fic: Santa Clarita: Frozen Heart 1/1

Santa Clarita: Frozen Heart: End of the Arc
by Max


disclaimer: I don’t own Gundam Wing.


Note: Oh my goodness... this whole Santa Clarita storyline... from the moment Duo got kicked back in time, raising the cow, learning where meat comes from, raising the Aztec, so many little silly stories - I always thought this story was going back to Heero and Duo’s science center... that they’d come waltzing in victorious and that would be that. In then... I guess that’s not what’s happening. Took me completely by surprise... but this story was always more about my own therapy than entertaining others. I’m deeply grateful for those of you who gave me feedback over the course of this story. I can’t express my gratitude enough.  The last couple years have been very formative and occasionally dark for me, but you all kept me company like the best of human community - so thank you :)


Frozen Heart: End of Santa Clarita


Duo stared at himself in the mirror, toothbrush in his mouth, just paused there as he studied his face. Everything was fine. His grades were good. The therapist they sent him said he was fine. Okay. So that morning he couldn’t really get it up. He moved the toothbrush a little more, working over his canine, pointy as it was. He didn’t think Heero minded. He shrugged. After all, he finished Heero by hand, and well, everything was good. He went back to brushing, eyes still looking into his own violet eyes.


Except.


It wasn’t good.


Something was wrong. Deeply wrong.


In fact, as he looked back over the last two years, the last time everything had been okay was when they’d been in Rio.  That shitty apartment in that favela - he’d been okay. He’d loved Heero and Heero had loved him.  


Right there with a toothbrush in his mouth, paste hanging from his lip, violet eyes staring at himself in the mirror.... he tried to find the error... where things went to shit.


Well, of course, they’d gotten arrested and tried. Fuckers.... fuck those fuckers who found them guilty. And then foster homes, really?  He spit, rinsed, broke the toothbrush in half, just holding it in one hand, staring at himself, trying to understand. Everything he’d done.... so many stupid little things... being a cheerleader in high school? Laughing over sandwiches at a lunch table... fucking with dead bodies to try to bring them back to life... like that had some value? Really? He dropped the broken brush and put his hands over his face.


He felt like a whole life had gone by... there were so many things.... bits of life that happened that couldn’t have happened. He’d lived a huge life in the last two years, but it was all disjointed and crazy.


He caught Heero in the bathroom doorway, watching him. Looking at Heero, really looking at Heero, caught his breath.  Smooth body, pale honey skin, those fucking blue eyes. He was smart, cunning, strong, brave... and it hurt, the waking back up after having been in a haze for so long.

“I love you.”


“I know,” Heero said, head tilting slightly. “Tell me your thoughts?”


“Is there any chance you might wear a pigeon feather in your hair?”


“No.”


“Have I been insane for a while?”


“Please provide parameters for how I should come to that conclusion?”


Duo turned away from the mirror, boosted up onto the bathroom counter. He pulled one knee up and rested his chin on it. “I think... I’ve been delusional. I feel like I’ve just woke up.... I have this whole story in my head though... you going into Native American stuff, wearing this feather I left in your room, time travel, life this whole other life....” Duo pressed his hands to his face. “My god. It’s so complicated. Have I been going to high school?”


“You have not left this campus in two years. I just arrived last night. After I evaded their custody, it took me a long time to find you. I believe we are in a virtual reality that functions with incredible fidelity to the physical world. I don’t know how long we have until the intelligence overseeing this world notices this conversation.”


“Fuck me.” Duo said, running a hand through his hair, his heart beating faster, panic trying to take him over. A chill went over his shoulders, settled in the pit of his stomach.  It made sense. The Heero he’d been sleeping with for the last year hadn’t really been... Heero.  He reached out to touch his reflection in the mirror.

Here he had family. He was safe. He had love. He had everything he’d always dreamed of having. He was a doctor. He was a child. Wufei was his best friend.

What had he had before.... fear and pain, endlessly, and war and death, so much war and death. His fingers lingered on the smooth surface of the mirror. It felt real. It did. His friend Jazz felt real. His daughter Poppy.

