Disclaimer: I'm just borrowing the boys from Bandai/Sotsu/Sunrise for a little while. I promise I'll dust them off properly and place them back on the shelf for other writers when I'm done playing with them.

Warnings: This is a 3x4 AU piece with mention of past 2xFC (hang on folks, the 1+2 is in the sequel okay?), some 3x4 exploration of the very mild lime-ish variety, and a brief NCS scene in the second chapter (it's not all that explicit, but I know some people are very sensitive on that point). Some occasional bad language surfaces from time to time as well. This is also my first attempt at writing 3x4, so I'll apologize in advance for anything that reads as OOC to regular readers of that pairing.

Notes: This fic nearly didn't happen. I constructed a fairly elaborate outline and extensive character notes to establish the pre-existing 3x4 relationship in another fic titled Daydreams. While I was working through the review and development process for that fic, I made the mistake of mentioning the existence of said outline to a couple of people who, well, begged rather shamelessly for me to write an expanded version of it. So, here 'tis. Again, if my memories of Cambridge, MA are a little fuzzy, it's because it's been more than fourteen years since I lived there.

Summary: Trowa works construction and odd jobs, Quatre is a grad student. This is yet another hurt/comfort type of get-together fic (that and working AU were my themes for the summer). This fic takes place about three years prior to the events in 'Daydreams.'

Chapter Two
by D.C. Logan

Trowa maintained a careful distance between himself and his quarry. He watched as the two men carefully navigated the dark street, tracking their progress with the aid of a plate glass display window. His blond was obviously there of his own volition, but something about the man he was with had Trowa's instincts on edge; and he trusted his instincts implicitly. The older man was dressed neatly enough, tweed jacket, laced shoes--casual chic for the area, but there was something predator-like lurking under the surface. He seemed to be carefully testing the limits of what the blond would allow, jostling against him in a manner less than subtle as they moved down the walk, before grabbing at the slighter man's body to roll him into the entrance of one of the darkened stores. He moved closer for a better viewing angle, debating his sanity for involving himself where he shouldn't. Trowa couldn't tell if his blond was happy to be there or not, since his date for the evening was blocking him against the door--but not, perhaps, against his will. Suspicious, but not willing to interfere without good reason, he moved in for a better look.

Well, maybe his suspicions were unwarranted after all. The man had his one hand on the edge of the blond's jaw and was kissing him deeply; his other hand was possessively cupping the slighter man's privates--hard enough that Trowa cringed in sympathy. Of course, maybe Blondie liked things a little rough... he didn't seem to be protesting all that much. Then again, maybe he just didn't know how to defend himself...

Trowa hesitated, and was just trying to make up his mind to move along when he heard it, a quiet whimper that had nothing to do with pleasure.

Another couple left the restaurant and unintentionally forced the couple to move deeper into the doorway. As they did, the older man shifted his hand from his date's face to his throat in a serious warning to be quiet. That did it. What little hesitation Trowa had evaporated as he saw the man move. His victim pressed his hand to the man's chest, trying to push him away, and Trowa saw him shift one fist lower to try for a vicious prod at the man's groin. As Trowa moved to interfere, the man released his date and stepped back far enough to deliver a vicious backhand across the blond's face, toppling him sideways into the door.

He was reaching back to deliver another hit with more momentum when Trowa grabbed his wrist, twisted it, and spun the man back against the neighboring wall with enough force to snap his head back on the wood window frame. He grabbed the man's wrists and pinned them to the wall over his head in an unrelenting grip while he placed his booted foot with deliberate care in the man's crotch, lifting him ever so slightly from the ground. He met the man's eyes from a distance of not more than a handspan, and smiled broadly, evilly, allowing his revulsion to show. The man stopped breathing and swallowed once, hard. Trowa felt something warm run over his boot and dropped the man to the pavement in disgust, toeing him briefly as the man scrambled against the wall before scuttling out into the dark street and running staggered out of sight. Vermin.

The couple that had provided both distraction and opportunity hesitated at the sound and moved cautiously back towards the restaurant and the bank of closed shops. To his surprise, he recognized one of them as a friend of Duo's. The woman was pulling her cell phone from her purse and Trowa waved them closer before turning to see how his man was fairing. It was difficult to tell in the deep shadows of the alcove, but blood showed dark against the white of his hair. Trowa grimly remembered his thought about 'easier to see in the dark' and approached him slowly.

