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fic - first steps [dorm] - the turnip patch
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fic - first steps [dorm]
Title:  First Steps
Series:  Moments in a Dorm Room
Summary:  One of the best things about writing the haven holiday arc was not having to come up with titles.

First Steps
A Moment in a Dorm Room

Caught in a moment between toeing one shoe off and the next, Heero looked around the room with an almost uncertain air as a realization sunk into his consciousness.

Duo had not looked up when his roommate had entered the room, but he noticed the pause now and got caught up in a feeling of uneasiness.  "What?"

Heero took a few more seconds to flicker his glance over the contents of their room before slowly removing his other shoe.  "This room... it looks almost... 'lived-in'."

The anxiety immediately faded from Duo's mind, only to be replaced with a flash of consternation.  He started taking note of what was in the room as well.  A jacket he had hung off the back of his chair.  His backpack occupying that chair.  Matching stacks of books on both of their desks.  Shoes lying in artful disarray by the front door.  One bed made neatly, the other bed neatly enough to be sat upon and disturbed again.  Nothing out of the ordinary, only the detritus of daily life, and even almost nothing in the way of personal effects, but still... almost lived-in.  The recognition was a bit disturbing.  Duo snorted derisively.  "Figures."

One last glance at the room, and Heero moved to his desk to take a seat.  The faint crease in his brow had not faded with Duo's cryptic utterance.  "What do you mean?"

Duo looked annoyed for a moment, but answered evenly enough.  "We're leaving this place soon.  Don't it just figure that, we're leaving this place soon, just when it finally..."  He trailed off, not wanting to assign words to that vague feeling he had.  It was complex, and would only prompt more investigation by his inappropriately curious roommate.

Heero got the gist of it.  It wasn't a sentiment he particularly shared, though.  His concerns had traditionally lain elsewhere.  "We still have more than enough time to clean up after ourselves."

It took a moment for Duo's thought to make the jump from Duo-land to Heero-land.  The scenery wasn't much better there.  The landscape was a little less cynical, but just as dreary.  "You fill out your thing yet?"


That comforted him.  Just a little tiny bit.  Scared him a little tiny bit, too.  "You gonna?"

"I'm not sure what purpose it serves."  It lay silently within a desk drawer, in a folder containing a number of other worksheets, journal assignments, and inspirational pamphlets given by the case workers.

"Supposed to 'help'."  His eyeroll confirmed what he thought about that.

Heero was beginning to think that someone must have gotten their wires crossed when it came to the definition of 'help'.  "Most of the questions are useless.  One or two may be helpful by adding a different perspective to things.  But I do not need to write my answers down and share them with my doctor."

It wasn't as if they were earning credit for completing their paperwork.  It was the results that mattered in this case, not the details of how they arrived at their conclusions.  Duo was going to figure out what he was going to do when he got out of this stupid place, even if he had to resort to a roll of the dice.  He'd figure it out, and it wouldn't be some ignorant shrinks or some pathetic piece of paper that helped him do it.  But he did have to admit that maybe, just maybe there was something to this whole 'talking it out' notion of theirs.  It just didn't work when talking to *them*.  "Preventers?"

"Plan B."  The obvious choice, certainly.  And the easy choice.  But it seemed far too much the choice of convenience for Heero's comfort.  Now that he had a choice, he wanted to fully take advantage of it.

Duo stared off at a corner of their room.  "Wufei said he's considering it pretty seriously."

What was a good or bad choice for one person wasn't always a good or bad choice for another.  Heero nodded approvingly.  "It will give him something to focus on."

Focus, eh?  Duo pondered it for a second, but didn't really feel he was lacking focus.  He'd never really felt 'lost'.  One way or another, he knew he'd get through this and survive.  The tough part was finding a way he'd actually like.  If he ended up with something crappy after all the shit he'd gone through to get here, he was going to start resenting the fact that he'd survived again, and he didn't really want to do that.  "Quatre... bah.  Bet Q doesn't even get handed these stupid worksheets.  He's obviously going back to the family."

"Trowa will probably be doing the same."

Three down.  "Guess that just leaves us, eh?"

"Aa."  In a way, Heero was sort of relieved that he didn't have a family.  He didn't want to inherit a sense of identity.  He wanted to be himself.  Whoever that was.  In time, the beat of his inner self would show him the path.  He threw a studying glance at his roommate, wondering how true to himself Duo was.  "Preventers?"

