It all started when Chan pulled Junhui into his room just as he switched shifts with Soonyoung. After panicking for the first few seconds and wailing about how this wasn't how he imagined his first royal scandal to go, the young prince was eventually able to calm his very dramatic ass of a bodyguard down. Or in other words, Chan stuffed a sock in Junhui's mouth.
"Grosssh, did jyou evwen wash dat?" While it quieted the bodyguard down, it certainly didn't stop him from continuing his one-man drama.
Well, it wasn't like this was anything new, and Chan was actually quite grateful for this hyperactive royal staff member for livening up castle life, but there were more pressing matters to take care of, "I need you to get me out of the arranged marriage with the Day King."
Junhui spat out the sock. "What?! Chan, I love you, but the wedding's only a week away! Why didn't you say anything sooner?"
The young prince's gaze turned down, foot tapping the floor anxiously, "It's just- I didn't-" Chan's voice became smaller as his tapping grew more erratic, hands wringing behind his back as Junhui continued to fix him with a scrutinizing look, "I didn't think I'd fall in love..."
The older blinked once. Then twice.
"Sorry, you what now?"
"I fell in love."
"With the Day King?" Because if so, the arranged marriage shouldn't even be a problem, so what was Chan going on about?
"Ew, no, I've never even met the guy! Besides, he's a king and I'm a prince, does that not sound the least bit problematic to anyone?"
Junhui tilted his head to the side, brows furrowing into a light scowl, "Who else could you have possibly fell in love with- oh my god, it's me, isn't it?"
"Well, you didn't have to be that firm about it."
Chan ignored the way his bodyguard dramatically clutched at his chest, the latter feigning hurt in his eyes. He was sure that in an alternative universe the older was probably an actor or something, he definitely had the natural talent for it, and he'd be actually putting all that dramatic energy into professional use.
"But anyway," almost as quick as he had picked it up, Junhui dropped the cheesy act as he paced around the room, contemplating the situation out loud, "So if it isn't me, and I guess it can't be Soonyoung or Minghao since they're together, who else could it possibly be?" He looked up, expecting to see Chan give him a nonchalant shrug to keep him struggling, but he was instead met with the widened eyes of the younger, "...Oh shoot, you weren't supposed to know about that-"
"They're together? That explains so much! Like the tie on the doorknob- I knew they weren't practicing somersaults on Minghao's bed."
The prince was practically seething, and Junhui knew he was in for it. Double in for it because he knew the couple would give their "talks" with him separately, simply because their shifts at the castle didn't overlap at all (which now that he thought about it, was probably intentional).
"A-anyway, enough about those two, back to your love life. So who's the bastard?"
"Sorry. So who's the guy-that-none-of-us-approve-of-and-probably-never-will-because-we're-reasonably-protective?"
Chan rolled his eyes despite the amused smile tugging at his lips, "Well, I guess it is your job to be protective."
"You're a baby! He's practically a predator, a cradle-robber!"
"First of all, I'm 20 years old, and he's only one year older than me. Second of all, where was all this energy when they announced my engagement with the king?" The younger questioned, arms crossed over his chest and brows raised, the whole no-nonsense look.
But Junhui wasn't going to rest his case that easily. Also crossing his arms over his puffed out chest, the bodyguard declared maybe a little too proudly, "All the bodyguards collectively cried for three days after the announcement, and the three of us sent the king a total of 40 letters begging him to not go through with it."
"Y-you guys did what?"
"Just saying, it wasn't from lack of trying."
"No, I get that..."
"So, are we getting a name or not?"
The next night, Junhui trailed behind Chan as they made their way into the outskirts of town. Turns out Minghao had been helping their prince sneak out every dawn to get a glimpse of what the royals referred to as "commoner life". The bodyguard wasn't all that surprised that Minghao, ever the rule follower, would be the one to give in and aid Chan on these risky getaways. Being the only close staff member to the prince who was scouted from outside the castle, of course Minghao would want to give his close friend the chance to experience the life he grew up in.
