Disclaimers:  I still own nothing.

Notes:  Time for the Christmas Party, and a lot of Duo suffering.  Lots of angst here.  Enjoy.



Christmas Memories
Part 9



It was the 21st of December, Winter Solstice.  Quatre had wanted to hold the party then, so that it wouldn’t be a Christmas
party, but a holiday party.  Duo just watched the whole thing from his place against a wall.

The Maguanacs were all there, obviously having gotten into the feeling of celebration, since most of them were laughing and
joking.  Trowa was watching Quatre once again, and it did seem as if Quatre was a little better.  Maybe being surrounded by so
much happiness, and the fact that Duo had purposely avoided him all night, had made him feel better.

Every now and then, Duo would notice that Heero was watching him.  If Heero hadn’t been, then Duo would have walked
over to one of those comfortable looking chairs and curled up in it.  He was just tired.  Keeping that fake smile on his face,
while surrounded by all that happiness, was really wearing him down.  At least no one had noticed how little he had eaten, or
how much alcohol he had already consumed.  

Tonight he had definitely drank a lot.  There was some scotch with Trowa, a few delicious mugs of the Irish Cream Wufei had
made, not to mention the sake he had shared with Heero and the several glasses of wine he had.

Standing there, trying to act casual, he listened to the carols that were playing on the radio.  After a moment, a song began
playing, a song he remembered so dearly.  It was “The Coventry Carol.”  And along with the song, came memories.


Flashback


Duo watched from the wings of the makeshift stage as Sister Helen sag.  It was such a lovely song, so beautiful.  And Sister
Helen’s voice was just glorious.

“Lully, Lulla, thou little tiny child,
by by, lully lullay.

O sisters too, How may we do.
For to preserve this day.
This poor youngling.  For Whom we do sing
By by, lully lullay.

Lully, Lulla, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay.

Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day.
His men of might   In his own sight,
All young children to slay.

Lully lullay, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay.

That woe is me, Poor child, for thee!
And every morn and day,
For thy parting Neither say nor sing,
By by lully lullay.

Lully, Lullay, thou little tiny child,
by by, lully lullay.”

As she finished singing, the crowd applauded, showing their appreciation for her wonderful singing.  Duo smiled as Sister
Helen walked off stage, approaching him.  “Are you read, Duo?  It’s your turn next.”

Duo’s smile vanished, his stomach fluttering with butterflies.  He really didn’t want to go on stage in front of all of those
people.  

He fingered the package he held behind his back, finding the courage to do something.  He pulled the wrapped box from around
his back, holding it out to Sister Helen.  “Here, I got you something for Christmas.”  Duo said.

“But how could you afford to buy anything?”  Sister Helen asked.

“I didn’t buy it.  I made it, out of scrap.”  Duo replied, smiling brightly.

Sister Helen quickly unwrapped the plain newspaper.  She gasped as she opened the box, pulling out a cross made out of scrap
metal.  It had taken Duo days to fashion it into that shape, not to mention getting several cuts on his hands because of some of
the sharp edges he had so laboriously filed down.

“It’s beautiful, Duo.”  She said, pulling him into a warm embrace.  

Duo smiled, his cheeks blushing as she held him tight.  She pulled back, then reached up to her neck, pulling her own cross
from around her neck.  She held it out to him. “Here, a gift from me.”  She said.

Duo tried to push it back into her hands.  “I don’t need anything, really.”

“Please, you gave me such a thoughtful gift.  Allow me to do the same.”  Sister Helen replied, taking the cross and putting it
around his neck.

“Thank you.”  Duo said, fingering the cross that hung from around his neck.

Sister Helen put her arm around him.  “Come on now, Duo.  The people are waiting to hear your lovely voice.”  She said, as
she gently ushered him toward the stage.

Duo took a deep breath, steadying his nerves as he stepped on stage.  He hoped he wouldn’t royally screw this up.  He would
hate to disappoint Sister Helen.


End of Flashback


Duo frowned as the memories washed over him.  He pushed them away, stifling a sob that threatened to come forward.  No,
he wouldn’t let the others see him cry.  He turned and walked out onto the balcony, needed to get some fresh air.

He stood there, inhaling the cold air, wishing for the pain to end.  Then he started singing, the same song he had sung on that
day so long ago, during that pageant.

“What child is this, who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap, is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come peasant king to own Him,
The King of kings, salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

Raise, raise the song on high,
The Virgin sings her lullaby:
Joy, joy, for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!”

Someone clearing their throat attracted Duo’s attention.  He quickly hid his dreary expression, placing that fake grin on his face
once again.

“You have an excellent singing voice, Maxwell.”  Wufei said.  “They’re about to start the carols.  Why don’t you join in?”

