A child's scream pierced the air as small feet carried him closer and closer what remained of his home.
//They got out.// he told himself, running to the front door and running inside despite this self-assurance. //They must have got out. I'll just get their things for them and bring them to them so they don't get stolen.//
The child ran inside and was shoved down by two looters who were running out.
"STOP!" he called out, trying to run after them and failing miserably as he tripped over a bit of rubble and fell sideways, landing on top of a lifeless body. He looked at it, and his world fell apart.
..."NOOOO!" Duo screamed as he sat bolt upright in bed. He caught his breath, then tried a few breathing exercises to calm himself down. "Why? Why was I spared? Why not Father Maxwell or Sister Helen? If it was by the grace of God, then wouldn't they have been more worthy?" He looked in the mirror. Other than the braid, he was quite ordinary. He was a damned good pilot, and he had a knack for cheering people up, but then a lot of good pilots died every day, and Sister Helen had always managed to cheer him up. "I guess God likes braids." He shrugged, then he began to laugh.
He knew he wouldn't be able to sleep now, so he decided to patrol the area. Taking Deathscythe would wake the others, so he opted to walk it.
It didn't take him long to find trouble.
He stared at the scene in abject horror, frozen for a moment by what it was he was seeing. At first he thought he must be hallucinating. But then the truth became clear to him. He was seeing the ruination of another church. His heart ached at the idea that this should happen. And on the anniversary, he realized, of the Maxwell Church Massacre...
"A copycat." he realized. "If I don't find him, he'll do it again next year."
There was a tug on his jacket and the looked down.
"Mister, please help me?" the little boy pleaded.
Memories flooded back once more and Duo hugged the child close, crying softly as the child also wept.
The child stopped crying.
"What's your name?" Duo asked.
"Kyu." the child replied.
"I'm Duo." Duo found himself saying. "You're welcome to stay with me if you want to. At least until we can find you a real home."
"Thank you, Mister Duo." Kyu smiled.
"Actually, it would be Mister Maxwell." Duo explained. "Duo's my first name. I prefer Duo."
"Okay, Duo." Kyu replied, as he reached up and took the hand Duo was offering him.
"Medium or well?" Duo asked, cheerfully, as he kept watch on the hamburgers he was cooking.
"Well." Kyu decided. "I don't suppose you got ketchup or anything?"
"Sure do." Duo smiled. "It's in the fridge, in a plastic bottle. We also got barbecue sauce if you want."
"Way cool!" Kyu grinned.
Duo grinned back. "Yeah ain't it?" he winked, cheerfully. "But we'd better not eat it all. The others might get mad." He knew better than to think that the child was already over what had happened. He also knew better than to push him into talking when he wasn't ready.
"First my mom and dad went to Heaven and now so did the nice people I lived with." The little boy looked up with tears in his eyes. "I'm Death, huh?"
//God, does everyone this happens to think that?!//
"No, Kyu." Duo promised him. "You're not Death. I lost people I loved too. In fact, what happened to you is exactly the same thing that happened to me."
He took the now well-done hamburgers off the grill, placed them on some buns, give one to Kyu and kept the other for himself. He placed his baseball cap on Kyu's head. "It's yours if you want it."
"Really?" Kyu's eyes were wide with delight.
"Duo, it's much to early to be cooking breakfa..." Heero's sentence fizzled out when he saw Kyu. "Duo, who the hell is that?" he demanded. He reached out and removed the cap, placing it on the chair next to Kyu's. "And it's rude to wear a hat at the table."
Duo replaced the cap on Kyu's head and stage-whispered. "Don't mind Heero. He's always grouchy before he has his coffee."
Kyu laughed and Duo smiled.
"You still haven't answered me. Who is he?"
"Heero, this is Kyu, Kyu this is Heero. He acts tough, but don't let that scare you. Heero's got a heart of gold."
"Well," Duo said to Kyu after the burgers were eaten, "as much as I'd like to pull an all nighter, I've got patrol in the morning and you should get to bed. You can sleep in my room for what's left of tonight and I'll sleep on the sofa."
After Kyu was finally asleep, Duo turned to Heero and told him everything that he'd seen.
"Kami-sama," Heero whispered, "so that's why..."
Duo nodded. "I want to adopt him." he told Heero.
"They'll never let you." Heero told Duo as they sat in the kitchen, drinking tea. He hated hurting Duo, but he didn't think it would be right to get Duo's hopes up when his chances were as slim as they were.
"They have to, Heero." Duo said. "No one understands what that boy went through more than me."
"I know you mean well, but who are you really doing it for, him or you?"
Duo fell silent for a moment. "I'm doing it for both of us. I can give him the understanding and compassion no one else can. I've been through exactly the same thing he has."
"But you can't give him love." It was a statement, not a question.
Duo opened his mouth to protest but Heero stopped him. "Duo, you're still in pain. You wake up screaming about what happened and..."
