A/N: The usual disclaimer stuffs; I don't own Armored Core, the game characters, any music I use in the fanfiction, etc. Only my OC (duh) Rose, the emblem I use, and the NEXT designs I use.

Chapter Theme Song: watch?v=0uMDyd1imjw ~ Centrefold - J Geils Band

Chapter Name: Aftermath of the First Day; A Steamy Meeting in the Bath?

Steam filled the woman's comunal bath/shower room as Rose entered with a plain cream-coloured towel wrapped around her body, the room already having a good eight women occupying the giant geothermally heated bath in the centre of the room, or one of the many shower cubicals along the side walls. As the brown-haired girl crossed the room's threshhold from the changing room behind her, she could hear the hubub of conversation die out as everyone looked over at her. Noting that Serene Haze, her operator, was not amongst the gathered women, Rose gulped nervously.

I hope they don't haze me...

"You new, girl?"

The voice snapped Rose from her thoughts with a jolt. Blushing, she looked self-consciously at her bare feet. Nodding slowly, Rose Spoke.

"Y... Yes, I'm Rosemary, an Independant mercenary. I, erm, only recently joined Collard... Erm, just this lunchtime, I mean..."

"Woah there missy, we don't need your lifestory here."

One of the women, the one with reddy-copper hair, held up a hand to stop the embarressed teenager, who was now blushing like no tomorrow.

"Here, stop standing there like a prize idiot, and come join us in the bath. The water's lovely."

"T... Thank you..."

Joining the four women in the giant bath and leaving her towel at the side of the tub as she did so, Rose gave the four women another quick glance over.

"I'm Wynne. Wynne D. Fanchon of Interior, and these ladies are Stilleto and Ay-Pool, also of Interior, and Lilium Wolcott of BFF."

Shaking hands with each of the four, Rose couldn't help but notice that even Lilium, who couldn't be more than two years older than herself, had much bigger breasts than her.

"Caught you looking, honey."

The speaker, Raven-haired Ay-Pool, grinned at the heavilly blushing Rose.

"So, how big are yours, Rosemary?"

Before the majorly embarressed Rose could answer, someone put their arms around her from behind, and gave the teen's breasts a squeeze, which illicted a gasp from the girl and only made her blush even more.

"Don't hog the new girl. Wynne... Hmm... A 30C, if I'm feeling right..."

By then, Rose was hoping that the water would just swallow her, such was her embarressment. Fortunetly, Wynne of the Reddy-copper hair picked then to interveen with her reply.

"I'm not hogging Collard's newest Lynx, Smily, now stop gropping Rosemary."

"I thought I said for you to only call me that when I'm in my NEXT, besides I'm saying hello to the new girl."

Relinquishing her hold on Rose's chest, the woman slipped into the bath next to the teen.

"May Greenfield, I work for GA America. Wynne and the others call me "Smiley" because of my NEXT's Emblem."

Shaking brown-haired May's hand, Rose nodded, still rather embarresed as to how easilly May had guessed her chest size.

"Don't talk much do you Rosemary? That's alright, better than talking unnessercarily I suppose.

"...Rose..."

"Hm? What was that? You're speaking really quietly there, Rosemary."

"I prefere being called "Rose" over my full name, it's less of a mouthfull."

"Okay, "Rose" it is then. You have a particular history or reason for being an Independant? It's less common amongst us ladies than the guys. Only one who's close is Mrs. Theresia over there, and she's former GAE."

With a wave of her hand, May indecated a woman with Crimson hair who was keeping herself away from the other women, even as the others came over to introduce themselves and hear Rose's tale of her past. Now aquainted with Risala of Omer and Shamir RaviRavi, Rose took a deep breath and began her tale of herself.

