Sousuke looked at Kaname, unable to shake off his feeling of skepticism. He took a bite of sausage, then washed it down with some freshly squeezed juice.

"I fail to see how this will help me with my decision. I will need no rehearsal in giving my response. How will this benefit me?"

"Hmmmpppfff," Kaname put another biscuit on Sousuke's plate before Ayame could. Ayame countered with a handful of bacon. "I TOLD you, Sousuke. It will give you a chance to hear your own words. That way you will know if your decision feels right or not."

"It's not so you can critique him and decide his answer for him, is it?" Shunya sat behind his newspaper. He reached for the plate with the bacon, wondering where it had all gone.

"Would I do that?" Kaname answered with some heat.

Ayame began giggling. She took away Sousuke's half-full glass and gave him a full one.

"Well??" Kaname was miffed when no one said 'no.'

"The coffee is very good, Ayame." Shunya ignored Kaname's question.

"Sousuke. Would I do that?" Kaname glared at Sousuke, stopping him in mid chew.

"It is quite possible," Sousuke said after swallowing a mouthful of biscuit.

"WHAT???" Kaname slapped a spatula full of egg on Sousuke's plate, getting some on his shirt and his juice glass. "I can't believe you would think that about me. I thought you loved me!"

Ayame brought Sousuke a fresh napkin.

"No." Sousuke answered quickly and with great certainty. Ayame froze. Shunya put down his paper.

Kaname stood with her mouth open, her hands fluttering. "B-But... You s- said...."

"I am sorry. But I do not care for you that way. It would not be proper, given our professional relationship. There is someone else I have given my affection to." Sousuke began nibbling on a piece of bacon.

Ayame put her hand to her mouth. Shunya raised an eyebrow, wondering if Sousuke were joking or trying to teach his daughter a lesson.

"No. You can't mean that. Last night. Our walk...." Kaname's face had fallen. She accidentally put her hand down on the eggs on her plate. She began gasping for breath.

"Our walk was a formality. There were issues that needed to be discussed. I----" Sousuke stopped speaking when Kaname poured the pitcher of orange juice over his head.

"That's not funny!"

"I'm not joking...."

"Y-You... I.... how....I... I hate you! You can tell Tessa that she can have you, then!" Kaname's voice carried the sting of hurt and anger.

"I do not understand, Captain. Why would I say that after you just said you hate me?" Sousuke looked down at his plate, seeing the food floating in a sea of juice.

Kaname stood still as if she had been struck by a pole-axe. Ayame began giggling again. Shunya sighed.

"Sousuke?" Kaname sounded uncertain.

"You told me to respond as if you were Captain Testarossa. I followed your orders. I did not think this would have happened. Why would the Captain pour orange juice on me?" Sousuke looked perplexed.

Kaname looked embarrassed. Ayame ran for her camera. Shunya pushed away from the island and went to get a mop.

"I'm sorry, Souske. My mistake. Here, let me make it better." Seeing that her sister and father weren't looking, Kaname leaned over and gave Sousuke a deep long kiss. Then she looked someway disgruntled. A moment later she stamped hard on his foot.

"Owwww. Kaname, that hurt!" Sousuke grimaced.

"Why are you talking about Kaname?" Kaname looked somewhat miffed. "Time out. You had better not kiss Tessa. Do you understand me mister???"

"But I thought.... you.... we.... yes, Kaname." Sousuke closed his eyes.

"Well, is my daughter helping you sort things out, Sousuke?" Shunya returned, an amused look on his face. "You're less confused than before, right?"

"Uh...."

"Big sister is so clever, isn't she?" Ayame looked at Sousuke and Kaname with a huge grin on her face. She anpped a picture of Sousuke. She wished the two of them didn't have to fly back to Tokyo that night.

"Ummm...."

"Well, aren't you going to answer her?" Kaname began drumming her fingers on the counter top.

"When there is no more juice or food on the table," Sousuke said in a stern voice.

Ayame brought over a pitcher of apple juice. Shunya just shook his head.

"Sousuke!!!" Kaname's eyes flashed. She looked at the pitcher. Shunya moved it out of her reach.

"Captain?" Sousuke fought to keep a straight face.

"Enough of that. I'm me. Now, answer Ayame's question. Hmmmpppfff."

