I said I wasn't going to, but I couldn't sleep last night, so here it begins. yawns, stretching a little Usual disclaimer stuff. I do not own Viral, the series, and really don't even own adorable little Anne, who isn't so little anymore. All credit where credit is due.

jabs at the air with her pointer finger Now, on with the show!!

He sat in his room, bored as usual. There was the usual strain of irritation that ran through the back of his mind, but he'd long since gotten used to that. He'd faithfully served Earth as a representative in the Spiral Peace Tribunal for a few years after the first conference. However, there were whispers; rumors spread. Viral had the great misfortune of learning that human gossip could be a disheartening thing.

Needless to say, he'd relinquished his role as representative for someone who could...how had they phrased it? Ah, someone who could truly understand the position of humans on Earth. After all, he was only a Beastman.

"Only," he snorted, looking at his claws and resisting the urge to dig them into the couch he sat on simply out of spite. Instead, he stood up, went to the large glass window, and stared out.

They were on some planet known as Kritolin. To the best of everyone's knowledge, the small planet was about as close to a central meeting place as the Spiral being would ever find. It had taken quite a bit of adjusting to the massive influx of beings that populated it every three years, but the economy flourished from the money foreigners brought.

The view outside their room was nice enough, he supposed. There was a dark green sea, with beach on one side and a cliff holding a thick forest on the other. What he wouldn't give to be out in that wilderness for just a few hours. Viral slipped a clawed finger into the collar of his shirt, greatly lamenting that the simple action was as close to freedom as he would get for the next week. Perhaps he could talk Anne into releasing him from his duties for just one day...

No longer a representative, yet too important to the Tribunal to completely alienate, he'd been granted the title of Chancellor of Records. In short, he oversaw all the paper-pushing that was done. A smirk came unbidden to his mouth at the irony of it all. He, a warrior, was now the one who made sure that all the information was up to date and recorder. At least they hadn't made him a recorder. Then he'd have to kill someone. Still, he could understand the logic in the decision, even if he didn't agree with it. His immortality made him the perfect person to ensure that the future generations would have the proper history to build upon. Noble enough, he supposed.

Thankfully, he wasn't required to stay on this wretched planet. He hated to admit it, but he missed Earth during his time at tribunal. From the large cities he once hated to the wildlife reserves to the deep wells of underground civilizations. Part of him had grown particularly fond of it all. It was about as much attachment as he dared to garnish anything. At least the planet wasn't going to leave him anytime soon.

Watching Simon grow old was a shock to his psyche. Yes, he'd known he was immortal; he'd understood what it meant in a tangible sense. But, by Spiral, the fact that there would be no future adventures with the man he'd grown to respect...

"Damn you, Lordgenome..."

"I'm home!"

Thank Spiral, he thought. He hated getting sentimental. Hanging around these humans so much was producing some destructive habits.

Anne Rittona, representative of Earth, quickly took off her jacket and tossed it aside. She'd worry about picking it up later. Right now, she was hungry and starving to do something other than sit in a room and listen to people talk all day. Sure, she had to be attentive, but her primary role was to act as a go-between should Earth be required to do anything for the Spiral Peace Tribunal. The organization's primary role was to prevent Spiral Nemesis, so most of the jibber-jabber consisted of science and physics terms that she would probably never understand. However, her electronic equipment recorded everything that was said and who said it, so Leeron and his lab could have as much fun with it as they wanted when she returned.

Her eyes picked up on the slight movement in her peripheral vision as Viral came out of his room. She flashed him a bright smile, and was more than content with the soft nod he gave her. She and her brother and sister had spent about as much time on the Chouginga Dai-Gurren as they did on Earth. Dayakka found it hard to return to any sort of government or civilian life, and Kiyoh could hardly deny that she felt a certain pull back into a life of adventure herself. Anne, Kittan (named after his deceased uncle), and Kinian had all learned to pilot the Grapearl at a fairly young age, and Anne still loved going for joy rides whenever she could. She'd spent more time outside of the ship than she had in it during the trip here.

But now that she was at the Tribunal headquarters, she was strongly discouraged from straying too far, in case something should happen which needed her attention. Unfortunately, some smaller Anti-Spiral sects were starting to emerge, and one could never know who was a dummy awaiting a chance to seek some sort of vengeance. Particularly since the members who formed the Tribunal were among the most powerful users of Spiral Energy in their respective worlds. Anne would have much rather had average energy; then she could have been part of the Grapearl force rather than stuck in this stuffy room all damned day.

Still, the company was nice. As she let loose her long blond hair, her blue eyes darted in Viral's direction as she went into the kitchen to start working on dinner. Most humans still looked at the Beastmen with a certain amount of disdain. The sad truth of the matter is that, in most senses of the word, they were "less than." They couldn't reproduce, they had no Spiral Energy, and most were rather disagreeable to look at. The younger generations did not have many of the prejudices that the Undergrounders did, but it was hard to consider the truths while not holding it against them.

Anne, on the other hand, had yet to meet a Beastman she didn't get along with, and Viral was no exception. She'd grown up watching him command the Chouginga Dai-Gurren, heard of his battles with Kamina and Simon, of his defense of the Undergrounders that wanted to keep their way of life, and all knew that he was the unofficial successor of Simon. He was an idol, of sorts. A soft blush hit her cheeks as she started cutting up the meat, hearing him get out the various pots and skillets for her to use.

This was their second trip to the Tribunal together, and there was a sense of comfortableness between the two. She wouldn't call it friendship, but she knew which buttons to push and how to avoid major disagreements. He seemed to read her rather well also, and it made the trip a little more bearable. She knew that he hated being as cooped up as she. He'd probably spent most of the day staring out the window, poor thing.

