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touch me not, for caesar's i am

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Over his cup of wine, he watches the prince spin and twirl his partner effortlessly around the floor, a pretty whirl of colourful silks and fabrics. The prince’s eyes meet his during the dance and he flashes Jongdae a playful wink before returning his attention to his partner.

Jongdae averts his eyes down, trying to fight the smile blooming on his lips—but it’s hard to fight smiles with Prince Yixing around.

He looks back up, to see where the prince is now but is instead greeted by his brother standing in front of him, looking worried.

‘Have no fear brother, I’m not up to any trouble this time,’ Jongdae grins.

Jongdeok rolls his eyes. ‘It’s not you that I’m worried about. Mother’s taken note of all our guests and we’re missing one. I think you can take a guess.’

Jongdae stands up to leave. This talk has really dampened his spirits. ‘I can. But I can assure you, I am not missing him.’

He moves to leave, but Jongdeok catches his arm and spins him to look at him.

‘Listen to me Jongdae. These next couple of days are going to be important to me, and he is a guest, foreign, and a prince in his own right. I nor our mother want any repeats of the past, alright? No squabbling, no fighting, anything adjacent. Besides, it’s been years since you last saw each other, and we’ve not seen war for an even longer amount of time, the longest period of peace between our two kingdoms. Could you put aside your differences? At least for now?’

The defiant part of him, indignant that his brother would lecture him about this, wants to argue back. Instead, he bites his tongue, swallows those protests down because he knows where his brother is coming from, and he doesn’t want to disappoint him all for a petty feud with some princeling.

He nods and Jongdeok smiles and claps him on the back.

‘Good, so you can’t say no now! I want you to find him,’ Jongdeok says, still beaming. ‘I received a letter earlier that said he would likely arrive in time for this feast, but there’s been no sign of him yet.’

Jongdae raises a brow. ‘Get one of the guards to find him, that’s no job of mine. In any case, I’m sure he can find his way, our lands aren’t so dangerous.’

‘I’d rather it looked like we weren’t trying to arrest him. And imagine if he’s lost. If we never found him, and his last destination was meant to be this very castle. We would surely see war again; his father has no other children and would think that we robbed him of his heir—’

‘Alright! I’ll find him!’ Jongdae gives in. ‘But if I end up lost, I hope mother hounds you down for the rest of your life in addition to Baekhyun’s father waging war on you.’

He turns his back on his brother’s pealing laughs and strides out the hall into the corridor. The sound of the steady beat of footsteps has him turning around, likely Kyungsoo asking why he would leave the feast so abruptly. He’s proven right when he turns around to see his valet following after him, concern in his eyes.

‘Jongdae, you’re leaving so soon?’ Kyungsoo asks.

‘Request from the Crown Prince. He sent me out to find a stray,’ Jongdae replies wryly.

Kyungsoo tilts his head. ‘Do you want me to go with you? It’s getting dark now.’

‘No need. I don’t think I’ll find too much trouble, except for trouble himself. You’re free to go back and enjoy yourself Kyungsoo.’

They say their goodbyes and Jongdae heads out to the stables to find his brother’s steed—he won’t drag Amaranth out of her rest for this—and heads off.

There’s really only one place Baekhyun should be and that’s the Grey Road that connects both their capitals and, with the sun now slipping beneath the sky, he’d be a fool to not already be close by.

There’s very little movement outside the keep compared to inside. While around the courtyard there had been some squires and servants loitering away from the feast, there’s almost no life on the road leading from the keep to the city, only a couple of merchants and their carts, making their way back home. He knows there’ll be even less human life on the Grey Road.

Jongdae regrets not taking Kyungsoo’s offer.

He wraps his cloak around him tighter and steers the horse in that direction, feeling the cool air wash over his face. The woods around the road get thicker the more he travels down it, the branches arching above him onto the sky, the roots of trees terrorising the path, and grass growing unruly around the edges. Soon enough, where before, stone lay, now a worn-out dirt road lies before him, only made distinguishable by its relative barrenness.

Somewhere to his left, he hears a rustling. He’s not so scared, in fact, he’s much more inclined to think it’s Prince Baekhyun playing at some game. However, his brother’s palfrey doesn’t share his sentiments, the poor horse whinnying at the sound. Guilt creeps into Jongdae. He didn’t have to be so petty and take his brother’s mare out, especially as dark as it was.

He tries to soothe her, stroking her mane, but another sound, a whir through the trees, interrupts his attempts. She’s much more spooked now, enough to kick out into the air and throw Jongdae onto his back.

Gratefully, he lands relatively unharmed, but the palfrey doesn’t wait for him and instead charges forward, deep into the forest, leaving him behind on his ass.

Jongdae groans as he pushes himself up, wiping his hands on his hose. He doesn’t really think Baekhyun’s worth all this but he does want to be the bigger person, both with the prince and his brother. He follows the horses’ path into the woods, trying to see tracks or trodden greenery. It might be worth making a martyr of himself if he’s sure his brother will never ask him to look for Byun Baekhyun again.

But these thoughts are spoken too soon. When he turns to survey his surroundings, a loud snort sounds from some distance, along with some distinct shuffling. But it’s not the familiar sound of his brother’s palfrey, doesn’t sound like the imperious stomping of a horse’s hooves. No, it’s a sound much less known to Jongdae, but he thinks he can hazard a guess.

He’s not much of a hunter, it’s much too exertive for him to enjoy, but he can tell a boar if it’s nearby—and he’s certain there’s one only a close distance from him.

He has to run. There had been no reason for him to take his bow so he only has his sword, and he can’t throw that without completely losing any defense he has.

The boar sniffs out amongst the forest floor, shuffling closer to him and bringing itself in Jongdae’s sight. It’s a great, grizzled thing—bigger than a wolf, along with a coat of thick, coarse hair. This was by no means some old pig that’s escaped its fetters and run off into the wild. This was truly a beast.

If he dies, he will be raining hell on Jongdeok in the afterlife.

He takes careful steps back, trying his hardest not to alert this boar’s hearing, and he does well, making it some few yards before he steps on a very crisp sounding twig and signals the boar to his presence, the beast snapping its head up in his direction.

He turns around to where he thinks he came from and runs like he’s never run before. He’s fast, faster than Kyungsoo or Jongdeok and anyone else he knows, and if he keeps his pace up, he’ll be out of the forest and back to relative safety. He can only hope he doesn’t trip or do something else stupid.

He stumbles in and out of the trees, trying to find his way back to the road while he’s rapidly losing light, and he’s not sure if the boar is still behind him or if he’s left it far back. He can’t hear anything over the deafening pounding of his heart. He’s never feared for his life more.

The boar rumbles some distance behind him, perhaps only a dozen or so paces away, and he urges his legs on in spite of the pain, pushing them to go faster.

The beast roars again, but this time it sounds much more pained, like a long, thundering wail, before the woods are silent again.

There’s a bit of time before Jongdae feels it safe to turn around and see what’s become of the boar, and when he does, he finds three arrows in its back and Byun Baekhyun, triumphant on horseback, just above the lifeless body.

The last time they saw each other they were boys of five and ten, at the last agreements of the peace treaty between their two kingdoms. Now, eight years have gone and Jongdae is all too disappointed that the teenage gawkiness has left Baekhyun as it had left him. Annoyed, he finds that while he has remained slight, Baekhyun has grown broad and, he adds begrudgingly, good-looking. Another thing piling onto this humiliation.

‘What are you doing here?’ Jongdae asks sharply.

Baekhyun raises a brow. ‘Apparently, saving you. Where are my thanks? You were always so well-mannered when we were younger.’ Well, their rapport hasn’t changed one bit.

‘No, I mean what are you doing here, and not at our castle?’ Jongdae demands. ‘My brother sent me out to look for you and you almost got me killed!’

Baekhyun steers his horse closer to Jongdae, and he can see even better how the years have treated his adversary well with the boyish features and evergreen grin melding so pleasantly on his face, the sharp collarbones peeking out from under his clothes, the toned thighs at his saddle—

‘No, I didn’t, I clearly saved you and I can tell because you’re still yelling my ear off. I even managed to get your brother some game for his wedding feast!’ Baekhyun says, gesturing to the boar. ‘That’s what I was doing all afternoon. I did send word ahead.’

Jongdae scoffs before turning around and walking off.

‘Where are you going?’ Baekhyun asks, trotting his horse alongside him. ‘You’re coming with me. After you help me get the boar attached to my horse that is. The sun’s just about to come down and if you’re out here still walking, you’ll be in real danger and I won’t be here to rescue you, sweet prince, I’ll be at your brother’s feast.’

Jongdae’s stubborn but he’s not without his instincts, especially not after what’s just happened. He agrees, thankful that the dim light of the forest can hide how red his cheeks must look, and gets to work with Baekhyun to tie the legs of the boar together, and to place it in the wagon at the back of his palfrey.

Baekhyun gets on the horse first, before pulling Jongdae up behind him. A shiver runs through his bones at the touch of their palms against each other and he can only hope that Baekhyun doesn’t notice.

‘Wait,’ Jongdae says, ‘my brother’s palfrey. I came here on her.’

‘She can be found tomorrow, but you’re going back now. I’d rather spend my time eating and dancing than arguing with you.’ He won’t hear any more from Jongdae, urging his horse forward into the woods and back on the Grey Road.

When they arrive back at the castle, they’re greeted by Kyungsoo, Jongdeok, and his damned palfrey nuzzling at his brother’s shoulder.

‘I’ll be retiring for the night,’ Jongdae announces, swinging off Baekhyun’s horse. ‘I’ve had more than enough excitement for a month.’ He stomps his way back into the castle, with Kyungsoo moving to follow him.

‘Perhaps you’re best off serving this tonight,’ he hears Baekhyun say to his brother. ‘I don’t think he’ll want to see boar for a long while.’

The laugh, hearty and resounding, only rattle him more.

 


 

Twenty-three years ago, a war was waging between the kingdoms that Baekhyun and Jongdeok would one day rule, a war that was coming onto its fourth year, culminating in the siege of Jongdae’s grandfather’s capital. In the spring of that same year, Baekhyun was born, healthy and hale, and now, with his succession finally secured, his father saw it fit to lay siege on the Kim’s castle and city, after making several advancements in the past year.

Four months later, in the last days of summer, Jongdae followed, an easy birth for both the Crown Princess and the little prince. Now with a spare, their people were even more galvanised, and after four months of being sieged, the city was liberated by her own forces, and Baekhyun’s father’s men were pushed out before the end of winter.

