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Sparks in Our Hands

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two: zero for conduct

The royal palace sits at the end of Tellun’s Capital district, behind sprawling gardens full of beautiful flowers, massive fountains and stone statues depicting important moments and people from Tellun’s history.  At night the garden paths are lit by soft lights planted along the gravel, and it’s these lights that guide Mingyu’s way as he all but drags Jeonghan along with him.

“Woooo,” the prince giggles softly, swaying in Mingyu’s grasp.  He’s heavier than he seems, and Mingyu almost loses his grip on Jeonghan’s silk shirt.  Again.  “Sometimes - hiccup - I forget how strong you are, heehee.”

After being Jeonghan’s bodyguard for just about all his life, one might think Mingyu would be used to this.  But night after night the prince’s drunkenness continues to astound.  As well as his tolerance for alcohol.  He must’ve knocked back - Goddess, so many shots.  Logically, scientifically, there is no way Jeonghan should still be conscious right now.  Though, Mingyu notes, with something almost fond swelling in his chest, he’s getting there.  So Mingyu tightens his arm around Jeonghan’s shoulder and sighs softly.  “Did you at least have fun tonight?”

“Yeah,” and he giggles some more.  Mingyu easily smells the alcohol on his breath; it’s warm and sour and he doesn’t hesitate to make a face, even though Jeonghan won’t see it or really care in his current state.  “I fucked someone in a bathroom!”

The memory comes flooding back and Mingyu, for his own sanity, has got to start figuring out how to block some of this from his conscious mind.  “I know,” he grumbles.  “I was outside the door.”

“Shh!  Don’t tell Iseul!”  His loud voice carries across the gardens - no doubt if there are any guards or palace personnel awake right now, they can hear him clearly - and with that, he leans into Mingyu with a heavy sigh.  “She’s gonna be mad at meeeee.”

To be fair, drunk Jeonghan is not dumb.  Sure, he’s a shadow of his highly intelligent sober self, but he’s not dumb.  He’s more self-aware than a lot of other drunks at this stage in the night - moreover, he has a point.  But Mingyu isn’t really in the mood to argue or whatever it is drunk Jeonghan is trying to pull.  “No she’s not.  She’s your sister; she loves you.”

“Yeah but she’s also the Queen.”  Jeonghan trips over his own feet but Mingyu holds him up, steady.  It’s like second nature at this point.  Instinct.  “Tellun doesn’t like their royals fucking around the way I do.  Remember?”

“Of course I do,” he says before he can even really think about it - because if they get to talking about this shit, Jeonghan won’t ever stop and he needs to be up in, like, five hours for his meeting.  “You fucked Nostria’s prince while you were supposed to be over there fighting their war.  The kid was eighteen and betrothed.  It was, like, the biggest scandal the royal family’s had in decades.  Do you even remember his name?”

A wicked giggle leaves Jeonghan’s lips and Mingyu steals a glance at his face, at the impish glee in his eyes, lit up with alcohol and stars and the garden lights.  “Ah come on, Gyu,” he whines, throwing a rather bony shoulder into Mingyu’s chest.  It doesn’t hurt in the slightest.  “I’m not that slutty; I remember every person I’ve had sex with, okay?  And Hyunggu was special.”  A wide smile takes over his features and if Mingyu wasn’t so used to it, to Jeonghan, he might be worried.  “His betrothed was something, too.  Wooseok, I think?  Mm.”

Mingyu groans at the memory and once again decides that he needs to just block this shit away.  “You’re insane.”

“You love me!” he sings into the cool night, voice cracking and reverberating against the statues around them.

They’re coming up on the palace doors, and Iseul’s bound to be there.  She always makes sure Jeonghan gets home safe after his nights out, no matter how late she has to stay up.  Fortunately, they’re home quicker than usual, due to Jeonghan’s meeting.  Mingyu has to get him showered, hydrated, and into bed quickly so that maybe they can get… yeah, about five hours of sleep.  A sigh escapes his lips and he helps the prince up the staircase, step by step, trying not to smile every time Jeonghan giggles.  Even though Mingyu is technically younger than Jeonghan by a couple years sometimes he feels like an older brother to the prince.

