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Even If You Don't Love Me

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Taehyung is awakened to chaos. 

Outside the window, hues of red and yellow paint the sky, a cold breeze ruffles Taehyung’s hair and the sun sets, darkening not only the sky but also the lives of everyone in the Aesira Kingdom. The sound of hurried footsteps, thudding of boots and the clinking of armor metal alerts Taehyung because it is a telltale sign of battle preparation.

“What is happening?” Taehyung mumbles to himself as he sits up on the bed. He rubs the sleep out of his eyes and runs a hand through his disheveled bed hair before he reaches out for his robe and wraps it around his body. The doors creak as Taehyung pushes them open to step out.

His personal guard Jimin, startles on seeing Taehyung and immediately bows with respect. “My prince,” he greets, and Taehyung nods in acknowledgment before he asks, “what is all the commotion about?” 

Jimin’s eyes dart around nervously and he refuses to look at Taehyung as he answers, “His majesty doesn’t want you to get involved with this.”

Taehyung’s lips curl into a frown and his eyes narrow into a glare as he replies, “What is that supposed to mean? What is father hiding from me?”

Jimin doesn’t reply. Instead, he lowers his head and stares at his feet.

Taehyung grits his teeth in annoyance. “You’re supposed to be loyal to me, not my father. Maybe I should relieve you of your duties and find someone else.”

Jimin’s head snaps up, eyes wide as he stares at Taehyung. “I apologise,” he’s quick to say. “His majesty asked me not to tell you-” Jimin cuts himself off when Taehyung lifts his hand up, motioning him to stop talking. 

Jimin snaps his mouth shut as Taehyung turns around on his heels and starts making his way towards the courtroom. “The soldiers are being assembled, yet father does not think of me as important enough to know about this grave matter. I am still a child to him, everyone sees me that way just because I have two elder brothers who’re more capable than I am. I will not back down without a fight this time. I must know if we’re in danger.” 

Jimin follows behind him. “His majesty means well for you-” 

Taehyung chuckles with disbelief. “He means well for me? Is it by keeping me in the dark and making a fool of me?”

Jimin shakes his head vigorously. He doesn’t know how he’s supposed to tell Taehyung that the reason they’re keeping him in the dark is not to make a fool of him, but to protect him. Everyone in the royal palace has a soft spot for Taehyung, having seen him grow from a small baby with a precious smile to a man who’s beauty can be rivaled to the gods. He did learn to fight, but he’s not as good as his brothers; Kim Seokjin and Kim Namjoon. He wears his heart on his sleeve, he makes hasty decisions and thinks that the world is as kind as him. That’s why Taehyung can’t know about the war that’s looming over their heads. Jimin needs to protect Taehyung at any cost.

But, it’s too late now. 

“Father!” Taehyung calls out, voice booming loud as he pushes the doors of the courtroom open. He holds his head up high and straightens his back as he walks in, past the soldiers who bow and make way for him to reach the front.

Namjoon grabs a hold of Taehyung’s arm as soon as Taehyung stops to stand beside him, “Why are you here?” he asks and Taehyung frowns before he pulls his arm out of Namjoon’s grasp with a jerk.

“Is there a reason why I shouldn't be here?” Taehyung shoots back, cocking his eyebrow at his brother before he turns to look at his father and bows.

Kim Daehyun — The king’s eyes shift from Taehyung to Jimin and harden into a glare. Jimin curls into himself and shuffles to stand behind Taehyung, out of the king’s line of view. He was specifically told that Taehyung should not know about this and yet here they are. 

“Do not hold Jimin responsible for me coming here, father. You know he cannot stop me. I have a right to know the affairs of the kingdom as the prince,” Taehyung says when he notices the glares directed at Jimin by his brothers and the king.

“Taehyung-” Seokjin starts.

Hyung.” Taehyung cuts him off, tone pleading. “Please respect my wish for once. I am not asking for much.”

“Very well then,” the king starts with a sigh. “We’re preparing for a battle.”

Taehyung’s eyebrows knit in confusion as he asks, “Against who?”

“The Hellions,” the king replies. 

“What?” Taehyung asks, eyes widening and lips parting with surprise. “We’re…” he trails off, balling his hands into fists at his sides as he’s unable to find the right words to complete the sentence without offending everyone in the courtroom. 

“Not strong enough to go against them,” Namjoon finishes for Taehyung, bluntly.

“They’ve captured a few other kingdoms and if we are to go against them all, then we stand no chance to win,” the king speaks. 

Taehyung blinks. “There must be a way out, we can’t fight a losing battle. We cannot let the Hellions win.”

“The only way out is asking for help, forming an alliance,” Seokjin says, stepping forward. 

“With who?” Taehyung asks, mind a muddled mess thinking about kingdoms who’re strong enough to go against the Hellions

Seokjin hesitates for a moment, eyes flicking to look at Namjoon who gives him a small, encouraging nod in return and so he continues, “We're going to the Dragonstone.” 

“Absolutely not.” Taehyung says, instantly. 

The Dragonstone is one of the most powerful kingdoms. It’s known to never lose a battle because it’s backed up by dragons — huge, wild ferocious beasts that spit fire. There are several rumors about the Lord of the Dragonstone — Jeon Jeongguk, he’s known to be merciless, ruthless and heartless. He has a stone cold heart and he treats his people like slaves. It’s said that he was crowned king at a young age after his father died during a battle and thus, the lack of compassion and love made him to be what he is now — a king full of deceit, who lacks morality and is addicted to power.

“We don’t have a choice,” Seokjin says. “We weighed our options and the Dragonstone is the only kingdom powerful enough to defeat the Hellions.” 

Taehyung frowns. “How about we ask the kingdom of Velaris for help. I’m sure Jihyun wouldn’t say no to us.”

“Just because Jihyun is courting you that does not mean he will put his entire kingdom in jeopardy,” Seokjin says and Namjoon nods in agreement. “He may like you, but his kingdom is his responsibility. This is not a situation where he’ll think with his heart.” 

Taehyung deflates. “I still don’t think asking the Dragonstone for help is a good idea.”

“It is not a good idea, indeed, but this is our last resort. We cannot waste anymore time, I am leaving now.” Namjoon says and Taehyung’s head snaps up. 

“Right now? Can’t you leave after sunrise?” 

“We don’t know when the Hellions will attack. We must prepare and be ready.” Seokjin speaks.

“I don’t have a good feeling about this. Namjoon hyung, I will come with you.” Taehyung says.

“No, I will not allow you to accompany me,” Namjoon replies.

Taehyung’s eyebrows pinch together. “Why?” He asks.

Namjoon hesitates for a moment before he answers, “Because,” there’s a pause, “I don’t know if I’ll come back alive.”

Taehyung’s eyes widen. “What?” he cries as reaches out to grab a hold of Namjoon’s arm. “If you know it’s dangerous then don’t go. Please.” 

Namjoon cups Taehyung’s hand with his and gently loosens his hold. “I’ll be okay. I promise.” 

“I’m coming with you,” Taehyung says, crossing his arms against his chest and jutting his chin out like a stubborn petulant child who doesn't take no for an answer. “You’re not going alone.”

Namjoon opens his mouth to protest but he doesn't get a chance to speak because the king voices his opinion. “Fine,” he says, tone laced with frustration and defeat. “If Taehyung wishes to accompany Namjoon then he can. I do not wish to waste any longer on this discussion, since we’re already short on time.”

“But father-” Seokjin starts, his face twisting with worry.

“My decision is final,” the king cuts in, tone firm and leaving no room for further arguments.

“Thank you, father.” Taehyung smiles, satisfied. He will not let his brother go into that death trap alone.

“Park Jimin will accompany Namjoon and Taehyung with a few other guards to Dragonstone, leave as soon as you can. Seokjin will look after the soldiers, train them if needed, assign them positions and make a strategic plan. We must be prepared when the time comes.” The king orders.

Taehyung takes a deep breath before he nods.

Dragonstone.

Jeongguk.

“Promise me that I’ll see you two again,” Seokjin says, taking Namjoon’s and Taehyung’s hand in his.

Taehyung laughs. “You can't get rid of me so easily, hyung.”

Seokjin smiles. The back of his eyes sting with tears but he holds them in. He’s the eldest, he’s the successor to the throne, he can’t be weak, especially not in front of his brothers.

Namjoon gives Seokjin’s hand a light squeeze. “I’ll take care of Taehyung,” he says. 

Taehyung huffs, eyes narrowing with annoyance at being treated like a child. “I’ll take care of Namjoon hyung too.”

 

✦✧✦✧

 

“Has anyone ever seen him before?” Taehyung asks, referring to the lord of Dragonstone, Jeongguk. 

Namjoon shakes his head. “No, I haven’t. I don't think anyone has, except for the people who engaged in a battle with him and that too hasn't happened in a long time since no one is strong enough to defeat him.”

Taehyung frowns. “What about the dragons? Has anyone seen them? Are they even real?”

“I have,” a soldier answers in a small voice. Taehyung nods and urges him to continue speaking. “The castle is built on an island in the far middle of the ocean. No one knows about the origins of the dragons but they don’t stray far from the kingdom, they’re always protecting it. I was out here fishing with my friends a few months back when we heard a loud roar. We looked up at the sky and it was at that time we saw it — a dragon. It was bigger, faster and wilder than anything I've ever seen in my life. Even from far away, it looked deadly.”

“Is it possible for them to be created…?” Jimin asks.

Namjoon shakes his head. “There’s so much of the world we haven’t seen yet. The real question is how Jeongguk managed to tame these wild beasts?”

“I’m curious about him.” Taehyung says, almost absentmindedly.

“You shouldn't be. We need to be out of there as soon as we can.” Namjoon says, his hand tightening around the hilt of the sword that’s secured by his waist. He needs to protect Taehyung at all costs.

Taehyung leans out of the boat and dips the tip of his fingers into the cold water. He doesn't know how long they’ve been sailing for, he can’t see anything except the black of the night. It’s eerily silent and the smallest of sounds makes Namjoon jump. Taehyung can see how nervous Namjoon has become from his stiff shoulders and the way his hand never strays away from his sword, it's as if he’s waiting for something to jump out of the water and attack him.

“There it is! Dragonstone.”

Taehyung looks up.

It’s dark but what little Taehyung is able to see because of the lamps lightening the castle, he can tell that Dragonstone lives up to its name, at least the latter half. It’s barren, made of stone — and it seems like all the island has is rock. There’s a long stairway leading up to the castle and just by looking at it, Taehyung feels his legs ache. He turns to look at Jimin and gives him the puppy dog eyes .

Jimin shakes his head, resolute. “My prince, weren’t you going to relieve me of my duties?” He asks, the corner of his lips curling up into a smirk. 

Taehyung narrows his eyes at him. Jimin may be his personal guard, he may insist on calling him prince but he’s still his best friend. They’ve grown up together, Jimin trained hard to be on Taehyung’s side and even though Taehyung often threatens Jimin to relieve him of his duty, they both know he’ll never do it.

“I’m ordering you.”

Jimin purses his lips, unimpressed. “My prince, surely you’re not that weak to not be able to climb a couple of stairs?” 

“A couple?” Taehyung mumbles under his breath, tone laced with disbelief. 

“Taehyung, stay close to me.” Namjoon orders, shuffling to walk beside Taehyung. “Do not speak unless it's absolutely necessary. Remember we’re here to form an alliance, not to make an enemy,” Namjoon says before he glances at Jimin who nods back at him, understanding the message Namjoon wants to convey with his eyes — when the time comes, protect him with all your life .

Taehyung rolls his eyes as he starts walking faster, leaving Namjoon and Jimin behind.

After about an eternity of walking, they finally make it to the top.

There are two guards standing outside near the entrance. One of them blocks their path with his sword before he asks, “Who do you have business with and where are you from?” 

Namjoon steps forward. “I am the prince of Aesira kingdom and I have business with lord Jeongguk.”

The guards exchange a look before one of them nods and pushes the gates open to walk in. Namjoon and Taehyung make a move to follow him but the other one stops them with his sword again. “You can’t go in now,” he says arrogantly and Taehyung’s eye twitches in annoyance. “Wait for the permission. If our lord isn't up for the meeting right now, you will have to wait here, outside till sunrise.”

“What type of lord, ” Taehyung hisses, “makes his guests wait outside, in the freezing cold?” Taehyung takes a step forward but Namjoon grabs his arm. “Taehyung,” he says, tone laced with a warning. 

Taehyung huffs.

“What type of guests decide to visit in the middle of the night?” The guard sneers in defense of Jeongguk.

Namjoon frowns. “We have our reasons.”

Taehyung turns to look at Namjoon. “What will we do if he refuses to see us now?” he whispers.

“I don’t think there’s much time left for sunrise. We will have to wait, we don’t have a choice. We can’t return without meeting him.” Namjoon replies, looking up at the sky.

The guard returns after a few minutes. “Follow me,” he says before he turns back around and starts walking in. Despite the desolate look on the outside, the castle is every bit luxurious on the inside. The colors of the interior are a mixture of gold and red, there are intricate patterns carved on the bowed ceiling and pillars and the dragon head statues attached to the walls look down upon them as they pass by. The architecture is nothing like Taehyung has ever seen in any of the castles before— it's daunting yet fascinating in its own way.

They stop outside the throne room.

The guard then pushes the door open and gestures for them to go in.

Taehyung’s heart thumps in his chest with anticipation and nervousness when they walk past the guard who stops outside the door and closes it shut behind them. The first thing Taehyung notices is a scarlet rug that splits the room in half, bordered with gold and stretching all the way up to the throne. 

When Taehyung finally raises his eyes, his breath catches in his throat at the sight of Jeongguk. 

The magnificent throne made of gold sits upon an elevated platform. The size of it doesn't really faze Taehyung but what really catches him off guard are the two black stone dragons curled over the head of the seat with their huge wings spreading behind the throne. 

Jeongguk sits on the throne like he owns the world. He’s wearing a white silk shirt with a few buttons undone on the top, the sleeves are wide, flaring and reach down to well below his wrists, and they’re decorated with several gold thread linings from top to bottom. Over the shirt is a black cloak that’s loosely tied together by a string near his neck. His hair is an uncommon blond and a crown is perched over his head. Just the mere presence of him has Taehyung’s stomach twisting and his heart racing in his chest.

Jeongguk’s dark eyes flit from person to person until they eventually land on Taehyung and pause. He tilts his head, expression unreadable and Taehyung feels too intimidated to hold his gaze so he looks away, red making its way onto his cheeks.

“What business do you have with me to visit at a time like this?” Jeongguk asks, voice so thick that it sends shivers down Taehyung’s spine. 

Taehyung doesn't know why he’s so affected by Jeongguk. It’s shameful. Maybe, it's because Jeongguk looks completely different than the picture he had in his mind. He’s handsome, so much so that it’s daunting.

“I am prince Namjoon of the Aesira kingdom and along with me is my younger brother, prince Taehyung. We come here in need of help.” Namjoon answers calmly and carefully.

Jeongguk cocks his eyebrow at him. “What kind of help do you need?” he asks. Taehyung dares to look up again and his eyes widen when he realizes that Jeongguk is already staring at him. Namjoon seems to notice Jeongguk’s gaze on Taehyung too, because he shifts to cover his brother behind his back.

Jeongguk’s lips curl into a small frown at the move but he doesn't say anything.

“The Hellions are preparing for a battle against us and we’re not... strong enough to go against them alone, without an alliance.” Namjoon replies.

“So,” Jeongguk starts, “you wish to form an alliance with me?”

“Yes. Specifically, we need your help. In return, we will back you up when the time comes.” Namjoon says and Jeongguk chuckles, “Aesira will back me up when the time comes? But, I don’t need anyone’s help.” Jeongguk says with a shrug.

Namjoon grits his teeth. He knew it wouldn't be so easy to get Jeongguk to form an alliance with them.

Now, the question is what Jeongguk wants in return from them.

“What do I get out of this alliance? Besides Aesira’s help… which I don’t need,” Jeongguk says, tone condescending as he looks down upon them.

“What do you want?” Namjoon asks, getting straight to the point. He doesn’t have time to beat around the bush. 

Jeongguk hums. He taps his fingers on his thighs incessantly, in a rhythm as he thinks or pretends to. “What can you give me that I don’t already have?” He asks no one in particular. 

Namjoon’s eyes narrow. He doesn’t have a good feeling about this. 

“What is the best way to form an alliance?” Jeongguk speaks after a few moments of silence. It's slow, the way his lips stretch into a smile that’s dazzling and disconcerting at the same time. “Marriage,” he says, the syllable rolling off his tongue like honey but it’s poisonous enough to render everyone in the room speechless. 

Taehyung’s heart drops in his stomach when Jeongguk beams at them like a maniac.

“I refuse.” Namjoon replies.

Jeongguk’s smile falls. “Does your brother not have a tongue in his mouth?”

Namjoon’s eyebrows pinch together in confusion at the sudden mention of his brother. “What does he have to do with this?”

Jeongguk’s lips curl in amusement and his eyes shine with mirth. “Did you think that marriage proposal was for you?” Jeongguk laughs. “I will form an alliance with Aesira but in return, I want Taehyung.”

“He’s insane.” Jimin whispers from beside Taehyung.

Namjoon’s jaw clenches as he replies, “I’m afraid that’s not possible. Taehyung already has a,” he fumbles, unable to find the right word before he settles on saying, “lover.” Although, he’s aware that Jihyun doesn’t quite fit the term yet

For a moment, Taehyung thinks that Jeongguk might change his mind because he looks like a person who demands exclusivity and obedience and Taehyung can’t give him that. But, Jeongguk barely bats an eye before the corner of his lips curl into a cocky smirk, almost like Taehyung’s lover is the last thing he could be bothered about. 

“I can challenge them,” Jeongguk suggests, voice laced with amusement and eyes glinting with mischief. “Let’s see if they love you enough to fight a losing battle.”

It's pointless, Namjoon concludes eventually. No matter what argument they present or how much they try to reason with him, Jeongguk looks like he won’t change his mind. He knows he has an upper hand and that’s the reason he refuses to compromise.

“Let’s go.” Namjoon says, furious eyes shifting from Jeongguk to Taehyung before he turns around. “I’d rather die than wed my brother to someone like you.”

Jeongguk’s face twists with rage and his eyes blaze with an inextinguishable fire as he spits out venomously, “Die then.”

Namjoon ignores him and starts making his way out of the room with the rest of his people following him except Taehyung. 

Taehyung stays rooted in his place, staring at Jeongguk with wide eyes as a million thoughts race in his head. From what he understood, Dragonstone was their last resort for help. Aesira is in danger and Namjoon might act like he isn't desperate for an alliance but he is. He’s probably panicking on the inside as he’s walking out of the room with his head held high.

Taehyung had claimed that he’s the prince of Aesira and he should be treated as one, so, now’s the time he takes responsibility. He can sacrifice himself for the king, for his brothers, for the kingdom and his people.

Taehyung balls his hands into fists at his sides, jaw clenching as he prepares himself to speak. His tongue feels heavy in his mouth and his heart pounds in his chest as he opens his mouth.

“I accept your proposal.”

Surprise flickers across Jeongguk’s face and Namjoon turns around in a swift motion to look at his brother. Jimin’s eyes widen as he rushes back to Taehyung’s side without a second thought.

“My prince,” Jimin starts, desperation evident on his face as he continues, “What are you saying?” 

“Taehyung,” Namjoon calls, tone edged with a warning and a plea. Jeongguk’s eyes flick from Namjoon to Taehyung, face unreadable as he waits for the brothers to reach a conclusion.

Taehyung refuses to look at Namjoon and he ignores the way Jimin’s eyes that bore holes into the side of his face as he stares straight at Jeongguk with his jaw set tight as he waits for a reply. 

“It seems like your brother won’t be giving you his blessings.” Jeongguk says, almost challengingly.

“I don’t care-” 

“Taehyung!”

“-as long as you keep your end of the promise to form an alliance with Aesira.”

Jeongguk shrugs. “I’m a man of my words, you have nothing to worry about once you agree to the marriage.”

Taehyung opens his mouth to speak but all that leaves his lips is a gasp because suddenly there’s a strong hand wrapping around his elbow before he’s yanked back to face his brother.

“Are you out of your mind?” Namjoon seethes, eyes wild with rage and his grip tight and bruising. 

Jeongguk’s eyes narrow and his eyebrows in with annoyance. “If I may, I think he’s in his right mind, making a wise choice.”

“I do not wish to hear anything from you.” Namjoon snaps at Jeongguk.

A fire burns within Jeongguk on hearing Namjoon’s tone towards him. His hand itches to draw his sword and slice Namjoon’s throat open but he knows he can’t, not when he wants Taehyung to marry him, to agree to his terms and conditions.

Taehyung pulls his arm out of Namjoon’s hold. “I am an adult. I think I’m capable enough to make my own decisions, hyung.”

Jeongguk smiles, pleased.

“My prince-”

“Taehyung-ah.”

Taehyung ignores them as he turns to look at Jeongguk. “I have a few conditions and if you can agree to those then we can seal the deal.”

Jeongguk cocks his eyebrow at him with curiosity as he nods. “Let’s hear them.”

Taehyung takes a deep breath before he starts speaking, “First, you will not touch me without my consent. I cannot marry someone who mistreats me or does not respect my boundaries and my personal space.”

Namjoon sighs. There’s no way Jeongguk is going to agree with that because Taehyung ruled out that one thing that Jeongguk may be after in the guise of this marriage. 

“I agree. I will not lay a hand on you until you ask me to, unless you beg me to,” Jeongguk replies in an instant, lips stretching into a lazy smile as he leans back. There is not an ounce of hesitation in his tone or his eyes and that baffles Namjoon. 

Taehyung’s cheeks redden. He clears his throat before he continues, “I cannot marry you right away, I need to get to know you first. However, I will stay in this castle with you during that period of time.”

Jimin lets out a pained noise.

Jeongguk hums. “I do agree with that, however if you go back on your word or try to run away after you get what you want...” Jeongguk trails off, voice deepening, turning almost deadly as he continues, “I will find you and I will kill you.”

A chill runs down Taehyung’s spine but he stands his ground. “I agree,” he replies, levelling his voice the best he can. 

Jeongguk nods indifferently, like he didn’t just threaten to end Taehyung’s life. “Very well, you may continue.”

“I wish to see my family once a week.”

“No.” Jeongguk chuckles, “Why? To have them confirm that you’re still alive.”

Taehyung freezes, colour draining from his face as Jeongguk stands up from his throne and makes his way towards him, slow, like a predator towards its prey, his dark eyes boring into Taehyung’s soft brown ones with an intensity that shakes Taehyung to his core.

Jeongguk stops right in front of Taehyung, close with barely any distance left between them. When Namjoon makes a move to push Jeongguk back and create some distance between him and his brother, Jeongguk stops him by raising a hand. He tilts his head to look at him, the corner of his lips twitching up into a smug smile, “When two people who’re about to get married are talking, don’t you know that it's disrespectful to interrupt?”

“You-” Namjoon hisses.

“Hyung, please.” Taehyung mumbles, it's soft but Namjoon catches it and clamps his mouth shut.

Jeongguk huffs before his attention turns back to Taehyung. “You’re pretty,” he murmurs quietly, like it's a secret, a confession. Taehyung’s cheeks redden and he averts his gaze from Jeongguk, almost shyly as Jeongguk’s eyes darken before he folds his arms behind his back and clasps his hands together like he’s physically holding himself back from reaching out and touching the man in front of him.

Jeongguk’s eyes roam around Taehyung’s face, taking in the way his ash grey hair fall on his forehead in waves, framing his face to make him look almost delicate as his long lashes flutter over his almond eyes and sinful pink lips part around words. Jeongguk leans in, almost unconsciously, enthralled, but he quickly stops himself and pulls back when Taehyung’s breath hitches and eyes widen at the proximity between them.

“You may leave now,” Jeongguk says, abruptly turning around.

“Aren’t you going to come with us?” Taehyung asks, sounding a little suspicious and a little out of breath. 

Jeongguk looks at Taehyung over his shoulder as he answers, “Don’t worry, I will be there when I am needed and I expect you to leave Aesira with me when the time comes.”

Taehyung nods. “You have my word.”

 

✦✧✦✧

 

They keep it a secret.

Namjoon tries to persuade Taehyung to change his mind but when he learns about the fact that the Hellions are set to attack Aesira in a few hours after their arrival, he goes quiet with his head hanging low with defeat. He accepts the fact that they don’t have a choice. He hates the idea of Taehyung marrying someone like Jeongguk but he knows it's the only way Aesira can keep standing tall, with its people.

Seokjin sags with relief upon hearing that Dragonstone is on their side. Though, he’s still kept in the dark about the deal Taehyung made with Jeongguk for that to happen.

