Author's Note: My second one-shot for Faith. I absolutely adored the show and am still sad that it finally came to an end. Though, I'm glad our poor characters no longer have to go through so much to be together anymore. I think they endured enough. XD I hope you enjoy this peek into their lives after Yoo Eun Soo returns to the correct time and place. :) Cheers! Constructive Criticism is always welcomed. May this fandom continue to grow so we can read more stories~
Disclaimer: I do not own "Faith" nor any of its characters. I simply fell in love with them along the way.
Eun Soo lay back against the propped up pillows on the bed, completely spent. Her hair clung to her sweat soaked face as she gazed about the room. Her eyes traveled to the ropes suspended from the ceiling, and felt the burn of them still fresh on the soft pads of her palms. She knew it would take a few days for those marks to vanish, something he would not be happy about. Her tired eyes next fell on the cloth of material that had been clenched so tightly between her teeth for so long; her jaw still ached from the force necessary to hold in her screams of pain.
She hadn't been allowed to scream in pain, it would have been a sign of weakness.
At last her exhausted expression turned to the warm, quailing bundle held in her arms and her eyes now burned with satisfaction, triumph, and a fierce protectiveness. It had been worth it.
The long months of not being able to eat certain foods, especially any that might affect the development of her child – chicken, duck, broken crackers, anything that looked even remotely ugly or unsightly – all of it she had been forced to stay away from. She knew she now had several weeks of nothing but hot teas and soups to look forward still, but at least the promise of eating whatever she felt like again was not too far off. Everyone, especially her husband, had watched her like a hawk since the moment she discovered she was pregnant!
She shifted her warm little bundle of wailing joy closer, as she snuggled deeper into Choi Young's old clothes that they had used for her quilts during the birthing process. His scent permeated the clothing, relaxing her and giving her strength through the agonizing hours.
He hadn't been allowed into the room for birthing, something she missed from more "modern" times. Here, in this time, no man was allowed into the room, husband or otherwise. To top it off, he was seen as "unclean" from all the lives he had taken recently and throughout his life. It would have angered the spirits and hindered her labor she had been told.
She had winced when she was told this as she remembered quite distinctly telling him herself that he was "unclean" once so long ago now. She had wanted nothing more than his solid presence beside her, and then was suddenly denied such a privilege. The heavens certainly loved their irony.
She pulled the borrowed robe from another woman, one whose birth had been successful, further up to cover her and her infant better, cocooning them in the warmth of the little nest of security that had been provided for them.
"I shall be going to inform your husband of the situation."
Eun Soo looked up to see Lady Choi at her bedside. She smiled upon seeing her nearly stoic face looking down at her. As neither Eun Soo nor Choi Young had parents or in-laws to help, Lady Choi had been the only family member allowed in to aid Eun Soo with the full birthing process. She had been a stalwart companion, encouraging and demanding in equal measures when needed.
"Mmm," Eun Soo agreed as she gently brushed a soft dark lock of hair away from her baby's face. "Can he come in now?"
Lady Choi hesitated for a moment. "Yes, I think it will be allowed."
"Good," her tired eyes crinkled at the edges. "Are you ready to meet daddy, sweetheart?" She addressed her baby. There was an a gurgle from within the warm blankets.
Eun Soo's answering smile stopped Lady Choi in her tracks as she watched their doctor's expression soften into a look of such pure bliss and tender love that it almost hurt to look at her. Silently, Lady Choi bowed in retreat and swiftly exited the room, instructing the other women inside as she left to keep mother and child warm and comfortable. The girls had already cleaned up the mess of childbirth and were well on their way to heating water by the fire, but it didn't hurt to remind them.
Lady Choi walked down the long, bright hallways unhurriedly. The strain of the long hours barely showed in her calm façade as she opened the wooden patterned door where her nephew had remained during the birth. He had insisted in staying in whatever room was closest in allowable distance, his fellow Woodalchi kids had been in and out of the room since the long vigil had begun.
Her glance swiftly took in all the occupants before locating her nephew's bent form.
Choi Young was sitting in a chair with his face buried in his hands, the very picture of an exhausted and worried husband. She would have thought him asleep if not for the tense set of his shoulders; too rigid for someone who could sleep in complete relaxation in a stone dungeon of his enemy's stronghold for three days without waking for even the most basic of bodily needs.
In a way, it almost looked like a sign of defeat after his relentless hours of pacing. Her lips quirked up in the barest of smiles when she recalled the tale of how pale his face had become when he had been told that his wife had gone into labor while he was out in the yard training new recruits. His first instinct, of course, had been to run to her side. Lady Choi had also been informed that it had taken quite a number of firm assurances that it was a woman's place and he would not be allowed inside. She had also heard that a number of chairs had met an untimely demise in his frustration.
