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

Warnings: light angst, drama

Educating Quatre - Part 10
Duo's Friendship Arc 18
by Dyna Dee

Duo's mind seem to slog out of the hazy fog his mind was mired in and he licked his lips, wincing at the odd taste in his mouth. If he didn't know better, he'd have sworn that he'd been drugged. His nostrils breathed in the foul smell of rotting garbage, and it worked as well as smelling salts to bring him to full awareness. Wakefulness, however, brought along with it the pain in his aching legs and in his boney butt resting on the hard ground. "Oh shit." he groaned. "What happened?"

"You fell asleep." Quatre's voice came from above him. "It was the tea." he explained even before Duo managed to open his eyes which felt like lead held them down.

"Sorry man." the braided boy slowly eased himself up and rubbed his face in order to wake himself up further. He looked up as he felt his friend's hand grip his shoulder.

"It wasn't your fault." Quatre assured him in his gentle manner. "Do you think you can stand and walk now?"

"Yeah,..... sure." Duo answered sounding a bit doubtful as he tried to move his legs. A whole new stream of curses flowed from his lips as the carefully taken movement brought pain coupled with the numb unresponsiveness from his injured legs that had fallen asleep.

The blond boy stood, feeling stiff himself, and reach down to help Duo up. The American groaned as he stood on his unsteady legs and took a few staggering steps to try them out.

"Go slowly." Quatre suggested, as they slowly made their way to the entrance of the alley.

The braided teen was startled to see the day was ending as the evening shadows lengthened into night. He'd obviously slept away the afternoon. They walked along the city streets, careful to stay to the shadows as much as possible. Their progress was frustratingly slow to both of them as they made frequent stops to let Duo rest.

After what seemed like most of the night had passed, they found themselves several blocks from their waiting bed. Duo's arm was draped over Quatre's shoulder and the blond's arm was wrapped tightly around his waist, helping to support his damaged legs. They halted and ducked into the shadows after seeing familiar movements ahead of them, recognizing OZ doing another door-to-door search.

"Quatre," Duo's voice came out in a long, weary sigh. "I can't go any further. Just put me in an alley and get outta here."

"I'm not leaving you, Duo." the other boy answered offhandedly, dismissing the injured boy's request completely.

"Please, Quatre." the braided boy leaned against the building to support his weight and catch his breath. "Just this once, stop being Mr. Considerate and save yourself." he pleaded with effort.

"No!" the blond answered sharply. "Heero put me in charge of this mission and we'll both hide until they're gone."

The wounded boy looked up at his friend through his bangs seeing the determination in the Winner boy's eyes. Damn but his legs hurt abominably. "I'm in no shape to run and hide, Quatre." he replied honestly, hoping to convince his friend to go on without him.

"Think Duo." Quatre ordered as he turned to face his friend. "You're the self-proclaimed street kid, master of the run and hide game. Where can we hide where they won't look?"

The American boy's head turned about to take in his surroundings; they were in a neighborhood of commercial buildings topped with residential apartments. The security on the closed shops would be too time consuming to break in quickly without tripping alarms. Then his eyes lit on a dark space between the buildings. "Let's go down that alley." he pointed to the dark path twenty feet behind them.

Quatre got a better grip on his friend and they made their way to the alley they'd passed minutes before, being careful to stay out of the streetlights and keeping to the deeper shadows.

The alleyway was even more deeply darkened by the night, but the illumination from the lit windows several stories above ground level gave off enough light for the two boys to just make out the shadows hidden in the dark. On the ground were dark, lumpy mounds lining the building's outer wall. Duo whispered that they were homeless people sleeping. Halfway down the alley stood a black rectangle shape, about four feet high.

"There!" Duo said in a loud whisper. "We can hide there and there's a good chance they won't search it."

Quatre's eyes squinted to try and make out what it was that Duo was referring to. Besides the men sleeping on the ground, all he could see were the outlines of large, commercial trash receptacles. A sinking feeling entered his chest. "Surely you don't mean the dumpsters?" he asked incredulously.

"It's the only place." Duo replied solemnly.

"By Allah, Duo. I can't hide in there." he gasped, horrified at the suggestion.

"Why not?" Duo hissed as he started to hobble towards the shadowed object.

"It's dirty, full of germs, and it smells horrible." Quatre answered, disgust dripping in his voice. "It's unsanitary."

"That's why they won't search there." The boy in front of him hissed back. "And from a different perspective, it's also a prime source of discarded necessities for the poor and homeless. And for some desperate enough, it's where they got their last meal."

"Oh, please." Quatre snorted derisively, wrinkling his nose at the offending odor permeating the air surrounding the large black object they were approaching.

The American stopped as he reached the large bin, then turned angrily to face his friend and hissed in a low voice, "So you're telling me that you are too good to use what we have available? Your delicate sensibilities would be too offended, right?

Is little Mr. Nibs afraid of getting his hands dirty? Would you rather be captured?" he taunted unkindly.

Hearing the mocking tone in Duo's voice, Quatre knew that, once again he'd offended his friend. "I'm sorry." he said, honestly contrite. He'd asked Duo to take the lead again and already he was balking at the first decision the wounded boy made.

"What for?" Duo shot in back in irritation as he bent to pick up a box, turned it upside down, and pushed it up against the garbage container. "For being born with a silver spoon in your mouth, or for having everything you've ever wanted or needed." his voice was filled with mild disdain. "Or maybe you're sorry for not looking at a full dumpster as a treasure trove, where someone's discarded clothes might keep you warm, or thrown-out food would be welcomed to ease the hollow, cramping ache of starvation? Is that what you're sorry for?"

