Another Version of Events
by Karan Seraph
"Father David will see you now."
"Thank you," Heero said. He got up from the uncomfortable but expensive looking wooden bench and walked across the hall to the door labeled: Headmaster's Office. He opened the door and went inside. Heero then let the door fall shut and took a few slow steps toward the desk that dominated the office. It was wood also. This school had money, or had in the past.
"Please take a seat, Mr. Yuy. I am Father David. You wanted to see me about Duo?" He was a priest and wore the Roman Catholic style attire that Heero had seen Duo wear, even though Duo had never been a priest. Duo had said this man was one of the good ones, so Heero decided to give him benefit of his doubt so long as he was able. He took a seat in one of the large padded armchairs before the desk. They looked like they were upholstered in leather, but it was fake.
"Yes, and students in general," Heero said. He thought it best to keep things impersonal if possible.
"Please, tell me what brings you here. The message I received said you had some concern."
Heero nodded slowly. He was a little nervous here. He was not accustomed to speaking to people of any religious order and not very well accustomed to schools. "A student of this school told me about some events that occurred here yesterday and I feel I should say that it was Duo Maxwell that told me this, however, there are other students here that I care about and others who are friends of friends and if Duo has accurately represented the facts, then he may have been singled out, but if not, and the treatment he described is given to all students, then I am concerned for them all."
Father David smiled. "I have spoken to Duo before. I teach history as well as hold the position of Headmaster and he has been in my classes several years. He claims that he never lies and I believe that must be the truth."
Heero nodded again slowly. "Duo does not lie. But, to believe everything he said when emotional as fact might cause me to become emotional myself and make accusations before learning the facts. It is possible that without lying Duo unknowingly misrepresented the facts, however, I can't say that I believe that is a very likely possibility."
"Duo told you he was treated wrongly by someone at school?" Father David asked seriously?"
"He did not use those words. I feel that what he described was wrong, but, the truth is, I am not certain of the facts, or if there was wrongdoing in the legal sense. I do know that Duo felt hurt and from my point of view some part of it seemed undeserved. I asked to see you, hoping that you could help me to understand. Perhaps if you explained to me, I would know what to say to Duo when he tells me such things. You see? I do not believe in God. I think that Duo does. He has suffered many disappointments and lost faith, but I gather he is, at least, basically Christian. I know he is a good person. He said that you were one of the good people here, Father David. I only want to know that Duo isn't being treated unfairly."
The priest nodded solemnly. "Perhaps you should tell me what Duo said."
"Yes, I would like to, but first, may I confirm a few basic facts?"
"Yes, if I am able."
"There is someone employed by this school called Father Frank?"
"Father Francis Morgan. He is presently our Dean of Discipline, Junior Class Advisor and among our Math department."
Well, Duo wasn't a Junior. "Do you know if he teaches Duo Math?"
"I do not believe so." The Priest looked at a computer monitor half-buried within his desk. "No, he does not."
"By chance would this Father Francis teach Adin Barnet?"
Father David tapped at something beneath his desk, a keyboard from the sound. "Yes."
"So, if Duo saw Father Francis It would likely be as Dean of Discipline?"
"Yes. If a teacher has a specific immediate problem with a student they may send them to Father Francis so that they may get on with their class and teach the remaining students without disruption. Wednesday? Duo was sent to his office Wednesday. He also served a Detention Wednesday. That was after school, Sister Tess moderated."
"Yes, Duo's story agrees with those facts. Is there a Sister Pat?"
"Yes, she is also known as Sister Gretchen. Patrick was the name she chose when she made her vows. She assigned the Wednesday detention to Duo and the time here indicates she sent him to the Dean during World Literature."
"Yes. May I ask, what normally would a student have to do to be thrown out of class? I have gone to school before, though I have since tested out. I seem to recall some offenses warranted only a reprimand, or a quietly written detention. Wouldn't a student have to do something rather severe to be sent to the Dean?"
"Yes, that would be our usual policy. The detention slip in question indicates Duo disrupted class."
"Yes. But when Duo tells it, and the more I think about it, it was more this sister Gretchen who caused a scene in her own class. But, it would only be wise for you to hear her side of the story. And Father Francis. Perhaps we should talk with them."
"First, I would like you to give me more detail on what you are concerned about."
