Title: Caged Bird

Author: Calenlass Greenleaf

Disclaimer: Hoshino owns DGM. I just…steal Link from her. Her character, my muse. |D

Spoilers: Recent DGM chapters. 204, YES.

Rating: PG-13/T

Warning: Angst. Violence. The mess that is Link's brain. Talk on religion (eh, I'm not Catholic, but this is a Nineteenth Century fic and doesn't really apply to my opinions of the Catholic Church of today).

Summary: His life is his cage. Or, his life is forever in cages. Yet how many of those cages are actually self-made ones that he can't break free of? Oneshot, reflections on Link.

A/N: My mind refuses to shut up about Link and 204. I might as well write it out. XD


Caged Bird

'I bear the black feathers.'

Crows, he knows, are supposedly birds that are free and don't give a damn. They weren't under anything or anyone except the laws of nature or of God. And they're associated with death. A kind of carrion bird. Smart, but fated to always be related to something humans feared.

The Crows of Central…it was fitting name. Watchdogs, too. Someone had to get their hands dirty—that was their purpose. To deal with death and be feared and hated. And yet the name didn't fit either. They had less freedom than the Exorcists. They were like puppets. No say in anything. Just orders and obedience and subservience, and the cycle repeats over and over. Caged birds, singing whatever they're told to sing. The song is the unchanging and steady as it has been since it was first begun.

You know what the worst thing was? He didn't mind more than ten years of doing this. You walk into something blind, you're blinded all the more. No outlet, no reprieve. What he does rebel against in thought when he was young was repressed and forgotten. What does it feel like, to have everything opened again and remembered?

Painful.

An influx of emotions that ran together to create an emotion that overpowers everything, usually anger. Anger at the person who caused this. Anger at everyone else. Anger at himself.

Uselessness.

Emptiness.

Powerlessness.

As much as Crow are model and trustworthy, they're every bit as human as any Exorcist. No matter how much anything strips and bares a heart to snag and tear, and attempts to leave nothing behind, every person feels something. Feeling nothing is still inherently something. And there's a time limit to how long you would feel that way—

It must end, in whichever way you chose.

He asks himself, over and over again, what he'd choose.

'It's my job.'

He can say those words over and over again, carelessly. It was him and the life he had embraced. The previous life was long forgotten and trodden. The bird was entranced by gilded bars at first, not minding them. The cage offered shelter and the pretence of warmth. It…offered power, too. Could he choose otherwise at that point? You learn to take what you can from life, he learnt.

The cage was opened, but it led to another cage, this one with rules and laws. He found he like this, the routine, the mundane. It so fascinated him that he was lost in it. Occasionally the sequence breaks, but he didn't mind it…so much. Not even at the first execution. You were far too into it…or so it seems. Maybe he could kill without flinching, but he doesn't mean he doesn't remember them. Yet what can he do except steel himself against it? It was the Vatican. God's church. Lawful, upright, and unfailing. And so he obeys so that it can keep its outer image.

He rose in his positions. He could walk with his head again, and few could tell him to look down at his feet. The place he held was not rivalled. If anything, he had everything he wanted. This life, this job, this commitment, this cage. He can take the insults and either ignore them or throw them back. He doesn't care what those who don't understand will say and think. He matters to a cause, and that was good enough.

Until he hears a different melody. Or, a melody that is both old and new, similar and not similar. But anything different and not traditional is a possible heresy. He suspects, as do others. Guilty until proven innocent, that was their stance. He watches and writes, argues and agrees.

But he ends up doing things he doesn't expect—for one, you don't except to pick up a suspect who is half-dead. You don't expect to fight side-by-side with them. You don't expect they'd actually care about you…

And he doesn't expect his charge to treat him like any other human. Maybe a little more suspicion, but he doesn't insult or belittle. Life…went on.

But that was first venture of scratching at the bars. The testing.

'Do you want to make your position worse than it already is?'

That was his textbook answer. What can't be changed, you live with. You accept. Go with the flow. All those lame phrases to describe subservience. The less hassle the better. He doesn't understand why this boy would think otherwise. Heavens, it's not as if his morals are in the wrong place, but he was stubborn in his thought and what he wants to save—everything under the sun.

He doesn't understand and drives him up a wall. They bicker, or he bickers. Over silly little things, too, But he can't help it; he feels provoked. A person really does detest things they don't understand. But it's not as if he doesn't truly understand…it's the fact that he forgot. Hell, he even forgot he had a conscience. Maybe it died, but it doesn't stay dead.

