Santa Clarita: Santa Muerte 2/2
Disclaimer: I still don’t own Gundam Wing and I think I get a little older every day, but my hair is still blue :)
Warning: There is a lot of world building on this and I guess, Santa Clarita has always been AU.. but it’s getting pretty far afield from GW as I start to explore the adult’s lives.
Joel’s strongest connection to another human being was to Allen, but his connection to M2 was a whole different kind of connection, maybe it would even be a deeper connection, but in all honesty, even ten years after opening his eyes from what he had thought was certain death to staring into hers, he wasn’t sure he’d even really fully started exploring how he felt about her. If his rebirth had been baptism, Allen had lured him into the water and put him under, but M2 was the one that pulled him up and into the air again. Allen made him want to be a better man, but M2 made it actually happen.
As they glided silently into the quaint 1800’s looking Wyoming town, she let the AI drive the bike as she set their camouflage and mind links. “Respond,” she prompted in his thoughts.
“Hey babe,” he responded in her thoughts.
Their distinctive and separate neural patterns brushed against each other over the Murphy private network, bleeding into each other like day and night dancing through twilight.
He could feel her presence in his mind as if she were a welcome and normal part of his very identity. It was like a kiss as she ruffled through his thoughts and feelings.
“You’re very excited over watching the boys tonight.” She pressed a little closer. “Why,” she asked lovingly, acceptingly. She’d known his neural patterns when he’d been little more dangerous predator in the flow of human experience, where his primary pleasures were killing and deceiving and accepted him as such. He felt a sense of acceptance and even warm pleasure at her questioning.
His kiss back into her mind was darker though, where her main values had always been and would always be curiosity and a love of truth - his gravitated more towards hunger and domination, even if that didn’t show much in his home life, anymore. “He’s just like me,” he said, “Just like I was,” Joel amended.
For a moment they shared a memory of Joel’s youth, of being a true sociopath, blond and pretty and deeply enjoying a small moment of cruelty, and then the memory snapped to his clan branding him with a small dark symbol, making his a wraith before they expelled him from the clan. Memories fell like pebbles in their shared mind, of things he’d done on Earth, the darkness he’d brought into the world.
She countered with memories of him saving lives and burning pancakes and taking care of Allen after he’d lost his eyes, before Martha had gotten him home and gotten them regrown, more recent memories of Joel playing with the children and being a normal human being. “You’re healed from your youth. The past is gone. We can only mind the present, J-kun.”
“Yeah, well,” Joel said in her mind, as both of them slipped invisibly into the tent where the boys were laying out the bones. “I’m just trying to help him. I guess he’s not as bad as I was.”
Invisible, M2 slipped her fingers through Joel’s fingers and touched her shoulder to his. “He was never branded a wraith and the clan that built his gundam followed that practice.”
“He wasn’t born Sweeper. Just adopted,” Joel shared, convening a deeply ingrained touch of tribal exclusion that meant on some level, in his deepest thoughts Duo was not really Sweeper and never would be.
M2’s sunlight colored thoughts pressed into Joel, wrapping him in love like an Arctic summer, light that would never end, “He’s Clan Allen now and so are you.”
Physically, Joel forgot to breath during her embrace, even though neither of their bodies had moved a millimeter from where the’d positioned themselves. There was always the chance that one or more of the precocious brats would have sensing technology that could pick them up, despite having the best in stealth tech. Joel didn’t really have the words or thoughts to describe what that level of love and acceptance felt like, but in such a short kiss, he couldn’t find the connection to feeling like Duo wasn’t part of the clan or even that he, himself, didn’t deserve to be. For the very shortest moment of time, he doubted plan he’d put in place days before, right after Duo had pulled the scam with the cow.
