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Sub Rosa: Try Too Hard
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Sub Rosa

Chapter Eight

Try Too Hard

Disclaimer: Gundam Wing is still not mine. Dammit.

Note: Okay, so this is where things break up. So sue me. (Or don't. Please don't. I have no moneeeeyyy...)

“Greaves. How did you survive?”

He didn't turn to look at me as we continued down the sidewalk. We'd turned in early – around eight o'clock after all the police work stuff had been completed. It wasn't even midnight. There was a car making its way to a home nearby, but otherwise the place was quiet. Heero had picked a good neighborhood.

“I was found by... some people,” he told me. “They were willing to patch me up.”

“For a price,” I guessed.

“Of course. When does a gift come for free?”

I winced. He and I may be honorable, but we understood the darker parts of human nature. “I'm sorry. I didn't know you'd survived. If I had...”

“If you had, you would have saved me. I understand that. I never doubted your honor, Strike.”

I nodded. Of course he hadn't. If he had, we wouldn't be calmly walking toward our battlefield.

“May I ask why?” The block we were following ended on a T. Greaves led me to the right, past a house with one light still on. I wondered idly who was still awake while everyone else had turned in.

“They are a very large organization, Strike. One that felt an extreme power shift when you took down their leader a few months ago.”

I winced. “Which one?”


I nodded. “He needed to go down, Greaves.”

“I am not arguing for the man, just for my... employers, shall we call them? In any case, they need you gone. You are the last one. Once I kill you, I am a free man again.”

“Did they promise you that?”

“Yes. And if they don't do as they promised, I will be gone, anyway. I won't be returning to them again.”

“Okay.” I could understand that. “I'm sorry about all this, man, but I can't hold back.”

“You have others now.” We turned left this time. I could recognize now where he was taking me. Nearby was a park, a pretty one only slightly tainted by humans. And on two sides of that park spread a wilderness a few miles deep. At midnight, you could bet the place would be well deserted. Except for the occasional druggie and drinker, but maybe this experience would send them a message.

“Yeah,” I replied. “I do.”

“How did that happen?”

I shrugged. He couldn't know that this walk alone was taking its toll on me. My return would be on my hands and knees. “Long story short, I guess I never really lost them to begin with.”

“I am sorry, then, that I must take you from them.”

“Sorry, pal, but I don't intend to let you.”

One last turn, and the park was right ahead of us, waiting. “Of course you don't,” he murmured. “Are you prepared?”

“No, I just decided to walk out of the house completely unarmed. It was a shock to find you there waiting, I must say.” I pulled out Wufei's gun and checked it. Of course it was in pristine condition – it was Wufei's.

“Still with that humor of yours.”

“Still Mr. Stoic,” I murmured. I had listened to him speak that day and couldn't help but think that the man seemed to be a bastard mix of Heero and Wufei.

A wrought iron gate stood between us and the park. I looked at it with trepidation. Walking was difficult enough. The fight would kill me. If I had to climb that fucking gate, I was toast.

“I understand your circumstances, Strike.” Greaves took out a needle from God only knows where and struck it down on the lock around the gate. “I want you in as good a shape as you can be.”

Damn. He knew. He wouldn't take advantage, but he knew. I let myself hold my stomach for the first time since I'd stood in Heero's bedroom. “Thanks,” I managed.

He said nothing more, but led me inside. It was a short, silent walk to the East woods, much closer than those in the North. I followed him, still watching that lean frame of his. “The scars... they couldn't fix those?” I said once we breached the first row of trees.

“More like they didn't want to,” he answered. “Getting rid of my burns wouldn't make me a better fighter.”

“Whoa, wait a minute.” I paused. “They enhanced you?”

“Sorry, Strike.” His voice was quiet now. “I can't remember fully how I moved before the enhancements. I won't be able to even that playing field.”

I shrugged nonchalantly, but it was kind of ruined when I winced. “Eh, no big deal. It'll just be a greater victory when I walk away.” More like crawl away.

Greaves chuckled. “Of course.”

We continued silently then, entering the grassy scope of forest. It was even darker inside; the trees covered the moon. I could just barely make out the twisting branches reaching for me, the roots buried beneath the leaves. With the pain radiating through me, it was difficult to maintain my balance. And every time I had to, my stomach protested sharply. Yeah. This was gonna be hard.

I breathed a sigh of relief when we finally stopped. The area was thicker than others we'd passed. Deeper. There was a smaller chance of civilian interference, that was for sure.

“Should we wait?” Greaves turned to face me head-on.

