8-13-2002

Disclaimer: Gundam Wing belongs to Bandai and Sunrise and others and not to us. Original characters belong to the authors. No money was made from this, and this was done totally for fun and the joy of writing.

Notes: This story belongs in the Life Rules series, which can be found at the websites below. It's not necessary to have read the other stories to understand this, but it wouldn't hurt either. Just for timeline references, this story occurs between "First Meetings" and "A Moment of Quiet." The Life Rules series start after the events in Endless Waltz.

Archiving: Permission to archive in list archives, all others please ask. This fiction will be archived at http://home.earthlink.net/~beaglepack/vault and past stories in the series can be found there and at http://www.ondragonswing.com/ninjababe/ninsfic/

Thanks to Ninjababe for starting the Life Rules series and letting me play with it. And, thanks to Kelly for beta reading (I knew that english degree of yours would come in handy).

Feedback: Any and all comments are welcome.

Pairings for this story: 1+2/2+1, 3+4/4+3
Rating: PG
Warnings: none

Life Rules: Change of Perspective
by comet and Heidi


Heero looked through the files he'd gotten from CSIU One for the third time. Everything was there--scene map, pictures, autopsy report, lab reports. Something was wrong. He couldn't put a finger on just what, but something definitely seemed off to him. He shrugged it off, or at least tried to, but the nagging feeling kept coming back.

Giving up, he picked up all the files from the dining room table, made a stop in the kitchen, then walked toward the workroom in his and Duo's apartment. It was time to ask for help.

The floor of their second bedroom--correction one-third of the floor--was littered with electronic components that, at one time or another, had made up some toy of Duo's. One wall was covered in writing and lines and charts that Duo had written in crayon. Glad we painted the walls with the washable paint, Heero thought. Duo was laying over a large throw pillow on the floor, laptop open, transcribing what he'd written on the wall. Heero shook his head as he placed a cup of coffee down next to his love. Who would of thought he'd use the wall to map out a computer game, he said to himself. But then Duo did like to read the old Earth author John Sandford's "Prey" series, and if Heero remembered correctly, the detective in the book used the walls to map out his computer games. Heero wondered if he'd have to start reading the same things Duo did so he'd be ready when his lover tried something new.

Heero walked over to his computer table and sat down to watch Duo work. He loved these moments where he could watch Duo do what he loved without having to worry about the outside world.

Until that nagging feeling returned. "Duo?" he asked quietly. He really didn't want to bother his lover with this, but then again Duo had spent a month working in one of the crime labs, and there was a very good chance he might see something that neither Heero nor Trowa had seen.

"Hm," Duo replied, looking up at Heero with a smile, then taking a sip from the coffee cup.

"Could you look at something for me?" Heero asked, indicating one of the files he had on his desk.

Duo rolled to his knees and scooted over to the desk and Heero, coffee cup in hand. "Sure," he said. "What is it?"

"My crime scene notes and a forensic report," Heero said. "I have this feeling that something is wrong."

Duo took the proffered folder then sat down next to the desk, his back resting against the side of it. He read through Heero's notes, which were as thorough as ever, then moved to the folder that contained all the reports from the CS Lab, scrunching up his nose at the name at the top of the report. "You pulled One," he said, referring to the other crime lab the Preventers had here, then checked the time of the crime. "Ronnie's team must be back on nights."

Heero nodded. "I don't like him," he said.

"Who?" Duo asked. "Evans? He's a pain. I wouldn't work with him, but he seems to be popular with many of the Preventers."

"Hai." He'd refrain from voicing his opinion of some of the Preventer teams and their qualification to be solving crimes.

Duo spent another ten minutes going through the reports. He shook his head and looked up at his lover. "You should take this load of shit down to Ronnie to read. I get about half it, but the rest, I don't know." He'd worked with Ronnie's team for a month, gone through the motions of working in the lab--the process, the recoveries, the reports, the trials--but that could only take him so far. He could see why his lover was having a hard time putting the pieces together, but he didn't have enough experience to put the seemingly missing pieces together to make a whole picture either.

Heero nodded again, that was the same feeling he had had. Picking up the files, he asked, "Think she's home?"

This time Duo nodded, having seen Ronnie's car parked in the garage around eleven, and followed Heero from their apartment and down the stairs to the fourth floor.

