Title: The Real Folk Blues, (1/1)
Archive: Elysia www.angelfire.com/id2/avalon
Rating and Warnings: R-ish for dark content. Angst, angst, and more angst. If you get depressed easily, then do not read this one. Also, lots of bad language, implied violence and sex, and mildly disturbing Duo. This story is set some years after the Barton Rebellion and is from Duo's POV.
Disclaimer: "Gundam Wing" is the property of Bandai, Sunrise, Sotsu Agency.
Thanks: To Amet, who puts up with my wacky and sometimes dark turns of fic like no one else. ^_^
Author's Attempt at an Explanation:
Okay, this story is heavily influenced by my recent marathon rental and viewing of "Cowboy Bebop." Never one to do things by halves, I rented the entire uncut version of the series this last week and forced myself to find the time to watch it. And as you might have guessed, I thorougly enjoyed watching it. What I enjoyed even more though was the music in the series, particularly the end theme, "The Real Folk Blues." After having it on loop for about two days, I started writing this story. It's dark and it's angsty and it will probably get me lynched but it demanded to be written and I'm more or less pleased with the result. It's what Amet has taken to calling one of my 'art' fics which generally means a lot of pain and suffering and angsty musings for the characters.
If possible, I suggest getting a copy of the song and listening to it while you read it. I think it will add something to the reading of it.
Feedback: You guys know the drill. I'm not gonna beg... Oh heck, who am I kidding? I'd love feedback--I kid you not when I say it would make my day.
The Real Folk Blues
A 'Gundam Wing' vignette
'Too much time has passed by
To lament that we were once deeply in love.
The wind keeps blowing, and my heart cannot
Heal all the tears in it.'
-- "The Real Folk Blues," by Yoko Kanno.
It might surprise you to know that I stayed on Earth.
I know, I know. So many people just assumed that I scampered back to L2, to the safety of the Sweepers and Hilde's arms with the end of the war. Sounds kind of nice, doesn't it? Me being all respectable, with an actual job and a "little woman." Add a picket fence to the equation and you've got Relena's favorite daydream. Except I think she'd rather it starred you than me. That's all right. It just goes to prove that there's really no accounting for taste.
It's raining now, in that way only a Terran thunderstorm can -- thick with life and tense with destruction, each the mirror of the other and sharp as the knife hidden inside my coat. My hair feels heavy both from the humidity and from the water seeping into each strand, so that it clings to my clothes, to the back of my neck in cold tendrils. The sun has yet to rise so there's nothing except pale blue wreathed in ghostly white fog. My fingers twitch at my side, nervous in their inaction before I give into the urge and a few clicks and cellophane tears later, I'm leaning back, the slow burn of nicotine curling through my lungs. The taste is bitter, but I can feel my nerves calming so the trade off is a fair one. I'm not all that wild about cigarettes. They stink, the stench of tar staining my hair and skin, as visible as Pigpen's ever present dust cloud and the ash burns if you don't flick it the right way. Unfortunately, they bring me about as close to Nirvana as I'm likely to get without a gun in one hand and bomb in the other. Wars are bad for you like that; you get used to that ever present element of danger. Makes peacetime hard, you know? I mean, you work so damn hard to stay alive and then afterward, should you survive, there's a certain rush, an ever present shot of adrenaline that becomes addictive. Days will go by, sometimes months, without the need for it but it always comes back. I can't tell you the number of times I've awoken in a cold sweat, heart racing, gun in one hand and my eyes straining in the darkness, half hoping some monster will show his face so I can hand him his ass and go back to sleep. Nights like those are dangerous. They make me more than a little itchy and crazy. On nights like those, a cigarette -- hell, a whole pack of cigarettes just doesn't cut it. Those are the times when it's a bad idea to cross paths with me. Too many people just don't understand it until it's too late. So I turned to the cigarettes, nasty and clingy as they are, to calm my nerves and keep the body count down to acceptable numbers. I've had so many bounties on my head at one time or another and now that I've been pardoned, I'm trying very hard to keep it that way. Even if it means being a bit more creative when the bodies start falling.
