A Wrench to the Heart 3/?
Disclaimer: On this one... not any great warnings. Duo’s a little crazy though. :)
All the rest of the kids were at school, but Julia ran circles around Duo as he went to check up on the farm part of his house. Walking into the 10,000 square meter space - he got a good idea of how sick he’d been. Plants were wilted. Whole sections were brown. Several of the tending bots were too broken down to continue work. He coughed, an arm over his face, he also thought something had gone seriously wrong with the mulch system. Julia clung to his leg, face pressed against his jeans.
He ruffled her hair. “Go back upstairs, sweetie. We’ll work on your plant lessons after I clean this up, okay?”
“Do some math until I come upstairs.”
She groaned, staring up at him with big green eyes.
He squatted down, touched a fingertip to the tip of her nose. “Tell you what. You finish the 100th math module and I’ll teach you how to make your own pony level. Get them to do anything you want.”
“Can I make Rainbow Dash a boy?”
“If you want.”
“Can I have an alive pet?”
“We’ll talk about it.”
“Can I go to school with the other kids?”
“When you are really feeling all better, yes.”
“How long? I wanna play with the others.”
“I know that Julia. I understand. As soon as you’re well enough, we’ll get you off to school. Then you’re going to complain that you want to stay home. Right now though, go do more math, okay?”
She sighed. “Okay.”
Duo watched her trudge into the elevator, then threw his whole effort into fixing up the food production center. Time was easy to lose as he got the bots fixed. He had a lunch of fresh tomatoes, avocado, and strawberries, then put his shoulder to clearing out the corn that hadn’t been harvested and had long since turned brown. He had an actual scythe that Wufei had given him as a winter solstice gift one year. The blade was gundanium and illegal as fuck on any other colony. A few rows in, he peeled off his tee shirt, used it to wipe sweat from his face, the back of his neck, then went back to laying the corn over.
He was about half way through, leaning against his scythe, giving serious thought to the idea of making some scarecrows, setting up a holographic bonfire, and getting the kids down to roast marshmallows and fish, when Charlotte found him.
She stared at him, at the solid hard curves of his shoulders and lined abs, dark braid hang down past his ass.
“What?” He asked. “I was a little behind on the upkeep. I guess I wasn’t feelin real well for a while.”
“Really,” she said like he’d just explained that water was oxygen and hydrogen. “The school called. There’s a new exchange teacher, up from Earth. Apparently, she and Jacob got into it and she’s claiming he assaulted her.”
Duo wasn’t quite sure how this was Heero’s fault, but he was sure it had to be. “‘Kay. I’ll go talk to her. Don’t cook dinner. I’m thinkin we’re gonna roast shit down here tonight. I might bring the new teacher. She just gotta getta know us, I’m sure.”
Charlotte shook her head vigorously. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Duo.”
He jumped down from the raised corn bed, his oak and gundanium scythe resting on his shoulders arms hanging over the sides. He winked at her, light violet eyes full of mischief. “You ever see the movie Jeepers Creepers,” he asked as he walked away.
“I took twenty first century lit,” she said offended.
Walking backwards, he wrinkled his nose and grinned. “I’m just sayin...”
Managing to work for Duo Maxwell for at least a year was really, really good for one’s resume. This colony had free education. She really wanted to finish pre-med. Goals! One had to keep one’s mind on the goals. “What are you going to do? Oh god!”
An hour later, Duo was cleaned up real good. He wore a dark tailored suit that Wufei had given him. His tie was a vivid blue that had always reminded him of Heero’s eyes. His hair was rebraided, with black pearls braided in. Neat black nail polish gave his hands a serious and manicured look. Polished black shoes clicked against the smooth tile of the empty school hallway.
The school had been built on the design of a school Duo had seen in a grainy video he’d found in a damaged library during the war on Earth. He’d never really understood why the movie had been called ‘Grease’. The vehicles in it barely counted as mecha, they weren’t even the main part of the story and as near as he could no one even had sex it it, so he hadn’t understood, but he had liked the love between Sandy and Danny. Heero was definitely the Sandy though. So it was the Rydel Primary school and it went from K through PhD level. It wasn’t bad for a small colony.
He stopped in the office to let them know he was there, but it was empty. He didn’t think that was a good sign. There were, however, cookies, and he was unreasonably hungry, so he helped himself to two. One went into his mouth like he was Cookie Monster, the other he just carried as he went in search of his kid that didn’t make it home.
