Disclaimer: I don't own Kung Fu Panda
A/N: Before anyone reads this chapter: I don't know how it will effect all my readers, so if you're kind of sensitive, I'd grab a few tissues. Also, I'm sorry for not updating, but my computer broke again, and it had to spend another two weeks being fixed. I'm really going to try hard to update more often.
Chapter 28- Losing Confrontation
The due date was getting closer. Tigress was now well in her fourth month, and she had gone into confinement to ensure the baby's survival. At first she couldn't stand just sitting in her room all day, but she still did it for the sake of her child.
She found ways to occupy herself. She meditated. She had Viper and Crane deliver her scrolls from the Hall of Warriors for her to review. She took up her needle and thread again, and attempted to sew some baby clothes, but after a while decided that she would ask for assistance from Mrs. Cho next time she saw her. The best times for her were when Jiang came to visit.
He was still down in the village, living with Lin and Mr. Ping. Tigress herself had insisted that he stay there. She wanted him to have a normal life, and that was something the Jade Palace could not provide. The people who lived in the temple did amazing things, and they rose to greatness, but the teachings of kung fu could do nothing for someone who chose to live in the background. It was the one forbidden fruit of the Jade Palace.
Of course, if Jiang came up to Tigress one day, when he was older, and told her she wanted to learn kung fu, she wouldn't really mind… but for now he was happy living in the noodle shop. He was even happier when he had a chance to see his sissy.
He would tell her about his day, show her new pictures he'd drawn, and end up falling asleep in her lap every time. Of course, she had to share him with the rest of the five and, now, Master Shifu, but she didn't mind. It felt as if things were back to normal. When Jiang arrived through the front gates, with his smile and giggles, the Jade Palace took a new life in which everything was close-knit and happy—a time Tigress had never seen before.
It made her immensely happy.
The Jade Palace was no longer the place where she squandered her childhood and encountered disappointment after disappointment. It was now a place with happy memories that she was very proud to call home.
And Chen—he and Tigress had become almost inseparable. After she went into confinement, Chen made sure to check on her at any chance he got. He always joked that since she was no longer training, he had a lot more time on his hands. They would spend hours together in her room, talking about themselves, the baby, and mostly, Chen's parents. Having no known parentage of her own, she was fascinated about pretty much everything that came with having a real family.
At first it was a little strange, telling her things that seemed perfectly normal to him, and seeing the way she reacted, whether with wonder, confusion, or sadness that she had missed out on all of this.
With the growth of the emotional relationship between the two tigers, a physical relationship also came about. Every time he came to see her, he would greet her with a soft peck to the lips. He would rub her shoulders or back when they were sore. When she did leave her room, he would go with her, holding her hand the whole while. They were, in every way, an adorable couple.
"Chen, I'm pregnant and impatient, now get your paws off my eyes!" Tigress held her arms out in front of her and tried to feel around to see where she was. Chen nuzzled her and put her arms down.
"You're just going to have to be patient. Trust me, it's worth it."
He led her farther down the path, and finally brought her to a stop. "Will you uncover my eyes now?"
"Will you promise to be happy and not hug me too hard when you see this?" he asked. She crossed her arms over her chest. "It depends on if I like it. And even still, it's hard to form an opinion when I have no idea what it is!" She laughed when he blew a raspberry in her ear, and then pried his paws away from her eyes.
She smiled at him. "Now what did you want to show me?" He turned her head. Her eyes went wide.
They were on the same path that they had walked down when they made the first steps to getting to know each other. The cherry trees swayed slightly in the wind. They were beginning to lose their blossoms, and small green cherries were taking their place. The ground was carpeted with the fallen petals. At the end of the path, blocking the rest of the forest from view was a small, quaint cottage. It had a door, a roof, two floors…
"Chen, what is this?" she asked quietly.
"It's a house. I built it for you in my spare time. I know it's not exactly a siheyuan, but I thought you might like it."
She looked from the house to him. "You built me a house in your spare time? How much spare time do you have?" Chen laughed.
"You'd be surprised how motivation can help. Does this mean you like it?"
She gazed at the house for a few moments, her smile growing over time. "It's wonderful. You really didn't have to though, this probably cost you a lot of money, and time…"
"Tigress, I wanted to do it. Now you and the baby will have a good place to live that's still close to the Jade Palace, but not so close to all the pointy objects and possible injuries."