Duo shrugged the idea off nonchalantly.  "Plan B.  C.  Maybe D.  I dunno."  It wasn't an entirely crappy way to spend his post-war life, but it wasn't exactly appealing, either.  Plus, he wasn't really onboard with this whole Preventers idea yet.  Ignoring the part where the Preventers was a government institution, he thought the whole thing was kind of fluffy, and liable to collapse once all the air got sucked out of it.

"You have four plans?"

He made a derisive sound.  "You have two?"

Heero's eyes dropped.  He had half of one.  Was he allowed to round up?  "...I want to move away from the capital."

"Huh."  Well, it was a start.  Felt kind of weird, though, thinking that Yuy wouldn't be where all the action was at.  "Relena?"

"Better off without me."  It took him a moment to recall the name.  "Hilde?"

"Went home to recover."  Duo's turn to look guiltily out the window.  "...Haven't been the best about keeping in touch.  ...Probably better off without me, too."

Heero didn't think they had a lot to offer the world.  Not a lot to offer to individual people, too, so he could understand Duo's decision.  But to people in general?  He could kind of get behind that, even if he wasn't sure how that all worked out yet.  "Earth?  Colonies?"

It was kind of a toss-up.  Duo didn't think too highly of the colonies right now.  Yeah, they'd finally gotten their heads out of their asses at the end of the war there, but he wasn't really going to put any faith in them until those heads stayed out of those asses for a while longer.  Earth had been kinder to them.  But the colonies were home.  No, they were familiar, not home.  He had nothing to go back to there.  He'd gone from protecting the colonies to protecting Earth, and then a general sort of protection gig once everyone showed themselves in need of protecting.  Kind of alarming, really, just how fragile humanity could be.  How had they managed to send themselves into the vastness of space?  How had they managed for so many millennia to be rulers of the Earth?

"Earth," he decided rather impulsively, on some vague notion of getting back to humanity's roots, and figuring out just why it was people valued this big ball of dirt so much.  And letting his resentment toward space cool down a little.  He resented the Earth, too, for Romefeller and OZ and Treize and mobile dolls and everything, but Earth had many long years of shittiness behind it, so Duo couldn't really feel personally offended by it.  "You?"

"Earth," Heero answered quietly.

So simple for him?  Duo felt a little cheated.  "Why?"

"Earth and the colonies.  Earth... versus the colonies.  So much conflict between the two of them.  I've seen it from the colonies.  I've seen it from the inside, from the thick of things.  Now I think I'd like to see it from Earth.  It seems... appropriate."

So his answer came down to war and peace, did it?  Maybe some things never changed.  "Hey... you planning on doing the riding off into the sunset thing?"

Heero looked curiously at him.  "Which thing is that?"

It had just been a sudden thought that had occurred to him, a whole new dimension to this puzzle he hadn't yet considered.  "You just gonna, you know, fall off the grid?  Go poof?  Never seen or heard from again?"

"I don't think so."  Maybe he wouldn't make an effort to stay on the grid, but he didn't think he'd go out of his way to really cover his tracks.  That seemed a little counter-productive to him.  "Why?"

"I don't know.  Just... seems like a leading-guy thing to do."

"'Leading guy'?"

"Never mind.  Random thought."

Many of Duo's thoughts seemed to be random.  Heero had one of his own.  "We won't have reason to be together anymore."

That wasn't the most pleasant of thoughts.  It was, in fact, something he may have been skirting the edge of, but no, Yuy had to go and do his Yuy thing and get straight to the point.  They weren't all best buddies or anything, but he'd kind of gotten used to having everyone around.  Used to having people around that were used to him.  Time to remember how to fly solo again.  But Quatre had taught them the value of sticking together, to combine their strengths and shore up their weaknesses and there wasn't an implication in sight about any of them *needing* others.  Things had just gone more smoothly when they were all heading in the same direction.  "I guess if none of us is really planning on disappearing, then..."

That thought was much more pleasant than the previous.  Heero nodded slightly, in acknowledgement, perhaps, or agreement, or assent.  Five against the world had always had much better odds than one against the world.  He leaned back in his chair and considered the possibilities.  Perhaps sensing vulnerability in his lack of decision, his case worker had started subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, pushing him toward government work.  The structure was tempting.  But the part of him that wanted something more was thankfully stubborn.  "Somewhere quiet.  Not too quiet, though."

