A Wrench to the Heart 2/?
Disclaimer: I don’t own Gundam Wing.
Warnings: Same as yesterday, drugs, violence, homicidal ideation, mental illness, sci fi weirdness, eventual 1x2x1
The Center looked like a nice Victorian house, blue with white trim, green grass, and what looked like actual butterflies dancing in the yard. Duo had been inside though. Inside looked nice as well. The four floors below with enough inpatient space to treat 125 guests though and what kind of treatment withdrawals caused gave him a distaste for fucking butterflies.
As he put the car in park, sentimentality made his heart hurt and he turned to look at Tyla. She had his last name because she hadn’t had her own when she’d come to him. Hands still on the wheel, eyes on her, it was so easy to see the little girl she’d been. “Hey. I’m sorry. I can be an asshole. I’m not always right in the head. You’re my kid. You can always come home. I’ll always help. You gotta get clean, Ty. Novo is shit. It’ll eat yer life, baby.”
Whatever sharpness was on her tongue melted. She slumped down into the chair. “I ain’t really goin in there.”
“You think I can’t throw you over mah shoulder an’carry yer ass in?” Duo challenged, faced twisted up in irritation.
“I fuck’in doubt it,” she said. “Yer sick. We both know it. You not wantin to go through treatment ain’t much different than me not wantin ta go through withdrawls, now is it? If you race, you’ll end up dead anyway. If they just kill me instead, well, then we’re ahead in the long run. How come you still love me?”
“Tyla, love isn’t a math problem. It’s like boiling colors. There’s no way to say what it does or doesn’t do.”
“Oh you so have a brain tumor. That made no fuckin sense, Dad. When I die, are you gonna get all cry-y like you did over your boyfriend?”
The only good think about Shinigami was that he didn’t deal with stuff like this. There wasn’t any credible physical threat, so Shini might as well have been out on the back porch of Duo’s mind smoking a cigarette watching the clouds stroll by. Duo just sat there in the car, looking up at the fake clouds for a moment, wishing he still smoked. “I haven’t given up yet. I think yer gonna walk into the Center and get clean. Don’t you remember when you used to paint? You used to make the most beautiful things. What if you had a whole different life. You starting a family of your own, bringin yer kids over to play in the yard with your little brothers and sisters. Imagine just never going back to the interlevels. Live in the light...”
“Like that’s even possible?” She leaned her seat back a little, eyes watching around them, furtive and nervous.
He wasn’t sure if she were actually expecting them to be attacked or if she were just too long between hits. “It’s possible. There are whole neighborhoods of new houses. Once you get clean, your citizen stipend will start again. Paint beautiful things.”
She rolled on the seat. Under the puffy coat, she had to be really small, boney. He wanted to reach out to her, but he was genuinely afraid she’d bruise or flutter away like dust. “I remember,” she said, distant, eyes glassy.
“What do you remember,” he asked, leaning his seat back so he could lay back, which took some of the pressure off his head, easing the headache hadn’t realized he had. “Tell me.”
She licked those dry pale lips. “My mom. She held my head in the toilet. My chest burned. Then I remember you. Did you kill my mom?”
“No.” Duo took a deep breath, silently told himself he could not have half a bottle of bourbon and a pack of smokes. “But If I’d walked in on her doing that, can’t say I wouldn’t have. You deserve better, Ty.”
“Would you die to protect me?”
“If I had to,” he said seriously, studying her.
“So that’s the right thing to do? To protect the people you love?”
“We don’t live in that kind of world, Tyla. I fought a nasty war so that you don’t have to live in that world. The interlevels make it out to be not fair, to be this dark place. It’s not true. The L2 cluster is a good place to be now. The people living in the interlevels... they’re sick. They don’t get it. I’m yer dad. I’d die for you if I have to. Trust me.”
“Can you prove you didn’t kill my mom?”
