Update: Tweaked/rewritten January 2022.

Before you begin: This chapter just has little snippets that are going to lead into my next story. Keep an eye on the dates and understand that most of these happen before the ending of the last chapter; before the girls leave for space. Just to put things into perspective, the ceasefire happened on C.E. 71 September 27. We know the Three Ship Alliance was in space for just under a month before it touched back down in Orb. So, hopefully that gives you an idea of the timeline.


Where Are They Now?

CE 71 October 24, Orb

Lexi put down the coffee cup slowly, the liquid still swishing on her tongue to savor the taste before she swallowed.

"They what?"

Athrun shrugged, flipping the license and tapping the end against the tabletop. Kisaka had just given it to him not an hour ago and based on the look he had on his face, he was still getting used to the idea. Kira and Lacus's newfound idea to run an orphanage didn't help Athrun's adjustment to Orb society.

A fake name didn't help much either.

"Kira said his mother's on board, but—unfortunately—since all the drama involving the twins, Kira's dad's vanished."

"I hadn't heard that," Lexi admitted, her shock wisping away enough for her to take another drink. "That explains his isolation the past couple of weeks."

Athrun tapped the license on the table again before reaching for his teacup. Lifting it, he frowned and put the empty china back down, not realizing he had finished it a couple minutes before. "There's a lot more going on in his head than he lets on."

"Huh," was her only response. Lexi was aware of what Namarra's Berserker half had harassed Kira about, but that type of therapy was reserved for close family and friends, not once bitter enemies. While her and Kira might be on some manner of civil terms, for reasons even she didn't often understand, she didn't care to be buddy-buddy with the guy.

The server came around and refilled her coffee cup, a light breeze blowing through the small café balcony and rustling the umbrella above their heads. It was a nice afternoon and Lexi was happy to be out. She just wished Athrun seemed as comfortable as she was and she eyed the license once more before stirring in the sugar and cream. Once satisfied, she pulled the spoon out of the drink and slipped it into her mouth before pointing it at the plastic annoyance in Athrun's hand. "So, Cagalli talked you into it?"

"It was actually my idea," he corrected. "She just had the means."

"You too embarrassed to be you?"

"There's a lot of heat with the Zala name right now," he explained simply, though Lexi just gave a brisk nod. He had gone through all the reasons previously and didn't have to again, knowing the subject to be a sour one. "Besides, can someone like you really lecture me on an identity crisis?"

Speaking of sour subjects…

She took a drink. "No, not really, but despite my past, I sort of feel better being Lexi Rymyr." She shrugged as if it didn't matter, even if her epiphany would have made any psychiatrist proud. "So, who are you anyway?"

"Alex Dino."

Wiping off her hand on her jeans, she reached across the table to shake his. "Nice to meet you." At first, she didn't think he would take it, but despite the exhausted sigh, he grabbed her hand.

"Feeling's mutual."

"So," Lexi continued, returning her hand to her side of the table, "how're you going to manage this peacekeepers idea, being Cagalli's bodyguard, and helping the others man the munchkins?"

"I'll be at the orphanage only once in a while and with Cags when she leaves Orb. Most of her security here is manned by Kisaka and I handle anything outside the border."

"I bet you handle it," she muttered into her glass, feeling her teeth grind into the porcelain. It was just the strangest feeling knowing the girl she always considered a sister was in a relationship with one of her best friends. She shivered just thinking about it.

So, she drank more coffee.

"Speaking of the peacekeepers, I have somewhere you and Nam—"

"Nuh-uh." Lexi shook her head. "Not today. It's still too soon."

Athrun looked confused at first, but slowly that confusion slipped away and his lips dipped into a frown. "Ah, her brothers. Of course."

"Yeah."

"We'll save that for another time then," Athrun said, finally leaning back in his chair and pocketing the ID. "You have anywhere to be?"

Lexi shrugged. "Not really."

"Good," he replied, twisting to flag down a waitress before speaking again. "What d'ya say we have a late lunch or something? I'm not needed anywhere really. Alex Dino's first day isn't until tomorrow."

"A lunch date, huh? I thought you had a girlfriend?"

He shrugged, seemingly not bothered by the insinuation. "Technically, but Alex Dino is single so this should look innocent."