Time passes by in a blur. 

Seokjin and Namjoon busy themselves in preparing for the battle, assigning positions to the soldiers and making a strategic plan while they wait for Jeongguk’s arrival.

Jimin follows Taehyung like a shadow as if he’s afraid Taehyung might disappear, like he’ll lose Taehyung forever if his eyes stray away. He’s not hiding the fact that he’s upset about Taehyung’s decision. He doesn't voice his opinions either, especially after Namjoon gave up but there’s a permanent frown on his face and he glares at everyone who meets his eye.

Jimin opens and closes his mouth like he wishes to say something but he can't bring the words to leave his mouth as he helps Taehyung into the helmet and hands him a shield. 

Taehyung sighs, “Speak your mind, Jimin. You may not get a chance to do so later.” The implication behind Taehyung’s words are clear and it hits Jimin close to his heart, it hurts him enough to have his face crumple as if he’s in pain. Taehyung will leave and Jimin might not get to see him again after today.

“Jimin…” Taehyung says, voice laced with sadness as he fastens the belt around his waist and adjusts his sword near his hip.

Jimin looks away, he puts his helmet on quickly, refusing to let Taehyung see him like this, weak, teary eyed. There’s a moment of silence before Jimin looks up, eyes glassy but brimming with determination as he puffs his chest and wraps his hand around the hilt of his sword as he says, “My prince, I have sworn to protect you and I will follow you to the ends of the world — even if I have to die along the way.”

Taehyung’s eyes widen.

“Jimin-” 

“Taehyung,” Seokjin calls, interrupting Taehyung as he pushes the door of the room open and steps in. He’s wearing the combat uniform, chest and back covered with armour and a metal helmet over his head. “We haven’t heard from Dragonstone yet…” he trails off, looking between Taehyung and Jimin, taking a note of the tension between the two. 

Taehyung frowns. “He said he’ll be there when he’s needed.”

“Well, he is needed right now but I can’t see him,” Seokjin snaps, worried. 

“Did the battle start? He’ll come,” Taehyung replies, sounding unusually confident for someone who doesn’t know Jeongguk one bit. 

“Alright,” Seokjin nods nonetheless because there’s not much he can do about the situation other than wait. 

“We’re heading out to meet the Hellions in the middle. We can’t let them get near Aesira. If you wish, you can stay here with the king-” 

“No, I’ll fight.” Taehyung says immediately, interrupting Seokjin. He has to be there to leave with Jeongguk when the time comes, like he promised. 

Seokjin stares at him for a few moments before he turns around and walks out of the door. He looks at Taehyung over his shoulder while murmuring a faint, “Let’s go.” 

Taehyung takes a deep breath as he glances at Jimin and gives him a look of — we’ll talk about this later — before he follows Seokjin out of the door with Jimin on his tail. 

The sun shines brightly over Taehyung’s head, the scorching heat makes him sweat with all the layers of clothing he’s wearing. They’re far enough from Aesira, from the traces of human settlement. It’s an open ground, barren land — a perfect place to hold a battle. 

The anticipation makes Taehyung’s heart beat faster and his stomach twists unpleasantly. It’s not because he doesn’t know how to fight but it’s because he doesn’t know how many of them he will have to. Aesira is not small but if it’s compared to the Hellions and god knows how many kingdoms it’s united with to go against them, its size would be inconsiderable. 

“I see them!” One of the warriors shouts, snapping Taehyung out of his thoughts.

Taehyung looks up and squints and indeed he sees them — the Hellions, speeding forward on horses, growing bigger and bigger as the distance between them decreases. 

Taehyung’s heart sinks in his stomach when he realizes that the Hellions are not in hundreds, they’re in thousands. He glances at Namjoon and watches the way colour drains from his face. If they fight, there’s no way they’ll win, they won’t get out of this alive. 

Jeongguk. 

Where is Jeongguk? 

He said he’ll be there. He promised.

“He’s not going to come,” Namjoon breathes out, as if hearing Taehyung’s thoughts.

The Hellions halt a few meters away from them, clad in their signature red combat dresses with black armour over it. The person leading the troop has a red flag in his hand and he’s waving it in the air as if to show they’re here to capture, to conquer. 

Silence stretches between them.

Taehyung looks to his left and to his right, eyes searching for Jeongguk with desperation but there’s no trace for him. 

The sound of a horse’s rearing reaches Taehyung’s ears and he looks in front to see that the enemy is about to charge forward towards them. 

Taehyung squeezes his eyes shut before he takes a deep breath. 

He can do this. 

He needs to do this.

Taehyung’s eyes fly open when he hears a thundering roar, it’s monstrous, louder than anything he has ever heard in his life. It makes him flinch, he curls into himself at the sound embodying rage, a signal of death. 

When he looks up into the sky, his fear stricken expression twists into one of relief and awe because over their heads, high up in the sky flies a dragon. It's enormous, darker than night, ferocious in the way it snarls as it flaps its wings and starts zooming towards the ground at a high speed.

Taehyung takes his helmet off and drops it on the ground. He squints when the dragon gets closer to the ground and his jaw drops open when he notices Jeongguk seated on the dragon’s back. His blond hair is swept back, shoulders straight as one of his hands holds onto the dragon’s horn while his other rests on his thigh with a kind of ease and confidence like he’s certain that if he were to fall, his dragon would catch him.

The dragon touches the ground with an echoing, earth shattering thud. The Hellions stumble before scrambling a few steps back, losing confidence as their horses lose control at the sight of the dragon snarling at them.

The dragon stretches his right wing and tilts it towards the ground. Taehyung is momentarily confused at the action before he sees Jeongguk standing up and making his way down. He walks with grace and each of his stride seems powerful — like a true king’s.

There’s an uproar among the Hellions while Aesira seems to finally take a breath of relief.

Jeongguk steps down to the ground and walks forward to stand beside his dragon.

Taehyung watches with fascination as the dragon noses into his hand before taking a small step back. 

The Hellions seem to contemplate whether they should fight or surrender.

“He came,” Taehyung breathes out, almost unconsciously and Namjoon nods, too stunned to reply.

Jeongguk glances at Taehyung over his shoulder and Taehyung thinks he sees the corner of his lips curl into a smirk.

Everyone watches with bated breath as Jeongguk raises his hand in the air and twirls his finger. The dragon lets out a high pitched roar and it’s followed by snarls from the sky. Taehyung’s head snaps up and his eyes widen when he notices a swarm of dragons making their way towards them. They’re of different colours, varying in sizes, growling and snarling as they circle over their heads, waiting for an order. 

“A battle,” Jeongguk starts, it’s loud and clear because suddenly the dragons go quiet as soon as Jeongguk starts speaking, “means death.” 

There's murmuring and whispering among the Hellions.

“If you wish to fight, I shall stand here and watch you crumble to the ground in nothing but dust,” Jeongguk continues. 

“You have three seconds to decide.” 

Taehyung gasps. 

Jeongguk raises three fingers. 

“One.” 

He starts the countdown.

One finger goes down. 

“Two.” 

Another finger does down. 

Taehyung holds his breath. 

“Three!” 

The dragon roars.

As soon as Jeongguk’s third finger goes down, one of the men from the Hellions raises a white flag and they surrender. 

“Wise choice.” Jeongguk says, twirling his finger in the air again, signaling the dragons to leave once the Hellions take off. 

“Wow.” 

“Did they just leave?” 

“There will be no battle.” Seokjin announces, “We will be returning to Aesira!” 

Jeongguk turns around with a chuckle. “Not so quickly,” he says with a grin.

Namjoon pales when Seokjin’s eyebrows knit in confusion as he asks, “What do you mean?”

Jeongguk slowly makes his way towards Taehyung and the dragon turns around to look at him too — black slitted pupils constricting within the fiery amber when Taehyung meets its eyes. It has two sets of long horns on either side of his head. A wide neck runs down from its head and into a snake-like body. The top is covered in small obsidian-like scales with three rows of small spikes running down it's spine. Its bottom is covered in reptilian skin and is colored slightly lighter than the rest of its body. Four huge limbs carry its body, allowing it to stand tall and tall. The dragon's limbs end with pointy claws seemingly made of stone which look like they can pierce into anything and its wings look demonic with thick skin and eerie bone structures and sharp hooks growing from the endings of each bone.

Jeongguk stops in front of Taehyung and his lips stretch into a lazy smile. “I think you should ask that to your brother,” he replies to Seokjin. 

“Taehyung...?” 

Taehyung turns to look at his brother with guilt clawing at his chest.

“I...” Taehyung hesitates, “agreed on marrying Jeongguk in return of his help to save Aesira.”

Jeongguk grins.

“What?”

“I’m sorry hyung, I didn’t tell you.” Taehyung apologizes with his head hanging low.

Seokjin turns to look at Namjoon who looks away immediately, refusing to meet his brother’s eyes as he replies, “Taehyung told me not to tell you.” 

“Since when do we listen to what Taehyung says?” Seokjin snaps, aggravated.

Taehyung narrows his eyes at Seokjin. “Let me tell you that I’m right here,” he starts, “because it seems like you’ve forgotten.”

Seokjin turns to glare at him. “It’s because you take decisions like these, we cannot trust you.” 

“My decision just saved your life.” Taehyung angrily states, scowling.

“As much as I enjoy family drama, I don’t have enough spare time right now. My friend there,” Jeongguk turns to look at the dragon, “is very hungry.” 

And as if the dragon understands Jeongguk, he huffs.

“He might just eat each and every one of you.” 

Taehyung turns to glare at Jeongguk. “If that was an attempt at a joke, I must say that it was awful.” 

“Do I look like I’m jesting, Taehyung?” Jeongguk asks with a straight face before he shifts to look at Seokjin who's standing behind Taehyung.

“The deal is done," Jeongguk says, "and absolutely nothing you can do that will change my mind. Did you think I would help Aesira out for free? I’m generous-”

Taehyung snorts.

“-but not that much.”

“It looks like you have never been in the presence of a king except your father… looking at your rambunctious behavior. I will surely teach you some manners when you come live with me.” Jeongguk sneers at Taehyung.

Taehyung suppresses the urge to roll his eyes at him. That would be very un-princely, wouldn’t it?

“Do not fret, I shall invite you all to the wedding.” Jeongguk scoffs, his eyes darkening when Seokjin steps beside Taehyung, his hand protectively curling around Taehyung’s arm as he speaks, “If you dare hurt him, I will-”

“Hyung!” Taehyung interrupts quickly before the situation gets out of hand. He knows very little of Jeongguk, but surely it is a fact that Jeongguk does not take threats and warnings lightly. 

Taehyung reaches out to squeeze  Seokjin’s hand reassuringly. “I agreed to the marriage after a few conditions.” Taehyung sneaks a glance at Jeongguk as he continues, “If he goes back on his words, he will not be worthy of being called a king, right?” Taehyung turns to look at Jeongguk with a coy smile. 

Jeongguk gives Taehyung a small, unimpressed smile as he nods. “Of course.”

The dragon lets out an impatient rumble and Jeongguk extends his hand towards Taehyung. “Lets go, shall we?”

Taehyung blinks, eyes flicking between Jeongguk and the dragon before he takes a step back, face twisting with horror. “Please tell me you do not expect me to ride that thing,” he laughs in disbelief.

Jeongguk shrugs. “If you wish to walk all the way to Dragonstone, then you may. I apologize for not arranging carriage for you — it’s because I assumed you were not all that joyful about getting married or coming to Dragonstone.”

“You are so infuriating.” Taehyung seethes.

“Yes, I tend to get on people’s nerves,” Jeongguk replies smoothly, not at all offended by Taehyung’s words and that seems to vex Taehyung even further.

“You-” As soon as Taehyung opens his mouth to curse Jeongguk, he is interrupted by the sound of horses galloping. He turns to look in the direction from where the sound came from and sees a troop of soldiers, making their way towards them, again. When they get closer, Taehyung recognizes the leader — Jihyun.

Jeongguk lets out a long sigh.

“Who is this now?”

“Jihyun…” Taehyung breathes out, unconsciously, almost longingly.

Jeongguk tilts his head as he crosses his arms against his chest, almost bored and a little annoyed because of the look on Taehyung’s face.

“The day just keeps getting better,” Jeongguk laughs humorlessly before he turns to look at Jihyun. “Is that the lover we spoke about earlier?” he asks with a bite in his tone.

“Yes.” Taehyung replies, eyes on Jihyun who stops a good distance away from them. He gets down from his horse and gestures his troop to stay where they are as he approaches Taehyung, taking his head armour off his face.

Jeongguk stares wordless as Jihyun walks past him and makes his way straight towards Taehyung. Jihyun grabs a hold of Taehyung's hand as he looks into his eyes and asks, “Are you okay?”

Jeongguk’s eye twitches and he fumes silently.

“Yeah,” Taehyung replies, it’s only a word but his voice comes out so soft, so gentle and small that it catches Jeongguk off guard. He will never admit it vocally but he wants Taehyung to talk to him like that too, with a little bit of gentleness and a little bit of love.

Jeongguk’s jaw ticks with anger. He is suddenly furious, so much so that he’d pierce Jihyun with a sword if he could.

“The battle did not happen,” Jeongguk hears Taehyung saying. “The Hellions surrendered when they noticed that the Dragonstone was on our side.”

It’s then, Jihyun turns to look at Jeongguk, surprise flickering across his face as if he just noticed him there.

Jeongguk suppresses the urge to scoff.

Jihyun bows in front of him and Taehyung lets out a gasp before he reaches out to tug him back up. 

“I am so grateful to you for helping Aesira,” Jihyun begins, “I too, will be indebted to you. How shall I ever repay you for saving my Taehyung-”

“You don't need to repay me at all,” Jeongguk says, venom dripping from his voice as his lips curl with contempt. “Aesira is already doing it by giving Taehyung’s hand to me for marriage.”

Taehyung winces.

“Ah, but you can repay me if you wish to do so desperately — by attending our wedding.” Jeongguk ends with a sly grin.

Jihyun slowly stands up straight, eyebrows furrowing as he processes the information thrown at him. He then turns to look at Taehyung, expression shifting from confusion to plain betrayal as he asks, “W-what is he talking about?”

“I didn’t have a choice. I am sorry,” Taehyung says, face crumpling as he reaches out for Jihyun who pulls back, away from Taehyung’s touch.

“You could’ve come to me for help instead of going to him. You know I wouldn’t have asked anything of you. You know how much I love you,” Jihyun says desperately. 

Jeongguk looks at Taehyung, waits for him to reply. 

“I couldn’t put your life at a risk. I-”

Jeongguk holds his breath. He’s not sure of what he’ll do if he hears Taehyung confess — he might kill Jihyun or he might just let Taehyung go.

“-I’m sorry.”

Taehyung doesn’t know why he couldn’t bring himself to say it back. Maybe, it was because there’s no use of saying it right before they’re about to part or maybe it's because of the intensity of Jeongguk’s gaze — burning him from over and within. In the end, Taehyung convinces himself that it was because Jeongguk wouldn't hesitate to eliminate a threat. 

Taehyung doesn't dare to entertain the thought that maybe he couldn’t say it back because he doesn't really feel the same way yet.

“Taehyung… we need to leave. Now.” Jeongguk orders, “I have had enough of emotional drama for the day.”

Jeongguk extends his hand towards Taehyung again and it hangs in the air as Taehyung stares at it, contemplating whether he should take it or not. He glances at Jihyun who’s staring at him with an unreadable expression on his face but rage and vengeance simmering in his eyes. Jihyun doesn’t make a move to challenge Jeongguk because he knows he doesn’t stand a chance against him or his dragon who looks like it’s about to snap him in half with its teeth.

Taehyung slowly slides his palm over Jeongguk’s hand and Jeongguk’s face breaks into a smile so dazzling and charming that it stuns Taehyung, sways him, makes his cheeks go red for an unfathomable reason.

Jeongguk wraps his fingers around Taehyung’s hand in a firm yet gentle grip. When he averts his gaze from Taehyung to Jihyun, his sweet, dazzling smile remains on his face but his tone grows smug and condescending as he asks, “Will you take a leave or are you that pathetic to watch us go?” 

Jihyun grits his teeth in annoyance. He's humiliated in front of Aesira and in front of his kingdom. “What I do and what I am is none of your concern,” he spits out. 

Jeongguk shrugs. “Suit yourself."

Giving Taehyung’s hand a light tug, Jeongguk starts walking towards his dragon who quickly rests lets his wing down on the ground for Jeongguk to climb.

Taehyung unconsciously squeezes Jeongguk’s hand out of fear as the dragon stares at him with its teeth bared. 

“I think it hates me.” Taehyung mumbles.

“It’s a he,” Jeongguk corrects. “It’ll take some time but he will get used to you. He doesn’t hurt anyone unless I tell him to. He’s scary looking but he’s a baby.”

A baby?” Taehyung asks, incredulously.

Jeongguk chuckles before he holds his other hand out for the dragon who immediately shifts to nuzzle into it. The sight is a little endearing and a little ridiculous because Jeongguk’s hand barely covers an inch of the dragon’s head.

“How did you even manage to befriend a creature like this?” Taehyung asks with a hint of jealousy in his tone. Taehyung wonders how it would feel like to be backed up by a creature like that, to be the only person in the world who the creatures listens and obeys to.

Jeongguk turns to look at the dragon, gaze soft and fond as he replies, “I didn’t just befriend dragons, I grew up with them, especially this one — he’s like my best friend.”

“Oh.”

Maybe Jeongguk isn’t as bad as people make him to be. Maybe he’s just misunderstood and lonely.

“Would you prefer to sit in front of me or behind me?” Jeongguk asks after a moment of silence.

“Which one is safer?”

Jeongguk hums, there’s a mischievous glint in his eyes as he speaks, “Let me rephrase it. Would you like me to hold you or would you like to hold onto me?”

Taehyung glares, eyes narrowing at Jeongguk. “Is neither an option?”

“Sure it is, but then I hope you don’t hold me responsible if you fall…” Jeongguk trails, eyebrows raising.

“I’ll sit in the front.”

“Wise choice.”

“How am I supposed to - oh my god, it's breathing.” Taehyung shrieks when the dragon moves beneath his feet. 

Jeongguk sighs. “I think he’s visibly alive. All creatures need to breathe to live-”

“Can you stop talking for a moment!”

Jeongguk snaps his mouth shut.

“Why can’t he just use a horse like a normal person.” Taehyung mumbles as he seats himself on the dragon, between the row of spikes. 

Jeongguk remains standing as he stares at Taehyung with an amused smile on his face. “For someone who was so terrified of my dragon, you sure did make yourself comfortable.”

Taehyung turns to glare at him. “For someone who was rushing me moments ago, you sure do have a lot of time to jest.”

Jeongguk laughs, it’s sweet, low and melodious. It’s the kind of a sound Taehyung wouldn't mind listening to all day.

Taehyung chews on his lower lip as he looks away.

“You’ll let us visit right?” Namjoon asks Jeongguk, stepping forward, cautious of the dragon that stares at him like he’s a threat.

Jeongguk purses his lips and glances at Taehyung who stares at him with wide hopeful eyes.

“Yes,” Jeongguk breathes out. “You can visit him once a month. That’s all I can allow for now.” 

 Namjoon’s shoulders sag with relief. “That is enough, thank you.”

Jeongguk nods before he climbs on the dragon and sits down behind Taehyung.

“If you feel scared just close your eyes,” Jeongguk says when he feels Taehyung tensing against him.

“Aren’t-” Taehyung takes a sharp breath before he continues, “Aren’t you going to hold me?”

The last thing Taehyung wants is for Jeongguk to touch him but he’s really terrified of the dragon and the heights and Jeongguk is the only person who can make him feel safe right now.

Jeongguk’s arms come to wrap around Taehyung’s waist as he shifts closer and closer till his chest is pressed flush against Taehyung’s back. 

“Hold onto the spikes,” Jeongguk whispers against Taehyung’s ear, voice thick and low. Taehyung shivers as Jeongguk wraps his hands around Taehyung’s trembling ones and guides them towards the spikes. Taehyung holds onto it then, so tightly that his knuckles turn white and he’s glad that the dragon can’t really feel it or he’d snarl with pain. 

The dragon flutters his wings after Jeongguk taps him twice. Jihyun reels back because of the force of the wind that the fluttering of wings create. 

Taehyung squeezes his eyes shut when they’re lifted off the ground. The dragon rumbles and Taehyung feels the sound reverberating through his body. 

“I won’t let you fall,” Is the last thing Taehyung hears Jeongguk say before they’re soaring into the sky. 

The wind hits Taehyung’s face with full force, sweeping his hair behind and making his teeth clatter due to the cold. Taehyung breathes heavily as adrenaline rushes through his veins and makes his heart pound in chest, so loudly that he’s afraid that Jeongguk is able to hear it.

“You can open your eyes if you want,” Jeongguk murmurs, voice soft and urging. 

“I’m scared.” 

“I won’t let you fall.” Jeongguk promises and as if to prove his point, his arms tighten around Taehyung. 

I won’t let you fall. 

Jeongguk is nothing but a stranger to Taehyung but the way Jeongguk speaks, firmly with conviction, and the way his voice holds an unbreakable promise makes Taehyung trust him even if he doesn’t know him. 

Taehyung’s eyes slowly flutter open and his lips stretch into a smile so wide that it makes his cheeks hurt. They’re amidst the clouds and everything around them and everything below is beautiful. The world is beautiful. 

“It’s addictive, the feeling of being on the top of the world.” Jeongguk whispers, leaning in to look at the side of Taehyung’s face and his own lips stretch into a grin upon seeing Taehyung smile widely.

“I can tell,” is all Taehyung replies.

✦✧✦✧

 

Taehyung feels dizzy and a little light headed when they get off the dragon upon reaching the castle. He stumbles while taking a step but Jeongguk immediately reaches out to wrap his hand around Taehyung’s arm, steadying him and preventing him from falling. 

He motions a servant who’s standing a good distance away from them to come closer. 

“Yoongi, accompany him to wherever he wants to go. Take him to his room if he wishes to rest and show him around if he wishes to get acquainted with the castle.” Jeongguk orders and Yoongi bows.

“Yes, my lord.”

When Jeongguk’s hand loosens around Taehyung’s arm, Taehyung turns to look at him. “Where are you going?” He asks.

“I have a few people that I need to attend. If you require anything, feel free to ask Yoongi,” Jeongguk replies before he pulls his hand away from Taehyung.

Taehyung frowns. “When will you be back?”

Jeongguk’s lips twitch into a smile. “In a few hours at the most.”

“Fine.”

“We’re not married, yet you’re already acting like my-”

“Do not complete that sentence!” Taehyung fumes, cheeks reddening.

“Whatever you want, my prince,”  Jeongguk replies, his smile only getting wider when Taehyung glares at him with his lips pressed into a thin line.

“Just go.” Taehyung sighs when the twinkle of Jeongguk’s eyes and the smile on his face gets too much for him to handle. 

Jeongguk hums before he turns around on his heels to leave. “Don’t miss me too much.”

“You’re the last person in the world that I’ll miss.” Taehyung huffs.

“You wound me.” Is all Taehyung hears before Jeongguk disappears from his sight. 

Taehyung turns to look at Yoongi who was watching their exchange silently. “I know you work for him but is he always like this? Tormenting people with his very existence.”

Yoongi blinks, dumbfounded, certainly not expecting such a question from Taehyung. 

There’s a pause, like Yoongi is actually thinking about a way to answer Taehyung’s question.

“He is not always like this,” Yoongi says, voice low and soft. “My lord is usually quiet and likes to keep to himself. He doesn't have friends so he spends his time with his dragons. This is the most I’ve heard him talk in a while.”

Yoongi’s words catch Taehyung off guard. The fire in him dies down a little as he lowers his gaze, not really sure about what to say in return.

“You must’ve heard rumors about him to be a merciless and ruthless king but he is not like that. He is certainly not the kindest but he is far kinder than any ruler I’ve come across,” Yoongi continues as he gestures Taehyung to follow him. 

“Do you wish to take a look around the castle or do you want to rest?” Yoongi asks. 

“I’d like to rest. I’ll take a look around tomorrow,” Taehyung replies. 

They make their way down from the terrace using a spiral stairway that leads to a narrow hallway. There are two rooms on the floor, situated opposite each other. The door to one of the rooms is huge, it’s royal blue in colour with golden patterns incised on it. The room most likely belongs to Jeongguk.

Yoongi stops outside the door to the second room which is similar in colour and structure to the one in front of it but it’s comparatively smaller. He pushes the door open and asks Taehyung to step in. 

