Disclaimer: Okay, really? Every single time? I don't own Gundam Wing. Anyone dumb enough to think otherwise, please go away. Save me the turmoil.

Note: I did research, but research is never perfect.

By Your Side

Chapter One

Dogs Are People, Too

"Yeah, but, see, we're awesome." Duo shrugged out of his uniform and made his way to the showers, not even waiting to take off his underwear. He called back to Heero, and this time his voice echoed through the empty rooms. Headquarters had a weird vibe at night, when no one else was around. "So of course we managed to take 'em down without a fight."

Heero didn't say anything at first. The guy was probably hanging his suit up just so, flicking out imaginary wrinkles. Ridiculous, since the smell of smoke and gunpowder made the damn thing need washing. Again. Couldn't the bad guys just give up peacefully so that they wouldn't have to use up so much damn detergent? It went against his street rat ways to have to flush away so much money on laundry.

Soft footsteps padded after Duo as he stripped off his undies and flung his towel onto the hook on the far wall from the shower heads. His shampoo went by the bottle of soap always kept along the wall. He heard Heero come up behind him, but very carefully did not turn to the sound. Instead he bent slightly and wrenched the water knob around, then crouched low and on the wall until the damn heater began to kick in enough for the water to no longer resemble ice.

Heero humphed out a laugh at his actions, but didn't say anything. "You understand that being 'awesome' has nothing to do with the bust." And Heero turned on the water in his own stall.

It was Duo's turn to snort. "Right. Next you're going to say it was luck."

"I don't believe in luck."

That was the point of the joke. Duo rolled his eyes and stepped under the now-hot spray, lifting his face to the water to try to get the worst of the stink off his nose. Ah. It was like he could feel the clean just rushing over him. Showers were such wonderful luxuries. "You apparently don't believe in awesomeness, either."

Another snort, and Duo couldn't stop himself from flicking a glance Heero's way. The man was already scrubbing his own shampoo into his hair, and the unruly mass was for once all in agreement, plastering against his forehead and cheeks and curling into a ball in the suds. A couple of those suds were flowing down Heero's ear to his neck. Duo's eyes wanted to dip lower, to trace the inevitable trail, but he was naked next to his partner and if a problem cropped up, there wasn't much of a way to hide it, and even less of a way to explain it.

He looked away and cleared his throat. "In any case, Une can at least sleep easy tonight, knowing we've taken down the damn mini-mafia, even with her taking Wu-man and Tro at the last minute. And Jackson should be okay in a few days."

That usual 'hn' response followed his statement, and it was enough for him to grab his own shampoo and dollop a small puddle on his hand. He transferred it to the roots of his hair and dug in. The smell of smoke was probably stuck in his hair forever, just like the smell of the dead. The smell of dead bodies gets trapped in hair. When he'd been younger, it had been the sentimentality of the memories that had made him adamant about keeping his hair. Now, knowing their smell was still hidden in the long threads of dead skin made him morbidly glad. More than their memories lived on, and that was more than most could say.

"You were reckless, going in after him," Heero said, referring to Duo's comment about Jackson.

Duo smiled. It was probably the closest Heero would ever get to admitting he'd been worried about Duo's safety. Duo did have to admit the foolishness of it, of charging into the thick of battle to grab their fallen comrade. But he just shrugged. "Well, I couldn't just leave the guy there."

There was a short beat of silence, and another quick look told him Heero was rinsing off the shampoo. It was falling down his back. Duo hurried then; when Heero was really tired, he took off before Duo. Probably collapsed on the couch, too, the idiot. Duo just finished rubbing in the shampoo when Heero spoke. "I know."

It was enough to make Duo smile again. It was a nice change from the old liability speech. Heero didn't speak like that anymore. Hadn't since the way ended, almost as if the war itself had been forcing him to say those sort of things. "Yeah, well, thanks for the back-up."

"Of course." Heero was probably rubbing himself down as best he could with that regulation soap. It was definitely for the best if Duo didn't look over now.

So he started rinsing out his hair, wishing he could hurry this part but knowing he really couldn't. Suds in one's hair were a pain in the ass.

