Disclaimer: I don't own this and I don't make any money off of it.
Warnings: Male/Male sex, Language, Violence, NCS flashbacks.
"I'm surprised," Kit said as she approached noisily.
Duo glanced over his shoulder and then studied his computer screen again with a frown, "That I didn't go home with a break down?"
"That you didn't take a day off when it was offered to you," Kit chuckled.
Duo smiled then. "You forget, I've never had a job. I haven't learned to hate it yet."
"You will," Kit predicted and then added, "Thanks for helping me back there. I owe you."
Duo shrugged, trying not to show that he knew that it had been a set up and that he was furious about it. The person he most wanted to question, before he confronted either Sally or Kit, was Heero. "They didn't have a chance," he said derisively, "They weren't very well trained. It wasn't really dangerous at all."
Kit gave him a look. "Well, Mr. Maxwell you're not only being completely immodest, but you're telling me that I was so bad that I couldn't handle incompetent bad guys."
Duo studied her. She didn't look insulted, but he wasn't sure. "I think that there's probably a way to say things so that you don't feel insulted," he finally said, "but I didn't exactly grow up in a place known for it's social graces. Being bad gets you killed where I came from and people don't lie about something like that. You let those men trap you in an alley and you didn't know if I had called for help or not. They disarmed you and they were going to kill you. Trying to lie about it-"
Kit held up her small hands and sent a puff of air through her bangs in exasperation. "All right! All right! I get the picture. I stink and you think telling me that I don't stink will get me killed from having over confidence in my abilities?"
"Okay, well, ever consider that you don't know the whole story?" Kit wondered. When Duo didn't say anything Kit went on impatiently, "You came in AFTER I had been disarmed. You can't make assumptions about what happened. There may have been a very good reason that those men were able to disarm me."
"I suppose," Duo replied, staying closed lipped.
"Well, until you really see me in action, don't dismiss me as incompetent," Kit warned. She nodded to the computer. "Go ahead and work, if that's what you want, but you do have permission to leave for the day if you decide a seventeen year old boy AUGHT to be upset about an incident like that."
Duo couldn't help a tight smile, his eyes remembering darker days, "I know that you mean well, but don't... Heero, Wu Fei, and me... we're not children, Kit. We never were."
Kit became contrite at once. "I'm sorry. Sometimes I think I'm being funny when I'm just being stupid. You smile so much... It's easy to forget what you went through."
Duo was smiling, but the smile wasn't reaching his eyes. "The only thing that's stupid is that I have to learn to be a normal, functioning adult when I've been having to make life and death decisions like an adult since I was first thrown on the streets of L2. Life can be strange."
"I guess that I AM a baby next to you, " Kit conceded as she half turned away, but then she added quickly, "Hang in there, Duo, no matter what gets thrown at you. I think you'll be a credit to the Preventers if you decide to become an agent. A lot of people will benefit from your experience."
"That's what I want," Duo replied as he took another stack of work from his in box. "I want to be useful for something besides destroying things."
Kit smiled, "I remember hearing Agent Yuy say the same thing to Sally once," she said and then left Duo to his work.
Duo thought about that, imagining Heero saying it with his determined, stern expression. Duo chuckled. Just when he had begun to think that he and Heero would be forever seeing things differently, he was shown that they were more alike than he'd thought.
Duo did find that he was nervous for the remainder of the day, even after taking his medication. Once or twice, when there had been a loud noise from somewhere in the large room, he had jumped and tensed for an attack. Soda had growled and risen each time, ears cocked forward and alert, ready for a command.
One of the lessons that Duo had learned in the institute was to avoid people when he wasn't feeling stable. Duo kept to himself, skipped lunch, and was bone weary when Heero came to collect him at the end of the day.
"Duo," Heero called well in advance of his approach.
Duo turned and stretched, smiling at his lover and managing to ignore a frowning Wu Fei who was trailing behind him. Duo rose and hooked an arm around Heero's waist.. He relished Heero's warmth and scent for a moment as he gave the man a strong hug, and then bent to gather up his pack. When he started to pick up some files to take home, Heero gently pried them out of his hands and put them back down.
"I leave my work at headquarters and so do you," Heero said sternly.
"That won't get you ahead, Yuy," Duo pointed out jokingly. "A career man works twenty- four-seven. I bet Wu Fei has some files stashed in his bag, don't you Fei?"
"Fei isn't even close to proper, Maxwell," Wu Fei growled, but then nodded. "I like to go over cases at home where it is quieter and I can do research in peace."
"Married to his job," Duo said as he led the way to the elevator. "He'll be climbing the ladder and leaving Heero Yuy, partner, behind in no time."
"No, I will not," Wu Fei corrected. When Duo looked back over his shoulder in surprise, Wu Fei explained irritably. "I've already turned down promotions. I wish to remain a field agent, not become a desk supervisor."
"You can do that?" Duo wondered as they entered the elevator and rose several levels to the parking garage.
