by Orla
Part Four

Warnings: None... yet.
Pairings: 13+SP, 5+SP??

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.

//...// indicate flashbacks

AC 191

"And Archer, Emerson, Hunter, Kudo, Mori, Parrish, Po, Suoh
are assigned to Instructor Khushrenada's team."

Sally stood rigid with shock. Only her training prevented
her astonishment and fury from showing openly on her face.
However, the flash of fire in her blue eyes revealed her
inner feelings. She could almost see the smirk on Nicola's
face and felt several pairs of eyes boring into her back.
There was no way that they'd believe her relationship with
Treize was innocuous now. And what made matters worse was
that as soon as the announcement about the training day with
the Specials had come through, Nicola had predicted that Sally
would be on Treize's team.

Sally glanced at Treize who was standing on the podium with
the other instructors and high ranking officers of the
Alliance and the Specials. He was dressed in the simplier
version of the Specials uniform as he would be actively
involved in the exercise, only a few extra trimmings
distinguishing him from the cadets. His eyes met hers at
this point and the faintest of smiles touched his lips.
Sally's eyes narrowed. If he had planned this...

"I _knew_ you would be part of his team!" Nicola crowed after
they had been dismissed and sent to get their weapons. She
winked as she handed over Sally's rifle.

Sally glowered at her friend and almost snatched the rifle.
"I doubt he had anything to do with the assignments." She
said hotly. "And believe me, I'd rather be in _anyone_ else's
team right now!"

Nicola looked at her archly. "Uh-huh... so you say." She grinned.
"But think of the romance... you and he... back to back... a
desperate struggle..."

"With paint pellets?" Sally shook her head at Nicola's fancies.
"Getting splattered with paint isn't very life threatening Nic."

"Unless you're hit... _just_ so." Nicola raised her rifle and
pointed it at Sally's eyes. "Maybe you wouldn't die, but you'd
probably never see again."

Sally frowned slightly and pushed the end of Nicola's rifle
away from her face. "Don't play around like that," she chided.
"It might be safer to use paint pellets, but silly moves could
still hurt people."

"Who said I was playing?" Nicola's voice was low and Sally
looked at her sharply, only to see the other girl making a face
at her. "Too bad we're not on the same team." Nicola said with
a grin. "Between your brains and my sharp-shooting we'd cream
the opposition!"

"Most likely," Sally agreed. "Well, I'll just have to make sure
that I 'kill' you before you get me."

"Don't be so sure." Nicola said jauntily as she sauntered
off to join her own team.

"'Cream the opposition'?" A well known voice murmured in
Sally's ear and she turned to see Treize standing behind her.

"Absolutely." Sally said firmly. "Even the OZ instructors who
like to manipulate their friends."

Treize's eyebrows went up. "Are you suggesting that I
deliberately organised things so that you would be on my

"The thought had passed through my mind." Sally admitted.

"Believe me, Sally." Treize said, placing a hand on her
shoulder. "I had nothing to do with the allocations, however..."
He smiled. "I count myself lucky that you're with me." The
caress of his voice matched the light touch of his fingers
as he lightly ran his fingers down her arm before moving
his hand away.

"You are such a flatterer." Sally said lightly, controlling
the shiver that ran through her as they walked towards the
other members of the team. "It makes me wonder if you truly
mean the things you say."

"When something is very important to me then I'm always
sincere." Treize replied shooting her a hard, significant
glance before moving ahead.

His words and glance remained uppermost in Sally's mind as
the exercise began. She was angry at herself for allowing
Treize to bother her so much. *I promised myself that I
wouldn't think about it until after the exam results...*
She grumbled inwardly, following Emerson and Suoh, *And I
really can't let myself get distracted now...* She dropped
to the ground with the others as gunfire erupted over her
head. *Not when I'm required to be alert so we can win this

Paint splattered the trees and the bushes around her, and Sally
crawled on her belly to cover, pushing all thoughts of Treize completely out of her head. She saw Emerson get to his
feet and fire, then reel back as a pellet impacted on his
chest. He sat down on his rump with a curse, an expression
of chargin on his handsome face. Sally smiled slighty and
shook her head. Emerson's ego was a bit large, getting taken
down like this would make a nice dent in it.

