Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows
world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won't come in.
On the way to church I noticed that the surrounding homes and buildings
seemed to be much better looking in this area. There were still several
beggars and the occasional whore; but this was obviously the 'good' side
of town. We stopped in a 24-hour corner store and Duo purchased a pack
of cheap toothbrushes for one credit. When we came out he emptied his
pockets of soap, a bottle of shampoo and a small tube of toothpaste. I
stared at him incredulously for several moments; unable to wrap my mind
around the fact that I hadn't even realized he was stealing while I was
handcuffed to him.
I said with a shake of my head.
He grinned at me impishly and looked up at the artificial sky, opening
his mouth to let rain fall in it. After a moment he sighed contentedly.
"It's raining, man! Do you know what that means? No, of course ya
don't. Well, it means that I can wash my hair and clean up and everything
without worrying about wasting water! Lookit --" He showed me the
bottle of shampoo. "I even got the kind with the conditioner mixed
in!" A wry smile crossed my lips and I put the bottle in the bag
with the toothbrushes.
Suddenly a thought occurred to me and I stared at him. "You're going
to wash your hair and bathe..?
He looked at me as if I was incredibly dense. "Well that's the plan."
I raised our cuffed hands and jingled the chain as a reminder. "That
might get a little awkward," I said flatly.
He frowned at me, obviously not liking the idea of having an audience.
"Look man, I already told ya I was sorry and I told ya I was gonna
help you get the disc back.. so can't you un-cuff me? I got nowhere to
run! I'm going to be naked for God's sake! I'm gonna wash my
clothes too! Common, Heero... I swear to God that I won't try
to run off! Pl~ease!"
I glared at him for several moments but he just widened his eyes and pulled
his face into an adorable pout. After a moment I rolled my eyes. "Fine.
But if you try to run off I'll shoot you."
He raised an eyebrow but just shrugged casually, and we continued on our
way.The church itself was of an impressive size; the structure and design
making it obvious that once it had been something nice to look at. It
was at least three stories and around the broken, stained glass windows
there were tell tale signs of a fire; the bricks blackened from it. The
steeple on the top had obviously caved in and the rain poured inside of
the large opening. The front steps were mostly broken and crumbling and
I picked my way up them carefully as Duo tugged impatiently on my arm.Once
we were inside I decided that Duo had obviously cleaned up the place because
instead of being filled with ashes and rubble as I had expected, it was
fixed up in an almost homey fashion. A worn, plaid rug covered the scarred
hardwood floor and there was an old, beat up mattress in one corner, draped
with blankets and a couple of pillows. There was a fireplace with a pile
of broken up pieces of wooden furniture and a container of kerosene beside
it. I noted the decrepit looking trunk at the foot of the mattress, which
had a heavy looking lock on it. "You fixed all of this up by yourself?"
I asked doubtfully.
"Yup! I actually found a lot of this stuff in the church. It was
surprising cos' I thought everything had been destroyed in the fire."
He looked around almost proudly and I found myself thinking of my modern
loft on L1. "So are you gonna un-cuff us or what? I don't want the
rain to stop.."
It was against my better judgment but I undid the lock and watched as
he rubbed his sore wrist. "I usually do this the hard way, but since
you're here you can help. I keep these big buckets up in the third floor
where the steeple had been, to catch the water whenever it actually rains.
So you gotta help me bring 'em down here, in the kitchen where the tub
is. It's one of those really old fashioned white ones... the plumbing
obviously don't work.. so yeah." He looked almost embarrassed to
be explaining this to me. "An' don't be thinkin' that I walk around
dirty all the time, cos' I don't. I just don't often get too wash my hair
or get a real bath. And you could use one yaself... you smell
like piss." He wrinkled his nose at me and I couldn't help but flush
"Well whose fault is that?" I snapped irritably.
His mouth turned up in a grin. "I scared ya so bad that you wet yourself?
I know I can get scary an' all but damn."
I glared at him. "Don't be an idiot. You're about as scary as a damn
kitten." Well that was a damned lie.
He stuck his tongue out at me. "I've heard otherwise."