Slowly Tigress' smile faded. She caught his eye. "What about you?"
He blinked. "What about me?"
"Will…will you be living in the house with us?" They stared at each other for a few moments.
Chen ran a paw through his fur. "Um… do you want me to live here with you?" Her eyes turned to the ground.
"Tigress!" Po huffed and puffed up to the tigers.
Tigress grit her teeth. "What is it, Po?" she asked.
"You might wanna come! We just got the message—I don't know if it really means anything, but still…"
"Spit it out, Panda!" she snapped.
"Lin spotted someone she thought she recognized in the village."
Tigress immediately knew what Po was talking about. The moment she had been waiting for had arrived—it was time to dispose of the scumbag that had hurt her baby brother so badly. At the very least she would get to mercilessly interrogate someone about his whereabouts. She turned away from the little house and headed back towards the Jade Palace.
"Tigress—Tigress, wait!" Chen caught up with her. "Are you sure this is a good idea? It's a long way down to the village, and you've been in confinement for a while…"
"This has to be taken care of now," she said.
"Why don't I go down there for you?"
"NO. I want to do this myself. Jiang is my baby brother."
"I know you're upset about this, but you have to think rationally—"
"I DON'T WANT TO THINK RATIONALLY! I WANT THIS MAN TO SUFFER!" Chen stared at her with wide eyes. She took a bracing breath. "Wait for me up at the Jade Palace. This shouldn't take too long." She continued through the forest until she came to the steps.
She picked up the pace. Her heart started beating faster. The baby kicked hard in her stomach. She stopped and put a paw on her belly. Relax… it's just nerves. Even though she didn't want to admit it, she was scared. She was scared that this man would still be violent, that he might hurt someone in the village… that he might have already gotten to Jiang. That's what made her heart beat the fastest.
She continued down the stairs, picking up the pace as she went. The baby continued to kick. She finally reached the bottom and crossed the bridge that joined the Jade Palace to the rest of the Valley of Peace. She didn't notice that everyone she passed stopped to stare at her protruding stomach. If she did, she was doing a marvelous job hiding it. She walked with a determined stride all the way to Mr. Ping's shop, keeping her head held high and her mind focused.
The shop was basically deserted, which was strange for this time of day. Mr. Ping, Master Shifu and Crane were standing around Lin, who was looking very distraught, wringing a dishrag tightly in her paws. Jiang was playing with his toys at one of the table, and a wide grin spread across his face when he saw her.
He ran over to her and latched himself onto one of her legs. She gently patted the top of his head, and he purred slightly. She turned her eyes back up to the adults in the restaurant, all of whom looked shocked.
"Po gave me the message," she said tersely.
Master Shifu frowned. "As concerned as you may be, Tigress, I cannot allow you to be present when we confront Hao."
"What? B-but Master…"
"No buts. This will be a very delicate situation, and we can't risk anyone losing their temper."
Tigress' eye twitched just a little. "Master, please, just let me handle this. I've been preparing myself for this for months."
"Preparing yourself for what? To take out any anger you've got hiding within your self-conscious on the one person you think deserves it most? Besides, you have no idea what state this man is in. He's potentially violent, and you don't exactly look like a threat."
Tigress narrowed her eyes at him and crossed her arms over her chest. "What's that supposed to mean?" One look at her expression and Master Shifu knew he had made a mistake.
"Well, it simply means…"
"Oh, I know what it means! It means you think I'm too fat to handle a drunk! Well let me tell you something, Mister I-Happen-To-Be-A-Kung-Fu-Master-So-I-Think-I-Know-Everything! I can do this just as well now as I could when I wasn't pregnant… and skinny."
"Perhaps so. But this must be handled very delicately. We can't risk your emotions getting in the way. That's my final word on the matter," he said.
Tigress exhaled sharply. "Master, this is not—"
"Hello? Is this establishment open?" All eyes turned to the doorway. A tall, lean tiger was standing there. He looked just as shocked as they were. A single word came out of his mouth.
Lin took a deep breath and stood. "Hao."
There were a few moments of silence, but after those were over, the couple ran to each other and embraced. Lin started to cry. Hao murmured into her shoulder, "Gods, I never thought I would see you again."
She gripped him tighter. "I love you."
