breath, one of his hands quickly settling under Jungkook's neck while the other is laid across his forehead to press against the dewy, water-laden skin there as the man worriedly offers,” Jeon, it’s Taehyung... Take it slow, okay? Your body is in worse shape than I thought, so just try to be easy on yourself if you can.”  The young prince doesn’t notice that the seawater that had pooled around Taehyung’s nimble, gentle fingers is soon drawn off his body. He also doesn’t see the inward smile Taehyung releases when he hears the satisfied sigh from Jungkook, the water having been removed through the heir of Atlilantia’s magic in Taehyung’s effort to make Jungkook more comfortable through the pain he could see the young prince must have been feeling. While Jungkook’s small show of relief does ease some of Taehyung’s concern, it only wraps itself tighter around the heir of Atlilantia as he watches the young prince struggle to piece his thoughts together, his brows drawing further together as his forehead wrinkles in concentration under the palm Taehyung had left there.

 

Taehyung, helpless to fight off the guilt that latches onto him at the sight, slowly removes the hand that had been on the young prince’s neck as if his touch would only bring more disability to the young prince, but still unable to look away from him as he patiently waits for Jungkook to answer.  

 

Jungkook can only reply with a small,” Okay,” not wanting to incite more pain from his neck and too exhausted from the mental strain it takes to form even the most minimal of thoughts. The hand that Taehyung had left on him is cool against his skin, and it’s a welcome feeling against the earlier strikes of heat that had been pounding against his head; even if he had never been one to receive physical touch in the form of comfort from another.

 

While he hadn’t been impacted by the fall into the ocean, he could see now that Jungkook-even though Taehyung had done the best he could to shield his precious prince with his own body, the young prince had suffered some kind of injury much to Taehyung’s distress and disappointment in that he had been unable to protect his prince from the fall- was in some kind of pain. With the disquiet that had slowly filled his veins in the days that he’d kept careful watch over Jungkook, he had to make sure that the young prince hadn’t suffered any kind of internal trauma with the force to which they’d broken the water upon their dive into it.

 

Before the lingering internal chastisement that had been flooding his mind for the past few days could surface, Taehyung pushed it away in favor of removing his hands from the young prince to tuck his a stray strand of his own hair, hidden underneath his cowl, behind his ear,” Jungkook, don’t think too much if it’s hurting you, but I need to know something if you are well enough to answer. I promise it’s nothing bad.” He adds with a gesture of slowly waving his hands out in front of him in effort to show the young prince that he means no harm, hoping that Jungkook will heed him. He’s only going to feel worse if Jungkook continues to suffer like this.

 

When the young prince only peers up at him-addled both by his own headache and Taehyung’s statements- Taehyung presses his lips together, his brows inching closer in concern,”  You and I, well, we fell a long way off a cliff and…uhm, our fall was only broken by the ocean,” Taehyung pauses,” one hand absentmindedly running along the sand beneath him before he continues,” I did everything I could to break our fall, but I wasn’t sure how badly you’d been affected by it.”

 

His voice had gradually become lower, a wavering apologetic flow that all but ebbs from his form when he speaks, and it’s all Jungkook can do to try to remember something, anything.

 

Taehyung watches the internal cogs turn as Jungkook tries to think, tries to put the pieces together when he only offers a small and timid,” I…I can’t….I can’t remember anything before the water,” he finishes, rubbing a hand along his temple as if that would encourage his memories to return when he looks at Taehyung in a way that has the heir of Atlilantia’s chest squeeze tighter against itself.

 

Oh, you poor thing. I’m so sorry I didn’t do a better job of protecting you. This is my fault,” Taehyung thinks as he casts his eyes downward, the harsh bite of blame sinking its teeth into his midsection where he knew that he had allowed harm to come to the young prince.

 

The young prince only looks on, trying to fill the trenches of his memory with little success. The more he tries to remember, the more deeply whatever answers he was trying to find would sink. Panic is slow to stir at the failed attempts to remember his identity, the man who sits beside him quick to call his attentions back to him in Taehyung’s want to reassure the young prince,” Jungkook.”

 

Truthfully, it stings to see the prince he’d watched over his whole life be rendered incapable of remembering anything because he’d been too careless in being a better protector to Jungkook.

 

It takes a few seconds for Jungkook’s name to settle on the young prince’s shoulders, the quivering anxiety that hid in his eyes sending a pang of guilt through Taehyung. He hopes that Jungkook doesn’t see the culpability that is all too quickly piling on top of his shoulders as he gently offers,” Hey, it’s going to be okay, Jungkook. I will help you remember with my magic, alright?”

 

“I will fix this,” Taehyung internally adds, the hand that had remained atop the young prince’s forehead pulling away to rest on top of his own thigh. He didn’t know how, but he had to for Jungkook’s sake.

 

While Taehyung’s affinity did not lie within the boundaries of memory, dream, or thought restoration, he knew he had to try to use whatever power he had at his disposal to use as a means to help the young prince. Sure, he felt like this whole thing was his fault and his entire first true encounter had been ruined because he’d failed to better care for Jungkook, but he wasn’t about to let his mistake go without recompense if he could help it.

 

He had watched the young prince for many years and wasn’t about to let him suffer because of his own ineptitude.

 

Taehyung’s words seem to ease the young prince, if only a little, if the way Jungkook’s suddenly stiff posture relaxes is any indication. Of course, Taehyung could always be imagining things and Jungkook could have done that in the absence of his own hands on the young prince.

 

A sudden wave of mortification rises at that-had he broken the physical boundaries of the young prince in how much he’d touched him? Jungkook hadn’t seemed to mind it when he’d introduced himself in the throne room, nor had he seemed to have any qualms with it in the aftermath of the ceremony, but Taehyung was not familiar in the behavior of humans, transfixed as he was by the one in front of him after watching him from afar for so long.

 

“Dammit…” Is all that he can think as the emotion begins to fill him-the gold hue to his eyes slightly dimming in light of the emotions that stirred within-watching the way the young prince continues to struggle to remember, his eyebrows narrowing in concentration.

 

Jungkook himself notices a small sag to Taehyung’s shoulders, wondering why the man would be acting like that as if this were his fault or something. He can’t see Taehyung’s eyes anymore; the man had lowered his head as if he wasn’t capable of looking at Jungkook any longer, his eyes hidden under the white cowl that had uneven and bent edges as if it had been used as a pillow or something.

 

Out of the corner of his eye, Jungkook notices the small indents in the sand beneath them, no doubt the marks of someone who had been sitting and laying near him for a long time.

 

Unknowing of Taehyung’s inner turmoil, Jungkook can’t stand to make those around him afflicted by his own emotions or injuries. He’d been that way since he was a child and that part of him jumped eagerly to attention in the face of the treatment the man above him was giving him. While it was true that he did appreciate that Taehyung seemed to have some compassion for him, he briefly wondered why the man even cared in the first place. The thought didn’t linger for too long, because the newly dimmed irises of Taehyung that had been focusing somewhere along the bed of sand beneath them quickly fixed themselves back on Jungkook when the young prince visibly shifted, a surge of heated pain rushing along his head at the movement while he made an effort not to hiss.

 

The guilt digs itself deeper into Taehyung at the sight, burying itself deeper into his skin as he tries to push past it while his eyes soon burn with concern when he looked up at Jungkook and pressed,” Is there something I can do to make you more comfortable?” When Jungkook gives a small, almost imperceptible nod so as not to induce more punishment to the back of his head that Taehyung wouldn’t have seen had he not been sitting so close, the heir of Atlilantia quickly annexes, “Do you want to stay here, or do you want to sit up?”

 

It takes Jungkook a little longer than he would have liked to navigate through the fog in his mind to form some kind of coherent sentence. He’s almost a little frustrated when he answers. Almost, if not for the supportive nod and sympathetic gaze Taehyung gives him.

 

“-Want to sit,” the young prince manages to breathe out, the maze of words he’s trying to find slowly becoming easier to travel through.

 

“Do you think you’re well enough to be able to move in your condition, though?” Taehyung tentatively questions, leaning just a little bit closer to the young prince as if the nearness will reassure him.

 

Jungkook can only bring one leg upwards, the heaviness of his limb baffling him-how long had he been asleep? -as he stares at it before looking back to those apprehensive eyes that stare back at him. His voice is lighter than what he would have liked after the internal game of finding words amongst a maze of jumbled ones,”’S fine, Taehyung. I… I can manage.”

 

Taehyung only raises both brows, seemingly unconvinced.

 

Not wanting to make the man worry, Jungkook’s body reacts before his mind does. He bites back the groan that tries to escape when he slowly manages to pull himself up onto his elbows, wincing while he squeezes his eyes shut when the dull throb at the back of his head jabs at him in quick succession despite his unhurried movements. Taehyung is quick to support him with a trepidatious nod, but deciding to respect Jungkook’s decision, his strong and large hands encircle Jungkook’s forearms to help him up.

 

The young prince chooses not to reflect on how Taehyung’s hands are warm against his cool skin. How well they fit around his own arms while Taehyung himself tries not to think on how corded the young prince is with muscle. He’d known the young prince was stacked with it, but he’d never been able to actually feel it. It was smooth, yet firm, the result of many years of physical training, Taehyung knew.

 

Jungkook soon sits back against something hard as rock, the irregular breaths- courtesy of the headache and sudden movement-that leave the young prince’s lips loud against the quiet of wherever he is. For a few minutes, Jungkook can only sit with his head tipped back against the wall of what must be rock behind him and wait for his body to calm itself, the heated and harsh pounding that had pounced roughly on him gradually fading in the small silence that settled between the two of them. Taehyung, wrought with a pang of worry for Jungkook, can only calm himself when the prince’s ragged breathing finally starts to even itself out, carefully studying him for signs of further ailment before they begin to wander in the safe security that Jungkook will be alright when the young prince gives a little wave of the hand with a small and almost imperceptible shake of the head,” I’ll be fine. Just need a minute.”

 

Since Jungkook has sat up, the headache has actually begun to lessen its assault on him. Whether it’s because Taehyung had been touching him or if he’d changed positions, he doesn’t know.

 

“You better not be lying to me,” Taehyung gently prods the young prince against the shoulder-as if he’s a fragile glass doll that could be broken at any minute-wanting to be sure that Jungkook will be alright while guilt remains coiled within him as the narrowed brows of the young prince begin to relax. He hopes the young prince can’t see the turmoil that runs wildly within through his eyes.

 

He had a bad habit of making his eye color change with different emotion. Well, that and he’d been told he wasn’t very good at hiding emotion as a whole; his face told it all, or so his friends told him.

 

Jungkook tries to think about who this man was to him in the sea of lost memories that were almost impossible trying to dive into, each attempt sending him right back to the surface with nothing but the weight of the effort being pulled about the remnants of the receding headache. He would have been vexed, he really would have, had it not been for Kim Taehyung and his softly compassionate gaze as the man waited patiently for him to speak. There’s so much that swims in his very deep, very emotion-filled eyes. He’s still at a loss as to why his health is a concern to Taehyung, and while he normally would have been wary and hesitant of someone he didn’t know, there was something about this man.

 

He knew that Taehyung was tied to him in some way, but he just couldn’t remember what. He also couldn’t shake the feeling that Taehyung had been watching over him while he’d slept if the way the man is looking at him and the way he’s been treating him are any indication. That and the fact that the longer he looked at Taehyung, the more images that would flash through his mind; fragments of time spent in this chamber where it seemed like Taehyung had been dutifully watching over him. He’s grateful for that, however small that it may be. Wanting to ease the man who sits beside him, he finds his voice.

 

“Me? A liar? I don’t know about that one, Doctor Kim Taehyung,” Jungkook playfully drawls, leaning back against the wall to softly exhale with a small, cute chuckle that falls from his lips, “but no, I try to make a habit of being honest as much as I can.”

 

It is getting easier to find the thoughts and words he wants to say now, and he figures he should play along with the one who tends to him so earnestly. Taehyung likes it when the young prince laughs. He finds it positively adorable. It helps that it all but washes the earlier guilt away.

 

Taehyung playfully scrunches his nose at the term, amusement coloring his irises a brighter color of gold when he shakes his head,” Doctor, huh? Are you positive I am one, then? Could I not happen to just be an innocent who cares about the wellbeing of someone important?”

 

Jungkook only replies with an arch of one brow, echoing his last word,” Important?” The young prince asks interestedly, closing his eyes to lean back against the wall once more.

 

Eased by Jungkook’s response, Taehyung takes the opportunity and flicks his eyeline between the young prince’s beautifully sculpted face and the exposed skin of the young prince’s muscled, toned chest. In the bluish light that emanated from the seawater covering one half of the circular room, Jungkook’s dewed, dark eyelashes shone beautifully against the golden skin that was all but glowing in the thin sheen of water that had freshly fallen over him from the top of the room that, like the bottom, was comprised entirely of water. Unlike the semicircular body of the serene cyan seawater that quietly sat along the floor, the ceiling of the room emulated the farthest reaches of the ocean on a sunset day, its color that of a peacock cichlid’s belly. The expanse of it was dotted in softly fluttering light being cast by the plankton that lived within it. Each body of water was still around them, Taehyung too caught by Jungkook to swim-as he usually did when he came here-in either as Jungkook himself focused on trying to regain his memory, unknowing of his environment.

 

Taehyung continued to study the jawline that was sharper than a sword, trailing his eyeline along it before moving upward to stare at a plump lower lip connected to a thin, shiny one. They had, to Taheyung’s innate appreciation, been left slightly parted so that he could make out slightly crooked teeth that were white as pearls though shaped like a bunny’s that Taehyung found positively adorable, A long, regal nose flanked by beautiful brown eyes that were hidden from him just about completed Taehyung’s internal mapping of the young prince’s face that he found very attractive. Not that he would tell the young prince as such, but the sentiment was definitely one Taehyung couldn’t ignore.  

 Moving from there, the young prince’s shirt had tauntingly torn itself open to display a chiseled chest that Taehyung very much liked to look at. The gift he had given to the young prince now sits in Taehyung’s pocket; he’d grabbed the little thing out of the prince’s robes moments after they’d fallen into the sea.

 

The shirt had been ripped down the middle during their fall into the seas, and while Taehyung hadn’t meant for young prince’s apparel to be destroyed, the damage the rain had done to it had been easy work for the wild sea to further tear apart. not that Taehyung had any qualms about it, though. To see his prince up close was so different than what he’d been used to after having to watch from afar for the better part of his life.

 

He’d never seen a human this… this built, but he liked it.

 

The garment that Taehyung had given him had since been lost to the ocean as had the young prince’s shoes and silk coverings that had been placed over his shirt. Somehow, the diadem had remained atop his head, but that was about the only thing that was intact; his shirt had been torn down the middle to expose his glorious chest- much to Taehyung’s appreciation-and his pants had small tears along the sides that crawled along his thighs and shins.  Taehyung needed to get him new clothes, soon, but for now, he figures he can enjoy this while it lasts.

 

When Taehyung pulls his eye line from the south, Jungkook’s dark eyebrows are soon drawn together while pink lips- the sea had been sure to wash away the crimson color they had been painted with, but Taehyung would be remiss not to think about how beautiful he’d looked with it-they are still parted to enable his breaths to travel between them- and his thick hazel hair is cruelly draped across the young prince’s forehead that one of his hands rubbed against to quell the last of the receding headache.

 

Despite his apparent state, Taehyung rather enjoyed the sight of the young prince. Jungkook was…well, he was beautiful, really.

 

Oblivious of his surroundings and of Taehyung leaning just a little bit closer, Jungkook releases a sigh at another failed attempt to lure any memory out of the depths of his mind.

 

When the young prince opens his eyes once more, Taehyung’s earlier conflicting emotions are pushed back in favor of the swell of familiar amusement that came with watching his prince when Jungkook’s eyes widen as large as a doe’s when he finally notices the chamber around him. His eyebrows move upward so much so that the diadem itself almost falls off his cute little head as he looks from side to side, the confusion quick to set in as he perplexedly blinks,” Wait… What is this? Where am I?” Using his arms for support against the wall, the young prince, not without effort, leaned forward onto his hands to steady himself as he closed his fingers around a beige blanket of sand that covered the floor before the pool of water on the other side of the room.

 

While Jungkook had certainly come from a place where magic existed, he had never seen anything in all years quite like this. He kept releasing and grabbing the soft sand beneath him, his eyes drawn toward the crystalline pool ahead of him as if to assure himself that this was real, one knee bending from under him as he rose, his lips parting in amazement as he finally peered up at the top of the room. He felt so small under the wide expanse of water that dwelled above, rising a hand as if to touch as it despite that he was too short-even though Taehyung was sure his height was a solid five feet and ten inches, just like him-to be even close to being able to do so, “How is that possible?” He wonders aloud, a pleased Taehyung looking on with interest.

 

The heir of Atlilantia only chuckles, resting his chin on his hand as he amusedly said,” You know, you ask a lot of questions, Jeon Jungkook.” He inwardly elects not to tell him about where he is. Yet.

 

Jungkook doesn’t turn his attentions away from the one of the plankton among the sea of the top of the chamber that energetically flaunts its bright blue bioluminescence, studying it with such curiosity that Taehyung can’t help but to smile at as the young prince gives a small shrug,” I only ask a lot of questions because you,” he lifts a finger to point at him and looks at him for a second,” Taehyung, don’t like to answer most of them.”

 

Taehyung has half a mind to retort, but he knows that the young prince is right. He’s been purposefully evading his questions for reasons he himself isn’t sure about, yet. So instead, he grins, lifting his hands up in defeat as he says,” What can I say? I just happen to have a flair for making things interesting.”

 

Jungkook looks away from the top of the chamber for only a second to raise one dark brow as if to ask,” Really?”

 

Taehyung chuckles again, the bubbliness of it pleasant on Jungkook’s ears as he tries not to think about how a wide, boxy smile had the power to make his heartbeat quicken before turning his attention back to the tidal pool directly in front of and beneath him.

 

The water is so transparently vivid in the blue that emanates from it, a brilliant golden disc sitting along the very bottom that is not unlike the sun in Jungkook’s mind as he exploratorily walks around it, moving his head at the different angles as if a bunny who had just stumbled upon something it had never seen before.

 

Taehyung thinks it’s cute.

 

If there had still been pain in the back of his head, Jungkook probably would have blamed his imagination for seeing things through the ache of that. He should have been weirded out since he was not in his element, since he had never seen something like this before. For some reason, he wasn’t. Beyond anything else, he was intrigued. It was like he was a child who’d just discovered a secret room hidden within a castle, helpless to the entreating curiosity and utter fascination to discover something unknown. The water around him was calm and quiet, its reservation clear in how perfectly transparent each body of water was paired with the placidity of their surfaces. He watched the small blinking lights from the ceiling, the quick confusion drawn into a small whirlpool to become a slowed awe, the soft light creating a shine in his eyes that Taehyung found he liked as Jungkook’s amazement was becoming more prominent the longer he took in the room.

 

“This is… it’s magnificent, Taehyung,” the young prince said, his eyes now swimming with wonder in time to the lightened hum of his voice. Taehyung thinks he likes the sound of that, too.

 

With the both of them dwelling in a small, circular room, a semicircle of the floor was comprised of a body of crystalline water so vibrantly blue and clear that Jungkook can’t help but to walk across the bed of soft, beige sand that tickles his feet as he walks toward it in his interested search of the chamber. Taehyung only smiles when he watches the young prince crouch to run his fingertips across the crisp coolness of the water that laps over his fingers as it welcomes his touch, glad that his element is so receptive to his prince in the face of what had happened after he’d thrown them both off the cliff to render his prince unconscious in his arrogance to Jungkook’s delicate human body.  

 

Taehyung remains on his knees on the floor, choosing to give the prince some space in his exploration of the environment around him while the heir of Atlilantia simply smiles at him, pleased by the fascination to which the young prince is showing,” I’m glad you think so.” He pauses, momentarily forgetting the question when Jungkook looks at him expectantly before remembering to add,” Oh, and yeah, it’s complicated, but we’re somewhere safe.”

 

“Ever the cryptic one, you are” Jungkook inwardly muses, “but not that I mind it.” He adds when as he watches the man, waiting for him to say something. While he is having trouble remembering just about, well, everything, he’s more than willing to figure out the puzzle that is Taehyung. The man certainly was intriguing, that was for sure. The fact that he was extremely pleasing to look at had absolutely nothing to do with it, though. Nothing at all.

 

Still, Taehyung’s answer only serves to bring more questions back to Jungkook as the young prince just looks at him quizzically after standing to rotate his body around in a circle as if that would help him to better understand what he was seeing,” What do you mean by that, Taehyung?” He gestures with his arms toward the cyan sea sitting ahead and the ceiling,” What is this?”

 

The heir of Atlilantia considers him, inwardly debating how he should reveal what he needs to show to the young prince. He hadn’t actually thought about how he would go about telling-and showing, in his case- Jungkook what no other human had seen in a long, long time. He briefly thinks about lying, but that thought is quickly shot down. Kim Taehyung is good at a lot of things, but he is a terrible, terrible liar.

 

He doesn’t want to scare the young prince, but he certainly doesn’t want to leave him in the dark, either. There was so much to explain, but so many ways it could go wrong since Jungkook came from a place that was not like this. A place that didn’t include people like him.

 

Jungkook is the one that pulls him out of his thoughts, simply calling out,” Taehyung?”

 

Deciding he needs to just lay it out straight for Jungkook, Taehyung clears his throat,” Sorry, I was just thinking about how to go about this with you,” he can see Jungkook-with a questioning expression of creases between his brows and lips barely parting as if he’d been thinking of saying something-turn from the rock he had experimentally laid his palm across, the material encasing all the walls around them that the water did not,” but I think it will be better for both of us if I show you something, first.” Taehyung finishes while Jungkook curiously watches the man peer at the water next to him as if it held some kind of secret.

 

Tilting his head, the young prince lets his hand slide from the rock,” Show me something else?” He tentatively chuckles, his uncertainty of the man coloring the sound of his voice as he looked to the heir of Atlilantia, “You do know this is my first time in a water chamber, if that’s the right term for it, don’t you, Taehyung? That alone is impressive enough.”

 

Under the gaze that has since shifted to an amused one as a small smirk peeks from under the edge of the heir of Atliantia’s lips, Jungkook only cocks his head his more, looking more and more like a cute bunny to Taehyung as he says with a flick of a brow,” Oh, I plan to show you a great many things, young prince. But this, “the heir of Atlilantia slowly moves a hand into a pocket to grip at something as his smirk began to trail upward, “this is the first of many.” He amusedly finishes, fishing whatever was in his pocket out and throwing it over to Jungkook as he jumped into the hair to catch it.

 

Jungkook just looks at him at that, unknowing of what else this man could possibly show him. Something flashes brilliantly in the air and it’s then that Jungkook moves as if he’d momentarily forgotten Taehyung had thrown something in the middle of trying to figure the man out.

 

It landed with an audible thump against his hands, the both of them remaining closed over whatever it was as he stared at his hands in confusion, not knowing what or why Taehyung had just thrown something to him. It was smooth, circular in shape and small enough that he could hold whatever it was in one hand if he wanted to.  

 

What he wants to do is ask more questions. He wants to know why this man is so hard to decipher, wants to know more about this place, but when he peers up to look at the man, those flit to the back of his mind as his focus trains itself solely on Taehyung who gives slow nod, those beautiful, deep golden eyes entreating against the smile still on his lips when he imploringly offers,” Go ahead.”

 

Jungkook hadn’t exactly been waiting for permission, but the words are enough to spur him to open his hands, a small stone that reminded him of glass in the shape of a circle greeting him. Embraced by white flecks akin to frost that trailed along its sides even though it was warm in his hands-no doubt because it had warmed itself to Taehyung’s body heat- yet it was a beautiful thing, but he wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do with it. Was Taehyung giving it to him? Was he expected to do something with it? Why was the man giving something so strange to him when he couldn’t even remember who Taehyung was?

 

Confusedly, he looks up, his eyes swaddled with the emotion as he lifts his hand for emphasis,” Taehyung, this is very pretty, but what is it? You’re not making much sense here, you know,” He adds as he moves his eye line back to Taehyung, hoping the man will give him some kind of answer this time.

 

Taehyung’s smirk deepens, if it’s possible, before the man takes a step forward, flicking his chin up as he urges,” Look closer.”

 

“Wha- “He cuts himself off, experimentally rolling the little thing around in his hand as it glimmered in all the light of the room before something flashes again, pulling his attention to the middle of the stone. With the frost-like covering that coats the sides, one wouldn’t notice at first glance, but now that he looked at it, there’s something akin to a scale that looks as if it was from a fish inside it, a small but thick thing that comes to life in the light that it basks in, an iridescence tinged by purple, gold and green glinting off of a scale with the color reminiscent of a blue tang’s belly.

 

It felt strangely familiar in his hands.

