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

Notes:  Heero takes Duo and Quatre shopping, then off to a supermarket where Duo meets up with old acquaintances . . . both
good and bad.



Strays and Misfits



Part Eight


Quatre was in awe of the vast amount of space inside the department store that Heero had brought him to.  Although a few
people were giving him odd looks, Quatre couldn’t bring himself to care.  This was . . . it was amazing.  He had never seen
anything like it before.

Heero had said that he could pick out his own clothes, and Quatre was looking forward to that.  At the moment though, Heero
and Duo were in the furniture department.  When Quatre had started fidgeting out of anxiousness to explore this strange place,
Heero had told him to look around, and when he found something that he felt could keep his attention, to stay in that place so
that Heero could find him.

So Quatre was wandering around now . . . shrinking from people who came too close, but looking at the items that he passed.  
Nothing really held his interest for long . . . he didn’t know what most of it was for.  Oh, he’d looked at the clothes that were
made especially for felines, but he didn’t want to browse through the apparel without Heero there.  What if the human had rules
. . . or decided that Quatre’s choices were wrong?  Quatre didn’t want to take the chance of angering the human.

After a few more minutes, he found himself captivated . . . in the toy department.  He had passed by the toy soldiers . . . had no
interest in the girls’ dolls.  However . . . the stuffed animals on display . . . that was another matter altogether.  Quatre had
always wanted a toy like he’d seen some little humans carrying.  He had seen children as they’d come by the camp . . . their
parents shopping for companions to work for them.  Quatre had often looked on those human children with envy . . . he’d
always wanted something small and cuddly that he could hug whenever he needed or wanted to hug something.

Hesitantly, he reached forward and picked up one of the animals.  He glanced around, making sure that no one was looking, then
brought the fuzzy item to his face.  ‘Almost as soft as a newborn kit.’  Quatre thought, nuzzling the stuffed animal.


*****


Heero left Duo in the clothing department, so that the long-haired feline could look through the selections available while Heero
went in search of Quatre.  After a few inquiries - a number of people had remembered seeing Quatre pass by - he found himself
in the toy department.  With a gentle smile on his face, he searched the toy department carefully, looking down each and every
aisle.

He found Quatre standing in front of a display of stuffed animals.  The pale feline was clutching an indistinguishable ball of white
fluff and purring loudly, rubbing his cheek against the stuffed animal.  It was quite an adorable sight.

“Quatre?”  Heero spoke.

The feline jumped and turned to Heero almost guiltily.  “Oh!  I’m sorry . . . I . . . I’m ready.”

Heero felt a stab of pain as Quatre gave him a sad look before turning to put the animal back on the shelf.  ‘Damn!  If that’s the
look Duo described, Quatre will be impossible to say no to.’  Although he knew that the feline wasn’t trying to manipulate him
on purpose, he could guess that the animal - a large rabbit - was something that Quatre really wanted.  He gently stopped Quatre
from putting the toy back, reaching out and grasping the blonde’s wrist before he could let go.

“You can keep it, Quatre.”  Heero smiled.  He nodded as Quatre blinked and pulled the toy close again, a bright smile coming to
his face.  “Come on . . . let’s get you some clothes.”


*****


After they were done shopping, Duo couldn’t wipe the smile off his face as he and Quatre followed Heero out of the store.  
Along with the clothing, Heero had ordered a bedroom set for the spare bedroom, so that Duo would have a room to himself.  
Duo had been so overwhelmed as Heero asked him what his preference in bedding was, that he had pounced on Heero and
hugged him out of sheer gratitude.

The set had a bed, dresser, bookshelf, and night stand . . . all in a rich, dark cherry wood.  When Duo had stated that they could
just get a regular metal frame - the cheaper furniture set - Heero had shaken his head and motioned to the drawers that were set
into the wooden bedframe for storage, telling him the metal frame didn’t offer that option.  Plus, the headboard had another
small shelf set into it . . . the perfect size for books.  Heero had ducked his head and stated that he hoped Duo would fill all of
his bookshelves with books that he loved.

