She must have cried herself to sleep. Her skin still felt raw and puffy, her throat blocked, head tense. Her body had regained a little strength after what she guessed had been hours of slumber, but when she moved slightly, she could feel dizziness stir.
Her mind seemed a little less cluttered; thankfully, the feeling of vulnerability had faded, and her confidence had been able to reinstate itself back into its previously usurped throne. But there was still a deep thread of worry within her, once again building as her mind became more coherent. Sousuke had barely said a word, listening to her explanation with little response. She wasn't sure of the meaning of such an action. He was still such a mystery to her. Was it just that he needed time to think? Was he unsure of what to say? Or was he holding back, as he had nothing but bad news to give her?
She opened her eyes to find herself stretched out upon his bed. Her shoes, coat and pyjama shirt had all been discarded, just leaving her in her striped bottoms and a light top. His bedside lamp was on, casting shadows upon the walls. However, it wouldn't be needed for much longer; she was able to see the beginnings of the sun's ascent illuminating his living room through the open bedroom door. Despite the change in scenery, his arms still embraced her; the way his hand rested upon her upper arm so tenderly made her smile.
Glancing upwards, she found his brown eyes looking into her own. Regardless of everything, they held the same emotions they always did--she could tell, heart and soul, that he still loved her.
"Hey…" she said softly, a tinge of nervousness in her voice.
"Good morning," he whispered back.
"What time is it, Sousuke?" She rubbed her eyes before quickly attempting to stifle a yawn.
"Approximately six hundred hours. It will be daylight soon."
"Have you gotten any sleep yet?" She doubted he had, though he didn't even seem fatigued in the slightest. But then he'd probably missed much more sleep on numerous other occasions.
As expected, he shook his head. "I wanted to think over what you said before resting. I was worried about possibly losing my train of thought."
Kaname swallowed heavily. She wasn't sure if she wanted to hear what he had to say. "And?"
His eyebrows dipped in confusion. "And what?"
She had to prevent herself from groaning. How could he not understand what she meant? "Can you forgive me?"
His face finally flashed with recognition. "There is nothing to forgive, Kaname. You did not realise the reason for your apprehensions. You could not have altered anything that happened." He drew a deep breath. "I am the one who should apologise. I carried out my actions as I wished to hurt you." His voice fell to a solemn whisper. "I should not have done that. I should have known that there was more than seemed apparent. I should have been patient and given you the time you asked of me." Sousuke took his eyes from her face, looking downwards. "I'm sorry for doubting the feelings you hold for me."
Damn noble fool. Why did he always have to be like this? "Sousuke, Sousuke," she sighed. Well, at least he didn't hold any animosity for her. The final dregs of trepidation left her body. "There is nothing YOU need to apologise for." She pointed a finger hard into his chest. "Hell, if I'd been in your shoes, I'd have done the exact same thing." Then she added with an embarrassed whisper, "Probably much worse."
Her tone softened once again. "Anyway, I shouldn't have skirted around the issue. I should have just come clean to you and explained how I was feeling rather than doing all this idiotic stuff. If I would've done that, maybe we could have worked together to figure out what was wrong. We wouldn't have this lost week in our relationship.
"But what's done is done." She drew a deep breath and continued in a more positive tone. "We just need to learn to be a little more honest with each other. When I do something that hurts you, you need to tell me about it. I know it's difficult for you, but you have to tell me how you feel about things."
"I know," he agreed, but she caught a glimpse of fear in his eyes. He was opening up, but it would still take him some time to grow comfortable with his feelings. For once, she didn't feel disenchanted by that fact.
"And if I'm having a difficulty with something, I need to be truthful with you, even if I can't understand how I feel myself. I need to not act so damned self-centred and close myself off when I feel weak. I really do love you, so at least when we're together, I should be able to let myself feel vulnerable," she admitted.
"Vulnerable?" He gulped. The way his lips briefly curved upwards…
"I didn't mean in that way, you dirty old man!" she laughed. She raised her hand upwards and placed it upon his cheek. He moved into the caress. "I think we need to forget about this whole guilt thing. We both made mistakes, but that's all in the past now."
"Yes. What course of action…" He stopped himself. He was getting better at controlling his outbursts of otaku-ism. "What does this mean for our relationship?" His eyes deviated from hers for a moment. She could tell he was still feeling troubled.
She had to answer him honestly. She couldn't lie to him anymore. "I don't know. Maybe now that I understand why I've been acting like this--I can deal with it in the way I should have four years ago. I think that after some time, I could get around it and tell everyone. I mean, I told Kyouko."
"You did?" He failed to maintain a slight look of pride from crossing his features.
"Yeah. It was hard at first and I still feel really anxious about it, but it's filtering in. I know it's only the first step, but if I can deal with her knowing, I know at some point I'll be comfortable with it being common knowledge. Hell, even if I'm never able to push myself over this hurdle, we'll still get around to telling everyone. I'd rather force myself to cope than keep it a secret and see you suffer. You're really anxious to tell everyone about us, right?"
"Yes. I don't really understand it myself. It's just… When those I serve with and our fellow students spoke of their own experiences with relationships, I was always baffled by their feelings and actions. It made me feel like an outsider; I could not relate to them or offer my own knowledge in return. My fellow soldiers on the da Danaan mocked me due to my lack of understanding. I know they did so in jest, however, it made me feel…inadequate.
"When we discovered our mutual feelings for one another, I felt that not only would I be able to experience such events for myself, but that it might aid with my assimilation into society. If we had a common experience to share, I believed that it could improve my friendships. When you did not allow me to do so…I began to resent you." There was a trace of worry in his eyes; he wasn't sure how she would take his last confession.
