Categories > Anime/Manga > Gundam Wing > Shades of Gray


by sumthinlikhuman 0 reviews

It took me a great, long stretch of time before my sluggish brain registered: me. He's talking about him and Trowa and me. (Winner of KumoriCon '07, Best Novella Adult!)

Category: Gundam Wing - Rating: R - Genres: Angst, Drama, Romance - Characters: Duo, Trowa, Wufei - Warnings: [!] [X] - Published: 2007-03-13 - Updated: 2007-03-13 - 2299 words

Yet you have gone on living
Living and partly living . . .
Men will not hate you
Enough to defame you or execrate you
But pondering the qualities that you lacked
Will only try to find the historical fact . . .
The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.
-excerpt T. S. Eliot's "Murder in a Cathedral"



It is a simple question, but he finds he doesn't know the answer to it. Instead, he keeps packing, until the single word is spoken again, harsher, than repeated in every language they mutually know until he explodes.

"Because I have to!"


"That's not a question, and you know it. I refuse to answer. Be more specific."

Three suitcases are already filled. He knows that he will loose at least one of them, because that is just how he is. Preferably, it will be the luggage that will do nothing to aid him when he reached his destination, wherever that may be in the end.

"Where will you go?"

"I don't know."

"Space? Or are you staying on Earth-?"

"I. Don't. Know." His words are angry now, and he hates to be this harsh with the man-the youth-the boy standing beside him, because he knows that he loves that boy, even if love is a weakness, and he's sworn it off for that cause alone.

A hand on his shoulder. One on his cheek. Lips on his. He shoves the other away, scowling, upset that he let this happen. There are tears, demands that go unvoiced. He finishes with that suitcase, and moves on to a new one.

"Why are you leaving me?"

"Because I have to. You've made me weak."

"I made you strong; you told me that." He growls. He curses and fumes and none of it comes out because that would only be admitting the vice he let himself have; and what a vice to have fallen to, he chastises himself, staring at his hands as they shake, clenched tightly in the fabric of a T-shirt that isn't his, a T-shirt which he took selfishly. He can remember that silly conversation as well-how they laughed at themselves and each other, and he complained of their size differences.

The shirt joins its brethren in this new suitcase.

"Wu Fei-."

"I'm changing my name too. What do you think of Louis Wu?" Silence for a moment, and a forced laugh. A hand on his neck, telling him that he can't be serious, that he can't seriously be considering leaving. Not again. Not today, not this time. But he is.

"Are you going to live for hundreds of years then?" He nods.

"And travel to the Ringworld with a crazy puppeteer." A sigh, a sniffle, and the hand on his neck disappears. But the voice doesn't.

"Can I be Teela then? Prill?"

"I don't like women."

"Louis does." Eyes meet, and the joke has been had. There is honesty and sincerity there, and it hurts him to see those eyes so pained. But that would be admitting to the weakness his heart has become, and that would not be honorable.

He slaps the cheek presented to him playfully, and huffs a bit.

"Help me to my cab."


"Because you'll see me again."

I could hear, if I listened hard enough, the sound of roosters crowing from tin roofs around the village. Sharp and shrill and far too early for my tastes, but I didn't have to listen. It was an easy stretch to the open window, and shutting it would mean the sounds of the waking world would fall completely away for perhaps an hour or two. At least until the proprietor of the rest-home came and woke me. But shutting the window would wake me; and if not that, then the growing heat would. I didn't wish to wake up, and I wasn't listening hard enough to hear the damn birds yet, anyway.

As I lay, half awake in the already stifling rural heat, I wondered how long it had been. Time was lethargic in this area, like honey that had sat in the refrigerator long enough to become highly viscous, but not quite a complete lump. That was the wrong analogy; time was just different here than it had been in space; and sometimes it seemed like the village was caught in a time capsule that displaced it to the mid-nineteen hundreds, or perhaps early. I hadn't really thought much of that, until now.

If I woke up now, I could help the proprietor's daughter in town. She was a sweet girl, though that always grated on my nerves, and not terribly bright, but her face and bright eyes reminded me imploringly of my wife, and that in turn reminded me why I was here: some ill-begotten idea of forgiveness and guilt that had driven me from the Preventers.

Here, where the girls reminded me of my wife, and the elders reminded me of my destroyed colony, it seemed the wars had never touched. As if the village and surrounding countryside for several hundred kilometers had been frozen after the Chinese Communist movement. Time was . . . off, I supposed. But it was a good lethargy that had captured it. That had captured me.

If I woke up now, I could read another chapter or two of my book before the proprietor asked me to get up, asked if I would be staying another week in his tiny attic room, where the breeze barely filtered in the morning, and the rooster crows were the loudest as the sun breached the horizon.

I shut the window, and tried to reclaim my dream. It had been pleasant. Warm and soft and gentle, though I hated to admit it, even to myself, whilst waking from it. I didn't want to remember the dreams I had, I supposed. And that was logical and honorable enough; what warrior wanted to remember nightmares? But then, what warrior admitted to them in the first place? No, I could never do that, never admit that I often found comfort in another's arms simply to drive away the demons of my past. That was not honorable. And if I was not honorable, then what was I?

The room was already a good ten degrees warmer than it had been. Was it really that hot already? I threw off the blankets covering my nude frame without really comprehending what I was doing, still lost in trying to redeem the dream I'd been having before the roosters had decided to pull me from my slumber.

