The Oncoming Storm Part 7: Symptom
Liu Kang x Reader and Kung Lao x Reader (gonna do both, two paths!)
Three days in a row on accident because I have 0 self control. Someone on ao3 suggested a hot spring scene but it didn't fit the narrative- SO I have also written two "interludes" in the springs. I will post those both this weekend for funsies. No idea where they fit in the story but they're fun so who cares? Haha.
Together you walked through the temple, Kung Lao leading you down several flights of stairs, further into the mountainside. He chatted with you casually about several of the halls that you passed; what was down them and places he had explored with Liu Kang when they had been strictly forbidden to do so. You were grateful for the white noise of conversation. It was even nostalgic. He’d talk like this when he’d come to visit you at your Grandma’s. He’d talk and talk about anything and everything, even if you never said a word.
“Y/N?” He slowed his walk. You turned toward him and stopped walking just in front of where he’d now stopped. “Can I ask you something? And will you be honest with me?”
“Depends on the question, Kung Lao.”
“Are you sweet on Liu Kang?”
Completely floored by the boldness of his accusation, you stuttered and then laughed uncomfortably. “Excuse me?”
“I’m just curious. You lit up when he joined us in the pit.” He seemed barely able to say the words without gagging though there was a playful smile on his lips still.
“I don’t remember you being such a gossip.”
“You’re avoiding answering the question, Y/N.”
With a roll of your eyes, you shoved his shoulder. “I’m not dignifying that with an answer.” You were flustered to say the very least. Kung Lao was so damn forward, a far cry from how any of the time you’d spent with Liu Kang had been. He’d just outright asked! Of course you were sweet on Liu Kang, of course you were.
“Oh? Well, then what about me?” He tapped his chest with a childlike grin. “Were you ever sweet on me? Are you still?”
“You know, I am seriously considering throwing ink at you again.” You batted your eyelashes and spoke in a teasing sort of way. The questions were intrusive but he said them in such a way that it was actually comical. It was funny, honestly, to think that you’d fallen right back into a rapport that you’d had with Kung Lao when you were kids. He stepped in front of you to stop you from continuing forward. Then he pointed to your left. You followed him down the hall and then he leaned against the wall near an opening that led down yet another hall. He tapped the sign to his left that read ‘women only’.
“I can’t go past here without getting in trouble.” He held his arm out to stop you as you made to walk past him to further avoid awkward conversation. He didn’t need to say anything. The look he gave you was enough to know that he wanted an answer.
“I’m not thinking about that right now, Kung Lao. I’ve got ink in places that I don’t want to discuss with you.” You pouted and knocked his arm aside. He pulled it back. “What’s going on with you? You just got back and we’ve barely spoken since, you know, you died.” You emphasized the word more dramatically than necessary. The humidity beyond the hall in front of you was already filling the hall and you craved the comfort of clean, hot water. “These are silly questions, anyway.” Your nerves were very much shining through. You weren’t ready to admit anything to anyone. The last thing you wanted was Kung Lao meddling.
“I brought you something, that’s all.”
“I feel like this something comes with terms and conditions with the way that you’re talking.”
“Not at all. But if you’re sweet on Liu Kang then it might make things weird.”
“Do whatever you want, Kung Lao, just do it quickly. The ink is starting to crust and this conversation has made me so uncomfortable.”
“I didn’t say that I wasn’t going to give it to you no matter what your answer had been. I was just trying to weasel an answer out of you.” He smirked and you rolled your eyes.
“Some things never change.” Despite your obvious frustration, you couldn’t help but smile. Kung Lao had been a huge comfort to you when things had been at their most difficult in your youth. It was as though he’d never left. The lack of distance you felt between you was strange and you struggled to wrap your mind around it. You had to remind yourself that you hadn’t seen him in almost twenty years. “You’re such a pest, Kung Lao.”
You walked through the doorway but Kung Lao grasped your wrist and twisted you back to face him. You made a sound of surprise and stumbled into him. He caught you with a laugh.
“You’re clumsier than I expected after how you fought earlier.”
“Kung Lao, I swear.”
He reached between the folds of his shirt and withdrew a small purple flower. Your stomach dropped and you stared with your mouth hanging open, having been forming an empty threat. The flower. It was the exact same kind of flower that he’d given you the last time that you’d seen him when you’d been kids. Your heart had practically stopped in your chest.