That was an interesting way to put it and her eyebrow arched, mug already at her lips as his attention was still elsewhere. She studied him carefully, trying to see whether she had read it right and that phrase was nothing more than a harmless flirt, but since he hadn't followed up, she ended up shrugging, finishing her sip and setting the mug down in front of her.

"Whatever, as long as you're paying."


CE 71 October 24, Orb

Namarra thanked the driver before stepping out onto the pavement. She had asked to be dropped off about a mile away from the orphanage mainly because she didn't want to show up at the orphanage in a fancy limo—she felt the little kids might look at her differently—but also because she needed to think. Erika had been right, Kisaka's past was almost as tragic as her own. "Almost" because her pain felt so much more real than his, but that had more to do with her deaths feeling so close. One look at Kisaka as he reminisced would prove otherwise.

In truth, the whole conversation was very enlightening. While she didn't learn any new coping methods, she did learn that it would get easier and as cliché as that might have sounded, she did find comfort in it. According to Kisaka, he was still getting over his own tragedies and she respected his honesty. While he never really went into details, she found herself nodding, thinking he really did understand.

It was interesting too how she never felt bad during the entire lunch, but as soon as she was alone again, everything hit her hard, as if it had just been swept under the carpet for a couple hours instead of locked behind a door. She had just enough time to wave to the driver Kisaka had sent her with before she had to put her hands on the railing near the road just to keep herself from shaking too bad.

It had been a while since she had an episode, but she was determined to keep her streak going. Luckily, she had been thinking ahead that morning and pulled a stone out of her pocket, one she had picked up a few weeks ago near the orphanage. She did this often, her old rocks never seeming to last longer than a month or two, but the ritual was soothing and she flipped the stone around in her palm, staring at the smooth surface. It wasn't much—hell, it wasn't even engraved—but it was the written history of her pain, seven names written in marker across the surface: her parents, her brother, her brothers from Blue Cosmos, and Mu.

Sighing, she folded her hand around the stone and turned to lean her butt against the railing. A car honked as it passed behind her, but she didn't even care enough to be obscene. She was standing near where she had met that boy and despite the stressful day, she found her thoughts drifting back to that moment. Did he make it into ZAFT? It was such a specific goal that it had stuck with her and she rubbed the stone absently between her fingers. The military had taken five out of the seven from her life and yet she could still understand the need to gain a power to protect the ones still alive. To, hopefully, keep them from becoming names on her next stone.

Another car drove by and she looked back at her palm, swallowing down the panic as her thumb rubbed over the one date she had added to the flat surface.

"Kai Legund: 7-13."

No matter how many times she wrote the date, the pain wouldn't ebb and she had to take another deep breath. Part of her wanted to believe Kisaka that the ache would go away, but whenever she saw that name and date, her doubt returned. It would never just be a moment in time; never just a memory in her mind. It would be pain and despair; nothing more and nothing less.

Swallowing, she closed her hand around the stone and faced the railing once more.

"I really miss you, Kai," she said quietly into the wind. "I really miss all of you."

Nothing responded other than the night wind and she sighed, her breath shaky as she brought her arm back and then threw the rock as far as she could, keeping her memories of each person on that stone, but hoping with all her heart that if someone did stumble upon it, they might remember them too.


CE 71 November 11, Orb

"…happy ending."

All the kids were asleep by then, Lexi and Namarra being the only two "kids" still mobile. Somehow Lexi figured the coffee had something to do with it.

"I still can't believe we were the only two who offered to do this all-night lock-in thing," Namarra said, bringing the coffee cup to her lips and frowning when nothing but a drop dribbled onto her tongue.

"Well, we're the only two who are neither old nor employed," Lexi responded. She shifted her sleep-tingling hip, trying not to wake the four-year-old leaning against her.

"I suppose that's true."

They watched the credits scroll on the animated film they had just subjected themselves and the kids to, hypnotized by the memory of it all. The music was soft and Lexi heard a different tune play over the television, Namarra's sweet humming growing above the movie's. She was humming the song she had written during the war, and Lexi smiled. The redhead hadn't heard it in a while and listened quietly, her eyes roaming the room and the sleeping children curled up in a puppy pile around them. The Natural had appropriately named the song "Akatsuki no Kuruma" but Lexi had the feeling she would never hear the real reason why she had even written it.

"Y'know," Lexi began when the melody faded. "Instead of sitting around while Athrun sets up his peacekeeping idea, we could do a little project of our own."

