Shinigami's Lover Arc 2

Part 3: Dog Days
by Kracken

Disclaimer: Don't own them and Don't make any money off of this.

Warnings: Male/Male sex,language, graphic, violence, mention and flashbacks of NCS.

"Duo!" The voice of Mr. Hulitt floated over the fence. Soda had already alerted Duo and the dog was standing by the gate, ears cocked and body poised to attack.

"Soda, heel," Duo ordered and the dog padded back to his side and looked up at him expectantly. Duo looked into the dogs eye's and said, "Yellow." Duo watched in satisfaction as the guard dog remained alert, but dropped his aggressive stance. He would watch Mr. Hulitt, Duo knew, and wait for Duo's signal if an attack was needed.

Duo was nervous and he supposed it was communicating to Soda. His home had been his sanctuary, a true safe house insulating him from all things that could set off his mental instability. Now, Duo was purposefully inviting in, not exactly a stranger, but a man he knew only as stats on a computer screen and from conversation in the front yard.

As Duo wiped nervous hands on his jeans, he frowned disapprovingly at himself. He had dressed in loose clothing, an overlarge black shirt and loose black pants, for the sole purpose of being able to slip both a gun and a knife under the folds of the extra material. That wasn't a good way to start. Instead, he should have been making lemon aide and worrying about his 'kids' misbehaving. The war is over, he told himself firmly as he set a hand on the gate, Mr. Hulitt just wants to talk, not capture you, rape you, or torture you for information. Normal people have friendly get togethers and they don't hurt their guests.

Duo suddenly wished that he had told Heero his plans. The man might have been worried enough to skip work, but he would have been, not only a reassuring presence, but the one man capable of saving Mr. Hulitt if something happened to go wrong.

Nothing's going to go wrong, Duo's inner voice growled to his doubts, It was time to take off the mental training wheels to see if he was capable of a more intimate situation with someone like Mr. Hulitt. If he couldn't manage it, Duo knew, he wouldn't be able to function in a building full of Preventers either.

"Don't you dare hurt him," Duo whispered to his inner demons and opened the gate.

Mr. Hulitt smiled engagingly, his hundreds of wrinkles almost making his lively eyes disappear. "Hi, boy! How are you? You said that you wanted to see me in your note on my door."

Duo swallowed and nodded. He motioned for the man to enter the back yard as he stepped back a few paces to put room between them. The man kept smiling as he complied, his hands hanging loose and open at his sides and his body language relaxed and unthreatening. His eyes never left Duo though, and Duo saw, not fear, but a intelligent wariness in the way the man watched him carefully.

"Leave the gate open," Hulitt said. "I'm know your puppies are too well trained to run off."

Duo had been trying to formulate an excuse to do that very thing. He felt relieved to have the opening, an escape other than through the house. His mind needed that reassurance, the street orphan in him needing more than one direction to bolt at a moment's notice. "Okay," Duo replied simply and left the gate open as he followed Mr. Hulitt further into the back yard.

Mr. Hulitt smiled appreciatively at all the space, but gave Duo a look of admonishment as he said, "You need to take care of the lawn, Duo! It's getting some weeds. Those bushes look sickly too. I bet you didn't pull them out of the pots before you planted them, did you? Tree needs trimming too. " He pointed to the spreading limbs of the Chinese maple. Some of it was over hanging the roof of the modest house. "That's trouble. You'll lose some roof in a storm or get rot from the leaves."

"You're the expert," Duo replied and felt calmed by Hulitt's matter of fact tone of voice.

Hulitt nodded proudly. His keen eyes swept the house itself and noticed some problems there as well. "A home needs a lot of upkeep, boy. Fairies don't come in the middle of the night and do things for you. If you'll let me, I'll make a list for you and I can help you get things straightened out again."

Duo looked at the house. There were things not put away, garbage cans overflowing from when he had forgotten to take them out on garbage day, some leftover containers from when he and Heero had made an impromptu moonlight picnic. Duo was certain that Hulitt could see through the french doors to the kitchen sink full of pots and pans and the motor parts still sitting dismantled on the kitchen table. Flushing in embarrassment, Duo replied sheepishly, "I guess I'm not much of a housekeeper."

