It was a rare Saturday afternoon when Heero found himself alone in the house, in peace and quiet, able to simply sit and read. He was reclined out on the couch, book propped on his chest as he flipped through pages, the TV on quietly in the background. Duo had gone out earlier to run errands, and neither of them had any pressing business from work to take care of, so the former Wing pilot, now 22, took advantage of the opportunity to just enjoy doing nothing.
It was a beautiful spring day, the temperature was in the pleasant seventies, and sun shone through the open living room window, playing lightly over the floor and furniture, and the end of Heero's feet. The scent of sweet grass could be detected as a breeze blew in, softly fluttering the curtains as it did, and birds could be overheard singing outside.
Heero heard their Jeep drive up, it's familiar engine sound indicating that Duo was home, finished his running around, and his quiet time was about to come to an end. Not that Duo was that obtrusive, and not that he wasn't always glad to see him, but it just wouldn't be the same as that "alone time" feeling one gets when the house is completely still, completely quiet, and no one beside yourself is there. The car door slammed, and a few minutes later some bumping and shoving could be heard at the side door.
When he'd finally gotten the door open, his arms laden with bags, Duo called out. "Hey Heero...you mind giving me a hand here?"
Heero dropped his book to his chest and sighed. "Be right there."
It was AC 202, and the Eve War had been a thing of the past for over five years now. Peace among the Earth and the Colonies remained, largely in part to Sally Po's Preventers organization, and to Relena's adept handling of the Marimeia incident. It had gained her even more popularity, as if she wasn't popular enough with the people. Quatre had gone on to learn his father's business and run the company, and the remaining four Gundam pilots were invited to take positions with the Preventers group, which they did.
Shortly after settling into their new positions as leaders in universal peace, Duo and Heero rented themselves a townhouse together, where they lived for nearly three years. Then, when finances allowed and they had all but committed to each other, they bought a little house for themselves in the suburbs, an hours drive from the Preventers Headquarters, and began to assume the lives of two average guys living two average lives, in an average house on an average street.
This, more than anything, pleased Heero; the simple fact that he was now living the life that he'd seen other people live, and even complain about, but now it was his turn. Gone were the days of training so strict and rigorous that he wound up being out of touch with humanity. Although Heero still dealt with many personal issues these days, things that were going to take years and years before they finally gave up and left him alone, he was making huge strides in his quest to be "normal". Also gone were the days when Duo was forced to fight to make it to his next day, and wonder who was going to be at home waiting for him when he returned from his detail every day. They'd had enough good fortune to get their lives together with the structure that working for the Preventers offered them, and now things were nice.
Rising from the couch, placing his book on the foot-worn coffee table as he did, Heero made his way to the back door to help Duo with his load.
"Did you buy out the whole store? What's all this stuff?" Heero questioned as he grabbed bags from his mate.
"Oh, I had to get a couple of things, and I also stopped and picked up some groceries that we needed, since you forgot to go the other night on your way home from work." Duo answered, rubbing in the fact that Heero had completely forgotten about the shopping list Duo had given him two mornings earlier, and had shown up at home empty handed. Since they had no dinner that night, and neither of them felt like going back out, they ate cold cereal instead. Then later, Heero's punishment wound up being Duo licking chocolate syrup off him, since the long-haired young man had had a craving for an ice cream sundae, and the ice cream that was on the shopping list never showed up. Duo winked at his lover, remembering for a split second the fun they had, and the mess they made. Heero did make a good substitute for the ice cream, though.
When the last of the bags were in the kitchen, sitting on the island counter, Duo turned to head back outside for one last item, and snapped at Heero as he did.
"Hands out of those bags!"
Heero dropped his mitts and looked guilty. "What's such a secret?"
"You'll see in a minute," Duo called from outside in the driveway, and returned with a good sized box, which he brought to the living room and set down on the floor. The contents of the box settled as it was placed down, but neither of them particularly noticed. Heero followed Duo over, then slid his arms around his love at the waist as he straightened.
Resting his head on the other man's shoulder, Heero asked, "What's in the box?"
Duo smiled and turned to face Heero. "That's for me to know, and you to find out. But first...," He leaned over and met his companion with a peck on the lips, which was reciprocated with a hug and a deeper kiss. "Missed you."