"All right," Heero sighed. He wanted to accurately tell the story without making strong accusations or making the discussion into something about sex, as the Sister had done, rather than a matter of discipline, which is should be. "I do not remember Duo's exact words, so I will tell you the facts as I know them. I wish that you will not bother Duo about this, but that must be for you to judge. It seems Duo did break a rule. As he explained to me, they were writing essays on their computer terminals. They were essays on War and Peace, by the way. Duo finished his essay. He admits that the very best choice he could have made would be to go onto the next reading assignment, but Duo was distracted that day and he decided to write down his thoughts in order to clear his mind. Apparently, since the terminal was meant for assignments, Duo took out some paper and began writing. At some point Sister Gretchen noticed his activity. I do not know for a fact why she took offense. It is unclear whether, at that point, she was upset Duo was not typing or whether she feared he was going to pass a note. Of course, I have not seen this paper, so I do not know if it was in a note form, but I know that Duo would not have shared it with anyone in his class, and so he could not have been seen trying to do so. I really can't say why the Sister originally approached him."
"That's not his style."
"Duo Maxwell, writing? With a pen?"
"Well, yes, I agree. If Duo wanted to pass a note to another student he would have simply set up IR or radio text messaging. Something like that would be his style."
"He is very intelligent and he has a background in para-military operations. A few of our students have, it is simply not that uncommon these days, at least with students around his age. He has held involved conversations during library study halls using Morse code and his fingernails. He claims it is a nervous habit," Father David said, tapping out n-e on his desk with his finger. "ne?"
"Do you know why he was writing on paper?"
"To have a hard copy to share with someone outside school."
Father David nodded. "And, after Sister Gretchen approached?"
"She took the paper and read the words Duo had written and was in some way greatly effected by the words."
"Do you know what Duo wrote on the paper?"
"I do not know. He only indicated in a very general way that the content may have been... erotic."
"Ah. Did Duo indicate if Sister Gretchen was concerned and wished to make sure he was being responsible in understanding his sexuality or do you fear her response was..."
"Alike to harassment and discrimination?" Heero offered sharply.
"Do you think that?"
Heero had not meant to offer that information so easily. This Father David was very disarming. Heero remembered to give him benefit of his doubt. "I was not there to know or judge her intent or action, but Duo clearly described the way he felt and he felt hurt and he felt that he had disgusted her. Also, Duo told me she touched his hair. His braid, specifically, and she pulled him along after her by pulling his braid."
"You are quite certain?" Father David asked urgently.
"About the braid? Yes. Duo specifically claimed she had pulled it. And then, she took his belt and hit him with it..."
"Hit Duo? Are you sure?"
"Well... I am not sure if Duo used the word hit or struck or smacked, but he definitely implied contact between the belt and his person. Now, Duo said she did not do this hard. It only hurt him emotionally, not physically."
"If that is true... it is simply against school policy for any teacher to touch any student except in the most casual way when..."
"There is more. And, it just occurred to me, I recall Duo said she did this in the hall, so, the other students cannot back up any version of these events."
Father David sighed. "What else do you know?"
"Well, then Duo went to Father Francis and I have some concerns about that visit, but first, I wanted to say that I want Duo's belt. Duo has explained to me that as a student he does understand that a teacher has a right to confiscate items they think a distraction and that they may not return it. Duo will not ask for the belt. I am asking for it. I know that you, as a representative of this school, are in no way obligated to surrender it, which Sister Gretchen confiscated. I even understand why it might actually be a distraction. If you saw it you might understand. When worn with his uniform, it sends a message about students at your school, not just Duo as a person. I feel you have no right to say what Duo may wear outside of school, but I understand the need for uniforms. I understand that when in a uniform you represent a group, not only yourself. If you were to give me the belt, I would give you my word that Duo would never wear it or anything like it with his uniform."
"Just what sort of belt is this?"
"I would rather not prejudice you regarding it. To many people it would look very ordinary. Or, it would seem only a sort of youth or alternative fashion. But, a minority would read other meaning into it. I believe that Sister Gretchen believed the belt the distraction to class, after she realized what meaning it could have. But as one who is somewhat familiar with law enforcement, it seems wrong... it did not see a disruption to her until after she read what Duo had written. Without due cause to look at the contents of his writing..."
"That is not relevant to me now. I am more concerned with the other actions you describe. I cannot make any agreement about a belt now."
"Father Francis, did he touch Duo?"
