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Private Paradise

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He had felt that Lee Chang was someone special even before he knew he was the prince, the devotion he had for his people was different from all the other royals Yeong-shin ever had contact with or heard of.

It was the reason even after his own cause was settled he decided to stay by his side. To help him change this country, have the ones in charge actually care for the people instead of filling their bellies while the people were starving.
If anyone was able to bring that change it was Lee Chang.

Still, he proofed his value on a whole different level once more.

Yeong-shin could do nothing but watch, while Lee Chang was talking about himself deserving death more than an innocent child. About his death allowing the country peace.

Lee Chang would give away the throne he had fought so hard for. Give it away and allow the son of his former lifeguard, that even deceived him, to be king instead. Knowing fully well who he was and that he had no royal blood.
But then Lee Chang did not care about the blood that runs in people's veins.

Yeong-shin knew at that moment wherever he would go, he would follow him.
That he would give his life for this man without a second thought.

As long as the prince would allow him to he would never leave his side again.

Yeong-shin lowered his gaze for a moment when Lee Chang passed him, but he could not keep his eyes away for long. He watched him leave, the sun illuminating him, letting him look inhuman as if sent from the sun herself. The light too bright for Yeong-shin’s eyes. He blinked.
Quietly he followed behind, keeping a respectful distance, but close enough for Lee Chang to acknowledge his presence.

Silently they walked to an area outside of the inner walls of the castle, the ones not affected by the outbreak the vengeful queen had caused. Confused gazes followed them. Prince Lee Chang ignored them, ignored their questioning ‚Your highness’ calls and just moved on. They would know about his decision soon enough or rather about his death.

His tears had frightened Yeong-shin a little. Prince Lee Chang could not have planned to take his own life or be executed, could he? No, it was not who he was. Except he would deeply belief his death was the only way to save his people. Yeong-shin hoped his feeling was right and Lee Chang had something else in mind.

Lee Chang opened the door to one of the buildings and stepped inside, he did not close it and turned to look at Yeong-shin for a moment, nodding at him. Yeong-shin took it as an invitation to follow him inside. He wanted to settle down next to the door Lee Chang opened but a hand reaching out for his elbow stopped him.

„Come inside with me, please?“

Yeong-shin looked at him with wide eyes. Lee Chang’s look was pleading and how would he have been able to deny him anything, especially not if he asked him like this. He quickly lowered his gaze but nodded and took his shoes off to follow him.

When they were alone Lee Chang let his mask slip. He turned around and reached for the front of Yeong-shin’s Hanbok to pull him close. Yeong-shin gasped surprised when he suddenly found himself pressed against his firm body. His heartbeat was pulsating loudly in his ears. Hesitantly he lifted his arms to return the hug.

Yeong-shin did not know much time had passed, concentrating only on the arms holding him. At some point he had dared to buried his face against Lee Chang’s neck, his skin was a little cool from being in the cold winter air, for way too long.

They had taken off their clothes and let them dry while carrying for their wounds, cleaning them to avoid infection. They will have to get them checked again in the next days but for now they were bandaged. After their clothes were dried they had put them back on. They had been awfully stiff from the blood and dirt.

Lee Chang moved his head a little to whisper against Yeong-shin’s ear.

„Yeong-shin.“

Yeong-shin suppressed a shudder and grabbed the fabric of Chang’s garments tighter, the way he had said his name, in a low voice and so quiet, he would not have been able to hear if they would not be so close. Never before had anyone said his name like this. Like it was something precious.

Yeong-shin tilted his head back a little, not enough yet to look into Chang’s face, too afraid that he could break their moment. Unintentionally his lips brushed alongside Chang’s jaw. They felt probably rough and dry against his skin after the hours of fighting in the cold.
Chang’s hands tightened against his back.

„Your highness.“
Yeong-shin mumbled against Chang’s jaw, his lips brushing over his skin once more with the movement. He did not fully understand what they were doing but he was reluctant of letting go.
The way Chang’s arms were tightening around him he very likely was too.

„Yeong-shin… I.“

Before Chang could continue what he wanted to say a knock at the door caused them both to take a step backward. Yeong-shin let his arms fall back down to his sides, but Chang’s were still on his shoulders, creating a little bit of warmth.

„I’m sorry to interrupt your rest, your highness, but we were ordered to prepare a bath for you, it is ready now. We also prepared clothes for you to change for the night.“

„Please bring another set of clothes and leave it outside the door.“

Yeong-shin looked at him confused. Why would he order them to bring another set?

Chang looked back at him, the moment from before was broken but he seemed a little reluctant. Yeong-shin did not quite understand until it dawned on him.

He lowered his gaze and took two more steps back. Chang’s hands slid from his shoulders, leaving them even colder than before. He suppressed a shiver.

