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sleepless nights and heavy crowns

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It was almost the end of his working hours that day, Jeongguk knows it and he can already feel the sweat dripping on his back as he finishes washing the dishes. His eyes move to the white clock hanging on the wall, which says that he has more fifteen minutes of work — which is going to be the case if no one else walks into the restaurant that day, which always happens on weekends, and today happens to be the last Friday of the month. Jeongguk sighs, feeling his body more tired than ever, without forgetting that he still has a full shift tomorrow.

“Hey, Jeonggukie, you can go home after you’ve finished this,” Hoseok’s voice sounds excited as he walks in the kitchen, and Jeongguk notices that he has already changed his clothes and his hair is half-wet. “Seokjin hyung closed the restaurant earlier today and there’s no one else at the tables.”

Jeongguk listens to that as if he won the lottery, his eyes shut themselves off with a smile and he ends up cutting himself with one of the knives.

“Shit,” he murmurs and Hoseok runs to help him clean the superficial wound, he touches the finger and puts it below the tap, so the clean water can take away the small amount of blood.

“You’re tired, kid. Since when you’re working today?” he asks, Hoseok was one of the few people that knew about Jeongguk’s life outside the walls of the Italian restaurant they work in Gangnam. “You have bags under your eyes, Jeongguk, don’t lie to me.”

“Since seven,” he gulps, going back to finish washing all of the plates. “One of the teachers at the pre-school had to take the day off and called me, said that the kids were missing me. And I needed the money.”

“Minah’s not doing better?” Jeongguk shakes his head, his bangs gluing to his forehead because of the sweat, not wanting to think about his younger sister’s sickness. “The doctors still don’t know what she has?”

“She’s just doing a bunch of tests, she’s tired and waiting for the results. My mom can’t sleep at night anymore because she’s thinking too much about her,” he sighs, giving the waiter a look. “You know how my mom is, hyung, she always thinks she can save everyone.”

Hoseok gives him a look, and Jeongguk just knows that the eldest is dying to speak the words that are lying on his tongue. “You’re the same as her, Jeongguk, just look at yourself in the mirror,” Jeongguk hears Hoseok’s voice inside his head, but, when staring at the waiter, he just knew that he hadn’t spoken a word.

Jeongguk sighs for the ten-thousandth time that day, closing the tap and weeping his hand on his apron. He moves his neck while cleaning the sink, his shoulders feeling more tired than they were a minute ago. Weekends were tiring; more work and less time, and Jeongguk still had to take care of his family back home.

Luckily, his boss allows the workers to take a shower before heading home after their shifts, so Jeongguk always brings a change of clothes to not go back home smelling like sweat inside the bus. Those people — workers — were always a bother in the eyes of others, in the eyes of who takes public transportation during the rush hour by choice; the judging look, Jeongguk knew it more than others, and he would never understand how no one ever thinks about who is in the other side.

There were other people in the dressing room, but no one cared about seemed to care about one of them changing clothes after a quick shower, it was just one big room for everyone — it looked like the dressing room for the soccer team back on High School, not that Jeongguk had the time to be part of the team, anyways. So, Jeongguk didn’t mind how a few waiters were talking about seeing their children sleeping at night, or how the lady from the counter was on the phone with her boyfriend while he was dressing himself.

As he walks out of the dressing room, turning on his phone while fixing his backpack on his shoulders, he hears Hoseok's voice calling for him. Jeongguk lifts his eyes and sees him at the back door of the restaurant, where they were supposed to leave after their shift.

“Do you wanna a ride? My sister's coming to pick me up.” Hoseok offers, and Jeongguk gets tempted to accept it, knowing that he'd be at the bus stop for a long time since public transportation during the night was hell.

“I have somewhere I need to go before heading home, hyung, don't worry,” he smiles shortly and Hoseok doesn't insist, he knows that Jeongguk isn't the one to accept anything from anyone. “Also, your sister is already waiting for you. Have a good night, hyung.”

With a small grin between his lips, Jeongguk leaves the restaurant and crosses the small street while listening to Hoseok's voice telling him to take care of himself. There was almost no one walking around at that time of the night and when Jeongguk checks the time on his phone, it was marking five minutes past midnight and he takes a deep, walking into the first drugstore he finds.

He could feel his cell phone vibrating inside his pants pocket, he just knows that's probably should several messages from his mother, who is always concerned about his late working hours.  But Jeongguk pays no attention to that, otherwise, he would spend more time waiting for his bus, he takes the medical prescription with his sister's name from the smallest pocket in his backpack and hands it to the pharmacist.

“Can I have your ID, sir?” asks the woman with Kang Minseo on her name tag, Jeongguk nods without saying a word and hands her his documents. She reads it silently and then looks at him before giving back to him. “I'll be right back.”

That procedure was no news to Jeongguk, he knows that the medication his sister was taking was heavy and they couldn't sell them to anyone — the doctor had talked with them about his a bunch of times. But what Jeongguk worries the most, is that no one seems to find out what his sister truly has. At first, she spent two weeks in the hospital because of pneumonia, only for it to happen again two months later. They didn't have enough money to take her to a specialist and medical endurance was expensive.

Jeongguk takes a look outside of the drugstore, watching as a couple walks around, holding hands and smiling at each other, neither one of them seems to care about the rest of the world. The sight makes Jeongguk chuckle a bit, being in love sounds good in theory, but he doesn't have the time to try it out.

The pharmacist comes back with the meds in a blink of an eye, Jeongguk takes out his credit card and feels his heart racing when he sees that one of the new brands is more expensive than the others. The image of his little sister struggling with her breath shows up on his mind, and he blinks heavily while typing the password on the machine after saying that he wanted a box of Band-Aids, too.

Swallowing dry, Jeongguk thanks the woman and leaves with the plastic bags in his hand. He just knows that he will have a hard time paying his credit card next month, and starts wondering what could he do to lessen the damage. Maybe walking to work, accepting Hoseok's rides, and not buying the new clothes he needed would make things better, but he would have to put things on paper before making any decisions.

Jeongguk sits on the bench to wait for the bus, feeling his back aching at the same time, he didn't even remember for how long he's been walking around without any rest. The sight of the moon reflected on the Han River just across the street was beautiful, Jeongguk smiles while looking at it and thinks about a scene from an old drama he watched.

He moves his shoulders back and front and picks up his phone, noticing the number of notifications in front of his lock screen. As he thought it was, most of them were from his mother, telling him to have a good working day and saying that he shouldn't worry about going to the supermarket on the next day because she used her insurance to pay for food, which took a huge weight from Jeongguk's shoulders.

 

Tae [10:37 am]

Hi, good morning

I hope you're awake already,

I saw that your last messages where pretty late

is your sister better? I hope she is :/

 

Tae [10:40 am]

My mom's making me go to a

lunch with her, apparently some

important people are going to be there

 

Tae [12:56 pm]

Ok, I guess you already went

to work? That's so early, Ggukie :(

Are you having problems with money again?

 

Tae [12:57 pm]

Btw I'm hiding in the bathroom

This lunch is boring his fuck

 

Tae [3:30 pm]

Ggukie, come back to me

you're the only one who can

save me

 

Ggukie [12:38 am]

i'm not going to save

your dramatic ass, hyung

i know you were in your piano class

you love playing the piano

 

Ggukie [12:39 am]

and yes

I was at work, I’m waiting

for the last bus right now

my sister went to the doctor

yesterday, she's not doing any better

and the doctor changed her meds,

she'll need to do more tests and stuff

so… I needed some extra money

 

Tae [12:40 am]

My ass isn't dramatic

thank you very much

and the piano class was canceled

I had to go home and study economics

 

He smiles with the answer, heart pounding a little bit faster than the usual, not imagining that he'd be awake at that time, but Taehyung was always a surprising person, that wasn’t the first time he stayed up late just to some sort of answer from Jeongguk, just to be sure that he was okay. And Jeongguk notices, with the corner of his eyes, that one of the old ladies by his side on the bus stop was staring at him, maybe trying to read what a twenty-two-year-old boy was doing on his phone at that time, but he just moved his head and goes back to reading his hyung's message.

 

Tae [12:41 am]

You're leaving work NOW?

That's so late, Ggukie

Are there at least other people with you?

Yeah, I remembered you mentioning your sister

I just didn't know that she had gotten worse

 

Ggukie [12:43 am]

we're friends for almost

four years and you're still not used with

my working hours lol

Ggukie [12:44 am]

but yes, there are some people here with me

I’m not alone

and the bus is here,

see ya!

 

Jeongguk locks his phone screen again, putting it back in his pocket so he could walk on the line to get to the bus, a chuckle is hanging on his lips. Taehyung and he had been friends for a long time, they had met back when Jeongguk was addicted to social media and even had a fan account to talk about the TV shows he used to watch, but, not even two months into their friendship and Jeongguk's mom got into an accident and wasn't able to work again, so he had to pick up more working hours.

He wasn't going to lie, his life wasn't one of the best back then, he had to start working while he was in High School, it was when he realized that his mom was having a hard time working alone to provide for five kids — himself included. So, Jeongguk got a part-time job at a local convenience store, it helped for some time, but as the time passed by and he was getting more aware of life, he had seen the times when his mom didn't have dinner, so they could eat. It broke his heart and he made the decision of getting a proper job as soon as he finished school, and his mom cried on his shoulder, apologizing for not being able to give him the life he deserved, for not being stronger.

The worst part was that he was exactly sure of when his life started to fall apart, — her life. He was the oldest child of their family, but still, his memories were a bit foggy when it comes to talking about the past, he remembers how his mom used to lock him and his youngest’s siblings in the twins’ room when his dad arrived home. Back then, he didn't know what happened in those days, but now he does, and it hurts to know that he wasn't able to do anything for his mother even though he was just a child.

Loud music, the four of them playing together and not caring about the rest of the house, Jeongguk was just seven years old, the twins who had just turned two and his youngest brother was just a four-month baby, sleeping on his crib while holding a whale plushie. Jeongguk didn't have any good memories of his dad, he barely saw him during family dinners, when he wasn't drunk, and he cannot imagine how much stuff his mom had to go through to gather up the courage to leave him.

He knows that, back then, they had a good life. They lived in a big house, the twins shared a room, and, once in a while, Jeongguk used to sleep in his youngest brother’s room so he wouldn't feel alone. They had a lot of toys and clothes; their backyard was giant and they used to visit the sea almost every day. But money wasn't enough to endure a family, money didn't make all the suffering his mom went through go away, and, the last thing Jeongguk remembers from Busan was the day where his mom gathered all of his and his siblings’ clothes, wrote a letter and then left with them in the last train to Seoul, Jeongguk was ten and it was snowing. She was pregnant back then, but she didn't know about that yet.

Jeongguk wonders if his mom used to think that money and the presence of a father were enough to let her children not suffer, she knew that kids from a broken family didn't have a good image, but it took a lot for her to figure out what a broken family actually meant. Of course, now they have money problems, things aren't always good, but they have each other and that's what matters the most. Jeongguk would do anything for his younger siblings and for his mother.

While thinking about his life, Jeongguk ended up falling asleep with his head resting against the window and, if it wasn't by the driver knowing him from years, he would have missed his stop. He thanks him with a full bow, heading out of the bus quickly. Only the front light of his house was on, he sighs and takes out the keys from the gate, trying to not make any noise to not wake anyone up.

He picks his lips, yawning as he takes off his shoes and locks the door behind him. As far as he could see, there was no one awake at that time, so Jeongguk moves his shoulders and walks to the kitchen after leaving all the bags and his backpack on top of the sofa, he was feeling his stomach asking for food and his feet getting cold because of the lack of a flip-flop. Since it was the middle of the night, Jeongguk makes himself some hot tea, already thinking about going to his bedroom and getting some sleep.

The house wasn't big, they had only two bedrooms: one that was shared between Jeongguk's four siblings, and the other used by him and his mother. The only bathroom was shared between the six of them, the same as the small living room and the kitchen, that barely fits all of them when they’re all at home. He always thought it was a bit unfair the fact that he'd have one of the rooms practically to himself and his siblings struggled with two bunk beds and a huge wardrobe in that small room. Every time Jeongguk asks about this, his mom only says that since he's the one working to keep them alive, he deserves a good night of sleep.

Only if she knew that Jeongguk's the same as her, worrying deadly about his siblings, going to their room to see if Minah isn't in pain, or if Songhwa isn't crying about her twin sister, or if Jeongmin hasn't forgotten about his homework and is doing it during the night and Minjae, well, Minjae was still too little to worry about anything else that wasn't middle school or his cartoons.

While waiting for his tea, Jeongguk grabs his phone and notices a few other messages from Taehyung, he smiles at the screen and opens them supporting his elbows on the wood of the dinner table.

 

Tae [12:50 am]

Okay, then

just don't forget about me

Tae [12:51 am]

I hope your sister gets better soon

and that you can have a good night

of sleep, I know how you are.

Tae [12:52 am]

Don't forget about taking

care of yourself, ok?

You're just as important as Minah,

and I don't think she'd like to see you

suffering because of her,

Tae [12:53 am]

I'm here if you need me

 

Jeongguk's smile grows wider as he types a thank you and an I know into the chatroom. He finds it funny how much they know each other and, at the same time, they don't. It was some sort of silent agreement between them. Jeongguk has never seen Taehyung's face or surname, he has no idea of which part of Seoul the eldest lives in. The only thing that Jeongguk knows is that he's two years older than him, has a rich family, likes to listen to underrated musicians, and to write poems. Jeongguk never told him everything about his life, too, — Taehyung doesn't even know his full name, but that doesn’t stop him from smile wide open every time he sees his hyung’s name popping up on his screen. He just knows that if he dreamed about the fact that Jeongguk was living in a terrible situation, he'd want to help out and, in Jeongguk's mind, that wasn't fair.

His friend knew the basic: Jeongguk came to Seoul from Busan when he was younger, his dad was terrible and now his mother and he had to take care of his younger siblings, which, one of them, was sick. That, and the fact that Jeongguk dreamed about being a teacher and even had started taking online classes, but he and to drop out when his mom got hurt while working. He likes the amount of mystery that exists between them, but Jeongguk is scared and kind of unsure about what might happen in the future.

It's almost 2 am when Jeongguk heads out to his bedroom, after checking if his siblings were sleeping well and brushing his teeth. He sees his mom sleeping peacefully, hands below her head and facing the wall, her chest going up and down as she breathes, that wasn’t a common scene lately, so he smiles shyly and has a light, warming feeling on his chest, happy for his mom being able to sleep that night. Jeongguk pulls her blanket up, since it was quite cold inside the room, and goes to change into more comfy clothes.

Jeongguk doesn't know how long it takes before he manages to fall asleep, he thinks about how his payday was yesterday and he'll have to pay the rent and all of the bills on Monday, and how Minah's tests are happening somewhere in the next weeks — plus the fact that the school semester was almost over and his siblings would spend more time at home, which usually means more food and the bills going high up.

And he ends up dreaming about a better tomorrow, about a day where he and his family could finally be free from all of these problems, a day where his sister isn't sick anymore and he could see the smile on his mom's lips again — he doesn't remember the last time he has seen it.

 

He opens his eyes with a loud noise coming from the living room, he frowns and noticed that it was already day time. Jeongguk forces himself to seat up, feeling more tired than when he lay down to sleep. His mom wasn't there anymore, so Jeongguk moves his eyes through the bedroom as he grabs his phone and sees that's almost 11 am.

“Shit,” he complains by himself, getting up from the bed, wearing his flip-flops messily. He had forgotten to set up an alarm and to put his phone in the charger, but at least he still had half of the battery left.

Yawning, he leaves his bedroom and sees Songhwa walking around in a towel, complaining about Minjae following her with a small toy in his hands, Jeongguk just moves his head and goes to the living room after washing his face and mouth in the bathroom.

Jeongmin and Minah were practically glued to the sofa, there was a special documentary about the royal family going around on the television. Something about a visit to the palace and a party happening in two months to celebrate one of the royal siblings’ birthdays. Jeongguk rolls his eyes and messes with their hair, Minah just smiles and he and Jeongmin jokingly throws a pillow on his face. Jeongguk chuckles and puts his phone to charge, otherwise it wouldn't survive during the day.

He had almost forgotten that it was Saturday and everyone was at home, he looks at his siblings one more time and moves to the kitchen, where he finds his mom having some yogurt while watching a tutorial on YouTube about a new dessert. Jeongguk remembers that his mom's dream was to open a small bakery, she had told him about this a few times, always with a dreamy look on her eyes and even after she injured her back, she didn't stop dreaming.

“Hi, mom,” Jeongguk murmurs, kissing her forehead. “Are you feeling well?”

“Good morning, sweetie. I'm fine, I guess,” She turns off her phone, moving to love at her son. “I didn't see when you got home yesterday.”

“It was late, as always.” He turns his back to her, picking up a bottle of juice inside the fridge. “Did you see that I bought Minah's meds? I got them after work, I remembered that she ran out of the old ones on Thursday.”

“Thank you, Jeonggukie, I—” she chokes on her words, moving her eyes up as she swallows dry. And Jeongguk just knows that she's ashamed about that.

Since the beginning, when Jeongguk started working and turned out to be the only source of money of the house, Jeongguk knew that she was ashamed of that. She doesn't think that's fair that her son has to work so his siblings can survive and she's just at home doing nothing — of course, Jieun managed to get retired because of her injury and she's always trying to sell what she bakes, but the money wasn't enough, it was never enough.

Jeongguk just smiles, mentioning that he just wants his sister to be better and that buying her meds would never be a bother. He listens to his mom taking a deep breath and goes back to getting some bread to eat, noticing that the cabinets were all full. It was a relief somehow; it calmed his heart and he sits in front of his mom to eat. He'd have to leave to work in a few hours and still needed to do the math about the bills of the month.

“Your sister's next consult is in two months, her doctor called this morning and said that she could squeeze her into the schedule of a good pulmonologist and already sent him her case. Apparently, Minah already will have a bunch of tests to do,” says his mom, looking away from her phone.

“Wasn’t she already scheduled to do a computed tomography and an MRI?  Why did her doctor add another doctor?” Jeongguk's question comes out with a worrying sound, he knows that doctors don't do anything if they don't have an idea behind it.

“Sweetie, a pulmonologist is a specialist for the lungs, we already know that Minah's lungs aren't healthy. Dr. Bang probably just wanted us with someone who may know more about what Minah has.” Jeongguk sighs at his mom's comment, he knows about this, but he fears that it might be something worse than they think it is. “You know I'm right, there's no need for you to worry about this, okay? And I already took out some money to pay for it, I just want to know if you want to join us in the consult.”

“Yes, I—” he gulps, finishing his juice in one go. “Just tell me the date and I'll try to get a day off. I want to go with you two.”

“Sure, don't worry ab—” she was cut off, by the loud voice of Songhwa walking into the kitchen with Jeongmin by her side, almost making Jeongguk choke on his juice.

“Mom! I was helping Minjae with his clothes and they don't fit anymore, I’m sharing with Minah, but I don't think anyone here's the same size as him,” she pulls her brother closer. “Look.”

He moves his eyes to his youngest brother, noticing how his pants were almost on his knees and the shirt was leaving half of his arms out if the fabric, they were probably playing dress up from the clips all over Minjae’s head and how Songhwa wasn’t wearing her glasses. Jeongguk takes a deep breath, he didn't see when Minjae grew like that.

“I think he needs new clothes,” he murmurs feeling the deep stare from his mom. “I’ll take care of it next week. I think there are some clothes from Jeongmin kept in the wardrobe from when he was eleven. Maybe he can use it until we figure this out?”

Minjae just shrugs, not caring much about it; he was still just a kid, after all, clothes weren't that big of a deal to him. Songhwa moves her head in disbelief and follows her brother outside the kitchen, stepping heavily on the floor, and Jeongguk chuckles at them.

One of the biggest truths about Jeongguk is that he loves his siblings to death and would do literally anything for them. Being the oldest child, he had found himself taking care of them more than anyone else since they arrived in Seoul. Things were almost always difficult, but Jeongguk wouldn’t exchange them for anything, his family was his strength and his everything. And, despite everything, Jeongguk was a hopeful person, one of those that believe that one-day things will get better.

“What are they doing?” Jeongguk asks, squeezing himself in between his siblings on the sofa, the documentary still going on the television, one of his eyebrows moves up in confusion with the image of one of the princes playing the violin. “All the monarchy does is playing instruments, nowadays?”

“The monarchy isn’t the same as it was in your time, hyung, people don’t get their heads cut off in the middle of the streets anymore,” Jeongmin comments, his mouth full with a slice of apple and Jeongguk hisses, feeling deeply offended by the comment. “Isn’t that what you used to watch for fun back then?”

“I’m not that old, you little shit,” Jeongguk hits the back of his head lightly, hearing the sound of Minah. He had a few minutes he could use to spend with his siblings, so he just decides to sit there for a moment and watch television with them before taking a shower and going to work.

“There’s this rumor,” Minah starts saying, sitting on top of her own legs. “They say that the king is going to resign the throne and leave it to his older son, so, we’re trying to figure out if that’s true. So far, the king and the oldest prince have shown up together, like, three times in the whole documentary, and the rest is just about the queen, the other siblings with a bunch of scenes of the king and the heir in the background talking as if they were afraid of being caught by the cameras.”

“And you two think that this means something? Because it looks like a Keeping Up with The Monarchy?” Minah stares at her brother, shaking her head in disbelief at what she has just heard. “What?! It’s the truth!”

“You’re no fun, hyung,” Jeongmin mutters shamelessly, looking at Jeongguk out of the corner of his eye. “If you analyze the situation, you’ll know that now is the perfect time for the king to leave the throne to the prince: the old king died young, he has been ruling since he was nineteen and got married to someone he barely knew, sure, that’s pretty much all that kings go through, but the prince is thirty already, he’s engaged to one of the daughters of the duke of Daegu, whose brother is the prince’s right hand and will probably be part of the government once he seats in the throne. South Korea is doing fine, our economy is high up and the prince is ready. Why would he want to die when he can live the rest of his life well, getting to know his wife outside their crowns? Plus, the prince has a good popularity.”

“Since when do you know all of this?” Jeongguk asks, still surprised by everything his fourteen-year-old brother had said in a matter of seconds. “That’s impressive, Minnie.”

“Mmmh,” Jeongmin hums, a bit ashamed from the complimenting tone on his brother’s voice. “I like to read a lot and, hm, they’re teaching about our monarchy in school, too. And Minah here is in love with the youngest prince. You need to see her phone hyung it’s a m-”

“I am not!”, she throws a pillow on her brother’s face, voice almost failing as her cheek redden from embarrassment. “Shut up, Jeongmin.”

Jeongguk laughs at the way both of them start to throw pillows at each other when Jeongmin showed her his tongue out. He knows how his sister is shy about everything, but, on the other hand, Jeongmin and Songhwa were very talkative and she suffers from both of them around her, Minjae was the only that didn’t care about any of that stuff, he’d rather play with his toys than to pay attention to his older siblings fighting over a crush in one of the royal boys.

“Enough, you two,” Jeongguk picks up the pillows before they start hurting each other and Minah runs out of breath. “You know, it’s fine to have a crush in one of the princes, Minah, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, you’re young and pretty, you could easily date someone like them, and Jeongmin, you little rascal, you shouldn’t snitch on your sisters like that!”

Minah crosses her arms, moving her eyes to look at the TV again after putting a lock of hair behind her ear. Different from Songhwa, Minah liked to have short hair and that was the easiest way to tell them apart since they looked exactly the same.

“So, do you have a crush on one of the princesses, hyung? They're all so pretty,” Jeongmin mouths, moving his eyebrows cockily and Jeongguk rolled his eyes. “C’mon, hyung, there's nothing to be ashamed of.”

“I’m not ashamed of anything,” he answers getting up from the sofa after a few minutes of his brain freezing out. “I need to stop playing around with the two of you and go to work.”

Both of them whined as Jeongguk walks out of the living room, taking his phone with him before heading to his bedroom. He still has some time left to spend at home, and he breaths in and out as soon as he sits on his bed, moving his neck around while unlocking his phone.

 

Ggukie [11:56 am]

How do I come out to my family

without making it weird

 

Tae [11:57 am]                                                                                          

Good morning to

you too, Ggukie

Tae [11:58 am]

And the answer is simple:

you just don't come out

I never did

 

Ggukie [11:59 am]

that's not helpful at all

 

Tae [12:00 pm]

The thing is that even though

you try to make the situation not awkward

it's always going to be awkward,

It's a new thing they're learning about you

so, it's normal for them to start looking at you in a different way for some time, I guess

Even if they're supportive because if that's the case they'll try to look for tips on where they didn't see it coming

And let's not talk about a non-supportive family

 

Ggukie [12:03 pm]

djsjsjwjejeje you're cute, hyung

how did you do it

 

Tae [12:04 pm]

As I said, I never did

My parents found me in an embarrassing

Situation when I was sixteen??? or seventeen??? idk somewhere in between

And we looked at each other and it was almost as if they said “we're not going to talk about this”

That was pretty much it, I never said anything and they never asked

 

Ggukie [12:05 pm]

and the rest of your family?

they never said anything?

 

Tae [12:06 pm]

Not really, they don't even care about it

But why's that?

 

Ggukie [12:06 pm]

idk I was just wondering alone

my siblings were talking about crushes

and stuff

and then they asked if I had a crush on one of the princesses

and I was like “nah, I'm gay”, but I didn't say anything

and it kinda felt like I was lying to everyone

but I don't date anyone, so whatever

 

Tae [12:07 pm]

You know that not dating anyone doesn't erase who you are, right?

 

Ggukie [12:08 pm]

I know, hyung

I just don't feel like it's important right now

and I don't want to change things here

 

Tae [12:09 pm]

That's fine then I guess

Let's change the subject then

Are you working today???

 

Ggukie [12:09 pm]

Yeah, I need to be there at 2pm

I was thinking about getting a new job

because I leave work too late and I have to

run for the last bus, lately, it's been later than before

what do I do if I'm not there on time?

 

Tae [12:10 pm]

I wish I could send you a picture

of my very angry face right now

I've been telling you this for ages

You're smart, you can get a job during

DAILY HOURS

 

Ggukie [12:11 pm]

nope, no pictures allowed

and I know, my mom tells me the same thing

and sometimes I feel like I'm missing out on my siblings like when they're home I'm at work

and when I'm home, they're at school

 

Tae [12:12 pm]

I know, you're no fun

and you'd be surprised by my

handsome face

 

Tae [12:13 pm]

And joking aside, are you

sure you can go out to find another job?

I know that you had no choice but accept this one as it was

And your sister being sick… isn't that complicated?

As far as I remember, your mom's still recovering, isn't she? Or is her back better now?

 

Ggukie [12:14 pm]

It might be a little bit complicated, but I can do it if I wake up earlier

And she's doing better, her back is not completely healed, but the doctor said that it would take some time since it was something complicated

But she hasn't found another job yet

 

Ggukie [12:15 pm]

maybe you're right

and I shouldn't think just about myself

and I know that this month is the last where my mom's going to get her insurance over her injury, she didn't tell me, but I know it

 

Tae [12:16 pm]

Ggukie :(

It's just a thought

You don't deserve to work for that long in those weirdest hours

And your well-being is just as important as the others in your family

I just mentioned that because I know that you like to think before making any decisions

 

Ggukie [12:17 pm]

but family is family

and I know, hyung, I'm not mad at you

I was just wondering about this,

maybe I can wait my mom to get a new job? Or Minah to get better

It's fine

 

Tae [12:18 pm]

I just want you to be happy,

you know that, right?

 

Ggukie [12:19 pm]

I do, hyung,

don't worry

Ggukie [12:20 pm]

I care a lot about you too,

And I have to go now

I'm almost getting late

Tae [12:21 pm]

Okay, then

Have a good day

I'll be here when you're back ^~^

 

Jeongguk smiles at the screen of his phone, knowing that Taehyung was one of his best friends — the other was Hoseok, but Jeongguk doesn't talk as much to him as he does with Taehyung. He lets go of the device and goes to the bathroom to take a quick shower; he needs to leave at 1 pm if he wants to be at work on time. He takes more time to get to the restaurant during the day because of the traffic because it's usually only half an hour from his neighborhood to his workplace.

Before leaving home, he kisses his siblings on the cheeks and gives his mom a big hug, she looks at him with a sad smile on her mouth, wishing him a good day of work and that he comes back home safely. He puts his earphones in as he walks to the bus stop, and he realizes that he's been listening to the same songs for a long time, but he doesn't really want to go after new artists, so Jeongguk just turns on the radio and goes up the stairs of the bus.

