Disclaimer:Don't own them, don't make any money off of this.
Warnings: Male/Male sex, graphic, language, violence, NCS Flashbacks
"Who's making breakfast?" Duo groaned as he rolled over in bed and blinked blearily at Heero.
"Here, with my compliments," Heero replied as he tossed something rectangular onto the blankets.
Duo picked it up and squinted at it. "Nutritional bar? You shouldn't have gone to so much trouble, baby."
Heero smirked as he held his own by his teeth and used both hands to tighten his tie. Duo looked beyond his breakfast and noticed that Heero was wearing his Preventer uniform. "Did I get it wrong? I thought this was Saturday?"
Heero suddenly looked reserved. "Headquarters called. They have a lead on one of my cases. I have to go."
He was expecting Duo to complain, but Duo only sighed as he sat up and stretched. "Off to save the day again," he said regretfully. "I guess I'll start on Mr. Hulitt's list while you're gone. That will give us more time together after you get home."
Heero smiled in relief. "Thank you."
Duo smiled back. "I'm a big boy, Heero. I'm not going to sit and whine and make it harder for you." He yawned and then reminded Heero, "Make sure to bring Wu Fei over afterwards for dinner, if he doesn't have any bullet holes in him by the end of the day. He won't have to cook. I'll go out and get something for dinner."
Heero nodded, but he was looking concerned as he sat on the edge of the bed and began putting on his steel toed, black boots. "Don't get your hopes up, Duo, " he warned. "Wu Fei may not feel like dinner after today. It's not an easy case."
"I'll get the stuff and hope," Duo replied. He crawled over the bed and came up behind Heero. Tucking Heero's collar down and patting it into place, he leaned in and kissed Heero's ear. "Stay safe, K?"
"For you, anything," Heero replied softly and then he was standing and grabbing his wallet from the side table. He paused and gave Duo a long look.
"What?" Duo asked in concern.
Duo frowned. "Won't what?"
"Try and cook?" Heero finished in trepidation.
Duo gave him a mock glare. "I promise you that I'll have everything prepackaged or in a take out container tonight. I want to try and be friends with Wu Fei, not make him hate me AND have to go to the hospital."
Heero tried to look apologetic, but Duo laughed. "I don't want to eat my cooking either, Heero! Stop looking so guilty about telling me not to quit my day job and become a chef."
"You have so many other talents..." Heero began, but Duo snorted and cut him off.
"Yeah, yeah, skip the pep talk, Heero," Duo said briskly. "My ego isn't that fragile. Go ahead and go to work. The sooner you get there, the sooner you get back."
Heero smiled and his heart was in his eyes. "Love you."
Duo smirked. "Love you too."
Heero left. The house was empty without him. That quiet emptiness had always bothered Duo. Before getting his job with the Preventers, he had done everything possible to not think about it, to fill up his days with activities so that he wouldn't stop and realize how truly lonely he had been. He had been almost like a prisoner in his own home, not to be trusted around `normal' people. Duo didn't like having that lonely silence back again.
Throwing on a robe, and wearing only his boxers, Duo slid his feet into slippers and padded downstairs with Soda at heel. He sneezed abruptly when he reached the landing of the stairs and it burned his nose.
"Damn! I think I'm coming down with something," Duo muttered as he made his way into the kitchen. "Probably all of that running around in the cold rain during training..."
Duo had been reaching for the door of the refrigerator to get some juice, when he saw the note held there by a magnet in the shape of a transport carrier. The magnet was emblazoned with an ad. `Have a load? Meshoff Transports will get it anywhere in space .' Duo pulled the note out from under the magnet and blinked at it blearily. It was from Hulitt.
`Left several messages on your phone machine, but received no answer. I have found a suitable candidate for a housekeeper. He will be arriving at nine o'clock sharp for your inspection. He met all criteria during my interview.'
Duo blinked some more and then felt a flush of uncertainty. This was NOT good, Duo thought. Meeting strange men when he was alone... Not good at all.