The boys had never seen this war, both still in the cradle by the time it had come to an end, but it seemed like the spirit of it lived on between them.

Of course, with the end of war, came negotiations and reparations, which for this one took years to resolve due to the traditional opposition between their two kingdoms, the boys saw each other once, maybe twice a year, to both their repulsion.

Baekhyun thought Jongdae prudish, haughty, and cautious, whereas Jongdae saw the other as stubborn, hot-headed, and careless, and were prone to butting heads with each other. This rivalry was only egged on by Baekhyun’s constant companion, Chanyeol, who Jongdae thought had the same heedlessness as his Crown Prince, and Jongdae’s now-valet, Kyungsoo, who shared much of Jongdae’s opinions on the two.

Their youth involved playing many jokes on each other just to toy with each other, but it often led to such upset and tears, that it seemed they would never come to an end, the pranks only getting bigger and bigger as they tried to outdo each other, which, of course, ended up in more tears.

Adding to the pranks were the lessons and tutorials that were often shared between the two, and though they had been told it was to encourage a bond between the two princes and so another war could be avoided, Jongdae realises now that it was essentially a contest between their parents to see who had the most accomplished son.

It doesn’t mean the two of them were any less enthusiastic about it, showing off during their shared lessons and challenging the other to try and do better than they could. It didn’t help that the two of them were both proud and headstrong, and perceived failures also ended in tears.

Jongdae thought that part of his life over, but then Baekhyun just had to go and save him, like he was some damsel in distress! When Jongdae was the one sent to find him!

He tosses and turns in his bed, angry with Baekhyun and angry with himself. He lies there in bed, listening to the faint sounds of the party coming through his window.

                                                                                                               


 

What happened last night still doesn’t sit well with Jongdae, and he wakes up, barely after the first slivers of dawn, just as restless as he felt when he went to bed.

He slips out of the covers, reaches for some simple leather breeches, a tunic, his sword, and heads out of his room, hoping that maybe a ride will get rid of his nerves.

But to make it to the stables he has to go past the practice yards, and lo and behold, who does he see. Baekhyun, by early light, practicing his swordsmanship.

From what Jongdae can see, he’s improved much from their childhood, as quick and agile as he is strong, with the same bull-headedness that he recognises from their youth. Jongdae is loath to admit that Baekhyun looks to be better than him in this area still.

He tries to sweep past him with long, sure strides, but even he knows how futile that is when, save for a few servants making their way about, it’s just him and Baekhyun. It’s made even worse with how achingly familiar they are to each other. He prays that the other will just leave him alone, that he’ll be too focused on whatever he’s doing, but Baekhyun’s never been one to do what Jongdae wants of him.

‘Jongdae!’

Only a couple more yards. He would’ve made it to his precious Amaranth. Jongdae turns to face him.

‘Your Highness?’ Jongdae sighs.

Baekhyun jogs up to him, brow raised. ‘Come on, there’s no need for such formalities. I know we’ve called each other worse, and we’ve never drawn blood for it.’

He’s out of breath, chest heaving under his white undershirt, dampened by his exertion. The strings to them are undrawn, and Jongdae can see his sharp clavicles, and the wide expanse of skin, radiant under the rays of the sun. From this close, he can even see a couple of scars marring his chest.

‘I got this one from Chanyeol’s family’s great-sword. It’s almost as tall as he is.’ Baekhyun says, smiling impishly as he traces down the longest of his scars. Jongdae is mortified at having been caught ogling him.

‘What did you want me for?’ he snaps. ‘I wanted to take a ride.’

Baekhyun has the gall to look affronted. ‘I was going to ask you if you would spar with me. It’s much better with a partner.’

‘I can’t, I wanted to go for a ride.’ Jongdae turns back to head in the direction of the stables, but Baekhyun catches his arm and pulls him back close to him, practically nose-to-nose.

‘Please? I’ll let you go on your ride after just one time,’ Baekhyun pleads.

Jongdae’s about to argue again, but a jostling at his hips pulls his attention away, and then Baekhyun pulls his sword out of its sheath, the dull brush of metal against leather muffling Jongdae’s stifled gasp.

‘There’s no point in fighting it Your Grace,’ Baekhyun says, stepping back and proffering the blade back to him, ‘you already have your sword out.’ Save for the mischief dancing in his eyes, this scoundrel is the very picture of chivalry.

Jongdae steps forward and snatches his sword back from Baekhyun’s firm grip. ‘Just once.’

The other’s lips quirk up. ‘You have my word. Then I’ll leave you to it. Well, of course, I’ll be there to join you for your ride. We don’t want the spare getting hurt by some beast.’

That has all the memories of last night flooding back to him and he’s flushed.

He’s the one to make the first strike, which Baekhyun enthusiastically parries with a sharp gleam in his eyes. A thrust forward—blocked—and another—blocked again by a beaming Baekhyun who arcs their blades to his right so he can look down at Jongdae.

‘I was hoping you would give me a challenge!’ he laughs. ‘You’ve gotten better the last time we did this; you never used to attack this much. Neither did you used to look at me so much. I find that I’m enjoying it.’

Jongdae lets his guard down. ‘What?’

Baekhyun swings his sword down to Jongdae’s left and would’ve almost torn at his breeches had he not moved back in time. He stumbles to regain his footing but keeps his eyes fixed on the elder who stares back at him with intent, advancing towards him, step by step, a dance that Jongdae is beholden to as he takes his steps backward. It brings reminiscent of the incident with the boar last night, but this time he is prey to an entirely different predator.

He halts his steps to advance once again towards Baekhyun, and it seems he’s had just the same idea, steel hissing as their blades press against each other into a searing kiss. They pull back, only to come to their blows meeting, again and again, the metal singing through the early morning air with every touch. What servants are out and about across the yard have now stopped to watch, invested in their prince’s dual with the person they know to be his childhood rival.

Jongdae steps back to give himself just a little bit of distance and a second to think, but the elder is too aligned to his machinations and thrusts himself and his sword forward, a hit that Jongdae just manages to deflect—two-handed—with the flat of his blade, causing Baekhyun to stumble back from the strength of it.

The other gives him a quick glance over. ‘However, you still think too much.’

He’s about to retort that Baekhyun hardly thinks enough, when steel meets steel again, Baekhyun far too close to his face for his comfort.

Jongdae jumps back out of habit, but it turns out he’s far too close to a nearby stable-hand who he quickly apologises to for having gotten in their way. When he turns back to Baekhyun, he finds their proximity even closer than before, and he’s far too engrossed in the thought that if weren’t for their underclothes, their bare skin would be touching. This shock is enough for Baekhyun to take advantage and knock him down into the dirt with a deft prod of the hilt to his stomach.

He makes to get back up, but the other puts a stop to this, bringing the point of his sword down to his throat, just some hairs’ widths away from piercing his skin. He squeezes his eyes shut, unwilling to see the people’s pitied looks, the knowing gazes, the boast making form on Baekhyun’s tongue.

But it doesn’t come. He opens his eyes. The people have mostly scattered, keeping their eyes away from their defeated prince as they get back to business. Yet, a shadow still looms over him.

Jongdae looks up to see Baekhyun, not basking in his victory, but instead, his eyes fixed on where his blade lies: at the curve of his neck. His heart jumps. Surely, Baekhyun wouldn’t want to injure him. They’ve had their differences, of course, and, certainly, worse quarrels than this, none of which have ended in either of them maiming the other, not even at their nastiest years.

He swallows down his nerves, so he could try and speak rationally to Baekhyun, but to his surprise, he hears the other’s breath hitches at the action, eyes still fixed on Jongdae’s larynx, before his eyes travel up to meet Jongdae’s and he startles in front of him.

‘Well,’ Baekhyun starts, jumping back and putting some considerable distance between them. ‘I promised only one round and I’ll keep myself to it.’

He turns on his heel and swiftly heads back into the direction of the castle, leaving Jongdae unsettled on the ground.

He wishes he could say that he had been unaffected by the whole ordeal, but staring at Baekhyun’s retreating figure, he can’t help but think about those broad shoulders that made him seem inescapable, the energy thrumming under the other’s sinewy muscles, the deft, clever hands wrapped around the hilt of his blade.

His dark eyes that seemed so intent on him.

Jongdae pushes himself up off the dust, trying to ignore the flush on his cheeks and the arousal in his gut.

 


 

It’s safe to say Jongdae doesn’t go on his ride. He fears any more strenuous activity will only make his nerves worse, and he has no business serving at his brother’s wedding—his future king’s wedding, in full view of the whole kingdom and more—if he doesn’t have his wits about him.

He has a bath, to wash away the sweat from the morning and the feeling of Baekhyun’s eyes on him, scrubbing at his skin till he’s nearly as red as his face had been. After he’s done, he changes into the clothes that his mother and brother have arranged for him, all hand-picked out to make himself as much as breathing accessory to this wedding as possible. He’s lucky he has Kyungsoo to help him dress, he’s not in the right state to even remember the order of the layers.

He tries to put his mind to other things, like his brother’s wedding, and smiles, thinking of how joy awaits the couple.

Sunjung, though not of royal stock, makes his brother immensely happy. Besides, Jongdae has seen enough of her to know that she is dutiful and kind, with a mind sharper than any whetstone could make a blade—a good temper against his brother’s more passionate nature. From what matches Jongdae had seen, there had been no one who better matched his brother than dear Sunjung.

And, as the bride and groom ride on horseback through the city to make it to the church, their people clearly agree. Although Sunjung was often disparaged by members of the nobility who would rather see Jongdeok marry one of their own daughters, the people of the kingdom loved her for her charity and moderation and her humble beginnings as the daughter of a landed knight.

The people clap and cheer for the couple, throwing flowers down their path and blowing them kisses, and wishing them happiness and many heirs. Jongdae can’t help but surge with happiness for his brother.

By stark contrast, the church is quiet and composed, though there’s a quiet eagerness that can be felt from all sides of the building. Jongdeok’s nuptials have caused quite a stir not just amongst the kingdom’s nobles, but other royal families who may have liked to see a child of theirs become his brother’s consort. More than other weddings, this crowd wants a look at the bride.

Yet, it’s when Jongdae makes his procession down the aisle, past the many stares, that an unease settles into him.

The nobles do enough on an ordinary day to make him feel out of his own skin, but they have nothing on Crown Prince Baekhyun, who stares so intently at him that Jongdae thinks he might have grown a second head.

He swallows down those silly thoughts, but Baekhyun’s gaze has not yet strayed away from him.

It makes him feel uncomfortable, as it always has, but where before those gazes had been coloured with the ingrained competition, there’s something different to how he looks at him now. It’s difficult for him to put into words, but the way his stare moved over him, it was like… the other was...

