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Author: SkyLark

Pairings: future 1x2x1, 5xOC, 3xM, 13xUne

Warnings: Serious AU, Vampire Fic, Angst, Violence, Sap, Romance

Rating: PG-13

Muse Inspiration by: Shi-Chan and Enna

Betaed by: ShenLong Deb

Archive: Debs-Dragon - GW Diaries

Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing, or its characters. I just love playing with them.

Crimson Ties Prologue

Another missing person.

Fucking vampires. Infected bastards.

If Father Maxwell could have heard his thoughts, he would not have been pleased. Such language was not exactly smiled upon... especially when it came from someone planning to become a priest.

But then, there were other aspects of Duo's life that he knew his mentor would have given him an earful over. Smoking being one of those things.

Taking one last, long drag from his cigarette, the teenager tossed what was left of the butt to the ground to snuff it out with his foot. Slowly releasing the cloud of smoke from his mouth, he continued to stare at the flyer stapled to the telephone pole before him.

At the top of the poster was the blown up picture of a nineteen year-old girl. Slender and lovely, the long-haired blonde smiled brightly out to the world with a hand raised in a frozen wave. No doubt she was a friendly one without a care before she vanished.

Crystal Donson. Missing after leaving a party at the nearby college late in the evening and on her own, so the details in the print beneath her image read. More information on her height, eye color and the usual credentials were spelled out.

This made the third missing person within a fifty-mile radius of the Virginian town in the last six months. People were starting to talk and to worry. For what was a quiet and normally safe area to live, it was a strange thing to have three people, all very close in age, to up and disappear into thin air.

Even now, there were people passing by underneath umbrellas and hooded windbreakers to protect them against the rain as they quietly spoke amongst themselves. Any time they passed another hanging flyer, their conversation grew all the more hushed and their steps quickened.

But not a single one of them were about to suggest the possibility that one, if not more than one, vampire was one responsible for the concern. No, not when the Infected were so revered amongst them... almost as if they were gods.

Fucking monsters, every last one of them as far as Duo was concerned.

While the chip on his shoulder may have been there because of his parents' lives being taken by a clan of vampires, he would have despised their kind nonetheless. And he was not the only one. Had he not been taken in as an orphan by Father Maxwell, he would have surely become one of the many underground hunters that were rumored to exist. Vigilantes set out to take down the Infected one by one.

His prayers would be with those brave, true souls.

Shivering when a damp, cold breeze blew past him, the soon-to-be high-school graduate pulled the hood of his light coat further over his head. Finally tearing his eyes away from the flyer as the distant church bells chimed four deep and prolonged rings, he weaved through the streets towards the convent.

Just as he was reaching the last corner in his rushed walk, Duo's shoulder was brushed roughly by another. Turning to apologize to the person he had bumped into, his violet eyes quickly narrowed when they fell on the young couple that had also stopped in their passing.

Standing on the edge of the sidewalk, were a young man and woman of pristine beauty. Pale skinned with vibrant-colored irises framed by gold flecks, they did not bother to shield themselves from the steady rain. Instead, their always-adaptable flesh was exposed where acceptable in public while the thick droplets of rain rolled off their hair without so much as dampening it.

The pair smiled apologetically, bowing their heads to the teenager before they headed on their way again.

Infected sons-of-bitches.

Releasing a deep sigh, Duo shook his head and began to resume his walk home when a car rushed by to kick up a spray of water from a large puddle. "Damn it!" the boy growled when he was doused by the splash. Frustrated as he was, he could not help the sharp laugh as he continued to walk on.

It was just one of those days.

*   *   *   *   *   *

"Ah, Duo. Better late for our meeting than never," Father Maxwell greeted in that pleasant tone as his pupil entered his office. Holding out a hand, he gesture to the chairs before his desk and requested, "Please, have a seat."