***

"Do you know what time it is?" Ronnie asked as she yanked the door to her apartment open. Her apartment was on the fourth floor, 4D to be exact, right under Wufei's.

"Yes," Heero replied.

Ronnie stared at him for a moment before turning around, leaving the door open and walking back toward her living room. Like Wufei's, her apartment was sparsely but comfortably decorated. She had various knickknacks around, mostly dragons, and several things that evidenced her Scottish and Nova Scotian heritage. Her one prized item hung in her living room, a sword from when her family sailed the oceans of earth instead of the blackness of space.

"It's three-fifteen in the morning," Duo said, way too cheerfully for that time in the morning.

Glaring at Duo and his cheerfulness, Ronnie sat down at the end of couch. It was obvious that she'd been asleep before they knocked. The plaid boxers and the t-shirt that read "your crime is my time" were their first clues. The second was her hair. It wasn't up in its usual ponytail. As a matter of fact, they could both count the number of times they'd seen her with her hair down on one hand.

"So, what can I help ya with?" she asked, before covering a yawn.

Duo waved his hand in that matter that told Heero to 'go on tell her.' Heero looked at the files he held then lifted them up for Ronnie to take. "There's something missing," he told her. "I'm not sure what but Evans missed something."

"I tried," Duo said, "but his reports aren't, well..." Duo let the sentence hang in the air as Ronnie took both files from Heero.

She twisted around to turn on the lamp behind her before starting to read the files.

"By the way," Duo asked, "if your team is working nights again, why are you home sleeping?"

Ronnie looked up from Heero's case file. "Sleeping," she said. "I have a deposition to give at ten."

"Ah," Duo said.

Ronnie started reading again. She finished off Heero's notes, pausing several times to ask questions. After Heero's notes, she picked up the coroner's report, leaving the crime scene reports for last.

Fifteen minutes later, she put the reports down, and asked Duo to bring her one of the bottles of iced coffee out her refrigerator. "Yes," she said to his unasked question.

Duo returned with two bottles of coffee and one bottle of water, which he handed to Heero. "So, what's missing?" he asked.

Before answering, Ronnie took a drink from the bottle. "Nothing, really," she said, "just not very thorough. Chad skips out on things he doesn't deem necessary. Often he's right, the tests may not be necessary. Others..." Ronnie just shrugged; she didn't need to get into her opinions of her co-workers' ethics or lack there of.

Heero looked at Ronnie when he asked, "What other things would you have done? Tests?"

Ronnie spent the next ten minutes outlining the other tests and what the possible results could show. She ended by telling him that he could request the other tests be run. "Can another crime scene investigator take over a case?" he asked.

Ronnie nodded. "Sure, if they are of equal rank and don't care about the politics involved."

Without stopping, Heero asked her if she would have run the tests in her normal case workup.

"Some of them," she said. "Others would depend on the results of the previous tests. Just like you, a crime scene investigator will draw conclusions based on the evidence and the scene. I like to back up my conclusions. Chad has a tendency to rely on the fact that most people think he's right. And, generally he is."

"He's also egotistical," Duo muttered, choosing to go with the more polite version of what he though of the head of Lab One.

Ronnie smiled. "There is that."

"I don't like him," Heero said. "I want your team on my case."

Ronnie stared at Heero. She had thought that's where he was heading, but it was Heero, and she was never one hundred percent sure what he was thinking, and it was definitely a shock to hear him ask. "The LI, lead investigator, will need to type up a request, sign and date it, then tell Chad you're asking for a change in CSIU teams. He's not going to be happy."

Heero nodded. "I don't care if he's happy," he said. "If you do this, will it cause you problems?" he asked, his voice showing that he did care about that.

Ronnie shrugged. "I can handle Chad Evans." She reached for her phone and dialed her office. "Jamie. Yes, I know I'm supposed to be sleeping. We'll be getting a case from One. No, the LI's not happy with how it's being handled. Yes. Just pull everything you can, without getting noticed. The Paulson case. Yeah. Okay, thanks. I'll be in after the depo. Probably around," Ronnie paused when Duo tapped her on the knee and mouthed something to her. "Around one. Thanks, Jamie."

