Another Version of Events
by Karan Seraph
The house Mitchie and Candy shared did not have a fenced front yard,
but an open lawn with a few trees and a driveway to one side leading
to a carport. The house itself was not of a style Heero knew well
enough to name, but it seemed an older style and not surprising for
an American city that also was close to water. There were rooms with
bay windows either side of the front door, and probably two bedrooms
facing the front of the house on its second floor. On the left of
the house, opposite the drive enough white-washed picket fencing was
visible to suggest they did have a fenced rear yard, and this
suggested present or former presence of pets or small children, or
perhaps a garden they wished to keep neighborhood pets and children
Duo wheeled the grill onto the drive, with one blue SUV and one
small blue van, that matched the blue siding of the house. Heero
carried his box to the front door, eyes automatically tracing to the
bays to see if anyone was visible within. Duo stepped up to the door
behind him, the dog leashes on his right wrist, as Heero found and
pressed the bell button.
A small blond child opened the inner door, leaving them separated
still by a flimsy metal-framed glass door and Heero decided after
another second's study that it was a young boy. What if he was not a
nice former terrorist coming to enjoy the cook out. What if someone
wanted to steal or harm the child? What if a not so nice mad
scientist found the boy wandering alone somewhere?
Heero sighed. He knew he had some issues. In all likelihood this was
a safe neighborhood and security came from the fact that the
neighbors did all know each other and watched out for their
collective children. If a child was taken, many people would quickly
volunteer to search or report suspicious activity.
"Mommy! Mama!" The boy screamed, "There's some boys at the door!"
Maybe the boy was safe enough, Heero thought, wincing slightly at
the child's scream.
Mitchie came to the door, laughing nervously and put her hands to
the boy's shoulders. She pushed open the outer door and asked Heero
to come in. Heero put his hand on the door to hold it open and
another child peered at him from behind Mitchie's legs, a girl,
Heero thought, and younger. "Duo brought his grill along."
"Yeah, not like I wanted to bring competition, but I just built it
and I thought I'd test it out before putting it away for the
season!" Duo explained, with his own similar laughter. "Can I move
it out back or something?"
"Sure. You should be able to get it around the cars and under the
port on the side of the house. Do you need help?"
"I got it."
"We'll meet you out back. Heero, can I get that for you. Please come
through the house. Is it food?"
"I can carry it. I made rice balls, and I have the meat and
ingredients for Duo's barbeque here as well."
The interior of the house was very colorful. The outside had a look
that Heero thought was very normal and proper and very suburban, but
inside, there were bright colors everywhere and a level of clutter
that Heero believed some people found `warm' or `charming' and it
looked like a place real people lived and not like it had been
designed to be seen by drivers by.
It did not seem like Heero's house, or even a place he would like to
live, but he quickly felt more at ease, even though everything was
strange to him.
Mitchie led Heero through the living room they had entered and an
adjacent dining room into a kitchen. He felt that although the house
was not of the same floorplan as his, it might be from a similar era
in which certain design elements were considered appropriate. The
rooms were similar in size to his house, and if the kitchen and
dining room were reversed in position, it would have been very like
his house, without the walls knocked down. Heero suspected that at
one time his and Duo's house had contained separate small rooms,
rather than the great room with divisions created by wooden columns
and built-in cabinetry.
"If you need to use the kitchen, that's fine. We will be putting the
food on the tables outside as it's ready, but with people being here
at different times, we're going to reserve some in here to restock
the table, so things don't spoil."
That was wise, Heero thought.
The children were still hanging near Mitchie, looking at Heero. "The
rice balls will keep as long as the dish stays wrapped", Heero said.
"Say Hello to Mr. Heero", Mitchie encouraged the children, and
before he could protest the manner of address, she continued, "He
and Mr. Duo are our new neighbors. You remember Mama and I told you
that Mr. Ken was moving away and some new people were going to buy
"We saw some trucks", the boy whispered.
"Yes, Mr. Heero is having some construction work done on his house",
"Do they have kids?" the boy asked, looking at Heero, but not
speaking to him.
Heero shook his head. "No children live at our house, but we do have
two dogs that like to play and need a lot of taking care of. Do you
"Spinoza!" the girl said.
"Oh, Mr.,that is Dr. Marcus told me about the pets he knew in the
neighborhood. What kind of pet is Spinoza? Does he have deviant
"He's our dog", the boy laughed.
"A poodle", Mitchie laughed. "Julien, Bowie, why don't you go
outside again and play. Mama is there."
The kitchen also had a pair of inner and outer doors and the inner
door was already propped open. The boy opened the glass door and
both children stepped down and into the yard. Heero could see some
other dogs and children running in the yard.
"Those are our two children. Julien is four and Bowie is two-and-a-
"Why do you introduce people with titles?"
Mitchie appeared surprised, as if she had been expecting some other
question. "Oh, we are just trying to teach our children to have
respect for elders. Not that you are so old, but you have your own
life and your own place. And, it would be better for some kids not
to encourage them to think they can just have their own house at
"I am eighteen now. More than halfway to being nineteen, actually."