"Like what?"

"I had a dream about Melanie last night, my first one in over three months or so and it got me thinking." She paused to find the right words, brushing away a stray hair on the forehead of the blonde resting nearby. "If Dearka was able to find something so obscure as that Berserker Bible-thing by accident, maybe we should start looking for information on purpose."

"A Berserker research project?" Namarra asked, the mug returning to her lips habitually, but instead of knocking it back in a sip, the Natural nibbled on it. Lexi had never pried into the Natural's personal experience when fully berserk, but she never really needed to either. The haunted look on Namarra's face whenever the topic was brought up seemed like a big enough reminder.

"We're not going to stick with the 'ignorance is bliss' motto, huh?"

Lexi shook her head. "Supposedly, I'm going to insane at any moment so the least we can do is get a little prior research and know what signs to look for."

"We already know the severity of the Berserker gene is linked to age, but I guess any other material would be helpful."

"I have no idea where we could begin," Lexi muttered, bringing her hand up to her mouth to rub her lips nervously. "I guess we could always go back to Mendel since we already had evidence found there."

"Lacus says there's been talk of restoring the satellite and if that's the case, maybe we should search before people start poking around."

Lexi nodded quickly, agreeing that it would be very bad should they lose any time, let alone any information to the restoration team. "They probably won't start anything until well into the new year. Maybe we should at least stay in Orb until after Christmas."

Namarra agreed, but slouched down further into the couch, keeping an eye out for any children and resettling the ones that moved with her. "Are we going to keep bouncing back and forth like this though, Lexi? We just docked a week or so ago and already we're leaving again?"

"Yeah, it kinda sucks, but I have a feeling we're going to be skipping around a lot, especially with us being the main operatives for Athrun's project."

"Maybe we should start looking for a permanent Orb address then." Namarra offered. "If anything, we need a place to store our gear. Leaving weaponry—even locked—with the kids around sounds like a bad idea. Even if none of them manage to hurt themselves, the weapons would bring back many painful memories for them, I think."

"Agreed," Lexi said, nodding slowly. "You can work on that tomorrow when I meet with Cags."

After nodding, the two grew silent again, the credits having scrolled through to the end and the television turned itself off after a while, leaving the girls with only quiet snoring and breathing to ease the silence.

"So, now what?" Lexi asked but when she turned, she saw Namarra had already closed her eyes and the redhead gave a light chuckle, deciding to shut her own eyes, knowing she didn't want to be the only one left awake. "Kids, eh?"


CE 71 November 12, Orb

It was a little different meeting Cagalli than Athrun. The main difference being? Security. Kisaka sat at the table next to them, his nose in the daily paper and the rest of his team, consisted of six operatives seated at the other tables surrounding them. At first Lexi really didn't understand the need for the extra protection and was even more surprised to hear the security was mainly for her. Cagalli's reputation had been on a rise since they landed and nothing short of suicide would change that. Lexi's reputation, however, was the iffy one.

Since arriving back at Orb, she had let Lathan handle all the public relations concerning their parents. He had even been offered a book deal, promising to relate both their parents' and his lives as best he could. That invitation had been extended to Lexi, but he declined before she had the chance to. The press assumed it was because of the shame he felt for his sister concerning Lexi's recent exile, but it was primarily because Lathan didn't want to share anything about the Berserker. Of course, he couldn't share that reason so he didn't give one, leaving Lexi's reputation to shift daily from, "we love her" to "she should remain in exile and is probably the reason her parents are dead."

Apparently, that day was the latter.

"Man, I definitely don't miss these camera-blinding days," Lexi muttered, frowning at an eager reporter being pushed away by one of her bodyguards. "At least back then I was cute and stupid so I enjoyed the attention."

They were both dressed formally that day, Cagalli wearing her white representative uniform and Lexi in something similar, just not as eloquently decorated. Lexi was just an adjunct of the family again, nothing high up in the political sphere and she was wearing the clothing to match but not even her white uniform could make her black reputation look good.

"I didn't know you were any different now," Cagalli joked, but after a sheepish smile she pointed to a sandwich on the menu, the server jotting it down before taking Lexi's order and leaving. Eventually, Cagalli shrugged, unperturbed by the attention. "Unfortunately, you get used to it."

"I'm just sorry we have to meet on a 'hate Lexi' day," the redhead continued. "Hopefully, this doesn't hurt your rep too bad."

