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

Chapter One

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 - 3087 words

'Tis a common proof
That lowliness is young ambition's ladder,
Where to the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost round,
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks to the clouds, scourning the base degrees
By which he did ascend.
-Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" II.i

Chapter One

They try to stay quiet, but they know it's pointless, so they at least hope that the others have stayed out long enough for them to finish today. It won't go over well, even if it were just Quatre to come home; he can't keep a secret for his life. It's amazing he lived through the war.

But they do not speak of such things. They do not speak, though they are vocal. An oddity; they are so quiet in their normal lives, but here, where normalcy is measured in the length of our tryst, they are as boisterous as Duo is.

He is never mentioned. Never. It would bring reality in on their little fantasy. On their remembrance. On their mourning.

There will be questions, like always. But their respective partners are rough enough to warrant an explanation to Quatre. And they have their share of tumbles in the line of work and life, him more than the man above him.

His breath comes in bursts, fast and hot against him lover's neck as sweat drips from brown hair to fall onto his own perspiring face, mixing, mingling. Their bodies, their breaths, their fluids. If there was blood, he is sure that would combine between them as well.

This is normalcy.

This is fantasy.

This is them.

He hears the front door first, but it is a detached realization that they could be in trouble. All he does is smile up at his lover, run his hands through brown hair, moan too loudly; his lover's lips are on him, his fingers skating over his body, trying to touch him as much as possible, trying to disappear beneath his skin.

The door to his room is louder. He looks over his lover's shoulder, and meets accusing blue eyes, half shrouded by a comfortable looking, off-white PLU* sweatshirt hood. His eyes focus for a moment, and then he is lost.

He never did find out what Duo said.

Beijing, like the rural town where I had spent my summer yet again, was exactly how I remembered. The streets and people bustled and brimmed with a barely contained energy which was something just short of contagious-I managed to avoid most of the excitement. The university, as I had remembered, was filled to the gills with students of every nationality, and some interesting mixes between them. The halls echoed with Far Eastern dialects, Spacers' heavy accents, and most any Eurasian language I could think of. It felt far more like home than anything the Preventers had ever offered; even more like home than the little village that time never seemed to touch.

I was slightly amazed by how much Beijing University reminded me of some bizarre cross of Star Wars, Star Trek and the Known Space Terrestrials. Shades of skin otherwise unnatural in nature dazzled my eyes at every corner; not to mention the unusual coloration of hair and eyes that, even from a distance, seemed to blind.

My roommate-named simply Brin, as far as I knew or cared to know-was one such being that didn't seem to quite belong on Earth, or even the colonies. Short hair was an iridescent green which matched the eyes, and glimmered from skin so dark that could only be called midnight. Sometimes, I thought I could see stars speckled across the skin of the other young man's back.

It was new trend, I knew, though I wanted no part in it. Gene splicing had been common for fetuses for several generations, but it was our generation that was privy to the examples of post-pubescent resequencing. I myself had undergone only minor alterations before birth-reassurance for my parents that nothing would go wrong, and eventually the good luck to the scientists which had built the Gundams-and never saw the need to change such trivial surface matters as skin or hair or eye color.

Though it struck me an interesting way to test the fealty of a partner. But that was a foolish thought, and one that I never really dwelled on. The sight of these oddly tinted persons, I knew, would become commonplace, and I would eventually adapt to it. Just like everything else that was thrown his way.

"God damn, Zhang, don't you ever not study?"

The sharp words from my roommate made me look up and over at him. His brilliantly glow-in-the-dark eyes peered at me from behind the shirt he was shrugging into; I looked down at the book in my hands, and frowned slightly, removing my reading glasses.

"I'm not studying; it's for recreation-."

"Only you and the Lit. geeks, An**, would read a book for fun." The use of the name I'd taken upon entering China made me shiver a little, more than hearing my old name in the village. I glared up at Brin accusingly, and folded my legs up under myself.

"What would you like me to do, Brin? Are you asking me out or something?" The green haired college student leered slightly, and reached over to chuck my chin, chuckling when his hand was venomously swatted away; his eyes twinkled merrily, seemingly of their own internal light.

"I'd love to, babe, but I'd be depriving the sweet girls of the campus and beyond of my lovely company."

"And we wouldn't want to do that." A sharp eye-roll. Brin laughed brilliantly, and leaned down, pecking a kiss to the side of one dark coffee eye, ruffling short black hair.

"I knew you'd understand, An. But, no, you should come out with us sometime. Lingyei and a couple of her friends, they always have somebody with them to dance with." Brin, with his back turned, didn't catch the slight flush on my cheeks, and by the time he turned, it was gone.

"I don't care much for Miss Juan's choose of friends." Brin looked back at me incredulously, than laughed, leaning against the foot board of my bed, crossing his arms over his tight black shirt.

