Author: Merula
see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Reckless + Part 2

The trip had been going smoothly, it really had. No big security nightmares, no attempts made on Quatre's life. The Magunacs were damn near religious about keeping him safe and agreed with everything Trowa or I suggested. Plus it was nice to be back around Quatre again. He had a pretty sarcastic sense of humor and his take on all those meetings we guarded him through was enough to even make Trowa laugh.

The day before we were scheduled to return home, I was wrapping up the last of my prep stuff for my evening out when Quatre cornered me.

"Duo, you'll be careful right?"

"Have you been talking to Trowa?" I teased him lightly. He frowned back at me. "Don't worry Quatre. I've got my communicator and I'll check in often. You'll know the minute there's trouble."

"Promise?"

"Of course." I raised my eyebrow at him.

"You know," he said softly. "We'd all miss you if you weren't here anymore." I met his eyes and saw the worry there. I touched his shoulder gently, trying to soothe.

"I'll be fine, Dad, honest. You'll see me at breakfast."

"I expect to see you there," he told me. I smiled for him.

"Hey, and try and keep Trowa calm for me? I got a major lecture from the three of them about being reckless before we left and I didn't handle it well. So, Trowa might be a bit jumpier than usual. But I know you can keep him calmer than any of us ever could."

"I'll try." There was a tone in Quatre's voice I hadn't heard before. I turned and caught something on his face that surprised me. My eyes met his and he flushed as I smiled.

"Ah ha," I said and he blushed harder. "Well, well, looks like the attraction is mutual."

"What?" He asked me, blinking.

"You heard me." I gave him a quick hug. "See you in the morning."

I was still grinning about it as I squeezed my way through the vents in the small satellite. I had managed to get close to damn thing without alerting anyone. I had hidden my ship underneath the construct and suited up to find a way inside. Ditching my suit in some conveniently placed crates, I had immediately entered the ventilation system. Fortunately I managed to find what I was looking for right away. This was a drug manufacturing plant. The damn place was loaded with the stuff. The plant was on the night cycle, so most of the staff seemed to be elsewhere. I slipped out in a few places to take some photos- nothing like hard evidence, right? I got the evidence we needed, got back in the vents and was heading back towards my suit when the sound of running feet in the corridor below made me pause.

"STATIONS! STATIONS!" Someone was yelling. A door opened beneath me.

"What the hell is going on?" Someone yelled into the corridor.

"We found an unidentified craft outside sir! One of the security cameras picked it up on it's round." Crap, crap, crap! I wished with all my heart for Deathscythe's cloaking device. They must have aerial cameras that scanned all the surfaces floating around- there hadn't been any stationary ones near where I left the ship. I hadn't thought they'd be THAT paranoid. 'Baka'! I cursed at myself. Well, this job just got 10 times harder!

"Search the factory!" More feet ran up and down beneath me. Damn, they'd think of the vents soon enough. My ship was out of the question. I ran over the blueprints in my head. Where to go? Several options popped up and I headed for the nearest. I was almost there when I heard a noise that made my blood run cold.

They were shooting up the vents.

I could hear the blasts coming nearer and nearer and I scrambled to get out of the way. At least it wasn't a shotgun, I reassured myself and they weren't doing much more than shooting every couple of feet, but it still wasn't good. The noises got closer and closer and I realized that there was no way I was going to get to safety before they reached me. I had a chance, but only a slim one. I stopped moving and my hand went to my wrist. I tapped out a quick message to Trowa as I listened to the gunfire. 03 Drug factory confirmed. On to me. I'll be late. 02 I adjusted myself in the vent. The trick would be to move backwards after they fired a shot behind me and before they fired one into me. I almost made it.

The gunfire moved past me as I clutched the upper part of my arm. Damn, too close. But no blood had dripped out of the vent, so I wasn't doing too badly. They still didn't know where I was. I bound up the damn thing as best I could so that I wouldn't bleed everywhere and continued on my way.

