Chasing The Winter Moon ♥
Pairing: Moon Jae Shin / Goo Yong Ha (GeolRim fic, SKK fic)
Post Sungkyunkwan Scandal
Overall Rating: Probably NC-17
Requested by: hoshiko_malfoy
Lesson One, Two
Summary: Following an epic scandal at their university, two master scholars search for their own meaning of love.
The cold crept into Jae Shin’s bones and the sound of hail striking the roof in a steady pinging waves worried at his nerves. Turning over onto his shoulder, he shifted his legs up, curling into a ball to conserve his body heat. The sound of the storm rolled over Jae Shin and when a branch struck the side of the building, carried by the fierce wind, he sprang up to his feet, pacing to the door. The insulated paper felt cold on his hand and his fingers caught tightly on the panel separators, his nails cutting grooves into the hard wood.
“He’s a man, Moon Jae Shin,” He growled to himself. “He’s been taking care of himself for years. Even before he knew you existed, Yong Ha landed on his feet like the cat he is. Rushing about to check on him like he is… some old grandmother… won’t do you any good.”
His mind echoed with the memories he had of Yeorim. If there was one thing the scholar hated more than being disheveled, it was being cold. He complained endlessly about the ache in his fingers and the bite of wind on his cheeks when they’d been out walking in a light snow. Jae Shin shuddered to think of the man’s discomfort if actually caught in a winter storm.
He was out the door and across the walkway before the memory of Yong Ha’s shivering faded. His heavy footsteps shook the wooden planks, the trembling echoing onto the frost gathering along the walkway’s overhead beams. His breath misted the air on his face and after a few short strikes, Jae Shin realized he’d left his room without shoes. Looking around, he grabbed at the nearest pair of boots that looked to fit him, shoving them onto his feet.
A quick stepping run took him across the pavement and in front of Yong Ha’s door. A soft glow lit up the panels of his room, turning the antique white panels to gold. Slightly relieved, Jae Shin almost turned back to his dormitory when he heard laughter come from inside Yong Ha’s room.
“I’m standing in the cold worrying about him and he’s in there, laughing?” Jae Shin snarled. “Knowing him, he’s smuggled a woman in there too. Bastard.”
Another guffaw, this one more muffled than the last, warmed the air and Jae Shin straightened, his spine stiff with outrage. Stomping up the short steps, unmindful of the muddy sleet he tracked over the upper walk, the young man grabbed Yong Ha’s door panel and wrenched it aside, nearly tearing the slider off its rails.
“Geol Oh!” The flirt sat up, his covers pooling around his waist. “What’s wrong? Did something happen to Yoon Hee?”
“Yoon Hee?” Jae Shin gaped. “No! Something happened to you! Did you not see the winter coming in? Did you stop and think that perhaps some people might have been worried when you did not return in time?”
“Some people?” Yong Ha slid free of his covers, standing artlessly before the other man.
And Jae Shin lost not only his breath but his mind.
Always of a more slender build than Jae Shin, the man’s pale ivory underclothes accentuated his long, lean body. Raised mainly by his former gisaeng grandmother, Yong Ha moved gracefully, as if a dancer whose entire stage was the world and the disparities of their natures was never more evident than when Jae Shin was confronted by the young man in dishabille.
Normally fastidious to a fault, he often chose to be more relaxed in his own private space, undoing the knot of his hair and loosening the bindings of his underclothes before sleeping. With his shoulder-length hair down around his pretty face, Yong Ha’s masculinity shone through with the strength of his features and the glimpses of his pale, sculpted form visible through his gaping robes. The shadows on his abdomen were firm, scalloped lines of muscle Jae Shin itched to explore… to lick or … in the faintest recesses of his mind, to stroke with fingers intent on doing other wicked things as well.
Yong Ha lifted his hands to his hair, carding his long fingers through the clove-hued strands and twisting them up, looking for one of his many topknot pins. “I am fine. Can’t you see I am fine?”
“Don’t.” Jae Shin took a step forward, his hand trembling uncontrollably as he reached for Yong Ha’s hand.
He wanted to tell Yong Ha not to draw his hair up or tighten the upper robes of his clothing. The words stuck as he tried to talk, dusty pale barbs digging into his chest and neck and Jae Shin wondered if he would die from choking on them, or worse, speak them out loud and condemn himself to Yong Ha’s ridicule.
“Don’t? Don’t what?” The man scowled playfully at his friend, pursing his lips to one side. “The cold has driven you insane.”
“I was… never mind,” Jae Shin shook his head, raking his hair back from his temples in frustration. He was surprised to pull his hands away to find shards of ice clinging to his fingers and even more shocked when a steady cold drip began to course down his spine, following the line of his back until a drop hit the cleft of his buttocks. Clenching his jaw muscles tightly, he glowered at the slender man. “If you want to be found dead out in the cold, that’s your business. Just let some of us know that way we can send someone to find your body in the morning when it’s more convenient.”
