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Sub Rosa: Conflict

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The war ended.

That doesn't seem to be much to you, does it? But it was everything to me. The war ended. And... so did I.

So what was left for me? I started a business with Hilde. I delivered things... anything, anywhere. Anything from a love note... to information lost on stranded ships that were destroyed in the war. Anything. Hilde stayed back and worked at our place. I did the travel. She accused me of being chauvinist and macho, but seriously... some of the work we did was dangerous. I didn't let her get involved in those, and the out-jobs... just became mine.

I kept in touch with the guys. Trowa still hung out at the circus... and consequently had a certain blond teenager frequently visiting him. Poor Quatre. He was hopelessly in love with Trowa, and Trowa just didn't seem to notice. But Trowa was growing out of himself, thanks to Quatre and Catherine. The woman might be an overbearing, overprotective psycho, but she was wonderful for Trowa. They were practically brother and sister.

Anyway, I kept in touch with the guys. Or at least... Quatre and sometimes Trowa. I hadn't seen Wufei since that fiasco with Maremaia... and Heero...

Well, I did my best to avoid him.

Why? Oh, come on. I love the guy. No shit. But... it hurt, you know? He contacted me a few times to give Relena presents. It's obvious that the guy's nuts about her. The fact that I am the deliveryman for Heero's love-gifts to the Queen of the World...

So I avoided him. Stuffed that pain down into the box with the rest of my shit.

So anyway. I was a deliveryman who kept in basic touch with his gang. I keep in touch with Quatre most of all. He and I... we got close during the war, despite our vast differences. He became a member of my gang, just like I had always envisioned all us pilots could become. I thought of us all as a new gang... I envisioned me as Solo, bringing all the little rats together.

Yeah... that's how it happened.

It was bullshit. I should have seen that. I didn't. I was na´ve. Stupid. The pilots thought of me as a nuisance. A fool. A “baka”. God... that one hurt the most. Heero, whose respect I yearned for... thought I was an idiot. He never understood that there was so much more to me. More... demons than an idiot can see and maintain his idiocy.

But Quatre, at least, joined with me. He and I talked about... hell, so many things back then. He was the only one. Trowa... Trowa was cool. He and I never got close, but... he was always steady, always calm and just... there. Dependable Trowa. Trowa would take our backs without question... but it was all fairly technical. You help one another out... but only as war buddies. Never as a true pack. Everyone stood by everyone... Trowa was like... well, he was a loner, even when in a group. Sometimes I wonder how Quatre fell for him. The two were so different.

Anyway... I was leaving the circus. I went with Quatre because he didn't want to go completely alone... he was far too important to be wandering around unaccompanied, even if he was going to a circus that held in it an ex-Gundam pilot. But, of course, once it was over, Quatre went over to talk to Trowa, and I knew that the two of them alone together could potentially get that one step closer. Quatre was definitely in love with Trowa, and Trowa at least watched Quatre as a good friend. Maybe they could get a little closer...

Hey, somebody should be happy. My love was definitely unrequited. Heero Yuy would never fall for a baka, now would he? Hell, the way he always acted towards me... even from the start...

And why the hell was I thinking about all this? Well, I'll tell you: it was night, and I was alone. Quiet. Worse, it was either a full moon or close to it. For some reason, I'm always disgustingly introspective when there's a large moon out. I guess it could be the screaming man. The first time I saw the moon from on Earth, I was captivated. The moon truly does look like a graveyard from the perspective of someone in the colonies. You can't see the screaming man because everything looks... dead. But down on earth, there's a life to it. An agonizing life, if the man's wide eyes and mouth were any indication, but life nonetheless... and it was a life that I could relate to. Poor guy.

Anyway... walking. Yeah. I didn't have anywhere to go, really. My ship was out at the dock, and that was what I was staying in as I delivered my packages. Man, I really stretched my hours. I don't have a really strict schedule, but I still have a schedule. And man, did it cost a horrendous amount of gas to be flying off everywhere. But whenever Quatre was around or needed me... hell, sometimes I just found myself flying off to see Quatre every once in a while. Sometimes I came to Trowa's circus and hung out... in secret, yeah, but I was there. Just to see him. I wished I dared do that with Heero, but... well, let's just say that never really panned out. Besides, I doubted that I would get a warm welcome.

