For mari4212 in the 2010 Yuletide challenge. Per the request, this fic fuses a bit of the older Mulan legends into the Mulan storyline, and adds a bit about Chinese culture/traditions in as well, so if there's anything that doesn't quite match up with Mulan/Mulan II canon, that's why.

Versal and Marginalia
by Estirose
c 2010

Li Shang stayed over the night. This was, of course, something that pleased her family; the possibility, if remote, that she could find a husband after all after that disastrous appointment with the matchmaker.

As she served him an early breakfast that morning - he, after all, had to get back to his post soon - he looked at her, and asked her to sit down, as if she was still the soldier he had known, instead of the disobedient daughter who had dressed in men's outfits to serve on behalf of her father.

"I... um." It seemed that Li Shang still had trouble saying things around her. "I'm sure your village will honour the sacrifices you've made."

"Yes," she replied, just as hesitant to say something and break the pleasant spell. She was Fa Mulan, Saviour of China, but the reality of that was still settling in. "Would you like more tea?"

He looked at her, as if still unsure what to say. "Please," he settled on, finally. "What will you do now?"

Pouring the tea, she thought about it. "Be my father's daughter once more." The war was over, and she hadn't been Fa Ping for the last of it anyway, though it was apparent that in the end, her friends in camp didn't care. A hero was a hero, no matter whether a daughter or a son. "I have duties, now, and the war is over."

Fa Ping wasn't needed any more; Fa Mulan was. The warrior had died with the war's end, and only the daughter remained.

"As far as the Emperor is concerned, you're still a member of his army," Li Shang said, not sounding as nervous. He seemed more comfortable with military matters than dealing with her, suddenly. He cleared his throat. "On reserve."

"I'm a woman now," she said, stating the obvious. Smiling at him, she added, "Father needs me now, here." Here, she could mostly be herself. She felt at peace now with herself and who she was; she could never be anybody other than who she was.

Besides, her identity was out now, and who would want to serve with a woman? Hiding a shiver, she remembered the look that Li Shang and the others had given her on that mountaintop, when they'd discovered she was not a man. At least they'd left her alive; they could have very well have killed her for daring to do what she did. Instead, her comrades had finally accepted her back, but she still... wasn't comfortable with the fact that she could be called into war again.

And yet, if called, she knew she would go.

From his look, she knew that he knew that, too. That Fa Mulan would ride into war once more, woman or man, if the Emperor so ordered.

"You're a good fighter," he said after a moment, echoing the words he'd said after the Emperor had honoured her.

She wanted at that moment to thank him for saying that, but wasn't sure whether she should try to be modest; after all, a lot of that had to do with her training from him. "Um, thank you."

"Ah, Mulan!" Her grandmother barged into the room, "So, have you arranged an intermediary yet? She's quite the steal, you know." She winked at Li Shang.

"Grandmother! He's my commanding officer!" Mulan reminded her. "He came here to return father's helmet."

Li Shang coughed. "I, um, haven't brought gifts. Or an intermediary."

No marriage would take place if their marriage was inauspicious. Her family, and his, would make sure of that before any wedding vows were exchanged. Besides, Li Shang needed someone who could cook and take care of the family; he surely didn't want a girl that wouldn't make a good wife. And, of course, her village's intermediary was the matchmaker who she had run afoul of before she'd run off to become Ping.

"Well, nobody's going to complain if you do!" her grandmother said, folding her hands in front of her.

"Grandmother," Mulan said softly, through clenched teeth. She didn't want her grandmother scaring Li Shang off, either. For a commanding officer, he was fair, even as a taskmaster. And she liked being in his company.

Patting Mulan's shoulder, her grandmother turned to leave. "Ah, but I have things to do." She turned to Mulan, speaking quietly, or as quietly as grandmother ever got. "Do what you can to impress him, girl." With that, she was out the door.

Mulan sighed. Obviously, the honour she'd gained from saving the emperor didn't mean anything to grandmother. Just that she'd gotten home safe and that a handsome young man had followed her home.

Once she was sure her grandmother was out of earshot, she said, "I'm sorry about my grandmother. I'm afraid I wouldn't make a good wife." She really didn't want to get married, not really, though she had to admit that Li Shang was someone she could work with... at least as a soldier.

But was it really any different to have him as a husband? In some ways, their relationship wouldn't change; he would still be in command over her. It was just her duties would be different; taking care of a household and kids and serving her husband, instead of in the field, serving her emperor and following the orders of her commanding officer.

Of course, it wasn't her decision to make, or Li Shang's. It would be their families', she reminded herself.

"You know how to follow orders... most of the time," Li Shang pointed out. "I'm... sure that many families will be scrambling to send your family gifts."

He looked away, and Mulan wondered if he was going to miss her as well. Or if his family was going to be one of those sending gifts.

"I'm sure there will be," she said, looking at the window. She'd gone from her father's unmarriageable daughter to probably the most desirable woman in China. She wondered if she'd get any peace.
"I... have to go now," Li Sheng said, after a moment of mutual silence, bowing. "It was an honour to serve with you."

"And I, with you," Mulan said, bowing back. It was the only thing she could say.

He straightened up, and left without a word. From the table, she watched him go, wishing for a moment that she was still Fa Ping. But then, she shook her head. She was Fa Mulan again, and she had chores to do.

Mulan fics