"The Micronian lifecycle is indeed a very confusing thing. These things you call 'birth-days', what possible reason could you have for celebrating an accomplishment that was not even yours?" Remark attributed to Exedore Formo

Minmei checked her watch and stifled a groan.

Was Kyle ever going to stop talking at her?

It was almost one o'clock; Rick would have been waiting for her for an hour now! Of course, some of it was her own fault, she'd meant to leave the hotel at a quarter to twelve but she'd gotten distracted and not noticed the time until it was a quarter past!

And as she had leapt to her feet to leave, Kyle had come on in and for the last forty-five minutes had been trying to get her to agree to his idea of conducting a tour as soon as they were allowed to leave the SDF-1. She hadn't realised it was so late! Rick had probably given up on her by now and she had so wanted to see him!

On the other hand, he had been known to wait for her for a very long time before. She remembered - somewhat embarrassingly - how she had once ran three hours late for a meeting and he'd still been there, waiting patiently.

She couldn't let Rick down, especially since it was his birthday and all, in the short time she'd had after calling him, she'd even got him a gift!

"That's the sort of thing the people need right now, Minmei, an alternative voice someone to say 'Look, we don't need to do what the war-mongers tell us, we can -''' Kyle was saying, gesturing rather wildly at least until she got to her feet and made to leave."Hey, where are you going?"

"I'm sorry, Kyle, but I really have to go, I can't leave my appointment any longer, it's very important." She decided not to elaborate any further, it would only anger Kyle.

In fact, he all ready looked quite put-out. "Appointment? What appointment? I haven't scheduled for anything...not yet anyway."

"I know...but this is...private." Minmei winced inwardly, knowing that that was a rather poor explanation and would likely do nothing to get Kyle to let her go.

"Private?" He scoffed, getting to his feet. "Come on now, there's no secrets between us, I'm your manager and your cousin."

"No really, Kyle, this is...um...girl stuff."

Her cousin/manager raised an eyebrow. "Girl stuff?"

"Uh-huh," Minmei drew herself up and did her best to look mature. "It's about my friend...Sheryl; she's got...boyfriend trouble."

"Boyfriend trouble?" Kyle sounded more than a little skeptical; he folded his arms and looked at her as if she were a small child trying to get away with stealing sweets.

"Yeah, so you wouldn't be interested, or, you know, welcome."

"And who is Sheryl, I've never even heard of her before."

Minmei was very tempted to snap I have a life outside you, Kyle. Or at least I did.

But she knew that would be a very bad idea. "She's a friend from school, we still keep in touch and she really needs my help now."

Kyle kept staring and Minmei did her best to look wholly and completely innocent, opening her eyes wide.

FINALLY, her cousin heaved the deepest sigh imaginable, as if Minmei wanting to take some time for herself was the biggest imposition in history. "Oh, all right, if you must, but don't be gone for hours, we have a lot of work to do."

"Oh no, Kyle, I won't be long at all, I promise." Rick's probably gone anyway, she thought, despairingly.

Still, she had to try! Lynn Minmei never gave up!

Rick was rather enjoying spending time with the Lynn family, he had after all spent some weeks with them right at the start of this whole ordeal when the SDF-1 had jumped all the way to edge of the solar system and hadn't been able to get back.

Having said that though, he was also disappointed, hugely disappointed.

Minmei had sounded so sincere on the phone this morning; he couldn't believe she had really and truly stood him up.

Plus, it was getting rather awkward now...Max Lynn had needed to return to the kitchen to prepare for the evening rush and Lena Lynn was doing her best to keep the conversation going, in between answering calls from customers wishing to book a table or a special order.

Unless Rick wanted to polish off the rest of the champagne by himself there really wasn't much point in staying. And while that was starting to become a more and more attractive option as the clock hands moved towards one-thirty, it would hardly be good manners.

"I don't know what could be keeping Minmei," Lena remarked as she returned. "She's never had the best time-keeping skills, but this is quite out of character."

