[A.N.] Hello all! Thank you all so much for following along with us! I can hardly believe this story has taken two years to finish! Whew! Anyway, I'd like to thank all of you who read and especially those who reviewed. Mix and I have enjoyed your comments! Please join us for the sequal we are currently working on. The first chapter should be up soon so keep an eye out! There is still so much left to tell! Enjoy the Epilogue!


Completing the Puzzle: Epilogue

Two Months Later…

The ticking of the clock on the wall was a mallet pounding repetitively on her aching head. The heater was malfunctioning and her phone had been ringing off the hook. The piles of paper on her desk were too numerous and tall to ever be dealt with in one day's work and she had run out of tea hours ago. She had already had to rush to two last minute meetings and sit through three impromptu conference calls due to the newest "crisis" in the United Earth-Sphere Alliance. By crisis, of course, they meant a lack of funding for the vacations of the oldest members of the USEA Congress. She honestly felt more like a caretaker at an oversized nursing home or a babysitter at a daycare cleaning up messes and doing everyone else's work for them on a regular basis.

Relena massaged her temples and tried desperately to fight through the throbbing pain in her skull. The day was dragging on and it was quite possible that she would be spending another night in the office drinking bland coffee (which she doesn't like) just to keep her eyes open. This was a regular occurrence that she was beginning to get used to. In the last month she'd gone through four interns, six secretaries and two personal assistants. It wasn't that she was hard to work for. All she asked was an organized planner, filed paperwork and the occasional cup of tea. Between the security violations, disorganization and overall carelessness of most of her "help" she and Colonel Une had had to fire each and every one of them, which lead to her current predicament.

Giving up on the current document, she stood up and walked to her window: eight layers of bullet proof glass with gundanium frames allowed her unlimited access to a view of the court yard from her office on the 6th floor of the government building. Two guards were posted outside her door at all times with hand-held metal detectors and stun guns. A key pad requiring authorization from certain members of personnel blinked on the wall beside them. Under her desk, built into the sturdy bomb-shelter-esque oak, was a panic button that would alert Preventer of any security issues. Most people would view these measures as slightly over the top. Relena, however, had a pretty good idea of who was behind the designs of the system and he would still view it as not enough.

At the thought of him her cheeks began to heat. This was the first time she'd really thought about him since that night. It seemed so long ago, though it was really only a few months. The last time they had met personally he had passed, out collapsing from the exertion of trying to end the Barton Coupe. Luckily, she had jumped up fast enough to catch him just before he hit the cracked concrete floor. It was strange that the only times they have ever been alone always required some sort of mortal danger.

Christmas Eve had been just one of the various threats she'd encountered since she'd stepped up into any position of significant power. The last event, most fresh in her mind was a coupe involving a ghost from her brother's past. The White Fang had resurfaced as the result of a manufacturing company's greedy plot for power. She and the pilots had been put in danger during a ploy to obtain the Gundams and destroy the current peaceful stability of the government. Heero had, once again, risked everything to ensure her safety. Her cheeks heated as she remembered the shuttle ride. She had fallen asleep on his shoulder in; it was the first real physical contact they had ever had. She had expected him to shove her off, to banish her from his side, but he didn't. Then, most surprising of all, when it was time for her to return to the colony to try and stop the inevitable chaos from her absence, they had been left alone again. It was there, in that hanger that he had stopped her from leaving by grabbing her wrist, gently and pulling her to him for a brief kiss.

"Heero…" she uttered his name in a whisper, touching her fingers gently to the frosted glass. A gentle snow had begun to fall, much the same as it had on Christmas Eve. After that night in the Presidential residence, Heero had been taken to the hospital to get his wounds treated. She had wanted to go with him, wanted to ride by his side in the ambulance but her duty to her position and the United Earth-Sphere Alliance forced her to get matters back under control before she had any time to do anything that wasn't job related. By the time she had made it to the hospital Heero had already checked himself out, which she assumed, meant he snuck out.

Since then, she hadn't really allowed herself much time to think about anything but setting the government back to rights. The people were calling for her to run in the next presidential election, but she had turned their request down.

"I can do more for the people as I am now." She'd stated plainly before returning to her scheduled meetings.

The only time she was really willing to try and use whatever influence she may have was in regards to the soldier who saved her life. By executing Dekim Barton, the young man both became a hero and a traitor all at once. When she heard he was being detained, she wrapped up her business as quickly as possible and made her way to the Preventer base only to find that the young man had been released.

It seemed his lawyer came and negotiated on his behalf. She had arrived just as the soldier and his lawyer were leaving. All Relena saw of the lawyer was that she was young with blonde hair that had been strategically pulled up. Something seemed off about her though; the way she walked, or perhaps just simply the way she carried herself said more than a lawyer to Relena's eyes. The lawyer had seemed little more than a girl but in a government with a sixteen year old Vice Foreign Minister anything was possible.

