DISCLAIMER: Gundam Wing is property of its rightful owners and I in no way assert any sort of claim over its characters and storylines. Everything non-Gundam Wing is mine.


Always Second

"I'll only talk to 02, Duo Maxwell."

Maxine Lestelle. The woman sitting in the interrogation room was strikingly beautiful. Long flaxen hair, delicately arched eyebrows, thick eyelashes framing hazel eyes and lush full lips. Her make-up was expertly applied to play up her features to the fullest; her clothes were straight from the runway and the bag we had confiscated from her person cost more than 3 months of my salary, or so the Agent Rivers from the evidence lab said. It was hard to imagine that she was on the Preventers most-wanted list, the right-hand woman of Nigel Gothe, the Earth Sphere's most feared terrorist. She looked too delicate to be a terrorist. Only the hard steel in her gaze and her ice-cold demeanor gave her away. She'd been eerily calm since her arrest and after stating that she would only talk to Duo Maxwell, she'd remained resolutely silent for the past 8 hours.

"So that's her? What a beauty! Her pictures don't do her justice!" a rich tenor whistled behind me.

I glanced to side as the owner of the voice came to stand next to me at the two-way mirror. Agent Duo Maxwell, former-gundum pilot and legendary agent of the Preventers gazed nonchalantly at the prisoner, his blue, almost violet eyes lazily tracing the woman from top to bottom. After their slow sweep, those unnerving eyes shifted may way.

"You been here long?"

"No sir, only 15 minutes or so."

"Mmm… And I'm guessing she's done nothing but sit there since you got here."

"Nothing at all sir."

Since my rotation into the surveillance and infiltration division, Agent Maxwell has become something of an unofficial mentor to me. I don't know what made him choose me, or if it was orders from above. As far as rookie agents go, I'm middle of the pack. My entrance examination results were slightly higher than average and my physical endurance tests were decent, but I have no qualities that set me apart from the rest of my class. No matter how many times I've wracked my brain for an answer, I've never been able to figure out why someone like Agent Maxwell would choose to take me under his wing.

"Well… it's been 8 hours or so since she asked for me and if she hasn't gotten agitated yet, she's not going to anytime soon. This is gonna be one tough cookie to crack," Agent Maxwell sighed, not looking concerned at all. "Well then kid, should we see what the lady wants?"

"What?" I gaped at him, "I'm going too?"

"Of course," he chuckled, his eyes crinkling at the corners. "Why else would I call you down here?"

"But she said she would only talk to you!" I began to protest, a cold sweat running down my back.

"Negotiation 101: You never give them exactly what they want," Agent Maxwell grinned. "Besides, it'll be a good learning experience for you."

"B-but… this is way above my security clearance and I-I"

"Stop making excuses," a warm callused hand landed on my shoulder. "If you ask me, they baby you rookies too much with all their so-called rules and regulations. The best way to learn how to swim is to jump in the deep end. Makes ya learn to keep afloat real quick!"

"Or drown," I grumbled under my breath.

The hand on my shoulder gave a reassuring squeeze. "Don't worry so much kid, just keep quiet and observe. She'll probably just ignore you but if she does talk to you, don't respond. Besides, if you start to drown, I'll be sure to fish ya out."

I could only stutter as he gave me an exaggerated wink and sauntered into the examination room, completely at ease with the situation. I'd completely forgotten about his almost supernatural hearing.

"Sorry keep ya waiting Ms. Lestelle," he drawled as he pulled out a chair and languidly took a seat in one sinuous motion. His motions reminded me of a cat; seemingly careless but always well-planned and deliberate.

Stiffly, I followed suit and sat in the seat next to him, hoping that Maxine Lestelle wouldn't notice my presence. Of course my hopes were in vain.

"Who's he?" she demanded icily. "I said I wanted to talk to you."

"Yep, and here I am."

"It's not proper etiquette to bring a third wheel to a date."

"Mmm," Agent Maxwell hummed agreeably. "Is this what this is? A date? Well, don't mind him. He's just a rookie, he won't get in the way."

"It's also considered rude to keep your date waiting for so long."

"Oh yeah, sorry about that. Paperwork's been a bitch these days, no thanks to your group's activities. And between keeping a pretty lady like you waiting and facing the wrath of the scary boss lady, the scary boss lady comes first. After all, she's tried and almost succeeded in killing me," Maxwell grinned, hands crossed behind his head as he leaned back in his seat.

"And they said that your motto from the war was to never lie…" Maxine Lestelle commented. "How disappointing to find out it's only a rumour. You're just another lying bastard like the rest of them."