While looking outside of the window, he looks up to the sky and sees how it was extremely blue, with almost no clouds in between the sun. He gives out a shy sigh and thinks that it was unusual for that to happen, the weather was mostly windy and cloudy during the afternoons. With the smell of the middle of spring, Jeongguk breaths in and gets up from the bus after pressing the stop button.

He was a bit earlier than the normal, he still has fifteen minutes until his shift starts at 2 pm, but Hoseok was already there, too, changing his casual clothes to the social weary all the waiters had as a uniform. The restaurant where Jeongguk works is open from lunch to 10 pm on weekdays, but from Friday to Sunday, the work hours were bigger and they had more staff to help.

“Hi, hyung,” Jeongguk murmurs as he puts his backpack inside his locker when he arrives at the dressing room. “Is the restaurant full today?”

“Junghwa said it is,” Hoseok sighs, tying his tie looking in the mirror. “We’re going to be busy today. By the way, Seokjin hyung found more gloves for you. I told him you cut yourself after the old ones were all worn out yesterday and he found some hidden in the pantry. They're already in the kitchen.”

“Oh, thanks,” Jeongguk nods, picking up his apron after changing into his white uniform. “You have the full shift today, hyung?”

“Yeah,” Hoseok mutters, biting his lower lip. “I don't think we're going home early today. Good luck, kid.”

Hoseok pats Jeongguk on his back before leaving the dressing room with quick steps. Jeongguk licks his lips and looks at himself in the mirror, he has a few dark circles under his eyes because he didn't sleep well last night, but it was nothing big. So, he just moves his shoulders and leaves to the kitchen after greeting the Seokjin, who was the manager of the restaurant. He says goodbye to the part-timer who was there before him, she bows politely before leaving the kitchen. And, as soon as Jeongguk puts his gloves on, he could hear the noise of the cooks and people talking at the restaurant tables. Hoseok wasn’t lying when he said that he thought this Saturday, in particular, would be pretty busy to them.

As the hours pass by, Jeongguk regrets not having lunch before getting to work, just that small breakfast wasn’t enough for the whole day of scrubbing dishes and the cutlery over and over again and he still had to wait for the restaurant to be less full to get his mid-shift break. He was used to busy days and preferred them because he almost doesn't see the time in front of his eyes when the restaurant is crowded.

When the clock hits 5:30 pm, Jeongguk hears the voice of the manager at the door saying that he's free to have his break and one of the waiters is going to take his place for the hour. Jeongguk thanks him and takes off his gloves before washing his hands and putting some sanitizer on them. His skin was dry and rough because of the amount of soap he had used on them yesterday, the cut was almost gone.

The workers were allowed to eat a dish from the restaurant during their breaks it just had it be noted by the manager, so Jeongguk picks up one of the plates and serves himself from a few the dishes that were being cooked a lot and excused himself to the break room that was next to the dressing room. There was almost no one in there, so he just makes himself comfortable at the table after finding a pen and throwing his papers of the bills next to himself.

One if the things that he couldn't complain, was of how good he was at remembering stuff, so it was easy for him not to forget all the math he had learned during high school and how it was useful now. He moves his chopsticks around the pasta as his eyes go through all the numbers he noted. He takes a deep breath in frustration, almost not noticing the presence of Hoseok by his side.

“What are you two doing?”, he asks putting his elbows on top of the wood of the table, staring at the weird calculations Jeongguk was doing.

“Just trying to see what's happening next month at home,” he answers licking the sauce off his lips. “My mom's insurance ends this month, and Minah has a lot of tests and doctors to go, Minjae is out of clothes and my mom hasn't found a new job yet. From what I'm seeing the amount of money I make here isn't enough to pay all the bills.”

“Ouch,” Hoseok gulps, moving his eyes up to stare at Jeongguk. “Why don't you ask for a raise?”

“I already did, hyung, last month,” Jeongguk chews his inner cheeks, looking at his hyung with a worrying expression. “I can't do it again, not this soon. My only option is finding another job or something in the morning, but I don't think I can find anything else other than here to work full time.”

Hoseok groans, feeling sorry for his friend, Jeongguk was too precious to be going through this. “I wish there was a way I could help you, Jeonggukie.”

“I know, hyung, don't worry about it. I'll find a way, I always have,” Jeongguk smiles through his sadness, putting the papers aside and going back to his almost cold pasta. Hoseok just knew that he didn't want to talk about it.

 

Jeongguk never lies about trying to find a way to get out of a bad situation. At first, it was difficult since he already had one job, and getting another one during the morning was more complicated, but eventually, he found himself starting to work as a part-timer in a 24/7 convenience store, which was placed in between the restaurant and his house.

He had to be there at 7 am to take over the counter from the other worker — Jeongguk wasn't really sure if she was a part-timer like him, but they didn't talk much from all the times they met, so he just forgot about it —, his shift was up until 1 pm and he needed to take the bus to the restaurant right away. He would have time to grab something in the store and eat in the bus, or while waiting for it, and it would be enough so he can handle working on a full stomach until the time for his break.

Of course, his mom wasn't pleased when she heard about it. Jieun already thought that her son worked too much, and now he had another job to take care of, but Jeongguk always assures her that he's fine, and makes sure to spend all of his free hours with his family — so he can prove that.

The first two weeks were easy, Jeongguk's young body could handle the change of hours and sleeping less than he was used to. The convenience store was pretty crowded due to students and people going to work during the morning, so he didn’t have any time to think about being tired or for how long he was already working. And the restaurant was just as busy as always, he was always washing dishes and helping cleaning the kitchen.

But even the youngest of the bodies get tired sometimes, and Jeongguk was practically sleeping without any rest. He started to feel sleepier and wanting to not get out of bed when his alarm rings at 6 am, but even so, he manages to get up and take a warm shower before heading to the convenience store before his siblings wake up to go to school. Jeongguk hasn't seen himself properly in the mirror for some time now, but he's sure that the dark circles under his eyes must be deeper than they were last month, and he doesn't remember when was the last time he talked with Taehyung something that wasn't just a good morning, how are you doing?, good night. It was kind of frustrating.

 The money wasn't much, but it was already enough to make up for how his mom's insurance wasn't available anymore. Minjae and the twins had new clothes, the bills with the doctor were paid and, even though some stuff was being paid late, the house was working without any trouble.

“Jeonggukie,” Hoseok says getting next to him in the kitchen, one month into his new work routine. “Are you free on Saturday? I heard you're looking for some stuff to do during your days off.”

Stuff to do, hyung?”, he asks moving an eyebrow up and staring at the oldest with a questioning expression. “What kind of stuff is this?”

Working stuff, I know you're struggling with money lately and I thought I could help you out with something.” Hoseok elbows him lightly, being careful to not make Jeongguk drop any glasses. “It's my day off and I know this guy who needs a waiter for a party and asked me if I knew someone else who can help him out. He doesn’t like people he doesn't know in his house, so I thought about asking you.”

Something was fishy on Hoseok's tone, but Jeongguk trusts him and just nodded, telling him that he was free on Saturday night — it was also his day off. Hoseok walks out of the kitchen with a huge smile on his face, saying that he would talk with Jeongguk later about it, which makes him shake his head, not thinking much about it. He needed the money, especially now that the day of Minah's consult was coming up and he was sure the doctor was going to change her meds again, along with the number of tests she would need to do.

The restaurant closed earlier that day, it was emptier than usual because it was week-day, but Jeongguk was glad he could go home before his shift was over. He wants to sleep a little bit more, eat something homemade, and spend some time with his family. His siblings were in their summer break, but Jeongguk never sees them because they're already sleeping

when he gets home, and sometimes he sees his mom, since there are days where she can't sleep before seeing that he was fine and not overworked.

 

When Saturday came, Jeongguk was in his nerves with Jung Hoseok. His hyung didn't tell him anything about the job, just kept asking weird questions and telling him to go to his house at 4 pm that they would get dressed and go together to the place.

It takes Hoseok almost five minutes to go find him in front of the building because the intercom was broken and Jeongguk had to call him as soon as he arrived.  He was wearing his casual clothes since his hyung told him he had a suit for him to borrow that matches with the theme of the party they are going to work at.

“So, do you have anything to tell me about the party we’re going to work at, hyung? My mom was skeptical about letting me go out of the house today because I had nothing to tell her, she just didn’t ask more when I told her I was going with you.” Jeongguk says in a low voice, following Hoseok outside the elevator. “And I’m twenty-two!”

Hoseok laughs loudly, and it almost echoes through the hallway as he opens the door of his apartment. “Your mom loves me, and…You’ll see when you get there.”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes, feeling annoyed by the mystery in Hoseok’s voice even though he likes a good thriller. “I’ll never accept anything else that comes from you, hyung.”

As soon as he walks into Hoseok’s apartment, he takes off his shoes and finds his hyung’s boyfriend lying on the sofa with his phone in his hands. He remembers seeing him a few times when Jimin went to pick him up at the restaurant, they didn’t talk much, but Jeongguk knows he’s a nice person from how much Hoseok tells him about his little dumpling; he was two years older than Jeongguk, they had met at a bar and were together ever since.

“Hi, Jeonggukie!” Jimin says putting his phone aside and going straight into a full hug with the youngest in the room. “It’s been so long since I last saw you. Hoseokie talks a lot about you.”

“He doesn’t need to know that, Jiminie! And we’re almost late,” Hoseok sighs, moving his head around, a towel on his right arm. “We need to go get ready, I’ll take a shower and… can you help Jeonggukie here with his suit? And the makeup?”

“Sure! C’mon, Jeonggukie,” Jimin smiles, grabbing his arm softly and leading him to Hoseok’s room at the end of the small corridor in the middle of his apartment, Jeongguk opens his mouth, but decides to not ask anything. 

Hoseok’s room was very organized and even the big mirror hanging on the wall looked as good as new, he doesn’t like living in a mess, and even at work, he was always helping the cleaning staff with the tables and stuff. Jeongguk had been there twice in the last year, during Hoseok’s birthday were he threw a small party with his friends and they drank a bit and the other Jeongguk didn’t actually remember, but it was probably when he allowed himself to be a young adult and enjoy his life like the others were doing.

Jimin opens his boyfriend’s wardrobe and tells Jeongguk to wait for a minute while he takes out a plastic cover from the inside, Jeongguk knows that’s a suit inside because he has seen those before, and then he remembers that Jimin works at a tailoring shop. Suddenly, Hoseok’s questions throughout the week made sense — he was asking about his height, the size of his arms, waist, and a bunch of other measures. Jeongguk takes a heavy breath, sitting on a chair next to the desktop computer and his eyes follow Jimin’s hands opening the cover.

Jeongguk’s eyes get wide open when he sees the black fabric that is obviously new, there is a grayish-colored tie around the hanger and the pants are in the same shade as the blazer. The buttons on the fabric were practically invisible because they were as dark as the clothes, Jeongguk only saw them because of the brightness of the sewing that appeared between the three little holes of the buttons, his eyes go up to Jimin, who has a giant smile between his lips while holding the hanger by the end, having to be a little careful because the size of the clothes is bigger than his own. Jeongguk almost loses his breath and sees how the shirt under the blazer is whitish, almost in an ice tone with the beautiful stitching and slightly darker than the tone of the fabric.

Of course, it was an expensive suit. His shoulders shrug and he’s already regretting making that choice because Hoseok and Jimin had probably spent a lot of money to rent (or to buy) that and he doesn’t even know how to thank them or that, or if he even deserves something that beautifully expensive.

“I’ll leave the room so you can change your clothes,” Jimin murmurs handing the clothes to Jeongguk before he’s able to say anything, the smile still hanging on his lips. “Just be careful not to wrinkle the suit, okay?”

He nods, knowing that he doesn’t actually have a choice on that. His eyes follow as Jimin leaves the room and closes the door behind himself. Jeongguk takes another deep breath and stares at the suit on his hands, wondering how rich were these people that they were going to work for that night for him to need a suit that expensive. He would definitely ask Hoseok about that later on.

Feeling a bit unsure about that, Jeongguk puts the suit on Hoseok’s bed, next to his backpack. He can’t take his eyes off of it, he has never seen a piece of clothing so beautiful in his life and wasn’t sure if it was going to fit him. He was just too normal for it and he doesn’t see himself wearing something like that. But, putting his thoughts aside, Jeongguk leaves his phone on the sheets and takes off his clothes. And he’s extra careful with everything, with the buttons, with the zippers and pulling the pants up.

Jeongguk gups as he closes the last button on his blazer and glances at the mirror by his side. He licks his lips and moves his body to stare at the reflection of his own image, he blinks and blinks again, feeling mesmerized by how the suit fits perfectly in the silhouette of his body. He notices his eyes shining and, for the first time in a while, he really looks at himself.  Jeongguk was never the one to think that he was ugly, he just felt that he was too normal, too casual, one to be mistaken in the middle of a crowd and not like those people who stand out from everyone else around them.

But that, that was the first time Jeongguk looked at himself in the mirror and thought that he was a handsome person. His lips were into a faded tone of pink, the bottom one standing out more than the upper, his eyes were dark and shining, his black hair was wavy and falling on his forehead nicely.

“Hyung?”, he doesn’t even realize his voice coming out so softly nor the door opening behind him. Jimin chuckles at the sight of Jeongguk so astonished by his own image, holding a small necessaire.

“Did you like it?” Jimin asks sitting on the end of the bed, crossing his legs and meeting Jeongguk’s eyes, whose head moved to stare at him after he pointed to a new pair of shoes on the floor. “I fixed the sizes myself; I think it looks pretty good.”

“It’s so… I’ve never worn something like this in my life.” Jeongguk breathes in, swallowing dry while moving away from the mirror to pick up the shoes. “It feels so light and soft on my skin. And it’s so beautiful, too. Are you sure that’s the uniform I’m supposed to be wearing to work tonight? It doesn’t look like a working outfit.”

“Mhmm…” Jimin licks his lips as if his brain was working to give Jeongguk a proper answer. “That’s with Hoseokie, sweetie. Come back to the chair, I need to put some makeup on you. Nothing heavy, just to match your outfit.”

Jeongguk doesn’t like how Jimin moves away from the topic so easily, but he just nods and sits back on the chair, facing Jimin and closing his eyes when the elder tells him to. “You know, you’re lucky you can use the same shade of foundation Hoseok’s sister use, and that she’s nice to let her brother borrow it so easily.”

When Hoseok comes back, he’s wearing a white suit and fixing his tie. He glances at Jeongguk, whose eyes are closed, and smiles to his boyfriend thanking him silently for help. Jeongguk’s hands are sweating as if he was too nervous about that, but when Jimin tells him he’s ready, he opens his eyes and immediately looks at himself in the mirror. He was impressed by how it didn't even look like he was wearing any makeup, some spots on his face were covered, his eyelids had a small layer of dark eyeshadow, in the same tone of his clothes, and his lips were in a darker shade of pink than before.

“You’re really beautiful, Jeonggukie, you’re going to rock the night. You don't even need any hairstyling; it looks so cute like this: messy and wavy.” Jimin mutters looking at his image on the mirror before moving to stare at his boyfriend, who had done his makeup himself. “Do you guys need a ride? I can go home after leaving you two there.”

“I’d love that, Jiminnie, and we’re almost late.” Hoseok answers in a blink of an eye and Jeongguk chews his inner cheek, feeling more nervous than before about it. “You ready, Jeonggukie?”

And he definitely wants to say no, because he is not feeling ready. That was for sure an important party and he was used to just fill in for one of the waiters of the restaurant he works at, and he didn’t have any previous training before going there. Hoseok was definitely crazy for taking him to these events and he was even more insane for saying yes.

While watching the view of the city through the windows of Jimin’s car, Jeongguk manages to calm himself down and accepts the fact that Hoseok isn’t telling anything about where they’re going and that Jimin knew about what his boyfriend was up to. And maybe it will be a new experience, maybe he will be better than the thinks and all the over-thinking he has done will be thrown in the trash.

He sees dusk taking place in front of his eyes and barely notices when Jimin's car stops in a well-lit place.  There are several other cars around where they were and Jeongguk wipes his hands nervously on his pants, watching Jimin and Hoseok exchange a soft kiss before the elder man calls him out. And it’s not weird that Hoseok is going to a party that Jimin’s not invited, they trust each other a lot, and Hoseok’s too madly in love with the Busan boy that doing something stupid doesn‘t even cross his mind.

“Good luck, Jeonggukie, good luck, baby,” Jimin says waving at them, Hoseok sends him a hand kiss and Jeongguk just smiles. “Have fun!”

It takes a moment for Jeongguk to realize the place they were at. His eyes notice the big walls and the symbols all around the place, he swallows dry and lifts an eyebrow, there were a few women walking around with colorful dresses and suited men, everything looked too expensive and new. Jeongguk's eyes grow big, moving his head to stare at Hoseok by his side.

They were at the Cheongwadae Palace. The center of the South Korean government and the house of the royal family.

“We’re working for the royal family?!” Jeongguk asks incredulously, his voice almost breaking in the middle of the sentence, and Hoseok chuckles, taking two invitations out of his pocket. “H—how?”

“No, silly. We're not going to work here,” Hoseok comments as they arrive near the palace entrance gates. “We're going to enjoy the party.  My best friend is one of the guards here and got two invitations for both of us, you've been working too hard and you need to have some fun once in a while. I don't want to see you losing your hair prematurely because of work. Let's go.”

Jeongguk zooms out for a moment, his brain trying to follow what Hoseok was saying. He doesn't even realize when Hoseok grabs his arms and they walk-in the palace complex after showing their invitations to the guard. Of course, how would Jimin be able to drive in through the streets near the palace without an invitation? The guards wouldn't allow him unless he had someone who was on the list for the party. And, Jeongguk remembers seeing the date when his siblings were watching the documentary a month ago, he just didn't think Hoseok would know someone from inside of the palace.

If it wasn't from those shows his family likes to watch, he would not know that they were walking into the official party hall from the royal family and not in the actual palace — it was on the other side of the huge government block. He takes a deep breath and listens to Hoseok talking to one of the guards, a smile between their lips and Jeongguk figures it is the best friend Hoseok was talking about before. There was some information about places, people, and how they should act around everyone, basically, no one would bother them since they were inside, the security was the best one in the country and the body search with the scanners that the guards did before they walked in the garden with the path to the party hall was proof it.

Jeongguk repeats all of the information inside his head, he shouldn't go talk with any members of the royal family, they have to start the conversation with him if that's the case; they never throw parties for the sake of receiving gifts, just to show off, so no one cared if you didn't have anything to give the princess' whose birthday was today. Jeongguk gulps, feeling a tiny trace of sweat going down on his neck when they walk into the saloon. Hoseok hands him the invitation with his name, murmuring that if anyone asks about it, he should show them and that all commoners and non-members of high society should leave no later than midnight, not a minute more.

He is impressed with the size of the place, it was much bigger than what it looked like on television and, because of that, the number of people walking around the room didn't seem to be that big. But the pictures of all the previous kings hanging on the walls, the giant light fixtures stuck to the ceiling, all the decoration with the light blue colors typical of the Kim dynasty that rules their country now, the pastel tone of the walls, and the way that everything seemed to have a modern and old appearance at the same time, all of this was exactly the same what Jeongguk had seen on television and he was amazed to see it all with his own eyes. The glasses that the waiters passed by offering to the guests were so thin that they seemed to be able to break at any moment and his big doe eyes shine at the sight of how beautiful everything was.

All the guests were dressed in chic clothes and probably much more expensive than the suit that Jeongguk wore, he swallows dry and feels a little suffocated by it. Parties weren't his thing, and when Hoseok says he should walk around and befriend the rest of the guests and enjoy the night, Jeongguk is alone with his dark eyes staring at the tables and listening to the soft music coming from the DJ on the other side of the party hall. The royal family was nowhere to be seen and Jeongguk didn't even worry about that.

This isn't my world; he thinks picking up a glass of champagne from one of the waiters going around and swallows everything in just one go. Jeongguk feels a bitter taste on his tongue and immediately regrets his life choices, it has been a while since he last drank anything alcoholic, but it doesn't stop him from asking another waiter to fill up his glass. No one was paying attention to him, of course, and he felt lighter by that, the drink had almost no alcohol on it and the sweet snacks he was getting from the table helped with the little effect of it.

Small talk here and there, and Jeongguk grows bored out of it, he sighs finding himself a chair near one of the tables and shrugs his shoulders while eating a brownie. He was so distracted and even thinking about grabbing his phone. “Are you not having fun?”

“What?” Jeongguk asks back to the deep voice next to him, just to move his head and find one of the princes talking to him, his mouth opens wide and he gets up from his chair. “I— I am so sorry, Your Highness. I—”

The prince smiles, eyes almost closing and Jeongguk recognize his features, he has seen him before on the television and his voice almost cracks up in-between words because of how astonished he got by seeing Kim Taehyung talking to him. He had the same light brown hair he always had, his bright, dark eyes were fixed on his face in a calm way, his lips were looking a little dry and Jeongguk almost loses his breath when he notices that his shoulders were relaxed under that light golden suit, which was almost of the same color as his hair, but in the brighter shade and with a white shirt under his blazer. His hands were stuck in his pockets by the thumb, but Jeongguk notices the long fingers full of rings and all amount of makeup that was on his face.

“Don’t worry about it. I’m one of the bored ones just like you,” Taehyung whispers the last words, before looking around and grabbing one of the sweets when he realizes that no one was looking at them. “These parties are not for everyone. Did you come here alone...”

“Jeongguk, Jeon Jeongguk,” he completes, and the prince nods, biting a slice of the snack.

“Did you come here alone, Jeongguk-ssi?” he continues talking, Jeongguk's eyes still fixed on him, even though he knows he shouldn't do that. You're not supposed to look directly into a prince's eyes, Hoseok's friend's voice echoes on his head, but Jeongguk can't stop looking at him.

“A friend brought me here,” he mutters, hands hanging awkwardly on the sides of his body. “I lost him in the middle of the party.”

“Do you want to go look out for him?” Taehyung asks, licking the sugar off his lips.

“Not really, Your Highness,” Jeongguk confesses shyly, knowing that Hoseok would be giving him a full lecture on how he needed to be more social and more talkative, think less about his family, and more about himself. “He must be having fun and I don't want to be a bother. I'm not a party person, he is.”

Taehyung's piercing gaze upon Jeongguk makes him blink heavily. It was as if the prince was analyzing who Jeongguk was in a matter of seconds, and that makes him feel more nervous than talking to his boss at the restaurant.  He had never seen or spoken to anyone of royalty before in his life, so he was not quite sure how to behave beyond the treatment pronouns he had learned throughout the years of his life.

“Can I tell you something?” Taehyung mumbles, looking at Jeongguk with the corner of his eyes now that he was in front of the table, holding one of the bowls full of snacks.

Jeongguk nods, feeling a bit unsure about that, but when the prince grabs a bottle of wine with his other hand and smiles, he suddenly doesn't feel the burden of being next to one of the most important people of his country.

“I don't like these parties either,” he confesses in a whisper. “But my little sister over there is a big show-off and my dad does everything she wants to do. Which, I don't think it's a secret to anyone in this country. So how do you feel about ditching a party with one of the princes of your country? I know a quiet place around here.”

Why me?, Jeongguk wonders, but his mouth says yes, and Taehyung his smiling at him and telling him to follow his steps. And he's there, he's following Taehyung around the party and leaving the room, they go through the guards and a few singers and actors, who were definitely looking at them because Jeongguk was a commoner walking around with a prince. The music was silent in his ears, and his heart is heavy on his chest and he feels like he's doing something young. And Jeongguk feels young, even though he's not doing anything wrong or outside of the ordinary — if Taehyung wasn't a prince. He doesn't even know why he trusted Kim Taehyung in the first place, or why he decided it was a good decision to be walking out of a party with someone he had just met.

He isn't sure of how long it took for them to get out of the building, but Jeongguk's lungs feel lighter when they sat in the garden, around a few trees and flowers. Since it was night and they were away from the party, the only source of light on them was the shining of the moon. Jeongguk hugs his bent legs, resting his chin on his knees and feeling Taehyung's strong gaze on him.  The night was beautiful, with a sky full of stars, there was no sign of clouds and, even though it was close to the beginning of the summer, the weather was just a little bit warm because of the green around them.

Jeongguk remembers what this garden is like in the sunlight, full of life and birds flying to and fro, it was one of the most beautiful parts of the palace to see. Jeongguk remembered hearing the teenage dreams of Minah, who said she wanted to get married in a garden like that someday, to someone she loves, and that also loves her family, and that Jeongguk should be the one to take her to her soon-to-be-husband. He smiles at the memory but is soon taken out of his thoughts by the prince's voice echoing through the trees.

 “How did you end up coming to a royal party without even enjoying parties?” Taehyung asks, getting rid of the metal wrap around the cork of the wine bottle, but his hands were not agile enough to take it out without a little effort.

 Jeongguk chuckles through his nose, reaching out to help him and opened the bottle without any problems. “A friend of mine knows one of the guards, he deceived me by saying that it would be some one-time job and, in the end, it was one of the most important parties of the year.”

“So, your friend lied to you?” Taehyung wonders in curiosity, staring at the commoner’s face.

“Pretty much, Your Highness,” he replies in a too polite tone that makes Taehyung laugh softly, he takes a sip of the wine from the bottle, and then offers it to Jeongguk, who thinks about it for a moment and they just threw all of these thoughts away, gulping the wine.

It was definitely stronger than the champagne he had before, and it ends up letting his lips purple-ish. Taehyung stared at him for a second, biting one of the snacks before supporting his body on his elbows.

“Then you were bored, lied to, and unhappy about being here,” says him, moving his straight hair around before looking back to Jeongguk. “Welcome to the government, but don't tell anyone I told you that. Otherwise, my dad might just agree with the people from the XVIII. And, please, you don't need to call me ‘Your Highness’ all the time. Aren't you like... my age?”

“Two years younger, actually,” Jeongguk confesses casually, the taste of the wine still on his tongue. “And you forgot to put suffocated by too many rich people in just one place. I'm sorry if I'm being offensive.”

Taehyung couldn't hold back a laugh, closing his eyes for a second while murmuring that Jeongguk wasn't doing anything wrong. A light gust of wind blows them both as Taehyung takes another sip of the expensive wine, Jeongguk takes the opportunity to grab one of the snacks the prince had brought and sighs, relaxing his body on the grass. The suit was expensive, but he knew that the royal family paid several people to keep every place around his palace very clean, so lying on the floor after a few more sips of wine was not a problem.

 “What is it like to be a prince?” Jeongguk asks curiously, still looking at the stars shining brightly on the sky.  You can hear Taehyung taking a breath, thinking about it. “Movies and series show us a lot of things, but I doubt that there is much truth in fictional works.”

 “Some things are true,” Taehyung holds his head in his hand, lying on his side so he can look at Jeongguk. “A lot of parties, events, people who know you and you don't know them, people who sometimes want to take advantage of you because of who you are. With some time, you get used to it, but at the same time it’s nice to be able to access everything from everywhere, travel wherever you want, and meet new horizons.”

“I think everything has a bad side if we look too close,” Jeongguk murmurs, blinking slowly and feeling the little bit of alcohol making his mind a little agitated.  “The important thing is that there's more good than bad, right?”

 Jeongguk turns his head to the side, watching Taehyung's serene face, who nodded slightly.  They could both hear loud pop music coming from inside the party hall, but it seems stuffy from where they were, so the noise of birds and crickets among the bushes was louder. And Jeongguk wants to ask why the hell a prince had noticed him in the middle of a party, he wants to freak out on his best friend's chat saying he had met someone important and, most surprising of all, Taehyung was a comfortable person to talk to, there was no chasm between the two of them because of the obvious social difference in Jeongguk’s mind. Sure, Taehyung didn't know that Jeongguk is a poor young man who works almost twenty hours a day to support his family, but he didn't need that, it wouldn't make any difference.

At the end of the day, Jeongguk would leave the party with Hoseok. He would go back to his rented little house in an average neighborhood and sleep until six in the morning, wake up and go drowsy to the convenience store he worked at.  It was a Sunday, so his shift would be difficult and tiring with almost no costumers inside, and that night he spent talking to Taehyung would only be in memory and they would never see each other again, they were from different worlds, after all.

 “Do you have any dreams, hyung?”  Jeongguk asks after several hours, the bottle of wine has long been empty, as well as the bowl with snacks.  “To become king?”

 “No,” Taehyung makes a pouty face, staring at the sky.  “I never thought of sitting on that throne, actually. It is something that is practically a world away from me, my brother will become king someday and his children will step in front of all of his siblings in the line to the throne and, as since those sexist laws from the past no longer exist, my older brothers and sisters are in front of me and all their children, too.  From the outside, it seems that all the king's children are given an equal chance to reach the throne, but we are taught that it is not that easy.”

