DISCLAIMER: " The boys of Gundam Wing don't belong to me, no matter how many times I may demand my right to own Duo and all the chibi's. They're so kuwaii, neh? *grins cheekily* But I digress...."

*murmers from the audience*: " So what else is new...."

*Stormy sweatdrops*: " Anyway, don't sue me for my l'il bit of rambling madness known as a fanfic. *snorts* You wouldn't get anything anyway."

NOTES: This is not a yaoi fic, even though I have to admit Heero and Duo sound more plausible then Heero and Relena....yaoi-ness and people's opinions aside, I can't stand Relena...she gives me the creeps....Anyway, this fic is from Duo's POV about a mission that went right, even though in his heart it went wrong... Lot's of angst, lot's of tears and self blame....Ahhh, the joys of cathartic release, neh? Wonder if I can patent that theory - get rid of a bad day by writing about angst...*sweatdrops* Yeah, like no one's thought of THAT before! But read! Enjoy! And please PLEASE, all you Duo-worshippers - no attacking the author for putting said main character through some tough love! *dodges flaming fruit* Man, how'd they get an apple to stay on fire?.........

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Masque

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I think that I worry people. Not that heart-wreching, my-god-is-he-gonna-live kind of worrying though; more like the, is-that-guy-sane kind. It's not something that really strikes me as a surprise though. Living the way we do, fighting an endless war that rips away at your humanity one drop of blood at a time.

Blood. It always comes down to blood. Dark red, red on black, gushing from bullet-induced wounds, spurting out beneath clenched fingers in a vain attempt to hold on to life...always blood. Lord knows I've got enough of it staining my hands, soaking my soul with echos of dreams of those I've killed...too much blood. Too much pain. I'm beyond redemption. Beyond hope, no washing away of the sins for ol' Duo Maxwell. I've done too much. And I know it.

Man, I'm in a contemplative mood tonight. A smile curves my lips upwards, a mask I've honed to perfection. Raising my eyes, I scan the sky, noting the darkness of the clouds, the chill of the wind. My hands clench the railing of the balcony I'm currently standing on - it's a nice hotel we got this time. How many missions have we been sent on, only to be shacked up in a rat-infested dirthole that's no better then the old foxholes Heero read about when researching earth's old wars for our Ancient History class? I smirk at that - it was one of the few classes I paid attention to.

It's raining now. Little droplets of water sting my nose, my cheek. Closing my eyes, I drift back in my memories. The falling water reminds me of old times, better times. I can almost see the pews in front of me, the pulpit where Father Maxwell stood and preached about the Good Lord's love for us all. I see the muted light of the candles, the musty scent of the material covering the altar. The raindrops turn into waters of blessing, purifying my soul....

I snap my eyes open, gasping for air. For a minute, I was back there. Back when it was as safe as it could be for an orphaned wretch that nobody wanted. The Good Lord didn't love me, didn't love all those poeple that were butchered so mercilessly. What had they done? The Sisters, the Father, the children....hell, to look at me you could say I still am one. But what my face may hide, my eyes cannot. I have old eyes. Barely in my teens, I've seen more blood and death, have been the cause of more suffering then most veteran soldiers. No one could wash away my taint. Nothing.

Except....

No! I promised myself along time ago I wouldn't go there again. I won't! Shaking my head, I ignore the surprised sounds my friends make behind me as I grip the railing tighter and vault over the edge, landing twenty feet below in a crouch, catlike, silenced by a crack of thunder that split the sky over my head. The drizzle erupts into a full-fledged downpour and I begin to walk. Not too sure where - mind you, my head's usually in the clouds on a GOOD day. I just couldn't stay there anymore, the memories flooding over me like that.

The rain does that to me sometimes. Draws me out but at the same time makes me contemtplative. Ha! There's a laugh. Me, serious about something? I think I hear Wufei snorting somewhere. I'm not allowed to be as grim as my namesake. Without words, I'm told not to act like the Reaper I am. I am Duo Maxwell. I am the one who brightens the party. Crack a joke here and there, sure. Stimulate a conversation and get the house rolling, why not? But frown?

I can't. I won't. If they saw me, saw me without my mask, I'd crumble. Shatter into a million itty-bitty pieces.

All the king's horses, and all the king's men....

I stomp through a puddle, watching the splash arc upwards, drenching my shins and sneakers in a wave of muddy water. The rain continues to pour down and my braid, normally my pride and joy, is now sopping wet, a heavy weight plastered against my back.
Well, Heero's always telling me it's unpractical. Grasping the end of it, I study the edge of it. No split ends for me, thank you very much. Maybe I should cut it off....but then I'd be cutting away a part of me that's been with me since the day of the massecre. Can't do it.

I'm getting further and further away from the safehouse, at the outskirts of the small settlement here. There's no one around me, no one to see my face. Water pours down it, but I couldn't tell you if it's rain or tears. Must be rain. I'm not allowed to cry, remember?

Today's mission was rough. Hell, even Mr. I-don't-feel-a-thing Heero Yui admitted he felt "unease" about what we did. Unease. What a laugh. Staring up at the sky, I feel the wind soaking through my priest's clothes, matching the chill within.

We were to destroy an OZ base. They had the plans for a new mobile suit, one that could possibly rival our own Gundams if plans had been allowed to proceed. Our mission? To get in, destroy, get out. Piece of cake right? We've done it before. We'll do it again.

Unfortunately, no one mentioned the fact that the OZ base in question was in a residential area. Regardless of how carefully we planned our attack, there would be casualties. I had shrugged that off at the time - there were ALWAYS casualties, always people who died in our relentless attacks. What the hell did they think piloted the mobile suits we destroyed?
It's never really sunk in before, what we do. The carnage, the havok we cause...

It's like an adreneline rush from hell - your senses keyed and hyped to the max, the thrill of the hunt, watching with gleeful abandon as your prey opens fire, knowing it can't hurt you. knowing what you're doing is right, that you're following orders, helping to save the world, trying to make it BETTER....

There's no better feeling then that in the world.

Until you see the silhoutte of a small figure in a window, small nose pressed up against the glass, straining to see what's happening. Even as you fire your guns, and watch them fly towards your target, ON target thanks to state-of-the-art technology....and you watch as those missiles soar, unable to call them back even if you wanted too, and you do because of that small silhoutte but you can't because you have an agenda to follow....missiles strike, and the world explodes sending bits of shrapnel flying, columns of smoke and fire licking the sky with molten, flaming tongues......

The silhoutte is gone. So is the window. So is the building.

I brush my hands against my eyes roughly. Innocence be damned. It certainly was today.

My hands are fisted against my eyes again. Damn those tears...they keep coming and I can't stop them, don't WANT to stop them....I had to leave. I was breaking, falling apart right in front of them. Quatre would have looked at me with sympathetic eyes and would have tried to comfort me. Trowa would say nothing but stand there silently, eyes penetrating through my mask so skilfully because he's got one of his own and knows how to see past the facade. Wufei would rant about injustice, seeking to justify my actions, his own way of trying to alleviate the guilt while not appearing weak. And Heero....would tell me to shut up and get over it. I am a Gundam pilot - I'm not supposed to feel guilt.

But I do feel guilt. And pain. And suffering and thousands of other emotions. Too bad I can only voice the happy part of me that get's smaller and smaller the longer this war goes on. I couldn't take their pity. I don't want their sympathy. I was about to cry in the face of their friendship and I couldn't do that.

They were there. They would have seen me. They would have seen my tears and I can't allow that. I am Shinigami. I am Death.

And Death doesn't cry.......