Disclaimer:Don't own them, don't make any money off of this.
Warnings: Male/Male sex, graphic, language, violence, NCS Flashbacks
It felt just like the war, Duo thought, as he sat on a chair in their bedroom and let Heero work on his wounds. The medic at Preventer headquarters had applied stitches and ointments to the worst of Duo's wounds, and had made a startled face when Heero had announced that he would do the rest, but he had known their reputations and hadn't argued.
"Want to give me your report?" Heero asked as he carefully began cleaning and applying bandages.
Duo could see himself in a mirror above the dresser. It seemed so normal for him to sit there with burns, bone deep bruises, cuts, and pieces of unidentifiable things sticking out of his skin. It had happened too often during the war. He tried to shove those memories aside and speak in a professional, matter of fact tone.
"I disabled the systems, but then ran into the leader of the insurgents," Duo told Heero. Heero blinked at him and then smirked, appreciating the irony and the odds of that happening. "He tried to blow up the hanger with everyone in it," Duo continued, "but I tossed him one of my patented 'little boom booms' and changed his mind; permanently. I was a little too close to the action for comfort, though." He scowled. "And what the hell was Grange doing there halfway up the underside of a cat walk? He almost burned his ass in the fire."
Heero shrugged. "I wasn't in contact with the main force. Someone must have been eliminated and Grange took their place."
"Dammit, Heero! He wasn't supposed to know that I was there!" Duo groused and then bit his lip hard as Heero picked up clamps and began pulling things out of his skin.
"You should have let the doctor do this. He had better instruments," Heero growled.
"I think I'd rather have you see me nude than him," Duo retorted. He returned to the subject of Grange. "What am I supposed to do now? Grange is not going to treat me like the others now that he knows what I'm capable of."
"Think so?" Heero chuckled. "Trainers are NEVER satisfied Duo. He's probably making up an anal retentive report, right now, detailing all of your insubordinate, unprofessional, and regulation breaking mistakes."
"Mistakes?" Duo repeated angrily. "What mistakes?" Heero was working on his back. He tried to turn to glare at the man.
"Don't move!" Heero ordered curtly. "Mistake number one," Heero intoned, "Getting caught by the target. Number two, leading the target to other operatives. Number three, killing target instead of making an arrest. Number four, setting off a bomb in a volatile area. Number five, endangering self in an unnecessary manner."
"Unnecessary?" Duo did turn then, but Heero's look stopped him from saying what was on the tip of his tongue. Heero's face was grim, but his heart was in his eyes. Duo's anger left him all in an instant. He cupped Heero's cheek and leaned so that they were looking eye to eye. "Sorry, baby. I scared the shit out of you, didn't I?"
Heero nodded. "It was better when you were at home waiting for me. I think we are both going to die at an early age from stress."
"But we'll die doing what we want to do, though," Duo amended. "That's what makes life worth living."
Heero nodded again and sighed. "I know it won't get any easier."
"No, it won't, but we're used to making sacrifices and biting the bullet," Duo replied. He raised eyebrows questioningly. "Done?"
"Yes, but I want you to see the medic again when we get back to headquarters," Heero said sternly.
"Sure thing," Duo replied, "When my nerves aren't so shot."
Duo stood stiffly and limped to the bed with Heero's support. Heero helped him to lie down. "Take care of Soda and the puppies," Duo murmured as exhaustion, the throbbing pain of his wounds, and the receding adrenalin joined forces against his struggle to stay awake.
Soda nosed his arm and Duo ran his hand over the big dog's head, feeling the ragged edges of some wounds from his escape from the kennel. Guilt made Duo want to take care of them himself, but he knew that Heero was more than capable.
"We have to decide what to do about him," Heero said suddenly and Duo felt anxiety make his gut clench.
"I know," Duo managed to say. "He can't go on certain missions with me. If he can't be left behind without losing his mind like this and coming after me..." Duo didn't want to think about it. He let sleep claim him instead, his hand still buried in Soda's thick hair.
"Sit, Bob!" Duo frowned as the white puppy 'grinned' at him, cocked his head, and didn't obey. Duo wearily sat down in a chair out on the lawn and sighed. "I thought you were the smart one."
Soda growled and Duo tensed.
"Knock! Knock!" A voice called from behind the gate.
Duo puzzled over the voice.
"Harri, the housekeeper, calling! Are you there?"
Duo frowned and considered not answering.
"I knocked at the front door, but no one answered," Harri persisted. "If this is an inconvenient time, I can return later."
Duo sighed. The man knew he was there. Any attempt to pretend otherwise was going to seem childish. "Just a minute," Duo replied and levered himself out of his chair. He automatically checked his gun under his loose t-shirt, glanced around the yard with a soldier's need to check his perimeters, and then put a hand on Soda as they both walked toward the gate.
Soda was calm, tail doing a lazy wag back and forth. "You really like him, don't you?" Duo whispered with a puzzled frown as he opened the gate.