"I could just not answer the door when he comes," Duo thought out loud as he finished getting his juice. Soda cocked ears at him. Duo reached for a glass and then stood, holding the glass and the juice container.
Duo looked down at Soda. "I have you. I have enough firepower in this house to start my own damned war. Why should I be afraid of a housekeeper? I need..." Duo frowned, trying to reason with his nerves and a part of his mind that was still six years old, "to take my pills," Duo finished with a sigh.
After taking his antidepressants and drinking his juice, he sat at the kitchen table, chin propped up on hands and eyes staring inwardly at his own fears.
"This is stupid!" Duo grumbled and abruptly stood up. "I CAN handle this! As an agent, I won't always have my partner with me. I have to be able to deal with strangers, one on one, without ... without having an episode. This a perfect opportunity to see if I can do it."
Duo went upstairs and changed into a pair of jeans, a loose white shirt that hid the gun and knife at his belt, and rebraided his hair. Looking at himself in the mirror, he forced a smile. "I have to be pleasant," he told himself. "This is my interview too. I have to get him to WANT to work for me."
A small voice still sounded an alarm at the back of Duo's head, but he throttled it down deep and ignored it as he went back downstairs and nervously sat in a chair by the foyer. Soda settled at his feet, head pressed against Duo's leg and his eyes raised to stare at Duo. The dog could sense his nervousness.
When the doorbell rang, Duo swallowed hard, checked his weapons, and then went to answer it with Soda at his heel. Opening the door, Duo blinked and stood dumbly in surprise.
A very petite, middle aged man was standing on the welcome mat. He was shorter than Duo and just as slim, wearing an impeccably tailored white shirt, black coat, and creased black pants. His black ankle boots shone with a high buff. He was handsome, with large, dark eyes, fine, black eyebrows, and short, styled, black hair. He smiled engagingly at Duo.
"Hi there! Is your mummy or daddy home?"
He had a musical, almost feminine voice. Duo blinked again, not sure what to say to such a strange question.
"Oh, I see," the man said in amusement as he brushed past Duo and entered the house, "you're a shy one. I'll wait here out of the cold and you can go get them for me, okey dokie?"
Soda should have at least growled. Duo glanced down at the dog. The dog was sitting down at his ease, tongue lolling out as if he were smiling. He was completely relaxed and unconcerned.
The man spotted Soda and exclaimed, "Oh, BIG doggie! Big SHEDDING doggie! I can see I'm going to be using the hand vac a LOT if I get this job."
"Uh," Duo began and then frowned. "I think you're confused."
The man smiled at him indulgently. "If you go fetch your parents, I'm sure they can set me straight, so, run along now."
Duo tried again. "Didn't Mr. Hulitt tell you-"
"Lovely man! He was so pleasant on the phone," the stranger said airily, "He told me that your parents were having a bit of a time being domestic, having been soldiers for so long. Well, I am Mr. Domestic, and I come from a military family, so he thought that I would be perfect for the job."
The door suddenly slammed open wide and a man stood there, face red with fury and eyes darting about in a manic fashion. He was big, hulking, and he was wearing military fatigues. A shock of yellow hair and a large tattoo that said Oz, completed the demented picture.
The housekeeper turned, startled, "Frank!" he exclaimed, "What ARE you doing here?"
"I've come to take you home, you two timing bitch!" the man shouted.
"Two timing?" the housekeeper snorted with surprising calm. "That's ridiculous, Frank! We would have had to have been a couple for THAT to be true. As you can see, there is a child present. If you don't leave right now, I'm going to have to do something drastic. I won't let you become violent in front him."
The man scowled at Duo, "Child? You gotta be kidding?"
"Well, young man, then, " the housekeeper clarified, "but what I said still stands. I will resort to physical action to remove you from his presence."
Soda was snarling. Only Duo's curt order had stopped him from attacking immediately. The dog was tense now, paws digging in, ready to leap and take the newcomer out.
"Young man?" the hulking man snarled contemptuously. "You mean LOVER! Get outta my way, Harri! I'm going to teach him not to touch what's mine!"