 

Taehyung takes a step closer, studying the prince with a smile as he watches Jungkook squint,” You probably can’t remember now, but I gave that to you not too long ago. It was right before,” he holds the vowel on his tongue for emphasis until Jungkook looks from the stone to him, his eyes saturated with befuddlement,” ah, that’s right, I gave it to you right before your commencement ceremony.”

 

Confused, Jungkook casts his eye line between the heir of Atlilantia and his opened palm, wrinkles appearing along his forehead as he tries to remember to no avail,” I don’t remember that.”

 

The earlier panic that had coiled itself around his ribs is quick to return, one of Jungkook’s hands fiddling with his shirt as sighs. He should have remembered something by now, right? Why couldn’t he seem to do it, then? Who was he if he couldn’t remember who he was?

 

Where there should have been distress from Taehyung, there was none.  He had since come up with a plan. Seeing his prince become addled with himself was something that pushed him into action, compassion filling his veins as he saw the young prince stare intensely at the stone as if it would crack and reveal all he wanted to know. There was a newfound determination that settled into his gut despite the tentative hand he lifted to the young prince’s shoulder in reassurance,” It’s alright. I promised that everything would make sense soon, right?”

 

Taehyung’s earlier sentiments about Jungkook’s apparent reception to his touch surface when he feels the prince’s warm, smooth skin under his fingertips that a tear along the shoulder has revealed for him, his wondering, unsure gaze flaunted by eyes that linger on him this time from under a fan of dark lashes. He says nothing for a few moments, but Taehyung has a feeling he’s probably still trying to find his memories in that head of his before the young prince faintly nods before Taehyung gently squeezes his shoulder before pulling away to put his fingers around the cowl that still covered his head as he took a small step backward toward the water.

 

It was only then that Jungkook realized the man hadn’t ever taken the cowl off.

 

If Jungkook had been lost before, he sure as the seas was baffled when Kim Taehyung simply pulled his fingers behind him, the cowl following them as it fell from his head to reveal hair as blue as the skies on a clear day, a deep azure color that was thick and fell in soft waves around his angular, handsome face.

Jungkook had never seen hair like that before, had he? It seemed like a very peculiar, although very beautiful color on Taehyung.

 

“Your hair…” he started, looking from the blue of his head to the gold of his eyes.

 

Taehyung smirked,” What? You’ve never seen blue hair, before?” He playfully asked, amusedly running a hand through it as if it was the most normal thing in the world to have hair as blue as the sky with an utterly perplexed Jungkook standing there, not knowing what to make of the odd color and behavior of the man.

 

He can’t actually remember if he has or not, but he tentatively says the words anyway,” I can’t say that I have.”

 

This was only the beginning, and Jungkook was going to be rattled, Taehyung knew, if this was his reaction to his hair of all things. Still, a deeper part of him liked that the young prince was widening his eyes, his head tipping to the side so much that he wondered if the diadem would fall off. He was happy he had the prince’s attention now.

 

There had a been a reason that Taehyung had kept his hair covered when he’d gone to the palace, had a been a reason for not showing it to any of the humans of Jungkook’s world. It would have raised too many questions and attention, for blue hair was not something natural in that place. Taehyung had known as such, for he’d been told about it in the stories that his friends would tell. It had been hard to believe that hair and eye colors in Jungkook’s world were limited only to “natural ones,” as his friends had called them, but he’d been careful to keep himself out of the attentions of the humans when he’d gone inland. Well, all but one, that was.  

 

Taehyung motioned to the stone that Jungkook still held, his smile unfaltering,” That stone in your hand. What do you see inside it?”

 

Jungkook, taken aback by the question, swallows before looking back at it,” It looks like a fish scale. Why did you give it to me and why do you ask?” He curiously questions, at a loss for why Taehyung would ask such a thing at a time like this. The young prince had to give it to the man. He was exceptionally brilliant at befuddling him. Whether it was the answers he gave, the vividness of his hair or that distractingly handsome face that looked like it had been sculpted from the gods, Jungkook was never as perplexed as he was now.

 

Taehyung takes one small step backward, a light chortle rolling off his lips,” A fish scale, huh? I guess that isn’t far off the mark, but,” his laugh bubbles with a widened smile when he sees Jungkook only scrunch his brows together more tightly, the questions all but swimming through the young prince’s eyes,” I think it’s time we get those memories of yours back.”

 

How a stone had anything to do with his memories and how he was connected to it had anything to do with it, Jungkook had no idea, but his thoughts are silenced when Taehyung closes his eyes, letting his body fall backward to be enveloped by the waiting water with a splash.

 

The splash brings it with a wave of something that is tugging at him in his mind, as if there is a gate that it is trying to push past but can’t.

 

He doesn’t dwell on it too long, for there is an unmistakable cloak of worry that settles over him in the moments that the white bubbles and sea foam obscure the heir of Atliantia, for he doesn’t know if the man can swim. Had his damned memories been there to help, maybe he would have.

 

Large and small bubbles continue to wrap themselves around Taehyung, his body obscured by them as Jungkook holds his breath, waiting for any sign of the man to emerge. His body moves before his mind does and he's running across the space to drop to his knees along the edge of the pool, trying to find Taehyung for what feels like hours until he sees the glint of azure hair from under the bubbles before they gradually begin to fade.

 

The man’s head is the first to emerge, his hair glinting in the light as he drags one hand over his head to pull the hair that had settled over his forehead out of the way with amusement that all but energetically splashes around in those golden eyes of his as he implores with a flick of a dark brow,” I think this might help a little.”

 

Jungkook is about to ask why it’s necessary that he took shirt off-he had a very nice chest, Jungkook had to admit-before his mind catches up with him and realizes the man is now bare-chested in clear water right in front of him. He huffs, redness coloring his cheeks again as he makes to look away in attempt to respect the man’s privacy,” Taehyung, I don’t how seeing you without a…without shirt is going to help, but-“ He stammers, the blood rising in his cheeks as Taehyung does that laugh that Jungkook is beginning to really like the sound of.

 

An entertained Taehyung watches him with the laugh still on his lips, “While I’m flattered you’re flustered over me like that, Jeonggukie,” he lightly splashes at the young prince, “there is something that I think you need to see. You don’t need to be embarrassed at all, by the way. You have my permission to look,” He adds, enjoying the way the prince bites as his lower lip as he considers him.

 

Jungkook himself tries not to think about the image of Taehyung without a shirt-which had been an appealing one, he couldn’t lie-concentrating on the nickname the man had given him moments earlier. He liked it. If the man felt comfortable enough to nickname him, surely it would be okay to look at Taehyung if he had permission to, right?”

 

Taehyung patiently waits for Jungkook, the steady rise and fall of Jungkook’s sun-kissed chest nowhere near the quickened beat of Taehyung’s heart when the young prince finally, finally, fixes him with those deep, dark orbs,” Taehyung, I really don't think-"

 

His voice trails off when he notices it. He hadn’t known how he’d missed it the first time-though, with Kim Taehyung’s face and upper body, he kind of did- but now it was brilliantly prominent.

 

In the water before him, Kim Taehyung stared back with those bright golden eyes. He had the upper body of a man and the lower one of a fish.

 

Jungkook had been told stories about beings that had tails of sea creatures, had listened intently to someone talk about them during nights he would go somewhere to do something. Something tugs at him in the back of his mind again and all at once, the memories he’d been trying to catch flooded the internal gate, cracking it open until the waters of his memory surged forward.

 

It had been his brother who had told him about creatures called mermaids. His brother who had the power of clairvoyance while he’d been found to have none at his ceremony, the stone he gripped in his hand making being held tighter as he’s filled with a myriad of memory-induced flashes of Taehyung. Taehyung, who had wielded water as his weapon against his uncle who’d tried to kill him. Taehyung, who had stood by and protected him the whole time.

 

His voice is brittle when he stutters, his disbelief at the sight before him and fierce wave of memories insistently pouring themselves on top of each other,” You...you’re a….

Taehyung flashes a boxy smile,” Yes, it would seem that I am a merman,” he inches forward, the question falling from his lips in his hope that the young prince had regained what he’d lost,” Can you remember me, now?”

 

“I-I remember everything,” he answers as he flicks his bewildered, widened eyes from Taehyung’s face to his tail that gently yet powerfully holds the heir of Atlilantia afloat.

 

Taehyung only smiles wider.

Chapter Text

 




 

Jungkook had never seen a creature like this before. It was beyond anything he ever would have imagined as someone who had been taught that mermaids and creatures of myth had all but gone extinct and that there had been no sightings of one for thousands of years. Despite actually seeing Taehyung, seeing the very real lower half of a fish adjoined to the upper body of a man who was looking rather amusedly at him, there was a part of him that had trouble coming to terms with it. For Jungkook, this was almost as believable as a constellation falling from the sky to live amongst the inhabitants of the world in human form. It just.. it didn’t happen. It wasn’t supposed to be real.

 

For a while, Jungkook can only stare dumbly at Taehyung; his eyes are as wide as the black diamond sitting comfortably between dark brows that are nearly touching his hairline in his disbelief. They disappear under the thick hazel hair that has since fallen over his forehead, and while Taehyung has an urge to brush it aside so that he can better see his prince, he has to push that down for now. He doesn’t know what the young prince will make of him, yet.

 

The young prince says nothing, the memories of the past clashing with that of a very real present that he had always been told no longer existed. Taehyung lets Jungkook look at him, the obvious incredulity flecked by an even bigger bewilderment in those beautiful rounded eyes of his. Taehyung doesn’t say anything, choosing to remain quiet to allow the prince to make sense of what he’s seeing if the way he’s cocking his head and looking at him are any indication. Still, Taehyung is content to just lather in the attention that the prince is giving him; even if it is for the sake of how he’s a merman.

 

It is Jungkook that speaks first, the hesitation dipped in his slow words, “How…how are you alive? I was taught that,” he pauses to tentatively swallow,” I was taught that you didn’t- “

 

Taehyung smiles, interjecting with a light chuckle,” Taught that my kind were long gone, right?”

 

Jungkook nods and Taehyung takes that as his cue to inch closer to the prince. It doesn’t work as well as he’d hoped, for the movement causes Jungkook to lean backward and clench his hand around the sand beneath him as if that will ground him again.  

 

 Taehyung is struck through the chest with hurt at that, taking the young prince’s behavior as a means of blatant dejection.  The merman slowly moves backwards until he’s at the other end of the pool-his eyes still trained on the prince’s, but he’s finding it’s rather difficult to keep contact now with the way the prince’s body had responded- to give the young prince some space. Taehyung’s smile falters and in its place he presses his lips together while his brows crease, the sharp sting of the emotion enough to make his thoughts go still.

 

He had tried to steel himself for this kind of reaction, had tried to imagine all negative scenarios that might have had his prince rejecting him or seeing him as something incongruous with nature.

 

It seemed to him that he had not quite thought of all the ways his big reveal might put him at odds with the young prince. That thought bit deeply at him..

 

The last thing Taehyung wants is for the prince to be disgusted or unimpressed with him. It’s not as if the possibility of Jungkook to act this way hadn’t crossed his mind, but he’d had a fond hope that the young prince wouldn’t. He had chosen to think that, with the awe that the young prince had shown for the skies, a creature of a sea wouldn’t be too different.

 

He supposes that assumption had been wrong, he realizes as he turns his head away, not wanting to show his discouragement. The last thing the young prince needed was Taehyung’s feelings to get caught up with everything that Taehyung had put him through. After all, the heir of Atlilantia had a mission to fulfill.

 

His feelings aside, he needed to have the young prince’s trust if what he had been sent to do would ever have any chance of success.

 

Taehyung tries not to let his ignominy show in his features when raises both arms from the water that swishes along his chest, both palms facing outward in effort to show him he means no ill will as he offers,” It’s okay, Jungkook. Don’t be afraid.”

 

Unbeknownst to Taehyung, a mystified Jungkook looks on at his behavior, tilting his head to the other side and wholly unable to keep the emotion out of his voice as he stammers,” Wh-What? What makes you think I fear you?”

 

Taehyung doesn’t look up, instead focusing his attention to the tail that somehow now felt a little heavier as it moves back and forth under him to answer with a tinge of something-was it hurt? - to his words,” Your hand. You moved away from me, too”

 

“I’m not- “Jungkook pauses, noticing a dimness to Taehyung’s eyes that wasn’t there before when the man moves backward to emphasize his point, and it’s only then that Jungkook notices how hard he’d been gripping the sand beneath him. His knuckles have turned white and he seems to have fallen back on his heels as if to put some distance between the two of them. It is then that he realizes Taehyung must have misconstrued his behavior for some kind of discomfort to the heir of Atlilantia for the man to have acted like this.

 

Oh.

 

Shame nips at Jungkook at the understanding that he had caused the heir of Atlilantia to feel like he could ever be something he feared. Truthfully, Jungkook thought that Taehyung was, well, incredible, really. He’d never seen a creature as beautiful as Taehyung was, and he felt the most pressing urge to make the heir of Atlilantia aware of that.

 

Flattening each hand over the bed of sand beneath him, Jungkook pulls himself forward so that he’s lying on his elbows on the edge of the pool to gently press,” Taehyung.”

 

When the man doesn’t respond, he calls again and watches the heir of Atlilantia stubbornly fix his eye line to something along the ocean floor beneath him as if to keep himself from looking. It was like, for a moment, that beautiful man had let his inner child surface. The young prince found it cute.

 

 Jungkook hides the smirk under his hand,” Taehyung, please look at me.”

 

Taehyung can feel the intensity to which Jungkook regards him with now, the young prince’s eyes firm, yet gentle on him as he keeps from diving under the surface to escape it.  It was strange for him; for the first time in his life, he wanted to remove himself from the eye of the prince rather than bask in it.

 

Still, why was Jungkook making his heart beat so loudly against his chest?

 

This time, the steady rise and fall of Jungkook’s sun-kissed chest is nowhere near the quickened beat of Taehyung’s heart when the young prince, finally, fixes him with those deep, dark orbs that implore him to see something, to understand something as he offers,” I’m not afraid of you, Taehyung. I never was.”

 

The words instantly part the clouds of disheartenment within him, but Taehyung still has doubts that refuse to be blown away. Choosing to pull his brows tighter together,” You don’t fear me, but you’re disgusted, aren’t you?”

 

Jungkook shakes his head as soon as the question has left lips, a rush of red racing to his cheeks as the truth falls from his mouth,” Taehyung, truthfully, I…” A shy smile rises at the edge of one side of his lips as he nervously huffs,” Actually, this is kind of embarrassing for me to say, but…”

 

Maybe it’s in the way Taehyung had moved, but Jungkook only now notices that the man’s entire chest is bared to him and it only makes him more shy, more heat rushing to his cheeks as he tries, unsuccessfully, to look away. Taehyung’s skin is not unlike his in the golden glow it emanates after many years of the sun’s favor. Jungkook finds that he likes the way that looks paired with a chest that is not toned and defined in the way his is, but rather free of much muscle to display a thinly flawless frame that suits the man’s beautifully sculpted face. He wonders how it is humanly possible to be this good looking. Then again, this creature was no human.

 

It was becoming very obvious to Taehyung that the boy had little experience with these things. He is glad for it. It’s strangely…endearing. Anticipation bubbles within Taehyung as the doubt sinks while he wades forward only a little to press,” You can tell me, Jungkook. I want to know what you think of me.”

 

“I know, but…” Jungkook nervously bites at his lip, considering whether he should admit the thought that is on his mind right now,” I don’t know if you really want to know, Taehyung.” He tentatively, but characteristically shyly answers.

 

 He doesn’t know how Taehyung will take it and doesn’t want to offend him, but then there’s that urge that has Jungkook needing to assuage the heir of Atlilantia that tugs insistently on him in the back of his mind. What would Taehyung think if he told him that he found him to be the prettiest creature he’s ever seen? How would he take if it he didn’t think of Jungkook in that way? What if Taehyung thought him disgraceful for thinking such things?

 

The questions start to flood his mind and he’s starting to nervously toy with the sand beneath him when Taehyung gently calls his name. The heir of Atlilantia is looking at him curiously now, interest all but rolling off his shoulders while he inches forward to cross his elbows over on the small rock that juts out right below Jungkook. When had the merman gotten so close and how could anything be that beautiful, the young prince wonders when his breath catches.

 

“Oh, believe me,” Taehyung implores,” I want to know.”

 

He’s close enough now that Jungkook can see the deepness to Taehyung’s eyes that he could get lost in if he’s not careful while the man slowly pulls his tail upward so that it’s splayed out behind him while the man rests his head on his arms, patiently waiting while his warm breaths flit across Jungkook’s reddened cheeks.

 

What he wants to say is: “Taehyung, you’re truly beautiful and I find myself growing a liking, however small, to you already when it seems as if we’ve only just met. Still, you should feel no shame for showing me a part of who you really are. As a matter of fact, I find you so very fascinating, Taehyung.”

 

What comes out is: “I…um…”

 

Jungkook isn’t sure how he could have ever passed his linguistics and language lessons and been a prince in name for as long as he had been with how much of a mess his speech is when it comes to Taehyung.

Brightened golden irises stare back at him as he tries not to fall under that piercing gaze, a light whish sounding from behind Taehyung as his tail languidly moves from side to side while the man flaunts his tail. Jungkook has to admit that it really is magnificent. An azure constellation of scales covered the man from his hips down, an iridescence shining over each of them as they embraced the light casting itself over them. Tinged by a myriad of purples, golds and greens that shined and reflected off the light below and around them, the scales changed colors with each movement the merman made. The man’s tail itself looked as if the ends themselves had been dipped in gold, the skin of the tail painted a lovely shade of sapphire with amethyst-like accents that lined the outer edges that trailed behind him.

And paired with eyes as bright as the sun and a face that looked like it was sculpted from the finest marble of the gods, well, how could Jungkook not find him to be magnificent?

 “You what, Jungkook?” Taehyung teases.

 They’re so close that Jungkook has a hard time putting thoughts together again, his pulse beginning to race as the words tumble from his mouth before he has a chance to stop them.

 

There’s a hint of awe when he looks downward, unable to keep up with those bright eyes any longer as he somehow gets out, “Beautiful.”

 

Smooth, Jungkook chastises himself internally. Real smooth, Jungkook.

 

He’s sure his cheeks are beet red when he hears an airy chuckle, Taehyung animatedly flapping his tail to garner the young prince’s attention again as a relief washes through his veins. Still, he enjoys seeing Jungkook so flustered, so he continues to play with him a little.

 

Putting a hand under his chin, Taehyung friskily offers,” What do you find beautiful, young prince? The cavern? My tail? What, exactly,” he watches in amusement, a smile tugging at his lips while he watches the prince’s cheeks get even redder if it’s possible,” do you think is beautiful, young prince?”

 

Taehyung already knows Jungkook had meant that he was beautiful. The fact had all but cleared away any of the hurt the prince’s earlier actions had portrayed. It was clearer to him now that the prince had acted out of disbelief rather than disgust- his words had made that obvious-but there were certain words Taehyung wanted to hear. Certain words he’d wished he could hear as he’d watched Jungkook grow from a child to a man.

 

Jungkook himself chews at his lip, his eyes frantically straying and looking anywhere but at Taehyung. The heir of Atlilantia waits patiently for the young prince to find his words, finding the small dip between his brows that have inched closer together to be cute.

 

When Jungkook answers, it’s a small, “You are… You are beautiful.”

 

If Taehyung had felt jovial before, it was nothing compared to what he felt then. It was as if the feeling was liquid and flowed through his veins at the admission, a smile pulling his lips upward so much that his cheeks hurt. Jungkook himself simply stares at the ground, too nervous to look into those beautiful bright eyes that he could so easily get lost in if he wanted to.

 

The heir of Atliantia had been praised (many times) for his unwavering beauty and fortune of good looks graced by a natural inner strength and intelligence, but to hear those words from Jungkook, well… it was completely different. When Jungkook said it, Taehyung knew he meant it. The fact makes him feel a little lighter.

 

Instead, rather ungracefully, Jungkook just plays with the sand between his fingertips while trying to will his pulse to slow down. He wonders if splashing some of the water below him on his face would rid him of the burning cheeks that are uncharacteristically hot, but that would mean he’d nearly touch Taehyung with how close the merman is to him now.

 

The thought of how Taehyung’s skin would feel against his heated self doesn’t go unnoticed through his mind when he remembers how soft and impossibly warm it had felt in the throne room of his old home, but he quickly pushes that flow of thoughts away for another time. Why was his breathing suddenly so shallow?

 

Get a hold of yourself, Jungkook. Is this how a prince should act? The young prince internally berated himself.

 

 Taehyung’s strong voice echoes through the cavern, tearing him away from his less than diplomatic thoughts. The airiness of it doesn’t hide the obvious joviality that dances between the words as he dips lower under the water in effort to meet the young prince’s fleeting eyes, “You know, you can look at me, Jungkook. I won’t bite.”

 

Well, truth was that he could and would, but that was something he would never do to Jungkook without permission.  Because the truth was that he wasn’t just a merman. He was something else.

 

He pauses, wondering if he should tell Jungkook what he is and what he thinks of him, too.

Stars, he thought, I wish I could tell you, Jungkook. I wonder what you’d even say if I told you everything.

 

It wasn’t proper for someone of Taehyung’s status in his world to admit and interchange words of desire for another, he knew that. It was fine for those of lower castes, but because of his station, it was inappropriate to do so. Such had been ingrained in him since he was but a youngling who hid behind his mother’s hip.  

 

Still, it also wasn’t proper for someone of his status to spend a better part of his time venturing to the human world to watch over someone very dear to them.

 

Jungkook himself slowly moves his eyeline from the iridescent rainbow of sapphire, emerald amethyst-like scales that glimmer with each strong flick of Taehyung’s tail as the soft light from the bottom of the pool casts itself over them. It is when he finally speaks, albeit with the same nervousness that is flecked by tentatively small words, that Taehyung finds himself utterly caught again in those impossibly big, brown eyes that he has come to like so much,” I know that, but…who are you, Kim Taehyung,” he cocks his head to the side-Taehyung really wishes he didn’t find that so adorable-before he continues,” and why did you bring me here?”

 

Taehyung had been sent to watch over the young prince for many years, but he wasn’t about to tell the prince that. Too much was at stake and if he said too much, it would only cause more trouble for Jungkook. That was the last thing the heir of Atlilantia wanted for him. So, while he can’t bring himself to tell Jungkook the whole truth, he knows that Jungkook deserves to know at least something.

 

So, he curls his fingers around his chin, tapping it as his brows draw closer together as if in deep thought while Jungkook patiently watches,” Me? I’ve already told you who I am, Jungkook. What more do you want to know?”

 

Everything.

 

“What are you to this place that you’ve brought me?” Jungkook asks.

 

Taehyung was many things in his world. He had titles and parts of himself that were far beyond what Jungkook had ever been taught to believe could be real. He was next in line for the throne of the water realm, Atlilantia. He was the last of the purebred water creatures. He had been bestowed with absolute control and power over water. He had been protector and watcher of the seas since he had learned to hold a trident at a mere two and a half years old. He had been the sovereign for the seas for thousands of years.

 

He’d also been tasked to watch over a certain human for eighteen years in preparation for the prophesied day that he could not yet tell to Jungkook. Taehyung thinks about all of these things, trying to decide what he could possibly say that would best give the boy the best understanding of his situation and circumstances.

 

It’s Jungkook who finds his voice-why did Taehyung find that sound so pleasing? -as he sits back on his heels,” You told me you were, well, that you are the heir of Atliantia,” he furrows a dark brow,” but what does that mean? For you to have been able to wield water as well…what does it mean? Only the ancient creatures of myth could harness the power of nature. You did. All of this should be impossible, but it’s not. How?”

 

Taehyung chuckles at that, waving a hand downwards to gesture to the very real evidence that he is nothing short of a swimming contradiction to the young prince’s words,” You are right. My power lies within water, young prince. As you can see, I am nothing like what you knew in your other, smaller world.”

 

Other world? Smaller world? What? The questions start to flood his mind as he tries to navigate through the maze of vagueness that is Kim Taehyung.  Jungkook only stares dumbly at him at that, but even that expression of widened eyes and a parted mouth displaying perfectly aligned teeth that remind him of a bunny is something the heir of Atlilantia finds he likes to look at. Very much so, he internally adds.

 

It seems Taehyung had been right to keep the whole truth away from him. The poor boy looked like he was having enough trouble understanding as it was. But then, Taehyung couldn’t blame him, either. He’s sure if the situation had been on the other tail-or in his prince’s situation, feet- he would have been the same way. There was a lot to take in and he hadn’t actually told Jungkook even a quarter of the truth, choosing to tread lightly on some kind of version of a small part of it so as not to overwhelm the boy. He was trying to tread carefully for Jungkook’s sake. He always had.

 

Don’t worry, young prince. I will tell you everything in due time. You’re too delicate to go around knowing everything right now, Taehyung mused as he rested his head on his arm. A fleeting flow of wondering comes to him like a tide and vanishes as quickly as it appears; he really wonders how it’s fair for a human to look so handsome even in utter confusion and with clothes in such tatters.

