Desperate Times


Nate River never wanted a life as a castaway from an adoption home as the others. Going out on his own he finds life on the streets isn't so bad, until he gets mixed up with an older man.

Drama / Other
Age Rating:

Nate to Near

Summary: Growing up an orphan, Nate River, chooses a life on the streets only to find out that it isn't as easy as he'd thought. Believing that a kindly, awkward man named Gevanni is sincere about about getting him off the street with a job in his home as a butler, young Nate finds himself in a very dark place.

He must have thought I was dead. Must have thought the blood caked on my body was too much. The lazarations too deep. My slow breathing not enough to convince him my stone-still body wasn't dead. My pulse, however faint, wasn't quitting on me. He believed my unconscious dead-weight was exactly that. Dead. If he hadn't... If he knew that I were nothing more than unconscious, he never would have left me unchained from my shackles. He never would have left the door open. And he never would have left the house.

Slowly. Slowly I got myself up from that cold concrete basement floor. I used the walls, stained with my own blood, to help make my way to the stairs. I grunted in agony when pain shot up my tailbone and through my spine, traveling the full length of my spine and slamming full force into the base of the back of my head. But that wasn't going to stop me from leaving. This was my only chance for escape. My pain could come later, and it was minor almost nothing compared to the torture that went on in that house for months.

When I got out of the basement, the pain in my spine dropped me to the floor on my hands and knees. I stared at my outline in the polished kitchen floor; there's blood there as well. He'd know that I escaped, know that I wasn't dead after all. I hoped that I was away by then. A police station. A cheap hotel room. Even the agency that I ran away from in the first place was a better option than this current situation I've been bound to.

"Get up, dammit!" I barked in my dry rasp of a voice.

It's been so long since I've heard anything from myself beyond a drunken whimper, a moan, or the forced sexual comments asked of me from HIM.

I couldn't go out the back, it's fenced off. I saw that much through the large glass doors beside the kitchenette booth, in the thirty seconds I got to see of the home before I was whisked off downstairs into that basement for months, maybe even a year's worth of torture.

But did I question why? No. I knew why. It was because I unknowingly walked right into it, under the belief that I was avoiding a much greater evil... Irony is a bitch.

By now it must sound like I'm rambling. Let me start from the beginning then, this way you'll know how Nate River became Near. And how Near ended up where he was. Then, and only then can you decide if I belong here...

"Wow, Nate!" exclaims a young Mexican boy excitedly. "You're really good at explaining stuff so that I get it. My mom sure can't." Work done, the little boy gathers his things: pencils, notebooks, and homework sheets from the coffee table. "I hope I can remember all this stuff when the test comes up Friday."

The praised male is straightening up from his seat on the floor; he's been resting his weight down on the back of his legs for a good hour or so, and they are beyond numb from 'sleep' as it's called. They were practically refusing to hold him up. But it was a small price to pay for the lovely reward of 20 dollars a session.

"Let your mother know that I came by, Manolo." Nate says to the airspace before the front door, while walking down the hall on wobbling legs.

Watching a moment, due to thinking that his tutor is doing a great job of impersonating the Frankenstein monster, the young boy darts off the couch and into the kitchen returning with a handful of bills and a slip of paper. "I forgot, my mom told me to give you this." He dumps the contents from his small hands into Nate's awaiting palm.

Blinking owlishly at the boy along with the piece of paper, he unfolds it and spots 15 dollars fluttering to the floor at his one socked and one sneakered feet. Reading over the note; Manolo dropped down and grabbed the money from the floor, waving it at himself like it were a fan or he were a perv trying to entice a street walker to him, he cocks a brow.

"Looks like your mom is gonna be home late. She wants me to order you pizza." Nate kicks his sneaker from his foot returning to the living room.

"Yyyay!" the little student leaped into the air, fist raised in advanced kid cheer.

Honestly, you'd think Nate just told the boy his family had won 688.5 million dollars or something with how he leaped up onto the couch, jumping up and down on the soft cushions chanting his addiction. Pizza! Pizza! Right before starting a demo track of his order of toppings.