Then Heero triggered the device he’d built from Duo’s plans and time bent around, spreading consciousness out like silken kites in the winds of a hurricane... Joel and M2 clung together as if they were one being. Needing the concept of bodies, Joel focused on that, on her body pressed to his, his arm around her smaller form, the storm at his back, one hand in her hair, and he loved her with a huge measureless love that covered her and Allen and her original form Martha, and Mary, even though she was the last in the bouquet. If that had been his last moment, holding M2 in a quantum time storm, he could allow that... and his mind went to the moment he’d nearly died, the first moment he’d met her... his consciousness caught into that moment and he felt himself slipping away like sand through fingers, until she was holding him, catching the grains of his being as if each were beyond precious to her. He found his being again with her warm lips against his ear, whispering in a dark honey voice, “I love you.”
He had a moment there, feet on the ground, shaking arms holding her up off the ground, until the most blood curdling scream he’d ever heard cut through the night with more chaos than a localized quantum time storm could, evidently.
He spun, instinctively pushing M2 behind him, and there was the holographic AI he’d planned on scaring the crap out of Duo with... she was great looking, like some dark lady misty ghost with long waving black hair boney fingers. Right across from her though was a woman. Joel’s and M2’s sensors all swore she was real, biologic human, coffee skin and dark hair, battle make up on, a glorious headdress of feathers almost as long as Duo’s braid. She also had a long stone blade in either hand and a look of sheer terror in her eyes that even Joel had to admit that Duo couldn’t have manufactured.
“Aztec,” M2 hissed, verbally, as they both dropped their stealth.
The Aztec woman screamed and it was a scream that set time on edge, giving Joel time to think that if a Rebel yell had sounded like that he was fucking glad it was gone. Her scream was like fire on his nerves and made him think he was an innocent five year old like he’d never ever been. It also made him want to puke.
The Duo screamed and it was more like a real five year old, some level of innocence and fear like Joel had never personally known and in that moment he fully realized that he and Duo weren’t as similar as he thought.
Thought processes played out in Father Johnson’s revival tent like micro tornadoes vying for control of the growing hyper funnel. Dots connected on the Aztec woman’s face, and both M2 and Joel’s still connected thought processes understood that the woman yanked across time thought the hologram was an actual deity. Without knowing her history, they both understood that when she looked at Duo, she was seeing an offering she needed to make.
He saw it too and spun, even as he was still screaming, braid sticking out of his black ops suit just enough to make a handle. Heero reached for a pistol he didn’t have. Wufei’s eyes were wide and filled with terror and wonder and disbelief. M2’s thoughts pulled from Joel’s as she threw herself into finding and downloading Aztec language skills.
For Joel, as much as he’d loved murder and sorrow in other’s before, the idea of one of those stone blades going into Duo’s body was more than he could accept. The violet eyed monster was a cub to all that was a lion in Joel and he was across the sanctuary in less than a heartbeat, arm ready to palm strike the Aztec woman, but her history had to have included some combat skills as well because she was on him as fast as he could move. Her knee hit his chest, then her forearm, which had come through time with large stone beads along a leather bracer, was hitting the side of his face, knocking a tooth free as she rode him to the dirt floor.
Duo had completed a 360 spin and kicked her little finesse, but great willingness, knocking her right shoulder back, but she still managed to complete a downward strike, driving her blade down into Joel’s chest, just deep enough to knick his heart. She snarled, staring at how shallow her blade had sunk, then, on one knee still, Joel’s blood spraying over the gold beaded white linen shirt she wore, she looked up at what she surely expected to be her goddess.
Instead she found herself staring at a really pissed M2. There was no creativity to M2, not the way Duo would have had flames in his hair if he were as much of avatar as M2 was, but instead she was matte paint, deadpan, and in that moment embodying all the darkness she’d ever soaked in from Joel, sociopath and loving it.
Duo was on his knees, hands shaking around the wide stone blade, wanting to pull it out, but not sure that was the right thing. With a shaking hand, he touched the communication device in his ear. “Call Martha. Urgent.”
A moment later, Martha answered. “What have you done?”
“Uh,” Duo said, swallowing, trying to stare M2 down for a moment and being super keenly, gonna puke now aware of the real strange fucking lady with the OTHER GODDAMN stone blade in her hand being right behind him, “So like... uh.. M2 needs a tranquilizer and and uh... I’m real sorry, but I think Joel’s dead.”
