Welcome to Episode One of Bridlewood Manor. For those of you who have no idea what this is about, let me tell you that it's not your ordinary fanfiction, and point you in the direction of my website...but if you haven't got time for it right now, I'll give you the condensed intro. Bridlewood Manor is a story partly modelled after the classic British TV series, Upstairs, Downstairs, and it takes place in "real-time" minus 100 years exactly. Each episode will have a page of accompanying notes, artwork, sounds, what-have-you, on my website. This fic will continue for as long as I'm a member of FFN, so we're lookin' at the long haul, don't ya know. =^_~=

Disclaimer #1: I had three dozen of those damn "Roll Up the Rim to Win" cups from Tim Hortons over the last two months, and not ONE of them said "You win ultimate control over Gundam Wing and all the characters therein." I did, however, win two coffees, a bagel, a couple of donuts, and a cookie. I don't have them anymore *burp* so you can't sue me for them. =P

Disclaimer #2: I was an English major, so when I write, I write wordy. You have been warned. Muahahahahaaaa....
Suggested font: Times New Roman

Episode One: London Confidential

"There is in every true woman's heart a spark of heavenly fire, which beams and blazes in the dark hours of adversity." --Washington Irving

May 24th, 1901

On the twenty-second of January in the year 1901, the British Empire faced a trial of the soul unlike any other when beloved Queen Victoria, defender of the faith and ruler of 60 years, died at the age of 82. On that same day, an equally grievous blow was dealt to a young girl with golden hair and golden dreams, when her father passed away suddenly. As the Empire mourned, very few could mourn alongside Relena Peacecraft, and the burden of sorrow weighed her down, hardening her heart a little each day over the following months.

So impossible to live with was the 'new and improved' heir to the Peacecraft fortune that in the four months since the dreadful day she had lost nearly all the servants from her lavish West London mansion. This distraction kept her from enjoying the garden party she attended with one of her last remaining domestics, Otto, on the anniversary of the late Queen's birth.

"Sugar in your tea, Miss Relena?" he asked in a genial voice.

"No thank you, Otto, I don't think I'll be having anything." Somehow, Relena couldn't stomach the thought of either food or drink since she arrived at the party. It wasn't just the dark cloud hanging over the occasion, that this was the first of an infinite number of birthdays the Queen would never see; Relena felt a strange sensation on the back of her neck, as if she was being watched.

"As you will, m'lady." Otto had taken to calling her Lady Peacecraft ever since her father died, even though the title would not officially be hers for some time. Still, with Lord Peacecraft gone and the elder brother in Africa, she seemed determined to hold her head up high and be worthy of the moniker in her daily deeds.

"I'll be content to sit and take in the scenery for awhile. If anyone approaches, send them away unless it's a person of very high importance. I don't wish to be disturbed for trivialities," she instructed.

"Very good, m'lady."

She sulked a bit in her lawn chair and fiddled studiously with the beadwork on her gown, trying to forget where and when she was. All around, noblemen and socialites were making merry as best they could, occupying themselves with the tea and the sherry and the trifle and the cucumber sandwiches and what a lovely, sunny day it was. Relena cursed them all silently for offering nothing but occasional false sympathy to mingle with her sorrow.

'Stiff upper lip, my dear,' they'd all say at one time or another. 'You mustn't indulge in needless self-pity while the whole of the Empire weeps.' It was the worst kind of false sympathy when the giver expected the receiver to cheerfully fly through life as if nothing at all was wrong.

The orchestra struck a haphazard tuning chord as they prepared to play a lilting gavotte to lift the crowd's spirits. At the same instant, Relena felt eyes upon her again. She looked all around but saw no one looking in her direction; nevertheless, she knew it was real--someone was watching her.

"Miss Relena? Is everything alright?" Otto's concerned voice broke the spell.

She took longer than she should have to answer, which only made him worry more. "Yes...yes, of course, I was just...looking for someone." She struggled to hide her agitation, still moving her eyes across the lawns.

The garden party was held at a sprawling estate full of people and tables of food; there were dozens of hiding places. From one of those secluded spots, behind two tall, columnar cedar trees, a thin, tanned youth with messy brown hair and frosty blue eyes stared at the Peacecraft girl.

