AN: So I ventured into the world of Spartacus slash. A friend of mine was having a contest and this is my entry for it. Don't worry, those of you waiting for my next update of The Thing About Falling, it will be up shortly. Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas! For those who haven't had the good fortune of discovering Agron and Nasir from the Starz show Spartacus, I suggest you check them out pronto! They have the MOST beautiful CANON love story I have ever had the pleasure of watching. I will post a link on my profile for the banner that goes along with this story made by the wonderfully talented Mina Rivera. Big thanks to my girls, Penny and Del for hosting this contest. These boys were soooo much fun to write. And, as always, thanks to my super special beta Nan for making my shit better. I appreciate you,girl!

Of Wishes and Dreams

by mistyhaze420

Nasir choked on the harsh stench of the marijuana smoke, eyes watering and stinging red he fought the urge to let it go. He held it in until his head felt light and all the problems of his day drifted off into the fuzzy tingling feeling of the high.

He slowly exhaled, letting the smoke billow around him like a white misty haze, a protective force field against the shit and grime of his everyday existence.

Nasir was barely nineteen years old, just this side of manhood but the heavy weight on his shoulders and tight strain in the base of his neck made him feel older than the rest of his motley crew.

The Mongrels. That was their official name and they lived up to it. The boys were mutts, half-breeds and bastards. None knew their fathers, most didn't even know their mothers and those who did, wished like Hell they could say it wasn't so.

But they clung to each other to find a name when one was not given or wanted. They clung to each other for food and shelter and a way to survive. They clung to each other through arrests and fights and criminal behavior, but none of them mistook their bond for one of loyalty.

Loyalty did not hold them together, desperation did. Any of them would turn on another if it meant saving his own ass. They all had turned on each other when their backs were against the wall.

But they always found their way back. They were criminals and knew that they could get bigger scores together than on their own. That was the real reason they formed their little gang of mutts.

Some of the others preferred fancy terms like rebels and gladiators, but they were none of those things. There was nothing brave or glorious about them; they were simply vicious, cold-hearted criminals. Nasir knew this. And yet...sometimes he wished it were not so. But wishes were as useless as dreams and Nasir did not have use for such frivolous things.

Wishing for a way out, a helping hand to yank him free from the cold, harsh squalor of his reality was a waste of time and would never put food in his belly or money in his pocket. And dreams were nothing but nightmares, twisted illusions of demons and monsters ripping him into pieces.

These were the things that Nasir knew to be real: people were cruel and uncaring, nothing was easy or worth fighting for, and in the grand scheme of things, his simple life only mattered in terms of those who had been negatively affected by it. He was no warrior, no hero; he was an angry little beast, a dog who would bite any hand that made the mistake of coming too close to sharp teeth.

And he was also an obsessive little fuck who thought way too much when he was stoned.

Passing the long-forgotten blunt into the greedy hands of Ashur, Nasir sighed and wrenched himself up off of the cold, hard floor.

"M'going to sleep," he muttered and stumbled down the dark hallway, stepping over broken bags of garbage and other already passed-out Mongrels. He made his way to one of the back rooms and a foul-smelling, damp mattress on the floor beside an iced up window. He wouldn't dare take off his shoes because he never knew when he would have to run.

Instead, he just curled up in the trash on the mattress, head buried in his arms to avoid the smell. The stench of alcohol, weed, and his own body wasn't much better. As tired as he was, sleep never came easy. The sun was already up, another night lost to stealing car stereos and anything he could carry that could be sold or traded for something of worth to him.

This was his reality, and soon he drifted off into a nightmare of gnashing teeth and blinding darkness that he wished would swallow him whole. That is, if he believed in silly things like wishing.

:::

Agron lived in a world of dreams. Reality was...trying at best. But dreams were a lovely escape. He dreamed of dark skin, warm, rich, and decadent beneath him. Of long black hair like soft spun silk tangled between his fingers and a strong crimson mouth biting tenderly into his flesh, leaving lingering wet kisses and whispers of love.

Yes, Agron was a dreamer. And he wished for many things. He wished his parents were still among the living. He wished he was not the sole provider for his wily fourteen year old brother. He wished he had more time for dreaming. But mostly, he just wished for someone to share this world with him. A lover, a friend, a person to battle by his side as he fought to keep their little piece of solid ground beneath them.

But Agron did not have such a person to keep him warm on icy nights like this. He did not have a family, save Duro who sometimes seemed to wish Agron dead alongside their parents. How Agron longed for the doe-eyed little brother who looked up to him for guidance and comfort, instead of the snarky little shit he'd become.

Long gone was the child that Agron once knew. The death of their parents had been hardest on young Duro. Agron had been away at the university, long nights of drunken parties and sleep-walking through his studies had now been replaced with long nights of back-breaking labor and days of sleep-walking through the odd jobs given to him by his friend Spartacus.

They had grown up together until Spartacus had run off with his girlfriend and Agron had gone to the university. Once Agron came back, his old friend was barely recognizable as the boy he once knew. With the love of his life gone, taken much too early by sickness, Spartacus moved back to their home town with a hardened heart, the better to shield him from feeling.

But he was still a good friend. Once Agron returned home, they picked up their old friendship easily and Spartacus included him in his makeshift crew that sought out odd jobs of painting or carpentry or construction. Anything to keep them working and earning enough money to survive.

And that's what they all did. They survived.

Staring into the mirror, Agron felt much older than his twenty-four years. He flexed his arms, as though to ease the weight of responsibility he bore heavily on his shoulders. Luckily, they were broad and quite well defined. The thought made him grin wryly.

With a sigh, he pulled on his dirty baseball cap and closed his eyes. He was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to curl up on his bed and dream of the beautiful, silken-haired boy of his fantasies.

Instead, he threw on his coat, checked on Duro to make sure he was in his bed and sleeping before heading out into the biting midnight air to go shovel shit until the sun rose.

