"Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose."
Yunho was carsick.
He'd never been carsick before.
Never felt the turning of his stomach every time Hongjoong would take a turn too hard or their RV would bounce over a pothole recklessly. Maybe it was the fact that he felt like he was a lone sock being bounced around in an ever turning washing machine.
So, here he was.
Body leaning over the edge, face in the breeze. Hanging out of the window like a child, or a puppy.
He felt too much like San, who also had his head out the passenger side window. Just for a completely different reason. San's smile was wide enough to surely blind any cars that happened to pass them by and the two golden ears that flopped over his brown hair were blowing furiously in the wind. It was a common sight. One that everyone had gotten used to. But Yunho didn't have floppy ears atop his head, didn't find joy in bugs splattering on his skin like the windshield.
He did, however, have a beautiful sight to keep his eyes trained on.
The sky was an impossible blue, one out of a storybook. Not a cloud in the sky could be seen, nothing blocking him from viewing the vast emptiness of the above.
Just above the tree lines, Yunho couldn't make out the details, but he could see two wings steadily flapping, two arms outstretched, and whenever the wind would pick up and swirl him around like nothing more than a cotton fluff, a loud laugh could be heard.
Yunho had seen him fly thousands of times.
But just like everything Seonghwa did, it amazed him every single time.
Two years they'd been together and sometimes, when Seonghwa would reach out and tuck a piece of hair out of his face, Yunho would relish in the sight before him. Delicate fingers with small black scales lining them, climbing up his wrists and forearms before melding into the soft, milky skin he found so much comfort in. Wings that yearned to be free tucked behind his back, black as night with talons on each end. People around them, the small talk on campus, called Seonghwa terrifying. Yunho called him magnificent.
"Hey, buddy. How we feeling?" Yeosang shouted over the wind.
Yunho, taking one last glance up at Seonghwa, dipped his head back in, crashing against the seat with a huff.
"I think it's this RV. There's too much space."
"Wasn't this your idea?" Mingi emerged from the back room, toweling his wet hair off.
"Well," Yunho paused, stretching his legs out, "Yeah. But that's besides the point." How was he supposed to know that this would make him sick? He'd never been in an RV before. No one in the vehicle had. But when Yunho suggested they all just get away, they pooled their money together to rent it for a month. Yunho had to admit the feeling of packing up all of his things and hurling it into the undercarriage on that first day was freeing.
But it wasn't really for him. It wasn't really for any of them.
Sure, they were all deflated after finals, eagerly awaiting results and staying up far too late refreshing grade pages. Jongho even took to pacing up and down the dorm hallway for hours and hours on end, each one of his friends tasked with bringing him water and snacks to make sure they didn't have a fallen solider on their hands. But no one needed to feel fresh air on their skin more than Seonghwa.
There was only one other flightful hybrid on their campus. A brilliantly blue winged macaw who Yunho had only met a handful of times in passing at parties when he was far too dazed to remember his name. Despite their able flying students, flight was strictly prohibited on campus. And in the city. And in the outlying suburbs.
Yunho knew there was a still a lot of mystery surrounding flightful species, he understood why they would have some reservations. They weren't as sociable as canines, like San, who made friends even when they would be standing in line to get groceries.
He understood but he didn't agree.
Because they didn't see how Seonghwa would cry because his back was in so much pain, he couldn't even get out of bed.
They didn't see the way, after months and months of being on the ground, Seonghwa's eyes were tearfully glued to the sky.
He didn't belong here.
Yunho turned his head and smiled lightly as the little black dot was growing larger.
"Hongjoong, slow down a bit. We've got a passenger incoming." Wooyoung nudged the driver, who quickly let his foot off the gas.
"I hate when he does this. Doesn't it stress you out? What if he just smacks right into the RV? Who is going to clean up the mess?"
Yunho stared at Jongho dumbly, "You're saying you're more worried about the mess my dead boyfriend would leave rather than the fact that he would, in fact, be dead?"
