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poco lento e grazioso

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Sicheng leads his prince for the night through the hydrangea bushes and wildflowers, skipping over rocks and dips. He can feel them barely touching, Yuta is holding onto the edge of his embroidered sleeve so slightly. So he won’t lose him in the dark. He doesn’t want to lose him tonight.

Yuta’s mere look makes Sicheng think there’s a whole garden inside of him, flowers blooming every time their eyes meet, a butterfly fluttering its wings whenever they speak. It wonderfully tingles when he smiles at him, every part of him basking in that sight. 

The lanterns shine a dim light on everything around. Sicheng finds his way to his favorite place. He finally sees the clearing right behind the west tower, ducking under a rose bush. He knows there won’t be anyone around. Somehow, he managed to keep this place a secret.

When he first found it, it was an accident. But getting lost around the castle as a kid while running through the gardens has never been so rewarding. It’s a quiet place to slip away when he needs to clear his head, when the guards always by his door get too overwhelming, when sometimes he needs to let out a few tears without the whole castle being alarmed. 

It’s his little paradise in between the mossy walls of the castle and wildflowers. The air is always a little cooler, it still has that little spark of freshness. And now he’s sharing it with Yuta. 

He quickly finds his spot on a rock near the wall, leaving Yuta to observe the area. He stands in the middle and looks around and takes in the sight. As much as he’d like to look at the flowers and trees, his eyes travel back to Sicheng. He can’t take his eyes off of him. In a place full of such beauty and bloom, Sicheng’s the only one his eyes want to see.

And so he doesn’t deny himself that pleasure, taking in what he had to tear his eyes off of in the ballroom hall. Even when he’s sitting under a dim light, giving the flora around the stage to shine, Yuta only has eyes for him. He doesn’t need the light above him to shine. 

Yuta doesn’t know much about him. He saw him for the first time tonight, but he knows he can only think about him now. The way his hair falls on his face and the way he looks up at him when Yuta reaches out his hand...

He asks him for a dance again. Sicheng hesitantly takes his hand. He tries to push down the smile creeping up on his face, but Yuta can clearly see, his own joy fighting its way out. And Sicheng sees that the world is a better place when Yuta smiles.

 

Sicheng turned down Yuta’s offer for a dance once earlier that night. Yuta didn’t question him, he realized he approached the boy in a full ballroom, all eyes closely following the two princes, what they did and what they said and where they looked. He knew it was bad publicity for them to speak for too long, but he couldn’t help it. He decided not to care about the norms and guidelines, just for a moment. So he could speak to Sicheng, so he could have him look his way, smile, take his hand, and dance in the ballroom. And it would be like it’s just the two of them, Yuta didn’t know, but he hoped. And then he saw Sicheng’s eyes nervously look around the hall as soon as he spoke to him and asked, politely declining. 

Sicheng didn’t want to say no. But something in him told him, no, yelled to decline. He knew there should be a princess, a dutchess that they’d much rather see dance with him. It wasn’t his place to take in the ballroom, even though it was his family’s castle and his family’s ceremony, and he knew he should be asking another lady, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He felt like he was stuck to his chair, the world around him, turning and twisting so quickly, he couldn’t jump in and join in on the ball.

He sat glued to his chair, twisting his cufflinks between his fingers. He didn’t want to only sit there and look at everyone dancing, he didn’t. But he couldn’t find the courage to act on anything else.

Until he saw Yuta by the entrance, fixing the hem of his jacket. Sicheng wanted to pretend he didn’t see the hint of hurt in his eyes. But he did see it, clear as day, and he couldn’t tell himself no, he couldn’t tell himself to sit down, he couldn’t tell himself to stop. But he could tell himself to walk a little faster, hoping to catch Yuta right before his ride comes.

He watched the main gate close, barely catching Yuta as he was skipping down the steps with his head hung low. He softly called out his name, the man turned around in surprise. He was glad the guards were well down the stairway. They didn’t turn around to see what was happening. “Is something wrong, your highness?”

Sicheng only stuttered a quiet no, already questioning his decision to so recklessly run after him. But he knew he’d curse himself if he let him go. He didn’t want to let the prince go.

 

“I can’t turn down a prince, can I?” Sicheng laughs softly, standing up and letting Yuta take the lead. Yuta’s glad to see the prince is a little more himself. He walks back to the field, right where moonlight slips in between the leaves and branches. 

“It seems you can’t.” Yuta let go of the prince’s hand, but he doesn’t want to. He wants to hold his hand the whole night. And Sicheng stands right in front of him, his eyes caressing his face and lips and the medals that hang from his blue jacket, reflecting in the moonlight. And the golden tassels on his shoulders that dance every time he moves.

“I’m still a little rusty with my steps, your highness,” Sicheng warns his dance partner.

