Prince Taehyung never thought that by running away from the kingdom, he would meet the infamous 'monster' of the southern jungle. He didn't expect to know the reason behind his disappearance every day either and he certainly never planned to fall for him!
Jrongguk takes his lips under his fangs, trying to stay calm.
"If I find a way out of here, you could come with me?" Tae suggests.
Jeongguk actually starts laughing at that. Tae pulls away to look at him.
"What is so funny."
"No one would want me out of here." Guk says.
"I know what people say about me. I am the main reason no one wants to come to this jungle. They know the big bad beast is living in here." Jeongguk says. So he really is the 'monster' people out there are afraid of, huh?
"They just don't know you! You saved me." Tae says.
"I saved a prince who is running away from his duties. I don't save everyone. I'm still savage. You're lucky I didn't feel like killing you."
"I can't imagine you feeling like killing anyone." Tae admits. "You can always prove them wrong."
"To people who are terrified of me?"
"They are just scared because they don't know what you are and if you would hurt them. Once they see you talk, once you convince-"
"I don't want that. I'm perfectly fine here."
"But don't you ever want to go out?"
"No one is keeping me here. I'm here because I want to."
To say Tae is surprised is an underestimate.
"I'm not a human, I can leave whenever I want. But I like it here. It's my territory now." Jeongguk says but there is just some bitterness in his voice that makes Tae question all of it. "And no, I can't take you out."
"If you know the way out, then how can't you get me out?"
"Even if we walk to the end of this jungle, I can walk out and you will continue walking in a never-ending path of trees. I cannot get you out of here, only you can save yourself." Jeongguk insists.
Tae looks at the fire he set up before and yawns.
"You looks sleepy." Jeongguk points out.
"Meditating takes energy."
"Then why don't you just sleep?"
"Most creatures attack at night. It's safer to sleep near the sunrise."
He turns to look at Jeongguk.
"I don't like helping you but you keep making me to do it." Jeongguk says.
"I'm not asking for anything other than talking." Tae reminds him but Jeongguk sighs again before walking closer. Tae stays stunned when the creature gets closer to his neck. "Relax, I'm just scenting you"
In a weird way, he actually relaxes from the tone and then feels the lick on his neck. The beast breathes closer to the point next to his ear and then pulls back.
"You can sleep now. They won't come after you." He says.
"Thanks." Tae says and then pets his head.
"You get too familiar with someone you don't know." He pulls his head away. "Stop hugging and touching me."
"Sorry! Does it bother you? You look like a puppy sometimes. It's a human thing. When we see cute things, we like to pet them or touch them." Tae explains.
"You're probably the only person in the world that thinks I'm cute." Guk snorts.
"But you really are! You look cuddly like a bear but your face looks as sharp as a wolf. Your fangs and big eyes kinda make you look like a bunny too." Tae says with a bigger smile, tilting his head.
"That doesn't sound like a good mixture."
"It is, trust me. It makes me want to cuddle you to death and protect you."
"Cuddle me to death and protecting me are two opposite things." Tae can actually hear the amusement in Jeongguk's tone. "I'm not a pet. Don't forget that!"
"Okay Mr-not a-pet." Tae says. "But I'm still gonna shower you with hugs until you get that grumpy tone out of your voice."
"I'm not grumpy."
"Yes you are." Tae says and pulls the beat in his chest and lays on his back.
"HEY! Don't!" Jeongguk tries to pull away.
"You know you love it." Tae says but still lets him go with a chuckle. It is just like playing with the castle's dogs.
"I don't! Now eat something and sleep before I bite your head off." Jeongguk says but Tae doesn't take him seriously.
Three hours later Tae finally falls asleep and Jeongguk can't help staring at his peaceful expression. He makes it so hard to hate him. He really does! He walks out of the jungle and just looks up. The sun comes up again and Jeongguk feels his body changing.
He looks at his hands, looking much smoother than they were before. He sits them in frustration and grabs his cloak again. Sneaking back to his bed is not even a challenge anymore. He knows that in just a few more hours he has to get up anyway.
The next time he opens his eyes, his servent is preparing his food for him.
"Good morning your highness." The man smiles, a smile Jeongguk knows isn't genuine but he just nods at him and sits at the table to eat. "Your brother said he wanted to see you again."
"When?" He asks.
"As soon as you're done with your food."
Jeongguk doesn't rally touch his food, he just gets up to wear his clothes and then head to his brother's room. He knocks on the door.
Yoongi looks at him while massaging his shoulder when he opens the door.
"You wanted to see me?" Jeongguk asks.
"Yes, come in." Yoongi nods, looking through the papers he was seeing. Jeongguk sits on a chair close to him and his eyes catch the sight of a portrait of the man he had seen in the jungle.
"Where were you last night?"
Guk's eyes get wide.
"Sleeping, in my room." He says.
"No you weren't. I checked your room." Yoongi says and Jeongguk glares at him.
"You weren't allowed to do that."
"Where were you, Jeon Jeongguk?" His brother sounds really serious.
"Does it matter? I'm here now." Jeongguk looks so cold.
Yoongi makes eye contact with him. They both feel the tension because none of them is looking away, as if they are silently challenging each other.
"One of these days, you have to tell me where you keep disappearing to. I can't have a wedding with you goofing off like this."
"We're not the ones getting married hyung."
"No but you're my brother. You are supposed to be here for the kingdom even more than before. Especially now that I have to take over after dad. How many times do I have to tell you?" Yoongi asks.
"I'm already doing my duties."
Yoongi sighs, giving up once more.
"The blue kingdom has lost its king." He suddenly says. Jeongguk lifts a brow at that. "A bathe of blood started right after his passing. His children actually started killing each other."
Jeongguk's mind goes back to Taehyung again.
"Three of them ran away. Apparently this one got into the forbidden jungle." Yoongi pushes Taehyung's portrait closer to Jeongguk but Jeongguk just stares at it without reacting. "There is a temporary king, we might have to go there to give our blessing."
"It doesn't sound like a two man job."
"Jeongguk." Yoongi is about to warn him.
"I'm not the future king hyung. We both know dad's order, I'm not getting out of this kingdom."
"Dad is not here anymore, is he? I'm the one who gives orders now." Yoongi is annoyed.
"I'm not coming."
"Yes you are." Yoongi says. Jeongguk narrows his eyes.
"I'm really not."
"Keep that up and I'll drag your around with cuffs, don't try me Jeongguk. You can't stay in the kingdom for the rest of your life."
Yoongi massages his forehead.
"Once we have to go there, I'm taking you. You need to find someone, get married, see something other than this cursed place. If you can sneak off at nights, you can manage to be away from the kingdom for a few days too." Yoongi says. He will make him go this time, he will!
Tae closes his eyes to meditate again. Jeongguk has been coming back every night for the past two weeks or so and Tae can swear, he is getting closer to contacting the forest. It is nice having someone- Or something to talk to! Guk pretends like he hates it but Tae knows better.
He is just so adorable and every time Tae tries to hug him or mess with him, he pulls away and starts mumbling things but Tae can see he is just getting flustered. It's sad thinking of how no one has probably ever given him the love he deserves to have!
He might dislike all humans for it but he still saved Taehyung, he still let him talk to him, came back to him every night. He doesn't care what anyone says, he is really happy he got to meet Jeongguk. He chuckles between his meditation when he remembers the previous day.
Jeongguk was acting all grumpy but then Tae jumped on him and they both rolled and fell in the lake and continued playing around with each other. Jeongguk was acting all dangerous but he actually laughed while trying to throw more water at the human.
Tae smiles at the memory again. There is something really bright about the beast. He is actually pretty fun to be around and Tae seriously doesn't get why would anyone be scared of him! There is a sense of familiarity every time he is around.
He doesn't know why though!
He opens in eyes and he sees him again. The boy he hasn't seen in so long. His big doe eyes look just as black as ever, his smile looks cute with his cute bunny smile.
"Can we play hide and seek again?" The boy asks. Tae's heart feels sad for some reason.
"I don't like that game." Tae says.
"Why not? Do you think you'll lose again?" The little boy asks him teasingly.
"I don't lose."
"But you did, remember? You've never found me ever since we played it last." The boy says and somehow, it shakes Tae's heart again.
"You just cheated, didn't you? You hid so far away, I couldn't find you again." Tae says. The boy leans forward on his knees, his eyes sparkling.
"How could you find me when you forgot I even existed?" The boy asks. Tae gulps at that. "You don't even remember my name!"
"It hurts less if I don't." Tae is not sure what he is saying. It is like a part of his subconscious is answering everything for him.
"You lies to me." The boy says.
"You lied. You never tried to find me. I hate you so much." The boy suddenly sounds so upset.