A smirk graced the tutors normally expressionless mouth as he called Gianno's from the cordless telephone on a hall table stationed at the exit of the living room that leads out into the hallway, where the front door is located. Gianno's has some of the best damn pizza in Chicago- the world, really- it even won, hands down, in a little pizza war with New York, proving their crust and toppings far superior to that of a rival cities. And you understand that this taste-war has been going on long before the first roll of crust was ever produced commercially for frozen pizzas.

Nate wouldn't really know the difference. In his entire life, he's only ever had pizza twice, and both times were when Mrs. Maldonado was going to be at work through the family's usual dinner time; Manolo's father, if you're wondering, is in the navy and currently out at sea. So he would stay over with the 8 year old and indulge in the delicious taste of sauce, cheese, and toppings of a various assortment.

His Heather gray iris skimmed the yellow pages for the number, and cordless in hand he dials. "I'd like to order two deep dish pizzas, one medium with sausage and pepperoni and the other small with extra cheese and sauce." He gave them time to process what little he'd said, then spoke again. "To Staney apartment building on 24th street and Metropolis, apartment 5C." After hearing the '30 minutes or less' slogan he mutters a thank you, before hanging up.

Manolo, now properly seated but still bouncing, licks his lips in excited wait. "Will you be staying over, Nate?" he asked when able to reign in his hungered joy.

Something about the boy's accent always reminded Nate of Speedy Gonzales, that cartoon mouse from Looney Tunes. The old version, not that bizarre mockery running today. Where characters live in near homosexual relationships disguised by room mateship, and a severe co-dependency issue. But, the accent always brought a smile to the older male's, otherwise expressionless, face. Not that the young teen isn't happy, he's merely content- if you happen to find a facial expression that represents that, do send him a picture and he'll gladly sport it. Until then, flaccid it is.

"I can't leave you alone, now can I?" walking over to the long olive green couch, he sets his hands down on the male's shoulders to cease his movement before taking a seat. "How about we do a puzzle until dinner arrives?" suggest the male, tugging a lock of his white hair to his index finger, he winds it around thoughtfully.

Manolo threw himself back against the coach as if he'd been shot and the force knocked him out, he even followed it up with an exasperated sigh. "But you're too good at them, I never get my piece in the right spot and then it's your turn and then it's finished."

Nate only blinked in thoughtful response. What was he supposed to say to that? It was the truth! Riddles, puzzles, equations et cetera he's been good at solving them. He's a natural- gifted if you will. It came to him as quickly and easily as blinking. If only it meant anything in the real world; no one hires a sixteen year old- well, near sixteen. More than that no one hires an orphan.

He's known 16 year olds with jobs. Girls and guys hired by family members because they don't have to worry about school getting in the way when it comes to having a job. You have it, and you do it when you can. Real businesses don't work like that, not around your schedule but around their dime. But he's not your typical teen getting cash into his pockets for a new video game, or saving up for a cheap enough car, wanting things basically. Nate needs the cash because he wants out before he's thrown out.

He's an orphan, as you've come to understand, and being an orphan you got yourself ready for certain things: sharing a room with multiple people, meals are portioned to the amount eating rather than the hunger in one's belly, and adoption families coming in to look you over and possibly take you away to a new life, or leave you wondering what was wrong with you that some other kid was chosen first? Sad thing is that all those some-other-kid year after year turns into an 18 year old that now has to face life on the streets, and hoping, always hoping you can live day after day on small hand-outs. An adult is able to care for himself, whether he can or not. 'Aged Out' is the exact wording.

15 years old, he's not that far from being 'Aged Out' himself. But Nate is not going down that path. He won't be the dog in the pound where screaming children search for puppies. A world where the black dog, with the coal colored eyes is nothing compared to the adorable white fuzz ball with those blue pools. He's going to make money and help himself with being alright.

Although, he did have that one nice attribute in this world of animal-mentality adopting, he's got the fluffy white hair, and is cursed with a face and size younger than his age. Its annoying really, being seen as a child based solely by appearance. But for prospective families the ladies found him to be a complete knock out... until they learned his age.

15!? They'd gasp. 15 is too old, hard to control. 15 is trouble of angst and issue. 15 is not a kid for me- no matter how cute he is. And that was the funny thing, teenagers could be just as lovely and sweet as children- just as loving and more because they've got the fear of their walking papers to consider. Fear of the life in the end of all this rejection. For some, horrible things transpire in the Home they've been placed in. It's nightmarish when you see bullying, its horrifying when you hear the door to your bedroom open when an Aged Out is looking for a last hurrah, or one of the workers just sees the place as a sexual play-pen, and-...