“Not to worry, this is a private ball.”

They both bow their necks, a bow as a formal greeting. Yuta lowers even more and puts his hand out, offering to take Sicheng’s hand in the dance. And when he holds Sicheng’s hand, everything feels a little more right than it did seconds ago, and neither can tell what it was.

And it feels even more correct when he puts his hand on the small of Sicheng’s back, pulling the boy closer and holding him firmly, yet gently. As he would with a princess. And Sicheng wraps his hand around his shoulders, trying to keep a decent distance between them. Still, the overwhelming smell of Yuta’s perfume, the scent of cinnamon and vanilla makes his knees weak. He makes Sicheng’s heart race just by standing close. Sicheng doesn’t even notice the flash in his cheeks when Yuta looks right into his eyes, smiling in a way that only he knew. 

It is a smile that makes Sicheng’s stomach turn into a knot. He hardly resists lying on his shoulder. “But… There’s no music playing,” he whispers cautiously, not to disturb the whole night. It is slow and peaceful, quiet, to only let you hear the leaves ruffling and crickets singing. But Yuta shushes him, telling him to listen. And he listens and hears the orchestra of the ball playing in the background, just softly enough for them to hear.

At that moment, they play for them and only them.

There is no one else in the whole world.

Yuta takes a step back, guiding Sicheng with his moves. He knows where to move, where to hold, and where to look. He looks right into Yuta’s eyes, seeing millions of stars in them. 

They can’t describe what it feels like. It feels correct, like two puzzle pieces falling in together. Though they knew each other’s names, they never knew each other. But today was finally the night, after all those nights when they met at ceremonies and balls. After all those nights, when they kept catching glimpses of the other and quickly looking somewhere else, wishing they could just dance together, instead of keeping far and away, after all the nights. They are finally dancing together. Holding the other’s hand. Looking into the other’s eyes. Wondering why something so innocent and beautiful took so long.

Yuta guides him, turning them around, one two three, one two three, right into the sound of violins and flutes, playing only for them and no one else in the world. 

 

Sicheng can’t get the boy out of his head. Ever since he saw him, ever since they danced together under just the moonlight, he’s all he’s been thinking of. He never noticed how empty his arms were until he let him go. He never noticed how cold the air was until he couldn’t feel Yuta’s breath on his neck with every little laugh. He never noticed how the stars just didn’t shine so bright when… Ever since the ball.

He sits on his bed, hesitant to turn off the light. He isn’t tired just yet. The night keeps dragging on and on, he tries to pick up a book from their library, only getting through the first few pages. His mind is too restless for him to concentrate on the words. He reads the word ethereal, and he immediately thinks about how Yuta looked under the sheer light. He reads the word heavenly, and he can’t get the thought of Yuta’s smile out of his mind. Heavenly, heavenly, the author repeats the word heavenly, and Sicheng’s stomach clenches every time his eyes graze over it. 

He laughs, closing the book. This is so ridiculous. His mind is playing with him. There’s no reason for him to be thinking about the boy he danced with one night for so long. He doesn’t want to think about him that much. He doesn’t want to, but he can’t stop. It is almost like a guilty pleasure. 

His mind tries to focus hard on his canvas, on the colors he spreads around, some of them intentionally and some of them instinctively. He looks at the way the blue and brown mix, diluting the color into a dreamy blue. But the swipes of his brush feel too forced, not carrying the lightness they usually do. He can’t tune out his own thoughts and get lost in the colors and swipes.

He tries but is soon brought out of his daydreams. Something hits his window softly. It clinks and falls down. And another clink. It sounds like a rock. Sicheng cautiously approaches the window, pulling open the two big wings and leaning out. And he sees him.

Yuta. He stands in between the bushes and fragrant plants, standing next to every flower you can imagine, colors more vivid than the rainbow, holding their beauty even during the night yet… Yet he stands out like a crown jewel next to them. And he gives Sicheng that smile, that smile he saw when he picked his head up from his shoulder when they swayed in the orchestra’s melodies far away. He sees it, and he can’t find a short enough way downstairs. 

Sicheng doesn’t care to grab a coat, he doesn’t care to scrub the wet paint off his fingers. He doesn’t care if he wakes up the whole castle, alerting every guard on his way. He doesn’t care, briefly brushing them all off. Sicheng barely finds the words to convince them it’s fine, that he’s alright. That he just wants to go for a little night walk. Get some fresh air, clear his head. 

He knows that isn’t the case. Sicheng hopes to get his head filled with more memories of catching a glimpse of Yuta while he’s stealing a look or the memory of soft cinnamon filling the air when he holds him. And them barely touching, softly and gently. Still, this wall of the unknown, keeping them from taking just one tiny step closer. A little closer. That’s all Yuta wants to be now. Just a little closer to Sicheng.

