A/N: This takes place during the bubonic plague, or Black Death.
Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing or any of its characters.
Pairings: multiple non-yaoi- 5+Sally, 2+Hilde, 1+Relena.
Title: Thy Future Looks Black
Author: Kat Faye
Comments: Alright, I did my research, here. The Renaissance, technically, is between the 14th and 17th centuries (13-1600's). The Black Death takes place in the mid 1300's.
Wufei sat astride a strong, blood-bay horse. Even through the saddle, the young man could feel the horse’s powerful muscles quiver with each step forward. His posture was rigid, his back remaining straight as coal-black eyes studied the small town they were coming to. His companion rode not far behind him, astride a black-coated horse. In contrast to Wufei, however, his companion slouched easily, large violet eyes studying the scenery leisurely. A long chestnut braid thumped against his back with each step while walking; but when they galloped it flew out behind him farther than his steed’s tale, waving almost like a banner.
The two were travelers, and they hadn’t been to a town in a fortnight , and had been surviving on supplies and skills alone. This wasn’t uncommon for the two men, and Wufei even enjoyed the solitude. However, the braided man, Duo, wasn’t the least bit disappointed in the approaching town. He enjoyed the social company that his partner liked to avoid. But this town had the man on his guard.
“This place doesn’t seem quite right, Wufei,” Duo stated, an air of apprehension pressing down on him from all sides to the point he thought he was suffocating.
“What’s wrong with it?” the Asian man inquired, raven eyebrows drawing together. “You have been seeking civilization for some time now.”
“This place,” the braided man murmured, his violet eyes growing opaque and clouding over. “This place smells like death.”
Wufei yanked on the reins of his horse, pulling it around so it came face to face with Duo’s mount. The sudden movement startled both horses, and even Duo’s eyes widened with the unexpected movement.
“Don’t be foolish, Maxwell!” he said, more in curious fright than in anger. When Duo refused to meet his gaze, Wufei turned his horse around once more, though less forceful this time. He then drew his heels into the steed’s sides, riding towards the town at an easy canter. With a yelp of “Hold on, Wufei!”, Duo was cantering right behind the other horse. The bay kicked a hind leg angrily at the intrusion of space, and the black horse reared up to avoid being smashed in the chest. Duo grasped the coarse black mane to keep from falling, and when the horse’s front hooves had hit the ground once more, Duo urged him into another canter, following the sounds of Wufei’s laughter at his expense.
The two travelers slowed their mounts as they drew close to the town, as to not frighten any townspeople that may be out so late at night. The town wasn’t anything special, just a small clump of houses and a small inn. The artisans most likely dealt their business from within their homes. The size of the town eased Wufei’s heart somewhat. In larger cities he had heard of a disease that spread like wildfire.
“We don’t get strangers often,” came a female voice from in front of Wufei. Her sudden appearance startled the horse, and the young man found himself gripping fistfuls of mane as the jumpy steed reared back in fright. The shadowy form in front of him grabbed a hold of the horse’s reins, stroking his nose to calm him.
“Are you trying to kill someone, woman?” Wufei asked incredulously, and he heard Duo’s mirthful laughter behind him. No woman in their right mind would have the gall, the stupidity, to approach two strangers alone at this time of night.
The figure stepped forward out of the shadows so that the moonlight illuminated her. The silver beams accentuated the blonde in her hair, which was pulled back carelessly into two twisted braids. A small smile on her face showed her amusement, but a steel glint took up residence in her beautifully blue eyes.
“You two are the ones galloping on in here like there’s a band of knights on your trail, and you suspect me of trying to kill somebody?” her sarcasm only seemed to infuriate Wufei even more, and even Duo pulled up so he was along side his companion.
“You are even armed!” the blonde woman added, motioning absently to the scabbards at their hips.
“Hate to break it to ya, miss,” Duo said, his eyebrows disappearing under his spiky bangs, “but you’re armed as well.” At his revelation, the woman leaned back on one leg, grasping the hilt of her sheathed sword with one hand, while the other held the scabbard steady.
