rag and bone

by Chris J

Request: Can I request a JoeC AU please?

He wouldn't've been Joey's first choice, not by a long shot, but it wasn't like Joey had the luxury to pick and choose. The guy looked healthy, if a little scrawny, and he could certainly get around, and that was more than enough. More than most of the people Joey stumbled across anymore had.

"Hey," he said from a safe distance, and the guy jumped. "Whoa, hey, no, it's okay."

The guy grabbed something up off the ground, a shard of glass that cut his hand, and waved it in Joey's direction. Three drops of blood dripped off his wrist, into the dust at his feet.

"Get away!" he said, backing up towards a moutain of rubble that had long since been picked through, by scavengers like them. Once a massive building, Joey figured. Now he was surprised there was so much as a piece of glass to be found.

"I'm not here to thieve ya!" Joey called back, raising his hands and showing he was unarmed. Which he wasn't, what with the sharpened bit of metal in his boot that served as a knife, but he didn't want to intimidate the guy into running. Only into following. "I've no interest in harming you, mate!"

"That's what they all say!" He backed up further, nimbly scuttling over brick and plaster and stone to the protection of a wall left half-intact. There wasn't much further he could go, unless he wanted to risk tumbling through the debris into the levels of deathtrap below. He seemed to realize it too, molding himself to the backside of the wall and not venturing further.

Joey took a few steps forward, eyes darting back and forth, assuring himself there was no one else in the area. "I've no one's got my back," he said, lowering his voice as he got closer. "Lost him a week ago, in the Old City."

"The Crew?" the guy asked, a disembodied voice behind stone.

"Independents," Joey said. "Razor wire across an alley. That's not the Crew's style."

"That's nasty." A head popped up again, just barely. "He must've been a mess."

"I left the bits and pieces there," said Joey, and tried to forget the sight, the way he had every day for the past eight. "He'd've been the first to smack me for sentiment."

"How do you know I'm not with them?" He was a step closer now, hand atop the wall. Joey could see the blood, see the glass still clenched there. Leaving a blood trail was either careless or brilliant; Joey wasn't sure which this guy was yet.

"We'd not be talkin' if you were," said Joey, and started moving closer again. "You lose someone, too?"

"Never had," he said. "Don't trust no one."

"People who don't trust, don't last long."

"People who do trust last even shorter."

"No, people who trust wrong, don't last," Joey corrected him. He left it at that, let the guy put the pieces together for himself, decide whether it was right or wrong to trust this stranger in front of him. The world was a hard place, they'd both lived with that almost their whole lives. The guy knew the truth of what Joey was saying.

Finally he stepped out from behind the wall, hopped just as nimbly back over the scattered rubble again and tucked the glass away in his clothing. Wary, but willing, which was as it should have been.

Two against this world, after all, were much better off than one.

For LJ Ficlet Request Meme, for . February 22, 2004

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