No that couldn’t be it. There was too much between them for it Still, the other hundred pairs of eyes could never compare to these, and Jongdae hates that it’s always been that way.

He reaches the altar and, for the ceremony, plays his part well as his brother’s best man, and all the while, Baekhyun’s stare remains fixed on him.

 


 

‘A song, brother!’ Jongdeok urges, already two cups into his wine. ‘You promised me a song, and I’m sure everyone would be delighted to hear you sing.’

Jongdae takes a glance at the hall. Many guests are where Jongdeok is at with their drink, he thinks they’d be happy with any sort of music, be it by him or anyone else. Indeed, they’re happy enough with the music by the band, and he doesn’t really want to take away from his brother’s big day.

‘For us Jongdae?’ Sunjung tries. ‘It is our wedding after all. Take it as your gift to us.’

Jongdae mock-sighs. ‘All right. But I already got Jongdeok a new sword so he owes me double for my own wedding.’

He walks away to his brother’s grumbling to the musicians, who halt their playing at the sight of him. He explains Jongdeok’s wishes and they agree, stepping back to the side as Jongdae takes up a place by the harp, strumming to pick up a tune, and then deciding on a song of courtly love to celebrate his brother’s nuptials.

If Jongdae were not a prince, he thinks he would be a bard. There’s little that he enjoys more than singing, has enjoyed music since he could remember, singing along with his father who always encouraged his natural talent. He was also fond of poetry and enjoyed composing his own songs. Although he acknowledged that he had it better off—as a prince he would never have the same struggles for money—he fancied that he would easily pick up a patron, especially judging by the guests’ cheers for another song once he’s finished.

After a smug nod from his brother, he sings another song, a traditional song known throughout the kingdom which tells the story of a maiden and a hunter as they come across one another in a forest. One of his favourites, he sings of how the hunter saves the young maiden from a wolf but loses sight of her after felling the beast. He looks for her in the forest and the nearby villages, but is unable to find her until passing into the next kingdom and finds out that she is queen, and the wolf, her cruel husband who had taken its shape, and she asks for the huntsman’s hand.

So lost is he in the song, that he doesn’t notice a figure standing patiently nearby until he looks up from the harp.

‘Oh! Your excellency,’ Jongdae says as he stands up to hastily bow. ‘To what do I owe your fine company?’

Prince Yixing smiles, his dimple sitting deep in his cheek.

‘A dance perhaps? I know others would like another song but I think it’s time to give your voice a rest, my prince.’

Jongdae pales. He’s seen him, the ambassador is an excellent dancer and he doesn’t want to shame him, not when all eyes had been on Jongdae just before. Surely there are others he’d like to dance with.

‘No, I can’t,’ he declines.

‘Can’t? I say if you can walk you’re able to dance. Besides, it would give me the greatest pleasure to dance with you.’

The sincerity he sees in Yixing’s eyes has him saying yes, though not without a blush.

The musicians have started playing again, a lively piece that, at least, will distract him from his own shortcomings with dancing. However, the prince never makes it awkward for him, taking the lead as they weave in and out of the different couples as the dance requires. His hands never leave Jongdae’s waist, and whenever Yixing faces him, his warm eyes remain fast on him in a way that has Jongdae feeling warm inside, giddy as he entertains certain thoughts surrounding the ambassador.

But he can’t think too much about it because, just before the dance ends, he gets a sharp tap on his shoulder.

Jongdae turns around to see Baekhyun looking at odds. He gives a stiff bow to both of them before turning to Jongdae.

‘Your Grace, would you have this dance with me?’ he asks, holding out his hand.

The look on Baekhyun’s face seems like he wants to do anything but that, but Jongdae doesn’t want to seem rude, especially not with Yixing beside him so he agrees, tentatively placing his hand on top of Baekhyun’s.

‘I’d be honoured to Your Highness,’ he replies, giving him a small smile. To his surprise, Baekhyun returns it, looking much more at ease.

‘I suppose I’ll be leaving you to it my prince,’ Yixing bows, dimple still on his face. He rises, but not without taking Jongdae’s other hand in his and brushing his lips over the knuckles, garnering a flushed reaction from the younger. Yixing steps away and heads to some unknown corner of the hall lost among the throng of people.

Baekhyun doesn’t give Jongdae much time to dwell on him, pulling him further into the circle of couples just as the music restarts.

He recognises this dance and laments that it is much more intimate, more physical, than the last one, something that Baekhyun seems to have no qualms with as he places his other hand onto Jongdae’s waist.

‘It’s clear I’ll have to take the lead,’ Baekhyun grumbles. ‘I hope I’m not just going to be dragging you around the room.’

Jongdae scoffs. ‘Well, I hope I won’t have you stepping on my feet this time.’

To his ire, Baekhyun smirks, flashing his teeth. ‘I think you’ll find I’ve improved my skills.’

He leads Jongdae to his place on the floor before taking his own, the look on his face still present when the dance begins. While not as consummate a dancer as Prince Yixing, Baekhyun is as quick and graceful in the ballroom as he is in the training yards, making his steps and turns look so polished that it has Jongdae feeling self-conscious next to him.

Another thing that Baekhyun has over him, just like he did last night. He frowns. The prince’s eyes flit down and, as the dance calls for, takes Jongdae into his arms.

‘Is dancing with me so painful Your Grace?’ Baekhyun asks wryly. ‘Would you rather I give you back to the ambassador? You looked more eager then.’

Though his voice remains level, the words are so biting that it has Jongdae looking at him, only to see Baekhyun’s eyes fixed ahead of him, as if looking through him.

‘No, no,’ Jongdae defends, ‘I wasn’t thinking about him. I was—last night. You haven’t said anything to anyone else.’

Baekhyun blinks, gaze turning back to meet Jongdae’s eyes. From this close, he can see the warm flecks of gold and bronze studded in the deeper browns and blacks of Baekhyun’s irises.

The other quirks his lips. ‘I know your pride best. I’m certain I’m more acquainted with it than anyone else, knows how it works, how it thinks.’ Baekhyun leans forward, lips close to his ear. ‘And I’m certain that, if I told everyone of how I saved you like in all those songs you like, you would have my head on a silver platter. But I don’t think I’d mind so much if I could see your pretty face every day.’

Before Jongdae can even utter a sound, Baekhyun pulls away from him completely, letting him be swept away by different partners as they dance in a round. Jongdae’s incredulous, trying to look for Baekhyun over his partners’ shoulders, but all he sees is his usual demeanour of playful charm as he smiles at his company. It’s so much so that Jongdae’s beginning to think that he imagined what the other had said.

Pretty face. It has his stomach swooping.

Of course, he knows he’s pretty, but he doesn’t think those words would ever come from Prince Baekhyun’s mouth and said to him in such a way.

They meet again for Baekhyun to take his arm and guide him as the dance directs them to, but Jongdae feels a jolt surge through him at the feeling of Baekhyun’s firm hold around his waist. The touch takes him by surprise, almost has him forgetting to do his part in the spins if not for Baekhyun taking action and spinning him into the air himself and catching him, again, and again, with his sure hold keeping him constant. His hands leave their brand everywhere on him, his thighs, his hips, his ribs.

The rest of the dance follows the same patterns, and Jongdae’s spun and twirled and lifted, anchored only by Baekhyun’s secure grip and deep stare, both as possessing as the man’s presence. By the end of it, he’s dizzy, but he doesn’t think it would be fair to pin it all on just the dance.

‘Is something the matter?’ Baekhyun asks as he leads them away from the rest of the couples so Jongdae can take a seat.

‘No,’ Jongdae says, trying to be assuring. He doesn’t want Baekhyun to know it’s him that’s made him so flustered. ‘I just need some time to rest.’

‘Of course,’ Baekhyun acquiesces. He lingers stiffly, before speaking some more. ‘I’ll leave you to it, Your Grace.’

Jongdae nods and Baekhyun finally leaves. Once he’s sure the other’s lost in the mix, Jongdae slips out of the hall, down the corridor and into the courtyard, to get away from the many people and to give himself a change of scenery.

But the cool night air does nothing to dampen the memory of Baekhyun’s fingers on his body, nor the warmth, the gentleness, or the care. A shiver runs through him. This is something he’s unused to from the other, and he chides himself for falling to it like some lovesick fool. He probably does this with everyone.

He takes a deep breath in. He can move past this. Hopefully, after tomorrow, he won’t see Baekhyun for a long while, won’t have to be so confused by him at every turn.

 


 

A month passes. Sunjung is pregnant. Baekhyun’s father and king dies.

Five months pass. Sunjung is showing and Jongdeok is happier than Jongdae’s ever seen him. His mother receives word that Baekhyun’s coronation has been planned for the end of the month.

‘Won’t you go Jongdeok?’ his mother asks over breakfast in her chambers. Jongdae is munching on an apple while his brother pores over daily correspondence. ‘You’re the Crown Prince, you’ll be in the same position as him.’

Jongdae pouts. ‘Hopefully not anytime soon!’

Jongdeok ignores his brother and his mother’s indulgent smile at her youngest. ‘I would prefer not to leave Sunjung alone, nor force her to travel with me at this stage of pregnancy.’ He turns his eyes to Jongdae, who has some impression of where his brother is going with this. ‘Why not Jongdae?’

Their mother also turns to look at Jongdae, who immediately starts to protest.

Jongdeok continues. ‘He’s the second son of our dear queen and, currently, second in line to the throne. He’s no insult, and this can be a way to use politics to further repair the personal issues that they have. Now that Baekhyun is king, we want him on our side, and the best way to do that is to repair whatever business he has with our Jongdae, a quest that has already begun.’

Jongdae looks at his brother, confused. ‘What?’

A sly smile slips across his brother’s lips. ‘I saw you dance with him at the wedding.’

He frowns. ‘That means nothing. He asked me, and he also wasn’t the only one I danced with.’

‘And you said yes. It was quite the spectacle; I was very entertained. But you did also only dance with two people, one of them with someone you definitely fancy even though you think no one else can see it, and the other was your last dance of the evening.’

‘I don’t fancy the ambassador,’ Jongdae mumbles. He tries to will away the warmth sitting high on his cheeks.

‘Exactly my point,’ Jongdeok says.

‘Going back to your brother’s idea,’ his mother interrupts, voice firm. ‘I think he’s right. We might not be able to send our heir, but we can send his brother, and we’ll still be seen doing our part. Jongdae, you will attend.’

He nods. The queen’s word is final.

