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The Lingering Taste of Salt

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Yoongi lay, in wolf form, across the ottoman in the music room. His white tail lazily wagged and thumped the tile floor. His eyes closed as he attempted to nap.

Jungkook sat cross legged on the rug in his uniform blacks, his blue scarf hung loosely around his neck. His black wolf ears perked up a noise in the hallway. He focused, they were frantic heavy footsteps. Jungkook dove under the grand piano.

The seamstress pushed back the large curtain to enter the room. Her yellow eyes glowed in anger. She looked around, the only being she saw was Yoongi on the Ottoman. “Have you seen the Prince’s Beta?” she asked.

Yoongi yawned.

The seamstress glared at him, “I see they don’t teach manners in the East.” She grumbled as she walked out of the room.

Yoongi didn’t react. Of all the shit he’s heard in the last month, that was by far the least insulting.

Jungkook crawled out from under the piano. His black ears upright and alert. When it sounded like she was in another hallway, and wasn’t likely to return, Jungkook sighed in relief. “Thanks.”

Yoongi gave a lazy yawn. Jungkook smiled.

He picked up the mandolin from its display and sat on the open space on the ottoman. “Seokjin said I could perform at your wedding. Would you like to hear it?”

Yoongi rested his muzzle on Jungkook’s thigh. Jungkook interpreted the gesture as a yes. He strummed the mandolin, he adjusted the strings to tune it. He played a few chords, for warm up, then began to play the song. He intended to sing on the day of the wedding, for now he just wanted to memorize the correct chords. It was an old song, one of a Beta tricking an Alpha into marrying her, then they live happily ever after in a field of violets. By the time Jungkook had played the last notes, Yoongi’s tail was wagging in rhythm. “Do you like it?” Jungkook asked.

Yoongi howled. Jungkook laughed. “I knew you would.”

“That was lovely,” Seokjin said.

Jungkook hadn’t even noticed him walk in. He bowed, “Thank you.”

“Do you mind I speak to my fiancée?” Seokjin asked.

“Not at all,” Jungkook stroked Yoongi’s head, returned the mandolin to its place, and left the room.

Seokjin took over the empty space. Yoongi crawled onto Seokjin’s lap. Seokjin stroked Yoongi’s pure white fur. Seokjin asked, “Why is Jihyo crying in the servant’s dining room?”

Yoongi froze. He covered his eyes with his paws.

Seokjin sighed, “You may not like it but you need a Beta. She’ll help you get dressed, she can teach you etiquette, and she’ll be your midwife.”

Yoongi whined.

“Sweetheart,” Seokjin pushed Yoongi’s head so that they were eye to eye. “I need you to try harder.”

Yoongi whined again. He buried his muzzle in Seokjin’s robes. Seokjin stroked the fur on Yoongi’s neck.

Meanwhile in the servant’s dining hall, Jihyo cried into her crossed arms. Nayeon, a beautiful Omega who was the daughter of the head housekeeper, rubbed soothing circles into Jihyo’s back. “You did nothing wrong, I promise,” she tried to placate her friend.

“Yoongi is just a jerk,” Chaeyoung said from where she sat on the other side of the table.

Jeongyeon hissed at her.

Chaeyoung shrugged, “It’s true. You and I see him the most. When has he ever been nice to you?”

Jeongyeon faltered. She opened and closed her mouth a few times before stuttering, “Wh-when the Southern Prince had him choose wedding locations. And when he tried on robes-”

Chaeyoung interrupted, “He was only nice because Jimin was there.”

Jeongyeon bit her lip, she couldn’t argue with that.

 “It could be the pregnancy giving him mood swings,” Nayeon suggested. Jeongyeon and Chaeyoung stiffened. While the Eastern Omega’s condition was hot gossip amongst the servants, the royals had yet to say it aloud. Which made Jeongyeon and Chaeyoung, as personal Betas, rather nervous when it came to the subject. It was universally accepted, but not acknowledged.

Nayeon continued, “My mother told me that the Queen was very difficult when she was expecting.”

“It’s not just that,” Jihyo said. She wiped the tears from her eyes. She sniffled. “He doesn’t know how to wear robes, which ones are formal which ones are casual, and he doesn’t even know the different greetings from lords to businessmen. And when I point out his mistakes he yells at me.”

Nayeon ran out of words to say. She hugged Jihyo to her chest and let the poor girl cry it out.

“I don’t see how Seokjin turned down Jimin for him,” Chaeyoung said with a scowl. Jeongyeon could only shrug.

