Disclaimers:  I do not own Gundam Wing or any of its characters.

Notes:  My first Neko fic.  Heero is walking home from work, when he comes across a rather upsetting scene and decides he has
to help.

Strays and Misfits

Part One

It was a miserable night.  Heero was tired and chilled due to getting caught off guard by the sudden rainstorm.  He had just
gotten off of his shift at the hospital and was looking forward to relaxing when the downpour had begun.  He always walked to
and from work, at least when the weather was nice.  Since the hospital where he worked was so near to his home, it was
simpler not to take his car.  Now though, he was tired and wet . . . cold and miserable.  All he wanted to do was fill his bathtub
with warm water and soak for a while before going to bed.

He paused briefly under the awning in front of an electronics store, if only to get a break from the storm drenching him.  He
shook his head, sending droplets of water to fly from the ends of his hair.  A news story on one of the televisions in the window
caught his eye and he turned his attention to it.

It was a story about the Feline Companion program . . . but of course Heero was used to seeing this topic in the news.  Feline
Companions were genetically bred humans whose DNA had been spliced with that of the common cat.  It had begun, as many
things had, potentially for military usage.  However, military funding had backed out and through private donations and grants,
the program had become more or less a foundation to provide companions for people in need of a little help or friendship.  Feline
Companions were sold to invalids or the infirmed, to the old . . . basically to anyone who needed extra assistance in their daily
lives, some even being sold as housekeepers and nannies.

After numerous trials, activists won a great battle in banning the creation of new Feline Companions in laboratories.  As they had
the capability to think freely, they were now seen as sentient life and therefore had been given the freedom to breed themselves.  
Both male and female had been given the ability to bear young, resulting in more offspring for the retailers to sell.

There were numerous corporations around the world that sold these companions.  The ones that were unfortunate enough not to
be placed in a home, were sent to encampments where they were supposedly being trained to be integrated into society, but
many companies just used them as breeding camps, an illegal action.  There were a number of legitimate schools though,
teaching the companions what was necessary for them to survive on their own, but funding was difficult to come by and many
of these schools were eventually forced to close down.

This particular news broadcast that Heero was viewing seemed to be detailing the high number of strays in the city . . . the ones
that had run away or been abandoned by callous owners.  The FCPS - Feline Companion Placement Services - was the main
organization seeing to it that strays and other feline companions received good homes.  It was one of the few good institutions
around.  Heero found it to be a shame that these creatures had to suffer so much.  He wished that he could do something to
change things, even if only for one of these feline companions.

With a sigh, Heero turned away from the televisions and stepped back out into the pouring rain once more.  He briskly walked
along the street, fully intending to get home as quickly as he possibly could.  However, fate seemed to have other intentions for
him this night.

Heero was approaching an alleyway when he heard the first muffled whimper.  He shook his head, certain that he had heard
wrong.  But then he heard it again, only louder this time, and followed by a cruel voice.

“Shut up, you little punk . . . just spread those thighs of yours and I’ll make sure you don’t die before you reach that camp.”

Heero didn’t like the sound of that.  He cautiously approached the alley, peering into the dark depths as soon as he could.  He
wasn’t about to barge in there without knowing the situation.  He may be curious, but he was no fool.  What he saw made him
frown deeply.

A burly brute was pinning a slender feline companion to the brick wall of one of the buildings that stood on either side of the
alley.  One of his large hands was pinning both of the youth’s hands over his head, his other hand roaming across the planes of
the young feline’s body in a greedy manner.

Heero’s eyes were drawn to this pale young man . . . he was certain of the gender, despite the thick mane of hair that fell in
knotted waves around him . . . the youth’s body was very nearly bare, just the slightest amount of cloth covering his lower
half.  His ears were a mangy black, probably in need of a washing, as was his tail which thrashed around angrily.  Sparkling
heliotrope eyes gleamed with fury at the brute’s dare to touch him, a vicious snarl slipping past tempting rosebud lips.

Heero decided that he couldn’t just stand by and watch this happen.  For years now he had been wanting to do something to
help, and here was his chance.  He just hoped it wouldn’t end up getting himself killed.

Stepping into the alleyway, Heero cleared his throat.  “What’s going on here?”  He demanded, keeping his own fears from
echoing in his tone.

The brute ceased his pawing of the youth’s body, yet didn’t release his hold on his wrists.  “I just caught this feline . . . he’s a
stray, has to go to a camp.”  The man said.  Obviously he was a Catcher . . . why else would he be out in the pouring rain
chasing after felines.

“He’s not a stray.  He’s mine.”  Heero said, although that was a total lie.  Still, better to lie than to watch as that feline was
ravaged.  “He must have gotten out while I was at work.”