"Not that I know of. Duo only said that Father Francis forced him to confess and showed him a sex video."
"I have to say, I am not familiar with the video or what sort of sexual education program is included in this schools curriculum, but Duo seemed to feel that the video was very offensive. This brings me to another related matter..."
"Yes?" Father David sighed.
"I regret if this is all disturbing to you. I honestly hope to understand. The matter I wish to bring up is Duo's status as an adult. He is 18 now and above the age of consent within the Earth Sphere. But, even before the last year, for at least two years now, Duo has been what is sometimes called 'emancipated.' There was a time when Duo was younger and without legal guardian or parents, in fact, there were several times. But, being war time, he slipped through the cracks in the system and was never a ward of any state either. I understand that Duo attends under a scholarship and I do not know if he surrendered any particular ability to make his own decisions in accepting the scholarship, so... what I want to know is: Is there anyone, except himself, that could defend Duo's interests as another student's parents might?"
"Defend his interests in what way?"
"Well, as I said, I have been to school. Aren't there circumstances in which a child needs permission to participate in an activity, or excuses for absences or... if a child simply does not do well in a class? Their parents decide what will be best or argues on their behalf with a teacher to determine if it is their child who is at fault for doing poorly or whether the teacher does not meet their needs?"
"To be quite honest, my records show that Duo has been listed as independent, or emancipated his entire time with us. Certainly for the last school year he has been legally an adult as well and anyone his age could have taken control of their school-related decisions."
"Yes, but would a teacher take them as seriously as they would an angry pair of parents?"
"I really can not answer such an hypothetical. I would hope that they would, but people are not perfect. I would hope we could avoid age discrimination."
"I hope so as well. But, to get back to the point... I went to a Catholic school once and I needed a special notice signed and returned before I could take the ordinary sexual education classes. Is it like that here?"
"Yes, because we know that some student's families prefer to teach that subject in the homes."
"So if you need approval for that, then you definitely should have approval before you can show a student a video about sex outside of class, I should think. And if Duo gives his own approval, then he shouldn't be made to watch anything. He was very disturbed by what he saw."
"What sort of sex video, do you know?"
"Something about family planning."
"I think I know a video you are speaking about, but it is not part of our usual curriculum. It is shown to participants in our Pre-Canaan class. Those are people who are planning to be married in the church and sign up for classes given here after school. It demonstrates several church approved methods of birth control."
"Oh. There are approved methods?"
Father David nodded. "Duo should not have seen that."
"Did I hear you say that Duo was forced to confess?"
"Yes. He told me that. He said, actually, something that I did not fully understand, but perhaps you might. Something about the sacrament and being voluntary. He said he asked for absolution for disrespecting Sister Gretchen, but he refused to confess the things he was being accused of."
"Accused... forced confession... are you sure you heard correctly?"
"I think so."
"Mr. Yuy, is that all? As it is, I feel I must ask Duo and also Sister Gretchen and Father Francis to speak with me, separately of course. You were correct to address these concerns to me. Duo's discipline may be somewhat lacking, but if what you have related is factual, he was also treated unfairly and wrongly. I promise you, I will find the truth here and I will see that all receive only what punishment is just according to our rules."
"That will be acceptable."
"Please, if you have time, wait in the hall again..."
"Or better, you will find a lounge at the second door on your right. You may sit down and help yourself to coffee if you like. Just tell anyone who may ask that I sent you there. I will send for you as soon as possible, once I have spoken to the others."
Heero found the lounge. There was a woman there, seated on a small couch and tapping slowly at the keyboard of a mobile computer. Heero spotted the coffee machine and went there. He filled a foam cp and then took a seat on a different couch.
The woman was looking at him. "A visitor?"
Heero realized she had been looking at the pass clipped to his shirt pocket. "Yes."
"Are you going to be attending St. Joseph Cupertino?"
"No. I don't go to school anymore."
Heero quietly sipped coffee. He tried to look out into the hall, but he could not see the space before the Headmaster's Office. He wondered if Duo was on his way there or perhaps inside. Heero looked back into the room. He supposed it was the Faculty Lounge. There was a work station and a kitchenette and on the walls there were many cute inspirational posters. There was a coffee table and the books left on it seemed to be instructional or inspirational. They had titles such as Today's Youth Ministry and Understanding Teens.
