Disclaimer: This is fanfiction based on the characters and universe of Gundam Wing.

Another Version of Events
by Karan Seraph
Chapter 82

It was Wednesday morning by the time Heero started the physical test of the residence. He had caught the shuttle flight between X18999 and Los Angeles just in time. The trip had been uneventful, Heero was mostly concerned with Koi, being in the animal compartment during so many recent commercial shuttle flights. They got another flight from LA to Juneau and then arrived in Sitka by train.

The hotel was not particularly high class, but it was part of a chain Lowe Security had done work for and the business suite with their discount was quite affordable.

It served their needs, while Heero checked-in with Midii and information about the case Heero and Duo had brought to Preventers filtered down through the levels of security and filing. Heero had received written notice that he may be called in the future to testify before a court and separately that he had been assigned a code to retrieve data on the particular case above his usual level of clearance.

He had also received confirmation from Director Une that officers had been alerted that Heero and Duo should not be issued orders that would involve one of them being in command of the other regardless of current rank or reserve status. The reason for this order was only made available to top ranking officers, which meant Lady, Lucretia and Sally could have a video conference, sip coffee and laugh at their boys, but others could only speculate and follow their orders.

Tuesday night Heero stayed up working, accessing deeds, blueprints and building permits of the residence he was to test and studying them. Honestly, he had expected a large house. Duo had something about 'rich idiots' and though Heero had felt he must not assume the client was of a particular class or temperament, Heero had expected something more obviously in need of security.

It was just a regular house. It was a nearly three hundred year old house, originally built in the early period of American rule of this area, but Heero could find no indication of historical significance that might explain a need to protect the house itself. As far as Heero could determine, the house had been repaired, built onto and fallen into disrepair several times. The current owner had financed an extensive renovation, which the permits indicated had brought the residence to a 'style in keeping with the period in which it had been built', but not necessarily restored its actual original style or footprint.

So, it was just some old house. The current owner, apparently a man of Japanese-Canadian decent, listed an additional address in Vancouver, and the house was vacant, so Heero doubted he had anything to do with a need for the house's security.

It had good location and a desirable lot. As the house was so old, the city had grown out around it, bringing the once modest rural residence and its double, wooded lot into the current boundary of Sitka proper with its modern urban sprawl of apartments, condos and row houses. It seemed impressive that the lot had never been further partitioned and improved, but Heero had determined that several other lots in the area were in the same preserved condition, though no official ruling demanded this conservation.

Heero could only determine that the need for security was related to the prospective buyer. Some old movie star or politician probably wanted to retire to this area and wanted a professional to assure them that stalkers and photographers would not be able to disturb them. Maybe some former Colonial official who wanted to live near trees, yet was not prepared to give up living in a city.

The buyer was only prospective, so there was no data available on them. Midii had verified the account they had offered for payment, but no name had been given to her. That was one more thing that convinced Heero the buyer was some paranoid Colonial afraid of the paparazzi.

Their list of security issues to check was peculiar. They wanted Lowe Security to not only do a general sweep of the lot, house, and boat-sized garage for weaknesses that could be exploited by trespassers to gain entry, but they wanted Heero to suggest a type of security system, placement of sensors and power requirements. They wanted Heero to determine if the addition of a fence surrounding the property would disable the residents' ability to see approaching threats more than it dissuaded or stopped potential threats. They wanted to know if the addition of a second story might greatly increase their risk of being attacked by snipers positioned beyond the property line.

In all, there was a long, detailed and sometimes ridiculous list of items to check and calculations to make. Heero was starting to see why Midii had wished to find him still on Earth. She and Adin could not possibly be interested in the tedious work involved in this assignment and had hoped that Heero's perfectionist attitude might make him more inclined to want to get this job done.

The buyer wanted to know if the house could withstand a mobile suit falling on it and if any of the nearby trees might be positioned such that they would do significant damage to the house if a mobile suit fell into the trees.

That was just paranoid. It was not wartime. There were no Gundams. Yes, there were mobile suits in Preventer Service and on farms and construction sites, but for the most part, they did not fly, and so they could not very well fall onto houses.

Well, perhaps if one just happened to stand beside a house and an explosion went off and knocked the mobile suit into the house...

Checking the structure of the house for ability to withstand various explosive devices in various positions was also included on the list.

Early Wednesday morning, Heero, Koi and Quick visited a local electronics shop to purchase a few recording devices Heero thought he might need for the job. Heero had been discussing with Quick the possibility of her working for Lowe Security in the future. She was familiar with a number of European cities, spoke several languages, had impressive technical skills and was generally physically fit.

Heero figured that Quick had some of Midii's skills and some of Heero's, so she might be able to work with either of them if the other was unavailable and she could be trained to handle assignments on Earth. They might need an operative on Earth, unless Midii also decided to return. Heero felt that Midii would remain in the Colonies so long as both Ursula and Hilde were still close with her.