“How do I know this isn’t some trick?”

Heero thought for a moment, frowning when only one option came to mind.  “Well, let him go.  If he comes to me, then he’s
mine and not a stray . . . strays do not generally like strangers, especially humans.”

“And if he’s not yours and I lose him?”

“Well, then you can arrest me . . . it is a crime to interfere with a Catcher’s duties.”  Heero said, turning his gaze to look at the
feline.  The youth was staring at him, probably in shock that Heero would make such an attempt to spare him from the brute’s
advances.  Heero could only hope that the feline would play along so that he wouldn’t end up in jail tonight . . . although with the
way that the man was looking at him, Heero might have other problems should the feline decide to flee the scene.  Heero might
very well have to take his place against that wall . . . a thought that made Heero shudder in disgust.

“Fine . . . but if he runs you’re in a good deal of trouble.”  The man warned.

Heero completely believed that.  If that man had been able to catch a feline, then Heero probably wouldn’t have much luck in
outrunning him.  Felines were known to be very fast, as well as agile creatures.  Unless this one was lame, then the Catcher was
exceptional at his work.

“Yes, sir.”  Heero answered.

The brute waved his hand.  “You get over at this end . . . I’ll stand over there.”  The man said, dragging the feline behind him as
he took a place at the entrance of the alley.

Heero nodded, uneasy about entering the alley.  Still, he had little choice now.  He had already said that the feline was his . . . he
couldn’t back out now.  He took a breath and turned to face the youth, smiling softly to him and hoping that this would work.

The man looked reluctant, yet eventually released his grasp of the feline’s wrists, pushing him forward a ways.  The feline
staggered, stumbling away from the Catcher a step or two.  He looked between Heero and the man repeatedly, as if weighing his
options.  Then slowly, as if dreading a painful outcome, the dark-haired feline took the first tentative step in Heero’s direction.

He moved faster after that.  The feline all but scurried over to Heero’s side, taking hold of his arm and hiding behind his body.  
“Thank you.”  He whispered quietly, pressing close to Heero’s back and timidly slipping his arm about Heero’s waist, as if he
was familiar with him.

Heero gulped at the feel of sharp claws digging through his shirt, fearing what would happen should the young feline get angry
with him.  He kept the nervousness from his voice though, looking up at the man before him.  “See . . . I told you he was mine.”

The Catcher grumbled, glaring at the two of them.  “Fine . . . looks like he’s yours.  Next time be sure he wears his tags or I
won’t let him go so easily.”  The man said, shaking his head.  He stalked off, muttering that the feline was far too much trouble

Heero let out a relieved breath.  When he felt the feline draw his hand away, he grabbed the youth’s wrist.  “Come on . . . I’m
taking you home with me.”  Heero stated.

The feline pulled away, staring wide-eyed at Heero, his wrist still held by Heero’s hand.  “What?  No way!  I’m no house pet!”

Heero shook his head.  “And I don’t intend to make you one.  If anything, we should keep up the appearance that I do own
you.  That Catcher might just be waiting outside the alley, waiting for us to make a mistake.  Besides, wouldn’t you like to get
out of this rain . . . to have a dry, warm place to live for a change?”

The feline narrowed his eyes, a low snarl coming from his throat.  “No . . . I ain’t going anywhere with you.”  He seethed.  The
feline hissed angrily, baring his fangs.

“Come along, I don’t live far from here.”  Heero said, ignoring the anger.  He pulled the feline out of the alley, all but dragging
him until they came to the street.  Then both Heero and the feline saw the Catcher standing at the end of the street.  It was
obvious that he was watching them.  “See, I told you.”  Heero whispered, indicating the man that was standing beside a van.

The feline immediately stopped his fighting.  He shakily wrapped his arm around Heero’s form again, following quietly where
Heero led him.  As soon as Heero pulled him into his apartment building, the struggling began again.  Now that they were out of
sight of the Catcher, the feline seemed intent on getting away.

Heero sighed and kept pulling him.  He wasn’t about to let the feline stay out in that rain all night.  Bad enough he was dressed so
poorly and filthy . . . he needed a good night’s sleep in a clean, warm bed, not in a dumpster or in an alley.

“Let me go, you son of a bitch!”  The feline yelled, frantically trying to pull his wrist from Heero’s hand.

Heero uneasily unlocked his door and pushed the feline inside the apartment, hoping that his neighbors hadn’t been disturbed.  “I
won’t hurt you.”  Heero said, trying to calm the feline.  He had no intentions of harming him.  He only wanted to help, to give
him a roof to sleep under for at least one night.

