Updated: Jul 31
“There is always some Madness in Love, but there is also always some reason in madness.” Friedrich Nietzsche
The smell of burnt eggs woke up His Majesty from one of his deepest slumbers to date. Okay, that was half a lie. He’d been sleeping so well for the past six months, he’d barely remembered there was a time when he had to count backward from one thousand just to lull himself into entering a state of empty thoughts and silence from his ever-turbulent imagination.
It might have helped that six months ago, the love of his life agreed to stay by his side, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, for as long as they shall live. Those once sleepless nights turned into nights of quiet laughter amidst lingering kisses, sweat-slicked skin, and wandering hands; into nights of introspection, of soft rainfall against the windowsill of their shared bedroom, of the cicadas breaking the silence of the dead night.
He got up and went to the bathroom to freshen up before walking to the nicely decorated but minimalistic kitchen in their small and intimate but elegant summer home on the island of Jeju. This was his wedding gift to her, a place away from their home, the palace, away from prying eyes and the pressure of bearing an heir. A place where they can just be themselves, no royal titles, no pretense, like how it should always be when they’re together.
The house itself wasn’t too impressive, nothing like the looming grandeur of the palace in Busan. He knew her too well that she wouldn’t want that anyway, though she seemed very at home in the palace, he knew she loved having a place small enough that she can decorate and even clean on her own.
So he got her this, a rustic summer house near the shore, surrounded by tall floor-to-ceiling windows to let the natural light in and see nature in its full splendor outside. The furniture was a mix of wooden browns, cream whites, blood red, and scattered potted plants which made the interior both modern and timeless.
He padded barefoot to where she was concentrating on trying to flip her already-too-gone eggs. Wrapping his arms around her waist, he buried his nose in her neck and inhaled deeply, “Good morning, my beautiful wife,” he placed a kiss on her throat.
She melted against him. Before, whenever he did this, there would be a split second where her entire body would freeze before relaxing. He supposed he understood because he was the same, they both grew with not much physical affection from the people in their lives. His being both an orphan and a King meant not many were keen on touching him, and he preferred it that way. Her growing up with her dad and then becoming a detective at a predominantly male workplace meant toughing it out and not showing much emotion lest she be called weak.
It wasn’t fair, of course, physical touch was a normal human need. Regardless of gender, everybody craved it, no matter what they say. The difference being, some only craved it from particular persons. That was okay, too, he thought. People love differently but it doesn’t make their love any less true in-depth and intensity.
She sighed sorrowfully at her burnt eggs, turned off the heat, and pivoted around to wrap both arms around his neck. “Good morning, Your Majesty,” placing an answering kiss on one corner of his mouth, then the other so it didn’t feel jealous and left out.
“I tried cooking us breakfast, but you can see how well this is going,” she inclined her head towards the smoking pan. Soon, the place will be smelling like burnt eggs and freshly made coffee. Perfect, he thought as a smile started turning his lips upward, just perfect. I wouldn’t start my mornings any other way.
“I even burnt my hand! My goodness, I really suck at this whole domesti—”
He was already carefully stepping back and grabbing her shoulders before she could finish her sentence, “Where? Show me,” he didn’t mean to sound so demanding, as he very rarely used his authoritative voice on her. He knew she didn’t take kindly to being ordered around and he never had intentions to do that. He loved her quiet strength and independence, not just as the Queen but as a woman.
“It’s just a small burn, it doesn’t even hurt. Well, not much,” but she was already slowly hiding her left arm away from him and behind her back, probably hoping he wouldn’t notice the move. Of course, he noticed, he always paid close attention to everything she did. It came as natural to him as breathing.
He extended an arm to her, waiting for her to show him the injured hand willingly. She heaved another sigh and gave in, putting her forearm within his reach. It appeared unharmed but when he slowly turned it over, an angry welt was forming a few inches under her wrist line. It was just a tiny line, probably no more than an inch and a half, but the color was turning an angry red and the skin around it puckered a little. He sucked in a hiss.