If Midii did move, Heero was going to have to figure out how to deal with the Family. Midii was so good at associating with them. She played the role of sister well.

Heero dropped Quick back at their hotel, for he felt the test itself would seem insanely boring to her. He took Koi along in the rented car and drove to the address of the house to be tested.

Heero did not pull into the driveway, but passed the house and pulled the car onto the side of the street. Heero then collected his gear before opening the door. He clipped the small voice recorder onto the collar of his t-shirt, put the phone, lock pick, car keys and piece of white chalk for marking in his rear jeans pockets, pushed the short strap of the camera over his left wrist and put his mobile computer beneath that arm.

Heero stepped from the car and called for Koi to follow him. The street was presently empty; rather, there was no traffic. He could hear animal sounds, birds, dogs, and some distant motorized machinery that was not exactly like a car. The clean smell of trees was stronger here than it had been downtown. There was a little bit of sea in the air as well, Heero thought.

Heero took the camera into his right hand. He faced one end of the street, looked through the viewer and captured a picture. He then faced the opposite end of the street and captured another picture. As he pressed the button, a figure streaked across the frame. Heero looked over the camera and saw a boy on a skateboard. He smiled.

Heero flicked the recorder on and spoke, "First two pictures are of the street in front of the residence. North and then south. Pretty sure that was a Fakie Kickflip."

Heero patted his leg for Koi to follow and approached the driveway. There was a rusted mailbox that no longer received regular deliveries and a painted wooden sign. Heero puzzled at the sign and captured a picture of it. "Free Rocks?" There was no obvious collection of rocks nearby. "Free rocks", Heero tried again, changing inflection. "Free...rocks..."

It occurred to Heero that he should read this as a command in which 'free' was a verb and not an adjective, but then he could not figure out what rocks were to be freed, unless he interpreted 'rocks' as some slang term alike to balls.

That seemed a ridiculous conclusion, so Heero decided that 'free' must be an adjective after all, for the concept that there existed rock-rights activists seemed similarly ludicrous. Perhaps it was some ad to lure Colonial tourists and Heero would find many rocks lying about the lot.

Or else, it was the name of the estate, but this hardly seemed what one would term an estate and even if it was 'Free Rocks' still seemed to have no significance that Heero could determine.

Heero shook his head and continued to puzzle over the sign as he walked up the slope of the drive. The brush and trees had blocked much of the house from the street and as the driveway leveled off, Heero got his first clear view of the house. It was more attractive than he had expected, but he had only seen diagrams and no photos.

It seemed Japanese to him, yet also American. Heero was not expert, or even very knowledgeable in the field of architecture, be he thought perhaps elements of this house were reminiscent of the designs of people with names like Greene or Wright. Heero really did not know if this house should be termed anything near to Prairie or Craftsman, but it did seem to be from the earlier part of that century before there were the Colonies.

It had a certain 'fit-well-in-its-environment-ness'.

"Pretty house", Heero said. He lifted the camera and took a picture. "I do not like the open crawlspace. It should be closed up with lattice to prevent animals remaining beneath the house. I see at least one tree could be climbed to gain access to the roof. I think that sort of black clay tile is Japanese. It could be simulation. I will have to go closer to determine the materials. There is a cherry tree. When it blooms, it could obstruct view of vehicles approaching on the drive from the front bedroom, but then it would also conceal the bedroom from onlookers. I do not advise removal." Not everyone had cherry trees. They should be grateful to have one. The drive could be viewed from other windows.

Heero walked around the house. It was overall rectangular in shape, but had an addition on the back of the house that made its footprint an irregular polygon. The rear yard also had some decidedly Japanese elements, the particular doors and blinds on the addition, the way the rock garden was laid out, the fact that the garden was composed of trees, shrubs, rocks and gravel.

Heero walked around the house until he had made one full circuit, making notes to his recorder and capturing photos as he went. There was one front door and one back door, otherwise entry might be forced through a window, from beneath the house or possibly by entering the chimney. It was an old house, so Heero was not certain the chimney would be too small for a person to enter.

Heero stepped back and took a pictured of the arbored front entrance, and then walked up the stone steps to the door. There were two sidelights and six small square panes in the door itself, plenty of viewing area to see the yard and drive from within the house, without allowing visitors to easily see the details of the rooms.

"Entrance is suitably lit by pendant fixture. Visibility from within is adequate. House numbers are clearly visible. I suggest the living room windows be given a treatment that gives more privacy."

There were two folded pieces of paper tucked into the door handle. Heero removed them. One was addressed: House Inspector. The other note was clearly for him, as it was addressed: Security Tester.

