Of Duty and Family
A/N. This does tie in with Peace Millennium, a few years later than where we are now. I'm totally playing the time machine game. Why? 'Cause I felt like it :P
*UPDATE - Thank you Hallwings for catching my little mistake...
"Well here we are, our home away from home." Liu announced, mostly superficially; after he and Kitana and the children had been to the Wu Shi Academy numerous times. But this was the first time Sindel had been in tow, and she eyed over the fortified, ornate gate with subdued awe. Still, Liu announced their arrival to his family. Anything to break the peals of silence…
Ever since they began their journey from Hong Kong the previous evening, where they spent some time with Johnny Cage and his family for a few days, Liu had noticed that Kitana had been even more reticent than normal. Unless it was something perfunctory and/or absolutely necessary, particularly revolving around Mytaliah and Zian, she was nearly mute.
Liu knew their living arrangement as of the past six months likely had a lot to do with it. Ever since he was called upon by his friend Kung Lao to assist with training a new wave of students here at the school, new warriors to rise to Earth's defense should evil rise again, he had been bouncing back and forth between here and the palace. Kung had been reluctant to ask for the help of his best friend initially. Liu was Edenia's Prince Regent, which held a host of responsibilities in and of itself: Added to that, he was also a husband and father of two young children. But Kung had recently begun to realize that he would not be up to par for the role of 'Earthrealm Defender' much longer: At nearly forty-eight, he was beginning to not feel as agile and spry as he had been in his youth. He needed to pass on his skills, ensure a new generation could rise to the challenge.
And as Earthrealm's Champion, now duty-bound in another realm, Liu definitely should as well.
Naturally, in the beginning Liu had been reluctant. He worried about how the Court would feel about him spending periods of time in his native realm, away from his responsibilities to them. But he worried most about Kitana, about how she and their little ones would fare while he spent any given amount of time away from them. Kitana had been very understanding initially, even encouraging him to go. Understanding the position he was in, she knew ensuring the safety of his home world was still something he felt compelled to play a part in, that he should play a part in.
For the first three or so months it gone smoothly enough. Liu would never be gone for more than two weeks; and he plunged right back into his duties at the palace when he returned, even still finding energy for her and their rambunctious brood. But as the months went on, his role at the Academy became more significant, more necessary. This became even more prevalent after one of the elders, Master Wu, had passed away. Liu had been his prodigy, the only one who mastered all of his teachings, physical and philosophical, with such proficiency. He had to pass on everything the old master had taught him. And so Liu would return to the Academy faster and and for longer periods, sometimes only spending a few days home in Edenia before he left again.
The less time he spent at home, the more discontent Kitana became with it. She vented her frustrations to him a few months back, late one night. The conversation was long, heart-felt, if a little heated. Both expressed all their concerns and their worries and desire to make it all work out some way. Eventually Liu came up with the idea to have Kitana and the children accompany them when they could. It had worked well enough it seemed, although it made things even busier, but Liu could tell that his wife still had not been entirely satisfied. As of the past week, it was at its worst: And the looming quiet that accompanied their travels the past twelve hours hammered that point in even more.
The two-hour boat ride to the temple itself had probably been the most torturous. Before then, Johnny and his wife Sonya provided them both with plenty of conversation to distract them. And then there were Mytaliah and Zian, who gave their parents and grandmother plenty to do by themselves. At just nine, and the equivalent of only five, Mytaliah was still at the age where sitting still for prolonged periods made her antsy. And at merely two, Zian was far worse; the little boy was squirming and cranky the whole drive, which of course only further agitated his older sister. The two parents took it all in stride however, albeit tiredly. Sindel helped quite a bit, placating her grandchildren with stories and jokes, and their parents with her jovial inquiries about the sights and things on Earth in general.
But once aboard the vessel, as was inevitable, the children and Sindel had all dozed off; each claimed by exhaustion one after the other, leaving husband and wife, and their silent driver, to face their lack of communication. Dread crept up and down Liu's spine, fear of what he would receive in reply if he questioned his wife keeping his lips sealed. Kitana meanwhile, sat opposite of him, staring out over the wide expanse of the river, hands twisting in her lap as she agonized over how to tell her spouse exactly what was bothering her.
And thus, the silence continued.
