Author's note: Ever
get the feeling I watched too much 21 Jump Street? Do you even remember
that show? Well, if you haven't gotten that feeling yet, some of the dialogue
in this section should hit you right upside the head with it. If you don't
know the show, think any cheesy late eighties/early nineties 'crime drama.'
Sigh. I'm so rural middle-class.
I Started From...
+ Part 2
It was an infinitely weary
Duo Maxwell who dragged himself up the stairs back to the apartment the
He ached. He'd forgotten the pain. It had been a while. Worse than the
pain was that feeling of griminess, from sweat and other things dried
on his skin. He felt like he could scratch layers of it off his body without
He felt dirty. Nasty. Tired. Sore.
He just wanted food, a bath and sleep, not necessarily in that order.
He finally made it to the door, and stared at it blankly for a moment,
trying to figure out how he was supposed to open it with his hands full.
Finally, he just kicked it until it flew open before his boot and he nearly
fell on top of Heero and Heero's gun.
Duo regained his balance as Heero kept the gun pointed between his bleary
Duo blinked. "Ohayo, Heero," he muttered, and shuffled into the apartment
past the other boy, disregarding the cocked firearm. You learned to ignore
that sort of thing when you lived with Heero. Duo dropped the bags he
carried on the floor just inside the door while Heero quickly checked
the hall, making sure no one had followed Duo. Then the Japanese boy shut
the door, tucked the gun back into his pants, and turned to glower at
"You didn't come back last night," he observed coldly.
Duo shrugged, trying to stifle a yawn. "Didn't say I would," he replied.
He smirked. "You didn't wait up, did you?" he asked mockingly, expecting
a snort and a reply of, "Baka."
Heero just stared darkly him. "Yes," he said flatly.
Duo blinked, woken up a little by sheer surprise. He felt a warm, genuine
smile lifting his lips as he whispered incredulously, "Really?"
"Maxwell! Where the hell have you been?" Wufei demanded, appearing out
of the room he was sharing with Quatre. Trowa was still unconscious on
the couch, since there didn't seem to be any point to moving him. Wufei
had been up for an hour, but had taken to hiding in the bedroom to avoid
Heero's restless pacing as he awaited Duo's return.
Duo's smile disappeared at Wufei's arrival. Oh. Everybody was
"Don't yell, I brought food,"
Duo said wearily to Wufei, too tired for his usual exchange of insults
with the Chinese boy. Wufei's eyes lit up with momentary joy, then narrowed
"It's not that disgusting American fast food garbage, is it?" he demanded.
Duo forgot his weariness again as his anger abruptly flared. He'd been
out all night, working his ass off to provide for his friends, and Wufei
was insulting his offering? His hands tightened into fists, but unfortunately,
he was so tired, and the events of the night had been so... unsettling,
that his anger brought tears to his bleary eyes.
"Well, nobody said you have to eat it. Sorry if it's not fucking good
enough for you, Wufei," Duo ground out, glaring through the tears that
hadn't fallen yet at an astonished Wufei. Before they could fall,
and embarrass him further, Duo stomped into the small bedroom he was supposed
to share with Heero and threw himself down on the bed.
He was asleep in minutes.
Wufei stared in shock at the closed door of Heero and Duo's room. Had
Maxwell actually been... crying? It hardly seemed conceivable, but Wufei
was certain he'd seen the shimmer of tears in the bloodshot violet eyes...
And now Heero was glaring at him as if the Japanese boy would cheerfully
empty his clip into Wufei on the spot.
So perhaps, yes, Duo had been upset.
"I didn't mean... " Wufei began hesitantly, but Heero abruptly ceased
glaring and picked up the bags Duo had dropped, carrying them into the
kitchen as though nothing had happened. Wufei sighed and followed. He
really did prefer solo missions.
Heero was unloading the bags, producing a bunch of greasy fast-food offerings
that Wufei didn't dare sneer at, but also an assortment of healthy looking
fruit and some milk and orange juice. Wufei felt a twinge of guilt at
seeing the fruit that Maxwell had probably had to go out of his way to
Well, he volunteered for the job, he reminded himself brusquely.
Heero continued unpacking, finding that there were a few more basic food
items like bread and cheese, and also a large roll of gauze and some over-the-counter
fever medications. Wufei picked up another bag and found hydrogen peroxide
and a case of suturing thread. Maxwell had been very thorough. Working
silently with Heero, he helped separate food from medical supplies, and
then to find an appropriate location for all of it.
