Author: Casey Valhalla
Genre: AU/Comedy/Drama
Rating: PG-13
Pairings: Do you really have to ask? 1+2+1 thus far...
Warnings: So far, language and juvenile delinquency
Disclaimer: I do not meddle in the affairs of Gundam Wing, for I am penniless and own no copyrights.

Author's Notes: Some doughnuts, some pushing, some language lessons, and we're STILL not out of Nebraska yet...

Much thanks to Sol, not only for beta-reading, but for providing me with gigantic amounts of information and assisting in my research for this fic.

Great America: 2
Wolf, He Carried a Six-String...

Duo squinted against the sunlight shining on his eyelids and shifted in place. Whatever he was lying on was uncomfortable, and stuck to his skin, like leather. He waved a hand in front of his face as though he could push the offending light away and opened his eyes, trying to remember where he was.

Oh yes. The passenger seat of a late-model Corolla hatchback, parked in the small lot of a shopping center. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and peered at the figure in the driver's seat. Heero was curled slightly away from him, facing the window, one arm resting over his head, his jean jacket draped over his torso.

He really was good-looking, Duo decided, especially when he wasn't scowling. The golden tone of his skin, the defined muscles in his arms and shoulders, the way his coffee-black hair fell over his eyes. Duo smiled to himself and shifted again, carefully, aware of how fabric tended to make whisking noises across vinyl. Wufei was asleep in the back seat, his orange windbreaker wrapped around his shoulders and pulled over his face, so only his crown of jet-dark hair showed.

Duo found the handle to his door and pulled on it cautiously, waiting for the click to signal the latch had released. He proceeded to use just as much care in pushing the door open, mindful of the slightest creak, and slid slowly out of the car, so as not to jostle the shocks from the sudden absence of his weight. He pushed the door closed gently behind him, the click of the latch catching barely audible.

Once safely away from the car, he straightened his sweater, glared at his braid, which was beginning to look scraggly after sleeping curled up in a bucket seat, and glanced at the sun. He guessed it was about ten-thirty, and turned his sights on the small supermarket in front of him, a broad grin on his face.

Time for breakfast.

*

Heero woke with a start when the passenger door opened suddenly. The entire car bounced from the strain of admitting a rambunctious braid-wearing Indian who slammed the door shut behind him and shook Heero by the shoulder. The cashier ­ no, former cashier ­ rubbed his eyes and blinked at him stupidly.

Duo's eyes were wide, his grin dazzlingly sinister in the glaring sunlight. "DRIVE!!!"

Almost completely of their own accord, Heero's hands and feet began moving. Start ignition, depress clutch, shift to reverse, accelerate, brake, depress clutch, shift to first, accelerate...

"What the fuck did you do?" Wufei was awake in the back seat, struggling to stay upright and pull his windbreaker back on properly as Heero peeled out of the parking lot and back onto the highway.

Duo looked over one shoulder at Wufei innocently.

Heero kept one hand on the wheel and continued to pick sleep from the corners of his eyes with the other. "Look, I'm really not a morning person," he grumbled, shifting into second. "So if you two could keep it to a dull roar—"

"DUO!"

The longhaired boy grinned and held up a box of doughnuts. "Hungry?"

Wufei's face was impassive. "Chocolate-frosted?"

"Powdered sugar."

"Damn you—"

"With raspberry filling."

"Ooh, I'll take one... "

Heero spared a glance from the road to aim a glare at Duo. "You stole them?"

Duo leaned back against his door with a huff and bit into a doughnut. "Does it look like I have money?"

"Okay, that was a dumb question." Heero shifted into third and tried to get comfortable. There was an irritating kink in his neck.

"I bet you have money, don't you, hopa?" Duo's tongue flickered out of his mouth to lick the powdered sugar off his lips.

Heero shifted his grip on the steering wheel. "Nowhere in our agreement was it stated that I would support you financially in any way, shape or form."

Wufei's hand reached between the seats and searched blindly. "Gimme another one."

Duo finished his doughnut and licked his fingers. He pulled a two-pack of Camels out of his back pocket and pressed it into the wriggling hand. "Here. Two-for-one, just like our favorite Circle-K employee said."

Wufei withdrew his hand and replaced it with his own scowling face. "Did you pay for these?"

"Heero already asked a dumb question."

"They keep cigarettes locked behind the counter these days. How the hell did you get them?"

Duo winked and waved a finger at him mockingly. "Trade secret, kola. Have another doughnut."

*

By noon the temperature was in the high eighties, and Heero's temper was rising along with it.

