Well, here we are again. Now, I'm creating some of my own characters in this chapter, rather than taking from the massive bounty of characters already around in the Megaman universe, mostly because I want a little more freedom in characterisation. Also, just plucking characters from the series isn't going to work for the three characters that were created. I'm pretty sure someone is going to complain about some of the things done in this chapter, but if you do feel so inclined, please don't flame.

Read On and Enjoy

Chapter 11: Quiet Time

The Abel City Space Centre was still under repair from the siege of Mavericks two weeks ago. It's most basic functions had been restored, but a lot of the more complex ones had been totally demolished. It had cost a hundred Hunters to bring the centre back under their control, and it could've been more if the Guardians and X hadn't given them support.

All of Alpha Squad stood near the runway as the Giga City shuttle Dominion made its approach. Palette was bouncing on her heels with barely contained excitement, and Ciel was hugging herself, waiting for Zero. Iris and X were the most impatient though. Iris needed to check Zero over for any contamination of the virus he had been infected with and X had been doing solo missions for far too long.

The Dominion touched down, its tyres skidding across the runway before it came to a stop. The group moved behind the shuttle as the hatch opened. Axl was the first to stumble out, screaming at the top of his lungs and looking terrified.

"That was the most uncomfortable ride I've ever been on," he was yelling, "AND I've been the victim of X's driving for about three or four years now!" He was dressed in civilian clothes; a gift from the Eurasia government for preventing the station from being destroyed. They had been offered more, but Zero had turned down payment except to clothes, rooms and any food that could be spared. Eurasia needed their rewards more than they did.

"Quit complaining," Zero said, "It wasn't that bad."

"I GOT THROWN INTO THE CEILING, TWICE!" Axl yelled. Palette ran at him, yelling his name, and he turned, all problems forgotten. He held out his arms and Palette jumped into them, the two of them spinning around. Zero shook his head as he approached the group, passing the now silent reunion between Axl and Palette.

"Heard I missed a good fight," he said, clasping hands with X, "How was it?"

"Easy as all hell," X said, giving his friend a hug, "How was space?"

"Boring as all hell," Zero said, returning the hug before moving away to Ciel. She smiled at him, and he pulled her into an embrace, planting a kiss on her neck.

"I missed you," Ciel said, nuzzling into her boyfriend's chest.

"Not as much as I missed you," Zero told her, before letting the embrace die as Iris approached. The look on her face was enough to make Zero cringe.

"You, in the ambulance, now," Iris told him, pointing to the waiting ambulance. Zero wanted to argue, but Ciel was watching him with wide eyes. So, he bit his tongue and did as he was told. He climbed into the ambulance and let himself be taken back to HQ. Ciel was with him, holding his hand.

"I feel like I've been told I have cancer or something," Zero said, smiling at Ciel. She returned the smile, but Zero could see the worry in her eyes. Zero knew what she was worried about; if he still had the virus, he could easily become that monster he was before. He never wanted to become that again, no matter the cost.

Zero was lying on a medical bed, waiting for the results of his scan. Iris insisted on keeping him here until all the data had been collated. Zero didn't even know what collate meant, but it was a word Iris said, so it must be important.

Zero tapped away the hours as he waited, before Iris entered the bay, looking forlorn.

"So, am I still potentially homicidal?" Zero asked cheerfully, sitting up on the bed and smiling a little. Iris didn't return the smile, which eventually made Zero's fade away. "I am still potentially homicidal, aren't I?"

"I'm sorry Zero," Iris said, "but Lumine's compound wasn't perfect. It removed the virus's hold on your personality, but the virus is still there." She handed Zero photos of his RP signature. The energy was as strong as it had ever been, but there was a streak of purple throughout the bright orange. "I think when you activated your power during the virus's attack on you, you fused the two. The virus is now tied to that power, and when you use the power…" she trailed off.

"The virus starts attacking again," Zero finished, handing her the photos. "So, I can't use my power to fight?"

"I wouldn't advise it," Iris told him, "but I think you can use it for brief periods, up to five minutes or so before the virus starts to do its damage. I don't think any extended use is smart."

"Right," Zero said, looking downcast, "I may as well fight with one arm then, because the next time I meet Omega, he's going to destroy me."

"Zero," Iris started, before she felt vomit rise up and ran past him, the splatter of vomit hitting the bottom of an empty bin as she crashed spectacularly to her knees, just seconds away before she would've vomited all over the floor.

"Iris?" Zero asked, dropping to her side, "are you okay?"