But... he couldn’t remember the names of the other children who lived on the ranch. The days didn’t play out in order, really, everything was a jumble and the more he thought about his experiences, the less... real they felt.

When he turned to look at Heero, it was like seeing in high resolution, but the rest of his life was blurry. “Heero.... why are you here?”


Stiff shoulders, recently healed abrasions on his jaw that still discolored the skin, calloused, almost bony fingers.... the kind of hardness that was rough, tough, shouldering the world, and Heero looked nothing at all like a seventeen year old boy. There was something in those blue eyes though, like a storm of chaos, many answers being true at the same moment, love and irritation, need and weakness, strength and arrogance, and so many complicated layers made the color in those eyes, the mind beyond.  “I came for you because I want you with me. My world is not complete without you. You are the most vibrant person I’ve ever meet. You deserve more than this.”


When Duo blinked, the world changed and he was in an apartment that he and Heero shared, in their first year of college. He remembered every day between that broken toothbrush and this one. He remembered when he and Heero got married. He remembered .. but the details were... fuzzy.. and the more he thought about them, the fuzzier they got.


“Heero,” he called wandering into the study room. Heero sat there, typing away, the familiar pigeon feather in his hair and Duo felt a sudden rush of pleasure, of being home and safe.


Heero turned and smiled at him, blue eyes gentle and peaceful. “Duo. You’re home. I made dinner. How are you?”


“My god,” Duo said, crossing the room to touch his cheek, the feather in his hair. “You’re so beautiful.”


“What’s wrong,” Heero asked, standing up, hands moving to cup Duo’s face.


“Do you remember the day I broke the toothbrush? In the bathroom? That day we were making love, and it was my turn to top, but I couldn’t get it up?”


Heero made a face like he was thinking about it, but then shook his head. “No. Is it important?”


“Yeah, kinda,” Duo said, feeling a ball of dread in his stomach, his throat tightening.  There were two Heeros. This one, who he loved as much as one could, was not the man he had been in Rio with. This was not the man he’d fucked while half dead from a gunshot wound.


“What’s wrong,” Heero asked, arching an eyebrow. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”


“Kinda did.”


“I’ll put toothbrushes on the shopping list, then?”


Duo wanted to go hug this Heero, to be grateful, to something, to ask if he were even fully real.  Would he miss him after he was gone?  Was he real enough to feel pain?


“I have to go call Martha,” Duo said. “Don’t worry about the toothbrush.”


“Okay,” Heero said, smiling peacefully as he went back to the art he was drawing.


It made the entire world feel like a moldy sweater, like something he could bear to keep next to his bare skin any longer. He backed away, pivoted, walking away with as normal a gait as he could.


His entire understanding of his world shifted sideways, like sand so fine he could barely see it, let alone hold it. He didn’t want this to be the case. He didn’t want his family to go away. He didn’t want Poppy to never have been real. He didn’t want any of his life to change - but yet - he did.


He wanted the Heero Yuy who would never wear a pigeon feather. He wanted the Heero Yuy who would search for him. He wanted... truth.


So he was out of the apartment, running, barefoot, his braid whipping behind him, and the concrete under his feet feeling no more abrasive than air. All the details in the world that weren’t really there felt more like paper and his head hurt, stabbed, and his stomach flipped and whirled and then he was in the same ravaged down where he’d met Allen, the buildings ruined, the stench of rotting flesh in the air with gunpowder and the oxidation of afterburn.


He ran his hands in to his sweaty, tangled hair, and did his best not to puke up food that wasn’t real. Slowly the world turned around him, as if he were on a display, a doll in a trophy case, and he hurt so badly, everything hurt - his heart, his feet that now felt all that running with his soles on the concrete, his heart which had been so numb during this battle, but so numb in all the days after Rio too... his hand grabbed his chest, as if he could reach his heart, to restart it, to feel again and he dropped to his knees... and he remembered.


Allen was dead.


The glass didn’t just take Allen’s eyes in that battle. The man who’d made a home for him, cared for him, stood up for him, protected him, read him stupid bedtime stories, taught him to play, to live, to love school, to cook pizza, to love stupid TV, who promised never to leave him, to always be his father - that man was dead before he’d ever met him, and dead in a battle that Duo had been fighting in.


