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Your Sunrays are Honey in a Pot of Gold

Chapter Text

It was raining that night.

 

Namjoon had been in his quarters, ready to retire for the evening after a long tiresome day of preparing for the big event merely hours away. It was only a moon left until his brother, Yoongi, was to ascend to the throne their father once sat on.

 

The throne of the Kingdom of The Sun.

 

Yoongi, crown prince and Namjoon's beloved older brother, was finally about to take his place as ruler of the realm after more than two decades of waiting. To say that Namjoon was excited was an understatement. The young prince had actively participated in the preparations for the event, even going as far as visiting the townsfolk to ensure that no detail was left unchecked. His brother's coronation day was to be perfect. Namjoon had to make sure of it.

 

He prepared for bed that night knowing he had no stone left unturned, satisfied and full at the thought of finally being able to stand by his brother's side as advisor to the emperor.

 

That has always been their dream.

 

For as long as Namjoon could remember, him and Yoongi would talk about sharing that very same future together. Yoongi, as firstborn, was to be crowned emperor of Soleil and guardian of the realm of Aia. He was to rule all, be the just and fair leader their father had been. And Namjoon? Namjoon was gonna be right at his side, supporting him fully by being the emperor's advisor and head of the royal council. It was a grand dream for both of them, but they never once doubted it'd one day come true.

 

And it was about to. In just a few hours time, Yoongi was going to be as high as the sun that rose over their kingdom, and Namjoon would get to fulfill his role as the moon that always had his back. Everything they ever imagined they'll be doing as kids was finally coming true.

 

Which is why Namjoon was nothing less than confused when all of a sudden, the peaceful night was no longer peaceful. Outside his door, he could hear guards running in the hallway, barking orders and updates and reports.

 

He could hear their metal armor skidding against the marble floors with every step. Somewhere in the chaos, Namjoon could hear their mother's choked sobs, their father's desperate shouts of "Find my son!"

 

By the time he managed to reach his parents, everyone in the castle was awake, every torch lit and every guard dog set loose to follow whatever scent trail Yoongi must have left behind. Namjoon held his mother in his arms while his father tried not to show fear.

 

Namjoon had tried to stay calm through it all, for the sake of his parents, but his head was clouded and he had never felt panic that prominent before.

 

His brother was missing, and it all happened without any of them noticing until it was too late.

 


 

What was supposed to be a time of grand celebration turned into some of the darkest days in Namjoon's life. As time passed and no sign of Yoongi showed up, the kingdom grew cold, almost lonely.

 

Namjoon spent many sleepless nights trying to think of where his brother might have went. He would stay in his room, desperately attempting to visualize himself as his brother, but none of it seemed to work.

 

It was only until the day of the summer solstice did they finally get word from Yoongi.

 

In the form of a single letter.

 

A panting guard burst through the doors of the dining room where Namjoon and his parents were having breakfast, a single letter pinched between his fingers. Namjoon recognized the seal the moment he saw it. His reaction had been instantaneous. Popping the seal off one end, he hurriedly unfolded the slightly damaged parchment and read aloud the words written in what could only be Yoongi's careful penmanship.

 

Family,

 

I'm in good hands. Please, do not look for me.

 

Yoongi

 

Short, clipped, and extremely Yoongi-like. Namjoon almost let himself laugh at how in character the letter had been no matter how brief. He let the feeling of sweet relief sweep through him.

 

Yoongi was okay. He was okay.

 

Namjoon handed the letter to his parents, letting himself bask in those few moments of happiness. Beside him, his parents were silent. A flat minute later, their father heaved the heaviest sigh Namjoon has ever heard from him. He looked his youngest son dead in the eyes.

 

"We must talk.”

 

Namjoon felt it before he could hear it. He nodded, already knowing in the back of his mind what was about to happen. The moment they realized Yoongi might never come back, Namjoon already knew what responsibilities would fall on his shoulders.

 

He supposed now was the time to confirm it.

 


 

"My son, I hope you understand. You know I would never willingly have you carry these burdens but our kingdom—our realm needs a ruler."

 

Namjoon stood quietly observing as his father twisted his fingers behind his back. He had his back to Namjoon, looking out through the large windows in his study, so he had no idea what expression his father was wearing. He could only guess.

 

Another sigh, "and I am old, Namjoon. Yoongi was to take my place on the 60th year of my time as Emperor, as tradition calls. I cannot afford to stall that any longer. The rest of the realm has eyes on us, my son, they know there is something happening. The council has been at my throat about it, too, trying to present their own children as candidates for the throne. Those greedy little mongrels."

 

Namjoon nodded in understanding. Without the head, the snake will die. Soleil cannot be without a ruler. Yoongi had been trained his entire life to be just that, and finding a replacement for him is not a simple task. His brother carries great years of knowledge and experience, taught to him by the kingdom's best instructors. Those years cannot be compressed into a few days of learning, but they don't have years. They must act fast, or there will be dire complications.

 

Namjoon knew that. Namjoon understood that.

 

As the youngest son, second only in line to the throne, the younger prince who has been at Yoongi's side for every lesson and every venture, Namjoon knew what he had to do.

 

"Father," he started, waiting for the old king to face him. He showed him a smile. "I know my responsibilities. Please, do not worry yourself. You're much too old to still be doing that."

 

Although the atmosphere was tight with tension, Namjoon and his father managed to share a laugh. The old king rounded his table and reached out to embrace his son.

 

Namjoon never hugged his parents anymore, so the warmth of his father felt almost alien. Still, he let himself be comforted by it, a comfort he might not have the luxury of feeling once all this is over. They pulled away, and Namjoon saw what worry there was in his fathers eyes.

 

It was time for preparations to be made.

 

It was time for Namjoon to take his brother's place and become the next Emperor, ruler and guardian of the realm.

 


 

Namjoon was anxious, to say the least.

 

The moment he and his father finished talking, a kingdom-wide announcement had been sent out, letting the people of Soleil know that the problem will be fixed, and no one has to worry about anything any longer.

 

Namjoon met with his mother moments after, a sad yet proud smile adorning her features. Namjoon vowed to make her proud  of him just as they were for Yoongi, followed by a tight embrace. His mother cried then. Namjoon had to spend a little more time comforting her.

 

In what felt like the blink of an eye the kingdom was suddenly just as busy and bustling as it was merely days ago. The news of Namjoon's coronation may have already extended past their borders as well. The pressure rose with every minute that passed.

 

Namjoon had to fight not to get too overwhelmed.

 

He sat in the palace's library, reviewing the things he needed to remember with Yoongi's old instructors. History, politics, laws, monetary policies and a whole load of other things. Namjoon could handle that. Learning fast and efficient was his greatest strength. Plus, he already pretty much knew everything he was being taught. A refresher was still well appreciated, though.

 

Not too long afterwards, Namjoon was being passed on to other teachers.

 

While Namjoon had been with Yoongi in majority of his lessons, there were still a couple of things he wasn't that familiar with, and all those things he had to learn within the span of one, two months. By the end of it all, Namjoon had barely any energy left to smile. He's exhausted, but he never let himself falter, never once. He was doing this for the good of the kingdom, and he was not about to give up that easily.

 

So he carries on, attends all his lessons and listens closely to his teachers' words, preparing himself for the future ahead.

 

Three months in, Namjoon finds himself holed up in his study. He knew they were at the final stretches of preparing for his coronation. His, not his brother's, but his. This wasn't exactly the future he imagined for himself, but desperate times do call for desperate measures.

 

He heaves a sigh, picking his quill back up and flipping to the next page, all in the hopes of distracting himself from the slowly building anxiety threatening to swallow him whole.

 

Just then, a knock on the door. Namjoon jumps in his seat, startled.

 

Clearing his throat, the alpha quickly gathered himself. "Come in."

 

The doors to the study opened to reveal his mother and two handmaidens. Namjoon immediately relaxed at the sight of her familiar smile and met her halfway, pulling out a chair for her to sit.

 

"Mother," he greeted. Only then did Namjoon notice that instead of the usual gold and red of his father's house, his mother was wearing her own house's colors; green and white. She looked beautiful in it.

 

 

"My son," his mother spoke, voice as gentle as ever.

 

Namjoon sat on a chair across from her, already knowing that this isn't going to be a light chat. "Yes, mother?"

 

"You look tired. Have you been getting enough sleep?" There is worry evident in her voice. Namjoon nods, quick to dispel any concerns she might be carrying.

 

"A lot more sleep than I ought to, to be honest," he laughs, "you should be resting too, mother. I know you still think about brother."

 

The queen could only smile sadly at her son. She nods affirmative, not bothering to hide anything from the ever perspective Namjoon. "I wouldn't be a mother if I didn't." Namjoon could hear the sadness in her voice. He frowns, hating that this was far beyond his control.

 

"But anyway, that's not what I came here for, dear." His mother smiles this time, leaning forward in her chair.

 

"I came here to talk about your wedding."

 

Namjoon nearly chokes on nothing, an immediate coughing fit fighting to spill from his chest.

 

"My-My wedding?"

 

"But of course, my son. Every king must have a queen, every emperor an empress. I took this up with your brother several times before but he'd always avoid it. I'm not letting you do the same." His mother's smile grows wider.

 

One of the handmaidens steps forward, a glass case with velvet linings in her hands. She presents the box to Namjoon, who gratefully accepts it. The glass was intricately carved, garden motifs running across the edges of the lid. On the center, there was a green rose and the words "beloved" carved right below it. Namjoon ran his fingers over the details in wonder.

 

"That was your father's wedding gift for me. He had it made especially for our betrothal. I still remember how much his hands shook when he gave it to me." The queen laughed. Namjoon couldn't help but smile at her.

 

"It's beautiful, mother."

 

"It is, isn't it? Try opening it, dear."

 

Namjoon nodded, clicking the lock open and slowly lifting the lid. Inside, a crystallized green rose similar to the one on the lid sat, embedded slightly into the velvet. Namjoon gaped at it.

 

"Wow, father really went all out."

 

"He did. He told me he couldn't find a gift that could match my beauty, so he settled for the closest thing. Needless to say, I was flattered."

 

Both of them laughed then.

 

That sounded exactly like something the old king would say.

 

"I'm showing this to you," his mother reached over to place a hand on top of Namjoon's, "because one day you too will have to do the same for your beloved."

 

Namjoon's expression nearly faltered, but his mother saw right through it. Her hold on Namjoon's hand tightened. "If you will let me, it would be my honor to choose a bride for you, love. I know you would want more time to choose for your own, but we simply—"

 

"It's fine, mother. I'm not—I don't trust myself to make that decision either," Namjoon pursed his lips, handing the box back to the handmaiden who gave it to him. "So please, do choose for me. I trust you, more than anyone in the world."

 

The sad smile that once laced his mother's features were back, but this time it was more grateful than resigned.

 

"Thank you, my dear. I promise you will be happy. I promise."

 

That night, as Namjoon prepared for bed, he let himself think about what it would be like to have another person like his mother in his life. He figured it wouldn't be that bad.

 

Or at least that's what he tried to convince himself to believe.

 

Chapter Text

The weeks leading to his coronation day were filled with doubts. The nearer it drew, the more Namjoon questioned himself. Was he right for this position? Was he enough for the kingdom? He knew his responsibilities, but could he act upon them?

 

Often, he'd catch himself thinking about his inevitable betrothal right after the coronation, but more often than that he thought about his brother. Was this how Yoongi felt before his coronation as well? Nervous, doubtful, afraid? Namjoon always saw Yoongi as one of the strongest figures in his life. He was unwavering, a solid rock. His brother let him see his weaknesses only a handful of times. Sometimes Namjoon would wonder if he even had any, or if he simply didn't trust Namjoon enough to talk to him about it. He sighed.

 

There's no use thinking about that now. 

 

Time eventually flies. Before Namjoon knew it, he was already standing in front of a mirror, letting servants tighten his cuffs, button his shirt and drape a heavy cloak over his shoulders. Namjoon was dressed in the reds and golds of his kingdom, delicate details running along the garments. On his chest, he wore a platinum brooch in the shape of the sun. It glistened under the sunlight pouring from the tall windows lining the room.

 

Namjoon observed his reflection. The outfit he wore made him feel like a true alpha, regal, important, like he wasn't in his own skin. When he tried moving his arms, it was like he wasn't the one moving them. At that moment he didn't feel like Namjoon, second son of his majesty Kim Yeonsu, but Kim Namjoon, Emperor of the realm. He finally looked the part, but whether or not he felt like the part was up for debate.

 

The double-doors at the end of the room opened. Namjoon let his arms fall to his side, eyes never leaving his reflection on the mirror. The servants ushered away once they made sure everything was in place. Next to him, Namjoon could feel his father's presence 

 

"You look good, son." His father's voice was rigid, dry. Namjoon looked at him through the mirror. It looked like the years were finally catching up to the old king. He looked weaker now than he did years ago, more worn. The past few months must have been hard for him especially. Namjoon couldn't help but feel sorry for his father.

 

"The coronation wouldn't take that long, I can assure you. In fact, you should look forward to the celebration that happens afterwards. A grand ball held in your honor." The king made his way in front of Namjoon. He had a sad smile on his face despite the light joking tilt lacing his words. His parents seemed to have that in common.

 

Namjoon could only observe his father's wrinkled features as he reached forward to fix his brooch. 

 

"I am proud of you, my son. The proudest a father could be of his child." The king placed his hands on Namjoon's shoulders and just looked at his son's face. Namjoon felt his heart clench at the look in his father's eyes. The moment felt intimate, something only a parent and their offspring could share. 

 

At that moment, Namjoon made a decision. He was doing this for his kingdom and his people, but he was doing this especially for his parents. His parents who raised them with discipline and unconditional love. His parents who gave them the opportunity to live happily. He was doing this for them. 

 

Them, and Yoongi. No matter how far away he may be. Namjoon knew he had inentions behind his actions, so until he was prepared to come back, Namjoon would do this for him. He had to stay strong.

 


 

 

The coronation really hadn't taken that long. 

 

After saying his vows and receiving blessings from the priestesses of The Shrine, Namjoon was made to wear the heavy golden crown he used to see on his father's head. It had been altered the slightest bit, now embedded with rubies and lined with diamonds. It felt like a symbol of power resting atop the prince–no, the Emperor's head. He let himself adjust to the feeling as the people inside the temple bowed to their new king. Outside, the people of Soleil, both noble and commoner alike, cheered. The coronation was successful, and now it was finally time for the festivities to begin. 

 

"The crown looks like it had been made for you, son" was the first thing Namjoon's mother said as she approached the carriage they will be using to ride back to the palace. Namjoon smiled sheepishly at her, adjusting the crown seated on his blonde locks.

 

"It feels a little strange." He touched the golden material, running his fingers over the gems. "New, somewhat." 

 

"This one is heavier than the one you used to wear, isn't it?" His mother laughed, seating herself inside the carriage. Namjoon followed suit, sitting across her seat. 

 

"A lot heavier. It probably weighs twice as much. I don't know how father could wear this as often as he does." 

 

Another laugh from his mother. Namjoon smiled up at her. Seeing his parents happy never fails to brighten up Namjoon's own mood. Namjoon's father arrives shortly after to both his son and his wife still laughing, the golden crown set aside and a happy atmosphere clouding the worries their family has been bearing for some time. Namjoon only wished Yoongi was there to share this moment with them.

 


 

The ball was grand, to say the least. 

 

Namjoon would never put it past his parents to throw extravagant parties. While their family may be humble, they were still the head household of, well, pretty much the entire realm. 

 

The entire ballroom of the castle was decorated with items that showcased the beauty of Soleil and all the other kingdoms of Aia. Golden draperies decorated the walls, crystal-laden chandeliers hung high above the ceiling, long tables filled with exquisite dishes lined the sides of the room. It was bright and warm and Namjoon could barely see the end of the hall. Even the gardens outside were teeming with people. It was one of those few occasions that commoners got to mingle with nobles. Namjoon's father made it clear  that tonight was a night not just for his son, but for the people, and there shall be no social divides present under his watch. 

 

Namjoon was grateful for that, for he could watch his people talk and eat and have fun up close. As close as he can get, at least. 

 

He let himself breathe a sigh. Although this ball was held in his honor, Namjoon was not allowed to leave his place at the very front of the hall. He sat on a plush, velvety seat that had a backrest twice as tall as his upper body, surrounded by a semi circle of guards who were not all that fun to talk to. He fought to stop himself from slumping down and looking bored, because that's not something he could show to his people.

 

So he watched from where he sat. He watched the local blacksmith talk to the daughter of a noble house, watched the baker attempt to woo the milkman, watched a dutchess fret over spilling wine on a poor handmaiden's dress. He watched many different lives come together that night, counting the minutes as they pass by. 

 

Eventually, when Namjoon was sure he couldn't take the boredom anymore, his mother climbed up the steps to the raised platform where Namjoon's chair was to join him. She held up a glass and clinked it. Almost immediately, the entire room turned to face them. Namjoon felt a bit uncomfortable at the sudden attention. 

 

"Everyone, it is finally time for the dance to formally begin. The Emperor," Namjoon forced a smile as his mother gestured towards him, "will finally get to meet his people personally. The night is still young, so go, enjoy! And may we all remember this historic night until the end of time. To the kingdom!" 

 

The room erupted into cheers. Namjoon was on his feet the moment his mother's speech ended. He'd been itching to move, and now that he was finally able to, he planned on making the most of tonight. Before he was able to so much as step off the platform however, his mother takes him by the arm and pulls Namjoon through the crowd.

 

"Joon-ah," there's a giddy tilt to her voice. Namjoon tries not to stumble as he's dragged past people who immediately part and apologize for being in their way (Namjoon absolutely does not feel bad about it, nope). 

 

"Mom, what–where are we going?" He managed to huff out. Just then, he bumps into a woman's shoulder. Namjoon barely managed to catch her expression turn from angry to surprised to flustered as he mumbled an apology.

 

"Remember I told you we were going to find you a bride, son?”

 

Namjoon could only sag his shoulders in defeat. He'd been trying not to think about the whole wedding thing, but it really was inevitable. His parents got married merely a fortnight after his father's coronation, and he supposes he will be sharing the same fate. 

 

A few more steps away, they stop, hiding in the crowd. His mother gestures towards a woman dressed in what could only be Vanyrian silk, the most expensive fabric known to mankind. It was decorated with rhinestones and emeralds. The woman was wearing accessories made of emeralds as well, a nice little emerald band tying her hair together. From this distance, Namjoon could smell the faint scent of vanilla in the air. She looked like the perfect image of nobility. Namjoon felt strangely detached at the sight of her.

 

"Lady Ahn of Vanyr. A refined woman. She's well versed in poetry and music. She's also quite well known for her talent in languages." His mother had her hands on Namjoon's arm, sounding a lot more happy than she ought to be. "What do you think, son?"

 

Namjoon tried picturing a future with Lady Ahn. She definitely seemed like a wonderful person, but he didn't really feel a possible connection between them. Namjoon faced his mother, a small frown curving his lips downwards. She immediately understood, nodding and quickly pulling Namjoon away again. 

 

This time, they stopped near the dinner tables. His mother gestured to a slim man who was nibbling on a piece of cake. Unlike Lady Ahn, the man smelled a little stronger, a little heavier, but light enough to make Namjoon feel like he was standing in the middle of a river. He was dressed much more simpler than Lady Ahn as well, with dark blue trousers and a matching top, silver lining the edges of his outfit. Namjoon was a bit more interested in him than Lady Ahn, but the detachment was still present. 

 

His mother nudged him. "Master Jaehyung of the Southern Isles. Their family owns quite a big land. He's very into exotic cuisines, even has a collection of rare ingredients in his home. He's also quite the diplomat. I'd say he's just as good at negotiations as you." Namjoon could hear the smile in his mother's voice, but he still couldn't bring himself to say yes.

 

So they keep looking. Namjoon's mother takes him around the ballroom, introducing him to potential partners and none of them quite feeling right to him. As the hours tick by and Namjoon starts to feel a little bit worn with all that they've been doing, his mother finally runs out of people to introduce. They stand at the middle of the ballroom, another sad look on his mother's face. 

 

"None of them, Joon-ah?" 

 

Namjoon tries for a tired smile before shaking his head. His mother sighs in defeat. "This is a lot harder than I thought it would be." 

 

Namjoon immediately feels bad. He didn't want to disappoint his mother, but he also couldn't bring himself to lie about what he felt about these people. Namjoon knows that even if he got to know them, he would not feel anything for them. Despite the circumstance he was in, Namjoon still believes that he should at least be able to know that he's capable of learning how to love a person before he commits to them. 

 

"I'm sorry, mother. I know I asked you to choose for me, but I just don't.." He trailed off, knowing that his mother knew what he was trying to say. She simply nodded, albeit a little weakly. Namjoon's heart clenched. 

 

"Well," his mother hummed in thought, "there is still the letter."

 

"The letter?" Namjoon cocked his head. He didn't know of any letter. 

 

"Ah, yes. We received a letter a few moons ago, your father and I. It was a letter asking for a presentation." His mother explains. Namjoon's still a little lost. 

 

"A presentation?" 

 

"A presentation for an omega to become an alpha's mate. It's a very old tradition and is not very well known anymore, so your father and I thought to keep it only as a last resort." 

 

Namjoon nods. He was trying to flip through his mental library of their realm's history, locating where and when that tradition may have originated. He hasn't read much about traditions concerning the mating of two souls, mostly because he wasn't very interested in it to begin with. Now, however, he must admit that he was a bit curious. 

 

His mother looked a little restless where she stood, a palm placed gently over her chest. "I've been trying to see if whoever sent the letter would come here tonight, but so far none of the guests–"

 

Just then, a cold wind blew across the hall. Despite his attire and the cloak he was wearing, Namjoon's body still shivered. A second passed, and suddenly all eyes were directed towards the entrance of the room. Namjoon hadn't noticed until he realized the crowd was parting to make way for something, or someone. 

 

When the crowd cleared, Namjoon suddenly found himself looking at people he has never seen before. He drew closer to his mother on instinct. In a flash, his father was standing next to them as well. He probably felt the new visitors' presence too. Namjoon's alpha senses started to climb.

 

Strangers, not of this land, inside his home. 

 

A whole group of people–no, guards now stood in front of Namjoon and his parents. They were all wearing white, their skin deathly pale but hair as black as the night sky. Unlike the fancy multi-colored garments of the other guests, they wore thick layers of pure white fur and white-dyed hide. Their eyes held a steely gaze in them, sharp and piercing. They formed an arc, as if they were hiding something behind themselves. This made Namjoon's hairs stand on end.

 

Before he could say anything, one of them emerged from behind the arc. A tall man, possibly around Namjoon's height, who looked similar to the rest of the guards but with hints of red in his outfit. Unlike them, however, he was smiling. A joyful, polite smile that made Namjoon uneasy. He tried smelling the air around him as the man drew closer, but he wasn't able to pick up anything sinister, only the faint smell of... of snow. He was most likely a beta. 

 

The man spread his arms and bowed deeply. "Your majesties," he greeted, standing back up to flash them a smile, "we do apologize for arriving late. The journey here was excruciating." There was an odd accent lacing the man's words, as if speaking their language was something new to him. Namjoon raised an eyebrow at him. The man quickly reacted. 

 

"Ah yes! My apologies. I am Kangmin, adviser to the king Hongsun of the North." 

 

An audible gasp spread through the crowd. Namjoon himself was at a loss for words for a split second. The north, better known to his people as The Boreads, was a land of desolation. No life could thrive in such an extreme weather. It's borders were surrounded by tall mountain ranges, so even if anyone were to travel there, it would've been nigh impossible to reach. To think that there are people claiming to be from the north right here, in front of him. Namjoon didn't know what to think. 

 

The man seemed to take this reaction in stride. His smile only grew wider. "I am sure," he started, voice low and smooth, "that you have received our letter, your majesties?"

 

This time, it was Namjoon's mother who gasped. So it was them who sent it. Namjoon took it upon himself to respond on his mother's behalf. 

 

"Yes, we've received your letter." 

 

"Excellent!" came the immediate response. "Seeing as we have arrived just in the nick of time, not a single second can be wasted anymore!" 

 

The man clapped twice, and suddenly the guards broke formation. Namjoon and the rest of the room watched as layers upon layers of guards parted with the man standing to the side. For some weird reason, Namjoon felt his heartbeat pick up. He took even breaths, waiting until the last line of guards left their formation. 

