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Sub Rosa: A Welcome Burden
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Sub Rosa

Chapter One

A Welcome Burden

Disclaimer: Gundam Wing is not mine. Duh.

I had a lot of growing up to do after the war.

It was... painful. I had realized that, even if I decide to run and hide from others... I should never do so from myself. Granted, it was a necessity during the war, but it meant that I crashed and burned afterwards. There were things about myself that I had not accepted, things I hadn't wanted to know. I didn't want to think of all the orphans I made. I didn't want to think of all the people I had killed while trying to save others.

Mostly, I didn't want to acknowledge how I had lost myself.

That's right. Somewhere beneath all the jokes and smiles and evasions... I had lost myself. Completely. I'd done it so well, in fact, that I hadn't even realized I was doing it. And I had, at least in part, become Shinigami.

It was difficult, while staying with Hilde, to realize that I was holding on to her when I should have been trying to find my own way. I had begun relying on having others near me, and I was weighing not only them down, but also myself.

It had been difficult explaining this to Hilde, who I thought of as a sister and who I very much cared for. That was when she hit me with a new blow: she loved me. Or at least she thought she did.

How was I, a street rat, a nobody, supposed to respond to that? I told her I cared for her, but not like that. I told her I needed to get out there, on my own. I hurt her.

It took me two weeks with the Sweepers to notice I was not only sticking with a pack despite my own resolve, but that I had become completely obsessed with other people's happiness. I wanted everyone to be laughing and smiling. I wanted to make them happy. But, in the end, it was only for myself that I helped them. You see, I wanted to continue hiding, and it was easier when everyone was too busy laughing to be suspicious. And, worse, I wanted their happiness to try to infect me. I was the jester, but I was never happy. How twisted is that?

I did the only thing I could do... I ran. I ran from... everyone. I made myself a home in space. That's right – my job became something... odd. I couldn't quite let go of Shinigami. He was still a part of me, and until I could find my true self, I would be forced to live as a bounty hunter. A bounty hunter because I did practically everything – I captured thieves, murderers, escaped convicts, drug dealers. I did the behind-the-scenes work that the normal cops were either too chicken or too tied up in red tape to do. Shinigami was still hunting.

I also did some random “field” work. I salvaged, I P.I.'d like a good little detective. I had to take shit cases at first, domestic quarrels and such, but the name Duo Maxwell soon became a name to be recognized. This meant that I would get good cases, but every bad guy worth his salt knew my name. It made the job more difficult.

I kept finding myself not caring.

When I was alone on my spacecraft - “Death's Wing” - I began to think, to remember. I ended up downloading hundreds of songs in the effort to block out the memories, the fears. I remembered the screams I had once justified. The blood that I had stepped in, that my hands were forever stained with. I thought of Solo, and how I had vowed to not let there be others like him. Like me.

How many fathers had I killed? How many mothers?

Then I would turn my music up louder and search for a new mission. A new job. Fuck thinking.

The newest mission was one that interested me more because of the dangers than the money. I had been in an interestingly bad mood lately. I had tried to snap out of it, had thought about going to someone, maybe Quatre. That would have been a bad idea, so at least I didn't even call him. Not only was Quatre almost constantly with Trowa, but he had also taken over as head of the Winner Foundation. The last thing I needed was a long wait to hang out with someone for only a few minutes before being interrupted by someone.

Things had changed after the war. Many things. Trowa, quiet and reticent and the epitome of soldier, had been bothered one too many times by Quatre, who had visited at least once a week at the circus until Trowa had finally just kissed the poor blond. Quatre had almost fainted from shock... or, at least, that's what I had been told the next day over the Wing's comm. link. I had been out on a fairly boring job, since I had only been working as bounty hunter for a few months at the time. It had been a little over a year since the Maremaia incident, and I had yelped for joy over Quatre's happiness. The joy in Quatre's eyes had been...

I had congratulated him, celebrated over the link, and sat alone, not knowing what to feel, afterwards. I wanted to be overjoyed for Quatre. I wanted to be happy for Trowa and their relationship. I wanted to... but I couldn't. I felt like I was being selfish. I felt cruel. I felt... lonely. Terribly lonely.