We went about bringing the pails of water down to the kitchen and I worried
about him taking a bath in ice cold water. He assured me that it was fine
and said that I could take mine first since he took longer and that while
I was washing; he would start a fire. His courteousness left me completely
mystified and I found myself washing as quickly as possible, then afterwards
I went up to the third floor without him knowing and refilled the water;
thinking that he deserved a bath of clean water, instead of water I had
When I came back into the main room dressed in the worn pants he had lent
me, he was laying out both of our clothes in front of the fire to dry.
He had obviously just washed them. When he went to bathe, I sat by the
fire; staring into the flames and marveling at everything that had happened
during the night. After he had robbed me, I had fully intended to find
him, get my stuff back and possibly arrest him. Instead I had wound up
traipsing all over the colony with him and basically getting all of my
preconceived assumptions and notions about the people of L2, blown up
into a million pieces.
Wufei had once told me that L2 was a breeding ground for criminals and
at the time I hadn't given that statement much thought, but now I did.
Why did everyone automatically assume that people who were poor, were
that way because they didn't have the desire to be anything else? Why
did they think that a colony that was in such a state of poverty was the
fault of its citizens? Why didn't they realize that even if L2 was a breeding
ground for criminals, it was because they were just trying to survive?
Starvation would drive any man, no matter how noble, to stealing. In a
war, people admire those who kill the enemy, but in a time of 'peace',
men who have to rob in order to get money for food were considered trash.
Why? Wasn't poverty a war? I think it is. It's a war that the people of
L2 had to fight every day.
But the question was, why did they have to live this way anyway? Why didn't
anyone try to change things? Why hadn't anyone answered the requests to
send more Preventers or to help clean up the colony? There were so many
questions and so few answers. Didn't anyone want to help these
people? After the last war, Relena Peacecraft had declared that finally
there was peace. But was there? Wasn't peace a time when everyone should
be happy and satisfied with their lives? Just because there was no war...
it didn't mean that there was peace. I don't think there could ever be
peace as long as people were starving and as long as people were being
murdered or raped in the streets every day. The more I thought about it,
the more the notion of 'absolute peace' seemed childish and idealistic.
God, where had my head been all of these years? Why hadn't I realized
the things that were going on in the colonies that I had long ago, sworn
to protect? It made me so angry..
This was the reason why I was able to forgive Duo for his earlier actions.
I mean, could I really fault him for doing what he had done? Could I really
say that if I was in that same situation I would have done something different?
I looked over at the kitchen and my mind supplied images of a naked, wet
Duo Maxwell. I rolled my eyes at the thoughts and forced myself to stare
at the fire again. With his slender body and handsome face, he probably
attracted all kinds of people.. I was just another guy in the queue. My
attraction for the younger man was ridiculous and it made me realize just
how unprofessional this whole situation was. I supposed it was better
than being fired though.
He was a rare character. He'd obviously lived this way for most of his
life but somehow he was still charismatic and intelligent. He was strong,
but anyone would have to be to survive on the street and he was generous
as hell. Too generous, in my opinion, for someone who lived the way he
did. It was strange, but it showed that just because someone was poor,
didn't mean that they were a bad person. And it showed that someone who
had led a hard life could have a warmer heart than people who had always
lived in the lap of luxury. I guess the old saying was true that whatever
didn't kill you; made you stronger.
When Duo came back from his bath, his hair was shining brilliantly and
he looked even more handsome if it was at all possible. He smiled at me
warmly and sprawled out in front of the fire. We spoke for awhile and
then he went to sleep on his make shift bed while I stayed awake; still
staring into the fire. I told myself that I was keeping vigil because
of the bad neighborhood; but in truth.. it was because I didn't trust
myself to sleep next to him.
I've never been poor, only broke. Being poor is a frame of mind. Being
broke is only a temporary situation
~ Mike Todd
The next morning proved to be just as rainy and gloomy as the previous
night. The rain seemed to come down harder and artificial dawn that always
came with the day cycle; hadn't materialized at all. The day was just
as dark as the previous night had been and it left me wondering if this
kind of thing happened often.
