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Chapter 10: "Breaking the Ice"
Duo took the exit Wufei had indicated, and soon they
were driving through what the braided boy had so dryly referred to as
"hicksville". "Remember," he muttered as they cruised just above the
speed limit down what Wufei assumed was the main drag, "it's a school
day, so people might wonder what a groups of teenagers is doing driving
around at this time in the morning. Look natural. If you look jumpy,
people are only gonna get more suspicious."
"I know that," Wufei snapped irritably, forcing
himself to stare at the map Heero had grudgingly handed over, rather than
look out the window at the cars and people they passed. Heero was
messing with his handheld device again; presumably alerting Trowa and Quatre
to their new route. Wufei took a distracted sip of his coffee and
burned the tip of his tongue. Cursing in Mandarin, he looked around for
somewhere to set the styrofoam cup down.
"Such language," Duo teased.
"Not like you understand what I'm saying anyway, so
it doesn't matter, now does it?" Wufei retorted.
Duo opened his mouth, then seemed to change his mind
and said instead, "Obviously we're not going to take an exit for the
interstate, so what are we looking for?"
Wufei glanced over the map to reaffirm his guess
before answering, "Follow the signs towards Arkenville. From there we'll
head for Farroway, and after that we should be able to follow the back
roads to Orton."
Duo sighed. "Gonna be a longer trip than we
thought. Hope you brought extra cash," he added, glancing sideways at his
partner. "We're gonna need it for hotels and food."
Heero didn't answer the question outright. "We can
sleep in the jeep some nights to save money," he grunted. "And we
won't stop every night. We'll drive in shifts while the rest of us
Wufei frowned slightly, eyes out the window as he
watched the small town flow by. "We can't do that too often," he
pointed out, thinking of how exhausted they would all be after just a
couple days of that. "Especially since I doubt you two paranoid freaks
would even let me drive."
Heero twisted in his seat slightly to offer Wufei a
glare as if to say "Who's in charge here, anyway?". Wufei glared back
moodily. Duo chuckled under his breath and said nothing.
They were all a little on edge after the occurrence
at the fast-food restaurant that morning, and sat in tense silence for
the next couple of hours as they finally made their way out of
Youthtown and followed the winding two-lane road that pointed towards
The trip, however, went smoothly for the rest of the
day. When they stopped for gas and food that evening, Heero took the
wheel so Duo could sleep while Heero continued the drive in grim
Because Duo needed the back seats to stretch out on,
Wufei found himself in the passenger seat next to Heero, who gave him
no more notice than he would a bug on the windshield. Wufei managed to
stay aloof and cold until close to midnight, when frustration and
curiosity finally won out over stubborn pride.
"You all seem to know each other fairly well," he
grunted, gazing out at the shadows and darkened houses in the night. "I
thought you said you were the only one I grew up with, and the others
weren't supposed to show up until I was older."
Wufei was a little surprised when Heero answered
readily enough, "After you left, the rules were suspended for obvious
reasons. They sent me to continue my training with the other three while
they..." he hesitated, flicking Wufei a sideways glance. "Anyway," he
continued gruffly, "you were safe enough when they found you, so they
left you where you were until our training was complete. They sent Trowa
to you to keep an eye on you when the war started."
"To keep an eye on me?" Wufei sneered.
"Yes," Heero answered bluntly, eyes on the road.
"Though at least your foster mother had the sense to make sure you kept
fit and knew how to defend yourself. Trowa's job was easy. And none of
your enemies had found you, yet. But they have, now. And you're
almost of age anyway. So it's time for you to leave." He sent Wufei a
sideways look. "This isn't your real life," he said flatly. "Or your home.
If that makes it any easier."
Wufei glared out the window, chin resting on his
fist. "I'm a colonist," he snapped. "Or colony-born, anyway. I guessed
as much years ago. There aren't any records of my birth on earth.
This trip to the space station only confirms it."
Heero nodded slightly, and for a while they
continued the drive in silence. Wufei watched his unwanted bodyguard out of
the corner of his eye pensively until Heero at last gave him a hard
demanding look. "What?"
"I don't know anything about any of you," Wufei
blurted, scowling slightly. "You expect me to follow meekly along even
though you're all strangers to me and everything you tell me is a
"You know Trowa," Heero pointed out.
"I thought I did," Wufei snorted. "He's worked for
my mother for the past few years, but he did it all under a lie. I
don't think I know him any more than I know you or that insane
"...What do you want to know?" Heero asked carefully
after a long moment.
