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fic: Santa Clarita: Arrivals: 4th of July

Santa Clarita: Arrivals: 4th of July
by Max

Disclaimer: I don’t own Gundam Wing.

Duo still hadn’t been back out of his room, but he had stopped putting the chair under the door.  The idiot blond man kept coming in through the window anyway.  These people were so strange! They’d just come in and talk  - for no particular reason - for hours.  Sometimes he just stared at him. Sometimes he tried to answer his questions which all seemed like stupid questions. What colors did he like? Did he like ice cream? What was the square root of 3829?  At first the questions had just been noise.  He was used to noise. There had always been noise on L2.  Quiet didn’t exist on a Sweeper ship.  Quite in the war had only been useful to listen for the approach of threats. If it wasn’t the blond guy, it was the dark skinned guy, or the angry woman - talk, talk, talk - like they were interrogating him, except they weren’t.

They told him about their childhoods and their pets and their research projects.  The dark one read him books by Mark Twain and then by Edgar Allen Poe.  Duo actually started sitting up then and paying attention during the Cask of Amontillado.

He didn’t recognize his own voice when he’d asked, “Read it again?”

He didn’t feel like himself anymore. His voice sounded scratchy and his skin felt  thin. Sometimes he thought he could hear Heero talking to him, but he knew that couldn’t be true.  Heero had rejected him.  The connection he’d thought they had in the wars where he could feel Heero loving him, that had all been insanity.   So there he’d sat on that bed, which he had only gotten off of to go to the bathroom that was only a few steps away.  He remembered thinking about how dry his lip was as he chewed it and how messy his braid was as he started working on it. “Read it again.”

He didn’t know how many days ago that had been.  A few, he guessed.  He sat there on the edge of his bed again, sunlight wedging its way through his blinds.  His stomach growled angrily. Something smelled... like want, like he didn’t even have words for the want. He didn’t want to leave his room though. He’d decided he’d spend the whole six months in this room.  But whatever they were cooking smelled..... good.

And they were laughing.

He rebraided his hair, slowly, waiting for them to shut up.  They didn’t.  His mouth watered.

It would be like reconnaissance, he told himself, the door opening up even as he thought it.  Hallway air hit him like the aftershock of a particularly unpleasant interrogation drug he’d had once that made him crave another hit of it for the worst way for nearly three weeks.  It smelled salty and sweet and like strange and exotic things and.... he pressed himself to the wall and crept silently down the stairs.  

Didi seemed to be having a good time pretending to be a cat. Duo felt a wave of affection for her and before he knew it, he was really close to the edge of the wall.

“We can see you,” the angry woman snapped.

“Martha, that’s no way to invite someone in,” the blond man charmed, “Come get pancakes and bacon, Duo.  You’re welcome.”

Duo peeked around the wall, jaw tight. The food looked funny. He didn’t understand why they took it out of the packaging all the time, piling it up on plates. Maybe all their packets had broken heating elements, but then the ones the blond gave him had been fine. They were just very strange people.  The earth sphere court had always hated him. Authorities had always hated him. Well, that was fucking mutual. He hated authorities too and they had stuck him in the middle of no where with crazy folk who wasted food.  There was almost no greater sin that Duo could imagine than wasting food.

The blond guy smiled brightly, took a drink from a long necked bottle. “Come on. Sit down. Have what you want.”

Didi wrapped her arms around his leg for a moment then reached to bat at his braid. “I’m a a cat and I caughted you!”

Duo’s eyes went really wide and it was hard to breath for a moment, then he smiled at her and looked back at the blond. “I want a beer.”

“No beer for you,” Angry Woman. “You have to be an adult to have alcohol in this house.”

“I’ll take it outside.”


“I’m adult.”

The woman who looked exactly like the angry woman, but was always dressed in so much fabric she was a walking disaster, flounced in, “No. You’re not an adult. Judging by the fusion in your bones and brain development, you’re almost sixteen. Try again when your radius is completely fused.” She smiled at him like what she’d said was deeply funny.

 He was super sure she was going to get sucked into an air vent one of these days. He was constantly checking for a good solid air vent. He expected he wasn’t going to find one though. The environmental controls were completely fucked in this place.  

