Shinigami's Lover Arc 2

Part 1:Where the Heart Is
by Kracken

Disclaimer:Don't own them, Don't make any money off of them.
Warnings, Male/Male sex, reference to NCS, Graphic, Violence, dark.

"No, Baby!" Duo's voice admonished with patient firmness. "That belongs to your brother! Jim! Stop that! You sit down and mind your manners!"

Heero approached the doorway to the kitchen, yawning and stretching. He saw a male German Sheppard standing in the doorway. The trained dog cocked ears at Heero, cleared his presence with his mental list of 'safe' individuals, and then went back to watching what was going on in the kitchen.

"You glutton!" Duo suddenly snapped. "That was your father's!"

Heero entered the kitchen and saw Duo crouched over four half grown puppies who were trying to eat from their bowls and lick his face at the same time. The young man was reaching out to snag the collar of a fifth. That puppy had his muzzle in a plate on the table, happily eating sausages.

Heero sighed. "I guess I'll have to get something to eat at Preventer headquarters."

Duo started and his eyes narrowed, but he didn't react in his usual violent manner to the surprise. When his mind registered that it was Heero, he relaxed and smiled. "Morning, Baby!"

The puppies noticed Heero as well and they descended on him, wiggling, panting bodies making a wall around his legs as he reached down to pet them. "Duo?" he asked plaintively.

"Okay, okay!" Duo laughed indulgently. He opened the back door of the kitchen. It lead to a fenced in area and the puppies happily bounded outside into morning sunshine. The older dog wagged its tail but didn't join them.

Duo closed the door and reached to take Heero's plate from the table. He replaced it with his own. "You can have mine. You're the one who's the working man."

"Let's share," Heero replied as he sat down at the table and patted the chair next to him. "You don't eat enough."

Duo sat down gingerly and picked up a fork. He speared a sausage and ate it slowly. The German Sheppard came to lay at his feet. Heero looked down at it appreciatively. He owed that dog a great deal and he hoped that it had a long life. Suggested by a psychologist, the animal's protective presence had given Duo the security he needed to deal with people and situations in a non violent form. The dog went every where with him and wore a service collar that allowed him access to any place that Duo chose to go. Heero wanted to pet the dog and show his appreciation, but he knew that wasn't wise. The dog was a trained killer, only obedient to Duo, and, while the dog wouldn't attack him without a command, Heero knew that the dog would shrug off his touch and ignore him. He was Duo's shadow, never apart from the high strung ex soldier, but Heero wouldn't have wanted it any other way. That lack of privacy was a small price to pay in exchange for a Duo that didn't erupt into violence every time he was startled. Heero's only wish was that Duo hadn't developed a small sense of insecurity and decided on the extra dogs.

Heero understood that insecurity. Duo depended on the older dog for a normal life and he was afraid of something happening to the animal to change that. The extra dogs were an insurance policy against that event. Unfortunately, one puppy had quickly turned into five as Duo had found unexpected joy in taking care of the animals. He called himself 'mom' and Heero 'father', though he didn't go so far as to actually treat them like children. He indulged them, but he trained them strictly as well and never lost sight of their real purpose in his life.

Heero ate his shared meal and drank his coffee, staring over the rim of his cup at his beloved. Duo's hair was a bit messy, stray strands floating about his handsome face and coming out of his very long braid. His wiry body was dressed in a shirt that hung off of one shoulder, the front of it plastered with the label of some rock band. He wore cut off jean shorts, his bare, long legs and slim feet tucked up underneath him as he sat in his chair. His face didn't look much older that it had at fifteen. It was deceptively open and happy, yet a tightness around the eyes and mouth, and a darkness hovering in his great purple eyes, spoke of a dangerous darkness lurking inside of him.

Two years out of the war, a year of that in a mental facility, and it was a wonder that Duo had come as far as he had in relaxing into any sort of home life. When Heero remembered the lost, confused young man who had stood on a balcony and held a gun to his head while he had watched the people celebrating the end of the war, it was a wonder that something as simple as a dog and a steadfast lover had convinced him that his violent nature could be controlled, that he could live a somewhat normal life with normal people. There was still a telltale scar along Duo's right temple, the reminder of how close Heero had come to not getting the gun away from Duo in time to save his life. It still gave him a chill thinking about it.

"What are you going to do today?" Heero asked absently.

Duo's face suddenly went sour as he looked down and speared another sausage with his fork. "Nothing," he replied bitterly, "as usual."

"There's so many things that you could be doing," Heero replied with a sigh. "You trained to do woodworking in the hospital. You could make a business of it. You train dogs very well. Why not-"

"Why don't you stay home and plant a garden?" Duo snipped angrily and then put his fork down and sat back in his chair, hugging his knees. Heero took hold of his braid lightly and rubbed it between thumb and forefinger at the very end. It was a touch as intimate as a kiss or a caress and it asked for permission without words. Duo couldn't deny the longing in Heero's eyes. He leaned against the man and Heero very slowly put a hand around Duo's waist.

