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Yellow Roses

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The grass was not always greener on the other side. This was a fact that Hoseok knew well. And it was a fact, not just an expression that his mother, sister, and father alike had told him when he was a child. He knew it to be fact because the grass under his feet was not bright green, it was darker with brown here and there, and leaves crunched with each step he took. If he were to turn back, go back to the palace grounds, that was where the grass would be greener.

But on the other side, the grass was ordinary.

Perhaps that was what Hoseok liked about it, though. Perhaps he liked being outside the palace grounds, liked being somewhere where no one was around to expect anything of him. Surrounded by trees and ordinary grass and crunchy leaves, he was free to be whoever he wanted to be. Or at the very least, free to be himself.

“Are you sure you know where we’re going? You’ve stopped at least three times now and looked around as if you’re lost.”

The sun shifted through the trees when Hoseok paused and turned on his heels. Light fell through the leaves onto Yoongi’s face, making his eyes a little bit sparkly. Hoseok found comfort in the way Yoongi’s eyes stayed familiar, even if it had been some time since they had last seen each other. No matter if Yoongi changed, his eyes always stayed the same.

“Of course I know where we’re going,” Hoseok replied. “This was our place, remember?”

“Yes, I remember, I just don’t remember how to get there. Which is why I’m suspecting that you don’t either,” Yoongi explained carefully, taking a few tentative steps forward and then leaning against a tree. The wind whipped at the hem of his shirt and he crossed his arms over his chest. His hair was different, but Hoseok couldn’t place what it was he’d done to it. Maybe it was shorter? But his bangs seemed unkempt.

“I’m very wounded that you think I would forget where our spot is,” Hoseok said, hand over his chest. “Perhaps you’ve just forgotten all about our friendship.”

He was only teasing, but it was a fear he’d had. There was every reason for Yoongi to forget about their friendship, after all. And it was only the day before that Yoongi had returned to the palace, unexpectedly and unannounced, with a bag of little trinkets that the palace guards had to inspect before he could give them to Hoseok.

“I wrote to you. Often, didn’t I?”

“Yes.”

Yoongi made a noise, a small little hum, and then stepped even closer before he stepped past Hoseok altogether. “Our spot is this way, isn’t it?”

“That’s where I was about to go.”

Yoongi just chuckled when Hoseok continued walking, swatting away branches and weeds and ducking away from spider webs. Once upon a time, when they were both still very young, they could hardly make it out to their spot without screaming about all the spiders. Sometimes Yoongi tried to act tough, but one fell in his hair once and he cried about it for at least an hour while Hoseok tried to reassure him that the spider had fallen out almost right away.

The memory made Hoseok smile, and when they finally stepped into a clearing, trees giving way to an opening of grass and tiny yellow flowers, his smile got even wider. The flowers sprinkled throughout the tall grass were surely weeds, but they were pretty nonetheless and Hoseok crouched down to pick one. Yoongi was wading through the tall grass to the other side of the clearing, towards one of the larger trees near the back where they had once carved their names as children. There, yellow roses sometimes grew.

Hoseok watched Yoongi plop down to sit on one of the large protruding roots from the tree. He leaned back and tilted his head up towards the sky, eyes closed. When Hoseok sat next to him, Yoongi hummed softly, but he didn’t open his eyes. Likely, Yoongi was tired. Hoseok knew that sometimes Yoongi had trouble sleeping, and his chambers, which had been saved for him even since he’d been gone from the palace, had high windows that made the wind sound especially loud. Besides, Hoseok heard from one of the night guards that Yoongi had been seen out on his balcony for most of the night anyway.

“Here,” Hoseok held out the flower that was still in his hand. “For you.”

Yoongi opened one eye and chuckled. “How sweet,” he said, taking the flower from Hoseok’s fingers. “But shouldn’t you be giving this to your bride tomorrow, your Highness?”

The flower twirled around in Yoongi’s fingers. “Don’t call me that. You know I don’t like it when you call me that.”

“Doesn’t matter much though, you are the prince. Even if I’m your best friend, I’m still supposed to address you as such,” Yoongi mumbled, and he was right, but when it was just the two of them, they usually treated each other as equals, which meant no ‘your Highness’ or any other formalities. “Besides, you’ll be king soon too. Won’t look good for either of us if I address you as if you’re not king.”

“I’m not going to be king that soon, you can’t know that,” Hoseok argued, but with little emotion behind that statement. Yoongi was right again. He knew Hoseok’s father was ill, knew that soon he would be gone and Hoseok would be crowned king, being as he was the only son and next in line. Dawon would be better suited to rule, in Hoseok’s opinion, but it didn’t work that way.

“Your father has rushed your marriage because he knows he’s dying, Hoseok,” Yoongi whispered. Sometimes he did that, whispered as if he were afraid of someone overhearing, even when they were completely alone and didn’t need to worry. In the palace, though, where they grew up, there always seemed to be people watching. “You have to get married so you’ll have a queen and an alliance and so you can have an heir. All that. It’s sooner than you thought, maybe, but we both knew it would happen eventually, right?”

“It’s not too soon. Everything that’s happening is happening when it was always supposed to,” Hoseok replied with a little shrug. “I suppose that I was just…going along and not really comprehending what was happening.”

“Are you happy?”

“I’m not unhappy,” Hoseok said. “I’ve missed you though. It’s been nearly a year.”

“Has been a year. A year and two months,” Yoongi said, bumping his shoulder against Hoseok’s.

And then they fell quiet again, listening to the distant noises that the woods provided them. Chirps of birds and the hum and buzz of insects. The wind blew through the trees and sent leaves down into the overgrown grass in their clearing. The familiarity was comforting, especially when everything else felt like it was changing. They’d both long since grown up, but Hoseok still somehow felt like he was being thrown into things he wasn’t ready for.

When Yoongi had left nearly a year ago—no, a year and two months ago—Hoseok had wanted to stop him, talk him out of it, but in the end, he didn’t. He let Yoongi leave the palace, let him go off into the world because he had no right to stop him. Yoongi wasn’t a royal, he wasn’t even a noble, and the palace had never truly been a home for him, Hoseok knew that.

Yet, he was still glad Yoongi was back, even if the circumstances were not ideal. But Yoongi was his best friend, someone he could tell anything to without fear of judgement or fear that he was simply being used because he was the prince of Gwangju.

Although, Yoongi had reason not to be Hoseok’s friend, especially now that he was grown and very aware of how he had ended up here, someone so close to so many people with power, but with none of his own.

“You’ll be a good king,” Yoongi whispered suddenly. “A fair one. I’ve always known you would be.”

“You’re just saying that because you hope I’ll grant you lands and a title once I’m crowned,” Hoseok said, but he was really only teasing. And at the same time, not. He would grant Yoongi lands and a title, if that was what Yoongi wanted.

“That’s not why. Besides, I plan to leave again after your wedding. Continue my travels. But you’ll be a good king. And a good husband. Good father. All those things that are coming up, I suppose,” Yoongi continued. “And you’ll have Dawon to advise you.”

Hoseok nodded, even though he wanted to argue, wanted to joke around and have Yoongi joke around back, banter that had always come so easy to them as children and teenagers and even young adults before Yoongi had left. But things felt too serious for any of that. It was about time for Hoseok to stop pretending, to face the reality of who he was.

“You can stay. If you want to. My father is too…well, you know, to even notice whether or not you were here.”

“Mm. Your father likes me, so he’d probably be glad that I’m back. Probably try again to get me to marry your sister.” Hoseok gagged and Yoongi laughed, punched him lightly in the arm. “It’s fine, I know he only wanted that so I wouldn’t try to overthrow you or something like that. And anyway, everyone in the palace seems to think that I’m your father’s bastard son, which would make us half siblings, same with me and your sister. That would be quite the scandal, don’t you think, your Highness?”

“Well you aren’t my half-brother.”

“I am not. Just your most trusted confidant.”

“Right. Some of the noblemen’s sons want to take me out for drinks at a tavern or something this evening. Since I need to keep them in good favor I’ve agreed. But you have to come with me,” Hoseok said, eager to change the subject to something a little bit lighter, so Yoongi wouldn’t have to dwell on the circumstances of his coming to live at the palace as a young child.

Yoongi just groaned, however, started to pluck the petals off the flower Hoseok had handed him. “Fucking hate the noblemen and their sons, Seok. You know that.”

Yoongi only called Hoseok ‘Seok’ when he was very comfortable, relaxed. At ease. It calmed Hoseok, too, and he smiled, put an arm around Yoongi’s shoulders. “Yeah, but you don’t hate me, do you?” He squeezed Yoongi in the sideways hug. “You must not, you wouldn’t have returned to the palace if you did. You hate weddings even more.”

“Of course I don’t hate you.”

But that was all Yoongi said on the subject. He didn’t agree to go, which was unsurprising. Although, he probably would end up coming, Hoseok knew that. He just didn’t want to have to agree to it, to have to talk about the noblemen and their sons and have to think about what having drinks with them would mean. They never had liked Yoongi, and he’d never liked them. There were people in the palace and in the court that Yoongi could get along with, but there were also a large number that didn’t like him, usually because of rumors and speculation.

Chances were that his return for Hoseok’s wedding would cause a slight stir, but it wouldn’t be enough for Hoseok father to make Yoongi leave. He was one of the ones that did like Yoongi, after all. And he was also sick, dying, if Hoseok were being realistic.

They didn’t talk about any of those things though. Instead, Yoongi told Hoseok about his travels, and they reminisced about how things had been when they were younger. Hoseok wasn’t sure how long they stayed there, under the tree in the tall grass, hidden away from the real world, but he wished they could just stay forever. Or at least for a couple of days. Enough time so that the wedding would have to be postponed.

Even though Hoseok knew, deep down, that he did not want to be King, he had always been dutiful, always obeyed his father and followed the rules in place for himself. He’d long since accepted the role he would soon play, and the role he had played as prince so far in his twenty-three years of life. His sister was admittedly better at navigating court politics, but she said that was because she was a woman, and that made things different. That she had to learn to navigate court politics. She told him often that because he was the heir, the next in line to be King, that people who be kind to him. And they were. Not that Hoseok did much of anything that would make someone not like him. He didn’t leave the palace grounds much at all, and when he did it was with royal guards at planned appearances to the townspeople.

Yoongi was the one who had encouraged him to live a little, growing up. Yoongi was the one who made him want to explore outside the castle grounds, made him want to know what it would be like to be someone else. But he never let himself daydream too much. He never let himself want it too much. Mostly, the two of them would just talk about those kind of things, fantasize about different lives where they weren’t who they were. But that’s all it ever was. All it ever would be.

Except when they were in their hideout in the woods, in their clearing, it almost felt like it could be a reality. Yoongi had sprawled out in the grass, smashing it down under his boots until it was flat and he could lay down on his stomach. Hoseok stayed seated against the tree, and Yoongi has his chin on Hoseok’s lower leg, eyes closed while Hoseok told Yoongi about a new horse that had been gifted to him by one of the most prominent noblemen.

“Rumors are starting to spread about my father’s illness, so I’m sure he gave it to me because he wants to get on my good side. I’m not otherwise very fond of him,” Hoseok admitted, his eyes drifting to the few yellow roses growing around their tree. “But the horse is great. Fast, beautiful, all that. I suppose if anything, he knows how to give a good bribe.”

“Is it a bribe?”

“Must be. He’ll ask me for something soon enough, I think,” Hoseok said with a sigh. “Everyone will.”

“Mm. At least there isn’t anyone plotting to take the throne from you, now that rumors are spreading about your father. That wouldn’t be good. I wouldn’t want to see that happen to you,” Yoongi replied, shifted around until he was a little farther away, no longer touching Hoseok’s leg. “You have the people’s respect, their favor. That’s something not every ruler has.”

“Yeah, but—”

“My father didn’t have it,” Yoongi said suddenly, and Hoseok felt his gut sink a little bit, more than it already had been, because he couldn’t fully get his mind off the fact that he would be married tomorrow. But Yoongi hardly ever spoke about his father, his family, and when he did, Hoseok always felt a twinge of guilt, even though he knew that it was not Yoongi’s intention to make him feel guilty.

“Yoongi, I’m sorry,” Hoseok whispered, the wind carrying his words away into the trees.

“For what? I’ve had a good life, your father has been good to me.”

“You would not have said something if something was not bothering you,” Hoseok said, reaching towards Yoongi and placing his hand over where Yoongi’s was clenched around a tuff of grass.

“No. Nothing is bothering me, Seok. I’m just thinking, I suppose. You know, what things might have been like for me. If I would have had to get married like you have to now.” Yoongi rolled his eyes and shrugged. “I guess I’m glad that’s not the case because I can tell how much you don’t want it, even if you won’t admit it.”

“You’ve been gone, how would you know what I want?”

“Have you slept with her?”

Hoseok blinked, the question sudden and catching him off guard. There wasn’t any malice behind Yoongi’s words, it seemed more like curiosity if anything, but still, Hoseok didn’t want to answer the question. He may have been closer to Yoongi than anyone else, closer than he was with his father, his sister, but he was embarrassed nonetheless. Princes and kings and anyone royal, really, had reputations, implications that they could get any woman they wanted, so if Yoongi knew the truth, he would probably laugh at Hoseok.

“I can see you trying to think of a lie, you’ve always been a horrible liar,” Yoongi said with a little smile, but…was that sadness in his eyes? “It’s okay, you don’t have to answer that.”

“I don’t love her,” Hoseok admitted instead. “But I will. Someday. That’s how it works.”

“I can’t wait to formally meet her.”

“Mm. Have you had…met anyone on your travels? A woman?”

“No.”

Nothing else. Just a no. Yoongi rolled onto his back and closed his eyes. Some further amount of time passed, during most of which they didn’t speak. Maybe Yoongi fell asleep, but Hoseok could not even imagine sleeping. He felt too antsy.

Eventually though, Yoongi did stir, groaned and sat up. Hoseok stared at the back of his head, at his hair that was all smashed and tangled. Oftentimes, Yoongi would reach out and untangle Hoseok’s hair for him, or at least he had when they were younger, but Hoseok didn’t dare do it now for Yoongi.

