Title: The Prince of Waste
Author: Becka
Pairing: None.

Warnings: AU? Angst. Duo-POV.

Disclaimer: Gundam Wing does not belong to Becka; characters are used without permission for a non-profit purpose. No infringement is intended.

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They used to call me the Prince of Waste.

I still remember the day they came up with that name, as clearly as I remember five minutes ago.

You see, there have always been bullies in this world. Sadly, they're just as common in the colonies as they are on Earth, and some of them are even crueler.

They were just as poor as me, but children are cruel creatures. They needed a scapegoat, even if it was one of their own. As for why they chose me… well, perhaps they didn't like my hair, or my eyes, or maybe they thought that my diminutive stature meant I wouldn't fight back. For whatever reason, they chose me and I've paid for that decision ever since.

It happened after I first showed up at the doorstep of Maxwell Church. A woman came out at saw me sitting there, my clothes torn and dirty, my face covered with sweat and grim, my hair unbound and knotted, my feet at bare as the day I was down, cut and bleeding. I saw the horror and sadness in her eyes, and at first I thought she would turn me away. I thought that I wasn't good enough to enter into a building with such beautiful, colored windows and such intricately carved doors. But she rushed down to me, knelt by my side and brushed her fingers against my forehead.

"What's your name, child?" Her voice was soft, soothing. She talked to me like I've heard Trowa talk to his lions, with that same reassuring gentleness in her eyes.

"Duo," I told her, my voice scratchy and hoarse; I couldn't remember the last time I'd had something to drink. "And I'm not a child." There were no children on L2.

Her smile wavered a little and for a moment I thought she was going to cry. The only thought that crossed my mind was that they'd _never_ let me into the building if I made one of their nuns cry. But she shook it off and said, "My name is Sister Helen, Duo. Welcome to Maxwell Church." And before I could do so much as blink, she swept me up in her arms and carried me through the doors.

Sister Helen was... kind. That same day she drew a little water from the church's rations and bathed me, washing the dirt from my face carefully. Her joyful exclamation, "Why, there _is_ a chi - I mean, boy under there!" brought Father Maxwell over, and he smiled and rumbled my already tangled hair. He also gave me a new set of clothing, a clean shirt and pair of shorts that needed a belt to hold them up. I'd never owned a belt before, but he told me, "These are yours."

After my bath, Sister Helen took almost an hour to brush my hair out, skilled fingers coaxing the knots and tangles to straighten. Then she taught me to braid it, saying I could keep it as long as I liked if I kept it braided. Tying the end off with a piece of sting, she kissed me on my cheek. _Kissed_ me as if I were her own child. I knew I'd do anything for her then, anything to get her to kiss me or hug me again.

So when I told her I wanted to help her, she laughed with pleasure and started to give me errands to run in town. "Please go to the baker and ask him to deliver two cases of rolls to the church, Duo." "Ask the butcher to see if he can get us another ration or two for next month." "Would you run to the post office and drop this off for me?" And I did.

It was on one such errand that I ran into a group of children a little older than I was. Sister Helen had asked me to go to a dump site and look around for a few spare parts to fix the churches heater with. I was wading around in the filth when I heard a voice behind me. "What's this? A street rat or a trash picker?"

I turned around and saw a boy with short, messy hair and piercing blue eyes. There were four other children, two boys and two girls. One of the boys sniffed the air and grimaced. "Eww! Smells like something rotten."

"Rotten? More decay than rot. A pig sty would smell better!" one of the girls chimed in.

"Looks like something rotten too," the other boy sneered.

Angry, I moved towards the lead boy, who stopped me and shoved me to the ground and planted a foot on my chest. He stared at me hatefully, eying me like I was a bug or a rat. "What do you have to say for yourself, piggy?"

"I'm not a pig," I glared up at him and tried to shove his foot away. I recalled that Sister Helen had called me a prince among her children. "I'm a prince!"

They all laughed at me, and the boy above me snorted. "Prince? Of what? Where is your kingdom? Your subjects? Your crown?"

One of the girls reached down and gingerly picked up a ring of barbed wire, and called out, "He can't be a prince without his crown. Here it is!" The boys hauled me up and I struggled, but there were three of them and I couldn't do anything as the girl set the wire on my head. The thorns bit into my scalp and tears came to my eyes.

"A prince indeed then," the oldest boy said. He swept out an arm and indicated the trash around us all. "This is your kingdom, prince, and you have your crown, but you still need a title and I'll give it to you." He poked me in the chest with a finger. "You're a prince, all right. The Prince of Waste."

I think I must have hated them then. I don't remember what happened next. Only that some time later I went back to the church, dirty and bleeding, a crown of thorns on my head. She cleaned me, bandaged my wounds, cried for me, but nothing could take the sting away. I hated them, and I was so very, very angry.

Had it not been for that anger, I never would have sworn to myself that I would become better than them. That I wouldn't always be street trash from L2. That I wouldn't always be the Prince of Waste. And had it not been for that promise... well, perhaps I wouldn't have stolen a mobile suit. Perhaps Maxwell church wouldn't have been destroyed. Perhaps I wouldn't have stowed away on a Sweeper ship and become a Gundam Pilot. Perhaps.

And now, if I felt like it, I could return to the smoking crater that was my home, return to the children who shoved me into the mud and tore my hair and hurt me as only one child can hurt another, return to L2 with a smile on my face.

Because I return not as the Prince of Waste.

I return as the God of Death.

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fin

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