Duo stared out the window; a frown creasing his eyebrows. "Nah, this
never happened before.. whoever is working the controls is a real moron.
The last few times it rained, it was darker than usual but not this
We stood in the church, staring out at the sheets of rain and I couldn't
help but wonder where that family of beggars was staying. "Is there
a shelter around here somewhere?"
He shrugged and made a face. "Not any that I'd go to, let me tell
ya that. They ain't exactly the safest places around and you would most
likely get robbed. There's an orphanage not too from here though, in fact
I was planning to go there today." He looked at me narrowly. "An'
I don't plan on changing that just cos' you decided to play tag a long."
"I had planned to stay low profile today."
"I had planned to visit the orphanage and I'm not changin'
it for you."
"Duo.." I growled in frustration and raked a hand through my
hair. "Use your brain, walking around with me isn't a smart idea
and you know it. We stay here."
"You can't tell me what to do, I don't care what kind of badge you
have. If yer so worried about it, you stay here and I'll go alone. No
I glowered at him. "So you can run off? I don't think so."
"I already told you that I wouldn't!"
"Well excuse me for not taking the word of someone who robbed me."
Duo rolled his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest huffily. "I
can't believe this, man."
We stood in silence and I could practically feel the frustration rolling
off of him. "If we were to go... and I do mean if,
we are only staying for a very short time."
His eyes lit up and he grinned. "Great! As long as I get to see my
little buddies, I don't care. I don't know what Cappy's gonna do and I
want to see them while I'm still in one piece, you know?" I looked
at him sharply and started to say something but he waved it off. "Forget
about it man, you have to expect to deal with some shit sooner or later
around here." He shrugged and gave me a crooked grin. "But forget
about that for now, let's go."
I frowned at him darkly but nodded. I was more concerned about him than
I should have been and I felt guilty.. even though I knew it wasn't really
When childhood dies, its corpses are called adults and they enter society,
one of the
politer names of hell. That is why we dread children, even if we love
them, they show us
the state of our decay.
~ Brian Aldiss
The orphanage itself wasn't very impressive looking, just a three story
brick building with dingy front steps and large windows; the kind with
blue tinted panes and stickers all over them. For some reason when I had
always imagined orphanages, I'd picture run down shack looking houses
with patched roofs. I wasn't fully expecting the orphanage to resemble
a small elementary school; or for the front entrance to lead to a reception
area. It was all so business like and impersonal, that I half expected
the children to be walking around in uniforms with name tags on their
Duo led me up to the receptionist and it was obvious from the way they
spoke that he visited often. After we were given permission to enter fully,
he looked at me and raised an eyebrow. "You look surprised."
I shrugged and felt very out of place. "I.. wasn't expecting it to
look like an office building."
The smile he flashed was almost melancholy. "The orphanage used to
be at the church but it had ta' be moved.. for the obvious reasons."
He looked around and shrugged. "Don't worry man, the kids are really
sweet and most of the faculty is pretty nice. I think most of 'em treat
me good just cos' I give donations so often. I just donated the last twenty
credits I had, even though it won't do much... but it's the thought that
I glanced over at him. "How often do you donate? For some
reason I doubt you make a fortune picking pockets and robbing people with
your rubber gun," I said dryly.
He blew a raspberry at me and his eyes twinkled with mirth. "For
your information, Mr. Big Shot Preventer, it's made of genuine steel!"
I raised an eyebrow at that, still following him as we walked down the
long corridor. "Where did you get your hands on something like that?"
He grinned mischievously and stopped walking once we reached a large set
of double doors. "That, my dear Heero.. is a secret. And as for how
much I make, well that's confidential." He winked at me and made
his way into the large, red carpeted room; leaving me to stare after him
When had we stopped acting like strangers and started talking like we
were old friends? I tried to remind myself why I was still on this God
forsaken colony and why I was even with him in the first place, but one
look at his charming smile made me push all of it to the back of my mind.
I could pretend we were friends.. just for this one-day. What would it
hurt? I could make myself forget about the disc and the robbery and just
enjoy the company of this charismatic street urchin, acting as though
I didn't have a care in the world.
I looked around the room and realized that it was a playroom of sorts.