“We should get back. I need to meet with my father before I go to have drinks with whomever. I’d still like you to come. Especially if you plan to leave again after the wedding,” Hoseok said to Yoongi. A gust of cool wind blew through the trees and it made Hoseok shiver, despite the fact that the sun was out.

Yoongi groaned again, made a sound is distaste and then turned around and stood up, stretching his arms high above his head before offering a hand out to Hoseok. Hoseok took it, let Yoongi pull him to his feet. “Let’s get you back, your Highness,” Yoongi said with a little closed-mouth smile.

“If you call me that one more time, I’ll have you exiled.”

“Ooh,” Yoongi laughed, and it made Hoseok smile.

“What else will you do to me?”

Hoseok narrowed his eyes and nudged Yoongi’s shoulder. “Don’t tempt me.”

“It’s too easy. Too much fun, too,” Yoongi said, and Hoseok felt his mouth turn into a little pout, but then Yoongi reached and tickled him in the side, enough to instantly make Hoseok start to laugh. On another day, it might have made him mad, but he didn’t mind it today. He wanted to laugh. Yoongi made him laugh, and so he laughed until his side hurt and then pushed Yoongi away, darting off towards the trees with Yoongi on his heels.

In the moment, Hoseok felt young again. Free. The grass may not have been greener in color, but things were brighter when no one else was watching them. The freedom, the way he felt with Yoongi, he didn’t think he would have much more of that after tomorrow, after he was wed. So he tried to really take in the moment, just in case there wouldn’t be any more of them.

He didn’t know how the yellow roses grew in their clearing, but he did know that they could stop growing any day. And then there would be none.

~

When Hoseok was barely three, Dawon only six or seven, their mother had been assassinated, poisoned. He was so young, too young to really remember any of it. Too young to even really remember his mother at all. Dawon remembered her, though, and his father remembered her. They told him plenty of stories about her, about how kind she was, how beautiful, and what a beloved Queen she was.

They also told them how there had been a spy from a neighboring kingdom in their palace, how they had been the ones to poison his mother, probably had planned on killing him and his sister as well, but hadn’t. They’d been lucky, Hoseok knew that.

Although, after his mother’s death and funeral, his father changed, everyone talked about how different he was after her death. Upon investigation, it had been discovered that the king of Daegu, the neighboring kingdom, had ordered the poisoning of their Queen, primarily because of how well liked she was, how much good she did for Gwangju. He thought it would weaken them as a whole. It hadn’t. The people, even the poorest of the peasants, had shown support for their Queen. And with Daegu being the weaker kingdom, Gwangju invaded.

Hoseok remembered none of it, either, he was only four, and there was no long, drawn our war. Daegu was taken within a week, or so Dawon told him. The palace there was conquered and the King and Queen of Daegu captured, killed. Their son, who Hoseok knew must have been a child at the time, was also killed. Hoseok only hoped it was not his father who had done it, he never wanted to imagine his father killing anyone, especially not someone who would have been only slightly older than Dawon at the time. But at the same time, the son was the next in line and without an heir, there could be no ruler of Daegu. No one to challenge them or take the kingdom back.

However, there was another son. A son that the Min’s of Daegu had kept hidden from even their people, so that if their first born son was to die, there would still be an heir. But since no one knew of him, since he was so young, Hoseok’s father took him back to Gwangju, back to their palace, raised him in some ways.

That son was Min Yoongi.

Daegu became a part of Gwangju, the borders that divided the rival kingdoms demolished and replaced by a marketplace, a trade post. The people of Daegu were happy to be a part of a kingdom where they had an abundance of everything, food, crops, land, livestock. And they were happy to have a ruler who listened to the people. Theirs had not.

They did not know that Yoongi was alive, likely did not even know he existed. But he did. He did and Hoseok did not remember much from when Yoongi first came to the castle. He did remember, though, how quiet Yoongi had been when they were children. At first at least. He hardly spoke at all. It took him quite some time to open up, lots of prodding on Hoseok’s part.

Mostly, Hoseok was curious. He didn’t understand who Yoongi was at the time, only understood that he was a boy about the same age as Hoseok was, and he seemed lonely, seemed like he needed a friend. He took Yoongi all around the palace, held his hand as he showed him all the best hiding places, all the prettiest paintings and brightest flowers in the garden.

Eventually, Yoongi began to open up to him. He began to smile when Hoseok told him things. He started to talk, and he made Hoseok laugh. He was funny, somehow, little Yoongi. They spent as much time together as they could. Hoseok refused to participate in his learning unless Yoongi could be there with him and the teacher. They spent late nights in Hoseok’s heavily guarded room together.

It was there, one night about a year or so after Yoongi’s arrival, that Yoongi cried himself to sleep.

Of all the things during that blurry time period, Hoseok remembered that night most clearly. It happened suddenly. They were in Hoseok’s bed, which they probably should not have been, but Hoseok never cared and no one was around to stop them. Most people thought their friendship was sweet at the time, they were so little. Regardless, Hoseok was half asleep when he heard Yoongi sniffling.

And then, as if a dam had broken, Yoongi was sobbing, hard and loud in the dark room. Hoseok shook his shoulders, asked him over and over what was wrong, but Yoongi never told him, never said a word. He just cried and cried, his little hands wrapped around Hoseok’s arms like he was trying to tether himself to something, anything. He clung so hard that Hoseok had bruises the next morning. Not to mention, Yoongi crying had made Hoseok cry too, so they both woke up with red eyes and splotchy cheeks. They also woke up holding hands, still clung to each other.

Hoseok knew when he was older that Yoongi had been mourning the loss of his family. His mother and father and brother. His home, too. Everything. Yoongi had nothing. Nothing except Hoseok.

And so Hoseok tried his best to be there for Yoongi, always, as much as he could.

So maybe, just maybe, he was a lot angry when Yoongi left the palace and Gwangju, too, in favor of traveling around and living a life that was separate from Hoseok’s. Or maybe Hoseok just missed his best friend. Maybe he even feared that Yoongi didn’t think of him as his best friend anymore, perhaps Yoongi resented him, perhaps he wished he had never been taken by Hoseok’s father.

But Yoongi did come back. He was back for Hoseok’s wedding, and he was really the only guest that Hoseok cared about at all. Everything else was just for show, really. His bride-to-be had planned and organized most of it, picked out the décor and the flower arrangements and the menu. Hoseok gave some input, of course, considering the fact that the wedding was a big deal for Gwangju, the people knew he would be King and that his bride would therefore be their queen.

She was a princess from a much smaller kingdom, but they had things to trade and there had been an alliance since Hoseok had been young, so it was always assumed that he would be marrying her. Or at least very likely. Even so, he couldn’t say that they knew each other very well. He couldn’t say that he even felt like he wanted to know her very well, but regardless, he would have to. They would be husband and wife, after all.

As Hoseok made his way down the long hallway towards his father’s chambers, he was reminded of what tomorrow would be. Everything was decorated, everyone he passed by congratulated him, and all he could really do was smile in return. The point of going out with the noblemen, or at least their sons, was to celebrate (and surely they would try to get him drunk, or worse, get him a prostitute), but Hoseok didn’t feel much like celebrating.

His stomach was in knots and all he really wanted to do was go find Yoongi again, just stay with him for the evening in his chambers. As soon as they’d gotten back to the palace, though, Yoongi had darted away and disappeared down the hallway to his chambers and Hoseok let him go, had to go speak with his father anyway.

Once upon a time Hoseok had been able to just walk into his father’s rooms whenever, without knocking. Things had long since changed, however, so Hoseok knocked on the large door and tried not to make eye contact with the two King’s guards standing at attention on either side (guards who would one day soon be guarding him, instead). A long moment passed and the door opened from the inside. Hoseok stepped in and closed the door behind him as his father walked back towards his bed and sat perched on the end of it.

Somedays, his father looked better. Other days, he looked as sick as he was. And standing there in front of him, Hoseok was struck with the fact that today, he perhaps looked the worst he’d looked…ever, maybe. Which was probably why he had not left his chambers. Hoseok had seen Dawon coordinating things with his bride-to-be moments before, had darted past the throne room as quickly as he could to avoid having to stop and speak with them. He and his father should have been there, but his father was ill and Hoseok was…well, with Yoongi.

“How is Mishil?”

“I have not spoken to her today,” Hoseok answered quickly. “Father, you—”

“You should not ignore your bride the day before your wedding, Hoseok. Have you had an argument?” His father was clearly trying to keep the subject off of himself. Tomorrow, he would be there for the wedding, would struggle through whatever pain he may have been experiencing and not expressing.

“There’s been no argument, father,” Hoseok replied. “Everything will be fine. There’s nothing for you to worry about. I actually just came to see how you were doing, and to tell you I was invited out by the noblemen and some of their sons. For drinks, to celebrate tomorrow,” Hoseok continued, shifting on his feet as his father’s eyes slowly closed. He was clearly still awake, but Hoseok could tell his eyes were heavy.

“I certainly will not stop you from going out with them this evening. Just be careful, it’s never wise to get yourself involved with the type of women that those other boys tend to get involved with during nights like these,” his father said with a sigh. “You have never been that type, though.”

“It’ll just be drinks, father,” Hoseok muttered, eyes drifting around the room because sometimes he was sure his father was disappointed in him in many ways. That he didn’t see Hoseok as the son he’d wanted. Maybe he blamed him somehow for his mother’s death, even though it made no sense, there was no correlation. Perhaps Hoseok thought his father wished he had died instead of his mother, and then they could have had another, better, son. One more fit to be King.

“Then have fun.”

“Yoongi is here.”

“Oh?”

Hoseok glanced at the painting hung high on the wall of their family. He and Dawon were very young in the painting, but Hoseok sometimes felt like he could remember having to sit still for hours and hours while they were painted. “Yes. He’s back for the wedding.”

“Tell him to come by and say hello. He’s welcome to stay as long as he would like, he knows that.”

And then silence fell between them and Hoseok knew it was his father’s way of telling him he could go. If his mother were still alive, Hoseok wondered what she would have to say. He wondered how things would be different. If she would be proud of him.

“Rest well, I’ll see you tomorrow, father,” Hoseok said simply. “Make sure you take the medicine the doctor told you to take.”

Hoseok turned on his heels and hurried out of the room, took a deep breath once he was back in the hallway. Voices carried, and from down in the throne room, or maybe even further in the ballroom, he could hear Dawon’s voice. Not what she was exactly saying, just the authoritative tone she often adopted when…well, almost always, really. It rose in volume for a moment and Hoseok followed the sound to the throne room, paused outside with just his head peaking in.

His bride-to-be, Mishil, and some of her ladies, as well as Dawon, were staring up at a few people who were trying to hang decorations from the high ceilings. A few of Mishil’s ladies were sitting down, laughing and whispering with each other. One of them pointed at Hoseok and they giggled. He didn’t acknowledge them, didn’t care to have to stop and talk with any of them or Mishil or his sister at the moment.

“These better not fall. If they do you all will be to blame. Everything has to go smoothly tomorrow, understand?” Dawon asked, crossing and uncrossing her arms before she walked closer, stood under the long strings of flowers being hung.

Part of Hoseok felt a sense of longing, to be a part of the process. Perhaps he would want to be, if he were more excited to be married. Not that he wasn’t. Maybe he just wished he had more time. To get to know his bride, for one, and more time to just…figure everything out. Or maybe he never would figure everything out and it was best for all of this to happen now.

He also missed his sister. They had grown apart over the years, and he missed being close to her. Everyone said she looked like their mother. Hoseok couldn’t be sure, only had paintings to really go by, but he knew she was as good of a person as their mother was. She was strong and kind and stood her ground, always. Which was probably why she had not yet been married, even though she was older and nearing an age where it would make it more difficult for her to find a suitor, despite her family name and the fact that she was a princess.

However, she had long since made Hoseok swear that once he was King, he would not force her to ever marry someone she did not want to marry.

Hoseok sighed and shifted on his feet, ready to go find Yoongi and the others so they could just get the evening over with, but Mishil turned around just as he took a step away. He saw her face light with some sense of hope. They’d spent plenty of time together, plenty of time talking and trying to understand each other, but it still was not the ideal time to marry. Hoseok knew she liked him though, but he also knew she wanted more time with him. Court life at the Jung’s palace was not hard, not filled with too much political drama or otherwise, but it would most definitely be earlier if he were constantly by her side.

But he was not. And he could not be, even if he wanted to be, realistically. Not even when they were married. They would both have their own separate duties and like his father always told him, they didn’t have to be in love. They just had to do the things they were meant to do, because this is the life they were born into. They had much to be grateful for, after all.

Still, Hoseok just gave Mishil a quick wave and a small smile before hurrying off down the hall. He felt jittery, suddenly, and instead of going directly to find Yoongi, he went to his own chambers. It was not dark yet, so he quickly made himself a bath, did it himself because he couldn’t be bothered to go get the maids or servants. He didn’t want to be bothered for a little while.

The water was not very warm, hadn’t been heated or anything, but once he stripped, door firmly closed behind him, and submerged himself in the water, he did feel a little bit better. His eyes closed and he just sat there for a long time, trying not to think too much. It worked for some amount of time, but he always got restless, and his fingers started to tab against the bottom of the tub and then against his thigh, so he reached for the soaps that had been imported or traded from some place far away. They smelled intensely like the sweets made during special occasions in the kitchen, and Dawon sometimes teased him for liking them so much. But he did. He liked being clean and he liked things neat and he usually just cursed at her until she stopped teasing him and started cursing back. Then they would laugh.

Hoseok lathered the little bar under the water and then moved it over his arms. Once his entire body was clean, he submerged his head so his hair was soaked, then came back up with a sharp intake of air. Used to be he could hold his breath for a lot longer, back when he and Yoongi would go out and swim in the pond in the palace gardens and have contests to see who could last the longest underwater.

Once, when they were teenagers, Yoongi dared Hoseok to jump into the pond naked. Or maybe Hoseok had lost some bet they’d made. He couldn’t remember. All he remembered was he’d refused to it unless Yoongi did it too, but then Yoongi refused to do it unless Hoseok did it first. Which of them had ended up undressing first was fuzzy in Hoseok’s mind, but he did remember the after part. Them alone in the nighttime, in the pond, shivering and naked and laughing nervously.