Duo felt completely whole in the school. There were no echos of any other voices, no hungers that weren’t his. It wasn’t the first time he’d thought about being a teacher. He went up the stairs three at a time and by the time he got to the top, he was sure it was all just a big misunderstanding.
Jacob was a good kid. He’d been born on a family ship, people who had evaded modern culture. Small ships were really vulnerable though. All kinds of bad shit could happen out living in the rocks. He’d been the only survivor, picked up in a cryopod a dozen years after the loss of his family’s ship. The rescue crew dropped him off at L4 and Quatre’s people shipped him to Duo.
He’d been with Duo for two years. He’d never had any trouble with Jacob.
Okay, so walking down the hall towards where a group of admin and teachers were clustered by a door. The principal saw Duo and waddled over to him. “Duo! I’m so glad you’re here!”
“What’s going on,” he asked, taking her hand and shaking warmly, squeezing with reassurance.
“The new Earth History and politics teacher... it’s her first day. She’s the one we got as an exchange teacher for Hamilton.. He wanted to go down to Earth, you know, just for a year, and well, she’s got really offensive ideas! I had NO idea! I swear! Jacob had her class last period and she’s claiming he hit her. She says she wants to charge him with assault and is waiting for the police. I told her we don’t have police!”
Duo’s smile was tight and sharp, his eyes a little darker. “I can be the police. I’ll sort it out.”
Andie wrapped her arms around Duo’s arm, leaning on him a little. “She came with such good recommendations!”
“I’m sure she has many positive qualities,” Duo said, patting the principal's hands. “Don’t worry. We’ll get it all sorted out.”
The little cluster of teachers and a couple of students from the student paper parted like the Red Sea. Duo rapped a knuckle on the glass panel of the door. “Comin’ in.”
The teacher in question was a bean pole of a person in a gray suit, her white hair pulled into a tight bun on top of her head. She wore a little plaid bow tie and sported a nicely progressing black eye. Her arms were crossed over her chest, chin lifted as she eyed Duo. “Are you the police?”
“Kinda,” Duo said as he signed his response.
Jacob jumped to his feet, a stocky built boy with mochacino skin and dark angry eyes. He signed a tirade at his dad, hands moving at lightening speed.
Duo nodded, signing slowly in response.
Mouth open the new exchange teacher eyed one then the other. “What are you doing?”
“Asking for his side of the story,” Duo said, signing everything he said. “He says you took his tablet and that you shoved him when he tried to take it back. Did you?”
“I don’t allow electronic devices in my classroom,” she snarled. “Who are you?”
“I’m Duo Maxwell. I’m the mayor and I’m his dad. I’m also what passes for police around here. The safety officers are not going to respond to a call that doesn’t have credible threats of actual harm.”
“He hit me! I’m going to press charges against him. What ARE you doing with your hands?”
“This is American Sign Language. Oh, and Jacob says you’re a racist asshole. I think he might be right,” Duo said and signed.
Jacob laughed, the oddest cracked laughter.
The woman moved to put the desk between them. “What is he?”
“He’s deaf, ya ignorant log. Haven’t you ever met a deaf person before?”
“Goodness no! Why don’t you give him appropriate medical care!”
Jacob had moved closer to Duo at that point, signing as he moved.
“I was born into a deaf family,” Duo interpreted. “I like how I am. I’m sorry I hit you. I was afraid. May I please have my interpreting device back now?” Duo moved to stand by the kid who was a few inches taller than he was. “I think you should give him back his device.”
She pulled it out of a desk drawer and put it on the desk, fingers pulling back like it burned her. “Even if you’re sorry, it’s still assault.”
“It’s not like you took any real damage,” Duo pointed out. “Go over to the first aid kit and get it fixed.”
“A bandage is not going to fix this! I think my eye socket might be fractured!”
“Is she really hurt,” Jacob signed worriedly.
“She’s fine,” Duo said and signed. “Let me show you how to use the first aid kit.”
He moved over to the very nondescript little box on the wall. “All rooms have them,” he said and signed. “Put any finger on the little square in the center. Come on, try it. I think you’ll find it really interesting. You are here to learn about us, right?”
“Poverty stricken savages,” she hissed, but moved over to where Duo stood. Angry, she put her finger on the square. The box unfolded like a flower, petals forming and curling open.
