Fic: The Value of Us - A Santa Clarita Side story
The Value of Us -
by Pink Whirlwind
Disclaimer: I don’t own Gundam Wing.
Note: This is the third in the Value of.. series. The Value of Two and the Value of One are on my site. And good heavens... as I sit here at the bus stop, plotting story.. such crack fic.
The Value of Us
"It is so freaking strange?" Duo said, fingers laced behind his head.
"What’s strange?" Sandy asked.
"It’s strange to be waiting fer Heero at an airport - like he's just going to walk off - well like he's just a know - a normal guy."
Sandy, Duo's parole officer, stood next to him at the airport, waiting for Heero’s flight to arrive. "He is just a normal guy now, Duo, and so are you. This is just the start. You guys have a long life ahead of you."
"Yeah. We're gonna live forever, me in 'Ro,"
''Oh to be young. It so feels that way,” Sandy said a bit wistfully, before his eyes narrowed, “You're not working on any more strange medicines, are you?"
"'So... Like yer kinda like family an stuff, so like don't say anythin stupid - like 'I thought
you'd be taller' - or anything, okay?''
Sandy sipped his coffee to hide his smile, "Wouldn't think of it.”
Maybe another 30 seconds passed in companionable silence.
"Where is that plane?! Commercial shit is so slow!"
"I can see how a military jet would be faster, but the lunch would probably
“They serve food on planes, especially in first class."
“I never got none.” Duo lifted his chin, wrinkled his nose. “Heero'll be hungry when he gets here."
“At least you’re not hungry now,” Sandy said with affectionate sarcasm. “I think you’ve grown at least a couple inches since you got to Wyoming.”
“You think so?” Duo asked, rising up onto the balls of his feet, his freshly braided hair swaying as he nearly danced with nervous energy. “I got more muscle too, I think.” Duo’s eyes went dreamy, his shoulders shivering. “I bet Heero’s taller too, but he was always perfect anyway. Ain’t no pics ever showed his eyes like they really are. Ain’t nothinasprettyashiseyes.”
“Okay,” Sandy said, calmingly, “Watch your accent. It’s getting a little hard to understand you.”
“Sorry. I’m just excited. I meant, Heero’s eyes are very beautiful.” Duo bounced, balls of his feet, heels, balls, deep breath. “You’re gonna stay for the party and stuffisyerwifecomingi’dlovetometerto!”
“Yeah, yeah. You stayin for the party? Another year an ‘Roan.. Another year and Heero and I can get married.”
“Well, now that will be a real party. Duo,” Sandy said, voice angling into a lecture tone.
Duo groaned, rubbing behind his ear, eyes going to the display of which airplane was arriving next.
“Now, don’t be like that. I just need you to know that people change a lot at this age. Feelings change.”
“Yeah,” Duo said, jaw shifted to the side, mood also swinging serious. “Heero is not going to get tired of me. I’m never going to do something he can’t forgive me for. It goes the other way too. There isn’t anyone else for either of us, not like that. We’re one person. Is my English clear and understandable?”
“I’m just saying and it’s not like he’s the only person who likes your company.”
“Yeah? Well, I ain’t tryin to suck yer dick.”
“A fact for which I am deeply and eternally grateful.”
“Ya don’t know what yer missin.”
“A divorce and being assassinated by Heero Yuy? That being aside from the fact that you’re not old enough to give consent.”
Duo laughed, a little snicker of a laugh, then a great big holding onto the railing laugh. “I hope I’m cool like you when I’m old!”
“You’re never going to get old. You’re going to live forever with Heero, right?”
“Yeah, yeah. God, I want a coffee! Where is that plane? It really oughta a been here by now. Ain’t no planes landed in twenty minutes. It’s freakin strange.”
“I’m sure it’s just scheduling or something. It is very late and there aren’t any notifications. I could ask about it.”
“Un. Let’s get me a coffee an I’ll ask.”