"Nope, it's true. I never tell a lie. Ask him," he inclined his head my way.

I found myself trapped in an icy and penetrating hazel gaze. "Is it true?"

Unsure, I could only nod. After all, Agent Maxwell had told me to keep quiet.

The penetrating gaze did not relent. "Which part? The part that he never lies? Or the part that he was busy doing paperwork?"

"Both," I croaked past my constricting throat after an encouraging nod from my mentor.

I suffered under Maxine Lestelle's piercing gaze for another moment before she returned her attention to my superior, an amused smile dancing on her rouged lips. "Interesting… so it is true."

Agent Maxwell grinned back. "Didn't I just say so?"

And it was true. One of the things that surprised me the most since meeting Agent Maxwell was that the man never lied. Of course he never told the whole truth, but somehow he always managed to speak no falsehood. Agent Maxwell had been glued to his desk for most of the day catching up on his paperwork. I thought it was weird that he seemed oddly adamant on completing it himself today instead of shoving it off on myself or one of the other rookies. As for putting Commander Une above Maxine Lestelle, no doubt in his mind, Une was a priority. And as for Une being scary… that was an understatement. Commander Une was terrifying. I'd also heard that during the war, she had overseen Agent Maxwell's imprisonment on the Lunar base. No one knew entirely what happened during his imprisonment, but it was clear that Agent Maxwell had never forgotten his treatment at Une's hands.

"I gotta say Ms. Lestrelle," Agent Maxwell continued amicably, "I admire your talent for being able to tell if someone is lying or not… well, your doubts about me aside."

Maxine airily tossed her golden locks over her shoulder. "With small fry like him it's easy. After all, that's an inherent trait of psychopaths right? If I'm not mistaken, you've profiled me as one haven't you?"

"Yep, well not me personally… but the profiling team has." Agent Maxwell's demeanor remained cheerful and relaxed. My mentor had not brought any materials in with him, but I knew from previous experience that he already had her file committed perfectly to memory. Although his speech pattern made you think otherwise, I'd discovered that he had one of the sharpest minds in the Preventers.

Maxine placed her hands on the table and leaned slightly forward. Instinctively I began to shrink back in my chair but a subtle hand signal from my mentor kept me still. "You're one too… aren't you? You're not easy to read like the others, and I can tell that it's not just from specialized training." Maxine smiled for the first time, showing a row of beautifully white teeth.

"I'm one too? Oh… ya mean a psychopath?" Agent Maxwell raised an eyebrow and rocked back in his chair. "Can't really say if I am, I'm not a psychologist after all… although I gotta to admit I do give the docs in the office a headache. I think having a psychopath work here is against the regs though so… probably not?"

"Mmm," Maxine hummed. "I hear they make a lot of exceptions for you gundum pilots…"

"Not as many as you'd think," my superior replied amicably.

"Oh? I thought they'd value you more… Duo. May I call you Duo?"

"Only if I can call you Maxine," he replied without missing a beat.

Maxine smiled once more, showing her row of perfect teeth once again. I was starting to get an odd feeling, like Maxine Lestelle was flirting with my superior; like I really was the third wheel at this bizarre 'date'.

"So Duo, are you happy?"

"Huh?" Agent Maxwell seemed genuinely puzzled by the question.

"Too vague? How about at work?"

"Well…" Maxwell drawled out the syllable. "Work has been pretty hectic recently. It'd be real nice if your organization could tone things down a little bit. Can't say that this job leads to happiness, but I already knew that coming in."

"Mmm.." Maxine tapped her perfectly manicured fingernails on the metal tabletop. In a moment of bizarre realization, I wondered inanely why she wasn't handcuffed. Wasn't this woman dangerous? But then again, this interrogation room was one that even my highly skilled superior would have trouble breaking out of. Not to mention, said highly skilled superior/mentor was in the room with me so I had nothing to fear. Still, the woman across the table from Agent Maxwell gave me a really unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach.

"I heard you joined at the request of Agent Heero Yuy," she mused, oblivious to my presence.

"I guess ya could say that," Agent Maxwell responded easily. "He needed my help for a mission and things kinda flowed from that."

"Don't you mean you were the only one available? I heard he'd contacted the others first but they were otherwise occupied…"

My mentor seemed unfazed by the comment. "Doesn't change the fact that he needed my help," he grinned broadly. "Plus we blew that mission outta the water! We make a real good team."

"Is that so? Yet Agent Yuy got all the credit, there was no mention of you at all," Maxine remarked rather snidely.