It doesn’t help that he tends to double up as caretaker in addition to guardsman.  And listener.  And advice giver.  And sexual adventures keeper away from the Queen...er.  Whatever, it doesn’t have a proper title.  But with Jeonghan, it should.

The palace doors burst open and quick footsteps meet them in the middle of the staircase.  Iseul's in nothing but a t-shirt, comfy pants and her favorite soft robe, dark hair still wet from her nightly shower, and she looks less than thrilled.

But what else is new?

"Oh look it's Seullie!"  Jeonghan giggles again as he falls into his older sister’s open arms and places a wet kiss on her cheek, which she promptly makes a face at.  Probably because of the overwhelming stench of alcohol that no doubt accompanies it.  "Did you miss me, sister?"

"Always, Hannie."  Iseul strokes his long, blonde hair for a moment, in a way that’s so loving, Mingyu’s heart swells just a bit.  Even in her annoyance, even in Jeonghan’s drunken state - she still loves her brother.  And then she turns to Mingyu, her expression hardening just a bit into something he and the other guards call The Queen Look.  It’s a bit tense and unreadable, with all the sharp beauty and cold intelligence the Yoons carry in their faces.  “Thank you for getting him back home safely.”

“Of course, Your Highness.”  Mingyu tries to mimic the same professionalism with a slight bow.  “It’s my job as his personal guard, after all.”

Jeonghan scoffs, reaching back to awkwardly punch - grope - touch? - Mingyu’s chest.  Something he probably sees as intimate, maybe slightly punishing.  “Don’t make it sound like you’re stuck with me.  You adore me.”

Iseul sighs a bit, a crack in her rather indifferent gaze as she smirks tiredly at Mingyu.  “Why don’t we get you upstairs, Jeonghan, and into the shower?  You’ve a long, early day tomorrow.”

The prince mumbles something under his breath but complies, and as the siblings walk - well, Jeonghan stumbles as Iseul holds him up - Mingyu trails behind.  He vaguely hears Jeonghan mention something about being in love and Iseul goodnaturedly responds with “tell me about this one”, and then Mingyu’s mind wanders.  He knows he shouldn’t have let Jeonghan do what he did tonight - have sex with some stranger in a club bathroom - but seeing as how that’s the prince’s nightly routine… well, who is Mingyu to stop him?  It’s not like the people have this naive view of their prince, anyway.  Really, the only reason Mingyu might ask him to ease off would be to please the Queen.

But Jeonghan gave up wanting to please his sister years ago, so he definitely wouldn’t even listen to Mingyu’s logic on that one.

So now here he is, helping a swaying, absolutely shitfaced Jeonghan into the shower.  After getting him undressed and turning on the water, Mingyu joins Iseul in the prince’s quarters.  If he has to he’ll help Jeonghan shower but that’s pretty far down on the list of things Mingyu wants to do, so he’ll risk another scolding if he has to.

Iseul’s looking out Jeonghan’s windows at the sprawling ocean, and Mingyu leans against the closed bathroom door with a tired sigh, watching her for a quiet moment, waiting for her to speak.  But when she doesn’t, he does, hoping that maybe a thinly-veiled joke might help his chances at avoiding a talking-to.

“It’s like watching over a toddler sometimes.”

Nothing changes about the seemingly-endless stress in her back, her shoulders.  She stays still.  “You could’ve taken that position as captain of the entire guard,” she responds, not looking away from whatever it is in the horizon that’s captured her attention.  “Goddess knows you’re qualified for it.”

Mingyu’s heart swells at the compliment, hardly expecting it with how fucked up Jeonghan got tonight.  But hey, he’ll take it.  “Never,” he responds immediately, as if they haven’t discussed this a thousand times before.  “Hyunwoo was and still is far more deserving.  Anyway, I can’t leave Jeonghan’s side.  I don’t trust anyone else with him.  And at this point, I don’t think he’d let me.”