“I made a detour on the way back. You’re right. They don’t grow in town anymore. Had to look around a bit before I found one.”
“Kung Lao…” Chills raced down your spine and you swallowed the sudden lump in your throat before reaching to grasp the flower. Kung Lao pulled it out of your reach.
“I thought that instead of teasing you like I used to as a dumb kid that I would be better off making a kind gesture.” Much to your surprise, he took your hand and placed the precious flower in your palm.
“I… uh…” You stuttered, feeling just about as clueless as you sounded.
“Enjoy the springs, Y/N. You can have your privacy for now but next time we’re joining you.” He patted your shoulder then tipped his hat and turned, walking away with a skip in his step down the hall.
You watched him go and sighed, resting your back against the stone wall while staring at the flower that he’d left you with. It was a precious little thing, with soft rows of petals that seemed frail but held on stronger than they looked. There was a small speck of pollen at its center and the stem was just long enough that you could wrap your fist around it. You’d gone looking for those flowers once in hopes of keeping them in the garden behind the dojo. There hadn’t been any and when you’d asked about them, no one knew where you could find one. It had been so long since you’d seen one living that you’d forgotten how resilient and perfect they were.
It seemed a small thing but it was also a huge gesture. He hadn’t said what the gesture meant but he had implied it well enough. You were surprised by how touched you were by the flower. If he’d caught you out there staring at the flower, then you would have never heard the end of it. He’d likely have teased you for being sweet on him.
You turned and entered the hall just to your left. There was a changing room with rudimentary waterflow systems so that you could clean off before going into the actual springs. You had never been so grateful for running water in your life. Ink pooled at your feet as you showered off, scrubbing as much of the ink away as you could. As you did, you felt your side sting painfully. Then blood flowed freely with the spray of water. You held your hand over the wound on your side and winced. You’d forgotten that Kung Lao had gotten you with the hat. You’d been so full of adrenaline and excitement that it had slipped your mind.
Now that you’d felt it, it was difficult to forget. Besides that, it was bleeding fairly freely for something that had happened some time ago now and should have scabbed over. It was probably a bad decision but you were going to enjoy the springs anyway. You found a first aid kit and covered the wound with gauze, then the gauze entirely with tape to protect it from the water. Then you took one of the towels there and wrapped it around yourself.
The cave beyond was smooth and the steam filled the room from floor to ceiling. These springs were huge. The cave formation seemed fairly natural, settling in shallow areas with deeper pools spread throughout. From where you stood, you couldn’t see the end of it but you didn’t feel the need to go far. In the distance, you could see several other monks enjoying the springs but they were far enough away that you wouldn’t be bothered by them.
You were suddenly disappointed that Kung Lao and Liu Kang hadn’t joined you. It was likely that they were too busy anyway. Your face went red at the mental image of what could have been and you sunk into the water and swooned. It was probably for the best that you’d come alone. Next time though, all bets were off. You rested the flower next to you on the stone beside where you rested your head.
It was difficult not to fall asleep with the warmth of the springs and the sound of rushing water in the room behind. Now that you were drifting in and out, you were grateful for some alone time. Often the air around Liu Kang was so stifled with whatever tension you’d cooked up that day that you couldn’t talk or think straight. And you had no idea what was happening with Kung Lao. You had to talk eventually and catch up but for now, those were all problems for you to deal with later. Future Y/N’s problems. Right now nothing mattered except for you, the steam, and the comfort of the springs.
Finally, you got up and as you did, the room spun. How long had you been lying there? Time was difficult to judge in the dimly lit cavern with scant an opening to the outside world. You lifted yourself from the springs, cautious of the flower you’d set aside, and sat on the edge. Then you whined since your towel and the water surrounding you was stained pink. Apparently two layers of gauze and a roll of tape wasn’t enough to keep the wound closed.
How embarrassing. Light-headed with blood loss because you’d been careless.
You picked up the flower and returned to the changing room. There were no extra clothes so you had to choose towel or filthy gi and you trusted the gi more than the towel. It was as crusted as you had joked it had been earlier. Before tying the top closed, you checked the wound and inhaled sharply at the sight of it. It bled freely and was red and ugly looking. Panic swelled in your chest.