"Didn't miss you," Heero replied, his eyes full of sarcasm and warmth, the warmth that the two of them fought very hard to restore. Yes, it had been a long five years since the wars, but one thing for sure, Heero was a better person, emotionally, for all the time he'd been with Duo now. The long-haired man really had done wonders for him.
"I was enjoying my alone time," Heero chided, that familiar smirk on his lips again. "So...are you going to show me what's in the box?" Heero leaned to grab the carton when suddenly it moved. His expression became wary. "Duo? WHAT is in the box?" The soft gaze slowly left Heero's eyes, and was replaced with a look of distrust.
Duo blushed. "Now, Heero, wait a secon..."
Before he could finish his sentence, Heero had opened the box, and out popped, of all things, a little caramel-colored dog. A baby dog. A dog that was going to be a big dog but was tiny now. Heero stood, stunned, looking at the puppy for a few seconds as it wobbled around on the floor in front of him, then turned to Duo, who was looking "hopeful, yet concerned" at that moment.
"You thought what?" Heero's glare bore down on Duo now, and suddenly the old Heero, the emotionless Heero, the one who was nothing but a soldier, was back, and it unnerved Duo a little bit. Here we go, Duo thought to himself, as Heero began to object.
"I thought it would be nice to have a pet."
"So you get a DOG?"
"I like dogs!" Duo proclaimed as the puppy wandered around the living room, sniffing everything in sight.
Heero paced before the other man. "You didn't ASK me about this!" He stood up in front of Duo, and there was unmistakable pain in his eyes. Duo knew very well where it was coming from, too.
"I've always wanted a dog, and quite frankly, Heero, I think it will do you some good."
"Take it back. Now!" Heero insisted, watching the little creature mosey along the carpet and start chewing on the laces from one of his shoes that was lying there. He quickly removed the shoe from in front of the dog, being very careful not to touch it, then returned to Duo's side.
"Heero, think about it...we both go out in the field for days at a time pretty frequently. Having a dog at home would be company for the one of us that was still here and..."
"I don't need company when you're not here, and I want you to take it back!"
"I can't take it back. I adopted it from the humane society. Its mother was run over. There were six of them, all these little babies that needed homes, so I took one. If I take it back and nobody else adopts it, they'll put it to sleep."
"Well, then you need to figure something out, and quick, because I want the dog gone." With that, Heero stormed off into their bedroom and slammed the door.
Duo sighed, then gathered up the puppy. "Like I didn't see THAT coming." Looking at the little dog, Duo smiled weakly, and the pup started to lick his nose, smelling of puppy breath, and his smile grew. "But you ARE the cutest damn thing! So, I say we work on 'ole Heero until he comes around. Sound good?" The dog looked intently for a few seconds, focusing on Duo, and yipped once, tail waggling the whole time. "OK then!"
Toting the pup under his armpit, Duo went back to the kitchen and started to unpack the rest of the things he'd brought in. First he put away the groceries, and then moved on to the other, more important things, like dog toys. He pulled out a knotted-end, puppy-proof rope, a Gumma-Ring rubber ring toy, a big bag of Iams Puppy food, and a puppy-sized Kuddle Kup dog bed. Last but not least, he pulled out a brightly colored, fuscia, nylon puppy collar and matching leash. Pulling the tags off the collar, Duo snapped it around the pup's neck, then adjusted it to fit, and smiled.
"There! Now you're all set!" His response was a chomp on the end of his nose as the cantankerous 12-week-old puppy squirmed in his arms and tried to chew on the collar that was around it's neck. Duo wrinkled his nose and laughed.
Heero awoke to the God-awful sound of yowling. Frowning at having had his sleep disturbed by "that dog," he elbowed Duo in the side until his mate awoke as well.
"Hey, man... wh-whassma'ter," Duo groggily replied, wondering what purpose Heero had for poking him in his sleep.
"Your dog is calling you."
Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, Duo could now make out the pup crying from the kitchen, where he'd put the dog crate. She cried and whined pitifully, but Duo didn't get up. Heero rolled over toward him and looked at him, annoyed.
"Aren't you going to do anything to shut it up?"
Duo yawned. "The puppy training book said never to get up when they cry at night like that, or else they'll get into a bad habit and do it forever. She'll stop on her own." The crying continued for many minutes.
