Neku had chosen at a very young age to starve rather than suck cock. He could have made it as a corner boy. He was a cute kid with a lean wiry body and striking features, eyes the color of a rainy sky shaded over by a burnt-orange mop of hair. It was a classic situation: boy on the street who looked like he could use a hand out, but he might as well do something to deserve it while he was there. Neku said no, didn't bother leading them on into some alley to steal their wallet or kick them in the nuts. Just said no, flat and simple, set more than a few Johns on edge, made them call him an ungrateful brat. A couple of them took swings at him, only a rare few actually hit him. He was a fast boy.

And a hungry boy. In the summer, this wasn't so bad. Heat stroke made you less hungry, made you sort of giddy and numb to pain and he could spend a whole day in a patch of sunshine in the park and just soak up sun-vitamins until he was full.

In the winter, he dragged himself from hothouse to shelter to soup kitchen to library just to be in out of the cold. He read a lot in the winter.

Neku chose to be lonely rather than suck cock. This was a more convoluted situation where people offered him pity and affection a passing guilt that a child had to live like this. Neku hated them. Hated their kindness and their cooing worry.

If they had wanted to save him, they should have done it years ago, before he'd learned that feelings just got in the way in this world. He didn't trust them, didn't trust anyone, and mistrusted even the idea of society. He had no place in it.

So when he turned sixteen, approximately, he sucked just enough cock (just the right cocks) to get a new birth certificate, social security number, and a driver's license. It wasn't hard to meet the bad men on the streets. They were really looking for immigrants, but a desperate boy was welcome too, if he could give them what they wanted. It was too easy.

He wouldn't be nobody anymore. He could get a job and a bank account, could buy a car and rent an apartment on a decent side of town. As long as he kept his head down it would be perfect. He'd already been alone for this long, what would the rest of his life matter?


Yoshiya Kiryu, self-proclaimed god of all fashion editors, picked him up in the mall. Josh had been wandering around asking people if they wanted to be models, making people nervous about rape and abduction. When he'd lingered too long in front of Jupiter, the manager had told Neku to get rid of him.

Neku had considered giving him the two fingered salute, but every time he had to put his stolen social security number out into the open was a chance for someone to notice that it didn't belong to him. He needed this job, didn't want to get fired. So he trotted himself out and tapped the guy on the shoulder and told him to get lost.

Joshua smiled at him. He was too skinny and too pale and his pale eyes were always smiling like there was a joke that no one else was getting, the poor ignorant fools. His hair was a soft mousy blond, almost grey in the poor fluorescent lighting. His smile quirked to one side in the delicate set of his jaw.

"You've got a nice face," the man noted. "An ugly haircut, but your face is nice," he murmured, doing that obnoxious hair twirling thing that would one day hypnotize Neku into—

"Whatever," Neku responded bluntly. "You're freaking people out, get lost." He made an impatient shooing motion, coupled with a scowl that could have peeled paint.

"But I want you," Joshua replied, something almost sulky in his voice. "I've spent all day looking at vapid creatures and posturing fools. You're the one I want."

He reached out to touch Neku, but Neku slapped his hand away still scowling. He'd chosen to starve for fifteen years rather than suck cock. The man's overtures were making him feel sick and angry.

"Get out of here," he repeated darkly.

Joshua shrugged, offering a long suffering sigh. He raised the camera around his neck and took a picture.

"I'm not giving up on you, darling," he laughed, waving as he strolled away.


Roxas threw the man in his life out of his apartment the same day Joshua finally convinced Neku to come work as his model.

Over the course of the morning, Roxas packed up all the other man's shit in a rage in order to toss all of it, and the man in question, out on the curb. There had been a lot of reasons for it. Mostly involving infidelities and freeloading and lying and fights about stupid little things. They'd always fought, but that was inevitable when someone like Roxas was involved: confident, straight-forward, and as impatient as an angry dog. They'd always made up though and it had taken entirely too long for them both to realize what a bad habit this relationship was.

Roxas was a professional photographer—(looked the part most heinously in his understated clothing and messy hair, pale skin and eyes sunken from too much time in the darkroom)—with his star only on the rise. The guy he threw out was… nothing.

