From the Ashes of Secrets - Chapter 2
Katy loves him.
He can’t believe it.
Chapter 1 ~ Shangqi/Katy ~ 1.3k ~ AO3
Shangqi stared at her. At Katy. At his best friend. At his girlfriend. At his partner. At his… everything.
She loved him.
It wasn’t like he hadn’t seen this coming. They had been going slowly, sure, learning to balance this new side of their relationship with the multiverse of madness they had been plunged into, both of them nervous about wrecking their friendship no matter how often they said nothing ever would. But despite the obstacles, despite the uncertainties, they had grown closer, steadily, naturally, falling in love as easily as they breathed, until he found himself wondering how he had ever not loved her.
Maybe he had. She had been his first friend after he ran away, his first friend in a foreign country. She was the first person to stand up for him since his mother died. She welcomed him into her family without a second thought, and she had showed him how to be a kid again, giving him back the precious gift of youth that his mother’s death and father’s rage had so brutally stolen from him. Time with her buried the pain and guilt of everything he’d lost and done, and it wasn’t so strange to think, looking back on it all, that maybe part of him had loved her all along.
But how could she ever love him in return?
Sure, she hung out with him now, when he very carefully pretended that he was just a dorky guy who liked karaoke and not wrecking other people’s cars. It was easy to befriend someone like that, easy to let someone like that into your life. She didn’t know, though.
She didn’t know anything.
She didn’t know about the blood staining his hands, about the nights he woke up in a cold sweat, his subconscious forever trapped in the feeling of the man’s life draining away beneath his hands. She didn’t know that he had stood by and watched his mother die, or that he had abandoned his little sister to the uncaring fist of their revenge-obsessed father. She didn’t know that, for seven years, he had wanted to be a killer.
She didn’t know that part of him, the darkest part of him, sometimes didn’t even regret the kill.
His own mother would hate the person he had become. So how could Katy – kind, caring, wonderful Katy – ever dream of loving him?
It wasn’t like he could even tell her.
The opportunity had come up before, time and time again. A lull in the conversation, her mother or grandmother trying a little too hard to pry the details out of him, nights when he was drunk enough to be miserable but not quite drunk enough to be brave. But when they were young, he was terrified of being sent home, and when they were older, he was terrified of her knowing. Because if she knew…
If she knew, he would lose her.
If she knew, he would lose his everything.
So he kept his mouth shut. He looked away when she looked like she wanted to ask. He pretended he couldn’t fight. He hid everything he could, from the callouses on his hands to the muscles on his abdomen to the scars on his back. And he lied. He lied again, and again, and again, over and over for a decade.
He wished it had stopped on the bus.
But no. Even with two men holding him back and a third in his face, he kept trying to hide, trying to maintain the illusion he had built, and his father’s man hurt her for it, hurt his best friend because he was too scared to protect her, right before the bus careening out of control nearly got her killed.
And even then, he didn’t stop. He tried to shut her out. He left out the not-so-tiny detail that he had killed the man. And Xialing had to be the one to tell her what a horrific brother he had been.
It was a miracle she was still by his side at that point.
Surely she would leave, though. Surely she would bail when she saw his father’s brutality, the brutality he had inherited. Surely, at some point, as they got dragged deeper and deeper into his past, she would recognize that she had let a monster into her home, and she would get herself out and have nothing to do with him ever again.
He wouldn’t blame her. Katy was loyal, yes, but she was smart, too – smart enough to know that he wasn’t worth risking her life.
But… she didn’t.
She stayed. He nearly let her fall to her death, and she stayed. She saw him killing on that scaffolding, saw him nearly kill a man who was trapped beneath him, and she stayed. She listened to his confession, listened to him say that he would kill his own father, and she stayed. She was plunged right into the heart of all the darkness that had forged the liar and assassin she grew up with, and when it was all over…
She chose him.
She didn’t run. She didn’t kick him out. She didn’t even flinch. She didn’t do anything he had always been convinced she should do if she ever found out.
She only pulled him closer.
And sitting on the shoreline, watching the lanterns float away, peace and grief wrapped around them in equal measure as she laid her head upon his shoulder, he started to think, for the first time in a decade, that maybe, just maybe, someday, he could be worthy of her.
So he laid his head atop hers, breathing easy for the first time since they had met, and silently vowed beneath the stars that he would try to be everything she thought he was.
He told her everything. He taught her how to fight. He saved the world a few times. He did anything and everything he could to earn the awe when she watched him fight, the sparkle in her eye when he made her laugh, the trust she placed in him to keep her and her family safe in the crazy world they were suddenly a part of.
And it worked. As time went on, as he embraced his mother’s legacy and used his father’s greatest weapons for good, as he let his walls down and stopped waiting for the world to come crashing down around him, the constant terror and self-loathing faded, turning to security and confidence as she helped bring out everything she had always seen in him, from the dorky kid who screamed at her to slow down to the Avenger who came soaring in on the back of a dragon to save the world.
Yeah. Life was so much better than he had ever dared imagine it could be.
But ten years of thinking something was a hard habit to kick, and the darkness would always be lurking within him, so lying in bed that morning, part of him still couldn’t believe that she was here, at his side, loving not the façade he had hidden behind, but every inch of him, the good and the bad, the dark and the light.
She loved her best friend and an Avenger.
She also loved a broken man and a killer.
She loved him.