"Captain, you sound a lot like Kaname when you make that noise. I do not know if such a sound is dignified for someone in your position." Sousuke watched as Shunya got up and put the pitcher back in the refrigerator and stood in front of that appliance.

"Oooooh... I told you, I am Kaname now... enough playing around." Kaname's face was getting red.

"You assured me this was serious business, Captain. I took you at your word. Pretending to be Kaname will not cause me to kiss you or transfer my affections to you. Also, assuming her violent nature will not alter my behavior. I recall your opinion of Miss Chidori's seeming unbalanced behavior, and question why you would adopt such an affect yourself."

Shunya put his hand over his mouth, stifling a laugh. Ayame looked at Sousuke with an even greater respect than before.

"Just you wait, mister. Just you wait! When I get you alone...." Kaname tossed her hair. It wasn't a question of whether or not Sousuke should pay. It was a matter of 'when' and 'how much.'

"Eh hemmmm. None of that talk at the table. Especially not with your sister here." Shunya kept from grinning.

"I'm so embarrassed." Ayame put her hands on the sides of her face.

Sousuke grinned.

Kaname looked shocked at first. Then, she looked annoyed when she realized what was going on. "Hmmmpppfff!!!" She began walking out of the room.

"I thought we had serious matters to discuss, Captain." Sousuke said to the retreating form.

"Will there be armed guards on your flight back to Tokyo, Sousuke?" Shunya asked, sitting back down to breakfast.

"Doubtful," Sousuke answered.

"My condolences, then." Shunya grinned.

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Sousuke's injuries were the only thing that saved him when he walked to the front door with Kaname to greet Oichi.

It normally wouldn't have been a problem. He still wasn't one for sarcasm or joking. But, when they had opened the door and saw Oichi standing on the porch, the young soldier had said "Good morning Oichi. You remember Tessa."

Kaname had gone stiff. She turned her body ever so slowly towards Sousuke, her hands curling into claws.

Ayame walked up in time to get into the act. "Oooo-iiii-chiiii.... I'll go let Kaname know you're here...."

Kaname began growling. She was still looking at Sousuke.

Shunya walked up, his newspaper in hand. "Good morning, love." He gave Oichi a quick smooch. "Would you mind if Tessa here joined us for lunch? I know you only made reservations for four...."

Kaname closed her eyes. It looked as if she were winning the battle with her temper.

Oichi raised an eyebrow. "Are we doing Shakespeare this morning?" She wasn't certain whether she was watching a farce or an incipient tragedy.

"It certainly seems that way," Shunya said. "A comedy. Perhaps 'The Comedy of Errors.' You would have enjoyed breakfast, dear."

"I would call it 'As You Like It' or 'Much Ado About Nothing.' Definitely a classic." Ayame preened. She had seen a number of plays with her father.

"I see. How marvelous, then. Sousuke, what would you have called it?" Oichi smile was warm and fond.

"Uh... I..." Sousuke could think of any number of Shakespearean tragedies, but could only think of one more comedy.

"Yes..... let's hear it Sousuke..... that's an order." Kaname put her hands on her hips. "From your commanding officer!"

"Ummm... I... uh..." Sosuske looked to Shunya for help. Kaname's father just smiled.

"Stand at attention when I speak to you, soldier." Sousuke did just as Kaname said. "Now, did you have trouble understanding my order?" Kaname's eyes were narrowed,

"NO!" Sousuke answered. "But, Kaname...."

"If I wasn't Kaname when we opened the door, I can't be Kaname now. So, speak Sergeant!" Kaname's jaw tightened.

"But... I only remember one.... it's not...." Sousuke was sweating.

Shunya smiled, wondering if his guess was correct. He took a few steps back. Ayame did the same.

"Now, soldier!" Kaname stamped her foot.

"Uh.... 'As YOU like it'...." Sousuke swallowed hard. Maybe she would let him repeat that one.

"Try again, or drop down and give me twenty!" Kaname pointed to the floor at her feet.

Sousuke thought a moment. In his condition, the push-ups might actually do him less damage than Kaname. He got down and began doing the exercise.

"Halt! That's an order. Big idiot! You'll hurt yourself." Kaname looked a touch worried, but didn't back down.