“Maybe,” Duo said, sitting his seat back up. He pulled a screen up out of the dash board. One hand moved in front of the screen as the computer captured the motion of his fingers, interpreting it as a super fast speed typing. “Here, there’s the police report on your mom. Syfai Yarrow. Note her time of death,” Duo pointed to the screen.
Tyla sat up looking, her fingers reaching out to touch the police report images of her mom’s body.
“Here. This is my stay at the Center. I was there a month before and two months after. I can’t have killed your mom. You came to live with me the following year.”
“You were in the center... for three months,” she said as some light came back into her eyes, some deep anger and hurt melting away. “You didn’t kill my mom. You got clean. You think I can too? Really? You won’t let them hurt me?”
“I won’t let’em hurt you,” Duo promised, smiling sheepishly, afraid to let himself be hopeful. Maybe she was going to be okay and he was going to blame Heero for that too. Everything was always Heero’s fault.
“You promise that you’ll always be my dad, no matter what?”
Duo rolled his eyes, cheeks sucking in. “What are you? Nine? Of course I’m always going to be your dad, idiot. I’ll come visit you everyday. I’ll drive you home. I could use more help with the kids. You think you could live with that?”
“I can really come home?”
“Yeah, but after the Center certifies you. Okay.”
She reached out and grabbed his hand. “Dase said he’d kill me if I didn’t get you to agree. There’s an Earther that wants to race against the best and folk say that’s you. I owe him. He’s gonna kill me.”
Shinigami uncoiled in Duo’s mind, sliding over thoughts like a dark black dragon. ‘SOooooOOO. Can I kill that one? Can I pull his bones from his skin? Please?’
“If anyone’s gonna die, it ain’t gonna be you. I’ve had about all the warm and cuddly I can deal with today. I’ll walk you in. I’ll be back tomorrow.”
He motioned for her to move, up, out... gotta go.
She pulled the zipper down on her big puffy coat, revealing wires, primitive explosives. Real homemade shit. “I’m sorry.”
Duo stopped being in that moment, lost in stress beyond he could deal with. Shinigami flexed his fingers, his grin sharper, violet eyes darker, much more twilight like there was very little soul left. “Oh, baby, this ain’t no thing,” he said, voice slick and dark, clearly not Duo’s voice.
“Hey, Shini. You gonna kill me,” she asked, tears pooling, slipping shadowed down pale skin.
“Shut up.” He keyed open a concealed compartment in the glove box. He pulled out a real old dose of novo and a small tool kit. The dose fell to the floor and he went right into the tool kit. Looking at the vest on her, he wrinkled his nose. “You didn’t build this. I taught you better. Did you really think the chatbot killed your mother?”
“No. I thought you did.”
Shinigami wiggled his eyebrows, winked. “I thought you knew me. Why the hell would I kill your mother?”
“Cuz... cuz of what she did to me?”
“Don’t confuse me and Duo. If you break his heart again, I will kill you. Do you understand me?” He made quick work of the bomb, taking risks with both their lives, but calculated risks that were better than the alternatives. “Just imagine a world where his heart is broken and he never comes back and all you’ve got is me.”
She wiped her cuff over her sleeve. “You’d really kill me?”
“Do I lie,” Shinigami said, drawing the words out, playful and a little insane. “Out of the car. Don’t run.”
She swallowed hard, but stepped out of the car. Shinigami moved fast and was around her side before she closed the door. He had her by the back of the neck, around to the back, where he put the coat and the vest into the truck, locked it, and then with his hand still on the back of her neck, walked her right up to the front door of the Center.
At the door she started to struggle. He grabbed a handful of her hair. “No! I just wanna talk to Dad again, please!”
“Sorry. He can’t come play right now. I’ll give’im yer regards.” Shinigami let go of her, motioning for her to enter the light filled doorway. One could not actually be forced into the Center. One had to enter of one’s own free will. “Ya gonna go in and get right? Ya could stay with me. I’ll make ya stronger.” He winked, Somehow his canines seemed more pronounced, his eyes darker, more color in his cheeks.