"WAIT!" He gets up to go after him again but the little boy is running much faster. He wants to call his name but he can't manage to remember it. He keeps turning around, trying to find him again. "WHERE ARE YOU?"
He hears a scream and runs to where he hears it.
He finally gets to the spot and sees a big hole on the ground. He looks into it and sees the little boy that just ran away from him, crying, holding another small body in his arms.
"TaeTae, get up. Get up." He keeps saying. Is he... holding Tae's younger self?
They are both bloodied but he doesn't know whose blood it is.
"TaeTae, I'm scared." The boy says, crying even harder. "Wake up."
"Are you okay?" Taehyng asks and the boy looks up, terrified.
"STAY AWAY." He shouts.
"Calm down! I'm not going to hurt you!" Tae says.
The boy holds Tae's younger body even tighter, looking up with sharp, angry and yet scared eyes.
"Stay away from us." He says, shaking.
Tae is seriously so confused!
"Don't trust him." Tae's younger body says and the boy looks down.
"That man is a liar."
The boy looks up with confused eyes.
"He will destroy you. He will forget about you. He never loved you. He will just hurt you and abandon you." His younger self says and Tae is seriously about to freak out.
"No I won't. Give me your hand. I get you both out!" Tae says.
He extends his hand to grab the boy's hand but the boy just looks confused.
"Don't trust him." His younger self says. The hole is starting to close up.
"Grab my hand! you won't survive there!" Tae says but the boy never grabs it.
"I'll never trust or forgive you again."
"NO!" He shouts before opening his eyes, panting real hard until he sees the red eyes of the only creature he has been seeing for the past few weeks.
"Calm down, it's just me!" Jeongguk says. Call him crazy, but Tae can see the concern in those big doe eyes.
Tae holds the creature's neck and presses his forehead on it's chest, trying to catch his breathe.
"Are you okay? You were shouting when I found you."
"I just had another vision."
"About the same boy?"
Tae nods. He starts explaining his vision again, calming down a bit.
He doesn't notice how still Jeongguk is as he tells him about what he just saw. He just realizes how silent he is even after he finishes.
"Did you hear what I just said?" Tae asks. Jeongguk looks down.
"Yeah... Yeah I did." He says.
"Are you okay?"This is probably the first time Tae is asking him this question and honestly, Jeongguk doesn't know how to answer it.
"I'm just thinking." He says and then sits down. Tae moves closer to him and puts his head on him, trying to hug him again.
Jeongguk doesn't fight it this time. Maybe because a part of him is thinking too hard to even react to the touch.
"Just let me do this for a bit okay? I might sound like a cry baby right now but the vision was... hard to see!" He says.
"I can imagine." Guk mumbles.
"Jeongguk?" He calls its name but Jeongguk doesn't respond. "I feel like a horrible person. I don't deserve to have you here but... please don't leave me alone!"
He knows he has no right to say it, he feels it but he still does. Jeongguk doesn't say anything at all.
He just closes his eyes and releases some of his relaxing pheromones. It usually works on other wolves or animals but he guesses it might help on humans too.
"Jeongguk? I feel so sleepy..." Tae whispers.
"Then just sleep."
"If I do, will you leave me alone?"
Jeongguk pauses at that.
"Even if I do, I'll come back again. Like always."
That is the last thing Tae hears before falling asleep on the other creature. Jeongguk turns to look at him and he can't actually look away.
Why is this happening to him again?
The next time Tae wakes up, he feels so disappointed to know that he is alone again. The sun is already rising and he knows that he agreed not to ask why but why doe Jeongguk have to leave every day?
This forest is unfair! Why would it show him a vision like that?
His stomach is growling so he grabs some fruits from the trees and tries not to think too hard of the vision he just saw. If only he could actually remember what happened back then! It is all so vague!
He looks at the side the boy ran away from him in his vision.
Maybe he should go that way? A part of him feels like he might find something if he does. He gets up and starts following the path he took in his vision to go after the little boy. But after a while, he just doesn't know where he is anymore!
And he's thirsty!
He can hear the lake so he just heads to it so he can drink some water.
But he just freezes on his spot when he sees someone standing up and getting out of the water, throwing his head back and running his fingers through his hair. His back is toward Taehyung.
Is that... a real person?
It looks like he is washing himself up in the lake but he pauses when he hears a voice from behind. And that is when their eyes finally meet. The man's eyes get wider when he sees him and Tae can't help wondering, why does he look so familiar?
The man quickly goes back in the water.
"Wait!" Tae rushes to the lake and then jumps in it. The other man is trying to swim away but Tae is not going to just let him go. He swims after him until the man has to swim up and catch his breath. Tae does the same.
Their eyes meet again but this time they are way closer than they were before.
"Stop, who are you?" Tae asks.
"Stop following me." The young man says and tries to swim away again but Tae doesn't let him go. He will be damned to let him go now that he knows he exists.
The man reaches the surface and tries to run through the sands but Tae runs even faster until he can jump on him. The man tries to push him off as they keep rolling around but finally stops. Tae is right on top of him, panting hard, looking down at the other man.
He doesn't know why he is happy but he is. The man is looking at him with wide and careful eyes.
"What do you want from me?" The man asks. Tae finally manages to take a closer look at him and his breath almost stops coming out.
He has never seen anyone as breathtaking before!
The man uses his distraction to push him off and try to run away again but Tae grabs his leg and stops him from running again.
"LET GO OF ME." He sounds annoyed.
"Not until you tell me who you are and how you ended up here." Tae says and the man finally gives up.
Jeongguk just wanted to hide here so he wouldn't have to be forced to leave with his brother. Taehyung almost never goes to that side of the jungle so he thought he would be safe there. To think he actually found him while he was washing up...
Tae crawls forward.
"You're not going to give up, are you?"
"I'm not." Tae shakes his head, still panting. Jeongguk squeezes his eyes shut and tries to think of what to tell the other human. "There wasn't supposed to be any other humans around!"
"I guess I'm just good at hiding." Guk says.
Tae tries his best not to look down and just look at the other man's face but it's hard.
"Who are you?" He asks again.
"That's not a name..."
"It is my name." Jeongguk insists, totally not because of the seagull flying away from them.
"Fine, if you won't want to say it don't. At least tell me how you got here!" Tae says. Jeongguk thinks again.
"I just got lost."
"Everyone does but how did you get in? why did you get in? And when?"
"Are you a royal guard or something? Stop interrogating me!"
"I've been here for over a month and you are the only other human I've seen ever since I came here. Excuse me for being pushy." Tae says. Jeongguk gets up on his feet and tries to shake away the sand.
"I just got here. I told you, I got lost. I don't know where I am."
Jeongguk is honestly so annoyed that Tae tackled him on the ground like that. He doesn't look that strong but every time he has to, he can actually get what he wants! He lifts a brow when he realizes that the other prince is looking down at his junk.
"Have some shame."
the prince gets flustered for being caught.
"I wasn't looking!"
"You're still looking!" He says and Tae quickly looks away in embarrassment.
"I'm sorry, it's just right in front of my face."
"It's ten feet below your face."
"Cover it up!"
"With what? Sand?"
Tae groans. He has never been in a situation like this before and it's hard to pretend like the other man is not naked when he very much is. And when he looks like... well... that!
"Let's just go and find something you can use." Tae says.
"Why would I come with you?"
"I told you. We're the only ones here. Trust me, you're gonna start going crazy if you stay alone for too long. Maybe we can help each other out to get out." Tae suggests.
"I'm going after my clothes." Jeongguk says with a glare and then starts walking back.
Tae follows him and tries to keep his eyes on anything but the other man's as* as he walks in front of him. He doesn't even try to cover himself up... Once they get back to the spot Jeongguk puts on the clothes he brought with himself and then looks back at Tae again.
He knows Tae is not going to stop seeing him now that he has seen him.
"I don't know how to get out of here but I know someone that said we can get out once the forest tests us and it's done with us. I think, some sort of self-evolution or something." Tae explains.
"I thought you said you were alone." Jeongguk says, acting oblivious.
"I am but... there is this... thing!" Tae smiles once he tries to find the right word. "I don't know what he is but he's super cute. You should see him! He talks. His name is Jeongguk."
Jeongguk pauses at that.
"You seem pretty fond of that... thing!"
"You won't get me unless you see him. He acts all grumpy sometimes but he's really kind and adorable. He saved my life a few times already."
"Then where is he now?"
"He only comes at nights."
It's strange to hear someone talk about his in his beast side like this. But Tae is talking about him like... he is an actual person!
"Come on, let's eat something and talk. I'll tell you everything. I know how scary it might be when you first get here." Tae says.
Jeongguk licks his lip. Why is he being so nice to him? Is it really because he is just excited to see someone new again? That must be it. He probably won't even need talking to his beasty friend after he gets to hang out with an actual human.
the thought makes him bitter.