When they had eventually gotten out of the pond, Hoseok had gone first. He remembered distantly because when he’d glanced over his shoulder at Yoongi, still in the water, Yoongi was staring at him, only averting his gaze quickly when he realized Hoseok had caught him.

Perhaps the reason the moment was still so vivid in Hoseok mind was because of the heat that he remembered feeling, first on his cheeks and then over the rest of his body. He remembered his haste to get dressed, how he couldn’t really make eye contact with Yoongi for the rest of the evening. Not because he was embarrassed or ashamed. He wasn’t sure what it was.

His cheeks felt hot remembering that night and he sighed, shifted around to try to get comfortable because his butt was starting to hurt from sitting in the same position for too long. He tilted his head back, water droplets falling onto the floor from his hair. His nails scraped along his thighs and he paused for a moment, listening for something in the silence, but the only sound was his own breathing.

When he palmed himself, it was a barely there touch, he wasn’t even really hard, just, well, bored, mostly. Eager to focus on something that wasn’t related to his duties as a prince. A soon to be King. His hand moved slowly, giving himself the illusion that he had time. Soon enough, he was hard and his legs had fallen apart under the water, which was starting to get cold and making goosebumps breakout on his skin.

It was only after he had stroked himself for a few moments, a few minutes perhaps, that his hand drifted lower, farther down between his legs. Water was still dripping from his hair onto the floor, he could hear it. Drip, drip, drip. It was almost masked by his now-heavy breathing, but not quite. His hands shook, he never knew why, perhaps the fear of being caught, even though no one should be coming in, and no one ever did.

But he was paranoid, his finger rubbing insistently in a place where he knew, somehow, that he should not be touching. But it felt good, made his skin tingle pleasantly, and he didn’t want to stop. He wanted to do more. Sometimes he did do more. But he was shaking too much and his breathing was too quick so he stopped abruptly, both hands coming up out of the water and his eyes opening.

“Fuck.”

The word reverberated around the room and he straightened up in the water before he stood completely, grabbed one of the towels folded neatly in the corner and quickly drying off before he dripped water all over the floor. Before he put his robe on and went back out into his main room, he looked down at himself, rolled his eyes. His robe was thick and warm and he wrapped it around himself, ruffled his hand through his still damp hair, and then slipped back out into his room.

He took a few steps forward towards the bed and dresser where some of his clothes were stored, but he only got maybe a foot or two into the room before he heard a clink to his right and turned on his bare heels to see Yoongi sitting at his desk looking through the little box there full of jewelry, some of it Hoseok’s, mostly expensive rings and things, but also some of his mother’s old jewelry that he had taken from Dawon to remember her by.

Yoongi was holding an earring to his ear, as his ears were pierced, something he’d done in the city on a whim, explaining to Hoseok that many people in Daegu had their ears pierced (it was not as common in Gwangju, even his sister did not have her ears pierced, instead opting to wear clip-on earrings).

“You were in there for a long time,” Yoongi deadpanned without looking away from the mirror.

Hoseok wrapped his robe tighter around himself. “I fell asleep. Why’re you in my chambers?”

“I snuck in. I got bored and I thought we were going drinking,” Yoongi said simply, eyes glancing towards Hoseok and looking away again. “I can’t believe no one has sealed off the secret passage ways yet. It’s too easy to get in here.”

“They’re a secret, no one knows about them, smartass,” Hoseok quipped and Yoongi grinned all wide and gummy, dropping the earrings back into the box and turning to face Hoseok. “I thought you didn’t want to go drinking, anyway?”

“Changed my mind.”

“Great.”

Hoseok shuffled across the room and pulled some of his more casual clothes out of one of the dressers, that way he wouldn’t stick out in the village. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Yoongi had turned away, again looking at his own reflection in the tiny mirror inside the jewelry box as he looked through the various earrings inside. Some of them were big and clunky, but adorned with large crystals in various colors. Hoseok saw Yoongi put in a pair with rubies on them. He didn’t tell him not to, didn’t bother telling him that the others going with them would surely have something to say about it.

Yoongi was going to do what he wanted.

“Your sister was in a bad mood earlier,” Yoongi said. “I ran into her before I came here. She didn’t even say hi.”

“She doesn’t like you, that’s why,” Hoseok quipped. “My father said to go say hello to him, though.”

Yoongi make a noise similar to a gag and Hoseok turned his back to him before quickly getting dressed. Once he was he turned back around he walked over to Yoongi, leaned against the desk. Yoongi smiled up at him, his overgrown bangs falling slightly into his eyes and the rubies in the earrings he’d put on glinting in the last of the light coming in through the stained glass windows behind them.

“Remember when your hair was long?” Yoongi said suddenly.

“Yeah? Remember when you used to be taller than me?”

Yoongi gaped and covered his face with his hands. “Oh Seok, you wound me,” Yoongi said behind his hands. Hoseok laughed and nudged Yoongi’s shoulder. When Yoongi looked at him again, he was smiling, seemingly in a nostalgic kind of way. Hoseok didn’t know everywhere Yoongi had been over the past year, but maybe he had missed things here at the palace, maybe there was a chance he would stay. Maybe there was a chance that Hoseok would have someone he trusted around during all the change that was sure to come after his wedding. He couldn’t ask Yoongi to stay—wouldn’t ask him to stay—but he could hope that he would choose to stay on his own.

Neither of them had spoken in a long moment, so Hoseok cleared his throat, pretended he hadn’t been lost in the smile on Yoongi’s face. “We should go find everyone else and go.”

“Why’re we going to the village anyway?” Yoongi asked as he stood up. “Can’t we drink here?”

“They like going to the village because it makes them feel important,” Hoseok explained. “They can throw their money around and everyone will kiss their asses for it.”

“Ah, so they want to find prostitutes?”

“Mm,” Hoseok hummed and stepped towards the door. He knew some of the others would try and get him a lady, but he had no plans to actually sleep with anyone. He’d just pay her and go on his way if they did try to get him someone. He didn’t even plan on getting drunk, either. “Namjoon is going with us as well.”

“For work or pleasure?”

They’d started down the hall and Yoongi’s hand kept brushing Hoseok’s while they walked, surely by accident. They always walked close.

“I invited him, but it’s mostly to make sure no one does anything too stupid to piss off one of the villagers. And if someone does piss off one of the villagers, then we have someone who can make sure none of us get our asses kicked.”

Yoongi snickered. “Haven’t you had training? With swords and shit?”

“Of course. But I don’t have a sword on me nor could I take down a man five times bigger than me. I may have abs, but in case you haven’t noticed I’m not huge, Yoongi.”

“I’ve noticed.”

Hoseok punched Yoongi in the side and Yoongi groaned. “I could take you down, however,” Hoseok said with a little smirk, to which Yoongi gaped, shoved Hoseok by the shoulder, making him stumble a few steps to the side. “Hey! Don’t make me pick you up. You know I can.”

“You don’t know where I’ve been, Jung, how do you know I couldn’t have you on the floor in a second?” Yoongi asked, but there was no real threat there.

Still—

“Probably not wise to threaten the crown prince.” Namjoon’s voice carried down the long hallway. It always did. While he was one of the younger guards, he was higher in rank than some older than himself, and few ever spoke badly about him. “Hello Yoongi, long time.”

“Not that long. How is Seokjin?”

“Why do you always ask me that as if I’m best friends with him or something.”

Yoongi shrugged. “You believe in his seer bullshit.”

Namjoon rolled his eyes and they all paused in the middle of the hallway. Hoseok could see the rest of the noblemen’s son’s coming around the corner in a noisy group of young men. He saw a few of his wedding guests too, young men from other kingdoms that Gwangju was in alliance with. “Seokjin is away somewhere, some solitary retreat or something to connect with his inner being. I don’t know for sure, he never elaborates much.”

“I don’t know why you two believe in that stuff. Or why my father does,” Hoseok muttered.

“I would probably be dead if it weren’t for Seokjin’s father, so I kind of just tolerate him and his weird premonition thing,” Yoongi said with a shrug. “Doesn’t mean I believe he can really see the future.”

“You would not be dead. You had a common cold.”

“They separated us for almost a month. You believed me when I told you it was just a cold?”

Hoseok felt his face get hot, maybe from shame or embarrassment, but before he can say anything, the rest of the men had joined them, were half-shouting and urging them all that it was time to go. Yoongi ended up at the back of the group, and Hoseok looked over his shoulder at him with an apologetic smile, but Yoongi just shrugged, continued talking with Namjoon.

Hoseok had a sinking feeling that it was going to be a long night.

~

It didn’t matter how casually Hoseok had tried to dress, didn’t matter that he attempted to blend in, because when he was surrounded by a dozen other young men who were clearly obnoxious and wealthy on the day before the prince of Gwangju was said to be married, it made his status pretty clear to the villagers at the tavern where their group had ended up. However, Yoongi was the one getting mistaken for the prince, not Hoseok. It was likely the earrings, flashy and expensive. Every time someone asked though, he just shook his head and winked at Hoseok from across the table.

Namjoon was the only one without a drink in front of him, instead he sat a table over, leaning back precariously in his chair. He seemed content to be alone with his thoughts (or as alone as he could be in a crowded tavern).

The others were all laughing and talking, but not necessarily to Hoseok. One of them was at the front of the tavern, talking to one of the young men serving drinks, their heads tilted close together. Hoseok figured he was probably inquiring about prostitutes or something. He wasn’t front Gwangju, Hoseok knew that, they’d met a few times before, but they weren’t overly close to one another. Casual friends, maybe.

“That’s Jimin, right?” Yoongi asked from across the table.

“Yeah. He’s going to get that kid in trouble.”

“Looks like the kid doesn’t mind,” Yoongi said with a shrug. His statement felt suggestive, but Hoseok didn’t really know why or how. He just turned back and watched them until Jimin came back to the table.

“If you need another drink, ask Taehyung,” Jimin said, pointing behind him.

“What’d you say to him?”

Jimin shrugged one shoulder, whispered something to one of the other men at their table. They both laughed and Hoseok sighed, got up and moved to a different table in the back, more shadowed and quieter. His drink stayed on the other table, not one sip gone from it and they’d been there for a good hour. Of course, Hoseok wasn’t alone for very long because Yoongi plopped down next to him a few seconds later.

“Remember when we used to sneak out here? To the village?” Hoseok nodded once, didn’t glance over to look at Yoongi’s shadowed face. “Remember that girl? The one you met at the markets? Her family was selling fruit and you started talking to her?”

“Yeah. I remember.”

Hoseok slumped in his seat, looked at one of the silver rings on his hand. It was a little bit too big, so he spun it around and around and around. He always got quiet, contemplative when he drank, which was why he didn’t drink, didn’t care for how it sometimes made him feel. But he wasn’t sure why he felt so out of it now, when he hadn’t had anything to drink.

“You came back out here to see her, didn’t you,” Yoongi asked. “You gave her family money?”

“We were fourteen Yoongi, why’re you asking me about that?”

“Did you love her?” Hoseok sighed and gave Yoongi a dirty look, to which Yoongi make a dorky face back at him. It made Hoseok smile, but only for a moment. “I’m just asking. Just want to know if you think you’d ever feel that way about the woman you’ll be marrying tomorrow.”

“I wasn’t in love with that girl from the markets.”

Which was true. Hoseok only ever spent a matter of days with her, spread out over about a year. Her family was very poor, and after meeting her, a girl around his age but nowhere near his status, he found himself wanting to be her friend. He wanted to help her. They talked on the few meetings they had, and she knew who he was. Knew he had money, and so he gave her family what he could. Jewelry or gold or something so they could put food on the table.

Now, Hoseok knew he had been doing it because he felt guilty, felt like he didn’t deserve his status and if he helped this girl’s family, he could relieve some of his guilt. It didn’t work that way. Yoongi never asked him about the girl when they were young, so Hoseok wasn’t sure why he was asking now. He wasn’t sure why Yoongi thought he had been in love with her.

They had only ever been friends. He wrote to her a few times, but she never wrote back, was too afraid to. One night, she had kissed him, but he hadn’t kissed back and after that she never tried to do it again. And anyway, soon Hoseok had gotten caught up in his studies and in other adventures with Yoongi. By the time he had returned to visit his friend, her parents informed him she had died. Gotten very ill during the winter while Hoseok had been wrapped in expensive and warm furs while they starved and were stuck in the cold every night with nothing to keep them warm at all.

He never told Yoongi she’d died. But Yoongi knew he stopped going to visit her. He probably noticed how sad Hoseok was for several months following.

“No? I thought she was, you know, your first,” Yoongi said. “Thought you were going to have some dramatic fight with your father about wanting to marry her or something.”

“I think you remember things differently than I do. Nothing ever happened with her. She died.”

Yoongi got quiet. It felt like they were in their own little bubble and all the outside noises just bounced away. When Yoongi finally spoke, all he said was, “Oh.”

“Maybe I’ll just call off the wedding.”

Yoongi laughed. Actually laughed, a stark difference from how quiet it had been just a second before. “Sure, Seok. And I’ll take my kingdom back and become the rightful king of Daegu like I was meant to.”

“You can fucking have it back. I don’t care.”

“You’re an idiot.” Yoongi leaned back in his chair. “This is just the way shit is for us, Seok. You’re going to marry her, you’ll fall in love with her eventually, I think. And she’ll definitely fall for you. Everyone does.”

Hoseok didn’t say anything to that. What was he supposed to say to that? He wasn’t even sure if it was a compliment or not. He was fairly sure it wasn’t a compliment. Something about the way Yoongi said it made it seem like being loved by everyone was a bad thing. Maybe if Hoseok weren’t the next king it wouldn’t be a necessity to be loved, or at least liked, by most, but he was going to be the next king, so it was good to have the general population on his side.

As for the woman who would be his wife…he supposed it was a given that she would be on his side. She already was, at least on paper. Not that that was the kind of marriage Hoseok pictured himself having. He wanted something real, but he never had found it anywhere. Perhaps because he wasn’t really looking, but he maybe hoped someone would just come along somehow. Or that Mishil would have been that something real, and they would know instantly when they met.

It didn’t work out that way, though. Hoseok knew instantly when they met that that was not the case.

“Hey.” Hoseok jumped slightly when he felt Yoongi’s hand on his thigh. “You’re overthinking something, I can feel it. Stop.”

