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fic - death and taxes [dorm] - the turnip patch
version 2.0
fic - death and taxes [dorm]
Title:  Death and Taxes
Series:  Moments in a Dorm Room
Summary:  Aha!  I've finally overwritten the first part of Haven!  Take that, fic from seven years ago!

Death and Taxes
A Moment in a Dorm Room

"You know, in some ways, this is really depressing."

Their life in their dorm room was hardly what Heero might call uplifting, but he wouldn't have characterized it as 'depressing', either.  "Oh?"

"I guess I could be optimistic about it... but why bother?"  Duo sounded more skeptical than downtrodden.

"Because you'd rather not depress yourself?"

"Well, does it really matter in the end?"  He started twirling his pen in his fingers, as he always did when he didn't feel like actually using it.

"Do you mean, because we'll be dead in the end?  Or, because this moment will be here and gone again in the end?"

"You're really philosophical sometimes, you know that, Yuy?"

"You're the one that started it."

One day, the 'you started it' argument was going to stop being amusing, and Duo was going to get annoyed by it.  Today was not that day.  "I mean, look at this.  Most other people would probably be able to fill out these forms without any effort, but us?  Not like other people, never gonna be like other people, and this stuff is just reminding us of it.  I bet you've got just as many empty boxes as I do."

"We'll fill them eventually."  They knew what was important, and that was all that mattered to Heero.

"With fabricated data," Duo countered, trying to spin his pen in the other direction now.  It didn't work out as well.  "Which is where the optimistic thing comes in, because I could look at it like, hey, whole new life ahead of us!  Even if a lot of it is fabricated."  He made a sour face.  "Not sure that optimistic thing is worth the effort."

"Why don't you just look at it as a form you need to fill in?  Which will then lead to other forms you can fill in.  ...Which will give you access to other forms..."  Heero paused, suddenly not so convinced there was a benefit here.  It took a few seconds, but he did remember the one bonus at the end.  "And then eventually, you'll have all the forms you need and you'll never have to go through this again."

"Yeah, yeah."  Wasn't like Duo wasn't going to finish filling the things out.  Maybe he needed a better hobby than playing devil's advocate, but until then, this was what he had.  Besides, Heero made playing the game so fun.  It was all Heero's fault, really.  If Heero would just stop responding in such an engaging and amusing fashion, then Duo would lose interest.  "Is it just me, or shouldn't the fact that I'm sitting here right in front of you be proof of my birth?"

Heero agreed, but agreeing was the same as conceding defeat, and Heero Yuy did not suffer defeat willingly.  He found something else rational to say.  "If it weren't for forms like these, we'd never have been able to falsify our way into the places we gained access to before."

"Oh great."  Duo snatched his pen before it could fall out of his hand and shrugged exasperation at the heavens.  "I'm filling out forms so other people can get the chance to pretend to be me.  I wonder how far they could get with that.  With any luck, it'd be like a crazy booby trap and the guy will end up in some prison for the rest of his life on charges of terrorism and mass destruction."

"Filling these forms out is part of what will get us off the terrorist watch lists."  Why having proof of birth made a person any less a terrorist, he didn't know, but this was a small hoop to jump through for the government compared to what else they could have demanded from them.

"We don't even deserve to be on those lists to begin with.  We were never 'terrorists'."  Freedom fighters.  Resistance.  Rebels.  Those were much better terms for what they had been.  Though he really thought the best one of all was simply 'Gundam pilots'.  Everything that needed to be said could be summed up in those two words.

"They think we were, and that's all that matters right now."

Duo sighed and went back to providing the government with enough odd scraps of data to put together a set of provisional documents.  "Man, don't they say the victors get to write the history books?"


"And didn't we win?  Where's our chance to rewrite history?"

Heero didn't feel like debating who had won the war.  Everyone had just sort of agreed that they were all on the same side in the end, and that had been that.  "I, for one, prefer to spend my time writing my future, not rewriting my past."

"...You're really philosophical sometimes, you know that, Yuy?"

"I think I've heard that before, yes."  He hid a smile by keeping his head bowed over his work.

Duo smiled, too, but it didn't give anything away.  "You crack me up, Yuy."

"I think you were cracked to begin with."

"Heh, yeah, you're probably right."  He reviewed the contents of his current form and stared at the dotted line at the bottom.  Signatures were so pointless.  He could change his handwriting in a dozen different ways.  His preferred type sort of depended on his mood, but this whole proof of identity thing didn't allow for that sort of variation.  He decided on not-quite-legible, but distinctive.  Didn't want to make it too easy for people to forge or to read.  "What do you think it'll be like?  Life on the books."

