Disclaimer:Don't own them, don't make any money off of this.
Warnings: Male/Male sex, graphic, language, violence, NCS Flashbacks
Heart pounding and sweat rolling down his face, Duo started awake. It took him a wild moment before he oriented himself and focused on the comforting bedroom and the back of Heero's tense body. Duo had a death grip on the man, arms wrapped around Heero's waist so tightly that it must have hurt. Soda was on the bed, looking down at the both of them and quivering, knowing that Duo was in trouble, but not sure where the danger was coming from.
Duo tried to speak, but a hoarse sound came from his throat instead. He unlocked one arm and reached out to reassure Soda. The dog crouched and rested his big head on Duo's hip, looking at him with worried, dark eyes.
"Love?" Heero spoke at last, very quietly, as if he was afraid.
"It's over," Duo managed to say at last, but his voice remained rough. He wiped at his sleep encrusted eyes. "Sorry, Heero. Bad dream."
Heero replied cautiously, "You haven't had one in some time. Was it... Was it about..."
"It was about the war," Duo told him and sat up, his one hand still loosely around Heero's waist. Heero sat up as well, and they stared at each other, both of them thinking of the past and trying not to. "I was cornered by Ozies," Duo explained. "I was trying to fight my way through them to reach you, but they wouldn't go down."
Heero nodded sympathetically. "Are you.. all right?" Heero knew that having anyone close to him after a nightmare wasn't what Duo usually needed.
Duo wished that he could be alone to concentrate on pulling himself back together, but he purposefully kept his arm around Heero and denied himself the option. Heero was still unsure about his Preventer job. Duo wasn't about to fuel that doubt by starting to have nightmares that he couldn't cope with. He smiled tightly to at least appear to be all right and said, "Nothing new, Heero. I'm an old hat at shaking things like bad dreams off. " He couldn't help considering the cause of the dream and he decided that it was worth mentioning to Heero to calm that concerned look in his blue eyes. "Commander Richards mentioned the war to me today. I guess it made me think..."
"That's understandable," Heero replied and Duo was relieved when he seemed to relax. "There are a lot of veterans in the Preventers from both sides of the war. At least Richards will understand you more than someone like Grange, who never did anything but city security during the war."
Duo frowned. "That's not just 'anything'," he protested. "When a city was overwhelmed by a Suit/Gundam dog fight, guys like city security tended to get messily killed."
Heero looked somewhat contrite, but there was a long standing elitism, Duo knew, between soldiers and civilians and Heero, it seemed, wasn't immune from it. Duo reached up and pulled a leaf from Heero's hair and managed a more genuine smile. Heero's hand went up to check his hair for more. "I managed to get most of the list done," Heero said.
"Most?" Duo replied with mock astonishment. "That's not like you, Heero, not to finish a mission."
Heero looked rueful. He found another leaf and took the one Duo was holding. "If you're angry that I didn't call you and tell you my plans..."
"Damned right, I am!" Duo growled. He stood up and stretched. Soda left the bed and joined him, glad that the tension in the room had eased. "At least you left something for me to do!"
"I did." Heero handed Duo the list that had been laying beside him on the bed. Everything had been crossed off except for two tasks. When Duo read what they were and groaned, Heero said defensively, "Well, it is only fair. The dogs are yours and , I feel, cleaning, mending the kennel, and the fence that keeps them in the yard, is your responsibility."
"Painting...," Duo sighed. "I hate painting. I thought the fence was weather treated. Why do we have to paint it?"
"You are painting it with new weather sealant," Heero explained. "And mending those boards that one of the puppies chewed."
Duo sat on the edge of the bed with his hands hanging lax between his knees. "I have to do all of this tonight?"
Heero was becoming concerned again. "Was training that hard for you? If you're tired, I can do the rest of the list myself. Mr. Hulitt has been very patient. I don't think he will wait much longer for us to act on his list."
"Hasn't the man heard about weekends?" Duo grumbled. "Isn't that when people who work do things like this?"
"People who don't let things get this bad, are allowed to work on weekends," Heero replied. "We have to do these things now. None of the things that Mr. Hulitt listed are unnecessary."
Duo shoved the list into his shirt pocket. "You look worn out, Heero. I'll leave dinner up to you and I'll get on it. Doesn't matter if I'm tired. If these things have to be done, then I'm going to do them."
Heero glanced over at the clock. Duo had only been sleeping a half hour. "You still have a few hours of daylight. I can set up some lanterns so that you can work longer."
"Thanks," Duo grumbled and then forced himself to stand up, the nightmare still dancing through his mind and putting him on edge. Working was probably a good thing, he thought as he headed for the door with Soda at heel. There was nothing like complete exhaustion to make the mind stop thinking and remembering.