"Well, now that we're done with that, let's all go in and sit a while in the parlor." Shunya waved his arm down along the hallway.

Kaname hadn't budged an inch. She stood blocking Oichi's entrance to the house. "After we hear Sousuke's answer. What is the play, Sousuke?"

Sousuke was sweating heavily. "Uh... 'Taming of the Shrew'...."

Shunya nodded. He had been correct. Ayame clapped her hands quietly. Wonderful. Oichi put her hand over her mouth. There was never a boring moment with those two.

"I..... see.......... that wasn't..... so hard..... was it.......... Sousuke?" Kaname put on a large smile. She pushed her hair out of her face and spoke in a sweet voice. "Why don't we go in and relax a bit before getting ready to head out for lunch." She stepped aside and let Oichi into the foyer.

Everyone began walking towards the parlor area.

Kaname held Sousuke's arm, keeping her there with her.

"Sousuke, how long did the doctors say you should rest before you'd be fit for hazardous duty?" Kaname cracked her knuckles.

"Uh.... one month, Kaname." Sousuke sighed. He knew he had simply gained a stay of execution.

"Good. I'll go mark that on my pocket calendar."

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Kaname thought back to something Sousuke had asked her the other night. She smiled. There was nothing wrong with a woman keeping her man guessing.

She had done a total 180 and pulled Sousuke aside for a big kiss when her father, Oichi, and Ayame had been occupied.

"I decided you deserve a reward, Sousuke," she had said. "That was a very good answer, 'Taming of the Shrew.' Right?"

"Huh?" Sousuke had stared at her, wondering just what had gotten into her.

"I was Tessa at the time," she had told him with a big smile.

Of course, Sousuke had needed a swat on the behind after his response: "I see. Does that mean I should woo Tessa, in order to tame her?"

She didn't mean to hit him that hard. But, to make up for it, she had offered to kiss it and make it better.

Sousuke was still blushing.

Smiling, she leaned against him and sighed happily. "Sousuke?"

"Yes, Kaname? It is Kaname again, is it not? If I have to kiss the two of you to make certain I have kissed the right one, my lips will get tired." Sousuke was still smarting from his prior admonishment.

"Sousuke....." Kaname sat up and looked at him, shaking her fist.

"I am willing to make the sacrifice on your behalf. It should not prove too daunting a task for a Specialist." It would be interesting to see whether Kaname would play along, or get worried like she might have before their talk.

"Sousuke....." Kaname began scowling.

"Of course, there will be a potential worrisome side effect. Tessa would probably enjoy it. And, she is more intelligent than I am. If she were to convince me that she was you...." Yes, word games could be just like battle. Initial feints or probing maneuvers could be used to induce the adversary to move or act in some advantageous manner.

"Sousuke...." Kaname's stood up.

Sousuke was not about to call off the attack until the objectives were reached. "And if she gets excited, and orders me to go further than I normally would, I would be obliged to follow orders." That ought to do it, one way or another.

Kaname smiled. She leaped, landing square on Sousuke's lap. "I'll have to teach you to tell the difference." She gave Souske a big kiss.

"Geez. Get a room you two!" Ayame walked in, causing Kaname to jump off of Sousuke.

"Shhhhh!" Kaname looked off into the kitchen area. The coast was clear.

Ayame smiled. She sat down next to Sousuke and pulled on his sleeve. "If I told you I was Kaname, would you give me a big kiss?"

"Uh...." Sousuke answered purposefully.

"Ayame!" Kaname said loudly.

"I admire my big sister so much, I want to learn to kiss just like her. Will you help me?" Ayame fluttered her eyelashes and leaned against Sousuke.

"Kaname?" Sousuke kept from grinning. It was time for more intelligence gathering.

"Oooooooooh....." Kaname was turning red in the face.

"Sounds like a 'yes' to me!" Ayame closed her eyes. "Right here on the lips, Sousuke." She pointed to her mouth.

"It is not a problem." Sousuke braced himself.

"SOUSUKE!!!" Kaname stomped on Sousuke's foot.

Wincing, Sousuke turned to Ayame. "You were correct. But she has made some progress."

"Told you!" Ayame said.

"You... you... you...." Kaname realized she had been set up. Somebody would pay the price.

