Part 5

Moonlight




Once his mind caught up with his circumstances enough to scream go after him, you fool!, Chanyeol did exactly that, racing out of the shop. But he was too late - wherever Kyungsoo had gone, on foot or horseback, he was out of sight now.

The shopkeep, who eyed him with a look that was all too knowing when he came back in, was able to tell him little of use, except that Kyungsoo came in once or twice a month, that he’d been seen entering the town from the west, and that he wasn’t always alone - sometimes there was another man with him, described as taller even than Chanyeol, angry-looking and fearsome.

Chanyeol paid for his horse, walked to the inn, and rented himself a room all in a daze, reliving the encounter in his mind over and over. Rather than eat in the dining hall with the other patrons, Chanyeol asked for his dinner to be brought to him in his room, and poured over his map while he ate. There were no villages directly to the west, not even any roads.

There was, however, a mountain.

With the food in his system, Chanyeol’s mind was clearer. He sat back and weighed his options.

Kyungsoo had not looked afraid, or abused. That took some of the urgency away from Chanyeol’s quest. However, there was no telling what his existence was like, if he was, in fact, captured by a dragon. Perhaps the wounds were not physical ones.

In particular, Chanyeol did not like the way the shopkeep had described the man who sometimes travelled with Kyungsoo. He sounded dangerous. And Chanyeol had heard rumors, tales of dragons taking on human form, so perhaps...

He’d never heard of a dragon capturing a young man rather than a young maiden, but it was certainly possible, and Kyungsoo was more than beautiful enough to entice any creature. He was stunning. And that, in a way, was Chanyeol’s problem.

It had been silly, in retrospect, for him to assume his destiny was female. Looking back, he had never been given any indication of that. It was just that Chanyeol was a prince, the Crown Prince, and no matter which way his leanings it was expected that in the end he would marry a woman, and have children, preferably male ones. A kingdom needed the stability of both King and Queen, of at least one Heir, if not a few options just in case. Kings who never married left power vacuums when they died, and it was always their subjects who suffered for it.

So if Kyungsoo really was his destiny - and judging by the way his breath came short just imagining the other man’s face, Chanyeol suspected he hadn’t been wrong about that part - at best the man could only ever be Chanyeol’s advisor, his secret lover. He would have no choice but to marry another, and lie with her at least once, and to never acknowledge Kyungsoo publicly, never parade him through the streets or pledge vows to him in front of the temple or be able to proudly say, He is mine.

After all, his own mother had a female lover for most of his teenaged years, known to the family and the court but not to the people. He’d seen first hand how the politics and jealousies of court life had worn on their relationship, until his adopted aunt had simply left the kingdom one day, shortly after Chanyeol’s sixteenth birthday. She hadn’t been able to handle playing second fiddle to the husband of the woman she loved - even if that husband was the King. And Chanyeol couldn’t blame her, which is why, despite his generally not-picky demeanor when it came to ual attraction, he’d long ago vowed that he would learn to love the woman he married, and never put either his wife or a lover in that position.

He’d never expected to fall for a man long before ever meeting his future wife. And the circumstances - the dreams - made him think it would be a mistake not to pursue this. There was more going on here than simple matters of the heart. This was destiny, but for the first time, the thought had him apprehensive rather than excited.

It made him uneasy, having the proverbial rug pulled out from under him like this, but Chanyeol was nothing if not determined, so he vowed that he would bathe, and get his clothes washed, and the next day he would head west into the mountains to search.

And every day after that, if that’s what it took, until he found Kyungsoo again.



+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++



The particular mountain directly west of the town was steeper and drier than the mountains he’d just spent four days searching, which made some semblance of sense, considering this one did not have a river running down it. Chanyeol set out at dawn, but it wasn’t until around noon that Chanyeol’s search bore any fruit, in the form of an enormous clawed footprint, half-pressed into a place where the ground was a little bit softer.

Chanyeol himself was not a tracker, but he’d learned a thing or two from huntsmen, and while he had no idea how to tell how old the footprint was, he could guess at the dragon’s size from the spread of its toes. Large. Possibly as tall as two stories; certainly taller than one. Not the most gigantic monster he’d heard tell of, but big enough.

