"This is for you, " he offered the gold crucifix on the chain. "He would have wanted you to have it."
Duo stared numbly at the gleaming cross in the palm of the other man's hand, then at the priest. The older man smiled kindly. The boy glanced down, clenching his fists. His smile reminded him so much of Father M . . Max . .He forced the word out. Father Maxwell. Through a chance encounter in the city, Duo had ended up in Father Michael's private office. He had been wandering around the streets of the colony, uncaring of his destination or of himself. The very fact that he was still among the living had left him in a state of shock.
He hadn't deserved to survive . . . not when the two most important people in his life had been taken. Not when there had been so many others . . . all dead. A voice whispered, "He must have a deal with Shinigami." Shinigami. How ironic that an idle statement he had made one day had taken everything he loved, the only home he had known. Then, had left him all alone, to live in a world that held nothing for him except guilt and a piercing certainty that it was his fault. Why else would he be the only one to remain if not for punishment. For something he had done, this hell on earth was his fate.
A softly spoken voice pierced through the dulling gray mist that wrapped around him. He lifted his head slightly, realizing that the white-haired priest had been talking to him all this time. Violet eyes stared blankly into light blue ones. A warm hand pressed cold metal against his palm, making him glance down. . . Father Maxwell's. . .
"He gave this to me a long time ago, before he left to work at the orphanage." The priest kept his voice steady, trying to reach out to the young boy. "He wrote to me a few months back about you. He couldn't wait for me to meet you. You could tell how proud he was of you and how much he loved you." His voice cracked at the end despite all efforts otherwise. The younger priest had been so enthusiastic about his latest ward, positive that this silent boy sitting in front of him would do great things in the future, for the future. For the peace that the other priest had longed for. . .had ultimately died for.
Duo turned his head away blindly. His fist closed around the cross tightly, the biting feel of it registering dimly in his mind. Love . . . Sister Helen had said something similar to that before she had died. Loving someone didn't keep them from going away, being taken away. Love did not keep Shinigami away. Everything he *had* loved had disappeared in the dark shadow of death, leaving him behind to mourn. He bit into his lip sharply as tears threatened to seep out. He clenched the cross tighter, desperately clutching it, unaware that he was rocking slightly in the chair.
Father Michael reached out a hand hesitatingly, wanting to comfort the hurting boy. He stopped at the last second, hand hovering above Duo's chestnut head. The other was so tightly wound that any move he made was bound to be rejected. He decided to offer some words of comfort, as hollow as they may seem to Duo . . . maybe they would help.
Duo fought down the last of his tears, peering up through scraggly bangs at the priest. Hopefully, the older man hadn't noticed. Boys did *not* cry. He rubbed determinedly at his eyes, the loose ends of the chain trailing cooly along his flushed cheeks, finally tuning into the other's words. His violet eyes widened and a red haze filled his mind, the anger burning through his sorrow.
" . . . they're with God now. . . on to a better place . . . God's will" The words that were meant to soothe and calm kindled Duo's latent fury.
God's will. Was it God's will that his loved ones die? Was it God's will that innocent children die? Faces and voices flashed before him, adding to his steadily growing rage.
A laughing red-haired girl ,his age, happy that she was finally to be adopted. He felt happy for her at the same time resentful that she was picked and not him . . . He found her later on, buried underneath the rubble, only her bright hair visible. His fault . . . for being jealous, for being resentful of her happiness.
A small moving object bumped into his legs, looking down he saw a blonde toddler, Eric. He picked up the baby carefully, smiling down into his eyes. Eric blindly reached out, brown eyes staring blankly, tracing Duo's face with his warm sticky fingers. Eric had been abandoned at birth because he was blind . . . his fault, he could have protected the toddler in some way.
Stumbling through the wreck, sifting through toys, metal . . .bodies. People he knew, children he had teased , laughed with. Blood everywhere . . . the smell of smoke, of destruction . . . of death. His fault for staying alive instead of dying . . . as he should have.
