the romance thing


They were in a war together – they fought side by side against evil personified, saved the country and learned to trust each other with their lives.

Out there, anyway.

In here, within a home with four walls and traditional roles for each of them, they have a much harder time. He’s supposed to court her – and she’s supposed to allow him to court her. Except after being a boy for months, Mulan has forgotten what her role is supposed to be, so when he expects her to be quiet and gentle, a perfectly perfect flower, she wants to run away. Again. She doesn’t fit into that mold – she’s not sure she ever did, but she certainly doesn’t anymore.

She finds herself sitting in the rain once more, hair wet and sticking to her cheeks. It hasn’t yet grown out to the long lengths that a woman should have and she’s not sure she wants it long again. She prefers her hair out of her face and the short cut is easier to handle.

She feels as alone as ever. She longs to go back to the easy camaraderie she had with Yao, Ling and Chien-Po when she was Ping. Those were easy friendships and after getting through the first – admittedly awkward and horrifying – weeks, she was included. She was a part of a group in a way she has never been before.

She could admire Shang from afar then, without having to actually deal with him being nervous and—well, stupid. Shang is a wonderful leader, but he sucks as badly as her at the whole romance thing. His father only ever taught him fighting.


Shang is standing in front of her, getting soaked just like she already is. She has no idea how long he’s been standing there, lost as she was in her thoughts.

“Do you,” he starts, and seems to lose his voice, or perhaps his courage. He tries again. “Do you wish me to stop courting you?”

“No.” She doesn’t have to think about that. She knows she loves him; that was never the question.

He looks momentarily relieved before frowning again. “Then—what am I doing wrong?”

She looks at him, biting back the wish to reply, ‘Nothing’. It’s not nothing. She needs to tell him, or they won’t be able to continue.

“Stop treating me like a delicate flower.”

“I don’t—”

“But you do.” She stands. “You know I’m not like the other girls. You’ve seen me fight – you’ve seen me be a man for months.”

“But you’re not a man.” He sounds confused.

“No, but neither am I a woman, by the standards of our society.” She sighs. “I can’t pour tea without creating a mess – never mind run a home. I can’t sit quietly by when wrongs happen. And I can’t be with anyone who expects me to be a barely noticeable decoration.”

“I don’t wish you to be.”

“Then act like it!” she exclaims. “When we’re at dinner with my parents, don’t look surprised when I talk. When we go to the market, don’t expect me to be only interested in flowers and linens and clothes. And when I ask if you wish to do something, don’t look affronted because you think that you’re the only one who should be able to ask me out.”

He looks abashed now, ashamed of how he’s acted. She feels bad, because it’s not just his fault. They both need to work on their behaviors.

She continues, “And in return, I’ll try to be gentler. I’ll try to pour tea without making a mess.”

He takes her hand. “I don’t want you gentle. I want you.”

“I know.” She smiles. “And I want you. That’s why this will work. We just have some kinks to work out.”

He pulls her close and she wraps her arms around him. He smells good, her Shang. His strong, warm embrace always feels like home.

She smiles, a bit naughty, and tilts her head to whisper in his ear, “And if it all else fails, I can always dress up as Ping. I think you had a crush on him...”

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