"You look familiar. Did you go here previously?"
"No." Heero picked up the book titled Orphans of War: A Guide for Ministering to Youth Affected by War. He skimmed the book. There was a mild Christian slant to the book, but the author did not seem to be encouraging conversion or evangelizing, only prudent psychological approaches and care.
"My name is Tess." The case of her mobile had a sticker on it that read, 'Abortion Is Mean.'
She wanted him to say his name. "Nice to meet you, Tess."
There was a whole chapter on mobile suit pilots. The beginning described differences between those in the 'military' category that had received very regimented and standard training in large groups or classes and the 'other' category that had learned to pilot mobile suits either by necessity or solitary training. Heero supposed he was 'other.' Military types usually did not start piloting until they were at least 13-years-old but often were adult. That sounded about right. Heero could think of at least one who had started earlier, but they had been special, even for a Special. Other types often began piloting in childhood and were not often older than teenagers.
The book described the type of indoctrination and values taught to military types. It covered the basic OZ training system. The chapter described the importance of group training and identification and defense of the group.
The author admitted that in the other category, because they did not receive any standardized training diagnosis of psychological effects was more difficult and disorders varied greatly between individuals. The younger the age one had begun, the more likely some trauma had occurred and the more difficult recovery was, unless they were also given help at a young age.
The book described how mobile suits pilots differed from the other types of people effected by war as explained in other chapters. Specifically, they suggested that because mobile suits most often battled other mobile suits there was a certain amount of detachment in that the pilot could think of the suit as the enemy and not realize or admit that they took human lives. A later realization that they had taken human lives, could be very traumatic.
There was a section on mobile suits falling onto structures. It was hard just to read the descriptions of how mobile suits could be shot down or caught by shock wave and fall onto houses...
There were chapters on gun violence and witnessing death and one Chapter called: Child Soldiers and Mercenaries. Heero got as far as the introduction that described that although powerful government military forces were made up of older teens and adults it was increasingly common that those forces might employ younger children as runners or agents of some kind and that in Rebel or mercenary forces it was not uncommon that children fought in the same manner as adults and killed as adult soldiers killed. When Heero got as far as the suggestions that child soldiers might be abused and molested by their own side as well as by enemies he couldn't make himself read any more.
He put the book on the table and felt sick. As if the civilian-killing-guilt and the survivor's guilt and the mobile-suit-pilot-who-had-seen-blood-spurt-from-a-cockpit guilt, the desensitization to guns and violence and all the death he had witnessed in general were not enough to screw him up royally, as they would say, Heero was now wondering if anyone he knew had been abused by those who were supposed to be on the same side or molested during the time they were a prisoner or some combination of the above...
He felt so sick.
He'd probably made it easy for her reading that book and not hiding his horror enough. He nodded.
"Here to see Relena?"
Heero shook his head.
Not exactly, Heero thought. He shrugged.
"Do you think the book very accurate?"
Heero nodded several times.
"It took me a while, because you looks much older now. You look like you could be a soldier. In all those old pictures they show... you're just a baby."
Heero tried his voice. It was raspy at first. "If you saw pictures I was at least fifteen already. I was an assassin before I was ten," Heero said matter-of-factly.
"I am sorry that you had to go through all you did, but I am grateful you did the good things that you did."
Tess looked up toward the open doorway. Heero turned as he sensed a figure was there. It was Duo. When Heero looked Duo wasn't looking back.
"Hey Sister, coincidence you being here. Father David strongly recommends I schedule an appointment to talk with you."
"Will you take the Father's recommendation, then?"
"Sure, I guess. He only recommended because he can't order me."
"And what would you like to talk about."
Duo laughed, "It's not what I'd like to talk about, Sister. Father David thinks I out to speak to a counselor about sex. I told him I already had, but he said it couldn't hurt to hear advice from a counselor who was also familiar with the church's positions..." Duo thought something about that funny, because the laughter was real.
"You don't sound like you need too much help. I am obligated to inquire whether you would prefer a male counselor. I think Father Frank has some experience."
"Yeah... right... I already talked to him too. Didn't help me much," Duo said slowly, "Father Dave seems to think you have the appropriate training to help me, anyway."
"I see. So, when would you like an appointment."
"Let's see... I could use a pass out of Lit. tomorrow. Can you do that?"
"Yes. Shall I schedule you in, then?"
