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Sub Rosa - Loading the Weapon

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Sub Rosa

Loading the Weapon

Disclaimer: Gundam Wing is not mine. Duh.

This time my sleep was uninterrupted – a cause for concern more than relief. The extra time meant the enemy was preparing a new strategy. Bad.

I had a bathroom connected to my room; I took advantage. It's all quite different from Earth or colony bathrooms in mechanisms, but they look the same – more for comfort than necessity, I suppose. There was no way a toilet on Earth would work the same in space. It was hilarious to think about it, though.

I sobered up quickly, though. The thought of going out there, of facing my mistakes - again - was humiliating. Then the thought of trying again, of not only apologizing – which was only right – but then trying to be myself around them... I wanted to hide in my room.

On that thought, I forcefully made myself leave.

The hall was clear, the ship silent. I wondered if they were asleep. I almost breathed a sigh of relief, but really? It's somehow worse to not be able to just apologize and get it the hell over with. Waiting was going to be hell.

I looked at the poems on the walls, wondered how many had already been read and analyzed. The small stanza Wufei had read soon after boarding was still there, glistening on the blades of grass. There were more, infinitely more. At least one hundred poems littered these walls. How many had they already read? How many would they? All of the poems bare a part of me for the world to see. These poems could show them everything I never wanted them to see.

I shivered at the thought.

Of course, if I looked at them all clinically, what would I find? I already knew they told something about me – my insecurities, my dreams, my fears. If I studied these poems, would I get closer to finding the true me?

The only problem with that was that I couldn't look at them clinically. Hell, some of them I couldn't even understand. I'd read them over and over again and still couldn't comprehend them. Or, if i did, I had no idea how it could possibly have anything to do with me.

The war stanza... that one was obvious. But “Poisoned Lies”? I mean, yeah, I was loyal to the point of being ridiculously foolish, but... I had never had a lover. Never. Everyone thinks I'm a slut, or that I sold myself. The truth is, I never had the guts. I saw what happened to whores in L2. I had been terrified of that happening to me.

It almost had... once... but that was minor and had nothing to do with betrayal.

And there was one... one I had memorized because of how many times I'd read it. But... no matter how many times I analyzed it... it made absolutely no sense.

That one, thankfully, was hidden in my room.

But all these others... that one, speaking of love, that one, speaking of sorrow. That stanza, speaking to no one in particular... how many have they read?

I sighed. There was no use in worrying about it. They would have more than enough time to read these – we had another day's wait before reaching L2, and even then it would be safer to stay onboard... then searching other places, because the chances of Jack Harlow actually being here were practically nonexistant... yep. Plenty of fucking time.

I touched one of the poems as I slowly floated to the galley. I knew it wasn't right to act cruelly to these two, and I certainly didn't want to act as the jester anymore. I wanted to be me... didn't I? But if I wanted to be me so badly, why did the thought of being me scare me so much?

Well, goddammit, if I was scared of it, then I would just have to face it and just break the fucking thing. I wouldn't run. Duo Maxwell doesn't run or hide anymore.

I almost laughed at that. Bullshit.

I thought about Heero then as I hadn't truly allowed myself since I'd seen him. He had roughened out those still-young edges. He was lean still, as muscular as he had been – maybe more so. His hair was still too long, too wild. Still that deep, chocolate brown. His eyes hadn't changed, either. Still cold and cruel... still that intoxicating cobalt, deep enough to rival oceans. He was a bit more tan, still light but certainly darker than me – me, who had clung to shadows and abandoned the sun.

He was still beautiful. Still that deadly angel. Still that god.

And I... I was Shinigami. He of death, destruction... and darkness.

Stupid poetic bullshit popping into my head. Death, Destruction, Darkness. Damn alliteration.

I floated into the galley berating that damn poet in my head and stopped short. Wufei, too, stopped drinking from his bulb and stared at me.

I broke contact to try to hide the blush that was creeping up my neck. I hadn't been prepared to do it now, after having thought the both of them asleep. It was difficult all over again, thinking about confronting both them and my own cruelty. I grabbed a bulb and quickly took a deep gulp.


“Sorry,” I humphed out, unable to look him in the eye. It was only right that I did, but... dammit, it was humiliating. “I've been... rude. I apologize.”

There was silence from Wufei's side of the room... conversational ball rolling... rolling... stopped mid-fall. Clunk. I took another gulp of juice.

“I understand,” Wufei said softly. I looked at him from the corner of my eye. He wasn't looking at me, but instead at that stanza that spoke to no one. I looked at it as well, already knowing how it read...

