Silence and darkness. Myungjun could hear his breaths thundering in his ears as he struggled to sit up on the rock hard ground. His mouth was bone dry and coated with a thick layer of something dusty that made him choke one lungful at a time, and he ached from the neck down.
Where am I?
It was too dark to see anything- a pitch black darkness that seemed to suck the oxygen out of the air leaving him claustrophobic and edged with panic.
“Hello?” His voice came out in a squeak.
He felt around and his fingers bumped into a warm hand. Jinwoo. He could recognise the type of heat radiating from his husband’s skin with his eyes closed. The type of heat that could only come from the fire magic pulsing through Jinwoo’s veins and the draconic genes mixed into his human body.
Myungjun moved more cautiously, wary of accidentally slicing himself on Jinwoo's sharp claws and felt further up to his wrist, then his thickly muscled arm that was smooth with scales. He reached Jinwoo’s tightly bunched shoulder and up his neck to his face.
“JinJin?” Myungjun whispered his nickname.
The soft sound failed to wake his husband.
Myungjun stroked Jinwoo’s cheek and the satin brush of Jinwoo’s shaggy hair tickled the back of his hand. “JinJin, wake up.” He tried again more loudly this time.
There was a deep, groggy groan but it came from Myungjun’s other side and he felt foolish when he turned to look. Only an inky darkness met his eyes.
“Dongie?” Myungjun asked, recognising the groan and blindly reaching out his other hand. It touched soft leather.
The half-giant stirred again. His voice came thick and confused. “Little dragon? Ugh...fuck...Where are we? Why is it so dark?”
A distant sound cut off Myungjun’s reply and he strained his ears to listen. The noise was getting closer every second and he quickly realised someone was calling his name.
The footsteps approached, too many for it to be just one person.
“Myungjun?” A female voice called, full of pain and desperate hope.
“Mother?” Myungjun called back.
“Myungjun!” She sobbed in relief from what sounded like only inches away now.
Myungjun followed the sounds of her distress until he hit something solid. Like a wall. He suddenly understood where he was and why it was so dark. It was easy from there to reconnect with his plantlife using his magic and he forced the shelter of vines surrounding them back into the ground.
The world lit up around him in a blazing fireball that burned his eyes and he squeezed them shut as he was tackled by a soft, frail body that smelt of lavender and safety. He held his mother tight, feeling disoriented as she sobbed.
Everything was too fuzzy, he didn’t remember putting that shelter of vines up or the events that had led up to it, so he didn’t understand why she was so upset, he just knew he had to keep holding and comforting her.
“You’re alive!” She cried, touching him all over as if trying to convince herself that he was really there. “I knew it, I knew you couldn’t have died and left me and your father. You’re too strong for that, you've always been so strong, Myungjunnie. Thank the Deity, thank the DEITY!” She cried some more and kissed Myungjun’s cheeks.
Myungjun was squinting against the light when a dark shape moved in front of the sun, eclipsing it. He opened his eyes completely to see his father’s worn face looking down at him. The older man had tears in his eyes and when Myungjun saw the torn and bloody armour he was dressed in he finally remembered.
Cain. The void. The war. King Terryn of the sky and his decision to fire the Peregrine.
Myungjun looked around the barren wasteland where Voredan city had once flourished. The magic cannon had wiped it completely from the map. Myungjun sat where King Leo’s castle should have been and instead of seeing the dark walls of the magic counsels spell chamber where he’d been sure he was spending his final moments with his husband and the triplets, Myungjun only saw the open blue sky and miles upon miles of dry, cracked earth that had been bleached white by the Peregrine’s blast.
But in the distance he could see the 500ft walls that had ringed the city. They were still standing. The spell had worked–the walls had contained the blast and they’d saved millions of lives.
Myungjun let his mother and father hug him for a few more moments before he pulled away to look at the people who had helped him achieve the impossible.
Except they were all gone. Only Jinwoo and Donghan remained.
“Oh no.” Myungjun whispered. Dread filled him as he watched Donghan look around.
“Aera? Gikky?” Donghan called for his siblings. Disbelief was quickly followed by fear as the half-giant looked at Myungjun. “Where are they? They were right here! Where are they, Myungjun? Tell me you saved them too.”