But her eyes were tender; there even seemed to be fresh tears lingering over the surface. "Oh, Sousuke; you should have told me! I couldn't understand why you wanted to tell everyone so badly. I mean, it doesn't really sound like you."
"I tried to tell you, but it always stuck. I thought that perhaps you would see it as being…idiotic."
"You're an idiot in many ways, Sousuke, but this isn't one of them. It's really sweet, in fact."
"Yeah. It shows how much you've matured. A year ago, would you have felt this way? Would you feel hurt because you weren't able to grow closer to others?"
He thought for a moment, looking almost as vulnerable as she'd ever seen him. "No."
She pulled herself a little closer towards him, shivering when she felt him embrace her in return. "Don't worry; you'll get that chance. I want the same things you do, Sousuke. I want us to be able to be open about how we feel, to stay together as long as we're able. To maybe someday show you…" She blushed slightly. "…what it's like to be a member of a family. But at the same time, I'd like to first see if I can get past this on my own. Could you give me just a little bit of time?"
"Of course, Kaname," he told her, a soft smile upon his lips. "As long as I know that at some point it will be rectified, I can wait." His grin fell slightly, and she could tell he was battling with something. But his eyes were focused upon hers with such intensity it made her quiver. "Seeing you in pain…hurts me more than anything else, so I would do anything to minimise the anguish you feel. I care…more about you than anything else. You're the only person I feel safe to confess my emotions too. You help me to understand so much that before was entirely alien. I…I…" He paused for a moment.
She felt a warmth spread throughout her body. His words weren't eloquent, but that didn't matter to her. The fact that he was trying to find the strength to speak them, that he was willing to show her the more sensitive side of himself, was enough for her.
He attempted to speak once more. "Kaname, I…I--"
Guessing the words he was attempting to say, but understanding that he was not yet ready to utter them, she placed two fingers upon his lips. "I know you do."
Unexpectedly, she felt him kiss her fingers before taking her wrist within his hand and removing the digits from his lips. "Kaname," he whispered, his voice a bit hoarse. He rolled them over from their sides until she lay upon her back, his body pushing down upon her. He kissed her deeply, sucking upon her bottom lip, then moved his caresses down across her chin and jaw bone before nipping at the soft flesh of her neck. "It's been hard not having you here," he confessed while continuing his journey down onto her shoulder. "Not being able to speak to you, or to…" She felt him gulp against her skin. "…to touch you. When I am away from you, I feel…unmotivated…lonely." He bit hard against her shoulder blade.
Kaname felt herself gasp. His words, his actions made her want to scream. "Damn hentai." He glanced up towards her; he had reddened, more than a bit shy due to his unusually desperate actions. She trailed her fingers over his reddened cheeks. "Believe me; that's not a bad thing. I've been feeling the same way." When he began his administrations once more, grasping the hem of her top before pulling it northward, she let out an uncharacteristic giggle. "Oh, Sousuke, I love it when you're like this. It's nice to see you lose control on occasion."
They stared at their homeroom door, both a little nervous as to what would follow.
It had been hard to keep their secret over the summer, spending so much time in the company of their friends. Kaname wished she could have let the cat out of the bag, but felt she just needed a short while longer before she would be comfortable broadcasting the truth. Today the first day of their second semester - was the deadline she had set herself. She still felt anxious, but she'd made a promise both to Sousuke and herself. She was not about to break it.
She felt Sousuke's hand slip from hers. "Kaname, if you wish to hold off the announcement--"
She grabbed it once again, fiercely. "No. Today's the day. If we don't do it now, I don't think I'd have enough courage again this side of Christmas." She smiled up at him. "You've been patient enough. Now it's my turn to make a sacrifice."
It wouldn't be the first time they had made the announcement. Less than a week before, they had given the good news to their friends on the da Danaan. Each of them had the exact same sentiments--it was about bloody time. Even Tessa had taken the admission well, congratulating Kaname on being the victor in their duel. Needless to say, Kurtz had teased his team-mate endlessly, asking Kaname if his stamina on the battlefield was matched in the bedroom. Though blushing up a storm, Sousuke seemed to enjoy his friend's good-natured ribbing. Melissa, however, ever protective of Sousuke, hadn't. After such a serious concussion, Kaname wondered when the sniper would be fit for duty again.
Laughing inwardly, Kaname reached for the door handle. "Let's go."
They both looked down at the congregation of their friends. Apart from Kyouko, who wore an all-knowing grin, each of the group stared at the couple's enjoined hands.
"We're…ah, dating," Kaname admitted nervously.
"Oh, my God, Kaname. That's great!" Maya and Shiori shouted.
"Him?!" both Mizuki and Tsubaki demanded. Luckily for the karate expert, his girlfriend didn't notice the spark of jealousy in his features.
"Way to go, Sagara-kun!" Shinji cheered. "How long?"
"A few months," Sousuke answered.
"So, has the ice queen given it up yet?" Ono joked.
The soldier blushed. "Uh…um….eh…" And with that brief murmur, another secret had been unleashed.
Kaname brought her harisen down hard upon his head, almost causing him to bend double. Despite her actions, her anger didn't seem to have quelled in the slightest.
"Uh…please disregard that. It was an error on my part." He always knew how to make a situation worse. Sousuke took a quick scan of the area, calculating the distance between him and the door. "I just remembered that there is something I must attend to. Excuse me."
Before he was that far into the corridor, Kaname bellowed, "SOUSUKE! Get back here RIGHT now!" When she received no reply, she stormed after him, the desks shaking in her wake.
And as their friends watched in awe, the same adage passed through their minds.