"I was born in England sixteen years ago, but it wasn't interesting at that point... Not until the week of my sixth Birthday, when my parents took me and three of my friends to Canada on a trip. On the day of my birthday itself, I lost everything to do with my old life... We were at Exavil on a guided tour with at least two hundred other people. Little did anyone know, that Anatolia's mercenary was on his way to destroy Reyleonard's HQ that same day. Declaring a state of emergency, the company's President took all the civillians in the building hostage as leverage, while several of the guards took me, my family, and my friends to one of the sub-roofs... And... And forced me to kill everyone else, one per pillar that was destroyed, breaking my left hand in the process..."

Holding back tears from the pain of the memories she had turned away from for ten years, Rose did seem unaware of the horrified looks of the women, for even Mrs. Theresia had joined the little group in the bath to listen to the teen's tale. Staring into the water for a moment, Rose continued to tell her story...

"When the last pillar fell, the guard who had broken my hand while forcing me to fire his pistol kicked me from the roof and shot me three times with kojima particle-laced bullets as I fell... Even as the entire building started to collapse. As I fell, Anatolia's mercenary caught me and staunched the bullet injuries with triage, saving my life. Taking me back to Anatolia, I underwent surgury to remove the contaminated tissue from my right lung, my stomach and my kidney, and to reconstruct my hand... Although, Anatolia was destroyed that night... Anatolia's mercenary and his operator took me in and they moved over to Line Ark, where I grew up and schooled. After my AMS Aptitude was descovered, I learned to pilot the old 03-Aaliyah that had saved me. And then a week ago, I left Line Ark to join Collard."

Shaking her head, Rose finished her story in a rather off-handed fashion.

"The rest is pretty simple and borign really, I arrived and registered here earlier today and went right onto my first mission... I didn'yt like it too much, having to attack Line Ark... But I warned the MT and NORMAL pilots to bail out before I attacked... I'm kinda glad they listened to me, so no-one died... Though, White Glint returned during my evac, hitting me for six with missiles and very lucky rifle hits as I got out of Line Ark terratory. The rest, you all know... Now, any questions?"

"Why'd it take you a week to get here from Line Ark originally, but only a few hours in the mission?"

The questioner, cyan-haired Stilleto, made sure her question was delivered, not only in her typical "what-ever" style, but also had as much sarcasm and sarky attitude as was humanly possible to add to her voice."

"That? Ah, yes... I took the more "scenic" land route to get here, without boosters too, since five days ago, my NEXT got whacked. I had to seel weapons and other partsto refit it with stock parts and replace the broken or stolen parts. I also got a truck-lift for the last three days after helping some people drive off some bandits with stolen MT's. Meanwhile, I took the more direct land-and-water route with liberal useage of boosters and overboosters to get me to and from Line Ark quicker."

Getting over her embarressment, now that she was more comfortable with the other women, the teen took another question.

"Do you have any hobbies, Rose? I'd like to know more about you."

This time, it was Lillium, and her platinum-blonde hair to ask the question.

"My hobbies huh? Well... I like reading manga, both shounen and shoujo, drawing, photography, and music... Especially Rock, Metal, Punk, Folk-Punk, Country, and Alternative. I can play lead, rhythem, and bass guitar for most of the songs I like, and I'm no slouch at singing them either."

"So that was you I heard while I was out walking earlier then, huh? You're definitly pretty damn good, Rose."

Grinning at the teen, May nodded a few times. The older woman had taken a real shine to the younger girl, mostly there was little about Rose that she could dislike. A polite cough made everyone jump, to varying degrees. Serene Haze had joined them without anyone noticing, so focused on Rose and her Q&A session that they were.

"S...Serene?"

"You were expecting someone else?"

Chuckling as she ran a hand through her charcoal-black hair, Kasumi Sumika, aka Serene Haze, shook her head.

"Seriously though, what kind of drawings do you do? I'm curious now..."

"Anything really; concept sketches, manga-style art, realism, doodles, etc... My favourite drawing is of a pair of entwined roses that I drew and coloured one day while I was bored. Boredom seems to be the best motivator for creativity for me..."

"Oh? You'll have to show it later, it sounds really good."