Harri, dressed in a cream colored shirt and black pants, was standing a few paces back from the entrance to the back yard, seeming to understand that he needed to give Duo space and the time to look him over. As Duo reflexively eyed him for weapons, Harri smiled down at the gangly puppy that had followed and was now cocking ears at him and whuffing in alarm.
"You may look cute, but I know you for the chewing, shedding creature that you are," Harri laughed. He held out a hand for the puppy to sniff. The puppy raised it's hackles and hid behind Soda, managing to fall over its own feet in the process.
Duo sighed. The puppy wasn't showing the promise that he had hoped for.
Harri heard the disappointment in Duo's sigh. "He just needs some work, I'm sure."
Duo made a face. "I have been working with him. I was going to give him to a friend, but I don't think my friend would want him like this."
"A person needs to choose his own pet," Harri told him seriously. "That's the only way that you can hope for compatibility."
"You are probably right," Duo replied, but thought that a well trained dog dropped into his lap might be accepted by Wu Fei, where the man would never go out of his way to choose a pet on his own.
"Sir... did something happen?"
Duo looked up from the puppy, startled, and found Harri looking at him with wide, concerned eyes.
"It isn't my place to ask, but...," Harri cleared his throat and seemed to steel his resolve as he continued, "Do you need help? Is your companion here? You look very pale and rough around the edges. I know that I'm not employed by you yet, but I wouldn't be opposed to helping you. Have you had lunch? Do you need help cleaning up or doing any chore?" He eyed the dogs nervously. "I've never cared for dogs, but, if you are out here when you would rather be inside and resting, I can muddle through and take care of them."
Duo had seen himself in the mirror that morning, a collection of bruises, small red burns, and shadowed eyes. It had taken some convincing to get Heero to leave him alone and go to work. In the end, a call to Mr. Hulitt, and a promise from the old man to check up on Duo during the day, had been the only thing to reassure Heero enough for him to go.
"I did a little more than I've been used to, that's all," Duo replied. "I'm mostly just stiff and sore from some minor muscle strains. It's good for me to move around." He eyed Harri. "Thanks for the offer, but, why are you here, anyway?"
Harri noted the tense tone. He still hadn't stepped forward or shown any inclination to join Duo in the back yard. That was calming to Duo. He had now had a long time to look Harri over and to put him in a category. Small clues; the man's stance, his body build, and the almost imperceptible nervousness of the man, told Duo that he wasn't likely a threat and that, if he was, Duo could deal with him.
"I'm sorry if I seem a little forward," Harri apologized. "I thought that if I came, personally, to inquire about your decision, it would make a better impression."
"Ah," Duo replied. "I guess that makes sense." And then bluntly, "Why are you so eager to work for us?"
Harri looked suddenly embarrassed. His slim hands knotted together and he looked at the tips of his shiny shoes for a moment. When his eyes rose again, it was obvious to Duo that he had decided to come clean, "The ladies that I also work for are often very demanding and critical. They are always giving me many, MANY things to do besides my housework. I thought that working for two young men would be much simpler. You are both working out of the home, you don't have children, and I don't think you will be asking me to clean baseboards with small toothbrushes."
Duo started and laughed. "Toothbrushes? You're joking?"
Harri rolled his eyes and smiled. "I'm afraid not, sir. They don't pay me extra either."
Duo could suddenly see why Soda was so relaxed around the man. He exuded calm and competence and had an almost tangible non threatening aura. Duo scrambled mentally, trying to remain alert, knowing that some men could hide their intentions very well, but nothing about the man triggered his defenses or his fears. Harri WAS a man and that was something Duo was automatically wary of, but it didn't generate the same nervousness or trip the alarms that even Mr. Hulitt had set off. Harri reminded Duo of someone, of the one other person he could remember being that non threatening. That person had been Wu Fei.
"I suppose this doesn't look well for me," Harri said in the long silence. "My one fault is that I will ALWAYS talk more than I should and say things lacking in tact."
"I think that's called 'honesty'," Duo replied. He gave Harri another once over and a small voice whispered to him that Heero was not going to like what he was about to do. Duo ignored it as he said, "I like that. Don't stop doing it while you're working for us."
Harri started and then he smiled. "I'm hired, sir?"
"Yeah," Duo replied and then felt embarrassed and unsure as he admitted, "Uh, look, Harri, I'm just a street kid from L2. I don't know anything about housekeepers. ..."
Harri smiled warmly. "Make a list of what you would like me to do at each visit. Your privacy is what is most important and knowing what I am allowed to touch or where in the house I am allowed to go will make our relationship pleasurable on both sides. I think that we want to avoid any surprises and the unpleasant consequences to my person if that should happen, so please specify if there are any particular topics, movements, clothing, etc. you wish me to avoid."
Duo frowned. "You are perfectly safe, Harri."
Harri winced. "I don't wish to contradict you, but I am a son of soldiers. I know that there are certain things that make them uncertain. I trust your word that I won't come to any harm, but I don't wish to inadvertently cause you to become upset."