"We won't get the security deposit back." Jongho didn't even look up from the book he was reading and Yunho almost bit back but realized it would go nowhere. Trying to bicker with Jongho was a battle he would never see the other side of. Instead, he turned his attention back to the large van windows and pulled them open as wide as they would go, giving Seonghwa enough clearance to make a clean landing.
To answer Jongho's question, it absolutely stressed him out. But he felt better knowing there was much more room for him to land than there usually was in Mingi's beat up minivan.
"Dragon landing in," San was shouting from his spot still out the window, "5...4... —"
Yunho should've prepared himself for it, really.
But he didn't have time to steady his legs and when Seonghwa's body collided with his, the two tangled in a mess of limbs and screams, Yunho's back slamming against the other side of the van roughly.
"Sorry," Seonghwa mumbled as they both stood up, Mingi slapping a wing away from hitting him in the face, "I thought that would be smoother."
"No harm done."
There was harm. His back would be hurting for weeks, he was sure.
"The campsite is just a little ways away, I saw it while I was up there. Are you feeling any better?"
Seonghwa's hair was frazzled from the flight, his cheeks painted a dusty rose. He looked happy, happier than Yunho had seen him in a long time.
"I am now. Did you have fun up there?"
"Yes! The air is so fresh here," Seonghwa nodded his head towards San, "I'm sure he can vouch for that."
"Let's not take San's word on anything," Yeosang, the ever quiet walking cat, appeared next to Yunho, nearly scaring him to death, "I've seen him eat like twenty bugs."
Yunho scrunched up his face in disgust as Seonghwa and Yeosang shared a laugh at the unsuspecting canine's expense.
"Alright everyone, campsite road is rough so can you all sit down please?" Hongjoong called from the driver's seat, Wooyoung quickly pulling San inside.
Yunho and his aching back returned to the makeshift and torn up couch, Seonghwa thankfully joining next to him. Before he even had time to think, to even speak, he was shrouded in black and face to face with a toothy smile, glowing eyes.
"You know they hate when we do this." Yunho whispered, his nose bumping against Seonghwa's.
The wings that were wrapped around his body tightened a little, Seonghwa smiling, "I don't care."
Neither did Yunho, if you'd ask him.
The kiss was short but every bit as electrifying as he was expecting it to be. Kissing Seonghwa, with his hands on the dragon's thighs and his heart swelling in his chest, made him feel like he was the one who could fly. It had always been like that. Yunho had shared his lips with others before Seonghwa, but after? There was no one. There never would be anyone.
"Can you two," An object, that Yunho could only assume to be Jongho's book, came down against Seonghwa's wing, "Knock it off? I know what you're doing in there!"
Seonghwa placed a final peck on the tip of Yunho's nose before the light flooded around them again.
"One day you'll find love, Jongho. Maybe if you actually went out every once in a while instead of sticking your nose in every single available book in our library." Mingi chided, plucking the book from the boy's hands. Jongho rolled his eyes at this, crossing his arms over his chest.
"Books make excellent company, thank you very much."
"Okay, Aurora." Yeosang joined in with a snort.
Seonghwa furrowed his eyebrows at the nickname, "Aurora?"
"Yeah, from Sleeping Beauty. She loved books."
"Aurora didn't love books. She spent the entire movie sleeping. Belle, from Beauty and The Beast, she's the one who liked books."
"Wait, isn't that Ariel?"
"You've got to be kidding me, Yeosang."
"I'm serious! You don't know. It's Ariel, not Aurora. Or Belle. Belle was the ice queen."
"Oh, really?" This was getting too heated. Literally. When Seonghwa's temper rose, so did he body heat. Yunho felt like he was sitting next to a small fire as Seonghwa leaned forward, "I don't know? You think that Ariel the mermaid is in Beauty and The Beast? And Belle in Frozen? Have you ever even seen a movie? What is wrong with you?"
"Ariel isn't a mermaid! She's the one with all the books!"
"She has trinkets!"
"Books can be trinkets!"
"I swear to god, Yeos—"
"We're here!" Hongjoong shouted and Yunho breathed out a sigh of relief, thankful he didn't have to pull his far too strong for his own good boyfriend off of the skittish yet overly confident cat. It was a common occurance between the two and Yunho was almost one hundred percent convinced that Yeosang did it on purpose.
