Ch 3: "Sunshine Through the Rain"

"So what do we need to get?" Duo asked, trying to be as cheerful as he could under the circumstances. 'I'm going to be nice if it kills me,' he thought firmly. 'Unless he starts something.'
Wufei took the helmet from the bike's handlebars and handed it wordlessly to Duo before climbing on. "Food," he said simply. "And bandages in case something happens on the mission."
Duo blinked, looking down at the helmet in his hands. Heero had cracked the other one in a crash during their getaway from the last mission, leaving them with only one. "Oi," he said hesitantly, "you're the driver. Don't you need this?"
Wufei twisted the handlebar, starting the engine with a roar. "Knowing you, you have more chance of falling off," he grunted, looking at him sternly over his shoulder. "Are you coming or aren't you?"
Duo looked from the helmet to Wufei before plunking it on his head and tightening the strap. More thoughtfulness. Was Wufei always this kind when he wasn't being pestered? Duo sure as hell wouldn't know. He'd been pushing the other boy's buttons for too long to remember. He climbed onto the narrow seat behind the Chinese pilot, twining his arms around the slender waist to keep his balance. Wufei seemed to tense a little at the intimate touch, but said nothing and lifted his foot from the ground, roaring out of the shed and down the dirt path.
Duo whooped at the speed they were going, freeing one arm to snag his whipping braid and tuck it between their bodies. "Faster!" he shouted over the wind.
Wufei flicked a look at him over his shoulder. "You're nuts," he said simply.
For some reason Duo found that hilarious. "They always called me crazy," he shouted back, grinning wildly.
For a moment he thought he saw the ghost of a helpless grin touch the solemn pilot's lips, then Wufei had turned his face forward again.

They slowed as they reached the road more travelled and passed a few small souvenier shops and grocery stores. Duo, scrunched against the other boy's back to avoid the brunt of the wind, gazed at the buildings they passed, fighting an internal battle. "Ne," he said at last, almost too quietly to hear over the engine.
"Uh..." Duo hesitated, keeping his eyes firmly off to the side. "Truce?"
Wufei gave what sounded like a snort of mild surprise, glancing back at him suspiciously. When Duo wouldn't meet his eyes, he turned away again and was silent for a long moment before grunting, "Aa." Duo could almost hear the smirk in his voice. "I already know who will break it first."
"Shove off," Duo retorted.
Wufei tilted his head to look at the sky. "Looks like a storm's coming," he observed.
Duo looked up at the dark clouds and frowned. "Yeah," he agreed quietly. For some reason the bad weather gave him a feeling of unease.
They pulled into the small convenience store where Duo had bought the ice and dismounted, shutting off the engine, accompanied by a rumbling peal of thunder. Duo bounded inside while Wufei put down the kickstand, the little bell jingling merrily to announce his arrival. "Yo, ojiisan," he greeted the man behind the counter cheerfully.
The old man smiled at him in recognition. "Hello there." He looked towards the door as Wufei walked in silently. "Brought a friend this time, I see."
"Yeah, one of my camping buddies," Duo said airily, heading towards the food while Wufei began to examine the first aid kits near the front. "How's business?"
The old man's face crinkled with another fond smile. "Slow as always," he admitted. "You kids be careful on your way back to the campsite. There's a nasty thunderstorm brewing out there."
"Hai, hai~," Duo agreed almost absentmindedly, busy loading his arms with food. "We're always careful."
"Some of us are," Wufei snorted quietly, and Duo shot him a suspicious look. Wufei returned the look blankly, as if to say 'Who, me?', and Duo was hit with a sudden revelation.
Was Wufei only teasing him when he made little comments like that? Duo was so used to the snideness behind the other boy's genuine barbs that he had long ago dismissed any hints of teasing as rudeness. He found he rather liked this side of Wufei- when seen in the right light. He stuck his tongue out at the boy and walked up to the counter with him.
"Will that be all for you today?" the man asked politely as they deposited their goods on the counter.
Wufei blinked as Duo began to dump his armload of goodies onto the wooden surface, staring at the pile of junk food and soda. "Duo," he said slowly, as if talking to an idiot, "that's not real food."