Nate blinked the cloud away that rest over his eyes. All the images swept away like someone opened a window then turned on a fan to let it all out in a flurry of twist and twirls.

"Right. No puzzles. How 'bout we just work some more instead."

"Noooo!" he pitched a mock fit by stiffening himself like a plank and popping the back of his head over and over on the seat of the couch by bending and straightening his legs.

An odd sound came from him, some might call it a chuckle. He really has grown fond of the bucked-tooth kid. It's a shame that this will be the last time he ever sees him, any of the Maldonados really. He's made 300 dollars doing this little tutoring job for the past year, and where it's not enough to so much as buy him a room in some cheap apartment building, it's enough to get him a hotel room while he hunts for a job to keep cash flowing. He'll file himself under 'Student' when he applies, and wait in his hotel room for callbacks.

He's resourceful like that. Its how he'd got the job, he allowed himself into a school building after classes and tore a slip of paper from a bulletin board. It talked about tutors in the school for students, and when returning the paper to the board he added his name. Shortly after that he got the call. He hated lying, but what else could he do?

"I'm at a loss then." Replied Nate to the dramatic scene.

"The pizza's here!" Called the boy when hearing the door bell. The boy dashed into the hall and waited for Nate to catch up before opening the door to the stranger, with dinner, on the other side.

"Thank you." Nate takes the pizzas and kicks the door closed before walking them into the kitchen. "Can you reach the plates?"

"No, but we've got paper ones right here." He removed the paper stack of plates from the counter top.

Serving up slices, he takes 2 for himself and they both enter the living room to partake of their meal in front of the television where a young teen and his dog embark on strange adventures. By the time Mrs. Maldonado returned from work it was 8:43 pm. She's always so kind and talkative to him, almost like she doesn't want him to leave. The gesture didn't fall on a dead slab, because Nate had always felt sort of special. Sort of like he belonged.

He should have known it would end there.

When going home to the orphanage the woman behind the desk, Ayumi Sho, said that he was going to be in for a big surprise next weekend. He wasn't sure what that meant since the only thing next week was his birthday and in a place with dozens of other kids was never anything special, he chalked it up to the woman just being happy for him having the birthday coming up at all, and he went on to bed knowing that it would be the last night he'd spend there.

It wasn't even morning out, the moon shot a single beam of light into the near black bedroom, shared by 5, when he was violently shaken from his sleep. Believing it was one of the other kids either afraid of a storm that crept up and he or she planned on scooching in with Nate for security, or a child planning to molest him simply for something to do in the boring hours between an awakened bathroom break and falling back asleep. Either way he woke up ready to thwart them away. Only it was neither A nor B, it was Sachiko Yagami, one of the ladies who works in the orphanage. Something's happened. There was a break-in not ten minutes after Nate left the Maldonados. They were killed in a shooting during the robbery of their home.

And to make the sting that much worse, Sachiko held him tightly to her bosom and wept out "Just when they had planned to adopt you". That did it. Nate was confused with disbelief and stunned into a momentary silence. But he found himself asleep, a dampening prickle tracing over his closed lids. And when the morning hour of eight o'clock rolled in, he grabbed the nearest trash bag and stuffed what little he owned inside of it, clothes, a little stuffed chick that was left on the bed he'd taken up sleeping in when he was old enough to be out of the crib in the nursery here. Sachiko was the only one to receive a 'goodbye' since she was the only one who was ever really kind to him. Fishing in the bag he handed her the stuffed animal to remember him by when telling her that he really wasn't going to come back.

She laughed and said to his leaving back. "See you at dinner!"

Let her think as she liked. It was time to be on his own and put the plan into action.

And so I left. It was sad what happened to the Maldonados, but not entirely out of the blue. There have been break-ins happening all over that area for some time. I missed them, but I wasn't going to be swayed by fear, or weighed down by their death.

I wanted out, and my time to act was on that day I'd left. I didn't know it would be as tough as it was.

So there I was... out on the streets with 'the plan' under my belt, and nothing to lose now that missing the Maldonados was mentally optional. I checked into a cheap motel for the day then started out. The Chicago Loop seemed like the perfect place.

