Educating Quatre - Part 4
Duo's Friendship Arc 18
by Dyna Dee
"Don't be nervous, you're safe here." Sly said in a way that was suppose to be reassuring, but sounded slimy to the two nervous boys.
"Said the spider to the fly." Quatre muttered under his breath, and then repeated aside to his friend his earlier threat. "I'm going to kill you Duo."
"You sound like Heero." Duo whispered back. He'd hoped to make a joke of it, but knowing how uncomfortable Quatre was by this whole situation, he just couldn't pull it off with a smile.
"Dance first, then I'll show you to the room." Swirlhead, as Duo silently renamed the man, said as he waddled ahead of them towards the side wings of the stage. From the gap between the curtains and the backdrop of the stage, the entire stage front was visible to the two boys. In front of them they could now clearly see two women in the bright spotlight obviously busy entertaining what sounded like a room full of very enthusiastic men. They wore little, and what did cover them looked like lacy, skimpy underwear while several pieces of pastel, diaphanous material lay haphazardly on the stage floor. Both women danced temptingly, smiling seductively into the audience. There were a few tangible words of "More!" and "Take it all off!" from audience, and the rest of the voices beyond the music sounded like loud incoherent catcalls coming from the most likely, prominently male audience.
"What kind of music do you want?" Sly asked with a grin was he watched the dumb-struck expression on the boy's faces at the sight of the ladies on stage.
"S.. s... s.something with a rock beat and short." Duo managed to choke out, his eyes still glued to the two dancing and scantily clad women.
The man chuckled. "Your up next then. I'll get the music squared with our sound tech. You give me a good show and I'll have some food sent up, alright?
Duo nodded absently and Quatre looked completely stunned, his eyes still fixated on the two dancing women.
"Oh," Sly stopped and turned back to them. "What are your names? I'll need to introduce you."
The two boys looked at each other. Duo smiled crookedly. "He's Little One."
Quatre's eyes narrowed at the hated nick name he'd been taunted with by his sisters and then Trowa and the other pilots. He was no shorter than the rest of them, well okay, Trowa was the exception. He raised his eyes to the man and with a nod towards Duo declared, "He's Asshole"
Duo groaned and slapped his forehead with his open hand. Man, what a time for Quatre to expand his vocabulary and sarcasm, he thought. "You can't give me that name." he said firmly. "In a place like this it could have a double meaning. Chose another one."
The blonde looked thoughtful for a moment, then with a knowing look entering his eyes and he leaned over and whispered into Sly's ear, bringing a frown to the braided boy. With a bark of laughter the big guy slapped Quatre on the back and turned to finish his business.
Suddenly, Quatre's smile faded as he glanced out on the stage where the women continued to seductively gyrate, suddenly realizing what he was being asked to do in just a few moments. "Duo..." he whispered, his voice small and unsure. "I...I don't think I can do this." His face flushed with embarrassment and anger at the position he was being put into.
Duo lowered his shoulder bag to the floor and took the Arabian's bag from off his shoulder and put them slightly behind the curtain and next to the wall, hidden in the shadows. Believing them safe, he then turned to address his friend.
"I know this is not something you've ever had to do before Quatre, but really, there are worse things people have had to do to survive. This is just a dance, just like in the kitchen when we do dishes, only this time we'll do our dancing in our boxers, on stage." He was sure Quatre must have heard his loud and difficult attempt to swallow. He wasn't all that comfortable with this either.
"Couldn't we just pay him for the room?" The blonde glared, knowing they had ample money.
"First rule of the streets, Quatre, is to never let anyone know you've got money. They bought into our being runaways, and runaways never squander what little money they have, but keep it for emergencies. If we offer to pay, they'll become suspicious of our story."
"I hate this." the Arabian hissed darkly, slamming his fists into his pant's pockets.
"Just keep your eyes on me and follow my lead." the braided teen tried to ease his friend's nervousness. "Hell, just close your eyes and imagine yourself in your own room or in the kitchen with me and the others."