He pulled out of the hug and smiled at her. "I love you too. And I missed you." A huge smile grew on her face, and she smashed their lips together. The others in the restaurant turned their heads away, their cheeks burning, except for Tigress, who was burning holes into the back of Lin's head.
She cleared her throat, and the couple stopped to look at her. Lin sheepishly let go of her husband and clasped her hands behind her back meekly. Hao looked very confused at his wife's sudden change in emotions. "Am I missing something?" he asked warily.
Tigress took a step toward the tiger. "Why don't you tell me? Which were you missing more of when you were beating your child senseless? Mercy, or remorse? Or how about common sense?"
Hao's face fell and displayed a tight feeling of pain. "Oh… I see."
Tigress nodded coldly. "I bet you do. Did you even notice when your son, your child, wasn't in the house anymore? Did you even care?"
Master Shifu slightly tapped Tigress' leg. "Don't lose your temper. I want for you to wait for this to be over upstairs."
"No! I want to give him exactly what he deserves!"
"Hao, tell them. Tell them that you would never hit our child," Lin pleaded. She lightly grasped his paws and squeezed them. Hao gazed into her eyes and tried to smile, then looked at Tigress. She was smirking, waiting for his answer. He looked back at Lin and squeezed her paw back. He exhaled sharply.
"I can't lie to my wife."
Lin's smile slowly melted away. "Wha-what are you saying?"
"He's saying that he did it. Now do you believe me?" Tigress asked frustratedly.
Lin just shook her head. "No… no. You couldn't. You wouldn't. Tell them that you didn't, Hao!"
"Lin, just let me explain…"
"What's there to explain? You got drunk and then hit your son!" Tigress yelled.
"…I was completely devastated after I lost you to those bandits…"
"Apparently enough to forget your responsibilities!"
"…I went a little out of control…"
"You got drunk for who knows how long!"
"…I swear, I barely remember anything."
"And you expect that excuse to get you out of this? You make me sick!" Tigress spat.
"WILL YOU SHUT UP!" Lin shrieked. Tigress actually shrunk back. "YOU COULD AT LEAST LET HAO SPEAK BEFORE YOU START WITH YOUR INCESSENT JUDGMENTS! IS NOTHING GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU BUT YOURSELF?"
At the end of her tirade, Lin was breathing heavily. Tigress was silent, staring at Lin with wide eyes. "We need to hear Hao's side of the story before we decide if he should be punished or not," Lin said. Her voice was once again soft and sweet.
Crane gently put a wing on Tigress' shoulder. "Are you alright?" he whispered. Tigress nodded.
"I'm fine. Why wouldn't I be fine? I'm just fine." She waddled over to one of the empty tables and lowered herself onto a seat. She felt something grasp at her ankle. She attempted to bend down to see who it was, but her large belly stopped her.
"Jiang, sweetheart, if that's you, please come out. I'm not as flexible as I used to be."
Two small ears peaked out from beyond her stomach. "Make him go away, Sissy," a small voice whimpered. Tigress sighed through her nose and managed to pick Jiang up off the floor.
"You're a little scared?" she asked. He nodded and rested his head on her shoulder.
"I don't want him to hit me," he said.
She kissed his nose. "It'll be okay, sweetheart. I'll keep you safe. I promised, didn't I?" She held him close and whispered comforting words to keep him calm. Jiang put a little paw on her stomach and smiled up at her. She smiled back and covered his paw with hers.
A searing pain shot up from her abdomen.
Her knees hit the floor with a thud, sending a shock of pain up from there as well. Tigress heard Jiang cry out and could hear Master Shifu and Crane asking her what was wrong. Another flash of pain came over her.
"Tigress!" She registered the voice as a male's. "What's wrong with her? What happened?"
"I don't know, she just started acting like that!" The voices around her got softer and fuzzier as the pain got worse. She felt Jiang tugging on the hem of her dress. Tears squeezed out of her eyes. Everything around her was fading away. Tigress thought she was going to faint.
Through the black Tigress felt a warm paw on her shoulder gently guiding her up from the floor. She let it, since it was the only tangible thing she had at the moment. She followed the paw, but eventually it was gone too, and then there was nothing.
A little bit of light came through the nothing. Tigress reached for it, and it grew, until she was staring up at a plaster ceiling.