"Course you're not!" Hulitt agreed. "Didn't have anyone to teach you, did you, or time to practice if you did? What you need, Duo, is a schedule and some instilled domestic discipline. I can give you both."

Duo looked at the old man for a long moment. He had lived his life being suspicious of people, men especially. It was strange that he found himself trusting Hulitt. He even smiled warmly and replied, "If it's not too much trouble?"

Hulitt grinned back. "No trouble at all. Now, what did you need to see me about?"

Duo motioned to the eager puppies in their kennel. "I'm going to be starting work soon and I need a babysitter for the puppies. Two are going to be given away, one, if you agree to the job, I'll ask you not to interact with, and the others you'll be able to spoil as much as you like."

"Who's the odd dog out?" Hulitt asked in concern, "Doesn't seem fair."

"Jim," Duo replied. "He has to respond only to my commands."

Hulitt nodded, still frowning. "What about Soda?"

"He'll be accompanying me," Duo replied and dreaded the next question he expected Hulitt to ask. Hulitt didn't ask it though. He nodded again, as if it were perfectly normal for a man to take an over one hundred pound German Shepherd to work with him.

"Well, I certainly have time on my hands," Hulitt replied thoughtfully, rubbing at his chin with a gnarled old hand as he looked at the excited puppies. "and I do like dogs, as long as they aren't messing up my home and yard."

"I'll pay you-" Duo began, but Hulitt made an impatient gesture of one hand. Duo smiled. "All right, but anytime you want to change your mind on that, I'll understand. They can be a hand full."

"So's life, but I live without getting paid for it too," Hulitt chuckled. He brought his attention back to Duo again. "You know, that Heero of yours looks like a responsible young man. I like him. You did good by hooking up with him as a room mate, I think."

Duo wondered if Hulitt knew the true state of their relationship, but then shrugged inwardly. I didn't matter. The man was choosing to be friendly with someone he had been told might be very dangerous. Duo doubted a revelation that he and Heero were lovers would phase the man.

"He is the best decision that I ever made," Duo agreed.

"You two working together?" Hulitt wondered as he made his way back to the open gate.

"At the same building, but not the same position," Duo replied and felt the old twinge of trepidation about revealing too much of his life to anyone. In a war, that kind of lax attitude wasn't smart. The war is over, Duo told himself firmly as he added, "We won't have the same hours either. He tends to be on call."

Hulitt gave Duo a serious look as he stepped through the gate and said, "I'll be making doubly sure that you two take care of yourself and your home then," he warned. "You're not getting out of my schedule just because you work now."

"I didn't expect to," Duo chuckled.

Hulitt paused and then glanced down at Duo's waist pointedly. "Next time you invite me over, neighbor to neighbor, boy, lose the hardware, okay? If you seriously think you can't take an old bird like me, then you need to enroll in some exercise classes."

Duo felt a cold chill and then a flush of embarrassment. He began to stammer something, an apology, but Hulitt was already gone and Duo found himself talking to the empty side street that ran behind both of their houses. Duo blinked and then closed and locked the gate. He looked down at the curious Soda and chuckled nervously, "If the neighbor leaves alive, I guess you can call the friendly 'get together' a success."

"You what?" Heero looked up from his dinner of noodles and pork to give Duo, sitting across the table from him, a wide eyed stare of alarm.

Duo poked at his noodles with his fork, eyes watching his own movements with intensity. "You really want me to repeat it?"

Heero was silent for a long moment and then he replied quietly, "No, but I would like an explanation."

Duo shrugged, still not looking up. "I needed to see if I could... be alone... with a man... and not get.... anxious."

"Anxious?" Heero sounded angry now, his blue eyes narrowing. "Is that what you call it?"

Duo let his fork drop with a clatter and he threw his napkin onto the table as he finally looked at Heero with a scowl. "I did spend a year in a nut house, Heero! You read my file. You talked to my doctors! I don't try and kill people because they frighten me any longer. I don't... I haven't tried to hurt you, have I? Any new scars from sleeping next to Duo Maxwell at night?"

