Author: Honor A. De'Mandoren
See chapter 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Common Sense + Chapter Two
License To Be Bad

Give me the luxuries of life and I will willingly do without the necessities.
- Frank Lloyd Wright

+

Bright and early Monday morning (whoever decided that the working day needed to start at eight needs their head examined) Une called me into her office. Since I hadn't done anything to warrant my boss yelling at me, I dared to hope that I was getting a mission. I hate paperwork.

Knocking politely, I stuck my head inside her office and beamed. "There's my favorite boss! A top of the mornin' to ya."

Une was so used to me, she didn't even blink. "Sit down, Maxwell."

Yup, judging from her tone, we are definitely thinking mission. Whoopee! I sat down in one of the chairs in front of her desk, ears perked like an eager puppy.

"What do you think of Zechs Marquise?"

Aw...nuts. Relena had called her. Or...maybe not. She didn't look pissed, just neutral. I cocked my head, trying to figure out where she was going with this. "Don't know him real well. I like what I saw, though. He's fun, he's level-headed, he's sexy. Why do you ask?"

Une steepled her fingers right in front of her face for a moment, just looking at me. "What would your reaction be if I told you he will be your partner for a mission?"

Me and Zechs? Working together? Ahhh... "Why? I thought you wanted me with Heero. Or 'Fei."

"Usually, yes, because they need your people skills. However, this new mission requires absolute people skills, your hacking abilities, and Zech's political connections and name."

And what kind of a mission would require those things? "I'm not against it. I've never worked with him before, so I can't really say if it's going to work well or not, but I don't have a problem with it."

"No lingering animosity from the war?"

"Hell no. For one thing, I never fought against Zechs. He always went after Heero. If anything, I should feel insulted that he never went for me."

Une rolled her eyes at that reasoning.

I decided it was wise to keep going. "Anyway, point is, I have no problems working with Blondie. That being said, what kind of a mission is this? And--" A thought hit me, and I switched directions mid-sentence. "Actually, how are you able to call him in? I met Zechs at Relena's shindig the other night and he told me that he wasn't on active duty."

Une gave me this Look which adequately expressed her displeasure with Relena. "She made a request that Zechs be pulled from active duty. And she pulled enough strings to where I had to agree. But this is sensitive and important enough that I can bring him back in."

"He'll be happy to hear that," I informed her. "He's going stir crazy."

"Yes, I imagine so. Now, there is a mini-mission you must perform before your actual mission can start." Une started smiling a little, which scared me down to my toes. She leaned forward slightly, that little smile still playing over her mouth. "Duo, I need you to go kidnap Zechs."

It took a second to sink in...then I joined her in smiling evilly. "You want me to sneak into Relena's palace, get Zechs, then sneak back out without her being the wiser?"

"Precisely."

Ooh! And after Relena had done that whole 'leave my brother alone' spiel! I gotta love it when my boss tells me to do something bad. I beamed at her. "Your wish is my command, boss!"

"Get going, I want you to bring Zechs back for the briefing. Oh, and this--" she took out a slip of paper and handed it to me, along with a set of keys "--is your vehicle to use for the duration."

One of the keys had 'Corvette' written on it. I have a feeling that I'm going to LOVE this mission. "Yes ma'am, thank you ma'am!"

"And Maxwell, try not to get too many tickets."

Tickets? Like the cops can even catch me!

+

I've gone through many walls and barricades in my time, been through the best security systems ever devised, fought my way through armed men that had gorilla mothers. When I snuck inside Relena's palace...it was like a walk in the park. I could not believe how easy it was to get inside. I mean, it was seriously sad. I was tempted to just stroll openly across the lawn, it was that easy.

But I restrained myself, went to Zech's playroom, er...I mean, game room and quietly slid the window open. I had a hunch he would be in that room, considering that Relena doesn't know where it is. If I had a room that Relena didn't know about, that's where I would be spending most of my time.

Now, to the stud muffin's credit, he had a gun out and pointing in my face the second that window started going up. At least I didn't have to worry about him guarding my back. I winked at him. "Hey sexy. We have seriously got to talk about the security around here, man. It sucks. I mean, as a Gundam pilot, there's just a certain standard that needs to be upheld y'know?"

Zechs blinked at me, but put the gun away. "Duo? What the hell are you doing here?"

"I'm your get out of jail free card. Une told me to come kidnap you."