“Jeong Tae Eul,” he carefully said, “please let me take care of this.”
He looked up and saw her watching him. She must have seen something in his eyes that made her reach up with her other to cup his cheek, smile fondly, and nod in agreement. Well, that was a first, he mused.
He made a beeline for the first aid kit by one of the kitchen cabinets. He sat her down on one of the bar stools and prepared a burn ointment, some pads, and a gauze tape. “This is going to hurt a little,” she flinched as he dabbed the ointment on her injury and he blew on it softly to help cool her skin down. After covering the burn with gauze, he cleaned everything up including the burnt breakfast and set about cooking a new meal for them.
As he was taking the butter out of the fridge, he felt her stand behind him. She didn’t say anything and neither did he, she knew he wasn’t angry with her, but was lost inside his own head. When this happened, they usually waited until one or both of them broke the silence.
She shadowed him until he finished cooking their meal of avocado on toast with egg benedicts, slices of greasy bacon, and two cups of steaming freshly brewed coffee. As he laid out the food on the counter, she finally stood in front of him and waited until he turned to face her to snake her arms around his waist.
“I love you,” she whispered against his chest.
His heart jumped, three years of being deeply loved and loving deeply and he was still startled every time he heard those words from this woman. His arms instinctively wrapped around her and he dropped his mouth to the top of her head.
“I love you so much,” he murmured, “ That I can’t stand the thought of you hurting again. I know you’re strong, and I know you can take the pain, but…” He trailed off, not really having the right words to explain how his heart felt like it was being ripped out of his chest when he recalls the times when she was hurt and he wasn’t there to help ease the pain.
He didn’t have the words to explain how utterly desperate it made him when she cried out, when tears started pooling in those beautiful, dark brown eyes. It felt a little like losing a part of himself, a tiny piece of his soul chipping away, at every slice and cut and gash and drop of blood she shed. His palm curled at her back at the memory of the two instances she was badly hurt and he barely made it in time to come back to her.
Oh, God, she’s okay, she’s right here. Everything’s okay now. He repeated in his head again and again as he stroked one side of her bruised cheek. “Let’s go back to the palace.”
She nodded and held onto him. He saw her eyes roll back in her head before she lost consciousness. His tight hold left no room for her limp body to reach the ground. Reaching behind her knees, he deftly swung up a weak Jeong Tae Eul and carried her bridal style.
As he barked orders at Sub-captain Seok to take care of everything including Maximus, he heard her murmur against his chest.
“Thank you for coming to me. Thank you for finding me.”
He clutched her tighter and closer as he walked to the waiting car that would take them to the palace, to safety. Her safety. He had already asked Secretary Mo to call in his personal doctor and prepare a room for an injured guest on his way to her earlier. He wasn’t sure what the extent of her injuries was but he was determined to bring an entire hospital’s worth of equipment into the palace if that's what she needed to get better.
The ride back was a different kind of hell. She drifted in and out of consciousness, soft cries escaping from her lips every now and then. He suspected she bruised a few ribs and it was difficult to breathe. He lay her head carefully on his lap as the rest of her body lay unmoving in the backseat. He was careful to set her down earlier but he wasn’t sure which was the most comfortable position for her and decided to leave her lying down as sitting could aggravate her injuries.
He stroked her hair carefully away from her eyes, the hollow space where his heart used to beat now laid bare and empty at her feet. He was so, so sorry. God, he had never felt so desperate in his entire life.
Please, I have never once asked you for anything. Not after You abandoned me when my father died. I tried to keep my faith but it felt useless to me. I’m turning back to You now, and it isn’t fair — I know it isn’t fair of me to ask this after all this time. Please just save her. Save her and take me instead. I don’t care for destinies anymore if she isn’t in mine. Please, please save her. Please, please, please…
He felt something wet on his cheek and for a brief moment, he wondered if God had heeded his call and taken mercy on his transgressions. He thought he started shedding the blood that she was supposed to, and he was fine with that, but when he reached up and touched the wetness, it came away clear. He couldn’t summon the courage to stop them from flowing freely now, though it did nothing to lessen the burning hole in his chest.