I thought of Heero and Wufei and the likelihood of them getting involved. The sooner they woke up, the sooner they would realize that I had skipped out on them. The sooner they realized that, the sooner they put up a search. Definitely couldn't let that happen.

“No,” I answered. “No. Let's do this now.”

Greaves nodded. “I understand.” Before I could blink, another needle joined the one still carried in his hand. He held them up until they glittered in a small patch of moonlight. “Shall we get started, then?”

I double-checked my gun one last time, tested the feel of it. “Sure.” I aimed it at him. “No hard feelings?”

His smile was grim. “None.”


Something was wrong.

Heero felt it intuitively, something that not only grabbed his soldier's instincts and shook them but his heart, as well.

It was strange, powerful and strange and impossible to ignore. He let his eyes slide open, immediately looking about the room.

He jolted up from his bed.

He moved to Wufei, gently touching his shoulder. It was enough to jolt his partner awake, eyes clear and sharp.

“He's gone.”

Wufei surged to his feet, Heero mere milliseconds behind him. “What?” Wufei hissed. “Where?”

Heero shook his head, pain singing through his chest. Had Duo truly abandoned them? Again? “I don't know.”

Wufei strode around the room to search for clues. Heero watched impassively. “He took my gun,” Wufei growled. Heero's eyes followed Wufei's form without passion. Duo was gone. Why? They'd agreed...

But Duo had never promised.

Heero hung his head. Of course Duo would leave. Of course he would try to face this all alone, injured and... and without him.


The tone on Wufei's voice made Heero look up. Wufei was turned to him, a small piece of paper in his hand. Heero numbly recognized it as a piece from the notepad kept by the bed. An instant later his eyes snapped. “He left a note?”

“Here.” Wufei held it out for Heero to take. Heero felt a frisson of fear climb up his back. What would it say?

Only one way to find out.

He carefully took it from Wufei's outstretched hand. He saw the penmanship, instantly recognizing Duo's almost unintelligible scrawl. It took him no time at all to decipher the handwriting.

I will return.

Heero heard a low moan from somewhere as he crumpled the paper in his hands. Return? He'd promised to return. Fear and hope and worry churned in his gut.

“Heero,” Wufei murmured.

“But he's still so injured,” Heero moaned, only then realizing that the earlier sound had escaped his own lips.

“We need to find him.” Wufei opened Heero's nightstand drawer and pulled out Heero's gun. “And quickly.”

Heero creased out the paper he'd crumpled and placed it into his pocket. “Understood.” He had another gun, not Preventor-issued. He retrieved that from its hiding place within a secret chamber of his bureau. He picked it up, then on a thought grabbed his cell phone, as well. He hit the number nine, speed-dialing Une's number.

“Let's go,” Wufei said tersely. Heero could do nothing more than nod, the note burning a hole in his pocket. They both strode out, one of Heero's hands on his gun, the other clenching his phone tight enough to break.


Another desperate dodge.

It was impossible to move gracefully, injured as I was. (1) Impossible to dodge every attack. I was very conspicuously not using my gun – Wufei's gun – in order to save the bullets. I didn't have many chances.

He was faster than before, faster than I could have imagined. Greaves had definitely gained a lot from his almost-death experience.

Then again, I thought, he'd lost many things, as well.

Greaves came at me from the side, fairly flying in his speed. I, a thousand times more clumsy, grabbed my burning torso with my free hand and twisted the gun in my grip to let me catapult off my hand. A once simple move that almost made me black out. I thought back to that pathetic attempt at standing just – what? Earlier that day? – and managed to land steadily on my feet. Greaves was already in front of me again. I had no choice but to accept the hit, my grip on the gun still twisted. I fired a bullet at point-blank range before retreating back into a tree, but I didn't even have the chance to see what type of tree it was before having to dodge once again.

My injured shoulder had taken another hit. My free hand slipped up to it, feeling the fresh blood spew forth. I grimaced, hardly able to take satisfaction in the fact that I'd managed to hit Greaves with my own bullet. It had only grazed one of his legs. That would only slow Greaves down to perhaps a normal person's speed, at most. I still wouldn't be able to dodge that.

“I am sorry, Strike,” Greaves murmured.

“Shut it,” I said amicably, hoping my voice didn't sound as pained to Greaves as it did to me. “I understand.”

I had maybe another couple minutes before my adrenaline rush failed to hide the accumulating pain emanating from my wounds. A couple of minutes. I clenched my hand around the gun and scowled. Fine.

I'd made a promise, goddammit.

“Let's do this,” I growled closing my eyes for a short second. If I couldn't stop the pain, I would turn it to my advantage. And the only way to do it was to allow Shinigami to take over.

