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Fic: Santa Clarita: Settling In: The Feather 4/4

Santa Clarita: Settling In: The Feather 4/4
by Max

Disclaimer: I don’t own Gundam Wing.

There was no such thing as a commercially convenient flight from the Ranch to anywhere. Joel had his own jet, way smaller than Wing Zero or anything made for war. He was a stealth operative and his jet used some of the same technology that Deathscythe had used.  Getting to New York wasn’t an issue for Joel. Worrying about how upset Allen was going to be with him, was.

The world was more than just Allen though and Joel trusted his commanders in Preventers, trusted that they understood how to balance the world and keep lives safe. If Duo was a risk to peace because there were people who would use the boy to reignite fighting. The real seed of the problem was that every political group had tried to reject Duo.  The US government had filed three lawsuits with the international courts to prevent his placement in the United States.

During the second lawsuit, a shadowy group had formed claiming to be the legitimate government of the United States, deposed illegally and claiming Duo Maxwell as their king. It was completely and utterly ludicrous. The group kept making gains though. They promised a primitive and intoxicating freedom - and promised that Duo Maxwell would defend the rights of all humanity, that he was sent by God to do so.  

So the international courts and forced the United States to take the boy and place him in the middle of no where, with skilled and ruthless guardians who would carry out orders to execute him if needed. Originally he’d thought the orders would be to disappear the boy, but when the orders actually came through they were for a public execution that looked like the group that wanted Duo as a figurehead did it, to make Duo look like a martyr and a hero.

It was the first time in his life that Joel seriously considered quitting his job.  There had to be another way.

As soon as he was in the air, he gave into a temptation that he’d had for sometime. Mary had become Martha’s lover before the wars, because of Martha’s biological research. They’d never talked, but he was pretty sure she had to know he was a Preventer’s undercover agent and know that he knew she was what was left of MI6. By sending her this message, he was actually quitting his job, giving his loyalty to the family, ragtag weirdness that it was, rather than to his agency. Sometimes that’s just the way shit went. He sent a detailed and coded message disclosing his position, the orders he’d been given, and a proposition that they work together to end the group.  God, he really didn’t want to kill the kid.


Mary was giving a dance lesson when Joel’s message arrived at her box. Internal sensors were aware of the urgency of the message, but she had nine students and a life that had come to mean more than anything before. “Lift your arms. You’re beautiful. You’re brilliant.”  

It wasn’t like she didn’t know what was in Joel’s message anyway. Everything was going to change.


A commercial flight from Cheyenne to New York would run in the range of five hours, given the type of plane and who was flying. The moment the plane left the ground though, Duo felt freer than he had in months, maybe ever. It was almost like kissing Heero. He pulled back and climbed. G forces squeezed the little plane and him, but he had been modified to deal better with it, trained and enhanced. It occurred to him that  if he could deal with gravity during acceleration, he ought to be able to deal with gravity while washing dishes, but it just, really, really, wasn’t the same thing. He wasn’t sure that climbing wasn’t somehow sexual, like he was fucking the very sky itself. The little plane hung together, sweet and tight.  At the height of his arc, he really wished he’d thought to bring some oxygen.

The descent was a whole different ride, fast and only barely controlled, just enough control to keep the wings from busting off. A gundam it totally was not.  The starboard aileron had stopped responding and worse, the GPS on Zip’s phone wasn’t exactly sure which building Heero was in. Zip totally needed a better phone. Sweat broke out over his forehead, dripped down his temple, and he just bleeding picked a building.

It had to be close to where Heero was.  It was just one city. How big could it be?

The little plane touched down lightly and then the breaks failed. His mouth fell open, eyes wide. The building across the street was coming at him very quickly. He pushed harder and the metal under his foot gave. The next thought felt cold in his mind, as if those neurons were never going to fire again. He didn’t have a parachute.
At  the very edge he suddenly started unstrapping to jump out and shit, shit, shit... there were going to be people in the dark valley between the buildings and he was going to kill... again... people like Didi and Allen and dogs and maybe Heero and there was nothing he could do! The straps refused to unfasten.  The nose went over the side and


Lightheaded, he sat there, wet all over, eyes wider than they’d ever been as something lifted the tip of his little plane up and pushed him back onto the roof.  God. It was God. God saved him.