“The closet is full of clothes that’s near your size, pick anything that fits you the best,” Yoongi says and Taehyung nods as he looks around. The room is huge, twice the size of what he had in Aesira. There’s a king sized bed placed in the middle of the room and a fancy chandelier hanging off the ceiling over it. 

“About what I said previously,” Yoongi starts with hesitation and Taehyung turns to look at him before he hums and urges him to continue. “I know you might not believe me since you have no reason to do so yet or you might think I’m lying since I serve him but all I want to say is, if you treat him with respect — he will quite literally give you the whole world.” Yoongi’s eyes so genuine that Taehyung is unable to bring himself to doubt the servant’s words.

“But I don’t want the world,” Taehyung says with a humourless chuckle. “I want love, I wanted to be loved and ironically I don’t think your lord can give me that since he was the one who took it away from me or,” Taehyung pauses, “took me away from it — my friends, my family, my home and the one that loved me.”

Yoongi purses his lips. “What he can give you and what he cannot, only time will tell.”

Taehyung opens his mouth to speak but Yoongi continues with a little bow, “If that’s all my prince, I must take my leave now. Dinner will be served in your room later tonight and if you need anything else, feel free to call me.” With that, Yoongi turns around and leaves Taehyung all alone in a strange room that doesn’t at all feel like home.

 


 

Taehyung tosses and turns on the bed, unable to fall asleep. The room is too big, too empty, the pillow doesn't feel the same nor does the mattress beneath him. When he looks outside the window all he sees is the black of the night and an endless, melancholic ocean which makes a dull sound with its waves.

It’s lonely.

Taehyung feels like crying.

He craves a presence, he wants someone to wrap their arms around him and tell him that it’s going to be okay — that he’s not alone.

Just then an idea pops up in his head.

Grabbing his pillow and his blanket, Taehyung walks out of his room. The hallway is dark, barely lit by lamps that are placed a good distance away from each other. Taehyung’s heart pounds in his chest as he stops to stand outside Jeongguk’s door. In the eerie silence, he’s able to hear his own breathing that slowly turns harsh as he raises his fist to knock on the door.

How will Jeongguk react?

Will he shut the door on my face?

What if he hits me or locks me up?

Taehyung’s rushing thoughts come to an abrupt halt when the door is pulled open and in front of him stands Jeongguk. His clothes are wrinkled, his disheveled blond hair sticks in different directions, his face is puffy with sleep and his are eyes barely open. 

Taehyung’s lips twitch up into a smile, almost unconsciously as his worries vanish in an instant. 

Like this, Jeongguk looks the least threatening, almost adorable if Taehyung lets his mind conjure a word for the sight in front of him. 

Jeongguk rubs his eyes when he sees Taehyung holding onto his pillow tightly, eyes darting around nervously; roaming over Jeongguk’s body before flitting past him and around his room. 

Jeongguk crosses his arms against his chest as he leans against the door frame. He doesn't invite Taehyung in, he’s not sure whether he can yet. 

“What can I help you with?” Jeongguk asks, his voice hoarse with sleep.

“I uh,” Taehyung hesitates and Jeongguk cocks his head at him, eyebrows raising because Taehyung isn't the one who holds back from speaking his mind so he wonders what Taehyung really wants that has him stalling, makes him almost timid.

“I couldn’t fall asleep…” Taehyung says, his cheeks tinting a beautiful shade of pink when Jeongguk’s lips part with surprise before settling into an amused curl.

“Do you wish for me to sing you a lullaby?” Jeongguk asks, a teasing lilt in his voice as he arches a brow. 

“I am not a child!” Taehyung cries, averting his gaze from Jeongguk who chuckles he shrugs and replies, “I never said you were one… Although, I take pride in my voice so if you wish I can put you to sleep.”

“I said I don’t.” Taehyung snaps, his face turning red with rage as he juts his chin and pushes past Jeongguk to walk into his room. 

Jeongguk’s eyes widen when Taehyung throws his pillow on the bed and uses the spare ones to build a sort of a wall in the middle of the mattress.

“What are you doing?” Jeongguk asks, warily eyeing Taehyung.

“I’m going to sleep with you.” Taehyung replies instantly, without thinking.

Jeongguk sputters. “What- Isn’t that... Didn’t you-”

Taehyung turns to give him a flat look. “Please do not get ahead of yourself. My room is too big and too empty compared to the one I had in Aesira and I just… I can't get used to it.” 

“How is sleeping with me going to help your… situation?” Jeongguk asks curiously, doe eyes shining with mirth.

“I need someone-” Taehyung pauses, eyes flicking up to Jeongguk whose lips are pressed together tightly as if he's holding back a grin.

 “-Okay, you don’t need to know.” Taehyung ends up finishing with a scoff. 

“Excuse me,” Jeongguk says with faux offence, “you barge into my room, seize a portion of my bed and now you refuse to tell me the reason why you’re here?” 

Taehyung ignores him as he sits on the bed. He points at the pillow wall that he created on the mattress as he says, “Do not — under no circumstances can you cross this. This is my side of the bed… starting now.”

Jeongguk laughs in disbelief. When he opens his mouth to speak, Taehyung pulls the duvet over his body before he lies down on the bed with a hum, “Ah, your bed is much more comfortable than mine.”

“Taehyung-”

“Can you turn the lights off, please?”

Jeongguk mumbles something incoherent under his breath and to Taehyung’s surprise, the lights turn off. He expected Jeongguk to fight back or even kick him out of his room but maybe Jeongguk really isn't as bad as Taehyung expected him to be and it's a pleasant surprise. Maybe living here won’t be a complete hell. 

Taehyung tenses when he feels the bed dip under Jeongguk’s weight. He scoots away when he hears low breathing and Jeongguk’s presence which is close, closer than he anticipated and suddenly this huge bed feels too small.

“I don’t move around in my sleep,” Jeongguk says after a stretch of silence. It sounds random but Taehyung understands the reason behind it. I won’t cross the line.

“Okay,” Taehyung replies with his heart thudding in his chest. He turns to face Jeongguk then, hesitant in the way he rolls on the bed, trying not to startle Jeongguk and something in his chest stings when he finds Jeongguk already sleeping with his back on him. Taehyung stares at Jeongguk’s head, at his blond locks that look soft to touch and are long enough to splay on the pillow behind him. Taehyung fists his hand around the sheet, quelling the urge to reach out and touch. His eyes then start trailing down and come to an instantaneous halt when he sees black peeking out from the collars of Jeongguk’s shirt.

Taehyung stifles a gasp when he realizes that it’s body art

He shifts closer, a little or a lot, he doesn't know. He squints, the moonlight coming in through the window makes it easier to see the shape, the inked scales that look like they belong to a dragon. 

Taehyung’s lips part. He wants to see, see more, see how much bigger it is, if the body art covers all of Jeongguk’s body or if it's only the back of his neck. He’s curious, so much so that he reaches out, almost unconsciously, to pull the collar of Jeongguk shirt near his neck down, a little, just to see a little more.

His fingers freeze a thread’s distance from Jeongguk's skin and he pulls away swiftly, as if burned.

Taehyung’s own breathing feels loud to his ears, ragged as he turns to the other side and holds his hand close to his chest, almost like he’s reprimanding it for moving on its own accord.

He expects Jeongguk not to cross the line when he’s the one who’s doing it in the first place.

He hopes that Jeongguk did not feel it, him moving, the ghost of his touch and the warmth. Taehyung hopes Jeongguk doesn't know that he crossed the line.

Taehyung closes his eyes and hopes not to move around much in his sleep tonight.

 


 

 

Taehyung wakes up to an empty bed. He sits up and looks around the room, eyebrows furrowing when his eyes fail to find Jeongguk and land on the pillow wall that is still intact on the bed, exactly like he made it last night and it makes him wonder whether Jeongguk did it again.

There’s a knock on the door. 

Taehyung lets out a small gasp as he straightens his shirt and runs his hand through his hair to tame the strands that are sticking in different directions. He rolls his shoulders back and tilts his chin up as he says, “Come in.”

The door opens and Yoongi walks in.

Taehyung visibly deflates, trying not to frown because he was expecting Jeongguk.

“Oh, you’re up?” Yoongi says as he walks around the room. Taehyung hums as he watches Yoongi opening the curtains and making the bed on Jeongguk’s side, eyebrows raising and lips twitching when he notices the pillow wall. He doesn’t comment on it but he looks like he wants to.

“My lord ordered me to serve you breakfast after you wake up. Do you wish to eat right now?” Yoongi asks, eyes flicking to look at Taehyung.

“Where is he? Jeongguk?” Taehyung asks instead.

Yoongi blinks, surprised that Taehyung wants to know about Jeongguk’s whereabouts first thing after waking up 

“He’s at the cliff.”

“What is he doing there?”

“Spending time with Ember.”

Taehyung blinks. “Ember?” he repeats, testing the name on his tongue, eyebrows screwing as something bitter fills his mouth. Taehyung knows they aren't marrying out of love but the least Jeongguk can do is be loyal to him. 

“His dragon…” Yoongi speaks slowly like he’s talking to a dimwit.

Taehyung’s jaw slacks. “His dragon?” He asks incredulously, embarrassed due to his imbecilic train of thoughts. 

Yoongi nods. “Yes… who else?”

Taehyung shakes his head and clears his throat, cheeks red as he answers in a hurry. “No one, can you show me the way to the cliff?”

“Yes of course, do you wish to eat first?”

“No, I’ll eat later,” Taehyung replies, pushing the duvet off his legs as he gets off the bed and starts making his way to his room that he abandoned last night. “Give me about twenty minutes to take a bath and get dressed.”

“I’ll wait for you outside your room,” Yoongi says with a bow.

Taehyung settles on wearing a coral silk blouse with a plunging neckline and long sleeves that are cinched near his wrists and flare around his hands. The blouse has two broad straps of fabric hanging on either side of his waist and Taehyung ties them around his stomach, like a thick belt that ends up accentuating his thin waist. He lets the rest of the fabric hang down near his hip. The blouse is a little revealing but it's pretty, Taehyung concludes as he stares at himself in the long mirror.

As soon as Taehyung starts wondering how Jeongguk will react when he sees him, he shakes his head vigorously, as if he’s trying to physically get rid of his unnecessary thoughts.

As promised, Yoongi waits outside his room. 

When Taehyung steps out of his room, Yoongi’s eyes skid over him once, swift, a little surprised but mostly unbothered by Taehyung’s choice of clothing as he asks Taehyung to follow him.

They make their way out of the castle and climb over the rocks. Yoongi walks fast while Taehyung follows slowly, afraid he’ll trip and fall into the deep ocean. After about ten minutes of trudging, Taehyung sees Jeongguk. 

Yoongi stops walking and Taehyung looks at him questioningly.

“I’m afraid this is all I can accompany you till,” Yoongi says, glancing at Jeongguk who’s blissfully oblivious of their presence as he lounges under a tree with Ember sprawled near his feet.

“Why?”

“We’re ordered not to intrude when he’s spending time with Ember,” Yoongi replies. 

Taehyung scoffs. “What is that dragon, his wife?”

“Perhaps, his best friend,” Yoongi snidely suggests before walking off.

Taehyung frowns. He really doesn't like Yoongi, the way he always manages to get the last word and shut him up, quick to defend his lord.

Ironically, the first one to notice Taehyung is the dragon. It seems to be his scent or the sound of his steps that makes Ember twitch before he looks up, eyes zooming in on Taehyung who stumbles and trips on his feet under the dragon’s heavy gaze.

Then, upon noticing Ember’s attention shifting to something else, Jeongguk turns to look at Taehyung too. And if Ember’s gaze makes Taehyung trip then Jeongguk’s gaze ignites a fire within him, burning him from the inside and making him melt, reducing him into a crimson cheeked mess.

“Oh?” Jeongguk says, eyes shamelessly raking over Taehyung’s body as he presses a hand on Ember’s head to calm him down, telling him that Taehyung is not an enemy or a threat, he’s actually far from that.

“Hi.” Taehyung says, stopping a good distance away from the pair as he warily eyes Ember who looks like he’s not too pleased about Taehyung’s presence.

“Come here,” Jeongguk murmurs, beckoning Taehyung closer, “Don’t worry about Ember, he’s harmless.”

Taehyung wants to laugh but he ends up gulping nervously as he steps closer.

Ember rumbles, turning his whole body towards Taehyung, watching his every move with narrowed eyes. 

Taehyung lets out a startled gasp at the sound, feet starting to move back on their own accord out of fear but Jeongguk reaches out and wraps his hand around Taehyung’s wrist, effectively stopping him in place.

“Jeongguk, I’m-”

“I know,” Jeongguk cuts him off. “I know you’re scared but trust me. He won’t harm you. He knows I like you. He’s just jealous,” Jeongguk says with a chuckle, glancing at Ember who huffs as if he understands him. 

I like you.

Jeongguk likes me.

Taehyung stares at Jeongguk’s face and spaces out. He sees his lips moving but fails to understand even a word. His mind loops one sentence over and over again in his head - I like you.  

“Taehyung?” Jeongguk tugs then squeezes Taehyung’s wrist to grab his attention.

Taehyung blinks, snapping out of his thoughts. “Huh?”

“I said you should befriend him,” Jeongguk repeats as he pulls Taehyung down to sit beside him.

Taehyung pushes back against the tree and pulls his knees to his chest. He shifts closer to Jeongguk when Ember sits up and turns his whole body to look back at him.

“Hold out your hand to him,” Jeongguk whispers and Taehyung’s head whips in his direction, eyebrows raising and eyes widening as he asks, “What?” Incredulity lacing his tone.

“He judges people based on their smell and aura. Show him that you mean no harm.” 

“How?” 

Jeongguk opens his palm and raises his hand before extending it towards Ember who sniffs it once before nuzzling into it, rubbing his head against it. “See,” Jeongguk says, turning to look at Taehyung with a smile, “he recognizes me.”

“Of course he does, you’re his best friend since birth.” Taehyung scoffs.

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “You two need to stop being hostile with each other.”

“I am not hostile, he is. I am scared. I would've given him a tough fight if he was… my size.” Taehyung mumbles.

Jeongguk shakes his head with a laugh. “I don’t doubt that..”

“You don’t sound convincing.”

“Taehyung, do it.”

“He will bite my hand. He looks hungry and angry .”

“That’s just his face.”

“Wow, did you just call your best friend ugly?”

Jeongguk’s eyes widen. “No, I did not. I was simply describing his face.”

Ember’s snarl cuts them off.

“What’s with him?” Taehyung asks, sneaking a glance at the dragon who’s glaring at them with a tilt of his head.

“You’re interrupting our time together. He’s angry and he wants you to leave,” Jeongguk replies.

Taehyung frowns. “Do you?”

Jeongguk blinks. “Do I what?” He asks, oblivious to Taehyung’s inner struggles and the courage he has to muster to repeat his question. “Do you want me to leave too?” Taehyung asks, elaborates, voice dropping small as he averts his gaze to the grass beneath his feet. He starts plucking them and throwing them back on the ground, treating them as a distraction from Jeongguk’s vehement eyes that bore into the side of his face when silence settles over them.

It’s a stupid question.

“Of course I don’t,” Jeongguk breathes out. Taehyung doesn't know why that makes his heart skip a beat. He also wonders whether it's a good thing or bad. “That’s why I'm asking you to befriend him... so you can stay, so he doesn't chase you away.” Jeongguk explains with a small sigh. 

Taehyung closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. 

“I really won’t let him hurt you,” Jeongguk whispers and maybe that’s all Taehyung needs to hear to make him confident. Jeongguk wants him to stay and Jeongguk won’t Ember hurt him. Taehyung opens his eyes, they shine with a newfound determination as he raises his hand towards the dragon, palm out. 

“Lower it,” Jeongguk murmurs, reaching out to slide his hand over Taehyung’s, fingers gingerly squeezing around his palm.

Ember stares.

Taehyung’s heart races in his chest. It’s because of Ember not Jeongguk, he tells himself.

Taehyung’s breath hitches and his hand trembles when the dragon slowly starts leaning closer. “It’s okay,” Jeongguk tells him, fingers shifting to intertwine with Taehyung’s to stop the trembling, “just wait.” 

Ember lowers his head with a huff before pushing forward to meet Taehyung’s hand. 

Taehyung lets out a gasp at the contact, fingers twitching before they move around the dragon’s thick scaly skin. “Wow,” he whispers, too fascinated to notice Jeongguk’s hand loosening around his before slipping away.

Jeongguk smiles, eyes fond and heart soft as he leans back against the tree and watches the two interact.

Taehyung shifts forward and uses his other hand to touch the other side of Ember’s head.

“Aren’t you adorable,” Taehyung coos, like he’s talking to a child and his entire face lights up when Ember nuzzles into his hands and lowers his head down further for pets.

Jeongguk chuckles. “It’s a little baffling how he became your friend so easily. He still has trust issues with some of my men.” 

Taehyung’s lips twitch, cocky and teasing as he says, “He should change sides. After he becomes my friend, he’ll realize you’re dry as dust.”

“That mouth on you,” Jeongguk says with a shake of his head, voice low and gruff. He beckons Ember to come to him but his dragon just stares, head tilting with acknowledgement before his attention shifts back to Taehyung. Ember closes his eyes, almost with bliss as Taehyung continues to pet him all over his head. 

“Wow. This betrayal stings. You spend a minute with him and you forget me?” Jeongguk asks with a scoff full of offence, mouth curling into a frown.

“Told you,” Taehyung says with a grin.

Jeongguk looks away from him, exasperated.

The melodic sound of Taehyung’s laugh reaches Jeongguk’s ears before there’s something nudging his foot. He looks up to see Ember staring at him and Taehyung giving him a teasing smile. 

“You’re so jealous. I can’t believe lord Jeon Jeongguk could get jealous of me!” Taehyung cackles.

Jeongguk’s cheeks tint pink as he averts his gaze and pushes Ember’s head away with his hand. He stands up, clasps his hands behind his back and starts speed walking his way down the cliff.

Taehyung rushes after him, laughing and giggling, trying not to stumble.

Ember follows after them too but from high up in the sky.

 


 

 

For the first time since his parents died, Jeongguk has lunch in the dining hall. There isn't much difference, there’s still an array of empty chairs around a long table but the seat beside him is occupied by Taehyung. He chatters away about his childhood adventures, quelling the grim silence and loneliness Jeongguk previously felt while when he ate alone. It’s such a small difference, an addition of one person but for Jeongguk; it’s like his dull and dark sky is filled with stars again. 

“While chasing a butterfly in the garden, I-” Taehyung is talking but Jeongguk isn’t really listening, he’s not paying attention to Taehyung's words because his eyes can’t seem to stray away from his lips. Taehyung’s plush pink lips that twitch into a smile every now and then as he speaks. The way Taehyung’s bottom lip slightly reddens when he sucks it in between his teeth and the way his lips glisten with spit after he swipes his tongue across them makes Jeongguk hot. Jeongguk just can’t seem to look away. He lets himself wonder how Taehyung’s lips feel, how they taste and the urge to touch, to lean in and press his lips against them gets so strong that Jeongguk has to curl his hands into fists. He has to press his lips together tightly and tear his eyes away from the sight.

Jeongguk always gets what he wants. He takes what he wants but he knows Taehyung isn’t some prized possession he can win after a battle, even though, ironically he did do that, he succeeded in making Taehyung stay but he has yet to win his trust, his heart. He’s not the ruthless, merciless king that people make him to be and Jeongguk has to show Taehyung that. He doesn’t engage in a battle to acquire land or to gain more power — he fights to defend his kingdom. He doesn’t need wealth, he just needs, maybe, a little bit of love.

Taehyung cuts himself with a startled yelp when the door to the dining room is pushed open and a few guards come rushing in.

Jeongguk gets up from his seat, displeased at being interrupted without permission.

“What is the matter? If this isn't urgent I’ll have your heads on this plate before me,” Jeongguk says, taking a step forward towards the guards who immediately bow, faces pale with panic.

“My lord,” one of them begins with a shaky voice, “we have a visitor from Aesira.”

Taehyung perks up at that.

“We told him to leave but he’s putting up a fight,” the guard continues. “He’s asking to see prince Taehyung.”

“Who is it?” Jeongguk asks, his mood dampening as his mouth curls into a scowl. He was lenient enough he when allowed them to visit Taehyung once a month. It’s only been a few days, do they think he’s a pushover?

“He calls himself Park Jimin.”

“Jimin-ah,” Taehyung breathes out from behind Jeongguk, in an unconscious whisper.

Jeongguk’s upper lip curls into a sneer. “I knew he was going to be a difficult one. He needs to see how I treat uninvited guests who refuse to leave when they’re told to.”

Jeongguk storms out of the door and Taehyung follows behind him. 

“Jeongguk-”

“I do not need to hear a word from you Taehyung,” Jeongguk raises his hand, cutting Taehyung off with a stern voice.

As much as Taehyung is happy to see Jimin, he’s also terrified of what Jeongguk might do to him for showing up unannounced. Jimin visibly sags with relief, a sigh escaping his lips on seeing Taehyung safe and in one piece.

Jeongguk narrows his eyes at him, shifting to cover Taehyung behind his back.

“Leave.”

Jimin scoffs. “No.”

Jeongguk’s jaw ticks with anger. Taehyung’s eyes widen when he sees Jeongguk wrap his hand around the hilt of his sword which is fastened by his waist. He looks like he’s ready to unsheathe it and slit Jimin’s neck. 

“Jimin please… leave. I’m okay, I promise,” Taehyung begs, taking a step forward to step beside Jeongguk.

Jimin shakes his head stubbornly. “I have sworn my life to protect you and as your personal guard, I must stay with you, my prince,” he says, obstinate eyes flitting from Taehyung to Jeongguk, and the narrowing with a challenge. A challenge to make him leave. 

“I will kill you.”

“No!” Taehyung cries, grabbing onto Jeongguk’s arm and pressing himself against it even though Jeongguk makes no move to act on his words. Jimin witnesses the way Jeongguk wavers when he glances at Taehyung.

“Ah,” Jimin smirks, “looks like I found a weakness of the oh so mighty lord of Dragonstone. You will never get what you desire if you kill me. The object of your affection is far more attached to me than to you.”

Jeongguk grits his teeth. Jimin knows he struck a nerve. 

“I always get what I want,” Jeongguk hisses.

“You can force yourself into a kingdom and capture it but you can’t force yourself into someone’s heart.” Jimin replies, roughly shrugging the guards hands off him. 

Taehyung is too focused on Jeongguk, trying to come up with a way to cool down the rage that rolls off him in waves to pay attention to Jimin’s words or the connotations behind them.

“I just wish to stay here as a personal guard of my prince. I will not be a hindrance in your path of achieving what you want as long as you attain it with honor and respect,” Jimin says and then to both, Jeongguk and Taehyung’s surprise, he bows.

Taehyung flinches when Jeongguk abruptly pulls his arm out of his hold. 

“Fine. You can stay but if you ever cross a line, I’ll throw you into the dungeons to rot and no one will be able to stop me then,” Jeongguk says before he turns around and leaves without sparing Taehyung a second glance.

As soon as Jeongguk disappears from sight, Jimin is all over Taehyung, fussing, asking if he’s okay, if Jeongguk hurt him. Taehyung nods, reaching out to squeeze Jimin’s hand as he reassures him that he’s fine

“He’s kind.”

Jimin blinks, eyeing Taehyung warily as if he’s under some kind of spell. “Really?” he asks, unsure. “He’s not blackmailing you to say this, is he?”

Taehyung rolls his eyes. “Do you think I’m someone who’s easily blackmailed into doing things?”

“No. But don’t you think forcing you into a marriage when he knows your hands are tied is called blackmailing?”  Jimin asks, head cocking and eyes carefully gauging Taehyung’s reaction.

Taehyung frowns.

“What about Jihyun?” Jimin asks.

Taehyung eyes lift. “What about him?” he asks.

Jimin stares at him for a few seconds before he shakes his head with a shrug. He realises that Taehyung didn’t really love Jihyun or else he wouldn't be so indifferent about their separation, about the fact that he’s going to marry someone who’s not the person he loves. Jimin isn’t quite sure if Taehyung even really knows what being in love is, what it means. 

“So,” Jimin begins, changing the topic, “anything I should know about?”

Taehyung grins. “I made a new friend.”

Taehyung spends the rest of the day with Jimin. He doesn’t run into Jeongguk, he doesn’t ask for him either, willing to give him some space to cool down. He does want to see him though, several times in the day he wonders what he’s doing, if Jeongguk is too angry to let him sleep in his room tonight, too.

“If you need anything, call for me,” Jimin says right after Taehyung announces that he’ll retire to bed.

“That’s my job.”

Jimin rolls his eyes at Yoongi. “Will you ever leave us alone?” he asks, exasperated.