As Ronnie hung up the phone, Heero told her thank you and Duo said he'd take her to lunch tomorrow. Ronnie nodded. Duo said he'd lock the door as he and Heero left.

Ronnie stayed seated for a minute longer before turning off the lamp and going back to her bedroom to sleep.

=====

Duo and Ronnie stepped off the elevator on the second floor of the local Preventers' building--and directly into the fray between Heero and Chad Evans. Trowa was standing off to the side, not wanting to get between the two. Getting hurt trying to rescue Evans so Heero didn't end up in jail wasn't worth it. He figured they could get Heero off by saying it was justifiable homicide.

"You put him up to this," Evans said, turning on Ronnie.

"Put who up to what?" she asked, bewildered. "I just got here."

"You put him," pointing at Heero while waving a file folder around, "up to having this case moved to your lab." Evans put his hands on his hips and glared at Ronnie.

"Two things," she said. "I don't know what case you're talking about because you keep waving the damn folder around. And two, I seriously doubt anyone," she looked at Duo for a moment, "correction, most anyone could talk Heero into something he didn't want to do."

Duo grinned at that, but chose to stay out of it. He'd get the details later, when Heero came home. Duo backed into the elevator, but not before sticking his tongue out at Evans' back and waving bye to Trowa, Heero, and Ronnie.

"I don't know who you think you are," Evans started, but didn't get to finish as Ronnie interrupted him.

"I'm the Lead for the other Lab," she said and started walking towards her lab.

Evans reached out and grabbed Ronnie by the upper arm and hauled her back to stand in front of him. "It's in your best interest to stay away from those two," he said, indicating Trowa and Heero,

"It's in your best interest," Ronnie said before Chad said anything else, "to take your hands off me or you'll have a much higher voice."

Evans' hold on her arm tightened slightly, not getting or maybe just not believing Ronnie's last comment as real--that was until he felt a prick below his waist. Trowa took a step forward to intercede, but Heero stopped him with a "wait."

"Let go," Ronnie said calmly, lightly pulling her arm as if to free it. "And step back."

Evans did as he was told. He knew the precarious position he was in, but that didn't stop his outrage at her actions. "How dare you! I'll have you written up for this!"

Ronnie's left hand lifted to reveal a switchblade. She touched the side and the blade retracted. "You do that," she said, tilting the collapsed knife at him before putting it back from where ever she'd pulled it from, "but don't ever grab me again." She walked out of the hallway and into her lab. "And don't ever tell me who I can be friends with," she called over her shoulder; as the door slid closed.

"You want her to have the case so bad," Evans told the two Preventers standing in the hallway. "She can have it. She'll screw it up, then we'll see." Evans tossed the folder at Heero, then turned on his heel and walked back towards his lab. He made several derogatory comments under his breath about Ronnie probably sleeping with them or something, which they both ignored, though they were definitely going to mention it to her.

"I don't like him," Trowa said quietly. "Did you know she had that knife?" he asked Heero.

"No."

Trowa and Heero walked into Lab Two to find Jamie Fawkes leaning over Ronnie's desk, as well as two lab techs sitting in wheeled-over chairs. They were listening to Jamie describe the results from a test he'd done on a piece of evidence from the Paulson case. Ronnie signaled the two Preventers to join the group.

"Jamie's going to run the case for the day," Ronnie said, indicating the tall black guy leaning on her desk. "When I come in tonight I'll pick up where he leaves off."

Jamie nodded, and Ronnie excused herself from the meeting and walked out of the lab. She muttered something about being back in half an hour then leaving for home. Her staff nodded at her then returned to work.

"I also found this," Jamie said, handing a piece of paper to Trowa. "Your victim didn't breathe on your suspect. Especially, if as your notes indicate, the suspect was coughing and sneezing up a storm." Jamie was referring to a DNA test comparing the saliva found on a piece of the victim's clothing to a sample taken from the suspect.

"He's not our suspect," Heero commented. "He's Evans'."

Jamie nodded again. He spent the next several minutes going over what the samples could prove. Heero asked several questions of the techs and Jamie.

"There are three things at most crime scenes you should take into consideration," April said, joining the meeting. April was the other investigator assigned to Lab Two, and specialized in physical evidence, while Jamie specialized in chemical and sound analysis. "The victim, the crime scene itself, and the suspect. Chad's not looking at the first one. And, has anyone seen Warren?" she asked. "He's got my scene sketch."