"Oh, please. I should be able to talk to you in public despite their allegations."

"Or maybe I should be thanking you?" Turning, she managed to put on a smile for one observer's camera. Hopefully, it didn't look as bitter as she felt. "My proximity to you is probably bleaching my reputation as we speak."

"Oh, stop worrying about stuff like that. I haven't seen you in a few weeks. What's new?"

"Well," Lexi began, thanking the waiter for the coffee. "I applied for a job at a weapon's bar and wasn't hired because I was both too young and too inexperienced."

Cagalli thanked the server for her cold tea and nearly snorted into her drink at the statement. "You're joking. Most kids our age were in the war."

"Yeah, I think he knew that, but we have to remember who I am now. All my military connection with ZAFT has been erased. I'm a rich orphan now."

"Why were you applying for a mundane job anyway? Use some connections," her voice slurred as she jabbed a thumb at a chest, "to get you a real occupation."

Lexi hid a smile in her mug. Technically, she did have a real job, but the money wouldn't be coming in for another month or so. And that job at the weapon's bar was to just scope out merchandise. Kisaka and her locked eyes for a second before they returned to what they were doing before, the two of them in on Athrun's project.

"Alright, what did you have in mind then? Oh, subtle 'important' connection of mine?"

"Erika and Murrue need help at Morgenroete."

"I thought Erika was out for her surgery?"

"She is, but still can't help doing a little work on the side."

Lexi smiled knowingly. "I can't stay there full time though, no matter how much they need me."

"I know, but any time you and Namarra could stop in they'd appreciate."

Lexi slowed her next sip, the mug returning to the table as her lips flipped into a frown. "You roped Namarra into this too?"

"They just need some feedback from pilots."

"And?" she egged.

Cagalli sighed, putting on a sheepish smile and looking at the contents of her drink as she continued. "The CAs would be a huge help as well."

"There it is... Just another thing to boost their egos."

"Their?"

"The CAs."

"Huh? Do I want to ask?"

Lexi shook her head. "Nevermind." She paused, pulling her elbows off the table to make room for her sandwich and thanked the server again for bringing her lunch. "I can't promise I'll be around all that often, but I'll stop in as much as I can," she said at last.

"And Namarra?"

"I'll mention it, but there's definitely no guarantees with that one."

Cagalli looked relieved. "Good; I'll take it. So, what else is new with life?"

"So glad that took second place to the CAs and Morgenroete," Lexi muttered, but when Cagalli's lips flipped from pleasant company to exhausted annoyance she apologized. Yes, Cagalli had a tendency to think of work first, but Lexi did enjoy their chats so she couldn't complain too much. Or at least she should aloud.

"My life is always moving, I'll put it that way," the redhead began. "Ever since Lathan's been spending more time in space, he's been planning my visits. It doesn't seem too bad, but there's a lot of back and forth travelling. The soonest I'd be leaving is after Christmas."

"Really? Where to? And for how long?"

"Nam and I have a little research to do. Not sure when we'll be back though." Cagalli looked confused for a moment, but when Lexi pointed to her eyes she understood.

"New leads?"

"Old ones, but maybe more news."

"Well, if you need anything from me just let me know." Lexi nodded and smiled a thanks. "We're thinking of hosting a Christmas party at the orphanage so promise me you two will stop over before you leave. I think Namarra's gotten pretty attached to the younger ones."

"Sure, we'll be sure to make note of it. Namarra spent most of her young life in an orphanage, so she has a soft spot for the children, I think. Besides, they give her a reason to mature." The redhead took a bite of her sandwich to hide her snicker. "And how're you doing?" she asked once she swallowed.

"You-know-who is still snooping around."

"Ah," Lexi replied. The Seirans had been excited to have Cagalli back, but their excitement didn't include leaving state affairs in her hands. Based on their reputation, Cagalli couldn't just dismiss them, but their meddling had become tiresome. Whispers have even been growing louder about the engagement between Yuna and Cagalli—something that had been decided when they were kids. Based on the timing, Lexi had a feeling the Seirans had been adding the volume themselves, but she bit her tongue.

"Do they suspect anything about Alex?" Lexi kept her head down and chewed as she asked, not wanting to be overheard or her lips read.

Cagalli heard just fine. "If they do, they're keeping it to themselves. Ath—I mean, Alex is very careful about these things."