 

 

 

 

 

The first difference Seokjin noticed when on the Eastern cliff shores was that everything tasted of salt, not just the food but the air and even his skin after a strong wind. No matter how much he spit, he could not get the taste out of his mouth.

The King pulled a hard caramel from a pocket of his robe and handed it to Seokjin. “It’s too sweet for my taste, but at least you won’t taste salt.”

Seokjin eagerly popped it in his mouth. “Thanks dad.”

The King gave him a dimpled smile, one that reminded Seokjin of his younger brother. He sat across from Seokjin in the caravan. They were almost at the shores. Seokjin had heard the crashing of waves against the rocky beaches for an hour.

“I will be meeting with the Tribesleader as soon as we arrive. She’s a charismatic old crone who values privacy so you are not allowed to attend.”

Seokjin pouted.

“You can use this time to explore the cliffs,” the King continued.

Seokjin perked up.

“You can go as far as you like, as long as the coast remains in sight. And you must be back at our lodgings before sundown.”

Seokjin could hardly keep still with his excitement. “Of course, dad.”

Their lodgings were all the rooms on the top floor of an Inn run by the Tribesleader’s brother-in-law, a mousy Omega with blue eyes. Seokjin was taken aback by their dark color. Compared to Southerners the North wolves had dark eyes, but nothing as dark as the Innkeeper’s. Seokjin was fascinated by the East already.

The Innkeeper’s wife, a tall Beta, led Seokjin and Hoseok to their room. Hoseok immediately collapsed, face first, onto his straw bed. His wolf ears twitched. “I feel sick.”

“You get nauseous easily,” Seokjin said in sympathy.

“The caravans move too much, they rock and sway with every turn,” Hoseok groaned.

“Really? My caravan was steady,” Seokjin said. He brought the wastebasket to the head of Hoseok’s bed.

Hoseok turned to face Seokjin, his yellow eyes glared in annoyance. “You get the best caravan. Stupid royals.” He scooted the wastebasket closer to him.

Seokjin took off his thick black cape, so that he only wore his long sleeved blue robe and black leggings. “I’m going to explore. If you throw up, please make sure it all lands in the wastebasket.”

Hoseok waved him away.

The second difference Seokjin noticed was the wind, and its endless tirade on everyone and everything. Seokjin accepted his fate of terrible hair for the entire stay.

The ocean was endless. Namjoon had been right when he said it was a giant pond, but he didn’t mention how angry it was. Every wave was loud and resounded in his very core. The main beach consisted of pebbles, but Seokjin remembered his father say there was a sandy beach nearby. He decided that his first quest was to find the white sand beach.

The cliffs were too rocky to climb. Seokjin had no other choice to walk through the forest along the shoreline. The forest was full of dense pines, and the occasional mushroom patch. He couldn’t see the shore anymore, but he could still hear the waves crash against the rocks. He used that sound to help navigate through the forest.

Seokjin smelled salt and pine and dirt, and something else. Something slightly sweet, and enticing.

Another wolf, he thought.

Seokjin felt a sharp pain to his waist. He growled at the perpetrator, his red eyes flashed in anger. The perpetrator looked undisturbed. He held the staff out in front of him for protection. He wore a wide sleeved green sweater, and dull brown tight pants. He glared up at Seokjin from under white bangs with the darkest blue eyes he had ever seen, even darker than the Innkeeper’s. Omega, Seokjin thought to himself.

Seokjin stepped back. He held up his hands, to appear non-threatening. “I’m sorry.”

“I can’t get a damn second of peace around here,” the Omega grumbled. “Who’s your father? why are you following me?”

Seokjin blinked in confusion, “Excuse me?”

The Omega held up the staff under Seokjin’s chin. Seokjin leaned back. “You can’t just claim me in the woods and expect my father to be okay with it. There are customs. And if you cheat, my father will ruin your family. As the Tribesleader she will be respected.”

Ah, that was familiar. Seokjin’s dad was in a meeting with the Tribesleader right now and her Alpha daughter. Seokjin smiled, “You must be Yoongi, Soyou’s son.”

Yoongi scoffed, “Don’t act like you didn’t know. Who are you?”

Seokjin shrugged, “Who me? I’m only the first-born son of the King of the North.”

Yoongi looked Seokjin up and down. He took in the deep blue robes, the black leggings, and the silver rings on his hand. Yoongi lowered his staff. “You’re safe.”

“Why am I safe? I could just as easily mount you.”

“Because with that title and that face, you must have Betas waiting in your bedroom every night, and your desk must be full of letters from rich Omegas dying to be engaged.”

He wasn’t wrong, but Seokjin still felt offended. “Would you be one of those Omegas?”

Yoongi tsked. “No. My family has no title. We’re not on your radar.”

