Disclaimer: I do not own Full Metal Panic, nor do I believe that the Pope is actually the head of a secret para-military group. I do, however, believe that George Bush spends most of his time playing Starcraft on Battle.net.

Chapter Nine: The Light that Fills this World

"Captain, we're picking up a rapidly approaching missile…"

Tessa's ears perked up.

"Can we evade it?"

"No… It's… It's like it's changing direction every time we get a lock on it… It's…"

Suddenly, the Tuatha de Danaan was rocked by a massively explosion. The nuke hit and detonated, shredding the outmost layers of armor and throwing the submarine into a spin.

On the bridge, Tessa was thrown from her seat along with the crew and smashed into the ceiling. Groaning and rubbing a contusion on her shoulder, she stumbled over to Kalinin and Mardukas who were lying in a heap not far from her.

"Are you two alright?"

The men groaned as they tried to stand up.

"We can't take another hit like that…" Tessa whispered, looking around at the screens, digesting the information. "We've got no choice. We'll need to abandon ship."

~

The Arbalest Mk. II launched, spreading the wings folded behind its back and took off into the sky. Augustine watched with satisfaction as a great explosion in the sea sent up a tidal wave. There was no way, he figured that the Tuatha de Danaan could survive that. It was the kind of self-satisfying thought that almost made him forget the endless chorus of "Na na na na na! Na na na! Hey Jude!" that echoed through the cockpit.

"Goddammit…" Augustine muttered. "Four whole minutes of na na na na na…"

It was at about that moment that a motorcycle came flying at the Mk. II. Augustine saw it in time and concentrated on it changing path. The motorbike veered sharply to the right and crashed harmlessly into a building.

"Yo, Padre."

Another motorcycle flew through the air. Augustine aimed and fired, testing out the Arm Slave's rifle systems. The bike burst into pieces after a single shot.

"What the hell do you think you're doing, Gauron?" Augustine demanded. The Mk. II came to land on top of a building, several stories above Gauron's Arbalest.

"Pretending I'm Harry Potter." The Arbalest picked up a Toyota Cresta, which looked very out of place in Rome, and hurled it at Augustine, guiding it to its destination with its Lambda Driver.

"You were supposed to kill him," growled Augustine. The Mk. II took off, avoiding the Cresta, which smashed into another building. Somewhere in Japan, a principal broke down and cried.

"Kashim? I'm afraid it doesn't work like that…"

"What's that supposed to mean?" The Arm Slave came to land on top of another building. Gauron's Arbalest reached out its hand, fingers spread.

"It means…" The hand clenched into a fist and Gauron pulled it back suddenly. "That I want to kill him on my own terms." The structure of the building collapsed beneath Augustine and he took off again.

"You're insane…" the Pope hissed. "You betrayed me!"

"What's that proverb about the snake? A man finds an injured snake, takes it into his home, nurses it back to health and one day, the snake bites him. When the man is dying from the poison, he asks the snake 'Why did you bite me? I took you in and saved your life' to which the snake replied 'You knew I was a snake when you took me in.'"

"Whatever. I don't care. Just get out of my way. I need to finish this stupid thing…"

Gauron laughed.

"I'm sorry, Padre," he said in a mocking tone, imitating HAL. "I can't do that."

Augustine failed to pick up on the humor.

"Fine. Then I'll just kill you." The Mk. II aimed its rifle and opened fire. The Arbalest leapt back and Gauron grabbed a lamppost, up rooting it.

"En guard!" he yelled and flew at the other Arm Slave. Using the lamppost like a sword, the Arbalest swung and the Mk. II drew its combat knife just in time to block the blow.

"You idiot… Do you think you can win against me?!" With a surge of strength, the Mk. II checked its opponent, throwing it back. Augustine dropped the knife and drew his rifle again, firing and blowing holes in the Arbalest.

"Of course not. Your Arm Slave has one major disadvantage. With all that new equipment on there, it can only be in heavy combat for forty-five minutes. Moreover, you've just used up your rifle magazine. Is there a chess name for this kind of move, Padre? Where you sacrifice something to put your opponent at a disadvantage?"

Augustine cursed his luck and dropped the rifle next to the knife. Raising its arm and then lashing out forward, a wave of energy surged into the Arbalest, knocking it back. Gauron crossed the machine's arms and it absorbed the blow, but just barely.

