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国王的小丑

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Jungkook had always known he would be named king someday - his parents had raised him with that expectation, and he had started learning foreign languages while still in diapers, and now, at 20 years, he was already educated in politics and governance to a degree that others would not even reach after their master studies.

He was ready, technically, but when his father unexpectedly died from a cancer so aggressive that it only took a matter of months for him to pass away, he was not so sure that he really was, after all.

He felt a little like he was caught in a bad movie - he had just lost his father, and all everyone cared about was when he would follow him to the throne and what kind of plans he had for the country and when he was going to marry, and it made his head spin so much that he wished he could just flee to that little private island his parents had brought him to when he had been three and never come back to the castle again.

But he knew that he had responsibilities, and every time he looked into the tired eyes of his mother, he knew that he had to be strong, for both of them, and for the whole country.

“You need to marry within this year, Jungkook ” she told him a week after his father’s funeral during dinner, making Jungkook almost choke on a pea.

“It’s November!” he got out between coughs, and the servant next to him watched him nervously, as if wondering if he needed to intervene to keep their next king from choking to death.

“If we don’t name you king by the end of the year, you know very well that the Kims will claim the throne!” she snapped impatiently, her usually gentle manner hidden under the strain of the last few months. “And you can’t be a king while you are still unmarried, it is written in the law.”

“The law is outdated!” Jungkook protested. “It’s 2017, who cares if I am married or not?!”

“The royal family does!” his mother hissed. “And you know very well that your father would turn over in his grave if a Kim is named king instead of a Jeon! The crown has been in our family for over 200 years, and this is the way it is going to stay!”

“I never said I did not want to be king!” Jungkook groaned. “But how am I going to find a wife that quickly?!”

“I already chose you one” she said simply, making Jungkook gape at her.

“You are kidding me, right?” he murmured, his heart sinking somewhere into the area of his stomach, making him feel sick as he dropped his spoon onto the plate.

“You said it yourself, it is impossible to find a wife that quick!” she shrugged, looking slightly uncomfortable but determined. “And the Min family is an influential clan with royal origins. A liaison with them can only be of benefit for us.”

Jungkook did not know what to say, just staring back at his mother, feeling almost numb.

“Don’t look at me with those eyes, Jungkook ” his mother sighed, dropping her spoon as well. “You know this is anything but easy for me. And if I could, I would let you choose your wife yourself. But as it is-”

“You and Dad married out of love” Jungkook murmured. “Dad always told me that it’s important to not forget who you really are under the demands of what people want you to be.”

“You know that the situation was different when your father was crowned” she said softly. “There was no need to rush like there is now.” When Jungkook  still didn’t answer, she added: “I am sorry, I wish I could do anything more for you, but… as it is, I can only try to help you succeed. And this is what I am doing. So don’t hate me for it.”

Instead of returning anything, Jungkookgot up, bowed in an overly polite gesture he did not usually use for his mother, and excused himself to his room.

***

“It could be worse?” Jimin, his cousin, told Jungkook tentatively as he poked his side.

Jimin was the son of his father’s sister, who had been embassador in Jinjuseong, where she had met her husband. Jimin had grown up in Jinjuseong and had only moved to Geumjeongsan after he had turned fifteen, but in the last 7 years, he had grown to be the closest confident Jungkook  had. Despite the age difference Jungkook liked to talk to Jimin more than most other people around him, because he was honest and that tiny bit naive and dreamy, just like Jungkook, and he made him feel understood.

“And how?” Jungkook  enquired, burying his face into his pillow.

“I met this Min Yoonji once. She is pretty” Jimin shrugged, stretching out on the bed next to Jungkook. “I mean, she did not talk much, but maybe that is also a good sign? You know how full of themselves royal girls are most of the time.”

“I don’t care what she is like” Jungkook  murmured, looking up at him with a pout. “I have never even talked to her. I never wanted to marry without love.”

“I know” Jimin nodded, the compassion on his face real as he glanced at all the romance novels Jungkook  had collected over the years.

He had never cared if the royal circles had whispered behind his back and had called him a romantic fool. He had always had a hang to clichés and love and dreamy scenarios, believing firmly that one day, he would be the prince to someone’s fairy tale, ready to sweep his dream girl off her feet. Quite literally.

Now, after having been told to give up his hope for the big love to become the king everyone expected him to be, his world suddenly seemed incredibly dark, and he just wanted to hide and give the crown to whoever volunteered first. Maybe they still had a free position in the embassy at Jinjuseong.

“But what are you planning to do?” Jimin murmured finally. “Refuse and give up on your claim for the throne?”

“...No” Jungkook  admitted grudgingly, hitting the pillow in frustration, as if it was the fault of the inanimate object to begin with. “I owe my father too much for this. He died expecting that I would take his place, and I can’t disappoint him in that.”

“So that means you are going to marry her?” Jimin checked.

“Do I have a choice?” Jungkook  sighed, and Jimin stroked his hair in a gesture of comfort. “I hate this. What use is it being the crown prince if I can’t even have my own romantic fairy tale?”

“Maybe you’ll fall in love with her?” Jimin suggested. “She is kind of cute.”

Jungkook  only hummed, leaning back against the pillow in defeat and letting Jimin pet his hair some more.

***

Min Yoonji was indeed pretty, but she was also shy and quiet, and when they were introduced to each other, she literally did not speak a word, just letting her father do the talking, so Jungkook  did not bother trying either, not while about 20 people were in the room with them to settle the details of their marriage.

He did not get any chance to talk to her privately either, though, so when they stiffly bid their goodbyes and they saw the Min family off to the entrance hall, the girl he was supposed to marry was still as much of a stranger to him as before.

“You will have plenty of time to talk to her during the ball this weekend!” His mother said encouragingly.

“Yes, a ball with about 500 members from the royal family attending” Jungkook  murmured bitterly. “Perfect setting to get to know each other.”

“You will have to stay side by side throughout most of it, anyways” she said helpfully. “Since we will announce your engagement at the ball, everyone will want to see you together. See it as your first official outing as king and queen.”

Jungkook  did not answer, cringing inwardly at the words, and his mother let the topic drop, for once.

***

Jungkook  had been on countless balls before, and he had always quite enjoyed them, had liked the music and the girls dressing up and the lively mood, but now that he was the center of one himself, he found it rather stiff and tiring.

He still had exchanged no more than 2 words with his future wife, and though they were side by side constantly throughout the night, they were surrounded by people all the time, not allowing them to talk among themselves.

Yoonji was quiet most of the time, only smiling and giving one word answers, and all in all she seemed so uncomfortable with being in the spotlight that Jungkook  felt a little sorry for her.

The first time he really heard Yoonji speak, he had just turned to a waiter for a new glass of champagne (alcohol was the only thing to bring him through this night) when her uncomfortable laughter reached his ears.

He turned with a frown, only to find her standing with a tall ash blond of probably Jungkook ’s age. He held her hand in his, and leaned down to kiss it with a flirtatious smile. Jungkook  could do nothing but stare, his eyes taking in the handsome face of the guy, and his lean body in the white suit. It took a few moments more, and the man continuing his quiet conversation with Yoonji, before he managed to make himself move over to them.

His eyes were on the man’s face when he took his place next to Yoonji, staring until the other slowly averted his eyes from his fiance to look at him.

“Your highness” he said with a small bow, all the time keeping Jungkook ’s gaze. “What a pleasure.”

“Yes, a pleasure” Jungkook  nodded with a frown, trying to remember if he had ever met the man before, but he was pretty sure his face would have been easy to recognize if he had. “Forgive me, I can’t seem to recall your name.”