"I believe he went to the break room," Heero said quietly. "There's still something missing here."

April nodded. "Thanks, and at least you're asking yourself that," April said. "Now try asking 'what am I not seeing' and go back to the scene and look at it from a different perspective."

"Does that work?" Trowa asked.

"Sometimes," April answered with a shrug, before walking back to her desk. "Other times, it sparks that one thing in you or your partner that makes you see what you hadn't before."

Heero and Trowa worked at Ronnie's desk, looking through the new reports and making a list of things they wanted to look at again, the crime scene being at the top. "As soon as," Trowa said.

Heero nodded. "Yes." After all the time the two had known each other, they still managed to speak just as cryptically as ever, leaving the others wondering what was left unsaid.

When she walked back into the lab, Ronnie noticed some of the techs had confused looks on their faces and were muttering things about not being able to understand the two Agents sitting at her desk. "If it helps to know," she told the techs as she passed, "they do actually talk in sentences of more than four words to each other." The techs did not look convinced.

"We'll take you back to your car," Trowa told Ronnie, "if you're ready to go."

Ronnie nodded while giving the techs a look that clearly said, "see." She grabbed a folder off her desk and began walking toward the lab exit and the elevators. "Sleep," was the only thing Jamie told her before she disappeared from the lab, while April told the two Agents to have fun looking at the crime scene again.

"And," Heero added, stepping in the elevator, "we won't ask about the knife."

"Probably a good idea," Ronnie replied, tiredly.

"Instead," Heero said, a small smile playing on his lips. "Let's talk about the little plaque sitting on your desk." He was referring to a small, beige, rectangle ceramic plate with green writing, sitting on a natural wood rest. The plate read: "If at first you don't succeed, shoot the witnesses and hide the bodies."

Ronnie quirked an eyebrow at him, the expression on her face was something along the lines of "yeah so?" Ronnie shook her head and smiled. "Duo gave me that."

"Ah," Trowa said. "That would explain it." Trowa watched Ronnie smile again, just as she was intended to do. "Oh, and you're sleeping with us," he added as an after thought.

"Huh?" she asked, perplexed.

Heero tapped the button to take them to level two of the car garage. "Yes," he said. "According to Evans you're sleeping around with the both us."

Ronnie snickered, but held her next question until after the person who'd gotten on a floor later got off after two more floors. "How long have I been doing this?" she asked.

"He didn't say," answered Trowa.

"And I call myself an investigator," she joked. "Here I thought you two were gay. And obviously my sex life is better than I knew it was. Do Quatre and Duo know about these illicit affairs? The man's an idiot," she stated as the doors to the elevator opened and they stepped out.

"Yes."

=====

One evening during the following week, Heero came home to find the table set for a nice romantic dinner, and Duo in the kitchen. He was singing along with the song coming out of the stereo, his body swaying to the beat of the music as he maneuvered around the kitchen.

"Hello, Love," Duo said without turning around. "Go take a shower. Dinner will be ready in ten minutes."

It didn't take Heero ten minutes, more like seven, which was okay with Duo, since he was putting the last dish on a table stone when Heero walked into the dining room.

"Are we celebrating something?" Heero asked. Even though he knew Duo liked to surprise him with special dinners for no reason, it had become a ritual with them for Heero to ask that, ever since the first unexpected time.

Duo shrugged, but grinned up at the blue-eyed man. "Not really." Then he joked, "Maybe for not killing Evans last week." He smiled at Heero as he sat down at the table.

Heero grinned, joining him at the table. "The day's not over."

"For you and me, it is," Duo said, gesturing to the bowls on the table. "Eat."

The last week had been rough. Heero and Trowa still had the Paulson case, but had also picked up another, while Trowa and Wufei had picked up a third. The three had decided to each be the lead investigator on one of the cases while the other two backed them up on whichever case took priority at the moment. Ronnie's team was still on the Paulson case, and had found evidence that cleared the initial suspect and pointed to another. Now they just needed to find the guy, who had had enough time to run off. What made things worse, Wufei's case had pulled Ronnie's lab, but unfortunately, Trowa's had pulled Chad's.