Taehyung stifles a laugh. He could see the way Jimin’s patience kept thinning as Yoongi kept following them around everywhere they went.

“I’m asked to accompany-”

“And I’m asking you to give us some space to breathe.” 

“I only take orders from my lord,”  he says nonchalantly with a straight face. “Are you my lord?

Jimin takes a step in Yoongi’s direction, eyes narrowing and lips curling into a smirk as he sneers, “I can be if you want.”

Yoongi is silent for a moment before his lips stretch into an unnerving smile. “Sure… after you grow up a little.”

Taehyung bursts into laughter as Jimin’s face turns red with rage.

“Oh my god.”

Jimin and Yoongi start bickering and Taehyung deems that moment perfect to slip away.

He finds himself standing outside Jeongguk’s room, bathed and fresh, dressed into a comfortable nightwear made of silk. He knocks on the door lightly, feeling a sense of déjà vu because his heart is once again racing in his chest and he feels nervous. 

“Who is it?” Jeongguk’s voice comes from inside, loud and deep.

“It’s me,” Taehyung replies.

There’s a pause.

“Me who?” Jeongguk asks, tone derisive, so rough around the edges that it makes Taehyung flinch, curl into himself, lose all confidence and hope. Jeongguk knows it’s Taehyung so the sole purpose of his question is to ridicule him. Taehyung contemplates on leaving immediately but settles on trying because rejection is better than regret. 

“Taehyung,” he settles on answering. 

Taehyung takes a step back when there’s silence on the other side. His face falls and a defeated sigh slips past his lips as he turns around. 

“Come in.” 

Taehyung turns back around in a swift motion, eyes lighting up as he steps closer to the door.  “Can I really come in?” he asks, just to be sure if he really heard it or if it was just an illusion of his mind. 

“Yes.” 

The doors creak on being pushed open as Taehyung steps in. His eyes scan the room for Jeongguk and he finds him standing in the balcony, leaning against a row of tall balusters with his elbows propped on the ledge. Taehyung feels like he’s interrupting because there’s something so serene about the sight in front of him which makes him feel like an outsider. It’s like even if he kept looking at Jeongguk for days — standing in the balcony, somehow lighting the dull and dark night behind him, he wouldn't get bored. The moon too, looked even more beautiful tonight, glowing over Jeongguk’s head, making his hair shine as if he were a celestial being.

Taehyung makes a move to join him with small, hesitant steps. “Are you still upset about-” Taehyung cuts himself off when he steps into the balcony. When he first arrived at the island, all he saw was an ominous castle which was surrounded by rocks. It made him feel melancholic and isolated like he had no one in the world. But this, the sight in front of him makes him feel like if life exists, then it's here. 

“Wow,” Taehyung breathes out, hands coming to curl around the ledge beside Jeongguk as he steps closer. Taehyung’s eyes glow, mirroring the little lamps that brighten the village in front of him. As far as his eyes can see, Taehyung sees houses, built of rock and bricks, beautiful in the way they’re painted with different colors.

“Is this the first time you’re seeing my kingdom?” Jeongguk asks, straightening his back and tilting his head to look at Taehyung as his fingers curl around the ledge, shifting deliberately to make their pinkies touch.

“Yes,” Taehyung replies, oblivious to Jeongguk’s touch as he continues, “I've never seen this side of the castle.”

“Does it make living here a little bearable now?” Jeongguk asks, eyes so sincere and hopeful that it makes Taehyung’s heart stutter, clench.

“Yes, it seems bearable now,” Taehyung replies softly, eyes expressing feelings his mouth is unable to.

It’s bearable now that I know you.

It’s bearable, because you’re not the person I thought you were. You’re so much better.

 

✦✧✦✧

 

Months pass by in a blur. The distance between Taehyung and Jeongguk decreases with time and it starts with the pillow wall on the bed between them. The wall shortens, thins until there’s only one small cushion left in between the two, it’s sole purpose being to act like a reminder that they’re both not ready to face the consequences on removing it just yet.

Jeongguk starts touching Taehyung as he pleases because Taehyung never makes a move to stop him. Infact, Taehyung likes it when Jeongguk curls his hand around his arm or places it on the small of his back while navigating him in the castle. Taehyung’s cheeks tint a beautiful shade of red when Jeongguk sometimes resorts to calling him ‘Tae’ to reprimand him when he starts whining and asking for things Jeongguk can't physically get for him — like the moon. Yes, Taehyung had asked for it one night when it looked exceptionally magnificent in the dark sky.

Jeongguk thinks Taehyung likes to be bratty sometimes but Taehyung does it to rile Jeongguk up, he likes to hear his pet name roll off Jeongguk’s tongue.

Jeongguk talks less but Taehyung talks for him. They would sometimes stroll in the gardens on the other side of the castle together where Taehyung would blabber about anything and everything, getting sidetracked in between by a pretty butterfly or a flower and Jeongguk would just smile and nod along. He’d mostly zone out after a few minutes though, it seemed to be a bad habit of his but he couldn't help how his other senses seemed to stop working as soon as his eyes had Taehyung in front of them.

Taehyung is not allowed to be a part of the trials or have a say in the decision made by Jeongguk since he’s not officially married to him yet but he still likes to accompany him to witness. Jeongguk earns himself a permanent place in Taehyung’s heart after Taehyung watches him rule, solve problems efficiently without being unfair to any of the parties. However, there are certain people who evidently upset Jeongguk, either with the way they speak or present themselves, loud and unruly. Jeongguk’s face remains indifferent but Taehyung notices the nuances of rage in his actions, the way his jaw ticks when he clenches his teeth or the way his fingers tighten around the armrest, like he’s physically holding himself back from lashing out. In moments like these, Jeongguk’s eyes seek Taehyung. He visibly calms down when Taehyung gives him a reassuring smile or in some cases Jeongguk's okay just by getting a glimpse of Taehyung's face. 

Taehyung grounds Jeongguk. Taehyung stops him from losing control.

Taehyung’s feelings change for Jeongguk gradually. He goes from being comfortable around Jeongguk to being comfortable only when Jeongguk is around him. He stops minding Jeongguk’s touches, seeks them, loves the way Jeongguk's hands feel warm against his skin. Taehyung starts liking the curve of Jeongguk’s lips and the way it makes him feel. 

Taehyung concludes that he feels a normal amount of affection for Jeongguk after his heart stutters and a swarm of butterflies flutter in his stomach at just the thought of him. 

Taehyung tags along with Jeongguk to anywhere he’s allowed to. He wasn’t permitted to observe Jeongguk’s training sessions but after a considerable amount of persuasion, he whines his way in and breaks Jeongguk’s resolve. 

 And thus, Taehyung is here.

“Stop smiling.” 

“I am not?” Taehyung replies, smile widening.

As soon as Hoseok signals that the training has started, Jeongguk tightens his hand around the hilt of his sword before swinging it in Hoseok’s direction with full force. Taehyung’s eyes widen and for a moment he thinks Jeongguk might get Hoseok on his first try but Hoseok easily blocks him with his sword, the sound of blades clashing together rings loud in the room.

Hoseok tilts his head with a small laugh, eyes narrowing at Jeongguk who smirks back at him. 

“So aggressive, my lord,” Hoseok whispers, pushing Jeongguk back with full force. “Is there someone in this room who you’re trying to impress today?” He asks with a smirk, cocking his head as Jeongguk stumbles a step back before he quickly regains his composure.

And, the room is empty with an exception of Taehyung who’s literally their only audience.

Taehyung’s cheeks redden and Jeongguk’s eye twitches in annoyance before his lips stretch into a grin. “Why on the earth would I try impress someone who’s heart already flutters for me?”

Taehyung sputters. 

Jeongguk steals a glance at him.

“What- no! It doesn’t… I don’t even like you,” Taehyung rushes, voice squeaking with embarrassment. His heart totally flutters because of Jeongguk.

Jeongguk takes it lightly, he knows Taehyung is embarrassed, he blabbers and spouts nonsense, utters lies when he’s flustered. 

Jeongguk decides to tease him more. “You wound me more than any sword could. If I do end up dying today then don’t regret your words.”

Taehyung rolls his eyes. “Did you forget that you’re just training?”

Jeongguk opens his mouth to speak but Hoseok interrupts him, “If you two are done flirting then shall we start now?”

Taehyung scoffs. “No one is flirting in this room.”

“My prince, if you’re gonna be a distraction to my lord then I will have to ask you to leave,” Hoseok says, turning to look at Taehyung who snaps his mouth shut before mumbling a quick, "I apologize." There’s no way he’s leaving.

Taehyung stares as Jeongguk shakes his head with a huff before he pulls his hair up with his hand and uses a band to tie it together. Taehyung’s heart stutters at the sight and he thinks that someday he would like to do it for Jeongguk, thread his fingers into his blond locks to pull them back and secure them with a band. Taehyung would leave a tuft of hair falling on Jeongguk’s forehead though, because he thinks it would make Jeongguk look good, more handsome.

The training continues.

Jeongguk fights like it’s the last battle of his life and his diligence makes him even more attractive. He knows he’s powerful, undefeatable but he still trains everyday to be consistent, to work on his body and stamina. He swings his sword with the same force even an hour later, even though his arms shake and his face shows signs of fatigue, sweat coating his forehead and chest heaving with harsh breathing.

Hoseok is good, he’s the head warrior of Jeongguk’s troop so his swordsmanship is flawless. Jeongguk gives him a tough fight, blocking his moves with deft reflexes or dodging his hits. 

When Jeongguk’s eyes shift to look at Taehyung and still, he finds that Taehyung is already staring at him with a gaze full of fascination and awe and it’s then when Jeongguk's movements stutter. He loses focus, so distracted by Taehyung that he fails to notice Hoseok who charges towards him with his sword pointed forward.

Taehyung notices it before Jeongguk. 

He lets out an ear piercing scream. “Jeongguk!”

It’s too late because Hoseok’s already ramming his sword into Jeongguk’s stomach. Jeongguk reels back due to the force before he drops down on the ground, eyes wide and face scrunching with pain as he lets out a groan.

Taehyung’s face pales with horror as he stands up and slowly makes his way towards Jeongguk who’s lying down to the ground, hands curled around the sword that’s half sunken into his stomach.

Taehyung turns to look at Hoseok who’s standing over Jeongguk, looking terrified.

“Did you just-” Taehyung starts, stuttering, voice wavering and thick as his eyes sting with tears. “Did you just stab him?”

Hoseok shakes his head desperately. “I - I thought he would dodge it, I thought that - I didn't mean to k-kill-”

Taehyung cuts Hoseok off by giving him a harsh shove. “Get away from him,” he screams before dropping down on his knees near Jeongguk. His heart squeezes with pain and a sob lodges itself in his throat as tears start rolling down his cheeks.

“Jeongguk… I’ll call s-someone for help,” Taehyung rushes, frantically looking around, reluctant to leave Jeongguk’s side. He reaches for the sword but quickly retracts his hand when Jeongguk gasps with pain. 

“I-It's too late…” Jeongguk wheezes.

Taehyung gently cups his face, vision blurring because of his tears.

“A-aren't you happy? You won’t have to marry me now...” Jeongguk says with a small smile and Taehyung just shakes his head, body wracking with sobs.

Taehyung cups Jeongguk’s face, caressing under his eye with his thumb as he opens his mouth to speak but he’s interrupted by the sound of Hoseok's laughter.

Taehyung’s head snaps up, his eyes teary, nose red and cheeks blotchy. His lips curl into a deathly scowl as he makes a move to stand up to probably punch Hoseok on the face but he stops when Jeongguk’s hand curls around his wrist.

Taehyung blinks as Jeongguk turns to glare at Hoseok. 

“Couldn't you hold it in for a few more minutes?”

Hoseok collapses on the ground as he wheezes. “I’m sorry, my lord. I tried my best but then I started feeling bad about my prince and you’re a really bad actor.”

“W-what is happening?” Taehyung asks, confusion lacing his tone as his hands fall from Jeongguk’s face. When Jeongguk sits up and throws the sword on the ground, Taehyung notices that there’s no blood on Jeongguk’s body and that the sword is broken at the hilt. His eyebrows screw as he looks around and finds a different sword pushed under the rug.

“You two were lovingly gazing at each other so I decided to switch the sword. I didn’t expect him,” Hoseok’s eyes shift to Jeongguk as he continues, “to play along.”

“This was a joke?” Taehyung asks in an incredulous whisper.

Jeongguk nods with a grin, unknowing of the storm raging within Taehyung on being made a fool. “Well yeah, since I’m still alive.”

Jeongguk’s smile drops when Taehyung lowers his head wordlessly, fingers coming to intertwine on his lap, squeezing together tightly. Taehyung’s shoulders start shaking as if he’s crying and Jeongguk blanches, horrified, looking at Hoseok for help who stares back at him with wide eyes, not knowing what to do.

“Taehyung…” Jeongguk trails off, apology on the tip of his tongue as he reaches out to touch Taehyung, slow and hesitant.

“How could you…” Jeongguk hears Taehyung whisper through clenched teeth and before he can reply, Taehyung stands up and swiftly gets hold of Hoseok’s sword. “My tears won’t be wasted if I really kill you, right?” Taehyung snarls, pushing Jeongguk onto the ground and climbing on top of him, eyes murderous.

Hoseok makes a move to hold Taehyung back from harming Jeongguk but Jeongguk stops him with a wave of his hand. He motions him to leave.

Jeongguk stares up at Taehyung with his unwavering eyes as Taehyung presses the tip of the sword against Jeongguk’s chest, over his heart, pressing hard enough for it to sting.

Taehyung hates that there’s not even a fraction of fear in Jeongguk’s eyes, only an emotion which is unreadable along with trust. 

Taehyung isn’t really aware of their compromising position yet, too blinded by his fit of rage but Jeongguk is. He cannot ignore the way he’s lying down with Taehyung on top of him, straggling him with his thighs secured on either side of his stomach.

“Why are you smiling? I’m about to kill you,” Taehyung hisses, digging the tip of the sword further into Jeongguk’s skin to prove his point. “Ah, it’s just,” Jeongguk begins, smile widening because even like this, with Taehyung’s face twisted with anger, Jeongguk finds him attractive, adorable. “It’s just that,” Jeongguk repeats, stalling, hands finding home on Taehyung’s thighs, curling and squeezing as he continues, “I wouldn’t mind dying like this — while gazing at a beauty like yourself.” 

It’s visible, the way all anger leaves Taehyung in a second, his grip loosening around the sword as his cheeks redden at Jeongguk’s words. Jeongguk’s hands squeeze around Taehyung’s thighs again, to remind him of his touch before he slowly pulls away to wrap his fingers around Taehyung’s wrists. The sword falls to the side when Jeongguk jerks Taehyung closer by his wrists in a swift motion, until their faces are inches apart.

Taehyung lets out a surprised gasp. 

“If someone were to see this, you killing me would definitely not be the first thought in their mind,” Jeongguk drawls, eyes flicking down to Taehyung’s lips. 

Taehyung takes a shuddering breath in. He’s hyper aware of Jeongguk now, of how every inch of his body is pressed against his, of how Jeongguk stares at him like he’s about to devour him and give him the world at the same time.

Taehyung has never been more conflicted about something in his entire life. On one hand, he wants to pull away from Jeongguk and on the other hand, he wants to press close, closer until there's not a thread of distance left between their bodies and their mouths.

Taehyung has never had these kinds of thoughts before, never had the urge to be this close to someone, to kiss them — not even Jihyun. It’s new and overwhelming, and it makes him lose his mind.

Jeongguk sighs when he notices the way Taehyung struggles with himself. He’s not upset nor is he frustrated because he knows Taehyung needs time, he needs time to be absolutely sure of himself, about his wants and feelings. Jeongguk can wait, he has nothing better to do anyway.

“Will you get off or do you plan to stay like this for an eternity?” Jeongguk teases and Taehyung immediately scrambles off him with a squeak.

“No, I was just-”

“Taehyung?” Jeongguk cuts him off.

“Yes?”

“I’m sorry for playing a joke on you. Neither mine nor Hoseok’s intention was to hurt your feelings,” Jeongguk apologizes, giving Taehyung a small smile. 

“It’s okay,” Taehyung replies, refusing to meet his eyes, still flustered because of what happened moments ago. 

“At least, now I know you’ll grieve my death if I were to die,” Jeongguk says with a laugh and Taehyung’s heart sinks at just the thought of that.

“Please don’t speak nonsense.” 

 


 

Taehyung believes that Jeongguk has no friends except Ember. Before, he had been wary about Jeongguk’s minimal human contact but when he realized that it was because Jeongguk couldn’t trust people easily after ascending the throne at a young age, Taehyung empathized with him. 

Right now, Taehyung is unapologetically glad because he doesn’t have to share Jeongguk's time with someone else. He’s come to a mutual agreement with Ember. They both know their place in Jeongguk's life.

Jeongguk has no friends or that’s what Taehyung thought.

Yoongi steps into the dining hall. He bows as he begins, “Princess Ara is here, she’s waiting for you-” he’s interrupted by an abrupt sound of a chair scraping against the floor as Jeongguk stands up and rushes towards him. 

“How long has she been waiting for?” Jeongguk asks, eyes wide and tone frantic.

Taehyung frowns, eyes narrowing as he asks, “Who is she?”

Jeongguk doesn’t reply.

“She has arrived right now, my lord,” Yoongi replies calmly.

Without answering Taehyung’s question or even sparing him a glance, Jeongguk walks out of the room with Yoongi on his tail.

Taehyung has never heard of her before but he deems her someone really important to Jeongguk considering the way he practically ran out of the room on hearing her name. Jeongguk is always calm and composed so his reaction is very unsettling to Taehyung. The more he thinks about it, the more anxious he gets. Minutes tick by and Jeongguk still doesn't return. When Taehyung starts wondering about what she is to Jeongguk, something bitter and green starts swirling in his stomach, making him uneasy as it slowly makes its way up to his chest and squeezes around the tendons of his heart. It’s a feeling he has never felt before. 

He impatiently taps his fingers on the table. A few minutes later, when the thin thread of his patience finally snaps, he springs up from his chair and makes his way towards the throne room.

The guards who’s standing near the entrance takes a step toward, making a move to stop Taehyung as he speaks, “My prince-” 

Taehyung’s head whips in direction, eyes vicious and lips curled into a deathly scowl as he dares the guard to continue. 

There’s a fearful gulp, a bow and the guard is out of his way.

The first thing Taehyung sees when he steps into the throne room is the back of a woman who’s standing in front of Jeongguk. She’s laughing, throwing her head back slightly as her hand comes to cover her mouth. The sound is soft and light, it somehow gets on Taehyung’s nerves. 

Jeongguk sits on the throne in front of her. When his doe eyes flick up and and see Taehyung making his way towards them, they widen slightly. Taehyung suppresses the urge to frown and instead, he wills his lips to stretch into a wide smile. He can’t let Jeongguk know how bothered he is by the female’s mere presence.

“Care to share the joke with me?” Taehyung asks as he walks past the woman and up to Jeongguk. “I don’t remember Jeongguk being this funny?” he says as he stops next to the throne and turns around to have a good look at the princess.

Her beauty is surreal. Long lashes, thin nose, full pink lips, hair cascading down her body in curls; she’s an enchantress. The gown she’s wearing leaves nothing to imagination — it’s form fitting with her shoulders bare and cleavage on show, cinched around the waist to accentuate her lithe figure and there’s a thigh high slit that exposes the length of her slender leg. 

“No, we were just talking. I’m easily impressed,” Princess Ara says with a smile, eyes sparkling as they shift from Taehyung to Jeongguk who nods in agreement.

Taehyung doesn’t know what spurs him to do it, maybe it's the fact that he feels threatened by princess Ara’s beauty or maybe it’s because even though he has spent a fair amount of time with Jeongguk at the castle, he still feels like an outsider in front of them. Or maybe , it’s because he just wants to stake his claim on Jeongguk so he impetuously perches himself on Jeongguk’s lap and wraps his arm around his neck. Taehyung leans back against Jeongguk's chest and replies, “then it’s understandable,” in a flat tone.

Jeongguk stiffens against him. Taehyung knows he crossed a line and he’d also quite literally break down into tears if Jeongguk pushed him off right now. Awkward silence settles in the air and Taehyung’s heart seems too loud as it pounds in his chest. 

Taehyung doesn't dare look at Jeongguk, he can’t.

Princess Ara stares at them with wide eyes and Taehyung feels a little triumphant because considering the look on her face, he has succeeded in making her feel like she’s not wanted here, no matter the reason of her arrival.

To Taehyung’s utter surprise, Jeongguk’s arm comes to secure his waist, his other hand resting on Taehyung’s upper thigh. Jeongguk's touch is warm, scorching as his fingers lightly dig into his skin. Taehyung feels overwhelmed, his cheeks heat up because the last thing he was expecting is for Jeongguk to reciprocate his touch. 

Taehyung’s heart soars.

Taehyung fails to notice Princess Ara stifling a smile, lips pressing together tightly before she speaks, “Prince, if you don’t mind, I’d like to have a word alone with the lord.” 

Taehyung’s heart drops.

He frowns as he stares at her. What is so important that you can’t talk about in front of me?

Jeongguk squeezes Taehyung’s thigh lightly as he speaks, “It’ll only take a few minutes. Can you wait for me in our room?” 

Taehyung turns to look at Jeongguk, eyes full of disbelief and betrayal. He has so many questions but he decides to keep them to himself as he pushes Jeongguk’s hand off from his thigh with a scoff before he stands up.

“Sure.” Taehyung rasps, tone icy as he continues, “have a wonderful time together.” He says before he practically storms out of the room.

He fails to notice Princess Ara’s cherry laugh as she says, “I thought this was supposed to be an arranged marriage? Seems like love to me.” 

Jeongguk covers his face with his hand to hide the flush that spreads across his cheeks and all the way down his neck. “Did you get the thing I asked for?”

Princess Ara grins. “Of Course.”

On the other side of the door, Taehyung paces back and forth as he fumes. “She wants to talk to Jeongguk in private?” Taehyung asks with an incredulous laugh. “Who does she think she is? Does she know Jeongguk is about to get married to me? Don’t tell me she fancies him?” Taehyung glares at Jimin and Yoongi who stare at him with wide eyes. 

“Ridiculous. He wants me to wait for him in his room? Why would I do that? I swear on the lords of the sky, if he calls off the marriage, I will-” 

“That’s most likely not about to happen-” Jimin starts but Taehyung cuts him with a glare. 

“Did I ask you to speak?”

Yoongi nudges Jimin.

“S-sorry.”

Taehyung huffs. “It has already been an hour, what is so important to talk about?”

“It has only been 3 minutes…” Jimin trails off, softly.

Yoongi shakes his head. “It has been exactly 2 minutes.”

Taehyung tugs at the lengths of his hair out of frustration.

“My prince,” Yoongi begins, lips curling into a small smile. He’s not fazed upon being on the receiving end of Taehyung’s glare. “Are you perhaps jealous?” he asks, fearlessly.

Jimin gasps.

Taehyung’s eyes widen, face twisting as if he’s had something bitter.

“Preposterous.” Taehyung says with a shake of head, cheeks turning pink.

Jimin’s eyes shine with amusement. He’d never seen Taehyung like this, ever.

“I’m going out to find Ember. If Jeongguk happens to ask for me, tell him I jumped in the ocean and died,” Taehyung scorns before he walks out. 

“Oh god,” Yoongi laughs.

Jimin joins him. “If the lord asks, I’m going to tell him exactly that to see his reaction.”

“You heathen.”

Jimin grins.

Taehyung finds Ember sprawled in his usual spot on the cliff. He twitches and opens an eye on hearing the sound of footsteps advancing towards him. When he notices that it’s Taehyung, he relaxes, eyes closing again. Taehyung unceremoniously slumps down against the dragon with a sigh. 

“We’ve been abandoned,” Taehyung tells Ember, tone high pitched and dramatic. “We only have each other now.” 

Ember huffs.

“I know right? He said he doesn’t have friends… I bet she’s his past lover or something,” Taehyung continues, staring up at the sky. He doesn't care if Ember can’t understand him, infact, he’s glad because if Ember realized how petty Taehyung is being over something so insignificant, he’d make fun of him like Jimin and Yoongi. 

Jealous? 

He’s jealous? 

He’s jealous over Jeongguk? No way.

“Do you think he’ll call off the marriage…? I mean I’ll be glad if he does. It’s not like I’m desperate to be with him,” Taehyung says with a frown, his heart starting to feel absurdly heavy for some reason.

Taehyung doesn’t know how much time passes by. He’s lost in his thoughts so he fails to notice Jeongguk until Ember perks up at the sight of him, which has Taehyung falling on the ground with a cry.