She shook her head and slipped into the light of the Center, into what was possibly the most advanced treatment center for drug addiction. Quatre had given it as a gift to the L2 Cluster as a gift to keep Duo’s then-drug-addicted-ass out of jail for an armed data breach. Duo learned everything he knew about giving lectures from Quatre.
Camelot.L2 had other very nice medical facilities, with powerful and very effective AIs. Any one of them could have completely cured Duo of both the blood infection and the tumor that was constantly trying to grow in his brain. There was no cost for medical care on Camelot which functioned as a commonwealth. The problem was that they would want to mute his memories of Heero, pointing out that ten year gone memories were hardly accurate memories anyway and he would have much less depression and a better quality of life if he muted those memories to sweet warmth. The mental health divisions of healthcare weren’t likely to really approve of Shinigami either. Shinigami really did not fancy being deleted for the cause of giving Duo Maxwell a more normative experience. Every now and then, Duo let him kill someone. It worked out great.
Still, letting Duo die from lack of medical care was hardly conducive to his societally beneficial serial killer hobby. So it was time to go visit Chang Sung. The interlevels were just that. They were spaces between the inner skin and the outter skin of the colony. They also occupied spaces where expansions had been planned, but not completed. The air was dirty. The temperatures were unsteady. Every now and then solar flares would literally cook those that lived in the least shielded areas. Duo didn’t understand why anyone would live in the interlevels.
Shinigami didn’t understand why anyone would ever come out of them. No Law. No normative. No forgiveness. No sweet polite friperies. The strong didn’t need permission. There was racing, fighting, sex of every variety. It was nothing like the sweet and beautiful inner skin Camelot with its virtual sky and charming trains.
He parked the pretty mustang in a nice safe parking garage, shoved the vest into a knapsack in the truck along with his tool kit, then went back for the novo on the floorboards. He thought about checking with Charlotte, but he was afraid if he contacted the house, he’d lose control of the body before he took care of some shit. Also from a hidden compartment in the trunk, Shinigami pulled a small disk, just about big enough to stand on.
Unlicensed gravity inversion disks were also, not surprisingly, illegal in Camelot. Shinigami nearly whistled as he half skipped up to the roof of the parking garage. A moment later, he was a shooting star aimed at the pretty blue sky and then he disappeared right into it, his presence cloaked from prying eyes and safety keepers as well.
The street was a mess of unplanned growth in carbosteel and biocrete. The shop he went into looked like something out of a western movie, part saloon, part telegraph office. The seeming wood construction was just daydreaming biocreet. Shinigami walked through the swinging doors, admired the realism of gunpowder and blood lingering in the air. A saloon dancer approached him, thick skirts swirling, even though the face had a touch of facial hair, too strong of a jaw to be female. Shinigami made a handsign and the dancer disappeared around him like a disintegrating mist.
At the top of the stairs, Chang Sung, son of Chang Wufei misted into being. “Shini. Nice to see you. You’re fucking three months late. ARE you trying to die?”
“Naw, man. I just couldn’t get control of the damn body. The fucker’s just happy these days. It’s gonna be the fuckin’ death of us.” Shinigami boosted himself over the bar and grabbed a bottle of whiskey. “Any word on our other project?”
The news had covered Heero’s death. There had been a huge public funeral. Neither Duo nor Shinigami had gone. Relena accused him of being in denial. Duo had not dealt well. Shinigami had hunted information. It was the only thing he liked as much as the blood of his enemies. Turns out, there wasn’t any really good sources on what happened to Heero. Some sources say he was killed in a gunfight with terrorists. Other sources claim he had been on a ship that was hit by war debris that suffered a fatal decompression. There were very convincing medical records that he had died of a rapid progression of an untreatable cancer. There were too many clues for it not to have been constructed, which meant Heero might not actually be dead.
When those thoughts leaked across their barrier, Duo had thoughts of abandonment and broken heartedness. Shinigami didn’t fucking love Heero Yuy, or anyone else, but he still needed to find out what had happened. In his very darkest moments, he feared that he had killed Heero after the chat bot confessed his undying love and got laughed at. It was a possible scenario.