"Sure it is!" Duo said stubbornly. "Everyone needs sugar. It's part of the basic food groups, isn't it? A day without chocolate is a day wasted." He grinned at the startled man behind the counter. "I read that on a candy wrapper one time. Don't you think it's true?"
The old man looked from him to the pile of junk food and burst into helpless laughter. "Yes, I suppose it is," he chuckled.
Wufei rolled his eyes and picked up half of the pile, ignoring Duo's complaining as he returned the candy, donuts, and chips to the shelves and replaced them with bread, milk, cheese, and lunchmeat. "Don't start," Wufei warned him, glaring at the pouting boy. "You get to keep half of this junk, if only to shut you up."
"Hidoi, you're no fun, Wu-man," Duo grumbled, unwrapping an Almond Joy and chewing on it dejectedly as the cashier rang up their purchases.
Wufei balked at him. "WU-MAN?" he repeated incredulously.
"That'll be $15.03," the old man said before the Chinese boy could get mortally insulted.
Wufei grumbled as he dug for his wallet. "Half of that's from YOUR candy," he pointed out.
"Yeah, yeah, I got it." Duo waved him off, handing the cashier a twenty. "Keep your hat on."
"I'm not wearing a hat, Duo."
"Oh, grow up."
The old man finished bagging their groceries and handed Duo the change. As they headed for the door, still bantering back and forth, the store owner watched them go with a kind smile. "I can tell you two are close friends," he said just as they reached the door.
They both turned, a little startled, to look at him.
"Huh?" Wufei said intelligently.
Duo recovered quicker. "Oh, yeah," he said enthusiastically, wrapping an arm around the other boy's neck, almost causing Wufei to drop the groceries. "We live to annoy each other. Don't we, Wu-man?"
"Oof," Wufei protested.
"Ja ne, ojiisan," Duo called cheerfully, leading his partner outside.
As Wufei was depositing the bags into the basket on the back of the bike, Duo took the opportunity to jump onto the bikeseat, holding out the helmet to Wufei when the other boy turned towards him. He grinned impishly. "Now I'm going to show you how to REALLY ride."
Wufei looked warily from Duo to the helmet before accepting it reluctantly. "Just try not to get us killed," he grumbled, putting it on and climbing on behind him. Above, thunder crashed ominously.
"Nah, I'll just get us home before the storm hits," Duo said, revving the engine to life. "Hang on tight!" he warned.
Wufei just barely had time to grab the other boy's waist before they were skidding out of the parking lot and tearing down the road like a bat out of hell, accompanied by Duo's excited yell.
As if in answer, thunder crashed again, and fat raindrops began to fall. Duo sped up as they reached the dirt road that led to the safehouse, squinting as the rain began to fall harder.
"Duo, slow down," Wufei shouted above the wind.
"Trust me," Duo shouted back, leaning into a turn, taking it almost fast enough to topple the bike. Wufei clung onto the other boy for dear life, shaking his head as rainwater began to dribble over his helmet into his eyes. The road was beginning to get muddy, and the sky was darkened by the storm, making it hard to see. Duo fumbled for the headlight switch.
"I mean it, Duo!" he said loudly. "Slow do-"
Duo took another turn- too fast.
Even as the wheels squealed, losing purchase on the slippery ground, Duo realized his mistake. He instinctively tried to wrench the bike upright again, fingers clenching on the brakes. The wheels lost all traction in the mud and the bike skidded crazily towards the trees.
Then suddenly the arms around his waist were yanking at him, and he cried out as Wufei threw his body weight to the side, throwing them both clear as the bike crashed into the brush, groceries flying everywhere.
Duo grunted as he landed heavily on top of Wufei, the other pilot taking the brunt of the hard blow, arms still wrapped around Duo like a living shield.
They rolled a few times, and Wufei lost his grip. Duo slithered to a stop in the mud a foot or so away from the other boy and pushed himself painfully to his hands and knees, coughing and spitting out mud and rainwater. "Wufei!" his voice was drowned out by a crack of thunder, and he tried again, squinting through the darkness at the prone body nearby. "Wufei!"