Nate walked State and Madison with the rest of the hoard of Chicago. His vision wide as he skimmed the building windows for Help Wanted signs, and chances to cross the street to search the other side. He imagined that, to anyone looking, he resembled a child lost in a toy store wandering aisle after aisle, passing shelf after shelf with no sign of his parents.

Spotting a bakery up ahead, he walks in behind a woman in a casual business dress. He waited around for the woman to finish her order of four small cakes for the office building she works in. The two young women behind the counter filled her order quickly, setting the white iced cakes into four pink boxes, tying them with a white string.

Nate watched the entire process. It really wasn't that tough: confection from the rack or display-case if its already in the front of the store. The eager young male watched the store work like a machine as customers came in and out.

The register was gaining quite a bit of weight, as he saw. A good chunk came from a wide-eyed man who looked like he were wearing eye-shadow but only on his bottom eyelids. But with a closer look it was actually an advanced stage of sleep deprivation- wasn't surprising if the male intended to eat all the desserts he'd just paid for by himself. The man's brain is probably strung out from a sugar-high and looking to crash, but the junkie keeps throwing more goodies down his throat like a child. Nate wondered if that's what depravity looks like.

Nate blinks when he sees the sugar-junkie staring at him; a thoughtful finger tapping at his bottom lip.

"Would you like a cannoli?" he asked.

Face on, his wild black hair made him look even more like a strung out junkie. But, sugar isn't the worst addiction you can have- unless you're a diabetic.

Seeing that Nate wasn't going to answer, the man shrugged almost as casually as he had asked. "A face that still could use a smile."

"I don't like sugar." Replied the young male.

That seemed to get the wheels turning in the man's head, and with a smile that mimicked Nate's own, he said. "Makes working here easier, I guess." Seeing a packing boy on his way out with his purchase, he gives the young boy a nod. "Good afternoon."

Cutting his eyes at the slumped retreat, Nate decided not to wait any longer to disrupt business. Approaching the large counter, he waits until the blonde employee notices him.

Smiling, she then asks. "Hi sweetie, what can I get you?"

Judging by the 'sweetie' comment, she believed his was an adolescent.

"We have great after school snacks. Cupcakes, tarts, fruit pies."

"I'm not a child, I'm seventeen years old," he lied. "I'd like a job working here. I could be a packing boy," he suggests when recalling the perky young man who'd just left to load boxes into the junkies car. "Or maybe as a baker, or on register?"

"Uumm, how old did you say you were?" she asked not believing him.

Her brown eyes shift to her fellow worker who is helping an actual child with a selection by giving her small samples; her mother is beside her lecturing half-heartedly that each sample would be the last piece.


"Iiii don't think we have any positions open right now. Plus, you'll wanna speak to the manager, I just work the front."

"Can I get an application?"

"You might- Danny!?" she called to invisible Danny over her shoulder. "Do we have any more applications in the desk? Someone wants a part-time!"

A disembodied voice called back. "We're not accepting new apps over the Spring or Summer."

"Not even for part-time? Any hours are fine, even the night shift." Nate persists.

"-fraid not." She shrugged a shoulder. "Come back over the holiday, we always need extra hands then."

"I can't wait that long."

"Then, sorry. No."

By the Dozen was just the first of many 'Nos' that evening. And as he flopped down onto the stiff hotel bed, he was sure he'd just broken the world record of 'Nos' received in a single afternoon and evening. Every position, even the most miniscule he was brick-walled. He wasn't even qualified for training! They wanted school records, references. Some wanted I.D. Where would he even get something like that?!

Not having one was making it hard to lie about being older when his baby face had them seeing a twelve year old. Damnable curse. Why does it matter how old he is, or where he'd last worked just to wash restaurant dishes?! He's gotta find an I.D. forger. Maybe he can get one cheap while still having it look real enough to fool onlookers.

He does have a prospect of a dollar a day to stuff menus into mailboxes for a pizza place, but that's not the best income. But, he did take the task, and he calls it that because for that wager, it's not exactly a job. He couldn't even sweep hair at the pet shop because they aren't allowed to solicit minors. Someone even had the nerve to ask "where are your parents?"

No. No. No. No.