Suoh rolled over until he was next to her. "Hey Sal." He said
breathlessly, his broad face smeared with dirt. "I think
there's only on group on the left. Wanna take 'em?"

"Absolutely." Sally said and indicated silently that she
would move first. Max nodded and shifted into a better
position to cover her if need be.

She edged along until she could move up and still be
concealed by a large tree. Looking cautiously around
the tree, Sally saw two wary Specials cadets with green
armbands standing back to back in the clearing. Judging the
situation quickly, Sally determined that two quick shots
would take care of them, especially as they were looking
in completely the wrong direction. Silently she raised her
rifle and targeted them, pulling the trigger with quick

There was a dull click from the rifle and nothing more.
Sally's eyes widened and then she frowned, moving back to
crouch down in the undergrowth again. She stared at her
rifle in consternation. Why wasn't it working?

"I heard it too..." She heard one of the Specials say and
she froze. *Oh Shit...*

There was the sound of two loud reports and the Specials yelped.
Sally looked up and saw Suoh standing over her. He grinned
down at her. "Having some problems, Sal?"

She got to her feet and showed him her rifle. "Somehow it's
got stuck." She said and then checked it again. "No...
worse... it looks like everything's completely stuffed."

"Odd..." Max tapped her shoulder. "Look, we'd better not
hang around here. Those guys might have had back-up nearby."

"True." Sally agreed and followed him. As they pushed through
the undergrowth, she looked at her useless rifle again. She
had a nagging sense that this had not been a mere accident,
but she couldn't figure out who would want to sabotage her.
Unless... unless it was someone who was jealous of her
relationship with Treize. Certainly several of the other
female cadets had made scathing remarks lately, but it still
seemed unlikely that anyone would go to such lengths just
because they were jealous.

Suddenly there was a burst of fire from the left and
paint splattered on the bushes around them. Sally dropped
to the ground, pulling Suoh with her. Suoh swore and
Sally saw the bright splatter of yellow paint marking
his shoulder. He grimaced. "Fuck..."

Sally patted him sympathetically on the shoulder and
then glanced at his rifle. "Max, I'll..."

"No good Sal, I'm out." He whispered and she bit her lip.

"Damn... and Emerson's is too far away... Then I'd better
go before moving quickly..." She flashed him a brief smile
before moving quickly away, crouched almost double.

More shots sounded close behind her and Sally hissed between
her teeth. Whoever was targeting her was a good student, and
a good marksman. With only her dud rifle in her possession,
Sally knew her chances of winning at this point was almost nil.

"Why I hate these type of exercises..." Sally muttered under
her breath. "Reason number 56..."

She slid under some more bushes and then moved cautiously to
the base of a huge tree. Sitting up slowly, she pressed her
back to the hard trunk and edged herself up. There was a
rustling sound of bushes being disturbed in front of her and
the thick growth parted. Sally's eyes widened. Could they have
sneaked around to find her?

Treize Khushrenada... looking impossibly immaculate for a
man who had just emerged from the undergrowth, looked
at Sally in brief surprise. He didn't remain distracted for
long though, his gaze flashing to a point beyond Sally,
he raised his elegant silver pistol and fired two shots
in quick sucession.

A pair of moans indicated that he had hit his targets
and Sally relaxed her death grip on her useless rifle
Two women emerged, bright paint marking their stomachs,
their faces glum. They were both Alliance cadets and in
Sally's class. Their expressions brightened when they
saw Treize, clearly it was something good to be shot by
the handsome star of the Specials. Then they saw Sally
and with a sinking heart she saw them both smirk knowingly.

