Ficlet, post-NT; Feilong travels to Sicily only to find what he least expects, yet desperately needs. Sappy ending. Written Feb 2009
The poor fool. Anyone could have told him that was how it turned out when you put your trust in people.
He fanned the travel guide in front of his face, only resulting in stirring the humid air and dust, coating his skin with it. The particles swirled through the sunlight that leaked through the tall thin windows in the ancient Sicilian church. Not ones for joy and light, those old Christians. He stood up in disgust.
Whatever had prompted him to take this little trip anyway?
He knew the answer. Boredom. Frustration with the status quo. A need to distance himself from his men. A need to distance himself from what had happened recently. From who had happened.
The place he was in was the epitome of distant, stuck in the countryside of some godforsaken small town on this godforsaken island, all because he thought ancient monuments sounded, well, romantic. They turned out to be, for the most part, simply eroding and in need of a good cleansing.
It was strange, he thought, how the statue's eyes never seemed to leave him even as he moved about the chapel.
"Are you trying to tell me something?" he asked, voice dripping with sarcasm. "Should I listen to someone who could not put his own house in order? I think not."
"Still looking for a father to give you answers, Feilong?" a cool voice asked in amusement.
He spun about, unable to believe his ears.
The silhouette was dark against the door of the church, the light that framed him blinding Feilong.
"Who are you?" he whispered.
The figured stepped closer, walking down the short aisle. "I assumed you'd thought many things of me over the years, but never that you didn't think of me at all. How could you forget your own dear brother?"
"Yantsui..." he said hoarsely. "Yan...?" His right hand moved instinctively toward the left shoulder holster where his pistol resided. He made himself calm, then stop.
"Are you going to shoot me? Finish what your lover started all those years ago?"
His lover... Just hearing that opened the old wound in his heart. He shook his head sadly. "He was never my lover, Yan."
"But you wanted him to be."
Feilong raised his head and looked Yan straight in the eyes. "Yes. I did."
The older man stopped, taken aback. "You've grown up some."
"I've had to. You left. You left me, you left Baishe. What choice did I have?"
The other shrugged. "You could have left too. But you stayed in a prison of others' making, then in one of your own. It was your decision." Yan lowered himself onto the stone bench across the aisle from Feilong. "I've heard you caused yourself more mischief lately. That you brought him back to Hong Kong."
"Who did you hear that from?" Feilong frantically searched his mind for others who could be spies. "Who told you about that?"
"A little Russian bird."
Oh. His heart calmed. Not one of his.
"Wait. You've been in contact with Mikhail Arbatov?" That bastard.
"No. Someone who knows someone in his organization. Word of such a fiasco gets around. They speak of you with laughter. Are you surprised?"
"No." He flushed with embarrassment. "I expected it. It just wasn't worth the trouble anymore. I'm done with them." He briefly turned away so his eyes wouldn't give away any hint of the cost to him, but then had to look back. He still had trouble believing what he was seeing.
"And what of you, Yan? What brought you to the beautiful Sicilian countryside?" He tried to wave the dust away, coughing. "Don't tell me you've been living here? It's not your style."
The eyes across from his showed no irritation, only amusement. "People change, Feilong. Getting shot does that to you. One would think that would make you wiser than me then, but you always were more hard-headed than the rest of the family. I'm glad it didn't take three bullets. But I'm curious. What finally did it?"
"I met someone who didn't lie to me," Feilong said pointedly.
To his surprise, his brother nodded. "I did. But I can't say that I'm sorry about it. You have to admit he was bad for you."
"Don't try to act like your motives were altruistic."
"They were selfish, but I did also want what was best for you. I just happened to think that was me. I never expected the whole mess would turn into a life-long obsession for you."
"Not life long. Merely seven years long."
"Truly." And he knew then that he was only giving voice to what he really felt. It was like he heard the soft snap of a book closing after reading the final page.
"You mean it. I'd suspected something had changed, when I'd heard you let him go, him and his young lover. It's why I'm here, now. The little Russian bird sent a message that you'd be in Sicily."
Feilong was going to kill whoever was leaking his itineraries. "So what are you doing here?"
"Me? I have an olive grove, several in fact, and export the oils and olives around the world. Our family was always so good at importing and exporting things."
"Right. Olives. You can send me a gift basket at New Year's." Feilong snorted. "Which Family are you working for?"
"Fine. Don't tell me. I can find out easily enough."
"Seriously. I gave it up. I'm married now."
"Married? But I thought..."
"Perhaps. I did want you. I've come to terms with that, because my unwillingness to do so caused a lot of my anger. But I found that time, and distance, and above all else, Rosalia made that desire fade to nothing. I put away childish things, Feilong. I have three children now. Two daughters. A son named ZhiWu."
"Yes. You'd be surprised what it does, holding your son for the first time. I finally heard what Father was trying to teach me all those years. I want my son to carry it with him through his whole life. I'd like you to come home and meet them, if you would."
Did he actually mean this? Feilong looked long and hard at the man who sat before him staring calmly back. "Why now? Why didn't you contact me before?"
"Would you have listened?"
"No," he admitted. It took him by surprise, his honesty. "I would not have. My ears were tuned to one frequency, so to speak."
"Now..." He remembered the boat slipping away into the night, carrying all of his past hatred and desires with it. "Now. I've been looking for something else to occupy my mind. I find it grows bored with the business."
"Perhaps family then?" Yan stood up and brushed his pants off, then held out his hand. "Come and meet mine. They heard many stories of their elusive and beautiful Uncle Feilong, mostly about how I had to rescue him from his own foibles, but still for some reason they want to meet you."
"Rescue me? You? Please."
"You appear to have forgotten the incident in the kitchen's hen coop. What was it the guards called you after that? Flying Chicken?"
Feilong closed his eyes. "Thank you so much. Just the other day I was wishing someone would bring that up again."
"What are brothers for?" Yan asked with a laugh.
His eyes flew open. "Honestly? I don't know. But I think perhaps it's time I found out." He stood and followed as Yan walked toward the door. "This wife of yours, is she Italian?"
"Worse. She's Sicilian. Don't make her mad or she'll take the broom handle to you."
"Pussy whipped, eh?"
"She's a good woman."
Yan stepped out into the sunlight, lifting his face to catch the rays, a serenity there Feilong had never known in his brother, or in himself for that matter. He paused and looked back, the eyes of the man inside still upon him. Maybe the man was a fool. But perhaps some of his lessons weren't that foolish.
"Feilong? Are you coming?"
He turned back and walked out to stand beside his brother. Forgiveness had always come hard for him. Maybe that just meant it was worth the effort. "Yes. Let's meet this family of yours."
"And yours," Yan said quietly.
He felt something stir in him that had been asleep for years, and he found he'd missed it.
They walked up and down the dusty hillsides, sometimes talking, sometimes not, but for the first time since childhood, together. And as they walked over the crest of a hill with the sea beyond, they were greeted by a chorus of children running toward them and shouting, "Is that him? Is that our Uncle Feilong? Welcome home!"