Sandy’s face flickered through an avalanche of thoughts and conclusions. It was an old conversation that went something like, ‘Don’t commit felonies.’ to ‘Okay.’ to ‘What are you doing?’ to ‘Uh....’ to ‘Duo!’ to ‘Wow!!! Look over there at that thing!’. Sandy was pretty sure that he’d been a party to more felonies since becoming Duo’s parole officer than he could have imagine were even possible before hand. Retirement was coming. It really was. “Okay. Coffee. You check in on your blog,” he said with a twitch to one eye.
“I just,” Duo said, throwing an arm around his parole officer’s shoulders as they walked back to the nearest coffee shop, “Want to check my stats, you know? I think people really like that anti-bullying post I wrote, at least better than the article on how to make those seeds fertile again. Seriously, how was I supposed to know that would get me a cease and desist letter? I thought it was a design flaw.”
“Someday I’d like to see the world from your point-of-view, but not until my brain runs faster and my car is paid off.”
“Told you... I can help you with that shit.”
“No. What kind of coffee do you want, Duo? I’ll buy.”
Duo sat down, pulled out his laptop, eyes getting that glazed over busy look as his fingers settled on the shiney worn keys. “Caramel, triple shot, skim, double whip, shot of protein, frap.”
“Are you trying to be able to fly to meet the plane like superman?”
Looking up from his screen, Duo blinked a little lost for a moment, “Oh and a shot of peach if they got it.”
“Sure, no problem,” Sandy said, wandering off because he knew Duo was done talking for the moment.
At the counter, the girl kept looking around Sandy to stare at Duo. She was a little older than Duo, but not much, and still had the expected level of innocence about her.
Exasperated, Sandy took to leaning just a little bit to block her view, until she looked up at him with big brown eyes, a slight flush to her cheeks, and he wanted to smack his hand to his face. Love at first sight... just like chicken pox, but it happened later in one’s development.
“Is that ... Duo Maxwell?” She smiled, swallowed, smiled a little wider.
“Well, just cuz if it is I’d like... his autograph, pleeeeaase!”
Sandy’s head felt light. Part of him really just wanted an internal accounting of how he’d gotten himself into his mess. “Why would you want Duo Maxwell’s autograph?”
She rolled her eyes, handed him his receipt, which had comped out Duo’s coffee. “Where have you been? He writes the blog on Baby Blue Astro and he’s brilliant. It is him, isn’t it?”
It was like being responsible for Britney Spears, if Britney was at once a fighter pilot, snarky writer, and an underaged bio-engineer with no respect for other people’s intellectual property. He was never going to make it to retirement. He was going to end up in prison. He took a deep steadying breath and reminded himself that he was in this because he was going to take care of Duo, even if Duo didn’t know he needed to be taken care of and the rest of the world couldn’t decide if they wanted to lionize or cannibalize him. “One way or the other, you’re at work and you should be have in a professional manner towards all your patrons, no matter how you feel about them. My young companion just wants to check on his blog and drink his coffee.”
“Yeah, well, something must be wrong because your young companion looks like he’s gonna explode.”
Sandy spun around, to find Duo typing intensely, all the color gone from his face.
Forgetting their coffee, he moved back to the table. “What is it?”
Duo stopped typing, a hand moving to cover his mouth, violet eyes lost to calculations for a moment, then he motioned to his screen.
To Sandy it was all gibberish. Something to do with the airport’s tower, an air marshal, an obscenely large number that probably shouldn’t have had a money sign in front of it. “I don’t understand.”
“There are ten planes circling the airport right now. Heero’s on one of them. One of them has been taken over by a hostile ground source and they are threatening to ram other planes if they are not paid or if planes begin to land. Other planes are not being warned, because doing so will cause the hacked plane to attack.”
“That’s complete paranoia.”
“That’s complete paranoia.”
Duo stuck a finger in his ear, twisted it back and forth for a moment, then smirked. “It’s only paranoia if you’re wrong. I got a plan.”
“It’s not up to you to save the world.”
“Well, now that’s where yer wrong. It’s up to all of us to save the world. You and me, we’re gonna save those planes.”
“I’m sure there are people, competent people working on it. Maybe the Preventers are even involved.”
“Naw. I emailed Une. I don’t like her none, but she’s the head of the Preventers. She hadn’t heard about it.”
