Author: Merula
Usual Disclaimer: Don't own Gundam Wing.

For those of you that have read my fic 'Deliveryman' this Duo is going to sound familiar. What can I say? I like writing from Duo's POV. (Whew, what does that say about me??) Yes, I have other fics written from Heero and Quatre's POV, but I'm a little worried about posting those.

Reckless + Part 1

I sighed as I studied the plans in front of me. Of course the damn building had to have a ventilation system that looked like a huge maze. My partner caught the sigh and looked up at me through his bangs.

"I'll be lucky to get out of this place in the time required," I told him.

"You'd better get out of that place in the time required," he told me matter of factly. "Or have you forgotten the rest of the assignment?"

"How does guarding Quatre have anything to do with a sneak assignment?" I raised my eyebrows and Trowa chuckled at me.

"Because if you aren't back, he's going to come looking for you." I groaned.

"He'd damn well better not, Barton. Your job is to keep him in one piece." I tossed the plans down on the desk. "I still can't get over that someone is trying to take out Quatre!" My partner shrugged. He had lightened up considerably after the war and during our years as partners in the Preventers, but he still didn't talk much. Which made him a good match for me, since I talked all the time.

"Winner Industries is high profile," Trowa pointed out.

"I know. I know." I waved my hand in the air. "Are all the other arrangements made?"

"Almost," Trowa bent over his keyboard again and I picked up the damned blueprint again. We worked silently, caught up in making sure that this assignment would go smoothly. I nearly leaped out of my skin when Wufei leaned in the door and said my name.

"Jeez, Chang! Don't do that!"

"I was getting worried," Wufei raised an eyebrow. "It was too quiet in here."

"Maybe Barton's finally rubbing off on Maxwell," Wufei's partner quipped as he entered the room.

"Shove it Yuy." I mock-frowned at him. He smirked back at me.

"When do you leave?" Wufei asked.

"Tomorrow," Trowa answered, finally looking up from the keyboard. "I'm finished over here, Duo."

"I'm going to be dreaming about this damn thing." I frowned at the blueprint in my hands. Heero leaned over my shoulder to study it.

"That looks more like a maze than a ventilation system." He stated flatly.

"I know it." I looked up at him and grinned. "If I don't come back, you'll take care of my cat, right?" He smacked the back of my head lightly.

"Don't joke like that."

"Well then," Wufei changed the subject smoothly. "If you are free, come have lunch with us. That was why we stopped by in the first place." I looked at Trowa and he nodded at me.

"All right." I rose to my feet, rolling up the blueprint.

We walked through the familiar hallways of the Preventers. Damn, had it really been four years already since I joined up? I looked at the people rushing around me, the familiar signs of chaos and grinned to myself. I hadn't wanted to join the Preventers, I had wanted to go back to salvage. But a month or two of the old life had shown me that I wasn't fit for it anymore. When Trowa had come hunting me and asked me to join with him I had been more than willing to say yes. He had tried going back to the circus and it hadn't worked for him either. He had wanted a partner he could trust at his back, and that had meant convincing either me or Quatre to go back with him. Quatre was tied up in his father's business, so I guess it hadn't been much of a choice.

Wufei and Heero of course had joined right up. They never faltered, never seemed to have any doubts at all. Of course, time had changed my old friends in some ways- most of them good. Wufei never complained about 'onnas' anymore- Sally, Noin and Une would kill him if he did. Heero had actually developed a sense of humor, which was pretty damn amazing. They both were a lot more fun to be around and hardly ever threatened to kill me anymore. I almost missed it sometimes.

As we stood in the elevator I caught Heero's eye. He was frowning at me.

"What? I haven't done anything bad today- honest!" I protested. The frown lightened a bit.

"Is something wrong?" He asked me.

"Huh?"

"Yeah, Maxwell, you do seem a bit quiet today," Wufei added. "Is something wrong?"

"No, just thinking." I smiled for them. "That building is going to give me some trouble."

"Can you handle it?" Heero asked as the doors slid open.

"Hey now, Yuy, of course I can! Aren't I the stealth expert?" I smiled wider. He scowled at me. We entered the cafeteria and got our food, retreating to a table in the corner. It was funny how we still did that- found a strategic place to sit, arranged our offices so that no one had their back to the door. The doctors had been pretty through in their training.

"So, the Commander managed to get two assignments out of you for this run?" Wufei asked as we sat down.

"Yeah. Rashid filed for extra security for Quatre, since he's working on some government contract for L4. I guess there have been a few attempts made on him already. Amateur, and nothing that he or the Magunacs couldn't handle, but better safe than sorry." I replied. "And of course, there just so happens to be some kind of drug ring headquartered near L4 that the locals want the Preventers to look at."