"It degrading Duo."
"Yes, yes it is." the braided boy's voice took on a harsher tone. "But a lot of people are forced to this. Do you really think the people who work here planned on doing this for a career?" his voice rose slightly in a bitter tone. "I know you don't like it, but we're not hiding among the social elite here, Quatre. This is but another aspect of life that a pampered little rich boy knows nothing about, and we're being asked to work for their offered shelter." His eyes narrowed, matching Quatre's warning glare. "If you're too good to lower yourself, then step aside and I'll do whatever I have to in order to keep your billionaire ass safe."
The two friends bristled with a very rare and barely contained hostility towards each other. Duo continued. "A lot of these people are like Trowa and I, people cast out or deserted to fend for themselves. They're not privileged to have loving parents and money coming out of their ears and solving all their problems." He motioned out to the women on the stage. "A lot of these women have children they're desperately trying to support, and having no other means then degrading themselves for those who have the money to pay for what remains of their shredded self respect. They took us in because they identified with the plight I laid out for them, and this is what they offered us. Are you too good to do what is required, or would you rather sleep in the dark alleyways with the other unfortunates of society?"
Quatre looked away from Duo's uncommon glare of anger and disappointment. He was being a snob and he knew it, but this was so unfamiliar to him, so uncomfortable. "There must be some other alternative." he suggested.
"Not without compromising ourselves or our alibi. OZ is combing the streets, Quatre. Do you honestly think they'll come looking for a couple of teenagers in here?"
The Arabian moved to speak, but his mouth opened and shut several times. Duo was right, he'd not been in a situation before where money or his credit card hadn't solved any problem before him. He'd always had his families resources to rely on. His gundam, safehouses, warehouses, the Maguanacs, supplies and repairs were all at his disposal due to his name and the money backing it. 'Damn' he swore to himself. 'I am the spoiled brat Duo has been alluding to since we approached this....place.' With a returning resolve, again he vowed to himself that tonight he would step into Duo's world and learn from this experience. He'd do what ever was required......within reason, of course. He swallowed his considerable pride and conceded to the inevitable. "Alright. I'll follow your lead."
The American took hold of his friend's shoulders and waited for the large blue eyes to look at him. "I know this is hard for you, Quatre. But it's the only thing I could come up with at the spur of the moment. It'll be okay, I promise. This isn't the first time I've had to do something like this, but you do get over it."
The admission from Duo startled the Arabian. He knew bits and pieces of the life of the boy from L-2, but he never imagined this seedy existence truly being part of it, especially when Duo was so young. By Allah, they were fifteen years old, and he wondered what his friend had to endure just to stay alive on that horrible colony. He swallowed hard and nodded.
They both looked out onto the stage only to have their mouths simultaneously drop open. The women on the stage were reaching back to slowly draw out the process of undoing their bras. Quatre's wide blue eyes were suddenly covered by a moist palm pressing flat against them. Reaching his hand up, he fumbled his hand up Duo's arm to match the movement, successfully covering Duo's eyes, and the both of the chuckled in amusement.
The roar of the crowd signaled the end of the dance on the stage, and moments later the sound of the two women coming off the stage caused the boys to separate and blink their eyes into focus. Both sets of eyes watched the women come to the shelter of the side stage with toothy smiles and an armful of their discarded clothing covering their chests with one arm as they waved to their appreciative audience with the other. Once behind the stage, however, their smiles dropped and a dullness came into their eyes as they reached for their robes hanging on hooks next to the stage to cover their nearly bare bodies. Quatre turned his eyes away to give them privacy and, hoping with a blush that he wasn't caught staring as Duo's words hit home with more impact. These women clearly didn't like doing this, it was a job that they did with little pleasure just to survive.
