3-12-2003

Title: #49 Tour
Arc: Life With Heero
Author: Calic0cat
Story Completed: Mar. 12, 2003
Genre: Shonen Ai/Yaoi, Angst, 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. Heero 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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Heero stole a sideways glance at Duo as they walked. Right now, Duo was far from the distracted, inattentive person he'd been yesterday. He'd become more tense and focussed by the moment from the time they boarded the short-hop shuttle that ran between colonies within the cluster. He hadn't been surprised when Duo had abruptly directed their cab driver to stop and let them out while they were still a number of blocks from the old base. Duo had been practically vibrating with nervous energy, just as he used to be before a mission during the war.

He could feel the tension from Duo starting to push his own adrenaline levels upwards. Trying to drive him into mission-mode. Though the fact that he was carrying a loaded gun again for the first time in nearly a year might have had something to do with that as well.

It wasn't as if it was the first time he'd handled his gun in all that time. In fact, he and Duo made weekly visits to a shooting range. They might hope never to have to kill again but neither of them was prepared to let hard-earned skills deteriorate. There was always a chance that they might need those abilities again some day.

But this was the first time since moving to L2 that he had worn his gun, loaded and ready, in its holster at the small of his back. And he was pretty sure that it had been far longer than that since Duo had last worn *his*. That, in and of itself, was enough to have them both on edge. But this was not a part of the L2 cluster to be visiting unarmed. The flickers of movement in the shadowy alleys and broken-down buildings bore testament to the fact that the area was far from deserted, despite its ghost town appearance.

As they neared the gates to the old base, Duo's stride faltered slightly. Heero altered his own to match and drifted a fraction sideways so that their shoulders brushed lightly.

"God, I knew I shouldn't have had breakfast this morning," Duo muttered under his breath. "I think I'm going to be sick."

A quick glance showed that Duo did indeed look rather nauseous. His face was tightly drawn and damp with perspiration. Heero wasn't too happy about how pale he was either. Rather than fussing over him, however, he growled, "No you are not, and that's an order. We don't have any spare clothes with us and I refuse to spend the day hugging someone who smells like puke."

Duo missed a stride as he gave Heero a startled look. He choked off a snort of laughter and the tension lining his face eased very slightly. "Aye-aye, sir," he dead-panned, snapping off a sharp salute. "Order received and acknowledged. Will do my best to comply."

"You'd better," Heero answered. He caught Duo's hand for a moment and gave it a firm squeeze. Duo squeezed back before letting go and surging ahead of Heero as they reached the facility's entrance. Heero automatically fell into place at his back, alert for any trouble.

"Hi, I'm looking for a Ms. Horton," Duo told the security guard at the entrance. "I believe she is in charge of this facility. I e-mailed her a week or so ago regarding touring the place."

"Name?" the guard asked.

"Duo Maxwell."

"And him?" the guard inquired, inclining his head towards Heero.

"Heero Yuy," Heero replied. He noted approvingly the security measures in place. Nothing too extreme, but enough to make it likely that the facility would be reasonably safe. Certainly safer than the streets that its inhabitants had been living on before.

After a few moments on the phone, the security guard opened the door and beckoned them through. "Ms. Horton will be here momentarily. Please note that no guns are allowed within the facility. Normally, you would not even be allowed to pass through this door while carrying them; however Ms. Horton has made an exception in your case. You will still have to leave your guns here, however, while you are within the facility. They may be reclaimed when you leave."

Heero raised one eyebrow, impressed. Evidently the security was even better than it outwardly appeared if the guard had been able to pick up their guns.

By the time their guns had been securely locked away, the woman that Duo had corresponded with had arrived. Introductions were quickly dealt with; Duo apologized for the unexpected timing of their visit; and they got down to one of the reasons they were there. The tour.

"We have nearly 100 people living here at the moment," Ms. Horton informed them as they walked towards the barracks. "There is a mixture of men and women of various ages. We even have several families with young children. Many of those who have entered the program so far are those who actually have jobs but do not make enough money to afford a place to live. They have been living in cars or abandoned buildings but were able to actually buy some necessities. They are the easiest for us to help. Their main need is affordable housing and there are new housing units being built in a small area that has already been cleared. Some of the housing is being built by the government but there are also a number of homes being built by an organization called Habitat for Humanity. Have you heard of them?" she asked.

Duo nodded and answered, "Yes. The recipients of the house have to put in a certain number of hours of work for the project and the other workers are volunteers, correct?"

"There's a little more to it than that, but that's the basic idea, yes," she responded.

Heero was pleasantly surprised to find that the barracks had undergone at least some renovation, changing them from cold and sterile to comfortable and functional. They were still not somewhere that people would want to live indefinitely - there was little to no privacy, for one thing - but they were far better than the abandoned warehouse, half-destroyed apartment building, underground parking garage, or cardboard box in an alley that most of their inhabitants had previously lived in. Heero listened silently as Duo asked question after question until he was finally satisfied with the answers.

The government's plan was working relatively well, at least for this initial group of people. The program had already managed to successfully place a number of people with employers, either as regular employees or on an apprenticeship basis. And quite a few others were currently going through the training programs being offered at the facility.

"What sort of training programs are being offered?" Duo asked.

"We have a variety of them currently running. The most popular tend to be our restaurant and mechanic programs," Ms. Horton answered. "Would you like to see one of those? Classes should be in session at this time of day." She glanced at her watch, then corrected, "Or about to stop for lunch, depending which you would like to see."

Heero stepped closer to Duo and rested one hand lightly against his back as Duo hesitated. 'This will be the rough part,' he thought. The mechanic program would inevitably be housed in the huge garage. Duo had been coping up till now - though Heero could feel the fine tremors running through his tense muscles now that he was touching him - but entering the garage would be the real test.

"I think we'd like to see the mechanic program," Duo said, his voice sounding strained to Heero.

"Alright. That's taking place in the large garage on the far side of the courtyard. They may be taking lunch break by the time we get there. Shall we head over there now or did you want to look around the housing area a bit longer and go after they're back from lunch?"

"Now would be good," Duo answered tightly. He pressed back against Heero's hand for a moment before pulling away to follow the woman, Heero dropping in behind him.

As they neared the garage, Duo's strides became shorter and more clipped. Heero moved up to walk beside him, shooting him a concerned glance. 'Elevated respiration, tense, perspiring, pale...' Not exactly positive symptoms.

Heero asked abruptly, "Would it be okay if we just took a look around in there?"

Ms. Horton started slightly, leading Heero to suspect that she had more or less forgotten he was even there. Not surprising since he hadn't spoken more than a few words since they arrived. He had preferred to leave the questions to Duo. Had he thought of something Duo had overlooked, he would have spoken up, but as it was there had been no need. Until now. Now, he wanted her out of the way so that Duo could face his demons in private.

"I don't see why not," she answered. "In fact, that might be best. I have a conference call scheduled in about fifteen minutes so I need to head back to my office. If you would like to stay, I will be available again in an hour or so. Otherwise, the security guard will sign you out and return your weapons."

"Thank you," Heero told her. "The tour has been very informative."

As Ms. Horton walked away, Heero looked at Duo and said softly, "Ready?"

Duo closed his eyes for a moment, then nodded sharply before stepping forward through the huge bay door and into the garage.

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- tbc -