Iseul turns just enough that Mingyu can see her profile, and her smile is soft.  Warm.  Maybe a bit loving.  It’s these moments that the citizens don’t see; Jeonghan doesn’t even really see them either.  So Mingyu treasures them, from his eternally stressed out Queen.  “Good.  I don’t trust anyone else with him either.  Not that anyone else could deal with him the way you do, though.”

Mingyu can’t help it, and he smiles, even at Jeonghan’s expense.  “What can I say?  I’m as loyal as they come.”

A thud from the bathroom grabs their attention and Iseul gives him a tired smile.  “I’m heading to bed.  Make sure my brother doesn’t die please, Mingyu.  And that he doesn’t make any enemies of the senate tomorrow.  It’ll be his first time meeting that new-elect.  Make sure he behaves.”

“Yes, my Queen.”  And with that he heads back into the bathroom, wondering how he’s gonna manage taking care of Jeonghan on five hours of sleep.

It’ll be an interesting day to say the least.

 

Not for the first time in his life, Jeonghan’s so glad the sun shines for maybe ten percent of the year in their little corner of the world.  His headache is already bad enough, even in the backseat of the hovercar with the windows tinted, so if it wasn’t overcast like it is now… he’d be fucked.  He’s been awake for maybe half an hour, enough time to comb and sort of style his hair, brush his teeth, and tug on a suit.  And now he’s sitting next to his sister who keeps opening her mouth as if to speak, but nothing ever comes out.  Frankly, it’s starting to get on Jeonghan’s hungover nerves.  And he knows he probably shouldn’t say anything, what with Mingyu in the front passenger seat and Hyunwoo driving but damn, is he getting irritated.

So he snaps out a, “What, Iseul?”, that’s sure to get her attention.

Sure enough, his sister coughs a bit and then glances at the back of Hyunwoo’s head, in a silent plea for help that Jeonghan’s seen plenty of times before.  Sometimes he thinks Iseul and her guard can communicate telepathically.  Logically, it’s pretty much impossible but they always share these little looks and it makes him nuts.  Especially because most of these little looks have to do with him.  “About last night - “

“What about it?” he bites out, already knowing where this is going.

Iseul sighs a bit, resting her hands in her lap, and she’s tense.  “I just… you turned twenty-five, what, three weeks ago?”

“Here we go,” Jeonghan mutters, and he looks out the tinted window at the Capital district.  Not this shit again.

“I just think that you need to start thinking about certain things.”

“Yeah?  Like what?”  Jeonghan can’t help the faint venom in his voice - he’s sleep deprived and hungover and pissed that he has to go to this stupid meeting in the first place.  And now his sister is, once again, lecturing him about shit like this.  He gets the point.

Iseul sighs and she sounds just as tired as he is.  “Honestly, you need to get your shit together, Hannie.  I’m - I’m getting tired of this.  You’re always sneaking out, getting drunk, having sex with random people.  You’re a prince, you’re twenty-five years old.  Start acting like it.”

In the driver’s seat, Hyunwoo sighs just a bit.

In the front seat, Mingyu shifts in that awkward way of his.

In the back seat, Jeonghan snaps.  He turns towards Iseul, more than ready to let loose all of his annoyance and anger of the day on his sister, whether she’s deserving or not.  He’s had enough.   “You know, you always do this, Iseul.  You think that because you’re Queen you get to control what everyone else does.”

“Hannie, don’t,” she says softly, and the hurt is evident in her soft brown eyes.  Hurt and concern.  “I’m just trying to help you - “

“I can help myself, Iseul,” he retorted.  “Fuck.  I’m not a helpless baby.  Ever since mother and father died you think you can tell me what to do.  I went along with it for awhile because it’s the only way you give me attention half the time.”  Shit, there’s no way out of this now, so he keeps going.  Reaches for that killing blow, because why not?  What else can he do?  “Just because you’re Queen doesn’t mean you get to order me around like a fucking servant.”

