The first time he sees her, he’s 8 years old, she’s 5, and he hates her, the way normal eight year old boys are supposed to hate girls.
It’s a hot summer day, and her feet rest in a small tiny clay vessel, cooling them down before she begins her long, arduous walk from the front porch to the sitting shelter. His mouth turns up in disgust as he sees the maid holding up a dainty umbrella atop her flaming red hair - who even has hair like that in real life?!?
Mundok pushes him forward, urging him to go say hello, urging him to meet the girl who’s safety he’s supposed to devote his life to, but Hak would rather stay away from annoying Princesses who cannot manage a walk in the sun, especially, when they have eyes as big as hers. “… Aw, Gramps do I have to?”
But his eyes aren’t nearly as cute as hers - and where did that thought come from? - so the puppy eyes move didn’t work, and Gramps has put him through far worse than just forcing conversation with an insufferable young girl.
She blushes when they are introduced - there’s really no reason to, he thinks, she’s just being a stupid girl - and gestures for him to sit next to her as she splashes her feet idly on the cooled water. “… You should try it too,” she says, gesturing for him to sit beside her, with a smile, motioning for her maids to get her another bowl. “… It feels like I’m in the ocean,” she confesses, shyly, “… Have you ever seen the ocean?”
Maybe, maybe somewhere deep in his mind, he can remember dredges of a vast expanse of blue but that was so long ago, and he has a feeling it has something to do with the time when there were different faces surrounding him, - but that’s a different story, so he just shakes his head, No.
“I’ve seen it in the picture books the elders let me read,” she tells him excitedly. It’s obvious they do their level best to keep her away from the outside world, but this is too much. Hak begins to feel the first twinges of sympathy. She grins proudly, “I know how to read by the way,” her grin growing wider, “… and I’m only five years old.”
Hak rolled his eyes. Princesses. Living the life of self acclaimed greatness. “… So? I learnt when I was three.” He saw her already huge eyes bugging out in awe. “B-but they t-told me… - ”
He didn’t let her finish. He can imagine what they would’ve told her, probably something along the lines of her being the prodigy of the land. “… I’ve seen a river though,” he tells her. He knows that’s just another thing she’s seen only in her picture books, and he can see it on her face. His grin is smug now, “… I’ve even gone swimming in it.”
He’s enjoying it, the pure awe, the jealousy, the attention the Princess pours on him. “You seem to know a lot,” she concedes, “…how old are you, Hak?”
“I’m 8,” he informs her proudly, “3 years older than you.” As per grandpa Mundok’s calculations. He expected her to get impressed, wanted it even, but her reaction completely threw him. “You’re EIGHT?!” She squeals, holds clasping together in excitement, “… just like Soo-won….!” He sees her face blush ten different shades of red - redder than her hair - eyes squeezed shut and giggling.
Hak eyes her warily, wondering briefly if Grandpa Mundok managed to leave out the fact that the princess, was, in fact, a total head case, and asks, “… who’s Soo-Won?”
She gasps, eyes wide, mouth open. Hak thinks his question doesn’t warrant that much of a shock. She hides any kind of indignation she might have had at that question because this was an opportunity. An opportunity to speak about - “Soo-won is the cutest, most nicest boy EVER,” she gushes, “and he knows a lot too, he’s 8 years old as well, you know, and you should be friends with him too, just don’t take him away from me, because I’m going to marry him someday okay - Eeep!”
With a squeal, she lost her footing and fell face first on to the hot, tiled garden pathway. “… Ah, I didn’t mean to startle you, Yona!”
Hak watches as a pale, light haired young boy, rushes to her side and helps her sit up. “I’m sooo sorry,” the boy sounds remorseful, “I shouldn’t have pushed you like that. It’s my fault you got hurt.”
Yona is red all over again, not just the nasty bruise on her head, but also her cheeks, her neck, her hair, which was always so, so bright. “It’s o-ok, S-Soo Won, ” she manages, completely without grace, “I-I should have been more careful,” - and Oh, this is the famous Soo-won, that she spoke of.
Hak watches as Soo Won lifts his hand and brushes against Yona’s bump gently, watches as Yona’s eyes drift shut and the almost permanent crimson staining her cheeks only darkens with every passing moment.
The first time he meets Soo Won, Hak is 8, and so is Soo Won, and Hak absolutely hates him.
The first time he picks up her up his back, it’s so effortless, it’s so easy, she’s not sure what to make of it. She’s six, and he’s nine, of course he’s bigger than her, but also so much stronger, it baffles her. It doesn’t seem to bother him, or even Soo Won who walks beside him, holding on to his hand, so she doesn’t say anything. She does her best to stifle the warmth that spreads across her cheeks.