“I’m an adult,” he said, firm, as if will alone could make that the truth and this whole humiliating experience would just go away.  “You shouldn’t waste so much food. It’s bad.”

Didi held up a piece of bacon to him that had been crumpled in her hand and he ate it as an example to them.  “It’s bad to take all the food out of the packets like this,” he said again, feeling a little responsible for them.  “It’s harder to transport and you can get bacteria in it.”

Martha stood up, lips tight, profanity just beyond the edge of control. “That’s why we cook food. You don’t eat anything that doesn’t come out of a packet - so don’t tell me about food. You’re not getting a beer. Now sit down and eat. It’s 4th of July and we’re all going into town.”
Flowers and Fabric swirled around, winked at him. “There will be carnival and fireworks!” Fingers spread, palms out, she moved her hands in a grand gesture, “It’s going to be a fabulous day! You,” she pointed at Duo, “are going to stay with Allen all day. You can help him with the little kids. You’re good with little kids.”

Duo had gone pale, eyes wide. “I’m no... no.. no... I’m a soldier.”

“Nonsense,” Martha snapped. “You do know what 4th of July is, right?”

Duo crossed his arms, lifted his chin, eyes narrowing. “Of course I do!,” but he was thinking... it’s the fourth day of July, the 185th day of the month, the 17th day of his imprisonment. “What’s it to you, uh?”

“Yeah, okay,” Martha snarled, picking up her plate and leaving the room.

Duo shrugged and sat in her place, pulling Didi up into his lap. He tugged one of her braids, ignoring the adults who he considered to be authority and therefore part of the oppression of the the world. “Okay! Show me how to eat this stuff, uh?”


A couple hours later, he was carrying Didi on his shoulders as they walked into the carnival. There were thousands of people there and Duo felt like they were all looking at him, staring, glaring, and it was hot and he hated the lack of environmental controls.

There was candy that was like a cloud though and it was crazy how much food wasn’t kept safely in packets. Everyone was smiling and laughing, except for the guy who owned the booth that had the fluffy unicorn that Didi wanted and all Duo had to do was knock down five bottles with five balls. The dude offered him his money back if he could do it a second time. Duo liked getting his money back. Allen had to scurry them away as the guy’s supervisor was arriving.


Alexander Bailey crossed his arms. “OH there is no way anyone can do that.”

Duo had slipped Didi and Allen for a little while and now stood with a bunch of other kids at the Hadron Whip.  “Oh this thing ain’t no thing,” Duo boasted. “I’m tellin ya, it won’t even raise my heart rate.”

“I’ll bet you twenty bux that it will,” Alexander said.

A pretty blonde girl wearing the strangest clothes Duo thought he’d ever seen ran up next to Alexander and snuggled his arm, sparking a flash of irrational hate and jealousy in Duo and for a very brief flash he saw Heero in a pleated skirt of white and blue, a half shirt in the same colors, V neck and a great big C on it like... she was Cuntman or something. Duo edited the mental image to be a D... but he wasn’t sure if Heero were supposed to be a Dickman or Duoman. “What the hell? Are you dressed like a superhero?”

She reached behind her back and for a very small flash, Duo thought she might be pulling a weapon him and imagined putting his elbow in Alexander’s nose, pushing the bone up into his brain then his fist in to her face. There was no fucking way he was getting shot again! The last one still hurt.

She pulled out balls of silver and blue, one in each hand and waved them over her head like some kind of deranged cat toy. She jumped up, shaking both the cat toys and her tits. Alexander turned and stared... and Duo was absolutely sure who the cat was.

“Idiot,” she teased, “What hell hole did they find you in? I’m a cheerleader. You should come to a game sometime. You’re too small to play football, but if you really can take the Hadron without even raising your heartbeat, I’ll get Gerta to give you an audition for the cheer squad.”

“What’da they do?” he asked surprised by the invitation and the unexpected connection that tied into his loneliness like a seed on fertile ground. “I can’t do nothing illegal.”

Alexander raised up both hands almost like a preacher or like he was imagining his hands weren’t empty. “OH yeah... you seem them chicks flying around and it’s totally illegal.”

“Idiot!” She smacked Alexander on the back of his head with a pompom. “Come out on Monday and see,” she said to Duo.

