Disclaimer: I don't own GW nor profit from writing about its characters.

Warnings: Hey, they're in a strip club, some language and bickering.

Educating Quatre - Part 5
Duo's Friendship Arc 18
by Dyna Dee

The dark of the attic and the lack of noise in the early hours of the morning lulled the two boys into a long, much needed sleep. The last three weeks of fleeing pursuers and relocating had taken a toll on all the teenage pilots.

The sound of the ladder door being pulled down awoke the Sandrock pilot with a start from a deep sleep. He became aware of an unfamiliar weight draped across him, then his memory kicked in....Duo. Pulling his pinned arm out from the tangle of covers, he removed the thick braid of hair from off his eyes.

"Well isn't that cute", a vaguely familiar male voice chuckled from the far end of the room. Swirl Head, as Duo had dubbed the manager, was standing on the top of the ladder breathing heavily from the effort to climb the stairs and ladder. From his waist up he appeared in all his round, sweaty glory into the attic. "Rise and shine boys, it's past noon." he huffed out cheerfully.

"Noon!" Quatre sat up in a shot despite having Duo draped across him. The Deathscythe pilot rolled onto his back and slowly woke up.

"Um..... sorry man, what's up?" the braided teen was definitely not oriented yet as he yawned, stretched and rubbed at his eyes with his fist. Duo was definitely not a morning person.

"Past noon and the manager is here." Quatre informed his bedmate.

"Duo's lips formed an "o" and he quickly sat up. His eyes focused immediately on Sly's head, bringing a barely concealed smirk to his lips as he noticed every minuscule dark hair on the man's head was again strategically placed and plastered down onto the wide shining expanse of skin on the top of his head.

"Morning Sly." Duo yawned and finished his stretch, careful to miss hitting the boy next to him.

"I'm guessing you want us out of here, right?" Quatre asked and was tempted to get up, but he didn't want to stand up in his boxers in front of this man.

"Soldiers are still out there, searching for a group of teen terrorists, Gundam pilots." Sly said with a curious eye on both of them. "By any chance are they looking for you guys?"

There was a pause before Duo spoke up. "Us?" He chuckled. "You think we're Gundam pilots?" Laughter bubbled up easily from his throat and Quatre smiled at it. "He thinks we're terrorists!" Duo laughed and threw his arm around the blond indicating to the Sandrock pilot to play along. They held onto each other as they both openly laughed as if Sly's words were the funniest thing they'd ever heard.

"Alright, alright." Swirl Head chuckled at the apparent ridiculousness of his question. "It was a long shot, but I thought I'd ask."

Duo pulled back from Quatre to look at the chagrined man, a smile on his face as his laughter died down. "That's okay man. I don't always wake up to a good laugh." he said wiping moisture from his eyes.

"Well, as I said, the streets are still filled with soldiers." the man sobered a bit. "There's a group of six that I saw co-ordinating the search this morning in this area. I suppose you want to avoid them?"

Quatre nodded, his eyes wide. "Were you told why?" he asked, wondering if the lady at the door had given him their whole bogus story.

"Yeah," the man nodded his head. "Cherry told me. Unfortunately, your story is hardly unique. I get at least five boys a month with a similar, though different story." he replied sadly.

Quatre and Duo exchanged a look; maybe they had misjudged this man. "Do you do this often then? Take in runaways?" Quatre asked.

Sly shrugged casually. "Yeah, most of us in this business had our own rough beginning. We've got a soft spot for kids like you."

"Well, thank you for your kindness." Quatre said with all sincerity on behalf of Duo, himself, and the children who this man had helped.

The man nodded. "Tell you what." he began with a slight smile returning. "I've got some dishes to wash downstairs and general clean up. If you want to stay another night or so, that's how you can pay it off. I can see blondie here isn't all that comfortable on stage."

"No, he's not." Duo spoke up, flinging his arm across Quatre's shoulders. "But he did a decent job anyway." he said as an off-handed compliment for his friend's effort.

"That he did." Sly agreed with a nod to the blonde.