Heero unfolded the brown paper and read the typed message. It said: If you cannot gain access to the house, then we have no reason to trust you understand criminal methods enough to test this residence against efforts they may make.

Heero smirked and pulled the lock pick from his pocket. The door opened easily with the tool. Heero replaced the note for the inspector, ushered Koi inside, and then closed the door. He had never seen so much wood!

Apartments, hotels, churches, palaces and Heero had never seen so much real wood in one interior. There was more wood here than in his little house on Sakhalin, and this was not nearly as rustic as that. Heero stooped and touched the floor, ran his fingers over the boards. They were smooth, old, and an attractive reddish hue.

Heero stood in an entryway looking into a kitchen in front of him and a great room encompassing the area immediately to his left, as well as the space to the left of the kitchen. From the public records he had accessed, Heero knew that this open architecture was not original. There had been several small, enclosed rooms, where now there was one large room with wooden columns taking the load roof and beams overhead.

There was so much wood. Wood floors, wood paneling on some walls, wood shelving and cabinetry built into every area, even wood beams beneath the roof. So much wood, and it did not seem rustic or cabin-like, but very elegant. Everything had such clean straight lines. Everything was polished.

The fireplace had a milled wooden mantel attached, but the structure itself was made of stone and mortar. It looked ancient, yet clean and functional.

Heero turned back to the kitchen. This was a really nice house. Maybe he had miscalculated in thinking the house itself was not worth investing in a security system. So much work must have gone into this house. Nothing looked cheap or mass-market.

Heero had to say something.

He put his computer down on the kitchen's cement countertop and lifted the camera. He captured the inside of the front door, then the view to the fireplace, then the kitchen. He looked up. They had already thought of placing some kind of fire suppression system. Not water...one of the gasses perhaps? Halon?

"I will have to check the records regarding the fire suppression system. All this wood seems a fire hazard. Front door appears sturdy. It was easily picked with a readily available tool. I suggest additional locks. Living room windows do provide excellent view of the drive, but little privacy. Dining room seems to present no particular hazard or danger."

Heero walked through the dining room into the room on the back of the house. He stepped down to its floor. Records showed the room at back of house was a later addition. Once it had been only a screened-in porch, but was now thoroughly integrated into the house, sharing climate controls. "No apparent danger of separation from earlier structure. Craftsmanship appears flawless."

This room looked onto the garden to the north, through a series of sliding glass doors. Three, square windows were set high in the south wall, letting in bright sunlight from that direction, without allowing those outside to easily look into the room.

It was a pleasant room and Heero stood looking at the garden a while before going back to the kitchen.

The appliances there were all new, black in color. The countertops were cement, obviously custom to the house, covering two workspaces opposite each other and the breakfast bar cantilevered into the dining room. The stove was placed on the side near the bar, so that guests at the bar might watch the cook prepare food for them. The sink was opposite the stove and a mirror covered the wall behind it, allowing one standing at the sink to see what went on behind them. That was good for socializing and security. Heero noted that for his recorder.

There were compartments for everything. As small as this kitchen was, it could obviously hold a lot of food and utensils. Glass-doored cabinetry in the dining room would probably be used to store and display glasses, dishes and flatware.

It was a very elegant custom design and Heero wondered if the current owner had ever lived here or only taken on the renovation project as an investment, always meaning to sell the house when it had been improved.

The kitchen floor was not wood, but cork. It had taken a while for Heero to think what the material was. Cork, so the person standing in the kitchen did not have so much stress on their feet. Heero wished he could have a house with a kitchen like this one.

Heero took several pictures of the kitchen.

There was a closet in the hall, opposite the kitchen. It contained hanging space plus a clothes washer and dryer. It seemed secure.

Heero counted five other doors in the hall, two were sliding pocket doors and the other three swung into various rooms. Heero started on the left. The first door swung into a small water closet. It was nothing but a vessel sink on a shelf and a small toilet and its literal resemblance to a closet had influenced the name of the room in Heero's mind. That said, it was an especially elegant water closet. The floor and walls were covered in various sizes of coordinated dark blue tile, but for the wall on the right, which seemed actually to be a sliding partition. Honestly, Heero had not been certain of the operation indicated in some aspects of the blueprints.

Heero pushed the wood panel aside and the tiny water closet opened onto a bath. Heero understood. This house was designed by someone who disliked combination bath and toilet rooms. There was a toilet and sink in one half of the room and a shower, tub and additional sink in the larger adjacent space. The entire space was decorated in that blue tile.

Heero captured a picture of the toilet and the variant tiles set in the wall above that formed a mural of flowers. "I think the flowers above the toilet are morning glories."