 

Then hit him.

 

For a split second, Namjoon felt delirious. The scent of snowy forests and rose bushes and–and honey hit him right in the chest. It probably wasn't a strong scent for the others, but for an unmated alpha like him, the scent felt like an avalanche. Sudden and strong and honestly pretty mind-blowing. It took a while for his vision to clear, but once it did, he felt his chest constrict even harder this time. 

 

If Namjoon's jaw wasn't attached to his skull, he doesn't know where it might have ended up by now. Standing in front of him, just a small distance away, was quite possibly the living embodiment of a deity. 

 

The omega–he was definitely an omega–was dressed in snow white garments that flowed right behind him. There was a cape over his shoulders much like Namjoon's, but his had fur lining the top before it eventually faded into sheer material. He wore what looked like a dress underneath, with a top that ended right below his chest and a trained skirt that looked even puffier than a ball gown. The white fabric had red trimmings, matching the arrangement of accessories the omega wore on top of everything. Silver and ruby encrusted everything; earrings, necklace, an ornate headpiece. Namjoon could tell the ensemble was not made anywhere else but in the North.

 

Then there was the omega himself. Namjoon felt his brain stutter trying to find words to describe him. He-he was beautiful. If beautiful was a human being, Namjoon was probably staring at him right now. His skin was just as fair as his companions', clear and unblemished. His smooth hair was the darkest shade of black Namjoon has ever seen. His lips resembled the rubies in his headpiece and his eyes–oh gods his eyes. Namjoon swallowed when their eyes met. The omega's eyes were the sharpest silver, bright and calculating. He stared at Namjoon as if he was staring right at his very soul. It made the alpha shiver. 

 

The omega standing before him felt dangerous. Namjoon was drawn to him, far too much for someone he just met. It was the first time he ever felt the urge to mark, to mate, and he scowled at how animalistic the urges were. He was better than that. But then the omega held his gaze and whimpered. Whimpered. Namjoon almost had whiplash. He heard the omega whimpering from way over where he stood and all of a sudden he felt primal urges awaken inside him, urges he thought were non-existent in the first place.

 

"I would like to introduce," Namjoon's ears took a while to adjust to Kangmin's voice, "Kim Seokjin, only child of his majesty Kim Hongsun of the North and one of the four beauties of Aia."

 


 

Needless to say, Namjoon hadn't much thought in his mind for the rest of the night other than the omega he just met. 

 

After the initial introduction, Namjoon had the chance to talk to his parents about it. They already knew before he could even say anything, his mother smiling and talking about how Namjoon had never looked so love struck in his life. They made him sit back down on the platform at the front of the hall while they went and spoke to the omega and his adviser. 

 

Namjoon felt anxious to see him again, surprising himself. He's never felt that way about anyone, ever. His alpha has never reacted so strongly like that to anything either. These sensations were all new and admittedly scary. 

 

While waiting for something, anything to happen, Namjoon recounted what he knew about the four beauties that Kangmin had mentioned. 

 

In Aia, there was a legend of four beautiful maidens who each lived in the different capitals. It was said that their offsprings were just as beautiful as they had been, and for centuries it seemed as though generation after generation of these four maidens existed. Namjoon thought he'd never get to meet any of them in his lifetime, but he has, and now he's not quite sure what to do.

 

"Seokjin." Kim Seokjin.

 

The name still felt rough on his tongue, foreign and strange. 

 

Up until now, Namjoon (and frankly everyone else), had no idea the northern mountains were populated. To think that they've been hiding quite possibly the most beautiful human being to ever exist there, one of the four beauties no less–Namjoon was baffled. 

 

To make things worse, that human being was apparently being presented to him. He had the choice marry him, to make him his bride, his mate. Namjoon's head felt a little floaty. To be given this choice felt like far too much of a privilege. He doesn't think he's allowed to have this choice. He doesn't deserve to have this choice. But he does, he does and it's terrifying. 

 

He sat there, waiting for the night to end. The halls were already starting to get less crowded. People were going back to their homes, back to their kingdoms after a festive day. Some of them would glance his way, then to the white-clad strangers who were standing off to the side in an organized line.

 

Namjoon could see the smallest hints of worry in their eyes, an evident fear for the kingdom's safety. Some of them looked distraught at the idea of Northerners in their home. They're practically ghosts here. They were never supposed to exist. Namjoon still had to wrap his mind around it too, but ghost people or not, the northern lands were still part of Aia, and therefore part of the realm he vowed to protect. He wasn't about to subject these people to unfair treatment, especially now that he was aware of their existence. 

 

Especially now that he has seen what beauty is hidden behind those mountains. 

 

Namjoon adjusts his collar. Thinking about the omega made his skin feel prickly, warm. He didn't know if it was because of the temperature in the room or the fact that at age 25, Namjoon's only previous exposure to omegas were his mother and a few of their mated servants. He'd been raised in the presence of alphas and betas, partly due to tradition, mostly due to societal norms. To be in the presence of an omega like Seokjin… 

 

Namjoon tried not to let the heat travel any lower than his stomach.

 

As the night aged, the ballroom slowly emptied. Soon, only the servants were left in the hall with Namjoon and the guards from earlier. They never moved an inch from their post, making the servants visibly uncomfortable. Namjoon had been conversing with one of the guards concerning the safety of the guests as they left, but he still noticed how desperately they were avoiding them. He tried not to feel too bad about it. 

 

"–made sure they were escorted properly outside the borders. As for the townsfolk, some of them were still in the gardens, though those who stayed are now being guided outside as we speak." The guard finished his report. Namjoon nodded and thanked him, standing from his seat. Now that the guests were all accounted for, he figured it was about time he went looking for his parents. 

 

His parents, not the beautiful omega he cannot stop thinking about. Definitely not. 

 

Namjoon dismissed the guards who had been standing near him all night before exiting the hall. He hadn't even been able to walk that far when he spotted his mother walking towards his direction in the adjoining corridor.

 

"Joon-ah!" She looked vibrant, happy. The talk must have went well. Namjoon started making his way towards her as well.

 

"Mother, how did it go?"

 

"Oh! It went wonderfully!" His mother took his hands in hers, gently squeezing. "Your father is very happy with everything we've talked about. You see, your marriage will not only secure your place as king, but it will also forge a steady alliance between us and the northern kingdom. They finally wouldn't have to hide anymore, Joon-ah." 

 

The excitement in his mother's voice cannot be concealed. It made Namjoon feel happy himself, but his mother's last sentence made him raise an eyebrow in question. 

 

"They've been hiding?" 

 

"For centuries, son. Centuries. If your wedding pushes through, they would no longer have to. You will be able to bridge the gap between the northern lands and the rest of our realm! That is, if you're willing to proceed with the wedding...?"

 

There was a hint of pleading in his mother's voice. Namjoon tried to clear his head first. The thought of marrying the omega was affecting his rationality. Seokjin is... undeniably perfect. He was only with him for what felt like a split second, but Namjoon could tell he was as traditional as traditional omegas went. Beautiful and raised to be well-mannered, probably with mastery in the many different arts. There's no doubt he was also… trained to take care of children. He was the kind of omega that people would expect him to marry and start the next line of royalty with.

 

But these were all just things that made him an omega. Namjoon didn't want to dive into this without first knowing what made him Seokjin

 

Namjoon smiled at his mother, putting his hands over hers to squeeze them this time. 

 

"It would be my honor to have him as my bride, mother," the queen immediately looked like she was ready to celebrate, but Namjoon cut her off before she could say anything, "but. But. I would also like to get acquainted with him first, get to know him better. Is that not a better option to start with?"

 

Namjoon hoped his mother understood what he was really trying to say. While it's a great privilege to, I wouldn't want to marry someone I barely know, no matter how beautiful he may be. Thankfully, she seemed to get it. The smile she wore turned into something more genuine. She reached up to caress Namjoon's cheek. 

 

"I had a feeling you were gonna say that. Come, I'm sure you would love to see him again."

 

His mother led him down the hallway to the room adjacent to the courtyard. Namjoon barely had seconds to gather his thoughts and compose himself. He'd been wanting to see the omega again, yes, but he didn't think it would be so soon. The closer they got to the room, the more suffocated Namjoon felt. 

 

Once they were outside familiar doors, Namjoon could hardly stop his throat from constricting. It was faint, but his brain immediately registered the traces of honey and roses in the air. Something in him was starting to wake and he can feel it in the pit of his stomach. Was this really how alphas reacted to omegas? He didn't think it would be so strong. 

 

Two gentle knocks and the doors were pulled open. Namjoon had to steady his breathing. The scent was back full-force, but he was expecting it this time. He stood rigid, trying not to be too affected by it. Inside the room, his father, the adviser, Kangmin, and the object of his struggles sat. The moment they saw them enter, Kangmin and his father immediately stood, both wearing pleased expressions. He hadn't managed to get a single word in when, "Son, you're here. Allow us to take our leave. It would be best if the two of you had some time alone."

 

Namjoon let out a surprised sound at his fathers words. They were leaving them. Alone. When Namjoon wasn't even able to get proper hold of himself yet. He moved to stop them from leaving, but they were already making their way out of the room by the time he made it to where his father stood merely seconds ago. When the doors closed behind them, Namjoon's brain stopped processing. 

 

He was alone. In a room. With an omega he hardly knew but was fully capable of rendering him mute with a single glance. He had his back to the said omega, but he can still feel his strong gaze. 

 

A heartbeat, two, three. Namjoon stood, unmoving. Behind him, he heard the rustling of fabric. And then, silence.

 

"Alpha."

 

Namjoon's system felt like it was going to go haywire. The omega's voice was light, airy, submissive. He's never heard such a satiny voice before. It sounded like velvet flowing in a steady stream of water on a snowy mountain top. It sounded like everything Namjoon loved and wanted in the world and damn. Damn his alpha instincts. Damn his inability to think about anything other than how good that voice will sound when the owner is being pressed against the sheets and fucked mindless. 

 

There were probably crescent marks on Namjoon's palms from how hard he was clenching his fist.

 

Breathe, Namjoon.

 

He breathed in a sharp inhale, chest rising with the action. When he turned around, he put on the best impression calm that he can manage. Seokjin was staring at him the same way he did earlier, as if he was calculating Namjoon's every move, every breath. Namjoon had to pretend not to be affected by it. He squared his shoulders, settling down onto the divan situated across the one Seokjin sat on. The only thing separating them was a carpet, a wooden table, and Namjoon's thinning resistance to Seokjin's deliciously fragrant scent. 

 

"Kim Seokjin, was it? Of the northern mountains." Namjoon's throat felt scratchy, but he managed to force his voice out. It was time to let his diplomat side to take over. Diplomat Namjoon was a smooth talker, confident and unafraid to face even the biggest crowds. If he wanted to properly converse with Seokjin, this side of him was his best bet. He put on a dimpled smile and waited for Seokjin to respond.

 

The omega was unmoving, expression blank. He sat straight, hands on top of each other on his lap, looking every bit the poised omega Namjoon expected him to be. It took a while for Seokjin to speak again, and when he did, he sounded like he just finished running a check on the other.

 

"Yes, Alpha," came the short reply. Namjoon blinked, expecting a bit more than that. The conversation hadn't even started yet and it already felt stiff. If worse came to worse, he honestly had no idea how to steer this onto a better direction. It's not like diplomat Namjoon had much experience talking to possible mates anyway. He cleared his throat and tried for another smile.

 

"You came all the way here from the north. The journey must have been arduous."

 

Seokjin blinked once.

 

"Yes, Alpha."

 

"You had to brave the mountain passes and the cold

seas."

 

"Yes, Alpha."

 

"And traveled for days on land just to reach our

kingdom."

 

"Yes, Alpha."

 

"You must be very tired."

 

"Yes, Alpha..."

 

Namjoon tried his best not to frown. It seems Seokjin's vocabulary was limited to those two words only. 

 

"...You are a man of few words, I see." 

 

This time, Seokjin didn't even bother answering. He simply stared at Namjoon as if he had just said something incredibly stupid. Namjoon really tried not to frown.

 

"Well, why don't you tell me about yourself then? That should give you something else to say other than 'Yes, Alpha." 

 

Seokjin regarded him for a while longer, then his eyelashes fluttered down, as if he was actually considering this. Namjoon held his breath, hoping to get something out of the omega, something that could prompt an actual conversation. 

 

"I... There is nothing much to say." He replied, voice a little quiet. Namjoon noticed the same accent in his words that Kangmin had. It felt as if he was new to speaking their tongue. Namjoon wouldn't be too surprised, considering the Northerners probably had an entirely different way of living in their snowy lands. Still though, learning an entirely new language was an impressive feat, especially when you're from a land as secluded as the North.

 

Namjoon leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees. He purposely lowered himself to not appear as intimidating to the omega, just in case he did feel intimidated by being alone in a room with an alpha. 

 

"There must be something."

 

Seokjin kept looking down. Namjoon noticed the way his fingers twisted together, as if he was unsure whether to answer the question or not. Namjoon stayed silent, once again waiting for a response. 

 

Seokjin eventually looked back up to meet the alpha's gaze. Unlike just a few seconds ago, his icy gray eyes had a little more emotion in them. 

 

"I am," a pause, "Kim Seokjin, only child of his majesty king Hongsun of the North. I was sent here to be presented a-as your bride, and to bridge–to bridge the–" 

 

Seokjin halted, biting onto his lower lip. Namjoon sat back up at the sudden spike in Seokjin's scent. All of a sudden the honey and roses, which only seconds ago were cold and calculating, were being drowned out by the stuffy smell of anxiety, panic. Seokjin lowered his head, lacing his fingers together and clenching, hard. Namjoon's instincts flared when he noticed the slight shake of the omega's shoulders.

 

Seokjin shook his head, still lowered. "My-My apologies, Alpha, your highness, I-I cannot–" 

 

Namjoon felt the overwhelming urge to comfort the omega heat up his chest. He had no idea what was going on, or what he said to cause such a panicked reaction from Seokjin, but he could feel himself panicking because of it too. Did he say something wrong? Was his body language too dominating? Maybe he shouldn't have tried to have a conversation with Seokjin in the first place. 

 

He slowly got up from his seat, hands poised in surrender as he tried to step closer towards the omega. Seokjin was gripping the fabric of his skirt now, the panic in his scent climbing steadily. It made Namjoon's head swim–it was suffocating.

 

Just then, the doors opened and in came Kangmin. He made a beeline for Seokjin, sitting himself next to the omega. Namjoon felt strangely miffed at the proximity between the two, especially when Kangmin gripped Seokjin's shoulders. Seokjin never once lifted his head.

 

Kangmin, on the other hand, was smiling directly at the alpha despite having his body turned towards Seokjin. 

 

"I apologize, your highness." Kangmin's voice was clipped. "You see, prince Seokjin–" beside him, the omega yelped, "–has been slacking off quite a bit on his language lessons. It is still hard for him to converse in your tongue, and being so far from home must be making him anxious too."

 

Namjoon gave a curt nod as a response. He wasn't entirely listening though, much too focused on the tension in the omega's shoulders. Namjoon's body was confused, his instincts yelling at him to get the omega out of there because his anxiety no longer smelled like anxiety, but fear. Raw, unfiltered fear. It was so pungent Namjoon had to fight the urge to cover his nose. He wanted to act on his instincts, but he couldn't. That would be a clear sign of disrespect–so he nodded and stepped back.

 

"Very well, let him rest then. It must have been a tiring day. We will ask the servants to prepare rooms for you both, though the prince might be more comfortable staying in a room near the queen's," at this, Seokjin glanced back up. Namjoon tried for a smile. "She's the only other omega in our family, after all."

 

With that, he bowed, not bothering to address the implied meaning behind his words. He may have been letting his rationality win over, but he couldn't just ignore his alpha. He didn't want the adviser in the same room as Seokjin, and so he won't be. He bid the two farewell and made his way back out.

 

After explaining what happened to the king and queen (although there wasn't really much to explain in the first place), Namjoon excused himself and retreated to the comfort of his own chambers. He didn't even bother asking for help, simply stripped off the heavy garments and slid in the warm waters of his personal bath. Today was... something else. He didn't exactly expect it to go the way it did. It was long, and exhausting indeed. Had it not been for Seokjin's arrival, Namjoon probably wouldn't have lasted the night.

 

Oh, Seokjin. Namjoon can still smell honey and roses in the air. He looked up, strangely calmed by the scent. He could only hope that it would linger.

Chapter Text

It was nearly afternoon when Namjoon woke up the next day.

Bright sunlight penetrated through the gaps between the heavy draperies hanging over tall windows. Usually, it'd be drawn back by now, the owner of the room already out and about busying himself with activities to do for the day.

At that very moment however, it remained closed. Namjoon must have been really tired last night to oversleep this much. Momentarily, he was devoid of any memories from the day before, too busy trying to soothe the ache in his neck blooming steadily from having had slept in a weird position. He slowly dragged his legs off the edge of the bed, making the mattress dip off one side as he sat, thinking, rubbing his hands down his face.

The prince felt groggy, tired despite having just woken up, until it all comes flooding back in.

Namjoon froze right there.

One second his head was a mess of nothing and then suddenly it's all just there. His coronation, his new title and the responsibilities that come with it, the ball—oh god, the dripping scent of honey and roses in snow, the want, the fear, the steely gaze melting into uncertainty and the hot mix of feelings boiling in the pit of Namjoon's stomach.

Seokjin.

Seokjin was there, just a few rooms away from his, and suddenly a brick wall of emotional turmoil comes crashing onto him. Namjoon holds his head in his hands, the beginning trickles of a massive headache making him groan.

The desire in his chest burned. Namjoon could hardly breathe through it.

Standing up on unsteady feet, he clumsily made his way to the bath, almost knocking over several items on the way. Namjoon needed to clear his head, and fast. He was a ruler now, officially the head of the snake. He had a lot of work to do, and he just wasted half a day not doing any of that work. Whether that work meant paperwork or doing something about his pending engagement with quite probably his first love, he's not quite sure yet.

 


 

Namjoon found out soon enough what work meant.

He sat at the head of their dining table (which was weird, a feeling he'd probably never get used to) with his parents on either side and Seokjin and Kangmin on the seats that followed. They had been conversing enthusiastically when Namjoon arrived, with the exception of Seokjin, who looked like he hadn't said a word since. He did look at Namjoon when he entered the hall however, an almost gently resigned expression on his face. Namjoon didn't know what to make of it. He sat himself down anyway.

 


 

Lunch was uneventful. Just Namjoon trying to eat past the ache both in his head and in his muscles, occasionally throwing in comments while his parents talked with Kangmin about what life was like in the North. Namjoon decided he wanted to hear those details personally from someone else.

Every now and then, Namjoon would steal glances at Seokjin. The omega barely touched his food, and whenever he did, it was with extremely measured movements. Namjoon found himself eating less and less the more Seokjin measured what was on his spoon before eating it. It made him feel strangely uncomfortable.

"Joon–ah."

Namjoon's attention snapped to where his mother was seated. That hopeful smile was back, a twinkle in her eyes that meant she expected something from Namjoon. It was a much better look than the one she'd been carrying these past few months.

Namjoon regarded her before the rest of the table.

"Son, I think your mother and I have decided," his father paused, glancing sideways at his mother before continuing, "that your engagement with Prince Seokjin would be for the greater good of both our kingdoms and the realm."

Namjoon hated the way that was phrased. It made it seem like they were only doing this for the benefits that came with it which, admittedly they were, but Seokjin was beyond the benefits. Namjoon hadn't met anyone he truly wanted to get to know better in a while, get acquainted with on a much more personal level. He didn't want Seokjin to think otherwise.

He gestured for his father to carry on.

"You know it's always one of our main priorities as the capital of the realm to ensure that all the other kingdoms are well accounted for. This is our opportunity to do that for the northern kingdom. They've been hiding for centuries, son. Hiding from the rest of the world because they were afraid of crossing their borders and expanding," his father reached over the table to grasp Namjoon's resting fist, "we could help change that."

"Might I also add, your highness," Kangmin spoke up, raising a hand politely, "that our lands aren't as desolate as you might think. It is extremely abundant with natural resources and the connection we'll be forming by your marriage will give you access to all of that." The pride in the adviser's voice was high and stringy. Namjoon's starting to develop a dislike for it.

"Seokjin is a wonderful omega as well, Joon–ah." It was his mother who spoke this time. Namjoon turned towards her, the guarded look he didn't know he was wearing quickly fading away. "He's very well–mannered and versed in various studies. I think," she leaned in to whisper, a smile dancing on her lips, "you might have a lot more in common than any of us thought."

"So what do you say, son? The final choice is still up to you."

Namjoon pursed his lips. He knew this conversation was going to happen eventually. He didn't expect it to happen the day after he met Seokjin, on the dining table no less, but it was here and he couldn't avoid it now (or ever, for that matter). He took another sip of his soup before steadying himself. One look around the table and he already knew what answer was expected of him, as well as the underlying consequences of saying no.

A deliberate insult. An act of war.

They accepted the invitation, entertained their guests with the vague promise of an agreement. Namjoon bit on his tongue. He never had much of a choice to begin with, really.

He nodded, and for a moment the tension in the air elevated. Until he focused his attention on Seokjin.

The omega was staring intently on his still mostly full plate. Namjoon's chest burned at the sight of him. He figured he was probably going to have to get used to that feeling now.

"I would be," he paused, an inhale, trying not to react to the way Seokjin flinched, "honored. To have prince Seokjin as my mate."

The table let out a collective sigh of relief. His mother was smiling, his father and the adviser looked like they were ready to shake hands and seal the deal. Namjoon raised a hand, making them all pause.

"However," he focused on Seokjin, everything else fading into a blur when the omega slowly looked at him, "I would like to hear what the prince has to say on the matter."

They all silenced. Suddenly, the attention was on Seokjin, who seemed uncomfortable at all the eyes that were looking at him. The omega squirmed in his seat, looking at his adviser for reassurance, permission. Before Kangmin could say anything, Namjoon stopped him, talking over whatever the adviser was about to say. "Seokjin–ssi," he tried for a smile. The rest of the table seemed mildly surprised at Namjoon's show of respect. "I'm sure you have reservations about this. Is there anything you'd like to tell us before we... before we proceed?"

Another bout of silence. Seokjin was looking at him for real now, an unreadable expression on his face. Namjoon could see thoughts and emotions swirling in those icy eyes. They were captivating.

After another beat, Seokjin finally spoke.

"I would... be very happy to have the king as my husband." The omega kept his gaze on Namjoon for a while longer before looking back down, hiding his face from the rest of the table. His words sounded forced, tight and cut through. Whether it was from the unfamiliarity of the words or something else, he wasn't sure. Namjoon's eyebrows furrowed, words forming in his throat pushed back by his father's immediate interjection.

"Then it is settled." His father stood right at the same time the adviser did. They shook hands for real this time, as if the arrangement was more a business deal than the joining of two souls. His mother reached out to hold Namjoon's hands in hers. She mouthed a simple thank you, to which Namjoon responded to with the most sincere smile he could manage at the moment.

Lunch ended like that. His parents and the adviser quickly went off to probably talk about the details of the engagement further, leaving Namjoon and Seokjin alone. Namjoon waited for the hall to be empty before standing up. Seokjin followed his movements, slowly lifting his head up to meet Namjoon's gaze. The alpha smiled, much gentler than the one he showed his mother earlier.

He walked over to where Seokjin was seated, holding a hand out. "Good day, your highness. Care for a stroll?" It was an offer, not a command. Seokjin seemed to study Namjoon's expression, probably looking for any signs of malice in his actions or trying to understand his words. Namjoon kept the smile on, posture open. Seokjin eventually took his hand.

Namjoon took the opportunity to appreciate Seokjin's outfit. It was much simpler than yesterday. The omega still wore the same chest–cut top, but the skirt connected to it was more flowy than puffy, a simple light pink fabric with a sheer material overlaying it. The sleeves of the top were long and loose, reaching up to Seokjin's wrist, little intricate details sown near the hem. Seokjin wasn't wearing much jewelry today either, just a simple necklace with a white diamond pendant. Still, next to Namjoon's loose white blouse and fitted pants, Seokjin's garments made him look more like royalty than he could ever be.

Namjoon gently placed Seokjin's hand on his arm so they could walk side by side. When they left the dining hall, Seokjin's cheeks were already tinted pink. Namjoon tried not to let it affect him.

