The moment you reach your private chambers, you collapse against the door. Your heart softly shudders with strain as you finally let the first tears fall, trickling steadily down your cheeks. The bundles you carried in fall to the floor as you cover your face with your cold hands, trying to stifle the quiet sobs that seem so determined to come.
You had gone into town after your work today. Walked down, escorted by a guard that you pretended wasn’t there. (The king now insisted upon such a thing whenever you left the palace walls, but you could tell the guard thought the job much beneath him.) You had just finished picking up a few ingredients from the market traders and was on your way to see if the bookstore had received new products when your attention had been caught by the sizeable crowd gathered outside the town clinic.
“Please, please, give me medicine for my daughter!” The peasant woman clutched a child that couldn’t have been more than two years old. The babe’s crying was as raucous as the yelling, the noisy mix of voices all clamoring with want.
“I need to see someone! My side— It hurts every day. I can’t work anymore. My family’s going to starve. I need treatment!”
The physician’s assistant stood on the clinic steps with folded arms and a bitter, hard look on his face. “Are we running a charity? We need to eat too! If you can’t pay, you can’t see the doctor!” He slammed the door in their faces, leaving them out in the sweltering heat, crying out that they could pay next week or as soon as they could, they just needed help right now, but the door remained shut.
Your chest felt stiflingly tight at the sight, compassion’s hand squeezing hard around your heart because you knew you could help. You had to help. You took a step forward, ready to offer your services only to have the guard block your way.
“Su-uinyeo-nim. We must return to the palace.”
“No, I want to stay.”
He shook his head. “It’s too dangerous. They could harm you.” And if they did, then his own head would likely be on the chopping block. Ridiculous.
“They won’t. They just need treatment, and I’m a physician.” You didn’t have many of your tools here but you could at least take a look, provide a diagnosis or recommend some easily obtainable herbs.
“The king would not approve of putting yourself in danger.”
You opened your mouth only to shut it. The king wouldn’t approve of a lot of things, but how could you just stand here and do nothing? These people, they needed your skills.
You took another step forward.
“Su-uinyeo-nim.” The guard’s voice was firm. He indicated for you to start walking away, towards home.
You shot him a stare, the hardest look you could conjure, but didn’t move. Not yet, damn it.
You dallied long enough. One of the women had evidently recognized your outfit and was now barreling towards you with a fire in her eyes. “Uinyeo-nim, you can help me, right!? It’s my daughter, she’s been having a fever and—”
“No, she cannot.” The guard’s glare was as sharp as the blade that the hand on his sword promised.
“Oh, please!” She threw herself against the arm the guard tried to reign her in with. Threw herself forward trying to reach you. “My daughter, my daughter will die if she’s not treated!”
“Let me—” You started, only for the guard to shove her harshly back since he could not do the same to you. She cried out, almost toppling over from the force as she clutched her baby, but he did not relent.
“We are leaving.”
He began to boldly walk towards you, practically into you, leaving you no choice in the matter. You were too afraid he might hurt her further if you did not comply even though every step away felt like a blow to your chest, like tiny fists pounding against your ribcage, making you sore and ache because the stark truth was that your inability to help her wasn’t even entirely the guard’s fault.
All those years ago, you chose to stay.
You never opened the affordable clinic mother had dreamed of. You put your feelings before the wellbeing of all those people you could have helped then, and you did it again today. Selfish. Selfish and helpless and selfish. For all the work you’ve done, it never feels like enough. There are always more patients in need and here you are, living among this extravagance and opulence but really getting nowhere. Not with the king. Not with how much change you can bring to the people.
Even your tears can only be shed here, in privacy and cowardice.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” you whisper through your blurry vision, but these are just words. They do nothing in the end and every choice feels like the wrong one and that there will only be dire consequences to follow them.
At Eunuch Kim’s muted voice, you startle. Hurriedly, you wipe the backs of your hands against your eyes. “Y-Yes?”
“The king has requested your company tonight.”
“Oh.” Shit. You’re in no state to face him, not for what he has in mind, but you must go. “I-I’ll be ready in a few minutes. Just allow me to… change.” You push to your feet, onto shaky legs as you sniff.
The brief walk over in the cool summer evening helps to pull some of the sorrow from your mind (or at least tucks it away to be revisited later when you find yourself as always, alone). Eunuch Kim is kind enough not to probe into the heaviness about you today; he simply chats about the latest novel he has picked up in town, a study of birds that he recommends heartily to you. The king is not so kind. The second you enter his chambers, tilt your head just enough for him to catch your eye, he frowns.
“You’ve been crying.”
It’s not a question.
“I, um, simply had some dust in my eyes, jeonha.”
Searching for a distraction, you begin to undo the tie of your blouse. You’ve never purposefully let him see you openly upset, or at least not since this ‘arrangement’ began.
You nod, unwilling to meet his stare.
The floorboard creaks as he steps towards you. Covers your hands with his own so he can strip you instead. You can’t tell if he believes you; he is so quiet while he pulls layer after layer from you, letting the fabric drop to the floor in bunches of crumpled white and light blue. The warmth of his fingers on your skin feels like comfort, even when it’s only a prelude to his desire.