The boy, no more than sixteen or seventeen, took an envelope from the inside pocket of his coat and re-read the contents, away from prying eyes. On a single sheet of plain paper was an ink drawing of the girl's face, exquisite in it's detail, along with her name and vital statistics, and probable locations written alongside it in precise, featureless handwriting. His instructions were to watch her closely, then wait to be contacted.

It seems that I am to decide how close I should be, he thought.

He watched as the distressed young lady kept looking over every inch of the estate, never able to meet the unseen eyes that sent electric shocks up and down her spine. She's aware of my presence, but she can't find me. Her instincts are terrible. Following his previous orders, he took a lighter out of his pocket, flipped it open, and burned the paper and the envelope from the corner up, letting it fall to the grass when it was nothing more than scorched cinders. Next, he had to get close to her.

The lad observed how the waiters were able to move freely without being actively noticed; it appeared as though the guests deliberately ignored the menial servants unless they were offered spirits and wine. He targeted the very next waiter who passed by his side of the cedar grove and stopped him with a firm hand to the bewildered man's shoulder. The waiter nearly dropped his precious cargo in surprise.

"...'Ere! What's your game?" he whined.

"Put the tray down," the dark-haired boy said coldly, nodding his head toward the tray of drinks the waiter was carrying. The severity of his tone made it impossible to disobey. Puzzled and slightly nervous, the waiter set the tray down on the ground; the dark-haired boy gave him a chilling stare. "Take off your jacket."

The waiter folded his arms and looked annoyed. "Hang about, what's thi--"

Quick as a flash, there was a revolver pointing at the waiter's head. "Take it off," the boy repeated firmly.

Petrified, the waiter took off his white coat and tails, and it was swiftly exchanged for the dark-haired boy's brown tweed jacket. Without missing a beat, the boy put the revolver back to wherever it came from, put the waiter's elegant coat on, and pressed a coin into the man's palm. "Now, go home."

The man blinked and looked at the coin. It was a sovereign, milled from the finest gold and stamped with the queen's portrait. A sovereign! This scrawny little streetrat had just given him a princely sum, more than he could have earned in two weeks of serving cocktails and petit-fours at garden parties.

He swallowed, then smiled widely. "Thank you, sir!" he exclaimed, forgetting all about being threatened with a revolver only moments earlier.

The dark-haired boy grunted his acknowledgement and picked up the tray of drinks. The happy ex-waiter trotted off with his money, hoping to get off the estate quickly in case his benefactor suddenly had a change of heart. Satisfied that he wasn't going to be revealed as a fraud by the waiter, the strange boy left the cedar grove and began mingling among the partygoers, inching closer to his golden-haired target with each glass of sherry he delivered.

Only a few steps away, the agitated Miss Relena had all but given up trying to find the person watching her. She was vaguely aware of Otto speaking to someone, but it seemed far less important to her. Who was out there? Who was it that had been watching her since she arrived?

Her face fell when she saw Otto approach out of the corner of her eye. She had instructed to be left alone unless it was someone important, and in the back of her mind she had hoped nobody important would come. Hard luck. "Miss Relena, Lady Une to see you," Otto stated before backing away respectfully.

Relena's face fell even farther when she heard who it was. Lady Une was probably the person she least wanted to see right now, but she was such a powerful woman, it would damage Relena socially to refuse her 'polite' conversation, even for one afternoon. She put her false smile on and turned to greet her.

"Lady Une, it's lovely to see you here," she lied graciously.

"And such a joy to see you up and about, my dear," the older woman purred. "I understand what a difficult day this must be for you, and I sincerely hope it gets better."

Relena doubted that very much. She watched with a bit of revulsion as the woman twirled locks of her chocolate brown hair around her fingers coquettishly. They were the only two women there with their hair unbound, instead of being swept up in the more tidy, dignified styles the other women wore. Relena's excuse was that she couldn't care less how she looked that day, plus she was young enough to get away with it, but Lady Une did it on purpose. Letting her hair spill over the shoulders of her scarlet tea gown made her look seductive rather than dignified; Relena was sure she only did it because people would disapprove, even if they would never tell her to her face.