"Heheh… How long can you keep this up, Padre?" Gauron asked as the invisible energy continued pouring forth from the Mk. II's hand. The Arbalest continued to absorb it but it was obviously fighting a losing battle.

"Long enough to erase you from this life, you bastard…" growled Augustine.

"Them's fightin' words! Hmm…" Gauron chuckled to himself in mock thought. "Want to know the truth, Padre?"

"Truth? What the hell are you-"

"About why I want to kill Kashim. I know, for instance, that he's Yamato Sagara's son… And therefore my son… But do you know why I want to kill him?"

"Enlighten me."

"Because I love him. It's hardwired into my psyche to love him. And I don't want him to have the same kind of life I had." Gauron grinned. "Heartwarming, isn't it?"

"Quite. Too bad, though…" The Mk. II pulled back and hurled itself forward, smashing into the Arbalest. The other Arm Slave flew back as its armor literally disintegrated under the focus of the Lambda Driver.

"Heheheheh…" chuckled Gauron as the Arbalest burst into pieces. "Don't you remember what I told you back then? I hope you have fun playing with the Whispered!"

And then the Arbalest Mass Production Type blew up.

~

"Chidori…" Sousuke's voice was a bit shaky. He was feeling faint and was pretty sure that some of his bandages had broke and that his seat was slowly being covered with blood. "What are you doing here?"

"This thing… Uhh… Gnostic," Kaname began. "Augustine… I mean… The Pope… You know… Mithril's Commander or whatever… He… uhh…" It was at about that moment that the sheer absurdity of the situation smacked Kaname in the face, much like a fan. "He… Wanted me to pilot this… So…"

"He wanted you to pilot it? This doesn't look like any Arm Slave I've encountered. Is it a new model? Can you send me the specifications? My channel is…"

"Sousuke! I've been sitting in this thing for five minutes! I can barely walk let alone send you files! This isn't a computer or something…"

"Actually, it is. Just pull up the desktop and-"

"We're in the middle of a battle, you idiot…" Kaname muttered. "This isn't the time to send you military blue prints for you to drool over! And what the hell happened to you in Germany?! I thought you were…" She trailed off, not daring to say the last word.

"Sergeant Major Mao says I have an unusually thick skull."

Damn, I could've told him that, Kaname thought to herself.

"Chidori, are you alright? Did they hurt you?"

"No… Actually… I'm fine. But, are you sure you're alright? I mean, you were shot up pretty badly back there."

"I'm fine."

In fact, Sousuke was far from fine but far be it from him to acknowledge that.

"Right…" Kaname sighed. "Listen, Sousuke, I need to tell you something-"

"Chidori, it will have to wait. Get out of that Arm Slave now. Mithril is sending parties onto land to rescue you. You can rendezvous with one and-"

"No! Sousuke, listen-"

"This is a very dangerous situation. It would be best if you would leave the combat area before you get hurt."

"Who're you to lecture me about getting hurt?" Kaname growled. "You almost get killed but then you have to come and save me. You just have to be the hero, don't you?"

"I don't understand…"

"Why are you always sacrificing things for people?" Kaname demanded, suddenly very angry. "You should be selfish once in awhile. Maybe you'd live longer."

"I've been the way I am for as long as I can remember and I haven't died."

"That's now what I mean. I mean… You're hurt, aren't you? Hurt bad. Hurt worse than you've ever been. But you still came… Why?"

"To rescue you."

"That's not an answer!" Kaname yelled. "Did you hear me that night before you blacked out? Did you hear what I said? I told you how I really feel about you so now it's your turn. Tell me, Sousuke. Don't say you don't understand. Don't give me a military answer! Give me your answer! Tell me, dammit! Why do you want to rescue me?!" She was almost screaming now. Her heart was pounding in her chest and, the cockpit had begun to emit a slight humming noise. She wasn't paying attention to it, though.

"Because you're my friend," Sousuke said calmly.

"That's it? That's your answer? Sousuke-"

"I don't have many friends."

Kaname stopped. I'm one of his only friends in the world, she thought. Kaname had dozens of friends… Not just in Japan but in America too. How many did Sousuke have? A dozen in the entire world? And how many of them had he seen die?

"I also promised to protect you. I won't break my promise." Sousuke's voice had the same kind of conviction as a battle field priest giving last rights.

"Then I absolve you of your promise," Kaname whispered. "You don't have any reason to be here… You're not held to the promise anymore."

Sousuke was silent for a few seconds. He really hadn't be expecting that.