When you’d been a kid your wounds had bled more freely than they should have. Even a scraped knee had been a problem. Doctors had put you on medicine to help you clot but it hadn’t helped. There was no way it was happening again. You’d outgrown it.
No, you were being silly. It had been the water and bad timing. You wrapped the wound tightly again but the damage had been done and your fingers tingled as a reminder. You’d been a fool not to go to the infirmary before going to the springs. Between the poison having made your blood such a mess and your recovery from those wounds, it was a wonder that you hadn’t accidentally bled to death while napping in the springs!
Carefully, you tied the gi closed and then tucked the flower inside of it safely. When you’d been led there by Kung Lao earlier, you’d made a point to remember where you’d come from so that you could return without getting lost. You’d spent more time lost in Raiden’s Temple than you had ever spent lost in your life.
You felt Liu’s energy before you saw him turning a corner and walking toward you. He smiled in greeting but it quickly fell into a look of concern. “Are you okay?”
You sure were tired of that question. Then again, you didn’t feel well thanks to your lack of foresight.
“You’re incredibly pale.”
“Oh yeah. It’s dumb, really.” You pulled on the tear in the side of your gi and Liu’s worry only worsened.
“You said you were fine earlier.”
“Adrenaline is a funny thing, Liu. I forgot about it until I was cleaning up.”
“Kung Lao didn’t help you take care of it before letting you go?”
“I’m almost certain that he alsoforgot about it.”
“Careless.” Liu Kang didn’t sound surprised. “Come sit with me. We’ll take care of it.”
You looked him over, pulled the sliced gi a little and then looked back to Liu knowingly. What, were you just supposed to take your shirt off so that he could take a look at your wound? He laughed and held both his hands up defensively as if realizing what he was asking you to do. You caught the slightest bit of red on his cheeks. It was nice to know that it wasn’t in your head.
“If you aren’t comfortable doing that then come with me to the infirmary.”
“Ugh.” You were so tired of the infirmary! But you were feeling the impact of blood loss at an alarming rate. Your fingers were frigid and your breath was shallower than it should have been. You leaned against the wall nearby with a heavy sigh.
“I can probably sleep it off, Liu.”
“You’re like a ghost, Y/N.” He tried to joke but the worry in his eyes wasn’t going away. You were such a sucker for those eyes that you melted almost immediately.
“Fine. But I’m not happy about it.” You pouted and he laughed, offering you his arm.
“Thank you for humoring me, Y/N.”
Together you walked through the maze of corridors. Liu filled you in on what he and Kung Lao had done after you’d left. It hadn’t been anything remarkable, mostly tasks they were given to contribute to the life they lived in Raiden’s Temple. When you reached the infirmary, you were taken away by one of the female monks that you’d gotten acquainted with during your time there. They offered you a change of clothing and you couldn’t have been more grateful. A tank top and some comfortable loose pants. Familiar clothing, at long last. It was far easier to maneuver those around with the wound on your side.
Afterward you returned to the main room and sat on one of the benches there. The monk crouched next to you and you lifted up your shirt to show them the wound. It definitely looked uglier than it had earlier but it had also gone completely numb. Why couldn’t it look like the minor convenience you’d viewed it as earlier? Now it was swollen and the flesh was torn and jagged. Liu’s expression shifted and he turned away from you to hide it.
“It’s good you came to us. Don’t want to get an infection.” The monk offered you a smile then set about working on the wound. It was no longer numb and you twitched but stifled any painful objection you may have had. Liu stood behind the bench and offered you a hand to squeeze which you took.
“I’m fine.” You reassured him but your brain was buzzing. Did he think you were weak? Frail? Easily broken? You were strong! You had worked so hard to be strong. It was just a bad situation, overall. Kung Lao had immediately regretted throwing the hat at you. Accidents happened. You were getting it taken care of and you would be the better for it.
“Stay with us for a few hours to make sure you are alright.” The monk said and while it seemed like a question, it didn’t really seem optional. You exchanged a glance with Liu who you knew would argue with you to get you to stay. You had no leg to stand on except that you wanted to go back to your room.