Duo shifted his weight against the open car door and bent forwards to keep pushing. "Iho, Heero, you're a bright guy and all, but you really oughta check the gas gauge once in a while."

Heero had a scowl plastered on his face. He'd been wearing it for the last mile. He adjusted his grip on his own door and wiped his sweating forehead against his upper arm. "I did check it. I was going to refuel in Thedford."

"Oh yes, of course!" Wufei's voice was high-pitched and muffled from where he was bent and pushing at the back bumper. "Thedford! But oooooooh no, someone just had to go and steal a box of doughnuts!"

"That was your breakfast, Fei!"

"I'm debating the merits and flaws of having an empty stomach against pushing a fucking car up a highway!"

"Stop talking and push," Heero growled.

There were a few moments of blessed silence before the Chinese boy grunted and started up again. "Behold, Sisyphus, eternally pushing a boulder up a hill—"

"SHUT UP!" Duo and Heero yelled in perfect unison.

Duo grinned at him over the roof of the car, but Heero ignored it, focused on the glimmer of heat waves rising up off the highway, and the hazy image of a gas station at the junction, still some distance ahead.

Something else emerged from the landscape as they continued pushing the old blue Corolla along. A figure, a person, standing alongside the road ahead of them. Heero squinted for a moment before his attention was jerked away by the rough whip of a car passing them on the opposite side of the road. The breeze it created was welcome, but it vanished quickly, and Heero turned back to study the person on the roadside.

It was a young man, though Heero wasn't certain of the age, and he was about the same height as Heero himself, and slender. The young man was wearing a long tan trenchcoat and a matching short-brimmed hat, which made Heero sweat more just thinking about being so overdressed in this heat. The young man carried a black guitar case at his side, and had a pair of dark sunglasses perched on his nose. He was watching them, standing poised on the shoulder.

As the steadily rolling car moved closer, he reached up and lifted the glasses slightly to peer beneath them at the scene. Heero thought he caught a glimpse of clear blue flash in his direction before the sunglasses dropped back into place. Then, stepping back slightly as the car began to pass him by, the young man in the trenchcoat smiled toothily, held up a hand, and stuck out his thumb.

Heero glowered for a moment, before nodding curtly at the young man. "If you want a ride, push."

Wufei's head shot up from where he was bent against the back of the car. "Do you know how dangerous it is to pick up hitchhikers?"

"Hn," Heero snorted. "Miscreant."

"Hey!"

"He's got a point, yanno," Duo chimed in, turning to brace his shoulder against the door frame. "And this guy isn't a hitchhiker, anyway. He's a wandering minstrel!"

Wufei was muttering and ignored Duo entirely. "I'll show you the meaning of the word miscreant, you fucking -- cashier!"

In response Heero peeled off his sweat-soaked Circle-K polo shirt, balled it up, and threw it at the Chinese boy's head.

The young man in the trenchcoat was still standing on the shoulder, his eyebrows arched over the top of his glasses. The smile had turned into a wry smirk.

Duo waved a hand at him. "Just put your guitar in the back seat and go help Fei out. Don't worry, he doesn't bite."

"Duo!"

"Not usually, anyhow."

The young man complied, and Duo moved aside long enough for him to slide the guitar case through the door and settle it carefully into the back seat. Heero offered a glare at the sudden increase in weight on his end, and Duo quickly returned to his position against the door frame. The young man shrugged out of his coat and tossed it through the remaining gap onto the passenger seat. Underneath, he was wearing a pair of loose blue jeans and a white dress shirt. When he spoke, his voice was light and refined. "I appreciate it."

"I'm sure you do," Heero grunted.

"What's your name, stranger?" Duo asked.

"Tell him before he makes one up for you," Wufei suggested, grimacing as the young man joined him behind the car. "You could end up with something you can't pronounce, and good luck if he ever tells you what it means."

The young man backed his shoulders against the trunk, braced his legs, and the car lurched forwards, rolling a good deal faster than it had before. "My name's Quatre, thanks, and I have enough names besides that. One can never have too many."

"Wufei."

"Hoka," Duo chimed.

"I am not a badger! Stop calling me that!"

"Heero," the Japanese man grumbled.

Duo hummed to himself. "Nope, nope, you're 'hopa' now, Hopa." He gave Quatre another of his brilliant but slightly dangerous grins. "But you can call him Cetan."

"Heero," Heero repeated.

"CHAY-ten," Quatre attempted.

"Told you," Wufei intoned, mimicking Quatre's car-pushing position. "Unpronounceable."