She walked back to her desk, her eyes catching sight of a picture of her friends; one of the rare one's ever taken. The only friends she had any contact with at all were Quatre, Duo, Wufei and Sally. Hilde occasionally popped by when possible but more often than not Relena wasn't in any one place for too long, so visitors were few. If she wasn't touring to check on foreign affairs she was bogged down in meetings or in her office with mounds of paper work. Once the government got into full swing, however, she'd been assured that her work load would lessen. She couldn't wait.

She studied the picture more closely. She treasured the photo more than anything on her desk, except for the photo of her parents. Her small group of friends from so many different backgrounds and nationalities brought together by a bond formed from wounds of a war that raged since before they were born. The pilots and their significant others (official or otherwise) had become her dearest friends. She smiled as she remembered how Duo had dragged Heero into the shot standing him as close to her as possible before draping his own arm over Hilde pecking her on the cheek. Heero stood with his usual expressionless scowl, staring at the camera while she smiled softly, looking at him out of the corner of her eye. The kiss had been her secret and his, and she intended to keep it that way: a once in a lifetime happening that would most likely not be repeated.

She sighed, taking a moment to stretch her legs. Sitting for so many hours tended to make her sore. She made a mental note to visit her gym later for some much needed time on the treadmill; if she had time, that is. She put down the picture carefully back in its place and began to shuffle the papers she had so far filtered through, filing them as best as she could according to topic, and location which she hoped to one day also have alphabetized. However, given her lack of ability to find a suitable secretary she doubted she would ever achieve that either.

Having finally emptied her desk of the work she'd already done, she got a good hard look at the piles she still had yet to touch. Her heart fell and her head throbbed even harder. Another seven hours of work lay before her, most of which (if technicality were to be acknowledged) were not even her responsibility. Still, they needed to be done. She sighed again and wondered briefly how many times in a day one could sigh without sighing about sighing.

"Don't over think things, Relena. You'll talk yourself into circles."

She shook her head. On top of all this she was talking to herself. She grabbed the first stack of files that glared up at her from the desk. Every tiny word on the page seemed a tiny representation of the eyes constantly watching her every move. She began flipping through the various pages trying to descyfer which documents needed to be done with the greatest haste to avoid past-due deadlines.

A glimmer of silver caught her eyes from under one of the numerous parchments. Curious, she reached out and pulled on the corner and found it be a black envelope with a purple undertone and a silver overlay of filigreed letters. The wax emblem on the front was well out of place in their more modern mail system yet showed a flare for style she had not seen in many years. Undoing the seal, she pulled out the contents to find an invitation on similar parchment with the same silver lettering.

"You are hereby cordially invited to a masked ball charity fundraiser at the La Vi En Rose Chateau. Masks must be worn until the stroke of midnight. All proceeds will be donated to the families of the soldiers who lost their lives in the war and those that were injured in combat." Even as she read these words she knew there was something strange. The chateau mentioned in the invitation was one of the Khushrenada estates.

Marie Maei had not yet laid claim to her father's holdings and, in Thiana's absence, as his named ward, would even such a claim be permitted? Lady Une had not mentioned a ball to her and being the girl's legal guardian it would be her responsibility to notify everyone. Relena examined the invitation again. No name of the host or hostess was listed with the requirements and rules of the event. Indeed, there were rules. No weapons were to be permitted beyond that of stunguns. Detectors would be located at every door to permit the smuggling of such items into the chateau. Relena doubted it would truly work. In the short time she had known Thiana the older girl had taught her that anything could be used as a weapon. The restriction and precaution were most likely formalities listed to make those whom attend feel safer. The question remained, however; who was sponsoring the event?

Her mind turned back to her old friend. Thiana hadn't ever been found. No evidence of the girl's fate, good or bad, had been discovered. It was highly possible that, after a long absence the clever Khushrenada heir was making a bold announcement that she was, indeed, still alive and ready to return.

She set aside the invite making a mental note to check her schedule and RSVP to it. It would do her some good to get out of the office for the night and a masked ball could be fun. Picking up her crammed planner she thumbed through to find the month of the ball when, circled in red, was an appointment she had absentmindedly forgotten to cancel. She shifted the papers on her desk once more and found the copy of the green book on her desk. She had arranged for an appointment with the author, April White under the suspicion that she knew exactly whom she would be meeting. The words in the book Ode to a Soldier's Mind seemed eerily like ones that would have been said by her former friend from a time that seemed so long ago. Part of her hoped she was right; the other dreaded she was.

The girls had not parted on the best of terms. Thiana had been most insistent that they basically never speak again and had even gone so far as to threaten to kill her if she'd ever intruded on her again. After that, the girl had disappeared with only a chocolate bar and a small note with a one-word apology scribbled on top. As sad as it was, she still kept the paper; a mommento of a time before her life turned upside down. It was a reminder of who she was and of the harsh words of the older girl that had helped shape her into the woman she became.

As if summoned by the ghost of the memory, a knock sounded on her door frame followed by and the crinkling of a wrapper and a small snapping sound. She looked up, and found herself floored by the next words she heard:

"Kit-Kat?"


To Be Continued in Gundam Wing: Fatal Beauty

Thank you for reading!