The best chance I had was to get to their docking bay. I managed, but as I looked out the vent, I grimaced in dismay. The place was heavily patrolled. Damn it. I sat in the vent and frowned, the blueprints still running through my head.

"So, is it one of the Black Wolves?" One of the security guards had stopped another one right in front of me.

"More than likely. They want our factory. The boss is furious." I sighed, relieved. The ship I had used had no identifying marks, so they had assumed that a rival gang had sent someone in here to cause some trouble. That might work to my advantage. If I caused enough trouble, they'd have to pull some guards off the bay.

I'd hate to say 'trouble' is my middle name, but I am damn good at causing it. A few hours later the place was completely chaotic. I had stopped to rest behind some boxes in one of the storage rooms when I finally thought to look at my wrist.

02 You are VERY late. Please respond! 03
I checked my watch. I should've been back two hours ago. Poor Trowa. He had sent me several query status messages, but I'd been too busy to notice.

03 Been a little busy. Still trying to get out. Don't worry. 02 I could just picture Trowa's frustration. I should try the bay again and see if I could get out. Just then the factory shook under my feet. What the hell? I scrambled back into the vents and headed towards the hallways. The information I needed was being called out to every person in the factory over the loudspeakers.

The Black Wolves had come a-callin. Damn it. I so did not want to be caught in the middle. I grimaced and tried heading towards the bay again. With my arm aching, it took forever. But I needed to try. If the fighters were heading out, I might have a chance, if I didn't get blasted to kingdom come first. With all the fighting going on I had to retrace my steps over and over trying alternate routes as parts of the ventilation got destroyed. I was finally almost there when I thought to glance at my wrist.

02 Need help? 04 I wanted to laugh.

04 Don't you dare! Rival gang has come to visit. Try and slip out in the fuss. Don't worry about me. Follow your schedule, I'll catch up. 02
. I knew Quatre was scheduled to return to Earth in an hour. It wasn't safe for him to linger on L4. The vent shook under my hands. It wasn't safe for me to linger here either.

When I got to the bay I cursed under my breath. All the smaller ships were out- there was a hell of a firefight taking place outside. Apparently the Wolves would be happy just to blow the damn place up. Shit. I couldn't take one of the bigger transports, that would be like waving a red flag in front of a bull. I'd just have to wait it out and hope the factory survived. The way things were going though, it didn't look good.

Maybe I could just sneak on board one of the larger transports now, just in case, so I'd have at least a slim chance if the factory got blown to hell around me. It was easy enough to slip into the smallest transport I could find. Fortunately, it was also deserted. I tampered with the locks to make sure no one else could sneak in and then headed towards the helm. With luck I could tune in and listen to what was going on.

The bandwidth was easy to find- they had left it tuned in. Things were not going well for the factory workers, the Wolves had apparently shown up in a large number and were intent on destroying the rival's base, if not take it over. Things did not look good for me. Did I dare risk trying to fly this out of here? If the Wolves didn't shoot me out of the sky, the factory might. The transports weren't armed- I'd be a sitting duck out there.

On the other hand, just hanging around waiting to get blown up was not appealing. This sucked. So much for promising the guys that I'd be back- the gods seemed to have another plan for me today. I looked down at my wrist.

02 Mission completed. Threat to 04 eliminated. Do you need me? 03
Well, there was at least some good news. What the hell could I tell him though? I didn't want him in this mess. He couldn't help me anyway- even if he had his gundam. I might not survive long enough for him to get here.

03 Too dangerous! Intense battle. No way out or in.- I paused. How do I tell him that I might not make it back? Ah hell. -Looks like Shinigami might come for me. If I don't make it back- tell the others I'm sorry. 02 He didn't reply- well, what the hell could you say to that? I sat in the darkened transport, watching the destruction around me and wondered if I'd ever see them again. At least I had told Heero about my file- I could be assured that I had left my goodbyes in good hands.