Quatre stumbled into the kitchen as they were putting away the last of
the groceries, and his eyes brightened at the sight of the greasy bags
still sitting on the counter. He happily plundered through them, pulling
out a disgusting sandwichy sort of thing. It looked like some sort of
biscuit with egg and ham and quite possibly cheese oozing out of it. Quatre
bit into it happily. Wufei looked away, disgusted. Heero handed him a
"Duo brought in food?" Quatre asked after swallowing.
"Aa. Medical supplies, too," Heero answered in his usual monotone. Quatre
immediately put down his food and started to move toward the living room.
Heero held out a hand and stopped the blond. "Eat first. Have to keep
your strength up," the Japanese boy ordered. Quatre frowned, wanting to
see to Trowa's wounds immediately, but had to acknowledge the wisdom of
Heero's advice. If he didn't take care of himself, he couldn't take care
of Trowa. Sighing, he picked up the breakfast sandwich and took another
"Where's Duo?" he asked when he'd finally managed to swallow all of it.
Heero wordlessly handed him a jug of orange juice.
"No cups," the Japanese pilot explained. Quatre wrinkled his nose slightly,
but drank from the jug as Heero informed him, "Duo went to bed. He seemed
Quatre shot a sideways glance at Heero for that comment. It was extraneous
information. Heero didn't give out extraneous information.
Heero stared determinedly at the half-eaten apple in his hands and tried
not to think about how ‘tired' did not even begin to describe how Duo
He wanted to go check on the American. Just to make sure he was all right.
He took another bite of his apple.
Quatre finished his breakfast quickly in the uncomfortable silence that
descended on the room, and began pulling out the medical supplies Heero
and Wufei had just painstakingly organized and put away. When he had them
spread all over the counter, he picked up what he needed and headed for
the living room, leaving the rest behind.
Heero stared at the mess, a muscle in his jaw working spasmodically. Couldn't
there be any sort of order on this botched up mission? First Trowa
had been injured, then OZ had run them to ground in this shithole of a
city, then Duo had to go out and spend the night doing gods-knew-what
to support the rest of them, and now Quatre couldn't even leave the
supplies in order! Everything was flying completely out of control
and Heero wanted to shoot something.
Wufei picked up on the tension in Heero's lean frame and carefully eased
out of the kitchen before Heero could remember that Wufei had upset Duo
earlier. Heero looked like he wanted to shoot something, and Wufei suspected
that his transgression would put him at the top of the list.
Out in the living room, Quatre was murmuring soothingly to Trowa as he
checked and rebandaged the uninfected wounds, waiting for assistance before
he tackled the arm wound. Wufei knelt beside him, and together they pulled
off the bandage, noting the skin seemed redder and warmer this morning.
Wufei welcomed the distraction of cleaning out the wound when Heero strode
purposefully from the kitchen to his bedroom a few minutes later.
Heero sat in the room's single hard chair and watched Duo sleep.
Just watched him. Just stared. He could do it for hours. He had
done it for hours, some nights when he couldn't sleep himself.
He studied the lean frame collapsed face first on the narrow bed. Duo
was wearing the same black outfit he'd gone out in the night before, leading
Heero to wonder what had become of the plan to acquire work clothes. Perhaps
the money had gone for food and medical supplies instead. Perhaps Duo
had wandered the streets all night and not found any sort of job. Perhaps
that was what had caused the dark circles beneath the luminous violet
eyes, the weary slackness of the usually smiling mouth. The full lips
were slightly fuller than usual, looking somehow swollen, though Duo didn't
seem to have been hit. Heero couldn't explain that, so he didn't try to.
He also couldn't explain how Wufei's offhand comment, hardly unusual or
even particularly mean, had driven Duo nearly to tears. So he didn't try
to explain that either. He just accepted it.
Heero was good at that. There were a lot of things he didn't understand.
Why he couldn't have a childhood. Why he had to pilot a Gundam. Why five
teenagers were the only hope for the colonies.
Why he had to kill.
Why he felt... better... when he was near Duo Maxwell.
Heero didn't understand any of these things, but just because he didn't
understand them didn't make them any less true.
So he simply accepted them.
That was just the way things were.
Duo leaned his back against the cool metal of the lamppost, enjoying the
slight lessening of the oppressive heat of the surrounding air. Just so
he wasn't being completely frivolous, he rolled his head back on one shoulder
and raised one knee, planting his booted foot against the post, adopting
a seductive pose. He knew precisely the effect he got. He'd spent enough
time practicing this particular skill.