“That’s because we have not been introduced” the man admitted. “But our families have a long history. My name is Kim Taehyung.”

Jungkook ’s eyes widened, and indeed, the name immediately rang alarm bells within him.

Over a century ago, the house Jeon had won the battle over the crown, and even now, years and years after, the relationship between the two families was tensed. The Kim family stated their claim for the throne whenever they could, sometimes using sneaky and outright malicious methods to put the Jeons into the wrong light, and Jungkook  had been raised with the firm instruction to never trust a Kim, no matter what he did.

The man in front of him was their filial son, and accordingly the next in the succession to the throne should Jungkook decline.

Kim Taehyung was still holding his gaze even as Jungkook  missed his turn to speak, and there was something challenging in his eyes, something that scared Jungkook  a little, even if he was not sure why.

“You have a beautiful fiancé…” Taehyung commented, smiling at Yoonji before looking back at him. “It makes me want to steal her before she has a chance to walk down the aisle.”

Yoonji laughed uncomfortably, but Jungkook  just stared at him, feeling that Taehyung was not joking like his tone made it seem.

Jungkook  and Yoonji were called over by Jungkook ’s mother then, and with a slight bow and a smile to Yoonji, Taehyung took off again, disappearing into the crowd.

***

It took only two more hours until Jungkook ’s weariness with Taehyung had turned into utter rage. It seemed like every time Jungkook  as much as turned his back to Yoonji, the other man was there to take over her attention, and what infuriated him the most was that Yoonji actually talked when he was around, while all she did in Jungkook ’s presence was nod and smile.

“What do you think you are doing?!” Jungkook  hissed at him as soon as he could catch him alone, or well, as alone as you would ever be in a crowded ball room, which was at the buffet near the salad bar.

“What are you talking about, Your Highness?” Taehyung asked in fake innocence, and Jungkook  was ready to shove that handsome face with that ridiculously boxy smile right into the bowl of dressing.

“You know exactly what I am talking about!” Jungkook  groaned. “Why are you courting my fiancé?!”

“They told me you were smart?” Taehyung scoffed, raising his eyebrows. “I thought you would be able to figure it out yourself!” Before Jungkook  could snap anything more at him, though, Taehyung continued: “If you aren’t able to marry, you can’t be crowned.”

“You are not married, either!” Jungkook  reminded him.

“But if Yoonji chooses me over you, I will be” he shrugged. “And she is young and easily impressed. We all know no young girl wants an arranged marriage nowadays. I can make her fall in love for real.”

“Well, aren’t you full of yourself?!” Jungkook  hissed.

“Just confident” Taehyung grinned. “Which you are obviously not, seeing how annoyed you are right now.”

“Who would not be annoyed?!” Jungkook  groaned. “Stay away from my fiancé! What you are doing is ridiculous!”

“We will see” Taehyung said smugly, snatching a cherry tomato from Jungkook ’s plate and popping it into his mouth before strolling off. Jungkook  put his plate down onto the bar a little too harshly in frustration, making people look up at him and mutter.

***

“Jimin!” Jungkook  hissed when he finally found his cousin, standing at some table chatting with a man looking about his age, he looks bright with smile on his face just like Jimin’s. “You won’t believe what just happened!”

“What happened?” Jimin frowned, turning away from the other man (whose face had turned into something like horror when he had recognized Jungkook, but this was nothing he was not used to, being the crown prince and all) to face Jungkook .

“Kim Taehyung is threatening to get in between my marriage with Yoonji!” he groaned, snatching Jimin’s glass of water and downing it in one go.

“What? And how is he planning to do that?!” Jimin blinked.

“Apparently he thinks he is able to win her over or something, I don’t know!” Jungkook  shrugged. “But he keeps cornering Yoonji and it just really pisses me off!”

Jimin opened his mouth to return something, but stopped when someone called loudly: “Hoseok!”

Both of them turned, and Jungkook ’s eyes narrowed when he saw none other than Kim Taehyung himself approaching. Compared to earlier, his expression was rather guarded, though, and his eyes traveled from Jungkook  back to the man Jimin had chatted with earlier.

“What the heck are you doing with Jeon Jungkook  and his cousin?” he muttered, and the man looked uncomfortable as he eyed Jimin.

“I did not know” he murmured.

There was a moment of silence, in which Taehyung shot Jungkook  another glance before grabbing Hoseok’s arm.

“Let’s go, I have something to tell you” he murmured, and Jungkook  watched them take off into the crowd with a frown. Jimin eyed him wearily.

“Before you ask, I had no idea that Hobi-hyung was in any way acquainted with the Kims! We were talking about food and music!”

“Okay, okay” Jungkook  nodded, still glaring. “But watch out who you talk to from now on, the Kims are dangerous!”

“I think you are letting him scare you too much…?” Jimin said hesitantly. “I don’t believe he can actually do anything about this. Your engagement is settled. He just wants you to freak, that’s all.”

“I guess you’re right” Jungkook  sighed, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth. “But I still don’t like this.”

“It will be fine” Jimin nodded encouragingly, patting his shoulder. “And when you are the king, you can still think of ways to misuse your power and pay him back.”

Jungkook  raised an eyebrow at him, making Jimin grin mischievously.

***

All in all, Jungkook  was more than relieved when the ball neared its end. He had been busier with keeping Taehyung away from Yoonji’s side than trying to get to know Yoonji, and now he had a headache and just wanted to drop into his bed again and not move preferably for the rest of the year.

He was not really paying attention as people were waving him their goodbyes, but his head shot up immediately when he heard Taehyung speak, almost paranoid by now.

He found Taehyung a few feet away talking to his mother, and Jungkook  did his best not to look at them and kept the polite smile on his face as he pretended to listen to the Geumjeongsan ambassador in talk about tea and rainy weather.

“Thanks a lot for inviting me, Your Highness” he heard Taehyung say, his deep voice perfectly charming and pleasant, and it made it hard for Jungkook  not to narrow his eyes to a glare. “I know my family is not usually included in any royal events nowadays, so I feel quite honored.”

“We feel honored that you came” Jungkook ’s mother returned. “Maybe this is the perfect opportunity to move past the disagreements of our families. Please feel invited to join us again, and stay as long as you want.”

Jungkook  knew that it was an empty phrase from his mothers side, royal politeness on elementary level, but he still saw it coming when Taehyung responded: “I would be really glad to accept that offer,” and knew immediately that his acceptance was anything but empty.

His input was needed in his own conversation, though, so he missed the rest of it, but when he crossed Taehyung later in the corridors of the castle, it told him all he needed to know.

“What are you doing here?!” Jungkook  hissed, pulling him away from the servants to a corner near the stairs, not caring that his grip was anything but gentle. “Don’t you have a home?!”

“Be careful, or I might need to consider throwing you out once this castle is mine” Taehyung grinned.

“It will never be yours!” Jungkook  shook his head.

“Please, Jeon Jungkook ” Taehyung scoffed, rolling his eyes, and suddenly, his teasing note was gone, and his eyes were serious, taking Jungkook  aback. “I have heard enough about you to know that you can’t marry without love. This is not what you want, and this is why you won’t go through with it!”

Jungkook  opened his mouth to respond, but no sound came out once Taehyung’s words sank in. He could only stare, unsure what to say.

“See, you know it yourself” Taehyung nodded. “You are not cut out for this. Better leave the crown to me and live your life the way you want it, not the way your country needs you too. It’s better for all of us.”

Jungkook ’s heart was beating loudly in his ears, and he desperately tried to find a response, but none came, and he watched with slight horror as the smile returned to Taehyung’s lips.