Duo weighed the proclamation in his mind and judged it fitting.  "Probably somewhere busy for me.  But not too busy."  He twirled a pen in his fingers, trying to think up options.  As usual, none came immediately to mind.

"I think... I'll take more of the same for a while."

"What do you mean?"

Heero chuckled almost silently.  "You said something the other day.  About finding comfort in impermanence.  About choosing what we're going to do after we get our certificates, but it not being something etched in stone.  We can try something, and maybe it won't work out, but that's okay, because then we can try something else.  And I said something, even before that, about this school being just something relatively useful to occupy our time while we continue to figure ourselves out.  Combine the two together, and... The answer will come to me when it comes to me.  It won't come according to a government timetable.  After we get our certificates, I think I'd like to go somewhere quiet, but not too quiet, and find something normal, but temporary, to do, and just wait for it to come to me."

"Hm.  I like it when I have good ideas."  He tapped a brief rhythm against his palm with his pen.  "Yeah, I guess we only have to come up with enough of a plan to appease the suits, right?  And you're definitely right about not playing by their timetables.  'Cuz yeah, where do they get off telling us when we have to figure this stuff all out?  Yeah, think I'll take my own sweet time about it.  Find something temporary to do for a while, and remind myself not to get into a rut, and... hey, what do you think about that pension crap of theirs?"

The government had informed them that they would be paid something resembling a veteran's pension for their services during the war, which was really a load of crap since the pilots had never really fought for the government.  It was barely more than a coincidence that the new government was happy about their role in the war, and that was mostly through the efforts of their scant allies involved with the government now.  "I think it's definitely not what they say it is."

Duo snorted.  "I think they think they can buy us off.  Hush money.  Shut up and be good little citizens money.  Ha, you're going to have trouble rebelling against the government in the future, 'cuz you've been accepting money from them all this time money."

Unnecessarily verbose, but in all likelihood, accurate.  Sanq Kingdom had offered a stipend themselves, in light of the fact that the Gundams had been on their side far more than ESUN's, but ESUN had discouraged it, probably because they didn't want to strengthen the ties between Sanq and the pilots.  Heero sighed.  "I think I may be too practical to turn it down."

"You're kidding."  Though in reality, he hoped Heero wasn't.  Duo was currently attempting to convince himself to be a little more practical about the money.  He didn't need it, and he didn't want it, but he knew his reason for turning it down right now was more out of spite than anything, and that was a habit he was trying to break.

"It's just money.  They haven't given any restrictions on its use.  I'm not planning on rebelling against them in the future, and even if I was, I couldn't care less if they think I'm ungrateful for doing so when I've been accepting their money.  If I turn against them, it'll be because they deserve it, in which case I'll probably gladly use their money against them."

"Amen to that," Duo muttered.  The idea appealed to him.

"I have no plans to rely on it.  But you never know when it may come in handy.  If nothing else, giving it away to or using it on those who need it more than we do is much better than letting it sit untouched in an account somewhere.  Whether or not we turn it down, the government will still pay it out."  He paused for a rueful sound.  "Though for now, I might take advantage of it to get started.  It's not too different from the government paying our room and board here at this school.  They can pay my room and board for a while longer, just at my discretion."

A corner of Duo's lips tilted upward.  Practical indeed.  "Not getting a job?"

The idea was absurd in some ways, but more than practical in many other ways.  "I'll find something to do.  I don't think I could not find something to do.  But it'll be nice not having to think about how small or large my paycheck will be."

Duo doubted they'd be able to make big bucks right out of the box without dipping into something unwholesome.  There weren't that many job opportunities for people with their qualifications, not even taking their ages into account.  "So... go somewhere.  Pretend to be normal for a bit.  And... see where it goes from there.  Actually... normal's a pain in the ass.  Maybe I'll just be my normal dysfunctional self first, see if that works out.  I can always move somewhere else if it doesn't."

"It'll work out."

He had just been musing aloud to himself, really, and certainly hadn't expected a bit of optimistic encouragement from his roommate.  He leveled a strange look in that direction.

Heero met his eyes evenly, surprising Duo with the tiniest of smiles around his eyes.  "It will."

Odd.  Duo felt inexplicably compelled to agree.