After a few hours of working to clean the kennel and repair the fence, Duo took a break only long enough to eat, before he started to paint. He eyed the length of the fence as if it were the enemy, the darkness hiding the end of it. It looked daunting and he wondered if he would be able to finish the job any time soon. When Heero joined him, wearily tying his bandana back around his forehead and plopping a brush into the can of sealer, Duo was so glad to see him that he found it hard to protest.
"Heero," Duo began and tried not to sound as weary as he felt. "You already put in a whole day."
"So did you," Heero reminded him with a serious expression. "We're doing this together, so don't argue."
Duo wanted to, but he found himself nodding instead and quirking a smile at his lover. Being out in the dark, even with Soda, especially after the nightmare, wasn't something he had wanted to endure.
They painted diligently for at least fifteen minutes before Soda became alert. He didn't growl, so Duo was sure who the intruder was before he came out of the darkness announcing his presence as he came.
"Just like boys; put things off until the last minute and then do them all at once,'" Mr. Hulitt grumbled. "Doing the fence I see." He eyed it. "You need to stroke it like this with the brush. " He demonstrated in the air with an imaginary brush. "Otherwise, you won't get a smooth, complete coat." When the two boys nodded, Hulitt sighed. "You both look tired. Finish the fence this weekend."
Duo was ready to toss his brush into the can and thank Mr. Hulitt in relief, but Heero was frowning and definitely in `mission mode.' "We should accomplish the task in under two hours," Heero argued. "There will be rain for several days. We may not be able to finish the fence anytime soon."
"We might," Duo protested. "You are not a weather man, Heero."
Heero's frown deepened.
Duo growled, "Oh, all right! Let's finish it so it doesn't bug you. You probably wouldn't sleep tonight just thinking about all of those unpainted boards."
Hulitt chuckled. "You are definitely the responsible one, Heero," he said. "I'll make sure to account for that in the next list that I make. I wouldn't want you to make yourself ill trying to finish them." He poked around the supplies Duo had laid out on a small tarp. He found a brush and began swirling it in the sealant can. "In the meantime, I'll help you two finish this list."
Duo's eyes went wide and he was the first to protest, "You don't need to do that, sir. We can handle it."
"I do need to help you," Mr. Hulitt replied tersely as he pointed at the cell lanterns. "I won't get any sleep until this is finished. Those things are shinning into my bedroom window."
Duo chuckled and looked sheepish. "Sorry, sir."
Heero was quiet for some moments and then he said, "Thank you, sir."
Hulitt smiled, "For making you take care of yourselves? You're welcome, but I don't want it to be a habit. Once you figure out what needs upkeep, inside and out of your lives, you do it on your own, all right?"
Duo was too tired to be as alert as he wished. As Heero and Hulitt began painting the fence, he moved further down to give himself some comforting space and more reaction time should something, he wasn't sure what, happened. He knew that Mr. Hulitt noticed. He could see the man's steady appraisal out of the corner of his eye.
"You mad, boy?" Hulitt finally asked. "You should know by now that life requires that we do things we don't like many times. The end of the war didn't change that."
Duo glanced at the man and couldn't decide what to tell him. Heero came to his rescue. "Duo had a hard life on the streets, sir. It makes him uncomfortable, at times, being within reach of people he doesn't know well."
"Hm, I can understand that," Hulitt replied as he continued to paint. "I'm glad that you aren't mad, Duo. It wouldn't be good for you not to understand the importance of taking care of yourself."
"I do understand," Duo replied. "It isn't that at all. You've really helped us. I know that, especially where the dogs are concerned."
"You two work hard," Hulitt said, going off on a slight tangent. "There are some things, like this fence, that you aren't going to have the time to take care of. I think it's important that you learn the ropes of every day living first, but, once you understand how to do things, I think you should really take my earlier advice and get some paid help. Being around strangers may make you nervous, but that's something you're going to have to get over now that we are in peace time. Working all day, and then scrubbing floors and painting fences after you get home, is not something I recommend you do in the long term."
"Understood," Heero replied, "We will seriously consider your advice."
Duo's face had gone tight at the thought of a stranger in their house and, as they fell silent, painting, Duo began to think about his long, stressful day. Not even the hard work was able to keep him from remembering the shower, the naked bodies, the fear, and the shame of having to retreat and hide in a separate shower stall.
Duo wasn't aware of anything for a long time, except disgust at himself and the bleak depression that was washing over him at the realization that something like that wasn't in his power to over come. He was never going to get used to it and shower with the rest. Duo knew then, that his dream of the war hadn't only been triggered by Richard's comments. Duo had felt helpless and that helplessness had transferred itself into nightmare, a nightmare of being helpless and unable to save the person he loved. He knew what the dream meant. In the dream, he had failed Heero, failed to save him. In real life, he was afraid of failing Heero too, of not being able to cope and really be the partner the man deserved.
"You're going to push a hole through the wood, Duo," Hulitt said, breaking into Duo's thoughts. "As Duo blinked at him, realizing that he had been pushing his brush hard against the wood in motions that were reflective of his state of mind, Mr. Hulitt added, "It does get better over time, trust me."
