1-3-2003

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Title: #4 Perfectly Useless
Arc: Life With Heero
Author: Calic0cat <calic0cat@fastmail.fm>
Story Completed: Jan. 3, 2003
Genre: Angst, Domestic, Friendship
Pairing: None yet
Rated: PG-13
Warnings: AU, OOC, Swearing
Archives: At Mediaminer.org under Calic0cat. Anyone with archive permission for my other fics can help themselves; anyone else, please ask.
Disclaimer: Duo and Heero and the rest of the GW gang aren't mine. This story is. Nuff said.

Notes: The arc begins between one and two years after Endless Waltz. Heero POV in this story.

'Thinking'
"Speaking"
************ Time passing or scene change

Author's Notes: This is part of an arc of stories. I don't know for sure how many stories there will be or how often I'll be posting them. The length of each story in the arc will vary, anywhere from ficlet to multi-part. Warnings will vary from story to story as well, as will the genre. Pairings will probably eventually make their way in, but it will be quite a while since the first half dozen or so stories are drafted out and there's no real indication of pairings in them as of yet. Feedback is appreciated.

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Heero neatly tucked the sheets in and smoothed the covers with military precision. 'At least I can do this right,' he thought somewhat bitterly. Anymore, it seemed like everything he tried was destined to failure. 'From Perfect Soldier to Perfectly Useless.' Sometimes he wondered why J hadn't ordered him to self-destruct in case of peace. If his only purpose in living was to be a soldier, what good was he without a war to fight? Even the Preventers hadn't wanted him for very long. Honest criticism of poorly thought-out policies and useless wastage of resources hadn't exactly been appreciated by those higher up in the chain of command. If Une had been in full control, things might have been different. But with a multitude of bureaucratic deadweight overseeing her every move, her hands were tied. She had to pick and choose her battles, and he - he hadn't been worth the fight. There were too many other ex-soldiers out there looking for jobs who were willing to play along and do all the necessary ass-kissing.

Traditional "starter" jobs like flipping burgers, pumping gas, and bagging groceries hadn't even worked out for him. Apparently a requirement for such jobs was offering a friendly smile and a cheerful hello along with the service. He had tried, really he had. He just - couldn't. Things had been a little better working for Re... for the Vice Foreign Minister. He hadn't been expected to carry on conversations with any of the dozens of people she met with in a day or to socialize with the other palace staff. Life had consisted of guarding the Minister, eating, and sleeping, with frequent calls or emails from Duo and occasional ones from the others to break up the monotony. Most days, she would spend at least a little time coaxing him into conversation and he had come to look forward to those short talks. He had just reached the point of considering the palace "home" and then...

Jerking his mind away from a particular conversation he had no desire to relive, Heero turned to go down for breakfast. Pausing in the doorway, he turned to look back at the neatly made bed. Duo had never commented on his choice to share a room rather than take the guestroom. Nor had he made any smart remarks when Heero turned down his offer to replace the double bed with a pair of twins. Heero knew that most people would find his choice odd, particularly in light of his usual preference for privacy over company. But right now, he needed the familiar contact, the link with the past, that sharing a bed with Duo supplied. Lying curled up together at night, Heero could almost pretend that nothing had changed. That the house they inhabited was just another safehouse. That his skills were still important, still needed. That he wasn't a useless relic of a long-ended war.

The other pilots had all found a place for themselves in peace. Wufei had gotten off to a rough start with his involvement in Mariemaia's attempted coup, but after that had settled right into his job with the Preventers. Trowa had returned to the circus, though judging from recent emails he wasn't spending all his time there anymore. Quatre had stepped in as CEO of WEI, taking over all the responsibilities his father had left behind. He had ample assistance from various sisters involved in the running of the business and seemed to be quite content if rather busy. Duo... Duo had taken the "military back-pay" awarded to him by the L2 government and bought into Hilde's struggling salvage yard. He had explained to Heero - who thought at the time that he was wasting his money on a lost cause - that he felt he owed it to her for the help she had given him during the war. And all Heero's predictions of doom had been proven wrong as the two teens had used every ounce of charm they possessed to wheedle salvage contracts out of company after company, often beating larger and more professional firms. Duo's connections in the Sweepers had proven useful as well, giving him inside leads on particularly small, unusual, difficult, or outright dangerous jobs that the more established companies wouldn't touch. The salvage yard was still far from "easy money" for the two of them, but it had long since cleared all its old debts and was running a healthy profit.

Typical Duo. Always beating the odds. And always so willing to help his friends. No matter how fucked up their lives were or how damn inconvenient it must be for him.

As Heero entered the small kitchen, he had to smile reluctantly. Duo might have been in a rush this morning because of an early appointment, but he had still taken the time to set the table for Heero and leave a note saying he would be late coming home since he was picking up a few groceries. Heero's smile faded again. Groceries. Yes, Duo would be needing extra groceries since he was now feeding an extra person. One with only limited savings and no source of income. Stifling the rising urge to hit something - with his luck, he'd break whatever he hit and cost Duo even more money - Heero pulled some leftover rice and miso soup out of the fridge. Tempting as it was to just skip breakfast, he couldn't afford to let himself get rundown and sick. If he did, Duo would insist on staying home from work to look after him and he'd end up causing trouble between Duo and Hilde, just like last time. 'Thank god Duo has his own place. I don't know what I would have done if he was still subletting from Hilde... She sure wouldn't have welcomed me with open arms the way that Duo did...'

When he'd booked the flight to L2, Heero hadn't been sure what he was going to do when he got there. He hated to impose on his best friend, but he literally had nowhere else to go. Having the booking confirmation sent to Duo's email account had been an impulse. He had known that Duo might not happen to check his email before his shuttle arrived, but part of him had been so sure that Duo would be there waiting for him that when his first look around hadn't spotted his friend, it was like a hard punch to the gut. Then when Duo had come striding into view, offering him a cheerful welcome, the relief had been overwhelming. Even though he knew Duo would never turn away a friend, some small part of him had been unsure of his welcome. The emotions stirred up by the casual reference to getting him "home" had left Heero completely at a loss for words. Fortunately, that was never a problem where Duo was concerned.

Drying his breakfast dishes and putting them away, Heero thought, 'I know the other guys never could understand why I got along so well with Duo. They heard the constant chatter and never realized that he was so very different when it was just the two of us. Duo knew just how much to talk and just when to stop. I only ever had to complain a few times before he found the point where companionable chatter became annoying noise as far as I was concerned. And while he's always willing to stop talking and listen, he never tries to force me into talking if I don't want to.' Duo still hadn't tried to persuade him to talk to the other guys, let alone anyone else. And he had only asked once since that first day whether he should tell anyone that Heero was with him or not. Heero had said no, and that had been the end of the subject.

Hooking his laptop up to Duo's net connection, Heero continued the slow process of searching for a job. This time, he wasn't even bothering to look at jobs that would involve any personal contact with either customers or employers. He was looking for something that could be done remotely. Programming, maybe, or testing computer security. Something he could do without even leaving the house. Scrolling through a multitude of jobs that all required university degrees, or five years prior experience with detailed references, Heero tried to ignore the niggling little voice in the back of his mind that kept asking him just how long even Duo could put up with having him around. If he was so hard to be friends with, to work with, to live with, that even a pacifist could be provoked to violence, then how long could even the most loyal of best friends put up with Heero sponging off of him?

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