 


 

Four weeks later he finds himself in, what is now, Baekhyun’s capital. The veil of mourning still lingers in the city and the people, but as Jongdae rides through the city, he thinks that will all change tomorrow when Baekhyun is crowned.

Privately, he’s always envied the other’s lively spirit and boundless charm that endears almost everyone he meets. Jongdae’s aware of his own merits, but he knows he has a tendency to retreat into himself, can be prone to shyness and, and he couldn’t help but compare himself when they were younger. When they would get told off for their petty little fights, it seemed so much easier for Baekhyun to be able to talk or smile his way out of trouble, even in Jongdae’s own home!

He can’t help but look around and see that affection made manifest in what is already happening in the streets of the city. Crafters were selling their wares celebrating the new king, performers were building their stages for the pageant after the coronation, and one group was already performing, attracting a very sizeable crowd. Yes, the people are eager to see their prince crowned.

When Jongdae arrives at the castle, he’s surprised to see Chanyeol greet him at the stables.

‘Sir,’ Jongdae greets, dismounting off his horse. ‘I wasn’t expecting to see you this morning.’

Chanyeol gestures for a stable hand to take Amaranth, before smiling at Jongdae. ‘His Majesty wanted to do the rights himself, but he’s been so busy with the coronation, he asked me to escort you, Your Grace.’

Jongdae frowns. ‘He wanted to greet me? He has more important matters, for sure.’

Chanyeol opens his mouth but closes it again, lips pressed tight together and eyes wide. Upon seeing Jongdae’s confusion, he gives him another beam.

‘He’ll be seeing you sometime this afternoon, or maybe around dinner. But because it’s so early now, and you’ve been up since before dawn, I’ll take you to the chambers you will be staying in tonight so you can take your rest.’

Jongdae nods dumbly, still unable to process Chanyeol’s behaviour, and follows him into the castle and down the halls. Even more surprised, he finds himself in front of grand double doors, doors he vaguely remembers leading into the king’s apartments. Chanyeol opens them, and Jongdae grabs his arm to try and stop him.

‘Why are we going inside?’ he asks.

Chanyeol blinks at him. ‘This is where you’ll be staying.’

‘But this isn’t for me?’ Jongdae argues. ‘I’m not the king.’

‘No, but the king planned for this. There’ll be many guests coming in and the keep only has many rooms. Besides, you’re the son of a queen, brother of a future king,’ Chanyeol winks. ‘I think these rooms will be enough to your liking.’

Jongdae lets Chanyeol guide him into the chamber.

He remembers being inside these rooms once, but he was much younger then. He remembers sitting on his mother’s knee as she’d discussed reparations with Baekhyun’s father in the study. The colours back then were severe blacks and purples and reds, with the walls adorned with shields and swords and hunting trophies.

Baekhyun seems to have done away with most of his father’s old décor, with soft whites, golds, and browns reigning, quality linens and silks replacing cloth-of-gold, and tapestries in place of swords and shields. And though the hunting trophies have stayed, they’re different from what Jongdae remembers; however, he remembers one of them very specifically.

He pauses in front of the grizzled old boar, face now sombre instead of fierce, yet even in death, it never lost its pride.

He didn’t know Baekhyun kept this.

‘Sir,’ Jongdae voices. Chanyeol, a few steps ahead of him, turns back to answer. ‘Where did His Majesty catch this one?’

‘That one’s quite recent. He said he caught it coming back from your brother’s wedding. He was very proud,’ Chanyeol smiles, before continuing down the apartments. Jongdae follows.

He lied. Baekhyun lied and never told anyone about having to save Jongdae. He and Chanyeol both know how loud Baekhyun is, how he’d never pass up the opportunity to make Jongdae look like a fool, and what better opportunity? He wouldn’t even have had to lie. But he did anyway. At what end?

Something in his gut stirs, cognizant of what that might be, but that’s something he doesn’t want to put a name to.

‘This is where you’ll be sleeping while you’re here, Your Grace,’ Chanyeol says, opening a door leading to one of the bedrooms. ‘I hope it’s to your liking.’

Jongdae smiles. ‘Thank you, Sir, it’s beyond my expectations.’

Chanyeol beams. ‘I’ll leave you to take your rest now, Your Grace. A servant should be here in a bit to give you your lunch, and will wake you should you choose to get some sleep.’ He leaves, closing the door behind him.

Staying in the royal apartments. For at least two nights. Baekhyun could be in any one of the other rooms, talking to his advisors or with dressmakers for final fittings. Right now, they could just be separated by one wall, the elder might even be able to hear Jongdae speak if he were loud enough, and he’s certainly more than loud enough. The feeling in his gut returns.

He looks around, trying to push away any further thoughts. The room echoes much of the rest of the apartments, though without the symbols of the royal house nor the trophies. Much simpler. He reckons it must be one of the rooms reserved for the crown’s children.

Well, he can’t really complain. Baekhyun could’ve chosen to turn him out to the stables.

Jongdae walks over to the bed and brushes his fingers across the sheets, gasping at the softness. He strips down to his gauzy undertunic and breeches and slips into bed. Chanyeol’s right, he thinks as he drifts off. He’s had quite a morning.

 


 

When Jongdae wakes up, it’s still light, the sun beaming in through the windows. He would hate to be late to dinner and make a commotion about himself. He stretches himself out, drawing out a long, satisfied whine until he’s interrupted by a cough.

His eyes snap to the source of the sound, to the corner of the room, where Byun Baekhyun sits on a chair, seeming to observe him.

‘What are you doing here?’ Jongdae shrieks, pulling the covers across his chest.

Baekhyun blinks, before moving his eyes up to meet Jongdae’s. A smile appears, slowly, on the other’s face.

‘This is my room,’ he replies easily, leaning back into the chair.

The colour leaves Jongdae’s face. ‘I-I didn’t know. Sir Chanyeol led me here. If this is another trick—’

Baekhyun holds up a hand. ‘No trick. I asked him to, you will be sleeping here. It’s just I’ll be right next to you. I’m sure he’s told you; we have many people coming in today even the inns are—’

‘He told me,’ Jongdae states. Chanyeol just neglected to tell him about actually sleeping in the same bed as his king. However, that poses a question. ‘Why not share a bed with Chanyeol?’

Baekhyun seems to have all the explanations ready, the smile never once slipping from his place.

‘Well, his family are coming in from their lands and it’s been a while since they last saw each other, I thought it would be a good thing to house them together, they’re planning on staying at court for a bit longer,’ he says.

‘Alright,’ Jongdae pouts. ‘Then why are you here. Right now?’

The smile on Baekhyun’s face twists into a frown match Jongdae’s.

‘I wanted to wake you up for your lunch. One of the servants brought it in for me when she found out you were asleep, I was just doing a good thing,’ he says, gesturing to the food on the table next to him. ‘I know how much you like to eat.’

Jongdae’s eyes turn to the plates, seeing beef stewed with vegetables, rice, and a mix of fruits. He bites his lip, before standing up to walk over to the table.

Baekhyun’s eyes drop from Jongdae’s face down to his chest, lingering as his face starts to turn pink. He stands up abruptly.

‘I’ve kept you too long, I’ll leave you alone for now. I, uh, have other matters to attend to,’ Baekhyun says, before brushing past him and out the door, too fast for Jongdae to even get a word in.

Jongdae blinks. He hopes Baekhyun won’t be this odd tonight.

 


 

He could only hope really. He’d left the feast early, though late enough that it wouldn’t be rude, and not without a dance with both Chanyeol and his sister.

But Baekhyun follows him almost immediately, slipping into the room only five minutes after he does.

‘I wanted to take a bath,’ Jongdae announces. ‘I thought you would spend a long time in the hall.’

‘I’ll have to get up early tomorrow,’ Baekhyun says, ‘I’ve never been too fond of feasts. In addition, I have a procession to make, a vigil, as well as that anointing bath or they call it. Will you be there?’

‘Um, alright,’ he replies. Baekhyun beams at his response. ‘However, I’d like to have my bath now, if you don’t mind.’

‘I don’t mind at all. I’ll have the maids fetch the basin and some water.’

What Baekhyun neglects to mention is his insistence on staying in the room while Jongdae bathes.

‘We’ve seen each other naked before, and besides! I’m king, you can’t kick me out of my chambers!’

Jongdae, arms around his chest, is only exasperated by Baekhyun’s childishness. ‘That was different, we were much younger then! Although you don’t seem to have grown up,’ he hisses.

‘That wasn’t different at all! And if anyone’s not grown up it’s you because you’re still so prudish! Now you’re going to get in, the water’s getting cold.’ Baekhyun wrangles a flailing Jongdae in his arms, picking him up and placing him in the bath, underwear and all, eliciting a sharp gasp from the younger. He’s only thankful for the dim light of the fire preventing Baekhyun from seeing too much.

Yet his eyes linger across his skin, mapping the expanse of Jongdae’s smooth skin, tracing up and up, before they land on Jongdae’s face. Unlike other times, when Baekhyun would leave ruffled, he maintains his gaze, calmly, before going over to the bed, stripping himself down to his underclothes, and tucking himself into bed, facing the window.

‘You’ll have your turn to see me tomorrow,’ he says.

Jongdae blinks, waiting a beat for any more from Baekhyun, before stripping out of his wet underclothes and lying back into the warm water.

When he decides to get up, he turns to see Baekhyun with his eyes closed, not having moved from his previous position.

Grabbing a towel, Jongdae dries off, before donning some clean undergarments he’d packed. Not wanting to disturb Baekhyun, he gently pads across the floor, opening the door to tell a couple of maids nearby that they could remove the tub. He stands to the side as they efficiently tidy the room, thanking them on their way out.

Carefully, he makes for the bed, lifting the covers gently and settling himself in.

He gets the shock of his life when Baekhyun in bed to face him.

‘I thought you were asleep!’ Jongdae hisses, shifting himself back.

Baekhyun just shrugs. ‘I didn’t want you thinking I was looking at you.’

He narrows his eyes. ‘Were you looking?’

‘Did you want me to look?’ Baekhyun grins, raising an eyebrow.

Jongdae scoffs. ‘I’ll take that as a no, thank goodness.’

‘You can look at me tomorrow when I go under the water. I give you my permission. I want to show off, I’m not just that pudgy teenager I was eight years ago. I’ve got quite the body. You do too,’ Baekhyun says, winking.

Jongdae balks. ‘You said you weren’t looking!’

‘Not then. I’m nobler than that! However, other times,’ Baekhyun sweeps his eyes over his face, ‘you’ve made it very difficult not to.’