 

Jungkook is not remiss to admit that he is lost. Just when he thinks he has his head wrapped around something, it’s turned the other way and tangled up before he can make sense of what had happened. The merman is being as vague as ever and Jungkook suddenly thinks of something as he takes in the man before him that studies him intently, watching for signs of what, Jungkook doesn’t know.

 

Is he being so careful with what he says because he thinks I can’t handle it?

 

The question presses insistently in his mind, memories flashing of when he’d been but a boy and his uncle had all but exiled him from the castle whenever he had council meetings or affairs pertaining to the state of his kingdom. He’d still listened to some, of course-his uncle could try, but the old man had never succeeded in telling him what to do without force. One would have to have Jungkook’s respect for him to obey demands such as those-but his uncle, too had thought him too much of a child to deem him worthy to hear such things.

 

He wonders if Taehyung, too, thinks of him like a child who cannot handle the truth of the world and if that is what keeps the merman so quiet when it comes to matters like these. For some reason, he doesn’t want Taehyung to think of him to be too immature for the truth. Part of the reason he had worked so hard to tone his own body had been this very reason. He didn’t want there to be any doubt that he was not mature, was not a man. He was a prince, after all, and he had just turned eighteen years old.

 

He looks above to what should have been the ceiling of the cavern. The curiousness is quick to surface again at the sight of the soft blue bioluminescence that comes from the life that resides in the whole sea that is there. He has to learn more about this place. It’s nothing he’d ever dreamed of seeing before.

 

Maybe it’s that Taehyung has a continual mysteriousness he so confidently weaves into his person and that is like a current that pulls Jungkook in. Maybe it’s that he wants to know more about this world and the events that had led him here, or maybe it’s something he wonders deep in the pit of his mind about the merman as he watches the gentle sway of the waves dancing across the water that make him look back into the golden eyes of the man-he is trying to keep the heat in his cheeks at bay. He really is, but it’s so very hard when Taehyung looks like that-that make him say,” I’m not a child, Taehyung. You can tell me what it seems like you’re trying to hide, even if it’s only a small part of it. I want to know more about this place, more about you,” he says that last word very small before his voice shifts, as if he is embarrassed to even say it (Taehyung doesn’t miss the way he looks down for a second before he’s greeted again by those pretty brown eyes) before he continues,” so please tell me. I won’t break.” He finishes with a larger, stronger voice.

 

Taehyung inwardly smiles, Oh, but you were a child once, dear prince. There were times I had seen you where you had shown you were still but a boy. I know because I have watched you through it all. On the outside Taehyung just looks him, mirroring his earlier action of tilting his head to the side. The prince’s words had been eager in their resolve to put a crack in the barrier Taehyung had tried to construct to keep himself from saying too much, but honestly, he knew it would have started to break eventually. Jungkook had always had his own way with him as the prince just stares with a new resolve back at him.

 

 It’s when Jungkook shifts that Taehyung sees it. It’s quick and fleeting, but it’s definitely and undeniably there.  It flashes in Jungkook’s eyes, powerful and determined just like the prince that looks at him now with set brows and a strong, fixed jaw. If Taehyung’s internal barrier hadn’t been cracked before, it all but shatters then. He’d always. known without a doubt that Jungkook was no ordinary human, but now he had bona fide proof.

 

Ordinary men didn’t have entire galaxies that danced in their eyes like stars shooting through the night sky. Ordinary men did not have irises that turned as white as the moon itself.

 

He tries in vain to keep the gasp hidden in his throat away, but it slips before he can stop it. Jungkook’s dark brows furrow even more, leaning forward with a concerned look as he reaches down for him, but stops-was that a shy hesitance that Taehyung saw reflect through those eyes that he had somehow made smaller? -when he realizes what he’s doing,” Taehyung, are you alright?”

 

Other than the fact that I just saw entire celestial system in your eyes, yeah, I’m fine!

 

It’s what he’s thinking, but Taehyung is too caught up in his own surprise that feels as though it’s just been thrown over him like a bucket of water, finding himself unable to give much of a response other than,” Yeah, I’m fine.”

 

“You just made a sound with your mouth and your mouth is kind of hanging open. You sure about that?” Jungkook replies, arching a full brow while one side of his lips tug upwards.

 

The sight warms Taehyung, but the mortification that clings to his chest is not lost on him at Jungkook’s response. He must’ve just looked quite the fool as he closes his mouth to jut his chin out in a defiance that is in no way cold, “Hmph, was not!” Maybe it’s the nonplusment that he feels that makes his voice come out quick and rushed.

 

The prince just looks on in curiousness, his eyes smaller with little crinkles under them that Taehyung thinks make him look hopelessly boyish (not that it is a bad thing, he actually thought it was cute).

 

Jungkook doesn’t seem to notice any difference at all, which boggles Taehyung further. The prince’s eyes have returned to their normal brown, but the strange thing is that Taehyung would have thought that he would have at least felt something, what with his eyes changing the way they had. He only tilts his neck to the side more, sure that he must look like some kind of confused seal.

 

Taehyung is mindful of the words he chooses next, not wanting to say the wrong thing and reveal too much too soon,” Anyway, that’s not important,” Taehyung moves his eyeline downwards over the prince’s unfairly toned body, forcing himself not to linger anywhere too long in his effort to assess Jungkook for any other physical change, “You didn’t happen to see or feel anything just now, did you?” He finishes, moving his gaze back to the young prince’s eyes, not missing the way Jungkook arches another brow before looking down at himself in attempt to see what it was that Taehyung had been trying to look at.

 

Jungkook decides not to say that Taehyung has this strange ability to make his cheeks red with the way he looks at him. Nor does he say it feels like every time the merman gets closer to him, his pulse quickens and his chest heats up.

 

When he’s satisfied with his own appraisal of himself, the prince looks just as baffled as he feels, the emotion set unwaveringly in the way he speaks,” Taehyung, I didn’t feel anything at all…what does this have to do anything?”

 

Taehyung just waves his hands out in front of him as if to deflect any suspicion, choosing to give him that boxy smile that Jungkook is finding is so pleasing to look at, words coming quick and slightly higher pitched this time,” Oh, nothing!” He’s shaking his head now because Jungkook’s eyes are now crinkling even more,” It’s really not anything important, young prince. You uh, you had questions, right? I can answer those instead!”

 

Strange creature, Jungkook thought. He supposed if the merman wanted so badly to change the subject and was insisting with such vigor that it really had been nothing, it wasn’t something that needed to be discussed any longer.

 

Pushing past the nervousness that hung over him like a cloak was difficult every time he so much as looked at Taehyung, but he thinks he’s starting to get better at it. After all, when he speaks, he can hear that it’s stronger and surer this time. Drawing his brows together at the perpetually perplexing creature, he responds,” If that’s what you wish, I suppose I can’t ignore an offer to know more about this place since you’re always so keen to be tight lipped about it.”

 

Taehyung releases a breath of relief he hadn’t known he’d been holding as Jungkook speaks, but by the end, worry starts to make him feel heavier again. What if he said too much? He tries to push that thought away, looking away to watch the water that laps against his chest gently as if to reassure him that it would be alright. Jungkook himself watches. He notices Taehyung’s expression shift from a relaxed one to a concerned one very quickly. A sudden bout of disquiet hits him hard at the sight and he’s filled with a sudden want for Taehyung to be rid of that emotion. So, he does the only thing he thinks might work.

 

“Please, Taehyung, tell me.” He leans forward, his own expression changing in effort to draw out the emotion that he can see surfacing in Taehyung’s eyes.

 

When Taehyung looks back up, he knows he’s lost, what with the way Jungkook is now looking at him with larger, pleading eyes. The crinkles are gone from around his eyes, instead between two dark brows. His hair is somehow parted perfectly along the middle to frame the diadem that glints energetically at him and his shirt (torn as it is) has somehow opened further to the point where Taehyung can see the taunting shadows of a defined set of abdominals.

 

And honestly, how could Taehyung find it in himself to resist that?

 

He sighs, his defeat evident in the deepness of it as he makes to rise from the water. With a tail as large as his, it’s a feat to even be able to pull his upper body upwards, but he manages with a practiced ease after doing so for many years of life. Jungkook falls backward on his heels, his mouth dropping a little when that familiar unsureness returns to his voice,” Wh-What are you doing?”

 

In all honesty, Jungkook was only acting like this because of Taehyung’s new proximity. Well, that’s what he wanted to think, anyway. The closer that Taehyung got to him, the more finicky he became, he was very quickly learning. Still, he has to fight that if it means getting some answers. He was no closer to finding any than before, if only for Taehyung’s obvious reluctance to say anything. It only made him more fascinating to Jungkook-not that he wasn’t a little frustrated by it- if he was being truthful to himself.

 

Taehyung’s only just been able to situate himself on the edge of the pool, gently taking hold of the bottom of his tail that had still been resting in the water-his tail had never felt decidedly long even after he’d been told by just about everyone that he had one of the longest and most beautiful tails to ever exist, but under Jungkook’s watchful gaze he’s somehow now realizing just how long it is really is-to lay it down in front of him. He’s carefully brushing off his scales when he answers, his acquiescence unwavering when he does,” I’m going to take you somewhere that might help you understand more than words might,” He pauses, slowly looking to Jungkook when his own self-doubt surges under the intensity of Jungkook’s gaze (he really is trying not to let the fact that he has a tail get the better of him in the thought that the prince might find him repulsive even when he’d already admitted that he found Taehyung beautiful, but it’s so very difficult),”…is it okay?”

 

Jungkook’s learning that Taehyung isn’t skilled at hiding his emotions (which wasn’t a bad thing, necessarily. He rather liked being able to read the man so as to understand him more. He might have enjoyed seeing the man switch from playful to bashful so quickly under his own doing, but he wasn’t about to admit that). While he himself can be as unreadable as a blank slate of stone, Taehyung can be said to be the exact opposite. Still, the man’s words paired with the way he had looked self-consciously at his tail had been clear enough to him that the merman still had doubts that Jungkook wasn’t utterly intrigued with him.

 

The double meaning of those words is not lost on Jungkook, who he keeps his eyes on Taehyung’s, the extremeness to which he regards him making Taehyung’s own blood run just a little bit faster,” Undoubtedly.”

 

The word fills what little space is between them loud and clear, the surety to which Jungkook had spoken it reflected in his eyes that look piercingly at Taehyung. Any nervousness he’d felt or spoken with earlier is gone and Taehyung wonders how Jungkook can shed it so easily to become the creature that stares at him now. The merman resists the urge to let loose a breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding.

 

While Jungkook wants to know more about this place, needs to know why Taehyung had brought him here, it seems the merman is keen on keeping that information to himself for just a little while longer. Jungkook wonders what it could possibly be about this world and about Taehyung that has the merman so reluctant to say anything about it. Still, he is placated by the knowledge that Taehyung is about to show, rather than explain himself, about what is really going on soon enough. He normally would find himself irritated and probably a little bit angry if he’d been trying to get something and it wasn’t given to him almost as soon as he asked, but he just couldn’t find it in himself to muster any of that towards Taehyung.

 

After all, Taehyung had saved his life.

 

What a strange creature, Taehyung thinks, resisting the urge to wet his lips in the feeling that Jungkook was stirring in his chest. Somehow, that doubt that was momentarily sinking his spirits has been lifted, the short but concise response quick to assuage his worries like a calming wave that fell over him. He had been expecting more resistance on Jungkook’s part since the boy had been relentless in trying to get him to explain, but perhaps his silence has been more effective than he originally thought.

 

Jungkook then makes to stand, eyes still focused on nothing but Taehyung before he looks to the pool of water next to Taehyung and the ceiling of water above him to display a perfectly strong neck and jawline that Taehyung might have to bite his lip at to keep the sound from escaping him.

 

The young prince’s brows inch closer together as the diadem on his forehead lowers with the small indents in the skin there while a look of thought crosses his expression as if he is only now thinking and realizing something,” Hey, how exactly are we going to get out of here, Taehyung?”

 

The heir of Atlilantia himself just smirks at the boy who misses the way his scales suddenly sink into skin that gradually shifts from cyan to a tanned golden color, the way his tail grows smaller before each end separates and leaves behind toes that connect to feet and feet that connect to legs. The familiar burning sensation causes a momentary grimace, but that too goes unseen by the prince who continues to glare hardly at the ceiling as if looking there will reveal all that he wants to know.

 

Taehyung has always been one for modesty, but right now he is particularly glad he’d had his earlier human clothes enchanted so that they would still appear on his human form had he made his aquatic shift as he had earlier.

 

Once the burning pain has subsided, he too rises to stand, his smirk growing wider when Jungkook finally notices that he is no longer on the floor. That he is no longer in his aquatic form. Not for the first time, his jaw drops-only slightly this time, Taehyung notes- and his eyes cutely widen,” How did you- “

 

Taehyung brushes the question aside, a light chuckle tumbling from his lips,” Of everything you have seen, is this really the most peculiar thing I have shown you?”

 

No.

 

“It’s one of many, Taehyung.”

 

Taehyung only looks on at him amusedly, intrigued by his answer,” Then you will have the answers to it soon enough.” He finishes with a knowing smile.

 

Jungkook looks like he wants to respond, opening his mouth but closing it almost as soon as he does. Taehyung arches a brow, waiting for him to say something. When the boy’s eyes grow a little bit smaller, that’s when he counters,” Will you really not explain even this to me, Taehyung?” He wonders aloud, his eyebrows furrowing even more so that the diadem’s gem looks as if it is trailing down his face, “Why must you be so secretive from me?”

 

To protect you and to keep you safe.

 

It’s what he wants to say, but Taehyung just does an animated shrug as if he hasn’t actually thought and known that answers for years,” Because I feel like it.” His smirk grows wider.

 

Jungkook is clearly not amused, answering with lips that press together-Taehyung really needs to know how someone’s lips can be so beautifully red and plump-as he crosses his arms over his chest,” You know,” he makes to walk toward Taehyung, getting closer to him with each word that falls from his lips,” telling me even one thing once in a while wouldn’t be such a bad thing, would it?” He finishes as he nears Taehyung, the merman’s heart beating just a little bit faster in the prince’s nearness.

 

Taehyung’s own smirk falters if only for a second, his earlier cockiness all but evaporating in the sun that is Jungkook who looks down at him with an expression Taehyung can’t entirely read as he gets even closer to the heir of Atlilantia. For a second, Taehyung has an irrational hope that Jungkook will touch him. Ever since he’d felt Jungkook’s skin on his in the throne room and then again in this very cavern, he’s been taunted by how it would feel again.

 

Jungkook just studies him, assessing him for what, Taehyung doesn’t know. What he does know is that this boy has an unnatural ability to make him feel as though breathing isn’t necessary to function. The intensity that Jungkook stares just does things to him and he can’t help but to look down and away from those deep brown eyes that seem as though they’re searching his very soul when he looks into them. He’s so close that Taehyung can feel the warm breath that caresses his cheeks, can feel the heat that emanates from this human’s body. He really, really likes that.

 

Just when he thinks he’s about to break from the closeness, Jungkook moves past him, leaving him utterly breathless and alone before he immediately turns to find Jungkook leaning against the wall, staring expectantly at him. With a flick of his brow, he asks,” You were going to show me something, were you not, Kim Taehyung?”

 

Taehyung just stares back, not missing the amused glint that now resides in the human’s own eyes. Gone is the earlier nervousness that had so made him seem like a boy, this new sureness he had wrapped himself in becoming him well in the emergence of a man. Taehyung supposes that Jungkook is starting to get used to him now and that’s why he’s acting more confident.

 

Stars, what is it about you that pulls at me so?

 

The thought passes through his mind as quickly as it comes and Taehyung just continues to hold Jungkook’s gaze, lifting his hands to fix the collar of his shirt in attempt to look unaffected, but he knows he’ll only be able to hide so much from Jungkook. He didn’t know if Jungkook had already figured out that he had more of an influence over him than he gave him credit for, but Taehyung knew one thing for certain; As soon as Jungkook figured that out, he was going to have Taehyung hopelessly wrapped around his strong (and long, Taehyung had noticed) fingers.

 

He hopes he doesn’t look as flustered as he feels, making an internal promise to himself to get the young prince back for this while he shakes his head as if that will clear away the feelings and thoughts he needs to get out right now. He had told Jungkook he would do something and he intends to make good on his word.

 

 So, with a simple,” Of course, highness,” Taehyung closes his eyes, raising an arm while he summons his element with the same practiced ease Jungkook had seen him do at the ceremony. Taehyung does not have to focus too much on it, for he has a stronger affinity with his element than any of his kind and as such it responds far more willingly to him than it does anyone else. He can feel the slow ebb of the water as it pushes back from and into the rock of the pool next to him, can feel the tranquil waves of the water above him as if he it is lapping over his own skin while he allows the placidity of the water around him to wash over him and calm him before he urges the water of each body of the liquid next to and above him to trail along the walls like clear liquid vines that stretch along before meeting at and circling around a large boulder that sits along the other end of the room.

 

Jungkook looks questioningly to Taehyung, but he’s more in awe of this strange power than anything else. He says nothing, his voice unwilling to cooperate as he tries to make sense of what he’s seeing. The water continues to stream towards the boulder until the entirety of the rock is surrounded by the element. It’s then that Taehyung chances a peek at the prince and he’s not disappointed at what he finds as he lifts his arm, the boulder following it as if tied to an invisible string until the rock slowly but eventually is lifted from the floor to create ripples when it makes contact with the waiting water of the ceiling.

 

Creased eyes and a crinkled nose wait for Taehyung when he looks to Jungkook, an amused grin lighting his own features as he curls his fingers inward, imagining the water hardening until he hears the slow popping sound that signals the solidification of his element. He hadn’t frozen it; it was more like he’d just hardened it and made it solid. When his hand comes down to rest against his side, Jungkook stares at it as if it is strangest thing in the world.

 

It’s Taehyung’s turn to be amused, his mirth all but flooding his chest when he begins to walk toward the rough-cut hole in the wall that hadn’t been there moments before. When he gets there he only turns his head back, and the obvious jocularity is there in his eyes and cheeks that are raised with the grin that grows wider at Jungkook’s speechlessness,” Well? Are you coming, highness?”

 

Chapter Text




 

Truthfully, Jungkook doesn’t know how to act anymore. Taehyung has succeeded in continually putting him in a place where he’s at a total loss to anything and everything around him and whether that is the heir of Atlilantia’s plan or not is beyond him. He just really, really, wishes that he didn’t become so easily dumbfounded at just about everything that Taehyung does. The man clearly is insatiable when it comes to drinking in Jungkook’s own ignorance that surges pitifully through him, the need to understand pushing insistently against his chest with each second that passes.

 

His jaw must have fallen again, because Taehyung is giving that amused smirk Jungkook is finding he earns way too often (though, it’s not as if he’s opposed even if the cause of that smirk is his own incomprehension to just about everything connected to Taehyung).

 

It’s like he’s in this pit and he’s trying to find his footing to get out, but every time he thinks he’s found the right stone or jut in the rock to pull himself upwards, it slips out from under him. He’d just watched Taehyung move a boulder the size of a carriage across the room like it was nothing using water.  

 

He has to clear his throat to avoid the break in his voice he knows is lurking there, choosing to look back to the pool of water that Taehyung had been in only moments ago as if expecting the water around them to move again,” You…You’re not going to explain that to me, are you?”

 

“Nope,” Taehyung smoothly replies, popping the ‘p’ for emphasis as he goes to fix the collar of the conspicuously clean and dry white linen shirt that had not needed fixing. Jungkook doesn’t quite get why the man would do something like that, but he isn’t given time to think too much on it before Taehyung’s inspecting the three top buttons of his chest that have somehow unbuttoned themselves. He busies himself with closing them as he continues,” But I might be inclined to tell if you follow me, prince.”

 

The prince is finding that he’s becoming too distracted with the sliver of almost bronze-like skin that is flashing at him, so he (not without difficulty) makes himself look away. He’d rather not be caught staring if he can help it, not when Jungkook already finds Taehyung to be one of the prettiest things he’s ever seen. He wishes he didn’t have a fleeting thought about how smooth that skin that Taehyung has just hidden away might be if the man’s hands are any indication, the memory flashing through his mind of the throne room and how soft and impossibly warm Taehyung’s hand had felt entwined with his own.

 

When he hears a noise of questioning, the prince is brought back to the present. This time, he is mortified because Taehyung’s now looking at him with an even wider grin that resembles that of a box. How someone can do that and look so charming is beyond Jungkook.

 

“You do enjoy keeping all this from me, don’t you?” He asks, though there is no discontent in the way he says it. Rather, the question is more teasing than anything else because Jungkook truthfully can’t find it in himself to be displeased with the man. His continued crypticity and unbothered reserve to keep the secrets of all this are definitely serving to capture Jungkook’s interests more.

 

That’s not to say that the physical image of a sliver of golden skin that peeks through an opened ‘V’ style shirt doesn’t do anything to soothe any frustration he might have as Taehyung-really, who buttons a shirt that slow? -moves to hide it away.

 

The mortification only clutches him further when Jungkook moves his eyeline back to Taehyung only to see him nod his head, the obvious glint in his eyes mischievous as he runs a hand through his perfectly parted hair-why does that look send some feeling to Jungkook’s stomach that makes him feel as if it might be floating?- when he beckons Jungkook with an outstretched hand,” Do you want me to take you somewhere you might better understand me?” He finishes with a flick of a brow.

 

There’s something suggestive about that. About the way he stands, the way he moves those two fingers toward himself that he holds out to Jungkook paired with the way he says those words. Jungkook doesn’t know what it is, but that’s nothing new when it comes to Taehyung. Perhaps it was just part of Taehyung’s personality to look at people with something baser than average interest lodged deep within his irises, Jungkook figures, though he’s not quite sure what that baser feeling is yet. He wonders if Taehyung looks at his friends the way he looks at him now. If Taehyung makes someone other than him feel like their stomach is filled with butterflies. The look that the man is giving him is making it hard to think of much else with eyes that all but glint in interest. 

 

He shouldn’t be thinking about this. Not so soon after Taehyung had made him admit what he really thought of his physicality.

 

“I-Uh, weren’t you about to show me something?” His words are quick and rushed now, but it’s just as small. Just as timid, if Taehyung has any thoughts on it. He thinks it’s cute how quickly he can get Jungkook flustered. The boy still continues to look a bit like an adorable bunny with those wide eyes and parted lips. There might be a fleeting thought about the latter that Taehyung doesn’t spend too much time thinking on, though it is still undeniably there with how quickly he has to push that away.

 

This is not the time for that, he inwardly tells himself.

 

It’s then that Jungkook takes a tentative step towards him, the same unsureness shining in those big, pretty eyes as he squinches them and looks to Taehyung expectantly, waiting for the heir of Atlilantia to give an affirming nod (which Taehyung does, but he still chooses to retain a grin because it really is so easy to do that when Jungkook looks so obviously lost but in want to know more while he lowers his hand). It’s when Taehyung stays silent and Jungkook tilts his own head to the side that Taehyung decides to offer,” I suppose I told you something like that at some point.” There is an obvious lilt in his voice that makes the playfulness about him very clear. Jungkook thinks he likes that. 

 

Jungkook only cocks a brow upward as if to say, are you sure about that?

 

Taehyung hums, feigning a deep thought as he leans back and wrinkles his nose. There are creases between his sculpted brows now, too, but Jungkook thinks that it too looks good on him even now, while he so conspicuously tries to fool him; not that that works.  It’s like Taehyung tries too hard, but it’s definitely not something Jungkook is averse to. He rather likes it, if he’s being honest. It’s positively charming, he thinks.

 

There’s a little chuckle that echoes around the cavern and Taehyung really likes how mellifluous that sounds. When that sound eventually ends, Jungkook has stopped and is looking down at him. It makes his breath catch-the prince is standing only a foot or so away from Taehyung now and the proximity doesn’t go unnoticed by Taehyung who subconsciously melts backward into the wall-when Jungkook innocently leans in only about an inch, his breath warm against Taehyung’s cheeks,” You know, you’re not very good at faking that thinking thing that you do, but I think it’s still funny. You should do that more.”

 

The prince is searching Taehyung, his eyes taking in the picture that is Taehyung as if that will help him to make sense of everything. It doesn’t work, but what Jungkook does learn-and very quickly- is that Taehyung’s skin is clearer than the waters of a spring but tanned as the golden color of beach sand.  He thinks he hears Taehyung draw in a breath, but he’s too swept away in the man’s eyes when he brings himself to look at him. They are larger than their usual almond shape, but Jungkook doesn’t know why. Is it because he is surprised, Jungkook wonders? Still, he makes no move to step back. He’s very much enjoying the way Taehyung has gone speechless.

