Argh, 6 months . . . sorry it's taken so long. It's been a hard road, but instead of making sad excuses, it's . . . .

Time for reviews!

Liz: We love you, Liz! We are so glad you love Wu Fei! We love him too, he's hilarious. It's funny what happens when you give Wu Fei some stability, he just seems to get a sense of humor, too. At least, that's how we view him. I'm so sorry it took so long for a new chapter! Hopefully (crosses fingers) the next one will be sooner. PS: we loved that line "did you get us killed and we never noticed" too.

As for Trowa and Cathy, it's still kind of up in the air about that. It might be that Trowa is getting jealous in a romantic way, but it also might be that he's starting to grow a little and is jealous over her in a friend way. Of course, in our reality, there is no guarantee that they are related (and really, in Ep 0, there isn't a certainty either, only an insinuation) so it's possible something romantic may develop there. Of course, they are all teenagers, so ANYTHING may develop! As you may have noticed, there's a bit of sexual tension between just about everyone. Time for Quatre to confront Dorothy! It'll be an interesting ride!

Mousery and Wen: Thanks! Hope you come back for more!

Hououza: I think you'll enjoy how Quatre reacts, though I wish we could have had more in this chapter. There are just too many characters for us to get to them all in depth (which is proving to make this a challenging fanfic to write!) But we hope to get to them all soon.

crystalline tears: I hope the last part of this chapter serves you well then, with some Sally development. We made sure to put that in just for you!!

blissful trinity: We love Wu Fei too! It's crazy, he seems so serious, but he's smart, so we figured he would tend to feel more comfortable and BAM time for humor!

Omnicat: I still wuv you! Sorry about the Heero/Relena torment. It's just that there are certain things that must happen first that we're planning to be funny – and interesting – before then. Though as for what happened at the wedding, we were considering having a "flash-back/home movie" of the event compiled by either Pagan or Une. As for Trowa, we certainly feel that he might be stepping into a new turning point for his emotions. After all, in EW he clearly rescued not just Cathy but all of the circus people, so he started to care about them. And really, is having a piece of cake comparable to traveling across Europe to apologize for killing innocent people? It's not the decision that Trowa was arguing, it was a feeling of loss of control (or perhaps loss of Cathy) that was overcoming him. Whether that even needs to be romantic or not . . . I don't think it does. And as for Heero, he didn't say anything because I don't think Heero would feel he had a right to complain. Nobody said he wasn't imagining plans, lol. But he's not the type to walk into a bad situation verbally. Perhaps I just portray him differently, but I don't see him as being naïve about responsibilities.

(ahem) second review: Wu Fei, finding a kindred soul in Quatre? No, he was enjoying looking at Quatre's expression of mortification and annoyance as he belittled Carter. That's pure gold, can't miss out on that. Lol, and now I am imagining a drunk Hilde trying to get Duo regulated. thanks for the review! (hugs)

Katreda: Well I can't say much about Dorothy, but she is always the crafty, suspicious one, isn't she? Quatre and Dorothy need another match, don't they? Maybe with bigger swords this time! Lol We hope you enjoy the next part!

Gleep! Nice to see you! Hope you read more than the first chapter. I know humor isn't quite your cup of tea, but hopefully there is some more interesting stuff for you here that you can find. Thanks for the comment, it's true that was a bit common. As soon as I ever get around to re-uploading, I'll alter some chapters to make them smoother. Though I'll be honest, nobody criticizes much of anything that we do, so it's hard to change! We really appreciate it though!

AriesAngel169: So glad you love it! The couples are seriously going to be mixed up because we're taking this from the POV that they are real teenagers. We like Sally and Wu Fei too, and you'll see, in the end people may very well end up with their canon pairings. Glad you like Dorothy and Quatre, too, we do as well. They are going to have interesting situations together. Everyone is, really. In fact, you may not have noticed it, but Quatre is also feeling some emotion for Relena, and Cathy had a moment with Wu Fei herself. I wonder how you'll feel about her moment with Heero in this chapter!