“Don’t see me as an enemy” he said softly. “I don’t mean any harm. I just want the best for everyone.”

He reached out to squeeze Jungkook ’s shoulder, but Jungkook  backed away from him, finally waking from his trance and shaking his head vehemently.

“Never!” he brought out finally. “Stay away from me. And from Yoonji. I don’t need your help.”

Taehyung raised an eyebrow, but before he could return anything, Jungkook  had already whirled around and was fleeing down the corridor, as far away from Kim Taehyung and his poisonous words as he could get.

Jungkook  felt like he could not breathe, and his head was spinning as much as his mind, and he only stopped running when a hand closed around his wrist, holding him in place.

When he looked up, he was facing Jimin, who was observing him in alarm.

“Jungkook, what happened?” he murmured, and when Jungkook  did not answer, he tugged at his hand, pulling him until Jungkook  was following into his cousin’s room.

“What happened?” Jimin repeated as he closed the door behind Jungkook, but Jungkook  could not answer. Voices were screaming in his head, and his throat was closing up, and then he was leaning against the closed door and sliding down to the ground, burying his face in his knees as his tears spilled over.

Jimin continued calling his name, but Jungkook  could barely hear him with the sobs wracking through him.

***

He woke up in Jimin’s bed the next morning, his head hurting and his eyes refusing to open fully against the blinding light falling in through the window. He silently cursed Jimin for not using blinds.

“Good morning” Jimin said quietly, and he turned to find his cousin already sitting in bed, typing away on his phone. He put it away when Jungkook  looked up at him, though, taking in his face. “Are you feeling any better?”

“I don’t know” Jungkook  croaked truthfully, closing his eyes again.

“Will you tell me what happened now?” he asked tentatively, talking softly as if he feared Jungkook  would break down again any moment. “Last night was really scary, you know.”

“Kim Taehyung happened” Jungkook  admitted finally, sighing deeply.

“Yeah, I heard that he was staying here for a while” Jimin nodded. “But I don’t understand why that would make you cry like this.”

“I met him last night” Jungkook  explained, rolling onto his back to stare up at the ceiling. “And he said a few things, and they… hit deep.”

“What things?” Jimin prodded.

“That I can’t marry without love because that’s not what I want” Jungkook  retold in an almost emotionless voice. He felt strangely drained. “That I am not cut out to be a king, and that I should just let him take over so I can have my freedom.”

“So… you cried because you think he is right?” Jimin asked slowly. “”Because he presented you with things you actually want?”

“I dunno” Jungkook  shrugged. “Maybe?”

There was a long silence between them, and when Jimin spoke again, his voice was more determined than Jungkook  had ever heard it.

“You know you don’t need to be king if you don’t want to, right, Jungkook?”

“Yes I do” he protested automatically, but Jimin shook his head and continued: “I am not speaking as a member of the Jeon Clan now, I am telling you this as your friend. You are a person, Jungkook, and if this is really not what you want, you should not be forced. This is not the Middle Ages anymore! You can make your own choices in live! It’s 21st Century!”

“You know it does not work like that for a crown prince!” Jungkook  groaned. “For everyone else in the world, but not for people like me!”

“Why?!” Jimin challenged.

“Because I have a responsibility in front of my country and my family!” Jungkook  said loudly, much louder than he usually addressed Jimin, and it made the younger one recoil physically. “I can’t just leave the fate of so many lives in the hands of a guy that has weaved already more intrigues in the few hours since I met him than I have come across my whole life, and that is something to say as a member of the royal family!”

Jimin did not respond, but he was still looking at Jungkook  unhappily, and Jungkook  made a face.

“I have no choice” he murmured, much more quietly now. “I can’t disappoint anyone.”

“But I don’t want to see you unhappy, either” Jimin murmured. “You deserve happiness as well as anyone else.”

Jungkook  did not answer, but he looked up when Jimin shifted next to him, crossing his legs and catching his eyes.

“Yoonji is moving into the castle today, right?” he said suddenly, making Jungkook  blink.

“Yes” he nodded.

“Ask her for a date” he suggested, taking Jungkook  by surprise. “Court her, even though she does not need courting anymore. But maybe, this way, both of you can still fall in love. Just because your marriage is arranged, doesn’t mean you need to give up on romance.”

“... You got a point there” Jungkook  frowned, sitting up. “Maybe both of us will be happier once we grow closer.”

“Exactly” Jimin nodded, smiling. “And the more she focuses on you, the less chance Kim Taehyung has to intervene.”

“It is worth a try” Jungkook  nodded, almost smiling as he caught Jimin’ gaze. “You are smarter than they all give you credit for.”

Jimin pouted at that, making Jungkook  laugh for real as he ruffled his hair.

***

It was almost impossible to catch Yoonji alone at first, because people were gathering around her all the time: her parents seeing her off to her new home, her new servants, my mother, and occasionally even Taehyung, whose eye contact Jungkook  still vehemently avoided.

He was able to take her hand after dinner, though, and with a little yelp from her side that thankfully alerted only a couple of servants, he pulled her into an empty treasure room, closing the door behind them.

“Hi” he said a little breathlessly, smiling at her, but her eyes were wide and a little frightened, making Jungkook  feel like a kidnapper rather than a fiancée on a romantic mission. “Sorry, I just felt like they’d never leave us alone, so…” he trailed off, and Yoonji did not respond, still staring at him, causing Jungkook  clear his throat awkwardly before continuing. “Do you have any plans for tonight?” he asked finally, smiling encouragingly at her, and finally Yoonji blinked, biting her lip.

“No?” she murmured. “I mean, I wanted to unpack, but other than that-”

“Just for an hour or so” Jungkook  promised.

“Okay” Yoonji frowned. “But what do you have in mind?”

“I thought I could show you around the castle grounds” Jungkook  explained, his smile turning real as he cooed: “They are beautiful at night, and you can see the stars much clearer than in the city. I promise you will like it!”

“Okay” Yoonji nodded, smiling tentatively. “Sounds good.”

Jungkook  grinned, awkwardly letting go of her hand as he realized he was still holding onto her.

“Alright. So I will pick you up at your room in an hour?”

“Yes” Yoonji nodded.

“Good” Jungkook  sighed, relieved that at least this had worked out. They could only move forward from here.

Yoonji was already waiting for him when he turned up at her door later that night, but she was quiet and nervous as they made their way out of the castle and down the beautifully lit pathways of the gardens. Jungkook  was trying to make light conversation, but he never got much of a response, and it discouraged him more and more with each passing minute.

“You don’t talk much, do you?” Jungkook  asked finally, making Yoonji look up at him in surprise.

“I’m… not good at this kind of stuff” she admitted finally, frowning. “I am not very outgoing, and find it hard to be comfortable around people I don’t know.”

Jungkook  sighed, plopping down on a small bench, staring at the dark lake in front of them. Yoonji sat next to him tentatively.

“It’s not your fault, though” she said after a while. “It’s really nice of you to ask me out and all. I just don’t know how to behave.”

“Be yourself” Jungkook  suggested, turning his head to catch her eyes. “I don’t bite, you know.”

“I never thought you did” she smiled, very shortly so that Jungkook  would have missed it had he not been searching for it. “But it is a little weird, knowing you will be the person to spend the rest of my life with. I am afraid to say something wrong.”

“Don’t be” Jungkook  frowned. “I mean, exactly because we will be marrying… Shouldn’t we try to get to know each other? To grow to like each other?”

“Probably” she nodded.

“Well, then… let’s do that” Jungkook  murmured, but his voice was still strangely small as the words came out, and he cleared his throat awkwardly. “And one thing? Please stay away from Kim Taehyung.”

