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Crown in the Flames

Chapter Text

The snow blows across the tundra, pummeling relentlessly at the tall tower of rock and earth that seemed to graze the heavens, which were grey and foreboding. Clouds locked together over the sky and poured snow down on the mountains, the whipping winds howling through the valleys and peaks and snow-covered ground. It’s not quite nighttime, but the setting sun is masked by the thick blanket of clouds, and a teeth-chattering chill is beginning settle in. It is unwise to set foot in the beginning of such a storm, and yet, a young boy trudges through the snow, searching for what cannot be in the mountains of Sssalssalhan, but rather, in the temple seated just below the tall peaks, cradled between talons of ice that point heavenward.


His sniffling goes unheard, for he is lost, stuck on the mountain, nobody around to hear his cries. The thick bear fur on his hood is blown from the winter gales, round cheeks flushed scarlet from the weather. He had been brave thus far, but as the sky darkens and the temperature plummets, he begins to sob, warm tears turning cold before they can trail down his chubby face. What started out as an innocent chase has now become a treacherous journey, a fear of the unknown.


He has grown up in this sort of climate, but he has never been lost in a place like this. It’s unfamiliar to him. The words of his mother resonate in his mind, that if he were to ever get lost in the snow, he had to seek shelter and stay put until it was safe to come out. The snow whips around him, muddling his vision until all he can see is white and grey, blindly stumbling forward and crying. He cries for his eomma and appa , because he’s frightened, and as his cries grow in volume and intensity, his presence becomes known.


In front of him sits a cave, yet he cannot see it due to the snow until he trips right into it.


The boy gasps, tumbling into the cave entrance, the snow now at his back. He’s sniveling, rests on his knees and shuffles forward, blinking away the icy tears on his cheeks.


He believes he’s alone, but as he stands on his feet, a gleam of silver crosses his vision and his eyes naturally turn upward. Fear should strike his heart or he should cry, or perhaps turn and run away, but his eyes widen in curiosity, pink lips parted ever so slightly as he stares into the face of a dragon.


He has only ever seen dragons in the books his eomma and caretakers read to him. They existed in this world alongside humans, but did not live in his part of the North; they lived in the dragon kingdom of Ssalssalhan, just west of where the boy lives, but he has not yet seen a dragon in real life since his arrival here only hours ago.


The dragon’s nostrils flare, captivating green eyes staring at the small human, as if he were regarding him with question. Even in the dim cave, his white scales gleam, catching the eye of the boy, who reaches out with one gloved hand in awe.


Taken aback, the dragon rumbles, craning its neck.


How did a human get up here?


The boy reaches up again in earnest, and reluctantly, the dragon ducks its head down slowly, the air breathed out from his nose blowing back the boy’s hood to reveal his face. Staying still, the dragon eyes the boy, taking note of his round, delicate features, as a hand is placed upon his snout.


What are you doing?


He’s clearly amazed, the young boy, running his small hand along the dragon’s cheek, feeling the smooth bumps of his scales through the thick gloves. His giggle is innocent and the dragon draws back, rearing its head. Unsure of what to do with the human, he beckons the human to follow him deeper into the cave. The little human understands the message as the dragon turns, crooking the edge of his tail in a beckoning motion, trudging deeper into the cave where it is warmer.


The dragon stops once they’ve ventured further into the cave where the snow cannot reach them. He rumbles again, and the boy instinctively sits on the cool cavern floor, his eyes having never left the beast.


You shouldn’t be here.


Dragging firewood over, the dragon loosely sets the wood in a circle, crouching to the ground. His nostrils flare and light dances along the walls as a puff of fire is emitted, tongues of flame swirling up from the pile of wood, embers crackling, ash fluttering up. The human is in awe, mouth agape, but he does not feel fear; he feels wonder.


You’re so strange. You should be scared of me.


Even when the dragon shows his teeth, the boy doesn’t flinch. Instead, he smiles, round lips turning in the corners, his hands coming together in a clap, cheering the dragon on with another innocent giggle that ultimately confuses the beast.


Grumbling, the dragon rests against the floor, keeping his head upright to watch the human, how his big eyes stare at him, stare through him. No human has ever kept the eye of a dragon like this before, but this boy. . . he’s special. Something kept him alive out in the snow.


The dragon places his head on the floor and curls his tail around his body, wings folded against his back.


I will return you tomorrow morning when you wake. Understood?


Of course the human can’t understand. He doesn’t speak dragon-tongue. But the message is conveyed, and the boy leans over, lying against the stone floor with his eyes trained on the dragon. The beast sighs before his eyes shut.


Strange creature.



Come morning, the snow has stopped falling. Sunlight streams into the cave and when the dragon wakes, he finds that the human has somehow climbed on his back, perched on his neck, tiny hands grasping at one of the spines jutting from the dragon’s body. Lifting his head, the dragon gazes at the bright-eyed human, his throat vibrating with his rumble, spines on his back quivering. The boy continues to hold on even as the dragon rises to his feet and steps on the pile of ash that once was their fire.


With the human securely on his neck, the dragon ambles toward the mouth of the cave, lowering his head and tucking in his wings as they emerge. His feet sink into the snow and he stretches his wings.


Hold on tight, little one.


He takes a step forward, his wings bobbing up and down once. It’s the human’s last warning to hold on. The dragon flaps his wings again, stirring up any loose snow under his weight, before they are above the ground, the snow swirling around the little boy. The sparkling ice crystals dance around the human until they fall away, drifting back into the sky.


The dragon is careful as he flies due to the human on his back. He’s so small, so light. . . he could float away just like a swan’s feather in the wind.


His wings beat steadily as they fly through the mountains, soaring over the snow-laden ground. He does not have to be looking at the boy to know his joy, his excitement, for his giggles and laughs are loud enough to ring in his ears.


They slow down upon approaching the temple of Ssalssalhan, its golden roof lustrous in the sunlight. Down below, in the courtyards of his temple, he spots two figures. As he begins to land, he can hear one of them shouting, and realizes that he has found the boy’s parents.


The dragon lands on the icy courtyard and he cranes his neck towards the ground, the little boy sliding off his neck and into the arms of his father, who holds him close before handing him to his worry-stricken mother. He recognizes the mother and father and shakes his body as he stands tall once more.

As they reunite, the dragon turns his head, nosing at the side of his neck. He knocks his teeth against one of his loose scales and watches it come free, falling right into the palm of his clawed hand. The dragon reaches down to take the scale between his teeth and he stares down at the human family, setting the scale on the ground in front of the boy’s feet.


The boy does not understand the gift and he stares at the scale. It is his parents who urge him forward, nudge his back, and the dragon steps away so the boy can claim his gift. He bends over and clutches the scale in his tiny hands, turning the scale over and marveling at it. The scale is well the size of his fist, but the human holds it tight, and he waddles towards the dragon with a beaming smile.


Do you not want my gift, little one?


Leaning down, the dragon becomes almost eye-level with the boy. His green eyes stare into the human’s but he does not flinch when a hand is placed against his snout. There is the urge to lower his head, and the dragon follows that urge, letting the human run his hand over his snout before he steps on the tip of his toes.


When the boy kisses above his nose, a hot spark courses through the beast, but he does not pull away. It’s only brief contact, but the gesture will stick with the dragon forever.


The human giggles again and steps back, smiling at the beast with more warmth than any fire a dragon could forge. It’s as if they were friends departing for different journeys, parting ways with a kiss, a promise that they would meet again.


And perhaps our paths will cross again, little prince, the dragon thinks to himself, the phantom touch of the kiss still lingering, the promise now embedded within his body and his heart.

Chapter Text

The soft hues of the morning filter through white curtains, rays of the sun dancing across the dark pelts that cover the bed and provide warmth during the cold winter months in Dang-ui. Although it isn’t chilly enough to justify so many furs on one bed, no one can deny the level of comfort the pelts provide in the northern province.


Bundled under the pelts, Prince Jimin cracks his eyes open against the sunlight. In the adjacent room, just faintly, he can hear pouring water. That’s right; the maids were to prepare a bath for Jimin when he had woken. His blue eyes scan the room as he sits up, nudging aside the furs in favor of sliding from underneath their warmth, feet hitting the stone floors. The cold doesn’t bother him as he pads towards the windows, where he draws open the curtains and squints in the morning light.


From his chambers he can see the picturesque mountain ranges, which extend out to the dark ocean just beyond the castle’s reach. The very tips of the mountains are snow-capped, but the rivers still flow, not yet frozen over. The winter months have yet to arrive.


Jimin steps away. The bath is still being drawn, he can hear the water, and he walks over to a pair of cream doors. He opens them, the large tub circling in the center of the room. It is raised above the tiled floors, which have been laid over with the landscape of Dang-ui, from the mountains to the vast ocean and the thick bunches of pine trees in the forests. The mosaic is centuries old but the blues are still vibrant and the whites smooth. Four pillars surround the tub, extending towards the ceiling, engraved with the mythical stories of ancient Dang-ui. Wolves, swans, goddesses, and the ancestors are carved into the marble. While the room serves as only a bath room, it remains one of Jimin’s favorites for its pleasurable aesthetics.


Two female maids fill the bath with oils and petals, bowing to their prince as they finish the bath. Steam rises from the clear water.


“I see my mother planned ahead,” Jimin chuckles, and the maids nod with smiles, stepping away from the bath. He dismisses them and they gather their things, disappearing out the other set of doors to the left. With a quiet click, they’re gone. Alone, Jimin works on removing his clothing, removing the silk garments and setting them aside.


The prince walks up the steps and sinks into the hot water, sighing and swirling his fingers in the water. Goosebumps prickle across his smooth skin, chin dipping below the surface. The white dragon scale necklace clinks across his chest and he examines it in the palm of his hand.


That’s right.


Today is his birthday. His parents are throwing a feast in his honor, but they’re also celebrating something else:


His betrothal.


The scale is from his intended lover, Prince Min Yoongi of Ssalssalhan, the province of northern dragons to the west of Dang-ui. They had met when they were young, Jimin small and innocent, Yoongi older and indifferent. Humans and dragons do not intermingle often, as tensions run between both groups, but an arranged marriage served as a possible solution to the problem at hand.


Who better to marry than the human Northern prince and the dragon Northern prince?


Jimin has only seen Yoongi once, but that was when he was just a tiny boy, and he remembers nothing of the day he received this scale or of the day their fate was decided. Yoongi has been a part of him for over fifteen years, as this white scale is his, and Jimin has yet to express his gratitude for the gift.


Perhaps marriage will be his thank you.


The prince releases the scale and sinks lower into the water. He’s aware that the moment he steps out of this bath, his life will change. He only has a handful of hours before the ceremony, where it is announced that Jimin will marry Min Yoongi, causing an uproar in the country from east to west, north to south. An uproar that the Parks and Min Jiho, Yoongi’s father, are hopeful for, to help turn the tide in the struggle of dragon and human.


They have yet to plan out the details of the actual wedding, but Yoongi will remain in Dang-ui for a couple of days after tonight, where they will discuss the specifics. As to where or when the wedding is, Jimin is unaware. Their marriage will be as mysterious as the dragons themselves.


Jimin only wishes to enjoy his bath before he must prepare.


His eyes are only shut for a moment before there’s a soft knock on the doors. Blinking, Jimin cranes his head in the direction. “Who is it?”


“Your knight.”


Jimin smiles. “Come in, Namjoon-ah.”


The man that enters is both Jimin’s bodyguard and closest friend. Kim Namjoon grew up with Jimin, born into a military family, and is now one of the high ranking officers in the military. It’s a personal achievement for him to have worked his way up to become Jimin’s personal guard, and Jimin would have no one else to serve him. Namjoon is everything a prince could ever want.


There’s a smile on his lips, dimples set into his cheeks. Namjoon carries clothing in one arm, which Jimin recognizes as his outfit for tonight. Seeing Namjoon with the armful of cream colored fabric is almost jarring. These days Jimin’s become so accustomed to seeing Namjoon brandishing a sword or shield instead.


“Now, if I didn’t know any better,” Namjoon begins, the soles of his calf-high boots clicking against the floor, “I would say you’re avoiding your duties for the day.”


“You know me too well,” Jimin murmurs, resting his head back against the tub’s edge. Namjoon stops at the base of the tub, eyes focused solely on Jimin’s face. “What else is there for me to do besides look pretty for the prince? Surely my mother has preparations nearly complete by now.”


Even Namjoon is dressed in what Jimin knows is one of his finest outfits. Normally, he’s dressed plainly in dark linen fabrics that have more practical purpose, but today his breeches and tunic are cut from more expensive cloth, tailored in a way that accentuates the length of his legs and the broadness of his chest. The crest of the Park family stands out embroidered over his heart.


“That’s why I figured I would come myself. The Queen Mother will be frantic if you aren’t dressed and ready soon. Guests are already starting to arrive, you know.”


Jimin’s eyes widen, the water swishing as he shifts. “At this hour? She told me the celebration would be in the evening—”


“And most of it will ,” Namjoon assures him, retrieving a large, fluffy towel from a twisted bronze rack just off to the side. “But you know we’re housing several nobles for the next few days. Your mother and father are already receiving people in court, and the dragon prince and his entourage should be arriving soon.”


“Someone should have been sent to wake me earlier,” Jimin huffs, reaching out for the towel. Respectfully, Namjoon turns around, as Jimin stands from the tub and begins to dry himself. A thick robe hangs from the door and he wraps it tight around his body, opening the doors that lead to his bedroom. Namjoon turns around and follows Jimin into his chambers.


“Is that tonight’s outfit?” Jimin inquires, glancing at the cream fabric in Namjoon’s arms. He had been fitted days before by their head seamstress, but has not been able to see the final product.


Once Namjoon’s laid it all out on the bed, Jimin can see that everything has been neatly stitched together by hand. The gown is floor-length, hemmed so that it graces the floor when Jimin walks. The collar swoops to a pointed V, held together by a single strand of silver chain across his collar. The sleeves are long, but only cover the outside of Jimin’s arms, the rest exposed. It’s elegant yet simple.


“Sooyoung said that if I got it dirty she’d chop my hands off.”


“Leave it to my mother to threaten you,” Jimin shakes his head, running his fingers across the fabric. Up close, the fabric is pleated, resembling dragon scales. Clever.


“I still have to prepare. Can you tell me mother that I will be there within the hour? I wouldn’t want her to rush me or worry.”


A quick bob of Namjoon’s head marks his answer. “Of course. I just wanted to make sure this got delivered safely and to see if there was anything else you required?”


“My mother would be pleased if she had the maids help me. I’m sure she has given them instructions as to how I should present myself this evening.”


“Ah, that would be why I saw Hani with all of those cosmetic pots earlier,” Namjoon chuckles at the dismayed look on Jimin’s face. “Don’t pretend you don’t like being made up for events like these. No one will be able to take their eyes off of you.”


“Do you think it will impress the prince?” Jimin asks, fiddling with the scale. In a quieter tone, he asks, “What if he’s unattractive? Will I marry an ugly man who is hundreds of years old?”


Silence stretches out between them. Namjoon’s mouth opens once, then closes. By the way his brows pull together in the center of his forehead, Jimin knows that he’s trying to word what he says next very carefully.


Dragons live to be hundreds, thousands of years old, and barely anyone has seen any of the northern dragons in their humanoid form.


“Don’t worry yourself about that,” Namjoon finally says after clearing his throat. Jimin doesn’t know which questions he’s answering. Maybe it’s all three. “He’d be a fool not to be impressed by you.”


“I only hope that you’re right, Namjoon-ah,” Jimin sighs, releasing the scale from his fingers. “I’m sure even his appearance will do little to calm my mother.”


“Oh, nothing will calm your mother at this point. We both know it. She’s been planning for this almost our whole lives.”


“I’m sure she’d appreciate your presence, your aura seems to relax her. As much as I would love to spend time with you, we both have our duties for the day that can’t be abandoned.”


Namjoon is already up and moving, shoulders square. It goes against almost every rule of etiquette for Namjoon to reach out and touch him, for someone of lesser blood to put their hands on the prince, but he does it anyway. It’s a feather light touch. Namjoon’s fingers curl almost the entire way around his elbow.


“I don’t want you to worry, Jimin-ah,” he whispers. “You know I swore myself to you. Not your mother. Not your father.”


Jimin purses his lips, glancing down at the floor for a moment before his blue eyes meet Namjoon’s brown ones. Loyalty is what Jimin sees in his dark irises. “I’m betrothed to a dragon, of course I’m worried,” he whispers in the air between them, swallowing the lump in his throat. Only to Namjoon could he voice his concern over the matter, as he trusts the knight with his life, and therefore, his secrets. Once he dresses and leaves his chambers, his life will change, and his future is uncertain. That uncertainty makes Jimin anxious. “I’ve never doubted your loyalty to me, Namjoon-ah, and I cannot express in words my gratitude. You have always been my closest friend. Even after today, I believe that you will stay by my side, as you always have been.”


“I would have it no other way.” A knock at the door makes Namjoon jerk his hand back as though burned, laughing nervously under his breath. Jimin blinks, eyes flickering to the door. “That would be Hani. I’ll leave you in her capable hands to finish getting ready.”


“Come in,” Jimin sings, turning his body towards the door where one of their most trusted maids enters. Her long blonde hair flows down her shoulders, the hair at her crown pulled back into an intricate arrangement of braids. She smiles, acknowledging Namjoon, and politely waits at the entrance to allow for the two to finish their conversation.


“Thank you, Namjoon-ah. I will meet you downstairs before the celebration begins.”


“I will see you then, my prince.”


Namjoon bows to Jimin before exiting the room. As he exits, more maids step inside, wielding cosmetic pots and chests brimming with sparkling jewelry and accessories for Jimin to choose from. The knight shuts the door behind him gently and Hani steps forward, smiling ear to ear as the maids set the items down on Jimin’s vanity. His mother is determined.


“Well then, prince Jimin, how about we begin?”







Jimin is patient.


He’s been patient since he was a child, always the one to sit still and never ask for too much. Patience is a virtue. Jimin has spent his entire life waiting for this day and has not wished for it to come sooner. His parents have let him mature and flourish as the prince of Dang-ui, and not as the husband of Min Yoongi. The life he’s lead has been his own, but eventually, the time must come when he truly becomes independent and continue his life on a path separate from the one he’s walked along for twenty years. Today, he will embark on that new path with the prince from Ssalssalhan, the dragon of the North.


Even as the hours draw near, Jimin sits quietly in his chambers, reflective. The maids are tedious, following Hani’s directions, steady, soft hands painting colors on Jimin’s face. A fine-bristled horse hair brush sweeps crushed winterberries along his plush lips and round cheeks, depositing hues of pink to accentuate the natural colors of those features. He keeps his eyes shut as another maid brushes a mixture of crushed minerals and herbs across his eyelids. The color is a soft bronze, and a muted black line of kohl extends to the outer corner of his eye. His hair parts close to the center of his forehead and brushed thoroughly so it appears silky in the light.


“You’re going to make quite the impression, prince,” Hani hums from somewhere near the vanity, and Jimin cracks one eye open to watch as she approaches with silver necklaces and earrings in her hands and around her fingers.


“Will I?” Jimin mumbles, breath fanning out against a maid’s hand as she applies the finishing touch on his lips, the pressure of another hand against his cheek disappearing. Then, all hands are gone, and he blinks his eyes open.


“That Min Yoongi would be a fool to not find you gorgeous.”


Hani sits down on a stool, the maids shuffling away, but only to set the cosmetic pots out of the way. They still have to dress Jimin. The prince blinks at the sparkling silver in front of him, fingers grazing over the scale around his neck. It’s his betrothal gift, and he best not remove it.


“I would prefer only this necklace, dear Hani,” Jimin says softly, and Hani nods, handing the silver to a maid to be stowed away. She holds in her hands earrings, ones that are short and long, and Jimin picks a dangling pair from her palm. They start with a hoop and end with a strand of silver chain, simple but eye-catching. With Hani’s assistance, he puts them on, and the maids smile.


“They suit you.” Hani stands and motions for the maids to come, one grabbing the outfit Jimin is to wear for tonight. Jimin stands, earrings swaying from the movement, untying the knot that keeps the robe around his body. It drops to the floor at his feet and he exhales, feeling the chill against his skin.


Carefully, with well-guided hands, he is helped into the gown, glad that his arms are free from suffocating sleeves. It’s as if a cape is drawn across his body, with his shoulders exposed, length of the sleeves flowing to the dress’ hem. The white of the dragon scale almost blends with the cream of the dress, which is patterned with miniature pleats that emulate the body of a dragon. Jimin has never worn a more beautiful formal outfit.


“You’re going to take his breath away,” Hani gasps, and the maids voice their agreement. One delicately brushes a strand of hair from Jimin’s face. “You really are marrying a dragon.”


Jimin smiles. He will have to thank his mother for this, for easing him into tonight.


One by one, the maids exit, until only Hani remains. She brushes her hair away from her shoulders, already dressed in her formal gown for the night, with long flowing sleeves and a free neckline. She’s beautiful.


Jimin walks towards the doors leading out from his chambers, but stops to pick up a necklace from a table close to his bed. Hani glances over at the prince and points to the necklace.


“Did you make a betrothal necklace for the dragon prince?” She asks, lips upturned.


“He gave me this scale, I would not feel right if I had nothing to offer him,” Jimin replies, holding the necklace in his palm. Together, they walk outside into the hallway, Hani close by his side. The hallways are empty, as everyone is finishing preparations downstairs.


“You have such a kind heart, prince Jimin. Selfless, but so headstrong.”


Jimin chuckles. “You’ve seen my mother, how else could she be the queen and manage my father?”


They share a laugh and descend downstairs to the throne room. From here, Jimin can pick up voices; Namjoon was correct about guests already arriving. For all they know, this is a celebration for Jimin’s birthday, and not a celebration of an engagement between the princes of Dang-ui and Ssalssalhan.


Jimin displays his princely manners when they enter the main corridor, where he smiles and welcomes the guests he and Hani pass. Many come from the country, the thanes that serve the king and queen, hailing from all regions to honor Jimin. They are clueless as to who the surprise guests are, and the mystery of it all has Jimin hiding a sly smile.


The throne room was built long ago by their ancestors. Purposefully built to be large, with towering columns and large windows that open to the mountains and the alpine rivers that flow into the lowlands. People are gathered here, standing beside pillars, on the gleaming marble floors, eyes focusing on Jimin when he enters the throne room. He continues to smile, bow his head in respect to those in attendance, but his smile grows ever wider when he catches his mother and father staring from their thrones.


“I will see you later,” Hani murmurs, and Jimin turns to peck her on the cheek in a grateful gesture, ascending the steps to greet his parents. Namjoon stands off to the side, a sword now at his hip, eyes bright and admirable on Jimin.


“Hello, mother, father,” Jimin greets, and the way his mother jumps from her throne to hug Jimin is short from improper in the eyes of these people. Yet, they are the royal family, and this is a special night for all of them.


“You make me so proud,” the queen whispers, pulling back from their embrace so that she can plant the heels of her palms against Jimin’s shoulders. Her piercing blue eyes are glassy with emotion, but the corners of her mouth tilt up into a smile. “Look at you. So grown up. Where’s my little Jiminnie?”


“He’s been grown for a long time, dear,” Jinyoung mumbles, but he stands as well, embracing Jimin in a hug that is quicker than his mother’s. “But we’re both equally as proud.”


Jimin sits in the throne chair between his two parents, his mother caressing his leg, continuing to smile. He glances over at Namjoon, and catches the knight staring. He smile sheepishly and bows his head in acknowledgement.


“Namjoon-ah did not ruin the dress. He told me you would have hurt him if he had done so. . . is that true, mother? Are you threatening my knight?” Jimin asks quietly, to which his mother laughs to herself.


“It did the job, didn’t it?” Sooyoung says it with a fair bit of cheek, and if Jimin wasn’t looking, he’d have missed the subtle wink of her left eye. “He was the only one I trusted, and I was right in my choice, as usual.”


“You are always one step ahead, mother,” Jimin comments, placing his hands in his lap. Out of curiosity, he asks, “When will the prince arrive?”


“Oh, they’ve already arrived. We’ll be greeting them last, don’t you worry.”


At that, Jimin sits straight, jumping in his seat. “They. . . they are already here?” he whispers. “Mother, if I had been told, I would have dressed earlier—”


Sooyoung dismisses his rambling with a wave of her hand. “Nonsense. It’s given them time to settle in to their quarters and freshen up. Besides, it would spoil the surprise, wouldn’t it?”


“Your mother is ahead of us,” Jinyoung comments with a click of his tongue. “I have learned to sit back and allow her to plan the events.”


“Do you think this necklace is enough?” Jimin cuts in, opening his palm slightly so both his mother and father can see it. It’s a simple choker made of smooth, black leather. From the center hangs a pendant, a blue and white flecked circular stone with several interlocking waves carved into the front. “I understand that dragons are lofty and appreciate treasures, but I hope this prince is not too particular.”


It’s tradition amongst the people of Dang-ui to exchange betrothal necklaces as a show of expressed interest. Jimin doesn’t even know if the dragon prince will know the significance behind the gesture.


Sooyoung shifts forward on her throne, humming a bit under her breath in a show of approval. “I didn’t know you were making him one. It’s only fitting, I suppose. You’ve been wearing his scale for the better part of your life.”


“I wouldn’t feel right if only I were wearing something,” Jimin responds. “You know why I wear it, mother. It has a more important purpose than serving as a decoration.”


Up until now, the entire court has been buzzing with conversation and laughter, all of which comes to a halt as the entryway doors swing open. There’s a shift in the air, something that makes Jimin sit up taller. All the hairs on his arms stand on end, eyes scanning the figures on the other side of the doorway.


The man that walks through first, Jimin doesn’t recognize him, but he knows logically that this must be Min Jiho— one of the Elder dragons. He’s a bit taken aback by just how handsome the man is, even though his dark hair is grey at the temples and there are fine lines in the corners of his eyes and around the corners of his mouth. He’s dressed simply for court in only a dark tunic and breeches with hard soled boots, but what makes him stand out is the gold circlet around his head, inlaid with rubies and diamonds that flicker with each step he takes.


Quiet whispers from the party goers begin circulating, at first just in the corners of the room, but soon they even reach Jimin’s ears from high up on the dias. Everyone shuffles to the side, out of Jiho’s path, creating a walkway of sorts from the doorway to the very foot of the thrones.


“Elder Min,” Jimin’s father is the first to speak, inclining his head respectfully in the dragon’s direction. “It’s an honor to have you here.”


This close, Jimin really has the opportunity to study Jiho, the way his nails are not short and rounded, but rather pointed and wickedly sharp looking. Almost like claws. When he smiles, Jiho’s teeth are perfectly white and straight. His eyes have slitted pupils, like a snake’s.


“Please, Your Highness, the honor is mine.” Jiho seems incredibly at ease, shoulders square and his posture relaxed. Clearly he doesn’t mind that the entire court’s attention is focused on him. It’s unsettling to have those strangely slitted eyes meet his gaze, and Jimin tries not to squirm. “Prince Jimin, you grew up well. The last time I saw you, you barely came to your mother’s knee and could hardly walk.”


“It has been a long time. I hope you have been well all those years,” Jimin responds courtly, bowing his head in respect. He has no memory of Min Jiho, but the Elder has remembered Jimin all these years. To think he was chosen to marry the Elder’s son at such a young age…


Movement at the entrance piques Jimin’s interest again and he sits up even taller, holding his breath in the center of his chest.


Min Yoongi looks just like his father, only younger and his hair is longer, dark, falling into his eyes. His robes are dark green, textured like crushed velvet, intensifying the vivid green of his eyes. Jimin’s fears of being married off to an old, ugly man are unfounded, for how he might describe Yoongi upon initial impression is . . . frighteningly beautiful. He holds the same air of confidence as his father, borderline arrogance, eyes plainly fixed on Jimin as he walks the same path and comes to stand next to Jiho.


Staring so obviously is considered rude, but Jimin decides he won’t look away until Yoongi does, fighting down the urge to look at his own fingers. Only when his parents rise from their thrones does their eye contact break, and Jimin stands as well. The necklace is clenched around his hand.


“Min Yoongi,” Jinyoung addresses, clasping his hands in front of him. He bows his head in respect. “Welcome to Dang-ui.”


Yoongi gives a small dip of his head in return, ignoring the flurry of muttering from the other attending guests. “Thank you, Your Highness.” His voice is deeper than Jimin imagined, raspy and low with a hint of an accent, like his tongue isn’t used to forming the vowels and consonants of human speech.


Jimin’s eyes dart to the crowd. People are leaning in close, murmuring, questioning what is happening from afar. The crowd is talking, but Jimin cannot leave them in suspense any longer. He glances over at his mother, her hands clasped in front of her, and she silently extends her approval for Jimin to give Yoongi the betrothal necklace.


When he holds up the necklace in his hand, gasps sound from the crowd. Anyone from the North will recognize a betrothal necklace, no matter if they are from Dang-ui or not. Only the North has this marriage custom, and it is known throughout the land. Min Jiho’s eyes land on the necklace, but he remains silent. The Elder steps aside quietly, hands held behind his back.


Jimin’s heart thumps in his throat. The crowd is raging now, whispering fiercely instead of surreptitiously, as restless as the waves that crash ashore during a bolstering storm. The prince lifts his eyes from the necklace and finds himself staring into the green irises of his future lover, slitted pupils focused forward.


Slowly, Jimin approaches. He straightens his chest and squares his shoulders. The man in front of him does not intimidate him; his presence is immensely powerful, yes, but Jimin holds his gaze and does not waver, not even when he stands in front of the dragon prince, the roar of the crowd resounding in his ears. He raises the necklace again, fingers reaching around to undo the clasp keeping the two silk ends together.


“Prince Yoongi,” Jimin speaks with revere, but he will not grovel at the feet of the prince, no matter if he is superior in nature. “You have blessed me with this scale, which I have kept around my neck my whole life. While it is a symbol of our union, it has also become a symbol for myself, as prince of Dang-ui, and I wish for you to honor that. As I bestow this betrothal necklace upon you, I ask that you honor its significance, but in doing so, allow it to become a part of you as this scale has become a part of me. Here, in my land, it is common for husbands to craft a betrothal necklace such as this one for their intended. It is an ancient tradition, and I will uphold that tradition. Your scale signifies your culture, and this necklace my culture. While our gifts are different, they carry the same meaning, and it would not feel right for me to not present a gift to my future husband. Please, allow me.”


Surprise isn’t something that Jimin expects to see cross Yoongi’s face, but there’s a flicker of it in the dragon prince’s eyes. No one else except Jimin can see the way one of his eyebrows quirks up, the almost smirk on his lips as he inclines his head to give easy access to the base of his throat. “As you wish, Prince Jimin.”


Jimin steps closer. In order to reach Yoongi’s throat, he has to be merely inches away, hands sliding to the back of Yoongi’s neck with the necklace. The dragon keeps his head tipped and stays still as Jimin presses the silk against his pale skin, glancing around to ensure that the clasp is in the correct position. Jimin breathes against Yoongi’s shoulder, the dragon’s chin just brushing against his cheek, the aroma of pine and smoke invading his senses.


The clasp connects with a small click and Jimin draws back, adjusting the pendant on the base of Yoongi’s throat. The black silk contrasts with Yoongi’s pale, almost snowy white skin, but Jimin admires his craftsmanship on the prince. People in the crowd burst, voices exploding, some clapping amidst the conversation. Many are left confused, having expected a celebration of the prince’s birthday rather than an engagement.


“Thank you all for joining us today,” Jinyoung speaks, his booming voice serving to settle the crowd, “not only to celebrate the life of my precious son, Jimin, as he enters his twenty-first year, but also his engagement to Min Yoongi, dragon prince of the North. With their union — which has been set for almost two decades — we hope to bridge the gap between our two cultures, two vastly different ways of life. So tonight, eat, drink, and be merry as we look ahead to a brighter future.”