One drop made it to her forehead and upon seeing the salt drop on her pale skin, he bit the inside of his cheek to stop himself from jumping out of this car and killing his traitorous uncle with his bare hands. He was so angry, so desperate to make this all go away that it left a bitter taste on his tongue, a metallic tang that reverberated in his head and cleared the fog a little. At least I got a taste of the blood I’m so thirsty for, he thought bitterly, even if it is mine. Good that it’s mine.
“Stop that,” a voice pulled him back. The only voice that could ever bring him back. And make him stay.
His gaze swung back to her, as he belatedly realized he’d stopped looking at her moments ago to stare at his reflection in the dark tinted windows of the car. “Jeong Tae Eul,” he gasped, “Where does it hurt? We’re near the palace. You’ll be alright, I promise. I’m so sorry, I’m so, so fucking sorry.”
He rambled on, one reassurance and apology after another. She could barely keep her eyes open and he knew she was hovering between that delirious stage of being awake while in pain. Still, she turned her head towards him and murmured something. He couldn’t make out what he was saying so he bent down and placed his ear directly above her barely moving lips, “Not… your fault. Water. Stupid of me. I missed you.” Then fell back to the darkness pulling her in.
He wanted to follow her there, to wherever her unconsciousness had taken her. They would float in that void forever, he wouldn’t mind. He shook his head firmly, no, she wouldn’t want me to give up like this, not after everything they’ve been through. She fought tooth and nail with every ounce of her strength to get to him, he wouldn’t fail her twice by asking for oblivion to swallow them both whole.
So when they got to the palace, he refused to let anyone else carry her inside. He needed to touch her, be near her, to make sure she was still alive and would very much stay that way for a very long time. He ordered Secretary Mo to direct the doctor to his chambers as she would be staying there. He’d already announced in battle that she was the future Queen anyway, Lady Noh will deal with the rest of the staff to keep everything quiet for now.
He carefully laid her out on the bed, her form terrifyingly still, her skin cool to the touch. Those lips, so full of life, throwing the most ear-splitting insults at him yet able to give the softest kisses, now pale with a thin gash on her lower lip. A bruise was starting to form on one cheek, and another on her neck. He clutched the soft quilt above her head as the overwhelming onslaught of helpless anger overtook his body once more.
Breathing through it, he managed to unclench his fists and went about making her as comfortable as he could. He brushed her hair away from her face, straightened out her legs carefully, and removed her running shoes one by one. In the quiet determination of each breath she took, he took it unto himself to breathe with her. As the beating of their hearts slowly became in sync, he vowed to protect always, in all ways. Forever.
“Ya,” she shook him lightly, “Where’d you go?”
He stared at her for a beat, then smiled that crooked smile she loved so much. The one where only one dimple showed, and it was barely even there, but the slow upturn of his lips never failed to make her heart skip a few beats.
“I’m right here,” he answered, “Right here with you. Always.”
She rolled her eyes good-naturedly at the sudden declaration of love, but she knew it was his way of deflecting. She used to let him get away with it, thinking that he would tell her when he was ready. He was the same with her, always respecting each other’s boundaries. But ever since they got married, they learned that they were both asking the same silent questions from each other and they wouldn’t know unless they voiced it out loud.
Are you okay? Can I do anything to help? If you want silence, we can do that, too, but you have to tell me if I can do anything to help put your mind and heart at peace.
Sometimes a squeeze of the hand was enough, other times, they had to break the silence while laying down on their bed. That was love, she thought, when you try to learn each other’s language, even if it was ever-evolving. Different kinds of love for different situations. Sometimes love was as quiet as a glance, other times it was as loud as the bliss that stemmed from consuming it.