After all, Jeongguk is just a beast. He has been for a long time and he's lucky he can even turn into his human form. But that is who he is and even someone like Taehyung who pretends to care about anyone he sees will not be able to understand once he finds out.
He actually tells Jeongguk about everything he already knew as they share a food together and tries to give him some tips on how to survive the jungle or how to try and connect to the forest.
Jeongguk doesn't need it anyway but he still pretends like he does.
"Is there something on my face?" Jeongguk asks after Tae stares at his face for too long.
"Nothing." He quickly says and then looks down.
"Just tell me." Jeongguk insists.
"You're not gonna like it."
Tae looks up and licks his lip nervously. How to even put it?
"Your eyes are really pretty!" He says. Jeongguk didn't expect it at all. He is actually a little taken back by it.
"Thanks..." He looks down.
"They remind me of this boy I knew. I saw him in that vision I told you. He was smaller but he had your eyes." Tae adds.
Jeongguk tries not to smile but he does subconsciously.
"Your smile looks like his too!" Tae points out.
"Your front teeth, he had those too. You both look like a bunny when you smile." He says. Jeongguk tilts his head. "Can I say something crazy?" Tae asks.
"It's not like it'll be the craziest thing you've told me since we've met." Jeongguk says and Tae smiles wider. Jeongguk hates the fact that he actually feels warmer when Tae smiles at him.
"I keep thinking, what if you're the reason I'm here?" Tae asks.
"We just met this morning." Guk reminds him.
"You look exactly like him and you just happened to show up where I was looking for him."
"You think I'm your childhood friend?"
"Are you?" Tae asks, his expression looking more hopefully than before.
Jeongguk just stares at him for a bit but then shakes his head.
"I'm not." He says and Tae tries not to feel too disappointed over that. A memory suddenly hits his head. It might be because of the visions, or maybe it's because of spending so much time with someone like him.
"One time one of my sisters were scaring me. She said I was so weak that if dad would die, I would be the first person who had to die so she could be the queen." Tae says. Jeongguk frowns at that. "Jiminie was so mad at her. I told him I was okay but I wasn't."
Jeongguk is still listening.
"I went back to my room and I was crying alone. Then that boy came and he kept banging on my door. I let him in and..." He smiles wider. "He was crying."
"Why?" Jeongguk asks in confusion.
"He wanted to pick up a rose for me but hurt himself."
Jeongguk actually starts laughing at the image.
"He said his dad used to give his mom one every time she was upset so he wanted to give me one to feel better but he got his hand hurt by one of its thorns. I got so worried, I forgot I was even upset before." Tae continues.
"He sounds stupid." Jeongguk says.
"He was cute. I didn't tell him but I used some magic to help the bleeding. And then he kept asking if I was okay. 'TaeTae, don't be sad. I'll be sad if you're sad'." Tae bites his lip emotionally. He forgot about this memory for so long!
"I told him I shouldn't be sad when my sister was right. I said she was so strong and I was just like the grass under her feet if she was ever gonna hurt me. But then..." He suddenly feels like crying. How could he forget? And why does it hurt so much?
"And then?" Jeongguk asks.
"He said if I was a plant, I'd be a flower like the rose he got me and even if she was 'as strong as him, because of course he thought he was so strong," He laughs despite his sadness. "I could still hurt her with my thorns. He said 'She's just jealous because you're prettier'."
His eyes are glossy but he can't stop laughing at the memory. Jeongguk smiles as he listens to it, feeling relaxed from listening to the silly memory that might not even be real!
"So basically you're a petal. Pretty but dangerous."
"I wouldn't say I'm either of those."
"That little guy must have known you pretty good, I'm gonna trust his judgment." He says. Tae smiles a bit wider at that and looks down, feeling a bit shy for some reason.
"I don't know where that memory came from but it just came to my mind." Tae says.
Jeongguk turns and realizes that the sunset is getting close. He doesn't know what kind of excuse he needs to bring up but he knows he needs to go before Tae ends up finding out about his secret.
"I... have to go." He says. Tae looks at him in confusion.
"I know you said we should stick together but I want to look around a bit... alone!" He says.
"It'll be safer if we go together." Tae says.
"I'll be fine. I'll see you again tomorrow, right here."
"Stay a bit more and meet Jeonggukie first." Tae says.
"Mabe another time." He says. Tae is not sure about letting him go but he knows that he can't force him to stay.
"Okay..." He whispers. Jeongguk sighs in relief and then get up to walk away. Tae doesn't get up from his spot, not even when the darkness comes.
"What's with the long face?"
Tae smiles when he hears the familiar voice and then looks up. The beast is looking back at him.
"I just missed my Gukkie." Tae teases him. The beast snorts and sits next to him.
"Really? You seemed awfully happy with that other human."
"You saw him?" Tae asks.
"Why didn't you just show yourself? I really wanted him to meet you!"
Jeongguk takes some time to just think.
"I don't want to meet him. As long as he is around you, I can't meet you."
"I just can't." Jeongguk says.
He is not lying. He is just not saying that full truth. He pauses again.
"I know you prefer spending time with him, he is a human after all. The only reason you wanted me around was just to talk to someone and now he is here. I guess I don't have to come back again-"
Tae looks a bit mad at him for some reasons.
"Don't even start. You said you'd come every night. If you can't be around him, it's fine. I'll be alone so you can come back." Tae says and Jeongguk is really surprised by the response. Tae pets his head.
"He just got here, I thought he'd be scared, I wanted to help him and ask his help if he could help me but it doesn't mean I'm going to forget about you just because he's here." He says, combing the fur on Jeongguk's hair and the beast feels his heart beating faster.
"But he's like you. You said his eyes were pretty, he doesn't look like-"
"Your eyes are pretty too Jeonggukie." Tae says with a soft smile. "I know you said you won't come with me when I leave so I want to spend as much time as I can with you before I have to leave."
Jeongguk gulps hard at that. Knowing that Tae still chose to spend his nights with a creature like him when he looks his worst makes him feel like actually crying. But he doesn't. He just lets Tae hug him and caress his furs like he does every other night, welcoming it this time.
"You're not pulling away anymore. Are you warming up to me Gukkie?" Tae asks, smiling widely.
"Don't make me regret it." Jeongguk says and Tae holds him with a bigger smile. Jeongguk couldn't see Tae at nights in his human form anyway but it's nice to know... he is cared for!
"Jeongguk?" Tae calls his name again.
"I think he was lying."
That takes Jeongguk by surprise.
"I think he really is my childhood friend."
"Just because they look alike?"
"Because he still had the scar."
Jeongguk pulls away when he hears that.
"Right here." He touches the top of his left cheek. "I was there when he got that cut. He was learning how to sword fight."
Jeongguk just stares at him, not knowing how to respond to that. Tae realizes how deeper he is breathing.
"Are you alright?"
No, not really!
Tae blinks thoughtfully and looks away.
"I don't know why he was lying but there must be a reason. He was too young, I doubted he could even remember a thing until he actually lied. I think he really is the reason I'm stuck here!" Tae continues.
Jeongguk looks away and curses the forest for doing this to him. This is what he was afraid of. Of all people, it just had to bring HIM, huh?
"I don't know how to get him to admit it yet but none of us can leave if he doesn't. He's a prince, he must have things to do!"
He smiles again.
"I don't know why I suddenly keep remembering these things. Might be because he is here again. Our moms were friends so we started playing together since he was... what? Two? It stopped when he turned six or something. He was so cute back then!" Tae rambles.
Jeongguk doesn't know how to react. He just listens to him gush about his childhood.
"And he was sooo little and he didn't know about genders or how marriage and stuff worked. He once said he wanted to marry me when we'd get older." Tae is cringing so hard in endearment.
Jeongguk is so happy that he is not in a form that his flustered state can actually show. He knows he would be red as a tomato if he was still in his human form.
"Did he now?"
"Yeah. Jiminie kept telling him that wouldn't work because we're both boys but he never understood."
"Aren't you remembering a little too much for someone who couldn't remember a thing?" Jeongguk is getting frustrated.
"I know! The more I talk about him or remember him, the more just come back in my head!" Tae looks surprised at himself too. "Wait! He gave me something!"
Did he really?
Tae picks a grass from the floor and then holds Jeongguk's paws and then ties it on his finger.
"Like this. He couldn't steal his mom's ring so he gave me a grass and said now no one could say we couldn't be together." Tae laughs even harder at his own memory.
"Sounds a little... desperate!" Jeongguk has to admit.
"No! He was cute. I kind of want to see his wife and embarrass him in front of her by telling them how silly he used to be."
"What makes you think he's married?"
"Have you looked at him? There is no way he isn't!"
"You're not married." Jeongguk points out.
