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Story Notes:

Originally published in 2000.

I didn’t know why I had stopped there. It was just along the route where I often seized the insane idea of strolling. It was only a big decrepit church, but somehow it looked like the orphanage with its broken shutters and ivy-infested stone walls. I felt the crowds around me slowly vanish, leaving me standing there alone. I don’t even know why I bothered staring at a decaying church. I had given up on God a long time ago... either that or He had given up on me. Frankly, I don’t blame the dude, but something drew me up the steps and made me push open the doors.

And it wasn’t God.

The inside was familiar to me. The pews, the candles, the silent watching of the statues. I scoffed.

Saints and angels and devils... it’s all a crock of shit. Why am I here, anyway? Ah, what the hell. I’ll just look around. So I began to walk down one of the corridors. It was like most corridors-dank and dark and musty. I could still feel the thin pages of the bible beneath my fingertips and smell the glue of the binding. God, that was a long time ago.

I happened upon a confession booth. I remembered having to go to confession. It haunts my memory still, images of having to spill my soul to a faceless body on the other side of a wall. It had been at least ten years since I’ve been to a confessional...I wondered if anyone was in there...

I remembered all the guilty feelings I’d been having, and I contemplated going into the damned thing. Somehow. I knew what I was doing was wrong. The bible warned about stuff like this. Looks like I’ve got a long vacation in Hell when I croak.

I gaze up at the statue of the Good Mother and briefly wonder if it really hurt when she gave birth to Jesus. I mean, being virgin and all...

Once again, that invisible force that drew me up the steps grabbed me by the collar and jerked me into the small booth. I closed the door and sat down, grateful and hateful for the darkness. I could almost feel it bearing down upon me...like the weight of the sins I knowingly committed.

“Bless me Father for I have sinned,” came my built-in reflex. There was probably no one in there, anyway. I almost felt better, knowing that. So I let out a huge sigh and began my recount, “I lost both my parents as a kid and I joined a gang on L2. We stole and vandalized and...all that good stuff..”

I can’t believe I’m talking to myself.

“Then a virus broke out and my best friend died right before my eyes... I was sent to an orphanage. Everyone there died except me. I stowed away on a carrier vessel and was discovered. That’s when I met Professor G...he trained me to kill. I’m a pilot of a Gundam, the Deathscythe Hell. I kill people like roaches...”

I shook my head pathetically.

“I don’t think all the confessing in the world would help me feel better...”

I sighed heavier and leaned my elbows on my knees, clasping my hands together.

“Then I came to Earth and met Hilde. Things didn’t work out and we ended up going our separate ways. Then I...started thinking about my best friend. He’s a Gundam pilot, too. I...I can’t help it, Father. I love him...in that way. We-”

I bowed my head and ran my fingers through my bangs.

“-we had sex one night, and it was the greatest thing I’ve ever...I mean.....it was incredible. He makes me feel this way that-that nobody else can make me feel...and I know it’s wrong, Father. But if being with him is going to send me to Hell, then so be it. I’d burn in a thousand Hells before I ever hurt him...”

Tears began to fall down my face and I put my hand on my forehead. I stared at the floor and the little plips and plops my tears made.

“I love him. I love him like-like a...I dunno how I love him, but I do. It’s not fair! Why did God have to do this to us? To me? What did I ever do to deserve this kind of torture?”

And then I openly wept, confused and lost and scared so bad it wasn’t funny. Then I heard this deep, soft voice, “Fear not, my son, for the Lord shall guide you.”

I snapped upright with a chill racing down my spine. The voice was so familiar, yet had I known someone else was there I’d have kept my mouth shut. I didn’t want to have the blood of a priest on my hands, but I had no choice. I’d told him about the Deathscythe. He had to die. I began to sob uncontrollably.

“It’s alright to cry, my child. The scripture reads: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

“Proverbs 3:5 to 3:6,” I said with a sad smile. “But Father, I don’t think God’s got anything up his sleeve that can make my path straight. My beliefs are bent and so am I. I’m an atheist. I believe in nothing but the Beginning and End-”

“And He is there with you. The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”

“But-! But I-!” I was in a frustrated state. I didn’t want to be preached to. That was the last thing I wanted; some advice from a guy who’s never felt what it’s like to live a day in my shoes, those blood soaked boots I’ve worn for years.

“You just don’t understand!” I cried. “I can’t even live with myself anymore! Sometimes I think I’m-”

“Take heart, my son. The Lord says, Do not fear for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you.”

“Isaiah 41:10,” I stated, then broke down helplessly. “I don’t think I can live with the knowing anymore-”

“Do you remember the verses I recited, Duo?”

I immediately tensed. “ How do you know my name?”

“I know more than your name, Duo Maxwell, but that isn’t the point. Recite those verses whenever you feel you are straying from the path of the Lord.”

I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to know who knew my name. I jumped up and slid back the grate separating us and was shocked to find nothing more than an empty booth.

Had I been dreaming? How could I have dreamed a voice that loud? Who could...?

It hit me like a bullet in the heart.

“Father Maxwell.”

I sat back down and stared into the back of the wooden door numbly. Had the ghost of Father Maxwell come all this way? For my own salvation? Where was my salvation, anyway? What could save me from my inevitable fate?

I stumbled from the confessional and ricocheted numbly off the walls before finding my way down the front steps of the church. By then my was mind spinning and my heart pounding. Surely, it had been a dream. But the illogical part of my brain was screaming at me. I clutched my head and grimaced in agony.

The penalty for sin is spiritual death--being forever lost in Hell...came my thoughts.

“For the wages of sin is death...Romans 6:23,” said my religious side, as if trying to coax the idea of loving another boy out of my head. But my atheism doggedly persevered.

“It’s impossible to live a life without sin, and love is stronger than that,” said my atheistic side.

I felt then that there were two people inside of me- the God of Death and God Himself, battling over control of my body. I wanted none of it; I just wanted peace again.

“Stop it! Stop it! “ I screamed, shaking my head back and forth violently.

Ye are of your father the Devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning...”

Just like me.

“...and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.”

John 8:44. Oh God, please. I don’t want to go to Hell for loving someone....

“There is no God! He is only a lie! A cover up! What good did He ever do for you? Did He ever answer your prayers for Solo?”

What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Matthew 16:26. I can’t take this anymore-

“STOP!” I screamed at the top of my lungs. Then I felt God grab me by the shoulders and shake me roughly.

“Let go! Let go! I don’t want to go to Hell! Please, no! I don’t want-”

Then He slapped me in the face and I opened my eyes. I was lying on the cement sidewalk with Heero kneeling over me.

“Heero!” I cried, sitting up and throwing my arms over his shoulders. He was surprised, I’ll bet. Especially when I started blabbering, “So it was you! You’re an angel! A-an angel from God, sent to Earth to save me-!”

I don’t know what possessed me to say that. At the worst, he could have pulled me off and beaten the hell out of me...but instead...he hugged me back. I thought for sure I was really in heaven then. I had never been this close to Heero emotionally, and I liked the way it felt. Surely, something this sweet could not be wrong.

He pulled away slowly and looked me in the eyes. I felt myself shiver at his gaze.

“Why don’t we walk for a bit?” he asked gently. I nodded and he helped me up, grasping my hand. We walked off down the dusky lane...and I never let go of his hand.

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