"As he should be. Just don't do anything stupid."

"Besides, Alex Dino has a girlfriend, apparently." Cagalli must have seen a reporter or something since she had said his name a bit too loud. Lexi made a look, but the blonde continued. "They have been seen at a café a couple of times and even walking around the capitol unescorted."

Lexi cleared her throat, knowing that girl Cagalli was talking about was her. There was no way the blonde couldn't know about that and the redhead narrowed her eyes. "Don't."

"In fact," she continued despite the threat, "I heard she looks an awful lot like—"

"Yes, yes, we all have seen the tabloids." Lexi kicked Cagalli under the table. "Be careful though, cousin, your concern almost makes me think you're jealous."

That shut her up and even made her cheeks grow a nice pink. Lexi hoped no one had seen the blush because the whole point of those public outings was to curve suspicion away from Athrun and Cagalli's relationship. If she had known Cagalli's misplaced jealousy would cause this much trouble, they never would have done it in the first place. She needed to play along with the ruse too, especially with Lexi needing a reason to be contacting Athrun in the future. He needed to give her assignments.

Lexi thought the blush was the end of the subject when Cagalli kept going, her embarrassment now illuminating her face like the red light on a traffic signal. "W-why would I be jealous? I was just concerned because he's new in town and—"

Lexi could just feel the camera rising to take a picture so she did the only thing she could think of.

She spilled coffee all over her lap.

A sort of controlled chaos had erupted after that to get her cleaned up, but at least the crisis was averted. And maybe Lexi's reputation would climb again for her clumsiness.


CE 71 November 13, Space

Click. Refresh.

DaCosta yawned, resting his chin on an upraised hand as the computer light burned into his eyes. He probably shouldn't be sitting in the dark.

Click. Refresh.

Blinking, he suppressed another yawn and tried focusing on the webpage. Not long ago, dried out eyeballs were related to long nights on duty in the Eternal, but at that moment, the long hours of staring at the online auction had caused his eyes to dry quicker than he thought possible. Perhaps it was the white website staring back at him, but he was sure it had to do more with the boredom of what he was trying to accomplish.

Well, more like what he was trying to do for Waltfeld.

Click. Refresh.

"Seriously, sir, no one else is going to be bidding on these rare coffee beans."

Click. Refresh.

He yawned again and checked the timer above the lot. It read, "one minute remaining." Stretching, he sat up in his chair and took a couple of moments to enjoy the little pleasure a full body stretch could do. Suddenly, he understood what it must have felt like for a cat.

Click. Refresh.

Someone else bid.

"W-what?" he stammered and placed a higher bid.

Timer: 45 seconds.

Click. Refresh.

Another bid.

"You've gotta be—" he began, but didn't finish his thought, his fingers racing across the keys to place another bid.

Timer: 38 seconds.

"Why does this 'YoureGonnaLose666' want the coffee—what?" He put a higher bid.

Timer: 22 seconds.

Eighteen seconds.

Fifteen seconds.

Ten seconds.

Five seconds.

Click. Refresh.

He was outbid with four seconds to go.

"No!" he screeched, gripping the armrests. It wasn't possible. Waltfeld had left him with one thing to do; a simple task: buy the coffee. And he had been beaten. "Oh, God."

The phone rang.

DaCosta jumped.

It wasn't hard to figure out who was calling seeing as that particular coffee addict was most likely staring at the atomic clock and no matter what the time difference, he was always going to be on the ball when it came to coffee.

The phone rang again and still DaCosta didn't move. Sure, he should eventually—and knowing how bad his life could be if he didn't—but he was frozen to the chair. Finally, it stopped ringing and he sighed.

At least until it started ringing again.

"Hello?" he asked, picking up the receiver. Even the phone smelled like coffee, but that could have had more to do with fear than actual fact.

"Did you get it?"

"Why hello, Commander. Yes, I'm fine thanks for asking."

"DaCosta, did you get it?"

"Actually—"

"What do you mean, 'actually'?"

"You see, my internet was slow—"

"You're in the PLANTs. There's no such thing."

"—and someone—"

"Be careful what you say next, DaCosta."

"—outbid me."

There was a pause. Then another one. And yet another on until his gruff voice finally spoke. "Okay."