Myungjun couldn’t speak. He couldn’t get the words out. They were lodged painfully in his throat as he accepted his failure. He hadn’t saved Aera or Gikwang, or the remaining members of the magic counsel.
He must have made some sort of noise because Jinwoo was stirring and sitting up and blinking his reptilian eyes and asking what was wrong.
Myungjun could only watch as Donghan rose to his feet, all 8ft of leather and grief. First Donghan’s boyfriend and then his siblings. Myungjun’s heart ached for him.
Donghan opened up the ground beneath his feet with his magic and terraported away.
The weeks went by in a blur. Too many funerals Myungjun had to attend.
All 8 members of the magic counsel were given special places of honour in the new graveyard dug outside of the city's walls for their heroic sacrifices, and their apprentices rose to take their mantles a few days later.
The bodies of Dongmin and Bin were never recovered but a joint gravestone was erected nearby. Myungjun visited everyday bringing fresh flowers and tears.
Grey and Ruby were buried a week apart with no real family in attendance, only the friends they’d made along the way.
And Aera and Gikwang didn’t have a funeral, not really, Donghan disappeared and it felt wrong to hold a ceremony without the final triplet there. But Myungjun lit candles for them and prayed to the Deity that they were happy in Eden.
Feelings of failure and guilt at not being able to save everyone enveloped Myungjun and turned the world dark until he was sure that the days would never get better.
But they did.
Time didn’t heal wounds, Myungjun knew this well, it only gave him the chance to learn how to live with the pain, to adapt and grow around the aching black holes inside of his chest.
Over time the city was rebuilt, Myungjun cried less and they managed to get back into a normal routine. Healing, not completely, but in all the ways that mattered most.
Everyday Myungjun sent Donghan notes, missing him and apologising and asking him to come back soon and after an entire month he finally got a reply.
Myungjun had been in the bathroom--brushing his teeth and washing his face--but was soon out of it and rushing down the stairs to burst out of the front door and onto the farmhouse's front porch. His hands shook as he pulled his white silk night robe further around his body to ward off the morning chill.
Donghan stumbled through the front gates looking awful. His normally clean shaven face was covered in thick facial hair and his clothes were wrinkled and looked like they were in need of a good wash. Donghan’s signature long leather coat was nowhere to be seen.
“Dongie!” Myungjun stepped into a pair of flat shoes on the porch and hurried out to help him.
Up close Donghan stank of alcohol and cigarette smoke. Myungjun tried not to let his distaste show as he wrapped an arm around the half-giant’s waist to try and prop him up. It was clear Donghan still wasn’t handling his grief well.
“Sunshine?” Jinwoo came out of the farmhouse in a pair of shorts, rubbing the sleep from his eyes as his wings fluttered lazily behind him. “What's going on?”
The ground opened up under Myungjun’s feet as Donghan terraported and not even Jinwoo’s inhuman speed could get him down the driveway in time to stop Myungjun from terraporting with him.
They landed in a field full of flowers. A rainbow blanket that spread out all around them. Myungjun had been here only briefly once before-- when Donghan had come to visit him during his apprenticeship at the castle. At the time Donghan had seemed desperate to get away from the flower field and go somewhere else, but this time around he started walking through it and Myungjun followed.
There were thousands upon thousands of flowers and plenty of pollinators flitting around between them. The scene was ethereal in the early morning sun, with the light glinting off the dew covered petals like a million diamonds.
Myungjun wanted to appreciate it fully but when they crested the hill his attention was stolen by a terribly sad sight. Six headstones were erected side-by-side under a large oak tree. Three of them were old, the stone growing moss, but three of them were newer and more clumsily made.
“My mothers and Yuqi.” Donghan gestured to the oldest headstones. His voice was hoarse. “Me and Gikky needed a place to come and mourn them in peace.” Donghan fell down to his knees in front of the newest headstones and dug his fingers in the freshly-turned soil--the graves of his siblings and Grey. “I miss them so much. Every second of every day. I don’t know how I’m supposed to live without them anymore. My mothers and Yuqi; we weren’t with them for long. But Gikwang and Aera...they’re the other parts of me and now they’re gone too. And Grey...oh god, Grey. Why did he do it? Why did he kill my brother?”