"Uh huh. Thanks."
Tess typed at her computer and then closed it. "I believe you do know Heero, are you two friends?"
Duo turned around and smiled down at Heero. "Yeah, we're friends," Duo said.
Heero liked hearing that. He hadn't been sure Duo was not mad at him.
"Well, I caught Heero looking at a book that surely brought up memories of the war. I am sure a good friend would be decent to him and just keep him company. Please excuse me. I have other work now." She stood up.
"Well, stand up, she's not just a lady, she's a nun. Show those manners," Duo hissed at Heero, loudly.
Heero stood up. "Excuse me, I didn't know I should."
Tess smiled. "Duo is well-mannered and Old School."
"Hardcore," Duo laughed. When Tess was gone he turned toward Heero. "Man, I knew you'd be here. I don't know if I should slug ya or kiss ya."
Duo grinned then bowed his head and kissed Heero. It was definitely Duo kissing him that time, and it felt really nice, chaste, but involved at the same time. "Church Tongue, eh?" Duo laughed. "Like, the amount you can stick your tongue out to receive communion without the priest thinking you gross or the amount of tongue used by a newly wed couple kissing in church without the priest making a comment to them."
"Wanna sit?" Duo flopped down on the couch where Heero had been sitting.
Heero sat down again, beside Duo.
"No more kissing though."
"OK," Heero agreed.
"Not until our date tonight."
"It's kinda sweet I guess, tryna start a school scandal for me."
"I thought it would be handled rather quietly."
"Ah, probably will be. It's still sweet, even though it's also kinda obnoxious."
"I do not like to hear that people hurt you, Duo. Especially here. You might have made mistakes, but they don't have the right... you know?"
"Yeah," Duo sighed. "That's why I decided it was OK for you to do this, because I know that sometimes, I am sorta like... desensitized. I get pissed off, but I don't really realize how hurt I am. I mean, I know I am hurt, but I don't recognize where it crosses into abuse, because I'm just used to taking so much pain. It's effed up I know. So, I guess it's OK for you to notice for me."
Heero slipped his hand beneath Duo's dark green uniform blazer to his hip. "You don't mind that I want to protect you?"
Duo laughed nervously. He took Heero's wrist and moved his hand, putting it on his back, above his jacket. "Maybe you better just keep your hand here."
Heero smiled. "Amazing. You really are a model schoolboy."
"Yeah, right. I just don't want to cause more scandal."
"I think I want to feel you up in a train car as you ride home after school," Heero whispered.
"You already have felt me up in a train car."
"Aa, but not when you were in uniform."
Duo grinned and nodded. "But, I might not mind if you were the one pinching."
Heero didn't want to get Duo in trouble, should anyone enter the room, so he didn't kiss him. Heero only leaned close, breathed at Duo's ear and smelled his hair. "Duo... how are you doing today? Did you sleep well enough?"
"Didn't sleep much at all. I was talking to Hilde for a really long time. But don't worry, I'll take a nap before I pick you up, so I won't be falling asleep on you."
"Well, to you. She tells me I'm an ass when I'm an ass. I'm sorry I had to just leave you there, and I didn't come right back to the room to let you know how things had gone."
"I understood why you didn't."
"I used to worry about you."
"What? About me?"
"Yeah, after I met you, when we weren't together, I used to wonder what you were doing and what your mission would be and if having back-up would help you stay alive. I just couldn't make myself be concerned for my life, but I worried about you out there on the same kind of missions. So, I know how it feels. I used to think the same things about the other guys, somewhat. That's why I wasn't really opposed to working together. I thought you could all use some back-up."
"But I know you hate when people think of you as being second or sidekick or... those things."
Duo laughed, "Yeah, because I really am a better pilot than most of you... but you all have other skills I don't, so it sort of evens out. I guess I know that I'm not the one who can lead or come up with the best strategy, but if you need some support or you need rescuing, I'm your man."
"Yes, you are." He really was a good pilot, and he was Heero's man. Heero smiled. "Do you think that it is American of you?"
"To be stealthy until the moment you charge in and rescue people? Aren't they like that? Publicly loud and obnoxious and sometimes arrogant... but they'll rescue anyone..." Heero laughed, "They'll even charge into countries and save the people from themselves, ne?"