The other thing he could easily decipher from the track was direction, so he made note of where he was and set off in the direction the toes were facing. If nothing came of that, he thought, he would double back and head in the direction the dragon had been coming from.

He saw no more tracks, but there were some crumpled bushes, some snapped branches that encouraged him. Around midafternoon, he stopped to rest in the shade of a copse of trees.

He’d just finished eating some rations and was wondering where he could refill his water skin when he heard something not a bird call break the quietude of the forest. It was soft, and low, and distant, and sounded an awful lot like singing.

Chanyeol got to his feet and followed his ears.

The song led him deeper into the trees, and as he got closer Chanyeol could tell that the voice was definitely male, and a register that could easily belong to Kyungsoo, low-toned but sweet. The song was in a language Chanyeol did not understand, but the tune was beautiful and haunting, lines of melody that sent goosebumps up his arms and down the back of his neck.

When he was close enough, Chanyeol realized that there was indeed a spring on this mountain, because there Kyungsoo was, bathing in it.

Chanyeol froze.

He hadn’t meant to peep, but...he couldn’t look away. Kyungsoo was covered enough, anyway; the spring seemed to be shallow but he was pretty clearly kneeling in it, his back to Chanyeol and only the vaguest outline of his folded legs visible beneath the surface of the water. Leaning silently against the trunk of a handy pine tree, Chanyeol let Kyungsoo’s soft voice wash over him and watched him scrub his shoulders with a smile that was probably quite idiotic. Kyungsoo was so very beautiful.

Chanyeol lost track of time. He came back to himself as Kyungsoo uncurled his legs, his eyes widening as he realized a moment too late that Kyungsoo was standing. Chanyeol caught a glimpse of a small, pert, rounded before he screwed his eyes shut and ducked behind the tree trunk, heart pounding.

What the heck was he doing?

Hellfire, what he wouldn’t give to put his hands on that skin.

No. . Chanyeol. You are better than this.

Disgusted with himself, Chanyeol moved away as silently as he could, refusing to let himself look back and violate Kyungsoo’s privacy any more than he already had. What a terrible way to begin! His mother would be ashamed. His sister would be ashamed. (His father would probably clap him on the back, but he was a notorious so that was no indication of what was ethically correct.)

When he thought he was far enough away, Chanyeol stopped and looked back over his shoulder. He could still see the glimmer of the spring in the distance, but there was no small, pale body standing nearby, no sign of movement at all. He frowned.

“Looking for someone?”

Chanyeol jumped and spun, his hand going instinctively to his blade. But it was Kyungsoo, still wet but fully dressed and cocking an eyebrow at him that made Chanyeol flush head to toe.

“I. No. Yes. I mean.” Chanyeol swallowed, hard. “You?”

“Am I looking for someone?” Kyungsoo asked, his eyebrow falling in confusion.

“No, I mean. You. I was looking for you.”

That maddening little smile tugged at the edges of Kyungsoo’s lips again. “Oh, I see,” he murmured. “Well, it appears you have found me.” He ran a hand through his wet hair, pushing it back away from his face. Without his fringe softening his features, he looked older, more masculine. “What can I do for you?”

This was not at all how he was expecting this to go. “Um,” Chanyeol stuttered, sounding like an idiot and hating it. “Let me...let me take you to dinner.”

A blink. “...Are you asking to court me?” Kyungsoo asked incredulously.

“Yes,” Chanyeol said, keeping his voice as steady and confident as he could. “That is exactly what I’m asking.” And then, he saw the opportunity, and took it. “Unless there is someone, or ...something, that would stop you?”

His question went unnoticed. “Did you seriously follow me up the mountain so you could ask to court me?”

Why did he have to act like this was so strange? Okay, yes, it was a little strange, but still! “You made an impression on me,” Chanyeol said truthfully.

Kyungsoo opened his mouth, then closed it again, regarding Chanyeol with an unreadable look. Chanyeol returned his gaze and tried to look heroic, or enticing, or at the very least not terrified.

“What did you mean,” Kyungsoo said finally, “when you said, someone or something?”

Chanyeol had purposely worded the question to be open-ended - because frankly, he knew nothing about Kyungsoo, for all he knew he wasn’t even attracted to men in the first place - but there was a pointedness to Kyungsoo’s tone that told Chanyeol that Kyungsoo knew there was an underlying purpose to his question.

