fic: Santa Clarita - Value of Us- Halloween 2/?

Santa Clarita - Value of Us - Halloween 2/3


by Pink Whirlwind (Max)


Disclaimer: I don’t own Gundam Wing, but we’ve been together long enough it’s almost common law, and as I can’t own them, maybe they own me. :)


Notes: It got longer... it’s now 2 of 3. Sorry. :)  and now it’s 2 of ? ... by the time I write them all the way to the time jump.. this is going to be an utterly epic story.


Four days before Halloween


From the day that Mary asked them to take the little kids, they had 3 days until the party at the school for the little kids and a week until the actual day with the trick-or-treating.  Heero accepted his mission with his usual dedication.


Duo had great intentions. He told Heero about the costume he wanted and how he had a plan to do it. It wasn’t a complicated costume, just a cloak and a glowing green scythe. He could finish it up in a couple of hours. It wasn’t a big deal, really. What was more pressing for Duo was the bit of electronics he was so close to finishing. He was growing the motherboard in one of Danny’s labs and he had very narrow margins of acceptable behaviors he had to have from some of the circuits, so he was stimulating the changes manually, tweeking as he went.

Danny said that was the worst way to do it, but was willing to let Duo burn resources for the education of it. Heero remembered a couple of times when he’d thought he’d teach Duo a lesson along those lines, but while it didn’t always come out in Duo’s favor, it did frequently enough that it was statistically improbable that Duo’s intuition or gut was not an advantage, even on the most delicate of settings.


Besides, Duo had that glazed over look from when he was really working on something that mattered to him and wasn’t being easy. Heero was happy to do the other tasks so Duo would complete whatever it was he was doing.  There were things Heero wanted too and he couldn’t have them as long as Duo was glazed over and obsessing. So he worked on Halloween costumes and making sure that Duo didn’t over feed the swine because he wasn’t paying attention. .


It was probably only a matter of time until Duo figured out what happened to pigs on a farm, but miracles also happened around Duo, and Heero could never tell when they were going to happen. He couldn’t say that the pigs wouldn’t sprout wings and fly away, but well, being statistically improbable was something he did put a lot of trust in.


He’d collected the measurements and costume requests for all of the children. Washed the fabric so it won’t shrink later. He also got fabric that would made good pajamas. Allen had brought out a sewing machine for him. He was almost ready to complete the first part of the mission. That thought left him slightly nostalgic for writing up a final report. There had always been a sense of victory in the final mission report. One one thing, one had to be alive to write it, so there was a huge victory in that. For another thing, well, he guessed, it was just some written record of accomplishment.


“What are you thinking about,” Allen asked. “You need any help learning to use the machine or you’ve used one before?”


Heero looked at the man, face nonplussed. “I do not need assistance using this machine. I have never used one before. Those are incompatible statements. I am reading the user manual for the machine.”


“Well, you don’t have to be a dick about it,” Allen said, wrinkling his nose.


“I apologize. I appreciate your help.”


Allen, as far as Heero could really ascertain, was married to Mary, Martha, Marin, and Joel. Many things in Wyoming were outside of his previous understanding. They seemed very happy, even if Mary, Martha, and Marin were, at the very least, identical twins. Heero suspected that they were clones. Allen was a tall man with a well balanced build and ebony skin. His dark brown eyes seemed filled with more compassion and tolerance than Heero really had a way to measure. He’d never seen fear in Allen’s eyes and he suspected that the man was much older than he looked. He’d meant his words too, his apology and appreciation. He just didn’t know how to express things in a more believable way.


On a mission, he could be anyone, whatever was needed. In previous foster homes he’d been on a mission. The mission had been be what they want and don’t get into trouble or draw attention. That mission had turned out successful and he was back with Duo, living in what was probably the best possible home for Duo and he wasn’t on a mission anymore. Other than Duo, he’d never just been himself around anyone before. It didn’t always go well.


“I appreciate that, Heero,” Allen said gently. “Do you know what’s got Duo so fuzzy?”


“Yes,” Heero said, still reading the owner’s manual for the sewing machine he was about to use.


“If you can tell me what it is, I’d like you to do so, please?”