Something jolts in Jongdae’s mind. Baekhyun’s never been like this with him. Of course, the teasing is constant, but this is, for lack of a better word, flirting. They’ve certainly made many different attempts to try and provoke each other, but flirting is completely new in this area.

However, unfortunately, flirting is a natural instinct for him.

‘Well, you weren’t without your moments either,’ Jongdae blurts. His hands fly to cover his mouth, shocked that he said something like that, and to Baekhyun of all people either.

Even worse for him, Baekhyun is uncowed, delighted in fact, as he takes this as an invitation to lean in closer.

‘Who knew that the ice prince would run so hot inside?’ he says, smirking. Jongdae shoves him back on the shoulder, pulling a hearty laugh from the elder. ‘So those claws are still there too? Good, I don’t ever want you to lose them, I like you fiery.’

Jongdae turns around and pulls the covers over his head.

‘Go to sleep!’ he says. He’s sure that if it were daylight, there would be no mistaking the bright red flush across his face. As it is, Jongdae can feel the heat of his face seeping into the pillow underneath him.

He lies still as he feels Baekhyun shift next to him, probably back into his own space. He wills his mind silent until he hears soft, steady breaths from the man next to him, and he’s certain that he won’t be able to hear him think.

Jongdae’s thoughts run back to just before. Baekhyun’s never spoken to him like this, like… someone he finds interesting or compelling. In fact, he doesn’t really recall Baekhyun speaking like this to anyone, although there were the awkward flirtations he’d come across when they were fourteen, trying to talk to the young maids who’d worked in his mother’s castle. Clearly, he’s had time to practice.

This must be a new way of getting some laughs out of Jongdae’s confusion and embarrassment, but he can’t see what’s in it for Baekhyun. He has to admit Jongdae’s attractive and that he likes looking at him. He even has to go to the effort of sounding like he means it. Jongdae purses his lips.

Perhaps his sense of humour’s changed after their years apart.

 


 

Jongdae wakes up to find himself warmer than when he’d gone to sleep, and with a lot more limbs too. He tries to pull one arm back to his side, but it seems to be intertwined with another one, but his right arm’s right on top of the bed so it can’t be—

He opens his eyes to see himself entangled with another body, left arm kept in place by Baekhyun’s right arm holding onto it, and Baekhyun’s head itself tucked into Jongdae’s neck. As he comes to, he can feel the other’s soft snoring against his skin, going stiff at the sensation of Baekhyun’s lips touching him in such an intimate area. Or really, any area of Jongdae’s body.

He tries to extract himself from the other with as little commotion as possible, he doesn’t want Baekhyun to find them in this situation and he thinks the other would feel the same way. It would be a bad start to the day he’s going to be crowned king.

Just as he’s about to finish nudging Baekhyun’s leg off his thigh, the bastard decides now’s the perfect time to wake up.

‘What are you doing?’ he mumbles, rubbing at his eyes.

‘Waking you up, Your Majesty,’ Jongdae replies drily, still having to deal with Baekhyun’s weight over the lower half of his body. ‘We don’t want to hold up everyone on your big day.’

‘Oh! Of course, that’s today,’ Baekhyun smiles. ‘Let’s get you changed; we don’t want you to be late either.’

He doesn’t even acknowledge having to take his bare leg off of Jongdae’s or is even conscious of the fact that they’d literally spent the night in each other’s arms. At least they’ll never have to speak of it again.

‘I’ll be in the sitting room of my chambers, just down the hall. I’ll give you this room so you can go change,’ Baekhyun says, still smiling at him.

‘What about you?’ he asks.

‘It would be better for me to be in even fewer clothes.’

Heat creeps up Jongdae’s cheeks. ‘W-what?’

Baekhyun only raises a brow. ‘I have to be bathed and anointed, remember?’

He swallows thickly. ‘Yes, of course. I’ll get changed now.’

He starts to rummage through the pack he’s brought, listening for the padding of Baekhyun’s feet and the soft thud of the door. When he’s sure that the other’s gone, he takes a deep breath in and out. He’s not sure if he can handle sleeping next to Baekhyun for even another night.

Nothing Baekhyun’s done since he’s arrived has made any sense to him, and it’s so marked from most other times they’ve met. Jongdae’s carefully waiting for it to go back to those times and with his coronation, it should’ve been sooner rather than later. 

Perhaps it was the day. From today, Baekhyun would officially be king. Maybe he thought he’d leave those childish games behind, and part of that meant making peace with Jongdae.

Well, if that was the case, Jongdae wishes Baekhyun would just say it.

 


 

He’s not the only noble or royal at the ceremony, but there aren't many of them. Instead, it’s squires and clerics who make up most of the attendance in the small castle chapel.

Jongdae’s not been to many other coronations, in fact, this is his second, but he was far too young to remember his mother’s and he had to be taken away crying for a large part of it after finding the crowds too overwhelming. This would be the first he would remember.

The chapel is silent as Baekhyun walks in, garbed only in a large red cloak of samite, one that he recognises from his lessons as having belonged to Baekhyun’s grandfather. This is the most solemn that he’s ever seen him, eyes steely as he keeps his gaze forward, making sure strides to the front where the basin is.

When he reaches, Jongdae watches as Baekhyun unclasps the cloak, averting his eyes just as it falls from his body, only returning them when he hears the pooling of water as the other steps into the bath.

When he does look up, their eyes meet straight away, before one of the clerics steps forward, to carry out his duties.

First, he submerges Baekhyun under the water, prays over him, then brings him back up. Another cleric steps forward with a towel so he can dry the king off, then another comes bringing a bowl of oil, which the first uses to anoint Baekhyun’s forehead and hands.

He’s brought up to stand after this is done, and this time, Jongdae isn’t quick enough to take his eyes off, and he’s left to look at what eight years have done for Baekhyun, from his broad shoulders, strong arms, and firm thighs.

Jongdae almost gasps at what he sees between Baekhyun’s legs, and this time, he keeps his eyes fixed on the floor, even when the other is wrapped up in his cloak again and making his way out of the chapel to begin the squires’ knighting.

It’s only when Jongdae’s outside too, on his horse making their way to the city basilica, that he allows himself to think of things like the sinewy muscles of Baekhyun’s arms, the little veins running down his stomach.

His cock, hanging thick and heavy from his hips.

This is something he can’t keep his mind off of. Jongdae’s always been the type to overthink, and even in the basilica, during the actual coronation, he finds that this is something his mind refuses to let go of. It’s so unbearable and consuming that the only thing he remembers about the event is Baekhyun actually getting crowned. At least he remembers the important things. It’s just that his mind also seems to think Baekhyun’s cock to be one of these important things.

Jongdae probably just needs to be fucked. He can figure that out when he gets home, far away from Baekhyun and his penis.

 


 

Thankfully, he’s had very little time with the king since the morning. Baekhyun is sat at the dais, but he’s not had any time for himself, so preoccupied with some courtier or foreign dignitary that he’s barely had time to eat.

Jongdae takes a sip of his wine. Although he reckons that there was some part of Baekhyun leaving early last night devoted to annoying him, he also was telling the truth. The other had never been fond of banquets and large celebrations, would always hide under the tables when they were children or sneak off alone into the courtyard. Jongdae knows because he did the same.

Baekhyun must be exhausted, but he wears his ever-charming grin on his face as he greets the many people who want to talk to him.

Their eyes meet over the crowd, and Jongdae raises his cup to him. Baekhyun’s stare lingers just for a bit, then moves back to whoever he’s talking to. Jongdae looks back down and takes another sip.

‘Prince Jongdae!’ A voice calls for him. He turns his eyes to where he thinks it came from, seeing a middle-aged man coming towards him. ‘I hope you remember me.’

He doesn’t. This man doesn’t strike any chord of recognition for him, and Jongdae’s face must show it as the other laughs.

‘It’s a pity, I certainly remember you and your brother, though you were the one who always stood out to me,’ he says.

Jongdae smiles awkwardly. ‘Perhaps for all the wrong reasons, I was much more immature then. Younger, like a child,’ he states. He tries not to fidget with his sleeves, he doesn’t want to appear rude to the other.

‘Not at all! I remembered your manners and brightness and of course, your lovely voice! Yours could rival our dear king’s.’

‘Um, thank you…’ Jongdae trails, trying to get his name.

‘Lord Lee. My lands encompass half of the southern marches of the kingdom, just next to your borders,’ he states.

‘Oh! I’m sorry I forgot you, my lord,’ Jongdae says sincerely. ‘My mother be so disappointed if she found out I didn’t remember one of our neighbours.’

Lord Lee dismisses him with a wave of his hand. ‘I take no issue with it at all, especially when you likely have other things on your mind. Just like our king, you must be looking to marry, no?’

‘Marry?’ Yes, Jongdae is twenty-three but he’s not in any particular rush, especially as he’s soon to be third in line to the throne. Though, he can think of a prospect. ‘It’s not really been a priority my mother’s set out for me.’

‘Well, you are getting to the age you ought to be married, to cement alliances for the good of your people. And, of course, my lands neighbour the lands of your kingdom, what better match could there be than between you and I?’

Jongdae pales. Lord Lee, as jovial as he is right now, does not look to be making any jests. This is said with utmost sincerity. And he keeps talking.

‘A marriage between us two would patch up any bad blood between our two lands and peoples, especially with how badly the marches were ravaged by the war.’

Lee fails to mention how it was their side of the marches that were war-torn and pillaged, and that he was largely responsible for that as commander of the invasion forces.

His blood boils as the man continues to talk and talk and Jongdae’s so close to giving this man a piece of his mind when someone interrupts them.

‘Lord Lee, your wife has been dead for even less time than my father, and this is how you pay your respects to her? Begging for the hand of someone half her age?’

Baekhyun’s presence looms such an immense shadow over them that even Jongdae feels cowed by him. He’s never seen the other like this before, this cold, calculated fury. Every other time Jongdae had been on the receiving end of Baekhyun’s anger, he’d faced short-lived tempers and passionate indignation.

‘I hope the prince forgives me for saying this, but he’d been the grandson of my father’s enemy. And you were looking to marry him, without my prior knowledge? That’s grounds for treason.’ Baekhyun’s voice is as relentless as steel, and he cuts Lord Lee down with every word. ‘I don’t want to start my reign on such harsh terms, but I could have your head for this. On a pike.’

Jongdae’s eyes widen. His fingers wring and mangle the fine white silk at his cuffs.

‘So, count this as your warning my lord,’ Baekhyun says, smiling. ‘I’ll make good on my promise next time.’