Straightening his shoulders, he waited just off stage with his friend close by his side filled with feelings of nervousness, dread, and a determination that he would show Duo in the next few moments that he was no milk toast. He was a gundam pilot and not a shrinking, "billionaire-ass" pilot that had to be taken care of. He would make his friend proud of him and, to him, that was of utmost importance. He knew that to Duo and other pilots, his money was not why they associated with him. They cared for him as a comrade and as a friend they could count on and trust. How many people in his financial position could say that? Those friendships were priceless to him, and he would not risk losing that friendship because of his stupid pride. If Duo needed him to do this, than he would do it.
The music changed and the bass from the surprisingly good sound system boomed loudly, sending reverberations through the wood floor. Duo turned with a weak encouraging smile to his friend. They both knew the song and it was a good one to dance to. "Just keep your eyes on me and we'll dance like in the kitchen. Follow my lead when we start to.....um...take off our clothes." Duo looked nervously out onto the stage. "We better take off our shoes and socks, I think it'll look weird to be out there fumbling to take them off so we can get our pants off." he surmised sounding as nervous as he suddenly looked.
Quickly removing their still slightly muddy footwear and putting them to the side, they heard Sly's voice coming over the speakers from a hidden sound room. "Let's give a warm welcome for two newcomers to our stage. Let's hear it for Little One and Tiny Dick."
Quatre winced. It seemed funny at the time, but now Duo's eyes looked like he'd swallowed his tongue. Then abruptly, someone behind them pushed the both of them out into the bright spotlights. They stumbled rather stiffly and nervously to the center of the stage. The music was loud, but not loud enough to block out the sounds of encouragement from the audience below them, barely visible as the room was dark and the stage lights were blindingly bright.
Duo seemed to come out of his numbness first and grabbed hold of Quatre's hand and, pulling him forward, spun him under his arm a couple of times, then released him, just like when they danced in the kitchen while doing dishes. They faced each other and started to dance, trying to let the beat of the music guide their movements and shut out the caterwauling audience urging them on.
Moments later, Duo caught his blonde friend's eye and moved to unbutton his black shirt. Quatre followed his movements with his own garments. They paced the removal of their clothing to the song and three quarters of the way through, they stood on a stage, in front of a group of strangers, blushing fiercely in their boxers. The catcalls to go further made both boys blanch, and sensing the audience wouldn't be satisfied that this was as far as they intended to go, Duo reached back for his braid and brought it forward. He slowly removed the rubber band and in a slow as possible manner, began to undo the braid as he danced. Quatre continued to dance in his unique Arabian style, but his eyes stayed on Duo's face as the American slid his fingers through his long tresses, and once unbound, he flung the mass behind his shoulder and shook his head to allow the burnished, chestnut mane to untangle and lay in a glorious rippled array down his back to the top of his thighs. Perfectly timed, the music can to an end and the audience clapped with appreciation, though not with as much enthusiasm as the women before them. Both blushing boys quickly picked up their clothing and ran off the stage without a wave of thanks to the audience.
They both dressed quickly and in silence, scurrying to cover themselves from the appreciative glances from the next set of dancers waiting for their cue to go on.
"Great job boys." the manager beamed a genuine smile at them as he approached and the next song began to play over the sound system. "Get your things and I'll show you to your room." the older man shouted over the din.
Silently both boys retrieved their hidden bags and followed the man as he laboriously struggled up the two flights of stairs. They listened with shared amused smiles to the huffing, puffing, and slight wheezing coming from the large man as he climbed the steep stairs with great effort. Standing in the darkened hallway on the third floor, Sly paused to catch his breath, then reached up to pull down a rope hanging from the ceiling, revealing a large wet spot under his arm. The boys exchanged a grimace of distaste at the sight. Pulling on the rope, an opening appeared in the ceiling above them as the lid lowered, a ladder could be seen attached to it. Sly reached up again and pulled the lowest rung of the ladder down, allowing it to fold out, extending it down to a foot above the floor.
"There ya go fellas." Sly announced a bit breathy. "Get settled in and I'll have one of the girls get some food for you."