:::

Nasir was in a foul mood today. So really, it wasn't unlike any other day. But the weather was getting colder, his shoes were getting holes in them, and he hadn't the money to buy a proper winter coat yet. He was going to lift one from a store but they all had those damn cords attached to them making it impossible for a boy to catch a break.

So he hugged himself into his hoodie and wondered if taking his braids out would help shield him from the bitter wind just a little more.

The Mongrels were homeless again. Booted from their last squat when the police came, Nasir barely made it out a window.

He laughed harshly remembering the building owner's sneers that "homeless filth" made it impossible to get good renters.

Like anyone would pay good money to live in that shit stain.

It made Nasir roll his eyes at how stupid people could be sometimes.

He made his way down the dark street to the place Pietros had found. Pietros was another Mongrel, barely eighteen and scrawny as shit. But he was also a savvy little fuck with a firm knowledge of the streets and a smart-talking mouth that had gotten him out of the shit on more than one occasion. He had been part of their gang since he was fourteen when his foster daddy got a little too excited about a young, cute gay boy living in his home and owing him for providing shelter.

Pietros was not a violent boy. Unlike the rest of them, he chose to run instead of retaliate. If it had been Nasir, he would've sliced the mother fucker's dick off in his sleep before bolting. In fact, he offered to do that very thing when they took Pietros in but the boy had just shook his head and went about feeding the pigeons from the park bench where they sat.

That said a lot to Nasir. Food was hard to come by and this kid was feeding his to a bunch of rats with wings. But Pietros had just smiled and said, "Maybe some day someone will toss us bread from their own pocket and treat us not like ugly, diseased rodents but like something that matters."

Nasir called him a bleeding heart fool but did so with a smile on his face as he tossed a few crumbs of his own sandwich.

Pietros was the only one of their crew Nasir would dare call friend. As long as he had known Ashur and the others, he did not trust or even like them. They were a shady bunch. Pietros though, was loyal even when he had no reason to be, once staying with Nasir when he had been shot during a robbery back when they barely knew each other.

Busted at the scene, they did their bit together in the juvenile detention center and still, when they were released at fifteen, they went back to the Mongrels. Nasir probably would've left the ragtag bunch of bandits years ago if it had not been for Pietros who craved the safety of the group, even if it was not a realistic notion.

Once he found the right building, Nasir carefully made his way inside to the apartment Pietros had told him about. Rapping softly on the door, he let out a low hiss. He felt ridiculous but it was a good signal. When you shared quarters with rats and feral cats, a hiss would not give you away easily.

The door groaned as it opened and Nasir quickly ducked inside. His eyes scanned the room for his friend but instead landed upon a boy he did not know.

"Where's Pietros?" he questioned as he eyed the young boy, a minnow amongst the sharks.

Ashur chuckled as he wiped his mouth, clutching a bottle of whiskey, "Jail. Little shit got busted with Chadara again."

"Shit," Nasir cursed and clenched his fists. It was not a new thing, Pietros siding up with Chadara to work the streets some nights. Nasir had begged him not to do so but Pietros just laughed and said at least he got paid.

Nasir would never judge the boy for what he did. Nasir himself had been known to bed strange women and men from time-to-time, but it had been solely for the purpose of a warm bed for the night. Well, and for the shit he could pillage from their homes while they slept after Nasir's exertions. Nasir was good in bed, he knew this. It was only one more skill to survive a little longer. But he had enough pride to never position himself on the street corner like Chadara and Pietros did.

"Who's this fuck?" he motioned toward the wide-eyed child who tried to hold his chin up as if he were not scared shitless. But Nasir could see him shaking in his boots. Very nice boots as a matter of fact.

Ashur threw an arm around the boy's shoulder and handed him the whiskey, "Ah, this is young Duro. He wants to join the Mongrels. Since Pietros is out for now, I figured he could take his place in the job tonight. We'll see if he can take the heat."

That was code for, 'we'll let him do the dangerous shit and see if he gets shot or beaten or put in jail before we go in and steal.'

Nasir took a moment to look at the boy. His eyes were this odd mix of hazel and green, wide and darting around the place trying to take in his surroundings. His hair was done in dark dreads but not from actually living in filth, they were too well-taken care of. His clothes were not dirty or worn. They were not the best but they were also well-taken care of. There were no dark circles underneath his eyes or dirt underneath his fingernails. He was skinny but obviously well fed.

This boy did not belong here. Someone cared for this boy, took care of this boy. He was not a mutt, but a sheep amongst wolves.

Normally, Nasir would not care about such things but tonight, with his friend sitting in a cold cell and Ashur looking like a snake on two legs, something flared deep inside Nasir.

"No," he gritted his teeth, balled his fists and glared at Ashur, whose eyes lit up in annoyance...and fear. Nasir had no qualms about beating the shit out of Ashur and he knew it. Hell, he walked with a limp because of it. Nasir might be small in stature but he made up for it with equal parts crazy and don't give a fuck.

Ashur huffed, removing his arm from the scared kid as he spat, "We need this, Nas. We need this job tonight or we all go hungry. This is about our survival. This is about brotherhood."

The word dug into Nasir's cold heart like a knife as he sprung forward, causing Ashur to stumble until his back was against the wall and Nasir was on him, in his face growling, "Brotherhood? You know nothing of the word. This is about you. It's always been about you. You're a coward. Recruiting little boys to do your dirty work because you're too much of a pussy to do it yourself."

Ashur was scrambling from Nasir's hold as his voice quivered and shook, "We are brothers! I'm trying to keep us safe and fed..."

"Bullshit!" Nasir shoved him back against the wall before letting go but not stepping away. He held Ashur in place as he huffed at the boy, "Get your coat, I know you've got one. I'm taking you home."

The boy started to protest but Nasir held up a hand and gritted his teeth, "Seize fucking tongue and do as I say."