It had taken Lady Choi herself coming down to tell him to "stay put," before threatening to go to the King himself and ordering him away before he relented. She recalled the exact moment his shoulders had dropped in complete defeat, the angry energy rushing out of him in one fell swoop to be replaced with nearly palpable worry.
He had grabbed her arm then, his tone tight with control. "How is she?"
She had hesitated a fraction of a second too long in her response and his reaction had been immediate.
"What? What is it? What's wrong?" His voice had risen with each sentence, his grasp on her arm tightening unconsciously.
She had sighed, and patted his hand gently. "Having a child is not easy, it is…very painful," she began. "For a woman to give birth to a child…it holds the same survival rate as a man going to war."
He had stumbled back as if she had physically hit him.
She gave him a stern glare in warning. "It might be a long birth. If it is, it could become dangerous for both mother and child."
"She could die?"
A hesitant nod.
What color that was left in his face had faded, giving him the pallor of a ghost.
She had smiled then. "She has told me to tell you 'I will be okay. I promise.' She says that she knows how sacredly you hold your promises, and so she is making this one now."
He had look at her then, the look of someone who had been drowning and been thrown a rope at the last minute.
"Our heaven's doctor is a strong woman," she had continued. "After everything you two have been through, she won't leave you just yet. I'll report what I can when I get a chance if I cannot send someone in my place. I need to be with her right now."
She had left him then, surrounded by his faithful and never wavering Woodalchi, all of whom gave him support whether in words or in silence. They had passed the long hours with him, taking shifts when duty called them elsewhere.
It had been a long night for them all. But finally, in the late morning, things had gone right at last and both mother and baby had come through.
Lady Choi now snapped the door behind her with an audible snap. Her nephew's head shot up at the sound, his bloodshot eyes showing a trepidation never seen on any battlefield.
Aunt and nephew stared at each other for a moment, reading questions in each other's eyes and minute body expressions without a word spoken between the two. The remaining room's occupants were almost eerily silent as they waited with bated breath.
Finally, Lady Choi bowed deeply. "Your wife has pulled through the birthing. She has given you a baby girl."
Flashes of grins circled the room as the Woodalchi patted their leader on the back in signs of congratulations, and money was exchanged from hand to hand as bets were finalized and payment extracted.
Choi Young simply sat where he was, his expression one almost of disbelief.
"Yes," Lady Choi confirmed. "You have a daughter."
"A daughter," he mouthed, as if to himself. He didn't care about the social stigma of preferring a son over a daughter. He was just elated that Eun Soo had pulled through the birth, just as she had promised. However, a son he would know what to do with, or so he had hoped at the time, but a daughter? What did you do with one? He had been raised an only child by his father, then he had entered the Red Moon Army at the tender age of sixteen in which many of his companions were men. The few women there were had been battle-trained and led a hard life. After that he had become the leader of the Woodalchi, all of whom were men until Eun Soo's inclusion and even that had been a special and exceedingly rare case. At the castle there were women, of course, but there weren't any girls.
He was suddenly filled with doubt. Could he do this? Could he help raise a girl? Shaking his head, he banished his thoughts for the moment, surfacing back out of the fears of his mind. "Can I see her now?" He hesitated a moment. "Both of them?"
Lady Choi nodded in answer and opened the door behind her where a pair of servant girls had followed and waited patiently outside. She turned swiftly to eye the men back inside, "All of you punks will stay here. You are not allowed near them for one hundred more days as is tradition. Have I made myself clear?" She caught the eye of each in turn, making sure she saw each nod as if she was the mother of a rowdy bunch of children. She caught Dae Man's eyes and held them, "We do not want to anger the spirits. Correct?"
"Y-yes," he stuttered in response. She held his eyes for a fraction of a second more before nodding and exiting the room.
Choi Young had watched the scene with an amused grin. "You don't have to scare him."
"Yes I do," she answered stiffly. "That rascal would be the first one to climb to your roof and slide in through an open window."
Choi Young shook his head and smiled, but had no argument.
Lady Choi nodded to the two women trailing behind them. "These two have the items you require to hang above the doorway before you should enter."
Choi Young glanced back to see one with a straw rope and the other with charcoal. Combined together he was supposed to hang them above the doorway, alerting everyone that a child, a girl, had just been born in this house and that no visitors were allowed to enter for the next one hundred days. After, if the child had survived there would be a big celebration in his child's honor.