"It'll be... documented."

"Thank you, Mr. Obvious."

"Feel free to ask a more targeted question."  It would help him formulate an answer when he had none.  The concept was just as new to him as it was to Duo.

Duo took a break from reading a sheet full of fine print and stretched.  "Not that I'm saying that I want to go out and do, you know, illegal stuff, but... seems like all that would be a lot harder."

"I think that's the point of the paperwork."

"That's insidious.  Probably explains why the government seems so keen on us filling it all out."

"I think they just like paperwork."

"Yeah, okay, that, too."  He supposed they needed to justify their existence somehow.  Wasn't like they did much else for the people beyond complicating things.  "Guess I'm just not used to the sunny side of the law.  If I needed cash, I'd hook up with some guys that don't ask questions and do some work for them.  I need a place to crash, I find a hole in the wall to crash in.  But now... Heh, I guess maybe that's the difference between then and now.  Both of them's about surviving, living, getting by.  Guess the difference now is we're gonna leave a paper trail while we do it.  That sucks."

Heero paused automatically.  Paper trails did indeed suck.  He eyed his forms with a sudden distaste.  "The government can't stop us from living off the grid, if that's what we want to do."

"I guess the difference is now... we don't have to."  He laughed.  "God, can you imagine paying taxes?  Crazy.  What if I just, you know, 'forgot'?  Real accidental-like."

"If I'm going to violate the rules of my probation, I'd rather do it with a crime other than tax evasion."

"Ha, yeah, I guess.  Because that would go on our permanent records now, no matter what kind of punishment there is for it."  They'd been given clean slates in the eyes of the civilian government.  It would be pretty ignominious to squander that free pass on something as mundane as tax evasion.  Though maybe that more than anything else could convince the suits that they'd really assimilated into mundane civilian life.  Ill-adjusted terrorists that could start wars with the lift of a pinky didn't commit white-collar crimes.  "Just what is the penalty for tax evasion?"

Heero glanced up in thought.  "I have no idea."

"Hey, wow, cool.  I found something you don't know a thing about."

"Taxes?"  His fingers moved automatically to bring his laptop out of sleep mode, but he lost interest in researching the topic before he'd even finished the motion.  "I'm fine with that."

"Ha.  Taxes."  Duo chuckled quietly to himself as he continued establishing his existence in the government system.  Taxes.  There was something admittedly daunting about the idea.  He didn't know the details, but he'd heard they were complicated.  But billions of people around the world did it every year without the government coming after them, so how hard could it be?  He'd muddle through somehow, he was sure.  He'd muddle through this whole life thing, even if it killed him in the end.  Which it would.  Which was kind of reassuring in a way, because he was used to doing things that were going to get him killed one day.

Though if he thought about it, he'd kind of expected that it'd be Yuy doing the killing of him.  Or at least trying, because Duo wouldn't go down without a bit of a fight.  And though they'd had a scuffle or two in this room, he was rather surprised they hadn't had any serious encounters.  But Heero had said it from the very beginning, hadn't he?  'Keep your hair out of the drain, and we'll get along just fine,' he'd said.  Annoying and obnoxious as hell, but not exactly inaccurate.

He flipped to the next page in the packet, and found not a form but a checklist.  Yes, he'd finished this form, that form, and the other form, and did he have a plan moving forward yet?  Why yes, he sort of did, thank you for asking.  It gave him a little shot of pride to think it.  "Ha, take that, you annoying government people," he muttered to the papers.

"Done?" Heero asked wryly.  His own triumphant victory dance was less a defiant cry and more a snappy, yet firm, straightening of his stack of papers.

"Sure am.  I am so ready to get out of here."  Duo leaned back in his chair and stretched again.

"We still have a few weeks."  There were still some tests to be had.  Some school trustee somewhere had thrown a minor fit about the thought of them participating in the graduation ceremonies, ostensibly because they had only attended the school for one semester, but one look at the challenge in Duo's eyes made them back down.  Duo would have been just as happy not participating, too, but not because some annoying old dude made the biased decision that they couldn't.

Duo inhaled deeply and let it out with an audible sigh of release.  "Still feels like the beginning of the end, with another beginning right there waiting for us on the other side."

"So you're back to being optimistic now."

