Characters/Pairings: Ling/Lan Fan, Royai
Word Count: 393
Summary: It's her choice. There's his life, and there's his love. She can't have both.
Notes: PARALLELS, PARALLELS EVERYWHERE.
It’s all that’s ever been asked of her, really. The one thing she knows she can do. Protecting him is like a second breath, she never had to be taught or told. It’s what she was made for, she thinks. Her life was always fashioned for her duty. And she was nothing, nothing at all, if not dutiful.
She breathed and walked for two; because his life was her job and her job was her life. Whether he knew it or not he did nothing alone. She was always just a hair’s breadth away and even that is too much for her comfort, because her duty began and ended with him, and that meant everything. It’s the blood in her veins and the air in her lungs. It’s what keeps her from making mistakes or from wanting too much; because duty is also her shield and sometimes it’s all that protects her.
He doesn’t demand anything. He is the one who asks— gently, as though she’s free to refuse (she may be, she’s never really cared to test it)—and she is the one who gives; if only because she is not strong enough to take. She is not strong enough to want. She is only strong enough to do. So she stands back, unsure of how much she’s allowed to have, and waits for him to draw the line just so she knows where it is.
But as much as she tries to bury it it’s there; a shameful, loathsome fracture on the otherwise flawless rendering of the wall she’s created from her duty. The selfish, repulsive desire to stand beside him instead of behind. To feel instead of to act. To want instead of to give. All the little luxuries she’s never allowed.
It’s not an option, and it never has been. Even the thought is absurd. Her place was here, at his back. There’s nothing for her up there. There’s his life, or there’s his love; she can’t have both. And she knows exactly where she has to stand to insure that the more important one remains safe. Still, as selfish as it is, she wants that spot to remain empty. Because even though she can’t be there, she desperately wishes no one else would.
(What she does not know is that he doesn’t want anyone else standing there, either)