The bay shook around me and I could see that the factory was well on it's way to destructing. Now or never. I powered up the transport as it shook around me, hoping for a lucky break. I didn't get it. The floor under me suddenly vanished and the transport was flung out into the middle of the fight before I could even finish warming the engines up. I was flung against the control panels as the ship spun around me. It was probably my lack of engine power that saved me. Since I didn't look like a ship trying to fly out of there I managed to sneak out of that fight with only minor damage. Looking back I saw that the factory had been reduced to floating debris.

Unfortunately, the damage was to one engine, so I was at half power. I groaned. It would take me at least a day to limp back to L4. I looked at my communicator and groaned again. It must have impacted with the controls. Totally useless. This was NOT my day.

Twenty hours later I managed to park the damn transport and contact the locals. Luckily, the head of L4 security and I had met, which was great, since I didn't have my badge or any other kind of identification on me. I went over the details of what I had seen and gave him a full report.

"Thank you," Commander Verens told me as I finished. "Will you report this to Commander Une?"

"Of course," I replied automatically and then realized something. "Do you mind if I use your communicator to do it? I haven't checked in yet." He grinned and waved me over to the one sitting in the corner of his office. I punched in the Preventers HQ code.

"Preventers HQ," Jane, our communications officer answered.

"This is Duo Maxwell, Agent 02, reporting in." Jane looked up at the screen and did an excellent imitation of a fish.

"Duo? You're alive?"

"Barely," I told her with a grin. "Is the Commander available?" A moment later, Commander Une was glaring at me.

"Agent Maxwell, you were reported missing, assumed dead over 24 hours ago. Where the fuck have you been?"

"I had a bit of trouble." Une's eyebrows arched up.

"Report," she snapped at me. After I finished, she looked less upset. "All right, Agent. Get back here ASAP and get me a hard copy of your report."

"As soon as I can get there," I told her. She blinked.

"Oh, and one more thing, Duo?"

"Yes ma'am?"

"Call the others, please?"

"Aren't they there?" She slammed her hand on her desk and shot me her patented 'you're an idiot' look.

"Duo, we thought you were dead! Of course they're not here!" She scolded me. "Better still, I'll call them. You just get your ass back here." She hung up on me and I turned back to Commander Verens.

"Okay, how do I get transport out of here?"

"I'll handle it." He grinned at me. "In the meantime go down and take a shower and I'll send someone down with some clothes. You can't get on a shuttle looking like that. Oh- and see our doc about that arm?"

The commander was as good as his word. Granted, the clothes were an L4 security uniform, but at that point I didn't care. The doc bound up my arm- luckily for me it was a clean shot right through. The only piece of luck I had in that damn place.

The shuttle ride back was uneventful, for which I was very grateful. I was able to doze off for a few hours, despite the ache in my arm. After we landed, I disembarked with the intention of finding a cab to the HQ, filing my report and going the hell home to bed. I brushed past the stewardess and someone grabbed my shoulder.

"Maxwell?" I turned and found myself face to face with Wufei.

"Chang." I grinned at him. To my utter surprise, he hugged me. "Wufei?"

"Damn it, Duo. You really scared us." He pulled away, frowning.

"I'm sorry." He took my elbow in a firm grip and tugged me in the right direction.

"The Commander told us what happened." He raised an eyebrow at me. "Didn't we already have this conversation about being reckless?"

"I really tried not to be," I protested. "Outside forces conspired against me." He laughed.

"Get in the damn car, Duo. The others are waiting."

"I have to go to HQ."

"No. The Commander countermanded the order. You are due in tomorrow. Right now you are going to reassure your friends that you're really okay."

"Where is everyone?"

"Trowa's."

"Did they really catch the guy after Quatre?" Wufei nodded.

"It was a board member of Winner Industries..." he explained as we headed towards Trowa's. "He was getting desperate, so he decided to take matters into his own hands. He leaped at Quatre right in the middle of the last meeting- tried to shoot him."

"Idiot."

"Exactly. Trowa and Quatre took him out before he even knew what happened. He confessed to the other attempts as well."

"Really?" Wufei shot me a glance.