“Your highness,” Yuta bows, taking Sicheng’s hand gently. Sicheng swears he can feel his heart skip a beat when Yuta looks up at him, giving his hand a little kiss.

“Prince Sicheng, I never imagined I’d be seeing you here at this time.”

“My soul couldn’t bear one more second without seeing you.” His chest feels a little tighter when he sees Sicheng look away, his eyelashes softly batting over his eyes. And that small smile, a little shy, a little hesitant. But he never lets go of Yuta’s hand, maybe he even holds it a little tighter. The wind blows harder, picking up flower petals and leaves and their fragrance and mixing them into the air, into their hair, into their clothes. 

The night is humid and warm, almost sweet. Sicheng watches the leaves sweep across the tiles and float in the air. He watches them, and one sticks to Yuta’s cheek, and he watches that one for a long second too. He tries to caress it away, brings his hand up, but takes a while because he can’t look away from Yuta’s eyes. He just can’t. And he still holds his other hand while he swipes the petal away from his cheek, leaving behind a blue smudge.

Yuta is a little surprised by the sudden coldness on his cheek, and Sicheng’s eyes widen in horror. He apologizes, just now realizing the blue paint smudges on his fingers. Yuta can’t hold back a soft laugh, he assures Sicheng it’s okay. But he doesn’t take it, whispering soft apologies. He tries to wipe it away with whatever clean finger he has, and Yuta thinks it’s so sweet he’s so worried. He tells him it’s okay a few more times before also taking Sicheng’s other hand, not too keen on stopping Sicheng from caressing his face, but he takes it and holds it so softly, and Sicheng holds his hand a little tighter again. 

Yuta tells him not to worry one more time before Sicheng agrees, telling him the blue swipe on his cheeks suits him. It really does, it makes him look like an artist.

They speak about art as Sicheng leads him through the gardens. They talk about music, about books, about their kingdoms and their days. In the end, that’s what Sicheng is the most interested in. In Yuta.

They speak, and Sicheng feels as if he’s known him for years. He speaks softly, Sicheng taking in every word that leaves his lips. Yuta asks him if he’s not cold. It’s night, after all, and he’s in just a flowy shirt. But Yuta doesn’t fail to notice how it falls on his shoulders perfectly, framing him unlike anything else, and Yuta wants to fix his collar and the undone buttons and maybe even take it off of him. Yuta offers him his jacket, he begins to take it off to put it on Sicheng’s shoulders, but he stops him. He says it’s okay. That he shouldn’t worry. And Yuta just smiles, and they continue.

Sicheng stops for a second, he stops right by the daisies. He smiles, remembering how he always begged the gardener to keep them there even though his mother wanted them gone. He loved them. Even if they grew freely in the garden, they still could compare to the prettiest roses. They grew wild and free, and he could never take his eyes off of them, even with all the dahlias and orchids around.

They speak softly for a while, Yuta wondering why Sicheng stopped. He holds his hands behind his back, tilting his head as he hears Sicheng’s story. It’s wonderful. Anything Sicheng says is wonderful. And then Sicheng looks at him and keeps looking for a second too long. Yuta wonders if this is the right moment. He leans in, lightly touching Sicheng’s face, lighter than a feather. But Sicheng turns away, blissfully unaware of Yuta’s intentions. His attention is still on the flowers.

A wide smile spreads across Yuta’s face. Sicheng asks him what’s so funny. It’s nothing, he replies. It’s nothing.

Sicheng bends over, plucking the prettiest daisy from the ground. He looks at Yuta for a second and puts the flower behind his ear. Sicheng likes daisies, but they can’t compare.

He returns to the castle shortly before the sun rises. He doesn’t realize until he sees the flashes of blue and yellow in the sky. But he isn’t tired, not just yet. His mind is a whirlwind of thoughts, and his heart feels the same. Sicheng turns on the light, returning to his canvas. He grabs the white paint, splatters some white paint onto his palette, dabbing yellow around it.

He finds the tiniest brush, dipping it in and dotting yellow spots all around, his brush dancing around them. The painting suddenly comes to life. He can’t take his eyes off of the sea of daisies. He looks at them, flicking his brush to paint the flower crowns. He looks, nothing can compare.

 

Yuta looks up at the sky. The nasty dark clouds have been following them ever since they left the stables, getting lost in the nearby woods. There is a lake in the middle, and Yuta leads the way. He knows the path by heart. Often, he’d resort to hiding from his responsibilities and formalities on the shore of this little lake.

He wanted to take Sicheng there, him and no one else. They saddled the horses, escaping from the kingdom walls and into the wilderness. Where they can finally be a little more themselves. They don’t have to turn around every time they walk a little closer, in case anyone sees. They don’t have to sneak around with barely linked fingers, in case anyone is around. They don’t have to hide in the lost corners of the castle every time they want to get lost in the other’s eyes just for a second too long.