Duo’s machine beeped again and he switched into his inbox, opened her reply. “See? Une says these folk a had at three other airports an it’s just not gettin in the news. She wants yer permission to commission me as a captain in the Preventers, so I can fix this shit - like legally.” His head titled back, lips parting. “OH man, that means I can just divert the payment that the airport is trying to give to those folk. Man. That sucks.”
Sandy sat down like gravity had suddenly doubled. “Duo Maxwell, how do you propose to solve this problem? You are only barely seventeen! You can’t be a captain in the Preventers!”
Duo wrinkled his nose. “I guess that means I could keep the airport’s money.”
“No! I want to talk to Colonel Une! Give me a phone number.”
“Okay, but we got like maybe fifteen, twenty min to fix this before someone’s likely to get hurt. They’re asking for more money than the airport has and there are 975 passengers at risk.”
Duo wrote her number down on a napkin and handed it over about the same time the love struck girl brought their coffees over. “Duo?”
He looked up, took his coffee, smiled, when back to scratching out some figures on a napkin.
“Oh! What are you working on launching? You’re not going very high.”
“Uh,” he said, “Just gotta get to a plane.”
“There are usually easier ways.”
“Yeah, but this is kinda an emergency.” He downed a good bit of his coffee and grabbed another napkin.
She sat down in Sandy’s seat, as he wandered out of the shop, voice elevating as he talked to Une. Duo could so sympathize with both sides of that coin.
“Are people’s lives really at risk?”
“I got a space suit.”
Duo looked up, head tilting. “Is it sound. Origin?”
“Near as I can tell. I ran checks on it, but I haven’t put it under any duress. I got it surplus.. .cuz.. I well, I just... I’m gonna go to space someday. I know where there are some hydrogen tanks.”
“Fuck, this is gonna be dirty.”
“Well, unless you carry a mech control in your backpack, it isn’t going to work.”
“Won’t have been working on these designs if I didn’t have one.”
Her pupils would have turned to hearts if they could have done. “You have a mech control in your bag? You’re a perfect boy scout.”
“Eh. Come on, we got ten minutes.”
“Your friend just walked off.”
“I was counting on him and Une to keep each other busy. If it goes well, I’ll be back before they’re done. What’s yer name?”
“I’m Celia, let me clock out for lunch and I’ll show you out through the back.”
They didn’t have time to check over her space suit again, though Duo did his best as he put it on. While he was doing that, she liberate a medium duty exoskeleton used for luggage handling. The plan might not have worked if she hadn’t been spending too much of her free time drooling over mech and things - so the folk who worked there knew her and didn’t mind if she made off with one for a while. The hydrogen tank was harder to get, but luck seemed to favor them.
As they were just adjusting the improvised exhaust nozzles, one of the smaller planes, which had had less fuel to begin with began a too fast and too wobbly descent.
Celia cursed, a hand over her mouth, eyes huge. “They’re going to crash! We have to help them!”
“Hey! Nozzles, fix that last adjustment!”
“But the plane!” She cried, eyes locked on the desperate little plane, as it hit too hard, lost its landing gear and spun hard on the rough pavement, leaving debris in the path of the next unlucky plane, trailing black smoke.
War echoed in Duo, the cries of dying who were long since dust. Their cries didn’t bother him, most of the time, but reawakened ghosts are often hungry. “Celia! Damn it! Make that adjustment! Then get that debris off the runway!”
Stunned, she knelt behind him, making the last adjustment to their jerry-rigged rocket. “Duo... how are you going to get back down?”
“I can pilot a plane,” he said, looking over his shoulder at her before his visor slide down and he ran out of the hanger.
As his rocket fired, giving him more than enough thrust to climb into the sky, other stunned luggage and airport personnel gathered.
“Come on! We have to get that debris off the runway!”
Fire trucks were on their way ruined plane, but there were so many other planes that needed to use that runway. It was a small airport and it did have two other runways, but they were for small planes only and could make take half the planes trapped in a holding pattern.