“Fine.” The monk bowed to you gratefully and walked away. Liu had you scoot over and then took the seat next to you.
“I told you that hat was trouble.”
“You did. And I know staying is the right thing to do. I’m not happy about it though. I want to be strong again, Liu. It’s one setback after another.” He picked up your hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
“You’ll get there. Be patient with yourself.”
“Yeah, yeah, monk stuff, inner peace and all that.” He laughed at you. “So much for celebrating.”
“There will be plenty of time to celebrate later. This is more important. Tomorrow is another day.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“I’ll stay until you find rest.”
“I’m not sleeping here tonight, Liu. I’m going back to my room the moment they say I can.”
“Sure, Y/N.” He seemed unconvinced and you pouted. Afterward you made casual conversation about your arcana, things that Liu wished to test, and what they thought your capabilities might be. Liu seemed to think you’d be excellent at mimicry. What was ink used for if not to record things? Before you knew it, you had fallen asleep against his shoulder.
Liu Kang waited until you fell asleep then watched you for some time afterward. Just to make sure you were alright. Then he crept away from where you rested and consulted with the monks, ignoring their snide remarks about the attention he paid you. It wasn’t their place to judge what he did with his time.
He finished his errands for the evening and as he returned to his quarters, he found Kung Lao in the fight pit, tossing his hat about and practicing. Liu stepped into the fight pit and when the hat turned toward him, he knocked it back with a definitive kick where it slammed against the sand. Kung Lao willed the hat back to him, caught it, and slipped it back on his head, strip neatly tucked under his chin.
“Want to spar? I don’t think I can sleep.”
“No, I’m good.” Liu folded his arms over his chest. “You were careless today, Kung Lao. Y/N nearly bled to death because of it.”
“What? Is she okay?” Kung Lao took an aggressive step toward the stairs but Liu held his arm out to block him, stepping back with him. Liu then explained where he’d found you in the hall and what they’d had to do in the infirmary where you were now resting. “…so she’s fine, is what you’re saying.”
“That’s not the point, Lao.”
“I’m sorry, Liu. I forgot. She handled it like a champ and kept on fighting. I was extra careful but it slipped! We were having so much fun that we may have gotten carried away. We used to pretend when we were kids…”
“I’m not here to scold you. I only wanted to let you know and to remind you to be mindful. Not all the warriors with the marking will be the two of us. Some might not have any experience at all. We’re lucky that Y/N does.”
“What is this, Liu?” Kung Lao’s tone shifted and his lips curled into a knowing smile.
“The consequences of your actions.” Liu turned to leave the arena.
“You know, I asked you to make sure that she was okay and keep her safe not to fall for her.” Kung Lao called after him. It wasn’t an accusation. He didn’t sound angry. He’d always had a way of stirring the pot.
“And keeping her safe is what I’ve done. Then you come back and undo half of the progress she’d made because you wanted to show off.” Liu turned again to face him. There was nothing that would undo their bond of brotherhood but Kung Lao had always been his careless counterpart. In the Academy he’d skipped classes, ignored studies, and had dragged Liu into all sorts of trouble. While Liu had been more studious, he’d gotten them into plenty of trouble over the years too.
“I’m sorry. Really, Liu. I’ll be more careful.” Kung Lao slipped his hat under his arm. “You’d tell me though, right?” Liu threw him a disapproving glare. “When I left back then one of my biggest regrets was not telling her the truth. I never thought I’d see her again so with time I wasn’t sure it mattered. Now I have a chance to be better than I was then. So, I’m going to ask you again. What is this, Liu? You’d tell me, right?”
Liu stepped back. They’d wrestled over far less and he was in no mood. He didn’t know what to say either. He didn’t want to lie to Kung Lao but he wasn’t sure what it was other than a few close calls and some pretty clear attraction.
“That was more than enough of an answer.” Kung Lao dusted off his still ink stained shirt. “Well, may the best man win.”
“This isn’t a contest, Kung Lao. We’re brothers. Always and no matter what.”
“Of course. And I’m going to win.” Kung Lao walked past him and hopped up the steps two at a time, waving him off with a laugh. Liu Kang sighed deeply and looked up at the starry night sky. That could have gone better but he supposed it also could have gone worse.
28 notes · View notes