They walked the length of the corridor in silence. Seokjin still looked reclusive, unsure, and Namjoon didn't want to force him to open up too soon, so he decided to let it be for now. The only sounds they could hear were the chirping of the robins that nested in the palace's courtyard, along with the scurrying of servants as they hurried to prepare for the rest of the day. Namjoon enjoyed the familiar hum of it all as he led Seokjin to the courtyard.

When they arrived, Namjoon couldn't help but smile at the change in Seokjin's expression. He looked awed at the mini garden that bloomed in the center of the palace. Namjoon's mother tended to this place just as much as the gardens, a little piece of paradise inside the comfort of their home. Namjoon led them to a nearby bench, motioning for Seokjin to take a seat.

For a moment, they didn't speak. Namjoon let the omega enjoy the scenery just a bit longer. He didn't know much about the North, but Namjoon guessed they didn't have much for sights like this considering their lands were mostly covered in snow. He wasn't sure how much of whatever was happening was new to the omega, especially if whatever his father said was true. They've been hiding in fear of the world. Namjoon let Seokjin soak it all in then.

The prince observed the courtyard in awe. Namjoon observed him in turn.

Seokjin was much, much more beautiful up close, especially when his features were being illuminated by the sunlight. Namjoon looked two shades tanner next to him. The omega's skin was so, so pale. So, so delicate. Namjoon was afraid he'd break if he touched him. The gentle curves of Seokjin's side profile were just as delicate. The soft jut of his lips, the small crunch of his nose. Namjoon breathed in, amazed at how perfect even the smallest details of him were.

The strongest, strangest urge to reach forward and caress Seokjin's soft skin made Namjoon's fingers twitch. He had to swallow it all down.

There wasn't as much tension hanging over both of them after the few moments of comfortable silence that passed. Seokjin was still observing the courtyard garden, less amusement and more appreciation. Namjoon leaned back down, relaxing against the bench.

"This garden was here before I was born."

Seokjin took a moment to react, turning to face Namjoon. He still wore a blank expression, but looked much more relaxed now. Namjoon smiled at him, letting his hands rest comfortably on his knees.

"Mother used to say that the heart of any home must reflect the hearts of the people who live there." Namjoon gestured towards the flower bushes that littered the garden, little buds of yellows and reds and pinks. "She said having a garden here, in the courtyard, would always remind us to remain calm and solemn, tied to nature. It is the only way we will ever be able to rule right."

Seokjin merely stared at him. Namjoon knew he couldn't understand some, if not most of his words, but the look in his eyes told him that Seokjin knew what he was trying to say. They were such an icy shade of gray, like a frozen lake reflecting the winter sky. Captivating, and yet Namjoon couldn't allow himself to fall in too deep. At least, not yet.

Namjoon's smile grew when he realized Seokjin's full attention was on him. The omega's lashes fluttered then, eyes darting to Namjoon's lips before quickly snapping back up. They sat there, just looking at each other. Something twisted in Namjoon's stomach when a faint blush flushed Seokjin's face pink, and yet he made no move to look away.

"Hello," Namjoon started, "it's a pleasure to meet you."

A blink, and then a small, shy smile. Seokjin adjusted the collar of his top, a nervous gesture. His scent bloomed, permeating through the air in clouds of honey and roses. It felt like gold on Namjoon's skin, velvet flowing through his veins. He'd never felt so taken by the scent of someone alone, and to think he only just met the omega—

Seokjin is relaxed. His scent smelled so much sweeter than yesterday. Namjoon found himself determined to keep it that way.

"I know we were not able to meet under favorable circumstances, your highness." Namjoon observed the way Seokjin's lips parted but no words came out. He continued. "But mayhaps we could pretend to start now. You, me, strangers who only just met." He gestured between the two of them. Seokjin's gaze followed, and when he looked like he understood, he looked back up at Namjoon with wide eyes, a bright expression. It made Namjoon smile, filled his chest with such indescribable warmth.

"I'll take that as a yes." He laughed, standing up and bowing, a hand pressed to his chest. "It's a pleasure to meet you, your highness. My name is Kim Namjoon, secondborn—uhm, newly crowned emperor of Soleil. And you are?"

Seokjin seemed a bit surprised by the sudden action, but then he laughed. A light, hearty laugh.

Namjoon froze. Seokjin's laugh sounded squeaky, squeezed, like it had layers to it. It should've sounded funny, something he could laugh at even, but for some reason the only thing that properly registered in Namjoon's brain was how sweet it sounded. Like a single bell ring of happiness in the middle of a snowstorm. It made the warmth in his chest burn like a furnace, his heart squeeze at the sudden feeling of adoration that seemed to overtake his senses.

The king realized that was the first time he heard Seokjin laugh. He decided happiness looked best on him, and so he smiled even wider.

Namjoon waited for Seokjin's giggle to die down. His eyes were still forming crescents as he stood and bowed as well, following Namjoon's initiation.

"Your majesty," Seokjin started. His voice was much smoother than earlier, but still heavily laced with that foreign accent. "I am Kim Seokjin, only heir to the throne of his highness King Hongsun of the North."

They both straightened up after Seokjin's introduction, hints of little goofy smiles still lacing their features. Just like that, all traces of tension lingering about them vanished. Seokjin looked less like the silent ghost he had been merely moments ago and more the person he was underneath. It was... pleasant. Seeing him like this. Namjoon really, really liked seeing him like this.

They fell into easy conversation afterwards, a lot easier than Namjoon had anticipated. They sat back down, started talking to one another, albeit shyly at first. He found out how open of a person Seokjin actually was, talking about and sharing little bits of himself, and even though he struggled with understanding him and speaking to him in turn, he still made sure to let Namjoon know what he felt with gestures and comical facial expressions. Namjoon found out what it was like living in the North, about how cold even the summers were and how slow their moons passed. He found out about the arduous journey from the northern kingdom to Soleil, how they had to brave through the mountain passes and the freezing high seas. He found out that the entire time Seokjin had been looking forward to seeing the world beyond the snowy summits, what it was like over the horizon where grassy fields and morning dew replaced snow–topped pines and icicles.

All the small things that Seokjin had been willing to share, Namjoon happily listened to, and this time he got to hear it personally from someone he actually enjoyed being with.

In turn, Namjoon talked to the omega about his kingdom and the realm. The small things, things that seemed to satisfy Seokjin's curiosity about the king's side of the world. Of course, there were so many more things to share, to tell the omega about, but those were stories to be saved for later.

The two of them shared laughter between stories. There, on a bench in the palace courtyard nearing the late afternoon, Namjoon found falling in love wasn't as grand or as difficult as he thought. All it took was icy gray eyes disappearing into crescents and shy giggles for him to feel enraptured, taken. It had been merely hours since he first met Seokjin, hardly a day even, but he was willing to do anything to make him stay.

His alpha was jumping around in pure glee, and for once Namjoon let that instinctual euphoria take over. He let himself get lost in the feeling of falling in love while his alpha rejoiced at finally finding a potential mate.

Before they knew it, the afternoon sun was already dancing below the horizon. Namjoon was telling Seokjin about how delicious the peaches in the palace's gardens were during spring when a servant came hurriedly, letting them know that they were being summoned to join Namjoon's parents and the adviser Kangmin. The king thanked the servant before dismissing her.

"It seems our presence is required elsewhere, your highness." Namjoon stood, dusting himself off before offering a hand to Seokjin. The omega gracefully took it, this time taking it upon himself to hook his hand on Namjoon's arm afterwards. The alpha showed him a grin, amused at the sudden bravery in the omega's actions.

 

Seokjin looked a little sheepish, but kept his hand in place nonetheless. Together, they walked back to the throne room, still exchanging a couple stories together, to the audience waiting for them there.

 


 

There were mixed reactions when the two of them entered the room.

Namjoon's parents visibly lit up at the sight of Seokjin holding onto the alpha along with the shy pinkness in his cheeks and ears. His mother was trying to hide a smile behind her fingers, eyes practically sparkling. His father on the other hand, had just a little bit more control over his excitement, choosing to go with a simple and vaguely congratulatory smile. It made Namjoon feel a strange sense of warmth, something akin to what his mother used to describe as when a pack accepts a wolf's mate—a sign of trust and loyalty, of love.

The alpha wondered briefly if it was too early to be feeling that way considering he just met Seokjin and only got to really speak to him moments ago. He knew full well that while it was acceptable in their customs to simply marry a betrothed without any knowledge about them beforehand, he still had to make the effort to make their arrangement not feel like a trade of sorts, a business agreement. He had a glimpse of what kind of person Seokjin was in the high afternoon, but was that enough for him to feel this attached to the omega?

Namjoon let the doubt crawl hot in his chest, only that feeling was replaced with surprise when all of a sudden, Seokjin jerked his hand away.

Namjoon turned towards him just as soon as the warmth on his arm disappeared. He felt his heart drop when the peachiness on the other's fair skin was now nowhere to be found, his lips drawn into a straight line. Seokjin's expression regressed into the very same one he wore when Namjoon first saw him in that split second. Cold. Piercing.

Namjoon followed his line of sight.

Oh.

The king had to fight a growl from crawling its way through his throat when he saw Kangmin's obvious glare before it slipped onto a faux smile. The adviser started walking towards them, hands clasped together. Every nerve in Namjoon's body screamed at him to stand between the beta and Seokjin, but he stopped himself. No move shall be done in uncharted territory, and his relationship with Seokjin, or the progress thereof, was still just a blank map.

Instead, he let his muscles tense, just enough to let the adviser know that he was also in uncharted territory. This was his home, and hesitation was an easy thing to disregard within the confines of his home.

Fleetingly, he felt a soft tug on the seams of his sleeve. Namjoon barely had time to notice it had been Seokjin's hand before the omega was stepping away from him with a light curtsy.

"Your majesty." The adviser was in front of him now. Namjoon tried not to let his focus stay on the sudden, seemingly looming distance between him and Seokjin. He faced Kangmin with an expression he could only hope was resolute enough.

"I see you and the prince are now acquainted, wonderful!" Kangmin sang, looking all too satisfied for his own good. Namjoon had to bite back a sneer. The beta's smile faltered when he didn't receive a reply, but he was quick to recuperate.

"While this is all grand and great, I'm afraid now that everything seems to be settled, the guards and I must return to the North to inform the king of our successful negotiation." Namjoon raised an eyebrow at his choice of words. The adviser continued nonetheless. "So I do hope you could give the prince Seokjin and I some time to talk, alone, before we make our way back."

The smile on Kangmin's face suggested he wouldn't be taking no as an answer. Namjoon could feel every nerve ending in his body going up in flames with how hard he was fighting his instincts. No. His alpha was screeching. No. I stay with him.

"Very well." He says instead. In his peripheral, he noticed the slightest slump of Seokjin's shoulders. Namjoon immediately felt bad, but didn't have much time to think about it with how the adviser was practically beaming obviously fake joy at him.

"If that is the case," His father, who had been previously observing the exchange, put a hand on Namjoon's shoulder, "then we will take this opportunity to fill in the king on what we talked about as well. Son?"

A thin exhale slipped past Namjoon's gritted teeth, followed by a nod.

The lights round the walls of the castle were already being lit, dots of stars making themselves known in the sky seen through the tall windows. As light filtered through the draperies, bouncing onto Seokjin's soft cheeks and silver eyes, on the sheer material of his skirt as he was led out of the room by the adviser, Namjoon could only hope that there was enough light to illuminate the apologetic look he sent the omega's way.

 


 

"I am glad things went well with the young prince."

The fresh scent of evening tea drafted through the air, directly from the steaming pot on the center of the table. Namjoon's mother took a dainty sip from her porcelain cup, ease and serenity emitting from her like the steam from the brew. Beside her, Namjoon's father sat himself down after having a word with the captain of the guard, immediately taking his own cup and sighing in contentment.

Out here, in the tranquility of the night and the open air of their balcony, Namjoon usually found his peace. This was where his family would often gather, enjoying snacks and tea and having a moment just for them. Namjoon loved the moments he'd share with them here. It brought him comfort, being in the presence of his family, of his pack.

That would usually be the case. Tonight however, only three of the four chairs were occupied, and Namjoon's mind was a mess of roses and honey and pink, pink cheeks. His stomach felt queasy. He hardly registered his parents' words.

"Truly!" His father cheered, "the prince seems to have taken a liking to you already my son. Charming, just like your old man."

"Oh, you," Namjoon heard a light smack, probably his mother hitting the old king. A small, "what?" followed, and then the affectionate bickering of a 40 year married couple. Namjoon would've been endeared, if not for the jarring thoughts in his mind. His parents were delighted with how things were going, that at least was sure, but Namjoon's thoughts were far elsewhere.

"Adviser Kangmin had been very enthusiastic about the arrangement. The north had, surprisingly, quite a lot more resources than we thought. We'd be able to open trade with them in no time, Joon-ah." His father gently placed his cup down, resting his hands on the table and smiling at Namjoon.

"He will be giving you a detailed report of everything regarding what we have discussed," his mother took Namjoon's cup and filled it up for him, her own smile small yet genuine, "all we have to let you know now is when your wedding will be."

"You've already decided for us." It was declarative, as if Namjoon was trying to hide the surprise in his voice. For the first time that night, the young king looked away from the flickering flame of the calendabra that reminded him all too much of the way Seokjin's eyelashes would flutter against his cheeks. He looked his mother in the eye, no sign of hesitation present in them.

"But of course dear," the old queen beamed, "no time like the present, after all. You'd be busy with work in only a handful of days, we wouldn't want your wedding to be something you have to stress about as well."

"That being said," his father reached behind himself to pull out a rolled parchment. Namjoon eyed it curiously, keeping his lips sealed. When the parchment was spread out on the marble surface, Namjoon couldn't help but raise an eyebrow. It looked like something akin to a parliament scroll, with two blank spaces at the very bottom. The old king skimmed through the list with a wrinkled finger, stopping at a part that was still freshly written.

"At the Temple of Araneia," the king read out loud, "Kim Namjoon, 113th Emperor of Aia and king of Soleil, shall be wed to Kim Seokjin, son of his majesty King Hongsun of the North and prince of the North, on the third moon of the spring harvest under the blessing of the goddess herself."

Namjoon listened intently as his father read off the details written on the parchment. He already expected the wedding to be held at the Temple. It was a sacred place, located right in the middle of Soleil at the edge of a tall cliff, a space shared by all the kingdoms where praise for the goddess is sang as the tides come in. Most royal weddings take place there, and theirs, as expected, would be no different.

But, wait.

"The third moon," Namjoon frowned, halting the finger that was gently playing with the porcelain cup in front of him, "of the spring harvest."

His parents both looked at him then, curious expressions on their faces. The cluelessness in their eyes made Namjoon's own twitch. He leaned forward, brows furrowed and lips pulled taut.

"Which is in seven days."

The old king and queen glanced at each other. For a split second, it seemed as though they were considering the implications of Namjoon's words, but then they both turned towards him with smiles on their faces and Namjoon's throat tightened.

"Well, yes."

Namjoon could feel veins popping in his temple. He had to force himself to sit back, had to push off the exasperation begging to splay onto his face. He looked at his parents with a subdued sense of betrayal bubbling just below the surface. Seven days. They gave him seven days to prepare for a wedding—a wedding for him and someone who he desperately wanted to be better acquianted with before anything else took place.

There was an ugly roar blocking Namjoon's ears and he had to remind himself it was his parents he was conversing with to get rid of it. He clenched his fists, pressing them down on the arms of his seat. His mother was the first to notice the way Namjoon subconsciously squared his shoulders, tightened his jaw, and he knew that to an omega he must've looked intimidating, domineering despite not saying anything. This was proven when his mother's eyes widened and she scooted closer to her husband, who was once again busy skimming through the paper.

"Joon-ah, are you unhappy with this?"

For some reason, the question only helped the pressure in his mind intensify. It took him a moment, but Namjoon realized just then that he was angry. Angry at his parents. Namjoon was a calm person, collected and rational. He's never angry, irritated mayhaps, but angry is an emotion far too strong and consuming for someone like him. For that anger to be directed to the people he practically lived his entire life for—

"Unhappy, I'm afraid, would be an understatement."

Namjoon glanced at the paper where his entire future with Seokjin was written out on. His father was looking at him now, probably confused, but Namjoon refused to meet him in the eye. He stood then, more thoughts flying in and out of his conciousness. His chest felt too heavy, dangerous words beginning to form at the tip of his tongue. If he didn't get out of there now, he wasn't sure what he'd end up saying. Through the corners of his vision, he could see the way his parents were preparing to stand as well, but Namjoon stopped them before they could.

"I request that you give me some time to think this over. Goodnight father, mother."

Just like that, Namjoon was gone. He made his way through the winding halls of the palace without stopping once, going directly to where he knew he would have some time to himself. Behind him, he could vaguely hear murmurs and loose words. Ahead, the walls were the same everywhere he turned, but he knew these halls and he knew exactly where he was going.

Two flights of stairs later and Namjoon found himself standing before the large polished oak doors of Yoongi's bedroom.

 

The bright golden light of the corridor it sat on reflected against the etchings on the wood, ones done by Yoongi himself. The elder had been obsessed with making sure his possessions were unique amongst everything else in the castle, hated the idea that everything was and had to be uniform. He'd say this, but Namjoon knew that Yoongi carved out his door only because he got lost easily, especially since his bedroom was separated from the rest of theirs.

Holding the brass knocker filled Namjoon with sick nostalgia. He hadn't been up here since Yoongi left that night. He made it a point to avoid the room as much as he could to respect whatever privacy Yoongi must have wanted to retain despite having had left, but just like how the balcony was a space for him to feel at peace with his family around, Yoongi's room also served as a place where he could have the opportunity to think. The elder would welcome him here whenever he needed, and they'd just sit in silence, letting each other bask in the complexity of their problems.

Namjoon pushed the door open, being greeted by darkness until he lit the chandelier that hung overhead.

Once light flooded the room, Namjoon was almost swept off his feet with the emotions that filled him up. The room had been exactly how he remembered it. Neatly stacked books on the shelves and on every other surface available, curtains drawn to block away the sunlight, paintings of various landscapes decorating the walls. The only thing that was remotely different about the place was the unkempt bed.

Namjoon walked towards it. The blankets were a mess, some of the pillows strewn as if no one really had the heart to fix the mess since the owner left. There was an open, plotted map pressed against the headboard and Namjoon was tempted to look, but ultimately decided against it. Yoongi wouldn't have liked him snooping around like that without his permission, anyway.

So he turned away from it, let the edge of the bed sink underneath his weight. Namjoon heaved a heavy sigh. The clock standing only meters away still ticked along the minutes. Namjoon counted one, two, three dozen clicks before his mind was less Seokjin, marriage, Seokjin and more there's a reason why it was set to happen so soon.

Namjoon was aware of the reasons. The third moon of the spring harvest was the exact day when Yoongi was born. He knew, deep in his heart, that it was also the day Yoongi was originally set to be married had he been crowned as king. As the birth date of the firstborn, it was an important day, and Namjoon had no qualms against this being the reason why they chose it.

The old king and queen also had to leave soon. As soon as Namjoon underwent the coronation, their time as rulers officially came to a close. It was time for them to retire to his mother's kingdom in the west, and the longer they waited the less time they had to enjoy their days as ordinary citizens. Namjoon understood this as well, accepted it as a possibility since the day Yoongi was planned to be the next king. They had to make sure Namjoon had everything he needed before they could board the next boat, including a queen.

He knew and he understood, but seven days was hardly enough time to truly know who his betrothed was, hardly enough time to see if he truly wanted to marry Namjoon or if he was doing it simply because of duty, necessity.

Only a day ago he had accepted his responsibilities as the new king. He had barely started and yet, there was already a pretty high hurdle he had to overcome. A split, a crossroads between personal interest and duty-bound consequences.

Namjoon let his head hang, counting yet another sigh that slipped past parted lips.

He could still smell the honey and roses lingering in the air, wafting through every inch of his being. The scent was calming, and for a second the rage threatening to awaken his sleeping alpha quieted down. Icy gray eyes, red apple-like lips, skin fairer than any patch of daisies and a body Namjoon wished he had the permission to hold. He let these thoughts wash over the chaos in his mind, let it dance over the rationality and what made sense.

He knew what he wanted, and what he wanted was merely rooms away from him. How to get what he wanted, however...

The night drew longer. The stars hung high in the blanket of darkness above. Namjoon laid down on his runaway brother's bed with thoughts of a young prince chasing butterflies in the pit of his stomach, mixing and jumping around ugly realities and consequences that he simply did not have the power to control.

That night he found himself wishing, for the first time in his life, that he had more power than he was granted, more power than a prince—than a king like him possessed. Namjoon clenched his fists against the heavy blankets and wished that whatever conclusion he'd arrive to come morning, it'd be something he wouldn't regret in the long run.

Outside, the scent of roses and honey wafted through the late night air, laced with grace, elegance and cold, seething dread.

 


 

Bright midday light was already cloaking the palace in brilliant golds the next time Namjoon saw Seokjin.

The king woke up hours late for breakfast, sitting up from the unused sheets with a start. The drawn drapes blocked what sunlight tried to enter. For a moment Namjoon thought it was still midnight, until he left the room, groggy and barely decent, to the sight of at least half a dozen white carriages lining the outside gates. Namjoon peered through the tall windows across Yoongi's bedroom in initial confusion. He hardly registered the servants and guards rushing past him, didn't even mind the few that spotted him and lead him back to his room. He was still trying to get his bearings. When did he fall asleep?

Once he was properly dressed and didn't look like he stayed up for several weeks with no breaks, Namjoon was escorted to the entrance of the palace. The first people he saw were his parents, who were conversing with the adviser Kangmin and a few of his guards. He stayed a respectable distance away, trying not to be noticed. Rounding the group, he eyed the long line of carriages and the same guards from the other night, their white garments a stark contrast to the lush greens of the palace grounds. Amidst them, a figure dressed in whites and light pinks.

Just like that, the remnants of sleep in Namjoon's consciousness withered away.

His feet were moving on autopilot in a snap, approaching the young prince as soon as he laid eyes on him. Seokjin was standing still, flanked by two guards each a head taller than him, looking ever poised. It was only when Namjoon got closer that he perked up, subtly sniffing the air before finally spotting the alpha. Beautiful almond eyes widened, plump lips parting. The pretty pink dusting his cheeks returned. Namjoon stopped an arms length away from him, regarding the guards before greeting the omega with a pleasant smile.

"Your highness." Before Seokjin could utter a single word, Namjoon gently lifted his slim fingers, pressing a light peck on the knuckles. A sharp inhale from Seokjin had Namjoon biting back a smirk. The omega looked flustered at the sudden action, eyelashes batting against soft cheeks.

"Alpha—" Seokjin cleared his throat, hiding the lower half of his face with the hem of his sleeve. Wide silver eyes looked up at the alpha, shy, dainty. Namjoon's heart skipped one, two beats.

"Your companions are leaving?" Namjoon lowered Seokjin's hand but kept the slightest hold on them. The omega made no move to pull away, so he let it stay there. Seokjin nodded, facing the other group once again. "Yes, majesty. Back home, now."

They hadn't noticed Namjoon yet, still caught up in conversation. The king observed them for a moment before gently tugging on the omega's hand. Seokjin looked at him questioningly but didn't have the time to ask before Namjoon was pulling him forward, walking towards his parents and the adviser.

Once again, it was his mother who noticed them first. She gasped, hurrying towards her son at the sight of him. Within seconds Namjoon had a very worried mother fussing over him, reaching up to cup her son's cheeks.

"Joon-ah! Where were you last night? You weren't with us for breakfast and oh, I was so worried, I thought—"

A pause. Namjoon's mother looked at him with surprise written all over her features, a clear sign that she noticed the scent still clinging onto her youngest son. Namjoon was often told he had a strong rich, woody scent, one of molten gold and ash tree bark, perfectly fit for royalty. He had been half-asleep this morning, but even he noticed how the scent that remained in his brother's room managed to cling onto his skin. It had been months, but traces of a calmer cedar and sage were still present in that room.

Understanding replaced the surprise on the old queen's face, covering what might have been brief longing. His mother smiled at Namjoon, gently caressing his cheek before giving him space. All he could do was lower his head in a slight bow, a small apology for walking out on them the night prior.

"Ah, Namjoon-ah." It was his father who approached him this time. Namjoon knew the man hated it when people disrespected him the way his youngest son just did, but there was no anger in his expression, only empathy. He placed a firm hand on Namjoon's shoulder, pursing his lips in a tight line.