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12 comments or Leave a comment
hostilecrayon From: hostilecrayon Date: November 11th, 2011 11:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's so Heero to think it would be awesome to use their money against them if it came down to it.

That end part filled me with all kinds of warm fuzzies. <3

I know I totally fell off the commenting grid for a bit, but I had a baby! He's 10 months old now, and I'm working my way back around to the things I was reading before, heh. I just reread Touch the World, and to discourage myself from rereading Axiomatic, Addictive Identity and all of Plans during NaNoWriMo, I figured I'd pick back up here where I could stop suddenly and write without the overwhelming need to read. (I figure I might still not have very good luck with that, but you know...) Horray for amazing fic to distract me!
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: November 13th, 2011 07:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Heero's a bit too practical to be concerned about some things. =) He's perfectly willing to shoot a guy with the guy's own gun.  What's the difference between that and this?

Hmm... I wonder if babies can absorb fic in the womb... (belated congratulations.)
hostilecrayon From: hostilecrayon Date: November 13th, 2011 07:56 am (UTC) (Link)
And Heero would technically be right. <3

Thanks! And if he can, I've already turned him into a total nerd. XD

Just out of curiosity, are you doing MoR this time around? I want to know if it's safe to shoot for first place, or if I should expect no better than second... XD
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: November 13th, 2011 08:08 am (UTC) (Link)
I... have a bunny.  I like this bunny.  It is a good bunny.  I am not a contest person, but it's a special occasion, and I would like to show my gratitude to the contest-holder, and I think this bunny would push some of her good buttons.  However.  Kind of like how some babies are only cute when you're not the one who has to raise it... This bunny... is not really pushing my writing buttons.  It pushed my characterization buttons, which is all neatly worked out in my head, but it has totally missed my i-should-write-this buttons.  So.  We shall have to see.  I may be overthinking it.  When I am done with the current novella, I shall inspect this bunny more carefully. (yay for far-off deadlines.)
hostilecrayon From: hostilecrayon Date: November 13th, 2011 08:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh yes! I saw you mention a new novella! Any hint at what it's about? I'M EXCITED! *Cough* I've read all of your really damn long one-shots, and I'm about to start on Haven inbetween writing NaNoWriMo, which is also my MoR entry. XD But I'm soooo looking forward to a new giant fic from you!

(In a way, Axiomatic/Addictive Identity inspired one of my plot points! You're so awesome.)
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: November 13th, 2011 08:25 am (UTC) (Link)
It's an AU boring-daily-life relationship story, that's all.  After my last plotty novella, I vowed my next one would be anything but.  Although I sort of took a break from plot with Plans4, but I did that one chapter-by-chapter, and I'm taking a more holistic approach with this one, the way I used to do it.  Hopefully it'll come out with better coherence.  After which the potential-contest-bunny will be another AU boring daily life fic, if it fics at all.  After which, I will write something plotty, but the plot is totally stolen from something else, so I won't have to think so hard.  And then after that, having eased myself back into the plot thing, I hope to write the next epic plotty novella in my list.  (you can see i have a somewhat lengthy queue in my head. ^^)

Just out of curiosity... Do you keep typing it as 'Addictive' Identity by accident instead of 'Additive'?  Or did you really read the title as 'Addictive'?  I only ask because you're not the first person to do that, and I've wondered. ^^' I'm already pretty sure no one really gets the whole 'additive identity' thing anyway...
hostilecrayon From: hostilecrayon Date: November 13th, 2011 08:36 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad you have such a long list to work with - it means many happy years of fic reading for me! :D And I really love relationship fics, so... win!

D: I can't believe I've been making that mistake for so long. I think at one point, I really did know the title, and for some reason, my brain replaced Additive with Addictive... And since I only look at titles long enough to find the fic they're attached to, I never noticed my mistake. >.>; Additive Identity makes total sense to me... my brain just tried to change the title for some reason. D:
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: November 13th, 2011 08:51 am (UTC) (Link)
Now if only I could write these darn things faster... The novella I'm working on now was hatched about 3 years ago! x_x

'Additive Identity' may make total sense to you, but in case it doesn't make the same sense to you as it does to me... It's a mathematical property that states that any number plus zero is equal to itself. ^^
hostilecrayon From: hostilecrayon Date: November 13th, 2011 08:55 am (UTC) (Link)
Geeky mathematical titles are awesome. <3