Do you feel the pain of a lover's lies
And of dreams that are left bare?
Do you feel the pain of a lover's ire-
Do you wish you couldn't care?

“What's it called?” Wufei murmured. I started. He was looking at me. I hadn't even noticed. I looked away from him. How did he know that I had named every singly one of these poems? More importantly... why did he care?

But I did owe him... for how I had acted. I supposed I could at least answer this question. “'My Friend, I Question',” I answered. That one I only partly understood – the part about pain and wishing one couldn't care. However... why did I write about lovers? Was it merely because it's easiest to understand those emotions when it came to lovers? Why was that?

“I see,” Wufei said, his voice still soft. “Duo, why...?”

“Why what?” I asked agitatedly. Not for the first time, I wished vehemently for alcohol – exactly why I never kept any. The thought of having liquor at any point in time was too dangerous.

“Why...” Wufei hesitated. “Why are you a bounty hunter?”

“Isn't it obvious?” I snorted. “I'm doing what you and your system can't – I'm stopping the enemy.”

Wufei's eyes flashed, but they cooled quickly enough. Wufei would know better than most just how limited the system was.

“It's not the answer.”

“Isn't it?” I countered. “Are you guys doing such a great job that you don't need me?”

Wufei could say nothing to that. “What you're doing is illegal.”

“Then arrest me,” I advised, a smirk forming on my face despite my best efforts. I fought it with everything I had. It was hard... so hard to give him a face that wasn't automatic... wasn't just for show. So hard... dammit!

Wufei sighed. “Maxwell...”

I shook my head. “We'll disagree until the end of time. This conversation is completely pointless – I won't talk about it anymore.” I threw my empty bulb in the incinerator and began to leave the room.

“Wait!” I turned to Wufei, who had made no effort to chase after me. He apparently thought I wouldn't wait. I cursed my poor attitude to a depth-less hell. “What... What do these poems mean?”

Again with the poems. Dammit. “How should I know?” I returned, and left the room.


It was for no reason whatsoever that I found myself sitting in the pilot's seat staring at that poem full of broken wings. I hadn't meant to go there. I hadn't meant, after realizing where I was, to stay. But before I knew it, I was just sitting in that chair staring at that damn poem. I wanted to scratch each and every one of them off the walls. I wanted to peel them away and just show, for one short second, what part of me wrote them. And then I wanted them to disappear into nothing. To just leave the walls bare once again. It would be worth having to painstakingly repaint the entire damn ship just to be able to do that right that second. I would gratefully stare at gray walls this entire mission. Damn poems.

The hallway was quiet; if Wufei was out there, he was keeping his mouth shut – not at all odd for him, but something I used to find uncomfortable. The Jester can't hide without noise, after all.

I sighed and closed my eyes. The Jester, Shinigami... these were masks I used without thinking, ways I hid without actually hiding. The true me... certainly a part of me was in these masks... but how much? And why did I hide as Shinigami when the enemy can't see me?

I have to hide from myself when I fight. That was a simple question to answer. The rest... why the Jester? Why couldn't I just look as dead as Heero always was? Why...?

But that answer was easy, too. I knew what it was like to be ignored, to be hated for no reason other than how I look or where I come from or... or what people expect me to be like. Why push that on others when I hated it being pushed on me? That would be unnecessarily cruel... and hypocritical. So I was the Jester.

Knowing all this... knowing this was showing that I was learning about myself. Slowly but surely, I was seeing more and more of myself than before. That meant all of this was working, didn't it? So why was it that I still felt so lost?

I felt his presence almost before he entered the cockpit. I opened my eyes and looked at Heero.

He floated there, easily clasping one of the handles on the wall. His hair was wild disarray, as it always was. It swayed slightly, testimony to his entrance into the cockpit. His eyes, as steady and strong as always, penetrated me. Just looking into them took my breath away. Made me ache.

Knowing my eyes might be revealing too much, I looked away for a moment. To say what I had to, I needed to close my eyes. Knowing he was silently watching, waiting... knowing what I was going to say... damn Wufei had probably told him. He was waiting to hear it. No censure. No... anything. Just waiting. I needed to take a slow, deep breath. “I'm... sorry... for the way I spoke to you yesterday. I was rude to you for no reason... I apologize.” Painful to admit it, more painful to wait.

But Heero did nothing, said nothing. Just continued to stay in one place and look at me. I garnered the courage to look at him and saw a thoughtful expression on his face. Thoughtful – obviously thoughtful, not closed off or cold or cruel. Thoughtful. For one instant, small and surreal, I thought those eyes could never be so cruel as to glare. I chased it away just as the pain inside started to grow.