“Okay,” he said, shoving his hands into his jeans pockets. “So? You gonna give me me twenty bux if I can ride this shit and not get my heart rate above what? No more 65 bpm?”

“If you’re walking around the fair all day and you aren’t above 65 bpm, you’re some athlete.”

He lifted his chin, thinking about whitewashing fences. “So you give me 40 if I can keep it to 55?”

“What the hell are you up to,” Joel asked, speaking to announce his approach and coming up in Duo’s peripheral vision.

“Boy here says he’ll give me twenty bux if I can ride this thing and keep my heart rate at 65 or less.”

“Fuck,” Alexander said, chin lifted when he glared at the blond adult. “He’s gonna give me twenty when he can’t.”

“She says I can audition for cheer squad if I can do it,” Duo said, jaw shifted, eyes a little pleading.

“Okay,” Joel said, green eyes calculating. “So, you know if you’re going to try out for cheer squad, you have to register for school, actually show the hell up and go to all the classes. That means - you know - actually leaving your room.”

“Yeah,” Duo said, voice wavering, chin moving towards chest. They were all watching him though, and his heart rate spiked a bit. “Well, we don’t have a heart monitor anyway.”

“Oh sure we do,” Joel said, pulling off his own watch. “You can borrow mine.” He held it out to Duo. It was very thin, almost like a second skin.  Joel pulled out his phone, brought up the app that would display Duo’s heart beat.

“Great,” Alexander said, grinning with victory. “Give up the twenty bux, kid. What’s your name?”

“Duo,” Duo said, wrapping the watch around his wrist. “I ain’t actually got like, any cash.”

“Well, this is all for cheer squad then,” Alexander sneered.

“Yeah, yeah,” Joel said, pulling out his wallet. “I was meaning to give this to him.”
“Okay, Zip can hold the money then,” Alexander said, passing his twenty bux over to the cheerleader too.

Joel also handed Duo the tickets that he was going to need to get on the ride and motioned for him to go on with himself.

“Duo’s a strange name,” Zip said, watching the heart rate drop on the phone as Duo sat down in the ride’s cage like seat. “Is that like... a common colony name? Was he a twin?”

“No idea,” Joel said.

“There ain’t no way that anyone can do what he said,” Alexander said, watching the heart rate drop to 49. “He ain’t gonna die, right?”

“I doubt it,” Joel said.

“You’re not a very good parent,” Zip said, hands on her hips, brows furrowed. “Encouraging him to bet and you don’t even know if this is harmful for him.”

“I’m not a parent,” Joel said, winking at her. “I’m a intergovernmental conflict resolution consultant.”

Zip moved to stand well on the other side of Alexander.

The ride started full on, spinning the cages in six directions as they went. It was designed to keep a vomit shield between the cages because lunch did fly on every run.  Duo’s heart rate continued to drop until it was at 39, where it stayed steady until the end of the ride.

Alexander growled, “What is he fucking sleeping on that thing?”

“He might be. He seems to do that a lot,” Joel admitted.

“God damn it,” Alexander hissed.

When they let Duo off, he bounced over, braid swaying, a grin on his face. “That was fun! I wanna go again! But without keeping my heart rate down! Please! Please can I go again!”

“Yeah. You’re going to school on Monday, right,” Joel asked as he handed over a handful of tickets.

“Yeah! But just on Monday!” He said, counting up his tickets, before looking up at Alexander and Zip. “You... you all wanna ride too?”

“No fuckin me,” Alexander said, holding up his hands.

“Sure!” Zip said, “I’ll start teaching you some cheers for Monday!”

“Yeah? Can I hold one?”

“Sure!” she said, holding out her poms.

“Godfuckme,” Alexander growled under his breath.

“Yeah, he’s gay,” Joel said.

“Like that makes it better? If he was straight.. he’s too small to have a dick big enough for Zip, but fuck.. .now he’ll be her new best friend.”

“A person could have worse friends than him,” Joel said.

This time as the ride went around, Duo screamed and giggled. It gave Joel hope.


Didi and Rake slept on the blanket that Allen had laid out for them. The night sky had turned dark and Duo was happy to stay near the big man. All the lights and shadows seemed to carry every kind of threat and he was having trouble keeping his heart rate down. There was nothing to attack, no plan to make, only the constant noise and strangeness of thousands of people sitting around for something that he didn’t understand.  