"Hey, you okay?" He held out his hand in an offer for assistance, but the young man, startled and out of sorts, braced skinned hands against the glass in an effort to right himself--leaving bloodsmears in his wake. Trowa stood but didn't approach him; instead he studied him carefully from a safe distance. He looked rattled and bruised, but other than abrasions on his hands and the small cut on his face, he seemed okay.

The woman made a noise when she drew even with Trowa, and turned to face the man in the doorway, "You want me to call the police? Make a report?" She asked him. She looked to Trowa for confirmation. The victim misunderstood, and rushed out onto the sidewalk to protest.

"No, it's okay. Really." He pushed his hair out of his eyes, not seeming to understand why it felt wet. Trowa's mouth tightened in response, the man's face was already bruising where he'd been struck. He pointed at Trowa, "He helped me, you don't need to call the police, he helped. Understand?" Taken aback, Trowa looked at the man with new respect. Recently assaulted and still bleeding, and his first action had been to defend a complete stranger who had done him a small favor?

"This a friend of yours Trowa?"

Dammit, what was her name again? Oh yeah. "Duo and I have run into him a few times." He turned to study the man again, meeting his eyes with a different question as he asked, "That guy tried to mug you didn't he? Did you get a good look at him? Do you want to file a police report?"

Startled eyes met his, thankful understanding in them for the escape route. He shook himself, as if to catalog where his injuries were and their severity, before responding carefully. "I didn't see him all that well, and thanks to you he didn't get anything..." There was a subtle pause before he continued with, "I just need to get cleaned up I think." He looked lost then, uncertain as to the best direction to take, and Trowa gave in to the urge he'd been fighting off since his first glance of this man weeks before.

"My apartment is about two blocks from here--think you can make it that far? You can take some time to get cleaned up and I'll give you a lift home okay?" The injured man looked uncertain, and Trowa couldn't blame him for that after what he'd just been through, though it showed good judgment on his part. "Listen, they'll vouch for me okay? Or you can go back to the restaurant and they'll tell you I'm safe. Your call."

The blond looked up at the couple, who nodded before Noin designated Trowa as her contact and dictated her directions. "Take him back to your place and clean him up. If he needs stitches, call me. Duo has my number, okay?"

"Okay." Trowa looked at the young man, who finally mumbled an "okay, fine," before staggering farther out on the sidewalk closer to Trowa. Damn, Trowa thought, he looks worse out in the light. Noin apparently had similar thoughts, but her partner stilled her response with a hand on her arm and a warning smile. Trowa caught the expression though; damn she was a quick study.

After flashing a quick grin of thanks to Noin, he and his new friend moved slowly down the sidewalk. "I'm Trowa. What do I call you."

Not, 'what is your name?', but 'what do I call you?'. Anonymity had been handed to him freely in case he had need of it, and the offer was assurance enough. "My name is Quatre. Thanks... for doing what you did back there."

"Not that it's my business, but how did you wind up with your, er, date this evening." Trowa shot a quick glance over to read Quatre's reaction. Hell, it looked like he might be blushing; it was difficult to tell in the limited light. Did men his age blush? He found the thought unaccountably charming.

Quatre looked at the man's face. He was slightly taller than he was and wore a black leather blazer with the collar turned up, black jeans, and silver-trimmed black boots with calm assurance. His profile was strong with chiseled features, a straight nose, solid chin; a series of silver hoops traveled up the shell of his ear. He was facing forward, eyes scanning the street with the ease of someone used to living in an urban environment, and Quatre suddenly felt a little safer. This man, for whatever reasons he'd chosen, was looking after him tonight. Friends did that, he'd needed a friend, and this man had arrived just in time.

"I made an error in judgment." There was an encouraging noise from the man walking next to him, so he cautiously continued. "My friends," his mouth gave an ironic twist at that word, "asked me why I didn't have a girlfriend. And I confessed that I wasn't sure that I liked women in that way. They said I should find out one way or another and set me up on a blind date... with that... man."

"That was a cockroach, not a man, not even close. And before you ask, no, I'm not into that sort of scene."

Quatre made a grimace in response, "I just want to get a hotel tonight so I don't have to go back and face them."

"You live on campus?" Trowa was surprised, he'd expected a guy like this to have a place off campus for himself.

"Yeah, for the first semester anyway. I wasn't sure if grad school would work out." Quatre slowed his pace, rethinking his decision to follow the whims of yet another total stranger. "I should really just go to a hotel..."