Hoseok slumped further into the chair, watched the kid behind the bar—Taehyung—bring out more drinks to the table where Jimin and the others still sat. Jimin flashed him a smile and Taehyung retreated back behind the bar. Hoseok just hoped Jimin intended on paying for all the drinks. Usually he did, his tolerance for alcohol was high and he rarely was intentionally rude enough to use his title to get out of paying, but sometimes he just got…distracted.

“I probably should not have agreed to come out tonight,” Hoseok murmured. “The last thing I want to do is get drunk.”

“Then don’t get drunk.”

“I’m not. I haven’t touched my drink.”

“I know. But you aren’t having fun, either. You’re supposed to be having fun. You’re the life of the party, Seok. The most fun person I know.”

Hoseok rolled his eyes and felt Yoongi’s fingers flex on his thigh. He hadn’t realized Yoongi’s hand was still there. “I’m not that fun, don’t be overdramatic,” Hoseok replied. “I’m only fun at the beginning of things. By the end I just get…like this.”

“You’re a depressing drunk, that’s why,” Yoongi said with a smile. “But you aren’t drunk so why don’t we just have a nice evening? We can get out of here. Go somewhere else? We could go back to our spot, if you want. It’s your night.”

Hoseok looked down at where Yoongi’s hand rested on his thigh. Then he looked back up and met Yoongi’s gaze. His hair fell in his eyes, shadowing him a little bit, and Hoseok felt his chest ache. There was something that seemed to fall over them both. He felt like somehow this was his last chance to have a night or normalcy. Whatever normalcy was for them.

“Let’s just go for a walk,” Hoseok said. “I don’t think they’ll notice if we leave.”

Yoongi glanced back at the table and nodded. “I don’t think so either. Half of them are drunk anyway. We should definitely leave before they try to set you up with a prostitute.” Yoongi squeezed Hoseok’s thigh once more, harder this time, and then he stood up, headed for the door. Hoseok hurried after him, didn’t bother to look back to see if anyone saw them leaving.

Outside, it was beginning to get dark, but Hoseok could still see a sliver of the sun on the horizon. With just Yoongi, it was easier to blend in, especially in the dark, so no one really gave them a second glance. The part of the village they were in was unfamiliar to Hoseok. He didn’t venture out much on his own, so truthfully most of the nearby villages were unfamiliar. But Yoongi seemed to know where they were going, or at least he was pretending to.

“You probably met some interesting people during your travels,” Hoseok said while they walked. Yoongi didn’t say anything, just turned down a narrow alley. Hoseok shuffled closer to him, but followed. “I’m surprised you didn’t come back with a girl.”

Yoongi snorted. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. Where are we going?”

Yoongi stopped in front of a random door in the alley, knocked a few times. Hoseok’s stomach flipped unpleasantly. Was Yoongi taking him to get drugs or something? He didn’t think Yoongi did that kind of thing, but maybe things had changed. Maybe this was what Yoongi found fun now. Maybe—

The door swung open, revealing a small old lady with long, thin, white hair. She looked confused for a moment and then her eyes lit up. “Yoongi!” Hoseok watched her embrace him, watched Yoongi hug back and then motion for Hoseok to come inside with him.

“Mrs. Eun makes the best sweets in Gwangju,” Yoongi said once the woman closed the door. Her home was small, dim, but it smelled nice, like sugar. “I know you have a sweet tooth.”

“Tell your friend to sit down! I’ll be right back!” the woman shouted, and then disappeared into another room. Yoongi sat down on the floor in front of a low table and patted the floor next to him. Hoseok giggled, couldn’t help it, and sat next to him.

“I didn’t know you had little old lady friends.”

“I have tons of friends you don’t know about.”

“Do they know you live in the palace? Or…lived.”

“Only some.”

Yoongi tapped his fingers on the table in front of them. They were quiet until the old woman came back with a little tray of sweets, all kinds, and it made Hoseok’s mouth water. She set the tray down in front of them and Yoongi didn’t waste a second to pick something off, taking half for himself and passing the other half to Hoseok.

“This is your brother?” the woman asked, gesturing at Hoseok while Yoongi choked on his food, started coughing.

“No! I don’t have a brother, you know that. This is Hoseok.”

“Hoseok?” She raised an eyebrow at him. “As in the crown prince?” She clicked her tongue and then suddenly whacked Yoongi on the back of the head. He groaned, but he didn’t seem offended by the action. Hoseok just watched on with wide eyes. “Shouldda told me you were bringin’ the crown prince. Wouldda cleaned up.”

“Sorry Mrs. Eun. He’s getting married tomorrow, this was a last minute excursion.”

“Married? Ah. Right, I know.” She shook her head. “You love her?”

“Um. I will one day. I think.”

“That means no,” Yoongi clarified, and Hoseok smacked him on the back of his head this time. “Hey! I’m still older than you!”

“I’ll be King soon. Be nice,” Hoseok said, sticking his tongue out and laughing, which made Yoongi laugh too. Already Hoseok felt better. Mrs. Eun didn’t ask him too many questions, didn’t treat him any different than she did Yoongi, which was nice. Hoseok knew why Yoongi had brought him here. It got his mind off everything, made him focus on the moment, made him feel at ease. He was able to be loud, bright, and not have to worry about stares or judgement.

They stayed, shoulder to shoulder, snacking on sweets, until Mrs. Eun told them to leave, that she was too tired and old to be awake this late. She gave both of them a hug when they left though, as well as a little sack filled with more sweets. The silence that followed on their walk back to the palace was a comfortable one. Hoseok was pretty sure his friends back at the tavern—if he could call them friends—were wondering where he’d gone, but he didn’t really care.

“Hey Yoon,” Hoseok said, bumping Yoongi’s shoulder with his own. “I’m very glad you came back.”

“Yeah. Me too,” Yoongi whispered.

“Thanks for being my best friend.”

Yoongi stuck out his tongue and made a fake-gagging sound. “Bleh. So sappy.”

“No more than you are.”

“I’m subtle about it.”

“No. I know you love me,” Hoseok teased, but there in the empty streets, he thought he saw something cross Yoongi’s face. Sadness? Regret? It was too hard to tell. And, it was gone in a moment anyway and Yoongi turned and smiled at him.

“I know you love me more.”

~

No one saw them return to the palace. The hallways were uncharacteristically quiet. Neither of them spoke when they both slipped into Hoseok’s chambers and locked the door behind them. The guards were at the other end of the hallway, and by the time they would pass Hoseok’s room, they’d have no idea Yoongi was inside too. Something about what they were doing, even though Yoongi had been in Hoseok’s rooms plenty of times before, felt secretive. It felt different.

Maybe it was the sweets, but Hoseok felt like his skin was buzzing, like he needed to run around or jump up and down and get rid of pent up energy. Instead, though, he kicked off his shoes and walked to the bed, flopped back and stared up at the ceiling. Yoongi joined him seconds later, scooting back against the pillows next to Hoseok.

“Sometimes I wish I could go back in time. It’d be great if Seokjin was actually a wizard,” Hoseok said. “Instead he just says vague random shit that makes little to no sense.”

“Maybe he is a wizard, he just doesn’t want to get tried for witchcraft,” Yoongi said in return. “Besides, what the hell would you want to go back in time for?”

“I don’t know. Anything. Everything? I didn’t even know you were deathly ill when we were young.”

“Well I didn’t want you to know. You had enough to worry about. Still do,” Yoongi said. “You should have just run away with me when you had the chance.”

Hoseok felt Yoongi’s head turn to look at him, but he didn’t look back. “Someone would find us. My father doesn’t have any more sons. It’s just me. I have to be here.”

“Dawon could rule. She’d be good at it.”

“I know she would, but that isn’t how things work,” Hoseok said simply, his fingers tapping against the comforter. “Maybe I really will just call off the wedding.”

“Sure.”

Hoseok rolled his eyes. “You should take those earrings off. They’re too heavy.”

“What? You think my ear is gonna fall off?” Yoongi poked Hoseok in the side and Hoseok jerked, bit back a giggle. Yoongi knew he was ticklish and would not hesitate to use that knowledge against him. And of course, after a moment’s hesitation, he poked Hoseok again and the tickled him, gently, but enough to make Hoseok squirm and laugh. He wiggled away from Yoongi, curled up onto his side until Yoongi finally stopped and Hoseok could lie on his back again. Hoseok’s chest rose and fell heavily, the ghost of a smile still on his lips. A few seconds passed, and then he slipped a hand suddenly up Yoongi’s shirt and tickled him back, right in the ribs. Yoongi yelped, thrashed and laughed and swatted Hoseok away.

“That’s what you get,” Hoseok said. “Traitor.”

“You’re the traitor,” Yoongi retorted playfully. “I’ve been nothing but loyal.”

“You always got us in trouble as kids. Remember when we would escape balls and parties? Because you wanted me to teach you dances?” Hoseok closed his eyes, felt Yoongi shifting around on the bed next to him, like he was trying to get comfortable.

“I think it was that you just wanted to dance with me,” Yoongi murmured. And then a pause. “Do you still dance?”

“Sometimes.”

“Will you dance tomorrow?”

“With you? If you want.”

Yoongi moved around again, and Hoseok opened his eyes, glanced over at Yoongi, who was now lying on his side, facing Hoseok, his hands tucked between his legs, which he always used to do when he slept. He said it kept his hands warm. “We had lots of fun games as kids,” Yoongi mused softly. Hoseok let him change the subject, even though it seemed like Yoongi wanted to say something else. “Two truths and a lie was fun. Even though it was super easy because we’re both bad at lying. Well, you were always worse at lying, but—”

“I can’t help that I’m honest.”

“I know.” There was more movement next to him and then Yoongi’s hand was on Hoseok’s arm, moving up and down slowly. His nails scraped ever-so-slightly against Hoseok’s skin, but it felt nice. Yoongi knew it felt nice. Usually it would put Hoseok straight to sleep, but that was not presently the case. “Two truths and a lie is too serious of a game to play right now. I don’t think I could think of good lies after having all that sugar.”

“Does that correlate? Sugar makes you a bad liar?”

“Mhm.”

“Because you’re already so sweet?” Yoongi laughed. “You are sweet,” Hoseok continued. Yoongi’s hand moved from his arm and brushed through his hair, nails scraping gently against Hoseok’s scalp. “Two truths and a lie. You’re my best friend. I only trust you. You aren’t sweet.”

“Wow, I could never guess which of those isn’t true,” Yoongi said sarcastically as he moved Hoseok’s hair off his forehead. “But I don’t blame you, you know. For not trusting people here. I mean, hell, I barely trusted people outside. This is just…the way the world is. We’re lucky we have each other, I think.”

Hoseok tilted his head a little ways to the side, and Yoongi smiled a closed mouth smile at him. “I could give you a position here at court,” Hoseok whispered. “You could stay.”

“Shh. Let’s not worry about that.”

Hoseok stuck out his tongue, scrunched his nose, and Yoongi scrunched his too, and they both laughed. It felt a little bit like they were drunk, even though they were both completely sober. Yoongi’s hand was still threading through Hoseok’s hair and Hoseok felt a little bit too warm, even though they weren’t under the sheets and his clothes were light.

“I’m worried about tomorrow,” Hoseok admitted.

“Big day. It’s normal to be worried about it,” Yoongi murmured. “Just don’t trip over your, I don’t know, do you wear a cape? Or, I guess, don’t trip on her dress or anything.”

“I wasn’t even worried about tripping, but now I am. Thanks,” Hoseok sighed and shifted slightly closer to Yoongi. He didn’t mean to do it, but sometimes he thought he and Yoongi were just drawn to each other. Needed to be close. “I think we should just stay here forever. That way we don’t have to ever worry about anything.”

“You’re going to rule a kingdom from in here? I look forward to seeing how you manage to do that,” Yoongi moved his hand again, now to Hoseok’s chest and then his waist, so Yoongi’s arm just sort of rested across him. “Although I’m sure you could do it. If you put your mind to it.”

“I was thinking once I become King, that I might have a palace built on the land that was Daegu. Or maybe near Hwagae Market. That way we’ll—I’ll have somewhere else I can go. Somewhere to be besides here, you know?”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Yoongi’s hand twitched against Hoseok’s side, and Hoseok rolled suddenly onto his side too, so he and Yoongi were nearly nose to nose. They hadn’t been this close, in a bed together, in a long time, and this time it certainly felt different somehow. Yoongi’s hand moved up and down Hoseok’s side and Hoseok felt his shirt ride up slightly, felt when Yoongi’s hand touched the skin of Hoseok’s waist.

Time felt like it suspended.

Hoseok’s eyes flickered unconsciously down to Yoongi’s lips. They looked soft, Hoseok thought. Yoongi’s tongue darted out over his bottom lip and Hoseok looked away, met Yoongi’s eyes again. Yoongi blinked a few times, and when he breathed out, it sounded a little bit shaky. His hand was slightly rough against Hoseok’s skin, but Hoseok knew his own hands weren’t exactly super smooth either. Sword practice gave him blisters sometimes.

“Has anyone ever told you your eyes are really pretty?” Hoseok asked, voice just above a whisper. Yoongi blinked two more times, and when Hoseok’s eyes flickered back down to his lips, they were turned up in a little smile.

But when Hoseok looked back at Yoongi’s eyes, they weren’t meeting Hoseok’s. They were looking just slightly down. At Hoseok’s lips.

Hoseok knew it was going to happen before it did, he felt it in his gut, a fluttery sort of nervous feeling somewhere inside him, somewhere familiar but also not. The feeling intensified when Yoongi shifted even closer, closing the last remaining space between them. Or at least, almost. He paused, his nose a millimeter away from touching Hoseok’s.

Thus, it was not Yoongi who completely closed the space between them. Hoseok did.

He leaned in, his hand curling around the back of Yoongi’s neck in one swift movement, at the same time Yoongi’s hand tightened its grip around his waist and their lips met. For the first moment, the kiss was barely there, just their lips touching and their hands on each other, but then Yoongi pressed in a little more, and Hoseok parted his lips, and it became something they couldn’t just pull away from, couldn’t just pretend hadn’t happened.

But Hoseok wouldn’t have wanted to pretend it didn’t happen. He wanted it to keep happening. In the very back of his mind, he was aware of how dangerous it was for them to be doing this. He was aware of what would happen if they were caught. It made his heart pound in his chest. Still, he didn’t want to stop.

