[Note: this goes AU from the point before which Jae Shin and Yoon Hee are 'seen embracing' in the library in episode 14.]
What If I Told You?
A Sung Kyun Kwan Scandal fan fiction. Pairings: Moon Jae Shin/Kim Yoon Hee, Moon Jae Shin/Gong Yong Ha (friendship), Lee Seon Joon/Kim Yoon Hee (friendship).
Song: 'What If I Told You?' by Jason Walker.
What if I told you who I really was? What if I let you in on my charade?
Kim Yoon Hee knows that she's deceiving people. She's been doing it for a long time, since two years after her father died. How else could she have supported her family, with a sick dongsaeng and an older mother? What other choice did they have, in this Joseon that places women so far below men? She will do what she needs to do to keep her family alive and well, but she still cannot help but feel a pang of conscience when she looks at the Jalgeum Quartet, these men who have become such friends to her, who trust her. And she's lying to them, because she has to; the penalty for being female in Sung Kyun Kwan is death, and her family would be punished as well. She can't trust them with this secret, and it weighs on her every day, like a stone she carries on her shoulders.
Moon Jae Shin knows that he's lying to others. He's been posing as the Red Messenger for a long time, trying to keep what his brother fought for alive, defying the Noron faction that bleeds their country dry of its lifeblood and integrity, and trying to keep himself alive in the bargain. His brother was a master at word craft, and Jae Shin does his best to live up to that with every message he sends, red cloth tied to an arrow. What other choice does he have, a mere scholar, to change the politics in this Joseon that places those with family name and wealth upon a pedestal, unearned? He does this not only for himself, not only for his brother's memory and cause, but because it's what is needed, because the people are powerless, and because he needs to live somehow. He cannot trust his friends with this secret; he would prefer it if his own father didn't know, because there is danger in knowing. If he is caught, anyone thought to be associated with him will be questioned, and the most likely outcome for those who know is death. He cannot tell anyone, but it weighs on him every time he slips past the sleeping Kim Yoon Shik and out into the night, every time he deflects the questions of Gong Yong Ha, every time Lee Seon Joon's quizzical gaze meets his own over some bruise displayed on a cheekbone, or a knife slash glimpsed on a forearm.
However, there's another secret that Moon Jae Shin knows. This secret was discovered by accident, and he almost wishes that he didn't know. He knows that Kim Yoon Shik is actually a girl; in fact, he's met her as a girl, when he saved her money from some thugs. Of course, he didn't know that the girl he helped and Yoon Shik were one and the same at first, but he figured it out after finding the handkerchief that she had given him. At the time, although he hadn't used it for its intended purpose, he had kept the piece of cloth, not understanding why. Now, he understands. She made his heart flutter then, as she sways his heart now, even in the guise of a male. In this way, he's glad that he knows her true gender, as it saves him from what Lee Seon Joon is going through now. The unforeseen complication is that Geol Oh Moon Jae Shin, the taciturn and dangerous senior who has never before shared a room, is in love with Yoon Shik. He understands that, and came close to confessing when he told her to stay in his sight at all times, so that he won't worry. But she doesn't know, and he's going crazy.
What if I told you what was really going on? No more masks and no more parts to play?
'Things did not go according to plan; when have they ever?', Jae Shin thinks furiously as he runs from the Minister of War's soldiers. At least he found the false Red Messenger. 'Whomever he is, he won't be playing the part for at least a few days', he thinks with grim satisfaction. Ducking down behind some bushes, he looks to his left and sees the wall that guards Sung Kyun Kwan. If he can just make it over the wall… Jae Shin looks down at the gash on his abdomen, gritting his teeth at both the pain and the constant blood flow. It's a deep wound, he knows, but it's avoided any vital parts, for which he is grateful. His head is spinning with blood loss, and the only thing grounding him now is the fact that he can return to Yoon Shik alive if he moves… now! The black clad figure darts across the dark lawn and gracelessly throws himself over the wall.
Right onto Kim Yoon Shik.
There's so much I want to say, but I'm so scared to give away every little secret that I hide behind
Would you see me differently? And would that be such a bad thing?
I wonder what it would be like, if I told you…
They're back in the hyang-gwan-chung the next day, this time with proper bandages and herbs for the slowly healing wound. 'It's beginning to scab over', Yoon Shik says seriously, relief removing the creases in her forehead. Jae Shin just grunts, holding still as she finishes winding the cloth about his torso as he leans against a cabinet, sitting on the ground. He hadn't been lucid enough the day before to fully appreciate it, but the closeness to Yoon Shik warms his heart. He knows that she has (had?) a crush on Lee Seon Joon, but he can't control the way his heart begins to thump and his cheeks heat whenever he's around her. His hiccups are even coming less and less frequently. He would worry that it meant that he was seeing Yoon Shik less as a girl, but the vivid dreams he has more and more often completely put the lie to that idea.
'There, it's done!' said girl in question smiles, tying the cloth in a knot that is neither too tight nor too loose. It's clear that her taking care of her ill younger brother and working as him has paid off in the way of medical know how. Jae Shin looks up at her, sitting next to him, making eye contact. 'Thank you', he says, wishing that he were as adept verbally as he is with the written word, not for the first time. Yoon Shik smiles that frustrating, heart melting smile at him. 'Who else could help you? Yeorim?' She snorts. 'He'd probably make the wound bigger, with all that he knows about medicine.' She begins to pack the herbs back into their wooden containers. Jae Shin smiles crookedly, imagining Yong Ha trying to wrap a wound.