"Yuy's done it as well," Wu Fei commented. "Neither of us wants to leave the field and Sally isn't eager to lose us there."
Duo thought about that, about the way that they still fought the good fight even after all they had been through. Duo had tried to deny it, but it was in his blood and bone as well. Flexing his skills in that alley had made him feel the adrenalin rush of the soldier and he was realizing now that he had missed that.
"Tired?" Heero wondered.
"Who would have thought that pushing papers could be so hard?" Duo sighed.
They exited at the garage and went to Wu Fei's car. Strapping Soda into the front seat, Duo then climbed into the backseat with Heero and leaned against him, closing his eyes. "Home, James," Duo joked.
Heero held Duo carefully and murmured in his ear, "This is nice. Go ahead and sleep. I'll wake you when we get home."
"This is stupid," Duo whispered. "I feel like a little kid."
Surprisingly Wu Fei said rather gently, "You've been out of things for years. Dealing with social situations, and the stress of that altercation in the alley, has obviously been very hard on your nerves."
Duo yawned, but replied suspiciously, "If your point is that, 'if I can't handle today, then I should reconsider my career.' you might as well save your breath. I've heard enough of that from you Wu Fei. Get over it. Unless Sally kicks me out, I'm going to stick with it."
"Sleep," Heero growled.
"Yes, sir, Agent Yuy," Duo snickered and found that it wasn't very hard at all to trust Heero to protect him and to drift into dreams.
"Duo.... Duo.... Little Baka... Time to wake up now..."
There was something going on in his dream, Duo thought, but it was indistinct and it eluded his mental grasp as soon as his mind registered that the person calling him was Heero.
Blinking open his eyes, Duo found himself staring at the back seat of a car. Over the top of it, Wu Fei was turned and watching him closely, dark eyes wary.
"I wasn't drinking, Wu Fei," Duo yawned as he stiffly sat up, "so I know that I didn't end up in bed with you."
Wu Fei didn't rise to the bait. Instead, he looked past Duo at Heero. Duo turned and saw Heero watching him in concern.
"Something happened, didn't it?" Duo asked in trepidation.
"We've been sitting here, in your driveway, for nearly a half hour," Wu Fei replied, but he didn't look angry, only concerned. "Heero didn't want to startle you out of sleep. He told me doing that always ended badly in the past."
"You were dreaming," Heero explained and moved as if certain parts of him had fallen asleep where Duo had been lying against him. "After the events of today, I was afraid that it was a nightmare and that waking you too quickly would trigger an episode."
Duo frowned, trying to remember the dream. "I think I was doing paperwork in my sleep," he concluded hazily and then laughed at their expressions. "I can have a plain dream just like anyone else, guys!"
Wu Fei looked disturbed and then he said, as if it was being dragged out of him, "You've come a long way from the terrified boy I went to war with. It's hard to believe it. Can you really have put so much behind you in two years?"
Duo shrugged bitterly. "It's not so much, 'putting it behind me', Wu Fei, it's more learning not to react negatively to things that remind me of those bad times and knowing when to leave a situation when I can't cope. They were both very hard things to learn. I have a lot of pride, I guess, so it's hard for me to walk away, instead of try and deal, and harder for me to back away from people who frighten me or who I think are threatening me. I do though. I have to. "
Wu Fei exchanged another long look with Heero and then he sighed heavily and said, "All right, Yuy, I'll sign a recommendation to Sally. I suppose that I will have to consider that, when he trains to be an agent, they'll discover whether he's really competent or not."
Duo blinked. "You'll do that for me, Wu Fei? Thanks, man!"
"Don't thank me until you get out of training," Wu Fei warned. "Strong people, with their heads on straight, don't often make it through."
Someone cleared their throat. Heero started as a face appeared by the window. It was the sun bronzed, wrinkled face of Mr. Hulitt. "Uh, boys?" the man asked through the partly rolled down window. "Something wrong that you're not getting out of the car?" He motioned behind him with a cocked thumb. "I was over there doing some last minute watering of the lawn and noticed you sitting here."
Hulitt noticed Wu Fei and smiled. "Hello, Chang! Good to see you again. You should drop in for dinner once in awhile. I miss that stir fry and rice dish you used to make for me."
Wu Fei smiled and actually blushed. Duo stared in disbelief as Wu Fei replied, "Everything's okay, Mr. Hulitt. We were just discussing work. As for dinner, I'll have to call you and set up a time. "
"Two years is a long time to be a stranger," Mr. Hulitt admonished. "Just because you and Heero here, aren't room mates any more, doesn't mean that you can forget about your friends."
"Work has been very time consuming," Wu Fei apologized, "But I will find time to see you, Mr. Hulitt."
Mr. Hulitt shook his head in a disgusted manner. "Boys working and living like you do, it's just not right. You should all be in good homes with mothers and fathers to worry about bills and work."