Yong Ha let his hair drop back to his shoulders, crossing over to where Jae Shin stood. His hand was warm, nearly touching Jae Shin’s chilled face when the rebel jerked his head back slightly. Their eyes met, each man warring with the need to maintain control over the desires raging through them.
And each hoping they would lose.
“Did you worry about me, my Geol Oh?” Yong Ha’s fingers hovered, nearly skating over the other man’s cheek.
The wafting chill from Jae Shin’s face bothered him as did the puffs of mist from the man’s parted lips. Yong Ha longed to feel the scruff of Jae Shin’s chin in his palms and taste the bitter-hard undertone of soju he knew lay on the man’s tongue. His mind struggled with the realization of his longing — especially at the fearful, sour look Jae Shin gave him before he moved his face away from Yong Ha’s touch.
“No.” Curt and succinct, Jae Shin stepped back, taking himself out of Yong Ha’s reach. He looked about for a moment before his gaze settled on the pair of ill-fitting boots he wore. “I need to return Kim Dong Ha’s shoes. I took them by mistake.”
Turning, he stomped out of the room before Yong Ha could respond, leaving the man standing open-mouthed and confused. Jae Shin was halfway to his dormitory when Yong Ha huffed, disgusted by the other’s rejection.
“He comes here,” Yong Ha muttered. “To scold me and he’s half-frozen to death himself. And wearing someone else’s boots.”
Jae Shin’s retreating back stung Yong Ha more than his cutting words and a simmering anger rose in the scholar’s belly. He’d spent the evening waxing on to Mae-chung on Jae Shin’s virtues while the bestial wretch wished him dead of cold. Gritting his teeth in frustration, Yong Ha crossed over to the edge of the walkway and sat down, wincing at the feel of the icy stone through his clothes. Reaching under the platform for his heavier boots, he pulled one on then the other as he recanted all of the nice things he might have said earlier that evening.
Fully armed with a high temper, Yong Ha strode across the lawn, the soft linens of his white garments dusted with a fall of light snow. His long legs carried him quickly and with none of the strolling elegance he was known for. Each purposeful step on the cold hard ground brought him closer to Jae Shin as he walked, he thought of what to say to the quick-witted young man.
“I could say; if I had half a mind, I’d gut him but then he’d respond with something snippy like Oh, Yeorim — no, he’d call me Goo Yong Ha to annoy me. Aish, Yong Ha, you don’t have much mind to begin with, are you sure you can spare half of it?"
He nearly slipped stepping on the platform stone, an ice forming in the rough cracks and Yong Ha caught himself quickly with a grab at a porch post. Shaking some feeling into his legs, he mounted the walkway, and stopped short, finding himself nearly face to face with another of Sungkyunkwan’s seniors.
Kim Dae Min.
They’d passed one another for more than a year, two mongoose scraping out their territories. Coming in from a prestigious Suwon university, Kim Dae Min quickly proved to be a formidable student, climbing through Sungkyunkwan’s ranks. While not as vividly attired as Yong Ha, Dae Min cut a stylist figure wearing a jungchimak made of a silk Yong Ha recognized as one he’d dismissed as being too muddy for his colouring. The stark burnt cherry dye against Dae Min’s light gold skin complimented his striking features and brought out the deep brown of his eyes. Nearly Yong Ha’s height, his thicker shoulders filled the garment out more than Yong Ha would have although its hem was soaked through from the icy slurry on the ground.
Yoon Hee openly debated — mostly with herself — on which of the two senior scholars were more of a peacock, eventually always deciding on Goo Yong Ha because it thrilled him but Yeorim secretly guessed it was closer than he’d like.
“Sunbae.” Dae Min inclining his head in greeting. He glanced down at Yong Ha’s apparel, his sloe eyes taking note of the man’s tousled hair.
“Hardly sunbae,” Yong Ha laughed off, keeping his smile tight so the other man couldn’t hear his teeth chattering.
“Hyung then,” He corrected, stepping back to give Yong Ha room to pass. “Are you well, hyung? You look… ravished. Would that be the right word? Please excuse my language skills. Coming from the country, I know my choice of words is sometimes… ill-placed.”
“If you are comparing me to a manju, perhaps ravished would be a good word.” Yong Ha frowned. He refused to look down at what he was wearing — or not wearing. Clothed only in his under-robes, he’d effectively chased after a madman half-dressed and unkempt; not the Goo Yong Ha that Sungkyunkwan was known for. “Now if you excuse me…”
“I take it you are heading to see Moon Jae Shin,” Dae Min said as Yong Ha’s shoulder passed his.