He rolled his head forward, long masses of unbound auburn hair sliding
with the motion to half-curtain his body. The hair was heavy and horribly
uncomfortable in the heat, but it was another facet of his performance,
and a trait that made him unique. Half of it was actually still braided
down his back, but the upper layers were loose, held back only by a few
flimsy barrettes picked up at the thrift store. There was just too much
of it to let it all loose. Besides, his hair was very special to him,
and touching it was an intimacy he didn't really like to allow.
But he could usually get a higher price for it, so...
He'd already exceeded the hundred he'd set as his nightly minimum, and
he was seriously considering just going back to the apartment and taking
a nice long bath in the ancient iron tub. He was so hot out here, and
he felt dirty, sticky... He'd been doing this for a few days now, and
they'd managed to save up some of his earnings. Maybe he could stop for
a few days?
Duo frowned behind the barrier of his hair. If he wanted a few days off,
he ought to stay out and see how much more he could bring in tonight.
It was Friday, and had been very profitable so far.
But God, how he wanted to get off the street...
"Hey, cutie, what's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?"
a husky voice asked from behind Duo.
He sighed, then tossed the hair aside and threw a heavy-lidded glance
at the fat, sweaty, balding man grinning at him from a few feet away.
"I'm not a girl, baby, but I can scream like one," Duo purred suggestively,
running his hands over his lean hips.
Baldy chortled, a thick, disgusting sound. Duo fought down a gag and smiled
"Yeah, you're one hot little number all right," Baldy declared, eyes running
appreciatively over Duo's barely-dressed body. Duo smiled and tried to
ignore the way the man's hungry gaze made his skin crawl. "I don't know,
though... you look kinda fragile for a guy like me," Baldy continued skeptically,
but the gleam in his eyes showed it was this very fact that had led to
"I'm stronger than I look," Duo boasted, making his eyes wide so Baldy
wouldn't believe him.
Baldy's grin grew predatory and Duo didn't try to hide his shudder, knowing
the man would be excited by it.
"What do you say you and me
go someplace a little more private," Baldy murmured in what he probably
thought was a seductive tone, but sounded more like he had a wad of phlegm
in his throat. Duo smiled wider, stepping over and pressing his body against
the bloated older man. It was really way too hot for that sort of thing,
but what the hell?
Baldy began leading him away from the brightly-lit street corner Duo had
staked out a few nights ago. Oddly enough, there hadn't been any competition
for the cherry spot. Duo had worried about that, but after a few nights
of no trouble, he'd decided that maybe he just wasn't hooking in the prime
Baldy seemed to be headed toward one of the nearby tenements, and Duo
allowed himself to be half-dragged, one of the hot, stubby hands working
it's way down his shorts even as they walked. Duo managed to turn his
squirming discomfort into a reasonable approximation of excitement.
Then Baldy abruptly changed direction. Duo tensed, suddenly preparing
to fight as his large companion turned into the dark alley next to the
building. Of course, with one beefy arm around his neck in a suddenly
very tight grip, and the other ham-like fist squeezing his manhood with
obvious threat, Duo really didn't have much room to maneuver.
Shit. Oz. They've found me, he thought frantically.
Then Baldy came to a halt and a few other men stepped out of the shadows.
Two wore the same ragged denim and leather as Duo's captor, but the last...
The last wore what looked like an almost-expensive suit.
Oh, fuck, Duo thought weakly, feeling the fight drain from his
body and his knees turn to rubber.
It wasn't Oz. It was way worse.
It was a small time pimp.
The man in the suit stalked forward, grabbing Duo's chin in his hand and
turning the boy's face into what little light fell into the alley from
a nearby apartment window. Duo knew better than to bother yelling for
help. Whoever was in the apartment wasn't likely to put their own health
in danger for a whore getting beat on by a pimp.
He knew that far too well.
"Well, well, well, what have we here? Ain't you a pretty little thing,"
the pimp crooned in a light tenor. Duo fought the urge to swear or spit
at the man. Normally, his natural reaction to intimidation was cockiness
and bravado, but right now, his four friends were counting on him for
their very survival. If there was a way to get out of this encounter in
good enough shape to still be helpful to them, Duo was willing to sacrifice
The pimp was a pasty-skinned man, probably only about ten years older
than Duo. He was beyond slender, that particular excessive skinniness
that was the result of a fast metabolism rather than diet and exercise.
His hand on Duo's chin was cool even in the heat, and bony enough to hurt.
The suit hung off the tall body like it was on a clotheshanger. The man
was just not physically intimidating.
That was bad.
The ones who didn't look tough had to prove they were.
Duo tried to put some of his very real fear into his eyes, hoping the
man would take him for an amateur and decide he was easily cowed.
But Duo Maxwell was not a very good liar.