"I don't know. I'm Colonial. How do I know what part of me is cultural heritage from the States? I mean, it really took them down a notch, joining the Alliance and having their own space colonies declare independence and then becoming just another state of the Earth Sphere. That's a lot of notches to go down."
"They were a bit too proud of their space program."
"It was the best!"
"My people were in space first."
"We were on the moon first."
"We had a space station first."
"After a really long time, and then we helped you build new space stations and colonies and kindly gave you data on long term space habitation. We helped you get to Mars."
"Who paid for it?"
Heero smiled. "Japan."
Duo sighed. "I wish you had been there last night."
"Was it bad?"
"Yeah. And, I don't seriously wish it. I don't think you should be an agent. We both know an agent is no good unless they really want to be there all the time. It's hard to deal with some days. And, we took care of it. So, it wasn't like I needed you or Hilde there. But still, part of me just wishes you had been there. I don't even know what you would have done."
"Shared the experience. We used to do that without even knowing what it was. We were both there, so we didn't have to talk. We just looked at each other and we knew that we both felt the same about the mission or the battle or those we were protecting."
"You'll swear to confidentiality? You'll listen only as my friend and not as a rep from Lowe or as a Preventer or as anything else?"
"Yes. I'll just listen, I won't repeat."
"The shuttle was piloted toward the Colony," Duo said. "Sobi and Gibson used the launchers and grapplers and all to stop the shuttle, just in time. Sobieski especially is good at calculating and using that sort of gear. You can always trust him to escort damaged craft or be eyes for a blinded pilot or pull a suit out of a crash. And I know you don't like Gibson, but he's a great pilot. You know? Not a nice guy at times, but tremendous raw talent. He's got instinct for aerospace. We knew it was manned then and it was hijacked. Dorothy was on the com channel. She's had some recent training, but I hear she was always good at giving speeches."
"Usually to incite mobs or mock people," Heero said dryly.
"She was doing a good job. I could just feel that she was probing at the hijackers and trying to determine their motives when I was listening in. I was muted while I was using the scanning equipment to try to determine the status inside the cabin."
"Dead. No. Well, no passengers. The crew had been injured. Well, what happened was, the hijackers came out of an airlock in exo-frames and jetted away. Dorothy entered the shuttle then. By that time support vehicles were arriving, so Dorothy had med teams and back-up. So I went after the exo-frames. I saw they were going to self destruct. They were pretty close to the Colony then..."
Heero understood. Duo had put his suit between the explosives and the Colony. "So, how damaged was the suit?"
"Hathor's pretty thrashed. They were pretty sizable bombs. Of course, I personally customized all our suits with Gundanium reinforced cockpits... but Dorothy was just screaming at me the whole time. That's basically what I remember. I don't think I remember the blast in detail. Maybe I hit my head or something. I just remember Dorothy screaming that I shouldn't be there. She sent the defensors, but I don't think they got there in time."
"Dorothy had defensors?"
"Apis has three defensors. Heero, I'm not good in command. It's kinda bad when Hilde isn't there. We're the same rank you know. They'd promote me if they could, but then they'd have to give me safe desk job. They know I can't lead field missions. Hilde usually makes the better command decisions. When she's not there, if I don't give an order or if I just act on my own, Dorothy will just start giving orders. She's equal rank with Sobi and Gibson, but they'll follow any order she gives. With me, she doesn't actually order. She just drops all protocols and uses my first name and yells at me."
"Could Dorothy have gotten her suit, Apis, in position to deflect the blast in time?"
"No possible way. She was inside the shuttle and had Apis on a remote controller. That's how she sent the defensors, completely by remote."
"And no one else has the shield?"
"Then you did the right thing. A colony needed protecting. It was a hub as well. It would be too great a risk not to put anything you had between the explosion and the Colony. I would be sad if you died, but I would know you died doing what was right. That would help."
"I wanted to live, but I just made Hathor move. They did it, Heero. They self-detonated. It took us so long to get back because we had to wait for the mortuary salvage team... it's protocol... but they were just burnt... blown to pieces and just ash. It scattered into space. And maybe some of them was buried or melted into Hathor's body with the shrapnel. I hate space battle!" Duo turned and looked toward the floor.
"It's no less ugly on Earth, and there, the bodies pile up. And there's air, so it stinks."
"I was in Luxembourg." It was like he remembered that as he said it. He had known he had been there but the visions hadn't returned in a while.
