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 '06, Best Novella Adult!)

Category: Gundam Wing - Rating: R - Genres: Angst, Drama, Romance - Characters: Duo, Trowa, Wufei - Warnings: [!] [X] - Published: 2007-03-13 - Updated: 2007-03-14 - 1644 words

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
excerpt T. S Eliot's "The Hollow Men"


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 the real world; and sometimes it seemed like the village was caught in a time capsule that displaced it to the mid-nineteen hundreds, or perhaps earlier. I hadn't really thought much of that.

If I woke up now, I could help the proprietor's daughter in town. She was a sweet girl, though that 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 people and things I had once loved.

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/. 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 the book I had kept 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. I didn't want to remember the dreams I had, most nights.

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 must have been summer already. 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 five years with little privacy concerning my body, I'd given up hopes of retaining that privacy. 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'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 seven 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 cared 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 young man 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.

It didn't take me too terribly long to explain to my employer at the factory that I would not be coming back next summer, or for the rest of this one. He was regretful, thanked me for my work on the line, and paid my wages for the day, before bowing me out the door. The village was warm that day, with a gentle breeze running through the streets. I adjourned quietly to the river on the north side of the town, and stood on the dock there.

As I stood, silent and appraising of the valley around me, I released my hair from the tight tail I kept it in, and shook it out, running my fingers through the long locks. After everything, I had let it grow some, not so restricted in the idea of changing the outside; for all anyone else saw was just another rural Chinese boy, sporting scars from a war he didn't like to talk about.

Without conscious thought, I sank to my knees, and bowed until my forehead touched the floor of the dock. Slowly, I straightened, settling my weight onto my crossed ankles as I looked up at the sky, and figured my location as roughly as could, until I could vaguely perceive a cluster of brilliant light against the spectrum blue: the L5 cluster.

I did not pray, but thanked my wife and my ancestors for all they had shown me and given me. By then, I could hear the heavy stride behind me on the gravel path. For a very long time, I stayed like that, bowed over my knees and silent, until the creak of wood made me turn.

There was no expression on our faces. He wasn't alone. After a while, I sighed, stood, and nodded very slightly, stepping towards him. He scowled a little, and grabbed my elbow, pulling me close as he wrapped an arm around my shoulder. Into my ear, he grumbled, "You promised to write me."

"That I did," I whispered back. His grip was painful. Their eyes were riveted on me as well. "You brought-."

"He insisted. I didn't really have much choice." Then he pulled away, smiling slightly, darting thick bangs out of dark blue eyes. His smile faltered a little, and his hand raised slowly, raking through my loose hair and pinning the locks up and out of my eyes. I smiled softly, and fell willingly into his arms.

"Hey, Chang!"

He looks up from the cot, not really expecting anything spectacular. But there is something in that voice, something in that deep timbre that tells him to look.

The jokester grin and nearly violet eyes haunt his dreams some nights, and now make him wonder. But the words are purely real and true.

"I've got a proposition for you."
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