Second review: sorry about Quatre and Dorothy. But the next chapter should be fun. I wish we had more time for that. As for the listing of the chapter, we change the pairing listing every chapter for who the chapter features. Since there was a quatrexDorothy cliffy, and the quote was about it, we named them the "feature couple" of that chapter. They are a complex coupling, so they might take a while to develop more! Please review again, we loved your long reviews!!

Chapter 13

Earth, Izumo
April 20th – 8:19 am

Quatre stood before the broad double doors, and waited nervously for an answer. Within moments of his knocking, the intercom came on, and they could hear Pagan's voice saying, "Who is it?"

Taking a step towards the well-disguised intercom, Quatre pushed the button. "Quatre Winner and Wu Fei Chang."

"Alright, a security detail will let you in momentarily."

After only a minute, the doors swung open inwardly, and the two teenagers were greeted by the sight of an aging Pagan standing between two armed men. Neither of their weapons were drawn, but they stepped out and began checking around the front of the house past Wu Fei and Quatre.

"Please enter," Pagan smiled at them kindly. "Miss Relena and Miss Dorothy are looking forward to seeing you."

Quatre nodded and adjusted his suit-coat uncomfortably at the mention of Dorothy. At least it adds another layer of prevention. But I feel unnecessarily professional when wearing this. "Thank you."

Wu Fei brushed past him, nodding deeply to Pagan before entering the building. "Yes, we should be on our way shortly. Thank you, Pagan. Let's go, Quatre," he called behind him.

With a swallow, the trillionaire began after him, blinking as his eyes adjusted to the dimmer interior lighting. "Right behind you, Wu Fei," he muttered nervously, eyes scanning the walls to either side while he carefully crept down the hall. The door closed behind him just as Wu Fei vanished around the corner, and Quatre felt his shoulder's tense. Where is she. . . ? I expected her to greet me at the door with a violent embrace.

Suddenly there were hands grabbing around his waist, and with a loud cry Quatre spun, drawing two guns from their shoulder holsters and pointing them behind him—

He found himself aiming at point-blank-range directly at the face of a very surprised Dorothy Catalonia, her hands outstretched slightly towards him and a slight smirk on her face. "Dorothy?" he gasped, sweat breaking out across his brow as he quickly holstered his weapons and brought a palm to his forehead. "For heaven's sake, Dorothy," he began, voice raising swiftly, "don't EVER do that! I could have killed you!"

The woman shook her head, and her long platinum tresses danced behind her like a cloak. "Oh, Quatre! I know you're better than that. Good reflexes," she purred, and began to stalk closer to him, leading him to walk backwards down the hall. "You're looking very good as well," she eyed him up and down, causing him to wince and take a glance behind him before beginning to back up faster. "I see you've been keeping in shape since the wedding."

Rushing around the corner Wu Fei had taken, Quatre stopped suddenly to see Wu Fei and Relena standing together. "Relena!" the blond man squeaked. "Boy, it's good to see you, how have you been?" Swiftly he moved around her and positioned the Minister between himself and the taller socialite still stalking after him.

Relena simply smiled, cerulean gaze twinkling as she met Dorothy's eyes. "I see you've found each other. But we don't have much time for games. Our flight is scheduled to leave in about an hour and a half. Let's hurry and perhaps we can leave sooner."

"Right," Wu Fei nodded firmly, then gave the taller blonde girl a dubious glare. "I'm looking forward to a brief period of rest before we arrive. I sincerely hope that won't be interrupted," he told Dorothy.

"What," she gasped, one hand upon her chest. "little old me? I wouldn't dare to interrupt your beauty sleep, Agent Chang. I'm sure there will be plenty of time to rest . . . don't you think, Quatre?"

Quatre glared at her over Relena's shoulder. "I'm watching you," he muttered.

"Of course you are," Dorothy sighed regally. "What man could possibly take his eyes off of me?" With that, she turned on her heel and headed for the garage, "Come on, everyone! The early bird catches the worm!" gracing her stunned companions with the sound of her raucous laugher echoing through the lower level of the house.


Earth, Moscow
April 20th –12:17 pm

"Attention passengers. Flight 92 from Moscow to Rome, Italy has been delayed to twelve twenty-five. Again, flight 92 has been delayed and is scheduled to depart at twelve twenty-five."

