Title: Merry (Chinese) New Year
Author: Sorceress Fantasia
Pairings: 1+2, 3+4, mild S+5
Warnings: Slight angst
Archive: Lev's Lair
Disclaimer: My alarm clock woke me out of this neat dream where the GW gang did indeed belong to me. Too bad… So well, I don't own the GW gang and the anime in any way. Sad, I know, but it's true.
Note: Someone has told me, after I completed this fic, that Sally is Chinese. Or at least, half-Chinese. Still, no matter how I look at her, she doesn't resemble one. So, for all intents and purpose of this fic, just pretend that she is not.
Thanx to Duo-chan for beta-ing! ^^
Wufei glanced sideways from his seat, still reclined and tired, and he peered out of the shuttle window. The pane offered him, strangely, comfort. It was a protective shield that kept him safely away from the clutches of the deep, dark world out there. The world outside was a black velvety blanket adorned by countless stars, planets and other celestial beings. It was a beautiful sight, no matter how many times he had seen it. But it was also a quiet world, the silence broken only by the hum of the shuttle's engine. So quiet… Too quiet. He didn't like silence all that much actually: it just served as an irksome reminder of how lonely his life was.
And he could not deny that outer space brought back many memories of L5 and the war. He could not help but compare seeing outer space through the window of the shuttle and seeing it via the screens inside Shenlong. And the knowledge that his gundam was already gone -for good- did not make the reminiscences any more pleasant.
Wufei suppressed a sigh, and closed his eyes. When he opened his eyes, outer space greeted him once more. The stars twinkled steadily, reminding him of the string of lights Quatre had wound around his Christmas tree not too long ago.
Christmas… Wufei snorted.
"Hey, what's up, Wu?"
He turned to his side, and shook his head. "Nothing, Duo. Just… thinking."
Duo cocked his head, peering intently at him as though contemplating something. "Thinking about what? You've been staring out of the window for the past fifteen minutes at least. You okay?"
Wufei looked away again. "I'm… okay. I was just thinking how the stars reminded me of Quatre's Christmas tree."
"Oh yeah… it's the stars, isn't it? I used to feel the same way. I mean… don't they just resemble Christmas lights? But well, that was until Quatre invited me to his Christmas bashes. When you're there, immersed and absorbed into the party and people, you'd find that outer space is much too quiet to be associated with Christmas," Duo noted absently. Then his expression changed into something part wistful and part nostalgia. "At least, too quiet for Quatre's Christmases. You remember the last one?"
He nodded. Of course he remembered. Everyone at the Preventers had affectionately dubbed it the 'party of the year', and people were still congratulating Quatre on its success, despite the fact that it was over a month ago. Wufei could still remember the seemingly endless stream of booze and food, the joyous voices yelling out 'Merry Christmas!' and the clinking of wine glasses and mugs and the terribly embarrassing mistletoe tradition. In his attempt to avoid being caught by Duo for some drinking game, he had stayed in the corner of the party, unwittingly standing under that damn plant and Sally just sauntered over and gave him a loud smooch on his lips. By some quirk of fate or misfortune -he couldn't decide which-, Duo saw that and cheered so loudly everyone took notice of the incident. For the rest of the night, Wufei walked around looking upwards, just so in case he came across another stalk of mistletoe.
Oh, but the others seemed to love the plant. For a while, Wufei was counting the number of times Duo had stood under one and called Heero to join him. Quatre tried that with Trowa as well after Duo gave him a knowing wink. He gave up counting after Noin and Zechs joined in the 'fun'.
And the party was fun indeed. Even Heero, who usually hated parties with a vengeance, seemed to have enjoyed himself immensely that night. Perhaps the mistletoe had something to do with that, Wufei smirked inwardly. But… somehow… he failed to truly enjoy himself that night. Even when he was surrounded by every one of his closest friends, exchanging presents with them, drinking and eating with them… he had felt loneliness eating away at his heart.
And he didn't know why.
"Yeah, I remember that one. It was… fun," Wufei said simply, suppressing his sigh.
Duo nodded. "I loved that Christmas party! But I thought the New Year's party was even better!"
Yes, he remembered that one too. Relena had, unexpectedly, organized that one in one of her numerous mansions and invited all of them over. That party was great as well, and it was a lot less formal that Quatre's since it was just the gundam pilots, Dorothy, Sally, Catherine, Lady Une, Noin and Zechs. Wufei remembered how Relena had completely made him change his opinion of her when she challenged Duo and Heero to make out for five minutes in plain sight during a game of truth or dare. And by the time the New Year countdown was over, every couple there was already making out, much to the ire of the rest.