Jongdae refuses to look at either of them, keeping his eyes on his lap, but he hears the scuffle of leather boots on the floor, that quickly fades under the rest of the merriment. When he does look up, he sees Baekhyun still with him, keeping his eyes fixed on Lord Lee, until he’s at a distance from them.

‘I’m sorry for that,’ Jongdae starts, ‘it’s your coronation and I’ve made you angry. It seems that’s the only thing I can do for you.’

Baekhyun blinks before giving him a smile, much different from the one he’d given Lord Lee.

‘You have no need to apologise. I should be apologising to you of all things, I shouldn’t have left you alone for so long, especially without company you know. Did Chanyeol not stay with you at least?’

‘I told him to spend his time with his family. I didn’t want to keep him from them, and he just looked so sad,’ Jongdae says.

Baekhyun rolls his eyes. ‘That’s how he looks half the time, moreover, he’s a knight. I told him to look after you, to make sure you’re not alone. It seems I have to do everything.’

Jongdae smiles at him. ‘Thank you, but I think I’ll retire for the night. Excepting what’s just happened, I have a long journey tomorrow.’

Seriousness overcomes Baekhyun again, and he nods to Jongdae’s request, dismissing him and allowing him to retreat back to his room.

However, Jongdae makes it only a few steps away when Baekhyun calls his name. He turns around to see the king approaching him.

‘Would you allow me to escort you?’ he asks.

Jongdae frowns. ‘I can make it to your chambers on my own.’

Something sparkles in Baekhyun’s eyes. ‘I don’t know. It seems like every time I see you, you’re always in a situation that I’m helping you out of.’ Jongdae glares at him, and his tone reverts back to sincerity. ‘But it would give me peace of mind to do so. I know Lee better than you do, and I don’t want him accosting you again with incessant proposals. He’ll do it twice before you leave the hall. And, I was knighted too, so I think I can do as good a job of protecting you as Chanyeol could. Better in fact, it’s just been proven.’

He winks before holding his arm out, which Jongdae takes with a small smile.

Baekhyun escorts him the entire way to the bedroom, but not without Jongdae’s protests halfway through. He could be spending time with more important people right now.

‘I have to make sure our fair maiden makes it safely to his tower. I’d rather wake up to you in my bed than to wake up to the knowledge that you woke up in someone else’s bed. I’d have to be the one to answer for your corruption,’ Baekhyun rants, just as they’re coming up to the door.

‘Well, lucky for you that I’ve already been corrupted. An attractive young man such as myself is well-acquainted with carnal pleasures,’ Jongdae says, opening the door. He goes to close it, but the motion’s halted by Baekhyun jamming his foot just in front.

‘You’ve had sex?’ he asks, bewildered. ‘But you were such a prude!’

Jongdae grins cheekily. ‘But you can trust I have enough social graces to not bring anyone else into your bed. Enjoy the rest of the night Your Majesty.’ He kicks Baekhyun’s foot away, shutting the door before Baekhyun can get another word in.

‘Wait, with who?’ Baekhyun asks through the door. ‘Not Kyungsoo? No, Prince Yixing, don’t tell me it was Prince Yixing!’

‘Good night Your Majesty!’ Jongdae calls back

He stays by the door, listening out for Baekhyun’s footsteps, which only leave after a while.

He doesn’t want him hearing how loud Jongdae’s mind is running from their conversation. He’s sure that Baekhyun was flirting, and he’s conscious of how he was giving it back. It’s harder to ignore the bubbling in his stomach that he’s been feeling after spending time with Baekhyun.

 


 

Jongdae wakes up in the middle of the night, but not, as he’d expected, with Baekhyun dozing off next to him. The fire is still on, casting long shadows and orange blooms into his tired vision. He sits up and blinks back sleep to see Baekhyun sitting by the firelight, void of all the previous regalia of earlier that evening, and deep in thought.

‘Baekhyun?’ His voice is unintendedly rough from sleep, breaking Baekhyun out of whatever he was thinking as he turns to look at him.

‘I thought you were asleep,’ he answers. Baekhyun’s face betrays an anxiety that Jongdae’s never seen on his face and something innate in him wants to reach out and touch him, to calm him down.

‘I thought you would be asleep,’ Jongdae says instead.

‘I couldn’t stop thinking. I’ve got so much to do, I’m the king now,’ he breathes out.

Jongdae bites his lip. He doesn’t know what to do to help him. God willing, he’s never going to have to be in Baekhyun’s situation.

‘You’ve been king for a while though,’ Jongdae tries. ‘Five months? Six months? You’ve done well, the people looked happy to see you crowned.’

Baekhyun’s lips draw into a thin line. ‘That’s not enough time to know. And do they really know me? More than the nobles with who I spend most of my time? What happened with Lee—that wasn’t meant to happen, I hadn’t meant to be so severe, but I couldn’t stop myself. Is that the real me? My father… he was always so different, so composed, and people always said he was a good king.’

Jongdae’s lip twitches. Composed was one way to describe him. Cold was what his mother usually preferred.

‘Forgive me for saying this Your Majesty, but your father also led a war against my kingdom, a war that came to naught but death and destruction for both sides. If you choose to wage war on us again, at least win.’

Baekhyun turns to look at him, surprised, before he laughs, worries melting away just for a little bit.

‘You may be impulsive, but you’re valiant. You’ve never failed to stand up for anyone who needed it,’ Jongdae continues. ‘You’re… a good man Baekhyun. It’s taking a lot for me to say that, but it is true. Even if you can’t be the idea of a king you have in your head, you should always choose to be a good man.’

The other stares at him with such intensity, he can feel his cheeks warm. He thinks he’s said something wrong, but Baekhyun’s eyes cast down and his lips quirk up.

‘I always knew you liked me,’ Baekhyun leers. He gets up now, striding across the room to meet him, and Jongdae swallows at the lascivious look in his eye. He’s light-headed from the complete flip in his mood.

Before Baekhyun can get too close to him, Jongdae falls back onto his side, covering his face with the covers.

‘Good night, Your Majesty,’ Jongdae mumbles, trying his best to cover his warm face. Movement around him stops before he hears a subdued response from the king.

 


 

The next morning, Jongdae wakes up all by himself. He gets ready, packing what he’s brought, before handing his things off to Baekhyun’s steward to send to the stables.

He heads down to the Great Hall and takes his breakfast with other nobles. The king isn’t there though, and he wasn’t in his chambers at all when Jongdae walked through. The only time he sees him is when Jongdae is set to leave, having just climbed onto Amaranth.

‘Your Grace,’ Baekhyun says, approaching him. Some distance outside of the stables is Chanyeol, on guard for his friend.

Jongdae makes off to dismount so he can bow, but a hand on his thigh stops him.

‘There’s no need for that now, you’re about to leave,’ Baekhyun says, squeezing. ‘I just wanted to thank you. For last night. I was just—’ He sighs. His hand still doesn’t leave Jongdae’s thigh. ‘I was approached last night by some of my advisors. They talked about my marriage, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and then other things, responsibilities, came to mind—’

‘Marriage?’ Jongdae blurts. ‘Um, yes, Lord Lee mentioned it last night.’

Baekhyun’s eyes grow cold at the mention of the man, and he takes his hand back.

‘Yes, that you had to marry soon. That’s all,’ Jongdae says.

‘Of course. One of my duties as king, to have a great dynastic alliance. I’ve no plans yet, nothing defined.’ Baekhyun looks down, looking almost shy. ‘Do you? We’re the same age, and you’re the second son, you’d make a fine match.’

‘No, but luckily I don’t have the same pressures as you.’

‘But would you? Like to get married?’ Baekhyun presses.

Jongdae purses his lips. ‘Yes, I would, someday. I like the idea of being someone’s husband.’

The answer must be unsatisfactory for Baekhyun because he sighs. He looks like he has something more to say, but instead, he steps back from Jongdae.

‘I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be keeping you. You have a long journey ahead. Give my best to your family.’

Baekhyun doesn’t leave room for Jongdae to reply, turning on his heel back towards Chanyeol without even a glance back.

He’s doing it again. Jongdae’s confused doesn’t know what to make of him. Every time he’s seen Baekhyun this year, he’s not sure what he’s about to get. One moment he could be noble and honorable, then cool and distant, then flirtatious the next.

And ceaselessly warm.

Like the imprint of his hand still burning on Jongdae’s thigh.

 


 

Strangely, their relationship, or whatever it is that’s going on between them, doesn’t stop there.

Baekhyun takes to writing to him too. It had started out as an apology for the course of the weekend, but after Jongdae’s response, it seems like he’d find other excuses to write ranging from successful hunts or pouring out over his anxieties as a monarch. Ever since their bedroom talk, Baekhyun seemed to find some comfort in talking to Jongdae about his worries.

The letters become so frequent that it makes up a large part of Jongdae’s regular correspondence. Kyungsoo, as his valet, is the only one who knows the true extent of how much they communicate, but Jongdeok knows about a couple of them and he teases him for it, saying that they’d be married not even a year after his own wedding.

He holds his own against his brother, argues that he’s making peace with a figure of former enmity for the kingdom, but secretly he does enjoy them. There’s a consistency there that’s not present when he’s with Baekhyun face-to-face, and so none of that familiar frustration that rises in him. Baekhyun’s quite pleasant over letters.

Jongdae writes back, of course, always does, offering advice if Baekhyun asks for it, or talking about his charities or the Crown Princess’s health or songs he’d written, whatever he thinks the other would like to hear about.

He starts to consider them friends after a bit. He finds out they like a lot of the same things, and have a similar sense of humour. He likes talking to him. He feels understood.

And that fluttering feeling that’s cropped up before has now made a home in him, a constant companion for when he reads and re-reads Baekhyun’s letters.

But in typical Baekhyun fashion, as soon as Jongdae dares think that to himself, dares to find comfort in his antic, he pulls away. His last letter has been left unanswered for three weeks.

Until his mother calls him to her study.

There, on her table, is a parchment with Baekhyun’s seal on it. Broken.

‘You recognise the seal I assume,’ she states.

Jongdae tries to swallow down the dread to make room for whatever excuses he can come up with, but his mother beats him to it.

‘It’s been a matter for a while now, we all know how the situation is, but now it’s made certain.’

He can’t speak, can’t think. He’s just sitting there, nerves churning in his stomach.

‘King Baekhyun will be holding a masque so he can entertain marriage prospects,’ she says.

‘What?’ Jongdae breathes out.

‘Yes, I think it’s quite short notice though. It’s next week, hardly time for guests from other kingdoms to get there and back,’ she criticises. ‘You’ll probably be the only one who’ll be able to make it in time.’