"You fell for a commoner?" Junhui had hissed when the prince finally disclosed information about his apparent secret lover.
"Who else could I have possibly fallen for out here, Jun?"
"Also, I didn't take you to be the type to care about ranks, that's why I confided in you."
The oldest bodyguard shrugged, looking a little sheepish as he admitted, "Yeah, I just thought it was a protocol line for situations like these, you know?"
"Stop reading Soonyoung's novels."
Junhui was about to argue further when the prince's attention was quickly taken away by two people rounding the street corner, both wearing hooded cloaks. Not suspicious at all. Then again, he and Chan were wearing similar attire, so maybe he wasn't in the best place to judge someone else's choice of outwear.
"Hansol..." Chan breathed out as the cloaked stranger closer to them slipped off his hoodie, revealing a man close to the prince's age wearing a megawatt smile upon identifying their rendezvous partners in crime. Junhui noticed that the second man had also slipped off his hoodie from his peripheral vision and decided to follow suit as a form of courtesy.
"Hey you." The first man, Hansol, had an even bigger smile on now, if that was even possible. The young lovers linked fingers as soon as they were close enough, both with evident endearment in their eyes as they met each other's gaze.
Hansol's escort let out a scoff, "I told him they were just gonna stare dumbly at each other, there was no reason for me to come along." Junhui looked over at the man, he was clearly smaller in size than himself, but the aura he carried seemed to make him appear three times bigger.
"Ah, you too?" Junhui asked after turning away to clear his throat, trying to make his voice sound deeper and more intimidating. Why? Well, again, it seemed like a protocol thing to do. Clearly, this was a bonding moment between the know-it-all side characters who are supposed to help the main couple find happiness, give advice, and ultimately save the day.
"Why is your face like that?"
"...What?" That was not what he expected. Being in the castle for so long, the others have already learned to go with whatever skit he had going on with himself, so he wasn't used to someone, well, popping his dramatic bubble. At least not with a question like that. "Is there something wrong with my face?"
The stranger shrugged, "It looks like you're sick. Wait, are you? Because I could take you to the hospital-"
"I'm not sick. This is my working face." Junhui replied indignantly, crossing his arms as he continued to squint hard at the shorter man.
To the bodyguard's annoyance, the stranger just started full on laughing, seal claps (which he secretly found adorable but that was besides the point) and all that jazz, "Geez, what kind of job do you have that would actually make you do something painful like that?"
"I love my job, thank you very much..." The taller grumbled weakly.
And that was basically his first impression of Hansol's best friend (information he later received from Chan), Lee Jihoon.
In any case, after that particular dawn meeting with the love of Chan's life, Junhui had agreed to help with breaking up the engagement. He just wasn't sure how. But as Chan's best friend, he knew he at least had to make an effort. Besides, Junhui found that he didn't hate Hansol at all. In fact, the two of them got along quite well, the kid always laughed when he made a lame joke, and they often found themselves finishing each other's sentences like old friends who've known each other for years. The only problem he had with Hansol was probably his taste in friends (cough, Lee Jihoon) but that was a tangent Junhui was not about to remind himself of.
He turned his attention back to the dinner meeting between Chan and his parents, the conversation already leaning into dangerous territory as the Night King reminded his son the reason behind his arranged marriage. Though Chan being Chan, was not about to back down.
"And we can't have peace without some random marriage arrangement because...?"
"He has a point, your majesty." Soonyoung shrugged, looking just a tad bit exasperated. Though Junhui supposed anyone would be annoyed if they were forced to witness the same argument over and over again for 60 times (as of 3 seconds ago).
"Also, if the Night and Day kingdoms were to unite as one, would we be known as the Noon Kingdom?" Junhui piped up, hoping to alleviate the tension.
Well, it kind of worked, as far as distractions go. Everyone in the dining room turned to give the oldest bodyguard a blank stare.
"Junnie, what the actual fuck?"