Yoongi stands tall once Jimin is finished, as Jinyoung’s declaration sets the party in motion. He proves that he isn’t entirely a savage, extending his hand palm up for Jimin to take. “I’m told it’s custom to dance at celebrations like this,” he says in a way that comes out slurred. The pendant swings with his momentum, resting almost in the divot between his collarbones.


Not one to be rude, Jimin reaches out, gently resting his palm atop Yoongi’s. His hands are cold, unusually so for a dragon.


“It is, yes,” Jimin agrees with a slight nod of his head, walking down the steps away from the thrones and towards the center of the throne room. “Shall we?”

Chapter Text

Jimin excels at dancing. Yoongi, however, not so much.


It’s very rare that Jimin dances with a partner who lacks the skill, who is somewhat clumsy, misstepping and throwing Jimin out of his bubble. Clearly, Yoongi has never been taught how to dance, or he has simply refused to bother learning such an important skill; as a prince, he is expected to dance at any occasion, and yet, he cannot. Even with Jimin guiding him, he is stubborn, and does not follow his pattern no matter how simple it may be.


Despite his poor dancing, Jimin has to admit that the prince is beautiful in his own way, yet he commands a strong presence, one that can be arrogant and aloof. But he holds Jimin gently as they dance, Jimin’s hand atop his own, Yoongi’s hand gently resting on the curve of his waist over his dress. He has a hard time staring directly into Yoongi’s eyes, his slitted pupils leaving him uneasy, as if he’s staring into the eyes of a snake. They are a stunning green color, and stand out against the dragon prince’s dark hair and green robes.


Many are digesting the surprise news of their engagement, and Jimin knows that word is already spreading across the country in all four corners. By tomorrow morning, he will be receiving ravens and owls and hawks carrying letters of congratulation. Some may be forced, as Jimin has had many suitors in his past who have only wished for this day to never come, and must feel sour knowing now that Jimin has been off limits since the beginning, before he had even introduced himself to potential suitors. Maybe it’s wrong for Jimin to feel pride in leading them on, indulging in his short fun with them, but he is untouchable as of tonight.


Jimin is jostled out of his thoughts when Yoongi’s leg brushes up against his, tip of his shoes nearly catching on the hem of Jimin’s gown. They haven’t said much in the first minute of their dancing, but Jimin feels relaxed enough to speak now.


“My mother would prefer it if I didn’t dirty this gown,” he states, the dragon prince’s fingers tapping against his waist. “She threatened my knight.”


Again, there’s a subtle quirk of Yoongi’s left eyebrow. It’s like he’s surprisingly amused. “Did she now?” he drawls. “It is a pretty gown, but I’m not afraid of your mother.”


“Well, I would watch for the placement of your feet. I wouldn’t want this to be an unpretty gown because my betrothed can’t dance.”


At that Yoongi laughs, and it seems genuine. The hard planes of his face soft for a faction of a second. Jimin can even see a flash of his gums before Yoongi shakes his head incredulously. “You are nothing like I thought you’d be,” he admits, the corner of his mouth still quirked up as they move across the dance floor. “But as my fiance wishes, I will be mindful where I place my feet.”


“Oh, and what did you imagine in your head?” Jimin hums.


“Someone that wasn’t nearly as headstrong and mouthy as you seem to be.”


Jimin laughs, albeit quietly. “I’m assuming you are disappointed, then?”


“Not in the slightest.”


“Then I’m pleased to have fit your standards.” Jimin steps back just as Yoongi steps forward, narrowly avoiding getting his gown dirty. “Although I would have preferred a partner that could dance. . . perhaps I can show you one day.”


There’s a heaviness to Yoongi’s gaze, a heat that Jimin isn’t used to feeling on his skin. “I look forward to it, and I aspire to exceed your expectations one day.”


Jimin smiles, the music tempo changing as they switch their placement on the floor. “I understand that you arrived earlier. What are your thoughts on Dang-ui so far?”


“Too many people for my personal taste,” Yoongi releases his grip on Jimin’s waist to spin him around and then pull him close. It’s a miracle that neither of them trip. “But it’s a beautiful city. Almost everyone has been more than accommodating.”


Their chests brush from the close contact. “You’ll have to show me Ssalssalhan. I’ve heard not much is there, but your palace is gorgeous.”


“I would say not as gorgeous as you, but I think you might slap me for it.”


Jimin laughs out of surprise, amazement at the prince’s ability to flirt seamlessly. “You seem to at least be skilled in the art of flirting. I’d be extremely flattered if you weren’t my fiance.”


“Shouldn’t you be flattered because I’m your fiancé?”


“I never stated that I wasn’t flattered.”


The music ends. Yoongi’s entire arm is still wrapped around the dip of Jimin’s waist, pressing their fronts almost flush together. But Jimin keeps his palms both braced on Yoongi’s shoulders, chest rising and falling quicker than it should be. He can’t help that his eyes fall to the carved pendant at the base of Yoongi’s throat.


“My eyes are up here,” Yoongi says in that teasing, slurred way of his, releasing his grasp on Jimin and stepping back to put a little space between their bodies. He does reach up to clasp one of Jimin’s hands in his own, keeping them somewhat linked.


Jimin looks up, staring into bright green irises. “Yes, they are,” he mumbles, thumbing over the fabric of Yoongi’s robes. ”As are mine.”


The crowd disperses around them as the band picks back up with a little intermission piece that’s unsuitable for dancing. Yoongi’s gaze doesn’t waver as he brings the back of Jimin’s hand to his lips, pressing his mouth lightly against the skin. “I’ll let you go. You look like you could use some fresh air and some wine.”


“Thank you,” Jimin smiles, gently taking his hand away from Yoongi’s lips. “I will have the last dance with you before you retreat to your chambers.”


With that, they separate. Jimin twirls the dragon scale around his fingers and casts one glance behind him, watching Yoongi veer off in the direction of his father. That was quite unexpected, their dance, but Jimin is exhilarated, maybe even breathless. It’s been too long since he’s last been allowed to banter with someone like Yoongi, although the flirting is nothing but familiar to him. Yoongi is brave with it, Jimin must admit, and his confidence is admirable.


On his way to greet his parents, Jimin takes a glass of wine from a passing server, sipping it, knowing full well that he will feel better with wine in his belly. His mother and father sit in their thrones, receiving guests and their congratulations, and the queen’s eyes light up when Jimin approaches.


“The two of you look good together,” she’s quiet enough that only Jimin and Jinyoung can hear her. “What do you think of him?”


“I’m glad that you think that,” Jimin mumbles over the rim of his wine glass, turning around and sitting in his own throne. He can rest after such a long dance and talk to guests while he sits. “He’s. . . interesting. Of course, I expected him to be confident in his position, and he is. He’s also very confident in his flirting, which, I have to say, leaves me flattered. Prince Yoongi has a way with words.”


Sooyoung has a knowing smile that plays out over her full lips. “Does he now? Are there already sparks flying between you two?”


“Oh, I wouldn’t go that far, mother.” He sips at his wine. “He is a gentleman, but I wonder if there is a second motive behind his flirting.”


“Don’t go creating trouble where there isn’t any,” Sooyoung warns, knowing her son better than anyone else in this room.


Jimin crosses one leg over the other. “It was merely observation,” he hums quietly, setting the glass of wine down on the gilded arm rest. “What do you think of him, mother?”


“I think the prince has grown up well. He’s been nothing but polite to the servants. Nowhere near as demanding as some of the human nobles we’ve housed in the past. I think he will make a good husband, and an even better ruler.”


“I always heard that dragons were arrogant, not to forget stubborn. Though, he is the only dragon I have ever met. Have you met any dragons before?”


A few,” his mother says cryptically, lips pink around the rim of her own glass as she takes another sip. “Yoongi’s father, Jiho, is the only one I’ve ever had any real contact with over the last few decades. But I’ve met a few dragons from the East before as well. This was, oh, I think I was still pregnant with you the last time any other dragons visited Ssalssalhan.”


“I’m sure I will become familiar with more because of our marriage.”


After that, their conversation lulls. Jimin sits comfortably on his throne, fingers tracing over the family crest. A swan sits among a wreath of pine and winterberries, waves carved out of the bottom of the swan so it appears to be both floating on the water and a part of the water itself. Jimin remembers a conversation he shared with his mother about their family crest, and why a swan was chosen above all other animals in their kingdom.


“What about a wolf?” he had asked, chubby fingers skimming the outline of the swan on his throne. “Or a bear? They’re scary, momma, but they’re powerful. A swan isn’t powerful because it’s a bird. Birds like swans can’t be powerful, momma.”


“Well,” the queen started, running her hand through his hair, “I like to think of it as a display of how peaceful and beautiful Dang-ui is. Even in the day of our ancestors, we did not have to fight to claim our home. Everyone around us fell in battle while our ancestors built our home and provided a safe place for all in the North. My grandmother told me stories about our founder, the very first Park, who arrived in a boat pulled by swans. He lead the people here and helped them start a new life as their generous king.”


Jimin looked up into his mother’s eyes, round lips pursed. “We have a swan because of him?”


“Yes, you could say that.”


His mother gently took his hand in her own, leading him down the throne steps. He clung to her dress as she walked across the throne hall to a set of windows, where she stopped. Jimin had to stand on the tips of his toes to peer out, and even then, all he saw was the water and the first snowfall.


“Look below, sweet prince. Can you see?”


Jimin pressed his hands to the cool glass. He leaned in, bright eyes searching and finding the pond in the garden. He could see birds, large white birds, floating on the water together. Their long necks curved elegantly, feathers fluffed and touching each other. In front, tiny gray specks floated, and Jimin counted four.


“Swans are loyal birds. They mate for life, Jimin, and never leave each other’s side. See how close they are? They love their babies, as much as your father and I love you. Like us, they protect their babies fiercely, and love each other until the end. When someone wants to hurt them, they fight back to keep their mate and their babies safe. Family means so much to swans, and it means so much to us, as well. Never underestimate a swan, sweet prince. Their loyalty is everything.”


Jimin finishes his glass of wine, focusing his attention back on their guests.





As the moon rises and the tide settles, guests approach the Park family to give their respects before they depart. Only the Mins are permitted to spend a night in the castle, providing for a brief, but impactful night. Come tomorrow, ravens and owls will start to arrive with letters of congratulations or letters of slander. Most of their guests will send word to others as soon as they step outside this hall.


Jimin has had one more glass of wine in that time and reminds himself to not have more. A pleasant warmth is already spreading throughout his body, and he knows that another glass will lead him to do something a prince should not do in the presence of so many. So he sits, saying his goodbyes to those that approach, eyes flitting over those still left.


A slight boredom has overcome him in his wait. While he has been seated, his eyes have rarely caught sight of his betrothed in the crowd. A glimpse here and there of dark green robes, but not much else. So when his eyes spot the dragon prince slowly ascending the stairs to his throne, he straightens in interest, both arms placed in his lap.


“Did you not feel like mingling with your guests?” Yoongi says in that sly, cheeky way of his, extending out his left hand with his palm up.


“I have nothing to say to most of them,” Jimin replies, reaching to take hold of Yoongi’s hand and stand from his throne. Again, his hand is frigid. “They all speak in formalities, through veiled words. Their purpose here is to spread word of our engagement.”


The dragon prince snorts in what Jimin guesses is amusement, guiding them both back out onto the mostly empty dance floor. “If you think this is bad, just wait until you’re announced in the court at Hwajae.” His hand easily finds the curve of Jimin’s waist. Practiced, like they’ve done this a hundred times already. “Dragons are infinitely more deceptive. We’ve had centuries to perfect it.”


“I believe it,” Jimin hums, one hand curling around Yoongi’s shoulder, their free hands entwined. “Hwajae. . . is that where our marriage will be held?”


Yoongi hums in acknowledgement, slowly guiding them in a slow, easy dance. “You’ve never been to the East have you?”


“No, I have not.”


“You’ll probably wither in the heat,” Yoongi says, a sharp twinkle of amusement in his dark eyes. “Since your body is only used to the cold of the mountains.”


Jimin scoffs. “And you wouldn’t?”


The way Yoongi tilts his head, slitted pupils narrowing, reminds Jimin of a predator. Like he can see right through him.


“Humans are more delicate ,” he says after a long moment. “Your bodies don’t adapt to the change in temperature as well as a dragon’s. The air here is mild. In Hwajae, the heat can feel smothering, especially in the throes of the summer season.”


All Jimin does is hum softly as Yoongi twirls him, grip on his waist tightening ever so slightly. “I can be full of surprises, Prince Yoongi. You may be surprised to find I am not as delicate as you may think, even in a land that is not my own.”


The music winds down to an end, and Jimin finds that when he looks around, they’re the last two on the dancefloor. Most of the guests have retired for the evening, but those that still linger in the edges of the ballroom have eyes fixed on them both. The only way to describe the look on Yoongi’s face now is a smirk, like he’s knows very well the pair of them are the center of attention.


He unclasps their hands, still holding Jimin in place with a wide palm splayed over the curve of his hip. Jimin doesn’t dare look away, chin up as he resists the urge to shudder while Yoongi’s free hand trails up the exposed skin of his arm, settling intimately around the base of his neck. The pad of the dragon prince’s thumb presses softly against his jawline.


“A pleasant surprise then,” Yoongi says, leaning forward until Jimin can feel the puff of warm breath against his lips. Jimin holds tighter to Yoongi’s shoulder, lashes fluttering. The way his eyes begin to shut is almost automatic, a motion he has repeated quite too often, the warmth from the wine spreading to his head—


When nothing happens, Jimin blinks his eyes open and finds that Yoongi’s attention is somewhere over his shoulder and the expression on his face seems amused more than anything.

“Goodnight, Prince Jimin,” he says, pulling back quick enough that Jimin feels chilled. “I wouldn’t want to make enemies with the captain of the king’s guard my first evening here.”


Confusion echoes in Jimin’s eyes as he turns his head, gaze landing upon Namjoon. The captain has stood quiet for the entire night, hands clasped behind his back. His eyes are narrowed at Yoongi but they soften when Jimin stares at him. Namjoon is slow to avert his gaze, walking up to his mother and father to instead whisper something to them.


Jimin twists around to face Yoongi once more but the prince is already steps away, sending a smile over his shoulder that has Jimin swallowing thickly. “Goodnight,” he mumbles, and surely the dragon prince hears him, but he shoulders his way past the crowd gathered and disappears.


A tingling sensation courses through Jimin’s body. The tops of his cheeks are flushed and he clears his throat.


What am I doing?


The sound of footsteps behind him draws him from his thoughts. He turns, hands clasped tight in front of him, staring up at Namjoon. The captain has his hands at his sides, one brushing over the sword against his hip.


“It is late, my prince. Shall I return you to your chambers?”


“Oh, yes. I suppose it is late,” Jimin’s voice ends on a soft note, but he offers Namjoon a smile as the captain offers his arm out for Jimin to hold. He loops his arm gently around Namjoon’s as the man carefully walks him out of the throne hall, away from curious eyes. Their walk is quiet, the slightest hint of tension in the air. It radiates mostly from Namjoon, strong and stoic, yet somehow affected by the actions of the dragon prince.


As they ascend the stairs to Jimin’s chambers, the prince decides to start a conversation.


“Is everything alright, Namjoon-ah?”


“Of course,” Namjoon speaks a little too quickly. “I think the evening went— well. Don’t you?”


“It went. . . better than expected. What do you think of Prince Yoongi?” He values Namjoon’s opinion on things, and has for almost as long as he’s known Namjoon, even before he was captain of the entire guard.

“He was very— very forward.”


Jimin’s eyes flit to Namjoon for a change in facial expression. His jaw is clenched slightly. “He is,” he agrees. “Though our goodnight was cut short. . . you almost scared him off.”


“He was making a scene,” Namjoon grumbles out, pausing at the doorway to Jimin’s chambers so that he can press it open with his free hand.


The prince laughs under his breath. “That entire celebration was a scene. So flamboyant.”


He walks to his bed, where clothes are laid out for him to sleep in. Namjoon stands by the door, hand holding it open, watching Jimin walk to the armoire to remove his makeup and earrings.


“You have my permission to leave, Namjoon-ah. Get some rest, yes? Tomorrow morning will be eventful.”


It seems like Namjoon doesn’t want to leave, not yet, not with the way he continues to linger. His fingertips trace the design on his sword’s hilt. “Should I send Hani up to help you undress for the evening?”


Jimin sets his earrings down on the table, shaking his head. “No need. Please send someone in the morning to take my gown, however. I can undress on my own.”


“As you wish,” Namjoon punctuates the end of his statement with a bob of his head. “Sleep well, Jimin-ah,” he adds on quietly.


“You as well.”


Namjoon shuts his door gently, silence taking over Jimin’s chambers. He continues his nighttime routine, removing his makeup and undressing, setting the gown aside for it to be taken by a maid tomorrow. As he redresses in a robe, he catches his reflection in the mirror.


Jimin twists his body and stares at his shoulder through his reflection. There is a spot of white behind his left shoulder, branching out in resemblance of a snowflake. The mark is well hidden, in a place where many would hardly notice. It is almost as white as the scale against his bare chest.


Both arrived at the same time. They are the two objects that make him so special, so different from other princes. He’s unique.


He redresses and slowly crawls under the thick blankets on his bed, fingers twisting the scale around his neck, eyes staring at the ceiling. As much as he would like to think about tonight, about Min Yoongi and the events that occurred, sleep calls for him. There will be more nights to think about the dragon prince.


The sound of the waves lapping against the beach lulls him to sleep.





Jimin only has to step out of his room in the morning for the maids to surround him with questions to ask.


He’s followed down the stairs by a group of maids, including Hani, who is adjusting his outfit that she specifically picked out for him. The shirt is cut low, opens similarly to a robe with a long ribbon in the back, dark slacks somewhat tight on his legs. She ties the silk ribbon as they walk, grinning alongside the other maids.


“I changed the linens this morning. Did you know that there is another boy with the dragon prince?”


“I heard rumors that you and the dragon prince were very close last night.”


“Is is true that you gifted a betrothal necklace?”


It is a task for Jimin to answer their questions, laughing about their excitement. From the moment he woke up, Hani was talking quickly, telling Jimin about the gossip floating between the maids and other staff. Some had even heard about the end of the night before Namjoon guided Jimin to his chambers. If word can spread this quick in the castle, surely it can in the rest of the kingdoms.


“He has to attend breakfast, ladies, so please, excuse us,” Hani dismisses the group, who giggle and sigh in disappointment, most of them hoping to catch a glimpse of the dragon prince. The maids have painted Yoongi in different pictures according to their own imaginations and Jimin can only smile and laugh with them. This is perhaps one of the more exciting stories the maids have heard in this castle.


Hani fixes Jimin’s hair in the entryway to the dining hall. “You have to look presentable, even at breakfast,” she muses, and Jimin attempts to duck away from her. “The maids are so excited. They’re eager to see him.”


“He isn’t anything too special, Hani,” Jimin tries to assure her, but she scoffs and rolls her eyes.


“Special enough for you to almost kiss last night.”


Jimin examines her with surprise, but he can’t lie to Hani. It would be far from the truth, wouldn’t it?


“Who did you hear that from?”


“. . . Namjoon-ah.”


Hani pushes open the doors to the dining hall then, and Jimin has to revert his expression to a more neutral one as he steps inside. His eyes find his mother and father seated together with the dragon prince on the other end, slitted pupils regarding him with interest. His father sits beside him, but Jimin’s brows crease at the sight of a stranger seated on the other side of Yoongi, one he does not recall seeing last night.


The boy is young. His head turns in Jimin’s direction, his big round eyes a shocking blue, pupils glossed over in a haze. He sits straight, and Jimin is caught off-guard by the rich red of his robes, the intricate gold stitching weaved into the fabric.


Eastern robes.


“Good morning, Jimin,” his father calls from across the room, gesturing to one of the many open chairs between the Parks and the Mins.


“Good morning,” he replies, walking over to the table, regarding everyone seated, his eyes trained on the newcomer. Yoongi’s eyes watch him with every step. “Who is this new guest with us?”


The boy’s mouth opens, then closes. His head tilts in Yoongi’s direction, and it’s only then that Jimin can see that it looks like Yoongi’s hand is resting on his leg beneath the table. “I’m Jeongguk,” the boy finally says, dipping his chin closer to his chest in respect. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Your Highness.”


“Jeongguk is part of the Min’s entourage,” Jinyoung further explains.


Jimin hums low in his throat as he takes his seat at the table, a chair across from Yoongi and his father. “The pleasure is mine,” he nods his head as well, but Jeongguk doesn’t catch it, eyes trained somewhere beyond him. He doesn’t blink, either. Jimin squints his eyes slightly before he realizes it:


The boy is blind.


“Pardon me for asking,” Jimin clears his throat, “but why did you not attend last night? I hope you weren’t alone in your chambers.”


“Oh,” Jeongguk’s voice is soft, small. “I didn’t mean to offend. I was perfectly fine, Your Highness. I just thought, well, this is a new place and I didn’t want to be a bother to anyone.”


“No, you aren’t offending. I suppose it would have been boring. . .” he stops himself from saying anything else, in worry that he may offend Jeongguk instead. “Did both of you sleep well?”


There’s a bit of pink on the tops of Jeongguk’s cheeks but he nods, twisting his shoulders slightly in Yoongi’s direction.


“We all did,” Yoongi says smoothly, shifting back against his seat so that his posture is more slouched. Hani would pitch a fit. “And you, Prince Jimin?”


“I did. Elder Jiho, was the celebration to your liking? I hope it was suitable.”


“More than suitable,” Jiho smiles warmly. Jimin wonders if Yoongi’s smile is the same. There’s so many striking familial resemblance between the two dragons. “We’ve felt nothing but welcomed since we arrived.”


At that moment, the servers come in with breakfast. Rolls of bread, sliced meat, and an assortment of fruits are laid on the table in a decorative sprawl. Once everything is set, they retreat into the kitchens, leaving the royal families to eat in peace together.


Jimin reaches for one of the baskets of bread and places two rolls on his plate, before extending his arm to Yoongi and his father. “Bread, prince Yoongi, Elder Jiho?”


Everyone fills their plates, but Yoongi also helps Jeongguk. The two of them speak low, but by the shake and nod of Jeongguk’s head it’s clear that Yoongi is describing what dishes are in front of them. With a shake, Yoongi passes over it, and with a nod he adds a bit to the boy’s plate.


Jimin spreads winterberry jam over his roll, glancing over at Yoongi and Jeongguk. Yoongi is adding food to the boy’s plate, eager to assist. The bond they share is close, strong. “I can’t help but notice your robes, Jeongguk-ah,” he says, much in admiration. The rich red dye is only reserved for the noblest of people in the East, usually dragons in a high position. “Are they a gift from the East? Are you from there?”


Clearly taken aback by being addressed again, Jeongguk’s face tilts up. It’s still a little disconcerting he seems to be looking through Jimin and not actually at him. “These?” One of his hands comes up, fingers adorned with several slim gold bands. The one on his ring finger has a deep red gem set into its center. “They are, but I’m not. At least, I don’t think I am.”


“We found Jeongguk on the mountain side when he was just a babe,” Jiho explains between bites. “He’s been with us ever since.”


An orphan. How sad.


The people in the North are hardy people and if Jeongguk was born into this world blind, then it is an unfortunate reality of abandoning children like him in the wild. The terrain is dangerous and so are the winters. Even Jimin was lost in a snowstorm and he has his sight. Elder Jiho has a kind heart for raising a human in Ssalssalhan alongside his own son.


“I am sorry to hear that,” Jimin voices his sympathy. “Your robes are beautiful. Some of the prettiest I have ever laid my eyes on. Whoever gifted those robes must really care about you, Jeongguk.”


“Don’t be sorry,” Jeongguk says brightly, smiling in a way that shows off his front teeth. “I don’t remember any of it. And thank you. I’m sure you can find some like them when we go to Hwajae!”


Jimin catches the curious look from his parents and he sets down his silverware to continue the conversation. “I am curious about Hwajae, given that I was told last night about it. Will our wedding be held there? Is there a plan set in place?”


“You’ll have to be presented in court first,” Yoongi explains. “And we’ll have to meet with the rest of the Elders as well. Everyone will want to see you, to see us. Hwajae is the best place to do that. It’s the hub of the continent. Lots of trade. People from all over go there to seek their fortunes.”


“Seems like the best course of action,” Jinyoung meets his son’s eyes to show his approval. “One day Yoongi will have a seat on the Council of Elders. It’s important the two of you get to see and experience what that’s like, to learn the dragon court intimately. Especially for you, Jimin. You’re an outsider, a human.”


Jimin is not keen of the word outsider, but his father is right; if he is to marry one of the future dragon Elders, he has to somehow integrate into their traditions. “When will we leave for Hwajae to begin preparations?”


Jiho speaks again. “There’s a meeting of the Elders soon. It would be the perfect opportunity. So if we could leave in a few days time. . .?”


He did not expect to be leaving so early, but what is there for Jimin to do in the North until their ceremony? It will be a long process to begin preparations and to also convince the Elders that their marriage will be beneficial to the dragons.


“That would be perfect. The sooner we arrive, the better it will be for me to experience the Council. Mother, father, is that alright?”


Jimin shifts his gaze over to his parents, who look at each other for approval before they nod their heads in agreeance.


“Perhaps I can bring Namjoon-ah with? Of course, he will be absent for some time, but we know no one intimately in the East. It may bring me comfort if he comes, an added measure of security if there are people who oppose our marriage.”


“I agree,” Sooyoung voices, dabbing at her mouth with the edge of a napkin. “It would make me feel better with my son halfway across the continent.”


“I can tell him when I see him next.”


The discussion quiets down as they eat their breakfast. Small talk happens, and Jimin glances up at Yoongi from time to time or catches the dragon staring at him from across the table, causing a shiver to run down Jimin’s spine as he eats. They don’t say much to each other, hardly anything, but if they are going to live in Hwajae together for some time, there will be enough opportunities for them to talk.


The maids clean up the plates and excess food for the families, and Jimin stands from his chair once the table has been cleared.


“I should show you around our castle. Jeongguk-ah, prince Yoongi, would you like to walk around for a short while?”


While the parents make small talk at the head of the table, Yoongi helps Jeongguk stand, keeping a hand at the boy’s elbow as he sways a bit uncertain in place. “I can just return to our quarters,” Jeongguk says, eyes cast down a bit. “I don’t want to get in the way.”


“No, Jeongguk, you shouldn’t be left out.” Jimin smiles, although Jeongguk can’t see it. Maybe he hears it in Jimin’s voice. “I would love to have you accompany us.”


“It’d be rude to say no,” Yoongi says. His tone is gruff, but teasing, and it makes Jeongguk smile again in a way that has his nose scrunched up. “It’s not every day the Crown Prince of Aiseu wants to give a personal tour, hm?”


“Alright, alright,” Jeongguk swats at the sleeve of Yoongi’s robes. “I accept.”


“Good. You’ll find something to enjoy, I promise.”


Chapter Text


The sun shines brighter in the East, bathing rooms in a shower of golden light. Even in the morning it peeks through the darkest of curtains, illuminating the room. It sneaks past the thick fabric of the prince’s chambers and columns of light span the length of the floor up to the large bed in the center of the room, raised on a platform with thin drapes of all colors hanging from the ceiling. Unlit lanterns dot the drapery, but the faintest scent of the natural oils still linger in the bedroom. The sheets and pillows are mostly piled around the platform of the bed with the exception of a few, which cover the numerous bodies sprawled together on the mattress in slumber.


A tentative knock at the door doesn’t wake them. A louder knock a minute later, however, does, and a head of blonde hair appears from underneath the sheets.


“Taehyung, there’s a letter for you.”


“. . . Shit,” the prince mutters, eyes squinting, headache forming behind his eyes. He pries himself away from the chest one of the naked girls curled up next to him, long black hair cascading down her shoulders when she sits up as well. The other two in the bed shift and begin to awaken when the knocking grows steadily louder. The dragon prince sits up in the crimson sheets and presses his fingers to the area between his brows.


“Come in already!”


Taehyung grits his teeth when the heavy gilded door opens. His closest friend and advisor, Hoseok, slips inside. His orange hair catches the light of the sun as does his caramel skin, amber eyes gleaming in the sunshine. They widen upon the sight on the bed.


“I don’t even know why I’m surprised any more.” Between Hoseok’s fingers is a folded up piece of parchment. The Min seal embossed on its front in hardened, silvery wax. “All of you, out!”


Taehyung watches with dismay as the girls scramble out of bed, groggy from their night with the prince. They hastily grab their clothing from the floor and carry it in their arms as they scurry out, Hoseok sternly watching them leave out the door he had come in from. The door shuts behind the last one and Taehyung sighs.


“Why do you have to ruin my fun, Hoseok?” he grumbles, shoving aside the sheets and standing from the bed. Clearly, he isn’t shameful, exposing himself in front of the redhead as he retrieves a robe. Dark bruises stand out against his honeyed skin, hardly covered by the thin robe he slides over his shoulders. When decent, he turns to the other.


“You could have joined, dear,” Taehyung hums with a smirk on his lips. He takes the letter from Hoseok, pressing his fingers to the wax seal. It begins to warm under his touch until the edges become soft, and he then pries open the letter to examine it. “It’s been too long since I’ve had your company in my bed.”


Hoseok huffs quietly, folding his arms in front of his chest, making the gold bracelets around his wrists clink together musically. His own gauzy robe appears spun from gold threads, cinched in the front around his waist, but the edges gape open to reveal more skin than it covers. “Just tell me what Yoongi said.”


Clearly, Hoseok should have joined. Perhaps he’d be in a better mood this morning.


Taehyung’s eyes scan the letter. It’s written in his cousin’s horrible scrawl, hard to read, and it takes a master to comprehend it. “Ah, he met his betrothed finally, the little swan from the North,” he chuckles, eyes widening when he reaches the end of the letter. “Apparently my big cousin will be here in days time with the prince. Formalities, of course, but they will stay here until the wedding.”


With a snap of his fingers, the letter bursts into a flame, crisping and curling at the edges. It disintegrates quickly and Taehyung blows at the ashes. “That also means my Jeongguk will be staying here until then. I get to meet the little swan and entertain my dearest? How lucky I must be.”


As Taehyung speaks, Hoseok moves to the windows, throwing open the draping fabric so that the sun pours into the space. “ Your Jeongguk?” he laughs. “You know, Taehyungie, you talk this big talk until that little human gets here and then you trip all over yourself like a bumbling fool.”


“You know nothing,” Taehyung huffs, gliding over to his wardrobe for suitable clothing for the day. He has to tell his father that Yoongi will be arriving and wedding preparations will finally be put into motion. “I love him. If I am a fool, so be it, I guarantee you and Yoongi were bumbling fools when you first met.”


With the windows open and a gentle sea breeze blowing through, Hoseok dusts the palms of his hands off. “That was a long time ago,” he muses, eying a lacey bit of clothing peeking from the edge of bed. His nose wrinkles. “Clean this place up. It reeks of you and your debauchery.”


“Who are you, my mother?” Taehyung scoffs as he slips out of his robe, walking to the adjacent bathing room. “You can come and join if you’d like, cleanse yourself of all that tension in your  body. Or are you too busy?”


“Not until you change these damn sheets.”


“You know where to find me if you change your mind. Run along, then. You can find me in the court with my father soon, and my room will be clean to your liking.”


In a swirl of golden, gossamer fabric, Hoseok makes his way to the door. But he lingers, fingers curled around the edge. “Keep this quiet for now. It’s just— my mother. You know how she gets. I’d rather not give her a chance to stew on it before Yoongi and his little swan arrive, yes?”


Taehyung nods. “I will tell my father in private first. You have my word.”


Hoseok’s lips twitch in a smile, if only for a brief second, before he closes the door behind him. For now, Taehyung will take a long, relaxing bath and cleanse himself of the previous night.





After slipping into a loose, low top and flowing pants, Taehyung fixes his jewelry and exits his chambers. He steps out on the polished blue floors, high, looping archways climbing to the mosaic ceiling above. The sun filters in through the open windows lining the hall as he walks in the direction of his father.