Anyway... my new mission. I was to find a gang and eliminate them. A difficult job, one worthy only of the elite. Not to mention the pay. And I was also in an introspective mood, so I wanted to kick some ass.

I accepted the mission yesterday and had gotten the documents on the case. The police couldn't legally touch these guys, which made the job interesting for me... and, really, a necessity if there was going to be any stopping these guys. It was basically my job to catch whoever the cops couldn't. Even the Preventors were caught behind a myriad of legal red tape that I just plain didn't have to deal with. And in return for me bringing the little bastards into justice, the legals ignored my blatant disregard of the rules.

The police, of course, had absolutely no permission to do anything. This did not surprise me at all. They usually didn't.

So I briefly reread the reports and checked my position. Steady as ever, my faithful Wing took me out there, ready again for what could be our last ride.


Okay, let's get a few things straight. For the first few... look, during the war, during the fighting, I was almost always around someone. Heero, Quatre... anyone. Afterwards, I kept in touch with the Gundam pilots all the time. Quatre and I were close. Trowa and I... we found out about each other. I respected him, especially when I saw how much he meant to Quatre. Wufei was still as aloof as ever, so he and I were never close, despite the awe, admiration, and respect I had for him. And Heero...

I always end up having to force my thoughts away from Heero.

He's so... close... to Relena. He falls over himself trying to help her. Well, okay, Yuy doesn't fall over shit, but you know what I mean. The man is in love with her. You can hear it when he speaks about her or looks at her or... well, it's obvious.

And it hurts.

Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid to fall for someone like him. I don't even have any damn clue how it happened. It just... did, and I have to deal with it. It made it painful to even see him. To think of him. That's why I tried so damn hard not to.

Quatre and I were still close, but not as much as we used to. He and I were like brothers during the war. He was a companion I would trust with my life, both my mortal body and my soul. I trusted all of the pilots to watch my back, but only Quatre...

Only Quatre ever knew how I felt about... him. And he was the one on whom I cried when finally, finally, I couldn't take the pain anymore. I sobbed like a baby in that damn safehouse, demanding why I had to love someone like Heero Yuy and trying to dissolve into my bitterness.

After that, I had locked the sorrow away and it was never seen or heard from again. And that was when I started realizing that I was leaning... that I was hiding. It hadn't truly hit me then – my subconscious wouldn't let it, I guess – but I realized it eventually. And then I left. I guess it was my fault that we grew distant... but it had to be done.

I was tired of being the person I was.

So... about the guys. I still keep in touch with Quatre, as I said, and of course I see Trowa sometimes, since he joined Quatre. But I hadn't seen Wufei or Heero since... since... Well, it's been three years since the end of Maremaia's little foray into the land of world domination. I guess I hadn't seen them since shortly after that. Three years.

Quatre talked about them frequently. He made a point of telling me a little bit about Heero every time we get in touch, even if it's just “Heero's doing well”. I hate how I feed off of those reports. Apparently, all of the guys had gotten back together at some point.

My calls to Quatre have gotten very infrequent.

I can't help it. I had leaned and leaned... and when I left... it was like nothing had really changed for them. Quatre never said anything like “Wufei wanted to know...” or “Trowa's curious about...” It's... as if they didn't want to know.

Don't be stupid – I know Quatre might not even be telling them I keep in touch with him. But... somehow, that seemed worse. Either way... the guys were fine without me. They didn't need me at all. They... had become friends... after I had left. Like they had been waiting or something.

Jesus, I was in a really bitter, introspective, fuck-the-world mood, wasn't I? I needed this job. A good adrenaline rush would help me forget... for now. Until it was over, and I was left once again alone on my ship, staring at the words I had once painted on the walls in a fit of I-don't-know-what.

Forgive these broken wings
That cannot reach the sky;
I wanted to take you there,
But I cannot fly, so
Soar, soar, my love,
To the farest reaches of Paradise
And forgive these broken wings of mine
That demand I say good-bye.

And because of my nostalgic, altogether-fairly-masochistic nature, it has stayed there since. Damn poem.