This time, she opted to make a joke, just so she can see that handsome smile once more. “Hey, at least it’s my arm this time and not my neck,” she mock-scolded him, “The last time I had a “bruise” on my neck, I had to tell the nurse that it was part of when I got attacked.”
She got the reaction she was hoping for, and then some. His laugh rumbled from his belly, reverberating against her as they were still locked in a tight embrace. “I told you to not get stabbed again because I promised you would die by beheading, and what did you say to me?”
“To go ahead and try me again,” she mumbled. He laughed some more and even she couldn’t stop the stupid grin playing at the corners of her mouth. Their laughter quieted down a few moments later and they were left to look into each other’s eyes.
Her heart squeezed at the memory of when he came back to her, only to find her injured once more at a hospital. That had been a time full of so much joy and heartache. She had gone four months without seeing him, missing him with every passing second, she thought it really was humanly possible to die from sadness. Then he came back.
Only to leave again.
“Where have you been,” the young nurse asked her in concern, “I told you that you need rest. And if you came to the hospital, you should head to your room. What are you doing here?”
She really did deserve the scolding she was getting. First off, she removed the IV fluid attached to her earlier today in such haste that she went a little dizzy from the pain. Then she proceeded to hitch a ride back to her house and found Luna with Eun Seop, Na Ri, and Sin Jae. She punched the bitch square in the jaw in retaliation for her current predicament.
After being dropped off by Sin Jae at the hospital, she refused to go up to her room. She knew he was coming. She didn’t know how or why, but something deep in her gut told her to just wait a little more, just a little bit more. She didn’t care much for fate or destiny, but when it came to them, she couldn’t help but believe all that.
Against all odds, he found her. Again and again and again. And she found him, too, though it took her some time. They always found each other, despite being literal worlds apart. There was an old saying that the person destined for you had the one end of a red string tied to their pinky finger, while the other end was tied to yours. She didn’t know how long that string was, if it could even transcend parallel universes, but she didn’t care.
The end of her red string was with him. If the Fates ever tried to cut it, they’ll know what one Lieutenant Jeong Tae Eul is really capable of.
“Ah,” she tried to reason out to the nurse who was looking at her like she’d lost her mind for standing outside the hospital in the middle of night, in winter, wearing only her hospital gown and a thin jacket, all the while being injured.
“I’m waiting for someone,” she continued, just as a figure in dark clothes caught in her peripheral vision. He was running straight towards her, a breath caught in her throat, and she could hardly believe her own luck. “He’s here,” against all odds, they always found each other.
Injured and dead tired on her feet from today’s events, she staggered towards him. She reached out both arms, ready to collapse at his because, gods and all the deities above, she can finally rest, “He’s over there.”
He was running and running, every long stride eating up the ground that separated them. Each step seemed to take forever and she was so impatient, it left her gasping for breath.
Then finally, home.
He scooped her up and she felt herself lifted from the ground. The clean scent of pine, ocean breeze, and something entirely him immediately enveloped her. She breathed in deeply and tears clung to her lashes.
He embraced her just as tight, not even an inch of space between their bodies, as if the very thought of letting go of each other was something they would not withstand, would refuse to. “How have you been,” he murmured against her hair, “Have you been waiting for me?”
She could only sob in answer, “I missed you, I missed you so much.” She felt her heart crack and heal all in the same second. Thoughts of whether this was a hello or just the start of another goodbye made her close her eyes and cling onto his shoulders tighter.
She felt him cup the back of her head, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry that I keep making you wait,” he mumbled his apologies over and over again. She couldn’t answer him coherently for now but she knew that he felt everything she wanted to tell him. In the way she cupped the back of his cap-covered head, in the way she buried her face in the space where his shoulder met his neck, in the way that every breath she took mirrored his own.
This is my home and my peace. Waiting is nothing compared to what this feels like. Always in all ways.
After a few more moments of savoring each others’ warmth, he slowly disentangled them and brushed her hair away from her tear-streaked face, “Let’s get you inside and out of this cold.”