"Lover?" Harri scoffed. "You have GOT to be kidding! I have nephews his age! Stop being disgusting and LEAVE. I won't warn you again."
Frank reached under his jacket. "You got the moves, Harri, but they ain't nothing against a bullet." He frowned darkly. "Look at you! You're still standing in front of pretty boy there. Well, if you feel that strongly about it, why don't you die with him too?"
"Down!' Duo yelled. "Soda, Red!"
Harri ducked without hesitation and Soda was off the mark in a flash with a deep throated snarl. As he barreled into Frank, who was drawing a gun from his holster, Duo smoothly pulled out his own gun and fired over Harri's head. It hit Frank in the wrist with a spray of blood, his gun sent flying by the impact of Soda into his body and the force of the bullet. The man went down under the weight of a biting, snarling Soda, screaming for help.
"Soda! Yellow! Heel!" Duo called and Soda broke off his attack leaving the man limp and bleeding. Duo then calmly looked down at Harri. "The phone's over there. Call law enforcement. I'll keep a gun on your boyfriend."
Harri straightened and looked Duo up and down, seeing a confident, cool young man holding a gun with the skill of someone well trained to use it. "Yes, sir," he replied with a respectful nod, his demeanor towards Duo completely changed now, but he added, throwing a scathing look over his shoulder at Frank, "but HE was NEVER my boyfriend. I have better taste and sense."
Duo didn't say anything to Harri, or let on that he was keeping as much an eye on the man as he was the bleeding and whining Frank. When the messy business of turning the man over to law enforcement, giving statements, and escorting everyone out of the house was completed, Duo felt that he had at least a working impression of the housekeeper. The man had held himself back from taking charge, from relieving a person he considered a child from having to deal with violence and it's aftermath, and had waited until he was asked to speak or to assist.
There was silence. Duo stared at Harri and Harri stared back at him. The man seemed uncertain, one hand running up and down his arm nervously. "I'm very sorry for all of this trouble, sir. I didn't have any idea... You are part of that program where ex-child soldiers are declared adults? Mr. Hulitt said that you were young, but... There aren't any guardians, are there?" When Duo shook his head, no, Harri continued, "That must be why you need a housekeeper. I suppose that I am out of the running. This has to have been my worst interview bar non. I swear to you that I didn't have any idea that Frank would go to such lengths. He's only an office clerk. He declared his infatuation, but I hadn't thought that it had progressed to the level of full blown dementia. Those Oz foot soldier types are often twitchy mentally. I should have been more careful."
Duo had reholstered his gun, but he still had his hand on it. Harri seemed sincere, but Duo had learned early on in his life that people could be very good actors. His mind ran over every scenario that would place Harri in league with the departed Frank, but none of them added up. There wasn't any reason for Harri to have said and done the things that he had if he were out to harm him.
Soda was covered in blood, Frank's blood. Now that the action was over, the dog looked pleased with himself and completely unconcerned for Harri's continued presence. Duo reached down and scratched the dog behind the ear, wondering at such quick acceptance.
"Heero and I are soldiers," Duo said as his eyes went back to Harri. "Even though there isn't a war, that doesn't stop being true. We have guns and we use them. We are nervous and suspicious and likely to react badly if you surprise us. I... I don't want you to come near me... you have to give me space." That hadn't sounded right, Duo thought, face stinging in embarrassment. The violence and the parade of strangers had frayed his nerves and his strength to keep his reactions under control.
Harri surprised him by replying quietly, "I understand. My family fought against Oz. I know what terrible things can happen in a war. Trust me to be discrete, sensitive, and obedient to any orders that you care to give me, sir. If you would rather that I came and cleaned only when you are at work, I will do so."
"I don't think that my partner would like that,"' Duo replied, imagining Heero's reaction to having yet another person having free reign of their home. Heero had learned to trust Hulitt, but a second intruder would have been too much. "After I talk to my partner, I'll call you and set up a schedule so that you can come and clean while we are at home."