"Ah, excuse me, I meant that in general. There are some boys in the
neighborhood that are the same age as you and still live with their
parents and follow their rules, and we would allow the children to
address them more familiarly. You see, though I understand it might
be different in the Colonies, here we had a shift in the age of
consent. It used to be staggered, so that at eighteen some things
were legal and admissible, and then at twenty-one further legal
privileges were granted. Now, at seventeen, a person is considered
legally adult, but in my opinion, and in the opinions of many others
known to me, most eighteen-year-olds were not even truly adult. Now
there are kids who talk about dropping out of school and getting
apartments, and they don't even understand the responsibility that
would be, because they always were taken care of. I think you are
adult enough that I can have my children address you as such."
"If that is how your family is, I will certainly respect that
decision, but usually, I do not allow any titles and honorifics. I
make very few exceptions. I actually dislike honorifics, but I
admit, it is mostly the use of Japanese honorifics by non-Japanese
that I dislike."
"You are Japanese then?"
Heero hesitated to answer for a second and then said, "We are all of
one nation now, but culturally, I am very much `Colonial' and
ethnically, more Japanese than not."
"If I ask questions you do not like, just tell me. But, you must be
used to it by now."
"Because I was a Gundam pilot, you mean?"
"Yes. I do not know if you are aware, I mean, did you monitor
reports about your activity, or since the wars, did you…I am not
sure what I am trying to say."
Heero nodded. "It is not really easy for me to meet new people and
talk about it. For a long time after the wars were ended I did live
on Earth, but I always tried to blend in and not reveal who I was.
So, I think I know how many Earthlings feel about us. There is not
so much anger anymore. During the time, that is, when we really were
terrorists, I did sometimes monitor reports within the military, and
also what information was released to or speculated on by the
public, and I know Earthlings were encouraged to fear and hate us.
But the Eve Wars and the Barton coup attempt changed how everyone
thought of us. Now, most people are curious. They feel like they
have to ask what really happened, because for most, all the new
reports and the retrospectives cannot really enable them to
understand why everything happened the way it did. I am not certain
that if I wrote a book on what I observed and know that people would
understand any better by reading it."
"I am sorry."
Heero tried to smile, but he felt like his face was not doing it
right. "Maybe you could just say the things you would say to other
For several seconds Mitchie was quiet and looked out the door, but
then she turned back to Heero and spoke. "Thank you for bringing the
rice balls. If you like, we can take some outside and I will show
you where you can put them. Since you haven't been to out parties,
I'll be sure to direct you how to find food or drinks or the
bathroom, if you need it. May I introduce you to other guests?"
"Yes. If they are neighbors, I have only met Marcus so far."
"He often comes to our parties. He is not here now. I think his
family will come this time."
They went into the yard and Heero saw they had a sort of outdoor
kitchen. There was a gas powered grill, a sink and some countertop
enclosed in brickwork, a floor of stone between the counter and the
house, some tables standing in that space, and an awning high
overhead. This family must enjoy their yard very much, Heero
thought. He carefully lifted the plates of rice balls from the box
and laid them on one of the tables.
"Hey, Heero, you got my stuff, Duo called.
"Aa." Heero brought the box to the counter, which Duo was leaning
against as he drank water from a bottle. He handed Heero a beer as
soon as his hands were free of the box.
"Thanks. I think Candy and me can be good neighbors. She even has a
little smoker down here."
Duo turned and pointed out an appliance that looked like a small
refrigerator to Heero.
"Her stuff's all gas powered", Duo said, "I told her we don't know
much about cooking with gas in the Colonies, and she said she didn't
think we'd have wood to burn either. I think she wasn't very
impressed that all our various cooking appliances are electric and
the generators are run by nuclear fusion reactors."
"Does all the more damage when we let a Colony drop to the Earth,
that way", Heero joked, which was to say he said the words in
complete monotone. Candy did not laugh. Heero thought quickly of
something else to say. "We do not have very much wood in the
Colonies, though some parks to have real trees. Junk mail and memos
arrive printed on a kind of plastic foil."
"They do have paper, it's just made from other plant fibers, like
from hydroponically grown flax, or hemp or the waste parts of edible
stuff, like strawberry vines. They make a lot of paper in the Colony
where Heero's from." Duo was starting a fire in his grill.
"Where do they get the plastic?" Candy asked. "Isn't plastic derived
from various oils. They haven't discovered oil on the Moon, have
"It's all derived from organic plant matter, from plants that can be
grown quickly with simulated soil or in water", Heero said, "it is
just that once you reach a certain threshold of a material, it
becomes cheap, if it can be recycled and you no longer have to go
through the process of making it as much. That is why plastic is
very cheap, and also various types of composite material and some
metals, because Colonials have perfected methods of recycling such
that it is cheaper to make a sheet of plastic to feed the printer
from old plastic than to use plant fibers to make a new sheet of
"They don't recycle paper?"
"It mostly goes into decorative items, screens and lanterns and the
like," Duo explained, as he moved from the grill to the counter to
mix up a sauce, "and that stuff doesn't get tossed out very
often. "Everything is packaged in metal and plastic, though, even
stuff we get from Earth, so we have plenty of it to use."
"And you don't have barbeque?" Candy asked.
"Nope, not really, only electric grilling. Potential for gas
explosion rupturing a hull is too great to use gas for residential
or commercial applications. Mostly all types of gas and similar
fuels are reserved for propulsion of spacecraft anyway."