Jongdae tries to laugh but it comes out as a gasp. ‘I’m invited?’

‘Yes. The letter was for me, but he asked for you to come personally. His reasons were well enough: you weren’t attached yet, the second son, and best of all, his equal in age. But judging from how you two have been, I can reject it—’

‘No!’ Jongdae exclaims. ‘Um, I can go. It will give me something to do.’

His mother looks at him, pleasantly surprised. ‘Oh? It’s good to see you being so proactive with this, you’re setting a very good example between our two kingdoms.’

Jongdae only smiles and nods, offering to deliver the letter to the rookery so it can be sent out straight away. Along with a note to his favourite tailor to come to the castle as soon as possible.

 


 

Jongdae doesn’t think he’s ever been dressed so finely in his life. He’s clad almost entirely in bright white, his velvet tunic brocaded in swirling silvers and ivories with billowy silk sleeves, and thick cloak lined with ermine. His mask is white too, ah half-mask, mimicking a winter fox with the pointed ears, sharp eyes, and fur lining the top edges.

It’s by sheer fortune that he and Kyungsoo don’t get robbed on the way to the journey there, though Kyungsoo’s more austere aesthetic likely put off any potential robbers.

As much as his mother was concerned about the lack of people there would be, it seems many have taken well to the prospect of marrying Baekhyun. Even just loitering around the courtyard, there are many in masks and dress of all sorts, hoping to catch the eye of a king.

He’d like to catch the ear of one. Maybe he’ll finally get a response when he’s in Baekhyun’s own home.

But finding Baekhyun turns out to be an even more difficult task than he’d thought. He hears that the king is also in costume, and with so many people, it’s difficult to gauge who is whom. He thought he’d have a better chance finding his much taller shadow, and he does, with Chanyeol choosing to spend a considerable portion of the evening with the two of them. But Baekhyun isn’t around.

He makes no grand entrance either. About an hour and a half in, there is no fanfare or herald. It seems that Baekhyun wants to be hidden. He might not even be in attendance but if the urgency of his marriage is to be believed, he’s here, somewhere.

‘Excuse me,’ he says to Kyungsoo and Chanyeol.  ‘I’m going to get some more wine.’

‘Don’t drink too much, I’ll have to put up with it the rest of the night,’ Kyungsoo frowns. Chanyeol laughs heartily.

‘I’ll have you know this is only my second!’ Jongdae protests. He pouts, stomping off to find a server with a pitcher of wine when a figure in the corner of the room catches his attention.

This one’s dressed relatively simple, more traditional of a masque, in the fashion of a huntsman complete with a quiver and a silly little cap. He’s not the only one who’s dressed up like a huntsman, but he’s the only one who’s gone to such lengths to keep his identity to himself, with his mask covering the entirety of his face.

The stranger’s eyes meet Jongdae and he jumps, having been caught staring. He retrieves his wine and makes his way back to Kyungsoo and Chanyeol who seem to have a pleasant conversation. He joins in every now and then but is happy to let the other two lead.

His thoughts drift back to the stranger and he finds himself looking for him within the crowd. He’s not moved from his position, but all his attention is focused on Jongdae, unmoving even when Jongdae stares back at him so blatantly.

He wants to play this game more.

Jongdae gulps down what’s left in his cup before standing up.

‘Only my third,’ he says and before Kyungsoo can protest, he walks back up to where the pitchers.

‘Honey-wine please,’ he asks the server. His last two drinks were a strong red, but this time he’d like something sweeter.

Once he gets it, he walks back but slower this time. He throws a look behind him to see the huntsman following several paces behind, close enough to keep an eye on him, but far away enough that it frustrates Jongdae.

When he sits back down, the stranger is only several feet away, lurking close to the entrance of the Great Hall.

‘At least it’s mead this time,’ Chanyeol says to Kyungsoo, ‘it’s not too strong, we didn’t care to spend enough on some of the drinks.

Kyungsoo chuckles, which has Jongdae scoffing.

‘I thought we were on the same side Soo,’ he whines.

‘You keep leaving me for wines,’ Kyungsoo says, rolling his eyes. ‘You know I’m not on your side during parties.’

Jongdae feels even more petulant than usual when Kyungsoo and Chanyeol ignore him to return to their previous conversation. An idea pops into his head. He shouldn’t do so, but he wants to take it out on the man who’s so insistent on staring at him.

He takes a long swig of his wine, making sure to empty the cup, before standing up and joining the crowd. He sneaks a glance behind him, to see intent ignited in the stranger’s strides, and he laughs, loud and full with lips stained wine-red, as he puts some distance between them.

It’s a hunt now, the stranger in clear pursuit of Jongdae, dodging several calls for dances with people. Though this was likely Baekhyun’s intent for the ball, romantic notions of finding true love amongst people who couldn’t make use of their identity and standing and were instead reduced to their core personality. Still, this had to be an important person, if they rejected offers from people Jongdae can recognise as royalty.

From what glimpses he’s had, Jongdae’s stranger is close now, close enough for him to reach out for. But Jongdae wants to play at this game a little longer, so he catches the attention of one of the people waiting for a dance partner, and makes a deep bow.

‘Would you care for a dance my lady?’ he asks. He smiles as she accepts, curtsying prettily and taking his arm so he can lead her to the other dancers, waiting for this song to end so they can have their turn about the floor.

Now he’s in view of the stranger in the white mask, can sense the frustration, but the man doesn’t move or find anyone else to turn his attention to.

The song ends and Jongdae and his partner take their place, bowing to each other before they position themselves.

‘You have a lovely mask,’ Jongdae says over the throng of people. Hers also only covers half her face, so he can see her toothy grin at his compliment.

‘Thank you, sir,’ she replies. ‘Or should I say, Your Grace? You have such strong features that it’s easy to recognise the Prince Jongdeok’s little brother underneath.’

‘I hope they aren’t so off-putting?’ he asks.

‘Not at all. They are fine and strong features,’ she smiles. Jongdae finds himself mirroring her.

The dance begins and he does as best as he can tipsy. Luckily, she also doesn’t have the best confidence in her own dance skills, so they have their fun with it, laughing if they make any mistakes. It’s even more fun with his mask on, he has no need to be so perfect, no one to compare himself to.

They have so much fun that he’s disappointed when it’s almost over.

But he has very little room for rest because right when the music dies down and he makes his final bow to the lady, he’s aware of a presence behind when he steps back.

He turns around and gasps. It’s the huntsman.

‘May I have the next dance, Your Grace?’ he asks, holding out his hand.

‘Your Grace?’ Jongdae breathes. ‘Do you know who I am?’

‘I’d like to think I do,’ the man answers, cheek in his voice. ‘But even if you aren’t him, would you care to pretend for me?’

Jongdae bites his lip. ‘Alright. And I’ll also take the next dance with you.’

The man’s eyes brighten.

After they bow to each other, the man swiftly takes Jongdae in his arms eliciting a poorly concealed gasp from the prince. The man chuckles, spinning him once, twice, making Jongdae laugh, before holding him close just as the music starts.

A couple’s dance, much to Jongdae’s nerves. A very intimate one.

‘Who would you like me to be?’ he asks the man. They’re so close that Jongdae can feel the heat of the other’s body.

The man hums as he leads him around the dancefloor.

‘I’d like you to be the Prince Jongdae if you don’t mind. I have a feeling you would do him the justice.’

‘Oh,’ Jongdae breathes. ‘What do you like about him?’

‘What all others like about him. His voice would be what came first for people, then his sweetness and kindness. His looks certainly help this case, let’s not forget that. But I also like what’s not so well known. I dream of his biting wit, his headstrong personality, his coquettish manner that has me yearning for more—though I’d like it more if it weren’t targeted towards every single person in a room. Most of all, I like that he’s the only one who pushes back against me, yet pulls me in with every single thing he does.’

It comes slowly to Jongdae’s mind. Initially, he’s more preoccupied with how close he is to this man, but then the words resound in his head, repeat over and over and—

‘Baekhyun?’ Jongdae whispers. He reaches one hand to tip the mask up, but Baekhyun bats it away.

‘Not right now!’ he hisses. ‘I won’t have any peace otherwise.’

Jongdae bites his lip. ‘Well thank you for saying all that.’

Baekhyun pauses their dancing and takes them to the side. He holds Jongdae’s hand firmly as he guides him to look him in the eye.

‘Is that all you have to say to me? Thank you? I deserve something in return. I’m pouring my heart out to you in public.’

‘I’ve had three cups of wine, I do not have the most eloquent mind right now Your Majesty,’ Jongdae says. ‘But I am thankful, very. If I have to, I like that you’ve cared for me even though I was difficult. I like how easy it is to talk to you. However, right now I would very much like to kiss you and you are making it very difficult with your incessant need to keep the mask on.’

Baekhyun stands silent, stroking at Jongdae’s knuckles before turning back to look at him.

‘I can take the mask off if we leave the hall. I can kiss you all you want then.’ he says. Jongdae readily agrees.

They giggle as they sneak out of the Great Hall, making their way to Baekhyun’s chambers, a feat with how giddy they both are.

The king’s apartments are an altogether quieter affair, with all of Baekhyun’s staff at the ball downstairs, and the atmosphere helps Jongdae sober up considerably.

Baekhyun fancies him. He fancies Baekhyun and told him that he did. Baekhyun who, for the better part of twenty-three years, has been his rival. And now he’s in bed with him and he’s on top of him, trying to tear off his clothes.

‘Wait, stop that!’ Jongdae orders.

Baekhyun throws his hands up. ‘Do you not want to?’

‘I do, but these clothes took time to make. They were rushed because of your awful timing,’ Jongdae complains. ‘And I want you to explain yourself too!’

Baekhyun takes better care to remove Jongdae’s clothes, unclasping the cloak and doublet, and pulling his undershirt free from his breeches. His hands stop and he sighs.

‘I’ve wanted you since I saw you at your brother’s wedding, but I didn’t know if you wanted me or if you were being nice. I couldn’t help but flirt with you, but I had to stop myself in case you weren’t open.’ He bites his lip. ‘It’s good to see that you are.

‘In truth, I didn’t want anyone else here,’ he continues, as he trails delicate fingers from Jongdae’s chest to his neck. ‘Just you. My advisors, even Chanyeol wanted me to be sure, and I always am, but I saw you tonight and I know I don’t want anyone else. You were the only one I danced with.’

Baekhyun pulls him in and kisses him languid and slow, as if he’s trying to savour Jongdae’s taste and little gasps, trying to map every curve of the other’s mouth. Jongdae whimpers as he pulls away.