They'd gotten together because once upon a time he'd admired Roxas's work. They'd stayed together out of laziness and… The end had just been inevitable, just like Neku eventually giving in to that creeper's constant pestering had probably been inevitable too.

After their initial meeting in front of Jupiter's, the lithe man began courting Neku in earnest by having huge bouquets of flowers sent to the store, getting his phone number from the manager and calling him with offers for dinner at least twice a day. He would wait by Neku's car in the parking lot holding chocolates.

Neku hated him for it but honestly feared going to the police about the harassment. He wasn't exactly a citizen and his identity fraud was a much larger crime than Joshua's stalking habits.

It made him nervous to have Joshua snooping around in his life. Digging up little facts, first where he worked, then where he parked, then his cell number, then his address, his favorite restaurant. It seemed so inevitable that he would stop being satisfied with all that mundane information when it wasn't getting him anywhere. He might go scavenging into Neku Sakuraba's credit history and high school records where he wouldn't actually find any of those things, just a trail of lies.

So Neku agreed. Neku agreed and halfway across town, Roxas shouted down from his fire escape,

"Get a fucking job, you useless asshole!"


Joshua moved Neku into a hotel room on the nice side of town. Neku didn't feel so much dazzled by the large room as overwhelmed. Was he really going to do this? He was really going to let Joshua take pictures of him? What the hell was he thinking?

But Joshua didn't take any pictures of him. He stayed and had dinner with Neku. Then he asked if Neku knew how to play War as he shuffled a deck of cards.

"Yeah," the kid answered hesitantly and took the half deck that Joshua gave him. They played for about half an hour, at which point Joshua announced Jeopardy! was on and tuned the television to the proper channel. He knew a lot of the answers, Neku did too, and that seemed to amuse Joshua a lot.

"I'll come see you in the morning," he promised, when the show was over. "We'll go get your hair cut."

Neku nodded, surprised that his stalker was just leaving like that. When Joshua was gone, Neku tried getting into the bed, but he had trouble sleeping. Eventually, he got a few hours but it took him multiple brews to get the coffee as strong as he wanted it the next morning.

Joshua knocked on the door at about ten thirty. He let himself inside and joined Neku at the table. It really was a huge hotel room, classically decorated and with big windows. Joshua set down a box and took out some clean threads, very much like what Neku was already wearing, but in slightly more muted colors. High collar, loose fit on his body, no sleeves, and pants cut off at the knee.

"I brought you a gift," Joshua said with a smile.

Neku scowled at him. He wasn't going to get naked for him. "You're an asshole."

"Oh come on, Nekky," the man laughed, reaching out with his spindly fingers to tilt Neku's chin up. He watched the way the light caught the boy's eyes. "I'm just being nice."

"Don't call me that," Neku protested instantly, swatting his hand away. Yoshiya just smiled, pushing the clothes into his hands. Neku stared at them for a moment before he went into the bathroom, shutting the door behind him. He returned in the new garb. It had been a long time since had worn clean clothes, new clothes, it felt nice.

"Very handsome," Joshua praised.

He took Neku downstairs to the car which drove them to his appointment. The stylist let him keep his messy hairstyle despite telling him he was only a few years behind the rest of the world. She just trimmed it and washed it and Neku wondered what the point was. Joshua assured him he was just being nice.

Neku didn't quite believe him.


They repeated this two more times, going out to buy shoes one day and then to let Neku pick out a few more outfits the next. The nights were always the same though: dinner and then some two-person card game. Joshua displayed that he also had a fondness for Mille Borne and Rummy. They watched Jeopardy!.

On the third night, Joshua asked Neku how he knew so much. Neku replied that he didn't know. Joshua just nodded, glancing at the game show's credits, deciding it was time to go.

"Your first shoot is tomorrow, I'll come by in the morning to pick you up."

Neku nodded.

The man left and Neku still didn't sleep well, but when Joshua came back at ten thirty, he'd brought coffee. Good coffee, fancier than anything he'd ever had before, but strong too. Neku followed the smell of it to the car and drank quietly, apprehensively. It smelled so good.