"Are the rumors true then? Should I be worrying for my ass cherry, Zhang?"

"I doubt you, my friend, still retain your ass cherry, as you so crudely put it," was the sharp retort, aided with a withering glare that made Brin shift slightly, muttering to himself. "And besides: the hair's a bit of a turn off."

"You don't like it?"

It was some time before Brin actually left with Juan Lingyei and her various, nefariously loose-legged friends that he seemed so content with. Idly, I ran a hand through my short hair, and replaced my glasses, content in my placid nature to curl around my book and read until I fell asleep; a scholar once more.

My classes were easy, but a decent time filler, I supposed. When I wasn't in them, I was reading, or wandering the campus gardens without a care or thought as to the rest of the world. It was an easy enough life, I supposed, if not the most stimulating I'd ever existed in.

Of course, two years of warfare could do that to a man. As I drifted to sleep that night, I tried not to think of that, tried to drift so firmly into deep sleep that dreams would even refuse to plague me. It wouldn't do to have a nightmare if Brin came back any time during the night.


For me, 'mail day' was every other day, simply because that was when I didn't have morning classes. It was more for the ritualistic tendencies I'd always had, then actually checking for mail; I rarely got any, and when I did, it was normally some short, concise letter from the proprietor of the house I stayed at during the summer, asking for backed payments on the attic flat; it was one of the various young men I had become casual friends with at the factory.

Brin was always laughing at me, saying those letters must have been from a secret admirer. I would just roll my eyes, and ignore him, generally in place of working slowly through a good book, or going for a walk in the gardens.

So it came as a bit of a surprise to go down to the mail room one Thursday late morning, yawning and rubbing the back of his head-somehow, the night before, Brin had convinced me to come along to a local club; I'd gone to bed fairly early in the morning, and was still horrendously tired-to hear words I'd never thought to hear.

"Package for you, Zhang."

I blinked dully at the mail girl for a moment as she dug behind her counter, and pulled up a brown cardboard box about the size of my head. With an absent word of thanks, I grabbed it, hugged it tightly to my chest, and scurried back to my dorm, suddenly very much awake. As I walked, I scanned the package for a return address; there was none.

So fixated with the odd arrival, I never noticed the college student stepping in front of me. With a curse, I collided with a firm torso, and went stumbling backwards, jarring my tail bone as I fell and sending my package sprawling to the side. I glared up at the other person . . .

And my angry words died instantly as I blinked. The young man there stared at me a moment, seeming to try and puzzle out something. Then, he gasped, his eyes widening slightly.

"Wu Fei-."

I grabbed my package and ran.


"An, you've been sitting at that goddamn computer for three hours! What the hell's so interesting, anyway? You're not looking at porn, are you-?"

"Go away, Brin," I ordered brusquely, pushing the other young man firmly away without looking up, scanning the list of new transfers. There had to be the name there-a variation on it-an alias I'd seen during the war-anything to prove that I wasn't completely delusional.

But maybe I was. No; this was too much of a coincidence. A Caucasian man wandering a rural village, and now . . . now this.

I darted a glance to the yet unopened package on my bed, and frowned slightly. Another puzzle piece? Were they trying to find me? Studiously, I scanned the names, trying for any hint that this wasn't just some elaborate bad joke towards him.

There. There it was. Glaring at me venomously, a name I recognized, a mangled corpse of memories and lies all jumbled together into the personae of a man I had not thought to see in nearly a year and a half's time.

I looked over at the box again, and shut off the computer without looking at it. Brin was saying something to me-asking if I was all right, I realized belatedly, through a haze of wonder and worry-but was easily ignored.

The tape broke easily enough under my prying. The flaps pulled away to reveal packing peanuts, a couple of sheets of paper sitting placidly atop them. For a moment, I stared at the papers, at the packing peanuts, at the box, before shutting it with a mild curse, and shoving the entire affair under my bed.

It took me a moment before I good raise my eyes and actually look at Brin. By then, the green haired youth was sitting on his own bed, leaning forward and looking expectantly at me.

"Wanna talk about it?" I shook my head. Brin sighed, but continued his soft questions: "An ex, bad breakup? Or just somebody you really don't want to remember?"

"Both," I murmured swiftly, then rethought it, and shook my head, cradling it in my hands. "Neither."

"That's not much of an answer, An. Who's this person you're freaking out over?" I shook my head again. Brin huffed an annoyed breath, looked down at where he could see the package just peaking out from under the bed, and smiled a little sadly.

"Come on," he began slowly, standing and offering a hand to me. For a moment, I only stared at him, before I allowed myself to be hauled to my feet; Brin smiled. "We'll hit the town, forget about this for a while. What d'ya say? Just you and me, no ladies tonight."

"Are you asking me out, or something?" Brin grinned dashingly, and slung his arm over my shoulders.