Heero had been so good. He hadn’t broken any particular laws in a very long time, but he wanted his computer. He could feel that something was wrong. They had been in a holding pattern for over an hour. Something was wrong.
So... Okay... he wasn’t really supposed to have a computer. Stupid court order. But he did have one. It looked like a nice note pad and an expensive pen. It had been a birthday gift from Wufei, even though he didn’t actually know when his birthday was. It was also immune to the em pulses that his foster mother thought were necessary.
With them being this late, Duo was going to be like a small mammal gone rabid. Sex was going be nervous and clingy for days. Heero wanted to hurt someone. He hadn’t had sex in over a year and while that hadn’t seemed like such an issue a year ago, it turns out it was an issue and the closer he got to Duo, the bigger of an issue it felt like it was. He wanted long and slow and tender. He wanted tantric with a hint of Lavender, like Duo’s favorite shampoo, like the actual lavender that Duo had managed to send in the mail, also a birthday present, but well, now he was just done.
He’d been daydreaming about seeing if there were parachutes for half an hour when the lead flight attendant leaned over and addressed him. “Mr. Yuy, the captain requests your presence in the cockpit. There is an urgent communication for you.”
Of course, Heero wasn’t traveling alone. His relationship with his parole officer was good, but the office there had still insisted on a US Marshal traveling with him. The marshal had never met him before and they hadn’t started out well together. The marshal had suggested handcuffs and Heero had held out his wrists with a ‘sweet’ smile could have translated, ‘I can pay the price for that, can you?’. Heero’s parole officer and foster mother had both interceded, talking about what a good boy he was, how he won’t be any trouble at all, that he was kind and gentle, peaceful, and he was nothing at all like Duo Maxwell.
The marshal never did get over that smile that Heero had given him though and now held up his hand. “Mr. Yuy is not having communications with anyone until I transfer him to the custody of authorities in Wyoming.”
“I’m not a prisoner.”
“You don’t understand, marshall, the captain is requesting his presence because there is an urgent communication. It is following the death in the family protocol.”
“He doesn’t have any family,” the marshal snapped, grabbing Heero’s wrist.
All Heero could think of was Duo. He had family. Heero turned to face his marshal, the very edge of his lip lifting in a ‘smile’. “Take your hand off of me. I will accept this communication.”
“You’re dangerous and a threat to everyone around you.”
Hand snapping back, the marshal just glared. “I am going to report this.”
“Of course.” Heero undid his seatbelt and followed the flight attendant to the cabin. If Duo was actually dead, Heero wondered if killing the marshal would feel as good as he thought it might. He’d sworn off killing people though and he really had meant that vow, so maybe just grave bodily harm.
As soon as the cabin door opened, Heero caught a glimpse of too many planes still in the air. Next glance took in the instrument panel and the amount of fuel left. He might not have to take credit for killing the marshal after all.
The copilot handed his head set up to Heero with a bit of awe in his expression.
Heero settled it on his head. “Yuy.”
“Hello, Heero,” Une said cheerfully.
Okay given that Duo was actually dead, Heero decided that he could inflict grave bodily harm on her too. Suffocation seemed fitting. “Une. Maxwell’s status?”
“As far as I know, he’s fine. Annoying little bastard, but fine. I was talking to his parole officer when he slipped his leash. Do you have a functional computer?”
“Good,” Une explained the situation, promised Heero a captain’s commission, to have his criminal conviction overturned, which would include the prohibition against electronics, and all she wanted in return was a five year commitment to Preventers.
“Duo’s criminal record gets overturned too.”
“Ten years from you.”
“Accepted. You wish to know the location and likely identities of the persons attacking airports?”
“I’d also like to know what the hell Maxwell is doing right now. His parole officer is an unreasonable, stubborn, obnoxious man.”
Heero smiled, a feeling of affection for Duo’s parole officer making a home in his heart. “I am being accompanied by a US marshal who does not have a high opinion of me. He may prevent my activities.”
“Well, don’t kill him.”
“I would like the plane’s personnel to move him to coach so that I can work uninterrupted.”
“I’ll tell them. Thank you, Heero. I have always held you in the highest esteem.”