Without looking back, the long haired boy used the side of the dumpster to support himself as he carefully stepped up onto the box. As his hands gripped the cold metallic rim, he mentally prepared himself for the inevitable pain he was about to feel as he climbed over the sides. He was stopped short when two arms encircled his waist from behind, and Quatre's head came to rest against the middle of his back as he embraced his friend tightly.

"I'm sorry I offended you." the blond boy said, cautiously keeping his voice down. "I'm sorry there are children who still look at a dumpster as you described it. I'm....I'm just so sorry." They stood there for a moment, and the Winner heir could hear the rapid heart beat beneath his ear, and slowly, Duo's tense body relaxed under his embrace.

"I'm sorry too." Duo whispered back allowing his anger and irritation seep out of him, not quite knowing why he was taking things out on one of his best friends. Taking a deep breath he looked over his shoulder. "Come on, help me up and kick the box away when you climb in after me." He turned around to face the inside of the dark bin, wishing he could see better to know where he should land. His arms tensed in readiness. "Try to ease my legs over so they don't scrape the edge." he instructed the other.

With a slight spring, Duo lifted his body up with the strength of his arms, the pain in his legs making it almost impossible for him to bend them. "Swing them over." he grunted.

Quatre's hands were poised and ready, yet he froze, not knowing where to place his hands. Duo's dress had lifted, showing the bare backs of his thighs, and most of his legs and boxers. He reasoned that he needed to push Duo up and over by the seat of his pants. The problem was, he was wearing a dress.

"Hurry up!" the injured boy complained as his arms began to ache from the strain.

Not wanting to touch the injured front of Duo's legs, the Arabian moved forward and grabbed hold of the bottom of Duo's boxers, and swiftly lifted him up by them, and over the edge.

The sound of a body hitting plastic and cardboard was followed up immediately with "Sweet Mary...." Duo groaned.

"Are you alright?" Quatre climbed up on the box and peered into the dark expanse of the large container, careful to breath through his teeth gritted mouth and not his nose.

"Yeah, just peachy. You give a hell of a wedgie, Quatre." came the sarcastic reply. "Just get in here and don't land on me!"

Angling himself away from Duo's voice, the Arabian boy grabbed hold of the rounded edge and lifting his body, he effortlessly swung his legs over. His body landed on objects solid and some not so firm but... squishy, and the smell of the rotting garbage intensified. He involuntarily shuddered at the unknown garbage that surrounded him.

"By Allah..." he groaned, bringing his hands up to cover his nose and mouth. He heard a rustling in the garbage behind him and turned to see Duo's dark form disappearing downward.

"What are you doing?" he asked, irritated by the whole situation. The shadowed movement stopped.

"Ya gotta dig down and nest as close to the bottom as you can. Find a dry spot." Duo explained and advised.

Swallowing his disgust, Quatre Winner, heir to the Winner fortune equaling billions of credits, began to shift plastic and paper bags filled with garbage to worm his way down further into the dumpster. Curse words he'd learned from his early association with Duo came easily to his lips as filled paper bags broke apart and spilled their contents. His hands were covered in wet slime.

"I think I'm going to be sick." he announced, pulling the back of his hand against his lips as if to stop the bile from rising. Just then his foot settled on something that squished disgustingly.

"Over here, quick." Duo whispered anxiously as sounds of approaching vehicles came from the end of the alley and grew louder with each moment.

Wading through the nearly filled garbage dumpster was not an easy task, but the Sandrock pilot valiantly struggled towards his friend's voice.

"Where?" he whispered, not seeing the other in the darkness. He felt his arm grabbed and his body pulled forcefully forward, until he was pressed against Duo's slender form.

"Heads up." Duo warned and slipped a cardboard box over both their heads. "I've got a piece of cardboard and a plastic bag on the bottom." the Deathscythe pilot whispered in his ear. "Sit down and I'll sit on your lap."

"You weigh more." Quatre complained logically as his ears followed the sounds of the approaching transports.

"Well you can't sit on my lap." The other pointed out the obvious, and Quatre conceded that point was true.

They carefully and quickly rearranged their position so that the Arabian was pressed against the back of the dumpster with Duo immediately in front of him.

"Alright, on three." Duo instructed. "But go slow so I can throw stuff on top of the box to conceal us."

On three, they slowly bent their knees and the box above them became heavy with whatever garbage the American could reach and toss upwards. Duo hissed at the pain the downward movement caused him.

Quatre sat on the cardboard that was flattened out on the bottom of the large bin, and pulled Duo carefully to sit on his lap. The braided boy gasped as the piles of garbage re-settled on his bandaged legs.

"How close do you think they are?" the blond whispered into his partner's ear.

"Don't know, maybe half a block." Duo hissed back. "Just relax and listen for any approaching sound." He squirmed on the Arabian's lap trying to get into a comfortable position. He leaned his back slightly against his friend and sighed deeply. "So tired." his voice came out small and weary.

"Then rest." Quatre said gently, all anger and hostility they'd shared moments ago were forgiven and forgotten. He reached up and pulled the wounded teen more firmly against his chest to reassure the American that it was alright to use him as a pillow. "I'll listen."

Duo's head nodded in agreement against his shoulder. "Thanks Quatre."

The two boys from opposite side of the economic spectrum sat quietly in the industrial trash container for nearly an hour before the sounds of someone approaching their location could be heard.

on to part 11

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