Title: What each man harbours in his heart
Day/Theme: Mon Feb.9 - Scalded by the fire of the great moon
Series: Woxin Changdan AU cont'd
Character/Pairing: Fu Chai, Gou Jian
I grow old, I grow old-- or the double entendres in the prompt line would never have escaped my notice until this moment. My only excuse is that Fu Chai isn't yet allowing himself to think consciously about the attractions of Gou Jian's mhh full-of-the-moon.
'Scalded by the fire'
Gou Jian is like a carved statue tonight. Face closed and expressionless, he watches the King of Wu's moves as he would an enemy's.
"You're angry," Fu Chai says at last. "There's no reason for you to be. We know perfectly well why Fan Li agreed to enter our service, and it isn't devotion to ourselves."
"Men of talent are always ambitious," Gou Jian says without inflexion.
"Ambitious men look a little more hungry than Fan Li does."
Gou Jian gives him a sharp look.
"Very well." He shifts in his seat. "Tell us why Fan Li became your advisor."
"The same reason he followed you to Wu. Devotion to yourself. Not to us."
Gou Jian is unmoved. "And what good does it do us to have him serving you?"
Fu Chai exhales in annoyance. "He has Yue's interests close at heart. You think that will work to your harm?"
"*Of course* the king of Wu will listen to a man who puts Yue's interests first."
"Yes we will. Wu's interests are the same as Yue's in the end."
Gou Jian's thin nostrils flare. "You're insane."
Fu Chai holds on to his patience. "No, we're practical. Yue and Wu have wasted half their strength fighting each other while the bigger game got away. If we fought together, what mightn't we accomplish?"
"Fought together? Wu and its tributary should wage war on the north?"
"Wu and its ally."
"Ally." Gou Jian's fingers drum in fierce silence on his thighs. "You say ally but you mean subordinate."
"We say ally and we mean ally."
"Very well. If we're to be allies, send us back to Yue."
Fu Chai's eyes drop. He licks his upper lip, looking for words.
"Of course." Black winter anger sounds in Gou Jian's voice. "When did you ever speak truth to Us? When did you ever say anything to Us that wasn't intended to mislead or confuse? Have you ever once been sincere with Us? Have you ever once not been trying to gull Us into weakening Our position? What kind of fool do you think We are?!" He's almost bellowing now, and Fu Chai bellows right back at him.
"You dare charge Us with that?? When were your words sincere? When were you not trying to dupe us into trusting you?? Who pretended he was for peace while preparing to attack? Who was going to open his borders to our citizens? Who tried to lull us into believing his good intentions, the better to wipe us out?" He leans forward in rage and frustration, scattering the stones with his arms. Gou Jian leans back, away from his attack. For a lightning moment his lips twitch into a smile of satisfaction, gone the next instant.
Fu Chai falls back in his chair, chest heaving. That smile-- he saw it, he knows he saw it-- It cuts through the red mist in his head. He's been manipulated somehow-- been made to place his stone exactly where Gou Jian wanted him to. He waits to see what it is Gou Jian thinks he's won, but Gou Jian's face is carved jade once more, staring at him in silence.
Fu Chai looks down at the board, mastering his breathing and his shaking hands. Wu Zi Xu is right about one thing: Gou Jian never plays straight. Maybe he couldn't play straight even if he wanted to. Fu Chai runs a hand over his face, suddenly exhausted.
We haven't the right kind of mind to deal with this. We aren't devious enough to follow his coils.
Aloud he says, in a tired voice, "Maybe we should just send you back to Yue. We've done what we set out to do, I suppose. Do you know why we brought you here? The real reason?" Gou Jian's face says he doesn't care. Fu Chai tells him anyway.
"You were dying, back there, in the great hall of Yue. One step away from it; it showed in your face. You'd come to secure the safety of your country but there wasn't anything for you afterwards. And it seemed such a waste." He shakes his head a little. "The whole thing was a waste-- fighting each other because our fathers did, fighting each other because the stupid barbarians of the south have nothing better to do than waste their country's men and riches trying to get hold of the other's land. The north may be soft but they aren't stupid the way we are." He snorts his frustration. "Don't you ever get tired of it all? Wouldn't it be easier to have a world where people followed the Way, working for a common good? Or is it too important to you to be first, to be the most powerful always?
"We thank the Great Lord for his consideration." Something dark and heavy lies behind Gou Jian's clipped words. "Ask yourself what it is that prompts your kindness to us, Fu Chai; and ask yourself if it's something a king should allow himself to feel."
"Concern for one he wants to befriend. No, I suppose not. You're right, kings have no friends.."
"Friends." The word drops oddly into the silence. "Wu wishes to be friends with Yue."
"Is that so strange an idea?"
Gou Jian looks away. His hands grip each other in his lap and he rocks back and forth where he sits, minutely, like a bow string when the arrow's gone. The breath goes out of him in a long exhalation.
"How can I trust you?" I, not We. "It makes no sense."
"We have to trust each other, or our countries won't survive."
"But you won't trust me enough to let me go back."
"I--" He stops. "It isn't the right time, not yet."
Gou Jian leans forward. "You don't want me to leave," he suggests, quietly.
Fu Chai nods. Gou Jian's face goes white with rage.
"That's what We thought. Good night, your Majesty." He surges abruptly to his feet and turns to go.
"Gou Jian!" It's on the tip of Fu Chai's furious tongue-- 'Sit down! We haven't given you leave to go!' But if he treats Gou Jian as a servant now, this has all been for nothing. He *is* our servant, *We* are the master, how dare he---
He watches Gou Jian's back walking away from him. Digs his fingernails into his palms. Gou Jian is at the entrance.
"Good night, Gou Jian," Fu Chai says, as calmly as he can. And has at least the satisfaction of seeing Gou Jian freeze for a moment before he strides from the room.