No sooner had Kasumi finished speaking, than the other women chimed in with their own "show me too" cries to get Rose to show her drawing off.

"S... Sure, I'll show it to everyone when we're done in the bath... I'd just have to get my sketch folder from my quarters first though..."

"Oh? Which room is yours Rose? All the women's rooms are paired, in an attempt to save on space and money, I guess."

"Erm... 205, I think... Why? Who's my room paired with?"

"That, would be me darlin'. Looks like there'll be great night-time fun ahead."

Grnning as she spoke, May put her arm around Rose's shoulder, causing the teen to start blushing again. It would be refreshing to have someone to chat to at night, especially someone as sweet as Rose, though there was the girl's habit of blushing a lot... Probably just nerves at meeting so many new people at the same time...

"Rose, before I forget, your payment has already arrived in the account that Collard has set up for you, and you now have access to Order Matches, essentially an arena where you can fight whoever is ranked directly above you to try and raise your collard ranking."

"I... See... Thanks for telling me, Serene... Now, I have a goal; Make it to Number One! I'll be a rising star and claim the top spot, just you see if I don't!"

Embarressment, blush, and the fact that she was totally naked completely forgotten, Rose lept to her feet with one hand in the air as if pointign to the sky as she made her declaration. An awe-worthy momentm that was spoiled when aquamarine-haired Risala gave a wolf-whistle that brought the teen back to her senses, and made her sit back down with amazing alacrity.

"Nice. I wasn't expecting to see everything, but you exceeded my expectations there, Rose."

Luckily for Rose, Shamir came to her defence.

"Now, now Risala, I doubt that that was Rose's intention with that bold declaration, nice as the view was, I think she forgot were were all in the bath for a moment."

Giving the teen a wink as she tossed her scarlet hair over her shoulder, the Algebra Lynx stood up and retrieved her towel.

"I don't know about you all, but I'm hungry. Who else wants to beat the guys to dinner?"

At Shamir's words, Rose's stomach gave a loud and unlady-like growl, much to her further embarressment...

"I'll take that as a "yes" from you, Rose shall I?"

Blushing again, Rose nodded and stood up once again before retrieving her towel and making her way back to the changing room. Swiftly, she and Shamir were joined by the others as they dried themselves off and changed back into dresses, t-shirts or tanktops and shorts, trousers, or skirts, before putting their hair back into their preferred styles. With her hair back in a high ponytail, albeit intentionally off-centre, Rose hurried back to her room to get her sketch pad. As she turned a blind corner, the teen ran right into someone headed the opposite way.

"Oomph! I'm sorry!"

"You should be, and you should watch where you're going!"

As Rose and the other person looked up at who they had bumped into, their eyes widened in shock as they both pointed at each other and shouted the same thing simultainiously...

"YOU!"

Standing back up and brushing themselves off, the pair looked daggers at each other with the ultimate in "if looks could kill" glares.

"Looks like Collard's entries standard must really have been slipping if they're letting flat-chested brats like you into the organisation. Which poor company hired your unattractive ass? I want to sent them my condolences."

"Funny, I could say the same thing about sexist bastards with egos larger than some nations."

Pushing past the sneering man, Rose looked over her shoulder at him.

"And for your information Mister Ponytail, I hired me. I work for me, myself and I, alone.

Turning the corner after sticking her tongue out and flipping Mr. Ponytail the bird, Rose entered the women's barracks and made her way to her room to retrieve her sketch pad. That done, she headed for the cafateria and the other women again. After queing up for a moment and getting some lasange and salad, the brown-haired teen sat between pig-tailed May and short-haired Wynne.

"Thought you'd got lost for a moment there, darlin'."

"Me? Nah, I have a good memory May... I got accosted by Mr. Ponytail over there, who is looking daggers at me right now."

Pointing over her shoulder with her fork at the man in question, Rose recounted her run-in with Mr. Pony tail. Though, Rose did raise an eyebrown when Lilium started laughing.

"Alright, I'll bite, what's so funny Lilium?"