"I call window seat," Duo's reflection snickered at Hilde as they looked out onto the rain-covered airfield. Drops pelted the window with a steady, soothing rhythm while workers outside rushed to ready the mid-sized plane for takeoff, their orange rain slickers standing out in the gray afternoon.

"Hey, I've never been on a plane before, either," Hilde smiled as Duo put an arm around her waist. "No fair."

"That's fine," he grinned, hugging her close, "you can sit on my lap."

She giggled but slapped lightly at his chest. "No way. You wish." Hilde watched their reflections, the gentle sound of distant thunder echoing over the tarmac. "Wow," she breathed, shaking her head. "I've never seen a real storm before. The weather systems on colonies doesn't do it justice at all."

"Yeah," he agreed, Southern drawl softening as he watched in appreciation, "lawn sprinklers just don't cut it. I remember the first time I saw a storm on Earth. Hell, every day and night I'd just look around me, amazed. The stars, the blue sky, the moon, the sun rising and setting . . . After a while, I guess I started to take it for granted." Hilde frowned thoughtfully as Duo continued to speak, an unusual earnestness to his tone. "There was so much conflict going on, so much strife, I just started to forget. I spent all of my time on my work. Which is funny," his eyes narrowed in the glass, "because I was working to save the Earth-sphere, and I kinda forgot about the Earth in the process."

They watched each other in the reflection, and Hilde nodded, squeezing him where her arm had latched around his back. "And now? You're definitely getting another chance. I don't want to ever forget what rain looks like."

Duo grinned at her. "Just the rain?" he teased, and she jabbed him with her nails. "Just kidding. Yeah, I think I'm finally getting back to that. You know, Heero made me go watch the sunrise with him. Back before he vanished again, that is. But anyway, I just didn't get why . . . and then afterwards, I . . . guess I did. He's been on Earth all this time, months now. And yet he still pays attention to everything like it was the first time."

Hilde glanced behind them at the quiet airport, an odd sort of paranoia coming over her at the mention of the mysterious Yui. "I'm just glad he showed up before we left for the airport," she muttered upon finding Catherine and Trowa still seated alone in the chairs provided. As she spoke, she spotted Heero peering out at the rain from around a pillar further down the corridor, and she quickly turned back to staring out the window. "Yep, still here. For now," she grumbled.

"Believe me," Duo chuckled at that, "I think he wants this just as much as we do. At least the high school diploma part. Without it, he's in big trouble."

"I still don't see why he hasn't just gotten a crappy job somewhere," Hilde murmured, watching as a baggage cart was driven towards the plane. She searched for her luggage on it just for kicks, but didn't see it under the pile of suitcases.

"From what I've heard, he has but he keeps getting fired. He's not exactly the type for regular work. I mean, can you imagine him at McDonalds? 'You are going to have fries with that.' And you know as well as I do, minimum wage still don't mean livable wage."

Hilde shook her head, then let her hand wander to Duo's braid and began playing with it absently. "Still, he could have been a bouncer or something. Or gone on unemployment."

"Nah, that's the other thing, the thing none of us have to worry about but him – except maybe Trowa – Heero doesn't have a social security number. He has no identity, and Une is offering to give him a real, government created one. No forging, no hacking, no faking. No chance of being found out for what he really is."

"Is it really that hard? I thought you guys were the best of the best," she whispered as a woman and her kid walked by the window. "You hacked a bunch when you were piloting the Gundams. I thought you even got yourselves into schools."

"We just hacked the school's systems, and it was only going to last for a few weeks, tops. This is something that would have to last for decades, through hundreds of computer systems."

Hilde nodded contemplatively, tugging on Duo's braid. "I guess so. I've never had to hack something that complex. I guess I never thought about trying to permanently fool an entire governmental system."

"Makes sense. Few hackers have; usually the changes are temporary, an in and out job," he patted her and squeezed around her waist again with a smile. "But now that the Earth sphere is unified, it's even worse. All the countries are starting to combine their systems, so every name has to be scrutinized by every country, and they're extra paranoid about insurgents or terrorists threatening the new peace."

"I suppose you're right. And in a way, that's another reason I'm so excited about this. I mean, we could really make a difference again if we joined the Preventers."