Ayame was smart enough to run.

"I'm going to take care of Ayame first," Kaname said in a saccharine drawl. "Enjoy what short time you have left on this earth...." She ran off in hot pursuit.

Screams, laughter, and a series of loud noises could be heard from the direction of Ayame's room.

"Is it safe to come out now?" Shunya asked, Oichi in tow.

"Momentarily." Sousuke sighed.

"Be brave," Oichi said with a laugh.

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Lunch was splendid.

Oichi treated, in honor of Kaname and Sousuke's visit, and Ayame's upcoming school semester.

They all dined in a posh French restaurant, enjoying each other's company, with no disturbances or untoward events. Their conversation touched on many pleasant topics, never once bringing up the misunderstanding from the start of the visit, or mentioning the attacks on the museum and the City itself.

Kaname had also made a rather firm pronouncement at the beginning of the meal. "There will be no mention of Tessa during dinner!"

Sousuke raised his hand.

"What?" Kaname was swinging her menu around like a halisen.

"You just mentioned Tessa, Kaname."

Kaname stared at Sousuke for an entire minute without moving or speaking. With a Herculean effort, she took a deep breath... held it... let it out... and put on a big smile. She patted Sousuke's cheek, then went back to perusing her menu.

Oichi ran her hands along the top of their table, remarking on how smooth the surface was. "And the parquet work is simply exquisite. Such well crafted tessellations." She winked at Shunya.

"What's a tessalation?" Ayame asked.

"That's tesselation, dear. Not Tessa-lation. Tesselation is the way the wood pieces are put together with no overlapping and no gaps." Oichi reached over and picked up the wine menu.

Kaname slapped her menu down, causing her fork to jump into Sousuke lap. She reached over to get it.

"Keep your hands to yourself, young lady.... there will be none of that at the dinner table." Shunya's remark had the people at a number of tables staring at Kaname. She blushed and hid behind her menu.

"That reminds me of a book I read in school this year. A Wrinkle in Time." Ayame smiled. "In that story, something called a Tessaract was very important."

"Really?" Shunya asked, buttering his roll. "You probably mean tesseract, not tessaract. The tesseract or hypercube is the four dimensional analog of a cube."

"Very funny," Kaname mumbled. Pulling too hard on her roll, she broke it apart with more force than necessary. Part of it flew out of her hand, landing in the centerpiece of a table two rows over.

"That's hardly lady-like, Kaname." Oichi said. "Tsk tsk." She nibbled on a croissant.

"Far from it," Shunya said in a stern voice. "You would never be invited to dinner with the peerage." He looked over at Oichi. "I keep getting it mixed up, love. How does everything rank?"

"That's baron and baroness at the bottom. Next are the viscount and viscountess. Followed by earl and countess. Then marquis and marchioness. Finally, duke and duchess." Oichi wiped her mouth daintily on her napkin.

"Where does the contessa rank?" Shunya asked with an innocent expression.

"That's the Italian equivalent of a countess, dear."

Kaname's hand twitched. Her water glass tipped over, spilling water and ice cubes on Sousuke's plate. The young soldier grimaced, then got a very determined look on his face. He raised his hand.

There is a ranking in restaurants as well. The Maître d' is the person responsible for the overall management of service. As second-in-command, the headwaiter oversees service in a particular area of the restaurant, such as a banquet room. If there is no maître d' the headwaiter is responsible for the overall management of service. Often the titles maître d' and headwaiter are interchangeable. The captain is responsible for running one 'service station,' a section of the restaurant that typically includes 25 to 30 guests. This involves taking the customers' orders and overseeing one or two waiters and a busboy, who carry out the other tasks necessary to the progress of the meal. The waiter assists the captain by tending to the customers' needs throughout the meal - bringing the food when it is ready, providing utensils and plates. In small or casual restaurants, a captain may not be necessary, and waiters will take customers' orders. At the bottom of the ladder for the front-of-house staff is the busboy. He is responsible for the most basic needs of the guests - filling water glasses, bringing bread and butter, and conveying dirty dishes to his counterpart in the kitchen, the dishwasher.

A trim man in a well-pressed white suit walked over the table.

"Captain," Sousuke said, "May I have a fresh plate please?"