That was something else that had shocked the hell out of me – the poetry that sometimes spat out of my hands or mouth when I wasn't looking. I was hardly a poet. My life was not poetic. It was brutal. It was ugly. So where the hell did this shit come from?

Whatever. It was this sort of thing that stopped me, that grabbed me up and spit me out. How pathetic was it that I thought Heero was too strong, both in body and in spirit, to take notice of me? It said something about my psyche.

Damn this introspective mood. Damn it to hell.

All right. I had a few days to waste. That meant I was going to pass the time the normal way – reading, watching the on board television and farting around. No problems there – I'm used to the idea of being alone, after all. I was used to it long before I became a bounty hunter.


It was only a few short hours until I landed. I was already set up in my gear and prepared to go straight into the danger. Hey, it was my job – I had to be ready in case I had enemies waiting for me. That's the life of a bounty hunter for you – no downtime. I had called up scans of the surrounding area until I had the blueprints burned into my mind. I knew at least ten different ways to enter the hit building and, better, I knew about twenty different ways to get in there and get out without getting caught. Stealth always was my forte, after all.

I waited until the hour mark before I strapped myself in. The colony was a small one, built just about a year before the war really kicked into high gear because of some radicals calling out some special mobile suits. I knew the layout of the colony like I knew my hand, knew all of the pathways like I knew how to braid my hair. It was integral that I know every single little thing of this place with the hit I was about to make. Some of these guys I was going after had been targets before. They'd gotten away mostly by sending others in to do their work. I got the higher ups, but I never got the leader.

This place was crawling with leaders.

I knew that this case was one handed to me by Commander Une herself, in person and everything. She and I had stayed in contact when I had first started out, and she was the one who handed good cases to me while I was still taking care of secret affair cases. She was the one who gave me this one, the one that she proclaimed could be the most dangerous high-profile case she had ever received. And she couldn't touch it. That pissed her off just enough to smile scarily at me when I accepted the case. That was one creepy lady.

If I successfully pulled this sucker off, a lot of shit would end. Bad guys everywhere would stop what they were doing, scared that what happened to those here could happen to them. This could be huge. If I failed... there would be others. If I could take out even just one of these guys...

That was me talking, of course, the me that I was starting to find. I didn't know what to think of that me. He seemed... sad. Really sad, and kind of self-deprecating. He was lonely. He was...

Well, I didn't know what all he was yet.

The Shinigami part of me laughed in the face of death and swore to kill them all. The jester in me just laughed and said 'what the hell, let's go for it!'

All parts of me knew that I had to just suck it up and do this bullshit. There was a chance that I was saving lives, that I might be stopping something huge. And, hey, wasn't I good at this 'impossible' stuff? Weren't we all? Humans, that is, not just Gundam pilots. We're all good at that whole 'impossible to possible' thing. Hell, I highly doubt that the first man ever thought that he would be able to travel through the stars... and here I was, slipping right through them and not thinking much about it.

Then I had to keep my thoughts focused. I got a call from the landing pad and gave the operator my name and the license of my ship. I was okayed for landing and slowly and carefully maneuvered my Wing over to my designated landing port. This was always an easier process than landing on Earth – there was no pressure out here trying to slam you into the ground. It was just a matter of aim and coordination. No problem whatsoever for someone who was taught to clean a gun with his eyes closed.

I immediately checked my docking space for any undue guests and waited patiently until the entire area was found to be secure. Being a bounty hunter of the caliber I am means only being free when in space, and even then you might find yourself on a collision course with a smart-ass enemy. Again with the not-really-caring statement.

But really? I think I only didn't care because... no one else seemed to. Over the years, Quatre stopped getting in touch with me. In fact, this year was halfway over and he'd only called once – a Happy Easter thing. That was it. And Hilde... she's avoided me since that day when I destroyed her hopes and left her heart crushed. That's only fair, I suppose. I left her crying there, unable to help her with her pain. I don't know how to rid oneself of that agony. She, too, would have to learn how to survive it.

So. The specs for the operation had told me where to go and who I was hitting. I suppose I should back up a bit – what I just said meant that I had been told where to go to kill who I needed to kill.

Wasn't that just it, though? I didn't want to fight anymore. I didn't want to kill anyone anymore. I wanted my war to be over. I wanted to find myself outside of all the damn fighting.