 

It makes him feel like he’s getting some form of well deserved justice, however small, in how Taehyung seems to have knack for taking away his own ability to speak like a normal person. It’s petty, he knows, but he’s very much enjoying the feeling of knowing that he can do to Taehyung what the man has incessantly been doing to him since he’d met him. Jungkook isn’t sure what the feeling is, but he surmises that it’s something along the lines of being content in realizing Taehyung really has gone silent below him when he raises a questioning brow as he waits for an answer from Taehyung and receives none.

 

It’s Taehyung’s turn to feel his chest go weightless at that last statement, wondering if the prince knows what he’s doing and how close he is. Jungkook’s looking at him with the same intrigue as he always has, the large and black diamond that sits between them paling in comparison. How it is possible to have him caught so intensely under that gaze, Taehyung doesn’t know. He doubts the boy is aware of what this might look like to the average person but seeing as he had never seen the prince interact with really anyone besides his brother or advisors, he supposes the young prince isn’t. Even so, while he's definitely affected by Jungkook’s inexperience with interaction, he has to cage that feeling going on in his chest if they are to make it to where they need to go.

 

Jungkook honestly isn’t sure why he has brought himself so close to the heir of Atlilantia. He’d seen his brother get close like this to the girls that had been brought to the palace for courtship of him when Jungkook had been hiding in the shadows of the palace, a mere child at the time. So, with only memories of that to guide him in how he thinks he should act, he figures getting closer to Taehyung, at least physically, might show that he isn’t afraid of him and that he wants to be friends. Hoping for more, he supposes, is too much right now. He’s not even sure if Taehyung likes him like that, despite having protected and saved him from certain death.

 

Even though he had grown up in a palace, he had never been taught the ways of interaction between friends or of significant others. It hadn’t ever really mattered to him, but right now, he really, really wishes he’d been taught how to act around a person that one finds they have liking for. He’s finding it’s very hard to quell the way his chest pangs whenever Taehyung so much as looks at him, but from his position, he very quickly realizes that he’s taller than the heir of Atlilantia, though only slightly so. He doesn’t know why that particular fact, paired with the way Taehyung looks up at him from under a fan of dark lashes, pleases him.

 

Taehyung has to take a moment to reign himself in and answers, deciding to tease the boy that entertains him so while he pushes himself off the wall he’d been leaning on before he can fall against it,” Pfft, I have the best expressions in this world, prince, so excuse me if you can’t appreciate them for what they are!” He replies, his cheeks starting to hurt from smiling so much.

 

Jungkook doesn’t miss the mention of ‘this world,’ but he keeps quiet about it. He’s reconciled with himself about Taehyung’s continued muteness when it comes to telling him anything about this place, figuring that the heir of Atlilantia will tell him as he’s promised soon enough. Perhaps that is what leads him into wanting to play with Taehyung a little bit. He thinks there’s a lot of fun to be had in it if Taehyung’s behavior so far with him is in any indicator. Besides, it was in Jungkook’s nature, once he’d become acquainted enough with a person, to be playful and banter back and forth.

 

“Aish… I do appreciate them for what they are, Taehyung,” the heir of Atliantia hears behind him as the sound of feet against rock reverberate around them along the ovular cut rock walls high enough that Jungkook can’t even see the top when he squints,” You just have a really comical way of doing things with it that, when you fake it, are funny.”

 

“Funny, you say? I have lots of titles and have been called lots of honorable things around here, but none of them have anything with ‘funny’ involved with them, prince.” He amusedly says. Taehyung can’t help himself when it comes to messing with this boy. Reigning in his feelings was one thing, but playing with him was another. He was just so amusing. When he hears a small ‘hmm’ behind him, Taehyung turns, nearly causing the unsuspecting boy to crash into him.

 

He can’t see much in the darkness that cascades itself like a waterfall around them, but those big, beautiful eyes are waiting for him, enlarged in Taehyung’s sudden movement when he asks,” You had so many questions about me earlier…what happened to them? Don’t you want to know what I’m called?”

 

Jungkook shrugs, his eyes returning to their usual size while he considers him. Only when Taehyung takes a step back-when had he gotten so close to him? -does Jungkook answer. “I do." 

 

He looks around again and Taehyung briefly wonders if he’s searching for some light amongst the dark. The heir of Atliantia doubts he can see anything but him in the darkness with the only source of light coming from a chamber just a few steps away. When the boy moves his eyeline from the rocks, Taehyung had been expecting mirth in them, but there is only sincerity; the earlier playfulness has quieted for a moment if his eyes say anything about it when the boy looks back at him and he offers,” I suppose I’ve just become resolved to the fact that you won’t tell me until we get to wherever it is you’re so keen on taking me.”

 

There is no bite or dismay in his voice, only acceptance that is so clearly brought about by the unknown that Jungkook has not learned of yet. Taehyung feels a wave of discontentment through his ribs at that because he knows that Jungkook’s ignorance at this point is his doing. He is more aware now that the reason for that is on his shoulders, weighing down on him now as it has for eighteen years since the birth of the prince, but he too is resolved in his decision to do what he’s about to do. Soon, Jungkook would understand. It was all to assure his safety.

 

All of it, for there was no person as important to Kim Taehyung than Jeon Jeongguk.  

 

Taehyung studies him again in that dark corridor, putting a hand on his shoulder and gently squeezing when he answers. He'd been fighting a very hard urge not to touch him, but it's just so hard when he looks that good even in ripped clothes.  He has to try not to think about how toned and absolutely corded with muscle the skin there is when he pulls his hand away. There were more important things he needed to deal with right now. He wants, no…he needs Jungkook to understand. All previous mischievousness, too, has drained itself, the need to reassure the boy fierce as he tells him,” You will understand soon. I give you my word that once we go to where we need to be, I will show you what you want to know.”

 

Ever an enigma, but you are hard man not to believe when you look at me like that, Jungkook inwardly muses. He briefly wonders how the man can look so good with darkness all but clouding over him, but the thought does not stay for too long.

 

They stay like that for how long, they don’t know, Jungkook just searching the eyes of Taehyung and getting lost in the earnestness that had replaced the earlier playfulness. It ebbs and flows like a tide, never ceasing to shine bright in those eyes as bright as the sun.

 

“You must know that I will give you the answers you seek soon enough, prince. I know it is hard, but all I ask is that you place just a little trust in me to take you to where we need to be.” The words Taehyung had said ring around them and resonate deeply with Jungkook, for he can see it in the way they are reflected by those eyes that have somehow brightened in intensity as if it’s Taehyung’s own way of trying to show him that he means it.

 

It’s difficult to do to anything other than let the words wash over him and placate what little frustration had been there, but Taehyung has that way about him, Jungkook supposes, for he believes the man.

 

He can see it in Taehyung’s eyes as clear as a summer day. He’d only met Taehyung however recently, but the man had saved his life. For that, Jungkook owed him his trust and even his patience, though the latter typically was easier to give than the former for him. Jungkook wasn’t naïve. Truly, if the man meant any ill will on him, he would have done something to him already.  Of that, Jungkook is certain.

 

More than that, though, Taehyung has been nothing but kind to him so far and that alone is more refreshing than he could hope for as someone that had lived a very sheltered and lonely life.

 

Maybe that’s why he puts a hand behind his neck, rubbing at the skin there as he tentatively and so very quietly says,” You’ve given me no reason not to.”

 

Taehyung’s lips lift into a smile that reach his eyes at that, that reassuring smile replacing the serious expression that had been there moments before,” Good. I’m more grateful than you know to have earned that, your highness.” He turns, resuming their walk down the dark and narrow corridor to add,” To be honest, though, I thought I was going to have to try a lot harder to gain something as valuable as your trust, prince. You should not hand something so special over so easily.”

 

Jungkook finds that urge to tease him again at the almost lecture-like tone,” Would you rather me say that I didn’t?” He quirks a brow, but it’s not as if Taehyung sees that.

 

“No!” Taehyung’s response is immediate and it surprises Jungkook as to the intensity to which he’s just called out the word. His voice had gone deeper than he was used to hearing, but it had been loud and strong even with how quickly it had tumbled from his lips. It’s cute that Taehyung would become so easily flustered with the notion of Jungkook’s trust dangling before his eyes. He must value it, but to whatever extent, Jungkook isn’t sure. What he does know is that he finds it extremely satisfying to know that Taehyung is like this regarding him. So satisfying that he can’t help but to laugh at how animated Taehyung is as he now waves his hands back in forth in front of him like that will keep Jungkook from rescinding what he’s just said. He couldn't even if he wanted to. What Taehyung is doing is just too cute.

 

Another chuckle can be heard behind Taehyung as Jungkook laughs yet again. The sound is like music to Taehyung’s ears, for the sound he makes is so sweet and colored with emotion that it has him wanting to turn around and look at Jungkook once more. He makes a mental note to make Jungkook laugh more often, pushing the former thought from his mind.

 

Jungkook himself can’t keep the laugh from his voice when he offers,” You know, saving a life is a great way to get at least a little trust out of someone, Taehyung.” He pauses, wondering if he should be as honest with Taehyung as he has been with himself. All it takes is for Taehyung to cast a glance behind him that Jungkook can tell he had meant to be a furtive one, but it’s so endearingly obvious-and with those beautiful golden irises that glow softly even in the dark, how can he not find it to be?-that the man had wanted to look back at him that Jungkook can’t help it when he feels his lip pull upwards into a small smile at Taehyung’s failed attempt to be inconspicuous.

 

Taehyung must notice that Jungkook had caught on, because he’s quick to lift his chin and pout while he sticks out his lower lip, “What? Is it my hair or something?”

 

Truthfully, Taehyung’s cyan hair is parted perfectly down the middle and when Taehyung fiddles with the end of a couple of strands over his forehead, Jungkook has some thought to want to push it away himself and tuck it behind one of his ears, but it’s an irritational one that Jungkook is sure he’s letting himself get carried away with once again.

 

Jungkook shakes his head instead, offering a simple,” No, it’s not that.” He decides it would be wiser to avoid telling Taehyung what he really thinks of his hair and his face and really everything Taehyung is in his physicality because the mortification that would leave him would probably be deeper than any trench in the ocean. Taehyung gives a questioning look in Jungkook’s silence as the prince mulls over what he should and could say, and it’s then that Taehyung stops and so too does Jungkook.

 

Taehyung furrows a brow, “You look like you want to say something.” It’s not a question, but more of a statement with the way that he says it. It's attentive and pressing.

 

“it’s just…” It’s hard, really, it is. It’s hard for Jungkook to admit really anything of consequence to Taehyung because Taehyung’s presence is just so heedful and he's so ready to listen. Jungkook isn’t used to that beyond that of his brother, but even his brother had eventually left him. Taehyung, though… Taehyung had had every chance to leave and discard him, to leave him for dead when so many had wanted that. Jungkook just doesn’t know how to say that he owes so much more to Taehyung than his trust for saving him.

 

“It’s what, Jungkook?” Taehyung gently presses, the concern tilting his eyes downward making him look younger, more like the child that Jungkook feels like he is right now.

 

The words are out of his mouth before he can stop them.

 

” It’s about what you said,” he briefly ticks his head to the side, a habit born more out of nerves and embarrassment than anything else that he’d picked up when he was kid, “I really do think you have a right to my trust, Taehyung. When you put yourself in danger to keep me out of it, when you protected me from my own people. From my own uncle…” His voice becomes thinner with the longer that he speaks, but he has some kind of need to make Taehyung aware that Jungkook does indeed trust him. Taehyung’s actions had certainly afforded him that, in Jungkook’s mind.

 

The prince looks downward, nerves climbing and rising along his torso like a rockslide when Taehyung reassuringly grabs for his wrist, gently pulling him toward what looked to be a small alcove to the right of the plain stony walls of the caves but what actually leads into another cavernous chamber.

 

He pulls Jungkook into the chamber, one much like the first, save for the hole that was cut in the ceiling to permit the moon’s silvery light to cascade downwards over another pool of water. The water is blue as Taehyung’s hair, yet clearer than glass as it waits patiently for them.

 

The walls ascend upward and inch closer to each other with the higher altitude that is climbed with small ovular cuts along each side to encase spherical balls of water the same color as that of the body of liquid that had been resting idle above Jungkook in the first chamber. Each one, like the previous chamber’s water, has small, soft blinking lights that contain the same bioluminescent plankton. None of that is noticed by Jungkook, though, who is too caught up in Taehyung to have a care for anything else.

 

Perhaps the gentle, silvery light is what makes Taehyung all but glow in Jungkook’s eyes when he casts his gaze back up to him. He really is the most beautiful thing, he’s ever seen, Jungkook thinks.

 

The skin of Taehyung’s hand, as Jungkook remembered, is soft and so impossibly warm over his wrist as the man gently squeezes, prompting him to continue while Taehyung listens and waits patiently for him. Taehyung himself can’t ignore how strong Jungkook is where he holds him, thick muscle cording and covering everywhere that their skin meets even though he’s only taken hold of his forearm.

 

He’d originally grabbed the prince’s wrist, but somewhere in the movement from the corridor to the chamber, his hand has slipped upwards against the prince’s warm skin. He would wonder how the prince had acquired it all, but he already knew. Had already seen over eighteen years. Still, he had to admit that this was so wonderful after only being able to watch, but not being able to touch, for so many years.

 

“There’s something else, though, isn’t there?” Taehyung gently presses,” You can tell me. You know that, don’t you?”

 

There’s a sudden swell of something in Jungkook’s upper chest that he doesn’t know what to do with, isn’t sure how to place it or what to make of it. It’s just suddenly there and it beats just as his heart does, however small this new feeling is. He blames it on their proximity because yet again, he’s somehow right in front of Taehyung and the way the man looks at him like he could tell him anything is just… it’s so freeing and kind to Jungkook.

 

It’s what makes him release a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding before he confesses,” You saved me when you didn’t have to. When you didn’t need to. I guess it’s finally hitting me with how grateful I am to you for being there when no one else was. I didn’t have anyone growing up and I feel so weak to admit that I was afraid that I was going to die and then you suddenly came and- “

 

He’s not able to finish his rambling, he realizes with mortification, because suddenly Taehyung’s hand is gone from around his wrist and he swears he sees something unrecognizable flash through the man’s eyes before Taehyung closes them as if he thinks Jungkook might be able to read them.

 

Jungkook has to process the cold air that blows against that skin in Taehyung’s absence for only a second, wondering why it feels so cold in that area of his body without Taehyung’s skin against him. Belatedly, he realizes his chest is tightly pulled forward until it meets the warm and waiting one of Taehyung. The man wraps his arms around his neck, hugging and bringing him so close that Jungkook has no choice but to melt against him and lay his head against his shoulder. He all but drinks in the warmth that washes over him in the tight embrace that Taehyung has pulled him into.

 

His head resting over Jungkook’s shoulder, Taehyung whispers a soft, “It’s okay. I know.” Jungkook tries to ignore the way his eyes burn at those words. At the way that his vision is beginning to go hazy while his eyes become glassy, hidden against Taehyung’s neck.

 

Jungkook was not a person that easily allowed physical contact from people. It just wasn’t something he’d ever derived comfort or reason in. It never had been. He had always been introverted and hard to become close with, but for some reason, none of that mattered with Taehyung. Taehyung was warm. Taehyung was kind. Taehyung was safe.

 

A more childish part of Jungkook thinks he must have really been starved for affection as a child and this must be why he allows Taehyung to so easily pull him into his arms. A baser and more grown part, well… that part will just take what Taehyung will give to him because the man is radiant as the sun in his tenderness with him and Jungkook just can’t bring himself to move.

 

It’s awhile before Taehyung speaks, the song of the water that dances around them filling the space in the comfortable silence before he does, “Of course I came for you, Jungkook.”

 

He moves a hand to place it behind Jungkook’s head against the nape of his neck, running a hand downwards and back in effort to comfort him as he’d watched Jungkook’s brother do occasionally before he continues, willing away the threatening and slow, heated feeling to his own eyes that promise tears if he doesn’t get control over his emotions.

 

Taehyung really wishes he could just tell Jungkook what it is that burns him so, but he can’t. Too much is at stake and he must protect Jungkook at all costs.  For the sake of Jungkook’s own safety, he has to remain quiet about all that he cannot tell him until the time is right. Instead, he takes a breath to say something with so much sincerity- mirrored by the deepness with which he speaks- that Jungkook has to blink away his own rapidly forming tears to look up at him once more,” I know it must have been hard for you for so long, but I promise you that you’ll never feel that fear or loneliness again so as long as you let me stay by your side.”

 

The words almost make Jungkook want to cry. He hadn’t realized how much he needed to hear those words by any person until this moment, having been so alone and sheltered his whole life. No one has spoken to him with such emotion in their voice before. No one has looked at him with eyes that swim in softness, and no one has ever risked their life to protect his.

 

And really, how can Jungkook find it in himself to say no to that when the man has been nothing but kind to him?

 

Tentatively, he asks,” You…you want to be my ally?”

 

It’s not what he’s thinking, nor is it what he really wants, but then again he’s not quite sure what to make of much when it comes to Taehyung, so for now, he’ll take what he can get.

 

With Jungkook still in his embrace, Taehyung gives a slow, purposeful nod, the action as clear and meaningful as his words are when he offers,” If you would have me by your side, I would be honored to call myself your ally.”

 

There’s that swell of some emotion he can’t place against Jungkook’s chest, again. This time it’s a little stronger and more insistent as it flutters against his rib cage. It’s not an uncomfortable feeling, he’s coming to realize.

 

Taehyung truthfully wants to tell him that he would be honored to be called Jungkook’s, that he’s always been Jungkook’s, but that was something for another time, he supposed.

 

It’s then that Jungkook must realize what position they’re in and that they’re touching because when he looks down, his eyes widen and he pulls away too slowly to rouse any kind of concern out of Taehyung, offering a simple “Um, sorry.”

 

 It's endearing the way Jungkook lifts his shoulders and brings them back down as he looks around in effort to look as unaffected as Taehyung feels, but Taehyung decides to apologize anyway because he wants Jungkook to feel as comfortable as possible around him. He's waving his hands out in front of him while he squeezes his eyes shut and gives that boxy smile that Jungkook is finding he is becoming so very weak to,” Don’t be. I was the one who touched you without asking, so if anyone is apologizing, it’s definitely me!”

 

Jungkook only does that nervous little head tilt that Taehyung thinks is so adorable before he notices where they are, walking forward with his eyes falling on the pool of water before he turns to look at Taehyung, the obvious question in his expression of furrowed brows and narrowed eyes as he points to it.

 

Taehyung chuckles, amused that he can still make the boy nervous,” Ah, that… That would be where we need to go to get to where we need to be, prince.” Taehyung pops the ‘e,’ in an almost singsong like tone, the corners of his mouth lifted up in mirth when he watches Jungkook’s expression so cutely change when he himself leans against the wall and studies one of the watery lanterns as if it is the most interesting thing in the world.

 

Must you always do this to me? Jungkook wonders.

 

“We… we have to go in there? In the water?” Jungkook sounds positively and unequivocally confused once again with how his voice has lightened in disbelief and Taehyung couldn’t find it more adorable when he gazes back at him to be greeted with Jungkook's head tilted to the other side, eyebrows lifted rather than furrowed and lips that are pressed together as if he’s trying not to say something else.

 

Taehyung nods, a knowing expression crossing his features while he grins. Jungkook throws his head back and groans.

 

Chapter Text




 

 

“Taehyung,” Jungkook begins as he looks behind him, a picture of apprehensiveness that’s all but painted onto him with strong brows set against each other while his perfectly reddened lips-Taehyung, belatedly, realizes with some suspicion that those lips are such a vibrant and vivid color because Jungkook has been biting at them-are tightened into a thin line, “Do we have to go in there?”

 

Taehyung can’t stop the titter he’d been trying to keep caged in his throat, the prince’s obvious reluctance only serving to amuse the heir of Atiliantia more.

 

Lifting an eyebrow, Taehyung teases,” What, are you afraid of the water, Jungkook?” He steps forward, wholly enjoying the way the prince nervously fidgets under his interested gaze when their eyes meet,” You didn’t seem to have any qualms with it when you found out what I really am.” He finishes, a slight deepening to his tone that Jungkook can’t quite place, though he knows it makes the pulse that thrums against his chest beat just a little bit faster with the way Taehyung’s eyes seem to blaze a just a bit lighter when he looks downward, quickly returning his gaze to Jungkook’s eyes as if he had been concerned he’d linger wherever he’d been looking for too long.

 

Jungkook draws in a breath, chewing at his lip while he watches. He doesn’t know why it pleases him to have Taehyung focused so intently on him.

 

Taehyung’s insinuation-paired with what the man had just done- has Jungkook’s cheeks start to burn and he’s toying with a lock of his own chestnut colored hair before he realizes that he’s thinking about how close he had been to Taehyung when the man had been in the watery pool of the previous cavern. Of when Jungkook had been so close that he’d been able to feel the man’s breath against his cheek when Taehyung had been looking up at him with those bright, beautiful golden eyes. Taehyung makes a questioning noise before Jungkook can get into the logistics of how he’d gotten so close in the first place, bringing him back to the present while he shakes his head as if that will clear away the memory from Jungkook’s mind.

 

Meekly, he offers a small, “I- I’m not afraid.”

 

He hopes Taehyung doesn’t see the almost tangible shyness that all but wraps around the words as he says them. Jungkook had been taught that timidity was not a princely characteristic, but with Taehyung walking toward him with that air of confidence all but draping itself over him and that glint in his eye, how can Jungkook be anything but?

 

His behavior does little to help Jungkook’s perpetual lack of knowledge to really everything around him and Jungkook doesn’t understand the meaning behind those actions, nor of why Taehyung had felt it pertinent to do with his voice what he’d just done. It doesn’t stop Jungkook from wondering, wholly affected by what Taehyung continues to do.

 

A baser part of him thinks he knows why Taehyung is acting the way he is if his own body’s reaction is anything to go by, though the more rational part still presses insistently at the forefront of his mind that this is all probably just normal behavior for someone of Taehyung’s age. After all, Jungkook had never had anyone to talk to his own age, had never experienced what a friendship or even deeper relationship beyond that was like.

 

Especially not with someone as enchantingly beautiful as Taehyung is, he internally adds.

 

Taehyung only props his chin on his hand, making a show of studying him when he’s finally crossed what little space there had been between them in the first place while he makes a sound of consideration, “Hmm… are you sure about that?”

 

“I…I’d like to think so.” Jungkook quickly utters. It’s becoming harder for Jungkook to speak like a regular and normal individual and he’s starting think that all those years of linguistics and language are doing him little to no good as far as Taehyung is concerned. Not that Jungkook minds how Taehyung can so naturally part the clouds of thought in his mind with how strikingly pretty he is, with how playful yet meticulous he chooses to be when he speaks. He rather finds he likes those things (very much so).

 

He just wishes that Taehyung didn’t have this natural ability to make his own thoughts go still, to get Jungkook flustered by just looking at him.

 

There’s a flick of Taehyung’s dark brow at that,” I’m not so sure about it, though, Jeongukkie. You’re going to have to do a better job of convincing me, I think.” He finishes with mischievousness all but swimming along those golden irises that Jungkook can’t bring himself to draw his gaze away from.  

 

Mortification is quick to flood Jungkook’s chest at that, more heat rising along his cheeks. He tries not to think about how red and downright stupid he must look to Taehyung now. He almost doesn’t notice that nickname Taehyung had given him, either. Almost.

 

He finds that he likes the way the name sounds when it rolls off Taehyung’s tongue.  He likes it more than he probably should, he realizes.

 

Taehyung’s statements, Jungkook knows, are aimed at the latter of the previous question Taehyung had asked rather than only the former that Jungkook had nervously chosen to answer. It had been hard to form much of a coherent response with the nerves tossing and turning his stomach too much to say anything else with how Taehyung had been so focused on him. Taehyung’s staring expectantly at him now, one brow lifted having finished his little appraisal of him, much to Jungkook’s relief when he releases a breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding.

 

It still doesn’t stop Jungkook from suddenly gulping when he realizes how close they are (Taehyung has since moved to stand before him), the heat of the other man’s body all but rolling from Taehyung’s narrow shoulders,” What would you have me do to convince you, then?” Jungkook quietly asks, shifting his weight onto his other bare foot but still keeping his gaze on Taehyung. It’s interesting how Jungkook has only recently discovered that he’s slightly taller than Taehyung, but right now he feels much, much smaller.

 

Taehyung himself chuckles, jerking his head in the direction of the watery pool that sits directly in front of him but just behind Jungkook,” I want you to go in there. With me.”

 

Jungkook worries at his lip, the request sparking the ire of reluctance that he hadn’t known he’d possessed,” I don’t know, Taehyung,” He casts a glance behind him, narrowing his eyes while he inspects this watery pool with some suspicion if the way his body tenses is anything to go by,” We just came from a pool that looks kind of like this one. Do we really have to? Is there another way that doesn’t involve- “

 

When the prince’s voice trails off and he continues to examine the pool with hesitance that now dots his irises, Taehyung smirks and decides to answer for him while he crosses his arms over his chest, “Water?”