In order to reach the area of the council, he has to step outside and travel from one building to the next, passing over one of the courtyards down below. His quarters open up to an opening where a walkway extends over the courtyard, warmth seeping into his skin once he is outside. The spiraling towers of the castle extend toward the cloudless sky, birds swooping down from their nests. A calm sea breeze ruffles the prince’s hair.


Down below lies the fountains and gardens centered around a mosaic design in the open courtyard. The fountain is placed in the center, where clementine and grapefruit trees line up symmetrically to the fountain on either side, from which maids harvest the succulent fruit for consumption. In all directions the water from the fountain spills over into crevices that outline the mosaic and run back into the castle where they will meet at one of the baths in the palace.


The building that houses the council members is certainly as elegant as the royal family’s wing, but there is more activity. As soon as he enters and continues to walk straight, he comes upon a large circle on the upper floor that leads into the council room below. People rest against the balcony and gaze down at the dragon Elders. One is missing, of course; Min Jiho, the Northern Elder, whisked away to engage his son to the swan prince with the Park namesake.


The gilded dome ceiling depicts images of the great dragons of their time, including the original Elders and the humans they coordinated a truce with. Of course, parts of that truce have crumbled throughout history, and even today, tensions loom between the two groups. Hence why the marriage of Yoongi and the Park prince is so important.


Taehyung descends the staircase to the left and it spirals around to the main floor just shy of the circular council room. The guards bow in respect to the prince and allow him to pass. Inside, the Elders are seated at a rather large round table, the seat on the far right empty. His father, Kim Dongmin is seated in the center of the table. Hoseok’s mother, Jung Hana, is seated on his left, and the Elder from the West, Kim Seokjin, on his right. Their voices are steady, not a whisper, but Taehyung’s father looks up when the blonde approaches.


“Prince Taehyung,” Hana states, her long brown hair twisted against her shoulder. Elder Hana is as pretty as she is frightening. She and Hoseok share the same striking amber eyes, the same gleam to their skin. Her nails tap against the scratched wood of their meeting table, long and black, like claws. “A surprise to see you here.”


Under normal circumstances, Taehyung wouldn’t be caught dead this close to the Elder’s table, but this morning’s letter didn’t leave him any other choice.


“I would like to speak to my father, Elder Hana,” Taehyung wants to finish this quickly so neither Hana nor Seokjin will become suspicious. “Father, care to converse with me outside? It will only take a moment.”


His father stands from his chair and regards Taehyung with stern eyes. They look almost nothing alike. Everyone always says that Taehyung looks like his mother: the same lithe build, gleam of blonde hair, the same slightly upturned nose. Dongmin is taller, broader, arms thick and corded with muscle, a man who commands attention.


“Please continue without me. I will return shortly.”


Hana’s eyes narrow slightly, but with a shrug of one shoulder, she shows her indifference to the situation. One of her attendants shuffles forward, bowing forward at the waist to whisper in the Elder’s ear.


Seokjin doesn’t speak. His chin is propped up in one hand, elbow resting on the table. Taehyung feels his gaze track his movements as Dongmin guides them both outside, walking to a more private area away from prying eyes and ears. They choose a spot in one of the corridors, a space where only maids and servants pass by.


“What is it, Taehyung?” Dongmin asks, running one hand through his hair; more white now then black.


“I received a letter from Yoongi. He’ll be arriving in Hwajae in just a few days if the journey goes well. With his betrothed.” Taehyung watches as his father regards him with interest now. “It might be best if their arrival is. . . a surprise.”


His father nods slowly, the information settling in. “The servants can be discreet in making preparations, I hope before Hana realizes. The last thing we need is her hostility.”


It’s well known in court that Jung Hana has no love for humans. The subject of Yoongi’s betrothal is already a sore one, especially since Hana once had hopes that her own son would be the one to permanently share his bed and heart. There’s a reason the Mins haven’t made an effort to attend court in Hwajae as frequently as they should.


“I’m sure Jiho will have plans for the ceremony,” Dongmin continues. A little furrow appears between his brows, which means that his mind is already ten steps ahead. “They’re brave, bringing that boy here so quickly. Did Yoongi say how many people to expect? I assume they’re arriving with an entourage.”


“Yoongi only said it would be him, the prince, Jeongguk, and the prince’s bodyguard. I assume he will have his own guards present for the arrival.”


“Jeongguk? Oh, yes, right. The human boy. It’s good that Yoongi’s bringing him. Perhaps the human prince won’t be quite so overwhelmed if one of his own kin is with him.”


Taehyung hums. “That boy must be brave himself for agreeing to such terms immediately after meeting Yoongi. I’m quite interested to meet him.”


“I am as well. And I’m sure everyone else will be as soon as the news reaches court,” Dongmin chuckles a bit. Nothing ever stays secret for very long in Hwajae. Taehyung’s mother always liked to joke the very walls had ears. “Make sure they feel at home, Taehyung-ah. You’re good at that.”


“Of course. They’ll be here for so long, and Yoongi will want me to keep my manners.” Taehyung laughs. “Is there anything else you needed, father? I should go start preparations.”


“Go, go,” Dongmin dismisses him with a wave of his hand. “I’ll be stuck at that table all afternoon at this rate.”


“Being an Elder is hard work,” Taehyung laughs as he is shooed away, leaving his father to his duties.





After preparations all day, Taehyung needs to unwind. He’s been bustling around the palace from morning to sunfall ensuring that all will be ready for his cousin’s arrival tomorrow or the day after. Until then, he plans on relaxing and enjoying himself before that comfort disappears.


One of his favorite places to socialize in the palace is their lounging hall. The hall can be considered unnecessarily large, somewhat bare, save for the mountains of plush cushions stacked in piles throughout the room. Long, cushioned chairs surround the fireplaces built into the white marbled walls, large intricate steel lanterns lighting up the room just for it to be dim, to create an ambiance of relaxation.


Thick woven rugs sit under chairs and the large open windows blow the soft ocean breeze inside through the curtains. Where three sides are windows leading to a balcony, one side is taken over by an immense set of onyx-carved doors with gold trim that glitters in the firelight.


The alcohol is plentiful tonight, carried in by maids, who hastily deliver more and cast their eyes away from the sight on the main spread of pillows and cushions against the wall. Taehyung is in good company, sprawled across the cushions with his so-called harem, a group of the most beautiful men and women who call Hwajae home.


He has one wrapped around his side, long fingernails dipping underneath the thin robes to caress his chest, pleased with having Taehyung’s hand over her backside. Another rests his head in Taehyung’s lap. The dragon prince cards his fingers through his long black locks, switching between that and swallowing the dark wine in his cup.


“How long will we have to be away, prince Taehyung?” A pretty brunette asks, her chest bare as she cozies up to Taehyung’s other side, heavy gold necklaces swaying from her breasts. Taehyung hums in his throat.


“A few months, perhaps,” he speaks with a sigh, but not necessarily because he will miss this; Jeongguk will provide more happiness than his harem ever could.


“And we won’t be allowed in your chambers?” The one with the long nails pouts, tracing over a faint scar on Taehyung’s chest. Disappointment is laced in her words.


“My, you’re so lewd,” Taehyung slides his hand from her body to tip her chin up with a sly smile. “I am sure someone will fuck you the way you like it, my lovely. I have important matters to attend to.” He swipes over her round lips before pulling away.


“It will be an agonizing wait, my prince.”


“Mm, perhaps.”


He reaches across to sip at his wine, resting his head against the back of the cushions, humming against the gold rim as another plays with his hair. Taehyung holds his glass in his hand and his eyes flicker up when he hears the heavy doors creak open, cutting through the quiet in the room.


Taehyung only smiles lazily as the youngest Elder, Kim Seokjin, steps into the room with his green robes trailing behind him. The aura he radiates is of immense power; power that the Elder has somehow learned to control and then manipulate it. He's rather gorgeous, tall and broad with brown hair and a focused expression, poised and dignified.


“Elder Seokjin,” he croons, keeping his smile even as Seokjin frowns. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”


“I thought we might have a word,” Seokjin says, the slitted pupils in his light grey eyes contracting and then expanding as they adjust to the light. “I didn’t realize you were. . . indisposed.”


“Mm, I'm just enjoying myself.” Taehyung sits up, waving away those around him so he can stand. His robes hang off his shoulders and reveal his shimmering, oiled skin. “Excuse me, lovelies.”


Seokjin is already walking away towards the balcony. Taehyung follows after him, ducking past the fluttering white curtains and outside. The balcony overlooks the ocean just beyond under the cliff side, clouds hanging in the sky, shy of covering the moon.


“What is it?”


There’s no reply right away, not until Seokjin has braced his palms against the balcony railing. A breeze from the sea ruffles their hair. “You know,” Seokjin begins. He has a way of speaking that seems measured, pleasantly lilting with a hint of accent from the western province of Hwangya. “I might be the youngest Elder, but I’m far from stupid. I know there’s something going on that you don’t want Hana to know about. I saw her son heading towards your chambers with a letter this morning, a letter that bore the Min seal.”


Taehyung purses his lips and nods, leaning against the balcony next to Seokjin. “I was going to wait to tell you and Hana, announce it tomorrow or the day after. You’re too keen.” He sighs softly and gazes out over the water. “My cousin is coming here with the swan prince, the one he has been chosen to marry for quite some time now. He just celebrated twenty years the other night. They will remain here for the summer and beyond until their wedding. Hoseok told me he wished for me not to tell Hana as you know how she can be. We did not want her to know immediately, but I suppose you’re a special consideration.”


“I’d heard the rumors. It’s a bold move for Jiho, marrying his son to a human,” Seokjin muses. “And bringing them here? Surely, the human boy hasn’t been groomed for court life in Hwajae. The poor little northern swan will melt in the heat.”


At that, Taehyung laughs. “I am sure Yoongi has discussed that with him. He will have to present himself in our court, however, I believe he will do well. It is better for him to accustom to court life before the wedding.”


Seokjin turns, tall enough that he can peer down the edge of his own nose at Taehyung. “And what do you think? Do you and your father support their union?”


“We both support it. This may be the turning point in ending any feuds between us and the humans. That little swan is special, I already know.” Taehyung tears his eyes away from the ocean. “Do you support the idea, Seokjin?”


There’s a definite pause. Seokjin is the type of person to collect his thoughts before speaking; a behavior that’s been groomed into him from a young age no doubt. “I think that times are changing, that we shouldn’t limit ourselves to the old ways of thinking. I think that Jiho is wise to use a marriage to make his point. It’s quicker, more binding than being caught up in negotiations for years at a time.”


“I do hope the benefits outweigh the risks. Their union will be powerful, but if love comes out of it, then the message will be even stronger. I suppose we will have to wait until they arrive to see how they are around each other. I’ve heard rumors that the swan prince is beautiful.”


“Tch,” Seokjin scoffs. “You know better than to bring silly things like love into this. People like us marry for power, for alliances, not love.”


“Love is the ultimate power,” Taehyung says softly. “Why do you think the Parks have ruled their kingdom so well for generations?”


Seokjin’s head tilts. His earrings swing and catch the light. “And what do you know of love, Prince Taehyung?”


“. . . I know enough.”


The Elder huffs under his breath, an amused smile on his lips. “I see that,” he says with a pointed look back inside the lounge where the rest of Taehyung’s entourage waits.


Taehyung glances back and chuckles. “Oh, that’s not love. They’re only to keep me busy. I love someone else.”


They fall silent for a long moment. Taehyung doesn’t add on to the subject, and Seokjin asks no questions. The young Elder knows next to nothing of Taehyung’s adoration with Jeongguk, so he must think Taehyung is speaking nonsense. Both of them stand against the balcony watching the waves, wind ruffling their robes and hair. Only once the minutes have passed does Seokjin turn back to Taehyung.


“I won’t keep you anymore,” he says smoothly, “I’m sure you’re eager to get back to. . . what keeps you busy .”


The dragon prince scoffs. “Oh, you prude. Does sex not interest you, Seokjin? I’ve seen you flirt at feasts and gatherings. Do those men and women not end up in your chambers?”


Seokjin offers a small smile in response, delicately stepping past Taehyung so that only the sleeve of his robe flutters against him as he walks away. “Goodnight, Prince Taehyung.”


Taehyung chuckles knowingly, leaning against the balcony on one side. “Goodnight, then. Enjoy your evening.”


The Elder disappears back inside and Taehyung sighs, turning back to face the sea. He rests his head on his hands and stares out at the open waters, where the sailboats sit in the harbor, cloth sails swaying from the breeze. He thinks about what Seokjin said, what they had talked about, dwelling on his thoughts before he can pick up footsteps behind him, a gentle touch on his shoulder.


“Everything alright?” the pretty boy with the long black hair asks softly, eyes meeting Taehyung’s when he turns around.


“Yes, all is well,” Taehyung hums. He smiles, though it doesn’t quite reach his eyes, trailing his knuckles down the boy’s cheek. “Did I keep you waiting for too long?”


“The others were concerned.”


“Hm. Yes, well, I shouldn’t keep them much longer, should I? Let’s go inside, darling, and enjoy our last night together.”


Taehyung glances at the sea one last time before he disappears behind the curtains.





By week’s end, word has spread and preparations are being made for the departure to Samag, the Eastern province. A convoy of soldiers from Ssalssalhan arrive before the departure to assist with the journey, acting as guards for the two princes and guiding them on the path safely.


Although letters of congratulations have been flown in the duration of the week, a handful have been written with disdain. The contents only question the marriage and why the announcement is so sudden, while others call out the profound political message the engagement suggests. One letter in particular had been addressed to Jimin, claiming that if Jimin is so desperate to marry someone, then perhaps a hog would be a better choice over a filthy dragon.


Yoongi had promptly scorched the letter in his hands before any other person could read it.


Yoongi is. . . docile. A confident, self-assured aura surrounds him, and it’s evident in his flirting; but when his priority isn’t focused on staring at Jimin or engaging in short conversation, he’s rather gentle, especially with Jeongguk present. Jimin now understand their inseparable relationship, how Jeongguk appears to be the soothing element to the dragon prince’s temper. He’s the cause of the tender smile Yoongi displays during dinner or his attention to detail when he walks Jeongguk around the castle, arm firmly locked around the blind boy’s elbow.


Jimin never knew dragons could show so much emotion for one being.


He’s attracted to Yoongi, undoubtedly so. There’s an exotic beauty to him, be it his emerald green eyes or the contrast of raven hair against snow white skin. He speaks to Jimin with revere as if he’s more than just a spouse, truthful in his words. No man interested in Jimin has left so much of an impact on him in such short time.


Both are too busy with preparations to spend time together outside of meals, from Yoongi communicating with his guards to Jimin saying his temporary goodbyes and well wishes to those he cares about aside from his mother and father. He’s had to attend fittings for clothes suitable for the East, a request Elder Jiho himself had placed. The ceremony is still a season away, and Jimin will have to live in the hotter climate until then.


On the day they leave, anything carried with them is placed in chests that Yoongi’s men will carry to Samag, and then the capital, Hwajae. Men in their dragon form wait in the front courtyard alongside Namjoon’s soldiers who will wish their leader farewell for some time.


Jimin is dressed in a flowing shirt that wraps closed in the front and simple pants. The journey will take the better part of the day and by the time they arrive in Hwajae at the court, the evening with the royal family —the Kim’s, Yoongi’s cousins— will soon begin, leaving Jimin with enough time to settle in and dress himself for the occasion.


He walks with Namjoon outside to the entourage where he meets Yoongi, dressed in an outfit similar to Jimin’s, a rich patterned blue in color. The band of the choker stands out against his pale skin, the blue pendant between his collarbones. Jeongguk stands off to the side quietly humming to himself, his robes red and gold, no doubt also a present from the East. Namjoon promptly leaves Jimin to go have a last word with the king and queen.


“Good morning,” Jimin addresses, a chilled breeze passing between them that ruffles his hair. “How are you feeling?”


“Ready to get underway,” Yoongi admits, half of his attention on Jimin, the other half on where his father and Jimin’s parents stand off to the side. Namjoon is part of their little group, no doubt receiving last minute instructions from Sooyoung, who speaks animatedly, gesturing with her hands. “How did you sleep? The journey can be exhausting if you haven’t made it before.”


“I slept well.” He fiddles with the sleeves of his shirt. “I’ve never seen men in their dragon forms. Will you shift as well?”


Yoongi’s head tilts to the side. The pendant at his throat swings. “How else will you get to Hwajae if I don’t?”


Jimin blinks. “You. . . are carrying me?”


“Unless you want to ride another dragon.”


The prince opens his mouth to speak, before he promptly shuts his mouth again with a hum. The slightest warmth rises to his cheeks at the embarrassment. “No, of course not. I will ride with you.”


The expression on Yoongi’s face softens. “Good. I don’t know if I would trust anyone else with such precious cargo.”


If a pink hue had not spread itself across Jimin’s cheeks before, there is now. Makeup had been applied only sparingly, and Jimin attempts to hide himself by turning to the side. The dragon prince seems to smile at his shyness.


As if by luck, Namjoon approaches and extinguishes any strange feelings between Jimin and Yoongi. The prince looks up and brushes his hair away from his face, clearing his throat.


Namjoon’s eyes narrow in Yoongi’s direction but it is subtle enough that if Jimin had blinked, he would have missed it. But he turns to Jimin, hand over his scabbard.


“Everything is ready for you,” he states, gesturing to where everyone is lined up to say their farewells and depart. The queen and king are shuffling over as they speak, and Namjoon’s dark eyes flicker to the dragon. “Prince Yoongi, now is the time.”


Min Jiho waits just off to the side, gesturing with a flick of his head for Yoongi to give the Parks some privacy. Before Yoongi can excuse himself, Sooyoung clears her throat, small hands tucked into the openings of her sleeves.


“You take care of my son, Prince Yoongi,” she speaks firmly: her queen voice. Jimin can see the tightness around her eyes and mouth, her worry. Jinyoung clasps a hand comfortingly on his wife’s shoulder. “I don’t care if you are an Elder’s son. If one hair on his head is out of place the next time we meet—“


Mother,” Jimin whispers in exasperation, earrings swaying when he moves his head quickly. His mother sighs, pursing her lips together.


Her palms are cold when she closes the gap, cupping both of Jimin’s cheeks between them. “You are my only son,” she says, pressing a soft kiss to the space between his eyebrows. “Allow me my worry.”


Jimin’s hands grasp his mother’s, rubbing circles into her knuckles. “I don’t want you to always worry about me because I will be safe and you will see me untouched at our wedding.” He leans in to kiss her cheek gently. “But you know I can handle myself, mother. I don’t need another man to save me if trouble arises. A swan can be as independent as they are loyal once they leave the nest.”


Sooyoung’s mouth, full and pouty like Jimin’s, twists in on itself but she nods, ducking back into Jinyoung’s arm around her waist.


“He’s right,” Yoongi says, dipping his head respectfully in the king and queen’s direction. “In just a few day’s time even I can see you both have raised your son not to rely on the strength of others, but on his own. He doesn’t need me to take care of him, but you have my word that I’ll be by his side.”


“I will take your word, prince Yoongi,” Jinyoung bows his head, and Jimin reaches around to hug him with one arm. The king runs his fingers through Jimin’s hair and grins. “We’re proud of you, Jimin. Go show them who you are.”

Chapter Text

Jimin had heard tales of the dragon shifters, how their bones could snap and rearrange from human to dragon within seconds, but he had never seen one shift in person before.


He marvels at the dragons in the entourage. They are massive beasts and Jimin has to crane his neck to look up at the soldiers. He notices that the Northern dragons have a rather specific color pattern; many of them are on the spectrum of grey, which represents their ability to camouflage in the snow mountains of Ssalssalhan. Their wings glisten when the light hits them in an almost prismatic manner, just like snow fall in the sunlight.


His eyes fall upon Yoongi in front of him. Once he shifts, they have the signal to depart.


The prince stands in an open area quietly, shutting his eyes momentarily. There’s a hushed silence that falls across the courtyard. Jimin clasps his hands in front of him and contains his noise of surprise when Yoongi begins to grow, a flurry of ice swirling at his feet and columning up to almost shield his body in the shifting process. Within the cloud of ice, Jimin can see spines and scales, and if he had blinked within these seconds, he may have missed everything. It happens in a remarkable amount of time.


In Yoongi’s place stands a white dragon as bright as the snow. His wings extend up towards the sky, the spines on his neck and back bristling as if he’s stretching after a long period of time. Underneath the shadow of his scales, thick sinewy lines of muscle trace over his legs, the long whip of his tail curling around his feet. If it weren’t for those burning emerald green eyes, Jimin may not have recognized Yoongi standing in front of him.


He’s frighteningly beautiful as a man, but even more so as a dragon.


Yoongi ducks his head down low and ambles over in a scene Jimin finds vaguely. . . familiar. Yoongi’s emerald eyes keep Jimin rooted to his spot, trained on him, and Jimin exhales a puff of air when he reaches out to touch the dragon.


His hand strokes over the scales of Yoongi’s muzzle. They feel rough under his touch, and Yoongi lets out a rumble in his throat. He presses into Jimin’s hand as if to reassure him, the spines on his head and neck fluttering in a sign of trust, before Yoongi is pulling away and lowering his body to allow him on his back.


Jeongguk is the one who shakes Jimin out of his trance, bumping into his shoulder as he walks forward, grasping at Jimin’s arm to tug him along. Namjoon follows close behind, and when Jimin glances over at his knight, the man has his jaw squared, uncertainty veiled in his eyes.


“Prince Jimin, follow me. I know how to get up,” Jeongguk croons as he guides Jimin towards Yoongi’s side, the dragon’s wings curled against him to not impede their climb. Jimin questions how Jeongguk can possibly be his guide, but as they reach Yoongi’s shoulder, he understands. Jeongguk has ridden on Yoongi countless times and despite his loss of sight, he still has his sense of touch. The boy places his hand on Yoongi’s forearm and Yoongi rumbles once more, perhaps in some sort of confirmation that Jeongguk has started in the right area. Jimin watches as Jeongguk holds on to Yoongi’s shoulder and begins to climb, feeling his way around the scales until he is able to hop up on Yoongi’s long neck.


“Just climb and sit behind me. You won’t fall, I promise. Yoongi will make sure of that.”


Jimin casts a glance to Namjoon, who offers a tense smile. “I’ll be behind you, go ahead.”


With a deep breath, Jimin begins to climb. He can see that in some areas, the scales appear to be worn down, most likely from Jeongguk over the years. A dragon has a tough skin and Yoongi doesn’t seem to feel Jimin digging in as he climbs, scaling his shoulder and reaching out for Jeongguk’s offered hand. He sits behind, the scale around his neck swaying. Jimin’s brows furrow and he holds the scale in his palm, scrutinizing it, eyes flickering to the white scales he currently sits on.


This came from Yoongi’s own body, he thinks, turning the scale over. But from where


“Everything alright, prince?” Namjoon’s voice behind him draws him out of his thoughts and he releases the scale, letting it fall back around his neck.


“Of course, Namjoon-ah. Are you alright?”


“I. . . have been better.”


In that moment, the body beneath them shifts, and Jimin has to hold on to Jeongguk as Yoongi stands back on his feet. Namjoon’s hands tentatively circle Jimin’s waist.


“If you do not want me to touch you—”


“It may be best if you hold on to me. I can’t risk losing my favorite knight.”


Jimin can hear a soft chuckle above his head as Yoongi begins to walk. They can feel the shifting weight on each side, left then right, as Yoongi finds his position in the center of their group. Jiho, the dark grey dragon at the front, flaps his wings up and then down before he is lofted in the air, snow crystals blowing into the group as he ascends. Jimin can vaguely hear Jeongguk telling them both to hold on tight before the massive white wings on either side of them move, raising them off the ground.


As they take off, Jimin’s eyes look back at the courtyard. His mother and father are still standing together alongside the maids and soldiers, watching with somber expressions as their swan leaves the nest. Jimin continues to stare as they fly away from his castle, until it is nothing but a shape between the mountains and the sea. Only then does he turn around, wiping away the tears that had dared to spill down his cheeks. He does so quietly, but Jeongguk twists his head, cloudy eyes fixated on him.


“They will be at the wedding, yes?” Jeongguk asks, and Jimin nods, relieved that Jeongguk cannot see he had been crying.


“Yes, my mother and father will be there when the time comes.”


Jeongguk hums in acknowledgement. “I hope you enjoy Hwajae. It will be your second home.”


“I hope I enjoy it too, Jeongguk-ah.”


“I think you will.”


With that, they fall silent, listening to the wind whistle past them as they fly into the clouds.





The hours are slow to pass as they fly to Hwajae, but the landscape changes greatly once they leave the North. They pass over the flatlands where the nomadic tribes live, villages built up from the tall coniferous and deciduous tree forests that dot the land. Other tribes live in tents made of canvas and from the hides of their animals, and from above, Jimin can spot those nomads on horseback, riding between the valleys and hills in a group. Occasionally, the nomads will look up and stare at the dragon entourage in the sky and marvel at the humans riding on their backs.


As they fly further south, the climate is significantly warmer. The grassy flatlands become savannah and then canyons. The East is a rather desolate place; whereas Hwajae is the melting pot full of people, the sand dunes and canyons leading to the capital are nearly inhabitable, taken over by the wild creatures that dare to live in that climate.


The canyons stretch a far distance, said to be an ancient river that, along with the area now covered in sand, dried up due to a dragon’s fire breathing wrath thousands of years ago. Not much can be seen from above except for the brown-red canyons and the tan colored sand, the heat of the sun’s rays penetrating through the now cloudless sky. Jimin does feel the warmth, slightly uncomfortable, but the sun doesn’t shine often in the North and his skin is enjoying the exposure.


Their trip through the desert landscape takes well over an hour before Jimin can see the glisten of copper and gold roofs in the distance. The dark blue of the ocean stands out in stark contrast to the dull earthy tones of Samag, the capital city truly serving as a beacon for the rest of the province.


Jimin watches below as they fly over the shingled buildings of the common people, streets bustling with people in the market exchanging their produce for colorful rugs or shiny silverware. The people don’t bat an eye at the shadows of dragons overhead; after all, the humans that live here are accustomed to the sight of dragons.


The palace overlooks the ocean and Jimin is surprised by the immense size. He’s always thought of his castle to be large, but the royal palace is grandeur, and nearly dwarfs his own. Tall spires climb to the sky, the copper and gold roof catching the gleam of the sun and reflecting it into the sky. Lush gardens wrap around the exterior, as do fountains. Large birds circle the palace and fly out to sea, where the harbor is full of ships, of merchants unloading their cargo and setting sail for the rest of the world.


“Wow,” Namjoon breathes, fingers lacing back around Jimin’s waist as they begin their descent, aiming for a long, wide platform suitable for dragons to land.


“This is incredible,” Jimin murmurs. Down below, a large group of soldiers in golden armor stand in front of the entrance to the palace, where a thick patterned red carpet awaits them. He tightens his fingers around Jeongguk’s waist as they land one by one, jostling a bit when Yoongi flaps his wings and ducks down to let the trio off.


Jeongguk is first to move, twisting and sliding down Yoongi’s shoulder until he lands on the ground. Jimin tentatively follows suit, and then Namjoon, and they step away from the heart of the entourage to marvel at the palace in front of them.


From between the guards steps out a tall, slim blonde with tanned skin, shocking bright gold eyes focused on the entourage. Gold jewelry hangs from his wrists as well as his half-bare chest, his white pants wide with slits running down the sides to expose half of his legs. A crimson red sash hangs from his waist and connects to one of his shoulders, the sleeves of his shirt also revealing his arms.


It’s as if the sun has blessed him like a god, how his eyes shimmer like its rays, skin gleaming and sun-kissed. He’s unbelievably handsome, an aura of power radiating from his body. Jimin already knows this is the prince; no one else would exude so much power.


By his side stands a redhead with amber eyes. He’s dressed in similar robes, though not as revealing, only exposing a portion of his chest from which jewelry hangs. A similar aura comes from him, and Jimin realizes that he must also be the son of an Elder. Only he, Yoongi, and the blonde hold such a commanding presence.


His eyes are looking past Jimin and when he turns to find what the redhead is staring at, he only sees Yoongi, human once more. The dragon prince is also staring at the redhead without blinking, as if frozen, until the blonde claps his hands together and grins.


“My dear cousin, it’s been so long!” the blonde exclaims loudly, walking closer to the group. His eyes immediately land upon Jimin and he gasps audibly with a blinding smile. “Oh , oh you’re a gorgeous thing! The prettiest swan I have ever been blessed to lay my eyes upon. I see why my cousin adores you so.”


“Easy, Taehyung,” comes Yoongi’s gruff voice as he smoothly steps around Jimin’s side and positions himself in front so that he can wrap his arms around the blonde in a familiar embrace. “Try not to overwhelm him.”


“Relax, Yoongi, I’m sure you’ve already overwhelmed him,” Taehyung rolls his eyes but squeezes Yoongi before releasing him. He turns back to Jimin and he bows his head, and Jimin is respectful to do the same. “Ignore my cousin. My name is Taehyung, and I’m the son of Elder Dongmin. My father is Elder Jiho’s brother. What shall I call you, swan prince?”


“You may call me Jimin. It’s a pleasure to meet you, prince Taehyung.” Jimin remains polite and courteous, bowing his head once more, much to Taehyung’s amusement.


“Call me Tae if you’d like, I’m not much of a formalities person.” The dragon prince is still grinning, patting Yoongi on the shoulder. “You should learn from him, Yoongi. He has excellent manners.”


Yoongi makes a dismissive noise, and Jimin can see his eyes roll back. It’s a good natured sort of annoyance. “Good. Perhaps they’ll rub off on you then.”


Jiho finally makes his way up the trail of red carpet, the rest of his men in their humans forms now and in perfect formation at they reach the others. “Taehyung-ah,” Jiho’s voice sounds a lot like Yoongi’s, rough but warm. “It’s been too long, little nephew. Been keeping out of trouble?”


“I have done my best, uncle,” Taehyung laughs, to which Yoongi scoffs under his breath at. Even Jimin can spot the fading bruises smattered across his throat. The dragon prince says a few more words to Jiho before the Elder is motioning for his men to enter the palace, carrying the belongings of all who made the trip. Jimin watches them in formation but is startled out of his thoughts by Taehyung’s sudden shout.




Both Yoongi and Jimin turn around. Namjoon is walking with Jeongguk, their arms looped together, guiding him forward. The blind boy is smiling, and when Jimin watches Taehyung stroll over to greet him, he’s not sure he’s ever seen such joy in one’s eyes. As if Jeongguk is the only one in the world that mattered to Taehyung.


So that is who gifted Jeongguk those robes.


He’s wearing them now, the red and gold warming his complexion. He’d been wearing a heavier coat when they left Aiseu, but it’s folded over Namjoon’s other arm. Jeongguk visibly lights up as well, confident enough to let go of Namjoon’s elbow so that Taehyung can grasp at his hands.


“Hyung, you don’t need to shout,” he mumbles, shyer than Jimin has seen him act before.


“My apologies,” Taehyung speaks animatedly, raising Jeongguk’s hands so he can press a kiss to each, smiling ear to ear. “I’ve missed you.”


“I missed you too. Feel like it’s been forever since we were here last.” Clearly Jeongguk is more than comfortable with Taehyung, linking their arms together tight enough that he presses up against Taehyung’s side. “You’re well? How about Hoseokkie-hyung?”


“I feel better now that you are with me. As for Hoseok? Ah, he’s here,” Taehyung hums, leading Jeongguk over to where Yoongi and Jimin are still standing. Jimin’s eyes wander over to the redhead, who is now speaking with an older woman with long brown hair, her brows furrowed and her hands clasped in front of her tightly. She’s tense.


“Hoseok! Come here!”


Clearly there’s something that Jimin is missing out on, because as the redhead —Hoseok, he presumes— and the woman approach, Yoongi steps up to his side, an arm encircling his waist.


“Seok-ah,” he says, voice soft like it usually is when he talks to Jeongguk. “Elder Hana, I hope you’ve both been well.”