When my eyes opened again, they echoed of madness.

I raced forward, letting my free arm drop from my wounded shoulder.

I could win this. I could defeat Greaves, enhanced as he was. I just needed to force events into alignment with my own desires.

Greaves came at me, straight on. I understood the man's drive to be honorable and winced internally. It almost made me falter. But I continued, bringing my free hand out and swiping at the air.

My blood flew into Greaves' eyes.

Greaves dodged, slightly surprised by my move, confused that I would do such a thing. But then his eyes glinted in understanding. I moved to the man's right, rolling, using the indescribable pain to infuriate me and get me to roll back up. I felt the wind shift, knew one of Greaves' little dart-needles was flying toward me. I twirled like a stinking ballerina, aimed a trajectory and fired.

And heard a grunt.

I raced behind a tree, not allowing myself to stop, not letting myself feel the pain yet. Not yet. I still had things to do.

“You've suddenly improved, Strike,” Greaves called, his voice a bit labored. I wondered where I'd hit – I'd aimed for the torso, a surefire hit. I could have hit anything from a kidney to a lung. Well, not a lung, since the man was calling to me. “Is this the demon's form I was warned about?”

“Demon, nothin',” I called back, continuing to move. “I'm Shinigami.”

Greaves paused for a moment before speaking again. “The God of Death.” It was a quiet murmur, but the next wasn't. “Fine, Shinigami. Let us see if a man like me can cheat you.”

I laughed. “Man, I don't get you.” I flew out from behind my barked shield, gun pointed out. Greaves did the same.

It was quick, very quick. It all happened in a few seconds.

I rolled again, this time catapulting myself up with, of all things, my bad arm. Greaves, shocked by this, hesitated before throwing his little needle. My hand buckled for a split second, agony tearing up my arm and slamming through my head and chest and torso. I lifted my gun as I twisted in the air and shot the needle away, immediately shooting twice more.

Greaves managed to dodge the first bullet, but not the next.

I felt a pain lance through my chest and looked down. Greaves had thrown a second needle, unseen in the blur of my tunnel vision. It went straight into my chest, just missing my heart. I fuzzily thought about trajectory and screamed internally in relief – it hadn't pierced a lung, either.

Both crumpled to the ground rather unceremoniously. I didn't know about Greaves, but my adrenaline blazed out, leaving me weak and horrifyingly unable to move. My wounds screamed with every breath. Just twitching my fingers seemed like torture. I bit my lip to bleeding biting down a groan. “Yo, Greaves, you alive?”

Silence. Then, “yes.”

“Hey, man,” I said easily, “can you stand?”

Another silence. I tried to move again and almost shrieked. I didn't try again after that. “Not for a while,” the other managed then. “You move strangely. How did you manage...?”

“Yeah,” I wheezed, “sorry 'bout that. Comes with the territory. I... was a Gundam pilot, after all.”

Greaves made a knowing noise. “Ah.”

We laid there in silence for quite a bit, neither of us able to stand and make our next move.

“You know,” I said, breaking the eerie silence of the forest. Our fight had scared away all of the wildlife. “We could just call this a draw. You fought me 'n' whatever.”

Greaves understood what I was saying. “You don't want to kill me.”

“Nah.” If I weren't bleeding brokenly on the forest floor, I would have shrugged negligently. “And I don't want you goin' to prison, either.”

I idly noticed that my voice had started falling into my old street speak. I scowled. “You can start over, Greaves. Act like you died or something.”

Greaves' chuckle was humorless. “Thank you, Strike, but no. I would rather not.”

Yup. A bastard mix of those two stubborn assholes. “You know, your honor hasn't been compromised.”

“I dueled you when you were practically dead.” Greaves' chuckle then actually seemed lighter than before. “Though I must admit to being impressed. Despite everything, when you fight seriously, you are impossible to beat.”

“Heero could kick my ass,” I said flippantly. Then, “sorry about the blood thing, man.”

“It evened the field a bit.”

I tried one more time to move, managing to get my good arm underneath me. With a wrench, I drew myself up onto my knees, clutched my injured shoulder and winced. Loudly. “I can't afford to lose anymore, Greaves.”

Greaves was silent. “I understand.” I shuddered to my feet. Greaves, too, struggled to sit up. I could see Greaves' blood everywhere. I hissed. “Shit, Greaves.”

Greaves chuckled. “It suits. It should have happened a while ago.”

“Don't be stupid,” I snapped. “You aren't dying yet.” I stumbled forward, wincing and crying out in pain. My eyes swam, blurring and blanking out completely. I needed to move just a bit more; I needed to help Greaves. I couldn't let the man die. I just... couldn't...