"I'm fine," Iris said, swatting him away, "I just haven't been feeling well lately." Her hand went to her stomach as she said it, and Zero caught the gesture.

"What's wrong?" Zero asked, "Is it a bug or something? You should take some time off if it is; we don't need our chief medical officer falling ill."

"It's not a bug," Iris said, picking herself up, "It's nothing."

"Iris, don't lie to me," Zero said, "or I'll get X down here and he can figure it out."

"Please, don't," Iris pleaded, "alright." She took a deep breath. "I think I'm going to have a baby."

It wasn't what Zero was expecting to hear, so it took his brain a few seconds to process what he just heard. "A baby?" he asked, and Iris, starting to blush a little, nodded. "Well, that's great! X will make a great dad!" Zero was suddenly stopped by a thought. "It IS X's, isn't it?"

"How could you ask me that?" Iris demanded, getting angry. Zero waved his hands to calm her down.

"I didn't mean like that," Zero said, "I was just wondering why you haven't told him yet."

"What makes you think I haven't?" Iris asked, putting her hands on her hips.

"Because if you had," Zero explained, "it would've been the first thing Axl and I heard on Eurasia." Iris thought about that for a second and realised that he was right. "So, why haven't you told X?"

"I…" Iris didn't have a real answer. She looked at Zero helplessly, shrugging. "I just don't want him to be angry."

"Angry? X? Are we talking about the same guy?" Zero asked, "X doesn't get angry. I think he'd be over the moon if he found out he was going to be a dad. You should tell him, and soon." Zero put a hand on Iris's shoulder for a moment, then left. Iris put a hand to her stomach, rubbing it slightly.

"Zero," Signas said as the Hunter entered his office, "what can I do for you?"

"Vice Commander Zero reporting for duty," Zero said, saluting. Signas couldn't help himself, he just started laughing. "Can I ask what exactly is so funny, sir?"

"You," Signas said between breaths, his chest heaving from laughter, "I remember when you first walked in my door, all sullen and anti-authority. I don't think you'd recognise him."

"Probably not," Zero said, relaxing a little. "Do I have any Vice-Commander duties I should be aware of, sir?"

"Your orders are taken into account in major battles," Signas said, "and I may need your back-up during meetings with the High Council, but for the most part, you still work as head of Alpha Squad. Which leads me to," Signas tossed Zero an envelope, "your next assignment. My only request is that you gather your squad before you read the orders."

"Sir," Zero said, saluting again before leaving. Signas smiled a little, before returning to his work.

"So, standing orders," X said, looking at the envelope in Zero's hands. Zero had made sure everyone had gathered in the squad room before he showed it to them.

"Well, open it already," Axl said, "I want to know what crap Signas is getting us into now."

Zero shook his head as he tore the envelope open and pulled out the orders. "Members of Alpha Squad," he read, in a slightly official manner, "In light of your achievements both above and beyond the call of duty, your new orders are simply to…" Zero frowned. No way would Signas be officially ordering them to do that.

"What?" Axl asked, almost as jumpy as Palette, "Our 'orders are simply to' what?"

"Your new orders are simply to go out and enjoy yourselves," Zero said, and everyone stared at him, "your work will be given to other squads to complete, and Guardian Squad has taken your normal patrol areas. Go and have fun, that's an order."

"No way it says that," X said, snatching the orders from a stunned Zero, "Holy crap, it does say that!"

"Our secret, top priority mission is to take time off?" Axl asked. "HE COULDN'T HAVE JUST TOLD US THAT?"

"Axl, calm down," Zero said, "Did you really want to spend your time off on Eurasia?" That calmed Axl down almost instantly. Zero turned to Layer; being the only single member of Alpha Squad, as far as he knew, anyway, he felt Layer deserved to be asked first. "What are you planning on doing?" he asked, and she shrugged.

"I have some other things I need to take care of," Layer said, "A little side-project I've been working on." Layer left then, her long hair swaying behind her as the group watched her go.

"Her idea of time off is more work?" Axl asked, "That's a little weird."

"I think Layer's seeing someone from R&D," Palette said knowingly, nodding with a large grin on her face. Zero just shook his head; he'd have to ask Palette who it was sooner or later, but for now, he'd just smile.

"I don't think we need to hang around here any longer," Zero said, sliding the orders back into their envelope and tossing them onto a desk, before he turned to Ciel. "I have something to take care of, but then I will see you later." He kissed Ciel on the cheek before leaving the squad room, leaving Axl and Palette to talk about what they were going to do. X didn't move, looking a little disappointed, and Ciel moved a little closer, sitting next to him.