After dinner was finished, leftovers put away, and dishes washed and left to dry in the drain, the two moved into the living room. Heero sat down in the middle of their over-sized sofa. He stretched and propped his feet up on the coffee table while at the same time patting the space next to him. Duo didn't need to see that twice and moved to sit next to Heero.

Their living room was basically like the others, mainly because they had all gone shopping at the same stores. The differences were in fabric, colors, and design. Heero and Duo had a very nice entertainment center, two over-sized chairs and a couch, two end tables, a coffee table, assorted lamps, and bookcases full of books and knickknacks.

Duo snuggled into a position beside Heero, as Heero wrapped his arm around Duo's shoulders. They sat there together quietly for several minutes before Duo broke the silence.

"You'll like the place Wu found today," Duo grinned, breaking the silence and looking up at Heero. "It's perfect. I like it. You and Trowa should take a look at it tomorrow."

Heero nodded.

Duo turned around so that he was sitting on the couch facing Heero. "Are you still sure you want to do this?" he asked.

"Hai," Heero said. "No one listened to that boy and his family." Heero was referring to a case that he and Wufei had worked a few months back. It took the boy telling his story to half a dozen people before anyone believed him. And by the time Wufei had heard it, it was too late. The boy's family had been killed.

"If someone had," Heero continued, "that boy might not have lost his family."

"And you'll listen?" Duo wanted to know that Heero was absolutely sure about leaving the Preventers, or else he wouldn't have asked.

"Hai, you taught me that."

"I'm just full of insightful knowledge," Duo said.

"Half of which you've picked up from Wufei," Heero said, laughter in his voice. "Or maybe Trowa."

"Funny," Duo said, "I thought I'd gotten it from Quatre."

Heero shook his head, then tapped Duo on his head. "No," he said quietly, shifting both of them around so that Duo was once again snuggled against him. "It was always in there."

The rest of the evening was spent snuggled together in the living room.

=====

Heero was busy looking over case files at his desk when a voice from the otherside of the bullpen called out, "Yuy, you've got a call on line four."

Picking up the phone he said, "Yuy."

"My, my name is Lauren. Lauren Paulson. And," her voice still quivering slightly, "and I think I may have found something." She paused, taking several deep breaths between the sobs before she continued. "About my father's murder."

"Where are you, Miss Paulson?" Heero asked the distraught woman.

Heero scribbled down the address she told him. He spent several more minutes on the phone with her, trying to calm her down. When she was somewhat in control again, he told her that he and his partner would be there in twenty minutes.

Trowa and Wufei both looked up from their desks. "One or both of us?" Wufei asked having heard Heero's comment.

"I'll go with Heero," Trowa told Wufei, "if you'll go down to Lab One and pick up the CS reports." To anyone who didn't know Trowa it sounded like a fairly normal request. To Wufei though, it was a plea from Trowa not to have to deal with Evans.

"Sure," Wufei said. "Not a problem." Trowa and the lead from Lab One had had one too many run-ins and he knew his friend would rather avoid the unlikable forensic scientist for the moment.

"Hn, not until he figures out who you're partnered with," Heero said. And neither Wufei nor Trowa could figure out if that simple statement was meant in jest or not.

---

Heero and Trowa arrived at the address Lauren Paulson had given to find a young woman sitting on a set of steps that led to the front door of a very expensive looking condo. "Miss Paulson?" Heero asked. When the woman nodded he continued. "I'm Agent Yuy, and this is my partner Agent Barton. We spoke on the phone."

She nodded. "Ye...yes," she said, raising a shaky hand to point at the door behind her. "In, in there. You'll see." She put her hand in her lap and looked up at the two Agents. "I, I don't want to go back in there," she stated with only a slight sob.

"That's fine," Heero said, "If you'll wait for us here, we'll only be in a few minutes."

Miss Paulson nodded again and Heero and Trowa entered the condo. They tread carefully down the hall, watching where they walked so they wouldn't step on any possible evidence. The hall was a mess but that was nothing compared to the rest of the condo. It had been trashed. Whoever had gone through the place did quite a job, with Mr. Paulson's office bearing the brunt of the destruction. Books had been pulled off the shelves and were lying in heaps on the floor, their bindings bent, indicating they had been flipped through, as if the intruder was looking for something. The desk drawers had been dumped and their contents scattered across the floor, making it impossible to walk through the room without stepping on something. The most startling discovery for the two detectives waited for them in Mr. Paulson's bedroom. The walls had been written on, and by the colour they guessed it to be dried blood.