"Ah well..." said one. "I guess we shouldn't be surprised."

"See you when you come out a winner, Sally, in more ways
than one." said the other with a grin and a wink, and Sally
gritted her teeth.

As they walked away she wanted to run after them, tell them
how wrong they were, that she would have fired on them
herself if she could have. But after loftily claiming to
Treize that she cared nothing for the opinions of others
she couldn't... and it was not like they would believe her

Sally looked back at Treize and saw that he was gazing at
her with a quizzical expression. "Why," he asked finally.
"Did you not fire on them yourself?"

Sally held out her rifle. "Because I couldn't." She explained
what had happened to her weapon and Treize frowned.

"I'll be speaking to people about this." He said sternly.
"All weapons should have been properly checked before the
exercise." He reached into his jacket and pulled out another
silver pistol. "In the meantime, take this."

Sally half reached for it and then paused. "No." She said
with a small sigh. "I don't think I should do that."

Treize walked up to her, until he was only a few inches away.
"I thought you didn't care for the opinions of others." He
said softly.

Sally felt the heat of embarrassment tinge her cheeks red.
"I don't... usually." She lifted her chin and looked him in
the eyes. "But when rumours could affect my future career
_then_ I care!" She waved her hand in the direction that the
Alliance cadets had gone. "You heard them... if you help me
now then they will all believe that I couldn't have made it
alone." She shook her head. "Right now I think the best thing
would be to let myself get 'shot'."

"But you don't want to do that..." Treize's long fingers
touched her cheek and he smiled at her. "No, the best thing
would be for me to take the hit."

Sally batted his hand away. "Will you quit being so gallent?"
She growled at him. "I can take care of myself."

"Your stubborn nature is part of your charm, Sally, but I
wish you would..."

Treize was cut off as there was a loud report and they both
felt something impact on their backs. Startled, they turned
and found themselves staring at two Specials cadets. The
wide grins on the cadets' faces turned to expressions of
alarmed consternation when they saw whom they had fired on.

"I-instructor T-trieze..." stammered one. "I... we... we
didn't know..."

Treize held up his hand, forstalling further protestations
of apology. "Don't concern youself, Cadet Nicols." He said
calmly. "It was my own fault for being..." he glanced quickly
at Sally. "Distracted."

Sally restrained herself, but only barely, from kicking him.
*Wonderful,* she thought sourly. *That's going to do wonders
for quelling any rumours.* She put her hand to her back and
then looked ruefully at the sticky blue paint on her hand,
then she smiled as her sense of humour reasserted itself.

The two cadets left quickly and Treize turned to Sally. "I
believe that it is our cue to bow out now..." He lifted one
eyebrow. "What is so amusing?"

Sally chuckled. "Your face when we got hit!" She managed to
gurgle out. "This look of utter disbelief..."

Treize laughed then. "Not that _your_ expression was much
different!" He said. His eyes gleamed and he swept her an
elegant bow, then straightened and offered her his arm.

"Would the lady like to quit the battlefield?"

Sally hesitated. Walking out on Treize's arm was not going
to quell rumours, but then again...

"Screw them." She muttered and took his arm.

Treize smiled. "An admirable, if uncouth, sentiment."


Later in the evening, Sally sat at her desk, chewing on the
end of her pen and thinking about the events of the day.
Nicola lay on her bed in a huffy silence, pretending to
read, but occasionally shooting Sally little glares. She
was annoyed with Sally for refusing to say anything about
what happened between her and Treize. Even the pleasure of
Nicola's team winning the exercise wasn't enough to pull her
out of her sulks.

Sally sighed softly. The thing that really bothered her was
that no one had a proper explanation as to _why_ her rifle
hadn't worked. Her instinct still insisted that it was a
deliberate sabotage, but offered no solutions as to who was
the perpetrator. She glanced sideways at Nicola. Could it

There was a sharp knock at the door which startled both girls
out of their thoughts. They stood as their section commander
entered. He barely glanced at Nicola, his gaze going to Sally
almost immediately. There was a hint of regret in his stern
face and Sally's heart skipped a beat. Surely it didn't have
anything to do with Treize?