Goddammit. I was hiding again.

That thought almost knocked the wind out of me. Was it true? Was I still hiding? Even after all of this, all that I had been trying to attain... I was still fucking hiding. Goddammit.

Well, I thought sort of... suicidally... no time to think about it now. I had some shit to do.

I stepped out of my ship and made my way through the ten blocks to the hit mark... the place I was to kill the fuckers in. I checked the place over a thousand times on my computer, but that didn't mean a damn thing. There could still be a trap waiting to catch me.

Of course I had thought of that! I may act like an idiot, but I'm really not.

The place was huge. A big ass mansion among other big ass mansions. This one, unlike the others, had little turrets all over the damn place, like that Chartres Cathedral. Like the thing was going to be ripped from the ground and rocketed into space. It was massively large. My ship would be fucking dwarfed.

And I was going to blow the whole thing sky high. Without harming the other buildings.

No damn problem for someone who was taught to blow up mannequins without leaving a mark on the floor.

It took me roughly an hour to check the place out. The leaders were all in the house in various rooms, seeming to be waiting for the meeting to officially start. Waiting for that last man to show up. Jack Harlow, a main asshole that the Preventors had been trying to catch for a couple years, had yet to show his evilly-handsome face.

I waited another two hours, but the man didn't show up, and the men inside were getting restless. I saw some of them get together through my binoculars and knew my time was running out. Hopefully getting rid of these guys would be good enough. At least then the Preventors only had one man to try to catch.

The setup of the explosives was painfully easy. Granted, there was a shitload of surveillance that made the going slow and tedious, but hell if I was going to be stopped – me, a fucking ex-Gundam pilot. Bullshit.

So another hour saw everything set up perfectly. The men in the building had been gathering together last time I'd seen them – they were saying something about 'late' and 'bullshit' and 'not going to wait forever'. I got the gist and hurried the hell up. If they left, the plan was moot, Harlow or not.

So I got my ass out of the immediate vicinity and hit the detonator switch with Shinigami's grin plastered all over my face. The boom was obviously controlled (thank you VERY much), but the explosion was still massive. I heard civilians screaming and dared another moment to be absolutely certain that the fire wouldn't be spreading nearly fast enough to beat the fire department. Then I got my ass out of the red zone. Wouldn't do to get caught, no sirree.


It took about two more hours to realize my mistake.

Jack Harlow, the fucking son of a bitch, had known. He'd known about the hit... and he wanted me to do it. He wanted me to take out the others. I completely wasted his competition. Now he could take over all of their industries and make himself a huge fucking bundle of shit that could easily become a major, major problem.

Of course, I learned this when I saw the bastards sneaking around my goddamn ship.

And of course police were swarming around here, police that didn't know I'd been fucking hired by them. So it took me fifteen goddamn minutes to knock out the five men skulking around my ship. I trussed them up and threw them into my cargo bay, not wanting them in my spare room. The last thing I needed was to listen to them whine when they woke up.

Of course, I was supposed to leave a day from now, but helpful Commander Une had already seen the report and changed my departure time. It was thanks to that that i managed to make it out before the local law enforcement was able to question me.

Back in space, I allowed myself to rest for a short moment. My mission wasn't over. That Jack bastard had known somehow. He'd known I was gonna make the hit. He'd waited, specifically not notifying the others... he'd wanted me to take care of his problem for him. Smart little bastard.

Of course, now I was the target. He'd quickly learn that his little stooges were stopped. Then he'd send bigger guns... better enemies.

I grinned.

Finally. Finally, I would have a challenge that could take...

My life?

I stopped myself cold. Was that... what I wanted? The me that was me? Was I really that suicidal? No... no, I wasn't suicidal... it was more...


Hopeless. Where did that feeling come from? Where did this... emotion... come from? Was it... because of my love for... him? Was it because of how... alone I was?

Or was it that, still, despite everything... I still have no idea... of who the hell I am?

I shook my head. Worrying about it wasn't going to do anything. I had to do something about it. But... what, exactly? A guy in my position couldn't make any friends. Even if I did have the time to stop somewhere and chat with people and get to know them... it was far too dangerous. For me and for them. I could lead me enemies – and I have a lot of them – straight to those I care about.