Chanyeol couldn’t just come out and say I had a vision about you induced by a unicorn kiss and I think you might be my destiny, nor could he bring himself to ask seen any dragons lately? So instead, he said, “The shopkeep told me you sometimes come into town with another man. I...wanted to be sure I wasn’t overstepping any bounds by asking.”

Kyungsoo’s eyes were bottomless. “You may have overstepped your bounds questioning the shopkeep about me,” he pointed out sharply, and Chanyeol flushed and ducked his head in shame, one hand coming up to rub nervously at the back of his neck. “But,” Kyungsoo continued, his tone softening, “I believe you meant no harm by it.” He cocked his head. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt.”

Chanyeol’s gaze shot up. “Really?” he asked, hope prickling his chest painfully.

“One meal,” Kyungsoo said, “for a start. I will promise no more than that.”

The wide, probably very ridiculous grin that spread over Chanyeol’s face could not be helped. Kyungsoo’s lips twitched again in response, making Chanyeol’s grin even wider. “Okay,” he breathed. “That’s - that’s good.”

“On one condition,” Kyungsoo said, freezing Chanyeol’s grin. “Don’t come up this mountain to look for me again. I will come to you.”

Nodding his acquiescence, Chanyeol blurted, “When?”

Kyungsoo studied his face. “Tomorrow night,” he said finally, “at sundown. You said you were staying at the inn, yes?” Chanyeol nodded again. “I will meet you there.”

But won’t your dragon mind you coming to see me? Chanyeol wanted to ask, but he didn’t dare voice it. “Until tomorrow, then,” he said instead, aiming for polite and genteel but falling short somewhere in the husky and anticipatory range.

“Tomorrow,” Kyungsoo promised. And for the second time, Chanyeol watched him walk away.



+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++



The trip down the mountain went quickly, and Chanyeol didn’t remember most of it. His mind was caught up in overanalyzing everything Kyungsoo had said, every tone of his voice, every quirk of his (rather extraordinarily mobile) eyebrows.

The innkeeper caught him on his way up the stairs to his room, saying that a rather large caravan of travellers had booked him full for the night and would Chanyeol be interested in entertaining them for a while? His cooks needed time to prepare a rather large meal, and he didn’t want any rowdiness to break out in the mean time.

Chanyeol’s first thought was not tonight, I have too much on my mind, but he thought the better of it - his funds were running low, and he would be buying dinner for two tomorrow night. Thinking amusedly that his mother would swoon to see him in a side-of-the-road inn in the middle of nowhere working something that resembled a regular job, Chanyeol accepted, and went up to his room to freshen up and change.

A lifetime of being in the public eye made Chanyeol at ease on a stage, even if most of the time he was making it up as he went along. The inn was small, and many of the patrons were regulars who had seen him before, so he set the tone by joking a little with them, asking for advice on what he should perform, teasing the little girl who hid behind her mother’s skirts about joining him on the stage for a song. With that easy, comfortable atmosphere, Chanyeol beat out a simple tattoo on a borrowed drum the innkeep happened to have hanging about and sang the songs of his homeland, encouraging the crowd to sing or clap along, even though they rather butchered his country’s heirloom language.

When he set the drum down and reached for his sword, some of the regulars started to holler and cheer, knowing what was coming. Grinning at them, he drew the sword, tossed the scabbard to the side, bowed and launched into his sequence. It wasn’t quite so dramatic without Jongdae’s drumbeat behind it but it got gasps and exclamations from the audience anyway.

A signal from the innkeep told him he’d stalled for long enough, so Chanyeol finished his little show with the same song he’d sung the first night, that ancient love song he’d heard all his life. As before, his eyes fluttered closed as he sang, and behind them he saw Kyungsoo’s eyes, his beautiful face. I see the magic of a moonlit night in your eyes, he sang, the meaning of his words known only to him. Your breath is the wind that makes my heart soar.

The last note rang out, and with it, applause. Chanyeol opened his eyes.

Kyungsoo stared back at him.