Wufei peered suspiciously at the other boy. "You
aren't going to tell me anything about what's really going on?" he
"No." Heero's tone was firm. "It isn't my place.
You'll be briefed when we get to our destination."
"Feh." Wufei returned his narrowed gaze to the
window. "Then you can at least let me know who the hell all of you
"I just said--"
"Anything," Wufei exploded, checking his volume at
the last second with a glance towards the slumbering boy in the
backseat. "Christ, Yuy, all I know about any of you are your names.
How can I trust someone I know absolutely nothing about?"
Heero frowned, looking irritated and a little
confused. Wufei, who wasn't even sure himself what exactly he was asking
for, scowled darkly at the sky and settled into a grim silence.
Heero was silent for so long, Wufei was sure the
conversation was over. He almost jumped when the other boy's quiet tone
broke the stillness. "Duo laughs at everything."
Wufei glanced quickly at him, frowning a little at
the strange statement and the calm tone.
Heero continued to keep his eyes on the road, his
face revealing nothing, his voice subdued to keep from awakening the
braided boy. "He's always laughed. And smiled. No one knows why. You
couldn't tell by looking at him that he'd had some tragedies in his
past." Wufei turned his head slightly to eye the sleeping boy as Heero
continued quietly, "He laughs when he fights, when he gets hit, when
someone looks like an idiot, when he's threatened... He always grins and
shrugs it off, if he can help it. You want to know something about Duo?
Fine." Heero fixed Wufei with a burning stare. "Don't piss him off.
You don't want him to be angry at you."
Wufei blinked, and bit back the sneer that almost
made it to his mouth. Heero was dead serious. He wasn't just handing
out information, he was offering a warning. He sent another quick glance
into the back seat, frowning. He was reluctant to believe that a fool
like Maxwell could be any threat. Well, ok, so he could throw a knife
like nobody's business. But he acted like such a simpleton all the
time. Like a class clown.
"Your turn," Heero intoned, eyes back on the
Wufei looked at him sharply, caught off guard.
"...The Wufei I knew was a kid," Heero muttered
finally, and if he was uncomfortable with explaining, Wufei couldn't tell
by looking at him. "I haven't seen you since then. You want
information, you have to give up some of your own."
Wufei stared at him for a long moment before heaving
a gusty sigh and offering the ceiling a tolerant look. "Not much to
tell," he said shortly.
"Then why should I tell you about the rest of
Wufei glared at him, but Heero didn't even bat an
eyelash. "Are we actually having a conversation?" he demanded
sardonically. When Heero merely frowned, he rolled his eyes and relented.
"Like I said, not much to tell," he grumbled. "I don't get out much.
Too many other important things to focus on."
"School." Wufei's eyes drifted to the window once
more. "And my origins. If my grades are good enough, and if I get into
the right college, I could have an opportunity to get a career that
means travel to the colonies. I could find out where I came from.
And..." he squirmed a little, embarrassed. "I like to learn things."
Heero only nodded in silence.
"Most of the kids at school who have an opinion
about the world don't know their ass from their nose," Wufei muttered,
following the trail of stars with his eyes. "They've never even been out
of their hometown. I don't want to be like them. The only reason one
should have an opinion about important matters is if they understand it.
They've studied it and experienced it. Otherwise they don't even
understand what it is they're arguing about."
"You should be on the debate team," Heero
interjected with the hint of a smirk playing at the corner of his mouth.
Wufei snorted. "I didn't have time for
extracurriculars like that. Too many honor classes. And in the afternoon I had
homework and practice."
"Practice-- your katas?"
"Trowa told you," Wufei guessed, suddenly irritated
all over again. "He wasn't really just there to 'keep an eye on me',
was he? He was your little spy, too."
Heero sensed his rising temper and dropped it. They
both fell into a prickly silence for the rest of the night.
Since Duo was the self-appointed driver the next
morning, he insisted they grab breakfast at a donut shop. Wufei managed
to choke down the sugar-coated pastries and bad coffee before settling
down for a nap in the back seat. When he awoke several hours later, it
was close to noon, and they were entering Arkenville.
"We wouldn't have to stop so often," Heero said with
a pointed look towards Duo's stomach, "if we stocked up on groceries
instead of pulling over to eat every few hours."
"Hey, I'm a growing boy, I gotta keep up my
strength," Duo protested, looking affronted.
"You're a glutton," Heero grunted, peering into the
empty donut sack, which had contained a dozen pastries and was now
empty. "Drop me off somewhere to buy food, and you go find a gas
"I'm going, too," Wufei stated firmly, leaning
forward to glare at them both. "If I don't get out of this blasted car and
stretch my legs, I'm going to get violent."