"Little Baka," Heero murmured against the top of Duo's hair. "I know what you really want to do, but I can't help wishing that you could let go of it and live peacefully."

"I don't even know what peace is," Duo breathed against his chest, "so how can I want it?"

"If you give it a chance, you might like it," Heero replied.

Duo looked around at the kitchen. The sunlight streaming through a large window pooled on the hardwood table, the utilitarian sink, the cabinets with metal doors, the few cups and plates drying in a rack, and the half pulled apart bit of machinery on a rubber mat at the other end of the table. It was clearly the domain of two men and Duo had found it comfortable, but he couldn't help feeling as if it were impermanent, as if it were just another safe house that might have to be abandoned at a moment's notice. He had dreamed of that house, planned it out meticulously, and had cried when he had passed the front door with Heero and knew that it was his at last. The dream had fallen short of reality. Duo's and Heero's problems hadn't been left at the front door. Still, they had found comfort and love within those walls, and Duo wished that he could accept it and be happy.

Heero was wearing his crisp Preventers uniform, the badges gleaming and his tie and coat making him look older and more mature than his seventeen years. Both of them were too young to be on their own in any legal sense, but the war had generated a large amount of orphans and it had suited the government to simply tag them 'early adults' to avoid finding homes and institutions for them. There were small outreach facilities to help and hospitals for the ones, like Duo, who had found the transition from war to peace impossible to make. Duo had a life time pension, as did Heero. They didn't have to work, yet Heero had joined the Preventers as a matter of course and continued using his skills as a soldier to keep the peace. His salary made them well off and he acted the part of husband and provider with an air of responsibility and commitment that more suited a man twice his age.

It rankled Duo to be the 'housewife', the mental invalid who couldn't be trusted. He still remembered trying to join the Preventers and the test they had given him to gauge his mental stability. Duo could see the face of the woman who had given him the test very clearly in his mind's eye. As she had read down the list of his detailed answers to her questions, Duo had seen that she was afraid. Two guards had been called to escort him out of the complex.

"I still think that if I had said that I liked pastrami on whole wheat, instead of ham on white bread, I would have been a shoe in as a Preventer," Duo said at last in a dry attempt at humor.

Heero sighed, not letting Duo get away with shrugging off the truth. They both knew that it had to be faced. "It was more likely your consistent answer of 'Take them all out' to any given policing situation that closed the door on you, Duo."

Duo went sour again. "That's all I know."

Heero gave him a look. "You wrote that on purpose and not because you believed it. You felt intimidated and the first thing that you always do when that happens is to make a joke or to defend yourself in negative ways. They can't have someone like that in a policing situation Duo. I don't have to tell you that."

"So, I'm a screw up and I can't be trusted to get the bad guys," Duo said as he stood up and walked to the other end of the table. He fiddled with the pieces of machinery.

Heero stood and watched him, trying to gauge his mood and whether it was wise to leave him in that frame of mind. "You need to think about other things. You don't need to be trying to get into a line of work that would require you to confront violent, dangerous situations. You spent a year apart from me, Duo. Please give it some time, and us some time, to work this out. We'll find you something that will give you peace and allow you to feel-"

"Useful?" Duo snapped and dropped the bit of metal he was holding. He brushed off his hands. "That's the whole problem. I don't feel useful. I didn't start feeling like a human being until I decided to save the colonies. I liked that, Heero, that feeling of making a difference. I want to feel it again."

"There are other ways," Heero replied.

"Maybe not for me," Duo growled back.

There as a knock at the door. The dog stood up, alert, and moved to Duo's side.

"There's your ride," Duo told Heero.

Heero moved to Duo and carefully slipped between his lover and the dog. He gave Duo a hesitant kiss. Duo accepted it. "We will work through this, Duo, "Heero promised. "There is a solution. You'll see that."

Duo relaxed suddenly and hugged Heero tentatively. Looking into his lover's eyes, he admitted. "I hate that I'm not there to watch your back."

"I know," Heero breathed and smiled as he kissed Duo lightly again.

Duo broke away, waving Heero off with irritation that was all show now as he blushed. "Get going before you get something else going, Heero. I'm sure Wu Fei won't want to wait for something like that."

It was a mark of their new found trust that Duo could make a joke like that at all. Sex was something that had used to send him into violent fits before his year long therapy and the acquisition of his guard dog. It relaxed Heero to hear it. He felt more confident about leaving.

"I'll see you tonight, Love," Heero said as he headed for the front door. "Please be here when I get back."