"Then…" he said slowly. "No."

"No?" asked Kaname.

"No. I'm going to be selfish, like I said. I will keep protecting you, regardless of your feelings on the matter. Many of the important people in my life have died and I won't allow the most important person to die as well. I'm sorry, Chidori, but I can't leave."

"Sousuke…" Kaname's face slowly broke into a smile. Not a sad smile. A happy one. "Understood."

And, at that moment, the Arbalest Mk. II landed next to them.

~

The smell of blood was overwhelming Tessa. The sick, coppery smell burned the insides of her nose and she wanted to throw up. But, she couldn't because she was busy trying to remember how to say "What is your blood type?" in Italian.

After the evacuation from the Tuatha de Danaan, the small fleet of helicopters landed far enough away from the fighting to be safe. They set up a small field hospital and soon found themselves tending not only to their own injured soldiers but Mithril forces too.

Even though she was near breakdown, Tessa still had some fight left in her. She commanded the hospital as best she could, barking orders in a way that surprised even her own soldiers.

"We need more transfusions! I don't care what your blood type is, just do it! O is the universal donor and AB is the universal recipient, remember! Bandages go over there! Give him whiskey or wine or beer, I don't care! Stop him from screaming!"

The man at Tessa's feet, whom she had thought to be dead, suddenly opened his eyes and started screaming as well. Something in Italian. It sounded like a prayer.

Then, another man knelt next to him. He pulled a small flask out of his jacket and poured the contents into the screamer's mouth, forcing him to drink. The cries soon became quieter and before long, had stopped altogether.

When the man stood up and Tessa saw his face, she stopped giving orders and gave a frightened meep.

"Sake," Gauron said, smiling. He took a sip for himself and went on. "I wanted to give it to Kashim because a man of samurai blood should not enter the next world without the taste of sweet sake on his lips."

"But… Sagara, he's not dead," Tessa said quickly. She glanced at the Arbalest. It was barely visible off in the distance but it was still in one piece.

"I know," Gauron chuckled. "That's why I didn't give it to him."

Tessa suddenly shivered and looked over the collection of bloody and broken bodies before her.

"This is insane…" she whispered. Gauron laughed bitterly.

"Humans are the only creatures who love the smell and color of the blood of their kindred… Praising peace but preparing for war. 'Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum.' 'Therefore, whoever wishes for peace, let him prepare for war.' That's the story of humanity. And we have no choice but to go along with it. 'The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.'"

"But… We do have a choice!"

Gauron turned to look at Tessa, genuinely surprised.

"I mean, we can refuse to fight."

"But did you?" Gauron asked. Tessa didn't answer.

"Kashim…" Gauron smiled, watching the Arbalest Mk. II land next to Sousuke and Kaname. "He's an amazing person. He's fighting for all he's worth… Not just to save the love of his life but to protect the promise known as tomorrow." Gauron looked up to the sky. "This world needs people like him. The people who sacrifice of themselves and fight for others without expecting anything in return. If there were more unselfish people like him in this world, we wouldn't have wars."

Tessa stared at Gauron for a second, totally caught off guard by him. Then, she turned her attention to the three Arm Slaves.

"You're right," she whispered softly.

~

"So, I finally meet the famous Sagara Sousuke…" Augustine said, chuckling. "I've heard a lot about you."

The Arbalest lowered its cannons, aiming them directly at its upgrade.

"Who are you?" Sousuke asked, finger on the trigger. Augustine laughed.

"Pope John Paul III and the High Commander of Mithril. I'm glad to finally meet you, Sagara. You've been making things very hard for me lately. Do you know that?"

Sousuke didn't answer. He kept his hand ready to fire.

"I hadn't originally planned on you being involved in my game. Yet, no matter how many times I try to knock you off the board, you keep coming back and taking out my pieces. Do you know how frustrating that is?"

Sousuke still didn't answer.

"But, now, you'll be eliminated once and for all. Miss Chidori, if you wouldn't mind."

"Chidori?" Sousuke asked in surprise.

Kaname looked from the Arbalest Mk. II to the original and then around her cockpit. "Err… What?"

"Brooklyn, remember?" Augustine said pleasantly.

"No. Manhattan."

"What…?"

"My family lives in Manhattan. Not Brooklyn."

Nobody really said anything for a few moments. It was a very awkward situation.

"Oh… Is that so…" Augustine murmured.