"I'm the last child, no one cared if I was married or not. Especially since they knew almost all of us would die when dad would die anyway. His kingdom doesn't require that. He must be." Tae insists. "Or at least, he must have a lover?"
"You don't have a lover." Jeongguk points out again.
"Why would I get involve with anyone when I knew I either had to die or run away from the castle? Of course I don't. Hs case is different."
"You are so old fashion"
"For a beast, you act like you know the outside world better."
Jeongguk quickly tries to fix it.
"I meant you humans in general." He says. Tae looks at him for a moment longer and then looks back at the lake again.
"I need to get him to talk again. I know the forest wants me to do something related to him. I just don't know what!"
Jeongguk thinks as well, trying to think of what the forest must possibly want from them but he can't think of much. He was so young back then, he only remembers bits and pieces and his hatred. It has been so long, why would the forest bring Tae here now?
"I still don't remember why we started hanging out. I feel like it was my fault? But I don't know why!" He says. Jeongguk inhales deeply. He knows why they probably stopped. Because he knows what happened to him back then. But it's not like he can just tell him.
"He must know though. He wouldn't lie if he wouldn't." Tae says. Jeongguk gulps and tries to think of what he should do. Tae really needs to get out and if he does, they don't have to see each other again.
Not that they have to now! Jeongguk just... He just...
"You keep sighing. Why are you so upset tonight?" Tae finally asks.
"I'm not upset."
"It's not nice, y'know? You know everything about me but I don't know anything about you."
"What would you want to even know about a monster?"
"Anything you want to share. We're friends, right?"
"I don't have anything to say." He looks away again. Tae doesn't push it. He hopes he gets to hear it one day but he doesn't want to make him talk. They spend more time together until Tae falls asleep again. Jeongguk is not sure if he needs to stay or just leave.
He stares at the sleeping man and keeps thinking and thinking. The next time he looks away, the sun is already coming up and Jeongguk knows that it is too late to leave anyway. He just keeps sitting and looking at the sunshine on the sky.
"Haven't I paid enough?" Guk asks.
"Years of shielding me from the outside world and suddenly you want to fix a part of me?" He asks again, staring at the forest. "The more I think about it, the more it looks like... even you don't want me around anymore."
He narrows his eyes. It hurts again!
Tae opens his eyes and feels his heart beating faster when he sees the other man lying next to him.
He really came back!
He turns toward him, not wanting to wake him up. The more Tae looks at him, the more he knows that it must be him.
He grew up so well! Got more handsome.
He started forgetting the other boy when he realized he would probably never see him again but seeing him again after so long makes him feel so nostalgic. Jiminie would be so happy if he'd see him. Tae can bet that he would remember much more than he does.
Gosh, why does he look so good looking? He can actually imagine how popular he must be among the princesses. His heart almost stops beating when the man suddenly opens his eyes. Jeongguk blinks a few times.
"Morning!" Tae tries to cover his action.
"Were you watching me sleep?"
"I just woke up too. Just didn't have the energy to get up."
Jeongguk sits up and stretches his arms.
"You're just lazy."
"Maybe." Tae sits up too. "Want some breakfast?"
"Can I order whatever?"
"I can hunt something and quickly come back."
"You're spoiling me." Guk smiles.
"Consider yourself lucky little birdy." Tae says, mocking him for the fake name Jeongguk gave him before but Jeongguk just snorts and waits for him to come back. He sets up the fire as they make the food and eat. Tae is still trying to think of a way he can talk to Jeongguk.
"What happened to your cheek?" He asks. Jeongguk continues biting, knowing exactly what Tae is trying to do. He can lie, throw Tae off or actually try and helo him get out. Both is frustrating to him but at least if he helps him, he can leave and never come back
"Really?" Tae tries to sound surprised.
"When I was little I wanted to be strong like my brother and I was a little impatient. I snuck some swords out to learn it with some friends and hurt myself." He continues. Tae puts his food away, pressing his lips together.
"How much longer are you going to pretend like you're not him?" Tae asks. Jeongguk pauses too. He puts the meat away and looks at Tae with serious eyes. Tae looks up at him. "Help me, we get out of here. Unless you want us to live here together forever, give me a break."
"Let's say I am him, how is that gonna help anyone?" Jeongguk asks.
"You must remember something too. If we put our heads together, we might... have a chance to figure this out."
"You remember more than I do."
"what about the reason you just... disappeared?" Tae asks.
Jeongguk looks at their food again, thinking. Tae waits for him to say something because he knows he must know something.
"In my vision, at the very end you said you won't trust and forgive me again. Did I... Did I do something to you?" Tae asks.
"It wasn't you."
"It wasn't?" Tae frowns.
Honestly, Jeongguk couldn't even remember the other boy until a few days ago when Tae mentioned him again.
"I was six, how much do you expect me to remember?" Jeongguk asks.
"Then it could be me!"
"then how would you know that?"
"Because I got cursed by a witch and it would be stupid of me to blame an eight years old for any of it." Jeongguk suddenly says. Tae pauses at that, letting him speak. "All I know is that I was with someone and we were scared and the bitch cursed me."
Tae looks at him speechlessly.
"I must have stopped coming back because I had to hide the curse."
"What kind of curse? Maybe I can lift it?"
"I've seen enough wizard to know none of you can lift it."
"What kind of curse is it?" Tae insists.
"Just drop it." Jeongguk says.
"I have magic. I might have a way to lift it." Tae is not giving up.
"You can barely use your magic."
"I can try."
"The only way this curse will be lifted is something related to emotions and acceptance. It's not something you can help me with."
No one ever knew how to help him. Only one person could tell him a way and it was that he had to be loved and accepted and feel it in his heart in his every form but Jeongguk is not going to beg for anyone's love or acceptance.
He knows no one likes a monster anyway.
Tae sighs and looks down.
"I'm sorry but I don't remember your name. It has been so long! I remember I used to call you something cute like... bangie! Or Sukie!"
"That means bitch in Japanese." Jeongguk laughs at him.
"I'm just saying. Can you tell me your name?"
"Come on now."
"If you want to call my name, you just have to remember it yourself." Guk teases him.
"That is so unfair."
"Is it really TaeTae?"
Maybe he's cheating. He already knows Tae's name because Tae told him again. He just doesn't want Tae to know he is the beast.
"You remember my name!" Tae's brows shut up in surprise.
"Then it'll just be fair if you remember mine too." Jeongguk says.
"You won't tell me your name, your curse, what you do remember... How do you expect me to get us out of here?"
"I don't." Guk admits.
"Come on. Let me try it with your curse. It might be why I'm here."
"I told you, it's about emotions."
"I have emotions."
"Emotions as in falling in love with someone." Jeongguk says in amusement, knowing how taken back Tae is gonna look and he does!
"I have a feeling that you're not as cool as some others about the fact that we're both guys. Even if you didn't, you can't 'try' to fall for someone or accept them. That completely invalidates the whole thing." Jeongguk says.
"That... is tricky."
"And you can't help me."
"If one of us was a girl, I would try but... yeah! It sucks that you're stuck with another guy." He smiles bitterly.
"I told you, you can't just-"
"I know but I don't think I'd even have to try. I'm having a hard time believing no one loves you like that yet." Tae says.
"I guess I'm just not that likable." Jeongguk shrugs and gets up. Tae looks up at him with a confused expression. How is it possible? How can he not be loved and accepted by everyone around himself already?
"I'm gonna go wash up. Don't come and ogle me again." He teases him.
"I wasn't ogling you." Tae denies it. Jeongguk lifts an amused brow at him. He doesn't know if he used to enjoy teasing him back then too or not but it's actually fun to do it now.
"Okay, I guess it'll be okay if I leave my clothes here then."
Tae's eyes get wide.
He quickly looks away as soon as Jeongguk takes his shirt off and throws it on the ground.
"Dude, stop being like this!"
"Why not? We're both guys like?" He sounds like he is challenging him. "It's not like you are gonna ogle."
Tae presses his lips together as Guk strips.
"You used to be much cuter. When did you become like this?" Tae asks in annoyance.
"so I'm not cute anymore?"
Jeongguk laughs and then walks away from him to get to the lake. Tae looks at the clothes on the floor, feeling his heart beating faster.
He doesn't know what the forest really wants from him if things are still the same. Maybe it's just to rebuild the bond he used to have with the other man? Once he comes back, Tae tries not to blush too hard at him.
"I need to be away during the night times." Tae says.
"Jeongguk, the creature I told you about." Tae says and the human looks back at him. "I can't see him if I'm around you at nights but I want to keep seeing him until I have to go. We're already spending the daylights together."
Jeongguk frowns at that.
"You sound like you care about that things." He says.
"I do! I feel bad that he probably had to endure so much just because people didn't even give him a chance. He looks all scary at first but he's really not! He is so kind!" Tae tries to explain.