Now the child groaned under his breath - something about Nasir sounding like his brother - as he grabbed his coat from the floor and yanked it on.

Nasir pulled away from Ashur and looked into the wide eyes of his fellow Mongrels around him, "If any one of you move to stop me, I will remove your fucking heads."

Ashur wore a haughty smile as he rasped, "If you walk away from us now, Nasir, do not think of coming back."

Nasir glared right back, lips quirking into a menacing smile, "I will be back for Pietros."

Then he was shoving Duro out the door as Ashur yelled, "You better bring an army, boy!" The last thing Nasir heard before shutting the door behind him was Ashur chiding his fellow Mongrels for not having his back.

Nasir rolled his eyes, pulling a smoke from behind his ear. He just shook his head as he lit it and silently chided himself for hanging out with such cowards for so long.

The boy, Duro, told Nasir that he lived a good ten blocks away and would not stop talking as they walked. He spoke of his parents who had lost their lives in a car accident three years ago when he was just eleven. And a brother too busy working to spend any time with him.

For some reason, this angered Nasir and he found himself giving voice to it, "You're mad because your brother works too much to be home for you? That's why you strolled into the lion's den? You really are an ungrateful little shit."

The boy looked stunned at Nasir's outburst and in all honesty, Nasir was stunned himself. He was not one who would usually get involved in the affairs of others but he just could not help himself.

"You think this life is better? You think your brother does not care? Take a good look in fucking mirror, kid. Look at your clothes and your boots and your coat, and tell me, when was the last hot meal you had, huh? Because I cannot remember the last one I had. If you really want this life, let me tell you what you're asking for..."

So Nasir told the boy of life on the streets and held no punches.

By the time he was done, the boy wore wide eyes and stuttered out a soft, "Perhaps my brother is not so bad..."

And he continued on about his brother and their home life but Nasir stopped paying much attention because now that the heat of anger was no longer there, he was freezing his balls off and wondering where the Hell he was going to stay tonight.

His stomach rumbled as he thought of the last time he ate, late yesterday, a meal of cold noodles that he and Pietros shared.

Huddled into his hoodie, the cold air biting at his skin while he puffed on his last cigarette, Nasir almost wished that some big gladiator of a man would come along and take him in, fuck him like an animal and keep him warm. But Nasir didn't believe in wishing for things he could not have; the newly falling snow and bitter midnight air was a very real reminder that neither wishes nor dreams ever came true.

:::

Agron wished he knew where his brother was right now. If he had time to sleep, he would dream of a different life than this shit-filled reality. But it was after midnight, a snowstorm coming down full force and Duro was not in his bed. He grumbled as he glanced at the clock. He was late for work. His truck had broken down this morning and he had been lucky that Gannicus had driven by. He helped get his truck off the side of the road and gave him a ride home, even offering to give him a ride tonight to his other job since he couldn't get his truck fixed until he got paid tomorrow.

Gannicus had stopped by to pick him up but when Agron ducked in to check on Duro, he had found the boy's bed empty and the window ajar.

"I can drive you around, see if we can find him," Gannicus spoke quietly as he took a drag from his cigarette and clasped his hands together from where he sat on the broken-down couch in Agron's apartment.

Agron sighed heavily, staring out at the snow that was coming down now in sheets of ice. Scrubbing his hand over his three-day stubble, he grunted, "When I find that little shit, I'm going to beat his ass. Then hug him. Then beat his fucking ass again."

Gannicus laughed, "Such is the job of a big brother."

Agron threw a glance behind him and sighed, "You're a big brother?"

But Gannicus just snorted as he shook his head and smirked, "I am not. But I have been chased by many for defiling their sisters."

Agron wished he could smile at the man who tried to lift his spirits but worry clouded too heavily his mind as he wondered if he would ever get the chance to hug his brother again...or beat his ass.

"I can not leave. What if he were to come home and I not be here? He lost his key a few days ago and I haven't made him a new one yet. I can't leave my apartment unlocked, not in this neighborhood."

Agron had wished many times that he could afford someplace better for him and his brother to stay. This town was full of criminals and vagrancy. But the rent was cheap, he had a few good friends, and enough work to get them by. He hated that he couldn't be around more for his brother but times were tough and he had to do what was necessary to ensure their survival.

Fuck that, Agron thought, I will make more time for my baby brother...if I find him.

"Maybe you can ask a neighbor to keep an eye on your place while we go search?" Gannicus suggested as he moved toward the window and peeked out. "The snow is really picking up out there. We should go now before it gets too bad."

Agron groaned, rubbing a hand through his short hair trying to think of someone he could ask. With his grueling work schedule, he hadn't had the opportunity to make friends in the building.

With a final huff, he grabbed his coat and growled, "Fuck it. Let's go."

He left the door unlocked and fled his apartment, Gannicus trailing behind him. On the stairs he passed a young woman whom he had acknowledged on a few occasions but never spoken to.

"Are you okay? You look pale as a ghost," she cradled the bag of groceries in her arm as she pressed herself against the wall to let them pass.

Agron stopped, wishing he had taken the time to get to know the woman, "Have you seen a boy around here? Fourteen, awful dreads..."

Her brow furrowed on her freckled face as she shook her head, "I'm sorry, I have not. That's your little brother, right? Is he missing?"

Balling his fists, he gritted his teeth and mumbled a quick affirmation before turning back to the stairs.

"I'll keep an eye out! In case he comes back while you're gone. I'm just across the hall," she called out and Agron stopped again.

Head hung low, he nodded and rose his eyes to hers, "Gratitude."

She smiled softly, shuffling the groceries before continuing up the stairs.

Agron ran out the heavy front door of the building and into the frosty air nearly slipping on the ice as Gannicus started towards his truck.

Just then, he noticed two figures coming toward him through the heavy snow. In the pale light of a flickering streetlamp, Agron recognized the mop of dark hair.

