a/n: set in an alternate universe, centered around two allied kingdoms in a feudal time period - mujin and quorra. sister fic of cracks in the ground, but reading it isn't necessary to understand this story.
|How long had it been since he had met Jongdae? Wu Fan could not remember for the life of him the exact date. One thing he did remember was that it had been a warm day, pleasant.|
He had been thirteen years old at the time; not very young, but still young enough that remembering dates and times had not yet been very important to him. Young as he was, he didn't have many things to do around the Western Palace when he wasn't studying, other than tailing after the the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, of which his mother was part.
He disliked it very much; the women did nothing much but have conversation over floral tea and inquire each other on things he did not find much interest in (like this court lady's new jade bracelet or necklace of the most lovely agate).
His curiosity was only ever piqued when they would whisper amongst themselves about one of the Emperor's sons, the second prince, who was rarely seen accompanying the rest of the Royal family. But the topic, not so interesting to the ladies, would never be raised for very long and so Wu Fan was left bored most of the time. When they weren't gossiping, they were embroidering. Even then, they seemed to find a plethora of mundane topics to discuss.
So it was no surprise, when one afternoon, he had gotten tired of watching his mother and the Queen's attendents sewing and crept out of their leisure chambers to run off to the one place in the palace he knew would not be filled with unending chatter; the courtyard gardens.
Wu Fan had lived in the palace long enough to know the hidden paths and passages he could take to traverse the palace grounds without running into the palace guards. If caught, he was usually escorted back to the ladies' chambers, forced to endure meaningless twittering. The Quorran boy had been caught enough times to know which were the better paths to take, and he made it to the gardens soon enough without any trouble.
The gardens were his favourite place to be, other than the apothecary's wing, where he would sit and watch as Zitao tended to the herbs his mother would use for medicine, or the stables where the princess' and the Queen's horses were kept.
He let out a satisfied breath as he let himself fall back onto a patch of soft grass in the shade of an old maehwa tree. In the boughs above, birds chirped pleasantly, and his eyes slowly began to close as he basked in the quiet.
It didn't last as long as he liked. And he couldn't have expected it either - suddenly, something fell from the tree branches right onto him. Rather, someone fell onto him.
Wu Fan shot up, throwing off the person and clutching his stomach as he groaned loudly. He had a glare ready, irritated at being attacked after he had just been able to relax.
Instead he ended up staring surprised once he got a good look at who it was that'd used him as a cushioning for their fall.
A young boy with dark hair, a little pale, the bit of chubbiness in his face not quite hiding his high cheeks. He looked maybe a couple of years younger than him, and was staring back at him just as surprised. His arms were lost in layers of colourful gossamar thin silk that were supposed to be his sleeves, the rest of him clothed in billowing trousers and a garment of expensive looking silk brocade, doled out in swirling patterns like clouds of silver thread against a backdrop of vibrant flowers.
As the boy pushed himself back onto his feet, he could see a thin circlet of braided silver sitting on top of his hair, jarred off-kilter by his fall.
Wu Fan blinked; he had remembered seeing this boy a handful of times, and only from far away at the various celebrations and contests the Royal family sometimes hosted. But there was no doubt; this boy in front of him was the seldom seen second prince.
He made to somehow bow, somehow even as he was sprawled on the ground still. But before he could, the boy took his arm, tugging him behind the thick trunk of the maehwa tree. He was about to protest, when the shorter boy clapped both of his hands over his mouth.
"Please, I don't want the guards to catch me!" he whispered, urgent and desperate. Still recovering from the surprise, Wu Fan stayed silent. As if on cue, a trio of armoured guards entered into the garden, probing every path. As they marched near them, the prince clutched his hand tightly, breath hitching as he pulled him to hide behind a large flower bush.
They peered through the leaves and branches at the guards until they left, Wu Fan sighing in relief as their footsteps became more and more faint. He crawled out of the bushes first, dusting off bits of leaf and dirt as he stood up, the prince following him out.
"Your Highness, why are you hiding from the palace sentries?" he asked, as politely as he could manage. The prince glared up at him - or at least he attempted to. Wu Fan did not find him very threatening.
"...That's none of your business." The prince answered in a mumble, pursing his lips and frowning. Wu Fan scowled, forgetting his manners for a moment when he replied, "Maybe I will ask my mother then, the Queen's handmaiden should know why her lady's son is running from the guards."
The prince's expression changed rapidly to one of panic. "No, please, don't! I don't want to go back to my rooms!"
The thirteen year old raised an eyebrow, "How come?" The shorter boy bit his lip, nervous as he looked around. From the corner of his eye, he could see the prince's fingers fiddling with his clothes, tugging on them absently.
"Uhm... Mother.. doesn't let me out of my rooms... she said it's because I'm not as strong as my brothers... but there's no one to talk to besides Nurse and Governess..." He swallowed, not looking up. "So I've been trying to escape my rooms..."
He looked up at Wu Fan, before looking away again, scratching his arm as his cheeks coloured in embarrassment. "I-I'm sorry for landing on you..."
The older boy rubbed his side a little at that. It didn't quite hurt so much now as it had before, but he was sure there were a few bruises where the prince's elbow had jabbed him. His eyes wandered over the magnificent mass of silk that were the boy's robes.
"How did you climb a tree... in that?" he asked a little incredulously. The prince blinked up at him, bewildered, and Wu Fan just shook his head. "Never mind, don't answer that. What is your highness' name?"
