By Jaelyn 10/26/99
I don't own Gundam Wing or its charas so there!  And NO suing me! I'm poor!


He had come back to L2 for the dedication of the new church, a beautiful tribute to the One Most High. Not over large, but with spires and steeples that reached like an imploring hand Heavenward and stained glass windows that sparkled like jewels in the artificial sun. A plain, simple crucifix crowned the entirety. Duo had heard the ringing music of the bells across the blocks he walked to arrive at the scrolled iron gate, calling the faithful, and those not yet redeemed, into the sanctuary's warmly paneled halls.

But here he stood, hands clinging to the gate, unable to enter, unable to move.  Maxwell Church.  This oh so new, sparkling edifice was Maxwell Church--rebuilt in honor of the one that was here before. The colony had dedicated it to the priest and nun who had made it their chosen mission to minister to the poor, the sick, the tired, the hungry...and even those just-- lost, in a time when the rest of the world spiraled in chaos. The spacious church grounds also boasted a school and a new home for orphaned children. Only the best here now. Duo turned his head. A statue of a man and a woman surrounded by clinging, smiling children stood in the center of the manicured courtyard.  The man was portrayed bending slightly, his hand resting on a child's tasseled head.  The woman, her head in her nun's wimple, knelt at a child's level, her arms reaching to hug.

Father Maxwell...
Sister Helen....

He closed his eyes, squeezing them tight, feeling a hitching sob building in his throat.

Gone. They were long gone, and over 240 other people.  Gone in one of the worst massacres of the war.  Gone.

So many innocent lives lost. And in their place, these shiny new buildings.  Duo opened his eyes again and looked at Maxwell Church.  Superimposed was the ghost of another church, this one not so shiny, a little tattered and shabby in fact, it's white stone walls browned with age and even blackened in some areas where a blast or gunfire had come to close; war had little respect for
the house of God.  In the yard of that ghostly church, ghost-children laughed and played, and a little boy with long golden-brown hair and determined eyes ran from a frustrated young nun with a pair of scissors.  He laughed, fingering the long shining length of clean, braided hair that fell over his shoulder past his waist.  Longer now, and a lot cleaner.

Taking his eyes from the church, he looked down the well paved street, it's sidewalk lined with young trees and flower beds.  There, on the corner, not a block away had been a fruit stand where a miserly, bitter old man eked out a meager living.  Now there was a little grocer there, the sort of shop one browsed in to pick up a few non-essentials, and maybe some flowers for the sweetheart.  But he still saw the old man with his cart of shriveled apples and before him stood a boy of eleven, thin almost to the point of emaciation,
striking up an animated argument while a smaller child surreptitiously pilfered those apples.


"Duo..? You're Duo Maxwell, right?"

Duo looked down in the direction of the tentative feminine voice, eyes widening in surprise. A girl, a little younger than himself, maybe 16 or 17, looked up at him with green eyes full of restrained excitement.  Her small, birdlike hands clutched a tiny white handbag, which she held to her chest. Her bright, shoulder-length red hair, as well as her pretty floral printed dress fluttered in the gentle artificial breeze.

"Yeah..." He began cautiously, "I'm Duo. Who..."

Suddenly she was in his arms, squeezing him tight, her head tucked beneath his chin.  Stunned, his arms automatically encircled her, automatically stroke the soft hair of her head. But he had no clue why this girl from no where should suddenly lay claim to him.

She pulled back slightly, but didn't let go, her eyes shining with tears but her lips were smiling.

"You don't remember me but I remember you.  Because of your hair."  Duo still gazed at her in confusion, yet there was an aura of familiarly about her, something about her smile, her eyes.  Her smile brightened.  "You took such good care of us, after Solo died. And then you found the Father and Sister for us. And you as much a child as we were."

Duo drew in a sharp breath. He knew then.  His mind drew up images of a little girl found huddled under the remains of her bombed out apartment building. Her red hair dirty and escaped from its ponytail, her eyes dilated with horror.  She had cried when Duo had crawled into the rubble to draw her out but afterwards had clung to him like a burr.

"Duo has a girl friend!" A voice from the past teased, laughing. "Do not!" The annoyed 6-year-old retorted but he hadn't pushed the tiny girl away.  She was just a baby, after all.

Duo gasped, incredulous, and grabbing her shoulders, pushed her far enough back so he could see her, * really * see her; see her bright happy eyes, her fit healthy body.

"Meri..." he whispered, voice all wonder.

Her whole countenance lit and this time when she through her arms about his neck, she kissed his cheek as well, leaving a trace of petal pink lipstick.

"You do remember me! I'm am so happy to see you!  To see you alive and well! I was just a little girl but I remember when the news came on and they said that Maxwell Church had been destroyed.  I cried and cried. I thought of Sister Helen, and Father Maxwell...and you, the other children...all dead." She peeked up at again, her joy practically bubbling from her.  "I prayed every night for your souls, just like they taught us, and prayed that I would see all of you again in heaven."  She stepped away from him to see him
better. "But I get to see * you * here on earth!"

She had been one of the first orphans the Father and Sister had found a home for.  When her new parents came for her, she clung to Duo with all the strength in her 4-year-old body, screaming for all she was worth.  Duo had pulled her into his lap and kissed her tear streaked little cheeks and told her he would always look out for her. If she wanted him, she just had to close her eyes really, really tight, and think his name really, really hard, and he would be there.  She had left with her new parents, waving back at him, Father
Maxwell, and Sister Helen with a smile.

"I always wanted to tell you thank you.  Thank you, Duo.  Not just from me, but from the other kids as well." She self-consciously wiped the moisture from her face.  "I never thought I'd get a chance to say it in person."

Duo was speechless.  Here was this little girl who hadn't died.  Who from all appearances, had grown up happy, healthy, and secure; surrounded by people who loved her. And all this time, she had been praying for him. He wanted to cry, and when the tears started to stream over his face, he didn't bother to wipe them off or feel ashamed.

"Meri."  He said softly, tracing the curve of her jaw. "Little Meri."

She sniffed and giggled softly.  Her shoulder made a gentle shrugging motion. "Not so little anymore."

He smiled. "No. You're not."

At that moment the church bells chimed nine.  Mass would be beginning soon. Meri looked at the clock, then back toward an older couple who motioned for her to come along.  She turned back to Duo.

"You came alone?"

Duo nodded, suddenly uncomfortable. "Yeah. I just...I just had to..." He gestured helplessly at the new church behind the gate.

"That's why we're here, too."  Meri said quietly. "Today is the dedication and the first mass.  We felt we should be here."  She put her arm through his. "If you are here by yourself, sit with us."

Duo shook his head deprecatingly, drawing back slightly. "No, Meri, really. It's ok.  I-- I don't think I'm going to the service anyway."

Meri didn't let go of his arm.  "Duo, no one else more than you should be there.  You are their son: 'Maxwell Church's Duo.'  Please, sit with us. I want to introduce you to my parents and... and... I want to be there with someone else who will remember them like I do.  Please?"

With a little sigh, Duo again looked at the church, still seeing ghost children playing in the courtyard.  The little boy with long hair ran to the father clinging to his leg, face turned up in entreaty.  Obligingly, the priest bent down to hoist him onto his shoulders.  Duo slowly grinned and turned back to the girl beside him.

"Sure, Meri.  I'll come. And I'd love to meet you family."

Arm and all, the two young people walked through the iron gate toward the man and woman who already waited at the chapel door.  Already, Duo could hear the choir singing.

---OWARI--- ^_^

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