I am, obviously, not Chinese, so if I've really fucked up the random Mandarin or culture, attribute it to several hundred years of social evolution in the Earth's Sphere.
As always, replies to questions and whatnot are on my lj.
"Wan nian ju hui."
Wufei had earned himself a variety of reputations among coworkers and even the other pilots. Most of those reputations involved a frightening temper, a few less emphasized his strict adherence to a personal sense of honor, and a very select group—four, to be precise—reflected a character as driven and complicated as a snowstorm. What all these perceptions held in common was the undeniable fact of Wufei's shrewd and learned intelligence.
Except when his heart stepped in the way of that intellect, however, because then Wufei did stupid shit like joining Marimeia's uprising or going alone to the home of a known traitor and war criminal. Didn't matter that the traitor was blood-related (wasn't that a fucking slap in the face, that a single person's cowardly pettiness destroyed an ancient and honorable clan). It was still a very stupid thing to do.
Wufei's reasoning went something along these lines: a relative betrayed the rest of the family, and on L5 those crimes had always been dealt with between the leading clans, namely the Long and Chang clans. It seemed cheap, perhaps pyrrhic, to hand the man over to Preventers without getting his own answers.
It didn't help that Wufei still had a hard time remembering that he didn't have to do things alone, that he was quite close with four other people that were his equals if anyone was. Was still proud, still trying to figure out what the hell he was meant to do in a world when he was usually regarded as either a 'loose cannon' or the last surviving relic of an outdated culture.
No one should forget that he'd once mocked Nataku for her love of Justice.
Shi Hong was different than Wufei remembered. He'd been old enough at the time of the scandal to have a few memories of his disgraced uncle, but the snarling tiger of rage now had something serpentine about him that set the pilot on edge. Even so, Shi Hong was the perfect Chinese combination of happy and reserved to see his young nephew, previously thought dead, and the tea that was served was just like the green blend that their clan had been known for. Wufei hadn't tasted it for years.
Even though Shi Hong's mansion was rather ostentatious in a European type of way, the tea set was true Chinese porcelain and the silk hangings handmade, the carved statues made of polished green jade and his native language spoken with fluent grace. All the tiny familiar things in an unfamiliar environment struck something still unhealed in Wufei's heart—it was physical proof of the slow destruction of his ancestors and honor in the face of a more aggressive and more widespread culture.
Wufei had heard the quiet comments, most made behind his back; the words that attacked his ubiquitous sword, his severity, even his martial arts with confusion and misunderstanding. Was it bitter irony that the last shreds of his family lay in the company of the same traitor that might as well have pushed the self-destruct button himself, or was it simply the unbiased cruelty of a sick, fucked-up world?
Only one of the other pilots could have any idea what it was Wufei had lost; but Quatre had willingly given up everything he was heir to, and to this day still had his own people around should he wish to lose himself in his ancestral heritage for a while. And therein lay the difference that continued driving Wufei against the implacable progress of the world—and his own sense that he was living in a time he wasn't meant for.
And so it was in the course of a long conversation in Mandarin, the taste of true green tea cool on his tongue, the subtle play of light from a window against jade, that Wufei let his guard down.
He's a traitor. But he's family. He's a traitor…but so was I.
By the time Wufei realized that time had slowed too far to be the natural result of pleasant conversation, it was too late. Whatever drug Shi Hong had slipped into the tea had already taken hold, had slipped through the weakness of a dragon's armor and gone straight for the heart. (It must have been a powerful drug, to trap a pilot so neatly, but Heero's wordless admonishments and Quatre's less-subtle urgings to stop obsessing over this case so much came back to him briefly; and really, maybe Duo and Trowa had been right about needing to take better care of himself.)
But. There was a traitor in his family—that wasn't Wufei himself—and…
He woke up in a plain room, tied to a chair, like the stuff of horror movies and badly done interrogations from the war. Shi Hong was there, a tiger with the poisonous smile of a serpent. He held a belt and allowed the silver buckle to dangle freely.
"My brother was our father's favorite," he said, "even though I was the elder."
"For good reason," Wufei sneered, and stars burst across his vision as he was backhanded with an almost lazy gesture. Shi Hong had been an excellent martial artist in his own right.
"I should've been next in line as the head of the clans," Shi Hong told him. "I wonder what my brother would have thought, to know that he'd sired such a jianhuo."
Wufei managed to impugn both his uncle's honor and his status with a quiet, "Buyaolian de dongxi."