Their lips did part for a moment, their eyes opened, but neither of them spoke, Hoseok just pulled Yoongi back in and Yoongi rolled so Hoseok was on his back again and Yoongi was pressed on top of him, their chests flush and Yoongi settling between Hoseok’s legs. In their new position, Hoseok could move his hands around easier. They drifted down to Yoongi’s low back, and Hoseok found himself pushing up Yoongi’s shirt to feel skin as Yoongi’s tongue slid against his own.

Of all things, Hoseok was grateful in the moment that he knew how to kiss, that he’d done it before. But he was certain Yoongi was a better kisser. Was certain Yoongi had kissed more people than Hoseok had, even though Hoseok had had plenty of prospects and opportunities.

However, he didn’t feel nervous. Not really. Yoongi was kissing back, his body was flush to Hoseok’s, and they both clearly wanted it, so Hoseok didn’t feel the need to worry about whether Yoongi liked it.

Hoseok was wondering things though, but he hardly could keep his mind focused on one thought, not with Yoongi’s tongue in his mouth and his teeth tugging at his lower lip, tongue swiping against it a moment later to soothe the slight sting.

And then Yoongi’s hand was under Hoseok’s shirt again, sliding up until his thumb caught on Hoseok’s nipple, and Hoseok couldn’t help it when he moaned, when he arched up even further into Yoongi’s body. If everything else hadn’t made it clear enough, Hoseok was struck in that moment with want. Need, even. He knew he needed Yoongi, but now he knew how. He knew how much he wanted him, too.

The kiss had broken and Yoongi’s breath was warm against Hoseok’s lips, but when Hoseok opened his eyes, he saw it—saw how Yoongi wanted him too. His eyes were hooded, but his pupils were blown and Hoseok dug his nails into Yoongi’s back, heard his breath catch.

“Why—Why’d you stop? Kiss me,” Hoseok whispered. The room was almost dark now, only illuminated by a few candles that had been lit for a while. It made it feel like they were in their own little world. Just the two of them.

“Are you sure?” Yoongi paused, his lips turning up just a little when Hoseok dug his nails even more into Yoongi’s back. “Your Highness.”

“Fucker,” Hoseok muttered, but Yoongi just smiled and kissed him again. Yoongi seemed so unafraid, so at ease. His thumb moved over Hoseok’s nipple again and Hoseok moaned, cursed against Yoongi’s lips, trailed his own hands lower.

As good as it felt to be kissing Yoongi, even as dangerous as it might be, Hoseok wasn’t sure how much farther they should take it. He wasn’t sure where the boundaries were. Where should he not put his hands? Because he found that he wanted to put them everywhere, wanted to touch Yoongi as much as Yoongi would allow him to.

You’re getting married tomorrow, Hoseok thought to himself, and for a moment it made his stomach twist unpleasantly, but he pushed it away, because he was going to have this. Whatever it was. However much it was.

So, he moved one of his hands down even lower just as Yoongi sucked Hoseok’s tongue into his mouth. When Hoseok gripped Yoongi’s ass, Yoongi moaned, and his hips shifted on top of Hoseok’s . Hoseok squeezed—Yoongi’s ass was softer than he thought it would be, but there was another part of him that was definitely not completely soft.

Come to think of it, Hoseok wasn’t completely soft either. Not completely hard, but getting there. Definitely getting there.

But suddenly Yoongi’s lips were gone again and he was sitting back between Hoseok’s thighs, his hair a little bit wild and his shirt all wrinkled and bunched up in funny places. Hoseok thought he was beautiful. He’d always thought Yoongi was very cute, and then very handsome, but now he knew it was an active attraction to Yoongi. Maybe an active attraction to men in general, but specifically to Yoongi for sure.

“Are we—”

“Can I take your shirt off?”

They both spoke at the same time, but Hoseok cut off midsentence and nodded. “Yeah, fuck, you can take my shirt off.”

Yoongi bit his lower lip and smoothed his hands up Hoseok’s shirt, still sitting up, looking down at him. Goosebumps broke out on Hoseok’s skin as it was exposed. He didn’t feel self-conscious or nervous though, Yoongi had seen him naked, or at least without a shirt, before. Of course, not in this kind of scenario, but still. Besides, Yoongi was looking at him like he wouldn’t want to be looking at anyone else.

Hoseok sat up and raised his arms above his head so Yoongi could pull his shirt off, and once the garment was gone, Yoongi gently pushed Hoseok back down onto the bed. His thumb smoothed over Hoseok’s cheek and Hoseok reached to touch Yoongi, pull him back down too, but Yoongi captured Hoseok’s wrist and pressed his hand, and then the other one too, beside his head.

It would be easy to pry his hands away, Hoseok was just as strong as, if not stronger than, Yoongi, but he didn’t want to fight it. They—he—could do whatever they wanted to tonight. And Hoseok wanted to do this.

“You don’t want to stop do you?” Yoongi whispered when he leaned back down, hands still pinning Hoseok’s wrists above his head.

“No, I don’t,” Hoseok answered simply.

That was all Yoongi needed, it seemed, and he kissed Hoseok again. For another while, that was all they did, but soon Yoongi began to trail kisses across Hoseok’s jaw and then down his neck. Hoseok tilted his head back to give Yoongi room. Yoongi released Hoseok’s hands in favor of gripping Hoseok’s waist again, and then rolling one of his nipples between his thumb and finger. “Like that?” he murmured against Hoseok’s neck.

“I like it,” Hoseok gasped, felt Yoongi bite down softly at the juncture between his neck and shoulder. Then he came back up, kissed Hoseok once on the mouth and ducked back down, further this time, and then his lips closed over Hoseok’s nipple, tongue moving in slow circles around the hardened bud. Hoseok bit back a noise that would have been far too loud, but Yoongi’s teeth closed down and he yelped, covered his mouth with his hand.

“You’re sensitive,” Yoongi groaned. “Though, I guess I suppose I already knew that.”

“No you did not,” Hoseok retorted, but Yoongi just looked up at him through his long lashes and smiled.

“Did too. You’re ticklish.” Hoseok rolled his eyes, but— “It’s okay, I’m sensitive too.”

And then Yoongi reached down and palmed Hoseok through his trousers. Without realizing, Hoseok had become fully hard and now Yoongi knew it. Not that he seemed bothered by it. In fact, he seemed pleased with himself. He also didn’t seem hesitant at all when it came to touching Hoseok. His hand moved firm but slow, like he was trying to map him out, figure him out.

“You’ve done this before,” Hoseok blurted out, and Yoongi’s hand stopped moving, and his mouth popped off from where he was sucking a mark into Hoseok’s chest. He didn’t say anything, just looked at Hoseok’s face and then without warning, his hand slipped into Hoseok’s pants and he was touching him with nothing in between. Hoseok swallowed thickly, eyes fluttering closed involuntarily.

“Yes,” Yoongi finally said. “I have.”

“I—” Haven’t, is what Hoseok was going to say, but he was fairly certain that was a given. Only, it wasn’t that he just hadn’t with another man. He hadn’t at all. And that was something he was a little bit afraid of admitting to Yoongi.

And anyway, he wanted to go through with whatever they were doing. Yoongi had his hand down Hoseok’s pants and Hoseok tugged him back in for another kiss before they could talk too much or decide against what they were doing. The kiss was a little bit harder this time, but still slow. It fell in time with how Yoongi was stroking him, and when his thumb began to move in slow circles over the head of Hoseok’s cock, Hoseok arched and moaned into Yoongi’s mouth.

“Fuck,” Yoongi cursed softly, kissed down Hoseok’s neck and pulled his hand out of Hoseok’s pants. Hoseok watched Yoongi’s mouth trail lower and lower down Hoseok’s body, and when his mouth was at the edge of Hoseok’s trousers, he looked up, and then he was tugging them down altogether. Hoseok didn’t hesitate to kick them away, even though he was now fully undressed while Yoongi was still completely clothed. Yoongi was completely clothed and staring at Hoseok’s cock, his mouth open slightly and his eyes still hooded and dark.

Hoseok spread his legs further apart. Why? He wasn’t sure. He just…he liked the way Yoongi was looking at him, even though he didn’t think his dick was the most impressive thing about him. Hoseok knew he was attractive, smaller in frame maybe, but with lean muscle and long limbs, but at the end of the day, no one had ever given him an opinion on what was in his pants. He only had himself to go by, and he just knew he was sort of short, not…abnormally so at least, and sort of thick. Sort of normal, he hoped.

Before Hoseok could say anything about any of it though, Yoongi was wrapping his hand around him and then his lips were around Hoseok’s cock and Hoseok’s eyes bulged, and his head flopped back onto the pillows under him. Yoongi had almost certainly done this before too. It felt too good for Yoongi to be inexperienced, and Hoseok wished he had the same experience. Even though the knowledge that Yoongi had done this with other man scared Hoseok a bit, only for the sake of Yoongi’s safety.

He’s safe here, Hoseok thought briefly. We’re both safe. A lie, but without two truths.

Nonetheless—

Hoseok tangled his hand in Yoongi’s hair and tugged as Yoongi took him deeper, hollowed his cheeks and sucked hard. He bobbed his head slowly, the sounds from the action loud and wet. Hoseok’s thighs trembled and he tugged harder until Yoongi popped off with an obscene slurp. His lips were shiny with spit, cheeks flushed. Hoseok had never seen Yoongi like this before and it made his heart pound (and his dick throb).

“Were you gonna cum?”

“I want to do that to you,” Hoseok blurted out without answering Yoongi’s question (because the answer was maybe, yes). He licked his lips, pulled again at Yoongi’s hair. “I—”

“You want to suck my cock?”

“Yes.”

“Have you ever done it before?”

“No.”

Yoongi was quiet for a moment, his hand releasing Hoseok’s cock so it slapped back against his low stomach with a smacking sound, making Hoseok’s face feel hot. For a moment Yoongi kneeled there between Hoseok’s legs, and then he looked around the room, threaded a hand through his hair and suddenly got off the bed. Hoseok watched him, his stomach knotting up.

“Wait here. Don’t move, I’m going to go get something first,” Yoongi said softly.

“You’re going to leave me here naked?”

“Yeah. Touch yourself.”

“Don’t tell me what to do.”

Yoongi smiled. “Sorry, touch yourself, Your Highness.”

“You’re the worst,” Hoseok snapped back, only because he was worried Yoongi was going to leave the room and not come back.

But Yoongi just smiled, and then he hurried behind a screen in the corner of Hoseok’s room, which was where a section of the wall could open if pressed on just right, leading to the secret passage ways that ran through the palace. That way, Yoongi could get to his chambers and back without being seen by anyone.

Then, however, at the sound of the secret entrance closing, Hoseok was alone in his room, surrounded by only the light of the candles, and completely naked, hard, and left with his own thoughts. He hadn’t even seen Yoongi naked yet. Nor did he know what Yoongi had left so suddenly to go retrieve. Worse, Hoseok didn’t know what would happen exactly when Yoongi came back (if he came back).

Still, he gripped his cock and stroked himself a few times, thinking mostly about how Yoongi touched him, kissed him. And, of course, about Yoongi’s lips around his cock, how he seemed to know exactly what he was doing. Hoseok had never had oral before, only heard about it from the other young men his age, laughed along with them as if he knew what they were talking about (no one would believe him if he admitted he was still a virgin). Certainly, Hoseok had never given oral before. Not to a woman and definitely not to another man.

And none of the young men he was ‘friends’ with in the palace ever talked about anything sexual with another man. They wouldn’t dare, Hoseok knew that.

There were some kingdoms that allowed relationships between two men, or two women. Gwangju was not one of them. Most of the kingdoms, the regions, that did allow it, were far away and not many people visited them. Perhaps Yoongi had?

Regardless, Hoseok didn’t feel in any kind of danger. He was the crown prince, after all. He would be king. Almost untouchable. If he wanted this…he could have it.

I can have it, he told himself, hand drifting lower, circling his rim, wondering if Yoongi would touch him there when he got back, or maybe even, if Yoongi liked being touched there too. He let his eyes flutter closed, then brought one hand up to his lips, put his pointer and middle finger into his mouth while he stroked himself, sticky already with precum. Then his hand drifted down again and he attempted to push a finger inside himself. He never could do much with just spit on his fingers, and this time was no exception.

Only—

“Sorry, I forgot where I put this. I only went to get it in case you wanted to fuck me, but I know that’s—oh—”

Hoseok’s eyes shot open and his hands flew to his sides. Yoongi was standing a few feet away from the bed, a little brown pouch in his hands. His eyes were wide and locked on Hoseok and Hoseok was pretty sure he wanted to die, or disappear, but—but maybe not, actually. Maybe not because Yoongi was stepping closer and Hoseok could tell he was hard in his pants.

“You, um,” Yoongi paused at the foot of the bed, set the little pouch down by Hoseok’s feet. “You’re really beautiful, Seok.” Yoongi’s cheeks looked flushed, but it was hard to tell in the dim room.

“You are too,” Hoseok said. “Are you just gonna stand there and stare at me?”

“Maybe. It’s a nice view.”

Hoseok rolled his eyes, but this was what they did. They teased each other, and it was easy. Normal.

“You said something about fucking,” Hoseok said. “We should do that.”

“Should we?” Yoongi asked. “Can’t come back from that.”

But Yoongi took his shirt off anyway, and Hoseok sat up a bit, watched him undress. Yoongi’s shoulders were broad, but he had always been small. At least in stature. His torso seemed firmer than the last time Hoseok had seen him shirtless, but still soft in some ways too. Where Yoongi was shorter, Hoseok was taller, and where Yoongi was a bit pale, Hoseok was tan. But Hoseok was thin, lean, and Yoongi was just built a bit different.

But Hoseok liked how Yoongi looked. Liked everything about him. Yoongi would surely disagree, but Hoseok thought Yoongi was perfect. He always had, even before…this. Before Hoseok was aware of his romantic feelings (which meant, not very long ago). Although, he did know the feelings were there now. He was aware they’d been there for some time, just…hidden away somewhere. Hidden away by the fact that Yoongi was Yoongi, his best friend.