The shorter boy didn't seem to be very pleased, Wu Fan raising an eyebrow in question, "What is the matter? Did I say something wrong?"
"I don't like being called that... Nurse and Governess already call me that all the time, it sounds unfriendly.." he replied quietly, shuffling back and forth in place. Wu Fan tilted his head to the side, his cheeks puffing a little. Unfriendly? He took a chance and decided that meant the prince wanted to be his friend.
"Then what am I supposed to call you?"
It was silent for some time, as the prince seemed to hesitate, taking his time to think before replying at last. "...Jongdae. You can call me Jongdae." he answered shyly as he stifled a smile.
Wu Fan smiled, nodding. Though the gesture might have been impudent, he put a hand onto the young prince's head, ruffling his hair before sitting down on the grass again. He pat the patch of grass beside him, extending a hand towards Jongdae, who stared at it as if it were going to bite him.
"You can call me Wu Fan," he said, before adding cheekily, "Or hyung, if you want."
Jongdae laughed behind his sleeve, and idly, Wu Fan thought that it sounded quite nice. He wanted to hear more of it, and possibly, just possibly, be the cause of such a happy expression.
His smile grew even brighter once Jongdae took his hand and sat down next to him.
Wu Fan smiled as he slept underneath the old maehwa tree. His honey coloured hair tousled, tossed about by sun-warmed breeze, tickled his eyelids. His nose wrinkled slightly as a leaf lands on his face. The brocade garments he wore were difficult to appreciate when the panels were haphazardly tossed this way and that over his long legs. The pale gold and green embroidery glinted faintly in the sun streaming through the tree branches.
From one of the gardens' entranceways, another visitor appeared, garbed in many layers of silk and swirled embroidery, the summer tones much more muted to suit his age. Taking small careful skips over the garden's stepping stones, he tried to be as quiet as possible, only the rustle of silk trailing along the ground.
The sleeping man still lay unawares, and his visitor put a hand over his mouth, as if the wide smile on his face were going to give way to laughter. He took a few more skips over the stepping stones, one hand holding up his trouser legs none too gracefully at all. His other hand came up to right the silver circlet on top of his head.
Without warning, he pounced on the Quorran, laughing freely when Wu Fan groaned loudly, sitting up automatically to defend himself from his attacker. When he finally saw who it was that had disturbed his nap, he let out a noise of exasperation. "Ah, Jongdae, really? I was having a nice nap too."
The prince just laughed. "Lazy! You already sleep in so much, and now you're sleeping more? Oof!" Jongdae fell over as Wu Fan pushed him off onto the grass, the older boy trapping him underneath his taller body.
"Ack, hyung--! You're flattening me!" He whined, Wu Fan shaking his head in response. "Nope, that's what you get-- Hey!" Jongdae jabbed the older boy with his elbow, squirming his way out from underneath him.
"Oh no, you don't. Get back here, Zhongda." Wu Fan advanced towards the crawling prince, chuckling.
"No, get away from me--!"
A light scuffle found the two of them resting underneath the maehwa tree, Wu Fan sitting with his back to the tree's trunk with the prince leaned against his side. The older of the two watched as Jongdae's fingers fiddled with the tasseled sash tying his robes together.
"Ne... Hyung..." The younger man waved the tassel over Wu Fan's nose to get his attention. Not that he hadn't had it already. The twenty year old wrinkled his nose, swatting the tassel away from his face. "What is it?"
"What were you smiling about earlier? You looked really happy..." He asked a bit timidly. Though the eighteen year old had grown out of his childhood frailty - though he still wasn't as strong as his two brothers - he still retained his awkward shyness, despite having been told it was terribly unbecoming of the prince of a great kingdom. It was endearing, in a way.
"Eh? Oh, you mean before?" Jongdae nodded. Wu Fan didn't reply right away, instead looking up at the branches of the old tree shading them. The Mujin prince's eyes followed his gaze, watching as the sunlight filtered through the flowering boughs.
"I was thinking about... the day we met." the Quorran finally answered, looking back at the prince. He suddenly looked embarrassed, "Ah... that."
Wu Fan smirked, knowing the younger man was thinking about how he'd fallen out of the very tree they were lounging beneath. "You know... sometimes my sides hurt still from that day." He teased.
Jongdae stuck his tongue out between his lips, making Wu Fan laugh at his miffed expression. "You know I'm playing, Zhongda."
They settled into comfortable quiet once more, taking the time to bask in the sound of the songbirds around them and the light breeze rustling the leaves. It was a while before Wu Fan broke the silence, reaching his hand out to curl his fingers around the prince's hand. "I was being serious though, I really was thinking of that day. I'm happy we met."
It took the other awhile to respond, Jongdae had always had a bit of trouble expressing himself well with words - he could never find the right ones - and then looking up at Wu Fan's face, seeing the gentle smile on the older man's face, the words he had thought so carefully on died on his lips. It was such a smile.
In the end, he just replied softly, "...Thank you."
Wu Fan's eyes warmed, curving into soft crescents as he leaned over. His lips pressed a kiss to the top of the prince's hair, over his temple. His smile seemed to grow at how Jongdae's eyes fluttered just slightly at the contact, his fingers clutching Wu Fan's back just a mite tighter.
"You're welcome," he replied simply.
pretty sure i got all the tags this time ^^; thank you to the mods for correcting me last time, i appreciate it~