Chanyeol froze, blinking in shock, forgetting that he should be bowing, collecting his money, or at least getting off the stage. He thought his eyes were playing tricks on him, or that he’d just spent so much time imaging Kyungsoo’s face that his imagination had bled into reality. But no, the longer he stared, the more Kyungsoo’s grin spread across his face, lips so thick and curved that even stretched into a smile, the cupid’s bow remained intact, creating the illusion that his smile was shaped like a heart. He’d only ever seen that smile once before - when he’d been about to drown and reaching for it had saved his life.

He kind of felt like he was drowning right now.

A tug on the hem of his tunic brought him back into reality, made him look down. It was that little girl, shyly holding out a coin, glancing back at her mother to confirm this was what she was supposed to be doing. Charmed, Chanyeol knelt in front of her, taking the coin with a murmur of thanks and brushing a gallant air-kiss over the backs of her knuckles. Flushed and giggling, the little girl scuttled back to her mother and hid her face.

Dropping the coin in his basket, Chanyeol started making his rounds, chatting distractedly with the patrons and trying not to be too obvious about glancing at the corner booth where Kyungsoo sat alone. He was fairly certain he failed at the being-not-obvious thing, since every time he looked up those dark eyes were on him, piercing right into his heart.

He plotted his path through the room such that Kyungsoo’s table was the last he reached. And Kyungsoo even held out a coin, a glint of humor in his eye, but Chanyeol gently pressed it back into his hand. “Keep it,” he murmured. “I’d likely end up spending it on you anyway.”

The smile dropped off of Kyungsoo’s face, and Chanyeol winced internally, because he’d overstepped his bounds again. But then, Kyungsoo nodded to the seat across from him in clear invitation, and Chanyeol took it without hesitation, quickly pouring his night’s take in his beltpurse without bothering to count it.

“I wasn’t expecting to see you here tonight,” Chanyeol said, hoping his tone didn’t sound accusatory. If anything, he was delighted to be meeting with Kyungsoo so soon, but it was definitely a surprise.

“Well,” Kyungsoo said archly, “since you caught me so off-guard this afternoon, I thought I would return the favor.” Chanyeol immediately blushed. “I must admit, though, I was not expecting to find you on the stage. I hadn’t taken you for a performer.”

Chanyeol shrugged. “It’s not...It’s kind of a new thing,” he explained clumsily. “I travelled with a troupe for a very short while. They needed an extra hand, I agreed, and when they left I kept doing it. Have to pay my room and board somehow.” And most of my skills are not of much use in a small town like this, he thought but did not say. “It was this or wash dishes, and I have absolutely no idea how to wash dishes.”

That won him an actual laugh, short but precious. Chanyeol wished he could bottle it; that sound would get him through many a terrible day. “It’s not so difficult,” Kyungsoo said, “but I suspect this pays more, and you seem to enjoy being in the spotlight.” He cocked his head. “To be honest, I supposed you would not need to work. Forgive me for saying so, but you have a very lordly bearing. I thought you might be a knight.”

The way he worded it - forgive me for saying so - made Chanyeol think he didn’t mean that as a compliment. “I trained with the army for a few years, but I haven’t been knighted, no,” he said carefully. And it was true - it was tradition that princes be knighted as a part of their rank, but Chanyeol had refused the title. He hadn’t gone through the full, rigorous training of a knight, he wasn’t versed in their ideology, he hadn’t yet served on the battlefield. Taking the title without doing the work seemed like a slap in the face to the men who had. “And you’re right - I do enjoy the stage, even if I don’t have much of a gift for performance.”

“No,” Kyungsoo agreed, “you were quite unpolished.” His smile softened the insult. “But the performance was charming, nonetheless.”

Kyungsoo signalled for the barmaid, and Chanyeol asked, “What about you? Do you work?”

Unreadable eyes glanced up at him. “I have no need to work,” Kyungsoo said shortly, “but sometimes, I have been known to come to this very tavern and volunteer in the kitchen.”

Chanyeol blinked in surprise. That was...adorable, actually. “Really? Why?”

A shrug of narrow, delicate shoulders. “It’s entertaining,” he murmured. “They have access to a wider variety of ingredients than I do, at the trader’s caravans come through regularly. And I enjoy cooking for many people at once. It’s much more satisfying than cooking for two.”

The barmaid arrived to take their order, and Kyungsoo, to Chanyeol’s surprise, ordered for both of them, some local dish Chanyeol had not heard of before and was until now not brave enough to try.