“The King is here to personally talk to your Alpha.”

“Yeah, for the economy. Not because our status demands it.” Yoongi swung his staff so that it hung loosely over his shoulders. “You don’t look very Alpha.”

Seokjin was a foot taller and twice as wide as Yoongi. Seokjin squinted, “What makes you say that?”

“Your skin is too smooth. By your height, Alphas have a scar or two, you should be ugly by now.”

“I have one on my chest,” Seokjin said in a smooth voice. He grabbed the tree branch over Yoongi and leaned in so that their noses were mere centimeters away from each other. “Would you care to see it? Sweet pea?”

In one swift movement, Yoongi swung the staff off his shoulders and jabbed Seokjin in the stomach. Seokjin toppled over in pain. “Fuck no,” Yoongi scoffed. He walked back to the coast, and left Seokjin lying on the ground.

 

 

 

 

Seokjin sat on his chicken feather mattress with his arms crossed under his chin and a scowl on his face.

Hoseok rolled around the floor in laughter. “Tell me again how an Omega kicked your ass.”

“He wasn’t an ordinary Omega,” Seokjin barked, “he was trained in combat. And fearless.”

Hoseok’s laughter started to die down. His black tail thumped loudly against the floor. He wiped the tears from the corner of his eyes. He asked, “Well what did you expect?”

Seokjin glared down at him. To others it would be seen as threatening, but to Hoseok, who had known Seokjin since they were both pups, knew which expression meant “I will tear you limb from limb” and which one meant “my pride is wounded please shut up.” This glare was the latter.

Hoseok continued, “We’re not inside the capital. In the outlands, Omegas aren’t protected when they present. They’re constantly surrounded and could be mounted by some jerk at any moment. Of course he knows how to protect himself.”

Seokjin looked at the wall, he was still upset but his expression softened.

Hoseok stood up, he dusted the salt off his robes. “Look, he’s not going to be the soft Omega that you’re used to. And he’s not going to be nice to you just because you’re a handsome prince.”

Seokjin sighed. His shoulders sagged, “If I’m to become King, I have to learn how to get the common people to like me. So what should I do?”

“You do it like me and earn his respect,” Hoseok said with a heart shaped smile, “Don’t know how that’s going to happen since he wiped the floor with ya.”

Seokjin’s red Alpha eyes were set ablaze with anger.

Hoseok ran out of the room.

Seokjin sulked for the rest of the afternoon.

 

 

 

 

The wolves in the Seashore village were polite to Seokjin. They didn’t go out of their way to please, like the wolves in the capital, but they didn’t spit on him or insult him either. Their respect bordered on indifference. Seokjin was unsettled by this.

An Omega and her daughter only half bowed to Seokjin as they passed by him. Seokjin frowned. “Hoseok?”

“Give me a minute,” Hoseok dismissed. They were in the marketplace. Hoseok was haggling with a fat merchant on a basket of fish.

“A prince does not wait,” Seokjin said with a huff.

The merchant looked Seokjin up and down. He said, “75.”

“That was more than you said at the beginning,” Hoseok accused.

“Your friend is a royal. He can afford it,” the merchant said.

Hoseok gave Seokjin a death glare of his own. He grumbled as he paid the merchant. He made Seokjin carry the basket. “Next time, I’m leaving you at the Inn. You’re bad for shopping.”

“Everyone gives me free stuff at home,” Seokjin huffed.

“They love you at home. Over here, you’re just a haughty elitist who has never worked a day in your life,” Hoseok said.

Seokjin looked out over the marketplace crowds. “I’ve worked before…”

Hoseok snickered.

Seokjin chose to ignore him. He saw a flash of white hair from the corner of his eyes. He turned towards it. Same green robe, same deep blue eyes. “It’s the Omega from yesterday,” he hissed.

“Where?” Hoseok said too loudly.

Seokjin pointed at the Apothecary shop. “He just went in there.” Seokjin pushed through the crowds.

Hoseok blinked at him. He muttered under his breath, “Stubborn royals.”

Seokjin walked right into the shop. The walls were covered in shelves of mason jars filled with various powders and liquids. Dried pufferfish and horseshoe crabs hung from the ceilings. Seokjin was momentarily stunned by the display.

“She’s with a client,” a familiar raspy voice said.

Seokjin turned to the owner. It was Yoongi. He poured shells from a bucket onto the scales.

Seokjin smirked. “I’m not looking for her.”

Yoongi glared at Seokjin. He spoke in a dry tone, “Oh joy, his royal highness.”

