"You alright there?"
Matt groaned and blinked his eyes blearily. The brick wall he had ended up sitting against was cold and hard and uncomfortable against his back, and his entire body ached. A quick glance at the digital display of his watch told him it was two thirty in the morning; it had only been an hour since he had given up on wandering aimlessly and had stumbled to a stop against the side of a restaurant and bar.
Which, now that he was awake enough to think about it, was a really stupid thing to do, and he looked up at the shadow hovering above him cautiously.
"If you're here to rob me or murder me," he said sleepily, "I'll scream until someone comes running."
The shape chuckled, and sank down on its haunches in front of Matt. In the light coming from the streetlamps Matt could see it was a boy of nineteen or twenty, who had a mop of curly hair and a kind grin plastered on his face. "Luckily for you, that's not why I'm here."
"Good," Matt said, closing his eyes again. "I'm too tired to scream, anyway."
"What are you doing sleeping against a building? You seem a little young to be wandering the streets of Vancouver at this time of night."
Matt opened an eye to glare at the other boy. "I'm not that young," he said. "Not much younger than you, anyway."
"True. And if I didn't have a job to work or bills to pay, I wouldn't be out on the streets at this time, either." The boy settled next to Matt with his back against the building wall, and didn't look like he was going anywhere any time soon. "But I doubt that your reason is the same as mine, so why are you here?"
Matt didn't know what to say—he didn't want to tell the truth, and he didn't want to lie—so he said nothing. But the other boy noted the duffel bag he clutched in his lap, and saw the truth anyway.
He raised his eyebrows. "You ran away?"
Still, Matt said nothing. He stared at the street straight ahead, wishing that the boy would leave him alone.
"You really can't stay here, you know."
"Why not?" Matt asked, irritated into speaking.
"Because it's not safe. You're lucky I was the one who stumbled upon you—it really could have been someone looking to mug you, or hurt you." When Matt still didn't respond he added, "Where were you planning to go?"
Matt shrugged, his eyes still focused ahead.
"I'm serious," the boy said urgently, "you can't stay here. It's dangerous and besides, it's going to start raining again."
Matt could tell he was right; the air hung close and heavy, and smelled of moisture.
"Maybe not," he admitted grudgingly, "but I can find somewhere else to go."
The boy sighed at his continued silence. "Look," he said, "I can't just leave you here. Why don't you come home with me? You can sleep on my couch."
Matt slanted a glance at him suspiciously. "And how do I know you're not out to mug me, or hurt me?"
"You'll just have to trust me."
Matt shook his head, and the boy sighed again.
"I promise I'm not out to rape you or...whatever. And coming with me is a hell of a lot better than staying out on the streets all night by yourself."
For the first time, Matt turned his gaze to look the boy directly in the eyes and try to see what he could read there. It was hard to tell with only the dull glow of the streetlamp as light, but he thought they might have been brown. His expression was earnest and caring, and he met Matt's gaze evenly.
"If you won't come home with me, I'm staying right here with you."
"What?" Matt exclaimed, surprised into speech again. "You can't do that."
Now it was the other boy who shrugged. "Then come with me. It'll be a lot more comfortable for us both."
Matt took a moment to consider the offer. He had been told many times by his mother not to go anywhere with a stranger, but he had a feeling his mother would also not approve of spending the night on the streets of downtown Vancouver. The boy didn't look dangerous, and it did look like it was going to start raining again. He could always spend the night on his couch, and then continue on his way in the morning. When the sun was up and the air was warmer and shadows didn't lurk around every corner.
"Alright," he said at last, hesitantly, "but only if you promise not to ask any questions."
The boy smiled, relief clear on his face. "Promise."
"Good. Because I don't want to talk about it."
Standing, the boy held out his hand to Matt, to help him to get to his feet. When Matt was standing as well, he didn't release his grip; instead he shook Matt's hand, once. "I'm Mike," he said.
"Matt," Matt replied.
"Nice to meet you," Mike said with a grin. "Now come with me. My car's parked over here."
Hiking his bag onto his shoulder, Matt followed Mike around the corner of the building and down a side street, until they stopped by a red car parked under a street light. Wordlessly, he got in on the passenger side and looked out the window as Mike began to drive.
For five minutes, they drove in complete silence, before Mike cleared his throat. "So," he began, "why—"
"No questions," Matt reminded him.
Mike sighed. "Fine," he said. "It's just so...quiet. Do you mind if I turn on the radio?"
Matt shrugged and turned his attention back out the window. Radio was fine with him; it meant he didn't have to talk, or pretend to take part in a conversation, or think at all.
It wasn't long before they turned into a small parking lot behind an apartment building in a quieter part of downtown. Matt followed Mike up a single set of stairs, and waited as he inserted a silver key into a lock; the door swung open and they stepped inside.
"Well," Mike said with a vague gesture at the small apartment. "We're here."
Matt set his bag down and stood uncertainly in the front hall. "It's nice," he said, feeling that he needed to say something. And then, feeling like what he said wasn't quite enough, he added, "Thank you."
"No problem," Mike said airily, flicking on a light and setting off down the hall, toward a small kitchen. "Did you want something to eat?"
"I'm fine." Matt's stomach was in knots from everything that had happened; he knew he wouldn't be able to eat a thing. "I'm just really tired."
Mike turned and came back towards him. "You look tired," he noted. "Like you haven't slept in days. Come on, we can get you a blanket and a pillow and get the couch ready for you."
"Why are you being so nice to me?" Matt asked, honestly wondering because he didn't think he'd done a thing to deserve it.
"You looked like you needed help," Mike said simply, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "And I wasn't going to just leave you to die on the streets."
Unexpectedly, tears sprung to Matt's eyes. Mike was being nice just because he was a good person, a thousand times better than Matt; Mike, who had known Matt for less than an hour, was treating him better than Matt had ever treated Josh, his best friend; and maybe if Josh had known Mike instead of him, he would still be alive.
"What's wrong?" Mike asked, concerned.
"No questions," Matt choked out past the blockage in his throat. His eyes trained on the ground, he picked up his duffel, pushed past Mike and into the living room, and threw himself down on the couch. He buried his face in the armrest and squeezed his eyes shut, as if that could solve all of his problems.
"Hey, it's alright," Mike said quietly. "I understand. Just know that if you ever do need someone to talk to, I'm here."
Matt didn't say anything, and after a moment he heard footsteps as Mike retreated. He returned a minute later to throw a blanket over Matt, before leaving again, switching off the lights as he went.
Matt was left alone in the dark, breathing shallowly into the back of the couch, eyes closed against the tears that were threatening. Shivers wracked his body and he pulled the blanket tighter around him, taking comfort in its warmth, in its detergent smell.
Behind his pain was the familiar guilt; he knew he had probably hurt Mike's feelings. He had treated someone who had been nothing but kind to him like shit, but what else could he expect from himself?
After all, didn't he already know that hurting people was what he was best at? Wasn't that why he had run away in the first place?