"And in the meantime?" Heero asked, curtly, as he readjusted in the bed.
"We just try to ignore it, I guess." The yowling went on. Heero rolled onto his stomach and put the pillow on top of his head, blocking out the sound of the pup's cries.
Duo smirked. "That'll work too," then rolled over, himself, and fell back to sleep.
The next seven nights were a repeat of the same, and Heero's patience was growing very thin. Duo was beginning to think that he'd really pushed his luck with bringing home the puppy. Then on the ninth night, there was precious silence as both men and the dog slept through the night undisturbed. It was a good thing, too, because ever since the dog had been keeping Heero up at night, Heero had been, how Duo called it, "less than responsive," in bed, and it was frustrating the hell out of him.
For the next three months, Duo cared for, coddled and trained the dog as Heero complained to him endlessly about finding it a home. At six months, Brandy could sit, beg, fetch and speak, and could destroy a pair of Heero's sneakers or dig through the trash in record time, and she was becoming quite a handful. Even though the people at the humane society had simply called her a "medium-to-large-sized mutt," it was becoming plain that Brandy had quite a bit of golden retriever in her, by her build and the way her coat grew long and feathery. That also meant, unfortunately, that she was a shedding machine, and while Duo just dealt with it the way most pet owners do, Heero was cursing up a storm about the fine, honey colored hairs that clung all over his clothing now.
Actually, though, Brandy was quite a good dog, as Duo continually pointed out to his mate. She was attentive, mostly obedient, trained to go outside, and highly affectionate, and that's what Duo loved about her. That's what Duo hoped that Heero would eventually love about her as well. Her loviness. But he also knew that it was going to take time, and Heero's own stubborn will giving in, before he allowed Brandy into his life - the same way he'd let Duo in.
Duo was no fool. He knew the thin ice he was treading on the day that he showed up at home with the dog. He'd actually intended on getting something older, something already grown up, and preferably a little black dog or a big white one. A miniature poodle, a Scottie, or a Cocker Spaniel. On the other end of the spectrum, he'd also considered a Husky or Samoyed, but they bark too much. A German Shepherd would have been perfect, but their hair was like glue, the way it stuck to everything it came in contact with. It was indecision that led Duo finally to the animal shelter, and the litter of homeless, orphaned puppies all called out to him, tugging on his sympathy. There was no way he could say no to that. So, with his stomach in a knot, he'd ventured home with the dark tan pup of retriever type, wondering if he'd gone too far. The reaction he'd gotten that day from Heero was expected, but it wasn't as bad as he envisioned.
He'd envisioned Heero going totally ballistic. He knew about the dreams, and he knew about the little girl and the dog in the dreams, and Duo assumed the meeting would go one of two ways. Either he and the dog would be looking for a new place to live, or it would be a non-reaction reaction. Duo thought he got mostly the latter, and that was perfect. He thought too, that introduction of a dog into the family was a good measure of how well Heero was adjusting and getting over his past, and happily, he seemed to have scored pretty highly on that first little test.
Duo was actually quite pleased with himself as he contemplated the events having to do with the introduction of the dog.
Since the arrival of Brandy, Heero had somewhat reverted to old tactics, and Duo was watching him very closely, waiting for a signal that it was really time to pull the plug and give the dog away, but that signal never came. Yeah, Heero was cooler than normal, and didn't have anything nice to say about the dog, but at the same time, he was never mean to it, and Duo though he detected a bit of interest within Heero, a little bit of tolerance for the animal. Heero didn't realize it, but Duo was taking careful account of his behavior, and honestly, not much out of the ordinary had occurred since Brandy's arrival. Heero was sleeping well, albeit after the first eight nights when the pup kept him up with her incessant crying, there were no signs of nightmares, and everything just seemed peachy and keen.
Heero, on the other hand, had other thoughts about Brandy. He'd initially been so annoyed with Duo for springing this on him, that he didn't speak to him casually for two days, and then after that, it wasn't much more than the typical day-to-day jargon. After getting over his immediate surprise, when he'd opened the box and a dog jumped out, he'd instantly flashed back to his dream...the dream...and that's what had gotten him so bothered. The dream where he accidentally killed the little girl and her dog, the dog that looked just how Brandy did that first day - he thought that Duo had to be certifiably insane, to show up at home with not just a dog, but that dog, and he blocked out all of Duo's explanation, refusing to listen to any of it.