"Thank you very much indeed," Relena said as nicely as she could.

Une continued to fondle her hair luxuriantly. "And what a pity about your staff problems! Have people no loyalty whatsoever these days? Leaving you and poor Otto in the lurch while they ran off at the first offer!" She clucked her tongue and smiled. There were many things about that smile that Relena didn't like. "I'm quite sure nothing like this ever would have happened while your father was alive."

"Yes, I'm sure as well," the girl answered softly. "They were loyal to my father and would never have abandoned him."

"Well, loyalty is fine and good, but if they knew how much they could earn in certain other family's establishments..." Une trailed off with a smirk wholly intended to cause offence.

"We kept all our domestics in an exceptional manner. They were always well looked after, and none of them complained." Relena was still seated, but tight-lipped with anger. The second she finished speaking, the logic center of her brain caught up with her controlled rage and pointed out something to her. "They could have left for any number of reasons. Why do you assume it was because they got a better offer somewhere else?"

Lady Une tugged her white gloves on and smiled that devious smile. "I believe you already know my footman and coachman, my dear..." She half-turned to indicate two men standing and having a drink some distance away. They were splendidly uniformed and shockingly familiar. They were Relena's footman and coachman, or at least, they used to be; she remembered that these two had been among the first to leave after Lord Peacecraft died. Now they drove the horse and carriage of a wealthier woman.

Relena stood quickly, barely able to contain her fury. Her former servants saw her, blushed, and turned away, moving towards the other end of the estate where Lady Une's coach awaited. The two women locked eyes, and Otto worried that he might soon have to forcibly separate them.

"I think you'd better go," Relena spat.

Une shrugged. "These parties do get boring after awhile. Perhaps I will go home, there's so much more room to move about there. I do hate these tiny estates where one can't lift a drink without knocking someone over." She chuckled. There was no more reason for her to stay anyway; she had made her point.

Relena gritted her teeth as the pompous socialite left as last. She sat back down with a sigh and spoke to Otto as a friend rather than a servant. "Why did she have to do that? Why does she despise our family so much?"

Otto offered her his handkerchief, but she politely refused; she wasn't about to cry over the likes of Lady Une. "Try not to let it upset you, miss," he said soothingly.

"Oh, I'll try very hard, but I don't know how much it will help."

"Let me fetch you something to calm your stomach," he pleaded.

"No thank you, Otto, just go and ready the carriage," she answered wearily. "I think I'd like to go home too."

Otto bowed and went about his work. She had nothing to fear from him; Otto had a grand sense of loyalty and would never leave her family's service, she was sure of it. As she straightened her dress and pulled herself together, she felt someone approach and stand at her left hand. She could see by the colour and cut of the suit the figure wore that it was one of the waiters, and he would simply go away as she wished if she didn't bother to acknowledge his presence.

Half a minute passed, with Relena staring deliberately down at her hands, but the waiter would not go away. Frustrated, she looked up at him, preparing to snap sharply at him for not reading her mind. Her breath caught in her throat.

The waiter was staring her down boldly, a dangerous move for a servant. He didn't quite look or behave like the others of his trade, flitting about with full and empty trays while he alone stood still. His hair was a mess, and while the coat he wore was a good fit, it didn't seem to suit him or the wild, almost feral glow in his cobalt blue eyes.

He held out the tray he carried. On it was a single crystal goblet half-filled with a rosy liquid. "Sherry?" he offered.

Relena almost shivered at the word, but not for the word itself. The waiter seemed no older than she was, but he possessed a rich, husky voice at the low end of tenor that sent her heart reeling. After the catty display by her social rival and now this, she needed that sherry. She took it from him. "Thank you."

The boy nodded, but did not leave to serve the other guests. He also failed to address her as his superior, with a "miss" or a "ma'am" or a "m'lady". He wouldn't, not yet.

Relena tipped the glass back and downed the contents quickly but with grace. She daubed at her lips with a napkin off the table and placed the goblet back on the tray, decorated with a smudge of her coral pink lipstick. The dark-haired youth remained, studying her. She tried not to let it show that he was making her quite nervous.