This is probably going to be the first novella I ever finish. I'm at 31,000 and counting... any advice would be amazing, since I have no idea what I'm doing. D: I have some kind of block that seems to keep me from finishing anything ever. I have no idea what that's about, but I must surpass it this time! I've been trying, and failing, to enter MoR for YEARS.
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: November 13th, 2011 09:35 am (UTC) (Link)
First, if anything gets my contest-bunny done, it's going to be the fact that Sharon is awesome and deserves it.  i.e. find your motivation.  Hopefully something makes it different this time from all your other times, even if it's just shame and determination. =D

Second, this may work for me better since I'm doing boring minimal-plot fic, but this time around, I'm writing a little bit non-linearly.  It gives me some much-needed structure.  Ironically.

I organize a list of necessary plot points.  They may be simplistic and vague, and only describe one thread of the story.  e.g. duo and heero meet, cool to each other.  warmer.  warmer.  warm.  med-hot.  hot.  we have lift-off.

Then, I do the same for some other thread of the story.  e.g. establishing shot, foreshadow of conflict, introduction of obstacle, worrying about obstacle, coming up with a plan, executing A, executing B, executing C, obstacle overcome.

Then, I list any scenes I may have pre-conceived.  e.g. ooh, i wanted a scene in this location, and this scene in these circumstances, and any scene where I can fit these three lines.

And then, I lay these timelines on top of each other, moving the points around as necessary, to create scenes.  ThreadA-1 overlaps with ThreadB-1, but B-2, B-3, and B-4 all have to happen before A-2.  Then, A-3, B-5 and pre-conceived-idea-1 line up.  I may not know the details of A-4 yet, but I know it has to happen.  Do I want it to happen during B-6, or does it deserve its own special scene? Gosh, I really a A-3.5. etc.

And suddenly I have a list of like the next twenty scenes, all the way to the end of the story.  I will definitely combine some, rearrange some, and add others, but at least now I can't be intimidated by 'what comes next?'  Which for me is the most intimidating part.  Even if I have a sequence of scenes that are only one sentence long, I still feel like, hey, look ma, this fic has a beginning, a middle, and an end!  It's just a matter of filling in the blanks... right? ^^
hostilecrayon From: hostilecrayon Date: November 13th, 2011 10:08 am (UTC) (Link)
:D That's super helpful! Usually, I have an end point, and some vague middle stuff, and I sit around going "How do I get there? D:" But for NaNo this year - it's my first time really seriously attempting it - I've been just pushing through with the thought that I can edit it to pieces later if I want to, and I love this story so much that it seems to be working for me. Sharon had REALLY wanted me to enter for a long time, and I'm so determined, but also scared I won't live up to her expectations, since it's been built up for so long, heh.

I have vague ideas and scenes, but for some reason, when I plan it way ahead, everything falls apart and the boys decide they do not want to do things the way I wanted, and then the story wanders off, heh. But that could be because I make plans for scenes that are so far apart that all my work to get to them changes the tone of the story.

I started this particular story with some vague prompt from seven years ago, and 11K sat for all that time until I pulled it out and realized it was perfect for MoR and that the story was finally talking to me again (I'd lost part of it and I was full of angst, especially since I lost some technical stuff that I'm so bad at already that I threw my hands up and said 'I give up!' all those years ago) so I just went with it. I basically started with a good idea of how Heero and Duo's relationship would go, and some vague notion of a big plot that was just there. XD I've been just letting the characters fill it in as I go, and a couple of times, I've been like "REALLY? D:" Hahaha. Hopefully that works out - I have a feeling I'll be doing a lot of editing after November is over, heh.

No matter what, though, I HAVE to finish it! For Sharon if for nothing else! *Wibbles*
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: November 15th, 2011 02:56 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I've painted myself into a corner or two before by envisioning some scene or plot point down the line, and then writing to that point and finding that it doesn't really work out that well anymore.  In a sense, that's exactly why I have to plan ahead, though, because you can also say that it happens because I didn't actually plan it well enough, didn't see enough details to prevent it from happening, and then I get all worried way ahead of time about whether or not I'm heading in the wrong direction, and I have a hard time getting started at all. =p Ah, the wheel of misfortune.  I just have to try not to get too attached to specific scenes, and don't make unnecessarily detailed plans until I close in on their timeline.  (trying does not equal doing. -_-)
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