Then, before my eyes, the emotions disappeared once again. “Accepted.” Heero turned gracefully and exited the cockpit.

My fists clenched; my heart tore. Stupid. That bastard. Why did he show me that? Why did he spread this hope within me? How could he be so cruel as to show me those blue eyes full of emotion and truth... why bother if he's just going to cut me down again?

“Shit,” I whispered, and fled to my room. Without thinking, without conscious effort whatsoever... my hands reached for the red paint.


So I saw my own reflection
In a shadow down the hall
A shadow hidden deep within
The crevices I saw

The crevices were dark and deep
Like a lake or ness or pool
Hidden in a moonless sleep
And visited by fools

So do I lay, this shadow me
As if a monster freak
A dark unsightly demon, see,
Yet it is small and weak

It huddles in the darkness
As if to huddle is to hide
But the darkness has devoured my wish
It's too late when I'm inside

I stared at the drying words and knew the name of this poem in an instant: “Silhouette.” Incredible, I thought. I hadn't even thought about it. Hadn't considered it. One moment I'm wishing to tear down every unsightly poem I'd ever written... the next I'm writing a new one.

“What's wrong with me?” I asked the air. The paints were carefully locked down again – I hadn't realized until just now how used to painting in zero-g my body had become. Without thought, without effort, I had created another poem.

The room smelled of paint and sorrow. The poem, as always, drew me in. I could feel the emotions of it, released from within onto the walls. Those words held within them a piece of me, immortalized through time.

I smiled softly. There I go again, the poet within me. Why does that part of me bother to show itself? Why did it exist? How did it exist?

So many questions, I thought. And yet I still had yet to find enough answers to prevent the questions from growing and growing.

I still had time. I could look at that poem and realize that I still had time, if all went well. I wanted that time. I wanted to be able to break myself apart piece by piece and then put myself back together so that those pieces fit better. Jack Harlow was trying to steal that time away from me.

I wouldn't let him.

“So do I lay,” I whispered, and left my room.


My mouth had begun to drool as soon as I opened my door – unsurprising, seeing as Wufei had apparently been cooking something in my absence. I didn't know the food I had onboard could smell that good.

The plates and bulbs were locked onto the table when I entered. I stared at those plates, clean mostly because they were never used, and then looked at Wufei as he checked the cooker. Heero was going through the locked cabinets, supposedly checking for more available meals. He was naming off what he saw as he looked. Both turned when I entered.

“Don't stop on my account,” I said, then silently berated myself. “What are you doing, anyway?”

“Well, Maxwell,” Wufei said, “We are trying to cook – a difficult feat with the available... amenities.”

“Then you should have brought your own food,” I sniffed, practically slobbering all over the ship. There was no way the food I had could smell that wonderful.

“We would have if we'd known this was all you ate,” Heero retorted, looking in one of my many ration bar cabinets.

“It's healthy,” I snapped. “Healthy things are supposed to be nasty.”

“No,” Wufei argued, “they're supposed to be rich in nutrients. They do not necessarily have to be nasty.”

I ignored that. How to explain that food was usually just a necessity? That food did not need to taste good to be good enough? As long as it supplied fuel for my body, I didn't care about anything else.

Heero finished listing everything off and turned to me. “Dinner will be ready in an hour.”

I hitched up an eyebrow – dinner? There was no time for us spacers, especially out in space. Dinner meant nothing to me... never had. Food was ready when food was ready. I wondered how Heero had always thought of food. Maybe he was used to schedules.

I nodded my understanding and left the room. I went to the cockpit and checked the radar, then looked at the “time”. It was around nine at night, depending on what area of Earth you compared to. According to L2, the time read 9:27. An hour would make it 10:27. Pretty late dinner.

Had they been waiting for me?

Stupid thought. They were probably only feeding me because for one thing, it was my food, and for another, I had happened to come out while they were cooking. I would be just as satisfied with a ration bar.

And the thought of dinner conversation... oh, shoot me now.

I stared at that poem again, trying again to make it disappear by will alone. And then, again without conscious effort... I touched it. Ran my hand over it. Ran my hand along those lines that asked forgiveness for something the winged creature couldn't help. Not for the first time, I wondered why I thought of it that way. Of Heero as an angel, able to ascend to the heavens... while I, Shinigami, was trapped on Earth and forced to enter Hell.