Duo hoped with all of his heart, that Hulitt was right. His words at least stopped Duo from spiraling further into depression. He was able to stop being so nervous and they finished the fence without incident.
After Hulitt had said his good nights and moved off into the darkness towards his own home, Heero gathered up the brushes, the paint, and the tarp and stiffly moved into the backyard and to the small utility room there. Duo helped him put things away and then they both yawned at the same time.
"If it weren't for the dogs, we could have an apartment and not worry about painting fences," Heero said as he pulled the bandana from his head and wiped at his sweating forehead. He wasn't really thinking about his words and he didn't see Duo's stung expression as he led the way into the house.
Duo was used to not having many possessions, used to moving from place to place, used to being adrift and going where circumstances dictated. He found himself saying, "I was supposed to give the puppies away. I could still do that and just keep Soda."
Heero turned and stared at him. Duo stopped and stared back. They were in the kitchen, the dishes from dinner still on the table. As Duo swallowed hard and moved past Heero to start cleaning up, Heero gently reached out and took hold of the end of his braid. Rubbing it between his fingers, Heero said with leashed passion, "Don't ever do that again."
"What?" Duo wondered nervously, his body tensed to reclaim his braid, not sure what was so upsetting Heero.
"Try and give up what you love so much to make me happy," Heero growled back. "I'm just tired and saying something stupid, Duo. I don't really mean it. This is our home. It takes work, but that's life, just as Mr. Hulitt said. We aren't exempt from it. When you make your dreams a reality, you then have to take care of them."
"Deep," Duo chuckled. "I forgot about your poetic side." He raked his grimy bangs back from his tired face. "I wish the dream house came complete with magical pixie dust to make it upkeep itself, but... I don't want to give it up, Heero. Sorry, but I dream the big dreams, and an apartment in the city with a goldfish as a pet just wasn't grand enough."
Heero smiled. He raised Duo's braid and kissed it. "It's my dream too," he said softly. "Don't forget that."
Duo smirked. "That's right! The bed was your idea! Trust you to think of only one thing!"
"What?" Heero replied with mock innocence. "A good night's sleep?"
Duo blew a raspberry at him. "Come on, Lover! Shower with-" Duo paused in the act of leading Heero by his braid, standing halfway through the doorway between the kitchen and the living room as if he had been flash frozen.
Concerned, Heero asked carefully, "Duo? What's wrong?"
Duo shook himself and then smiled. "Just thinking. Nothing really." He continued with Heero following behind him, but his thoughts were confused. He had been about to suggest a shower together, with all that could imply, and hadn't felt a twinge of trepidation. He stifled a sigh. He trusted Heero. He knew that Heero wouldn't hurt him. Sex in a shower with Heero had nothing in common with a room full of undressed strangers with unknown motives.
He must love me, Duo thought, because I am seriously screwed up...
As if echoing his thoughts, Heero said, "I love you, Duo. We'll work through these problems and do the work together. That's the way it's supposed to be."
Duo looked back at his strong lover and felt very warm suddenly. He loved Heero so much, he thought, and the man was always like a rock for him. He knew Heero had his problems too, places as vulnerable as Duo's. Heero needed love and reassurance as well. Duo wanted so much to be strong for him. He wanted Heero's love, his respect, and his trust that Duo could handle the life they had carved out for themselves. He couldn't be the one to drop the ball, Duo thought determinedly, he had to be strong for Heero and not let the past overwhelm him and ruin what they had.
They reached their bedroom and discarded clothes. Soda padded after them, looking at them curiously. "Sorry, Soda," Duo said softly, "Three's a crowd."
Heero said seriously. "Maybe two is as well, Duo."
Duo looked at him nervously. "What?"
Heero was a long, wiry young man, with well developed muscles. His manhood was slightly aroused and blushing red as it stirred. With his dark hair a wild tangle in his handsome face, and his cobalt blue eyes peering through them to regard Duo, he was a wet dream and didn't even know it. "We're both tired. You're... I don't think you really want me to join you. Go ahead and..."
Duo stepped forward purposefully, body to body with Heero and slowly took Heero's erection in his hand. He gave it two long strokes and it was suddenly as hard as his muscles. "If you don't mind me taking the driver's seat," Duo whispered huskily, "I think I want to get rid of some of this built up tension and well, some mental shit, too, Heero. Play along, okay, and I'll make it worth your while."
"Worth my while?" Heero replied with an arched, dark eyebrow. "Do I get something nice?"
Duo reached with his free hand and cupped Heero's chin. Looking into Heero's eyes with his sparkling amethyst ones, he replied, "I'll give you what's most important to me in the entire universe."
"Sounds promising," Heero replied as he leaned slightly forward to nuzzle Duo's neck. "What is it?"
"My love," Duo replied and claimed Heero's lips with his own.