"The nearest one is six blocks that way. But they'll ask questions if you walk in through their front door looking like that."

"Like what?" Confused, he stopped and looked at Trowa.

Trowa sighed, resigned, "Your shirt is torn, your hands are rubbed raw, and you have a cut above your eye that's still bleeding." At Quatre's blank look, he explained further. "They'll call a squad car and an ambulance, in that order. There will be a formal report, a formal record... You understand?"

He waited for Quatre's eyes to widen in realization of what that might mean for him, to his family. Trowa nodded and started walking again, trusting that Quatre would turn and follow.

He did. A little faster than before.

The two of them made it to Trowa's apartment without further discussion or incident and Trowa led the way up the narrow exterior steps to the third floor. It was a converted attic, cramped by most people's standards, but his alone. He led Quatre to his bathroom, tucked away under the eaves, and left him there with clean towels, sweatpants and a t-shirt and instructions to get washed up and ready for Trowa's apprentice-level medical work. Trowa dug the first aid kit out from under the sink and put the teakettle on to boil. He had two cups of peppermint tea sitting on the table by the time Quatre walked in, looking pale and washed out. His hair hung in damp threads against his skin, and the cut on his face was angry and red. He looked as if he'd scrubbed it nearly raw.

Trowa pulled out a chair and motioned Quatre into it. "You look done in. Drink that, it'll help."

Quatre eyed the tea with suspicion, and Trowa grumbled and swapped his mug for the one in front of his guest and pointedly took a sip from it. "It's not poisoned you know."

"It wasn't that... I don't much like tea. That's all."

"Oh, well, nobody's perfect." A shy trial of a smile was returned, and Trowa felt marginally better. He studied Quatre's face objectively. "You sure you don't want the hospital to take a look at that? It might scar you know."

Quatre shifted his attention from the surface of his tea to the man sitting across from him; and kept staring. Trowa had taken off his jacket and was wearing a skin-tight short-sleeved t-shirt, also black. It showed off rather a lot of toned muscle and well-defined torso. It also revealed artwork, a complex tattoo that ran up one arm and down the other. Quatre's first reaction was distaste, his second, which held him strongly, was fascination--both in the pattern and the body that was its living canvas.

Trowa froze; recognizing the hesitation after Quatre got his first good look at him. Duo often said that he scared people, that his cool demeanor and his physical appearance put people off until they learned better or until he made enough friendly overtures. He waited for Quatre to get an eyeful and over his disgust so he could move on with the medical work that needed to be done. He wasn't at all prepared for Quatre's reaction though. He looked...captivated was the best description. His eyes traveled up and down and all around Trowa's body, trying to make the pattern fit without seeing the whole. Hell if he didn't look like he was going to ask Trowa to take his shirt off so he could see the rest of it. Thankfully though, since Trowa would have had to expose more skin than Quatre might comfortably be able to deal with at the moment, he didn't. The pattern covered, well, rather a lot of territory.

Quatre shifted back in his chair and looked uncomfortable with the realization that he'd been staring. Trowa shrugged and walked to the counter, pulling the medical kit along with him.

"I don't want to go to the hospital."

"You're sure."

"Yeah, I'm sure." Quatre stood to leave, looking around for the door, "Where would you like me to send your clothes?"

Trowa made a pointed show of checking the time on his watch. "Let me take a look at the cut on your face and then get you settled on the sofa okay? You have anyone you need to call so they know where you are?"

"Um no." He still looked uncertain about staying the night, and Trowa was getting frustrated. "Listen, I promise not to jump you during the night okay? I already set out blankets and a pillow on the sofa for you. Tomorrow's Saturday and I'm assuming that you don't have to be anywhere first thing in the morning, right?" Trowa leaned over and taped a butterfly bandage to the cut over Quatre's eye before he could shift away from his touch. Damn, the man had used his shampoo when he'd taken his shower. 'His,' the thought came unprovoked; this man was scented as his property. It was a heady thought.

"I thought you said you weren't into that sort of thing." Quatre sounded puzzled.

"I'm not into violence; but I'm definitely into men." He stood, feigning a disinterest he most certainly did not feel, and left the room before Quatre could respond. He seemed to be a bright lad, he should be able to puzzle that one out on his own without any problems.

Trowa allowed himself a brief thought of what might come of this before walking resolutely to his bedroom and shutting the door with a solid enough sound to carry back into the living room. He'd deal with his unexpected guest come morning.

on to chapter three

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