Inwardly grumbling as he shed his wet windbreaker and backpack, the braided teenager hung them on the nearby coat rack with a sighed, "I'm sorry for being late, Father. I was... distracted on my way back from school."

Folding his hands on top of his desk, the burly, balding man leaned forward as his charge sat. A smirk tugging his round face, the head priest chuckled, "Too busy covering the smell of your cigarettes again."

His jaw dropping, Duo sputtered, "I-I..." Taking a deep breath, he winced at how strong the scent of the fabric spray he used on his red T-shirt and jeans actually was. When he had returned to the rectory, his mind had been so preoccupied that he could not say just how many sprits he gave himself.

Father Maxwell shook his head, a look of amusement on his face, as he sat back in his chair. "A father knows his son," he grinned. "Even if there is not a blood relation to them. You have not been as clever with the things that you have tried to conceal from me as you think."

Ducking his braided head, the teenager swallowed roughly and stared at the floor. Once he found his voice, he peered back up and frowned deeply, "Forgive me, father. I did not mean to disappoint you."

"Now, now, no need for that," the priest smiled kindly. "By no means have you disappointed me. After all, we cannot help the people that we are, the people that God has made us." Shrugging, he announced, "As a matter of fact, this is exactly why I called you to meet with me."

Confused, Duo tilted his head.

The head priest took a moment before he asked, "Have you given any consideration to attending college after you graduate in the spring? As a ward of the state, the council officials have expressed their interest in what university's tuition they will be covering."

A sharp laugh broke from the boy as he explained, "College!? Why would I give that a thought when I am going to become a priest?" Such a thought was ludicrous. After his being taken in by the orphanage, it was pretty clear to him what he needed to do with his life when he remained at the church while the other children were adopted.

Biting his lip, Father Maxwell said, "I believe that you should give it more time to think on. I understand that you have strong wishes to become a member of the clergy, and if that truly is what is to be, it will happen."

He paused, the grin on his face slid away to reveal his concern and sadness as he continued, "I just feel as though you have not been able to live life to the fullest as a young man like yourself should. You may find that there is another calling for you. Having been here most of your years, I fear that you are only taking the road you are most familiar with, as opposed to experiencing the other paths there are out in the world."

Duo bit his lip at that last sentiment. Yes, there was a lot of truth in his guardian's words. The life of the cloth was the one that he had grown into and so it only made sense that he follow the example of the priests at the Maxwell Church...

...and yet, there was a wish to see what else was out there.

When it came to experiencing life, he knew that his 'father' was not aware of his occasional sneaking out late at night to catch up with classmates at some of the local hangouts. It was during those excursions where he was introduced to some of what 'normal' kids did.

Nervous as he was about stepping out into the world on his own, the teenager could not deny his interest in seeing what kind of adventures he would encounter. But then... leaving these walls meant that he would have more encounters with *them*.

Simply the thought of the Infected had Duo's blood boiling. "Forgiveness, my boy," Father Maxwell urged, breaking through the fiery rage that was building in him. Only when he blinked his violet eyes in snapping from his thoughts did the teenager realize the tense grip that his hands had on the armrests of his chair.

Taking a deep breath when his pupil looked back up at him, the priest smiled, "Vampires are God's children every bit as much as we are. While there are most in the Church who would argue that, I believe that there is nothing put on this Earth that was not brought on without His will. They cannot help who they are any more than we can."

It was the lesson that Duo's guardian had preached to him from the moment he was brought into the kind man's care. And even after the ten years since his parents were killed in front of him, he still could not find forgiveness for that vile race- no matter what the Bible said about letting go of any ill will towards a neighbor.

Maybe all of this was a test. Perhaps a great opportunity was waiting for him with going out and being on his own for a time.

God did work in mysterious ways, after all.

Such was the reasoning for this meeting, Duo rationalized. His back straightening in his chair, he met the old man's eyes and nodded firmly, "Very well, Father. I will heed your advice and weigh my options."



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