"This is not the best idea I've ever had," Quatre muttered bitterly to himself, curling as tightly as he could under an overhang to avoid the rain. The alley was narrow and dark, and slightly smelly. The rain was depressing and cold.

The little blonde knew that if he went home, his father would welcome him; then he'd be warm again. His stomach gave an indignant pleading growl. And fed too, he added, curling even tighter.

But…he couldn't go home. To do so would be like admitting defeat, and he couldn't do that. He might be mild-mannered and easy-going, but he still had his pride.

It had been eight months since he had run away, telling his family that he didn't need to use their money, he could do fine on his own. But for some unfathomable reason, he couldn't hold a small stupid job long enough to pay rent and he found himself living on the streets, using whatever money he had to buy food.

Footsteps approached him, maybe three or four people. Quatre scooted as far back into the shadows as he could, hoping that whoever it was wouldn't find him. He knew self-defense very well, but he couldn't take on more than two people without a weapon.

"Hey, brat!"

Quatre winced inwardly as he glared up at the speaker. The man wasn't very large, but his muscle-clad arms looked wiry and dangerous. "Don't ya know you're in Tazer Territory?"

Quatre remained quiet, his depressed temper not letting him think of a proper reply.

"If ya wanna plant your carcass on our street, it's gonna cost ya," the man continued, smiling unpleasantly.

"Do I look like I have money?" Quatre inquired mildly.

The man shook his head and glanced at his two companions. "That's a shame. Guess we'll have to teach 'im a lesson." The three men began closing in and Quatre reacted quickly, kicking out ferociously at one man's knee and dashing for it. While the man cried out in pain, there wasn't much power in the blow and Quatre felt iron fingers grasp his arm. He twisted and pulled, but he couldn't break loose.

Someone punched him soundly in the stomach and he doubled up in pain, unable to breathe.

"Ha! Not so high n' mighty now, are ya?" The question was punctuated with a heavy blow to his cheek.

Three gunshots rang out and the men dropped Quatre to grasp various wounds. With a strangled cry the leader ordered a retreat and they stumbled away as best they could. Quatre coughed and closed his eyes against the pain that shot through his head as he hit the pavement. His cheek was stinging and his stomach throbbed achingly. Someone, the one who had, Quatre guessed, fired the gun, jogged over to him and knelt down to inspect his injuries.

"Damn bastards. They know this is Chang territory. They're lucky I found 'em first. Hey, you okay?" The voice was deep and rich, soothing and strong.

Quatre nodded minutely, still gasping for air. The person snorted disbelievingly. "You must be tougher than you look. What're you doing out so late at night?"

Quatre gingerly pushed himself up. "Nowhere else to go," he replied quietly, looking at his rescuer for the first time. It was a young man, near Quatre's own age, with a long chestnut braid and the most striking violet eyes. He was dressed entirely in black, casual shirt and pants. His clothes clung to him, soaked from the rain, but he didn't seem to notice.

"Hmm…so you need a place to stay hunh?"

Quatre blinked. That hadn't been the reaction he'd expected. "Well, yes…"

The young man smiled. "You can stay with me."

"But I don't even know you," Quatre blurted. "Not to be ungrateful," he hastily added.

The smile just grew. "Name's Duo, what's yours?"

"Quatre."

"Well, Quatre, sleeping outside in this town is dangerous, even in Chang territory. Besides, I could use a partner to help pay the rent." His eyes were shining warmly and his smile was entrancing. "And if you don't want to live with me, you can at least stay for one night."

Quatre's stomach grumbled and Duo's smile widened. "And get some food in you."

Quatre couldn't help but smile back, but he still held misgivings. "Why are you doing this?"

Something flashed through those violet eyes, something dark and hard. " 'Cause I know what it's like ta be on your own with no food, roof or money." He held out his hand and grinned again. "How 'bout it?"