They don’t have to.

They can hold hands as they ride through the forest, Yuta’s horses trotting in between the trees. They can sit in the wet ground, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, looking at the peaceful lake. And forget everything that’s going on back in their kingdoms. Forget the conflicts, forget the tension, forget the increasing number of soldiers, and forget the never-ending nights in the boardroom. At least that’s what it’s been like for Yuta. 

But he is with Sicheng now. He’s with his peace of mind and with his piece of heaven. He is with someone who makes his heart go crazy just by looking at him. And he makes his cheek flush every time he says his name. Because he still can’t believe that he is the one having the privilege of occupying Sicheng’s heart and soul. 

He holds him and calls him his majesty. Sicheng argues he’s not a king yet, and Yuta disagrees, telling him he’s the king of his heart. Sicheng laughs, and to Yuta, it’s the sweetest sound. 

He sits against a tree and doesn’t care his jacket will get wet, or his riding boots will get dirty. He only cares about Sicheng’s breath on his neck and his fingers playing with the hem of his jacket. He closes his eyes and caresses his hair. This is all he cares about. This is all there is.

But the clouds never stop following them. They saddle up their horses once again, heading back before the storm hits. Their horses stroll, both barely touching hands as they ride. Sicheng strokes the horse’s mane. It’s rich black and so soft. He knows that’s Yuta’s work. His eyes leave the black horse he’s sitting on, the one with the white diamond on forehead and white knee socks, as Yuta likes to call them. Sicheng always laughs.

Yuta’s straddling the beige horse. It indeed looks like royalty. Its coat is so shiny. Sicheng knows that’s Yuta’s work too. He told him about how he cares for their horses. He doesn’t have to, but it’s something that brings him joy in the dull days of royal life. And he told him about how he goes to the stalls every day and how he tamed these two horses. And how he cares for them and trains them and how the whole royal court always knows where to find him.

And Sicheng could see that he loves it. And that he’s excellent at it. He looks at him as he rides his horse, barely moving as he does. And Sicheng can’t take his eyes off for a second, a new wave of adoration coming over him. Yuta looks at him, still holding his hand. He sees the buttercup flower in Sicheng’s shirt pocket, the one he gave him when they sat by the lake and smiles even more. 

But then the clouds give out, letting rain was over the land. He feels the first drop, looking up. It’s almost like glass falling on his skin. He feels another one, another one, another one. It starts slow, almost as if the rain is giving them a second before it washes over the forests and kingdoms and lakes. 

But they can’t find shelter soon enough, Yuta desperately looking for one roof to hide under until the storm comes and goes. He sees a shed in the background, but not before the heaviest rain starts and washes over them. It doesn’t care they’re princes and highnesses. It makes no exceptions, soaking them almost completely.

Yuta pushes his legs down, his horse picking up speed. Sicheng tries to follow suit, and Yuta leads them to a little wooden shelter in the woods. It’s barely big enough for both of them and the horses. Sicheng ties his horse to one of the poles holding the shelter up, running up to Yuta. He huddles under the roof, hugging his jacket close to his body. The temperature dropped dramatically, the air around them suddenly chilly on their cheeks. 

Sicheng comes to him, wiping the drops off of his face with a wet sleeve. It doesn’t help much, Sicheng asks Yuta if he’s okay. He nods, telling Sicheng to come closer. He sees that Sicheng’s shivering, wrapping his hands around him. He’s wet too, but it brings Sicheng some comfort. He lays on Yuta’s shoulder again, just like by the lake, and breathes in his scent. He knows he’ll still smell it on his shirt hours later. He likes that.

But the heaviness sets hard over him. He feels his mood drop as fast as the rain falls. He sees it drop from the sky and hears it banging on the roof. He hears a thunder rolling in the background. But Yuta’s hands are still holding him close, and he suddenly feels like he never wants Yuta to let him go. 

He looks up at him, giving him a soft smile. “Do… Do you really have to go?”

He sees Yuta sigh, and he sees the sadness in his eyes. He hates it, he hates that he’s feeling anything other than joy and love. And he hates he brought it up, but he wants to know. Does he have to go?

“I do. It’s… It’s my duty. For my country.” Yuta sees Sicheng’s eyes drop, his smile disappearing a while ago. And it hurts him, it hurts his soul to see something other than a smile on his face. He’s not sure if those are tears or raindrops on his face. “I’ll be back, your majesty,” he whispers and kisses Sicheng’s hair softly. He feels Sicheng trace his fingers along the buttons of his shirt. 