"I don't think I want to do this," he voiced as he watched the city in the windows. He hadn't spent much time on this end of town, people got offended when they saw homeless strays wandering around on their streets

Joshua glanced at him, blinking, looking very much like a surprised cat. His face was so dainty, Neku reflected, watching the way his eyes, gone wide and grey, seemed to take up his entire face.

"But I want you," the man said. He didn't seem to care that Neku winced away from what he inferred. "I do," he insisted. "You're a beautiful model. I think more people should see you."

The boy flushed, hating the words. "I don't believe you."

He did not like it when Joshua smiled at him secretively. "I'll prove it, but you have to let me."

… And Neku did. It was intoxicating to think someone thought he had worth. He was drawn in by Joshua's polite manner and smiles. It meant something to him that Joshua was so careful about not trying to change him. Neku could have his own clothes, eat his own food, and do anything he wanted with his hair: just as long as he was himself. Just as long as he let Joshua arrange the shoots. Joshua liked him for himself, didn't think he was worthless, and didn't think he was a freak.

Joshua rewarded him for being himself by having dinner with him. Neku never admitted how much that meant to him. Joshua taught him how to play bezique, Écarté, cuarenta and a host of other two player card games. He said they came from all over the world, Neku even allowed himself to fantasize briefly about seeing all the places Joshua talked about.

However, over the first few months of modeling, one of Joshua's favorite topics to discuss while playing cards was the prospect of Neku moving in with him. Neku refused this idea flatly, at first.

What wore him down—warmed him to the idea, he thought—was that damn hair twirling. He would see Joshua doing it from across sets, or across the table. The motion hypnotized him, and Joshua would smile at him and maybe Neku made the mistake of flattering himself into thinking that it meant Joshua was thinking of him.

About the fifteenth time Joshua invited him to move in, Neku accepted.

Joshua smiled at him in response, reaching out with those elegant fingers to touch Neku's face and Neku didn't push him away.


Roxas technically met the kid while Neku was still doing that weird shit with the fashion editor. Roxas had tried working with Yoshiya Kiryu all of once and had found the man so insufferable that he'd flipped him off and exited stage right.

Now, Roxas didn't generally consider himself one of those touchy photographers who had to defend the artistic integrity of every shot, even when there wasn't any to be found. However, Kiryu's flirtatious interjections about his style and handling had quickly gotten the better of him.

That was ancient history though. The kid was the issue. He met Neku at a party. Not too fancy of a party, some city art thing that Roxas had helped to sponsor because his best friend had asked him to.

Best friend in question: Axel, artiste extraordinaire, sporting too-long red hair and too-bright green eyes, was bounding with excitement, wandering around shaking hands with people and sometimes migrating back towards where Roxas was smoking in a corner. Roxas wasn't really interested in socializing, never really had been and he wore the camera around his neck like a charm to ward off evil spirits. Axel had never taken the other man's resistance to friendship very seriously.

"Roxas. You have no idea how awesome this is," he occasionally babbled and Roxas waved him away with a subdued smile. Axel had put together the show; half the art was his, Roxas could spot them on the walls: big bold paintings and inks, lurking with more delicate shadow monsters and strangely feminine symbolism cast into the corners. The rest was work he'd gathered up, stuff he was personally vouching for. Roxas didn't know half of them, hadn't minded helping Axel get the show up anyway.

Roxas had spotted Kiryu from across the room as soon as the man had entered. It was certainly no industry party and why he was there was suspect, but Roxas had immediately resolved not to get any closer to him lest he be tempted to punch the guy's teeth out. It really wasn't the best idea to have such a bad relationship with such an influential guy, but Roxas was unrelenting in his disdain for Kiryu's smirking voice and high and mighty attitude.

This, however, did not stop him from looking at the man's date. Neku Sakuraba. He'd been on three covers in the past month, and it would have been hard to forget that surly expression of his even if he hadn't. The kid was Yoshiya Kiryu's favorite, and his lanky figure and well defined features made it clear why.

Neku looked even less excited to be here than Roxas did and was plainly not listening to a word his patron was saying. Roxas watched as Axel walked up to them and exchanged greetings, shook hands with Yoshiya. He tried the same trick with Neku but the kid simply broke away from both of them and wandered off.