When she was gone, Chanyeol said, “So you do live with him. The man the shopkeep described to me.”

That small, mysterious smile tugged at the corner of Kyungsoo’s mouth. “He fancies himself my protector,” he said, with an eyeroll that was as exasperated as it was fond. “I tell him that he is my keeper.”

Chanyeol really didn’t like the sound of that. “Do you need protection?” he asked, with more than one intent behind the question.

Kyungsoo’s mysterious expression did not change. “Some would think so,” he murmured. “Why, are you offering?”

Chanyeol met his eyes unflinchingly. “I am at your service for anything you might require,” he said, solemnly and truthfully. The smile faded from Kyungsoo’s expression, replaced by something else entirely. “But,” Chanyeol amended, “I suspect you are much more capable than your… your figure, would suggest.”

Resting his elbow on the table, Kyungsoo dropped his chin into his hand and regarded Chanyeol curiously. “Interesting,” he said. “I wonder what brings you to that conclusion.”

Because you live with a dragon and seem to treat him as a normal man, Chanyeol thought. Because every word out of your mouth has me both off-balance and swooning. Out loud, though, he said, “Because you chose to bathe alone in the wilderness, and even draw attention to yourself with song, without any fear.” Kyungsoo’s eyes widened, and a flush stole up his cheeks, and Chanyeol realized with a start that he’d just given away the fact that he’d been peeping. Hellfire. “You have an extraordinarily lovely voice, by the way,” he said, half because it was true and half to try and save his dignity.

“Thank you,” Kyungsoo said, his eyes dropping to the table. It was the first sign of shyness Chanyeol had seen, and it was utterly charming.

They sat in silence for a moment, Chanyeol wracking his brain for something witty to say while simultaneously trying not to be too obvious about the way he was taking in Kyungsoo’s every detail. The urge to reach out and take Kyungsoo’s hand in his own, to intertwine their fingers, was quite strong, but Chanyeol was very aware of the line Kyungsoo had drawn between them, and hesitant to cross it for fear of putting the other man off. He hadn’t come all this way just to have his destiny foiled by his own boorishness.

A smile suddenly quirked Kyungsoo’s lips, his eyes fixed on something over Chanyeol’s shoulder. “You have an admirer,” he murmured. Chanyeol turned to see where he was looking, and found the bright blue eyes of the little girl fixed on him curiously. She was a precious little thing, and Chanyeol couldn’t help but grin at her and wave, making her duck her head shyly again.

He turned back to find Kyungsoo watching him. “She’s so cute,” he said, as if to explain his somewhat less-than-manly behavior. Kyungsoo’s smile deepened. “Do you like kids?”

Kyungsoo shrugged. “I haven’t had much occasion to interact with them, to be honest,” he said lightly. “You seem to.”

“I love kids,” Chanyeol agreed. “They see so much more than adults do.”

The conversation was easier after that, moving from children to people in general, their idiosyncrasies, their flaws and strengths. Though neither of them brought up their pasts, their histories, anything personal - and in fact, Chanyeol was fairly certain they were both studiously avoiding the subject - he did learn quite a bit about Kyungsoo’s personality just from observing him and listening well to both his words and the way he said them. Chanyeol quickly figured out that Kyungsoo was an observer, not a talker, but with a little coaxing he managed to get the smaller man to open up a little, to explain how the world looked through his eyes, and through that found him shrewd and wise, slow to judge, and adept at finding humor or irony in everyday life.

Every new little tidbit he learned made his heart swell further, bursting with fondness. Kyungsoo, at least so far, seemed to be everything he could ask or hope for in a partner. It was hard not to imagine him on the throne beside Chanyeol, tempering Chanyeol’s impulsiveness with his caution and helping him to logic through tough decisions. He would make an excellent Queen.

The thought made Chanyeol’s growing fondness bittersweet, because it could never be.

They were halfway through their meal when Chanyeol felt a hand clap down on his shoulder and jumped in his seat, twisting to face the threat. But it wasn’t a threat, it was Sehun, of all people, grinning amusedly at his reaction. Behind him hovered a tall young man, black-haired and sharp-eyed, and it took Chanyeol a beat too long to realize this must be Tao. He hadn’t actually gotten a good look at his face, before.