His heart thudded in his chest as he ran as fast as he dared to his brother. Duro groaned when Agron swept him up in a back-breaking hug and kissed his temple.

"Agron, stop!"

Duro squirmed in his hold but Agron squeezed tighter muttering, "You little fucker, if you ever scare me like that again I will rip the arms from your body and beat you with them."

"Agron," the boy whined but Agron would have this moment.

"Seize fucking tongue and let your brother hug you," he growled in his ear.

There was a chuckle coming from the other figure he had seen but not given thought in the relief of finding his brother.

His eyes narrowed as he tried to make out the man in the flickering darkness. All he could see were dark clothes, dark hair, dark skin...and a tattoo on the back of one hand that caused Agron's throat to tighten.

It was a simple design but one Agron was quite familiar with. It was graffitied all around town.

Letting go of his baby brother, it took but a moment for Agron to snatch the other man up. He lifted the man from the ground and shoved him against a snow-covered car, growling as the other man struggled against his hold.

But now underneath the soft white light, Agron almost lost his breath as he stared into wide, shocked eyes the color of rich chocolate and caramel swirls.

Agron had a Hell of a sweet tooth.

Illuminated by the pale light and milky snow, Agron could see that this man was barely so. He was younger than Agron would have first guessed but from the feel of the muscular arms flexing defiantly in his grip, he was definitely all man.

"Let me go," the man fought against his hold, shocked eyes narrowing into a glare so dreadfully hateful that it reminded Agron of what he was dealing with.

A fucking Mongrel. Walking with his baby brother after midnight.

Snapping out of his daze, Agron leaned forward trying to ignore the way the young man's solid chest felt against his own.

"What name do you go by, Little Man? So that I may properly mourn your passing."

It was a pity he would have to break such a beautiful face. Chiseled from marble, every angle perfection and long dark lashes over whiskey eyes that he wished he could partake of and become drunk from the nectar.

But then Duro was grabbing at Agron's arms with pleas to let the man go, that he had helped him, not caused him harm.

Agron growled again but let go with a huff as the man righted himself against the car and spat, "Fuck you!"

The little man had big balls, Agron had to give him that. He towered over him but the little shit stood there, baring his teeth like the wild little dog he was.

Agron found it quite adorable.

Especially when the young man puffed his chest up underneath his wet hoodie and hissed as he passed behind him to be on his way, "This is what I get for trying to do something nice. Well fuck you, asshole."

:::

Nasir did not sign up for this shit. If such a man as this Greek God before him were to manhandle him, he would prefer it be in his bed and not out here in the freezing, fucking storm.

This man who towered over him with eyes so soft and green they made Nasir's insides melt but fuck what an asshole he was.

He grumbled as much, slipping behind the man to try to make his way back to...well, not back to anywhere now that he was no longer welcome in his pack, but somewhere out of this god damn shit snowstorm.

"You favor clever strategy. Fuck the man from behind."

What the fuck did he just say?

Nasir turned back to glare at the man and maybe throw a punch before bolting because Nasir was crazy but not suicidal. The man was huge. With devilishly strong hands and sexy stubble and...

"Fuck," Nasir mumbled underneath his breath.

Dimples. The mother fucker had dimples so deep that Nasir just wanted to crawl inside them and stay forever.

With a smile like that meant for him, Nasir couldn't help but huff a small smile back before remembering that he needed to get out of this cold or face the very real possibility of freezing to death.

Shaking the fog from his head, he turned back into the cold dark night and took off to find another temporary shelter. Already, he could not feel the tips of his fingers and his feet were like blocks of ice, the wind chapped his cheeks and his lips felt blistered.

Nasir scanned the dark street for signs of an abandoned house or building that he could break into for the night. He hadn't made it more than a block away when the rattling of a big truck pulled up on the curb next to him.

Hands shoved in his pockets, he glared at the truck, not in the mood to deal with some perverted asshole tonight who would offer him shelter for a price.

"Hey look, my brother told me the whole story. Apologies for roughing you up but please understand I only did it for his protection."

Nasir shrugged and mumbled, "S'okay."

It's not like Nasir hadn't been roughed up before and the man did not actually cause any harm to him. He was just so tired, so very tired and cold and hungry and the howling of the wind only made him want to curl up in a ball and give up.

But then the man jumped out of the truck sauntering forward, he put his hands on Nasir's shoulder and looked down at him so mournfully as he whispered, "Have you nowhere to go?"

Nasir dropped his eyes but his wounded pride was too strong to admit such a thing as he grumbled, "I've got places..."

The man huffed a sigh but squeezed his shoulder slightly before taking Nasir's chin in his hand and tenderly lifting it to meet his eyes, "Stay with us tonight. It's the least I can do for being such an asshole back there. You can sleep on the couch..."

Nasir started to protest but the man's eyes, so soft and caring, like his touch, cut through him more sharply than the sting of the bitter cold.

"Please. Let me do this. My little brother is all I have in this world and you just risked yourself to bring him home to me. I am forever in your debt. You never told me your name."

Nasir sighed heavily, the chill biting his nose as he slowly nodded, "Just for tonight because of the storm. And it's uh...Tiberius."

First rule of the streets, never give your real name.

The man raised an eyebrow as he smiled knowingly, "Tiberius? Really?"

Nasir ducked his head bashfully and was thankful when the man just grinned and led him to the truck. In the cab were Duro and the driver, a blond man who wore a shit eating grin. There wasn't much room so begrudgingly Nasir balanced himself on the lap of the asshole with dimples and tried very hard not to think about the arms around his waist holding on tighter than he really should have.

Once they got back to the building where he had meant to leave Duro, they all hopped out of the cab and Dimples smiled at Blondie, "Gratitude for your help tonight. Apologies for keeping you so late."

Blondie just cackled as he pulled out a cigarette and lit it, "Apologies not necessary, brother. The later the hour, the looser the women."