The rest of their showers were spent silently, with Duo's mind too occupied with orders to not look – don't look, don't do it, he would just be asking for it if he did – and he heard Heero turn off his water just as he was grabbing his own soap. "Duo, I'm heading out. Okay?"

He forced a bright smile as Heero glanced his way, the man's lower body thnkfully already covered by his towel. Usually Heero didn't bother asking Duo if he would mind being left behind. Duo's silence must have been heavier than he'd thought. "Sure. You head out, I sing in the shower. Win-win."

Heero snorted, but he waited a second, Duo, knowing he was being scrutinized, cocked an eyebrow. "Yes, Mama-Yuy?"

It was enough o make Heero roll his eyes and leave. Duo waited until he heard Heero's locker open and close before he let his head fall back into the water. He could rush out, but that might cause questions. Questions he seriously didn't want to answer. Questions he couldn't answer.

He cleared his throat again and picked a quick song from his mental inventory before belting it out, deliberately singing slightly off-key, knowing a part of Heero was probably waiting for it. For confirmation, proof that he really was feeling all right.

He scrubbed the soap over his bruising chest and heard the door close behind Heero's exit. Left alone, his voice seemed to echo even more strangely.

A break in the song came, and Duo dunked his head under the water's spray again, this time getting the soap off his neck. Wanting to leave with Heero was superfluous, anyway. The two of them bloody well worked together. They couldn't escape one another anymore, even if they wanted to.

Duo unlocked his door, dropped his mail on the side table by the entrance, dropped his keys on top of the pile, moved to his couch, and collapsed.

He wouldn't make fun of Heero's habits anymore. It felt remarkably good. Somehow.

One roll pushed him back to his feet, and with a groan he went to the small kitchen and grabbed a Gatorade from the fridge, twisting off the top and chugging down the drink. His eyes slid to the clock on the wall. It was only ten o'clock. Why was he so damn tired? The bust should have kept him wired, fighting the old war paranoia. Not being paranoid was getting him paranoid. He could feel an old itch between his shoulder blades and moved away from he window. Just in case.

Well. At least his exhaustion would get him a good rest, or at least more time to try for that damn rest. He really hated it when he and Heero came back from a bust alone and smelly. As long as no one else was around, Heero had no problem stripping down and showering. As long as it was only other Gundam pilots that joined him. Like Duo. And if he was smelly, it was as if he suddenly just had to be clean.

But that part, at least, was easy enough to understand. None of them wanted the memories of death on them. Who could blame Heero for wanting to rush to the nearest available water source?

Still. Holy shit, that man was hot. Duo almost wished he had those bad dreams. Then he wondered if Heero would have those bad dreams and frowned.

It took only another minute for Duo to stop his mindless pacing and grab the vid-phone.

"Duo?" Heero's face entered the screen, his hair still wet, his brows furrowed. "Is something wrong?"

"No," he said, having already come up with an excuse to call. "I actually remembered something I wanted to ask you, and hell if I wanna wait last minute for this." Duo went to grab a chair from his kitchen table and dragged it over to the phone, twisting is around to sit in it wrong. He put his Gatorade beside the phone.

Heero waited on the other line. "Wu-man," he said to start, "said I wasn't allowed to bring everybody to any sort of bar." Heero nodded and left the screen for a bit, but he hummed to let Duo know he was still listening. "It was, like, his personal law," he continued, even as a weird silence flittered through the line, telling Duo that Heero was thinking something Duo wouldn't want to know about. "But there's this place called Smokey's that–"

"Smokey's?" Heero came back and leaned the vid back a bit to watch Duo's face as he stood.

"Yeah," Duo affirmed. "Hilde showed it to me. It apparently has stuff about some old bear or something that talked about wildfires. But it has a bar. I mean, like it's mostly a bar, but it has other tables along the windows and it's not like there're any hookers or anything, I mean, wouldn't that just be creepy, going to a place like that with Quatre?" Duo glugged down the Gatorade until it was empty, then capped it and tossed into into the trash bin. Why exactly was he so enraptured with Heero's light green t-shirt? Was he really that pathetically horny? "So do you think I'd be breaking the Chang Law, taking everybody there tomorrow?"