Jimin bows in respect to both. “A pleasure to meet both of you.”


There’s a somewhat distant look in Hoseok’s eyes, but his smile is nonetheless welcoming. He’s fighting to keep his eyes off of Yoongi. “And it is a pleasure to meet the prince who has captured Yoongi’s eye,” he laughs, and Jimin can feel Yoongi’s fingers tap against his waist. “Welcome to Hwajae. This is my mother, Hana. She is one of the Elders in the court.”


Conversely, Hana looks as unwelcoming as Jimin as ever seen. Even this close, she’s slightly taller than Jimin and Yoongi both, using that advantage to look down her nose. It’s the sort of look Jimin imagine someone would give the bottom of their shoe after stepping in something unsightly.


“Yoongi-ah,” her voice is raspy as well, borderlining a purr. Jimin files it away for later that she completely disregarded him and chose to address Yoongi instead. “My dear child, if you wanted a whore of your own, I’m sure Taehyung could have helped you with that.”




Yoongi grips impossibly tight to Jimin. Hoseok stares at his mother aghast, but Hana’s head is lifted, slitted eyes echoing triumph. Jimin can hear his heart beating in his throat with the reality of Hana’s words sinking in. He should be civil. With his hands clasped in front of him, he digs his nails into his palms, the smarting pain reminding him to watch his words.


After a deep breath, Jimin smiles politely with a twitch of his nose. “Thank you, Elder Hana,” he hums with a flip of his hair, earrings swaying with the movement. “It pleases me to know you find me as attractive as an expensive palace whore.”


From off to the side, Jeongguk makes a tiny hiccuping noise of distress; and on Jimin’s other side, Namjoon clears his throat. He steps forward, hand comfortably on the hilt of his sword.


Hana’s left eyebrow quirks up, like Jimin had just said something surprisingly amusing. Hoseok’s cheeks are flushed, eyes cast down somewhere in front of Jimin and Yoongi’s feet.


“Perhaps we should head inside,” Namjoon suggests, choosing to ignore the comments entirely. “It’s been a long journey. I’m sure Jeongguk and prince Jimin could use the rest.”


Taehyung interjects, the calm before the storm. If he had heard the previous conversation, he acts as if he missed every word. “I will help lead you to your rooms. Then you may rest until dinner, where we have prepared a feast for your arrival. Follow me.”


Yoongi keeps his arm around Jimin as they step around Hana and Hoseok. Even as they walk away, Jimin can feel the burning glare behind him, but he keeps his eyes focused forward as they slip past thick curtains and enter the hallway. Once inside, Jimin drops his arms at his sides, wincing at the twinge of pain in his palms. Taehyung has one arm looped around Jeongguk’s but his eyes are concerned as they focus on Jimin. Even Yoongi is staring.


“Are you alright?” Yoongi’s voice is low, concerned. “That was a foul first impression. I had no idea she’d lash out at you like that.”


“I’ve been called worse,” Jimin admits with a sigh. “That was not what I was expecting either, to be quite honest.”


Taehyung purses his lips. “I will have a talk with my father, as well as yours, Yoongi. Maybe they can calm her down. In the meantime, Yoongi, you and your little swan will be across the hall from one another, and I trust that you know the way. Jeongguk will stay with me and I will take. . .”


He pauses, not knowing Namjoon’s name. Namjoon still has his hand over the hilt of his sword protectively. “Namjoon. Are you sure about the room arrangements?”


“Yes, of course. It is for the best, anyways. You can follow me and you will see Yoongi and prince Jimin at dinner. Come along, I’m sure the prince will want to relax as soon as he is allowed.”


Namjoon is clearly hesitant to leave, but Jimin nods his head in approval and Namjoon trails after Taehyung and Jeongguk, leaving Yoongi and Jimin in the hallway. It’s only then that they realize their position, and Jimin shuffles away from Yoongi as his arm drops from around his waist.


“This isn’t how I pictured your arrival to Hwajae,” Yoongi says ruefully, signing under his breath as he motions for Jimin to follow him with a flick of his head. “Normally everyone is more subtle about voicing their opinions. Hana’s always been a spitfire and it’s no secret she has no love for humans.”


Jimin follows after him. “I did not expect an Elder to act in such a petulant way. Your father is. . . very different from her. Will I meet the other Elders tomorrow?”


“Tomorrow afternoon will be your official presenting in court, marked by a feast that will more than likely only be surpassed in pomp and circumstance by our own wedding. Everyone will want to meet you, see you, and we’ll publically announce our engagement as well.”


“Tomorrow is a busy day,” Jimin murmurs. While they will dine tonight, most likely it will be only with Taehyung and perhaps his father of Elder Jiho as well as the others. He’ll have to remember how he should carry himself tomorrow, what type of impression he wants to leave.


“Will I have to prepare myself for anything in particular?”


“Just be yourself,” Yoongi assures him, a little quirk to the left side of his mouth. “It’s been vastly entertaining thus far.”


“I’m glad I entertain you,” Jimin smiles. Their conversation lulls as they walk, passing tall, arching stone walkways and mosaic tiled floors, all an earthy tone as compared to the cool whites and greys found in Jimin’s castle. They pass open windows, bubbling fountains, and desert fauna, until they arrive in front of two heavy wooden doors in the wing of the prince’s chambers.


“My room is across from yours?” Jimin murmurs, glancing between the two doors, the only doors in this hallway. These rooms must be extravagant chambers for them to encompass the entire hall.


Yoongi hums in ascent, stepping towards the door on the left and pressing it open with one, wide palm. “This is yours. Your belongings should be inside. Let me know if something is missing or if you want for anything.”


Jimin replaces Yoongi’s hand on the door as he steps halfway inside, looking back over his shoulder. “Shall we arrive at dinner together? Or shall I wait for Namjoon-ah?”


“Dinner should be informal, at least for tonight. Either your knight or I can escort you. Whatever my betrothed wishes.”


“Then Namjoon will escort me, and you can find Jeongguk if prince Taehyung does not get to him first. I will see you at dinner, then, prince Yoongi.”


Yoongi offers a quirk of his lips as Jimin shuts the door, enjoying the silence that greets him upon entry.






In the time before dinner, Jimin unpacks his belongings and soaks in a warm bath he prepares for himself. Some maids had entered earlier to ask the prince if he would like them to do anything, help apply makeup or dress him or store his belongings in chests, but Jimin had politely declined and sent them on their way. He’ll allow himself to be pampered another time.


His chambers are spacious, built in earthen colors and colored drapery. The walls are mosaic, with designs ranging from geometric shapes to simple flowers, one side covered in curtains that lead out to the balcony. The curtains are spread every few meters. His bed is cream colored, the pelt of an exotic animal folded at the foot, and a drape of long white fabric hangs from the ceiling above his bed, tucked underneath the base. Multicolored rugs cover the bare tiled floors and cushions are placed sporadically. A bowl of fresh fruit, mainly of citrus, sits on a table close to a long cushioned chair.


Although very different than his home, Jimin is fascinated with the architecture.


The location of the bath is. . . interesting. Instead of just serving as a bath for one, there is a door that leads to a rather extravagant spa room where the hallway outside ends. The bath is octagonal in shape and is the centerpiece of the room. Sandstone arches stand at every corner and hold up a mosaic dome in the very center. The mosaic depicts one of the mythologies of the East, which one in specific Jimin isn’t quite sure of, and the sun shines through open windows towards the ceiling.


To the other side, there is one other wooden door; a door that Jimin, while bathing, presumes leads to the other royal chambers. Yoongi is the inhabitant in those chambers, as they are the only ones in this hallway. They will have to share this bath.


At the thought, Jimin only sinks deeper into the water.


He returns to his room after the bath to dress himself. As this dinner is informal, he dresses himself in one of his robes with wider leg pants that cinch to his ankles, the outfit a myriad of blue to resemble the ocean. His sleeves are long, the trim a darker blue, robe lined with patterns the color of the sky. There is a lack of blue in the palace, and his clothes are perhaps one of the only objects in that color.


By the time he has dressed and made himself comfortable, there is a knock at the door and Namjoon’s voice echoes from behind.


“Dinner will be shortly. Shall I walk you down?”


Jimin fixes his hair and gives the okay for Namjoon to enter. The soldier pushes open the door and smiles at the prince.


“I thought my room in the palace was grand, but mine pales in comparison to yours, Jimin-ah,” he chuckles. Jimin smooths his fingers over the scale necklace before making his way over to Namjoon, the door shutting behind them.


“Oh, my chambers at home are humble unlike mine here.”


“They are fit for a prince, for you.”


Jimin laces his arm around Namjoon’s as they walk. No movement occurs across the hall in Yoongi’s room, but the prince turns his gaze elsewhere.


“Do you know the way?”


“Yes. Prince Taehyung instructed me earlier.”


They walk down a spiraling staircase and end up in a hallway that is wider, maids wandering about. Namjoon guides him to the left and down another staircase before they arrive in the dining hall. A grand feast is laid out as they enter, golden chairs with crimson cushions pulled out away from the table for the guests. At one end of the table, Elder Jiho sits, and at the other end, a man with greying black hair and tawny robes sits. He bears a slight resemblance to Taehyung, and Jimin wonders if this is his father, one of the other Elders.


Yoongi, Taehyung, and Jeongguk aren’t seated yet. Jimin follows the directions of one of the servant boys, sitting in a chair on one side, with Namjoon next to him. He places his hands in his lap, eyes shifting towards the Elders.


“Prince Jimin,” the man in tawny robes rumbles, fixing his piercing gaze in Jimin’s direction. “Welcome to Hwajae.”


Jiho chuckles good-naturedly, long fingers wrapped around the stem of the chalice in front of him. “Jimin, this is Kim Dongmin, my brother, one of the four Elder dragons.”


Respectfully, Jimin bows his head. “Many thanks for your hospitality, Elder Dongmin. Your palace is beautiful.”


“So well-mannered,” Dongmin muses. “Perhaps you can get some of that to rub off on my son while you’re here.”


“I’ve found the prince to be quiet social,” Jimin laughs, finding it unexpectedly easy to converse with the Elder. Servants begin to lay out bread and bring wine, to which Jimin accepts. He’s taking his first sip when the missing three appear under the open archway, Taehyung with an arm around Jeongguk’s waist and Yoongi following close behind.


Yoongi sits in the seat across from Jimin, Taehyung and Jeongguk next to him together. Jeongguk is in the same robes as earlier, Taehyung as well. When Jeongguk sets his hands on the chair to sit down, Jimin eyes the ruby ring on his finger. A precious gem that is only found in the southern part of the country. . . it is, without a doubt, that Taehyung gifts him many valuables.


“You look so pretty, little swan,” Taehyung coos at Jimin across the table. He reaches for the flat bread and places it on Jimin’s plate with a hum.”Yoongi told me of the stunning gown you wore at your party. I wish I had seen it.”


Jimin’s gaze flickers to Yoongi and he quirks a brow, setting his chalice on the table. “Oh, did he now?”


The smile Yoongi gives him across the table is small, and what Jimin is beginning to realize is affectionate. “I did. Fashion here in Hwajae is nothing like it is in the north. As much as I enjoyed that gown, you’d faint from the heat if you wore it here.”


“I’d like to see you in our clothing,” Taehyung grins, passing the plate of bread across the table to his father. “Perhaps tomorrow night at our celebration you should wear something from Hwajae.”


“As long as I don’t faint,” Jimin hums with a quick turn of his lips. Servants begin to arrive with the food, consisting mainly of fish and fruits and vegetables. Spreads for the bread are also laid out. It’s vastly different from the cuisine that Jimin’s grown up with, no doubt due to the difference in climate and terrain. But everything smells delicious, and Jimin’s nose is filled with unique blends of spices.


“The fish is always so good,” Jeongguk offers, speaking up for the first time since being seated. “I had this exact dish the very first time I came to Hwajae. Prince Taehyung knows it’s one of my favorites.”


“It’s different from our own dishes,” Jimin comments, thanking Taehyung as he places a fish on Jimin’s plate. “We mostly eat meat and the fruit and vegetables that can grow in the mountains. Soup is our main meal in the cold winter months, sometimes fish before the waters freeze over.”


“Mm, I only hope you enjoy our cuisine in the months you’ll be here.” Taehyung glances over at Yoongi as they begin to eat. “Do we have a proper plan for tomorrow, cousin? I’m sure it will be rather busy for the prince, what with the feast and all in the evening.”


“I believe we have an audience with the council in the afternoon to officially introduce Jimin and to announce our engagement,” Yoongi looks briefly to his father to confirm. “But for the rest of the day I don’t think we have anything officially planned until the welcoming feast in the evening.”


“Then perhaps I should show him around the grounds,” Taehyung beams. “You would not be opposed to such a thing?”


“Ask him yourself. My betrothed doesn’t need my permission.”


Jimin is already nodding when Taehyung’s golden eyes land on him. Yoongi is nonchalant, returning to his food. “I would very much like to see the rest of your palace. After the council would be a suitable time.”


“Perfect. Then I can show you my wardrobe and you can pick what you would like to wear for the feast.”


“Oh, that is too much,” Jimin admits shyly. “The only one you should pamper is Jeongguk-ah.”


Now Taehyung is the one who appears embarrassed. The brazen prince has hints of pink across his sun-kissed face. “Oh, I’ve room for another,” he laughs.


Jeongguk blinks owlishly, hands hovering over his plate for a moment before using his utensils to begin carving into the meat on his own plate. Surely he knows


“The goddess knows Taehyung-ah is pampered enough while we’re away,” Yoongi says flippantly, more interested with what’s in his cup than what’s on his plate from what Jimin can tell. “He’s well-versed in spoiling others.”


“Don’t be jealous that I will spoil your betrothed and Jeongguk,” Taehyung huffs as he swirls his wine in his goblet.


“You are ridiculous.”


Jimin holds back a chuckle, leaning back in his chair and sipping his wine slowly as the two cousins begin to banter with one another. The two Elders share exasperated looks and Jeongguk continues to quietly eat.


This is only his first night of many here in Hwajae, and already he is enjoying himself.


Chapter Text

Jimin smooths his fingers over the scale, twisting it in his palm as he waits for his betrothed. He had noticed Taehyung pulling him aside after breakfast this morning, both Elders from last night not present. They, along with Hana and the other unknown Elder, are currently waiting in the council room for Jimin’s presentation.


To say Jimin is nervous is somewhat of an overstatement. He fears no dragon, not even Elder Hana, who spoke such demeaning words yesterday upon their arrival. He believes he has already left a positive impression on Elder Dongmin and, of course, Elder Jiho, but the fourth Elder is who concerns him; they are unknown to Jimin. From what Jimin has heard, the fourth Elder is the youngest to ever serve in the court, succeeding his late father who unexpectedly died not a long time ago. He hails from the West, the land of the wild, the free-spirited. Based on the nature of that region, Jimin is expecting the Elder to be mild-mannered and respectful of the upcoming marriage. People of the West are open minded and spiritual.


But perhaps Jimin expects too much.


He releases the necklace from his palm with a quiet hum, Namjoon’s careful eyes examining him through the mirror. Namjoon is more stoic here in the East and hasn’t said much to Jimin. It could be that he’s more nervous than the prince.


“Is my appearance suitable for court?” Jimin asks him, watching as Namjoon registers his voice and blinks out of a stupor. He has his sword at his side and he wears dark clothes, the same he has always worn.


The prince twists around. He’s chosen a pattern similar to the one from last night, blue with wave-like patterns on the sleeveless high-neck top and flowing pants. A slit runs down the length of his calf, and the pants cinch around the ankle with a silky ribbon. His back is exposed, with the shirt cutting low at the dip of his spine. If one were to stare closely, the small, white snowflake mark on his shoulder would become apparent.


“I do not see why not,” Namjoon replies. “You look lovely as always, Jimin-ah.”


Jimin’s lips quirk into a smile, hands running down his thighs as there is a knock on the door. Namjoon is swift to walk over and pry them open, revealing the dragon prince on the other side, his hands clasped in front of him. Yoongi’s traded out the heavier fabrics for lighter, gauzy ones like the kind he’s seen Taehyung and Hoseok wearing, but he still seems to favor muted tones as opposed to the rich reds and golds that Hwajae seems to be known for. His legs and hips are wrapped in a more opaque, dark grey fabric, while the cloth wound around his upper body is lighter, more sheer, almost like mesh. It’s easy to see the pale of his skin and the outline of his body through with how the light filters in through the windows in the hall.


“Ready to go?” Yoongi asks, not shy in the slightest with how he lets his gaze roam up and down Jimin’s form. Jimin feels a chill run down his arms.


“As ready as I will ever be,” Jimin nods, moving across the room towards Yoongi. The dragon prince stares at him as he exits the room, followed by Namjoon, who shuts the door and falls a few paces behind the princes.


“You look. . . handsome, Prince Yoongi.” Jimin twists the dragon scale necklace once out of habit. “Grey suits you.”


The prince huffs a little under his breath, but it’s an amused noise. “Taehyung picks out most of these clothes. He’s obsessed with fashion and I could care less about it. But thank you, I’ll tell him you said so.”


“Will he be there at the meeting?”


“He will. Dongmin always has him present, just like how Hoseok-ah will be there too. They’re next in line to succeed the Elder’s position, as am I.”


That’s right, Jimin almost forgot; the three of them are next in line. One day, Yoongi will be an Elder, making him one of the most powerful dragons in the land. And he will be married to a human prince.


Jimin drops his hand from the necklace and glances over at Yoongi. “Do you know him well? Hoseok?”


They walk several steps before Yoongi answers. “We grew up together.” It’s a very diplomatic answer, just vague enough to not really answer the question. “He’s one of the few people I trust with my life.”


He knows Yoongi isn’t answering in full, but it’s not his place yet to ask. Perhaps Taehyung will give him insight.


“I hope he is more cordial than his mother. I wonder what she will say today.”


“She won’t dare lash out at you like that with my father and uncle present. Hani knows how to play the game of keeping up appearances in court. Her distaste for humans is widely known, so I can’t promise she won’t be cold towards you, but she certainly won’t be so vicious.”


They pass over the main courtyard separating the royal palace from the council building. Down below, people water the citrus trees and others chat around the central fountain. Even from above, Jimin can smell the fruit.


He walks with Yoongi into the building and he marvels at the dome ahead of them. They walk in the direction of the staircase that spirals down to the entrance of the council room, but Jimin keeps his eyes on the mosaic. Dragons and humans together, depicted as near equals in a time where peace between the two species flourished. Now, their hope at restoring peace lies in Jimin and Yoongi’s marriage, which will be announced tonight at the grand feast.


“That mosaic must be thousands of years old,” Jimin murmurs as they descend, arriving in front of the closed doors, where two guards stand. They step aside once they see Yoongi, pushing open the doors for the trio.


The space is a little more intimate than Jimin imagined, but nothing about it feels cramped. There’s a meeting table in the center, round and spacious, elegantly carved from a glossy, golden wood. Intricate designs are burned into its surface. The walls are mostly colorful glass in a myriad of different colors, casted the entire room into a kaleidoscope of colors.


Taehyung is the first to greet them, all golden skin and wild blonde hair, eyes sparkling. “You’re late,” he teases. Jimin’s attention is drawn to all the golden bracelets around his wrists and ankles that clink together as he moves. “But Hoseok isn’t here either, and neither is Jin.”


Glancing around Taehyung, Jimin sees three of the four Elders seated at the table. Dongmin and Jiho are whispering to each other, but Hana is staring forward, long, claw-like nails tapping at the table in what must be impatience.


“Do you know where they are?” Jimin asks, tearing his eyes away from the Elders.


“Seok-ah is always late,” Yoongi grumbles, but there’s the same tinge of affection that Jimin’s often heard when he’s talking about Jeongguk. “But I don’t know about Seokjin.”


“There can’t possibly be anything more important,” Taehyung mumbles, placing one of his hands on his hips. His father and Jiho continue to talk at the table and appear to be in no rush while they wait for the other two to arrive.


Namjoon, who has been silent this entire time, steps closer to Jimin. “So much for being on time,” he murmurs with a chuckle in his ear.


“At least we’re not being waited on.”


The creaking of the doors interrupt them. They turn around to Hoseok and Seokjin entering the court, Seokjin walking in a flurry of his robes. The fourth Elder is much younger than the other three; he must only be a few years older than Yoongi, but the energy he radiates is. . . incredible. He’s dressed in earthen green robes, a tribute to his native home in the West. His eyes slide over Yoongi, then Jimin and Namjoon, a pleasant smile on his lips.


“Apologies for keeping everyone waiting,” he says smoothly, flicking his bangs out of his eyes with the tips of his fingers. “Yoongi, introduce your friends.”


Everyone settles down, moving more towards the roundtable in the center. Yoongi steps up, not in front of Jimin, but to his side and settles his hand around the human prince’s waist. “This is Park Jimin, Prince of the North, my betrothed. And with him, the head of the king’s guard, Kim Namjoon. Please treat them well during our stay here in Hwajae.”


Jimin bows his head in respect. Yoongi’s fingers tap gently at his waist, arm crossing his bare back. “Thank you for allowing my stay, and for your hospitality. Please, ask what you would like.”


“How was the trip from Aiseu, Jimin?” Seokjin asks, using one hand to prop up his chin. There’s no animosity from him that Jimin can sense, just a quiet sort of curiosity. “Is the climate here hard to adjust to?”


“I haven’t had many opportunities to leave Aiseu, at least, not as far as Hwajae. While it is. . . warm, it’s nothing I cannot adjust to.”


Seokjin hums, seemingly pleased with that answer. “And are you excited for the wedding? I must say, this is the fastest engagement I have ever seen.”


“I’ve expected this arrangement my entire life,” Jimin responds honestly. “It has been a long process. My birthday marked the start of our engagement.”


This time, it’s Taehyung who asks a question. “How old are you, Jimin-ah?”


“Twenty years.”


Next to him, Yoongi taps against his waist once more as Hoseok and Hana murmur something, to which Taehyung nods.


“Yoongi, dear cousin, how did you find someone so young and beautiful? Or, Elder Jiho, could you explain to us the nature of their engagement? I believe I know the story but I would like to hear it again. Elder Hana and Elder Seokjin do not know, if I am not mistaken?”


Seokjin nods in confirmation. “Yes, Yoongi-ah, please explain.”


Jimin himself has never really heard the detailed backstory surrounding his engagement, so even he is interested, turning his head slightly so that he can watch all of Yoongi’s facial expressions as he speaks.


“As you all know, the relationship between men and dragons — while better over the last several decades — has remained strained at best. The Parks shared our vision for peace and prosperity between our two races, and together it was decided that a marriage would serve as a bond more powerful than any treaty.”


It’s with a loud clicking of her nails that Elder Hana interrupts, sharp eyes set on Jimin. Her fierce gaze is unnerving. “And why should it be our duty to worry about the humans, dear Yoongi? Their affairs are not our own. How can humans possibly be our equals who deserve our attention?”


Jiho clears his throat, drawing attention to himself as he folds his own clawed fingertips together on the table. “You underestimate the power of man, Hana,” the Northern elder says smoothly. “For centuries we have alienated them, fought tooth and nail to what sort of benefit? Surely you see that uniting our peoples will be more beneficial.”


“Argue what you will,” Hana states in a sort of dismissive manner with a low hum, gaze flickering to her son, Hoseok, and then fixating on Yoongi. “I just think your son would be better off marrying a dragon, and not some meager human. Other than occupy Yoongi’s bed and attention, I see little in his contribution.”


Elder Hana,” Dongmin whispers through gritted teeth, hands curling around the edges of his chair. Namjoon stands uneasy off to the side, as does everyone present in the room, except for Seokjin. There’s a curious, hidden smile playing out on his lips, as if he’s anticipating the other party’s next move.


Yoongi’s nostrils flare, pupils constricting until there’s nothing save for a thin line in the center of his veridian irises. “I see little contribution in the venom you insist on spitting—“




All eyes shift towards Jimin. The prince is sliding out from Yoongi’s hand on his waist, abandoning him in favor of stepping closer towards the roundtable raised on a platform above the floor. Yoongi clamps his mouth shut, jaw clenched, and does not say a word. Jimin stops in front of the table and eyes Hana closely, challengingly, raising his arms from his sides.


“I believe you are mistaken, Elder Hana, for creating a false assumption,” Jimin addresses, shifting one foot behind his body. He presses his hands together in front of him. “I can contribute far more than you think.”


There’s a pause. Jimin breathes deep through his chest. He begins to pull his hands apart, fingers extended, and a sphere of blue appears between his palms. It starts out small. As he moves his arms away from his body, the sphere lengthens, swirling between the space, a fluid motion that only water can make. It dances along his fingertips and the water twirls in the air according to Jimin’s movements, much to the shock of the Elders.


Even Hana is surprised, eyebrows raised, sharp claws scraping across the table. Somewhere, he hears a gasp, coming from Taehyung’s direction. There isn’t a single sound in the council’s chambers until Jimin presses his palms together to make the little sphere of water disappear.


“I’ve heard stories of humans like you,” Seokjin is the one to speak first, resting his chin on the palm of his head. “Those that have learned to harness a dragon’s power. I should have noticed the scale around your neck.”


Jimin runs his fingers across the scale. “I've had these powers since I was young, after I received the scale. My mother and father didn't know what to make of it. Even I, still, am unsure.” He lifts his eyes to the council. “What I do know is that this scale symbolizes our union.”


“It was a betrothal gift,” Yoongi explains, still rooted in place where Jimin left him.


“Regardless, Elder Hana, of your opinions, our engagement will continue. I only hope you come to acknowledge it in the coming months.”


Chastised, properly embarrassed, Hana says nothing. Her claws nearly gouge the round table and her nostrils flare, but everyone’s attention is focused elsewhere: Jimin.


“Well, I would say that was entertaining,” Seokjin hums, standing from his seat while gathering his robes. “How about we end this presentation, now aware of who the Northern swan is? There is a long night ahead of us, and perhaps it’s best to find time to relax before the real celebration begins.”


“Yes. . . I agree with Elder Seokjin.” Dongmin also rises from his seat. “I will call this meeting’s end. Let us prepare for tonight. Everyone, you are dismissed.”


Jimin bows his head quietly before slowly backing away from the table. From the side, Namjoon approaches, but halts when there’s a tentative touch to Jimin’s waist. Twisting his head around, Jimin stares into Yoongi’s eyes, allowing the dragon prince to hold him gently with one hand.


“Are you all right?” Yoongi’s voice is low, muffled as the rest stand from their seats.


“Yes, of course,” Jimin responds with a flick of his head, earrings swaying. “I prepared myself for this.”


A small smile plays over Yoongi’s lips, eyes flicking to where Namjoon still keeps a respectable distance. “I didn’t mean—“ he cuts himself off with a rueful shake of his own head. “Clearly you’re more than capable of holding your own. Another pleasant surprise.”


Jimin smiles wide. “I told you I would be full of surprises, did I not, prince Yoongi?”


Stepping in close now, Namjoon clears his throat. From behind, after having a brief chat with his father, Taehyung also approaches.


“Oh, I should have known once I sensed your power,” Taehyung breathes, completely in awe and wonder with Jimin. He rests a hand on Yoongi’s shoulder, gold bracelets clinking against his wrists. “Not only are you pretty, but you are also strong. Yoongi, you are lucky.”


Laughing at the compliment, Jimin waves Taehyung off. Yoongi’s hand from around his waist slips away when Namjoon glances at the contact.


“Shall we head back, prince Jimin?” Namjoon asks curtly, hand resting casually on the hilt of his sword. “I should return you to your room so that you can prepare for tonight.”


“Ah, yes, bring him to his chambers! I have already arranged for you to try on outfits for the feast. Yoongi and I will be up there shortly.” Taehyung speaks excitedly, his smile wide and beaming. It seems impossible to Jimin how something could ever disrupt the prince’s enthusiastic nature.


Jimin fixes his attention on Yoongi. A part of him wishes they didn’t have to depart so quickly, but alas, they will be together for the entirety of the night. “I will see you at the feast, then, prince Yoongi?”


Yoongi’s hand reaches out again, gently taking one of Jimin’s hands in his own and raising it to his lips. “Of course. Let me know if you want for anything.”


“I will,” comes Jimin’s reply in a quiet, subdued tone, slow to retract his hand from Yoongi’s. Perhaps it’s his own hand that is too warm, but Yoongi’s hands are no longer chill to the touch; and the spot where his lips had been spreads warmth through Jimin’s body. He offers a nod of his head before Namjoon guides him out of the council room, fingers latched around the scale dangling from his neck.







Taehyung’s eyes travel between Yoongi and Jimin as they say their temporary goodbyes. He keeps his lips pursed until the human prince is escorted away by his handsome soldier, their arms lacing comfortably together upon exiting. His cousin’s eyes are transfixed on the exit and Taehyung has to shake his shoulder to bring him from his trance.


“Oh, Yoongi,” Taehyung giggles excitedly, once Yoongi has regained his composure. His cousin shrugs Taehyung off, but the blonde grins and hooks his arm in Yoongi’s tightly. “You’ve taken a great liking to that pretty swan already!”


There’s pink that dusts the top of Yoongi’s cheeks as he makes a disgruntled noise in the back of his throat. “You have too.”


“Mm, but you know it’s rather difficult for me to not find interest in pretty things,” Taehyung hums, playfully tapping Yoongi’s cheek before pulling away from him. “He’s beautiful, powerful, and kind, enough to keep someone like you in good behaviour. If Jeongguk-ah wasn’t in my life, I would keep the swan prince for myself.” He visibly perks up upon mentioning Jeongguk. “Where is he? I’ve spent little time with him, and I have more presents to give.”


“As if you don’t keep eyes on him every waking moment,” Yoongi’s left brow arches up, tipping his head in his father and uncle’s direction as they pass by. “You spoil him too much.”


Taehyung also quirks a brow. “Will you stop me from spoiling him?”


“As if I could. You’ll find him in the west courtyard I’m sure. That’s where he waits for you usually, is it not?”


“It’s been too long since he was last here,” Taehyung sighs, reaching into a hidden pocket inside his sleeve to procure a beautiful pearl ring. He holds it up, the surface of the pearl catching the rays of sun that filter through the room, casting an iridescent sheen. “I have another ring for him. And more clothes. He can’t freeze as long as he’s in your palace, and once he lives in my palace with me, I will dress him in the finest silks and linens.” Smiling to himself, he pockets the little piece of jewelry. “Jeongguk-ah deserves to be spoiled.”


“Who deserves to be spoiled?” Hoseok approaches them both. But thankfully, Hana is nowhere to be found.


Taehyung brushes his bangs away from his face. Hoseok’s sudden appearance shouldn’t mean anything, but Yoongi’s posture becomes stiff.


“Oh, Jeongguk-ah. I have more gifts for him, but Yoongi says I spoil him too much.”


“Yoongi-ah doesn’t spoil anyone enough,” Hoseok teases, clasping his hands in front of himself.


“I believe he will spoil Prince Jimin to the ends of the earth come their wedding,” Taehyung quips, settling a strange silence between them. Now is his time to leave, seek out Jeongguk before Taehyung will be occupied with tonight’s events. “Now, if you will both excuse me, I have to go find Jeongguk-ah. I will see both of you tonight, if not sooner, so enjoy yourselves until then.”


In a flurry of cloth, Taehyung exits the same way as the others in the court. He wants to separate himself from Yoongi and Hoseok when they are together; especially given the current events and Hoseok’s mother’s clear distaste for the one Yoongi has moved on to. Besides, Jeongguk is waiting for him.


He ascends the staircase and pads out of the council building, walking above the courtyards before descending a flight of stairs that lead into the west wing’s gardens. The royal orchards line the courtyard, separated by a fountain in the center, the geometrical design a spectacle when seen from above. The sun shines down on the courtyard and a gentle sea breeze filters through the leaves of the citrus trees, succulent scent reminding Taehyung of home. But, faintly, he can also smell Jeongguk, natural sweetness embedding itself in the citrus. Following it leads Taehyung to Jeongguk.