"You know you been poaching on my territory, boy?" the pimp demanded,
fingers pinching harder on Duo's jaw.
"N-nobody said nothing," Duo managed apologetically.
"Nobody said nothing? Shit, you new to the neighborhood, slut?" the pimp
asked, sounding amused at his naivete.
Amused is good. I can work with amused, Duo thought desperately.
"Y-yes, sir," he answered, keeping his voice respectful.
"Sir? Sir?" The pimp chuckled. "Oh, I like that, pretty boy. That's real
nice. But if you new around here, you gotta learn the local rules," the
man continued, his amusement fading into a cruel anticipation.
"Rules... sir?" Duo asked weakly,
still hoping to stay on the man's ‘good' side. He knew what was coming.
He'd done his research. The small gang he and Wufei had seen from the
kitchen that first day had been just bursting with information about the
ins and outs of the local skin trade. This was not an area that welcomed
freelancers. You did not operate without a pimp. But when he'd gone a
few days without drawing attention, Duo had begun to hope that he could
just slip through the cracks. He didn't plan to be here long, and maybe
he'd be gone before anyone decided they wanted a piece of his action.
Apparently, his luck had run out.
"My name is Randall, boy. You hearda me?" the pimp demanded.
Duo bit his lip, wondering what to do. No matter what he said, he was
in trouble. If he admitted to knowing who the man was, then he admitted
he'd known the rules and broken them. But if he claimed ignorance, it
was a blow to Randall's ego, and from talking to the locals, Duo knew
that was a bad mistake too.
He was trapped. Either way, he was not getting out of this unharmed.
He took a deep breath, and made his choice, hoping like hell it was the
"No, sir, I haven't," he murmured softly.
A psychotic gleam appeared in Randall's dark brown eyes, and Duo realized
with a sinking feeling that he'd made the wrong choice.
"Well, pretty boy, I promise you, when me and my boys is done, you ain't
never gonna forget me," Randall swore, his fingers clenching ever tighter.
Duo closed his eyes as he felt more rough hands on him, pulling his arms
and legs into a spread-eagled position. His back hit cool metal, and from
the smell he knew he was pinned against a dumpster. He was mentally prepared
for the fist that impacted with his unprotected stomach, but he'd been
expecting Randall to do the hitting personally. As the air was driven
forcefully from his lungs and his diaphragm locked, leaving him unable
to draw breath for a long, terrifying moment, Duo realized that Randall
was smart enough to know he just couldn't hit that hard.
But Randall didn't seem the type to let his ‘boys' have all the fun. Duo's
eyes flew open in pure terror as he recalled a fragment of warning he'd
"... and if you hook up with a pimp, stay clear of Randall, man. He's
just scum, and his girls and boys are messed up. He likes to feel like
a big man, ya know? Likes to be in control. Ain't a one of his whores
not a junkie."
Meaty fists continued to pummel
him, but Duo ignored the pain, his mind frozen in stark terror.
Randall was watching him from a few feet away. Randall had a nasty smile
on his too-thin face.
And Randall had a big, shiny needle in his hand.
"Oh shit no fuck please I'll do anything you want man just don't oh god
please," Duo babbled incoherently, screaming now not in hope of summoning
aid, but simply because he couldn't not scream, not when Randall
was walking forward and the needle was coming closer and he couldn't move
his fucking arm two of the bastards were pinning him and he couldn't
move and Randall was
The needle slid into his pale skin with an incongruously small prick,
and Duo screamed, tears of fury and horror pouring down his cheeks.
They released him and he slumped to the ground, wrapping his arms around
his battered stomach. His ribs were sore, and some might be cracked or
even broken... but he didn't care. It didn't matter.
He was in for far worse pain than that.
He curled into a tighter ball, hitching sobs shuddering through his entire
slender frame as he lay on the damp, warm pavement. His hair was probably
picking up all manner of disgusting debris, and the metallic tang of blood
in his mouth reminded him that he'd taken at least one hit to the face,
but he didn't care.
He could already feel the soothing calm spreading through his mind. Like
the world was being wrapped in silk, soft and gentle...
It terrified him. Because it felt so damn good. After running and fighting
and killing and screwing, the peace... It felt like coming home.
Duo whimpered miserably on the ground.
Randall knelt beside him, endangering his cheap suit. "See? You won't
forget me, will you, boy? In fact, I bet you'll come crawling to me in
a couple days," Randall crooned, stick-like fingers running down Duo's
tear-dampened cheek in a mockery of a caress.
Duo whimpered again. Randall laughed and walked away.
[part 1] [part 3] [back
to Aoe's fic]