"Yeah, I'd love to actually make use of all my training," Duo nodded, enthusiasm spreading his grin wide. "I have to admit it – I'm already pretty much decided. Don't tell nobody, but I'm sick of living in the slums."

"You and me both," Hilde nodded. "I'm just surprised Director Une wanted me along, too. I'm no Gundam pilot. I was just a ROTC recruit."

"Yeah, and 'little miss ROTC recruit' managed to break onto Libra, steal its blueprints and escape on one of the enemy's mobile suit carriers all without being caught." He turned his head to raise an appreciative eyebrow at her. "That's a tall order, even for one of us. You had guts and initiative. That's far more than any other gung-ho high school kid among your fellow enlisted. I'm not surprised Une's putting you in the same league as us."

"You didn't seem that impressed at the time," Hilde grumbled shyly, looking away.

"Yeah, well, I was pissed at you for sticking your neck out like that," he snapped with mild fire. "Even after all this time, it still scares me." As she opened her mouth to retort, he shook his head and sighed, cutting her off. "I know, I know. I don't have any right to tell you what to do or when to interfere. But it doesn't mean I won't rather you stay safe."

"What about you staying safe?" Hilde tugged hard on his braid, satisfied when he winced. "You wouldn't let me come with you, so I decided to protect you my own way. That's what you get for going it alone. Next time, if you want to protect me you'll let me go with you. Won't you." It wasn't a question.

"Eeeah," he groaned, "yeah, yeah. Well if you join, you'll get that chance. Unless I'm made your superior," he smirked, "and then I'll just order you to do dishes."

"And then I'll kick your ass," she pinched his side, grinning as he bucked away from her fingers. "Jerk."

Duo's laugher filled the peaceful waiting area as he danced from her grasp. "Girls never play fair."

Just then a male voice came over the loud speaker. "Attention passengers: Flight 92 from Moscow to Rome, Italy is now boarding families with children and passengers needing assistance. First class passengers will also be boarding at this time. Due to the rain we started out a little late, but we should arrive no later than twelve thirty local time in Rome. We'll be calling numbers soon, so be ready to board."

"Well," Duo sighed, "time to get ready. C'mon, let's go sit by Trowa and Cathy, I think we should chat a bit before we're on the plane."

"Okay," Hilde murmured, scratching her head under her beret. "if you say so." Blinking, the brunette followed him to where he slid into a seat across from Trowa, then sat next to the braided pilot.

"Trowa, buddy, we gotta talk," Duo murmured, eyes flicking towards where Heero leaned a few meters away against a column.

The taller boy opened his eyes, hazel orbs locking onto Duo instantly. "Yes?"

Next to him Cathy glanced up from her cell-phone game and muttered, "Finally, somebody wants to talk. Trowa meditates more than an entire monastery full of monks."

"Right, right, but listen," Duo muttered, "I don't like this plan. It's- it's a bad plan."

"It's rather late in the game for this type of thing, Duo," Trowa admonished him calmly.

"No, not the whole plan," the sepia-haired teen scoffed, "dude, I just don't think we should have them meet in public. I know we talked about it, but look at how Heero reacted after what Wu Fei said. Nobody saw him for almost a week. Hell, I wasn't even sure he was still here until he just showed up with his suitcase this morning for breakfast, like he'd been here all along. We just can't do this to the both of them. No way. I ain't putting Heero or Relena through a media circus that could be avoided."

"But if we don't, one or both may leave," Trowa reminded him.

The girls watched uncertainly as the announcer began calling the furthest seats on the plane to board.

"Maybe not," Duo forced out quickly, "but we don't know-"

Hilde broke in, "He's right, it's mean to do this. And they might break, we don't know how they'll react."

"Listen," Duo said finally, "we can either come up with another solution, or I'm gonna tell Heero what we're doing. We don't have time right now, but we're gonna have to find another way."

Trowa's lack of reaction gave Hilde time to add, "I agree with Duo. Relena is my friend, and Heero is now, too. There has to be another way. Come on" she lowered her voice to a hiss and leaned over, "you guys were Gundam pilots. You're telling me you can't come up with a solution that doesn't involve a public debacle?"

