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

Chapter Two

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 - 2535 words

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave close to day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light . . .
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
-excerpt Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night"

Chapter Two

"What are you reading?"

He looks up, surprised by the sudden intrusion on his personal time, though he shouldn't be. They've come back, as they always do, looking flushed from the cold wind outside and all together too happy. He has ice cream smeared on his chin, and is wearing the warm and comfortable Pacific Lutheran sweatshirt that Trowa got a year earlier, when he enrolled into the centuries old university.

"A book. Something you would never pick up."

"Ah, you're mean, Fei! I read books-."

"Short stories and Winner's romance novella don't count as books, Maxwell."

He seems put out by this, and sulks just a bit at the sharp interruption. But, nonetheless, he moves towards the couch, and lifts the book a bit so he can see the cover; and he smiles a little, his eyes darting up and glimmering with a quiet joy.

With a surprised huff, he realizes he's been outdone this time, which puts him off. Duo Maxwell has read this book before him, knows how it ends, knows what's going on, and why that's important later on. He huffs again, and focuses on the page once again.

"We brought some ice cream back, if you're interested?"

"No. Thank you." It comes out more gruff than he means it, and he hears Duo sigh, and finally leave the room. For that, he is grateful, though he does feel a little bad for being so brash to the other young man-were it not for the others, he would likely be in a jail right then, if not already dead.

"I take it Duo said something you didn't like?"

"It's not like that." The words come out a bit slurred. There is a hand on his neck, his collarbone, up to his cheek. He sighs, and hates this weakness as he loves it, nestling into the warmth that is being offered, simply because it's being offered to him, and nobody else.

He isn't quite sure why he agreed to live with the others. Three out of seven days of the week, he works at Preventers' Washington based HQ, but for the other four days, he is simply at home, avoiding the peace-evolved world around him through the eyes of a man who has seen too much in too short a time. He isn't quite sure why he agreed to stay with them, when he isn't commissioned enough to cover his own food, let alone his own rent for at least three months out of the year, unless he goes digging through bank accounts made fat by the war.

But, nonetheless, there he sits, comfortable on a couch that is not his own, content for a moment that he is not in danger, but is in the company of people he-dare he-calls friends.

"What are you reading?"

Ringworld, by an author named Larry Niven."

"Oh. Before-colony stuff then?" He nods. That is an understatement, since the book was written in the mid-twentieth century. But it amuses him somehow that the man-the youth-the boy touching him doesn't know much of anything from before the colonies were founded, unless he has been shown it directly by one of the rest of them.

"It's good," he says softly, closing his book and turning to look into eyes which have not yet softened from years of war. "When I'm done, you should read it."

"Why are you here?" It was a simple question, but to my ears, it sounded like it was said in some foreign language. For once, I was glad Brin didn't pry into my life, but simply let me go off and talk with the other man.

He was silent for a long time, before shrugging slightly, and uttering very quietly, "I-. We've been looking for you. It's been-."

"Don't talk crap. Why are you here? Why didn't Winner come? Or Yuy?" I realized suddenly that I was just being vindictive, just taking out my frustration on a man I'd once almost brought myself to call friend. But the other man is silent again; we were never very good with words, even four years after the war.

I tried to remember something about the man, something we'd shared aside from risqué passion behind our chosen partners' backs. But nothing would come for some time. After a while, I stood, and wandered to the other side of the gazebo we occupied, leaning against the railing and looking out over the garden, and the campus.

"Duo and I broke it off, after you left."

"Good for you. I guess Heero and I are still together, if we're talking formal break ups."

"He's with Noin now." I turned at those words, stared at the other man for a long, almost incredulous moment. And then I was laughing-throwing my head back and smiling as tears rolled from my eyes at the sheer irony of that. I could hear the other man begin to softly chuckle as well, and then I just smiled sadly, looking back towards the other man.

Trowa Barton had grown in our absences. Had to hold nearly twelve centimeters1 over me, perhaps ten kilos2, at most. He looked good, I had to admit. Fit, trim. Glowing, almost. I'd only seen the other young man like that a couple of other times, and never before the war had ended.

"What are you doing here?"

"Transfer program. PLU does a couple each year, so I signed up for the one to Beijing." I let that sink in for a minute, leaned back against the railing as I looked out over the gardens once more. It was somewhat reassuring to know that Trowa hadn't consciously gone looking for me. At least not until he got to China.

We fell into another slightly uncomfortable silence, before Trowa whispered, almost pitifully, "I'd like if you came back with me at the end of the semester."

"I can't," I answered simply, my eyes darting down to my shoes, than up to Trowa's face.

"Wu Fei-."

"I told you. I don't know who that is." I walked away without another word.
The letters were written in four different, distinctive scrawls, scrawls I'd once grown to know. For a while, I glared at them, before tucking them into my side-table drawer, promising myself that they would remain there until I could properly burn the damn things. The box contained a few small trinkets. Mementos. Things I'd left behind when I'd left, too rushed to leave the wrath of the people I'd once barely called friends. Tears stung my eyes, and I scowled at the items vindictively.

A small glass dragon shattered on the walkway outside my window. I did not regret it.

It begins with a single phrase, picked up he knows not where and spat back out when Heero decides he doesn't quite enjoy the way he has been ignoring him. For a while, the blue eyed man simply stares at him incredulously.

Quatre is the first in, pulling him away from Heero, who is nursing a split lip and swearing violently in swift Japanese, jabbing an accusing finger towards him and snapping something off. He responds in kind, snarling and biting and pulling against Quatre's strong hold.

Trowa is the next, pulling Heero hastily aside as Quatre is dragging him out of the room and speaking idly of making him a soothing cup of tea.

Duo comes home to a tense atmosphere, and settles at the table, across from him, staring at him intently.

