When Death Comes Calling
Part 4


     Some time during the night he removed them, then returned my key
to my kitchen table.

        I wasn't afraid of him, of course, I was aware he'd never hurt me.
Duo Maxwell wasnt a true sociopath, he only called himself that because he
hated himself.

        Still, I sat up all night, agonizing over my decision to toss
him out. I was angry he deceived me and didn't want to be dragged into any
business regarding the fighting and war, but in the end, I knew he
couldn't escape it. His entire being was wrapped about hate, pain and fear.
Duo Maxwell knew nothing more. So when I asked him to leave, he left with no
argument. He knew he hurt me. He knew I had every right to send him away.
Trust and friendship was very Important to me.

         Just like the war was Important to him.

         A war he didn't want to fight.

         By sending him out, I gave him no other choice but to go to men like
Mr. Lance.They were rebels yes, and their cause was in my point of view for
freedom. But on the same breath, to them,  Duo Maxwell, pilot of the
death scythe, was nothing more than a weapon to toss at the enemy.

         A fifteen year old war toy, whod never learn conscience and love 
because the saint who was determined to keep him off the streets tossed
him out on his little ass...

         The new bottle of  Jack Daniels was half full.

         I sat in my living room staring blankly at the TV once more
wondering if Id be watching a Oz related news cast focusing on the execution of
L2's famous rebel Duo Maxwell.

         Fifteen year old kids should never be fighting a war. I said
aloud.

Dear god Duo, why didn't you tell me?

         He wasn't there to answer, only the walls spoke to me with
defiant silence.

         After all, I kicked him out.

         I didn't even give him a chance to explain. I supposed Lance and
his buddies spooked me more than I thought.

         For in reality, I was still very uneasy about my new position.
Perhaps even gutless about assisting those who needed freedom in the war.

         Was that it? Was I afraid of getting caught by the authorities
and punished if I got involved?

         My hand hovered over the bottle of booze, then clenched in a
fist.
         I was a coward.

         And Duo, he was too well-mannered despite his gruff outlook on
life to tell me.

         In a surge of anger, I grabbed the bottle and shattered it
against the wall. As an Oz officer, I stood by and murdered innocent people,
telling myself it was Ok because the authorities thought it wasn't a loss
(I wouldn't get myself in prison right?). But when it came protecting a
man who was fighting a private war against them, the murders who killed
innocents, I ran away.  Yes, I refused to help Duo in his endeavors because
in my eyes the authorities would frown upon it.

         Didn't want to support the rebels cause.

         So, there were bodies in my closet, but this was a war and ugly
things happened in war.

         Frustrated, I shook my head.

         Hilde Shrieberker, you should never drink, you always regret the
stuff you do in the morning. Carefully, I came to a stand and staggered
across the room and into the hall.

Moments later I found my coat.

         Fuck the Curfew.
         Duo needed me.

***************

         It was raining.

         How ironic. Still, the cold droplets stung my system like stabs
of ice and sobered me up rather quickly. I wasnt sure what I was doing or why,
nor did I know where I was going. What I did know was that I had to find
Duo before he got himself tangled up in something he didn't want.

         In reality Mr. Maxwell was a good kid, and I believed in him.
Ok, the bodies in my closet were suspicious, but I wanted to give him a chance
to come clean to me. Unfortunately, in the circles he traveled in. I was
sure I'd never see him again.

         Yet  despite the odds, I was determined. Duo Maxwell deserved a
chance to have choices. With me, he was free to make them, but with men like Mr
Lance, I was sure, he'd be given little choice.

         Allright, perhaps he wasn't the helpless victim I was labeling
him as, but every man makes mistakes and I didn't want Duo messing up in
front of Lance.

         Shortly after Duo split, I did a check on Lance. He was a real
fanatic, and very dangerous. Unlike Duo, Lance would have shot me for just
knowing who and what he was.

         Pulling the lapels of my coat closer the keep the bitter bite of
the night away from my bare throat, I made my way to the darker seedier part
of town. If my hunch was right, Lance and his buddies were watching my
place and picked up Duo the instant he left me. Without  much bite left
in him (due to the fact that I crushed his little homicidal world), Duo
would go with them, reflecting he was among fellow killers.

         He belonged with the damned.