The poor guy looked like he was ready to cry tears of joy. "Mission?"

"Yup."

"Move over Maxwell, I'm coming through."

I slid to the side so he could duck through the window. "You wanna grab some clothes?"

"Whatever I need, I'll buy."

Translation: get going before the wicked witch of Sanq catches up with us. Roger that! I led the way back out of the immaculate palace, and hopped into the driver seat of my new sleek red Corvette. Zechs hopped into the passenger side (it was so nice to ride around with someone who didn't fight to drive every damn time) and we took off in a squeal of tires.

Zechs was grinning like a loon, apparently enjoying the free air. It made me wonder a bit about him. I mean, Heero and Trowa both had said a few things about the Lightning Count. And even if I hadn't fought against him directly, I had fought his men. He wasn't a pushover by any means. I had to wonder why he was putting up with Relena's crap. Maybe because they were siblings? "So...did Relena keep yelling at you after we left?"

"She tried. I just walked away." He turned more toward me, face serious. "I'm sorry about what she said."

"No big," I negated with a flick of my hand. "She's always hated me. Mostly 'cause of Heero, but I think even without him we'd be enemies. There's just something about me that bugs her. And I have to admit, I love bugging her."

Zechs snorted, lips twitching. God, he's hot when he does that. "That's probably what does it right there. May I ask, why did you come and bust me out? What's the mission?"

"Une didn't tell me. She wanted to brief us both at once."

That really made him sit up and pay attention. "We're partnering on this mission?"

"A-yup." A thought hit me. Une had made sure that I was cool working with Zechs...but was Zechs cool about working with me? "Um...you're okay with that?"

"I'd much rather partner with you than deal with Relena."

I gave him a sour look. "Gee, thanks."

He turned back to the road, relaxed and comfortable in his seat. "Seriously, Duo...what you said the other night struck home. We aren't enemies. We were just on opposite sides in a very confusing war. Hell, I think I changed sides about five times. This time..." he sighed softly. "This time, at least, I'm on the right side for the right reasons."

I watched him out of the corner of my eye. Yeah, I could work with this guy. It might have taken him awhile, but he was pretty centered now. "Yup. And I'm glad of it. Heero is still grumbling about never really finishing that fight with you, and I gotta tell you it's scary to think that anybody can fight my good buddy for three hours and end in a tie. Don't be surprised if he maneuvers you into finishing that fight."

Zechs started smirking, apparently very pleased with that. "I don't think Une will approve of her agents killing each other off."

"Naw, we're supposed to avoid bloodshed and all that." Speaking of bloodshed... "Hey Zechs, I know Une wants to keep it quiet that I stole you and everything but--" I gave him a quick, imploring smile "--don't you want to rub it in your sister's face that I stole you?"

Zechs frowned at me severely. "Agent Maxwell, are you suggesting going against your superior's direct order?"

"It wasn't a direct order, it was an assumed one."

He thought that over for a minute. "Oh. Well, in that case, what do you have in mind?"

Yup, me and Zechs are going to work together just fine.

+

I simply could not believe my ears. What I heard simply couldn't be right. I looked at my newly minted partner, and was gratified to see the same expression of disbelief. Good, apparently I wasn't losing my mind. Une really did just tell us that we were going to a summer resort, all expenses paid, with no time limit. "Une, babe, you know I love ya and I'm your favorite agent and all that, but what did I do to deserve the royal treatment?"

Une quirked an eyebrow at me, apparently getting a kick out of our reactions. "There is high level classified material coming out of that resort. We don't know why, we don't know who, and we don't know how. All we know is that it's coming from that area. It's up to you to figure it out."

I looked at the folder sitting in my lap. Apparently the few details that we did know would be in there. Joy. Maybe I could talk Zechs into reading it and giving me the Cliff Notes version. "And the reason why you wanted people with a personality on this one is...?"

"That resort caters to a particular age group and level of society. Age fifteen to twenty-five, and these are usually ambassadors' children, idols, actors, that sort of thing."

The really elite spoiled rich kids in other words. Oh boy. No wonder she wanted me and Zechs. "Kay. Anything else?"

"If Relena calls, I don't know where either of you are."

God, I love this woman. I gave her a snappy salute. "Thanks, boss."

"Shoo. Don't update me until you have something worthwhile to report."