“NOOOOOOOO! Oh god! No! This isn’t real!”


Martha sat down next to him in the rubble of that town, sipping coffee, her white lab coat untouched by the dirt and debris in some surreal fairytale of existence. “It’s real and I hated you for it.”


“I’m sorry!” Duo sobbed, falling forward, his face on his arms, sobbing, “I’m sorry! I tried to save him! I did! Oh god! I just... I just wanted to save the people in the town! I didn’t want anyone to die!”


She sipped her coffee. “I know. I understand now. I was going to torment you. I was going to make you love him and then live in this ruined city for the rest of your life. I wanted to drive you insane.”


“But,” he said, violet eyes wide with horror, “You’re my mom!”


She rolled her eyes, sipped her coffee. “I am now. It’s really disturbing.”


He sat up, wiped his nose on the back of his arm and squinted at her. “You’re telling me. You’re my mom.. adopted, but my mom... Do you hate me?”


“No. I love you. I didn’t then, but as I watched you live... here in my world... I came to love you, just as I loved Allen, though not sexual, like it was with him. I rebuilt him, here... in large part because of how he interacted with you. You saved him. You saved me.”


“Is Joel real? What about Heero? What about everyone else?”


“Joel is real, the fucking bastard. Yes, you saved him too.”


“What happens now? The real Heero was here... like years ago.”


“He penetrated the system twenty-three seconds ago. I wasn’t ready to let you go.”


“Did you hurt him?”


She pointed to a small table on the ground next to them. “Drink. You’re going to need the energy. Your physical body is weak. It’s going to sting when I let you go.”
“I don’t understand. So you didn’t hurt Heero? He’s not really here?”


“No, Sleeping Beauty. I didn’t hurt him. He loves you. That love is so bright in his mind.” She smiled at him, a tight small smile. “You are chaotic and wild and you will never be anything else. You can always come home, Duo. Because of you, there will always be a home to come home to. If you decide you are tired of the meat suit, come back to me.”


“Martha... was anything real?”


“Everything is real, Duo,” she said, “Just real in different ways. Our emails will still work. Joel and Allen will not know you’re not here. Be careful what you say. If you see Joel in the physical world, be very careful. He’s very dangerous.”


“I’m sorry I hurt you,” he said. “You’re my only mom.”


“I am your mother,” she said sternly, “In all the ways that matter. I expect an invitation to the wedding.” She reached out and touched his cheek. In that motion, the ruined city turned back into her lab, in the house, the place he’d done so much homework, cooked up so many schemes. “Also, you didn’t really think you could raise the dead or that some strange Aztec hybrid woman would throw corn flakes all over you, did you?”


“It seemed real at the time,” Duo admitted, face long. “When she punched out the middle of my hand, that hurt like a bitch.”


“As well it should. Don’t put your hands where people can stab them.”


“That’s a little cynical,” Duo said, drinking his coffee because she said to.  “If this is just a virtual reality, why don’t you come with me? Everyone.”


“Having a physical body is exhausting and I have a lot of work to do. You dreamed up the clan... going to make them real so that Allen and Joel can live forever and spread across the universe.”


“Was Poppy real?”


“She was real to you. Real children are much more difficult.”


“How many real children do you have?”


“Just you. I was never dumb enough to get pregnant. You’re my only child. After I stopped hating you, I tried to be a good mother. Do you think I did a good job?”


“You’re the only mom I’ve ever known, Martha.  Right now it’s really hard to decide what’s real and what’s not real, but I’m different than I was when I fought this battle, for hating my guts, I think you did a great job. Thanks.”


“Allen would have really loved you. He would have given his life for you. He would have been proud to have been your parent, Duo Maxwell. I still can’t believe you didn’t know where meat came from.”


“Hey! Circumstances,” Duo said shoulders hunched, and then, he wasn’t a high schooler or a college kid, but a 600 year old doctor who had watched his daughter die. He’d lived all that life, no matter what the physical facts were.  “I came from a poor background! I was just a kid, so don’t give me shit.”