"Cadet Po, I have some unfortunate news regarding your Medical
exam." he said without preamble and Sally's eyes widened.

"Sir?" *Did I fail? Did I fail _badly_?*

He cleared his thought and looked away for a moment, almost as
if he was embarrassed to meet her eyes. "We have just been
informed that... six of the exam papers have... gone missing."

Sally's breath quickened, she could almost anticipate his next

"And yours was one of them, Cadet Po."

Sally closed her eyes briefly as a feeling akin to pain stabbed
at her. After all the work she had put into that exam...

"What are my options, sir?" She asked, her voice trembling on
the edge of rage.

"You can take the exam again." He said. "Tomorrow morning at
0600 hours so that it can be marked and the results posted
along with the others as originally planned."

Nicola gasped and Sally swallowed. It was quite late now, she
wouldn't have any time to prepare, but what else could she do?

"I'll take the exam again." Sally said firmly.

AC199: January

"Sally!" One of the security guards entered the main office,
holding a package out to her. "Got a little mystery here
for you."

"Really?" Sally grinned and took the package. "I seem to be
getting quite a few of those lately." She turned it over in
her hands, noting the small size, the plain brown paper and
her name printed in bold letters on the cover along with
the address of Preventers HQ. "No return address, hmm? Somehow
I'm not that surprised."

"Well, whatever it is, it's safe." The guard assured her. "We
did a scan and it's only paper in there." He turned and walked
away. "Have fun with your mystery, Sally."

"Thanks." Sally said drily. Picking up some scissors, she
carefully cut the package open and reached inside. Her
faintly amused expression turned to shock when she drew out
the contents. "What the hell?"

Wufei chose this moment to walk in. He opened his mouth to
greet Sally but shut it quickly when he saw her face. "Sally?"

She looked up at him, her hands were trembling slightly as she
held out the sheaf of papers. He looked at the top and saw a
familiar name and a date. "Your exam paper from AC191?" He
frowned. "Why is this concerning you so, Woman?"

"Because this exam went missing!" She said, rubbing her forehead.
"I had to retake it at the last minute. Now someone's sent me
the original..."

"It's you." Wufei said quietly. She looked at his face and
his onyx eyes regarded her with a burning intensity. "The arson
at Dermail's mansion, the rifle and now this... someone wants
to get your attention." He leaned forward. "Who are they, Sally?
And why are they doing this?"

Sally averted her face and clutched the paper to her chest. "I
don't know who it is... not exactly." She said. "And as for why..."
Sally stood abruptly and moved away from Wufei. "Right now I can't
tell you."

"Can't or won't?" Wufei asked harshly.

"Both." Sally answered. She looked at the exam in her hands once
more and at the other piece of paper she had concealled from
him. *But I do need to talk to Une...*

AC 191

Sally rubbed her arms and breathed in deeply, inhaling the
scent of the trees around her and the water lapping near her
feet. She wasn't supposed to be out of barracks at this time
of night, but sleep was eluding her and a walk in the nearby
park seemed like a good idea to clear her aching head.

//You're angry aren't you?" Nicola asked carefully as soon as
the door closed behind the section commander.

"What a moronic question, Nicola." Sally snapped. "Of course
I'm angry! It's taking every ounce of self-control I have not
to go and rip the people at the examination centre to tiny,
quivering shreds!"//

Sally swallowed. Her rage had subsided somewhat, but enough
still burned within her to bring those murderous thoughts
back to the surface. The sheer injustice of the situation felt
like a slap in the face. She had no choice but to take the exam,
her academic records spoke well, but it wasn't enough and
she had no one in her family who was prepared to back her
and appeal. Not like some of the others.

"A lack of sleep before the exam won't help you much."