Heero walked through to the bath. The main shower fixture was above; the room was designed so that the entire space might serve as the shower and the floor was sloped toward the drain. Apart from the showerhead above, there was a hand spray hanging on the wall. There was also a tub built into the room, in the same tile, rather than a prefabricated basin installed in the room.

Heero took a photo then left by the pocket door to the hall. He continued along the same side of the hall, investigating a rear bedroom before crossing the hall. There was a front bedroom of similar size to the one at the back. Both rooms seemed adequately secure, at least for normal people. Once Heero had looked over the house, he was going to have to start taking more detailed measurements and doing calculations.

The final room in the hall led to a small room that Heero thought had once been a third bedroom. It may have once been a den as well, but now seemed destined as office space. That was what homebuyers would demand these days in a house of this size.

It was not a large house by modern standards. It would no doubt seem generously sized to a Colonial, however. It might have to Heero, except that he had traveled enough to realize there were families and individuals living in much grander homes.

He supposed a pair of professionals or a small family might live here. Or, his theoretical retired famous person might turn one bedroom into a media room...or some other room, according to their taste in diversions.

They had indicated expanding the house was a possibility. Heero would have to find access to the attic. The roof supports were not all visible from within the house and he needed to assess the structure.

He did not have a structural engineering degree, but he knew enough about demolitions to know what a house would not be able to withstand.

Heero returned to the kitchen and brought up the clients requests on his mobile. He then began working his way down the list, leaving the house if necessary to make measurements or observations. One by one, he commented out the itemized checks to be made as completed tasks.

He accessed the attic and the crawl space. He explored the large garage. He walked the perimeter of the property.

There were so many trees. It had seemed a shame to suggest removal of any of the trees, but then Heero realized the few that were placed close to the house would not be missed, as there were so many. They owner might even use the wood for something.

The footwork had been completed and Heero debated returning to the car and the hotel, but there was still light and there was a chance his notes would not be enough when it came to some point of his report.

Heero brought his mobile to the room at the back of the house. He opened the doors onto the garden so that Koi could move in and out, then sat down on the floor to write up his findings and assessments.

The more Heero wrote about the house, the more he agreed it should be secure, and the more he felt he wanted to ask Duo to look for a house in this area. It would probably be too far from his school. When he wrote the suggestions regarding security system and improvements to the house. Heero wanted to be able to meet the buyer, so that he might be able to see the house later, when the improvements were made.

He was beginning to understand how the client thought. Paranoid was not specific enough to describe them. They were methodical and detail-oriented as well. Everything had to be perfectly planned out and arranged so that they would feel safe. Heero gave them some very good suggestions, feeling he understood their motivations.

They could add secret escape routes from the bedrooms to below the house, which would be very useful in event of fire or intrusion. A tall chain link fence with wood strips threaded through the links would obstruct views of the house from the street, be fairly difficult to scale and probably not be affordable for someone who could afford the house. When the second story was added, Heero thought that windows placed low to the floor would let in light and provide a view of the yard below, without allowing those below a clear view of who was within, or any identifiable targets. Also, if they chose the appropriate material and spacing for the roof beams when designing the addition, they could make the building able to resist mobile suit impact. Fires were probably the worst danger, but the building already had a fire suppression system that could be expanded. And that crawlspace seemed a risk. Heero imagined terrorists crawling beneath the house at night and planting bombs. It seemed the house required the air circulation, but perhaps some reinforcements could be devised for certain sections, to prevent entry right through the antique wood floors.

Heero did not realize how late it was until his phone rang and he looked away from the screen in twisting to retrieve the phone from his pocket. The sun was setting and in summer, at this latitude, it really was late.

Heero saw the number was Duo's. He smiled, stretched out on the wood floor and then answered the call. "Duo-chan. Hi. I miss you."

"Are you drunk?"

"No. Why would you say that?"

"You sound way too happy."

Heero adjusted the fit of the headset and saw Duo look at his skeptically. "Happy to talk to you, maybe."

"You are not at the hotel."

Heero almost asked how Duo knew, but he decided it did not matter. "Working." Heero folded his left arm behind his head. "Well, I was until you called."

"I thought you would be done with that job already. Did you run into problems?"

"No. It is just very involved. I think the client must be some paranoid Colonial celebrity. They asked for all our standard tests plus made some special requests of their own."

"You mean you actually did all those tests?"

"Of course... I was hired..."

"It's a nice house, isn't it?"

Heero was speechless. He sat quickly and watched Duo laughing on the tiny vidphone monitor. Duo was the client!

"Go to the fireplace."

Heero stood and turned into the now dark house. There was just a little light coming from behind him as Heero walked through the dining room. In the shadowy corner where the stone of the fireplace met wood bookshelves, Heero caught a glint of light off something metal.

