She woke up to a white ceiling above and equally bland walls around, her weight supported by deliciously fluffy eider down pillows and equally comfortable bedding, and feeling rather….

New.

The first thing that came to her mind was a rhetorical question: Where am I?

Her next self-query was far more troublesome.

Who am I?

She was not alone. A man lounged within an armchair beside her bed. He watched her with keen interest, and smiled while at it. His attention embarrassed her made her wonder some more.

Who is this man? Why is he here? Why is he interested in me?

She studied him for clues and perhaps answers, beginning with a face both young and old. His golden brown forehead sported wrinkling, his curly coal black hair was heavily shot through by gray streaks, and his tired eyes were full of painfully-earned wisdom. Yet those same eyes sparkled with a youthful enthusiasm readily echoed by the inverted arc of his faint smile and the ease of movement with which he shifted in his seat.

His skin tone pronounced him a foreigner. Asian, she guessed, though she had no idea as to what specific nationality he belonged too. He was taller than her, but not by much, or at least not as tall as a European man of his apparent age would be. In fact he couldn't be over five and a half feet, and maybe seventy kilos tops. His leanness and easy demeanor reminded her of a cat comfortably curled up on top of a still-warm television set.

"Buon giorno," he greeted her. His Italian was unaccented and carefully enunciated. His smile remained.

"Buon giorno." She was a bit slow this morning, being sleepy still, and blinked to clear her eyes and head. She gazed at her watcher, the better to fix his face into her memory, for she felt that he would be most important in her life. "Who are you?" she asked.

"I'm Rolito Miranda."

Rolito Miranda. So that is his name.

"I will be your Sensei," he added.

"Se-Sense?" She stumbled upon the last, unfamiliar word. Was it English? Her command of that language was not as good as Italian, French, German and Spanish, the last her native tongue.

"Sensei," Rolito gently corrected hr pronunciation. "It is a Japanese word that translates to 'insegnante'."

Insegnante. Teacher. She murmured the word in the way he did. The pleased man nodded.

"That's right," he said. "I'm your teacher, among other things. I'll take care of you from now on."

"You will?" She struggled with the thought and realized something mysterious. "You are my father?"

Both Rolito and the girl herself were surprised by her question. Then her self-proclaimed Sensei grinned, an act that shaved years from his face. "More like an adoptive fratello."

Fratello. Big brother. Adoptive? "We… are not related?"

"No, and more's the shame. I'd love to have been your big brother or father. I've always wanted a little sister…"

Rolito trailed off. A more serious bout of uneasiness marked his face. His eyes grew distant, and he murmured something beneath his breath in a reverently hushed tone.

To her surprise, she could hear what he was saying, and realized her hearing was very sharp.

"Jessica…"

Jessica? Who is she? Why does Rolito seem so sad when he thinks of her?

Why do I feel like I am sad as well?

"I'm sorry, Rolito," she apologized without thinking.

He blinked, stared at her and then shook off his mental malaise. "Don't be. It wasn't your fault. It was no one's fault. The past is over. We're still alive."

"Yes," she immediately agreed, "We are alive."

You and me…

Me.

"Rolito?"

"Yes?"

"Who am I?"

Again he grimaced. "I've forgotten that. Sorry about that."

"I cannot remember my name." The girl peered at her Sensei. "Do I have a name?"

"Yes. Your name is Elsa. Elsa de Sica."

"Elsa de Sica..."

I am Elsa de Sica.

He is Rolito Miranda.

We are Fratello.

We are alive.

Elsa smiled at Rolito.

"Thank you, Rolito."

"You're welcome. Elsa."

Spider Orchid

A Gunslinger Girl "Another Take" Fan Fiction

Sheo Darren does not own Gunslinger Girl. Rolito Miranda is his original creation.

This fic takes place in a different universe from either the manga or the one I've earlier manufactured for "Life Goes On". Please be advised of continuity divergences.