Heero was quiet for another heartbeat, and Duo wondered if the guy knew he had every intention of taking the guys to Smokey's, anyway, and had just made up the question in the past thirty seconds. "Duo, Wufei said not to call him that."

"Yeah, I know. It's why I still call him that." Duo shifted on the chair, feeling slightly uncomfortable. Stupid paranoia making his shoulders itch. And it was making his adrenaline pump, making his breath shorten and shallow. Stupid overreaction. Still, Duo cast a glance around him, watching the shadows. Of course they were perfectly still. "So? The bar? Is it too bad? 'Cause I haven't really been looking around for new places, but if we keep going to Olive Garden and Red Lobster, we're gonna get tired of the high-class cuisine. Besides, the steak at Smokey's was delicious."

"He probably didn't want the place to be too low-brow," Heero said, tilting a head as he answered. It made his bangs – already dry – fall right into those dark-blue eyes of his. "And one of these days, he's really going to start a fight over those nicknames of yours."

"Promises, promises." Duo flipped the chair around and leaned back into it. Uncomfortable still, he stood and gave Heero a peace sign before saying, "I'm crashing on my couch," and turning the vid off. Heero 'hn'ed and waited until Duo made it over to the living room. He almost tripped over the stupid chair, so he dragged it back with him and grabbed the wall on the way to the couch. He glared out the window and moved away from it, then sat on the couch and rubbed his head. Shit. Not only was he tired enough to stumble, but he was actually getting dizzy. Had the drizzle at the end of the bust screwed him over? Was he coming down with something? A cold? But his immune system was insanely good. He'd survived on the streets of L2, after all. "So Wufei's got some problem with low-brow?" he started again.


Because they both knew full well that Duo understood the group better than anyone else, and that Duo was pulling the question out of his ass. "Yeah, yeah, I know. The guy's worried about safety and atmosphere. But it's good to have the verbal back-up."

Heero snorted then, a tight whuff against the speaker of the phone. Duo imagined seeing it, seeing the half-smirk type of smile Heero would be sending across their desks if they were in their office. He rubbed his forehead as the world spun. That tight, itching feeling grew. High immune system or not, he was definitely getting sick. Maybe he should take a cold pill or something before he crashed. Did he even have any cold pills?

"I will lay cover fire for you again if you need it."

Duo smiled at the words and the long-suffering tone they were packaged in. "Thanks, 'Ro," he said, and he kept his voice easy with a small effort. He considered telling Heero he was getting sick, but he let it go. No point worrying a guy who wasn't used to worrying. "Guess I'll see you tomorrow, then, and we'll go to Smokey's afterward."

"Right. Bye."

"Bye!" He clicked the phone off then and stood. Just one step had him stumbling, careening over to the wall between the living room and the kitchen. It felt like his feet had suddenly fallen asleep, too.

He cursed.

Okay. He was not going to be defeated by some stupid cold. The pilots' dinner he'd fought so hard for for two years was finally in operation, and it had been for almost six weeks now. If the creator bowed out, what could happen to the damn thing? Wufei might hide back inside his shell, and Quatre might start mumbling about meetings again.

Besides, leaving Heero with all the paperwork for the bust would just be cruel.

He wiped the back of his hands across his brow, surprised to find sweat there. Then he pushed off the wall and stumbled through to the kitchen. He made it halfway before his legs went numb. The alarm bells rang like gongs.

It wasn't a cold.

The thought hit him just before he hit the floor. The phone tumbled from his nerveless fingers and slid across the linoleum. Shit. Out of reach. He swung his gaze from right to left, but he couldn't see anything but the floor and the stove and, high, high above, the counter. And his eyelids were very damn heavy. This was no cold. But what was it? Poison? He couldn't believe he hadn't identified a poison. In the Gatorade? Maybe, but he'd been feeling oddly tired before he'd even taken a sip. Or had his sleepiness been normal?

In any case, he had to reach the phone. If he could just speed dial Heero, then everything could be taken care of. His partner would be pissed, absolutely furious. But he would help.