"Certainly, Sir. But, so you should know, I'm just a waiter. The woman over by the front door serves as the Captain." The waiter carefully picked up Sousuke's plate, as not to spill any more water.

"Ah, a woman.... as Captain.... I see.... my mistake" Sousuked bowed his head in thanks.

"Yes," Kaname said. "Big mistake."

Shunya raised his glass to Sousuke in salute. Oichi joined him. Ayame leaned over and gave Sousuke a quick kiss on the cheek.

"Hmmmpppfff!" Kaname folded her arms across her chest.

The waiter, returning with a clean plate, noticed Kaname's reaction. "Is there anything I can get you, Madame?"

"How did the French punish criminals during the Revolution?" Kaname asked pleasantly.

"With guillotines, I believe. Madame?" The waiter looked perplexed.

"I'll take one of those, please."

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When they finished eating, the small group spent the rest of the afternoon shopping.

It was a very pleasant time. Sousuke found himself feeling quite comfortable and content. He began to understand what it must feel like to have a family. Watching Oichi help Ayame pick out a new dress for school, he sighed.

"Sousuke, are you OK?" Kaname walked over and touched his arm gently. "Are you getting too tired? Are your wounds bothering you?"

"Negative." Sousuke put his hand on Kaname's and caressed her fingers. "It's... Uh..."

"What, Sousuke?" Kaname looked concerned. "Is something wrong?"

"No. I feel comfortable here, like this. It is like having a family." He looked away a moment, feeling a little embarrassed. It didn't do well for a Specialist to be too emotional.

Kaname turned his head back towards her. She smiled, tears coming to her eyes. "It's alright, Sousuke. It's OK for you to feel that way. I'm glad you do." She blushed. Her thoughts were jumping too far ahead. Still, she was glad to know that she wanted to have a family of her own someday.

"I do not know, Kaname. It may be that I have no place in a family." Sousuke thought about his past life and his future with Mithril. "I'm not trained in such things. I might fail in that type of mission."

"Not if you have good training, soldier." Kaname smiled at Sousuke. "You're a better man than most out there. You only have to believe in yourself, you big idiot." She pulled him close and sneaked a kiss. "I do...."

Sousuke felt warm inside. He wasn't entirely certain why. But, he knew he was grateful for Kaname, for so many things and in so many ways. That's what would make his decisions in the future so difficult.

"Thank you. For many things." Sousuke put his forehead against Kaname and closed his eyes. For a few moments, his world could be measured by the span of his arms. It was difficult having choices. Difficult, but good.

"Sooooo-uuuuusssss-kaaaaaaay...." Ayame's voice carried throughout the shop. "Look at my new dress!!!"

Kaname laughed. "She really likes you, Sousuke. Too much for my liking!" She looked warmly at her younger sister, seeing her jump up and down waving her arms. "Better go see before she starts knocking racks over."

"Affirmative." Sousuke started over towards Oichi and Ayame.

"Oichi is very fond of you too," Kaname said, walking with him. "And I think Daddy really respects you. Big change, huh?"

"Yes. I hope you are correct. I like them all, too. It will be sad going home." Sousuke marveled at that feeling. It was a lot like he felt for Kurz and Melissa, but subtly different in important ways.

Kaname nodded her head.

Ayame walked, pirouetted, strolled, and spun. When she was finished, she turned big eyes towards the Mithril soldier.

"Very nice. The color is pretty. It makes you look older." Sousuke's approval and commentary had Ayame blushing.

"Want to see me try on swimsuits too, Sousuke?" Her eyes got even larger.

"Uh...."

"They have a white bikini...." Ayame smirked, looking at her sister.

"Ayame!" Kaname said, scandalized.

Ayame grabbed Sousuke and dragged him off towards the swimwear area.

Kaname grabbed his other hand and tugged in the other direction.

Sousuke looked over at the cashier's desk, seeing Oichi and Shunya. They noticed the young man's predicament and smiled.

"Good thing he's so sturdy," Oichi remarked.

"Isn't it...." Shunya laughed.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx .

After shopping, they had all gone home together. While Shunya worked in the kitchen, whipping up a nice meal for Kaname and Sousuke to take with them on their flight, Oichi spent some time talking with Sousuke while Ayame spent time with her big sister.