“Well,” he said, “this is a surprise!”

“Scoot over,” Sehun demanded, and Chanyeol did so, watching as Tao murmured a polite question to Kyungsoo asking him to do the same. They sat, Sehun with Chanyeol and Tao opposite, and Chanyeol checked to see if Kyungsoo was alright with this development. He seemed a bit put-out by the interruption, so Chanyeol made introductions in an attempt to ease the awkwardness, including formally introducing himself to Tao, since they hadn’t actually spoken before.

“What brings you to town?” he asked when that was done.

“You,” Sehun said, stealing a piece of meat off his plate. Chanyeol slapped his hand, but it didn’t deter him. Brat. “Tao wanted to thank you, and so did I.”

Chanyeol blinked. “What? Why?”

Sehun gave him an extraordinarily judgmental eyebrow. “For saving our lives, idiot.”

Huh? “I did no such thing,” Chanyeol argued.

“You figured out where I had gone,” Tao said from across the table. His voice was soft, unsure; it didn’t match his face. “You defeated the demon that possessed me.”

Chanyeol saw Kyungsoo’s eyebrows shoot up out of the corner of his eye and tried not to flush. “I did not,” he protested. “You’re the one who brought it down.”

“I only had the chance to do so because of your actions.” Sehun put his palm in the middle of Chanyeol’s forehead and shoved. “Accept your accolades, you pain in my .”

“Sehun and Joonmyun both agreed that I owe you my life,” Tao said. “So thank you. I wish there was a way I could repay you.”

Chanyeol let out a long breath. “What is it with people in this country and the debt thing,” he muttered. “You don’t owe me anything, Tao. I’m just glad you’re alright.” He cocked an eyebrow. “And a little surprised Joonmyun let you out of his sight.”

Tao blushed and smiled, holding up the crystal pendent he had around his neck. “I’m not out of his sight,” he admitted. “But now that I know what I need to be careful about, he agreed to let me go with Sehun. I was just so bored.”

“Your boredom nearly got you killed,” Chanyeol admonished him. “And Sehun. And Joonmyun. And me.”

“Believe me,” Sehun said dryly, “he’s already been wrung out to dry on that one.” His gaze shifted to Kyungsoo. “What about you? Our hero here save you from anything? That seems to be his general style.” He said it in a teasing tone, but Chanyeol could hear the genuine curiosity, and had to refrain from kicking Sehun under the table.

“Not so far,” Kyungsoo said wryly, “but I think he’s trying.” Sehun laughed and Chanyeol turned red and ducked his head and dragged the conversation away from that topic by asking Sehun where they were headed.

It turned out Sehun and Tao were planning to head north, to try and catch up with Jongin and Jongdae. “Tao’s been cooped up behind walls most of his life,” Sehun explained. “It’s high time he sees more of the world. And with Joonmyun’s pendant on him, he’s protected wherever he goes.”

The barmaid interrupted them to get Sehun and Tao’s orders and refill Chanyeol’s and Kyungsoo’s glasses, and conversation from there was mostly Sehun and Tao, chatting about nothing and sniping at each other in a way that made their childhood friendship all too obvious. Kyungsoo remained quiet, but he seemed to be amused, watching them the way he watched everyone.

At one point, Chanyeol prodded his leg under the table to get his attention, and silently asked him are you okay? Kyungsoo didn’t respond with words, but his smile was reassuring.

Later on, when they were all four finished eating and both Tao and Sehun were into their second tankard of mead, Sehun dragged Chanyeol away from the table and into a corner.

“So,” he said, his eyes bright with curiosity, “that Quest you were on. How’s that going?”

Chanyeol bit his lip, his eyes sliding across the room to look back at Kyungsoo, left alone at the table with a decidedly tipsy Tao. “Working on it,” he murmured.

Sehun followed his gaze. “Ohhhhh,” he realized. “Well. That’s...unexpected?”

“Yes,” Chanyeol admitted. “But not unwanted.” He sighed, his lips twitching into a smile.

“Oh dear,” Sehun muttered. “You’ve got it bad.” He leaned against the wall. “Does he know?” he asked.