Or he was dead and god... god was  coming for him and he sat there with his hands on the yoke, his mind melting down.

He was still sitting there, eyes forward, mind gone, when Joel ripped him out of the plane, jerking him one handed by the front of his tee-shirt.  He hit the pavement, skidded on his face, and rolled to look back at Joel spraying the whole little plane with fire extinguisher.

Duo scooted back, back resting against a vent.  Joel was something Duo had never seen before - an adult who could solve problems. He was strong and powerful and when he spun around, fire extinguisher still in his hands, he was pissed all to hell.

“You sorry little sonofabitch! Do you realize that you almost died and nearly took out a city block with you?  You pushed that plane beyond any reasonable limits and oh fuck me,” he growled, setting the fire extinguisher down and covering his face with his hands as he leaned back. “I’m going to be in so much trouble!”

Duo shifted onto his knees, his breath coming in ragged chunks, mouth wide and grief and fear and pain wailed out of him. Tension shook his arms, his hands, both up, in some primal prayer to no god in particular as he sobbed.  He felt Joel’s arms go around him, awkward and tentative and if he’d had any more sense about him, he would have pushed him away, but then the blond was hugging him tightly, petting his hair.

“What the hell was so important that you had to break your parole and wreck that plane, uh?” Joel asked after a bit.

Duo felt stupid as he wiggled his hand up to wipe his nose. “I gotta be back to school by the game,” he said, voice raw.

Joel had him by the shoulders, pushed him back just enough to see his face. “You were going back to the Ranch?”

“Yeah,” Duo said, looking at Joel as if he were insane. “Yeah, I promised Zip I’d make the game, but.... Heero’s in trouble.”

Joel sat back, rubbed his forehead. “Duo Maxwell you are an exceptional pilot.”

“Yeah,” Duo said leaning back against the ventilation shaft. “Yer not gonna get Zip in trouble are you?”

“No. I don’t give a shit about those things. Seriously, did you really think I’d only have the one tracker on you?’

“Yeah. So... you tracked me? Not like the government or anything, you?”

“Yeah. Me. I’m not good at parenting. There are two reasons I’m going to tell you what I’m about to tell you. The first is that I love Allen more than anything else in all of reality. He cares about you a very great deal and if I fucking kill you, he’s going to know when he looks in my eyes, and I can’t bare how he’s going to feel about me, if I follow those orders.”

“You’re supposed ta kill me,” Duo asked, pale.

“Yeah, but you’re also a really good pilot. You make calculations and move through space so easily. I am not going to kill you. I can’t. Do you want to be king of the Earthsphere?”

“No!” Duo said, drawing his knees back, jaw tight. “Kings and queens and shit... that’s not right. Allen told me about why we built America. Everyone gets a chance.”

Joel smiled, sighed. “Okay. There’s a group of crazies that wants to make you king.”

“Fuckers,” Duo said, arms around his knees.

“Yeah. So. What makes you think Heero’s in trouble?” Joel pulled out his smokeless cigarette and drew a long drag.

Duo held out his hand to want some too.

“Oh hell no. I’m more afraid of Allen than I am of my boss and there is no way I’m giving you nicotine.”

“It’s not like I haven’t had plenty of beer and nicotine,” Duo said, chin in his palm.

“You won’t be a kid forever. Now. Heero?”

“Yeah, okay,” Duo said, pulling out Zip’s now smoke damaged phone. “He left me a voicemail. Not the one about the salon shit, the one before that.”

“Okay,” Joel said, listening to vm as he put his cigarette’s battery to work. “So you’re sure that he’s distressed?”

“I think he’s going to try to kill himself,” Duo whispered. “Please. Help me? I’ll go to prison or whatever, but Heero... something’s hurting him.”