“Ugh, can’t you stay still for…” Taehyung trails off when his eyes meet Jeongguk’s dark ones.

Jeongguk opens his mouth to speak but Taehyung turns his head away from him with a scoff, “What are you doing here?” He asks. 

Jeongguk narrows his eyes at him. “Didn’t I tell you to wait for me in our room?” 

Your room,” Taehyung corrects, “and didn’t Jimin tell you about my unfortunate death?” He snaps.

Ember shuffles behind Jeongguk, curiously nosing at something but Jeongguk pushes him away, mumbling a soft, “It’s not for you.”

Taehyung doesn’t care. He truly doesn’t.

So,” Taehyung starts, balling his hands into fists, fingernails digging into his palm painfully to abstain his mouth from running but everything seems to be out of his control — his mind, his heart and his mouth. “Did you have a wonderful time with her?” Taehyung ends up asking. He squeezes his eyes shut because his voice cracks and he sounds like a heartbroken imbecile.

“Yes.” 

It’s then, realization dawns on Taehyung. As his heart slowly starts crumbling, it starts making sense — the bitter green feeling that made him uneasy, the heaviness of his heart, the urge to stake his claim on Jeongguk. The truth is, Taehyung is attached to Jeongguk and no matter how much he tries to deny it, he too, knows that he wants to stay. The idea of marrying Jeongguk doesn't repulse him anymore, it makes him giddy

He’s starting to fall in love with Jeongguk, Taehyung realizes with his heart clenching and tears pooling in his eyes.

“Taehyung…” Jeongguk starts, taking a step forward in Taehyung’s direction. 

Taehyung’s head hangs low, he doesn’t look into Jeongguk’s eyes so he doesn't know how incredibly soft they are, full of love, settled on him.

Ember can feel that something is off as he stares at them.

Taehyung shakes his head. He doesn’t want to hear it. 

Jeongguk will tell me to leave. He’s about to call the marriage off. 

“I’ll just leave,” Taehyung whispers, voice barely audible as he tries to walk past Jeongguk with his vision blurring with tears. 

“What?” Jeongguk asks, fingers wrapping around Taehyung’s wrist to stop him. “Where are you going?”

“Away,” Taehyung cries, twisting his hand desperately to free himself from Jeongguk’s hold and to get away from him. Jeongguk doesn’t let him, his grip only tightens around Taehyung's wrist. It’s almost like he’s desperate too — to make Taehyung stay.

Tears trail down Taehyung’s cheeks and he refuses to look at Jeongguk. He pulls and pushes, thrashes against Jeongguk who steps closer, eyebrows screwed with worry. 

“Taehyung!” Jeongguk shouts, startling Taehyung and bringing his movements to an abrupt halt. Ember senses the tension between them because he takes a step back and perches himself on the ground soundlessly. 

Jeongguk turns Taehyung around with a jerk. Taehyung’s eyes are wide and dreadful as they meet Jeongguk’s distressed ones. Jeongguk frowns when he notices the tear trail on Taehyung’s cheeks, his red rimmed eyes and his blotchy nose.

Tae.

Taehyung flinches.

Jeongguk steps closer, eyes softening as he reaches out to cup Taehyung’s cheek with one hand, thumb caressing under his cheekbone tenderly. “Why are you crying?” He asks. 

Taehyung doesn’t reply. He can’t, he’s too embarrassed and he doesn’t want to sound needy and desperate. It was him who often joked about calling the marriage off and now that it’s really about to happen, it isn’t funny anymore, it hurts.

Jeongguk sighs before his hand falls. 

No.

“Give me your left hand,” Jeongguk says and Taehyung frowns in confusion. When he doesn’t make a move to comply, Jeongguk reaches out to grab Taehyung’s hand, fingers curling around the palm and giving it a light squeeze to soothe the trembling.

“I asked princess Ara to get something for me,” Jeongguk begins, eyes lifting to meet Taehyung’s as he gently rubs his thumb against Taehyung’s knuckles. “It’s really expensive so she couldn't risk sending it through someone and thus came to deliver it herself,” Jeongguk explains softly, straightening Taehyung’s fingers and holding the tips delicately.

Taehyung sucks in a harsh breath as his heart lurches to an abrupt halt in his chest when Jeongguk slips a ring around his fourth finger. 

It’s a perfect fit.

“Is this a diamond?” Taehyung manages to ask breathlessly, eyes wide as he stares at a beautiful violet stone attached to a thin silver metal band. It sparkles exquisitely under the sun and Taehyung feels so giddy, so happy just looking at it that he literally breaks down into tears.

Jeongguk blanches because one moment Taehyung’s lips are twitching into a smile and the next he’s crying with his lips quivering and face crumpling as if he’s in pain.

“Taehyung - what? Why are you crying? Did you not like-” Jeongguk cuts himself off with a harsh intake of breath when Taehyung closes the distance between them with a large stride. Jeongguk stiffens when Taehyung wraps his arms around his neck and presses close to tuck his nose into Jeongguk's shoulder as he shakes his head with a sniff. “I love it,” he mumbles, “I love it so much.”

Jeongguk smiles, endeared. He wraps an arm around Taehyung’s waist as he cups the back of Taehyung’s head with his hand, fingers threading into his hair, gently massaging his scalp to calm him down.

Taehyung’s hold eventually loosens around Jeongguk as his heart finally settling on beating in a rhythm, no longer out of control and his crying ceases into an occasional sniff here and there. Taehyung's biting his lower lip when he pulls back to look at Jeongguk’s face, gaze shy and cheeks pink. Jeongguk doesn’t know whether it’s because he’s flustered or because he has been crying.

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung breathes out, wet lashes fluttering as he averts his gaze. He makes a move to step back and create some distance between them but Jeongguk doesn’t let him. 

Jeongguk raises an eyebrow. “You’re sorry for what? Asking Jimin to tell me that you fell into the ocean and died? Perching yourself on my lap in front of a guest? Jumping to conclusions and crying? Or perhaps, throwing yourself on me?” 

Taehyung lets out an embarrassed cry as he pushes against Jeongguk to free himself from his hold. Jeongguk doesn’t relent, he only presses Taehyung closer, flush against his chest till there’s not a thread of distance between them.

“What are you doing?” Taehyung squeaks.

“Why should you be the only one to do what you want?” Jeongguk asks before he starts leaning in and Taehyung’s eyes automatically squeeze shut. His heart starts pounding in his chest and his cheeks flame red at the thought of kissing Jeongguk. Taehyung of the past wouldn’t have thought twice before pushing Jeongguk away but Taehyung of the present is a completely different case — he’s giddy, he’s anticipating the feeling of Jeongguk’s lips against his and more importantly, he likes him.

So when, all Taehyung feels is a featherlight kiss on his forehead, he can’t help but frown. “What?”

Jeongguk smiles, seemingly content as he pulls back completely.

“That’s it?” Taehyung asks, unable to hide the disappointment in his voice. 

Jeongguk cocks a brow at him. “Do you want more?” He asks, teasing but ready to comply.

“No! I do not. Thank you very much.” Taehyung scoffs.

“Okay… Also, Taehyung?”

“Yes?”

“I’ll try to tell you about my relationship with my guests when they visit so you don't do something irrational because of your jealousy,” Jeongguk grins.

“I was not jealous!” Taehyung screams.

Ember snorts. 

 

✦✧✦✧

 

“Jimin, what do you think about my ring? Isn’t it beautiful?”

Jimin sighs. He turns to look at Taehyung who’s staring at him with wide, expectant eyes as he waits for a reply.

“It’s been a month, my prince. Why do you insist on asking me this question everyday ?” Jimin asks tiredly as they make their way to the throne room.

Taehyung frowns. “I know but how does it look when I’m wearing this,” he gestures to his outfit. He’s wearing a cream coloured shirt with gold patterns embroidered all over it. The dark violet robe thrown over his shoulders, loosely tied together by a series of strings below his neck, dragging behind him as he walks really enhances the whole look.

Begrudgingly Jimin admits, “Your ring looks beautiful, matches with the robe and the necklace around your neck and oh, the earrings too.”

Taehyung smiles, pleased on hearing Jimin’s answer. “Thank you. Jeongguk arranged the whole outfit for me, even the jewellery.”

Jimin rolls his eyes. “Of course, my prince. Seems like he has nothing better to do these days other than fawn over you,” he mumbles.

Fortunately, Taehyung doesn't hear Jimin because he’s too busy staring at his ring with sparkly eyes, ready to show it off to the guests who’re here; at Dragonstone to pay Jeongguk a visit to talk about political matters.

Jeongguk isn’t sitting on the throne like he usually does, this time he’s down mingling with the guests, making small talk before they start their meeting to discuss politics.

Taehyung immediately leaves Jimin’s side once they step in. He walks over to Jeongguk and curls his hand around his arm, giving Jeongguk’s guests a dazzling smile as he introduces himself as Jeongguk's fianc é . It’s obvious, the way Taehyung tucks his hair behind his ear with the hand that he’s wearing the ring on to show it off and just like he had expected, the guests do notice it and ask him questions about it.

And thus, starts Taehyung’s bragging. 

Taehyung talks a lot — about things that are true and about things which may have been somewhat made up. Jeongguk doesn’t interrupt him though, he stares at Taehyung with eyes full of fondness as he listens to him talk about his adventures.

A few minutes later, Jeongguk leaves Taehyung’s side to approach Jimin. “He,” Jeongguk gestures to Taehyung, “hasn’t eaten all day so I’m sure he must be hungry. Ask the cook to serve him whatever he wants but make sure Taehyung stays away from the cake one of the guests has given us as a gift. I have already warned him but Taehyung tends to rebel against my wishes so I’m asking you to keep an eye on him. He cannot eat that cake.”

Jimin frowns. “Why?” His eyes widen as he asks, “Is the cake perhaps poisoned?”

Jeongguk chuckles before he shakes his head. “No, it is not. I simply do not want Taehyung to eat it,” Jeongguk says before he turns around and walks away, leaving a confused Jimin behind who has a lot of questions and a task; to keep Taehyung away from the cake.

He can do it.

There is no way he can fail at such a simple task. 

A few hours pass by.

He fails. 

“My lord, please wait!”

Jeongguk turns around and his eyes widen when he sees Jimin rushing towards him with Taehyung in his arms. 

“What is going on?” Jeongguk asks, eyebrows screwing with irritation when Taehyung fists the front of Jimin’s shirt tightly while letting out a soft sound, almost like a moan as he tucks his face into the crook of Jimin’s neck and rubs his thighs together.

Jimin averts his gaze, cheeks reddening with embarrassment as he speaks, “I think he ate something left by your guests and since then… he’s been,” Jimin coughs, unable to find the right words to continue as he trails off, “...in pain.” 

It’s then Jeongguk notices the cloth draped over Taehyung's waist, covering him all the way down till his knees.

“Did he, perhaps, eat the cake I specifically told him not to?”

Jimin nods with an audible gulp.

“How much did he eat?”

There’s a pause before Jimin slowly replies, “All of it.”

“What?” Jeongguk booms and Jimin flinches, his eyes momentarily squeezing shut out of fear. It was his responsibility to keep Taehyung away from the cake and he failed because he got distracted by a guest’s guard who wouldn’t stop hitting on Yoongi and during that time Taehyung managed to sneak away.

“After I found him, he told me he was only going to have a bite but it was so delicious so he couldn’t stop himself,” Jimin explains, eyes pooling with guilt as Jeongguk sighs tiredly.

“Do you know the reason I asked him to not eat it?” Jeongguk asks.

Jimin shakes his head. He ponders over the question, remembering how Jeongguk had walked away without giving him a genuine reason so it wouldn't have been something big surely, so he hesitantly tries, “Is it because you wanted to eat it by yourself?”

Jimin shrinks when Jeongguk glares at him, lips curling with disbelief. “I asked him not to eat it because one of it’s main ingredients is an aphrodisiac substance.”

Jimin pales.

“He needs to relieve himself or he’ll keep writhing in pain,” Jeongguk says, stepping forward to take Taehyung from Jimin. As soon as Jeongguk hooks his hand under Taehyung’s knees, Taehyung immediately curls into him, arms wrapping around Jeongguk’s neck as he mumbles, “It hurts.” 

Jeongguk narrows his eyes down at him. “And who’s fault do you think it is?”

Taehyung whines softly, squeezing his thighs together as he hides his face into Jeongguk’s shoulder. “I didn’t know…” Is all he manages to say in defense.

Jeongguk’s eyes lift to look at Jimin who’s staring at them with wide eyes, not knowing whether he should stay or take his leave. 

“You probably wouldn’t know about this but has he,” Jeongguk gestures to Taehyung, “been touched or touched himself?”

Jimin blinks in confusion before realization dawns on him and he shakes his head vigorously. “I don’t know but I don’t think so…”

“What about the lover?” Jeongguk asks, tone spiteful.

“They weren’t that close.” 

“Oh really?” Jeongguk suddenly beams. 

A chill runs down Jimin’s spine as he takes a step back and bows. “I apologise for causing any inconvenience, please seek me out if there’s anything you need.”

Jeongguk nods and Jimin takes his leave. 

Back in the room, Jeongguk gently lets Taehyung down on the bed, his eyes darkening when they zoom in on Taehyung’s erection as the cloth previously draped over his lower half falls. 

“What should I do with you now?” Jeongguk asks with a sigh, tearing his eyes away from Taehyung’s crotch to look at his flushed face. Taehyung’s eyes are glazed over, half lidded as he stares up at Jeongguk, fidgeting. Sweat lines his forehead and he unconsciously squeezes his thighs together as he breathes harshly.

“Have you ever pleasured yourself?” Jeongguk asks as he grabs Taehyung’s arm and hauls him up into a sitting position. Lying down, Taehyung looks too enticing and sinful and it does nothing to simmer down the heat that’s stirring in the pits of Jeongguk’s stomach at the sight of him. 

Taehyung simply tilts his head. “What does that mean?” 

“Oh god,” Jeongguk groans. “I do think about touching you all the damn time but not like this, never like this when you don’t want me but you need me.”

“Jeongguk… it feels weird. It hurts. Why does it hurt?” Taehyung asks, getting rid of the robe and popping the first few buttons of his shirt open.

“It’ll feel better soon… okay?”

Taehyung nods.

“You just need to follow my instructions.”

Taehyung frowns. “I have to do it myself?”

Jeongguk blinks, baffled by Taehyung’s question. He gives him a tight nod as he replies, “Yes. You have to do it by yourself.”

“Okay…” Taehyung trails off, almost dejectedly.

“Okay,” Jeongguk says while he grabs a bottle of oil from the nightstand. He throws it on the bed beside Taehyung as he asks him to get out of his pants. Taehyung hesitates, the red of his cheeks spreading all the way down his neck as he reaches to unbutton his pants with trembling fingers.

Jeongguk turns around. There’s a battle raging within himself, one he isn’t sure if he can win but he has to try. He runs his hand through his hair as he asks, “Are you done?”

“Yeah…” Taehyung replies, his ragged breathing too loud to Jeongguk’s ears.

“Okay, uh, then squeeze some of the oil from the bottle on your hand and wrap your palm around your length and start stroking it slowly.”

“Ngh,” Taehyung hisses. Jeongguk hears some shuffling and he doesn’t turn around to look but he can imagine Taehyung biting the hem of his shirt between his teeth to get it out of the way. Jeongguk imagines Taehyung slowly wrapping his hand around his cock, touch hesitant and light, trying to get used to how it feels. He surely flinched because of the sensitivity, Jeongguk thinks as his lips twitch into a smile.

Inexperience isn’t really attractive to Jeongguk but there’s something about being Taehyung’s first in all aspects, teaching and coaxing him, unraveling him with the thought in mind that no one has had the honour of seeing him and touching him like that before. 

“It - it isn’t working,” Taehyung says with his voice quivering, he sounds frustrated and close to tears. Maybe he’s already crying.

“You need to tighten your fist around it and increase the pace. Do whatever makes you feel good,” Jeongguk explains.

Jeongguk’s eyebrows pinch together when the shuffling sound ceases and silence settles over them. He opens his mouth to ask Taehyung whether he’s okay when a hand comes to fist the back of his shirt. Jeongguk stiffens when he’s tugged back lightly as Taehyung asks, “Can you please help me?”

“I don’t-”

“You don’t want to touch me?” Taehyung is quick to ask.

Jeongguk shakes his head hurriedly as he replies, “No! It’s not that. I just don’t want you to regret anything later on or think that I’ve taken advantage of your situation.” 

“Is that why you aren’t even looking at me?” 

Jeongguk nods.

“I am not incoherent Jeongguk. I am not intoxicated. I will surely remember everything tomorrow, even asking for your help. So please, help me out,” Taehyung begs. “I don’t mind if you touch me- I want you to touch me. I am giving you my consent.” 

Jeongguk turns around. Taehyung’s eyes are glazed over with arousal, head tilted back, knees bent and legs apart. He has a slick, unmoving hand around his cock, flushed tip peeking out of his fist with precum beaded over it. 

Jeongguk slowly closes the distance between them. He grabs the hem of Taehyung’s shirt, “I need to get it out of the way,” he says as pushes it between Taehyung’s lips and asks him to bite on it. 

Jeongguk fits himself against Taehyung’s back, chin hooking over his shoulder. One of his hands slips under Taehyung’s shirt, palm flattening over his stomach while his other replaces Taehyung’s hand around his cock. 

Taehyung arches his back at the sudden warmth, at the feeling of Jeongguk’s rough and calloused palm tightening around his cock. He lets out a strangled cry when Jeongguk thumbs at the slit before gently circling the head, spreading precum. 

“What-ah,” Taehyung moans, the hem of his shirt slipping out of his mouth. 

“Does it feel good?” Jeongguk breathes against Taehyung's neck, nuzzling into it before  pressing a featherlight kiss behind his ear. 

Taehyung nods, eyes squeezing shut and lips parting around gasp when Jeongguk’s hand slowly travels up from his stomach to his chest, the tip of his fingers grazing his nipple. “Jeongguk-ah,” Taehyung quivers when Jeongguk pinches his nipple between his fingers before rubbing over it with the pad of his thumb almost soothingly. Jeongguk mouths at Taehyung’s neck as his eyes glint with fascination when he feels nub hardening under his touch.

Jeongguk rolls his palm over the head of Taehyung’s cock before he starts stroking him at an agonizing pace. Taehyung’s thighs start shaking as he spreads them further apart. He wraps his hand around Jeongguk’s arm, nails digging into his skin as he pulls his bottom lip between his teeth to stifle a moan that threatens to spill out of his mouth. Taehyung then tips his head back to rest it over Jeongguk’s shoulder and Jeongguk takes that opportunity to kiss bruises against the side of Taehyung's neck, sucking and gently biting the honey skin between his teeth.

“Please,” Taehyung begs for nothing in particular. 

Jeongguk wants to tilt Taehyung’s head and kiss him on the lips but he doesn’t want their first kiss to be like this, in the heat of the moment.

Jeongguk increases his pace, tightens his fist around Taehyung’s cock as he roughly starts jerking him off.

“Ah, Jeongguk-ngh,” Taehyung stutters as he starts thrusting into Jeongguk’s hand unconsciously. He doesn’t even seem to know what he’s doing as he seeks more friction, immensely close to his release. 

Jeongguk wants to tease Taehyung, edge him further till he’s reduced into a crying mess but he won’t, at least not now.

It doesn’t take long for Taehyung to come, he lets out a high pitched moan as he squirts white all over Jeongguk’s hand and over his own shirt, making a complete mess. Jeongguk doesn't loosen his grip as Taehyung whines with oversensitivity, he keeps stroking him, slowly and unrelentingly, thoroughly milking his orgasm and basking in the little sounds that slip out of his mouth.

When Jeongguk finally pulls his hand away, Taehyung slumps back against him.

“Taehyung, did you-” Jeongguk cuts himself off when he notices that Taehyung’s eyes are slowly fluttering close and within seconds , Taehyung falls asleep.

“Mhmm.” 

Jeongguk sighs as he retracts his hand from under Taehyung's shirt. He makes a move to stand up and it's then he notices the tent in his pants and the throbbing of his own cock.

He’s hard.

“Ah fuck,” Jeongguk curses for the first time in ages. 



The next morning, Taehyung wakes up to an empty bed and a vivid recollection of the events that happened last night. He runs his hand through his hair before he grabs a pillow and screams into it. 

“I can’t believe I fell asleep right after…” Taehyung trails off, eyes swiftly dropping down to look at his clothes and his cheeks flush with embarrassment when he realises that Jeongguk not only cleaned him up but changed his clothes too.

“I can’t see him today… I can’t! How can I even look at his face after-” Taehyung cuts himself off with a groan before he practically jumps out of the bed to leave the room so he doesn’t run into Jeongguk when he returns.

However, it turns out that Taehyung doesn’t really need to avoid Jeongguk because it’s Jeongguk who’s avoiding him like he’s the plague. He breaks their daily routine of spending time with Ember together and when they coincidentally run into each other in the hallway, he walks past Taehyung with barely a nod in his direction. 

Taehyung is left to eat alone and sleep alone because Jeongguk comes to his room late at night when Taehyung’s already asleep and leaves first thing in the morning before Taehyung wakes up. 

This goes on for exactly a week before Taehyung gets lonely and decides that he has had enough of Jeongguk running away from him. He needs to do something. Taehyung doesn’t know whether Jeongguk is avoiding him because he’s embarrassed or because he regrets what happened that night but Taehyung hopes it’s not the latter. He is embarrassed to admit but recently there has been nothing on Taehyung’s mind except the feeling of Jeongguk’s hands on him.

Taehyung decides to catch Jeongguk off guard because if he asks for him, Taehyung knows Jeongguk will not show up. Taehyung sneaks on him when he sees him rounding a corner and when the moment is just right, he pushes Jeongguk against the wall. 

Jeongguk lets out a surprised gasp, eyebrows momentarily screwing because he thinks he’s being attacked so he makes a move to roughly push the person off but he falters and his movements come to an abrupt halt when he realizes that it’s Taehyung. 

“What are you doing?” Jeongguk asks as his hands fall to his sides. Taehyung scowls at his indifference. 

“What am I doing? What are you doing? You’ve been avoiding me for a week. You refuse to even look at me!” Taehyung cries and as if to prove him right, Jeongguk averts his gaze and presses further back into the wall like he’s trying to avoid any physical contact with Taehyung.

Taehyung stares at him. 

Now, this hurts.

“I’m sorry, alright!” Taehyung says, lowering his gaze because the rejection in Jeongguk’s eyes stings, badly. “I’m sorry for eating that and I’m sorry for asking for your help.” Taehyung doesn’t notice the way Jeongguk’s eyes snap at him with surprise as he continues, “I made a mistake but you don’t have to avoid me because of that,” he ends up mumbling towards the end, tone sad and defeated.

Taehyung takes a step back but Jeongguk suddenly grabs a hold of his arm and switches their position in a swift motion. Taehyung lets out a pained cry when Jeongguk slams him against the wall with a sneer, “Do you think I’m avoiding you because I regret it or because I helped you unwillingly ?

Taehyung blinks and then he nods slowly, utterly confused by the sudden change of Jeongguk’s temper.

Jeongguk lets out a disbelieving laugh as he drops his head between them so Taehyung is unable to look at his face.

“What are you trying to say?” Taehyung asks, his eyebrows wrinkling while he waits for Jeongguk to reply.

“What would you do if you come to know that I’m avoiding you because I do not have the courage to look at your face after that night and don’t get me wrong, it’s not because I regret it,” Jeongguk chuckles breathlessly, “because regretting is the last thing I would do. But, it is because…” 

“Because?” Taehyung urges him to continue with his heart pounding in his chest and his breath caught in his throat. 

“Because,” Jeongguk begins, “whenever I look at your face, I have to physically resist the urge to touch you again. God, you have no idea how much I want you.”

Taehyung’s heart comes to a stand still before it begins beating again with a stutter, it starts racing then, thumping so loudly that Taehyung is afraid that Jeongguk might be able to hear it. 

Taehyung is not really sure how he feels after hearing Jeongguk’s words but his chest — it’s filled with something, a feeling, perhaps an emotion that slowly consumes all of him. It feels like there are about a thousand butterflies fluttering not only in his stomach but all through his body. His cheeks redden, his toes curl and his skin starts tingling all over when Jeongguk’s hand slowly slides down from his arm to lace their fingers together.

Jeongguk slowly raises his head to look Taehyung in the eye. He doesn’t seem to be any better, he’s just as flustered as Taehyung, if not more. Jeongguk may have ran away from Taehyung earlier but now, he looks like he’ll stay. This time, Jeongguk is determined not to leave without saying what he wants, without doing what he wants. And, he looks like he wants to make Taehyung his tonight.