Jeongguk gulps at that.
"So you're just pitying him?"
"Maybe a little bit but that's not all. It's like he got used to being alone because everyone else didn't want him around. I just wished he could understand how unique he actually is!" Tae continues. Jeongguk finishes putting his clothes back on.
"I want to get out of here but a part of me doesn't..." Tae finally confesses.
"Because if I go, he is going to be alone again and... I might never see him again!" Tae answers and Jeongguk actually has to bite his lip to control the emotions inside of himself.
Jeongguk tries to ignore the storm in his chest, making him hope for something he never wants to hope again. Tae might be someone who has treated his other side fairly but who knows what he will choose if he has a chance to just leave.
He will probably just choose his freedom.
For the next a few days Tae tries to focus on rebuilding his bond with the man he hadn't seen for years while Jeongguk is still trying to hide from his brother. But with each passing hour next to him, he is not sure why going back home feels a little harder.
Jeongguk just wanted him to leave, he still does because he doesn't want to get attached! But a bigger part of him, the selfish part of him is happy that Tae is still stuck there with him. He gets up to check where he went and pauses when he finds him, washing up in the lake.
The sun is shining so brightly on the water he is using to wash himself and Jeongguk can swear that his blond hair is shining even brighter.
It is actually a little hard not to stare. Tae looks back when he hears him getting closer.
"You're up already!" He says.
"I didn't know you were washing up." Jeongguk says.
"Did you want to wash up? You can use the water too, I don't mind. It's not so cold today." Tae says. Jeongguk licks his lip and takes his clothes off as well. Tae is not looking at him until Jongguk jumps in the water.
They don't have any soap so they are just using the water to clean up a little. Jeongguk tries his best to ignore the-very naked- person next to him as he washes himself. Their arms bump onto each other but Tae just smiles and acts like it was nothing.
But to Guk, it feels like his arm is tingling and on fire now. His eyes stay on the man next to him, breathing a little harder than he should.
The prince's lip is half-open from how much he is enjoying the water and Guk bites his own lip to stop imagining how they'd taste like.
"I'll go get us some breakfast." Tae says as he walks out of the lake. Jeongguk's eyes follow after him. He must be going crazy because all his mind can think of is how smooth his body would feel under his touch if they would-
He quickly shakes his head to stop thinking.
He shouldn't have taken Tae's offer to wash up next to him. He must be going crazy... He always thought that the other man looked attractive but somehow, he looks even more attractive day by day. It might be because Jeongguk is just so fucking sexually frustrated!
Because he is!
He really needs to get back home and does something about it but then again, he doesn't want Yoongi to catch him and drag him away. How the hell is he gonna hide his secret on the way? Or in another kingdom with different rules?
He needs this forest!
Being around someone, day and night, for too long is tricky. Of course he would start thinking of stuff. It doesn't help that the other man is just too fucking perfect and Jeongguk is just a weak man who hasn't gotten laid in so damn long.
He uses the cool water to calm down.
he puts his clothes back on and goes back. Tae has already put the meat on the fire. Jeongguk sits next to him and tries to just clear his head.
"What are you doing?" He asks Tae.
"Drawing Gukkie." Tae says as he uses the paint he made from the fruits around them to draw.
Jeongguk can't help noticing how soft and harmless he looks in the sketch Tae is making. Even his eyes, they don't look dangerous at all. they just look lonely. Tae has said it before, but is this really how he sees Jeongguk in his beasty shape?
"what about me?" He teases.
"What about you?" Tae asks.
"Aren't you gonna draw me too?"
Tae licks his lip nervously. It's not that he hasn't thought of it. But with Gukkie, he is just trying to show him how much he cares about him. He doesn't mind showing him how much he loves and care for him.
There is nothing strange or... sinful about the way he looks at him. So he doesn't mind showing Gukkie how he sees him in his eyes. But he is a little scared if he draws the human, he might actually... Show a little too much!
"Gukkie is cuter than you anyway." Tae says.
"That's insulting. It's an animal!"
"My point stands corrected." Tae says without looking at him. Jeongguk looks at him softly. Does he really mean it? Why is he so fascinated by that side of him? His ugliest side, one that he has always been too scared to share.
Is this how he felt when they were little? So attached, so curious, so hopeful, so... involved! He is just digging his own grave. No matter how cute they were back then, they were easily broken up but now, he just can't stop wondering how Tae would react if he'd just kiss him.
Probably not good. He knows that Tae is not one to even consider another guy like this. Maybe Jeongguk is a weird one but ever since he was little, he never really got a convincing reason why he shouldn't be feeling more for someone just because they have a d*ck too.
"Your family must be so worried about you." Tae suddenly says.
"I think they're fine." Jeongguk says.
"Didn't you have an older brother? You always looked up to him." Tae says. He really is remembering more and more!
"He must be worried."
"We're not close anymore."
Tae stops drawing and looks at him.
Jeonggguk's mind goes back to a long time ago. He remembers it faintly. But he knows it happened a lot.
"Why can't I take him out to play anymore?"
Jeongguk can hear his brother from the other side of the room.
"Your brother needs to focus on other things dear." Their mother says.
"On what? I'm just going to take him out for a bit. It's snowing, he loves making a snow man." Yoongi tries again and Jeongguk does, he really does want to go out and play.
He touches the door with his small paw and makes a small sound of desperation.
"What was that?" Yoongi asks.
"What was what?"
"It sounded like a puppy's hawl!"
"I didn't hear anything my dear." Their mother lies again. Jeongguk just goes back to his bed.
He misses everyone!
*End of flashes*
"We just grew apart." He says, looking down. Tae looks at him sadly.
"Because of the curse?" He asks and Jeongguk's lack of response answers his question. "Does he know about it?"
"It's better if he doesn't."
"That's not fair to him, y'know?"
He knows that it's not but it has been so long. He got used to hiding it from everyone. If they know, they will be afraid of him. They will hate him. They will never see hi-
Tae suddenly turns his head so Jeongguk can look at him.
"You need to let some people in your life again."
Tae's hand stays on his cheek, his eyes looking so sincere.
"You keep hiding everything from everyone. You do know that there are people out there that love you, right?" He asks. Jeongguk can't look away from him. The touch feels so heavy on his skin.
Their faces are so close and the tension between them is making it hard for them to remember there actually is a world outside of this.
"If you don't want to tell me what's hurting you, it's okay. But at least tell someone else."
"It's better if no one knows."
That's a good question. why not? Because they will scream. They will remind him that he's scary. That is is ugly, terrifying! Because they will hate him. They will-
"If I knew you were going to be this shut off and lonely, I'd do anything to find you again." Tae says.
"I thought you already forgot about me too, that you just didn't want to play anymore." Tae narrows his eyes, remembering his vision. "That must be why even this forest is mad at me. You trusted me, you loved me in your innocence and I said I did too... But I left you alone."
"I told you. I'm not going to blame an 8 years old for my shit." Jeongguk says. "you didn't owe me anything."
"You trusted me."
"I trusted a lot of people."
"I wasn't supposed to be like the other people." Tae whispers and Jeongguk can feel his heart crying in need.
"You say that now but if you'd see me at my worst, you'd run away too." Jeongguk says. Tae shakes his head.
"I was pretty devastated when you wouldn't come back anymore. so was Jiminie. We really missed you, y'know?"
"What if I tell you I'm not the person you think I am?"
Jeongguk bites his lip nervously.
"what if I tell you I changed? That I hurt people? What if I tell you I became some sort of monster that even I can't stand anymore?" He shouldn't be saying any of these but he just can't help it.
"I'd wonder just how hurt you must have been."
Jeongguk is a little taken back by that.
"The Gukkie I remember was so pure. He never even want to hurt a fly. And hearing how upset you are, saying all those, I can tell you didn't even want any of them. So no, I'm still not going to turn my back on you again." Tae says.
Jeongguk honestly doesn't know what to do. a part of him just wants to cry, another wants to crush the other man into a hug and another wants to kiss the living hell out of him to actually see if he would pull away from him. But he doesn't do any of them.
Tae ends up hugging him.
Jeongguk wonders if Tae can feel just how hard his heart is beating. And that is when it hits him.
"You just called my name again!" He says and Tae's eyes get wider too. He didn't even notice. He did it... right? He pulls away slightly.
"Your name is Gukkie? As in... Jeonggukie?"
Jeongguk quickly nods. He doesn't know why he is really happy that he remembered but he is!
"Wow!" Tae looks speechless. He doesn't know what to think! He smiles at Jeongguk again and holds his face. "Much better than suki huh?"
Jeongguk laughs, it sounding a bit choked up.
Tae's eyes fall on the sun behind Jeongguk and frowns in confusion.
"what the..." He mumbles and Jeongguk looks behind himself to see it too. The bright sun is turning orange. It's almost as if it is about to set.