Rick did his best to put on a brave face. "I'm sure she has a very good reason, but..." He rubbed the back of his neck. "Well...I really have to -"


Rick turned more than a little stunned and sure he was hearing things.

"Minmei! Darling!" Lena got to her feet and hurried across the dining room to embrace her niece.

"Hi, Auntie," Minmei gave Lena a kiss on the cheek and a warm grin, but her eyes were on Rick.

"Minmei!" Max stuck his head out from the kitchen. "How are you, girl?"

Minmei rushed over to give her uncle a big hug. "I'm great! And mmmm, that smells yummy!"

Max Lynn gave a chuckle. "Prawn and Black bean soup, your favourite, I'll get you a small bowl."

"Oh, thank you! And one for Rick too, of course."

Rick had watched this all unfold somewhat frozen, Minmei was a whirl of activity and was looking utterly stunning in a flouncy red dress.

She turned her attention to him then and hurried over, grabbing hold of one of his hands. "Oh, I'm so glad you waited for me! And I'm so sorry about been late, I completely lost track of time, I hope you don't have to leave right away."

"Of course not," Rick could hardly contain his happiness, in the space of an instant the day had become absolutely everything he could have hoped for. "Sit down," he urged her, remembering his manners. "You look...beautiful."

Minmei giggled as she slid into the chair next to him. "What? This old thing? I've had it for ages."

Rick realised that was hardly the most appropriate thing to say, after all it would be nice to think she had taken some trouble with her appearance. On the other hand, it was Minmei, she'd look gorgeous in a burlap sack!

Max returned with two steaming bowls of soup. "For the birthday boy and our favourite star," he placed them on the table with a flourish.

"Mmmm," Minmei immediately dug in and licked her lips with relish, looking up at her uncle. "You always manage to make this taste better, Uncle.''

Max looked somewhat embarrassed and waved his hand dismissively. "It's just a simple soup, m'girl, nothing special."

With that he rather tactfully withdrew, which Rick was grateful for, he was more than certain that Minmei would be dashing off sooner rather than later and he wanted to make the most of this opportunity.

"So, how old are you, anyway?" Minmei asked, unembarrassed about admitting such a thing. She giggled and tilted her head, looking up at him appealing. "I'm just terrible with numbers! Sometimes I forget how old I am."

Rick could actually believe that, so decided not to be offended. "That's OK, I'm 21."

Minmei clapped her hands together. "Really! Congratulations, Rick! That's a really special number." Her face fell slightly. "The present I got you isn't special at all."

"I thought you said you didn't have a gift?" Rick replied, surprised.

"I didn't," she admitted and shrugged, "but I couldn't meet you without having something,it's really last minute though, I hope you won't be too disappointed."

Rick shook his head so hard he almost made himself dizzy. "Of course I won't be any gift from you couldn't be anything less than amazing."

Minmei giggled again, reaching out to swat his arm. "Oh you." She reached into her handbag and pulled out a paper bag covered with texts and images promoting one of her concerts. "I didn't have time to wrap it, either." She added, apologetic.

Rick grinned as he took the bag from her. "Don't worry about it; I'll consider it part of the gift." It did after all have a really nice picture of Minmei on it. Carefully, he unrolled the top and took a look inside.

At first he wasn't entirely sure what it was, only that Minmei hadn't been kidding, it really was a small gift. Reaching in carefully he extracted the - was it a charm or something? - and pulled it out into the light.

It was a charm, a tiny silver treble cleft and Rick couldn't for the life of him figure out why Minmei would give it to him. Had she made a mistake?

Minmei had had an expectant look on her face as he'd taken out the gift, but at his look of confusion hastened to explain. "I know it's not much and it's probably not even something you want, but the thing is, that was the first charm I ever got. My parents gave it to me, to represent how much I love singing."

Rick blinked a few times, uncertain about what to say. On the one hand this was clearly a very important thing to Minmei, on the other...well...he didn't know.

