Mulan can hardly believe it when she hears it.
Phillip is… alive.
A wandering scout, after generous bribing, informs her of a fair-faced prince traveling along a small troop of men.
(The Wraith had been defeated, but by… who? And… how?)
She wishes to gain that answer. And she would. Through four leagues at best towards the midst of the wildness of the forest.
Aurora gathers her soil-dirtied skirts around the hot, smoking ashes of their camp, turns up her nose with lady-like grace, and smiles. The princess smiles with refinement and practiced delicacy to it, but coupling a fire. She is a Fae-creature of light, glowing and prideful, able to win over a devil if she wished it.
"We have quite some ground to cover," she says, nearly chirping happily and Mulan leans over quietly to kiss her.
Already knowing she has captured this legendary Fae-creature of her heart's content, Mulan's hand would bury deep in gem-laced, auburn curls. She feels Aurora; she knows her. Aurora would cry herself to sleep in the past, if she could sleep at all, whimpering about her family, her mother. Sometimes about Phillip. How much she missed him.
How he was her only family she had left.
Mulan had tried to ease some of that grieving away, stroking the princess's slim hand, and then her cheek. There would come moments of Aurora holding Mulan's own hand silently to her tear-dampened face. But then, on the loneliest of nights, she would hold the very same hand down, guiding it, running it comfortingly over exposed, warm flesh. Over and against the shockingly wet opening between Aurora's legs, urging for Mulan's fingers.
The scrape-feel of leather, cool and smooth, brushing doubtfully to her before Mulan gasped out her awe, her fingertips swallowed by the pulsing, hot muscles.
They blazed Aurora's heat even through the protection of her garment.
(Hours later, Mulan would catch the odor… the strength of a woman's arousal, both ill-sweet and foreign, permeating on her glove. Entering Mulan's nostrils.)
They spoke not of their actions at first, amounting those nights to curiosity and heartache. But those nights returned without hindrance, again, again and again; Aurora's breathing muffled to Mulan's neck, low and whining, pushing herself against the lean, tan form beneath her on their rumpled, traveling cloaks, breasts naked and heaving to each other.
Love was never that simple.
Mulan loved her, and it had felt so effortless. It had not taken long for her to recognize this. Since the beginning of their journey together, since Aurora's magical wakening by the man they were searching for, Mulan could not imagine a time beyond where she had not loved Aurora.
She had found pinpricks of stars, ancient and knowing, in those blue eyes. Unwavering hope in Aurora's beliefs. It could not be discredited that Aurora was spoiled as a princess, and quick-tempered, and irrationally stubborn about the decisions she made. But to have Aurora any other manner, lacking her true-hearted ways, was undesirable.
There are answers to be gained. Both women keep moving forward.
Bandits roam the forest deeper in, far more dangerous with available light. They rest during the mornings, finding abandoned dwellings.
Resting up on her elbows to the fur-blanket of a single cot, Mulan lays her bare hand over the firm, pale swell of Aurora's belly. The princess squirms beside her, expression twitching to conceal her laughter when they meet eyes, but does not push the hand away. Rather, she basks in the attention of Mulan's palm rubbing slow, deliberate half-circles.
Aurora's leg accidentally nudges her thigh. The heat of the day is fierce, even inside the dark shelter of the moss-draped hovel. Their cloaks, as well as the extra layers… Aurora's dress and her finery… Mulan's armoured padding is deemed unnecessary.
"What will you say to him?" Mulan asks, breaking the calming pace, dark eyes flicking up.
The other woman closes her own eyes, looking tired again. Resigned.
"The truth," Aurora murmurs, re-opening them, lifting her fingers and curling them idly around a long, black strand of Mulan's hair.
Mulan's lips graze her knuckles, and then her teeth, nipping playfully. The laughter finally surfaces, creasing Aurora's round face with a wide grin and shaking her body.
The yellow flags are unmistakable from a distance, flapping to the passing bursts of wind. Their red, gleaming insignias.
Mulan's heart leaps in her chest, right to her throat.
She hurries into the troop's camp, with Aurora trailing cautiously and wordlessly behind her as the men look up. One of them stands tall, robust and fitted in his armour that is strikingly familiar—maroon and ebony-colored padding—like Mulan's. In fact, it seems the men share some of Mulan's likeness.