Mercifully, Otto returned at that very moment. "Miss Relena, the coach is ready whenever you'd like to leave."

Relena couldn't answer. She was mesmerized by the stranger's stare. Otto sensed immediately that something was amiss with the disheveled waiter, not to mention noticing how he stared at the girl. "You may go, now," he told the boy in a low growl.

The youth switched his gaze to Otto and narrowed his eyes. After a heartbeat, he turned and left, carrying the tray and the empty glass out of sight. Relena was still staring when he disappeared.

Otto brought her back to her senses with a few words of concern, and she rose to leave with him. He made an excuse of illness to the host and hostess of the party on her behalf, helped her into the modestly opulent coach, and spurred the horses forward. At 2:30 in the afternoon, they started off down the cobbled streets towards home.

At 2:31, the odd waiter with the messy hair and flashing eyes began to follow them. Along the way, he managed to trade his posh white coat for a plainer one, to a poor man who was more than glad to get it. Soon, the carriage was well out of sight, but it didn't matter. The boy knew exactly where his target was going.


Relena took tea in the drawing room, on the ground floor of her mansion, partly because it was a beautiful room to be in, and partly because it was one of the few left that was still fairly clean. The house was down to a skeleton staff, and 62 rooms was too much for Otto to take care of practically by himself.

She smiled sympathetically at him as he brought her a tray of tea and biscuits and set it on the table next to the sofa. After pouring her a cup, with a dash of milk and two sugars, he excused himself to work elsewhere, even though keeping the house under control was a losing battle.

Trying to distract herself onto something more pleasant, Relena's mind drifted back to the young man in the white coat. Just the way he had looked at her was enough to convince her that he was the one watching the entire time. Part of her was terrified of ever seeing him again, and another part dreaded not seeing him at all. With so much new information clouding her mind, she found enjoying the tea and biscuits rather difficult.

"Miss Relena?" a soft, timid voice sang from the doorway.

She looked up and smiled, grateful to see the visitor. It was the apprentice gardener--or rather, the new head gardener, since the previous head gardener had departed for greener pastures--a pale, thin boy with feathery blond hair. He had mindfully removed his muddy boots before venturing this far into the house, and stood just outside the drawing room in his unworthy stocking feet.

"Come in, Quatre," she said. "I'd be glad of some company right now, especially yours."

He crossed the threshhold slowly, as if the polished floor in the drawing room would burn him. Outdoor staff were rarely afforded this priviledge, if ever. "I knew you would be. I just...guessed that you were lonely...maybe a little sad, too." He sat next to her on the sofa and helped himself to a biscuit.

She smiled again. "You always seem to know when I need a friend. I wish I knew how you did it."

"Just comes naturally," he said with a grin. The boy was truly one of her few remaining friends and treasures. He wasn't at all the usual sort of person one found tending the grounds, strong and muscular, physically well-tuned to outdoor labour. He also wasn't crude or coarse as Relena found so many servants to be, but polite and cultured, with a wide range of knowledge usually reserved for university students. If not for the overalls and gardening gloves, he might be mistaken for nobility in conversation. "Has anyone called 'round about the notices in the post-office window?"

"Oh, plenty of people," Relena said tiredly. "But they were all either unsuitable or demanding more than I could pay them, or at least what I know I could pay them without damaging our credit. This house will fall apart soon if I don't find more staff, but I don't know the first thing about finances and wages and all that! Father always took care of it; Otto helps as much as he can, but he has the whole house to look after, and it's just too much for him!" She laid her hands in her lap and sighed deeply.

Quatre wanted very badly to offer his services as bookkeeper; he did a good job of hiding his knowledge about money, and playing the part of the humble gardener, but which was more important--helping a friend or concealing his identity? I want to help her straighten out the family's money, for her sake, but no one would believe a simple gardener could take care of it, even her. She'd start asking questions, she might find out about me...

"You're awfully quiet," she remarked.