“Nah  . . . I think I’ll stay out here.  You go on inside.  I have some things I wanna think about, so I’d rather be alone right
now.

“Very well, Maxwell.”  Wufei replied.

Duo sighed.  “Hey, Wufei?”

“What?”

He turned to Wufei and asked, his voice subdued.  “Would it kill you to call me by my first name . . . just once?”  

Wufei frowned.  “No, it wouldn’t.  Don’t stay out too long, Duo  . . . It’s cold out.”

“Thanks.”  Duo replied, turning back to the railing, looking out at the snow-covered landscape.

Once he was sure that Wufei was gone, he leapt over the railing.  


*****


Heero had watched Duo walk out onto the balcony, then saw as Wufei followed him.  About a minute later, Wufei had come
back in, without Duo, saying that the American had wanted to be alone.  So Heero respected his wishes and didn’t bother him.

That had been at least 15 minutes ago.  And still Duo hadn’t come back in.  Heero was just about to go out and check on him,
when he heard a strangled cry from somewhere in the room.

He turned to see Quatre shudder violently and collapse to the floor.  Heero pushed his way past the worried Maguanacs that
had suddenly surrounded the fallen blonde.  Trowa and Wufei were already there by the time he reached him.

Trowa lifted Quatre into his arms.  “Quatre!”  He said, shaking the blonde gently.

Quatre’s eyes opened, and he looked around.  “Duo . . . Oh Allah!  It’s Duo!”  He said, his voice panicked.

“What about Duo?”  Heero asked, confused.  “What’s going on here?”

“Just before inviting us here, he felt a deep intense pain from one of us.  He did not know which of us it was.”  Wufei said.

“I thought it would be okay, if I opened up a bit.  I just wanted to check and see if the party was helping.”  Quatre said,
shivering.  “But he’s hurting inside!  Please, Heero!  He doesn’t want to live!”  He curled against Trowa, his body shaking
violently.  “I’ve never felt such pain from anyone!”

“How long has he been gone?”  Trowa asked, still holding onto Quatre.

“About 15 minutes.”  Heero replied.  “I’ll find him.”

“I just hope you aren’t too late.”  Trowa said.

“C-cold  . . . so cold.”  Quatre mumbled.

Trowa looked down at Quatre, holding his shoulders firmly.  “Quatre!  Block Duo out.  Heero’s going to find him.”

Heero watched as Quatre frowned, obviously in concentration.  Then he blinked his teary eyes pen.  “He has to be outside
somewhere  . . . he’s so cold.”

Heero didn’t say a word, he just stood and walked over to the balcony.  He leapt over the railing, landing lightly on the ground.  
He looked around, his eyes finally settling on the tracks in the snow.  Duo had definitely gone this way.  Quickly he followed
the tracks, hoping he wouldn’t be too late.


*****


As he trudged through the snow, Duo pulled a silver flask from one of his pockets.  He quickly removed the cap and took a
long swig of the foul tasting liquor inside.

He continued to walk, not caring about the icy coldness that was seeping into every inch of his body, making him feel numb.  
Soon, he finished all the alcohol in his flask and tossed it over his shoulder.  His body, not only numb, was also beginning to
feel the effects of all that alcohol he had consumed that night.

Several times along his little walk, he stumbled and fell to the snow.  He giggled each time that happened, and forced himself up
once more, then began walking again.

After several minutes, and falling nearly every two steps he took, he decided to sit.  He leaned up against the trunk of a large
tree, and once again reached into his pocket.  This time, he pulled out the cross he had given to Sister Helen.  He had found it in
the rubble all those years ago, when the church had been destroyed, and had kept it with him always.

Looking at the bent and discolored surface, memories came to mind.  


Flashback


Duo laid under his own bed, curled up in a tight ball, as the other children stood around and taunted him.  “What’s the matter,
Duo?  Get stuck being the Dumpster Rat again?”  One boy teased.

“Dumpster Duo  . . . no one ever wants YOU.”  A slightly older girl sneered.

Another boy joined in.  “You think you’re so fancy just ‘cause Sister Helen likes you best.”

“She probably only feels sorry for you seeing as how you can't even get adopted at Christmas.”  The first boy said.

“Must have been that crummy singing voice.”  The girl said.

“Enough!” Sister Helen’s voice called out.  “You children should be ashamed of such unseemly behavior in the house of God.  
Now, all of you, get to your beds.  You have homes to go to in the morning.”

“Yes, Sister.”  All three children replied.

Duo remained where he was, fighting back the tears, not wanting to cry.  After a moment, he felt arms wrap around him,
pulling him from his hiding place.  He didn’t even look at Sister Helen.  He just threw his arms around her, clutching as tightly
as he could to the only person who cared for him.