Jeongguk’s tongue darts out of his mouth to lick his lips. “What would you do,” he begins, leaning in ever so slowly as he continues, “if I kiss you right now?”

Jeongguk stops when there’s only a thread of distance between their lips. Taehyung can feel the way Jeongguk’s chest heaves as he breathes, he can feel the ghost of his lips, the warmth, the want radiating off him in waves. Taehyung thinks he can hear Jeongguk’s heart beating in his chest, racing just as fast as his own.

Jeongguk gives Taehyung time and space to make up his mind, to push him away if he wants and this is Jeongguk’s way of asking for consent.

In such a short amount of time where Taehyung has known him, Jeongguk has managed to engrave himself on Taehyung’s heart, his mind and his soul in such a way that even if one day, Taehyung decides to leave Jeongguk, he will never be able to really leave him.

“If you kiss me,” Taehyung starts with a smile, “then I’ll just kiss you back.”

As soon as the words leave Taehyung’s mouth, Jeongguk’s lips are on his.

Just at the press, Taehyung feels overwhelmed. He has never kissed anyone and maybe that is the reason why Jeongguk gives him time and takes it slow. He kisses him tenderly at first, lips languidly moving against Taehyung’s to allow him to get used to the feeling and to coax him into kissing back.

When Jeongguk realizes that Taehyung has literally stopped breathing and has gone completely red in the face, he pulls back with a smile. “You have to breathe, darling. Breathe through your nose.” 

Taehyung blinks his eyes open as he breathes, takes in large puffs of air to compensate for not breathing at all a few moments ago. He nods then, eyes dropping down to Jeongguk’s lips like he’s waiting to be kissed again. It wasn’t enough for him, Taehyung wants more.

Jeongguk kisses him again, this time with more fervor. He slides his hand against Taehyung’s jaw to tilt his head and deepen the kiss. If Taehyung was overwhelmed before then he starts to completely lose himself to Jeongguk now. 

Jeongguk’s modesty dissolves when Taehyung lets out a soft moan while he completely melts into him. He hooks his arm around Jeongguk’s neck to pull him closer as he slowly starts kissing him back. An inextinguishable fire lights itself in the pit of Taehyung’s stomach when Jeongguk licks his bottom lip before he bites it between his teeth. He swipes his tongue along the seam of Taehyung’s lips before he slowly starts nudging in it. 

Taehyung is quick to part his lips to let Jeongguk in. It’s a dizzying, intoxicating feeling to have Jeongguk’s tongue intertwine with his. Taehyung breathes heavily, drooling at the corners of his mouth as Jeongguk suckles at his tongue between his lips. 

Taehyung threads his fingers into Jeongguk’s hair and tugs his head back, eyes widening at the obscenity when he sees a string of saliva connecting their lips. 

“Wait-”

“Too much?” Jeongguk laughs, his eyes roaming around Taehyung’s face and darkening when he realizes how much of a mess Taehyung already is just because of kissing. There’s a pressing want within Jeongguk to mess him up more, break him, to make him cry and make him beg.

Jeongguk lowers his head. Taehyung probably wants to stop so he has to control himself-

“Let’s go to your room.”

Jeongguk’s eyes snap up. Taehyung averts his gaze, cheeks reddening as he mumbles, “Someone might see us here so we should probably go to-” Jeongguk cuts Taehyung off with a searing kiss as he sweeps Taehyung up into his arms and starts making his way towards his bedroom. 

Taehyung is so busy kissing Jeongguk that he doesn’t even realize when they step into the bedroom, he’s unaware of his surroundings until Jeongguk abruptly drops him on the bed to untie his own robe like it's too hot for him to be wearing that.

“Jeongguk, what-” Taehyung’s words are swallowed by Jeongguk’s mouth as he climbs on top of him. It’s like Taehyung’s lips are drugs that have Jeongguk high and addicted. Taehyung’s eyes fall shut as he spreads his legs to accommodate Jeongguk between them. 

Taehyung lets out a small whine when Jeongguk pulls away from his lips to press kisses against the side of his neck. Taehyung tilts his head to give Jeongguk access, loving the way Jeongguk’s hot tongue flattens against his skin, the way he bites and sucks onto a spot particularly harsh to leave a mark. 

Jeongguk wants to mark Taehyung all over his body, on places where people can see and on places that no one but he is allowed to see. 

Taehyung starts unbuttoning Jeongguk’s shirt but it's difficult because of the way their bodies are pressed so close together. Jeongguk smiles against Taehyung’s skin when he realizes what Taehyung is trying to do so he lifts himself, just slightly as his eyes bore into Taehyung’s soft almond ones while he gestures him to continue what he was doing.

Taehyung’s eyes widen when he undoes the first few buttons of Jeongguk’s shirt and sees black inked into his skin. Taehyung flips their position in a swift motion, he sits up and straddles Jeongguk’s thighs as he hastily continues unbuttoning the rest of Jeongguk’s shirt all the way down till the end to get a better look.

“I have been curious about your body art since the day I got here but I never had the courage to ask you to show me,” Taehyung says, eyebrows furrowing as he pushes Jeongguk’s shirt to his sides to see. Taehyung’s spit slicked lips part around a breathless gasp when he gets a good look at it — at the dragon that’s curled around Jeongguk’s body.

The art is absolutely stunning and it looks even more magnificent on Jeongguk’s body. The dragon looks just like Ember ; a huge, wild beast who seems to be immensely powerful. The design is intricate and detailed and Taehyung can only imagine the pain Jeongguk must've gone through while getting it. The scaled dragon emerges from Jeongguk’s back and wraps itself around Jeongguk’s chest and then appears back again at the side of Jeongguk’s neck with a snarl. It looks like it’s protecting Jeongguk and tying itself to him at the same time.

Jeongguk allows Taehyung’s wide, fascinated eyes to roam across his body. “Can I touch?” Taehyung asks as he tears his eyes away from the dragon etched into Jeongguk’s skin to look at his face. Jeongguk nods as he bites his bottom lip between his teeth to stop himself from saying something embarrassing like - you can touch all you want, I'm all yours anyway.

Taehyung’s fingers are featherlight when they touch, trace the dragon on Jeongguk’s skin. Taehyung’s palm is warm when it flattens across Jeongguk’s stomach with an unnecessary amount of pressure. One moment, Taehyung looks like he’s genuinely amazed by Jeongguk’s body art and the next, he looks like he’s just feeling Jeongguk up.

Taehyung knew Jeongguk would be toned considering the way he worked out and trained everyday but being able to feel those muscles underneath his palm and his fingertips is a whole different experience in itself. Just maybe, Taehyung is more fascinated about Jeongguk’s body than his art. 

“I think you need to check your eyes because my body art certainly isn’t down there,” Jeongguk teases when Taehyung’s hand slides all the way down to his navel.

Taehyung flushes on being caught. “I was just wondering…” he trails off, unable to come up with an excuse and unable to tear his eyes from Jeongguk’s V line that disappears underneath his pants.

Jeongguk chuckles. “Wondering why I still have pants on?”

Jeongguk expects him to huff and pout or throw a tantrum but Taehyung just stares at him as he hooks a finger over the waistband of Jeongguk’s pants. “I was wondering if I could do it with my mouth?” 

Jeongguk sputters, he sits up so quickly without a warning that Taehyung falls back. Jeongguk wraps his hand around Taehyung’s elbow to steady him as he stares at him with wide eyes, “Do you — are you talking about what I think you’re talking about?” 

Taehyung nods shyly. He gets off the bed and gets down on his knees in front of Jeongguk. 

“What- oh lord, where did you learn this from?” Jeongguk asks, arousal burning hot in his stomach. 

“I saw a few women doing it to men in a brothel.” 

Jeongguk runs his hand through his hair, eyes squeezing shut as his head tips back. “I’m not sure if I want to know what you were doing there or how you came to witness such a sight.” 

Taehyung smirks. “It looked like it felt good so… I wanna make you feel good too.”

The thin thread of Jeongguk’s sanity snaps. 

“Fine,” Jeongguk says as he licks his lips. “It is a lot more difficult than you think it is but let’s see you try. You’re adorable when you’re determined to please.”

Taehyung’s eyes narrow with a challenge. Jeongguk spreads his thighs as Taehyung crawls closer, his gaze shifting from Jeongguk’s face to his crotch, face heating up at the sight of Jeongguk’s cock straining against his pants. 

“I haven’t done a thing and you’re already like this,” Taehyung murmurs, a cocky smile tilting his lips and Jeongguk wants to do nothing but wipe it off his face. 

“Really?” Jeongguk asks, irony dripping from his voice as he suddenly slides his toe against Taehyung’s crotch, harshly pressing onto his erection. Taehyung lets out a strangled gasp as he curls over.

“What about you?” Jeongguk asks with a menacing grin. “Seems like your situation isn’t so much better than mine,” he continues with sarcasm lacing his tone. “You run your mouth too much for someone who doesn’t even know how to pleasure themselves.”

“Can you let that go?” Taehyung snaps, looking up at Jeongguk with a glare as he wraps a tight hand around Jeongguk’s ankle to stop his movements. 

“Sure,” Jeongguk says as he reaches out to hook his finger under Taehyung’s chin. “Now make good use of this mouth or should I teach you that too?”

Jeongguk leans back and retracts his foot, knowing Taehyung wouldn’t be able to function with the constant stimulation to his cock. He might even come on his own. 

Taehyung wets his lips before he cautiously reaches out to touch Jeongguk’s crotch, warm palm curling around the shape of him and it’s a little endearing and a little hot how Taehyung eyes widen a fraction and lips part when he feels Jeongguk’s length throbbing beneath his touch.

Jeongguk lets out a small hiss at the contact and Taehyung’s eyes flit over to his face, lashes fluttering and eyes glinting with victory as he smiles, downright sinfully. 

Taehyung’s touching him but not enough, he’s teasing, trying to evoke a reaction out of Jeongguk or perhaps trying to make him angry and desperate. Jeongguk stops himself from rutting against Taehyung's hand and pressing into his touch with a clench of his teeth. 

Taehyung replaces his hand with his mouth. He leans in to press a kiss over Jeongguk’s clothed cock with his glistening wet lips. Jeongguk shudders, his hands balling into fists at his sides as he grits his teeth to stop himself from making a sound. Taehyung slides his other hand up Jeongguk’s thigh as he tongues at the wet spot over Jeongguk’s pants.

“You’re going to dirty my clothes,” Jeongguk speaks, voice hoarse with a desperate lilt to it.

Taehyung pulls back to smirk. “It was already like this before I decided to get my hand and my mouth on it. Even so, you don’t need to worry because you have a wardrobe full of clothes, my lord.”

Jeongguk runs his tongue over his upper teeth, eyes twitching at how cheeky Taehyung is being right now. He doesn’t like to admit how hearing Taehyung call him his lord is doing things to him but the evident twitch of his cock, gives it away. 

Taehyung’s eyes are amused as they flick up to look at him. “Do you like that? My lord?”

Jeongguk scowls, his hand reaching and fingers slipping into Taehyung’s impossibly soft hair, harsh as he tugs onto the strands and jerks Taehyung’s head back with a fistful of grey locks. 

“You lied, didn’t you? When you said you’ve never done this before?”

Taehyung grins. “Am I that good at it for you to think I have past experience?”

Jeongguk doesn't reply but his eyes bore into Taehyung with an intensity to burn.

“You are the first person to pleasure me. You are my first kiss and you are the first person in this whole world for whom I have gone down on my knees. Are you satisfied now?” Taehyung replies and in an instant, Jeongguk’s grip into his hair loosens before he completely lets go with a smile. He is so easy to satisfy — Taehyung thinks with a huff. 

Taehyung reaches out to unbutton Jeongguk’s pants before pulling it down his hips, a gasp leaving his mouth when Jeongguk’s cock springs free. Taehyung gulps audibly at the sight. He knew Jeongguk was bigger than the normal size but looking at him bare, hard and erect makes him nervous. 

How is he supposed to fit it in his mouth?

“You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to,” Jeongguk says softly when he notices Taehyung’s nervousness. 

Taehyung is quick to shake his head. “No, I want to but I’m afraid that it won’t fit in my mouth.”

Jeongguk bites back a smile at Taehyung's concern. “Well, you don’t have to fit it all in your mouth…” he trails off. 

“Oh? Really… ah,” Taehyung says as he shifts closer to Jeongguk before pulling his pants all the way down to his ankles to get them out of the way.

Taehyung’s warm hand slides up Jeongguk’s bare thigh as he wraps his slender fingers around the base of his cock, tightening and loosening his fist as if he’s trying to get used to the feeling, to the heaviness and the girth of Jeongguk’s length.

Taehyung gives Jeongguk’s cock an experimental stroke, low and torturous just like he remembered Jeongguk doing it to him that night. Jeongguk lets out a low hiss, hips jerking an unconscious thrust into Taehyung’s fist which makes Taehyung’s eyes shine with excitement. 

Maybe, it’s Taehyung’s inexperience that makes everything about him and his movements more erotic.

Without giving much of a warning, Taehyung guides Jeongguk’s cock to his mouth and rolls his tongue over the leaking tip. 

“Fuck,” Jeongguk grunts as Taehyung winces at the bitter taste. 

“Does it feel good?” Taehyung asks and he’s not really looking for an answer because as soon as Jeongguk opens his mouth to speak, Taehyung engulfs the head of his cock into the tight, wet heat of his mouth. 

Jeongguk struggles to breathe, he tries not to jerk his hips and thrust his cock further into Taehyung’s mouth. He throws his head back as Taehyung slowly sinks down on his length with a hand wrapped around the base and other digging into Jeongguk’s thigh.

Before Jeongguk can completely relish in the feeling, Taehyung pulls off with a wet pop. Jeongguk is unable to hide his disappointment as he cocks a brow at Taehyung. 

“It does not taste good,” Taehyung says, nose scrunching up at distaste but a few moments later, he completely contradicts his words as he leans and licks a stripe of the shaft, right form the base to the tip. Jeongguk’s thighs spasm, hands finding home into Taehyung’s hair again, this time his fingers are gentle as they thread into the strands and grip lightly at the roots.

“Do not use your teeth, curl your-” Jeongguk cuts himself off with a moan when Taehyung wraps his lips around his cock again, hollowing his cheeks as he sucks and sinks down low, taking in as much of Jeongguk’s length as he can. 

Taehyung’s technique isn’t anything special, in fact he’s doing it quite poorly but the way he’s so stubborn about making Jeongguk feel good and the way he looks up at him; makes Jeongguk lose his mind. Jeongguk unconsciously starts thrusting into his mouth, completely losing the sense of reason when he looks down at Taehyung’s flushed face and his pretty lips stretched around his cock. Taehyung whimpers, pupils blown as he opens his mouth wider and chokes when the tip of Jeongguk’s cock hits the back of his throat. 

Jeongguk snaps out of it and immediately pulls back, looking at Taehyung with eyes full of guilt when he sees him bending over and coughing, trying to catch his breath. 

“I’m sorry,” Jeongguk is quick to apologise, lips curling into a frown as he caresses the back of Taehyung’s neck, “I didn’t realize and-”

“You caught me off guard. Do it again. Use my mouth,” Taehyung cuts Jeongguk off, his eyes shining with the determination to please as he guides Jeongguk’s cock back in his mouth with his hand. 

“Are you sure you’ll be okay?” Jeongguk asks and Taehyung nods. 

“Okay… just tap my thigh if it’s too much for you.” 

Jeongguk stops hesitating then. He thrusts into the heat of Taehyung’s mouth when Taehyung goes lax, relaxes his jaw and allows Jeongguk to do what he wants. Jeongguk tightens his grip into Taehyung hair with a groan when he feels himself going all the way down Taehyung’s throat, the tightness around him stupendously delicious. Taehyung’s eyes are blown wide and they start burning with tears when Jeongguk increases the pace, thrusting harshly and roughly, completely using Taehyung’s mouth at his disposal. 

The way Taehyung looks up at him with his sinful eyes glazed with tears as he lets Jeongguk fuck his mouth is what really drives Jeongguk to the edge. 

“Ah, I’m gonna come-” Jeongguk moans as his stomach tenses and hips start to stutter. After a particularly hard thrust into his mouth, Jeongguk comes down Taehyung’s throat. 

After letting him go, Jeongguk only gives Taehyung a few moments to catch his breath before he wraps his hand around Taehyung’s elbow and hauls him up and onto his lap. Taehyung’s startled gasp is swallowed by Jeongguk’s eager mouth as he kisses him. Jeongguk doesn’t really mind that Taehyung tastes like him , he still pries his lips open with his tongue and explores his mouth.

It’s filthy and wet — the way their lips move against each other as Jeongguk tries to get Taehyung out of his clothes. He unbuttons Taehyung’s pants to push them down his hips while Taehyung tries to get out of his shirt. 

Jeongguk flips their position, he lays Taehyung on the bed and hovers on top of him, fisting his pants to pull him down his legs.

“Why are they so tight?” Jeongguk mumbles as he struggles to tug Taehyung’s pants past his thighs, though he soon gets sidetracked when he sees Taehyung’s cock curled against his stomach, fully hard with the flushed tip leaking precum over his stomach.

Taehyung snaps his fingers in front of Jeongguk’s face. “They’re uncomfortable, hurry up,” he says, averting his gaze before covering his face with the back of his hand to hide his shy smile.

Once Taehyung is completely naked, Jeongguk grabs the bottle of oil from the nightstand which he had previously used for Taehyung. 

“Do you want to stop now?” Jeongguk asks, leaning in to pry Taehyung’s hand away from his face. He needs to be absolutely sure that Taehyung wants this just as much as he does. 

“No, I would like to continue,” Taehyung replies softly after a few moments.

Jeongguk sucks in a harsh breath when Taehyung spreads his legs for him. He pours a generous amount of oil on his fingers to slick them up.

“What are you doing-” Taehyung cuts himself off with a whimper, tensing up when Jeongguk slowly circles the tip of his finger over Taehyung’s hole. 

“It’ll be a little uncomfortable since it's your first time so just try to bear with it and tell me if it hurts too much,” Jeongguk says and as soon as Taehyung nods, he slowly pushes his finger in, all the way up to his knuckle, past the resistance of the tight ring of muscles. 

Taehyung lets out a small cry as he stiffens, resists the intrusion by clenching down on Jeongguk’s finger. 

‘Jeongguk… it’s not right. It’s uncomfortable, is it supposed to go there?” Taehyung asks innocently. 

“Do you want to stop?” Jeongguk asks.

Taehyung hesitates before he shakes his head, “It’ll feel good later, right?”

Jeongguk nods, his lips curling into a smile. Taehyung is unbelievably tight so Jeongguk will have to work him open slowly and carefully to make sure it isn’t painful when he fucks him.

Maybe Taehyung needs a distraction, something that takes his mind off the finger that’s nudging against his inner walls, turning, twisting and crooking to loosen him up. 

Jeongguk pushes Taehyung’s thighs further apart before he dives down and starts sucking the base of Taehyung’s cock, dragging the tip of his tongue along the veins before flattening it over the head. Taehyung starts writhing under him, a mixture of soft moans and whimpers slipping past his lips when Jeongguk adds a second finger while he wraps his lips around the head of Taehyung’s cock and sucks.

Taehyung’s thighs quiver and his stomach tightens when Jeongguk starts scissoring his fingers, pushing against his walls to loosen him up. 

Jeongguk’s cock twitches on hearing Taehyung’s pretty moans and the way he feels so tight around his fingers. He can only imagine how Taehyung will look and feel stretched around his cock, drooling and crying because of the stimulation and pleasure.

Jeongguk soon adds a third finger and Taehyung jolts, back arching as he tries to thrust his cock into the heat of Jeongguk’s mouth. “It’s, ah- too much,” Taehyung cries brokenly, past coherency as he continues, “from both sides. I’m gonna- ah.”

Jeongguk pulls off Taehyung with an obscene wet sound and Taehyung mewls at the loss. He reaches out to wrap his hand around his cock to relieve himself but Jeongguk gets a hold of his wrist. He shakes his head at Taehyung who lets out a desperate moan in return. 

“I don’t want a repeat of that night. You fall asleep as soon as you come so this time we’ll come together,” Jeongguk says before he slides his fingers out of Taehyung. 

“Jeongguk - please,” Taehyung begs, his upper teeth digging into his bottom lip, hard enough to draw blood. 

Jeongguk cocks his head. “What do you want?” He asks as he drips oil over his cock, hissing at the coolness before he slicks it up thoroughly from the base to the head.

“I want,” Taehyung struggles to find the right words. “I want you - I want you to put it in.” 

“Hah.” Jeongguk smirks, pushing his blonde locks from his face with the back of his hand as he continues, “I shall grant your request then,”

Taehyung smiles deliriously as Jeongguk hikes his legs over his shoulder and pulls him closer. He digs his teeth into the delicate honey skin of Taehyung’s inner thigh and leaves a trail of love bites all the way down to his crotch.

“Ngh- hurry,” Taehyung cries impatiently. 

Jeongguk nods before he curls his hand around his cock, he feels it pulsing against his palm as he lines himself to Taehyung. 

Taehyung holds his breath, hands fisting around the sheets as he suppresses a whimper when Jeongguk rubs the tip of his cock against his hole. 

“Tell me if it hurts, okay? I’ll stop immediately,” Jeongguk says, his hand finding Taehyung’s to lace their fingers together. 

Taehyung nods, his eyes squeezing shut, the flush of his face darkening into a lovely shade red as he bites down on his lip. 

Taehyung’s body goes taut when Jeongguk slowly starts pressing in. 

“Look at me, Taehyung. Let me look into your lovely eyes,” Jeongguk says, coaxing him to open his eyes, fingers squeezing around his.

Taehyung’s legs fall to wrap around Jeongguk’s lower waist when Jeongguk leans in to kiss him. He nudges Taehyung’s lips open with his tongue to make him breathe. Taehyung wraps his arms around Jeongguk’s shoulder in a vice like grip when Jeongguk buries his face into the crook of his neck while he guides himself forward into Taehyung’s tight heat. 

“Oh god, J-Jeongguk, ngh it hurts!” Taehyung cries and Jeongguk freezes.

“Should I pull out?” He mumbles against Taehyung's skin, placing a soft kiss on his collarbone.

“No! Just… I need some time,” Taehyung grits out. 

Jeongguk nods, his jaw clenching as he suppresses the urge to slap his hips forward.

“Okay, go!”

Taehyung feels it, Jeongguk’s cock sliding in, inch by inch, stretching him so good that his toes curl and harshly dig into Jeongguk’s lower back. Taehyung starts panting and writhing, he keeps unconsciously rocking back against Jeongguk till he bottoms out. 

“You’re so tight, fuck.” Jeongguk curses, his eyes squeezing close as he tries to ground himself by curling his hand against Taehyung's neck to feel the vibrations of his moans against his palm as he uses his teeth to bruise Taehyung’s soft skin. Taehyung squeezes him so deliciously tight that he has to control himself to not come.

Taehyung shakes with pleasure when Jeongguk grinds into him, the muscles of his arm straining and veins popping as he lifts himself up to look down at Taehyung’s face. His other hand slides down from Taehyung’s neck to his chest, lingering there to toy with his nipple before sliding down to curl around Taehyung’s hip, grip tight, fingers bruising.

Jeongguk gives Taehyung a tight smile as he pulls back until only the tip of his cock is nestled past his him before he pushes back in, rough and hard all the way to the hilt, his balls slapping with a filthy sound against the round of Taehyung’s ass.

“Jeongguk,” Taehyung moans, “please faster,” he begs, frantic and desperate as Jeongguk rolls his hips and starts thrusting into him at a slow and sensual pace. It isn’t enough but Jeongguk wants to drag this out as long as he can because he knows he won’t last long. 

Taehyung jolts, eyes blowing wide when Jeongguk manages to find his sweet spot. Jeongguk wraps his hand around the base of Taehyung’s cock tightly to stop him from coming as he keeps pressing and abusing the spot, thrusting against it relentlessly. 

Jeongguk picks up the pace after he thinks he has stimulated Taehyung enough for him to look like a mess, just like he had imagined. He’s pretty, he’s so so pretty and more importantly, Taehyung is his. 

“Mine,” Jeongguk breathes as he stares at Taehyung, at his half lidded delirious eyes that have tears gathered in the corners, at his flushed cheeks and his lips are slick with spit; bitten raw and red. He looks like a mess and Jeongguk loves it.

Jeongguk’s fist is wet and tight around Taehyung’s cock, matching the pace of his hips that fuck ruthlessly into him. The room fills with the obscene sound of skin slapping against skin paired with their moans and groans as they both slip closer to their release. 