Trowa took out his cell phone and made a quick call. Heero could here the voice on the end pick up the phone, "Lab two, Fawkes."

"Jamie, this is Trowa. We need Two for the Paulson case. NOW." Trowa quickly gave the address and a brief description of the scenes so the investigators would know what they were in for, as well as informing the CSIU team they would be waiting outside the condo and calling in some uniforms to help secure the scene.

When Trowa closed the phone down, he told Heero that forensic people would be there in less than thirty minutes. Heero nodded as he walked out the door. "Good, we can talk to Miss Paulson first," he said.

Closing the door behind them, they came down the stairs and sat next to Lauren Paulson, flanking her.

"May we ask you a few questions?" Heero asked, taking the lead.

When Lauren nodded he asked the standard questions: "When was the last time you saw your father? When was the last time you were at the condo? What do you know about his business dealings? Who besides you has a key?" They were things they had asked her when her father's body had first been found, but he wanted to know if there was any change in her answers. He was looking for anything that might lead them to the person who killed James Paulson.

The final question they asked was if she knew what was meant by the writing on the walls. But she has to shake her head no.

When the CSIU team arrived, Jamie took over. He started his team on deciphering the clues or the scene, while Heero and Trowa took Miss Paulson back to her home and waited with her until her boyfriend came.

=====

The reports scattered over Heero and Trowa's desks now covered two different crime scenes for the same murder. Unlike Chad Evans and his Lab One, Ronnie's team went through the second scene with a fine-tooth comb. They looked beyond the obvious as Chad was not prone to do, and saw what was supposed to be hidden. Luminol was used in large amounts and with it they found more blood samples for testing. Bookshelves were searched for hidden panels and the books were meticulously gone through and replaced. Receipts were sorted and handwritten notes were given special attention. "The first one was obviously the dump site," Trowa said, pushing some of the paper away from him. "The second one has been contaminated to hide the actual crime."

"Hn," Heero said in way of agreement.

Mr. Paulson was apparently not liked by someone, and that someone had help to murder him. He'd been the co-owner of an up and coming home management company. The initial suspect, the partner, had been cleared. The second suspect, the office manager, now looked like the primary suspect, but no one could find him; he'd disappeared about the time the second scene was found.

With Lauren Paulson's cooperation and assistance, James Paulson's personal safe and safety deposit box were opened and their contents examined. The papers stored in both places provided even more evidence pointing to Mr. Paulson's office manager, Aaron Marc. The new evidence allowed Heero and Trowa to execute a second, more detailed, search warrant of Mr. Marc's home and office. Evidence gathered from the second warrant led them to Marc's accomplice, the person responsible for the physical act of killing James Paulson - Allan Davis.


=====

The Paulson case and Chad Evans's blunder were the last straws, and they cemented Heero, Trowa and Wufei's decision to leave the Preventers and go out on their own.

"Alright you three, get under the name and smile," Ronnie smiled, backing up a little while focusing the lens on her camera. "That's it! Smile!"

The three young men stood, arms thrown over each others shoulders, in front of a ceiling to floor window with "1-3-5 Security" written in a half circle. Ronnie took a couple of shots of just the three of them, then called for Duo and Quatre to get into the picture.

"But it's their company," called Quatre.

"That doesn't matter," she said, readjusting the lens for the new picture. "With the address of this place, you all need to be in at least one picture together." She stared at the two other men. "Now, get in the picture," she demanded with a smile.

The five young men crowded together and smiled at the camera. One-three-five Security was open for business at 24 Satellite Avenue.

- end -

---

- end notes -

1) Both authors watch watch CSI, so yes, CSI (which airs on CBS) was an inspiration for this piece. We needed another reason for the animosity between Chad Evans and Ronnie, and wanted another background-like story, this was it. And, the three things you should take into consideration a crime scene, also came from CSI.

2) The wording on the plaque came from a line challenge issued way back when. Thanks to whoever issued the challenge, that's exactly what we needed for the plaque.