Katy sat back a little, the golden morning light glowing around her like a halo. “Did I- Did that freak you out? Because you don’t have to say it back, I just- I thought-”
He kissed her.
She froze for half a heartbeat, surprised, and then melted into it, bringing her hand up to cup his cheek. He held her closer with the arm that had been wrapped around her all night, his other hand caressing her cheek, slipping into her hair, cradling the back of her head with all of the tenderness he had once thought his blood-stained hands incapable of possessing. He kissed her until they broke apart just enough to breathe, Katy tilting her forehead to rest against his, her hair falling around them like a curtain, a soft smile painting her face with bliss, her eyes drifting shut as she savored the moment.
But his stayed open, memorizing her smile, tracing the curve of it with a delicate thumb, wondering at how incredibly lucky he was.
“I love you, too, Katy,” he whispered.
34 notes · View notes
From the Ashes of Secrets - Chapter 1
Katy didn’t love Shaun. Not romantically, anyway. But Shangqi?
Yeah. She loves Shangqi.
Shangqi/Katy ~ 1k ~ AO3 ~ Chapter 2
Katy didn’t fall in love with Shaun.
Oh, he was cute, don’t get her wrong. The dorky, lonely boy she grew up with, who tried to hide how somber and broody he got sometimes, who went out and sang karaoke with her until way too late at night. He had brightened her life from the moment he had very confusedly thanked her for jumping in front of that bully, from the first time he had screamed at her to slow down because it wasn’t their car, and she had never regretted barreling into his life for a moment.
Despite that, though, the simple fact remained that he was hiding from her.
She knew it wasn’t anything personal – she saw that look in his eye when the conversation steered too close to his past, that weight that settled over him that he tried to pretend he wasn’t carrying. Whatever had gone down in his life before they met, it was dark, and he didn’t want to talk about it, and she could understand that.
But she couldn’t fall in love with that.
He was her best friend, no doubt about that. She would do anything for him. She trusted him. He was part of her family. And she couldn’t – wouldn’t – imagine life without him. But if he couldn’t give all of himself to her, then she wouldn’t give that one last part of herself to him.
So they were best friends, and it was amazing. They worked together, played together, ate together, complained together, did stupid stuff together, went through every day together. They were inseparable, and she loved their life, and she wouldn’t change a thing.
Until that day on the bus.
Until suddenly he was fighting like he’d been doing it all his life, because apparently he had been, and, oh yeah, his name wasn’t actually Shaun. Until suddenly he was telling her that his dad was an ancient warlord, that his own family was trying to kill him, that he had been trained and raised to be an assassin, and that he had to drop everything and run off to protect the sister she’d never known he had, and suddenly, she was agreeing to go do that with him.
And things only got crazier from there.
She learned all about the weight that lonely boy carried. She learned about the mother he lost, about the sister he abandoned, about the man he killed, about all the pain his father inflicted in the name of revenge. She learned about everything he had never wanted to tell her, everything that had built that one last wall that still stood between them.
And the bombshells kept coming.
Together, they learned that magic was real. Well, duh, it always had been, because the Avengers were a thing, but like, now it was in their lives, which was totally different. His mother was from another dimension that wasn’t a fairytale, and it was full of beauty and wonder, and they met his aunt for the first time, who was apparently a kickass Airbender lady, and also, soul-sucking monsters and dragons were real, and they fought the monsters with a dragon and won, and in doing so, lost every last shred of naivety they’d had left and discovered parts of themselves that had long been buried by that comfortable, secret-cushioned life back in San Francisco.
When she limped out of the ashes of her first battle, when he came running to her from the back of the dragon that had saved his life, they were different people. When they hugged, when they dove into each other’s arms and didn’t let go, it was a goodbye to their old selves as much as it was a reunion with each other.
They were adults now. She was an archer. He was a superhero.
Together, they saved the world.
Together, they learned who they really were.
And that was when she started falling in love.
He still had her best friend’s smile, her best friend’s laugh. He still sang karaoke with her. He still screamed at her to slow down when she drove too fast. He was still everything that had become familiar and beloved during their decade together, everything that had cheered her up on the worst days, everything that the best days would’ve been empty without. He was still everything she remembered from before their lives changed forever.
But now he showed her all his scars, holding her with calloused hands. Now he told her all the stories he had hidden, stories of joy and love, stories of pain and sorrow. When the conversations steered towards his past, when she saw the weight in his eyes, she reached for him now, and he trusted her to hold him, trusted her to share that weight. And in return, when her own newfound pain came for her, when she missed the simple days or woke screaming with Guang Bo’s death burned into her memory, he was at her side, helping her through it, comforting her in all the ways that had been impossible when he had kept that wall between them.
It was on one of those nights – well, more like the morning after one of those nights – that she said it for the first time.
They lay curled up in each other’s arms, drifting awake as morning sunlight slanted through the windows to coat them in a soft golden glow. His heart beat beneath her hand, his bruised chest and her scraped knuckles stark reminders of the struggle that had filled the day before and stalked their dreams that night, but with his warmth and quiet strength wrapped around her, she felt safer than anywhere else in the world.
Yeah, it was sappy and cliché, but it was true.
And it was all possible because he had learned to trust her as much as she trusted him.
How could she not love that?
How could she not love him?
“Hey.” He smiled at her, sleepy and reassuring, taking her hand into his, twining their fingers together over his heart. “Feeling better?”
In response, she leaned over and kissed him, whispering those words against his lips.
“I love you, Shangqi.”
50 notes · View notes