"We let the adviser know your thoughts on the wedding."

Oh.

Namjoon gave a simple nod. He had to take Seokjin's hand again and hold it tighter when the prince's grip on his own loosened and a small gasp left him, a little reassuring action. For both what his father just said and for the figure that stepped closer to them.

Namjoon could feel the way the omega tensed when Kangmin bowed in front of them, that annoying smile still plastered onto his pasty white features. He wore travel robes this time, much thicker than what he had previously donned. A shiny red metallic brooch in the shape of a dire wolf pinned to his chest was the only splash of color on the adviser's ensemble. It reminded Namjoon of the way Seokjin's apple-like lips stood out against his fair complexion.

Stop, Namjoon scolded himself, you shouldn't associate Seokjin with a person like this.

"Your majesty, what a pleasure it is to see you again." The adviser placed his hands together, stretched smile never once faltering. "It is a shame our meeting was so short, but we must hurry on lest we keep the king waiting." He gestured towards Seokjin then. Namjoon didn't miss the way the prince averted his gaze.

"The prince Seokjin will be staying with you starting today to lead the preparations for the wedding, upon the agreement between your parents and I. Rest assured, I have told him everything that he needs to know during his stay here. He will not be of any burden to you, your majesty." Kangmin bowed once more, this time with one arm outstretched sideways. Namjoon bit back the salty retort forming on the tip of his tongue, entirely unpleased with how the adviser referred to Seokjin.

He cleared his throat instead, motioning for the adviser to rise. "May you have a safe journey back to the north, Adviser Kangmin" he started, feigning a small smile. "Fret not, the prince will be left in good hands. I will personally make sure of it." Namjoon eyed Seokjin briefly. The omega had his head lowered, but his hold on Namjoon's hand was firm. He took this as a good thing.

"That is utmost wonderful to hear." The adviser beamed at them, clapping once before politely stepping away to address the old king and queen.

"Well then, your majesties, we must take our leave. We are ever grateful for the kind hospitality you have welcomed us with in your kingdom. I will be sure to tell the king everything we have discussed in detail."

Namjoon raised an eyebrow at the grandiose words. His parents on the other hand, were all too happy. They promptly returned the adviser's bow with a gesture of their own. The old king let out a heartly laugh shortly after.

"It would be good to hear from you and the king of the north again soon, Adviser Kangmin! No worries, we will fulfill the duties on our end. The wedding will be nothing less than grand, magnificent!"

"Yes, surely," The queen smiled, "the king and the prince Seokjin are already well acquianted. It's only a matter of time until they are fit and ready to rule together."

Namjoon coughed, flustered at the idea of ruling with the omega. It seemed so far away, the idea of truly being handed the reigns to rule their kingdom and protect the realm, yet Namjoon knew they only had seven days until it happens for real. He didn't let the bout of anxiety show, but made sure to give the omega's hand another assuring squeeze.

Soon enough, the clicking of hooves started up against the cobblestone pathway, followed by carriage wheels and heavy steel footsteps. The adviser bowed to the royal family one last time before entering the last carriage held open by one of the guards. The carriage fell in line and followed the formation that assembled before it, moving farther away past the open gate until the only thing they could hear were the palace's own guards shouting to go back to their original stations. Once the white trail was no longer within sight, Seokjin let out an audible sigh of relief beside Namjoon. The king faced him, an amused smile dancing on his lips.

"Your highness."

Seokjin perked up, looking at Namjoon with icy gray hues and parted lips. Within the minutes after the entourage had left, it seemed as though the life in him returned. His eyes looked lively, whatever curtain blocking the emotions held within them gone, the pink in his cheeks freely blossoming as the omega studied Namjoon's features.

Namjoon showed him a small smile, with which Seokjin immediately returned. It made warmth flood Namjoon's chest, a feeling he was still struggling to get used to.

"Oh, my dears." The old queen cooed as she approached them, hands spread open. Seokjin made to bow to her, but the queen quickly stopped him, moving to cup the omega's face the same way she did to Namjoon moments ago. Seokjin's blush grew warmer at the sudden gesture, accompanied by a small surprised squeak.

"Welcome to our family, Seokjin-ah," she smiled, "I do hope you and Namjoon get along well." His mother gazed fondly at the both of them, hands now resting on Seokjin's shoulders. "He's a bit of a handful, and probably loves his books and his study more than himself, but I can assure you that you would find no better husband than him."

"Mother." Namjoon covered his face with his free hand, scowling at the embarrassing comment. Seokjin looked between the two of them, a bit confused and most likely still processing what the old queen just said. The prince cleared his throat, trying to formulate an answer.

"Uhm," Seokjin hummed, "I will take care of your majest—his majesty, your majesty." The prince furrowed his eyebrows, expression making it clear that he wasn't sure whether or not he phrased his sentence correctly. Beside him, Namjoon could feel his own face heating up while his mother simply laughed, moving to put her son's hand back down.

"Oh I'm sure you will, Seokjin-ah." The old queen giggled, giving the prince's shoulder one last pat before turning to face Namjoon.

"Joon-ah, we'll be having a meeting with the council regarding the preparations for the meeting. I hope you don't mind if I borrow the prince for a bit. He is meant to head it, after all."

Namjoon's lips fell into a small 'o'. He had hoped to spend the rest of the day with Seokjin, but duty always comes first. He gave a curt nod, "Of course, mother," before gently releasing his hold on the prince's hand.

"I will see you again soon, your highness." Namjoon lifted Seokjin's hand to place another chaste kiss on the smooth curves of his knuckles. He can practically feel the way he warmed up the moment his lips touched the pale skin. Namjoon merely smiled.

A quiet "yes, your majesty," and Seokjin was being whisked away by the old queen and her attendants. Namjoon watched them disappear into the tall halls of the palace until they were out of sight. He sighed, the tingly after sensation of the prince's hand intertwined with his still dancing on his fingertips. He never knew he had it in him to act so boldly so suddenly, kissing Seokjin's hand with an affection most like greetings often lacked. He can still feel it too, the warmth of Seokjin's skin against his lips. It shot arrows down his feet and Namjoon wasn't sure how to make the almost giggly feeling go away.

"Ah, finally, some alpha-to-alpha talk."

The familiar voice quickly brought Namjoon back to the present. He could only scoff at the way his father laughed as he ambled over, looking gloriously triumphant. He gave the old king a dry stare before sighing once again.

"Ey, what's with that look, hm? You not ready to receive the king's briefing?"

"I was wishing I could avoid it."

"Oh, please. I had to go through it myself, you know! Seven hours of talk and thousands of pages to go through. Then endless paperwork to follow!" The old king hit Namjoon on the back repeatedly, making the alpha groan, attempting to swat his father's hand away. "You're my son, Joon-ah, you'd get through it just fine!"

"As if." Namjoon sighed for the umpteenth time. This time, the old king didn't even bother comforting him. He only shoved his son forward playfully until they, too, were on their way back to the castle, treading the halls opposite to where the omegas went.

Namjoon knew, then, that it was finally time for him to officially begin his rule as king of Soleil, guardian of the realm. Months ago it still felt like just a faraway dream, but now he had a crown on his head and the weight of the world on his shoulders. He wasn't gonna lie, there were still doubts swirling shadows in his head, whispers of hesitation, apprehension, questions of 'Am I really ready for this?' It was an endless unforgiving vortex spiraling like a storm in the pits of his subconscious, but he couldn't let it get the best of him. As he walked down the golden halls of the palace with his father in tow, Namjoon could only keep his shoulders squared against the road of ambiguity that lied ahead.

The road was riddled with fear, but the scent of honey and roses that still sauntered through the air, the warmth still lingering on his lips helped some of the anxiety go away. Namjoon knew he wasn't in this alone, and that was enough to keep his feet going. He had to face the throne, he had to face his bethrotal, and throughout all of this he knew there was going to be somebody by his side.

Lands, mountains, oceans away, there was someone else holding the pillars in tact for him too. He might not be around anymore, but Namjoon knew that his brother was with them every step of the way just the same.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Three sunrises had passed since Namjoon last left the tall walls of his father’s study.

 

For two whole days, he had dedicated his hours to reading, writing and signing all the primary paperwork that had to be done before his parents left the kingdom for retirement. Rows upon rows of books stacked orderly on looming shelves were his only companions even until after he fell asleep, not counting the little dust bunnies that rested quietly on top of some unread books. There was still leftover food from the day prior just sitting on his desk too, what with Namjoon losing the appetite to eat since the first moon of his three day venture.

 

Five more stacks. Five more stacks and he could finally get some well needed fresh air.

 

Namjoon quickly filed away all the finished batches, adding them to the growing pile beside his desk and using that brief second to flex his fingers. He had to finish and submit all these papers today if he wanted to keep the kingdom up and running even after his parents' departure. The nobles that managed the outskirt farmlands could be demanding if they wanted to, and Namjoon didn't want to deal with their ill tempers anymore. He didn't even notice the sunlight peaking through the draperies hidden behind the shelves, a signal that he'd been working the entire night without rest.

 

This was, perhaps, his worst habit. Overindulgence, especially during work. Rest wasn't an option until everything was done, stamped, delivered. It brought him peace, knowing that all the details were carved and all the boxes checked, even if it meant sacrificing some time and well, some health. It also meant not having to be at the receiving end of royal nagging, so to Namjoon, it was a necessary compromise.

 

Reaching over to grab another stack, the king hardly had time to notice the stiffness in his bones from sitting down all night. The only thing on his mind was that if he finishes the remaining batches before lunch time, he could still squeeze in some time to write responses to the horse load of congratulatory messages that were still sitting untouched somewhere in his study. His father told him he didn't have to reply, but that didn't seem like a good thing to do for a newly appointed king. Effort, effort. He had to show his people that he wasn't a snob lest he lose their loyalty this early on.

 

Namjoon untied the first bundle of papers to be reviewed. They were from the trading embassy uptown, asking for permission to implement new restrictions on the import of dry products. Namjoon rubbed a hand down his face at the amount of writings he had to review just to approve a handful of new rules. He could feel a migraine incoming, and this was not going to be the first.

 

Just do it, Joon-ah, you were trained for this.

 

He sighed, a habit now, before adjusting his glasses and picking the papers back up, as well as a thick hardbound book where the kingdom's constitution was written in detail. The book was nothing compared to how heavy his eyelids were slowly getting, and even then he still didn't notice how long he'd been awake for.

 

Tea. He just needed some tea. As if on instinct, Namjoon reached for the tray on the small table beside him for the porcelain cup he'd been drinking from all night. He pressed his lips to the cold material, tipping it up for a sip and

 

Nothing.

 

It was empty.

 

Namjoon groaned. Something as simple as an empty cup was enough of a blow to his nerves. He dropped the papers back down and moved to refill his cup, but even the kettle it came with had been drained, not a single drop left.

 

Oh, this day was going absolutely perfect.

 

"Miss Han!" Namjoon called out, hoping that the maid was near enough to hear. She usually was, always ready to tend to whatever the royal family needed, and Namjoon could only hope she’d get to the room fast enough before he got too frustrated. He didn't have the energy to stand with so much left to do, much less leave the room. When he was met with silence, Namjoon called out again in frustration, raising his voice a little louder every time, but there was still no response.

 

Huff. Calm down.

 

Namjoon slumped back in his seat, almost glaring at the tall piles of unsigned documents that just seemed to never stop coming. It’s hardly been a week since his coronation, a week, and he was already on the verge of a mental breakdown. The amount of work he had to do as the future adviser to the supposed king was nothing compared to this.

 

Necessary compromise my ass.

 

Namjoon always thought of himself as a patient, hardworking man, but there were way too many frustrations still left unsolved in his head for him to focus solely on his present task. Frustrations, endless frustrations, because he was aware that there was something else he’d much rather do right now instead of paperwork.

 

The king could feel a growl building in his throat. He’d do best not to let his concentration be broken, but now there were images of fair skin and red lips dancing in his mind and these were just the absolute worst distractions. Namjoon deflated against the cushioned seat, groaning, cursing whatever deity brought him the realm's most perfect temptation during such critical times.

 

Why now, why today. Why did he have to be such a weak, weak man. Why did someone like Seokjin have to be his first romantic experience. Someone like Seokjin who had no business being so perfect, being Namjoon's ideal mate if he ever had one.

 

For years his alpha had been asleep, resting peacefully in the depths of Namjoon’s consciousness and allowing him to be the rational leader his parents raised him to be. Never has he once responded to his primal instincts, but now all he could think about was Seokjin, his unblemished skin, his shy smile and rosy cheeks and his calculative gaze, regal stance, the subtle authority in his actions that challenged the alpha's own.

 

His alpha was howling at him, baring its fangs, whispering about things he could do to the omega. Mark him, claim him, mate him. Mate, mate, mate—

 

Just then, the doors to the library opened. Namjoon jumped, recovering just in time to quickly fix himself, picking his quill back up and pretending to write as if he didn’t just have an emotional crisis. He made sure to nudge the tray where the kettle rested forward before clearing his throat.

 

“Miss Han, I’ve been calling for you.” Namjoon made quick work of dipping his quill in ink and checking off whatever was on the paper without actually reading it. “I need more tea. Two more kettles should be fine. You can take the food tray back as well.”

 

A pause, the sound of silver meeting wood.

 

“Yes, your majesty.”

 

Namjoon froze.

 

Oh, oh no.

 

His actions felt like rusty cogs trying to move as he looked away from the valley of words on his desk to the person standing before him. The alpha looked up just in time to catch the very subject of his distress brushing loose strands behind his ear as he leaned down to place a new snack tray on an empty surface.

 

It felt like everything was happening in slow motion then.  Seokjin stood back up, flattening the creases on his sleeves and releasing his bottom lip from a gentle bite. The omega's eyelashes fluttered beautifully as he looked at Namjoon, icy gray eyes half lidded and oh, so tantalizing. Namjoon was sure his jaw had hit the ground the moment Seokjin’s eyes formed crescents following a small, dainty smile—a smile just for him.

 

Honey.

 

Roses.

 

It dripped everywhere, fogging up Namjoon’s senses in a split second. He doesn’t know how he didn’t smell the rich scent when Seokjin entered, nor did he feel the omega's presence at all. It was probably the amount of fine dust clogging his nostrils, or the mess of thoughts and emotions in his mind. Or maybe Namjoon just wasn’t expecting Seokjin to be here at all, at least until after the preparations for the wedding were over.

 

“Seokjin-ssi—I mean, your highness.” Namjoon quickly stood, dropping his quill in the process. He could hardly care. The object of his subconscious desires was standing right before him. The smile on Seokjin's face only grew, and with it the warmth in Namjoon's chest.

 

“My apologies, your majesty. I came here suddenly.” The thick foreign accent still laced Seokjin’s words, but through his haze addled mind Namjoon could just tell there was an improvement in his speech. He wasn’t entirely surprised. The old queen probably took it upon herself to help Seokjin with their language in the days they spent together.

 

“Please, don’t apologize,” Namjoon tried for a smile, “It’s been awfully lonely being by myself for the past two, three days?” He huffed a small laugh.

 

The king didn’t even notice that he had already moved from his seat to the front of the mahogany desk, now merely an arm’s length from the omega. Seokjin's scent was still overwhelming his senses, but it was a welcome assault. It was… comforting, in a way. Being near someone he might’ve actually genuinely missed.

 

Seokjin nodded in understanding, looking up at Namjoon with softness in his gaze that made the alpha feel just a little weak, a little helpless. “You were not there for meals, your majesty. I was,” he cleared his throat, delicate fingers playing with the hem of his loose sleeve, “worried. That you, uhm.” Seokjin gestured to the mountains of paperwork stacked on and around Namjoon's desk. The king could only sigh, reaching up to scratch his nape.

 

“Yes, I’m sorry for worrying you, your highness. There are still quite a lot left to do but, I am sure I can finish all of it before lunchtime. If I was able to finish half of this in a day, I can do the remaining quarter in half.”

 

Seokjin seemed startled by his response, eyes going wide and a small gasp escaping from plump lips. What happened next probably made Namjoon's heart rear to a halt, probably cut his breath long enough for it to be lethal.

 

In one swift, yet still so gentle movement, Seokjin leaned forward to cup Namjoon's face, the pads of his thumbs running over the bags that had formed under Namjoon's eyes. Seokjin’s torso was almost flush against his own, almost making him wrap his arms around it—almost. The king stood there, frozen, feeling heat rise up to everywhere the omega touched.

 

He. Oh god. He was so close—

 

“Your majesty, you are working too hard.” Seokjin's voice was soft, feathery, like silk fluttering over rocks in a creak. There was a hitch in there that told Namjoon that even the omega was surprised by what he just did, but he stood his ground. Still, the words sounded like a pleasant morning to Namjoon's ears, and he couldn’t quite bring himself to say anything in reply.

 

The expression on Seokjin's face was a mix of worry and some level of stern, like a mother scolding her child. In the back of Namjoon's mind, he wondered briefly if all omegas had that instinct engraved within them. He could feel the genuine concern in the prince's gaze, and by the gods if he didn’t just fall more in love with him in that moment.

 

“—must take a break, your majesty.”

 

“What?”

 

“You must take a break.”

 

The worry in Seokjin's features slowly started melting into uncertainty as Namjoon did nothing but stare at him, at the light reflected on his eyes. Seokjin blinked, probably becoming more aware of how forward he had just been. The uncertainty grew, and within seconds he was withdrawing his hands and stuttering out an apology.

 

“Oh, oh— I am sorry, your majesty, I didn’t— I was not thinking—I do-don’t know why I—”

 

“Okay.”

 

Namjoon smiled, whisking Seokjin’s words away into thin air. He reached for the omega's hands again, despite the turmoil of emotions still roaring inside him, and placed them back where they originally were. Seokjin's touch was fleeting against his skin, warm and unsure, but it was a kind of comfort Namjoon didn’t know he was looking for.

 

“Okay, let’s take a break.”

 


 

“Sunlight, sunlight!”

 

Namjoon yelled into tall windows once they stepped outside.

 

It was still early, the first rays of light just barely flittering above the hills. The skies were still streaked with dawn, little gradients of lavender and pink high above. Namjoon took his time stretching as Seokjin looked out the windows beside him, gasping quietly in awe of the early morning view. His father’s study was located in one of the highest stories of the palace making it the the perfect space to feel at peace, way up high where it felt like one could touch the wispy clouds through the open archways. The spectacular view was just a little gift that came with it. Namjoon watched Seokjin glance out the town that stretched below them, disappearing into the horizon dotting the rolling hills beyond.

 

“It’s even more beautiful at night.” Namjoon smiled at the wondrous expression on Seokjin's face. When he turned around, the same shy blush rose high on his soft cheeks. Namjoon felt awfully endeared.

 

“So, your highness. How are you enjoying your stay so far?”

 

“It is wonderful, your majesty. The queen is very kind.” Seokjin placed his hands on top of each other over his navel, resting right where his top met his skirt.

 

“That’s good to know. The staff, they’re treating you well?” Namjoon leaned on the sill of the archway, looking more relaxed than he had in the last couple of days. Seokjin nodded gleefully, the little silver ornaments pinned to his hair clinking with the movement.

 

“Very much! They are all very kind. They make very good food.” Seokjin's little blush grew peachier just as his expression brightened, shooting stuttering pauses into Namjoon's heart. The king let out a small laugh.

 

“I’m glad to hear that as well. Say, I’m curious. Has my mother toured you around the palace yet?”

 

Seokjin shook his head. “No, your majesty. We were working on preparations.”

 

Namjoon hummed in understanding. Figures. His mother was probably too engrossed in the details of their wedding to think much about anything else. She’s always been a meticulous woman, a trait Namjoon believes both he and his brother inherited. Still, he sent her a silent thank you in his head. This just gave him the perfect opening to spend some productive time with his future mate.

 

“Very well, then. Would you like a tour around the palace, your highness?”

 

Seokjin perked up immediately, his icy gray hues sparkling at the suggestion. He nodded eagerly, looking like a puppy who had just received a treat. Namjoon stopped himself from cooing at how adorable Seokjin was, figuring it would probably be too weird at this stage in their relationship.

 

Relationship. If Namjoon's heart jumped a little at that, it was his secret to keep.

 


 

Namjoon decided that the best place to start was the floor below theirs. Most of the higher floors were off-limits to non-official members of the royal family, so Namjoon avoided it for now, not wanting to risk anything until their relationship was set in stone.

 

The floor just below them was where most of the bedrooms were located, including the one Seokjin stayed at the last couple of days. The prince informed him that he was slightly familiar with the area already, so Namjoon decided to show him the very same balcony the royal family would usually spend their afternoons lounging instead. On the way there, Seokjin took the opportunity to look around the tall halls, decorated with expensive vases, high chandeliers and paintings that depicted life in their lands. He looked at all of them with awe, with a childlike wonder that endeared the king to bits. Namjoon told him what he knew about the paintings, about the artisans that shaped the vases, and about the families who gifted them to the royal family.

 

“This one is from the Bae family all the way from Nereid.” Namjoon pointed at a particularly intricate vase, etched on all sides with gorgeously done fine details of waves dancing on the shoreline. “It’s a personal favorite. I’ve always loved the sea. It’s alluring, beautiful in such an enchanting way.”

 

“Your eyes look the sea, your majesty.”

 

Namjoon looked back at Seokjin with mild surprise written clear on his features. The omega seemed taken aback as well, immediately waving his hands to dismiss the comment.

 

“B-based from what I have seen of the sea! I-I mean no offense, Alpha- M-majesty—”

 

Namjoon laughed, startling Seokjin into silence. “I take no offense, your highness. In fact, I’m flattered. People often say that about my older brother, but never to me. My eyes are darker than his, apparently. I’ve never really cared enough to look.”

 

Namjoon sent the omega a reassuring smile before moving on towards the balcony. Seokjin was silent for a moment until he was walking beside Namjoon once again.

 

“You have a brother, your majesty?”

 

The king inhaled a sharp breath. He had expected Seokjin to know about the issue beforehand, but the question didn’t surprise him as much as he thought it would. There was a distant ache somewhere in his ribs, but he was quick to shake it off.

 

“Yes. Had he been here, he would’ve been the one to marry you, highness.” The ache throbbed, turning from dull to piercing for a blip before vanishing. Namjoon bit back the bitterness that suddenly coated his tongue.

 

Seokjin fell silent once again. Namjoon could feel the unease radiating from him, and for some reason that seemed to take some of his own uneasiness away. He could hardly resist the urge to smile. Seokjin didn’t ask any more questions related to Yoongi after that, only asking about the paintings and little knick-knacks that lined the walls. Namjoon was silently grateful.

 

It took a couple more minutes for them to reach the balcony, and once they did, Seokjin's expression turned priceless. He immediately ran out into the wide open space, big enough to fit several carriages and bands of soldiers.

 

Seokjin's fluffy powder blue skirt bounced and swayed as he jogged to the very edge of the balcony, looking out over the marble railings and letting the wind ruffle his perfectly styled black hair. Namjoon caught up with him after a while longer, enjoying the happiness that Seokjin was practically glowing with.

 

“This is one of my favorite places.” Namjoon looked out at the view, far better than the one from the hallway windows. Seokjin seemed to be endlessly awed by it, looking over everything as if he was trying to burn every single detail into memory. He turned towards Namjoon after a while, his smile reaching his eyes.

 

“I love it, your majesty.”

 

Namjoon could only laugh. “I can see that.”

 

The king let him enjoy the scenery a little longer. Namjoon found himself looking at Seokjin more than the view below as the seconds ticked by, watching the wind part his hair and gently blow strands over his porcelain skin. Seokjin's eyes slipped close, feeling the breeze as it whispered across his eyelashes, his parted lips, and the fabric of his clothes. He looked even more ethereal like this, happy and calm and satisfied and free, without someone constantly breathing down his neck. Namjoon just watched, absentmindedly reaching forward to gently caress those soft looking cheeks.

 

Seokjin turned towards him in surprise (they seem to be doing that a lot). Namjoon realized what he’d just done one second too late, going rigid on the spot, but before he could pull away and stutter out an apology, Seokjin was closing his eyes again, leaning into the touch. Namjoon swallowed past the uncertainty crawling in his throat and opened his hand instead, letting Seokjin rest his cheek on the palm. Namjoon felt a little jittery, a little giddy, a little anxious that something would ruin this moment, but Seokjin just stayed there, squishing his cheek against Namjoon's hand.