The blind human is seated half in the shade and half out in the sun, now cloaked in the lighter fabrics stored here for him when he visits the East. The soft crimson twists across his body, covering much, but also exposing the center of his chest and his sinewy arms, gold jewelry crisscrossing his tanned skin. Taehyung finds him most beautiful in the East, where his skin glows and his clouded eyes twinkle.  


His eyes are focused ahead, unblinking, but his head twists when Taehyung approaches. It’s as if Jeongguk can see him, smile crossing his lips, setting ablaze the fire in the Eastern prince.


“That color looks splendid on you, Jeongguk-ah,” Taehyung murmurs in admiration as he sits down next to Jeongguk, beaming ear to ear. Even if Jeongguk fails to see his smile, he can at least feel it.


It’s so endearing, how Jeongguk draws his bottom lip up between his teeth to hide the wide smile Taehyung knows he’s capable of. “Ah, thank you, hyung,” he murmurs, reaching out and fumbling a bit until he finds Taehyung’s hand with his own. “The meeting? How did it go?”


Taehyung laces his fingers with Jeongguk’s, brushing against the ring he gave to Jeongguk on his last visit. Tenderly, he leans down to kiss the back of Jeongguk’s hand. “Hana still dislikes the prince, but he surprised us all today, I wish—” You could have seen. “—you were there. The scale around his neck, from Yoongi, transferred Yoongi’s abilities to the human. He manipulated water, like a dragon.”


“Sometimes I think the only person Elder Hana likes is Hobi-hyung,” Jeongguk mutters under his breath, subconsciously leaning a little closer to Taehyung so that their thighs brush together. “I’m glad Prince Jimin is standing up to her. I knew he was going to be special. He’s so kind, and very strong. I can tell.”


Taehyung nods in agreement, thumb rubbing circles across Jeongguk’s knuckles. “I regret not seeing you earlier, everything is so. . . busy. How is your day so far?”


The smile Jeongguk gives him is enough to make Taehyung’s heart melt. “I know you have a lot to do. Everyone does. Especially with the feast and then the wedding. I’ve just been trying to stay out of the way. . . Enjoying the weather too.”


“I don’t wish for you to be excluded from so much, I find it unfair. You will be joining tonight for the feast, yes?”


“I wasn’t sure if I should,” Jeongguk says quietly. “I don’t want to be a bother. And I don’t want you or Yoongi hyung to feel like you have to watch me. You deserve to enjoy yourselves.”


The prince frowns, tightening his grip on Jeongguk’s hand. “Why would you not join? I will enjoy myself if you’re present. I missed you too much for you to not be in attendance at our events.”


“If you wish it, my prince,” Jeongguk teases him, shifting to bump their shoulders together playfully.


A breeze from the harbor swirls into the courtyard, making the thin fabrics of Jeongguk’s tunic flutter and the hair resting on his forehead ruffle up.


“It would make my night.” Taehyung smiles, other hand reaching into his garment to procure the pearl ring. “I also have something new for you.”


Part of the reason Taehyung enjoys showering Jeongguk with gifts is for the reaction he gets. Perhaps Jeongguk doesn’t even realize that he sits up a little straighter, eyes open a little wider, lips parted in excitement. “For me? Ah, hyung, but you’ve given me so many presents.”


There’s something possessive about the pleasure Taehyung takes in seeing Jeongguk wearing the things he’s been given. Almost everything on his body now had once been a gift from the dragon prince, including the ruby ring he’d given Jeongguk on his fifteenth birthday— the first day the Mins had presented him in court at Hwajae.


It's Taehyung's only way of offering affection without pushing Jeongguk's limits.


He holds the ring in the palm of his hand and gently brings Jeongguk's hand closer to him, fingers clasped around his wrist. “As Yoongi told me, I spoil you too much,” Taehyung laughs as he slides the ring on his ring finger. It fits perfectly. “But giving you gifts brings me the greatest pleasure.”


Jeongguk goes pink just ontop of where his cheekbones curve, but Taehyung knows he’s pleased. “What is this?” he smooths the pad of his finger over the pearl, tracing around the gold setting that binds it to the band. “It feels different than any other stone.”


“It's a pearl. This one came from the ocean, right under the water on the sand below. Such a perfect pearl is hard to unearth. . . a hidden beauty.” Taehyung is glad Jeongguk can't see the pink across his cheeks. “Just like you.”


“Oh, hyung,” Jeongguk laughs, shrugging his shoulders up to his ears the way he does when he’s shy. “You flatter me. Stop it!”


Taehyung chuckles, raising Jeongguk’s hand to his lips where he gently kisses his knuckles, brushing against the rings. “If that’s what my prince desires,” he coos, rubbing circles into the side of Jeongguk’s hand, “then I shall stop. . . momentarily.”


“Sh! I’m not a prince! Far from it! You shouldn’t tell lies, hyung.”


“You live in a palace, buzzing about the courts with Yoongi and I. Surely you’re a prince; my prince.”


Jeongguk’s breath catches a little on his next inhale. His free hand curls into the fabrics of his robes that drape over his thigh. “I-I’m not,” he insists, but his voice comes out small, uncertain.


“We can keep it between us, that you’re my prince.” Dramatically, Taehyung leans against his shoulder. “Whisk me away, darling, so we can live together in secret—”


It’s worth acting this way to hear the delighted peal of laughter that leaves Jeongguk’s mouth. The human smiles, showing off his front teeth as he shakes his head. “Oh? And where would we go? You’d die not having someone to wait on you hand and foot.”


“I’m more capable than you believe,” Taehyung retorts, relaxing against his shoulder comfortably. “I would wait on you hand and foot.”


Jeongguk giggles once more, resting his cheek against the top of Taehyung's head. The prince traces shapes across the back of Jeongguk's hands with his fingers, sitting peacefully in relaxation. A soft breeze rustles their hair, sun warm on their skin with the cloudless sky above. It's times like these where Taehyung forgets about the world, about his duties as a prince, finding pleasure in sitting outside with Jeongguk. For a moment, he closes his eyes, breathing in Jeongguk's sweet scent with a smile on his lips.


“I missed you,” he murmurs.


Jeongguk sighs softly. “Me too.”

Chapter Text

Jimin has never been so pampered before in his life.


Even for events back home in Dang-ui, where he has spent hours preparing himself, the extent pales in comparison to Hwajae. The moment he returns from the council presentation with Namjoon, the preparations begin and last until the sun begins to set.


Taehyung had no chance to show Jimin around the palace with the sudden rush of things to do, and they postponed the tour for another day. For the rest of the afternoon, Jimin focuses on getting ready for the feast.


He’s rather opposed to maids bathing him, but prince Taehyung had insisted. The maids scrub head to toe, lather him in the most expensive soaps and oils until his skin is fresh and glistening in the light. His skin is smooth to the touch but not terribly slick. As one of the maids described, perfect for grasping and admiring.


They painstakingly style his hair and apply makeup, working with gentle presses of fingertips and soft brush sweeps across his face. The minerals of the East are more abundant than the ones in the North, and are also more pigmented and suitable for everyday wear as well as formal wear. Jimin sits patiently in a loose silk robe, eyes shut, listening to the maids talk in excitement.


The maids aim to make Jimin the focal point of the evening. Although the feast is in celebration of his and Yoongi’s engagement, it will be Jimin’s first appearance of many in the East and he has to leave a lasting impression for the guests. He had shown his forwardness earlier during his council presentation, but he will carry himself as the Northern prince tonight, prominent and memorable.


With his eyes still shut, careful hands working on his face and his hair, he hears one of the maids prompt a question. The maids are young, have most likely grown up in the Eastern court, curious and talented in their craft.


“What was your first impression of Prince Yoongi, your highness?”


Jimin hums in his throat. He can sense the anticipation from the maids gathered around him.


“Intimidating and confident, I believed arrogant at first, but. . . beautiful. Younger than I had anticipated.”


The maids all release a simultaneous giggle.


“Dragons age slowly. Elder Jiho and Elder Dongmin are very old in human years, but have yet to age fully. Prince Yoongi is still young, but far older than you, your highness.”


That draws a chuckle from Jimin. “So I am being wed to an old man?”


“An attractive old man, if I may correct you.”


They all laugh together as the final details are added. Jimin has permission to open his eyes, staring at his reflection in the vanity mirror across from where he sits. His eyelids are dark, shimmering grey fading to a charcoal color in the corner of his eyes, making the piercing blue of his irises stand out.


The first impression is sensuous.


The front section of his hair is parted in a wave, flowing outward, glistening in the golden lights in his chambers.


“Your appearance has to match your gown,” a maid says, as if reading Jimin’s thoughts. He twists his head, dangling earrings twinkling from the movement. His eyes travel towards where two maids are carrying a dark gossamer bundle in their arms, the deepest of blues that resembles the surface of the ocean at midnight. Jimin rises from his chair to run his fingers across the fabric in appreciation.


“Prince Taehyung brought such a gown for me?” he murmurs, carefully sliding out of his silk robe with the assistance of another maid. It pools at his feet.


“He has many, and requested for the royal seamstress to alter this gown, one he has never worn before. He said he never found the occasion to bring it from its storage until you arrived. The dress was made to be worn by you, he said, and not by him.”


Jimin feels appreciation and thanks for the Eastern prince. There was no need to alter his own gown for Jimin, and yet, the prince found meaning in the gown and thought Jimin better suited it. This is only one of the few touching gestures he has felt thus far.


He slips into the fabric with the assistance of the maids, carefully smoothing the thin, flowing fabric down his body and ensuring a proper fit. The collar sits high across his neck, stripe of skin showing down the center of his body until the rest of the gown comes together across his abdomen. The sides flow freely, as does one of his legs, where the gown is split; the fabric is nearly see-through to his mid thigh, but cut in a way that won’t restrict movement or cause indecency. His back is exposed, hem sitting low at his spine, his necklace resting against the center of his chest.


The small snowflake mark on his shoulder can be seen through the mirror when Jimin twists around.


He admires the gown in the mirror once it’s on his body. The sun has nearly set, casting orange rays in the room, enhancing the sheen across Jimin’s bare arms and face. It’s only a matter of time before Namjoon comes to retrieve him.


“I am very grateful for your assistance,” Jimin turns to the maids and bows his head in their direction. It’s not customary for royalty such as those in Jimin’s position to show a higher form of respect, but the maids have worked endlessly through the afternoon. They deserve the appreciation.


One by one, the maids exit with their materials. Jimin seats himself in the chair at his vanity as they leave. They congratulate Jimin once more, and Jimin smiles, nodding his head and placing his hands in his lap.


His chambers become quiet once more until there comes a knock at his door minutes after. He already knows who is behind the door, but asks anyways.


“Who is it?”


“Your knight, ready to whisk you away to the feast.”


Jimin smiles once more and rises from his chair as Namjoon slips inside. He’s dressed in his royal robes reserved for only the most important events; a long, sweeping black coat cinched snug around the waist, all of his military pins fastened to his breast, tall boots laced tight. The neckline dips and a silver necklace sways across his chest. His sword stays at his side, where it usually is, tanned skin glowing in the fading sunlight. If Jimin did not know any better, he would have mistaken Namjoon for a prince.


The look on Namjoon’s face is one of surprise, bottom lip dropped away from the top until he composes himself and drops into a respectful bow. “If you’re ready, my prince?”


“Yes, I believe so.” Jimin adjusts his necklace, accepting Namjoon's outstretched arm and looping their arms together. They exit Jimin's chambers and walk through the hallways, Namjoon's boots echoing off the columning walls.


“Perhaps we should have found a date for you,” Jimin muses, peeking up at Namjoon as they descend down a staircase. “I caught a few of the maids stealing glances at you earlier.”


Namjoon scoffs, staring ahead but also mindful of their footing. “Nonsense. That’s not my duty here. My place is at your side. Not elsewhere.”


Jimin rolls his eyes. “You have to find someone else at some point, Namjoon-ah,” he scolds, albeit affectionately. “I cannot be the only person to occupy your thoughts and attention forever.”


“That doesn’t mean it has to be here. Besides, I can’t afford to be distracted. Not when your well being is at stake.”


“Do you mean Prince Yoongi? You know I can handle myself around him, Namjoon-ah. Elder Hana, too.”


Properly chastised, Namjoon looks down at where Jimin’s arm rests in the crook of his elbow. “I didn’t mean. . . Of course I don’t question your abilities to handle yourself, but we’re in a strange new land, with many strange new people. And it’s clear that not everyone is happy with your engagement to the dragon prince. I’m here to be your sword, Jimin, your protector.”


They stop at the base of the staircase they walked down, only the maids fluttering about in this section of the palace. Jimin sighs softly, turning to face Namjoon for a brief moment.


“You know I appreciate your loyalty more than I can put into words,” he murmurs. Reaching up with his free hand, he tenderly runs his fingers once through Namjoon’s hair. Members of royal families traditionally share no intimate relations with their knights, but Jimin considers himself an exception; he grew up with Namjoon, and still considers him a friend regardless of their positions.


“I want you to also enjoy yourself, and to not worry about me every waking hour. You share less responsibilities here in Hwajae and I wish for you to use that spare time to your liking. It’s unfair if you hold yourself back from new experiences.”


The muscles in Namjoon’s jaw tighten. His eyes only meet Jimin’s for the briefest of moments before he dips his chin once. “As you wish,” he murmurs, then lifts his head once more until his spine is straight. Years of training keep his body in perfect posture.


Their conversation somewhat settled, Jimin motions for Namjoon to continue their walk. Namjoon knows where they have to go, and Jimin simply follows.


They have to descend more stairs on the way, until voices can be heard in the corridors on the main floor. Jimin is honestly lost, having missed Taehyung’s tour of the palace, but Namjoon is confident in directing Jimin. More maids bustle about, carrying goblets and baskets, weaving in and out of the columns in the corridors.


“Where is the feast located?” Jimin asks as the steady murmur of voices grows steadily louder.


“The throne room. Everyone is expecting you.”


Oh, of course.


Now, soldiers in gold armor line the main corridor, where a decorated red carpet leads the way to the throne room. A soft breeze filters between columns, different from the North; the palace is closed off, not many open curtains and balconies that span the length of the palace. The cool feels nice against Jimin’s skin.


The large, gold-embossed doors leading to the throne room are wide open, two guards standing on either side allowing the guests to pass. Upon seeing Jimin, they bow their heads, and motion for Jimin and Namjoon to step inside. They have to descend another short flight of stairs, but they connect right into the throne room, and Jimin marvels at the architecture.


The ceiling is a dome like in the court of the Elders. It’s painted to resemble the night sky, with stars and constellations, the very tip of the dome an open circle to let in the last rays of sunlight. The throne room is circular, with a second level above the first, tapestries hanging from the balconies with the Kim seal stitched into the cloth. They flutter from the ocean breeze blowing through the throne room, dying sunlight streaming past the thin curtains.


At the far end of the room, a stained glass sun draws Jimin’s attention. It encompasses most of the far side of the wall, right behind the throne. It’s magnificent. The harmony between the sun and the moon are perfectly balanced.


As Jimin descends on the main floor with Namjoon, all eyes fall upon him. The people in attendance know of the engagement, but few have seen Jimin in the flesh. Jimin lifts his head and slows, taking in the crowd, all those that stare at him. His eyes scan the room and lock on Yoongi almost instantly.


He’s impossible to miss. Amidst a sea of golds and burnished coppers, vibrant reds and deep wines, the royal blue of Yoongi’s outfit catches the eye. All he can really see is the side of Yoongi’s profile, the delicate upturn of his nose. It’s Hoseok, standing with him, who sees Jimin first.


The moment stretches out between the two of them until Hoseok casts his eyes down, lips moving as he says something that must only be loud enough for Yoongi to hear. Almost instantly, Yoongi’s head turns and he smiles in the same fond sort of way that Jimin had thought was reserved for Jeongguk.


“You should go to him,” Namjoon speaks quietly, but doesn’t move from his place at Jimin’s side. He won’t. Not until Jimin decides it.


Jimin withdraws his arm from Namjoon’s slowly. “Enjoy yourself, Namjoon-ah,” he replies, sending Namjoon one last glance before he descends the stairs. Yoongi stands at the foot of the stairs, piercing emerald eyes fixated on Jimin, offering his hand out for Jimin to take. He reaches the bottom of the stairs and gently rests his palm over Yoongi’s. His hands are cold, and send a shiver down his spine, but a smile spreads across his lips.


“Blue suits you, Prince Yoongi.”


“Not as well as it does you,” Yoongi says smoothly, guiding Jimin a little closer to his side. “Don’t you think so, Hoseok?”


If Hoseok is taken aback by the question, he doesn’t show it. Instead, he laughs, nodding. “I can’t imagine any other color suiting him better.” His grin doesn’t quite reach his eyes, but he bows his head respectfully. “Now, if you will excuse me, I will hunt down Prince Taehyung and see if he’s on time.”


Jimin watches Hoseok slither through the crowd in a flurry of thin fabric, twisting and curling around his body as he walks away. People in the crowd begin to speak again, some glancing over at the pair, soft music filtering through the throne room. Jimin refocuses his attention back on Yoongi.


“You two seemed deep in conversation,” he muses.


It’s mildly infuriating how well Yoongi keeps his facial features neutral. Perhaps it’s a dragon thing. “Nothing important,” he says, a perfectly neutral reply. But Jimin knows well enough that it also means that topic of conversation isn’t going anywhere if he pries any further. “But Hoseok was right: I don’t think any other color would look as good on you as this does. Your eyes are. . . breathtaking.”


Properly flattered, warmth rises to Jimin’s cheeks. “Then you should thank Taehyung, he so graciously gave this gown to me.” His eyes proceed to wander Yoongi’s form, admiring the flow of the royal blue fabric, how it appears sheer across his legs. A thicker cape drapes across his shoulders in a darker color, white swirls stitched into the fabric.


Lifting his eyes, Jimin taps his fingers across Yoongi’s palm. “What is the first course of business for tonight? Who will we greet first?”


“My aunt just arrived a few hours ago,” Yoongi explains as they step a little further into the throng of people. He’s careful to make sure no one presses too close or crowds Jimin, but everyone seems to know to give them a wide berth. “Taehyung’s mother, Suri. She’s very excited to meet you.”


“Oh?” Jimin asks, scanning the crowd ahead of them. “I had no idea she would be in attendance. Has she been away?”


Yoongi hums in ascent, gently placing his hand at the small of Jimin’s back to guide him nearly through the center of the room, up to a long, extravagantly furnished table towards the back, just beneath the stained glass window. “She’s from Escana and likes to travel there from time to time. Taehyung goes with her whenever he gets bored of wreaking havoc around here.”


“The South?” Jimin echoes. Dragon populations in Escana are rather low, due to the human-centric culture in the region. That’s why there is no Southern Elder; no dragon powerful enough to be an Elder lives in such a closed off society with little dragons to represent. Perhaps Taehyung’s mother serves as the mediator between the Southern region and the Council.


As they approach the table, Jimin recognizes Elder Dongmin, dressed in rust red robes, extravagant crown sitting atop his dark hair. Next to him sits a woman who bears striking resemblances to Taehyung upon being up close. She’s of the same lithe build, golden eyes and sun-kissed skin, long blonde hair cascading over her shoulders. Some of it is intricately braided, similar crown on her head.


The white gown she wears cuts low across her shoulders and glimmers with gold decals when she shifts and stands from her seat. Dongmin follows her lead as Yoongi and Jimin stop in front of the table.


“Yoongi,” Suri says in greeting, a genuine smile on her lips that reminds Jimin so much of Taehyung’s. “My dear, it’s been too long. Introduce me to your lovely fiance.”


“I’m sure Taehyung’s already beat me to any sort of introductions,” Yoongi grumbles good naturedly. “But just so formalities are taken care of: Jimin, this is my aunt Suri. Suri, this is Park Jimin, Prince of the North and my betrothed.”


Jimin bows his head in respect. “It’s a pleasure meeting you, my Queen. I can see where Taehyung’s beauty comes from.”


“See, my love,” Dongmin says, an amused smile on his features. “Polite and well-mannered. Why doesn’t our son embody those qualities?”


One of Suri’s hands comes up to politely hide her mouth, but Jimin can tell she takes the jest well. A good sense of humor. “Our Taehyungie is well-mannered when it suits him.”


“The prince is very cordial and welcoming, rest assured,” Jimin smiles. Taehyung must be with Jeongguk, given that he is still absent. “I appreciate the hospitality more than I could ever proclaim in words.”


“I hope you come to think of Hwajae as your second home,” Suri replies with a soft nod of her head. “ Most of us here are thrilled to have you.”


Jimin can see the slight roll of Suri’s eyes. She’s indirectly referring to Elder Hana, who most likely will not be in attendance tonight.


“Oh, I won’t allow someone to ruin my time here in Hwajae,” Jimin responds cordially. He doesn’t speak Hana’s name, but Suri understands who he is talking about. “After all, this is our engagement.”


Suri smiles knowingly, but her attention shifts, Dongmin’s as well. When Jimin’s eyes follow theirs, he sees Taehyung making his entrance, Jeongguk pressed against his side. Their arms are looped together as the prince guides Jeongguk down the stairs, radiant smile on his lips.


He’s draped in white fabric with olive accents, sleeveless and high on his neck, a sort of cape draped across his broad shoulders. The upper half of his gown is nearly see-through, save for olive stitched patterns across his chest spiraling down towards his hips. White fabric billows around his legs, the fabric somewhat sheer up to his thighs. He, too, wears a crown.


Jeongguk is wrapped in an olive colored garment, no doubt to match Taehyung. It’s a statement, one that Yoongi seems to huff at. The blind boy wears a velvet cape over a low cut fabric, his exposed skin glistening with bath oils. Across his head sits a golden wreath.


Taehyung only breaks away from Jeongguk when he greets Suri in a quick hug. This must be the first time he’s seeing his mother today.


“Should I be concerned that my old gown fits you?” Suri muses, running her fingers through Taehyung’s golden locks.


“You shouldn’t be mother, they had to adjust it first,” Taehyung laughs, eyes wandering to Yoongi and Jimin. His eyes widen slightly, mouth dropping open.


Look at you,” he breathes, voice giving way to his excitement. “That gown would have never looked so gorgeous on me as it does on you. Yoongi, how can you even keep your eyes off him?”


Jimin laughs under his breath, warmth rising to his cheeks. In his opinion, Taehyung makes a much more stunning figure, but perhaps it’s the white that makes him stand out more than the dark blue of Jimin’s borrowed gown.


“Because unlike you, little cousin, I have control over my urges,” Yoongi teases. “But I agree. It was an excellent choice for tonight. I’m sure the rest of court thinks the same.”


“Be nice,” Jeongguk chides from the side, hands twisted together in front of himself. The clouded blue of his eyes focuses somewhere over Yoongi’s left shoulder, but there’s no mistaking who the comment is intended for.


“Ah, so rude,” Taehyung murmurs, lacing his arm with Jeongguk’s once more. Jimin can see that Jeongguk wears a new ring alongside the ruby on his finger. The dragon prince glances around the room with a scrunch of his nose. “Where’s the wine?”


“You look lovely, Jeongguk-ah,” Jimin cuts in. “The East suits you.”


“I agree,” Suri says warmly, waving over one of the servants with a flick of her wrist. “Getting some sun does wonders for your complexion, Jeongguk.”


One of the servant girls approaches instantly, a large tray balanced on one of her palms and her shoulder as well. Displayed on its surface are several crystal goblets filled with a deep, almost purple wine. Taehyung snatches one and downs nearly half of it in a single swallow, while Jimin is a little more reserved with the one he takes. He’s more focused on watching the endearing flush that creeps up the side of Jeongguk’s neck.


“Oh, I—” he begins, clutching at Taehyung’s free wrist. “Thank you. You’re both too kind.”


Elder Dongmin takes a sip of his own goblet before setting it down on the table behind them. “I think everyone important is here. Shall I start my announcement?”


“I’m sure the rest of court anxiously awaits it.” Yoongi places a reassuring hand back around the dip of Jimin’s waist, but doesn’t pull him closer. Jimin appreciates the thoughtfulness of the gesture not seeming possessive, only grounding.


Dongmin looks above the crowd to signal the musicians to quiet down and stop their playing for the moment. Then, the crowd turns their attention to the table, where Dongmin motions to Yoongi and Jimin. Suri stands besides the Elder, hooking their arms together.


“If I may have your attention for a brief moment,” he announces, and with the quiet in the hall, his voice echoes. “Many of you are aware of the event we are celebrating tonight, but I would like to personally introduce the celebration. Min Yoongi, son to Elder Jiho, is to marry Prince Jimin of the North in the coming months. Their marriage has been set for a number of years, with the hopes of fostering peace between humankind and dragonkind. As the representatives for our kind, I and the other Elders ask that you accept the prince into our world, accept their marriage that will bridge the gap between all. Reject your previous misconceptions and strive to understand the importance of the union. Tonight is their night of honor. Please drink, feast, and be merry, as we celebrate their engagement. Enjoy yourselves and remember what can be accomplished through peace. Thank you for your attention.”


A slow applause echoes throughout the hall once Dongmin is finished with his short introduction. Although brief, the Elder covered the most important aspects of their engagement. Of course, there may be people in the crowd who disapprove, but they will have less room to voice their disdain in the East. For now, they have little to worry about.


Jimin sips once more at his goblet before setting it down on the table. Turning to Yoongi, whose hand rests on the center of Jimin’s back now, he holds out his hand to draw the prince’s attention. He smiles. “Care to dance with me, Prince Yoongi?”


“Not afraid I’ll ruin your gown?”


Coy, Jimin slips away just enough for Yoongi’s hand to fall back to his side.


“I’ll always be concerned about your improper foot placement.”


“If you’ll excuse us,” Yoongi says with a proper, respectful bow in Dongmin and Suri’s direction. His warm, calloused hand curls around Jimin’s extended one. “The Northern Prince wants to be swept off his feet.”


With a playful roll of his eyes, Jimin follows Yoongi by his hand, gown twirling across his feet with every step. The crowd respectfully clears a path when they walk by, whispering as Jimin passes, but he doesn’t listen to the words they say.


A small group of people have made their way to the middle of the throne room but leave the center of the floor for Yoongi and Jimin. They stop directly under the center of the domed roof, where the last rays of the sun shine across Yoongi’s chest, his betrothal charm glistening against his throat.


“Shall I take the lead for you, so you don’t embarrass us for our first dance?” Jimin asks with a quiet laugh, slowly lacing their fingers together on one hand.


“You seem confident that you’ll be able to keep up the pace,” Yoongi teases him as the music picks up. It’s not at all like the music that Jimin’s used to hearing in court. It’s wild, a pounding beat that Jimin feels in the center of his chest.


Instead of holding one hand and placing another one around Jimin’s waist, Yoongi clasps both of their hands together, steps in so close that their chests press flush together, arms spread wide. “Dancing here is a much different sort of animal, Prince Jimin.”


They’re so close Jimin can feel Yoongi’s puff of breath against his cheeks. He doesn’t shy away, especially not when they sway quickly to the side and then back, elbows touching. “Is it now?” Jimin muses, listening and studying the foreign beat. “A dragon’s dance, perhaps?”


“Something like that.” Another whirl, a spin. Yoongi lets go of one hand to let the force of their twirl push Jimin out and away from his body so that the fabric of his borrowed gown twirls out like blooming petals of a flower, tugging him back just as Jimin reaches the apex. It forces Jimin against his chest, breathless and heart kicking behind his ribs much faster than it was before. “We’re not as refined as your court in Aiseu.”


“The North is a land of tradition,” Jimin hums, this time switching his position so he can twirl Yoongi, quick to catch on to the mannerisms of this particular dance. When they’re pressed together again, he smiles. “But I can surely follow the ways of the dragons.”


Yoongi’s eyes flash playfully, lips parted to draw in a breath. “Oh, I have no doubt of that at all.”


Around them, more people have flocked into the center to begin their dance after Yoongi and Jimin initiated the festivities. With Yoongi guiding him across the floor, they dance their way to the outer edges to finish the song with the crowd near the center. When they finish with one last twirl, Jimin inhales deep, feeling a flush to his cheeks. Even Yoongi, in his thicker robes, must take a moment to catch his breath.


“So you lead the dance,” Jimin acknowledges, reaching out for a goblet of wine when a server passes by. His original goblet is far off. “You’ve surprised me.”


“Now you know how I’ve felt ever since we met. Finally, I’m the one to keep you on your toes.”


Hiding his smile behind his goblet, Jimin scans the crowd from their position. Dongmin and Suri are seated on their golden thrones conversing, gazing out at the assembly, but Taehyung and Jeongguk are out of view. When he glances over on the other side, he sees Namjoon descending the stairs leading to the balcony above, and the knight perks when their eyes lock.


Yoongi has grabbed his own goblet of wine and stands next to Jimin, quiet upon Namjoon’s approach.


“Have you been enjoying yourself, Namjoon-ah?” Jimin asks, noticing that Namjoon’s posture has loosened slightly, but his shoulders are still tense.


Jimin knows Namjoon well enough that he can tell whatever his knight is about to say isn’t the whole truth. “Of course,” Namjoon says diplomatically, inclining his head in Yoongi’s direction. “Though not as much as you have been.”


“Drink some wine, then you will enjoy yourself more,” Jimin laughs, slipping another glass off of a passing tray and pressing it into Namjoon’s hands.





A few glasses of wine do seem to loosen the tension in Namjoon’s body. He stays close to Jimin’s side, as does Yoongi, all of them sitting together with Taehyung and Jeongguk once the food begins to arrive. While they aren’t seated with Dongmin and Suri, their table is close by and is the second one served out of the entire hall.


The atmosphere is so festive, the flavor and heat of the food so different than from what Jimin is used to at home, but he finds himself able to relax and enjoy himself more than he anticipated. Taehyung, as expected, makes everyone laugh with his antics and storytelling, even Namjoon and Yoongi aren’t immune to his charms.


Just as they’ve all cleared their plates, more wine in their glasses, out of the corner of Jimin’s eye he sees Elder Jiho and Seokjin moving through the crowd towards their table. Everyone’s attention turns to the approaching pair, watching as Seokjin dips his head once towards Jimin and Yoongi cordially.


Compared to this afternoon, Seokjin is certainly wearing more formal wear; the fabric dips low on his chest down the center and a billowing cape of flowing fabric trails down the shoulders of the gown. The stitching in the front reminds Jimin of nature, perhaps leaves or even ivy, and a sheer ribbon pattern exposes the front of his legs. A crown of ivory sits atop his dark hair.


Seokjin appears regal and distinguished, air of confidence surrounding him. He clasps his hands against his stomach and the fabric of his cape curls across the broad expanse of his shoulders when he does so. His gleaming eyes flit from Jimin to Namjoon, lips curling in the corners.


“You look lovely, little swan,” Seokjin croons, reaching out to take a goblet from a passing server. “I saw you were busy, and I assume everyone will want to speak with you soon. Although, I do believe we can spare a moment to chat while Elder Jiho speaks with Yoongi.”


The Elder, in crushed dark velvet robes, bowing his head in Jimin’s direction as he stands by his son. “If you will excuse us for a short moment. It won’t be long, Prince Jimin.”


“Yes, of course,” Jimin nods, tapping his fingers against his goblet as Yoongi and Jiho step off to the side. He returns his attention to Seokjin, who is sipping at his wine, holding the cup between his ringed fingers. One of the rings is a stunning emerald, the other a pearl.


“Apologies for coming off as brash earlier in court. You were not who I was expecting, and I’m pleasantly surprised. I won’t act like Hana, rest assured.” Seokjin chuckles, eyes flitting over to Namjoon once more. “Who are you, if I may ask? I recall seeing you this afternoon.”


Namjoon seems startled at being addressed by one of the Elders, mouth opening and closing soundlessly once before he gathers himself. “Kim Namjoon,” he says, bowing as much as he can while still being seated. “Prince Jimin’s personal guard while he’s here in Hwajae.”