Finally, they arrived at the Academy. Sindel was roused awake immediately, and readily stepped from the boat beside her daughter and son-in-law. Mytaliah woke after a bit of prodding, eager to retreat to their usual quarters as quickly as possible to resume her slumber. Zian grumbled and whined a moment when Kitana lifted him into her hold, but after a few strokes on the back he fell asleep again right in her arms. As custom, all the monks and students were there to greet them, Kung Lao at the forefront of the crowds. Knowing their guests were exhausted, the greetings were brief, and then they were escorted to Liu's small home near the center of the grounds. Once their belongings were unloaded, and the children and Sindel were happily resting, Liu and Kitana retreated to their own room.
Fresh from his shower, Liu stepped from the bathroom clad in a plain white tank top and black pants, toweling away at his shaggy locks. Across the small room Kitana sat at their desk, leaning over a small mirror standing atop it. She was combing meticulously through her own slightly dampened hair, having showered before he had.
That in itself was another sign things were off; the fact that they had showered separately. Intimacy had been a key factor in their relationship, one they, up until recently, had reveled in frequently and intensely. It was rejuvenating for them in all aspects of mind, body and spirit, reaffirming that bond between them that they had tentatively forged in those fleeting moments of togetherness between their old battles. It was certainly not the basis of there love, but a key expression of it. But as of the past few weeks, their lovemaking had come to an abrupt halt.
That wouldn't do. None of this would…
"Hey…" Liu called quietly, coming up behind her and setting his hands on her shoulders. Kitana gave him a cursory glance out of the corner of her eye, confliction still painted on her lovely face. Swallowing his unease over her obvious turmoil, Liu leaned down and kissed her cheek.
"You've been so quiet today…" he murmured in her ear, planting another kiss.
"I've had much on my mind…" Kitana answered quietly, hoping he would be content with that. Of course he wasn't, but rather than get right to the problem here, he decided a change of venue was in order.
"Let's take a walk through the grounds." Liu suggested.
"Oh Liu, we've been traveling all night and morning, I'm so tired…"
"Come on. Just a few minutes? A little fresh air could help us relax. Besides I wanted to show how the new construction has come along since you were last here."
Kitana heaved a quiet sigh. Well, so much for diverting the issue a bit longer…
The pair briefly alerted Sindel, who had been reading in her room, of their departure before exiting the small home. They took one of their familiar paths through the mountains, along the open areas where most of the monks came for meditation. It was nearly sunset now, so almost no one was out along the trail. They walked for half an hour, Liu pointing out a new shrine or building and giving brief explanations. For quite a while, that was all they spoke of. Eventually they came along to a familiar place to them both; a fortified bridge that was built over a small river at the bottom of a waterfall. It was a place they first came to some twenty-two years earlier, just days after Kahn's tournament in Outworld. How different things had been then…
Both of them were just starting out in their individual journeys: He had recently been proclaimed the Champion of Mortal Kombat months earlier, and she was breaking away from millennia of servitude from the man she had believed for so long to be her father. Back then they had basically just met, suddenly collided into each other by pure chance. Already then, they felt something profound between them, a friendship, a deep level of trust, and the fluttering beginnings of what would soon turn into love.
Now over two decades later, eleven years of marriage and two children, the love between them was stronger than ever. It was deeper and more profound than anything either of them imagined feeling. Yet even so, even with everything they shared, communicating with each other openly wasn't always easy. Often times there were disagreements, arguments, moments when they had to tell each other things that perhaps neither wanted to acknowledge or hear. Sometimes it was even more difficult now than it had been in the past. Both found it strange how time could complicate certain aspects of a relationship when sensibly it would seem they should become easier.
Bur they never avoided problems altogether, tempting as it would be at times. They vowed long ago to never let things fester between them. And so, Liu drew a breath to steady his nerves.
"You regret consenting to letting me come here, don't you?" he asked quietly, arms folded over the edge of the wall, eyes blankly ahead.
Standing beside him in a similar pose, Kitana's head jerked over to him, blue eyes gazing at him in a mixture of surprise and affront.
"No, what makes you think that?" she asked in turn.
"How else am I supposed to think? You've barely said anything to me all day. And you've been distant and reticent for weeks now." Liu replied, his narrowed gaze meeting hers. Kitana's eyes also thinned, and she gave a scoff.
"You don't think you're being just a bit melodramatic? We speak all of the time." she said a bit tersely.