Heero stepped up into the dining room and recalled as best he could the way the room had looked in sunlight. There were switches on a wall here somewhere and Heero's tests had shown that the residence was still powered. He reached to the wall near the bar and found a switch. A fixture hanging from the ceiling lit. There were no occasional lamps, as the house was vacant, but many rooms did have built-in lighting fixtures.

Heero walked to the fireplace, recognizing the object he had only see gleaming. Duo's walking stick, the one he had used when his leg had been broken.

"Find it yet?"

A walking stick beside a fireplace. That meant something. "That Christmas movie we saw."

"Miracle on 34th Street. You've been there all day working on your report, haven't you."

If the stick was here, then.... "You knew, before you came to Paris."

"Yep. I dropped so many hints, Heero."

He had.

"I finished the actual testing hours ago. I have just been here because writing near the garden seemed preferable to returning to the hotel."

"Yeah, I need to get some tatami mats for that room."

"We are going to live here?"

"If you want to. Just contact Hopkinson. He's a pretty kewl guy. He said he'd help me with designing the improvements, but the house was as done as he wanted it to be for himself."

"The owner", Heero said, recognizing the name. "Duo...I love this house. It has the perfect kitchen. It has a toilet separate from the bath. It has a garden and trees. It has wood. Duo, it has so much wood."

"Yeah, and those kewl roof tiles. We're going to salvage them to reuse after the addition goes up. I'm going to add some photovoltaics on the back side of the roof, where visitors won't notice. It's pretty huh? Has great lines inside and out."

"It is all planned?"

"Not everything. I'm waiting for your report of course. I did contact Ken, make an offer and sign the contract, and make the down payment, with the understanding that you also must sign for us to have a deal. There should be a house inspector showing up this week, to confirm Ken's claims and make particular suggestions for maintaining the house and conserving energy. I had a guy I know look over copies of the documents, but if you want, you can tell them you want to have another attorney of your own. Everything seems legit; I don't think Ken is trying to rip me off; he wants me to have him help us with the plans for the addition. We'll have to go to a bank to get the finances all approved, but I'm sure that will go fine, and once it does, we'll get a date when everything goes into effect and we can move in. We can use the rear room as a bedroom, just until the new room is finished, or else, we can stay elsewhere while they work."

Heero tried to process everything Duo had described. He was definitely going to have to ask someone for advice. "How will you get to school, if you live in Sitka?"

"Bought a small jet, rather the parts of several jets. I have Howard looking at them, as he's actually better with those types of systems than I am. If you check a city map, you'll see there is a private airfield close by. I'll fly to California the days I need to be at school. I think I can pick up some courier gigs to defray cost of fuel and port fees." Duo was such a Colonial. Heero did not think that was the kind of commuting many people on Earth did, unless their primary job was being a pilot. That was probably over a thousand kilometers, Sitka to San Fransico.

"So, did you find out about the transfer?"

"Yeah! I wanted to tell you! I got it. Attached to the Preventer base at New Edwards. And, you called it, a Promotion!"


"Captain Maxwell."


"I am apparently to have a partner, but I have not been given their name yet. I'll get that assignment later, from my new commander. I don't think I've heard of him before, but Sally says he's decent. Lieutenant-Colonel Bell. Ex-Alliance officer, I hear. Native of Earth."

"I may have heard the name, but I do not know much about him."

"Anyway, it's settled. It is settled?"

"Yes. I will call this Ken Hopkinson about the house tomorrow morning."

"You will?"


"Come home soon. I am up to my eyeballs in Mobile-P code and fast on my way to going insane."

"I miss you."

"Yeah, I miss you, too, but I really gotta get back to work."

"It is later there."

"Yeah, but you know how I work." Yes. Duo worked the way Heero worked, as long as he could as well as he could, perhaps for days at a time, until he crashed.

"Duo... you signed these papers already?"

"Yeah. Don't feel nervous about it. There is some kind of agent involved, but Ken really does seem nice, like he wants to sell to us."

"He would not tell everyone?"

"No. I don't think that's his motivation."

"How much? How much is it actually."

"Oh, it's quite a bit, but you've seen it. Double lot inside a city. Custom everything. Outstanding workmanship. I'm not stupid, I did get a copy of the documents beforetime to have someone else check them. You'll sign the exact same copy. Anyway, tell them you want to look at a copy first if you like. I'll give you his number, it's here somewhere."

"Perhaps I could contact Hopkinson tonight?"

"Yeah, it's his sale, he's just got someone doing the contracts for him."

"Was it not selling? How did you find it?"

"Just did searches. I do not think it was selling before. For the price, most people down there would want more house, ya know? They don't care that there's a whole other lot that could be improved."

"So, you want to build something?"

"No, I just want to own the land."

"No one owns land really; it's the Earth. You just pay for the right to control its use."

"Here's the number", Duo said, ignoring Heero's comment. He read the number.