He snaps with the same intensity he'd had in his fight. "What do you want?"

"What happened? I go out for a couple of hours for a run, and I come back to a war zone." He is very quiet, and then asks tenderly, nearly reaching out to touch his hand gently but thinking better of it in the last minute, "Did you and Heero have a fight again?"

"That is none of your business, Maxwell." The stiffness of his voice seems to tell the young brunet what he wants to hear. He frowns a little, and crosses his arms over his chest, leaning back in his chair.

"Why not be honest with him?"

"I am being honest with him. He just won't listen."

It has never hurt so much to lie.

"Are you still doing your music?"

Trowa nodded, very slightly, and picked at his noodle bowl with an absent sort of wonder, as though he wasn't entirely sure what it was. Then he smiled slightly, and looked up at me, chuckling very softly under his breath.

"I gave up choir after you left. It . . . didn't seem right." I raised a brow, but didn't say the first thing that popped into my mind-But you liked singing-settling instead for asking other mundane, small-talk questions that seemed appropriate, considering it had been almost a year and a half since we'd seen each other.

When the conversation inevitably turned to me, I blew off most of the questions. My tea was almost cold, and my steamed pork rice was on it's way to becoming completely inedible for lack of heat. I sighed, and leaned my elbows on the table, staring at Trowa for a good long time.

"You still haven't told me why you're here."

"Would you have preferred Quatre or Heero? Or Duo?" I thought about that for a second, then sighed, rubbing my temples slightly.

"Winner would have been less awkward-."

"No he wouldn't have." And I suddenly remembered how completely stubborn Trowa could be some times, considering what a pushover he had seemed during the wars. I glared up at him, and leaned back, crossing my arms over my chest. The tall brunet took a bite of his noodles, and made a little face; they must have been cold as well.

"Are we done? I have to get back for classes."

"You don't have afternoon classes," Trowa pointed out, taking another bite of the noodles for no other reason than to delay our inevitable departures. I rolled my eyes, and scowled slightly, drumming my fingers on the table.

"Are you trying to make my life difficult?"

"Is it working?"

My scowl deepened. I stood, flung down the money for my half of the meal, and left the restaurant with a softly muttered curse.
I could hear, if I listened hard enough, the sound of students returning from parties and clubs in town. Quiet and tinny and far too late 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 slowly ebbing world would fall completely away for perhaps another hour or two, until I had to wake up. But shutting the window would wake me; and if not that, then the knowledge that Brin was down there, perhaps Trowa as well, would do so. I didn't wish to wake up, and I wasn't listening hard enough to hear the other students yet, anyway.

Now, hours later, I regretted throwing the glass dragon out the window to shatter on the walkway below. It had been of fine craft, and beautiful, for such a tourist-trap trinket. My anger, as always, had gotten the better of me, had swarmed up with those memories that brought such a vile taste to the back of my mouth because I didn't want to remember them now, just wanted them to leave.

The other mementos sat on his side-table almost forlornly, and told of a memory that was not entirely mine; I was not Chang Wu Fei, the man who had somehow managed to collect those things. I couldn't be that man-that youth-that boy, with his stupid fixation with honor and pride and justice.

The door opened to the sharp sounds of laughter and rivalry in the commons area, and the sudden sound of pleasure from door, from the middle of the room, from Brin's bed. I curled around myself subtly, and buried my head in my college-grade pillow; it did nothing to drown out the sounds, no matter how I maneuvered myself.

I realized suddenly, laying there and unwillingly listening to Brin's tryst, that this wasn't what I had wanted when I left those scant years ago in hope of leaving the persecution I always seemed to find in the eyes of the men Trowa and I had betrayed. Laying there in my dorm-issue bed, I remembered having an idea of what I wanted to do with my life before any of this had happened, back when I had been young and naive; and back before the war, and my wife . . .

I was only aware I was fully awake when I stood and left the dorm building without a word or backwards glance. Somehow, I ended up in an unoccupied gazebo in the school gardens, staring out into the darkness, trying to find constellations through the glare of Beijing's lights. And standing there, I did something I hadn't done in a very long time.

Without conscious thought, I sank to my knees, and bowed until my forehead touched the floor of the gazebo. Slowly, I straightened, settling my weight onto my crossed ankles as I looked up at the stars, and finally found a cluster I knew and recognized; not stars, but the L5 cluster.

"Ancestors," I murmured, almost pitifully, ignoring the voice in the back of my mind that told me this was wrong, this was weak and dishonorable.

I started again, differently: "Meilan . . . Nataku. Bring me honor, and guidance. I . . . I've lost my way, somewhere, somehow, and I don't know how to regain what I've lost. I suppose I never have.

"Now, here, I apologize for the dishonor I have brought you and your name, Wife, the dishonor I have brought your memory. I was not a good enough husband for you, and you died. I was not a good enough warrior for you, and I fell. And now I am not a good enough person for your memory. So I ran away; I am not the boy you married, not in voice, or person, or name.

"Meilan, hear my prayers. Guide me. Tell me what to do; I've lost my way. I've become . . . weak. Weaker than Wu Fei was."

I was only somewhat aware of the tears on my cheeks, and more aware of the slight keen in my voice. Slowly, I blinked, and bowed once more, until my forehead touched the gazebo floor. And for a while, I was simply like that, prostrate and helpless, sobbing to myself and unwilling to admit that, even when only the stars and I were privy to it.
* On the assumption from Just a Boy that Wu Fei is 168 centimeters (about 5' 5.5"), this means that Trowa is about 180 cm (about 5' 9").
** On the assumption that Wu Fei is about 58 kg (about 128.6 lbs), this means that Trowa is about 80 kg (176 lbs).
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