"Take out?" Heero asked.

"No. Recon. Apparently it's guarded pretty heavily, and since it's on a private satellite we need real solid proof to go in there officially."

"What if you get caught?" Wufei asked.

"I'm just a too-curious Preventer who went without permission, of course," I replied with a lifted eyebrow.

"Which means no backup," Heero pointed out.

"Exactly." I shrugged. "Relax Yuy, I used to do this kind of thing all the time with no backup." Heero exchanged a look with Trowa and they both looked at Wufei. Something was up. "What?"

"Duo," Wufei leaned over the table and I blinked at his use of my first name. "We've been a bit worried about you lately."

"Me?"

"You've- been a bit reckless." I raised both my eyebrows. This was just- weird. Complaining about me being reckless? Wasn't that the whole reason I had been chosen as a pilot in the first place? Just like they had?

"What? Like how?"

"The car chase you stopped by pulling your vehicle in front of the perps." Wufei said dryly. "I'm still amazed you walked away from that one."

"The drug dealer you chased down without waiting for me," Trowa pitched in.

"The black market gun dealer you held up with his own guns?" Heero pointed out.

"Not to mention the suicide squad on L2 that you stopped from taking out the consulate building. How did you manage to remove 50 pounds of C4 hardwired to explode if tampered with?" Wufei added.

"The minesweeper operation..." Trowa continued.

"And that was just so far this year. Shall we go back farther?" Heero asked. I raised my hands in surrender.

"Okay, okay, I get it." I hadn't thought I was being reckless, just doing my job. But maybe to them it had looked a bit reckless- they'd all changed since the war. Maybe I hadn't?

"We just want you to be careful," Wufei studied me intently. "We're a little- concerned." He hesitated over the last word and I finally realized what they were getting at.

"Relax guys. I don't have a death wish or anything." I tried to be reassuring. "Maybe it's you." They tensed. Okay, that was not the right way to start out.

"Us?" Heero's eyebrow matched Wufei's, Trowa frowned and I swallowed. In for a penny...

"Well think about it," I said. "You all have things that are more important to you than this job, right? I don't. So, I may look reckless to you, but really I'm not." It made sense to me.

"Duo," Trowa shook his head at me.

"Look, once you get something that's more important to you, something to live for, you become more cautious, right? During the war none of us had anything to live for. We were all reckless. I wasn't the only one who hit that self-destruct button." I spread my hands with a glance at Heero. "Since then, you've all found the things that are important enough to live for. Trowa has found his sister, Wufei has found Sally, Heero has..."

"If the word 'Relena' crosses your lips, I'll kill you." Heero looked angry- not a good sign.

"Uh yeah." I moved away a little from Heero. "The peace to protect. So you've all gotten more cautious. I just seem reckless by comparison." I was proud of my reasoning. But then, I was expecting them to be reasonable in return. Yeah, it was stupid of me, I admit it.

"You don't have anything to live for?" Heero snarled at me.

"Duo Maxwell, you are an idiot." Trowa snapped at the same time. Wufei was glaring.

"Whoa!" Okay, I had obviously managed to piss off all three of them at once. Hadn't done that for a while! "Maybe I'm not explaining this well enough. Let me start over." I paused and rubbed my forehead wondering what in the hell to tell them. When in doubt- stick with the simple stuff. "Look, I'm sorry I've been scaring you. I didn't realize it. I promise to be more careful, okay?"

"Swear it, Maxwell," Wufei leaned over the table.

"I swear it, Chang. Okay?" He sat back, still frowning. It was with relief that I saw Sally bringing her tray over to join us. I smiled and waved, welcoming her as the much needed diversion she was.

After lunch, Trowa went to the supply office to check out our 'toys' with Wufei and Sally. I headed back upstairs with Heero. He's not the most chatty of guys in the best of times and I didn't feel like trying, so the ride was silent until we were almost at our floor.

"Do you really have nothing to live for?" Heero said into the silence. I blinked.

"I didn't mean it quite that way, I guess. More like no one to leave behind?" I ran my hand through my bangs. "Ah, hell. That doesn't quite sound right either."

"It shouldn't, as you would be leaving all of us behind." Heero shook his head. "Baka."

"I know, but-" I paused again. Heero's hand clamped down on my arm. Hard.

"No," his eyes met mine, the blue turned to ice. "Don't devalue yourself."

"Uh- okay?" His eyes softened slightly and he let go.

"Hn." The doors opened. "Let's go see how well you memorized the blueprints."

"Oh no, not one of your little quizzes, Yuy! We're not in high school anymore!" I protested as I followed him to my office. Not that I minded. Having Heero quiz me on the building would definitely help.