They stay silent for a second, and Jeongguk remembers that Taehyung has a lot of siblings just like himself — the law that the royal family can't use birth control is a problem when it comes to that. There are three brothers and two sisters in front of Taehyung in the line to the throne, but Jeongguk doesn't remember the names of all of them, not even with the help of the documentary.

“The truth is…” he continues talking, hands lying on his stomach. “I don't think I have a dream. Or I haven't found mine yet.”

Jeongguk blinks slowly, noticing the heavy breath of the prince next to his face. They were lying on the grass with too little space between them, but neither one of them care about that, maybe it was the high level of alcohol on the wine they had just drunk or the comfortable feeling going around them.

“It’s okay to not have a dream,” Jeongguk murmurs licking his lips, the makeup was long gone and he was sure that his face was a mess. “Or maybe to just have a silly one. My dream is happiness to my family because we love each other more than anything in this world.”

“That’s not silly,” Taehyung frowns his eyebrows. “It’s nice that you like your family. There are a lot of people around the world that wishes they had been born into a loving family, you're lucky you have one of these.”

“Yeah, I know,” Jeongguk smiles with his eyes closed. Despite not being perfect, he knows his family is supportive and caring, he would not exchange them for anything. “I think that love is one of the most important things in the world.”

Taehyung hummed silently in answer, his chest going up and down with the light breathing. Jeongguk wasn’t much different, the weight of the night falling on his shoulders and the fact that he was lying down didn’t help much, the prince was quick to realize that he was tired, eyelids heavy and focused on the dark blue sky.

“You remind me of someone I know,” Taehyung mumbles and sees when Jeongguk opens his eyes and his dark brown eyes fixed on him. “He’s one of the best people in this world.”

“Is that a compliment?” Jeongguk frowns his forehead, his voice comes out lazier than he wants to, but they were being casual for a long time now and Taehyung doesn’t even bat an eye at it. “It kind of looks like one.”

“Because it is, you’re a nice person” Taehyung sounds pleased, pulling his body up to seat. “And that’s coming from someone who knows a bunch of bad people who swears they’re good just to not lose their popularity.”

“You’re making me curious,” Jeongguk pouts, feeling his nose funny because of all of the dust in the air. “That’s not something very nice to do. but thank you.”

Taehyung crackles a laugh in between a singer talking about loving harder in high tunes, he glances and Jeongguk and goes back to stare at the moon. For a second, Jeongguk wonders if someone isn’t looking out for the prince, after all, he might be not the first on the line to the throne, but he still was one of the royal siblings and anyone would notice that he was gone.

And then, Jeongguk realizes that he doesn’t know anything about the prince Kim Taehyung besides all the vague information he has given him during those hours they were together that night. It wasn’t his place to ask anything, they were being friendly, but maybe that was an off-ground topic that he didn’t want to talk about, so Jeongguk forgets about that and stops looking at the brown-haired guy.

“Tell them all I know now, shout it from the rooftops, write it on the skyline…” Jeongguk sings with his eyes half-closed, holding his knees again as he follows the song being playing in the party hall, he ends up grabbing Taehyung’s full attention. “All we had is gone now, tell them I was happy, and my heart is broken. All my scars are open, tell them what I hoped would be…”

His voice dies down with the impossible, almost cracking from how sloppy he was singing. Taehyung looks at him, blinking in delight. “Your voice’s pretty.”

Jeongguk’s eyes get sparkly when he hears that. Not everyone gets to hear him singing, especially now that he has no time to do that, he’s always working or sleeping, and when he’s showering or eating, he’s too tired to do anything.

Taehyung’s phone rings before Jeongguk could say anything, and he bats an eye in disappointment by how Taehyung takes a deep breath and declines the call after taking the device out of his pocket. 

“It’s my sister, she’s probably asking me to go back to the party because she wants everyone to sing happy birthday and she finally realized I’m not there,” he says too fast with his deep voice and Jeongguk almost loses himself during the words. “Let’s go? Otherwise, she’s going to call the guards on us.”

He nods with half a sulky face, getting up from the ground and cleaning his pants before following Taehyung into the garden. He thinks about asking him if they shouldn’t pick up what they left on the grass, but then Jeongguk remembers that he must have a lot of staff to clean everything from the party and it included outside of the party hall. He’s not happy about going back to that party, he feels his heart racing and his throat closing — he was never a fan of too many people in one place.

Despite not knowing why, Jeongguk looks back for a moment, just before his feet touch the steps that would take them back to the party. Suddenly, the moon appeared to be too high in the sky, the night darker than before and the stars more exposed than ever. The loud music confused Jeongguk a bit but he was able to feel his phone vibrating inside his pocket.

Without looking up, he picks up the call and hears Hoseok’s loud voice asking where he was because it was already almost midnight and they should get going, there was something else about them calling a taxi back to his apartment. He looks up and he doesn’t see Taehyung anymore, just a bunch of unknown people and loud talking, loud music, and expensive clothes. Jeongguk takes a step back, losing himself in the middle of the crowd of people who were trying to get back to the party.

And he walks so fast that he’s practically running, he’s sure a few people are looking at him as if he’s weird, but Hoseok’s call and Taehyung losing him after a few minutes of receiving a note from his sister — a princess — was what he needed to take a step back and remember that he should have left the party a long time ago. It was five minutes to midnight and he definitely didn’t have any money to pay a stupid fee because he didn’t leave a party earlier.

He doesn’t know when he walks out of the gates of the palace, but he almost stumbles himself onto Hoseok’s arms, whose eyes are staring at in stares at him in awe, holding his shoulders in place while Jeongguk finds his breathing pace again.

“Hey, Jeonggukie, are you ok?” Hoseok asks in a worrying voice, touching his friend’s cheeks to make him look at him.

“Yes, I… I just ran all the way here and saved my ass off paying more than my rent to the government.” Jeongguk sighs deeply, hearing the bells of the palace ringing and he knows that it meant that it was exactly midnight.

Hoseok laughs loudly, feeling the relief of hearing that Jeongguk was fine. “Okay, then. Let’s go, because I called us a cab and it’s almost around here, but the driver can’t enter the perimeters of the royal palace, so we need to walk out of here.”

Jeongguk nods, resting his hands on his waist as he follows Hoseok down the street. He thinks about how he has met one of the princes, and how they talked all night and ended up losing themselves at the end of the party. That was definitely one hell of one story, but Jeongguk didn’t feel like sharing it, he wants that experience to be all of his, because who is going to believe that Kim Taehyung chose him, out of everyone else on that party, to spend the night? And that they were for hours in the garden, drinking wine, eating trash food, and talking gibberish.

Sure, maybe the story of the prince that hated being part of the royal family and goes after a commoner to be his friend and run away from the castle sounds good in a book, but, from what Jeongguk had seen while talking with Taehyung, he liked his family, even though they annoy him a little bit sometimes, and he definitely isn’t running away from his house any time soon. So, Jeongguk was glad to be able to keep a good piece of his life to himself, that was a good night despite the feeling of being suffocated by other people looking down at him or realizing that he wasn’t one of them.

“You’re smiling a lot,” Hoseok comments once they’re inside the car, Jeongguk looking outside the window and remembering how Taehyung smiled at him during the whole night. “Did you meet anyone interesting?”

“No,” he lies, moving his eyes from the streets to Hoseok by his side. “I just drank too much wine, I think.”

“Right,” says Hoseok, not believing in a word Jeongguk had just said, but he just decides to not ask anything else. “Hope you had fun.”

Jeongguk goes back into staring at the sky, his elbow rested on the door of the car and his hand ends up touching his ear. His eyebrows get together to the feeling of something missing and he realizes that he lost one of his earrings when he touches his other ear and the piece of jewelry is there. He feels silly because he knows this story pretty well, but he’s sure that he isn’t going to end up like the one from the fairy tales.

He feels sad about it, he loved that earring and it was a gift from his mom, but he ends up taking it off anyway and placing it in his pocket. Maybe he could find a store where he could buy a new pair in the following week, after his sister’s consult on the doctor. He nods to Hoseok saying that he’d spend the night at his apartment, it was closer to the convenience store he works at, he has brought a change of clothes on his backpack and he can just tell his mom the party ended too late.

When the car stops in front of Hoseok’s building, he pays the driver and walks out of the car after Jeongguk, whose mind was still a bit fuzzy after everything that had happened that night. His friend grabs his hand and they go through all the floors up to the fifth one side by side, despite being a little bit out of his mind, Hoseok was a good friend and Jeongguk was thankful for having him in his life.

“Don’t be too noisy, ok? I think my sister already got home from work and she’s probably sleeping. And you can use the bathroom in my room to take a shower, I’ll use the main one, just pretend you’re at home.” Hoseok remembers him and Jeongguk shakes his head, he’s usually a silent person and doesn’t make any noise while taking off his shoes.

Jeongguk listens carefully to Hoseok’s instructions where is everything, he needs to take a good shower after that party, even on extra blankets and some loose clothes if he didn't want to wrinkle his own. As Jeongguk walks into the older man's room, he muffles a laugh with his hands when he hears Hoseok complaining about pain in his feet, he knows that his hyung must have spent the whole night dancing with strangers and enjoying the loud music that was being played during the party, so it was not strange that now he was in pain and wondering how he was going to work on the next day.

He gets in the shower after getting rid of the expensive and beautiful suit, he turns on the faucet and closes his eyes. He remembers Hoseok telling him inside the taxi that the suit was his, so he’s not really sure of where else he’s supposed to go wearing something that glamorous, mostly because his social circle consists of his four siblings, his mom, and Hoseok. The warm water and the liquid soap wash away every single piece of the night on his body. It takes away the smell of wine from his face and the small amounts of grass that got stuck on his hair, what was left from the makeup falls down on the bathroom drain beneath his feet and he breathes in and out, enjoying the water falling on his tensed up shoulders.

After changing himself into some comfy pajamas borrowed from Hoseok’s wardrobe, Jeongguk takes a look at his reflection on the mirror and he feels more like himself, without those expensive pieces of clothing and shoes, bare face and his hair washed. He lies on the bed with half a smile on his face after drying his hair with a towel, the mint taste of the toothpaste and strawberry fresh soap made him feel drowsier than before. He feels the weight of Hoseok's body lying beside him, moving the covers and still grumbling because of the pain in his feet and legs. Jeongguk just puts his hands below his head, closing his eyes and letting himself go into the tiredness and sleep he was feeling.

Jeongguk dreams about a certain brown-haired prince, staring at him with half a smile between his beautiful lips while he sings softly in the middle of a picnic in the same garden they were that night, except that it’s day time, the sun is shining brightly between the white clouds and their hands are locked together, Jeongguk doesn’t feel so lonely in life anymore and he’s smiling while he sings.

 

Kim Taehyung as the smart guy he was should know that finding an earring glued to his pants means nothing. But that didn't stop him from waking up the day after the party with something poking him in the thighs, without remembering how he ended up falling asleep still wearing his suit from last night, frowning and taking the earring in the palm of his hand with a smile. He remembered who that earring was and he doesn't know why, but it gives him an ounce of hope of meeting the boy from last night again.

While he forces himself to get out of bed, Taehyung leaves the earring on the top of his nightstand and puts his feet on a slipper. His tongue has the bitter taste of wine and after shaking his shoulders, Taehyung remembers singing happy birthday to his sister and telling her that he was too tired to continue the party until late at night, which was not a lie, after all, he had arrived in the South Korean capital in the previous afternoon, after visiting some senators from Japan and representatives of the Thai government at a boring dinner at the behest of his father.

Then, he said goodbye to the rest of his siblings, and to his parents, one of the guards walked with him to the palace, where he dragged himself to his room and immediately fell asleep. Taehyung had been upset when he lost sight of Jeongguk during the party, he was the only person who had made him stay there until midnight. If it weren't for Jeongguk, he would have stayed for a few minutes and returned to his room right away because of how tired he was, but the dark-haired boy with a deep look on his eyes caught his attention in the moment Taehyung first lied his eyes on him.

Taehyung doesn’t usually socialize with people he doesn’t know, especially at parties thrown by his younger sister, who always invites people from all over the country and abroad, without even worrying whether they would bring problems to the Korean crown. But at the moment Taehyung saw Jeongguk for the first time, he knew that he wasn’t from a rich family or from any governments around the country.

Jeongguk was probably to be part of the ordinary population there in Seoul, and he was definitely feeling a little lost among all those businessmen, dukes, and artists who were part of the princess' circle of friends. At first, Taehyung was a little hesitant about whether or not to go and talk to him, but he couldn't help himself when he noticed the wide dark brown eyes staring at everyone around him, drinking a glass of champagne and clearly wishing to run out of that room.

After replaying the entire previous night in his mind under the shower to get the smell of wine off his body, Taehyung dresses in casual clothes and grabs his private phone, which had been kept in one of his drawers all night. He bites his lower lip, waiting for the fingerprint reader to recognize his finger and wipes his wet hair, he thought it was strange that it was after nine in the morning and no one had woken him up to go have coffee with the rest of the palace residents, but it was Sunday and the day after a party that must have ended around six in the morning, Taehyung knows that his mother loves parties and her father only ends celebrations related to his favorite daughter when the princess says that she’s tired, so it made sense that everyone was still asleep.

 

TaeTae [9:34 am]

Hi, Ggukie

I miss you

It's been a while since we talked :(

TaeTae [9:35 am]

I know it was your day off, but I was so busy that I couldn't text you :(

TaeTae [9:36 am]

I hope you're doing fine, and resting well

I'm fine although I have a little bit of a hangover

TaeTae [9:37 am]

AND I have a special

mission to myself today

It's a secret, so I can't tell you

 

He doesn't wait for an answer, knowing that his friend was probably working now, but Taehyung still smiles at his phone and turns off the screen. He gets up from his bed and heads out of his bedroom with the earring and his phone in his hands.

The long corridors he walks through are silent, the guards always standing and responding quietly to the compliments Taehyung gave them as he walked to the kitchen. The prince was never one of the biggest fans of being cold to the castle staff, they were always around and were practically part of the family, but many people didn't even care about that.

“Hyungie,” Taehyung sings when he sees Yoongi in the kitchen, eating pancakes and eyes fixed on his phone. The older man stops eating right away, giving Taehyung an ugly look before sighing. “Don’t look at me like that!”

“What do you want now, Your Highness?” Yoongi asks with his mouth full, Taehyung rolls his eyes, knowing that Yoongi was doing that just to annoy him.

Taehyung sits on the chair right next to his father's advisor, resting his elbows on the table and his chin in the palm of his free hand. Yoongi was pretending not to pay attention to him.

 “I need a favor,” Taehyung says calmly, staring at Yoongi still enjoying his pancakes.  “It's not a big deal, you know…”

 “I knew it,” Yoongi snorts, dropping his phone on the table and turning to look at the prince. “What is it that you want now, Taehyung?”

 “I need your help to find someone that was at the party last night,” he puts the earring on the table, the metallic material of the little feather shining in the sunlight that comes in through one of the giant windows that was open. “That's all I have from them.”

 “Do you happen to think that I work miracles, Your Highness?” Yoongi asks, squinting in seriousness. “How does someone find someone else just by their earring?  And this is obviously a piece of cheap jewelry, many women in Seoul, or even the rest of the country, can have a copy.”

“I never said that it was a woman, hyung.” Taehyung mumbles with an eyebrow up, and Yoongi chokes on his juice. “And you can do anything.”

Yoongi clears his throat with a cough and drops the chopsticks on the table. He takes the earring in the palm of his hand and then looks up to face Taehyung's eyes, he says nothing for a second while the kitchen workers brought breakfast to the prince and, even after years of working for the king, Yoongi never understood how the employees guess when one of the members of the royals was in the common dining room — the one that was used daily, not during dinner parties.

“Did he do anything? Because if that's the case, Taehyung, we need to tell the king and...” Yoongi starts talking as soon as the employees leave the place, Taehyung sighs and interrupts him right away.

 “No, hyung, I just want to find him. Can you help me with that?”  Taehyung confesses taking the earring back and putting it inside his pocket.  “Yuna left the guests list with you, right? Did you keep it in your office?”

“Yes, I do have the guests list, but the problem is that Yuna let the guards bring two friends each, most of the are commoners and we didn't get all of their names and information like the rest of them,” explains Yoongi and Taehyung pouts for a second, he stares at his plate and then a thought pops upon his mind.

“What if I had his name?” he suggests with a little hope appearing on his face, Yoongi frowns at that, but puts his hands on the table and looks at Taehyung suspiciously.

“It would help a lot,” Yoongi confirms, the tone of his voice still in doubt about where Taehyung wanted to go with that. The prince always wanted to come up with things to escape from obligations that he did not like and his father makes him do them anyways, but he had never seen Taehyung ask about finding someone.

“Jeongguk.”

“What?” Yoongi asks, confused from how fast Taehyung answered him.

“Jeongguk, his name is Jeon Jeongguk.”

“For fuck’s sake, Taehyung! I thought that his name was something different or out of the ordinary, or even someone that I knew! But how am I supposed to find a guy with a common name like that? There's even an actor that's called Jeongguk.” Yoongi flaps his lips, still in disbelief with that. “Do you even know anything else about him?”

“No?” Taehyung answers with his puppy eyes showing off, he knows that he can get anything when he looks at someone like that and Yoongi moves his head away from staring at him. “Please, hyung. It's important to me! I'll even ask my dad to give you a raise.”

“You’re going to make me go bald before I hit forty, Kim Taehyung.”

And Taehyung just knows that Yoongi is going to grant him that favor. The prince smiles and gives Yoongi a wet kiss on his cheek, knowing that he hates that and he even grumbles, wiping his skin with the back of his hands, quietly saying that the prince was of no use and that, one day, he would tell the king everything that his son had done. Taehyung laughs softly, knowing that Yoongi was just being dramatic and turned to his breakfast.

 Taehyung raises his face with a smile, looks at the clear sky landscape through the window and wishes to see Jeongguk once more in his life.  He didn't even know where the desire to see him again came from, but Jeongguk was one of the first people who treated him as Kim Taehyung, a human being, and not Kim Taehyung, the fourth prince of the current reign.

Of course, Taehyung did not forget about his virtual friend, but he had no idea that the Taehyung he was talking to was one of the princes of South Korea, and Jeongguk knew it, he had seen him in his prince clothes, inside one of the buildings of the palace and, still, he had been casual with him.

It was a little more than curiosity that was in Taehyung's chest, he was sure of it. Especially when the huge triangular smile did not leave his memory or the mystery that Jeongguk's dark eyes kept. Taehyung never believed in love at first sight, but Jeon Jeongguk would be the first one to change his mind.

 

 

ONE WEEK LATER

Jeongguk's hands were dripping in sweat and he was trying to wipe them on his pants, the nervousness he was feeling was no news to him: he's always like that when it comes to taking his sister to the doctor. His mom was right next to him, reading a book and distracting herself, but he couldn't manage to clear his head, not when it has been hours since his little sister was being taken by the nurses to do a lot of exams on the insides of the hospital.

He looks at the clock next to the television, it's almost 11 am and he has to go to work in some time. Jeongguk tries to keep his eyes on the journalist from the news, but he couldn't manage to understand what she was saying.

Minah had been hospitalized since the previous day when the pulmonologist underwent a simple examination and warned them that she would be kept under observation for the entire night so she could be ready for the next day's battery of exams. Jeongguk came home, told his boss about what was going on, and just went to the restaurant in the afternoon, he missed the day's work that morning, but it was okay, he gave up his say off on the weekend and he would not end up losing money, the worst part was to calm down his younger siblings, who were frightened by the lack of Minah and his mother when Jeongguk stepped into the house that morning, Songhwa was already older, she understood what was happening. He hardly slept at night, he just stared at his mother's empty bed across the room, knowing there was another empty place in his siblings' room.

“Are you okay, dear?” asks his mother, noticing the way Jeongguk legs were restless, swinging them over and over. “It's going to be okay, Minah is in good hands and it's just a few tests.”

“I don't like that we can't accompany her in there, mom. What if she's feeling lonely? What if she feels sick?”

Jieun laughs, closing the book with the bookmark inside and touching her eldest son's arm shortly thereafter. Jeongguk’s skin was cold, even though the weather was hot outside the hospital. Her eyes caught the air conditioning turned on in one corner of the waiting room and she sighs, turning back to her son once more.

“You look more like her parent than I do sometimes, Jeonggukie” Jieun opens a hopeful smile, causing Jeongguk's eyes to fix on her. “Minah is seventeen already, she’s all grown up and can take care of herself for some time, and if anything happens to her, there are several doctors and nurses around her, all over the corridors and in every room, she will be well and some of the residents will come and inform us if something happens.”

Jeongguk takes a deep breath, hiding his face on his hands and trying to get the anxiousness out of his body. Something inside of him knew that they would be able to know what was going on with Minah today, and it makes him feel helpless and without any control over his hands.

After giving his mom a warming smile, he gets up from the chair walk to the water filter in the corner of the room, take a plastic cup and fill it with cold water. With his eyes closed, he drinks the liquid all at once and bends down to fill the cup again, but as soon as he brings it to his mouth, he hears his sister's name being called by one of the nurses and almost wet his shirt. His mother shakes her head in disbelief, wanting to laugh at her son's nonsense, but he finishes drinking it and goes to help his mother get up from the chair. After the accident, she had to walk slowly and for short periods, without making much effort, so Jeongguk was patient with her.

“Do you already have her results? Did something happen?” Jieun asks, her son's arm around hers gently.

“Not yet, ma’am, I just came here to tell you that Minah is already back in her room and you can stay with her until the doctor goes to see you,” she finishes saying and Jeongguk nods.

Soon after she excuses herself and goes to the reception, Jeongguk and Jieun walk to the elevator, he is less anxious than he was before and waits for the doors to open on the first floor for the two of them head towards the room where Minah was.

The door was half open and the girl was playing on her phone, wearing the hospital clothes as the rules said so, Jeongguk smiles when she puts her phone down and gets up to the bed and hugs them. The room was small, just enough for two people to be there in observation, there were some inhalation devices attached to the wall and IV marks on Minah's arm, but the other bed in the room was empty.

“I’ve never done so many boring exams in my entire life,” Minah says, lying on her bed again a few minutes later on. Jeongguk was sat right next to her and their mom was on the chair. “I hope it’s all over now. Can’t wait to go home.”

“Did the doctor tell you anything?” Jeongguk asks moving his shoulders, he hadn’t realized that he was sitting in an uncomfortable position back in the waiting room. “Of when you’re going home?”

“No,” she grunts, resting her hands on her stomach. “She just said that I was supposed to eat my breakfast well and come and wait for you here. It looks like the results come out on time, but she needs to talk to the other doctors, too.”

Jeongguk forces a smile and their mom does it too, they want to be strong for her, to be there for her. And all the doctors say that kids and teenagers feel safer when their family doesn’t look desperate — even though they are.

Minah asks about her siblings and if they are something different while she was away, Jeongguk laughs at it, saying that he would buy her a burger for lunch without anyone knowing about it after they leave the hospital. Jieun only looking at her children with a judging face, without mentioning that they should be eating healthily and not thinking about trash food.

Those are a good few minutes before the doctors walk into her room, the other three doctors with her. Two of them Jeongguk recognizes, they’re the residents the pneumologist works with, the other one, he doesn’t. This makes his eyes fall on him, blinking heavily and noticing the thick glasses on his nose, the small dimples on his cheeks, and how his hands were on the pockets of his purple medical coat. The doctor seems both sympathetic and serious at the same time, which makes Jeongguk swallow dry and get out of the bed. In the top pocket of his coat, Jeongguk can read the name "Dr. Kim Namjoon" and he moves his eyes up to stare at the pulmonologist.

“Hello,” says her with half a smile on her face. “Can I talk with you two outside? Dr. Yang and dr. Moon are going to stay here.”

Jeongguk and his exchange a look before she agrees with that, Jieun kisses the top of her daughter before heading out with Jeongguk by his side and dr. Kim Namjoon walking right after them.

He doesn’t know why, but the calm face of that new doctor doesn’t make his worries go away, and he absolutely doesn’t understand all of those technical words the pulmonologist was talking about, neither when she let Namjoon talk instead of her. Jeongguk she feels her mother's hands tighten on his arm, proving that she was just as apprehensive as he is and is just holding on to say nothing in front of her daughter.

Jeongguk wants to ask them to use easier words, words closer to the reality they were in, but he knows very well that he would understand everything that was being told there if he wasn’t so nervous about the future.

“... and that is why her lungs are…” Jeongguk sucks in the air, feeling his fingertips freeze. “... cancer is totally treatable with a little…”

Jeongguk's feelings plummet at that very moment, his shoulders drop and he wants to run away, not believing what had just come out of the mouth of the child oncologist. He should have guessed what it was about when Kim Namjoon introduced himself and made sure to mention which part he had specialized in.

His voice is choked and he wishes it was him there, instead of his sister, he wants to save her and knows that this is out of his hands. He hears his mother's voice calling out his name, but it’s too late, he had given her the excuse that he needed to go to work and ran down the stairs, without even remembering that the elevator existed, the choking in his breath would not let him think clearly.

He hears the voice of a few nurses asking if he was okay, but he doesn’t stop. He doesn’t know for how long he stays walking, running, he just knows that he’s not in the hospital anymore and that his face is all wet from the tears he didn’t even notice falling out.

Weak. That’s how he feels and he definitely doesn’t go to work.

His knees fail and he has no idea where he is, he can see only a bunch of trees around him, the tears left his vision disrupted, but not bad enough that he can't sit on one of the benches, his feet supported on the green painted cement and the forehead on his knees.

Jeongguk is crying so hard that he sobs, his chest is aching and he wants to forget about the rest of the world. He feels alone and lost in his own head, unable to know the reasons why he was crying so much. He wasn't going to lie, he had considered that his little sister might have lung cancer during a few other visits to the doctor, but he didn't want to accept that, so he threw the option in the back of his mind, only for it to come back hitting him like a truck.

Maybe he’s finally letting all of his emotions out, he doesn’t even know when was the last time he cried properly, he doesn’t have time for that. Jeongguk spent the last ten years of his life swallowing down his feelings and letting go of everything that could affect him, he just needed something to push him to the limit and those damn words that came out of Namjoon's mouth were enough to do make him burst down in tears.

He doesn’t know how he has the strength to grab his phone from his pocket and type the password. He gulps, the tears still falling on his cheeks, and opens his conversation with Taehyung.

Ggukie [2:30pm]

hyung

can I call you?

plwase

Tae [2:32pm]

Ggukie? Baby

Did something happen?

You never asked me that

 

Tae [2:33pm]

Aren’t you supposed to be at work now?

Ggukie

Answer me

Ggukie [2:33pm]

i didnt go to wrok today

i jsut need to tlalk to someodne

and i dont have anyonse else

 

Tae [2:34pm]

Fuck

Wait

I’m gonna call you

Jeongguk’s breathing is heavy and unstable, he’s trying hard to stop crying before Taehyung calls him, but the moment he sees his contact name popping up on the screen, the tears start to roll out more than before.

“Hi, hyung,” he manages to say, swallowing dry and trying to pretend that he’s not crying. “I- I just needed to talk to someone.”

“Gggukie…” Taehyung’s voice is deep and worried, Jeongguk can comprehend that, but he’s not in the state of mind where he can overanalyze anything. “Talk to me, then. Did anything happen?”

“Today was my sister’s exams,” his voice chokes out, and he hears Taehyung breathing on the other side of the line, he’s silent and Jeongguk never asked him about anything related to his relatives, but he doesn’t hear anyone talking in the background, so he knows that he’s alone. “She’s not fine, hyung… She’s…”

“Breath, Ggukie, breath with me, okay?” He’s calm and serious at the same time, and Jeongguk swears his tone is able to make his mind stop for a second. “Breath in and out, slowly and with no hurry. I’m here with you and I’m not going anywhere.”

A few minutes passed by in front of Jeongguk's eyes, Taehyung's voice was still on his ear, helping him breathe and stop crying so he could talk better. Jeongguk feels his eyes clearing, and could notice that he was at a park, the street was almost empty since it was working and studying hours, but a few kids were on the swings and elderly people were taking walks.

“Do you feel better now?” Taehyung asks after a moment; he sounds more worried now, mostly because his friend didn’t say anything about his sister’s condition, so it must be something bad for him to fall apart like that.

“Yes, I…” Jeongguk snuffles, feeling his eyes aching for how much he had cried. “I feel stupid.”

“You're not stupid, Ggukie. You're allowed to have feelings, you know? And I know that you're a big softie under that emotional shield. And you have the weight of the world on your shoulders because of your family, it's normal to have an emotional breakdown sometimes. I know, I’m telling you the obvious now, but it’s the truth, I’ve known you for a while now and I know how you are.”