Heero frowned and memorized the number. "It is just like in the Colonies", he said, "If you could own a piece of the colony structure, then you could endanger others and their rights by neglecting to maintain or properly use your section, therefore no one can be allowed to own a piece of the colony and right to use can be taken away by your peers if they agree that you are negligent."

"Yeah, but someone can own an entire colony."

"There are some restrictions. To maintain safe position within Earth's Sphere and not endanger other structures there are guidelines that must be followed to retain ownership and right to use the space."

"I guess. But they don't do that on Earth."

"They do somewhat. Maybe they do not take your house from you right away, but there are penalties if your actions threaten your neighbors and their rights. Do you want to get sick because your neighbor introduced toxic substances into the water table?"

"Yeah, yeah, I guess you are right. It's not like I want to pollute the Earth. I'm just not some militant conservationalist either."

"I am not... either."

Silence. It was somewhat awkward.

"So, do you know your schedule?"

"I suppose it depends on when I can meet with Hopkinson. I will escort Quick to the airport and I only have the suite here until then."

"You think you can visit when you get home?"

"Yes, but not for very long. There are other people I should see in person."

"I get that."

"I suppose I should let you go back to work. Do you think you will be sleeping in the morning? I probably will want to talk to you again when I find out when I can meet Hopkinson."

"Sure. I mean, yeah, you can call me. Even if I am asleep, that's probably something we need to arrange together. Right?"

"The actual transfers of money?"

"Well, I told you about getting a loan. Did I?"

"You mentioned it, but I do not recall it being definite."

"Because I was trying to surprise you. There was a chance you would not like the house, but..." Duo did not want to say, but Heero understood that Duo had chosen this house because he thought Heero would feel comfortable here.

"I know."

"So, here's what you do. Wait, I'll send it text, just to be sure it's correct. You go to this bank...you can do this all electronically...I'm writing the specific form...and here's a code number, a case number I guess they call it. You just fill out the form with your legal name and financial holdings. I'm sure they'll approve this. Then after the contract is signed by You and Ken, we'll alert the bank that we have a contract."

"All right. Is that all? Well, everything I mentioned before...and then some people from the bank will contact us about everything being confirmed and going into effect. Then we'll both have to meet Ken and do the actual transfer, the closing I guess."

"So, after I sign the contract, there will be another signing?"

"Yeah, with a bank rep and Ken might bring a lawyer. You can have one if you want, but it's not mandatory. You can have a lawyer just look at copies, like with the contract."

"OK. I will take care of the banking tonight."

"Kewl. Goodnight, Heero."

He smiled. "Goodnight." Heero disconnected.

He wondered whom he should call first. Heero dialed Hopkinson's number. There was one ring and then a man answered the phone. To Heero, he seemed Japanese in appearance. "Hello", he said.

"I am calling for Ken Hopkinson," Heero said, unsure if the number was for a household, business or individual and whether Ken would live or work with others.

The man, Ken, smiled. "That's me."

"I was given your number by Duo Maxwell. He is to buy a house from you."

"You're Heero?" Ken seemed to scry at his vidphone; on Heero's screen, it was obvious his eyes focused well below the lens. "Are you at the house now? What do you think?"

Heero was not sure how much Duo had told Ken, but Midii had said the owner was aware others would be accessing the house this week. "Yes. It is a nice house."

"Did you have any questions? I have not heard from Duo again. Are you still interested in the house?"

Heero was not calling to negotiate, and he trusted that Duo had gotten the best price he was able, though the house had not come cheaply. There was no harm in admitting he did like the house. "I spoke with Duo just a few minutes ago. We are both interested in buying the house from you. If possible, I would like you to send me copies of the documents pertaining to the sale tonight so that I may look at them."

"Sure. No problem."

"And, I would like to make an appointment to meet with you to sign these contracts, which Duo has mentioned."

"Will you still be in the area tomorrow?"

"Yes, I have other business in the morning, but after that I am available."

"If you can be at the house again tomorrow...what time would be good for you?"


"I can be in Sitka by then."

"I will give you the number to send the documents to." Heero waited for Ken to say he was ready then told him the number that would send the documents to his home computer. "I will see you tomorrow at noon."

"Yes. Good to hear from you. Bye."

Heero ended the call then dialed Midii, calculating after the fact that it might be morning there.

"Heero", she answered.

"Did you know it was Duo?"

Hesitation. "Yes."

"It is... OK. Midii, I am going to move to Sitka."

"Do you like Sitka in particular? Do you know why Duo chose that city?"

"I suspect. He must have gotten the idea that if I were to chose to buy a house for myself and live there it would be some northern, wooded, island location."

"You did live in a place like that."