She carried him away, out of the dormitory, and Duo opened his eyes to see that she had brought him to her own room.  She
set him down on her bed, and sat beside him.

“I was right. Nobody wants me.”  Duo mumbled, still holding Sister Helen as tightly as possible, while struggling to keep his
tears away.

“That’s not true, Duo.”  She replied, gently stroking the back of his head.

“Then why did every other kid get adopted except for me?”  He asked, his voice coming out choked.  “No one loves me.”

“I told you already, Duo.  Someone special is waiting for you.  Even if you don’t get adopted, you will always be loved.”

Duo looked up at her.  “Sister  . . . ?”

“Yes, Duo?” She asked, smiling.

“Will  . . . will YOU be my mother?”  He asked quietly.  “I just want to know what it’s like to fall asleep in my mother’s arms.”

“Oh Duo  . . . I would be honored to be your mother.”  She said.  “Now, you go to sleep.”

Duo smiled slightly, thankful that Sister Helen was so kind to him.  And soon he drifted off to sleep, wondering what it would
be like if someone actually did love him, hoping that Sister Helen was right.


End of Flashback


Duo huffed.  “Looks like you were wrong, Sister Helen.  No one loves me.”

He raised the cross, sliding a finger along the edge, feeling how sharp it had become over the years.  He held the edge to his
wrist, then closed his eyes.  “God, if you want me to live, then you should send someone out before I pass out.”  He said to the
winter sky.

Then slowly, he slid the edge of the cross along his wrist, slicing the skin open.  Then he did the same to the other wrist.  
Waiting for death or for someone to come, Duo just sat back, staring up at the sky as it once again began to snow.  Soon it
would all be over, one way or another.  If someone cared, he’d be rescued and know that he was loved.  And if no one came,
then the world would be better off without him.


*****


“Duo?”  Heero called out, following the trail the American had left.  He wrapped his arms around himself, as an icy wind sent
shivers throughout his body.  It was his own fault that he was cold, he hadn’t brought a coat, but he didn’t care about that.  He
just had to find Duo before it was too late.

Something shiny caught his eye, and Heero knelt down to pick it up.  It was a flask.  It must be Duo’s, Heero thought.  “Duo  .
. . answer me!”  He shouted.

“His men of might, in his own sight, All young children to slay.”  Duo’s faint voice sang.

“Duo!”  Hero shouted, following the sound of Duo’s voice.  Soon, he found the American, propped up against a tree.  “Duo?”  
He asked as he brushed some snow off of Duo’s bare arm.  He gasped at the sight of the blood slowly leaking from Duo’s
wrists.

“Oh, no you don’t.”  Heero said as he ripped his own shirt. “Don’t you dare die on me.”  He wrapped the strip around Duo’s
left wrist then tied it off.

“Huh?”  Duo’s weak voice said.  “What’s up, man?”  

“Baka!  What do you think you’re doing?”  Heero asked as he ripped another strip off his shirt.

“I dunno . . .”  Duo said, his words coming out slurred.  “Maybe I’m doin’ the world a favor.”  He looked down at his
unwrapped wrist and giggled.  “Pretty.”

Heero narrowed his eyes.  “How much have you had to drink?”  He grabbed Duo’s wrist and frowned at the grayness of his
hand, but the apparent health of Duo’s face.

“Dunno.  The flask  . . . Wufei’s Irish Cream, ‘bout a bottle of that. The sake I had with you.  Umm  . . . then there was the
scotch with Trowa, and the wine.”  He said, his words becoming progressively harder to understand.

“Uh-huh?  And how many times have you thrown up?”

“Zero . . .zip  . . . nada!”  Duo said proudly.  “I’ve never been sick in my life!”

Heero rolled Duo to face the ground and lifted his head, ignoring the bewildered expression on his face.  “This is for your own
good.” Heero said, sticking two of his fingers in Duo’s mouth to trigger the gag reflex.

Duo vomited five times, leaving a disgusting mixture in the snow.  Afterwards, Duo started to collapse.  However Heero wasn’
t about to let that happen.  He strengthened his hold on Duo and wiped his mouth.

“What the  . . . ?”   He asked, noticing that something else had come off of Duo’s face, make-up.  

He ripped yet another strip of cloth off his shirt and dabbed it in the snow.  Then he wiped at Duo’s face.  “No  . . . oh no.
Why?”  He asked, caressing Duo’s ashen face.  He picked him up, wincing at how light Duo was.  “I have to get you warm.”  
He said, beginning the walk back to the house.



To Be Continued . . .