"No, no, chay-TAHN," Duo drew out the last syllable to emphasize it, waving his free hand.

"Cetan."

Duo beamed. "Perfect! You're a quick study there, Quatre."

"Oh no," Wufei moaned. "He's found another student."

"Singe-handedly keeping my native language alive, Fei," Duo agreed.

"What does it mean?" The question came quietly and unexpectedly from Heero, who was gazing evenly at Duo across the top of the car. His scowl had diminished slightly.

"Hawk." Duo gave him the same slow smile he had the night before, in the car. "You're a bird of prey, Hopa."

Heero seemed to be considering this, and didn't appear particularly averse to the idea. Before he could reply, Quatre's clear voice called forwards again.

"What's your name, then?"

"Duo." The longhaired boy wriggled in place again and pushed faster. "Quatre," he drawled, rolling the name around on his tongue like a lump of hard candy. "Damn, that name kicks ass. I'll be hard-pressed to find you a better one."

Quatre laughed and turned in place to push with his hands against the trunk hatch. He dropped his glasses down his nose to look over them and exchange a grin with Duo, his eyes glimmering a cool, watery blue in the shadow of his hat. "You don't have a nickname for yourself?"

"Miyaca," Wufei piped up, still pushing backwards. "He calls himself Coyote. Presumptive, isn't he?"

Quatre shrugged and gave the Chinese boy an apologetic smile. "I'm afraid I wouldn't know."

"Tanuki." Again the voice was quiet and unexpected. Heero registered the quizzical looks from around the car and shrugged.

Duo looked contemplative, and his tone was curious. "Say that again."

Heero complied, and once the longhaired boy had repeated the word back to his satisfaction, Heero leaned over the window of his door and chuckled lightly.

Duo gaped.

Wufei's voice was strangled. "My god, he has a personality!"

"Is that Japanese?" Quatre's _expression ­ what could be seen of it ­ was genuinely interested.

Heero nodded. "Tanuki are shape-shifters. They can turn themselves into anything they want, and generally spend their time playing pranks and tricking people." He smirked and cast a glance at Duo. "Or being thieves."

Wufei laughed out loud, something he didn't do often, which was a shame because it was a pleasant sound. "I think you just got a new nickname, Duo."

The boy in question blinked, looked for a moment like he was going to smile at Heero, then abruptly became indignant. "For your information, kola, I don't call myself Coyote. Tunkasila named me Miyaca."

"Who?" Quatre asked.

"What?" Heero grunted a second later.

"His grandfather," Wufei grumbled, sliding down in his position until he was sitting on the bumper. "Are we there yet?"

*

Heero took a cursory glance out the windows of the convenience store and was relieved to see that Duo and Wufei had remained in the car, as he asked. They were talking animatedly in the back seat, Wufei wearing a scowl that managed to look both irritated and bemused, and Duo was trying to sneak a peek inside Quatre's guitar case. The young man himself was somewhere out of sight.

He looked back down at the screen of the ATM machine in front of him and muttered a curse. Two hundred dollars wasn't going to get them very far. Heero leaned against the machine in thought, and found his gaze wandering back up to the window, coming to rest on the car outside.

Well, he told himself sternly, I said I wanted to get away, didn't I?

He withdrew the entire amount, and turned to the cashier.

Duo and Wufei halted their discussion abruptly when Heero returned. The Japanese man knelt in the drivers seat and reached back between them to deposit a small bag of edibles behind the back seat, in the trunk. The two boys followed the path of the bag with their eyes, and Heero could almost see them drooling.

He looked over both of them in turn and sighed, digging a five-dollar bill out of his pocket. "Here. Go get some hot dogs or something." He yanked the money away from their grasping hands and fixed them both with a hard glare. "No stealing. If you do, don't expect me to act as your getaway car."

The two nodded simultaneously, a hand snatched the bill away, and they scampered over the seats and out of the car. Heero shook his head, both at them and at himself. "Urchins."

He straightened in the triangle of space between the car door and the frame, leaning his arms against the angle they created, and picked idly at the collar of the white tank top he'd been wearing under the regulation polo. He wondered for a moment what had happened to the shirt in question, then remembered that he didn't care.

Heero spotted Quatre at the edge of the parking lot, leaning back against a phone booth with a cigarette in his mouth. His trenchcoat was back on, but he'd removed the hat, and his hair was light and golden, glinting in the sun. Heero stretched and started forward, closing the door behind him.