He reached up, his arm sliding slowly across the floor. Was it stupid for him to be upset that he would probably have to shower again after lying on the floor? Yeah. Probably.

Finally the phone was just there, within range. He tried to flex his fingers as spots dotted across his vision, but nothing moved. With a grunt, he tried again. Nothing. Nothing.

Shit. Shit. Just what the hell...?

His eyelids drooped despite his best efforts, and he found every muscle in his body shutting down before his eyes finally closed. Dammit, what the hell was all this?

His last thought was a rather vain hope. Maybe, he found himself thinking, if it was something really rare, really weird, maybe Heero would forgive him for being stupid.

He had a headache. He was starving, sleepy, groggy, dizzy. And he had a headache.

Where these the damn, blasted side effects of the poison?

He opened his eyes to slits, already planning his escape. He didn't feel pinned down or tied up, which meant he was most likely in a secure area. If he could manage to get out – if his lockpicks hadn't been found from within the folds of his braid – then he should be able to escape.

But he stopped short when he looked around and saw the linoleum floor, the stove, the granite countertops. His house. His house?

He tried to stand and stumbled as his hands slipped on the floor. He heard a scrabbled sort of clacking, and then his through his line of sight came a long brown paw.

A paw. Where his hand should be.

He yelped – Jesus, that was a dog's yelp – and scrambled again, nails clacking and slipping on the floor. All of his efforts were in vain; he fell again, then again. He took a deep breath and shuddered. He hadn't known the smell of yesterday's cereal was still in the air. Hadn't known the smell of grass could sift through closed doors and windows. His eyesight was a bit worse than he was used to, and not nearly as colorful. But he could remember the colors, and he could see the blue of the dishtowel hanging from the sink. He lifted his head and looked around, disturbed by the sight of his snout.

Was he dreaming?

Because if he was, this dream sucked. It was way too realistic, and he didn't like the idea of being this blind. Even if he could see the tiny movements of the dishtowel.

But holy shit, the smells! He could smell himself just everywhere – his shampoo, his soap, the Headquarters' soap – his sweat, for God's sake! And his friends! He could smell his friends – the spicy aroma Wufei always carried, strong still since Wufei had stopped in a few days ago. Trowa, with a million different smells that made something in him want to get up and investigate. And Qat! Who knew the dude actually smelled like baby powder? Dream or no dream, Qat was gonna get teased about that one. And Hilde's perfume was definitely a lot stronger now, but it still smelled nice. Like flowers at night.

And Heero. Holy shit, the man's smell was everywhere. Soap, shampoo, wood, gunpowder, sweat. Duo wanted to laugh, to revel in the scent and just roll in it. What a great smell.

Then he realized what he'd just thought. Roll in it? Roll? Really? Had he lost his damn mind?

He had to get up and get the hell out of this. Maybe somebody else could explain just what the hell was going on. Like Wufei! Wufei was smart. Wufei could figure out why he'd woken up a dog.

Because he was a dog now... right?

He took a deep breath. Okay. All he had to do to stand up was move his limbs like a dog.

Okay, how the hell did a dog move?

Well, all of their legs were about the same length, right? He put his paws – oh, by Shinigami, he had paws – underneath of him and balanced himself on them. It was altogether weird, like he was balancing on his toes, but he wasn't even remotely concerned. He actually felt perfectly fine in that position.

And all that was left was to stand.

It was surprisingly easy to do so, now that he'd decided on the length of his limbs. He was still drastically shorter than usual, and the height difference just enhanced the sense of wrongness. His countertops were suddenly so high up, so out of reach. He would have to go up on his hind legs, test his balance. And just how the hell would be able to do that, with such an odd body?

Besides, the priority at the moment was to escape. He had no idea what was going on, but there was some sort of danger and he couldn't stay and wait for the danger to present itself. Not in the situation he was in.

Whatever the hell kind of situation that might be.

Hey, he mused with a smile, maybe he was delusional. Maybe he only thought he was a dog. Of course, that wouldn't explain the weird vision – he hadn't known dogs had such horrible vision. Hardly any damn color!

He shook his head and listened. He could hear cars outside, and through the window there was a brightness that spoke of daylight. He'd been out of it for hours, then. Maybe enemies weren't coming. Maybe he was supposed to be dead.