Sicheng can’t stop his cheeks from turning pink. His heart flutters, Yuta hasn’t kissed his lips yet, he hasn’t kissed his cheeks. But it makes the rain feel warm all of a sudden, the clouds disappear slowly. The sun doesn’t come out, but he doesn’t mind. His sun is already there, with his arms gently holding him. 

“Oh, your highness.”

 

Sicheng paces around the room. His hands are sweaty, but his throat is dry. He dreads opening the letter that’s sitting on his desk, he dreads even looking at the wax seal stamped in the middle. He walks around it, circling like a moth around a fire. He reads it’s addressed to him and only him. 

But he also sees it’s sent from Yuta, from God knows where. He doesn’t dare to open it just yet, his mind first playing tricks on whatever could be written down in the letter. He won’t know until he reads it.

He’s worried. He’s scared. He’s anxious to see what Yuta’s telling him. With trembling hands, he takes the envelope, he doesn’t even realize he’s holding his breath. The seal is torn, and Sicheng holds the letter in his hands. Before he reads it, his mind still circles around where Yuta is now. And how he hasn’t seen him in so, so long. Every moment without him feels like a pin stuck in his heart. What he’d give to have him beside him, oh, what he’d give up.

Sicheng unfolds the paper, and the words skip around. He has to take a deep breath to calm down and start reading.


Your highness, prince Sicheng,

our font will move forward tomorrow. I’m writing in case these are the last lines to be delivered to you, shall I be no more. I feel compelled to sit down and write everything that my heart has been yelling for weeks.

What will happen is not in my hands, but rather God’s will. It may be a severe conflict, and it may not. I can’t assure neither you nor myself. Many have fallen for our kingdom, and many have fallen for our army. I shall be their strong leader, and I shall stand in the first line. I owe it to the ones who fell in cold blood.

But I can’t bear the thought that when a sword is placed to my throat, our joys will be replaced with sorrows, and our laughs will be replaced by tears. Two hundred men are sleeping behind me. This is the last night for many of them, and I fear I might be one of those, death tapping on my shoulder. I wish to break free from the chains of the battlefield. 

But I love you more than I fear death; thus, I am writing this letter, rather than resting, I dream of you, you have called upon me, and I have obeyed. 

I get reminded of you every day. From your fragrance softly melted into my shirt, to the buttercup fields we pass every day. I am reminded of every moment with you, every second, and it is so dear. I am reminded of how I stood under your window, only wishing for you to open and look down. I am reminded of watching you paint in the gardens and the blue paint never washing out completely. I am reminded of how you held me, laying in a field while you read to me your favorite book. I am reminded of how we hid in my stables after a ball.

Never forget how much you mean to me. If I take my last breath on the battlefield, it will be taken thinking of you. But when I think of you, I feel no fear.

Before I met you, I was living a life full of joy. But after we danced behind the castle, to the faint sound of violins, I understood how life was supposed to be lived. Every time I close my eyes, I wish to see you. Every time I feel the cold breeze, I wish it was your touch.

Either you love me or not, you are the moon of my every night and the sun of my every day. You are my stars, and you are my clouds. You are my everything.

Yours, and only yours, your prince

Yuta


Sicheng leans back on the chair. He has a hard time reading the last few words, they are already wet and seeped into the paper. He quickly wipes away any more tears but can’t stop them from coming, he can’t. He tries to wipe them away, so any more words don’t get soaked and washed away. He can’t let that happen, treasuring every word like a diamond.

His eyes burn, new tears flooding in like a river after heavy rain. His heart beats fast, yet he still feels this ache inside his chest. It stings and burns, and he whimpers as he hugs the letter close, closer, closer to his heart. It’s a memory of Yuta, and it’s all he’s got currently left of him.

Sicheng looks at the empty window. The window where he stands at night, unable to tear his eyes away from the city lights. The window where he stands, hoping each night he’ll see his prince come. Hoping each night he returns, hoping he’ll hear that heavenly clink against his window and he’ll look down, and Yuta will stand right there in the garden and he’ll run down from his room straight into his arms, not caring about who sees or hears. He still hopes.

Waiting by the window, waiting for his prince to come home. 

He opens the window once again tonight, holding the letter in his hands. The tears have stopped, but the pain has only increased. He reads over some of the words again, letting the cold air cool down his hot cheeks, clinging onto the wet paths on his face. He feels it, wiping it away with the sleeve of his shirt. The night is cold.

He looks up at the moon. He wishes, no, he knows that Yuta is looking at the same moon, wherever he is. Wherever the letter came from. He’s with him. 

Sicheng runs his fingers over the pressed daisies and buttercups he keeps in his favorite book. It’s the one he read to Yuta. He smiles, “Come home,” he whispers, his eyes skipping over the words in between the flowers. Another wet dot appears. Next to it, another one. The words bleed into the paper. Come home.