Duo had blushed in reaction, only nodding his head mutely.  Heero and Duo had been assured by the salesclerk that the furniture
would be delivered the same day . . . as per Heero’s request.  It was costing a bit more to have it delivered today, but Heero had
said he wanted Duo to have his own room as soon as possible, so that he could feel at home in his new home.  He had also told
Duo that he could fix the spare bedroom however he wanted . . . to which Duo had hugged him yet again.

Quatre was walking behind them now, as they headed to the car.  He was happy, a light purr rumbling in his chest as he hugged
his new stuffed bunny and held his own bag of clothing.  He had gone with pale shades of blue that set off his brilliant eyes.  
Darker colors would only have made his skin look paler than it was.  At the moment, the little blonde was wearing a sky-blue top
that was a little big on him, and a pair of tan slacks.  There was also a pair of comfortable sneakers on his feet that had velcro
fastenings . . . as they had learned that the feline didn’t know how to tie his own shoes.  Besides, with his hands as torn up as
they were, he probably wouldn’t have been able to tie laces even if he knew how.

“Next we go to a store for food, right?”  Quatre asked.

Duo grinned as he started placing his own bags in the trunk.  True, he had gotten more clothing than Quatre had, but Heero had
stated that he had only gotten a few outfits for Quatre to hold him through until Catherine could take him shopping again.

“Yeah . . . it’ll be nice seeing a supermarket from the front for a change.”  He smiled as a fond memory came back to him.  “I
know a place that gives food to strays.  Granted it’s not fresh, but it’s still good, especially when you’ve gone hungry for days
on end.”

He paused in his packing as he remembered the kind owner of the store, who one day had seen a stray female with a young kit .
. . the man had actually gone into the store and brought out a gallon of milk that had just reached its ‘sell by’ date, as well as a
couple packages of rolls that probably would have been thrown out that day.  It was nice to remember the few good humans he
had met . . . he had almost forgotten.

“I never actually saw the store from the front though.”  Duo said, shaking himself from the memories and returned his attention
to putting his bags away.  “I didn’t want the old guy to get in trouble.”  Once all the bags were in the trunk, he closed it firmly.  
Then he laughed as Heero opened the door for the two of them.  “Heero . . . you do NOT have to keep opening the door for me.”

Heero smiled and shrugged.  “I like doing it.”  He waited until Duo and Quatre were both inside before he closed to door and got
in himself.


*****


Duo grinned as Heero parked the car.  He quickly opened the door and got out . . . then hopped and slid across the hood of the
car . . . before Heero had the chance to open his door.

“DUO!  You’ll hurt yourself doing things like that!”  Heero chided, although he was still smiling as he got out of the car.  
“Trying to tell me something?”

Duo nodded as Quatre got out of the car.  “Don’t open the door for me all the time.  I appreciate the sentiment, but it makes me
feel silly.”  Duo said.

Heero chuckled and nodded.  “All right.  I understand.”  He closed the door with a shake of his head and headed for the store,
snagging a shopping cart on the way in.

Duo entered the store behind Quatre and paused momentarily.  It was impossible for him not to be affected.  He glanced at
Quatre and smiled knowingly.  The kit’s ears were pointing forward and his eyes were wide in amazement.

“Never seen so much food in one place, huh?”  Duo asked, lightly running his hand along Quatre’s back.

Quatre shook his head slowly, his fingers clutching at his stuffed bunny.  “No . . . I was never even allowed near where they
stored the rations at camp.”  He whispered.

Duo grinned and gently took hold of Quatre’s arm, leading him further inside.  “Come on.  Let’s catch up with Heero.”  He said,
heading to the aisle where he had seen Heero go down.

However, before they could even turn to go down the aisle, Duo was brought to a halt by a harsh hand on his shoulder.  “Stray
trash isn’t welcome here!”  A cruel voice hissed, spinning Duo around.