 

“Your highness.” Namjoon stepped closer. Seokjin opened his eyes slowly, looking up at Namjoon with a half lidded gaze. The king swallowed past the sandy dryness in his mouth. “S-shall we move on to the rest if the palace?”

 

There was a hint of disappointment that flickered past Seokjin's icy (yet paradoxically warm) stare, but he nodded anyway. Pulling away from Namjoon and appreciating the scenery one last time before letting himself to be led back inside.

 


 

“Your highness, I’ve been meaning to ask you.” Namjoon led Seokjin down the staircase with the omega's hand in his, a courteous gesture. Seokjin, who had been observing the various draperies hanging along the walls, faced the king curiously.

 

Namjoon's smile was sheepish. “And I don’t mean for this to be rude, but I’ve noticed that you always wear dresses and it is… rather strange for me to see. I am aware that there are cultures where omegas still do so whether they’re female or not, but around these parts it is hardly ever seen.”

 

Seokjin was silent for a long stretch of time, and for a moment Namjoon was worried he may have offended the omega. That is, until the prince cleared his throat, heat rising to his fair cheeks.

 

“In my kingdom,” he ran a gentle hand over the soft, fluffy fabric of his skirt, “a married omega must wear garments that are beautiful, but would not- uhm- give the- the alpha a hard time.”

 

Seokjin's cheeks were full on red at this point, obvious even when he shyly bowed his head. Namjoon's eyebrows raised, still processing whatever that was supposed to mean.

 

Wait.

 

Oh.

 

Oh.

 

“Oh.” Namjoon felt like erupting into little ugly pieces or hiding away from the world forever. How did he manage to make things this awkward so early on in their little tour. The king swallowed, nervously fixing the creases on his plain white top. Even Seokjin's interlaced fingers were hot to the touch.

 

Don’t you dare think about whatever you were just about to think about. Namjoon mentally scolded himself, appalled at the sudden horde of intrusive thoughts that rained down like an avalanche in his mind, wiping away all his present thoughts.

 

Not give the alpha a hard time. Easy. Accessible. Convenient. Namjoon felt a tremor of disgust at the sheer objectification of omegas in Seokjin’s culture, but his alpha was busy hoarding all his attention for itself. It was growling dangerously in the back of his head, possessively, like it didn’t care about anything other than the implications of what Seokjin just said. Not at the horrific practice, not at the primitive mindset, but at the very simple idea of Seokjin being so readily available for the convenience of an alpha. Beside him, the omega shivered, shooting nervous glances in Namjoon's direction.

 

“A-alpha—”

 

Namjoon's heartbeat picked up in a crescendo, his alpha howling in joy of being acknowledged.

 

“Are we going to stay by the stairs?”

 

“Huh? Oh, no. I apologize. Let- Let's move on.”

 

They continued walking in tense silence, the high blush never once leaving Seokjin's face and Namjoon desperately stomping down the starting flickers of arousal.

 


 

At the end of the hallway, Namjoon steered Seokjin towards large double-doors that had delicate carvings running down from the bottom to where the first hinges were nailed. The tension that was momentarily cast over them dispelled with some heart conversation, so Namjoon’s free confidence was back in action. A hand hovered politely around Seokjin’s waist, never once touching the omega but enough to guide him as they walked. As with everything else they have seen so far, Seokjin looked on in awe, this time at the sheer height of the entryway. Namjoon grabbed the brass knockers before looking back at the omega.

 

“This room is another one of my favorites.” He smiled.

 

He pushed the doors open. An immediate gasp left Seokjin's lips.

 

Inside, just like in his father's study, were rows upon rows of shelves filled to the brim with books of all kinds. Except the shelves here reached and stretched on for what felt like forever, filling the long hall. At least twice Namjoon's height, they blocked some of the sunlight from the tall open windows near the ceiling. The room took up almost two floors in height, the ceiling far above their heads boasting not only crystal chandeliers, but painted artworks from several of their kingdom's great artists depicting scenes from their history, from recorded happenings that took place hundreds of years ago. Beyond the rows of shelves were some embedded into the walls, stashing even more carefully organized tomes. It was the arguably the realm's largest royal library, something Namjoon will forever be proud of.

 

Beside him, Seokjin almost tripped on his feet on his way to the nearest bookshelf.

 

“This- this is amazing! Your majesty, there are so many books! How, oh— oh, this is wonderful.”

 

Seokjin was excitedly filtering through the shelves when Namjoon caught up to him. He was kneeling, hardly minding his momentary loss of poise, far too elated to care. Namjoon's heart burst every time the omega would gasp upon finding a book he wanted to read, skipping past the shelves with light footsteps and so much wonder in his beautiful hues.

 

Ah, so he’s a reader.

 

The king barely concealed his laughter whenever Seokjin gaped at limited edition books, showing them to the alpha with disbelief written all over his features. His little “oh!”s and “aah”s were the only sounds in the quiet library, and Namjoon absolutely adored it. It’s not entirely surprising for him to find out that Seokjin was a reader. The prince often held his stance, was shown off to feel like nothing more than a display when they first met, but he carried with him a sense of wonder for the world. Namjoon noticed it ever since, how he’d subtly look around when he thought no one else was looking, observing details that were probably foreign to someone who has never left his kingdom’s borders.

 

Which is why seeing him like this, so openly awestruck, childlike and not thinking about how he looked or how his actions would affect his image thrilled Namjoon to bits. He was comfortable now, enough to let his future husband see this side of him.

 

Future husband. Namjoon coughed, all new levels of warmth filling him up from head to toe.

 

Ahead, Seokjin stopped by one of the further wall shelves after breezing through the others. It was in one of the more secluded areas of the library, half hidden by a drawn curtain. Slowing down to a stop, his expression shifted from gleeful to bewildered. He turned to face Namjoon who was still walking up to where he stood, barely recovering from his own thoughts.

 

“Your majesty, these are…?”

 

Namjoon looked at all the dusty tomes, titles written in some kind of ancient text. He recognized them immediately.

 

“Books of magic.” He ran a finger over the spines. He hasn’t seen these books in a while, but they were unmistakably the books even the greatest scholars of their kingdom couldn’t decipher.

 

“These were brought here from a small vendor near the outskirts before they closed shop. It would have been a waste to throw them out, and the local library would not accept them, so we kept them here. We figured they wouldn’t do any harm, although no one really reads these.” He pulled one out, showing Seokjin the carefully written text. “It’s all in a language no one in the kingdom could read, so they kind of just age here without anyone bothering to pick them up.”

 

Seokjin let out a small ‘oh'. He took the book from Namjoon and approached the shelf closer, wearing a nostalgic sort of expression as he hesitantly put it back on the shelf. The omegas looked beautiful like this, with the light from above shining on his fair skin, face calm yet filled with so much emotion all at once. Namjoon held his breath, afraid that a single move would ruin the tranquility of the moment. Seokjin reached up put the book back in place, and he never looked more ethereal than he did at that very moment.

 

“…Do you like it?”

 

Seokjin faced him.

 

“Do you like the library?”

 

The omega's response was a surprised yet quick affirmative, a joyful little bounce to his nod. Namjoon smiled, stepping up to carefully take his hand. If Seokjin was going to spend the rest of his days with him as his mate, as his queen, he knew he had to give him a safe place in the palace where he could go to escape every now and then. How the omega reacted to the library cemented Namjoon’s choice of where.

 

“Then, it is yours.”  

 

The way Seokjin’s eyes widened was almost comical, jaw falling. He stared at Namjoon for a full minute, as if waiting for the king to take his words back. He never did.

 

“Your majesty—”

 

“All of this,” Namjoon gestured to the wide hall, “is yours now, your highness. You can come here whenever you like.”

 

Little dots of tears filled Seokjin's eyes, but Namjoon didn’t have much time to observe them because then Seokjin was throwing himself at him, throwing his arms around Namjoon's shoulders. Namjoon reacted a second too late, his back hitting one of the shelves and almost displacing a handful of books.

 

He couldn’t bring himself to mind though. His heart was doing jumping jacks inside his ribs, heat flooding his own cheeks at Seokjin's proximity. The omega was pressed right up against him, his honey and roses hitting Namjoon like a cannonball. He could feel the soft fabric of his skirt, the warmth of his chest. He couldn’t help but blush at how the omega’s slim waist felt in his hands. Seokjin pulled away right after, but only enough for them to look properly at each other. Namjoon's hands still rested on Seokjin's waist.

 

The omega mumbled a small “Thank you” before showing his most genuine smile. An overwhelming urge to lean forward and close whatever space was left between them washed over Namjoon, surprising himself. His alpha was breathing heavily, yelping and urging Namjoon to do it, do it, do it. Kiss him. Kiss him.

 

Namjoon shoved the voice back and locked it away. He smiled back at the omega before letting go, opting to hold his hand instead. Seokjin beamed, lacing their fingers together.

 

“Shall we?”

 

The two left the library together hand-in-hand. Namjoon's alpha was growling in disappointment, but he ignored it. It was too soon for any of that. Namjoon wasn’t going to make a move on Seokjin unless the omega was comfortable with it, no matter how incessant his instincts may be.

 


 

Before they reached the last landing of the next floor, still holding each other’s hand, Seokjin halted to a stop. Namjoon paused, noticing the omega’s nervous glances.

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

Seokjin inhaled through his teeth.

 

“There is no one here.”

 

The omega was fidgeting now. Namjoon quirked an eyebrow before looking out onto the hallway before them. Just as the omega said, it was empty, void of any of the castle staff that usually ran around to do their duties. Other than the chandeliers that lit up the enclosed hall and the torches that lined the walls, no one else was there but them. Namjoon chuckled.

 

“Ah, yes. I forgot to mention.” The alpha nudged them along, tightening his grip on Seokjin's hand as a reassurance. They walked slower this time, footsteps echoing down the hallway.

 

“This hall is usually vacant, your highness. No one but a select few may come here.”

 

Seokjin gasped. “And me? I can come here?”

 

“Well,” Namjoon let out another small laugh, “yes, because you are with me.” He didn’t talk about the underlying meaning of his words, but Seokjin seemed to have noticed that there was one.

 

“I see?” The omega’s eyebrows furrowed. Namjoon resisted the urge to reach up and pinch his peachy cheeks.

 

“This floor is special, your highness. It was built solely for a purpose.” They slowed to a stop to a pair of double-doors right in the middle of the hallway. Unlike the doors of the library, this one was made of pure, delicate quartzite, framed by golden flower motifs and little marble figures of celestial creatures that existed only in their myths. The quartzite had been overlaid by a reflective material, making it seem like colors were dancing on its surface.

 

Namjoon expected Seokjin to be amazed by the display, but he only shuffled closer to him, slim fingers wrapping around his bicep. He seemed a little nervous, a little out of place. Namjoon wouldn’t deny that he, too, was unsettled by the atmosphere in this area of the palace when it was first built. There was a strange power fluttering about the air like tiny charged butterflies. At times, it felt like the hall itself was alive, and rightfully so.

 

Namjoon gently took Seokjin's hand and placed it against the door. The omega shivered, instinctively attempting to pull away but Namjoon kept his hand steady by putting his own over the omega's. He pushed, and the doors slid open with a loud, heavy noise.

 

Inside, the room glittered.

 

Namjoon hasn’t been in this hall in a while, but he knew that this was the most beautiful room in the castle.

 

The golden walls, shaped like an aqueduct around the room, were dotted with precious jewels that sparkled under the sunlight. The high ceiling was held up by large pillars that lined the walkway all the way to the end of the room. On each side of the pillars were pools of water running along the marble floors, bordering the lush green rose bushes and other plants blooming even inside the closed space. It was a garden all on its own.

 

Up ahead, at the very end of the walkway, was a looming statue of the goddess herself. She stood high and mighty in all her celestial glory, ivory features stony yet still so powerful. In her hands, she held four orbs connected together by pieces of clear string. At her feet, two great ivory wolves sat howling, etchings of the sun on the back of one and the moon on the other. They stood on command, facing the stained-glass dome atop the statue that casted multi-colored lights on the altar.

 

It was a shrine, dedicated to the worship of the moon goddess and the wolves of fate.

 

Seokjin was silent beside Namjoon as they walked along the pathway, heels clicking like a clock on the bare marble floor. Namjoon observed him just as quietly, watching as Seokjin took it all in. There was hesitance in his movements, his grip on Namjoon's hand tightening the closer they got to the statue. Once they were in front of it, Seokjin had his head lowered and was almost standing behind the alpha.

 

“Your highness, does it scare you?” Namjoon frowned, worried at the sudden spikes of fear in Seokjin's scent. It was an unpleasant, all too familiar change. Seokjin nodded wordlessly, anxious gaze flitting from the floor to the goddess’ stony face.

 

They stood before it, a kaleidoscope of colors shining onto the floor right in front of them. Namjoon slowly coaxed Seokjin to stand beside him, but let the omega hold tightly onto his arm. The colors from the stained-glass bathed Seokjin’s snow-hued eyes in rainbows. For a moment, Namjoon only stared, transfixed.

 

“Your highness.” Seokjin faced him, the colors from his eyes disappearing. “You know who the moon goddess is, yes?” The omega nodded once more. Namjoon put a hand over the one Seokjin had on his bicep. “Then you have nothing to fear. She is benevolent and merciful to alphas and omegas alike, at least according to the stories. She will not hurt you, especially in this space. “

 

Namjoon led them a little closer to the altar, just out of reach of the two howling wolves that each had colors dancing on their marble fur. From this close, the symbols carved onto the base of the altar could be seen. A lily, a shell, a spear and a crown, items whose meanings were lost in their myths. Namjoon never paid much attention to them, but Seokjin seemed curious.

 

“This place was originally built generations ago to house this statue, a way for the royal family to worship the goddess within the safety of our home, but over time its purpose changed.” Namjoon smiled before taking the omega’s hand and placing a soft kiss on his knuckles, startling Seokjin. Pink bloomed on the prince’s cheeks almost immediately, surprise written clear on his features. Namjoon felt a surge of panic course through him as well, but he stomped it down. If he was going to make this work, he had to be confident—not straightforward, just less hesitant to show Seokjin that he very much wants him right there next to him.

 

“What—“ Seokjin cleared his throat, “What is its purpose now?”

 

“The moon goddess,” Namjoon lowered Seokjin’s hand, a tingly feeling still lingering on his lips, “is believed to be the one who ties souls together.”

 

Seokjin inhaled sharply; face reddening more and more by the minute. “So, newly-mated members of the royal family would often come here after marriage to receive her blessing. Of course, after the wedding—“ Namjoon paused, swallowing past the sudden lump in his throat, “we’ll have to return here again to pray.”

 

“Oh,” was Seokjin’s only response. He seemed reluctant; as if that was an idea he wasn’t entirely very fond of. Namjoon tilted his head questioningly, but Seokjin said nothing. He covered it up quickly with a smile, fingers moving against Namjoon’s to lace their hands together. Just like that, the king forgot what he was about to say next.

 

“Uhm—so, so yes. It is a special room, so only members of the royal family who have found their mates may enter.”

 

“And I am your mate, your majesty?”

 

Namjoon’s head blanked. Seokjin saying it so forwardly like that just made it all so much more real. In a flash the room felt smaller and Namjoon was dragged into a spiral of thoughts he’d been trying to suppress this entire time.

 

Namjoon found his mate, the person he wanted to be with for the rest of his life. The moon goddess tied his string and now he doesn’t think he could untie it again if he tried. Namjoon used to spend his life thinking only about what his future would be as his brother’s adviser, how much work he’d be doing and how much he’d enjoy ruling the kingdom together with him. He used to think only about what he could do to serve his people. He hadn’t even thought about travelling the world, getting to know their realm beyond what their books tell him. He had never thought of a life where he is nothing more than a robed man spending the rest of his days bent over paperwork, loyal only to his king.

 

Having a mate never occurred to him. Wanting to bring a mate to this shrine to ask for the goddesses’ blessing together never once occurred to him, but now he wanted nothing more to do but that. He looked at Seokjin and searched his face, all wide-eyed wonder and curiosity, the gaze of someone who was ready to learn about a world so new to him.

 

I just want to get to know him better. Namjoon’s excuse tasted like tar in his mouth. He wanted to get to know Seokjin better, yes, but all this time he was lying to himself, covering up the fact that he was scared. Scared of commitment and scared of rejection. In such a short period of time he had continuously fallen for someone who he never met before in his life, and he was at the bottom with no way out. His string was tied and it was tied tightly, no escaping from whatever feelings he now bore for Seokjin.

 

But did he feel the same?

 

Peachy cheeks and shy little smiles, Namjoon had no way of knowing if they were genuine. He had no way of knowing whether or not Seokjin felt the same way about him or if he’s doing it because it’s his duty to his kingdom; to be wed to the king of a rich country, for the sake of sustaining his people who had been trapped in their snowy prison for who knows how long.

 

Seokjin was new to the world, and being tied down to Namjoon right after meeting that world was a cruel, cruel fate. He’s so curious, so endeared by everything, and Namjoon could tell that he wanted to travel and see more of the lands outside his own. He couldn’t do that, not as his queen, not at his mate. He’d be condemned to living a life sitting by Namjoon’s side and what, bearing his children? Without once having the chance to do what he wanted to do for himself? It’s cruel. It’s so, so cruel.

 

Namjoon felt a heavy pang of guilt in his chest. He’d been silent for who knows how long, staring blankly at the space beside Seokjin and letting all his pent-up emotions consume him. He was scared; terrified of having to be the reason why Seokjin may never get the chance to explore this brand new world. There were shadows dancing on the edge of his vision, taunting him, feeding into the growing fear in his heart. Seokjin must have felt something, because all of a sudden Namjoon’s vision was filled with him and him only.

 

The prince had Namjoon’s face in his hands just as quickly as Namjoon let his thoughts overtake everything else. Their faces were so close together Namjoon could feel his breath fanning over. When Namjoon looked at him properly, there was worry and hints of determination mixing in Seokjin’s eyes.

 

“Your majesty, are you still with me?”

 

Namjoon studied his reflection on the omega’s soft gaze. There was nothing in there but him, reflections of his anxiety. Seokjin’s hands were warm against his skin and he basked in it, letting the warmth seep into his bones. Omegas were meant to have the ability to comfort their alphas whenever they were angry or distressed, like a river dousing a forest fire. Seokjin was doing that right now, responding to his instincts and ensuring that his alpha stayed grounded. His honey and roses softened around the edges, less tantalizing and more comforting. Namjoon let the scent surround him, let it trample down his gold and ash wood; his fear vanished just like that, but little footprints of anxious curiosity stayed.

 

“Your highness,” Namjoon whispered, appreciating how attentive Seokjin suddenly became, “...may I ask you something?”

 

Seokjin nodded immediately. His scent was still hovering around them like a cloud of warm solace. Namjoon took his hands and lowered them to his chest, right over where the alpha’s heart should be.

 

“Do you want to be my mate?”

 

Silence. A nervous spike in Seokjin’s honey and roses had Namjoon hurrying to back up his question. “I’m not questioning your loyalty, nor your words when you said that you were alright with it, but all our royal duties aside I just want to know—“ Namjoon sighed, trying desperately to release the tension from his shoulders, “are you truly happy with this arrangement?”

 

Seokjin’s features fell. Now there was worry written everywhere on his face, and underneath all of it was curious doubt, a pit of second thoughts that Namjoon could see clear as day. He could feel his heart twisting, trying to get away from the fear of having to wait for Seokjin’s response because it knew it was going to get hurt. Somewhere in the back of his head, he remembered having a conversation like this with his brother a few years back, about the dangers of falling in love with—with strangers. Seokjin was still such a stranger. He was a stranger in Namjoon’s mind but he already made himself at home in his heart and it was terrifying.

 

Seokjin observed Namjoon’s face. His lips parted, but no words left. He closed them, only to open them again. This time, his voice was a low whisper, a fleeting breeze against Namjoon’s skin.

 

“I like you, your majesty.”

 

Namjoon froze, the words not quiet reaching his ears. His eyebrows shot up at the response. “Your highness?”

 

“I like you.” The omega repeated, his features softening just as his scent did. A smile made its way to his face, genuine and sweet. “You have been very kind to me. When father first told me about coming to see you, I was scared.” Seokjin inhaled a trembling breath. He moved his hands from Namjoon’s chest to weave them with the alpha’s fingers. “I did not know what you were like. The king of Soleil, an alpha of status. Father told me that marrying you would be a great honor, and so I did not have a choice. I was giving myself to destiny, and I always believed in destiny—but I was so scared.”

 

Seokjin kept his gaze locked with the alpha’s and nothing in them betrayed his words. His icy eyes hid storms behind them, but Namjoon could see through all of it only because Seokjin was letting him—letting him into his heart, letting him know that his words were true and nothing but.

 

“I did not know what kind of alpha you were. In my kingdom, omegas are under alphas. Alphas are scary and mean. They see us as wives and mistresses and maids who would prepare their meals every day, and I was scared you were going to be like that.” But I wasn’t— “But you were not. You are patient with me, your majesty. You welcomed me here; you are showing me around your home. You smile at me, you hold my hands,” Seokjin raised their laced fingers for emphasis, “and you make me feel free. I have never felt free, your majesty.”

 

Seokjin paused then, as if talking for so long in a language that wasn’t his own was taking a toll on him. For Namjoon, however, it was already too much to take in. He stared at the omega, stunned and speechless, trying his best to absorb what Seokjin just told him. You make me feel free. Namjoon could feel tears prickling the back of his eyes. You make me feel free.

“So, yes, I am happy with this arrangement.” Seokjin smiled, the warmth of his fingers travelling from Namjoon’s hands back to his face. Namjoon could melt into his touch like this, could melt into his sincerity if it was tangible. “I am very, very happy, your majesty.”

 

Above them, the glow from the stained glass colored their skin as, for the first time, Namjoon felt the softness of Seokjin’s lips against his. Rainbows danced on Seokjin’s eyelashes just as they burst in Namjoon’s chest like fireworks lighting up the midnight sky. He stood still—oh, so still—every nerve ending in his body alight with overwhelming joy at the suddenness of it all and it was so much, too much. Seokjin was standing on the tips of his toes and his fingers were unmoving against Namjoon’s jaw, but the alpha had no idea what to do. He stood there, wide-eyed, feeling Seokjin’s lips as if they were petals falling from a spring tree and his mind was nothing but a repeating mantra of he’s kissing me, he’s kissing me, we’re kissing each other.

 

Seokjin pulled away a moment later, a moment too soon, and immediately searched for any negative reactions on Namjoon’s face. Except there were none. The alpha merely stared at him in shock, still trying to process what just happened, leaving Seokjin feeling shy and timid. He squared his shoulders, face completely red, words sputtering.

 

“Y-yes- Th-that is how I feel. I am happy, yes, happy—very much, I am—y-yes—Oh goodness, I’m sorry—I don’t know why I did that I have no idea what came over me oh gods your majesty please don’t bemadIpromiseIwillneverdothatagainohgodwhydidthatIdothatIswearI—“

 

“Seokjin.”

 

The omega straightened up immediately, a loud yelp flying from his throat. Namjoon stared straight at him with flushed features evident under the multi-colored light from above. He inhaled before kneeling on one knee, gently placing his hands over the omega’s to bring them close to his lips. Namjoon pressed a kiss on both of Seokjin’s pulse points, a sincere intimate gesture that alphas in his kingdom were known to do to people whom they desperately wanted to be mates with—an act of asking for an omega’s hand in marriage, a proposal. Seokjin doesn’t know that, but it doesn’t stop him from going completely red and immediately panicking because oh god your majesty why are you kneeling—

 

“Then, let me do this properly.” Namjoon took a calming breath, trying to gather whatever was left of his nerves. He never thought he’d ever want to be with someone badly enough to want to do this with them—here, in front of the goddess’ statue, asking to spend an eternity with them with a bond sealed tight.

 

“Kim Seokjin, prince of the North, we have known each other for less than six moons, but in those six moons you have continued to endlessly plague my thoughts from the rise of the sun to its rest below the hills. Perhaps, had we met under different circumstances, this would have been easier. But this is the fate the gods put us in, so let’s make the best of it.” He smiled, sheepish, at the omega. Seokjin’s entire face was burning red at this point, including his elfish ears. It was an endearing sight to see, and Namjoon wanted to keep it preserved in his memory forever.