Well, if that was the case, the joke was on the both of them, him and his wannabe murderers. So much for that.

He had to get out of the damn house.

It was interesting, trying to work the lock on the back door with paws and teeth as his only weapons, but he lightly gripped the lock with his side canines and tilted his head up. It took a number of frustrating tries, but finally he had the damn thing unlocked. The next battle – opening the door – was accomplished by using his paws for leverage and wrenching his head into a painful, awkward position that tilted his head to the ceiling. He pulled and staggered back when he got that damn knob turned, dancing on his back paws. He chose to fall backward when his balance left him, sprawling back on the floor with his paws stupidly curling in the air. Great. Now his back hurt.

He flailed like a turtle for a few seconds, not quite knowing how to get his weirdly jointed legs underneath him, but finally he just rolled to his side and pulled those paws underneath himself again. That was great. If the bad guys got him on his back, apparently it would be game over. Great. Perfect.

He needed to get used to this damn body, and fast.

Wait. What the hell was wrong with him? He didn't need to get used to this body, he needed to get the hell out of it. Hence his decision to find Wufei.

Hopefully it wasn't so late that the man had gone in to Preventors. Duo doubted he'd be granted access in this state, either as a dog or as a loon.

The screen door was a thousand times easier to open, with only a pull-down knob in his way. He didn't bother to try to lock up after himself, knowing the futility of it, and managed to go down his own driveway and past the first corner before he realized that, If he was a dog, no one would recognize him. For the first time since he woke up, he tried to speak. All that came out was a short bark.

Okay. Either the delusion was damn elaborate or he couldn't talk. Explaining his identity was out.

Besides, if he was crazy, the last thing he wanted to do was dog-walk down the damn highway.

With that, he turned decidedly down the next right. Heero's place was close enough, and better, it backed up to some woods. Duo would only have to go down a few streets before reaching the park, where he could run to the woods in the back and follow them to Heero's house. Either as a dog or as a psycho, his partner would be able to help him.


There were a million smells just everywhere. His neighbors' flowers, the grass, weeds, car exhaust, paint, dust. Hell, he could wear he was even smelling sunlight. It was a warm smell, of course, but if the color gold had a scent, this would probably be it. Damn. No wonder dogs were constantly sniffing shit.

A few cars passed him, and it was unnerving to be relying on smell and hearing and not being able to depend on sight. The car grabbed his attention, like his eyes were hard-wired to them or something, even though some of them were nothing more than shades of gray, its edges just barely fuzzy. Scary. For someone who had always depended on his eyesight in one way or another, having it suddenly change was absolutely terrifying. But the smell of gasoline was powerful, the sound of the engine chugging and the cylinders pumping heavy, it was all enough to keep him oriented as he crossed the street and saw the small group of high schoolers waiting for their bus. Good. It wasn't too late. Hopefully Heero wouldn't be gone yet.

He was just one turn from the park when that car of Heero's – long, sleek, and quiet – passed right him.

It took a moment for him to even comprehend that the car had in fact been Heero's, as the information filtered through his senses and grabbed hold of his memories – going to Heero's to help him change his oil and fix his brakes, crooning to the damn thing and exclaiming over its beauty – and all of those smells that wrapped into the category of 'Heero', and finally it all just clicked. Heero had driven right past him.

Well, he thought with relief, at least he most definitely wasn't insane or hallucinating. He had truly been turned into a dog.

He sat down then and just let that little thought run its course.

And just how, exactly, had he been turned into a dog?

Okay. No time to freak out. If this shit had happened to him, then it oculd happen to the others. Maybe that was why he hadn't been picked up? Or maybe not. Either way, it would be too dangerous to return to his house. He'd gotten used to walking, but anything else was beyond him at the moment. He'd figured out that dogs walk in a certain pattern – front one side, back other, front other, back one – but how the hell did they run? Both back, both front? And how to keep from tripping over one's own feet? Or, well, paws. One's own paws.

Oh, he was so screwed.

So. Where to next? He looked around, orienting himself. The park. Should he bother with the park? Should he still try to get to Heero's?