"X, are you okay?" Ciel asked, looking at him. X ran a hand through his hair.

"Iris has been a little distant lately," X said, "I don't know what's wrong."

Ciel smiled a little, before patting X on the shoulder and leaving. X wondered what had happened with Iris to make her pull away from him in the past few days.

"Signas is giving you time off?" Iris asked, tending to a patient as Zero explained what had happened.

"All of Alpha Squad," Zero explained, "Which, as far as I'm concerned, includes you."

"I can't take time off," Iris said, "I have patients to tend to."

"From what I can see," Zero said, "there isn't anything that someone else can't take care of. Don't you have a medical staff?"

"I'm the only one qualified to deal with the Reconstructions," Iris told him, "plus, I have paperwork to do." She turned her back to him, looking at another patient. As far as she was concerned, the matter was finished.

"Iris," Zero decided to go into 'official' mode, "As Vice-Commander of the Hunters, I am ordering you to take time off. Spend some time with X. I'm sure you both need it." Zero left then and Iris rubbed her stomach thoughtfully, frowning. Suddenly, her communicator beeped. Iris answered it and heard X on the other end.

"X," she said, surprised, "I wasn't expecting you to call."

"Sorry for bothering you," X said, "But we've just got given our new assignment. Signas wants…"

"You all to take time off," Iris finished his sentence for him, "Zero's just been down to tell me and to give me time off as well."

"Well, that's great!" X exclaimed, "I was thinking about booking a table at that restaurant you like, the one that does the fish. It's been a while since we've spent some quality time together."

"That sounds nice," Iris said, smiling, "I'll be looking forward to that."

"Iris," X figured he better ask now, "Is everything okay? Only you've been a little distant lately."

"I'll tell you over dinner," Iris said, "It's nothing that can't wait." X consented to that, and let the matter drop.

"I'll see you tonight," he said, before hanging up. Iris put her communicator back into her pocket and rubbed her stomach again. Maybe this dinner was what she needed to tell X. Iris left Medical and headed to her room; she needed to find something to wear.

Zero headed down the hall, entering the elevator and calling Ciel, telling her to meet him in the hall outside their rooms. He got their first and moved into his room and double-checked the date. Perfect; it was only two weeks away before his and Ciel's one month anniversary. He moved through his room, gathering up clothes and other crap and putting it into a bag. As he entered the hall, he saw the elevator open and Ciel walk out. He smiled as he approached, pulling her into a hug.

"What's gotten into you?" she asked as he swung her around, "you've never been like this."

"Get enough clothes and stuff packed for a couple of weeks," Zero told her, dodging the question, "I want to take you somewhere."

"Where are you taking me?" Ciel asked, smiling slyly.

"That's a secret," Zero said, and smiled as Ciel pouted. "Just go and get ready."

"What am I supposed to take?" Ciel asked, and Zero just looked at her.

"We're not going for a world cruise," Zero said, "but you shouldn't have to worry much about cold weather."

"Okay, wait here," Ciel said, and disappeared into her room. A few minutes later, she came out with a bag smaller than Zero thought she would want to take. He remembered whenever his mother wanted to go anywhere, she would have no less than three big suitcases full of things, claiming that she needed to be prepared for anything.

"Let's go," Zero said and, taking Ciel's hand, led her to the elevator, the two of them taking it down to the garage level.

When the elevator door opened, Zero and Ciel sped across to Zero's bike, retrieved and repaired after the siege where Omega resurfaced. Helmets with no back to them were lying on the seat. Zero picked them up and handed one to Ciel, placing the other one on his head. The back automatically closed, keeping Zero's ponytail free. Ciel did the same, before latching her arms around Zero's waist. With his bag in her way, she couldn't lean on her boyfriend, but a quick confirmation in the form of Zero squeezing her hand was more than enough. Zero started the bike and the two sped off.

Ciel tried to pay attention as the buildings sped past, trying to work out where they were going. Maybe a fancy hotel of some kind…the possibilities were endless. She was surprised when Zero ended up going outside the city, taking a path that Ciel recognised. It was the same path she had taken when she went to find Zero after his first meeting with Gate. The crater left behind from the Eve War. Was he taking her there? No, that didn't make sense; they had no camping equipment or anything. When they got to the crater, Zero slowed down, looking around.

"What are we looking for?" Ciel asked loudly, over the sound of the engine.