Seokjin’s brows raise. “Ah, so you must be the strongest then, to be tasked with accompanying your prince? What an honor.”


Jimin smiles around the rim of his glass as he takes another sip. Namjoon looks properly flustered by the dragon Elder’s attention.


“It—It is a great honor,” Namjoon agrees, his gaze flickering to Jimin in a silent plea for help.


But Jimin, amused and enthusiastic about this interaction, will not help in the way Namjoon wants. “Namjoon-ah hasn’t quite socialized tonight. I should leave you both to it then, let you converse on your own.”


Seokjin’s smile widens and Namjoon’s expression falters when Jimin begins to leave. “I’m interested in learning more about you, Namjoon. Care to join me on the sofa?”


Even Taehyung has a mischievous sort of grin on his face when he catches Jimin’s eye across the table.


“Oh, I’m not as interesting as you think,” Namjoon practically stammers, rooted in his seat, looking a little helpless at the entire situation.


“Sit down, Namjoon-ah, and relax. I will be on the balcony outside until Yoongi is finished speaking with Elder Jiho. I will be back before you realize it.”


Jimin recognizes the woeful expression on Namjoon’s face, but he turns around before Namjoon can protest. After all, Seokjin and Taehyung are there as well; they will both keep Namjoon occupied.


He glides through the crowd, goblet in hand, making his way towards the upper level balconies where he can relax and take in the sights of the sea and the city. He ascends the stairs, a decent number of guests on the upper floor, but the outside balconies are empty. Draping curtains flutter in the gentle breeze but Jimin pushes them aside and breathes deep.


The smell of the salty ocean has always calmed him, even since his childhood. The ocean brings him comfort, one different than physical or emotional comfort, and relaxes his body from the inside. He can feel the power and the life that radiates from the dark waters.


Outside, he overlooks the sea, as well as the harbor further down the shore. Golden lights gleam from inside buildings, but signs of life are drowned out by the steady roll of the tide against the beach below. Jimin finds himself leaning against the balcony, setting his empty goblet on the sandstone.


He twirls the dragon scale between his fingers. Being this close to the sea, even after only being away from it for a day, has him reminiscing of home. The ocean is different in the East; where it can be turbulent in the North, calmed only by the harsh winters where ice covers the surface closest to the shore. Here, the ocean is brimming with life and energy, a constant flow that never ceases. Only Jimin can understand the differences. Nobody else would understand.


Jimin is too content with watching the moonlit waters to recognize another presence until he hears soft footsteps to his left. Raising his head and dropping his hand from his necklace, he turns to Yoongi, raven black hair ruffled by the sea breeze.


“Do you want company?” the dragon prince asks. “Are you feeling alright?”


Standing up, Jimin nods. “Felt as if the sea was calling for me. I was unsure of how long your conversation with your father would last.”


“It was quick, like he said.” With Jimin’s permission, Yoongi steps up and rests his elbows on the railing next to Jimin, looking out over the water. “I know it can be stifling in there. All those people. Hardly anyone you know. I don’t blame you for wanting a moment of privacy.”


“This most likely will not be the last festivity before our wedding?”


“It won’t be. That’s actually part of what my father wanted to talk about. More public appearances, when we’re expected to be in court.” Yoongi’s side profile is striking, sharper with the moonlight casting his jawline into harsh shadows. His bottom lip shines after the pink of his tongue flicks at it, turning his slitted green eyes in Jimin’s direction. “But nothing you need to worry about. You’ll charm everyone you meet.”


Jimin rests his hands on the edge of the balcony, chin hooked on his shoulder. “Have I charmed you already, Prince Yoongi?”


“I’ve not decided yet.”


Jimin shifts closer, peering over his shoulder to fix his eyes on the prince. “Even in this light, I can tell where your eyes are looking.”


“Oh, you can, can you?” Yoongi stays rooted in place, holding Jimin’s gaze with complete confidence. “What does that tell you?”


He smiles coyly. “Enough.”


Quiet now, Jimin turns around, looking back inside. The curtains are still fluttering from the breeze, and the music can be heard from on the balcony. “I suppose we should return soon. . .”


Yoongi hums behind him, in agreement, most likely. There’s a soft rustling of cloth, a gentle pressure around the curve of Jimin’s waist as Yoongi’s palm splays across his right side.


“How long have you had this?” Yoongi speaks quietly, almost whispering into Jimin’s left ear as the fingertips of his free hand ghost gently across the exposed skin of Jimin’s shoulder blade, pressing right where the faint white of his snowflake mark stands out against his skin.


Exhaling, Yoongi’s hand cool against his body, Jimin cranes his head. Yoongi’s fingers circle around the mark, eyes examining it. “When I was little, my mother discovered it. My parents say it might be a sign, given my. . . abilities.”


“It’s pretty,” Yoongi says, voice gruff. Jimin can barely feel the points of his nails through the layers of his gown. “Just like you.”


Jimin shouldn’t falter in that moment, not with Yoongi’s quiet words against his ear. His nails tap at the mark before slowly ghosting down Jimin’s bare spine, grazing the skin, retreating all at once. Withholding a shiver, Jimin twists his head, necklace swaying across his chest. They are but inches apart.


“Shall we return?” he asks, voice low, almost a whisper in the wind. It would be so easy to tip his head back and let it rest on Yoongi’s shoulder, to tilt his face up until their breaths mingled.


Yoongi’s pupils are no more than thin slits in the center of his eyes. The corner of his mouth curls up. “As you wish.”

Chapter Text

Seokjin’s curious eyes flit from Jimin to the handsome man seated next to him. Golden light filters across his cheeks, lips pursed as the two Elders approach the table. His dark robes compliment his skin, and Seokjin fights to take his eyes off the human. Refocusing on Jimin, he smiles.


“You look lovely, little swan,” Seokjin croons, reaching out to take a goblet from a passing server. “I saw you were busy, and I assume everyone will want to speak with you soon. Although, I do believe we can spare a moment to chat while Elder Jiho speaks with Yoongi.”


Elder Jiho next to him bows his head and motions for Yoongi to follow him. “If you will excuse us for a short moment. It won’t be long, Prince Jimin.”


Seokjin quietly sips at his wine as Yoongi and Jiho prepare to leave. His gaze shifts to the human at the table, alone and somber, and he taps his fingers against his goblet before lowering it. “Apologies for coming off as brash earlier in court. You were not who I was expecting, and I’m pleasantly surprised. I won’t act like Hana, rest assured.” He chuckles, eyes fixated on the human now. “Who are you, if I may ask? I recall seeing you this afternoon.”


He seems startled at being addressed by one of the Elders, mouth opening and closing soundlessly once before he gathers himself. “Kim Namjoon,” he says, bowing as much as he can while still being seated. “Prince Jimin’s personal guard while he’s here in Hwajae.”


Ah, Namjoon.


His brows raise and he hides his smile when Namjoon becomes flustered. “Ah, so you must be the strongest then, to be tasked with accompanying your prince? What an honor.”


“It—It is a great honor,” Namjoon agrees, his gaze flickering to Jimin in a silent plea for help.


With luck on Seokjin’s side, the swan prince evades Namjoon’s plea. He stands and moves around the table. “Namjoon-ah hasn’t quite socialized tonight. I should leave you both to it then, let you converse on your own.”


Even when Namjoon’s expression falters, Seokjin smiles wide. Taehyung smiles in a similar fashion at the table. “I’m interested in learning more about you, Namjoon. Care to join me?”


“Oh, I’m not as interesting as you think,” Namjoon practically stammers, rooted in his seat, looking a little helpless at the entire situation. Easy prey.


Jimin reassures Namjoon and Seokjin steps closer, motioning for Namjoon to stand from the table. Obedient, but still shy, he does so, and Taehyung nudges the man forward. Seokjin drinks from his goblet as he guides Namjoon towards a more comfortable space in the back of the throne room, one where they can lounge and talk.


Finding an empty couch, Seokjin sits down first, cape trailing down his shoulders and under his body. Namjoon still stands and is hesitant to move.


“I won’t bite. Your precious swan will return at any moment.”


The set of Namjoon’s jaw is tight, shoulders stiff as he gives a jerky nod and sinks down onto the couch with a respectable distance between the two of them. “I’m sorry. I’m not good at this sort of thing,” the soldier confesses, fingers twisting into the sides of his robes for a moment before he seems to think better of it and instead smooths his palms down his thighs. “I’m much better with a sword than I am with conversation.”


Seokjin raises his goblet to his lips. “Well, perhaps I can help you,” he hums, relaxing and settling into the cushions. “I have never seen such an outfit from a military officer. Must be difficult to remove, so many layers. Are those your medals of honor?”


“This is nothing compared to the outfits I’ve seen here in court. Especially next to a gown like yours.” Namjoon reaches up to fiddle with the ornate silver trinkets pinned over his heart, all in different shapes. A little smile graces the corners of his mouth. “They signify some of my military accomplishments. I didn’t expect anyone here to notice.”


Seokjin smiles and leans forward a little more. “We flaunt ourselves during these special occasions.” His eyes examine one medal in particular: a silver swan centered between two swords. It catches the light from the lanterns above. “What about that swan? It’s beautiful.”


Immediately, Namjoon’s forefinger presses against the swan. He knows exactly where it is without even looking. “This was a gift from the queen. She gave it to me when I took on the role as Prince Jimin’s personal guard.”


“How did you meet him? Surely you two are. . . close.”


Seokjin examines Namjoon’s facial features, the way his eyes brighten at the mention of Jimin. Clearly, without a word needing to be spoken, their relationship runs deeper under the surface.


“We’ve known each other since we were small. My father was a high ranking military officer, so I grew up in the training yard on the castle grounds.”


“Surely you’re talented to become his personal knight, and not only because of your relationship with him.” Seokjin runs his tongue over his lips after taking a sip of wine. “You’re so devoted to the swan prince.”


Namjoon’s fingers still press against the swan pendant, tension locking up his shoulders as his eyes flick to where Yoongi disappears through the same archway Jimin walked through only moments earlier. For a moment, Seokjin thinks he’ll stand and leave, but instead Namjoon casts his eyes to the floor somewhere around his feet.


“How could I not be?” he murmurs. “My talents are few but protecting is one of them.”


The sudden shift in concentration and confliction has Seokjin humming in his throat. His brows are furrowed, hands in his lap fiddling with the long trails of his robes. A stoic man, he thinks, but I see a soft spot.


Setting his goblet down on the low table in front of them, Seokjin sprawls across the couch. Namjoon shifts, albeit subtly. His eyes shift to the pin that Namjoon caresses and they light up with interest. “May I see that? The swan?”


“Oh,” Namjoon seems startled by the request. His hand freezes over the pendant as he finally meets Seokjin’s eyes. “Of— of course.”


Reluctance laces all of his motions but it seems Namjoon decides that he doesn’t want to offend by refusing such a simple request. His long, deft fingers work at unpinning the medal, holding it out for Seokjin to take. The Elder leans forward and wraps his fingers around the medal, brushing his fingertips deliberately across Namjoon’s palm as he retreats.


Seokjin examines the swan, the gleam of silver in the golden light. “Are you interested in asking me questions, Namjoon? You seem a curious man.”


Namjoon’s hands settle in his lap. “I’m not sure what to ask.”


Smiling, Seokjin leans back with his goblet in his hand, the silver pin in his other palm. “Oh, try me,” he muses, sipping more wine and settling into the cushioned couch. “I don’t bite.”





Taehyung enjoys the warmth that passes through his body with the wine he drinks from his goblet, remaining stationary at the head table during the celebration. The attention is focused on Jimin and Yoongi, and not so much on him as it usually is. Not a bother; he enjoys the spectacle in front of him.


Jeongguk sits next to him quietly, hands in his lap or picking up food from the table. His eyes stare forward at the dance floor but anything that happens goes unseen. Taehyung is reluctant to leave his side and observes from afar, leaning in to make comments about what is happening to Jeongguk, smiling when the younger giggles in response. When Jeongguk is with him, Taehyung is content with staying in one place.


He whispers to Jeongguk about Jimin leaving for the balconies, Yoongi following, before his eyes flit to Namjoon being guided to the lounges on the other side of them with Elder Seokjin.


“I think Seokjin is interested in Namjoon,” Taehyung murmurs, swirling his wine in his glass. “Will there be another whirlwind romance in my palace?”


Jeongguk’s head tilts a bit to the side, following Taehyung’s voice. “Isn’t that a bit like a cat being interested in a mouse?”


“I think so. I’m surprised. Then again, Seokjin always surprises me.”


He watches Namjoon sit away from Seokjin, glancing towards the balcony where Yoongi and Jimin presumably are. Taehyung sets down his wine, licking his lips.


“Do you want to dance with me? I’m sure it would help to move around after sitting all night.”


Both of Jeongguk’s hands still over his plate, where he’d kept himself busy picking at what remains of the appetizers. “Oh. Yes, of course, hyung. Whatever you want.”


There’s a hint of insecurity in his tone that Jeongguk tries to mask with a smile, hiding his hands back in his lap to bury them beneath the folds of his gown.


Taehyung’s been around Jeongguk enough times to detect hesitation in his voice, that when he hides his hands it means that he’s nervous.


“Do you not want to dance?” he asks softly, reaching out to gently place his hand over Jeongguk’s, smoothing over the pearl ring on his finger. “Is everything alright?”


It’s a pity Jeongguk can’t see the concern in his eyes, which is why Taehyung has learned not to rely on his body language like he can with everyone else.


“It’s just—“ Jeongguk clears his throat a little, flushing beautifully under the light that creeps in through the windows. “There’s a lot of people here tonight. I don’t want to get in the way. If I stepped on someone, or knocked someone over. . . I’d be so embarrassed.”


“What if we go to the balcony, for fresh air? Nobody is out there, we can dance freely, no eyes to watch us. The last thing I want is for you to feel embarrassed.”


“But you should be here,” Jeongguk protests weakly. “You— you love parties and being the center of attention. Your parents might wonder where you’ve gone.”


It’s sweet how Jeongguk acts like Taehyung hasn’t made a habit of sneaking away from parties since he was a teen. Whether from boredom or to find a place to be alone with someone else, Taehyung certainly isn’t a stranger to slipping out unnoticed.


“I’m not the center of attention tonight. Yoongi and the swan prince are.” Smiling, he carefully intertwines their fingers. “My parents have learned by now that I disappear from time to time, and would be glad to know that I’ve helped you enjoy tonight.”


Jeongguk’s fingers twitch, his bottom lip drawn up between his teeth, face cast down. Taehyung wishes he could see how lovely their hands look clasped together. The contrast of Taehyung’s golden skin against Jeongguk’s fairer northern complexion.


“I am enjoying myself,” he insists stubbornly, lips pursing into an adorable pout that fills Taehyung with the urge to kiss him. “To the balcony then, my prince.”


Beaming, Taehyung stands from the table, guiding Jeongguk to his feet. “Then I’ll show you more enjoyment,” he muses as he laces his arm around Jeongguk’s and brings him against his body. Up close, he can smell the decadent oils and soaps that he had been covered in for his bath earlier, skin dewy and soft in the light of the lanterns above.


He’s slow with Jeongguk up the stairs to the balcony, amused at how Jeongguk fumbles for his long robes and hoists them above his ankles as to not trip. The earthy green robes are a color Jeongguk doesn’t wear often, more used to the darker shades of the North and the golds and reds of the robes Taehyung has gifted to him. Taehyung thinks he’s beautiful in any color, and only wishes Jeongguk could see to tell Taehyung which is his favorite. Then he would give the boy splendid gifts in that color, spoil him even more than now.


When they arrive on the upper level, a breeze blows gently through their gowns.


“As I told you, the balcony is empty,” Taehyung leads Jeongguk outside, where the sun has set, dim except for the lanterns hanging from the exterior of the palace, casting a golden hue across the stone floor. They can still hear the music from inside.


It’s clear that Jeongguk is uncomfortable in this unfamiliar space. Both of his hands are wrapped securely around Taehyung’s forearm, feet shuffling along the round as they move towards the railing. A soft breeze ruffles his hair, soft light dancing over his cheekbones.


“So it is,” Jeongguk murmurs with a little laugh. “No one to see me step all over your feet.”


“No one to see us enjoy ourselves,” Taehyung corrects in a gentle voice, wrapping his arm around Jeongguk’s waist, the other on the balcony. Below, the sea waves lap at the shore, rolling over the rocks in the shallow water.


“We can take it slow, as slow as you would like.” He gazes at Jeongguk, though the boy’s eyes stare ahead at the open sea, colored like the hazy clouds in the night sky. “We have all night.”


The long earring in Jeongguk’s lobe swings as he shakes his head. “No, no. You wanted to dance. Let’s dance, Your Highness.”


Smiling, Taehyung guides Jeongguk away from the balcony, an arm still around his waist. With the other, he laces one of their hands together, pulling Jeongguk against his chest. He rests his palm on the small of Jeongguk’s back and hums as the music slows down to a waltz, more to the tune of what plays in the North.


“We can just step back and forth,” the prince says softly, playing with Jeongguk’s fingers to ease the tension in his body, tracing over the rings. “I will move one step behind, and you move forward. I’m sure Yoongi never taught you to dance; he’s not the best at it. Although tonight. . . he put on a show with the swan prince.”


Even with Taehyung’s gentle touch and comforting words, Jeongguk’s entire body is very stiff as he tries to match Taehyung’s gliding steps with jerky ones of his own. “I wish I. . . could have seen it,” he finally says, stumbling a bit and squeezing a little harder on Taehyung’s hand for balance. “I don’t think hyung likes slow dances.”


Taehyung’s smile falters briefly but he shifts their positions so they sway side to side. “No, he must have been awkward in the North. He controlled the dance this time, which the swan prince was surprised to see, but that’s Yoongi’s way of flirting. I prefer upbeat dances, like the one played tonight, but we can dance as slow as you would like, just like those waves below us. Easy, calm, in no rush.”


“I wish I could dance faster. . . or even in front of people at all. I’m sorry you’re stuck out here with me.”


“I chose to be here with you, darling. Frankly, your company is more worth my time than anyone in that palace. I would spend sun up to sun down with you, whisk you away wherever you would like to go.” He drums his fingers against Jeongguk’s waist. “All these extravaganzas, they mean little when you’re with me.”


This time Jeongguk does step on the tips of Taehyung’s toes, tripping himself up so badly that he has to fling both of his arms around the dragon’s prince’s neck for balance. “S-sorry, hyung,” he stammers, doesn’t even realize how close their lips are to brushing.


Chuckling almost breathlessly, balancing Jeongguk with both of his arms, Taehyung rights Jeongguk on his feet. His face is warm despite the sea breeze around them. “Don’t apologize,” he says, tenderly running his fingers through Jeongguk’s hair, other hand returning to the small of his back. “Lean side to side with me. You can rest your body against mine, or lie your head on my shoulder. Do you trust me?”


There’s a moment of pause, Jeongguk’s fingers brushing Taehyung’s nape tenderly before he  nods. “I trust you. Always.”





The night lingers on by the time Jimin returns inside the palace with Yoongi, separating for a short time while Yoongi speaks to guests at their tables. While he’s been on the balcony, Namjoon has sat on the couch next to Seokjin with a new goblet in his hand, warmth sitting low in his belly.


He listens to the Elder, remaining quiet, eyes glancing to the upper level for signs of his prince. Seokjin is charming, careful in how he speaks to Namjoon, as if he’s analyzing him silently. Namjoon has little to say about himself, nothing the Elder would find interesting, slowly slipping at his wine.


Seokjin has just finished explaining his favorite parts of the East when Jimin returns, approaching alone, arms at his sides. The Elder smiles and holds his goblet in greeting.


“Hello, swan prince, how is it outside?”


Namjoon twists around, perhaps too fast for his liking, fists curled over the fabric of his robes. The tension in his shoulders remains but the weight isn’t as heavy now that Jimin has returned. Being in the presence of someone as powerful as Seokjin can make any man nervous.


“Quite pleasant. Being close to the sea is. . . comforting.” Jimin hums, resting a hand on the armrest of their couch. He smiles, lips curling in the corners. “Have you been getting along with Namjoon, Elder Seokjin? I’d hate to interrupt.”


“It’s been—“ Namjoon begins, tracing the pad of his thumb around the embossed design around the edge of his cup. “—nice. Very nice. Elder Seokjin has made lovely company.”


Company that has made him more nervous than he’s felt in years . Not even flying across the sea on the back of a dragon made him so anxious.


“I can say the same for your knight.” Seokjin uncrosses one leg from the other and reaches out to set his goblet on the table in front of them. “Lovely.”


“Wonderful to hear. Prince Yoongi is occupied with the guests. . . would you like to dance, Namjoon-ah? Surely you can spare a moment with me.”


Namjoon’s head bobs once, perhaps a little eager. “Of course, my prince.”


He stands quickly, bowing his head in Seokjin’s direction where the Elder still sits, practically lounging. One arm is propped on the edge of the couch, cheek resting against the top of his hand. There’s something sharp in the dragon elder’s eyes that makes Namjoon quickly cast his gaze to the floor.


“Thank you for your company, Elder Seokjin.”


Seokjin’s voice comes out in a purr, lips curled in a smile. “The pleasure is mine, Namjoon-ah. Enjoy your evening.”


Namjoon stands from the couch and accepts Jimin’s outstretched hand, familiarity washing over him at the comforting touch. He laces his arm around Jimin’s, letting the prince guide him back towards the crowd. They linger at the side near their original table, which Taehyung and Jeongguk are now absent from.


“Elder Seokjin seems to have enjoyed that time with you,” Jimin muses as they observe the crowd. Yoongi is milling about, conversing with other minor royals at their table. “Did you enjoy your conversation?”


“I felt very much like a mouse does after a cat has decided to make a meal of it.”


Jimin chuckles and glances at him. “So that was a negative experience? Even with all that wine?”


Truthfully, Namjoon doesn’t know how he feels. He’s a man that likes to feel in control. That’s what made him so good at being captain of the guard and Jimin’s personal knight. This entire place has thrown his world upside down, and he’s not sure he likes attention from one of the most powerful men in attendance.


“It was. . . an experience,” Namjoon says diplomatically, setting his nearly empty glass on the table. The next time he blinks, a servant has already swept it away.


“Always a diplomat,” Jimin sighs with a quiet laugh. “The night for us will end soon. How about we dance, and then retire once prince Yoongi returns? A night’s rest will do us well after all this wine.”


“You don’t have to ask me twice, my prince. I follow your lead.”





After one dance with Jimin and a chat with Taehyung’s parents, Yoongi joins them once more to bid them goodnight. There are still many guests in the palace, the dances slower and more subdued now that the night sky is dark and the moon is hanging behind the clouds.


Namjoon stands at Jimin’s side, eyes following the Northern dragon prince closely.


“Namjoon-ah and I will be retiring shortly,” Jimin tells Yoongi when the dragon prince greets them. “Will you be joining us?”


“Not yet,” Yoongi sounds a bit regretful. “My father has a few more people he’d like me to greet before the night is over. But go. I know the night’s been long. I’d rather see you well rested tomorrow.”


“Alright. Rest well, and I will see you in the morning.”


Looping his arm around Namjoon’s, he bids Yoongi farewell, and Namjoon dips his head before walking towards the stairs with Jimin. The night is wearing down, with fewer guests on the floor. Jimin must be tired, so beautifully dressed and perhaps uncomfortable after the long night of dancing and greeting guests.


They’ve made it under the archway of the main entrance, guards flanked on either side, when Jimin turns to him and points at his chest.


“Are you missing a medal?” Jimin asks, slowing down. His brows furrow for a moment, fingers brushing the material of Namjoon’s robes. “The swan. . .”


Immediately, Namjoon’s fingers fly to wear the little swan should be hanging just over his heart. The space is empty. His heart drops into his stomach. “Oh. I—I let Elder Seokjin look at it. I forgot to take it back before I left him.”


“Seokjin?” Jimin confirms, dropping his hand. “I hope he does have it. Maybe you should stop by his chambers, he may not be around tomorrow, or he might be too busy with the Council. Surely he’s retired for the evening. . .”


The last thing Namjoon wants to do is intrude on the Elder’s private space. Sitting with him in a crowded room was already overwhelming enough. Being secluded in the dragon’s chambers would be. . . perhaps too much.


“He might still be at the feast,” Namjoon hopes. “I’ll see you to your quarters and then I’ll see if I can find him.”


“I know my way from here,” Jimin replies, unlacing their arms. “Go to his chambers before it’s too late. Ask one of the guards to direct you there, but I believe he lives on the other side of the palace, with the other Elders. Retrieve that medal, you’ve worked too hard to lose it.”


Leaving Jimin to retire alone, especially in such an unfamiliar place, gives Namjoon pause. “I shouldn’t let you wander the halls alone. There’s too many people here tonight. It makes me feel uneasy.”


“As long as this scale is around my neck, no harm will come to me.” Jimin smiles, drumming his fingers reassuringly against Namjoon’s shoulder. “Guards are posted around every corner in every hall. Trust me, Namjoon. You have nothing to worry about.”


“I always worry,” Namjoon reminds the prince, a wrinkle appearing between his brows to prove the point.


“Well, if I can’t stop you, then continue to worry while you visit Elder Seokjin.” Jimin’s hand slips from Namjoon’s shoulder and he begins to step away, moving towards the stairs they came down earlier. “Goodnight, Namjoon. I will see you in the morning, hopefully with your medal back in its rightful place.”


Namjoon feels strangely out of place, watching the swirl of Jimin’s gown as he disappears out of sight. If that medal wasn’t so important, this wouldn’t be that big of a deal. He curses himself for letting Seokjin hold it.


The dragon Elder does in fact live across the courtyard from where Namjoon’s quarters are. It takes a few minutes walk — after instructions from one of the guards — until he finds himself standing in front of the ornate double doors that lead into Seokjin’s chambers.


Both doors are closed, leaving Namjoon to contemplate his life choices for a few moments before he lifts a hand to rap gently at the doors’ center.


He gnaws on his lower lip when he hears nothing behind the doors. Seokjin is most likely asleep or still at the ceremony somewhere, and he contemplates turning around and returning to his chambers when Seokjin’s voice filters through, lilted and calm.


“Come in.”


With a deep breath, Namjoon presses his palm against the door. It swings open almost silently, allowing him to step through.


The inside of Seokjin’s chambers are dimly lit. The windows to outside are propped open, silk curtains fluttering in the sea breeze. Several candles are lit, casting a quiet glow that makes it easy to see so Namjoon doesn’t trip over any of the intricately embroidered rugs or the hand carved pieces of furniture in the sitting area.


Seokjin himself is nowhere to be found, prodding Namjoon to venture inside a little further. An open doorway to the side draws his attention. A bedroom perhaps?


He’s right in his assumptions. Barely peeking through the doorway shows Seokjin sprawled across his bed, a clear glass of deep colored wine in one hand and a book in the other. Namjoon quickly averts his eyes, realizing that the Elder is. . . practically indecent with only a thin, gauzy robe to protect his modesty.


“Apologies,” he manages to gasp out. “I didn’t realize you were — indisposed, Elder Seokjin.”


He’s already backpedaling out of the doorway and into the living area, blood pounding in his ears.


“If I were embarrassed, I wouldn’t have allowed you in my chambers,” Seokjin calls out with a laugh, but Namjoon’s eyes are fixated on the floor beneath him, heat rising to his cheeks. “Come back inside. A little indecency won’t harm you, will it?”


With another deep breath, Namjoon does as he’s been told, but respectfully keeps his eyes trained on the patterns in the tiled flooring. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude, I just— My medal. I forgot to get it back from you.”


Seokjin sets his book down besides him on the luxurious bed, piled with pillows and covered with silk sheets. He holds something else in his hand, and when he opens his palm to Namjoon, he can see the swan pin, gleaming in the candle light.


“I realized I kept it after you had left,” he hums, sipping at his wine slowly, folding one leg over the other. One side of the robe is cut higher against his thigh, exposing taut muscle and gleaming skin. “You would like it back, yes?”


“Please,” Namjoon says quietly into the room, not daring to look any higher than where he can see the smooth skin of the Elder’s ankle on the sheets of his bed. “It’s. . . very important to me. Being without it does not feel right.”


Seokjin nods, but he withdraws his hand into his lap. “Will you answer a question for me first?”


At that, Namjoon flicks his gaze up, focusing on Seokjin’s face. “A question?”


The Elder leans back and taps his glass with his nails. His gaze is intense, almost unnerving with the slitted pupils of his eyes. “Why are you so in love with the swan prince when he’s arranged to marry Yoongi?”


Every muscle in Namjoon’s body locks, a vice twisting his chest tighter every time he tries to breathe. “I— I don’t know what you’re talking about—“


“Your loyalty isn’t just for the sake of loyalty. It’s bred from love, from adoration for your prince. You told me you grew up with him, and you’re the closest to him. I don’t blame you; yet, you love him even though he will never be yours.”


No one has ever put it so bluntly. Namjoon takes a very slow, controlled breath through his nose. “Forgive me, Elder Seokjin,” he says as calmly as he can. “But my feelings for the prince are none of your business.”


One corner of Seokjin’s lips curls upward. “My, a touchy subject,” he swings one leg off the bed followed by the other, standing on his bare feet. The robe he wears is not quite sheer, but close to it. Namjoon watches as Seokjin walks over to a table on the other side of the bedroom where a bottle of wine sits, just out of Namjoon’s line of sight. He has to turn his head slightly to watch.


“Have a drink with me?” Seokjin calmly pours more wine into his glass, reaching for a second. The muscles in his back shift, broad shoulders tapering to a small waist and long legs underneath the gauzy green robe. He glances at Namjoon expectantly, irritatingly calm.


“It’s late. I shouldn’t. I just— I just came for the medal.”


This should have been quick, but now Namjoon feels very much like a sheep in a wolf’s den. His eyes are drawn to Seokjin’s long, slim fingers before he swallows thickly and faces forward. Seokjin seemingly ignores everything Namjoon just said and busies himself with pouring more wine into the second glass.


There’s the clinking of glass and footsteps behind him. His heart thuds in his chest but he doesn’t dare move.


“Would it be selfish of me to wish you would stay longer?” Seokjin asks, voice much closer. A glass of wine is set down on the table next to them and Namjoon’s shoulders tense when he feels long nails grazing the nape of his neck. A chill settles in his spine. The Elder’s hand trails from his nape across to the curve of his shoulder, where he comes into view. In his free hand, he holds Namjoon’s glass.


They’re closer than expected. Exhaling deeply, gaze flickering to the wine in front of him, Namjoon swallows. After a pause, seeing no way to escape or feeling a desire to want to escape, he accepts the glass. Seokjin’s lips curl into a smile.


“Surely we both have our selfish desires.”


Something warm curls slowly in the pit of Namjoon’s stomach, but he blames it on wine drunk long ago. “I shouldn’t,” he protests, but it sounds hollow even to his own ears.


Seokjin’s hand trails down to his chest, and he can hear the slight clink of the medal against his robes. He runs his fingers across deliberately, pointed nails tapping at his chest. “Who says you must return to your chambers? Your prince will be asleep by now,” he murmurs, fastening the medal back in place as if it were nothing. “But me? Not yet.”


Surely he can feel how frantically Namjoon’s heart beats beneath his fingertips.


“It wouldn’t be proper—“


“You aren’t in the North anymore, darling.” Seokjin’s nails drag down his chest slowly with intent. “Our traditions vary, but you will find that we aren’t all that different in what we desire.”


Namjoon’s tongue feels thick in his mouth, but he feels like a man transfixed, can’t bring himself to lift his glass for a swallow of wine. “What is it you desire, Elder Seokjin?”


There's a moment where Seokjin doesn't speak,  hand trailing off Namjoon's body to curl around the stem of his glass, fingers brushing over the chilled surface. He plucks it from Namjoon's grasp and sets it down on the table next to his own glass of wine, hand finding its way back to Namjoon's shoulder.


So close, their breaths mingling, Seokjin smiles and speaks close to Namjoon's ear. His voice is but a whisper, heavy with something ,  sending another shiver down Namjoon’s spine.