Kiryu excused it with a laugh and Roxas watched curiously. He found it interesting that someone who spent so much time with the man found him just as irritating as Roxas did. He followed after the kid.

He'd heard that Neku was eighteen, but he didn't really look it. He was shorter than Roxas and Roxas was a rousing 5'6. That was about all anyone heard about Neku though, he was not subject to the same in-depth probing that some models suffered through in order to try and make themselves relevant. The kid was viciously private and used his status as Yoshiya's favorite to keep the world away. He was rarely seen without too-pale-too-thin Kiryu at his side.

Roxas wondered which had come first: the fucking or the photographing. He didn't think it would be too polite to ask, so he settled with a hello.

"Get your smoke out of my face," Neku replied first and foremost, which made Roxas bare his teeth, but he reconsidered being too snide and just dropped the fag into his champagne glass.

"Better?" he wondered dryly.

The kid looked at him, his perfect brows pinched at the center in the most annoyed expression Roxas had ever seen on someone's face at so little provocation.

"You could get lost too," Neku replied.

Roxas raised an eyebrow. Well then. "I just wasted my drink and my smoke on you, can I get a hello?"

Neku made a short hissing sound from between his teeth and walked away from him. Roxas thought about throwing his glass of champagne at his retreating back, but wasn't really one to make a scene. He could take being brushed off.

Axel sidled up beside him curiously. "You getting desperate to be dogging after such a sour piece of ass?"

Roxas turned a withering stare onto his friend. He could hear what Axel was really asking, he wasn't such a roundabout sneaky bastard as he thought. He hadn't been dating since he'd thrown the last one out on his ass, had been holed up in his darkroom for months instead. What was it people said? Married to his career? He was okay with that.

"I am not getting desperate. I can live without sex," he replied, clearly intimating that his best friend was a slut for bringing it up. If he'd wanted it, he could have gotten it. Models were notorious for their low self-esteem and conniving relationships.

"So you don't miss him, at all?" Axel wondered curiously. Only best friends got to ask invasive questions like that.

"Shut up, Axel," Roxas noted dryly.

Axel shrugged dramatically. "The two of you, like two lemons in a fucking bushel."


Roxas met Neku again shortly after Yoshiya dropped the kid for a towering Swedish woman with green eyes. To his credit, Neku had managed to keep the editor's attention for two years, which was two years longer than most of Kiryu's vapid flings.

It had already been in the gossip rags for a week that the infamous and influential Yoshiya Kiryu had a new flame by the time Roxas found the kid (not a kid, if he was eighteen then, he was twenty now) being harassed at a bus stop. That was the trouble with being a model, Roxas reflected, people recognized your face. He liked it better behind the camera, thank you for asking.

Roxas could clearly hear a man asking Neku if he wanted to suck his dick. Something very similar to fury flashed across Sakuraba's face and he was up and wheeling for a punch before Roxas could really properly blink. It quickly became clear that Neku also had no intention of stopping and Roxas pushed himself into a jog to drag the kid back before someone had to call the police.

"Fuck," Neku burst out, raging, kicking at Roxas's grip around his waist. "Get off me! Want your cock sucked, asshole? I'll give you fucking—"

"Whoa!" Roxas revised, pulling that struggling body away with him, shoving him in the backdoor of a restaurant where they were stared at with consternation by the workers, but where Neku Sakuraba calmed down instantly. It didn't seem like he was much for making a scene anymore.

He stood there in his top of the line clothes with blood on his knuckle, furious hurt and anger in his expression. His hair was a mess, like he'd been hacking at it with a pocketknife or something. Roxas also noticed he didn't have on any shoes.

"You all right?" he wondered absentmindedly, knowing the answer and also aware of some uptight restaurant manager coming to tell them to get out of the staff area.

Neku swallowed raggedly, then inhaled and straightened up like nothing had happened. He started to push back out onto the street and Roxas caught him by the wrist despite his better judgment.

"Get the fuck off me," Neku repeated coldly. He didn't know who the hell this guy was, just some run of the mill blue-eyed blond who needed to stop touching him.