The man, a leader for how the others become respectively silent when he walks away, comes to the visitors when they approach the nearest tent.
Mulan inclines her head in a bow as Aurora follows, curtsying.
Like a sunrise, her face lights up.
"Shang," Mulan breathes out, hugging her arms tightly round his neck as the dark-eyed man grins and hugs her back, muscular arms to her waist. "I did not expect to see you."
"You look well, soldier."
Mulan glances back at Aurora's outwardly confused expression. "Aurora, this is my former captain, Li Shang." He nods politely to the young princess smiling tightly, as Mulan gestures for her to come closer. "He's been a good friend for a long time."
"Ever since the battle against Shaun Yu," he explains, chuckling. "Mulan saved everyone in our village. She's been proclaimed a hero."
"You've never mentioned a battle before," Aurora says, somewhat agitated and frowning at the other woman. Mulan touches her back gently, consoling.
"I left my people, and the army, under a dishonorable discharge—"
"—That was made honorable after I said what happened to the Emperor and his counsel," Shang insists, eyebrows going up.
Mulan glares a little.
"You shouldn't have done that," she says. "You could have put your ranking in danger. No one in the Emperor's army wanted a woman to fight with them. I was better off leaving."
"We will have to agree to disagree this time, Mulan," he says patiently, touching Mulan's shoulder-pad once and squeezing.
The nearby tent rustles open.
A fair-faced man peeks out, dazedly blinking out the sun and pressing a hand to his rag-bandaged side.
Aurora's eyes widen. "Phillip! Oh!" she yells, almost elbowing between Shang and Mulan to reach him. His brown eyes widen too, softening with emotion as Aurora throws herself at him, caught in his arms and whirling them around. He cradles his bearded face to her neck, relief shuddering him. "Phillip, oh my heavens! We thought—"
"I'm sorry," he murmurs. "I'm so sorry. Forgive me." Aurora sobs out a response that could have been 'Never' and 'Yes' but neither could decipher.
When they pull away, Mulan watches them hesitate—she dreads the possibility. The dark prickling of her heart. That Aurora might… choose the life she once had. Her first love. The breath she didn't know she had been holding in releases, as Aurora stares back tenderly into Phillip's gaze and nods understandingly, stepping out of his arms.
Shang appears from around everyone, broad and tan face lining with concern as Phillip groans in pain, turning white.
"He's still weak on his feet." He draws to the faltering man, helping Phillip straighten up with a hand to his lower back. It's subtle, but Mulan witnesses all the tension wind out of Phillip. Like instinct.
From a single touch.
She is then made very aware of her own gloved hand, mirroring the same, absently holding the small of Aurora's back.
"How did you set Prince Phillip free?"
Shang tosses another bundle of kindling into the roaring fire. He seems to consider the question, settling his arms to his knees, peering over her stoically.
"Why did you run away?" he counters, the sounds of the camp distant. Mulan narrows her eyes, a swell of heat in her nerves.
"I did not run, Shang. I was dismissed."
"You followed your heart," he provides, still unsmiling.
Realization slams into her, an unbridled horse. "And you followed yours," she says, pushing her hands over her forehead, yanking away the messy tangle of her black hair. His lips tilting up at her still quick and perceptive nature. "It was true love… wasn't it?"
"It is not always as it appears. I have seen mothers awaken their children from the sleep of death with true love's kiss." Shang gives her an unreadable shrug, glancing off to the dimly-lit tent. His tent, Mulan supposes. "It comes in many forms."
"And for you…?"
She smirks, gradually and slowly as he does; that little twinkle of mischief Mulan remembers so fondly from him in his eyes. "It is exactly as you suspect, though I assume you knew immediately," Shang confesses with cheeks burning red in the low-light. "I was never very good at keeping secrets from you."
Mulan shakes her head. "Only slightly better than Mushu," she teases. He booms out a laugh, nudging her knee with a twig branch within reach.
Aurora's hands begin to tremble.
Even a drink of water does little to help.
The interior to the tent is noiseless, with the exception of their breathing. "What is it?" Phillip asks, shifting on the wood cot, holding Aurora's slim, pale hands to his.
