Disclaimer: Exosquad belongs to Bandai and Sunrise Pictures along with its producers, directors as do Nara Burns, Marsala and all other characters who appear here or are mentioned; they are not mine. Note: Takes place shortly after the end of the series.

Nara Burns drummed her fingers against the high-resolution black matter controls of her e-frame pausing a moment in the final descent into the Venusian air-space to take in the full effect of the sun rising over her home. Nara Burns was coming home at last.

And while she was very much aware, even painfully aware that it would take an insane amount of work to make the planet even remotely what it had been prior to the outbreak of war with the Neo Sapiens, hard work had never been something she felt the need to fear.

In her mind's eye she still saw it as it had been, and despite what others might think, she was no longer that naive girl who had joined the ranks of the Fleet; she had seen and done too much to hang on to that kind of naivetИ.

She shook her head to clear it of the inevitable cobwebs and nudged her controls forward to send her e-frame. To her right and slightly apart her friend and teammate Marsala patiently waited for her slightly preoccupied orders to prepare for entry into the planet's atmosphere.

"I'm going home,: said Nara to herself, before adding, "This time for good."

It was not given to those of Marsala's kind to experience emotions such as sentiment or longing, or nostalgia for times past, good or bad, but if he could, he would no doubt understand and perhaps share Nara Burns, newly promoted to the rank of Major, sentiments.

A small smile creased his broad lips recalling an incident onboard the Regulus II when Venus had become just another in a growing list of casualties, another occupied Home World, and they among others had volunteered to undertake a hazardous mission to help much-needed supplies, food, and weapons to the beleaguered natives.

Marsala could picture that moment in his mind, etched as if in stone, when Nara had told him about how much she missed her home, her brother, and the sunrise over the Venusian hills; he made some remark about how the sunrise was merely the effect of the chromatic play of light on the ecliptic of the planet's surface as it revolved around the sun.

They had both come a long way since that moment, and in the privacy of his own cockpit Marsala came to a sudden and rather surprising realization, he had learned to see people, places and things with another set of eyes. Much of that change in himself had come through his decision to defy his own programming, his own heritage, or rather his perceived heritage. Yes, he was a Neo-Sapien, but he had made a conscious choice to fight alongside humans, and even early on during the fighting he had discovered within himself the capacity to live with that decision.

Much of that acceptance came in the form of his squad commander, J.T Marsh, but Nara had always been there as well, as well as the other members of Able Squad. He had learned to see with other eyes, hear with another pair of ears.

Nara had ordered the remainder of the squad to begin to fan out and begin distributing the supplies and equipment to pres-designated zone where it was most needed.

Just prior to her departure for Venus Nara had already informed Marsh that she would be retiring from the Exo-Fleet to help with the rebuilding of Venus.

Needless to say Marsh had not been entirely pleased with her decision, and had not exactly taken pains to hide either his disappointment, saying how they would lose not just a good soldier but also a good friend,

However, in the end had accepted Nara's decision with his own brand of devil-may care charm that he had never lost even as he rose through the ranks to his current pay grade.

Nara landed her e-frame on a plain of dry, brittle and brown grass that had once been fertile cropland the wind, on a northerly track caused her long hair to sweep around her face and she impatiently brushed aside and out of her way.

She climbed down from the cockpit and walked away from it to stand in front and look up at a tree so gnarled and overgrown that it failed to properly catch most of the warmth and light from recently risen sun.

Marsala remembered that tree, he remembered how Nara had once told him about how she and her brother James used to play there as children.

Bringing his own e-frame to a landing and turning off the engines, he pressed the button to pop open the hatch and leapt out to land with a thump on the soft spongy ground of the plain. He did not at first approach his commanding officer, both out of respect for her new rank and also for her privacy.

Nara stood up at the dry, memories of better times running through her mind's eye before she shook her head and muttered under her breath, "Maybe I am just getting maudlin in my old age."

"Hardly maudlin," remarked Marsala remarked as a small smile creased the corners of his mouth,.

Nara looked over at him turning so that she now had her back to the Snake Tree and she could face him. 'How could I forget about that hearing of yours?"

"It would be very difficult to forget," replied Marsala, trying to sense her mood.

"Marsala, if I haven't said this before then I had better do it now before I forget in the press of all of the other hundreds of things there are to do to begin the Reconstruction Project. "

Nara sighed and said, "Would you come here for a sec?"

"Of course," he replied.

"Thank you." She gasped and shuffled the toes of her boots in the spongy ground.

"You are welcome."

"No, I mean it. For sticking up for me, for being there when I needed you. For coming with me." She paused and then looked up at him again.

Before she could restrain the impulse or decide if she even wanted to Nara stood up on her the tips of her solid and standard issue boots and hugged him as tightly as she could.

In that instant an overwhelming sensation swept over her entire being. She suddenly had the impulse that if she did not hold on to him as tightly as possible he too would disappear from her life just as so much else she had held onto had been destroyed.

Blushing furiously, Nara released her hold. ⌠You must think me the worst case of basket case air-head," she muttered.

"Not at all." Marsala smiled and this time it this exampled did not look at all forced or surprised to find itself on his normally stoic features. "YOU are very welcome, Nara Burns. Welcome Home."