“You’re going to go to prison.”
“Okay, but uh.. right now, can you come help, please?”
“Yes, fine,” M2 said out loud, using Martha’s pitch and vocal patterns. “Maxwell, what the fuck have you done,” she snapped, then in some language that Duo had never heard she looked right at Santa Muerte and said something that made the other stone blade drop to the ground.
As soon as the blade dropped, Duo grabbed Joel’s wrist to feel for a pulse. He caught a glimpse of Heero and Wufei and they were both absent from the space. That made him feel better. He needed them to be safe.
Father Johnson stamped in then, wiry and angry like contained lightening. “What do you vermin think you’re doing? I’m going to call the police!”
Martha, wearing M2’s body, turned and glared at him such that he paled and stepped back, eyes big and about as confident as any teenage boy.
Martha pointed at the Aztec woman and said, “There is your Santa Muerte. Ask her for what you will.”
His mouth fell open and he stared at the nobel Aztec warrior woman with no more ability to form sentences than a two year old.
“Well, then,” Martha said, “Please come by the Murphy Ranch sometime later in the day to collect your property that you have been so kind as to loan me. That is correct, right?”
The old man nodded vigorously.
“Good,” Martha said firmly. “We will also be discussing new career options.”
She turned her attention to Duo who was still kneeling by Joel, trying to figure out what to do. He looked up at her with a tear streaked face.
“Do you know what you did wrong,” she asked sternly, one hand opening up the pill shaped hovering medical evac tube.
“No, not really,” Duo admitted. Maybe moving the bones to a different location, with more security. “I didn’t know Joel was here.”
An automated medical transport arrived then and Duo started crying even more. “He doesn’t have a pulse anymore.”
“That’s probably because the fucker had a heart attack because someone put a stone blade into his heart. Do you want to fix him?”
“Yes!” Duo said, nodding, violet eyes wide and suddenly full of hope.
“Good. Help me get him into the transport. It’s time you learned some useful skills. You have too much time on your hands.”
“Okay,” Duo said, voice wavery. “He’s gonna be okay?”
“Yes.” she said, “I keep a spare heart from him in the lab. He seems to need one almost every year.”
“Are you Martha or M2?” Duo asked as the settled Joel’s limp body into the medical cocoon.
“Yes,” she said. “This is Zuma. You are responsible for her. Say hello.”
Duo turned, eyes huge, his head about to explode. His smile was spasmic, twitching as he tried real hard to smile. “Hi.”
She glared at him.
He felt like he was white as a sheet. “I thought being alive would be a good thing, ya know?”
She clearly didn’t understand him, but arched an eyebrow, elegant nose twitching.
Martha said something else in the strange alien language as she sealed the medical transport and sent it speeding home.
The tension dropped out of Zuma’s shoulders and suddenly she was laughing, hands over her face.
Duo’s face went red, eyes twitching, “What’d you tell’er?”
Martha almost smiled, but with a mostly straight face, she admitted, “I told her you were a wizard apprentice, a bad one.”
“Hey!” Duo squealed, pointing at Martha, “What did worked! My maths were right!”
Zuma just laughed more, smirking and acting kindred with Martha like there was some cross cultural agreement between powerful women. Father Johnson and Duo stared at each other. The old man shrugged and held up his hands.
“Get the motorcycle you came on.”
Duo nodded, looking around as subtly as he could for Heero and Wufei.
“They can run home,” Martha said firmly, “You can ride. You’re going to be working the rest of the night, wizard boy.”
The AI in Joel’s bike brought it around and Duo climbed on. Martha climbed on M2’s bike, spoke in that old weird language and then Zuma got on behind her. Silent as the fey, they headed home.
Martha kept the speed low as Zuma seemed to freak out a bit more at the higher speeds.
As they shot by the deputy’s speed trap, a flash of light caught Zuma’s attention and she turned to face him. He got a really good look at her face, battle makeup, dark hair tangling on the wind, and then she smiled at him, white teeth in the darkness. Their eyes locked for a moment and he decided it was time for a bit of Irish in his coffee. Yes. Yes, it was.