„I’m sorry I will no longer bother you so you can have your bath.“

Quickly he turned around to hurry outside, but a flat hand against his left shoulder stopped him. Confused he looked at Chang. His next words caused Yeong-shin to forget to breathe.

„Do you want to join me?“

Yeong-shin blinked surprised and looked at Chang with wide eyes. He was sure he must have misheard him but was almost too embarrassed to ask. How could his mind even come up with this?

„I’m sorry, your highness, I think I got that wrong?“

Chang had a pained expression on his face but with a blink it was gone again and he looked firmly at Yeong-shin.

„Do you want to join me in the bath, it is big enough for us both, I always found it is a waste of all that water. And please call me Chang. We’re alone and I let go of my title.“

Yeong-shin’s mind was running wild. The now rightful king of this country, asked him, a commoner he did not even know the real birth name of and from whom he could assume that he was a criminal and maybe even dangerous and therefore not trustworthy if he would join him in a bath.

And to call him by his given name. Something not even his closest advisors were allowed to.
Yes, Yeong-shin might had proofed that he is trustworthy. That he stood by his side loyally when most others had turned their backs on him. But was that enough?
How long did they know each other, was it even a month? How long did any other person have to prove their loyalty to be allowed as little as being in the same building while he had a bath?

Yeong-shin stopped his rambling thoughts. With the things they had been through together no one with common sense would question the trust Lee Chang put into him. The only reason his brain was going havoc was the thought of being together in a bath with Chang. With nothing but water between them. The possibility of their skin touching inevitable.
A spark of arousal went through his body. Making it clear that, considering the deep feelings he was harvesting inside himself beside loyalty, he should decline.

He swallowed and lifted his eyes, carefully meeting Chang’s and opened his mouth. Chang, probably sensing his hesitation, was faster.

„Please join me Yeong-shin.“

How should Yeong-shin say no to that.
Neither his status as commoner nor his heart allowed him to say no if Chang asked him like this. Even though they probably broke a long list of taboos. Yeong-shin was not familiar with all the rules nobles were following, though. It just seemed not very appropriate to take a bath with the (now still) crown prince. Considering simply touching him was already punishable.

Yeong-shin closed his mouth again and only nodded, lowering his gaze in hopes that the prince would not see his inner turmoil about all the self-restraint he would have to bring up.

Yeong-shin forced himself to not look at him while Chang undressed, fumbling with the suddenly very complicated knot of his own clothes. They had cleaned themselves off quickly when waiting for their clothes to dry but he was looking forward to being able to properly wash himself. And to have a bath like this. A bath for a king.

He examined the bathtub. Chang was right, it was big, they would fit both but it was not big enough for them to not touch.
Heat, that was not connected to the steaming water, run through Yeong-shin’s body.

Chang was already done unclothing and washed himself off with a cloth. Yeong-shin turned away again. Finally he was able to loosen the strings and get rid of the last of his clothes. He kept his head low and was surprised when Chang handed him another wet cloth.

Yeong-shin thanked him and took it, trying not to let his eyes wander up the arm to the exposed chest or lower. He rubbed the cloth a little too hard against his skin. While trying to avoid his wounds. When it was read from all the leftover blood he cleaned it again with the bucket Chang had shoved over to him, before he stepped into the tub. He had stretched the process of cleaning himself longer than he needed to. Yeong-shin did not now if Chang was watching him, he avoided to do as much as gaze in his direction and had his back to him. His pulse thudding loud in his ears. Keeping his thoughts away from anything that could reveal too much was hard enough, without them being together in a small tub.

„The water is not staying warm forever, Yeong-shin.“

There was light amusement in Chang’s voice. Yeong-shin took a deep breath and turned around to join him in the tub. The water burned against his cold skin at first and Yeong-shin jerked back again, before going in slower.
When he finally settled he noticed, the water was not hiding enough, so he had no other choice but to look up, but Chang’s chest seemed too distracting and then he noticed the long black hair floating around Chang. His curiosity got the better of him and for the first time within the last half-hour he looked at Chang’s face again. Framed with his hair, he looked even more stunning.
The knowledge that almost no one was granted this view made it even more special for Yeong-shin. He realized he was staring, but he could do nothing about that.
And then it did not matter, because Chang was too. He did not know how many moments had passed, with them only silently looking at each other when Chang’s lips moved. Yeong-shin snapped out of his gaze and looked at him questioningly.

„I asked if you want me to wash your back?“

If Yeong-shin only managed a shocked sound it was really not his fault but Chang’s.

