by Orla
Part One

Warnings: None... yet.
Pairings: Non-yaoi and not what you'd expect. ^^

Disclaimer: The Gundam Wing characters do not belong to me, I am only borrowing them for a short while and promise to return them in one piece.

AC 191

"I can't believe I let you talk me into this." The young woman grumbled as her dark blond hair was twisted into a fancy style and decorated with delicate pink roses.

"Oh come on... don't be like that _now_!" Her friend giggled. "Surely even you can't deny how exciting this is going to be!"

"Exciting? Hardly! Torturous is the word I'd chose... and if I had known that you were going to dress me up in a white dress then I never would have agreed to this!"

"Sally, you look lovely, really... take a look in the mirror and see for yourself."

Muttering under her breath, Sally stood up and regarded her reflection in the mirror. The sight did not inspire her with confidence in the slightest. "I look like an idiot." She said flatly.

"Sally Po, you do not!" But there was a tremour of doubt in the other girl's voice. "You... do look... different though."

Sally sighed. "I told you that I don't suit fancy dresses, Nicola." She reached up and gingerly touched her face. She was wearing more make up than she had ever done in her entire life, it made her face feel stiff and, in her opinion, look extremely unnatural.

*I should never have let Nicola and the others badger me into this.* Sally reflected gloomily. Of all the girls in the Alliance Academy, Sally had been the least enthusiastic about the invitation to attend a ball at Duke Dermail's mansion. The purpose of the ball was to help the Alliance cadets and the Specials cadets get to know each other... since a new base for the Specials had been recently established not to far from the Alliance Academy.

As soon as the invitation arrived all the girls (and a few of the boys) went all giddy with excitement. For the next week all anyone would talk about was what they were going to wear and who they hoped to dance with. All except Sally who tried to ignore everything by burying herself in her medical textbooks or training more frequently. She constantly stated that she was _not_ going. Pointing out that she hated dressing up, she was too tall and lanky anyway, she could easily get to know the Specials cadets at the inter-Academy games after the study break, and also she _really_ needed to study to pass her medical exam in three weeks. However, Sally's room mate, Nicola, and the other girls turned deaf ears to Sally's (most reasonable) objections and waged an all out campaign to get their friend to come.

Reflecting on the past weeks events, Sally cast dark looks at the other teenage girls fluttering around the dressing room. They all looked bright and happy, pretty in their lovely ballgowns, and talking excitedly about the handsome men they would dance with as they waited for the transport that was going to take them to the mansion.

Sally sighed. She really had no interest in getting a boyfriend. In her view it would just be a hassle and interfer with her training. She hadn't join the Alliance to get a guy! Besides, she enjoyed a good camaraderie with all the boys of her acquaintance... why ruin that with romance?

"Here it is!" Nicola squealed, tugging on Sally's arm. "Don't look so grim, Sal! You'll have fun."

Sally looked once more at her reflection in the mirror. A stranger stared back at her and she shook her head. "Fun, huh? Suuure..."


Ten minutes after arriving in the ballroom, Sally knew she should have been stronger and held out against the pressure from her friends. This was a complete disaster.

Standing by a tall, leafy pot plant... almost behind it in fact... Sally watched Nicola and the others flirt gaily with the Specials soldiers. Sally sipped her glass of over-sweet punch and sighed for the fifteenth time. Flirting was an art she's never mastered, nor felt the need to. *I knew I should have been stronger and held out against the pressure. This is a complete disaster.*

She spotted a Specials cadet coming towards her, a smug smile on his handsome face. Sally rolled her eyes. For some reason that she couldn't understand, alot of the men seemed to feel the need to chat her up. She suspected that this had a lot to do with the incredibly low cut bodice of her dress. However, once they started talking to her and found out that she wasn't going to act all coy and flirty, that she actually had a _mind_, then they found this sudden excuse to depart. Sally didn't think she could take this anymore.

Pretending that she hadn't seen the cadet approaching, Sally swanned past him and quickly escaped out of one of the doors. She found herself in a long corridor and pondered her next move.

There was no way she could leave the ball early and there really wasn't that much point anyway. The transport would be returning soon for all of them and she didn't have the money for a taxi. She walked down the corridor and looked at the closed doors lining it. Perhaps Duke Demail had a library or somewhere she could sit and wait the last of the evening out. At least no one would disturb her.

Boldly, Sally pushed open one of the doors and stepped inside. Her gaze fell on a vast number of shelves crammed with books and she grinned. Perhaps there would even be some medical books here... that would be useful! She walked boldly towards the shelves and then froze as a flicker of movement caught her eye.