"Your parents gave this to you? I...I can't -"

"I want you to have it," Minmei insisted, looking at him with wide eyes. "Because now I'm doing what I love and it's all thanks to you, if you hadn't kept me safe when we were trapped right at the start of all this and then all the other times, well..." She gave a little shrug and ducked her head, suddenly seeming shy.

This time when Rick blinked it was with no small amount of emotion. A lot of people dismissed Minmei as completely flighty with no real sense of the world around her, Hell; Rick himself had made that assumption quite a few times himself. But this gift...well it may not be practical, but it really was priceless.

He reached out and took her hand, giving it a squeeze.

"Minmei...I...wow, this is, I don't know what to say."

And had he had known he would have quickly been at a loss when Minmei looked up at him with a big smile and squeezed his hand back.

Seloy Deparra would never admit it, but as she had made her way across the barren expanse that was the micronian planet she wondered if she had made a horrible decision, if she was wandering to her death.

She had been certain that she was up to the journey, she was Zentraedi after all, but one of her wounds had reopened almost a lon ago and while it probably wasn't fatal, it was leaving her progressively dizzier.

She wasn't even sure of her direction and was presently leaning against a rock, the cool surface providing some relief and was helping to clear her head. Not for the first time she wondered if she really should have taken Miriya up on her offer to help. But almost as soon as the thought entered her mind, Seloy dismissed it, Miriya would not have been much use out here, micronised as she was and Seloy was certain that any Zentraedi they came across would not take kindly to micronian mecha.

No, Seloy was on her own, which really shouldn't be bothering her as much as it was, Zentraedi were warriors and in the course of battles Seloy had often been by herself and even if the battleship or her squad mates had not been too far she was still alone in her mecha. Reliant only on herself and her skills, it was the Zentraedi way.

Seloy decided it was the planet was causing her disorientation. Aside from a few brief sorties, she had never been planet side before and certainly not outside her mecha. The micronian planet was bizarre to her, for one thing there were periods of light and dark, as the yellow star the planet revolved around crossed the sky to be followed by the moon. Seloy vaguely recalled these periods been called "day" and "night", but she couldn't remember which was which.

Another thing she recalled was talk of Zentraedi warships falling to the planet to the "south" a micronian term of direction roughly equivalent to "downwards", at least which was Seloy's understanding. But now she had the worry that she had got turned around somewhere and was no longer heading that way. As she slumped against the rock a revelation came to her. The yellow star and the moon followed the same path, and they had been moving from her left to her right for a lon now, it had not changed since she had left the micronian ship, so that had to mean she was going the right way.

Her revelation brought a smile to her lips for the first time in many lon, she may be a stranger to this planet and its ways, but she was more than capable of taking care of herself. A true Zentraedi in every sense of the word.

She would rest for a while longer, and then continue on and succeed in her objective.

Lisa was wandering Macross City rather aimlessly, or as much as one could with the SDF-1 in its battle configuration. Part of her considered returning to Roy and Claudia's, it seemed juvenile in the extreme to have left; after all it was Rick's birthday, if he wanted to be late to his own surprise party that was well within his rights. Of course, the fact he was late because he was probably seeing Miss Macross was hard to swallow. Lisa was well aware that she and Rick could not by any stretch of the imagination be considered a couple, Lisa had though hoped that they could move in that direction, not that she had any idea how to achieve that. She tried to recall how she and Karl had become a couple, but specifics eluded her, it just seemed to happen naturally with no effort on her part.

Maybe that was the problem then, should she have to work so hard for this? Obviously, she was probably romanticising thing with Karl a fair bit and relationships did need work, but how much was too much? At what point did one accept failure?

'Maybe I just need to accept it now,' she considered, and the thought left her more than a little forlorn. As hard as it was for her to believe, Rick Hunter really had got under her skin and she wasn't about to let him go.

Lisa was so deep in thought she didn't hear the car until it screeched to a stop behind her.

"Commander," the hard voice took her by surprise and she turned, expecting to see that her mind was playing tricks on her and it couldn't possibly be -

"I'm looking for Minmei -" when wasn't he? - "You warmongers better not have called her in to help you restart your propaganda machine."