"I'm sure my partner, Heero, can help you with that list," Duo told him.
"Sir," Harri replied with a nod.
Duo stared at Harri, not sure what to do or say next. Harri smoothly rescued him.
"If it is all right, I would like to begin my service now." Harri motioned towards the house. "You look as if you need a rest, sir. I will make lunch and follow any instructions about the house that you care to give." He paused, considering, and then suggested, "If my presence makes you uncomfortable, perhaps you could stay out here in the yard, where it is nice and sunny, while I work?"
The suggestion was welcome. Duo was still too strung tight from the mission to consider being in the small spaces of the house with a stranger, even a stranger who was as calming and unthreatening as Harri. "I'll sit in the hammock," Duo agreed. "Uh...," he considered what to tell the man to do. "The kitchen is pretty messy... and the living room. Don't go upstairs though, I don't have things put away. There are things that could harm you. I guess anything downstairs is fair game for a cleaning."
"Very good, sir," Harri said replied, pleased. "I'll bring you your lunch shortly. Any preference?"
"A sandwich... ham and cheese," Duo told him, trying to remember what they had on hand.
"Soup?" Harri suggested and stressed that word to indicate that it was his strong advice.
"Soup sounds good," Duo replied. "And a soda to go with it."
Duo was stepping aside as Harri gingerly advanced and then passed Duo on his way to the back door of the house. Throwing the question over his shoulder, Harri asked, "Did you say juice, sir?"
"No, soda!" Duo called after him.
As Harri ducked through the door, his voice floated back, "Juice it is then!"
Duo looked down at Soda with a frown and then smiled as the dog looked up at him with a curious tilt of his head, having heard his name spoken. "You vouched for him," Duo said. "Remember that."
Soda wagged his tail and followed Duo to the hammock. Duo stretched out there, sighing in relief as his protesting muscles were finally allowed to relax. The stabbng pains of his wounds set up their own chorus, but Duo ignored them as he turned on his side and watched the back window of the house.
Harri was moving about the kitchen. Several times Duo saw the man pick up something gingerly, set it aside, or place it in the garbage. Once the man put hands on hips and looked exasperated. That was when he opened the cupboards and the refrigerator. Duo saw him pull a notepad from its place by the phone, take a pen from his pocket, click it energetically, and begin writing.
"You in there?" Mr. Huliit's voice shouted.
Duo rolled the other way and stared at the closed gate. "Yes, sir!" he called back.
"Doing all right?"
"You lying to me, boy?"
Duo chuckled. "No, sir."
"Need me to check out the kennel?"
"No, sir, already done."
"Good for you." There was a pause and then he asked, "You eat?"
"I have the house keeper here. He's making me a sandwich."
"You like him?"
"Thought you would."
"Thanks, Mr. Hulitt."
"Eh, don't mention it." Duo could imagine Hulitt blushing uncomfortably. "Your in good hands then. I'll check back later."
Duo knew better than to argue. "Yes, sir."
"When you're better we need to talk about yard maintenence."
"Yes, sir." Duo almost groaned, but bit it back.
"You sure, you're fine, boy?"
"Yes, It's all superficial wounds and bruises," Duo assured him.
"Good. Invite me the hell over for dinner now that you have someone who can cook in the house."
Duo started. "Sure thing, Mr. Hulitt."
Duo rolled over again to stare at Harri. The man was busily stirring soup over the stove and frowning. Duo supposed that he didn't approve of vacumm packed food. Mr. Hulitt had given Duo an idea. He still owed Wu Fei a dinner and he was still determined to make a crack in that dedicated man's shell of duty and indifference. With Harri cooking the meal and taking care of the details, Duo felt much more confident that he would suceed.
Duo pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and dialed Heero's number.
"DUO!" Heero's voice replied anxiously. He had seen Duo's name pop up on his I.d. screen and could only imagine Duo calling because of a disaster. "Are you all right?!"
"SHHH!" Duo hissed soothingly. "I'm fine, baby. I just wanted you to invite Wu Fei to dinner tonight."
"Tonight?" Heero was skepticle. "You are suppsoed to be resting. You shouldn't be going out for food and I don't think Wu Fei is one for pizza delivery."
"I won't be going out and it won't be pizza," Duo asured him. "Let me take care of the how and you make sure the guest shows up."
There was a stretch of silence.
"What?" Duo wondered.
"You are coming down from a mission, Duo, your first one in years," Heero reminded him. "Are you sure your nerves are up to it?"
Duo sighed. "Wu Fei knows all about that, Heero. I don't think he's going to be a difficult guest because of it."
"All right, I will ask him, "Heero promised reluctantly, "but if you do change your mind and suddenly don't feel like it, please call me."
"I will," Duo promised. "Back to work, love."
"Rest, love," Heero told him firmly.
The phone clicked and Duo stuffed it back into his pocket. He looked over at the puppies. "On your best behavior guys!" Duo warned. "Company's coming!"