As for Wufei... the bastard disappeared. He just seemed to disappear off the face of the planet. Like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. The guy just kept running into the storyline, only to fucking disappear again in the next second.

But man, I wanted his respect too. Wufei is... he's incredible. He's strong, and graceful. He had real reasons to fight. He had... morals, when all I had... was vengeance in my heart and the desire to save kids from turning out like me.

But who did you save? a voice in my head whispered, and left me shivering.

Lately... lately, I've had that voice showing up more and more often. I'm not insane... that voice was me. I was starting to really think about the war when before all I did was live through every day and try not to think about it too hard. That part of me that was beginning to awaken... and it hurt, too. Damn it, but there were things I didn't want to see. Things I didn't want to admit.

Too much thinking has never really been all that beneficial for me.

So I aimed my feet towards the port and determinedly changed my thoughts. I calculated lost time, necessary course changes and maintenance repairs that were needed for the company's ship, “Faulkner”. Who's Faulkner? Well, I looked him up – Hilde was the one who named the ship, after all. She said my names were too morbid. Anyway, Faulkner wrote a lot of stories. Hilde like The Sound and the Fury, but my personal favorite was As I Lay Dying. I especially liked Addie Bundren's line - “I could just remember how my father used to say that the reason for living was to get ready to stay dead a long time.” Isn't that just freakin' hilarious? For some reason, Hilde didn't think so. She can be such a romanticist.

Anyway... God. I finally seriously thought about what I was doing and almost laughed. I'm such a hypocrite, aren't I? I hide from everyone, and here I am, continuing to hide. I'm running back to Faulkner and I'm hiding in there. From Quatre? Sure. Trowa? Definitely. Myself?

... Yeah. Myself as well.

The night was a little cold. Why did the colonies have cold seasons? I mean, who likes them? It was so cold I could see my breath. That was a little much. Man, I hate the cold. Have hated it since I was a kid. It was always there – L2 certainly wasn't a rich colony – far from it. More often than not, it was cold. The heating was too expensive. And we rats ended up hiding in abandoned buildings, where the ground was freezing and the air was frost on your skin. We learned to sleep in that cold, even as it tried to steal feeling from your extremities. We would huddle together to try to maintain warmth.

I shuddered in remembrance.

The sidewalk had streetlamps periodically dotting the night, like little spotlights. There was no one out – not like L2. Night was when the colony of L2 had come alive. Hookers sold their wares and an abundance of people, men and women both, came to see just what was being offered. Drug dealers crawled out to sell their own items. Bums came skulking around searching for food or a quieter place to sleep. This place was respectable. Most people were probably heading for bed, for God's sake.

I wondered if anyone saw me as a traveled alone through the spotlights on the ground. What were they thinking? Did they wonder why I was alone? Did they think of me as some sort of evil stalker, or was I a gang member? A juvenile. I almost laughed at that; if they only knew.

I thought about Quatre then. Was he making his way off of the circus grounds alone? Was he cold? Maybe I should go back. Maybe I should...

Who's truly feeling alone right now?

Damn that evil little voice. I didn't need a psychologist in my head.

I managed to continue going and made it back to the port without any more insightful speculations from the demon-imp in my mind. Unfortunately, I also found myself falling asleep – keeping myself from thinking when I'm in this mood usually means thinking about something insanely innocuous like sheep or listing the countries that are merging... and those who are arguing with the unification. Some countries are obsessed with sinning. Like Israel and Pakistan. Those two countries have only been fighting for, what? At least 2500 years. Good God.

Anyway, I managed to get into the Faulkner and locked up before passing out on my bed. I could only pray that things looked up soon.


You know what, prayers are a complete waste of time and God just fucking hates me.

Of course getting gas for my trip would take an extra three hours because Lord forbid they have enough for little ol' me. That's right – they needed to transport gas in... they hadn't done it for some reason. What the hell? Then I had to get my course calculations okayed again because of the delay. The officials in Space Travel got just pissed enough to wait to okay me for another three hours... even though I posted it as a delay, which is supposed to be okayed within the hour. Bastards. So it was the afternoon before I got my baby up in the launching bay... where I waited for my launch ramp to be available for a half hour. Hilde was going to kill me.