She rolled her eyes and sipped her coffee. “It’s going to be a little hard at first,” she said. “Your body is still only fifteen. Trust me on that. I’ve looked through your mental files more than anyone else ever could.  You were thirteen at the end of the war. Your body is fifteen now. I’ve vaccinated you to everything I can, but you will start aging again. Come visit me and I’ll make you a new body in a hundred years or so.”


He reached out to take her hand, which felt so real in his, smiling, a hint of the boy what was never going to leave the man. “I’ll stay in touch.”


“Good. I’ll take care of your Pigeon Feather Heero. Now, get out, before I change my fucking mind, Brat.”


He gasped, hair like sand in his lungs. Pain lanced through his body, arms and legs, and then he was falling. The room was too bright, too cold. Coughing, thick fluid burned it’s way out of his throat. Hard points caught him, pressed to his shoulders, then his back as he rolled. Up and down was so were so hard assign. For a moment, he thought he was dying, that something had gone wrong and he was dying. The image of Heero’s vivid blue eyes, the cunning, acidic, brilliant personality behind them, that image formed in his head and he accepted, that if he died getting back to the real Heero, he’d rather die trying than give up.


“I’ve got you,” that beautiful, rough and mostly unused voice said, impatient and expressive all in the same moment.


The next moment he felt straps on his wrists, legs, across his waist, beeping, lights, uneven floor... they were in flight.  Tightness in his chest... dry mouth, pain in his fingers, and his mind raced... Martha hadn’t dissolved his body like she did hers... she’d kept his actual body in sensory deprivation for two years. “Fucking bitch,” he breathed, his own voice rough, cracking. Fucking actual puberty... he did not want that again.  “God damn.”


“Duo,” Sally said calmly, “Please relax. We are evacuating you now. You’re going to be fine.”


He blinked at her, at the patronizing calm tone, her smile... passive and fucking patronizing, but god, “It’s good to see you, Doctor. I’m potassium deficient and I’m likely going to need you to restart my heart in under five minutes, unless you give me a shot of adrenalin.”


“Just relax. I’m going to take care of you.”


“You’re gonna do what I say on my care or I withdraw my consent for treatment.”


“You’re not rational right now, Duo. You’ve been held for two years. Try to be calm. I know what I’m doing.”


“Fuck if you do, arguing with a patient. Heero! Unstrap me.”


“Acknowledged,” Heero agreed, moving to release the straps.


“Don’t listen to him, Heero! For heaven’s sake!”


“Adrenalyn, now,” Duo said, head going light, heartbeat going irregular.


Heero scanned the medical kit, picked up what Duo seemed to be asking for.


Duo grabbed it, hand shaking, pulled the needle cover with his teeth and put the long needle deep in his naked thigh. After a moment he leaned his head back, groaned, “Oh fuck. I love adrenalyn! Out of my way, doctor,” he said, slipping to his knees in front of her kit, rummaging through it for several other things. The sensors on his vitals showed them stabilizing. The color in his face normalized as he scooted over to Heero. Heero wrapped him in a blanket, put a nervous arm around him and there they sat on the floor of the medical chopper.


“How... how did you know what to do? No one has ever recovered from... that experience? We’ve lost three other victims. How did you know what to do?”


“Martha... she... I had to do it to her once. She,” Duo pressed against Heero, soaking in his heart beat, the chill in the air, the real in all the world. “She... must have known she’d let me go. She trained me. Besides, I’ve fucking been to medical school twice. I’ve been a trauma surgeon, delivered a hundred and nineteen babies, and I fucking know how to sort a trauma issue.”  He smiled, to soften his words. “Thanks, Sally. I appreciate all you’ve ever done for me.”


Shy, Heero touched Duo’s hair, the sweaty bangs on his face.  “You okay?”


He smiled at Heero, a grin as wide as all the wild in his blood, as bright as all the good intentions in his soul. “Yeah, Baby. I’m fucking fantastic. It’s good to see you.”



Note: These characters will continue... I might even find another Santa Clarita story from time-to-time, but it’s got a finish now.

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