Dimples snorted and shut the door with a confirmation that he would see him in the morning for work.

Nasir followed Duro and Dimples up the stairs. When they reached their apartment, a woman across the hall stuck her head out. A look of surprise was replaced with a snarky smile as she nodded, "Take to your beds."

Dimples cheeks blushed deeply, though it could have been from the cold. They ducked into the apartment and Nasir chanced a glance around taking in the meager surroundings. It was obvious these guys didn't have much but Nasir's heart warmed at the thought that they were rich in love.

Nasir had never stopped to consider that such a thing was real. But he gazed at the pictures strewn about the apartment, of matching dimples and friendly smiles, and closed his eyes to bask in the warmth of love that surrounded him.

"Um, I'm heading to bed. G'night," Duro gave a small smile before heading off to what Nasir assumed was his bedroom.

Nasir stood there awkwardly, the slosh of his wet shoes against the carpet making him cringe as he looked down and mumbled, "Apologies for the uh..."

He paused, thankful for the excuse of the storm to blame for the redness of his cheeks as Dimples leaned against the door frame and chuckled, "The carpet is shit. No need for apologies. I can get you something to sleep in if you would like to shower? Knock off some of the cold."

A shower sounded like pure bliss to Nasir so he found himself nodding awkwardly as he scratched at his braids.

Dimples led him to the small bathroom and handed him a towel along with some sweats, "Just leave your wet clothes on the floor. I can take them down and throw them in dryer in the morning before I go to work. Apologies but the laundry room is locked at this late hour."

Nasir managed a small smile as he took the clothes that would no doubt be much too big for him before ducking into the bathroom and shutting the door behind him.

Placing the clothes on the closed toilet, he leaned against the sink with a heavy sigh. Never had anyone been so kind to him for really nothing at all. All he did was walk the kid home to make sure he got there safe. He didn't want the kid's family to worry. Duro did not realize how lucky he was to have his brother. It was times like this that made Nasir wish he remembered his own brother.

But then Nasir remembered that he didn't believe in wishing.

:::

Agron leaned heavily against the bathroom door, heart rocketing in his chest, body exhausted from worry and a grin pulling his face so tight that he wondered if his dimples would simply cave in.

Agron had known he was gay all of his life, even taking to peeling strange women off of him with looks of disgust when he used to go out to the bars with his friends.

But never had Agron been so taken with another man as he was with the one behind this door right now.

He was small of stature but strong and defiant; not a cutesy little boy but a man. A man that seemed hardened beyond his years but still managed small, surprised smiles at Agron – as if caught unaware that his beauty should warrant any amount of kindness.

It was obvious to Agron, that the man had problems and he was aware that he should tread lightly. Which, if he was being honest, was a difficult thing for Agron. He had always been a bit of a bulldozer.

But he had to try and calm his overly aggressive ways and look at this realistically. He had known this man for only minutes. Such a fool he was to be standing here pining for a man who would not even give his real name. He would stop this foolishness at once. After all, he had more important things to worry about: his brother's safety; possibly losing his night job because of his brother's shenanigans; having to be up for work in just a few short hours; and having a man known to be part of a local criminal gang staying the night in his apartment where he and Duro slept.

Agron was such a foolish boy sometimes.

He should leave the blanket and pillow on the couch and barricade himself and Duro in their bedrooms until morning. But instead he found himself in his tiny kitchen, heating up a pot of stew he had made for dinner. Agron was nothing if not a gracious host and sure, the man gloriously naked in his shower right now might be some horrific criminal but he must not be all bad for he battled his crew to bring Duro home safe-and-sound. In a snow storm. With no coat. And holes in his shoes.

"Fuck the Gods," Agron cursed lowly under his breath. The least he could do was offer this man a warm place to sleep for the night and a hot meal in his belly.

Grabbing a couple of sodas from the fridge, he popped one open and took a big swig before depositing the other on the small table for Cocoa. If he would not give Agron his real name, he would just call him by the name of his warm cocoa skin. In his head, anyway. Not out loud. Hopefully.

He filled two bowls with hot stew and set out silverware and napkins. He briefly thought about lighting a candle, not for ambiance but for the rich smell of cinnamon to cover the stench of the stew. But then he shook his head and pocketed his lighter grumbling to himself about not being that guy. Agron had to try not to be overbearing. He had been told, on more than one occasion, that he was like an overgrown teddy bear with the force of a Mac truck.

Agron did not see what was so bad about that but apparently some people thought he could be a bit much. So what if he was passionate and a bit excitable?

Okay, so perhaps his line about 'fucking the man from behind' was a bit too strong. Cocoa had seemed caught off guard and Agron was fairly certain he might get punched but...the man just kind of smiled and huffed a little laugh so adorable it made Agron want to pick him up and squeeze him so very tight and...

Shit. Agron was so overbearing and gruff and no one would ever find his exuberant bulldozing personality endearing.

Besides, he did not even know if Cocoa...

Hair. Cocoa's name had officially been changed to Hair.

Agron had been so caught up in his thoughts that he hadn't even heard the shower turn off or the door open. But here the man stood, looking adorably small in Agron's sweats and Megadeth tee, cheeks blushing red, bare feet, and fucking gorgeous long black hair hung loosely around his equally gorgeous face and cascading just past his shoulders.

He had taken out the braids and officially become Agron's dream guy. It literally took every ounce of strength Agron had to keep from reaching out and petting him.

If these were ancient times, Agron would woo him with feasts of wild boar and cheap wine, he'd growl at any man whose eyes lingered, he'd punch any fool that dared touch, he'd do great battle, fight wars...Hell, even Jupiter himself would have cause to tremble if ever he laid a hand upon his boy...

But alas, all Agron had to offer in way of wooing was a lumpy couch and shitty beef stew.

"Um, what is this?" Hair tucked his luscious locks behind his ear and gestured to the table.