"You definatly gave Otsdarva a good chewing out, Rose. No-one's ever spoken to him like that or flipped him the bird because he's the rank one Lynx."

"If I'd known that earlier, I probably would have kicked him in the nuts too, the sexist bastard. Bet no-one's ever done that to him before either!"

Joining in the merriment of her new-found friends, Rose flicked through her sketch pad to get to her rose drawing. Passing it around the table, the teen watched the reactions of her drawing. The first to speak, predicatably, was May.

"That's amazin' Rose! You should totally get that done as a tattoo, it's look really great on you."

The others were quick to add their own agreements to May's words and were in agreement of having one rose blossom in blue, and the other in red.

"R... Really? But... Don't I need a parent or legal guardian's consent first because I'm under eighteen?"

Surprisingly, it was Kasumi who gave the solution first.

"One of the other operators here runs a tattooing business as a side-job, he's quite the proffesional at it too. I can get him to do it for you as a favour for me, no questions asked too."

"Really, Serene?"

"Yup, he owes me a few favours, so it's no real hastle or bother to arrange it."

After that, the conversations turned to mundane, random things like favourite colours, or animals, etc. After dinner, the ten women crowed into Rose's room to listen to her play her guitar, even as the weather outside began to whip into a big storm. Tuning the instrument for a moment, Rose opened up with a fast, powerfull, and heavy number; "Losfer Words (Big 'Orra)", one of her favourite classic instrumental-only tracks. After she finished that one, she went into song after song, playing and singing around twenty in all; "Mirror Mirror", "England My Home", "Re-education (Through Labour)", "What You Know", "Into The Storm", "Blow Me Away", "Paranoid", "Alive", "The Ballard of Robbie Jones", "Pour Some Suger On Me", "How You Remind Me", "The Boatman", "Price To Pay", "Bye Bye Beautiful", "Monts├ęgur", "Outside", "Dance With The Devil", "Mary-Lou", and "Shadows Of The Night". Though, for any intro, outro, or solo she didn't have an instrument for, she improvised, naturally.

"That was... Bloody amazing Rose, honey!"

Beating May to the punch, Ay-Pool shook her head in amazement. It was hard to believe that Rose was just sixteen, when she was that good and without missing a note or tripping over her words.

"Thanks, I used to enter talent contests at school with my singing, and I'd win too."

Soon afterwards, everyone started to drift away to their beds for various reasons. As the night wore on, and the storm outside got worse, May in particular was having a good dream; Rose was asking her is she could sleep with the GA Lynx that night... When a knock on the dividing door roused her.

"May?"

Rose pulled the diviving door open , showing her to be in pastal-pink pajamas, with a pillow held to her chest with one arm and holding a teddy bear in her other hand.

"What is it, darlin'?"

"Can I... Can I sleep with you tonight please? I... I don't want to sleep alone in this storm, I get nightmares when I do..."

"Sure, darlin'. By all means, you're more than welcome in my bed."

Sliding over slightly to make room for the teen, May cuddled Rose gently as the younger girl started to drift off to sleep.

A/N: Well, that was... Interesting for me... I don't have much skill in writing fanservice (hence why it took me so long to type this chapter), so this was a new experience for me. Revalations as to Mr. Ponytail being Otsdarva was fun to plan, though I dropped the bobshell earlier than I originally planned to. Oh well. Before you ask, yes, Rose was playing actual songs. I don't own them, but I like them. Also, as the author, I can get away with any and every instance of unusual hair colour, thanks to artistic/creative liscene and the fact we don't know what any of the pilots look like. I wonder though... Will there be any rounds of "LOL!" for my Crowning Moment Of Funny in the bath? Will I get a round of "D'awww"'s for my Crowning Moment Of Heartwarming for the last scene with May and Rose? We shall have to wait and see... As to May being Straight, Bi, or Lesbian? Well, wait and see. Please, as ever, Read and Review, though please not critiquing my writing style.