Wufei chuckled at that memory.
"Of course you liked it better. Heero had to ask Relena for a room," he said, and smirked wider when he saw Duo's face go red.
But that didn't necessarily mean that he liked the New Year party better too. In fact, if he were any judge, he would have preferred not going to that one. After all, it reminded him that no one in his group of friends celebrated Chinese New Year, his festival. In fact, his friends did not celebrate any of the traditional Chinese festivals. And it hurt too much to celebrate them alone.
"It'd be great to see the others again after so long, huh? Man, I still can't believe I haven't seen or heard from Heero in a whole month!" Duo babbled, trying to force his blush down. "Still, I'm glad that Une didn't give us the other mission. I heard that Rick and his team are still at it, and it's already been three whole months. Heh, Rick was pretty upset to miss both the Christmas and New Year parties."
Wufei nodded absently, not caring too much about the other team of people whom he didn't quite know. He was quite different from Duo in this aspect, unable to make friends easily. But it didn't bother him, really. After all, he was rather contented with his group of close-knit friends. He stifled a sigh, and looked out of the window again.
Outer space was as beautiful as he had always remembered it to be, but somehow, as he grew older, the magic around it seemed to just… dissipate. Perhaps it was because science had enabled him to see what legends said humans were unable to reach. All those things he had read in books, and all those things his teachers had told him about… a great portion of those legends were destroyed when he first stepped into space. Or maybe a long time before that.
It was rather inane, actually. Once he had grown up, it became obvious, even if he hadn't been in a space shuttle before, that many of those legends he had heard were rather… impossible. Some were preposterous even. But still, Wufei knew that legends were legends for a reason. And even if they were impossible, they were an important part of his heritage, his culture, and his life. For if everything were done according to science, everything man believed in had to have some measure of scientific logic behind it, life would certainly be bland. Not to mention mechanical.
And that was probably the reason why he had tried looking for the legendary moon palace when he was on the moon base a while ago. He remembered one of his many teachers telling him of the story of Chang-e, a mortal woman who had eaten her husband's magical elixir and flown to the moon . According to legends, she lived in the moon palace now, accompanied only by the jade rabbit and another deity in exile. Wufei had been sorely tempted to go around the moon and look for it, even if his common sense told him it couldn't be there. If anything, Chang-e would have suffocated on her journey to the moon without a space suit.
He sighed again.
The Preventer's private shuttle was a lot faster than the normal commercial flight, and Wufei and Duo managed to reach Earth three hours ahead of schedule.
"Oh man… that flight was so fast I don't think I even got a chance to catch much sleep…" Duo grumbled, picking up his luggage and Preventer equipment. Turning to Wufei, he asked, "You don't think tomorrow's a holiday or something, do you? You think Lady Une will grant me leave for a day?"
"That's a rhetorical question," Wufei answered amusedly. Then Duo's inquiry of the possibility of the next day being a holiday suddenly struck him, and he gasped. Quickly, he peered at his watch. He frowned when he saw only a lighter band of skin where his watch used to be; that loyal tool had been sacrificed during their mission.
"Duo, what's the date today?"
Duo blinked, and checked his watch. "Today is the 31st of January. Why?"
'31st… that means it's Chinese New Year's eve today . I almost forgot all about it…' the Chinese boy mused. 'Looks like it's going to be me alone again. Not like I can drag Duo over to my place and ask him to celebrate it with me. He'd want to go back to Heero. Besides, it should be the reunion dinner  tonight, but I don't have a family now…'
"I think I'll be going to back to HQ to type out my report, Duo. Have fun tonight," he said simply, and started to walk away. His mind was already making his images of him, staring blankly at his computer screen as the green light lit up his face, and a mug of cold coffee on his table, untouched. Maybe, when… if he noticed the time on his computer reading 12 o' clock, he could wish himself a Happy Chinese New Year too.
But Duo quickly caught his arm. "Hey, Lady Une wouldn't want that report until a few days later. C'mon, let's go to your place. Heero's not at home anyway. He's out on some task Sally made him do." Duo pouted, the way he always did whenever he wanted something done his way. Few people were immune to that, if any, and Wufei was just too happy to have company tonight.
"You… sure about that?"
Duo nodded. "Yeah. I'll be alone at home anyway. Might as well crash over at your place tonight."
Wufei smiled. Perhaps this Chinese New Year's eve, he wouldn't be that alone after all.
