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It starts in the pit of the belly, clenched like a fist. Sometimes it stays there, stable, like a counterweight, reassuring in its familiarity. Sometimes it wants to rise, clawing its way up her spine until it lodges in her throat, kept there by her clenched teeth.

Dear Prinsess Relena,
Thank You for saveing My Daddy He was a Soljer but You made the fiting war Stop Wen I gro up I want to be a Prinsess just like You.
Your freind
Lily Age 6

The dentist looks at her teeth and mutters about worn enamel and minute fractures, and suggests new crowns. She thanks him and makes the appointment and pays her money and goes home trying to remember not to grind her teeth quite so much. But it wants to rise past the weakened wall of her molars so she clenches her jaw tight again and ignores the aching.

To the editor:
I find myself disappointed with the Tribune's stance on Vice Foreign Minister Darlian's trade proposals for the Neo-ESA. It seems to me that your editorial board is still enamored of the princess turned politician, so much so that you refuse to see the holes in her plan. Her trade proposal is fundamentally flawed, in that it is the plan of a princess full of fairy tale ideals, and has no grounding in reality. Darlian needs to grow up and deal with reality, and the rest of us need to stop indulging her royal whims and find someone who would know what to do with her job.
Gregory Fremont

At night she rests, sprawled across her sheets and staring at the ceiling. This is when it grows, muttering to itself as she thinks over her day. Sleep does not come easily, and when she wakes, she wonders if she's even slept at all. She dreams about it.

Memo to self:
L3 trade talks 07:30
Press conference 11:50
Luncheon w/L4 coalition 12:30
Ribbon ceremony 14:30
Reception 15:30
Dinner Neo-ESA 19:00
Office 22:00
Bed 00:30

Her secretary takes her dictation while the seamstress whisks clothes in and out of bags, checking the fitting. She lifts an arm when requested, and pivots to test the swirl of a skirt. The seamstress dress and undresses her like a doll, and comments that she's lost weight. Her secretary perks an ear at this, and she knows that for the next day or two the breakfast trays will be heavier and she will be watched, and will have to force the food past it.

Attached please find nominees for ambassador to L1. Opinions?

It spends less time in her gut and more time choking her, little needle claws trying to pierce her skin and escape. She bites her tongue, the inside of her cheek, and the copper-iron taste quells it for a while. She knows that she is falling apart.

Your secretary's arranging a few days off. I'll send my car to get you. Pack light.

The car drives and drives, and she barely notices from the back seat as she reads her notes on an upcoming conference. They leave the populous urban and suburban areas behind, retreating into the lands of the obscenely wealthy and private. The car pulls through a gate, which she ignores, and when it pulls up at the end of the drive, Dorothy is waiting. She takes the briefcase away, and it disappears while her guest is refreshing herself. Few words pass between them until Dorothy guides her through the house to a terrace overlooking a valley. They watch the sun setting over the valley together until Dorothy throws her head back and screams. She's had some vocal training, and the scream goes on and on as birds explode from their bushes, startled.

When the echoes have died away Dorothy looks at her, one eyebrow raised.

The scream comes ripping out of her throat, past the clenched jaw and the tightly-pressed lips, grating her vocal cords raw and the birds squawk at her, angry for the second disturbance. She is hoarse before it's done, and meanwhile Dorothy rubs her hand up and down her back, soothing, and the sunlight has faded completely.

The stars are coming out, first one at a time, and then entire constellations blooming at once, and Relena feels as though she might lift off the ground and float away, but Dorothy's hand is a warm anchor on her back, and together they go inside to the dinner that is waiting.