It was an old ritual now, that last sentence. It meant more than a wish for Duo not to be out of the house. After Duo's suicide attempt, it held darker implications.

"I'll always be here for you, Baby," Duo called after him. It was an affirmation of his love and a promise that he knew he could keep.

When Heero returned in the evening, he wearily tossed his house keys into a small bowl on a table just inside the door and called out to warn Duo that he was in the house. When his lover and his deadly shadow didn't appear, or the excitable puppies, Heero's senses went on alert. His hand crept to the gun under his coat as he moved cautiously through the house.

Ending up in the kitchen, Heero took note of the open bottle on the counter and an empty glass beside it. The bottle contained Duo's anti depressant medication. Heero checked the number of pills inside with his mental inventory. Satisfied that the correct number had been taken, Heero next sniffed the glass and made certain Duo had used water to wash them down. Relived to find that in order as well, Heero continued the search for Duo.

There was still daylight, but it was the red of a sinking sun. The back yard, surrounded by a high privacy fence, held a small number of tended trees and shrubs, a marble table and benches, a kennel for the puppies, and an all weather futon. Duo was stretched out on the futon, obviously asleep.

The dog rose with ears cocked and rumbled lightly to warn Duo. Duo's amethyst eyes blinked open. He reached out a hand to his protector and turned his head, knowing by the dog's lack of response that it could only be Heero. "Good boy, Soda."

Heero approached. The dog settled again at Duo's feet. Heero heard the puppies before he saw them. They had been sniffing out something in the few lone bushes and now, at the sound of voices, they came gamboling out of hiding, tripping over each other, tongues lolling and eyes bright, as they eagerly greeted Heero.

Jim was the largest dog. He was a black and tan German Sheppard and seemed to have the most aggressive yet intelligent personality. He was Duo's favorite and his obvious pick as a successor to Soda. Bob and Tom were twin white German Sheppards and only Duo seemed able to tell them apart. He spoiled the both of them more than the others and Heero assumed it was because he had decided to keep them only as pets. The fourth was Mark, a black German Sheppard that was very quiet and timid. Heero suspected that both Mark and the last puppy, Harry, the awkward and not very bright black and tan German Sheppard, would be sold or given away. He hoped so. As much as he enjoyed the animals, six dogs were too many.

Heero waded through the puppies and came to stand beside Duo. Duo shaded his eyes from the lowering sun and squinted up at him with a lopsided smile. "You're late... again."

Heero leaned and gave Duo a delicate kiss. Straightening he sighed. "Sally doesn't seem to understand business hours."

Duo narrowed his eyes, suddenly angry. "You don't have to lie, you know. I'm a big boy. Something happened, didn't it?"

Heero looked down at the puppies, his hands working to rub each greedy head. "We had to subdue a shooter."

Duo didn't ask why. He gave Heero a slow once over and then sat up, flipping his braid back over his shoulder. "See, that wasn't so bad, was it? Did you expect me to whine and cry? So you were in a bit of danger. That happens crossing the street in traffic."

Heero nodded, not wanting to argue. Duo always felt threatened when they argued and it wasn't wise to get Duo upset in front of Soda. Heero had a few scars from the big dog, received before Soda had learned what was normal between his master and his master's mate.

"You try so hard to get everything right, don't you?" Duo said softly and reached out for Heero's hand. He took it in both of his and rubbed it against his cheek. He kissed it and then let it drop as he stood up and walked towards the house. "You need to act your age once in awhile Heero and stop being Mr. Responsible. It'll give you gray hairs before you're twenty."

Heero cocked his head curiously as he followed Duo back into the house. Duo made one, curt, gesture and the puppies obediently stayed out. Soda followed, knowing that it didn't pertain to him. "You've been talking to Mr. Hulitt, haven't you?"

Duo chuckled as he closed the door after Heero and then began to busy himself preparing a ready made dinner from sealed packs. "He's a lonely old man and he's not all that bad, just a gossip. I think he's appointed himself our guardian. He always has something 'extra' from a meal he claims he made too much of."

Heero looked over Duo's shoulder at the packaged meal. "I thought-"

Duo snorted, "That I was cooking all this time? I only know how to make noodles and fried rat."

"You did check the food?" Heero asked nervously. "You don't know anything about him. What if he isn't what he seems?"

Duo looked sideways at Heero with raised eyebrows. "Isn't that my line? I'm the one who spent time in the nut house, Heero. He's harmless... besides, I did a background check nine ways to Sunday."

Heero's mouth quirked. "Nine ways to Sunday?"

Duo nodded with a return smile. "His favorite expression." He sobered. "It gets lonely, Heero. Dogs don't make good conversationalists."

Heero looked thoughtful, as if he were struggling with himself, and then he said, "I think I have a cure for that, if you're willing. Sally has a position for you."

Go to Part 2: Terrors

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