A/N: Ardentshipping for Compy's contest, Season 4, Round 3.

This is what happens when the few nights I have to write also happen to be the nights I had to study Crime and Punishment. What this story has to DO with Crime and Punishment, I have no idea. But I got the idea right after reading it.

Disclaimer: Takahashi's got the characters.

She was standing alone in the street, where not even the gang members dared to go by themselves. 14-year-old Honda watched her from the alleyway. She looked around nervously. Honda couldn't blame her. He'd seen his share of gang-mates beat up or worse on that street. So what was a 12-year old girl doing in the most dangerous street this side of Domino?

The girl started walking farther down the street, towards the warehouse section. Honda creeped down the alley, curious. He had some time, anyway. He'd just come from a gang meeting--Hirutani and his damn gang were trying to get in on the Spiders' territory again, and Nagumo wasn't going to take any of it. He called Honda and the rest of the boys in to settle things once and for all. Honda wasn't keen on risking his neck against Hirutani, but Nagumo was his leader, and his word was law.

So, even though he knew he was following this girl into Hirtutani's territory, Honda had nothing better to do, and curiosity won out over fear. She was still walking down the street, heedless of her apparent danger. Honda poked his head out of the alley. She had no idea he was following. If he could do one thing, it was follow people without being seen. Well, that and shoot, but that wouldn't help much right now.

Suddenly, the girl froze. Honda followed suit, crouching in a doorway. He heard footsteps in the distance, and he broke out in a cold sweat. Oh shit. Oh SHIT. Not in Hirutani's territoy... he could hear the girl whimpering nervously.

"What're you doing here?" a gruff voice said. SHIT. Honda hoped that she was a quick thinker, or at least one person would most likely be dead in the next 30 seconds.

"N-nothing," she said in a shaky voice. Honda all but smacked himself in the forehead. Omae no BAKA.

The other voice didn't say anything, but he growled and Honda heard heavy footsteps. Speaking of bakas... Honda jumped up from where he was hiding and whirled around to face the two of them.

Both the girl and the other guy turned to look at Honda. Now that he was closer, he could actually see the girl's face. He'd never seen her before in his life, but she looked vaguely familar, like she might be related to someone he knew. She looked like she was about to cry. Again, Honda couldn't blame her. But she was standing her ground, and there was something in her eyes that said she wasn't going down without a fight.

"What'd you want?" the guy said threateningly. Honda glared at him, recognizing him immediately. His hair was an unnatural color, short, and covered with an ugly hat. He was one of Hirutani's most faithful idiot lackies. It wasn't the guys themselves that Honda was afraid of; he could take two of them, no problem. It was the crazy weapons that Hirutani managed to get his hands on. One idiot was nothing to worry about at all, but an idiot with a butterfly knife or a tazer was quite another matter.

"None of your business," Honda said, stepping forward arrogantly. The girl looked positively terrified now, trapped between Honda and the nameless Hirutani lacky on the most dangerous street in Domino. Which Honda guessed that she didn't know.

"It is so my business, spider," Hirutani-lacky spat. "This is our territory! You're trespassing."

"Look, I don't care about your territory," Honda said. "You're by yourself. I'm by myself. And that girl's by herself. Right?" Honda directed the latter at the girl. She nodded, nervous that he had directly addressed her.

"Who says that I'm alone?" the lacky sneered. Honda felt his pulse quicken, and he stepped in front of the girl. She shrank away behind him. Honda glanced over his shoulder at her, and that's when the other struck. Honda dove to the side, the other boy thrusting a pocket knife at the space where Honda's chest had been seconds before.

"Chiksho," Honda growled, rising to a crouch. The other kid had apparently been bluffing about his gang-mates, because he leapt at Honda wildy again. Honda jumped up, catching him around the waist. Honda was taller, heavier, and faster. They tumbled to the ground, Honda on top. He pinned the lacky against the ground and pulled his fist back to slug him in the face. With unexpected agility, Hirutani-lacky shot his arm forward and caught Honda in the side with the knife. Honda shouted angrily and sprang backward. He pressed his hand to his side, and it came back sticky with blood.