“Besides power and peace, in this moment, I desire you .”

Chapter Text

Namjoon wakes to a beam of sun creeping across his face. His eyes flicker open, squinting against the sunrise streaming in through the open windows. The side of his face is smashed against a very large, fluffy pillow. One of his feet practically dangles off the bed, the other tucked safely under the sheets. When he shifts, rolling over with a groan, the silky sheets drag over his naked body—


Realization strikes like a bolt of lightning as Namjoon shoots up into a seated position, rapidly blinking to clear his sleep fogged vision.


Gods, this is Seokjin’s bedroom.


The Elder is nowhere to be found. Sheets cold on the other side of the bed, suggesting he’s been gone for some time.


Namjoon’s black dress robes are in a crumpled pile on the other side of the bedroom. His shoes are nowhere in sight.


With one of the sheets gathered up around his waist and chest like a makeshift robe, Namjoon slides out of bed as quietly as he can.


But he forgets that Seokjin is a dragon, and dragons have excellent hearing.


“You’re finally awake,” comes his voice from outside the bedroom, almost in a singing tune, and Namjoon stumbles over the sheets. When he emerges shyly from the bedroom, blinking his eyes in the bright room, the Elder is seated next to an open door leading to his personal balcony. The curtains flutter gently, and the sound of the sea lapping at the shore reaches his ears.


Seokjin is wearing the same robe as last night, seemingly more sheer now with the sun lighting up the room. He holds a gold rimmed cup in his hand with a dark liquid inside, perhaps tea, if indicative by the slice of citrus floating near the surface. His hair is a little messy, no longer as put together as last night. A few marks stand out against his collarbone.


“The morning is still early, but I didn’t want to wake you.” He peers over the edge of the cup, corners of his lips quirking. Namjoon self consciously, although silly with all things considered, draws the sheets closer over his body. “You’re even more handsome in the daylight.”


Unbidden, a flush blooms across Namjoon’s cheeks. “I— Thank you. You are too. I mean— You’re beautiful in any light, Elder Seokjin.”


And he is . Namjoon would be lying if he told anyone that he found Seokjin unattractive. He’s not beautiful in the way that Jimin is, or most humans for that matter. It’s a deadly sort of beauty, a sharpness and a strength that Namjoon finds he likes very much.


Seokjin laughs, both flattered and amused. “Please, you don’t have to say Elder when we’re in private.” He sets his teacup down on the table besides his chair, where another book sits. From what Namjoon has gathered, Seokjin enjoys reading for leisure. “I unfortunately have work to do today, so we cannot enjoy each other’s company until the evening. That is, if you’d like.”


Knowing a dismissal when he hears one, Namjoon’s spine straightens. “Of course, I apologize. I’ll take my leave.”


“There’s no rush or a need to apologize. If my work was that important, I wouldn’t have kept you.” Seokjin waves his hand. Then, he smiles. “If you’re shy, perhaps you should cover your neck. . . just for your sake of pride.”


Immediately one of Namjoon’s hands covers the side of his neck, blush deepening. “I— I will,” he manages to choke out, already walking backwards toward the bedroom. “I’ll dress and be gone so you can go about your day.”


“They look good on you,” Seokjin hums, reaching over to pick up his cup of tea once more. He leans back in his chair, eyes watching Namjoon re-enter the bedroom to change. “Take your time. My work can wait.”





Today is finally a day of rest for Jimin, body tired from the previous night. He had slept for longer than usual, thankful for the breakfast brought to him when he woke. While the bed he sleeps in is unfamiliar still, it’s comfortable, and he was tempted to not leave it until the sun shone brightly into his chambers. In the North, where some days were dark all hours, he had no reason to leave his bed; yet in the East, the sun shines endlessly, darkness arriving late into the night and leaving early in the morning.


Despite his unwillingness to move about, he still dressed himself and left his chambers after breakfast.


There’s a balcony reading room not too far from his chambers, a quiet place to relax in for the afternoon. The room is round with a large open balcony, pillars opening up outside where native ferns grow. From where he sits, Jimin has a view of the harbor, sailboats bobbing on the surface of the crystalline waters. He’s wearing light layers today, muted colored robes that show off little compared to his gown last night.


Jimin hasn’t read a book in quite awhile. So many are stacked against the far wall, leather covers showing signs of age, paper golden and crisp under his fingers. He picks a couple to browse, and settles down with a cup of citrus tea left over from breakfast.


It’s peaceful in the room, and he leans against the cushioned chair with a hum, eyes scanning the pages as he reads. Nobody comes to bother him; not yet, until he hears a soft rustling of fabric behind him at some point when he’s halfway through the first book.


Glancing over his shoulder, Jimin raises his brows when he sees Namjoon standing in the entryway, one hand on the hilt of his sword. From the shadows Jimin can see the gleam of the silver swan medal, pinned to his breast. While his pants are dark, his top is a rich palm green, high up on his neck with a satin cape flowing from his shoulders, gold stitched into the seams. A flattering color that he hardly wears.


“Namjoon, good morning,” Jimin twists to face the knight, eyes flickering to his chest. “I see you’ve retrieved your medal.”


The knight clears his throat, stepping a little closer as he answers. “I did. I trust you slept well?”


Jimin squints, holding his cup of tea in one hand. “A little tired, but nothing out of the ordinary.” Namjoon is hesitant to come closer, he can tell. And he fidgets, fingers gripping tighter around the hilt of his sword. “How was your night? I take it you visited Elder Seokjin? Sit down and join me.”


“It was a good evening,” Namjoon says vaguely, doing as Jimin requests by taking a seat on one of the other cushioned chairs. His hair ruffles in the light breeze from the bay. “My medal was in good hands. Now it’s been safely returned.”


He’s known Namjoon long enough to understand when he’s speaking diplomatically, and this is one of those times where the situation seems odd. The prince leans in more, to which Namjoon swallows, shrugging one of his shoulders as if adjusting something. Jimin’s eyes follow the movement until he can see a mark just below Namjoon’s ear, right under the high collar of his tunic.


Jimin nearly spills his tea into his lap.


“Are you—”


There’s no mistaking the blush that begins to stain the tops of Namjoon’s cheeks. “Jimin, please —“


Holding back a disbelieving laugh, Jimin sets down his teacup before he does spill it on the book in front of him. “A good evening?” He questions, and Namjoon shrinks in his chair, a flush like never before seen crossing his cheeks. “Not an excellent evening?”


“Why did I even come to see you?” Namjoon mumbles, stubbornly looking out over the balcony edge for a long moment before his eyes slide back over to Jimin’s. “But if you must know. Then, yes. An excellent evening.”


This time, Jimin’s mouth remains dropped open. He folds one leg over the other, glancing up at the ceiling. “I thought you two looked good together last night,” he begins, but he cuts himself off with a laugh. “However, I didn’t expect for you to fuck the dragon Elder.”


Jimin ,” Namjoon seethes, looking around to see if anyone is passing by. “Don’t be so crude.”


“I’m not wrong to voice my thoughts.” Jimin reaches for his tea and sips at it, shaking his head in amusement, still reeling from the original shock. “Perhaps Prince Taehyung’s behavior is rubbing off on me.”


“Goddess help us.”






Being back in Hwajae certainly has its ups and downs. Yoongi can only hope that Jimin is having a more relaxing morning than he is. He’s been slumped over old scrolls for the better part of the morning, eyes permanently squinted—  or so it feels. And after that, it’s endless meetings with his father and uncle and other nobles at court, stupid gatherings with no real purpose other than to reiterate the same thing over and over again.


Nobles voice their concerns or pledge their allegiance. Dongmin and Jiho do most of the talking, but Yoongi has to be there as the face of one of the future Elders, the one binding himself to a human.


Besides listening to nobles, they discuss concerns over the political climate in the land, specifically the implications of Yoongi’s marriage to Jimin. Regions of the South have been uneasy for some time now, and given that the population is vastly made of humans, the news of a human marrying a future Elder does not sit very well; tensions are already high with the South’s previous ventures into the West to start problems, but Jiho and Dongmin are particularly concerned. Suri is from the South, and although she is not in the Council, Dongmin relays her concerns to them over the matter.


At the present moment, not much can be done. Political unrest was to be expected after the news of the engagement spread, but for tensions to rise so early. . . at least Seokjin has less to worry about now that the attention is no longer focused on the West.


There’s a pulsing headache between his eyes when he manages to slip away for a break around midday. He knows his father can see the way his smile’s been strained most of the morning, gives him an apologetic look but doesn’t stop him as Yoongi disappears through one of the doorways in the rear of the room.


Pressing the door shut with an audible click, Yoongi allows himself to slump against it, letting out a deep sigh as his head rolls around on his shoulders.


It’s important for him to attend council, he understands; he’s going to be an Elder one day, and his father’s job will become his. Tragic that the meetings are all incredibly boring, however.


After a moment of contemplating, Yoongi pushes off the door and stands in the empty hallway, at the end which has doors that lead to the gardens in the courtyard. His break won’t be long, his father will most likely send someone to fetch him or come out himself, and his feeling of dread doesn’t linger for long when the doors he had exited open once more with a swift creak and then shut again.


He hadn’t expected his father to retrieve him so early. Turning around, he fails to hide his surprise when instead of his father, Hoseok leans against the door, draped in the finest silks. A thin golden circlet sits just below his orange locks.


“Mind if I join you on a break?” He asks, pushing off the door with his palms. “If there’s two of us missing, they’ll only have to wait longer.”


Yoongi had never been one to deny Hoseok anything. Old habits die hard.


“I was a fool to think I could get away unnoticed,” Yoongi laments, but the corners of his mouth tug up into a smile. “My father warned me that it would be like this when we came back, but I didn’t think it would be so boring .”


“Being an Elder is boring, Yoongi, but it was far more stale when we were younger,” Hoseok laughs, folding his arms over his chest. “It will end soon. Are you doing anything with the swan prince afterwards? Last night was. . . long.”


Yoongi huffs some semblance of a laugh under his breath, gesturing with his head towards the garden doors. “Too long. Those sort of parties were always more your element, ‘Seok. I’m more content lingering in the shadows but you. . .”


Hoseok glows in the sun, thrives under attention, and it shows. Yoongi always thought he’d looked the best in the sunrise.


“I can never resist the parties. Perhaps that’s why Taehyung loves them.” Hoseok falls into step with Yoongi as they walk down the corridor, guards posted outside the courtyard doors bowing their heads and opening the doors for the two princes. Outside, the sun shines with no clouds, seabirds floating above in the towers of the palace. The citrus trees smell decadent this time of year.


“How is it, after being absent for some time? You were here last season, and I presume you’re staying for awhile?”


“The wedding will be here,” Yoongi says quietly, aware that talk of his marriage is more than likely still a sore spot for Hoseok, even if he doesn’t show it. It’s answer enough to assume they will all be staying in Hwajae until further notice. “It’s. . . well, you know I dislike the heat.”


Even as he speaks, Yoongi keeps to the shadows of the trees. His fair skin always burns so easily in the heat of the Eastern sun.


Hoseok, however, stands in the sun, golden skin gleaming under the rays. The gold jewelry he wears cast reflections on the ground, and he shifts so that the sun isn’t in his eyes as he speaks with Yoongi.


“How is it? With the swan prince?” Hoseok carefully leans against one of the pillars that holds up the walkway above them. They’re entering a touchy subject, and Yoongi can see Hoseok pausing and glancing beyond Yoongi for a moment. “He’s very pretty.”


Yoongi lets out a sigh. “You know I’m not marrying him for his appearance, Hoseok. We’ve known this was going to happen for nearly two decades. He could have been horribly disfigured and nothing would have changed.”


“I know why this marriage is happening, Yoongi, we’ve known since he was but a boy,” Hoseok responds almost immediately, fixing his gaze on the other prince, brows pinched just slightly. “And you should consider yourself lucky that you’re marrying someone so beautiful. I don’t mean it in spite; really, you suit him.”


There are so many things unsaid between them, things that Yoongi doesn’t dare delve into in the open air of the courtyard. It was Yoongi’s fault that they never got closure, and the way Hoseok has always put others’ happiness above his own doesn’t help matters either.


Maybe he should feel lucky, but Yoongi has never considered himself someone to prioritize physical characteristics over personality. If anything, he’s grateful that Jimin seems to have a fire burning inside himself brighter than any dragon’s flame.


“I don’t think you could be spiteful even if you tried,” he offers up with a little half smile. “Your mother has enough of that for both of us.”


At the mention of his mother, Hoseok sighs with a shake of his head. “I wanted to apologize for her behavior, but I do not expect her to cease any time soon. She’s more upset than either of us are.”


Now, Yoongi doesn’t know if that’s necessarily true. Hana’s upset stems from the fact that Yoongi’s marriage to Jimin earns her no personal gain. Whereas if things had continued as she wanted, if it were Hoseok’s wedding she was planning, that would have only given her more power. Something that Dongmin and Jiho have been actively trying to avoid.


“You don’t have to apologize to me. Your mother is who she is. Throwing tantrums won’t change what’s already been set in motion.”


“She will, unfortunately, be that way, but it’s unfair to the swan prince.” Hoseok reaches up to pluck an orange from the leaves of the tree Yoongi stands under, shade keeping him out of the warm desert sun. Using the edge of his nail, Hoseok drags it through the orange to peel it, sweet juice dripping from his fingers on the ground below. “To be called a whore upon arriving in Hwajae. . . my mother truly has no shame.”


Focused on the dexterous motions of Hoseok’s fingers, Yoongi hums in agreement. “He holds his own. He’s not as delicate as we would think. Humans are. . . such curious creatures.”


“I didn’t know you had imprinted upon him.” Hoseok takes a small chunk of the fruit and bites into it, eyes landing on Yoongi’s. “He certainly is not delicate, with his scale around your neck. You weren’t expecting that either, were you?”


“Of course not.” Yoongi forces himself to look away from Hoseok’s mouth, off further into the gardens where he ends up squinting against the sunlight. “I mean, I’d hoped he wouldn’t be a fragile thing. He’s. . . pleasantly surprised me. In many ways.”


Chuckling faintly, Hoseok nods. He’s quiet after a moment, eating the citrus peacefully, until he discards the peel into the soil below the tree. “We should perhaps return to the council room,” he states, patting his hands on the side of his robes, no doubt sticky from the juice. “As suffocating as it is, I believe we are almost finished for the day.”


As much as Yoongi would rather stay in the gardens, Hoseok is right. “I didn’t realize you were even in there,” he admits as they begin to walk the path back together. “Your mother send you?”


“She wants to speak with me after the council,” Hoseok explains, “and she thought it best if I sit in for awhile. Seokjin seems even less interested than us, if that can be believed.”


Something did seem a little off about Seokjin this morning, but Yoongi can’t quite put a finger on why or what it was.


“She’s not bothering you too much is she?” Yoongi allows himself to look over, catching the curve of Hoseok’s profile in the sunlight before they cross back into the archway of the hallway. “I know she’s your mother, ‘Seok, but if you need to get away from her—“


“My mother always pesters me, you know that. It’s nothing I can’t handle.”


Hana has become more rigid and cold since Yoongi and Hoseok ended what was between them, and the time apart has done them well; however, Hana is still bitter and scornful, and Yoongi finds it difficult to believe someone like Hoseok is related to her by blood.


They arrive outside the front of the council doors instead of the back, the guards stepping aside and opening the doors for them. Hoseok turns to Yoongi and chuckles. “Let’s hope they won’t keep us for long.”





With the afternoon sun no longer at its highest point in the sky, the Elders call an end to the Council. They have a few days time before they will gather again, set to debate current issues or address the thoughts of anyone granted permission to speak in the Council. Hoseok feels slightly weary, sitting in their uncomfortable chairs for the day, and he’s not the only one; besides Yoongi and Taehyung, Seokjin is eager to escape the room, gathering his things and leaving first before the other three Elders. Even Taehyung isn’t the first to leave.


His mother motions for him to follow when they are all officially dismissed. Standing from his chair, he glances over to Yoongi, who is speaking quietly with his father off to the side. Even if he had tried to avoid the sun, the tip of his nose is pink; Hoseok smiles to himself. That used to happen all the time when they went outside together. The sun is always searching for Yoongi, regardless of where he is.


Hoseok trails after his mother as they exit the council room, following her up the stairs to where the Elder chambers are. She has her hair in a braid today, ruby circlet across her forehead, satin scarlet robes shifting the light that filters through the windows. He knows she is taking him to her chambers, where only intimate conversations are held, with no outside ears listening in.


Once they’ve reached the splendid wing of the palace, they walk until they reach a gilded set of doors, the symbol for the Jung family carved into the center of the wood. A fire bird stretches its wings out across the sun, a ‘J’ inscribed into the carving. His mother pushes open the door and Hoseok ducks inside, knowing this room far too well.


When the door shuts, Hana shuffles over to the side where bottles of liquor sit on a dark wood table. Hoseok doesn’t sit in the armchairs near the table, just watches his mother pour a glass of wine before he finally inquires about the need to meet in private.


“Now that we’re here,” Hoseok starts, bottle of wine clinking against the others on the table, “what is so important?”


Hana takes a long swallow of wine, peering over the edge of her glass at Hoseok. Her nails are like claws, circled around the glass’s stem.


“I want to know,” she begins, “how your conversation in the gardens went.”


The corner of Hoseok’s lip twitches briefly but he refrains from anything else. “It went well. I enjoyed my time with Yoongi, if only for a little while.”


“He seemed happier when you both came back inside,” Hana muses, hip cocked out as she swirls around the dark liquid in her glass. “What did you talk about?”


This is a dangerous game to play. Hoseok knows this better than anyone. His mother always looks for a way to take words and twist them, feed them back as something entirely different.


He ignores her first remark to avoid an immediate argument. “Mainly his return to Hwajae, how it has been with the swan prince. How stale these council meetings are.”


As expected, Hana’s upper lip curls, expression darkening. “And how are things with his darling little whore?”


“You’re so full of venom, mother.” Hoseok’s brows pinch and he folds his arms loosely across his chest. “Why is it that I have moved on, and you haven’t?”


The noise Hana makes sounds like something between a laugh and a scoff. “Moved on have you? We both know better than that Hoseokkie. A mother always knows.”


Hoseok grits his teeth. “What is there to do, mother? This has been arranged for nearly a decade, nothing can be done. The least I can do is show happiness for Yoongi, and not be so bitter that we are no longer together. I miss him, but he’s no longer mine; I at least have the clarity to realize that!”


A long moment of silence stretches out between them.


“I really thought I’d raised you better than this,” Hana muses, pacing around to where the ocean breeze flutters in through one of the latticed windows. “Jungs fight for what they want, Hoseok. No, instead of that, you ran with your tail between your legs right into that little court slut Taehyung’s bed, didn’t you?”


Hoseok’s eyes blaze and he drops his arms from his chest. “ Don’t speak of Taehyung in that way, let that filth fall from your lips. He’s your prince, and far more worthy of a royal title than you. You are so shameless. Now I understand why father left you.”


The smile that flits across his mother’s lips holds no warmth. “You’re only upset because I’m right. Your father left because he was weak . Everyone else is fooled by your mask, but you can’t stand there and tell me that if that human wasn’t a problem, you wouldn’t fight to make sure it was you standing at Yoongi’s side.”


“The marriage is arranged, it’s too late to change anything.” Casting his eyes to the side, he breathes harshly through his nose, fists growing warm from the fire brewing inside him. “Yoongi isn’t mine anymore. What would you have me do? Sabotage the marriage?”


The questions hangs in the air between them. A sense of dread bubbles up in the pit of Hoseok’s stomach watching the cruel smile twisting his mother’s features. That’s the point of this entire conversation, isn’t it? Hana’s manipulation knows so bounds. Not even Hoseok is exempt from having his feelings twisted and thrown back into his own face.


“This is insanity,” Hoseok whispers, eyebrows pinched together in the center of his forehead. “I won’t be a part of this—“


“You already are,” Hana cuts him off with a dismissive wave of her free hand, nails scraping against her glass. “Whenever no one pays attention, you still look at Yoongi like he’s hung all the stars in the sky. Not even Taehyung gives you the time of day anymore, not with his precious little blind human hanging off of his arm. You’ll fade away to nothing, my darling, if you don’t take what it is that you want.”


Begrudgingly, Hoseok’s amber eyes narrow to the floor. Hana chuckles, sipping at her glass and peering over the edge with slitted eyes. Hoseok in torn. Internally, there’s a conflict, one of right and wrong, knuckles cracking as his fists squeeze tighter. He loves Yoongi; he will always love Yoongi, and Yoongi will always love him, even if they spend the rest of their lives apart. But the ache in his belly hasn’t disappeared since their last day in bed together, whispering in hushed voices as if what they were saying couldn’t be heard by their own ears. Heart break is painful, but so, so easy to manipulate.


“Mother, I—” Hoseok’s voice wavers, indicative of the internal turmoil he’s suffering from. He inhales deep and lifts his gaze. “I miss him.”


Hana’s feet make no sound as she crosses the gap between them. “I know,” she says in a way that's meant to be soft and caring, reaching out to cup the side of Hoseok’s face, stroking his cheekbone with the pad of her thumb. “I know.”

Chapter Text

About a week has passed after the extravagant feast and the evening events following it. Yoongi is thrust into the work of the Council, as they see it best he participate as often as possible to make up for lost time. Taehyung and Hoseok are also required to be in attendance, leaving Jimin and Jeongguk alone during most days. Namjoon has explored the palace with Jimin as there isn’t much else for them to do during the day; in the evening, Jimin eats dinner with Yoongi, Taehyung, and Jeongguk, and will listen in on Yoongi explaining what was discussed in Council, walk back with him to their chambers before saying goodnight and departing.


The daytime is somewhat lackluster for Jimin, but Taehyung mentioned at dinner the other night that he had scheduled Jimin for a fitting with the palace seamstress to create new robes and outfits for him while he lives in the East. He only has so many clothes from the North suitable for this weather, and Taehyung’s size differs from him to wear his clothes. The feast dress belongs to him now, hanging in his room, but he will need more for any upcoming festivities.


Jimin suggested Jeongguk come with so the blind boy isn’t lonely while Taehyung is in Council. He ambles about the palace with his hands trailing along the walls, fingertips guiding his body, feeding the birds in the courtyard and offering to help pluck oranges from the trees in the garden. He stands on the balcony overlooking the sea, bathing in the glow of the sun, smelling of salt water when he returns.


Despite living in a dark world, Jeongguk flourishes in the warmth of Hwajae.


With Namjoon behind him, Jimin walks to the courtyard where Jeongguk is waiting. The courtyard is the easiest place for him to find from his chambers, and Jeongguk surprisingly knows how to find the seamstress. He must have had to visit her many times for the seamstress to take his measurements and allow Taehyung to gift him so many clothes over the years.


The sun sits high in a cloudless blue sky and the warmth kisses Jimin’s exposed arms as he moves past the open windows of the palace, rays of sun dancing off his face when he passes through pillars. Outside, he squints, and so does Namjoon, but they find Jeongguk seated on the rim of the fountain in the gardens, flock of white birds with tall, thin legs around him, floating about in the large ornate fountain and the surrounding pools of water. In his hand, he holds a snowy dove, carefully feeding the delicate bird small pieces of juicy citrus. The dove flaps its wings when Jimin and Namjoon approach, fluttering out of Jeongguk’s palm and on to his shoulder where it rests comfortably, chortling softly.


“I see that birds take a liking to you,” Jimin comments with an affectionate laugh, the lanky birds walking away from them with heads bowed low. The dove remains on Jeongguk’s shoulder. “Are you ready, or would you like to spend more time with your new friends?”


Jeongguk beams at them both, cloudy eyes staring just over Jimin’s shoulder. “They aren’t new friends,” he corrects the prince, standing and adjusting the front of his robes. The dove stays perched on his shoulder, wide dark eyes trained on Jimin and Namjoon.


“Will the seamstress allow your friend to visit with us?” Jimin asks, stepping away from Namjoon and offering his arm to Jeongguk, carefully looping their arms together. The bird sits on his opposite shoulder, flapping its wings in a quick burst to display disapproval at being jostled about.


“I doubt he’ll stay for that long. Birds don’t like being cooped up inside. But Chungha-noona is nice. She lets me get away with whatever I want.”


Laughing, followed by Namjoon’s confused expression, they walk out of the gardens and back into the palace. Jimin walks slow with Jeongguk, staying in step with him, but Jeongguk is surprisingly skilled at maneuvering about; he turns before Jimin can tell him they must round a corner, has no difficulty up the stairs. His robes aren’t as long as they were during the big feast.


Sure enough, as they approach the room of the seamstress, the dove on Jeongguk’s shoulder suddenly takes off into the air, flitting out the balcony to their left, speck of white against the cloudless blue sky. Jeongguk whispers something of a goodbye as Namjoon raps his knuckles against the wooden doors at the end of the hall.


The seamstress’ workshop is similar to what their chambers are, protected by thick doors, colorful drapery hanging around the frame. Gold stitched into the fabric gives the drapery a waving pattern when wind blows through. There’s some shuffling from inside and then the door opens, and Jimin wasn’t expecting for the seamstress to be so young.


Of course, she’s a dragon, from the way her slitted pupils stare at them, red lips curling into a smile. Some sort of measuring band hangs from her neck, and she wears more practical robes; similar to what civilians wear and not royal assistants. She’s petite, just reaching Jimin’s shoulders if they were to stand exactly side by side.


She looks them all up and down, neck craning back to peer into Namjoon’s face with her eyes squinted, but as soon as she sees Jeongguk, her face softens. “Ah, little Jeongguk,” she says in greeting. “I was beginning to think you weren’t ever going to come see me again.”


“Noona,” Jeongguk whines, “we’ve been so busy.”


The seamstress — Chungha, Jeongguk had said — huffs in a way that’s meant to seem annoyed but comes out fond. Smoke curls out of her nostrils. “I see. I see. And now you bring me the swan prince, do you?” she says, raising an eyebrow as she gives Jimin another look.


Jimin bows his head, feeling slightly intimidated by her gaze. “Please, call me Jimin.” He smiles, eyes catching rows and rows of fabric behind her in the room. “I have heard you’re the best at your craft. You made my gown, yes? Prince Taehyung’s blue gown?”


“Of course I am,” Chungha preens, spinning around so quickly that her skirts flare out from her hips as she disappears back into her workroom, waving a hand for the group to follow. “And of course I did. You think I’d let Taehyung-ah wear anything but my work. Bah!”


Namjoon sends Jimin a glance, eyebrows raised, but Jimin nudges Jeongguk inside the room. Rows and rows of fabric line the walls, and a breeze from the ocean blows through from the double doors leading outside. She has a chair and a desk piled with needles and special fabric, and wooden carvings resembling humans are neatly scattered throughout the room. Many have outfits on, gowns and tunics and unfinished works. One wall is entirely made of mirrors adorned with gold fixtures and in the center of the room is a raised platform made of mosaic tiles, just like the rest of the room. The mosaics depict women in their craft, sewing cloth together and educating their children while the men are away.


“I was hoping you would help create more outfits for me, gowns, robes, whatnot,” Jimin says, running his fingers across an unfinished black silk piece, Jeongguk slipping from his grip to explore. “My clothing isn’t suitable for these temperatures, and Taehyung is too tall for me to wear anything he doesn’t have use for anymore.”


“I assumed as much,” Chungha disappears behind what appears to be a large drafting table, crouched low enough that Jimin can only see the top of her head. When she emerges, there’s another measuring band around her neck, pins in her mouth. “Yoongi and Jeongguk always need clothes made when they spend any length of time here. You Northerners wear far too many clothes. So many layers. And the fabrics? Heavy, coarse.”


She shudders, sticking the pins into a little padded cuff around her wrist. “Well, up, up. Onto the platform, Jimin-ah. Let me get your measurements and I’ll get to work.”


Not wanting to test her patience, Jimin steps up and faces the mirror while Namjoon idles by, poking at something. Jeongguk is feeling his way around the room, fingers grazing fabric, hands searching the outline of clothing. Chungha steps on the platform with him and Jimin cranes his head.


“Is there something you’re searching for, Jeongguk-ah?”


The measuring tape whips around his waist, shoulders, as Jeongguk angles his head in Jimin’s direction. “Oh, no. Just trying to feel what fabrics noona is using this season. I love the light one—“


“Chiffon,” Chungha mutters around where she has one end of the measuring tape between her teeth as she scribbles something on a sheet of parchment on the edge of the drawing table. “It’s the best fabric for this type of climate. Delicate. Breathable. Unlike leather or wool or whatever else you people use in the North.”


Chungha actually shudders, like thinking of such heavy fabrics pains her.


“It’s so frigid, we work with what we have,” Jimin hums, raising his arms higher as Chungha ducks underneath to place the measuring tape across his leg. Namjoon, off to the side, almost bumps into a mannequin in the room. A moment of silence passes and Jimin’s eyes dart towards Jeongguk once more.


“Jeongguk-ah, shall we also make a gown for you?”


Jeongguk’s cheeks bloom pink, like Jimin is beginning to realize he often does when he’s the center of attention. “Ah, no, this appointment is for you! I have so much to wear already.”


“What about something for Taehyung?” Jimin sees Jeongguk’s mouth open and then close, flush deepening. Chungha chuckles absently from Jimin’s feet. “I think red suits you so well. Chungha, is red one of Prince Taehyung’s favorite colors?”


“It’s one of the royal family’s colors,” she hums, whipping the tape around Jimin’s ankles and then recording notes for herself. “I’m sure the prince would think Jeongguk suited a burlap sack if that was all he wore.”


“How is everything with Taehyung?” Jimin asks, giggling from Chungha’s comment. Surely Taehyung would agree with her. “I understand you haven’t seen one another in a long time. I’ve heard he’s missed you dearly.”


“We were here two summers ago? Time passes differently for dragons,” Jeongguk murmurs, one hand still on a mannequin’s shoulder for balance. “I do miss how the sun feels here, spending time with Taehyung makes me very happy.”


Chungha hums as she finishes Jimin’s measurements, stepping off the platform to set aside her tools. She reminds Jimin to remain where he is as she rummages through her fabrics, searching for the right materials, beginning to contemplate on her designs.


“And you make him very happy,” Jimin laughs, dropping his arms at his side now that Chungha is no longer measuring him. “He looks at you in a special way. As if you were the finest gem, finer than the ones embedded in your rings. Have you. . . ever considered the extent of his affections? Or your own?”


To anyone, it’s clear that Taehyung’s affection for Jeongguk runs deep. Through his speech, gestures, his eyes. . . all Jimin recognizes is adoration. Perhaps no one has ever spoken of this to Jeongguk before. The boy’s eyes are unblinking, brows quirked in slight confusion, hands fiddling with orange chiffon fabric.


“My. . .?” Jeongguk’s voice trails off. Chungha pretends to be busy scribbling away at her desk, but the corners of her mouth are upturned. “What do you mean?”


“Taehyung brings you so many gifts. Don't you wonder why?”


“The very first time we came to Hwajae, Yoongi told him to take care of me. I think that’s just his way of doing that. Right?”


Jimin laughs quietly and Namjoon shakes his head from the side. “And Yoongi told him the same when I arrived. In my land, we have our betrothal necklaces and other gifts, and in Hwajae, you have jewels and splendid, hand-tailored clothes. Prince Taehyung hasn't gifted me anything of the sort; my dress used to be his own.”


The flush on Jeongguk’s cheeks has crawled down his neck by this point, something that Chungha notices as well. “Well now our little swan prince will have clothes enough. Your proportions are a seamstress’ dream. You’ll have a new wardrobe by the end of the week. Any requests on color palette or cuts?”


“Pardon me for being traditional, but I feel most comfortable in blues and greys, nothing like the bright oranges and purples here. Although I am always curious to wear red.” Jimin steps down from the platform as Chungha makes note of his preferences. “Well, since I’m finished, how about we find you something to wear for Taehyung? A gorgeous gown he won’t have designed himself.”