"Directions," Zero yelled back, before finding where he wanted to go and sped around the edge of the crater, heading for a small cluster of hills in the distance. The sun was beginning to set, and the world was a strange burning colour. Ciel had only seen this once before, and it was still as beautiful as the first time.

Zero slid the bike and brought it to a stop, turning off the engine and taking off his helmet. Ciel did the same, and Zero pointed.

"Down there," he said, and Ciel followed his direction and almost gasped. A small town, looking like a town out of the last century, was nestled down there, hidden away from the rest of the world. "Ciel, this is my hometown."

Ciel looked at him, wide-eyed. Apart from that one time, Zero had never mentioned his hometown, or even hinted that he'd like to come back.

"Why'd you bring me here?" she asked quietly.

"I came to a sort of epiphany over the last couple of weeks," Zero said, "that I haven't shared everything with you. Not secrets," he assured her, "or anything like that, but you've only ever known me as Zero. There's a whole section of my life that you don't know about." Zero took a preparatory breath before he started to explain. "My real name is Girouette McLaren; my mom is French," Zero explained, "and my dad is descended from the Scottish. Omega isn't my only sibling; I have a little sister, Alouette. Here, I was just a mechanic with a gift, not a Hunter or anything out of the ordinary."

Ciel drank all of these facts in. Zero was such an introverted person, that she could sense how hard it was for him to share all of this with her. "Do your parents know that you're coming back?"

"No," Zero said, "I wanted it to be a surprise for them. They're probably not going to be very happy when you first meet them, but you'll like them once they simmer down, I hope."

Ciel smiled, slipping her helmet back on and tightening her grip on her boyfriend's waist. Zero put his helmet back on and started the bike again, taking it down the hill and through the streets. The roar of the engine caused several people to come out of their houses and see two blonde figures ride a motorcycle down the street. Some of the older people guessed the rider's identity, if only because Girouette McLaren had never cut his ponytail if he could help it.

Zero was heading to his grandfather's old garage. Zero had run it after his grandfather died, when he was fourteen. He didn't know who ran it now, but he needed a place to keep the bike. He pulled the bike into the yard, where a young mechanic with dark hair leapt out of the old sheet iron building, yelling at the top of his lungs.

"The hell do you think you're doing, turning up this time of night!" he was saying, "There are these things called business hours, you know!"

"When old man McLaren ran things," Zero said, taking off his helmet and shaking his hair, "there weren't any business hours. You could turn up any time and get something fixed."

The mechanic stopped dead once Zero took his helmet off. "Girouette?" he asked, and Zero nodded. "HOLY MOTHER OF CRAP," he yelled, "HOW ARE YA?"

"Just fine, thanks," Zero said, "If my memory's still good, you're Daniel, right?"

"That's right," Daniel said, "I worked in the general store before you left. Who's this?" he asked, noticing Ciel as she took her helmet off and climbed off the bike.

"This is my girlfriend," Zero said, taking Ciel's hand as he climbed off the bike, "Ciel."

"Pleased to meet you," Ciel said, smiling. Daniel smiled back before looking at Zero.

"You always get the hot ones," he said, a little grudgingly, "but that's enough catching up; what do you need?"

"Just a place to garage this for a couple of weeks," Zero said, patting the bike.

"Oh, that reminds me," Daniel said, slamming a fist into his palm, "the big Inter-Town Race is coming up soon. We haven't had a decent entry since you and your big brother left. Interested?"

"Maybe," Zero said, patting Daniel on the arm, "but I'd like to see my family first. Where do they live now?"

"Big house at the edge of town, about a ten minute walk from here," Daniel said, pointing, "They didn't rebuild your old place."

"I didn't think they would," Zero said, a little softer than he liked, "I can trust you to look after my wheels?"

"Sure thing man," Daniel said, "I'll put it in now. Say hi to your folks for me."

"I will," Zero said, taking Ciel and leading her away. He stuck to side streets; he could see people looking around for him.

"Why are you avoiding everyone?" Ciel asked, looking at him with a little bit of concern.

"I don't want to explain everything to everyone." Zero told her, "In a small town like this, everyone knows everyone else's business."

That was a strange concept; one Ciel couldn't really get her head around. She had spent her entire life in Abel City, surrounded by the Hunters, where secrets were easy to keep.