Slowly, though, he started to get accustomed to having her around, and even memorized Duo's and Brandy's routine: wake up, go for a walk, come back, Duo gets ready for work, feeds Brandy, feeds himself, back in the crate until after work...then they'd go for a walk around the block when Duo got home from work, returning as Heero had dinner nearly ready. Duo asked every night if Heero would like to join the two on their walk, but he always said no. However, it was starting to occur to him that he was saying no out of principle now, rather than actual problem that he was having with the dog's presence, and it got him thinking a little bit.
Came the day that Duo was getting ready to take Brandy to the dog park down the street, and he once more asked Heero if he wanted to go, Duo was in for a pleasant surprise.
"Yeah, I'll go."
Duo looked on, wide-eyed, at his mate. Then he smiled. "Why the sudden change of opinion, Heero?"
Heero shrugged. "I'm walking with you...not with the dog, OK?"
Duo snickered. "Sure thing, Heero. Well, let's go then, shall we?" And the three walked to the dog park and back, not another word being said about it.
Duo was not so easily fooled, even if Heero was. Heero was growing fond of the dog, or at the very least, he was starting to realize that she was a lot of fun, a good excuse for getting some exercise, and really, she was just a darned nice pet to have around. He never let on that he had his suspicions, and instead Duo just stay in the background, letting nature take it's course, and soon Heero was walking nightly with the long-haired man and the long-haired dog. He even held the leash himself on occasion, and still Duo said nothing, even though inside he was smiling.
Instead, Duo just kept his attentions on the body language that was happening before him between man and dog, watching Heero's glares soften as he regarded Brandy, and watching Brandy gently approach him as if she was well aware that Heero was unsure of her. She would lay her ears softly back on her head, wagging only the tip of her feathery tail, and creep up to him, her brown eyes soft and respectful, in her own gentle way, she would demand his attention by flipping her nose under his hand, until it was sitting on top of her head. After a while Heero started giving her that attention, when he thought no one was looking of course, but Duo spied him on numerous occasions scratching Brandy behind the ears, looking into her deep eyes, his own full of wonder and even a little bit of sadness, until the one day that he smiled at her. When he did that, her tail went straight up and waved madly like a flag, making Heero chuckle at her response to him.
The ultimate test was yet to come, however, and Duo awaited it, full of anticipation of what the outcome would be. He definitely had his hunches, though.
Duo crept in the back door, dragging his wheely-case with him, his carry on bag slung over his shoulder, trying not to make too much noise as he entered the house. He'd been away for a week overseeing the organization of another new outpost for the Preventers, this time on a colony close to L2, and since he knew the area, he volunteered to go. Really, he volunteered so that he could go back and reminisce a little bit, and see how things were improving on his home colony, but that was beside the point.
It was after one in the morning, his shuttle having been delayed at one of it's stopover points, and Duo was exhausted, having been traveling for almost a day to get back home. Putting his bags down in the doorway to the living room, he noticed the quietness of the house, and thought it odd, that there was no thumping and tail-wagging in the crate, which still resided in the kitchen. He turned in its direction. Just as he thought. No Brandy in there. The door was wide open, and the crate was dog-less.
Smirking, Duo crept through the house, coming to the bedroom, then grinned broadly at the sight before him. There in the bed was Heero, fast asleep, lying on his side, and his arm wrapped loosely around none other than Brandy, who was also asleep. Flopped on her side beside him, her head resting on the mattress just underneath Heero's pillow, the dog looked comfortable as anything, sleeping up on the bed, as did Heero. They'd agreed, at Heero's demand, not to allow the dog on the bed, but it looked like that rule had been broken, not that Duo had a problem with it.
Carefully, Duo got undressed in the dark, placing his clothes on the dresser next to his side of the bed, and then pulled back the covers to get in. Brandy lifted her head up, and her tail thumped the bed twice in welcome of her other daddy.
"Quiet," Duo whispered to the dog as he gently readjusted himself in the bed, and she dropped her head back down safe and secure in Heero's arms. Then smiling, Duo dozed off to sleep quickly.
There were three in the bed from that night on.