Lisa raised an eyebrow in disbelief, was he serious? Surely, he had to be joking, not that Lisa could credit Lynn Kyle with anything like a sense of humour.

"Well, answer me," the man all but snarled at her, tempting Lisa to react the way Claudia probably would in such situations, with a barbed comeback.

But she wasn't that sort of woman, even when provoked so instead she merely replied briskly. "I can assure you, Mr Lynn that the military have no 'plans' for your cousin, other than getting her and the rest of Macross City off the SDF-I as soon as it's safe to do so."

Kyle gave a sniff of disdain and then without bothering to respond, not even to thank her for her time, he gunned the gas pedal of the car and tore off down the streets. It occurred to Lisa only then that he shouldn't be driving around in the first place.

If he totaled that car of his he'd only have himself to blame.

Rick had lost track of time, which was easy to do when in Minmei's company, if the hour he had spent waiting for her had dragged on interminably then the half-hour he had spent with her so far seemed to rush by in a flash.

The White Dragon was almost full of the late lunch crowd, but thankfully, on the whole they had respected Minmei's privacy, only small children had interrupted them, and Rick could hardly blame them.

Right now there was a lull in the conversation and Rick was taking the opportunity to just gaze at Minmei and wish that the moment could last forever.

He should have known better than to think that though, it was practically an invitation for everything to come to a grinding halt.

Minmei gave a small gasp and suddenly asked. "What time is it?"

Trust Minmei not to wear a watch, Rick attempted to humour her. "Why do you need to know? I'm pretty sure nothing starts until you arrive anyway."

He had hoped for a laugh, maybe even a smile, but Minmei was quite serious.

"I can't stay too long," she explained quickly. "Kyle is expecting me."

Rick couldn't suppress the scowl that came to his face at the mention of Kyle; he had managed to forget about that utter pain in the ass.

"I'm sure he can wait a bit," he tried to keep his tone light. "Your Uncle said he'd bring us some dessert."

Minmei looked as if she was going to agree with him, but then she looked over Rick's shoulder and her eyes widened.

"Oh, there he is," she practically squeaked as she hurried to stand. She looked down at Rick sadly. "I'm really sorry; I wish I could stay longer."

Rick got to his feet as well, thinking he could at least walk with her to the front of the restaurant, but Minmei put up a hand to stop him.

"No, it's OK, you stay here, I bet Uncle Max is going to serve you his special rainbow ice cream, you don't want to miss it."

Rick briefly considered insisting that he accompany her, he had a feeling she was deliberately trying to stop him that she didn't want Kyle to see who she'd been with.

Before he could move though, Minmei had leaned in and quickly, so quickly in fact that Rick couldn't be certain that he hadn't just imagined it, brushed her lips across the corner of his mouth.

"I had a great time; I hope I can see you again soon, happy birthday, goodbye." It was spoken in such a rush Rick could barely decipher it and then like a flash Minmei was gone, leaving him to sit back down feeling thoroughly deflated.

Well...if that didn't just...

He wondered if he shouldn't just go out and confront Kyle, after all Minmei was free to go out and see who she wished, wasn't she? Kyle might be her manager, but he didn't own Minmei.

Before he could make a move, though there was quite a bit of noise from the kitchen and looking towards it he saw Max and Lena, the former holding a large bowl of colourful ice cream complete with a sparkler merrily fizzing and popping.

"Happy Birthday to you..." the two began to sing, obviously expecting Minmei to join in. "Happy Birthday to you..."

They trailed off for a moment as they realised Rick was once again sitting by himself.

To their credit though, they didn't let it spoil the moment, at least not too much, Max gave a hearty shout for everyone to join in and soon enough the whole restaurant was singing along.

It was impossible not to smile.

Claudia wasn't exactly annoyed, how could she be, it was a surprise party so it was hardly fair to expect Rick to turn up on time for it, but it was getting close to three now and that was late. Even in Roy Fokker's book that was really, really late.

