Author's note: Let me just start by saying that this story is AU and therefore I reserve the right to make the characters OOC, even though I, sadly, do not own them. I think I've been pretty true to their GW characters for almost 415.000 words in Warheads and I just want to branch out a little and explore different personalities, but of course could not let go of my favorite two boys, whom I think should be together in every alternate universe :)

And on the note of: it's time for change, I didn't just branch out, I also went out a limb. I prefer writing first person stories (I-perspective) because it always feels like the main character is telling you the story. But I get plenty of opportunities to do that, so for Love Thy Neighbor I thought I'd give the third-person (he-perspective) an honest effort. Keep in mind that this does not mean the story will be told by the all-knowing-author, you will still only get to go inside one person's head. Because what fun would life be without mystery and surprises? :P However, this does remind me I should probably give the switching POV a go too in a story one day. I hope everyone will enjoy this new perspective, I talked to my sister and she said that as soon as she comes across a first-person story she runs away screaming, so perhaps more of you out there will be able to appreciate this change. Be sure to let me know :)

Finally: I know it might be annoying that at the moment I'm posting all these first chapters for new stories, you might want me to just focus on one and write more for that, but please bear with me :P I have been diligently working on Warheads for almost two years, during which time a lot of new stories were being cooked up in the dark recesses of my mind and finally being able to start working on them, is too irresistible. I sincerely hope that I will be able to manage and divide my time and inspiration evenly. I can't promise that all stories will be updated with equal frequency, but I can promise that I will try my hardest :)

I gave this story Rating M, it probably won't fully live up to that rating till the end of story really gets going, but I just figured it would be fair to let everyone know what they are getting into, rather than giving it a lower rating for now and then all of a sudden changing it when the heat is turned on :P


Love Thy Neighbor

Prologue

Activity drew him to the bay window at the front of the house, overlooking the yard, the street and the surrounding houses. He sipped his scolding hot coffee cautiously, as curiosity drew his gaze outside. A black SUV had stopped at the curb in front of the house to the right.

The house had been on sale for a long time, with little interest. The sign in the front yard has seen all possible season changes by now. And in this small, suburban place, no story was ever kept a secret.

The previous owner had been an old, cheap man, not devoted to spending money on maintenance work. When he had gotten too old and plagued by illness, his children had placed him in a retirement home, but didn't have the heart to put the house up for sale. Turned out the old bird managed to squeeze four more years out of his life before his time finally did come. Only after his death, months after, could the children bring themselves to part with the house and its accompanying memories. Of course, by then, the house had been empty for almost five years.

From what he had gathered during a brief conversation with the appointed realtor, the wooden paneling was ruined, the entire porch was ready to cave, all windows and doors were rotten, the kitchen was outdated beyond charm and the old man had made the mistake of gluing the ugly grey carpet to the hard wood floors underneath.

It was a special project for a special kind of person with a special kind of pocket book.

This special person had yet to come.

Emerging from the SUV was said realtor. He had a cup of to-go coffee in one hand, something else - unrecognizable - in the other. He left the engine running so there was no need to bother going outside for superficial chitchat, his visit would be brief.

His gaze followed the nicely suited-up realtor as he treaded precariously over the uneven, cobble stone path. Halfway up to the house, he stopped, at the sign in the lawn just off the path.

Maybe he is taking the sign out, taking the house off the market for a while, he thought, taking another sip of his coffee.

The realtor held his cup of coffee by the edge of the cup between his teeth, freeing both hand to do something with the sign, but there was no knowing what. The sign faced the street and the front of it could not be viewed from the bay window. Whatever he did, he was done quickly, he took the cup out of his mouth, appeared to be admiring his handiwork for a second or two and then he treaded back, climbed into his car and drove off.

With the early morning lacking any other stimulus to satisfy his curiosity, he walked outside. He stepped off his sturdy porch and walked to the front yard of the house on the right. Even though he was only wearing a thin cotton T-shirt and sweatpants, he wasn't cold. It was going to be the first comfortably warm day of spring, after a mild but chilly winter. Besides, his coffee protected him from any cold that might seep in through his bare feet.

Once in position, he looked at the sign.

There was a moment of surprise, because some things you just get so used to, you don't expect they will ever change, or are even capable of undergoing change.

A sticker was slapped across the sign, obstructing the words "FOR SALE" that had been there for so long but were no longer important.

"SOLD", including exclamation mark, in bold, white on black letters, it read.

"Morning, Duo!"

Duo looked over at the neighbor from one house over. He stood in his neatly pressed business suit, by his shiny sedan.

"Good morning, Bryce." He offered in return.

Bryce just stood by his car, looking a little clueless and perplexed. "What are you doing out in your PJ's, neighbor?" He questioned with a goofy smile.

Duo nodded at the house. The house that had been like a thorn in the eye of the neighborhood, with faded beige shade, overgrown by plants and one foot tall grass that bared no resemblance to the neatly mowed lawns of the surrounding homes. "It's sold." He called back.

"You're kidding!" Bryce looked up at the house, obviously not understanding who would want it. And it was a big house too, rotting away or not, it would have cost whomever bought it a pretty penny. He voiced his thoughts: "Who would buy this?"