"And, you just up and built a wood-burning grill last night?"
"Yep! I was going to build a two chamber smoker, but I was getting
too tired and changed my plans."
"You can get the smoky flavor using a grill, even if it's gas or
charcoal, if you have some damp wood chips or pellets and it has a
lid to close over the grill."
"Yeah, that's what I was thinking."
The conversation was beginning to not get very interesting to Heero,
so he gulped some crappy American beer and then said he would go
meet the other guests.
Apart from Duo, the dogs, Bowie and Julien and their mothers, there
were ten other children ranging from toddler to teenager and three
other adults already in attendance. There was one adult man tossing
an American style football with some boys and the two women were
sitting in some plastic lawn chairs drinking diet soda and children
variously running around or playing with dogs, or sitting in the
Heero was not certain he would have much in common with the women,
but his real goal in being at the cook out was to become acquainted
with his neighbors and establish a friendly relationship, or at
least neighborly peace, so that he could continue to feel secure in
his home. He approached the women first. He took another sip from
his bottle, licked his lips clean and then stopped before them. "I
hope I am not interrupting you ladies", he said.
They looked up and smiled at him.
"Hello", one said.
"Hi", said the other.
"I thought I should introduce myself. We just moved into the house
two doors down from here, the place Ken Hopkinson used to own. Are
you both from the neighborhood?"
"You're Heero", they said, almost at the same time, though it was
more a question from one and a statement from the other.
Heero bowed. "Heero Yuy. You can call me Heero."
One of them, the one with darker hair who was larger than the other,
held out her hand. "Babs Foster."
Heero was not really sure what to do with her hand. Because the way
she extended it did not seem like an average American hand shake,
but more feminine, so that the top showed, as if she was either
asking that it be kissed, or showing her rings. It was her right
hand, though, so even having rings, she could not mean to announce
whether she was married. Heero lifted her hand and bowed toward it,
as it mocking a kiss, without touching lips to her.
Babs seemed pleased enough with the gesture.
"I'm Shelly," the other woman said, and made no gesture of greeting
except to sip her soda from the straw in her glass. She had light
hair and was slender and small framed. "Shelly Tyler-Martin." Heero
was not certain whether the hyphenated name meant her parents had
passed the name to her or if she was married and had joined her name
to her husband's, but she did wear a band and diamond ring on her
left hand, when Heero glanced there. It could have been a hyphenated
name given to her husband by his parents that she adopted as he own.
Heero knew some people kept family names going back several
generations, but after so many generations, you just had to drop
some, or spend a very long time introducing yourself to people you
hoped would care to know your heritage.
Babs had a lot of rings of various styles, so Heero was not certain
if any of hers signified union or commitment, even on her left ring
"Nice to meet you, Heero," Babs said.
Heero had a feeling that he had not had since…Relena had developed a
sort of crush on him when they were in school. "I feel awkward
standing in front of you ladies", Heero said. He wanted to say he
was going to go introduce himself to others.
"Pull up a chair", Shelly said. "We live just across the street from
you. Both of us."
"In different houses."
The way the houses and drives were positioned on the street, there
was not any one house directly opposite Free Rocks, but halves of
two houses. Heero pulled one of the plastic chairs out, to give him
a little more space, and sat facing the women. "Do either of you
have children. I see some kids out there sometimes. Some boys on
skateboards and sometimes girls talking or clapping."
"Most of these are mine," Shelly said. "That's my husband Gary,
there." She indicated the man playing football. He seemed fairly
athletic, but not as if he played sports professionally, but like he
might have previously, while in a school. Three of the kids were his
from a previous marriage, and Caroline is ours together, plus we now
have our nephew staying with us. Gary's an architect. He was sad to
hear Ken was leaving, though I think he knew Ken had bought the
house only to remodel it. He was over there often, looking at your
house, when Ken was there."
"Oh", Heero said.
"Just the two girls with me, Jen and Barb. My husband's not with us.
Away on business."
"What line of work is he in?" Heero asked, trying to be politely
"I do some of that", Heero said, smirking, "a lot of days working
from home in front of computers, but then a lot of days spent away,
Babs gave just the look Heero expected, which was between suspicion
and surprise. This meant of course `Computer Consulting' was code
for whatever work her husband really did. She would not be able to
admit this, of course."
"Yes. That is the nature of the work."
"A lot of people who were formerly in government or military
intelligence have gone into the industry", Heero said casually, "I
had some wartime experience with information technologies, so it was
not difficult for me to get into. Duo works for Preventers, part-
time. He's continuing his education. He has some other projects on
the side, which may develop into something interesting and
profitable in the future." Heero did not have to say this, but
having a piece of information over Babs made him feel secure, and
feeling secure, he was able to talk in a more relaxed, and even
playful manner. "I think he was the smartest one, but most people
just think of him as `the cute one'."
The women shifted their gaze toward Duo. He was leaning over the
counter, not actively working, perhaps waiting for the fire to burn
down or meat to marinate. He did have a sort of dangerous or sexy
look, as if he might be a rocker, in his sunglasses and tight band
tee, with the long hair and the silver dangling from his ears. He
seemed to be laughing at something Candy said and then stopped and
tilted back his head to gulp water from his bottle.