Jeongguk doesn't answer, he just shuts his eyes off and takes a deep breath. His chest is still heavy and he feels like he's going to start crying again at any minute. He hates that Taehyung is right, he hates that his body needs to have some sort of relief by crying out like that.

“I just... I just didn't want her to be going through this. It's cancer, hyung. Fucking cancer on her lungs and I have no money to help her out with the treatment, my mom still hasn’t found a job and my dad is a fucking asshole that was shitty to his family, what the fuck am I supposed to do now?”

“Ggukie...”

“I know.”

“Where are you now?” He asks and Jeongguk looks around, there is no sign with the address of where he is, so in addition to being useless, he feels lost. "Do you have someone with you?"

"No, I ran out of the hospital after I heard the doctor talking about the results of Minah's exams," Jeongguk says, shaking his head and feeling more stupid than minutes ago, he can't understand how he can leave his mother and sister alone during times like these.

He hears Taehyung stifling a nervous laugh and rightly so, after all, Jeongguk's voice had been funny and he was almost on the verge of groaning in regret, but even so, he knew that if he cried in front of the two, he wouldn't be helping anyone.

“I don’t think you should be right alone now, Ggukie,” Taehyung murmurs softly, Jeongguk can hear the sound of him tapping his fingers on something wooden and can swear he has heard that voice before in his life. “Do you want to send me your location? I can help you.”

“No,” Jeongguk responds instantly with more conviction than before. “This is not how I want to meet you in person, no, not like that. And I didn’t even go to work, shit. I hate this.”

“Gggukie,” Taehyung takes a small breath. “I wasn’t going to meet you, I know that we agreed that we’d meet each other when we feel ready to it and I would never use a sensitive moment to make that happen, ok? I would and I will never do that, if we happen to meet each other in person one day, it’s going to be because both of us want that. I was just going to send a taxi to pick you up and take you home. You need to be with your family now, don’t you think?”

“I do,” Jeongguk answers in a low tone, eyes staring at the cars passing by in front of him. “I shouldn’t have run away like that.”

“Do you want me to call you a taxi?” He offers again and Jeongguk feels tempted to say yes. “You can tell the driver your address and I’ll never know about it. I promise”

“Yes, I— wait a moment.”

He takes his phone away from his ear and sends his location to his chatroom with Taehyung, his hands are a bit shaky, but at least he’s not crying again. Jeongguk’s sure he’s going to regret calling Taehyung later on that day, but now he doesn’t want to think about that and he feels glad that his friend is being nice to him.

“I sent you my location,” Jeongguk mumbles again on the phone, he hears Taehyung moving around before answering.

“The cab is ten minutes away, just wait there,” he says loudly. “You can talk to me while it doesn’t arrive.”

Jeongguk thinks about a moment. He doesn’t want to talk about his sister’s disease, he doesn’t want to think about sad things, there are a lot of bad stuff happening around him already and he doesn’t need to be reminded of that for a least a few minutes. He doesn't know much about what Taehyung is up to out there, but he remembers something that the friend had been commenting on for a few days.

“That mysterious person you were looking for… Did you find them?” He asks, trying to change the subject between them.

Taehyung snorts in frustration, “No, apparently there are thousands of people with the same name or similar to theirs. It is discouraging, but eventually, I’ll find them. I've seen them just once, but it was enough to keep them in my mind.”

“And you know nothing about this person? Address, name of the rest of the family, where they live?” Jeongguk wonders, his kind going back to when Taehyung sent him a thousand messages about him playing Sherlock Holmes with a friend while trying to find someone he had seen once in his life.

“No, nothing. Just the name,” he plays with his lips and ends up saying it in a cute way, getting a chuckle from Jeongguk. “I think I could be a good detective; I have a list of people here with the name of who I want to find and I'm trying my best, my partner is just playing with me and not being helpful at all. Do you think I would make a good cop, Ggukie?”

“You’d be a different cop, hyung.” Jeongguk lifts an eyebrow, judging him in silence. “Who sees a person only once in their lives and end up amazed by them like that?”

“I’m just a sentimental person, Ggukie, let me be,” Taehyung complains in a whiny voice. “Also, if you had seen him, you would understand how I feel.”

“Oh, so it's a he.” It's a suggestive tone on his voice and Jeongguk's sure that Taehyung's getting red on the other side of the call.

“You’re making fun of me!” His voice gets to a higher tone and Jeongguk laughs. “Don’t do that! Ugh, I feel like I am in one of those fairy tales.”

Jeongguk stretches his legs, feet touching the ground as he lets his hand on the bench. He hisses softly, noticing how cutely embarrassed Taehyung was, he had never seen him talking like that.

“It’s cute, hyung, and I’m not making fun of you,” he murmurs, licking his own lips and eyes following a blue butterfly flying around him. “I hope that you find him someday, you deserve it and he seems like a nice guy.”

There was sincerity in Jeongguk’s words, he wants Taehyung to be happy, knowing that he deserves that. Ever since they started talking, Jeongguk was surprised by how good of a person his friend was, he always listens to him and never tries to get in the way of his thoughts, pretty much like how it had happened during that afternoon. Taehyung has a sensitive heart and is the one to want to help his friends when they need him, maybe that’s why Jeongguk’s first thought was to call him.

“I hope so,” Taehyung was silent for a second, Jeongguk thinks he’s daydreaming and a quiet sigh echoes in his ear. “I thought you would think that I’m weird, you know? ‘Cause I saw him once and I’m trying to find him again.”

“Nah, you know I’m not like that,” his voice sounds calm. “I think that if you like him, you should go for it. It is not always that we meet someone who grabs our attention like that, and if you think you have any chance of meeting him again, you shouldn't give up before you get close to that. I think I believe that every experience is worth it, even if we end up regretting them.”

“You’re wonderful, Ggukie,” Taehyung confesses out of nowhere, making a surprised expression appeared on Jeongguk's face. “I’m glad I have you as my friend. You’re going to be the first person to know when I find him again.”

“I’d be mad at you if I wasn’t,” Jeongguk says in a playful tone, and Taehyung chuckles, his eyes squint because of the strong sun and he notices a black car looking for someone in the park. “I think the taxi’s here.”

“I sent you the license plate number, did you see it?” Taehyung points and Jeongguk takes his phone away from his ear for a moment, seeing the number and letters before answering Taehyung again.

“Yeah, it’s him.” Jeongguk gets up, waving to the driver. He tries to get the thought away from his mind, but it doesn’t go unnoticed to himself that the car Taehyung had sent him looked too expensive to be a taxi, he doesn’t question it, although. “Thank you, hyung, again. Really, I don’t even know how to thank you enough.”

“Don’t worry, Ggukie. Just tell him your address and go stay with your family for the day. That will be enough for me.”

Before Jeongguk is able to answer anything, someone's voice echoes on the other side of the call and he recognizes Taehyung's name being called out. He squeezes his eyebrows together, but he doesn't find it weird, since Taehyung could be working at the time.

“I have to go now, Ggukie. Take care, ok? I'll be just one call away if you ever need me again.” Taehyung murmurs quickly, voice deepening, and Jeongguk just hums in response, thanking him again for asking him a taxi.

Jeongguk leaves his phone on his thighs, closing the door of the car after saying hi to the driver. He knows he's still tensed up, but he manages to tell him his address and ask how much that was going to cost.

“Nothing from you, Mr. Jeon,” says the staring at him the rearview mirror with a smile. “Mr. Kim has already paid for your ride. And I got a high tip.”

Kim? Taehyung's surname was Kim? Well, that and the fact that he had already paid for something he didn't even know how much it was going to cost was odd. But Jeongguk decides not to question anything, he just locks the seatbelt and rests his head against the window glass.

He takes a deep breath, picturing that his mom must have been worried about him after he saw that it was already past 3 pm. There were a few messages getting to his phone, but he doesn't want to see them, so he lets his phone screen facing down and waits. Jeongguk has no idea of what he’s going to say to his mom when he faces her again, he’s not even sure that she’s already back home with Minah again, but if she is, Jeongguk knows she’s not the type of mom to be questioning him for his actions, especially now that he’s not underage anymore.

The driver stops in front of his house and Jeongguk looks around, blinking softly and thinking that he didn’t even realize when they crossed his neighborhood.  He thanks the driver before heading out of the taxi, the keys from the gate resting on his hand. Jeongguk doesn’t notice that, but the driver looks weirdly at the fact that there are keys on his hands and a lock on the gate, along with manual locks on the door, it was not as if Jeongguk lived in the most developed part of Seoul, he knew that in other middle-class places the opening of doors was done using digital passwords.

He takes a deep breath before walking into his house, already hearing the loud voices of his siblings talking and he shivers when he notices his mom’s and Minah’s along with the rest of them. He should’ve known that the doctor would just tell his mom to take her daughter home, for them to rest before starting the treatment.

“Hyung!” Minjae yells running to Jeongguk when he first sees him, he forces a smile and pats his brothers back. “Are you on your day off today? We’re watching Avengers!”

His eyes fall on the television, and he can see the face of Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans talking as Iron Man and Captain America, Minah has a bowl of popcorn on her thighs and her mom’s right arm around her shoulders, the rest of them are paying attention to the movie while Jieun smiles to her son, Minah asks him to seat next to her and he lets out a breath he doesn’t even know he was holding before.

She’s not mad at me, it’s the first thing Jeongguk thinks before sitting in the middle of his younger siblings and have his mom playing with his hair softly. He knows that the next months aren’t going to be easy, he will have to work more, his sister is going to suffer a bit more than she already is and they are going to face more financial problems, but he allows himself not to think much about it.

 

When the night time comes, Jeongguk lays on his bed and stares at the ceiling while taking a deep breath, his phone is resting by his side and he has just talked with his manager about why he missed work. Since afternoon he knew he was screwed, but hearing that coming out from Seokjin’s mouth didn’t go well – if he wants his salary to not have a discount in the end of the month, he would have to work with no breaks in between for three weeks. It wasn’t exactly Seokjin’s fault, but Jeongguk was mad, so he blamed him and felt sorry for himself.

He has his eyes closed when the door opens and his mom walks in, she’s in a blue pajama and sits by his side, with a straight face as soon as Jeongguk looked at her and sat with his back resting against the wall.

“I think we need to talk, Jeonggukie,” she says crossing her hands on top of her knees. “First, you’re going to listen to me, and then I want to hear from you, ok?”

Jeongguk nods, swallowing dry as he put his phone screen down. “Ok.”

“Minah has stage one lung cancer and that’s a fact, denying it is just going to make things worse than they are, Jeonggukie, and we don’t need that in this house anymore, we don’t need more suffering that we already had for a lifetime,” Jieun says at once and Jeongguk doesn’t even blink. “I spent almost an hour talking to the doctors, nurses and with Minah when you left the hospital, we found out that her doctor already suspected that, but she didn’t want to make us worried with assumptions, so she talking with the pulmonologist and with the oncologist, they agreed to do those tests and they confirmed the disease. The good thing is that it looks like it hasn’t spread to any other parts of her body and it’s completely treatable. There are a few other exams she’ll need to do before starting treatment and we’re going to need to be strong for her during these next few months, she’s going to need us a lot and we’re going to be there for her.”

She pauses, and Jeongguk blinks heavily. His mother’s tone is strong and she looks more serious than usual. “I can take more shifts an-”

“I’m not done yet, Jeongguk,” he bites his own tongue and keeps staring at her. “I told your siblings about everything, they’re not in the dark about anything. They know that their sister is sick and that she’s going to go through a hard time. Minjae told me to bake her some cookies to not let her sad, Jeongmin said that he’s going to download every documentary about the royal family for her to watch on her phone while she’s in the hospital, Songhwa had already gotten a job a few weeks ago, which I think you didn’t know about, and… you ran away, Jeongguk. You ran.”

Jeongguk’s mouth feels drier than before and he doesn’t know how to answer, especially because his mom’s eyes are not even blinking. He doesn’t know what to say to her, he doesn’t have an excuse on why he ran. “I’m so sorry, mom. I should tell Minah that, too.”

“Wh- Why are you apologizing?” Jieun almost chokes on her words. “Sweetie, you don’t need to apologize for that. You- You’ve been doing so much for this family since you were so young, Jeongguk, I couldn’t… I can’t ask you anything. You’re one of the most responsible people that I’ve ever known and it shouldn’t be like that, you should have lived your life and your youth, you had to take a place that wasn’t yours. And…”

“Mom…” Jeongguk tries to say, but his mom shushes him quietly.

“You’re not fine, Jeongguk,” she says, taking off a paper from her pocket. “It has been a while since I know you’re on the verge of losing it and I don’t want to lose you, Jeonggukie. I don’t want to see you suffering, you don’t deserve this. You had to carry us on your back for so long, and now Minah’s sick and we are having financial problems, things are going to keep getting worse if we don’t do something about it.”

“What’s this?”

Instead of answering, his mom hands him the paper and looks up to his eyes again. “You’re going to resign that part-time job, Jeongguk. Songhwa has gotten a summer job and she’s trying to get a full-time one, at least for these months while she’s at home and then we can figure out something. I had a conversation with my physiotherapist and he told me that I can go back to work now, and I have a friend who has a bakery, it’s not going to be much, but we can handle it together, ok? I just want you to take care of yourself.”

He opens the paper while his mom caresses his shoulders and almost chokes on his own saliva when he reads the words in there. “Mom?”

“I know that you might like it, but… I’ve read about it and I think it’s going to be good for you to talk with someone about whatever you want to, it’s going to take a burden out of you, Jeonggukie,” she holds his hand, noticing how some silent tears left his eyes. “And I talked with the staff of the hospital and they told me about a few psychologists that work there and are good, I had your documents numbers with me and scheduled a consult for you. You don’t need to go if you don’t want to, but just… consider it, ok? It’s not just the rest of us that need to be taken care of, sweetie, and you’ve been neglecting yourself for quite a while.”

“Are you sure?” Jeongguk almost chokes on his own words, running his hands over his face to wipe away tears. “I ... I don't need to leave my part-time job and... Songhwa is so young.”

“Jeonggukie, please," Jieun sighs heavily. "I have a job now, too. And if there's one thing I've learned in my life, it's that one day our kids grow up and we need to be able to deal with it, you taught me that, dear. It hurt me to see you working and studying at the same time because of our big family and me being the only form of income, then there was the accident and... Well, it happened and now we are here. I almost didn't believe it when Songhwa told me she was ready to start working, but, like it or not, she is already seventeen and can do that, she was worried about you, too, you might think that we don’t see you, Jeonggukie, but we do, and we are here for you. You no longer need to be the only person to give your blood and sweat for everything here, we can do it together, but for that to happen, need you to be well and healthy, and we can’t stay in the way that we are, I shouldn’t have let it get to this point.”

Jeongguk’s crying now, for the second time that day, and he doesn’t know what to say either. He knows that he’s not fine, anyone on his position wouldn’t be, however, he didn’t think that his younger sister and mom would realize that easily. Maybe they have seen all of his sleepless nights, where he spent overthinking about everything and doing math equations on where he could cut some own and home expenses to have more free money at the end of the month. Or the way he hid a little bit the fact that he delayed their rent because he missed the last bus home, had to pay for a taxi that was too expensive and he was missing a few bucks to complete the rent.

“It’s okay, Jeonggukie. It’s okay,” his mom says, hugging him tightly and letting him cry on her shoulder. “Just let it all out.”

 

The next morning, Jeongguk wakes up with a headache from how much he cried yesterday, but he takes a painkiller and goes to work anyways. He has some time to think about what his mother had said to him last night because of the low income of costumers that morning, he still feels kind of stiffy because of everything that has happened, he feels like he has a stuffy nose and it's halfway getting a cold. It's not a pleasant feeling, but he spends his morning in the best way possible, and, when his shift ends and he leaves his apron in the changing room, he goes to talk with the manager and tell him he's resigning the job.

It doesn't feel good, Jeongguk doesn't like how he leaves the convenience store, but he knows that it's the best option. There's a difference between working hard and overworking your body and Jeongguk knows he needs to learn that because that's all he's been doing for almost all of his teenage years and it's going to be difficult, but one day he'll get there.

It's still early when he gets to the restaurant, there are only a few costumers and he has forty minutes free before his shift starts. So, he decides to order something nice to eat and grabs his phone, letting his backpack on the chair in front of him.

 

Ggukie [1:21 pm]

hi, taehyungie hyungie

I'm sorry i didn't give you an update yesterday

things were kinda crazy at home and

 I didn't know what to say

thank you again for helping me

 

Tae [1:32 pm]

GGUKIE I was worried :(

Are you feeling better now???

Did the driver treat you nicely?

Also don't worry I get that

and I was busy for the rest of the day

couldn't stop thinking about you, tho

 

Ggukie [1:33 pm]

I'm better now, I think?

I had a long conversation with my mom during the evening after my siblings went to sleep

turns out my sister's cancer is treatable and she'll be fine with surgery and chemotherapy,

I researched about the doctor that's with her case and he's good, he's a specialist in the field and has good results, I think she's in good hands

and my mom was so worried about me and my sister and I realized I was not hurting myself but her too with the way I was living

She got me a consult with a psychologist which I guess it's nice, it might help me

and I resigned from the convenience store, I'll only work at the restaurant from now on

and the driver was cool

 

Tae [1:35 pm]

I'm happy for you :(((

You deserve a break, and your mom's wonderful, give her a warm hug for me

I believe your sister will win this battle and you'll be celebrating in the future, she's strong

and I'm here if you ever need me

 

Ggukie [1:36 pm]

I already did, Kim Taehyung-ssi

 

Tae [1:38pm]

HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT

 

Ggukie [1:39 pm]

the driver told me yesterday

Tae [1:40 pm]

That's unfair, you know my full name

and I only know your nickname?

How does it work???!!!??

 

Ggukie [1:40 pm]

You heard my voice yesterday

 

Tae [1:41 pm]

You heard mine too,

this isn't fair

 

Ggukie [1:42 pm]

ok, I'll give you two things

1 - I'm eating Italian food

2 - I have a tattoo on my arm

 

Tae [1:43 pm]

You didn't give me shit

I won't be your friend anymore

Also, I didn't picture you having a tattoo

 

Ggukie [1:44 pm]

it's a phrase on the inside of my biceps, it's well hidden and almost nobody sees it,

 it was a crazy birthday gift from a friend who works with me,

 he knew I wanted to do one, but I didn't have enough money,

so, when I turned 21 he took me to a studio

 

Tae [1:45 pm]

Tattoos are so cool

what's the phrase???

 

Ggukie [1:46 pm]

that's another secret

 

Tae [1:47 pm]

You're so mean to me

Ggukie [1:48 pm]

i’m not mean

i just like a little bit of mystery

Ggukie [1:49 pm]

I have to go now

my shift is about to start

talk to you later?

Tae [1:50 pm]

Okay

Tae [1:51 pm]

So you work in an italian restaurant?

Interesting

Ggukie [1:51 pm]

I do not

Tae [1:52 pm]

Yes you do,

don't lie to me

Have a good day of work ^~^

 

Jeongguk laughs to his scream, he didn't even think that Taehyung would realize that he was talking about eating at an Italian restaurant and working in the same place, but he is sure that there are more than a hundred restaurants like that around Seoul.

He leaves the table with his backpack on his back, knowing he had ten minutes to change and go to the kitchen. They had already taken his plate from the table, so he didn't have to worry about it and just went to the cashier to pay for what he had eaten. His uniform was neatly folded in his backpack and he hurried to change his clothes, he was in the employees' bathroom brushing his teeth when Seokjin appeared beside him.

“Hey, Jeonggukie,” the manager says with half a smile on his lips. “Are you feeling better? What about your sister?”

“Yes, I-“  he spits out the toothpaste in the sink. “I'm doing a lot better today, Minah went to the doctor again with my mom today, but I thought it was better for me not to go. Thanks for understanding.”

“No problem,” Seokjin moves his shoulders, washing his hands calmly. "Today your shift runs until nine, okay? I want you to meet me in the meeting room before you leave. It's important. Have a good day.”

And then he just leaves, Jeongguk stares at his own reflection and takes a deep breath. He just hopes that he’s not in trouble, he doesn’t think he has done a bad job so far --- he’s been work in there for a while now and no one has ever complained about him, and the one and only time he missed work was yesterday.

Trying not to overthink everything again, Jeongguk finishes brushing his teeth and fixes his clothes. He puts his toothbrush in his locker before heading to the kitchen at exactly 2 pm. He hasn’t seen Hoseok yet, but he knows that his friend is going to ask him about what happened yesterday, just like other people had.

He tries to do his best during the whole workday, the restaurant isn’t that full, so he spends more time helping cleaning the kitchen than washing the dishes. Jeongguk likes to be helpful and working is a good way of trying to make a sense out of his thoughts, and he’s still thinking about the consult his mom had scheduled for him was a good excuse to not stop until his break at dawn.

When Jeongguk finally meets Hoseok at the restaurant, while eating a vegetarian sandwich, he realized he was right about the number of questions the older man would ask. So, he spent half an hour of his breaks telling the whole story of what had happened the day before, from Minah's appointment to the way he escaped from the hospital, talked to Taehyung on the phone, and the conversation he had with his mother during at night.

Hoseok agrees with his mom, that he should go see a specialist and Jeongguk takes a deep breath, which only confirms his decision of finally choosing himself and go to the psychologist.

“Did Seokjin hyung ask you to go see him in the meeting room after your shift?” Jeongguk asks cleaning his mouth with a paper napkin, Hoseok shrugs, hiding his face on his hands.

“Yes, I thought I was getting fired,” he pouts, looking again at Jeongguk. “I dropped something on the floor yesterday, in front of him and one of the costumers was so, so, mad.”

“I don’t think he’d fire both of us at the same time,” Jeongguk frowns, throwing the napkin on the trashcan next to them. “It might be something else.”

“I hope so,” Hoseok groans, letting his head rest on the table. “I’m going to propose to Jimin, I even bought the rings. I can’t lose my job right now.”

“Wait, what? You’re gonna propose to Jimin? Really?” Jeongguk opens his mouth in surprise, causing Hoseok’s mouth to turn into a huge smile. “Hyung!”

“I was thinking about it for a while, already...” Hoseok hisses, pouting softly in Jeongguk's direction. “I love him so much, Jeonggukie, I don't think I can see my future without Jimin on my side. I was talking to my sister these days and she helped me choose the rings. I'm taking the weekend off, I thought I'd take it him at his favorite restaurant, then go to that amusement park that opened next to his house and ask for his hand in marriage on the Ferris wheel. What do you think?”

“I think Jimin hyung is going to freak out on the Ferris wheel, but it's a great plan.” Hoseok laughs, seeing the sloppy way Jeongguk speaks. “Seriously, I'm happy for you two, you deserve to be happy.”

Seokjin enters the room and gives them a weird-looking, which makes the two employees get up from the chairs quickly and bow to him before leaving the breakroom. Jeongguk goes back to work, after all, the time when the restaurant was fullest was about to start and whoever took his place during his break was one of the waiters.

When the clock hits 9 pm, someone from the cashier comes to the kitchen and tells him that he’s going to take Jeongguk’s place on washing the dishes. He glances at the clock and thanks to his co-worker before walking to the change room, his clothes were half-wet half-dirty, so he would have to wash them at home. He finds a plastic bag and puts it on his backpack after changing himself.

It’s 9:15 pm and Jeongguk walks in the meeting room with his backpack on his shoulders, there are a few people there, already sitting on the chairs around the table. His eyes find Hoseok in one of the corners and an empty chair beside him, he doesn’t think twice and goes to sit with his friend. The fact that there are more people than the two of them somehow calms Jeongguk a bit, but he’s still nervous because there were people from every part of the restaurant. He could recognize a few other waiters, cashiers, cleaning staff, and even some from the kitchen.

They wait for fifteen more minutes, a few other people appear and complete ten employees in the room when Seokjin walks in, a bunch of papers on his hands and dark bags under his eyes that Jeongguk hadn’t seen back in the bathroom. He closes the door behind him and finds himself at the bottom of the table.

“First, I’d like to thank all of you for coming here tonight,” Seokjin starts after letting out a sigh. “I know that some of you might have found this weird, but I had no other way of asking something like this to you.”

Jeongguk and Hoseok face each other, noticing the uneasy way that Seokjin’s words come out from his mouth, but they decide to not say anything. It wasn’t their place and it looks like something important.

“Before starting, do any of you have a problem with signing NDA?” He asks, looking to the face of every place present in there. “A non-disclosure agreement, nothing can leave this room after signing it. If you don’t agree with those deals, you can just walk out of the room and it’s fine, just know that you won’t be able to find out what’s this meeting is about and if someone says anything, we’ll know and you’ll get fired.”

Right. That was stranger than the conversation from earlier, but Jeongguk sees no problem with that, after all, he is always keeping secrets from the people around him. Taehyung doesn't know about much of him, despite being the one who understands him most, and his family, well, his family doesn't know something very important about him. At least Jeongguk thinks it’s important.

A couple of people walk out, making Seokjin swallow dry, but he keeps his straight face and goes on with the meeting. He hands the ones that stayed there the papers, and Jeongguk lifts an eyebrow and he sees his name on the top of the agreement. Seokjin must have been planning this for quite a while.

“Okay, you don’t have to sign this now we’ll just have a quick talk before,” Seokjin takes a seat, resting his back on the plastic of the chair. “We’re going to have a special dinner here next week, and I was asked to choose my best staff to make this event happen. I’m not the one responsible for this, but he’s on his way and he’s going to explain everything to all of you.”

Jeongguk gulps, wondering again if he made the right choice of staying. He thinks it’s nice that Seokjin thinks of him as one of his best employees, but the fact that an important event is going to happen makes him feel a little bit insecure about it. There’s a knock on the door and everyone stares at Seokjin, who gets up and opens it quickly, bowing to the person in there.

It takes a whole minute for Seokjin to finish talking to whoever would explain the whole situation to the staff, but Jeongguk is quick to notice the stiff way the man walked, as if he had several books on top of his head, his posture was one of straightest that he had already seen and hardly any noise was heard as he walked, his clothes were expensive and extremely clean, they looked like a fabric so soft that Jeongguk had never touched in his life. His hair was extremely black and straight, with not even one inch of hair out of place. Their eyes met for a second and Jeongguk recognized those cat-like piercing eyes, he was the king's advisor: Min Yoongi.

There is a low humble of people surprised, the noise of chairs being dragged away from the table, and people bowing the man at the same time, Jeongguk and Hoseok included. Like it or not, Yoongi was part of the government, part of royalty, and nobody wanted to be disrespectful to them.

“Hello. I hope you are having a good night. There is no reason to remain to stand, you may sit down.” Yoongi says with a gummy smile between his lips, Jeongguk takes a deep breath and sits in silence, not without first taking a look at Hoseok next to him, who looks as nervous as he is. Yoongi has a deep and calm voice at the same time, which makes them less alert with the presence of a member of the government there.

He had not seen Yoongi when he went to the few party days weeks ago, but he had seen him on television several times, alongside the king and his heir, so it was difficult not to know who he was. If Yoongi was there, the important event could only mean one thing.

“So, let's get down to business.” He sits in the place that Seokjin was seated before. “I think you already know what this is about. I'm not going to mess around and take your time, everything is much more explained in the contract than in what I, other people from the royalty along with Seokjin and the restaurant owner wrote together, but I wanted to explain some things before leaving all of you at the mercy of words that are too difficult and a bit complicated.”

Jeongguk's confused to say at least, he even tried to read bits of the contract, but he didn't go too far, just found some rules and his name all around the text. He glances at the paper once more and then his eyes go back to Yoongi, who's licking his hands and letting his palms touch the wood of the table.

“The future queen made a request last week,” he proceeds, grabbing everyone's attention. “She wanted to eat here and only here, wouldn't have it delivered nor from any other places. Apparently, when she was younger her father and the old owner of the brand of your restaurant were friends and she was always eating food from your receipts. So, we had no choice and ended up contacting those responsible for the restaurant.  We need to close it for the whole day to receive part of the royal family and it is clear that everyone who decides to accept to work here during this day will receive a check made by the prince himself.  It will be a generous extra to your monthly salary for the effort, work done and training you received from one of the palace's etiquette teachers. You may be asking yourself: ‘why didn't we just ask the staff from the palace to work here?’ and, with that we have a problem, the princess asked to have the restaurant staff working during her dinner and she's not the person to talk back to.”

Jeongguk’s eyes get wide open. That was the only option he hadn’t considered during all the minutes of the meeting. The future queen eating at their restaurant? That was just too out of the ordinary for him to believe and he almost stops paying attention with all the information Min Yoongi was giving them.