Some form of reciprocal sentiment was required. Heero’s eyes shifted back and forth for a moment, his jaw felt tight. “When I feared Duo was dead, I did not plan to kill you.”
There was a moment of uncomfortable silence and then Une said, “I’ll take that as high compliment. Enjoy Wyoming, Captain Yuy.”
Heero returned to his seat to find his marshal ‘friend’ had already been excorted back to coach. The power outlets were now available and somehow rumors had already circulated and he had offers of five different computing systems to use.
Duo’s teeth felt like they’d been shaken all the way down to his soul. Once he’d gotten to his target plane, he dropped the modified rocket. Using the mag grips in his commandeered exoskeleton, he crawled the skin of the hijacked plane until he got the landing gear uncovered and slipped inside. Using the added power in the exoskeleton he powered his way into the cargo bay. He slipped out of Celia’s space suit and realized his extent of tactical gear was a pair of ratty jeans and his favorite tee-shirt. Only then did he wish like hell that he’d thought about bringing a gun. What kind of idiot boards and takes over a craft without a weapon? Heero was going to give him such shit about this.
What he did find was a length of cable used for tying down cargo. It wasn’t much or ideal, but it was handy and at least it would be quiet. The adrenaline dump into his system as he let himself out of cargo into economy amped up his aggression and he wanted to wrap that cable around the bad guy’s neck and tighten it until there was penance for putting Heero at risk. In the war, he would have had earphones, loud music, but there wouldn’t have been much for after party plans. Wrapping the cable around his hands, larger and more lanky hands than when he’d been in the war, but just as feral and dangerous, he stepped in to the passenger area, scanning with all his senses for his target.
All he found was crying people clinging to each other. The stink of fear and dispair was the worst kind of pollution. It turned his stomach. As a calming defense, he snapped his cable between his hands, and, then, as if that was the last pop, a girl, skinny with long brown hair and clothes no less ratty than his jumped into the aisle.
“You leave my mommy alone!”
Duo stared at her for a moment. Their eyes locked. She was half his height and maybe a quarter his weight and yet there she stood, pale little fists doubled up, pink lips tight, gray eyes determined. His heart flipped, like the light switch for sanity coming back on. “I’m here to help. I’m not here to hurt anyone, except maybe the folk that are trying to crash this plane. Is anyone going to fight me between here and the cockpit?”
“There was a man on board,” a grandmotherly person sitting next to him said. “He parachuted off two hours ago. He said that if anyone tried to open the cockpit door, it would blow up the whole plane and that ... that they knew who we were.. that if we did that, they’d target our family that wasn’t on the plane.”
“Yeah, I think I’m gonna have to kill the folk who did this. I’m not gonna let anyone hurt your families.” Then when everyone was looking at him to see who he thought he was to be making such a claim, he smiled brightly and explained, “I’m with Preventers. Let me see what I can do, uh?”
A cheer when through the plane and no one tried to stop him as he moved up through business and first class. As he knelt in front of the cockpit door, he realized he didn’t even have lock picks. It was like he’d been... domesticated or something. He was gonna have to fix this.
“Uh, I don’t suppose anyone has any lock picks?” Or a voltmeter, a soldering iron, or a beer?
The grandmother had followed him up. “I have some crochet hooks.”
“Lemme see,” he asked, holding out his hand, while still studying the obvious looking bomb hanging on the door.
They clattered as she pulled them out, but by then he’d come to a decision. He’d built and disarmed a great number of bombs. This one was showy, but he was fairly certain that that’s all it was. It was at that point that he realized how very grateful he was for life of beat up cars and horses and open roads, of burgers, and illicit emails to Heero. It wasn’t really until that moment when so many lives hung on this one choice of his that he decided that war sucked. Violence sucked. He was done with it.
With that in mind, he grabbed the doorknob and turned. All that happened was it refused him, just locked because airplane cockpit doors are locked. “Where’s the pilot? Co-pilot?”
Grandmother pointed to them, a woman and man, sitting in first class with literally too little brain matter in their heads. “He shot them.”
