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Beneath: Cornflakes

Chapter Text

Corn Flakes
by duointherain

 

Disclaimer: I don’t own Gundam Wing.
Notes: This is going to be a rewrite of a story that was in Santa Clarita. Maybe I’m a better writer now. Maybe I just need to revisit stuff that makes me happy. Thank you for nice comments and kudos :) Set after Endless Waltz and subject to my version of what tech ought to be, so it mostly looks nothing like the ‘80’s.

Chapter One

 

Things are supposed to be historical, meaningful, fucking fancy. People are supposed to be heroic, but that kind of depends on who writes the books. Mostly everything is just corn flakes. It’s fine. It’s better if the milk is cold and it’s not being chewed with broken teeth, but day-to-day stuff is just corn flakes. It’s only later, after someone else wrote it up in a book, that it sounds like it was important. In the moment, it’s just corn flakes. Also, handcuffs make time go by really slow.

“Look at me, son. You do realize this is your sentencing hearing and that you have been found guilty, right?” The judge’s bench was elevated, his face kind and serious all at once. To Duo, it looked like all the faces of all the adults who hadn’t been any fucking help, a few of whom he’d sent to judgment, but the guilt rapidly chewed its way to rage. The white wig with its thick curls gave a stark contrast to the man’s smooth ebony skin. Duo imagined it was made of ashes.

“What else is fucking new?” Duo shrugged, mind already moving on to other thoughts.

“You have been, quite likely, the most difficult case of my entire career,” the judge said.

The courtroom was empty, a hundred empty seats, though they could all hear the media scratching at the doors like rats. Commander Une and Relena’s adoptive mother sat in the front row, on the defense side.

The prosecution was somber. There was a single lawyer, bald with a metal plate making a silver curve. His table had no paper. All his points had been made with projection and while Duo wasn’t really paying attention, a more keen observer might not have been able to tell the difference between prosecution and defense. The outcome of the trial had been determined well before Duo had ever been apprehended. Politics are what they are.

Duo rolled violet eyes, tongue worrying at his teeth, which he was obsessing over not having brushed. Death, fuzzy teeth, all the same. It just didn’t seem right to die with fuzzy teeth.

Defense, an androgynous person with pink hair and nerves that had grown thinner and thinner over the course of the three week trial, cleared their voice and glared at Duo with eyes that would do the execution right then and there if they could. “My client is experiencing heightened stress, which is inhibiting his social skills.”

The smile Duo gave his lawyer started small, but blossomed into full-on insane, until the poor lawyer just sank down in the chair with a squeak. That out of the way, Duo turned to face the judge. He shook the chains that held his wrists at the small of his back, attached to his waist, which went all the way down to matching cuffs at his ankles. “Well, see, you gon do what you want, no matter what I got to say. You go on. I’ll either get out of these chains, or I’ll be dead, it’ll come out one way or the other. I forgot to brush mah teeth though.”

“Son,” the judge said while sighing at the same time. “You are maybe fourteen or fifteen years old. I understand that life has been very difficult for you and while this court can not condone the things you have done to change the world, we are not unaware of the beneficial effects of your actions. We have arranged for your rehabilitation.”

“Can you please speak standard? I don’t understand a fucking shit that you just said,” Duo said, though with more respect than he’d given anyone else during his three-month incarceration.

“Mr. Maxwell, I’m sending you to live with a family. You will attend school. I strongly believe that you can be rehabilitated so that you can live in this world where you helped to bring peace. You deserve to live in the world you helped to create, but you can not steal, murder, or blow things up.”

“Then what’s the point?”

“Well, you see, Mr. Maxwell, learning that - is the point. Your foster father is already here. He’s very capable. I would like you to come visit me in three months and we revisit the terms of your probation.”

Duo’s eyes narrowed and he kicked his lawyer’s chair, leaning closer to them. “What’s probation?”

“They let you go, but watch over you,” they said.

Duo perked right up, shoulders straightening, chin lifting, violet eyes sparkling. His long jet black hair, wrapped in thick restraining padding, the very tip of it started wiggling happily. “Probation is good! Did Heero also get probation?”

Duo’s lawyer hissed in his ear, “Please be quiet!”

Fuzzy teeth completely forgotten, Duo grinned brilliantly. Heero probably had gotten probation too! He imagined his foster father to be someone like Arthur Weasley and super easy to slip free of. He’d find Heero! They’d break the surly bonds of Earth! What a fucking shit hole!

After another long sigh, the judge smacked his gavel down. If the judge had ever watched pre-meditated crimes being plotted, it was behind those violet eyes. “Mr. Maxwell, I look forward to seeing your progress.”