A medium sized TV was set up in the corner and a couple of older kids
were sitting in front of it, obviously not bothered by the flickering
picture. Several younger kids were crowded around an ancient looking board
game, while others sat in the middle of the room playing with building
blocks. "This place doesn't look so bad," I muttered and stood
against the wall awkwardly. Children had always made me uncomfortable.
"That's because the troublemakers aren't around right now. They're
all on the boulevard makin' money," Duo piped up as he appeared by
my side once again.
I raised an eyebrow at that. "Why are they allowed to wander around
freely? And what do they need money for if they are taken care of here?"
Duo rolled his eyes and leaned against the wall. "This is an orphanage,
Heero.. not a prison. They can go out during the day but there is a curfew
-- which some of them break anyway. 'Sides, the government doesn't give
this place enough funds so they have to struggle to keep the electricity
on and feed the kids at the same time. It's worst when the knuckleheads
controlling the EC make it all winter-like though. The director can't
afford to turn on the heat."
I frowned as once again, the Peacecraft-Khushrenada Administration was
brought up. "Trouble makers?"
His eyes were focused on a pair of twin toddlers who were wrestling over
a doll. A smile crept over his features and he answered distractedly.
"Yep, a lot of the kids have been recruited in the local gangs and
they like to pick on the others. The ones in rival gangs fight a lot too,
so it can get pretty tense." His gaze moved across the room and he
gestured at a sullen looking teenage boy who was lounging on a tattered
black sofa. "That kid cracks me up." He grinned. "All the
gangs always try to recruit him because he fights like a damned hellcat,
but he always tells 'em to shove it."
I raised my eyebrows and appraised the kid. He was tall, lanky and didn't
appear to be much; but something about the look in his eyes made it obvious
that he had some kind of fire about him. "I bet it makes him a walking
Duo grinned at me crookedly. "You got that right. He's one of the
few kids who actually plan to get off this damned colony one day, even
though he don't know how it's gonna happen." He shrugged to himself.
"He got one big attitude though and he can't stand me. I had to smack
him around a few times when he got too fresh."
A surprised chuckle escaped my mouth and I stared at my companion in surprised
amusement. "You smacked a kid?"
He made a face. "He's fifteen, old enough to be smacked in my opinion.
The kid's got a major hair up his ass and he never explained why he hates
me, but whatever. Every time he sees me he says --"
"Well looky, the longhaired pansy decided to grace us lowlifes with
Duo glared at the little upstart. "He says that."
My eyebrows shot up and so did my curiosity. "I want to talk to him."
The longhaired thief slanted a look at me. "Well.. you go do that.
Prepare to be annoyed."
I shrugged and started to walk towards the younger boy, almost smirking
as he began to eye me warily. "What are you supposed to be, the Po
Po or sumthin'?"
I stopped when I was standing in front of him and stared blankly. "The
He looked at me as if I was the stupidest person in the world. "The
police, you dimwit. What are you.. a moron or sumthin'?"
I rolled my eyes and looked over to where Duo had gone to play with the
same twin toddlers. "I'm not a cop," I lied easily.
"Riiight, and I'm Relena Peacecraft's little brother," He snorted
I ignored the comment and sat next to him, eyes still trained on where
Duo was tickling one of the kids. He laughed merrily at something one
of them said and I couldn't help but notice the way his entire face lit
up when he smiled. It was such a big difference from the thuggish visage
he had put on the previous night.
"Do you want sumthin' or are ya just gonna swoon over that pansy
I glared at the boy, watching in satisfaction as he squirmed under the
heat of it. "What's your problem with Duo?"
"It ain't none of your business," He snapped.
"It's not any of my business," I corrected with a smirk.
"What are you? An English teacher?"
"I thought I was a cop."
"Jeezus man, tell me what you want or get lost."
"I told you, I want to know what your problem is with Duo."
He made a face and rolled his eyes. "Why do you care?"
I opened my mouth to respond but I found that I couldn't. Why did
I care? I probably wouldn't ever see the guy again after tonight and I
was acting like we were good friends. My brow wrinkled and I struggled
to pull together a coherent answer. "I just met him and I'm curious
as to why you dislike him when everyone else seems to think the world
He frowned at me. "Because..."