It couldn't be that hot, I decided; it was only March, if I remembered right. But then, with time moving the way it tended to in the sleepy little village I'd emigrated to, it could very well have been summer already. That wouldn't surprise me much, I realized. And besides: if it were March, I'd be in Beijing, not this tiny little town; I'd be away at college.

I woke a bit more at the soft knock on my door. The proprietor never knocked softly. Normally, he'd slam his fist on the door a couple times until I threw the door open and cursed the old man; we would exchange coarse morning pleasantries; I would dress, and go into town to do whatever work I could. But this soft knocking; I turned my head and watched the door slowly open, watched the proprietor's daughter walk in and stare at my slightly upturned face and barely opened eyes.

I was aware of my nudity, and only turned away quietly when she muttered an apology. As her perambulating regrets continued, I sighed, told her to leave me alone, and turned onto my stomach, hopefully saving myself from the wrath that her father would no doubt bestow if she didn't shut the door and simply turn around and forget what she'd seen.

It was discomforting, to put it lightly, the idea that she would be staring at my body at all. After nearly four years with little privacy concerning my body, I'd given up hopes of retaining that privacy-the Preventers hadn't been as bad as some things which had happened during the wars, but my privacy had been violated enough that I didn't even protect it any longer, just the same. Until I'd come to the village, I'd never really had to worry about modesty concerning my body; I'd been around men and other boys for most of my life.

My eyes sliding shut, I could see the almost appreciative blush that had adorned the girl's cheeks. It made me snarl venomously into my pillow, and curse the girl for opening my door before I'd consented to it.

My wife had given me that look. Once, and only once. On our wedding night. I had been unsure-we both had-and well aware that her family was listening in on the other side of the door, making sure I made use of our first night completely 'alone' together. She had lain on the bed, naked and a stark, wonderful contrast to the woman-the girl-who had so defiled my family's honor that earlier afternoon; and she had blushed darkly as I had stood beside the bed, staring at her unsurely-it wasn't so much the sex I was unsure of, because my father had explained that to me, but it was my body's reaction to her.

I'd never slept with her again. Not with any woman. She had cried too hard when I had left the bed; and it had sickened me.

But that was at least six years spent now. Slowly, I pushed myself erect, and set about dressing, despite that fact that I was still very much asleep on the inside. My body pleaded with me for more rest, but the heat of the kitchen beneath my room and the general torridness of the late morning was making my rented attic room nigh on unbearable. If I didn't leave now, I'd cook in my own meandering thoughts, and likely never leave the room again; it was not such a regretful thought.

While the sight of the proprietor's daughter's blush danced behind my eyelids, and the thought of my wife's wedding night tears plagued my mind, my feet carried me down the stairs to the small sitting room where the proprietor sat with his two sons and meek, stupid daughter. The smell of fish and rice and vegetables wafted from the kitchen where the proprietor's wife and mother cooked swiftly, moving with an effortless grace that brought more memories to me than I carried to note.

The proprietor spoke of simple morning things from the village with his sons, and deigned not to acknowledge me until the news turned to something that seemed right to tell. A strange man wandering the village, asking about for a youth named Chang Wu Fei.

I didn't even flinch, didn't so much as shift my body weight. I asked what the man looked like, and drank my tea as the proprietor described the man-tall, lean, appraising. Caucasian, with an untrustworthy face.

The rice and vegetables were bland, and the fish was overcooked. I ate until I was full, excused myself from the meal, and left the house without a word.

If I listened just hard enough, I could hear the echoes of gunfire from his past.
Five years ago, if you had told me I would be working in a factory on my nineteenth birthday, I would have said you were mad. Then again, five years ago on my birthday, I probably would have shot most people who approached me; but then, retrospect was always twenty-twenty.

However, I was grateful for the sharp cadence that the factory worked at, the swift pace and hard labor entailed in the job description. Though I didn't know why I had the job-my tuition at Beijing University was paid for all four years of his doctorate, upfront and with a few rather generous scholarships here and there-it kept my mind busy over the summer, when the only other choice was to stay in Beijing.

China, though no longer a Communist state, was still an ideological haven, and a powerfully known Socialist community, even if the socialism was a bit off some times. I, having grown up in the L5 cluster, was used to the idea that no matter who you were or where you were from, you were all treated equally-an ideal that democracy had tried and failed at, but the Socialists had perfected. It helped in my transition from war to the world of peace, I supposed then, that I had seen the workings of such a society. But China was different from my colony, if only in the language barrier and size.

It amused me, on some levels, that even after nineteen years of life, I still only spoke the basest Mandarin and Cantonese, and most of it was curse words I'd picked up from fellow factory workers. The L5 cluster, though populated mostly by Indo- and Sino-Chinese Asians, had created it's own dialect that was not quite any terrestrial language; and that was common and accepted among the Spacers and the Terrestrials, so that when I began to mutter strings of curse words that nobody else understood, I could just shrug it off with a casual admission that I'd been speaking Spacer.

Now, my odd mixture of Spacer and Mandarin was coming full force; the machine in front of me had stopped abruptly, halting the entire lineup. Heckling catcalls rang through the factory at me, and I ignored them studiously, crawling under the machine to try and figure out what the hell had gone wrong with the thing.

I couldn't wait until summer was over, and I was back in Beijing.
Sign up to rate and review this story