More and more names, impressions, voices filled his mind, whirling within in a mad vortex. The pitch of a laugh, the piercing cry of a baby, the slight warmth from another's hand, all taken away because of some remote entity's will. Duo clutched the crucifix tighter, uncaring that blood trickled down from his hand. And still the other's voice droned on " . . . God's will . . . "
"Shut up" he whispered hoarsely, then louder when the voice moved relentlessly on.
The priest affected not to hear and continued.
"Shut up" he stated coldly, glaring at the other with a violent gleam in his eyes.
"Shut up" he repeated, even louder, with a hint of desperation to his voice. Why wouldn't the other be quiet. He didn't want to hear about God, not the same God who had taken away Solo, Father Maxwell, Sister Helen, everyone he had ever cared for.
"Shut up." he shouted, again and again. Everything he had held within him, the anger, confusion, pain and hurt, everything came bursting out with a rush.
There was no God. The God that Father Maxwell had preached about was supposed to be kind, a shepherd guarding his sheep. A gentle hand guiding humanity. What he had seen was the unforgiving God of Death, choosing its victims with no mercy, no chance for the defenseless.
"Shut up." he screamed, unaware of the tears streaming down his eyes. He wanted to block out those images, of the happy life he had know and of the last impression he had seen . . . blood, destruction, carnage, chaos. He clutched the cross tighter, the pain in his palm dulled by the furious ache in his heart and mind.
Duo stormed to the door, blindly tripping over the carpet in his mad rush. He fell to the floor with a loud thud, still hoarsely chanting "Shutupshutupshutupshutup." The cross fell loose, and he stared at it through bleary violet eyes. He reached for the necklace with dark, sticky hands and picked it up gently. His eyes widened as he stared at the blood smeared surface.
Blood . . . was everywhere. It coated his hands, marred the once gleaming surface of the cross.
With a despairing cry, he curled up into a tight ball on the floor, winding himself around the cross. His rage drained away, all he could do was weep silent tears, uncaring of the other occupant in the room. . . . proud of you . . . loved you . . .Duo.
He finally allowed himself to mourn.
He gently fingered the cross, tracing the smooth edges. His movements were reflected in the mirror before him.
Duo carefully brushed out his long chestnut hair.
The warm brush of soft hair brushed gently against his face. Laughing, he grasped the brown silky stuff with his small hands, rubbing his face in the sweet-smelling mass.
He plaited it in its customary braid.
Slender hands gently tugged his hair as
Sister Helen separated it into sections.
"Duo, you're going to have to learn to do this yourself one day." A soft kiss on the top of his head when she finished braiding his hair.
Duo tucked the cross back underneath his high white collar, automatically tugging at the black clothes. He hoped it wouldn't be too hot today.
"Do I have to wear this stupid outfit.
He frowned at himself in the mirror, irritably tugging at the high collar.
The other man sighed and clasped the boy's shoulder with warm hands.
"Just wear it for me, Duo. It'll make me happy."
Duo frowned slightly and replied sulkily, "Fine . . . but I won't like it."
A low voice rumbled in laughter. "Thank you."
The American pilot checked his reflection one more time; he made a face at the mirror. "Mou!!! I do look like a priest, and it's still stuffy." But he didn't change his clothing. The vows that bound him to these clothes were just as binding as any priest's.
Not that he considered himself in any way to be a priest. Those ideals and prayers he had given up ages ago. Just as any belief he might have had in God.
There was no God for the weak and the innocent. Only the god of death watched over this universe, and he, Duo Maxwell, would never forget it.
He gently traced the slight bump, beneath his throat, with his fingertips, watching his reflection once more. He closed his eyes briefly, a black shadowed figure hovered over his image in his mind.
His eyes flickered open. Yoshi. He was ready and prepared for whatever. Today he and Shinigami would land on earth for the first time. Briefly, he wondered if there were others with the same mission as he. The boy shrugged and flipped his braid over one shoulder casually.
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