Seokjin leaned against one of the shelves. “Hello, cupcake. Fancy seeing you- “

Seokjin was interrupted by a loud scream. His shoulders stiffened, he knew that scream, he had grown up with it. He and Yoongi turned to face the doorway, where the scream came originated.

Yeah, Seokjin knew it. There stood Hoseok. He was pale faced and at eye level with a shelf full of snakes. Seokjin sighed. “Hoseok they’re dead.”

“Why are they here?” Hoseok whimpered.

“The venom can be used for antidotes and medicine. And then the scales can be ground for vitamins,” Yoongi explained. Yoongi then turned to Seokjin, “I take it he’s yours.”

“He was raised in the palace,” Seokjin apologized.

Yoongi tsked, “Capital wolves.”

Hoseok sneered at Yoongi. “Sorry I don’t like snakes. Does that make me a terrible wolf?”

“Don’t you see snakes on hunts?” Yoongi asked.

Hoseok looked at the ground and kicked the floor. He admitted, “I don’t go on hunts.”

Yoongi gave a smile, as if he had won. Seokjin wouldn’t let him get away with it that easily. Seokjin tapped on one of the pufferfish. “Do you apprentice here?”

“Yeah. I figure when I get married off I can bring something from my village to my fiancée’s.”

Seokjin eyebrows shot up. “You’re engaged?”

“Not yet,” Yoongi said. He balanced the scales. “But I will, eventually.”

“Won’t you be too old?” Seokjin teased.

Yoongi glared at Seokjin. “Get out.”

“I’m a paying customer, I have every right to browse your archaic medicine,” Seokjin said. He examined a jar full of various sized eyeballs. Hoseok stood next to the counter, as far away from the snakes as physically possible.

Seokjin picked up a dried bat wing between two fingers. Yoongi grabbed his wrist. “Stop touching things. You’ll break them.”

Seokjin blinked down at the hand on his wrist. Hoseok was right when he said that Yoongi would not be like the Omegas he knew. Yoongi’s palm wasn’t soft. Yoongi’s palms had calluses, and he had tape around his fingers to cover blisters and cuts. His hands were as rough as Seokjin’s. Seokjin’s were built from years of sword training, archery, and participating on hunts. Yoongi’s were as hard as the environment he grew up in.

Seokjin released the bat wing. He held up his hands in surrender. “I’m sorry, buttercup,” he apologized, “I won’t touch anything else.”

This calmed Yoongi. He released his grip. “What did you come here for? I’ll help you find it.”

Shit. Seokjin had only entered the shop to confirm that the wolf he saw was Yoongi. He made eye contact with Hoseok across the shop. Hoseok gave a lazy shrug. Seokjin frowned. Stupid Beta.

Yoongi’s foot tapped on the ground. “Did you follow me in here?”

Seokjin’s pride was more than his intelligence. He spoke without thinking. “As if, I would follow a plain Omega. Sorry sweetheart but you’re not that special.”

He regretted the words as soon as they left his mouth. Yoongi may only be an Omega, but his glare struck fear into Seokjin’s bones. Yoongi drew back his arm and clocked Seokjin in the face.

“New rule, no Alpha Princes allowed in the shop,” Yoongi said.

Seokjin whined.

Hoseok doubled over by the counter in laughter.

 

 

 

 

 

“His feet were so small. Like his shoes could fit inside of my shoes,” Namjoon explained, his face stuck in its stupid enamored dimpled smile. “And his skin was golden as if had been kissed by the sun. I mean, as the prince of the South he gets a lot of sun, but still. And, of course, his eyes, I see them every time I close my eyes, they were was as blue as the clear ponds we have on the palace grounds. And everything about him was just so graceful. God Seokjin, Omegas are just otherworldly you know?”

Seokjin thought about Yoongi and his damn staff. And that stupid scoff that rung through Seokjin’s head every time he saw his black eye on a reflective surface. Seokjin stabbed his cake. “No!”

Namjoon blinked out of his stupor. “No?”

“No, Omegas are not otherworldly.” Seokjin stabbed his cake with every spoken word. “They’re little sadists who laugh at your misery. And they’re vicious too. They can cut wolves down in size using only a phrase,” Seokjin ranted.

Namjoon cut his cake into smaller pieces. “Maybe you met the worst one.”

Seokjin grumbled, “Maybe you met the best, most perfect, fictional Omega who only exists in fairytales.”

Hoseok had finished his cake. He pointed at the brothers with his fork. “Or maybe y’all should accept the fact that there is no one archetype for Omegas, and that everyone has their own individual personality shaped by their environment and natural misdemeanor.”

The brothers looked at Hoseok as if he had grown a second head.