"Can we let you know in a few minutes about staying?" Quatre asked. "I think we need to talk about it before we decide."

The large man looked surprised that his offer might be turned down. "Well, sure. I'll be in the bar area. Come find me and I'll get you something to eat." With a wave, the older man disappeared from sight.

"He's really quite decent." Quatre observed aloud as he turned to Duo who immediately began to scoot over to his own side of the small bed, giving the Arabian his space.

"You know," Quatre's eyes narrowed as he spoke. "With your innuendos and the way he found us sleeping, they're all going to think we're...., we're...a.."

"A couple." Duo snickered.


"That's the whole idea." Duo pulled back the covers and reached for his jeans and began to slip them on.

"Why on Earth do you want them to think that?" the blond looked incredulous at him, his voice raised in alarm.

"Because it works here." he answered, then continued slipping his shirt on over his head and casually continued. "These people are cynical about love and relationships. But deep down, they hope that love will find them one day. It's their hope that someone can love them despite their looks, bodies, ability to dance or turn tricks. Deep down, everyone needs and wants to be loved. If they believe we are star-crossed lovers running from an evil step-father, they'll bend over backwards to help us."

With owlish wide eyes, Quatre stared at his friend with new eyes. Impressed with his understanding of people, he determined to glean what he could from his friend.

"Come on Quatre, get dressed. I'm hungry." Duo complained mildly as he reached for a brush from his bag and then for the end of his frazzled braid.

After a brief discussion, they decided to accept Sly's generous offer, deciding this was probably the safest place they could hide in the locked down city. They worked in the kitchen during the day, and by early evening the customers started to filter in and the music, a constant in the background after four o'clock in the afternoon, was turned up and the lights dimmed.

Cherry approached the two boys who were carrying out clean glasses to the bar in preparation for the night. She instructed them to go back up into the loft as they were expecting soldiers to be in attendance tonight.

"Thanks, Cherry." Duo smiled warmly at the woman and Quatre noticed that the cynical mask she wore on her face softened in reaction to it. She reached out and ruffled the chestnut colored bangs affectionately.

"You flirt." she chided him gently.

Duo chuckled then sobered. "Do me a favor Cherry?"

The woman's face stiffened again.

"Just keep an ear out. Let me know what the soldiers are talking about."

A look of relief flashed on her face, and Quatre wondered what she thought Duo was going to ask. Whatever it was, he didn't. She nodded her agreement and pushed them both towards the stairs, promising dinner would be sent up again.

Nan, the girl who had brought them food for the last two nights, woke them up the next morning. She was sitting on the edge of the bed and watching the two with amusement as Quatre disentangled himself from the braided octopus. "Quite the cuddler, isn't he?" she asked with humor sparkling in her eyes that were now void of the heavy makeup she wore at night.

The Arabian rolled his eyes as he managed to sit up and shifted to straighten his tee shirt.

"The girls and I heard some rumors from the soldiers last night." The girl's words brought the blond boy's sluggish mind to full alertness. He reached down and shook his bedmate's shoulder. "Hey D....Dick," He caught himself almost using Duo's real name just in time. "Wake up!"

Nan visibly fought the wicked smile on her face as Duo moaned and shifted, flinging his arm over Quatre's legs.

The blond blushed and shook the other's shoulder even harder. "Nan's here with news....wake up!!" he growled.

"Alright, alright." Duo moaned and flopped over onto his back and slowly opened his eyes. "Morning Nan." he managed a small sleepy smile at the girl.

"Morning Dickey." she said cheerfully.

The Deathscythe pilot winced, then turned a deadly glare to the blond boy smirking above him.

Quatre fought down his amusement to focus on the matter at hand. "What did you hear, Nan?" he asked.

"One very drunk and frisky soldier told Celine that his buddy told him they caught one of those Gundam Pilots."

Duo sat up and both boys paled.

"Did he say which one?" Duo asked, anxious but trying to be as casual as possible.

"The guy didn't know, just that the pilot is Asian, and that he was just a kid. They found and staked out his mobile suit until he came back, and then netted him. Evidently he fought like the devil himself and they had to shoot him with a tranquilizer to subdue him."