Joel and the Three M’s had taken the bigger kids down to the lake to ride out and watch whatever hellacious display from there. Duo wanted to go home. He wanted his room. He wanted to talk to Heero. He wanted to fucking stab someone. Almost anyone would have done at that point.

Martha had offered him a sedative. He’d told her to fuck herself. She’d offered to taser him. He’d told her to go the fuck on and try, if she thought she could. Joel pulled them apart, tossed Duo another pack of cotton candy and so there he was, sitting behind the cooler, wishing he’d never let them drag him out like this. His skin was red and his head hurt and he hated everyone.

And then the first set of fireworks went off.

His hands raced over his body, patting for the guns he knew had to be there. He was at the battle of El Shon, desert hot, trying to make it back to his Gundam. Street fighting was bad, building to building, blood in the streets, ancient as paving, with women screaming and explosions rocking the night. He forced his heart rate down. It was hard to think when it was too high. Calmer, he fired and took out a sniper in a window three buildings down. It was hard to know which side was which and really there were four sides in that battle. Except for Q and his people, and even Q’s people might shoot first and worry later, if at all, but none of them were really on his side. He was alone. He would always be alone. Life was short. There was only the current goal and a couple treasured memories to visit.  A hand grabbed his shoulder. Very distantly he heard his name being said, but the hand was more pressing. He grabbed it, twisted hard, meaning to break bone, tear muscle, to make sure that hand could never put him at risk again. Then there was a shock to his system, like suddenly he was seeing stars, pretty stars, sparkling, tingling, face in the blanket. “Uh....”

“It’s okay,” Allen said, “It’ll wear off in a couple minutes. Just take a moment to breathe.”


“Yeah, that too.”  

More fireworks exploded. From where he was stretched out on the blanket, he could see the colors, the light, so pretty, flaring across the sky. They were like flowers of light. Then one went off that went off slow, like a color changing dragon. “Ohh,” Duo said, slowly dragging himself back upon to the cooler. “That’s pretty.”

“Yeah,” Allen said, offering him a cold bottle of pop.

“But... I don’t like this. Why? Why do they do all this? It’s .... bombs aren’t... pretty.”

“Well, they can be, but what they do really isn’t, not usually. A long time ago, like before we had colonies. Before we even knew for sure that the sun was the center of the solar system.”

“Whoah,” Duo said, looking up at Allen, eyes wide. “How could we not know that shit?”

“Well, no one had ever sent anything off planet before. We had to work out all the math just from watching things from the ground, with just bits of polished glass to make things bigger.”

“Wow.” Duo said, impressed. “Sooo this is about ... uh.. what do bombs have to do with math?”

“Okay... so imagine the map of the Earth. Think about where North America is and where Europe is.”


“So you know what a king is, right?”

“I guess, it’s like a guy who has a lot of money who gets to make choices. Quatre and Wu-man are kings.”

“No. Well, yes. Chang Wufei is the new Chinese Emperor, but Quatre is just a rich man. Back in the day, they believed that god picked who should be rulers and those rulers became wealthy, but they were also given responsibilities to care for the people. Because religion was part of why they had power, they had an investment in keeping everyone believing the same thing.”


“But when we formed this country, America, the United States of America, we wanted to govern ourselves. We each wanted to make our own choices about what we believed and how we lived. We wanted to have democracy.  In so doing, we offended the churches and kings of Europe, in particular England, so there was a war.”

“Suck. What were the mech like then?”

“They didn’t have mech.  They had guns that would blow up sometimes that fired metal balls. We didn’t have bullets yet.”

“No way.”

“Yeah,” Allen said, looking back over his shoulder. “And swords.”

“Like Wuffie?”

“Yeah,” Allen said, “but we remember those battles, that war, on the 4th of July because we have to remember those that fought for our freedom. We have to remember that freedom is worth fighting for - what freedom even is. We have to remember that to have freedom, we have to give freedom. This day is for those that have fought freedom. The fireworks is to remember that there is fire, but when it clears, when the battle was over, we were still standing.”

“So it’s for people who fought for freedom?”

“Yeah, kid,” Allen said, reaching to lay an arm around Duo’s shoulders. “Today is for you.”


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