"Shut up," Roxas replied with equal chill, yanking Neku back inside and turning to face the manager. "Sorry, uh, look, is there a table available?" He pulled out his wallet quickly and counted out a sufficient bribe to silence complaint. It wasn't something he was used to doing, he tried to stay out of the floodlights, but when you had a best friend like Axel—all smart mouth and offense; Roxas swore that redheads only lived to cause trouble—it was inevitable.

The manager recounted the bills with pleasure and graciously led them to a little corner booth. Roxas had to drag his unwilling companion along and then had to shove him down into the booth itself, but they made pushed a menu under the kid's nose and told him to order something, but Neku declined stubbornly. So Roxas ordered coffee for the both of them.

"You were really out of control," Roxas noted, taking out a cigarette. Neku wrinkled his nose at the sight. Roxas didn't care.

"It's none of your business, asshole," the kid answered with acidity.

"Get over yourself," Roxas responded flatly, turning a deadpan stare towards the kid. As if he was the only person to ever get dumped. "Everyone and their mother knows you're out on your ass, why go and make it worse with a stunt like that?"

Neku's expression turned murderous. All his distinct lines, sharp little jaw and high cheek bones, the glitter of his concrete-blue eyes and even the jagged disarray of his hair all drew tight and angry.

He actually stood up and started to leave but the waiter approached with their drinks, crowding him back into the booth. Neku huddled sulkily against the plastic upholstery.

"It wasn't a stunt," he eventually growled.

Sighing, Roxas motioned the waiter away, he'd been lingering too close trying to hear what they were talking about, probably hoping to make a buck with some rag magazine for the scoop on what Neku Sakuraba was doing without Kiryu.

"Fine, it wasn't a stunt," he agreed, flicking his cigarette and slurping at the too hot coffee in the same motion. He rolled his eyes "It just looked like one. What are you doing now?"

"Do I know you?" Neku asked bluntly.

"Yeah," Roxas answered just as flatly. "We've met before. I'm a photographer, you're a model. I don't work with Kiryu because he's a bastard, you fucked him for reasons I can't even—"

"Shut up," the kid snapped. He seemed to be trying to hold his head up and cover his face with his hand, his elbow jutting against the tabletop.

Roxas did. He remembered. What it was like to be with someone for years and then realize they just weren't a part of your life. He'd done the tossing, but… he remembered and he shut up.

"Sorry," he sighed, knowing he'd let his annoyance get the better of him. He'd never really been that great at being careful of other people and Neku was damn good at inciting ire. "But my question still stands. What are you going to do now?"

Neku stirred his coffee miserably before picking up the cup and throwing it back the same way another man might have thrown back a shot.

"I don't know," he admitted. "I. Didn't want any of the things he'd bought me. I don't even really want the money anymore."

Roxas heard this with sadness. "Rethink the money, kid. You like modeling?"

Anger flashed like lightning in Neku's features again. "I'm not a kid," he retorted sharply, but calmed down again. "And it isn't really about liking modeling. Either someone else picks me up or I have to move somewhere where the people at the bus stop won't recognize me."

There was silence between them for a moment. Neku stewed in his misfortunes, found them impossibly inevitable. Who would want some street kid like him for anything but sucking cock? He'd been so stupid. He'd been so stupid letting Joshua use him like that. And here he was on the street again, in this precarious position with nowhere to go.

Roxas had other things to consider. "I'll do it," he announced after a moment. Neku looked at him funny, not knowing what he was talking about. "I'll pick you up as a model. I'll have to hire a stylist, but I can do it if I drop Axel."

"Who is Axel?" Neku wondered warily. "And why would I want to be your model?"

"We met at his exhibit," Roxas supplied darkly and Neku suddenly had the decency to look embarrassed. Good, Roxas thought with satisfaction before continuing. "And you want to be my model because everyone knows I think your ex is a dick."

He watched Neku grit his teeth. "That's the stupidest reason I've ever heard."

"No it isn't," Roxas smiled. He had a disarmingly nice smile, unguarded, no shred of self-consciousness in his features. When you weren't the one in the picture, it didn't matter what you looked like.