Agron sighed greatly and grumbled, "Stew. I will not lie, it tastes like shit but it's warm and will fill your belly so that sleeping on my sad excuse for a couch will be more bearable."

The beautiful, black-haired man graced Agron with another small smile as he shuffled to the table and mumbled, "Gratitude."

They sat down and began to eat, the man devouring the stew like some fine delicacy.

"It's really good," he smiled at Agron with big, brown eyes and Agron raised an eyebrow.

The boy chuckled as he shrugged and took another bite, "Okay, it's not but it is the best meal I've had in ages."

Agron paused as he thought about that. If it were true, he really wished it were not so.

:::

Nasir had died and gone to Heaven. He was warm, clean, smelled of Dimple's shampoo, and was having a real meal at a real table with a real man.

Yup, Nasir felt so oddly light, it was as if this man had helped shoulder the weight of his miserable existence making such things easier to bear.

"So, um, you never told me your name," Nasir spoke softly as he chanced a look at the man who stared at him but tried so hard, with an unbelievable adorableness, to be inconspicuous.

Dimples smiled, cheeks blushing crimson through dark stubble, "And you did not give me yours."

Nasir ducked his head and took another bite when the oddly sweet man spoke again, "But I will not push for it. Perhaps you will tell me when you are ready. I am Agron."

Agron.

Yeah, Nasir could imagine moaning that name in the throes of passion. Only Nasir didn't do passion. Nasir did easy fucks with people whom he did not care enough about to ask for a name. He wondered why he thought to ask such a thing now.

And damn, Nasir was out of stew. Sure it was kind of shitty but it was filling and warm and he was being honest when he said it was the best thing he'd had in ages.

He wished he had more...

His head snapped up when Agron grabbed his bowl and shuffled to the stove, "Would you like more?"

Nasir was momentarily stunned before he mumbled, "Um, sure, unless you want to save it for Duro?"

Agron just smiled as he dished out another bowl, "Duro could barely stomach it the first time. I am fairly certain he stashes Cheetos and Slim Jim's underneath his bed for stew night. Though I should save it for punishment after the stunt that little shit pulled tonight."

Breaking out into a genuine grin, Nasir gazed at the man's broad shoulders underneath his thin tee, "Do not worry, I believe after some of the stories I told him tonight, he will no longer be pursuing a life of crime."

Agron chuckled as he sat the bowl in front of Nasir and took his seat across from him, "I hope you are right but he is of my blood. We can be a bit stubborn at times."

Nasir swallowed the bite he had taken and shrugged, "But if he is of your blood, then it is likely he is a good man like his brother."

Agron paused, soft green eyes wide as if shocked by such a statement. He placed his elbows on the table, head in his hands as he exhaled slowly, running a hand over the back of his neck and looking up at Nasir with a small smile on his face, "Gratitude."

But then it fell and Nasir did not believe such a handsome face should ever look so sad.

"It is a difficult thing, raising my brother by myself. I have no idea what I'm doing. We're getting by, surviving, but it isn't enough. I work too much. I should be here more but it's taking everything I have to keep a roof over our heads. I just wish I had someone to..."

Agron trailed off, huffing a sigh and Nasir whispered as he looked into the man's sorrowful eyes, "Help shoulder weight?"

The man's eyes held such hope as they lit up at Nasir's question and nodded softly. The moment seemed heavy, their eyes speaking more than their words and Nasir had never felt such a strong desire to simply place his hand upon another's and offer comfort. He was not one who would ever offer such things so freely but there was something so warm about this man that Nasir found his hand moving without thought.

Gently placing his hand on top of Agron's where it rested on the table, Nasir gave it a soft squeeze before pulling back,wondering foolishly what he was doing as he returned his attention to the stew.

Nasir was not the type to become so smitten yet he found himself entranced with this gorgeous, big, sweet man who loved his baby brother fiercely and offered a man he knew had done bad things shelter from the storm, clothes from his own closet, and food just because he felt it was the right thing to do. Nasir had not known such a man could exist.

He found himself wishing he could learn more about this man.

"Duro is a good kid," Agron cleared his throat and stood to place his bowl in the sink. With back turned, he sighed, "He should have never gone to your gang tonight. You should not have been moved to leave your friends but I am forever grateful that you brought him home."

Nasir stood and walked the short distance between them, bumping Agron's hip as he sided in next to him to help wash the bowls.

"They were not my friends. They were not anything to me. I was younger than your brother when I joined. But I could look at Duro and tell that he did not belong. He is loved. He has family. I do not recall my family but I, too, had a brother. He called me Nasir."

Nasir trailed off as Agron gazed down at him with a look torn between anguish, understanding and awe.

"Tell me about him. Your brother," Agron whispered as he turned to face him. Raising his eyes to meet the curious soft green ones, Nasir found himself taking pause as the air in his lungs escaped, leaving him breathless.

"I...uh..." Nasir was wrought with nerves, never having spoken about his family to anyone other than Pietros. He did not realize how much of himself he had given until faced with the question of his brother.

Finally, gathering strength, he whispered, "What would you like to know, Agron?"

Agron was so beautiful as he grinned cheekily, "Everything, Nasir. I want to know everything."

That's how they found themselves curled up next to each other on the couch, mugs of warm tea in hand as they talked all night long. With the snowstorm and work and everything else long-forgotten, they spoke until the sun was close to rising and when Nasir's eyes became too heavy to stay open, he dreamed of soft green eyes, a dimpled grin, and loving hands touching him tenderly.

:::

Agron had not believed in his wildest dreams that such a man as Nasir could exist. Nasir was smart in the way he spoke, not the typical dumb thug Agron had expected. He was witty; a smartass cynical little shit who had seen more troubles than Agron had ever known. But underneath the grit and grime of the boy from the streets, was a good man. Yes, he had done bad things but from desperation; a child trying to survive on his own.