Honestly, he had no idea what he could do, or even what he should do. Where the enemies after all five of them? They'd received various threats to their persons, most of which had been hot air and all of which had been unconcerning. Those who had followed through on their threats had been easily dispatched. No real threat or anything.

But now that they had the ability to turn people into dogs, things had gone straight from annoying to dangerous.

So how was he going to take care of the others, make sure this shit didn't happen to them, and stop the baddies? Especially as a dog. Rather difficult to leave out the point where he was a dog. And hey, what were the chances of finding a cure?

Okay. It still wasn't the right time to panic, but it didn't seem like he was going to get a lot of say on the matter.

He didn't quite know how long it took for the fear to subside enough for him to be able to get his stupid ass in gear, but the park was empty when he finally walked inside. He had new things to worry about – cars, shelter. Dog catchers, for crying out loud.

And he was hungry.

He ignored that one for now and tested his paws. He didn't feel anything really bad yet, so his walking had yet to bother his feet. It was almost summer, though, and the sidewalks and asphalt were going to get really hot. Grass would be the best ground, but he would have to stay low until he reached Qat's. If all his friends, the one most likely to open their door to a stray was Quatre. Not to mention he was the only one left who wouldn't be on their way to work. He just had to hope Qat didn't have an early meeting.

Of course, he didn't quite look like a stray just yet. Should he try for the look? It would help him keep a distance from the average person, but it would also make those with cell phones more liable to dial up the police station or animal rescue shelter.

Shit. And he'd thought being a street rat had been tough.

Oh, yeah. It had been.

He hugged the treeline and looked around. The place really was deserted. Had he really missed the joggers as they exited? Thank goodness none had gone to him.

As long as he remained on the park during the daytime, maybe he would be safe. Of course, that would mean he was only protecting himself, not helping the others. Not finding any potential cure.

If there was one.

Quatre. Okay. He oriented himself and turned to the left of the park. Quatre's house here was like a mini-mansion based on the outskirts of the city. Past the housing development and around the edge of the city would probably be the best route, but he was on a time schedule. What if he took too long and Qat turned into, oh, a Labrador or something? Or Wufei into a... a pincher or boxer or pit bull or something? Or Trowa? Heero?

Hey, that was a thought. What dog would Heero be?

Wait. On second thought, he would prefer to not know.

In the end, he had no choice but to run through the city and evade the people who would come for him.

That was all fine and well, but it meant he needed to practice that whole 'running' thing while he was free of onlookers. New to the body or not, he wasn't going to let anyone see him tripping over himself – or worse, air. He may not have a lot of dignity left after all this, but hell if he was losing his pride, too.

Okay. Apparently the back legs spread a bit and the front legs rucked themselves in-between the back. That was a handy piece of information. One he'd needed to practice several times to learn. One he'd had many chances to test.

He'd been right to think it would get hot. He wouldn't be surprised if his gangly paws were sporting burn scars at the end of the day. And if one more helpful passerby pulled over to help him, he might just be inclined to bite them before running.

Really. He was tired, dammit, and had no water, and those idiots just kept forcing him to run – one time into oncoming traffic – in order to escape their oh-so-helpful clutches.

Go find a real stray, assholes. He had friends to find.

He crossed the second highway of the day and allowed himself a very short panting session. Shit. His fur was just making him hotter. But he was next to a gas station, a veritable smorgasbord of people waiting to grab him, and he hurried down the side of the road, ever vigilant.

The world was different, he'd come to realize, from the world humans knew. He hadn't known smelly people could suddenly smell of more than just their body odor. Suddenly there was cheap perfume, mold, old bread, garlic. That wasn't to say they didn't smell bad, just that there was so much more. And a gray-blue world that blurred where he felt he should be able to see, and noises from far away. At the stop sign he just passed, for instance, he could hear not only the rap music from one almost-green car, but also the beeping of someone pushing the numbers on a phone from within some other car.

Such a different world.

