Rating: PG-13 - NC-17
Warnings: Alpha/Omega 'verse
Summary: It's the twenty-first century and the royal family is an extension of a democratically elected government but that does not mean the Crown Prince can marry whomever he chooses. In a world with a rapidly changing social landscape Jung Yunho's marriage is used as an instrument to force social reform and Kim Jaejoong finds out that for someone like him, a rise in status comes great danger and intrigue.
A/N: If you are not familiar with alpha/omega 'verse I highly suggest you read this primer. It's not everyone's thing.
Previous - Prologue
Kang Joo-ah did her best not to let her nervousness show as she waited to be granted entrance to the personal rooms of Queen Dowager Sookyung. She noticed her assistant trembling at her side and pursed her lips in annoyance. She reached over and pinched him in admonishment. He stilled. She let her facial features relax into a neutral expression and gently patted his back before dropping the hand.
She had brought Minjae with her because of all the omegas she had working for her he was the least likely faint in front of the Queen Dowager. She only hoped that no one would be offended by his presence, though if they were they would certainly not let it show.
Kang Joo-ah was a matchmaker of the new breed, the type that had become necessary in the wake of the Change when it was clear that the new genetic profile of humankind was here to stay. If gender had never become more complicated than male or female then the business of love, or marriage as the case usually was, would probably have progressed onto a more natural path, one in which a matchmaker was more a facilitator for people of shared interests to meet each other. Not that such facilitators didn't exist, they did.
The advent of Anestra, the heat suppressant drug manufactured by Massive Dynamic, had for the last two decades allowed young people more control over the direction of their lives. No longer slaves to their biology, people had more freedom to choose their life partners. But there were still those parents who would not put the fate of their line in the hands of flighty children. Joo-ah was in complete sympathy with these parents. Her own daughter caused her and her husband no end of grief. However, it was not these sympathies that brought her to the royal palace.
Joo-ah was a specialized type of matchmaker, one whose value lay in her not only her skill but in her sense of discretion. 'Matchmaker to the deviant rich and famous,' her son called it. Joo-ah had smacked the boy for such comments on more than one occasion. There was nothing deviant about it. The negative associations their culture had with the word homosexual should have died sometime in the 1950s. What deviancy was there in a man involving himself in a relationship with another man when that man could give him children? What shame? But ideas were difficult to change and people even harder.
Today, Joo-ah had hope that change would be coming sooner than she had come to reasonably expect. She was not a stupid woman. When she had been summoned to her first meeting with the Queen Dowager she knew the winds of change had become more than a light breeze carrying only enough strength to rustle a few leaves. No, she had the feeling that that breeze was well on it's way to becoming a lightning storm. She welcomed it.
The doors to the Queen Dowager's chambers opened. Joo-ah was once again stunned by the lavishness of the rooms and by the women seated at the sofas around a table in the center of the room. Both were stunning, hair neatly pinned at their necks, wearing the hanbok declaring them members of the royal house, hands neatly folded under the cloth.
Joo-ah raised her hands to here eyes, palms facing the ground and bowed her head forward. She slowly lowered herself into a cross-legged seating position and bent forward at the waist. She held the position for a few seconds before straightening then pulled one leg up to push herself back into a standing position. She lowered her hands and watched Minjae unhesitatingly repeat the motion. The days when a man like him could find it insulting to be expected to perform such a bow were long past.
Joo-ah bent forward inclining her head first to the Queen Dowager. “Daebi mama,” she said, then to the Queen Consort. “Mama.”
“Sit, sit,” said the Queen Dowager, gesturing Joo-ah and Minjae towards the couch opposite her. “Show me.”
Joo-ah smiled. This never failed to amuse her. Despite the older woman's fairly stern appearance in public, the Queen Dowager was not one to stand on ceremony beyond the simple courtesies her position demanded she be shown. Joo-ah took a black portfolio from Minjae. She opened it and began removing six files.
As she placed each one on the table, photographs clipped to the front covers, she considered the response each one was likely to receive. There was nothing really wrong with any of the candidates, she had chosen each one carefully, but there were three she expected would be eliminated immediately. Nevertheless, they had the proper qualifications so protocol demanded she include them. She handed the portfolio back to Minjae when they were all removed.
The Queen Consort shifted forward on the couch and leaned to pick up one of the files. Joo-ah suppressed a small quirk of her lips. She had her her favorite. He was it.
The Queen Dowager simply pointed to the photographs of the first and last candidate. “No,” she said, “and no.” Joo-ah was not surprised, Queen Sookyung probably knew more about these boys than she did. Minjae picked up both files and placed them back in the portfolio.
Kim Heechul and Lee Taemin. Too old and too young, Joo-ah filled in mentally.
The Queen Dowager pointed to another file. “No,” she said. This file was also removed from the table.
Park Yoochun. Too radical. The boy had been educated overseas and by all accounts had picked up notions that were too... liberal for the royal family's needs. They were trying to push reform, not start a revolution. Joo-ah welcomed the storm but there was a difference between thunder and lightning and a hurricane.
That left three candidates. Kim Kibum, Kim Jaejoong, and Kim Ryeowook.
“These three we will consider,” said the Queen Dowager. “You may go.”
It was the shortest meeting she had had with them to date but it was not unexpected. All of the details about requirements for background, education, and temperament had already been discussed. All that had been left for Joo-ah to do was present the candidates. She and Minjae rose and bowed again before exiting the room.
A storm indeed, she thought as they were escorted out.
For a week the major news stations of South Korea reported on the news of the King's sudden illness. In His Majesty's absence, the ceremonial duties and responsibilities of the crown were shared by his only daughter, Princess Jihye, and his nephew, Prince Changmin.