'Dae Mul.' Yoon Shik looks up, pausing in her packing. 'Yes, senior?' He takes a slow, deep breath, feeling the cloth around his middle tighten with the inhalation, and moves. His hands slowly cup Yoon Shik's cheeks, seeing her eyes widen slightly. He strokes one thumb across her left cheekbone, holding her eyes with his. 'S-sa-hyung?' she stutters, not understanding why Jae Shin is acting this way. He holds her softly, like something precious. 'Kim Yoon Shik.' She swallows nervously, and answers him. 'Yes?'
Moon Jae Shin has never been good around females, and has never loved anyone like he does Kim Yoon Shik before, either. His pulse is racing, and he feels queasy, although he admits to himself that it could be the wound causing that, not the pounding of his heart. He doubts it, though. As he strokes her cheekbone, he repeats her name, registering her nervousness as she struggles to squeak out a 'yes?' He sighs, closing his eyes for a minute, steeling himself. Then he opens them again, and locks eyes with the girl in front of him. 'Dae Mul, I am going to tell you something that I know, now that you know my secret. I know a secret about Kim Yoon Shik, and I have known since the last time I was in hyang-gwan-chung. You… are a girl.' Her eyes widen, and he feels her quick pulse begin to race. She begins to sputter a denial, trying to draw away from his gaze, but he holds her in place, not harmfully, but because he needs to be firm now, if he is going to continue down this path.
'Kim Yoon Shik. Listen to me.' Her face is pale, and her pupils are dilated with fear. 'I have known since we were both in here last, when Yong Ha was trying to find you… or a ghost.' The corner of his mouth lifts at the memory of the Yeorim, desperately asking him if he'd seen anyone in hyang-gwan-chung the night before.
He takes another deep breath. 'I… I saw you when you were bathing. I didn't see much, but it was obvious that you were a girl. I'm sorry that I didn't tell you before now, but I thought that it was the best way to keep your secret safe. I decided to protect you and your secret, because what else could I do? I cannot fault someone for hiding something when I've been doing the same. Kim Yoon Shik is a girl, and Geol Oh is the Red Messenger. But… I needed to tell you.'
He leans back, slowly letting his hands slide from her face, until his left hand is again at his side and his right is resting lightly on her shoulder. She stares at the ground, eyes moving back and forth as she digests this information. She's not shaking with fear, which Jae Shin takes as a good sign.
Minutes pass, and Jae Shin begins to doubt the wisdom of telling Dae Mul the fact that he knows that she is female. And then, she clears her throat. She takes a few deep breaths, slowly exhaling, her breath stirring dust motes in the air, visible through the slanting sunlight peeking through boards. Jae Shin holds his.
'Senior…' He glances over at her, sitting in his peripheral. She hasn't moved his hand away. 'What do you want from me? Why tell me this now?' His gaze snaps to her face, her jaw tight and worried. He huffs out a breath, relief, frustration, and annoyance all bound up in his lungs. 'What, do you think I want you to do something for me? Dae Mul, maybe you're not as smart as I thought you were.' He begins to sit up, wanting to leave and go hit something, but she firmly pushes him back down. 'That's… I'm sorry, sa-hyung. But you can't move so fast; your wound isn't healed!' He grunts, settling down again against the cabinet. 'Senior… I apologise. That was unfair of me.' He looks at her again, raising an eyebrow. 'Not unfair… perhaps it was a wise question to ask.' He sighs, passing a hand over his mouth to compose himself. 'No, it was not unfair of you, Dae Mul. But I don't want anything. We're equal now, do you see? I trust you not to reveal that I am the Red Messenger, and I hope that you can trust me enough to know that I will not reveal that you're a girl to anyone.' He sighs again, lost in thoughts that are interrupted by Yoon Shik's 'Sa-hyung?' Yoon Shik's eyes are downcast, and her hands are lightly clenched in her lap. 'May I ask a question, senior?' Jae Shin nods.
'… Why do you do that? Act as the Red Messenger? It's dangerous, and you can be killed if you're caught. So why? For what reason are you doing this?'
'For what? I've never thought about it.' Jae Shin's mouth twists wryly. 'Because I can't bear feeling suffocated. Because if I don't, then I can't live. To live.' He makes eye contact with her again. 'I'm doing it to live. What about you?'
Yoon Shik looks down as he asks, 'Aren't you the same?' She nods, slowly. Jae Shin looks away thoughtfully. 'I think it's also because of… my older brother. Because I feel that people need to know that he walked on this earth.'
Yoon Shik smiles slightly. 'Isn't that why I'm doing this, too? "Kim Yoon Shik". I am living up to this name, my younger brother's name. He, who will never become a scholar, who was always sickly and frail… so that his name can mean something.'
The two look at each other and smiles make their way across both faces, so different in many ways, but similar in courage, determination, and resilience. Moon Jae Shin hiccups, and all Kim Yoon Shik can do is laugh.
She helps him carefully to his feet, and they slowly leave the incense hall together. Yoon Shik looks up at her tall senior. 'Sa-hyung, I'm glad to have you by my side. You asked me to stay in your line of vision, but I want to ask the same of you. Geol Oh is living dangerously, so I want to protect the Red Messenger, as Moon Jae Shin has protected Kim Yoon Shik.' Jae Shin ducks his head, another smile irrepressibly curling the corner of his mouth lopsidedly upward. Kim Yoon Shik walks slightly ahead of him and turns around as they near the door frame of hyang-gwan-chung, grinning. 'Ah, and senior?' Jae Shin looks at her, puzzled. She lowers her voice, but not her grin. 'My name is Kim Yoon Hee!' She spins and goes through the door ahead of him. 'Kim Yoon Hee…' Geol Oh muses, rolling the name around on his tongue. 'I like it… Kim Yoon Hee.' He walks more quickly through the doorway to catch up to his Dae Mul, who is waiting for him outside.
Oh, would you see me differently? And would that be such a bad thing?
I wonder what it would be like, if I told you…