'No wonder he's so good at keeping secrets,' Ciel thought, looking at Zero as he led her through the streets. In a town where everyone knew everything, it wouldn't have been easy for someone like Zero. She tightened her grip on his hand, and he responded with a slight increase in pressure on hers. In no time at all, they got to the big house that Daniel had pointed out, and in the fading light, Ciel could make out a little shape dancing in the yard, singing.

"Is that Alouette?" Ciel asked quietly, and Zero nodded. His little sister had grown in the past three years. But she was still wearing the same colours, pink, white and yellow, dancing around with the same stuffed animal. The song she was singing was in French, so Ciel didn't understand a word. But Zero suddenly started singing the same song in a loud voice, attracting the attention of the little girl. Alouette stopped and saw the two standing there, a big smile on Zero's face.

"Big brother?" Alouette cocked her head to the side, a look of childlike inquisitiveness on her face. Zero nodded.

"How are you, Ally?" he asked, and Ciel heard tenderness in his voice she hadn't ever heard from him before.

Alouette squealed and ran at Zero, who threw his arms out and let his little sister jump into them. He gave her a big hug, something the little girl returned with all the strength her little arms could muster.

"Giro, you're back!" she yelled, vicing her arms around his neck. "I missed you!"

"I missed you too, Ally," he said, before shrugging her off his neck and turning her to see Ciel, "Ally, this is Ciel. Ciel, this is my little sister Alouette."

"Pleased to meet you," Ciel said, slipping into the voice adults use to talk to children. Alouette just stared at her.

"I'm a kid," she said, "not an idiot." Ciel couldn't help it; she started giggling.

"I'm sorry," she said, going back to her normal voice, "I didn't mean it like that."

"That's okay," Alouette said, letting go of Zero and launching herself at Ciel. Ciel barely caught her, and the vice-hug the little girl gave her was enough to cut off her air. Zero laughed, before taking Alouette off of Ciel and putting her on the ground.

"Are mom and dad inside?" Zero asked her, and Alouette nodded, running off to the house, yelling "Mama and Papa, Giro's back!"

Zero took Ciel by the hand and led her to the front door, hanging open from where Alouette bulldozed her way through. The house was warm, and the inside looked like the sort of home Ciel always wanted to have. Zero took her to the kitchen, following his sister's cries of joy.

"Honey, what is it?" Ciel heard a female voice, with a slight accent, "what's happened?"

"Giro's back!" Alouette said happily as Zero and Ciel entered the kitchen. Ciel saw Alouette talking to a blonde woman in a red dress, an apron and a pair of oven mitts. When the woman looked up and saw Zero standing there, the shock on her face was indescribable.

"Giro, is that you?" was her first question. When Zero nodded, she cried out in French and ran at Zero, wrapping her arms around him. Zero returned the embrace, but looked a little uncomfortable. Ciel giggled at the look on his face, and his mother stopped and stood up, looking at Ciel with a probing eye.

"Mom, this is my girlfriend, Ciel," Zero said, introducing her, "Ciel, this is my mother, Vivian."

"Ciel," Vivian said, approaching and leaning very close to Ciel, peering into her eyes. Ciel leant back and shot a look to Zero, who gave her a 'give her a second' look. Vivian circled Ciel like a shark, taking in every detail of her appearance.

"How old are you?" Vivian asked Ciel, who looked a little affronted by the question.

"Um, I'm sixteen," Ciel said, "but I turn seventeen next month, if that's any help." Zero made a mental note to remember that. Vivian stood up and, after a few seconds, dragged Ciel into a hug, kissing both of her cheeks.

"Welcome to the family," Vivian said, "I hope my boy treats you with the respect you deserve."

"More than I deserve, sometimes," Ciel said, smiling. Vivian trilled like a bird, before nodding.

"As it should be," Vivian said, "Eric! Come down! Giro has returned to us!"

Thuds could be heard down in the kitchen as someone descended the steps. A large, burly man with dark hair and green eyes the same shape as Zero's entered, leaning on the doorframe.

"So, you're back, are you?" he said, almost indifferently. Zero faced him, looking frail beneath his father's bulk.

"Yeah," Zero said, "I had some time, so I thought I'd surprise everyone."

"You didn't think to contact us in the three years you were gone?" his father demanded.

"I was kind of messed up until I met Ciel," Zero said, "I didn't think about it."

"You could've been dead," Eric said, before laughing like a walrus, grabbing Zero and pulling him into a bear-hug. "Don't run out on us like that again!" Zero patted his father's massive arm gingerly before he was let out of the hug, where he drew in huge gulps of air. "Now, who is this?" he said, throwing his arm around his son and looking at Ciel.