Taehyung comes first with a jerk, squirting hot white all over Jeongguk’s hand and across his own stomach. Jeongguk follows soon after with a few thrusts, he cannot last long with the way Taehyung clenches around him. Jeongguk continues to grind into Taehyung for a few more moments to ride his orgasm before he pulls out and collapses on top of him.

They’re hot, sweaty and overwhelmed. Jeongguk lifts himself up to look at Taehyung who’s breathing softly, glossy eyes starting to droop. Jeongguk reaches out to cup Taehyung’s cheek, thumb caressing under his eyes as fondness takes over his face. 

“Was it too rough?” Jeongguk asks and Taehyung shakes his head but barely. He mumbles something incoherent and Jeongguk leans in. “Did you say something?” he asks. 

“Kiss me.” Taehyung repeats, this time louder. Jeongguk presses a smile against Taehyung’s lips, soft like a gentle wave washing over the shore after a stormy night. 

Taehyung lets out a content sigh and after a few moments Jeongguk pulls back to ask, “So, when will you really marry me?” But when he looks down at Taehyung, he finds him already asleep. 

“Hah, I knew you were going to be like this,” Jeongguk chuckles before he sits up beside Taehyung. He tucks a strand of hair behind Taehyung’s ear as he brings his hand to his mouth, the one that has a ring on it’s fourth finger. Jeongguk places a kiss onto it as he answers his own question. 

“Soon.” 


 

Taehyung is the first one to wake up the next morning. When he realizes that his head is pillowed on something solid, something warm and breathing, his eyes snap open. He pushes back as he turns to look at the person and a relieved sigh escapes his lips, heart stuttering in his chest when he notices that it’s Jeongguk, fast asleep.

There is no pillow wall between them this time. They’re close, their legs tangled together, naked bodies pressed against each other and hearts beating in sync. Taehyung closes his eyes and rests his head back on Jeongguk’s chest, over his heart as he wraps his arm around his waist. 

His lips curl into a smile when he remembers the events of last night. His cheeks flush as he buries his face into Jeongguk’s chest and Jeongguk instinctively tilts his head closer to Taehyung, nose nuzzling into Taehyung’s soft bed hair. 

Taehyung attempts to fall back to sleep, a smile on his face knowing that starting today, their days will be filled with happiness and nothing else. 

Taehyung is not aware nor is he prepared for the storm coming his way.

 

✦✧✦✧

 

Just when Taehyung starts to think that everything is slowly falling into place, it falls back apart. 

“What is the matter? You’re scaring me…” Taehyung trails off, eyebrows furrowing and stomach twisting uneasily when the foreboding silence that’s settled over the room starts overwhelming him. Jeongguk had ordered everyone to gather in the throne room but now that they’re here, he refuses to speak. It’s almost as if he can’t. He sits there quietly like he’s contemplating on how to deliver whatever the news is to the rest of the people.

“There has been an attack-”

Taehyung sucks in a harsh breath.

“-on Aesira.” 

Taehyung feels like the ground has shifted beneath his feet as the silence of the room gets disrupted by whispering and murmuring. Jimin is immediately on Taehyung’s side, curling a hand around his arm and looking at him with eyes full of worry as he struggles to find the right words to say to comfort him.

As soon as Taehyung’s bottom lip quivers and his face starts to crumple, Jeongguk leaves his throne and rushes down to him. He gathers Taehyung into his arms when Taehyung breaks down into tears.

“How did-” Taehyung cuts himself off, choking on a sob. He leans in to rest his head against Jeongguk’s chest as tears roll down his cheeks and heart throbs in his chest.

“It was a surprise attack. They weren’t prepared for it; I was told,” Jeongguk says softly.

“Do you know whether they’re alive?” Jimin asks and Taehyung’s head snaps up, eyes widening with sheer panic as he waits for Jeongguk to reply.

“I don’t know.” 

“I need to go,” Taehyung says, pulling away from Jeongguk as his eyes dart around frantically. “I need to leave for Aesira as soon as possible.”

“No, you are not. I have no idea about what is going on there or who has attacked them. I will not let you put yourself in danger,” Jeongguk says, taking note of how distressed Taehyung is right now. He’s bound to take impulsive decisions because he has let his emotions get the better of him. 

“No!” Taehyung cries, “I need to go. I need to make sure they’re okay! I need to see them with my own eyes.”

“You will not argue with me on this any further,” Jeongguk says sternly. “You are not going and that is final.”

Taehyung's expression twists with rage. He fists the front of Jeongguk’s shirt and pulls him closer. “Who are you to tell me that?” Taehyung snarls, vicious eyes boring into Jeongguk’s placid ones. Even though the way Taehyung speaks is fierce, his hands tremble and eyes keep brimming with a fresh set of tears. “I don’t take orders from you!” Taehyung hisses, shoving Jeongguk back with as much force as he can muster.

Jeongguk isn’t fazed nor is he angry. He closes the distance between them again and even when Taehyung struggles and tries to pull away, Jeongguk doesn’t let him go. He cups Taehyung's face between his hands and leans in to touch their foreheads together. “I can’t put you in danger,” Jeongguk whispers, voice incredibly soft as he continues, “You’re the only one I have. I can’t lose you.”

Taehyung stops fighting Jeongguk back, he turns almost pliant on hearing the tone of Jeongguk’s voice and words he uses. “Jeongguk,” Taehyung cries helplessly, reaching out to wrap his hands around Jeongguk’s wrists. He squeezes around him with desperation. “What should I do? I want to see Seokjin hyung and Namjoon hyung again. I won’t be able to live if something happens to them. I need to see them. I need to see my father, Jeongguk. Please, I need-”

Hyung!" Jeongguk screams. Taehyung flinches, mouth snapping shut as his eyes go wide when he realizes that Jeongguk used the honorific. “You will see them again, alright? Hyung, you will see them again,” he repeats, stressing on his words. “I promise. Do you trust me? I will kill everyone who tries to hurt you or your family.”

Silence settles over the room once again. Jeongguk sends a chill down everyone’s spine with his eyes that flit over every single person in the room with fury. His voice is soft when he talks to Taehyung but he looks anything but with his jaw tight and lips curled into a scowl. 

“Hoseok and Jimin will leave for Aesira with Ember and the other dragons at Nightfall,” Jeongguk orders. “Get the dragons to distract and kill everyone on guard to get in. Hoseok, choose some of the best warriors and take them along with you. The dragons won’t be able to enter the castle so you’ll be on your own after that.”

Hoseok bows and Jimin follows. “Yes, my lord.” 

Jeongguk turns to look at Taehyung and pulls him into a hug, his arms coming to wrap around Taehyung’s waist as he presses a kiss against his temple. “Go to your room and rest,” Jeongguk murmurs, lips against skin. “I need to prepare them for the battle and tell Ember to summon the rest of the dragons. You’ll be able to see your family, I promise. Hang on for some time.” 

Taehyung nods as he pulls away. “You’re going too?” he asks.

Jeongguk shakes his head. “I think it’s the Hellions. They know about our alliance so I’m sure they’re also aware of the fact that we'll come for them. I’m afraid they might attack Dragonstone too; thinking that we’re distracted because of Aesira. I need to be here to protect my kingdom if that happens.” 

Taehyung nods once again. He seems off, almost detached. He doesn't put on a fight anymore. Jeongguk isn’t sure if Taehyung truly trusts him or if he’s plotting something in his mind.

“Go to our room. I’ll come see you in some time,” Jeongguk says, pushing his worries about Taehyung’s strange behavior in the back of his mind for the time being before he motions Yoongi to take Taehyung away.

“I hope you know he’s doing this to protect you,” Yoongi says softly while he walks with Taehyung towards the door.

“I know,” Taehyung replies impassively. “You can go, you don’t need to accompany me to the room.”

“But-”

Taehyung turns to look at him. “I know you want to see Jimin off.”

Yoongi sucks in a breath, shoulders stiffening.

“You can’t live with regrets. Go.” 

Yoongi is quick to turn around and walk away. 

Taehyung sighs as he rounds a corner. Jeongguk hasn’t given him a reason to not trust him yet and although their relationship didn't start off on the right foot, Jeongguk turned out to be kind, reliable and honest. Taehyung doesn’t really have any knowledge about strategizing a battle so he has no choice but to trust Jeongguk on this. 

Just as Taehyung is about to step into the room, a hand presses against his mouth and an arm wraps around his waist before he starts getting dragged behind. Taehyung’s eyes widen as he thrashes against the person’s hold, trying to claw the hand off his mouth so he can scream and call for help but the person — the man seems to be too strong. His hold around Taehyung and his hand over his mouth is tight, almost bruising. 

Taehyung’s vision starts blurring with tears when he’s pulled into the room and the door is locked shut after him.

“Mmph.”

“Taehyung, it’s me!” The person whispers before Taehyung is turned around and backed up against the door. 

Taehyung freezes. He stops struggling and lips part around a gasp as the hand slips down from his mouth, slowly and carefully. 

“Jihyun?”

Jihyun nods, giving Taehyung a small smile. “Hi, did you miss me?” 

“What are you doing here?” Taehyung asks, eyebrows furrowing as he pushes Jihyun back to create some distance between them. He doesn’t feel comfortable with Jihyun’s touch anymore and maybe it's because he’s not Jeongguk.

Taehyung likes Jeongguk so whatever he had with Jihyun is nothing more than a past to him now.

“I came here for you,” Jihyun says, eyes narrowing as they roam over Taehyung’s face, scrutinizing him, picking up the nuances of discomfort on his features.

“What do you mean you came here for me? ” Taehyung asks in a hiss. “You can’t be here. I’ll be marrying Jeongguk soon,” he says as he pushes past Jihyun and walks further into the room with his arms crossed against his chest. He has enough things to worry about right now, he can’t afford to be bothered by Jihyun somehow sneaking into the castle to see him.

Jihyun is quiet for a few seconds before he lets out a disbelieving laugh. “Wait,” he says, voice only growing colder as he continues, “don’t tell me you fell for him? Did you really start liking him?” Jihyun asks as he grabs Taehyung’s upper arm and turns him around to face him with a jerk.

“I-It doesn’t matter. I’m going to marry him anyway,” Taehyung replies as he averts his gaze and refuses to look at Jihyun who’s boring holes into him with his eyes.

“I can’t believe this,” Jihyun huffs, running a hand through his hair he shakes his head with incredulity. “I came to get you away from the person who attacked your family and yet… here you are, falling in love with him.” 

Taehyung freezes. “What do you mean?”

Jihyun’s eyes lift. “How can you be so naïve, Taehyung? Why do you think Jeongguk sent his head commander with Jimin? He’ll probably kill him as soon as they get out of sight.” 

“No,” Taehyung says with a shake of his head, a humourless laugh bubbling out of his mouth. “You’re lying. Jeongguk would never do that to me!” Taehyung paces around the room as he buries his fingers into his hair and tugs at the strands out of frustration. 

“Taehyung-”

“Shut up!” Taehyung screams, eyes narrowing into a glare as he turns to look at Jihyun. “Get out! I don’t want to hear what you have to say. I trust Jeongguk. If you’re doing this because you want me back then forget it. We’re over! I don't have feelings for you anymore. I love-” Taehyung cuts himself off when Jihyun throws a piece of paper on his face. 

“What is this?” Taehyung asks, his hands shaking as he unfolds the paper.

“My feelings for you were and still are sincere. I don’t know how Jeongguk manipulated you into acting like his loyal dog who licks the ground he walks on but here — the proof. I knew you wouldn’t believe me but I hope you come back to your senses when you read the letter sent to you, written by your own brother, Namjoon.”

Taehyung’s heart pounds in his chest as he starts reading the letter.

Dear Taehyung,

I hope this letter finds you well. I don’t have much time so I’ll get straight to the point. You need to get as far away from Jeongguk as possible. He is the one who attacked Aesira and he is the reason why your father is in grave danger, fighting for his life right now. Things aren’t great here. I’ve realized that everything was a part of Jeongguk’s plan, right from plotting with the Hellions and setting up an attack to corner us so that we’d come to him for help to proposing a marriage to form an alliance. He doesn’t feel any affection towards you, he’s simply using you to get what he wants. Taehyung, my dear brother, please run away. Leave with Jihyun, he will take you somewhere safe. Do not come home. Do not worry about us. Stay safe. I will always and forever love you.

— your brother, Namjoon.

Taehyung drops down on his knees with tears streaming down his face. He fists the letter so tightly in his hand that it crumples. He cannot think anymore, his mind is numb and his heart aches in his chest so painfully that he feels like he’ll die. When he closes his eyes, all he sees is Jeongguk — smiling, laughing, calling for him, touching him and  kissing him. 

“No,” Taehyung says, “please no. He can’t do this to me.”

Jihyun sighs. He crouches down in front of Taehyung and reaches out to caress his cheek. Taehyung doesn’t like it, Jihyun’s touch. He feels uncomfortable, Jihyun’s hands aren’t as warm and his palm isn’t as callous as Jeongguk’s. It just doesn’t feel right.

“Do you still not believe me?” Jihyun asks in a soft voice. “You’ve recognized your brother’s handwriting, right?”

Taehyung barely manages a nod.

“You’ll have to come with me,” Jihyun says, his eyes dropping to look at Taehyung’s hand when he notices them shaking on his lap. His lips curl into a frown when he notices the sparkling violet diamond ring on Taehyung’s fourth finger.

“What is this?” Jihyun asks, forcefully grabbing Taehyung’s hand and slipping the ring out of his finger to examine it closely. “Is this a diamond?” he asks, eyes flitting between the gem stone and Taehyung. 

“Yeah,” Taehyung replies, turning his head away to wipe his tears with the sleeve of his shirt.

Jihyun’s eyes widen when they land on a faint love mark on Taehyung’s neck. “Did you sleep with him?”

Taehyung’s eyes snap at him. “How do you-”

Jihyun cuts Taehyung off by harshly grabbing his jaw and tilting his head to get a proper look at the bruise. “I courted you for almost two years,” Jihyun laughs with disbelief, “and you refused to let me touch you saying that you wanted to wait till marriage and what is this? It’s barely been a few months and you slept with him?”

“Shut up.” Taehyung shoves Jihyun back. “It’s none of your concern. Just please give me a moment. I’ll come with you okay just let me…” he trails off with a defeated sigh. Taehyung needs to confront Jeongguk, he needs Jeongguk to say that whatever they had between them was all a part of a plan. The time they spent together, the smiles and the kisses they shared — that was all fake, Taehyung needs Jeongguk to say it because only then he’ll be able to make his heart believe. It all feels surreal to Taehyung, even after reading his brother’s letter, he still refuses to believe that Jeongguk betrayed him.

“I’ll go talk to him,” Taehyung says, standing up to make his way towards the door.

“What are you talking about?” Jihyun hisses as he reaches out to grab Taehyung’s arm in a vice-like grip to stop him. “Do you think he’ll tell you the truth? He’s manipulative, he’ll talk his way out of this with his words. He made you sleep with him-”

“I slept with him because I wanted to,” Taehyung snaps, cutting Jihyun with a glare.

Jihyun grits his teeth in annoyance. “You’re not only putting your life in danger but mine and your brother’s as well.” 

Taehyung pauses.

“The first question he’s going to ask you is what made you think that he’s betraying you and if you talk about me or about the letter, he’ll have us killed. Me and your brother, if he’s still alive,” Jihyun says, almost desperately.

Taehyung pales. All colour completely drains from his face as he trembles at the thought.

Jihyun’s grip loosens around Taehyung’s arm before he completely pulls away. “Instead, tell him you don’t want to marry him anymore. I feel like if you run away from him, he’ll chase you to the ends of the world so let him know. Tell him that you can’t get me out of your mind, I bet that will make him go crazy. He knows I was your lover once so it makes sense.”

Taehyung’s expression twists with something akin to disgust. “He’s not going to believe that because even if his affection towards me was fake, mine wasn’t and he knows it.”

“Then make him believe. Nothing in the world will bother him more than knowing he got played while playing you. Tell him that you used him, tell him you’re tired of him now,” Jihyun says, stepping closer to Taehyung. “Tell him,” he starts in a whisper, “you’re tired of putting up an act, Tell him that he’s unlovable .” Jihyun grins.

Taehyung’s eyes widen. “He’ll kill me.”

Jihyun shakes his head. “He won’t, not like this. He likes to chase, I think he’ll let you go.”

“You make no sense right now,” Taehyung says with a  frown.

“No, you made no sense falling in love with someone like him. Trust me on this, I’ll save you and I’ll get you out of here. Just do as I say, if not for me then for the sake of your brother,” Jihyun says before he steps back.

There’s a moment of silence between them before Taehyung sighs. “Give me the ring,” he says and Jihyun raises his eyebrows.

“Why? Don’t tell me you still wish to wear it…” 

Taehyung shakes his head. He swallows the lump in his throat as he replies, “I’ll throw it away after taking the diamond out of it. It’s pretty and expensive.”

Jihyun laughs before he tosses the ring to Taehyung. “Do as you wish, I’ll meet you in this very room in some time.”

“Where are you going?” Taehyung asks.

“To prepare,” Jihyun replies.

“To prepare for what?” 

Jihyun walks past him so Taehyung fails to see the way his lips curl into a sinister smile. “To prepare to leave,” Jihyun simply replies before he dips his head, pushes the door open and walks out of the room.

 


 

Taehyung doesn’t know how long he sits on the edge of the bed with his head in his hands, lost in his thoughts while he waits for Jeongguk to return. He thinks about what he’ll say, he wonders whether he’ll be able to say anything at all after looking at Jeongguk’s face. It’s absurd that even after getting betrayed, Taehyung can’t bring himself to hate him. It’s like when it comes to Jeongguk, Taehyung feels nothing but warmth, affection, attachment and love .

Taehyung’s head snaps up when Jeongguk walks into the room. Jeongguk’s shoulders visibly sag with relief when his eyes land on Taehyung. He closes the distance between them with quick, long strides. “I was afraid you wouldn't be here,” Jeongguk murmurs, tipping Taehyung’s head up with a finger on his chin before he leans down to kiss him. Jeongguk’s kiss is just like him, warm and compelling — something Taehyung will never be able to enough of.

Taehyung doesn’t kiss Jeongguk back but he wants to — so bad that it drives him insane, the amount of energy he has to use to hold himself back makes him weak.  

Jeongguk pulls back when he notices Taehyung’s reluctance. “Ah, I’m sorry I shouldn’t have done that. You’re probably not feeling well right now,” he says, voice laced with guilt as he curls a gentle hand against the side of Taehyung’s neck, thumb caressing his jaw.

Taehyung swallows dryly as he averts his gaze from Jeongguk, looking anywhere else but into Jeongguk’s soft eyes that bore into him with something akin to longing. 

“What’s wrong?” Jeongguk is quick to ask as soon as he senses the invisible barrier that Taehyung has created between them.

“I’m tired,” Taehyung replies, subtly pushing Jeongguk away before he stands up from the bed.

When Jeongguk’s eyes start to roam around Taehyung's face, trying to make sense of how he’s feeling by his eyes and the expression of his face, Taehyung immediately turns the other way. Jeongguk reads him like an open book and Taehyung’s eyes are too expressive for his own good.

“You should rest then, don’t worry about-”

Taehyung shakes his head. “You don’t get it,” he says, stressing, voice laced with frustration as he cuts Jeongguk off. Taehyung takes a small pause, he uses those moments to take a deep breath because what he’s about to say next will quite literally break his own heart. It is far, far from the truth.

“You don’t get it,” Taehyung starts, voice small before he compels it to grow louder and colder as he continues, “I’m tired of you .”

The silence that stretches between them after that has Taehyung’s heart pounding in his ribcage. His chest tightens with pain and he almost wants to turn around to look at Jeongguk’s face to see the kind of expression he’s wearing. Taehyung wonders if Jeongguk is angry, if feels betrayed too or perhaps, if he is hurt.

Taehyung knows if he looks at Jeongguk's face, his resolve will come crumbling down. He won’t be able to get away from him, ever.

“Wh-what are you talking about?” Jeongguk asks, as if he’s unable to believe what Taehyung had just said. “I’m sorry if I didn’t let you go to Aesira, okay? I care for you and I can’t put you in danger. You’re my-”

“Jeongguk. Let’s just end this. Let’s put an end to whatever we have, I’m tired.”

Jeongguk sucks in a harsh breath. “What do you mean?”

“I said I’m tired of pretending that I like you,” Taehyung breathes out and as soon as those words leave his mouth, he’s turned around to face Jeongguk with a snap. A gasp slips past Taehyung’s lips when he notices how crazed Jeongguk’s eyes are when they bore into him.

Jeongguk pulls Taehyung closer with a jerk, his grip tight enough to bruise around Taehyung’s upper arm as he growls, “Have you lost your mind? Are you even aware of what you’re saying right now?” 

Taehyung blinks, momentarily taken aback by how close they are before his lips curl into a scowl. “Do I look like I’m out of my mind right now?” Taehyung hisses, roughly shaking Jeongguk’s hand off him. “I don’t like you, I never did. I felt nothing and I do feel absolutely nothing for you. I put on an act for the sake of my kingdom and now that I’m not even sure whether it’s still standing, what’s the use of pretending anymore?” Taehyung sneers.

Taehyung’s expression falters when pure, unadulterated hurt flashes across Jeongguk’s face. 

It’s an act. He’s manipulating you. He is the one who attacked your family, there is no way he cares for you. Taehyung tells himself. 

“Why? I gave you everything that you asked for, I have never…” Jeongguk trails off when his eyes fall to look at the ring he gifted Taehyung only to find his ring finger empty. Jeongguk’s eyebrows crease with confusion before his eyes flick back up to look at Taehyung’s face again. “Where is the ring?” He asks.

Taehyung huffs out a laugh as he shrugs. “I threw it away,” there’s a pause as he tilts his head, “in the deep, deep ocean.”

Jeongguk stares at him wordlessly. 

“So, just to make it clear... I am not,” Taehyung’s eyes harden but his voice wavers and cracks towards the end as he continues, “going to marry you anymore.”

“You’re lying,” Jeongguk breathes out. “I have no idea why you’re doing this but I know for a fact that whatever we shared in the past couple of days — months was not fake. Your smiles, your touch and your kisses, everything was sincere.”

Taehyung’s eyes flutter when Jeongguk takes a step towards him, close, right into his personal space till he feels Jeongguk’s warm breath against his lips. “I know you’re lying, hyung .”

Taehyung’s jaw clenches, hands forming into fists at his sides. “Then look into my eyes,” he starts, voice firm and resolute, “and tell me if you see any affection there for you.” 

Taehyung looks into Jeongguk’s eyes but he doesn’t really see him. He sees Aesira crumbling, he sees his family writhing in pain, barely grasping at the threads of their lives, struggling to survive. He sees Jeongguk betraying him, he sees his treachery and disloyalty despite vowing to protect Taehyung with all his life. Taehyung doesn’t see Jeongguk, he sees Jeongguk’s countless broken promises. 

Thus, that is the reason when Jeongguk looks into Taehyung’s eyes, he fails to see even an ounce of affection for him. Absolutely no love. 

Jeongguk’s heart is loud when it breaks in his chest, shatters in about a million pieces. The darkness he got rid of by looking at Taehyung’s eyes, his smile — comes rushing back, engulfing him whole, slipping him into the pits of despair. 

Taehyung side steps Jeongguk to walk out of the room but as soon as he makes a move to pull the door open, he’s roughly pushed against it. “Do you remember the day I told you if you ever try to run away from me, I will find you and I will kill you?” Jeongguk asks, his voice is ice cold but he’s warm, so warm pressed against Taehyung. 

This close, Taehyung is able to feel Jeongguk’s heart hammering in his chest. He momentarily gets so lost in the feeling that he fails to notice the dagger that comes to press against the side of his neck until he feels the cool blade pricking his skin. 

Taehyung stiffens. For a moment he thinks Jeongguk might actually kill him but then Jeongguk just drops his head on Taehyung’s shoulder and breathes him in like it is the last time he’s getting to do so. 

“The first time I saw you wasn’t when you came to me for help,” Jeongguk begins, voice soft as he recalls the first time he had seen Taehyung. “I don’t even remember how old I was, I think I was fourteen… or perhaps fifteen when I first saw you in a festival held in a kingdom in the far east. I didn’t want to go but father forced me to. He said I should start getting acquainted with actual people rather than spend all my time with Ember.

Taehyung’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. He faintly remembers going to a festival and meeting a boy, his age or younger, he’s not sure. He doesn’t remember his name or his face but he remembers ditching his guards to sneak away with him.

“Even then, as merely a young boy, I found you to be beautiful. I couldn't take my eyes off you and I unconsciously followed you everywhere. I was so shy to approach you and yeah,” he chuckles, “even though I was prince, I just couldn’t.” 

