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[Fic] Gundam Wing: Salvation

Spoilers: vague spoilers through ep. 20 and for Episode Zero
Disclaimer: Not mine!
Summary: A young terrorist walks into a church...
Notes: Merry Christmas, yhlee! Many thanks to both edonohana and rilina_fic for the beta! Only I am incredibly stupid and realized this spoils you for Duo's fate post series (i.e. if he lives or dies).

He first showed up when I was a novice, still unsure of my calling, though the nuns and the orphanage were all I knew. He sat alone in the last pew and kicked at the pew ahead, his face grubby and his braid coming apart. I thought he was annoying and bad-mannered, but the priest's collar he wore intrigued me.

"Are you studying to be a priest, little boy?" I asked him.

He laughed in my face. "I'm not a little boy! 'Sides, you're not much bigger than me." Then he blew a raspberry at me, and I hid behind another sister. Usually kids intimidated me, particularly if they were loud or assertive. They didn't care so much about politeness, and I hated confrontation. This kid made me uncomfortable, but for a reason I couldn't quite pinpoint.

"Scared of a little boy?" she asked me, amused.

"He's not a little boy," I replied.

I saw him come by a few more times, always a year between visits, but I stayed away whenever he was in the church. But the day after I had taken my temporary vows, I caught sight of him in the last pew again, though he had grown out of kicking the row in front. Avoiding him felt cowardly now that I had committed myself to the church. I sat down beside him.

"I've seen you here before," I said.

He didn't bother with a hello or an introduction. "Sister, why does God let people die?" he asked. I sighed. I hated this question, but it was the one all the kids eventually asked.

Before I could say anything, he followed up with: "Why does God let good people die?"

As I sat and squirmed, he asked, "Why did God let my parents die?"

So he was an orphan, like me. I remembered I had asked the nuns the same when I had first arrived at the orphanage, how nothing they said had made the universe make sense.

After a minute of silence, I finally replied. "I don't know," I said. "I wish I knew."

"I guess that's better than Father Maxwell's answer," he said. We both sat there. I thought I should try to comfort him: put an arm around those skinny shoulders or hold his hand. But I didn't think I had the right. After he had ignored me for a few minutes, I left, disappointed in myself.

Another year passed before he came by again. This time, one of the sisters found me in the garden and told me that a boy with a braid wanted to ask me something.

"Sister, do you believe in God?" he asked as soon as I walked through the door.

"I'm a nun," I replied, though I had yet to take the solemn vows. "What do you think?"

He shrugged. "Dunno."

"Do you believe in God?" I asked him, exasperated. Why did this brat drop in every year if he didn't? I bit my tongue, telling myself that I couldn't be that much older than he was. No doubt all the sisters had hated having me tag around and question them, and more than once I heard whispers about how shameful it was that the lifestyle of the colonies forced an end to childhood so soon. I could have told them that very few of us in the colonies were children to begin with, and I suspect he could have as well.

He shrugged again. "Dunno." I pointed at his collar. He grinned at me, unabashed. "Bye, sister! See you next year."

"Wait, what's your name?" I called out, but he must not have heard the question, because he only turned and waved before scampering away.

I spent the entire day making careless mistakes: I taught the afternoon class so poorly that another sister took pity on the children and took over; I pulled up young carrots instead of weeds; I couldn't concentrate during choir practice. Right before I went to bed, I remembered I had taken my temporary vows a year and a day ago, which meant the kid had come here last year on the same day. I couldn't remember enough from the other encounters, but I was certain they had been around this time of year, and probably the same day as well. Then it struck me -- "Father Maxwell," he had said. He was observing the date that church had been destroyed, of course. He must have been an orphan taken in by them, just like me. Except I knew I was trying to find similarities between us to make him more familiar, less abrupt, less startling.

When the day rolled around again, I was prepared. Before he could say anything, I told him, "You know, we took in some kids from Father Maxwell's church after the Alliance's attack." And just like that, he was out the door. "I guess you don't want to see them," I said to myself.

Two hours later, I heard: "Oi, sister!"

He dropped a few coins in the collection plate and slipped me an envelope. "For the kids," he said. He shrugged when I thanked him and strolled out the doors, hands in his pockets, whistling a tune that no doubt had scandalous lyrics.

The year after that, he didn't come, though I waited all day. A week or so later, I saw his face on all the newscasts, bruised and beaten, a pathetic band-aid across the bridge of his nose. I might have cried a little in my pillow to think of him out there, imprisoned for being a terrorist. I didn't want to think about how the same hands that handed me money for war orphans had also controlled those monsters they called Gundams, had also dealt death to who knew how many people and orphaned even more.