 

As if the word is a burn itself, Jungkook grimaces. He tries, but he can’t fight that memory that flashes in his mind of seeing nothing but the waiting sea when Taehyung had thrown them both off the cliff and the world had been spinning before all he saw was darkness.

 

It wasn’t something he wanted to relive, and if he was being honest with himself, the thought of it happening again stirred some feeling of agitation in his core that he couldn’t label as anything other than fear.

 

He then berates himself, his lips turning downward while he scowls at nothing for being so weak as to be afraid of water.

 

Taehyung himself quickly uncrosses his arms, his smile faltering and falling to a frown when he notices Jungkook’s obvious change in features. He had thought there would be some concern with the water when he made it clear that they’d have to get in it, but he hadn’t known it would be this profound. Taehyung’s suddenly hit with a familiar urge to console and to ease Jungkook. He has to, he tells himself.

 

“Hey,” he gently presses,” What’s wrong, Jungkook?” He already knows, he thinks, but he wants Jungkook to start to open up to him. To talk to him. He wants Jungkook to be able to tell him things, anything at all. He’d listen to Jungkook. He always had.

 

Jungkook wraps his arms around himself as if that will keep the apprehension from sinking into his exposed skin, but it doesn’t do anything if the way he’s staring so intensely at the water now is any indication,” I just…” He pauses and sighs, trying to find the right words to offer. He hadn’t been intending to finish his sentence, but when silence falls over the little space between them, it’s clear that Taehyung has no intention of speaking. Instead, Taehyung patiently and silently waits for Jungkook to quietly admit,” I just am a little concerned, I think.”

 

The words are so small, so little and fragile that Taehyung would have missed it had he not been so close. Had he not been watching the way Jungkook has been chewing at his lower lip while he continues to scrunch his eyes at the water as if looking for something that isn’t there.

 

It was not in Jungkook’s nature to speak on his feelings, but it also wasn’t in Jungkook’s nature to be so trusting of anyone, though he supposes there’s a first for everything. Taehyung had saved his life. He owed it to the heir of Atlilantia to speak where usually he would not.

 

“Jungkook, why are you afraid?” Taehyung’s expression doesn’t shift, no semblance of mocking or disdain at Jungkook’s admission when Taehyung’s eyes soften just a little, the brightness of them only temporarily dimming as if he’s trying to reassure Jungkook. Not that Jungkook sees that, though. He’s still looking at the water, worry all but clinging to his shrinking form.

 

At the mention of being afraid, Jungkook’s pride rears its head. He’d admitted to being concerned. Fear was an emotion of the weak, he’d been taught. He didn’t want to be thought of that way. Not by Taehyung, at least. His tongue poking at his cheek, he looks back to Taehyung, wrinkles still creasing his eyes that are clouded in unrest,” I’m not afraid, Taehyung,” Jungkook emphasizes with a dip to his tone that isn’t meant to be harsh, but ends up sounding like it anyway,” I’m concerned. There’s a difference.”  

 

It was clear to Taehyung that he’s a struck a nerve. The prince had always been a prideful creature if ever there was one, but that was just one thing Taehyung had come to like about him. How closely interwoven that pride was to Jungkook’s very being.

 

Taehyung himself only watches him, his brows lowered and almost touching while he resists the urge to touch, to reassure by means of that method. He’d always been a handsy person that often found and derived comfort via touch, but he isn’t quite sure where his boundaries were with Jungkook just yet. Instead, he settles for giving a light hum of acquiescence, an expression of penitence crossing his face,” My misunderstanding, then, Jeonggukie. I’m sorry.” He adds the nickname for good measure, knowing full well that it was something that Jungkook liked if the way his cheeks had always previously reddened whenever he’d used it were any indication.

 

When Jungkook shifts his weight again, it’s then that Taehyung realizes he’s been staring at him, just watching and studying him with careful diligence.  Jungkook still has concern pulling at the muscles of his brows, his beautiful brown eyes creased downwards while he just fiddles with what remains of the edge of his ripped shirt.

 

Taehyung makes a mental note to get him some proper clothing once he’s shown Jungkook what he needs to see. Once he assuages the apprehension he can all but feel jumping from Jungkook’s very broad, very muscular shoulders.

 

When Jungkook makes no move to say anything, the silence settling strongly, though not uncomfortably between them, it’s Taehyung that breaks it. He hates to see Jungkook look so perturbed. He really does.

 

“You don’t have to tell me why you’re concerned, Jungkook, but-” He pauses when Jungkook’s beautiful brown eyes meet his,”- I’d like to know what is bothering you. I can help, if you’ll let me.”

 

A thoughtful expression comes to Jungkook at that, the crinkles between his eyes lessening just a little, though it’s enough to let Taehyung know that he’s considering him. Jungkook does that signature head tilt that he does when he’s anxious or thinking hard about something, glancing back at the placid water as if he can’t bring himself to look at Taehyung. It feels like some minutes go by, not that Taehyung minds. He’s fine with waiting for Jungkook. Always has been.

 

“I think what’s unsettling me so much is that I just…” He trails off, giving a deep and long exhale before tucking a stray strand of hair behind his ear while he continues to look down and deeper into the pool,” I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know how I’m going to breathe down there,” He admits, pointing a finger and then lowering it to his side before pausing again, the skin of his forehead wrinkling in thought as if he is debating whether or not to tell Taehyung something else.

 

Taehyung lightly presses, sympathy washing over him in the want to make Jungkook comfortable again,” And, what else, Jeongukkie?” What is it?”

 

The way that Taehyung looks him with his head falling to the side while a small lilt that leaves his lips-his eyes that are nothing but soft when he gazes at him- it does something to Jungkook. There’s another pang of emotion that strikes Jungkook through at how intently Taehyung regards him and he can’t bring himself to keep what he would usually have bottled up away from Taehyung. Not when he’s looking at him like this.

 

When Jungkook finally does speak, it’s hushed like that of air that sweeps through the morning day,” Maybe I am being exceptionally paranoid with this last one, but I can’t help but think about if I go in there,” he gestures with a hand toward the pool behind him in a small sweeping motion, his hazel eyes tentatively searching Taehyung’s,” that at some point the world will go dark again.”

 

At that last statement, Taehyung has to fight back the wince he can feel pulling at his muscles. He had been the one who had caused Jungkook this unease and that fact stings more than any manta ray barb ever could. He has to fix this. He must.  This time, Taehyung doesn’t fight back the urge to touch, lifting his hand and doing the same thing he’d done earlier as he places it along Jungkook’s broad and very well-defined muscular shoulder. The skin there is warm and firm under his fingers and he has to consciously tell himself not to focus too hard on it. He has other priorities right now.

 

“Jungkook,” he softly presses,” do you trust me?”

 

Jungkook nods, but there’s something that is now hiding under his irises when he tucks away some of the fringe on the other side of his face,” I think… I think that I owe you that much after what you’ve done for me, Taehyung.”

 

Taehyung maintains eye contact, not wanting to let Jungkook think for a second he doesn’t mean what he says with his whole being,” I won’t let that happen again, Jungkook. You have my promise.”

 

He lightly squeezes Jungkook shoulder, hoping that that will convey what he means while he gives a reassuring smile that he hopes will assuage at least one of Jungkook’s concerns. He has full intention of telling Jungkook the answer to one of his questions, but the other will only yield more questions than it will understanding if Taehyung thinks he knows anything about Jungkook (and he definitely, very definitively likes to think that he does).

 

Jungkook himself doesn’t quite know what to do with himself in the sincerity that’s all but spilling from Taehyung’s eyes, the earnest way that he colors his words with emotion just doing things to Jungkook that he didn’t think a person to be capable of having the ability to do.

 

There’s warmth that very quickly emanates through his chest while Taehyung’s voice gently settles around him like that of the sun’s gentle heat on a spring day. It’s calm and pleasing.

 

“You have my word, Jeongukkie,” Taehyung repeats, softening his tone at the nickname Taehyung has given him.

 

The prince says nothing, not really sure how to answer something like that but still appreciative and just as pleased with what Taehyung has said.

 

 Jungkook finds that the words, paired with those eyes of Taehyung’s that are all but saturated with tenderness tinging even into his golden irises that gaze up at him are enough to ebb some of his anxiety. Only some of it, he realizes when he makes the mistake of flicking his eyeline behind him once more while the two remaining doubts he has suddenly sparking up insistently while Jungkook just stares at it as his eyes narrow once more and he worries his lip between his teeth.

 

The skin of his lip is starting to become chafed and raw, but he doesn’t even realize it. Taehyung does, though. He watches the way Jungkook’s cute little buck teeth push down on the flesh, pulling it back until his reddened, wet lips close and are pressed against each other while his jaw slightly and almost indiscernibly grates back and forth. He waits for Jungkook to speak, then, too enraptured in that sight to do much else and for once he’s glad that the prince isn’t looking at him because then he’d have to look away. Or worse, he’d have been caught like a child with their hand in a cookie jar.

 

Besides, it was better to let Jungkook find his own voice than to keep talking, Taehyung muses. While Taehyung is definitely a talker, he wants to hear what Jungkook has to say. It’s very important that he does because he wants Jungkook to be okay again. He wants Jungkook to be free of the doubt that’s anchoring him to the rocky floor of this place.

 

Right now, nothing is more important to Taehyung than that.

 

Jungkook himself hates to admit it, but there’s still something to be said of the remaining worry that lazily laps at his consciousness even while Taehyung has been able qualm some of those troubled waters of doubt from his mind. He hopes that Taehyung can clear the last of it away, too.

 

Taehyung seems keen to just watch Jungkook for now if his quietude is anything to go by, his sight focused on Jungkook who can feel it with an auspiciousness that makes his cheeks redden only a little in how intensely Taehyung is staring at him right now, waiting for him to do something.

 

It’s a little while before Jungkook talks again, the comfortably clad quiet of the cavern pressing itself into the space between them. It’s only when Jungkook slowly brings his eyeline to his side, peering apprehensively downward somewhere by his feet while his head follows the movement so that Taehyung can see only one perfectly sculpted side of his face. The man really had a jawline sharp as a blade the likes of which Taehyung has ever seen paired with a strong, defined cheek bone that Taehyung silently wishes he could run his fingers along. Jungkook also has a strikingly straight and regal nose set by those beautiful brown eyes that remind Taehyung of those tropical almonds he’d often see on the trees of the forest that sat nearby Jungkook’s home world near the cove that the prince had often frequented.

 

Why do you have to be so damned handsome, Jungkook? It’s not fair at all, Taehyung inwardly pouts, pursing his lips at the thought.

 

He’s too busy appreciating the view to really care about how obvious he must be, but Jungkook is none the wiser in being wrapped up in his thoughts as he continues to stare somewhere by his feet before raking one hand through his hair-another nervous tick that Taehyung notices and thinks is adorably endearing-before he tentatively asks,” And… and what of my other concerns, then?”

 

He looks so conflicted that Taehyung has to resist the urge to speak out of want to ease him, Jungkook’s furrowed brows and thinly pressed lips so very pronounced as he turns his head mercifully toward Taehyung when there’s a meek sound he makes, “How am I supposed to breathe down there? And where do you intend to take me?” Jungkook asks, the words slow and unsteady as they fall from his lips.

 

That does something to Taehyung, it really does. To see Jungkook look so thoroughly at odds with Taehyung’s own element of water-because of him-Taehyung has to chidingly remind himself, strikes some chords he wants nothing more than to fix both for himself and for Jungkook. Truthfully, though, Taehyung still doesn’t think it is safe to tell Jungkook where exactly he plans on taking him. He does, however, have every intention of answering the former question. He is realizing very quickly that he’s becoming helpless in wanting to see Jungkook to be freed from his cage of unknowingness despite Taehyung having to constantly remind himself that this was all for Jungkook’s own good.

 

Soon, he would learn more. Soon, though Taehyung can’t divulge much else beyond the stone yet. He thinks it would be too dangerous to tell him where they’re going, choosing instead to put his efforts into the trust that Jungkook has so graciously and mercifully given him in the hope that it will be enough to assuage him.

 

Jungkook’s eyes remain fixed to the floor, but what Taehyung says next has him confusedly peering at him with that emotion firmly glinting in his right eye.

 

“Jungkook, do you still have that stone that I gave you?”

 

“What?”

 

“I want you to take it out for a second so that I can show you something. It’s important.”

 

Jungkook lifts a questioning brow as if to say, why?

 

“Please?” Taehyung can’t find it in himself to see that as anything but cute with the way that Jungkook does it.

 

“Okay, but…”

 

Jungkook trails off, his hand fishing into the only pocket of his trousers that isn’t ripped up to grip and then hold his palm out to Taehyung in a slow, hesitant gesture mirroring the confusion that now is pooling between those striking hazel irises. Jungkook doesn’t need to say anything else for Taehyung to understand.

 

Do you know why I gave that to you?” He says it softly, prodding the other man to answer.

 

Jungkook himself makes a sound of questioning, tilting his head to the side,” I’m not really sure, Taehyung. It’s…” He pauses to examine the stone while he rolls it along his palm as if that will give him the answers he seeks, but when he finds none, he gives a muddled,” It’s an unusual stone, but it’s still just a stone.”

 

“Is it?”  

 

This only addles Jungkook more whose lower lip parts from the upper one to display those adorable buck teeth while he scrunches his eyes and angles his head more to the side. He’s the picture of a cute little bunny right now with his teeth beginning to hide beneath the cover of his lips to Taehyung who is helpless to fight back the fond smile that pulls at his own lips when Jungkook gives a small, Huh?”

 

Jungkook eyes Taehyung, wishing the man would just tell him already instead of continuing to keep him in the dark. The man is an anomaly for sure, but Jungkook finds himself wanting to understand and learn more much like an explorer would want to search and investigate a hidden yet beautiful region of the world that had been carefully hidden away from civilization for many years.

 

Instead of answering right away as Jungkook had thought, Taehyung takes a step back to tap gently at his chin in an attempt to make it look like he’s actually thinking hard about all this even though he’d had it all planned out for a while. He stares interestedly at him like he’s waiting for Jungkook to realize something,” Do you see anything inside that stone that seems familiar?” There’s some emphasis on the last word and a slight shift to his tone that isn’t at all unpleasant, but Jungkook doesn’t think too hard on it.

 

 Taehyung’s long fingers catch Jungkook’s cynosure despite the strange stone that sits idly in his hand while Taehyung continues to calmly and leisurely tap his finger along the skin under his lower lip, patiently waiting for what, Jungkook doesn’t know. The man’s hair has somehow remained perfectly styled through everything with the perfectly parted crease down the middle that fortuitously reveal a sliver of a perfectly tanned skin, the hair long enough that it curls around a defined set of eyebrows while the man raises his chin in questioning as if to say, see anything you like?

 

Really, it’s not his fault that he’d been staring like an idiot. After all, Kim Taehyung had wanted him to do it if the flash Jungkook had caught in one of his eyes wasn’t one that had been born out of a trick of the light.

 

 While Jungkook had tried to consciously remind himself to pull his attention away from the spectacle that that was Kim Taehyung, that certainly brings his chest into a panic if the way it all but lifts up and then drops back down in mortification is anything to go by. He clears his throat and the sound echoes around the two of them, the rocks around them laughing at Jungkook’s poorly concealed obviousness while he hurriedly flicks his eyeline back to the stone that had been nearly forgotten amidst the man’s antics.

That same frost-like covering that coats the sides of it remain, making it look as if it was cut from an icicle but left with the cracks of age, something similar to that of a scale that looks as if it is from a fish residing inside it.  It’s a small but thick thing that comes to life in the light that it basks in, an iridescence tinged by purple, gold and green glinting off of a scale with the color reminiscent of a blue tang’s belly but cyan like Taehyung’s-

The realization hits Jungkook like a bucket of water to the face. It’s instant and just there where moments before it had not been.

His eyes widen as he his bends his fingers to gingerly cup it, the new knowledge making it that much more precious to him while he speaks, the disbelief airing out his words,” Taehyung, this stone… why? Why does it have one of your scales in it?”

Taehyung only smiles just a little bit wider, one of his hands falling to rest at his side before he takes a step forward, “I should think that would be obvious, Jeonggukie. The stone and scale I wanted to give to you.”

There might be a double meaning there, but Jungkook honestly misses it. He’s too caught up in the realization that Taehyung had made the stone for him. Only him.

He’s never received anything from anyone before, so he’s not sure what to do with this new information. There’s a swell of emotion that presses at his chest, but he’s not sure what that is, either.

“But...why?” Jungkook really wants to know.

Taehyung considers him,” Why do you think, Jeonggukkie?”

The nickname, paired with the light way he’d said it, just does things to him.

Jungkook tries not to think on that too much, focusing instead on the question. He doesn’t have to think too hard, thankfully, searching what he knows of his old world to try to figure out the importance of the stone and why Taehyung had felt it pertinent to take one of his own scales and trap it something like this. It’s only a little while until he comes up with an answer, but it still leaves more questions in his mind than anything else.

 “This stone,” he holds it out for emphasis, the tentativeness of his voice bouncing off the walls of the chamber they’re in,” It’s magical, isn’t it? That’s why one of your scales is in it, right?”

Taehyung offers a simple nod as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world, the smile still wide and fresh on his lips. He’d wanted to tell Jungkook of the stone much earlier, but it simply wasn’t the right time. He’s glad he’d waited until now, though. He thinks that it will be that much more meaningful when Jungkook figures the rest of it out. He also hopes that this will give Jungkook the clarity and surety he needs to be able to go into the water.

Perhaps if the factor of danger is removed from the equation, Jungkook won’t have any other qualms with the water, Taehyung thinks and really, really hopes.

Jungkook just keeps staring at Taehyung, the questioning in his eyes never receding while he continues to hold the stone in his hand. He wants Taehyung to tell him more, but when it’s clear that Taehyung doesn’t intend to give him any other answers, Jungkook sighs in defeat.

Why do you have to be so confusing, Jungkook inwardly laments.

“Taehyung, can’t you just tell me what the purpose of this is? I’m appreciative of the gift, I really am, but, I’m still just as confused as I was before.” Jungkook honestly, very earnestly tells him.

There’s a flick of a brow from Taehyung and then that usual playful lilt to his voice,” Are you sure you want to know?”

Jungkook can’t fight the groan that leaves his lips, the sound intertwining and dragging itself into,” Taehyyyyyuuunngggg, come on…”

The prince knows that Taehyung is toying with him now, but he’s not about to stop Taehyung from doing it. It’s a part of Taehyung that he likes even if Taehyung does use it to keep him in the dark. He thinks, eventually, that Taehyung will tell him. He doesn’t know why he’s come to that conclusion; he just does.  There’s still a sense of owing that Jungkook feels he has toward Taehyung in terms of trust, too, so maybe that’s why he’s so nonchalant and unopposed to Taehyung’s continued crypticity.   That’s not to say he’s not still confused about the stone, though.

Taehyung himself only chuckles at the prince, offering a mirthful, “Okay, okay,” while he holds his hands out in front of him as a gesture of acquiesce.

He’s amused once more by the prince who continues to draw his interest. He thinks it’s time that Jungkook learns the truth of what he’s holding as the prince continues to hold his gaze, tilting his head to the side just a little more while he waits for Taehyung to speak.

Alright, I suppose I’ve made you wait long enough, Jeonggukie, he thinks.

When he does speak, his voice is strong and confident while he takes a step forward,” That scale in the stone that you’re holding, Jungkook,” there’s another step toward Jungkook, his head jerking toward the little thing that the prince is still holding while he looks piercingly into Jungkook’s scrunched and confused eyes,” gives you protection against water.”

Jungkook blinks, the perplexity strung like a chord in his words,” W-what? What do you mean?”

There had been such things as magical items in the world Jungkook had once known, but there had never existed an item powerful enough to block entire elements or provide protection against other forms of magic. They simply hadn’t existed in the world he once knew. The magic that his people possessed had simply not required such use for an item of that caliber, anyway.

“What I mean, Jungkook, is that that stone you’re holding,” He grins when Jungkook’s eyebrows disappear under the fringe of bangs that have since fallen over his forehead,” It gives you the ability to breathe underwater. Gives you immunity to attacks that might otherwise harm you so as long as they are water based.”

Jungkook looks just as baffled as before, the hand that isn’t holding the stone going to rub at one of his temples like that will more effectively sink Taehyung’s words into his skin. It’s a sight that is very endearing if Taehyung has anything to say on it, so maybe that’s what prompts him to tell more.

“That stone is why your uncle’s attack did not work on you since he targeted your blood vessels, which are comprised mostly of water,” He pauses, waiting for Jungkook to lower his hand from his temple and nod to let him know that he can continue even though the crinkles around his eyes continue to stretch even and pull his brows higher,” It’s why you were able to breathe underwater when I brought you here.” He finishes with smile that borders on being that boxy one that Jungkook likes so much.

That flash of pearly white teeth makes it hard for Jungkook to process much of anything beyond that the stone had saved his life more than once, had been made and inextricably connected to Taehyung from the very beginning. There’s a feeling that stirs in his chest at Taehyung’s honesty and ease to which he’d spoken, a light sensation of appreciation but something more profound than that because Taehyung had crafted and made this for him. To keep him safe.

Maybe it’s Jungkook’s rather energetic surprise at the realization that makes him blurt,” You protected me… why?”

Again, Taehyung is unphased at his question as if it’s the most natural thing in the world though his smile is still there when he replies while he fixes one sleeve along his lower arm that Jungkook thinks is suspiciously clean, “I told you before, Jeonggukie. I did it because I wanted to.”

Jungkook blows out his cheeks at that, the sound born of very mild indignance because there’s more to it, Jungkook knows. There has to be if the way he’s looking at him with that unnamable emotion flecking his irises is any indication. Again, there’s no frustration that sucks away at everything like a black hole might, but only the familiar want to fill that quiet void of knowledge that rests in the back of his mind.  

“That doesn’t really answer my question, Taehyung,” he tells him, prodding the other man for more.

Taehyung only hums, “With so many questions, there’s many answers I can give, Jungkook.”

Jungkook huffs, thinking,” You’re impossible, Kim Taehyung.”

He’s still having a difficult time coming to terms with what he’s just been told and he’s trying, he’s really trying to process the logistics of what had made Taehyung decide to create something of such power and then chosen him to give it to. There was nothing he’d done to deserve such a valuable thing and there’s a part of him that can’t help but feel like he’s been nothing but a very heavy weight Taehyung continually has to drag along and for what, he doesn’t know.

What he does know, when he gingerly rolls the stone between his index finger and thumb and the scale flashes in the light to blaze a lively amethyst color and then shift to that of a beautifully calm emerald hue before returning to that of the more dominant cyan color of Taehyung’s tail, is that Taehyung is a very kind person for having protected him and done everything that he has for him so far.

He’s hit with an fierce urge to do something to show his appreciation, something to let Taehyung know he’s grateful for his ceaselessly tangible kindness that weaves itself even into the words he speaks to Jungkook and the young prince is all the more charmed by it, another swell of that emotion he can’t name sloshing through his chest. It’s not as if he’s about to tell Taehyung that, though. The mortification looms in the shadows, ready to pounce should he admit that little thought.

Shaking his head at that, Jungkook closes his fingers around the stone and looks down at it before returning his gaze to Taehyung when he gently, resolvedly asks,” You’re not going to tell me more, are you?”

Taehyung knows what he means, choosing to languidly lift a shoulder and offer,” Everything that I have done so far, Jeonggukie,” His tone lilts before he pauses, taking a step forward while he peers intently at him and Jungkook is powerless to hold his breath at what the rest of his answer might be,” Is because I felt like it.”

The heir of Atlilantia smiles, the playfulness pooling in his eyes while Jungkook releases the breath he’d been holding. He silently hopes that it hadn’t sounded as loud to Taehyung has it had to him with some embarrassment, not really knowing what he’d been expecting Taehyung to say.

“That’s all you’re going to tell me?” Jungkook asks. It’s very important that he finds out.

“Yep,” Taehyung offers, popping the ‘p’ while he does.

“Taehyung…” Jungkook does that little head tilt again. Taehyung thinks it’s cute not for the first time.

The way that the prince’s brows furrow deeper and he looks upward in resignation does something to Taehyung, though. He can’t help it, really. Not when Jungkook looks so adorable all the time and is doing really anything. Besides, Taehyung’s impressed at his resolve, so he wants to give him a little reward in the meantime.

Taehyung then waves both hands out in front of him in another small gesture of acquiescence,” Alright, fine. Fine, I’ll tell you more,” He pauses to take a step forward,” On one condition.”

It’s Jungkook’s turn to raise an eyebrow at that,” What condition?”