 

“I felt something for you that I have never felt for anybody else, and I know our fates have been written down for us already but I—I want to do this right. Seokjin—Your highness, will you let me be the one to take your hand in marriage? Will—Will you be my mate?”

 

Namjoon held onto Seokjin’s now trembling hands, anxiously waiting for a verbal confirmation of what the omega truly felt. Seokjin looked like he wanted to cry, or laugh, or something in between. Instead, he lowered himself down, his puffy skirt gathering around his torso before affectionately launching himself at the alpha, both arms coming up to wrap around Namjoon’s shoulders tightly. Namjoon struggled to keep his balance, but was able to put a hand back to keep them both upright just in time.

 

He held Seokjin with the other, keeping him as close to himself as possible despite the cheerful surprise still coursing through his veins. Seokjin was giggling and crying in relief at the same time, muffled by the collar of Namjoon’s shirt, and Namjoon has never felt so at ease.

 

He thought he had been the only one who carried doubts about whether or not their feelings for each other were beyond royal duty, but with how Seokjin was slowly relaxing against him, he figured that may have been another mistake on his part. He could feel it, their collective relief at knowing that they’ll both be marrying someone who felt genuinely in love with them.

 

It was the sweetest feeling, but not quite as sweet as Seokjin’s scent right then. It was heightened, reaching levels that could only be reached if someone was truly happy. He wondered if his own scent was heightened too, because right now his heart was bursting and it was the only thing he could think of.

 

The goddess watched as the two found comfort in each other’s arms. True, it had barely been a week since they first met, but in that very moment they both felt as if they had known each other their entire lives. Namjoon thought he had to risk falling in love with a stranger, and he did, but the payoff was so much more than he could ever imagine.

 

They sat there for a while, trying to contain their happiness yet not quite having the heart to let go. Namjoon asked for Seokjin’s permission to kiss his scent gland, and the omega let him, still giggly and drunk on the moment. Namjoon held him close, so close, and Seokjin held him back. They bathed in rainbows like this, drowning in each other’s affection and what might just be the true beginning of their story.

 


 

By the time the two of them left the great doors of the palace, the afternoon sun was already high in the sky.

 

There was considerably less distance between them now, hands held tightly closing whatever space was left. They were laughing at something Seokjin just said, hardly minding the curious glances of the maids and the guards who littered the palace grounds. Namjoon was still riding the high of pure happiness that blanketed them both. They probably smelled sickly sweet, and a bit too much of each other for it to not entail any hidden agendas. Neither of them minded though. Whatever happened moments ago stay between them, and it was a secret they were all too happy to keep.

 

Namjoon led them around the left wing tower, passing by the stables and the servants who were ushering the horses to the storage to leave the wagons filled with ingredients, most likely stored to be used for the feast after their wedding. They greeted the staff with wide smiles on their faces, and they beamed right back, happy to see their future rulers like this.

 

Namjoon would usually be the first to offer them help with work whenever he was free, but right now he had an armful of omega who he wanted nothing more than to cuddle and spend the rest of the day with. Namjoon had butterflies erupting in his stomach whenever Seokjin spoke to him with crescents in his eyes, and he welcomed the feeling with an open heart.

 

“—so you are older than me, then!” Namjoon joked, earning a mock-irritated scowl from Seokjin.

 

“And what about it!” He pouted, lightly slapping Namjoon’s arm which only helped in making the alpha laugh a little harder. “You don’t have to be so sensitive about your age, your highness. I’d love you even when you’re gray and wrinkly.”

 

Seokjin gasped, clearly offended. “I will not be gray and wrinkly when I am old!”

 

Namjoon’s laugh could probably be heard by everyone near them now. He didn’t think they’d reach the teasing stage so early, but Namjoon let himself enjoy it. Seokjin was surprisingly fun to tease. It loosened him up, helped in getting rid of the poised and perfect image he once wore. Namjoon fell in love with him just a little more.

 

“Yes, I am sure you won’t be. But enough of that, I have one last thing I want to show you, your highness.”

 

The alpha took them past the gate that bordered the palace from the wide clearing behind it. Tall trees surrounded them, housing little blue birds in their branches. Their songs could be heard from miles away, a relaxing tune that never fails to draw Namjoon here. Distant sounds of running water could be heard from deeper in the forest, a tell-tale sign that the river hidden there was the exact reason why the vegetation around the area was so healthy. They walked past it, and soon the sounds of nature were replaced by the choked-sob that Seokjin spat out the moment they reached the back of the palace.

 

This was his mother’s pride and joy. The mini greenery in the courtyard and the front-yard gardens were nothing compared to the queen’s own personal garden.

 

A wrought iron fence painted gold bordered all four corners of the garden. Past it were mazes of shrubs carefully trimmed, some in the shape of animals and exotic creatures. Bushes and trees filled the gardens with colorful flowers, purples and pinks and yellows and more. Stone statues much like the goddess statue in the shrine were dotted along a shallow rectangular pond with flowering lilies drifting gently across the surface. A pathway led deeper in to the garden to a greenhouse with glass panels, catching and reflecting the afternoon sunlight. Seokjin was already dragging Namjoon towards the entrance before he could utter another word.

 

“It’s beautiful!” Seokjin exclaimed the moment they entered. He skipped towards the fountain that fed water into the pond, light on his feet as he explored along the pathway. Namjoon followed behind him, smiling, utterly endeared by Seokjin’s excitement just as he had been to every other room they had been to. The omega was leaning over a bush of white blooms, smelling the flowers that hardly rivaled his pale skin. He stood out here, a flurry of snow in a garden of greens, but he looked much at home at the same time. He waved at the flowers and curtsied to a particularly tall tree, playful and just happy.

 

Namjoon let him explore the gardens to his heart’s content. His omega—his omega—was best when he was happy, after all. Somewhere along the way, his puffy blue skirt bounced along the hedges, disappearing inside the maze. Namjoon let him, opting to stay back and enjoy the spring breeze.

 

After half an hour or so, Seokjin found Namjoon resting on one of the benches near the pond. He looked giddy, a couple of leaves decorating his now ruffled black hair. Namjoon’s smile returned when Seokjin sat himself down, a make-shift bouquet of different colored flowers in his hands.

 

“They were on the ground. It would be a waste.” He handed the flowers to Namjoon, which the alpha gratefully accepted. Seokjin was practically glowing under the sunlight, a silly smile on his face. There were more leaves and petals clinging onto his skirt, but the omega didn’t seem to mind. Namjoon reached over to pluck a leaf dangling from Seokjin’s hair.

 

“Did you have fun, your highness?” Namjoon laughed at Seokjin’s enthusiastic response. The omega nodded repeatedly, scooting closer to his alpha.

 

“The garden is very big, your majesty! It is very colorful!” Seokjin giggled, taking one of the flowers in Namjoon’s hand to slip it above the alpha’s ear before brushing some of his hair away. Namjoon’s heart stuttered at the gesture, heat rising to his cheeks in an instant. “There, majesty is now a daisy.” Another small giggle. Namjoon wanted nothing more than to absolutely squish Seokjin right now, keep him in his arms and never let go, ever.

 

“You’re adorable.” Namjoon cooed, earning himself a shy smile from Seokjin. “Did you go inside the greenhouse?”

 

Seokjin was quick to shake his head no, pouting just a little bit. “It is closed, I did not want to go there without you.” He took Namjoon’s hand and gently held it again. Namjoon was the one to lace their fingers together this time, coaxing Seokjin to stand up with him.

 

“Then let me show you. I think you’d love it there.”

 

The greenhouse was a little farther back, guarded by two tall trees standing at the entrance. It was big enough to house several trees, just the way his mother wanted it to be. The door was shut closed just as Seokjin said, but not locked. His mother never locked this place, said she didn’t want to the plants to feel imprisoned. He loved that about her, her mindfulness of the little things.

 

Inside the greenhouse, light filtered through the glass panels. It was much like the garden outside, only this had been made to house the rare plants that their family owned. Species from all over Aia that could not be found anywhere else except here and where they originated from. Namjoon let Seokjin fawn over the plants, smiling at his excited little gasps. They walked slowly until they reached the furthermost part of the greenhouse. Once they got there, they both paused in admiration.

 

The heart of this garden was the Weeping Willow that stood tall at the back of the greenhouse. Its leaves drooped low, trunk thick and twisted. There was a swing attached to one of its thicker branches, one that looked like it hadn’t been used in years. They walked closer, careful not to disturb the plants that had been planted on the soil below.

 

Namjoon helped Seokjin sit on the swing, his puffy skirt swallowing up his legs the moment he sat down. The omega seemed a little hesitant, but Namjoon quickly reassured him that the swing was strong enough to hold both of them. The alpha stood behind him, clutching onto the vine-covered ropes that suspended the wooden seat.

 

“My brother and I used to play here a lot. It was hidden from the adults, so it was a perfect place to run around and play pretend.” He recounted all the memories of him and Yoongi pretending to be great treasure hunters here, with their fake swords and chests. Namjoon would always trip and fall, but Yoongi was the one who got the most bruises in the end from trying to save his younger brother. Those were better days, back when Namjoon thought he knew everything there was to know about his brother and the future was secure.

 

“Do you miss him, your majesty?”

 

Namjoon hummed, raising an eyebrow in question.

 

“Do you miss your brother?”

 

“I do,” he laughed, “a lot, actually. Sometimes I wonder how he’s doing or what he’s up to, but I don’t want to make him feel as if I was still his responsibility.” He sighed, gently rocking the swing.

 

Seokjin didn’t say anything in response, simply let his head rest back against Namjoon’s torso.  Namjoon appreciates the comforting gesture, no matter how small it may be. He doesn’t really like thinking about why Yoongi left, but sometimes he wishes he at least told him before he did. Maybe he would feel a little more important to him then.

 

They stayed like that in comfortable silence for a bit. Seokjin started humming some time ago, and Namjoon let himself get lost in the tune, still rocking the swing as gently as he could. Seokjin’s skirt swayed back and forth even with the small movement, kicking up some of the old dust that settled on the soil. The Willow shielded them from the sunlight and the rest of the world, their own little sanctuary in his mother’s gardens.

 

Time stretched on. The king was growing drowsy, what with the gentle rocking of the swing and Seokjin’s beautiful humming. Namjoon wasn’t sure how long he’d been listening to Seokjin’s singing because it startled him back awake when he stopped all of a sudden. The omega gasped, pushing himself to his feet in a matter of seconds. Namjoon felt like someone pulled him out of orbit at the sudden loss of Seokjin’s warmth. By the time he got to pull himself together, Seokjin was already rushing to somewhere behind the Willow. Namjoon followed soon after, still feeling a little groggy. That all-nighter was starting to really affect him.

 

“Your highness, what’s wrong?” Namjoon approached Seokjin with a slight sway to his steps. The omega was staring at something at the base of the Willow’s trunk. Namjoon had to walk around him to notice. How the omega even saw it was beyond him.

 

There, cradled between two of the Willow’s roots, was a single white flower opening into the earth. It drooped just like the leaves of the Willow did, but it seemed very much alive. Seokjin kneeled in front of it. Namjoon barely caught it, but there was a change in the omega’s scent, undertones of melancholy, longing. Namjoon squatted next to the omega.

 

“Seokjin?”

 

The omega sniffed, reaching out to plant his fingers on the ground surrounding the flower. Namjoon watched him silently, observed the sadness in his features. “Your majesty,” Seokjin whispered, gently caressing the petals of the flower. Namjoon hummed to let him know that he was listening. Seokjin let out a close-lipped sigh, shoulders slumping slowly.

 

“Plants could not grow in the cold.” Seokjin finally said, leaning back on his knees to face Namjoon. There was a distant look in his eyes, as if he was remembering a memory that had been purposely locked away.

 

“But my mother still tried to grow her own garden.”

 

Oh. A story. Namjoon sat down properly, motioning for the omega to sit next to him. Seokjin followed, settling himself between the alpha’s legs so he could lean sideways against his chest. Namjoon’s hands flew up on instinct, resting on Seokjin’s head to stroke his hair. “Go on, your highness.”

 

There was a bit of hesitation before Seokjin continued, voice low enough for it to be a whisper. His fingers were warm against Namjoon’s skin, but his expression grew cold and sullen. “Mother was an omega, like me. She died when I was young, but I remember going to her garden every morning.” Seokjin took Namjoon’s free hand in his, playing with the alpha’s fingers. “It was not a garden, not like this one. It was full of dead plants and trees that had no leaves, but she still called it a garden. The only thing that bloomed there was,” Seokjin pointed at the flower at the base of the Willow, “that. A single snowdrop.”

 

Namjoon hummed in understanding. He held the omega closer, Seokjin immediately cuddling into him to him and sighing contentedly. “She used to say that the snowdrop was me.” He giggled softly, a break of light in the gloom, while still playing with Namjoon’s hand. “She said everything in her life was bad until she had me. That is the only thing I clearly remember about her.”

 

Namjoon’s heart clenched with an ache that wasn’t his, the pain of a son who would do anything to bring his mother back to life even for a second if it meant they could share more memories together. He didn’t respond, but his hold on Seokjin was tight and reassuring. He could sympathize with that, in a way. Seokjin was also his snowdrop, coming to his life right when he needed him. Namjoon doesn’t know who Seokjin’s mother was, or what her story was, but he sent her a silent thank you, wherever she may be, for giving Seokjin to him.

 

“Your mother must have really loved you.”

 

Seokjin nodded, hiding his face in Namjoon’s chest. They fell into silence again. Namjoon felt wet patches on his shirt where Seokjin’s head rested, but he didn’t comment on it, merely comforting Seokjin with a kiss to the crown of his head and a steady hand keeping him in place.

 

“…Snowdrop. It suits you.”

 

“Hm?” Seokjin sniffled, shifting lightly where he was seated.

 

“Nothing, your highness.” Namjoon smiled into Seokjin’s hair, letting himself bask in the moment.  Namjoon thought it was ironic, how quickly they became comfortable with each other when a day ago, neither of them would have probably had the courage to hug the other, much less tell such an intimate piece of their history. But, he was thankful. Thankful that they were both taking steps to getting to know each other better.

 

Namjoon still had doubts clouding his head, about whether or not they were ready to face whatever was ahead, about whether or not they were ready to share their lives together. He’d been angry when his parents gave them less than a week to fully understand each other, but perhaps they could still do things at their own pace. Piece by piece, until Seokjin was no longer a stranger to him, and he was no longer a stranger to Seokjin.

 

Their wedding was in four days. Four days to finish all of his remaining paperwork, four days to prepare for the biggest event of their lives, and four days to spend as much time together as possible. If Namjoon could show Seokjin around the castle, propose to him properly, and hear a piece of his story all in one day, then that’s enough to give him hope about what’s to come.

 

Namjoon had been lax about who he was going to marry, had been willing to leave it all to his mother at some point; but right now, at this very moment with Seokjin in his arms and the leaves of the Weeping Willow shielding them from the world, he found that he’d rather not have it any other way.

 

Seokjin was a new variable in his life, someone who could change the way he was about to live completely, but he’s willing to accept it all. Seokjin, and the changes he’d bring. He tightened his hold around the omega, holding him close to his chest. He wasn’t going to let go now, not of him, not of this moment. He found the person his string was attached to and that was that. No more fear, no more hesitation. Seokjin was here to stay, and Namjoon would fight the world if it meant keeping him safe and sound right here, with him.

 

Later, when the sun was beginning its descent to slumber, they went back inside to an extremely worried mother and a father who was giving Namjoon knowing glances. Seokjin was whisked away by the old queen yet again, but not before being wrapped up in his alpha’s arms in a tight embrace. Whether Namjoon sneaked another kiss in there somewhere was something only they knew.

 

The king went back to work with a giddy grin on his face and a heart that was skipping around happily at the prospect of the joys that only the future may bring.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Namjoon hated mirrors.

 

Rather—he hated looking at his own reflection.

 

There had been a time when he would compare looking at his reflection to being verbally reminded of the life he led prior to that very moment. It was an awful memento of—of everything he has done, as if every single particle of time and space decided to condense themselves into one finite zone at that exact second just to mock him. He hated his own image, and he loathed having to be reminded of its existence.

 

At least, that’s what his pity-hungry demons molded him to believe since his youth.

 

Suffice to say, Namjoon never had much confidence growing up. He had been a kid at some point, uncaring about anything other than winning over his older brother in a fun game of hide and seek. But then he grew up, and everything around him grew up, and suddenly he was being forced onto the world whose only concerns were how straight he could stand, how clearly he could articulate his words, and how well he could carry himself on heeled loafers without looking like an absolute fool. He lost count of how many times he felt confused about why it mattered that his father was a tall-standing, broad-shouldered man, his mother was a quaint, delicate woman, his brother was a charming, handsome lad and he was—well, him.

 

He learned how to stand straight when he was six, learned how to articulate a 12-page script when he was ten, and learned how to balance on heels when he was thirteen. But never did he learn nor understand why people would look at him disapprovingly whenever he was with his family, as if there was dirt on his face that he couldn’t quite remove and that dirt was his face.

 

So little round-faced Namjoon grew up wondering why his face was so round, why his eyes were so small, and why his jaw disappeared beneath the folds of his skin every time he laughed so hard he’d snort. Even as he shed all his imperfections the older he grew and people started to gawk at him, hide their blushing faces whenever he was near, he still hated being reminded of what that feeling felt like, of how ugly he felt, of how he resigned himself to being the adviser of the king simply because he was too ugly to be a public figure.

 

Namjoon hated mirrors, but now he was looking at one and he didn’t even know who it was that was staring him back.

 

The king groaned, long and hard, as he readjusted the heavily bedazzled crown digging onto the scalp that his dusty blonde hair called home. His white suit constricted like a snake coiling round his waist and it was uncomfortable but he can’t remove it, just like how he can’t seem to remove the heavy cloud of self-doubt that insisted on making itself known merely hours before his wedding.

 

Yes, today, the third moon of the spring harvest, was the day he was finally going to marry the sole subject of his romantic interest. His nerves were lit aflame and he was nauseous, but for some godforsaken reason the feeling of wanting to throw up all over his expensive garments weren’t strong enough to overwhelm his descent into the ugly pit of self-loathing that lived in the farthest reaches of his big brain. Namjoon clutched onto his epaulets for dear life, as if doing that would make him feel less like garbage wearing pearls and more like his majesty Kim Namjoon, newly crowned Emperor of the throne of the sun and Kim Seokjin’s soon-to-be-mate. This was the effect mirrors had on him, and he was scared he might never actually outlive it.

 

Hours before his wedding. Namjoon straightened himself. He took in a deep breath and exhaled by gnarling his big scary alpha fangs at the horrendous, towering demons that refused (always refused) to let him go. They squeaked and ran scrambling, but Namjoon knew they’d be back. He’d probably be the one to come begging for them to return, but not right now. The king let himself relax (read: forced himself to calm the fuck down) and squared his shoulders.

 

Today, hours before his wedding, Namjoon was dressed in a white suit that complemented his figure so well it almost hid the building insecurities storming his mind. Gold buttons lined the front of his suit in two spaced out columns, leading down to a pair of white pants that made him look much taller than he actually was. There was a waist coat laid over his fit, white gloves and the same old heeled loafers finishing the look. On his head, that stupidly heavy crown with its diamonds and rubies and extreme discomfort pinned down his perfectly styled hair. He looked like a man ready to watch his mate walk down the aisle. He looked (and felt) uncomfortable, he looked like he was ready to faint, he didn’t look like Kim Namjoon, but he’d let that go just for today.

 

At the edges of his mind, his little demon goblins snickered. They were making fun of him. Namjoon flipped them off but turned away from the mirror regardless.

 

To say that the week before today had been eventful would be an understatement.

 

Namjoon sat himself down on the plush velvet of the only goddamn couch in the entire room. He was out of view of the mirror, so he let his thoughts roam freely (partly to help douse the fire in his veins. By the gods, he was almost on his last straw).

 

Before today, for the last four days, Namjoon had been every bit of a wreck as he was just moments ago.

 

He managed to finish his work, managed to write back replies to every single congratulatory message he received, even had a head start on the meeting for possible constitutional amendments with the royal council. All of it he did with a heavy weight on his chest and an even heavier numbness in his back. To make things worse, soon after he had been dragged into the wedding preparations and he was undoubtedly at a complete loss of what to do.

 

For a whole day he had to help his mother and his future mate plan everything out, from the feast to the invitees to the—gods help him—ballroom decorations. He sat there, staring at the scroll in his hands for hours trying to figure out if the draperies in the ballroom should be blue or red. In the end, Seokjin had to take the lead, shooting Namjoon cheeky smiles and a look that says ‘let the omegas handle this.’ He smiled at him then, dropping his head onto his hands only when Seokjin was no longer in sight.

 

During the late afternoons, when his mother would finally let Seokjin go, they would explore the palace more, going to the places that Namjoon didn’t get to show Seokjin during their first day of touring. In the process, they told each other snippets of their life stories. Often, they’d end up in the gardens, where Seokjin would bring armfuls of botanical books from the library to read up on whatever he can. Sometimes, they would just stay in the library altogether, with Namjoon helping the omega study their language both in text and speech.

 

Seokjin was an incredibly fast learner, and he was interested in everything that he could find in the books. Just watching him digest everything so quickly was enough to push Namjoon just a bit deeper into the well of love that he was already drowning in. (Thinking about it now makes his skin tingle with a light, airy feeling).

 

Seokjin had also been interested in the books hidden in the far back of the library, the ones that were written in the language of magic. He didn’t tell Namjoon, but it was obvious enough. Namjoon asked him about it once, but the omega recoiled at his words. And so that was left there.

 

The night before their wedding day was a little bit different, though. Namjoon stayed up just a little past his usual bedtime to sit with Seokjin in the courtyard. They talked about their fears, their doubts, how nervous they were for the following sunrise. Their hands never left each other’s grasp, even when Seokjin was beginning to feel drowsy and they could hardly keep the conversation going. Namjoon chuckled when Seokjin started pouting, asking to be put to bed, obviously far too sleepy to mind how adorably demanding he was getting. Namjoon walked him to his room with a parting kiss and that was that.

 

He hasn’t seen Seokjin since, partly due to the nerves, but mostly because it was tradition for them to not see each other before the ceremony officially begins.

 

He kind of wishes, right now, that he took the chance to keep kissing Seokjin before they parted ways last night. Namjoon, after several stolen kisses that may or may not have ended in him almost giving into his instincts, quickly learned that the omega squirms far into a kiss, mewls when he desperately needs to breathe, and scrambles for purchase whenever Namjoon dares to poke his tongue into his mouth. Seokjin felt, in every sense of the word, like an untouched omega—a virgin. Namjoon had to tighten his belt at the sudden flood of stupid, intrusive thoughts that his stupid brain demons think they could sneak in without him doing something about it.

 

Oh, he was excited to finally marry the omega, but his nerves were still caught in an inferno and it was starting to get suffocating. Namjoon was just sitting there, waiting for the ceremony to start, but he could feel smoke clogging his lungs and a swamp forming in his stomach and his stupid, stupid insecurities taunting him for thinking he’d ever be ready for this day. For thinking that with Seokjin it was okay if he felt ugly and dirty and physically unlikeable, or that it was okay if he let his more primordial instincts take the reins.

 

Namjoon pushed himself up, taking one, two deep inhales. He stomped over to the nearest window and pushed it open, eagerly welcoming the fresh spring air. It was still a little cold outside, but the tiny bites of icy gust cleared his mind and they were more than welcome.

 

Sigh. He wasn’t ready for this.

 

Below, he could see the carriages lining up along the entrance to the palace grounds. Those were the carriages that would take them to the temple in town, the one where Namjoon was crowned and the one where their wedding ceremony will be held. Seokjin could already be in one of those carriages, but knowing how long it takes for royal omegas to get ready—Namjoon doubts it.

 

He steps back away from the window. The sky above was bright and blue, clouds white and wispy, and Namjoon should probably take the time to thank the deities for at least giving them good weather on one of the most important days in his life. He sat back down instead, far away from the mirror and far away from the bustle of the palace grounds.

 

Namjoon just had to wait here for the escort that will let him know if it was time. Time for him to face reality, time for him to shut down his inner turmoil for just one day just so they won’t interfere with his wedding. Time for him to seal the deal with Seokjin in front of his family, his people, the entire realm and all the deities that they—

 

“Oh my gods HOW many stairs do you guys HAVE?”

 

Namjoon almost leapt out of his skin at the sudden voice.