“I don’t want to come back from anything,” Hoseok finally said, because Yoongi had his hands on the waist of his pants, clearly about to take them off. “You can stay here. With me. I want this.”

“I do too,” Yoongi whispered, and then he pushed his pants down along with anything he’d had on underneath. He only stood there for a moment longer, but it was enough time for Hoseok to take him in, to see that Yoongi was not as thick as Hoseok was himself, but he was long and hard, a thin line of hair starting at his navel and leading down to his cock, but the rest of him seemed mostly smooth to the touch.

Not that there was much more time to think about it, because Yoongi was crawling back over and Hoseok scooted to meet him halfway, pulled Yoongi in and kissed him again, kissed down Yoongi’s neck this time, back to his ears where he was still wearing the ruby earrings. “Have you…” Hoseok trailed off, felt Yoongi smooth his hand up and down Hoseok’s back. “Have you ever fucked someone before?”

“Someone? Or a man?”

“You know what I mean, don’t be an ass,” Hoseok smacked Yoongi on the shoulder and Yoongi smiled.

“Once. Yeah. Why? You want me to fuck you, Seok?” Yoongi leaned back and Hoseok wrapped a hand tentatively around Yoongi’s cock. It felt different from touching himself, somehow. Good different. Yoongi didn’t react much though, not until Hoseok started to move his hand up and down. “I’m gonna—fuck—I’m gonna need an answer. Because I like both. I thought you’d rather fuck me but I would gladly fuck you. I’ve been staring at your butt for years now.”

“My nonexistent one?”

“Oh it exists,” Yoongi said. “You just had your finger in it, so…”

Hoseok groaned, and Yoongi laughed, but that made Hoseok laugh too, and then they were kissing again. Perhaps it should have been weird how easy it was for them to fall into this, for their banter to become sexual, for them to touch each other. It was not weird, though, not weird when Yoongi grabbed his little pouch, mumbled that it was lubricant, something about he’d gotten it a while back (“I didn’t plan this, I swear.”) and that it would make everything a lot better.

Hoseok forgot about wanting to suck Yoongi’s dick by the time Yoongi had his fingers slicked, down between Hoseok’s legs, one of them slowly sliding inside him. When he did remember, he decided they would do that next time.

There has to be a next time, Hoseok thought.

“Does it hurt?”

Yoongi’s breath was hot against Hoseok’s neck, and his finger slid in and out of Hoseok slow, careful. “No it doesn’t hurt,” Hoseok breathed, shifting his leg so Yoongi could grind against his thigh. “I, um, I usually can’t get my fingers this deep.”

“Obviously not, if you aren’t using something for lubricant,” Yoongi said. “Tell me if anything doesn’t feel good.”

Hoseok nodded, tangled his hand back into Yoongi’s hair and felt Yoongi add a second finger, wiggle them both around a little, crook them up just right. Hoseok arched, gasped, kissed Yoongi hard while Yoongi worked his fingers in deeper, harder, more. There were a few instances where it felt odd, maybe slightly uncomfortable, but the next moment it felt good again until all the discomfort had faded away to pleasure.

Hoseok’s leg felt sticky where Yoongi was grinding against him and his lips felt a bit sore from kissing, but the last thing he wanted was to stop. The fact that it was the eve of his wedding was not on his mind anymore.

“Fuck,” Hoseok cursed. “There. Touch—yes, there, oh my god.”

“You’re so fucking tight,” Yoongi whispered.

“I’m—”

“I love you,” Yoongi said abruptly, and Hoseok felt himself clench down hard around Yoongi’s fingers, felt his grip in Yoongi’s hair tighten. His cock twitched, and when Yoongi pressed in just the right spot, Hoseok was sure he was going to cum, but then Yoongi’s fingers were gone altogether and Hoseok’s body shook with an orgasm that hadn’t quite arrived, and he groaned loudly, let out a shaky breath.

Yoongi’s words lingered in the space between them as Hoseok recovered, confused as to why Yoongi’s fingers weren’t inside him anymore. “What?” was all Hoseok could say.

When he opened his eyes, Yoongi had his hand on the little container of lubricant. “What?”

“What did you just say?” Yoongi’s chest rose and fell heavily, and his fingers were shiny in the candlelight, as was his cock. Hoseok licked his lips. “Yoongi—”

“I said I love you,” Yoongi repeated.

Hoseok blinked, and Yoongi wouldn’t make eye contact. Hoseok’s chest felt tight, so much so it was almost painful, but he didn’t know what to say. He wanted to say it back, because he felt it, felt the same way, but…but if he said it back, what would that mean?

Besides, Yoongi was slicking his cock and clearing his throat and so Hoseok reached out and cupped Yoongi’s cheek. “Hey.”

“Do you still want to?” Yoongi asked.

“Yes I still want to, Yoon, but—”

“No, it’s okay,” Yoongi mumbled. “This is…not that. I know it’s not. You’re getting married tomorrow so it can’t be that. Do you, um, do you want to do it like this? Don’t know if you have a preference, but I can fuck you from behind if you want.”

The room seemed to shift. Hoseok felt too hot and too cold at the same time, despite the fact that his cock was still throbbing between his legs and he wanted Yoongi inside him, hated the newfound emptiness he was feeling. And he didn’t need to be experienced to know that Yoongi fucking him from behind was a way to make it less personal. It sounded good, Hoseok wasn’t going to lie, but he would much rather see Yoongi’s face.

“I don’t want you to fuck me from behind,” Hoseok said firmly. “Not this time. Next time, if you want.”

“Next time?”

“That’s what I said.” Hoseok shifted around, got comfortable on his back and spread his legs as far apart as he could. “Come on. I want you.”

Yoongi sat there for a moment longer, then the corner of his lips turned up. “You’re infuriating,” he murmured, still with a smile, and then he was positioning himself between Hoseok’s legs. “Hold your legs up.” So Hoseok did, held his legs up to his chest, hands curled around his thighs. He felt exposed, but Yoongi didn’t draw attention to the flush on Hoseok’s face.

Instead, of his hands overlapped Hoseok’s on his thigh, and with the other he positioned himself at Hoseok’s hole. The first press of him felt odd, blunt, and Hoseok tried to relax, closed his eyes just as he noticed one of the candles go out.

“Yoongi please,” Hoseok breathed out, felt Yoongi press further into him and lean down to kiss the corner of Hoseok’s lips. It was then that he slipped inside. Hoseok gasped, but no sound came out. He could feel himself open up around Yoongi, and then clench down before relaxing only slightly, enough for Yoongi to push in more.

“Fuck.” Yoongi’s hand flexed on top of Hoseok’s.

Neither of them spoke for a long time. The only sound in the room was their heavy breathing. Hoseok’s teeth were gritted together and Yoongi must have noticed, because he went slow, shifted around until Hoseok’s legs fell around his waist and Hoseok could move his hands easier, could grip Yoongi’s shoulders and hair and kiss him.

While they kissed Yoongi pushed in more, until his hips were flush to Hoseok’s ass and Hoseok felt full, complete in a way he somehow knew he would when they’d first kissed and doing…this, crossed his mind. Complete in a way he was sure only Yoongi could make him feel. He tightened his legs around Yoongi’s waist, dug his heels into Yoongi’s low back and then against his ass, before he opted to reach and grab Yoongi’s ass with his hands. He squeezed, and Yoongi smiled against his lips before Hoseok moved his hands back to Yoongi’s hair.

When Yoongi shifted on top of him, and subsequently inside of him too, Hoseok winced. It didn’t feel bad, but there was a slight burn, and Yoongi felt bigger than he looked and it was definitely something to get used to. With Yoongi kissing his neck and smoothing his hands over various parts of Hoseok’s overheated skin, it was easier to adjust. Still, Hoseok couldn’t quite stop clenching spasmodically around Yoongi, couldn’t stop from pulling at his hair.

“Come on,” Hoseok said after Yoongi still had yet to move. “Fuck me.”

“Are you sure?” Yoongi braced his hands beside Hoseok’s head though, propped himself up to look Hoseok in the eye. “I can hold off.”

“Yoongi. Fuck me,” Hoseok repeated, this time aware of the slight whine in his voice. If Yoongi noticed, he didn’t comment, instead he kissed Hoseok one more time, hard and filthy, the kind of kiss Hoseok never thought he would have with someone. One with passion and heat and—

And then Yoongi pulled out, not all the way, just to the head, and Hoseok could feel the slide. The thrust back inside was not hard, but Hoseok could feel that too and they both moaned. During the whole thing, the initial press inside, Hoseok had gone a bit soft, but he could feel himself getting hard again as Yoongi repeated the action, pulling out and thrusting back inside, only with a bit more force.

Hoseok’s eyes stayed closed while Yoongi picked up a rhythm, but once Hoseok was fully hard again, and all the discomfort had gone away, he was left on the verge of making sounds he normally would be embarrassed to be making. And when Yoongi thrust forward harder, a sharp snap of his hips, Hoseok gasped, and then moaned, something deep that felt like it was pushed out from his stomach. His eyes opened, and Yoongi had a tiny smirk on his face, one that faded into a smile when their eyes met.

The next time Yoongi snapped his hips forward, Hoseok whined, loud and high pitched in the quiet room. Although the room hardly stayed quiet, because Yoongi stopped pausing in between thrusts, opted instead to fuck into Hoseok harder and faster until the room was filled with the sound of skin against skin and both of their somewhat desperate moans.

“Feels—” Hoseok’s throat felt dry from all his harsh breathing and he choked on another sharp intake of air when Yoongi hit just the right spot inside of him.

“Feels what?” Yoongi rasped back.

“Good, fuck, so good,” Hoseok managed to respond. “You feel so good.”

“You too,” Yoongi whispered, leaning down and nipping at Hoseok’s ear lobe with his teeth. It made Hoseok shudder, made his back arch when Yoongi thrust inside and ground his hips hard against Hoseok’s ass. “So fucking warm and tight, god, you look so beautiful taking my cock.”

“I—” I love you, too, Hoseok wanted to say, but he couldn’t get the words out. They felt stuck in the back of his throat. “You’re so pretty,” Hoseok said instead.

Yoongi leaned back again, further this time, held Hoseok down by the waist and fucked into him harder. Hoseok’s cock throbbed between his legs and his muscles burned from holding his legs up and apart, despite the fact that they were muscles he used often. Just not like this. This, he would feel in the morning.

“Touch yourself,” Yoongi said. “Want—wanna feel you come, Seok.”

Hoseok bit down on his own bottom lip, forced himself to keep his eyes opened as he wrapped his hand around himself and began to jerk himself off as in-time to the pace Yoongi was fucking him at as he could. Yoongi’s overgrown bangs were damp with sweat and his pale skin seemed to glow in the candlelight and Hoseok didn’t know why it took him so long to realize he was so, so in love with Min Yoongi.

When he came, it was sooner than he would have liked, and his back curved off the bed, despite the fact that Yoongi was practically pinning him down. It almost hurt, but the pain felt good. His thighs shook and one of Yoongi’s hands overlapped his, jerking him off too as cum coated Hoseok’s chest and stomach. Filthy words spilled from Yoongi’s lips, words Hoseok could only half comprehend as he rode out his orgasm, Yoongi fucking into him even harder, quicker, until his thrusts became erratic and Hoseok was shaking from overstimulation.

He didn’t want Yoongi to stop though, didn’t want the night to end. Knuckles white, Hoseok gripped the sheets under him with his clean hand. “Yoongi,” he moaned, not sure if any sound even came out.

Luckily (or maybe unluckily, as it meant it was over), Hoseok felt Yoongi’s grip on his waist tighten and his hips stutter, and then a rush of warmth, and he knew Yoongi came too, knew by the way his body shook, and then went lax, his forehead tilted down on Hoseok’s chest. His breath was too hot against Hoseok’s already burning skin, but Hoseok carded his hand through Yoongi’s hair anyway, felt Yoongi kiss him once, then twice, before he looked up, leaned back, and pulled out.

Hoseok winced, clenched down around nothing.

“’M sorry,” Yoongi muttered suddenly. “I didn’t mean to cum inside you. That was, um, that was inappropriate.”

Hoseok’s cheeks felt warm, but he grabbed Yoongi’s hand. “I liked it,” he admitted softly. “Don’t be sorry.”

“Let me—Do you have washcloths in your washroom? Let me get one. Fuck,” Yoongi looked a bit frantic, and he scrambled off the bed before Hoseok could stop him. Hoseok watched him waddle into the washroom, smiled to himself because Yoongi was adorable, really, and his butt was nice to look at.

It seemed perhaps that Yoongi was nervous now, but Hoseok felt more relaxed than he expected himself too, despite the stickiness and Yoongi’s release inside him. Maybe it was just that he’d gotten off, but he just wanted Yoongi to come back so they could fall asleep together.

Soon, Yoongi did come back with a cloth in his hand. He crawled back up onto the bed and Hoseok took the cloth from him to wipe down with. He could feel Yoongi’s cum leaking out of him, and he crinkled his nose a little at the feeling when he sat up, but Yoongi just pushed him back so he was lying down and knelt between his legs to clean him up.

The action was very intimate, and neither of them said anything while it was happening, but once it was done, Yoongi tossed the cloth somewhere on the floor and hesitantly lied down next to Hoseok. Hoseok immediately turned to face him, smoothed Yoongi’s hair off his forehead. Yoongi smiled, eyes sleepy.

“You’ll stay? Here, I mean, for the night.”

“Do you want me to?”

“Yes,” Hoseok said truthfully.

“You have to cuddle me,” Yoongi whispered and Hoseok shoved his shoulder, but they both laughed, then shifted around so they were both bundled under the covers, bodies pressed close. Yoongi rolled over into a little ball, and Hoseok wrapped himself around Yoongi from behind and kissed the back of his neck.

“That was my first time,” Hoseok said to the back of Yoongi’s head. Yoongi was silent and Hoseok almost thought he’d fallen asleep in a matter of seconds.

Of course, he hadn’t, and Hoseok felt a pinch to his side just before Yoongi rolled over again, his head tucked under Hoseok’s chin and his legs tangling with Hoseok’s. “I hate you,” Yoongi said into his chest. “I’m too tired to move, but I can’t believe you didn’t tell me you were a virgin before we did that.”

“I didn’t want you to change your mind.”