         But I didn't believe it for an instant. Despite what slanderized
personal press Duo condemned himself with, I saw someone else. What I saw
was a noble, hurt little boy, who only wanted to grow up happily in a
church with his adopted parents, Sister Helen and Father Maxwell....

         Duo would sell his soul to return to those days.

         Vengeance was just the delusion he hide his hurt in.

         I turned the corner, and paused watching the street walk sign
blink a blood red warning not to cross the street.

         This side of town was run down and many of the buildings were
abandoned or decaying. I noted several hookers on the corner and a few pimps
attempting to shuffle off a few of their gals to various individuals
wandering the streets in search of lively illicit night life.

         And boy, with the amount of Porn theaters and sex parlors, there
was a lot of night life.

         I winced, recalling some of Duos scaring and crossed the street,
glad I had my own pistol in my coat pocket.

         Damn it Duo, why the hell cant you leave some sort of clue to
where you've gone?! I asked more to myself than anyone else.

         Then it came to be.

         Duo  was loaded with track marks. He was a avid drug user,
claiming it was his only outlet for the distraught he felt during the war. I
deliberately ignored it, especially since he halted the habit while
staying with me.

         But now, I was sure, he was trying to escape, and men like
Lance, who wanted something from him, wouldn't care what he did as long as
it got them what they wanted.

         With a deep breath I made a quick and painful decision.

         I'd hound the dealers, eventually, they'd give me the info I
needed, that is if I played Oz mp. And if not, Lance would come to kill me. I
could guarantee he'd be in for a rude little surprise, especially if I was
ready for him.

         Either way, it brought me closer to Duo. I just hoped it
wouldn't be too late.

****************

         Apparently, Duo Maxwell made drug dealers very nervous. No one
was willing to sell to him, or even talk about him. The only things I
could ascertain was the boy had his own private stash, inherited from one
of his previous pushers.

         That is after he offed the guy.

         My angel was a devil.

         I'm sure Duo had his reasons, but unfortunately it didn't bring
me any closer to him.

I cursed to myself and by dawn, shuffled back home to my warm bed.

         I'd continue to search for Duo after I rested, for right now, I
was in no condition to be his paper bag princess.

         The sun blazed pink and orange light across my walk way as I
jiggled my keys.

         "Hilde." The voice was weak and disjointed as if intoxicated with
a mixture of grief and poisoning chemicals. "You tossed me out, why not
just leave it be?"

         I turned to see him, silhouetted in the bleeding shadows. He
wore a black priests outfit, with his battered cap pulled over just so I
barely saw the whites of his eyes. There was no Duo, only death stared
back at me. "I was worried." I said, feeling too stupid and too worn  out
to care. "I wasn't fair to you."

         "Not fair?" He said waving a hand bitterly. "I wasn't fair to
you! For the love of God! You were right Hilde! Im no good, Im a bum, a
killer, a crazy SOB. You don't need a guy like me messing up your life.
I'm not prince charming. I'm Shinigami.... Let me go before I kill you
too."

         Again, he protected me. I felt my heart thumb painfully into my
chest as my nerves began to fire with fear and grief at the same time.
"Yeah, I'm not deluding myself here Mr Duo Maxwell. I know you're an
asshole." I said. My hand slipped on the key and inadvertently pushed the
door of my house wide open. "But you're fighting a war still. I guess I
got cold feet. I had no right to put you in a position that made you
dishonest to me."

         "I was protecting you." He whispered.  "I didn't want you
involved..."

         I pursed my lips, then half smirked. A tear trickled from my
eye. "I know that Duo, but I dont need to be protected. I agreed to be
with you because I wanted to become a part of your battle.... The battle
for freedom. I just didn't know how..." Unconsciously, I wiped away the
tear, and heaved in a sob. "You don't want to do what you're doing? Do
you?"

         Shaking, he looked away.  I caught the glimmer of a single tear
on his face. "Hilde..."

         "I assume you found Lance and he took you to your dope right?" I
asked, worry rimming my words. "Right?"

         He shrugged. No, "I took me to the drugs, but yeah, I saw Lance.
They want me to fight."

         "On their terms right?" I bunched fists, knowing he was cornered,
but in the pain he was in, he didn't care.

         "Yeah, their terms." Duo rubbed his arms, insecure. I had him
trapped and was quickly battering down his defenses. Not that it was
difficult, stoned as he was. "It's no big deal, Hilde, and it's no longer
a part of your life. Forget me."