"Oh look at that! I think it's about time for dessert, wouldn't you agree?" Minghao hurriedly signaled towards the kitchen staff, throwing a warning glare over his shoulder at the two older bodyguards. Being the whipped boyfriend he was, Soonyoung sighed, letting his shoulders relax. Junhui swallowed nervously, hoping that wasn't a total blunder.
Perhaps some deity had decided to take pity on Junhui, given how crazy the past 72 hours have been for the poor man who just wanted to be a good friend and employee at the same time, but the rest of the night went on smoothly without further disturbances on the marriage topic, aside from Chan's pleading eyes eating away at his heart. He had to find a way that would result in a happy ending for everyone.
To clear his mind, Junhui found himself wandering towards the outskirts of town after switching shifts with Minghao near dusk. He walked past the street where they met with Hansol and Jihoon last night and wandered even further, until there were no signs of stores, houses, or buildings of any kind. It was just him, the now star-filled night sky, and the moon. The air was quiet, and he could hear the music coming from the town's night market fill up the silence.
Suddenly, he realized with a start that it was his chance to do what he's always wanted to try. Waltzing. Because of his job, he's always had to watch from the side when the royal family hosted breakfast parties, and he's already wondered if he'd look just as regal and elegant on the dance floor.
Almost timidly, Junhui slowly moved his feet, stepping in squares along with the music, arms held up in the air to an invisible partner. About a minute into his solo waltz, he heard an awfully familiar laugh from behind him and quickly whipped himself around, stiffly putting his hands down despite knowing full well it was too late to pretend he was just spacing out in the middle of a field by himself.
"You call that dancing?" And there Jihoon was, standing a few feet away, taunting him in between laughs, that stupid, annoying laugh that sounded too much like silver bells for Junhui's liking, "And who waltzes to festival music?"
"Clearly, I do." The bodyguard replied, trying to sound as confident as possible and counting it as a victory when Jihoon stopped laughing to look at him with raised brows, "Besides, if you're such an expert, maybe you should come over and show me how it's done then."
"Is that a challenge?"
"If you want it to be."
Oh, Junhui definitely did not like the way the shorter's giving him that cocky smirk. Who gave him the right to look that hot under such poor lighting? Wait, did he call him hot? Lee Jihoon was not hot. Cute- no, adorable, maybe. But not hot.
So focused on arguing with himself in his mind, Junhui barely registered Jihoon stepping forward until they were mere inches apart. The latter had his left hand held out, waiting patiently for his impromptu dance partner to take it. Okay, so we're really doing this... Junhui thought to himself as he placed his hand in Jihoon's grudgingly, though his fuming was interrupted when he felt a carefully placed hand on his waist, making him involuntarily suck in a breath that sadly didn't go unnoticed.
"Shut up..." He really didn't mean for it to come out as a whine, yet there it was.
Thankfully, his impromptu dance teacher didn't seem to dawdle on it (though he still had that dumb smirk on his face) as he took a step back, guiding Junhui to follow his movements with such gentleness it made the latter's heart stutter. Wait, that shouldn't be happening... this entire scenario shouldn't be happening. Yet there they were.
It was strange. Junhui had thought that he's already seen every side of himself, but it only took one Lee Jihoon to bring out these foreign reactions he didn't think he was even capable of giving. They were supposed to be strangers, yet they easily matched each other's steps. Maybe Jihoon was just a good leader, but Junhui was sure his first waltz shouldn't feel this smooth, it was as though he could picture the next move perfectly even before the brunette gave his signal.
Sure, they must have made an odd sight. Two people (barely even friends) dancing in an otherwise empty field under the moon, the music barely loud enough for them to follow at this point, yet they continued. Back and forth, back and forth, maybe a little spin now and then, whatever felt right.
But that was the thing. Everything felt right.
After dancing in silence for who-knows-how-long, Jihoon let out a hum, "This isn't as weird as I thought it'd be."
"You mean waltzing to festival music isn't as weird as you thought?"