Yoonji looked at him curiously at that, tilting her head to the side questioningly.

“I don’t trust him” Jungkook  said simply. “He wants the throne, and I am not sure to what lengths he might go to get it.”

“I see” Yoonji said slowly. “Okay, then I will avoid him. He makes me a little uncomfortable anyways.”

Jungkook  smiled at that, taking a moment to just look at Yoonji in the dim light of the lanterns, taking in her soft features, her big brown eyes and her shiny dark hair. She was pretty indeed, and maybe, if Jungkook  tried hard enough, he could let himself fall in love with her. There was no valid reason why he shouldn’t be as happy with her as with anybody else.

It was that thought that made him lean in. Yoonji gasped as he pressed his lips against hers, but she did not push him away. Instead, she froze, and Jungkook  was not sure if she was even breathing, worrying him a little. He also did not dare to move, his lips just motionlessly pressing against hers as he waited for anything, for the world-changing sensations he had always read about, anything that would make your first kiss that memorable and exciting.

All he found, though, was his quick heartbeat and a slightly painful stiffness in his neck, so he pulled away again, looking at Yoonji nervously.

She met his gaze with big eyes, seeming not sure what to say or do, and Jungkook  just wordlessly turned away again, eyes focusing back on the lake in front of him.

The silence between them was heavy, and Jungkook  did not dare to speak again until Yoonji slowly got to her feet.

“I… will go back inside… and unpack some more” she said hesitantly.

“Okay” Jungkook  nodded, moving to stand as well. “I will bring you-”

“No no, I can find my way around” Yoonji protested quickly, taking a hasty step away from him. “I will see you tomorrow.”

“Fine” Jungkook  frowned, biting his lower lip. “Goodnight, then.”

“Goodnight” Yoonji murmured, and then she was taking hurried steps down the path back to the castle, almost stumbling over her own feet in her haste. Jungkook  felt slightly guilty as he watched her disappear.

“Damn” he murmured to himself, feeling more depressed than ever. “This is not working.”

It was not that Yoonji was in any way disagreeable, but he was sure that love felt differently. And though he technically should feel better now, having talked to Yoonji and even having her agree to stay away from Taehyung, he felt even more hopeless, like he had tried only to realize that what he had wished for was impossible, after all.

He startled when someone sat down next to him, and was even more alarmed when he found it to be no other than Taehyung.

“Don’t freak!” Taehyung said immediately, catching Jungkook ’s widen eyes. “Damn, I’m not going to murder you or anything! Don’t look so frightened!”

Jungkook  just met his eyes skeptically, making Taehyung laugh, a real laugh, and it looked strangely nice on his face.

“Wow, my family really has a bad reputation with you guys” he mused. “What did you expect me to do, drown you in that nice little lake?”

“I think that has even happened before” Jungkook  said mildly. “I remember something about the older kids telling me about some ghost of my great great grandmother haunting this lake after she was killed by a Kim or something.”

“I think they just wanted to scare you” Taehyung laughed. “You seem easily influenced.”

“Well, thank you” Jungkook  said drily, making Taehyung chuckle.

“I’ve never met anyone as naive as you, especially within the royal family” Taehyung shook his head in wonder. “It’s almost cute.”

“I’m not naive” Jungkook  hissed indignantly, but it lacked vehemence and only served to make Taehyung’s smile widen.

“No, that little kiss with Yoonji just now wasn’t naive at all” he noted. “What did you think would happen, sudden fireworks?!”

Jungkook  wanted to snap back, but Taehyung’s words hit deeper than they should have once again, making Jungkook  fall silent.

“You really did, didn’t you?” Taehyung blinked, watching his face.

“I just hoped that we could still fall in love somehow” he admitted quietly. “But it seems impossible.”

“You can’t fall in love from one minute to another just because you want to” Taehyung said seriously. “This is not how it works, Jeon!”

“Then how does it work?” Jungkook  enquired, sounding more desperate than he wanted to, making Taehyung look at him with an unreadable expression. “What do I need to do to make it work?”

Taehyung did not answer, just staring at him, and Jungkook  sighed.

“Of course you don’t know” he murmured. “And even if you did, you wouldn’t tell me, because you want me to feel like this. I get it.”

“I - I never said I wanted you … to…” Taehyung muttered, but he seemed unsure of how to end the sentence and let it hang in the air.

“I just… want to know” Jungkook  whispered, and he was not sure why he was telling Taehyung all of this, why he suddenly felt so talkative in the other’s presence when he knew very well that every word he said could be used against him. “What a real kiss feels like. Just once.”

Taehyung was still staring at him, and his face was weirdly unguarded, his eyes wide and hanging on Jungkook ’s lips, though Jungkook  was not quite sure why. It was not uncomfortable, though, so he stayed where he was, looking out over the lake in silence.

Jungkook  jerked when suddenly, Taehyung was all in his personal space, and for a second he wondered if Taehyung was really going to drown him now, but then, Taehyung’s hand was in his hair, and his lips on his own.

It was completely different from the kiss with Yoonji. Taehyung’s lips were moving, making him melt against them, and his head was spinning, keeping him from doing anything, from thinking of anything… He just felt, the electricity spreading from where Taehyung’s lips were brushing his, from where Taehyung’s fingers were pressing into his scalp with just enough pressure to feel good, and he could not even make himself push him away, just letting Taehyung kiss him until there was no air left in both of their lungs.

When Taehyung pulled back, he was panting and seemed just as confused as Jungkook  felt.

It was then, that Jungkook  came back to himself, and he shoved at Taehyung so hard that he fell down from the bench, landing on the floor.

“Ouch!” Taehyung groaned. “What-”

But Jungkook  did not stay to hear what he had to say, instead, he jumped up and ran, all the way until he was back in his room, door locked behind him.

His mind was still spinning, and he sank down against the door, staring into nothingness as he tried to comprehend what just had happened.

He did not find sleep that night, needless to say.

***

The next day was pure hell. He was barely conscious due to the lack of sleep, but still was required to pay attention to everything his mother and the royal wedding planner were saying, when he seriously could not care less if they used white or pink roses for the bridal bouquet.

He could not look into Yoonji’s eyes, which seemed to fit just perfectly because she also avoided his, but what was worse was that he ran into Taehyung every now and then, who instead of chasing after Yoonji seemed to suddenly be chasing after him, and it was all too much for Jungkook  to wrap his mind around.

When Taehyung did finally manage to catch him, he found himself being pulled into a storage room, cold and dark as soon as Taehyung closed the door behind him, but the other man did not seem to care about that as he searched his gaze, holding on as Jungkook tried to fight off his hand.

“What do you want from me?!” Jungkook  asked testily, feeling restless now that he was alone with Taehyung again.

“We need to talk about last night” Taehyung murmured breathlessly, and Jungkook  laughed darkly, making Taehyung blink at him owlishly.

“Is that your new strategy now?!” Jungkook  challenged. “Do you want to make me fall for you, so that I will give up and you can have her?!”

“What?” Taehyung murmured, Jungkook ’s words seeming to have taken him off guard. Or maybe he was just that good an actor. Jungkook  could not tell anymore. “That’s not-”

“That’s it, right?!” Jungkook  shouted, feeling himself shaking under the weight of his emotions. “You figured that I am weaker and more easily influenced than Yoonji, so you changed your tactic and-”

“That’s not true, Jeon!” Taehyung interrupted him, stepping a little closer. “I did not plan what happened last night. It just happened, and-”

“Do you want to tell me that you fell in love with me all of a sudden?!” Jungkook  scoffed. “When yesterday you were still trying everything to rob me of my crown?! Who is supposed to believe that, Kim?!”