The hover stops in front of the senate building, and there’s silence.  Before Iseul can say anything Jeonghan opens the door, steps out, and slams it shut.  Fuck , his head’s pounding so hard.

He wants a drink.

He hears Mingyu exit the hover after murmuring something that sounds like “he doesn’t mean it, he’s just hungover” and Jeonghan almost shouts “hungover, my ass!” but he doesn’t because now is not the time.  Now he has to sit through some boring meeting full of kissass senators.  Including his stupid future brother in law.  As if he wasn’t already getting enough shit from his sister, now he’s gonna have Joshua Hong up his ass about who knows what.  Oh, and this is his first meeting with that new senator.  Choi something.  Probably another stupid asshole who doesn’t actually want to do any work, like the rest of them.

The entire situation just makes him want to scream.  But he doesn’t, because he can feel gazes on him.  Gazes he doesn’t want on him; they pry and they judge and they sentence, and Jeonghan is tired of it.

Mingyu gently grasps his shoulders with strong, comforting hands, forcing Jeonghan to look at him.  His dark eyes are full of worry, the way Iseul’s had been, and guilt immediately invades Jeonghan’s system.  But he pushes it away; he needs to try his best to be attentive and coherent for the next few hours or so.

Easier said than done.

“Hey,” Mingyu murmurs, fingers slowly massaging his shoulders, eyes wide and brows furrowed as he seeks Jeonghan’s gaze.  “Take a deep breath, Han.  It’s all right.”

Jeonghan sighs heavily and just pulls away to walk up the steps.  He wants to get this over with, even if Mingyu is sweet and well-meaning as always.

The Senate building is taller than the palace, but not as grand.  It’s not raining yet (if it’ll even rain at all today), and government workers mill about on the outside stairs, chatting amongst themselves.  They quiet down when Jeonghan walks by and he forces himself to flash a smile, even if these parasites don’t deserve it.  But he is the Prince, after all.  And, contrary to popular belief, he doesn’t like causing scandals or pissing off his sister.  He doesn’t like the way his people look at him, like he’s some caged, exotic bird; awe and disgust and gazes sharpened in that bone-chilling analytical way that makes him want to vomit.  Or maybe that’s just the hangover.  Either way, Jeonghan steps closer to Mingyu once they walk inside, and leads the way to the main meeting chamber.

The six senators are chatting quietly when Jeonghan walks in, and then all eyes are on him in silence he used to revere.  Now it seems forced, anticipatory.  Quickly the senators rise from their seats; even their bodyguards do too.  Everyone stands, except for one.  The new senator stays seated, eyes downcast, and he’s completely absorbed in his holopad.  The guy from Orixa - Wonwoo? - tugs at the other’s shirt collar.  The newcomer doesn’t move.

This fucking…

Jeonghan’s already in a bad mood thanks to his hangover and Iseul, and this isn’t helping.  He huffs and stalks over to the table.  Still nothing; the guy just sits there, totally focused on whatever the fuck he’s doing, black hair barely long enough to fall into his eyes.  It’s a familiar in a way that makes his stomach twist, some blurry, fuzzy memory sinking into his consciousness.  But he can’t quite place it.  So he slams his hands down on the table, smirking when the senator jumps.  “Excuse me, senator…”

The man lifts his head and every snappy, irritated word Jeonghan wants to say dies in his throat.

Those eyes, warm and soft and endearingly wide.  He knows those eyes.  Fuck , he looked into those eyes while getting dry humped against a bathroom wall the night before.  And those plush, pink lips.  It’s like he can still feel them on his neck, damp, slightly chapped...

“Seungcheol?” he whispers before he can stop himself.

Seungcheol, quite literally, chokes.

Oh fuck fuck fuck.

Somewhere in his consciousness he hears the other senators murmuring amongst themselves.  And he can almost picture Mingyu’s face.  He’s probably smug right now, waiting to get Jeonghan alone so he can declare a victorious “I told you not to go to Ixorra last night!”  It’d be comical if Jeonghan didn’t want to sink into the fucking ground and never come back up.