Duo hadn't driven to the shuttle port the other day, since Heero had to use the car still. So Wufei had to drive both of them back to his place, a task he happily undertook, even though his car trunk might say otherwise. The drive was a light-hearted one, both of them keeping up a light repartee that they were famous for in the HQ. And if they weren't teasing each other, Duo was there to keep talking and prevent the car from falling into silence. It was even better than the stereo, Wufei mused. At least, Duo's talking meant that there was someone other than himself in the car.
"So Patricia just glared at Vincent, and she really slapped him good, I tell ya! Vincent spent the rest of the week moping around… for a while, I thought he was going to mope for the rest of his life. Luckily, Patricia forgave him after a while… Hey, are you listening to what I'm saying?"
Wufei nodded absently. "Yeah… You said Patricia forgave Vincent." But honestly, he had little idea who Vincent was. And it was only because Duo had mentioned just a while ago that Patricia was his personal secretary that he knew who she was.
"Right, you're listening." Turning to his side, Duo sighed. "You know, Wufei. Maybe you should mix around more. It's bound to get boring if you keep to yourself."
He wanted to retort that he wasn't bored at all. After all, he had a good life. He had a couple of close friends, a nice apartment, a great job and enough food on the table. But his mind refused to say that. Wufei knew better. Suddenly, the music blaring out of the stereo seemed a lot louder than it was.
"Speaking… from experience?" Wufei knew it wasn't true, but he didn't know what else to say.
Duo snorted, then his eyes turned wistful. "Partly. You remember our first Christmas together?"
Wufei remembered it as clearly as crystal. It had been during the war, in a dilapidated safehouse that they were all hiding in after a particularly tiring mission. It was a simple celebration, with little food and no Christmas tree at all. But Heero and Duo had done what they could with their supplies and made it a wonderful day, even if it was so very austere. That night, even Wufei had felt happy, the first in a long time.
But it was another event that made that night even much more memorable, for it marked the turning point in life for two of his closest friends. It was that party that Heero had finally gotten up the guts to tell Duo how he really felt about him. Or maybe it was the alcohol Quatre had snuck in and Duo had egged him into having. Professor J probably never thought that the Perfect Soldier would be so bad at drinking and hence never trained him in it.
"I don't know about you, but none of the others celebrated Christmas. They knew what it was, but they had never celebrated the festival before. Still, Heero noticed that I wasn't… happy then. I was kinda… thinking about the last Christmas I had celebrated…"
The Chinese boy resisted the urge to console his friend. He knew about the Maxwell Church, but he didn't think it would be a good idea to remind Duo about it.
"…so Heero organized the whole thing, hoping that my mood would pick up. I didn't know about it until that morning when I walked into the kitchen and saw him trying to prepare the food." Duo laughed at that memory. "And after the party, Heero told me that I shouldn't keep things to myself and make myself miserable. I agree with him on that. I mean… if you keep things to yourself, it gets a little uneasy on yourself, yeah? It's the same with you not mixing around. Solitude is good, I admit that; even I need it sometimes. But too much of that is… well, bad."
They traveled the rest of the journey in silence.
Walking up the steps to his apartment, Wufei wondered if Duo was right. Perhaps if he had mixed around more, get more friends, he would have no need of an empty apartment on Chinese New Year's eve? Perhaps he could have organized something, and invited his friends over?
But it was a little too late for regrets, his mind answered. At least, too late for this year. Maybe he could do something next year, but for now, he would have to content himself with only Duo for company.
Just as he reached out to unlock his door, Duo held out a hand to stop him.
"Wait a minute, Wufei. I have something to tell you," he said with a faint smirk. "It's important."
Wufei crossed his arms. "What is it? What can so important that you'd want to talk outside my apartment instead of going in and crash on my bed?"
"Well… nothing much. Just a little piece of information so that you won't too shocked," he teased. "If Heero can notice my depression, and the others can celebrate Christmas for my sake… what makes you think we can't do it for you?"
"What…?" Wufei whispered, blinking hard. Hope was blossoming in his heart, but he wasn't sure if it was a good idea to let it grow further.
Duo just grinned wider, and gave the door a loud knock, then a series of softer but still audible knocks. It was as though a code, a password, a magical spell, for the door opened almost immediately, and bright lights flooded the dark corridor they were standing in.
"Happy Chinese New Year," Duo chirped softly, gesturing inside. When Wufei hesitated, he just pulled him in.