Hoseok pouted. “Whatever. Ignore me. No one ever listens to old Hoseok.”

“I’m the same age as you,” Seokjin interrupted.

Hoseok ignored him. “Not since you banished Taehyungie to the frozen mountains.”

Seokjin was not amused with Hoseok’s theatrics. He shoveled the crumby remains of his cake into his mouth.

“We didn’t banish Taehyung. We sent him to the six-week program at the Beta Academy,” Namjoon explained.

“Banishment would have been kinder,” Hoseok lamented, “the kid can’t even read, yet you sent him to school.”

Namjoon attempted to placate Hoseok. “Taehyung will be fine, he has Jungkook to look after him. He’s learning about layering robes, our history, and etiquette. He’ll return to us as a proper royal wolf.”

“I don’t want a proper wolf. Taehyungie is a heathen and that’s why I love him. He can’t stand still for more than five minutes. And he hugs,” Hoseok cried, “If he comes back and doesn’t hug me anymore you have to buy me a new one.”

“You can’t buy new pups,” Seokjin said.

“You can buy anything when you’re a royal,” Hoseok exaggerated.

Seokjin rolled his eyes. He stacked up the plates and took them to the kitchen.

 

 

 

 

 

Namjoon and Taehyung sat cross legged on the bed in Seokjin’s room and watched his Beta, Jungkook now that he had officially finished his training at the Academy, fold up clothes to be in his travel chest. Each robe was perfectly folded without an unsightly crease or wrinkle. And Jungkook managed to stack them without the piles leaning over or tumbling. Taehyung’s eyes were wide in awe. “It’s like a perfection spell was cast on him.”

“Or I trained for longer than six weeks,” Jungkook said.

Taehyung glared. Namjoon gave him a reassuring pat on the head, “Six weeks is enough to learn the basics.”

“But you still had to help me pack,” Taehyung said in a small voice.

This was true. If it weren’t for Namjoon, Taehyung would be sitting in a pile of wrinkled clothes and crying in frustration. Namjoon wrapped his around Taehyung’s shoulders and squeezed. Taehyung smiled up at him.

Jungkook placed all the robes in the dresser. “Do you want me to pack your cape, your highness, or will you wear it on the caravan?”

Seokjin was curled up on the sofa next to the window looking out onto the mountain range. He groaned.

“I need an answer.”

Seokjin groaned louder.

“Stop sulking and answer the question,” Namjoon scolded.

“Jungkook is smart,” Seokjin said. “He should figure it out.”

Namjoon sat across from Seokjin. Seokjin didn’t look at him. “Last year you were excited to go the shores.”

“Well last year I didn’t know they had combat trained Omegas who give innocent wolves black eyes,” Seokjin said.

“You’re acting like a pup.”

“Respect your elders.”

“I will when you earn it.”

Seokjin’s eyes flashed red in anger. Jungkook and Taehyung shivered from where they stood on the other side of the room. But Namjoon was an Alpha too. His eyes burned just as brightly in his intense stare. He poked Seokjin on the chest to punctuate his words. “You will go to the Eastern Shores, not as Seokjin the Prince, but as Seokjin the next King. The one who will inherit and cultivate important business relationships. Do you understand?”

Seokjin snarled, but his eyes dulled. He understood. He just didn’t want to go. Seokjin pouted, “Fine.”

Namjoon’s eyes dulled as well. He gave his brother a dimpled smile. “Good. Taehyung, follow me. We have important lessons to learn.”

Taehyung followed Namjoon with an expression of bewilderment. He tugged on Namjoon’s sleeve and pester him as they walked down the hall. Jungkook stared wide eyed at Seokjin. Alphas were incredible

 

 

 

 

 

Hoseok ran out of the caravan and immediately hurled in a nearby bush. Taehyung followed him and rubbed small circles on his back. Jungkook’s nose curled up in disgust. “I should have rode in the other caravan.”

The King stepped out of the royal caravan first, followed by his two sons.

The Tribesleader was waiting for them, as was her wife, and, to Seokjin’s surprise, Yoongi. He wore nicer robes this team, they were a deep shade of green instead of the dull daily ones, and the robe had the Easter fort embroidered on the chest. The Tribesleader pushed Yoongi forward. Yoongi looked back to his parents. The Omega gestured toward Seokjin. The Alpha only glared. Yoongi turned to the royal family, his deep blue eyes stared directly into Seokjin’s red ones, took a deep breath, and said, “I’m sorry I punched you.”

Seokjin was stunned. He grasped at words.

Yoongi’s cheeks were tinged with pink, from the wind Seokjin presumed, or it could have been the act of swallowing his pride.