"Okay?" That was the scariest thing he could have ever said, especially since it was obvious he was forcing the words through his pursed lips. "What do you mean, 'okay'? That's it?"

"Well, I was going to demote you—"

"Yes, please and thank you."

"—but I knew you'd enjoy it too much so, okay."

DaCosta paused that time. "Okay then."

"Okay."

"Yes, okay."


CE 71 November 13, Orb

"Lexi, I got it!" Namarra called, waving her arms in the air as she rocked back and forth on the couch. Pulling her knees to her chest she laughed, the noise oozing with victory. "Well, we finally got his Christmas present."

Lexi poked her head around the corner, drying a wet plate. "Really? Alright!"

"Yeah, I timed it perfectly at the last second. It didn't set us back much either."

"Who'd you beat?" Lexi asked, walking over to stare at the computer screen. Leaning on the back of the couch, she continued drying the dish as Namarra pointed at a name.

"Some person named MfromDaCoast. I don't think she—he?—has much auction experience."

"Well, good. Have it shipped here to the orphanage and we'll give it to Waltfeld at the party."

Namarra nodded. "I'll let Lacus know."

"Great, now we need to start on that new tiger mug that I broke after my medical escapade."

The Natural nodded, remembering the tale of Lexi's withdrawal and surfed through a couple more pages before she called the redhead back over. "Found it on the same site and look!" She pointed at the screen again just as Lexi returned to lean over her shoulder. "That MfromDaCoast is bidding on this one too."

"Pfft, three minutes left. He doesn't have a chance."

Lexi went back to the kitchen and Namarra stretched, cracking her knuckles before settling back into a comfortable position. She bid. "Noob."


CE 71 November 13, Space

There was an anguish cry.

And the phone rang.

"It's not okay."


CE 71 December 24, Orb

"Hey guys!" Lathan yelled, his hand waving on the other side of the video screen. It had only been a month or so since they had all seen each other, but already Lathan's eyes had shifted to a spooky white, the scars not as visible as they used to be, but the skin was still pink. Since he had opted to embrace his blindness, the girls knew his eyes would fade sooner or later, but the difference in environment between Earth and space must have forced the change.

He was sitting comfortably in his apartment in space and the girls were borrowing a spare meeting room at Morgenroete, knowing they would get far more privacy to talk about peacekeeper things without any kids running around.

"Hey, Lathan. What's with the frantic need to talk?" Namarra asked, scooching her chair closer.

"Heine and I have come up with a perfect name for our team."

"Heine's joined too?" Lexi asked, looking skeptical. "I thought he was the professional bitch of someone important. How does he have time for our little project?"

"He's gonna stay out of it, don't worry, but it doesn't mean him and I can't brainstorm every once in a while," Lathan explained, pushing his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. Sometimes Lexi found herself worried for him—some of his mannerisms not exactly displaying a healthy conscious—but when he got back to business, she could tell her brother was coping with his new circumstances as well as everyone else.

In his own way.

"Not sure how much work we'll be getting in the PLANTs, to be honest, but I'll worry about that in the new year. The EA wasn't difficult to approach with our operation—a bit more cleaning up to do than ZAFT—so we'll still be busy for a while."

"Bringing the world together one assassination at a time," Namarra mused. "Maybe that should be our catchphrase."

Lexi smiled at the comment prompting and receiving a high five from her comrade. "Did you get Athrun's news too?"

"About funding?" Lexi nodded and Lathan did the same. "Yup. I met with the head of Terminal, actually, to hash out a couple concepts. Let's just say between the Rymyr estate and Terminal—well—we'll be in contact with them for a while."

"Term—Oh!" Namarra snapped her fingers. "They were part of the Clyne Faction or something, right?"

"Something like that, yes. The bottom line is, we're ready to go as soon as we finalize a couple more details. Athrun and I will be working on that throughout the week. If our luck holds, you two won't be stagnant for much longer."

"Score!" the girls said together.

"And that brings me back to the name." Clearing his throat, Lathan drummed his hands against the table before announcing, "Hermes."

"Messenger to the gods, how appropriate," Namarra responded.

"And backstabbing thief to boot."

"I'm hoping to avoid that part, sis." He frowned and Lexi smiled. "Anyway, I'm pitching the name tonight."

"Make it in a couple days. For goodness sakes, Lathan, it's Christmas Eve."