"Oh...just wondering what would happen to you if you couldn't maintain this place and your brother stays in Africa. You could lose the house...you could lose everything. What would you do? Where would you go?" The blond boy wrung his delicate hands in despair.

Relena was touched by the concern of her loyal domestic. Her gaze filled with pain and gratitude, and without thinking she laid a soft hand on the side of his face. They slowly locked eyes, and Quatre felt a flush rise to his cheeks. Startled by her own actions, Relena blushed and pulled her hand away quickly. They sat in an awkward, slightly embarassed silence, each unable to meet the other's eyes again, until the doorbell rang, shaking them out of their trance.

Quatre stood and backed away from the sofa. If a guest had come to the door, he couldn't be seen inside the house, and certainly not sitting next to Lady Peacecraft. "I...I should get back to the gardens..." he stammered.

Relena smoothed out her hair nervously. "Yes, of course...you may go, Quatre." He turned and left, head lowered, passing Otto on his way to answer the door. Relena sat and fidgeted with her dress while she waited for him to announce the visitor. Ohhh, what's wrong with me today...I must just be lonely, like he said, and I'll latch onto anyone that happens along. Yes, that must be it. Just a side-effect of lonliness, nothing more.

Outside the front door, the visitor frowned at the ostentatiousness of the doorbell. Instead of a simple, efficient bell or tone, it was a set of deep chimes that boomed out the first four bars of "Rule Britannia". He ran an eye over the brass plaque mounted next to the door, proclaiming to all the world in two-inch letters that this grand building, and the extravagant lawns around it, was Bridlewood Manor.

The door opened; Otto appeared and immediately frowned, recognizing the youth before him as the disheveled waiter from the garden party. "Yes?" he growled.

"The lady of the house, please," the boy said flatly.

Otto scowled. Impertinent ragamuffin! He saw her once this afternoon and now he's besotted with her! This whelp has no sense of class whatsoever, I can tell. "I'm dreadfully sorry, sir...but her ladyship is tired and mustn't be disturbed." He began to close the door.

"It's important," the boy insisted, blue eyes blazing.

Stopping the door in mid-swing, Otto fought to retain his composure. Fine. I'll let her ladyship decide. Either way, I'll see to it that you don't stay long. He sighed and held out his hand. "Your card, please."

Instead of the traditional embossed calling card, of which he had none, the young man handed Otto an empty glass goblet. Otto took it by the stem, turned it over, looked at it, then gave the boy a questioning look. Receiving nothing but a cold stare in return, he shrugged and disappeared into the house.

He puzzled over why the boy would give him such a curious object as this, but took it dutifully to the drawing room and handed it to Relena. "A young man to see you, miss. He sent this as a calling card."

She took the glass, ran her equally confused eyes over the surface, and noticed something about it that Otto had missed. The rim of the glass, along one side, bore a coral pink lipmark, the same shade of lipstick she was wearing earlier that afternoon. Panic filled her; that waiter had followed her home and was standing right outside! The instinct to flee to her room was only barely overcome by her curiosity. She had to know what the boy's intentions were. "Bring him in, Otto."

Otto looked shocked, but eventually pulled himself together and left down the hall to fetch the boy. Relena fidgeted even more now, tugging at her skirts, combing out her hair, and arranging the silver tea things; she had to get all the fidgets out of her system before her guest arrived. What am I doing, letting a stranger into my father's house!? I hope I'm not making a mistake...I just have to see him again! She composed herself and folded her hands neatly in her lap just as Otto brought the boy into the drawing room.

The white coat and tails were gone; instead he wore a plainer, poorer-looking brown jacket with frayed cuffs and excessive wear at the elbows. His hair was still a mess. He strode boldly but gracefully to stand in front of the table upon which sat the silver tea set. He swept up the tea pot and deftly refilled Relena's teacup as he introduced himself, without spilling a drop.

"My name is Heero Yuy. I'm seeking a change in employment." He added a dash of milk and two sugars to the tea, exactly how she liked it. "I thought perhaps there might be a vacancy somewhere in your household." He grasped the saucer gently but firmly, and held the perfect cup of tea out to Relena.