Myungjun couldn’t answer him, he simply didn’t know. There were a lot of blanks in his memory of the most recent times before and during the war, gaping dark holes that offered no light and no answers. It was as if his memories had been erased leaving only confusion behind.
“I’m so sorry, Donghan.” Myungjun knelt down beside him. “I wish I could remember everything that happened so I could give you some closure and some peace.”
“So you can't remember much either?”
“No. The doctors said the memory loss was caused by the blast. Jinwoo has the blanks in his memory too. And you?”
“Yeah. I don’t know why I acted like that before.” Donghan grit his teeth. “Why did I go around acting like Jinwoo’s little bitch? Why did I put Sanha’s life before my brothers and sisters? Why did I let Grey go with Cain? Why did I…” He trailed off.
“Why did you kiss me?” Myungjun guessed.
Donghan turned his head to look at him. His dark eyes were bloodshot and rimmed red. “I know why I kissed you. I feel it now when I look at you. I’m in love with you, Little Dragon, and I think I’ve been in love with you for a long time without realising it.” He laughed and hung his head.
“Worst confession ever, huh? Right on their graves.”
“Don’t.” Donghan whispered when Myungjun reached for him. “Just don’t. I don’t want to hear how it was a mistake and how it never should have happened because you’re already married. I know that's what you’re going to say. You have it easy, you can just forget everything that happened and go back to being happy with your husband. But I can’t.”
“That's what you really think?” Myungjun asked. The hurt slipped into his tone and he pulled his hand that was reaching for Donghan back to his chest. “You really think I have it easy? Well you’re wrong. I wanted to kiss you back more than anything, I cheated on Jinwoo and I’ve probably ruined my marriage beyond repair because of it. I can’t sleep at night or eat because all I do is worry. And not just because I’m worried about Jinwoo asking for a divorce, but because of you. You disappeared and I couldn’t talk to you or comfort you or make things right.”
“And how could you possibly make this right? The situation is so fucked. I’ve lost everyone but you and I know I can’t even have you the way I want. You probably only kissed me back because it was the heat of the moment, we nearly died and all you needed at the time was comfort, right? So just go back to Jinwoo and forget about it. That's the best thing for you right now.”
Donghan climbed to his feet and Myungjun followed him, blinking back angry tears.
“I don’t care what the best thing for me is! I might not remember everything that happened between us but I know it wasn’t one-sided so stop acting like it was. Yes, maybe I did need comfort at the time and you were there but that doesn’t mean that what I feel for you in return is meaningless. I never wanted to hurt Jinwoo, but I did. For you. So don’t tell me my feelings mean nothing.”
A memory surfaced in Myungjun’s mind, one of the blanks filling itself in. He felt both calmer and more unsettled because of it.
Donghan swayed on his feet for a second before turning to look down at Myungjun. He almost looked like the old Donghan, the eighteen year old who’d treated Myungjun with ferocity when they first met.
“What's the point in telling me now when you’re only going to leave me too? I don’t want to fucking hear it!”
“I’m not only telling you now. I told you before, right at the end when I thought we were going to die. You’ve just forgotten.” Myungjun reached out with his mind. “Let me show you.”
Myungjun felt it when the link between their minds stabilised and he played the fragment of memory that had just resurfaced.
“We’re going to find each other again. I promise.” Myungjun said.
“How can you be so sure?” Donghan asked.
“Because we’re soulmates and I love you.” Myungjun leaned in to rest the side of his head on Donghan’s bicep. It felt good to finally say it out loud.
Myungjun looked across the magic counsel’s spell chamber to where his husband was trying to comfort Shadow over the loss of her daughter. The woman didn’t want it and brushed past him leaving Jinwoo looking lost. Donghan’s arm was warm and heavy as it wrapped around Myungjun’s shoulders.
“I never understood how Leo could love two people at once.” Myungjun admitted. “But I think I understand it now. I haven’t had to lessen my feelings for Jinwoo or push them aside. My heart just grew bigger to make room for you both.”
“You know that’s medically impossible, right?”
“...Shut up, Dongie.”
“See?” Myungjun let the link break. “I don’t know why I called you my soulmate but it felt right, and loving you feels right too. I know that everything is bad right now, I’m living it as well, but I won’t shy away from the truth even if it makes things harder. I don’t know why I’m in love with another man when I’m already married, and I don’t know why I was even able to say those things aloud to you with Jinwoo in the same room without even being nervous about being overheard by him. It’s as if he already knew and accepted it. There aren't a lot of things that make sense anymore but I trust my heart. There's a home in here for you, I can feel it.” Myungjun’s hand came to rest on his chest.