"Go for it, Sousuke," Kaname said, smiling. Sousuke pulled the trigger and the cannons boomed, sending out four parallel rounds at once, straight at the Mk. II.

Only, suddenly, the Arm Slave wasn't there.

And then, it was above the Arbalest, knife out and coming down rapidly. Sousuke leapt out of the way and the Mk. II crashed into the ground. Augustine chuckled over the radio.

"Even with the full armor, you're outclassed, Sagara," Augustine hissed. "Even if Chidori is against me, you can't win. But, tell me… Do you know who your father is? I want to have a bit of fun first."

"Sousuke, don't listen to him," Kaname yelled immediately. Augustine laughed.

"What? You don't want him to hear? Sagara, your father-"

There was a loud hissing noise as the Gnostic drew its sword. A long, European style blade, it glowed in the evening light.

"What're you going to do with that?" Augustine taunted. "Have you ever heard of Yamato Sagara? The famous war criminal?"

"Whatever you say, Sousuke isn't like that! He-"

"I'm familiar with him. I know, he's my biological father."

Kaname and Augustine were again, very quiet.

"You… knew?"

"Yes. I receive a check from his estate every month."

"He's a Grade A war criminal," Augustine persisted. "He slaughtered hundreds of men in cold blood."

"That may be so but I never knew him. Since I wasn't raised by him, I feel that I have no more capacity to become a war criminal than anyone else. Therefore, it never bothered me. However, considering that I am his son, I haven't mentioned it to my commanders."

"Very logical…" Augustine muttered. The Mk. II straightened up. "But, nonetheless, I have to wipe you from this world. Goodbye."

The air around the Mk. II seemed to become like water for a second as it charged the Arbalest. However, it was met halfway by the Gnostic. Wielding the sword much in the same way as she used her fan, Kaname slashed and thrust and pushed back the other Arm Slave.

"Chidori…" Sousuke said in honest surprise. Kaname was just as amazed.

"Wow…" she whispered. "That was… easy…"

"Like I said," Augustine chortled. "The Lambda Driver in your Arm Slave allows for better man-machine contact." With that, he threw himself back into combat, swiping at the Gnostic. The other Arm Slave parried the blow and counterattacked. The new Arbalest, however, lashed out its hand. There was a brilliant flash of light and the Gnostic was knocked back a dozen meters.

"…the hell?" muttered Kaname.

"It's his Lambda Driver," Sousuke muttered.

"What?"

"He's had more experience with it than either of us, I imagine. We'll have to be careful…"

"Sousuke…" Kaname said softly. She smiled. He used "we."

"Chidori, use your Lambda Driver whenever you can. We can't make any mistakes."

"Understood!" Kaname replied firmly.

Taking aim with his rifle, Sousuke opened fire on the Arbalest Mk. II. It took off into the air, easily avoiding the shells. Kaname concentrated on the image of the Arm Slave blowing up mid-air but she almost immediately met resistance. Her head suddenly hurt and the Gnostic was pushed back.

"Not bad…" whispered Augustine as he charged the Arbalest again. This time, the Gnostic couldn't get in the middle to beat him back. Instead, Sousuke fired the cannons at point blank range. The rounds went flying off in another direction the second they left the barrel. The Arbalest crossed its arms and Sousuke concentrated, absorbing the blows from the Mk. II.

As the two Arbalests fought a battle of wills, the Gnostic come up from behind, ready to slice up the Mk. II. With a surge of strength. Augustine threw Sousuke back and slammed the Arbalest's fist into the Gnostic, knocking it back. He followed up with another strike, crushing more of the Arm Slave.

However, the Mk. II was caught off guard when Sousuke fired twice into its back side. Augustine twisted the Arm Slave around and, with a wave of its hand, the Lambda Driver sent the Arbalest flying back.

"Chidori…" Sousuke groaned.

"Are you okay?" she asked worriedly.

"I've got an idea…" he whispered. "This AS is armed with nuclear weapons…"

~

Back in the field hospital, the wounded and the helpers alike watched in awe at the battle between the titans going on. Gauron stood with Kalinin, Mardukas and Tessa. All of the men smoked cigarettes, in a sort of mutual ritual. Tessa was on the verge of tears and whimpered every time the Gnostic or the Arbalest was hit.

"Do you think they can win?" asked Mardukas.

"It's possible but…"

"They'll win," Garuon said, smiling.

"What makes you so sure?"