"He's like an American, but from the Colonies, right?" Shelly asked.
"Yes, in the Colonies, we would say `American-Colonial' to describe
the sort of ancestry he had, while identifying that he was one of us
not born on Earth."
"Do you know Quatre?" Babs asked.
"Jen has pictures of Quatre Winner on her bedroom wall now."
Shelly laughed. "Mine are in that stage now, even Cindy. Mostly
pictures of one of those boy bands, except Janice, she is into some
kind of game or cartoon characters now."
"Are they boys?" Babs asked.
"I wouldn't worry."
Heero glared, but the two women were not looking at him. Shelly was
still watching Duo, and Babs's eyes were not on his face.
"So, are all the children not belonging to our hosts or to Babs
yours, Shelly?" Heero asked.
"Before, when you said most were yours, you mentioned three, then
one, then one, and Babs claimed two, and that's seven, but there are
ten children here, apart from Julien and Bowie."
"Oh, yes, three step children, and three from my own previous
marriage, plus the other two I told you about."
"That is a lot of children, eight."
"Quite enough" Shelly laughed.
"I make sure she gets out of the house now and then", Babs said.
"I volunteer a lot", Shelly said. "We do have a housekeeper, so it
is not that much work. Did I tell you she's getting married?"
"We are looking for a new housekeeper, but Greg says that maybe we
do not need one, since some of the kids are older now and can help
with chores and sitting."
"He needs to let you hire a housekeeper."
"Please excuse me, I think I will go introduce myself to Gary, or
some of the children, if that is all right."
"Nice to meet you, Heero", Shelly said. She sipped soda again.
Babs laughed. "Just don't tell my girls you know Quatre, unless you
want them hanging all over you."
"Will they anyway?" Shelly whispered as Heero left.
"I don't care", Babs said, "they're safe."
Shelly said something else, but the sound of younger children
laughing kept Heero from overhearing.
Julien tried to throw the football to an older boy, but it only
flopped to the ground. "Dad, he throws like a girl", the other boy
"Now, Rob, I want you to think about that. Don't some of your
sisters or girls at school actually throw much better?" Heero
quirked a brow at that. He thought it was good that the man was
encouraging his son not to think in sexist terms, but it sounded
very insulting to Julien to say it was more accurate he could not
even throw as well as a girl, when it had seemed a bad thing a
second ago to throw as badly as a girl. But then, Heero heard Gary
continue, "Some girls are very able at sports, and some boys are
not, everyone has their own talents. Little Julien is only four now,
and we can't expect him to throw very well yet, but you do not know
that he will not be a very talented athlete in the future, and even
if he is not…" He was using too many words, Heero realized. The boy,
Rob, looked confused rather than corrected. Heero filed that
information away for future use: be succinct when scolding children.
"Your criticism can be constructive if you offer suggestions for
improvement", Heero said.
Rob looked up at him. Heero smiled because the boy was wearing a
Gonin Team t-shirt with Akairo's Red Wolf mecha on it, which was
only seen in the movie, Duo had explained to Heero the night before.
During the series, there had been no animal form to any of their
mecha, and some `hardcore' fans disliked the change to
"Julien might like if you demonstrate your throwing form to him, so
he can learn how to be as good as you", Heero said.
Rob looked pleased with that. He touched Julien's shoulder to get
his attention and began posing and demonstrating.
"Shelly told me your name, but I thought I would introduce myself,
as we will be neighbors. I am Heero Yuy. I live across the street
from your house, where Ken Hopkinson lived."
"Gary Tyler-Martin." He extended his hand. Heero thought it would be
most appropriate to just shake his hand and not object, so he took
the offered hand. Gary shook his hand once firmly and then drew his
hand away, which seemed a most professional and masculine way to do
it. "Thanks for the help there. I think the boys look up to you."
Heero nodded, because he was aware this happened, though he did not
try to encourage it. "It just happens because certain parties enjoy
the tactic of relaying scenes of battle to public big screens and
replaying the footage in yearly retrospectives. Some things I did
should never be mimicked."
Gary nodded. "I was not encouraged to serve during the wars, because
I had a large family to support, but I was in the military when I
was younger. Engineer Corps. It was all Alliance then. Nothing like
what people your age had to deal with. I was afraid my oldest would
join. We had no draft, but there was heavy recruiting. He spoke
about wanting to join the Specials."
"It is in recruiters' interest to make service seem glamorous and
adventurous and exciting, I would not blame him for being
interested. A friend of mine was encouraged to join OZ during the
time they assumed power over the Colonies, and she did have to find
out what being a military mobile suit pilot is like. I know it was
hard on her, but I do not think any of us who know her now blamed
her for falling for their pitch, not really. Though, in her case,
after she learned and left that type of work, she eventually went
back to being a mobile suit pilot for Preventers, I think because
she believed that since she had already begun to deal with what it
meant for her, it was better she continue than make it necessary for
others to be recruited. Unfortunately, it does seem a necessary job,
as mobile suits are well suited for certain kinds of rescue and
deterrent keeping of the peace."
"I tried to explain to my son how hard it would be, but since I
never was a pilot, he did not believe me. However, he currently
wants to be a rock star."
Heero laughed. "I also have a friend who has shown interest in a
recording career, but I do not know yet how that will work for him."