“I- I know it doesn’t make sense” Taehyung stuttered, gulping. “I don’t know what’s happening myself, I just… you were so honest and emotional and…”

“And so you thought ‘Why not push him further into misery?!’” Jungkook  challenged.

“You felt something too!” Taehyung called, his fingers around Jungkook ’s wrist tightening. “You can’t tell me that you didn’t!”

Jungkook took a second too long to answer, and it seemed enough for Taehyung to pull him in again.

His lips were desperate and demanding on Jungkook ’s, feeling way too good for how confused Jungkook  felt, but he did not allow himself to drown in it, not again, and when his knee hit Taehyung right where it hurt most, the other gasped and let go, allowing Jungkook  to push him away completely.

“I don’t believe a word you say!” Jungkook  yelled, shaking like a leaf from all those emotions he did not understand. “Just leave me alone, for god’s sake, I am not going to fall for your lies!”

Taehyung stared at the floor, not meeting his eyes as Jungkook reached for the door handle to leave. He did not move to stop him, and Jungkook was thankful because he did not trust himself enough to fight him.

***

“... But what if he’s serious?” Jimin asked quietly, watching as Jungkook  paced across the room, not being able to sit still.

“Don’t be ridiculous!” Jungkook  called. “How would he suddenly fall in love with me?!”

“I know it seems unlikely, but…” Jimin frowned. “What if?”

“There is no ‘what if’!” Jungkook  groaned. “There can’t be a ‘what if’!”

“But you are so worked up about him” Jimin pointed out. “Are you sure you don’t like him?!”

“He is trying to steal the throne!” Jungkook  snapped. “How am I supposed to like him?!”

“I could ask Hobi-hyung” Jimin offered. “If Taehyung is serious, I mean. Maybe he knows.”

“’Hobi-hyung’?” When the hell did Jimin get close to this Hoseok, huh? “You know he is connected with Taehyung!” Jungkook  rolled his eyes. “He would lie for him in a heartbeat!”

“Hobi-hyung is not a bad guy” Jimin murmured, making Jungkook  roll his eyes.

“And they call me naive” he muttered.

“Just tell me one thing” Jimin demanded. “What did the kiss feel like?”

Jungkook  flushed and froze, trying hard to find any words, but the blood was rushing in his ears at the mere unbidden memory, and he could not string any thoughts together.

“I will call Hobi-hyung” Jimin nodded, reaching for his phone.

“I don’t care what Hoseok-hyung says!” Jungkook  called. “I won’t believe any of it!”

“It can’t hurt to ask” Jimin shrugged, and no matter what Jungkook  said, he stuck to his decision.

***

Jungkook  was not even surprised to find Jimin and Hoseok in his room the next day, waiting for him. He had been so lucky to avoid Taehyung all day (though that had not been hard, since the other had not crossed his way even once), and if it wasn’t one thing, it was usually the other.

“Just listen to us!” Jimin said quickly as Jungkook  glared at them. “You can make out of it whatever you want, but just listen to what Hobi has to say!”

“Taehyung is packing his things right now” Hoseok spoke up, making Jungkook  hold in and frown in confusion. “He called his father last night to tell him that he was coming home, that he did not want to get into your way anymore. His father was furious, and now he is on the way here to talk to him, and…” Hoseok gulped, before continuing: “I am not sure what happened between you, he wouldn’t tell me, but… Taehyung is not a bad guy. He has just been raised to strive for the throne, no matter what measures he had to take, but… meeting you seems to have changed him.”

“Yeah, that’s what he wants me to believe!” Jungkook  called. “Do you think I can’t see what you are doing?! You are telling me all this so I will run and stop him and cancel the marriage with Yoonji for him, just so he can claim the throne again afterwards! I won’t fall for this!”

Hoseok sighed, looking at Jimin helplessly before murmuring: “I am not the right person to convince you otherwise. I can just tell you how I see Taehyung, and he was like a brother to me, so maybe I am biased… But there is something up with Taehyung, something that made him stand up to his family’s expectations, and I am pretty sure it has to do with you.”

Jungkook  shook his head, turning back for the door.

“I will get myself something to drink now” he murmured. “And when I am back both of you will be out of my room, or I will ask the servants to throw you out!”

With that he left, throwing the door shut behind himself forcefully.

On his way to the kitchen, though, Jungkook  overheard shouting from the hallway, and when he stopped to listen, he could hear Taehyung’s voice.

Against his better judgement, he moved closer, close enough until he could peek down the staircase to spot Taehyung standing there with a man looking so obviously like an older version of him that Jungkook  just knew he was his father even without having met him before.

“We had an agreement!” Taehyung’s father yelled, stepping closer to his son. “You were going to court Min Yoonji to keep her from marrying Jeon Jungkook! What is your problem now?!”

“I don’t want to do this anymore, that is my problem!” Taehyung shouted, clinging to the bag in his hand angrily. “I don’t want to marry Min Yoonji and I don’t want to become king!”

“Where is this suddenly coming from?!” his father demanded. “You always wanted to be king!”

“Because you told me to!” Taehyung yelled. “But Jeon would be a way better king than me! He has a sense for right and wrong and-”

“What is it, did you suddenly become friends with that man?!” Taehyung’s father scoffed. When Taehyung did not answer he shook his head angrily. “Taehyung, what the-”

“I am not going to get in his way anymore!” Taehyung said firmly. “He is a good guy and he deserves all the good things, and still all the shit keeps happening to him, and he does not need me to top it off!”

“This is exactly why we can break him!” his father returned. “We are so close, and you-”

“I don’t want to break him!” Taehyung screamed. “I refuse to do anything to harm him!”

“I am not seeing you home!” the older man groaned. “Forget it.”

“Fine, then I will stay here” Taehyung hissed. “But I won’t do anything, and you have to accept that!”

With that, he turned around and hurried up the staircase, his father shouting after him.

“Taehyung! We are not done talking!”

Jungkook  looked around frantically, knowing he needed to move, but then, Taehyung was suddenly right across from him, staring at him with wide eyes.

None of them brought out a word, and then, the footsteps of Taehyung’s father were to be heard, so Taehyung grabbed Jungkook ’s hand and pulled him through the next best door, which turned out to be the empty library.

Both of them stayed silent and listened as the footsteps outside faded, and even when they did, no one spoke up.

Taehyung was not looking at him, instead seeming unusually interested in the pattern of the doorknob, and Jungkook  took in his face, noting how the smug sparkle had left his eyes and overall, Taehyung did not seem the person he had met in that ballroom a couple of days ago anymore.

It was that realization that made Jungkook  ask: “Did you mean it?”

Taehyung did not need to ask what he was talking about.

“I’m not asking you to believe me” he murmured. “I would not believe myself if I were you. So it’s okay. Don’t bother.”

His fingers reached for the doorknob, as if keen to flee, but before he could push it down his grip loosened again. He looked slightly pained when he finally met Jungkook ’s gaze.

“I just… I love you” he murmured, and Jungkook forgot how to breathe. “I don’t understand how this happened, but… I do, and… this is why I decided to give up. No matter what I am going to do, I will just cause you trouble. So I am going to stay away from you, and… you can marry Yoonji and become the best king ever and try to be happy.”

“You know I’m not happy” Jungkook  whispered automatically, without thinking. Everything inside of him was hurting and maybe Jimin was right, maybe there was a ‘what if’, and maybe he liked Taehyung more than he had thought, even if it made absolutely no sense.