"You did ask him to come didn't you?" She asked her husband as he took another handful of corn chips.

"Of course I did, and I didn't make it sound boring if that's what you're about to ask."

It was and Claudia cracked a small grin. "So you didn't suggest he come by to go over fuel readouts?"

"Hell no, if I had, I wouldn't have shown up."

She laughed, giving him a playful slap on the arm.

"Why wouldn't you have shown up?" Miriya asked a confused frown on her face. "You know it's a surprise party don't you?"

Roy gave a shrug and grinned. "It's a joke, but then...my memory isn't what it used to be."

Claudia rolled her eyes as Roy's teasing only served to make Miriya look more confused. She decided to rescue the other woman from any more of the Fokker treatment.

"Don't listen to this one, he can't take anything seriously."

Miriya turned to her. "Nothing? Not even warfare? Or your marriage vows?"

"Well...er...no, he takes those seriously," Claudia wasn't sure if she was making things any less confusing for Miriya. "But...Roy likes to joke, he thinks he's amusing." She rolled her eyes.

"Thinks?" Roy made a show of pouting.

"Like that," Claudia sighed, she looked at Miriya thoughtfully. "I guess there's no such thing as jokes in the Zentraedi world?"

Miriya seemed to consider that question quite seriously, which surprised Claudia somewhat; she would have expected it to be a rather simple answer.

"Well, there was laughter, but it was generally at the expense of our enemies, or sometimes other Zentraedi who had done particularly poorly in battle." She looked at Max and took his hand. "And, of course Maximilian and I laugh about the many things I don't yet know about the micronian world. But you know all those things all ready," she looked back at Claudia and Roy. "Why would you need to joke about them?"

"Oh, I wouldn't be too sure about that," Claudia gave a laugh and turned to her husband, one eyebrow raised. "Sometimes I don't think this one understands anything that doesn't have wings."

"I understand plenty," Roy huffed, "I just don't feel it's fair to show of all my skills, it's not fair to everyone else."

Claudia shook her head, honestly, what was she going to do with him?

Miriya was still looking extremely thoughtful, a frown playing at the corners of her lips. "This thing you micronians call humidity, it's an important thing then?"

For a moment Claudia wondered if she'd heard Miriya right, but a quick look at Max and Roy confirmed they were as confused as she was. When had the conversation turned to weather?

Miriya in her turn now looked confused at their confusion. "You know, downplaying your skills and talents, Maximilian does it often."

"Oh! You mean humility," Max got it, giving a chuckle and leaning in to drop a kiss on his wife's cheek.

"What did I say?"

"Humidity, that's when there's a lot of moisture in the air."

For a moment, Claudia wondered how Miriya might react; she couldn't imagine Zentraedi took embarrassment very well. Fortunately though, Miriya took it in a stride, laughing herself.

"I apologise, I guess I still haven't picked up the micronian language as well as I thought.''

"You're doing a lot better than most people in your situation," Claudia told her reassuringly. "I can't imagine been able to pick up Zentraedi so quickly." She poked Roy in the side. "And incidentally, neither would this one, he's not being humble, he's joking...again. He's got an ego the size of this planet."

Miriya looked at Roy and after a moment spoke. "I don't believe your ego could be a big as mine."

"Far be it from me to argue with a lady," Roy chuckled. "But it's pretty big, I don't know how Claudia puts up with me."

Claudia smirked. "I'm a saint, I know."

"If you want to learn humility, you better do it from Max," Roy told Miriya, earnestly. "Because neither Claudia or I have any talent there."

As he left the White Dragon, Rick suddenly remembered...Roy had invited him to swing by his quarters for lunch, and judging by the small snippet of conversation he heard Max and Miriya having that morning, he was pretty sure a party was planned.

A party he was now late for.

'Oh rats!' He immediately broke into a run and kicked himself for not remembering earlier and calling his big brother to let him know he'd be running late.

He really hoped Roy hadn't gone to too much trouble...but knowing him...