But they were just about to eat breakfast!
If he doesn't leave now, he is going to turn. Jeongguk is sure they should be hours away from the sunset but it's almost like the forest is trying to make him take this decision. He looks back at Tae who looks even more confused at him.
"What do you think is happening?" Tae asks
He looks so worried and a part of Jeongguk just doesn't want to leave him like this. But most of all... He just wants everything Tae just said to be true.
"Promise me something." Jeongguk says.
"What?" Tae whispers.
"Don't abandon me." He takes a few steps away.
He can either run as fast as he can now or stay and let him see him in his most exposed moment. Tae looks so confused and worried.
"I'm sorry. I never wanted you to see the real me like this."
He closes his eyes and feels the transformation taking over him again.
Tae's eyes get wider and wider as the light takes over the other man and he suddenly turns into the same creature he has grown fond of for the past month or so.
And when Jeongguk opens his eyes again, Tae wonders how didn't he recognize those deep doe eyes before.
Jeongguk waits for the other prince to speak. To say anything at all but Tae is just staring at him.
"Say something." He is so nervous! Tae gets up from his spot and just walks closer to the beast. He lifts his hand to touch him but stops, his hand lingers on the air.
Jeongguk doesn't know how to take the reaction. Is it even a reaction? Tae turns around, holding his face.
Jeongguk knew this would happen. He just knew it. Of course Tae would get like this too. Of course, he is going to hate him too. He was stupid for thinking he wouldn't.
"I'm so stupid." Tae groans in his hands. Jeongguk frowns unsurely at that. Tae looks at him again, more frustration shining in his eyes. "All this time, ALL this time... I've been whining about you to... YOU? I'm so fucking stupid oh my god!" Tae looks offended.
But Jeongguk is not sure if he is offended over Jeongguk or himself.
"Why didn't you just tell me?" Tae asks.
"I wasn't even planning to talk to you. I never thought it'd be important to bring it up."
"Of course it is! Why wouldn't it be?"
Jeongguk doesn't want to answer that. He really can't! Taehyung's expression looks more confused at Jeongguk's silence.
"Jeongguk... You knew I accepted this side of you. You knew I saw you as a friend. You knew I wouldn't freak out, right?"
"No but any kindness has a reason."
He pauses a bit.
"I couldn't get what was yours. I thought maybe you still hoped I could get you out of here. Or you just wanted to feel better about yourself. Or you just wanted me to talk to you so you wouldn't be alone and... if you'd know my other side..." He stops talking.
Jeongguk sits on the ground and tries to put it in words.
"Some people had told me that I'm sort of good looking in my human form. Plus I'm a human and evidently a childhood friend. But the me in this form... I'm just a beast that was keeping you company!" Guk says.
Tae frowns deeper and deeper by every word that gets out of Jeongguk's mouth.
"I thought by time, you'd just want to spend time with the other me and eventually forget this side of me." Jeongguk confesses.
"You're so frustrating. Did you know that?" Tae asks.
"Look at me." He holds Jeongguk's face and looks so serious at him. "I might not have been so faithful to you the first time around but I meant it when I said I was sad to leave you alone. Yes, you are good-looking but what's it to me? It's not like I'm your lover!"
"What am I gonna do with you being good looking or not? You look cute when you're like this." Tae pets his head and Jeongguk tries not to show how crushed he feels. "And you're someone that showed me nothing but kindness. You have everything a friend should have."
"Now you understand why this curse is never going to be broken."
"Why the hell not?"
"Look at me Taehyung. I might be okay as a friend but I'm sure even if I was a woman... Even you would never get to love me like that when I look like this." Jeongguk says bitterly.
Tae's expression drops fully at that. And that breaks Jeongguk's heart the most. Because it proves that even Tae agrees.
"We're going to change that." Tae says, looking determined. "Once we get out of here, one way or another We'll break it. I'll help you find that girl!"
It hurts because Jeongguk is looking at him and he knows that until just a few minutes ago he couldn't think of anything other than hugging him or kissing him but he talks so naturally about finding a woman for him. What hurts more is that it is that this is not the first time.
He had fallen for him when they were younger too and apparently he was so desperately in love with him that he wouldn't shut up about it. At least back then Tae would lie about loving him but now... Jeongguk sort of wished he would lie again.
"I mean it." Tae insists.
"I'm not going out of here Taehyung." Jeongguk says.
"That would make sense if you were just... this! But you're not. At least during the day time you can be out there. Jeongguk, we can break this curse!"
"And what If I don't want to break this spell?" Jeongguk asks.
Tae is really taken back by this.
"You can't back down..."
"I'm not backing down. Do you know how I even ended up here? My parents sent me here. They banished me because I wouldn't just turn back to my human form at all. I was still a baby." Jeongguk says.
"And when I came here, I was in danger too. And then one morning I wake up and I'm a human again. I run all the way back home, I was so happy to let my parents know I wasn't a freak anymore but then night comes again and I just... I'm back to this again." His voice is shaking.
Tae doesn't even know what to say anymore.
"I can't leave this place. I only got to have half of my real self after I got here. This is the only place I don't have to fucking hide myself. This is my territory now. I won't let even you to take it away from me."
Jeongguk didn't know he was even capable of crying in this form. Not until he feels Tae's hand, trying to wipe his tear away. Tae pulls him in a hug because he knows that there is nothing in this world that he can say and make the other man feel better. But maybe the hug helps!
And it does. Because no matter how hurt Jeongguk is, no matter how much he just wants to pull away, how mad he is that of all people, he is this attracted to a wizard, the kind that put him through what he is going now... He still needs this hug.
"I'm not giving up on you."
But it's too late because Jeongguk already had given up on himself a long time ago.
"I know I wasn't there when you needed me. I'm sorry but I'm here now. You were alone back then but it'll be different this time. This time... I'll stay by your side... always!"
Jeongguk hates how his heart does a flip from hearing it. Tae pulls away slightly to look at him.
"I hate the thought of you spending all your life here, alone."
"I belong here." Jeongguk says. Tae looks at him for a bit and then frowns.
"Then I guess I'm staying too!"
Jeongguk frowns at that.
"Don't be stubborn. You still need to find a way to get out of here, remember?" Jeongguk asks. Tae is already walking to the fire they made. "Taehyung!"
"If you're staying, I'm staying."
"I belong here, you don't! What about the land of magics?" Guk asks.
"The reason I wanted to go there was to hopefully find my teacher again and to have a place I could be safe in. Who knows if I'm even going to find Jin hyung there? I'm already getting used to this place anyway." He sounds bitter.
"What about Jiminie and your friend Hoseok?"
Tae pauses at that, his back toward Jeongguk.
"You promised them to see them again. You can't if you give up on getting out of here." Jeongguk says. Tae closes his eyes guiltily.
"They're going to be okay without me. I guess I'm just really bad at keeping my promises!"
"You're being so unfair." Jeongguk says and Tae looks back. His brows shut up when he sees the jungle behind Jeongguk has changed. There are only a few trees in front of him and he KNOWS that if he passes them, he will be able to walk out. "You can't stay with me." Guk says.
Tae can see it, his way out... He has been looking so desperately for it and it is right there. All he has to do is leave Jeongguk behind and...
But his eyes are still looking at Jeongguk and his bombie eyes that remind him so much of the man in his human form.
He closes his eyes. It is hard. He wants to walk out, he wants a life outside of this jungle but...
"I already told you Jeongguk. I'm not going to leave you alone again."
He keeps his eyes down, not wanting to see the way out anymore as he approaches the beast again.
"I guess you're stuck with me now, huh?" Tae smiles at him. Jeongguk can't do this to him. He can't let him stay here because of him. Not when he knows a whole life is waiting for him out there. "Not going to lie, I wanted to go out, but this place is not that bad with you!"
"If you keep this up, I'm going to hide myself in the jungle and never let you see me again." Jeongguk warns him.
"Like how you hid when I found you bathing? It took me twenty or so years until I found you again. I'm always going to find you."
"You're so unfair."
"Is it really that bad to live with me from now on?" Tae asks with a teasing smile but his eyes look a bit sad.
"Yes when I know you don't belong here. You have so much to experience out there."
"And you don't?"
"I'm not like you."
"I want to think like that you are."
"What do I have to do to get you to just keep trying and leave?" Jeongguk sounds like he is about to freak out. Tae brushes his furs with his fingers.
"Come with me. that is the only way I'll leave."
"You can't do this to me."
"If this is a good place, I'm staying too."
He is looking so serious at Jeongguk and the beast knows that he means it when he says he won't leave without him.
"If it's not, then I'm not keeping you another second in this lonely place." Tae says. Jeongguk looks at Tae's eyes with so much fear in his own.
"Okay." He whispers.
"Okay what?" Tae asks.