"Well, I think I'll go see if the burgers are done."
"Nice to meet you."
"You too", Gary said and made some strangely cute gesture of
pointing his finger at Heero and then drawing it back, before he
headed toward the patio and food tables.
No new guests had arrived, so Heero decided he might either go see
how Duo was, or try speaking to some of the older kids. Based on the
conversation with Shelly, Gary's oldest son must be among them, and
Mitchie was speaking to Babs and Shelly and Duo was still near
Candy, presently holding Bowie in his arms and laughing. Heero
wondered if Duo was laughing because he was uncomfortable and
hiding, or whether Candy was actually a very funny person.
Heero supposed Duo might even be leaving him alone on purpose so
that he would be forced to socialize. Sometimes Duo could be
Heero walked closer to the group of older children, the teenagers.
There were two boys and four girls sitting on the grass in the shade
of a tall evergreen at the back of the yard. There were some used
food plates and plastic forks and some beverages around them. One
boy was sitting on top of a skateboard. One girl had a portable game
system in her hands.
"Hey," Heero said as he approached, and hoped that was the
appropriate thing to say. The oldest ones looked to be very close to
his age, but he knew they all lived with their parents and was not
certain how any of them would think of him. "I have seen some you
out on the street, since I moved to the neighborhood. May I sit here
"Sure," the oldest boy said, and as Babs only claimed two daughters,
he must be Gary and Shelly's son. "I'm Gory, and this here's my
"Hi", Pete said, and his voice cracked. He was the one seated on his
skateboard, and from the cuffs of his jeans, he used it a lot.
Two of the girls laughed. Both were blonde and about the same age
and Heero wondered if they were sisters or friends, as the girls
here were from two families. "I'm Heero. I met some of your parents.
We recently moved in to the house across the street from you."
"Do you know Quatre?" One of the girls who was blonde and who had
The other one who had laughed before shoved her and said, "Shut up!"
Only one of the four girls had darker hair, like Babs, and she
rolled her eyes and then smiled at Heero. "Hi. I'm Barb."
"Jen", said the one who did not want anyone to know she liked
"Cia", said the other and tossed her hair.
That was all of them but the slightly younger girl with the game
machine. "Do you have many games for that machine? I have some. I
collect video game systems."
"Do you have Blood Wing: Katir's Quest?" She must be Janice, Heero
thought, because that was the daughter that was into game
"I might. I am trying to remember the list. I know I have the Blood
Wing game for one of the large consoles. Katir's Quest was only for
the handheld, right?"
"Yeah. It's an RPG where you travel Renaissance Europe looking for
clues to find Nada Sin. Do you know that BW: War of the Dracul is
going to be released? There's a version available now, but not in
English, that won't be released until later in the fall. In time for
Christmas, you know."
Heero understood how the marketing went. "I don't have it yet, but I
can get the Japanese version. If you do not mind playing without
translation, I can show you how you can play the discs on the
systems marketed for this region. You're Janice, right? Come over
sometime and I'll let you borrow or trade some games."
"Jan", she said.
Heero realized the other five were not so heavily into games, or at
least not the kind Jan liked, and he had probably made them think he
was a geek, or something. It might even be true, because he could
get strangely obsessive about certain facts and technology. "So, do
you all go to SHS?" Heero asked, knowing it was the closest high
school from his research on the city.
"Gory just graduated this summer and we three are seniors now", Cia
"Are you in any teams or clubs?" Heero asked. "Some of my friends
graduated this year, but I had already tested out."
"I wish I could test out," Barb said.
"Was it hard?" Jen asked.
"Well, you are allowed to take the test in whatever is your `native
language', but in the Colonies, where I grew up, it is common to
speak several languages from childhood, and I spoke three, so I
opted to take the verbal in English, which was more difficult than I
expected. I think I speak English very well, but since I had not
stayed in one school very long, or been in school for a long period
total, there were aspects of the language that my education had not
covered and I guessed a lot of answers. Still, it was passing, and I
scored very well in my Math and Sciences portion to make the
combined score look good. Then I just earned some tech
certifications online in order to keep up with things for work."
"Some kids at school speak Russian and English", Barb said.
"So, you like, just work, like you don't live with parents of go to
college?" Cia asked.
"He lives with you too, right?" Barb asked, tipping her head in
"Duo and I share the house. I have a job, and so does he, but he
also goes to a university."
"UAS or SJC?" asked Gory. Heero recognized the abbreviations of the
two places of higher education within Sitka.
"That's bullshit!" Jen said, "How do you live in Sitka and go to
school in um, California."
"Well, SIT is only a few miles from here, right?"
The blank expressions said they did not understand.
"The location identifier of the airport, non international."
"Oh, you mean Rocky Guiterrez."
"Aa. Duo drives to the airport, gets in his plane, flies to SFO
probably, that's San Francisco International, since AXP, or Alcatraz
Extension Spaceport, is mainly for flights connecting to the
Colonies, though he left his shuttle there, drives from the airport
to school. He wouldn't commute every day, but arrange his class
schedule to be in school certain days of the week and stay in the
area, then come home for the remainder of the week."
"Does he rent a car or what?" Jen asked.
"His motorcycle would probably fit on the plane he has. I have not
actually seen it yet, but I know he has both the bike and the plane.