Nate was sure that he officially hates that word, or maybe not the word but he surely hates the meaning. He hates it even more that his cherub face is holding him back like a suit of armor when his intentions are to swim the ocean. He'll only sink. Nothing more.

Laying on his back he pretended his finger were a gun barrel, aiming it at the ceiling he whispers a fire. "Bang!" Sighing, he rolls over to his side, knees brought up to his chest. "He said to go mow lawns... Where the hell do you find a lawn?"

Though he couldn't help remind himself that he is homeless and really any location in the city is home now. Not just the downtown area where the orphanage is.

'Maybe I'll scout a new area out tomorrow. Find a new hotel to stay in, and start over in a different part of the city.' Sliding from the bed, he dumps the paper plate into the trash basket beside the desk; every stain of red sauce, loose tug of cheese, and crumb from the crust of the slice of Rosati's pizza was removed before the plate it came on was left for dead.

Making use of the shower, he crunched numbers in his head for food and boarding in this room for 30 bucks a night. And boy did it feel good, even as the troubles of the situation presented themselves to him, he could hardly fret because the hot spray was Heaven. And there will be no knock on the door telling him the timer rang and he needs to get out. But even under the heated water he felt a chill creep up his spine. Shiver of doubt. A cold echo vibrating the tremor "go back". He's had enough of showering.

Climbing into bed, he tugs the blanket up tight. 'I'm never going back there; back to starving, back to being robbed. ...What a terrible life, it's a wonder I endured it that long.' His dark gaze rest on a corner of the room that's blackened as if none of the moonlight coming in from the large window could ever pierce it. 'Hn. I'm guessing this entire room can be drowned in darkness with the right pull of the curtains...'

Getting out of bed, he shoves the thick curtains over to bring in more moonlight. A thoughtful smirk spreads across his face. Getting back into bed, he looks at the newly exposed corner and believed it was a good way of looking on the bright side of things.

Lids heavy, he thinks to himself. 'Tomorrow will be better, and if not tomorrow than the day after that or the day after that.'

And his mantra continued until he boggled his words through sleep.

I thought that it would get better- what are first tries other than the best time to weed through your kinks and make mistakes? My first mistake was that I hadn't found a shelter when I'd left the home,, which left me in the hotel for the rest of May. Now add food to the cost of that room and you'd see that 300 bucks is nothing.

I had a hundred dollars left when I finally called it quits and left the Any Night vacancy. That was around noon, lunch time. I needed something cheap, something that wouldn't further dwindle my pocket. A hot dog vender was the first thing that jumped into view. And it was at that street vender where I met the first of my two friends. I was just about to ask the vender about apprenticing, when he showed up.

"I'll take mustard and," Nate stuffed a napkin into his pocket. When handing the man his dollar and a half, he opened his mouth ready to offer his services- and finish his order- when a car rolled to a stop just past the cart.

The black car is so shiny that the boy found himself admiring his haggard reflection as though it were a mirror. It was impressive that car. He raised a finger into his white locks, curling and uncurling a chunk in thought of what it would be like to drive around in the thing once he's comfortable enough to buy a car. His wealthy future looked like a far off distance when seeing expensive things like this car.

Nate never thought of how he'd spend the money beyond a home and food. Would he wanna buy things like that?

"There you are," says a slender blond who'd exited the mirror-polished car from the passenger's side. "I thought we'd lost you back there. He'll take three."

Nate, looking past the blond at the 'we', spots a guilty-expression older man, with a beard and a short sweep of hair. He was in such wonder of the man, he hadn't heard what was said until his hand felt the sensation one might get from a rope burn. Looking down he spots his bills being rifled through and 2 more hot dogs being purchased with them.

Draping an arm around the albino, he continues with his order. "One relish and mustard, the other a state dog." Looking down at the younger male beside him, he says. "Better finish ordering kid, Matt's waiting and he hates eating cold food."

Brow cocked in hard suspicion, Nate decided, what the hell, he'll go with it. "Mustard and sour relish." Removing another 50 cent, he adds. "And a bag of Sunchips, please."

"A Pepsi too." Adds the blond. "And for running off like that, you can pay."

'That explains it,' thinks Nate forking over another dollar. 'He's a penniless bum looking for a free meal. May as well pay, then the creep'll leave me alone afterwards.'