“Yeah . . . right!”  The feline hissed sarcastically, once again trying to yank his hand away.  “I know your type.  All of ya think
alike.  Let me go!”

Heero closed his door and locked it.  He crossed his legs and flopped down to the floor, yanking the youth down as well.  The
feline all but fell across Heero’s lap and Heero circled his arms around him, holding him securely.

The youth froze in his arms for a moment . . . then began to thrash.  “No!  Lemme go!  I don’t want to be owned!  I ain’t no
object!”  He yelled, ineffectually trying to writhe out of Heero’s arms.

Heero simply held the young feline securely.  “Sshh . . . I have no intentions of harming you in any way, I swear it.  I only want
to help you.”  Heero said.  “You’re cold and you’re wet.  You need to sleep in a warm bed . . . to have a roof over your head.  If
you want to leave in the morning, you’re free to do so, but I can’t just sit by and let you walk out now . . . not in that weather,
and not with the chance that the Catcher is out there waiting to get his hands on you again.”

The feline shivered, his struggles slowly ceasing.  He twisted his fingers in Heero’s jacket, drawing his legs closer to his body.  
“I . . . I don’t want him to get me.”  He whispered, curling into Heero’s embrace.  A stifled sob from the youth made Heero
frown again.

“It’s okay.  You’re safe now.”  Heero assured him, gently running his hands along the feline’s back, offering what comfort he

The feline reacted immediately.  He fell against Heero, nudging his face against Heero’s chest as weak whimpers escaped him.  
‘He must be starved for affection’, Heero thought, feeling as the youth wrapped trembling arms around him.

“P-Please don’t hurt me.”  The feline whispered, his breath hitching in his throat, his slender body trembling.

Heero smiled, raising a hand to brush through his greasy hair.  “I won’t hurt you.”  He replied, trying to calm him.  Heero was
quite ready to stay on the floor all night if it was necessary . . . the youth obviously needed the comfort, the reassurances that he
was safe.

After a short while, the youth began to calm.  The trembling in his body subsided and his breathing grew calmer, as if he was
adjusting to his new situation.  Heero was glad to see that the feline was no longer panicking, that he was accepting Heero’s help

Carefully, Heero loosened his embrace, giving the feline the opportunity to flee if he wanted to.  The youth didn’t take it, curling
closer to Heero’s body instead.  “Are you hungry?”

The feline nodded against him, staying silent.

Slowly, Heero rose to his feet, urging the feline to stand as well.  “Come on then . . . I’ll make something for you.”  He said,
offering the youth a small smile.  “Why don’t you get washed up while I cook?  You’re free to take a bath if you want.”

“R-Really?  I . . . I can take a bath?”  The feline asked as if in shock.

Heero let go of the youth.  “Of course.  I’ll even loan you something to wear tonight.”  He said, laying his hand on the feline’s
back and urging him to walk.  They strolled down a hallway and Heero pointed to a door on the right.  “There’s the bathroom.  
Use anything you want.  Towels are in the closet.  I’ll just go and get you some clothes.”  He turned, but before he could take a
step he paused, hearing a whispered voice.

“Y-You never told me your name.”

Heero blinked, looking to the long-haired youth.  “I’m sorry . . . I forgot to introduce myself.”  He turned and stood in front of
the young feline.  “My name is Heero Yuy.”  He held his hand out in a gesture of friendship.

“I . . . I’m Duo Maxwell.”  The feline replied, accepting the handshake timidly.

Heero smiled, shaking the youth’s chill hand.  “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Duo.  Now, why don’t you get to that bath.  I’ll
leave the clothes outside the door for you.  Just come to the kitchen when you’re done . . . I’ll have something for you to eat.”

Duo nodded shyly, then entered the bathroom, closing the door behind himself quickly.  Heero wasn’t surprised to hear the lock
click . . . no doubt Duo didn’t trust him.

He turned and headed into his bedroom, quickly striding over to his dresser.  However, once he was there, he didn’t really know
what to get out.  Unless he wanted to add holes to his clothes, he didn’t have many options . . . Duo’s tail would need space.  
Then he thought of something.  His ex-boyfriend had left some clothes.  It wasn’t likely that he would be coming back, not
unless he wanted a punch in the face, so Duo could use something of his.

Rooting around in the drawer, Heero pulled out a rather large T-shirt.  Surely this would do if only for tonight.  He’d figure
something else out in the morning . . . he couldn’t let the feline go back out so scantily clad, not if the weather continued to be
as chill as it was tonight.  Before he left, he took the time to change his own clothes, putting on a pair of sweat pants and an old
T-shirt.  His other clothes had been soaked by the rain.  He’d much prefer to dry his hair first, but Duo was using his bathroom
so his towels were currently out of reach at the moment.