She looked at the teacup for several seconds before taking it and sampling his handiwork. It tasted even better than the way Otto had been making her tea for the last four months, in the absence of a proper butler. It was mellow, soothing, aromatic, and absolutely divine.

A few feet away, Otto was getting madder by the minute. The very idea that this presumptuous brat would charm his way into the house and assume that her ladyship would allow him to stay was bad enough; seeing the entranced look on Relena's face was a step away from unbearable. As she downed the warm liquid, more delectable than the sweetest ambrosia, and studied the thin, smooth hands that concocted it especially for her, Otto could see a breathless 'yes' about to leap from her lips. He couldn't allow that.

"Miss, may I have a word in private?" he insisted.

Relena looked up from her tea, annoyed. "Could it possibly wait, Otto?"

"No, I'm afraid it can't." They exchanged forceful looks until Heero saved them the embarassment of arguing right in front of him.

"I'll take my leave of you, for now," he said, bowing slightly at the waist. Relena drank in every last detail of his presence before he vanished into the hall a few steps away. Such a strange name, she thought, and his face, and his mannerisms...maybe that's why I can't take my eyes off him. He must be foreign! But his English is impeccable...

Otto was at her side the instant Heero was gone. "Miss Relena, you cannot allow that...that boy into this house. You know nothing about him, and to be perfectly honest, I know more than I care to already."

"You yourself told me only yesterday that the estate was desperate for staff! 'Desperate', you said!" she hissed in a terse whisper. "And now a willing worker lands right on our doorstep and doesn't even ask about the wages, and you want to turn him away? No!"

"He approached you uninvited at the garden party, he stared at you, he followed you home, don't you find any of that unusual? Don't you find it dangerous that some lower-class yob should be stalking a young, fetching heiress the same day as meeting her??" Otto was on the verge of overstepping his authority as house steward.

No amount of chiding or intimidation coming from the staring contest was about to persuade Relena. The older gentleman was infinitely more knowledgable about the world and the kinds of people in it, but as lady and mistress of Bridlewood, the final decision was hers. "Bring him back in here, please," she said with a cold stare.

"But Miss Rele--"

"Now, Otto," she snapped, cutting him off in mid-protest, "or I'll have one more empty position to fill come the morning."

Otto stiffened; he knew a threat when he heard one. Utterly defeated, he went out into the hall to fetch the boy...but he was nowhere to be seen. Relena saw him looking left and right, high and low for Heero, and became agitated at the thought that Otto might have misplaced him on purpose. She went out into the hall to help him search; they checked the parlour, the sitting room, the games room, and half the ground floor altogether. The boy appeared to have vanished.

Then suddenly, as they approached the main level dining room, they heard a faint metallic clinking. Motioning for Relena to stay behind him, Otto crept towards the dining room, ready to pounce on whomever was there without permission. Relena saw him stop as soon as he was through the doorway, and her curiosity got the better of her; she followed him in and stood to his right. They both gaped at what they saw.

Seated casually in one of the plushly upholstered chairs in his poor clothes and shabby shoes, with his legs crossed and his handkerchief draped over one knee, was Heero, polishing the silver. He held a knife up to the light and studied his reflection in it, looking for spots he might have missed. "There's quite a few things that need doing around here," he said, as he picked up the handkerchief and worked out a few specks of tarnish off a soup spoon. "I know all too well what it's like to run out of day before you run out of work."

The stunned figures in the doorway tried to form coherent sentences, but couldn't. Otto finally strode angrily forward, stared down at the table and silently counted the silverware. To his disappointment, it was all present and accounted for. Defiantly ignoring the man's imposing proximity, Heero put down his work and stood to face Relena, clasping his hands behind his back in a military fashion.

Composing herself, Relena tried to act aloof despite being impressed, amazing, and slightly infatuated all in the space of ten minutes. "Did you have any specific position in mind?" she asked. Otto glared at her fiercely.

"Wherever your ladyship would have the most need of me," Heero conceded.