“Is everything all right, Prince Jeonghan?” Senator Jeon asks, and Jeonghan remembers that he’s in the middle of a meeting.  He remembers that he has responsibilities to attend to.  He remembers the way Seungcheol’s hands felt on his body, burning through their suits.  The way he looked when he came...

“Uh - uh, yeah,” he responds, and he can’t seem to take his eyes off of Seungcheol’s face, flushed a bright red.  Looking much like he did the night before except now, well, his face is flushed from embarrassment.  Shame.  Definitely not arousal (well, hopefully not).

“Showing favoritism already, Prince Jeonghan?”

Joshua Hong’s patronizing tone brings Jeonghan back to reality and he turns to frown at his future brother-in-law, standing a few feet away, looking pompous and infuriating as always.  Jeonghan really wants to wipe that stupid smirk off his face.  “Hardly.  Let’s get this meeting started, hmm?”

Without another look at Seungcheol, Jeonghan steps away from the table and braces himself to meet Mingyu’s eyes.  His guard, his friend, the closest thing he has to a brother gives him a soft, supportive smile and Jeonghan has never wanted to stop existing more in his life.

 

So that just happened.

Seungcheol sits quietly, as still as a rock, while the prince and the other senators begin their meeting.  All he can think about is the fact that the man he drunkenly fucked last night is standing right there and he’s the fucking prince of Tellun.

Honestly, he’s messed up before but never this badly.  He’s not really sure what to do, what to think.  All that’s running through his mind right now is the way Jeonghan looked like last night, coming undone in his arms the way he had.

“Anyone ever tell you you look like the prince?”

Shit, how could Seungcheol be so stupid?

Next to him, Wonwoo tugs at his sleeve.  “You okay?” he whispers, confusion swimming in his dark brown eyes, and he parts his lips as if to ask something else.  No doubt he’s wondering what just happened.

But there’s no way Seungcheol’s going to tell him.  Even if Wonwoo’s sort of the only senator he can stand.  “Uh, yeah.  Just - I don’t feel very well.”

“Hmm.”  He lets go of Seungcheol’s sleeve and sits back, though his eyes are still questioning.  “Well, these meetings never last very long so when we’re done you can rest?”

Seungcheol nods and glances up to find the big guy he remembers from last night - Jeonghan’s bodyguard, apparently - watching him closely.  And for a moment, Seungcheol wonders if he’s going to get arrested.  If it’s illegal to fuck the prince.  He takes a deep breath in through his nose and looks up at the ceiling.

Please let this day end.

“Senator Choi?”

He looks up at the mention of his name to find all eyes on him.  Suddenly his collar feels too tight, these lights are too hot, fuck.   “Uh, yes?”

Joshua smirks just a bit and smooths a hand down his dress shirt.  He looks like he did yesterday, perfectly put together, not a hair out of place.  But today there’s a warmer air to him, some sort of happiness Seungcheol can’t put his finger on.  “The drought plaguing your district was brought up, and we figured you might want to discuss it.  Seeing as how you built an entire campaign around it.”

Drought?  What drought?

Oh.  Seungcheol clears his throat, coming back to himself.  “Oh.  Uh, yes.  I’d love to.”

“Go ahead, senator,” the prince says, looking at him with those lovely eyes, and Seungcheol is pretty certain he’s going to die.

He takes a deep breath, closes his eyes for a moment, and speaks.  For a few moments nothing but awkward stammers come out as he tries to get his thoughts together.  And then he meets Jeonghan’s gaze, tired, annoyed, distant, and the usual spite that fuels Seungcheol’s political spirit finds its way back to him.  If none of these senators will listen, or refuse to, then he needs to make the prince see what’s going on.

It’s his only hope.  His people’s only hope.

After another breath, he looks at Jeonghan again, his quiet, indifferent gaze, and he’s ready.  “As I hope you all are aware, this drought started more than two years ago, according to the research I’ve studied,” he says, letting confidence sneak into his voice.  He thinks back to the campaign debate stages a few months ago, how fired up he’d get over this same subject.  As well he should.  He has educated himself; he knows what he’s talking about, and his people expect him to fight for them.  So he will, whether the senators and the prince like it or not.