Closing his eyes in the resulting silence, Trowa murmured, "Duo's resolve to tell Heero the truth means we must determine another course. Because if Duo speaks, no one's plan will work no matter what we do. Hmm. Tactically speaking, when you wish to inflict the most damage to an enemy force," he mused, eyes still closed, "you corral them into a small contained area with no exit points. I had originally wished to avoid doing this privately as Heero is quite adept and can be viciously thorough should he feel the need, and violence was an end result I had hoped to prevent. However, I believe he will avoid violence if Relena is present, especially if the incident might embarrass her publicly."

"But," Cathy spoke up suddenly, "what if he's too upset to think about it? I don't know him real well, but everybody has their breaking point, you know?" her pale blue eyes flickered to each of them in turn. "Can we be sure he won't flip out and jump out a window or something?"

Duo winced. "She's got a point . . . it's not uncommon for Heero to leap from impossibly high windows to his death."

Trowa's mouth quirked downward as he raised a hand to his chin. "If Heero has mastered the endless torture of the Zero system, he should easily be able to handle the unexpected meeting we are planning. But Relena still might try to leave."

"Attention: Flight 92 from Moscow to Rome, Italy is now boarding seats twenty through twenty-five. We are now boarding twenty through twenty-five. Please have your tickets ready."

"Damn, not much time," Duo snapped his fingers. "Cathy, do you think you can distract Heero while we board the plane?"

"How?" she looked at him incredulously.

"I donno', you had Wu Fei off balance at that surplus store, I'm sure you can handle it," he smirked.

"But that wasn't my point," the redhead winced with embarrassment.

"Then go make it not your point with Heero," he waved his hands palm-up at her. "Go on, get!"

"And what's that supposed to mean?" she hissed, eyes snapping as he laughed.

"Nothing, just go chat him up, use your charms on him. You know how."

Cathy glared at him and stood huffily. "Lecher," she muttered, but took her bag and purse and headed towards where Heero stood.

"What did I say?" Duo blinked at Hilde, who shook her head. "Man, girls are so suspicious of guys," he continued. "I swear, women are ten times more perverted than men."

"Attention: Flight 92 is now boarding seats fifteen through twenty. Please have your tickets ready."

Hilde shook her head at Duo and grabbed her stuff. "That's us – let's go."

"You know you're a pervert," Duo muttered as all three stood.

"Shut up, Duo."


Heero watched the rain pour down, the drizzling rising to a hungry gale that beat against the windows in rage and forced the workers outside to hunch against the wind. He was certain that it froze them to the bone - the slick, dark water that drenched the airfield beyond the thin layer of plexiglass - and as the howling rose, he closed his eyes and envisioned the specters that all must imagine chasing after them upon the wind. Russians are, if anything, one of the notoriously superstitious groups of peoples, he told himself, banishing the colorful image from his mind as soon as it appeared. Foolish to let myself get carried away in such fantasies.

He heard her footsteps and felt the vibration before she spoke, but didn't react to any stimuli, simply kept his eyes closed, the image in his mind. "Um, you know," her timid voice began, "I've been told Russians believe that leaving someplace while it's raining is good luck. Heh," she laughed nervously, "but, as we're going by plane, that might not be so true after all . . ."

Opening his eyes, he looked to his right, finding Cathy just where he expected her. "The storm will fade soon. You needn't worry about us crashing." Odd, that we were thinking about a similar topic of Russian superstitions. Frowning, Heero added, "Where did you hear that superstition?"

"Oh," her bright azure eyes flitted from him and back, "well, since it's been raining for a couple days now, I um, well I went shopping and some of the shop keepers told me that superstition when they found out about our flight out." She forced a smile, and he noted her increased heart-rate with an annoyed sigh.

"You told them about our trip?" his bass voice rose, the trace of accusation rising color in her cheeks.

"No, I only told them I was going to be leaving, I didn't say why or where!" the redhead snapped in return. "Jeeze, you are so paranoid."

Heero nodded slightly, then returned his hooded eyes to the rain. Good, she has some intellect after all. For a civilian, she's mildly impressive.