One person watched him as he saw waiting for the light to change, and he prepared to run, but they walked away and he was free to trot in front of the cars and past a small shopping mall. He thought he was about halfway there, halfway to Qat's, and the sun was high in the sky. It was Friday. By now, Heero would know without a doubt that something was wrong. He could only hope that Heero wouldn't go to Duo's house alone and unprepared.

As long as Heero was on a search for Duo, however, he would not go back to his house, which meant he wouldn't be drinking anything from his fridge. It could only be a good thing.

Another car pulled to the side of the road, parking in front of him. He stopped moving. Should he go back? Cross the street? He looked to the road, a little uncomfortable with the idea. It had been a rather close call when he'd done it earlier, and he wasn't too inclined to repeat the procedure again so soon. Especially since he was so damn hot.

He took a step back as both the driver's and passenger's doors popped open and two men stepped out.

And then the scents hit his nose and he yipped. Heero! Wufei!

He charged over to them, to Heero, and hardly noticed that his tail was wagging. Heero actually bent down at his approach, holding out his hands. Duo ran right into them, not bothering to worry about being shipped to the pound just then. It was Heero. And Wufei. And they both looked perfectly fine and completely human.

Wufei chuckled as Heero raised a hand to pet Duo between the ears. He leaned intot he touch on pire instinct, shocked at the sharp shock of nerves. Shit, that felt good. Without thinking about it, he opened his mouth and let his tongue loll out. His panting was a little happier now, if that was possible.

Well. If he ever needed proof that he really had turned dog, this was pretty much it. Short of a mirror.

"Are you certain you've never met this dog before, Yuy?" Wufei chuckled again. Gods, they both smelled so good. After all the strange smells of the city, smelling that spicy aroma and Heero's mess of wood and gunpowder and soap were just perfect.

"I'm positive. It must smell Duo on us."

Duo froze for a moment there. Just what was going on? Why were these two after him? How had they known to come to him? Had they found the poison?

"Or perhaps our scents were in Maxwell's house."

"Maybe." Something passed over that pace that was so close to his own. Heero took a deep breath and continued petting him, moving his hands to the back of Duo's ear. Duo leaned his head, following the movement of that hand. This wasn't quite what he'd imagined when he'd thought of Heero's hands on him, but hell if it didn't feel fantastic. "Wufei, look, His eyes. They look just like Duo's – that almost-purple."

Wufei bent, too, and turned Duo's head simply by cupping his muzzle. Duo growled in warning. "You're right," he said then, and shot Duo a careful look, waiting to see if the dog would bit him. "He does have Maxwell's eyes. That's not a normal color for a dog. Is something wrong with him?"

Heero shrugged, but he tapped Wufei's hand to make him let go. When he did, Heero moved his finger in front of Duo's face. Understanding the procedure, he followed the movement with his gaze. When Heero moved said hand to snap beside Duo's ears, they flicked, and he turned his head to stare at Heero's hand. Heero slowly moved on hand to Duo's face. When Duo didn't make any aggressive movements, he opened Duo's jowls and looked at his gums. "Not only does he not seem to have any defects, he doesn't even seem to be in anything less than perfect health."

Duo grinned and ended up panting in Heero's face. Oddly enough, Mr. Perfect Soldier didn't seem to mind. He actually pet Duo again as he spoke.

Were those long fingers trembling?

"Du you think Maxwell had been watching a neighbor's dog, then? He certainly doesn't act like a stray."

If Duo ever god a dog, he would be sure to include it in the conversation. Being talked around was annoying, dog body or no. Taking a chance, he leaned in and gave Heero a sloppy doggy kiss on the cheek.

And got a childlike laugh for the effort.

He watched it blossom over that normally stoic face and wished he could see every color, not just blues and greens. Wished he could watch that bright smile wash over that mouth every day.

Heero rubbed Duo's cheeks and lightly headbumped him. Yes, those fingers were trembling. "I don't think so, Wufei. I know this is ridiculously illogical, but it's like I can feel Duo in this dog. And unless this dog is kind to everyone indiscriminately – something I'm inclined to disagree with, since he growled at you – I think he's Duo's. I often spend time at Duo's. My smell is probably everywhere there, and Duo's smell is probably all over me."