"Kashim is the kind of person who makes the impossible possible."

~

"Nuclear weapons?" gasped Kaname. "Then…"

"If I can into a suitable range for a shot…"

"But, won't those destroy the whole city?"

"They're not large. They'll burn everything within roughly twenty meters of explosion but they won't wipe out the city. It's our only chance."

"Twenty meters? Doesn't that mean… You'll…"

Sousuke sighed. "There is a chance that I'll be caught in the blast too. It's a risk I'm willing to take. You need to get as far away, though."

"No! I'm staying here to fight!"
"If this works, we won't have to fight! Chidori, I won't risk losing this battle," Sousuke's voice was full of determination. Kaname could see him in his cockpit on one of her screens. His eyes were burning.

Before she could answer him, the Mk. II came charging again. The cannons on the shoulders of the Arbalest dropped off and eight small missiles popped out of the armor to take their place.

"Chidori, go!" Sousuke yelled as he squeezed the trigger. The eight missiles launched simultaneously, streaking towards the Arbalest Mk. II. Kaname obeyed without thinking and the Gnostic leapt into the air, away from the fight.

~

The explosion was incredible. It wasn't like anything anyone there had seen before. A great white fire expanded out rapidly from the Arbalests, consuming them and the surrounding city. The fireball swirled for a few seconds, sending up dust and creating the classic mushroom cloud.

"My god…" whispered Tessa. She buried her face in her hands, crying and whispering a prayer.

~

The world over, all of humanity watched as Sagara Sousuke used nuclear weapons for the third time in history.

~

As the smoke and the fire cleared, two figures remained. The Arbalest Mk. II stood still, glowing slightly but totally untouched. The original Arbalest was covered in dust and debris, with burns and scars from the fire slashed across the armor. Suddenly, the Full Armor add-on slouched off and hid the ground with a great clunk.

"S-sousuke! Are you okay? Sousuke!"

"It didn't work," Sousuke said quietly.

"What?"

Augustine chuckled. "Incredible. The Lambda Driver can even stave off a nuclear attack. I imagine you figured that too, eh, Sagara?"

Sousuke growled. Augustine laughed.

"Right then. I'm tired of playing with you two. Time to get down to business…"

"Chidori…" Sousuke whispered. "Your Lambda Driver…"

"I know! I know! I'm trying to use it but-"

"No. If we both attack at once, using our Lambda Drivers, it should overwhelm him."

"It's worth a shot…" Kaname agreed. The Gnostic arrived next to the Arbalest and together, both charged the Mk. II.

"How touching…" Augustine murmured. As the three Arm Slaves met and the Lambda Drivers flared, however, he groaned as his was knocked back.

Incredible flashes of energy went off as the three pressed together, trying to force one another into submission.

Kaname's mind was focused on the image of the Arbalest Mk. II bursting apart with flames coming out and everything. She gritted her teeth and concentrated harder. Unbeknownst to her, the Gnostic had started to glow…

"Sousuke…" she whispered.

And, suddenly, they weren't there anymore.

~

Sousuke was standing in a lake. It was a very, very large, greenish blue lake. He looked around.

"Chidori?"

"Right here, Sousuke."

He spun around. There stood Kaname. Naked.

"What's this?" Sousuke demanded. He sounded angry but he was mostly surprised.

"I don't know. I've been here before, though," Kaname said, smiling slowly. She didn't seem bashful at all. It was about then that Sousuke realized he was naked too and that it seemed to be the least of his worries at the moment.

"Before?"

"When Gauron took over the Tuatha de Danaan… I was here when I was using the ship's Lambda Driver." Kaname looked around and shrugged. "I don't know. It's really peaceful here."

Sousuke bowed his head, thinking. "There's got to be some way to win…"

"No, there isn't… Face it, Sousuke. We can't win. He won this game."

"No!"

Kaname was surprised by how furious Sousuke was when he replied.

"No! We can't lose!"

"But there's no way to win!" Kaname argued.

"So? I don't care. I'll still fight till I find a way to win. I won't lose this battle. We won't lose. Don't you remember what I said? As long as you're with me, we can do anything. I still believe that. And I need you to believe it too, Chidori."

Kaname stared at Sousuke, speechless.

"And you promised to watch The Godfather with me," he added.

Kaname's face broke into a smile.

"You're right… Let's go back, okay? And win."