"Yes. It is probably not the only sort of place I would enjoy living, but those three characteristics are appealing. Duo simply added 'urban' and 'on his side of the pond' and came up with this place. I probably could have assimilated to Vancouver or San Francisco, but a similar house and lot in those cities would have been much more expensive if there were any available. I will need to do research on the city, but the house itself is...nearly perfect."

"Is everything finalized?"

"I asked the seller to send documents to my computer."

"You want me to retrieve them and have someone here look at them?"

"Who could do that?"

"I will quietly inquire whether anyone knows about real estate."

"I estimate I need to know where I stand twelve to fifteen hours from now."

"Understood. I will probably get back to you before then."

"Thank you. Later then." Heero disconnected.

He collected his things, turned off the lights and called Koi. The dog came in from the garden. Heero shut and locked the glass doors and then led Koi through the house. He checked that the front door would lock when closed, ushered Koi outside, left the house, and then shut the door.

There were streetlights glowing through the trees, but Heero found himself making a mental note to suggest to Duo they acquire some lights to place along the driveway.

This might really be their home.

Heero found his car and took the keys from his jeans to unlocked the door. There were children running from yard to yard and dogs barking. Heero signaled Koi to enter the vehicle and then got in, with his dog still climbing over the seats.

Heero drove back to the hotel, going over in his mind all the things moving would mean. There would be decisions about furniture. He would have to give the people he wished to stay in contact with a new address. He would have to work harder to maintain some presence and control over the businesses he owned in the Colonies.

Heero parked the car in the hotel's garage and then walked up to the lobby with Koi and the rest of his gear in his satchel. Heero had a thought as he passed the concierge desk. He approached the man on duty there. "Is prostitution legal here?"

The man answered quietly. "Yes. With licenses, it is legal. May I help you locate a service?"

"No. I was just wondering about the legal status."

"Yes sir."

Heero found some cash in the pocket of his satchel. "Thanks for the information", he said as he put the bill on the counter. Heero turned and walked to the elevators, Koi at his side.

When Heero reached the suite, he did not see Quick immediately. Koi went toward the doors to the balcony before Heero noticed they were slightly open. Quick was outside, smoking a cigarette.

"I think it is better to have a clear mind."

"It's just tobacco. But, anyway, some of us need a little help."

"Maybe I did not say the best thing." Or he said his thoughts at the wrong time. "I drink too much and I might have abused painkillers and I have done some stimulants in the past, particularly when working."

She laughed, still looking out at the city. "Heero", she said in that peculiar accent, "I have seen you when you are serious about working. You need no help. Let us just leave it at 'I am not at work right now'."

"I am not so much better than anyone else."

He saw her shoulders shrug. "I would not like to admit it. You are. Not because you are too strong or you saved the world. You know the kind of work I mean. I have seen you do it. It is like you go somewhere else. You are...in the space."

Heero did not know how to respond to that. He waited, and then tried, "I do not know how it is to be other people, only me. I can only know parts of other people as I see them."

Quick crushed the remainder of the cigarette against the rail and let it fall. She turned around. "Did you have difficulty? Duo called me and I had to say you were not here."

"I spoke to him. He was the client."

"Duo is buying the house?"

"We are buying the house."

Quick smiled. "Did you eat already?"

"No. I am hungry."

"Let's check local directories for quaint little restaurants. If you are to live in a city, you must know the best places to take out of town guests."

"That does sound proper."

Quick nodded. "You will need to learn many things about the city."

Heero almost grinned. He thought he rather liked that challenge.

He bought Quick dinner at a Japanese grill they discovered. It was quite decent, Heero thought; he had the Teriyaki Swordfish.

When they got back to their suite, Heero did the banking as Duo instructed. It involved giving a lot of personal information to strangers, but it was all to be able to share a house with Duo, so Heero completed the forms honestly.

By the time he was finished Midii had sent mail giving Heero the name of a lawyer they could trust. He confirmed that the contract looked good and advised Heero he should sign.

Heero and Quick retired to their separate rooms and in the morning they packed their things, checked out of the hotel and drove to Sitka's airport. They had come in by rail, but only because Midii had plotted out the cheapest combination of transportation given the timeframe.

Quick would get on one plane to Vancouver and then switch for a flight to Paris, as Vancouver had the location and population to handle many more international flights.

The most recent news they had received from the Preventers was that some new arrests had been made in Europe over the past 48 hours. Heero did not think Quick would be in immediate danger, but he was relieved that Preventer agents would be in Paris to meet her, just to make sure she was safe.

She hugged him. "If you offer me a job, I'll try to go straight edge."

"You would not be you, then. I may still have work for you."

"Merci, Heero. Au revoir."

"Au revoir."

She laughed.

"I got you a gift. It is just something I bought when you went into the restroom." Heero opened his satchel and removed the bear. It was brown and wearing beads, though the beads were simply a girls bracelet from the same gift shop.