Oh, I wasn't so na´ve as to think that Heero's hands weren't bloodstained. The two of us had shared battlefields together, after all. But for some reason, he seemed like such a higher being... if only because he hadn't lied to himself while doing it. And he'd fought for peace. What had I fought for? At the time, I had thought that I fought for justice, to make certain that no child ever again became an orphan. But in fighting that war, I had created orphans. I had killed parents, brothers, sisters, friends, children. And so what had I truly been fighting for? Peace? No, nothing so... holy. Revenge. I fought for revenge, for those I had seen die thanks to that goddamn war. I had fought for that. And so... Heero was holier than me. Better than me. Let alone stronger than me.

I smiled at that, but the smile was empty.

I let my hand fall. There was nothing here in this room. No answers in those dry red words.

I felt his presence again, right outside the cockpit door. I didn't jump away from the poem like I might have at some other point in time, trying to cover up what I was doing. I don't know why I didn't – I just didn't feel like pretending anything at that moment. Heero had that strange speculative look in his eyes again. It brought a flash of pain, but I didn't flinch from it. Maybe I was getting used to it. I clung to that hope.

When Heero finally spoke, his voice was oddly soft. Almost... reverent. “Who is it written to?”

I released a humorless chuckle and shook my head. “Doesn't matter,” I answered, my voice lacking reverence and sounding more... dull. “They'll never know.”

“Why?” Heero asked, his brows furrowing. Like it was my duty to tell someone I cared for so deeply all about my feelings. Like it was any of his business. I swallowed down the laugh that wanted to bubble up at that – I knew it would sound slightly... hysterical.

“Because they'll never accept.”

“How do you know?” Heero asked, pressing. Bastard. Strangely... I wasn't angry. The line of questioning left no room for emotions.

Instead, I found myself smiling softly, though there was nothing to smile about. An old, automatic attempt at the Jester. “Because I know him.”

Heero stood in shock. I didn't wait to Heero to adjust to the idea of me being gay; I exited as quickly as I could. I heard him turn around to watch me. Felt his eyes on me, staring at me as I entered my password and entered my room. I didn't feel safe even after closing the door behind me.


Dinner was absolutely dismal.

Don't get me wrong. The food was excellent. Wufei had always been a good cook. Of course, gravity had to be turned on to eat, but it was an easy adjustment and one I was fairly used to. I did cook on my own every once in a while.

But sitting at that table with Heero and Wufei was akin to the worst torture I had ever endured in my life – and let me assure you that I had endured plenty of fucking torture.

Heero was silent, ignoring me totally and completely. Not unusual to begin with, but seemingly more intense since he had learned my big, bad secret. Wufei, unlike Heero, was shooting not-so-covert glances at me. Apparently Helpful Heero had informed Wufei of my homosexuality. I thought of Wufei's strong sense of black and white and wanted to scream. This, more than anything else, would condemn me in his eyes.

Tension rolled over every single bite of the casserole Wufei had created out of green beans and onion rings and cream of mushroom soup. He had helpfully written the recipe for me. The food was wonderful, but I wondered if I would ever make it. The memory of the tension in the room made the thought unappealing.

It was miserable to sit in silence with that tension. And then politeness demanded that I wait for them to finish so I could clean up. I sat sipping my bulb of juice and tried to look invisible.

Eventually, it worked. Heero turned to Wufei and began talking about someone from work, effectively shutting me out. Apparently the guy had been a mole or a groundhog or whatever they called people who ratted out their department. I never cared for the slang – I always just called them motherfuckers.

I cleaned the plates when they were done, saying that it was my job to clean since they cooked. Wufei made a jab about my lack of cooking skills, which fell flat on my side because, dammit, I was in a bad mood and I was kind of being a martyr. Not to mention the fact that the joke made me think of my background on the streets and how the idea of cooking food was ridiculous. I would be thrilled to have any food, cooked, uncooked, overcooked, or moldy. As long as it was even remotely edible. Then I thought of what Wufei's past might have been like, growing up with a colony of friends and money and... and a home. And I thought that of course he would know how to cook. He might have even been taught by someone. Wufei could never understand that a part of me would forever think of that as a luxury.

So the proverbial conversational ball deflated on my side of the court and Wufei just went the hell away. Heero, of course, decided to stay behind but really? Why the hell not – this week was already shot, as was the foreseeable future. Might as well get the torture rolling.

I had to give him credit – he kept his sorry mouth shut until I finished washing about half the dishes. I was actually beginning to hope that he would either leave or just stare at me until I finished, at which point I could fucking leave. Again; how na´ve of me.

And I should have known this humiliating question would be in among all the damn questions that would be asked. I guess a part of me just hoped – or maybe I couldn't believe Heero would give a rat's ass.