He’s flattered that his bosses think he’s worth it of being part of the team, but at the same time, he knows that, if he makes any mistake, it will cost him his job and his curriculum, after all, the royal family would not let a commoner do something wrong in his presence — especially when they are paying for it. service —, and doing a shitty job to the future was definitely getting yourself a bad reputation. Then, Jeongguk swallows dry and moves his eyes from Yoongi to the paper, as soon as he tells them to finish reading the contracts before making a decision. In all cases, the non-disclosure contract should be signed, no one would know about the future queen's visit to the restaurant, which could cause agglomerations and problems for the Korean crown.

The contract was, basically, a more detailed version with bigger and much more complicated words than the ones that Yoongi had used to explain the course of the dinner. Some people would remain in their original positions, but Jeongguk was moved from the kitchen to the position of waiter, he recalled that Yoongi had mentioned that Seokjin moved positions based on what the prince and princess had asked for; Jeongguk didn't know how being taken away from washing dishes and becoming a waiter for one night fits the requirements of the royal family, but he decides not to question.

The rest of the contract is basically them explaining how the etiquette classes are going to happen: they're out of duty for the rest of the week, during their working hours they'll be meeting with a teacher from the palace, who will be the one responsible to make them look fancier and well- managed, just like the royalty likes. It is going to start out on the next day, the restaurant will be closed down with the excuse of drawing up the mid-year balance sheet and the rest of the staff is already on vacation for one week.

Since he didn't have any problems with the topics of the contract, Jeongguk just takes a pen out of his backpack and signs when Yoongi tells them that they're free to make any decisions and go home, that they would have more information on the following day.

He walks out of the restaurant a few minutes later, holding his phone on his hand as he pressed play on his playlist. It was still early compared to other days and he didn't have to wait much before getting to the bus to go home, he takes a picture of the reflection of the moon on the Han River and sends it to Taehyung.

 

Ggukie [10:32 pm]

(picture)

Hi, good night

It's beautiful isn't it?

Tae [10:33 pm]

Ggukieee

You're earlier than the usual today

Also, yes, it is, it's the Han River?

 

Ggukie [10:34 pm]

yes, I just took the picture and it reminded me of you

I remember you told me you like taking pictures

Tae [10:35 pm]

Damn

that was one of the first things I told you about myself

Ggukie [10:35 pm]

I have a great memory, hyung

i also remember that you like animals, but you prefer dogs out of all of them, and that because of that you stopped eating meat for a while, but ended up going to the hospital because you were with the lack of proteins in your blood

and that you have more siblings than me, but most of them are older than you, so they're not as present in your life as mine are

 

Tae [10:36 pm]

You know more about me than my parents

That's sweet

Cause one time I was having a hard time, and my mom adopted me a cat, saying that it would make me feel better

 

Ggukie [10:37 pm]

Did you get rid of it? lmao

 

Tae [10:38 pm]

Surprisingly, no

I still have her

Her name is Dorothy and she's best friends with my dog

Yes, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz

 

Ggukie [10:39 pm]

Why I never knew about this?????

 

Tae [10:40 pm]

Because it happened like

Last month

And you were soooo busy that I thought I shouldn't bother you with my mom doing her usual stuff

You would like her, you know?

Everyone thinks she's so serious and stuff, but she's a sweetheart who's always trying her best

 

Ggukie [10:41 pm]

Give her a big hug for me

Tae [10:42 pm]

I will!!!!!!!

Wait, did you leave work earlier today?

 

Ggukie [10:42 pm]

yeah, I did

the manager closed down the restaurant earlier and had a meeting with part of the staff

something about the months balance or idk

I'm going home now

Tae [10:43 pm]

At least you can sleep more now

Or I can bother you until you get tired of me

 

Ggukie [10:44 pm]

As if I'll ever get tired of you

 

Tae [10:45 pm]

Now I'm flattered

Even if I start sending pictures of my feet?

 

Ggukie [10:45 pm]

Please don't send pictures of your feet

Tae [10:46 pm]

don’t judge me :(

Ggukie [10:46 pm]

Lmao

i’m near home

talk to you later, hyung!!

 

He hides his phone in his pocket and gets up from his seat, he sighs feeling signs of relief in his chest. The money he will earn from that restaurant event would be almost twice as much as his salary, and that just to serve the royal family for one night. Jeongguk wondered how much the people who worked at the palace were earning monthly, of course, they must have signed a huge contract similar to the one he had just agreed to, but the money must be worth it. He remembered something about that from when he was learning about the working class and the royalty back in school, but he wasn't sure if people who worked at the palace could or could not have contact with the outside world that much.

He also remembers that it was not so easy to enter the palace to work, it was too long and slow, Jeongguk had read something about it when he was looking for a full-time job. But, well, now he and his family could manage well without needing a better salary, of course, any extra income would be good, but he would not submit himself to their system to get into a job where he couldn't even see his siblings and his mother at the end of the day.

As he unlocks the door, he sees his family playing Uno and smiles, throwing his backpack anywhere and squeezing himself on the floor to play with them.

 

The days that go by after that are busier than Jeongguk realizes, he leaves the house every day at the same time and has almost ten hours of training with one of the teachers from the palace. Yoongi is always around the restaurant watching everything. The place is also being renovated, the tables have been replaced by new ones, made of polished and shiny wood, they have fixed some stains on the walls and the floor tiles are as shiny as new. Dishes were exchanged, along with cutlery, and Jeongguk could have sworn that the billboard with the restaurant's name on the outside is brighter than ever. They weren’t lying, after wall, that looked like some change. And Jeongguk was sure that, by the end of that week, the place would look as good as new.

On Friday, they received new uniforms and Seokjin informs that, from that day on, that would be the daily uniform for all employees. It is more beautiful and much more formal than the old one, the fabric is lighter, the bow tie fits well on his neck and the color of the fabric is darker than his hair, it doesn't even look like a uniform when he sees himself in the mirror, Jeongguk wonders if he will become a waiter or continue to work in the kitchen after dinner with the princess takes place, he doesn’t mind changing his the place of work, but he’s just not so sure if he fits the service, he’s too shy to deal with new people and was breaking out of his shell to do that for the royal family. And, well, he knows why the owner is making all these changes at the restaurant and keeping Seokjin totally occupied, the name of the restaurant will go to the top of the charts after news that the royal family had dinner at that establishment leaked to the media.

And of course, this is going to happen, Jeongguk is not a fool to think otherwise. Maybe it is even a combined marketing strategy between Seokjin and Yoongi, that they will have description and quiet during dinner and in return, some member of royalty will post a photo on social media and mark the restaurant's name on the post, so they would be busier, the restaurant would have more customers and, consequently, the owner would earn more daily. He doesn’t know who’s going to be, but he also doesn’t know who else is coming to the restaurant along with the future king and queen, he had heard that they weren’t the only ones, but there wasn’t any other name alongside with theirs.

The Italian restaurant was already well frequented, after all, it was close to the Han River, with several taxi and bus stops around, not to mention the romantic setting inside that was worthy of a marriage proposal — something that Jeongguk already had lost count of how many times he saw it happen. It was a cliché and not surprising when everyone started to applaud and, suddenly, someone was kneeling holding a box with a shiny ring inside.

Despite his daily attitude of someone who didn't care about relationships, Jeongguk felt very frustrated that his love life was based on random cases from his adolescence and when Hoseok dragged him to a nightclub. And he wouldn't even start talking about how much he was in love with his best virtual friend. No, he didn't even like to think about it. He and Taehyung were very different, they hadn't even met in person yet, but his stupid smile every time he read a message from the elder didn't deceive him, that with his chest tightening whenever he thought of Taehyung. He’s always throwing those thoughts to the back of his mind, ignoring how he dreams of him, with thousands of different faces, but with the same voice, he had heard over the phone.

Sometimes, Jeongguk wonders if Taehyung feels the same way, but then he remembers that the elder was friendly to him when he met him the same way he is today. Maybe it's just the cheerful and outgoing personality, and his way of being and that made Jeongguk sigh, hurting his own heart with questions that he would have no answer to if he didn't ask them. And the problem was that Jeongguk was fearful, despite being strong, he was very fearful and one of his biggest anxieties was losing his friendship with Taehyung. And he always has something to thing other than being in love with his best friend, his life isn’t easy in any aspect.

It was obvious that no one knew this, but Jeongguk was sure that one of the reasons he had not yet said yes to meeting Taehyung in person was that he was afraid that he would end up just being even more in love with the older one when he met him. He was also afraid of being a big disappointment to Taehyung in every single aspect, of course, Taehyung knew that he worked hard, that the situation at home was not the best, but the Jeongguk of the messages was not the same Jeongguk of real life. The real-life Jeongguk had more fears and talked less, worked too much, and lived less, worried too much, and didn't even remember when he last kissed someone or had sex. And that made him wonder: what if Taehyung was also totally different from who he seemed to be in the messages they exchanged?

Yes, Jeongguk had already seen something about all the different human personalities and that we are not always the same every day, with the same people and we have the same mood, but there is great ease in pretending to be someone you are not when you are not. is looking at the other person's face. But no, Jeongguk doesn't believe that Taehyung would be able to do that, not Taehyung who stayed up until dawn listening to him talk about his final exams at school or what he called a taxi when he was in the middle of a never-ending cry.

And it was precisely this Taehyung that Jeongguk was in love with. The human Taehyung, who made him laugh and was online in the craziest hours in the world. The Taehyung who cared about him and that if he disappeared for a day, he would fill his cell phone with messages and would even try to call your phone to know if everything was fine if he needs anything. One day, Jeongguk wondered if he hadn't fallen in love with him just because Taehyung was someone who cared about him, but then, he remembered that Hoseok also cared, and he had never fallen in love with Jung Hoseok.

Jeongguk feels like his life is a big tightrope. Sometimes, it’s like he’s in a seesaw and he is the person who is stuck on the wet floor while the other is flying, watching the blue-sky shine. And sometimes it’s on a roller coaster that just goes down or on a locked Ferris wheel and he’s the person on top and afraid of heights. And, well, he recognizes that he needs to stop being a little pessimistic about himself after his consultation with the psychologist, even after leaving her office knowing less about himself than when he entered.

It is the day before dinner with the royal family and he is off work, Yoongi and Seokjin gave the day off for everyone to rest and be well and beautiful for the next day's event, said in those exact same words. He is at home after his appointment and does not quite know what to do. It is the first day that he is off and has literally the whole day free.

He plays cards with Minah, who looks a little down due to the start of treatment and needs to have some cheerful moments with her siblings because of it, Jeongmin and Minjae. His mother and Songhwa are working and will not be home until around five in the afternoon. It is tedious to be at home after spending so much active time, working non-stop for a moment, but Jeongguk acknowledges that he needed a little rest.

His mother and sister come home when he is making dinner together with Jeongmin, Minah went to take a nap for being too tired and Minjae is in the room watching cartoons. Jeongguk gives a loud sigh when he hears his mother say that Minah's surgery has been scheduled for the following month and she has a good chance of recovering quickly from that disease.

“Mom,” Jeongguk says, later on, that night, it’s almost 11 pm and they’re heading to bed. He swallows dry when she looks at him. “I have something to tell you.”

“Hum?” Jieun moves her eyebrows, taking off her earing and then looking at her son. “What’s the matter, honey? Did something happen at your consult today?”

“No, Mrs. Song is amazing. She asked me to call her Jungha because Mrs. makes her feel old,” says he with a chuckle, and he holds his own bare feet touching the sheets of the bed out of nervousness. “It’s not about the consult that I want to talk to you, it’s something else.”

“Ok, then, go on.” Jieun touches her back on the wall next to his bed, looking at her son with a questioning expression on her eyes as he takes a deep breath. “Your shoulders are so tense, Jeonggukie…”

“That’s ‘cause I don’t know how to talk to you about this, mom. I don’t wanna keep this to myself anymore…” Jeongguk gulps. “There’s this boy, he’s just like the other ones, you know? He works every day, he cares about his family and… he wants to have a dog someday, or a cat, or maybe even both. And he doesn’t want anything to change in his relationship with his family, he loves them too much to let that happen and he’s unsure of everything, but, at the same time, he feels like he’s hiding something from them.”

“Oh,” that’s all his mom says. And Jeongguk just knows that she already knows what he’s going to talk about. “Oh, Gguk. Come here.”

She wraps him in her arms, letting him rest her chin on his shoulder and knows when Jeongguk closes his eyes. A loud sigh echoes through the room along with Jeongguk's lips moving to finish telling him what he wanted so badly. And his mom knows, she just knows. Maybe she didn't realize it before, after all, the boy was never at home for so long after he passed puberty and the years of discovering himself, but it was not difficult to guess what it was about without him having to say everything with all the words. But even so, Jieun lets Jeongguk say everything he wants to say, because it seems that there is a huge weight on her son's shoulders and she wants him to be happy, no matter who he is or how it will happen.

Jeongguk's crying quietly and Jieun caresses his back, she doesn't remember seeing him crying so much as he had done so that week. She knows that it might be his feelings finally coming out as they should, he had been keeping to much stuff inside himself for too long, he had got that from her, she was always the one wanting to feel everyone else's pain, to make everything better and forget about herself.

The only thing she says is that she loves him and that he should go to sleep because it's late and he has to work tomorrow. And, just like that Jeongguk knows that everything is going to be fine, that his family is going to stay just how it is and that who he loves doesn’t change the way that his family is his rock.

When Jeongguk lays down on his bed, he looks at the ceiling and wonders what would his dad think of him right now, what would he say about who Jeongguk is. He doesn’t remember much of the man, sometimes he’s glad he doesn’t, but it can’t stop him from thinking how would his life be if his dad wasn’t such an asshole.

He probably wouldn't be as close to his mother as he is now, or he wouldn't have such a strong bond with his siblings. He would still be living in Busan, close to the beach and his financial conditions would be better, but he would not have met Taehyung or Hoseok, maybe he was a totally different person and his mother would be happier. Perhaps in an alternate universe, it would happen, but Jeongguk also knew that he could not live in the world of 'maybe' and ‘what if’ forever and, with that thought, he falls asleep.

 

On the following day, Jeongguk’s sweating nervously as he holds onto his uniform when he gets to the restaurant. Everything was too clean and it seemed that with just a touch, Jeongguk's stomach churns inside his body just thinking about it.  He had already seen the main part of the restaurant, everything had been rearranged and there was a big long table in the middle of the room, the tablecloths were blue and the lights were white glowing, very similar to the ones he had seen in the palace almost a  month ago. The windows were totally clean and the menus were redone, the pictures stuck on the walls were with new frames and Jeongguk thinks it's funny how someone needed to come so that his boss thought the restaurant was in need of a makeover, but he understood, he didn't want to give a bad image to the future governors of his country.

The weather was hot because it was the middle of summer, but the air conditioning helped to control his body temperature, so Jeongguk took a sigh and walks into the bathroom to take a shower. The etiquette teacher was already hanging around the restaurant, making all the employees remember that the royal family would arrive at exactly eight o'clock, the evening dishes were already being prepared and Jeongguk was going over everything he had learned in his mind.

The employees were supposed to be there one hour before the arrival of the royal family — the cookers were a different rule, they already had the menu that the royal siblings and the future queen wanted to eat and they were there since morning, preparing everything and making sure that nothing was out of place.

He doesn't want to do anything wrong that evening and he hopes that he doesn't trip over his own foot while holding wine glasses. But then he remembers that he spent more than two days walking around the restaurant with books on top of his head and holding heavy plates, so he should be fine. His posture is better than before and his shoulders look wider because of that, Hoseok, by his side on the changing room, looks just as nervous as he is. Jeongguk knows he's happy that he good his yes during the weekend and that he's marrying Jimin sometime this year, but the feeling of working for the royal family didn't let anyone chill during those seven past days.

Before the clock hits 8 pm, Jeongguk's ready, and his phone is on his locker. There's a small amount of makeup on his face, his hair looks a little bit wavy and his clothes are perfectly fitted on his body, he's next to the other waiters, who are organized by height, and holding his hands together behind him. The doors are closed, but Jeongguk knows that in a few minutes part of the royal family is going to walk in, Yoongi's presence in the room is heavy and Seokjin's moving his shoulders around so he can look more comfortable in front of everyone else.

There aren't many people inside the restaurant and it's something different to look at, Jeongguk's used to seeing all of the tables booked and his sink full of dishes to wash, but now the tables are all hidden away somewhere and there's only one in the middle of the room. He licks his lips, feeling the sweet taste of strawberry from lip balm on his tongue. And suddenly Yoongi's moving around, telling them to be ready and Jeongguk's eyes widen.

Jeongguk swallows a breath and notices the front door opening, there's a guard holding the doorknob and another one walking in front of the royal princess, Jeongguk's eyes met with her belly and he knows that she's pregnant. That's why there were a bunch of topics about not taking pictures or phones not being allowed during dinner. Prince Jongho and princess Yoohyun had gotten married a few weeks ago, Jeongguk remembers, just a little bit after that documentary being aired and the whole ceremony was aired on television.

His mind goes back to when the wedding was announced and happened, everyone was saying that it was more rushed than other royal weddings and now he understands why. Maybe they can say that Yoohyeon had an early delivery, but it was obvious that she was pregnant before the actual marriage and that could go badly for them — something about following the rules of only having kids after getting married.

When the door closes again, the first thing all of the waiters and other employees that were waiting for them to arrive bow to the royal family, eyes closed and face almost touching their knees in respect. Jeongguk straights his back again, a formal smile forming between his lips, just like the etiquette teacher had taught him and, when his eyes open again, the first thing that he sees is the rectangular smile of Kim Taehyung in front of him and he almost loses his breath.

Sure, he had considered that option, Taehyung was part of the royal family and could go with his brother and sister-in-law to the dinner at the restaurant, but he let go of that thought sooner than later. So, Jeongguk keeps quiet and follows the protocol of only speaking to them when they speak to him, helping them have a seat, and walking around without making any noise. There was the sound of a violin playing in the background and of their glasses touching the wood table, the princess was drinking the juice, but Taehyung, Jongho, and Yuna were having wine.

Taehyung's eyes are fixed on him and Jeongguk almost makes a mistake when he serves them one of the dishes of the night. The prince's staring is heavy and Jeongguk knows he's half-smiling and half liking how his hands are trembling while holding the plates. He can feel the sweat going down on his neck and swears at himself when he walks back to the kitchen, he lets out a breath he didn't even know he was holding and grabs a glass of water, Hoseok's staring at him with one eyebrow up, as if he was asking him if he is fine.

Jeongguk wipes out his sweat with a napkin and takes a deep sigh, looking at them eating through the foggy windows behind the doors in between the kitchen and the main room of the restaurant. He notices when Taehyung lifts his eyes up, as if he was searching for someone there and his eyes widen, he knows Taehyung can't see him there, but still.

He wonders if the prince remembers him, his big eyes fixed on how the prince gave up on looking around, and went back to eating. That was just a too far away though, of course, Taehyung wouldn't remember him, they were together for one night and Jeongguk doesn't consider himself the most memorable person in the world.

“Do you want a picture or something?” Hoseok's voice sounded right behind him.

“Fuck, hyung,” Jeongguk takes his hand to his chest. “You scared the shit out of me.”

Hoseok laughs, sitting on one of the chairs next to the walls. “Sorry, but you were so distracted looking at them. They have a powerful feeling, don't they?”

“Yeah, they do,” he answers glancing at them one more time before sitting next to Hoseok. “It’s distracting and I almost fucked up twice.”

“Dude, I think that if you didn't drop anything on them, you're fine,” Hoseok moves his eyes away from him and rests his head against the wall, the pressure on them was tiring. “And we're following all the rules, we're safe. They're not gonna trash talk about you or the restaurant because of some shaky hands here and there.”

Jeongguk whines, hiring the back of his head on the wall before closing his eyes. He hopes that Hoseok's right, he doesn't want his nervousness to be the cause of bad feedback to the restaurant. But he doesn't have much time to be thinking about it because Seokjin is calling them to remove the dirty dishes and bring a dessert to the customers.  Jeongguk jumps up and picks up the tray with the desserts, going through the doors after fixing his posture and the expression on his face.

They were a well-organized team: Hoseok and one of the other waiters were supposed to clean the table, while Jeongguk was the one to be putting on their dishes in front of them. He had to get everything right and not mix up anything, which wasn't easy, since the beginning the four of them (five with Yoongi) were ordering different meals, but he was lucky to have a good memory.

He shouldn't, but ends up exchanging a look with Taehyung while placing the strawberry gelato in front of the future queen of South Korea, he hears a thank you from the woman and shakes his head, but his eyes are still fixed on the prince.  It is as if he is seeing the gears working inside Taehyung's brain, there is a questioning look in his eyes and it makes Jeongguk swallow dry as he passes by and serves him a zabaglione with strawberries before making a brief bow and leaving the place.

Jeongguk's free to leave now, Seokjin was responsible to hear their feedback and it's the job of Hoseok and the other waiter to take out their plates and the cleaning staff to put everything else in place again, but he doesn't know why he stops himself in the changing room, sitting on an old bench and staring at his locker. His heart is racing and he wants some fresh air, he remembers his dream from the day he met the prince and feels his cheeks heating up.

It's embarrassing to think of that, so he just hurries to change his clothes and go home already. It's 10 pm and he didn't even see time passing by. Jeongguk has worked less than on other days, but he's not sure why he feels more tired, but he's more comfortable once he's inside his black jeans and a white t-shirt. He looks back for a minute while holding the back door handle.  There is a vague thought in his mind, he wonders if it is worth following that line of connecting the dots, but even so, Jeongguk feels a tightness in his chest and leaves the restaurant, his light backpack on his back and his cell phone hidden in his pocket after sending a message, the street is not very busy and he looks at all sides before crossing to the other side of the sidewalk.

Silently, he walks for a few seconds and suddenly he is at the beginning of one of the bridges that cross the Han River, the bus stop he should take to get home was across the street, but he was too busy with his elbow resting on the bridge railing and watching the way the moon was reflected in the dark water of the river.  There were some people on the land below, beside the river, having a picnic and talking, they seemed to be about his age and didn't even care about the noise that came from the cars now and then. He closed his eyes and let the wind hit his face, the backpack was resting on the thick irons and was in no danger of falling into the water. The night was pleasant and full of stars, Jeongguk realized this when he opened his eyes again and saw their distant glow.

He likes those nights, where he doesn't need to worry about the weather or run away from the rain. Jeongguk looks up and smiles when he sees some birds flying around, clearing looking for a small piece of tree to rest at night.

“Ggukie?”, he hears a voice too close to him and his hands hold tightly on the railing. His heart is racing and he looks to where the sound came from.

If you are who I think you are, meet me at the bridge after dinner, you know where, that's what he sent Taehyung. Now he's looking at the face of The Kim Taehyung, prince of South Korea and, well, his best friend and he doesn't know how to react. His mouth is open, his arms are hanging on the sides of his body and he's sure that he has the most stupid facial expression that anyone had ever seen. He doesn't know if he wanted to be wrong.

Jeongguk licks his lips, trying to say something, but nothing comes out from his mouth. Taehyung's eyes are kind, and he's happy, he's smiling, and Jeongguk feels like he's the only one that's feeling lost between the two of them. He doesn't even remember how he pictured their first meeting would be, but that had already happened and neither one of them knew about it.

“Oh, Ggukie,” Taehyung chuckles and he has the most whipped voice of the country, hiding his phone in his pocket and taking a step forward. “I can't believe I found you again.”

And then, Taehyung hugs Jeongguk, hands around his waist and chin touching his right shoulder, he closes his eyes and smells his strawberry shampoo when he feels the arms of the other hugging him back. Jeongguk breaks down, half-crying, half-laughing, and his nails scratch Taehyung's back on top of his clothes and he doesn't feel so unsure anymore, not when he closes his eyes and feels Taehyung's forehead touching his, and his hands on his cheeks and they're both smiling.

Jeongguk would be a fool to say that he has never thought that his Taehyung was prince Taehyung. There were just too many coincidences to it (and maybe it has influenced the way that Jeongguk thinks that he'll never have a chance with the man he loves) and Jeongguk wasn't blind, the car Taehyung had sent him was obviously not a taxi and all of his traveling and weird timezones didn't help him to stay hidden.

“At the party,” Jeongguk starts, opening his eyes again when Taehyung touches his shoulders. “Did you know that was me?”

“No, I didn't,” Taehyung answers, his eyes staring deeply at Jeongguk's own. “I was telling the truth back then, I was bored and you looked like you were lost in the middle of all of those people, so I thought I could save me and you.”

“And when you told me that I reminded you of someone…” Jeongguk crips his lips, and Taehyung laughs through his nose. He doesn't realize that the youngest is almost holding his breath, he's nervous and his hands are sweating.

“I was actually talking about you.”

This is weird , Jeongguk thinks. He doesn't know how to feel at the moment and ends up facing the river again, with his arms supported in the same place as before, the only difference is that Taehyung is by his side. The Taehyung he met on the internet and who has been a friend for some time, the same who is one of the princes of his country's government and one of the most important people today. Jeongguk feels his mouth go dry and there is a bitter taste in the back of his throat along with the euphoria of the moment.

He's happy that he met him, but he's not so sure of Taehyung being a prince. Would that change how they acted with each other? Would the obvious difference between both of them get in the way of their friendship? Jeongguk doesn't want that to happen and he feels like he's going to cry again.

“I... I thought a lot about this moment, Jeonggukie, you know? Seeing you and knowing that it is you. You're the first person that I met that didn't want anything from me because I'm a prince, or that tried to make yourself look better in front of me…” Taehyung sighs, looking at Jeongguk with the corner of his eyes and his hands pressed to his forearm. “The two times we met, online and at the palace, at my sister's party and I think... I just wanted to thank you for that.  For being my friend and… Ugh, this is difficult.  And it's weird.”

 Jeongguk starts to laugh out of nowhere, he doesn't know what's so funny, but Taehyung follows him as if they were a family-sized domino effect. He knew he shouldn't even be in the middle of the street without a security guard, but he doesn't care about that right now.

 “I value lives, hyung, not money,” Jeongguk moves his eyes from the sky to face him, the moon's shine is reflected in Taehyung's light brown hair, and he can see the way his eyes are beautiful and his face is full of birthmarks even with the little makeup that was passed on his skin. “You know that.”

“Yes, I do. You’re an incredible person and not just ‘cause of that,” Taehyung smiles wide again, elbowing his arm lightly. “I think you’ve opened up my mind about a lot of stuff since when we become friends, but I don’t go deep in that because I don’t wanna be the cheesy one.”

“Hyung,” he hisses, frowning his eyebrows. “You always are the cheesy one between the two of us.”

Taehyung snorts, annoyed that Jeongguk is right when it comes to that, he was always full of beautiful words and poetry quotes that he read in the gigantic libraries of the palace and college that he went through a few years ago, Taehyung had always been connected to music and literature — mostly because that was what he was supposed to do and because he simply enjoyed it — had been studying it since he was little, so Jeongguk was always obliged to read what the prince wrote, from simple songs made on the piano out of nowhere to some poems that were never published. Taehyung was never afraid of plagiarism, he trusted Jeongguk enough to do this and the youngest was happy about that, he liked being trustworthy and how happy Taehyung is every time he starts talking about his creations.

Jeongguk did not miss the moment to make fun of Taehyung for making it an impossible mission to have met only once at the birthday party of the princess. Taehyung to shy because of that and mentioned that he was happy for finding him again. 

The youngest wanted to run away from there in the middle of a silly conversation about something they had commented on weeks ago. Not because he was bothered by Taehyung or because he hated to know that his best friend was the prince, but because Taehyung was more charming personally and Jeongguk feels more in love than before. Taehyung’s careful with his words, always pronouncing them gently and perfectly, maybe because of his education and of how every single person from the government talked like that — with the exception of Min Yoongi when he wasn’t in the middle of the current king and queen.

He is fucked, Jeongguk knows it. He has to swallow dry every time he’s looking at Taehyung talking because he doesn’t want to stare too much at his lips, and it pains his chest to know that he’s in love with someone too far away from him. Maybe they can keep going being online friends, talking every day through messages and phone calls, but he knows that he’s not up to being with someone from the royal family and that hurts a little.

“Jeonggukie,” Taehyung calls him out, making Jeongguk snap out of his thoughts. “How’s your sister? Is she better?”

“She started her treatment to get ready for surgery, it’s not as aggressive as it would be if she was completely under chemotherapy and radiation to get rid of lung cancer. From what I've seen, they're just trying to shrink the tumor a little bit so that the surgery is less invasive. She is fine, but she is very tired and it is different to see her all quiet on the sofa or in the bedroom when she was always happy and excited about everything. My mother said that she is talking to her school since there is no way she can go back to do her last year of high school now.”