“I apologize for my words, it was wrong of me to speak such falsehoods, and insult a trusted ally,” Seokjin said, after he finally remembered his diplomacy training.

Yoongi looked up at him. His eyes softened, “Apology accepted.”

Seokjin nodded.

The King of the North embraced the Tribesleader, “Soyou, it’s good to see you again.”

“Likewise,” she answered curtly.

The Tribesleader and the King disappeared into the council chambers. Namjoon asked the Omega if he could see the quarries. She offered to escort him there. Namjoon gave Taehyung a look. Taehyung shook his head, no. Namjoon laughed. “I guess you can stay here.”

Taehyung beamed. And waved at Namjoon and the Omega as they left.

The younger wolves were left to their own devices.

“I guess since I’m your host I should ask what you all would like to see,” Yoongi said.

Seokjin wanted to take a nap in the Inn. But Taehyung beat him to it. “Show me the ocean!”

Yoongi was startled by Taehyung’s enthusiasm.

Jungkook hit Taehyung in the back of the head. He scolded, “You don’t shout at an Omega.”

“Oww,” Taehyung whined. His lilac wolf ears drooped on the back of his head.

Yoongi laughed. His first laugh that Seokjin had ever heard. Seokjin was momentarily stunned. Yoongi offered to take everyone to the beach. They took the long way so that they avoided the marketplace, it was always crowded at that hour.

Taehyung ran towards the water. Hoseok yanked on the collar of his robes. “Do you know how to swim?” Hoseok asked.

Taehyung reached out, “It’s instinct.”

Hoseok pulled him back. “No, you’ll drown.”

Jungkook stripped out of his black Beta robes, shifted into his black wolf form, and dove straight into the ocean waves. He waded close to the shoreline.

Hoseok glared at him with his jaw hung open. “Does no one listen to me?” Hoseok scolded.

Jungkook barked.

Taehyung looked at Hoseok with wide eyes and his lips formed into a pout.

Hoseok sighed, he released Taehyung’s robes. Taehyung did as Jungkook had, he stripped off his robes and dove into the ocean as a wolf.

“I like their energy,” Yoongi said. He pointed at the ocean waves, where Taehyung chased Jungkook. “They aren’t royals. Where’d you find them?”

Seokjin stood up straight. He spoke in the knowledgeable tone that his father used when he debriefed them on his diplomatic outings. “Jungkook is the black one. His family is from the South but he trained for six years at the Beta Academy in the mountains. He received a more specialized program since I chose him as my personal Beta.”

Yoongi hummed.

Jungkook ducked under the waves. Taehyung splashed at the water, his attempt at looking for Jungkook. Jungkook dove out from behind Taehyung and tackled him into and oncoming wave. Yoongi chuckled, “And the purple one? He’s less refined.”

Seokjin deflated. He scratched the back of his neck. “That’s Taehyung. Namjoon found him abandoned in the mountains as a pup.”

Yoongi’s eyes widened.

“There are a lot of savage packs in the mountains that prefer their wolf forms over their human ones. My father thinks his pack abandoned him because of his lilac fur.” Seokjin explained.

He watched Taehyung as he ran up to the coastline, barked at the wave, then ran away before the tide could catch him.

Yoongi’s expression softened. “No wonder he’s the only one without a stick up his butt.”

“I take offense to that,” Seokjin pouted.

“You should. You practically have a whole tree up your ass,” Yoongi said, not an ounce of shame in his voice.

Seokjin scowled at Yoongi. Yooongi smirked. Seokjin’s scowl disappeared. It was replaced with a small smile. “You know tiger lily, for an Omega you have a strong personality.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Yoongi beamed.

Seokjin would challenge him, and say that Omegas are supposed to be docile and obedient, and Yoongi’s obstinance defied every part of his identity. But then Yoongi looked up at him with those fathomless blue eyes, and retort died on his tongue. Oh well, he saw enough of those docile Omegas in the capital. What harm is one salty tongued Omega on the Eastern beaches.

Taehyung and Jungkook ganged up on Hoseok. Taehyung pulled his robe in the front, Jungkook pushed his back, and together they dragged him into the water. Hoseok spluttered. He splashed the young wolves. They barked in amusement. And Yoongi and Seokjin laughed from where they stood dry on the beach.

 

 

 

 

 

Seokjin had trouble sleeping on the Eastern shore. Jungkook did too. The young Beta had complained that the straw mattress they gave him irritated his skin. Seokjin would tease Jungkook for his sensitive skin, if not for the fact that he probably would have complained for the same reason. Seokjin had let Jungkook sleep with him on the chicken feather mattress.