Cathy sighed as she watched the young man turn his head to stare out at the storm once more. Now what do I say? she wondered, biting her bottom lip in concern. Frowning considerately, she decided, Well, maybe I should just do what I do with Trowa: since Heero refuses to talk to me, I'll just talk enough for the both of us.

"So," she forced a smile, "I, uh, didn't get to really talk to you at the wedding."I wonder if I shouldn't have brought that up, she mused in retrospect, but continued when Heero showed no reaction, his eyes unmoving from the window as he gazed out at the downpour. "I didn't get to tell you that I was glad to see that your arm healed all the way. I was kinda worried, when you left so suddenly, that you might hurt it again." Perhaps by trying to blow yourself up again, she added in her mind snidely.

The brunet simply snorted. "Oh really. As I recall, you seemed more concerned about telling me that the next time we met, I'd not 'get off' so easily." He tilted his head slightly to stare at her with an unimpressed eye.

Flushing, the redhead looked away. "Well, I was mad at you," she replied quietly. "You go and try to kill yourself, then as soon as you really wake up and start to get better, Trowa goes and follows your ridiculous example." Turning to face him directly as her anger rose, Cathy stepped in front of him, blocking his view of his precious rain. "I know it was a long time ago, Heero, but when you guys left it took all I had to tell myself over and over that Trowa would be back, and that he'd be okay." Staring into his direct blue eyes, she calmed. "He didn't say much about you when you were unconscious. But after he tried that stunt, I started to realize how much he must have looked up to you. He admired you. And maybe that's one of the reasons he started to calm down and not be so angry all the time, but it also is why he tried to kill himself."

Heero's gaze never wavered, and his mouth turned down slightly as she stood there, feeling exposed yet wanting an answer. "Cathy." She blinked, and nodded before he continued. "A lot of people, Trowa included, thought that I had no emotions. Many still do. They see me . . . and see only control. My reasons for self-destructing were my own. Trowa's were his. But you stopped him because you cared enough. You did the right thing."

Stunned, Cathy stood and blinked at him, fumbling for how to reply. "Um . . ."

Shaking his head once, the boy sighed and leaned back against the pillar, crossing his arms over his chest, that morose expression still upon his face. "I didn't try to self-destruct because I was strong, or brave. Or because I had no feelings."

My God, why is he telling me this? I can't believe he feels comfortable enough to be so honest. Taking a step closer to Heero, Catherine felt compelled to touch him, to give comfort somehow. It startled her when she realized the similarity to the early weeks with Trowa: wanting to reach out, and determined to show she cared even when he almost viciously refused her affection. "Heero." Her hand fell short, her nerve still not strong enough to carry her through, and she dropped her arm. "I . . . I figured as much." She flushed and glanced away. "I . . . I'm not sure you knew, but I took care of you a lot during that month you were out."

He made a slight grunting noise, but remained silent, so she haltingly continued. "Trowa brought you back like he'd just found a stray somewhere. He wouldn't tell me who you were, but you seemed real important to him." She smiled slightly, eyes still cast aside. "The manager was nice enough to allow the circus doc to check you out. They had you hooked up to an I. V. drip for the first couple of weeks. You were in a deep coma." Her eyes rose to find his, hoping for some sign of emotion. "I didn't think you'd pull out. But you did. You were delirious, the doc said you had a high fever. But you were talking. It wasn't until the day that you . . ." she looked away. The day you called me 'Relena.' "Well, in any case, that was the first day you were really aware of your surroundings."

A quiet remained once she stopped talking, and in it she could hear the flight attendant announcing the next row of seats ready for boarding. What'll he say to that? she wondered, feeling her heartbeat press along her throat.

"Thank you."

Cathy blinked and stared up at him, marveling once again how similar to Trowa he was as her pulse thrummed in her ears. "You . . . You're welcome." She swallowed. "You got taller," she blurted out, then blushed heavily. "I mean . . ." He's kinda cute when he's being nice . . .

Heero smirked down at her, humphing softly. "I'd say the same, but it'd hardly be true. You definitely grew up, though."

Startled, Catherine peered at him intently. "Did . . . did you just . . ." Did he just flirt with me? Or is he talking about something other than my figure?