Slowly, Sally turned and found herself staring into the eyes of a tall young man who was getting up from the chair he had been sitting on in the corner of the library. He looked just as surprised as she, one hand limply holding a glass of red wine while a book dangled from the other. He was, however, one of the more handsome men that Sally had seen this evening. He was elegantly dressed in a royal
blue dress uniform that displayed his well-built figure to an advantage and matched his eyes. His cinnamon brown hair was neatly brushed back and she could see the aristocratic breeding in his face. She guess him to be about three or four years older than herself, possibly around eighteen or nineteen.

He broke the frozen silence first, placing his wine glass down and snapping the book shut. "Can I help you, Miss?" He asked in a rich, cultured voice.

For once Sally's wits completely deserted her. "I... I..." She scrabbled desperately for a reasonable explanation. "I was... looking for the bathroom!" She said in a rush and then winced as she realised how lame that sounded.

He raised one of his long, forked eyebrows. "I see..."

"And clearly this isn't it, so pardon me for disturbing you!" Sally turned to the door.

"Wait." He put down his book. "I cannot let a lady wander around when she is so clearly lost." He bowed and smiled at her. "Please let me show you."

"Uh..." Sally found her wits deserting her for the second time. She couldn't come up with a good reason the refuse his offer. "Uh... thanks."

"My pleasure." He opened the door for her and Sally let him led her down the corridor to another door. One that had been clearly marked 'Ladies'. Sally gathered the shreds of her dignity and thanked him with as calmly as she could. Once inside, she waited for an appropriate length of time and then came back out.

He was waiting for her.

Sally blinked. "Um..."

He smiled. "May I escort you back to the ballroom?"

Sally looked suspiciously at him and caught a glimmer of amusement combined with curiousity in his eyes. She found herself smiling slightly back at him. "Actually, I'd prefer not to go back inside just yet." She said politely.

"I can relate to that." He said. "I don't particularly want to go in there myself."

She blinked and looked him up and down. "Why not?" Sally asked bluntly. "You look like you'd be more at home there than me."

He shrugged. "Maybe, but these sort of functions tend to run together when you've attended a large number."

"Oh, I can see how that would make things awkward." Sally said a little sacastically.

The door to the ballroom opened and Sally heard Nicola's voice. "Have you seen Sally?" She was asking someone. "I want to introduce her to..."

"Oh no..." Sally muttered.

"There's a door to the gardens just this way." He put a hand on her arm.

Sally hesistated. But Nicola's chatter was coming closer and she really didn't want to be set up. "Okay, let's go."

The gardens were beautiful. There was a heavy scent of roses in the warm summer air and the paths were dimly lit. Sally allowed herself to enjoy the atmosphere for a moment before turning her attention to something that had been bothering her for a while.

"Look... you've been very helpful." She said. "But I feel very awkward not knowing your name."

He laughed. "My name is Treize Khushrenada." He took her hand and bowed over it.

Sally's eyes narrowed slightly. His name was somewhat familiar, but she couldn't quite place it. "My name's Sally Po." She said as she firmly removed her hand. "And don't expect me to curtsey or bow because I can't do either."

There was a short stunned silence as Treize absorbed her remark. "Can you shake hands then?" He asked finally.

"I believe that's within my capabilities, yes." Sally extended her hand. "Although I usually don't appreciate having my hand slobbered over." She added as Treize took it.

There was another stunned silence. "I _don't_ slobber." Treize said firmly.

"I didn't say that _you_ did." Sally said with a slight shrug. "I was just pointing it out."

"Are you always this blunt to everyone?" Treize enquired. "Or am I a special case?"

Sally grinned. "I am pretty forthright." She admitted. "But don't expect me to apologise for it." She put her hands behind her back and sauntered past Treize, walking to standing beneath the balcony outside the ballroom. "If you really must know, I didn't want to be here in the first place."

"Which is why you left the ballroom I take it." Treize moved to stand beside her and Sally half turned to him.

"Pretty much." She tilted her head. "Like yourself, I don't find this sort of thing very interesting... although my reason is a little different from yours."

The strains of a waltz drifted out to them, drowning out some of the chatter. Treize held out a hand. "Even if you don't like the situation, will you do me the honour of dancing with me, Miss Sally?"

She stared at him. "Out here?"

"Yes," Treize smiled almost teasingly. "Or don't you like dancing either, Miss Sally?"