Grabbing a hairbrush, since he was sure that Duo would need it, he left the bedroom and approached the bathroom door.  He
smirked at the sound of running water, knowing that the youth was taking Heero up on the offer of a bath or a shower.  
Knocking lightly, Heero waited a moment for the water to shut off.

“I found a shirt . . . it’s a bit big, so it should cover you well enough.  And I’m leaving a brush out here as well.”  Heero said,
laying the shirt and brush on the floor in front of the door.

“Thank you.”  Came the reply, muffled slightly by the door between them.

Heero nodded to himself and went to the kitchen.  He sighed though, after having a look in his fridge.  There was really nothing
edible in there.  Heero simply did very little shopping for himself.  He was usually out all the time.  If not at work, then he was
volunteering his services for a number of local charity groups.  He enjoyed helping people.  Ever since he had lost his own
family, it helped to do things for others, just like people had done for him when he had been in need.  In a way, it almost felt as
if he were repaying some debt . . . a way to honor the kindness of the people that had been there when he had needed them.

With a sigh, he pulled out the only available food he really had . . . frozen tv dinners.  They were easy to cook, that’s why he
had them.  He decided on a simple chicken and vegetables over rice dinner . . . it was the only one he had two of, so he and Duo
could have the same meal.  He followed the directions, popping them in the microwave.  Then he returned to the fridge and
looked for something to drink.

Opening the carton of milk he found inside, he sniffed it, immediately curling his nose in disgust.  That was most definitely
spoiled.  However, he did see another carton in the fridge.  Hopefully, that one was still fresh.  Setting the spoiled milk aside - he
decided to discard it later - he retrieved the other carton, thankfully finding it to still be good.  Considering there was nothing
other than milk in his fridge to drink, Heero decided that it would be good enough for tonight.  He’d definitely have to go
shopping soon . . . the only thing he had left looked to be a few eggs and nothing else . . . at least nothing that wasn’t spoiled.

Leaving the good milk in the fridge for the moment, Heero walked over to the dryer, snagging the afghan that was folded on top
of his couch along the way.  He knew that it would be a while before Duo felt warm, and he wanted to do all that he could to
help.  He tossed the thin blanket into the dryer and turned it on.  Heero returned to the kitchen just in time to hear the microwave
signal that dinner was done.  He heard the bathroom door open as he started pouring a glass of milk for his guest.

“Great timing.  Your dinner is ready.  You can just sit . . .”  He paused and nearly dropped the glass of milk when he turned to
see Duo standing there.

Oddly enough, Duo looked even more vulnerable wearing the oversized T-shirt than he had when he had only been wearing his
tattered rags.  His hair was still wet, but it flowed down his back in a dark waterfall.  After a moment, Duo folded his arms over
his chest and seemed to shrink into himself, Heero’s hairbrush clutched in one hand.

“What’re you staring at?”  The feline asked guardedly, his ears falling slightly.

Heero shook his head.  “That was rude of me, and I apologize.  Please . . . have a seat.”  

He placed the bowl of dinner and glass in front of Duo and turned to take his own dinner from the microwave.  Duo sat in his
seat, setting the hairbrush down on the floor by his feet.  After handing Duo a fork, he retrieved the blanket from the dryer and
placed it around Duo’s shoulders since Duo was still trembling.  If it were from the cold, then the warmth would help.  If it
were from fear, then the extra security would help.

Then Heero sat across from Duo and proceeded to eat.

Heero had only gotten a few bites in when he noticed that Duo was fiddling with the fork.  “Is there a problem?  I didn’t
undercook it, did I?”  It was easy to undercook a dinner when you made more than one at the same time.

Duo started and swallowed as he shook his head.  “No . . . it isn’t undercooked, but . . .”  After a little more fidgeting, Duo
sighed.  “I don’t know how to use a fork.  It wasn’t something I was taught.”  He grimaced.  “I always ate from a plate on the
floor, and then out of dumpsters.”

Heero put his own fork down as he felt a wave of sorrow engulf him.  This was a sentient, and seemingly, intelligent being who
had been forced to act like a mindless pet.  He couldn’t believe the callousness of some people.

“May I show you?  It will mean me touching your hand and wrist.”  Heero offered.

Duo gave Heero a wary look, but he nodded.

Heero rose from his seat and walked around to stand just behind Duo, positioning himself so that he could see quite clearly over
the youth’s shoulder.  “Are you right-handed or left-handed?”

“R-Right.”  Duo whispered.