“Who is this guy?”

Shit, shit, shit. How to evade without lying? How how how how how...

“It doesn't matter.”

I was stalling. I knew damn well that Heero would press that one. Heero always pressed when I didn't want him to.

Or maybe, secretly... a part of me did want him to.

“Bullshit.” Heero's voice was firm. “That poem... matters.”

“Since when have you been the empathetic type?” I asked bitterly.

Heero was silent for a time. “About two years ago,” he admitted. “When Quatre got in my face and demanded I get the 'fucking dildo out of my ass'.”

I couldn't help the shocked guffaw that sneaked out of my traitorous mouth. “Quatre said what?” I let it go and just laughed for a moment. The picture the thought gave me was enough to make me bust my appendix.

I thought I heard a smile in Heero's voice. “I had been a... pain... to be around before that.”

“No shit?” I blurted, then shut the hell up. Apparently I had missed a lot more than I had thought... the guys had all matured and gravitated to each other... without me. Damn those last two words. How dare they leak into my head like that. They were all best friends now... had all become... so much stronger... emotionally.

Like they had waited for me to leave so that they could become better without me. Like I'd been holding them back.

I closed my eyes as the machine dried the dishes. Incredible. I was so incredibly... pathetic. I winced inwardly – that adjective was just painful. I stared blindly at the dishes. To get those dishes clean, you had to sacrifice the mess – the food, the dust, the dirt. Was I that wasted food, that dust and dirt? Were the guys...?

I wanted to hit myself. This thinking wouldn't help me.

“So who was he?” Like a dog with a goddamn bone.

“Is,” I corrected thoughtlessly. “He's not dead.”

Heero hesitated. “Do I know him?”

I shrugged. “Probably.”

Heero shifted, apparently a bit uncomfortable with the conversation. Well, I thought, it was his own fucking problem. He'd brought the fucking subject up, after all. “What's his name?”

The machine stopped, and I took the chance to busy myself while thinking of a suitable answer. A flitting thought crossed my mind – why am I even trying to answer? – but I didn't have an answer and yet couldn't bring myself to snap at Heero or ignore him, so I merely used an obvious evasion.

“Why do you want to know?”

Heero hesitated on that one. He knew it was an evasion, but short of blatantly ignoring it and thus potentially humiliating himself, he could avoid answering in some way. It made locking the dishes in their cabinet... quieter. I flinched slightly whenever the dishes clinked together. It was extremely loud in the silence, even though my music was still playing softly throughout the ship.

And the alarm sounded.

I heard Heero curse even as I flew to the cockpit. Heero was only half a pace behind me.

Wufei came out of the guest room as we passed. I vaulted off the wall and somersaulted into my pilot's seat, strapping myself in. Heero came up to the front, looking determined.

“Don't even try it,” I warned as I pulled up my scanners. “I'll fucking shoot you.” I pulled out the pistol holstered on my seat. Heero hesitated, then went to the back and strapped himself in.

I saw what was coming and was too shocked to even curse for a moment. Then a litany of all the swear words I'd ever heard in my life began popping out of my mouth.

“What is it?” Wufei asked.

“Four,” I said tersely, and got to hear them curse, too.

I had about three minutes to get things ready. “Are either of you in practice with going out-ship?” I demanded.

“I am,” Heero said, his voice clipped.

“I have a suit in the hold back there,” I said, nodding behind me to indicate the small door directly behind the passenger seats. “Can you get in one in about two minutes?”


I didn't hesitate, though I wanted to; I didn't want to rely on someone. I didn't want to stick Heero out in the thick of the danger. I didn't want to think about him going out there and trying desperately to hold on as I dodged lasers that, if one even came too close to the ship... would fry him into a crisp. For the first time since I started training with Doctor G... my palms began to sweat.

“I have a small cannon in there, as well,” I said, forcing my mind blank. Silently begging Shinigami to fucking come and save me from my own fears. I felt him in me, trying to take over... felt my own fear fend him off. Dammit!

Heero was already dressing, Wufei helping him into his straps. I put the four ships on full-view and clenched my teeth. Dammit, I have no choice but to trust you, Shinigami. If I fuck this up because of my fear... if I hesitate, it will mean Heero's death!

I felt Shinigami slide himself into place in my soul and stared at the enemy. “Let's go,” I whispered, the maniacal grin sliding into its usual place. My palms dried, my thoughts cleared. “Get moving,” I ordered, and shot myself straight into the jaws of death with a Shinigami smile.

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