“I wouldn’t have, you idiot, but I might not have done it so…I don’t know, hard.”

“Well, it was good like that. You’ve, um, you’ve only been with one other…man?” That probably wasn’t the question to ask, not now, but Hoseok was a curious person and he wanted to know.

“No, I’ve been with more than one man,” Yoongi eventually answered, keeping himself tucked against Hoseok so Hoseok couldn’t see his expression, only just barely could feel his lips moving against his chest. “I’ve just only fucked one. The others…I don’t know. Usually I suck them off. Usually it was you, I was picturing. I just never thought you’d actually want it.”

“I love you, too.”

The words came out a little bit too loud, but Yoongi curled his arms around Hoseok’s waist, almost a hug, keeping him close. Hoseok did the same in return. He didn’t want to let Yoongi go. Didn’t want to talk about the repercussions or what this really meant for them. Because everything had changed, even if it felt so natural.

If anyone ever found out that Hoseok was slept with a man, had slept with Yoongi…he would never make it to the throne. Especially not if they found out Yoongi had been the one to fuck him. But, the last thing Hoseok felt about it was shame, in fact, he felt invigorated. Alive.

“I’ll call off the wedding,” he blurted out, because he didn’t want to be king if it meant he couldn’t be with Yoongi, or if it meant he had to be with someone else too.

“It’s okay, Seok,” Yoongi mumbled, “Just go to sleep.”

~

Upon waking up, which he did before Yoongi, Hoseok’s mind began to race, began to go to places he wished it wouldn’t.

His room was full of light again, all the candles out, but sunlight streaming in instead. Yoongi was still sound asleep next to him, the ruby earrings sparkling in his ears still and his dark hair falling over his eyes. Everything about him looked so peaceful, and Hoseok caressed his cheek, smoothed a hand down Yoongi’s arm and then over his hip, the blankets that covered him falling away with the action. Yet, Yoongi did not stir, just snuggled further into the bed, curled up into a smaller ball, closer to Hoseok.

Even with how peaceful Yoongi looked, Hoseok wondered why. Why last night, the night before Hoseok was to be married? Did Yoongi have an ulterior motive? No, certainly not, Hoseok thought. When Yoongi had said he loved him, it seemed genuine, true. Yoongi was always truthful with Hoseok, he was the only person Hoseok trusted with everything.

But Yoongi had to know things might not end well for them. Or perhaps he hoped to gain something from a relationship with Hoseok. Mistresses of King’s were always rewarded with land and riches. But Hoseok had promised Yoongi lands before any of this. Hell, Hoseok would reinstate Daegu as a kingdom and declare Yoongi the King if Yoongi wanted it, whether or not they were sleeping together.

Still, Hoseok’s mind went in circles as he laid there with Yoongi. When he moved, he could feel that his body was sore, but he didn’t mind it. And eventually, Yoongi began to awaken, his eyes fluttering open and then drifting closed again a few times before they opened for good and he stretched out, limbs going out in all directions. Hoseok’s eyes trailed over Yoongi’s body, now exposed completely in the light.

“Like what you see?” Yoongi asked between a yawn, and Hoseok hummed.

“Yeah, actually.”

Yoongi smiled and rubbed his eyes. “Shouldn’t you be doing wedding things?” Yoongi asked. “Is it early?”

“I don’t know, no one has come to get me,” Hoseok said. “And I much rather stay here with you.”

He pulled Yoongi in a bit, then rolled slightly on top of him before he kissed Yoongi softly on the lips. Yoongi seemed surprised at first, but then he relaxed into it and kissed back, arms draping over Hoseok. They kissed until Hoseok had to pull away to breathe.

“Why’d you have to grow up to be so…you?” Yoongi asked and Hoseok scoffed.

“Me? What about you? It’s very rude of you to seduce the future King of Gwangju,” Hoseok teased, poking Yoongi in the tummy, which made Yoongi giggle and squirm.

“I didn’t seduce you, maybe you seduced me.”

“I suppose we seduced each other, then?” Hoseok suggested, sitting up and leaning back against the intricate headboard. Yoongi stayed lying on his back, clearly uncaring that he was completely naked and uncovered by anything.

“I think that’s just called falling in love,” Yoongi corrected.

“Maybe. That sounds about right.”

“That’s why I left,” Yoongi said, his hand tracing an unidentifiable shape onto Hoseok’s leg. “I mean, I’ve loved you for a while but…last year I almost kissed you. We went out riding, I don’t know if you remember, and you started talking about something, about how if you weren’t who you were, we would go somewhere far away and…I don’t know.” Yoongi paused and shook his head slightly. “I just remember I was listening to you talk and I wanted to kiss you. Almost just did it. Figured if you hated me after at least it would be easier, but I couldn’t do it. So I left, because if I stayed I knew eventually I would end up doing it. I suppose I never guessed you’d actually kiss back.”

“Is that why you refused to marry Dawon? Because you were in love with me? My father thought it was because you loved someone else,” Hoseok asked, taking Yoongi’s hand in his, even though the angle was off. The memory of Hoseok’s father suggesting Dawon marry Yoongi felt distant, but he could recall that he hadn’t wanted it to happen. Luckily, both Dawon and Yoongi didn’t either.

“I didn’t marry Dawon because I like men, Hoseok. And yes, because I was in love with you and not her. I actually have respect for your sister and the last thing I’d want to do is put her in a loveless marriage with me,” Yoongi explained. “It would have been hell for both of us.”

“You should have just kissed me,” Hoseok said and Yoongi laughed.

You should have kissed me,” Yoongi retorted, sitting up abruptly and moving the blankets aside so he could sit in Hoseok’s lap, their chests nearly flush. “You’re the prince.”

“Technically, you were next in line for a throne once, too. That makes you a prince.” Hoseok pointed out.

“My brother would have been King. Not me.”

“Still a prince.”

“You have the face for being a prince,” Yoongi said, his hands cupping Hoseok’s face and thumbs smoothing over his cheeks. “You’re so handsome.”

“So are you,” Hoseok whispered back. He’d never seen Yoongi like this, so openly affectionate with his words. Of course, Yoongi had always been affectionate towards Hoseok, but it was a bit different now. Intimate.

“If I were still a prince of Daegu, we wouldn’t be here right now,” Yoongi pointed out. “We would probably be enemies.”

“Well I’m glad we aren’t.”

Although, Hoseok didn’t exactly know what they were, now. If he’d woken up and Yoongi had dismissed the night before, insisted they go back to normal, that would have been one thing. But that wasn’t what happened. Yoongi was in Hoseok’s lap, and they were kissing again, and they’d told each other they loved each other.

I’ll call off the wedding, Hoseok thought. He’d said it last night, but he could tell Yoongi didn’t believe him. Calling it off wouldn’t be a good idea, Hoseok knew it would have serious repercussions, but he hadn’t wanted to get married even before his night with Yoongi, and he’d never before done anything to defy his father or his role as prince. So maybe he could get away with calling his wedding off.

He could definitely get away with spending another hour or so with Yoongi, that he was sure of. It seemed to be early enough and no one had knocked or come to retrieve him. That, and Yoongi was hard now, Hoseok’s hand wrapped around his cock not because he was suddenly so experienced, but because he knew now what he wanted.

So maybe an hour was more like two, but Hoseok blamed it on the fact that Yoongi offered to ride him, and he certainly wasn’t going to say no.

~

“Where the hell have you been?”

“Sleeping.”

Dawon glared at Hoseok, her arms crossed over her chest and her eyes piercing through the hair that hung in around her face. She was wearing more makeup around her eyes than she normally did and Hoseok knew it was because of the wedding later. He was the one behind on getting ready, not her. However, a few minutes after Yoongi had left Hoseok’s room through the secret passageways, there had been a knock on Hoseok’s door. One of his father’s guards informed him that his father wanted a word with him.

Thus, he stood outside his father’s chambers with Dawon, who had apparently also been summoned. She was angry too, and she looked tired. That, and she could probably see through his lie. He was a terrible liar, and Dawon was good at detecting lies told by even the best of liars, so Hoseok was shit out of luck when it came to lying to her.

“The ceremony is this afternoon. Will you be ready by then?” she asked, before knocking again on the door, as their father hadn’t let them inside yet.

“I can be ready. It’s not going to take me that long.”

Dawon reached forward and Hoseok made a face, unsure of what she was going to do, but then she gently placed her hand on his chin and tilted his head to the side. He let her, only jerked away when she gripped harder. “Is that a…” she trailed off though, dropped her hand back to her side and Hoseok touched his neck where she’d been looking.

“It’s nothing.”

“It’s quite obviously not nothing, Hoseok.”

“I’ve never done anything wrong or defied any of my orders or duties. Don’t—”

The door to his father’s room opened abruptly before Hoseok could finish, and both he and his sister fell silent, straightened their posture and bowed slightly. After a grunt, a sort of hello, from their father, he opened the door wider and allowed them to step inside. The room felt too cold, and it was far too dim, but Hoseok could still tell that his father was very pale, looked even worse than he had the day before. His hair, thin, was damp with sweat and Hoseok resisted the urge to tell him he should lie down.

“Thank you both for coming,” the king said. His voice was barely there, and Hoseok didn’t know how he was going to manage to act as if he were completely well in front of all the wedding guests later.

“If this is about me sleeping in I—”

“What is he doing here?”

Dawon was gesturing to the corner of the room. Hoseok hadn’t even realized someone else was in the room, and he felt even more nervousness build up in his chest. Especially because the person standing ominously in the corner of the room was Seokjin, and his face looked grim. Hoseok was not the biggest advocate of Seokjin, didn’t really believe he had any powers or had visions like he claimed. However, his father had been a very good doctor, and Hoseok knew Seokjin had learned from his father, so he had medical knowledge that many did not. Although, that made his presence in the room seem even more ominous, especially considering how bad the king looked.

“I thought you were away. Namjoon said—”

“I returned late last night,” Seokjin interrupted, stepping further into the room. Sometimes he dressed in odd clothing, robes or dark colors, even dark reds or purples with a vibrancy that Hoseok hadn’t ever seen other people wear. He and Seokjin weren’t exactly friends though, so Hoseok never really asked him any questions. Yoongi was more friendly with him. “I had an urgent message I needed to give to your father, and the two of you as well.”

“Actually, before you do, there was something I needed to say,” Hoseok said, to which Seokjin sighed and rolled his eyes, without even an ounce of subtly.

“I’m sure it can wait,” Dawon muttered. “Or you would have been here much earlier to say it. Instead you were god knows where, probably with a prostitute.”

The room got silent for a long moment, and Hoseok’s face felt on fire. “I was not with a prostitute,” he said between gritted teeth.

“No? You were clearly with someone. If I went to your rooms, would they still be there?” Dawon asked, her voice steadily rising in tone. She didn’t have a dainty, high, voice, it was considerably deep and more than a little intimidating. Hoseok knew her well enough to not be scared of her, though.

“I don’t know, sister,” he snapped. “If I went your rooms, what would I find there? One of your many lovers, maybe? We all know you have them. That’s why you won’t just get married.”

“Perhaps. But at least I’m not a cheater,” she replied. It would be a lie if her words didn’t sting.

“I’m not a cheater,” Hoseok stated. “I’m calling off the wedding.” Dawon’s eyebrows shot up to her forehead.

“That’s—” Their father paused, bent over, steadying himself against a shelf, and began to cough violently, his other hand coming to cover his mouth. Everyone watched on in silence until he finally straightened up. Hoseok could see blood in his hand. “That’s enough, both of you. The wedding will happen. You will not call it off, Hoseok.”

Hoseok felt his hands begin to shake, so he clasped them together behind his back and bit his lip in an attempt to not talk back…yet.

“I had a premonition in which I foresaw your death,” Seokjin said finally. His voice was flat, monotone, and Hoseok at first thought he was speaking of his father, but when he looked at Seokjin, Seokjin was looking back at him.

“What?” Hoseok looked back and forth between his sister and father, but he couldn’t read their expressions any more than he could Seokjin’s. “My death?”

“Yes,” Seokjin answered without hesitating. “It happened last night. I saw you…somewhere that was not here. You were dying. I saw that if you did not go through with the wedding that your death would happen much sooner.”

“Bullshit,” Hoseok said without thinking, and his father glared, despite how pathetic it looked.

“It’s not bullshit,” he said. “I’m dying, Hoseok. I doubt I will last the week, Seokjin told me as such. That means you will be king very shortly. I won’t have you on the throne without a queen, and I won’t have a prophecy of your death looming over you.”

“There is no prophecy of my death. It’s not real. He’s probably just…just making this all up to scare us!” Hoseok protested. “I don’t want to marry Mishil. I don’t love her and—”

“It doesn’t matter if you love her or not,” Dawon said softly. “You know that, Hoseok.”

Hoseok shook his head, turned away from all of them and took a step towards the door. “It’s a good thing mother is dead. She’d hate the way things are here now,” he murmured under his breath. They might not have even heard, but it didn’t really matter either way.

“Where were you last night?” Seokjin asked, but Hoseok didn’t turn around or respond. “I think you should put an end to…whatever you started last night.”

“I think you should go back to wherever you came from,” Hoseok said simply, and then he pushed the door open and left the room, let the door slam shut behind him. If he had to get married, if he didn’t have any choice, then so be it, but he wasn’t going to listen to nonsense from a man he didn’t even trust.

People watched him as he walked by, surely they wondered why he looked so angry. Or maybe they wondered why he wasn’t preparing for his wedding ceremony that was surely happening in a matter of hours. Whatever it was, Hoseok didn’t care. Maybe he hadn’t cared for a long time, only now was it really hitting him.

“Hoseok!”

Hoseok didn’t stop walking upon hearing Seokjin’s voice, but of course that didn’t stop Seokjin from running to catch up with him and darting in front of him, blocking his path. Hoseok barely stopped, bumped into Seokjin’s chest before Seokjin steadied him. They hadn’t been this close, face to face, in a long time. Hoseok tended to avoid him in the palace. And in general.

“What do you want?”

“I know you don’t believe me,” Seokjin said in a low voice, so no one else would hear. Eyes were definitely on them. “But I’m not lying to you. I don’t want you to live an unhappy life, or a short one. I actually think you would be a good king, Hoseok.”