“What the hell’s a woman doing with a sword?” Wufei asked no one in particular, his gaze leaving the woman to search the empty streets for any more sneaky women who might pop out.
“Watch the language, Wufei,” Duo said in mock horror. “We are in the presence of a lady.” The braided man used his arms in wild gestures, motioning towards the armed woman. His companion’s only reply was a dubious grunt.
“What was that, sir?” the woman asked angrily, taking a step towards the two men. Duo couldn’t help a small chuckle, but this seemed to infuriate the woman even more. How dare they laugh at her as if she were some kind of joke! She drew her sword angrily and was about to jump one of the men when an arm wove around her neck.
“Sally, what in the world to you think you are doing?!” came an aggravated voice, which belonged to the person who now had the woman in a deadlock. The woman, Sally, dropped the sword forcefully, and it landed noisily on the ground. Her hands flew up to rip away the arm that was cutting off her air supply.
“Hilde don’t you ever even consider doing that again!” she gasped out angrily, lifting the sword easily from its resting place on the ground and sliding it into its sheath.
“Well what were you doing, harassing these poor men?” the other woman, Hilde, asked with no small amount of incredulity. This woman had a slim figure with beautiful, yet subtle curves. Her raven hair was cropped, and even in the moonlight her cornflower blue eyes glimmered. Duo had to check himself from whistling...that would surely piss her off.
Sally sighed, turning from her argument with Hilde to redirect her attention back towards the two travelers, who sat watching them in silence. She rubbed the bridge of her nose defeatedly, and Wufei was horror-struck at the dead look in her eyes. She had been so fiery before, but now she looked...weak...fatigued. Not that it was any of his business...
“It would be wise if you two gentlemen would carry on your travels, and leave this place immediately. My father runs the inn and their are no vacancies,” Sally informed them with some amount of solemnity. Wufei frowned at her reluctance, and found himself dismounting his horse so he was at eye-level with her.
“If your father runs the inn, then surely-” he was cut off by the blonde woman’s raised hand. She refused to meet his gaze, and the other woman, Hilde, placed a pale hand on her friend’s shoulder.
“What she meant was, her father used to run the inn, until he caught it,” Hilde said softly, and she felt the other woman’s shoulder shake slightly in repressed emotion. She understood her friend’s need to be strong, so she nudged her down a small dirt street.
“Go get everything ready, Sally, they can stay in the spare rooms we have,” Hilde told her, ignoring the nagging voice in the back of her head that told her allowing two male strangers to stay with them in the same house was not a wise choice.
“What did her father catch?” Wufei asked, and Hilde’s attention returned to the two men before her. Wufei’s gaze seemed searing, almost angry, and Duo’s gaze seemed solemn and sorrowful.
“Not just her father,” she replied, not really answering his question at all. “Her little brother did, and so did her little sister. Her mother had caught it even before her father.” Wufei frowned, but Duo asked the question he had been about to voice.
“What did they catch?” his violet eyes were no longer happy.
Hilde’s voice came out as a whisper, though she did not intend it.
“The Black Death...”
Duo, Wufei and Hilde sat around a small round table in uneasy silence. The two former clutching mugs of steamy tea, while the latter was questioning her sanity. It was foolish to invite strangers to stay in the house they lived in, even if they were in separate rooms. The petite woman glanced up as she heard Sally reenter the small kitchen/dining room.
“You two must leave on the morrow,” the blonde woman said, attempting to put an edge to her voice, but only succeeding in covering up the slight quiver she had kept so well hidden before.
“But if things are so terrible here, then why do you stay? It’s obvious you are each quite independent,” Duo replied, eyebrows drawing together on his forehead. Hilde and Sally shared a glance, but Hilde was the one who answered.
“My little sister needs someone to care for her, she is asleep in another room right now. My parents are both dead,” she said bluntly, turning away from the violet-eyed man so as not to draw his pity. Then she added almost absently, “Sally is staying because she’s my best friend, and refuses to do otherwise.”
“It is foolish!” Duo cried, standing up abruptly. He didn’t understand how things could be so unfair...how two innocent women could get caught up in something so horrible and so injust. The darkness that surrounded this town was not meant to be approached. They should leave, every one of them.