It was Soo - Won’s idea to bring her out to the town, and she loves him even more for it, because she’s dreamt of this for the longest time. What she didn’t dream was this - being distracted for the slightest second, there were so many pretty things everywhere, the purple moonlight bracelet, the feathered earrings - and when she turned around, she couldn’t see Hak or Soo - Won anywhere.
There’s only a shadow, a large menacing grin looming on top of her, sneering, “Young girl… do you want that?”
She looks up, and takes two steps back, the fear kicking in subconsciously. “… Shall mister buy it for you?”
And the first time she screams Hak’s name, her voice is muffled in a cloth bag, her arms and legs tied behind her.
The first time Hak begins to admire Soo - Won, is when he’s so full of fear, he can’t think clearly, his mind is filled only with thoughts of the princess, his guilt, that he when he looks at Soo - Won, and the way he’s sprung the whole town into action, in search of Yona, he can’t help but stop to think that maybe, just maybe the light - haired boy may be worthy of her affections after all. And it’s an unbidden thought, the two words that come after - Unlike yourself.
Hak is quick to brush off this ridiculous line of thought, because it isn’t helping, they still hadn’t found the princess, and they were running out of time before the 5 tribe meeting would get over.
Peeling his eyes for a large - dark skinned man, Hak’s eyes finally rest on a large, shifty figure, ambling forward on a cart. Too small to be certain, but too close to the prospective kidnapper, he climbs in to the person next to him and swings over to his cart.
His suspicion grows when he sees the solitary bundle squirming atop his cart. The man is no match for Hak, but Hak, is no match for the way his heart almost stops - it’s just relief, really - when he tears open the baggage to find his suspicions confirmed, to find Yona bound and gagged inside.
He tries to look cool, when he frees her of her restraints, tries to keep the smug smile even when the words “Soo Won,” are the first to escape her mouth in a frantic cry.
But when Yona hugs Hak for the first time - it’s wet, her tears drench through his vest, he pats her head awkwardly to calm her, even though his heart is far from it - Hak notices that she smells just a little bit like Jasmine.
The first time he kisses her, it’s on her forehead, but it’s far from chaste, he wants and she gave him permission, so he took, but not nearly enough, because she had no idea, no approximation of the depth of the want, that had built over their journey days.
He wonders what she would think if she knew, if she had any clue just how much, he wanted what he wanted, wonders what she would do. He wonders if she would be scared.
The first time he trusts a stranger, he has an inkling he’ll come to regret it. And he’s right, he should have known to trust his warrior instinct, his carnal need to protect the princess.
But he’s made the mistake, and he regrets it, more than he articulate or even processes, because she’s vanished, just like the townspeople they’re trying to save, and the feeling of being an utter, total failure at doing his one and only duty - to Protect the princess - is second to the desperation that is clawing out from inside him.
The rest of it goes by in a blur, the men at the inn that he threatens, the time that he meets Gramps at the fort, the moment he catches Lily - even the knowledge of Soo Won, right across the wall.
It only clears up when Jae - ha tells him that she’s okay, and then we he sees her, safe, beaten up but okay, that he can breathe normally again.
He’s more than happy to lay himself at her feet, to give her anything - but what’s left to give, really? He had submitted months ago, the first time she had requested him to serve her, eyes filled with a loneliness that he couldn’t bear, a request that she didn’t even need to make - just to hold her, to squeeze her tight, so that he could smell her and know she was okay, feel her and know she was in one piece, so close to himself that he could pretend she would never leave his side.
But that isn’t his place, and Hak doesn’t impose, he’s grateful to the Gods, the dragons, the five tribes - and even Soo Won - that she is standing in front of him, whole, her eyes glistening with unshed tears.
He drops to his knees in front of her, taking her hands in his, and hopes he can control the emotions racking his body, and the tears that, for the first time, are threatening to spill.
The first time Yona, kisses him, she doesn’t actually go through with it.
She’s decided, she’s made up her mind, she wants to change her country, her people, herself, but she hates it, loathes it, when she is separated from Hak. He worries about her, she worries about him, and it’s an endless mess of anxiety that she is, in all honestly, quite ready to pass up. But here they are, saying their good byes - just for a short while - and “take care of yourself"s and she still isn’t saying what she wants to say the most.
I’ll miss you.
Stay by my side. Don’t leave me, Hak.
I love -
It’s just an impulse, she hasn’t even begun to think it through, but the last of her thoughts are so loud, so clear, that her heart can’t take it anymore, it can’t be contained - she reaches up on her tiptoes and she kisses him. Almost.