 

The horse stops. Sicheng pulls on the bridle. He stops far from the castle. He watches the rest of the knights continue their journey, all dressed in black. Behind him stops his closest guard. He asks Sicheng if he’s okay, Sicheng nodding, but his mind is somewhere else. He asks the guard to continue; he asks him to give him a second. He begs him silently.

Sicheng is left alone once again. He has the urge to tear the black clothes off of his body. The wind blows hard, it’s freezing. His cheeks sting, but he ignores it. He can’t focus on anything else than the flag of the nearby kingdom, flying at half-mast. He can’t tear his eyes away from the black ribbons twirling in the strong winds.

His mind plays with many scenarios. Sicheng doesn’t like any of them. The flag feels like a sword stuck in his heart. But it’s been stuck there ever since he got the news. His mind still isn’t fully wrapped around what they told him. 

He isn’t gone. 

He can’t be gone.

This isn’t real.

Is it?

Sicheng hands the bouquet he’s carrying to the closest guard. The man’s confused. Sicheng asks him to tell the king he’ll come by later. And to express his deepest condolences. He knows he can’t bear looking at the flag much longer. The guard assures him he’ll do just as told, only to see Sicheng turn his horse around and gallop away.

Sicheng doesn’t know the path by heart, he always had Yuta by his side to lead him. But he continues deeper into the woods, he passes the trees and sheds, the flowers and bushes. He doesn’t take it all in because his mind is elsewhere. He can’t focus on the surroundings, he can only focus on not falling apart.

He barely makes it to the clearing. Sicheng jumps off his horse, walking slowly to the lake. There’s a spot with many buttercups, right where he sat with Yuta the first time. He sits there again. Sicheng knows now’s the time to bask in the light of his misery and anguish. He can’t help it. Falling into the blank space of despair seems easier than trying to claw your way out. It seems impossible.

He sits on the wet ground, his fingers digging deep into the grass still covered in morning dew. He’s alone now. The grass used to make him feel alive. He isn’t sure if he can feel much now. There are no dams, no walls. He tilts his head back, looking at the tree crowns.

Sicheng feels the tears run, they flow and flow, and he isn’t sure if he can ever stop them. He feels them drip, drip from his eyes, and fall into the grass. The grass used to make him feel alive. Now instead of butterflies, he feels a storm brewing inside of him. Instead of flowers blooming, he feels the rumble of thunder. Instead of joy, he feels pure agony. His breaths are heavy, he knows his heart is beating, but instead, it just aches. 

He pulls out the letter. He likes to keep it close, especially during times like these. He doesn’t wipe away his tears. These are the first tears he’s shed for Yuta. When they told him the news, he didn’t understand. He didn’t decipher the message. Just now, it all comes crashing down on him like an avalanche.

Sicheng reads the letter again and again. It’s hard to keep the sobs and whimpers quiet, he’s glad he’s alone in the woods. He covers his mouth, but the noises keep coming. He’s still reading the letter, broken by every word he sees. He just now realizes he never told him that he loved him. He loves him, he does, his heart still screams for him. He never told him. He never had the chance.

He has never kissed him. They always said not here, not now. What if someone sees, what if someone hears. They kept saying not now until the universe put a dot at the end of their sentence. He remembers Yuta’s hands caressing his face and leaning in, he remembers, and he remembers looking away. He remembers saying not now because the moment wasn’t perfect even though he wanted, he wanted to kiss him so badly. But it was, every moment he spent with Yuta was perfect. It was beyond that.

How he wishes he could change that. He wishes he could hold his face and claim his lips, he doesn’t care who sees. What he’d give to see him again, just one more time, oh, what he’d give up. Just to hold his hands for a little while. To feel his heartbeat when he pulls him closer and wraps his hands around him. To just kiss him, once, that’s all he’s asking for. 

He doesn’t care. He’d kiss him in the crowning room, he’d tell everyone. He doesn’t care. He just wants Yuta back for one moment. One moment is all he needs, all he wants. To see him again, to tell him he loves him. Because now he’s gone and Sicheng knows this is a selfish reason to want him back, but he’d give up anything to tell him what he feels. Just so Yuta will know. He wants him to know. 

Sicheng looks up at the sky. The heavy dark clouds are hovering over him once again. He looks up and whispers, I love you. He whispers so quietly he can barely hear himself but hopes that wherever he is, whatever he’s doing, Yuta can hear him. 

 

 Sicheng sits in the ballroom. It’s his least favorite place to be, but his closest have convinced him to go, to come. He felt like he’s been getting better, finally managing to pull through days without shedding tears after tears for his beloved. It was hard, and he still aches. Sometimes, he still looks out of the window in hopes of seeing him standing in the garden. He can’t help it. Deep down, he knows he won’t come. 