"Wait, what? Holy Helmaya, it is!" he exclaimed, his hand going to his forehead. "I can't believe I forgot. With everything going on—shoot, just wish everyone a happy holiday for me, okay? Damn, I was hoping to be down there, but I guess I'll manage up here."

"Namarra and I are still planning to leave the 26th so we'll see you then. But for now, Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas, Lathan," Namarra said at the same time as Lexi.

After he signed off, the Natural stretched, her body contorting into something Lexi found herself jealous of. Either that or scared of because there was no way that particular move was good for her spine. "We'll sign the lease at the beginning of January and move into our new apartment when we get back to Orb. We'll have a base of operations for Earth at least."

"When we go up to see Lathan again, we'll look for apartments there too. We probably shouldn't bunk with the guys because I really don't want to get Heine in trouble again."

"Good thinking. So, did you wrap the presents?" Namarra asked.

"No, you said you would."

Sighing, the girls just shrugged. "We'll buy gift bags on the way to the party."


CE 72 January 3, Space

It had been a long day. Even though the world was heading towards peace, security from Earth to space was a bitch. With the interrogations she received leaving the ground, her past association with the war now raising red flags despite her family's reputation—well, she was getting sick of it. Orb's opinion of her was still up in the air, and perhaps that had more to do with her getting stalled at borders, but either way, she couldn't help but wondering if it was all worth it. If it was an "Orb loves Lexi day," her travelling was smooth. But if it wasn't? Well, she had a thesaurus of curses to churn thorough.

That happened to be one of those times.

"I need coffee," she grumbled as she veered towards the sidewalk. Her and Namarra had been scavenging through Mendel for the past couple of days, but had come up dry every time. Because of that, when Lathan had called and asked her to meet a potential supplier in the PLANTs, she jumped at the idea. At least that was something she should be able to get results on. Lathan had given Namarra a Hermes mission to do as well, so despite their need to find out some information on Berserkers, the only way to truly go about it was to take some time for themselves. With their frustration high, it was a good time to take a break and Lexi took a deep breath, walking around some talking teenagers as she continued down the sidewalk.

Besides, Lexi told herself. I have to get Namarra's birthday present too. Hopefully this contact will let me pick out some kind of "good will" gift.

It was a crowded afternoon for a Sunday, but the weather was nice for New Years. She was used to warmer temperatures thanks to the months in Orb, but even in a winter setting, a fall jacket did more than enough and she pulled it tight over her shoulders as she sidestepped a child pushing his umbrella stroller wildly in front of his parents. The father managed to correct the boy before he could go too far and he smiled an apology, but Lexi shook her head with an understanding smile and curved her neck to watch the family continue walking.

It's been a while since I've seen that, she thought, not looking where she was going. Years of paranoia had kept her from getting taken off guard completely, but she did get distracted and that was one of the moments, Lexi clipping a guy's ass accidentally as he stood staring into the window of a clothing store. He turned, a younger man with darker hair and fair face. Based on his smooth hands, he probably hadn't been in the field, but given his age, he would have been in the military. It was the first thing she thought of whenever she ran into someone her age and there were so many positions he could have been in other than field, but any idea of him being in the war faded the moment he smiled.

"Hey, you alright?" he asked, his lips growing upward in something that was too genuine; too innocent. Either he was a really good faker, or he hadn't seen anything horrifying.

"Yeah, fine. Sorry." Lexi smiled back, but more to back up her apology. He, however, seemed to think it was fate, but Lexi saw something else far more ironic. Past the man, even back as far as the young family that had passed her was none other than Yzak Joule. He wore civilian clothes, in jeans and a black autumn jacket of his own and while that might have been the first time she had seen him in anything other than a uniform, there was no mistaking that gait.

Offering yet another apology, Lexi slipped past the young man and walked back the way she had come, towards Yzak. He hadn't noticed her yet, but she wasn't exactly sure what she was going to say anyway. The last time she had had any contact with him, he had saved her life.

He paused at a window, but not for long, hands in his pockets as his face proved he was probably out because he was bored and nothing more. He didn't strike her as someone who enjoyed shopping and his huff a moment later added proof to her theory. Still, he hadn't seen her yet and she debated clearing her throat to grab his attention, but that wasn't needed.

His perusal finished, he turned and then saw her. It was one of those funny facial moments: recognition, questioning if that was really the person, looking harder, then making an appropriate reaction because it really was the person.