"All fueled up?" Quatre smiled in greeting and tapped the ash off the tip of his cigarette with one slender finger. He pushed the sunglasses up to rest on his head with the other hand, and for the first time Heero had a full view of his face. Quatre's features were smooth and fine, his skin pale and beginning to pink across his cheeks. His eyes were wide, strikingly blue in his face, and one long strand of his golden bangs fell over his nose in a boyish fashion.

Heero nodded. "You didn't say where you were going."

Quatre closed his eyes and shrugged, a careless gesture. "Doesn't really matter." He took another drag off his cigarette and continued. "Where are you going? I'll ride along until you turn east, then I'll go my own way."

"Missoula, or so I'm told."

The blond chuckled. "Your friends make the decision for you?"

"I wouldn't call them my friends, exactly," Heero shoved his hands into his pockets and considered the retreating highway. "I only met them last night."

"Oh?" Quatre's voice was lightly amused, but Heero couldn't see his face. "Seems like there's a story behind that."

Heero shrugged and kicked his heel against the curb. "It's best I didn't go into detail. We're not in serious trouble ­ I'm not, at least ­ but from what I can gather, it's best we get out of the state as soon as possible."

Quatre was silent for several moments until Heero turned back to look at him. The blond's face was expressionless. He took another long drag and dropped the cigarette on the ground, crushing it out with the toe of his Doc Martens. Heero kept his stare level.

Quatre made a gesture with his shoulders, more of a shifting of his body underneath the long coat. "No one's looking for me."

Heero let out a breath, unexpectedly relieved. "Finally, something I don't have to worry about."

"Well then," Quatre's smile returned. "We'd best make some plans. I get the impression those two need more looking after than anything else."

Heero snorted.

"What gear have you got?"

"Gear?" the Japanese man blinked.

"Camping gear. Unless you and your miscreants are independently wealthy, I assume you weren't planning on staying in a series of five-star hotels between here and Missoula." He reached up and knocked the sunglasses back onto his nose. "If you were, you wouldn't be hauling that hunk of junk up the highway."

"I happen to like my hunk of junk."

Quatre waved idly at the comment and made a beeline for the trunk of the blue car. Duo and Wufei had resumed their position in the back seat, both with hot dogs and sodas. Duo edged away from the guitar case suddenly as Quatre approached.

Heero threw the hatch open and surveyed the contents of his trunk. Besides the small bag of sandwich fixings he bought earlier, there was a small, beat-up cooler, a plaid woolen blanket, a ratty yellow quilt, three milk jugs of water, a backpack, a blue tarp, a length of rolled-up orange rope, four bungee cables, and a toolbox.

Quatre looked dubious. "It's a start."

"Do you know your way around here?"

Duo poked his head over the back seat. "It's five miles from here to Valentine, and ten more to the border."

Heero's eyes narrowed. "Been this way often?"

"Hoye. But I know South Dakota better."

Quatre rubbed his chin thoughtfully with one finger. "What's the nearest campsite we can get to by evening, once we're past the border?"

"Umm... "

Heero raised an eyebrow.

Duo grinned. "Nowhere I can think of, really."

Quatre swung the hatch closed, and Heero deflated, letting his arms and head hang limply.

"Tired?"

"Didn't sleep much."

The blond leaned back against the hatch and folded his arms. "Look, there's a place a few miles from here. We can swing through Valentine and come back. I'll get us some supplies."

"You will... " Heero's voice trailed off, the tone of a question hanging in the air between them. Quatre's friendly _expression vanished. Heero sucked in a breath and stuffed his hands back in his pockets. "Look, those two and I have an agreement. No questions asked." He shrugged against the fabric clinging to his skin. "I'll extend that to you as well."

Quatre's face remained straight, but his eyes brightened slightly, and he nodded deferentially. "No questions asked," he repeated, and his smile returned. "And no offerings turned aside."

*

Lakota 101: (though I am not an accredited teacher, and most certainly not on this subject, but I try.):

Hopa: (hoh-PAH) beautiful
Kola: (koh-LAH) friend, 'heart-brother'
Iho: (eeHO) Hey, oi, yo, something to that effect
Hoka: (hoh-KAH) badger, as in the animal
Cetan: (chay-TAHN) hawk or small falcon
Miyaca: (mee-YAH-chah) prairie wolf, coyote
Tunkasila: (not positive about this one, but I think it's toon-KAH-SEE-lah) grandfather
Hoye: (ho-YAY) yes, agreed

And one Japanese word, tanuki, which means raccoon dog, and in terms of Japanese mythology is a close relation to the kitsune.

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