He helped her up into her room, removed her jacket, and replaced it with a soft, cotton cardigan that would be much more comfortable for sleeping. Slowly sitting her down on the hospital bed and covering half her body with the thick, warm blanket, he stood to turn the lights off. Something in her eyes made him stop dead in his tracks.
Slowly sitting down beside her, careful not to jostle her too much. She grabbed his hand and held tight to his fingers, alternating between squeezes and caresses, “Don’t go.”
He already knew what her eyes were trying to say, but she needed the verbal confirmation and he was only all too happy to give it to her, “I won’t.”
“Don’t go tomorrow either,” she knew she sounded needy, but she couldn’t care less. She needed him and he had to know that, “I won’t. Lie down. You got scolded for not getting rest.”
She was looking at him the entire time, and something about the way he held her, the tips of his fingers curling and flexing by her elbows, something in his eyes — though they held all the love in all of the universes for her, it was like looking through glass. Glass that was filled to the brim with turbulent waters and threatening to crack open, but held together by sheer will and determination.
At the back of her mind, the part that she didn’t want to pay attention to, or ever again for that matter, something told her that this was the beginning of something. She didn’t know if it was the beginning of the end, and she didn’t want to know. Not right now, when she’s barely laid her eyes on him. Barely felt his skin against hers. They haven’t even kissed hello yet.
And yet, she couldn’t ignore the hollow ache in her chest as she voiced out her fears, “I guess you’ll leave when I fall asleep.”
“I really won’t,” he promised, “Do you need proof?”
He started getting up and pulling back the covers. Realizing what he was doing, she immediately made space for him to lie down beside her. As natural as a sunflower twining towards the sun, she went into his arms and they shared breaths as they whispered in the dim lights of this hospital room.
Her body ached, her mind was reeling, her eyes could barely stay open, the stab wound pounding dully by her side. Yet, she wouldn’t prefer to be anywhere else. They told recounted stories of what happened during the time they were separated. He told her about his travel to the past, about seeing her when she was five and twenty-six years old. She told him about the new memories they shared.
“Our destiny did not change,” he said moments after they had finished talking, “Is there no way for us to change fate?”
She knew what he was asking. Knew it in the way his eyes hooded and the glass broke a little. This was it, she swallowed hard, this was his way of letting her know that he would stay for as long as he could. But he needed to leave again— to leave her again. She didn’t know if he could tell where her thoughts had gone, but she soldiered on. If this was one of the last few nights they would be together, she decided she wanted to live in the moment.
“I’m sure there isn’t,” she answered, “There’s no way that fate can be broken so easily.” And she believed that, she really did. Just perhaps not in the way he did, because for all his promises to find her time and again, she also knew part of him believed that he would always be stuck doing just that— looking for her. And her waiting for him. In a perpetual time loop of waiting and chasing and loving and longing.
So she had to believe for the both of them, that fate wasn’t easily broken. Whatever theirs was, they would just keep walking until they reached their destination. Together.
He urged her to sleep and though her stubbornness kept her eyes open for another half an hour, just to look at him some more and be conscious as he kept her body warm with his. There were no shenanigans of the fun kind because of her injuries, but laying like this together, the silence only interrupted with the buzzing of the air vents, she thought that intimacy had never been their problem. Theirs was the kind of love that didn’t require grand gestures but was grand on its own accord. She closed her eyes and drifted to the best sleep she’s had in months.
Over the next few days, he stuck to her like glue. He helped her eat, get dressed, get into the shower, get out of the shower, dry her hair, brush her teeth, and slept beside her, their eyes never leaving each other for more than five minutes at a time. He was currently trying to tie her hair back before washing her face with warm water and the facial wash she asked Na Ri to bring over together with her other toiletries.
“Ya,” she laughed as he struggled to wrap her hair in a hair tie that strangely came from his jacket pocket, “Don’t pull out all my hair or I’ll be bald before you.”