Quatre gnawed at his lower lip nervously. What if Duo wanted him to pay rent some other way besides money? Like…sexual pleasure and stuff…he blushed brightly just thinking about it, and he glanced uncertainly at the young man again. His smile was open and kind, and his violet eyes seemed to hold nothing but friendship.

"All right…" the blonde answered, placing his hand firmly in Duo's.

Duo's apartment wasn't glamorous, hell it wasn't even nice, but it was mostly warm and it was dry. It consisted of three rooms, bathroom, kitchen and bedroom. Each room was sparse, but comfortable in a semi-cluttered way. The kitchen was mostly clean, except for the table littered with empty instant-ramen packets and a sink with a small pile of dishes. It looked as though Duo didn't have more than two or three utensils bowls and plates.

The bathroom was also mostly clean, the sink covered haphazardly in toilette items. A single towel and washcloth were swung carelessly over the rungs. It smelled faintly of…honeydew and Quatre spied a small green scented candle on the edge of the tub.

The bedroom was furnished with one queen-sized bed, layered with dozens of pillows and body-pillows that seemed to form a cozy-looking nest on one corner, against the walls. A small, battered looking TV sat on an equally battered-looking dresser, and a bookshelf filled with various comics, mangas and an assorted number of books stood against the other wall, some laying on their side, and others leaning precariously. One corner of the room was a pile of clothes, presumably Duo's laundry "hamper".

Duo rummaged in the dresser for a moment and tossed a large shirt and a pair of sweatpants to Quatre. "Here, so you don't have to stay in those wet clothes. You can change in the bathroom."

The blonde took the clothes and shut himself in the bathroom, pulling his wet clothes off and shivering slightly as his cool skin came in contact with warmer air. He pulled the sweatpants on, taking a moment to revel in their softness after the wet khaki that had been chaffing his legs.

When he pulled on the large T-shirt, which had a faded kitten with a happy-looking bird between it's paws, he paused. This shirt smells…like him I guess…kind of spicey, like hot cider… Shaking his head, Quatre spread his wet clothes out to dry on the shower door and stepped out to look for his rescuer.

The braided youth was already changed and in the kitchen.

"It's not much," Duo said to the blonde as he shoved the empty ramen bags into an almost over-flowing trashcan. "But it's better than that alleyway you were in."

Quatre nodded silently and wandered back into the bedroom, his curiosity getting the better of him. He began to peruse the books on the bookshelf.

"Battering Rams to Trebuchets: A guide to Medieval Siege Engines," he read, and picked the book up to flip through the pages. He already knew much of the information inside of it, but the diagrams of formations, tactics and blueprints still gripped his interest. Smiling, but still curious, Quatre placed the book back on the shelf and continued to scan titles. "Anime and Those who Watch it, Myths and Legends, Way of the Vikings, Movies of the Twentieth Century, How to Make Your…Own…Sex-Toys?" Quatre read the last title disbelievingly, feeling his face warm.

"Is Ramen okay with you, Quatre?" Duo called again, noises of a pot being readied coming from the next room.

"Uh, yes please," Quatre called back, a bit proud of the fact that he sounded completely calm. Duo said something back, but the blonde wasn't paying any attention. His curiosity was getting to him again. Before he knew it, he'd pulled the book off the shelf and was flipping through it.

The book was quite fascinating, as it not only told how to make the toys, but what they were for, and some interesting new ways to use them. He was reading the part about sewing false fur onto bands of leather to make comfortable bondage straps when Duo came in to announce that dinner was ready.

Quatre blushed and fumbled with the book, almost dropping it. Duo reached out to steady it, one hand coming to rest over Quatre's. "Careful there!" The brunette caught sight of the title and grinned, if a little sheepishly. "Ah, you discovered one of my hobbies. Fascinating, isn't it?" He winked at the blonde as he took the book and placed it back on the shelf.

Quatre blushed some more, looking off to the side. He said, quite lowly, "I-wouldn't know."