Duo narrowed his eyes, fury building within him.  He knew this bastard . . . the blonde hair, the scar on his face.  Hell, Duo had
been the one to give him that scar, when the son of a bitch had dared to think Duo was some slut ready to let himself be used
for a few measly dollars.  As if Duo would ever do such a thing . . . not even if he were starving and dying would he allow
himself to be used like that . . . as a matter of fact, he had been starving when this jerk . . . when Alex . . . had made that
sickening proposal of his.

A cold smile curled on Alex’s lips.  “Well, well, well . . . if it isn’t the stray slut that’s thinks he’s too good for a human to fuck.  
Come back to reconsider my offer?  I can make it good for you, you know.”

Duo couldn’t even form a word . . . he simply yowled at Alex, flattening his ears against his head.

Alex shrugged, turning his eyes to regard Quatre.  “Oh, who’s your pretty friend?”  He laughed, lashing forward and grabbed
Quatre by the wrist.  He yanked the blonde forward, causing Quatre to lose his balance.  Alex took the opportunity to grab
Quatre around the waist, pressing himself up against the blonde feline’s back.

“Get your slimy hands off him, NOW!”  Duo snarled furiously, his tail thrashing.  “I believe you still have my answer on your
pasty face!  I could do the same to the other side.  Would you like a matching reply?”

“Ooooo, so angry.”  Alex smiled, sliding his hands down to Quatre’s hips.  “I bet I could make this little one scream, what do
you think?”  He pulled back on Quatre’s body, bringing himself flush against the little feline’s backside.

Quatre’s eyes widened, his hands shaking so badly that he dropped the stuffed bunny he had been clutching.  He whimpered, his
chest rising and falling quickly.  He was terrified . . . Duo hated to see the little blonde like this.

“I suggest you back off now!”  Duo yelled.

“Or what?”  Alex smirked.  “You’ll call the police?  Hah!  They’ll drag you away to a camp where you belong . . . probably be
some illegal breeding camp.”

“Not if Heero has anything to say about it.”  Duo spat, clenching his hands at his sides.  What he wouldn’t give if he had his
claws right now.  But Sally had clipped them . . . he wished she hadn’t at this moment.  He wanted to wipe that smug smile off
of Alex’s face.

“Oh?  And who’s Heero?”

A hand fell on Duo’s shoulder, Heero’s voice accompanying the gentle touch a moment later.  “That would be me.  Sir, I’d
recommend you take your hands off of that feline.  You have no right to manhandle him.”

Alex snorted, looking Heero up and down.  However, he pushed Quatre away from himself, sending the little blonde into Duo’s
waiting arms.

Heero knelt down and retrieved Quatre’s bunny.  “You dropped this.”  He whispered, holding it out to the trembling blonde.

Quatre used one hand to take the stuffed animal, bringing it close to his body.

“Are you okay?”  Heero asked, sweeping a gentle hand through Quatre’s hair.  When Quatre nodded miserably, Heero turned his
eyes to meet Duo’s.  “And you?  He didn’t harm you, did he?”

Duo snorted.  “No . . . I would have liked to see him try.”

Alex sneered at Duo.  “Know your place, stray!”

Duo saw the look on Heero’s face, and was eager to hear Heero’s reply.  So he kept his mouth shut and waited.

“Stray?  Do you always make assumptions about your feline clientele?”  Heero’s eyes looked past Alex and Duo smirked when
he followed the gaze of the human, seeing that Heero was looking at a man with a name tag that read ‘Manager’ on his chest.  
To be honest, the manager looked quite peeved, his eyes almost harsh enough to bore holes through the back of the jerk’s head.  
Duo knew very well, that if he could, he would do just that.

“I’d like to see the look on your manager’s face when he learns that you’ve been insulting and manhandling registered felines.”  
Heero seethed.

Duo turned, just in time to see Alex go pale.  When the disgusting human turned to him in disbelief, Duo raised his chin defiantly
and showed off the blue tag of a legally registered feline companion.  Then Duo saw the manager approaching and he leaned
down to murmur in Quatre’s ear.  “It’s gonna be okay, Quatre.”  He said, tilting Quatre’s head a little to make sure that Alex
could see the red temporary tag on Quatre’s collar.  What made the whole situation even better was the fact that Heero hadn’t
referred to Duo as HIS feline.