Sousuke lost track of how many times Kaname sighed during the drive to airport. Ayame spent most of the time begging her father to be able to fly over and visit with Kaname.

"Kaname?" Her father had asked.

"Yes. Her too!" Ayame had answered.

"You'll have a chance to see your sister again... and Sousuke too, I hope... at the wedding." Oichi's pronouncement had Ayame smiling.

"Does Kaname have to come to?" Ayame asked. Kaname responded by tickling her unmercifully.

The limousine driver pulled the car into the same place it had been when Sousuke and Kaname had flown in to New York. That fact wasn't overlooked by Shunya.

"Perhaps we should have invited Mr. Smith along," he said, nodding towards the place he had seen the bodyguard handcuffed to a long metal pipe.

"Uh..." Sousuke said.

"Daddy!" Kaname huffed. "Hmmmpppfff! You know better than to encourage Sousuke that way!"

"I suppose you're right," Shunya said with a smile. "Seriously, I was wrong about you, Sousuke. I couldn't have been more wrong." He offered Sousuke his hand. "Anyone who could put up with Kaname the way you do is deserving of the deepest respect."

Oichi smiled. Ayame giggled. Kaname didn't mind.

Sousuke shook Shunya's hand. "There is no one I would rather put up with than Kaname, Sir." Sousuke said. He nodded to Oichi, having taken one of her lessons to heart.

Oichi winked. Kaname sighed and leaned up against Sousuke. Ayame stuck out her tongue.

As they all walked through the concourse, Shunya asked "What airline will it be this time, Sousuke?"

"Nippon Air Cargo, Sir" Sousuke answered.

"Air freight again, Sousuke?" Kaname stamped her foot.

"Uh.... affirmative." Sousuke hadn't thought that Kaname would mind.

"Good," Kaname smiled. "What are they carrying? Furniture?"

"I believe so," Sousuke replied. "That and various electronics."

"Very good," Kaname said.

"Eh hemmmmmm." Shunya spoke up. "I expect the two of you to behave with proper decorum. Is that understood, young lady?"

"Yes, father." Kaname sounded peeved.

"Affirmative!" Sousuke stood at attention.

"That's right... don't get Kaname pregnant...." Ayame grinned. That ought to do it!

"Ayame!!!" Shunya and Kaname had shouted at the same time.

"It's not a good time father. She's not even through high school yet!" Ayame smirked when she saw her sister try and pull the halisen out of her carrying bag. She had sewn it in before they left home.

Oichi shook her head.

Sousuke looked like a deer frozen by headlights.

Kaname began walking after her sister, growling, as Ayame used her father as a shield.

"And she'll probably have to show Sousuke how!" Ayame took off running. Kaname followed a few lengths behind.

"How much time before you need to get on board?" Shunya asked in a resigned voice.

"Thirty minutes, Sir." Sousuke was still blushing.

"Great....." Shunya sighed.

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"Well, it turned out to be a wonderful visit, didn't it Sousuke?" Kaname cleaned up after their meal, then sat back down next to Sousuke on a large comfortable couch they had unwrapped.

"Yes. I wish we did not have to leave. But, we accomplished many good things while we were there." Sousuke thought back over some of the good times that he experienced.

"That's right," Kaname answered cheerfully. "I did all of the things on my list."

"List, Kaname?" Sosuke raised an eyebrow. As thoroughly as Kaname had trained him prior to the flight to America, he didn't remember her saying anything about a list.

"Yes. Let's see. Have Sousuke impress Daddy. Check." She leaned over and gave Sousuke a kiss. "Give Ayame something to be jealous about. Big check!" She squeezed Sousuke's arm. "Have Sousuke speak up to Tessa. Check. That little....." Kaname tossed her hair. "Save the world. Close enough." She looked up at Sousuke. "Have Sousuke touch my breast...." She smiled at the look on her boyfriend's face.

"Uh...."

"Let's see, which one of those should we do again on the flight home?" Kaname made it a point to look like she was pondering the question. Sousuke swallowed hard.

"Hmmm. Daddy's not here. Ayame's not hear. The shrimp's not here. We're not in any danger at the moment. That leaves...."

"Uh...."

"Exactly!!!" Kaname jumped on Sousuke and began smothering him with kisses.

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THE END