~

"I won't lose, goddammit!" Augustine screamed as he pushed back harder against the two Arm Slaves. With trembling hands, he pulled a bottle of pills from his pocket and tried to down a few. He dropped the bottle and cursed loudly.

"I understand now…" Kaname said softly, specifically to him. "Why don't you give up? I can see it now…" She smiled. "I can read your mind through your Lambda Driver… Throughout your life, you were used by people… So, that's the only way you learned how to interact with other people. It's not too late, though. You can still-"

"No!" roared Augustine, losing it. "Stop it! Stop… stop raping my mind! I can still win…" He dove into his pocket again and pulled out a small device that looked like a cell phone.

"I can remotely launch the nuclear missiles from here! If I can't win, I'll make sure everyone else loses!" He started laughing maniacally.

"No! You can't!"

"Watch! You'll regret ever playing against me!"

"Shut up already!" Sousuke yelled back. But it was too late. Augustine pressed the button. All over Rome, missiles silos slowly began to open.

Suddenly, Kaname remembered what Gauron had said about the Lambda Driver. If too much stress is placed on it, "something amazing" will happen. She closed her eyes and concentrated, forcing "something amazing" to happen.

It was Sousuke who noticed it first.

"Chidori! Your Arm Slave…"

The Gnostic wasn't just glowing now. It was giving off incredible amounts of light. It was as thought it were shining from the inside, lighting escaping from in between the armor.

"Sousuke…" Kaname whispered hurriedly. "I don't understand it… I can't explain it… But, I think I'm self-destructing the Lambda Driver."

"What?!"

"Sousuke," Kaname whispered again, still concentrating as the Gnostic became brighter and brighter. "I love you. I love you more than anything. Isn't that sappy? But you're always making sacrifices for me. You're always protecting me. For once, I want to do the same for you. So please… Let me do this. I can win this for both of us."

"Chidori! Don't!"

And then, it was as though the light was overflowing. It oozed out of the Gnostic, surrounding everything, burning it away. The armor on the three Arm Slaves began to melt.

"Chidori! Eject!" ordered Sousuke.

"I can't," Kaname said, sadly. The light was growing now, even brighter. It spread out over the city. It flowed into the missile silos, surrounding the rockets and crushing them.

"Your Arm Slave will combust if you don't eject!" Sousuke yelled. He charged towards the Gnostic, even as the Arbalest's armor was burning off. Augustine was waiting for him.

"Die!" he roared. One of the original Arbalest's hands shot forward, grabbing onto the front of the Mk. II, where the cockpit was.

"Go away!" screamed Sousuke. The hand plunged into the chest of the Arm Slave, grabbing the cockpit and crushing it.

With that finished, Sousuke began tearing away the metal of the Gnostic's cockpit. The light was beginning to swirl now, tearing apart everything in its path.

"Chidori!" Sousuke cried. He was feeling the beginnings of tears in his eyes. Finally, he tore the last piece of armor away from the cockpit. There was Kaname, looking up at him, smiling.

With the Arbalest's hands reduced to stumps, Sousuke opened his own cockpit. He reached out his hand.

"Chidori! Jump!"

Kaname kept smiling and jumped through the light…

~

At the field hospital, everyone ooed and ahhed over the light. When it came towards them, they started to get afraid.

But, instead of destroying, it had an almost healing effect. Those who had been dying in agony passed gently while those who were bleeding had their wounds clot. As the warm light embraced them, Tessa found herself crying. To her, it felt like Kaname. It felt like Kaname's love for Sousuke. She grabbed onto Kalinin and sobbed into his jacket, assuming the worst.

The light continued flow for several minutes. Soon, it stopped spreading. Now, there was only a single ball of swirling light in the center of the city. The patients at the hospital and the attendants watched it, in amazement.

Then, Kalinin removed his cap and saluted. Mardukas followed suit and soon, everyone was saluting the ball of light. Except for Gauron. He just grinned.

"Five… four… three…" he started counting.

"What are you-" started Mardukas.

"One."

The Arbalest came bursting out of the light. It ran at breakneck speed, almost flying. Some of the light held on to the back of it, like fire. Finally, it landed near the camp. The cockpit was open and Kaname lay over Sousuke's lap.

He quickly got down and started limping towards the hospital, carrying Kaname. When he arrived, he laid her on the ground and looked from face to face.

"She passed out," he explained, though it didn't really need explaining. "I can't wake her up. Do we have any smelling salts or…"

Nobody was saying anything. It was Gauron who finally spoke.