Telling them the price; the man's gruff voice spoke volumes that he may have hacked up a lung once or twice over the food. Ah, Protein. Forking over the money, Nate found himself being ushered along the streets at a near rapid pace; the skinny mooch can really move! They round a corner and head through 2 allies before the mooch stopped, released his hold on him to plop down on a pile of rags, newspapers, and very ripped and very sullied torn pillows.

"Here." He says to a red head beside him, shoving the Chicago dog at him.

Standing there before them, Nate studied the odd pair. The blond looked like he'd been in a fight with a bonfire, but somehow he'd won the fight, though not before receiving a very large and nasty burn on the left side of his face. His grown out, shoulder length hair covered the very worn ear from being noticeable enough to easily stare at.

The other is a redhead, and with the dip of his head and the swath of clothing he's covered in even on a day as warm as today, he looks like a professional recluse. And his only real friend is the virtual world existing in the handheld he's ceasing to play in order to take his lunch.

Deciding that the two are harmless enough, Nate takes a seat down on the tattered blanket and Times newspaper to eat his lunch. The 3 ate in silence, watching the moving city pass them without even so much as a sniff in their direction. As the meal was coming to an end, the younger male could tell he was about to get the boot judging by the way the two were eyeing him.

Matt, as he's come to know his name thanks to the burned male, finished first then began to pat a cigarette from the red and white pack. "Who's the kid?" He asked while keeping a trained eye on him.

"I don't know, he paid for lunch." Brushing crumbs along his hip, the mooch nods at Nate. "So who are you?"

Nate's reply was cut off by Matt processing the statement. "Then why is he here? We're barely feeding ourselves half the time." Looking at the younger male, he says rather roughly. "Fuck off kid, we're not a soup kitchen, nor in the habit of donating to charity."

"Seeing that I'm the one who paid for your meals," retorts Nate. "I should be directing that statement to you, Matt." And boy was his tone smug. "Anytime you'd like to pay me back..."

Matt balked at the kid's gall, but snickered all the same; the smoking white stick wags up and down as he speaks. "Yeah, alright tough guy.. you're off the hook- we won't mess you up."

"My relief could choke a horse." Replied Nate.

"He may be saying it in the wrong tone, but what he's saying is the truth." Mello chimed in. "The guy who did this to me," and he's referring to his burn. "Became a really nice head-rest when his disfigured face ended up on the front page news."

"Hnhn. That chick who got mauled by an ape didn't have anything on that." Matt boasts on his friend's behalf.

Looking at the newspaper the red head tossed to him, Nate blinked in shock of the faceless man gracing the front page. "Say I believe you... What'd he do to deserve it?"

"He wanted our spot, and threw a molotov at us while we slept."

Returning his handheld into his position Matt followed up the tale with. "Not something you wanna do."

"Sorry that happened." Nate says empathetically after imaging that very scenario happening to himself if he couldn't find a shelter tonight. Turf wars. Who would have thought it exist out of gangs? "By the way, I'm fifteen- not a little kid."

"'xcuse me." Matt held up a hand in defense, while never taking his eyes from the game screen.

"I'm Nate River."

"Matt," pressing the 'pause' button, he leans forward so he can shake the snippy teens hand. "Nice to meet you."

"Mello." Says Mello. "And only Matt can call me Mel'."

"Probably because he doesn't wanna call you Mello." Chides Nate. "What kind of name is that anyway?"

Matt could see Mello's back stiffening, as them's-fightin'-words, and he so very casually slid from the crossfire. But before Mello could chew the boy out, or send him packing on his dollar possessing ass, Matt explains very calmly.

"It's a street name, kid. We've all got one- well, a certain some of us anyway."

The inflection wasn't missed. "I'm listening." He may have been talking to Matt, but his charcoal gaze remained on Mello, who is shooting daggers at him.

"Listen, you're new at this... you've got 'newbie' written all over you."

Matt's hand; holding the smoking cigarette, waves itself in a circle in Nate's general direction, the gray mist creates a hazy cloud in his face like a cinged aura protruding from the boy rather than the cigarette.

"So you don't know the horrors of street life; you look like you're still in the daze where you think a wad of mommy and daddy's cash will get you by until something great comes along." Taking a drag from the stick of relief; the thick smog rolls around beyond the inside of his moving lips, he continued his chilling tale. "You ever hear any of them answer when you ask them what their plans are? No. Because they didn't have one beyond 'this is gonna be great, I've got money and a plan'."