         Annoyed at his gentlemanly insistence I stay out of his self
destructive affairs, I approached him and took his arm.

         The Death in  his gaze turned into loss and surprise.

         "I can't, you're like a roach I can't kill. Come home Duo. If you
fight, it's because you want to and your ready to. And if you fight for
anyone, it's on our terms. We're partners right?"

         Dumb, he nodded. Long tangled hair slipping from his loose unkept
braid. "I guess...."

         "So what is it they want?"

         My partner, the Death Scythe.

         The Gundam. My mouth went dry, and it was my turn to gape. I saw
Oz destroy it on live television. "That's why you killed those soldiers,
they saw it, didn't they?" It made sense now, he was protecting himself
and his weapon.

         Weakly he shrugged. "I'm death, all those who see death die,
right?"

****************

         We sat in the kitchen, well past the artificial sunrise and
enjoyed the quiet whizzing and whirling of my coffee maker. I made
breakfast, eggs again, knowing  Duo would not turn them down, even if he
was riding high on some substance I couldn't name.

         In the end, he was just a kid in trouble and a kid I felt duty
bound to help.

I broke the silence with a tiny laugh, and slid two eggs sunny
side up onto his plate, then sat down with a cup of coffee. "I'm only two
years older than you Duo." I said leaning on the table. "And I keep on
thinking of you as a kid, but I'm more of a child than you." Sighing I
looked to the window. How did I get so arrogant?

         He swirled five tea spoons of sugar and a heap of cream into his
coffee. "Don't know, Hilde. Funny thing is, I keep on calling you kid in
my thoughts.  So we're even." Our gazes met, and this time he chuckled.
"If I was a gal, I'd be you, you know that Hilde?"

         "Vise versa."  I smiled weakly, thankful for the small talk.
Perhaps he was feeling a little better.

         The coffee was good, and together we sipped, looking deep into
each other's eyes. I felt incredibly comfortable with him. It was as if he
were an extension of myself. I sighed blowing into my cup and rippling the
soft brown liquid. Duo was the first person to accept me for who and what
I was. He saw the me inside not the me on the outside.

         The me I pretended to be.

         But then again, I saw him for what he was. "Have you ever thought
they had families... The guys in my closet, I mean?"

         He dropped his face and fingered his fork. "All the time. How
about you? You ever kill anyone?"

         "Civilians, kids in a protest. Same difference Mr Maxwell, except
I was given a medal for it. It wasn't in self defense." I leaned over and
touched his shoulder, feeling taunt stiff muscles. He must have been sore.

         "I didn't do it in self defense." Duo said, honestly. His broken
voice edge with anguish and guilt. "I saw them practicing, they were
minding their own business, and I kept thinking about the massacre. So I
killed them. I lost it and killed them." He lifted his head and ran his
hand through his hair, pulling strands as he went. "What got into me? I
kept thinking about stealing their suits and how if they were dead, they 
wouldn't miss them..." With a disappearing sob, he dropped his face to the
table and began to pound his fist. "I'm a murderer and I hate it. Why
couldn't I be like Father Maxwell? When will I forget the hate and live my
life again?"

         He was a victim of the war and trapped on a one way road with no
were to go but down.

         Strange, he was just as trapped as I was, when working with Oz.
I reflected back on the massacre and the medal I had received. I lied to
myself for months that it was justified, why would they give me a medal if
it wasn't. But in the end I knew it was wrong. Just like Duo knew it was
wrong to kill for salvage. But like I was caught up in loyalties for the
service, he was caught up in the habits of war. We both lost our
consciences in the heat of the moment and became the very villains we
despised.

         It made me realize how much he needed me and how much I needed
him. We were siblings baptized in the blood of others.

         "Neither one of us are perfect, Duo." I said voice shaking. He
lifted his gaze so his eyes peeked over his folded arms, listening. "But
we can start changing by thinking about what were doing and only fighting
when we know the cause is just, and in the best interest of others." I
tickled the top of his head, admiring the silky strains of hair as they
caressed my hands. "But until then, you have to heal."

         "And Mr Lance? You don't seem so happy about him."

         "No I dont like him, but if he helps us find our purpose in this
war, then let it be, but only when you're ready, Duo... I don't want to
see you lose yourself or innocents to him. The right cause will happen,
and when it does, you won't have to lie to yourself about it."