|snarky_panda (snarky_panda) wrote in mulanficspace,|
@ 2007-07-21 01:40:00
30 Kisses: Mulan and Shang, Part Twenty
Pairing: Li Shang/Fa Mulan
Theme: #1, look over here
Disclaimer: All characters, etc. from the Disney movie belong to Disney.
A chill permeated the night air and Mulan shivered, wrapping her blanket tighter around her. Without a word Shang stood up and went to retrieve an extra one from his pack. Returning to where she sat by the fire he draped it around her shoulders and took a seat again.
“Thank you,” she murmured, grateful for the little bit of attention he bestowed on her now. At least he’d noticed she was cold.
His response was muttered and unintelligible as he went back to staring into the fire, looking lost in thought again.
The silence between them was deafening. Often she would glance at him, longing for him to look away from the fire and at her. He barely seemed to notice that she was there. The barrier that had been erected between them with the death of Mao became higher and more impenetrable with every passing day. She desperately wanted to talk to him, and she wanted even more for him to speak to her. But Shang wasn’t the type to easily open up about deeply emotional things. Right now she would settle for him turning to look at her; despite the fact that they sat together in close proximity, his mind and soul were so far away from her she might as well have not been there at all.
She fumbled for words now, wanting to start a conversation but feeling stopped at every turn.
What had happened? Did he blame her? Fear and despair possessed her alternately all the time, seizing her heart like cold, grasping fingers, as she sensed him slipping further and further away from her. He barely touched her anymore and they rarely kissed. When they did, it was passionless. Quick pecks that even lacked affection, they were now routine, obligatory gestures of habit that meant nothing.
And now the two of them were going to be on a perilous journey to the northern border together, on a mission to escort the Emperor’s eldest daughter to the place of her marriage. With the safety and peace of two kingdoms hanging in the balance, they would need to rely on one another and have each other’s backs. But he had been so moody and distant every day, brooding during their entire journey to the capital so far, barely speaking a word other than to announce that it was time to move out each morning. A feeling of foreboding made her stomach churn.
Not that he was completely cruel and indifferent. He still seemed to care about her comfort, as demonstrated when he retrieved the extra blanket for her. He had noticed that she was cold. But he just wasn’t…with her anymore.
An ache settled in her heart as she looked up once more, her heart thudding in her chest as she opened her mouth, trying to gather enough courage to speak. Odd how the man had been her husband for six years and yet she felt as distant from him now as when she was the awkward young girl, sitting with a man that she fawned over from a distance. Even that was easier.
Clutching the blankets, she absentmindedly pulled them tighter around her.
“Shang,” she finally addressed him quietly.
He didn’t hear her and she found that she was relieved; she didn’t even know what she wanted to say, where to begin.
Abruptly she stood up.
“Goodnight, Shang. I’ll relieve you in a few hours. Unless you want to have the first watch.”
Shang started, blinking as if he’d just woken up from a dream, and turned, finally looking at her.
“Oh. Goodnight,” he answered distractedly.
“Here. You’ll probably need this,” she murmured, holding out the extra blanket that he’d given her.
“I don’t need it,” he grounded out, his voice low and rough.
But she knew that the temperature would drop in the deep of night and he’d regret not having it. Ignoring his response, she draped the blanket around his shoulders and turned toward the tent.
“I said I didn’t need it,” he spat out under his breath, tossing the blanket off angrily.
Taken aback by his gesture, she halted momentarily. Then without a word, she ducked inside the canvas and silk shelter, leaving her shoes near the entrance.
She lay awake in the tent for hours, alone, listening to the sounds outside, sadness and trepidation weighing on her as she pondered Shang’s moodiness of late, and their gradually deteriorating relationship.
For a long time she tossed and turned, her mood alternating from sadness and desolation to anger and indignation then back again. Mao had been her son, too; she had carried him in her womb for ninth months and had borne him! Did he not realize that she grieved as deeply as he did? That she was as angry as he was at the events that had befallen? They could have comforted one another maybe, assuaging at least a small amount of the pain with their love for each other; but instead he stubbornly remained closed up and stoic about it, emotionless almost. And now it was as if she had lost both people that she loved dearly instead of just one. Sometimes the anguish in her heart overpowered her.