He continues, reciting facts he’s had memorized for months now.  “As you also are aware, the Varyx district, which I represent, is largely agricultural.  Ever since this drought began my constituents have lost thousands of credits.  The median income has dropped drastically, from an average of seventy-five thousand credits a year to less than sixty in most families.  And it’s still dropping, steadily.  Experts say that, by the year is out, most people in Varyx will be making less than fifty thousand.”

One of the senators snorts, but Seungcheol isn’t sure who.  And it hardly fazes him.

“And that’s a problem?” Yixing asks.

“It is indeed, Senator Zhang,” Seungcheol responds, sparing him a glance.  “If a one thousand square foot apartment - big enough for the average Varyx family, which is larger than every other district - costs five thousand credits a month that comes out to roughly sixty thousand a year.  How are my people supposed to live if they can’t even afford a decent home?”

Jeonghan frowns deeply, concern etching itself across his features in a way Seungcheol wasn’t sure the prince could feel.  “Is it really that bad out there?”

Seungcheol sighs, and the naive part of him has to wonder how Jeonghan had no idea.  But then he remembers the corrupt politics in this building, how far the capital is from Varyx, and he understands.  As angering as it is.  “It is, Your Highness.  That’s why my people elected me, to help them through this.”

“Droughts are a force of nature, Senator Choi,” Joshua says, eyes narrowed, and Seungcheol tries not to balk at the sharpness in his voice.  It feels, strangely, out of place - and yet, like it belongs.  “I doubt it’ll go on much longer.  Besides, there are plenty of low rent options in Varyx.  Are there not?”

“Sure,” he concedes, his annoyance starting to rise to a level he doesn’t enjoy, “but they’re dangerously overcrowded at this point.  Spreading illness like a pandemic.  And owners have begun charging more for rent because there’s no one to stop them.”

“And what about the abandoned farmhouses along the outskirts?” Jaehyun asks with a huff.  “Can’t people just move into those?”

Seungcheol takes a deep breath and tries not to scream.  These senators, the Prince, the Queen - they just don’t get it.  And they never will, sitting up here in this damned building, in their royal palace, so far removed from people with real problems.  “I mean, I suppose so but - “

“Well, there you go,” he says, with a rather fake smile that makes Seungcheol want to punch a wall.  “Problem solved.  Now why don’t we discuss the issue of traffic in the Audym district?  The warm season will be here sooner than we think, and that always leads to awful congestion due to all the people coming to visit the beaches.  I think - “

“No offense, Senator Jung, but I think Senator Choi’s issues are slightly more important than traffic,” Jeonghan says coolly, and he looks at Seungcheol with a soft smile.  It’s far less than he was expecting, but he’ll take it.  And confidence surges in his chest.  Maybe he’s actually starting to get through to someone.  “What do you think we should do to help your people?”

“Well, I think - “

“Hold on a minute,” Joshua says, a frown marring his handsome face.  He meets Jeonghan’s gaze straight on, piercing him with those dark brown eyes.  And just like that, Jeonghan seems to deflate.  Shrivel up.  It’s - it’s alarming.   “Senator Jung was speaking.  I know you’re the prince, Jeonghan, but that doesn’t give you the right to interrupt someone.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Seungcheol sees Jeonghan’s bodyguard tense.

And Jeonghan looks between Joshua, Jaehyun, and Seungcheol for a few moments before he sighs.  The air about him has changed now; gone is the standoffish, indifferent prince they all know well enough.  This is a completely new side of him that Seungcheol has never seen before.  Like he’s… he’s afraid.  But of what?  HIs future brother in law?  “You’re right, Senator Hong,” he says quietly, not even meeting Joshua’s gaze.  “My apologies, Senator Jung.  Please, continue.”

With that, Seungcheol slumps down in his chair and heaves a defeated sigh.  That’s it.  If the prince won’t even listen to him, who will?