For a second it looked like Donghan was going to tear up, but instead the half-giant took a shaky step forward into Myungjun’s personal space and tucked a finger under Myungjun’s chin to lift his face up.
Even though he didn’t look or smell particularly nice or like the usual Donghan at all right now, just being this close to him still made Myungjun’s heart race.
“Then kiss me back this time.”
“I can’t. I shouldn’t. I don’t want to do anything else behind Jinwoo’s back.” Myungjun reluctantly pulled away. It was harder for him to do than he wanted to admit. “If I can call you my soulmate then he’s definitely my soulmate too. I love him too much to hurt him like that again. I’m sorry but I can’t give you what you want right now. At least...at least let me talk to Jinwoo first.”
“So I have to wait for you to be ready?” Donghan let out a breezy laugh of disbelief and ran a hand through his tangled unkempt hair. “Fine. It’s not like I have anything else to do these days. It's time to go anyway, I should take you home. Jinwoo’s probably frothing at the mouth thinking I’ve stolen you away to take your maidenhood or some shit.” And just like that Donghan was back to his normal self.
“Shut up, Dongie, I’m not a maiden.” Myungjun mumbled as the ground opened up beneath them.
After making Donghan promise to reply to his notes from now on and seeing him off with a small wave, Myungjun stepped into the farmhouse and called for his husband. With Jinwoo’s inhuman hearing he would have been able to hear Myungjun’s voice from anywhere on their plot of land, so when he didn’t appear after a couple of minutes Myungjun knew he wasn't home.
He considered writing a note to his husband and sending it through the ground with his magic but decided to wait. It would be good to have some time alone to get ready to face the day and the inevitable conversation that he and Jinwoo had been ignoring since they returned home.
It was no doubt going to be an emotional confrontation and Myungjun needed to mentally prepare himself first.
He made his way up to the dressing room and picked the first outfit he could find to slip into. He rolled up the sleeves of his peach silk shirt and buttoned his neatly pressed black trousers, forgoing a belt. Next he stopped at his dressing table in his and Jinwoo’s bedroom and sat down to look at himself in the big oval mirror.
There were hints of dark circles under his eyes and a gauntness to his cheeks from his inability to sleep and eat well these days but it wasn't anything a bit of make-up couldn’t conceal. He lined his eyes and dabbed some sparkly gloss on his lips before stalling some more by choosing his jewellery for the day.
After settling on staying simple with some flower-shaped studs for his ears and his wedding rings, Myungjun made his way down to Jinwoo’s library to borrow some parchment for his note.
JinJin, I’m back home now. We need to talk.
A small bundle of vines swallowed the neatly folded parchment and it disappeared through the floor. All Myungjun could do now was wait for his husband's return. Hopefully he hadn’t gone too far away.
Myungjun stepped back outside to watch the skies. The farmhouse was surrounded by the trees of the grove and over the green tops of them came a large, dark shape.
It was the wrong dragon but Myungjun still greeted him with love all the same.
“Baby, there you are.” Myungjun patted the dragon's snout when it landed with ground-shaking force.
The last time they had measured Baby he had been close to 27ft in height, still not as big as his brother and sister. Arvioth and Wrath were nearing 33ft now and didn’t appear to be slowing down in growth anytime soon.
It had been a relief to see that all of the dragons were still alive and well after the war but nothing had broken Myungjun’s heart more than hearing the sounds Arvioth made when he realised Gikwang was no longer with them.
When a dragon hatched from their egg, the first being they laid eyes on would be their mother and for Arvioth, it was Gikwang. Losing his mother hurt Arvioth deeply and he’d disappeared like Donghan and had yet to return.
Subconsciously it made Myungjun want to be a better mother to Baby and he spoiled the giant beast a lot more these days.
“Have you seen JinJin?” Myungjun asked as he fed Baby some fresh meat he grabbed from the crate they kept on standby for little treats.
Baby grunted as he licked the blood from Myungjun’s fingers. No.