Actually Sally secretly loved to dance, but had yet to find a partner that matched her... or who wasn't just flirting. She looked at Treize, the wide courtyard and listen to the music that just begged to be danced to. "Hmm... okay." She said. "But only if you drop the 'Miss' thing, just call me Sally."

Treize chuckled. "Very well... Sally, would you do me the honour of..."

"Sure." She interrupted him and placed her hands in his. Treize shook his head and pulled her into his arms, moving elegantly in the first steps of the waltz.

He was a good dancer... No, an excellent dancer. Sally was expertly guided across the flagstones, her dress billowing around her. The magic of the moment swept her up, her feet moving lightly in perfect rhythm with his, her head tilted back, a smile on her lips. In this brief moment she felt deliciously feminine, more so than she had ever done in her fifteen years of life.

The music stopped, but Treize didn't release her. Sally came out of her daze and blinked up at him, her blue eyes narrowing with suspicion. Keeping one hand on her waist, he brought the other up to gently caress her cheek. Sally's eyes narrowed further. She wasn't sure she liked where this was going. However, a little voice whispered in the corner of her mind that perhaps it would be interesting... and educational not to move. After all, no one had kissed her yet... one had to start _somewhere_.

So Sally made no protest as Treize bent his head and gently pressed his lips to hers.

Fireworks did go off... but only the ones scheduled in the evening's program to signal the end of the ball.

Treize was definitely a good kisser though Sally decided. Not that she had a lot to compare him with, but she was sure a bad kisser would be a lot more... sloppy. The sensation wasn't that bad either, quite... pleasant. She suspected he'd had a lot of practice... on a lot of girls. She found herself idly wondering what number she was. Would he be really offended if she asked?

Treize moved back and smiled down at her. Sally licked her lips. "Hmmm..." She said and a shadow of uncertainty crept into Treize's eyes. Women didn't usually going 'Hmmm' after he'd kissed them, nor did they look as if they were critically analysing his kissing technique.

"That was nice." Sally said finally. She disentangled herself from his arms and smiled. "Thank you."

Treize looked as if she had just hit him on the head with a baseball bat. "_Nice_?" He repeated increduously.

"Saaaaaallllly!!" Nicola's voice rang out from the ballroom. "Sally! The transport's here! Where are you?"

"And she calls herself ladylike." Sally grinned, ignoring the rather shell-shocked young man in front of her. "Thanks for the dance and the kiss, Treize. It was very interesting! Goodbye!" She bunched up her skirts and ran inside the mansion.

Treize watched Sally go, his expression of bafflement rapidly turing into an intrigued smile. "Not yet goodbye I think." He murmured after her.


AC 198 : Christmas Eve

Sally nudged a piece of charred wood with her toe and looked around. It wasn't so strange that she would start remembering that night, eight years ago now. After all, it was right on this spot that they'd danced and...

"Sally!" Her partner's voice rang out from the shell of the huge mansion and she looked up to see Wufei gingerly walking over some of the rubble towards her. "Find anything?" He asked her.

"No." She said with a slight sigh and Wufei shot her a quizzical look.

"What's wrong with you?" He asked. "You had the oddest expression on your face just now."

Sally hesitated. "Well... I was just... remembering." She said evasively. She had not said much about her past days in the Alliance Academy, especially not to Wufei. Actually she had shoved alot of it to the back of her mind anyway. What was the point of dredging up the past? It was only seeing the charred remains of Duke Demail's mansion that had reminded of her first meeting with Treize Khushrenada anyway.

Wufei waited for her to elaborated on her cryptic remark, but as the silence grew he merely filed it away for future thought and looked back at the remains. "I suppose Une has no idea who could have done this?"

Sally shook her head, rolling the charred piece of wood under her foot. "Not exactly, but she's got a long list for us to check through." She grimaced slightly. "Of course, this fire could just be someones way of exacting a little revenge because of Dekim Barton's attempt this time last year."

"Hn. Looks like there are more people trying to lay ghosts to rest." Wufei said and Sally glanced quickly at him, remembering how he had tried to lay his ghosts.

She looked out at the garden and noticed the spiky stems of half-dead roses poking through the snow. The heady scent of roses lingering in the air of a warm summer evening flashed into her memory and she felt an unexpected prick of tears on her eyelids. She blinked them away angrily, wondering why she was feeling so melancholic. After all, it wasn't as if she had ever really...

"Sometimes ghosts re-emerge when you least expect it." She said abruptly and turned on her heel, walking swiftly across the thin crust of snow and ash.

Wufei watched her leave, a slight frown marring his brow. What had gotten into Sally all of a sudden?


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