The rest of the day flew by. Trowa returned with our equipment and we went to one last final debriefing with Commander Une. I promised to pick my partner up nice and early the next morning. Heero had reluctantly agreed to watch my cat, so I made sure to give him a set of my keys before I left.

That night I updated my files, making sure that my 'last words' files were complete. It sounds morbid I know, but hey, being Shinigami, I'm a little type A about being prepared for death. My last will and all that had been completed only a few months after I joined the Preventers. My 'last words' file was exactly that. I had created little files for each one of my friends- the guys, Hilde, Howard, and updated them occasionally. Some parts were apologies, some parts were thank yous, some parts were things I had always thought or felt, but never had the nerve to say. Funny, huh, when you think about how much I talk, right?

In the letters, I told Wufei how much I respected him, Quatre how I had always enjoyed his company, Trowa how much I had liked being his partner, and Heero-- how much I loved him. Nothing that I could say to them face to face without total embarrassment, or in Heero's case- getting shot and/or losing my best friend. But the idea of dying without letting them know how important they were to me was just wrong. As I was adding some things to Howard's file, my phone rang.

"Maxwell here."

"It's Yuy. Are you prepared for tomorrow?"

"All set," I replied cheerfully. It's kind of funny how Heero always calls me right before I'm supposed to go out on something big like this. I guess it's a habit he got into during the war. I don't mind- hey, it maybe the last time I get to hear his voice. "Any last orders, 01?" He snorted.

"Just be careful 02. Remember your promise." I smiled.

"I doubt Trowa will let me forget." I looked at my computer thoughtfully. "But, Heero, just in case something does happen to me- can you do me a favor?"

"Hn."

"I'll take that as a yes. If something does happen to me there's a file on my computer I want you to print up and put the parts in the appropriate hands."

"Which file?"

"It's called 'last words'."

"Duo," he sounded angry.

"For goodness sakes, I've had it on my computer since the war. I just realized that I never told anyone to check it, which is kind of stupid." I took a deep breath. "So, will you?"

"Yes." I relaxed. If Heero said yes, then it would get done. He's the best and most dependable friend I have. I needed to add that thought to his letter...

"Thanks man. I appreciate it." I laughed and changed the subject. "So, what have you and Wufei got for the next few days?" We chatted for a few more minutes before he hung up after reminding me one more time to be cautious.

I picked Trowa up on time and spent most of the ride going over the plans we had for Quatre's security. He had managed to work with Rashid and fit us in to the usual bodyguard routine without offending him. Trowa could be very diplomatic at times.

"It sounds good Trowa. I'll be doing my run the last night out, so you'll have Quatre all to yourself for a night." I gave him a wicked grin and he flushed.

"Shut up Maxwell."

"Oh, so you aren't interested?" Trowa frowned at me and I laughed. "C'mon, I have to tease you sometime and I can't do it with Quatre right there." I knew how Trowa felt about Quatre- had known for years now. Trowa had never told me, but he didn't have to, I knew the signs of pining after someone you knew you couldn't have. Hell, I had been doing it for years too.

"Why do you have to tease me at all?' He asked as we got out of the car.

"It's what partners do," I told him cheerfully.

"Then I'll have to remember to tease you about Heero," he said blandly and watched me choke.

"Trowa?"

"I know you Duo. Give me some credit." He was grinning as we mounted the steps. I shook my head.

"Score one for Barton," I made an imaginary mark in the air. "As long as..."

"No. I think I'm the only one who noticed." He rang the bell and grinned. "So far..." He paused and waited. I mimed zipping my lips shut. He nodded at our unspoken pact. Rashid opened the door and let us in.

Quatre greeted us warmly, as he always did, hugging both of us and exclaiming how happy he was that we would be joining him. Then, in that lightening quick way he had, the charm got turned off and he was all business. We went over the bodyguard plan with him and he insisted on knowing why I was not on the plan for the last night out.

"Preventer's business," I told him.

"Another assignment?"

"Just recon. I'll be back in time to catch the shuttle home with you the next morning." I tapped his schedule and he glanced at Trowa.

"Dangerous?"

"Hopefully not," Trowa said smoothly. Quatre frowned slightly. He knew us very well.

"I can free Trowa up to go with you," he said to me and I shook my head.

"No. I'll do better on my own. Don't worry about it. Let's concentrate on getting you through this in one piece. Who do you think is responsible for these attacks?" Subject changed, Quatre ran down his list of maybes for us and I arranged to fax them to HQ. A few hours later we were on the private shuttle to L4.

[part 2] [back to Merula's fic]