“Know what?” Chanyeol mumbled. “That I’m royalty, or that I had a vision about him, or that I nearly died at least three times just trying to reach him?” Sehun snorted. “No. He doesn’t know. We’ve only just met, to say those things feels too much like See what I did for you? You have no choice but to love me.” He let out a long breath. “I want him to decide for himself how he feels about me.”

A warm hand rubbed at his shoulder. “You, my friend, are possibly the most inherently good person I have ever met,” Sehun said softly. Chanyeol blinked at him in surprise. “I hope it doesn’t come back to bite you someday. And I wish you luck with Loverboy over there. He’s cute as a button; you look great together.”

Startled, raucous laughter had them both looking up and across the room. Kyungsoo sat with his back to the wall, a smug little smile on his beautiful lips, and Tao was positively dying of laughter, collapsed onto the table with a red face and shaking shoulders.

Chanyeol looked back at Sehun to ask what he supposed that was all about, but the words faded when he saw the younger man’s expression. “I think you have it just as bad as I do,” he said instead, amused.

“Shut up,” Sehun grumbled, attempting to wipe the stupid, lovestruck smile off his face and failing miserably. “It’s been years since I’d seen him and I just...It all came crashing back.”

Mildly pleased that the conversation had turned away from him, Chanyeol asked, “Does he know you love him?”

“I’m not certain,” Sehun admitted. “I haven’t gotten up the guts to tell him explicitly, and I think, after everything he put me through, he doesn’t feel like he can ask. But we have time.” He rubbed at his own face in exasperation. “He’s such a little brat, but...I’m never letting him out of my sight again. He’s stuck with me now.” He clapped Chanyeol’s shoulder again. “Come on, let’s get back there before they laugh at us more.”



+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++



As a bright-eyed and loose-limbed Sehun dragged a red-faced and giggly Tao up the stairs, Chanyeol sat back and regarded Kyungsoo. “I’m sorry about that,” he said quietly. “I wasn’t expecting one visitor tonight, let alone three.”

“No worries,” Kyungsoo assured him, swirling his mead in his glass. He was on his fourth tankard, but the alcohol didn’t seem to affect him in the slightest. “They’re sweet boys. And very in love.”

Chanyeol grinned. “They are awfully obvious about it, aren’t they?” Despite Sehun’s words earlier, as the mead had worked its way into the two younger boys’ systems, it had become increasingly apparent to everyone who wasn’t them how terribly gone on each other they were. And despite the somewhat rocky start, they seemed happy. He wished them luck. “I should retire myself,” he admitted, glancing back at Kyungsoo. “Thank you for joining me tonight.”

Kyungsoo had that measuring look on his face again, like he just wasn’t quite sure what to make of Chanyeol. “Walk me out,” he suggested.

So Chanyeol did so, leaving coin on the table for their meals. “I hope I didn’t make too terrible an impression on you tonight,” he said as they exited out into the cool night air. “I’d...I’d really love to see you again.”

Dark eyes reflected the moonlight as Kyungsoo looked up at him. “You’re not at all what I expected,” he murmured. “I will think on it.”

It wasn’t a no, and that was all Chanyeol could ask for. He grinned, possibly a little bit giddily. “Then goodnight, sir,” he murmured, with a bit of a cheeky bow.

It won him a smile, genuine and beautiful. “Goodnight,” Kyungsoo said in return.

He turned to go, but suddenly, the thought of him walking away just like that struck Chanyeol deep inside his chest. Without thinking, he reached out and grabbed Kyungsoo’s wrist, halting him.

Kyungsoo turned, with a question in his eyes. Chanyeol wanted to kiss him very badly.

He didn’t. Instead, he lifted Kyungsoo’s fingers to his lips, and brushed a kiss over the knuckles, much more lingering than the little mock-kiss he’d left on the little girl’s hand earlier that night. Kyungsoo’s hand was small but calloused, his skin warm even in the cold of the mountain spring air, and his eyes were shuttered, his expression again made unreadable.

Silently, Chanyeol let him go. Silently, Kyungsoo turned and walked away.



+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++



It wasn’t until the next morning, taking his breakfast in the common room after seeing a very hungover Tao and Sehun off on their journey, that Chanyeol heard the rumor of what more than one person had seen the night before.

A black dragon circling the mountain, stark against the backdrop of the stars.









/evil chuckling



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