Sally stood as well, slamming her hand on the table, causing a unified start from the others in the room. She cried out, “But it is the honorable thing...the loyal thing to do! Would you have Hilde abandon her sister...or me abandon Hilde? That, good sir, would be the foolish choice!”
“Take the girl with you!” Duo suggested, throwing his hands up in the air. “But for God’s sake, don’t just sit around here waiting for death like frightened children!”
“Oh what a great idea, sir,” Hilde said, her voice dripping with angry sarcasm. “Two maidens alone on a road with a small helpless girl, that sounds like a whole lot of fun! How would we protect ourselves and my sister from thieves and bandits?”
Sally threw a shocked look of indignation towards her best friend. Her anger flared...was Hilde implying that they were too weak to care for themselves? Too incompetent?!
“Are you implying we can’t take care of ourselves?” she asked, knowing it was a rhetorical question. “We are perfectly capable of handling ourselves and a little girl!”
“Enough!” came the angry voice of Wufei, accompanied by a loud slam on the table as he threw his hand down. “You are acting like insolent children! Here are the cold facts: Hilde and Sally can’t leave the little girl here, and they aren’t strong enough to take her with them.” Sally opened her mouth to protest, but Duo interrupted her.
“So how about they come with us?” the braided man suggested, and a collective groan spread around the room.
“Well, why not?” he suggested again. Hilde was the first to break the silence.
“And we’d be a lot safer with you then any other pair of strangers we could happen to meet?” she asked sardonically, throwing her hands up in exasperation. They had barely met, and trust didn’t come easy when one had become so accustomed to Death’s betrayal...betrayal by taking their loved ones away...
“C’mon, Hilde,” Sally said in an attempt to motivate the girl, “if they tried anything we could take them!”
“They would slow us down,” Wufei pointed out, before anyone could make a comment on Sally’s statement. “And we don’t need extra baggage with us.” Sally and Hilde each threw him a glare, which he returned tenfold.
“Can we talk about it in the morning?” the braided man inquired wearily, collapsing his head into his hands as he elbows rested on the table. The group nodded in consent, and Hilde showed Duo and Wufei to the room they would have to share while Sally went to calm Hilde’s little sister, who had started crying. As Hilde turned to leave she felt a hand on her arm, and turned around to come face-to-face with a pair of brilliant violet eyes.
“I promise you I’ll find a way to get you out of here,” he whispered, lifting her hand and pressing his lips to her silky smooth skin. Hilde’s breath caught in her throat, and her heart sped up despite herself. Before her heart went into overdrive, however, he turned and walked away, entering the room Wufei had previously entered. She could see his shadow in the dim light as he lay on the bed closest to the door, as his companion occupied the other. To keep herself from staring, the raven-haired woman turned and fled, nearly knocking Sally over in the process.
“Hilde, what’s wrong?” the other woman whispered questioningly, placing an arm around her friend and leading her back into the kitchen. The German woman sat in a chair, burying her face in her hands.
“Gods, Sal,” she whispered, “I am so scared...and so tired of being afraid...” Her friend patted her shoulder comfortingly.
“I’m scared too, Hilde,” Sally admitted, “but we have to trust that God will lead us through this terrible plague.” The blonde woman felt her friend’s shoulders visibly tense up.
“How can you say that?” Hilde asked incredulously. “How can you believe that–that God will lead us through this! If He is so loving, then why has He forsaken us? Why do some die and others live on, bearing the weight of the world upon their shoulders? Even members of the clergy are dying...the Church can’t give us the answers, Sally. Tell me, do you really believe He will lead us through this?”
The Chinese woman choked on her words somewhat, unsure of how to respond to such an outburst. She answered softly, “Well who do you believe we should place are trust in? These strange men occupying our home?” When Hilde didn’t reply, Sally lowered her head, making her voice even softer as she added, “Annelise isn’t going to make it through, Hilde. When I went to check on her she was coughing up blood as well as vomit. I fear she’s caught the Black Death as well...”