Yong Ha stopped, his back towards the younger man’s, facing in opposite directions. Turning his head slightly, Yong Ha glanced over his shoulder at the other scholar. “I am. Why do you ask?”
“I wondered… being relatively new to the school… if such behaviour was normal. That perhaps men of the city often chased one another across the school’s inner courtyards; one half-dressed and the other in high temper?” Dae Min’s smile was faint and Yong Ha tightened his fist, wanting to punch the smugness from the other man’s face.
“Not always, no,” Yong Ha admitted slowly. The wind was cutting into his skin and he shivered despite himself, feeling the itch of cold working up from his fingertips. “These are trying times.”
“I would imagine so,” Dae Min agreed. “Where I am from, such behaviour would be considered… deviant or perhaps just outrageous. But then you are known for being outrageous, aren’t you hyung?”
“Say what it is you want to say,” Yong Ha spat, too used to the machinations of the merchant class to have much desire to debate another scholar in the brittle cold.
“I am merely asking for guidance from one who is older and more worldly than I am. I did not mean to give offense.” He turned, bowing slightly. Taking a step forward, he stopped, his shoulders firmly squared against Yong Ha. “I… am fond of Moon Jae Shin. While he is… complicated, his road is a rough one.”
“I know all about Moon Jae Shin’s road.” The shivering began anew and Yong Ha wondered if he’d lose the use of his nose if he continued to stand in the cold any longer. “While I thank you for your concern, I don’t need a country squire to tell me about someone I’ve known for years.”
“Perhaps that is the problem, hyung,” Dae Min offered. “Perhaps it is because you know Moon Jae Shin that you no longer see — how should I put it — how familiar you are with him. Some… not myself, of course… would take your familiarity with Jae Shin hyung as something more than what it is.”
“And what do you think it is?” The cold in Yong Ha’s belly was no longer from the winter storm but from the cutting malevolence in Dae Min’s words. “Tell me, dongsaeng. Answer me that.”
“Friendship, hyung.” Dae Min’s look of innocence rivaled any that Yong Ha ever attempted and for a split second, the man believed him… until a sly smirk appeared at the corner of his wide mouth. “As I said, I would never take your familiarity any further than what it is… a close friendship grown over many years.”
“Good,” Yong Ha sniffed, his dignified response ruined by the burning red of his nose. He took two steps down the walkway when Dae Min’s voice cut through his resolve as easily as a sharp knife through a pear.
“Others might — however — view your relationship as one of… my apologies for the word, but deviance.” Smoothly, Dae Min turned, showing an outraged Yong Ha his back as he began to head to his room. “It would be a pity if someone of that nature spotted you here… like this, looking the way you do… and heading to Jae Shin’s room. That one would think you were a… gisaeng looking for another dalliance with her lover and not the truth of a close friendship.”
“Moon Jae Shin is above…” Yong Ha spat, crossing the walkway to grab at the other man’s arm. “He is above reproach. As am I. We have the King’s favour.”
“You misunderstand, hyung,” Dae Min didn’t look down at Yong Ha’s hand, choosing instead to meet the man’s glare with a reproachful glance that hinted at a gloating arrogance. “And yes, you might have the King’s favour but are you above reproach?”
Yong Ha recoiled, releasing Dae Min as quickly as if the man’s coat burned him. His Geol Oh’s treatment of him derailed him, Yong Ha thought, it was the only reason he’d failed so quickly at the game Dae Min played. The skillful cunning of word play edged with a sharp threat wasn’t unknown to Yong Ha but coming from Dae Min, unexpected. The young scholar in the past preferred to keep to simpler, safer games; excelling at lessons or winning at the city’s gambling houses. It appeared to Yong Ha, Dae Min was dangerously treading the line of becoming a political rival — and using his friendship with Jae Shin to force Yong Ha to give up ground.
“Neither one of us have done anything that we would need to be ashamed of,” Yong Ha said, smiling winningly at the younger man. “I don’t think you’ll find anyone who says otherwise.”
“Done? No, not done,” Dae Min agreed but the telltale shake of his head warned Yong Ha that the agreement was a conditional one at best. “But your Geol Oh — that is what he is called, no? — he doesn’t have the luxury of riches and protection that you do. Even the King’s favour wouldn’t be able to protect him if there is… evidence that he…”
“He what?” Yong Ha’s stomach left him, crawling away alongside his courage and temper.
As if reluctant to speak it out loud, he leaned forward until his mouth almost touched Yong Ha’s ear. Gesturing to Yong Ha’s undone garments and the obviously finger-combed and loose mane around his face, he whispered, barely loud enough for the man to hear. “That he is a lover of men. Because even to my unsophisticated country eyes, that is what it looks like. That you are running to your lover after a fight… a fight perhaps that began while you were — engaged in other things.”
“You dare?” Yong Ha drew himself up, casting a disparaging glance.
