The Value of Two
by Pinkwhirlwind aka Max
Disclaimer: I don’t own Gundam Wing
Notes: These are the Duo and Heero from Santa Clarita, but set after the war and well before they got as involved in technology. They are seventeen.
“No.” Duo’s throat closed in on itself. Violet eyes lingered on the parole officer who sat across from him. There was no fear, perhaps the slightest hint of boredom in slack lips, in the tilt of his head, one ankle across his knee. The word was actually very satisfying to say.
After another moment, the satisfaction lifted the corner of his mouth in a smile. It had been six months since he smiled and with that smile lifted a rage from his being and felt like just hitting high orbit, floating, even if one was still in a harness.
“Mr. Maxwell, I don’t think you understand your position. You were tried as a juvenile, but part of that plea deal required you to complete your high school program, to be compliant with your foster family. Another part of your requirement was that you were to have no contact with the other pilots. The war is over and you need to learn how to be a decent human being.”
Duo’s smile sparkled with hell fire. “Well, Sandy, I’m not a nice man.”
“You’re not a man yet, Duo. I don’t want to revoke your plea,” his parole officer said, “but you must stop emailing Heero Yuy, stop trying to have any contact with him, and you must return to school.”
“You’re a nice man,” Duo said as he laced his fingers behind the back of his head, shifted a little to give his braid a little more slack. “I get that, appreciate that.”
As his plan came together, he began to feel something he hadn’t felt for a long time. A year was still a long time to a seventeen year old. A cloud of giddy butterflies fluttered where his heart should have been.
Deathscythe hadn’t been a living being. The day Quatre managed to make that point had been a dramatic day. They were all broken, fragmented and ground up by the war, by the world before the war, young minds ripped up by killing and dying. Friendship and hope can rebuild amazing things though. That day, Quatre shared a version of being human that Duo hadn’t really understood and they’d danced in the rain as Trowa and Heero watched from the porch of a house that was anything except safe.
The five had become family and Duo had had purpose. The goal of the war was freedom and peace. At fifteen, he just hadn’t really seen farther than getting the next task done.
The first time Heero and and he had hit together like surf and shore, there had been blood and fear and elation like joy spraying up over a retaining wall, rising into brand new air. The world had been remade. He’d clung to Heero.
“No.” That had also been the last thing Heero said to him too. Duo hadn’t fucking understood. Of course they were going to run away. They were going to escape from these fuckers who thought they could control things because they were somehow more.. something. They were going to get married. They were going to fuck on Mars. They were going to... something.. forever and always.
Then there had been some court ordered tranquilizers.
Quatre had been taken home to L4. Wufei went to become the leader of his clan. Trowa and Heero had been taken to places that were not disclosed to Duo, and Duo had been settled with a very nice family in Cheyenne Wyoming. They taught him to ride horses. He talked to the horses for hours, until he thought he was turning into Trowa with the animal connection.
Through the winter he’d wallowed in a depression what was as loud and shiny as everything else Duo Maxwell did. He built a car, got a job at the local garage. He made Christmas presents for his missing family members. He covered up a half hearted suicide attempt. He named one of the horses Heero. It didn’t mind. His foster mother suggested he actually try the therapy options being offered to him.
“Okay,” Sandy said, lips twisted in contemplation, “So then... tell me why you don’t want to go to school with other kids your age? You haven’t gone to any of the therapy appointments you were scheduled for. Want to tell me why not?”
“I’m not a sociopath,” Duo said, feeling a sudden spike of self-consciousness, vulnerability.
“I never said you were,” Sandy said, like he’d just said, ‘Sure.. you didn’t take the cookies.’
For a moment, Duo felt an intense need for this man to like him, to approve of him, to understand.
His foster brother was four and he didn’t like to go to bed sometimes, which brought about loud protests of, “I’m not tired”, and Duo felt like if he started saying things like, “I’m not a kid. I’m not insane,” that those words would just be the proof of what they denied.
“After the war, see, I didn’t like myself very much.”
Snark flickered over Sandy’s face, too subtle for anyone other than a hypervigilant trauma survivor to really parse. “We all had things to work through after the wars.”
“Yeah.” Duo drew out the word, chocolate lashes half hiding violet menace. “Some of us just take different paths. I guess, right after the war, I was asking for approval from … well, anyone that mattered. I wanted love so bad, you know?”
“I understand. That’s part of being young, Duo. Go to school. Go to your therapy appointments. We’ll help you.”
“All you’re offering me is different dicks to suck, Sandy. I know why Heero told me no now.”
“You cause me great concern.” Sandy lifted his coffee mug, held onto it for a moment like it was a security blanket, then sipped, while trying to stare down possibly the most deranged parolee he’d ever had the misfortune of having.