Hilde’s hands flew to her mouth, trying to stifle the sharp sob that flew from her lips, the sound raw with pure pain as the last of her family lay dying in the room next to her. Sally wrapped her arms around her friend as the German woman wept harshly for the loss of her little sister. Strange, how the girl wasn’t yet dead, and yet her sister mourned as if she was.
The next morning did not dawn bright, bringing new hope and forthcoming. The sun rose slowly, barely peeking through the thick clouds, creating an unearthly gray hue on the world below. Hilde couldn’t help but think how appropriate the setting was. Her bitter humor affected the rest of the house residents, and even Duo couldn’t find a reason to smile...
For young Annelise had died in the early morning. Her coughs and vomiting awakened the household like some sort of demented wake-up call, filling the quiet house with the sounds of death fast approaching. Hilde had stayed with her sister, rocking her small body back and forth as the last of her life seeped from her frail limbs. Hilde found she couldn’t cry, and it seemed all of her tears had been shed the following night.
The funeral had been quite short, seeing as only the four of them had conducted and attended the small ceremony. A makeshift coffin had been created out of a large dresser drawer, and the corpse of the tiny five-year old had been lowered into the ground with utmost care. Duo and Wufei, although never truly knowing the girl, had been welcome company, and neither commented throughout the entire ordeal. Hilde was overcome by the fact that she was the only one left of her family...
“We will go with you,” the raven-haired woman said decisively as the quartet stood beside the inn stables in the strangely opaque sunlight. Duo merely nodded at her statement, his calm eyes holding her gaze, and it was almost as if he was trying to comfort her with his eyes alone. With a small shudder, Hilde realized it was actually working.
Wufei shifted back and forth on his feet uneasily, as if he disapproved of this decision. But either out of the honor bred in him, or for some other reason., no objection left his lips.
Sally refused to meet anyone’s gaze, staring at the ground intently.
“Sally?” Hilde questioned, gazing at her friend with a small amount of worriment.
The other woman let out a long sigh, raising her sky blue eyes to meet Hilde’s.
“It’s just,” Sally admitted slowly, “I don’t like relying on others for support.”
“Is your pride worth more than your life?” Hide asked dubiously, understanding the woman’s need to be strong, but not understanding how she could wait for death so easily.
Before Hilde could say so, though, she was interrupted by Wufei, much to her surprise.
“Pride is about being strong,” the onyx-eyed man exclaimed, slightly harsher than he intended to. “It would be foolish of you to wait around for death like a frightened child!” Sally’s head whipped around to face Wufei, but her expression wasn’t angry. If nothing else, she looked determined.
“Of course I’m not going to wait for death!” she told him sharply. “All things remaining equal, you’re stuck with me.”
Despite the earlier sorrow of the morning, Duo produced a hearty chuckle and patted Sally’s shoulder good naturedly with an “atta girl.” Even Hilde produced a wry smile.
“Help her!!!” came a startled cry from across the field, and the four companions turned and watched as a chocolate-haired man came riding towards them like a bat out of hell. His roan horse reared slightly at the sudden stop, and the man was revealed to be clutching the body of a young woman close to his chest. He hopped off his horse quickly, stumbling over towards Sally.
“Heero?” Sally questioned, grabbing the man’s shoulders in an attempt to shake him out of the daze he was in.
The man, Heero, looked up into the woman’s eyes, and she saw how tortured he was. Her gaze shifted to the woman he held close. The tell-tale blonde hair told her all she needed to know...
“Heero, is that Relena?” the Chinese woman inquired, looking at the still form with wide eyes. Hilde let out a cry of shock, wrapping her arms around herself. She felt a hand on her shoulder, and looked up to see Duo hovering above her. She drew strength from him, and her breathing slowed once more.
Cradling the still form with one arm, Heero used his other arm to brush a strand of honeysuckle hair from her face lovingly. Sally’s shaking must have snapped him out of his trance, for he now appeared sad, rather than the crazy state he had once been in.
“She wouldn’t wake up, Sally,” Heero told her, his voice harsh with resentment. “I woke up with her still in my arms, but she was coughing terribly. She said she felt tired, and I told her not to, but she fell asleep...and she wouldn’t. Wake. Up!” Sally tried to pat his shoulder, but he yanked away from her harshly.
