title: Cross and Crown
fandom: Gundam Wing
characters/pairings: Heero/Duo, Duo/Trowa, Father Maxwell, Relena, Dorothy
rating: G
warnings: deathfic
summary: Duo prepares for the dawn (AU).
notes: for sonny, because i hate him so damned much... um, or something.

The chill of the stones was just permeating his bones. Moonlight drifted into his cell from the window up at the ceiling, but he could not see the sky. He whistled to himself as he waited. There wasn't much time left, and not a damned thing to do in the time he had left.

The heavy, sharp sound of the iron key moving in the lock was like a splash of water in his face, and he was a bit surprised at the trepidation that leapt into his heart; was he not prepared for death? But it was supposed to come in the morning...

The jailor swung open the door, eyeing him with less trust than he would afford the devil himself. Father Maxwell stepped around him, smiling kindly. "Thank you, good sir."

Duo stood, dumbfounded. "Father... What are you doing here?"

"I'm here to perform the last rites of the Church, my son," Father Maxwell replied with a twinkle in his eye. He used the same tone of voice when Duo was ten, and he asked Father Maxwell why he had to bathe once a week.

"Father," Duo smiled, "isn't it a bit late for that?"

"It's never too late," Father Maxwell responded benignly.

The jailor grunted. "Yer wasting yer time, Father, but it's yer time to waste. I'll give you no more'n an hour." He swung the door shut loudly, and locked them in together.

Father Maxwell sighed. "It's so dark in here! I can barely read my scriptures. What an oaf; would it have cost him so much to leave a lamp?"

"You know them all by heart," Duo reminded softly. "Why are you here, Father?"

Father Maxwell's smile was in his voice. "Did you think that I would abandon you, my son? I have not, and neither has God."

"All the same," Duo sighed, closing his eyes despite the darkness. "I've abandoned you."

Father Maxwell chuckled lightly. "Ah, my boy..." His boots shuffled over the straw and dirt strewn over the stone floor. He sat down next to Duo slowly, taking care of his aged bones, and he put his hand on Duo's shoulder, needing to feel around a little in the dark. "You have always been like a son to me. It may sound strange to hear it, but I'm proud of you, my boy."

"Proud of me?!" Duo snorted. "Father... I'm a murderer, a thief, and a sodomite. Do you honestly expect me to believe you are proud?"

"You have lived your life according to your beliefs." Father stated softly. "You have offered yourself as sacrifice to protect a people you care for. You have loved. You still remind me of me, more than I can say. Perhaps if I had met a young king when I was your age, I would have done the same."

"It may not have been worth it," Duo offered, politely.

"Was it?"

The question hung in the air. Duo lifted his eyes to the beam of white light across the grey stones of the ceiling. He didn't realize he was smiling until he started to speak. "It was... a bit more time might have been nice, though."

Father Maxwell put his arm around Duo, and stroked Duo's long braid. "Will you go to the gallows in that collar, my boy?"

Duo shrugged. "Unless it offends you. I lived life in this collar. I should die in it, too."

"It makes me happy, to see you embrace even a small part of what I gave you." There was genuine sorrow in Father Maxwell's voice, and Duo felt it in his stomach.

"I'm sorry..."

"Shall I pray for you?"

Duo nodded slowly. Father Maxwell's God was an illusion to Duo. He had tried, he had prayed, he had worn his knees out on stone before altars, going through the motions, but death was still the only God he respected. He was almost happy to finally be accepted into his destiny. Still, there was comfort in the habits of youth, if nothing else, and the rhythm of Father Maxwell's archaic Latin took Duo back to a time when Sister Helen would brush his hair clean, and he would get scolded for playing in the garden in his 'good' cassock, back to before he had spilled blood in war, before he had known passion in a bed, before he was so jaded.

Tears spilled from his eyes. There was so much he would miss out on... so much that he was already missing. It wasn't so much his own death that bothered him, as much as it was the deaths he couldn't stop that broke his heart. He would rather die than continue to feel this way.

Duo didn't remember hearing Father Maxwell's prayer end, nor any other part of the custom, nor did he remember putting his face on Father's chest and crying, but that's where he was when the jailor came back. Father patted Duo's cheek, and brushed away his tears as he stood shakily. He tried to speak, but his own tears clouded his words, and the jailor was impatient. Duo wasn't sure if Father would be there in the morning, but either way, he watched Father leave the cell, and said his apologies quietly, silently, hoping Father would remember him as the boy who argued with him about theology while playing knight with him.