“What is going on out here?  I’m trying to run a business here, Alex!”  The older gentleman glared at the now squirming
employee.

Heero nodded his head in Duo’s direction.  “My friends and I came in here to get some food . . . both for my apartment and to
be delivered to a shut-in . . . as well as to get a number of prescriptions filled.  I don’t know the details myself, as I was
shopping.”

The elder man held up his hand before Duo could speak.  “I can guess what happened.  There are plenty of witnesses and this
HAS happened more than once before.”

“I thought he was a stray, sir!”  Alex tried to salvage his position.

“THAT IS NO EXCUSE!”  The manager took a deep breath, obviously trying to calm himself.  “If they were strays, you were
to ask them to leave . . . politely . . . unless they could show proof of having funds to pay for any purchases.  If they did not
have money . . . and did not leave . . . then you were supposed to come to me and I would have handled the situation.”  He took
another breath.  “You are fired.  You’ve already had several warnings and I won’t tolerate this behavior anymore.  Leave now,
and don’t show your face here again.”

Alex sputtered a moment before storming out of the store.  An unfortunate . . . and terribly nervous-looking feline happened to
get in his way and Alex cruelly backhanded him, sending the dark-haired youth crumbling to the ground to curl in a ball on the
floor, his hands covering his face.

Duo frowned.  There had been no call for such behavior.  He gently transferred Quatre’s shivering body to Heero’s arms,
striding quickly to the young feline that Alex had assaulted.  “You okay there?”  Duo asked, laying a gentle hand on the youth’s
shoulder.

When the feline turned to look up at him, Duo had to gasp.  There before him was yet another familiar face . . . this one
pleasantly so.  That dark hair . . . the bright eyes . . . he remembered this youth.  Duo had actually saved his life once or twice .
. . he had found the poor feline lying in a pool of his own blood, covered in a sticky mess of bodily fluids.  It had been obvious
what had been done to him . . . but Duo had helped him, even though this feline had never been able to tell him who had hurt
him.

“Mueller!”  Duo cried in excitement, throwing his arms around the feline.  “I didn’t know you worked here!”  He looked over
his shoulder, glaring slightly at the manager.  “Why the hell didn’t you tell me, Howard?”

The manager, Howard, shook his head.  “Didn’t have the time, kid . . . hell, you’ve been in my store five minutes and already
you’ve gotten one of my employees fired.”  Howard chuckled.

Duo grinned.  He’d missed the old man.  Helping Mueller to his feet, he strode back over to where Heero and Quatre were
standing, confused expressions on both of their faces.

“Heero, Quatre . . . this is Howard and Mueller.  Howard was nice enough to give the strays food . . . and Mueller here was one
of the strays I used to hang around with.”  Duo smiled.  He looked over at Howard again.  “So . . . how ya doin’ Howie?”

Howard chuckled and rubbed the top of Duo’s head, easily bringing a purr from his throat.  “Fine . . . fine . . . now, let me see
that collar of yours.”  He shook his head with a smile.  “Whoever got you to agree to wearing one of these must be a decent
person.”

“That would be him.”  Duo grinning, pointing to Heero.

Howard smirked, looking Heero up and down.  “How you got to be Duo’s owner . . . I don’t understand . . .”

“I only own Duo on paper . . . we made a deal.”

Howard laughed out right, clapping Heero on the back.  “Yup . . . a decent guy, just as I thought.  It’s good to know.”  Howard
smiled, nodding his head approvingly.  He turned his attention to Duo again, his smile never wavering.  “Come on, let’s take
Quatre and Mueller on up to my office . . . I think they could do with a rest.  And we can have a nice chat and get caught up.”

Duo nodded.  “I’d like that.”  He bit his lip, turning to look at Heero.  “If that’s all right with you . . .?”

Heero nodded.  “Of course.  Quatre could use a rest.  He’s a bit shaken.”  Heero smiled.

Duo grinned, helping Mueller along as they walked.  He’d missed Howard and Mueller . . . he hoped things had been going well
for his friends.



To Be Continued . . .