"Where Romefeller sent their new Libra dolls against the Treize faction."
"Dolls. No casualties on their side. No honor. But the Treize faction had soldiers. I saw them crawling from the wreckage of their mobile suits. A soldier died right in my arms..."
"Someone died wile I was holding them..."
"They did?" Heero whispered.
"When I was just a kid. My friend. He got sick. I stole to get medicine for him but he still died." Duo bent forward, holding his stomach as if sick. His voice dropped to a whisper. "I loved him. Heero, I really loved him. It was so pure, like the way you can love someone when you are a kid. It isn't sexual at all, it's beyond sex. One person can be everything to you..."
The images of Luxembourg just disappeared. Duo was crying. Duo tried never to cry. He was pretty good at stopping himself, even when he had decent excuses to show sorrow. Crying.
Heero only had to touch Duo lightly and he turned and fell into his arms. "Oh God, Oh God," he cried. He pressed his face to Heero's shirt and clung to him. He continued shaking and sobbing and relating discordant strings of words about Solo. His friend, his father, his brother, his love, his child... the one person that was everything to Duo.
And then Duo described in strangely poetic and morbid detail the way he had looked sick and the words he had whispered as he died. The lightness of his body in death. The color of his skin when he was dead. The glaze in his eyes. The way Duo could not be disgusted by that body, even in death because it was Solo. He had cried over that body. He had kissed the corpse of his One and Only. He had snuggled up to him as if keeping him warm would help either of them... until the body was cold.
It was no wonder Duo was so fixated with Death. He had been so young and the person he loved had been dead. Many people around him had died from the plague. Thing he loved = dead. Dead = thing he loved. Heero had already known of the Maxwell Church Massacre but now Duo started in on that and the cold statistics of casualties became still warm dead.
The scent was real when Duo described it. Heero knew the smell, so he knew Duo described it accurately. Heero knew he had seen death. He knew what he carried around inside him. Some part of him had acknowledged that Duo must have similar things inside him. But, it seemed more real now.
When Duo talked about the dead, it was terrifying... but also it was beautiful and poetic. The shifting colors of their skin. The shapes he had seen in pools of blood. A misshapen skull that just spoke to him and made him stare.
It had all been inside Duo. Now, it was inside Heero. He didn't mind. He was glad to share the burden, as horrible as it was, because...
Because Duo was everything to him.
This was sharing the experience. When Heero closed his eyes he was there. He saw the ragged burnt out walls of the church. He saw the glittering colored glass that twinkled in blood-matted hair and in the gray dust and on burnt clothing. He saw the nearly 300 bodies, clinging to each other in some last semblance of life.
It wasn't like a battlefield. Heero had seen battle. It was death of children and families and regular people. Once Heero had seen that. Once he had seen residential buildings burn and topple. But, there had not been many bodies, at least, Heero hadn't really seen them. He had just seen the dust and the broken structures. The dog. He remembered the dog.
Duo was seeing the church again. He was looking at the fallen altar and the splintered figure that had been their church's god carved in real wood. Heero was standing there with the dog and Duo was telling him there had been no dog in the church.
And then the soldiers took Duo. He was screaming. He was cursing God and everyone until he had no voice to scream with. He wouldn't cry. He just sat in a cell in that shirt that was all he had left of the Church...
There was a sort of murderous rage in that boy in the cell. Mad, like a demon, like Death himself. It would not happen again. He could not bear it. He could not stand to be alive and to care about people and to lose them. He would kill. He would kill anyone who would knowingly endanger innocent lives. He would kill them all.
But not love. He couldn't risk that pain.
He did love. Against his own wishes he did. He would go through Hell for Heero, because...
Because Heero Yuy really was his One and Only. It was the purest child's love and more.
Duo was screaming again. No, no it's not, I reject it! Not this! Not again! I don't want to hurt!
Heero opened his eyes. It was all in his mind, the visions, the words Duo screamed, it was real, but inside his mind. It faded now Heero focused on the solid objects around them. Couch. Door handle.
Heero rubbed Duo's back with his hands. "I know. It hurts. It's entirely excusable that you cry. It's just me. You're safe with me."
The crying and tears were subsiding but Duo still shook and made that strange whimpering sound that he sometimes made. It was like a sound from a baby animal, but not.
"I need you. Fight for me, Duo."
"Heero..." the way Duo said his name was like a kiss to his ears.