He was left in darkness again, and as his tears dried, a sense of peace filled him. His death would be soon, and relatively painless. He would have to see Heero one last time. He wasn't sure how that would go, but he was grateful for his one last chance. Fate was a tricky bitch, but truthfully, he should have died at least a dozen times before now, and love was not a bad reason to die, in the end.

He wondered if there was a God out there, and if Father was right about him, if there was. He considered praying to him, but the thought was just amusing. How many cowards in ditches turned their eyes to a God they did not know? He would not end his life in hypocrisy. If there were a God, he'd greet him with surprise in the morning.

He had closed his eyes, and started to dream of soft green pastures and gentle, strong hands when the voices in the hall startled him. It was quite a commotion, and Duo recognized the voice of the captain of the guards, still groggy, as he protested violently. It was still dark, so it was still too soon for his death. A shrill, sharp voice rung out about the rest.

"We are still Queen, and we command you to open this door!"

There were no protests after that, save the weary metal complaining against the key that opened its lock.

Duo scrambled to his feet quickly, and smoothed his hands over his thighs. This, he could never have expected.

Her Royal Highness Queen Relena of Sanc swept into the filthy jail cell, utterly blind to the condition of the room or its occupant.

"Leave a lamp, so that we can see."

"Your highness..." The captain protested once more, already knowing his defeat. "This is not safe! Let me stay here with you, at the very least. This man is dangerous!"

"We have given our command."

The captain sighed, and gently lowered the lamp to the floor, stepping out the cell obediently. He closed the door, but he did not lock them in.

Duo stared at her. Relena was every bit as beautiful as she was the day the royal party had descended upon their tiny church in the countryside, requesting to use it as a sanctuary for their army. The day he met Heero for the first time...

She smiled softly at him. "Duo. I'd say that it is good to see you, but you look just awful."

He laughed, a short bark of amusement. "I suppose I am a flower out of sunshine, then, but you needn't worry, your highness, because my suffering is soon to end."

Her smile dissolved to a worried frown. She rummaged through the folds of her dress, looking for her small bag, tied to her waist. "Here, I brought you this... It was all I could save."

She reached out, offering him a shock of coarse brown hair, tied neatly in a pink ribbon. At first, he did not reach to accept it, but his hands moved before he could think of what to do. He lifted the hair to his nose, sniffing the gentle scent of flowers from the ribbon, and the sweaty smell of the hair. He smiled automatically. "Thank you, my Queen."

She bit her lip. "Duo... I'm... I need..." She lowered her head, and stifled a sob. "Can I ask you to take my confession?"

Duo almost laughed. "My Queen... I am not vested, you know. I never took final vows. And I'm hardly a fit conduit to God's grace."

She shrugged, and smiled at him with wet eyes. "You were our teacher in matters of faith. I would be pleased for you to hear my confession, if you would."

He shrugged. "If you like, my Queen."

She kneeled on the ground, ignoring the filth and the hardness of the stones. She lowered her head, and lifted her hands in prayer. "Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It's been six months since my last confession."

Duo bit his lip, remembering that night, six months ago, when Relena had confessed to him that she had lied to her husband, in order to conceal her 'pregnancy.' "Go ahead..." He swallowed nervously, uncomfortably thrust in this position.

"Well, first off..." She sighed. "I have lied, and to a man of the cloth. I was... jealous, and I wanted to reclaim what I thought was mine."

He put his hand on her head, trying not to disturb her hair. "I understand, my lady..."

She shook her head violently. "No, no... It was malicious on my part. I knew my husband did not love me, and I knew my lie would cause nothing but pain, but I wanted to hurt the person who my husband loved, and I wanted to cause strife between them, even though I knew I could not take his place."

Duo sighed heavily. "Please, my lady, do not think on it. You are forgiven."

