Falter

by the Black Rose

A Full Metal Panic! Fanfiction.

AN: I'm making progress on Missing by a Mile.  Look for LLL chapter 12 I'm hoping sometime this weekend.  We POSTED chapter 6 of Across Enemy Lines…. That cover everything? Think so.  Cool.  I'm writing a Full Metal Panic er…lemon flavored Sousuke x Kaname fic as well, that will be posted at Blissful as soon as I'm done.  Thanks for reading!  Love, Rose

Falter

Prologue (yes, this means it's a series)

            It was a select few that could call the sea their home.  Modern technology made almost anything possible, including humans that could live under water.  The ocean didn't seem to mind the intrusion – rather, it's cold, dark waters parted easily, welcoming the sleek vessel as it churned through the black depths. A faint but tranquil hum came from the engine of the Mithril submarine, and it rocked slowly beneath its inhabitants' feet.

The Major studied the much younger captain's face.  It was stoic - her pale lips set in an expressionless line while the artificial light in the room leant her skin a sallow hue.  Her eyes were fixed on the large, seven foot monitor across the room; her left hand held the end of her white-blonde braid. 

"Do you think it's wise to assume that with Gauln's defeat, the threat to the Whispered is over?  Captain?"

She blinked, but kept staring ahead.  Her fingers toyed with the ends of her hair in an absent gesture.  "I…I guess not."

"Gauln had a vast network of associates and scientists--"  The Major stepped closer to where she stood, but the sound of her voice halted his progress.

"But we still don't know why they wanted the Whispered.  Do we?"

The Major shook his head.  "No."

"Then…maybe the threat is over after all, and no further protection of Kaname will be necessary."

He nodded.  "Perhaps.  But perhaps some safety measures would not be out of place."

She turned and met the Major's gaze for a moment before lowering her eyes.  "Yes.  But not the same…ones as before."

"Sergeants Mao, Weber, and Sagara are the most logical choice, Captain."

Her fingers tightened on her braid, but she spoke in a soft voice. "We can't spare them indefinitely."

"Perhaps it would be advisable, then, for only Sergeant Sagara to stay behind, since he is the one closest to Miss Chidori."

Color flooded her pale cheeks.  "No!  That would absolutely be… That is unacceptable." 

The Major set his jaw.  She was his superior, and he had no right to question her orders…. Or motives.  "Understood."

"You can find someone…else to watch Miss Chidori.  From a distance.  We don't want to interrupt her life anymore than we need to." She nodded with the last syllable as if to confirm her decision.

The Major frowned. Captain Tessa turned back to look at the monitor, the faraway expression gone and a small smile on her lips. 

"Especially since it's likely that Kaname is no longer in danger, yes?"

            ***********************************************************

            It didn't have to be goodbye for Sousuke to feel sad in this place.  People jostled one another, in a blind hurry, too driven to give an adequate glance over their shoulder at a companion or loved one they were about to leave behind.  Try as he might, the young Sergeant couldn't decipher who was leaving whom in this particular circumstance.  The dim airport lighting did little to illuminate the crevice where he searched for the answer.

            She was leaving.  But it was only to go back to the life he had taken her away from.

            Sousuke stared at the ground and shifted his weight from one foot to the other.  He didn't really know what to say to the girl in front of him.  She looked…upset.  At what, he couldn't guess.  He hoped that things had been sufficiently smoothed over after…after he had made her cry.

            "Well, I guess this is it." Kaname's voice cut through his thoughts.

            Sousuke nodded and brought his gaze up from the floor.   She was trying to smile, at least the corners of her mouth twitched upwards, but never managed to hold the expression.

            "Will…Will I see you again?" Tears started to form in her eyes. 

            He felt his throat tighten. The Mithril Sergeant frowned, then nodded. "Yes.  We can correspond by email and telephone."

            "You'll call?"

            "Yes.  If…you want me to."

            She managed to finally smile at that.  The tight feeling melted and he swallowed.  He felt his lips curve into an answering grin. 

"Here," Kaname grabbed his arm and pushed him back a couple of steps next to the wall.  She slipped beside him and began rummaging through her shoulder bag.  He watched her as she pulled a piece of paper and a pen out.  "I'm sure you already have it, or can get it, but it'll be easier to just write it down for you."  She scribbled something on the page then handed it to him.  It was her email address and phone number. His eyes roved over the page and he quickly committed the information to memory.  He took the paper anyway, and his fingers brushed against hers. 

This time, she kept her gaze on the floor.  "You… You'll really call?"

"Yes."

"Because I'm not going to sit by the phone every night or anything, but…. Just to let me know you're all right?"

Sousuke nodded and tucked the paper in his pants pocket. "I promise."

"Thank you," Chidori whispered. "For taking me fishing.  For protecting me…. You're…  I…"

"Final boarding for flight 931 to Tokyo. This is the final boarding call for flight 931 to Tokyo."

She surged forward and threw her arms around his neck.  Sousuke's breath caught and his hands rose to settle on her waist.  She was warm, and soft… Comfortable, like his favorite fishing spot, and yet he could feel his heart pounding in his chest.  He brought his arms to rest gently around her waist.  They instinctively tightened their grasp, as if they didn't want to let her go.

Her lips grazed his cheek before he felt her breath against his ear:  "I'll miss you."

Kaname pulled away and the warm feeling went with her.

"I will… Miss you, too," he stammered, his voice sounding not quite like his own. 

"Take care of yourself," she said and hurried off in the direction of her flight; long, blue hair swayed behind her and attracted the attention of several young men in her path.

He waited, and watched; he planned to stay until the plane and Kaname were safely off the ground.   She gave the stewardess her ticket and then entered the jetway. Just before she was out of sight, Kaname stopped, turned, and waved.

A bit of light streamed into the corridor from behind her. Golden fingers touched her hair and cheek, illuminating a fragile expression and that pained look in her eyes.  He felt a sharp stab and a loss of warmth, similar to when she withdrew from their friendly embrace, flood his heart. 

He had made her cry again.