"...and I wanna stay with Duo!"
Duo and Heero turned to see Kyu standing there. "Please?" he begged.
Duo raised an eyebrow. "You should be in bed." he told Kyu. "We'll all talk about this in the morning. Okay?"
Kyu hugged Duo. "Okay he agreed, returning to bed.
"Duo, I just don't want that kid to get hurt." Heero said, during breakfast.
"Neither do I." Duo agreed.
"What kid?" Trowa asked, bringing breakfast to the table.
Duo explained the events of the evening to the other pilots as well as his intention to adopt Kyu.
"You're not really going through with the request..." Quatre asked, his eyes wide.
"When I became a Gundam Pilot, I vowed to help the weak and protect the helpless." Duo pointed out. "We all did."
"Duo's right." Wufei nodded. "I agree that Duo cannot do this alone. But if we all pitch in, I know we can do it."
"I just hope we can convince the adoption agency." Duo sighed.
"I have to..." Duo wailed, insistently.
"No." Heero told him firmly, "you're too close to this one."
They'd been arguing for several minutes about Duo going (or not going) to help them investigate the copycat church fire. Heero and the others had decided that it was too much like the Maxwell Church Massacre for Duo to go. When they told him their decision, however, Duo, however, would have none of it. He was very adamant about going and was storming toward Deathscythe when Quatre grabbed his arm. Duo swung a punch at Quatre with his free arm, but Quatre grabbed it easily.
"Duo," Quatre said, taking him aside and gently prying open Duo's fist, "listen to me. We can't all go. Someone's got to stay here and look after Kyu. He needs you. You've been through what he has, so you're the one who should stay with him."
Duo relaxed and gave a brief nod. "You're right." he said.
"That punch would've hit Quatre if you were able to focus on the fight instead of on the emotional trigger that caused it." Heero pointed out. "That's another reason you should remain here. The emotions behind what happened might affect your fighting. We all understand why you want to do this, but that's exactly why you're the wrong person for the job."
Duo considered for a bit.
"I guess I can understand." He decided.
"Duo," Heero said, more gently. "think of how you felt after the Maxwell Church burned down. Of how badly you wanted someone to talk to. You wanted a friend to comfort you, right?"
"That's what Kyu needs right now," Heero told his koi. "He needs a kindred soul to reassure him. You understand what he went through. You're the only person here who can truly appreciate his pain and put it at ease."
Relena came bounding into the room in a cheerful little dance that ended with a glomped Heero. "It's so good to see you. Do you like my new dress?"
"Oh, I'm so glad," Relena laughed. "Its for the party tonight. You are coming, right?"
"No," Heero replied.
"Oh dear," Relena sighed. "Obviously someone forgot to send you boys your invitations. It's okay. I'll let them know you're my guests. We still have four seats available."
"Go on, guys," Duo told them. "I have to stay with Kyu."
Relena seemed to notice the boy for the first time. "Who's this little fellow?"
The boy cowered into Duo's arms.
"Its not you," Duo told Relena. "He's traumatized like I was when I was his age. The church down the road burned down and..."
"Church burned..." Relena said, recalling another church fire she'd heard about as a little girl. "Oh, Duo. I never realized... You were at the Maxwell Church, weren't you?"
Relena's statement toward Duo changed. "I thought you were just a street rat. I assumed that you lived there by choice and that you were nothing more than a common thief. I... I had no idea you were in that fire. Please, forgive me. I never should have judged you like that. I was wrong about you, and I was wrong about you and Heero. I've done all I can to block your relationship. I thought if you were a common street thief, that you must be trying to cling to Heero so you could sponge off of him. But that's not true, is it?"
Duo shook his head, dumbfounded by Relena's apology. She had actually succeeded in stunning him into silence.
"Heero," she told the Perfect Soldier, "I want you and Duo to be happy together."
"That's what I want, too," Heero told her, "but I fear that Duo may be setting himself up for a heartbreaking disappointment. He wants to adopt little Kyu, but I fear the courts might now look upon an ex-street waif raising a kid."
"I'll do what I can to push the adoption through," Relena told them. "But on one condition. You're going to have to marry Duo, Heero. This boy is going to need two parents."
"Agreed," Heero nodded, drawing Duo close. "But you have to promise to be his godmother."
"I'd be honored," Relena smiled. She turned to leave. "I'll let you know how things go with the adoption agency." she told them. "But I'm sure I'll be able to get them let you adopt little Kyu."
"Okay, everyone, smile!"
Relena stuck a pair of bunny-ears behind Heero and Duo, as she sttood just behind the two of them as Heero stood there with his hand on one of Kyu's shoulders and Duo stood there with his hand on the other. All of them were smiling cheefully in front of the mound of still-to-be-opened Christmas presents.
Kyu Maxwell-Yuy's smile was the happiest of all.