“She left me,” he said angrily. “She promised she never would. I hate her; I hate her!”
Heero shoved the body of his beloved into Sally’s arms, before hopping on his horse and riding away quickly, his words still hanging in the air, the voice of his sorrow ringing quite clearly.
Sally looked down at the vomit-covered body she held. Relena’s beauty was not lost, but there were small black patches over her body, and she smelled like death. Sally dropped the body quickly, jumping away as if it had burnt her. She immediately felt ashamed, and wrapped her arms around herself, as if that would ease the aching in her heart.
“Poor Heero,” Hilde murmured softly.
“Why was Heero looking for you?” Wufei asked Sally, trying not to sound curious. The moment with Heero had come and gone so fast, that none had really gotten over the shock.
“My mother used to be the town midwife,” she replied softly, still hugging herself. “She taught me everything she knew, which is more than you would assume. She was actually more than a midwife, but people refused to acknowledge her.”
“Because she was a woman,” Chang stated more than asked, and Sally’s small nod was expected.
“Can we go now?” Duo inquired impatiently, his hands clenching and unclenching at his sides. “This place is really starting to creep me out.” Sally stared at him in a look of pure helplessness.
“Where will we go?” she asked, her voice rising to a higher pitch in her anxiousness. “The disease is everywhere...we can’t escape it!” Duo and Hilde’s faces registered surprise when Wufei grasped Sally’s shoulders, turning her towards him, and running his hands up and down her forearms, creating a warm friction.
“We can’t wait around here and slowly be killed off one by one. I’m not one to preach about optimism, but we have a better chance of outrunning the disease than outlasting it,” the young man told her, releasing her shoulders as she nodded in defeat and lowered her head, watching the ground. Wufei lifted his bronze hand in his fist, using his knuckles to lift her chin up lightly, before turning and entering the stables. The other three followed after him, Sally trailing behind slightly, lost in thought.
The four young fighters appeared out of the stables moments later, each leading a horse. Wufei still had his blood-bay horse, Duo had his ebony steed, Hilde led a buckskin mare and Sally led a dappled grey horse. Packs and saddle bags hung loosely from the sides of the saddles, and the finality of the situation seemed overwhelming. Sally and Hilde were leaving their homes, the only homes they ever knew, to travel with two strangers they had met only last night. It seemed surreal, it seemed foolish...but–above all–it seemed the two women were each embarking on a leap of faith.
Sally, admittedly, was fearful. Placing her very life in the hands of these odd men was something her mother had advised her against. But Wufei had been right; there was absolutely no way she would wait around while her life was seeped from her very veins. She would take a gamble, and–gods, may luck be a lady tonight. 
Hilde was reluctant as well, but she had also placed her trust in Duo. It was so strange, because she actually believed him when he said he would keep her safe. In fact, now that they were leaving this place of death behind, she had never felt more assured.
“Shouldn’t we give Relena a proper burial?” Hilde asked softly, gazing on the still body of her friend.
“We really should get going, though...” Duo said, trailing off. He understood the German woman’s need to give her friend rest, but the place was honestly creeping him out. He wanted out as quickly as was humanly possible.
“Heero will want to bury her,” Sally replied, hooking a boot into the saddle stirrup and pulling herself onto her horse with practiced ease. “Once the brunt of his grief ebbs, he will be sure to come for her.” The Chinese woman sat up straight in her saddle, gazing down as the rest of the small company climbing onto their respective mounts. Once properly situated, Wufei began his horse at a steady walk, making a beeline for the quickest route out of town.
Unable to endure passing every spot holding her childhood memories, Hilde spurred her horse into a rushed canter, before pushing even faster into a gallop. Unwanting to be left behind, the other three followed at the spasmatic pace, looking towards the horizon, hoping for a bright future.
- Fortnight= Two weeks
- I stole this line from the musical “Guys and Dolls.”
A/N: I know I cut that a little short, and there were a lot of holes left open. I sort of left the relationships of the characters open, which people may or may not like. I may add more to this later, but as of now this story is complete. Thanks for reading, please review!!