Then it was the traditional heavy metal music as I launched and I was finally in space again. I had two days to kill until I got to the first colony, where two packages were waiting to be delivered. One was to the Preventors – a little note that I had to leave, something that I had found on my little travels that would help them out immensely – and another to a client who had wanted some rare scrap metal for his oh-so-important sculpture (somehow the guy even got money for the things. Go figure). The Preventors drop-off would be second and really, really discreet. I always sent the stuff straight to Commander Une (creepy lady) and demanded complete anonymity... because HE worked there.

As for my heavy metal music... some of it is from the war. More of it is from afterwards, when I needed a reason to continue... when I needed something to help get me pissed off. Shinigami all the way there – get angry... just get the work done. It doesn't matter how, just as long as you get it accomplished.

It scared me sometimes... the fact that I couldn't completely let go of Shinigami. I had created him a long time ago. I had needed him back then. But now... now I don't need him. Yet here he is; he shows himself to me all the time. He grins sometimes... that old grin that grabbed my lips whenever I fought in Deathscythe.

And sometimes I'll catch myself smiling and I'll wonder just what the hell I'm smiling at. That's when that little devil-voice will come back, whispering these things, making me start seeing things I didn't want to see.

I had burned my priest's outfit after the war ended. That's right. Bye-bye revenge, hello new life. Right? Wrong. I went back to that battlefield... but it was over now... wasn't it? Wasn't my battle over? I wasn't with the Preventors, and I certainly wasn't in a battle. It was all over... it had ended.

Had I ended with it?

It's these thoughts I deliberately drown the fuck out on board ship. Enter Hoobastank on my speakers then, singing about being out of control. That's what I wanted – to scream out my pain and frustration through a song--

...And then I hear that imp again. Your friends... you are the one who goes to them... you are the one who fears being alone again. Who has come to you?

Perceptive little prick.

I killed the gravity and glided through the hall to the galley. There was really nothing there to eat, and Lord knows I couldn't paint too well.

Paint? Yes, paint. No spacer goes out for weeks at a time with the walls gray. It's made some men insane. So my galley is a light blue with clouds everywhere, like you're floating in the sky. Even the floor is painted, which is extremely odd. But I liked it; the earth's sky was beautiful. People always say that the skies on the colonies are very similar to the sky on Earth, but they're wrong. Earth's sky is so much... fuller, more vast. Clearer. It had an honesty to it that the colonies just couldn't copy. I tried to capture that, but it was hard. Honesty can never be shown in a painting, because the painting itself was a copy, and therefore unoriginal.

My mind was slipping into philosophy – a dangerous pasttime even in the best of circumstances. I never had a lot of food in the galley... I never cared enough, but I sometimes had others on the ship and Hilde gave me a hard time whenever I tried to just grab some supplement bars, so I had some “real food” on board. I killed some time getting those and preparing them. It was a little more difficult to prepare foods in space, and even more difficult in zero gravity. I killed enough time to switch my mind from philosophy to something akin to depression.

That damn imp was getting more persistent each day. There were things I didn't want to see, things that I wanted to continue hiding from. It messed with my sleep sometimes.

I grabbed a bulb of juice and sat to think. That imp was a part of me. I was hiding from myself, wasn't I? I was hiding from something as stupid as thoughts I didn't want to acknowledge. Well, Duo Maxwell never ran from things forever. No way. I was too damn strong to accept this.

I deliberately ate all of my food, knowing I might not be able to eat after I started listening to what that little fucker had to say. I sipped at my bulb afterwards and closed my eyes, leaving the view of a sky and just floating in my own little abyss of nothingness.

Okay, stupid imp. What the hell do you want?

You are alone.

Okay, I'll admit that my first reaction to that was 'no shit?' But I knew what I was trying to tell myself. That I was alone. Just like I was after the Maxwell Church burned down... there may be people around me... but I was alone. Why did that scare me so bad?

Because I had never been alone before that time after the Maxwell Church Massacre. Okay. That's something I may not like to admit – that I desperately wanted to be around people because I desperately didn't want to be alone. All right. But Quatre and I were friends. He and I talked to each other all the time. Same with Hilde. I was still close with her, and Trowa...

You stay with them for fear of being completely alone.

... That one took a few minutes to accept. That I... made a point of being around them because... I needed to be near a gang. I needed that gang that I had tried to form. I needed it so desperately that I did everything in my power to not only create it but only to keep it. Was it for myself? Was I seeing Quatre just because I wanted to be surrounded by people that I could... trust? Just what had I been looking for all these years? What had I been doing?