He came back after that. I had spent months wondering if he were dead or alive, if he had been wounded or disabled, if he had found the peace that seemed to be out of his reach here. I shouldn't have worried -- he looked the same as before, insouciant and carefree, not a trace of all those deaths written on his face. "You're famous," I said to him. "Shouldn't you at least cut your braid or something? You don't make a very good terrorist."

He frowned a little at that, then said, "Hey, if I sucked, would I still be here?"

"Why are you here?" I asked him. It felt so good to say; I had been thinking it over and over for seven years now. "You don't believe in God even though you wear the collar, you're a wanted terrorist, you blow up people, and well, why? Why here? Why me? Why this church?"

He stepped back, startled. I don't think I had ever said that much to him at once before, and frankly, I was surprised at myself. Whatever side was winning at the moment might still be looking for him, might accuse me of harboring an enemy. Or he could have a gun tucked away, or a knife, or just two deadly hands. He could do anything to me, I thought, but it wasn't as if I actually believed myself.

"I like it here," he said. "I like watching the sisters sweep floors and the kids run around the garden in the back. I like watching people stop inside to pray. I like pretending that I'm a part of it too." I was suddenly, brutally aware of how different we were, though we came from similar backgrounds. This was my world: the daily schedule of cleaning and teaching and praying and singing, each day like the last, different only in the details, every night sleeping in the same bed. His, I couldn't even imagine.

"It's boring here," I countered. I found peace in the rhythms and routines, but I knew how it looked to people outside.

"No," he replied. "Boring is good. Savor the boring! I want more boring." And for a moment, I could see his younger self standing there before me. Only this time, I looked past the priest's collar and the tangled braid, past the jokes and the rude laughter to a lost child trying to return home.

"Do you believe in God?" I abruptly asked, suddenly needing to know.

He looked at me, then answered the question I was actually asking: "I was looking for him here, but I found this instead." He gestured at who knows what, since there was nothing around us except the pews and the altar. But of course, there was more. Inside these cheap concrete walls, people were baptized and confirmed and wed; here, we received Communion and recited the Lord's Prayer; here, we prayed for those we loved and for those unknown to us.

He laughed kindly at the expression on my face. "I believe in the future," he said. He reached behind his neck, removed the collar, and placed it in my hands. "I believe in learning from the past, but not living in it."

I wasn't surprised when he failed to show up in the years after. I don't think he needed to any more, though I held on to his collar, just in case. But he hadn't disappeared entirely from my life. Every year, around a few weeks or a month after the Maxwell Church Massacre -- inter-Colony mail isn't very reliable -- I get a postcard. It's always a picture of something completely mundane; he goes around photographing his unfolded laundry, his grocery shopping, the neighborhood cat, or what he made for dinner. This year's postcard was of socks:

Dear Sister Eileen,

Today, I washed my socks. Life is good.

Duo Maxwell

P.S. I did not blow anyone up today.

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
springgreen
Dec. 25th, 2007 06:57 am (UTC)
Yaaaay you like! I craftily made everyone beta everyone else's fic because I suck like that.
poilass
Dec. 26th, 2007 10:06 pm (UTC)
P.S. I did not blow anyone up today.

Hee. This is excellent; funny and sad by turns.

::goes to see if you have any more GW fic:::
springgreen
Dec. 27th, 2007 09:28 am (UTC)
Thank you! Alas, no other GW fic out there, at least none that I will own up to ;). Though I think I may look through my old unfinished stories from high school and try to see if anything is salvageable!
rurounitriv
Jan. 5th, 2008 04:11 am (UTC)
Dear Sister Eileen,

Today, I washed my socks. Life is good.

Duo Maxwell

P.S. I did not blow anyone up today.


*snerk* That is just so Duo a thing to send. Especially the part about not blowing anyone up. XD
springgreen
Jan. 6th, 2008 12:45 am (UTC)
Hee, thank you!
lady_ganesh
Mar. 4th, 2009 09:28 pm (UTC)
Oh, Duo. The pictures are so awesome and so him.
springgreen
Mar. 12th, 2009 04:39 am (UTC)
Aw, thank you!
lady_ganesh
Mar. 13th, 2009 01:41 am (UTC)
I spend a lot of time between Gundam Wing discs trying to decide who my favorite is. And usually I come back to Duo, heh.
taithe
Aug. 25th, 2010 01:57 am (UTC)
*waves* Hi, I found your fic through a series of links. Just wanted to say I enjoyed it a lot. Especially the ending. It's nice to think that Duo would be able to do simple things after the war and not have to focus on survival/fighting for the colonies. :)
springgreen
Sep. 15th, 2010 08:12 pm (UTC)
Hi! Thank you so much! It is awesome when people stumble onto old fic! Thanks for commenting, and I'm glad you liked it.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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