"Where is he... did he say? Quatre asked in a small voice.

"Top floor of the tallest building in the city, The Hertzog-Bellows building.

"Winner owned." Quatre said under his breath so only Duo could understand him.

Nan continued. "After a couple more drinks on the house, he let on that there was surveillance of another gundam in the woods. A big black one. He said the specials team that was sent here to capture the Gundam pilots believes the other pilot is trapped within the city. They're gonna wait him out because sooner or later, he'll need his mobile suit."

"So the search throughout the city by the soldiers continues?" Quatre asked with a frown marring his face.

"Yeah, they're going door to door, systematically searching businesses and homes."

"Have they come here yet?" Duo asked.

"No, but they should get to this area this afternoon."

Duo leaned forward. "The military can't find us Nan." he said emphatically. "If my friend here is found, his stepfather will...." he looked up into the dancer's light brown eyes, haunted by an unspoken past drummed up by his plea. He could see she knew quite well what he was insinuating would happen.

"I won't let them find you, and neither will the others. Though we may have to disguise the both of you." she said with a quirked up eyebrow as she thought about the idea.

"Disguise?" Quatre's voice squeaked a bit.

Duo lowered his head into his hands. "I was afraid of something like this." he moaned.

"What?" Quatre asked becoming a bit uneasy at his friends negative reaction to the word disguise.

Seeing that Duo wasn't going to answer, he looked to the young woman in front of him who merely gave them a crooked, mischievous smile and the glint in her eyes warned the Sandrock pilot he wasn't going to like whatever was coming.

An hour before the door opened, six OZ soldiers entered the bar/dance hall. They were led by the tall albino Special's agent who directed the area's search. He demanded in a firm, authoritative tone that all employees and people present in the building be rounded up and brought before him for questioning. Sly called all the men and women present in his establishment to come into the bar. As the soldiers began their thorough search for the suspected Gundam pilot hidden in the city, the leader, who had been referred to as Ghost by several of the soldiers, took a careful and scrutinizing study at the varied group of people standing in a line before him. Almost all present were dressed in robes as they prepared for the evening's entertainment, their faces heavily made up for the stage. Removing his glasses because of the dim light in the room, the commanding officer's unnaturally pale eyes scanned the group with a look of disdain clearly written on his face. There were two in the group who were more modest in dress and seemed much too young to be employees of such an establishment

"What are your names and how old are you?" the tall soldier asked in a loud, commanding voice as he bent over to peer into the two young girls' faces, knowing his unearthly-looking eyes would frighten them. His eyes shot to the small blond with the short hair and blue bow topping her head when he noticed that she jumped slightly as he barked out the question. Her large blue eyes rimmed with long eyelashes that were touched with a hint of mascara and eye liner look up at him warily.

"That's my little sister, Katie." Cherry stepped forward.

"Isn't she a little young for this kind of place?" the white skinned man asked skeptically. His eyes scanned the petite girl and took in the slender build from the slight swell of her breasts to her narrow hips and thin legs exposed by the mid-thigh hem line of her floral dress. He thought for a moment that she was really quite pretty and that when she reached her maturity she'd probably be stunning.

Cherry frowned. "She doesn't work here." she replied snidely.

The trained soldier turned his eyes to the other girl and immediately sucked in his breath. The eyes on this young one were remarkable; large and a blue-violet shade he didn't think he'd ever seen before. She was as diminutive as the blond, however, her mass of long rippling hair fell from the crown of her head like a heavy veil around her body. As if mesmerized, the Albino soldier reached out and touched the dark, warm brown hair and was surprised by the warning look those marvelous eyes gave him.

Sly stepped forward. "That's my niece, Delaney." he declared. "She's not one of the girls working here and she doesn't like to be touched."

The white skinned hand slowly dragged through the piece of long hair still trapped between his fingers until he reached its tip. He then let it gently fall to lay against the slender body. "Pity, these two could draw quite a crowd." he murmured to the manager.