"This is my girlfriend Ciel," Zero said, "Ciel, my father Eric."

"You're pretty," Eric said, and Ciel went a little red, "but can she cook?"

"Eric," Vivian admonished her husband, who looked a little sheepish, "Women from the city never know how to cook. Come," she said, taking Ciel by the arm, "let's leave the boys alone with their talk. Alouette, let's teach Ciel how to cook."

"Alright Mama," Alouette said, striking a pose as Zero was led away by his father and Ciel was brought to the oven, listening to Vivian's advice on cooking.

Only about half an hour passed before the food was ready, and Zero helped his little sister set the table. Eric sat at the head of the table, laughing at some of Zero's stories.

"So, they call you Zero in the city, do they?" he asked, when Zero revealed he hadn't used his real name in Abel City.

"Yeah," Zero said, "it sort of sounds like Giro, so I didn't have to learn to answer to a completely different name."

"Good thinking!" Eric chortled at his son's ingenuity, "All the people around here have been missing your expertise with machines, Giro. Daniel's good, but he's not you."

"Dinner is ready," Vivian's voice came from the kitchen, and she and Ciel emerged from the kitchen, carrying plates full of a roast dinner.

"Ah," Eric said, "There's a lot I love about your mother, Giro, but nothing beats her cooking!"

"Thank you, dear," Vivian said, kissing her husband's cheek before setting down next to him. Zero and Ciel sat on either side of Alouette, who insisted on separating them. Zero shook his head, but Ciel looked a little uncomfortable.

"So, Ciel," Eric said, hoping to make her feel a little more welcome, "Giro tells me that you're Head Navigator for the Maverick Hunters."

"That's right," Ciel said, looking at Zero, who just winked. "Only for the past couple of weeks, after the former head retired from duty."

"Well, time isn't a factor," Eric said, digging into his dinner, "What matters is you can do the job."

"We don't get many Mavericks out here," Vivian said, "so we don't really know much about the Hunters. In fact, I think the last time any Hunters came out this way was about three years ago." Zero winced, but he managed to cover it up well.

"So, Giro," Eric said, "you skated over it before, but what do you do for the Hunters."

"He's our Vice-Commander," Ciel said, smiling, "and he's only been with us for a few months. Our last Vice-Commander 'left' when he was found to be betraying us."

"Vice-Commander," Eric crowed, "at seventeen! That deserves a celebration!"

"It's not a big deal," Zero said, looking embarrassed, "really."

"Au contraire," Vivian said, "it is a very big deal, and we will make a very big deal about it! I doubt Oliver got that high while he was there. He never did say."

"You've heard from Oliver?" Zero asked, tensing, "when?"

"Oh, we get an occasional letter," Vivian said, "Oliver said a while ago that he left the Hunters to pursue a different career. In fact, only last week did he say he'd be coming back for a while. He said he had finally managed to get some time off from work. Oh, wouldn't it be nice if he came back while you and Ciel were here; then we'd have the whole family back together!"

"Yeah," Zero said, feeling a little sick, "yeah, it'd be great." He focused on his dinner for the rest of it, with idle chatter consuming the family, which as far as Vivian and Eric were concerned, included Ciel.

It was later that night, after goodnights had been said, that Zero and Ciel had been given one of the spare rooms that they had a chance to talk.

"Oliver is Omega?" Ciel asked, and Zero nodded. "But how could he get time off? Mavericks don't work like we do."

"I don't know," Zero said, "but mom gave me the letter that said it." He held up a piece of paper. "It doesn't make any sense, but it looks like he was fighting to write it."

"What do you mean?" Ciel asked. Zero handed her the piece of paper, and Ciel saw what he meant. Any time Omega said he'd be coming home, or mentioned the family, the handwriting was shaking. Anywhere else, where it was just vaguely about what he had been doing, the handwriting was neat.

"Like I said," Zero said, "It doesn't make any sense."

"Maybe the virus is losing its hold on Omega," Ciel theorised, "we should go back to HQ and work this out."

"No," Zero said flatly, taking her hand, "I'm not ending our time off for a badly written letter, and I'm definitely not leaving my family to Omega's mercy." Before Ciel could argue, Zero pulled her into a kiss, their first since he had gotten back from Eurasia. When the kiss broke off, she leant into his chest, and they lay down on the bed.

"Nothing is going to ruin these next two weeks," Zero said, "Nothing at all." Ciel hummed an affirmative, before going to sleep in Zero's arms.