She became still as she heard his feet shuffling in the dirt outside, probably kicking some onto the snuffed out fire to ensure that it was truly out. Had dawn come already? He sighed audibly and she was tempted to poke her head out and talk to him. Deciding that it wouldn’t be a good idea, she instead turned over onto her stomach and buried her face in her arms.
Some more time passed and she slept fitfully for a short while. When she awoke again, unable to make herself relax back into slumber, she pulled her blanket around her and crept out of the tent.
He was sitting up, gazing at the horizon. Waiting for the sun to rise.
“I’ll never know why you enjoy early mornings so much,” she managed to mutter the remark. She was too tired to fret about what his reaction would be or to even care if she ticked him off anymore. “I’m here to relieve you on watch so you can get some sleep.”
“What are you doing up?” he murmured as if she hadn’t said a word, turning to look at her.
She stared at him. “It’s my turn to keep watch.”
“It’s still early if you want to go back to bed. We don’t have a long way to go today, so we can leave a little later. If you want to get a couple of extra hours of sleep you can. I know you don’t like to be up early.”
Apparently he had no plans to get any sleep himself.
Ignoring his words, she took a seat beside him.
“Aren’t you going to sleep at all?”
He didn’t answer; he appeared to have no intention of doing so. With nothing else to say, they sat together in silence and watched the horizon together, waiting for the dawn. She hated being up early; but watching the sun rise with him was something she could have done every morning. Sadness pressed heavily on her heart and her chest began to ache once more. As angry as he made her, she loved him deeply. And he was still so heartbreakingly handsome she wanted to cry as she took in his profile now.
Shang finally turned to her as the sun finished its ascent.
“You should probably get a little more sleep before we leave.”
“Aren’t you going to sleep at all, Shang?”
“A little later. I already told you,” he added, a slight growl in his voice.
“No, you never answered me.”
He sighed in exasperation.
“I’ll probably be reassigned to border patrol after we finish this mission,” he changed the subject brusquely.
“The northern border?”
“What about me?”
“You’ll be going home.”
Mulan swallowed hard, trying to force the lump in her throat away.
She stood up abruptly and walked away, leaving him there at the top of the hill and disappearing into the forest.
Home was nowhere near the northern border. The Emperor had apparently made it quite easy for Shang to separate himself from her. If it was even the Emperor’s idea.
It was quite possible that Shang had requested the reassignment.
After all of his observation of the tigers that lived in the mountains where he’d trained in martial arts, there was no doubt that Shang had learned to emulate them impeccably; he moved with the stealth of a great hunting cat. Now he had approached her so quietly she hadn’t heard him. Or maybe she was just too wrapped up in her turbulent emotions and thoughts to notice whatever noise he had made.
She jumped at the sound of his voice and quickly wiped her eyes with her sleeve. Lowering her arm once more she stared into the stream as he came to sit beside her, too angry and upset to look at him.
“Are you alright?”
The question rendered her speechless. He was the one acting weird and he was asking her if she was alright? She didn’t even know how to begin to answer him and she kept her eyes trained on the flowing water in front of her.
“I…I didn’t mean to snap at you, Mulan.”
“It’s my fault. You told me you didn’t want the blanket,” she answered sullenly, her mind for some reason dwelling on the image of him throwing the blanket off in annoyance the previous night.
Everything is my fault. I’m driving him away.
She cringed at the foolish, self-pitying and self-incriminating thought. This wasn’t like her. Why was she blaming herself? Was it because he blamed her? He was hurting her so. Yet as angry with him as she was, she felt as if she couldn’t allow herself that feeling. Her ire would pass after a few moments and she would turn her thoughts inward, tearing herself apart and wondering what she could do differently so she would please and not irritate him. What was wrong with her?
“What?” he murmured, sounding utterly confused.
The smooth, steady movement of the stream and the gentle trickling sound it made soothed her a little and she concentrated on it, not answering him.
“What are you talking about?”
“Nothing,” she muttered, annoyed.
He was silent and she could feel his intense gaze on the side of her face. She shifted and angled herself away from him.
“If you have to be on border patrol…will you be coming home first?”
“It’s not definite yet. I will have to return to Chang’an for orders.”
“Mulan.” A hint of pain and hurt came through in his voice; he almost sounded pleading. “Mulan, look at me.”
But she didn’t want to cry. And if she turned to look at him in that moment, she would have.(Link here to continue)