"I can make a stew or stir-fry. Which do you want?" she asked him

He shrugged as he walked by, picking up a knife and starting to cut up the few vegetables that sat on the counter. She sparred a glance over at the way he was cutting, and knew that he wanted stir-fry. Finishing up with the last piece of meat, she went to the sink to wash her hands off and fetched the sauce from the fridge. Some oil went in the heated skillet, followed by the hiss of the meat as it hit the hot metal. Anne picked up a spoon and poked at the meat absently as it started to cook, the silence starting to bug her. He'd usually have said at least something by now.

"I want to go out," she said.

"You know you can't."

"But it's so damned boring in here. I've seen every mall and every store in this complex. I already saw the one new play they put on a year...It's going to kill me to stay in here for another week."

"And how do you think I feel?" A soft snarl crept into the words, the knife cutting a little harder now.

"The same way. So let's get out of here."

"And how the hell do you suggest we do that?"

She shrugged, flipping the meat so it could finish cooking on the other side, grabbing some seasoning and adding it to the meat. There had to be a way to get out of here somehow...

"Fine. If you can find a way to get out unnoticed, I'll get us both out of here for at least a day. When are your free days this week?"

"One's coming up the day after tomorrow. Tomorrow's the last of the new information on the Anti-Spiral resurgence."

"Then you've got one day to figure it out. Otherwise, I'll just sit in here and rot away like I've been doing."

He walked over and slid the vegetables into the skillet as she moved out of the way and went to grab the rice. Viral tossed the food a little before setting it back down. Anne bumped him with her hip as she came back next to him, setting the rice cooker on the counter.

"You know, there are hunting areas in here," she reminded him.

"There are flight simulators in here," he retorted.

She snorted, knowing good damn well that he understood the vital differences between simulators and reality.

He couldn't help but chuckle. It sounded so much like the noise he'd made earlier. He snuck a glance at her through his unkempt hair, wondering at how she'd grown. Seven years ago, when he found out that she would be the new representative, he'd been appalled. Anne Rittona? The little brat that he'd had to put up with for almost eighteen years? She'd always been in the holding bay for the Ganmen, asking about this one and that one, interrupting his preferred place of solitude. She'd been such a curiously aggravating child. But that annoyance changed into a certain admiration as he watched her grow. More than once, he'd been unable to refuse her pleadings to take her on some mission or another in the Grapearl. Once there, she'd been a still warmth on his lap, so in awe that it made her silent. He supposed she hadn't been such a brat, really...

The truth of the matter is, now that he could be honest with what emotions he did have, she'd reminded him far too much of the fictional child he'd had in the alternate universe the Anti-Spiral had sent him to. Now and again, he'd had dreams (or nightmares, depending on how he awoke) of that family he'd longed to have. During those stolen moments in the holding bay, in the cockpit of a Grapearl, he'd allowed himself to imagine...if only on a fleeting level of consciousness...that she was his child.

He'd rather it have been her than anyone else. He could think of a few humans he'd rather shred than assist during these weeks away from Earth. She made the hushed whispers and covert stares in the hallway a little more bearable. Once again, he could indulge in a little fantasizing. Still, it was hard to imagine Anne as his child now that she was almost thirty. She looked more his peer than his offspring.

"Ouch! Damned cooker..."

She shoved her finger in her mouth and glared at him to tell him he'd better not laugh. Viral, despite his own resistance, reached out, gently taking hold of her wrist and pulling the finger from her lips, glancing at it to make sure that it didn't need a less instinctive remedy. The tip of it was a little pink, but that was about it. At most, she might get a slight blister.

"You didn't burn it that badly, Anne. There's no reason to make such a fuss."

"I did no such thing!"

He simply smirked as she put the lid on the cooker and left him in the kitchen. She'd quite obviously retained that certain juvenility that seemed to follow all true members of the Dai Gurren Brigade. She was truly the child of her parents...

"And not mine," he muttered softly to himself.

He couldn't bear to look at his inhuman hand as it reached for the sauce and dumped it unceremoniously into the skillet.

Anne hoped he didn't notice. She plopped down on the couch, pulling her knees up to her chest, turning on the television to drown out the noise of her thudding heart.

Holding her forearm before her, she let her eyes fall on her wrist. In all the time they'd spent together since she'd become the Earth representative, he'd never really touched her. And for some Spiral-maddening reason, that simple act of his long fingers on her wrist had sent her heart into the worst of rhythms.

"What the hell is wrong with me? Am I still not over that little crush? I'm far too old for this stuff..."

She prayed she wasn't blushing too deeply. Still, the lingering sensation of his skin against hers made it hard for her to forget it. The dim of the television wasn't enough to drown out the thoughts slipping into her head. Perhaps she was too old for a little crush. Perhaps she was dealing with something different...

Her canine tooth dug into her lip as she struggled to find another answer to the question now plaguing her. If she didn't...well, the next week was going to become horribly awkward. The living room that separated their rooms would not be a big enough gap. And she would have to mention getting away with him, didn't she? Now she was bound to those words for his sake as much as her own.

When Viral came out with her plate, she'd calmed down considerably. Her time with him as a child had thought her to deal with physical manifestations of her inner thoughts and emotions. So when her fingers brushed his to receive the plate and take the chopsticks from his hand, only she knew how her heart fluttered at the touch.

Heaven help her if he found out. She'd seen him reject interested females, Beastwomen and Spiral beings alike. Anne had a suspicion about the reason, but the threat of rejection didn't do much to calm down her racing emotions.

So, when she quickly ate, put her plate in the kitchen and gave him an icy goodnight, she told herself she would rather deal with the puzzled look on his face than the coldness she was sure to face should the budding feeling in her heart ever fully bloom.