“Oh, that makes sense. Flight attendants? Anyone that can open this door?”
“Dead,” another man said. He sat huddled in his first class seat looking like a presciption for a decade of therapy.
“Great,” Duo snapped. “Grandmother, can you stand back, or better yet, sit down here for a moment?”
“What are you going to do?” she asked as he guided her to an empty chair. “Son, how old are you?”
“Uh.. seventeen,” he answered as he sized up the door, looking for what might be weak spots, thinking about how he’d design the door if he’d done it. “It’s okay. I’m a trained professional.”
But at that point, Duo was pretending he was Wufei, including the elegant kata like movements before he took a running start and planted both feet against the door with as much impact as he could manage. The lock’s body language told him to fuck off, but the hinges gave.
A moment later he was into the cockpit and found Heero’s smiling face on the communication screen. “Maxwell.”
“Heero!” Duo screamed delightedly, dancing, braid spinning around. “God! It’s so good to see you! I’ve been waiting so long! Fuck I love you! You okay?”
“I am well. I have disabled the enemy’s control over this plane, but I cannot restore complete auto pilot and I can not land it.”
Duo sat down in the pilot’s chair, put the headset on, scanned over the instrument panel. “Well, this one’s old, but I can fly it. God! I’m so hungry! Are you hungry?”
“I will see you on the ground,” Heero said.
“You’re Duo Maxwell,” the grandmotherly woman said from where she stood in the doorway. “I thought you were a monster.”
“Naw,” Duo said, grinning euphorically, “But I am a professional bad ass. Now, Grandmother, if you would please take a seat, I need to land this plane with the least amount of bad assery I can get away with. Sandy’s gonna wanna chew my ass as it is.”
“No problem! Thank you for flying Maxwell-Yuy airlines where Mile High is the Rule not the Exception.”
She shook her head, lips tight as she tried not to laugh. “You really are just seventeen. So you were sixteen during the trials?”
“Hard to say, really, but I am kinda tryin to fly this plane and I ain’t flown one like this afore.”
“Yes, yes,” she said, wandering off.
The tower put several smaller planes down first, before they ran out of fuel, using the other runways for the really small ones, then it was Duo’s turn. He really wanted to buz the tower, but the worry that Sandy would complain at him kept him on the straight and narrow as it were.
Heero’s plane came in right after Duo’s. Duo had just made it into the terminal, running so fast he was out of breath. Before Heero could get in, Sandy had him in a hug, tight enough to make him squirm, a hand on the back of his head, holding him as if he were his son. “Brilliant boy! We are going to have a conversation about this!”
But then Heero was coming into the terminal and gundanium couldn’t have kept Duo from him. He went over the railing at full speed. Heero dropped his bag and grabbed Duo, spinning him around, feet off the ground, then dipping him back for a long and deep kiss. Still embracing as the kiss ended, Duo lifted Heero off the ground, fists full of his shirt held in his hands. Laughter and joy infected the whole crowd.
“Hi! I’m Sandy,” he said holding out his hand to Heero. Heero was shorter than Duo still, but while Duo was lanky and powerful like a whip, Heero was more like a blue eyed panther.
“Hi,” Heero mirrored. “Thank you for taking care of Maxwell.”
“Just doing my job. Now. I understand burgers are in order.”
“Foood!” Duo jumped up and down, making it harder for Heero to catch his hand. “OH man! They got the bestest burgers here, ‘Ro! Yer gonna love Wyoming!”
“I don’t speak Japanese,” Sandy said with a spike of worry and a touch of irritation.
“You learned to speak Duo. You can learn the odd Japanese word. I am hungry. I want sushi.”
Sandy rubbed his temples. “Duo? Do you know some place that serves sushi?”
“Let’s just go home. Mom can make sushi. I told’er it was ‘Ro’s favorite and she’s been practicing.”
Heero gave Duo’s hand a squeeze and Duo snuggled closer. “Yes. I want to go meet this family that Duo has been staying with.”
Note: Oh man.. I’m at nearly 5,000 words and I could just keep going... I might make another chapter of this bit of their lives. I’m kinda liking it.