Seokjin had trouble sleeping for an entirely different reason. The Inn had a restaurant on the first floor that had drunks screaming until late at night. The Inn also had horse stables with two pigs and a whole hen house, full of chickens that would chatter at all hours. And then the waves would crash against the shore all night long. The problem for Seokjin about sleeping on the Eastern shore was that everything was loud.

Seokjin missed his quiet room in the palace. And when everything didn’t taste of salt.

He got up from the bed, he moved slowly to not disrupt Jungkook from his sleep, and walked over to the vanity where a jug of water sat. He drank straight from it. He grimaced. Even the freshwater had salt in it.

Seokjin looked out the window. It was still dark enough to see the stars but the first rays of sunlight started to peak through. Seokjin sighed. He would be exhausted for the rest of the day.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw a silhouette. He ducked down, so only the top of his head and his eyes could be seen. He studied the wolf. Small, thin, but then he saw the white fur. Yoongi.

Seokjin stripped down and shifted into his dark brown wolf form, he was too lazy to change out of pajamas and into Alpha robes by himself, and snuck down the stairs and out of the Inn without the Innkeeper noticing.

He weaved through the wooden houses. Ocassionally he hid behind barrels, so that Yoongi wouldn’t see him. Yoongi paused when he stood on the pebbled shore. He turned to look behind him. Seokjin dove behind a shack. Yoongi dropped the green blanket in his mouth and barked.

Seokjin didn’t move.

Yoongi huffed. He walked to where Seokjin hid behind the shack, his head buried in the ground and his brown tail wagging lazily behind him. Yoongi bit down on the tail. Seokjin yelped.

Yoongi glared at him with those dark blue eyes. Seokjin sighed. He lowered his head so that Yoongi could press the top of their heads together, so that they could establish a temporary connection. Wolves in the same pack could communicate telepathically in wolf form. When wolves weren’t of the same pack they normally couldn’t talk to each other in wolf form. But since Seokjin was an Alpha Prince, and Yoongi was the son of an Alpha tribesleader, they were both strong enough to create a temporary connection.

Yoongi pulled his head away and glared at Seokjin. Why are you following me?

Seokjin laid on the ground and looked up at Yoongi, his tail wagged behind him so that he would appear friendly. Aren’t you happy to see me?

Yoongi’s glare didn’t disappear. Seokjin’s tail stopped wagging. Fine. I couldn’t sleep so I came down to the beach. Are you happy now?

Yoongi walked away from him. He picked up the blanket he left on the beach and walked closer to the waves. Was it too loud or something?

Yoongi didn’t hear a snappy comeback. He turned back to Seokjin, whose face was covered by his paws. Yoongi barked in amusement, You’re spoiled.

Seokjin glared, he walked a few steps behind Yoongi. Shut up, sweet potato.

That was the worst one yet.

I can do better, give me a minute, hot stuff. Sexy minx. Buttercup. No, shit, I’ve used that one before.

Yoongi barked again, his shoulders shook in laughter. He sat down by the waves and looked out at the sky. The first shades of pink were starting to seep in the nightsky.

Seokjin watched Yoongi. Seokjin hadn’t seen a lot of Omegas as wolves. In the capital, once Omegas present they were normally kept inside the house or near the families. They weren’t allowed on hunts for safety reasons and they weren’t allowed outside by themselves for different safety reasons. Seokjin has seen maybe a handful of Omega wolves in his entire life.

But even if he had seen more, Yoongi would still be the most beautiful one.

His white fur reflected the soft pink light of the sunrise. And even though Yoongi’s blue eyes looked closer to black when he was a human, they looked more like sapphires when contrasting his white fur. Seokjin was reminded of the stories he and Namjoon read when they were younger, about how the first wolves of the North had pure white fur. For once Yoongi looked soft.

Seokjin sat down next to Yoongi. What are you doing up this early? Do you like watching the sunrise?

Yoongi pawed his ear. No, I’m waiting for my father.

 Seokjin asked, Where is she?

Yoongi gestured toward the waves. Just as he did, a chesnut brown wolf walked right out of the waves and onto the pebbled beach. Seokjin stood up immediately. In wolf form, the Tribesleader’s dominant Alpha pheromones had a stronger effect on him. Seokjn bowed his head in respect.

She shook out the saltwater from her fur. She glanced at Seokjin, then turned to Yoongi and titled her head, a question played on her red eyes. Yoongi unfolded the blanket and placed it on her back. She nuzzled him in thanks. Then pressed her forehead to Seokjin’s. Hello young Prince.

Seokjin finally looked up. He tentatively asked, Do you swim every morning?