Harri opened his mouth, maybe to point out that two working men were hardly ever home, but he closed his mouth and nodded, "Yes, sir." He brightened, regaining some of his earlier personality. "I DO get the job then?" when Duo nodded, he smiled charmingly. "You WON'T regret it, sir. I am THE very person you need to keep your home clean and running smooth."
Harri took out a card. He began to step forward to give it to Duo, but then saw Duo's face tighten. Harri checked himself and put the card aside on a small table by one wall. "That card has my email, vid phone, and pager numbers. It also lists my government file, my references, job experience, and clearances on a computer strip. If there is any other information that you require, please, DON'T hesitate to ask."
Duo's face twitched into a smile. "I'm sure my partner and I will be able to find any information we need."
Harri hesitated for a split second and then chuckled. "I'm sure you can, sir."
Harri turned for the front door and then paused at the site of the bloodstains on the floor. "Perhaps I should clean this mess up before I go?" It was obvious that he was reluctant to leave it to Duo. He was still thinking of Duo as a child.
Duo decided to shatter Harri's false image of him. He replied, the coldness of Shinigami in his tone, "What's a few drops when a person has shed a river?"
Harri shivered and his eyes widened at Duo. He said softly, "Of course, sir. I will be awaiting your call."
Duo watched Harri leave. He scratched behind Soda's ears. "I guess he meets with your approval?" Soda lolled a tongue and seemed to laugh in reply. "I don't know how I feel," Duo said more to himself than the dog. "It doesn't matter, though. We do need a housekeeper. Harri seems qualified and tough enough to handle the job." As Duo went to get supplies to clean up the floor and Soda, he wondered how he was going to explain it all to Heero.
When Heero arrived home with Wu Fei in the evening, Duo was still feeling on edge. Realizing that he had forgotten about Wu Fei and dinner, added to his feeling of being off balance and strung tight. He stood in the foyer in embarrassment as both men shed their Preventer jackets, wondering if there was anything on hand to make into a dinner.
Heero noticed Duo's nervousness. His blue eyes narrowed in concern and then some signal seemed to silently pass between himself and Wu Fei. Wu Fei gave an imperceptible nod.
"You can stop with the code!" Duo growled. "I'm fine. I just..." Explaining it to Heero was going to be hard enough, but having Wu Fei hear it as well... Duo didn't think that his nerves could take the strain.
"Duo?" Heero was very concerned now. His eyes swept over Duo and Duo could see in his expression that Heero had guessed that he was carrying weapons. Wu Fei had guessed as well.
"Perhaps tonight is not a good night, Maxwell," Wu Fei suggested smoothly. " I don't mind rescheduling."
Duo wanted to protest that. He didn't want to look weak in front of Heero AND Wu Fei. He was shaky though, and the words wouldn't come. He DID want Wu Fei to go away and he had never been good at lying.
Wu Fei watched Duo struggle and then he said calmly, "Even `normal' people have bad days, Duo. Don't worry about it. I will see you Monday, Heero."
Heero nodded, eyes never leaving Duo as Wu Fei let himself out. It was concern and caution. He wasn't sure what was wrong or how well Duo was dealing with it mentally. It was clear that he was prepared for violence if it was necessary. He waited a full minute after the door had closed before he asked. "What's going on, Duo?"
Duo gave him a weak smile. "I interviewed the new housekeeper this morning." Heero stiffened and Duo laughed, seeing on his face his sudden trepidation and the questions he was afraid to ask. "Don't worry, I haven't killed him and hidden him in the back yard," Duo reassured Heero. "He left here unharmed, unthreatened, and with the job. He was very competent and he was cool in a tense situation."
"Tense situation?" Heero was angry then. "Did he surprise you or make you nervous? I will speak to Mr. Hulitt. He shouldn't have presumed to-"
Duo held up a calming hand. "It's all right, Heero. Well, it's not all right that he didn't discuss it with us face to face, but it was the right person for the job and we do have to thank him for that."