Her head was buzzing and throbbing. Her body ached. Her lips were dry and chapped. She wanted water. Someone must have been reading her mind, because a cup was placed against her lips, and cool liquid washed down her sore throat.
"What happened?" she asked.
Her voice was raspy. A face appeared in her line of vision. It was male, and one she had, for many weeks, wanted to punch out. "Feeling a little better?" he asked. His voice was soft and soothing. She knit her brow. He helped her sit up.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"I need you to sit up so I can examine you."
"I mean, what are you doing here?" she asked. Hao sighed and avoided her eyes.
"Trying to make up for the worst mistake of my life."
Tigress crossed her arms over her chest and shook her head. "You can't just show up here and expect to be forgiven. Do you realize what you did to that boy? You nearly crushed him. You could have killed him."
"I know. And I know that I won't be forgiven easily. But I want to at least try to make things better. Even if I never get to see Jiang again, at least I'll know I tried instead of just forgetting about him and Lin and starting over again. Believe it or not, I do have some honor."
Tigress scoffed. "Honor? You don't deserve honor anymore."
He nodded. "You're probably right. I'm disgusted with myself, to be honest. But what I said out there was true. I barely remember anything from the months I spent… sodden. I'm surprised I didn't kill myself with my heavy drinking. I was drinking enough to cut the thread of life of more than one man. Maybe a little ghost of my former self was floating around, waiting for me to see what I had done with my life. I'm not sure, but I survived this for a reason, and I'm not going to make any more mistakes like that."
"How can we trust you? How can anyone trust you?" Tigress demanded.
Hao looked into her eyes. "For the same reason everyone trusts you with Jiang. Because you love him and you want only the best for him. If that means that this is the last time I ever see him, or Lin, then I'm okay with that. Just as long as they're both happy and safe."
Tigress glared. She wanted to hurt this man. She wanted to beat him to a bloody pulp. At the same time, however, she could never do that. As much as she didn't want to admit it, they were on the same side.
He wasn't a drunk who was sloshing around in the streets.
He wasn't trying to reclaim his wife and child and just leave, never to think of the Valley again.
He was trying to help Jiang. That hurt her a lot.
Nothing was going the way she had imagined. Everything was different. At least you still have your friends, and Chen. And soon you'll have your own little one to worry about. She placed a paw on her stomach, expecting the baby to kick. But there was nothing. Something was wrong.
She looked down at her stomach. It wasn't as big as it had been before she blacked out. Her breath started to quicken. What's going on? What's happened? Despite her still intense hatred and suspicion, Hao was the only one with her who could know what happened.
She looked up at him. Her eyes were fearful. She prayed to Guan Yin that he would chuckle and tell her everything would be fine, and then the baby would kick, as strong as ever. She waited for him to react this way. He didn't . He grimaced.
"I supposed you've noticed now. I'm very sorry, Master Tigress, but you had a miscarriage. It was what caused you to black out like that."
Tigress' heart stopped in her chest. "But… my baby's alright, isn't it? Just because I had a miscarriage doesn't mean that it's hurt, does it?" she asked fretfully. Her prayers kept circling in her mind. Hao sighed.
"I'm sorry. What happened was you were beginning to go into labor, but something went wrong. I'm not quite sure what happened, but it did. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but the baby was stillborn, Master Tigress."
Tigress shook her head. "No… that's not possible! I've been pregnant for three months… my due date isn't for three weeks! I can't have…"
She waited for him to indicate that this was all some sort of sick practical joke and Master Shifu would throw him in prison for even considering playing with her emotions in this way. His expression stayed serious, though. He patted her shoulder.
"As terrible as it is, stillborns are common. It's unusual in these days for a woman to have all her children born alive and healthy, and even if they survive birthing, they're at risk. You should in no way blame yourself for this. As far as I can tell by my examination of the fetus, it was completely healthy. Sometimes… these things just happen."
Tigress couldn't stand it anymore. She cried, tears washing heavily down her cheeks. She blocked out everything around her.
The door to the room opened. Chen stood there, looking just as scared as Tigress had been. He saw Tigress crying and immediately went to her side. When she felt him close to her, she threw her arms around him and outright sobbed. Chen looked to Hao for answers.
Hao couldn't look at either of them.
A/N: Read and Review, please.