"Oh, it is." Jihoon chuckled, and Junhui barely had time to beat himself up over letting his breath hitch when he felt the brunette gently squeezed his hand, "I mean this, dancing with you. It actually feels quite nice."
”...Oh.” Was what Junhui managed to choke out intelligently in response, “Do you, um, dance with people often?”
”No,” Jihoon laughed (Junhui cursed his stomach for flipping itself, like, knock it off already), “This is my first time, to be honest.”
The next second was followed by a certain brunette roaring with laughter while being slapped repeatedly on the arm by a "livid" ash haired waltz virgin (or at least until some minutes ago), and the latter definitely did not find Jihoon's obnoxious seal clapping endearing in the least, not even a little bit.
"Well, despite that wonderful revelation," Junhui sighed, finally ceasing his flurry of attacks on the shorter man, "That was actually... pretty fun."
Jihoon looked slightly taken aback by the comment, but his shock was quickly replaced by a small almost cat-like smile. Maybe it was the way his lips curled upwards at a rounder angle than most or the way his eyes almost curve into slits, but Junhui felt like combusting from the sheer beauty of it all, and he's seen a lot of beautiful smiles before.
"Yeah." The affirmation was uttered so quietly it was almost swept away by the wind. Jihoon cleared his throat awkwardly, "So, uh, it's getting late, you should probably head home."
Junhui scowled slightly, confused, "Huh? The night's just begun though." The citizens of the Night Kingdom worked best at night and sleep through the day, they were pretty much nocturnal, according to the other kingdoms. Personally, Junhui had never understood how anyone could even function in the day.
"Oh, uh, right... I meant, like, home, to your other friends?"
"I suppose I should... before Chan realizes I'm gone and replaces me with Soonyoung as his best friend. But, um, hey, we should do this again!"
Jihoon chuckled quietly, voice low, which definitely did not make Junhui's heart flutter. As the latter turned away, he swore he heard a quiet "Sure" float after him.
The next few days pass like a blur, with Junhui and Jihoon accompanying Chan and Hansol on their dawn-ly meetups, and occasionally, the former two would "run into each other" at dusk. They didn't always dance, sometimes they would both be so tired out from work they'd just lie on the grass side-by-side and stargaze. They seemed to grow closer every time they have these "run-ins", literally. The last time they met, Junhui even had his head nuzzling against Jihoon's while the latter ran a soothing hand down his back.
He's been spending so much time with his best friend's lover's best friend that he almost forgot about why Chan introduced him to Hansol in the first place. The reminder came way too suddenly, in the form of an assassin breaking into the Night Prince's bedroom. Despite the circumstances, Junhui had to give the guy credit for holding his own against all three of Chan's strongest bodyguards. They only managed to overpower him with Soonyoung pinning the guy's arms down and Minghao practically putting his full body weight on the intruder's legs.
"All right, play time's over-"
"For fuck's sake, Jun, just take his mask off!"
Not wanting to test their leader's patience, Junhui swiftly pulls off the cloth covering half of the man's face... and froze.
"J-Jihoon? What are you doing here?"
The assassin continued to struggle against the other two, shooting a glare at Junhui, "I could ask you the same thing."
Confusion slowly morphed into anger as Junhui stared down at the man who had tried to take his best friend's life, "Why? What did Chan ever do to you?"
"Chan?" It was Jihoon's turn to freeze, "Chan is the Night Prince?"
"Don't play dumb, it's too late for that!"
"No," the brunette hissed in annoyance as he was forcefully made to sit up, "I came here to help Hansol and Chan."
"How is it helping them if you were about to kill one of them?!"
Jihoon groaned, as though the bodyguard was the one being unreasonable, "I didn't know, okay? And for the record, I wasn't going to kill him, I was just going to... take him away for a few days so that the wedding gets canceled. Hansol practically begged me to stop the marriage from happening so that he could be with Chan- alright, yeah, this is just one huge ironic mess."