“Don’t address me as if we’re friends,” Hoseok said, stepping back, putting distance between the two of them. “We aren’t.”

“Yoongi is here, isn’t he?”

“Maybe.”

“Tell him I would like to speak to him, if you see him.”

“Speak to him about what?”

Seokjin made a face, but Hoseok wasn’t sure what it meant. “I’d just like to see him, that’s all,” he finally replied, shrugging one shoulder. “He and I are friends.”

“Don’t count on my telling him anything. In case you missed it, I’m getting married today, so I’m going to be pretty busy. And you know, if you really had premonitions, you should have foreseen my mother’s death. That would have been useful.”

“I was a child, Hoseok.”

“Yeah. So was I. Now I don’t have a mother.”

And with that, Hoseok pushed past Seokjin and continued on down the hall back to his rooms with the intention of getting ready for his wedding, even though he would have preferred to crawl back in bed and not get up again until the day was over.

~

Typically, after a royal wedding, a consummation ceremony took place following the festivities of the evening. Hoseok knew this would be something he would have to do from a young age. He’d attended other weddings of important people, royals from other kingdoms, and he’d heard about the consummation ceremony plenty of times. Lots of the young boys would go sneak around and try to watch sometimes, but Hoseok never had.

Rarely ever could a couple get out of it, but Hoseok could tell by the end of the night that his father was doing even worse, and when he left the festivities, Hoseok decided he would get out of it. The wedding ceremony itself had gone by in a blur, and he had no idea what had actually happened. He hadn’t seen Yoongi all evening, and the reception festivities have been going on for at least two hours. Hoseok was tired and his legs were sore, along with a few other parts of him. That, and he was half afraid Yoongi had left. Disappeared to whatever far away land he had gone to before.

Regardless, Hoseok still wasn’t going to consummate his new marriage in front of a bunch of people he didn’t even know or like. Not to mention he didn’t even want to sleep with his new wife, and he felt horrible for thinking that, for not wanting her. Though, he didn’t know if she felt the same or not. She was very stiff when they danced, and her smiles seemed a bit forced, but that could have simply been nerves.

Hoseok was watching her from across the ballroom while he pretended to drink glass after glass of wine. It wasn’t wine though, he was having one of the trusted members of the kitchen staff bring him glass after glass of juice, so when he started to act drunk, it would be believable. He was a horrible real drunk, got quiet and depressing Dawon told him, but a fake drunk…he could do that. Lying and acting were two different things.

He took another small sip of his juice, and Mishil glanced over at him again. The clothes he was wearing were wildly uncomfortable, but he imagined her dress was even worse. It was cinched in tight at her waist and the earrings she wore looked very heavy. He smiled at her from across the room, it was the polite thing to do, but she seemed to take that as an invitation, because she began to make her way towards him. He downed the rest of his glass and cleared his throat.

Just as she reached him, her hand touching his upper arm gently, he saw Yoongi enter the ballroom out of the corner of his eye. It made his heart skip a beat and start to pound wildly, from excitement or nerves, Hoseok wasn’t sure.

“Would you like to dance?” Mishil asked. “I know it’s been a long evening, but perhaps we could still enjoy it?”

“Maybe…” Hoseok murmured, eyes trained on Yoongi, who was moving very slowly into the room, looking around as if he were a bit lost. “I’m kind of tired.”

“Just one more dance?”

Hoseok fought back a sigh, as he didn’t want to hurt Mishil’s feelings. Their marriage was as arranged for her as it was for him, and she didn’t deserve what she’d been thrown into. It wasn’t her fault Hoseok didn’t love her, after all. So, “Yeah. Okay, we can dance.”

He held out his hand and she took it, let him lead her to the center of the dance floor. Hoseok made sure to walk slowly, and when they began to dance, he purposely stumbled a few times, just so everyone else would see. Mishil didn’t seem to care, and he knew she wouldn’t instantly think he was drunk, as there was no alcohol on his breath.

Across the room, Hoseok managed to catch Yoongi’s eye, and Yoongi leaned against the wall, watching him. His expression was neutral, but their gazes were so clearly locked. When Hoseok spun Mishil, Yoongi’s gaze didn’t even flicker to her. It made Hoseok shiver.

“That’s your friend over there, is it not?” Mishil said suddenly, and Hoseok broke his eye contact with Yoongi to look at her.

“Yoongi?”

“Is that his name? Are you very close with him?” Her tone didn’t seem accusatory, just inquisitive.

“We’ve known each other since we were small children,” Hoseok said simply.

“He’s not related to you?”

“No. Not by blood. My father took him in when he was young.”

“Ah, so he’s more like your brother, then?” she draped her arms more over his shoulders and Hoseok’s gaze flickered back to Yoongi, who had a tiny little smirk on his face as if he found Hoseok’s situation amusing. Hoseok made a face at him and Yoongi seemed to laugh, but Hoseok thought he had some other emotion in his eyes. Something sadder. Little did Yoongi know (or perhaps he did know), Hoseok would much rather he dancing with him instead.

“Uh,” Hoseok took a moment to think of what to say. “No, he’s not really like a brother. It’s…something else.”

“Ah. Well, if he’s important to you, I’d like to get to know him as well, if you’d let me?”

Hoseok shrugged his shoulders. He did not really want Mishil trying to get close to Yoongi, and he was sure Yoongi wouldn’t want that either. “He might be leaving soon. He travels.”

“Ah. I can have you to myself then,” she said with a little smile, which Hoseok returned, even though his stomach was twisted up and he felt guilt begin to wash over him. It wasn’t even because he’d slept with Yoongi the night before necessarily. It was more because upon sleeping with Yoongi, Hoseok realized there might have never been a chance for him and Mishil. He didn’t think he would ever truly love her as a wife. Not because of the person she was, but because…of the person he was.

The song ended and another began to play, but Hoseok stepped away, swaying a bit for effect. “I’m not feeling so well,” he said softly. “Excuse me.”

“Oh. Yes, okay.” she nodded, watched him slink away back to the table with the food. He could feel Yoongi’s eyes follow him as well. Before Yoongi could meet him at the table though, Jimin was suddenly at Hoseok’s side with a glass of something that was definitely actual alcohol.

“Congrats,” he said. “Where’d you and Yoongi run off to last night?”

“What? We just came back here.”

“And then what?”

Jimin had his eyebrows raised and a suggestive look on his face, but Hoseok just scowled at him, searched the room for Yoongi, but he wasn’t where he had been a moment ago. Instead, Hoseok spotted Seokjin talking with Dawon, and then Namjoon a few feet away against the back wall, watching them. Or rather, watching Seokjin, it seemed.

“That was all,” Hoseok finally answered. “We came back and I went to sleep.”

“Wanna know a secret?”

“Not really, Jimin,” Hoseok muttered, but Jimin didn’t seem keen on taking no for an answer.

“Too bad. You remember Taehyung? Who served us drinks last night?” Jimin asked, leaning against the table and nearly knocking off a plate of pastries. “I brought him back here.”

“What? Why’d you do that? Are you drunk?”

Jimin shook his head and his eyes drifted somewhere further in the room, but he didn’t seem focused on anything in particular. “He told me he was from Daegu, originally. His family, anyway. They were wealthy, but when Daegu was overthrown and became part of Gwangju, they pretended not to have any money or power so they would live. Pretty shitty story, huh? Kinda like Yoongi’s. Oh, don’t look at me like that, we all know where Yoongi came from.” Jimin sighed, closed his eyes for a moment like he was tired. “Anyway. I brought him back for sex. I had sex with him.”

Hoseok blinked, felt like his voice was lost somewhere in his throat. So he didn’t say anything at all, just stared at Jimin, who must have been drunk, even if he didn’t seem it. There was no way he would be telling Hoseok this otherwise, not in a room full of people.

After a long moment, neither of them speaking, Jimin stood up straight again and gave Hoseok a pinched smile. “Anyway,” he said with a shrug. “You’re going to be king soon. I saw your father coughing up blood during the ceremony. Kings can have anything they want.”

And with that, Jimin walked away, and Hoseok felt like his hands were shaking. No, his hands were shaking. His hands were shaking and he wanted nothing more than for the night to be over. For his father to get well. Matter of fact, Hoseok wished he had an older brother, so he would never have to take the throne. So he could leave, go somewhere where the grass was greener. Where his every move was not watched, where court politics did not exist and he did not have to marry a woman he couldn’t bring himself to love.

A part of Hoseok, deep down, wished he and Yoongi hadn’t kissed, hadn’t slept together, because now they had a taste and Hoseok didn’t want to give it up—didn’t think Yoongi would either. Something Hoseok had always wanted was to be more like his mother, to build his reign after hers, if he had to have a reign at all. Everyone had loved her for her kindness and her honesty. She was the one the people had looked to, had gone to. His father was a good king, but his mother was a better queen. He didn’t think his father would have been the king he had been were it not for his queen.

But now Hoseok had started himself down a path that was nothing like that. His marriage had begun with dishonestly, and lies, and he knew there would be consequences.

Furthermore, Seokjin’s words of a prophecy had not gone unheard. Hoseok may not believe in magic, or seers, but it was…ominous, nonetheless.

Everything considered aside, Hoseok still found himself striding back across the ballroom, past Mishil, past the noblemen and their sons and anyone else who he should have surely been sucking up to. He only stopped when he reached Dawon and Seokjin, who were still talking quietly to each other. When he stopped in front of them, they both fell silent.

“Talking about me?” he asked.

“Perhaps,” Dawon replied, sarcasm thick in her tone. “Why are you not with your bride?”

“I’m drunk,” Hoseok announced, and Dawon snorted, shook her head in amusement. “Don’t laugh.”

“You are certainly not drunk, brother.”

“I am. Make sure everyone knows…or…the people that need to know, that the consummation ceremony won’t be happening tonight,” Hoseok said. “I’m going to my chambers.”

“Are you sure you want to do that?” Seokjin asked calmly. “There are a lot of insinuations that come with that. Rumors will begin.”

“Rumors like what? That I can’t get it up? That my dick is small? I quite frankly don’t care, Seokjin. Why are you even here, I don’t recall you being invited to my wedding,” Hoseok snapped, but Seokjin just smiled a sad little smile and raised his glass, took a sip, as if that were answer enough. “My dick isn’t small. I don’t care what people say.”

“Can you please refrain from speaking about your dick in front of me?” Dawon muttered. “Never mind, I’m going to find food. Don’t kill each other.”

As soon as Dawon was gone, Hoseok straightened his posture a bit more, even though it didn’t make him quite as tall as Seokjin. “So. Why’re you here?”

“I was hoping to find Yoongi,” Seokjin stated. “I saw him a moment ago, but it seems he’s slipped away.”

“What did you want to tell him? I’ll tell him for you.”

“Yoongi is my friend,” Seokjin reminded him. Hoseok just scoffed, and Seokjin rolled his eyes, looked beyond Hoseok, probably back at Mishil. “That being said,” Seokjin continued, without making much eye contact. “I care about Yoongi, I really do. Although, I don’t know that his presence here at the palace is…the best thing.”

“You should choose your words carefully,” Hoseok said.

“Mm. I…I suppose it’s just that…” Seokjin took a deep breath, finally looked back at Hoseok with a frown. “The vision I had…I have reason to believe Yoongi may…have a role to play in your death.”

“Are you implying Yoongi is going to kill me,” Hoseok hissed, barely managing to keep from shouting.

“No. Not necessarily. He may not be the one to wield the blade, so to speak, but…would you die for him?” Seokjin’s words lingered in the air between them, heavy for how casually Seokjin had spoken them. His next words, though, were softer, with more emotion behind them. “Because I know he would die for you, Hoseok.”

~

Hoseok did not stick around to continue his conversation with Seokjin. Nor did he stick around to find out if his sister had for sure gotten him out of the consummation ceremony. It didn’t matter either way, he was not going to do it, and the fact that he had left the reception was enough to insinuate he was going to be participating in anything else for the evening.

The walk back to his chambers felt long, though, even though he was completely sober. Maybe it was his sore limbs (or ass, frankly) or maybe it was the past two days catching up to him all at once. It would be nice to go back to the moment when he and Yoongi were eating sweets at that little old lady’s home. That was easy, the rest of life was not.

Hoseok was half tempted to go see his father, go check on him, but he couldn’t bring himself to. A nagging voice in the back of his mind reminded him that any night now could be his father’s last. That Hoseok could wake up tomorrow without a father. Without any parent. But considering the fact he ignored the voice in the back of his mind, he supposed he had resigned himself to the fact he would soon be parentless.

His chambers were unguarded when he got there, as most of the guards were near the ballroom or outside the palace, so Hoseok was able to slip inside unnoticed. The room was dark, it was late, and only a few candles were lit in the room, leaving the corners in shadow.

With a sigh, Hoseok shrugged off the jewel adorned jacket he had been wearing. It clattered when it hit the floor, as did his shoes when he kicked them off and across the room. Next went the jewelry he wore, rings and a necklace, as well as one bracelet that was leaving marks around his wrist. He walked to his desk and tossed them down onto it before he leaned over and took a deep breath, tried to calm his nerves. It felt like he stood there for a long time, so long that he didn’t even jump when he felt a hand against his back, didn’t flinch away or feel scared at all when arms enveloped him from behind and lips pressed against the back of his neck.

“I wasn’t sure you’d come,” Yoongi whispered, but Hoseok could still hear Seokjin’s words echoing in his head. He tried to push them away. Pushed and shoved them down until his ears were ringing and Yoongi’s lips on his neck felt like fire. “I’m glad you did.”

“Yeah I—” Hoseok’s voice cracked and he cleared his throat. “I needed to be with you. I want to be with you.”

He turned around and Yoongi smiled, but there was definitely sadness in his eyes. “I want to be with you, too,” Yoongi replied softly. “You—You’ve got me, Seok.”

Hoseok cupped Yoongi’s cheeks, then brushed a hand through his hair. The room was so quiet, so different from the crowded ballroom. So much safer, and yet so much more dangerous.

And in that moment, when Hoseok leaned in and kissed Yoongi—when their lips connected—Hoseok knew. Hoseok knew, wrapped in Yoongi’s embrace and Yoongi wrapped in his, that his fate was sealed. With a kiss, a touch, whispered words of intimacy, Jung Hoseok had undeniably sealed his fate.