Echoes




What was it about the chiming of bells. The sound roused him from the complete silence and darkness he had been sinking into. It hurt to regain consciousness, and it definitely hurt trying to move. But the sound of those bells called him back as nothing else would. Duo opened his eyes briefly, catching a glimpse of a grey, low ceiling, before letting his eyes flutter shut once more. This time the darkness was comforting and welcoming as he drifted off to a deep, healing sleep.

Bells calling them to mass, to meals. The last sound they heard before falling asleep, the first sound they heard as they drifted off to sleep. The bells were a sign of the peace and security he had found here. Just like the solid structure of the orphanage itself, the heavy, woodsy, scent of the pews, and the familiar rumble of Father Maxwell's voice, the sound of the bells signaled a moment in his life when he could let down his guard.

And in the end... when the sanctuary had been reduced to rubble, Sister Helen's cold hand caressing his face before falling limp on her still chest, those bells were the only things left intact, as if defying the destruction and carnage scattered all around them.


The next time he surfaced from the deep, drugging sleep, voices, faint and murmured, caught his attention.

"...awake?"

"Not yet."

"Let me know when our young visitor's condition improves."

"Yes, Father Jean."

Ah... so, he was *here* again. The almost cloying scent of incense and wax, the constant murmuring chant, and the gentle clacking noise of prayer beads shifting, lulled him to sleep again. And in his last waking moments, he heard the deep, lulling sound of those bells once more.


When Duo awoke, *really* awoke, not one of the sisters who had been taking care of him asked any questions. Instead they, there were two of them, carefully examing him from head to toe, gently prodding and shifting his bandages. The sight of the familiar, long black gowns and the remembered touch of gentle, callused hands brought a dizzying sense of having fallen back into the past. Especially, when they helped to wash and to braid his hair. It was... hard to describe. A sense of peace from happier memories... which inevitably evoked the aching sense of loss as the rest of his past played out. One always led to the other, which was why Duo preferred *not* to remember. It... hurt, pleasure always leading to pain, and he couldn't escape it.

Which was why it was all he could do to remain still, trying not to fidget from the touch which brought forward all the memories which lay, half-buried, within himself.

Eventually, he was left alone, exhausted but clean. The American pilot guessed, if he recalled correctly, that they had probably gone to fetch Father Jean. He sighed and leaned back gingerly against the soft pillows, allowing his eyes to wander about his "room". The furnishings were sparse but meticulously clean, a small altar and crucifix lying on a nearby desk, a fresh change of clothes, presumably his, lying folded neatly on the chair by his bed. Duo inhaled deeply, memories stirring once more at the painfully familiar, musky scent of incense. He glanced out the window, noting the presence of the bells that had drawn him into consciousness that first time. Somehow... they brought a measure of comfort and security, however small and false they may be.


Father Jean had been a surprise. First of all the man was *young*. The man didn't look old enough to *buy* the wine he no doubt served during Communion. The young priest had also offered the injured boy sanctuary for as long as he needed, no questions asked. What was the phrasing he had used? Oh, yeah. "No prob, dude." Duo snickered to himself, even as he was careful not to disturb his ribs *too much*. Two cracked ribs, one broken leg, and a mild concussion... not bad considering he had done his best impression of an anime character set to flight by his pissed off fiance. Vaguely, he imagined the look on Heero's face if *Relena* ever screamed out, "Heero no baka!" and sent the Wing pilot into LEO (Low Earth Orbit) with a pink mallet.

"Maaaa, the idiot would probably just pick himself up and go back to her for more." The braided boy snorted to himself, making a face when it disturbed his injuries. "Yare yare..."

Briefly, Duo thought of the other pilots, choosing not to linger on thoughts of Heero ... for too long. They had probably heard about his mission being a failure. The boy let out a deep breath of air, ignoring the dull ache in his ribs. He should contact them, let them know where he was but not now. Perhaps when his injuries were better, and he was far from here. The very last thing the American pilot wanted was to put these people in danger. "Feh.... too bad I didn't think of that before..." Duo put a firm clamp down on *that* thought; it was the last thing he needed right now.

And he wanted... No, he needed time to himself, time to think, away from the others, away from *him*. "And what better place to do it then here, Maxwell. Nothing like taking away attention from your love life, or lack thereof, than a nice vacation in the middle of your personal version of heaven and hell."

Ah well... He'd survive, he always did.

As if to remind him to rest, the bells rang, signaling mass probably. The boy let his eyes drift shut, succumbing to the exhaustion that pulled at his limbs and senses.

And in his dreams... Surprisingly, Duo did not dream of death and blood. He dreamt of an intense blue eyed young man, staring directly at him, slender figure shrouded by clinging shadows.

Ah Heero...


Part 2

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