“You are not going to prison. You’ll make game. You’ll also never tell another living soul about this. Ever. Got me?”

“Yes. We can check on Heero? I’m gonna have to fix that plane too. I only borrowed it.”
“Kid, you’re gonna have to build whoever you ‘borrowed’ that from a brand new plane. You ripped the wings off with that insane reentry. I could hardly keep up with you and I have good plane.”

“Yeah. Yeah? Well, it’s shit compared to Deathscythe.” Duo sniffed, violet eyes glaring.

“That’s true, but maybe I’ll let you fly her home. She does have the same stealth technology that Deathscythe had.”

“Really,” Duo said, getting to his feet. “That’s why I couldn’t see her! I think you were God!”

Joel burst out laughing as he put his cigarette away. “As far as you’re concerned, I might as well be god.”

“Yer not god,” Duo said firmly, running his fingers along the edge of Joel’s personal jet. “She’s still warm.”

“We did have to fly hard to keep up with you, but WE weren’t on fire.”

“Oh yeah,” Duo said, turning back to the ruined little plane. “Oh man....” Duo said, moving to the poor thing, “Oh man... this is fried.”

“Someone is gonna be spending the weekend in the machine shop. Come on. You smell like smoke and I need to do a little research.” Joel pulled a hoodie out of his jet and tossed it towards Duo. “Let me show you around New York. Hood up. I can’t have you showing up on the cameras.”

“Yokay,” Duo said. The hoodie was several sizes too big for him, the shoulder seams hanging halfway to his elbows and when he pulled the hood up all that showed in the shadow was violet eyes. “Good?”

“No,” Joel said, holding out sunglasses. “Don’t mess those up. They’re mine and I like them.”

Duo rolled his eyes, but put the sunglasses on. “Okay. Now we look like a blonde perv and his twink.”

Joel’s lips twitched. “You’re such an asshole, you and I might be biologically related. Move, down the stairs, boy.”

“There ain’t no way I’m related ta you,” Duo said, but was on his way down the stairs.

Joel got them in a cab, and then into a hotel.  He ordered new clothes delivered, refused to buy Duo a new knife, actually smacked his hand when he attempted to pickpocket the smokes and bought them room service.  Duo ate sitting cross-legged on the bed, Joel’s hoodie baggie around him. “So you really were gonna kill me?”

“Thought about it.” Joel said, “I have his actual address now. He’s living with a senator’s family. Any chance I could just ask you to stay here?”


“Okay. Fine. The family seems to be out, so we will go, take a look at the place. If you don’t do what I say, even a little. I might actually kill you. Got me?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Duo said, “Just you know, if you’re gonna do it, something painless would be nice.”

“Don’t piss me off then,” Joel said, holding the door open. “Hood up.”

The building Heero’s foster family was staying wasn’t that far.  Joel turned out to be very good at taking freight elevators and had gloves in his pocket and he opened the door to the condo faster than Duo could have. It made Duo smile.

The place was big, for a box in a stack like this place was. Duo didn’t like the art in the place. It didn’t look... he wasn’t sure, other than he just didn’t like it.  He let himself out onto the porch because being in Wyoming was more like wide open spaces. Being on L2, at least in the areas he’d been in as a child had been open to him. The closed in boxiness of New York made him feel ill.  

On the narrow little balcony, he found a feather, gray with dark streaks.  That he liked!

“Put that down!” Joel hissed. “Pigeons carry diseases.”

“Hey! This is mine now,” Duo said, shoving the feather into his pocket.

“Oh man,” Joel complained, “You put a pigeon feather in my pocket.”

Duo wrinkled his noses as he walked by.   “This place gives me the creeps. I want Heero to live with us.”

“After he finishes his probation,” Joel said, working on the lock to the second room.

“This is Heero’s room,” Duo said, standing in the doorway.

“How do you know that?”

“Smells like him,” Duo said gliding into the room. He picked up a shirt from the hamper.