"So," the boy straightened, then unfolded his arms to grab his backpack from the floor, "tell me." He began strolling towards the boarding hatch and the slowly shortening line behind it. "Duo sent you over here, didn't he." The knowing tone made it clear it wasn't a question.

"Um, uh," the redhead winced and caught up to him. "That obvious, huh?"

"Mmm," he nodded. "Well. I hope it wasn't too boring for you."

Blinking, Cathy stared at him. "What do you mean?"

"Well, he has been saying I need to meet more girls," Heero replied as he took a place in line and tossed an annoyed glance back at her.

"Ohhhh," she giggled nervously, "Right . . . To meet girls."

Good . . . he doesn't suspect anything . . . I think.


Earth, Bracciano
April 20th –11:31 am

Sally looked out the window upon the fields passing quickly by, the low hum of the commuter train filling her ears. Welcome to Italy, Sally Quan. With a sigh, she took out her new wallet and began looking over her new Italian I.D. Birth-date is the same . . . height, weight. Better picture than my real one, she smirked. I wish I knew more Italian, though. This is going to be interesting.

Leaning back in the seat, she stared at the empty seat across from her. Une wants me to relax and see this as a vacation. Somehow I think those boys and girls are going to give me ulcers instead. With a sigh, she shook her head, then grimaced at the unfamiliar sensation of her new hairstyle. Glancing at her image in a shiny metal compartment nearby, her scowl deepened. I look even older with my hair in a bun. But I'm going to have to try to avoid appearing similar to my true identity as much as possible. Which means no more pigtails. Touching the hair high on her head, Sally made a low noise in the back of her throat and intentionally turned away from the hazy reflection to glare out the window again. When Wu Fei sees me, I'll never hear the end of it. Cue the old lady jokes.

She rifled through the wallet absently, feeling a well of loneliness washing over her again. Guess it'll be another long while before I get my partner back, she thought sadly, then frowned down at the wallet. Where are my pictures. . . Oh, right, this isn't really my wallet. The realization plummeted like a weight into her stomach, and she slumped into the seat, tucking the wallet back into her purse.

The last thing I had of him, and it's gone.

At the irrational thought, Sally growled and shook her head resolutely. That's stupid, she told herself. My name, my hair, and even my home changed I can accept easily, and not look back. Why should a photograph be any different? It's just a picture. It's ridiculous to let myself get carried away like this.

Still . . .

The blonde closed her eyes and pretended, for just a little while, that she was back home. It's been three months. Hard to believe I can't stand being on my own, now. A month with a partner spoiled me, she smiled ruefully, taking a deep breath and letting it out. A month with Wu Fei should have, by all rights, driven me crazy instead.

A month was all Wu Fei really needed to get accustomed to the Preventers. He soaked it up like a sponge, determined to still be of use to the Earth Sphere. As soon as possible, Une had assigned him as Relena's bodyguard, and the true test of his patience began. Sally had been impressed at how quickly her new partner grew and evolved with his important assignment, and within months he had blossomed from an angry boy into a competent, compassionate young man.

The hardest part to accept was that his growth wasn't due to her, but to Relena.

Guess I wasn't much good, after all. Maybe he didn't need a mentor. Maybe he really just needed an equal, a friend. Someone who understood him. Someone his own age, who could relate and share his interests.

Sally had thought that she might have been the one to meet some of those criteria. Being half Chinese, having fought in the wars herself, she had hoped to befriend him as well as become his superior. Instead, it seemed Relena had found the tiny gaps within Wu Fei's heart and inserted herself before anyone had even realized it.

It's pointless to be jealous of Relena, Sally chided herself. She has a power that we can only attempt to comprehend. Comparing myself to her is unfair, like comparing myself to a saint, or an angel. I'm too mortal, too flawed, and too human, she smirked darkly at her own thoughts.

Still . . . I would have liked the chance . . .

Sally shook her head again, banishing the thoughts. Forty-five minutes to Bracciano. Time to study my new identity. She took out a medical textbook on basic first aid, and began flipping through it. It was a good distraction from unhappy thoughts and unavoidable conclusions. She needed to brush up on her first aid, anyway.

And if a small piece of her died every time she opened her wallet to find the photograph of Wu Fei missing, she wouldn't admit it, even to herself.