“But I can only make it worse” Taehyung said quietly. He was reaching for the doorknob again, this time pulling, but Jungkook’s hand pushed against the wooden surface, keeping the exit blocked and making Taehyung sigh. “Jungkook…”

“Kiss me…” Jungkook  breathed, shaking again as Taehyung looked up at him with wide eyes. “I told you, I just want to… be properly kissed, just once. By someone who loves me.” It took effort, to add: “And someone I love.”

Taehyung let out a shaky breath, but he let go of the doorknob and dropped his bag to the floor, and slowly, way too slowly for Jungkook’s taste, stepped closer. He closed his eyes as he felt Taehyung’s trembling fingers on his cheeks, cupping his face, and then, Taehyung’s lips closed over his.

And it was everything he had ever read about, fireworks and electricity and he wanted to cry because why was this happening now, with this guy out of all people on earth, and maybe this had been a bad idea after all because now he knew what love felt like, the thought of living without it seemed even more cruel.

Taehyung put his everything into the kiss, his whole soul and being and Jungkook’s mind was spinning as he just desperately clung to his shirt, never wanting to let go, and yet knowing that it was impossible.

When it seemed like Taehyung was going to pull away, his movements slowing and becoming softer, Jungkook followed his instinct to sling his arms around Taehyung’s waist and pull the younger man flush against him. Taehyung took in a sharp breath, and Jungkook  used his distraction to to run his tongue over Taehyung’s lips.

Taehyung’s lips parted immediately, and a choked moan slipped him as their tongues brushed against each other’s, making Jungkook  shudder in ecstasy.

In the next moment, Jungkook  found himself pinned against the door, the uneven artistic texture of the wooden surface feeling slightly uncomfortable, but Jungkook ’s couldn’t care less as he felt Taehyung’s body align with his, feeling warm and sharp and perfect against him, so much that Jungkook  forgot about everything but him.

When Taehyung finally pulled away, Jungkook  whined and clung to him, not allowing him to go anywhere, and Taehyung panted as he took in the other man’s face.

“Jungkook ” he breathed, seeming pained. “You know we should not be doing this. You are going to marry soon, and you-”

“Don’t go” Jungkook  pleaded, burying his head in Taehyung’s shoulder and wrapping his arms around him as tightly as he could. “Don’t go anywhere. Don’t stop.”

“Jungkook ” Taehyung sighed, but his arms went around Jungkook  as well, cupping his nape and rubbing circles over his shoulder blades. “Well, damn it.”

Jungkook  could not have agreed more, but his brain had completely given up all sense for duty, and he did not care about the consequences, did not care that this would probably make everything ten times worse, he just wanted Taehyung, in every way possible, even though he knew that this could have no future.

“Just tonight” Jungkook  whispered. “I swear I will let you leave in the morning. Just… hold me. Love me. So that I will never forget what it feels like.”

Taehyung let out a shaky breath, embracing Jungkook  tighter, and Jungkook  just closed his eyes and felt Taehyung all around him, feeling his heart race in his chest, trying to carve all of it into his memory, every detail, from the way Taehyung was trembling slightly to the scent of the T-Shirt Jungkook  had his face pressed into.

When Taehyung pulled away again, Jungkook  first thought he had really made the decision to leave, but before he could have opened his mouth to protest Taehyung had used his hand on Jungkook ’s neck to turn his head to him, connecting their lips again.

Taehyung’s kiss was deep and passionate, full of desperation and impatience, and Jungkook  gave himself up to it completely, deciding that for this one night, he would be Taehyung’s, not the future king or the filial son of the Jeon Clan or Min Yoonji’s fiancé, just Taehyung’s and nothing else.

He blindly reached for the lock of the door, fumbling to turn it, and when he heard the loud clicking sound tear through the silence, he leaned back against the wood again, fisting the front of Taehyung’s shirt to keep him close.

Taehyung just kept kissing him so deeply that Jungkook  felt dizzy from it, seemingly content to keep going like this forever, but Jungkook  wanted more, wanted to feel Taehyung in every way possible. He was not sure if he would have been this impatient had the circumstances been different, but there was no sense in pondering over it now, and he wanted all of Taehyung to make sure he would have no regrets once they had to part again.

When his fingers slipped under the hem of Taehyung’s shirt, finding warm skin, Taehyung gasped into the kiss, and his fingers fisted Jungkook ’s hair as he managed to deepen the kiss even more, somethings Jungkook  had not thought possible.

He let his hands explore, running them over Taehyung’s belly and chest, brushing happy trail and nipples and collar bone, and when Taehyung parted their lips again, it was to take a deep breath.

“Are you sure?” Taehyung asked, and his voice was deeper and rougher and it made a shudder run down Jungkook ’s back. “Here in the library?”

Jungkook  nodded, pushing Taehyung backwards gently, entangling them just long enough to take his hand and lead him down the long rows of bookshelves. Finally, they reached Jungkook ’s destination, a cushioned corner full of pillows and blankets that his father had commissioned when he had still been a child and had spent hours on the library floor reading detective books.

He caught Taehyung’s eyes when he pulled him down onto it, and they were dark and full of longing, making Jungkook  shiver from the intensity of the gaze alone.

Taehyung pulled him into another kiss, pressing Jungkook  against the mountain of pillows, and this time, his hands wandered as well, under Jungkook ’s shirt and over his sensitive skin until Jungkook  felt hot and tingly and was moaning softly with every other breath.

It was uncoordinated when Jungkook  pulled at Taehyung’s shirt, but the older man got the message and broke their kiss to get rid of the fabric. He threw it into a corner impatiently before unbuttoning Jungkook ’s shirt, hissing as the buttons wouldn’t budge fast enough under his trembling fingers, and Jungkook  helped by unbuttoning Taehyung’s jeans.

Jungkook  only pulled Taehyung in again when both of them were freed of any clothes, and he moaned when they came together skin on skin, fitting together perfectly, like a puzzle piece.

Taehyung was nibbling on Jungkook ’s throat, but it was much slower than before, making Jungkook  fear that Taehyung was questioning their actions again, and when he really pulled away again, Jungkook  grabbed his wrist with wide eyes.

Taehyung just smiled and shook his head, though, placing a soft kiss on Jungkook ’s lips before whispering: “Just a moment,” and with that, Jungkook  finally let go.

Taehyung got up and hurried down the rows of bookshelves again, which looked a little funny since he was completely naked, but he did not disappear for long, and when he returned, he had his bag in hand and was rummaging through it.

Jungkook  propped himself up on his elbows and watched him curiously until Taehyung drew out a little tube and a condom.

“Why do you have this stuff with you?” Jungkook  asked in honest confusion, making Taehyung flush as he climbed back over Jungkook ’s body, dropping the items next to his head.

“I was planning to seduce someone when I came here” he reminded him quietly, uncomfortable and obviously guilty at having to mention it again. “Even if it wasn’t you.”

“Oh” Jungkook  murmured, but he did not have any time to consider his words as Taehyung pulled him into another kiss, chasing all further thoughts away with his tongue.

It seems like neither of them could keep their hands to themselves anymore now that all the layers between them were gone, and Jungkook  explored every inch of Taehyung he could reach, shuddering in return at every brush of Taehyung’s clever fingers.

When they finally curled around where Jungkook  was hard and leaking, Jungkook  groaned, throwing his head back at the pleasure, unable to keep his eyes open even though he knew Taehyung’s were drinking in his face.

Jungkook  heard the plopping sound of the tube being uncapped, but he was too distracted by Taehyung’s other hand stroking his shaft, and when slick fingers circled his rim, he gasped but didn’t fight it.