Heero looked up, scanned Allen assessing.  “I want something in return.”


“Okay,” Allen agreed, leaning on the workbench. “What do you want?”


“I want to buy the two pigs that Duo and I feed every day. I wish to continue to provide them a home here. I don’t want Duo to know that I’ve bought them.”


“Yeah, well, they’re already planned into our larder. I’d need to have a replacement of equivalent pork brought in. What makes those pigs so special?”


“Duo talks to them.”


“Uh,” Allen said, brow furrowing for a moment. “We haven’t really addressed that with him yet. Before you got here, we just thought it was better that he talked to the animals than that he didn’t talk at all. We thought it would diminish with your arrival.”


“His communication with no human species does not represent a mental unwellness.”


“Um,” Allen said tentatively.


“His suppositions are valid. He is pursuing a solid scientific process. I will acquire the same amount of pork from L1 and have it shipped in.”


“Why L1? That’s a bit pricey, yeah? If Duo’s got his heart set on those pigs, we’ll just get a couple more. We all help on butcher day. He wasn’t here when we did the cow for the year. It’s something we all participate in.”


“That is,” Heero paused, searching for the right word, “unwise.”


“It’s the cycle of life, Heero. I don’t think Duo’s squeamish.”


“He isn’t. He sees humans and animals as kin though. He does not see a differentiation between them, not on the level of value. On the colonies, meat is printed in factories. Nothing dies to make it. It’s much more efficient that way. If you kill his friends and attempt to feed them to him, he will have extreme mental unwellness and undo all the help you have given us.”


Allen sat there for a moment, then slowly laid a hand over his mouth. “If anyone else said that, I’d accuse them of hyperbole.”

“Accepted.”


“But you’re absolutely serious?”


“I am.”


“Will you help me?”


“Yes, of course. Stop shorting the pigs feed. That was you doing that, right?”


“Yes.”


“We’ll have to get one of those printers.... do they come in.. uh.. multi-flavor?”

“Yes. I will build you one. Duo is building a... a copy device that will record an imprint of a target neocortex and allow him to, briefly, experience that configuration.”


“Oh my god,” Allen hissed. “The human mind is not a computer.”


Heero arched an eyebrow. “Yes. It is. Would you be willing to help me cut these costumes out?”


“Yeah, sure,” Allen said, sounding relieved. “I love sewing. This is actually my machine too. Let me show you how to use it.”


“Yes, of course,” Heero said, scooting his chair back and closing his laptop.


<><>


Two days before Halloween



Duo was sure he heard meowing, unhappy and angry meowing. He’d been hearing it all day, but five minutes between classes just wasn’t enough time to find it. During a couple of classes, he thought it might be classmates playing some kind of recording, to get a reaction out of him, unnerve him somehow. Even watching carefully, he couldn’t catch any of them though. Right before his last class, he was passing a vent and he became convinced that he was actually hearing cats.


He fidgeted at his locker until the bell rang and then pulled out a multi-tool and went to work on opening the vent cover. His shoulders were a little wider than they used to be, but he was pretty sure he could still navigate the passage.


“What are you doing,” Olie asked. “Are you cutting class?”


Duo looked up from where he had squatted down and grinned with instinctive innocence, which was never effective and he knew it. “I’m not cutting class. If I were. I’d just walk out the front doors. I am attempting to solve a mystery.”


“What kinda mystery?” Ollie asked.


“Listen.”  


Ollie gave him a look, but a couple minutes later, and a couple of minutes is a long time in those circumstances, but a couple of minutes later a tried cat yowled unhappily.  


“What mystery? There’s some cats in the old garage. No one ever goes there anymore. They probably just got stuck. Let’s go to class.”


“Show me where this place is.”


“We’re already late.”


“Then what’s the harm.”


“You’re really not good at how this works, are you?”


“Come on,” Duo said, standing up and hauling his back and Ollie with him. “Show me.”


“You can’t get into it. It’s all boarded up.”


“Oh man, your standards are screwed the hell up. I broke into and out of secure Alliance and Oz military compounds. Some boards on a window doesn’t count as security.” Duo hadn’t let go of Ollie’s arm. “So where is this place?”