"I see." Nate sighs. Recalling a scenario of his own not long ago when he may have even used those exact same words. Only he was under no delusion that it was going to be easy by any means. "So, you're saying that once out here, there is no recovery point? You're just stuck."

"Unless you know something that the rest of us don't, pretty much." Sensing the worst of the charged air between Nate and Mello dissipate, he scoots back to where he was originally seated.

The closeness, so that Matt's arm was a breadth away from touching Mello, had Nate believing the two were more than just friends. The gesture was too private.

"I'm learning day by day about being on my own, but as you said, this is my first time on the streets." Readjusting his sit so that instead of Indian-style he's got one leg beneath him and the other bent up at his chest to rest on, he asks. "So what about this name thing?"

"This 'name thing'," Mello joined in on the conversation; Nate smirked believing that his intention was either to scare him into going back to where he came from, or to just plain scare him into sticking with them. Or maybe he's reading a bit too much into it. "Is how you survive. Despite what it looks like on the surface, it's a lot more than sitting on the curb, digging through trash, or holding out your hand while you look at the well-to-do pitifully."

Nate blinked as he took the words in and stored them away.

"Its dark. Its a monster that latches on with sharpened claws ready to rip you in half, or worse... cling to you." Mello is silent as a crowd of people walk through the area; one waving at Matt.

Matt nodded a greeting.

Once they've passed through, Mello picked up where he'd left off. "Eventually you become hungry," his thin, but strong hand moves to the wrapper his hot dog had been in to finger it casually. "And not just for food. You're hungry for warmth, purpose, Hell for some... its just to be thought about- even if it's as someone's 'plaything'." He lowers his head having his eyes covered by chopped bangs. "It's a bitch, but you do it... because it helps."


"But nothing. ...Amateurs, whining little teens that run away, families with a bad deal in life. I've seen father's pimp their own kids for the greater good of the family, who's been living out of their car."

Matt looked particularly shamed by that, Nate noticed.

"Hn. Some wad of cash won't do a damned thing but put a meal in your stomach- it won't last." His teal gaze hardens that much more on the younger male. "Any 'hope for better' quickly becomes just hoping that you'll wake up whole the next morning, or even after a nap."

"What about shelters?"

Mello shrugged. "A fuck-shack for the depraved. They're not all bad, just the people in them."

Nate's index finger moved subconsciously to a lock of his hair. It's all a lot to process.

"But we both agree that it's better to be paid for fucking around than be raped for free." Matt seemed to agree all the while doing the recluse thing. "So while it isn't much protection physically, mentally Mihael Keehl and Mail Jeeves," his head cocks over at Matt. "Remain untouched."

"Chalk it up as self-preservation." Mutters Matt from beyond being enthralled in his game.

"Self-preservation?" Nate wonders out loud.

His 'plan' had been simple enough when thinking about it. But now he's starting to believe that it was premature, maybe even a little foolish. It was! But he'll be here in 2 more years anyway, he's just ballsy enough to start sooner. Better to learn now and be wiser to the game than know that you turned tail and cowered back home.

Nodding as if he'd just mentally signed a contract with the two, Nate says firmly. "Alright Mello, Matt..." He held out his small pale hand to be shaken. "You may call me, Near."

For all his bravado about not wanting another mouth to feed and my being a charity case, Mello turned out to be really cool. Matt as well. I still consider him a recluse unless he's willing to get to know you. And as for my 100 dollars, I chose not to tell them about it, having them know served no real purpose and I could save it for a rainy day hotel room for us.

The Ms told me about how they ended up on the streets: Mello came from an orphanage like myself but from a different part of the city. Matt's situation was almost mentally damaging. He lived out of a car with his mother and sister after their home had been foreclosed on. He pimped himself out, only to lose them both through human trafficking. He'd seen his mother once during a sexcapade with a 'John' and his friends. But he was too drugged out of his mind to say or do anything beyond go with it. 1 year later both Mother and Daughter were placed dead on the street where their car used to be parked. Their legs spread and mouths open like it were a joke. As I'd said, damaging.

But I was gonna hold my ground, I was gonna stick it out. And I planned to hold onto myself... to protect Nate River, and live a new life as Near.

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