I'll admit it, this particular story **cough!fanfic!cough** was heavily inspired by a well-known k-drama. They are my minor obsession after all... Anywho, I'm hoping that you can still enjoy the story, and figure out what's going on, even if you've never seen this particular series. If you have seen it...well I hope I haven't completely offended you with the AU-ness of this story (in my head it's the beginning of a reworking of the series, but I am personally satisfied if this is as far as it gets). One of my drama-aunties highly recommended this particular show to me, and I can't thank her enough.
Since this is nigh unto fanfiction, here is a lengthier version of my standard fanfic disclaimer: None of the recognizable characters, places or plots are mine; no profit is made from their use; and if you want to look at this philosophically, not even the words are mine, although I will claim the plot--for good or ill.
The Eleventh Hour
Lee Shin moved his head restlessly, attempting to get away from the springy curls of his wife’s hair attacking his nose from her puffy top-knot. Usually he found her curls, so different from his own pin-straight hair, fascinating and liked to play with them until she batted his hands away, but after a long night of nervous restlessness they were another hindrance to finally getting some sleep before sunrise. For a minute there it seemed like he might actually be dropping off.
“Stop moving,” his wife grumbled into his chest.
Shin snorted. “It’s your fault I can’t get comfortable.”
She poked him in the side.
“Ow!” His eyes flew open. “Hey!”
He was not surprised when she began giggling. Though she was every inch of respectability in public, Shin had quickly learned of his wife’s secret mischievousness when no one was looking.
He felt her pulling back for another strike, the leg she had slung over his own tensing against him. Shin caught her hand inches from his side.
“Hey!” She pouted. But her pout turned back into giggles when he brought their joined hands up to his chest. “Well…” she said, her breath warm on the back of his fingers that looked so pale next to her warm, golden skin.
Shin grinned. His wife was so easy. He knew better than to say so out loud, though. He was still sore from an earlier encounter with those dangerous legs of hers.
His wife rubbed her nose against his chest and sighed. “You know, if I had to be married to someone, I’m glad it ended up being you. You’ve turned into a pretty decent friend.”
“Mmhmm.” After a moment she raised her chin and set it on his chest so she could look at him. “And what about you?”
“You’re right, I am a good person to be married to.”
“Ugh!” His wife reared back to punch him in the arm, breaking Shin’s loose hold. Shin laughed. “You…you…!”
Shin sat up and caught his wife’s arms. “Hey! Hey stop fighting!”
For a moment, her eyes flashed fire and Shin wondered if he’d really made her angry. Then she stuck her nose up in the air, crossing her arms over her chest. She cut her eyes at him. “Why should I?”
“Because it’s late and I’m tired,” he playfully groused, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her down against him.
“Oh, you’re tired?”
“Yes. From all your cheating at games.” He tucked her into his side. With his arm thrown around her, she fit perfectly against him. “And cold.” Turning his head, Shin was silently pleased that he could see his wife’s face instead of only hair.
“Mmm.” She snuggled close, wrapping those cold feet of hers around his lower legs.
“Not that again,” she sleepily said against his side, pulling the arm slung over her body closer. “It’s been a long night. Now I just want to sleep. Beating you fairly at everything is hard work.”
He huffed, but didn’t protest again.
Shin thought he felt her smile against his side. Silence reigned for a long time, but as he was finally, finally falling asleep, she said, “Tonight has been really awkward, but I’m grateful to the Queen Mother for making us stay the night together.”
“You don’t think the King and Queen had something to do with it?”
“Do you think your father had something to do with it?”
Rolling his eyes, Shin turned his head away so she couldn’t see how disappointed and hurt he really was by his recent interactions with his father.
“Exactly. And it’s obvious your mother dislikes me as much as the rest of the nation. No matter how closely I follow the rules or how many books I read, she always finds something wrong or something that I’ve missed. She always frowns.”
Looking down at her face again, Shin squeezed his wife hard for a second. “If it makes you feel better, she always frowns at me, too.”
“Because of me!” Then after a moment, “But, yes, that does make me feel a little better. Thank you.”
Hugging him tight, she nuzzled his side in what she probably thought was friendly gesture. Shin felt his heart, which had finally calmed after their long, stressful night of forced proximity, hammering in his chest again. He wondered if she could hear it. He wondered if she knew what it meant.
“The Queen Mother likes you,” he said.
This time she definitely smiled against him. Shin’s heart wasn’t the only thing pounding.
“I’m almost sorry to disappoint your grandmother,” she said softly. “What should we tell them in the morning?”
“Nothing," he said, answering in kind. "Her Highness wanted us to spend the night together. We did. No one needs to know that nothing happened here until we file for an annulment in a few years.” Glancing down at his wife—in name only—he said, “Do you still think you can wait that long to be free?”
Rolling her eyes, she huffed and said, “Can you?”
Chuckling, he bent his head enough to kiss her forehead. “Goodnight, Princess.”
Shin waited until he was sure his wife was asleep before he said the words that had been burning in his mouth: “And I, since I had to be married to someone, I am glad that it ended up being you, my princess. You’ve turned out to be all that my heart longed for.”