"Meh, no biggie. I wasn't doing it for the recognition, and neither was he. It's just the way things go sometimes."

"Maybe so, but even now, you're being constantly overlooked. You were instrumental in that mission in London two years ago, and let's not forget the nuclear meltdown you averted in the Arctic last year. Oh, and my all-time favourite: the time you helped save a colony from being dropped on earth only to be left behind as a distraction tactic. That was when you were still a Gundum Pilot, wasn't it?"

"I'm flattered that you've followed my career so closely Maxine," Agent Maxwell grinned, "But like I said, I didn't choose this line of work for the recognition."

"No, you didn't." Maxine nodded in agreement. I tensed when she shifted imperceptibly in her seat, the dangerous glint in her eye reminding me of a cat about to pounce on its prey. "You did it for the revenge."

"I did," my mentor admitted.

"Emphasis on the past tense I see," Lestelle commented.

Agent Maxwell shrugged. "Revenge gets old ya know? Anger only gets ya so far… you start to self-destruct after a while," he observed as he shot her a meaningful look while keeping his grin in place.

I realized that my mentor was slowly working on provoking a reaction Maxine Lestelle. Her file indicated that she joined Gothe's organization to exact revenge for the death of her parents and younger brother.

"What about love?" Maxine shot back smoothly.

Maxine Lestelle didn't seem the slightest bit affected by Agent Maxwell's remark about revenge. In fact, she seemed to be enjoying the interrogation more and more as it progressed.

"Love?"

"It's why you fight now, isn't it?" Maxine's smile turned cruel. "But even in that, you're neglected; second at best."

"Second?" my mentor parroted back with a sheepish grin. I recognized Agent Maxwell's feigned look of confusion. I had seen it many times before. He knew exactly what was going on, but he never let his adversaries know. This would usually result in his opponent getting cocky or angry. Either way, they would always slip up and let the cat out of the bag.

"To Relena Darlian-Peacecraft."

I felt the pit of my stomach drop. Agent Maxwell, to his credit, didn't' react.

"I know about your little… relationship with Heero Yuy," Maxine taunted. "He loves the beautiful princess but can't bring himself taint her pureness. So he turns to you, after all, in his eyes, you're just as tainted as him, if not more. 'Fuck Budies', I think you call it. Such a distasteful term, don't you think? All physical with no emotional attachment. He'll never cherish you like he does her. One call from her and he goes running to her side. But you," Maxine paused significantly, "you love him."

My mentor shrugged depreciatingly. "Life doesn't always go the way you want it to."

"And you're just going to sit back and accept it?" Maxine traced idle patterns on the table with her manicured fingertips. "I didn't take you for a coward."

"Sorry to disappoint I guess."

Maxine continued to trace patterns on the tabletop before leaning forward in a conspiring manner. "If you're not happy, you can always choose to take matters into your own hands, to shape your own fate."

Agent Maxwell raised a brow. "Is that what you're going to do? Tell us where Nigel Gothe is? Tell us his plans?"

Maxine Lestelle tossed her hair airily. "You insult me Mr. Maxwell. I'll never betray Nigel, never. I'm done talking. I'd like to be taken to my cell now."

"If that's what you want," Agent Maxwell responded agreeably.

I struggled to mask my shock as Agent Maxwell got to his feet and tapped on the two-way mirror. "You heard the lady. Interview's over."

The door opened and several armed Preventers agents came in to take Maxine Lestelle away.

"I hope you'll carefully consider our conversation Duo," Maxine called back over her shoulder. "I know you can't be satisfied with always coming second."

"Will do!" my mentor called back cheerily.

"You're just going let her go?" I asked Agent Maxwell once Lestelle was out of earshot. "You're not going to ask her about Gothe? About the organization? We didn't learn anything! We can't just-"

"Settle down rookie," Agent Maxwell clapped me on the shoulder with his large, warm hand. "We got plenty!"

"We did?" I asked in confusion. As far as I could tell, Maxine Lestelle had dug her manicured claws into Agent Maxwell's scars and ripped them open. What for, I couldn't even begin to grasp.

"We did," a voice commented from behind me. "Good job Maxwell but did the rookie really need to be present?"

I turned to see another agency legend standing in the open doorway: Agent Wufei Chang.

"Awww come on, it was a teachable moment! You an' Heero are always complaining about how greenhorned these rookies are – no offense kid," Agent Maxwell winked at me.

Wufei snorted. "Teachable moment? The rookie still seems confused…"

"Yeah well… I was getting to that," Agent Maxwell grinned wryly. "Let's get outta this room and compare notes. That woman used way too much perfume!"