And I've killed. The war didn't stop that. There are too many people who want a chunk out of me and have been stupid enough to take a shot. There were probably better ways to deal with the problem but the bottom line is that I'm not a nice person and these days my shit taking tolerance has become zero. There's no brag in that; just a simple statement of fact. It's why I didn't go back to L2 and it's why I didn't leave anyone a forwarding address. Hilde's a sweet girl but her experiences are limited. She's one of those soldiers who trained and trained and never quite made it to the front lines. Yeah, she helped us out of that tight spot before the end -- and nearly got herself killed in the process.
The problem with Hilde is that she's too nice; there's no killer instinct in her and she will never know the darkness that I walk in. I'm sure she'd follow me into hell if I asked her, but I can't because the price is too high and I'm not walking through those gates with her blood paving the way. Better for her that she stay on L2 and pine forever. No one ever said we were supposed to be happy in this life and I can live with her continual unhappiness if it keeps her alive.
The truth of it is that I don't feel anything for Hilde, nothing beyond a genial sort of affection and I could buy a dog if I wanted that. I don't feel much of anything these days-- I just drift along, watching life pass me by an invisible fishbowl separating me from the rest of the world.
Do you ever think back? Back to that night I asked you to leave with me, to go somewhere beyond that little girl's grasp, beyond the expectations of everyone around us? Do you have the leisure to regret it now, after so many years have passed and the world is no longer your oyster? I know you're searching for me, have been for a couple of years now. There was a time when that would have given me such a warm fuzzy that I'm almost embarrassed with nausea now. Back when I still felt and so much of it was directed towards you, towards the idea of you.
I don't know what it was we had. Love? Lust? Or maybe just convenience. Most of the time, I wonder why I let it consume me as it did. It wasn't as if we had forever. We didn't even have all of a night and yet the memory still burns. Sometimes slow and warm like a gulp of whisky down my throat and other times, jagged and biting as if I'm swimming through a river of glass with each remembered touch and taste. It would have been far better had I never touched you, had I never let you in. Now all I have is the rememberance of forbidden fruit, worse for having taken it because of the knowledge that I can never have it again.
The lesson came too late for both of us, didn't it? And now look at us -- you searching so desperately for the one you wronged and me wandering from place to place, a shiftless ghost in search of an eternity. I'm not afraid of you finding me. I stopped fearing that eventuality so long ago. Rather, I fear my response if we should meet face to face. Part of me hopes that I would thaw, that I could forgive you if I were to stare into your eyes but another side of me whispers that it will never be, that if I meet you my damnation will be complete. I could never go back to you. I could never go back to wondering how long it would be until you were called away, until you willingly chose the mission over me. I guess what I'm trying to say is I could never go back to being second--in your heart, in your mind, and in your life. All I want now is some sense of peace; I want to find a spot and settle in it, I want to feel safe -- not for myself but for those around me. I want the war to stop and I want to stop killing. Most of all, I'd just like the numbness to pass, to blow away like the smoke I breathe out and let me wake up from this nightmare. That's how love always starts out, isn't it? Soft creeping until you realize it, as sweet as a kiss and twice as gentle, like all the best dreams. That's what you did to me -- crept up and slithered in, as much a part of me as the air I take. I invited you, I let you in, and then you left only you didn't. You're still here, still a part of you shuffling beneath my skin and bones.
I want to hate you for being a coward, for hiding behind the mission and Relena and everything in between. There are days when I do. The rest of the time I just sink back into apathy, watching for something, anything. The years stretch on and I wonder if I won't wait the rest of my life, coiled for an instant that might never come.
Fuck, no wonder my nerves are shot to hell. Anyone's would be after having to think about this day after day. I take one more puff at the now dying stick in my hand before flicking the butt to the ground, stomping it to ash without thought. I don't need to glance at my watch to know that dawn will be here soon. Already the horizon is taking that surreal tint, pale blue fading into gray almost as pale as the ground fog. I haven't slept at all this night and I doubt I'll be sleeping more than an hour or two any time soon. I stopped sleeping normally after the war ended. I don't know if it's because there's no longer any reason to horde sleep whenever I can or if that's what ghosts do but most of the time I go for days without any rest at all. This goes on until I finally do have to crash and that usually eats up another day or two of time. I'd rather it were not this way. Having nightmares for a day or two without being able to wake up is not fun. It's even less fun having to grapple with the constant paranoia that vulnerable state leaves me with. I've been thrown out of more than a couple of places for aiming at room service whenever they creep in to change the towels. I'd sleep with the gun out of reach except I haven't done that in over five years and I'm too old to change tricks now. Besides there are too many people out there who'd like nothing more than to see me six feet under for the things I've done before and after the fighting ended.