“Oh I love this kind,” Duo said. “I didn’t realize we had any of these in the school! Highest level.”
“It’s only a blank screen,” she mocked him. “What’s it going to do, give me positive reinforcement?”
“If you want it to,” Duo said, snickering. He pressed his thumb on the pale gray square below the screen. “Full medical assessment and treatment,” he commanded.
An image of Galen, the Great Physician appeared. “Greetings, Patient. What is your name.”
“Dr. Angela Ledbetter. I don’t like AI.”
“I see. Is that your complaint today? May I have your permission to scan you, Dr. Ledbetter?”
She crossed her arms over her chest, glared with her one non swollen eye. “Yes. Go on.”
“I see that you are in pain. I’m sorry. Pain is always difficult. May I please have your permission to resolve all pain concerns and provide you with optimal health?”
“How are you going to do that from a screen,” she snapped.
“I am happy to provide all the details and methods of every treatment I have available to me, but I think it would be easier to understand after you have experienced the treatment first hand. May I please proceed?”
Duo took a step back. Jacob signed that he didn’t think this was a good idea. Duo winked, grinning like a maniac. Which if Angela had seen that grin, she might have made some other choice, changed her mind, something.
The first aid kit blinked. A bright light seemed to pop in the air around her.
Jacob signed, “Dad... it’s gonna come out bad.”
“Nah,” Duo signed back, “gonna be fine.”
The light was gone and Angela staggered a bit. Duo rushed to catch her and set her down. “Give it a moment. You’re all better now.”
Dazed, she sat down in her chair... and then she caught sight of her hands. She froze there staring at her outstretched hands. She slowly turned them over, looking at her palms... the smooth skin, healthy skin, creamy and white. After a moment more of staring, she ripped open the drawer, dug into her handbag and found a mirror. The woman staring back at her had no wrinkles, a nice color to her skin, sandy blond hair, thick lashes, soft full red lips, not even the slightest hint of black eye. She dropped the mirror and it shattered into a dozen skidding parts.
She looked up at him, those red lips parted, golden lashes fluttering. “Whaaaa....”
“Hey there’s no bruising now, right? You feel better, doncha? Not bad fer poverty stricken savages, uh?” Duo grinned, pointing at her with both hands. “Don’t worry, no medical bills here.”
“You’re a monster.”
“Maybe sometimes,” Duo said, going back to speaking and signing again.
Jacob had his device now and it spoke for him, “You don’t wanna make him real mad.”
“Why... why doesn’t it fix him then?” She looked at Jacob, looked back at Duo.
“Because there’s nothing wrong with me. You didn’t like being old, or Galen wouldn’t have fixed it.”
“Old is natural! Natural!”
Duo had lost all sense of wearing a fine suit and looking proper. Jacket unbuttoned, hands shoved deep in his pockets, the jacket bunching around his arms, he shrugged, “So. Hey, to like welcome you to Camelot.L2, I was thinking I might invite you over for dinner. I was thinking we could roast marshmallows and fish, do a Jeepers Creepers theme. Wanna come over for dinner then?”
“NO. No, I do not want to come over for dinner,” she said, eyes wide, a pained grin pasted on her face. “Thank you so much for the offer.”
“Well, some other time then,” Duo said. “Me and Jacob gotta go now, but just to be sure, we’re all good now, right?”
“Yeah, yeah, everything’s fine. Thanks for, uh,” she said, hands gripping the arms of her chair, “Coming in for such a lovely parent teacher conference. Anytime.”
Galen, who hadn’t been shut back down, frowned. “I sense you are getting a headache. May I apply follow up treatment?”
“No!” Angela nearly screamed, grabbing her handbag and half running for the door.
Duo followed her out the door and stood with the school staff as he scratched the back of his head. “She’s a strange one, alright.”
The student reporter slipped up close to him. “Mayor Maxwell, would you like to give a statement?”
“Oh sure,” he turned to Jacob and signed, “Is it okay if I tell them?”
Jacob nodded, smiling brightly.
“Jacob has been accepted to pre-law, starting next year, on Paris.L1. I’m extremely proud of him.”
“Oh that’s great!” Sam, the reporter, said, “Good job,” he signed in Jacob’s direction.
Jacob beamed. Duo signed, “See? I told you it would come out great.”