Shi Hong was displeased.
When Wufei woke up in the hospital, he didn't know how he'd gotten there. He didn't really care, for the first time in his paranoid and self-possessed life, because he was far more concerned with wishing that he'd never woken up at all.
Our people have suffered throughout history, his father once told him solemnly, both kneeling before one another with a low table between them, but we have always been descendants of the Dragon. We have endured, with our heads held high with honor. Even when forced to march to our deaths, we do so with unbreakable pride.
Lying in the hospital bed hurt, and moving hurt even more, but the mental static making the waking world feel distant and hazy was worst of all.
"Wufei," someone breathed, and suddenly Duo was in his line of sight, brow furrowed and expression unusually serious. As Wufei stared back at him, that furrow deepened.
"It's been forty-five days and sixteen hours since you were brought to Brussels' General Hospital," came Heero's soft voice, somewhere to his left. Duo muttered a wry 'not that anyone's counting or anything.' "You slipped into a coma while in critical condition. The doctor has prescribed a physical therapy regimen for when you're up and about, which should be within two or three weeks."
Wufei processed this information with bland slowness.
"Trowa was the one that found you," Duo murmured. He was still frowning faintly, as though one of his experiments with explosive materials hadn't reacted the way he'd calculated. "After you went missing and Preventers lost contact with you, Heero got a hold on your last case files and tracked down some names. Trowa infiltrated the ranks of the assholes that Shi Hong hires to do his dirty work—"
"Chang Shi Hong has been banished from our clan," Wufei's grandfather declared with well-hidden sorrow. "From now on, his name is not to be spoken, nor his person missed."
Traitors were stricken from the record, erased from history and blood and family. The last time Wufei could remember crying was after his mother's death, not long after his father was declared heir to the Chang Clan, but just then he came very close to doing so again.
"Thank you," he rasped aloud when it seemed like Heero and Duo had finished, because he could sense Trowa's presence somewhere in the room as well and honor demanded nothing less of him. Then he wanted to laugh at himself, because really, what claim to honor could he possibly have left? What right to consider himself still among those who had died with their head held high?
And because he had no claim or right, Wufei allowed himself to curl onto his side with his back to the others and close his eyes, hoping without any real expectation for the darkness behind his eyelids to become permanent.
Wan nian ju hui.
Ten thousand thoughts have turned to ash.
It shouldn't have surprised him, but it did, his body twitching as Heero laid down at his back and, judging by the faint smell of gunpowder, set his gun on the table near at hand. Duo forced his own way unceremoniously along Wufei's front. He subtly refrained from excessive contact, which was unusual for the American, and Wufei wasn't sure if he should be profoundly grateful that he wasn't being pressed for what he wasn't certain he could give—or enraged that it was necessary in the first place. For a moment all he could think of was his uncle (his uncle!) and shame rose like bitter gorge in his throat.
Trowa sat next to the overly-fluffy pillows and simply rested his fingers against Wufei's untied hair.
Wufei pretended that it was tiredness that let his head fall beneath Duo's arm. He pretended that the others were actually fooled. He didn't have to fake the surge of hatred at himself for taking comfort when he should never have needed it—
(Especially from other men.)
Shi Hong wasn't laughing, not aloud, and maybe it would've been easier if there had been the same spark of lust in the man's eyes that the occasional OZ officer had worn around the young Gundam pilots. But this wasn't about incest or some twisted version of the Japanese shudōthat Wufei had once stiffly explained to a culturally clueless Heero; it was malice in its purest form, humiliation and the misplaced anger of a bitter man. The pain had radiated from Wufei's abdomen to the whole of his body and he was sick with the degradation, sick with whatever the hell was in his system that kept him from being able to fight back, sick that Shi Hong couldn't even be honest in his own vengeance and touch Wufei himself.
The sound of conversation was startling after a long silence. One of the vague murmurs was female and familiar; the other was Quatre. The knowledge made Wufei nauseous. Heero, Trowa, and Duo could only guess at what was going on in his head, in his heart, but Quatre had his thrice-damned empathy.
So Wufei let himself fall back into the hazy mental distance that had clung to him upon waking. Heero was at his back, Duo in front of him, Trowa at his head; by the time Quatre had entered the room and laid a gentle hand on his knee, Wufei was already standing alone in a landscape molded by the weight of a thousand years of inheritance and his own slow spiral of self-destruction.