No, she sat upright. She was a little smaller than Seokjin, but with a much larger presence, I run every morning, I fight the current. It’s how I get stronger.

You are impressive. Seokjin could see Yoongi’s shoulders shake in laughter. He didn’t like it. He didn’t like feeling so small when the Omega was watching.

Your father told me you’ll be sitting in on today’s meeting. I trust you’ll behave well. The Tribesleader stared at him.

Seokjin knew his place. He would be a spectator in today’s meeting not a participant. He bowed at the Tribesleader. She walked past him into the town. Seokjin kept his head down. He heard a bark.

Seokjin looked up. Yoongi stood halfway between the beach and the town. His tail wagged rapidly behind him. He nodded to the town.

Seokjin didn’t want to move. He still felt small.

Yoongi barked again. Come on. My mom and uncle are cooking breakfast. They make the best abalone soup in the village.

Seokjin perked up at that. He’s never had abalones before. He stepped toward Yoongi Can I bring Jungkook?

Yoongi held his head high. Sure.

Seokjin stepped right up to him. He looked down at Yoongi. The salty tongued Omega who looked soft in the dawnlight. Then I’ll come. Who am I to refuse a kind offer from an Omega.

Yoongi frowned. He trotted away. I rescind my invitation.

Seokjin barked in delight. Too late, honeydew.

Ew, stop with the nicknames.

Seokjin followed Yoongi to the Inn with his head held high and his tail wagging behind him.

 

 

 

 

The meeting didn’t until late in the night. Seokjin groggily followed Jungkook back to the Inn. Jungkook, due to his young age and recent presentation, had not been allowed inside the council chambers. He was anxious to let off all the energy saved from standing frozen outside of the room. While Seokjin had a stiff back and too many thoughts from the meeting inside his head. He would have to talk out with Namjoon, the younger was always better when it came to numbers and net profit and that boring stuff.

When they walked into the Inn restaurant, Seokjin saw Namjoon sit with his arms crossed in a stool at the far corner. He had a scowl on his face.

“What did you do?” Seokjin asked.

“He almost burned my family’s Inn,” Yoongi scolded. The Innkeeper nodded from where he stood behind Yoongi with a hotpot in his hands. He whispered something to Yoongi and then left out the front doors.

Seokjin’s eyebrows raised. Namjoon smiled sheepishly.

“It’s true,” Taehyung said with a boxed shaped smile. He hugged Seokjin’s arm to his chest. “Yoongi asked him to light the fire so he could warm up the stew.”

“The fire was this high,” Namjoon said. He held up his hand to his shoulder.

Seokjin’s eyes widened in fear.

“It was terrifying. Yoongi took the flint from his hands and banished him to this part of the room,” Hoseok said.

“Stay away from my kitchen,” Yoongi said. He stirred the stew over the fire.

Namjoon glared. Seokjing laughed. Namjoon redirected his glare at Seokjin. Seokjin hugged Taehyung to his chest. “I don’t blame him,” Seokjin said with a chuckle.

Seokjin had been invited to eat with the tribesleader and his father. But he looked at his brother in the corner of the room, and Taehyung and Jungkook gossiping while they chopped vegetables, and Yoongi serving the stew into bowls, and decided he’d rather eat with this group.

Yoongi scolded him. “Do you even chew? You’re going to get indigestion eat more slowly.”

Seokjin looked him in the eye, and shoved a whole roll inside of his mouth.

Yoongi scoffed, “I thought they taught manners in the capital.”

Namjoon frowned at that. The Betas laughed.

 

 

 

 

 

Namjoon and Seokjin shared a caravan with their Betas and Hoseok on the trip back to the capital. Yoongi had given Hoseok a sleeping powder before they left, in hopes that it would prevent his motion sickness. He knocked out within minutes. Taehyung had fallen asleep in his wolf form draped across Hoseok and Namjoon’s laps. Jungkook chose to stay as a human, though he too fell asleep with his head pillowed in Seokjin’s lap. Seokjin stroked his black locks.

Namjoon read over the export charts that the quarry workers had gifted him. He scribbled in his notebook as he read.

Seokjin looked out the caravan window, and watched the white cliffs get smaller and smaller.

“You’re right.”

Seokjin turned to Namjoon. His gaze was still on the charts but he spoke again, “That white Omega was a menace.”

Seokjin mused it over. He thought of Yoongi’s smirk every time he teased Namjoon, and his beautiful pure white coat. He smiled, “No.”

Namjoon finally looked up from his charts. He squinted at Seokjin, “No?”

Seokjin shook his head, “No. He’s wonderful.”