Sly shrugged in reply. "They're too young and besides, their mothers wouldn't approve." He moved to stand between the two girls being scrutinized a bit too closely and put a reassuring hand on each slender shoulder. "Besides, they're here only because the soldiers on the streets scare them, so they came here after school and are waiting for their parents to pick them up after work."

The albino straightened and nodded, accepting Sly's explanation as plausible, then allowed himself to be distracted by agreeing to the manager's generous offer of a free drink from the bar.

Several minutes later, two of the soldiers returned from their search of the premises, reporting that an attic was discovered. They briefly described its contents and waited for further orders.

"What's the attic used for?" the white haired man in charge asked Sly with a penetrating glare.

Sly replied casually. "The owner sometimes comes into town and stays there occasionally when the weather keeps him from continuing his travels. And sometimes, when the girls can't make it home, it's available for them to use."

Several other soldiers returned to the bar, gave their reports, and with a nod of his head, they exited the front door. The tall white skinned man moved towards the door but paused as he passed Sly and whispered in a low voice to him. Sly shook his head vigorously with a deep frown on his face in reaction to whatever the man asked. The soldier gave a sneering smile in reply and with a nod of his head left the bar.

Quatre collapsed against his friend. "That was close." he whispered, trying to calm his rattled nerves.

Duo patted his back. "You did well Quatre." he whispered encouragingly, though he struggled to calm his own racing heart by taking in deep breaths of air.

Sly approached them. "All's clear. You should be safe here until they pull out." he assured them.

Duo nodded as he thanked the older man. "What did he say as he left?" he asked curiously.

Sly looked unsure of answering, then taking a deep breath he told him. "He offered me an outrageous sum of money for either one of your services for the night."

Quatre's eyes widened in horror, and Duo's narrowed in anger. "Pervert." he growled out. He then took a hold of Quatre's upper arm and turned towards the stairs pulling his offended friend along behind him. "Let's get changed out of this.....stuff." he grumbled with disgust as he led them back to the attic.

Feeling somewhat secure once they entered their room, the blond boy silently made his way to the bed and sat down, obviously deep in thought.

Duo followed and began to re-braid his hair.

"You know," the blond looked up thoughtfully. "These disguises could work to our advantage."

Duo's hands stopped their movement and his eyes widened. "Oh no, no, no, no, no, no. Don't even think about it." he warned the other.

"But Duo, just think about it. It makes sense." Quatre rushed to explain before his friend made up his mind to be stubborn. "They're looking for boys, not girls. Plus, they're looking for us to be on the defensive, not the offensive. We can go anywhere we please dressed like this, with no one the wiser. Who would suspect two sweet looking school girls of trying to rescue a gundam pilot out from under their noses?"

"By the colonies, Quatre," Duo protested. "You have no idea what it's like walking around as a girl, it can be dangerous and sometimes humiliating." He remembered all too well his experience of dressing like a girl while on a mission with Wufei, trapped in a similar situation like this. Without Wufei protecting him as he posed as a girl, well, things would have been very dicey indeed.

"Yes, but we can take care of ourselves, can't we?" the blonde asked, posing the question as a challenge to his reluctant friend.

"Believe me, you don't want to do this, Quatre." Duo warned as he began to work again on his braid.

"You're right, I don't want to," the blond agreed, "but like you said last night, sometimes you have to do things you don't want to in order to survive. It's the best idea we've had yet, and we need to get to whoever was captured quickly before they move him to another location."

"Out of the frying pan and into the fire." Duo moaned as he tied off the end of his braid.

"Isn't that precisely when we do our best?" Quatre smirked.

The American lowered his face into his hands and groaned with pitiful resignation.

Being a Friday night, the bar began to fill with local, regulars, and OZ soldiers. Word had evidently gotten out through the ranks of soldiers about the two young girls spotted there during the search, and the Special's agent, Ghost's, interest in them. That alone caused a curiosity among those who'd met the unsettling albino, and the thought of catching a glimpse of the two girls who'd caused him to turn his head would be well worth checking the joint out. Unbeknownst to them, however, the two "girls" were in the attic planning a daring rescue attempt of the captured Gundam pilot.

on to part 6

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