It felt weird and intense when the first finger entered him, but Taehyung’s ministrations made it hard to focus on it for too long, and when Taehyung’s lips found Jungkook ’s again, it were too many sensations to make sense out of anything.

Taehyung prepared him carefully, with a patience none of them had had before and Jungkook  seriously wondered how he could do it when he himself was so aroused that he felt like crawling out of his skin, but Taehyung did not let Jungkook  rush him, just drinking up his whimpers and moans as he kept going.

It became decidedly too much when Taehyung had three fingers inside of him and one of them started brushing over something that made jerk and break the kiss to cry out, unable to deal with the intense pleasure racing through him.

Taehyung froze and let go of his length to clasp his hand over Jungkook ’s mouth, eyes wide and warning, making Jungkook  remember that it was probably unwise to be this vocal in a castle full of people who were not supposed to know what they were doing.

“Taehyung, please” Jungkook  murmured against his fingers, and Taehyung bit his lip as he removed his hand, both from Jungkook ’s mouth and where he had worked inside of him, and Jungkook  felt strangely empty for a moment, but when his eyes followed Taehyung’s hands, still trembling slightly as they found the condom and ripped open the foil package, he felt strangely warm and complete.

Maybe it was the fact that, despite seeming sure of what he was doing Taehyung had never stopped shaking, if from nervousness or the strength of his emotions Jungkook  was not sure, but it reassured Jungkook  in an inexplicable way.

He watched as Taehyung rolled the condom onto his own length and aligned it with Jungkook ’s entrance, gasping as he felt the tip of his erection poke him gently.

“Jungkook ” Taehyung whispered, catching his eyes, and Jungkook  felt like he could see right into his soul from how clear his eyes were, like the deepest ocean, and he could not help but lean up to claim Taehyung’s lips again.

Taehyung held him up with an arm around his waist, using the other to prop himself up, and then, Jungkook  felt him gently pushing inside.

Taehyung felt different than his fingers and Jungkook  gasped into the kiss and slung his arms around Taehyung’s shoulders to hold on, but there was no pain, only pressure and intensity.

They needed to break their kiss once Taehyung had bottomed out, panting too hard to keep going, and when Jungkook  experimentally rocking against him, both of them moaned helplessly.

“Move” Jungkook  whispered, his patience at an end, and thankfully, Taehyung listened to him, pulling almost all the way out only to thrust back into him, squeezing a high pitched sound from Jungkook ’s throat.

Taehyung’s lips pressed against Jungkook ’s again, more to muffle his noises than to kiss, and Jungkook  was thankful because he could not seem to control them. Every thrust from Taehyung made an unbearable pleasure run through him, and he could not even seem to remember his own name, much less whoever could overhear them.

Or maybe what Taehyung was mumbling against his lips, that was his name, even if it was muffled and unclear as he picked up pace, chasing after both their highs, and Jungkook  could do barely more than cling onto Taehyung as he let himself fall.

The angle was perfect, and Taehyung kept hitting Jungkook  just right, his erection sliding against Taehyung’s stomach with each thrust, and the stimulation soon became too much for Jungkook  to take.

He came with Taehyung’s name on his lips, the pleasure crushing down on him like a flood wave, and Taehyung’s arm around him tightened as he thrust into him faster and more desperate until he followed right after him, moaning into Jungkook ’s mouth helplessly.

Jungkook felt barely conscious as Taehyung somehow found the strength to gently lay him down against the pillows again, to pull out of him and remove the condom before laying down next to him, pulling Jungkook  flush against him and kissing his temple.

“Are you going to stay?” Jungkook  asked fuzzily, finding Taehyung’s fingers and entwining them. “Just for the night?”

“Yes” Taehyung whispered. “Just for the night.”

***

Jungkook felt warm and safe when he woke up the next morning, blinking against the bright light coming in through the windows, smiling automatically when his eyes focused on Taehyung’s face right in front of him.

Taehyung was still sleeping, looking peaceful and adorable, and Jungkook  just lay there for a while and stared, unable to tear his gaze away from the man who was still holding him tightly in his arms.

The more Jungkook woke, though, the more he remembered their promise and the knowledge that from now on, they needed to pretend that last night had never happened. Like they did not even care about each other, even, and with every passing second that the realization sank in Jungkook  hurt more, like someone was sinking a knife right into his heart over and over again.

His sight became blurry with tears, and his fingers were reaching out to touch his face before Jungkook  could help himself.

Taehyung woke from the touch, and his eyes fluttered open, sleepy and disoriented until they found Jungkook ’s, and suddenly, Taehyung seemed wide awake.

“Jungkook ” he murmured, his own hands coming to Jungkook ’s face to wipe away his tears, but it was useless since new ones followed right away. “What-”

“I don’t want to marry Yoonji” Jungkook  whimpered. “I don’t want to be king. I don’t want all of this. I just want to be with you.”

“Jungkook ” Taehyung whispered, and then he pulled him into his arms, allowing Jungkook  to cry into his shoulder.

Jungkook ’s tears did not seem to stop, and when Taehyung pulled back a little to look at him, his own eyes were red and puffy, making Jungkook  sob even harder.

“You are going to be king” Taehyung said firmly, and his voice was rough but his words determined. “You were born for this position, and you will be the best king this country can wish for. And I will support you from a distance.”

Jungkook  wanted to protest, but all he brought out were incomprehensible whimpers, and Taehyung cupped his cheeks to kiss his forehead.

“I love you” Taehyung whispered. “Even if we can’t be together, I love you. Isn’t that enough?”

“No” Jungkook sobbed, and Taehyung bit his lip to keep the tears hanging on his eyelids from spilling.

“But it has to be” he breathed, and Jungkook  knew that he was right, but still, he could not keep himself from crying and asking Taehyung not to leave him.

Taehyung just held onto him until he was exhausted from crying and drifted back off into a slumber.

When he opened his eyes again, Taehyung was gone.

***

Jungkook  felt as empty as never before as the wedding grew closer. It was hard to make himself get up in the morning, and every professional smile hurt his face, so he gave up on it and only reduced them to strictly necessary moments.

He knew that people noticed, even people outside from Jimin. His mother kept shooting him that look he had last seen on her when he had been five and had refused to give her a goodnight kiss after she had accidentally ripped off the head of his teddy bear, and even Yoonji asked him what was wrong, but he kept lying to them, insisting that everything was fine.

The closer the wedding came, the less he seemed to be able to sleep, though, and when he did, Taehyung appeared in his dreams, and it made him wake up in tears.

He kept gulping it down, though, kept making himself get up every day and do what people expected him to, all the way up to the wedding. He could have set a clock to Jimin’ speech, seeing it coming from the look in the older man’s face, but he cursed Jimin sense for TPO when he started it exactly on the day of his wedding, cornering him just as he was getting ready to go outside.

“Don’t do it, Jungkook ” he said firmly, watching his cousin with worried eyes as the latter fumbled with his tie. “I am serious. You will regret it.”

“We’ve been there, Jimin. I don’t have a choice” Jungkook  returned, but his voice sounded lifeless even in his own ears.

“Yes you do” Jimin argued. “Do you really think the people want an unhappy king? You are selling your soul, and this is not right.”

“I promised Taehyung” Jungkook  whispered, his voice suddenly stuck in his throat. He cleared it before continuing. “We had an agreement, and I won’t be the one stepping back on it.”

“Kim Taehyung is as much of a masochist as you!” Jimin rolled his eyes. “He think he is doing the best for you, but he is wrong. I talked to Hoseok and his mood has been positively suicidal since he returned home. Both of you are-”

“Enough” Jungkook  interrupted him, because he was seriously worried that he would flee once he heard more about Taehyung. “I need to go. People are waiting for me.”