He only bought them recently."
"Did you say `his shuttle'?" Pete asked, voice cracking just
"Yes. That I have seen. It's nice! Custom restoration with a
really `tricked out' interior."
"So, kids in the Colonies just have space shuttles?" Cia asked.
"I think it must be rare." Gory glanced to Heero. "It is rare?"
Heero nodded. "I have a shuttle I fly, but it is a company shuttle,
not mine personally. Most people, no matter their age, do not own
spacecraft, even if they live in the Colonies, but Duo is a person
that actually knows how to rebuild spacecraft and mobile suits. He
took classes and everything, so after the wars, there was an
abundance of junked shuttles and mobile suits, so he would buy the
parts cheap and put together a working craft from salvage, and then
he would sell the restored craft at a profit. And he would also take
on cargo as a courier, to pay fuel costs, if he was traveling. He
kept the one shuttle for himself."
"Does he have mobile suits too?" Pete asked.
"No. It would be true to say he works with some people who are in
the business of repairing and restoring mobile suits, but I do not
think he has his own personal one. However, if he wanted one, he
would have the licenses to pilot it and the connections to obtain
"Can someone just get a mobile suit license?" Gory asked.
"Sure. It is a particular class of pilot's license, so you go to a
place on Earth or in the Colonies where they license pilots and
apply and take tests. I think I am currently licensed to drive or
pilot most vehicles. Well, there might be a few I do not have. For
example, we do not have a lot of water in the Colonies, so there are
no submersible craft, other than a few submersible mobile suits that
maintain the sweater drums where fish are farmed. Do civilians pilot
submersibles on Earth?"
The quiet seemed to indicate that none of the kids knew. "Well, I
believe you do get a license to drive a boat over a certain size,
and maybe some people own submarines, but mostly they are for
government use or maybe university funded research. Some families
around here have boats and keep them down at one of the harbors, or
take them out on the lake…"
"No submarines", Barb said.
"Aa. What do you do? For fun, I mean."
"There's coffee places;" Gory said, "some have live music."
"There's a pretty big mall if you follow Halibut north", Cia said.
"There are two college campuses in Sitka, sometimes they have events
there, concerts or parties and you can get in without being a
student", Jen said.
"It must be a nice place to live if you like outdoor activities",
"It is for that;" Barb said, "we go on camping trips sometimes, or
take daytrips to the lake, or toward the mountains or to the ocean.
Really, we get a lot of tourists and sometimes it can be fun to go
down to the harbor when cruises come by. There are cute shops and
restaurants there and you can sometimes meet interesting people."
"Like, mostly old people", Cia argued, "they kinda pass you over if
you don't look somehow Native or Russian, like you can tell who is
Russian around here."
"I am Russian", Heero said.
"Aren't you Japanese?" Jan asked.
"I am Japanese, but I am Russian, too." Heero laughed. "I think we
moved here because I did not want to live in a big city. They are
great to visit, but then when you want to be quiet or have some
trees to look at or just get away from people, you do not have a
choice in the matter. I think, it is probably very pleasant here,
and maybe exciting, depending on the company you keep. You should
come introduce yourselves to Duo. He will go crazy if he does not
have lots of people to listen to him talk non-stop." Heero smirked
at that. "He is friendly, so long as you are friendly to him. It was
nice to meet you. I am going to go see Duo, or maybe get something
to eat." Heero finished drinking the last little bit of beer in his
bottle and then stood.
Heero headed toward the house and heard the girls giggling behind
him. As he was approaching the barbeque area, Heero saw some guest
let themselves into the yard through a gate in the fence on the
opposite side of the house as the carport. The first was a
fashionably dressed woman with dyed purple hair and then two
teenagers with honey-toned complexions, followed by Marcus, who
Heero knew to be their father. Heero had glimpsed the MacDonald
children when delivering the dogs to Marcus, but not been
introduced. Then, behind Marcus, Heero saw another guest he
Before Heero could reach them, Candy and Duo had seen the guests.
Moira, whom Heero had never met, but knew the purple-haired woman
must be, informed Candy that she had invited along a colleague from
work. Duo greeted the two kids, demonstrating knowledge of their
names: Ethan and Ester, and then went directly to the last guest,
"Hello, Marcus", Heero said as he watched Duo draw Johnny into a one-
armed hug from the corners of his eyes. "Is this your family?"
Marcus introduced Moira, Ethan and Ester to Heero. Ethan and Ester
reminded Heero of Aishawn and kids he had met in the Colonial
Capitol, not only for their features and coloring, but their manner
of dress. He supposed, if Moira was an actress and had often taken
her children along to various sets, they might have been exposed to
different cultures and trends that other children in the
neighborhood had not. They were both wearing tees that appeared
bought at a vintage store and Heero thought Ethan's jeans might
actually be Levis' 517s, but the shoes, belts and jewelry seemed new
and likely expensive, maybe designer.
"What are you doing here?" Duo asked Johnny. He looked very excited
to seem him, it almost made Heero jealous, just for a split second.
This was just Duo's usual manner with people he considered friends.