Duo’s smile said he expected to never see any of them again. He wanted off Earth. He wanted his freedom. Fucking hell! This was going to work out great!

Chapter Text

Beneath: Cornflakes 2/?

Disclaimer: I don’t own Gundam Wing

 

“You don’t remember me,” Joel said, words slinging all together, like he just couldn’t be bothered to speak clearly. He was much taller than Duo, lanky, with a halo of golden curls, green eyes. He was a full grown successful lion of a man to Duo’s gangly teenaged cub who thought he could growl loudly.

They stared at each other in the empty hall behind the courtroom. On the inside, Duo was glaring, nose wrinkling at the fancy, clearly useless whore of a man they’d sent to get him. He was thinking that Arthur Weasley would have been more capable. On the outside, he gave his best wounded orphan smile. It wasn’t a real smile, but it was what people seemed to respond really well to. It had gotten him more than one meal. “Should I, sir?”

On the inside, Joel was rolling his eyes. Having grown up in a small and very high tech group of of space going transhumanists, he knew Duo’s history inside and out and he wasn’t feeling like taking any bullshit from a maladapted little predator. “I suppose you were unconscious the last time we were together.”

“Creep,” Duo said, letting a little bit of distaste flash across his face.

A guard stepped into the hall at just that moment and gave them both a glare. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah,” they said simultaneously, before glaring at each other.

“Good,” she said, not really believing either of them. She normally worked for Preventers, but had been pulled to this special detail to protect the little braided rat. “Dr. Jones, here are the keys for his restraints. If you follow me, I can show you the room where we have his personal effects and the set of street clothes you requested.”

“You know, I’m right here. It’s my shit, you should be talkin’ to me.” Duo punctuated his words by grabbing the keys right out of her hand. It wasn’t like they had him in those long cuffs, just simple bracelet cuffs.

Her mouth dropped open as he proceeded to undo his own restraints.

“Now there’s the son I’ve come to know and love,” Joel purred, his grin very much like Duo’s, but with an edge of venom that Duo hadn’t grown into yet.

“You’re not my fucking father,” Duo growled, dropping the chains at the feet of the guard, his eyes still locked on Joel. “You don’t even fucking know me.”

“And you thought you could get into Preventers,” the guard snapped. “That’ll be the day!”

“Fuck you too, little dick,” Duo growled at her. “Preventers doesn’t deserve my skills!”

“Be that as it may,” Joel said, stepping smoothly between them. “You’re going to try to escape. You should change clothes first.”

Duo’s mouth squished up, nose wrinkling. There wasn’t any point in denying it, really. He made a rule to not tell lies. “Thanks,” he said, striding in the direction the guard pointed in. “I want my shit back.” He spun as he walked, continuing to walk, just pointing at the guard, “Fucking bastards! Locking a person up!”

“At least we didn’t shoot you,” she growled.

He flipped her off with both fingers, rounding the corner, and letting one hand linger, flipping her off with extreme prejudice, in the legal sense of the word. He’d had a lot of time to read in the last three months.

Once in the room with his change of clothes, he just slipped out of the orange jumpsuit like it was yesterday’s cocoon. He’d always been pale, but the bruising on his hip and shoulder showed clearly under the fake sunlight coming from the ceiling.

“Who hurt you?” Joel asked, and it wasn’t a casual question.

“I hurt them worse.”

“Good,” Joel said, slouching down into an armchair near the door. “But I still want to know.”

Duo shrugged, drawing on his new underwear, jeans. The whole process came to a dead stop when he picked up a blue tee-shirt with a cartoon dragon on it, all done in primary colors with a light up laser in one eye. “What the fuck is this?”

Joel shrugged. “Alan thought you’d like it. I’ve found it better to just go along with him.”

Duo looked over his shoulder, studying the blond man. Slouched the way he was, Duo could clearly see the pistol at his hip. He didn’t recognize the make or model and decided he didn’t want it. He dropped the dinosaur on the floor, grabbed the shirt he’d been wearing when he’d been taken into custody. The left sleeve was half torn off, but he slid his arm in any way. It felt like going home.

It was also too small.

He just stood there for a moment, holding the tee-shirt to his chest, arm in, other arm not even going to try.

“Growth spurt,” Joel said. “That happens when a boy gets regular food.”

“I like this shirt,” Duo said, genuinely hurt. “Heero gave me this shirt.”

Joel rolled his eyes on the outside. “Well, keep it. Mary an adjust it for you. There’s a blue button-up at the bottom of the bag. Just don’t tell Alan you didn’t like his damn dinosaur. He’s sensitive.”