A smile tugged at his lips at the thought of Eun Soo surviving what she was sure to dub "house arrest" for the next month before she herself was allowed to leave the house.
"It was a long birth," Lady Choi informed her nephew as he hung the traditional rope above their heads. "She will be exhausted, so be quiet. And calm. And gentle." She watched him sternly as his mouth quirked up in a smile at her warnings. "Don't pick any fights with her; she needs what little energy she has left to heal."
"Yes, Aunt," he replied obediently.
Nodding in satisfaction, she led him through the doorway, through several more rooms until at last they reached the room in back. Its windows were all held wide open as was custom, letting warm and inviting sunshine in to warm the room. His eyes immediately sought out the bed, seeing his dozing wife buried amongst his old clothes, a quiet smile resting on her slumbering face.
He approached the bed tentatively, sitting down in the chair placed next to her bedside as gingerly as possible so as not to wake her. He watched her happily sleeping face for a long moment before brushing aside a damp lock hanging in her face.
The gentle movement stirred her and she drowsily opened her eyes.
Husband and wife studied each other for a quiet moment, noting the exhaustion and lines of strain on each other's face.
She smiled gently, "Hey."
His eyes filled with concern at how soft her voice was in her exhaustion. "Imja, are you okay?"
She nodded once. "I wouldn't let something like this beat me after all those poisonings I had to go through before. This was nothing!"
He shook his head at her in amazement, letting out a sigh of relief before bending over to kiss her on the forehead chastely.
"Did I scare you?" she asked quietly.
"I thought my heart was going to stop," he answered softly, so only her ears heard.
He rested his forehead against hers, breathing in quietly, feeling her warmth – knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt now that she was alive and well as he felt her familiar heat surround him and reveling in the feeling.
"Would you like to meet her?" Eun Soo's quiet voice broke into his thoughts.
He watched his wife, uncertainty rearing up once more in his mind as she shifted her arms, drawing aside a corner of the covers. He felt his heart start; he had thought it was all just blankets and clothes. She moved her arms gently so he could view their baby fully.
"Congratulations Dae Jang," she smiled. "You're a daddy."
He felt as if the wind had been knocked out of him for the second time that day as he looked at his daughter for the first time. He could only stare in wonderment as Eun Soo nuzzled her nose against their daughter's head. She stirred in response, blinking open sleepy eyes to smile up at Eun Soo. He watched in fascination as a delicate fist emerged from between the material and reached upwards.
Eun Soon smiled and gave her a finger to grasp. "She has a strong grip already," she told him. "That's a good sign. It means she's tough. A fighter. Just like her mother and father." She looked over to see his eyes locked on their daughter and her smile grew. "Would you like to hold her?"
"What?" He jumped as if startled. "No. That's okay, I – "
Mirth bubbled to the surface and Eun Soo laughed brightly. "What is this? Don't tell me our tough, strong Woodalchi leader is scared of an infant? She won't bite Dae Jang; she doesn't have teeth yet." She teased. He blushed scarlet and she softened in response, reading more in his eyes. "What is it?"
"I don't know what to do," he admitted quietly. "She's a girl. I don't have any experience with little girls. How can I possibly – "
Understanding flashed through Eun Soo. "Come here," she told him softly, reaching out an arm to grasp his wrist and tug on his sleeve until he moved off his chair and was sitting next to her on the bed. "Help me sit up," she instructed, allowing him to reposition her higher on her pillows until she was sitting next to him.
"Girls aren't any different than boys as infants," she told him gently. "They want to be fed. They want to sleep. They want to be held. They want to be loved." She used her free arm to position his arms. "Just like this." She slid their daughter into his arms.
Choi Young's arms stiffened in surprise.
"Hold her securely but not too tightly," she instructed him. "Support her head."
He felt the warm, light weight of the bundle settle into his arms and he blinked down at his daughter, half in terror half in wonder.
Eun Soo laughed not unkindly. "You can hold her closer. She's not so fragile that she will break that easily."
He shifted gently so that the tiny weight settled closer to his chest. He watched in fascination as his daughter's eyes looked back up at him.
Eun Soo leaned against her husband for support, her head resting on his shoulder as she looked down at their daughter in his arms. "This is your papa," she cooed. "He'll protect you."
Choi Young stole a glance of marvel at his wife before looking back at his daughter. Her eyes seemed to trace from her mother's face and back to her father's as if she understood every word. She gurgled in delight, a smile alighting her face. Chubby fingers reached out, grasping towards his face.
Eun Soo placed a slender finger in her grasp. "Like this," she instructed when he hesitated.
Cautiously he copied her movements, surprised at the grip for one so small.