Five minutes later I found myself seated in a small conference room with agents Chang and Maxwell. Agent Maxwell was enthusiastically inhaling a sandwich while Agent Chang quietly sipped his coffee with an exasperated look on his face.

"You'd think you hadn't eaten for days," he commented placidly.

"That woman was intense man," Agent Maxwell replied nosily around a large mouthful sandwich. "She ranks right up there with Une."

"Don't let her hear you say that," Agent Chang cautioned.

I sat quietly in my own corner, watching the interaction between my two senior agents. Their personalities were vastly different yet they held a strong bond of camaraderie. They could be seen amicably enjoying a meal together as often as they could be seen arguing over tactics. I'd heard that this unique bond between the two had been formed during their imprisonment on the Lunar base. Because of their seemingly clashing personalities, I often wondered if they would ever have become such good friends if not for their joint imprisonment.

"So… jilted lover or unrequited love?" Agent Maxwell asked, seemingly out of the blue.

"Unrequited love," Agent Chang replied after a moment's consideration.

I blinked in confusion but I was too terrified to interrupt and ask for clarification.

"Unless you wish to remain ignorant, ask when you do not understand," Agent Chang chided me with a knowing look in his onyx eyes.

"Ah, truly spoken like a scholar!" my mentor grinned.

"It's your teachable moment," Agent Chang retorted.

"Yeah, yeah." Agent Maxwell swallowed his last mouthful of sandwich and turned to me. "Didn't you wonder why Lestelle asked for me personally? Why she kept bringing up my personal life?"

I wracked my brains for an answer but the only answer I could come up with seemed far too simple. "Because she identified with you somehow?" I ventured hesitantly.

"Bingo!" my mentor crowed as he unscrewed the cap of his bottled juice. "Well… at least that's half of it."

"So… umm… what does unrequited love have to do with everything?"

"She's in love with Nigel Gothe. She's also motivated by revenge, so if she was a jilted lover, she'd be spillin' all of Gothe's secrets. She's still deeply devoted to him, even though she's been cast aside."

"Cast aside?" I was starting to feel like I'd witnessed a completely different interview.

"Mmm," Chang hummed. "That's obvious from her fixation of Yuy and Maxwell's relationship. So now we need to find Lestelle's 'Relena'."

"Yep, the new lover he runs to whenever she calls, the one he 'cherishes'," Agent Maxwell agreed. "She's also probably his new right hand too, taking Maxine's place."

"So we need to find this new lover," Chang surmised. "This could just be the break that we need. I'll go make a report to Une, you should go home and get some rest."

"Will do!" Agent Maxwell grinned cheerfully, crumpling his crumb-covered paper plate and tossing it in the garbage bin. "Heero still in his office?"

Agent Chang hesitated for a moment. "Relena called. Yuy told me to tell you he'll be gone for a few weeks, a month at most."

"Oh," Agent Maxwell's grin faltered for a moment before stretching wider than before. "Is that so? Ah well, I might as well finish up my paperwork while I'm on a roll…"

"Don't stay too late. Your reports become incomprehensible when you get tired," Agent Chang rested his hand on Agent Maxwell's shoulder for a moment before heading towards Commander Une's office.

"Umm… are you ok?" I dared to ask after several moments of tense silence.

"'Course," my mentor replied without looking up. "I'm used to it. It's his job after all."

"But is it true… what she said?"

"She was pretty perceptive," Agent Maxwell laughed wryly. "But she was talking more about herself than me really. And there's one big difference between Maxine and I," He finally looked up and gave me one of his trademark grins. "Heero always comes back to me… Anyways, that's not really anything you should worry yourself over kid. Now get goin'! You've got early morning drills tomorrow and rumour is that Chang's leading 'em!"

"Yes sir," I replied automatically. I could feel a cold sweat taking over me at the mention of one of Agent Chang's infamous training drills, but what struck me more was the look in my mentor's eyes. Even though he was smiling as cheerfully as usual, his eyes were sad and haunted.


AN: Thanks for clicking on and reading this story! If you're also a reader of "Appleseeds", fear not! That story is still my priority. This is more of a writing experiment for me. I'm not a huge fan of writing in the first person but I wanted to try it out. The focus of this story won't be on plot developments but of the unnamed rookie's observations of Heero and Duo's relationship. The other pilots will make an appearance here and there but they won't be playing large roles in this fic.

Hopefully this first chapter has caught your interest and you'll check back for more as I publish more chapters!

As always, feedback is always very welcome and wanted! It helps me improve my writing/storytelling and helps motivate me to write more!