"It wasn't a nut house," Heero said more calmly. "I wish that you would stop referring to it that way. It was a half way house for troubled soldiers. You committed yourself voluntarily. The doctors did report that you had markedly improved, but that you were very likely to regress and show violent tendencies in the future. That isn't exactly a glowing testament to your mental health."

Duo stared. His hands gripped the edge of the table. "You're afraid."

Heero stared back and then he replied carefully, "I'm afraid that you are overestimating your recovery. It's true that you have improved remarkably, but not to the point where you can risk inviting Mr. Hulitt to our home when I am at work. That was... irresponsible."

Duo's jaw worked, the muscles jumping as he gritted his teeth and forced himself not to shout the words on the tip of his tongue. Finally, Duo said as calmly as he could, "I know my own limits. That's one of the things they taught me in the nut- sorry, institute. I knew how to handle the situation. At no time, did things get out of hand or even close to dangerous for Hulitt."

Heero's hand suddenly made a sharp motion. Duo's hand shot out in response and caught the fork Heero had thrown at him. "Did you think about that, or did you just do it?" Heero wondered pointedly.

Duo stood up, face turning red with anger and chagrin. Without another word, he opened the back door and went out into the yard. Heero followed in concern and stared as Duo went to the kennel. His lover opened the gate, greeted the wriggling puppies, and then closed the gate behind him. Settling cross legged on the sawdust covered ground, Duo glared at Heero while the puppies piled into his lap and tried to lick his face and hands all at once.

"Duo...," Heero began in exasperation, and then sighed, "You're going to spend all night in there, aren't you?"

"It's where you think I belong, isn't it?" Duo wondered sharply, his amethyst eyes looking very dark in the evening light.

Heero didn't point out that Duo's actions were less than sane. Instead, he opened the gate, entered the kennel, and then closed the gate behind him. Sitting cross legged beside Duo, he tried to avoid the puppies that split from the pack and tried to sit in his lap. "Well," he said gruffly. "At least it isn't cold."

"You're going to sleep with us?" Duo asked in disbelief.

"With you," Heero clarified. "Where ever you make your bed, I'll be there, Duo."

Duo tried to stay angry, but he laughed, low and soft, and suddenly joined the puppies in Heero's lap. He went eye to eye with Heero as he put careful arms around the man. As cobalt blue met amethyst, Duo said, "At some point, you have to take off the leash and hope the dog heels, Heero."

Soda, still outside the kennel, was pacing nervously, not liking being separated from Duo and his duty. Duo nodded to the dog and Heero understood. Soda was a killer too, as tightly wound as Duo, but trained rigorously to hold back until he was commanded to use his formidable abilities. So too, the institute had trained Duo, in a fashion, to do the same. Neither of them knew if that training would hold in either Duo's case or Soda's. Duo was asking for the same chance Heero was allowing a dog.

Heero sighed and put his ear against Duo's heart. Every bit of training told him to refuse, to dig in his heels and keep civilians safe from Duo Maxwell and to keep Duo safe from the consequences that would follow if the worst case scenario should happen. His heart told him otherwise. His heart told him to trust his lover, to allow Duo his chance.

"All right," Heero breathed. He took hold of Duo's braid and pressed it against his lips. "I'll take off the leash. I'll back off and let you... let you alone."

Duo kissed the top of Heero's head. "Thanks, Baby."

"Little baka," Heero growled and straightened. "You have what you want. Can we please not sleep in the kennel now?"

Duo looked around, hands reaching out to rub the heads of the happy puppies. "Sorry guys, Daddy wants some peace and quiet." He smiled at Heero as he stood up. "Come on. You know how I can be when you piss me off, so let me reward you by showing you how I can be when you make me happy."

Heero dropped his anger in an instant as he took Duo's hand and let the man lead him from the kennel. He couldn't stop worrying completely, but, for awhile, Duo was a beautiful and passionate distraction.

Go to Part 4: Disguise

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