"For you, Zhang? Right now, I'd do just about anything you'd want."

"Hey, Fei. Come see. The fireworks are starting!"

Wu Fei stands slowly, and approaches the balcony door. Duo and Trowa are already out there, smiling at the striking display of colorful explosions over the Puget Sound; Trowa's arm is wrapped around Duo's waist securely, holding him close as they watched the fireworks.

Heero and Quatre are in the kitchen, watching the display as they wash dishes. They speak in hushed tones, laugh at each others jokes slightly. Wu Fei worries his lip, and feels lonely, though he's never begrudged them our friendship, nor his own solitude.

The fireworks are beautiful though. Wu Fei steps out onto the balcony, and leans against the railing beside Duo.

"How old is the country now?" he asks absently. Duo makes a little face, and shrugs, before proclaiming the country is simply Old now, without a real date attached to it to gauge his perception of age. That's all right though, Wu Fei supposes. It doesn't really matter now.

He starts a little when there are warm arms around his waist, but he doesn't turn or react more than that; he doesn't even bother to acknowledge the embrace, more than to lean slightly into it.

He knows why he doesn't react that much, and it makes him guilty and a little more lonely than he was before. It makes him feel weak and pitiful; he wants to cry, but can't-not because it would be the weak thing to do, but because everyone else would notice if he started to cry. He would notice if he started to cry, and that could lead to questions, which would lead to revelations, which would undoubtedly end in a fight-be it physical or verbal.

Duo is softly humming the national anthem, occasionally singing the words. His voice is good, if not the best-he's a little off pitch, but not enough to be unpleasant. Soon, Trowa is singing it too, his voice deeper, more melodic. Wu Fei shivers, and watches the display, wrapped in Heero's arms comfortably, nearly content for a moment.

He somehow fears what tomorrow might bring.

The news talked about stupid things the next morning, loud even over the quiet burble of male voices in the lounge of the dorm building. Most of them spoke some variation of English and it's various dialects, or Spacer, or some Chinese language. Occasional, I could pick out French, Italian, Portuguese. It was just as slow in the morning as the entire summer had seen.

Brin touched my arm absently throughout the rest of the day, whenever we saw each other. It was something reassuring, something tangible and understanding from the other young man, and I tried not to begrudge it. It still unsettled me slightly, but I allowed.

It unsettled me more to think that I was being watched, that they had found me. When I got back to my room after lunch, content to know I didn't have afternoon classes for the semester, I sighed, and dropped my book-laden pack to at the end of my bed. The box, still tucked away, glared menacingly at me from under the sheets. I glared back at it accusingly, unable to think of something clever to say.

I wondered if I'd gone mad when I pulled it out from under the bed, set in on the mattress, and sat, staring at it sullenly. Finally, I spoke.

"I don't know what you want," I mumbled angrily, "but you're not going to get it."

A knock on my door made me look up. Slowly, I stood; it wasn't Brin, obviously, and probably wasn't Juan Lingyei either-she had a tendency to simply walk in and start flirting with me, or Brin, if he was in. My hand faltered on the doorknob a moment, before I twisted, and opened the door.

I shoved against it when I saw who was on the other side, overpowering the stunned guest fast enough to slam the door shut and lock it.

"Go away!" I snarled, still leaning against the door. There was a subtle jiggle of the knob, and then a couple of firm knocks. I repeated my order, louder, more forcefully than before, slapping my own hand against the faux-wood of the door.

"Wu Fei, please open the door-."

"You've got the wrong guy. I don't know anybody named Wu Fei." There was a harder knock-no, a punch. I suddenly wanted to sob, but found that I couldn't, just kept leaning against the door, hoping the other man would simply go away. That he'd leave.

I heard Brin's voice, and snarled silently to myself, giving up on the door. They were talking; Brin had a key, and was a nice enough guy. My ploy to stay far enough away from my pursuer had failed, finally. Sullenly, I sat on the bed, and glared at the box, snarling that this entire situation was most assuredly its fault.

The lock snicked away from home, and the door opened slowly. Brin ducked his head in, and slid into the room, barely opening the door, promising a moment for the other man before shutting the door again. He walked slowly over to my bedside, and sat down, taking my hand.

"Is that-?" I nodded. Brin sighed, and worried his lip a moment. "Do you really not want to see him? What'd he do, that's so bad?"

"It's nothing." My hands clenched into fists behind the cross of my legs. I lowered my head, felt myself flush in shame. "I'm being stupid . . . being weak."

"Some people will do that to you."

He opened the door for our guest.

* - Pacific Lutheran University, located in Parkland, a suburb of Tacoma, Washington
** - Wu Fei, after leaving the Preventers, took the name Zhang An. Zhang, being a variation of chang, means seal; as an alternative spelling of zheng, it means solemn. An means peace.
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