Jungkook is just as confused as before and he doesn’t know what Kim Taehyung could possibly want from him at this point, but he already knows he’s probably going to accept whatever it is that Taehyung is about to say. Taehyung, he’s learning, has a fantastic ability to grapple at his attention and keep it tethered with really everything he does and Jungkook finds that he’s not entirely opposed to being kept in the dark if it means Taehyung smiles at him the way that he is. The man has an infectious smile, yes, but he just looks so pretty when he does it, Jungkook thinks.

Taehyung seems satisfied with his answer, so he grins,” Come into the water with me.”

“But- “Jungkook tries to retort, he really does, but he can’t really say much when the man suddenly puts a finger out towards his lips, not quite close enough to touch but close enough that it’s all he can see for a second. He has to admit that Taehyung has long fingers, but his hands are still pretty for how big they are.

 

He also has to fight back the memory of how those fingers had felt against his in the throne room with some difficulty.

 

“No buts, Jungkook. This is the only way to the place that we must go to so that you can learn what you want to know, unless of course,” he playfully challenges with a smirk, “you still don’t trust me?”

 

Jungkook is quick to shake his head very vigorously at that with an uncharacteristically loud and pronounced,” No! That’s… that’s not it!”

 

You’re adorable, Jungkook. It’s what Taehyung wants to say, but the words never leave his lips.

 

There’s a mellifluous chuckle that trickles into his words,” Ah, I’m just teasing you, Jeonggukie. I think I can tell that you’re alright now,” He points to Jungkook, amusement coloring his eyes,” Your face isn’t all scrunched up anymore.”

 

Embarrassment burns at Jungkook’s cheeks while the mortification pulls his chest into a frenzy that that is starting to become entirely too familiar.

“I- you… It was not!” Jungkook exasperatedly tells him, one hand going to fiddle with another lock of hair that had fallen over his face.

 

Taehyung’s smile deepens so that wonderful boxy smile graces his lips and Jungkook is instantly pleased for it, the man’s eyes all but turning into cute crescents not unlike the graceful shape of the moon during its waning phase, Jungkook interestedly notes before the man himself just coolly quips,” See you on the other side, Jeongukkie.”

 

 It’s when Taehyung has the audacity to wink- Jungkook really wonders how he manages to make that look so effortlessly cute- that he then suddenly launches himself into the waiting water, the sound of the splash reverberating around the chamber as the water sloshes around the smoothed rocky edge of the pool.

 

White foam envelops his form as soon as he breaks the surface that had been all too eager to receive him, bubbles varying in all sizes and hugging him so that he’s obscured from Jungkook’s vision for all of about three seconds before there’s a flash of cyan. Jungkook doesn’t really have time to wonder whether that had been his tail or his hair before the man himself emerges, his hair still perfectly styled with that crease down the middle while he rakes a hand through his hair, wholly aware of the way Jungkook’s eyes widen just a little, but enough to let him know that he’s still just as mystified to see Taehyung in his aquatic form.

 

There’s a trill of satisfaction that travels down his spine when he watches the way Jungkook tentatively dips his eyeline downward toward the chest that Taehyung has bared, like he’s afraid he’ll get caught but powerless to resist the need to just explore. The attention instantly has Taehyung preening at the way Jungkook’s pink tongue darts between his lips to wet them and he’s thankful he has the mercy to admire those plump, reddened lips while he has Jungkook distracted.

 

Jungkook himself is too swept up in appreciating the smooth, defined planes of Taehyung’s chest that is not corded with muscle the way his is, but still definitively and profoundly proportioned and held taut against strong bones with no marks or scars to hinder the flawless golden color of the skin there. He distantly wonders what that skin would feel like if-

 

Shaking his head and rubbing his eyes at that, he pulls his attention (not without some difficulty) away from the lower region of the man’s chest, mortification pouring itself hotly over him when he meets bright golden eyes that gaze up at him in obvious amusement.

 

Taehyung himself is really, really glad he’d had that other clothing enchanted to wear off after three times of returning to the water if the way Jungkook fumbles for his words and rubs embarrassedly at the back of his neck are any sort of reward.  

 

“Um…I, uh…”

 

Taehyung is torn between teasing him or between returning to his focus to the matter of getting them out of here. All it takes is to look at Jungkook and see how scarlet his cheeks have been painted on with the mortification that burns there and decides that, yes, he can do both of things.

 

“I don’t mind it, you know,” Taehyung swims forward to lay his head on his arms and peer up at Jungkook through a thick fan of dark lashes,” I like it, actually.”

 

Jungkook does that nervous little head tilt, his brows furrowing all too soon,” Wh-What?”

 

Taehyung giggles,” When you were looking at me just now. I was saying that I don’t mind when you do it.”

 

He chooses to leave out the whole other part he’d been thinking. That he’d really, really enjoyed that attention and wanted Jungkook to look at him like that more often.

 

The embarrassment is starting to make it difficult to see, his lip pulled inward while he worries at it with his teeth before he offers a timidly brittle,” Oh.”

 

Jungkook himself just awkwardly stands there, not knowing what to do in the feelings that are beginning to stir dangerously in his chest while Taehyung only looks on amusedly, wholly enjoying the way he’s made Jungkook so flustered while the boy grips at his arm as if to fiddle with the material of his old garment that should have been there but instead suddenly realizing that the cowl Taehyung had put on him had fallen away. It’s then that he realizes the state of his dress and how tattered it is, a gasp leaving his lips when he looks meekly to Taehyung.

 

Taehyung himself just smiles,” Don’t worry about that,” gestures to Jungkook ripped shirt and torn trousers,” I will take care of that when we get out of here. I would give you something of mine, but I hadn’t anticipated our arrival to have been so… turbid. Is that okay?” He finishes with a glint of something to his eyes that Jungkook can’t place. That’s not to say it had not affected him, because it had. It definitely, definitely had.

 

He gives a nod of understanding, some part of him just instantly believing that Taehyung will make good on his promise. Besides, how could Taehyung have known his clothes would get as torn and destroyed as they had?

 

It isn’t like he would appreciate what’s under here, anyway, Jungkook inwardly muses, though there’s an irrational thought he has that he isn’t able to push away before it has tugged at his attention.

 

Would he like how I look?

 

Jungkook finds he really wants Taehyung to be as thoroughly pleased with the way he looks that he himself does for Taehyung, but again there’s that worry that Taehyung would probably think him repulsive for thinking such things.

 

Unknowing of Jungkook’s inner musings, Taehyung pushes himself off the rock and swims to the very middle of the pool before closing his eyes and holding out a hand just below the surface of the water. The few muscles that line his shoulder blades stretch with the movement and that doesn’t go unnoticed by Jungkook who mercifully is saved from the embarrassment of Taehyung knowing he’d been staring there again before he notices the very faint, hardly there outline of abdominals he hadn’t noticed before with how crystal clear the water is.

 

He’s so busy looking there that he almost misses the spherical shape emerge from the water before Taehyung lifts it to sit along the ledge of rock that juts outward just below the surface of the pool. Confusion lines the creases of the skin along Jungkook’s eyes as the boy looks on, angling his head to the side much like a bunny would, Taehyung thinks before he focuses his attention back on the spherical solid that sits in front of him while he swims closer.

 

“What are you- “

 

Taehyung looks up and gives that boxy grin that Jungkook is really, really pleased to see,” My magic, Jungkook, allows me to solidify water as well as move it with my mind among other things,” he offers before returning his focus to the ball and Jungkook’s left just as speechless as before.

 

It’s like a translucent ball, but large enough that it can fit something as cyan as Taehyung’s hair inside it. There’s flashes of gold in there, too, but Jungkook can’t make out what those are until Taehyung moves his hand to rest just above the ball that looks as if it’s made out of water before Taehyung sweeps a hand to the side, the outside of the sphere breaking open to weep away the imprisoned contents of the inside to reveal some kind of garment that Jungkook can’t quite make out over the folds and creases in fabric that should not be able to maintain that form even when it had been covered in water. Beside it are two pieces of jewelry that are golden in color but Jungkook doesn’t have time to analyze them before Taehyung is grabbing for the fabric and pulls it over his head with practiced ease.

 

“Taehyung, what exactly did you just do?” Jungkook’s amazement is as clear as the water before him while he speaks.

 

Taehyung’s got the garment over his head now, one arm pulling at an almost silky material that covers only his left arm and leaves the other bare to free it of wrinkles while he easily explains,” I can freeze, solidify, burn, melt and move water to my will, Jungkook. What you just saw was me cutting the top of that solidified ball open to return to the water that I took from this pool.”

 

Jungkook is incredulous, his eyebrows disappearing under his hair again,” Wait, you can do all of that? With just your mind?”

 

Taehyung smiles and nods, pulling one band of gold up to rest along his bicep and then another along his forearm. He’s now wearing two armbands on his arm that is bare, the length of the upper one starting where the skin of his shoulder ends and stopping just above the bone of his elbow in thick bands that wrap like a snake around his arm, each end sculpted into faces of eels. The eyes of those eels are, from what Jungkook can surmise, made of sapphire with how deeply blue they shine in the light of the chamber.

 

The other armband is the same, though it begins just below the skin of Taehyung’s elbow and ends at the bone of his wrist, the eyes of the eel sitting protectively above his wrist bone while its eyes flash fiercely in the movement Taehyung makes while he’s decorating every finger from bottom to top-save for the ring finger, Jungkook notices with interest- with golden bands that glint energetically up at Jungkook who continues to be at a loss for the enigma that is Kim Taehyung.

 

Once Taehyung secures the belt to his waist that had been left discarded, he looks down at himself and seems satisfied with his appraisal. He then peers up at Jungkook who stares dumbly down at him with lips that have parted in wonderment and eyes swimming in the mystification that’s all but been sprinkled over him.

 

“What do you think?” Taehyung’s voice is all confidence when he speaks.

 

Again, embarrassment flames at Jungkook’s cheeks and all he can offer is a meek and quiet,” You look…”

 

Taehyung presses forward, the fabric of the sleeve dragging behind him in how long it is, “What, Jungkook? I look like what?”

 

Jungkook truthfully doesn’t understand how Taehyung can make his ability to form coherent sentences so stunted and nonexistent. Maybe it’s the way he looks at Jungkook with bright and interested irises or maybe it’s because he’s so damned pretty. Or maybe it’s that Jungkook still can’t believe someone could be as kind yet elusive in trying to understand as he is. Maybe it’s just that Jungkook is weak to those boxy smiles. Maybe he just is starting to really, really like Kim Taehyung.

 

He doesn’t know, but there’s no surprise there. He doesn’t know much of anything and the man that is patiently silent before him seems to have intention of changing that. Not that Jungkook minds. There’s something satisfying about trying to unravel Taehyung.

 

His hands moving to fiddle the material of the shirt he’s just put on, Taehyung now wears a linen shirt that hugs his thin form, the neckline high enough that it lays above strong collarbones with a very thin and silky trim lining the very top of it. Only one sleeve is connected for Taehyung’s left arm, the linen material becoming looser with the longer that it gets so that it all but gracefully drapes around him in the water. It’s as long as Taehyung’s massive tail and accentuates his lean frame well, Jungkook thinks.

 

Securing the shirt to his waist and covering where the skin of human flesh trails into that of scales, there’s a plain white belt and knotted to that belt on the left side, there’s the same material of his shirt that runs upward but it’s not connected part of the garment that sits snugly on his chest. Instead, it’s draped thickly along his chest in a diagonal direction that falls over his right shoulder where his skin isn’t covered by jewelry much like a sash. Jungkook thinks that it makes him look very regal and very, very attractive.

 

Instead of telling him that he thinks he’s the most beautiful thing that Jungkook has ever seen, he only trips and falls deeply into the waiting pit of mortification when he timidly admits,” You look pretty…good. You look pretty good.”

 

He doesn’t realize his mistake until it’s too late and Taehyung, again, preens at the praise. Jungkook really is trying to make it seem like he’s got some kind of intellectual foundation and that he has the ability to speak as a normal person, but Taehyung is making that so hard, the pit of embarrassment soon turning to a whole chasm while Jungkook fidgets at the frayed end of his shirt where he stands when Taehyung raises a brow, the smile never fading from his face.

 

“Oh?” He asks interestedly, running a hand through his hair and not missing the way Jungkook nervously licks at his lip again, wholly enjoying that sight and not remiss to admit that it’s adorable.

 

“Um, yes,’ Jungkook quietly admits. He can’t get much else out right now with how good Taehyung looks.

 

Taehyung wades forward, putting his hands down on the rock of the edge of the pool while he powerfully flicks his tail under him to push himself upwards while he expectantly flicks a brow upward. At first Jungkook doesn’t get it and Taehyung seems to take notice of it when he teases,” Well, are you coming?”

 

Jungkook’s still admiring him, blown away at how anything could be so pretty while he ticks his head to the side at Taehyung’s focused gaze,” I- What?”

 

Taehyung jerks his head back toward the pool, the teasing grin just doing things to Jungkook, once more,” Are you coming in? We have to go, Jeonggukie.”

 

Jungkook’s confusion rapidly returns and it’s enough to take his already distracted mind off of the way Taehyung looks at him while he wets his lips to tentatively say,” I don’t know, Taehyung…”

 

“Jungkook, can you bend down so I can look at you better for a second?”

 

The words spur something to light to beat against his chest and he’s already on his knees and eye level with Taehyung before he realizes what happened. This angle brings Taehyung so much closer to him and for a second, Jungkook wonders why he hadn’t thought to do this sooner. The brightness to Taehyung’s eyes crests in the light that hits them and again, he can feel the calm and controlled breaths that leave Taehyung against his cheeks. He’s instantly with a wave of nervousness at being this close, the beauty of Taehyung so much more pronounced and evident here with how close they are.

 

“Are you still concerned?” Taehyung gently asks, like he knows that Jungkook’s earlier doubts had surfaced like an unwanted predator at the insinuation of getting in even with Taehyung’s previous reassurances.

 

Perhaps he can sense Jungkook’s apprehension that hangs like a dark cloud over him, but it all but dissipates how he treats him and acts so caringly genuine toward him after Jungkook nods and tells him that he is.

 

When Taehyung speaks, his words are wrapped in sincerity while his smile shifts to that of a reassuring one, his teeth disappearing under his lips that Jungkook can’t help but to notice are really, really wet and rounded,” I give you my word that nothing will happen to you, Jungkook. You have my protection not only through that stone, but through myself as well.” He professes, his voice loud and firm but still warm when he says Jungkook’s name.

 

And just like that, Taehyung’s brightness seeps through the clouds of doubt much like the sun after a rainy day.

 

Falling back to lean on the stone that juts outward just beneath him, Taehyung holds out a hand to offer for him as he smiles sweetly, nothing but warmth in his eyes as he gently beckons Jungkook forward, the prince himself like a timid puppy as he takes a tentative movement with his knee to bring him forward so that he kneels at the edge of the pool. He just looks down at Taehyung’s hand for some time, but the man is steadfast in his resolve to comfort and reassure him, so he keeps his hand extended even when there is a burn that starts to make the muscle ache. Taehyung pays no mind to it. Jungkook is more important.

 

It’s when Jungkook flicks his gaze back to Taehyung and their eyes meet that Taehyung nods, the earnestness shining in them like a beacon that Jungkook really is helpless to resist that he takes Taehyung’s hand. Jungkook immediately appreciates the warmth of Taehyung’s palm and the way he wraps his fingers around Jungkook’s and squeezes, as if it’s Taehyung’s way of telling Jungkook that it’s alright. That he can take his time.

 

There’s comfort and ease in that. Jungkook really is thankful for it.

 

It’s when Jungkook steps onto the jut of rock that protrudes before the rest of the pool that Jungkook looks down, immediately stiffening at the sight of no bottom that he can see. Taehyung takes notice and squeezes his hand again, reassuring him with another smile,” It’s alright. I will be with you the whole time.”

 

“You promise?” His voice is small and lame to his own ears, but Taehyung’s nod and kindred eyes make him feel like it’s okay to feel that way, no sense of judgement behind them.

 

“I promise you, Jungkook.” He earnestly answers, gently pulling Jungkook forward toward the drop off with a slowness that Jungkook is grateful for, the man watching patiently as he moves the young prince.

 

The words settle in his chest like an anchor, heavy but steadfast in the way he’d said it. It’s a comforting weight, Jungkook thinks, and he’s glad Taehyung is being so very careful and mindful of him. Maybe it’s that returning sense of wanting to repay Taehyung for doing everything had for him. Maybe it’s just that he’s blown away with being treated so very kindly and because the man doing these things is so damn pretty, but those things are what lead Jungkook to have taken Taehyung’s hand and eventually be pulled into the water as Taehyung looks on, careful to check and make sure everything is alright as he smiles brightly at him.

 

Jungkook smiles back, gripping the stone in the hand that isn’t holding Taehyung’s when they descend and, hand in hand, they make for the place Taehyung hopes will help Jungkook understand.

 

At first, Jungkook’s silent, his body still tense and stiff, but when he figures out that it’s as if he now has the ability to stay under the water without needing to go up for air, he relaxes. They travel to the bottom of the pool and turn where there’s a large pool in the rock on one side, two crabs sitting along the sandy floor as they go by and energetically move their arms so that it looks like they’re waving. Jungkook can’t fight the small smile at that Taehyung continues to lead him through the rock that surround them through a serious of tunnels until they reach an opening in the stone.

 

Beyond them, the sea is alive with life, the sandy bed filled with schools of brightly colored fish that quickly swim as if in a race, the coral reefs and palm fronds in the distance surrounded by animals of all shapes and sizes that frolic and play with each other in excitement and seeds to which he’s never seen before. Crabs enthusiastically waddle along the bottom of the sandy floor, their arms waving in all directions while dolphins swim high above them, leaping and bounding out above the surface before landing to dart amidst each other while they playfully sing and speak their tongues.

 

Jungkook watches it in wonderment, his mouth parting while be blinks.

 

It’s enough to take Jungkook’s breath away, if he’d had any, and he looks to Taehyung who gives him another reassuring smile, squeezing his hand while asks,” Ready?”

 

While Jungkook had been watching the life of the sea, Taehyung had been gazing at him, a sense of pride swimming through his chest at knowing Jungkook is marveling at a part of the place that Taehyung has long taken care of and protected. He’s really glad that Jungkook seems to like it.

 

By way of answering him, Jungkook nods and with Taehyung’s powerful tail brushing against him, he thinks that this might not be as intimidating as he’d once thought.

Chapter Text

Jungkook had truly never seen anything quite as Brobdingnagian as Taehyung’s realm. If he’d thought Busan had been a massive kingdom, it was like minnow to a colossal whale. For how long they had been continuously swimming, Jungkook didn’t know how he’d been able to keep up with Taehyung; though, to Taehyung’s credit and ultimate appreciation to Jungkook, he’d been sure to find a nice underwater grove (and of those, there had thankfully been many) and let Jungkook rest while he told Jungkook of his kingdom.

 

Taehyung’s eyes, for every time that he’d spoken to Jungkook about his realm, would light up and his voice would always rise in pitch with how enthusiastic he would become as his pride all but painted itself over him.

 

Jungkook didn’t think there was anything as charming as that, really.

 

He genuinely was interested in learning more of Taehyung’s world, he was, but the way Taehyung just became swept away in the passion that swam in his beautiful, bright eyes, well… that was something that Jungkook was more than happy to be gifted the sight with, honestly.

 

It’s why he’s sprawled on his back on a rock right now, one hand grasping the edge of the rock to keep himself anchored here while the other he’s put over his mouth in a failed attempt to stifle the chuckle he’d been holding when Taehyung fervently flicks his tail above him, his arms raised animatedly over his head as he moves them back and forth with a speed that Jungkook is sure surpasses that even of a cheetah while attempting to explain the swimming mechanism of an Ilyutra, or a water horse (Taehyung had been sure to remind Jungkook several times after he’d knowingly used the wrong word-really, how could he not with the satisfaction it brought him to see Taehyung become so beautifully wrapped in a vivaciousness that was all but tangible with how well Taehyung wore it-and that it was a real thing with the upper body of a common horse and the lower of a sea horse).

 

You just haven’t seen it yet, Taehyung had effervescently reassured, a little pout fixing itself on his lips when Jungkook had only responded with an arch of a brow.  

 

Honestly, how someone could be so animated was beyond him-not that he was opposed- though. It made it hard not to believe the merman with the way he imbued his every word with a truthfulness that mirrored itself in his eyes, the way he’d flick his tail as a petulant child would their foot when a new friend wouldn’t play with them. Surely a better man wouldn’t believe the  merman, but Jungkook thinks that of all the things he’s seen, a half horse, half sea horse won’t be the strangest of it all. Besides, Taehyung is very keen to make certain that Jungkook is aware of the exact way the creatures swim after he’d asked (teasingly) for a demonstration, not expecting Taehyung to do anything but dismiss that. It’s cute, the way that he’s so ready to do something as far off as that, really.

 

Jungkook’s finding it harder and harder to keep that feeling in his chest at bay, but it’s so, so very difficult with, well, Taehyung. The merman just puts a feeling of lightness in his chest that he knows he’s never felt before and Jungkook can’t deny it because it just feels so right with every flash of pearly white teeth and cheeks that puff out over cheekbones befitting of a king.

 

He’s still laughing when Taehyung huffs, the action made even more adorable with the way a series of tiny little bubbles escape from the side of his mouth, each racing above him in attempt to reach the surface that’s probably about seven meters above them with how brilliantly the afternoon sun’s rays peek down below the surface. Jungkook finds that they cast Taehyung in a beautiful shade of gold that compliment his bright eyes and iridescent tail that all but gleam in the myriad of colors that dance to the light.

 

Noticing the boy’s mellifluous laughter, Taehyung basks in the sound Jungkook makes, adoring the gentle sound of it that Jungkook tries, and fails, to keep hidden. Really, Taehyung hasn’t heard a sound as pleasing as that for a long, long time. Still, that doesn’t make the inclination to tease him any of a want. Jungkook’s starting to become more comfortable around him if not for the way that he acts with less of a quiet timidity, now, slowly but surely peeking his head out of his shy shell. Taehyung is glad for it and is more than willing to continually coax him out of that careful reserve.

 

Crossing his arms, he’s very aware of the way his armbands glint spritely in the sun, the mirth in his eyes lathering itself over his words,” While I am touched by your response Jungkook,” He flicks a brow upward,” I do believe I should be given a reward for that presentation. I think I went into depth with it pretty well, don’t you?”

 

Jungkook looks amusedly up at him, fingers draped over plump, still reddened lips-Taehyung thinks it’s a crime to have lips that look as pretty as those- as he considers,” Hmm… and what kind of reward,” he emphasizes with a gesture of taking his hand off the rock to curl his index and middle finger inward before putting his hand back down,” did you want, Taehyung?”

 

Taehyung peers down at him, his smile widening so that Jungkook is graced with those pearly white teeth set by that famous boxy grin,” Race me.”

 

And just like that, Taehyung has once again befuddled him. Taehyung must’ve been expecting as much because now he’s the one chuckling when Jungkook’s brows shoot upward, the confusion coating his answer. Of all things for Taehyung to have said, Jungkook hadn’t been expecting that one. They were in the middle of the ocean, after all. He was still unfamiliar with it.

 

“Huh? Where did that come from?” He sits up, the surprise quick to grab at his fingertips where they now grasp the rock.

 

“What,” Taehyung taunts as he swims closer, lifting another sculpted brow before he’s directly next to an addled Jungkook,” Afraid that you won’t win my little challenge?” He says the last word slowly, his eyes dipping to the lips that Jungkook has unknowingly bared to him to appreciate the sight of them before moving to the whole of his face while Jungkook himself is distracted and looking down at the stone he’s taken from his pocket, inspecting it with concentration as if it will help him.

 

Jungkook already knows that he won’t deny the challenge. It just is in his nature to accept things like that (he’s very perceptive to the fact that he has a strong competitive streak in him)  because he simply can’t bear the thought of not being able to be the “better” one, or at least because he knows he won’t be able to think straight without putting in effort and trying versus doing nothing.

 

It had been the reason that when, out of the blue, Taehyung had suggested they play hide and go seek as a game Taehyung wanted to play to introduce Jungkook to his world (as well as his own little want to tease the young prince), that Jungkook had-without preempt-accepted and played six or so games with him; Jungkook had lost all but one, the last being a victory he had a strange feeling that Taehyung had let him win after about half an hour after Jungkook had let the losses sour his tongue, the bitter taste of defeat something he was unaccustomed to in all his academic and physical prowess.

 

When Jungkook pushes a lock of hair that had floated around to sway in front of his eye behind his ear, there’s a small crease that tucks itself right between his brows as he considers Taehyung, the surprise still etched across his features. Taehyung can’t help the twinge of emotion that stirs in his chest at that sight, he really can’t. Jungkook’s just too cute. He supposes he’s already becoming weak for the boy, but he’s not about to stop that. Not when he looks like this. Surely it wouldn’t harm anyone if he was allowed to indulge in at least some things, right? After all, they were on track to be where they needed to go, he had mused.

