3-5-2003

Title: #44 Not Alone
Arc: Life With Heero
Author: Calic0cat
Genre: Shonen Ai/Yaoi, Angst, Domestic, Friendship
Pairing: None yet
Rated: PG
Warnings: AU, OOC, Swearing
Archives: Also at Mediaminer.org under Calic0cat.
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. Duo POV in this story.

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

Author's Notes: See earlier fics for notes on the arc as a whole. Feedback is appreciated.

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Duo flipped through the documents that had been sent in response to his query. He had - decidedly mixed feelings about them. The fact that the L2 government had actually made plans to do *something* for the homeless people that they were going to be chasing out of the old neighbourhood was positive in and of itself. And he certainly didn't expect anything too wonderful to be freely given away to these people; L2 was deeply in debt still and trying to *reduce* spending and increase income with all these attempts to attract new jobs to jumpstart the economy. But...

"Why the hell are they planning to ship any kids they find off to Earth?" he muttered. "And what the fuck is a 'transitional facility'? God, I swear you've gotta be either a lawyer or a politician to figure out all the double-speak in these damn things." He tossed the documents back down on the kitchen table where they landed with a solid thump.

Heero looked up from reading through his pile. "As far as I can tell from *these*, they're sending the kids to Earth because that was the only orphanage they could find that had room *and* was both willing and able to deal with street kids, particularly ones from a colony. There's pages and pages of discussion of the need for and availability of pediatricians, therapists, special education teachers, tutors..." Heero shook his head and added, "It's going to cost L2 a fortune just to send them there and the colony has to pay an ongoing percentage of the costs for caring for the kids. But it's still less than what it would cost if L2 had to build a facility and then hire all the staff just for whatever number of kids they end up with. Assuming they could *find* staff that was both qualified and willing to move to L2." He hesitated, then added, "They also mention that while the odds of finding homes for the kids are extremely poor, they are marginally better on Earth because of the larger pool of potential adopters."

Duo winced. Yeah, the odds of any of those kids getting adopted would be bad. Very bad.

If a gang happened to have been lucky enough to have landed a runaway or older orphan, someone who'd actually had a few years of school before hitting the streets, the other kids might be able to read at a very basic level. Enough to read street signs, shop signs, maybe the name part of labels on boxes or cans. Not much more. And if the kids were really, really lucky, they might even be able to do basic addition and subtraction. But that would be about it for the vast majority. And some might not even have that much.

Not many people wanted to take on a preteen or teenager to start with; they were even less likely to want one that needed individual schooling for the next few years. Add in the emotional and psychological crap that the average street kid was carrying around and the odds of adoption got even worse. 'Peace or not, that's one thing that sure as hell hasn't changed.'

The pen Duo was holding snapped with a sharp crack, its plastic barrel exploding under the pressure. "Ah *shit*," he groaned. Ink everywhere and more than a few slivers of plastic embedded in his fingers. He pushed his chair away from the table and headed for the counter to grab some paper towels.

Heero came up behind him and redirected him towards the sink. "You first," he ordered. "The table can wait. Let's see those fingers."

"The ink's gonna soak in and it'll be a real bitch to get out of the wood tabletop. The finish is gone in spots; it won't stop the ink," Duo warned.

"So we were talking about refinishing that table anyway," Heero retorted, standing behind Duo and reaching around him to carefully rinse his fingers off in the sink.

"And these are just a few little plastic splinters. It's not like I'm in danger of bleeding to death or something," Duo snapped irritably. 'No, just dying of embarrassment at being such an idiot,' he added in silent disgust. Why the hell was he letting this get to him so damn bad? It had been *years*. He had his *own* home for god's sake, why did the memory of being unadoptable - unwanted - still hurt so fucking much?

"I know they're just splinters," Heero answered calmly. "It's not the splinters I'm worried about."

Duo sighed and leaned back against Heero wearily, some of the tension draining out of him. "Yeah, I know. Sorry I'm letting this get to me so damn bad, Heero. Shit, if I'm stressing out this much now, I don't know what I'm going to be like by the time I actually have to go back to the neighbourhood and go through it. Hell, maybe I won't even be *able* to."

"You will," Heero said firmly. "You've always done whatever needed to be done." He let go of Duo's hand and turned him around, pulling him into a firm hug.

Duo brought his own arms around Heero and hugged back, burying his face against Heero's shoulder. "God, Heero, I'm glad you're here," he muttered. "I honest-to-god don't think I could handle this alone."

"I'm glad I'm here too," Heero responded. "I wouldn't *want* you to have to go through this alone."

Wrapped in his best friend's strong arms, Duo realized that somehow, the sting of the memory of being unadoptable, unwanted, was lessened. That the simple fact that he was not alone in facing his past made a difference. All the difference in the world.

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- tbc -