The man had been mistreated so badly that Agron wished he could find the ones who bore such misdeeds and bash their heads against the rocks repeatedly. And he would do so with a smile on his face and a gleeful chuckle.

Agron knew he should go to bed, should ready himself for a long grueling day that was coming sooner than he wished but he could not pull himself away from the man that spoke to him of his past. This man, Agron was quite certain, was not one to open up easily and the fact that he was here curled up on Agron's couch and sharing his life with him made Agron feel lucky.

Not only lucky, but special.

Nasir was truly alone in this world, save for his friend Pietros who he spoke of throughout the night. Agron's mind ran with thoughts of asking him to stay. Not just for the night but forever.

He knew he should not think such things, should slow down and remember that even though Nasir was opening up to him now, he still did not know him. Not really.

Yet he felt such a kinship to him. As if they were kindred spirits, souls reconnected from a former life.

Always the romantic dreamer, Agron was in deep.

And once Nasir's eyes fell shut, Agron could not stop himself from reaching out and brushing away the long locks of onyx hair from his beautiful face. He himself did not remember falling asleep after that but when he woke, it was gloriously tangled in the warmth of cocoa skin and rough hands.

It was a knock on the door that jarred them both awake. Agron lying on top of the smaller man that held him. Sleepy eyes, half lidded and not quite lucid stared up at Agron while calloused fingertips dug tight into his lower back keeping him close.

Agron fought the urge to kiss him when another knock rang out. Nasir's eyes finally went wide, fingers letting go as the men began to shuffle off the couch.

Mumbling a quick apology for crushing the younger man, Agron righted himself and stumbled to the door.

Spartacus stood on the other side, a tray of coffee cups in hand as he cast a glance behind Agron and smirked.

"Coffee?" he offered and Agron grumbled an acceptance as he grabbed a cup from the Styrofoam tray.

"Come in. I'll be but a moment," he shut the door behind Spartacus and shot a glance to an uncomfortable-looking Nasir staring down at the carpet.

Spartacus took a step forward and held out the tray to him, "Coffee?"

Nasir's eyes shot up as he scratched a hand through his tousled locks and accepted graciously.

Agron smiled at the thoughtful gesture and more so that Crixus would now have to get his own coffee. Fucking Gaul.

There was another knock on the door but Spartacus told Agron to go get ready and he would answer it. Agron strode quickly to his room and started changing clothes when he heard the woman from across the hall.

"Oh hello. I knew the boys had a late night so I, um...brought muffins. I am Miri, by the way."

"I am Spartacus. Bringer of coffee."

Ah, so he offered the last cup to Miri. Gannicus and Crixus would both be shitty now but it was a small price to pay to hear the smile in Spartacus voice as he spoke so awkwardly to the pretty, freckle-faced woman.

Agron ignored the rest of the conversation and soon rejoined them in the living room. Spartacus and Miri shuffled out into the hallway as they chatted, and Nasir looked around as though ready to flee.

Agron sighed as he walked over to the younger man, "Apologies. I do not have time to take your clothes to the dryer. The laundry room is on the bottom floor at the end of the hall."

Nasir nodded but said nothing.

It was awkward and Agron wondered if he imagined the closeness he felt last night because now in the light of day, Nasir seemed like he could not leave fast enough.

"I can just throw them back on so I would not have to be here while you're gone..."

Nasir started to go around Agron but Agron could not help himself as he gently grasped the other man's shoulders and steadied him. His heart was ringing in his chest and he could tell Nasir's was by the way he breathed in heavily through his lips, slightly parted and eyes wide as they looked up at Agron.

"No. You stay and I shall go."

With that, Agron took his chances and leaned down to kiss those parted lips. It was soft, just a whisper of touch but when Agron pulled away, Nasir's cheeks were flushed and he huffed a breathless little laugh as he gave Agron a small smile.

Agron returned it with a cheeky grin, feeling a bounce in his step, he nodded once and bound to the door leaving a stunned but smiling Nasir behind him.

He really wished that Nasir would still be there when he returned home.

:::

Nasir was reeling. Everything was warm. His lips, his toes, his heart. Agron had kissed him. Nasir was not new to receiving affections but nothing had been so tender, so real as that hopeful little kiss Agron had placed upon his lips with whispers to stay.

He wanted to stay. He wished he could. But this was too fast. He barely even knew Agron. Except, he sort of did. Agron was very open with him last night. They talked about their families and their lives, shared stories and memories, good and bad. Nasir had never felt so comfortable speaking with anyone before but Agron, with his blinding smile and inviting eyes, made it seem so easy.

He could just stay. He could just start over with this man, live the rest of his life by his side.

But wait. Nasir was reading too much into this, jumping blindly into forever when Agron probably just meant to stay until his clothes were dry. Yes, that had to be it because no one was so crazy to invite a broken person, a Mongrel like Nasir into their lives to stay.

Nasir had been living in some sort of strange wonderful dream but it was time to wake up.

Trudging to the bathroom, he gathered his clothes and quickly found the laundry room. He had to try to find a new place to stay tonight. He needed a plan to make money. As he sat on the dryer, eating a muffin and drinking his coffee, he wondered if perhaps he needed a change in his life. After all, he was no longer a desperate child that needed crime to survive. He was a man, perfectly capable of taking care of himself if he put forth some effort. Agron wasn't much older and he managed to not only take care of himself but of his brother as well.

Nasir wasn't stupid, just unmotivated. Maybe Agron was the motivation he needed to get his life moving in a better direction. Agron needed somebody to help shoulder weight. Nasir wanted to be that someone.

So once he was dressed in his own clothes, he locked the door behind him and headed back out into the streets but this time he wasn't looking for easy scores, he was looking for real work. Only after the third glare at the tattoo on his hand while he was filling out applications, he decided he really needed to let this Mongrel shit go.