"I'll come with you. But you have to promise something to me." Jeongguk says.
"What?" Tae's eyes light up at that.
"You have to forget about me if I regret leaving this place and come back here again. Don't ever come after me."
Tae frowns again.
"I'm not going to make that promise."
"Promise me Taehyung." Jeongguk insists but Tae just shakes his head.
"I won't. But I can promise that we will lift that curse and you are never going to have to hide here again." Tae says in determination.
"It's like you don't even listen to me."
"The land of magic is filled with big wizards and witches. We might even find the person that cursed you."
"I don't like people with magic."
"I have magic Jeongguk. You don't like me either?"
Jeongguk gulps at that. He wished he didn't.
"If I have to kill that witch for you, I will. If I have to get all those witches and wizards to help you, I will. If I have to spend all my life to find a way to get you free, I will. If I have to look all over the place to find someone to love you, I will." Tae says.
"You're making it so hard for me to say no."
"Then don't, look!" Tae turns Jeongguk's head. "I can see our way out. Just say the word and we'll do it together."
"This is a bad-"
"I'll be with you all the time." Tae insists. Jeongguk looks at him a bit longer and sighs.
Tae sighs in relief, looking at him with so much joy in his eyes. They both look at the road. Tae's hand is still on Jeongguk's back as they both walk out of the jungle. Jeongguk looks back at the tall trees one more time, not believing that this can be the last time he sees them
They walk a bit further and as soon as they get close to some royal guards, Tae sneaks in their place to steal their cloaks and then walk out. He gives one to Jeongguk and wears the other one.
"Is it too obvious?"
"I can barely see anything through it." Tae says. Guk nods.
"Should we head to your place? I think you should tell your brother that you are okay." Tae says.
"If he finds me, he is going to drag me to your kingdom." Jeongguk says.
"To my kingdom?"
"One of your siblings has taken over. Four of you ran away but they are still on top."
Tae bites his lip at that, suddenly feeling so much pain.
"Just the five of us have remained... huh?" He asks.
"I'm sorry." Jeongguk means it. He doesn't know how hard it must be. Tae can't help wondering who has already died. Who survived?
"It's okay. I knew it'd happen."
"Then it's settled. Let's get you to the lang of magics first. I don't promise to behave around there. I really don't like... them! But I can try." Jeongguk says.
"Operation turning Jeongguk back to normal is on work now." Tae smiles slightly, trying to cheer up.
They start walking for a bit until they reach a public rest-house and Tae is just so glad he still has some coins left from the time he left his place. They rest there for a few hours.
The next time Tae opens his eyes, he smiles at the sight of Jeongguk sleeping.
He feels the comfortable sheets under them and closes his eyes in satisfaction. After staying in that cold and uncomfortable jungle, it's a blessing to be outside of it again. He moves closer to Jeongguk and pushes his hair behind his ear.
"Wake up sleeping beauty." He teases him
Jeongguk slowly opens his eyes and sees the way the other man is smiling at him.
"I'm starving. We should go pretty soon too." Tae whispers. Jeongguk smiles at him and stretches his arms above his head and then sits up.
They are really are outside, huh?
They silently eat some food together and then start their journey together. Tae seems to know where they are going so Jeongguk doesn't really tell him where they should or should not go. On the third day, they stop to eat something mid-way. Jeongguk is not wearing his cap.
He is eating and then realizes how Tae is staring at a spot.
"What is it?" He asks, looking at the same side. A girl winks at him.
"She has been staring at you since we got here." Tae says.
"Okay." Jeongguk mumbles uninterestedly and continues eating.
Tae kicks his leg.
"You never know when you might have your chance if you just act this indifferent." Tae says.
"We're not even going to stay here. why would I care what random person is staring at me?" Jeongguk asks.
"We could stay if she's worth it!"
"I'm just saying. Any of these women might actually end up being the one for you. Ever since we got out, you had all those people having goggly eyes for you and you were always uninterested."
"I don't even know them."
"You could get to know them!" Tae says.
Jeongguk looks like he is struggling not to snap at him.
"Look, I don't have enough coin to cover us both until we get to the land of magic. We need to have some stops to get some money anyway. How about we stop in this village for a bit. You might find someone interesting?"
"The guards might find you here."
"They know I went to the forbidden jungle over a month ago. They probably think I'm dead by now." Tae says.
"I kinda hate this persistent side of you."
"I'm not forcing you. I'm just saying, don't shut the whole idea off."
Jeongguk purses his lips and doesn't feel like talking to him anymore. Tae drops the subject with a sigh. They finish their lunch and they walk around to see if they can find anywhere they can crash and work at for a bit. Luckily they find an old farmer who needs help.
He tells them that if they work all day for him, he will let them have their own shared room in his house and sleep there and he will actually feed them with his own food too. They feel really humbled at the offer and try to learn the job as quick as they can so they can start.
Two coins a day is not much but it's better than the nothing they will have in a day or two. They spend all day, looking after the plants and the fruits the way the old man told them and then Jeongguk quickly heads inside. Tae takes the food and takes it to their room.
Tae can barely asleep that night but Jeongguk is fast asleep. Tae just stares up at the moon and thinks of his family. He doesn't know who in his family he can never see again.
To think they actually...
The sun is starting to come up so Tae turns to look at Jeongguk.
He smiles when Jeongguk turns back to his human form. To his surprise, it actually wakes Jeongguk up. The other man looks around and sees the way Tae is still sitting next to the mirror.
"Why are you up?"
"Just didn't feel like sleeping." Tae says. His stomach suddenly growls.
Jeongguk looks at the other man's belly.
"I don't think the old man is gonna give us anything this early. Want to head to the pub again? I heard they stay open all night."
"That sounds strange. why would they?" Tae asks
"Cuz that's when guys can get some." Jeongguk says sleepily.
Jeongguk lifts a brow. He really doesn't know?
"After midnight is when they serve more alcohol and their... special workers work." He says carefully.
"Special worker?" Tae looks genuinely surprised.
"Special as in... Sex workers." He closes his eyes to finally say it.
"Oh..." Tae is actually really surprised. "Then why would we go there?"
"Because they have food too."
Tae thinks a bit.
"I dunno. I could use some alcohol though!"
"You look upset."
"I just miss getting drunk." Tae snorts. Jeongguk inhales deeply and gets up.
"Let's go then!"
The sun is still just starting to light up the place when they get in. Tae asks for some food and two drinks for both of them. There are some men and women dancing next to a pole. Even the man that served their food is wearing something... too revealing!
"This place is a little uncomfortable, not gonna lie! It was much better during the day." Tae says.
"I heard it's wider close to midnight but I wouldn't know." Jeongguk shrugs.
"You really are so uninterested in these things huh?" Tae asks.
"I mean... this!"
He points at around them.
"You said you were uncomfortable too." Jeongguk points out.
"Yeah but... it's because I've never been to a place like this but it looks like you have." Tae says.
"I'm a guy in my twenties, I do have needs and I do have a face to maintain." Guk says.
Tae lifts a brow at that.
"I obviously can't just goof around with the princesses or most people at the castle. Places like this are chill because it's a give and take situation."
"So you... pay for stuff?" Tae asks.
"That's the idea but I usually don't have to." Guk admits.
"So you've really actually... done it?" Tae asks. Jeongguk narrows his eyes, blinking a few times.
"Yeah? Why do you talk as if-" He pauses. It suddenly clicks in his head. "No way!"
"You're telling me you've never... I mean..." Guk is speechless.
"I told you. Why would I get involve with someone when I knew I would either die or leave and have to leave them behind either way."
"It's just sex, you're not asking for their had in marriage."
"What if I would? What if I'd actually fall for them?" Tae asks. Guk just stares.
"That's so stupid." He says.
"You're not gonna just fall in love with someone just because you slept with them."
"I don't really know what happens in it but everyone says it's so intimate. So... it must be something special right?" Tae asks. Guk bites his lip.
"That's not how it works..."
"Then why are you so scared of even giving anyone a chance? Who knows? Maybe your soulmate is actually one of these girls!" Tae says. Jeongguk narrows his eyes at that. He likes girls but he is getting really tired of Tae putting him in a box.
Jeongguk leans forward, taking another sip of his drink.
"Look around you." He says. Tae does look around. There are a few people who are talking suggestively, he is pretty sure some are even touching each other a little too much. "Do you see anything special here?"
"Of course you won't see it until you know them." Tae says. "Would you feel more comfortable if I leave?"
"You're so annoying when you do this." Jeongguk shakes his head.
"So are you! I'm trying to get you to do something for the curse but you're not doing anything."
"Will you shut up about it if I try?" Jeongguk asks.
"Yes! That's what I want! There are a lot of pretty girls here. Almost all of them are ogling you."
"They are ogling you too."