Junhui chewed on his lip, scowl deepening as he looked back on all the times they've met with Hansol. It certainly explained the long cloaks, and the way he and Jihoon's run-ins always happened near the border dividing the Day and Night kingdoms. Come to think of it, Chan and Hansol might have met in a similar fashion, then they both just continued the act of being regular citizens while falling for their actual royal fiancés. Geez, talk about destiny, fate, or whatever was in control there.
"What did you just say?"
"Oh god." All four heads turned in dread to look at the door where their young prince was standing, having heard everything, "Hansol's the Day King?"
Before any of the bodyguards could stop him, Chan had shoved his way over to Jihoon's side, staring straight into the intruder's eyes, his voice steeled with determination, "Take me to him. Now."
"Oh my god, I can't believe you were a day crawler all this time..." Junhui groaned, burying his face into Jihoon's shoulder sleepily as they sorted through various flower arrangements laid out on the table.
"It's what we call you day people." Minghao supplied helpfully from the side, seemingly in a better mood than usual now that the number of people Junhui could attach himself to had increased by two. He loved his fellow bodyguard to pieces, but sometimes it felt like he was just lugging a body around 24/7 (even though the latter would deny being that clingy).
Junhui felt a slight vibration under his cheek as Jihoon let out a short laugh of amusement before returning to fiddling with a rose wreath, rubbing the soft petals between his fingers ever so gently, "So, how is this going to work?"
The taller yawned, rubbing at his eyes sleepily, "I was thinking you could work shifts until dusk, and I could take over until dawn, then we have any time in-between for cuddles-"
"I-... I was talking about the flowers, Jun."
Oh. Even though he should feel embarrassed about the misunderstanding, Junhui couldn't help feeling just a little smug, for he could practically hear Jihoon's blush at the mention of cuddles. The latter wasn't the biggest fan of skinship, but the fact that he didn't full on reject the offer just to indulge Junhui made him feel just as blessed and content.
"Guys, you're supposed to be planning our wedding, not your own!" Hansol's voice came as a teasing shout from the other side of the room, eliciting laughter from the staff members of both royal families.
Caught in the act, the couple laughed sheepishly as they went back to wrapping flower stems around twisted wire. Finally focused on his task, Junhui almost jumped out of his seat when he felt something drop onto his head.
"Red roses," Jihoon laughed (and god, Junhui was never going to get over that sound, was he?), "It means Perfect Love. Like ours."
Feeling his cheeks burn, the flower crowned bodyguard did what he always does, turn to awkward humor to distract himself from the embarrassment, "Well, sure, except for the time you almost kidnapped my best friend-" the teasing smile on Jihoon's face immediately dropped, "-but I digress!" Too soon, Junhui, too soon. He sneaked the brunette a couple more glances before coming to the conclusion that no matter how cute the latter looked with a pout, it had to go.
With the flower crown decorated with roses still balanced on his head, Junhui slid a hand into Jihoon's, placing the other gently on the Day King's bodyguard's shoulder to guide him closer. He briefly admired the pink dusting the shorter's rounder cheeks before focusing back on the pout he was meant to take away. Well, there was only one thing to do, and he was sure he's done enough research with Soonyoung's novels to nail it.
It almost felt like slow motion as Junhui pressed their lips together. Memories of their first night dancing their first waltz rushed back; the way their lips slotted together perfectly, much like how their fingers locked together perfectly that night; the way they moved against each other in total agreement; the way everything else just seemed to melt away... First kisses weren't meant to be perfect, but this one felt pretty damn close, and Junhui knew it was all because he was sharing it with Jihoon.
Jihoon was the first one to pull away, albeit incredibly reluctantly. The daze in his eyes was quickly cleared as he raised a brow at his boyfriend, "What's that goofy grin for?"
The prince's bodyguard puffed out his chest proudly, "Not to brag, but that was probably the best 'first' we ever shared, and I was the one to initiate it."
"I can think of a few more first times that also involves kissing if you're so into that..." Jihoon smirked, a well-toned arm snaked itself around the taller's waist, drawing a gasp from the latter, just like it had the first time they were in this position, "But I digress."