“I hope everything is fine, she deserves to be fine. Who is the doctor who is taking care of her case?” Taehyung asks, now the two of them are sitting on the sidewalk, away from the bridge and closer to the dark bus stop where Jeongguk was supposed to stay and wait for public transportation.

“Dr. Kim Namjoon,” Jeongguk hugs his own legs, the backpack thrown beside him. “I researched him, some years ago he finished specializing in childhood cancer and he has very good numbers. When I went to accompany Minah to the hospital this week, he was very sincere with me and said that she has a great chance of recovering without many problems.”

Jeongguk wonders, for a minute, if Taehyung was not supposed to leave with his siblings after dinner, the two of them have been talking for an hour and nothing about him mentioning anything about it.

“Can I ask you something, hyung?” Jeongguk's eyes fix on Taehyung's face, he tries not to think about how handsome he looks in the dim light across, or how funny he is wearing expensive clothes and sitting on a dusty sidewalk, next to one of the waiters who just served dinner for his family.

“Of course,” he smiles and Jeongguk's chest lights up, he hates the way Taehyung's smile is beautiful and matches perfectly with that thin, upturned nose, or how his skin is naturally browned and looks beautiful in the fabric land of his formal clothes.

“Did you know that it was me? Before coming to the restaurant, did you know that I was the one working here tonight?” Jeongguk shoots and Taehyung gulps, straightening his back and looking away from him for a moment before taking a deep breath.

“No, Ggukie. I... I wasn't really sure. I was looking for you, the you that I met at my sister's party, for a while, I had your full name, but there are a lot of people with similar names around the country and I had no idea if you were from Seoul or from Busan, your accent is still quite apparent, so... I was a little confused. So, that day you told me you were eating Italian food and you were going to work right after that, I thought it was funny because I hadn’t joined the names ‘Gguk’ and ‘Jeongguk’ together yet, it would be a lot of coincidence and that nickname could have come from several other names, but then, the next day, I went to Yoongi hyung's office and found the papers with the names of those who would work at dinner tonight and I almost couldn't believe it when I saw your name in there. It would be a shot in the dark, of course, but I made Yoongi hyung put my name on the list of who would go to dinner because I wanted to try to find the Jeongguk I met at the party again, I wasn't lying when I said you endeared me at first sight, Jeonggukie, I really wanted to see you again, and well, Yoongi hyung knew that and I know how to be very insistent when I want to, and until then I wasn't considering being the same person, so you texted me saying that something important was going to happen in the restaurant where you worked and I kept thinking I could meet both people at the same time, of course, I wouldn’t tell you that I saw you in person, I would send a message and say ‘I think I saw you today’, I was a little afraid to scare you, you know? The title of a prince is heavy sometimes.”

“When—,” Jeongguk stutters. “When did you know that it was me?”

“When you looked at me, Jeonggukie.” Taehyung smiles and Jeongguk swallows a breath. “And then I saw your nametag on your clothes and I just knew. I was scared at first because I didn’t know how to react to the fact that you two were the same person. Then I wanted to talk to you, but I didn’t know how my brother was the whole dinner talking about baby stuff and I just wanted to run after you.”

Jeongguk is silent for a moment, he doesn’t know what to say. Taehyung's thin, bony hands touch his arm and Jeongguk looks up to face him again.

“You don’t know how happy I was when I got that message from you, Jeonggukie,” he finishes, licking his own his and knees touching the ground. “I know that we’re complicated and that we know too much about each other without knowing exactly who we are, but I didn’t keep this for nothing.”

He puts his hand in his pants pocket, taking the lost pair out of his earring and leaving it in the palm of his free hand.

“Hyung...” Jeongguk whimpers, his lower lip almost trembling, he wants to believe that he’s wrong, that the words that are practically leaving Taehyung’s mouth from second to second are not implying what he thinks they are. “Are you trying to say what I think you are?”

“I’m just asking you for a chance, Jeonggukie,” Taehyung says in the softest voice possible, which gives goosebumps to Jeongguk’s arms. “I know that the no I already have and that maybe you don't want to ruin our friendship, but... I want your yes, Jeonggukie. I know you don't want to hear it all today, but I want you to know that exactly what you are thinking exists and it didn't come overnight. Our lives are different, we’re different from each other, we’re practically from two different worlds, but… That’s what made me feel how I feel about you.”

“Hyung…”, he closes his eyes for a second and swallows dry. He’s half in shock and half not believing what he had just heard. “How— how could it ever work? I am a nobody next to the royalty. I’m… I’m just me. The guy from Busan who came with his family to Seoul and has been working his ass off to make his family live, and you… You’re practically the main star of the solar system. Compared to you I’m that small star who has died down and it’s still struggling to shine.”

“Jeon Jeongguk,” Taehyung's voice is hoarse now, he doesn’t sound mad, he’s just upset with what he had heard, and the youngest looks at him emotionlessly in the face. “What the hell are you talking about, Jeongguk? Me? The sun? And you are a star that has already faded? Seriously, you are the whole fucking solar system and I will be the moon that orbits around you. You’re amazing, Jeongguk, and you know I’m not lying because I’ve known you for a long time. It’s not because I have more money than you or that I’m always in the media’s eyes that I’m more important than you, you fight for your family and you love them more than anything else in this world, how could you not be one of the most impressive people in this world? And, please, I don’t want you to choose to give me a chance because I’m sweet talking to you, I’m telling you all of this not to impress you, but that’s because what I think of you since I’ve first talked to you.”

“I know, hyung,” Jeongguk's chest rises and falls in a sigh, his voice hardly comes out as low as it is. “You always said that when I started talking bullshit by message.”

“You see? Tell that to the doctor you are seeing, she’s going to say say ‘Even a prince thinks you are incredible, Jeongguk, shame on you’”, it is obvious that Taehyung is saying this to see him smile more once, his face was all withered and shrinking more and more. “I'm just kidding, but I wish you could see yourself the way I see you. You would make an incredible prince. And my youngest sister, Yuna, would love to turn your sisters into little princesses.”

Jeongguk laughs, closing his eyes for a second while resting his face on his knees. He can already imagine Songhwa and Minah in logo dresses walking down the halls of the palace, but that's just a dream.

“Gotcha, I managed to make you smile.” Taehyung follows him with a small grin between his lips, his touch on his arms goes away and Jeongguk blinks heavily when he gives back his lost earring. “You don't have to answer me right now, just... keep that in mind okay?”

He knows that, so he gives a small and nodded smile, he will surely think too much about what Taehyung had said and what was implied between the two. His eyes see the bus number from afar and he is grateful to have been able to change his lenses recently. Jeongguk bites his lower lip and gets up from the sidewalk, causing Taehyung to follow him with his eyes.

“My bus is coming...” Jeongguk murmurs, picking up the backpack and resting it on his shoulder. “You should also go back to the castle you call home.”

There is a silly smile stuck on Taehyung's face, his hands are trapped in his pants pockets. “There's a difference between a castle and a palace, you know?”

“Yeah, I know. But I like to be a little annoying sometimes. And you get a little frown between your eyebrows whenever you know someone is saying something wrong or stupid, it's cute.” Jeongguk touches his forehead with the tip of his index and middle fingers. “I had already noticed that on television.”

Taehyung half-closes his eyes, shaking his head in disbelief at Jeongguk's not-so-shy personality showing up out of nowhere. “Text me when you get home?”

“Sure and...”, he looks to the side again, the bus is almost close to them and there is no one on the street beside the two of them, Jeongguk moistens his lips and touches Taehyung's jaw, his eyes are fixed on each other's and he only kisses him when the prince closes them, nodding positively.

Jeongguk chuckles after his lips touch Taehyung's in the softest and quick way possible, it doesn't last even a second and Jeongguk runs to the lit part of the stop and extends his arm for the bus to stop, Taehyung is hiding next to the tree, in the dark, but Jeongguk can still see his smile the moment his foot touches the ladder.

 

It is late when Taehyung arrives in his room that night, the castle guards didn't even blink when they saw him coming in the back door several hours after his siblings, most of the lights were off and the bedroom area was completely quiet, but that doesn't stop him from getting startled with a light being thrown on his face and his little sister's loud laugh echoing around the place.

“Holy shit, Yuna!” Taehyung brings his hands to his chest. “What the fuck are you doing?”

He shakes his head, watching her laugh even louder and turn off the flashlight from her phone before lying down on her bed again. She is wearing fluffy pajamas from a North American cartoon that the two used to watch when they were younger. Taehyung turns on the light and the laughter disappears, but Yuna's eyes are still locked on her brother as if she is suspicious of something.

“What are you doing here?”, he asks taking out his watch and all the accessories from his body while sitting in front of his wooden dressing table. “I thought you were already asleep.”

“I was bored in my room after finishing that boring drama I started watching on the plane, Mom gave me the whole week off, that is, no major appearances for me,” Yuna wiggles her eyebrows, lying on her side. “I think it's because they are going to announce Yoohyeon unnie’s pregnancy, it was about time, there’s no way she can hide that big belly anymore.”

“Yuna... It's your nephew you're talking about.” Taehyung looks at her through the mirror. “Or niece, no one knows about that yet."

“Or neither, or both at the same time. It doesn't matter much, it's just the future of the South Korean government. No biggie.” Yuna shakes her shoulders, clicking her tongue on the roof of her mouth. “But what about you and that waiter?”

Taehyung's ears turn red and he takes off his necklace, turning to face her with his own eyes. The expression on Yuna's face is obvious, Taehyung doesn't take long to realize what she is implying. He takes a deep breath and licks his lips.

“It's not what you're thinking, okay?” Taehyung assures her, getting up after taking off his shoes. “I'll explain later.”

“Okay, sir.”, she turns around, facing the ceiling. “Your bed is comfier than mine. I'm going to tell Dad that I want some change around here.”

Taehyung doesn't even answer her, just rolls his eyes and grabs a towel and a change of clothes before heading to his bathroom, knowing that he had lost his bed that night and that his sister would disturb him until he tells her everything that had happened after he ditched going home with his siblings and sister-in-law.

When his feet touched the bathroom floor and he felt the warm water falling on his shoulders, Taehyung sighs, his heart is throbbing hard inside his chest and he is sure he is smiling like a fool while facing the bathroom tile. He thinks that night may well be a dream, that the next morning he will wake up and realize that he has not met Jeongguk again during that dinner. He pours shampoo into his hair and remembers the smell of strawberry present in the younger boy's dark hair and that it might be his new favorite smell on the entire world. He is an idiot, he is sure of it, and he is definitely looking like one of those enchanted princes who fall in love at first sight.

However, there are some differences in their situation: Jeongguk definitely did not fit the stereotypes created for children's stories and he did not leave a crystal shoe lying on the steps of the palace when it was midnight, but an old earring that had already been returned to the owner. Taehyung had been in love with “Ggukie” for quite some time and there was no fairy godmother involved in the story.

It was funny to think that, since he had met the brunette, Taehyung had no eyes for anyone else. Of course, he always thought he was deluding himself, after all, whenever Taehyung mentioned that he wanted to meet him in person, Jeongguk quickly changed the subject and started talking about mysteries. And Taehyung understood his side, imagined that for Jeongguk, Taehyung was a confidant friend, especially with all the difficulties he faced at home. He was a strong person, but he still showed his sensitive side to Taehyung, even if through text messages, and when that relationship becomes face to face, things end up changing at least a little. His title of the prince did not help in that part.

He realized with Jeongguk he was surprised and indecisive the moment he appeared on the bridge, from the beginning of his friendship with the youngest he was aware that if he ever met in person, Jeongguk would be startled to learn that Taehyung from the internet was actually Prince Taehyung.

Before turning the handle to close the shower, Taehyung touches his lips and remembers the smile Jeongguk gave before entering the bathroom. Taehyung comes to the conclusion that he's totally lost in that damn smile. He sighs, wiping his shoulders and hair with a small towel after putting on his clothes, finishes removing the makeup from his face in front of the bathroom mirror, brushes his teeth, and then returns to his room yawning.

Yuna’s playing a game on her phone, but her eyes meet him the moment he crosses the door and leaves the towel on a chair. He sits on the bed, his back touching the headboard, and looks at what she’s playing.

“Are you telling me now?”, she asks, after shooting her last enemy in the game. “Was your hunch right?”

“Yes,” Taehyung smiles, letting his head touching the wall. “It was him. And he asked me to meet him outside the restaurant after dinner, that’s why I didn’t come back with you and hyung and noona.”

“Oh,” she lets go of her phone, raising an eyebrow. “What did he say? Did he take you home?”

“No!” Taehyung hisses. “Not like that! We just talked a bit and that was it, I gave back his earring and told him I like him, he told me he’s gonna think about it. We practically spent those hours just staring at the Han River and talking about our lives. Don’t worry, there was no one near us, I’m sure.”

“Dammit, Taehyungie, you got yourself a guy that doesn’t get excited over a prince. Good luck with that one.” Yuna elbows her brother on the ribs, jokingly and Taehyung chuckles. “Also, he’s really pretty, so you’re gonna have to tell me how to you find these guys.”

“I didn't expect it to be easy, Yun,” Taehyung bites his bottom lip, clasping his hands over his belly. “But he’s worth it, I'm sure.”

“You are an idiot, Taehyung,” she shakes her head, there is a judgmental air in her words, and Taehyung wonders when his little sister dropped the honorifics when it comes to him. “But it's cute to see you like this. Do you think your loverboy is going to like having the king and queen as in-laws?”

Taehyung blinks heavily, he hadn’t fully thought about it, but his parents wouldn’t see it as a problem, it would be more complicated because he was a prince and Jeongguk a commoner, but the difficulties would be the same if he were a girl – and if not, the government would get in some serious trouble with him, because he wouldn’t allow prejudice happening under his eyes and he’s sure that his siblings would back him up.

He groans, complaining that he’s sleepy and wants his bedroom to himself. Yuna snorts, saying that her brother is a pain in the ass and leaves the bedroom with her phone in his hands. Taehyung shows her his tongue before he sees her closing the door and sighs, hugging his own pillow. He doesn't know it yet, but when he wakes up, he will feel on cloud nine when he realizes that everything that happened the day before was not a dream and that he really saw Jeongguk again.



TWO WEEKS LATER

One thing about Jeongguk is that he was never one to think that he needs a prince charming to show up out of nowhere and save him from his life. That was too much of a fairy tale and he wasn’t a child for years now. It’s sweet how Taehyung just mostly listens to what he has to say and doesn’t try to pull out some strings and make things happen just because he’s one of the princes. Surprisingly, after their meeting, things continued as usual to them, but to Jeongguk was still a bit weird the fact that he was talking to someone from the royalty so casually.

He still touches his lips, remembering the small peck he had given him and daydreams as if he's a teenager again. And that's exactly what he's doing while he's at the beach with his family. They still don't know how all of them managed to get a weekend off during the kids holidays, Minah's under an umbrella, skin full of sunscreen, and with a giant hat on her head, there are two weeks left for her surgery and it was her idea to visit the beach. Since they didn't have a car, Jeongguk talked to Hoseok, who didn't think twice about taking time off as well and told about the trip to the beach for his fiancé and they ended up splitting into two cars: Jimin's and Hoseok's sister, whose only demand was that they clean her car after returning from to avoid it losing its color due to the salt.

 Minjae was rolling on the sand and Jeongmin had thrown himself in the water with Jimin, his mother was somewhere trying to find some ice cream with Songhwa and Jeongguk was lying on a beach towel, staring at the blue sky and listening to Hoseok pretending to take a nap by his side.

“Hyung,” Jeongguk calls him, feeling a little bit bothered by the way it's too quiet next to them. “Have you settled a date for your wedding already?”

“No,” he groans, sitting back on the sand. “Jimin wants us to take a month off, so we can get married in Busan. He wants his parents to be there and have some sort of honeymoon in Jeju, so we decided that we'll start to look for an apartment for us to live together first, then we will begin to think about our wedding.”

“Relationships are hard,” Jeongguk pouts, facing the blue ocean. “And people are complicated.”

Hoseok scratches the back of his neck, noticing the strange way that Jeongguk says that.  He knows that there is something behind that random speech of the youngest and it was not his marriage being postponed by some wills of Jimin.

 “What's going on inside that little head of yours, huh?”  Hoseok asks, nudging the younger man's bare arm. His tone his childish and Jeongguk rolls his eyes.

 “There's this guy,” he starts and the older one blinks quickly, getting his attention on Jeongguk right away.

 “Okay, continue.”

“Two weeks ago, he told me he wanted a chance. We're friends for a long time and it's been a while since I've realized that I am in love with him, but the thing is: I have nothing to offer him and I don't think I deserve him, and… I never thought he'd like me back, it was just a too far away dream,” Jeongguk shrugs, his sister is too focused on her phone to pay attention to what was being said a few meters away from her. “He’s everything I'm not, he's straightforward, he's rich, he has a lot of support and I have no time to give him.”

“That’s a cock and bull story, Jeonggukie,” Hoseok crosses his arms in front of his chest. “If you two are friends for such a long time, I'm sure he knows about how your life is, right? And he's not trying to change you.”

Jeongguk nods. “Yeah, he knows.”

“Then, don't you think it's up to him to decide if you're deserving of him? And that maybe your love is enough?” Hoseok continues, making Jeongguk pout while thinking. “Sometimes we just need to let yourselves feel, Jeonggukie, and you said yourself you love him, why don't you tell him that? If it doesn't work out in the end, you can always try again. You're still young, no one expects you to get everything right on the first time you're trying.”

Looking from the outside, Hoseok's right, of course, he is. Jeongguk's just a young adult whose love life is, technically, only starting, but he doesn't know that the guy from the story is Kim Taehyung. And Jeongguk wishes that reality could be as easy and as simple as Hoseok was pointing it out to be.

Jeongguk's an overthinker, he knows that. He likes to analyze everything and create probable scenarios in his mind so that he can be at least a little bit prepared for whatever happens. It doesn't always work after all people are unpredictable, but Jeongguk can't get rid of his personality trait.

He chews on his lower lip and thinks what it would be like if he were a person who puts himself in any type of situation, which is definitely a reality too far from him, but he remembers hearing somewhere that giving yourself a chance is not being an impulsive person. Jeongguk sighs, resting his chin on his knees and having Hoseok's strong gaze on him.

“Do you think I thought I deserved to be with Jimin when I met him?” Hoseok asks out of nowhere, drawing a strange look on Jeongguk’s face, who has never heard of this story. “When we first met, he had just graduated from Fashion Design at one of the best colleges in Seoul, he had left Busan to pursue his dream and succeeded, today he works with one of the best tailors in the country and there’s not even that much time that he left college. Look at me, Jeonggukie, look at the difference between the two of us, he was a rock star in my eyes and I was serving tables. It may seem like things were easy between us, but Jimin had to chase a lot after me until I was convinced that those differences don't matter at all because my biggest fear was that people would think I was being an opportunist. Do you know what Jimin told me to say if someone showed up to call me names? "

“No,” Jeongguk murmurs, resting his hands on the sand beside him. “But knowing Jimin hyung, it must have been something between a fuck you and a fuck off, with a huge smile between his lips and his cheeks closing off his eyes.”

“You know me so well,” Jimin’s voice echoes behind him, and he kisses Hoseok on his mouth before sitting next to his fiancé. “Why am I the sudden subject here?”

“It’s ‘cause Jeongguk here has a guy who likes him and he’s sulking around thinking that he’s non-deserving of being with him, just because the guy is rich and he’s… Jeongguk.” Hoseok lays his head on Jimin’s shoulder, having his arms around his waist 

“I’ll pretend that I didn’t just get offended by that,” Jeongguk says, shaking his head and looking at Jeongmin building a castle with Minjae next to them.

“Where did I lie, Jeonggukie?”, he continues, having Jimin lifting an eyebrow up as he looked at the two friends. “You just said that he’s everything that you’re not and that’s the reason that makes him too far away from you. Do you really think that who you are isn’t deserving of him? What do you have that’s so bad, Jeonggukie? Okay, he’s rich and probably handsome as hell, but fuck his money and who may or may not think badly of you if you two ever get together, what matters is between the two of you and not what other people think. If he likes you and he had the courage to tell you that, he definitely likes you for who you are.”

Jeongguk wants to hide in the sand, mostly because Hoseok is right and Jimin is looking at his fiancé as if he had just saved earth from ending. He takes a deep breath and bites the inner part of his cheeks, he’s half afraid of putting his family in the spotlight, too, but that’s something he needs to sort it with Taehyung and with his mom and siblings.

There’s a huge maybe popping inside his head, but he lets go of that when his mom comes back with Songhwa, holding a plastic bag full of popsicles and they’re calling them out to grab some before it all melts. He makes a promise that he’ll make a decision later.

 

It is late at night and Jeongguk is bored. His house is too quiet and he doesn't know what to do, all the shows airing that night looked boring, so he didn’t even bother to pay attention to the screen after Minjae fell asleep. It’s been so long since he has listened to the sound of his own thoughts and of cars passing by the street when he’s at home that he finds it weird.

His bare feet touch the cold floor of the kitchen and he opens the fridge, there’s ice cream in the freezer, he had bought it earlier that day and was still intact because none of the kids has seen it yet. Jeongguk chuckles and takes the whole jar of ice cream, a spoon, and takes everything back to the living room. Now there is a dramatic movie playing on television and he pretends to try to understand why there is so much suffering for the main couple to end up being together since it is obvious that the two love each other and there is only one communication problem between them.

The ice almost freezes his lips when he lets the spoon lying on his tongue and stares at one of the main characters running on the rain, it's late and he probably shouldn't be eating ice cream in those conditions, but the weather was hot, Jeongguk was bored and ice cream matched with the vibe of the movie. The couple is kissing in the rain, one of them is smiling and the other is holding onto the other’s coat, Jeongguk smiles, is a cliché movie, but a sweet scene.

He looks at the open window, the street looks deserted and the moon is high up in the sky, the view of the mid-summer was obvious and Jeongguk thanked the ice cream for lowering his body temperature. The romantic music was still playing when the couple on television kissed again, Jeongguk moves his eyes to his phone and drops the spoon into the ice cream. He unlocks the screen and wipes his fingers on the black shirt he's wearing, licks his eyes before sitting on one leg, and focusing on his phone instead of the movie.

 

Gggukie [11:27 pm]

hyungie, I’m bored

 

Tae [11:28 pm]

Did you get home already?

 

Ggukie [11:28 pm]

Oh

I didn’t tell you

So, I had some days off hanging

And my boss gave me a monthly leave, he practically kicked me off from the restaurant

I’m stuck at home and bored

The last two days were a bit ethic even, but now I have nothing to do

 

Tae [11:29 pm]

Isn’t this a good thing?

Aren’t your siblings still on their holidays?

 

Ggukie [11:30 pm]

no, school started again on Monday

plus, there’s only me and Minjae at home

Songhwa is at her boyfriend’s house,

Jeongmin’s having a pajama party with his friends,

Both of them are going to school from there

Minah’s at the hospital in observation after surgery and

my mom’s there with her, she can’t have more than one person with her

 

Tae [11:31 pm]

I wish I could say that I feel sorry for you

I want some of that peace and quiet here lol

Btw how’s Minah doing?

Did her surgery go well?

 

Ggukie [11:30 pm]

She’s doing great, the surgery was a success, they were able to remove everything and

she woke up in between the time they scheduled, she’s responding well to the medication

She could be alone at the hospital, but my mom wasn’t going to let that happen,

so I slept there yesterday and my mom’s there today.

My phone had no signal there yesterday and when I came home, I slept until like 2 pm

Tae [11:31 pm]

THAT’S AWESOME

Tell me does your sister like flowers????

Roses? Lilies?

She deserves getting some flowers

 

Ggukie [11:32 pm]

Taehyung hyung

Stop it

 

Tae [11:33 pm]

Too late I already told Yoongi hyung to send her flowers

I told him to send as many as possible lol

 

Ggukie [11:33 pm]

Please tell me that you told him to keep it anonymous

 

Tae [11:34 pm]

Yeah, I did, don’t worry

Don’t wanna give your sister a heart attack

 

Ggukie [11:35 pm]

So, hum I was wondering

If you’re free tomorrow?

 

Ggukie [11:36 pm]

I mean it’s okay if you’re not

I bet you’re busy with the changes in the palace and everything

But

 

Tae [11:37 pm]

Buuuut….?

 

Ggukie [11:38 pm]

I kinda wanna see you again

And talk to you face to face

But I’ll understand if you’re busy

 

Tae [11:39 pm]

It’s our lucky day ;)

Just tell me the place

I wanna see your pretty face again too

 

Ggukie [11:40 pm]

hYUNG

 

Tae [11:41 pm]

Lmao

But I’m not kidding

 

Tae [11:42 pm]

So, do you remember I’m a prince, right?

These meetings need to be careful if we don’t want anything to fall into the media’s eyes

 

Ggukie [11:43 pm]

I know. I have an idea, I’ll have to take Minjae to school tomorrow, it’s near my neighborhood and

during the day the place is practically dead. I thought we could meet up somewhere in here?

No one’s gonna see you, especially if you come hiding.

Then we can come to my house? I mean if you don’t mind

I’ll be home alone until 5 pm, which it’s when I have to pick up Minjae

at school and there’s this rlly nice place that makes chicken and

we can order food if you don’t wanna get food poisoning

 

Tae [11:44 pm]

Are you sure, Ggukie?

 

Ggukie [11:45 pm]

Sure, and it’s safe

You  can tell your bodyguards

 

Tae [11:46 pm]

They’re definitely not coming with me

and only finding out about this when i’m already there

 

Tae [11:47 pm]

But that’s not what i’m talking about, Ggukie

 

Ggukie [11:48 pm]

Oh okay I didn’t get that

 

Ggukie [11:49 pm]

yes, i’m sure, it’s been more than a month, hyung

and we need to talk, don't you think?

 

Tae [11:50 pm]

I do

So, I’m gonna be there whenever you want me to

 

 

The morning comes quickly after that, Jeongguk is awakened by the time his alarm rings and he rolls out of bed, he yawns and turns off his phone. His brother would be able to sleep for thirty more minutes since he still had to make breakfast and take a quick shower before waking him up. So, Jeongguk didn’t wait much before heading out of his bedroom after fixing his bed, moving his head around to fix his hair that was falling on his forehead, he doesn’t remember when he fell asleep last night, but he feels well rested so figures it wasn’t long before him and Taehyung stopped talking.

The house is totally organized due to the presence of only two boys in it, Minjae had left some toys lying on the floor and the spoon that Jeongguk had used to eat ice cream was still in the sink, but he is quick to wash it after turning on the coffee pot. He dries his hand using a napkin and looks at the time on the clock hanging on the wall, he remembers that there’s some beansprout soup rice on the fridge, which makes his mouth water and he pours it into a glass bowl before taking it to the microwave

He sets up a small table with white bread, kimchi, cheese, and eggs along with the beansprout soup rice before walking to his brother’s room to wake him up. Jeongguk finds it cute to see that he’s already up and has taken a shower, and it’s just fixing the buttons of his uniform.

“Minjae-ah, are you hungry?”, he asks, walking into the bedroom and letting the empty beds go unnoticed.

“Yes, hyung!” Minjae answers moving his eyes from the small mirror to his brother. “When’s mom coming home?”

“At night, I think. She’s still with Minah in the hospital, do you want me to call her?” Jeongguk comments, helping him with the collar of his shirt.

“No,” he pouts, sadly. “It’s early, they’re probably sleeping. And I’m hungry.”

Minjae moves his eyebrows and Jeongguk chuckles, thinking that his brother is unbelievable but follows him to the kitchen and it’s not a bit surprising to the fact that Minjae is more interested in eating ham and cheese sandwich with hot chocolate than in the soup. Since it’s only the two of them at home, he doesn’t mind and lets his brother eat whatever he wants to.

While his brother is making sure he got everything he needed for that day of school, Jeongguk goes to the bathroom with the desire of taking a quick shower and changing his clothes. He has a beige plaid shirt with long sleeves and dark pants in mind, the weather is pleasant outside and, even if Jeongguk denies it, he wants to make a good impression on Taehyung. And that was exactly why he makes sure he looks if everything is in place and clean inside the house before he takes out his phone and tells Taehyung that he's leaving the house now.

He checks himself on the mirror and fixes his wavy hair over and over again. Minjae is staring at him with judgment on his eyes and Jeongguk pretends he doesn't see that. He locks the doors carefully and follows Minjae down the long, busy street, knowing that in a few minutes there would be no one leaving their homes, his brother talks about the homework he has done the day before and what he was going to do in class today.