Zechs and I left her office and started for the 'vette. I sent a quick text message to Quatre as we walked. 'Mission. Gone for a while.'

"Alerting someone?" Zechs inquired with a little interest.

"Yup. Q-bean goes through the roof if one of us goes somewhere without informing him. And I don't want a bunch of Maguanacs chasing me down, thanks."

Zechs gave me an odd look. "You don't strike me as the type to..."

"What? Put up with mother hens?" We hit the outside and I lifted my face to the sky. Mm. Beautiful day. Maybe I should put the top down on the 'vette. "Truthfully, it's nice to have someone worry about me. And it doesn't cost me anything to tell my friends that I'll be gone for a while, so they don't worry." I gave him a challenging smile as we turned for the car. "But that doesn't fit my image, right?"

"My 'image' of you is rather shaky and based on a lot of rumor and hearsay. I just thought you fiercely independent."

"Funny, I thought the same of you." Heck, if he wanted to psycho analyze, then he had to be in the game too.

"Cow-towing to Relena you mean?" He had a guilty look on his face. "There's...other reasons for that."

I felt bad suddenly for pressing the issue. "Hey man, just chill, 'kay? Look, there is something you have to understand about me. I like to talk about people, know what makes them tick, and sometimes I go too far. Just tell me to shut up, or pull a Heero and start heaping death threats on my head. I'll stop."

Zechs shook his head and walked around the car to get into the passenger side. "I started it, didn't I?"

"Yeah. But you can still tell me to shut up." I slid into the driver's seat and gunned the engine. God, I love sports cars! "So, let's do some shopping shall we?"

+

The only person that I really shop with on a regular basis is Quatre, sometimes Sally. Shopping with anyone else drives me nuts. Heero and Wufei both calculate the distance between whatever they want, the cashiers, and the front door--I kid you not. And they research everything online before they buy it, up to and including their socks. Trowa doesn't usually go shopping at all, just bribes Quatre into doing it for him.

Zechs, surprisingly, was fun to shop with.

At first we both played it cool. Just here to get some stuff, need to fit in with the image of the resort, mission oriented only, blah blah blah. Then I picked out an ice blue shirt and tossed it at him, and he spotted a pair of jeans that fit me perfectly, and we gave up on pretense.

It took four hours to shop for 'mission oriented clothing' and we had a blast. We both love shopping for clothes, and looking spiffy. I think we must have spent about five thousand between the two of us. Accounting was going to have a coronary.

And, of course, part of all that shopping was buying Relena's 'present'. Namely, a shirt that said "I've Been Had By the Sexy Duo Maxwell", nicely wrapped and sent to her palace. Not one of my most creative pranks, I have to admit, but we were kinda short on time, and this got the message across beautifully.

The trunk of the 'vette could barely hold everything by the time we called it quits. It was really late in the day too, and there was a rumbly in my tumbly, so I voted for dinner. "You hungry?"

"Yes. Shall we go to our hotel room and call for room service?"

It was the safe thing to do, and I nodded in quick agreement. We went to our ritzy hotel, called in room service (I think Zechs was secretly choking on how much food I ordered, but hey, I'm a growing boy, I need my calories) and while we were waiting for the food to get there, we went ahead and got comfy.

Did you know that Zechs doesn't wear a top to bed?

I found that point quite riveting, myself.

Zechs has a very, and I do emphasize VERY nice chest. I had to watch myself otherwise I would start drooling openly. I didn't think I could compete with that kind of build and went with a t-shirt over my Ho-ho's.

He gave my pj bottoms a scrutiny, mouth screwing up in a smile. "Aren't those a little out of season?"

I looked down at myself. My ho-ho's, as I call them, are red and white pajama bottoms with "ho ho ho" written all over them. "Q got them for me for Christmas. But they're warm and comfy, I like wearing them. Besides," I couldn't help but adding, "Heero keeps giving me funny looks when I wear them out of season. I just have to mess with the guy's mind."

Zechs started shaking his head, chuckling. "Maxwell, you are an original."

"Why thank you," I purred. I climbed up onto my bed (the room had two full size sleigh beds) and got comfy. "So...I've always wondered, why did you go after Heero and nobody else?"

He sighed, looking down at his hands. "I thought you might ask me that."

"You can always tell me to shut up," I reminded him quietly.

"...no. I'd be wondering the same thing, in your shoes. The truth is, I admired Heero's focus. He just seemed to know precisely what he was doing, and why he was doing it. I thought that maybe, if I fought him, I could learn to think the same way he did."