"What's going on?" Wufei asked, looking around his usually blend apartment that had been decorated with various red objects like the red lanterns and streamers hanging from the ceiling. Couplets praising the beauty of spring and the joy of a new year had been written on red paper and stuck onto the walls neatly. Food, Chinese New Year goodies, in fact, were stacked up on his tables. And his friends… were all here.
Quatre stood up from his seat at the dining table where he had been talking with Trowa. "Happy Chinese New Year, Wufei. Like this? We weren't too sure about how this festival is celebrated, but we tried our best with the information we found in books and the Internet."
"Right," Sally added. "How did we do?"
Dorothy grinned. "Must have done it right. Just look at the goldfish impression he's doing."
Beside her, Relena sniggered.
"Stop being so surprised," Lady Une teased. "Tonight is for you… not that we're not enjoying it, right, Noin?" She turned to her friend.
"Definitely. Who knew that there were so many goodies for this festival?" she chuckled, but that faded when Zechs whispered something in her ear. She promptly gave him a good nudge in the chest.
Wufei turned to Duo. "So that's why you wanted to come over tonight…"
He nodded. "I didn't lie. Heero isn't at home; he's here, helping out with the party. Speaking of which, this party is for you. So stop gawking and go enjoy it."
Heero and Trowa nodded at him, both wearing a faint smile.
Wufei laughed, and nodded. With that, he delved himself into the party his friends had organized for him.
The night sky was still beautiful, even if he was looking at it from his balcony on earth. And it was perhaps, even more beautiful with the sounds and noises the air carried around. Outer space was still much too quiet for his liking.
Wufei didn't turn. "Yeah. You too?"
Sally joined him at the balcony, leaning over the railing and looking at the stars. "It's been fun tonight, hasn't it?"
He remembered the party that had taken place in his apartment just a while ago. It was quite different from the traditional celebrations he had back on L5 with his clan. Like Quatre had said, they had read up on the festival in books and on the Internet. Of course it wouldn't be the same as the solemn celebrations he had had.
There was supposed to be a reunion dinner with his family on Chinese New Year's eve, but he had no family. Instead, his friends replaced his family and gave him a party. Married elders were supposed to give red packets to the younger, unmarried ones, but Quatre had gone around and gave everyone one. The red paper on his wall bearing the word 'Fu' was supposed to be hung upside down, but it wasn't . And Zechs said that he couldn't find a decent plant for the occasion, so he brought a Christmas tree over. But the most amusing thing had to be Duo and Heero kissing under every red lantern as if they were mistletoes.
"Yeah, it has," Wufei replied. "Where's everyone else?"
"Well, Une, Noin and Zechs have gone home. The rest are sleeping in either the living room or the guest room. Duo was drunk off his ass, so he might be sleeping somewhere near your toilet though. And anywhere he's at, Heero's not far off," she laughed.
"Thanks, Sally. For tonight."
She shook her head. "Don't be silly. Everyone had a part in it."
"Duo doesn't lie. He said that Heero wasn't home because you asked him to do something. You organized the party, didn't you?"
She was silent for a while, then she smiled as though disappointed that her attempt at anonymity had been discovered. "Yeah. I noticed that you weren't really enjoying yourself during Quatre's Christmas party and Relena's New Year party. So I thought it would be nice to organize something you're familiar with. But *we* weren't too familiar with it, so we must have done a lot of weird things, huh? Though I must say, that Christmas tree was a dead giveaway."
"Well," Sally said, pushing herself off the railing, "I should be going too. I've still got to go to work tomorrow morning, unlike the rest of you. Don't worry about me; I'll get out myself. You just stay here and enjoy the tranquility because Duo will be pestering you to celebrate tomorrow again."
"Hey," he called out when she started to walk away.
Sally turned back with a knowing grin. "What?" she asked, cocking her head to the side.
Wufei straightened and returned her smile. "Thanks."
If it were possible, her grin widened. "You're welcome. And Happy Chinese New Year again, Wufei." And then she was gone.
When Sally's retreating back was completely out of his sight, he turned back to the dark sky. Wufei gazed at the moon again, and suddenly, it didn't seem so lonesome anymore.
Sorceress Fantasia @ 7th December 2003
Last beta-ed 18th December 2003
: The story of Chang-e has many, many versions, but the main gist of it is that she floated to the moon and became a deity after eating a magical elixir.
: Actually, the exact date for Chinese New Year depends on the lunar calendar. For the year 2003, it fell on 1st February.
: The Chinese have a reunion dinner on Chinese New Year's eve, and it is meant for the whole family to reunite and have dinner together.
: Just in case you were curious, 'Fu' means prosperity and happiness (to a lesser degree).