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Filial Duty

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Hi finesharp: I hope you like it!  It's not exactly the gender-thinky fic you requested, but it is gender-thinky fic.

 

As thinking became more and more difficult, Mulan sped faster and faster, spinning by her reading too quickly to memorize anything and deciding to write it on her arm instead.  She focused entirely on the act of putting brush to skin.  She called for Little Brother when she was done, and then went for her father's tea.


"You should already be in town," Father said, as she handed him the replacement cup.  "We're counting on you to--"


"--uphold the family honor."  Mulan finished.  It was the only thought she was allowing into her head this morning.  Anything more complicated than pure action she suppressed ruthlessly with a reminder of her honor, of her filial duty.  "Don't worry, Father.  I won't let you down."  She wouldn't.  She wouldn't.  "Wish me luck!"


"Hurry!" he shouted after her.  Then she heard, and she bustled away, "I'm going to pray some more."


Please pray for me, Father, she thought as she rushed to town, carefully restricting and confining her own mind.  Ancestors help us all, for I must do my duty and I feel like I walk to my executioner, not my matchmaker.  Nothing here is right!

 

***


Throughout the ordeal preparing for and visiting the matchmaker, Mulan held the thought of her father in her head.  He was everything she aspired to be: respected, kind, commanding, loving, hard-working, with a wonderful wry sense of humor and a great calmness about him.


Even as the terrible, disastrous charade descended into chaos and ruin, Mulan held tight to the image of her father in the shrine that morning.

 

***


Allowing herself to think again brought back the pain and confusion she'd been ignoring and repressing.  Her reflection, with its dress and long hair and white makeup, was a girl.  A daughter, with a daughter's duties to fulfill.  Never had Mulan felt less able to uphold the family honor than now, in full woman's regalia.  Her body itself felt heavy and wrong.


With her father, under the cherry blossoms, she felt shameful and small.


"My, my, what beautiful blossoms we have this year. But look, this one's late. I bet when it blooms, it will be the most beautiful of all."


Mulan ducked her head.  Her father would read it as embarrassment, even pleasure that he seemed to have forgiven her this afternoon's mishap.  Really, it was to hide her growing distress.  Her father thought she was maturing late.  This afternoon had convinced her that she was maturing differently.


She still held to an adult child's filial duty.  She just didn't think her duty was that of a daughter.

 

***


As she sat cradled in the stone dragon's paws, her future and her father's lack thereof spinning around in her head, she felt something deep within her crack.


Without daring to think too much about it, Mulan leaned over and studied her reflection again.  Face, cheekbones, lines--not too short, not too skinny.  Through the rain and tears, the image blurred, and the crack within her shattered.  Mulan felt it open wide.


He stepped down from the dragon's shelter and strode purposefully into the shrine.  He knew his filial duty now.