See, when San got angry, his ears would sit impossibly high on his head and his sharp canine teeth would make themselves known. When Yeosang got angry, the tiny claws where normal fingernails usually sat wouldn't hesitate to let you know how he was feeling. But with Seonghwa, it was a different story.
When he got angry, his body heated up to such a degree that even standing next to him would cause you to break out into a sweat and, if you pushed him hard enough, a small flame would pop up at the tip of his tail.
Needless to say, Yunho learned very early on what pissed Seonghwa off and he made sure to avoid it at all costs. He made physical notes.
Wooyoung called it a field guide.
Yunho just called it smart.
Because dating a dragon was nothing like dating a human.
But thankfully, there would no fire except for their camp one today. The boys exited the RV, all stretching out tired muscles and stiff joints, Yeosang and Seonghwa leaving their quarrel behind as they began to unpack.
"Can we sleep in a tent tonight?" Seonghwa held up the bag, a small smile on his lips, "Please?"
And how could Yunho deny that? Besides, he was getting tired of the eight of them cramming into one small back bedroom.
"Of course. You know how to set one up?"
Seonghwa shrugged, already walking towards the campsite, "It can't be that hard."
It was that hard.
Seonghwa wasn't able to set up the tent because his scales were too sharp, almost cutting through the polyester so Yunho was let to his own devices, an endless sea of metal rods and fabric collecting at his feet. But two hours and several obscene words later, the tent was pitched and Yunho placed his hands on his hips, feeling awfully proud of himself.
But then, realization struck.
"Wait, Hwa, how are we going to sleep in this thing? Your wings will just tear it up!"
His question was never answered.
Instead, the boys found themselves gathered around a pile of branches, surrounded by crudely placed rocks. All swapping stories of school and their futures and where they were headed next. Yunho's eyes were, as always, trained on Seonghwa. The other was puttering around the campsite, getting food ready and more than likely drowning out Wooyoung's story of where he wanted to work once he graduated in a couple years. Seonghwa, ever the diligent student, was on track to graduate after the next school year. He worked hard, harder than most.
And was really the only reason Yunho had been able to pull his grades up at all.
His once reckless nights fueled by smoke and Monster energy drinks and days of accidentally sleeping through his alarms became quiet moments in the library, taking more notes than he ever thought he would, and actually falling asleep before midnight. Seonghwa didn't force him to be better. He wanted to be.
He wanted to make him proud.
Because neither of them knew what waited for Seonghwa on the other side of college. He'd been looking for jobs here and there, almost always getting no return phone calls.
They both knew why.
So, he busied himself.
He continued to study because no one could take his education away from him. He joined clubs with like minded people. He stayed close to San and Yeosang, neither understanding exactly what he going through but both knowing what it was like to be different.
It was part of Yunho's field notes.
Seonghwa never liked to stand still when he was nervous or uncertain. They would go on walks around the city. Yunho would take him on a date to a twenty four hour diner at three in the morning. They would go see a horrible movie just to make themselves laugh. Or they would sit, just like this, with all of their friends. Because nothing about this group was uncertain.
"Seonghwa, can you help me out over here?" Hongjoong asked, huffing and puffing from his tireless attempts to start the fire.
"I can't just do it on command!"
"I got it!" Mingi shot up, Yunho rolling his eyes as he watched the other pull a packet of pepper from one of their bags.
"Why have we still not invested in matches? Or a lighter? You can't keep doing this to him."
"But it's so funny!" Mingi tore open the packet, dumping the black pepper corns into his palm, "Plus, it doesn't hurt you, right?"
Seonghwa may have been lying when he said no, but Yunho had to trust him. So he stood up, beer in hand, and joined the rest of their friends at a safe distance. Sometimes it was a spark, barely a flicker. Other times it was a raging forest fire. Mingi opened up his palm and quickly blew the pepper corns into Seonghwa's face before darting away, comically hiding behind Hongjoong. Yunho watched with pursed lips as Seonghwa's face contorted before he leaned over the pile of sticks, sneezing loudly.