You see, the war didn't end for me. It just changed faces. Some soldiers woke up and were able to lay aside their weapons but I couldn't do that. By that time, I had become the weapon, honed to an edge that not even time has dulled. I'm no longer fighting Oz but the remnants of shattered souls, sometimes collecting a bounty on them and sometimes simply collecting them for Shinigami. Contrary to popular belief, I'm not stealing; I'm not Robin Hood and you're not my lovely Maid Marian to lament over. These days I make enough doing odd jobs, the kind that require my less than delicate touch, that worrying about employment or cash is rather pointless.
I doubt that you would approve of any of the things I do now. Not the smoking or the occasional whisky sour to help me sleep or the people I leave in my wake. Everyone has skeletons in their closet and I'm accruing my own burial mound of them. I don't have to worry about these cigarettes being the death of me (as I have heard on so many occasions from so many concerned busybodies--er, citizens). I don't intend to live any longer than I have to. I won't willingly take my own life--that's cowardly and beyond the pale. Too many people have died so that I might live. I oweit to them to soldier on but I see no reason to work at extending those years as if they might bring something worthwhile with them. Life just is and it never stops and I will go on with it.
It's early now, the sky sparse with streaks of light. The rain is still falling, oceans of puddles rippling silver at my feet. The weight of my gun settles against my body as I lift out of my lean, stretching with a yawn. My jaw strains in relief and I open and shut it experimentally. I could use a drink right about now but the only place I'm going to get one here is back in my rooms. The stores and cafes still have a couple of hours before they open, let alone start serving drinks. I'm not really in the mood for company any way. I never am these days. The urge does hit and I long for human contact. Rarer still are those times I let myself wish for the others, wish for you. There is, as I've often noted, something of a masochistic streak in me. You fucked with my mind nine ways to Sunday and I still can't be rid of you no matter how hard I try. There was a bargain made that night and I think you got the better end of it. I seriously doubt you wander around with half of yourself sold in a devil's bargain. Hell, I seriously doubt you think of me at all, except for that burning desire to complete another mission you've set for yourself. Maybe I should feel flattered--being upgraded to mission status and all. It's not every day you're put on the same pedestal as Queen of the fucking World. Too bad it feels more like a slap than a pat on the back.
I have no wish to be idolized or treated as if I were something precious. I'm not worthy of that sort of adulation. Even if I hadn't done all the things I've done, even if without all the blood I've spilt, I'm not worthy of that. If you could treat me like a person... No, I don't even think you can do that. There's the mission and its vitals then there's the nonessentials. You can't put me in the latter category for so long and then just expect me to accept it when you change your mind. Things just don't work that way.
Maybe I should force myself to sleep, just take the Jack Daniels in my knapsack and tell the conceirge to fuck off for a few hours. The nightmares might be preferable to this endless mental digression I've thrown myself into. 'Face it, Duo, you loved someone who didn't love you back until he did and you just can't deal with it.' I've come so far, through space and across the surface of this planet and I feel like I haven't moved at all.
The cobblestone of the road is rough beneath the sole of my shoes, rougher still when I manage to trip myself up and tumble to the ground. I bite off a curse, thinking how I must look like some drunk stumbling towards his hotel room to anyone who might be actually be awake. I sit there for a moment, both hands flat against the paved stone, watching the water drip off those strands of hair that have fallen loose. Rainwater is soaking my clothes now and I know I should get up now before I manage to catch myself one hell of a cold but I can't. I find myself watching the puddles forming around me, small mirrors of another temporary world and I wonder if in those small worlds if there's another me, a happier me. And somewhere in that musing I realize someone is walking towards me, his sure and steady steps echoing in my mind with such clarity that I feel my heart pick up, all thoughts of any rest fleeing. Those steps are inexorable, moment by moment, they draw nearer and all I can think is about is going for my gun and how hard you must have searched to get this far. I didn't leave you any clues. I was careful. Will you offer me your hand if I let myself gaze upward or will I meet endless blue disgust and loathing? Are you here to try to save me or to end the threat I represent to all those ideals you hold so dear?
The questions chase themselves over and over and I have no answer for them. I can't even say if I will let myself raise my head. The moment has come and I find all my resolutions are melting and I fear what will come next.