You want desperately to be with these people who could be brothers, but you are alone. You are not even with yourself, because you do not exist yet.

I opened my eyes in fear. Just what all had I been hiding from myself?

Can you exist? Beyond your mask and beyond Shinigami, who are you? You are no one. You are nothing. You are a jester and a killer and nothing more.

I wanted to argue. I wanted to... but I couldn't. Because beyond the smiles and the laughter and the heavy metal music... I didn't have any idea who I was.

Was this what I had wanted to show myself all this time? Was this what I had been trying to tell myself since the war ended? How much had I hidden? For how long?

Dear Lord... who the hell was I?

I left that room feeling more vulnerable than I ever had in my life. I sat there in my cockpit and stared out into space and for the first time wondered if that was how I looked on the inside.


I successfully delivered what I considered my last two packages. I had made a monumental decision: I would leave everyone. I would bounce into space and I would... find myself out in the place that was as empty as I was. And I would find myself. Somehow. Until then... I had to be on my own. Alone... completely. No more hanging onto Hilde and Quatre and trying so very desperately to create what couldn't be created. No more leaning. I couldn't do that to them. Besides, if we were a gang... I would have to be able to stand on my own. A cripple is of no use to a gang.

So I delivered the crap-artist his junk and successfully sneaked in my secret little package to the Preventors. It was when I was leaving that I got hit with a shock. A couple of late workers were leaving the building. Heero was talking animatedly with someone... Wufei. I felt my heart stop, skid, and stop again. I think I breathed heavily. I know I froze. I know I only breathed again when they left in their respective cars and drove away. I know a part of me tore... I wanted to go say hi. I wanted to keep my job here a secret. I wanted Heero...

Well. I now knew where Wufei was. He had joined Preventors and, more likely than not, had joined up with Heero. And, by the looks of things, the two had gotten close. As they had never gotten close to me.

God... I needed to get out of here.

So I left. I turned and I left and I cinched my plan. I called Quatre from the Faulkner and waited for him to answer. He finally did, an adviser behind him. I almost hung up. “Duo?”

“Hey, Qat.” I deliberately kept my voice serious. Quatre, ever in tune with the emotions of others, knew immediately that something was wrong. He dismissed his adviser immediately.

“Duo? What's wrong?”

“Quatre, I...” How to say that I had just realized that I don't exist? “I... I can't come see you... for a while.”

“Duo?” Quatre looked really concerned. He, I realized painfully, was a true friend. And the only one out of the four that was.

“I'm sorry, Quatre. I just realized that... during this time... I need a chance to find... who I am now.” There. I said it, out loud and everything.

“Oh, Duo...” And just like that, Quatre seemed to understand. “I'll help you any way I can.”

“That's just it, Qat,” I confessed. “I've been hiding behind you...” God it sucked to admit that. “I need to get out there... on my own. I'm going to leave the business, Qat... I'm depending too much on you guys.”

“Duo, you don't ask me for anything.” Qat seemed to be heading back towards that confusion.

“Nothing physical,” I countered, “but...” Now this was something I couldn't admit. “Qat, just know that I need to get out there... on my own.” To exemplify how alone I've always been, and how it tore at me to just now notice. “It's something I have to do.”

“But Duo... just yesterday...”

“I know.” I flinched with Quatre as I realized just how harsh that sounded. “I know and I'm sorry, but...”

“I... I don't think I understand, but...” Quatre nodded. “Will I see you again?”

“Yeah!” I was quick to reassure. “I'll keep in touch, but... it won't be as... often as... usual.” What was usual? I felt as if my world was flipping over itself. I felt lost. I felt... very, very alone. I think... a part of me had always felt this way. “Oh! And Qat?”

“Yes, Duo?” I think I hurt Quatre with my proclamation. I think he thought I wanted to get away from him.

“Hey, Qat, this isn't you, I swear it. It's me.” Quatre's surprised look told me I hit his fears on the head. “And I wanted to tell you that Wufei's joined the Preventors.”

“Really?” Quatre's eyes began to shine again. “That's wonderful! It would be perfect for him! I should give him a call...”

“Just don't tell him I told you,” I warned. Quatre knew I sometimes went over to the Preventors HQ, though he thought it was to see Heero. Yeah... that's it. But maybe... a part of me did. That masochistic part of me that wanted to see him, to be with him...