“Jungkook!” Jimin whined, shaking his shoulder. “I am serious, okay!”

“So am I” Jungkook  nodded, finally meeting his eyes. “I really appreciate you wanting to help me, but it’s too late, Jimin. My fate has been settled once my father died.”

“This is not fair” Jimin murmured, and he looked like he was going to cry himself, so Jungkook  averted his eyes.

“Life is never fair” he muttered, and with that, he made his way out of the door.

***

As soon as he took his place down the aisle, his eyes began wandering about, searching for Taehyung. He knew that it was not smart to do this so shortly before his own wedding ceremony, but he could not help himself, it was a reflex knowing that he was here, which he had to be as a member of the royal circles.

Jungkook  finally found him somewhere in the back, weirdly easy for Jungkook  to spot from his position, and his eyes were already and Jungkook, making their gazes meet.

Jungkook  found it hard to breathe, and he could not avert his eyes, instead keeping them on Taehyung all the time until the music started, and even then, he was hesitant to break their content to look up.

Yoonji was being led towards him by her father, and she looked pale under the artistic hairstyle, her skin almost blending in with the color of her white dress. She looked as bad as he felt, and when their eyes met, he almost had to smile at the silent understanding between them.

At least they agreed in one thing: Not wanting to do this.

Jungkook  could barely tune in to the words of the priest. Instead, his eyes found Taehyung again, and he kept focusing him all the way through his speech. The look in Taehyung’s eyes was the only thing that kept him grounded to where he was.

He balled his fist when the priest addressed him, taking in Taehyung’s face one more time before turning to look at Yoonji.

"Do you, Jeon Jungkook , take Min Yoonji to be your lawfully wedded wife?"

Jungkook  took a deep breath, fearing that his voice would leave him once he started speaking, but it was clear and only slightly shaky as he answered: “I do.”

Yoonji looked positively green in the face by now, and Jungkook  merely felt numb and empty as the priest turned to Yoonji, addressing her now.

"Do you, Min Yoonji, take Jeon Jungkook  to be your lawfully wedded husband?"

Jungkook  waited for Yoonji to finally give her answer so they could get this over with, but he was kept waiting. He frowned as he caught Yoonji’s eyes, and she was biting her lip before finally, as determined as Jungkook  had never seen her before, she shook her head.

“No” she said finally. “No, I won’t.”

“Yoonji” he murmured, but before he could say anymore Yoonji was speaking again, fast and emotional and it took him a little off guard.

“I don’t want to do this” she protested. “And above all you don’t. I could see how miserable you were for the past few weeks. I am sorry, but I don’t want to see this face every day for the rest of my life. You look better when you are smiling.”

Jungkook  did not know what to say, just staring at her, his mind spinning in something between relief and horror, and when Yoonji smiled, it did nothing to calm down his nerves.

“And we both know your heart is beating for someone else, anyways, and I refuse to be the bad girl in this love triangle.”

Jungkook  gulped, looking up to search Taehyung’s gaze again, only to find Taehyung as pale as Yoonji had been a minute ago.

“You don’t need me to be your queen” Yoonji shrugged, stepping back from her stiff position a little and making a face at her high heels. “You can be a king very well without me.”

“No, he can’t!” Someone said loudly, and there was a sudden murmur going through the room. Jungkook  needed to a moment to spot Taehyung’s father, who had gotten to his feet to speak up. “The law states clearly that a king has to be married before being crowned. If Jeon is unable to fulfil that condition, he must step back and give up the throne to my son.”

“I refuse!” Taehyung protested loudly, making his father whirl around to glare at him.

“Taehyung-”

“I give up on my claim for the throne!” Taehyung said firmly, meeting Jungkook ’s eyes, and Jungkook  felt a little dizzy. “Jungkook  is the king of this country, not me.”

“You ungrateful little-” Taehyung’s father began, but Taehyung interrupted him, continuing as if he hadn’t heard him.

“I also vote for a change of the crowning laws” he announced. “This stuff is terribly outdated and only brings trouble. We are on 2017. Who cares if a king is married or not, seriously.”

His words were followed by a commotion, and the voices were so loud in Jungkook ’s head that they hurt, but then, his mother was by his side, her hand on his shoulder warm and comforting as he rose her hand and made the crowd fall silent immediately.

“My son and I apologize deeply for the confusion we brought to everyone” she announced. “But given the circumstances, I vote for a council meeting at the earliest convenience to revise the crowning laws. Does the council head agree with me?”

The council head was a plump man in his fifties whose granddaughter had a immense liking for Jungkook , jumping him whenever he came into sight, and when Jungkook  met his eyes, he could not seem but help to agree.

“Thank you” Jungkook  breathed, and he knew that it was too low for anyone but Yoonji and his mother to hear, but he was shaking so badly from the relief that he could not bring himself to speak any louder, and from the fond smile of his mother, he could tell that she had his back.

He looked around to search for Taehyung’s eyes again, but suddenly, his place was empty, and he was nowhere to be seen.

***

“Jungkook!” Jimin called, hours later after he was finally released from everyone’s grip, greeting him as soon as he sat a foot back into the castle. Hoseok was right behind him, and both of them were grinning, and it made Jungkook  smile involuntarily, the first real smile in what felt like months.

“There is someone waiting for you in your room” Jimin announced with a big smile, and Jungkook ’s face fell as he stared at his cousin incredulous.

“Don’t play with me” he warned. “I have not burst into tears yet today, and I am very proud of this.”

“I’m serious” he stated, exchanging another smirk with Hoseok. “Check for yourself if you don’t believe me!”

He did not need to say this twice. Jungkook  was pushing past them without another word, running all the way up the stairs and down the corridors until he reached his room.

He pushed open the door and almost tripped as he found Taehyung sitting on his bed, still looking unnaturally pale and cracking his fingers nervously.

“I thought you had left!” Jungkook  called reproachfully, leaning against the now closed door to catch his breath.

“Hoseok and your cousin didn’t let me” he murmured. “They can be scary once they set their mind to something.”

“Why did you not stay to meet me?” Jungkook  demanded, crossing the room until he was standing right in front of Taehyung.

“I… I was not sure if I could approach you” Taehyung murmured unsurely. “I mean, everything is still a chaos, and-”

“So what is a little more?!” Jungkook  called. “I don’t care about the chaos. I don’t care about the troubles you could cause me. I just want you by my side.”

Taehyung met his eyes, and he saw everything Jungkook  felt reflected in them, the loneliness and the longing and hope, and Jungkook  reached out to cup his cheek softly.

“Be with me, Taehyung” he pleaded. “Please.”

Taehyung did not answer, at least not verbally. Instead, he stood and pulled Jungkook  into a hungry kiss, and Jungkook  sighed as he melted against him, his body finally succumbing through the strain of the day and slumping against the taller man. Taehyung caught him, keeping him upright in a tight embrace, and Jungkook  smiled against his lips.

“How can I refuse an order of the king” Taehyung whispered when he pulled away again, and he was smiling, the sparkle back in his eyes, and Jungkook  could not help but giggle tiredly.

“What if I want to make you my queen instead of Yoonji?” he joked, making Taehyung narrow his eyes.

“Who said I’m the girl in this relationship, Your Highness?” he shot back, and Jungkook  squealed when Taehyung fingers dug into his sides, tickling him.

“Then what are you in this scenario?” Jungkook  demanded with a chuckle, and Taehyung grinned.

“Maybe I’m the Joker” he mused.

“That’s lame” Jungkook  rolled his eyes.

“Shut up and kiss me, Jeon.”

And for once, Jungkook  obliged.