 

He had scooted to the very edge of his seat in surprised panic, arms held out and ready to beat the living daylights out of whoever thought it was funny to sneak up on him like that. Through the blood rushing in his ears, he hardly recognized the figure that now stood at the threshold of the room, hunched over and panting and looking like he had ran thirteen full laps around the palace grounds with how sweaty he looked.

 

When his head did clear, the alpha found himself gasping and struggling to keep his anticipation down because oh my god, oh my god is that—

 

Hoseok?”

 

 


 

 

“—And that’s how I successfully avoided being seen sneaking up here when I, your best man, obviously should be waiting for you and your bride-to-be at the temple—totally nowhere near the castle—because, fortunately for me, my training totally involved tip-toeing past unsuspecting guards who were way too busy checking out the cute little maids scuttling about in their cute little dresses and doll shoes.”

 

Hoseok wrapped up his story with a wide, heart-shaped grin nearly splitting his face in half. He was slumped on the only couch in the room, sweat matting his previously styled dark-brown hair, while Namjoon stood in front of him still caught in a state of utter disbelief because Jung Hoseok may look like a hamster who fell into a pond five different times narrowly escaping a predator in chase, but Namjoon would still recognize his best friend anywhere. His best friend who he hasn’t seen in ten whole years, appeared out of nowhere, dressed impeccably in whites and browns and hand-sown gold detailing, and was now sitting on his couch, in his home, on the day of his freaking wedding with no prior warning whatsoever.

 

Namjoon just stared at the alpha, perpetually surprised, while Hoseok fanned himself, trying to refresh after supposedly running through five flights of stairs and at least six corridors in an effort to not be seen by the guards roaming around.  He blinked one, two, several times just to make sure that he wasn’t an illusion his wedding jitters-addled mind somehow managed to conjure. Hoseok just whined about the ventilation and poor architectural planning of the palace, vigorously pulling at his unbuttoned shirt to fan himself, without paying any mind to the emotional (probably spiritual) crisis his friend was currently suffering from.

 

Namjoon huffed loudly, looking around almost frantically because this was definitely a prank and they were definitely playing with him right now because there was no way his best friend was here, in the flesh, right in front of his very eyes, because he left Soleil ten years ago and Namjoon was sure he wasn’t going to see him again because his job, whatever the hell it may be, prevented him from ever leaving, ever coming back without due permission from his—

 

How did you get here?” Namjoon exhaled, breath heavy, as he sagged with his words. Hoseok, who still looked like he had just finished a 50 mile marathon, stopped abusing his poor shirt to stare at his best friend, looking almost exasperated. He threw his arms out wide in an effort to show just that.

 

“Were you not listening to my story like, at all?” Hoseok heaved, giving Namjoon his best ‘are you kidding me?’ face. His nose scrunched up, lips downturned. “I literally just told you that I arrived here this morning because your parents were absolutely keen on me being your best man! But I couldn’t just wait until the wedding to see you, you know? I’m impatient and I missed you loads so I found a way to—“

 

No, Hoseok. That’s not—That’s not what I meant.”

 

Namjoon let out an almost defeated sigh, dropping himself down on the space Hoseok left unoccupied. He felt exhausted from all the games his mind just can’t seem to stop playing. There was a stretch of silence between them—Namjoon still processing the situation and Hoseok just staring, still looking like a hot mess after his early morning endeavors. Namjoon leaned back, careful not to mess up his outfit.

 

“It’s just—I didn’t think you’d ever be allowed to come back here.” The alpha stared at the off-white ceiling high above them, counting the small cracks that were running along the corners where the ceiling and walls met. “You went away for half a decade and never came back once so I thought, I don’t know, that they trapped you there or something.”

 

Hoseok was quiet before his chuckle. Namjoon didn’t look at him, but he knew from memory what Hoseok must look like right now—endearingly disbelieving, as if he was stuck between wanting to hit Namjoon in the head and ruffling his hair.

 

“Stupid, you really think anyone could trap me? I’m a free spirit, Namjoon. Wild as the wind.” Hoseok did a dramatic sweeping motion to illustrate his point. Namjoon frowned, suddenly feeling extremely wary. “Plus I’m here now. This counts as showing up once, right?”

 

A tick. He let the words sink in very, very slowly. At the pit of his stomach, it molded into sudden frustration.

 

This counts as showing up once, right?

 

Hoseok’s smile almost made Namjoon not want to punch him square in the face. He turned to face him, eyebrows drawn, irrational frustration slowly seeping over the initial surprise. His lifelong best friend was finally sitting right in front of him after ten whole years and right now he wanted nothing more than to pummel him to the ground.

 

“So you had all this time, and you just decide to show up now?” Namjoon could feel heat rising in the back of his neck. “You never once thought of coming to visit after you left with only a letter saying you found a new job with a couple of strict bosses? What the living heck, Hoseok. You were gone for ten years, I missed my best friend for ten goddamn years, all while thinking you never had a choice. But you did. All this time. I didn’t even once consider you’d come back here for my wedding—heck, you weren’t even here for my coronation.”

 

Namjoon didn’t mean to sound accusatory, but the piled up stress he didn’t even know had an actual limit to was clouding his rationality. Namjoon was a calm man, hardly ever gets angry, but right now he was downright furious and his hazy mind couldn’t quite pinpoint as to why. He just stared his best friend down, not entirely expecting that anger would be the emotion he’d welcome him back with after all these years of not having him by his side.

 

Hoseok’s smile was gone now. He looked serious, but in a patient sort of way, like he was expecting Namjoon to say those exact words to him since before he opened the door. He took in a breath, reaching up to slick his hair back into its previous style. He carefully buttoned his shirt back up, obviously avoiding eye contact, or at least stalling it. Namjoon just stared at him, trying to calm the fire that had spread from his nerves to his chest and quiet the building laughter of his stupid brain demons. He could practically see the excuse rolling off of Hoseok’s tongue.

 

Instead, the other alpha straightened himself, moving to face Namjoon as a sign of what could only be respect.

 

“Namjoon-ah,” he started, soft and quiet, as if he was talking to a kicked puppy, “I was kind of hoping we could start this off on a happy note, you know?”

 

Namjoon just furrowed his eyebrows even more, anger building but not—but not quite. Namjoon knows he can’t stay mad for very long, especially not at his lifelong best friend no matter whatever it was he may have done. Rather, the anger was building to confusion. And he looked the part, too.

 

The other alpha sighed, this time planting his palms on his thighs. He gave a resolute nod and spoke again.

 

“Okay, I guess that plan is a no-go.” He said, more to himself than anything. “Listen, today is your wedding day, and I don’t want this to be a stressful day for you. I was hoping we could avoid the emotional talk until, I don’t know, until after the ceremony? I promise I’ll explain stuff better later or—or tomorrow, or whenever. Whenever you’re free.”

 

“But for now,” Hoseok bit down, “for now, okay, I’ll try to sum this up the best I can because we only have less than an hour left until you’re bound for the temple and I was not expecting this to be our welcome back talk so—so buckle up, alright?”

 

Namjoon almost sighed again. He just nodded for Hoseok to continue, to which the alpha curtly nodded.

 

“Okay. First, I would just like to say that holy gods I hardly recognized you?” Hoseok reached out to grip Namjoon's shoulder affectionately, like an older brother watching his sibling go on a date for the first time. “You look amazing, Joon-ah. You grew up so well, just like I knew you would. Your cheek fats are gone, nada, and you look so kingly now—Shit, I missed you. Like I actually really, really missed you, and I missed so many stepping stones in your life.” Hoseok looked like he was ready to cry, but quickly managed to collect himself. “I missed you, for real. I miss you now, I missed you while I was away, and I missed you when I left.”

 

“When I left, and I wasn’t able to properly say goodbye to you and Yoongi.” Hoseok was the one who sighed. He looked guilty, sullen. “I still remember that day so, so clearly. I woke up, right? Got ready to start training with the other guards in the palace when all of a sudden someone knocked on my door not dressed in the military colors of Soleil and I was scared out of my mind, Joon-ah.”

 

“I found out soon enough that they were from Vanyr, the kingdom where my father used to serve? And they wanted me stationed there as an apprentice. That, I told you as much in my letter. They gave me an hour to collect all my things and write a farewell letter to whomever I had to send a farewell letter to, and that was that. They never even gave me a choice, Joon-ah. If they did, you know damn better than anyone that I would have stayed—here, with you and Yoongi and everyone I grew up with.”

 

“When I got there the first thing I wanted to do was write you a hundred letters but they put me in the barracks upon first light and ever since I only ever went outside to train, and train, and train until my hands bled and my knees gave out. It was a hard life, and I didn’t know why the heck I was being trained to death. Until I found out that I, along with another kid who was training with me, were supposed to become the new Heads of the Guard of the royal army. All because my father used to serve the same position when he was still alive.”

 

Beside him, Namjoon was stock silent, wide-eyed and frozen on the spot. Head of the Guard. That was Hoseok's dream—

 

“And you know, you know, that to become the captain of the royal army was my dream back here in Soleil, so I said TO HELL with my limits. I trained until every single bone in my body ached with a dreadful kind of pain and my hands knew the feeling of letting an arrow loose better than it knew the feeling of bringing food to my mouth. I worked day and night just to be worthy of that position and amongst all of that I—I just didn’t have the time to write anymore letters.” Hoseok looked down at his palms on his lap, sounding as apologetic as he possibly could. Namjoon immediately felt horrible about himself.

 

“But I did it, y’know? I got that position, and regrettably I forgot about Soleil during those first few years because I was so damn happy. That kid I trained with? He got in too, and together we led the royal army despite what everyone else said about these newbies being promoted to such high ranks all because of connections.”

 

“I was just so damn happy, and then beyond all that I even—“ Hoseok paused, a happy sort of huff flying from his lips, “—I even found a mate. The most gorgeous, most passionate omega—I spent all my day-offs at work by his side and I just poured every bit of my spirit to what we had together. It was amazing, Joon-ah. Damn it all if I wouldn’t give my entire life to him. We plan on getting married, and plan on starting a family together in the future, and with all of that happening in my life I just—I didn’t have time. I wanted to visit you, for real! But the army took up most of my time and my mate—gods, I love him—is quite demanding. So I'm—”

 

Hoseok sagged, splaying his hands on his knees in a sort of surrender, looking up at his best friend through the few stubborn strands of hair that dangled in front of his face. “I’m sorry, Namjoon. For being a bad, forgetful, irresponsible friend. I’m sorry for missing your coronation, and for literally everything else that happened since I left but—but I swear on my life I’m going make it up to you starting today.”

 

Namjoon's thoughts were quiet. All his rationality abandoned him right when he needed help because now he feels horrible. Hoseok looked like just trying to maintain eye contact with him was a challenge, but his eyes spoke millions about the guilt he was carrying about leaving his best friend in the dust like that—all for the sake of achieving a lifelong dream. Namjoon sniffed, the mess of emotions in his head swirling into a sticky concentration of his own sick guilt and just longing.

 

His best friend of twenty five years left his old life all those moons ago and now he’s back, ready to make it up to him all while carrying such a prestigious badge of honor. Namjoon glanced at the medal adorning Hoseok’s chest—a swan embracing a lily. Namjoon recognized it easily, a medal awarded only to those who had been recognized by the royal family of Vanyr. That, along with the other medals that were peaking under Hoseok’s vest, was a glaring testimony of his achievements while he was away, and that alone was enough to replace Namjoon’s vexation with pride.

 

The king sighed, more or less resigned, as he let himself relax against the velvet of the couch. Hoseok was still looking at him, growing more and more fidgety the longer Namjoon stayed silent. In the quiet of the room, the laugh that tumbled out of the alpha’s lips shocked both of them.

 

“Tell me more about this omega you met.”

 

Hoseok’s smile was blinding then.

 

 


 

 

“Okay, tip from a veteran—Once you see your future queen in a wedding dress I assure you you’d want to do nothing more than to kiss the living daylights out of him right then and there and that’s completely understandable. It’s in our instinct, it’s completely understandable. But, you don’t want to make a fool out of yourself out there, so the best thing to do in this situation is to take deep breaths—c’mon, take a deep breath yeah that’s right—and dig your nails into your palm. Believe me it actually works. I’ve tried it, it’s totally fool-proof. It’s like, you know, the next best thing to opening your pants in front of the entire kingdom and having your omega kneel down to—“

 

Yes. Yes. I’ll stop you there, let me just stop you there.” Namjoon’s voice was muffled behind the hand that was pressed against his face in exasperation. He barely suppressed a groan, trying to hide from the world while Hoseok busied himself with fixing the tangles in Namjoon’s epaulets. His nose was scrunched in concentration. Namjoon just sagged, letting his best friend work on the imperfections on his outfit born from the carriage ride to the temple.

 

The ride from the castle to the temple was uneventful, save for their poor attempt at sneaking Hoseok into the carriage (that guard totally deserves a raise from letting them go scot free). They got to talk more, about the years they missed and everything that happened in between. Namjoon told Hoseok about what happened with Yoongi and how he came to meet Seokjin, and Hoseok told Namjoon about his omega and his current life in Vanyr.

 

Sometime during the ride, Hoseok started giving Namjoon advice about living with an omega. Namjoon listened to the serious ones, but decided to save some of the sillier advices for emergency backups.

 

Now, one carriage ride later, they were left to wait in the temple where the ceremony was due to begin any minute. Namjoon had been made to wait in one of the rooms behind the altar until everything was ready. His hands were cold and his nerves were melting from the fire but Hoseok was with him and it’s fine. He’s fine. He can do this. Seokjin was probably just as nervous as him, and it’ll be fine. They can get through this just fine.

 

“I’m not fine. I’m not okay. I’m so scared right now, Seok. I can’t hecking breathe through this collar oh gods I’m gonna die—“

 

“Namjoon. Namjoon, Kim Namjoon. Calm down, you’ll do great, okay? It’s not even going to take that long, right? Soleilean weddings finish in like a snap, so you don’t have to worry, okay?”

 

“Right. Right, they finish in a snap. I’ll be fine—I won’t mess up, right? Oh gods, I don’t remember my vows. I don’t remember my vows How could I forget my vows?!—”

 

“Sheesh, will you calm down? If you’re still the Namjoon that I know then you’re probably gonna remember it on the spot, so breathe, Joon-ah. You’re going to be just fine.” Hoseok casually dusted Namjoon's shoulders off all while the other was heaving deeply, panic starting to settle into his chest.

 

Namjoon has never been in a situation like this before—waiting idly in a room while the person he’s about to spend his entire life with was so close but beyond his reach at the same time. His desperate attempts at killing the fire swallowing him whole was worthless, and even with his best friend there with him he could still feel every inch of his being burning from the embers alone.

 

“I can’t calm down, Hoseok-ah. I don’t get it—Why am I this nervous? I’ve done hundreds of speeches in front of the kingdom before and I’ve done all of those with impeccable finesse. Why am I this nervous now?”

 

In front of him, Hoseok could only sigh. He fixed up Namjoon’s top one more time before stepping back to assess his handiwork.

 

“Maybe because you’re not scared to mess up in front of the kingdom. You’re scared to mess up in front of your soon-to-be-mate.”

 

Namjoon groaned at his best friend’s words. Of course he was right, it’s not like Namjoon could deny that. Having it said to his face, however, was a whole other level of I know, but you didn’t have to say it like that.

 

Sigh. “You’re right, I suppose? I don’t know. I just don’t want to end up looking like an idiot in front of him.”

 

“And you won’t, Joon-ah. Plus, even if you do, it’s not like Seokjin will hate you for it. He’ll probably just find it endearing. His big strong king of an alpha stumbling on his words because he’s just so taken with his omega—sounds like something even your father would find romantic.”

 

Hoseok burst into laughter. Namjoon could only sigh, but he didn’t stop the smile that curved his lips upon the mental image of Seokjin giggling at the flustered mess that is his future husband.

 

His best friend had a point. In the last few days that they spent together, Seokjin had been clear about his appreciation for how human Namjoon is compared to all the other royals that he grew up with. Seokjin would laugh whenever Namjoon trips and falls on his face, would coo whenever Namjoon nearly cries over problems he just couldn’t seem to solve. Seokjin welcomed Namjoon’s more butterfingered qualities even without saying it, and being a blushing, stuttering mess was probably already on the list of things Seokjin expects from him.

 

The well of love that Namjoon was drowning in just drew in more water and he happily let himself sink deeper.

 

“I can see you daydreaming, you know.” Hoseok quipped, arms crossed over his chest. This time, Namjoon only smiled at him, all rosy cheeks and heart-filled eyes. Hoseok huffed, but grinned endearingly nonetheless.

 

“That’s more like it. Now, before I forget.”

 

Hoseok practically beamed. He dug his hands into his pockets, searching for something. Not a moment later, he posed dramatically in front of his friend, producing a rectangular box with a neat little ribbon on top. “Your majesty.”

 

Namjoon examined the box once it was in his hands. “You got me a gift?”

 

“No—well, yes, kind of,” Hoseok's smile turned sheepish, “It’s actually more of a delivery. I just so happened to hear that the new Emperor personally requested a gift to be made for his bride and I just so happened to be there right as it finished. Lo and behold, the wondrous handicraft of the prince of Vanyr's own jeweler.”

 

Namjoon couldn’t help but gasp as he opened the box. It was perfect, perfect for Seokjin. He didn’t know what to expect when he had this made a mere few days ago. He was scared it was too late to have something done in such a short amount of time, but it came through in the end.

 

The alpha grinned at Hoseok as he moved in for a hug, squeezing affectionately. “Thank you, Seok. Now everything’s perfect.”

 

“It’s no trouble. Everything’s perfect now that you’ve calmed down a bit, huh?”

 

Namjoon let out a hearty laugh. “Oh, I’m still nervous. But it’s fine. As you said, Soleilean weddings finish in a snap, right?”

 

 


 

 

Soleilean weddings, as Namjoon soon found out, did not finish in a snap.

 

Namjoon was positively sweating by the time he was standing in front of the altar, waiting for his bride to enter. His clothes felt heavy on him, but not as heavy as the expectant looks of the people seated in the wide hall. His family was there, and their families and the people whom they had formed allegiances with. Royals and nobles and honored guests from everywhere in the realm, most of whom Namjoon didn’t even recognize. Seokjin’s own family couldn’t attend, unfortunately, due to the harsh travelling conditions they would be put through, but the adviser Kangmin assured them that Seokjin’s father knew of their plans and will be sending amendments in a few days time.

 

His fellow alphas and several betas kept their gazes on him as time passed, some with pride and some with judgement. The omegas hid their faces behind dainty hands, whispering to one another about something or the other. Namjoon usually suppressed the effects of their heavy scrutiny quite well, but right now their deciding eyes only fanned the flames that were threatening to swallow him up.

 

He resisted the urge to fix his collar as the humidity in the room gradually got too suffocating. He had to stand still, but his hands were itching to reach up and swipe off the sweat that was starting to pool in his brow. Namjoon wanted to move and go get Seokjin himself because what the heck was taking his bride so long? He just wanted to see him, wanted to get this over with so he can walk away from the prying eyes and spend the rest of the day with the omega alone.

 

Namjoon let his gaze travel over the crowd of people before him. These people will be bearing witness to his union with Seokjin, with the omega he would be spending the rest of his natural life with. He tried not to wish them all away, wish that he was holding this ceremony in private instead.

 

Beside him, Hoseok cleared his throat.

 

“Joon, you good?” The alpha whispered just loud enough for his friend to hear. Namjoon grunted a ‘no,’ to which Hoseok hummed.

 

“It’s fine, he’ll be here any minute now. They’re probably just doing last minute touch-ups.”

 

Namjoon grunted again, this time in affirmation. Hoseok only nodded, but there was a sigh that quickly followed.

 

“But seriously though? How long could it possibly take to prepare for a wedding? They do know it’s already started, right? They’re not like, making you wait on purpose or anything? What even is taking them so long? Did Seokjin like, go back to the palace to get something that he left behind because the attendants were probably intent on hurrying him along when they came here and he couldn’t start the wedding without it because it’s like super important and he just didn’t--”

 

Hoseok.” Namjoon huffed, straightening himself and trying very, very hard not to glare at his best friend. Hoseok let out a questioning sound.

 

“What? I’m just saying, I don’t think it’s possible for a bride to take this long to come to his own wedding, you know? I mean please, it’s getting kind of awkward just sitting here and waiting for the doors to open--”

 

Just then, the doors opened.

 

Hoseok was quick to shut up and for a moment, Namjoon was blinded by the light that suddenly filled the room. It was almost like a scene from a storybook. As the white light started fading around the edges, a silhouette formed in the middle, walking from the threshold of the temple down the aisle to the altar. Namjoon felt his heart leap straight up his throat. When the doors closed and Seokjin finally came into view, the alpha was positively speechless.

 

Across the hall, Seokjin slowly walked down the velvet carpet. Seokjin was as traditional as traditional omegas went, but right now he looked especially so. Namjoon tried not to stumble over air as he drank in the sight in front of him.

 

Seokjin was dressed in the purest whites, with golds and reds accenting the fabric. The omega’s neck was wrapped in a ruby-and-diamond encrusted choker necklace, dripping crystals spread over the upper part of his chest. It faded into a sweetheart neckline, low enough to be suggestively teasing, but still high enough for it to be deemed conservative. His torso was littered with gold and ruby detailing, shoulders bare as the detached sleeves flowed gracefully around his arms. Below it, the omega’s ball-gown skirt trailed behind him, the gold fading into white feather-like patterns, making him look like a golden swan.

 

On top of it all was a long, sheer veil flowing under a crown that looked much more elegant than Namjoon’s, but equally heavy. The veil made his bride look floaty, ethereal. Seokjin’s eyelashes fanned over his cheeks as he walked, not quite meeting Namjoon’s gaze. When the alpha spotted the glittering brooch in the shape of a sun sown onto Seokjin’s top, his heart grew, stowing in pride.

 

Seokjin wasn’t beautiful, he was the living embodiment of beauty. Hoseok had been right when he said that the first thing Namjoon would want to do the moment he arrived was to kiss the living daylights out of him.

 

When the omega finally reached his place in the altar, it was as if the entire room released a breath it didn’t know it was holding. Betas fidgeted in their seats, omegas subtly groomed themselves, and alphas looked ready to bow at Seokjin’s feet. All of the attention was on the omega in front of Namjoon, but said omega’s silver gaze was now focused solely on him.

 

There was a shy blush dusting his cheeks, the slightest hint of a smile tugging at the corners of his lips. Namjoon smiled back, ready to devote the entire universe to his omega.

 

The officiant’s voice, an elder of the temple, was blurry in Namjoon’s ears when she spoke.

 

“We are here today to witness the union of two kingdoms, two families, two souls. As the flowers borne of spring blooms, so do the ties between the Kingdom of the Sun and the snowy lands of the North.”

 

Nervous? Namjoon mouths, carefully watching the omega’s expression. He could see Seokjin nodding ever so slightly behind his veil, pulling his bottom lip into a gentle bite.

 

Very. He mouthed back. Namjoon gestured to himself, as subtly as he could, in an effort to say, Me too.

 

They both smiled then, looking down onto the marble stand between them. The officiant continued on with the formalities, addressing the guests, the family members of the bride and groom, and the to-be-weds themselves.

 

“We shall now begin with the ceremony.”

 

Namjoon was the first one to reached out, holding out a hand, palm-up, and encouraging Seokjin to follow. The omega did so right after, and a heavy white cloth was placed over their hands. Below, a bowl of crystal clear water was placed onto the stand. It was blessed water, most likely taken from the goddess statue and cleansed several times with rituals and prayers. Namjoon vaguely heard the officiant saying something about it being a symbol of transparency and trust, of purity and loyalty to one another. Namjoon doesn’t necessarily find himself fond of the symbolism, but he’s not one to break harmless tradition.

 

They were made to hold each other’s hands under the cloth, with Seokjin’s above his. Slowly, the alpha guided them under the cool water, letting the cloth dampen and float around their hands. The officiant kept talking, following the traditional verses to the dot, but Namjoon was far too distracted by the warmth of Seokjin’s hand. The omega’s fingers were curled delicately around his own, and Namjoon wanted nothing more than to lace them together.

 

The cloth was gently removed, bowl quickly whisked away and replaced by two chalices. Their hands were dried off, and Namjoon was already back to staring at his bride. Seokjin knew he was staring, lightly squirming at the attention and making the alpha smile. The ceremony was taking longer than expected, what with all the officiant’s talking, but to Namjoon it was all passing by in a blur. When he was so busy admiring his omega’s beauty, nothing else seemed to matter.