"And then," San clapped his hands together, "There was fire! God, that's so cool. I can't do anything like that. I'm so jealous."
"Nothing to be jealous of," Seonghwa wiped at his nose, "It can be hazardous."
Yunho nodded at this, returning to his seat and almost laughing at the fact that he was now a professional at using a fire extinguisher and that the one time Seonghwa had tried to hold in a sneeze, little puffs of smoke came out of his ears.
What a life, really.
Thankfully, Seonghwa joined him, reaching over and interlocking their hands. Yunho looked down, wishing he was an artist. He would paint this moment. The reds and oranges of the flames dancing off of Seonghwa's scales so beautifully, he almost felt breathless. He removed his eyes from their hands and trained them on Seonghwa's face, now lit up with a wide smile as Mingi was telling a story Yunho wasn't paying attention to.
How anyone looked at Seonghwa and saw anything but perfection would always be beyond him.
"Stop staring." Seonghwa whispered, giving Yunho's hand a small squeeze.
"Because it still makes me nervous."
Field note number 48.
Seonghwa still treated every moment together like their first. Precious and fragile. And while most times it made Yunho's heart burn a lot brighter than the fire they were sitting in front of, sometimes it broke it. Yunho would never tell him but he always heard the whispers in his ear in the middle of the night. The "I love you"s dripped in so much desperation that he could cry at the sound. But he stayed still, with Seonghwa's hand on his chest and the unspoken promises of forever.
He stopped staring though. And instead, relished in the setting sun, the sounds of laughter, and the music coming from Yeosang's radio.
With the sun long gone and the long day of driving behind them, the group began to diminish until it was only Seonghwa and Yunho, picking this night to become night owls.
"Can we go on a walk? There's a cliff I wanted to go see. I bet the stars are really pretty."
Yunho just nodded, grabbing a flashlight before kicking dirt over the remaining flames. Seonghwa didn't need it, he could navigate the darkness with ease but Yunho would be damned if he went to go look over the edge of a cliff without the savior of light. Seonghwa led the way, much to Yunho's dismay as this meant dodging his unruly tail and batting away heavy wings that left bruises, through the dense forest, commenting on how much nicer this was than the motels they had been staying at. He was right, to a point, but Yunho was missing the comfort of a mattress and the lack of terrifying bugs making themselves comfortable on his skin.
But that was neither here nor there.
Because Seonghwa was right.
The stars were beautiful out here. When the forest cleared and nothing was in front of them but untouched land, Yunho exhaled loudly. Seonghwa stepped close to the edge, Yunho quickly reaching out to pull him back.
A flap of his wings, "That's okay."
Yunho had nothing to say to that. But he still kept his distance from the edge, peeking over only slightly. It was scary in an exhilarating way, unlike anything he'd ever felt before. Maybe this is what sky diving felt like. He wasn't sure. He never would be.
"I think I'm going to go."
Yunho knew what that meant.
"Okay. I'll wait up for you. I'm sure there's a," He looked around with the flashlight, eyebrows furrowed, "Stump or something I can sit on."
Seonghwa laughed at this, interlocking their hands once again, "You don't have to wait up for me. It's really late."
Time didn't matter. Yunho couldn't sleep without Seonghwa anyway.
He closed the distance between them, locking their lips in the type of kiss you only read about in fairy tales. The kind that wakes sleeping princesses and seals fates until the end of time. Seonghwa once said they were soulmates, tied by the red strings of fate. Yunho three years ago would've laughed at the idea. Yunho now would die on that hill.
"I'll be here when you get back."
Seonghwa didn't move for a while, just their foreheads resting together, the sounds of crickets and their own hearts beating filling the space around them.
"Thank you. I love you."
"And I love you."
It always happened quickly. The take off. And much more graceful than his landings. Yunho watching with shining eyes as Seonghwa danced among the stars. He made himself as comfortable as he could on the ground, not worrying about Seonghwa's silhouette growing smaller and smaller on the horizon.
Because of field note number 1.
Seonghwa would always come back to him.