Heero resisted the urge to draw Duo completely into his lap and then suck at his face. Instead he reached one hand to his satchel and brought out a package of tissue.
Duo wiped his face. He dabbed his eyes and blew his nose. He went to the sink in the kitchenette then and splashed water on his face. There was a water cooler in the lounge and Duo filled a small cup and drank the water quickly. He gave a sigh. "I know, sips are better for me."
"You killed a dog, Heero?"
"Not on purpose."
"Oh, I know! I think I even heard about it before, but I never really saw. Why did I see it?"
"There was a link. We were... in communion."
Duo nodded seriously then filled a second cup of water.
Father David then entered the room. From the couch Heero could see he carried the belt in his hand. "Duo... Heero," he hesitated only for a moment in deciding whether it was proper to use Heero's personal name. "Would you care to speak here, or shall we go back to the office?"
"I feel less like I'm in trouble here, Father," Duo grinned. It was obvious still he had been crying, otherwise he might have been having a slight allergic reaction to his water.
Heero could see that the priest also recognized that Duo had cried. He looked concerned. "If you would sit down," Father David said.
Duo strode back toward Heero, spun then sank quickly to the couch.
Father David cleared his throat. "I never actually suspected that you would lie to me or to your friends, Duo, but I wanted to hear everyone's point of view be fore making any decisions. I want you to know that no one has disputed the facts as you told them. They are given with bias and from varying points-of-view, but are one truth. That said, I must agree with Sister Gretchen on the point that your discipline was somewhat lacking and that potentially you could have disrupted class. However, she treated you wrongly. In any case, you do not have to be concerned for yourself, time served is time served."
"I never tried to get out of the detention, Father."
"Yes, I know. I may inform you that Sister Gretchen will remain teaching in her present position, but, she is on a kind of probation."
"OK," Duo said.
"She gets to keep teaching?" Heero asked, "What if she uses his braid as a leash again?"
Father David took a breath to calm himself and Duo nudged Heero's knee with his to say he had treated the priest disrespectfully. "You recall, Mr. Yuy, you asked who was there who could defend Duo? Play the angry parent."
"It seems to be you."
Duo laughed, almost giggled. "Sorry." He deepened his voice and repeated, "Sorry."
Father David nodded slowly, more to Duo. "Sister Gretchen will have a new assistant teacher working with her. WE believe in some measure of forgiveness. Sister Gretchen will have a chance to demonstrate that this was a singular event and to regain our trust. During that time, the students can be assured they are safe, because she will be under observation and never alone with them."
"That is better. I am sorry for my demanding tone earlier."
"Yes. As for Father Francis, He will be suspended from his duties during school hours. I would prefer not to share the particulars of his discipline with you. You only need to know that he can not threaten students in any way."
That was true, Heero thought.
Father David put the belt on the table, near Heero. Duo's fingers twitched but remained close to his body. "You recall your promise, Mr. Yuy?"
"I am giving the belt to you."
"Yes, Father?" Duo asked in a small voice that Heero thought was unlike him. These priests, they really had influence over Duo, whether he admitted it or not.
"I was obligated to read this, to be able to confirm or deny some claims." He pulled a small folded piece of paper from his sleeve. It was quite, sleight-of-hand. This priest had an intriguing skill set. Heero wondered what he had done previously in his life. Heero watched his face as he spoke to Duo. "You demonstrate admirable vocabulary, though some of your word choices seem vulgar to me, it does not disturb the erotic and rather poetic effect. You have excellent communication skills. I strongly recommend you use the short amount of time left in your High School career to work on your assignments. When you are outside of school you may write as you please. Understood?"
"Do you think you could use some extra credit Lit. assignments, Duo?"
"Yeah, not doing to well in that class really."
"Yes, I am looking into that. If you wish some extra credit, I have an assignment for you."
"You will read a work of erotic literature and write an essay explaining your opinion on what literary devices were used to create the erotic effect."
Another flourish of the priest's hand and he produced a disc. "I compiled a short list, you may use another work if you get my approval beforehand. The details of the assignment are on this. I stress that this is a literature assignment. The work must foremost be considered literature and secondarily erotic in nature. Do I have to tell you the difference between erotic and Pornographic?"
"Yes, Father, I mean, no, I'm sure I will clearly know the difference before I complete this assignment. I will do my best."