Liu couldn't help his snort, throwing a hand up in disbelief of her denial of something so painfully obvious. "When it's about business or the kids, yes. But when it comes to just talking, just having a simple conversation with me, you've barely said two words and you know it!"
"Well forgive me Liu, but as far as I understand, that is just what happens when you have the responsibility of an entire kingdom and your own family on your shoulders." she shot back, clearly irritated now.
"You act as though you do it all on your own." Liu grumbled.
"As of late, yes! Most of the time you are here on Earth, and I have to saddle tasks we normally do together by myself."
"What do you want from me Kitana?!" Liu cried in exasperation. "I am being pulled two ways here. I am Earthrealm's Champion, the one expected to rise to its defense. But I sacrificed that for a life with you! And now with my responsibilities in Edenia I cannot always be here, so I have to ensure someone can rise up in my place. I thought you understood that."
"Oh so your children and I are just a 'responsibility' to you now?" Kitana quipped, voice oozing with sarcasm.
"No!" Liu shouted. He clapped a hand to his forehead, dragged it down his face, sighing heavily in attempt to calm himself. After a moment he continued, "You know that isn't what I meant. Kitana you're my wife, I love you, and I love our children. You know nothing in any world means more to me than all of you. But I have to ensure Earthrealm is safe. I have to ensure someone else knows everything I do about fighting, someone else who can stay and protect it in my stead."
"And how long will that be? For Argus' sake Liu you've been engrossing yourself in this for half a year!" Kitana cried, eyes welling up in frustration. "The last time you came home you stayed for all of three days. Just three days! And then you were gone for three weeks!"
Liu couldn't deny the validity of her words, and they stung quite a bit; more than Kitana meant for them to.
He sighed. "Ai Ren, I'm trying. I am really trying…" he nearly pled.
"Not hard enough." Kitana muttered, less aggressive now but still hurt and more than a little hormonal. "I'm sick of never seeing you anymore. I'm sick of sleeping without you, and not having an answer for Mytaliah and Zian when they ask me when you're coming home…"
"Then stop pushing me away when I am home." Liu insisted, some of his frustration returning. "Let me be able to enjoy the time I do have with you. You say that you are tired of never seeing me, but when I am around you can barely be bothered."
"How am I supposed react after you've been away longer than you said you would be?!" Kitana snapped. "You told me that time that you'd be no longer than ten days. After being gone more than a week longer, did you expect for me to wait with open arms?! And you've done that multiple times!" She scoffed, swiping irritatedly at her eyes, head shaking. She massaged the bridge of her nose, mumbling, "… And if things continue on like this, imagine how much more difficult…"
"What?" Liu asked. "What exactly will be more difficult?"
Kitana shook her head, crossing her arms around herself. "Gods this is getting to be too much…"
"What is too much?! Damn it, Kitana talk to me!" Liu prodded, firmly grasping her shoulders and trying to meet her averted gaze. "This won't get any better if you keep everything to yourself. You have to tell me what's-"
"I'm pregnant!" she blurted out. "We can barely stay in one place for a month. I-I feel like I've just weaned Zian, and now I've landed myself pregnant again! There, are you satisfied?!" In an instant, the maddened vexation within Liu was replaced with numb shock. His hands slid off Kitana's shoulders and dangled loosely at his sides, and he stared blankly at the crown of her bowed head.
Several peals of silence passed, and Kitana eventually met her teary gaze up at his. The fear in her eyes broke Liu's heart: He'd never seen her look so frightened, so expectant. And in that moment in dawned upon him just how profound this all was for her. Kitana was afraid of how he would react, understandable given the recent organized chaos that structured their lives. He immediately wanted to comfort her, but the surprise still held him in its grip.
"… Say something. Please." Kitana nearly whispered tremulously.
Giving his spinning head a brief shake in attempt to clear it, he asked the first question that came to his mind. "When?"
Kitana bit her lower lip nervously, "The night after you'd just come home a while back. When we first talked about all of this…" Again she paused, then quietly admitted, "I saw the doctor yesterday, and the he says I'm about three months along."
"Ai-yah! Three months?!" Liu cried.
Kitana winced with guilt. "Yes…"
"How long have you suspected this?"
"I knew right when I first missed my menses. You know it always comes in the beginning of the month, and well… two months ago it never came."
"By the Gods…" Liu sighed, rubbing his forehead. "Why were you so afraid to tell me?"