 

“If you win,” Taehyung decides, weak to Jungkook’s adorable little bunny expression,” I will tell you anything you want to know.”

 

And at that, though he had already been intending to accept the challenge, Jungkook is powerless to resist at the reward Taehyung has dangled in front of him. It is true that Taehyung had, to Jungkook’s appreciation, told him a little about his realm, but he’d been tight-lipped about it. Despite Taehyung’s knack for talking so much (which Jungkook actually really didn’t mind and rather enjoyed), the man could just as well edge around his words, always narrowly avoiding the strong, fast and watery current that was Jungkook’s curiousness.

 

Some questions Taehyung would answer; others he would not, but it seemed to Jungkook that the merman had decided he could tell him more of the world he’d brought him to, much to his own gratitude.  Knowing at least something gave Jungkook a sense of acumen that left him feeling more secure and a little less…lost.

 

So far Jungkook has learned during their swim and in between the sore losses of hide and go seek-Taehyung had been quick to yield some answers to him to soothe that icy jab of defeat much to Jungkook’s gratefulness-that his realm was divided into three parts, each of the three consisting of a different biome to house different species of both his people, which he called the mer, and the aquatic creatures as well.

 

The first of the three Taehyung called Ciaea, or the cold realm. Here, temperatures are colder than ice and the mer specialize in water magic that revolves around freezing it to one’s will. . The waters here are bluer than sapphire, changing to different shades of blue according to the seasons (that fact had bewildered Jungkook, really. It was like the sea was its own sky, what with being able to shift colors like it). They have cold-blood, which means that they can only live in waters that are very frigid due to impossibly low body temperatures. These mer, Taehyung had ardently declared, were very impressive, for the younger mer often journeyed and trained at the bottom of the sea to better help them manipulate and refine their skill and ability so they can learn to manage their powers and bodies under such cold temperatures; Taehyung had been so prideful when he’d explained to Jungkook that he was able to check on the young and did so often due to the ability to change his own body temperature, a feat that had again stupefied Jungkook and left him ticking his head with widened eyes like a seal behind an amused, chuckling Taehyung.

 

Creatures that live here, Jungkook had been told, consist not only of animals that had existed back home in Busan, but of ones he’d heard and read about in stories and the many books of his expansive library back home. Taehyung had been pleased to see him once again look flabbergasted in his description of the very real Bake-kujira, a ghost whale he’d been nurturing lately; the whale was suffering from a bad case of depression and Taehyung would not allow it to squander its life away in loneliness at the bottom of the ocean after it had just been born out of the sadness of the family members of a now deceased whale.

 

Jungkook had thought it truly endearing that the merman had a compassionate streak, he really had. He’d also appreciated that Taehyung had eagerly promised to show him that animal friend soon if they could finish their “task,” as Taehyung had worded much to Jungkook’s own groaning and huffing (the description Taehyung had given him of the animal had insistently grappled at his interest when the merman’s eyes had brightened up upon him asking more in Jungkook’s growing thirst for knowledge about this world).

 

The animal, as Taehyung had quickly explained with a breathlessness that Jungkook was surprised never eluded him in how quickly he spoke with all the excitement that flew between his words, was a specter of something akin to a blue whale back home. Though, for this particular creature, it has a body of wisps that dim and lose their light with the sadder the animal becomes until it dissipates and thusly ending the life of the creature. That had saddened Jungkook, but Taehyung had been there to soothe the subfusc, heavy feeling at the bottom of his stomach with calming words and an empathetic squeeze to his shoulder (Jungkook had had to deal with the mortification of reddened cheeks when he’d realized how much he liked the way Taehyung’s hand had felt over the exposed skin his shirt hadn’t covered).

 

Death is a part of life, he had told Jungkook with something indiscernible that had flashed through his eyes before they had resumed their swim. That had addled Jungkook, but he knew better than to inquire about it if way Taehyung’s countenance had quickly changed and he’d carried a heavy expression of reflection. Jungkook had wondered what it could have been that Taehyung had been thinking on when he’d seen the man look forlornly at his hand before peering up at him with soft, beseeching eyes.

 

He hadn’t known what to do, but he had known that he wanted to discover what it could have been to make the merman change so quickly; the urge to comfort Taehyung had gripped him so fiercely there had been little else he could do but put his hand over Taehyung’s and give a reassuring squeeze of his own, the mortification hitting him square in the gut shortly after Taehyung had given a soft smile as a reward for his efforts.  

 

It was after the second game of hide and go seek with another sore loss that sat idly dull at Jungkook’s side that Taehyung told him more about his kingdom, that numb feeling quickly dissipating when Taehyung’s tone grew light as he warmly smiled at Jungkook while he spoke.

The second of the three realms of this world Taehyung called Ignea, or the realm of heat. It is here that temperatures exceed that of a desert fire with the mer specializing in magic that revolves around boiling or ‘melting’ using water. Here, the waters also shift in color, changing from those of a fire according to the seasons, too. Taehyung had professed how much he enjoyed swimming through these waters on a summer day, the sun’s rays making the waters speckle and crackle much like that of a flame.

 

Like Ciaea, the inhabitants here also-and this is where Taehyung had taken on that adorable high-pitched voice, his words quickly leaving him as he animatedly had told Jungkook about it-usually have their younger inhabitants to train nearest the surface where the sun’s rays heat the waters even more so that they, too, can condition themselves to extreme temperatures. Taehyung had also been keen to tell him that, here as well, he could alter his own body temperature by heating it to be able to travel to that realm and converse with its inhabitants.

 

It was impressive to Jungkook that Taehyung could do such a thing with his body, but Taehyung had brushed that little piece of information off as if it were nothing. That wasn’t to say that he hadn’t visibly preened in Jungkook’s wonderment that had dripped into the prince’s ceaseless questions following that, for Taehyung had seemed to thoroughly enjoy the spectacle of continually throwing the prince into a whirlpool of curiosity that, for the most part, had not quelled.

 

Though, Taehyung had apprised him that only hot-blooded creatures can live within the realm of Ignea. The merman had had to ardently remind Jungkook that the species of wildlife here, while still being some of the same species that live in Ciaea, have different appearances that best suit them for the environment. It had been fascinating to Jungkook to learn that here, too, there are creatures he’s never seen before though he hopes to with a burning desire if Taehyung’s vivid descriptions of some of the merman’s favorite animals were anything to go by. Besides, Jungkook himself had always enjoyed studying the skies, so for him, this was another opportunity to expand his knowledge; and if his teacher was to be Taehyung, well…  he was going to be more than happy to be Taehyung’s little student.

 

The merman had chronicled about the last realm after Jungkook had lost the fifth game when he’d begun to sulkily sink toward the sandy ocean floor while Taehyung had looked on with sympathetic eyes, not wanting the young prince to wallow in his defeat for too long. Truly, the prince had found a good place to hide among the kelp forest, but the way that black diamond between his eyes glinted proudly in the rays of sun that poked through the thick fronds had been a beacon Taehyung found himself compelled, like a moth to a flame, to follow.

 

The final realm, or as Taehyung had referred to it as, was his birth realm. Here, he spent a good part of his time when he wasn’t visiting the other realms to check on the mer as well as animals living there. He had called it Via and this realm housed the most inhabitants among mer and wildlife alike, the lukewarm waters that stay the same temperature all year round a very rich environment for all that dwell here. Because of the extremity in temperature of the environments of Ignea and Ciaea, Taehyung had said the populations there (while they are well rounded, numerous and full with life), the larger part of his people are warm blooded, not being able to withstand or alter their own body temperatures as he could to be able to tolerate the harshness of either realm if not possessing the power to manipulate water through heat or ice as Taehyung can.

 

The realm of Via specializes in three types of magics unlike the other two realms that typically are associated with one. There’s hydrokinesis, hydroportation and water gellification (or the solidication of water, Taehyung had been quick to tell him when he’d cocked his head to the side like a puppy). Hydrokinesis is the most well-known and common ability to the mer here, which is the capacity of one to manipulate water with their mind. Though, those that wield this power cannot do much beyond changing directions of weaker currents or lifting light rocks from the ocean floor. Typically those with this power help to collect and gather food and resources for the kingdom and Taehyung’s appreciation for them had been nothing short of immense with how highly he’d spoken of them and their impact within his birth realm.

 

He’d also learned that, between games of hide and go seek, the royal palace was located (an underwater one at that with more than 150 rooms, Taehyung had been proud to announce), as an intermediary between the realms of Ciaea and Ignea. It was Taehyung’s place of living among waters that are clear as glass so that they are colored a golden color by the sun to match that of those beautiful eyes of his (Jungkook can’t help looking at them, he really can’t. It is a sin, in Jungkook’s mind, to not appreciate the aesthetic appeal of a creature that still amazingly looks like they were painted by the gods).

 

The way the man had been become so enthusiastic about it all, his tail flicking excitedly and eyes lighting up in delight when Jungkook would ask to know more about them, well… it was adorable, to say the least.

 

That isn’t to say that he hadn’t been grandiosely impressed at Taehyung’s own capacity for hydrokinesis while he’d been busy ogling the man in his cuteness, because he was. He really, really was. It had been somewhat of an ease to comprehend Taehyung with how ardently he told all of this to Jungkook, the way the words just rolled off his tongue as he explained it all, so maybe that’s why Jungkook had been able to get through all of it without floundering too much. He’d seen some if it firsthand, so that made it easier to swallow as well.

 

That wasn’t to say he was accepting of it all, though. Taehyung still was a swimming contradiction to everything Jungkook had been taught and was a very powerful creature (in terms of water affinity and in how utterly strong and beautiful he is), so when Taehyung had told Jungkook of all his powers, even when he’d already told Jungkook some of them, it still blew his mind. Jungkook can now distinctly, and mortifyingly, think back on the plethora of giggles that bubbled from Taehyungs lips in what must have been the response to how his own jaw might have fallen slack. He’s not too sure, honestly. He just really enjoyed hearing the savory sound of the man’s laughter that, truly, was very contagious in the way it would warmly wrap around him like a warm blanket.

 

Such environments, wildlife and power over water had long since been extinct in Busan, so it was something like a myth come to life multiple times over for Jungkook, who had been-(and still is- truly amazed by it all (Taehyung mostly, but he isn’t about to admit that).

 

Beyond that magic, though, there is gellification, or the hardening of water to mold it to a shape or size of one’s will. While this one is manifests itself in a great many of those that dwell in Via, Taehyung had been sure to note that the most any of his people can do is to create nonliving, non-animated objects while he can create and imbue life upon his solidifications. The man had veered off into a tale of how he’d accidentally made a water monster in his sleep when he’d had a nightmare as a child and that’s how he’d discovered that ability.

 

That tale had only served to endear him further in Jungkook’s kind, though amused eyes. He had enjoyed every second of Taehyung’s little lilts he did with his voice when the man tried to persuade him that it “hadn’t been my fault” and “I was just a child, Jeonggukie, come on!”

 

Then there’s hydroportation, which is being able to teleport or transport oneself or a particular thing across long distances using water as Taehyung had done to retrieve his clothes in the cavern, for example. The man had chosen to summon the very articles of clothing he now wore to the pool, encasing it in solidified water as he did so that it would remain protected and clean; it was very important that Taehyung have his appearance be pristine, as is the custom for those who are almost kingly in status, he’d teasingly told Jungkook.

 

Jungkook could understand that, though. Being that he was a prince himself, he understood the need to keep up an orderly, perfect appearance. Of the necessity that a regal aesthetic had on respect and treatment of those around a person. On another more personally embarrassing level, though, he was also a neat freak. Jungkook had won another famous boxy smile from Taehyung when the man had advertently pried the admission from Jungkook’s mouth before he’d even realized it, much to Taehyung’s, albeit with a mortified Jungkook, delight.

 

Taehyung had then used Jungkook’s apparent lack of voice as the vessel to which he sailed in endlessly teasing him between explaining more about his world, though the prince quickly found he didn’t mind the way his cheeks burned in the way the merman would flash him those cute boxy smiles every now and then.

 

There were a great many things that Jungkook still didn’t know, though, things that he had since discovered he had a burning need to know if not for the gray areas that Taehyung had artfully avoided for whatever reason. He wanted to know what Taehyung still continued to hide deep within those golden, soulful eyes.

 

Perhaps that is why his reaction is instant, for there is still an internal puzzle that is missing many pieces for Jungkook. Taehyung still finds it just as adorable when Jungkook all but perks up, interest alight in his eyes as he leans forward, unconsciously bringing himself closer to Taehyung so that they’re only a foot or so away from each other,” Really?”

 

Taehyung nods, “But,” he gestures toward his large, powerful tail that swings calmly beneath him while he keeps eye contact with Jungkook,” you will have to beat this. Do you think you can?”

 

At the question, Jungkook tilts his chin up, playfully huffing,” Of course I can. I wasn’t praised for my stamina by the palace guard for nothing in Busan.”

 

Jungkook had always been a very competitive person, so challenges for him were always met with quick acceptance due to the nature of his personality. He had never strayed from any challenge, a sense of pride to match that of a lion awakening from its sleep whenever he was met with any sort of competition or test of ability. Really, he just likes to win. There is nothing quite as satisfying for him than the sweet taste of victory and of Taehyung’s little games, there are plenty. He did lose the previous games, yes, but perhaps that was why the lion of pride reared its head at Taehyung’s challenge.

 

And really, he doesn’t think he could deny Taehyung even if he wanted to. Jungkook’s beginning to learn that Taehyung has a wonderfully potent ability to speak in a capacity that he’s sure goes beyond that of a songbird on a spring day; Taehyung had told him that this animal could live on land or on the bay, each biome yielding different appearances of the creatures to display.

 

Taehyung holds his gaze, not being able to help the smirk as he taunts, “Oh, a confident boy you are, then. Let’s see if you have a bite to your bark, shall we?”

 

“Let’s,” Jungkook determinedly professes.

 

He straightens, his chest curving outward in a display that Taehyung isn’t sure he’s even aware of but is still powerless to resist with the way defined, toned muscles peek from the tears and tatters of the shirt that still clings to his chest. It’s unfair, really, how strong Jungkook looks and how very appealing those muscles grant such a taut form that makes it hard to move one’s sight away from. If Jungkook notices Taehyung ogling him (and he again does not, much to Taehyung’s relief with how little control he has over himself), he doesn’t say anything. Instead he gives a firm nod, his eyes beset in newfound determination that glint in the midday sun.

 

“Not that I’m backing out, here, but I do believe I am at a disadvantage,” Jungkook clearly professes, wholly aware of the fact that Taehyung is a merman and will therefore have a much faster speed than he ever will if the memory of them playing an innocent game of hide and seek earlier had anything to do with it (Jungkook had lost that game by a landslide, but Taehyung’s smile had been there to soothe the sore jab of defeat). He is learning, very quickly in fact, that Taehyung has a fierce love for games just as he does. He supposes that indulging Taehyung again will be just as rewarding, so as long as he gets to see Taehyung flash his favorite boxy smile once more.

 

It’s pitiful, really, how Taehyung’s natural air of bubbliness and joviality strikes at his chords. Jungkook finds he doesn’t have a care about how pathetic he must seem.

 

“Are you certain of that?” Taehyung rests a hand on his hip, the regale dripping from the words.

 

Jungkook makes a sound of thought,” Ah, well since you do have, well, that,” Jungkook gesticulates toward Taehyung’s large tail that continues to calmly, powerfully swish from side to side to keep him afloat,” What compensation do I get for having legs?” He asks, not missing the way Taehyung’s lips turn upward at the question.

 

It’s almost like the man can’t keep a smile off his face around him. Not that he minds that, though. On the contrary, Jungkook really, really likes Taehyung’s smile. Seeing it brings with it a cluster of butterflies that flurry through his chest and he’s not averse to the feeling with how often it now happens. It’s then that Jungkook has an irritational thought that that’s because the merman may like him. And of all thoughts, that one he pushes rapidly away, shaking his head. There was no way a creature as beautiful and kind as that would like something like him.

 

Taehyung chirps,” Well, I never thought you’d ask, Sir Starfish.”

 

“Aish!” Jungkook animatedly retorts,” Are you still calling me that after I admitted my defeat with our hide and go seek games earlier? It’s not like I can help being slow,” Jungkook pouts, pushing out his lower lip while his brows narrow inwards. Again, it’s a sight Taehyung all too quickly caves to with how downright precious Jungkook looks.

 

The merman had taken to teasing him with the name after loss number six, and though Jungkook did not particularly like the name, the way it tumbled down Taehyung’s full, shapely lips, well… Jungkook didn’t have the heart to tell him not to call him that, honestly. Jungkook thinks that Taehyung might call him anything at this point and he wouldn’t have the ability to say anything rejective to it. He just has an uncanny ability to make everything sound so sapid with that deep, low pitched voice that Jungkook enjoys so much.

 

Taehyung laughs, the sound as clearly crystalline as the water while he waves his hands enthusiastically out in front of him in a movement of acquiesce,” Fine, fine. What kind of compensation, pray tell, do you want?” He tauntingly asks.

 

There’s another challenge in there, a flash that passes through his eyes that Jungkook guesses is the manifestation of nothing less than mischievousness that he weaves between his always present joviality. Jungkook appreciates that, too, but right now, he’s still unfamiliar with this realm. So, he does has an idea. He will play Taehyung’s game, but they will first have a battle of words before their contest of speed. He’s not entirely sure if he will even be able to pry the answer he wants out of Taehyung, but he’s not about to head blindly into this next game without some kind of hint as to what Taehyung might aid him with.

 

After their game of hide and seek, he definitely isn’t going to try to race against the merman only with his innate stamina. He is strong, he knows, but strength alone won’t be enough against Taehyung’s powerful tail that allows him to effortlessly zip through the waters as if he were am arrow shot from a tightly strung bow.

 

He rises from the rock, purposefully placing himself eye level to Taehyung, their closeness so little that he would able to reach out and tuck the stray strand of hair behind Taehyung’s ear, to brush at the tantalizingly golden skin of Taehyung’s arm that isn’t covered by his garment if he so chose to. Perhaps it is the realization of that, of their proximity, that makes Jungkook’s cheeks begin to burn.

 

When Taehyung himself moves to fiddle with his bracelet, that giddy smile still pressing at the sides of his perfectly shaped cheeks, there’s an urge he suddenly has, an instant want that wraps itself around Jungkook’s fingers and coils in his chest at how close they are. It’s that same feeling he’d tried to deny in the throne room, he realizes with a start. He wants to touch Taehyung, he really does, and the way Taehyung gazes amusedly at him doesn’t do anything to drown that want.

 

He shouldn’t be thinking these things. He shouldn’t, but Taehyung just makes it so difficult.  He thinks that maybe it had been a bad idea to get this close, wonders what he’d been thinking when he’d decided to play this little game and draws a blank beyond anything other than how this had been a habit of intimidation he’d learned as a child. At least, that’s what he thought standing up tall (or as much of that as he’s able to copy underwater, anyway) and puffing one’s chest out would lead a person’s intended target to feel.

 

Taehyung holds his gaze, the interest in Jungkook’s own simmering under those deep brown irises that he finds so pretty. Jungkook doesn’t know it, but the way that he tries to look so imposing is more endearing than anything else, if not for the way that he has to continually wade his arms around him in strange patterns in attempt to, albeit with some success, remain in the same place. At this angle, Taehyung can also see just how clear of a complexion he has, a small beauty mark sitting alone directly underneath his bottom lip. It’s the first time that Taehyung has ever seen it and he wonders how, in the eighteen years that this boy has been alive, he’d never noticed it.

 

Taehyung guesses it’s because of the products Jungkook’s attendants had had to apply to his face, but why something so cute would need to be covered is beyond him. Truly, the mark adds a look of boyishness to him, but Taehyung finds it all the more appealing. He has a passing air of want to touch the boy’s lips, to let his fingers gently slide over the little mark beneath his lower lip, but he doesn’t let himself think on it too long.

 

Of all things, that could wait, he tells himself. So instead, he clears his throat, his fingers still worrying around the armband because the way Jungkook is looking at him is just too much. It’s a good thing they’re in water as well, because Jungkook will have no way of knowing that Taehyung’s breath has literally caught in the base of his throat with his affinity continually providing air for him through his nose that works something like gills to exchange the carbon in the water to oxygen. 

 

Not for the first time, Taehyung’s glad he has no need to breathe through his mouth. That would be far too embarrassing, he thinks, if Jungkook were to see how many bubbles he would be producing right now if he did breathe like that. He reminds himself that he has to calm down, choosing to count his intake of oxygen while Jungkook pierces him with his gaze.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Jungkook himself had seen the way the water around the merman’s lips had been sucked inward past full, parted pink lips, had seen the way Taehyung (despite the man’s long tail that made him taller than him in height) had become smaller in that he’d sunk a little lower-his tail was swaying back and forth at a pace that matched that of a timid fox- so that Jungkook was now slightly above him. The behavior pleased him for what reason, he didn’t know, but it was a contented feeling that sat proudly in his chest.

 

Perhaps that’s why he finally gives a small smirk of his own and a cocked brow when he decides,” I suppose you could choose, but on one condition.”

 

There’s a taunt there and Taehyung knowingly flies into its web, unable to fight against the provocation that shines in Jungkook’s eyes and how attractive his confidence clings to his every word. So, he caves once more. He distinctly wonders if Jungkook has figured out how easy it is to make him flustered, because right now, it feels like his heart beats a mile a minute with how close they are. He looks down to those parted lips that Jungkook has devilishly left open, a twitch tugging his fingers in the want to touch even when he knows he shouldn’t.

 

“Hmm, an intriguing proposition,” he fiddles with edge of his garment to feign a boredom he doesn’t feel,” But what are your terms?”

 

Jungkook only moves closer, a light feeling bursting to life within his own chest in how close they are when he sees the way Taehyung’s eyes flit downward in an act of submission that Jungkook shouldn’t find he likes so much, that feeling spreading its wings outward while his smile deepens. Taehyung is trying not to act like a child with a hopeless crush, but it’s so hard-does Jungkook realize how close they are, because Taehyung doesn’t think he does, not that he’s objecting or anything-while Jungkook thoroughly enjoys the way Taehyung’s voice had become just a little quieter, in the way Taehyung’s cheeks are puffing outward as if he’s trying to hold in breaths he doesn’t want to release. Jungkook’s not sure why he’s doing that, but he knows it makes him feel a way he’s never felt before, a feeling that is akin to how one would feel after winning a long chess game. Though, for him, this is far more rewarding and he would prefer Taehyung to chess any day of the week.

 

This tactic had seemed to work back in the cave and he’s glad he tried it again because this had seemed to work well on the merman, much to Jungkook’s amusement. He silently thanks his brother for the strange behavior he’d watched when the man had been with women, though he still can’t pinpoint why there had been odd screams that would come from behind locked doors when he would do this enough to them. Jungkook supposes it doesn’t matter, so as long as he was having this kind of impact on Taehyung. Truthfully, it made him feel really good to know he make this merman be this way, that lion of pride smiling from within him in its proudness.

 

Perhaps that’s why he continues to mirror what he’d seen his brother do multiple times, because honestly, it’s too rewarding-too sweet- to stop it right now. Taehyung’s reactions are just too precious, Jungkook, thinks. He makes a mental note to do this more. A lot more. He enjoys this far more than he probably should, but there’s something of a small victory this gives him over Taehyung. That satisfaction that floods his core is just loud to ignore, so Jungkook won’t.

 

He rakes a hand through his hair and, honestly, Taehyung doesn’t know how the prince manages to make that look so effortlessly sensuous in the way he gazes down at him, a discernable ardor in his eyes as he assuredly asserts,” The terms are simply that we have a fair, even match, Kim Taehyung.”

 

He says those words, but Taehyung is only focused on the way his muscles flex, the way the torn material of his shirt allows for the thick, taut shoulder muscle to all but pop out of the split in cloth and how he can see the outlines of defined abdominals trailing down his stomach. It nearly makes his mouth water, but he’s mercifully within water, so he’s saved from that embarrassment, at least.

 

What he does do- to his humiliation- is lick his lips while he looks, words he doesn’t even think about spilling slowly from his mouth,” Okay, yes.”

 

He doesn’t realize what he’s said until there’s a light giggle from Jungkook that starts small, but then grows much bigger until he’s chortling, throwing his head back so that Taehyung is granted with a sight of a strong, supple neck that is flanked by muscle he so wants to touch. That want should be thrown into a cage, he knows, but gods, when Taehyung moves just a little closer, drawn forward but some kind of string that continues to pull him so that they’re only an inch or so apart, it’s here he can smell Jungkook; the effect that it has when it hits him like a heavy ocean wave nearly knocks him back in how pungently sweet it is.