Heero scowled at him, but Duo nodded agreeably.
"Yeah, I'm feelin' kinda stiff too. Take him, Heero; he can help carry
Heero didn't look too happy about the arrangement,
but he didn't say anything when Duo pulled up by a grocery store and
Wufei climbed out of the jeep after him.
"I'll meet you back here in about half an hour," Duo
called, and roared off.
Wufei winced as he stretched cramped muscles and
walked in a slow circle to get his circulation moving again. He looked on
in resentment as Heero, after a few careful steps, strode easily into
the store without so much as a flinch. Still stretching his arms over
his head, Wufei caught a whiff of himself and wrinkled his nose as he
entered the blessed air conditioning of the store. He wasn't exactly
rancid, but a shower would be more than welcome. He veered off from Heero
and made a beeline for the shower aisle to nab a bar of deodorant.
He hurried to catch up with Heero, afraid the other
boy's ideas of "food" ran along the same lines as Duo's did, and was
relieved to find him rooting through a barrel of apples. They went
through the store efficiently and silently, selecting foods that would be
good for a trip, and Wufei was pleasantly surprised that Heero's tastes
seemed similar to his own in that he seemed to hone in on foods that
were not only healthy, but would help give them energy. Shopping with
Duo, Wufei reflected, was probably a pain in the ass. And he was already
certain that the braided boy would throw a spectacular fit when he
discovered they'd neglected to include potato chips and candy in their
But Duo knew Heero well. When they met him in the
parking lot, he hefted a small bag with a grin. "I knew you'd only pick
out the gross healthy stuff, so I nabbed a few goodies at the gas
station," he admitted, already digging through the bag for a bag of M&M's.
"Hey, Wuffers, your turn to drive."
Wufei masked his surprise by growling, "Don't call
me that," as he climbed in behind the wheel. He used the deodorant and
tossed it to Duo in the back seat, who accepted it with an amused grin.
"Is this a hint?" he teased.
"A big one," Wufei growled, starting up the engine
and pulling out of the lot.
"So where to again?" Duo asked, munching on
chocolate and inspecting the crumpled map in his lap.
"Farroway," Heero intoned, glancing at Wufei for
Wufei nodded. "It's only a few hours away. From
there, the backroads will get us to Orton. We should be there sometime
"It'd prob'ly be best to get there at night," Duo
put in, face suddenly serious. "We can shave off some hours by stopping
at a motel again tonight."
Heero frowned at the delay, but evidently agreed,
because he kept his peace.
"Fine," Wufei grunted. "But this time I'm
picking the place."
"You didn't think the last one was charming?" Duo
grinned. "Peeling wallpaper and all?"
Wufei didn't dignify that with an answer, and
remained in stony silence for the next few hours as Duo chattered away in the
back seat and Heero fiddled with his communication device.
The communicator went off during one of their
bathroom breaks, and Quatre answered it, glancing towards the bushes where
Trowa had disappeared to take a leak and stretch his legs. The blond
leaned against the side of the moped, tugging at his helmet's chinstrap as
he opened the message from Heero.
His eyes scanned the short transmission as he kept
an ear open for Trowa's return, and he gave a little sigh of relief as
the words sank in. If the others were staying at a hotel for the night,
it meant he and Trowa could do the same. Trowa's stamina was
incredible; he'd done most of the driving, seeming to need very little sleep.
They were on the outskirts of Orton already, and Quatre was thoroughly
sick of the bike. He was ready to sleep in a real bed under a real roof
again. It felt like weeks rather than days that they'd been on the
road. His butt and thighs felt raw from the constant driving.
There were very few other travelers at the small
rest stop. The few cars that were parked there contained mostly families
driving cross-country to meet relatives, and a few groups of college
students doing road trips. Quatre ignored their shouting and laughter as
he slid the communicator into his backpack and rolled his head in an
attempt to loose the stiffness in his neck.
He wondered if Wufei was getting along better with
the other two. He'd been understandably prickly and suspicious when
they'd set out on their journey, but Quatre was hoping Duo's cheerful
attitude would help erode some of that. The trip would be a lot easier for
all of them if Wufei trusted them even a little bit.
Quatre was sore, tired, and distracted, and didn't
think much of the rustle in the bushes behind him until the last second,
expecting it to be Trowa.
When he glanced casually over his shoulder and
finally spotted the glowering man with the gun, it was far too late to reach
for his own weapon.
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