All Rick could do now was run full-tilt for the military area of the SDF-1 and hope that everyone hadn't given up on him, not that he'd blame them if they had.

A good fifteen minutes later, he was in front of Roy and Claudia's door hunched over, hands on his knees trying to get his breath back and the redness out of his face. He didn't want to burst in wheezing, if for no other reason that it was possible Miriya would think he was dying, which would really bring the mood down.

After about a minute, Rick guessed that he was in a fit enough state to be seen and straightening his shirt and taking a deep breath, signalled at the door.

For a second nothing happened, and Rick's heart sunk, was he late enough that everyone had just given up on him?

To his immense relief however, the door slid open and even before he took a step in there was a shout.


Rick had been expecting it, but all the same he couldn't help but grin, especially when, of all things, a shower of confetti fell on him from above.

"Thanks, guys," he brushed the confetti out of his hair, at least most of it and continued on in.

"So, you finally decided to deign us with your presence," Roy said by way of greeting.

Rick was pretty sure a blush was creeping across his cheeks and he hurried to offer some sort of excuse. "I-uh-you see-"

Before he could finish his sentence however, his Big Brother had swaggered over and thrown an arm across his shoulders and before Rick had time to react he was the recipient of a noogie.

"Hey, cut it out!" He spluttered.

"You're not too big that I can't give you a noogie," Roy drawled, giving him a playful poke on the shoulder.

"No-one's too big for you to give them a noogie," Rick shot back, feigning annoyance.

"I don't know about that," he turned to see Claudia coming over to greet him.

Rick gave her a grin. "Well, I can't imagine he'd be stupid enough to try it on you."

Claudia made a face. "You'd be surprised." Rick couldn't tell if she was kidding or not. "But have you ever met my brother, Vince."

Rick shook his head as she gave him a sisterly hug; she stepped back and grinned conspiratorially. "You will soon enough, I promise and then you'll get to witness Commander Fokker getting some of his own back."

Now, Rick really was intrigued, but he didn't have time to question Claudia further, because over her shoulder he could see Max and Miriya waiting to give their well-wishes.

Max saluted him with a "Happy Birthday, Boss," and Rick saluted back before giving him a hug.

He didn't have the foggiest idea of what to do with Miriya though, who came forward looking quite solemn. "Congratulations on your day of birth, Rick. You have survived every battle so far and I am sure you'll survive many more."

Rick shot a quick look at Roy, Claudia and Max, but all of them looked as much at a loss as he. Finally, he gave Miriya a smile. "Errr...thanks."

"I have created something for you," Miriya continued, looking quite proud indeed and before anyone else could make a move she had disappeared into Roy and Claudia's kitchenette.

It was a somewhat nervous wait, for one thing, Rick didn't have a clue what to expect, he knew - well he was pretty sure that it must be a cake, but he was equally sure that no Zentraedi ever would have made such a thing before. That being the case, how exactly would it turn out?

"Your cake," Miriya announced her voice as serious as if she were presenting a medal.

Rick looked at it and found...a very acceptable cake...certainly it was pretty lopsided and the frosting was spread unevenly, but for someone who had never heard of baking a few short months ago, well, it was pretty amazing in Rick's opinion.

He grinned as he took the cake...carefully, from the green-haired Zentraedi. "Thanks, I mean it, Miriya, this looks great."

Miriya actually looked...surprised. "You're welcome...I will admit however, that Maximillian set out the..." she paused for a moment, looking for the right word - "the necessary components for me to mix together. He also imputed and oversaw the oven process."

Rick caught Max's eye and his friend shrugged.

"Hey, no big deal, I certainly wouldn't turn away help in the kitchen if I could get it." He assured her.

"All right," Roy clapped his hands together. "Let's get this party started! You gotta try Claudia's fruit punch, Little Bro; you haven't lived until you do."

"Lead the way."

Before he even got to the fabled punch, music from his favourite (non-Minmei) band was switched on and a bowl of Cheese-Its started making the rounds.

Just before he took a sip however he realised something...something missing from the party.