Neku didn't trust him, but… at the moment? He didn't have anything better planned, just had bare feet wiggling against the floor and no place to go home to.


Axel took it surprisingly well when Roxas told him what was going on. Apparently, he had enough pieces being bought up and displayed that he would be all right. He made a joke about getting a second job at the laundromat under his flat. He was actually more concerned for Roxas.

"So, are you seriously trying to tell me you're trying to start up a modeling agency with one model?" he asked.

Roxas shook his head as he got up to get another cup of coffee. They were in his studio; where he was now letting Neku crash on his couch. It was a good thing Roxas wasn't in the dating field. Neku would have been just too much fun to explain. Sorry, can't take you home with me, I've got a fucked up model on my sofa.

He'd sent the kid in question and the fashion rep he'd booked out to score some clothes. Her name was Shiki, she'd talked a lot before taking Roxas's credit card and Neku out shopping. It was just him and Axel, for now.

"I'm saying he was never with an agency. Kiryu picked him up, Kiryu dressed him up, Kiryu dictated all the shots of him. We're just… reintroducing him to other people who can get him work."

Axel was smoking again, said he'd quit three weeks ago, but that never held. He tilted his head as he exhaled. "Why the charity? Two years ago he blows us both off—"

"He blows everyone off," Roxas interrupted perfunctorily. Axel waved a dismissive hand.

"He blows us off, and as soon as Kiryu drops him you want to be his hero?"

Roxas hesitated. He hadn't gotten Neku to talk much, but he had gotten the story of how his modeling career had started. Yoshiya had pushed and for reasons Roxas hadn't figured out yet, Neku had caved in to it. Now thousands of strangers knew his face. How was he supposed to go back to working in the mall after something like that?

"Kiryu is a dick," Roxas voiced confidently. "I'll do my good deed for the day and when the rags come sniffing after Neku, I'll remind them of that fact."

"Roxas," Axel sighed. "This sounds like a terrible idea." Although it was usually Axel who held the corner market on bad ideas, it was Roxas who tended to fuck up his life with them. Obsessive projects, bad investments, loser boyfriends. Axel tried to keep his bread and butter separate from his wacky ideas. Roxas had no such compunction, stubborn little bastard that he was.

They didn't get much further in their conversation, because Neku and little Miss Shiki Misaki came in through the front door. She had a strange look to her, a little understated and not stylish in and of herself, she had black plastic rimmed glasses and modest black hair, looking almost secretarial. But Roxas knew better. He'd met her while working with designer 'Marluxia' last year; he'd liked her taste and traded numbers with her.

"Give me a call if you get tired of being his assistant," he'd offered with a good natured smile. She'd flushed. "I'll call you up with some work of your own now and then, okay?"

Shiki looked pleased with herself now. While Neku, on the other hand, just looked aggravated, but Roxas was beginning to see that was his normal everyday state. Despite all this, he noticed Neku was the one carrying the shopping bags. So he had a couple of gentlemanly bones in his body after all. How surprising.

Neku disappeared immediately into the bathroom and shut the door. Shiki glanced at them, then to the door, and then came to greet Axel, who she did not know personally, but liked professionally.

Axel laughed at this. "Nice to meet you too."

Shiki glanced back at the bathroom. Neku had left the bags outside the door, she wasn't surprised. "Do you want to see what we bought?" she wondered, something occurred to her and she fumbled out Roxas's credit card, returning it to him.

"On Neku, preferably," Roxas murmured, also eyeing the door. He'd been letting Neku stay here, slowly trying to convince the kid to touch the money he'd earned while under Kiryu's wing, but Neku remained unmoved on that subject and swore he would sleep in the street before he spent a dime of it.

So instead he was living on Roxas's couch. The cohabitation had been interesting the past few days. The kid woke up earlier than anyone had the right to and made coffee so strong that it made Roxas jitter. The pot he had been drinking with Axel was at least half the strength. The kid was strange; there was no doubt about that.

"I'll. Try to get him out," Shiki offered, the expression on her face said she was good at wheedling Neku, but that he might grumble a bit first.

Axel wasn't surprised.

Standard Disclaimers.