You woke it up. And it doesn't go back to sleep. The tentative shoving at the cage was no longer so tentative. There was more pacing; you stare out and beyond, you wonder. You think. You start to go on a dangerous road. Hah, he hadn't even seen it coming. Didn't expect to be swayed like this. But maybe that's what comes of being repressed—you don't want what else is there, or you didn't realise and now you consider. At the worst time, too. He's still doing his job…

Or maybe he's started to do more than just that. Little things to bigger things. Funny sort of acceptance. Months pass, and you realise what you're doing. You know you ought to put distance, but you can't even if you wanted to. There's even a bit of jealousy. Everyboy loves you expect the people who suspect you, and you know what you want and how to get it. You…you're yourself and you want to walk your own path.

How long ago, he has to question himself, did he have those ways of thinking?

Too long.

And too late did he understand.

'That's all you have to say?'

Late, late, late. To everything. He was too late to see how his loyalty had been played with. He was too late to save those he was closest to and now they'd pawns of the enemy. He was too late to realise the truth, too late to figure out…just how damn pointless this all was.

Too late to understand himself and what he wanted. What he needed. What was important and what wasn't. Too late to understand how useless he is. How…powerless he is when he realises his insignificance. And just how damn stupid his goals of this life was. Useless, empty, powerless. Lowly. Like a bird fluttering against the bars, wanting to be out. The want to see, the want for the truth.

The want to be no longer indecisive and caught in the middle. The want…to breathe of something different. He loses sleep over this and gets nowhere. And only weakly make excuses because that's all he can do. Excuses to rationalise. To acquit blame to others.

He could blame others for making him their puppet.

But he blames himself more for not having the will to resist or the will to have gotten out of it when he could. He sickens himself, him and his actions. Or maybe it the guilt and regret that was building up and choking him a bit to the point he can only react in anger. He's not even sure, anymore.

All he know are the things he has, and the things he could've done but didn't do. Leave there to mock him when he looks back. He stares in the mirror, he sees himself as a sinner. Fallen. The badge on his coat, the pin and ribbon—the signs of his authority.

…how old was he, again?

Twenty.

Twenty, and he was already like this. He hasn't felt twenty for a long time. He has…never felt twenty. Only know does he think hard and realised just how lacking in maturity he was if the choices he makes he now hates.

But there was nothing he can do except look back.

'Run!'

It's only when he reacts out of fear does he have a dim realisation of what he's trying to do.

Trying to help. Pathetically. But he's trying. Such a pity he's no match. He is blinded and his head feels as if it will explode, and he falls. He can barely hear, and he doesn't understand.

Can't.

Or it's not that he can't, is that he hasn't tried hard enough.

He can barely make out words and the sounds, he has to depend on what he can guess. But whether it was due to the things in his eyes relating to this…whomever it was speaking, he could hear those words clearly.

He can hear Allen Walker's words clearly (The thought of uniting with you—makes me want to puke!). He knows…there's only one option.

The other…do, you're being forced. He can't. He doesn't want you in the Enemy's hands, but…maybe they would prove strangely kinder.

The instant he raises his hand to cast, he knows what it means for him.

…hang all of it.

Struggling upright and shoving the damn pain aside, he puts a stop to it. And he tells them to run. For he probably is one of stronger spell-casters out of all the Crow, and he knows what he will do is recognisable, and it's a one chance thing, but it's all he has.

It is all he can offer, this weak show.

He doesn't care as the room explodes and he falls back.

Can barely breathe. Can barely think. Can barely hear the words, but he can guess.

He still can't see. Can't even stand. No, he's just down on his knees, going to receive what he ought to have a received a long time ago. There were going to call him a traitor, but he's been a traitor to himself ever since he had joined. They were going to shift of a lot this onto him, and he has no-one to blame except himself.

They were going to cage him in a tighter confinement. He knows he won't be killed because he's a necessary pawn, but he doesn't know how far they will to…to get him back.

His chest is tight as the weight of what he has done shoulders on him. It's choking his throat and ….so heavy.

But he does know one thing: The cage he created for himself, the one built on disillusions, assumptions, and blindness—he has broken free of that.

And he can't look back.

He tried.

does that count, Allen Walker?

Maybe…I'll understand you in time.

And maybe, Howard Link will eventually find what it means to be Crow. To share both freedom and responsibility.

End.