Sally's eyes widened briefly, but she didn't turn around.
"How did you find me here, Treize?" She asked, staring out
across the lake. "Do you have some sort of ESP that I don't
know about?"

"Unfortunately, no." He replied. "I was called out to deal
with a... situation... and was on my way back when I decided to
take a walk." He put his hands on Sally's shoulders and gently
turned her to face him. "I heard about what happened, Sally. I'm sorry."

She looked up at him. "Yeah... well, alot of people are sorry."
She commented with a touch of bitterness in her voice. "But I
still have to retake the damn exam."

Treize touched her cheek. "I could back you if you'd like to
appeal." He said.

Sally shook her head. "No! Absolutely not!" She cried putting
her hands on his chest and pushing him slightly away from her.
"I've worked so hard for this." Her fingers twisted, bunching the
fabric of his uniform and her head drooped. "I have to do this
by myself... My father said I couldn't make it alone, that I
should have stayed behind in China... I won't let him be right
and despite that... I told you that I can look after myself!"

His hands covered hers, soothing her agitation by squeezing her
fingers gently. "I expected you to say something like that."
Treize said, brushing her forehead with his lips. "But you have
to understand that I had to offer."

Sally regained some of her humour and smirked. "Because you're
always the perfect gentleman." She remarked drily looking up
at him.

"Naturally." Treize smiled. "I have a reputation to maintain,
and..." He lightly kissed her lips. "A lady to entice."

Sally laughed and broke away, shaking her head. "You are too

"And I'd like to be more." Treize's tone was low, seductive
and he was entirely too tempting, standing there in the uniform
that he graced so well. Sally felt heat flood through her and
quickly looked away from him.

"Maybe." She said. "But not now." She gave herself a mental shake,
recovering her composure and looked back. "Not when I have to get
up at 0530 to take this bloody exam."

He laughed lightly. "A fair delaying tactic, Sally. However..."
His expression turned serious. "Inform me of the outcome as soon
as you hear?"

She nodded. "I promise."

AC199: January

//"I don't like it." Une said flatly. "It's too great a risk."
Then she sighed and looked at Sally who sat before her. "But
you'd go anyway, wouldn't you, Sally?"

"Yes." Sally said firmly. "Clearly this is a personal action
against me... it's not really Preventer business anymore."

"Wrong." Une said sharply. "When someone potentially threatens
one of my best agents then I consider it to be Preventer business!"
She frowned. "Go then... but I'm going to have Wufei on standby,"
she held up her hand before Sally could protest. "I won't tell
him everything, but he's the best one to back you up if need be."

"Very well." Sally agreed reluctantly.//

Sally pulled the jeep into the parking lot and grimaced as she
thought of Wufei, on standby and undoubtably stewing in his
curiousity. *Oh well, I suppose I'll have to tell him the
story someday... might as well make it sooner rather than
later.* She sighed and checked her guns, before slipping them
into place. There had been nothing overtly threatening in the
message, but clearly she was dealing with someone who had
odd ideas of how to get her attention.

Sally glanced once more at the message that had come with the
exam. 'You should have put most of the pieces together by now,
but come to your old Academy for the final part.' Sally's lips
thinned and she headed towards her old barracks at a brisk pace.

The whole place was deserted and falling to bits. No one had
occupied this Academy since OZ destroyed the Alliance. Floorboards
creaked underneath Sally's boots, despite her efforts to approach
quietly and she pulled out one of her guns.

Room after room was empty, but somehow she wasn't surprised.
Finally she reached her old room and paused outside for a moment.
Taking a deep breath, she kicked open the door and stood in the entrance, gun pointed and ready.

There was a sharp report and her gun was shot out of her hands.
Sally reached for the other, but a voice drew her to an abrupt

"I really wouldn't do that, Sal. I was the best shot in the
Academy, remember? And I've still retained some of the old tricks."

"Nicola..." Sally breathed.


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