 

Jungkook smells like earthen oak, like that of the forest. He smells of, secondly, a spring day. That’s flanked by an aroma of freshly laundered sheets and all of it culminates into a heavenly aroma that wafts energetically under his nostrils. Taehyung wonders how he had never smelled this, but the answer to that comes easily to him when his vision shifts to the neck that Jungkook has unknowingly exposed to him with that long, large jugular vein standing out proudly amidst other networks of veins that cause a dull throb to swell to each side of his upper jaw. His hand lifts, driving by instinct and, before he can do anything else, Jungkook moves his head downward so that big, brown eyes pierce his own and break the spell he was under, the smile still in those deep eyes of his.

 

He doesn’t seem to realize that they’re so close now, nor of what Taehyung had been seconds away from doing and Taehyung has never been more grateful as he bites his lip and looks anywhere but Jungkook as the shame nips at his core. He should have had more control. He shouldn’t have nearly lost it and forsaken the safety of his dear prince.

 

Jungkook himself just smiles, wiping at his eye where there should have been a tear but there isn’t with the intensity to which he’d just laughed,” Ah, I’m sorry about that, Taehyungie,” The nickname causes Taehyung to jerk his head upward to meet the warm gaze of Jungkook,” I just couldn’t help but laugh at how eloquent your response was. Is everything alright over there?” He teases, nonchalantly poking at Taehyung’s temple as if that won’t affect the merman and his thought processes in how gentle such a strong hand is, in how even the pads of his fingers are corded with muscle that’s somehow soft.

 

As if I could be, you minx. Not that I don’t adore you for it, though, Taehyung muses. He wishes his voice wasn’t so easily captured by emotion, because the next thing he says is far more smooth-tongued.

 

“Uh, yeah, I’m great!” He quickly squeaks, his voice high and betraying of the guilt and thoughts weighing him down.

 

Jungkook doesn’t seem convinced because he only crosses his arms, a look of expectation crossing his features as he waits for a better answer,” Taehyung, you don’t sound so sure about that.”

 

Taehyung fights past the shame that’s biting him harder and harder to give a smile that is all the more rewarding when Jungkook’s expression softens,” I promise everything is fine, Jeonggukie, I just have been thinking about what kind of boost I should give you for this race that you’re so keen on doing.”

 

Jungkook makes a sound of thought, looking upward at the skies while putting a hand to his lips-why does he keep doing that, Taehyung wonders. It’s so hard to focus when Jungkook does things like that-while he ruminates. The afternoon sunlight calmly walks above the waters, the light peeking through the large, healthy fronds and branches of all the strange trees and plants around them that are painted colors rich colors of golds, silvers and beyond, soft speckles of golden bioluminescent creatures clinging to it all to make it that much more placidly peaceful.

 

Jungkook’s brows furrow in concentration and Taehyung adores the little scrunch he does with this nose when he flits to a thought he doesn’t approve of. It’s very, very cute.

 

When Jungkook finally snaps his fingers and looks excitedly to Taehyung, he keeps his eyes on the skies when he offers,” Take me to the sky, Taehyung.”

 

Taehyung is baffled at that, not for the first time. He makes a sound a sound of questioning and Jungkook gives a small, reassuring smile as he suggestively points upward, a silent plead in his eyes that shines in the sunlight.

 

Taehyung’s gone before he can even think about it.

 

“Uh, if you’re ready to fly, then I suppose that’s not something I can deny you.” He replies with a fond look that he hopes isn’t as easy to see as the feelings that are running rampant inside him.

 

“Wait, really? You can do that?” He excitedly questions.

 

Jungkook himself is giddy at the thought of being able to fly. He’s always wanted but never been able to and nothing gives him as much joy as the knowledge that Taehyung, his savior and friend, would be the one to give that to him. He wonders if he should tell Taehyung or if the man already knows, but he supposes Taehyung must because he can’t help but to notice how tender the merman’s eyes are as he looks up at him, at how quickly the merman is to acquiesce to him whether it be in body language or speech. He doesn’t know why that smile Taehyung gives him does things to his gut, why there are butterflies in his stomach when Taehyung extends a hand outward when he has an irritational hope that maybe the man will touch him.

 

The merman’s simply nods, his eyes glowing a bit brighter as if to reassure him that, yes, he can do that and much more. Jungkook isn’t sure why that makes him feel warm inside, but it does.

 

“As you wish, Jeonggukie,” Taehyung affirms with a smile,” But I would advise that you stand back.”

 

Taehyung’s eyes then close and Jungkook tilts his head to the side, unknowing of what the merman’s going to do but still wanting, still hoping that Taehyung will touch him. The man’s touches are soothing and placating in a way Jungkook has never known, but he finds that every time that Taehyung has touched him, it has felt right. He thinks on the time Taehyung had taken his hand in the throne room and how impossibly soft his skin had felt, of how his hand had fit perfectly around his own.

 

The hand that is outstretched him now, he realizes, is in the same position it had been when he’d summoned the ocean to his side in Busan and when he’d solidified the water back in the cave. The realization trickles down chest in disappointment, but he can’t dwell on it too long with how irrevocably beautiful Taehyung is, his closed eyes giving him an air of gracefulness of that which pools within every movement as his arm extends and his long, elegant fingers straighten while he turns his palm skyward.

 

Suddenly the waters that were once still start to curl and twist around his hand, white foam and bubbles spiraling outward from all sides until it looks as if there’s a small whirlpool that surrounds the hand Taehyung has left outstretched. Inside it, Jungkook has to narrow his eyes to make out a spherical shape that at first he can’t distinguish but soon shifts as it’s molded into something atop Taehyung’s hand. Through the storm of bubbles and foam around his hand, it’s very hard to see, but Jungkook thinks he can discern the shape of wings that are attached to a body of some kind of animal with the entire shape comprised of hardened water that he guesses Taehyung must have solidified.

 

It’s when Taehyung lifts his arm, his hand still stretched skyward, that whatever had been resting atop it is pushed upward, along with the waters that had been whirling around it, to rivet through the crystalline waters at the speed of foam flakes that are catapulted from a waterfall. It all shoots through the top of the water with an audible splash and when Jungkook looks back to Taehyung, the man’s eyes are still closed, the waters that had once whirled around his left hand invisible and quiet once more as he draws it to his side.

 

Jungkook hadn’t known what he’d been expecting, but as he looks around and sees no change to anything, he peers questioningly at Taehyung, “Hey, Taehyungie? What was that about?”

 

That’s when Taehyung opens his eyes (honestly, Jungkook doesn’t think he’ll ever get tired of those eyes) and gives a small chuckle before he inclines his head upward toward the sky,” Go to the surface and you shall see, young prince.”

 

Jungkook cocks his head just a little more at that, his brows scrunching inward while he looks apprehensively from the surface to Taehyung, who offers a reassuring nod, before he decides to swim upward. Palm fronds and long, thick leafy branches of plants he doesn’t know seem to gently brush along his exposed ankle, tickling the skin there as he goes. When his head finally breaches the surface, he rubs his eyes out of habit before he peers at his surroundings.

 

The first thing he notices is that the sun has lowered, its position halfway between the skies directly above him and the endless ocean ahead of him in a topaz like color that showers everything around him in a soft, calming light that reflects off the tiredness of the ocean’s waves after a long day of work. It’s a beautiful sight much like one he would have seen back home sitting in his favorite cove while he studied, but it’s different in how it looks as if the very sky shines, small speckles the color of the sun dotting the atmosphere akin to stars, though how that is possible, he isn’t sure. What he does know is that it takes his breath away in how those dots that blink at him do so in a dance, each one lighting itself brighter after another in a constant flux while the ocean’s spray wafts under his nostrils while he watches strange creatures fly throughout the sky under thin wispy clouds that have a sheen to them much like a pearl.

 

It’s like a night sky, but only during the daytime, Jungkook decides with fascination.

 

He ogles it all, studying it with appreciation while he tries to find other things this new world might have to offer. That’s probably why it’s so easy to notice the flash of something in the sky far ahead of him, the suddenness of it making him tilt his head to the side in questioning. He hears the whoosh, hears the wet sloshing of water before he sees it. Jungkook narrows his eyes, only rubbing them when he makes out the shape of something that shouldn’t exist as it flies with a speed of lightning toward him. The sounds grow louder with the closer that it gets, now, and Jungkook truly isn’t prepared to see what it is that’s been summoned as it comes nearer.

 

“No…way…” He utters upon opening his eyes, wholly bewildered at the watery creature that powerfully rears its impossibly large body above him with a high-pitched whine that shouldn’t be possible for a being borne out of liquid.

 

It takes a moment for Jungkook to discern what exactly it is through the sun’s light that magnifies itself through the crystalline water of the creature, but when he does, his jaw (once more, thanks to Taehyung) has dropped. It’s the same being he’d seen atop Taehyung’s hand, a creature with wings attached to the body of a horse. A Pegasus, it had been called in the old tales and legends, though this one was alive and definitely real as it stamps proudly atop the water he swims in and proudly raises its head while flaunting its very long, very powerful watery wings in the air.

 

Jungkook’s still caught like a deer in firelight, too bewildered to do anything but also too fascinated to move. The creature seems to take notice because it nickers at him, inspecting him with interest. The creature takes a watery hoof and drags it across the water as if to ask,” Are you going to keep watching me?”

 

Jungkook says nothing, swallowing deeply before his body catches up with his thoughts and he moves a little closer, making a small whistle as he does to capture the creature’s attention. He’s being driven now by a want to explore this being, for there is no fear he feels in its presence, no hostility that can be seen in the eyes as clear as diamonds that continue to watch him as he moves.

 

Halfway to the creature is when it neighs, rearing once more with a powerful splash that causes a surge of water to wash over him and dull his senses only for a moment. When he resurfaces, the sound of familiar laughter is the first to reach his ears. He looks back in surprise to see Taehyung clutching at his chest in how hard he’s laughing and the mortification might be more sudden than the water that had just engulfed him. His cheeks instantly burn and he has to poke his tongue at his lip to keep from embarrassing himself further.

 

“Ah, Jeonggukie, you are an absolute treasure, sometimes,” The mirth following his words like a stream while he continues to chuckle.

 

Jungkook should be mad that Taehyung is taking enjoyment from his humiliation, but he just can’t bring himself to when the merman flashes those bright white teeth in that famous boxy smile he likes so much, with the sound that he’s making more melodic to his ears than a siren’s song could ever be.

 

The creature seems to agree when it gives a loud whinny, a smile quick to return to Taehyung’s lips as he seems to have some kind of silent discussion with the creature.

 

Jungkook himself just grunts,” I just wanted to say hello.”

 

The mortification he feels when Taehyung coos at him makes his chest feel like it’s being squeezed like a tight shirt that can’t be taken off with the emotion when Taehyung gives him a pat on the head that makes it ardently tighter as it swells within him,” Aww, well do you want to try again? I think he just wants to be on level ground with you, honestly, so he can see you better,” The Pegasus neighs as if in affirmation to Jungkook’s astonishment,” Right now you’re just a head poking out of the ocean, so imagine how he might feel!”

 

Jungkook looks between to the two of them, the scrunch between his brows tight as the cord of confusion within his mind as he continues to poke at his cheek,” He? That’s a he?”

 

Taehyung gives a happy nod, grinning when Jungkook’s brow furrows itself further downward.

 

“But…you created that, didn’t you? How.. how can it have a gender?” Jungkook perplexedly asks.

 

Truly, Jungkook doesn’t know how he can still be this surprised with everything he’s seen and been told so far, but the creature is unlike anything he’d ever seen and he just doesn’t know what to do with all these things that keep happening that he could have never imagined a week or so ago.

 

Taehyung gives a dismissive shrug,” It’s true that I did create him, but as his creator, I have the ability to give him whatever properties I want, so as long as he’s still made out of water. Does that make sense?”

 

Jungkook nods because yes, that does make sense. There had been some magics in his old kingdom where the caster could alter the properties of the physical environment, but no such magic had existed to be able to bring life to creatures out of the elements (or out of anything really. It just hadn’t been possible to create life out of magic). That kind of power had long since gone extinct many decades, many centuries before Jungkook had been brought into the world. That is what addles him, but he thinks Taehyung already knows that.

 

So, he gives a slight nod, his visage returning to that of the creature that’s peering absorbedly down into the waters beneath it, its watery tail flicking when it sees something curious. The sight is one that makes a smile edge at his own lips, for the creature seems to display the same kind of appreciation for its element that Taehyung himself does. Jungkook’s not sure if Taehyung had purposefully done that, but he knows he finds the way the Pegasus acts to be cute. That want to touch, to explore and understand the creature surfaces like a tide once more and Taehyung watches the way the prince’s expression softens when he looks at the Pegasus, the sight bringing with it a lightness in his own chest.

 

Perhaps that’s why he extends his hand once more, his eyes closing as he listens to the calm ocean waves that fall gently over each other, to the sound the Pegasus makes as it drags another hoof with a soft splash, to the currents and animals that play energetically within the water beneath him.

 

Jungkook himself doesn’t see this, doesn’t see the way Taehyung grins when he gasps, his body tensing automatically as he’s slowly lifted from the water until the whole of his body has breached the surface. Warm air is the first to caress his skin while he rises and he suddenly remembers how torn his garments are. There are rips and tears everywhere and he imagines he must look like some kind of beggar that stole a very expensive diadem from someone with how decrepit his clothes now look. It’s embarrassing how quickly he moves to try to cover the long large tear in his right shoulder that exposes quite a bit of the muscle there, not wanting Taehyung to be made to feel uncomfortable with the skin he’s inadvertently exposed.

 

He isn’t given too long to focus on that, though, because no sooner have his toes been lifted from out of the ocean does the very water that had just held him change, small cracking and popping sounds emitted from below him that cause his attention to drift there, instead. He watches in fascination as a series of lines begin to etch themselves across the surface, their color white as snow, as they spread outward in a dance as they prance outward animatedly and its as if the sea is painting itself, a brush of snowy strokes coloring the ocean. With the more they grow, the more the ocean is hardened, a translucent coat of ice setting atop the seas and stopping right before it can color the Pegasus in an icy layer as well.

 

Jungkook knows that it’s ice because he can instantly feel the way the cold licks at his feet that rest a mere inches atop it, can feel how it’s just cold enough to illicit a shiver down his spine, but not so discomforting that it has him shivering or chattering. It’s a comforting cold, somehow, and maybe that’s because the warm air is there to hug him as well. Though, he’d like to think that its really Taehyung that makes it congenial, his presence easing and shining light to burn away any fear Jungkook might have felt.

 

When Jungkook’s toes and heels make contact with the newly formed ice, it remains still and strong under his feet while the cold gently nips at his exposed skin. Out of habit with the cold, he scrunches his toes inward and grimaces, but when he looks back to find Taehyung staring fondly at him (not that he understands what that look is or even what it’s for, only that he likes it a lot), that makes the ground beneath him a little less cold, the air a little warmer.

 

“Taehyung, how did you do that?” Jungkook’s voice is a little lighter than he wants it to be when he speaks.

 

Taehyung himself just offers a knowing smile,” Easy, I froze the water beneath you.”

 

Jungkook’s head falls back, his fingers finding and pressing against closed eyelids as he shakes it and Taehyung is utterly weak to the way his hair bounces back and forth as he does while he groans,” Aish, not that… I mean, it’s really impressive- it really is- that you can freeze things, but how did you lift me up like that?”

 

Taehyung answers with mirth in his voice,” The same way I saved you from your uncle who hadn’t been able to hurt you when he tried to use his constriction magic to meddle with your veins, with the water inside your own body.”

 

Jungkook subconsciously opens his eyes at that one. He’d rather look at Taehyung and bask in the man’s beauty than have to remember snake like eyes and cruelty so tangible it might as well have been his uncle’s advisor. Taehyung’s big, bright ones are much prettier, much kinder to look at and Jungkook thinks he’d prefer Taehyung’s over anyone else right now. Maybe Taehyung hadn’t thought about how that might have affected him, but he knows that there hadn’t been any intention to do so with the soft gaze that Taehyung gives him. Besides, his uncle would never hurt him again. Taehyung had promised him that, and he believed it. That’s why he doesn’t have any edge in his voice when realizes the answer, for there was only one power that could allow Taehyung to do what he’d just done as well as to have saved him through it before.

 

His brows rise in surprise,” You used my blood vessels and water in my body to lift me, didn’t you?”

 

“I circulated my magic through your whole body so that no blood vessels would be crushed or cut off, but yes. Your body is made mostly from water, so it’s easy to move you if I so chose to, young prince,” Taehyung affirms with an amused smile,” And as for that other altercation, my magic overpowered your uncle’s, but what I did there was to keep your blood vessels open and water continually flowing through your organs so that your body didn’t shut down.”

 

Jungkook hadn’t thought about it like that before, but it really is very impressive and, again, he’s overcome with a need to remind Taehyung of his gratefulness even if he’s already done it. He still doesn’t know why Taehyung had done what he had, had saved him from certain death. He’s secure in the fact that one day he will know, though. Taehyung is a man of his word and Jungkook trusts in that. He owes it to Taehyung for saving his life, he thinks.

 

As if to remind Jungkook of Taehyung’s magical prowess, the Pegasus nickers and Jungkook can’t help but to quietly admit,” Taehyung…you’re really amazing.”

 

Taehyung preens at the compliment, at the widened eyes Jungkook is giving him before he delightedly chimes,” I know,” He gestures with his hand in a sweeping motion toward the Pegasus,” Now go say hello like I know you want to.” He finishes with an amused smirk.

 

And at that, Jungkook gives a nod, flashing a small smile of his own before he returns his attention to the Pegasus. The creature doesn’t look at him at first, instead choosing to peer at Taehyung who is behind Jungkook to the left. Jungkook takes a small step forward, the ice under his feet stable and easy to walk on despite having no shoes. The creature is a few feet away from him, but the moment he steps closer, that’s when the Pegasus changes its attentions and looks right at him. It’s hard to tell what the creature’s expression is because it’s made out of water, but Jungkook can tell a lot through the eyes. The creature seems to be content in just watching him right now, for it has quieted and is making no sudden movements. There is no fear, but only a growing anticipation that latches itself to his every muscle and he moves slowly so as not to startle the creature. It’s when he makes it halfway between the square icy stage that his feet betray him, his weight shifting from one foot to the other when he falls, ungracefully, to the floor.

 

The creature rears at this, two strong front legs extended in front as its wings powerfully surge outward while it throws its head to the side and gives a sharp whiny. Jungkook had never been afraid of animals, had never been afraid of horses, but he has to admit how utterly large the creature is in this stance and he has to remind himself to remain calm, lest he frighten the creature more. So, he throws his hands outward in effort to show he means no ill will, a tactic he’d learned early as a child in how to gain the trust of a horse should it be acting in a wild manner. He’d had a horse back home that was black as night, a beautiful Friesian mare that was the largest horse anyone had ever seen. He had treasured her and missed her dearly, yet she’d always been a wild horse that listened to no one but him after he’d saved her from a mudslide she’d been caught in as a foal.

 

So, drawing on his knowledge of what he knew of her, he sat there patiently and waited for the Pegasus to calm down. It took a few minutes, but eventually the creature stopped whining and rearing, much to Jungkook’s relief. With his arms still extended, he rose, careful to move slowly and with purpose toward it. He only felt a sense of want to understand the creature, to show it that he meant no harm and that he really just wanted to know more about it. It was fascinating to him how such a creature could be borne out of water yet be so animated, so vivacious.

 

The creature takes a step back as Jungkook draws nearer, neighing unabashedly in a clear message for him to back off. He stops, but only for a moment to say,” It’s okay. I’m not going to hurt you.”

 

 

That seems to relax the creature only a little as it quiets itself, but now Jungkook is nearing the edge of the icy stage and the creature continues to walk backward with the nearer that he gets. He thinks of what he’d done with his mare, Mya, when he’d first found her in the forest after the mudslide. She’d been thrashing violently in the mud, sinking herself deeper into it with every frantic attempt to free herself and it had only been Jungkook’s soothing words and calming hands that had helped her.

 

So, he decides to stop at the edge of the icy floor, dropping one hand and closing his eyes,” I’m sorry if I frightened you. I just wanted to come meet you, that’s all,” he coaxes with a kind voice,” You don’t have to be afraid.”

 

There’s a soft purr at that and Jungkook hears the soft plop of a hoof against the water ahead of him, his arm now beginning to burn from how long he’s held it up while he waits. He doesn’t mind the burn, for it’s a familiar ache that he’s used to after many years of strengthening and training his muscles to be more resistant, to be able to withstand as much pressure as he can undergo. He had trained with his mare, often times, within the very forest he’d rescued her from in practicing his archery atop her strong, bare back. He’d practiced forms of grip between her long, curly mane as well as with reins so that even his hands had formed calluses. He had run alongside her many times in effort to increase his stamina, gaining thick thigh muscles in the process amidst his other physical training regiments.

 

He thinks of all this while he gently coaxes the creature, his mind reflecting on his pretty mare that he’d left behind. He wonders how she’s doing and is glad he’d left her to roam the forest after their last ride. He’s filled with a sudden pang of longing for her soothing presence, but he knows she will take care of herself and make the most of her freedom. He doesn’t want to think about what his uncle might have done to her in his absence, for he’s sure that his uncle has probably already burned all his books and writings, has desecrated his observation tower and thrown out every last associated person or thing to him from the palace.

 

That thought makes his gut twist in an uncomfortable way, weighing at him and making him unconsciously poke his tongue against his cheek as is his habit when he is confused, frustrated, or angered. He’s so focused on those thoughts that doesn’t hear the timid, apprehensive plops that become closer. He doesn’t see that the creature has come toward him until he feels against his fingers something akin to water frozen in time, water that was casted into a shell of itself to feel like ice would, only it isn’t cold. It’s strong and unyielding under his fingertips, a texture smoothly glassy that accepts his touch without preamble. His eyes open and his breath catches because the creature is here, right in front of him, willingly receiving his hand and attention as the creature snorts, a puff of air billowing out against his face.

 

He smiles, his eyes creasing as he rubs the muzzle of the creature and whispers,” Thank you.”

 

That seems to appease the Pegasus, for it bristles its wings at his touch and neighs in acquiesce. Jungkook himself is astonished at how the creature is so receptive to that, to how it lowers its head as he moves just a little closer so he can stroke it while his fingers glide along the glassy muzzle of the creature. When he finds a spot right behind it’s pricked ears, it purrs and that’s when Jungkook smiles down at it, a small bubble of happiness growing within him as he does.

Taehyung watches it all, a profound sense of fondness crossing his features as he admits,” He likes you.”

 

Jungkook looks to him, the smile still on his face,” I can tell. He’s a sweet boy, he just was scared, I think.”

 

Taehyung doesn’t need to say anything else because Jungkook is right and he knows it. Jungkook has had experience with horses, so this one Taehyung had known he would be able to handle. There was something to be said, though, in how easily the horse had come to Jungkook’s side. He doesn’t realize he’s thought aloud until Jungkook makes a sound of questioning, his hand still scratching behind the Pegasus’ ear.

 

“Interesting.” Taehyung utters.

 

“What is?” Jungkook curiously asks.

 

“My magic, though more specifically for your case, my solidifications… they don’t ‘submit’ to anyone but me, so it’s interesting that you were able to get him to listen to you.”

 

Jungkook lifts a brow at that, the concern dipped in his words,” You made him for me for the race, but you didn’t think he would listen to me?”

 

“If he hadn’t yielded to you of his own volition, I would have asked him to and he would have followed my wishes, so…” He trails off, letting the ‘o’ linger as it rolls off his tongue.

 

Jungkook purses his lips, considering what to do with that information but nonetheless returning his attentions to the creature that has just tucked its head under his arm and is nipping experimentally at the torn material there while Jungkook focuses his strokes on the creature’s side while he smiles. The Pegasus seems to be growing more comfortable around him now, moving itself with a certainty as if it recognizes him when it draws back to look at him.  

 

Taehyung hadn’t had any doubts about it before it, but there is a reason why his magic is reacting to Jungkook and he knows perfectly well what that reason is, not that he’s going to tell Jungkook, of course. It was far too early to divulge that information, though what he could definitively discern was that only one person, besides Taehyung, had ever been able to cause Taehyung’s magic to follow commands. Only one person had had the ability to effectively have his own magic yield to themselves. That acknowledgement, that realization, is what causes Taehyung’s own eyes to shine with a glassiness he wishes he could conceal, a burning sensation at the edge of one eye to ultimately release a solitary tear down his cheek. The tear falls quietly in the water and he hopes that Jungkook doesn’t turn around. He can’t have the prince thinking he’s sad, because he’s not. If anything, it’s the opposite.

 

Perhaps that’s why he wipes the tear away and gives a gentle offer,” You should ride him.”

 

Jungkook’s eyes open just a little wider as he cutely blurts,” W-What? Ride him?”

Chapter Text

Sorry for the delay, guys, but it's the end of the semester over at my college, so it has been hard to get to this between four final essays/papers and one math exam. Please anticipate this, though! I have been working on it and will try my best to get it out this weekend if I can !