I couldn't keep my balance any longer. I fell like a stone back to the ground. The pain ripped through me anew. I wished dumbly that one of the drinkers would show up to help. The last thing I wanted was for a family to walk through come morning and find two bloody corpses.

“Shit,” I muttered.

I let my eyes close, thinking about... about Heero. Of course Heero would come to mind, an unbidden image permanently ingrained on my psyche. I wished, in that moment, that I'd stupidly blurted out my feelings for the man. I should have... a long time ago... even if it meant death.

I grinned stupidly. At least I knew Heero wasn't the killing-over-stupid-shit kind of person anymore.


Miracle of miracles, it was Heero. I was just barely aware enough to know I wasn't hallucinating. I felt a solid weight beside me and hissed. It was tiring to always be the one needing help. “Help him,” I whispered.

“Duo... he's gone.”

I slitted my eyes open, staring disbelievingly. The bastard had lied about being able to get up. “Cheeky ass,” I muttered.

Heero checked me over, hissing at my new wound. “Wufei,” he called tersely. He stood, and I heard the distinct sound of a cell phone being flipped open.

I felt a fear pierce me as the darkness grew in my vision. What if I never woke up this time? What if this was the last chance...?

Wufei came over to take Heero's place, looking equally disturbed at my appearance. I stretched out a hand beyond Wufei's frame, trying to bring Heero back. Pain snatched at my movements, making them slow and jerky. “H-Heero...”

“He's calling Une to tell her we need an ambulance,” Wufei told me.

I shook my head. “Heero...” A part of me noted my apparent need to black out before the said ambulance arrived.

Heero heard me and immediately came to my side, the phone practically forgotten in his hand. Wufei snatched at it, tersely answering a tinny voice on the other end.

I focused my eyes on Heero. His eyes were slightly wild, seeing what I felt – my lifespan might be cut drastically short. “I'm sorry,” I murmured.

“Hush.” His voice couldn't hide his fear.

Should I really say it and leave him... leave so suddenly afterwards? I grimaced. The need to say it was, in the end, too strong. “I...”

“Duo, don't talk. You can tell me when you wake up.”

We both knew the chances of that happening – especially since I'd tested Fate less than a month prior. I shook my head. It made bright spots spark in the darkness of my vision. “Have to,” I muttered hoarsely.

“Heero, she's on her way.” The cell phone was snapped closed. Wufei leaned down by Heero, assessing me. His eyes flashed the same fear prominent in Heero's eyes. “Maxwell, just hold on.”

I grinned. “Too stubborn,” I managed. It made Wufei's mouth lift in a smile, but his eyes didn't change. I turned back to Heero. “I wanna wake up,” I told him. “Because I swore to return.”

Were those tears in Heero's eyes? My vision was too blurry to be sure.

“You're not allowed to die, Maxwell,” Wufei growled.

It made me smile. My eyes roamed Heero's face, wanting to memorize it. Just in case. “Heero...”

“Duo,” he said, and those were definitely tears in his voice if not on his face. “Hold on.”

This seemed a bit too familiar. Why was I always the one dying? Oh yeah. Because I never let it be anyone else's job. What a martyr I turned out to be. “Love you,” I murmured softly.

Heero froze.

I closed my eyes, allowing the pain full reign. It swamped me, pulled me under. “Wanted you to know.” My words were no more than a breath.


If Heero's voice had been pained before, it was agonized now. “Didn't tell you... before.” My body went numb, only my fingertips and toes tingling slightly. The numbness that came with black-outs like this. “Thought you and... Wufei...”

Heero made a gasping, choking noise. He couldn't seem to speak.

“Sorry...” The word was hardly audible.


“Gonna pass out now.”

“Duo, no!” Heero screamed, grabbing me up, careful of my wounds, “you're not allowed to die, goddammit!”

“Heero...” The tingling in my extremities passed, as did everything else.

“Duo, dammit! Not like this!”

I felt kind of bad, in a vague, unimportant way. The darkness in my head changed subtly, taking on a dark blue hue. It made it easier to accept my defeat.

Shinigami wanted payment for taking his name.


(1)I sincerely apologize for the change in POV, and for everything breaking up so horrifically. But yeah... I wanted to get the others' actions in, so basically this got blown to shit. Sorry.

Yeah, I'll just say I love all who are still reading this and hope I haven't irritated you with the swiftness of this. But worry not! Sub Rosa isn't over yet. Bwahaha.

FYI, I hate deathfics. Yup.

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Every story unless otherwise claimed is Kayura's, and is copyrighted 2006 under her name.