Heero's expression said plainer than words that he would be the judge of that. Duo grew irritated, but he was too high strung to want to fight. When Heero sighed and rubbed at his face wearily, he remembered that Heero was supposed to have had a bad day as well.
"So, did you get your man?" Duo wondered.
Heero walked past him into the kitchen and Duo followed. Heero pulled a sports drink from the refrigerator and sat down heavily at the dinning room table. He did look exhausted and haunted. "It wasn't an easy case," he said simply, "and it's not over yet."
"Feel like pizza?" Duo wondered. "Vegetables, chicken, and extra cheese?" When Heero nodded distractedly, Duo made the call. That done, he settled in the chair by Heero and put a comforting hand over Heero's. "Talk, Yuy," he ordered. "Give me a report."
Heero was staring past Duo's shoulder at the garbage can. Duo glanced back at it and saw the wads of bloodstained cloth hanging partway out. Soda must have investigated while he wasn't paying attention. "Maybe I should start first," Duo suggested nervously.
Heero blinked and his deep blue eyes met Duo's. "I think you should," he agreed anxiously. "Start by telling me whether you are injured or not."
"Not," Duo replied and he saw Heero relax. "I'm just a little shaky. Hulitt left a note about the housekeeper. I prepared myself pretty well before he came, greeted him fine, and then his stalker burst in and tried to shoot us both. Me and Soda took him out, the law took the weirdo away, and I gave Harri the job. He was cool as a cucumber Heero. He said that he came from a military family, and I can believe it the way he acted."
Heero's mouth had opened in shock. He automatically reached out to grip Duo's arm, the fear of almost having lost Duo in their own home obvious in every tense and trembling muscle. He regained control with an effort, knowing that getting excited wasn't going to help Duo calm down. He let go of Duo's arm and said with a steadiness that belied his turmoil, "You hired the man. You must like him."
Duo found a smile. "You will too. .. well, once you've checked him all out, taken a blood sample, DNA, ransacked all known Oz files for mention of his mother's second cousin-"
"All of which is necessary because of who we are," Heero replied defensively. "We do have enemies even now."
Duo nodded, turning serious again. "Sometimes, I would like to forget it, but I know we can't," Duo agreed. He tapped Heero's hand. "Okay, your turn. What's wrong? What happened? You've had tough cases before and I've never seen you look this disturbed about them."
Heero turned his hand to clasp Duo's hand. He stared at their hands for a long moment and then replied, "We found an Oz cell trying to form a rebel force. They've dug into several installations in remote areas of Space and on Earth. They've developed new weapons and new modes of defense. Infiltration by stealth will save a great deal of needless bloodshed. We're not the only experts, but we are being called on to take care of the more difficult targets."
Duo thought about that information, the expertise that would be needed, and Heero' s use of the word `we'. He understood, suddenly, why Heero was so upset. "You want me to help you?"
"Sally requested it," Heero told him unhappily and then, hopefully, "You can refuse."
Duo eyed him, seeing all of Heero's fears about turning a half trained Preventer agent lose on a mission and that person being his lover besides. "You know I don't really need the training, Heero. It was all about learning the rules and getting me used to working with people."
Heero made an impatient face. "I don't doubt your abilities," he replied.
"Just my ability to hold it together while I'm using them," Duo finished. Heero didn't reply, but it was as good as an admission. "I'm BETTER than I was in the war, Heero. A couple of years of down time hasn't made me rusty. I can still switch off my fears and do what I have to do."
Heero nodded, but Duo wasn't sure he was convinced.
"One condition is all I ask," Duo said and Heero looked at him with raised eyebrows. "Nobody I'm training with, including Grange, is going to know about this. When I'm done, I go right back to regular training. I want to finish. It's important to me, Heero."
Heero searched Duo's eyes and Duo saw an expression warm Heero's face. it was pride. Heero was proud of him for handling the housekeeper incident and wanting to go back to training. Duo smiled and leaned into Heero's embrace.
"It'll be okay," Duo said. "We're the best there is, Heero. We have to use our skills to help people. We just do."