‘However, the same can’t be said of you can it?’ Baekhyun whispers against his lips.

Jongdae gasps as Baekhyun nips at his bottom lip.

‘You’re mine,’ Baekhyun growls. Jongdae groans at the possessive words, the passion and intent in the way Baekhyun says this shooting straight to his cock. His fingers reach out to the other’s hair to tug him closer for another kiss.

This one is searing and eager and passionate, emblematic of all Baekhyun is. He moves to straddle Jongdae, thighs snug at Jongdae’s waist and strong arms caging him beneath, as they kiss, taking and taking and taking until they don’t know what belongs to one and what belongs to the other.

It’s Jongdae begging for entrance as he teases his tongue against Baekhyun’s swollen bottom lip, and Baekhyun is all too eager to give in.

Jongdae’s absolutely dizzy by the time they come up for air. He’s overwhelmed by the thought of Baekhyun and wants to be so wholly consumed so that there’s nothing left of the two of them for anyone else.

‘I want,’ Jongdae gasps, ‘I want you to fuck me.’

Baekhyun’s eyes, now so clear, so unmistakable to him as unfettered want for Jongdae, look down at him

‘Are you sure?’ he asks. Jongdae can see the veins in his arms protruding, evidence of his effort to control himself.

‘Yes, I want nothing more than your cock inside me,’ he pleads, grinding his hardening cock up against Baekhyun’s.

The other gasps at the pleasure, the sweet pressure and relief, before he grasps at what’s left of Jongdae’s clothes, neither of them no longer caring if Jongdae finds any tears or rips tomorrow. Baekhyun groans at the sight of Jongdae.

‘You’re exquisite,’ he says running his hands up from Jongdae’s waist to his shoulder. The younger whimpers at the feel of the large palms, tracing their way against his hot skin, the slim fingers teasing and toying with him.

A blunt nail skims over his nipple, which has Jongdae shuddering, but Baekhyun doesn’t leave much time for him to enjoy it when he leans back into him to nip along the skin of his throat.

‘I’ve wanted to do this for so long,’ Baekhyun murmurs against his neck. Jongdae feels soft lips purse at the base of his throat, then hot pressure as the other sucks at his skin, hard enough to bruise.

Jongdae keens at the sting, arching his back at the sensation. Baekhyun apologises by sweetly lapping at the mark he’s made, smugness in his eyes, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t leave a couple more marks for good measure.

His lips trail further down to his chest and Jongdae whimpers as Baekhyun gets close to his nipples again. Baekhyun teases, however, laving attention everywhere on his chest except where Jongdae would like them.

He takes one of Baekhyun’s hands, the one still thumbing at his throat, and pushes it down, down, down until it grazes a bud.

Jongdae nearly screams when Baekhyun pinches it harshly, his dick twitching at the other’s handling of him.

Baekhyun smirks up at him now, keeping his eyes on Jongdae as he finally takes the other’s nipple in his mouth, tonguing and sucking with varying intensity, while his fingers turn their attention to the other, rubbing and pinching and grazing.

He’s so overcome with sensitivity, so close to crying as he threads his fingers through Baekhyun’s hair for some sort of relief from his wicked tongue. Baekhyun refuses to give it to him, persistent, it seems, in driving Jongdae to madness even during this time.

‘Do you think you could come from this? From me just sucking on your tits?’ Baekhyun asks. He is a sinful picture, from his lips, red and slick from what he’s been doing to Jongdae, to his hair, all mussed-up from Jongdae’s hands.

Jongdae can only nod. He can’t find the words in him to speak.

‘Well, I’m too impatient to wait for that to happen. I want you now,’ Baekhyun responds. He sits up, taking off his own clothes and Jongdae can’t help but marvel, taking in the sight of the other’s body as he tosses his garments off to some dark corner of the room. His eyes are drawn to that scar again, right across his chest.

He touches it, tenderly, and he’s more than pleased at the shudder that runs through Baekhyun.

Jongdae’s hands trace even lower, tracing the veins that sit low on his hips. He licks his lips. He wants to know what they would feel like on his tongue, so he does just that, tracing his lips down his waistline before kittenishly licking at whatever veins he can make out. He looks up to see Baekhyun looking down at, lips parted, softly panting in anticipation of Jongdae’s next movements.

He tugs Baekhyun’s breeches down to his ankles, moaning at the sight of Baekhyun’s cock springing against his stomach.

As soon as Baekhyun steps out of his breeches, Jongdae takes no preamble, grasping at the shaft, stroking it once, twice, before taking the head in his mouth, letting his tongue lather Baekhyun’s erection in spit. He groans at the taste, delights in the precum already collecting on his tongue, swallowing as much as he can with his mouth full of cock, before pulling off and sucking at the tip.

Baekhyun’s hands ball up into fists, by his side as he whimpers, babbling about Jongdae’s devilish tongue. He gives Baekhyun a smirk around his shaft as he jerks him off, fingers tight as he strokes faster and faster, a contrast to his more languid handling of the head. Baekhyun gets louder, more incoherent, with his abdomen contracting so Jongdae picks up pace, urging him to come, but Baekhyun pulls him off his dick before he gets the chance to do so.

He whines at the loss from his mouth but is silenced by Baekhyun pushing him back onto the bed. His only item of clothing left, his breeches, are sharply yanked down over his hips and tossed over Baekhyun’s shoulders, and Jongdae can only hope that they’ve not landed in the fire.

Jongdae’s not given much time to think of that however when Baekhyun presses his legs up against his chest so he can see Jongdae’s puckered hole completely unimpeded for his eyes.

He gasps as Baekhyun leans completely over him, keeping Jongdae in position as he reaches over for something on his bedside. Baekhyun takes his time trying to find what he’s looking for, clearly enjoying what he’s put Jongdae in, as he looks down at his trembling lips. But he’s taking far too long, and the only thing Jongdae can feel is Baekhyun’s cockhead nudging against his hole, with every movement the other makes.

‘Hurry up!’ Jongdae bites out.

Baekhyun pouts. ‘Where are your manners?’ His hand is still rummaging.

‘Please, Baekhyun, I want to come so bad, I want to feel your dick inside me,’ Jongdae whines, grinding his ass up and down the other’s erection.

Baekhyun smirks, hand clutching a vial. He rewards Jongdae’s good manners with a kiss on the nose.

‘That wasn’t so hard was it?’ he taunts as he uncaps the vial of oil, smearing some on his fingers. ‘If you keep it up, I’ll reward you.’

Jongdae’s about to follow that up with a remark of his own, but it melts away when Baekhyun slips a finger into his hole. He breathes deeply at the slight discomfort of intrusion. When he’s ready Baekhyun adds another finger, taking the time to stretch him out and please him, to distract him from any pain he might cause him.

He looks down at the elder, eyebrows furrowed as fingers Jongdae, now adding a third in. The look of concentration and care warms him, but his thoughts fizzle out when Baekhyun nudges at a place inside him that has him crooning.

‘Do that again,’ Jongdae urges. He grabs Baekhyun’s wrist and buries his fingers to the knuckles as he tries to find chase that sensation again. Baekhyun knows what he wants and crooks his fingers inside his entrance as he watches Jongdae moan, trying to ride it out and grinding against his hand.

Gone is that concentration when Jongdae looks at Baekhyun again, his eyes at half-mast and directed only towards, his lips slightly parted, his chest heaving.

‘Wait, stop Jongdae,’ Baekhyun breathes, placing a firm hand on his hip. ‘Not like this.’

He withdraws his fingers, reaching out for more oil so he can slick up his erection, and lines himself up to Jongdae’s entrance.

Jongdae inhales sharply as Baekhyun breaches. As good of a job as Baekhyun did stretching him out, it’s nothing to the stretch from his cock. He grasps the other’s shoulder, stilling him as best he can.

‘Are you alright?’ Baekhyun asks, eyes searching.

‘Yes,’ Jongdae whispers. ‘I just need to wait.’

Baekhyun nods and takes to rubbing circles into Jongdae’s hip to comfort him.

When Jongdae is ready, Baekhyun rolls his hips against him, smaller thrusts that begin to escalate the more he moves inside Jongdae’s tight heat. Soon, he has Jongdae’s legs thrown over his broad shoulders, the two of them moaning as Baekhyun’s cock finds that one spot in Jongdae’s body that has him seeing stars.

‘Harder! Please!’ Jongdae cries out. ‘Baekhyun, please, give me more!’

Baekhyun’s slamming into him now, the obscene sounds of skin slapping on skin echoing around the room.

Jongdae screams as Baekhyun leans over him, the angle bringing him an even sweeter pleasure, along with adding to the friction of his cock, now trapped in between their bodies. He feels like he’s about to burst, the pressure in his dick far too much for him to cope with, building up and up, and it’s only with a few more thrusts from Baekhyun that he comes with a wail, spurting all over their stomachs and chest. He’s lying limp, completely boneless on the bed.

Baekhyun’s not far behind, especially with Jongdae clamping down on him with so much ferocity, and with a drawn-out whine, comes, spilling his seed inside Jongdae’s tight heat.

He rides out his orgasm before he also collapses on the bed, taking care not to crush Jongdae as he does so.

When he comes to, Jongdae chances a glance at Baekhyun, eyes closed but not asleep yet, telling from his breathing. He moves forward to plant a quick kiss on his lips, but Baekhyun catches him, placing his hand on his cheek so he can deepen it.

‘I have to ask you again,’ Baekhyun says when they pull apart, ‘will you marry me?’

Jongdae blinks. ‘Again? You’ve asked me before?’

Baekhyun bites his lip. ‘Yes, before you left last time you were here.’

Jongdae tries to think back, but all he can remember is Baekhyun’s awkwardness and his insistent questions on marriage and—oh. His face reddens as he remembers how he’d answered.

‘I’m sorry,’ Jongdae says, ‘I didn’t know. You wanted to marry me back then?’

Baekhyun just smiles. ‘It’s alright, I did a terrible job. At the time, I perhaps saw it more as a convenience, so I started writing to you to try and kindle that idea. Then I did want to marry you for love. However, I will forgive you for that if you say yes now.’

‘I’ll think about it,’ Jongdae muses, impish grin sneaking its way onto his face. Baekhyun swats him on the thigh for his petulance, and he laughs.

Baekhyun gets up to find some water and a cloth so he can clean the two of them up before they settle back into bed.

‘I suppose I’ll be staying the night here again?’ Jongdae muses, laying kisses along the line of Baekhyun’s collarbone.

Baekhyun throws an arm over him, pulling him close to his body. ‘Hopefully, you’ll be spending many nights here.’