Wu Fei smiled gently and replied, "If we were like other children, yes, but we can't pretend innocence or try to be what we aren't. We are highly trained individuals, Mr. Hulitt. We paid dearly for our skills and it is a relief, not a burden, to use them for good. It makes our sacrifices mean something, sir."
Mr. Hulitt nodded, contrite, but he said, as he passed a list through the window to Heero, "You might be heroes, but garbage still needs to be taken out, gutters fixed, and holes in the roof plugged. I told you about that tree hanging over the house, Yuy. It looks like a branch went through. I'll help you find a repairman you can trust if you don't have time to fix it." He half turned away, suddenly uncomfortable as he said, "You might parade around like little adults, but it's the least regular people like me can do to help you out while you protect the universe."
Mr. Hulitt walked away then and Duo sighed. "Well, I only push papers around, so I guess he was talking to you guys."
Heero made a face as he tucked the list into his bag. "If you're going to start having problems with self esteem, I'll sign you up for therapy again, Little Baka. You rammed your Gundam down the throat of Zech's ship to stop him from harming the Earth. You suffered many times and showed your bravery and selflessness constantly during the war. Your job now, doesn't negate any of that and you know it."
Duo grinned. "You always know just what to say."
Wu Fei cleared his throat. Soda pricked ears at him curiously. "If you two don't mind, I would like to return home sometime today."
"Sorry, Wu Man," Duo chuckled as he opened the door of the car and slid out. As he unhooked Soda and let him out as well, Wu Fei spluttered angrily.
"You will NOT call me that again!"
"Okay, Fei," Duo laughed as Heero joined him and they started up the driveway towards their front door.
"Bye, Chang-a -lang!" Duo said with an offhanded wave.
The wheels of the car squealed as an angry Wu Fei drove. As Duo unlocked the front door, punching his code into the touch pad there, Heero said intuitively, "You're angry. What's wrong?"
"Angry?" Duo grinned, "What makes you think that?"
When the door was open, Heero followed Duo through the house and into the back yard. As his lover opened the kennel to let the puppies out, he finally asked, "Care to talk about it?"
Duo sat in the midst of the puppies and scratched and petted the wriggling bodies all trying to get into his lap at the same time. "Okay," he said. His smile didn't drop, but there was a tenseness to his expression that told Heero that he had been right. "I was insulting Wu Fei because I WAS mad. You two shacked up together and were buddy buddy the whole time I was gone. It seems like you had a nice, normal, good time while I was away, at least until crazy Duo Maxwell, with his six dogs, pops back into your life and chains you down. You have to watch me, take care of me, and protect the neighbors and society from me. You have to listen to my problems and hope that I don't have an episode and kill you. You can't even escape me at work now. I'm following you even there and ruining that for you too. Thing is, I can't change any of that. It's who I am and it's what I have to do. So, I'm jealous, okay, jealous that you and Wu Fei had such a nice and normal set up and we don't."
Heero crouched down and looked into Duo's face as the puppies tried to lick his face and get his attention. "Duo," Heero said softly, "Do you know what I was missing during that 'normal', 'fun', time with Wu Fei?"
Duo blinked. "Can't think of anything," he replied dejectedly.
Heero sighed patiently and then reached out and smoothed a hand along Duo's cheek. "I was missing love and the man I needed most in the universe to make me whole. I was missing the other half of myself. What I had wasn't happiness, Duo. I don't sit up nights wishing I were living with Wu Fei again and having dinner with Mr. Hulitt. I sit up and think about how lucky I am right now to have you beside me."
Duo smiled and wiped at his eyes. He sniffled. "You're going to make me cry, Heero. You're so good at words and I'm not. I just love you, okay? I don't think I need to get fancier than that, do I?"
Heero chuckled as he settled beside Duo on the grass. "No, it's more than enough."
"So," Duo said as the puppies finally settled and stretched out all around them contentedly. "What's this about you and Wu Fei seeing Mr. Hulitt? Were you living here with him? I thought you two had an apartment close to headquarters?"
Heero smiled. "We did have an apartment. Wu Fei came with me to check up on the house once in awhile. We met Mr. Hulitt then, though I didn't really get to know him. Wu Fei was the one who befriended him. Wu Fei loves gardening, it seems. He was the one who had dinner with Mr. Hulitt."
Duo's eyes went large. "Gardening? Wu Fei? Sometimes, you just don't know about a guy."
Heero nodded, "True." His eyes roamed over the house. It was getting dark, but he could still see the offending branch of the overhanging tree against the roof. "The last thing that I imagined when I was sitting in Wing Zero, was that I would be worrying about gutters and holes in my roof after the war."
Duo grinned, "Or taking out the garbage?" Duo looked suddenly sly, "or buying the 'family' car?"
"Car?" Heero looked startled.
"We can't keep hitching rides with Wu Fei," Duo explained. "We might have conflicting schedules. I think it's time Duo Maxwell got behind the wheel of a car."
Heero looked suitably afraid.