“I dare only because I am concerned.” Another man would have wheedled but Dae Min stood firm as if discussing the weather or the price of tea at a shop. “As I’ve said, I’m fond of Moon Jae Shin. I know some of the others are… threatened by him but I know of his intelligence. I admire him… and his fealty to you as a friend. Your manner to him is overly familiar… and could be misconstrued but he makes no effort to push you aside, instead he remains loyal. I wish I had a friend as he. It seems a steadying influence, despite his unorthodox ways.”
“Then all of this concern?” He eyed the man, careful not to let his suspicion of Dae Min show on his amiable face. “It is for Jae Shin?”
“Of course.” Dae Min made a small show of straightening his over-jacket’s sleeve. “You, hyung, have the merchants’ association’s — your family’s — protection but what does Moon Jae Shin have left to him? The clan factions are still as pronounced as they always have been, despite the best efforts of the King. It will take time for those to ease up and what would happen to the brittle, fragile partnership the four of you — the Jal-geum — should someone start whispering of dark things to hurt Jae Shin, solely because you are seen like this… running towards him?”
“You dare?” Yong Ha snarled, taking a menacing step towards the other scholar and stopped as a door panel slid open behind Kim Dae Min.
A bleary eyed student looked out, rubbing at his moon-shaped face. “Dae Min hyung? Is that you?”
“Yes, Yong Ha — sunbae — has taken care to see me safe to our room. I’ll be inside in a moment. Close the door. You will let all the heat out and then what shall we do?” He waited until the panel slid shut before turning to Yong Ha to say, “I am merely saying, hyung, that Jae Shin does not have the luxury of society’s forgiveness that you do. That any of the other Jal-geum do. Kim Yoon Hee is sacrosanct now that she has been discovered and the King has made her a personal… pet, if you would. Lee Sun Joon is also untouchable, look at his bloodline. The courts and the King both protect him. You have the deep pockets of the merchants at your disposal, the caretakers of the court and our land’s coffers. No one would move against you.”
“We would stand by anything thrown at Moon Jae Shin.” Yong Ha asserted, leaning in close until he was nose to nose with the other man. “I would stop at nothing to protect him.”
“That is why I say, people talk. People whisper.” Dae Min pointed out, turning to open the door panel. “If someone wanted to hurt the King — to hurt the imagery the four of you represent — then the one they would strike out at would be Moon Jae Shin. And you — his affectionate, flamboyant, loving friend — would be the knife they would use to geld him.”
Kim Dae Min left the panel open barely wide enough to give him a view of the courtyard… and Goo Yong Ha. The senior scholar appeared to be flustered, tugging on his lower lip as he paced the walkway, stopping momentarily at Jae Shin’s door before stalking off again.
“Hyung, can you move your arms?” His roommate, Kim Bon Hwa, tugged at Dae Min’s jacket to help him undress. “I can’t get your ties undone.”
The first-year student often served as his servant, a poor second cousin now poised to become a government official through his relative’s more powerful connections. Dae Min was fond of the younger man, although often frustrated at his lower intelligence but certain things could not be helped, especially considering Bon Hwa’s common-born mother brought nothing to the family line but a field of cabbage and a few goats. Still, Dae Min was grateful for the younger man’s companionship, especially when he needed something done and he couldn’t be seen doing it.
“Leave it for now, dongsaeng,” Dae Min peered out of the of the screen, watching Yong Ha pace away. “I’m busy.”
“Are you watching Moon Jae Shin again?” The younger man’s round face gave him a look of innocence that he didn’t possess. “You’ve been after him for nearly a year now. Perhaps he isn’t one for… your tastes.”
Born in Hanseong’s lower districts, he’d grown up in the gaming halls and black markets, well versed at lightening a pocket or snipping a hair pin if desired. Discovering his cousin was more worldly than he imagined was a benefit to Dae Min. Discovering his cousin had little to no morals had been a delight.
“No, he is,” Dae Min corrected him, cursing under his breath at Yong Ha’s hesitant manner. “I watch him with Yeorim. That’s the problem. Yeorim.”
“They’ve been together for over a decade, hyung,” Bon Hwa said, craning around his cousin’s shoulder to see out the door. “And, Yong Ha is… pretty.”
“Pretty but not… accessible. That’s the problem with being old friends. It’s hard to change a relationship from what is to what one wants.” He murmured happily when Yong Ha succumbed to the cold and his nerves and sprinted back across the courtyard. “Yes!.”
“He’s gone, then?” Bon Hwa asked, unable to see past Dae Min’s arm. “What will you do now?”
“Now, my dearest cousin,” Dae Min purred as he removed a bottle of munbaeju from the cupboard. A small packet of dried apricots were tucked into his sleeve and he turned, smiling at Bon Hwa. “Now, I go to tame a wild horse.”