"Yeah, whatever.  Hard not to feel good about getting out of here and on with my life."

It was strangely pleasing to hear Duo being upbeat about the future.  "You have a plan now?"

"Yup.  Okay, still missing a detail or two, but I'm working on those.  I'm gonna--"  He dropped off abruptly, an unexpected shyness creeping over him.

Heero spoke a question that his raised eyebrow had expressed just fine on its own.  "Change your mind?"

"No."  He flogged his inner self into submission quickly and took the first step.  If he couldn't speak it aloud with even Yuy, who was as neutral a ground as he was gonna get, then his plan was doomed.  "I'm gonna do something... you know.  Productive.  Like giving back.  I don't have too much to offer, like money or something, but I'm sure there are plenty of places that could use a hand.  Maybe something I could even learn a new skill at.  No point in always bitching about not having any skills for peacetime."

"Something like this?"  Heero turned his laptop around and displayed an informational site for a post-war reconstruction project.

He nodded.  "Yeah, yeah, that's exactly what I was -- Wait, is that what you're doing?"

"Thinking about it."  Heero scrolled idly through the page a bit, although he was already well familiar with all of the data there.  "I finally figured out what was striking me as so wrong about this whole thing.  I'm... not quite ready to just put everything behind me and get on with my life.  I thought I was, but... it just doesn't feel right.  So I thought a good transition plan to getting on with my life would be to help others get on with their lives."

Noble.  Duo wondered if his own thoughts had followed that exact same trail and simply failed to inform him.  "Eww.  I don't wanna do the same thing you're doing."

Heero blinked and looked askance at him.  "What's wrong with that?"

Duo's look clearly said 'duh.'  "Then everyone's gonna think I'm copying!"

Heero blinked again.  "I won't."

Like that helped.  Duo threw his hands up in disgust.  "Geez, that's so lame!  Ugh.  Well, whatever.  I'd rather do my own thing, anyway."

Okay, now Heero felt bad, and he wasn't sure why.  "Here, you can try these."  He clicked a few times and brought up a page of links to other reconstruction projects.

Duo shielded his eyes.  "Dammit, Yuy, stop it already!  The more you show me, the fewer options you're leaving me!"

And Heero blinked yet again.  Several times, in fact.  "...How old are you again?"

"Shut up."  It wasn't really that Yuy was interested in doing the same thing he was.  He couldn't care less what Yuy did with his life.  It was just that he'd been so sure he'd had a smart idea.  Though he had to admit that Yuy sharing that idea didn't make it any less smart.  In fact, it probably confirmed its smartness if Yuy had come up with it.  But maybe he'd wanted it for himself, just so it could be his idea, and therefore his decision and his life and his future.  Having Yuy traveling the same course just undermined his entire assertive effort.  That really sucked.

They were all playing on the same team, weren't they?  "There are more than enough reconstruction projects to go around," Heero offered.

"There's more than enough other stuff to go around, too.  No big deal."

"That's... kind of idiotic, Duo."

Duo did a mental double-take before turning to stare at his roommate.  There was a vicious stab of annoyance, but it was quickly replaced by something with a little less ill-will.  Heero had an honest, and somehow befuddled, expression on his face.  Not like he was doing this on purpose.  He just wanted to help.  Despite the situation making absolutely no sense to him.  Good kid, that one.  Duo huffed and tried to resolve the issue in his head.  He knew it was kind of idiotic.  But most secret little wishes sort of were.  "Is it too much to ask for a little something of my own?"

Heero hoped not.  He just didn't see this in the same light Duo did.  Duo felt like something was being taken away from him.  Heero just felt like this was Duo making a good decision.  "Why don't we just... agree together?  At the same time, on the same thing, and then... no one will be copying anyone.  If it's your decision, then no one can take it away from you."

Duo looked at him warily.  Things that sounded too good to be true usually were.  "By 'same thing', are you saying 'the same sort of thing'?  Or like, 'the same project'?"

"There are more than enough projects to go around," he said again, directing his eyes back to the screen.  "Though if you wanted to do the same one... I wouldn't mind the company."

It could have just been a friendly offer of cooperation, or it could have been a sideways admission that a bit of familiarity in the brave, new world they were about to infiltrate would be appreciated.  Duo flipped it over and over in his head until he made a sideways admission or two in his own head and concluded that surely it couldn't hurt to have a backup in place.  "Yeah... yeah, sure.  Maybe."

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