Relena nodded thoughtfully. "Very well...I suppose the most pressing position that needs filling would be that of head butler," she fibbed. The most needed staff member was actually the cook; four months running, the meagre household had been suffering the distratrous cuisine of Elsie the housemaid, and they were growing thinner every day. But of course, if Relena put Heero in the kitchen, she'd never see him, and that would never do. She stepped forward and laced her fingers together.

"The position is live-in, so I'll expect you to clear any rents or leases you have elsewhere in the city. I also expect you to address me formally unless I instruct you otherwise. You will have authority over all the other domestics; they will answer directly to you, and you will answer directly to Otto." She indicated the burly gentleman with a raised hand. The men looked at each other briefly and with poison as Relena continued.

"You will be responsible for the general upkeep and cleanliness of the house, making sure that everything runs smoothly. You will pour all the drinks, serve all the meals, and see to the needs of the guests and visitors. You will have Sundays and Thursdays off, if you wish, and you will be alotted a clothing allowance. You are expected to look your best at all times. You will keep to your place and come immediately whenever I or anyone else rings for you. You will have a fortnight's vacation time each year, but I must insist that you give me ample notice before you leave, and that you not take your vacation within the first six months of your employment, provided that I decide to keep you on after your two-month probation." She shifted her feet nervously; the next subject was the difficult one.

"This estate has been running under a strict budget ever since..." She cleared her throat. "I may not be able to offer you standard rates, but I will try to give you something fair," she said, calculating something in her head, "shall we say...seventeen and six a week?"

She bit her lip. That only amounted to 45 pounds 10 shillings a year, and she knew full well that other butlers in town were easily receiving 10 pounds more than that, at least. It just wasn't the time for her to be too extravagant.

Heero took in all the information, processed it, and nodded once. "Acceptable."

Relena sighed and smiled with relief. "Well, that's wonderful! Would it be too soon to ask you to settle your affairs by the first Monday of the month?"

"Not at all," Heero replied in a smoky voice.

Otto watched in disgust as Relena fawned over the boy, still a total stranger, making plans with him, talking to him like he had already been a trusted aide for years. He followed them to the front door, suddenly feeling squeezed out of the way to make room for Heero's growing influence over her ladyship. Otto reeled at how easily the boy put Relena under his spell. He decided that, although it was his duty to work and coexist peacefully with the intruder, he would never trust him.

Heero was more vividly aware of Otto's attitude than he was of Relena's idle prattle about the weather and the neighbourhood and how lovely it was living at Bridlewood. He took quiet note of the man's exception to his presence, and filed it away for later study, deep under his mask of total indifference. As the door opened and the street came to life behind him, Heero said his goodbyes and walked crisply down the sidewalk. Relena lingered awhile at the door before going in. The next few days with Otto would probably be less than pleasant, but in time, it would be worth it.

Rounding the corner, well out of view of the manor house, Heero strode into the post office and quickly identified some of the job postings in the window as belonging to Bridlewood. He located the card advertising the position he had just filled, took it from the window, and scribbled on the back in semi-precise handwriting:

"Target acquired. Optimal proximity attained. Begin communication June 3."

He purchased an envelope and a stamp, sealed the card inside along with his message, and posted it to a remote adress in the north. Walking back out nonchalantly, he melted into the growing crowd of people heading home for dinner, hundreds upon hundreds, filling the streets, making it easy to disappear. Disappear into the depths of the city. Disappear off the face of the Earth until he was needed again.


Next, in Episode Two: Bridlewood welcomes it's new butler, with mixed reactions from the rest of the staff. Quatre fights to keep something hidden from the newcomer, who obviously has a knack for finding things out, and Relena receives a important letter from her German uncle.

And so it begins...this is a tale that will have no end, at least not for a very long time. Don't think it's going to as simple as "Heero and Relena stalk each other for 87 episodes" either, because it's going to be MUCH more complicated than that! *evil laugh* You heard the man, June 3rd. Sorry it seems so long from now, but I wanted to get a few episodes ahead of myself and it just seemed a reasonable time for Heero to start his new job. And I know that's not really the first Monday of the month, but in 1901 it was the first Monday of the month, and by the time it shows up on FFN's main page, it'll be Monday anyway, so...I'm confusing myself now, so I'll stop. =^_^= Baiii!