“Well, that’s nothin new, anyway,” Duo grinned from ear-to-ear. “I seem to be real good at that. I know you got this idea that I’m fragile and all that shit, but people a been doin great things when they’re young an fucked over for as long as there’s been people. I also.... I want you to know, I’m not a criminal, well, okay, I am kinda a criminal, but not like, unjust. We were trying to do good things during the war and we weren’t the only ones doin bad shit either. You’re just scared of us, because we’re young.”
“I am not your therapist, Mr. Maxwell, but you seem to have strong sociopathic tendencies to me. The other independent pilots are adapting to civilian life much more readily than you. I’m not sure that civilian life is a good fit for you.”
“If by civilian life you mean being pushed and shoved down hallways, being asked to do pointless demonstrations of remedial academic work, while being told who I can and can’t talk to, then yeah, I agree with you.” Duo reached into his pocket and pulled out a thin palm sized tablet.
“Mr. Maxwell, you know you’re not allowed to have anything other than the court approved phone and music player. Do you understand that I am the only wall keeping you from being remanded back into the adult justice system to serve a term of fifty years to life for crimes against humanity?”
“Yeah, yeah, get that,” Duo said casually. “I want to offer you a trade.”
Sandy’s eye twitched. His teeth ground for another moment as he set his coffee cup down. “I am your parole officer and you are no different than any other parolee, Mr. Maxwell.”
Duo wiggled his toes, not that anyone could see, hidden by his favorite combat boots like they were. No one could see the dawning of spring in his chest either, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t real. Very slowly, a grin shifting over his mouth, violet eyes twinkling. “Yeah. Actually. I am.”
Sandy’s nose flared then pinched until it was like there were little white sport striping running up it. “Maybe in that you’ve been given a second chance, despite your body count, Mr. Maxwell.”
“Yeah, so you should call me Duo. All my friends, and most of my enemies call me Duo. And sure, I killed, but they were enemy combatants. If L2 hadn’t been such a Benedict Arnold, I’d be a national hero, instead of a convicted felon, an that has a lot to do with why they’re tryin to stick me out here an babysit me. Now,” Duo leaned forward, feeling the surge of power he always felt when he homed in in on the goal of a mission. His smile was tighter, toothy. The victorious hunger in his eyes would prove to anyone that humans are indeed predators. “Sandy, I have something that you very much want, even if you don’t know it.”
Sandy’s nostrils flared. His jaw shifted to the side. “Politics aside, because, really, Duo Maxwell, I don’t give a shit about politics. You’re a traumatised boy and if playing hardball with you, well if I can’t intimidate you into doing what’s best for you, then I’m just going to come clean with you. Few people really want to see you sent to prison as an adult, or a child. Those that do need help for themselves and healing more than seeing you punished will ever get them. Going to school and starting a new life is good for you, which is why I’m trying so hard to see that that happens. Do you understand? I am really not your enemy. You came to Wyoming filled with self hate and self destructive tendencies. You’re compulsive and, if you see it or not, you are fragile. You need to find healing before you’re going to be more than toxic for Heero, so if you love him, really love him, you’ll find a way to learn what I’m trying to help you learn.”
Duo’s mouth dropped open. His jaw shifted to the side. His eyes went a little cockeyed. The tip of his tongue touched his upper lip, settling there thoughtfully for a moment, before, rubbing in contemplation.
There are moments in space where no matter how well you’ve calculated your trajectory, velocity, drag, probable concussion from explosions, that no matter how spot on your calculations are, you find yourself spinning and just not really knowing your orientation to the objects around you. Duo had always kind of liked that sensation, but he hadn’t been expecting it in his big confrontation with his parole officer. “I guess,” he said softly, both feet dropping to the floor, hands on his knees, “That maybe we both made some calculatin errors.”
“Well, I really kinda thought you were motivated by hatin me, fearin me, and well, I guess, I was kinda doin that back, but look, here, I got somethin for you,” Duo pulled his bag off the back of the chair and onto his lap. “I’ll give ya that I’ve been fucked up and yer right about the self-destructive crap, but I ain’t a kid and ain’t no one ever told me when to go to bed an when to get up.” He pulled out a sheet of folded black paper and then rummaged for a black vial, about the size of a lipstick tube. Putting both on the desk, his face broke into a huge joyful grin. “What’s a little thievery among friends, uh?”
“What have you done,” Sandy asked solemnly as he reached for the paper. He opened it up and attempted to read it, which only increased the influence of gravity on his eyebrows. “What is this?”
“Uh... see, I was uh, playing with some carbon nanotubal paper last time I visited you and when you went out of the room, I tested your coffee mug.”
The look of confusion on Sandy’s face only intensified.
“Uh.. so, uh, I detected molecules that indicate hodgkin's lymphoma so I thought.. you were screwed ya know? An well, there wasn’t enough of it to be real sure, so I let myself into your place and tested again. It ain’t you.”