Even the way his hand lingered on Johnny's arm was nothing but
friendly affection, or perhaps, he liked Johnny's brown leather
"What are you doing here?" Johnny asked. He looked at Heero. "Both
of you? I didn't know you would be here. Claudia told me where you
had moved, and I had your number, I just thought I would call after
this get together. I didn't really expect you'd live in the same
"He did not even tell me that he knew them", Moira explained to
Candy. "This is a co-worker, Johnny Vasquez. We had no shoots or
rehearsals today and he had nothing better to do, so I dragged him
Johnny made some sweeping bow to Candy, like he thought he was
playing some swashbuckler. "No, it was hardly dragged, the prospect
of a small gathering, fresh air and homemade food was so enticing to
me I insisted on inviting myself along. Which are my hosts, the
lovely Miss Lopez and Miss O'Grady I have been told about?"
"I am Candace Lopez. Candy." She turned and saw that Mitchie was
approaching, Koi also was. Babs and Shelly were standing and
watching, perhaps wondering who the new guest was.
Johnny greeted Mitchie, even kissed her on the cheek and thanked the
couple for allowing him to their cook out.
"You mean you didn't accept the invitation to Sitka hoping we would
endanger your life out of some boredom?" Duo asked.
Johnny laughed. "I was going to call you and see if we could get
together afterward. You are entertaining, even when our lives are
not in danger. The guys from Maudlin Manic still talk about meeting
you. They are touring in the Colonies now, but I think I will see
them in October in New York. I go there sometimes."
"They have everything there, and unlike some cities, it is usually
within walking distance", Heero said.
"Maybe for my birthday present? A vacation to New York City?" Duo
Heero smiled and nodded. "Maybe."
"Oh, I almost forgot! When does the show start? It's on Tuesdays?"
"The first episode airs tomorrow", Moira told them, "Johnny and I
both have fairly small parts so far. Scott has the most scenes. He
plays the role that was originated by Tim Cruz in the movie."
"I gotta remember to watch it!" Duo said.
"You can watch it tonight if you promise not to burn a copy", Johnny
said slyly as he produced a disc from his pocket.
"Please make yourself at home", Mitchie told the new guests.
"There are plenty of burgers ready now, and dogs, and I'll have some
chicken done soon."
"If you stay a while I might have some ribs barbequed", Duo said, "I
haven't barbequed before, so I'll have to taste test some first."
"Ethan and Ester made some food to share", Moira prompted. Heero had
a feeling she had instructed the children to prepare offerings.
"I made corn muffins", Ester said.
"I made potato salad. It's from a recipe made by Tiffanie Spyder
from a celebrity cookbook benefiting orphans of war."
"I made the rice balls, but I do not think anyone has tried them
"No, Bowie and I each had one!" Duo insisted. "they are really good,
you should all have one before I eat them all."
"I had some lovely onigiri in LA", Moira said.
"I put umeboshi in mine, but you can pick them out if you do not
Duo laughed. "Bowie picked her plum out, but then ate it separately.
You should have seen her face! It was so cute!"
As they were getting some food, another guest arrived. This was
Trisha, whom Mitchie had mentioned, and whom Marcus had informed
Heero was a local newscaster. When Heero saw her, he could not
really tell if she was Japanese or Korean. He suspected she must be
American with both some Japanese and Korean ancestry, because she
really looked like that to him; in the Colonies Heero had known
people with many mixed lines of decent. He was himself, apparently
of mixed decent.
"Haru will be over soon", Trisha said, "He is trying to finish a
Trisha and Heero were informally introduced over one of the glass
and metal outdoor dining tables. She reminded him a little of Gekka
and also of Karen and seemed she might be the kind of person who
would attract strange compliments such as, "Dude, your mom is hot!"
Not that Heero himself was into older women.
Duo brought Heero another beer and said it was just wrong not to
have a beer with a hamburger. Heero hoped he did not feel ill later.
He had eaten at buffets before and been to just a few multi-course
state dinners, but he could not recall eating buffet style at an
event in which so many different people brought their food to share.
Heero had an annoying feeling that if he did not try a little of
something it would be insulting to at least one neighbor. He had
tried to take small portions, but even so his plastic plate was very
full, and they had not even gotten to dinner or dessert.
Most of the guests were eating now and they were complimenting each
other on their food. Babs's macaroni salad was so good and it had
such an interesting tang of garlic, but not too much of course, and
Shelly's tossed green salad was very tasty, but some people did not
like the raisins mixed in, no offense intended and of course Ethan's
potato salad was equally good as Ester's muffins, and wasn't it a
nice thing to support war orphans by selling celebrity cook books.
The rice balls were also complimented, the sourness of the pickled
plums was just the right compliment to the saltiness of the rice.
Duo was not at the table, but at the barbeque with Ethan and Gory.
Reading the responses on Duo's lips, Heero supposed they might be
asking him about the sort of music he liked. Among the neighborhood
children, Ethan and Gory were the same age as Duo, and that meant as
The last two guests to attend the cook out that day arrived at dusk.
The time before that had been taken up with socializing, snaking and
drinking. After the two beers, Heero had used the bathroom in the
house and then switched to water. He and Johnny had been given a
tour of the O'Grady-Lopez home. Mitchie said that many of the older
houses did not have basements, only crawl spaces and speculated that
the dampness of the region more than anything else was a factor in
design decisions. They had five small rooms downstairs, including a
bathroom, and all decorated in bright colors and eclectic style.