“Who the fuck is Alan,” Duo grumbled, buttoning up the shirt.

“My husband,” Joel said. “He’s a very nice man. I’m not a very nice man. You should bear that in mind.”

“You threatening me,” Duo growled, those eyes darkening.

“I’m just telling you the lay of the land.”

“Don’t take this the wrong way,” Duo said, pausing to run his tongue over his teeth again, really wishing he’d brushed them. “But I don’t think I’m gonna stay long. It’s better for me, for Earth, for everyone, if I just get the fuck out of here.”

Whatever Joel was about to say got lost in a gentle knock on the door. They both stared at the plain fake wood door like it was going to turn into sudden splinters, but then it opened and Relena threw herself through, arms going around Duo’s neck, knocking him back into the table. He was taller than she was now and fighting off a sudden panic attack from the sudden contact. He didn’t know what a panic attack was yet, but that didn’t mean that his breath hadn’t completely abandoned him.

“Are you okay? I was so worried about you! They didn’t hurt you? Oh goodness! You’ve gotten so big!” Duo blinked and patted her back, feet trying to back away, but the table defeated him.

“I’m fine,” Duo said, “You?”

“Careful of the left shoulder,” Joel called out.

“Shut the fuck up, asshole!” Duo said, flexing his shoulders to show it didn’t hurt, even though it did.

Relena took a half step back, hands going to Duo’s face, her blue eyes full of love. “Tell me you’re okay?”

“I’m fine,” Duo promised.

She grabbed his hands. He felt the small piece of paper in her palm and quickly shoved the paper into his pocket.

“Nun-uh,” Joel said, “No paper, no objects. That was the rule.”

Relena spun around on him, fists at her sides. “It’s a note from Heero. You didn’t see anything!”

Joel’s palm smacked his face and he made an exaggerated growl. “Fine. Whatever.”

With a victorious smile, Relena spun back around to Duo. “What happened to your shoulder? Uncle Joel said something about your shoulder.”

“Uncle Joel?”

Relena then poked Duo in the shoulder.

“Ow!”

“Stop,” Mrs. Darlian commanded, as she leaned over to give Joel a kiss on the cheek. “We have reservations for dinner. Duo, I assume you are okay with having some food with us?”

“Uh,” Duo said, upper lip twitching. He had had plans, actually.

“He hasn’t even made his escape attempt yet, Maureen. I was really looking forward to shooting him.”

“Duo,” Maureen asked sweetly, “Can you postpone getting shot for a couple of hours? I really wanted to see you fed and maybe take you shopping. You’re going to need school clothes, even for that utterly plebian school they have enrolled you at.”

“Maureen, I’m not going shopping,” Joel said firmly.

“I expected as much,” Maureen said sweetly. “I’ve arranged a personal shopper at Evelyn’s. They have a gentlemen’s club for you to relax in, that is if Duo will give you his word not to escape until after shopping.”

With her back to the adults, Relena mouthed, “Heero will call us.”

“Yeah, I can wait till tomorrow,” Duo said, giving in and giving Relena’s hand a squeeze back.

“Civilized people,” Joel said with every bit as much venom as Duo could say ‘fuck you’.

Relena didn’t let go of his hand, not even a little bit.

Hand in his pocket, Duo held tightly to Heero’s note.

Chapter Text

Beneath: Cornflakes 3/?
by duointherain

disclaimer: I don’t own Gundam Wing

 

The store did not have carts. Duo was pretty familiar with Walmart. There probably wasn’t anything he couldn’t jack out of a Walmart, given enough motivation. This place looked like one of Quatre’s guest houses. Marble and maple, brass and actual human staff who all seemed like the nicest people in the Earthsphere. They were so nice that Duo almost felt bad about stealing from them.

“Hold still,” Maureen said firmly, as she adjusted the bowtie. “There now, how do you like that?”

Duo wore wool slacks, a white button-up shirt of some fabric that seemed unnaturally unwrinkleable, with a blue and yellow bowtie. “Uh.”

“Mom, he wants like tee-shirts and stuff.”

“Well, that’s fine,” Maureen said, leaning so she could give her daughter a stern look, “But he needs something to wear to school too. They don’t have uniforms at public schools. It’s a free for all. Well, now be honest, do you like it?”

Her smile at him was like this warmth and sunshine that he’d never felt before. It made him feel warm and happy and ... safe. “Uh, I, um, well. It’s just kind of a new look for me, but if you think this is good.”

“Sweetie,” Maureen said, lightly touching his shoulder. “You can have whatever you like.”

