|snarky_panda (snarky_panda) wrote in mulanficspace,|
@ 2007-07-21 01:46:00
30 Kisses: Mulan and Shang, Part Twenty-One
Pairing: Li Shang/Fa Mulan
Theme: #13, excessive chain
Disclaimer: All characters, etc. from the Disney movie belong to Disney.
She’d been crying before he approached her at the stream; he’d noticed immediately, the stain of her tears still visible on her face even though she’d wiped them away. He longed to comfort her, knowing somehow that although she hadn’t spoken of it, he was to blame for her tears.
Shang sighed and closed his eyes. He’d been short with her; he didn’t mean it. She wouldn’t even look at him now. The trickle of the water was the only sound penetrating the silence in the air.
“Mulan, we should go,” he finally managed to get out quietly.
“I’ll be right there,” she answered sullenly, refusing to turn his way.
He reached out tentatively, wanting to touch her shoulder, to get her to look at him; to somehow clear the insurmountable hurdle between them. There was a time when he could gather her in his arms and soothe her with tender kisses when she was feeling sad; a time when she could lift the sting of a bad day with her caress, her sweet, loving smile and the soft yet strong touch of her hands on his shoulders. Everything had changed in the blink of an eye, before he even knew it had happened. And now he didn’t know how to go back to what they were before.
Feeling stymied, he drew his hand back without making contact and stood up, turning back toward their campsite.
The tent needed to be broken down and he set to it. Sighing, he glanced around at the camp. He would be packing by himself, he was sure. Good thing there wasn’t much to do. With another sigh, he picked up one side of the material to begin rolling it up.
Mulan had always been an open, exuberant young woman; but she was so moody and unhappy lately. Almost a complete stranger. He still couldn’t figure out what was happening between them no matter how much he pondered it. It was true that he’d been preoccupied as well. But every time he tried to reach out to her she seemed so sad and distant.
His mood was rotten these days, he realized. It wasn’t that he no longer loved Mulan; he did, deeply. But she irked and frustrated him, fussing over him the way she did all the time now, as if she doubted him. Did she believe that he couldn’t take care of himself anymore? That he couldn’t take care of her?
Perhaps she blames me for not protecting Mao as I should have.
Pain stabbed at his heart and he took a deep breath, attempting to relax his constricting throat. Anger began to burn in his chest and he kicked at the wooden stakes that pinned the tent into the ground.
She spent so much time in the room where Mao used to sleep. He walked by and found her sitting in that room so often. What was wrong with her? Did she think sitting in there would bring him back? Why couldn’t she just leave the door shut to the room, let it be? But Mulan couldn’t let anything alone.
Always too late he realized how abrupt his answers had come out and he could no longer take them back. She would recoil so visibly with such a deeply wounded expression that it stopped him from speaking further as he became wracked with guilt for snapping at her. And then they’d sit in deafening silence, two unhappy people who became more distant from each other with every unintentionally hurtful word or gesture, every misinterpretation, an endless chain of failures to understand one another. This time was no different.
Now they were on their way to Chang’an to pick up the Emperor’s daughter and escort her over the northern border. He couldn’t believe that the man was entrusting his eldest daughter into the care of just the two of them. Surely he would want more protection for her! Nevertheless, this was the Emperor’s wish, as inexplicable as it seemed.
He took another deep breath, but the weight on his chest just grew more constricting and he acutely felt the stress that lay heavily on him now. He would be responsible for a princess, the safety and peace of two kingdoms, and his own wife.
Why was it that the Emperor had to insist on Mulan being on this mission? He wished that she would have remained at home. Wasn’t it enough that he’d already lost a son because of the fighting between the two nations? If he lost his wife as well, he would have nothing left. He’d failed once at protecting his own; he refused to let it happen again.
Shang swallowed hard and blinked back the tears that began to burn his eyes as these thoughts flooded his mind. He roughly grabbed the poles and the tightly rolled up tent, turning toward the horses and furiously pushing away his somber musings with an effort. He’d lost too many people in his life; but he couldn’t think about that now. When the mission was over he would escort Mulan home, making sure that she stayed alive and well.
She appeared in that moment, emerging from the forest and joining him where he had stopped in his tracks, still holding the bundle in his arms. His stomach clenched as he immediately became aware of the tight tension between them. A torrent of emotions flooded him and his heart ached as he glimpsed her beautiful face, profound melancholy casting a shadow over it.
He wanted to speak to her, to say anything that might shatter the discomfort and hard feelings between them, but words failed him.
Soundlessly she approached him and reached out to relieve him of some of his burden.
“I’ve got it,” he muttered gruffly.
Mulan nodded, taking a step back, and he suppressed a sigh as the familiar expression of hurt pasted itself across her features. He’d said the wrong thing again, in the wrong tone, and she felt rebuffed by him once more.(Link here to continue)