Eun Soo smiled largely at the expression of astonishment on his face. "I told you. She's strong. Just like her father." She turned and kissed him lightly on the cheek before resting her head back upon his shoulder. "You can do this," she told him in a voice so quiet only he could hear. "We'll get through it together, as we have with everything else. As a girl, she will need certain things that are different from boys as she grows older, but we'll tackle those when the time comes. Right now, all she wants is for you to love her, feed her, and her keep her safe and warm."
"Doctor?" Lady Choi's voiced called out from across the room. "The bath is ready for you."
"A bath?" Choi Young looked at his wife. "Is that safe right now?"
Eun Soo smiled and kissed his cheek. "I know it's not really traditional, but we haven't always been very traditional ourselves. Besides," she winked. "I'm a doctor from heaven right? And I say it's okay, healthy even. It's relaxing for the body after all the trauma, just so long as I don't drown in the water." She watched in delight as his head snapped towards her, trying to decide if she was joking or not.
Lady Choi, hearing the last comment as she approached, bit back a smile. "Don't worry. We will take care of her and make sure she is placed back into the bed safely."
Eun Soo nodded toward their daughter. "I'll leave her in your hands."
Choi Young's face filled with a sudden panic. "What?"
Eun Soo laughed as she let the women servants help her to stand. "You'll plunge into battle without batting so much as an eye, but you quail at a few minutes alone with a baby?" She reached over and punched his shoulder with a weak, playful fist. "Be strong Dae Jang!"
With a nod from Lady Choi, she helped Eun Soo wobble closer to her husband, kissing him softly on the cheek and whispering in his ear. "You'll be fine. Promise." She smiled encouragingly as he watched her stumble across the room to the intricate, wooden folding screen.
"I'm sorry," a quiet voice said beside him. It was one of the servant girls. "But we need to put down fresh bedding while she bathes."
Choi Young stood gently, aware of every minute movement he made with his infant daughter in his arms, feeling suddenly very much in the way. He looked for a place in the room that was unoccupied by the flurry of women's movements and spotted a place by an open window.
Mindful of his daughter's new eyes, he made sure to shield her from the bright rays of light with his body, holding her close to his chest. She reached out for him again in response, her eyes searching his face. Tentatively he smiled down at her, unsure of what else to do.
She gurgled back at him in delight and he felt a true smile stretch across his face. He bent his head closer and she grasped his nose, her tiny fingers exploring his face, and clutching at his hair.
Maybe Eun Soo was right, maybe he could do this.
Lady Choi looked over from the folding screen and beheld the look of absolute awe and adoration on his face as he gazed down at his daughter. Her heart swelled with pride and relief. After everything he had been through, at last he had a family of his own again. She looked up at the ceiling to blink back the sudden onset of tears.
"Lady Choi?" Eun Soo's voice asked questioningly.
"Just an eyelash caught in the eye," she assured her, her face as stoic as ever. She turned to one of the servant girls as she rushed by. "Has the news been sent to his Majesty and the Queen yet?"
"And the Woodalchi punks?"
"Still celebrating in their own way so as not to make the spirits jealous, ma'am."
"Drinking and testing their strength against each other in competition bouts?"
Lady Choi sighed. "With all the noise those rascals are bound to be making I'm sure they will have heard by now anyways, but make sure word is sent to Suribang as well."
"Yes ma'am." With a curtsey the young woman turned to leave the room and relay the message as instructed.
Lady Choi shook her head before she dried and re-dressed the auburn-haired doctor in warm clothes, and escorting her back to the clean, comfortable bed. She made sure Eun Soo was well settled in before drawing the covers up close and tucking her in so that no chill air could steal in. She looked at the normally fiery spirited young woman to see her smiling blissfully at something. Lady Choi turned to see Choi Young gently rocking his daughter in the warm sunlight.
"The most feared warrior in Goryeo," Eun Soo sighed softly. "If only they could see him now."
Lady Choi snorted. "It appears my idiot nephew has finally now done two things right."
Eun Soo looked up at her in question. "Two?"
"You," she nodded at Eun Soo, "And that little one in his arms." She nodded in the direction of father and daughter.
Eun Soo smiled as she watched her strong Dae Jang hold their daughter as if she was a national treasure, a look of such pure joy and peace on his face it almost broke her heart.
Suddenly the sounds of wailing filled the air, shattering the peace of the moment. She watched as Choi Young's eyes widened in shock and panic. "She – I," he met his wife's eyes. "What happened? What did I do?"
Eun Soo and Lady Choi laughed.
"Bring her here," Eun Soo called. "She's just hungry, Dae Jang. Everything's okay. I promise."