Isn’t it stupid, that some excessive part of you wants him to openly refute your lies even as you tell them? To undress your mind as hungrily he does your body until you have no choice but to be bared and free, released from the burden of your own thoughts?
“Get on the bed.”
Maybe it’s better like this. You are the only woman he has ever known in this way; you can’t let yourself be so greedy, to again let that selfish part of you want and want and want so much that appetite consumes you, bones and all. You press your palms and knees to the hard bedding. Squeeze your eyes together. Force the tears to stay back while you wait for the burn to come.
His calloused hands land on your waist, but it’s to urge you to turn over instead.
“J-Jeonha?” you question, confused when you see him already on his knees, that piercing gaze provoking goosebumps from your skin. “Why…”
His hands find your ass, urging you towards the edge of the bed. He throws the top layer of his robes aside before he spreads your legs apart, letting them rest against the wood.
What… What is he doing? You find your answer as the sokgot strips fall to the floor beneath his touch and abruptly, before your poor heart has time to prepare itself, his breath blows warm across your clit.
“Ah, this—!” Wild-eyed, you try to squirm back, hot with embarrassment that his face is this close to your crotch. It floods you with worry after worry about your scent, the possible bumps marring your skin, the tufts of hair, but he doesn’t seem to care about any of it as he hooks his hands beneath your thighs. “You’re not—”
Soft lips and a slick tongue are pressed flush against you.
Your entire body seems to quiver at the first lick; a single taste of wetness followed by a second, a third, a relentless fourth that makes liquid pleasure crest, surging upwards, a high, rushing tide in mere seconds. You buck, hands finding no support upon the sheets and part of you wants to cover your face instead, to let die the moans that surface with each gasp but that means you would miss the sight. This unforgettable sight: inky eyes between your thighs, the quick, pink tip of his tongue swiping heat directly into your veins. It feels messy before he finds his rhythm, settles into a beat that only reaffirms how he is irrefutably dominant even while he is on his knees before you, for once not breaking you apart but making you feel so dizzyingly whole you could burst.
While his fingers have learned almost every inch of you, this remains a scenario you never even thought to entertain, never even thought he would want. His pleasing only you. His putting you at the forefront of even his own satisfaction. Stop. The grip on your thigh tightens; you never want him to let go. Stop giving me hope. He does anyway with a drawn out suck, his stare as hazy and heady as if he’s been drinking the most exquisite cheongju.
Your body is taut, sweat beading down your spine. “This is— I can’t—”
“You can,” he quips back, and whatever words you could have said are stolen by orgasm. Taken, and made unbecoming moans that blow past the last shreds of your resistance now resting between his teeth.
It overwhelms you, this newfound sensitivity from being consumed; it makes you want to shirk back but he doesn’t let you. Somehow one of your legs finds its way over his shoulder and he uses that momentum to keep you against his stunning mouth, giving you what you need but never what you want. Each lick nudges you further off the edge, finding an acute bliss past every limitation you thought you had and you think, feverishly you think — it’s like he’s giving you permission to fall apart.
Tears coalesce at the corner of your eyes but you don’t notice. You don’t even know they’re there until wetness trails down your cheeks and even then you’re distracted by another peak, this one a muted swell that makes your muscles tense around his thin frame; he supports your weight without a word of complaint as his strokes finally dwindle in time with your pulses until both drop off entirely.
As he lets your leg roll off his arm, his breaths come almost as unsteadily as yours. Slowly, he retracts his wide hands from your thighs. Rolling his tongue against the inside of his own cheek, you watch him paint your taste in his mouth and don’t know what to make of any of it.
It’s only when a few tears cling to your eyelashes and blur your vision that you realize what’s happening. How embarrassing. You told yourself you wouldn’t do this on the way here and look at you now. You’re about to reach up to wipe away the tears, the damning evidence of your weakness when the king wraps his hands tight around your wrists. Pushes you back. Presses his knees to the bed as he hovers above you, all silence and heat and him.
He leans down and cuts you off with a kiss.
You gasp into his mouth but he doesn’t pull away. He is just soft, persistent, firm, and soft as he moves naturally across territory that should have been unfamiliar, but instead it feels like he’s been mapping, planning this capture for as long as you have. An impossible dream, yes, but the warm breath ghosting across your skin, lingering, is real. You open for him. For your first kiss. Your first kiss with him.
The warm fingers at your wrist squeeze harder.
“You… You can cry.” His voice is a murmur, delicate and hesitant against your lips, as if imparting a secret. “If you want.”
So you do.
You finally let yourself cry while he kisses you again and again, adjusting his angle to push you further into the pillows, releasing a wrist to cup your wet cheek. He kisses you with his nose pressed to yours, a tiny, precious moan finding freedom from someone’s throat.
Yoongi, your mind recalls, clinging to the syllables that belong to a word you’ve never dared to say aloud as he kisses you, kisses you, kisses you until both your mouths are swollen and your chest feels a bit lighter, his a bit heavier in exchange.
And when he finally pulls away, he holds you. His arms accept all your gravity for just a few lingering minutes more, a few heartbeats more, until it’s time for you to go.