He wanted a spaceship and a rocket launcher, but he didn’t think she’d be amused by that. “It’s okay and all. I can take care of it.”

“But you don’t have to. That’s what family is for. Katrina,” Maureen said, motioning to the personal shopper who was helping them. “Can you please help Duo find some clothes that would be suitable for starting a new school. We need an entire wardrobe.”

“Certainly,” she said, pulling a small tablet from her pocket. “Sir, would you just take this quick little quiz for me? Then I’ll bring you a selection.”

“Sure, uh,” Duo said, taking the tablet. He wasn’t sure what a wardrobe was, but he guessed it was like a whole outfit. While he was answering questions about colors and his favorite hobbies, Maureen was talking about wanting to get his measurements for a decent suit. The quiz wasn’t long and he handed the tablet back.

The environment of the jail and the store were so wildly different that Duo was in a little bit of shock, but he didn’t want to run away. He really wanted this nice motherly person to smile at him again. As he fiddled with the bowtie, trying to figure out how to undo it, he watched Relena slide under her mom’s arm, watched the woman hold her close, and smile with some emotion that Duo didn’t know. In a sudden and intense wish, he wished she was his mother too. “Is it okay if I don’t really like the bow at my neck?”

“Yes, of course,” Maureen said, throwing her arm over his shoulder and pulling him close, one arm around either of them. “I only want you to have things you like, Duo.”

The emotion grabed him like all his sense was in a makeshift body bag. Both hands went to his face in an instinct to hide. The sobs caught him, shaking him, closing off his throat. Both her arms went around him, holding him close in a circle of safety he’d never felt before. Relena wrapped herself around him from behind, her head resting on his back. “It’s okay, Duo. Everything is going to be okay.”

Their kindness was like warm water, soaking off all his scabs. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine,” he said, wiping the back of his hand across his nose, then across his thigh to dry it off.

“Come now, sit down,” Maureen said, guiding him to a soft leather couch. “Here, let me get this bowtie off. “You’ve done a very good job and I’m very proud of you.”

Duo wiped his nose on his sleeve, short though it was. “I’m the God of Death. I’m dangerous to be around.”

Maureen picked up a box of tissues, pulled several and wiped his nose as if she were his mother. “You are not dangerous to be around, Duo. You are a very clever and resourceful boy who saved this world from itself. You saved my daughter and your friendship has been very good for her. I have watched you and I know you to be kind and strong. What would you like, Duo? Tell me what you want and I’ll do my best to make it happen.”

“Can I stay with you for a couple days? I won’t cause any trouble and I’ll just like, just someplace safe to sleep for a little bit.”

“Please, Mom? There’s lots of room and school doesn’t start for another month!”

“Yes, of course,” she said, rubbing Duo’s shoulder. “You should be with family, not strangers.”

“You can be my little brother,” Relena cheered, holding Duo’s hand in both of hers.

“I’m older and taller,” Duo said, nose red, eyes red, but his hand holding onto Relena’s.

“Whatever,” she said with a loving smile. “We can be twins.”

“Ma’am,” Katrina said, gesturing to two carts with neatly folded clothes. There were stacks of tee-shirts in a rainbow gradient. The pants were all blacks and blues. The socks all black. The underwear all white and tied neatly with a blue ribbon. There were four pairs of shoes, one a leather dress pair, two sneakers, and a pair that looked like they were made of a dead towel with a cute little bat embroidered on the front of each one. “Will this work?”

“Yes, that’s lovely,” Maureen said, “Though I would like to add a raincoat and an everyday coat, five pairs of pajamas, and five sets of athletic wear. Send all of that to my Seattle address.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Duo tugged on Relena’s hand, looking like he wanted to whisper something. She leaned closer.

“I can’t carry all that. Don’t let her spend that much money. I just can’t carry it all.”

“It’s okay, Duo,” Relena said, smiling gently. “There will be a dresser in your room. I got a microscope for Christmas last year. You can help me use it!”

“Darlings, I have to take this call. I’m getting the court order adjusted. Relena, take Duo to the electronics section. Get him a phone and a computer.”

“He needs a new backpack,” Relena said, still holding onto Duo’s hand like he might bolt at any moment.

“Yes, honey, get anything you think might be useful.”

“But so much money! Mrs. Darlian, I can’t carry all those clothes! Don’t buy them!”

“Please, hold the line,” she pulled her phone away from her face. “Duo, I’m having them delivered. You don’t have to carry them.”

“But,” he said, pain twisting up his face for a moment, “I mean, in a few days or something, like when I leave, I can’t carry them all.”

“Duo,” she said, a little bit of motherly lecture, “You don’t need to leave. You’re coming home.”