"Quatre and Trowa were a bit- distressed by your absence. So..."

"Ah," I replied, flushing a bit. "The guy picked a bad time, huh?"

"You have no idea." Wufei grinned evilly. "He would've confessed to anything by the time they were done with him. He looked positively relieved to be taken away to lock-up." I laughed.

"I can almost feel sorry for the guy."

The door opened as we climbed the steps to Trowa's apartment and I found myself with an armful of Quatre.

"Duo!" he said, hugging me tightly. "You're okay!"

"I'm fine." I reassured him. "How are you? Wufei said that you got shot at." Quatre let me go and tugged me into the apartment.

"I'm fine too. Trowa knocked me out of the way." My partner rose to his feet as we entered and his hands closed on my shoulders.

"I'm glad to see you, but- don't you ever do that to me again!" He scolded as he shook me. I blinked.

"I didn't mean to," I tried to answer. "Honestly Trowa." He let go of my shoulders and I managed to get my breath back. I don't think Trowa realizes how strong he is. "I really am sorry. I was all set to get the hell out of there when they discovered my ship. So I got them all distracted and then the other idiots showed up..." I shrugged. "It really wasn't my day."

"It wasn't great for us either," Heero drawled from his place on the arm of the sofa. I glanced over at him, unable to read the expression on his face. He didn't get to his feet and I was a bit disappointed. I mean, hell, Wufei had looked happier to see me alive than Heero did.

"That's an understatement." Trowa released me. "Tell us exactly what happened." So I told them about my ship being discovered, the vents, the attack of the Black dogs and my beat-to-crap ride home. The room was quiet when I finished.

"Like I said- it was one hell of a bad day," I finished up trying to ease the tension. It didn't work. "It's not like I did it on purpose guys! I really didn't!"

"We know, Duo," Wufei replied with a faint smile. I smiled back and then yawned.

"Uh sorry. Guess it's catching up to me." Heero got to his feet.

"I'll take you home."

Like I've said before, Heero Yuy is not a conversationalist even at the best of times. The car ride home was quiet, since I didn't feel like talking much either. When he turned into my parking lot I turned and grinned at him.

"You did feed my cat, right?"

"Of course." He parked the car and gave me another unreadable look. Then he reached under his seat and handed me my keys and a file folder.

"What's this?"

"It's what you asked me to do. If you didn't come back, remember?" I had to remind myself to breathe. My 'last words' file.

"Did... did you...."

"I had just finished printing them out and was on my way to Trowa's when we heard you were alive."

"So, they didn't read them?" Relief swept through me for an instant.

"No." He looked out the front window. "But I did."

What the hell could I say to that?

"Uh, thanks for the ride, Heero. I'll see you at work tomorrow." I leaped from the car and beat a hasty retreat to my apartment cursing silently to myself.

Heero had read his letter. The letter where I had confessed to being in love with him since the war. Crap- he was going to kill me. Slowly and painfully. Damn his efficiency. Why couldn't he have waited just a little while? Why did he have to immediately print those out the minute he heard I was dead?

Because he promised, you idiot, I told myself. Heero never breaks a promise. He told you that those letters would end up where they needed to go. Oh but why couldn't he have waited?

My brain kept twisting the problem over and over in my head. Heero knew. He was going to kill me. He knew how I felt about him. The endless litany ran through my head as I prepared for bed.

Despite my mental agitation, I managed to fall asleep quickly, thanks to the pain meds. The next morning I got up and dressed, checked my bandages and ate breakfast, all the while avoiding thinking about what I had written to Heero. What he wasn't supposed to find out about until I was safely dead and he couldn't kill me. Of course, he hadn't even tried to kill me yesterday, but that didn't mean anything. Maybe he hadn't really thought about it yet.

Work, I reminded myself, glancing at the clock. Put this to the side and focus on work. If Heero tried to kill me today, then I'd think about it. Avoidance at it's best. Scarlett O'Hara has nothing on me. A knock on my door nearly made me jump out of my skin.

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