Myungjun sighed and fed him some more. “Okay. He’ll probably be back soon so greet him nicely.” He patted the dragon once more and received a faceful of affectionate smoke before Baby took off with a strong flap of his wings.
It was nerve-wracking waiting for Jinwoo to return. Myungjun paced the house finding different things to keep his restless hands busy. In the sitting room he straightened all the cushions on the couches and armchairs and lit all the scented candles with the box of matches he found in the drawer.
In the kitchen he rummaged in the cupboards to find the bottle of moonshine and glass tumblers that only saw the light of day when he and Jinwoo had important matters to discuss. Their lucky bottle, they liked to joke. He placed them on the dining table and went to slice up some fruit for snacks.
When the platter of fruit arrived at the table, Jinwoo arrived at the front door. It opened and closed with a bang and Jinwoo came into the kitchen, dropped a kiss on Myungjun’s cheek and went to pour them both a glass.
“Where did he take you?”
Myungjun sat down at the table and accepted his glass. He took a sip that warmed his chest before answering. “To a graveyard.”
Jinwoo looked up at him with an eyebrow raised but didn’t ask him to elaborate. “How is he?”
“Struggling. He’s lost everyone, JinJin.”
“But not you.”
“No, not me. He’ll never lose me.”
Jinwoo nodded slowly, looking down into his glass. “You want to talk, so let’s talk. He kissed you and you wanted to kiss him back. I remember how it felt. Finding out. For some reason I can’t explain; I expected it to happen but it still hurt. It still does. You’re my husband, Myungjun, and I’m supposed to just sit back and let you be friends with him still, knowing that you both have feelings for each other? How is that fair on me?”
“It’s not fair,” Myungjun agreed, “but I can’t just cut him out of our lives. I can’t leave him, especially not now.”
“You can’t, or you don’t want to?” Jinwoo asked.
“I’m sorry, JinJin.”
“Did you kiss him today?”
“What? No, of course not.”
“Did he ask you to? Did you want to?”
Myungjun gripped his glass tight and forced himself to take another sip. It was hard, being honest, especially when he knew the truth would only hurt Jinwoo more. He couldn’t say it out loud, he didn’t have the courage, so he just nodded instead.
“Ha~” Jinwoo sighed and ran a hand down his face. “I can’t fucking believe this. We’ve just been to hell and back and now I have to deal with this. Things are hard enough as it is right now.”
“I can’t help how I feel.” Myungjun’s defences were rising and he couldn’t stop them. He was tired of this too; of feeling guilty all the time and worrying about what Jinwoo would say to him.
Jinwoo downed the rest of his moonshine and placed the glass down on the tabletop with a thump. “And what do you feel, Myungjun? Huh? Just rip the fucking bandaid off and tell me already.”
Tears welled up in Myungjun’s eyes and he steeled himself for the worst.
“I love him. I love Donghan in the same way I love you. Not just as a friend but someone more important. I tried not to. I tried to turn it off, I really did!” Myungjun cried as he rose from his seat. His body was telling him to leave, to run away and not face the backlash of his terrible confession. But he forced himself not to move and to look at his husband.
Jinwoo’s face was hidden once more in his hands and for the longest time he didn’t say anything. And then his shoulders started to shake and all of Myungjun’s defences crumbled and he rushed to his husband’s side to comfort him.
“I’m sorry, JinJin, I’m so so sorry. Please don’t cry.” He squeezed Jinwoo tight. “This doesn’t change how I feel about you. I still love you more than anything, more and more every day and that will never change.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Jinwoo growled wetly, pulling out of Myungjun’s hold and moving away from the table. “It doesn't mean anything if you love him.”
Myungjun went cold. “What do you mean? Of course it means something. It means everything! I love you, Jinwoo. Can’t that be enough?”
“Life isn’t a fucking fairy tale, Myungjun, you can’t have everything you want.”
“So, what? What are you saying? I can’t have you if I love him?”
The silence was painful and the hysteria Myungjun had been struggling to hold back for weeks finally burst free.
“If you want a divorce just say so! Stop avoiding it and just tell me!”
As soon as he said it, Myungjun wanted to take it back.
Jinwoo looked up in shock. Then he looked back down at his clenched fists, his shaggy hair obscuring his eyes and hiding them from view.
“Yeah,” he said quietly, “maybe I should.”
Then he turned on his heel and left.