 

“--drinks that serve as a bride’s first gift to their groom, and a groom’s first gift to their bride, symbolizing everlasting love and loyalty--”

 

Namjoon lifted one of the chalices from where it sat. His had a warm brown liquid in it, a drink that Seokjin made himself. He found this part of the ceremony rather silly, but intimate in its own way. They were made to create special drinks for their significant other, with ingredients that they know would make a drink that the other would like. Namjoon, with a little bit of help from his mother, managed to create something that tasted like strawberries and milk and refined wine all at once, a taste that Seokjin once made him try. It had made the alpha frown uncertainly at first try, but the omega seemed to love it. He was curious what Seokjin’s would taste like.

 

The cold material of the chalice met his lips, and soon his mouth was being flooded with the familiar taste of his favorite tea, but with such a nostalgic spike to it. It tasted like the brew Yoongi would sometimes make for him during his good days, and it almost made Namjoon cry. He downed the drink and placed the chalice back down. It was taken away before he could so much as blink.

 

A heavy feeling clung onto his heart at the sudden reminder of his brother. He met Seokjin’s gaze once more, and there was something remotely apologetic in his sharp silver eyes. Namjoon merely smiled, the gratitude bubbling past the ugly, scratchy feeling of missing his older brother.

 

“--To be seen under the guidance of the Moon Goddess, and to be protected by the wolves of fate. May these two souls be at rest from worries, and may nothing come to threaten the bond they now share. With the blessing of the moon and the stars above, you may now seal your union with a kiss.”

 

Suddenly, as if it had been a steady rhythm Namjoon has been purposely ignoring, the heavy thrum of his heart was all he could hear. It wrapped around him like a cocoon. Big, loud, frightening. Namjoon forced himself to calm down with one deep inhale, trying to focus on the waiting eyes of his beautiful omega, and the tense silence of the room.

 

He’s kissed Seokjin multiple times during their time together, but right now, as he reached forward to move the veil away, he felt young and vulnerable again. As if all the ugly feelings he had been repressing all these years were just coming back in a rush. Once the veil was gone and Seokjin’s beauty was facing him full-force, Namjoon found himself choking on nothing. Anxiety, nervousness, clawed at his throat, but he stomped it all down. He can’t be feeling weak when Seokjin was right in front of him, looking every bit as scared if not more. Seokjin, his sweet little Seokjin, who was new to this land and new to its customs and new to this experience, was looking at him through his lashes, big silver eyes calm and trusting. The omega had so much trust in him, so much trust in his alpha, and it was elating to be thought of so highly. The euphoria of it all had all of Namjoon’s nerves melting, and all he could feel now was the way Seokjin’s shoulders relaxed as he leaned forward to capture the omega’s lips in his.

 

Somewhere in the static noise, Namjoon could hear people clapping, silently celebrating, as the bond between Aia’s new emperor and his empress was sealed for all the world to see. He could pick up on his mother’s crying, on his father’s comforting whispers, on the loud cheers of the crowd waiting outside the temple. All while Seokjin was pressed against him, soft hands placed gently on his alpha’s shoulders just as said alpha’s hand held his waist, as they both savored the kiss that put a lock on their union.

 

 


 

 

This ball had a lot more proper partying than the last one.

 

Namjoon couldn’t help but let out a hearty laugh at the sight of his people once again mingling with royals and nobles. They were more free tonight, more loose-limbed, moving earnestly to the music and raising glasses of beer and champagne. A high lady was giggling with the dock workers, a known duke sharing a whispered conversation with the tailor’s omega son. The party held in honor of their wedding was a party Namjoon was more than happy to be a part of, partly because of the joyous celebration, but mostly because he wasn’t sitting stiff and alone on a throne anymore.

 

Namjoon gulped down his last few drops of wine, happily raising the glass as proof and enjoying the loud cheers that erupted from the group of party-goers he found himself in. Somewhere across the room, Hoseok was enjoying the celebration just as much, already making acquaintance with a couple of betas who seemed very much into whatever story he was telling them. The group was sharing boisterous bouts of laughter, some with arms draped around each other’s shoulders like old friends. Namjoon smiled at them, smiled at the people around him, and smiled at the freeing atmosphere of being surrounded by his people.

 

Though, of course, Namjoon was quick to redirect that smile to the omega by his side. Seokjin, having had changed into something more comfortable, all peach silk and billowy sheer fabric, was practically planted at his alpha’s side, head resting comfortably on Namjoon’s chest. The alpha has an arm placed possessively around the omega’s waist, keeping him as close as he possibly could. Namjoon’s not sure if it was the gold-and-crystal band now decorating Seokjin’s delicate hands, or his own scent mixing with Seokjin’s honey and roses, that made him feel so protective of the omega--protective, possessive, constantly on the verge of snarling at any alpha who got anywhere near them. Namjoon’s alpha, usually tamed and quiet, was wide awake and it was desperately trying to keep its omega to itself. Namjoon was more than willing to indulge it, just for now.

 

“Alpha,” Seokjin whined lowly, pressing himself even closer to Namjoon. The king perked up immediately, leaning down to place a gentle kiss on the omega’s forehead, noting that Seokjin decided to forgo the usual your majesty.

 

“Yes, Snowdrop?” Seokjin preened at the nickname, still trying his best to be subtle. Namjoon had started calling Seokjin that sometime during the last four days, and it always seemed to affect the omega deeply. Namjoon took special care to add as much affection into it everytime it was used.

 

“May we go somewhere less crowded?” He whispered, always so gentle. Seokjin leaned into him some more, looking up at the alpha through thick lashes. As if he needed to show such a pleading expression for Namjoon to acquiesce to the request.

 

“Of course. It is getting pretty stuffy in here. Shall we?” Namjoon pulled away from Seokjin momentarily to take the omega’s hand in his, gentlemanly as always. Seokjin would’ve fought to hide his blush any other time, but today was his wedding day, he was allowed to indulge.

 

Namjoon led them away from the group after bidding them farewell. They were well on their way to the buffet tables, which were much less crowded, with Hoseok hot on their heels.

 

“Joonie, Joon-ah!” Hoseok sounded giddy, pumped up on alcohol and the joy of finally seeing his best friend settled. Hoseok had been partying pretty wildly that night, allowing himself this simple pleasure. It wasn’t everyday that your life-long best friend got married, afterall. They were near the tables when Namjoon finally heard him, turning around with a wide grin on his face.

 

“Seok, hey. Done chatting with those new friends of yours?” Namjoon teased, letting himself laugh as well. Hoseok’s own laugh was loud and unconstrained, completely riding on the high of the night.

 

“Oh, they were great! They couldn’t stop asking questions. The brightest little things, I tell you. They’re all packless, Joon-ah, and the most flexible fighters always start out that way. Might recruit some of them after the night is over, too! Seems they’re interested in the whole knight thing, and what joy! Youngsters with the same passion and drive that I used to have! You know it’s exactly like looking at yourself in a mirror except its a bunch of downtown kids raised to make bread and sell clothes for money just wanting to get out of-- of their--”

 

Hoseok stuttered to a pause, suddenly looking like a cornered mouse. Namjoon raised an eyebrow, still smiling, gesturing for Hoseok to go on. But the alpha had his lips zipped tight, taking one, two steps back and looking extremely nauseous. Namjoon’s senses would’ve blared, alert, if he didn’t immediately take notice of the way his omega was now stiff against him.

 

Namjoon only had to take one glance at Seokjin to see what was wrong. The omega, his sweet little omega, who was usually all pink-tinted cheeks and sweet roses in honey, was glaring at Hoseok. His silver eyes were trained on the alpha, looking just as dangerous and calculating as when Namjoon first laid eyes on him. Seokjin’s shoulders were tense, ready to pounce, seeing the hyperactive alpha in front of them as a threat. Alphas were far more territorial than omegas. Newly wed omegas, however, Namjoon was seeing it for himself right now.

 

The king was stunned for a solid second. Hoseok was an unwavering person, an alpha who always knew how to hold his feet steady, but a single threatening stare from Seokjin, an omega, had him backing off faster than a blink. Namjoon barely got a hold of himself (and the arousal that was steadily climbing his system) a second later, quickly letting a reassuring scent envelope the omega by pulling him closer to himself.

 

“Snowdrop, it’s alright. Hoseok is a friend. I haven’t introduced you yet, have I?” He cooed, reaching up to card gentle fingers through Seokjin’s silky black hair. Seokjin whipped his head up to look at him with wide, innocent eyes. The sudden shift almost gave Namjoon whiplash. Seokjin was pouting at him now, when a mere few seconds ago he looked like he was ready to rip Hoseok’s throat out.

 

“Uh--Yes, Hoseokie is a friend of mine.” Namjoon gestured for the alpha to come closer so he could introduce them properly. Hoseok seemed a little apprehensive, still shocked at Seokjin’s sudden change in demeanor, but stepped forward anyway so as to not accidentally offend the new queen.

 

“Your majesty, it is an honor and a pleasure to be graced by your presence.” Hoseok bowed, hand on his chest, diplomat voice coming through smooth and easy. “I apologize for my hastiness. It seems the excitement of the night has gotten the best of me, but that is no excuse. Please, let me introduce myself. I am Jung Hoseok of the western valleys, Head of the Guard of Vanyr’s royal army, bearer of Vanyr’s swan seal--and, of course, a friend to the Emperor.” Hoseok stayed with his head lowered for a second longer before straightening back up, looking expectantly at Seokjin.

 

The omega was silent beside Namjoon, quietly appraising the alpha in front of them. Namjoon made no move to defend Hoseok in fear of it affecting Seokjin’s trust, but he was itching to do so as his friend. The king just gave the other alpha a tentative smile, all while the tension between the three of them hung heavy in the air. It took another moment of silence for Seokjin to relax, posture lax but expression still somewhat guarded. He gave the alpha a bow of his own, offering him a small smile.

 

“Captain, the pleasure is mine. The Emperor has yet to mention you, I am afraid. I apologize for the rash greeting.” Seokjin’s words flowed much smoothly than before, sounding exactly like velvet flowing in a steady stream of water on a snowy mountain top. All that time spend refining his speech paid off well. Hoseok beamed at the omega, tentatively reaching out and offering a hand to Seokjin. The omega took it. Hoseok placed a kiss on the back of Seokjin’s hand before retreating to make sure there was enough space between them.

 

“I imagine he did not have much time to, but let us not be too worried. The night is young! And we’ll have plenty of time to get to know each other better, your majesty.” Hoseok’s smile was blinding, infectious as usual. Namjoon watched on as the two engaged in conversation, with Seokjin gradually letting the tension bleed from his shoulders the longer they spoke.

 

The alpha couldn’t help but smile. Distantly, he remembers Hoseok making him swear that he should be the first person to know if Namjoon ever gets betrothed one day. This wasn’t exactly fulfilling that promise, but he supposes it’s good enough. He let the two talk some more, asking about how the night has been for both of them, about the festivities held in the honor of Namjoon and Seokjin’s mating, and other such questions. Namjoon was silently thankful Hoseok didn’t mention anything about Seokjin’s home or how they came to meet. Knowing Seokjin, he would’ve recoiled the moment Hoseok did.

 

“--Truly! Soleil has changed much since I last came. This is my first ball here in a while, and it’s still as grand as ever.” Hoseok laughed after a while, earning a satisfied smile from Seokjin. Namjoon could smell the faint traces of pride blooming in the omega’s scent, knowing that he had been part of the preparations for both the wedding and the ball. Namjoon was just as proud, leaning down to nuzzle against Seokjin’s temple. Their conversation carried on well into the night, with Namjoon’s attention focused solely on two of the most important people in his life.

 

Sometime during the celebration, somewhere from the front of the room, a loud voice called out in the middle of their hearty talk. “Ladies and gentlemen, may I please have your attention?”

 

It was the old king.

 

Namjoon quickly sprung to life. He halted Seokjin and Hoseok’s conversation, whispering a quick “We have to go” to the omega and sending an apologetic look to his friend. Hoseok nodded, smiling, before waving them off, but not before sending a knowing look to Namjoon (which the alpha was more than happy to ignore). Namjoon was leading Seokjin through the crowd of people not a second later, excitement beginning to bubble under his skin.

 

“--And the palace has never quite been this lively. My son, your new Emperor, has finally tied the knot, so to say.” A wave of bashful snickering washed through the crowd. Namjoon helped Seokjin up onto the raised platform, the omega looking just as giddy. “ And tonight, we are celebrating their union, as alpha and omega, as mates under the ever merciful grace of the moon goddess. Now, as per tradition, they will be giving each other very special presents, to signify the beginning of a bond.”

 

Namjoon and Seokjin both smiled at the cheers of the people. They walked forward, stopping where the old king previously stood, and turned to face each other with barely concealed grins on their faces. Namjoon studied Seokjin’s features, and Seokjin studied his. They held each other’s gaze until a servant came scuttling forward to hand Seokjin a long, rectangular case wrapped in white cloth.

 

“My alpha.” Seokjin spoke, voice loud and clear. Namjoon basked in the warmth of his words, of his voice. Seokjin’s soft smile made him look so much more beautiful. “My Emperor. I stand before you to offer but a humble gift.” Seokjin took the case and delicately unwrapped it. Without the cloth, Namjoon could see the impressive details carved onto the lid. The box was easily longer than his arm, and Namjoon wondered what could be inside.

 

He didn’t have to wait for long. As Seokjin unlatched the locks keeping the lid in place,  Namjoon could see velvet peaking underneath, when the lid was removed altogether he could hardly hold in a gasp.

 

Inside the box, sitting on plush velvet, was a long sword. The hilt, made most likely of pure gold, glinted under the light of the chandeliers. The details on both the hilt and the sheath that lay next to it mimicked that of the case lid, with the addition of a sun emblem. There were words carved onto the blade itself. A foreign language, probably of Seokjin’s land. The omega removed the sword from its casing and offered it to his alpha, who took it with awe written all of his face.

 

Namjoon felt the blade against the palm of his hand. It was delicate, like brittle glass, but still so sturdy. Namjoon has had enough sparring lessons to know that even though the sword was made to look decorative, there’s no doubt it could still be used as an actual weapon. He took the sheath from Seokjin and hung it onto his belt loop. The sword was quick to follow. Namjoon felt power surge through him. A sword for an alpha, a weapon to protect his omega with. Very fitting.

 

The king resisted the urge to capture Seokjin’s lips in his own at that very moment. Instead, he smiled at the omega, placing a hand over his heart and bowing lightly. “Thank you, my queen.” Namjoon pretended not to notice the blush that immediately bloomed on Seokjin’s cheeks.

 

After running his fingers through the hilt once more, a gesture of appreciation, Namjoon reached into his own coat pocket, thumbing at the box that held his own gift for Seokjin. The omega’s eyes told of his excitement, and for a brief moment Namjoon wondered if the gift was good enough.

 

He had thought about it ever since his mother showed him the gift that she received from his father. What would I give to my future bride? Would it be something that they liked? Something that reminded Namjoon of them? In Seokjin’s case, it had been especially difficult. They may have spent the last few days getting to know one another, sharing intimate levels of skinship with one another, but there were still so many things he didn’t know about the omega. He’d decided on his gift after careful deliberation, but now it felt severely lacking.

 

He steeled himself, taking the box out anyway. The case had been replaced, now a simple glass box with etchings on the side instead of the plain material it came in with. It hardly looked as fancy as the sword, but Seokjin’s eyes twinkled nonetheless. Namjoon stepped closer, taking the omega’s hands and placing the box on his soft palms. Once Seokjin peered inside through the clear cover, he let out a gasp of its own.

 

“My omega.” Namjoon smiled sheepishly, running his fingers over the soft skin of Seokjin’s hands. “This gift may yet be humbler than yours, and is hardly anything in comparison to you, but I do hope that it is something you would come to like someday.”

 

Namjoon helped him take the gift out of its casing; A comb with a rose carved onto it, decorated with diamonds and rubies and little intricate patterns lacing the gold. It was reminiscent of Seokjin, reminiscent of what drew Namjoon to him; the tantalizing scent of honey and roses. Seokjin looked up at his alpha as Namjoon made quick work of inserting the comb into his braids, expression soft and vulnerable. Seokjin whispered an “I love it, alpha,” which had the king’s heart twist into knots. Namjoon had the omega in his arms not a second later, arms wrapped lovingly around his waist and Seokjin was giggling into his ear, smooth and high-pitched and dripping with affection for his alpha. Neither of them minded the longing looks of the crowd, the “aww”s and “ohh”s as the people watched their new rulers get lost in each others warmth. They only pulled away when the old king spoke again.

 

“Well, isn’t that a sight to see,” he cooed, earning an embarrassed blush from Namjoon. The king only smiled and turned back to the crowd. “And now, ladies and gentlemen, as the night draws on and the celebrations continue, our new rulers will be completing their bond. Come morning, Soleil, the Capitals, the mountains of the North and the borders to the east will have their new Emperor and Empress, and their names will be written in our history as the names of their ancestors before them--”

 

The old king’s speech drew on, all while Namjoon and Seokjin were quickly being ushered away by several beta servants before they could even untangle from each other. Namjoon was still too dazed from Seokjin’s flowery scent to notice what was going on. It was only when the lights of the ballroom faded away behind them the further they walked down the halls did Namjoon feel something heavy settle in the pit of his stomach. His mind cleared only when the servants pulled the doors to a chamber open, one that was new even to him, and the subtle smell of incense burned his nose.

 

Oh. There was this part.

 

“Alpha?” Seokjin was leaning against him then, silver eyes looking glossy as the incense quickly took effect. The servants let them enter the room before scuttling away, and that was all it took for reality to come crashing into Namjoon.

 

Here, in the soft warm glow of several night lights and the burn of incense smelling like liquid aphrodisiac, he will have to mate and mark Seokjin. Seokjin, who was practically draped over Namjoon and breathing in the strong smell of an aroused alpha. Seokjin’s honey and roses were melting into something hot and golden, pouring over Namjoon’s skin and making everything so, so warm. His clothes felt like a hundred layers all of a sudden, and he wanted nothing more than to strip both of them out of their garments at that very second.

 

Namjoon bit on his tongue, quickly leading Seokjin to sit on the large bed by the farthest corner of the room. Seokjin looked ready to present himself to his alpha right then and there, but Namjoon held his shoulders steady, sitting down facing the omega with barely concealed control and a firm expression on his face.

 

“Seokjin. Snowdrop. Look at me.” He seethed, feeling hot all over. Seokjin wasn’t faring much better. He was already starting to thumb at his clothes, desperate little whines puffing out from between his thick lips as he tried to lean forward and nuzzle into Namjoon’s neck. Namjoon tried not to focus on the exposed skin of the omega’s throat, his collarbone, the soft curve of his chest--

 

No. No.

 

Seokjin.”

 

The omega perked up at the harshness in Namjoon’s voice immediately, looking like a kicked puppy. Namjoon swallowed past his guilt and tightened his grip on Seokjin’s shoulders, looking him dead in the eye.

 

“Seokjin. We’re about to have sex, sweetheart. Intercourse. Mating. I will be taking you, and I cannot promise control nor gentleness. But only if you’re truly ready for it. Now, look at me and tell me that you’re prepared to let this happen, and only then will we proceed.”

 

Seokjin was quiet, the fog clouding his eyes slowly beginning to dissipate. Despite the heavy effect of the aphrodisiac still climbing into his system, Seokjin was slowly beginning to look less desperate and more scared. He looked at his alpha, eyes wide, unconsciously tugging his robes closed, and that was all it took for Namjoon to understand. He stood, and Seokjin was quick to whine out, sounding guilty and terrified and at a complete loss all at once. Namjoon leaned over to press a reassuring kiss on his forehead, whispering It’s okay, it’s okay, and withdrew from the bed to locate where the incense had been placed.

 

“We don’t have to do it, my queen. It’s alright.”

 

The heavy smell of aphrodisiac still hung in the air even after the incense had been put out. Namjoon unlocked the nearest windows to air the scent out before returning to the bed. Seokjin was now sitting on the edge, facing away from his alpha and tugging his clothes closed in shame. When the mattress dipped under Namjoon’s weight, Seokjin’s shoulders tensed.

 

“...I apologize, alpha.” Seokjin’s voice was quiet, barely above a whisper, but the regret in his words tugged at Namjoon’s heartstrings all the same. The alpha tentatively reached out, placing a hand over Seokjin’s own.

 

“Snowdrop, look at me. Please?” Gentle, coaxing. Seokjin turned to face Namjoon with guilt written all over his features. Namjoon knew from the very beginning that despite their growing closeness, there was no way Seokjin would be comfortable with the idea of mating with him right off the bat. He had expressed that concern with his parents, and the incense was probably their way of making sure Seokjin was nowhere near lucid enough to fight Namjoon off if it came to that. An angry hotness flared in Namjoon’s chest at the thought of it all, and there was no way he was going to let his parents get away with such a horrendous plan, but for now he had an omega to comfort and he wasn’t about to let something like this ruin their wedding day.

 

“Come here, love.” Namjoon opened his arms, waiting for Seokjin to take the initiative. The omega looked hesitant at first, but a soft smile from Namjoon and he was diving in, pressing himself tight against his alpha and looking for comfort, comfort, it’s okay, it’s good, alpha’s not angry, it’s okay.

 

Namjoon could feel Seokjin trembling as he wrapped his arms around the omega, pulling them both to rest against the headboard. Little gentle sounds of “You’ll be just fine, Snowdrop” was all Namjoon could say, repeated reassurances until Seokjin’s shallow sobs eventually evened out and he was left resting his head against the alpha’s chest, playing absentmindedly with the hem of Namjoon’s sleeve.

 

“...Alpha isn’t mad?” Seokjin looked up, big round eyes searching for any signs of disapproval on Namjoon’s face. Namjoon just smiled, reaching up to card his fingers through Seokjin’s soft locks.

 

“Of course not, love. Why would I be? If anything, alpha is fully content just to have you in his arms like this.” Namjoon tilted Seokjin’s head up, pressing the lightest kiss on his pouty lips. Seokjin squirmed under him, and Namjoon couldn’t help the laugh that came tumbling out of his throat.

 

“It’s been a long day. We should get some rest, yes?”  

 

Seokjin sighed, deflating against Namjoon. He nuzzled deeper into the alpha’s neck, nosing along his scent gland. Namjoon froze, already feeling lightheaded from such a simple affectionate gesture. Seokjin was pulling away a second later, as if the action never even happened, quickly moving to sit on his alpha’s lap. Their gazes met, and Namjoon was instantly reminded of why he felt so young and clumsy with Seokjin.

 

“I can’t believe I’m married to someone as beautiful as you, Snowdrop.” Namjoon reached forward, caressing Seokjin’s soft cheek. The omega melted into the touch, squishing his cheek against the palm of Namjoon’s hand. Namjoon’s heart was doing somersaults in his chest and he welcomed it, so utterly endeared by the smallest things that Seokjin does.

 

Just a few days ago he would’ve done everything in his power to postpone their wedding. Hell, it wasn’t even that far back when all he had to think about was how he could become a ruler as great as his brother. Everything happened so quick, and he barely had time to register Seokjin’s willingness to be with him. But now, under the warm glow of the room and the moonlight peeking in through the windows, Namjoon had Seokjin in his arms and he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. He was tugging Seokjin closer to him as they lay down, covering them both with the thick blanket a second later, and Namjoon was left to wonder how things would’ve went if Yoongi hadn’t ran away, if he was here as the king and Namjoon was working under him. He knew that he wouldn’t miss what he didn’t know, but now the thought of never even having the chance to meet Seokjin stirred something ugly in his chest.

 

Namjoon pulled the omega closer to him, Seokjin snuggling even closer in response. The possessive growl that almost left his throat was barely held back. Now that Seokjin was his, and he was Seokjin’s, he would fight tooth and nail to keep him here. He would fight the universe if it meant keeping his omega by his side for the rest of eternity. He knew, as Seokjin slowly drifted to sleep beside him, that no hell or high water could ever separate them, not if Namjoon could do something about it, and god forbid what he’d do if anyone ever tried.

 

That night, under the warm glow of the room and the moonlight peeking in through the windows, Namjoon fell asleep with his queen in his arms, a wedding band decorating his ring finger and the promise of forever lingering on his mind.