"Lexi?"

"Hey," she said, the smile instantaneous. "I thought that was you. Day off?" She motioned to his attire.

"Mandatory day off," he replied, finishing the distance towards her. "Anyone on the front line's been given holiday leave for the past couple months."

"Makes sense."

He shrugged and a part of her thought that was it. Just a short few, awkward words shared between the two of them, but he gestured to her attire next. "What're you doing here? Dearka told me you were staying in Orb." That was good news. She had hoped the two of them would reconnect and the sides of her mouth twitched into a grin again. As for what she was doing in the PLANTs? Well, where could she begin?

"Here on business, you could say."

"Oh?" he began, but shook his head and held out his hand. "But I've learned not to prod about that." He smiled at that.

Yzak wears maturity well, she thought.

It hadn't been that long since the war, but somehow he seemed a little different, older. She assumed he still had his famed temper, but he did seem more reserved, comfortable in his skin a little bit more than he had been a few months before. His scar was still glaring across his face and she noticed some people stop to look at him for it, but, to her surprise, he didn't notice. Had he come to accept it then? What had happened since the war? She had so many questions and that of itself was curious.

"Well, does this business allow any free time?" he continued, Lexi finding her shoulders bobbing in a shrug.

"I have a couple hours to kill."

"Great! Wanna grab a coffee?"

That brought the brightest smile of them all. "Oh, thank Helmaya." He cocked an eyebrow and she gave a light laugh. "I've been craving one all day."

"You do know it's not even noon yet, right? That's hardly all day."

"Damn, it feels like a day."

"Well, for the sake of everyone involved—mainly me—let's get you some black caffeine before you go berserk."

That made her pause for a second, trying to figure out what he meant by that statement. It was bold, to say the least, but not hostile, the redhead was pleasantly surprised to see the smile trying to twitch up his lips. It had been a joke. Lexi was sure only her and Namarra could make fun of their malevolent halves since many of the others rarely wanted to breach the topic.

Definitely a nice change of pace.


A/N: Wow, this is the last one For Weapon's Waltz, can you believe it? I actually finished a story on FanFiction. It was a good feeling to change the status to "Complete." Ah, I feel like a weight's lifted or something. Since I've written this over the past infinity of years, I'm not happy with some of the quality, but there are still moments I love.

Anyway, I'm gonna do a little stat update. The most viewed chapter (other than chapter one) is: Chapter 42 "Leaving Home to Go Home." I'm surprised that one was so popular, actually. Mainly because Lexi bashes Kira pretty bad and I got a little heat from it. Hm, maybe you guys would have a better answer for me.

Chapter with the most words: Chapter 57 "The New Mankind and Everyone Else." Okay, I know why that one was so long. MS battles...

Chapter(s) with the most reviews: Chapter 1 "Prologue and Lunar Eclipse" and Chapter 40 "The Dumb Luck of No Longer Existing" were tied at 13.

My favorite chapter title (going just by the title and not the content): It's a tie between, Chapter 47 "One Nuke Short of a Massacre" and Chapter 49 "Giving a Lot of Damn About Not Giving a Damn."

Favorite moments to write: Hand-to-hand combat (of course!) and the Berserkers (of course!). Oh, and Waltfeld was a blast!

Most frustrating moments: MS battles and all the mechanical mumbo-jumbo. I also hated watching all the SEED episodes merely for research purposes (copying dialogue, etc.). I can finally watch them for fun again!

There might be a couple more things I can do stats on, but I think I'll just continue on with the author's note and finish Waltz.

What did you guys think? Sure, the beginning chapters need to be rewritten (badly) but is anyone out there gonna read my next installment? I have some of it written already (thanks to NaNoWriMo) and just have to put the first couple of chapters together. It'll be called Sibling's Serenade so look for it!

Special thanks for my Betas who've stuck with me through this whole ordeal. I'm not sure what I would have done without their knowledge and useful comments. Not forgetting to mention their constant support on the review end. Hopefully, they'll stay with me for the long run, but since I have no idea how long that's actually going to be, I can't blame them for wanting to play a smaller role. :P Anyway, Death-Scimitar, CSSStravag, and Maderfole deserve additional praise.


So, I guess I'll see some of you on my next story and if not, thank you for all your support. If I made any of your days a bit brighter then mission accomplished.

Strata