He'd been looking for his own focus, poor guy. "Zechs, I gotta tell ya, that makes no sense."

There was a rueful shake of the head. "Looking back on it...I rather agree with you. At the time, though..."

"Well, as long as it was that, and you weren't snobbing me or something."

There was a knock on the door, and I exploded from the bed. "FOOD!" My lovely food, come to meet its new home. The maid that brought it in was about fifty, and looked like she hadn't had a good day. Once she set the food out for us, I slipped a twenty into her pocket and hugged her just 'cause. She started blushing, but she was smiling too. Well, there was my good deed for the day!

Our maid wandered off in a giddy daze, and I dug into the spread. Steak, and fries, and baked potatoes, and ice cream, and cake and lots of root beer. Hog heaven!

Zechs went with a simple steak dinner and a baked potato. He kept watching me while I ate, as if he were trying to figure out where I put it all. He said it in a very polite way, though. "High metabolism?"

"No," I told him with great dignity. "I have a hollow leg."

I swear his lips twitched, but his face remained admirably grave. "A rare condition. I hope you're getting treatment for it."

Damn the man, but he does have a wicked sense of humor hidden behind those absolutely gorgeous eyes. "Sally says it's untreatable and that I'll be fat by the time I'm thirty."

"Somehow, I have a hard time picturing that." He pushed his plate back and went to his bed, snatching up a hair brush as he went.

Okay, intellectually I knew that Zechs's hair was almost as long as mine, but...I never really paid a lot of attention to it until now. It was gorgeous, and thick. I got a weird sense of déjà vu watching him...is this what the guys saw when I took my hair down and brushed through it? I pushed away from the table and retreated to my bed, watching him in absolute fascination.

Zechs gave me a glance askance. "What? You do this too."

"Yeah, but...how do you put up with it just loose like that? It would drive me nuts."

"The truth is, it's so fine I can't get it to really stay back." He shrugged a shoulder and switched to work his brush through the other side.

Hm...he did have a lot of hair, but the strands did look finer than my own. Feeling a little weird (don't ask me why, I have no idea) I shook my hair out of its braid and started running a brush through it. It was Zechs's turn to stare. "Okay," I grouched at him playfully. "What's your excuse?"

"I've never seen it down," he murmured. His eyes were taking me in thoughtfully. "I remember Winner saying something about it once--that it was very personal to you."

Personal? Well...kinda. I gathered a lock thoughtfully between my fingers, smoothing it over. "Important is a better word. Holds a lot of memories."

My cellphone chose that moment to ring.

"They're going to take me away, ha ha! They're going to take me away ha ha! To the Funny Farm--"

Even as I flipped it open to answer, I noticed that Zechs was fighting back laughter. What? I thought it was an appropriate ring tone for me. "Yo."

<<Duo, what the hell do you think you're doing?>>

"Hm...me and Zechs were going to have kinky sex in a minute," I told Wufei seriously. Zechs nearly fell of the bed, so I just had to keep going. "Why? You want a threesome?"

<<MAXWELLL!!!!>>

Color me evil, but I love teasing Wufei over a phone. I'm safely out of reach that way. "Didn't Quatre pass on the message? I'm on a mission."

<<Yes, we know you're on a mission,>> Wufei snapped. <<What I want to know is why you have Zechs!>>

Apparently Une hadn't updated the guys on the situation. Gah. "He's my partner."

<<Relena is ready to kill! Especially with that prank you pulled on her!...wait, did you say partner?>>

"Yup."

<<Une approved this?>>

"Une suggested it, *I* approved it."

<<Oh.>>

I waited for that to process.

<<This isn't a serious mission is it?>>

I rolled my eyes. "You're all a bunch of mother hens. Look, 'Fei, Zechs was a Gundam pilot too, and a damn good one. I have no qualms about him guarding my back. Now, tell Heero to stop searching for me, tell Trowa to distract Quatre, and go smooch on Sally, okay?"

<<DUO!>>

"Nighty-night, Wuffers." I shut the phone off and gave Zechs a helpless shrug. "Relena apparently has stirred up trouble. I am delighted to report that she liked our prank, though."

"Ah. I had wondered what set Chang off."

"It don't take much," I agreed dryly. "Shall we be good little boys and go to sleep?"

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