Duo shrugged, looking up at the house himself, wondering the same thing. It seemed like such an insurmountable challenge, no doubt full of nasty surprises.

"Well, this should be good." Bryce commented, opening the door of his car. He got in, closed the door and rolled the window down. "At least something will finally be done about that monstrosity. Brooke was about to petition the Neighborhood Association to have it torn down."

"How is she by the way?" He wasn't particularly interested in knowing, but it was polite to ask and they were nice people, there was no reason to be overtly disinterested.

Bryce smiled. "Good, really good. But Jenny just started teething, so, you know... it's not all fun and games."

Duo smiled bitterly. "It never is, Bryce, it never is."

Bryce nodded, but kept the smile of a man who has been faced with little adversity in his lifetime. "I'll see you around, neighbor." He slowly let the car roll out of the driveway and drove away, off to work. He was the CEO of some sort of big and self-proclaimed important firm. Duo wasn't really sure. It's not like Bryce never talked about his work, but his stories were so boring he never could help tuning him out mid-sentence. It were stories of a life Duo used to have, but not anymore and he was grateful for that. He didn't need to relive it through Bryce's words.

He did that with a lot of people, not paying attention to every detail they spouted, his thoughts just drifting off. Lately though, his thoughts haven't been very inspired, just an incoherent mess that needed untangling. If only he knew how.

He looked back up at the house. It had a menacing and gnarly look to it, with the paint chipping, the roof of the porch sagging and the branches of a dead tree reaching for it. He inwardly echoed his neighbor's sentiment: Who would buy this?

It would be interesting to have a new energy in the street. The residents in this dead-end street hadn't changed for as long as he had lived here, nearly nine years, with the exception of the old, grumpy man being dragged to a retirement home. That had been quite the scandal, good for weeks of over-the-picket-fence talk.

It would probably be another couple, wanting a house in a street where there children could safely play. He guessed they wouldn't have children yet, judging by the state of the house. It would be irresponsible to bring young children into a situation like that. Aside from the old widower at the end of the street, Duo was the only single guy, living all by himself in the big, suburban home. His neighbors pitied him and rightfully so. He was lonely. His life was empty. He just spent his days wandering around the house, leafing through books, looking for inspiration that would enable him to fill his life with something, with anything. It was a desperate search, as of yet, without results.

Cradling his coffee in his large hands, soaking up the last of the warmth, he trotted back inside.

His own house was crisp and perfect. He had a lot of free time on his hands to do maintenance chores around the house. The paneling of the house was a clean white, he just repainted two summers ago. The front door was red and sheltered by a deep, Southern style porch that wrapped around the entire house. It made the ground floor on the inside a little darker, even on sunny days, but Duo liked that. It was cozy and protected and stayed cool even during the hottest days of summer. His living room was lined with floor to ceiling bookcases, the shelves carrying the weight of a collection that, over the years, had grown to include thousands of books. All the books in the living room he had read. The study, in a particularly dark and secluded part of the house, was stacked with unread books.

Upstairs was where all the light was kept. All rooms had big windows, the ones facing the landscaped backyard were extra big. The master bedroom was in the far left corner. One large window overlooked the spacious backyard of his own house, the other window overlooked the old house and its backyard. He mostly kept the drapes of that window closed.

The house next door was different. It was larger, to begin with. There might actually be usable space in the attic. It had two, independent porches, front and back. The roof of the back porch also served as the floor for the large balcony, overlooking the part dead, part overgrown backyard. The windows were all medium sized, not uncommon for older houses, with broken shutters flanking every last one of them. The paneling of the house was once - before Duo had moved into his own house - a light, mustard yellow, but all color had faded to a murky, dirty grayed beige tone and if the world would ever be completely quiet, you could probably hear the paint chipping off.

He had toyed with the thought of taking a look inside at the open house day, just out of curiosity. But he decided against it. The house just looked so unwelcoming. It seemed unsalvageable. It was dead and empty, it had no character, no soul. If Brooke had taken her proposal to the Neighborhood Association meetings, she would have surely gathered the majority of votes necessary to take it down. Probably the only reason why she didn't is because tearing it down and building a new house would result in more and longer construction noise than reconstruction. Probably...

After morning coffee and getting dressed for no particular reason, Duo sat down in his study and flipped open a new book. Sometimes he was too distracted by the thought of a new neighbor moving in to read, but he pushed his curiosity aside and stubbornly continued to read. Sometimes having to reread sentences two or three times over before his mind registered the words and their meaning.

Four weeks later, Duo's quiet morning routine of sipping coffee and deciding which book to read that day was interrupted by the hum and sputtering of the engine of a large pick-up truck pulling into the driveway of the old house.

The new neighbor would be the talk of the day. For many days to come.


I know this is really short (uncannily short, coming from me). The chapters will get longer, but with this first chapter (I called it a prologue because it's mostly just an introductory chapter) I just wanted to set the mood and find my voice. I guess it's more a teaser chapter, or something, though I hate calling it that... -.- But I hope it has captured the interest of some of you, let me know :) I hope to be able to update soon :)