Heero nodded, gently taking hold of Duo’s right hand.  He almost commented on the sharp, claw-like fingernails that the young
feline had.  However, he would not suggest that Duo cut them if he only stayed the night . . . he’d need those if he were to
survive as a stray probably.

Heero tried to keep his touching to a minimum as he guided Duo’s fingers and hand.  “You put your fingers like so . . . and
move your wrist like this.”  Heero said, gently guiding Duo’s hand so that the fork was within easy reach of Duo’s mouth.  
“There . . . now . . . try on your own.”  Heero nodded, staying close by as Duo took a fork-full on his own, shakily
maneuvering his hand properly.

Satisfied that Duo was doing well enough on his own, Heero went to sit in his own seat.  As they ate, Heero noticed that Duo
occasionally pushed his long hair out of the way.  He could see the knots and idly wondered if Duo would need some help.

“Will you be comfortable sleeping like that?  With your hair loose, I mean.”  Heero said once he was finished eating, setting his
empty bowl aside.  “I could help you with it, if you wouldn’t mind.”

Duo blinked, dropping his fork into the bowl as he reached behind himself to pull his long hair over his shoulder, holding the
tangled tresses close to himself.  He narrowed his eyes at Heero, his ears falling flat against his head.

“You ain’t cuttin’ my hair.”  The young feline seethed bitterly, a low snarl coming from deep within his throat.

This time it was Heero’s turn to blink.  He was taken aback by Duo’s reaction.  The young feline must have a reason for not
wanting his hair to be cut . . . perhaps a strong sentimental value attached to those long waves of hair.

Heero raised his hands, smiling kindly.  “I wouldn’t think of cutting your hair.”  He assured the young man.  “I meant only to
help you brush it.  It’s long and I simply figured that you might need a hand in tending to it.”

Duo’s ears perked up.  “Y-You won’t cut it?”  He asked.

“Of course I won’t.”  Heero replied.  “May I?”

Duo nodded a little, pushing his hair back over his shoulder.  “Okay.”  He said, folding his hands in his lap and sitting quietly, his
head bowed slightly.

Heero smiled, getting out of his seat and moving to stand behind Duo again.  He retrieved the brush from the floor, taking a
moment to graze his fingers over the knotted mass before he carefully began to brush it.  Heero worked slowly and cautiously.  
Each time the brush hit a tangle, Heero would delicately work through it with his fingers, not wanting to break even one strand
of the feline’s hair.  It was as soft as silk, and by the time Heero finally worked out all of the knots, it fell around Duo like a
cape, shining and simply glorious.

“You have lovely hair, Duo.”  Heero said quietly, separating the satiny waterfall into equal sections and braiding it.

“T-Thank you.”  Duo whispered shyly.

Heero frowned as he reached the end of the braid, finding that he had nothing to tie it off with.  “Here, hold this.”  He said,
handing the braid over to Duo and making sure his fingers would keep it secure while he looked around for something.  

He rummaged around in his kitchen drawers, even though he knew very well that he didn’t have any elastic hair bands.  The
best he could do was some string.  With a sigh, he returned to Duo’s side and tied the string tight around the end of the braid.

“I guess that’ll have to do for now.”  Heero said, then blinked as he flicked his eyes up to look at Duo’s face.  The young feline
was barely awake, his eyes drooping heavily.  Without a word, Heero bent and swept Duo into his arms.

“Lemme go.”  Duo spoke with a barely heard whisper, his words trailing off as sleep beckoned to him.

“I think you need to get some sleep.  So I’m putting you to bed.”  Heero said, adding a reassurance as a second thought.  “Don’t
worry, I won’t hurt you.”  He didn’t want Duo to fear him any more than he already did.

Duo made some unintelligible reply.

Heero carefully laid Duo down in his bed, arranging the feline so that he would be comfortable.  He drew the blankets up, snugly
tucking the youth in.  He smiled as Duo snuggled deep into the blankets, clutching them tightly to himself.

Giving in to temptation, Heero stroked his fingers over Duo’s head and lightly scratched his ears.  The faint rumbling purr that
came from Duo’s slumbering body made Heero’s smile widen, a deep warmth spreading through his body.  He liked hearing that
sound from Duo . . . he couldn’t explain why.

“You sleep well, Duo.”  Heero said quietly, reluctantly letting his hand fall away from Duo’s head.

He turned and left the bedroom, grabbing a spare pillow and a blanket from the hall closet as he returned to the living room.  He
switched off the lights and made sure his front door was locked, then settled himself on the sofa.  Finding a suitably comfortable
position, Heero fell asleep.  His last thought before darkness came over him, was that he hoped Duo would still be there when he

To Be Continued . . .