“Isn’t.. the stuff you’ve done.. isn’t that like secret? How did you even do that stuff anyway. You’re just a kid. I thought they like... framed you.”


Duo made a face, tipping his head back, so he looked like he was holding back, like there were some real stories to tell. “Well, they want me to talk about it, actually.”

And they did. They asked him at least twice a month to show up to his therapy appointments with a military appointed therapist.


“Really? So, you know, like talking to me could be helpful for you?”


“Sure. Where’s this place. I haven’t seen a boarded up place around here.” And he would have if it had been obvious. He made a habit of doing a security walk around campus at least once a week.


“It’s, uh, under the new garage,” Ollie said proudly. “After school, I’ll show you.”


“Yeah, that’d be nice. Thanks, Ollie. See you in class.” Duo shoved his hands into his pockets and headed towards the main doors.


“Why do you gotta go now,” Ollie nearly whined, running after him.


“The sounds those cats are making is getting fainter. I gotta get to them. If you say, ‘They’re just cats.’ We won’t be friends anymore.”


“That’s really mean. Why do you care so much?”


Duo stopped stared at him, eyes narrowing. “They are our kin. They have as much value as anyone. If there was a human child in there dying, would you give a shit then?”


“Well, yeah, but humans and cats aren’t the same?”


“Why not?” Duo had started moving again and was able to walk at a pace that made Ollie jog.


“Well, cuz, well cuz, we can talk and make stuff. We’re smarter than they are.”


“I’m smarter than you. That doesn’t make me more valuable.”


“How do you know you’re smarter than me. You don’t even speak proper English much of the time.”


“That’s cuz this dialect of English is a fourth language for me and I like the way I speak.  I’m smarter than you because I can do more stuff than you and adapt better than you.”


“Well, I’m smarter than you because I haven’t had detention as much and I’m not on probation.”


“And those cats are smarter than either of us because they can purr and get other beings to feed them, much of the time.”


“Then why are we cutting class to go help them?”


“See? That’s smart. Getting other organisms to do your shit for you.”


“In that case, viruses are smart as hell.”


“And they been around a long ass time too.”


“Yeah, well, viruses and cats don’t have souls.”


“I was probably born on L2. I don’t have a soul either,” Duo said. They’d reached the  new garage, which big enough to be a hanger for small planes. “Why is this place boarded up? Why even build a new garage? What happened?”


“About four Halloweens ago, someone burned down,” Ollie said, sounding a lot like that was the cover story for something more interesting.


“So why just build over it? Why not just get rid of it completely?” Duo’s eyes narrowed in contemplation. “Doing it this way made the whole structure less sound.”


<><>


Still Two days before Halloween


Heero sat in the computer lab at the high school. The level of his school work had jumped dramatically since moving to Wyoming and he was completing an online bachelor’s degree which the school was counting towards his High School diploma. He was required by his probation officer to attend the school every day, unless he had a legitimate excuse, and he was comfortable complying. His goal was still be as nondescript and unnoticed as possible, though he was less motivated by those goals than he had been.


He was picking up some enjoyable, if perhaps less than helpful habits from Duo.

“Heero,” Mr. Durham greeted him. Mr. Durham was the computer teacher, a perfectly decent and ordinary human being.

“Mr. Durham.”


“Where is Duo?”

“In Wyoming,” Heero said, keeping a straight face, though there was a micro twitch in his cheek that corresponded to a release of pleasure in his brain.


“Did he make it to class? He’s supposed to be here.”


“His class work is completed and turned in.” Heero looked up and gave his most innocent teenage boy who knows nothing non-expression. “I think.”


Mr. Durham pointed,  opened his mouth, closed his mouth. “You annoy me.”


“Thank you,” Heero said, feeling another rush of pleasure to go with the wicked sense of trust in the world that meant he didn’t have to be perfect.


“Tell him to show up once in awhile.”


“Yes, sir.”


“God, you annoy me,” he muttered as he wandered away.


Heero looked back at the ceiling, then out the window to a still blue sky that he shared with the incarnation of mischief and life. It was a very good day.

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