"My heart was ripped out," she whispers. "By a pirate. Hook."
Fear etches him. He protests, "But you—"
"Mulan rescued my heart. She gave it back to me," Aurora says, continuing. Now her voice trembles. Her hands drag from his, losing warmth, and open her feathered cloak. She places her hands to the round bump of her belly, where his brown eyes lower.
"I think that's w-why… magic…I didn't want you to believe I would—"
Phillip kindly hushes her, leading her to the cot and to sit down. He tucks a leg under himself, facing her but not touching. Aurora examines him, apprehensively.
"…You have been with her, as I have not you."
Her eyes. They burn so terribly. "I think I love Mulan, Phillip. Not because of the baby I am carrying, but… she loves me, too. We're happy." Aurora sniffles, her heart racing, her face cringing at his absence of countenance. "I never wanted to hurt you—"
And his eyes. They gleam, as brightly as hers. "I am glad."
She stares, pink, soft lips opening in astonishment.
"—I don't understand."
His thumb soothes the angle of her cheek, until it wipes dry. "I have… also someone to be thankful for." Phillip smiles, ruefully. "I was a coward," he says. "I was afraid to find you and tell you my heart had been rescued by someone else. Given back, as you had yours."
Aurora catches Phillip's hand as it falls away. "The man?" she asks. "Shang?" It's somewhere between a grimace and a smile he presents her. "…You wouldn't be alive without him."
"He has done a great deal for me, of his own conviction," Phillip says, mouth thinning. "I… would like to remain here with him."
The grimace disappears as Aurora beams, like sunlight.
"May you both live out your happiness until the days end."
He echoes her, lacing their fingers, "And I you, my princess."
The love-marks are clear to see on Phillip's neck without the thick mesh of chain-mail, without his sun-emblem jerkin.
Mulan doubts anyone could miss their nearness, how Shang's mouth lingers seconds too-long against Phillip's ear when he bends down to speak with him, how Shang's fingers touch his nape with obvious care. And yet, none of the men say anything. As they say nothing to Mulan or Aurora about their own.
Shang had trained them all to respect their superiors and to mind their own business. It goes without acknowledging for Shang, but despite her 'honorable' discharge and reputation for being a woman—they respect her. They've seen Mulan in battle. They've seen her win.
"We have been invited to stay," Mulan tells Aurora that evening, burrowed under a girlish, pale arm and exhaling to Aurora's neck. "For as long as necessary."
They wait for the seasons to flourish and dull.
Shang's troops pursue no specific orders after hunting down and vanquishing a immortal nine-headed bird. During this, Mulan and Phillip fortunately discover a benevolent village with several midwives. When the troops return, along with Shang, Aurora leaves with their group, swaddling a new bundle of infant.
"She'll have your eyes," Aurora murmurs confidentially in Mulan's direction, rocking their daughter.
The squirming bundle passes to Mulan's arms, and she swears on her gods, that she has never been more terrified in her entire life—more than glaring into Shan Yu's yellowing eyes, or facing any legendary creature, or even the wrath of the Emperor. Or holding Aurora's precious, beating heart in her unworthy hand, soaking her life and love right into it.
"Deep breathes," Aurora scolds playfully, grinning, and reaches to clasp Mulan's waist gently. "You need them for the journey back to the palace."
OUAT is not mine. I'd just like to express my joy and devastation in Sleeping Warrior being one-sided canon (or so we think ohoho)… so immediately after the episode, I found this prompt. And decided to formulate an idea of true love magic!-turning-female-pregnant or yaaaaay for Fpreg. I tried to make it as non-squicky as possible and adorable. Aurora's baby enthusiasm will help Mulan feel less nervous about being a mommy. By the way, that immortal nine-headed bird is from Chinese mythology and basically the idea of a phoenix. Wooo!
Thank you for reading and any comments/questions really help out! If you are a fan of this ship, let me know~. Or if you wished Phillip's baby could have been Mulan's. (Shh, it totally is.)
OUAT Kink Meme:
"When Aurora and Mulan find Phillip, it turns out he already moved on, romantically speaking, with another man: Shang, a friend from Mulan's past."