Maybe it was a good thing I didn't have anyone who fit that description. Maybe it was a good thing I was alone.

And forgive these broken wings of mine...

I snorted. What a retarded poem. Broken wings... as if I'd ever been an angel. No. The only angel I am is the Angel of Death.

But... I don't want to be Shinigami anymore. I want... to be me.

Well, I thought sadistically, after I killed my enemies, maybe I could be... me.

Hah. Right.

I turned on my music and slipped through the check-ups on my ship's condition and coordinates with experienced ease. I turned on my music because the silence was starting to get to me, as always. Then I sat back and allowed myself to... think.

So. So I'm hiding within Shinigami, who I seemed unable to completely release. I'm hiding... from myself, the real me who I want to find.

Is it impossible to find oneself?

No! I will not... I will not be lost forever. I will not feel hopeless forever! I will... I will find my way... through all of this... to myself. The real me, whether I am a person who wants to die or not. Whether I am tired... or worn... or bruised... if it's on my deathbed, I will find myself.

I snorted again at my fatalistic attitude. Hell, with Jack Harlow focusing himself on me... I might be dead. He was strong enough with his enemies around. Now that I'd helpfully blown them to smithereens...

I moved to my gallery and grabbed a quick drink. I kept the ship on zero-g. Things were just so much easier that way.

My ship wasn't that big – maybe the size of a small rancher. Only more round and stuff. The galley was maybe the size of a dining room – not too shabby. I kept it well-stocked and everything – I wasn't the type to dump out on this stuff, after all. Food is good.

The only interesting bit, really, is the necessity of safe-guarding the edibles from the hazards of space. This meant drinking whatever out of bulbs and eating only certain foods that are carefully packaged. Food bulbs, only less liquid and more solid. And more tedious to make, making them more expensive. When worse came to worse, I ate military rations. They weren't the best shit in the universe, but they were cheap and edible and healthy.

The walls were a bright blue, but Ii wasn't any damn artist. The best I could do was to slap on white paint with some sponges. It was close enough for me. I did the whole walls that way, with the floor the same damn color. No “land” anywhere. Without any gravity, it was almost like flying.

Good enough for a street rat, anyway.

Of course, there were more poems on the walls – times when I lost control despite how hard I tried to squash those stupid poetic moments when something grabbed me and spit my soul on the walls. Always, always it was in red. Like blood, or just because that was always the first I seemed to grab?

Either way, I would end up with poems on the wall. They showed me facets of myself I didn't want to see, but they opened up holes in that gate through which the real me was placed. Poems of anger, of lost love, of sorrow so deep it seemed to be deeper than I would ever reach. Sorrow that I didn't even recognize until it was placed out there in bold red letters. The poems were like infections. Plagues.

I refused to read them this time, not in the mood to do that deep an analysis just then. I went to my cargo bay and checked on my little captives. None of them had awoken yet, but it was only a matter of time. There were a few days ahead of them. I would have to feed them. They weren't getting anything other than ration bars. And even that seemed too good for them.

I didn't look forward to giving them water and holding it for them. That didn't seem like a lot of fun... but it would be simpler than loosing their wrists and risking them fucking around with my ship.

Jack Harlow wouldn't wait long to try to take me down. Men were probably already being dispatched to meet up with me on Earth. I was very quickly going to be embroiled in a huge fucking problem. This had gotten way too damn personal.

Jack Harlow now wanted me dead.

Well, he wasn't the first, and he wouldn't be the last. I would make sure of that. There was no way I, a fucking ex-Gundam pilot, was going to be taken down by some hot-shot criminal. Even if the bastard rivaled Al Fucking Capone.

Al Capone, by the way, had died of syphilis. If he'd not contracted that disease, historians feared he would have been harder to catch. Then again, the bastard was eventually caught. If Al Capone could be caught, fucking Jack Harlow could be caught.

I was tired of worrying about stupid Jack Harlow and his retarded goons after three hours of flight. I took a book and went to my room, going to sleep an hour or so afterwards.

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