„I…“

Chang only smiled and Yeong-shin felt his legs brush alongside his when he spread them to make room for him. The concentration Yeong-shin had to bring up to keep his eyes from peeking down, due to the movement. Chang lifted his hand and motioned him to come closer. He awkwardly turned around, mostly to hide his flushed face, and carefully shuffled closer. The moment Yeong-shin could feel Chang’s thighs against his ass he stopped moving, tensed and hugged his legs. He sucked in a sharp breath when Chang’s hand caressed along his spine up to his shoulders, carefully going around the angry wound there. Softly Chang brushed Yeong-shin’s hair to the side and placed both hands on his shoulder blades. The fingers of his left hand following the lines of Yeong-shin’s tiger mark.

„You're so tense. I’m not an expert but even I can see it.“

The hands moved along his shoulders and down his arms. The water splashed a little when Chang leaned forward, his breath causing goosebumps where it hit Yeong-shin’s wet skin.

„This bath is meant to be relaxing. Is it my presence that makes you uncomfortable?“

Yeong-shin hid his face against his knees. It was not his presence per se, more what Chang’s closeness caused in him. The thoughts and forbidden feelings Yeong-shin had a hard time suppressing. What if Chang noticed?
Yeong-shin got it. Chang wanted someone he could trust in, someone he could let go and seek comfort in. But for him this was much more.

„You want me to leave?“

„No,“ Yeong-shin shook his head. Who was he to ask Chang to leave his own bathtub?
„I’m just afraid of overstepping a line.“

Chang just laughed softly.

„You can’t imagine how many taboos of the noble world we are overstepping right now.“

Yeong-shin had an idea, he guessed he would have to face several death sentences already if anyone saw them.

„So, stop caring about them.“ Chang whispered against his ear and wrapped his arms around him. Yeong-shin let go of his knees and let himself be pulled against Chang’s chest who leaned back. Yeong-shin was mostly lying on him now, still trying to keep a respectful distance of their lower bodies he arched his back awkwardly. He tried to ignore everything that was wrong about this situation and let go of his tension.

„I’ve never touched anyone else like this,“ Chang spoke softly. One of his hands was tracing along Young-shin’s arm and his other hand was still loosely wrapped around him.
„No one would have dared to get this close to me and there was no one I would have trusted enough.“

„Why me?“
Yeong-shin asked quietly and watched Chang’s finger intertwine with his own.

„Because I trust you and because I like you.“

Yeong-shin’s heart made a happy jump at that but he tried to calm his thoughts. It did not have to be meant in the same way he liked Chang. Maybe the only reason he was sitting with him in this bathtub, sharing sweet touches was that Chang was yearning for contact like this. And Yeong-shin was the only person he could share it with, being the only one he trusted enough for it. Maybe he was just desperate for any kind of touch.
Then Chang whispered against his ear.

„In fact, I like you a lot.“

Yeong-shin shuddered and closed his eyes.

„Your hi… Chang. I like you a lot too.“

He quietly answered it sounded way too loud in the room. Saying something forbidden like this. Chang’s hand around his tightened and something soft touched Yeong-shin’s shoulder. His heartbeat sounded too loud. Did Chang hear it too?

„I’m glad you’re still here with me. Back on the lake, when we were overrun I thought all of us were going to die. I only saw man after man falling, being attacked and bitten.“

Chang placed soft kisses along his shoulder blade to his neck between talking.

„That’s why I decided, when you resurfaced from the water, that I would tell you. No matter how ridiculous it may sounds considering the short amount of time I know you. No matter all the things I don’t know or who you’ve been in the past.“

Yeong-shin’s breath hitched and he moved his head a little to the side. Chang continued talking and kissed his jaw.

„I only care who you are now. A person who risks his own life to save the weakest, someone who follows a prince marked as a traitor, because he thinks it would save the people. Someone who stays beside me without even blinking once, no matter if it costs his life.“

Yeong-shin turned so he was able to look at Chang, not caring anymore that the movement caused their bodies to touch more. Chang’s eyes were glowing with warmth, taking his breath away and Yeong-shin got lost in them.

Chang leaned in and brushed his lips against Yeong-shin’s lightly. When he leaned back, Yeong-shin followed them. He noticed what he was doing and opened his eyes. Chang was smiling and cupped his cheek with his hand, his thumb brushing over Yeong-shin’s cheekbone. He leaned into the touch.

„Will you stay with me, even though I’m not the crown prince anymore. Will you come with me, no matter where I go or if it means you have to continue fighting. Will you still follow me, Yeong-shin?“

Yeong-shin saw the little flicker of fear in Chang’s eyes. Fear that he would leave him. He did not have to think about his answer twice.

„Always.“

Chang smiled at him, relief clear in his eyes and leaned in to kiss Yeong-shin again. When their lips touched again and Chang pulled him into his lap, Yeong-shin realized that this was everything he ever wanted.

For the first time in years, after already having forgotten about this emotion Yeong-shin felt happiness again.