Jeongguk thinks about working at an elementary school, wanted to finish his course, and becomes effective in the profession, but his dream was pushed to the end of his line of priorities and was going to be there for a while if nothing changes.  He only works at the pre-school near his house when they need him, the semester had just started and maybe he needed to rest during those weeks off.

A promise of eating dakgangjeong during dinner is made when they arrive at the gates of Minjae's school and Jeongguk even intertwines their pinkies, saying that if he doesn't comply with what he was saying, Minjae could take his finger off, but the youngest just laughs and says goodbye to his brother, going to meet the teacher who was receiving all the students in his class. Jeongguk waves to Minjae before he follows his classmates into the school building, he smiles and turns around, taking his phone out of his pocket when he realizes that it is vibrating.

 

Tae [7:23 am]

You and your brother are cute

He has the same messy hair as you

 

Ggukie [7:23 am]

You're here???

 

Tae [7:24 am]

Yeah, look at the black car on the left side of the road, a few inches before the crosswalk, the windows are also black and they're closed

 

Tae [7:25 am]

Nope

The other car

 

Ggukie [7:26 am]

found you

 

Tae [7:27 am]

Come here

the doors are all unlocked

 

Jeongguk feels his heart racing as he crosses the street, his phone is back in his pocket and he licked his lips while reaching to the car. The school sign rings loudly in the vicinity, announcing that the class has started and Jeongguk takes a look at the closed gates before touching the car handle, as Taehyung had said, it was unlocked and he bites the inside of his cheek when he opens the door.

Taehyung's smiling when he first sees him, and Jeongguk regret that he didn't think about seeing him in person before. His eyes are more beautiful and brighter than on television, and he is sure that smile is much more sincere than the ones Taehyung gives to journalists on duty at the royal palace. His clothes are casual and nothing like the ones he has seen him wearing before, it was black jogger pants, a plaid shirt with short sleeves in the same color and his brown hair was messy, it looked like he wasn't a prince and that he had just gotten out of bed.

“Hi, hyungie,” he murmurs, blinking heavily while a smile pops upon his lips. “Was it difficult to find here?”

“Not really, the GPS was useful” Taehyung answers, turning his head to face him properly. “Your earrings.”

“What?” Jeongguk touches his ears, frowning his eyebrows while not following what he was trying to say.

“You’re using the earrings I gave you back, you were without them at the restaurant,” he explains and Jeongguk swallows a breath in relief. “They look good on you.”

“They’re my favorites.” Jeongguk looks at his hand for a second, before looking back at Taehyung, he is sure he is looking like an idiot with his dark eyes shining as he watches the prince.

It only takes Jeongguk a moment to realize that Taehyung is not wearing any makeup, his face is totally natural and there is a certain enchantment in seeing him that way: so casual and normal like any other person from his kingdom.  It is as if the wall between a prince and a commoner was slowly falling, even though Jeongguk knew that said wall does not exist for a long time now, since they became friends, but maybe he needed to make his brain understand it before trying anything with Taehyung.

The fact that Jeongguk was not used to such relationships didn't help either, despite that he knew that trying hurt and that it's worth it sometimes, and other times it's not, but he decides not to say anything, for now, he just smiles at Taehyung, who turns the key in the car as soon as the doors were locked again and Jeongguk fastened his belt.

 “Aren't they going to find your absence in the palace weird?” Jeongguk asks as soon as Taehyung enters the street to make a U-turn.  “And the missing car?”

 “Probably yes, but I talked to Yoongi hyung before leaving, he knows everything that happens inside and outside the castle walls, I didn't have anything important to do today and the car is mine, so… My parents probably won't care,” he waggled his eyebrows, looking sideways at Jeongguk, who hummed in understanding. “And I reminded him of the flowers, he promised me they'd be delivered until 12 pm.”

“I still can't believe you bought her flowers,” Jeongguk faces the empty street, it was past time for everyone to go to work. “She'll be thinking that she has a secret  admirer at the hospital.”

 Taehyung chuckles, “You could tell her it was a friend of yours who sent the flowers, it wouldn't be a lie. And do I think that she deserves a gift after going through all that, or was the flowers not enough? Maybe she’s going to like a building in Paris?  Or Tokyo? Or in both places? I know a guy.”

 “Hyung!” Jeongguk complains and Taehyung burst out laughing. “You’re exaggerating, Minah will be spoiled just by the flowers and talk about it for at least five years.”

 “I was just kidding,” he looks sweetly at Jeongguk, tightening his fingers on the steering wheel to try not to look like a fool when they arrive at Jeongguk's house.  “But I brought several snacks for us and the password to the royal Netflix account.”

“Royal Netflix?” Jeongguk asks, cocking his head to the side. “Does that exist?”

“Being a member of the royal family has its perks.”

Jeongguk's lips part in shock and he soon helps Taehyung to grab the bags from the back seat of his car. He gives a low sigh before leaving the vehicle with Taehyung, he is a little nervous about being with the prince alone at his home. He remembers that they were alone in the palace garden and near the Han River, but it was different there, it was his home, his late-night comfy place and, well, a person's house says a lot about them. Jeongguk would never be ashamed or lie about who he is or where he came from, but he was afraid that Taehyung would think that there were too many differences between them, that Jeongguk's lifestyle didn't match anything with his, but he throws away all of those thoughts the moment they enter the living room, he gets rid of his shoes and Taehyung does the same.

 “You can make yourself at home,” Jeongguk says as he picks up the bags that Taehyung’s holding. “I’ll take this to the kitchen, okay?”

Taehyung just nods and looks around as if he’s getting used to the place, Jeongguk gives him a small smile and walks to the kitchen. He inhales and exhales, leaving everything on top of the table and he can’t believe himself and the fact that there’s literally a prince with him.

No, that’s just Taehyung hyung, he’s my friend who happens to be a prince and there’s nothing wrong about it , Jeongguk thinks by himself while he searches for something to put on some chips, it’s early, but they’re young and don’t care about that.

“Ggukie, do you want to watch a drama or a comedy?” Taehyung’s voice echoes through the house and Jeongguk parts his lips for a second, trying to think. He knows that Taehyung’s probably putting on the royal Netflix he had talked about, so he doesn’t mind.

“A comedy,” he answers shouting back, opening the second package of chips. “I don’t want to start the day with some drama.

“Got it!”, and he laughs softly, making Jeongguk smile to himself, holding the bowl with the chips and a bottle of soda. They had shared one of wine back then, so he thinks that Taehyung won’t care about that.

As Jeongguk thought so, Taehyung is holding the remote control of the television and going around the comedy movies he could find on Netflix, Jeongguk sits right next to him and looks to the screen at the exact moment he selects one that neither one of them had watched yet.

“What is it about? I didn’t catch the summary,” Jeongguk asks as he takes a handful of the chips.

“I have no idea,” Taehyung answers raising up one eyebrow and relaxing his shoulders as his back touches the headboard of the sofa. “I like to see where things go, plus I know a few of the actors in here and just didn’t go to the premiere because I was in London when it came out.”

The surprised expression on Jeongguk's face doesn't go unnoticed, Taehyung scrunches his nose and takes his eyes to the screen when the voices of the actors start to come out. He knows that’s funny to Jeongguk the fact that he has met with a lot of famous people — and that he’s famous himself.

Neither one of them realizes when, in the middle of the movie, when there’s something about one of the families going out camping, Taehyung rests his head on Jeongguk’s shoulder and smiles, letting himself feel more comfortable around the younger male. It’s not awkward between them, but it’s obvious that there’s something they’re not talking about, something that’s on the tip of their tongues, but both of them are too nervous to be the first one to say.

The chips had run out some time ago, even before the middle of the movie, so the bowl was forgotten next to Jeongguk on the couch, who has put his feet on the furniture and made himself more comfortable, leaning his hand on Taehyung's left thigh. The prince smiles, closing his eyes for a second and pretending that his chest was not filling with hope and expectation for what might happen.

Jeongguk looks at him out of the corner of his eye when the main characters are crossing the flooded city and turns his eyes to the television with a small smile on his lips, he knows that the movie is only a short time away from its ending and he does not forget what he had said to Taehyung: that they would have a proper conversation about what was hanging between them.

Since he was younger, Jeongguk wasn’t the one to have serious conversations, but he knows that they’re important and both Taehyung and him needed to finish that subject that was between them, Jeongguk still owed him an answer and he knows that Taehyung won’t wait forever.

In the midst of all the trouble that happened on his television screen, Jeongguk remembers what Hoseok told him when they were at the beach, remembers the day when Taehyung practically confessed that he was also in love with him and Jeongguk wondered what he was waiting and why he was so scared of the future and he would be an idiot if he didn't know it was because loving Taehyung in silence was easier, hiding all his feelings were easier, imagining how he would be personally was even easier, but he also remembers Taehyung saying that life in the palace is very lonely, that nobody sees him for who he is, but for his title, and, even though everyone thinks he is someone he is not, that the romance business is easy for him, it is much more the opposite than everyone believes.

Taehyung's eyes are fixed on the scene of the movie, he is totally distracted by what is happening at the rich family's party, but Jeongguk cannot pay attention to anything other than Kim Taehyung. His eyelashes are long and, if he was wearing glasses, they would be too close to the lenses and they would have one or other eyelashes stuck to the glass and, being close to Taehyung like that, Jeongguk managed to notice that he had several birthmarks spread across his face and that he had not shaved that morning, but at the same time, he felt the good smell of his soap, shampoo, and the fabric softener stuck to his clothes.

“Hyung,” Jeongguk calls him when the screen turns black, he has lost his sense of time while looking at the prince and the movie is already over, he’ll probably ask Taehyung how it ended later, but right now there’s only thing on his mind. “Love me.”

“Huh?” Taehyung asks, confused with his eyebrows stuck together. “What did you say?”

Jeongguk gulps, feeling his mouth drying, there's an annoying little song from another movie's call playing in the back of his room, but he chooses to pay attention to the way Taehyung's brown eyes are staring at him.

“Love me,” he repeats, seeing the way Taehyung looks without believing in what is being said right in front of him. “I... It's not a chance for you, it's a chance for both of us. I... It's been so long, hyung. I think I was shocked by the way you caught me in the moment and already said everything like that, I... I was not expecting that my feelings would be  reciprocated or that the person was in love with was you, hyung, a prince, you can say that this is not all that you are, and I know that I’d never think that Kim Taehyung is just his title of prince, but it is still a part of you, hyung, an important part of you, and I needed some time to process all of that.”

“Jeonggukie…”, he whispers, touching his hand carefully and he notices how Jeongguk’s touch is cold, unlike his own, that’s hot and a little bit shaky.

“Let me finish, okay?” Jeongguk asks and Taehyung nods, not even blinking. “We are from different worlds, that was my first thought and that… I don’t know, every kind of thought showed up in my mind and I was afraid. Afraid to lose your friendship, to make the wrong decision, to say the wrong thing, and to be jumping into something that I can’t handle. Also, I had too much stuff happening around me at the same time, Minah and her surgery, my mom going back to work, my siblings, and the changes in my job after you and your family went there. So, I needed some time to myself, to think, and to put everything on the table before having this conversation with you.”

Taehyung's eyes blink heavily as if he was thinking the worst-case scenario there, but Jeongguk smiles and him and holds his hand back as if he knows that Taehyung has just forgotten about the way he had to ask him to love him just a few minutes ago.

“Since the beginning, I knew that my family could be a burden to you,” Taehyung says lowly, his voice coming out just for Jeongguk to hear. “And I thought by myself every day whether or not I should ask to meet you in person because I was dying to meet you, Jeonggukie, so… I understand why you felt like you were stepping on eggshells, but they’ll never be a problem between us, I can promise you that.”

One of Jeongguk’s hands leave Taehyung’s, and his smile grows wider as he touches the prince’s chin. His eyes look watery and Jeongguk wants to laugh because they’re practically a movie-like cliché straight from Disney. He caresses Taehyung’s cheeks, moving his body to face him fully.

“I know that, hyung.” Jeongguk practically whispers, his nose touching Taehyung’s. “And I wanna give us a chance, ‘cause I love you, I’ve been loving you for a long time now and I’m tired of waiting, of thinking how things will or can be. And I’m tired of thinking about other people when I can think about me, but you have to promise me something before.”

Taehyung opens his eyes again, he didn't even realize he had closed them in the first place, but he finds Jeongguk's dark and piercing gaze and his heart leaps, he is sure that Jeongguk can notice how nervous and excited he is. “Sure, anything.”

“It’s more like something that we’ll promise each other,” he continues, moving his head back for a second and he watches Taehyung cocking his head to the side. “We’ll promise that we won’t ever let our differences come between us.”

“Jeonggukie,” his voice is warm and calm.  “If it depends on me, nothing like that will ever come in between us and... I know that the way I said it that day was very hectic, but... I had no idea that I was going to say it at all, it wasn't something planned and much less thought before. When I realized it, I had already said all that and I don't regret it one bit, I didn't want us to get into something that we weren't ready for and I also didn't think it would be easy.  And, to be honest, I can promise you anything, Jeonggukie, anything that I could do that would make you feel happy, I don't say that because I want to win you over, or because I like to be a mushy idiot, but because it's how I feel, I would say the same thing if conditions were different.”

“You’re so full of pretty words, hyung,” Jeongguk answers him, taking his hands to his nape. His fingers touch his hair, caressing it lightly as Jeongguk looks inside his eyes.

“But you knew that already.” Taehyung shoots back and Jeongguk smiles, letting his nose touch Taehyung's again.

“Yeah, I do.”

It's the last thing Jeongguk says before pressing his lips to Taehyung's. It feels different than before, less rushed, less awkward, more intimate, and with a lot more of feelings in between. Taehyung's lips are soft and Jeongguk holds himself to not pull his hair while he opens his mouth, letting the younger kiss him whatever way he wants to. Jeongguk's other hand touches his waist, pulling his body closer to his own and hearing how Taehyung groans in between the kiss, he's slow and careful, letting his fingers press the fabric of the shirt and he feels the curve of Taehyung's waist and exactly where his hip bone starts.

Taehyung's smell is stronger now and it makes Jeongguk hungrier, and the way that the prince smiles during the kiss don’t help him, he has his eyes closed, but he can just feel it happening. The song from the movie was completely forgotten now, Taehyung is everything Jeongguk wants to hear from now on.

There's a hand on his shoulders and suddenly Taehyung's sitting on his thighs, they leave each other for a second and Jeongguk opens his eyes, looking up to Taehyung and noticing his rosy lips and beautiful skin, his eyes are full of love and he doesn't waste any other second before kissing him again. It's faster than the previous one and it's obvious the weight of Taehyung's body on top of him, and maybe that's what makes it better, or the way that his lips tasted nothing like the soda they had just drunk or how they don't even care when Taehyung steps on the remote control, pressing play on the movie.

“I love you,” it’s the first thing Taehyung says when they manage to stop kissing each other, he’s looking into Jeongguk’s eyes and has his face between his hands, his thumb is touching the small scar he has on one of his cheeks and it’s the cutest thing ever. “And… we can make this work; we can make us work.”

“I know,” Jeongguk whispers, his icy fingers touch the end of Taehyung's back carefully, where the shirt is slightly lifted and his lips curl in a smile. “That's why I want to give us a chance. I feel tired of hiding what I feel for you.”

Taehyung feels his chest fill a little more if hope and happiness, he licks his own lips and barely sees how Jeongguk’s face looks right now because he is smiling, and that makes Jeongguk go all soft because the next thing he does is close his own eyes and kiss Taehyung's lips all over again, whose fingers are on his neck, scratching his skin lightly and sucking on his bottom lip.

Jeongguk’s mind feels on cloud nine, he has never thought he would be in that place, kissing the hell out of Taehyung’s mouth and feeling his touch on his own skin, or that he would ever get to know that his lips are soft and that he likes to move around too much, and the fact that he might have just gotten addicted to the texture of his hair because from the moment their lips touched for the first time, Taehyung didn't let go for a second.

It is breathtaking the way Taehyung is hot, not in a sexual way or with second thoughts, but Taehyung's presence was warm, or the way he is gentle and careful even when he is in the middle of an agitated and half desperate kiss, it was almost as if he was the same way Jeongguk was, not believing what was happening between them as if everything was just a vivid dream. But it was real, it is as real as the way Taehyung sighs as soon as the kiss ended, pressing their noses together and they both smile at the same time.

The time between the two of them was something that was not noticed, they only lost the bond that connected them in that make-out session when an explosion echoed through the living room and they ended up wide-eyed, moving their attention to the television that was showing an action movie by a good few minutes now. Jeongguk and Taehyung face each other again, the prince has a confused expression between his eyebrows, and Jeongguk just shook his shoulders, in the same page as him, he reaches out to grab the remote that is lying in one corner of the sofa to get rid of the movie that neither of them knew the name.

“Are you hungry?” Jeongguk asks when Taehyung moves out of his lap, letting his hands resting on his own knees, both of their lips are swollen and redder than before, but Jeongguk thinks it suits the prince. “It’s past 12 pm already.”

Taehyung hasn’t even thought about that so far, he had been so emerged on Jeongguk that the first time he notices his stomach complaining about being empty is at the same moment where Jeongguk asks that. Both of them stare at each other and Jeongguk laughs softly.

“Do you want to order some chicken or you want to take your chances with my cooking skills?” Taehyung’s eyes follow him as he moves his shoulders and fixes his shirt, he hums, thinking for a second.

“I guess we can have chicken some other day, can’t we? And… I can help you with cooking, I’m pretty good too.”

“Okay,” Jeongguk agrees and gets up from the sofa, trying to remember what they have in the fridge. “Gamjajeon and japchae?”

“And then some ice cream,” Taehyung finishes, making Jeongguk nod and smile as they walked to the kitchen.

Their first task was to clean the kitchen since Jeongguk had completely forgotten that he left all the bags on top of the dinner table, but that was quick and they were able to start cooking. Taehyung has the receipt on his phone, reading it out loud as soon as they pass through every step of both of the dishes, they're not difficult, just a little bit tricky and requires attention to it.

“Jeonggukie,” Taehyung called out to him as he cut onions sitting at the table, the youngest's eyes went straight to the prince's face. “Does this mean that we are dating?”

 “What?”, he asks, not in a defensive way, just having a desire to know what Taehyung meant by that.

 “It's just, um, I don't want to pressure you nor me, but it crossed my mind, you... Do you want to date?  Or are we going too fast?” says Taehyung, his eyes looking at Jeongguk, whose lips curves in a small, gentle smile.

“If I say yes to being your boyfriend,” he turns around from the kitchen, arms crossed in front of his chest. “Will I have to deal with bureaucratic paperwork from the palace? ”

 “The thing is, even if you just want to be casual with me, you're going to have to deal with boring paperwork.” Taehyung raises an eyebrow, dropping one of the onions on the table. “It's just the disadvantages of getting together with a member of the royal family. You know you can giv... ”

 “So, yes,” Jeongguk answers him instantly, making him startle a little and stop blinking.  “I want to be your boyfriend, but only if you cut those onions right. It's thinner than that.”

 And he turns back to the sink, eliciting a low laugh from Taehyung, who went back to cut the vegetables. Jeongguk thinks they were going a little bit too fast, but he was also aware that all the bureaucratic and complicated part of getting together with a prince would be even more difficult if stay in a non-labeled way. They've known each other for a long time, so it wouldn't be that hard to deal with that, but Jeongguk is happy and he doesn't like to think about problems when he's happy, especially when his boyfriend, who is a prince, is in the same room as him making jokes about onions and chard, eyes watering from the way they were acidic and he is laughing, taking what has already been cut and putting it in the pan.

It's such a normal and casual thing, but it makes Jeongguk's heart flutter because he's been in love before, but it wasn't like that, it was nothing like what he feels for Taehyung, or what he's willing to do to be with him. He almost laughs alone at the thought of picturing the media talking about how he had just made a prince cut vegetables for him.

“It looks so good,” Taehyung murmurs with his chin touching Jeongguk's shoulder when he's checking the japchae, his hands are around the youngest's waist. “And you were saying that I was going to end up with a stomach ache.”

“You're trusting too much in my cooking skills, hyung.” Jeongguk answers touching his arm with his free hand. “At least if we get sick, we'll be sick together.”

Taehyung chuckles and Jeongguk puts down the spoon he's holding, tells his boyfriend that the food is ready and the prince helps him put on the table. Jeongguk feels silly for ever overthinking everything for this past month, especially when Taehyung's in front of him, eating alongside him and talking about a bunch of stuff from the palace and famous people he's met in London. He doesn't even know about half of those names, but it's wonderful to hear him talking about what he enjoys, and how he trusts him with this stuff. They've been friends for a while, Jeongguk knows that, but it's different when they're next to each other when he's hearing to Taehyung's voice and laughing at his own jokes and dirtying his face with sauce.

And Jeongguk tells him about his sister and the surgery when they're washing the dishes and putting everything back on the place, about Hoseok and how he didn't say anything about the night they were together at the party — Taehyung was a bit surprised by that, even though he already knew that Jeongguk liked to keep his things to himself and wasn't much of a talkative person, he would never brag about being friends with a prince or having a drink with him during a boring party.

As soon as they go back to the living room, sharing a bowl of ice cream and a few candies that Taehyung brought as dessert, Jeongguk scrolls through the Netflix page to find something else to watch while listening to Taehyung saying how the other movie ended since he was too busy to watch the final minutes.

With Taehyung being his first boyfriend (and the very first day of that), Jeongguk doesn't quite know how to act, his old relationships didn't even come close to becoming serious — there was always some problem involved, especially during his adolescence, but over the years, his lack of time became the obstacle. Jeongguk wonders if it would ever happen again.

He wishes that the day when his family could live well without any worries would come soon, he was a little afraid during times like the one he's living now. His mother had just been discharged from her physical therapy sessions and was working well, Songhwa was still working part-time and, for that, she had changed schools to start and finish her last year of high school.

The wages of the three of them together were able to cover the household expenses thanks to government assistance on chronic diseases, complex surgeries, and treatment for people who fit the rules, luckily they soon got an answer when they applied and Minah's entire procedure was entirely covered.

Taehyung caresses his hair when the ice cream’s over and they're watching a dramatic European movie, Jeongguk has rested his head on the prince's shoulder and has put his arm around his waist. He feels safe between Taehyung's arms and he could easily fall asleep with the way he was being gentle with his hair.

It's funny how Jeongguk is not even bothered anymore by the fact that he's at home and not working for the time being. Of course, it's a bit weird to look at the clock and see that he's at home and not at the restaurant, and he knows that he can't get too used to that because in less than a month he would have to go back to being a waiter and balanced dishes with just one hand.

“Do you think that they'll meet again?” Taehyung asks when the movie ends, moving his eyes to meet with Jeongguk's.

“I hope so, they looked cute together,” he pouts, turning off the Netflix and putting on a random TV channel. “But the movie is from 2013 and there's no sequel, so we're left to our imagination.”

“According to the royal palace, Prince Jongho and Princess Yoohyeon are expecting the couple's first child.” Jeongguk raises one eyebrow and then takes a glance at Taehyung's face when they hear the voice of the host of the TV show talking. “Our future queen is almost five months into the pregnancy and the birth is said to happen later this year. We already have polls on the internet with the public voting on who will be our next governor!  Will we have a queen or a king as Prince Jongho's successor? We'll announce the winner tomorrow! Let's see more exclusive pictures of the princess because she looks more beautiful than ever!”

“It’s a girl,” Taehyung says, the same moment where the preview of the polls pops up on the screen along with Yoohyeon's press pictures. “They got it wrong.”

Jeongguk blinks heavy and stares at his boyfriend, Taehyung chuckles and gives him a small peck before looking again at the screen.

“Is that why the palace was chaotic a few days ago?”, he asks, turning down the volume because of the loud electronic music the channel put along with the pictures.

“Yes, my hyung didn't want to tell the public if it's a boy or a girl and Yoohyeon noona wanted to, plus the fact that it's going to be the first Queen to rule the country after the laws changed.” Taehyung sighs. “My dad was pissed because he wanted to give the throne to my brother, but everyone else is saying that it's going to be ‘an even bigger shock if the current King walks away from his position when his granddaughter gets announced as the groundbreaker woman to be the first Queen who's not a ‘sidekick’ to the King’, which made my mom and Yoohyeon noona mad, and everyone else was fighting because of it. In the end, the guy who said that got fired, my dad gave up on passing the crown to my brother at least for now.”

“Ouch, what a mess.” Jeongguk scrunches his nose, putting his legs up the sofa to get more comfortable. “Was it an important person who said that?”

“It was one of the ministers”, he says, still caressing Jeongguk's black hair slowly, long fingers touching his neck skin here and there. “The news that he's out hasn't reached media yet 'cause my dad hadn’t chosen someone to replace him and I was taking care of the ministry for the past two weeks because it was basically part of my job is to act as a substitute, but I think it's going to be on the news soon, the new minister has already signed up the papers.”

“That’s why you were so tired these past few days.” Jeongguk completes and Taehyung smiles softly, nodding.

“Being part of a government is a bunch of sleepless nights and heavy crowns,” he explains, licking his lips. “Sometimes is good, some other times is bad, but we get used to it, and being with you gives me energy.”

Jeongguk looks and him in disbelief and Taehyung kisses him again, touching his chin and his hand went down to the youngest's belly, tickling and causing Jeongguk to laugh out loud, moving around because of the bony fingers touching him until he ended up lying on the couch and with a few happy tears on his face.

“Hyung,” Jeongguk groans, touching the other's chest, and Taehyung stops, looking at him with a smile between his lips. “Does that mean that you have a crown?”

“I do have a crown,” Taehyung rests his hands on the sofa upholstery, his body is fully supported by them, space was near, but neither one of them seems to care. “I have a picture using it on my phone, do you want to see?”

He stops and thinks for a second, his lips compressed and staring at the way Taehyung blinked his eyes. Jeongguk gets to the conclusion that he lost a lot of time during those days he took to think, he could have used all those days to admire the pretty face that Taehyung has, to kiss him, or even to exchange silly words like those that the prince loves to say to him at random moments or on his writings.

“Not now,” Jeongguk murmurs and puts his hands on his boyfriend's shoulders, closes his eyes, and kisses him as he lifts his body up near him, mostly because it’s true, he doesn’t actually want to see it right now.

There’s a chuckle between the kiss and Taehyung pulls them up, his hands holding Jeongguk’s waist and he doesn’t even complain when his back touch the headboard of the sofa a little bit stronger than the usual, nor when Jeongguk puts his legs around his body and opens his mouth, kissing him deeply and scratching the skin on his shoulders.

Even though Jeongguk knows that not every day is going to be like this, he lets himself enjoy the presence of Taehyung with him. Eventually, he’s going back to work, Taehyung is going to go back to be an acting prince (and do whatever he does in the palace, Jeongguk is not entirely sure of everything that he does, but it’s probably a lot since he’s always mentioning something new) and they will have to deal with a bunch of problems due to Taehyung’s position at the government, but he’s sure that both of them can figure themselves out when that day comes.

Taehyung gasps into his lips and Jeongguk feels his skin getting hotter than before, his fingers aren’t as cold as they were and he notices the prince's teeth scraping against his lips. There’s a slight feeling of desire between them, Jeongguk just wants to forget about the world and focus on the way that Taehyung’s sucking on his lips and touching him, even about the way he is sure he will be in a good mood and happy for the rest of the week just by the way he was almost sure that all of his happiness hormones were acting at the highest level in his brain at the same time.

“And that's why you… Oh.” All of them stop in place and Jeongguk freezes, his hands touch Taehyung's shoulders and they're not kissing anymore. That's his mom's voice.

Shit.

It's the only thing Jeongguk can think of, and he moves his face to the side and looks at his mom and siblings (expect for Minah) staring at him and Taehyung. There's a shocking expression on their eyes and Jeongguk's not sure if it's because he's sitting on another man's lap or if it's because the said man it's one of the prince's of their country. Maybe it's both.

“So, hm,” he murmurs and gets off from Taehyung's thighs. He wants to hide because this situation it's more than embarrassing, his mom is looking at them with one eyebrow raised, Songhwa has her arms crossed below her chest, Jeongmin is hugging his own backpack and Minjae is too busy with a lollipop to care about his older brother kissing another man on their living room sofa.

It's silent and Taehyung is looking from Jeongguk to his family, he wants to say something, it's obvious, but it's not his place nor his relatives, so he keeps his mouth shut and holds Jeongguk's hand.  The younger is half frozen and with his lips parted, Taehyung notices when his eyes shake and he takes a deep breath, getting up alongside his boyfriend. Jeongguk was definitely not thinking about presenting Taehyung as his boyfriend to his family on the first day of their relationship, but luck comes and goes and that wasn't his most pleasant moment.