Duo chuckled and headed back to the kitchen. "Not having any experience doesn't mean it can't be fascinating. But anyway, I've got hot ramen waiting for us!"

Dinner was a pleasant affair as the two young men got to know each other. Common interests were found, and teasing was had, though mostly on Duo's part.

"So what do you do, for a living?" Quatre asked during a lull in the conversation.

"Oh this and that. I'm really a Jack-of-all-trades mercenary type."

"You'll do anything if the price is right?" Quatre teased a little.

Duo shook his head and sat back in his chair. "Naw, I'm not stupid. There are some things you just don't do. 'Specially in Chang territory."

Quatre cocked his head to one side. "What do you mean, 'Chang territory'?"

Duo gaped at him for a moment, but he soon realized the blonde really didn't know. He shook his head, making his long braid swing a little. "Man it's a good thing I found you if you don't even know that."

Quatre blushed a little and frowned at him, his eyebrows drawing in cutely. But he didn't say anything and Duo continued his explanation. "The Changs are a very, old, family. Kinda aristocrats. It's them that are in charge 'round here, no one else."

"What about the police?"

Duo scoffed. "Police? Listen buddy, the police 'round here are only government-paid bullies. The Changs keep 'em in order for the most part though, keep 'em from pickin' on the little people too bad. They're powerful, but pretty cool, far as that kinda thing goes. They protect a lot of small businesses n' families."

Quatre made a face. "Protection rackets?"

Again Duo shook his head. "No. They're strong believers in 'justice'," Duo laughed a little as if he found the idea rather silly, "it's just that their idea of justice is different from those totalitarian bastards in the government."

"Ah." Quatre wrapped his hands around his warm mug of decaf coffee and tried to absorb all the young man had told him. He didn't even notice Duo studying him carefully.

"You're either not from around here, or you led a very sheltered life," he remarked after a while.

Quatre smiled, but it was wry and a little bitter. "A bit of both actually."

Bitterness didn't suit the kawaii blonde, Duo decided, so the brunette stood up and stretched to break the tension before it really began. "Well, you're here now, and now you know. And it's late, we should go to bed."

Quatre nodded and finished his coffee.

"I'd offer you the couch," Duo began, dumping his dishes in the sink, "but I don't have one, and if I did, I don't have any extra blankets."

His guest looked at him curiously. "You don't have company much, do you?"

Duo flashed him another brilliant grin; Quatre was becoming quite familiar with them. "Nope! So unless you have massive complaints, we'll share the bed."

Quatre stayed silent, trying to fight down the blush he could feel growing on his cheeks. Duo noticed. "Don't worry, we can put a body-pillow between us so I don't accidentally glomp you in my sleep. I do tend to cling to things."

"A-all right." Quatre felt a bit better at this offer, but he was still nervous.

Duo hummed a bit as he finished clearing the table, but he wouldn't let Quatre help. Then he went to the bathroom to brush his teeth before leaving it for Quatre to use while he settled into the bed. Quatre used his finger to brush his teeth, glad to finally be able to use toothpaste after days of plaque building up in his mouth. Then he washed his hands and entered the bedroom nervously.

He'd never had to share a bed before…and in his few weeks on the street he'd learned quickly of men and women picking up strays, demanding sex in return for room in board. Stop that! he ordered himself mentally. You already decided that Duo wasn't like that, remember?

Duo was already in the bed, curled up between the wall and the body pillow, snoring softly. The nervous fluttering in Quatre's stomach died down. "Stupid, what made you think he was even interested in guys?" the blonde berated himself as he approached the bed.

Duo actually looked rather enchanting curled up like that, with the end of his braid clutched protectively in his fist. Quatre shook his head. "Stop that! Next you'll want him to seduce you! Just go to bed!"

And he took his advice, climbing into the bed carefully so as not to disturb his sleeping host. When he was settled, Quatre reached over and turned off the light, but it was a while before he fell asleep.