“Actually, yes,” Sung said. “I don’t see why you won’t let me email Duo.”
“You work with me,” Shinigami said, dark violet eyes threatening.
Sung, who was a beautiful and willowy creature with long fingers and black hair longer than Duo’s that flowed and swirled as he walked, the tips lighting up like a swarm of fireflies, he held up his hand and arched an eyebrow at him. “Don’t give me that look. You owe me your life twenty times over.” He reached those slender fingers into his long brocade sleeve and pulled out a piece of folded parchment. “I have here a transcript of what is the last email sent by Heero Yuy. It was sent from the Rage ES, before its destruction. It is possible that they were attacked.”
Shinigami reached for the paper and Sung pulled back, smirking, then handed it over.
Those dark violet eyes faded just a little, lightening as they read the letter.
Emily Dickinson h”
“That’s it,” Shinigami asked, eyebrow arching. “Who the hell is this Emily chick?”
“Your education is sorely lacking. She’s a poet from before sky breach. Maybe Duo knows something.”
“Maybe he does,” Shinigami said, rolling his eyes, “You have no idea the ravages his emotional state does to me when he gets on about Heero. I’ll find Heero myself. You got my treatment ready?”
“Of course,” Sung said, smiling like a happy dungeon master. “You shouldn’t have waited so long. It’s going to hurt.”
“Good,” Shinigami said. He poured himself another shot of Sung’s whiskey, and then followed the devious Chinese man back up the stairs. “Make his ass sore as fuck tomorrow.”
“My pleasure,” Sung said. “I have revamped the treatment. You might actually get a cure this time. Or you could die. I’m not for sure.”
Duo woke face down in his bed, clothes still on, braid laying over his head, trailing towards the floor, one shoe on, the other on its side by the door. He had dry mouth like he’d tried to drink one of those damn deserts on Earth. He opened his mouth, dry tongue sticking out like that was going to help at all.
Oddly, he felt better than he’d felt in ... a long time. His head didn’t hurt. He felt like he could go for a run, a real run, though as he moved everything hurt. He felt like he’d hosted the running of the bulls in his veins and he still felt better than he’d felt in longer than he could remember.
“Oh my god, you’re awake!” Charlotte said as she peeked in the door. “Are you okay? I wanted to call medical services, but Jake told me you do this sometimes and you didn’t need medical intervention. I was so worried!”
“Ima fine,” Duo said, as he rolled onto his back. “Best night’s sleep in a while.”
“Two nights. You slept all day yesterday. I swear to god I thought you were dead.”
Duo sat up, scratched his head, then shivered. “Fuck. I’m hungry!”
“Really,” Charlotte said. She’d been complaining about his lack of appetite since she took the job. “There’s food. Oh and I missed class yesterday, so you need a backup plan if you’re going to do this again.”
“Sure, no problem,” Duo said.
Then Julia was like a siren coming down the hall. “DAADDDDDDYYYYYYY!” She was in the door and onto the bed, bounced a couple times and threw herself into his lap. “Daddy’s awake! Can I play ponies?”
“You do lessons?” He asked, smoothing red curls back from her face.
“Yup! I was so good so you’d wake up! Now I wanna play ponies!” She smiled angelically.
“Okay, let me get a shower and I’ll come down and unlock it for you.”
She bounced off the bed and ran around in a circle, then out the door.
“I’ll warm up some food for you. You look better today, more color in your face.”
“Hn.” Duo said, mostly ignoring her as he went into his bathroom. There on the mirror, written in black lipstick was, “Emily Dickinson.” The freaky thing was it was in his own handwriting. He grabbed the hand towel and scrubbed it away.
That I did always love
That I did always love,
I bring thee proof:
That till I loved
I did not love enough.
That I shall love alway,
I offer thee
That love is life,
And life hath immortality.
This, dost thou doubt, sweet?
Then have I
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