I raised an eyebrow and looked at him expectantly.
"He's too damned happy!" The kid blurted out. After a moment
he appeared embarrassed and looked away, glaring at some far corner of
"And this is a character flaw?" I asked dubiously, disappointed
despite myself. For the past fifteen or so hours Duo had come off as some
kind of paragon of penurious hope, the stereotypical diamond in the rough.
I had been hoping that if he wasn't all he was cracked up to be.. I could
easily move on and get rid of the idiotic attraction. But no. He was 'too
"Well what the hell is there to be happy about? He lives in a abandoned
building, he's dirt-poor and he gets fucking picked on all the time by
Cappy an' them! What kind of moron is happy with any of that? Doesn't
he wanna be sumthin' better?" The kid sounded outraged by the idea
of anyone being satisfied with that kind of situation and I had to agree.
"Everyone here treats him like he's some kinda God just because he
donates every once in a blue moon but he's like.. this big damn moron
who likes being poor!"
The corner of my mouth twitched and I tried not to smile. "I don't
think anyone likes being poor.." I said slowly.
"Well then what's his problem?"
I looked over at Duo and saw that now he was engaged in conversation with
the two older kids; a serious _expression on his handsome face. "I
don't know, like I said... I just met him. But did it ever occur to you
that he is a different person when he isn't here?"
The kid wrinkled his nose at me. "What does that mean?"
I crossed my arms over my chest and tried to pick my words carefully.
"Maybe when he's here he pretends to be happy because... he wants
to act like everything is okay for you kids."
He made a noise in the back of his throat and shrugged. "Whatever
you say, man."
We sat in silence and I went back to watching Duo. After awhile I was
aware of the fact that the kid was staring at me and I looked at him with
a frown. "What?"
He continued to stare, appraising me silently. "Are you sure
you ain't a cop?"
I glared at him and looked around to make sure no one was paying attention.
"Pretty damned sure."
He graced me with a sly smile. "We~ell it's just that you look an
awful lot like Heero Yuy, is all." He shrugged casually
and crossed his arms over his own chest, mimicking my position.
I nearly choked when he said that and my eyes widened. "Shit."
A triumphant grin spread across his face. "I knew it! I saw yer picture
in the paper a while ago when you saved Relena Peacecraft's life or some
jazz like that. Dude -- you got some balls to be walkin' 'round here like
this, especially with Duo. I'm Jacky by the way, nice to meetcha! I always
thought you was so cool."
My eyes narrowed at that. "Why 'especially Duo'?"
"Well... a couple of years ago some Preventers were makin' like..
their yearly rounds and they arrested a whole bunch of people
at one time, even innocent ones." He shifted and looked uncomfortable
to be talking about it with me. "Anyways so they arrested a whole
bunch of kids from the street gangs and some that was just mindin' their
business and they got Duo's brother Solo."
I frowned darkly. "Go on."
Jacky rubbed a hand against the back of his neck and looked in Duo's direction.
"His brother was a nice guy, they both used to work at the church.
He was like a big brother to me an' a lot of kids, yanno? Anyways, they
arrested him and charged him with some bum rap an' then he got killed
in jail cos' they put 'em in there with a bunch of animals."
I was unable to talk for a moment and my hands clenched into fists. I'm
pretty sure my face was frozen in some horrified look but I did my best
not to voice my outrage; it wouldn't do to scare the poor kid. "So
that's why Duo hates Preventers."
His head bobbed up and down. "Yup. There's even rumors that he went
on some kinda.. mission to kill a bunch of 'em but I don't know if that's
My heart clenched in my chest and dread settled over me. "I oughta
pop you right now, you filthy pig." The words rang in my head
and I recalled the murderous look on his face. Every instinct in my body
was telling me to cuff him right now, arrest him for being a cop killer
but I knew I couldn't. I didn't have proof and I needed the disc. A million
thoughts were going through my head, one of them being that this whole
nice act was just so that he could get me off guard.
For some reason that's what bothered me most of all.
[back to Aya's fiction]