Beside him, Wonwoo sighs as well.  “This is how it always goes, Seungcheol,” he murmurs.  “It’s better if you just be quiet and let the richies talk.  Unless you want to feel like shit.”

Seungcheol mumbles “yeah okay” in response and glances at Jeonghan.  The prince’s lovely brown eyes meet his and it leaves such a weird feeling in Seungcheol’s body, a bitter taste in his mouth.  Jeonghan is supposed to care.  He’s supposed to want to help.  But he’s just as callous and unwilling as the rest of them, when it comes down to it.

And Seungcheol fucked him.

Goddess, he can’t do this.

He stands up in his chair and Jaehyun groans.  “Not again.  I’m still talking, Choi,” he snaps.

“I uh - I have to go...” Seungcheol stammers, looking everywhere and focusing on nothing.  “Uh, throw up.  I have to go throw up.”  He hears the other senators laugh amongst themselves as he exits the room but it’s muffled - and he wonders if Prince Jeonghan is laughing at him too.

Besides, it’s only a partial lie.  His stomach is actually churning and his hands are shaking and he can’t believe what a shitty week he’s been having.  And it just started yesterday.

As he steps outside the building into the cool, morning air, he fishes his comm from his pocket.  He finds the first number on his speed dial and waits for the call to go through, trying to calm himself down with slow, deep breaths the way Jihoon taught him.

And then, speaking of, Jihoon picks up the call.  He’s in his white coat because of course he is; it might be early in the morning but that doesn’t stop people from being sick.  His eyes are tired and droopy and Seungcheol wonders exactly how much sleep he got last night.  And he’ll ask; later he’ll tend to Jihoon and make sure that his best friend is okay.  But right now he’s the one that needs the comforting, the attention.

“I know you’re busy,” he says, hating how frantic, panicked, he sounds, “but can we do something later?”

Jihoon studies him with a soft look he’s very familiar with.  “I mean, yeah of course.  But why?  Everything good, senator?”

Seungcheol can’t help the groan that escapes his lips at the title; he already wants to just shut this day away as best as he can.  “Don’t.  Just… I’ll meet you at the house tonight.  I really need to talk.”

Jihoon looks behind him, into the clinic Seungcheol can’t see, and he’s pretty certain he hears Chan’s voice but he can’t make out what he’s saying.  “Sure thing, Cheol.  I gotta go, okay?  Just - remember to breathe.  We’re all proud of you up there in the capital.”

With that he ends the call and Seungcheol’s left alone on the steps of the senate building, ignoring the strange looks the employees milling about must be giving him, trying to make sense of his morning so far.

But that’s the thing - he can’t.  Not a single part of it seems to process in his head.  Not Jeonghan being his mystery beautiful man from last night.  Not Joshua and the weird sort of power he holds over the prince.  Not the way the entire senate shut him down.

Just like yesterday, he feels defeated.  But he knows he can’t give up, even if he’s fighting this war alone.

 

There’s no sun to shine on the Theylan Mountains this morning, and Junhui feels a bit cheated.  He’s heard countless stories of how beautiful this mountain range is, with its pure snow and tall, magnificent trees.  And according to legend, the landscape seems to sing when the sunshine hits.  Everything sort of comes together in this bizarre, perfect harmony that only seems to exist in Aerantian fairy tales, and for a moment the world feels right.

Maybe it’s his mood, or the fact that it’s overcast enough to threaten a snowstorm, or just the way his morning’s been going, but nothing about the world “feels right”.

The prince’s tracks mysteriously stopped along the Aerant-Tellun border, like he was picked up by someone, or something.  And there’s no sign of that guard that followed him either.  They just - disappeared.  And Junhui can’t believe his fucking luck.  This is the best paid job he’s ever had and he can’t even do it right.  Can’t even hunt down some stupid prince.

Yet, his brain reminds him as he eyes the dense stretch of forest, at the base of the mountain range, that belongs to Tellun.  The stretch of forest Seokmin must have found his way into, with some sort of help.

The stretch of forest that Junhui’s heading into, if he wants his money.