His fourth stop was at an old buddy's house who had proved himself useful with a tattoo gun. He owed Nasir a favor so Nasir used it and had him cover up the tattoo on his hand with some simplistic tribal designs and other bullshit to rid himself of the Mongrels forever.

By the sixth application filled out, he had found himself a job. It wasn't glamorous and the pay was shit but it was honest work and Nasir felt pride in himself for the first time in a very long time.

Perhaps he could set his friend Pietros forward on the right path too and they could move together in a better direction. Pietros should have been released by now and since the sun was beginning to set, Nasir knew they would surely be holed up in the place he left them yesterday.

It seemed like ages ago to Nasir now.

Nasir knew it was not a safe place for him to go but he would not leave his friend to the wolves. He set forth on path for the building and made his way inside.

The hiss at the door was all that was needed and the moment it opened, Nasir pushed his way inside ready to fight his way back out if necessary.

Pietros was high, nearly passed out in the corner as Ashur blocked him from Nasir's view.

With a malicious chuckle, Ashur smiled a sickening smile as he motioned for the others to stand.

"You've got some balls showing up here, Nasir."

Nasir clenched his hands into fists as he snarled at the man, "I told you I would be back for Pietros. I will take him and go."

Pietros was so out of it, his head swaying back and forth as he mumbled Nasir's name.

Nasir's brow furrowed in anger as he spat at the group, "What did you give him?"

The men around him laughed viciously as they slowly moved closer. Nasir would never admit fear but his heart was jack-rabbiting in his chest as Ashur smiled through gritted teeth, "I told you, you had better bring an army with you..."

With that, Nasir was just about to spring forward when the front door was kicked open, violently splintering as the biggest men Nasir had ever seen barreled in.

Nasir recognized Agron right away. With him was the blond man from last night, Spartacus, a huge brutish looking guy with choppy black hair, and a dark man with long dreads.

Agron grinned cheekily at Nasir, "Duro said you needed an army. So, who's ass shall I kick, Little Man?"

Nasir was shocked but managed a small huff of a laugh, "Call me that again, and I shall be the one kicking ass."

They both smiled, ignoring the crowd around them before the black haired man rolled his eyes and huffed, "Turn effort from wooing your boy and let us do what we came here to do."

Agron's smile fell as he stepped forward and motioned at the wall of scared men in front of him, "Where is Pietros?"

Ashur was frightened but still a defiant shit as he snarled toward the huge beasts, "Who the Hell are you?"

"I am Spartacus," the man shoved forward in front of the others as he motioned to them, "These are my brothers. We stand together and would fall together. Tell me, coward, would your brothers fall for you?"

Glancing wide-eyed at the Mongrels around him, Ashur knew they would not.

The Mongrel stepped aside quickly, clearly terrified of the towering beasts in front of them. Pietros' eyes were wide as he looked up at Nasir so he crouched down and whispered, "Let us go from this place and never set eyes upon it again."

The boy nodded and tried to stand but could not on such wobbly legs, "Missed you brother...m'hungry...this place smells like ass..."

Nasir sighed at the boy's sluggish ramblings and moved to help him but Agron motioned to the huge, dark man with him, "Barca?"

Barca nodded and moved forward, leaning down and swooping Pietros in his arms like he weighed nothing. Pietros gave a giddy giggle as he stared at the hulking man, "Call dibs on this one. What d'ya say, gladiator? Wanna take me home?"

The man broke into hearty laughter as he cradled Pietros carefully and shook his head at Agron, "He can stay at my place. I have the extra room. You can follow me there to see your friend is well taken care of."

Nasir did not know if he liked that, but Agron threw an arm around his shoulder and whispered, "Do not worry. Barca is a good man. Your friend will be safe, I promise you. Let us go from here."

Nasir was still in shock, but nodded as Agron pulled him out of the building and into his truck. Barca and Pietros joined them shortly after, all squishing into the cab as Nasir furrowed his brows, "Where are the others?"

Barca sighed, "Crixus recognized the one you called Ashur as the man who assaulted his girlfriend Naevia last year. I suppose they will beat him thoroughly before calling the cops. The other men scattered."

Nasir was glad that Ashur would finally have to pay for some of what he'd done. He just wished he could stay and watch, perhaps join in but he was content to be by Agron's side.

Pietros stomach rumbled loudly and Nasir wished he had something to give him but Barca adjusted the smaller man on his lap and reached behind the seat to grab a bag. Pulling out a half-eaten sandwich, he smiled softly at Pietros, "I did not finish this at lunch. Here. Eat. I will make you something proper when we get home."

Nasir's heart warmed as Pietros took the sandwich with a blinding smile, mumbling about pigeons and sharing bread and home.

After dropping Pietros and Barca off, and after Nasir had gone inside and was assured that Pietros was safe, he and Agron got back in the truck.

"So, shall we go home now?" Agron grinned, lying his arm across the back of the seat and Nasir did not hesitate to slide over until he was pressed against his side.

Looking up at the giant, teddy bear of a man, Nasir sighed, "Are you sure this is what you want, Agron?"

Nasir really wished he did. He had found of late, that wishes weren't as useless as he once thought.

Agron smiled, dimpled cheeks as he nodded, "Nasir, I would spend the rest of my existence herding goats on a farm if it meant I got to keep you forever by my side."

Nasir was confused but smiled anyway, "Goat farm? Really?"

Agron shrugged and turned to look at Nasir, serious expression on his face as he spoke softly, "I know this is fast. And I know this is not how relationships normally work. But when I asked you to stay this morning, I meant forever. Will you stay with me, Nasir? Can we work on this...whatever this is? Because I think that you and me, we could be epic."

Nasir smiled, bringing his hands up to cup the stubbled chin of the beautiful man in front of him, he leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss to his lips as he whispered, "Take me home."

And Agron did just that, both men lost in wishes and daydreams along the way.