"Kiss her… Doesn't sleeping beauty always wake up with a kiss?"

Sousuke looked at him oddly for a second. Then, he looked to Tessa. Their eyes met and she nodded before looking away.

He knelt and tilted her head up. Slowly, Sousuke lowered his head and kissed her gently.

There was no reaction for a moment. It was like Kaname was dead.

Then, her eyes fluttered open.

"Pervert…" said Kaname slowly, having trouble breathing but smiling.

~

Epilogue: As Time Goes On

Kaname sighed and leaned back in her chair. It was the first day of school after summer vacation. Her entire adventure was like a far off dream to her now.

Only, it couldn't have been a dream. The world was in chaos. Almost. The UN did a good job of covering up the entire Mithril fiasco. Still. Everyone was talking about the battle in the Vatican.

Afterwards, they had gone to Switzerland. Kaname had wanted to see Sousuke again but per doctor's orders, he had to stay in bed. According to the hospital, he had only hours left to live when he came in.

Before she could see him, they took her back to Japan. Kaname had assumed that, after everything that had happened, she wouldn't be able to go back to school. She was wrong. Here she sat, remembering everything.

"Alright, everyone, settle down…" the homeroom teacher said as she came in. "We have two new students joining us this semester. Miss Chidori, since you're Class President, would you introduce them?"

Kaname yawned. "Sure."

She went to the door, opened it and froze. The two new students walked past her to the front of the class. The home room teacher smiled brightly, not noticing Kaname.

"I'd like you all to greet Sagara Sousuke and his half sister, Teresa Testarossa. They were studying in Italy but, after… recent events… decided to come here."

The class gave a mass "Welcome" and they both bowed, saying their customary hellos. Sousuke took a seat next to Kaname. She glanced at him but he was looking straight at the board, like nothing had happened.

~

After school, Kaname ran past her friends whom she had promised to go get some ice cream with, straight to Sousuke who was walking with Tessa.

"You two-" she managed, panting.

"Chidori. Are you alright?"

"What the hell? Why're you here?"

"Since Mithril doesn't exist anymore, we can live normal lives," Tessa said happily. "When they asked us where we wanted to go to school, we decided to come here with Melissa and Kurtz."

"Huh? Kurtz and Melissa are here too?"

"Yeah. She's the new school nurse and he's a P.E. teacher." Tessa giggled. "He keeps calling himself 'Great Teacher Kurtz.'"

Kaname suddenly felt very dizzy. She almost fell but Sousuke caught her.

"Be careful," he said simply.

"Oh, I forgot…" Tessa said suddenly. "I have an interview for a part time job. I'll see you two later! I have to hurry… Oh, it's already late…"

She ran off, a bit clumsily, leaving Sousuke and Kaname alone.

"Sousuke," Kaname began. She intended to tell him everything she felt about him right then and there but he cut her off.

"Here."

Reaching into his bag, Sousuke pulled out… The Godfather on DVD.

"Can we watch it at your home?"

When Kaname got back to her apartment, she had found it almost exactly like it had been before it was destroyed. She was pretty sure it was a case of "Don't ask, don't tell."

"Sure, Sousuke. Let's go."

Kaname reached down and took hold of Sousuke's hand. She squeezed it and, much to her surprise, he squeezed back.

~

On top of Jindai Highschool, not far from some delinquent kids, Gauron stood and grinned. As he turned to walk back to the stairs, where a girl with short red hair stood, waiting for him, he chuckled to himself.

"Next time, Kashim…"

Fin

Author's Notes: Wow. Finished this a few days before SEED ended. I wanted the two to end at roughly the same time, since I was inspired (read: copied) by several parts of SEED…

But, yeah, I had a helluva' lot of fun writing this. That's what's important, isn't it? ^_^

I'd like to thank everyone who review and commented on this. I'd also like to thank everyone for putting up with my incompetence spelling wise. Like, when I put "soldier" when I mean "shoulder " or "sayd" instead of "said"…

I have no idea what I'll write next. I'd like to write a GTO fic but, since there isn't much of a fandom for that, that's iffy. Maybe another FMP fic or a Love Hina one. I dunno. Fruits Baskets is cool…

Or maybe I'll write a sequel. Heh. Fat chance.

So, uh, yeah. Thanks for reading and putting up with me for months and months. In the words of Éclair from Kiddy Grade… "Cha Chan!"