“Now that’s creepy,” Joel said, “Creeper.”

“Shut up.” Duo said, dropping the shirt, so he could bounce on Heero’s bed.

Joel was in Charles’ room and past the commercial security on it. The look on his face when he’d said he was thinking about killing Duo was down right joyful compared to looking through Charles’ files.  He quickly collected copies of the entire drive and put the computer back to sleep.

Standing in the door to Heero’s room, he found the boy some people thought ought to be king wrapped up in his boyfriend’s blankets, sitting there like a little violet-eyed Eskimo. “What the hell are you doing?”

“Uh. It just felt right.”

“Okay, well, come on. I have what I need to get Heero moved.”

“Are they hurting him,” Duo asked and a chill went down Joel’s spine.  

One moment the brat was a brat, and the next he was like the Black Plague the next.  “I’ll take care of it. I’ll give you proof that it’s taken care of. I’m the grown up. That’s my job.”


“Yup. We have about ten minutes to go. The mom is in the elevator.”

Duo nodded, slipping out of Heero’s blankets. He pulled the feather out of his pocket, kissed it, and slipped it under Heero’s pillow.

“Oh don’t,” Joel groaned. “I’m telling you pigeons have diseases.”

Duo grinned crookedly, struck a pose. “I’m like a cheer pigeon.”

“Dieu sauve-moi,” Joel swore, motioning towards the door. “Move. We’re going to have to fly hard to get you home.”

“Can’t we take Heero too? Please?”

“No, but he will be safe. I’ll get him moved all the way across the country. I promise.”

Duo stared at the hamper for a moment, but Joel had him by the scruff of the neck, powering him towards the door.

They made it into the stairs just as the elevator was opening.

Joel was nearly dragging Duo by the time they got out of the cab where the planes were.  The I- don’t-want-to-leave-Heero got met with I’ll-take-care-of-it at least a dozen times.  It finally ended up with Joel letting Duo pilot, so he could work on the problem. By the time they landed, Heero was booked on a flight to Seattle.

Duo actually gave Joel a hug, which made the tall blond squirm and make a face.

People were happy to see Duo though and he didn’t get caught putting his house arrest anklet back on. Zip was glad to have a new phone.  The cheers were good. The team still lost. Zip drove Duo home. He dreamed of Heero.


While Duo was at the game, Joel flew to DC.  He dressed nice this time though, hair pulled back into a ponytail, a black suit, as smile like ice. Amazingly, he had an invitation for the party that the senator was at and glided in like someone’s favorite son.  He was all flirt and smiles until he finally found the senator and then they were alone in a side room.

She was a tall woman with dark eyes. “I knew you were too driven to be a gigolo.”

“Alas,” he said, handing her an envelope full of photos.

She glanced through the photos, not even a flinch of expression on her face because of the damning photos of her son and her foster son. “What do you want?”

“As you know, Heero was relocated earlier today,” Joel said, wishing with all his heart he could have a smoke.

“Yes. I was aware. I thought there was a security risk.”

“Well, I’d say that those photos represent a security risk. What I want is to make sure that your son gets helped so that he doesn’t take advantage of vulnerable people again. That way he’s much less likely to come to harm.”

“Are you threatening my son, Mr. Rivers?”

“No. Not at all. I just thought you should know. What you do with the information, is up to you.”

She pocketed the photos. “I’ll take care of it.”

“Good. I don’t want to have to.”


Joel made it back to Wyoming, but missed the game. He got a message from his boss that he still had a job, barely. Mary gave him a file with useful information. Martha suggested that he pay his part of the household expenses soon. M2 complained that his invisible plane was bothering her chickens.

Allen just gave him a smile, accepted a hug, and lifted him off his feet with a return hug when he whispered, “I’ve been to New York twice today, didn’t kill anyone, passed up on an excellent blackmail opportunity, and I really want a blow job.”


Heero was very happy to be moved to Seattle. On the plane, his fingers brushed over and over a single gray feather.

On the whole, it was an okay day.


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