“I have just the thing!” Chungha says before Jeongguk can protest. “The waist will need to be taken in but it’s an easy fix. Come here, Jeongguk-ah. It’s a new design, perhaps a little more revealing than what you Northerners are used to.”


Rolling his eyes, Jimin strolls over to Jeongguk, grasping his hand and guiding him towards the platform. Jeongguk’s cheeks are rosy, pale eyes narrowed to the floor.


“For all of your slander towards the North, I assume you have never visited,” Jimin calls out to Chungha as she reaches for her tools once more and walks over to the wall of hanging fabrics, some still with pins in them. “Jeongguk-ah suits the East more than he does the North. The East is so warm, I think you have to wear as few clothes as possible to find this weather bearable.”


“Pfft,” Chungha huffs, fingers flicking through fabrics almost faster than Jimin’s eyes can see. As soon as she touches a deep red flimsy fabric, almost like the center of a garnet, her eyes brighten. “I wouldn’t visit the North for all the gems in this palace. My constitution is too delicate.”


Now standing on the platform, Jeongguk fiddles with his fingers, facing the mirror although the image is impossible to see. Jimin stands to the side, letting out a quiet gasp as Chungha reveals the red gown, crafted from the chiffon fabric Jeongguk had admired earlier. It is revealing, akin to Jimin’s blue gown at the ceremony, slit at the thigh and low cut on the chest. The fabric from the shoulders extends down like a cape, trailing just above where the gown reaches the floor.


“What a beautiful color,” Jimin comments as Chungha carefully brings it over, not wanting to dirty the dainty fabric. “I do doubt that gown is appropriate for outside wear, but it is stunning.”


“Bah,” Chungha scoffs, draping the garment over the closest form so she can busy herself with helping Jeongguk out of his much plainer set of robes. “You’re so prudish in the North, aren’t you, little swan?”


Respectfully, Jimin averts his gaze and chuckles. “Oh, you would be quite surprised.”


Namjoon coughs into his closed fist, drawing Jimin’s eye for the briefest of moments. By the time he looks back, Chungha is already draping the half-finished gown around Jeongguk’s bare shoulders, tucking and pinning the waist in to fit his figure. His waist is small enough that Chungha has to do some minor adjustments, and she pulls the sleeves up to even out the dress as she pins the fabric.


Jeongguk continues fiddling with his fingers, head turning in the direction Chungha is in, before his fingers graze over the gown. When he touches his bare thigh, he lets out a tiny gasp. Jimin holds back a laugh.


“That is absolutely gorgeous on you,” Jimin breathes out as his eyes wander the gown, how it cuts low across Jeongguk’s chest, the back made of a delicate lace stitching. He fills it out well. Beautifully, actually. “Prince Taehyung would give anything to see you in it.”


“It feels. . .” Jeongguk’s voice trails off, but his fingers never stop moving over the fabric. “Are you sure? I don’t think this is something I’d ever have the courage to wear. “


“It’s stunning on you, Jeongguk. Truly.”


Chungha hums in satisfaction, stepping back with her arms crossed as she surveys her work. “Perfection,” she decides with a pleased look gracing her features.


Jeongguk squirms a bit from all the attention but Jimin can tell he’s also pleased. There’s something empowering when an outfit fits perfectly, when the fabric feels luxurious and silky against skin. He can see it in the way Jeongguk stands a little straighter, hands smoothing down the bodice and trailing off where the cloth parts to reveal his thigh.


“I think I like it,” he says quietly, a smile of his own playing over his lips.


“Then let’s make it yours.” Jimin smiles, eyes sliding over to Chungha. “Today has been a successful fitting, hasn’t it? I’m sure you will be busy from today on, and we don’t want to intrude any further. Beautiful craftsmanship takes time.”


Waving her hand, Chungha dismisses them, nimble fingers sliding the gown from Jeongguk’s shoulders. “You all keep me young, not to mention entertained,” she hums, handing Jeongguk’s robes to him once the gown is removed and draped across her arm. “I will have everything you requested completed soon, as well as the adjustments for this gown. If Prince Taehyung lends you more gowns, please bring them to me to adjust, I would hate for my beautiful work to go to waste.”


Namjoon reaches out for Jeongguk’s hand once he’s dressed, guiding him off the platform with an arm around his.


“Thank you, I appreciate you for your time. I look forward to what you design,” Jimin dips his head towards Chungha, causing the seamstress to chuckle and shuffle behind her desk to begin her work.


“Until next time swan prince,” Chungha calls as the trio heads for the doors, “Enjoy your stay with Prince Yoongi.”




Poised on the cushions, thin silk flowing over his bare body, Taehyung stares out at the sky beyond the balcony with one hand pressed to his cheek. He taps his rings against the glass of wine in his other hand, stretching his legs out across the couch. The oils from his evening bath make his tanned skin glisten with a gold sheen, soft against the cushions beneath him.


The sky is bleeding into navy, but the last rays of the sun cast their light on the edge of his chambers where he sits. A faint breeze of salty air flutters through the sheer curtains and the sinking sun feels warm and welcomed on his skin.


Although his day has been more lenient than the others, this is his opportunity to wind down and enjoy his time before he has to wake early and attend to his duties.


Taking a sip of wine, Taehyung rests his head on the back of the couch and hums low. He shuts his eyes, bathing in the glow of the evening sun. A hand trails over his shoulder, down to the crook of his elbow. A shadow passes over, making Taehyung crack one eye open.


“I miss you.”


In the glow of the sun, Jeonghan, one of his favorites from his harem stands, black hair thrown delicately over his shoulders. The light purple chiffon fabric clings to his body and he’s covered in lavish jewelry, anklets and bracelets and cuffs all made of precious gold. Taehyung shifts on the couch and taps his rings against his glass.


“Is that what brings you to my chambers?”


Jeonghan hums, kneeling next to the couch until their eyes are level. “Among other things,” he murmurs, a coquettish smile at the corners of his mouth. “Thought I’d see if you wanted company tonight. You haven’t asked for me.”


Tentatively, Taehyung reaches out and brushes Jeonghan’s hair away from his face before settling his hand over his lap. “I told you that I would be busy, darling. So much to do and so many to care for. Have you been that lonely?”


Jeonghan’s mouth purses into a pout, but he collects himself and leans forward, one hand reaching up to curl fingers around Taehyung’s glass and tug it out of his grip. “You aren’t busy now,” he points out, setting the glass on the floor just out of the way. The breeze makes his clothing and hair flutter. “I just- I just want to know you haven’t forgotten me.”


“No, I haven’t,” Taehyung murmurs, although he isn’t sure he believes his own words. “Jeongguk-ah has been on my mind. Distracts me from bodily pleasures, reminds me of my duties to my father.”


Something dark flits across Jeonghan’s face. “I see,” he says quietly, though it’s clear he doesn’t. “Then maybe I need to distract you from him?”


His brows pinch slightly at the suggestion. Jeonghan dances his fingers up Taehyung’s arm, eyeing him through long lashes, bracelets clinking against his skin musically. “Are you jealous, darling?” Taehyung questions, gold eyes narrowed to stare at Jeonghan. With the tip of his nail, he taps on the human’s chin, angling it up. “Have you not found satisfaction while I’m occupied?”


He can feel Jeonghan draw in a slow, shaky breath. “Prince Taehyung,” he whispers, the tip of his tongue leaving his bottom lip shiny and wet. “Please—“


“The others miss me too. Although you are my favorite, my heart belongs to Jeongguk-ah.” Taehyung leans in to speak quieter, a menacing tone hidden from him. Rather, his voice reflects the conflicting emotions he’s grappling with, pleasures of the body against pleasures of the heart. “I will not fuck one of you until Jeongguk-ah either leaves my kingdom or becomes mine. So long as he is in my palace, your clothes will be on your body, and you will not occupy my chambers. None of my harem will spend a night in my bed, including you. Is that clear, darling?”


Jeonghan jerks a little, hurt reflected in his eyes before casting his gaze to the floor. “Of course. I- I understand.”


Moving his finger from his chin to his jaw, Taehyung tucks a strand of hair behind Jeonghan’s ear to soothe the rejection. He hopes the clench of his jaw is not so obvious. “I appreciate your company as always, but rejoin the others and tell them. You are all free to roam about at our next celebration and fuck whoever your little heart desires.”


Taehyung manages a smile before dropping his hand into his lap. “You are dismissed, darling. Thank you.”


Jeonghan moves like water, standing gracefully and bowing his head in a sign of respect. There’s the slightest tremble to his bottom lip when he stands upright and all but glides away without another word, leaving Taehyung alone on the balcony with the setting sun. When the door to his chambers shuts, Taehyung picks up his glass of wine from the floor and tips his head back to drink it all, licking away at the stray drops of red on his mouth.


He stands to fill his glass once more, dismayed at the outcome, but the sun glows warm on his skin and melts away the chill that had overcome his body in those moments.


Warmth returns to him in a slow wave and tampers his conflictions.

Chapter Text


Being back in Hwajae has been nothing short of exhausting. Yoongi retreats to his room after meetings for the day are done, only kept sane by knowing that today’s meetings were some of the last he’ll have to endure. Now it will just be party after party, being seen with Jimin on his arm, until their wedding day.


He’s barely gotten to see Jimin over the last few days, just sometimes for breakfast in the mornings and then during dinner, which is always filled with other people to talk to while trying to eat. But he’s proud to find that Jimin seems to be holding his own in a court full of inquisitive dragons who can be. . . invasive.


As soon as the doors to his chambers swing shut, he reaches for a bottle of clear amber liquid, pouring enough into a low glass and sipping quietly at it. It’s his liquor of choice when he visits Hwajae— fire whiskey that burns the back of his throat when he swallows.


Setting the bottle on its table, Yoongi stands besides it sipping at his whiskey, staring unfocused at the large oriental rug in his chambers. The sun has just about sunk below the horizon, the sky a landscape of oranges bleeding into rich purples. What wind blew earlier has now slowed, hem of the curtains to the balcony barely fluttering from the open doors.


He stands staring unfocused for an uncounted amount of time before his door creaks open again. Hoseok’s familiar scent reaches him, a mixture of sun-ripened citrus and luxury bath oils, a fragrance that unconsciously calms the tension in Yoongi’s shoulders while also keeping him more alert to his surroundings. He lifts his gaze towards the entryway and blinks of his stupor.


Hoseok shuts the door behind him, cloaked in white and gold fabric, barefoot as he steps closer. Oils gleam across his chest where the fabric parts down the center, thick gold bands at his wrists and ankles clinking with each bodily movement.


“I see you and I share the same idea after those meetings,” he points out with a chuckle, brushing his hair from his eyes, as it’s grown longer since before. “Mind if we share a drink?”


Yoongi smiles fondly, lifting his own glass in the direction of an empty one that still rests on the tray. “Please, help yourself. Though I recall fire whiskey isn’t your favorite. Especially after that one time at the summer solstice festival. You swore you’d never drink again.”


Lips curling into a smile, Hoseok reaches for the glass, eyeing the few bottles of liquor on the table. “Today is special, so I’ll drink,” he replies with a light hearted scoff, pouring a bottle of orange gin into his glass. “Just a little gin to soothe the pain of the meetings. Am I over exaggerating how bored I am, or do you feel the same?”


“Now imagine having to plan a wedding at the same time,” Yoongi says ruefully, sinking down onto one of the couches by the archway leading out to the balcony. “I’m thankful they’re over for now.”


Hoseok takes a sip from his glass and glides over to join Yoongi on the opposite end, just enough distance between them but close enough to indicate they aren’t strangers to one another. When Hoseok crosses one leg over the other, his ankle nearly brushes Yoongi’s and he turns his chest to face the Northern prince.


“Ah, the wedding,” he hums, peering into his glass for a moment before looking up. “How is everything with the swan prince? The meetings must be keeping you away from him.”


Yoongi nods, leaning back until his head thunks against the back of the couch. “They are, but not anymore. Jeongguk’s been keeping him company, and Taehyung as well. Surely you have things you’d rather be doing than sitting in that room all day?”


“Mmn, there isn't much to do. With your wedding, all eyes are on us,” Hoseok murmurs, lowering his glass into his lap. A comfortable silence stretches between them for a moment. “I do enjoy seeing you again, Yoongi. It's been awhile.”


“I. . . I agree. I missed you, ‘Seok,” Yoongi drains the rest of his glass, letting the liquor warm him from the inside, loosening the tension in his shoulders. “You were my favorite part about this place.”


“What happened to us?” Hoseok glances over at Yoongi. The question almost catches him off guard. “We never said a proper goodbye. Now. . . I see you with the swan prince. The past is hard to forget.”


Yoongi couldn’t agree more as he looks up at the gilded ceiling, remembering the hours he’d spent here on this same couch with Hoseok, lounging in the man’s lap with fingers carding through his hair, talking about trivial things all to get their minds off their responsibilities. His bed they shared frequently, spent day and night alone in the quiet of their chambers, hiding from the outside world. There are memories of them etched into almost every space of this place.


“We can’t dwell in the past,” is what he says out loud after swallowing thickly, arm draped over the armrest with his glass held loosely between his fingers. “We decided that.”


Hoseok leans in closer, careful to keep the glass of liquor in his lap. “Do you even care for him?” His amber eyes are piercing, even in the dim light of the room. “The way you cared for me. Loved me. Do your feelings match what you felt for me in the past?”


Yoongi’s heart squeezes painfully inside his chest. “That’s not fair,” he whispers, the tips of his pointed nails scraping against the glass as he sets it down on the gilded end table at his side. “You know that’s not fair to ask me something like that.”


Hoseok clenches around his glass tight, worrying his lower lip between his teeth, before reaching out with his other hand to place it on the outside of Yoongi's thigh. Tender, but with a desperation Yoongi can sense. “This arranged marriage isn't fair, Yoongi,” he murmurs. “We had a beautiful relationship. We— we were going to marry. One day, I know.”


Yoongi watches with a clenched jaw as Hoseok holds Yoongi just a little tighter, wets his lips before speaking again. “My whole world turned when you met him in the North. When I saw him in Hwajae. I thought I had moved on from you, but seeing both of you together, dancing at your ceremony, my heart aches. I am too selfish to let you go, and I had hope you would call the marriage off in our last days together but. . . I suppose I hoped too much.”


Where Hoseok touches him sears like a brand but Yoongi finds himself rooted in place, old emotions long buried trying to claw their way to the surface. “I couldn’t just—“ He thinks of Jimin, of the tiny little human he’d found stumbling around in the snow all those years ago, how Jimin has carried his scale and his mark for the last two decades, flourished into a dashing prince with the kindest heart and the bravest soul. “This isn’t something that I can just end —“


“We can still be together.” There's a twinge of desperation in his voice now, not only in his touch. “Most arrangements don't follow through with true love. If you still wish to be with me, we can. Will you ever share a deep connection with him? We are perfect for one another, and I haven't forgotten for a single day about who we used to be. He is in the place where I should be, standing at your side.”


“Hoseok,” Yoongi says firmly, wrapping his fingers around Hoseok’s wrist and squeezing. “ Stop . We both know that who we used to be is not who we are anymore. I do care about Jimin and I— I don’t know, I think maybe one day I could love him.”


Like a jolt of electricity, Hoseok jerks up, eyes widening. His jaw clenches, nails scraping against the fabric of Yoongi's robes. For a long moment, they stare at one another unblinking, hearing the quick pulse of one another, until Hoseok wets his lips and frowns.


“Is this the end? There… is no us?


Yoongi’s chest feels tight as he breathes in, shifting so that he can clasp Hoseok’s hand between his palms. “There’s a part of my heart that’s always going to have you in it,” he says softly, “but we can’t keep holding onto a ghost of something that was. You know that.”


Standing from the couch, Hoseok sets his glass of gin on the table on his end, a slight waver in his movements. “Alright,” he murmurs, voice disconnected, eyes narrowed to the floor. It's as if the sun is sinking, forced down by the weight of a thousand dark clouds. He sucks in a deep breath and pulls his hand free of Yoongi’s, shuffling away from the couch. “Then goodnight.”


Yoongi watches Hoseok leave with fingers clenched into coarse fabric, jaw set tight. Hoseok opens the doors slow, the creak of the wood agonizing to hear, but he doesn't falter when he steps out. The bright of his orange hair disappears from view, leaving the room in darkness.


Outside, the sun has set, and darkness looms.




With the glow of the midnight moon through the open balcony doors, candles and lamps casting soft golden light into the room, Seokjin feels only slightly drowsy. Cozied up in his bed with the cream sheets strewn about, propped up on his pillows with a man at his side, his body heat only adding to the flush on the Elder’s cheeks. He shifts the sheets with his foot to allow more nighttime air to enter the bedroom and Namjoon glances up at him when he moves enough to catch his attention.


“Care for some wine, Joon?” Seokjin hums, calm grey eyes flickering to the table where their unfinished glasses sit.. Slowly, he grins, lowering himself down until he’s just above the knight. “Mind if you get it for me? You understand, with my aching legs and all.”


Namjoon offers him a small smile from below. “Of course. You’ve had a long, tiresome day.”


The muscles in his torso and back contract as he sits up, forcing Seokjin to adjust his position, eyes following as the sheet pool low around Namjoon’s naked waist. He props himself up on one elbow and watches Namjoon as he rises from the bed, usually neat hair mussed from Seokjin’s fingers. He stares while Namjoon fetches the bottle of wine and two glasses, eyes following the long line of Namjoon’s body, as if only seeing him for the first time. When Namjoon turns around, catching Seokjin’s eye, he quirks a brow as he returns to the bed.


“Admiring the view,” Seokjin purrs as he sits up and accepts one of the glasses from Namjoon, sheets pulling away from his body. He sits on one hip and pours himself a glass of wine, pouring the liquid into Namjoon’s glass when he’s settled down next to him. Comfortably, he rests his head in the crook of Namjoon’s neck after taking a sip, mouths over one of the marks he had left on the knight’s throat.


Namjoon makes a soft noise in the back of his throat, curving into Seokjin’s body like a moth drawn to a flame. “Seokjin—“ he murmurs, “You’re insatiable.”


Seokjin laughs into the curve of Namjoon’s throat, lips poised above his pulse where he breathes warm against his honeyed skin. “Yet you return for more,” he murmurs, tipping his head so he can press a kiss to Namjoon’s jaw.


A rumbling noise reverberates from the center of Namjoon’s chest and one of his wide, calloused palms presses against the side of Seokjin’s ribs, trailing down around the curve of his waist to press flat against his abdomen. “I’m sure no one would blame me.”


Lifting his head from Namjoon’s neck, Seokjin sips at his wine as Namjoon’s fingers dance along his flushed skin. They brush over a jagged pale scar that spans from Seokjin’s hip to just left of his ribs, Namjoon’s eyes never having stared at the scar for so long. He’s noticed it only briefly, when they were in the heat of the moment and too busy to focus on one another, and Seokjin’s voice draws his attention.


“Do you want to know why I have this scar?” He asks quietly, lips above the curved rim of his wine glass, eyes peering at Namjoon curiously. Namjoon’s fingers hesitate momentarily before Seokjin, seemingly reading what is on his mind, reaches down with his other hand and wraps around Namjoon’s wrist, keeping his palm on his ribcage. Namjoon can feel where Seokjin’s chest rises and falls with each breath.


“Not many people know, nor do they notice. But I can see your interest.”


“I’ve seen scars like this on soldiers,” Namjoon murmurs, blinking to look into Seokjin’s eyes. “A blade?”


“Sword, to be exact.” Seokjin readjusts his position on the bed to be more comfortable. “I don’t know the extent to what you hear in the North, but my country, Gongsan, what you know as the West, was in turmoil before I became Elder. Do you know anything? Or are humans only attuned to what happens in their world?”


“I knew of trouble in the West, but only in passing. You’re so far from the North that all we hear are stories perhaps months after anything happens. You clashed with the South?”


“The South is primarily human. They felt threatened by the dragons in either direction, and wrongfully believed the West to be timid and mild, with how we care for nature and for our spirits. It’s a common human flaw; they believed they could take what didn’t belong to them.”


Seokjin’s grip around his wine glass tightens for a moment, before he quietly drinks down the dark liquid and reaches for the bottle to pour another glass for himself. “The South wanted to encroach on my land, but because humans are greedy by nature, they entered my capital city Hwang-ya with no warning. I will commend them for how quiet they were, how daring they were to sneak under the noses of a land of dragons without announcing themselves.” Seokjin sets the wine bottle on the end table and then traces senseless patterns into Namjoon’s wrist. “They killed my father in an ambush. Slaughtered him in the temple of my palace. Lucky for me, rather unlucky for them, I survived the ambush in my palace. One soldier left a nice reminder for me with his sword. And then, I became the Elder due to our lineage, and the South will never attempt to take my country again. We devastated their military, but they ended my father’s life. One thing I can never get back. I now sit in his place in the Council as the youngest Elder in recent history, and the South is even more restless with your swan prince’s marriage to Prince Yoongi.”  


Namjoon hums, quiet for a long moment. He gently traces the line of the scar with his fingers, touch feather light. “I’ve heard talk that Prince Yoongi and Jimin are to travel to the West with an entourage. A way to cement alliances. Do I have cause to worry about Jimin’s safety?”


“I hope not,” Seokjin murmurs. “My military has been on alert for years now, yet no sign of an uprising has shown itself, and they report no further agitation now that the news has reached them of the marriage. But I know they are restless; and if they do come for Hwang-ya, so help them.”


“So help them,” Namjoon echoes, plucking Seokjin’s wine glass from his hand to set it down outside the bed. “Is that what has you so out of sorts today?”


Lips pursed from his glass being taken away, Seokjin meets Namjoon’s gaze. “There is always something for me to worry about, Elders have so many responsibilities,” he sighs, “but I cannot let my concerns weigh me down. We have people to care for, do we not?”


“We do,” Namjoon shifts as he puts his own glass of wine on the table, reaching out for Seokjin. Placing his hands on his chest, he lowers Seokjin down against the silk sheets and situates himself so he looms over the Elder, pressing a thigh between his legs. “But right now, there is no need for worry, Elder Seokjin.”


Breath hitching from the shift, hair fanned around the pillows, Seokjin reaches for Namjoon and tugs him by the nape. With one hand tangled in his hair, the other sliding to his hip, he murmurs in Namjoon’s ear with a quiet laugh, “You only have to say that once for me to listen.”




It comes to Jimin’s surprise that only a week after his fitting with Chungha, she stands in his chambers one afternoon with all of his clothes sprawled across the room, fabrics draped over every surface from his bed to the armoire in the corner. She presents Jimin with many outfits of more muted colors, the blues and greys he’s lived with his whole life in the North, but also outfits of more expensive fabric in rich colored dyes made to draw attention.


She stays in his chambers for a good time while Jimin tries on everything she’s made, scoffing when the smallest centimeter seems out of place. He acts as her mannequin, trying on everything for the perfect fit and finding himself amazed at her fast craftsmanship.


If the goal was to draw attention in the East, that will surely be accomplished.


When the day is particularly nice, a tad bit warmer than the others indicating the approaching summer, Jimin peruses through his collection after an afternoon bath. The itch to go to the seaside has been bothering him these past few days, especially with the warmer air, the sea always cooler than the heat. He plucks a cream gown from his wardrobe, one that fades from soft cream to the pinks and purples of a sunset, fabric thin and flowing. The sleeves are long, fabric attached to the front of the gown, with a high neckline and a swooping back that ends at the base of his spine. In a way, this gown reminds him of the one he wore to his and Prince Yoongi’s first presenting ceremony, but the colors resemble the setting of the sun rather than the navy blanket of the night.


Once dressed, hands smoothing down fabric that strays too far from his body, he adjusts the scale necklace and ventures outside the palace. Taehyung had directed him the other day to a private balcony just above the water, from which he can feed the native birds that float on the surface. The birds are a peculiar shade of pink, with awkward long legs and brown birds that remind him of the swans up North.


The area surrounding the balcony is lined with tropical trees whose bright green leaves bob in the breeze, casting shade on the mosaic walkway that extends from the far wing of the palace. Some citrus trees also line the walkway and Jimin plucks grapefruits from their leaves as workers pile the fruit into baskets, one kindly offering Jimin a knife to pry open the grapefruits with and offering him more to take to the birds on the water.


The balcony is a wide, circular mosaic tiled and stone railing structure right over the water’s edge. A wave of excitement courses through him from being on the water, the closest he’s been since arriving in the East. A cool breeze ruffles his hair and the sleeves of his gown, and he sets his small basket of fruit at his feet.


Beyond him, the harbor is lined with sail boats and cargo ships that bob on the sapphire waves, white birds circling overhead. The afternoon sun is starting to sink low, and it will soon sink into the sea beyond the horizon, and Jimin wonders why he has never stood here before to watch the sun set on the shore.


Jimin carefully pries the grapefruits and oranges open, humming to himself as the flock of birds on the water smell the citrus and begin to swim closer. Some fly in from the sky, wings flapping to keep them balanced as they land with a splash, some birds honking at one another for space. But, like the swans in the North, they flank around the edges of the balcony eagerly, accepting the slices of fruit from the prince.


He takes his time on the balcony, basking in the sun’s glow on his skin and the welcoming of the sea as she envelops him in her arms, different from the sea in the North. The Northern waters are brave, sometimes restless around Jimin and sighing to him about her problems, while the Eastern sea voices its excitement at his visit, waves lapping soft against the sandy beaches wishing to greet him and welcome him to Hwajae.


Jimin stands on the balcony’s edge for a long time. He’s been careful not to run out of citrus, calming down the hungry birds with a hush before feeding them again, sneaking pieces of grapefruit for himself in between. The orange glow of the sun gradually matches the colors of his gown as it sinks into the sea, clouds but a lavender shade blending in to the canvas, bathing Jimin in gold as dusk approaches.


“I hope I’m not disturbing you.”


Jimin knows that it’s Yoongi before he even turns to look, but when he does, he finds the dragon prince lingering in the archway. The green of his slitted eyes seems to almost glow in the sunset, but there are shadows underneath that echo his tired state.


“No, not at all,” Jimin offers Yoongi a smile, tossing one of his last bits of citrus to the birds, their numbers dwindling as the sun sets. With his permission, Yoongi steps forward with his hands clasped loosely behind his back, the pendant around his neck even prettier in the light of the sun. Yoongi's darker robes contrast with his pale skin, body covered unlike so many in the East, but he looks wonderful with a golden glow.


“You seem tired. Has the Council wiped away your energy?” Jimin asks, dropping an orange peel into the basket, where he plans on bringing it inside to make a special bath oil for himself.


“It always does,” Yoongi tells him, matter-of-fact as he takes up a place next to Jimin, elbows resting on the railing. “I’m more concerned with you. Has Hwajae been treating you well? All these ridiculous meetings have kept me from making sure you’re all right and not too overwhelmed.”


“I think I’ve become more comfortable with Hwajae, though I am finding myself tired of staying in my chambers,” Jimin chuckles. One of the lanky pink birds flaps its wings and takes off suddenly into the sky, water splashing the balcony edge as it leaves. “I have found things to keep my moving, though. I haven’t been this close to the water since leaving the North, but then I remembered what Prince Taehyung had told me about this place. . . it’s beautiful. You might find me here every day feeding the birds and talking to the sea and have to fetch me for dinner.”


“It seems to suit you,” Yoongi hums, placing a hand at the small of Jimin’s bare lower back and stroking his thumb carefully over the divots in his skin, “being close to the water.”


Feeling no discomfort from Yoongi’s hand on him, rather more welcoming than concerning, Jimin nods in agreement. “I’ve always felt a connection with water,” he says, bringing both hands on the edge of the balcony, where with one finger he twirls in the air. Following his movement, a thin trail of water rises from the surface of the water, bending in the direction Jimin’s finger goes in. the trail of water slowly becomes a sphere, spinning above the surface.


“The waters in the North are restless, sometimes refusing me, but the waters here enjoy my company.”


“Hopefully not as much as I do,” Yoongi murmurs, the quirk of his mouth showing his amusement. “I hate to have to fight the entire Eastern Sea for your affections.”


Turning his head to look at Yoongi, Jimin laughs. “If you enjoy my company, you should spend more time with me outside of dinner. That is, if you don’t tire of me, given we’ll be spending our lives together.”


“You wound me, Prince Jimin,” Yoongi chuckles, “but fair enough. I’ve neglected you and I shouldn’t have. I just. . .” He trails off, a shadow of something flickering across his features as he stares out over the water. “Ah, well, there’s no excuse really. I promise to do better. You’ll be sick of me soon enough.”


The sphere of water drops into the water as Jimin’s hands rest over the edge of the stone balcony, the reflection of the setting sun glimmering on the surface of the sea. Yoongi’s hand slowly trails up the length of Jimin’s spine, cool fingers against his warm skin, circling around the snowflake mark on his shoulder. For a moment, Jimin’s breath hitches.


“The sea might whisk me away before you do, Prince Yoongi,” he murmurs with a small quirk of his lips.


One of Yoongi’s eyebrows arches up, almost playful if it weren’t for the intensity behind his slitted eyes. “Oh? Then perhaps I need to give you a reason to stay.”


Reaching out, Jimin dances his fingers down the sleeve of Yoongi’s dark robes. It isn’t just an illusion of the sun that they’ve drawn closer, Yoongi’s hand resting comfortably over Jimin’s shoulder, caressing the soft skin over the tight muscle of his shoulder. Their eyes are locked, and Jimin’s lips still hold a knowing smile.


“It isn’t dark outside as it was before,” Jimin murmurs, and when Yoongi’s brow quirks just a little higher, their eyes lock, Jimin holding his gaze with confidence. Gently, Yoongi’s nails scrape against his skin, pressing against the snowflake on his shoulder blade. “Now in the sunlight, I see exactly where your eyes linger.”


Yoongi handles him with such care, gentle like Jimin is his greatest treasure. He barely feels the touch of Yoongi’s fingertips sliding across his shoulder until he’s already spinning to face him.


“Do you blame me?” Yoongi murmurs, eyes lidded as he cradles Jimin’s face between his palms, slightly tilting his face up into what remains of the sunset. “You have stolen me away with your pretty eyes and your pretty mouth.”


Breathing softly, Jimin slides his hands up to Yoongi's shoulders, where they hold each other tenderly against the balcony. "So fast?" Jimin asks, holding a knowing look in his eyes. Their breaths mingle, but they have yet to press closer. "Are you saying I've charmed you now, Prince Yoongi?"


The noise Yoongi makes seems like one of affirmation, barely audible over the waves licking at the balcony beneath their feet. One of Yoongi’s thumbs strokes over the crest of Jimin’s cheekbone, careful that his long nails do not scratch.


“May I kiss you, my little swan?”


Jimin nods, leaning in to the hand caressing his cheek, lips already parted for him to whisper, "You may."


It’s easy to give under the press of Yoongi’s hands, gently tilting his head as the dragon prince pulls them even closer. The moment before their lips brush, the anticipation of feeling Yoongi’s breath fan over him, makes Jimin’s eyes flutter shut. Yoongi chuckles, like Jimin’s eagerness amuses him, but then their mouths slot together and Yoongi’s brands him like fire.


Yoongi kisses him just long enough to leave him wanting more, until his entire body curves into the heat of the dragon prince’s. Jimin’s fingers curl into the fabric of Yoongi’s robes as their lips move in tandem, too reluctant to pull away. Only when the edge of Jimin’s teeth draw on Yoongi’s lower lip do they part, eyes fluttering open, tips of their noses bumping together as they come to.


The dark slit of Yoongi’s pupils nearly over takes the green of his irises. He blinks once, the thin film of his third eyelid blurring until it flicks back into place. One of his thumbs presses down softly on the slick swell of Jimin’s bottom lip.


“Now,” he says, voice rough but with a little upturn at the corner of his mouth, “will you let me take you to dinner?”


Trailing his hands down Yoongi’s shoulders, coming to rest at his wrists and hold them gently, Jimin nods. There’s a brightness in his eyes, plush lips curled in a smile. “It would be my pleasure, Prince Yoongi, to join you for dinner tonight.”