"But I'm not looking for love."
"I'm not either."
Tae narrows his eyes to glare at him.
"Fucking fine. You want me to try? I'll try." Jeongguk is pissed. Tae's heart speeds up a bit at that but he just keeps his arms closed as Jeongguk looks around. "Hey, can you come here for a second?"
Tae doesn't look at who Jeongguk called.
"Can I help you, gentlemen?"
Tae pauses at the voice and looks up, feeling dumbfounded.
"It's a nice place here. You must have a lot of costumers." Jeongguk says. Tae is beyond confused. Is he gonna ask for another girl?
"We sure do-"
"I mean you, personally." Jeongguk says.
The man smiles.
"Well thank you mr?"
"Seeing you, I don't think you'll even remember my name if this goes right by the time we're done." Jeongguk tilts his brow.
Tae holds Jeongguk's arm in confusion.
He is aware that the man is... well... a man, right? He can see his bulge!
"Yes?" Jeongguk's eyes look as if he is challenging him but Tae just looks back in confusion. But then the man sits on Jeongguk's lap and then Jeongguk looks up at him.
Tae recognizes the bitter feeling in his stomach but he can't tell why he can't shake it off.
"How about you prove it to me? My room is empty upstairs." The man says. Jeongguk pulls his hand from Tae's hold and looks up at the other man.
"How much would this night really cost?"
The man looks up and down at Jeongguk and licks his lip. Tae hates how he is looking at him.
"It's not night anymore so we might actually find a way to..." He plays with the hem of Jeongguk's cloak."Y'know? compromise as long as you show me a good time."
"Jeongguk, what the hell are you doing?" Tae asks, sounding a little too annoyed. Guk looks at him.
"Do what you said I should." Jeongguk says with his own annoyed eyes.
"I said find a girl that can help you with your problem. This is a guy. How is he-"
"I'm supposed to find a person."
"What's wrong with your friend?" The man asks.
"He can't fall for you Jeongguk." Tae says.
Jeongguk stares at him for a moment longer, his eyes looking even darker than before. He really doesn't like Tae's tone.
He suddenly pulls the man on his lap down to catch his lips between his own.
The man and Tae both feel their eyes getting wider.
Tae quickly looks away, not actually having the courage to look. His palm fisting hardly, feeling betrayed even though technically, he is not. Tae told him to find someone he might love. WHY did he went for...
The man moans in the kiss and Tae hardly looks again.
They break the kiss with a loud sound and the man looks even more flustered than Tae himself. He waves himself.
"Wow! With that kind of kiss, I doubt anyone wouldn't fall for him." Of course, he is just flirting and Jeongguk knows it. But Tae can't stand it anymore.
He just drops his coins and gets up.
"Wh-" Jeongguk is about to ask him where he is going before finishing his food but then man turns his face to look at him.
"Look at me cutie. Let's go to my room now. I know a few things I can blow your mind with too."
Tae cringes his nose.
He walks out.
"Shit." Jeongguk whispers and looks at where he is leaving again. Tae was asking for it. Jeongguk just wanted to prove a point but he didn't expect the other man to actually get upset!
"Loo-" The man tries to say.
"Sorry, I need to go." Jeongguk grabs the coins.
He puts enough for the food and drinks and some tip on the table and quickly rushes after the other man. He is surprised when he can't see him outside. He probably went back to the old man's place? He rushes back and yes, he finds him in the room that was given to them.
"Why are you looking at me like I just did the biggest sin or something?" Jeongguk asks.
"Are you taking me as a joke?" Tae asks. Jeongguk has never seen him looking this pissed.
"Then what the fuck was that?"
"You bugged me to find someone, I did." Guk says.
"I told you to find a woman that could help you with a curse."
"Why does it have to be a woman? Why can't it be a man?"
"Because he's a man."
"So?" Jeongguk is not trying to get mad but he is.
"How can you not see it? He's a man, you can't fall in love with a man."
"Where the hell is this even coming from?"
"I'm sorry, didn't my confessions since we were infants give you the idea that I don't care about what people have in their pants?" Jeongguk asks. Tae takes a step back, not expecting to hear that.
"We were babies. You didn't know what you were saying back then."
"You're still treating me like a baby when out of the two of us, I'm the one who actually knows what sex or attraction even is and I damn well know that it can happen with anyone I want." Jeongguk says.
"I don't know what you think you know but you clearly haven't aged a day if you think that is even possible. Men and Women are made for each other. How can you even feel anything for another man? How could you even kiss him?"
Jeongguk just stares at him again.
His eyes look just as dark as they did before he kissed that guy before and somehow, Tae wants to push him even further.
"you can try all you want but this can never feel-WOa!" He was about to say before he is being puched against the wall. "What the?"
Jeongguk is holding both of his arms on either side of him, looking at him with shark and deep eyes, their bodies pressed against each other.
Tae is hyper-aware of how Jeongguk's breath is hitting his face. He gulps.
"Stop pissing me off and dictating how I should feel."
"You know I'm right." Tae is stubborn. He doesn't like the idea that Jeongguk liked kissing that man. Somehow he didn't mind thinking of Jeongguk with a woman but seeing him with that man just blew it for him. He still feels sick.
"You don't know what you're saying." Guk says.
"If you don't want to try it with those girls then fine, I won't force you. Now drop the act. We both know you can never get the real thing from another guy." He says and Jeongguk wants to scream. He IS feeling so strongly for this man and this is how he actually sees it?
Doesn't he understand just how badly Jeongguk wants to devour him right here and there? How he wants to take all his clothes off and show him just how much he can make him feel to the point that he wouldn't even think of being with anyone else? Can't he really feel it?
"Take it back." Jeongguk is staring at his lips, greeting his own teeth. Tae's breathing is much harsher than before. He is trying his best not to stare at Guk's, not to wonder just how kissing Jeongguk would feel like.
But he doesn't have to wonder for long.
Because Jeongguk finally lets his weaker side win and presses his lips onto his, hard enough to make sure the other man can feel just how fucking wrong he is.
A part of Tae just wants to scream and push him away but he's not doing it.
Why does he also feel relieved?
He fists his hands, the same ones Jeongguk is still holding against the wall and tries his best not to give in. But his lips are the biggest traitors because they are already kissing Jeonguk back. Jeongguk bites on his lip, wanting to get all his attention on himself.
He deepens the kiss, wanting to suck his life out of him, maybe that way he can find some leftover feelings deep in Tae's soul so he can feel less pathetic for kissing him like this. The kiss is harsh, Jeongguk doesn't even wait for permission before using his tongue.
Tae can't remember ever feeling anything like this. He can't even remember what they were arguing about, he is too distracted by Jeongguk's taste, by how he is holding him and kissing him to think of anything other than the other prince in front of himself.
Their bodies are moving next to each other and Jeongguk knows that if he spends just a few more seconds like this, then he's not sure what else they might do.
And despite everything, he does know that he shouldn't do this.
Tae tries to cover his disappointment when Guk pulls back
But their faces are still so close and Tae's whole being is just wishing for Jeongguk to move back and kiss him again. But Jeongguk is just staring at his lips and then looks up at his eyes.
"Now look me in the eyes and tell me you didn't feel a thing." He whispers.
Tae just gulps at that. He is too much of a coward to say anything.
"At least now you have some experience before judging, petal!" He says the last word as if it's a curse word, reminding Tae of where it originally came from and then he just pulls away to leave the room.
Tae doesn't move from the spot, still panting hard. He can't believe Jeongguk just did that to prove a point! And he can't believe he actually desperately wants it! What is wrong with him?
His feelings make no sense right now but he really hopes he gets them under control again!
He takes a few minutes to just hold himself and then inhales deeply. This is a mess! His heart suddenly speeds up when he realizes that Jeongguk stormed out. What if he went back? He walks out of the room to try and find him, running as fast as he can until he finds him.
Jeongguk is just sitting on one of the stairs in front of the old man's house. Tae sighs in relief. He is still here!
He walks closer to him and then sits next to him. Jeongguk doesn't look at him. He is just frowning at the sun.
"You almost gave me a heart attack." Tae says.
Jeongguk doesn't say anything, he is just sulking.
"Aren't I the one who is supposed to be mad right now? You didn't have to kiss me." Tae tries to scold him.
"You didn't have to kiss me back." Jeongguk says.
"I just... don't know what happened." Tae confesses.
Jeongguk bites his lip. He knows that he is attracted to the other man, he knows that he likes him. And he knows that once upon a time, he was in love with him. But he also knows that Taehyung will never see him as anything other than friend.
Despite all that, the moment their lips touched, he felt like it actually could mean something. when Tae kissed him back, for a small second he let himself feel hopeful.
Even though it all went away the moment he stopped the kiss.
"I'm sorry." Jeongguk mumbles.