"Not so tough, eh, spider?" the lacky jeered. Honda glared at him. He wasn't going to be beaten by any idiot lacky of Hirutani's with a pocket knife. The lacky ran at Honda once again, knife at the ready. Honda took up a defensive stance, readying himself for another knife-blow.

It never came. Instead, Honda caught a roundhouse kick full in the chest. He fell heavily to the ground, wheezing. The knife flashed in the dim evening light, its owner grinning wildly. Honda closed his eyes, not wanting the last thing he saw to be this idiot's face.

There was an eternal pause. Then a thud. And silence. Honda opened his eyes to see the girl standing over him holding a battered 2-by-4. His enemy was lying on the ground, a sizable lump forming on the back of his head.

"Thanks," Honda gapsed, catching his breath. The girl nodded fearfully, still clutching her feeble weapon. Despite having saved him, she was obviously afraid Honda was going to attack her.

"I'm not going to hurt you," Honda said, climbing to his feet. The cut on the side of his chest gave a twinge of pain. He lifted his shirt to check the damage. It was bleeding, but it wasn't deep, and it wasn't a puncture wound, thankfully. Those took forever to heal, he'd learned from experience.

"Are you okay?" a small, timid voice asked. It took Honda a moment to figure out it belonged to the girl. He looked at her, surprised. She looked back at him, concerned. He felt his face reddening, and pretending to be examining his wound again to hide it.

"Yeah," he replied. "Just a flesh wound. How about you?"

"Fine," she answered, dropping the piece of wood, and starting to walk away.

"Where're you going?" Honda asked.

"I shouldn't have come here," she said quietly. Well, yeah, Honda thought, but he didn't say that. "He said I'd get hurt."

"Who said?"

"My brother."

"So why'd you come?"

"I wanted to see him."

"And you're just going to leave now?"

"I don't want anyone else to get hurt," she said guility.

"Hey, don't worry about me," Honda said casually. "It's really not that--"

"I'm sorry," she cut in quickly, and she started to run down the alley. Honda was taken aback for a moment, then started to chase after her.

"Hey!" he called, but she kept running.

Love made a person do crazy things. Honda was learning that firsthand. If you'd told him two years ago that he'd be willingly--and extremely obviousy--sacrificing himself for someone else, he would've laughed in your face and/or put you in a half-nelson. Being in a gang did that to a person. He'd never been with Hirutani--he had some common sense, unlike Jou--but he'd had plenty of experience on his own. There were only two rules on the streets: save your own skin, and if it didn't get in the way of the first rule, be loyal to the gang. Self-sacrifice was the stupidest thing you could do. Years of fighting and trying not to get killed had seared that into Honda's mind. Save your own skin. Leave the sacrificing to the heroes in fairy tales.

Yet two years later, Honda was doing that exact thing. As his life points hit zero and he fell to the floor, he recalled a girl in an alley, and a fight no sane gang member would willingly get into. No risking your life. Not even for a girl. But still... Honda was breaking that rule. Again.

And he didn't regret it one bit.

A/N: "Spider" Nagumo is an actual Yugioh character; he's in volume six of the manga, and Yugi beats him at Monster Fighter. During the battle, Nagumo kicks and punches him and talks about being on the street. He makes a brief cameo appearance in the anime during Battle City. He's the jerk that tries to rip off some guy's card, then Kaiba shows up, tears up his Hyozanryu, and proceeds to thoroughly trounce him with Obelisk.

Butterfly knife: that's what Rui Haribashira (sp?), linebacker for Zokugaku Chameleons, uses in Eyeshield 21. I've never seen one in real life. A pocket knife seems more pratical to me, but whatever.

The first paragraph of the part during his duel with Nesbitt ("love made a person...") was the start of a different fic that I scrapped earlier in the week. But I liked that paragraph so much, I stuck it in and made it work. It's a very different kind of ending for me, and I hope it works.