That was the first time Hak pulled back from the Princess.
And the last.
The first time they actually kiss, it’s kind of forceful.
Hak is kind of forceful.
They did what they had to do, they went their separate ways, they stopped the war.
And yet, she lay in front of them, in front of him, bandaged and banged up, sore from the fighting and tolls of rough travel.
They’re all huddled up near the campfire, but Yona’s tucked in, inside the tent, not far, just behind them, close enough so that they’re always, always watching.
“… Hak,” she whispers from inside, softly to the wind but it carries, it will always carry to him, and he shuffles inside less than a moment later.
He’s crouching beside her, trying to keep his distance, but the tent is low, and his body is too huge. “… Yes, Princess?”
“… You hardly fit in here,” she says softly, a quiet giggle escaping her throat. It’s been so long since he’s heard that noise, it sounds almost divine to him.
He doesn’t say anything, he just watches her. They both know this isn’t why she called him inside, this ridiculous small talk - even if she doesn’t know it herself.
Her fingers inch closer to his, scraping soft circles on the inside of his palms, and his heart constricts painfully. How much more of this will he have to bear?
“… You’re not being fair, Princess,” he mumbles, unable to keep his eyes on hers. They are transfixed to the way her broken skin plays against the more hardened, calloused insides of his palms.
“… And what is it that you want, Hak?” Her eyes reflect the clear moonlight as she asks him, the directness piercing his soul.
What he didn’t expect was the sudden, unexpected anger that coursed through him.
“You asked me to call you Princess,” he says, voice low, “and everyday, every second I do.” He pauses, now looking directly at her, allowing her to feel his frustration, “And every day, every moment, I am reminded of our previous life,” his hands grip hers, “your previous life, these scars that you should never have had, these wounds that you should never have borne” -
“I let you get hurt, I let this happen to you,” -
And before Hak could continue, his hands gripping her shoulders now, she cut short his self - beration, by pressing her lips against his, her broken, chapped lips, weathered under the continuous assault of her teeth, against his larger dry ones, the same ones that have taken up her dreams of late, in the sweeping, consuming motion, that had taken over his dreams since a time he can hardly remember.
His hands let go of her shoulder, circling around her tiny frame, and gathering her up as close as possible as he can, till her heart beat resonated through the fabric of his dress, his mouth unwilling to let go of her, reluctant to let go of the taste that it has craved since far too long.
When she does finally pull apart, cheeks flushed and her breathing heavy, he’s forgotten what he was saying but she hasn’t. She hasn’t forgotten his misplaced sense of guilt and the burden that he wants to carry all alone. And she doesn’t have the words for it right now, she hardly ever does, not when it comes to Hak, so she pulls him closer and places her lips on his once more.
The first time they talk about forever, there’s moonlight spilling on pale, creamy shoulders, and Hak’s lips feverishly planting a trail of kisses down her back.
The waters freezing, and the only thing that’s keeping her warm, is the warmth of Hak’s body, slick and straining behind her.
Her hair’s grown longer, and Hak is partial to tugging it, especially when she lets out a small moan, and arches her back, her neck, outward, giving him more canvas for his mouth.
He kisses her greedily, his teeth nipping where it wants, bruising where he feels possessive, and loving, spoiling, every single inch of her. It’s unbelievable how erotic it is, the feel of her small, slender body against his, the unrestrained moans that escape her marked throat as he touches her in the most intimate of places.
But that isn’t enough, not for her, and definitely not for him, and he whispers, commands, “… Wrap your legs around me, Princess.”
And she does, obedient to his orders, gasping as he pushes in to fill her, fill the warmth that only she can give him, wrapping her arms around her shoulders and muffling the moans of her pleasure into his strong shoulders.
He grows loud too, as he reaches his peak, kissing, open-mouthed and messy, while the ripples of the water get noisier.
Later, when she lies on top of him, covered only by his cloak, she traces idle circles onto his chest. “Hak…?”
“… Yes, Princess?”
“The dragons told me something,” she says softly, her breath tickling the hairs on his chest. “They say, that when King Hiryuu is born again, the dragons will, again, be reincarnated.”
She hesitates, but Hak hears the unspoken question in her pause, the unsurety in her quiet. “Well, so will the thunder beast, then,” he says, with a smile, nipping on the lobe of her right ear, and she laughs, forever amused with the nickname he had won as a child.
But she grows silent again, because he may have dismissed it, but it stays heavy on her mind, because she cannot imagine, how it would feel, how terribly lonely her soul would be, without her Hak by her side.
“You promise?” She asks, her voice, small.
He places a kiss on her knuckles and whispers, “Always.”