"Nngh..." Wufei sat up slowly, reaching up to fumble with the helmet strap. He pulled the dome from his head, shaking the rainwater from his eyes and looking over at Duo. Duo breathed a sigh of relief.
"Yokatta," he murmured, crawling over to kneel before the other boy. He held up two fingers. "Wufei, look at me. How many fingers am I holding up?"
"Two." Wufei reached up to wipe mud from his brow with the back of his arm. He turned to look at the bike and the mud-splattered groceries. "Nice going."
Duo managed to swallow his pride with surprisingly little difficulty. "Yeah," he said meekly, leaning back on his heels as he observed the wreck. "Quick thinking, Wu-man. You saved us."
"Hn." Wufei rose to his feet carefully, testing himself for injuries, and Duo clambered up hastily.
"Anything feel broken or twisted?" he demanded, taking the helmet away from the other boy, eyes skimming anxiously over Wufei's muddy body. "Can you move everything?"
"I'm fine," Wufei insisted, voice firm. He sighed, pushing wet hair out of his face, his normally tight ponytail coming loose. "Come on, let's see if the bike will still run. And try to get together as many groceries as you can. This time, I'M driving."
They worked quickly, collecting the muddy bags and dumping them into the basket again. Then Wufei took the front, once again handing Duo the helmet, and drove them slowly back to the safehouse.

They pulled into the shed five minutes later without further incident, and Wufei shut off the engine. Duo got off the bike slowly, reaching over his shoulder to retrieve his braid and making a face at the soggy, muddied rope of hair. "Looks like a hot shower's the first thing in order," he sighed before beginning to unload the groceries. He looked at Wufei as the other boy shook the mud from the helmet and set it on a shelf. "Um..." he hesitated, looking down at his hands, clenching a carton of milk. "Could you... not tell the others? About the crash, I mean." He ducked his head and risked peeking at Wufei out of the corner of his eye. "I already get enough shit as it is. Especially from Heero and-" he stopped himself just in time from saying 'you', and cleared his throat. "You were right, I was wrong. I'm a speed demon. But... can you not say anything?"
Wufei was watching him with an expressionless face, locks of random hair sticking damply to his high cheekbones as he considered it. It was a little selfish of a request, Duo thought with an inward wince. Wufei didn't owe him anything, and why should he turn down the chance to humiliate Duo even further?
Finally Wufei looked away, out at the storm outside, his chest heaving a little with a silent sigh. When he turned his eyes back on Duo, they were stern but not mocking. "We'd better get the mud off the bags, then," he grunted at last. "Or they'll figure it out for themselves."
Duo's face lit up in a grateful grin. "Yeah."
They attempted to wipe off as much mud from themselves and the bags as they could and hurried inside out of the bad weather.
Quatre looked up, a little startled, at their noisy entrance. "I was just beginning to worry about you two," he exclaimed. "You're soaking wet from riding in this weather! You'd better get into some clean clothes."
"Yes, mommy," Duo said with a grin, quickly unloading the groceries. He looked around, trying to sound casual. "Where's Heero?"
"Up in his room, putting data into his laptop, I think," Quatre said absentmidedly, digging through the groceries.
"Shocker," Wufei muttered. Duo barely heard him, deflating a little.
"Duo," Quatre said in surprise, overturning a bag and staring at the food that spilt onto the table. "You bought enough junk food to feed the OZ army!"
Wufei's face did a weird little contortion, and suddenly he burst into laughter.
Duo was too shocked by the unfamiliar sound to give Heero's absence a second thought.
Quatre seemed just as startled at first by Wufei's helpless if short show of humor, but after a moment his face cracked in a rueful grin. "Oh, Duo," he sighed hopelessly, and started to laugh.
Duo grinned at the both of them sheepishly, scratching the back of his head. "So I have a sweet tooth. Sue me." He joined Quatre's laughter and caught Wufei turning to leave out of the corner of his eye. 'Thank you,' he mouthed, smiling.
Wufei acknowledged him with a brief glance of dark eyes and disappeared around the doorframe.
'He's not so bad,' Duo thought to himself as he helped Quatre put away the groceries. 'Just a little weird.'

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