Both boys nodded and only Duo looked the man in the eye to ascertain his honesty.
"No one else will bother us, right?" He asked as a reminded to their verbal agreement.
"You have my word." the swirled haired man promised in all seriousness.
Duo nodded and Sly motioned for them to climb up the ladder. He then turned and made his way down the dreaded stairs.
The two pilots stood looking at the dark room they'd just earned and quickly discovered a light overhead, which Quatre turned on immediately by pulling on a long, dangling string attached to a short chain. With the space brightly illuminated, they surveyed the room. It was surprisingly clean of dust or cobwebs with a double bed topped with several folded blankets, sheets, and two uncovered pillows. There was a short table at the bottom of the bed that looked to serve as a catch all.
"Not too bad." Duo surmised out loud, nodding his head in approval.
The Arabian went to the bed, dropped his bag on the floor, and flopped down bonelessly on the unmade mattress. He hadn't realized until that moment how very tired he was.
"I'm sorry Quatre." Duo said softly contrite as he approached the bed. "I never meant for you to feel degraded. As I said, it's not new to me, but it doesn't mean I like it either."
The blonde teen turned to watch his friend as he cautiously approached, his eyes registering his sadness. "No, I'm the one to apologize Duo. I'm sorry."
The Deathscythe pilot looked confused. "What for?"
Quatre sighed. 'For being a spoiled little rich kid and for not understanding or having any empathy when you needed me to."
With a frown, Duo sat on the bed next to his friend, his face slightly pinched. "Don't ever be sorry you had a nice childhood Quatre. Just because I didn't doesn't mean I would want to wish that on anyone else, least of all you."
The Arabian's hand gently touched the other boys arm. "There's so much you can teach me Duo, about compassion, empathy, and understanding. You're right, you know, I know virtually nothing of this side of life. It's quite an education I'm getting today.
The braided boy looked into his friends sincere face. "It's okay to learn about this side of life, to try and understand it, and maybe even help." he said in all seriousness. "Just don't ever have to live it. It's a hard, hard life."
They sat in silence for a few minutes as Duo began to re-braid his hair and they listened to the music from the bar below as it reverberated through the building and drifted up to their attic room. The thoughts going through their heads were interrupted by a knock on the wooden ladder.
"Dinner!" a feminine voice called out.
Duo went to the opening as the head of a young woman whose face was heavily made up popped into view through the opening. She lifted a brown bag up for them to see the validity of her announcement as she quickly took stock of both boys.
"Here, I'll take it." Duo reached down to accept the bag from her with a grateful smile. In her mid-twenties, the woman smiled at him as she lifted her arms and rested them on the attic floor, her eyes studying the long haired boy. Her loose robe slipped, revealing quite an impressive display of rounded flesh and cleavage. "Hey, you're cute." she declared with a wink at Duo.
"Ah.... thanks." he muttered back, blushing as he brought his arm up to scratch nervously at the back of his head and tried hard not to stare at the white exposed flesh.
"The boss ordered this and said to eat hardy." she told them with a flirtatious smile, seeming to enjoy his embarrassment. "I'm to shut the door in a half hour to keep you safe. There's a bathroom over there." she motioned down to the floor below and behind her. "Use it before then so you won't have to stumble through the dark later."
Duo nodded, "Thank you." he smiled at her tremulously. Returning it briefly, she looked down to find the next rung on the ladder to climb down.
"You're welcome." she replied with a casual wave of her hand, then stopped and smiled at each boy. "Oh, by the way, I'm Nan. Which one of you is Tiny Dick?" she giggled.
Both boy's pointed to each other saying, "He is." at the same time. They could still hear her laughing as she continued down the ladder and then down the stairs.
They ate the hamburgers and milkshakes provided, used the restroom, and were in the newly made bed when the door was shut a half hour later.
Bidding each other goodnight, the two boys faced away from each other and fell into an exhausted sleep, in spite of the music that continued to blare into the late night.