It was more than Duo had ever heard Heero say at once, and it surprised him enough to stop him from licking Heero again. And Heero was right; Duo could himself of Heero – the smell of his shampoo, and of the rain.

Wufei made a sound of agreement. "I suppose. That at least explains why the animal isn't neutered."

Duo snapped his head up and looked at Wufei. He wouldn't! He hadn't even considered the possibility, but suddenly it was a serious problem. His little buddies were in danger!

"Look, Wufei," Heero said, and Duo could hear amusement in that voice, "I think he takes exception to your suggestion."

Duo barked in agreement. Would his closest friends really take away his balls? Sure, he looked like a dog now, but that was just unacceptable! He backed out of Heero's stroking hand and barked again, then thought for a moment. He needed to get a message to these guys somehow. But how, exactly? He couldn't speak or write. He had nothing to use as props. Still! He couldn't let them drink anything from their homes. And couldn't let them neuter him, either.

He barked again, then whined and turned a quick circle. All it served to do was make the both of them stare at him like they were reconsidering the 'something wrong with him' theory.

Then Heero came back over to him and pet him again. "Good boy. Wufei, get the leash and collar."

Leah? Collar? Oh, hell, no. He was fully capable or heeling, dammit. He made to prove that and found himself trapped in Heero's arms. He brought a paw up, trying to push Heero off, but really, what was he thinking? Talk about useless.

Wufei came back with that damn leash and collar and Heero held Duo down as Wufei adjusted the collar to fit and snapped the leash on. Duo snarled at the two of them, but he didn't bite, even though Heero was obviously prepared for such an action, his muscles tense and expectant. Duo tugged against that hold, though, then again and again despite the uselessness of it. And when the two finally stood and started walking to their patrol car, leash in Wufei's hand, Duo dug in his nails and growled some more.

Wufei shot him a sour look. "As stubborn as Maxwell, too." He pulled again. "Come on."

"Wufei! Be a bit gentler, would you? You're going to hurt his neck." Wufei huffed and rolled his eyes, but he stopped tugging. Heero came back to kneel by Duo's side again. "We need you to come with us, okay?" he whispered, disarming Duo with that something in his eyes, that expression he didn't recognize. Something that pinched at Heero's eyes and mouth. Fear? "You're all we have. Do you understand? You're all we have for finding your master."

Duo froze then as things fell into place. How they'd found out about a dog, he didn't know. He turned his head to Wufei, who kept his eyes on the car door, hard and glaring. Then he turned back to heero, to a gaze that seemed almost begging. Begging a dog.

Duo didn't realize he was going to whimper until he already did. He ducked his head for a moment before stepping forward and bumping his muzzle against Heero's forehead. The man blinked once and just knelt there for a minute. Duo took the chance to follow after Wufei and hopped into the back when the Chinese man opened the door. He turned around in time to see Wufei's look of surprise, too. It almost made him want to laugh – until the twit tossed the leash inside and slammed the door shut, even though Duo just sat on the seat. Duo glared.

Heero and Wufei moved to the front of the car, both sliding inside with looks over their shoulder in case Duo tried – what? To jump the seats like hurdles and make a break for the oh-so-enticing highway? Then the two buckled up and Wufei started the car. The tension in the car was immediate. They were both worried about their missing friend. That was why they were so adamant about Duo's safety. Because they had no idea where he was.

If only he could tell them he was right there.

Wufei pulled out onto the road again, and Duo lay down to keep himself from losing his still shaky balance. Heero was still sending him glances every once in a while, but Wufei's eyes never strayed from the road. They were both dead silent.

Damn, the collar was annoying.

Damn, it was quiet. And the tension was still so thick it threatened to choke.

Duo waited until Heero's eyes fell on his again, then leaned up and licked the window.

Heero snorted.

Finally Wufei's eyes flicked away from the windshield. "What, Yuy?"

Heero pointed to the backseat, where Duo was trying to categorize the taste. He hadn't known windows could taste like anything, but they did. "Duo's dog just started cleaning your window."


It was enough to keep the silence at bay until the car stopped somewhere and Wufei turned off the ignition.

A/N: And that's the first chapter! Tell me what you think? ...Please?