“You bROKE INTO MY HOME?”
“I didn’t take nothing nor break nothing, but yur wife has cancer.”
Still screaming, both hands on his desk, Sandy leaned forward and growled, “She does not!”
“Oh yeah, yeah she does an if she goes to a regular doc, it’s probably enough that they can detect it to,” Duo said, smirking as he gave the little black tube a push. “Yur gonna lose your house an kid’s college fund if you pay the going rate for this cure, dude.”
Sandy took a slow cleansing breath, realized that he was going to retire. Life would be tight until he could find some other direction, but after he saw Duo to his majority, there was going to be retirement. He was going to get a nice farm with Bette and that would be that. “You can’t possibly expect me to believe all this, can you?”
Duo wiggled his nose. “No, not really. That’s why I also broke into her doctor’s office, ordered the right tests through his office, along with a DNA security sequencing, so you could know it was actually her blood the test was run on. That’s gonna cost you about $500 bux though. I expect your doctor will bill you when they get the bill from the lab.”
“My god, you’re an obnoxious little shit,” Sandy hissed.
“Yup. So, log into your doc’s secure medical site and all that shit. Look. I’m telling you the truth.”
“My god,” Sandy hissed. “Do you even know how many laws you’ve broken?”
“I lost count,” Duo admitted, “Not that was actually, uh counting, anyway. After you see the results on your doc’s site, then, so like, look up the big word on the bottom of the paper I gave you. That’s the treatment that I cooked up for your wife.”
Sandy spend maybe ten minutes reading over the report that Duo had ordered the week before. It was a report that shouldn’t have been sent to Sandy’s account anyway, because it was his wife’s private information, but at that point, Sandy had stopped counting too. The report included a lot of numbers, two diagnosis, and one prognosis. Terminal, without the big long word that Duo couldn’t pronounce. Another web search turned up prices on that treatment and leached the color from Sandy’s face.
He shut the screen down and leaned back in his chair, eyes on the tube laying between them. “What do you want from me?”
“Well, I wanna not go back to jail. I want to be able to talk to Heero. I want you stop harassing Martha. Yur stressing her out and she’s scared to death yur gonna try to send me to prison.”
“You want me to stop ‘harassing’ your foster mother, and you want to talk to Heero Yuy? One, I can be more gentle and reassuring with Martha. She’s a little hostile to me too, you know.”
“Well, she’s my foster mother. She feels protective of me.”
Sandy blinked and the image of a crazy woman trying to cuddle a cobra flashed through his mind. “Lovely. I can’t overlook restraining orders that prevent you from having contact with the other pilots. It expires in six months though and I will not seek to have it renewed. Will that satisfy you?”
Duo propped his chin on his palm, started out the window for a couple of moments, just distracted by thoughts that he would have had trouble sharing even if Heero had asked. “Yeah, I guess. I won’t do nothin I’ll get caught for an you don’t gotta play Sherlock in my life. Just relax and smile more.”
Sandy reached out to take the tube. “Will this really work? How did you make this?”
“The Winner Foundation endowed the high school with a really nice lab.”
“I thought you weren’t going to school.”
“Not going to class, not the same.”
“So like... you’ll have to inject that stuff. Do it while she’s sleeping, she won’t know what hit her and won’t remember it when she wakes up, which’ll be like twenty hours later, give or take.”
“Have you tested this on any one... without their permission? With permission?”
“It’ll work. Trust me.”
“Are you human?”
“Sure. Probably. Depends on how you define it, guess. Look, I’m hungry. You said you’d take me to lunch if I didn’t fuck nothin up between last visit an this one, so this counts ne? I want burgers.”
Color had come back to Sandy’s face, but reason was a little far off yet. Uncounted felonies, compounding felonies, felonies fell like rain, and god, it could be a fucking chorus line, but Sandy nodded. “Yeah. Lunch. Burgers. Whatever you want. Don’t break into my house, EVER, again. Got it?”
“By break in... you mean, I shouldn’t damage the locks or security system and shit, right?”
Sandy’s mouth opened, closed, and he sighed, thought about his farm, then stood up, “Come on. Burgers. One of us is hungry.”
“Man, yur not hungry?” Duo bounced out of the chair, backpack already slung over one shoulder. “I wanna get a skate board next week. You don’t got nothin against skateboards, do ya? Maybe we could go together sometime? I want a milk shake too.”
Sandy moved cautiously, threw an arm around Duo’s shoulders and pulled him closer. Duo only stood as tall as Sandy’s shoulder and that close he was sure that Duo was just a boy, a brilliant and deadly dangerous boy, but just a boy. “Yeah, you can have whatever you want.”
Read about when Sandy first met Duo