“So, hum,” Jeongguk repeats himself, glancing at Taehyung for a moment before continuing. “He’s my boyfriend, Taehyung. But I guess you know that already.”

“Hi,” Taehyung says smiling, he has that prince charming glow and it's impossible to not like him. “It’s nice to finally put the faces on the names, Ggukie told me a lot of stuff about you guys, and… about Minah? I know that she’s not here now.”

Songhwa’s and Jeongmin’s mouth get open wide and they stare at each other while watching Taehyung bowing at them. Jeongguk looks at them with a judging expression between his eyebrows, it’s obvious that they weren’t believing what he was saying nor that the prince was actually there and being extremely respectful with them.

“Hello, your… Highness?” Jieun stars saying and Jeongguk laughs, pressing his fingers against Taehyung’s hand, it’s just a little bit awkward and Taehyung’s smile grows bigger.

“Just Taehyung it’s fine,” he assures them, looking at Jeongguk for a moment. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Okay, then, it’s nice to meet you and I hope you make each other happy,” she smiles supporting the grocery bags with her arms. “Are you staying for dinner? I’ll make fried chicken.”

Taehyung opens his lips, feeling apprehensive with that, but Jeongguk nods positively and the prince agrees to stay. It is obvious that neither of them was planning this and that they were feeling a little bit ashamed with the exposure, but Jeongguk shrugs and lets go of his boyfriend's hand once for all, taking the bags from his mother's hands while saying he will help her take things to the kitchen.

“Be nice to him you three, okay?” Jeongguk asks and sees them nodding quickly, he looks at Taehyung and blinks sweetly at him before heading to the other room.

His mom follows him around and leaves the prince to the three kids of the house, which Jeongguk thinks it’s going to be something funny to see as he leaves the bags on top of the table and glances at the clock on the wall. It’s exactly 5:30 pm and Jeongguk gets to the conclusion that he’s stupid and hasn’t seen time passing in front of his eyes while he was making out with Taehyung on their sofa.

The sound of silence hovers between the kitchen as Jieun closes the door behind him and folds his arms, leaning against the wood. Jeongguk tilts his head to the side, giving his mother a rather nervous look as he takes the vegetables and fruits out of the bags.

“So,” she begins by raising an eyebrow suggestively. “A prince? I always thought you were going to get a handsome boyfriend, but... Kim Taehyung? Our prince, Kim Taehyung? That's... wow.”

“It's a long story,” Jeongguk murmurs as he turns on his back, putting everything to wash in the sink. "I love him. And he loves me, mom. It's... Something I never would have considered, too, but it happened and it's out of this world, it's exciting and...”

And he loses his words mid-sentence, his mom smiles at the door and he knows that she understands him. Jeongguk breathes easy and washes a handful of apples. Jieun shakes his head in disbelief, and Jeongguk knows what she’s thinking, that her son is too much in love, and she decides not to say anything about the dreamy look on his face and how happy she is with the fact that her failed relationship with his dad hasn’t left him too closed to let someone else loves him and joins him in finishing unpacking the bags.

“Jeonggukie...”, she calls out to him, winning his attention in the same second. "Be careful not to get hurt, sweetie. I'm not going to ask you questions you don't want to answer, let alone try to know how... Well, how you and a prince end up together, I just want you to be happy, okay? And be careful about every step you take; you deserve to have someone who loves you that way.”

“I know, mom,” Jeongguk turns his lip into a small smile because he knows exactly what she’s talking about. “I’ll be careful, I promise.”

It sounds silly to Jeongguk sometimes, but the truth is that he never stopped believing in love. He always thought that it was more than what he saw in his past, that it was more than hurt and pain, as he grew older, he found out that relationships were more complex than a child’s mind could ever comprehend, but that, at the same time, they don’t have to always be bad.

He promised to himself that he would never let himself make the same as his mom because no one is deserving of finding themselves trapped somewhere they don’t want to be. He’s glad that his mom’s better now, that she could grow out of that situation and that the good days might be finally coming their way.

When dinner is ready, all of them squeeze themselves at the table and Minjae stars to tell stories about his classmates and there's a bunch of questions to the new couple of the house. Jeongguk can feel that Taehyung's happy that everyone is treating him casually, so he almost forgets that he has to say goodbye to him after the meal is over.

The sky is already dark when that happens, the full moon is high on the strong blue, there are almost no visible clouds on that warm night. Jeongguk puts his hands on the back pockets of his pants and stares at Taehyung's glowing face under the moonlight, it’s probably somewhere between eight and nine pm and it’s a beautiful night, but there’s a bittersweet feeling between them since Taehyung has to go.

“So,” he starts saying, his car keys between his fingers before taking Jeongguk’s hands on his own. “Today was fun. Thank you… Thank you for that. I liked seeing you again.”

“We can do that more, you know, I don’t want us to be back to just texting,” Jeongguk mumbles, his knees touching Taehyung’s from how close they are. “I have this whole month off and… I know that the restaurant is going to be chaotic when I go back because, you know, there are a bunch of pictures of the royal family eating there so everyone wants a sample from what you had, but I think we can manage it.”

Taehyung smiles at the sound of that and gives Jeongguk a small kiss, just enough for their eyes to close and both of them feel the softness of both of their lips. He leaves one of his hand to his boyfriend’s face and caresses his cheek, right next to the small scar.

“I know,” Taehyung stares at him, licking his own lips as the car keys felt heavy on his hand. “I’ll try my best, okay?”

Jeongguk nods and feels the hand going away from his skin, he takes a step back and lets himself look at the prince one more time, there's a sigh of relief coming from his lips when Taehyung kisses him one last time before saying goodbye. He watches him as he walks to the driver's side, unlocking the door and opening it right away. Jeongguk waves at him when he's inside, the glass of the windows down, and a small smile hanging on his lips. Taehyung sends him a hand kiss and Jeongguk chuckles, pretending to catch and put it in his pocket.

He waits until Taehyung’s car is gone on the street to come back home, knowing for sure that his siblings (except for Minjae, who obviously doesn’t care if his older brother is dating someone important or not) are going to ask a lot of questions and be excited for him. Jeongguk just shrugs and walks into the living room, already seeing the four curious eyes at him and he doesn’t have time to run away.

 

Later on that night, when he manages to get rid of the questioning words of his siblings and talks with Minah over the phone (she was very clear when she mentioned that she wanted her mom and older brother to rest for the two nights to come, that she would be fine with just a few visits), Jeongguk throws himself on his bed, his phone between his hands and head rested on the pillow. There’s a small notification at the top of his screen and he opens it after putting his arm below his head, turning to the side while he yawns.

 

Tae [9:337 pm]

[photo]

everyone wants to rule the world

 

Ggukie [10:57 pm]

is that your crown???

you look really handsome wearing it

wait

why are you on your dad’s throne

HYUNG

 

Tae [11:00 pm]

yes, it’s my crown

the other picture was ugly so i took a new one

and my dad doesnt care as long as there’s no one in the room lol

but he did saw me taking the picture and asked me what the hell was i doing

so i just said “i’m taking a picture for my boyfriend wanna help?”

so he helped

 

Ggukie[11:02 pm]

WAIT

WHAT THE HELL HYUNG

sakljsloijdoijkgdfogdfpogkdfg

 

Tae [11:03 pm]

OH NO

i broke my boyfriend with my dad slash the king knowing about him

 

Ggukie [11:04 pm]

SLKPFOKODKLF

why would you do that

i mean ok

it's fine

it's completely fine

 

Tae [11:05 pm]

you’re freaking out rn aren’t you

 

Ggukie [11:06 pm]

yes

 

Tae [11:06 pm]

one day you’ll get used to it, baby

but maybe you can just picture them as my parents?

because that’s what they are other than being the king and the queen

they’re just like other people

 

Ggukie[11:07 pm]

I'll try, but it's quite overwhelming,

I've never been that serious with someone

and when I am, it's more feelings than I thought that it would be,

not entirely because you're the prince and your parents are part of the government of the country, 

but because of me, of you and us

you saying that you mentioned me to your dad makes it a lot more real

and you know I'm the person who's always overthinking everything all the time,

 

Tae [11:09 pm]

I think I get it, and we promised to take this slow, right?

We're dating, but we don't have to rush anything right now

 

Ggukie [11:10 pm]

I know, don't worry

we'll take it easy

Ggukie [11:11 pm]

btw did my siblings bother u?

 

Tae [11:12 pm]

nooooo, they were like super cute

but they asked me a lot of questions

mostly about you

 

Ggukie [11:13 pm]

about me????

 

Tae [11:13 pm]

Yes lsmskaaklalw

It was kinda cute

I left a bit of mystery and told them some stuff about the history of the monarchy here and they were entertained lmao

But they were curious about how you and I met and end up together,

I told them that it was a secret and Jeongmin looked at me like he was Sherlock Holmes

 

Ggukie [11:14 pm]

that's cause he is Sherlock Holmes

but he’s without his Watson

 

Tae [11:15 pm]

should I be scared of him and Minah together

 

Ggukie [11:16 pm]

probably

but i’ll tell them the truth when she’s out of the hospital if you’re fine with it

i can make them promise not to tell anyone

just like i did earlier. i told them that no one else should know about us, at least for now

 

Tae [11:17 pm]

yeah you can tell them, it’s fine

it’s kind of a funny story too

who would’ve thought that we would end up here

 

Ggukie [11:18 pm]

right???

they’re gonna laugh at us

 

Tae [11:19 pm]

at least you’re not gonna be on this alone,

mine are going to make fun of me too

 

Jeongguk chuckles to his phone and the pillow touch his cheeks, it’s funny to think about the other princes and princesses making fun of Taehyung since they all seem to be very serious and rigid with what they say.

And Jeongguk ends up falling asleep amid some late-night conversations with Taehyung, picturing how their future would be and what challenges would they have to face, not even realizing what time it was.

 

 

ONE YEAR LATER

The sight of the deep blue ocean in front of his eyes makes Jeongguk think that that’s one of the most beautiful things he has seen ever seen. The warm air from the sea hit his face in full as he supported his forearms on the inn's wooden railing. Jeongguk had not been to Busan in a long time, his chaotic life in Seoul did not allow that to happen, which was a sad thing to Jeongguk because he started to think that he didn’t even remember how his hometown was anymore. It was quite a good surprise when he got some days off to go to Jimin’s and Hoseok’s wedding and realized he could enjoy a bit of Busan during that week.

Jimin's parents own a seaside inn in Busan, and the place is huge, the furniture was all made of wood and most of the construction also followed the same pattern and, due to the wedding, it had only the family of the grooms and guests in the rooms. At first, Jeongguk thought that it would be something big and full of people, but both Jimin and Hoseok wanted something more private, quick, and familiar, it was a beach wedding, the perfect option for that, and then the rest of the day would be the party to celebrate their union.

“Beautiful isn’t it?” Hoseok’s voice sounds right next to him, Jeongguk moves his head to the side and smiles. “When Jimin brought me here for the first time, I almost didn’t leave this place.”

“It’s been so long since I last saw Busan’s beaches,” he sighs, a small smile popping between his lips, he feels more nostalgic than he thought we would. “The rest of the city is a bit different, but here's just as I remembered.”

“You were twelve when you left?”, he asked and Jeongguk nods, turning his eyes back to the sea. “That's a long time… Are you leaving once the wedding is over or are you staying a bit more?”

“I think I'll stay for the rest of the month,” Jeongguk turns around, letting his back resting on the railing and he finds Jimin walking to them, hugging his soon-to-be husband on the side while letting his chin on his shoulder. “My mom's here because she's trying to find my dad to finally divorce him, and apparently she stopped talking with her parents when she married him, so she's trying to make up for the lost time.”

“Wait, really?” Hoseok's startled, mouth half open and eyes fixed on Jeongguk. “Did she get a good lawyer?”

“Yes, she did. I talked with my boyfriend and he helped us, he knows a lot of people and it was easier, even to find my dad again,” his voice is calm and the complex exchange a stare, as if they were asking themselves how Jeongguk was so calm about that subject.

It was surprising how much the younger had changed for the better during the past year, he was giving himself a change of living, and it makes everyone around him feel happy about it. Jeongguk was less rigid and not on the verge of having a breakdown like he had last year, and of course, that was probably because things at his house are doing better. Minah's free from her cancer, his mom was working fine, Songhwa was going to start college in a few weeks and the two little ones were doing just fine. Jeongguk was happier and that was more than obvious.

“Speaking of boyfriend matters, didn’t you say that your boyfriend would be your plus one?” Jimin asks giving him a piercing look, it has been months since him and Hoseok have been asking Jeongguk to met the said boyfriend, but the latter always says that it’s going to be a surprise, but that surprise never comes.

“I did,” Jeongguk moves his eyebrows playfully, going back to staring at the sea to not smile like an idiot at the thought of Taehyung. “He’s here. He got here last night, you two were already sleeping, I guess. And he went straight to my room.”

Both of their chins fall in disbelief. “You’re joking,” Hoseok murmurs, half-closing his eyes when Jeongguk shakes his head, chuckling softly at his hyungs. “He’s really here? Jimin…”

“Who’s here?”,  a deep and sleepy voice echoes through the common area of the inn, and Jeongguk turns around, smiling at his boyfriend’s crumpled face from the pillow and all the sleeping hours he had, despite the hot weather, Taehyung was wearing sweatpants tied by a string right over his hip bones and a loose black shirt. “Hi, baby.”

“Hi,” Jeongguk opens his arms and gives him a warm hug before pressing a small kiss on his lips, he knows that Taehyung’s clingy when he wakes up and doesn’t find it odd the fact that he lets his face hidden on his neck for a few seconds. “It was you they were waking about.”

“Oh,” realization comes to Taehyung’s mind and he scratches his eyes for a second before hugging Jeongguk from the back, his hands around his boyfriend’s waist, and a smile between his lips, the other two are open-mouthed staring at them. “Hello, it’s nice to meet you two. Jimin and Hoseok, right? Jeonggukie here talks a lot about you two. And I want to apologize for the bodyguards I brought with me, I wanted to come alone, but my parents insisted.”

The four were silent, the shock was too huge for Jimin and Hoseok to be able to say anything. Jeongguk wanted to laugh and leaned against his boyfriend's arm, looking at him from the corner for a moment.

“And I brought you a wedding gift, I thought it wouldn't be polite to come empty-handed. Can I give it to you later on today? It stayed in the room ‘cause I came just to find my boyfriend.” Taehyung finishes speaking, making Jeongguk laugh softly the way his hyungs started to stutter without knowing how to act.

“Thank you, Your Highness, we appreciate that and…” Jimin manages to speak, squeezing Hoseok's arm too tight because of the nervousness, he obviously doesn’t know what to say and the oldest is way more frozen than him, “I hope you enjoy the stay and the wedding and... We have something to do, right, Hoseok? Come on, let's go!”

“We do?” Hoseok asks, raising his eyebrows and Jimin looks at him, without saying anything else and then looks at the couple, it doesn't take another second for him to say goodbye and follow the groom out of the common area.

Jeongguk and Taehyung laugh together and their fingers are intertwined, they always find it funny when these things happen, it was not the first or the last time. Seokjin reacted the same way, or better said, the manager's reaction was worse because he almost got sick, went pale and everything, but now everything was fine and he still looked a little weirdly at Jeongguk every time he goes to work. On the other hand, Yoongi did not believe what he was seeing and scolded Taehyung, saying that the prince would be the cause of his early hair loss. Yoongi was one of the first royalty people to find out about Jeongguk and, despite his first impression and slightly exaggerated reaction, his heart softened when he saw the couple together and practically adopted Jeongguk as his protégé. Taehyung had suffered a little from this, after all, Yoongi was supposed to deal with him, not with his boyfriend, but nowadays the prince was amused by that story.

Yuna already knew about Taehyung's boyfriend, so she and all the other brothers of the prince found no problem in getting him involved with a commoner, they were only sincere with the two and said it would be a long roller coaster when that relationship goes public, but Taehyung and Jeongguk were sure to assure everyone that they would only let the rest of the country (and the world) know that they were together when the time was right.

As Taehyung kept saying, Jeongguk and the queen got along pretty well right away, she had a very similar personality to her son and soon created a huge affection for him. The king was someone more serious, obviously, but as soon as he saw that his son was really in love with the boy, he found no problem in that relationship. And, well, of course, there were some casualties because Taehyung was a prince, both families had to get to know each other and Minah smiled wide open while walking the halls of the palace (but it was no worse than when she saw the youngest prince, which left both Taehyung and Jeongguk laughing at the girl's expression).

All of the uncertainty that was there, in the beginning, had completely disappeared during those twelve months that passed. Jeongguk wasn't going to lie, things had to change between them, they weren't the same Jeongguk and Taehyung from a year before. There was a lot more of trust between them, Jeongguk knew more about the prince than he thought he would, even how he likes his breakfast in the morning, or how he would scrunch his nose to the left side when he's upset about something.

The most surreal part of it all is that Jeongguk ended up getting used to the palace from so many nights, so many weekends and so many holidays that he spent with Taehyung inside royal walls.  At first, he thought it would be impossible to remember all those corridors, all the rooms, and the way that there was even an elevator in the middle of the main palace and where the royal family slept, but today Jeongguk is able to find himself with his eyes closed.

“Your friends are funny,” Taehyung comments, and Jeongguk chuckles, thinking that they were just scared and probably too surprised. “Do you think they're gonna like the gift?”

“Wanna have brunch?” Jeongguk asks, turning around so he can hug him back. “I haven't eaten yet.”

“You just read my mind,” Taehyung answers with a bit of laziness on his voice, just a second before his back touches the railing and Jeongguk kisses him softly on the mouth.

It was a soft and slow kiss, Jeongguk could feel the taste of mint toothpaste on his tongue and how Taehyung had the feeling that he had just got out from bed. When he touched the skin on his waist because of the loose white t-shirt, their noses pressed against each other, and Jeongguk smiles, holding his hand so they could go to the kitchen and try to find something to eat before enjoying the afternoon at the beach.

Because of the wedding, that part of the beach was closed off for the public and they didn't need to worry about anything — that and Taehyung's bodyguards observing the area. It was heartwarming and a good experience being there with Taehyung, remembering the old times and making new memories.

“Baby,” Taehyung starts off, sitting by Jeongguk’s side with his wet hair pushed back, tanned skin showing off since he was only wearing a flowery beach short. “I talked with Yoongi hyung about that thing, and with my parents. “They’ll support us.”

“Are you sure?” Jeongguk asks, his eyes moving from the deep sea to the image of his boyfriend. “It’s a big deal, hyung, and it can change everything for you.”

“You and I know that the one that’s going to face more change on this is you, Jeonggukie,” he licks his lips and his salty and wet hand holds Jeongguk’s lightly. “It’s both of us on this, okay? And we’re only doing this if you agree completely. It means that...”

“I’ll have to leave my job, and my siblings change schools… And we probably will need to move out of the house we’re living today.” Jeongguk completes, noticing how Taehyung’s head moves in agreement, he knows that this might be a burden for the Jeon family and he doesn’t want to do anything that they don't want to, even though everyone knew what they would need to do if both of them were to be together. “Tae, look, I know what you’re thinking now.”

Taehyung sighs, biting his inner cheek, “how could I not worry?”

“My mom wants to buy a house in Seoul,” Jeongguk says out of nowhere and ends up changing Taehyung’s expression from uncertainty to surprise. “The friend that he works for wants to open a second store in another part of  Seoul and wants my mom to be the one responsible for it, so I guess we’ll be moving out soon since she was able to find my dad and he has a lot of money to pay us because of all the time he was gone. Jeongmin is going to high school and he’ll have to exchange schools, either way, Songhwa’s going to college, so she’ll live in the dorms and it won’t be too much of a problem because it’s a good place, Minjae likes making new friends and all Minah’s friends graduated last semester and she’ll be all alone in school, my mom loves you and I’m definitely gonna help her with the bakery and leave my job at the restaurant because of that so… Why wait? If you really wanna do it.”

“Wait, really? And you didn’t tell me all of this?” Taehyung frowns, touching his face swipe away the salty water from the sea.

“I wanted it to be a surprise,” he smiles, squeezing his boyfriend’s hand. “And I was going to tell you here, anyway, a lot has been changing and… Having you by my side gives me a sense of being at home while everything else is going in flames. In a good way, of course.”

“I just got a little bit turned on right now,” he confesses out of nowhere.

Jeongguk laughs out loud, especially because Taehyung said that with a straight face as if it was nothing. His hand goes up to his chin, their eyes are fixed on each other and Jeongguk blinks slowly.

“I love you so much, Jeonggukie,” Taehyung whispers against his lips, giving him a light kiss. “You don’t even know how much.”

The younger boy's face lights up and he touches his boyfriend's neck, there is a huge smile between his lips and Jeongguk touches his forehead to the prince's. “I love you, too, hyung. So much.”

This was not the first time the two had talked about revealing their relationship to the public, but the right moment never seemed to come. First that everyone advised that they should wait until they have at least some time together, to have more time to think about the pros and cons, and it is obvious that some people who are always watching the royal family had noticed the change in the prince, he stays more in Seoul now, he’s hardly seen in public and his smile is more sincere when he answered questions about relationships, something that before always seemed to be unwilling to answer that kind of question - but it was obvious why everyone wanted to know that, he’s young, one of the members of the royal family and people like good gossip.

And, if Taehyung could be honest with everyone, he didn't mind people knowing about his relationships, much less that he loves a man.

In Jeongguk's opinion, the reality was quite different from what he imagined when he discovered that the person he had fallen in love with was the prince of his country. Of course, they still had all the common problems that happen sometimes when you're in the middle of a relationship and the fact that, until then, they couldn't be the cliché couple who are always posting pictures together on social networks. Taehyung rarely can pick him up at the end of his workday and it's funny the way that no one in the media ever came to think that's odd every time Jeongguk enters the palace through the back gates. He even imagined that the royal family, perhaps, could have some arrangement with journalists about this, or his identification card helped in disguise his image, Jeongguk walked around the palace always wearing it around his neck, and in the restaurant, they only recognized him rarely as one of the waiters from the royal dinner.

It was a perfect story that they had created so that they could reveal themselves to the public: the waiter and the prince, who met each other during a simple outing dinner the royal family and fell in love at first sight. No one would need to know the true story, no, that was something of theirs, something special that only the two of them needed know about.

Since Taehyung had already talked to everyone who would take care of the press and their questions, both he and Jeongguk left everything clear and explained how they were going to do it, what they wanted outsiders to know, the only thing they needed to do was to let them know when it would happen. The monarchy was strong enough to deal with it, Jeongguk's mother didn't care at all about her son's happiness being a problem for other people and Jeongguk's siblings would all defend him in any circumstances.

“Do you think this tie looks good with this suit?” Taehyung asks staring at himself in the mirror, Jeongguk is lying on their double bed at the inn, wearing only a dress shirt with two open buttons and black pants that are too soft for his taste, it's the following day already and Hoseok and Jimin will get married in a few hours.

“I think that anything looks good on you, hyung,” Jeongguk murmurs, leaning on his elbows and he feels his hair bigger than the usual, it's touching his eyes sometimes and it tickles the back of his neck, but Taehyung seems to like that, he always says that his boyfriend is more beautiful than ever and Jeongguk, being sincere, prefers it that way than the standard for the restaurant: high above the eyebrows and well-trimmed. “I think you could go to this wedding wearing a bathing suit and it would look awesome.”

“Just tell me that you want to see me without clothes in public, Jeonggukie,” Taehyung squints, turning his neck to face his smiling boyfriend. “I think I'll put this side. It's a less formal wedding than the ones I am used to. We are not in a giant palace."

“And Jimin hyung and Hoseok hyung are not princes, nor dukes, nor ministers or senators,” he comments playfully and Taehyung rolls his eyes, watching him pull his body to the edge of the bed. “Come here.”

Reluctantly, Taehyung walks over to Jeongguk, drops his tie on the mattress, and feels his boyfriend's arms around his waist when he gets up, wrinkling his white suit and he doesn't care at all. Jeongguk's touch is firm and strong on him.

“You're nervous, aren't you?” Jeongguk asks in a calm voice, but it sounds more like a statement and that's confirmed when Taehyung nods quickly. “It's going to be all right and you know it doesn't have to be exactly today, right? We can enjoy the wedding, the beach and then we worry about it. It's not like anybody here hasn't seen you around here with me yet.”

“I want it to be today, baby,” Taehyung touched his shoulders, wrapping his arms around his boyfriend's neck lovingly and Jeongguk gives him a confident smile. “And I want to do this to you, not to confirm some rumors and pictures going around. I can't stand having to nod and smile every time I get asked about girlfriends when I have a hot boyfriend by my side.”

Jeongguk's loud laugh echoes through the room and Taehyung shakes his head, knowing that the youngest loves when he talks that. Jeongguk might be a little shy and closed off, but he loves hearing corny things like that.

“Okay, then. Let's do it right now,” Jeongguk says out of nowhere, as soon as his laughter fades away and Taehyung's eyes widen, but the youngest's serious look brings him security and they just know that there is no better time than the one they're at.

There is no immediate response from Taehyung, but he sighs and takes his phone out of his suit pocket, sits on the edge of the bed as soon as Jeongguk's fingers leave his waist and he follows him with his eyes as the prince opens the app pictures on his phone. Taehyung licks his eyes in nervousness and chooses two photos they took the day before while they were watching the sunset on the beach, in one of them he had wet shoulders and his eyes were slightly closed due to the strong light hitting right in front of his face, Jeongguk had a huge smile between his lips and, in the other picture, Taehyung is kissing him on the cheek, his hands are intertwined and Jeongguk has his eyes closed and dreamy look on his face. In both of them, they have tanned skins and their hair is messed up due to the salty water, the inn isn't visible, much less anyone else, just some trees and part of the sea, they wouldn't be found so easy and the inn closed off to visitors also made that difficult.

They exchange a look before Taehyung sends a message to Yoongi, warning him that he will post pictures of him and Jeongguk in a few minutes, telling everyone around the world about their relationship. He receives an answer in seconds, just a simple ‘okay, go for it’ and he sighs, knowing exactly what to write. Jeongguk's there, beside him, it is a sincere and discreet little text, there is no mention of his boyfriend's name, but he knows it is a matter of time until they find it, even though Jeongguk deactivated all his accounts more than a year ago, and as soon as he puts a period to his text, he hits the send post button and locks the device in the following second.

Jeongguk is smiling next to him, he knows that Taehyung tense like that because of him, but instead of saying anything, he just touches his boyfriend's cheeks and presses a featherlight kiss to his lips. “C’mon, the ceremony is about to start.”

Taehyung nods, the small grin not leaving his lips since the moment Jeongguk’s mouth was pressed against his own, he puts his phone back into his pocket and holds his boyfriend’s hand so they could walk out of their shared bedroom in the Park’s family inn. Neither Jeongguk nor check social media for the rest of the day and, instead of that, they watched Hoseok and Jimin get married under the sunlight, the ripped smiles on their faces, demonstrating how happy they were to have bonded with each other after years of dating.

At the end of that afternoon, when the sun was very low and it didn't even seem to be nearly seven o'clock at night because it was so sunny, Jeongguk and Taehyung took two bottles of wine and went to the beach, fleeing the party in the same way they had when met in person for the first time. The prince had already gotten rid of his suit and Jeongguk's cheeks were red from the heat and his shirt buttons were open, but even with his social clothes and light, they didn't mind sitting on the sand, side by side, feeling the air coming from the sea and looking at the moon rising in the sky.

Jeongguk looks to the side and sees Taehyung smiling, drinking the wine straight from the bottle and with his brown hair all messy and pushed back, differently from the beginning of the party. He realizes that he was right to think that, when he met Taehyung personally, he would fall in love with him even more. Jeongguk of the past knew things because right now he was much more in love with Taehyung than he was last year or the day before, or every other day that passed during that year they spent dating. It was impossible not to wake up and face Taehyung's cute smile and not to fall in love with him, it was impossible not to feel that warmth inside him every time he heard his hoarse and sleepy voice after a late afternoon nap or even the way he manages to change it to a sly one when he wants something.

Unlike the previous year, Taehyung and Jeongguk's night does not end when the clock strikes midnight, but in his room at the inn, the door closed carefully, and bottles of wine thrown on the floor. There is a mix of clothes and sheets crumpled at the end of the bed, along with the two bodies connected in the middle of the mattress, the room is stuffy and, although it is too late, the window is open.

Amid his heavy breath, leftover salt from the beach in his sticky skin, and Taehyung sleeping on his chest, Jeongguk knows it's a good night.