The part of me that stupidly kept wanting.

“All right. But Duo, you should call him, too.”

“I'm separating myself, remember?” And Lord only knew what Wufei would do if I dared speak to him. I was too lowly a person for him. I guess... he and I were too different. I... didn't want to be. Of course, I didn't know who I even was, let alone who I wanted to be. But that was beside the point.


I freaked out a little bit then, okay? I had a feeling Quatre was going to say something either way too close to the truth or something that would hurt me even more than I was already hurting right now. “Sorry, Quatre, but I gotta go. I will keep in touch, okay?” And I signed the hell off before he could even respond.

All right, I'll admit that that was an extremely cowardly thing to do. But I couldn't help the sigh of relief or the feeling of hopeless abandonment that washed over me. Seriously, who else would I tell that I was going to go off alone? There was Quatre, then Hilde, then... no one. No one else really seemed to care all that much.

Yeah, happy little Duo Maxwell wasn't all he was cracked up to be, was he?

I went into the bedroom – dead black walls with random poems etched on them in bright red paint – and plopped face-first onto the red comforter. I needed a nap.


I told Hilde the same line I gave Quatre. She didn't react the same as he did.

“You're leaving?!” she cried out, aghast. “Why?”

“I told you,” I said, my voice soft and apologetic. I was hurting her, too. Was it selfish to need to find myself when the two people who cared about me liked the false friend that they had? “I have to find myself, Hilde. I have to find myself, out there. Alone.”

“But why?!” she demanded. “I'm right here... with you. Why do you want to leave?” Hilde's eyes started to tear up.

“Oh, God, Hilde, don't cry,” I pleaded.

“Duo, you are you. Why do you have to leave?”

“Because... that's just it, Hilde. Who am I? I don't know. I need to find myself... the me that survived the war, and is no longer the soldier.”

She came forward and cupped my cheeks. “Duo, you are a brave man with so much... right here. You are the same person you were then. You-”

“I don't know who I was then, either. I just never had the chance to find out.”

I looked into her eyes, trying to make her see what I was saying. “Hilde... you are my friend. You have watched me during these months. When have I seen who I am? When have I shown a personality? I am the same thing no matter what; the same person in every situation. I don't want that. I want more. I want... I want to find who I am, and I want to be that man.”

Hilde opened her mouth to argue, but I pressed a finger to her lips. “Thank about it, Hilde. You know that what I say is true.”

Those tears in her eyes shimmered, growing. But she did think about what I said. She got a small glimmer of understanding in her eyes. “You don't have to leave to find yourself, Duo. Stay here. Stay with me.”

“I can't, Hilde,” I said quietly. I wasn't going to get her to understand this decision. Not this part of it. “I have to go out there by myself, or else I'll just continue being who it's easiest for me to be... I'll continue being the person that makes others happy, and I'll never acknowledge that part of me that is truly me. I'm sorry... I have to do this.”

Turning away from her, leaving her standing there with her tears finally growing until they fell despite her efforts... was the hardest thing I'd had to do in a very long time.

“Duo, don't go!” she called to my back. I imagined her fists clenched, her tears falling down her cheeks unabashed. I felt shamed. “I love you!”

I stopped then, frozen. Oh God. No. I turned back to her, and her fists were clenched and her tears were burning wet on her cheeks. Her face was awash with desperation... that mask of pain and hope that I held inside my own heart. And, just as mine had been burned to ash... now I was to burn hers. I felt the weight of that knowledge drag at my soul.

“Oh, Hilde...” And she heard the rejection in my voice, and her face crumbled. I saw the agony enter her eyes and felt a part of myself slipping away. “I'm so sorry... I can't... I'm sorry...”

She said nothing, only watched me as I tore her heart to shreds, just as mine was torn.

“I'm so sorry... I didn't know,” I breathed. “It's not you. You're... wonderful, and as a friend I think so highly of you... but I don't... I can't... oh Hilde...”

She finally couldn't take it anymore and broke her eyes away from me. I saw her fall to the ground and wanted to go to her... but how could I? I was the one to give her this pain... I couldn't help her now. “I'm so sorry,” I said again, softly, hearing the pain in my own voice, hearing the thickness of my throat and my tongue etching themselves onto my words.

I left her there, crying out her anguish... her loss of something that was so dear... the loss of her soul.

Because of me.

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