“It looks so easy when you do it,” he looked at her in the mirror and his handiwork that was currently him just holding her hair together and the hair tie falling off to the sink, “And you have so much hair.”
She elbowed him, “I do not have that much hair, Kim Gae Dong,” he scoffed at the nickname, “Give me that.” She took over and tied her hair quickly. She bent down, signaling for him to start on his main task. He scooped up some water in his palm and carefully wet her cheeks. Then he took the facial wash, squeezed out a pea size of the product, and started lathering them on her face. The soothing strokes made her close her eyes.
He finished and grabbed a towel nearby, “Look at me.” She opened her eyes and found him grinning at her. She eyed him suspiciously and turned to the mirror. She gasped and hit him square in the chest. The idiot had brushed her eyebrows towards each other so she looked like some villain in a cartoon with bushy brows and a gaping mouth.
He laughed and smoothed down the unruly hairs with the towel. Then he went about drying her face and neck, careful to pat the bandage that she put there right after he beheaded her the night before. It was his fault, truly, as she was minding her business and taking her sweet time changing her top in front of him. She asked him to stay put and that she could do it on her own, voicing out that she should thank Luna once again for stabbing her because then she got to see his caring side.
He grabbed her by the waist and gently tackled her to the bed. The following events then lead to a bruise-like mark on her neck that her flaming cheeks had given away her lies to the nurse this morning. So she demanded that he charmed his way into getting some gauze and tape from the nurses’ station.
The past couple of days with him felt like a dream. Loathe as she was to admit it, she knew that the more she felt better and regained her strength, the day he needed to go also came closer. She knew what he needed to do and why he had to do it, but she still felt like fooling herself, and maybe even him, that these moments would stretch forever and that they would go home together. Where that home was, it didn’t matter, only that they’d be together.
She knew all of this was coming, right from the moment he came back to her. A part of her wanted to believe, had to believe, that though they had to say goodbye again, it would be the last time. The next time he would run to her and she would open her arms to him, it would be a sealed promise of their life together.
So when the time for goodbyes came, she held on to his hand just a little bit tighter. She asked him to stay, but already knew the answer before he even opened his mouth in response. She wanted to beg God and whatever deity was listening to please just let us be, but begging got you nowhere. Instead, she threatened, as tears streamed down her cheek and dripped down to their intertwined hands, bring him back to me, we're supposed to be together.
They should always be together. She had to believe that was their only fate, their only destination. And that no matter the amount of time it took for them to get there, they would keep walking and never give up. They would not get tired and start living not just for today, but for all their days in the future. Their red string would endure. Always in all ways.
Now as they sat together, eating breakfast that he cooked for both of them after she burnt the first batch, in this small kitchen of one of their many homes, they could only smile gingerly at everything they’d had to overcome to get to this point.
It’s true that there is always some madness in love, some quiet desperation that makes you wish you could cry blood instead of saltwater, some fierce longing lying dormant that makes you want to lock up and put up walls forever if only to protect your love from the horrors of the world. It’s true that there is always some madness in love, but there is also always some reason in madness.
A reason to laugh at burnt eggs, to blow on burnt skin, to wake up every morning to the smell of the ocean imprinted on your lover’s skin. A reason to live.
Well, that was sad and happy at the same time. I do enjoy writing angst but my dear lovely Hannah, my aptly nicknamed Guardian, gave me the idea of writing fluff within the heartache. Thank you, Han-Han, love you loads.
It took a while for me to finish this, approximately, five hours but I really did miss writing about LeeEul and now my heart is full. It’s been almost two months since the finale and I think we’re all still under withdrawals so I hope this little (not so little because, damn, this is kinda long) fanfic helps a little. Love you guys!
P.S.: I’m posting this on Street Hunt Cafe and Wattpad too if those are more convenient platforms for you guys. Enjoy.
P.P.S.: Check out my inspiration for their summer house in Jeju. If it looks familiar, it's because, yes, that is the honeymoon house in Isle Esme from Breaking Dawn.
The Living Room
The Front Porch