Upstais there were three bedrooms and a bath. Mitchie did not open
the doors to the children's rooms, and when she came to the bedroom
she shared with Candy, only talked about the décor from the doorway
and did not encourage them to walk inside.
Heero found it appropriate that Candy did not show guests everything
about her house. He thought she succeeded in making visitors feel
welcome without compromising the security of her family. There was
likely no reason for neighborhood men to know what her children's
rooms were like.
When they came downstairs, Heero saw that Duo was in the living
room, sitting on one of the couches, with his braid drawn over his
shoulder, holding the end of it.
"It is starting to get cool out", Mitchie said. "Please, make
yourselves at home here. I think I will start on making coffee. Or
do you like tea or chocolate better?"
"I drink tea more often, but coffee is fine", Heero answered
Johnny went with Mitchie from the livingroom, talking about European
cafes and the kinds of drinks they served and did Mitchie know he
lived in France and could send her some lovely packages of cocoa.
"OK?" Heero asked. Duo still had his sunglasses on, indoors, with
nearby lamps off.
"I'm never OK."
"Yes you are. What happened. Did Babs suggest you come over to her
house during the day to fix something?"
Duo laughed. Heero had seen the various neighbors make their way to
the grill to meet Duo. He had hardly left his grill since they had
"Grilling going well?" Heero had seen Duo making frequent
adjustments to the vents that allowed air and smoke to enter and
exit the closed chamber.
"Ester said I should donate my hair."
"What did you say?"
"I told her it was my hair and I think I looked mad or something. I
might have made her sad. I didn't mean to."
Heero stepped up to Duo and pulled the sunglasses from his face. He
touched Duo's chin then and made him look up. "If Ester is hurt, we
can talk to her and mend things. How do you feel?"
"She said there's sick children that lose their hair and need to
have wigs made from donated human hair." Duo's eyes did not look
directly at Heero, but off to the side.
"Yes, but why are you so upset?"
Duo pushed Heero away from him, more roughly than gently, and lifted
the end of his braid to look at it. "It's my hair! I grew it! But…
but I do not want to be someone who can't help sick children, Heero."
"Duo, you will be able to laugh about this later. I know you will.
You could laugh now, except that Ester's comments have made you very
defensive. Listen, no one can take your hair. It is yours. You grew
all of it yourself."
"I know! It took me a long time, and it's mine."
"Yes, exactly. You grew it, it's yours. You have every right to be
proud of that. You have every right to keep it. It is your hair,
Duo. You can dye it, bleach it, crimp it, straighten it, braid it,
cut it, do whatever you want with it. No one else has a right to it,
sick or not. If some child is sick and looses their hair to disease
or radiation treatments, that may be unfortunate, but it does not
mean anyone owes them hair. If anyone wishes to have their hair cut
off and donated to some bald sick children charity, that is their
choice. I am sure the children will be pleased to be able to blend
in again, but I am certain there are also affordable synthetic wigs
made these days that are most convincing. There is no question that
your hair belongs to you, so if you think about it, you will realize
it is a little silly for you to be upset, because there is no real
threat at all to necessitate a defensive stance."
"It is stupid! That's why I'm mad. Why can't I just cut it? It's
just hair. It's a liability in close combat. You end up lying on it
all the time. It takes time to care for. I shouldn't even care at
all. I should just say that it's a good idea and want to donate my
hair. But I'm all upset instead. Probably making the neighbors think
"Duo, I have met our neighbors. They all have a little weirdness of
"Do you really not see why you are upset?"
"No, but you're about to psychoanalyze me."
"I do not have to. You can just keep being upset and go out there
and hide it. Or, you can talk to me."
"I'm just attached to it."
"There was probably a time when your life and that braid were the
only things that you could claim as yours."
Duo looked up at Heero and his eyes puckered in a questioning
expression. For a while he said nothing and then he asked, "You
think it is just that?"
"I don't know. Maybe it is. What you said is true. There were times
when I had things, but there were times when I had nothing except
maybe my life, this hair and the clothes I was wearing."
"Yes, but you did not make your life or your clothes."
"I'm just really attached to it."
"And that's not wrong. But, maybe getting upset and alienating
neighbors is not such a good thing. I think you need to just accept
that you are still attached to your hair in some strong way, apart
from it simply being fixed to your head. And, knowing that, you need
to be able to tell people you appreciate their suggestions, but you
will decide what happens to your hair."
"It was stupid to get upset about it."
"I would not say stupid. You simply acted on your emotions, and
though I do not believe that wrong, sometimes it is good to control
how you act on your emotions. The how of it effects how others will
understand you and treat you."
"I just feel kinda foolish now. I don't want to go back out there."
"Duo, once, I got upset over something that seemed to others nothing
at a party, and you came to console me. I did go back. I went back
and stood beside you the rest of the time. I will hold your hand if
you need it, but do you need it?"
Duo shook his head. "I'm usually the one that's good with
"I bet you are so proud of me today!" Heero said cheerily.
Duo laughed, most likely for the uncharacteristic perkiness in
Heero. He looked at Heero rather intensely and said, "I am."
"You can show me how you are grilling. It should almost be time for
dinner. If you sit down next to me at dinner, I will let you lick
barbeque sauce from my fingers."