"Do you not remember our conversation?" Kitana quipped. "In addition to agreeing to try and do the best we could to transition between Earth and Edenia, and manage our responsibilities for both worlds and such… we also agreed to hold off on having anymore children until we were settled in one place again." She paused a moment, giving a bitter chuckle. "And then we turned around and had sex right after…"
Liu tried to repress his snicker at that comment, but he couldn't. Thankfully, Kitana found it slightly amusing too and laughed quietly under her breath as well. The tension between them fizzled away, both feeling much lighter that quickly.
"Yes, that sounds like us alright…" Liu added, still chuckling.
"So then, you aren't upset?" Kitana asked warily.
"Of course not. We're having another baby. Why would I be upset about that?"
"Liu you just went into a tirade about me not having enough time with you a minute ago. And you and I both know by now what having a newborn does as far as having time for anything, yet alone each other." the Princess skeptically said
"We've done it twice already, we can do it again. Besides we've both been through worse…" Liu stated, to which Kitana nodded in emphatic agreement. He advanced upon her then, pulling her into his arms and kissing the crown of her head. "And besides, you know I'd never make you choose between our children and me. I didn't mean to make it seem that way.
"It's just… even though things are a bit hectic at the moment, I can honestly say, thanks entirely to you and our family, that I have never been a happier man. But I remember the hell we went through to get to this point where we are now. We went through so much loss and hurt to finally build a life together. Because of all of that… and for the simple fact that I love you with everything in me, I don't want us to lose ourselves in all of the monotony and responsibility we live with. I don't want us to ever forget about us."
"I don't want that either Darling." Kitana replied quietly, melting into his hold. "But... the timing is just so horrible..."
"So what?" Liu asked. "Like I said; we've been through worse. We'll make this work somehow."
Again tears spilled from Kitana's eyes, but these were of relief, of that crushing sense of security she always felt when she trusted Liu with her inner-most thoughts and fears. She had been foolish not to confide in him from the beginning, she realized now: That ability she always had to come to him was the initial foundation of their bond, the catalyst of their relationship. It would always last, always prove beneficial; for them both.
After a moment, Liu gently lifted Kitana's face, thumbing the tears from her cheeks. She smiled adoringly at him, and he matched her countenance as he dropped a gentle kiss at her lips.
"I'm sorry Love." Kitana murmured. "I should have just told you about the baby when I initially found out. And I should've told you what I was feeling about all of it. I was just so overwhelmed."
"I understand Ai Ren." Liu replied, stroking his thumb against her jaw. "I'm sorry for everything I said just now too. I was just frustrated."
Kitana shrugged. "I can be frustrating at times."
"Ugh, indeed you can…" Liu teasingly drawled with a dramatic eye-roll, laughing as Kitana swatted his shoulder for it. Her playfully annoyed face suddenly became amorous, and she gazed at him sultrily under slightly drooping lids.
"You know, thanks to all of this I've been 'frustrated' too…" she hinted, slinking her arms around his middle. Liu caught her meaning immediately, grinning and leaning his forehead against hers.
"Well who's fault is that?" he huskily asked.
"I know… mine." Kitana replied contritely, but she pushed it aside, flashing him a smirk. "So let's hurry back so I can make it up to you…"
"Let's." Liu agreed eagerly, taking her hand. Both darted back down the path to their home, anticipation trickling down their spines. It had been so long… weeks, unheard of for them. The only time they ever went that long without was when Kitana recovered from giving birth, when they had no choice. They both knew that it wouldn't be too long now before that time came again, so they'd best take sweet advantage of the calm before the storm.
And with their lives, it would be a typhoon.
Just to be clear, Kitana is pregnant with Kiyonei. I know I initially had a MUCH larger gap between her and Zian, but I retconned it.
I know, I know… you all are like, "Um… WTF? Where is 'Dawning' or 'Unwanted Company?!' Explain this travesty KvM!"
I promise my next update will be one or both of those stories guys. But like I warned when I started Dawning, I am putting most of my efforts toward original work. And things are REALLY moving on that front (if you pay attention to my account on DeviantArt, you may be seeing the fruits of some of that labor soon…) But yeah, after working on all that, and dealing with life, my inspiration is ALL tapped out. I randomly came up with this story and decided to post it to show you I'm still alive… so yeah, please don't come after me with pitchforks.
Anyway, if you haven't abandoned me yet, please review. More soon, guys. Soon.