He never realized how empty his hands were without Yuta’s to perfectly fit in. He never realized how empty the open fields are without Yuta to fill the space. How long the nights are. He never realized he had every spot on Yuta’s face memorized, every beauty mark, every little blemish that made him just that more perfect. 

He was perfect in every way.

And now Sicheng sits in his chair and listens to the violins and flutes, remembering the sweetest moments. He knows it will be soon his time to go and dance. He barely knows the girl. But he forces his thoughts to concentrate more on her, only her. He doesn’t want to let his thoughts wander. 

The flutes stop, and he approaches her table. Sicheng bows, holding out his hand to ask her for a dance. He does the whole routine with a sad smile, a learned smile. The corners of his mouth are smiling, but his eyes are not. But he has to admit, dancing in the gold pleated hall feels nice after such a while. It feels like a distant memory, something from times before. Before what?

Sicheng softly holds the girl’s hand, waiting for the instruments to start playing. And soon enough, they do. He sways her around the hall, his steps perfectly learned. Sicheng’s glad to see he hasn’t forgotten anything, even after such a long time.

It feels nice to be dancing with someone after such a long time. She’s smiling too. 

Violins come into place. Sicheng takes a short look around the ballroom. He feels his heart drop onto the ground. The time moves slowly, so slowly when his eyes meet Yuta’s, when he sees Yuta looking at him, not at his own partner, when he sees that smile that turns his stomach into a thousand knots. 

Time doesn’t speed up from there. Sicheng is anxious for the song to stop; he wishes the music would die down so he could run to Yuta, run, and never let go of him. Every note seems to be dragging on longer and longer, it doesn’t seem like the song will stop anytime soon. But he soon gets tired of dancing, his eyes desperately searching around the room to meet eyes with Yuta once again. 

Is he real? Is he dancing there, or is his imagination playing tricks on him? He’s not sure, but he’d curse himself to hell if it were the latter. His eyes skip from one pair to the other, finally catching a glimpse of the dark blue jacket he knows so well. 

His heart can’t slow down. He feels it go insane inside his chest, his stomach shrinking just at the thought of seeing Yuta again. He’s excited, he’s anxious, he can’t wait. He can’t.

The thought of what was with Yuta the entire time crosses his mind briefly. But he doesn’t give it much attention, his mind filled with clouds and hazy thoughts, just from one glimpse of Yuta. His mind feels like it can’t stay in one place. The girl must feel him getting anxious. 

Sicheng hears the last few monumental notes, his eyes quickly searching for Yuta. People are dispersing from the middle of the hall, back to their respective seats. He has to find Yuta, he has to, he has to, he has to. On his slow walk to his seat, he plays with the cufflinks on his shirt again, he catches a glimpse of that blue jacket. He’s also looking for Sicheng.

Sicheng wastes no time pushing through the crowd, dodging pairs and chairs, feeling like he’s approaching heaven’s gates. He can’t believe it’s Yuta, it’s Yuta right in front of him, just Yuta and no one else. He’s within an arm’s reach, and Sicheng thanks for the door nearby. He sees Yuta turn around, and he almost loses himself.

He sees that same spark in his eyes, he sees that same smile that’s now driving him insane. Yuta reaches out his hand, Sicheng grabbing him, he has the silky white gloves on again. And Sicheng grabs him like he’s his lucky star, his own muse, his treasure, and heads towards the door. He ignores the rest of the guests; he ignores the guards and knights and the looks and whispers. 

They both fall silent, Sicheng rushing through the castle to find one empty room, one room where he can lose his composure for a second, where they’ll be alone. Alone like on the first night.

He pulls him through the stone-cold walls and halls, Yuta barely catching up. Sicheng hears his soft laugh behind him, holding his hand tighter, and Yuta holds his hand tighter too. Just one moment of seeing Yuta is worth the months kept apart.

Yuta feels his heart beat out of his chest. He hoped, he prayed Sicheng will be there tonight. He’s the only reason he came, the only reason. He looked for him desperately in the full room, his gaze lost somewhere between the hundreds of heads. His hopes sunk lower and lower with each second he didn’t see the most angelic face he’d ever set his eyes on. 

And then their eyes met, in a moment so divine, he wouldn’t believe all the emotions until he felt them himself. 

Sicheng opens the door to his room, shutting them quickly behind Yuta as to not let any magic of the moment escape. He holds onto them for a second, staring. He stares at Yuta and wonders if all of this is real if he really is there in front of him in the flesh. Because it seems too perfect to be true. 

But when he walks closer, he realizes this is real. He’s real, he’s there. He’s just as heavenly as he remembered. It takes them a few seconds to gather themselves, instantly falling into each other’s arms and doing what they wished they could do for months. 