No one actually believed His Majesty was ill.
The New Order of Succession, allowing female alpha children to be designated heir to the throne, meant that Prince Changmin was fifth in line to the throne. In addition to the death of the current king, his cousins, Yunho, Jihye, and Jihoon, and his own mother would need to die before he could become king. This was just as well, as Changmin had no desire to be king. Yunho could have that role. In the unlikely event where he did end up first in line, he would simply abdicate and leave that burden to his eldest younger sister, Sooyeon.
It was a mentality that drove Sookyung to no end of insanity because it meant that during the King's current 'illness' and absence from public appearance Changmin was most unwilling to take up his new responsibilities. Sookyung would probably have to resort to bribery and extortion to coax the boy's agreement. It was bad enough that she had had to going to find him in his own rooms because he refused to answer her summons. It was a good thing they had done away with that nonsense about princes residing in the primary palace. If she had had to travel outside of the building to rouse the child from his bout of immaturity she would have made sure his head rolled.
Changmin caused Sookyung a great deal of grief. No doubt because she had spent his childhood spoiling him terribly. No one in their family ever had to wonder if Sookyung had a favorite, only if he would ever exasperate her enough to allow one of the others to usurp his place in her affections. Perhaps she was being unfair. He was usually rather well behaved. It was only on occasion that the twenty year old threw tantrums worthy of his five year old self.
It was one of these tantrums that had him lying on his bed, flat on his back, clutching a large pillow over his face. Childish logic. If he could not see her, maybe she would go away. Not likely.
“Changmin,” she said.
“I'm not here,” came the muffled response.
Ridiculousness. “Changmin, get up.” Sookyung attempted to wrest the pillow from his grasp.
He held it firm. “Halmeoni, I don't want to.”
Sookyung lifted her hand and brought it down sharply across his stomach. Smack.
“Ow!” Changmin let go of the pillow and curled up on his side, arms wrapped around his stinging belly. “Halmeoni,” he whined.
“Hush,” she said. She sat down on the edge of the bed and rubbed his back in a soothing circular motion.
Changmin uncurled his body and rolled to face her. “Why can't Jihoon do it?” he asked, wincing when she smacked him again.
Sookyung grimaced. “Is that a real question?” She loved her grandchildren. Unconditionally. But that one. Sometimes she loved him less than the others.
“No,” Changmin said forlornly.
She sighed, tired of his carrying on. “Alright then, what do you want?” He could be a brat but he wasn't irresponsible and this was too much theatrics.
Changmin bit his lower lip.
“Out with it,” she said.
He quickly sat up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed to sit next to her. “Kang Joo-ah,” he said with an excited look.
Sookyung sighed again. She should have expected it. She did not know how he did it but the boy always knew the business of everyone in their family. She knew the palace staff was not telling him anything. They were too busy keeping her informed.
Perhaps she should be glad Changmin did not show much interest in politics. If he did become king he would probably find a way to implement a return to absolute rule. An uncontested return at that.
She might as well tell him everything. If she did not he would just find out on his own and then he would be upset with her.
Crazy, Changmin was thinking a few days later. His grandmother and his aunt were crazy.
Crazy and inconsiderate.
He agreed that something needed to be done. Only a fool (his uncle) would think they could ignore everything and keep living as usual, but did they have to blindside Yunho with this? His hyung already had someone he wanted to marry, which was why Changmin was going to tell him everything as soon as he-
His phone rang.
Changmin quickly touched the answer button. He didn't bother with the typical greetings. Instead going straight to,“Hyung, halmeoni loves you less than Jihoon.” Not really, but the exaggeration would catch Yunho's attention.
“What?” came Yunho's confused reply.
“She and aunty are sacrificing you.”
“You should just stay in the military. Abdicate. Jihye can rule,” said Changmin. She really couldn't. If Yunho abdicated, Jihye would do the same and then Jihoon would be Royal Prince successor. No one wanted that. They would have hundreds of scandals instead of just the one.
“Changmin,” said Yunho firmly. “Make sense.”
“Don't you get the news there?”
“Yes. We get the news.”
“Then you saw the problem uncle caused?”
“Yes,” said Yunho.
“Then why are you confused?”
“Changmin,” Yunho almost shouted.
“Halmeoni and aunty are sacrificing your freedom to fix uncle's mistake,” said Changmin. “They're marrying you off to a... you know.”
“Married?” asked Yunho.
“Yes hyung. Married.”
“To who?” asked Yunho.
“I already told you. They're marrying you to a-”
“I get it Changmin. I meant to which person, specifically. Don't tell me you don't know.”
“Does it matter who it is?” Why wasn't his hyung more alarmed? Changmin would have thrown a fit. Hell, he had thrown a fit (and gotten smacked for his trouble) and it wasn't even happening to him. Yunho didn't like boys. He shouldn't be this calm. Did he? “Hyung,” he whispered into the phone, “do you like boys?”
Yunho ignored the question. “Just tell me who.”
Maybe he did like boys. “There's three of them. Kim Kibum, Kim Ryeowook, and Kim Jaejoong.”
“Kim Jaejoong,” said Yunho softly.
“Kim Jaejoong,” Yunho said again. “Tell halmeoni it's okay if it's him.”
“What?” Changmin was shocked. What about Ara?
“Tell halmeoni it's okay if it's Jaejoong.”
“Do you know him?”
“Yeah,” said Yunho.
Yunho replaced the receiver on the wall phone and leaned his forehead against it. Yeah, he knew Kim Jaejoong. If you could consider one meeting five years ago during which he had been completely out of senses and terrified the other boy out of his wits as knowing, then yeah. He knew Kim Jaejoong.