Taehyung stays still. He doesn’t reply but he listens. Jeongguk still has the dagger against Taehyung’s neck but it’s not pricking him anymore, it’s like Jeongguk keeps it there to stop Taehyung from moving, not to hurt him but to make him listen.

“I thought I was subtle but you noticed me. You were the one who approached me. The moment you smiled at me, I was a goner. Prince Kim Taehyung of Aesira, you introduced yourself and when you asked for my name I lied. I was scared you’d leave me if you knew I was from the Dragonstone so I never really told you my name. Do you,” Jeongguk pauses, arm curling around Taehyung’s waist as he presses even closer, “Do you remember a boy called Gukkie?” 

Taehyung stiffens, eyes widening. 

“I've changed a lot, haven't I?” Jeongguk laughs. “You’re still the same though, your smile and your eyes. I recognised you immediately when you came to see me with your brother. I had to have you this time. When I was a small boy, I couldn't do anything but watch you walk away with a promise to see each other again. You said you’ll never forget me, yet you did…” Jeongguk trails off, voice laced with sadness. 

“I’m sorry for forcing you and cornering you into staying here but I was selfish, I knew if you were given a choice, you’d never come to see me again,” Jeongguk says and Taehyung squeezes his eyes shut. He doesn’t know what to think or how to feel. If Jeongguk really is the Gukkie that Taehyung met back then why is he betraying him? Why did he attack Aesira? Is Jeongguk still trying to manipulate him into believing him? If he’s not then what about the letter Namjoon sent him?

No.

No, Taehyung can’t get weak. He has to listen to his brother. He needs to get away before Jeongguk makes him vulnerable with his words. 

“Is that all?” Taehyung asks, forcing a lump down his throat and fighting back the tears in his eyes. “What are you, still a child hanging onto his past? I have met countless people as a child, many boys, I’m sorry you weren’t significant enough to leave a mark on me.”

“I will not let you leave,” Jeongguk says, furiously and desperately. 

“Then kill me.” 

Jeongguk’s head snaps up from Taehyung’s shoulder. “What?” 

“Let me leave or kill me. I do not wish to stay here anymore,” Taehyung says, wincing when he hears his voice crack towards the end.

Jeongguk’s eyes widen. “Why…” he starts helplessly, “why are you doing this to me?” 

“Why are you doing this to me?” Taehyung presses instead of answering Jeongguk’s question. The question burns on his tongue and he doesn’t know if he’s ready to hear the answer. 

“I thought it was obvious. I thought I didn't need to say it for you to understand. I thought… my actions were enough,” Jeongguk breathes out before he slowly starts leaning in till his lips brush against the shell of Taehyung’s ear. “I thought,” he begins in a whisper, “you knew that I love you.” 

Taehyung freezes. His mind reels as Jeongguk's words carve themselves in Taehyung's heart. “I love you,” Jeongguk repeats, louder and firmer. “Taehyung, I love you so much. I’m doing this to you because I love you — because I can’t live without you.”

Taehyung’s face crumples. “It - It doesn’t matter,” he manages to say, hoping the tears in his eyes don’t reflect in his voice.

“Can’t you stay?” Jeongguk asks with so much desperation that it shatters Taehyung’s heart. “Even if you don’t love me, can’t you stay?” He repeats.

“No. Let me go.” 

Jeongguk drops the dagger down on the floor near Taehyung’s feet. “I would've killed you,” Jeongguk says, voice cracking just as loudly as Taehyung’s heart, “but I love you.” Jeongguk’s voice is thick with an ache as he continues, “And because I love you, I’m letting you go.” 

Jeongguk steps back, away from Taehyung.

Taehyung stays rooted in his place. He thinks about all the memories they shared together in the castle, he scrambles to remember any bad one which would make it easier to leave but he comes up with absolutely nothing. 

Taehyung closes his eyes as he pulls the door open. One step out of the room as he has this sudden urge to kiss Jeongguk, feel his lips against his for the last time before he leaves for good. 

Spinning around, Taehyung fists the front of Jeongguk’s shirt and crashes their lips together. The kiss is chaste, brief because if Taehyung kisses Jeongguk any longer, all his feelings will come slipping out and Jeongguk will know how much Taehyung wants to stay, how much he loves him.

As soon as Jeongguk starts kissing him back, Taehyung pulls away. He grins or he tries to as he takes a step back. “Thought I’d give you-” Taehyung cuts himself off when he sees that Jeongguk’s eyes are brimming with tears as he looks back at him. Taehyung wavers, he clenches his jaw and balls his hands into fists at his sides as he tries again, “Thought I’d give you a parting gift of sorts. Goodbye, I hope I never see you again.” 

Taehyung turns around and walks out of the door. He doesn’t turn to look back even once for if he did, he’d see Jeongguk dropping down on his knees and crying for the first time after his father died. 

Life sure feels cruel to both of them.

 


 

“Oh, you’re finally here.”

Taehyung looks up with his tear stained cheeks and bloodshot eyes to see Jihyun leaning against the balcony with his arms crossed against his chest. Jihyun squints and when he gets a good look at Taehyung’s face, he smiles, almost triumphantly as he closes the distance between them, “Did you break things up with Jeongguk?” he asks.

Taehyung nods weakly. He feels like he has left a part of himself in the room with Jeongguk. Everything seems dull and dark and it feels like there’s absolutely nothing that can make him smile again.

“What did he say?”

“He told me he loves me.”

“Lies,” Jihyun replies immediately with a scoff.

Taehyung frowns. Jeongguk didn’t seem like he was lying. Taehyung is sure he saw tears in his eyes. “When are we leaving?” Taehyung asks instead while he shakes his head as if he’s physically trying to get rid of the image of Jeongguk’s face from his mind. 

“My guards will soon come and take you somewhere safe,” Jihyun replies and Taehyung’s head snaps up, eyebrows furrowing in confusion.

“What do you mean? Are you not coming with me?” Taehyung asks.

Jihyun hums. “I still have something that is left to be done.”

“What is it?”

Jihyun doesn’t reply.

Taehyung’s eyes narrow into a glare. “Jihyun, what do you need to do here?” he presses on, his voice laced with a warning and Jihyun knows Taehyung won’t sit still until he finds out what he wants to. He’s just as stubborn as he used to be.

Jihyun’s eyes lift and the murderous glint in them makes Taehyung shiver. He smirks as he steps closer and leans down to whisper into Taehyung’s ear, “I’m going to kill Jeongguk.”

Taehyung gasps. His heart drops in his stomach as Jihyun pulls back to look at his face. “My men will soon be attacking Dragonstone and without his dragons, Jeongguk is nothing.” 

No. 

This was not a part of the plan.

“We’re going to leave, right now ,” Taehyung announces as he wraps his hand around Jihyun’s arm, grip tight, nails digging into Jihyun’s skin almost painfully.

Jihyun roughly shakes Taehyung off with a scowl. “You don’t tell me what to do. I’ll get you out of here so just do as I say.”

“No!” Taehyung cries, shoving Jihyun back. “I will not let you harm Jeongguk.”

Jihyun huffs in disbelief. “Are you hearing yourself? He went after your family so it’s only right someone goes after him to make him pay for everything he has done.” 

“The one that makes him pay,” Taehyung grits out, “will not be you.” Jihyun’s eyes flash with a warning as Taehyung continues speaking, “If you want to really make him pay at least have a fair fight. More than half of his troop, his strongest warriors and his dragons aren't even here right now. Do you expect him to fight you and your hundreds and thousands of men alone? He’s a king not a fucking god.”

“I don’t care,” Jihyun sneers, his face turning red. “I just want him gone.”

Taehyung chuckles. “Or is it because you know that you won’t win against him in a fair fight? Who’s the moral less and  ethic less  king now?” he asks, cocking an eyebrow at Jihyun.

That seems to be the last straw. Jihyun growls before he slaps Taehyung with the back of his hand, hard, with as much force as he could muster. The sound rings loud in the room as Taehyung’s head whips to the side, his cheek stinging red and blood oozing out from the corner of his lower lip. It’s then, Taehyung really starts doubting Jihyun. Taehyung had already been unstable after hearing about Aesira and Jihyun took that opportunity to emotionally manipulate him with the letter. Everything seems to be crystal clear now — Jihyun wasn’t here to save him in the first place, his motive was to kill Jeongguk all along. 

“I’m sure the truth hurt you more than your slap hurt me,” Taehyung taunts, lips curling into a grin.

The only thing Taehyung doesn’t understand now is how Jihyun managed to sneak into Aesira in the midst of all the chaos to get a letter from Namjoon. It would have only been possible is Jihyun was one of the men who attacked— 

Taehyung’s eyes widen and his lips part with surprise when the realization dawns on him. 

“You! You’re the one behind all this, not Jeongguk. You’re the one who attacked Aesira and-” Taehyung cuts himself off with a gasp when Jihyun lunges at him and wraps his hands around Taehyung’s neck, choking him. 

Taehyung starts thrashing, his face going red he tries to push Jihyun off but the speedily decreasing oxygen in his body makes him weak, incapable him from doing so. Tears gather in the corner of Taehyung’s eyes as he claws at Jihyun’s hands that are squeezing tighter and tighter around his neck as the seconds tick by. 

Taehyung thinks about Jeongguk as soon as darkness starts taking over him. He was wrong. He was so wrong. He doesn’t want to die, not like this, not before telling Jeongguk that he loves him too. 

“No, I can’t kill you like this,” Taehyung hears Jihyun say faintly before he’s dropped down on the ground.

Taehyung gasps for air. He coughs furiously while he breathes, his hand gentle as it curls around his neck so soothe the skin that’s starting to bruise. 

He feels weak, emotionally and physically tired to fight Jihyun who starts dragging him behind, towards the bed. 

“I need you to live, to see Jeongguk die, to see Dragonstone and Aesira come crumbling down in front of your eyes. You left me for him, you insulted me in front of your people and mine by taking his hand,” Jihyun laughs scornfully, “so now, I shall take everyone you love from you.” 

Taehyung cracks his eyes open when he feels his hands getting restrained behind his back and his legs getting tied to what seems like the bed. 

“Why… why did you make me do that to Jeongguk?” Taehyung manages to ask, looking up at Jihyun who gives him a sardonic smile. 

“Nothing in this world makes a man like Jeongguk weak more than a broken heart.” 

Jihyun’s words pierce Taehyung’s heart with a force enough to make him feel like he’s being choked again. Taehyung cries in agony when Jeongguk’s face flashes in front of his eyes. If Jeongguk dies today, it will be because of him and he will never be able to forgive himself.

“After I kill him, I’ll be the ruler of his kingdom, his people, his dragons,” Jihyun starts arrogantly and Taehyung spits on his face, eyes blazing with fury.

“You will never be a ruler of Dragonstone,” Taehyung snarls, head whipping to the side when Jihyun slaps him again. Taehyung laughs, it’s not even to make him stop talking. “Jeongguk was, he is and he will always be the one to rule Dragonstone, his people and his dragons. You’re filth compared to him. Do you think his dragons will obey you after you kill Jeongguk? It doesn’t work like that. They’ll quite literally burn you to death. You’ll wish for hell.” 

Jihyun reaches out for Taehyung’s jaw. He wraps his hand around it in a, fingers harshly digging into Taehyung’s cheeks. “About that, time will tell,” Jihyun says, shoving a gag into Taehyung’s mouth before he walks out of the door and locks it shut behind him.

Taehyung struggles against the restraints. He doesn’t know how much time passes by before he grows tired and starts losing hope. 

Taehyung wants Jeongguk. He wants to see him again, touch him again, kiss him again and apologise for saying goodbye. He wants to get down on his knees and beg for forgiveness for hurting him. 

Help.

Taehyung looks out of the window, into the dark dark sky with his vision blurring with tears. 

“Help me,” Taehyung prays to the universe. “Please let me help Jeongguk. I love him, I love him so much. Please.” 

Just then the door starts rattling. 

Taehyung freezes, dread filling his chest as he wonders if it is Jihyun again. Taehyung releases a breath he didn’t know he was holding when the door is pushed open and Yoongi comes rushing in. 

“Oh my lord, my prince!” Yoongi cries, scrambling to pull the gag out of Taehyung’s mouth before he starts working on untying his hands and his legs. “My lord, the kingdom of Hellions and the Velaris have attacked-” 

“I am aware,” Taehyung interrupts Yoongi as he stands up on his feet. His balance is a little wobbly and his limbs ache but he does not care. All he cares about right now is Jeongguk. 

Taehyung makes a move to walk towards the door but Yoongi stops him with a hand around his wrist. “You cannot. It is not safe out there. Blood is being shed and my lord has been-” Yoongi chokes on a sob. 

“Where is Jeongguk?” Taehyung asks frantically, pulling his wrist out of Yoongi’s grasp.

“I don’t know why b-but he’s not fighting back. It’s like he has given up on life…” Yoongi trails off and Taehyung visibly flinches. 

“It’s my fault.” 

“What?”

“It’s a long story,” Taehyung replies. “I need to get to him, right now. Will you help me?” 

Yoongi stares at Taehyung for a few seconds before he blinks and bows. “Anything for you, my prince.” 

“Where is my sword? I need to put an end to this.”

 


 

“What’s wrong? You were quite full of yourself the first time we met,” Jihyun remarks with a supercilious curl of his lips as Jeongguk is dragged towards him by a few of his men.

There's chaos everywhere around Jeongguk. Dragonstone is strong but it doesn’t stand a chance against the kingdom of Velaris and Hellions when most of it’s capable warriors and dragons are absent, out there trying to save Aesira. The attack didn't take long considering the soldiers were unprepared for the number of people that’d have to go against. 

Jeongguk had been out of it. He had himself locked in his room, scrambling for reasons why he wasn’t good enough for Taehyung and where he went wrong. 

Jeongguk raises his head. He isn’t really struggling but Jihyun still has five of his men holding him down. Jihyun’s expression falters when Jeongguk’s eyes flick up to bore into him with vehement hostility. “The attack on Aesira was done by you, wasn’t it?” Jeongguk snarls, trying to push forward towards Jihyun. 

“Yes, if only you’d figure it out soon enough,” Jihyun drawls, closing the distance between them. He grins, “Did you like my master plan? I truly am a king, aren’t I?”

Jeongguk laughs through clenched teeth. “You really think you are? You don’t even have the audacity to engage in a one on one battle with me.”

Jihyun shrugs, unaffected by Jeongguk’s words and the challenge thrown his way. “It doesn’t matter how I win if I win,” Jihyun says before he leans in to whisper into Jeongguk’s ear. “What will you do if you win?” he asks, irony dripping from his tone as he continues, “You’ve lost that one thing that meant the most to you.” The corner of Jihyun’s lips curl into a smirk when Jeongguk’s eyes widen with horror.

“How do you know about him?” He growls, eyes wild with rage as he furiously struggles to get out of the hold on him. 

“Why do you think he left you?” Jihyun sniggers.

Jeongguk stares.

“Because I told him to.”

“You’re lying,” Jeongguk huffs in disbelief. “You’re fucking lying.” 

“But I am not,” Jihyun replies. “He’s quite naïve, isn’t he? It was all a part of my grand plan. Attack Aesira by forming an alliance with the Hellions. Hold a knife against Taehyung’s father to blackmail his brother into writing a letter about how you deceived them and attacked their kingdom. And then, finally, giving that letter to Taehyung.”

“You-”

“Want me to give you a gist about what the letter said?” Jihyun asks and he doesn’t really wait for Jeongguk’s reply before he continues. “Run Taehyung,” Jihyun starts with a grin and just hearing Taehyung’s name from Jihyun’s filthy mouth has Jeongguk’s blood boiling. 

Run Taehyung, get as far away from Jeongguk as you can.”

Jeongguk spits on Jihyun’s face. “Fuck you.” 

“Hah,” Jihyun laughs menacingly. “When Taehyung found out the truth, he did the exact same thing and do you want to know what I did next?” Jihyun asks as he wipes his face with his hand before he smacks Jeongguk across his cheek. Hard. The sound rings in the air as Jeongguk’s head whips to the side due to the blow. 

“I slapped him.” 

Jeongguk’s eyes are wide and murderous as they snap back at Jihyun. “You touched him? You touched him with your filthy hands?” Jeongguk cries with a violent growl.

“I really liked him in the past but as soon as he left me for you, he lost his worth. He had a brief moment of usefulness but now that it is done, he lost his purpose,” Jihyun says with an indifferent shrug. “He started being an obstacle to me when he came to know the truth so I killed him.” 

Jeongguk freezes as Jihyun’s eyes flick up to him, cold and vicious. “I choked him to death.” 

Jeongguk stops struggling as his heart comes to an abrupt halt in his chest. “No,” he mumbles, shaking his head in disbelief. “That is not true, no,” Jeongguk says, eyes glazing over with tears as they dart around anxiously. 

“No!” Jeongguk screams, startling everyone including Jihyun.

“So much pain,” Jihyun says with a click of his tongue before he pulls a dagger out from under his robe. “You wouldn’t want to live in a world without Taehyung, right? The love of your life, the only source of light in your dark, dark world is gone. You’re all alone now.” 

Jeongguk doesn’t respond nor does he listen. He seems like he’s losing himself. The hope that Jeongguk had been harboring within him that maybe Taehyung will return, that maybe Jeongguk will be able to convince him to come back is gone. The little shattered pieces of his heart turn into dust. Unmendable, unfixable. This is what truly breaks him down.

Jihyun smiles, victorious.

“If you’re already dead from the inside, why don’t you really just die? Let me do you a favour and kill you,” Jihyun sneers. “There is no one left in this world who loves you anyway,” Jihyun says as he swings his arm back, ready to stab Jeongguk with all the force he can muster. 

It all happens at once. 

There’s a thunderous snarl from the sky as the air around Jihyun tenses. A hellish red fire starts blazing all around him, burning his men on guard and setting everything in flames. There’s a voice coming from behind him, loud and firm as it says, “I love Jeongguk. I fucking love him!” And then, there’s a sword piercing into Jihyun from behind in a swift motion. 

It’s too sudden, Jihyun doesn’t have enough time to react or block the attack. His lips fall open as blood flows out of his mouth. His eyes are blown wide when they drop down to look at the sword which is coated with blood, that has a hole punctured in his stomach. He tries to speak but no words come out of his mouth. 

Taehyung steps forward from behind Jihyun and as soon as his eyes meet Jeongguk’s wide ones, his face crumples. 

“Jeongguk,” Taehyung cries out, desperate and teary as Jihyun collapses down on the ground near his feet. Surprise flickers across Jeongguk’s face before his expression contorts with pain, eyebrows screwing as his breath starts coming out in short pants. 

The men holding Jeongguk cry out in pain when Jimin and Hoseok attack them from behind, slicing their throats open and killing them with their swords. 

Jeongguk stumbles forward as his head drops to look down. When Taehyung follows his gaze, his eyes widen with horror because he sees a dagger buried deep into Jeongguk’s stomach. 

It belongs to Jihyun. 

Jihyun stabbed Jeongguk.

“Jeongguk,” Taehyung sobs when Jeongguk reaches his hand out to him. As soon as their fingers brush, Jeongguk’s knees give out and he falls down on the ground.

“Jeongguk, please!” Taehyung wails helplessly as he caresses Jeongguk’s face which is pale and cold, coated with sweat. Taehyung takes Jeongguk’s head in his lap, his tears dripping down on Jeongguk’s cheeks as he cries, “Please, I’m sorry! I was wrong. You don’t deserve to die, I do.”

“Don’t,” Jeongguk says, voice soft and cracking. “It’s not your fault.” 

Taehyung shakes his head as Hoseok approaches them. He wraps his hand around the dagger before he pulls it out of Jeongguk’s stomach in a swift motion. 

Jeongguk cries out in pain as Hoseok presses down onto the wound.

“Don’t blame yourself, okay?” Jeongguk rasps out, eyes fluttering close.

Taehyung’s heart drops in his stomach.

Yoongi, who’s witnessing the whole scene unfold from the sidelines, has tears in his eyes as he reaches out for Jimin who’s standing beside him. Jimin laces their fingers together before he gives Yoongi’s hand a light squeeze. “He’s going to be okay,” Jimin whispers, his own voice not sounding convincing to himself.

“Yes, he will.” Yoongi replies just as weakly.

“Jeongguk!” Taehyung screams when Jeongguk’s eyes fall close. “You can’t leave me like this. You have to hear what I have to say, you have to know that I love you. I love you so much,” Taehyung cries. “I love you, please. Don’t leave me.”

Hoseok’s face crumples with pain as he presses down harder on Jeongguk’s wound with desperation, trying to stop the blood from flowing out.

When Taehyung feels a ground rumbling thud, he looks up to see Ember staring down at them with a tilt of his head. Tears trail down Taehyung’s cheeks as Ember leans down to nudge Jeongguk’s hand with his head. He does it once, twice, thrice and when Jeongguk still doesn't move, Ember growls in desperation and heartbreak, breathing fire up into the sky. 

All the dragons growl in unison, the sound far worse than thunder itself. They circle over Jeongguk in the sky, helpless like orphaned children.  

Taehyung leans down to press his forehead against Jeongguk’s, his whole body quivering as he whispers, “Please Gukkie, I love you, please don’t leave me.” 

Hoseok freezes when he sees Jeongguk’s finger twitching and eyes fluttering back open. 

Yoongi sucks in a harsh breath when Jeongguk raises his hand, reaches out ever so slowly towards Taehyung.

“Jimin…” Yoongi trails off.

Yoongi hears the smile in Jimin’s voice as he replies, “I told you.” 

“What is this?” Jeongguk breathes out, voice barely audible as he curls his hand around the chain hanging down from Taehyung’s neck. “I thought you threw the ring in the ocean?” Jeongguk asks, finger hooking over the ring that hangs from Taehyung’s chain like a pendant.

Taehyung sits up, eyes wide as his face breaks into a smile. “I lied,” he cries with a sniff, “how could I throw it away?” 

“You lied about a lot of things,” Jeongguk remarks weakly as he gazes up into Taehyung’s eyes. 

Taehyung nods. “I lied when I said I don’t feel anything for you. I lied when I said goodbye. I lied when I said I don’t want to stay and I lied when I said I’m tired of you. I can never get tired of you because I love you, so much.”  

Jeongguk doesn’t reply for a few moments. Taehyung’s heart pounds in his chest as he waits for Jeongguk to say something, anything. And then eventually, slowly but surely, Jeongguk’s lips stretch into a smile as he mumbles, “Call me Gukkie again.”

Hoseok laughs.

“Gukkie,” Taehyung says with a giggle. His expression turns somber when his eyes shift to look at Jihyun who’s lying down a few meters away from them, dead. “I didn’t want to do any of it but he manipulated me by showing a letter and-”

“I know, he confessed everything in front of me. He told me he killed you,” Jeongguk whispers brokenly like just the thought of it hurts him more than the wound on his stomach.

“He obviously lied,” Hoseok mumbles before he looks at Taehyung. “Your father and your brothers are okay. Aesira is still standing, you don’t need to worry about them… Jihyun didn’t plan this out as well as he thought he did.” 

“What type of a king,” Jeongguk chuckles breathlessly. “He didn’t even stab me properly, missed all the vital parts.”

“Lucky for us he was a fool.” Hoseok sighs.

When Jeongguk feels a soft nudge, he looks up to see Ember staring down at him. Jeongguk grins as he reaches out to touch Ember with his hand. “I’m sorry for worrying you,” Jeongguk says, unapologetic really.

Ember huffs in response. The other dragons quieten down too. 

“Jeongguk?” Taehyung calls softly with his heart pounding his chest.

Jeongguk’s eyes shift to Taehyung, incredibly fond as he asks, “Yes, my love?”

Will you marry me?” Taehyung blurts out.

Jeongguk’s eyes widen before his lips settle into a lazy smile. “I will if you agree to my three conditions…” he trails off.

Taehyung nods, eager. “Yes, anything.”

Jeongguk stares. 

“First, you have to love me.”

Taehyung’s lips twitch. “Yes, agreed.” 

“Second, you can never ever leave me.” 

Taehyung giggles. “Done.” 

“And third,” Jeongguk starts with a lick of his lips, “kiss me right now.” 

Taehyung doesn’t waste even a second before he leans down to press his lips against Jeongguk’s. This time too, the kiss is brief and chaste but instead of a goodbye, it’s a new beginning. It’s a kiss that leads to many more kisses that are about to be shared in the future. The future that is filled with nothing but happiness.

Taehyung’s eyes are teary but his smile is so wide when he pulls away to rest his forehead against Jeongguk’s. 

Feeling left out, Ember too leans in to touch his head against theirs with a huff.

And truly, if happily ever after really exists then it is for them.