Sicheng doesn’t think twice, there will never be a moment more complete than this. Sicheng holds Yuta’s face, time stopping for them and only them, right when their lips finally meet. Right when he feels his heartbeat harder than ever before, his knees barely holding him up. 

The world stops. It’s them, just them and no one else in the entire universe. Yuta has to open his eyes for a second, to assure himself that this is real. That he’s not just dreaming, holding Sicheng’s sides and feeling like he’s melting into him, melting into his touch. It felt so hungry and intense, almost forbidden.

For the first time, he doesn’t feel too shy, Sicheng’s fingers caressing his face. And then he feels him sob into the kiss, instantly pulling away to check if everything’s fine. But he feels his own eyes burn, tears gathering up in a moment that’s so overwhelming.

He looks Sicheng into his eyes, his teary eyes, and he sees that angelic smile that he dreamed of at the font. And he wipes away his tears with his thumbs, feeling his own on the verge of falling. 

Yuta can’t stop himself from bringing Sicheng into one more kiss, just one more because one is never enough. But it isn’t so urgent now, so desperate and sudden. But it’s filled with as much passion, and just now does Sicheng realize how soft Yuta feels against his lips, softer than he ever imagined. And he’s stroking his cheeks with his silken gloves, wiping away whatever tears could come out of Sicheng’s eyes. 

He doesn’t know if it’s just his imagination, but the air smells like jasmine all of sudden, so warm and fragrant, he feels Yuta’s hot breath. He takes it as an invitation for a slow, tender kiss where whey can melt into each other, letting themselves feel what they denied themselves for months.

And Sicheng pulls away, looking Yuta deep into his eyes, and they’re the prettiest eyes he’s ever seen. He can’t believe he’s finally holding his face in his hands. “You’re back,” he whispers, caressing his cheeks softly, barely touching him, afraid that he might disappear, disappear into the ether.

Sicheng repeats his words, again and again until Yuta pulls him into his embrace. He feels his shirt getting wet, he strokes Sicheng’s hair. “It’s okay,” he whispers. “I’m here. We’re here.” And he feels Sicheng grab into his jacket, holding him as to never let him go again. His heart sings in joy, and it translates into the few tears that escape his eyes. But he doesn’t want to let Sicheng see. 

Sicheng pulls away for a second, catching a glimpse of Yuta’s neck. And he sees the scar running deep, far, from his jaw and it rides under his shirt, hiding, hiding his injuries in secret. Sicheng suddenly understands why he’s been gone, why no one has heard of him, why they thought he was gone. 

He knows Yuta was so close to leaving for heaven. He knows angels belong in heaven. But he wants this angel to stay with him for as long as possible. 

He runs his fingers along the scar, stopping at the collar of his shirt. His hands rest there. Yuta smiles when he realizes Sicheng has now seen it, that he doesn’t have to explain right now. He’s just as glad he’s alive now.

He’s glad he’s breathing and he’s feeling and he can see Sicheng and he can kiss him and he can tell him how much he missed him. How he felt like a piece of his heart had been torn out. Nothing could fill that void, nothing in the world except seeing Sicheng grab his hand at the ballroom and their eyes meeting for the first time after months. 

Sicheng holds his hands, intertwining fingers. “I can’t believe I’m seeing you after all this time,” Yuta whispers, his forehead resting against Sicheng’s. And he smiles at him, with the same smile that put a spell on him long ago. It still works like magic. 

Sicheng shakes his head and looks away. He can’t believe it either. He doesn’t know what to say, his mind fogged with surprise and joy. He can’t find the right words, he isn’t sure if he can properly tell Yuta how he’s feeling. It’s just too much, too overwhelming. “I-...” he looks out of the window, searching for words. “I love you, your highness.”

And Yuta looks taken back for a second, but quickly he understands the meaning behind the words, his chest feeling a little tight, his heart wanting to jump out. His fingers caress Sicheng’s jaw, falling onto his neck and along his shoulders. “Prince Sicheng,” he sighs, not believing a moment of this is real. “Your majesty, I love you too.”

And they stand there in heavy silence for a second, weighing the words and letting them sink into their skin so they can remember them forever. They knew they’d carry them close to their hearts forever. Just as they did every moment, every thought of the other one. Every smile and every glance. Every touch and every laugh.

They hear the soft flutes and cellos play quietly from the hall. It reminds them of the first night, under the moonlight and stars. Sicheng sees the moonlight’s coming in through the window. And he can’t help, taking a bow and addressing the prince as his highness. He offers him his hand, asking him for a dance. And Yuta laughs, saying he could never reject his majesty. He takes his hand and wraps his hand around Sicheng’s shoulders and one, two three, one, two, three, Sicheng leads. Yuta puts his head on his shoulder, finally living in what seems like a dream.

I love you, your highness.

I love you, your majesty.