"He is so cute. I think I will name him Jim!"

Heero had honestly not considered the bear being male, but it was Quick's teddy. "Maybe he can protect you."

Quick giggled. "That was almost... superstitious."

"No. I mean, that is just what some people would think, no? The bear will protect you if you believe it will."

"Well you probably didn't save the world having a defeatist attitude."

Heero shrugged. "I survived, but I certainly did not visualize all the falling on my head and getting shot and being taken prisoner."

"What will you visualize for yourself now, Heero, as you are surviving?"

Heero leaned in and whispered. "A house has so many different rooms to have sex in and they are all far enough away that the neighbors cannot hear."


Heero straightened, laughed. "I will visualize the construction being done quickly and safely I suppose. Duo starts school in September. It will be a few rough months if he needs to be on Earth and the house is always under construction."

"They are boarding. Let me know if I can help you. I am glad we met again."

"I am also glad. I seem to meet people under unfortunate circumstances."


Heero waved. Maybe he would tell himself that the bear could protect her.

Heero saw Quick board the plane then walked with Koi back to the parking lot. They arrived at the house before noon and there were already two other cars in the drive. Heero walked up to the house and knocked.

Ken opened the door. Heero saw a woman in casual business clothing standing near the bar. "Heero," Ken said, "This is Andrea, she will go over the contract with you. The inspector is also here now, currently checking the bathroom."


"Do you have any questions", Ken asked as he shut the door after Koi had entered. "Everything here is included. Did you see all the kitchen appliances and storage?"

"Duo and I want the house, you do not have to try to sell me on it."

"You like it?"

It occurred to Heero only then that the house had not only been an investment project for Ken but that he had been the designer. "Yes. You did good work on the renovation."

"Duo wanted me to call him so he could follow what we were doing...even though he has already signed."

"That is fine. You have a phone on you."

"I will use the one in my mobile computer." Heero set the computer on the bar and placed the call to Duo. It would be Thursday afternoon where Duo was. He answered quickly, expecting the call. Even so, Duo looked more dirty and greasy than professional. Heero wondered what he had been working on...not his programming, certainly.

"Hey, Ken, Andi!" Duo waved.

"It is not complicated", Andrea began, "You sign here... initial..." Heero was listening, but did not consciously hear what Andrea was saying. He just signed and initialed and felt fortunate that he had some ability to sense her intention.

In several places Duo had written in an alteration and Heero initialed beside the large, dark DM.

And then Ken was shaking his hand. "Nice to do business with you. We will be in touch about closing. And Duo..." Heero turned to the mobile as Ken did. Duo was there, watching attentively. It looked casual and jaded, but Heero knew that was Duo's attentive face. "We'll talk about the plans."


The Inspector interrupted then. "Who does this go to?" he asked.

"We should each get a copy if possible", Ken said.

"Were there any problems?" Heero asked.

"Everything is up to code, but I did make some notes in this section on future improvements that may conserve energy."

Heero took his copy of the Inspector's report.

"We are all done here", Andrea said pleasantly.

"That means you can come home now, Heero", Duo said.

It was Friday night when Heero arrived at the door to the apartment Duo and Hilde still shared. Duo opened the door when Heero knocked. He was wet.


"May I come in?"


"Hilde here?"

"No, at a doctor appointment. She'll be back soon though."

"How soon?"


"Slept on the shuttle."

"Wanna shower?"

"Do I?"

"Uh huh. You are going to work up a whole new sweat for me Mr. No-talking-bedroom-now-seven-minutes! You owe me."

Heero smirked. "Shower sounds good. You scrub my back."

"I'll scrub your back", Duo purred.

"You have to wait for me to say it", Heero said as they rushed to the bathroom.

"Say what?"

Heero laughed, pinned Duo against the inside of the bathroom door and spoke at his ear, "You want to find out if I am a sicko?"

"Oh, fuck yeah. Right now?"

"After you wash me. Just be informed I will give as good as I take tonight."

"Oh, God, yes. Now!"

A phone rang.

"Your phone", Heero said.

Duo looked to the sink, where a small phone was balanced on its edge. "I brought it in here in case you called me."

"Could be important."

"No. Just kiss me already."

"Maybe Hilde is calling to say if it's a boy or a girl."

Duo lifted the phone and answered.

Heero started to undress.

"Is that right? Yes. Thanks!" Duo said.

Heero opened his pants and pushed them down.

Duo dropped the phone to the sink. He went down on his knees and nuzzled Heero's cock. "We close August 1st", he said.

"We have a house."


"I think that is a real turn on for me."

"I can see," Duo whispered.

"I will fuck you in every room."

"Now, that's a real turn on!" Duo warbled.

on to chapter 83

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