"Don't let me off so easily," she pleaded. "In my childishness, I set into motion events that have caused great pain, and even death. In my foolish attempts to win my husband's heart, I have sent two friends to the gallows, and these are good men who would have given their lives to see my kingdom and my home freed from tyranny." She could not hold back her tears any more, and she clung to his waist, sobbing. "Oh, please, Duo, give me penance! I am so sorry! I had no idea it would come to this! I just... I wanted to separate you and Heero! When I heard the rumor that you and Trowa were lovers, I thought I had won! I had no idea he would behave like this, I swear, if I had known he would put you both to death, I would have never let him find out!"

He rubbed her shoulders softly. "Relena... Relena, you are forgiven. All of it. It's all right, you know. I understand. You love him. I love him, too. I hope you do win his heart; I don't want him to be alone. I never wanted that."

She lifted her red eyes to look up at him. "Duo?"

He lowered himself to his knees, and sighed. "Relena... I knew you were jealous. I tried to stop it, you know, but... Heero can be persistent in achieving his goals, and I... I suppose I was weak. My faith was in Father Maxwell, not in God. When I accepted the role of teacher to the King, I knew he didn't really want to learn about the faith. I took the role on a gamble, knowing what he would do for the orphanage. I... willingly gave myself to him and his schemes, hoping to profit from it, and of course, I just ended up falling victim to his charms. I didn't want to come between you, and I knew I was sinning, but I... let it happen." He shrugged.

She wiped her tears away. "But if I hadn't told you..."

He shushed her quickly. "True, true, that night you confessed to me, I was very upset. And it was not the best mindset to enter into battle in, but... After thinking on it, I knew you were lying to me. I could account for Heero's whereabouts every night for more than two months beforehand." He sighed. "That wasn't the main problem. After the battle began in earnest, Heero and I were separated, and... Trowa and I spent more and more time together. We were holed up in the church at St. Pierre for over a fortnight. Heero had attacked my virtue with the strength of a soldier, but Trowa slipped past my defenses with the stealth of an assassin. Neither of us expected anything of it... It just happened."

He closed his eyes, and leaned back against the stone. Battlefields made for poor beds, and lovers made there were as fleeting as the hatred that choked them as they hacked away at their enemies, but there was something quiet and simple in Trowa that Duo gravitated toward, almost against his will.

"You loved him, then." Relena stated it simply, almost as if it was the answer to a question.

Duo nodded. "I did. I loved Heero, too. But... There was only one way for it to end, and Trowa and I both knew, before we began. We were reckless, I suppose, but... neither of us expected to live long enough for it to matter."

And that was the end of it, really. Perhaps it had been a foolish choice, but it was one made with their hearts and their minds in accord. Nothing more could have been done.

Relena sighed. "But you might not be here now if it weren't for my machinations... Duo, how can you forgive me?"

"Because I am ready to die." He clutched the lock of hair in his hand. He was ready now. Maybe it was because Trowa had preceded him, or maybe it was because he had failed Father Maxwell, or maybe it was because Heero hated him. Maybe he'd been ready to die ever since he was six, and he held Solo's frail body in his arms, the only family he'd ever had. But it was the truth, and that was all there was to it.

Relena sobbed, and threw her arms around his neck. He held her until her tears abated, and she shivered in his arms. It was cold in the dungeons, and Relena was unused to discomfort, but she was a considerate girl, never afraid to live like the people, and he knew that it wasn't the chill that was getting to her. He rubbed his hand comfortingly over her back, and soothed her with meaningless words of forgiveness.

The door opened, and the Lady Dorothy poked her head in, wrinkling her nose in disgust. "I'm sorry, my Queen, but if we do not leave now, there will be no way to hide your actions from the King."

Relena nodded, lifting her head from Duo's shoulder. She looked into his eyes, and kissed his cheeks quickly, before dashing off to her lady in waiting.

The door closed on Duo for the last time.

He knew what would happen now. In a few hours, the guards would come and march him out of the dungeon, and into the courtyard, where the gallows waited for him. Heero and Relena would be seated on the balcony. Heero would probably look down at him in anger, betrayal... perhaps some lingering affection? Relena would not look at him. His crimes would be read. He would be labeled as a sodomite, and a traitor to the crown. The crowds would throw mud and filth and rotten fruit at him, and then he would be placed on the chopping block, and the executioner's axe would swing down on him.

He closed his eyes, and smiled. There was so little time left, and nothing to do with it, so he waited, and in his heart, he hoped that Father Maxwell was right, so that he could see Trowa again.